The man had traveled far, and sweat dotted his brow despite the chilly air. He shifted his heavy burlap sack from one shoulder to the other as he reached into a pocket and took out a folded sheet of paper.
He looked around. Carriages thundered past, the horses snorting in the cold. Street vendors shouted wearily, their voices to mingling in an endless cacophony. Orphans in the streets darted from shadow to shadow, coal-blackened and shivering. The curtain of a carriage flickered open, and an aristocratic head peered out with boredom before disappearing.
“Excuse me,” the man said to a passing woman. She didn't seem to hear him. “Excuse me,” he repeated, louder.
The woman stopped, a look of irritation on her face.
The man handed her the paper carefully. “Can you tell me where I can find this place?”
She took the paper and glanced over it. “It's a letter,” she said curtly, “but there's no address. Can't you read?”
“It doesn't say where he lives?” the man asked, frowning.
“You can't read, can you?” said the woman. She glanced over his simple clothes and his mud-caked shoes. “You speak funny. You're from the country?” she said curiously.
The man moved to peer at the letter. “Are you sure it doesn't say where he lives?”
“I told you, no,” the woman said, irritable once more. “It's only a letter for someone named `Thomas,' from…” She glanced down. “Well, it's unfinished. There's no name at the bottom.”
“Then do you know where Kellswater live?” the man asked.
“No, I've never heard of the name,” said the woman, holding out the letter for the man to take.
“It would be a house with two stories,” the man continued. “It wouldn't be far from a school for boys, a school that was named after a tree. Oak.”
“The Oak School for Boys?” said the woman. “I do know that. It's down at the south end of the city. Just follow this road until you see it.”
The man took the letter and smiled briefly. “Thank you,” he said, and the woman quickly left.
The man refolded the letter and slipped it back into his clothes. He began his way down the road in the direction the woman had pointed. A little snow had fallen here and there, forming muddy puddles as they were trod upon. Carts loaded with canvas-covered wares labored through the cold and clattered on the cobbled streets, the misty breath of men and horses forming clouds in the air.
The sun was setting when the man stopped walking. A tremendous oak tree stood before him, and behind it, as though hiding in the embrace of spreading branches, was a house.
The man went to the door and knocked. He waited, watching the sunlight and snow filter through the oak tree's leafy crown and fall onto the cracked and peeling paint, the shuttered windows. The other houses on the street had a few potted plants placed delicately on the windowsills. This one was bare.
The door opened and a face peered out from the crack.
“Who is it?” the voice asked. It was a woman's voice, flat and unwelcoming.
“Is this where Kellswater lives?” the man asked.
The door widened slightly. “I am Julia Kellswater,” the woman said. The man could see the glint of her eyes. “What is it that you want?”
“I have news about Gabriel Kellswater,” said the man. “Your brother.”
There was a pause as the woman behind the door stood still. Then the door opened, revealing a dark and curtain-drawn interior. “Come in,” said Julia Kellswater, moving aside.
The man stepped in.
“Who is it, Julia?” a thin, reedy voice asked. It came from a corner in the shadows, a form wrapped with shawls and blankets until it seemed more a part of the chair and patched cushions than a human being.
“No one,” said Julia. “Just a visitor.”
“A visitor?” said the voice. “We used to have so many visitors.”
Julia said nothing, moving through the darkness towards a room at the other end. The man followed her, looking around curiously while holding his bundle in his arms.
“You didn't like visitors, Julia,” the voice went on, and there was a hint of an accusation in it. “You never did, and you used to hide in your room and sulk. Not like your brother, who was a true gentleman…”
Julia pushed open a door, walking inside and beckoning the man to enter. The man walked through the doorway and looked around. It was a kitchen of sorts: a large stove in a corner, pots and pans hanging from the walls, and vegetables sitting on the counter. The light from the dusty window was pale from the cold and reddened by the sunset.
Julia moved to the table in the middle of the room and sat down with a barely audible sigh.
“Do sit,” she said, indicating the only other chair in the room.
The man sat and put his bundle gently onto the wooden table with a soft thud.
“You said you have news of my brother, Gabriel,” said Julia. Her voice was expressionless, and her eyes were impassive as they went over his appearance and the burlap sack that he had carried.
The man took a deep breath, and his eyes were on his bundle. “Yes, I do,” he said at length. “I…”
“Would you like some tea?” asked Julia.
“No, I am fine,” said the man, still looking fixedly at the bundle. “Gabriel… passed away. Six days ago.”
He looked up. Water dripped somewhere from a leaky kettle or from a wet windowsill of melting snow; outside, some one passed, the muffled footsteps fading away in the distance. Silence.
“He asked me to take him-back,” said the man. He shifted the burlap off to reveal a large, earthenware urn. There was another silence. The man finally looked at Julia's face, and saw nothing there. “I'm sorry,” he said at length.
“Gabriel disappeared four years ago,” said Julia, her voice emotionless and cold. “These are his ashes?”
“Yes, they are,” said the man. He put a hand on the urn-a large hand, roughened by work in the fields and under the sun. “They are your brother's ashes. They are his.” Julia's face hardened at the solemn anger in the man's voice. “He spoke of you,” the man continued. “He spoke of you many times.”
The hardness melted and a strange expression passed over Julia's face. “Did he?” she said. Then, before the man could answer, she said, “How did he die?”
“He was sick,” the man replied. “Very sick in the end.” He seemed to want to say more, but he stopped.
“And you were with him until-the end?” said Julia.
The man nodded. His fingers traced the sides of the earthenware urn before he quickly returned his hand to his lap.
Julia straightened. “Very well. Thank you for bringing to me the news, as well as my brother's ashes, Mr.…”
“Peterson,” said the man. “Adam Peterson.”
“Mr. Peterson.” She glanced out the window. “The sun's set already, and you might as well stay here for the night.” She paused. “Would my brother's old room be suitable?”
Adam hesitated for a moment. “It will be fine. I… thank you.”
Julia stood up. For a moment she looked around before her eyes settled on the space in front of the fireplace at the other end of the room. She picked up the urn and walked across the floor, setting the urn onto the hearth.
“Let me show you your room,” she said. “I take it that you've traveled far.” She paused. “Come.”
The opened the door and went into the dim room. Curtains were fully drawn now, and a single lamp quivered next to the shadow in the corner, casting shadows in the murky light.
“Where are you going, Julia?” the voice from the corner asked.
Julia stopped, a candle in hand and halfway up the stairs.
“I'm showing Mr. Peterson his room, Mamma,” she said. “He's staying the night. It's too late for him to travel now. It'll be cold at night.”
“What were you discussing in the kitchen?” the old woman asked, peering up at them from behind the patched scarves and shawls. Adam glanced at the face and saw that it was a mere ghost of some past beauty.
“Nothing, Mamma,” said Julia, giving Adam a momentary look. Adam lowered his head and they went on while the old woman grumbled where she rocked and forth in her chair.
Julia moved down a small hall to a door at the end. “Here,” she said, turning the knob and opening the door. “This will be your room.”
Adam entered, looking around as he did so. There was a bed at one side, a desk in front of a curtained window, and bare walls. Before a small fireplace was a hearthrug.
“If you need anything, just find me,” said Julia. She set the candle on the desk. “I'll be in the room at the other end of the hall.” She walked to the doorway and paused. “Thank you,” she muttered, her head down and her brown hair falling down on either side of her face. She looked young and lost. Adam remembered that she was only seventeen.
“Your mother…?” Adam said, trailing off into nothingness.
“I'll tell her,” Julia said curtly, lifting her head sharply. “Sleep well.” She left the room and shut the door.
Adam looked around. The bed was neatly made. The desk was as clean and empty as the walls. The curtains fell heavily over the window.
He moved forward and pulled the curtains aside with one hand; with the other, he found the latch for the windows, fumbled, and pushed. The glass creaked aside, and air entered the room-a breath of freshness into a tomb.
He leaned out, squinting as the last rays of the sun streaked across the sky. There was the oak tree, its branches spreading imposingly. His eyes ran from the branches down to the trunk, tracking the path where one might climb, where a boy, a youth, and then a young man had gone.
He leaned back and shut the windows, let the curtains fall. The room felt small, like a box to trap a mouse in. Carefully he undressed, folding his travel-stained clothes and setting them on the desk, the surface rough and ink-stained, where once there were books and papers and poetry.
Adam blew out the candle, and then sat on the bed, a hand traveling over the quilt under which another had slept. He folded it aside and crept in gently, disturbing as little as possible. He turned his towards the pillow and folded it around his face, breathing in deeply, deep to the bottom of his lungs. He held his breath, his eyes closed, and then he sighed. Curling onto his side, he pulled the thin pillow to his chest and shut his eyes tightly. His face was a mask of sorrow.
Adam awoke later than he usually did. The sun was already hovering over the pale horizon. He shivered as he crept out of the sanctuary of warmth and soft quilts and pulled on his clothes.
He pushed open the door, relieved that it didn't creak. The house was silent, as silent as the kitchen had been the night before. He heard a few sounds drifting in from outside: instead of the birdsongs he was used to, it was the clatter of wheels over cobbled stone and solitary voices.
Quietly he made his way down the staircase. He was unused to a staircase: he could clamber up and down a ladder as easily as walking, but these stairs made him feel rough, unrefined. Even unwelcomed. The memory of Julia's stony face and her mother's whining voice drifted through his mind. He would leave soon, but there was still one more thing he had to do.
“Up early, are you?”
Adam froze. He turned, and saw the old woman-Julia's mother-rocking back and forth in the shadows. The curtains were drawn, and none of the rosy light of the morning touched her face.
“Good morning,” said Adam. He shifted where he stood. “I am used to waking up early. I hope I hadn't disturbed you.”
“So polite,” said the old woman. “But country folk all the same.” Her eyes went over him critically. “Do sit.”
Adam ambled to the only other chair in the room and sat down. He glanced briefly at the stairs.
“She won't be up till a bit more,” said the old woman. “Lazy, that one is. Ever since she was small, she loved to sleep.” The old woman paused, then went on. “She used to love food even more, but now there's not enough for her. No, never enough.” She sighed. “It used to be that we'd have much more food-more food than we'd ever need, I thought. But then Gabriel disappeared, and his father died.”
Adam glanced at the old woman's face. Her eyes were fixed unseeingly on a spot before her, as though she had forgotten his presence.
But she looked up.
“My Gabriel was the finest boy,” she said, fiercely and proudly. “When he was little, all the governesses said he was the cleverest thing. You couldn't find a cleverer one, or a sweeter child. Not like Julia, who was ill tempered and stupid from the start.”
“Oh,” said Adam slowly. Had she by some bizarre twist of fate forgotten after a night's sleep that her son was dead? Or, thought Adam, Julia hadn't told her yet. The latter was far more likely, Adam decided, and he wished that Julia had told.
“He liked the arts, too,” she went on. There was none of the whining quality Adam remembered from the night before: the voice was clear, sure, proud. “He painted and drew. And wrote. Oh, he wrote and wrote-poems, stories, articles… Jonathan disapproved, of course. He didn't want an artist as his son. He wanted a doctor. Or lawyer, or engineer.”
“Did he listen?” Adam asked when the old woman fell silent.
She looked up sharply. “Who, Gabriel? He did, of course. Never a better son, always listened to what his father or I said. Sweet tempered as an angel, not like his sister. A mule has gotten a better temper than she.”
“There's no need to abuse me when I'm not there,” said Julia as she descended the stairs. She walked slowly, and her eyes looked a bit red.
“You'll need to go soon,” the old woman sniffed. “You have work to do.”
Ignoring her mother, Julia went to the kitchen and took out a large wooden pail. “If you would be so kind, Mr. Peterson, as to fetch a pail of water from the pump?”
“What?” the old woman squawked. “Are you telling the guest to fetch the water? Where are your manners, girl? How can you behave just like a common wench off the streets?”
“Thank you, Mr. Peterson,” Julia said when Adam took the pail. “I have some-things to discuss with my mother.” She looked suddenly tired and very young.
“Of course,” said Adam, moving wordlessly to the door and outside into the cold. Good luck, he thought. He watched a few children staggering down the cobbled roads with their own buckets, and he followed them to the water pump. He waited, at the end of the line, feeling a bit out of place among the women and children. A few eyes glanced at him, but never for long: the children were too timid, and the women too tired to talk to the stranger with his muddy shoes and wooden bucket.
He wondered how many times Gabriel stood here as he did: stood and waited on this street, between the two lines of houses, among rosy-cheeked children like these. He could see, in his mind's eye, a young Gabriel-light-hearted yet melancholy, wearing the same long stockings as the other children, and holding with both hands a large bucket full of water. He saw the boy struggle with the bucket, saw the boy's father watching from the end of the street-watching with critical eyes, eyes that were never satisfied.
It was his turn. Adam set down the bucket and filled it with water.
He walked back to the house at the end of the lane, carrying the bucket easily with one arm. He set it down and pushed the door open, peering inside with some apprehension.
“Come in,” the old woman, Gabriel's mother, commanded. “Don't loiter in the doorway. It's quite cold.”
Adam entered, slipping into the kitchen with the bucket of water. Julia was there, her back to him as she tended the stove.
“Close the door,” Julia said without turning around.
Adam set the bucket down and turned, closing the door. He waited a moment or two before moving to sit at the table.
“I haven't told her yet,” Julia said, her back still to him.
“She deserves to know,” Adam said. Julia was silent. “You should tell her.”
Julia turned around at last. “Don't tell me what I should or should not do,” she snapped. “Mamma's not got much time left. It would be easier if she thought that he was still alive. She's suffered enough, God knows, ever since Gabriel left.”
She set a bowl of thin gruel before him. Adam looked at it. It was different from what Gabriel had told of. It wasn't the rich stew the hired cook had made, steaming deliciously in the morning. He saw oats in it, and some other grains.
“I don't know,” Adam said. “I… don't know what Gabriel would've wanted you to do.”
Julia paused, one hand holding a bowl and the other on the doorknob. She moved closer to the table. “Did you know him well?”
“I knew him for four years.”
Julia's face hardened once more. “Four years,” she repeated. “Did he tell you why he never wrote to us? Why he never sent any word at all?” Her voice rose. “Why he wouldn't even tell us that he was still-” She stopped.
Adam looked at her face. She was only seventeen, he thought. He wondered how she must feel: the betrayal, the grief, the sorrow, the uncertainty and fear. He looked down at the gruel and felt pity blossom in his heart. Gabriel had said they had maids and cooks and were planning to move to a larger house. But now, they had this.
“He never told me, but he…” He searched for the right words, aware that Julia was watching him intently. “I found him in a ditch by the road. He'd been robbed and left for dead.” He closed his eyes, remembering the splashes of blood on the dusty road, remembering seeing the body in the dried ditch. It had been summer. He remembered feeling sorrow at the sight of the beautiful body-stripped naked and bloody and bruised. He remembered taking the stranger home, remembered sleeping on the ground while the stranger slept in his bed. “It took him a long time to get better.”
Julia was silent. “He was on his way to the capital,” she said. “To the university. He never got there. When Gabriel disappeared, Father went looking, several times, and every time he came back with no tidings, he was a little older.”
She looked up fiercely. “He died from heartbreak,” she said in a flinty, accusing voice. “He died believing that his only son was dead-his favorite child, his hope, his… everything. He wouldn't have died if he had kept on hoping, if Gabriel had-”
“Gabriel was a good man,” Adam said fiercely, more fiercely than he had intended.
Julia looked up, surprised. Adam sat back. He knew he had spoken too vehemently, that she had noticed, but he had no desire to hide. He reminded himself that she, too, was suffering, that she was grieving, that he had been just as angry-no, much angrier-after Gabriel had died. He reminded himself that she was young, younger than he.
Julia moved to the door. “I need to go work,” she said. “You may do as you wish.” She pushed open the door, and Adam heard the old woman's complaints rise once more.
Adam lifted his bowl to his lips and gazed at the earthenware urn before the empty fireplace.
He watched the moonlight stream in through the curtained window. It was cold, and he could see his breath rise as a thin veil through the air.
He couldn't sleep. Perhaps it was because he'd spent the entire day pent up in the room, seeing Gabriel at the desk, the bed, the window; perhaps it was because he wasn't tired enough in such a strange and different place, with its alien sounds and smells.
He curled so that he was burying his face in the pillow. Gabriel's pillow-Gabriel had slept here, just as he had slept in his bed, far away in the country. Images were born behind his eyelids-images and memories, of Gabriel's face, utterly beautiful in the pale light of the moon. He remembered those times, when he had awaken suddenly in the middle of those warm summer nights, when he had knelt by Gabriel's bed, watching the bare chest rise and fall. He remembered watching with a pounding heart, but in the end he remembered pulling the quilt over, chiding himself-what if Gabriel got sick?
He didn't think Gabriel realized that he had a watcher in his sleep. Gabriel always made a point of smiling at him in the morning. Except for that one time when they'd drunk some of the ale Adam had brewed-it wasn't very good, the ale, but it was enough to make a horse drunk.
He remembered Gabriel staggering into his bed, giggling, while the stars glittered overhead.
“Sleep with me,” Gabriel said, smiling sleepily. His eyes were half closed, his hair falling over his face. “Get in.”
Adam remembered smiling, remembered the thrill coursing through his body, remembered his own throbbing hard on. He remembered the fire that had made him want to pull Gabriel's face to his and kiss those lips and those eyes and the pale column of his throat and his dark nipples and-and just love him, love him all over, love him as much as he could, all through the night.
But he hadn't.
Gabriel was mortified the following morning. He had crept down and blushed when Adam poured him some milk.
“Sorry,” he said. “I didn't say anything stupid, did I?”
Adam remembered smiling. “Well…”
Gabriel buried his face in his hands. “Oh God. I did, didn't I? Tell me what I said. No, don't.” He peered up through a crack in his fingers, his bloodshot eyes glinting. “My head is killing me. I'm never, ever going to drink ever again.”
Adam smiled and squashed the urge to peel away those hands and kiss them, and kiss the face. Instead he drank his own milk, feeling the warmth wash through the knot in his throat.
“Tell me?” Gabriel said timidly.
“You were…” Beautiful. “Rather naughty, actually. I think…” I love you, I love you so much- “that you'd drown yourself rather than repeat what you had said.”
Gabriel groaned. “That bad?”
And there were times when he saw the melancholy side, the side that came in midwinter.
“It'll be my sister's birthday soon,” Gabriel said. They had been sitting in the stable, enjoying the warmth of the animals. The snow covered the world like a gentle blanket, easing away all woes, all sorrows. “I've lost track of time, but her birthday's in December, a bit before Christmas. It's really too bad for her. People tend to give her a Christmas gift and birthday gift all in one.”
Adam shifted in the hay. Gabriel was staring out at the stars, his entire being caught up in their beauty. “Your sister?” Adam prompted.
Gabriel nodded. “Her name is Julia. She's the most wonderful little sister ever.”
“Does she look up to you a lot?”
Gabriel chuckled, and Adam smiled at the sound, even as his heart wrenched at the sorrow, the longing. “You could say that. She used to-well, she used to idolize me. I think it's because Father and Mother always paid more attention to me. I hated that.” He paused, and then a look of mortification went over his face. “Oh no-I'm so sorry. I can't believe I just said that.”
“It's okay,” Adam said, brushing it off. He had told Gabriel early on that he was an orphan, but he could hardly remember his father and mother. “Keep talking.”
“Well…” Gabriel shrugged. “There's really not much to say.”
Adam shifted again. “Do you miss them?” he asked, his voice low. Would you rather go back?
Gabriel was silent. Adam waited, his heart beating anxiously.
“Yes,” Gabriel said at least, and Adam felt his heart clench. “I do, but-”
But? Adam waited, holding his breath. Gabriel leaned his head back and gazed upwards. The light fell on his throat, and Adam blinked, suddenly struck by an intensity of emotion.
Gabriel leaned forward and got up. “Please don't ask me anymore,” he said flatly, and then left.
The night had been devastating. Adam remembered tossing and turning, unable to sleep a single wink. Scenarios ran through his head: of Gabriel leaving him, going back to the city, going back to his family, forgetting him. Claim him! his mind shrieked, but he didn't, or couldn't, or wouldn't, or-
It didn't matter in the end. He hadn't. And that was all.
When Gabriel got sick all through summer, he'd asked for pen and paper. Adam had miraculously found those two things somewhere in the cottage: he supposed it had been his foster father's, though he wasn't sure if the solitary farmer who had taken him in had been able to read or write.
For days, Gabriel had laid in bed with a pen in hand and the paper on the table. Adam had watched for seconds, minutes, hours-days, it seemed, as Gabriel wasted away and held pen in hand, the paper still blank. There were things to be done, things always to be done-tending the few crops he grew, taking care of the cows, horses, pigs, but he found himself sitting in Gabriel's room, sitting like a prisoner in a cell, utterly helpless.
“No,” Adam muttered, turning in the bed. He wouldn't allow himself to sink in those memories-he wouldn't allow himself to see that thin face, the emaciated arms and legs; he wouldn't let himself remember how the body had been wracked by coughs and-
He sat up.
The moonlight flowed in undisturbed. He wrapped the quilt about himself and quietly opened the door. He stopped at the top of the stairs and looked down. The corner was empty.
As silently as a shadow, he crept down the stairs and crossed the room into the kitchen. He shut the door halfway behind him and then knelt in front of the urn. The ground was cold and hard under his knees but he hardly felt it. He suddenly felt his heart tearing apart, bit by bit, as all the tears he had denied and channeled into anger and then into traveling-all overtook him like a tidal wave, and he cried, heavily and silently, silently and heavily as men cry.
It wasn't until the wracking sobs began to cease that he realized another presence in the room. He looked up and in the darkness he saw another form crouched before the urn, the tears tracing glimmering lines down her face: Julia.
On impulse he reached out a hand and put it on top of hers, on top of the earthenware urn, and she moved so that her forehead was on their hands, her tears falling, and Adam found himself holding her soothingly, murmuring as the tears dried on his face.
Julia sat back, wiping her eyes and smoothing her wrinkled dressing gown. “You loved him?”
This time it was she who reached out her hand and took his. He smiled wanly.
“I am sorry,” she said quietly.
He shook his head. “He loved you, too. He told me.”
“Really?” Julia said. Then she laughed, a bitter half-laugh. “I was so angry at him after he disappeared. I think I might have hated him. I didn't believe it possible that he could have died or been hurt. I was so convinced that he had run off somewhere, having so much fun, while we were here, rotting away alive.”
She was silent for a while.
“Why didn't he come back?” she whispered. “Why didn't he-send us a note or something, just to tell us that he was alive, that he didn't hate us all?”
Adam looked at the urn as though it had all the answers written on its sides. “His father-”
“Father,” said Julia, darkly. “Gabriel and Father. They loved each other very much, but it was a teetering kind of love, like the sun and the moon. I never understood it.”
Adam thought of the little boy carrying a bucket of water, watched by the father, the father watched by the son, and wondered if, perhaps, he knew what it all meant.
“So it was Father, then?” Julia asked.
Adam hesitated. “There was… another.” Slowly, he reached into his clothing and took out the letter-carefully folded, battered and tattered.
Julia took it. She unfolded it.
“What does it say?” Adam asked.
Julia frowned. “`Dearest Thomas.'” She paused, then went on. “`I really do not know where to begin. I really do not know why I write this when I will never see you again, when it will be far better for you to live your life with me forgotten. Have you forgotten me yet? Have you forgotten the nights when you climbed the oak outside my window and cajoled me to go down with you, down to the river, where we watched the moon glint on the waters? And the summers under the trees, alone and sweetly in love? I could not forgot, even after we had agreed to forget, and I will never forget. Memory is a cruel master. You are my heart, my soul, my Arcadia.'”
She looked up. “Thomas…” she murmured. “I remember him. He was a friend, Gabriel's friend. They used to be inseparable, but then, everything stopped. I think he's married the daughter of one of the city's wealthiest merchants. They're living in the capital now, I think.”
Julia put the letter down. She looked up.
“He asked to be taken to Arcadia,” Adam said dully. “Those were his last words. `Take me back to Arcadia. To my Arcadia.'”
They were silent.
“You take him,” Julia said suddenly.
“Me?” Adam said blankly. “I can't. He wanted to be next to his…”
“You are his Arcadia, even if he didn't know it,” she said fiercely. “Gabriel was always very clever in a bookish kind of way, but he was dumb as a block of wood when it came to these things. You are his Arcadia-he stayed with him until the very end, and you loved him-you, not Thomas.”
“You loved him too, and your mother,” said Adam.
Julia shook her head. “He is yours. Take him.”
She took his hand and put it on the earthenware urn: his hand, much larger and rougher than hers, as dark in the moonlight as hers were still white and fine.
“What will you tell your mother?”
“Nothing. Everything.” She shrugged. “I don't know. She might be happier that way, dreaming in her own little world.”
Adam nodded and swallowed past the painful knot in his throat. “You are very brave, Julia Kellswater,” he said. “I know why Gabriel loved you so much. I wish you all the best.”
Julia smiled and slipped her hand off the urn. “Take him. He is yours.”