I will make a palace fit for you and me, O green days in forest and blue days at sea.-
Robert Louis Steveson
With the horses settled in, they turned away from the shore to climb steps made into the steep grade leading up to the open terrace of the house. It was a simple dwelling crafted from local wood and stone, and so tucked into the side of the hill that it looked almost cave-like except for the front wall of windows facing the river. Both sides of the house had doors leading out to stone terraces. They could see that a lot of living was done outside, because there was a curious assortment of outdoor furniture collected around a cooking fireplace built into the side of a retaining wall.
A lit lantern at the window drew them to the house in the dimming evening light. Walking closer, soft summer breezes wrapped them with the scent of the river. Muddy banks covered in willow and and honeysuckle baked by the sun, made an early evening incense. The girls realized they were in a special place, and reaching the terrace door, they took a deep breath and paused to look out. Lush green forest surrounded them. Some trees were so covered over in ivy that they brought to mind moss-covered columns of ancient ruins.
Harlan opened the door for them as they entered the house. They were not prepared for what they saw. The house was rustic inside, but it was also sparkling and elegant. Anna was an old woman who somehow looked young, and she was beautiful. She welcomed them warmly.
"Girls, have you been frightened? Harlan tells me you were lost!"
Hannah admitted, "We were getting concerned and then surprised to find you living in this hidden place! We're sorry to end up on your doorstep like this. We don't usually go this far, and we've never been lost before. I need to study more about using a compass before we try anything like this again!"
Anna's face showed pleasure. She enjoyed children, and in her early years as a librarian, experience taught her that many young people have open hearts and inquiring minds. "Don't worry any more girls. You are welcome here. We can talk about using a compass, but first, let's have a little something to eat."
What Anna called 'a little something' was on a table beautifully laid with her old Dutch blue and white china under the glow of a kerosene lamp. At each setting, a crystal compote of fruit glistened like jewels. Gentle bubbling sounds came from the antique copper kettle on the wood stove. Did Anna and Harlan live like this every day? They could learn a lot here.
"I kept supper simple tonight. The weather got a bit hot, and we've learned from experience that young people have strong preferences in food anyway. I just baked bread and we have garden greens and this fine cheese a friend brought us yesterday. With our berries for desert, I hope you will find something you like. Please, sit down everyone.
Anna and Harlan said they would answer all their questions after they had eaten. The girls could talk almost nonstop at the table. They had to settle down and relax to eat the satisfying food. They took their cue from their hosts; no need to hurry or talk much. And what could be better with their meal than the goodnight song of birds and the the music of lapping water at the river shore?