Sweet and clear, a pure soprano her sister’s voice, the Italian curling from her lips to cling to the very air, caught in the breeze and echoing faintly in the valley that fell away behind them; and Elisabeth too had found herself humming along, feeling her own soul rising towards the trees as if to embrace them. How many trees had she so flown towards? Hundreds, thousands, in a dozen countries and half as many ages, trees that twisted and grew into themselves like wizened grandmothers, trees that shot upright as if to pierce the very heavens. With them all she had felt this mutual marveling, two beings marked by a greater reach of time, each shedding years like days, the quickening and quelling of their sap akin to her own scattered heartbeats.
She had slowed without realizing it, lost in thought; she had to run to catch them up, nearly stumbling into Catherine’s backside and earning a withering look from her eldest sister. Yet another in a long, long line of withering looks.
The last low più trailed off and Mary stopped, seemingly as distracted as Elisabeth had been: stopped in her tracks and thus halting their line, her dark head twisting birdlike, to simply gaze at the trees, the night, the world.
“Dreadful then and dreadful now,” Catherine declared. “Mewling like a slighted Molly over a tree.”