Realising that the sun had gone and the moon had risen, and the sky was now a rich royal blue and the hills were pitch black, Aoife decided to fetch her painting and consider what she could do to improve it next time that great auriferous sunset appeared. She only had the hills to paint in, and a few wispy clouds, having captured the sky perfectly to the picturesque precision she demanded.
As she considered it, looking up from time to time to survey her surroundings again, and dabbling bare feet in the refreshing water whenever she happened to find herself in her wanderings and pacings by the lakeside, she heard a soft voice behind her.
Aoife looked up, turning her head. There rose a man, tall, dark-eyed and handsome, who had come to sit beside her on the shore.
“Danke sehr,” said Aoife graciously.
“You’re a brilliant painter,” Vinzent remarked, and Aoife glanced up at him with startled olive eyes.
“I thought you were Austrian,” she stammered.
“Haven’t you wondered why my name is Watersheen? My father is English, however Viennese my mother may be. I was schooled in England for the first seven years of my life.”
“Oh,” Aoife said dully. “I’m so sorry. I never thought to ask.”
Vinzent shook his head. “I never thought to tell. Not that it matters in the long run. Have you recovered, by the way?”
“Oh, quite,” Aoife responded in an inattentive voice. “Quite recovered, thank you.”
“I’d love to see you paint a self-portrait,” Vinzent said in moderate tones.
Aoife blushed. “I’m nothing special. I’d paint one of my cousins, for choice.”
“No?” Vinzent said mildly, in a faintly disinterested tone.
Aoife blushed even hotter, and she was glad of the darkness.
They were silent for a few moments, neither speaking, neither wishing to interrupt that silver silence. For it was silver. The moon was silver, and the lake and the evening mists and the tips of the pines where the moonlight caught them were silver.
So Aoife sat. She was not thinking, or moving. She was being, to quote a favourite expression of hers. And the warm dark body beside her was also being, sitting on the shore, silent and still, and so it was fully ten o’clock before Aoife returned to the chalet, undressed and got into bed. She slept solidly that night; full of an inner peace and security she had not known before – at least, not since Aunt ‘Nymph’ had been alive. Something inside her soul felt re-fulfilled.
That silence on the beach, even with a comparative stranger, had seemed different to anything she had experienced before. It was not a motherly silence, as it would have been with her aunt. It was neither a fatherly silence. And Aoife could not remember how it was to have a soft safe father. Uncle Humph did not quite fulfil that select position. Only a father could, and Aoife’s father was far away, and scarcely cared for her – or if he did, why did he not ever contact her? No; it had been somewhere in the region between a secure fatherly and caring motherly silence, with something else mixed in, even though the sharer of it had been more or less an unknown portion.
Something was rekindled in Aoife that had died at the time of Auntie ‘Nymph’’s death. She was no longer mentally lacking. She had felt that perfect unselfish, tender love for everyone and everything, and there was a difference in her when she glided downstairs the next morning. There was a new inner peace about her, and a new love, and everyone felt it, though not one could place it.