for C. D-L

There were two old men who made a project to defy gravity. The old knight, Sir Tor, had spent his life securing borders, incarcerating malefactors, protecting widows, reforming crop rotation, sending his sons into the world, marrying his daughters, and mourning his three wives, all dead in childbed, all arrested in youth and beauty. The old architect, Hew—who was much more of a master mason—had built manor houses and a courthouse, funerary monuments and bridges, sunken gardens and the odd hermitage. His wife was not dead, and had never loved him. He had suffered because of this, and now did not. His only son was dead (he was eleven years old) and Hew suffered this death daily.

The two old men sat by the deep carp basin, which was fed by a rush of water from a stone gutter let into the hillside by a much earlier people. The water drained away through various gullies, back into the hillside. They watched a fish rise in the evening light to catch flies. Suddenly it shot up—not very far—bending its fat |silver body in an arc over the dark surface, snapping, flickering a tail fin, falling again with a slap and letting the water close over it. Sir Tor said, “Hup, he defies gravity.” “It gives automatic pleasure,” said Hew. “I wonder why.” “Lifts the spirit,” said Sir Tor. “Sleek and shining,going up.” They watched the ring of water slop, wrinkle, and flatten.