THE TRYSTING TREE

Free THE TRYSTING TREE by Linda Gillard

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Authors: Linda Gillard
talk to her about it. And I’m curious to know if she’s had any more thoughts about Ivy’s change of heart.’
    ‘She’s certainly been thinking about that and I know she’d be delighted to see you again.’
    ‘OK, talk to Phoebe and let me know when I can visit. Take your time. I’m not going to put pressure on anyone, but the offer’s there.’
    ‘Thank you. It’s very generous of you.’
    ‘Well, that’s the second thing you need to factor in. Remember I said there were two?’
    ‘What’s the second?’
    ‘How much I’d enjoy spending time with you and Phoebe, not to mention all the ghosts of Garden Lodge.’
    ‘Ghosts?’
    ‘My grandmother, Ivy. My great-grandmother, Violet. Her brother, William Hatherwick and the woman who ended up owning Beechgrave, Hester Mordaunt. They’re my family, Ann. It would be a privilege to restore their garden. I even thought about buying Garden Lodge so I could do that, but now, if you’ll let me, I can do what I’d planned in my capacity as gardener, not owner. It’s an arrangement that could suit everyone.’
    ‘Let’s hope Phoebe thinks so. I’ll get back to you, Connor, as soon as she’s made a decision.’
    ‘No hurry. The garden’s been waiting since 1976. A few more days won’t make any difference. Those beeches aren’t going anywhere…’

THE BEECH WOOD
     
    A storm is coming. We sense it. In our roots. In the quivering air. There’s a shrieking on the wind and a deep stirring in the earth, as if the numberless dead are tunnelling, like moles, out of their graves, to rail against the heedless living.
    A storm is coming, doubtless. There will be destruction. Consternation. We have seen it many times and we shall see it again. We stand, bearing witness to the centuries, impartial, indifferent, offering shelter to any living thing that seeks solace in our shade.
    The ancients among us have learned to yield, to sacrifice a bough – sometimes several. There can be strength in weakness. But the ways of wind and weather cannot be learned in a mere hundred years. The young ones stand tall, shallow-rooted. They break when they should bend.
    After the storm has passed, some lie fallen – though some of the fallen live yet.
    We endure.

ANN
     
    Phoebe had a ringside seat. She said she liked to watch demolition, so I placed a bench against the south-facing wall of the kitchen garden, where, even in January, the weak winter sunshine made its presence felt. Swaddled in a fleece blanket and quilted coat, sporting her tweed cap and gloves, Phoebe sat and watched as we tore up decades of undergrowth and tangles of ivy, honeysuckle and clematis were cut back to expose the mellow Victorian brick.
    As Connor hacked and pulled at unyielding brambles, Phoebe called out to him, ‘You put me in mind of the Prince in Sleeping Beauty .’
    He looked up and grinned. Removing a dirty glove, he wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. ‘Well, it’s high time this beauty woke. She’s been asleep for nearly forty years.’ He donned his glove again and returned to work, creating heaps of vegetation which I gathered up and put into a barrow, then wheeled out into the lane and emptied into a waiting skip.
    As I passed Phoebe, I stopped to ask if she was warm enough and if she still had coffee in the flask beside her on the bench. She seemed touched by my concern and assured me she was thoroughly enjoying herself. ‘There’s something rather soothing about watching other people exhaust themselves. I’ve been studying Connor. He has a method, doesn’t he?’
    ‘He says he’s following the sun as it moves round. The difference in temperature is quite marked. Do you feel it when the sun goes behind a cloud?’
    ‘Oh, yes, though I tend to be more aware of changes in light and shade than temperature. Years of working in that arctic studio.’
    ‘It’s not too bad once you’ve lit the wood burner.’
    ‘I could never be bothered. Just donned my thermals and

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