Now Yan and Paris lay on the grass and held their hands out to touch the rainbows. Yan was shouting excitedly.
“Where does the water come from?” Timonthy asked curiously.
“It flows underground somewhere in this lump of rock, I presume from that mountain over there, and then it escapes just below this point. He could see it now as he carefully leaned out.
“A seat would be good here,” Timonthy suggested.
“I thought about it,” Stolid admitted, “but it’s not a popular place here, surprisingly. People come here but they do not linger. It even has a reputation for being haunted. I think it’s probably the effect of deep water moving through stone underneath that unsettles people.”
Whether it was just Stolid talking about it or a real sensation Timonthy didn’t know but he could feel the hairs on his arm beginning to rise, a thudding in his head and a sense of apprehension.
“I think you should come back from the edge,” he said to Paris. She turned round in surprise,
“What’s the matter?”
“Can you feel it?” Stolid said. “I’ve never been able to myself but I suppose I must be unreceptive. You’re definitely not alone.”
The sound of the rooks making nests seemed more menacing than relaxing now: the slopes of the mountain a brooding purple like the colour of an imminent storm.
“I don’t understand. What are you talking about?” Paris frowned.
“You see, you’re one of us,” Yan said triumphantly. “You can’t feel it either.”
“It’s just a sense of unease,” Stolid explained. “Yan and I felt left out that we couldn’t feel anything. You’ve made him feel better about that, at any rate. Shall we carry on Yan?” Stolid prompted. “Lead the way to the lake again.”
They continued across the top of the ridge following the line of the lake until they reached stones set, still informally, to provide a more human-sized line of steps.
At the base of these the path continued between groups of young trees, recently planted. Timonthy began to acknowledge that Mr Phillips hadn’t been completely deluded. There were seats here and a very pleasant sheltered corner it was, protected in a curve of the ridge from the lake breezes.
As they walked further along the shore they lost the protection of the stone and the breeze caught them again.
“This is where…Stolid has been teaching me to swim,” they heard Yan say proudly to Paris. The conversation continued at a lower volume.
“Why are you getting all the supplies delivered to your home?” Timonthy asked, wondering if he would get a more believable answer this time. “You wouldn’t believe how it’s stirring up the neighbours.”
“I would,” Stolid grinned, obviously picturing it but continued seriously. “It’s hard to believe but it is the easiest way.
“The suppliers I know wouldn’t want to deliver up here. It’s easier for me to deal with products and people I know, even through another party.”
Timonthy considered whether that made sense. Surely one apple tree was the same as another of the same variety? He knew he was no expert but he wasn’t completely convinced.
“Have you never been tempted to come back yourself, just for one night, to see the old place, perhaps to renew old acquaintances?”
“It sounds odd, but until Peter told me you were coming for a visit I hadn’t thought about it. Complete absorption again, I suppose and I needed a break from the place where I had been happy with Johnathon. I’m not sure I will go back there, now.”
“What never?” Timonthy asked astounded.
“Well, I suppose I will have to have a clear out at some point,” Stolid conceded, “but not to live again.”
“You wouldn’t sell it, would you? I mean if you did want to, would you let me buy it?” Timonthy spluttered.
He could feel Paris’s dream of retaining her family slipping away, imagine her distress. The house was an anchor to a happier time. He knew that these things were inevitable: that in the end everyone stood alone but to him she was not much more than the child she had been and if he could delay the moment for her he would do whatever it took.
Stolid looked at him intensely. “I won’t sell it for now. Just leave it just as it is, for any of my friends who might need it. I’m thinking of letting Gerard stay there for a bit until he finds his feet. But I promise not to sell it in the future without consulting you first.”
Timonthy felt better then. It surprised him that he felt that deeply about the house and not just for Paris’s sake. He knew he would struggle to afford to buy Stolid’s house at a fair price but if he needed to he would sell his business or his own home before letting it go.
Anyway he hoped that wouldn’t be necessary for a few more years. He wasn’t quite ready to retire and Paris wasn’t ready to decide whether she wanted to take on the burden of his business or whether he was free to do what he wanted with it. The decision hadn’t yet been forced onto him and he could relax again.
These thoughts did not feel relevant beside the indigo water of the lake. The real world seemed very far away: almost hard to comprehend with all its complications, all its material worries. He was in no rush to escape back now he was here.
“Does Peter mean it when he says he is happy for us to stay?” Timonthy asked. “We’re not embarrassing you?”
“No. He means it and I want you all to stay for as long as you can. You don’t have to rush off, until your world calls you. So just treat this as a holiday if you can, treat this place as a hotel where you never have to pay the bill. Peter is so rich that these things don’t trouble him at all,” Stolid said happily.
It seemed such a naive view more worthy of Gerard than Stolid, that it made Timonthy wonder if he could take it at face value but what else could he do. He wanted to stay.