“I followed my employer out there. I thought it would be an adventure,” Gerard laughed. “And I was running away from God. Stupid really, I ended up in his playground. Anyway I didn’t mean to dwell on that. I didn’t mind it while it lasted. At least there seemed to be a point to life. I knew what my role was. It’s just since I came here I’ve started to feel lost.
Stolid promised me adventure and danger. I’ve done nothing but eat, drink and enjoy myself. I’m feeling like a useless fraud.”
“I don’t understand what sort of adventure Stolid was thinking of,” Timonthy said puzzled, “apart from finding yourself somewhere that is completely different to what you are used to. I think you have found that, at any rate.”
Gerard looked at him intently for a second and then returned to his dinner.
“Even Odysseus or Jason would be worn out after a few months if there was adventure every day,” Timonthy said. “There needs to be days for recovery, time to eat and sleep and time to learn from what happened before so the next adventure has an even happier outcome.”
“Are you talking about Greek myths over there?” Lizzie interrupted him. “We were talking about ladies’ underwear, so I’m feeling very uncultured in comparison.”
Will blushed again. Timonthy thought that he probably had no reason to blush other than the fact that Lizzie’s comment made it seem that he should. In spite of his precautions she was getting more voluble than normal. Now he no longer needed to carry on driving he could risk pouring himself another glass. He emptied the remains of the bottle into his glass.
“What conclusion did you come to?” Timonthy asked to divert her interest away from his own conversation.
Lizzie looked at Will as if seeking his confirmation before answering. “I think we decided that natural fibres were definitely preferable and silk better than the rest.”
“How on earth did you get onto that subject?” Paris asked. “No, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.”
Timonthy smiled. It was amusing when little children grew out of the stage of thinking their parents were like gods to finding them to be embarrassing social encumbrances. He imagined there was a next stage where their flaws were forgiven, where wisdom and knowledge of the world lent tolerance but Lizzie and Paris had not reached that stage yet.
The meal was good. Will managed to distract Lizzie from calling for the next bottle. Gerard cheered up a little after his steak and sautéed potatoes. Perhaps he had just been hungry before. Everything was going well. When it was time for dessert Timonthy opted for the cheeseboard and a glass of port. He was starting to feel very mellow and optimistic about the morning. They would meet Stolid who would apologise for his lack of contact. Everything would be explained satisfactorily. They would perhaps spend a couple of days looking around the gardens and talking to Stolid, finding out if he’d met someone new and then it was time for home. Paris could return home happy to her young friends. Lizzie could carry on her search for the perfect man which would surely keep her busy for eternity. He would ask Gerard if he wanted to go with him on a trip to North or South America perhaps, or Istanbul or Beijing. There were so many places in the world he wanted to explore further, that would be so much the better for having an amiable companion with him.
Perhaps they could ride over the grass prairies together and Gerard would recover that thing he’d lost, that self esteem, that feeling that he was in control of the world around him. Timonthy had no objection at all to riding horses. It was just the endless hours spend in the stable, mucking out and playing with straps of leather and talking about horses he couldn’t bear.
He chided his mind again. Always racing on ahead, never here with him in the present and Peter was talking to him.
“Is there anything else you need for the night? I can arrange it before we go our separate ways.”
“We’re fine, thank-you.”
They finished with coffee and another selection of delicate objects appeared: home-made truffles, praline, and fudge. Timonthy thought back to his assumption that they would be eating at a greasy spoon with a sense of humility. If every expectation of his was proved this wrong it was definitely time for him to spend more of his life in the present.
When they had all finished Peter started to look restless. Timonthy was instantly suspicious again. Where did he have to rush off to? What did he have to do?
“I hope that you will excuse me,” Peter eventually explained himself. “I promised my wife that I would give her a call at ten.”
Timonthy looked at his watch. It was coming up to ten. How had so much time disappeared? The service hadn’t been slow: it had seemed a seamless jump between desire for a thing and the thing itself and yet hours had gone by.
“If anyone needs me I’m in room three-twelve,” Peter said. “Don’t worry about the bill. They know I’ll settle everything in the morning. I’ll see you all in the main breakfast room at eight o clock or so.”
His leaving broke up the party and Will left soon after explaining he was tired.
“Are you tired too?” Lizzie asked Timonthy with a hint of restrained anger, he thought. She was peeved that Will had left her. He’d done well to entertain her to that degree.
“I’m happy to sit in the lounge for a while,” he replied. “I won’t stay up all night though, the driving was tiring.”
They all found their way into the cosy lounge. It was empty. It all seemed forlorn, unloved but Gerard explained.
“Peter said they were supposed to have a wedding here tomorrow but it was cancelled at lunch time. Fortunate for us!”
They found a comfy group of four armchairs near to the fire. It was gently dying down. Although it had not been a cold day it was pleasant to sit there in front of the fire, letting the events of the day gently seep through his brain: to let the body slowly realise that he was hundreds of miles away from the soil he called home. He was here with his daughter, his best friend and a new lover. The moment could barely be improved upon.
“Are you happy Paris?” he asked. There was still that quiet melancholy about her that was not her normal character.
“I’m very happy that we seem to be on the verge of finding out that Uncle Stolid is happy and well,” she replied. “How about you?”