We rounded another cypress and we had reached Aunt Lucinda’s grave which lay in the corner of the graveyard beside a mossy wall. We stood before her gravestone and scrutinised it carefully. It looked clean and new. It occurred to me that soon the cemetery would be full and then where would the foreigners bury their dead.
‘It might sink into the earth,’ I said aloud.
He bent down and peered at the stone. ‘No, this should endure. It is beautifully carved, like an arched window.’ He touched it, passing his fingers over the tracery, appreciating the design’s simplicity. A raised pattern of flowers climbed around the borders encircling the letters. How would it appear a hundred years from now? Would the lettering disappear just as Aunt Lucinda’s soul escaped to wander canal-side streets? I laid the roses on her grave as Theo read aloud the inscription on the headstone.
To the Dear, Dear Memory of Alice Lucinda
Youngest Daughter of
The Rev Henry Western Plumptre
God Took her Home
June 11th, 1895 Aged 75
‘She was my grandfather’s youngest sister. We share a surname for she never married.’
‘Do you miss her?’ He touched my hand lightly and it was as if a spirit had passed between our worlds and lingered for a second.
‘She had a long life. I hardly knew her.’ I looked up at him. ‘In September we shall leave.’
It was sad to think about our departure because today I was totally happy. Today I was my own person for the first time in many, many months. Theo tactfully went and sat on a bench a little way along the path, not recognising the true reason for my melancholy. I whispered a small prayer for Aunt Lucinda. A breeze blew through the cypresses carrying on it the scent of jasmine. My mood lifted and I joined Theo on the bench.
‘Emma.’ He paused after speaking my name. ‘I know we must return to the boats now, but I hope I may see you again, if I may if I were not intruding.’
He lifted my hand and held it for a moment before allowing it to drop.
‘I shall ask Aunt Beatrice to invite you to tea. Her day is Tuesday.’
He rustled around in his jacket pocket and produced a card. I turned it over. He was living in the Friari in a house with a stone carving above it depicting Saint George and the Dragon. I knew the very Church and said we would send a messenger with an invitation when Aunt Beatrice resumed her tea parties.
Then as misfortune would have it, Mrs. Arnott appeared on the pathway.