“Is the boat surprise to do with Vinzent?” she said bluntly.
Sir Humphrey looked hunted for a moment. Then he relaxed. “Alright, you win,” he surrendered. “He didn’t want me to tell you.”
“So does he know about this island?”
“He does,” Sir Humphrey sounded distracted, a habitual thing occurring in him when he was talking privately. “I told him. I couldn’t not tell him. He loved the idea. So he said he’d make an offering in return for giving you the house.”
“What?” Aoife’s heart was beating quickly, and she didn’t know why.
“The boat: Kristiane. He’s bought it. I wasn’t meant to tell you. But I’m glad you know.”
“Kristy? Vinzent bought Kristy? Oh, how absolutely wonderful! Dear Kristy! How generous he is – and thoughtful! He knows how much we all love Kristy.”
“He just sold his big Viennese townhouse and a lot of his furniture,” Sir Humphrey said a little dubiously. “He can afford to be generous. Especially as it’s for him as well. He lived by the sea in England, and sailed quite a bit, he said.”
“Yes, but he didn’t have to do anything. He didn’t have to buy Kristy. He didn’t have to.”
“He said that when he joins us he will have the boat taken down on a trailer to St Malo and have her taken from Dover after that.”
“That’s very committed of him. What a wonderful thing to do.”
“He loves you very much.”
Aoife blushed. “I know. Do you think it will last, Uncle Humph? Like you and Auntie ‘Nymph’? I know how much you still love her.”
“I’ll love Dymmie till the day I die, Aoife. And I’m not the most accurate judge, but I can tell you this: if what you feel is real, then I know that it will last forever.”
Aoife nodded, reflecting. She had only known Vinzent for less than two months – had it really been so short a time? Had she not known and loved him forever? – but the passion and comradeship she felt for him was no light matter.
She changed the subject. “Do you think you could get a chalet here?”
“No; and I’m sorry about that. There just isn’t enough money left.”
“Uncle Humph, if you don’t mind me asking, where did you get the money for building on the island? I know you said we’d been building up a large account, but money doesn’t just get used all at once, if you know what I mean. You’d have used it before, or not at all. Or we’d have heard of it. Is it a legacy?”
Sir Humphrey sighed, and Aoife noticed that his hair had streaks of grey through it. It was thinner than it had been at the start of July, despite the holiday in the refreshing mountain air of the Austrian Tirol.
“You’re right,” he said at last. “It was a sort of legacy. I couldn’t bear myself to touch it. But I’ve been thinking about his for a long time. Your aunt and I were thinking of building houses on that island and letting them out even before we came here the first time.” He took a deep breath, and she could hear his breathing shake – just a very little, so that it was scarcely perceptible.
“Just before Dymmie died, she asked me to build the cottages with her money and all she left me. She asked me to give one to Rob, and one to you when you came of age. But I haven’t been able to touch the money. I haven’t been able to do anything with it.” A lone tear trickled down his cheek. “I couldn’t even bring myself to grant Dymmie’s dying wish. I just couldn’t.”