The sunshine and warm breeze begged us to go for a boat ride on Livingston Lake. More a pond than a lake, the tantalizing body of water sparkled like a gem behind Bray Manor. A dock jutted through a batch of reeds and nearby was a small boat house with two rowboats waiting. Daniel chose the rowboat painted sky blue and dislodged it. I admit to enjoying the look of his strong arms, bare under the rolled up sleeves of his cotton shirt.
“I hope you’re prepared to get a little wet,” he called out. Though I wore a summer dress, the length and multiple layers prevented me from being entirely comfortable in the warm air, despite the lace parasol I held overhead. A cool mist would surely be welcomed.
“Is that a threat, Lord Gold?” I said playfully.
He grinned that crooked grin I loved so dearly. “Only if you want it to be one, Lady Gold.”
Daniel situated the rowboat along the dock—he called it a jetty—and offered his hand. I accepted his help with one hand, moist in a summer glove, and lifted my skirts with the other. I wasn’t quite prepared for the rocking of the small vessel and nearly lost my balance! Once again, Daniel was my saviour, keeping me from an undignified dunking in the water. That would’ve cooled me down!
Once we were carefully seated, we headed toward the middle of the lake. I holding my parasol even though I wore a wide brimmed straw hat, and Daniel, also in a straw boating hat, mastering the two oars.
If I could only aptly describe how beautiful and delightful it was! Small grey buntings flew from their nests in the reeds, and sang in loud melodious chirping. A magnificent orange beaked creature gracefully flapped its grey wings as it flew along the surface of the water.
“That’s a greylag goose,” Daniel said. “Native to Europe, I believe.”
“I’ve never seen one like it before,” I said. “At least not that I can remember.” I’d spent the first eight years of my life in England, but most of that was in the city and not around marshland where the greylag nests.
“It’s so peaceful and lovely here,” I said. “You must miss it?” I felt a sudden unease that Daniel might be regretting his agreement to reside in Boston.
“It’s beautiful in the summer, love,” Daniel said. “But don’t romanticize it. Mostly it’s damp and gloomy and hard to keep one's spirits up.”
If that was true, then the pity I felt for Ambrosia and Felicia grew deeper. Poor things having to live here on their own. At least it was nice and bright out now.
Daniel continued to row and we glided smoothly to the other side of the lake where I spotted what looked like tombstones. Daniel noticed me squinting.
“It’s the family plot,” he explained. “My parents and grandfather are buried there. Do you mind if we step out?”
I could hardly deny Daniel the opportunity to visit the gravesite of his loved ones, and though it felt a tad morose, my curiosity was piqued.
The boat rocked whilst Daniel tugged it to shore. Fortunately, thus far I’ve not succumbed to the earlier threat of getting wet. We strolled quietly to the small cemetery where many Gold family members had been laid to rest. I reached for Daniel’s hand as we walked around the neatly tended death garden. Whoever had the job of keeping the grass mowed, weeds pulled and flower blossoming did a fine job.
Daniel stopped in front of one rather majestic looking tomb.
“This is Grandfather.”
The etching was weather worn but I could still make out the script. “Sir Artemis Gold. November 5th, 1841 - February 27th, 1890. Beloved husband and father. May he rest in peace.”
“He died before I was born,” Daniel said.
The next time Daniel stopped it was before a joined set of tombstones. I knew that his parents died together in 1902 in a terrible carriage crash that injured three horses and killed one.
“I was eleven when it happened,” Daniel said. Even all these years later, his countenance clouded at the memory. “They’d been to the opera, and whilst the show was on, a disastrous ice and hale storm blew through. Their carriage ensnared with another before flipping into a water-filled gutter.”
I squeezed Daniel’s hand, hoping to convey the sadness I felt on his behalf.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” I said. “Tremendous for you and Felicia, and Ambrosia as well.” My heart nearly burst with heaviness. Then Daniel, sensing my overwhelming empathy, pulled me away back to the rowboat.
“Enough about the dead when we are alive and well!” He pushed the rowboat with me in it, and rowed earnestly until we were once again in the centre of Livingstone Lake. That’s when Daniel fulfilled his mischievous promise he made at the beginning of our venture and slapped the lake with the oar.
A refreshing spray reached me and I lifted my face towards it, laughing.