The Long Way Home

Page 139

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She bent low, until she was down beside him, whispering in his ear, looking into his eyes. “You’re at the top of the hill in Three Pines,” she spoke softly. “Can you see the village green? Can you smell the forest? The grass?”

He nodded slightly, his eyes softening.

“You’re walking down the hill now. There’s Ruth. And Rosa.”

“Rosa,” Peter whispered. “She came home?”

“She came home, to Ruth. Like you’ve come home. To me. There’s Olivier and Gabri, waving to you from the bistro. But don’t go in yet, Peter. You see our home?”

Peter’s eyes had a faraway look, the panic gone.

“Come up the walkway, Peter. Come into the garden. Sit beside me in our chairs. I’ve poured you a beer. I’m holding your hand. You can smell the roses. And the lilies.”

“Clara?” said Gamache gently.

“You can see the woods, and hear the Rivière Bella Bella,” said Clara, her voice faltering.

Her warm face was touching his cold cheek, as she whispered, “You’re home.”

FORTY-ONE

They held Peter Morrow’s funeral in Three Pines. Friends and family gathered in St. Thomas’s chapel and sang, and sobbed, and grieved and celebrated.

Clara tried to give the eulogy, but couldn’t speak. Her words stuck at the lump in her throat. And so Myrna took over, holding her hand while Clara stood beside her.

And then they sang some more. And finally they took Peter’s ashes around the village, sprinkling a bit here. A bit there. Some in the river, some by the bistro, some beneath the three great pines.

The rest were spread in Peter and Clara’s garden. So that Peter would bloom each spring, in the roses and lilies and lavender. And the gnarled old lilac.

Marcel Chartrand had come to the funeral. And stood at the back. But had left before the reception.

“It’s a long way home,” he explained to Gamache, when asked why he was leaving so soon.

“Perhaps not,” said Armand. He was standing with Jean-Guy and Henri, while Reine-Marie and Annie were across the hall, with Clara.

“Come back again, in a year or so,” Gamache suggested. “It would be nice to see you.”

Chartrand shook his head. “I don’t think so. I’m a bad memory.”

“Clara will never forget,” said Gamache. “That’s for sure. But the cure for lost love is more love.” He looked down at Henri.

Chartrand scratched the shepherd’s ears and smiled a little. “You’re a romantic, monsieur.”

“I’m a realist. Clara Morrow will not spend the rest of her life in that one horrific event.”

After Marcel left, Armand walked over to Ruth, who was holding Rosa and looking at the punch bowl.

“I don’t dare have any,” she said. “It might not be spiked.”

“Noli timere,” said Gamache, and when she smiled, he said, “You knew?”

“About Professor Massey? No. If I had, I’d have said something.”

“But you were afraid of him,” said Gamache. “You saw something in him that scared you. That’s why you were so nice to him. Jean-Guy caught on. We all assumed you were nice because you liked him, but Jean-Guy said you probably hated him.”

“I didn’t hate him,” said Ruth. “And how can you trust the opinion of someone who’s sober?”

“But Jean-Guy was right, wasn’t he? You might not have hated him, but there was fear there. Otherwise why say, noli timere? Be not afraid.”

“That blank canvas on his easel was one of the saddest things I’ve seen,” said Ruth. “An artist who’s lost his way. It builds up. Eats away at you. Beauvoir over there”—she gestured with the duck across the room, where Jean-Guy and Annie were talking with Myrna—“he’s a numbskull. And you?” She gave Gamache a sharp assessing look. “You’re a fool. Those two?” She turned to Olivier and Gabri, putting food onto the long table. “Are just plain ridiculous.”

She turned back to Gamache.

“But you’re all something. Professor Massey was nothing. Empty. Like the canvas. I found that terrifying.” She paused, remembering. “What happened to that painting? The only one of Professor Norman’s that survived?”

“The one at the back of Massey’s studio? The good one?”

“The great one,” said Ruth. “It was poetry.”

“The asbestos would never come out. It was destroyed.”

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