Very soon Mr. Pike had thrown himself on the ground so that he could peer under the lip of a larger boulder and examine the moss beds that were hidden in those secret shelves. His long legs flopped out from beneath the rock as he enthused. Alma thought she had never been so pleased in her life. She had always wanted to show this to somebody.

“So here is my question to you, Miss Whittaker,” he called from under the rock ledge. “What is the true nature of your moss colonies? They have mastered the trick, as you say, of appearing modest and mild. Yet from what you tell me, they possess considerable faculties. Are they friendly pioneers, your mosses? Or are they hostile marauders?”

“Farmers or pirates, do you mean?” Alma asked.


“I cannot say for certain,” Alma said. “Perhaps a bit of both. I wonder that myself all the time. It may take me another twenty-five years or so to learn.”

“I admire your patience,” he said, at last rolling out from under the rock and stretching casually across the grass. As she would come to know Ambrose Pike better over time, she would learn that he was a great one for throwing himself down wherever and whenever he wanted to rest. … The world was his divan. There was such a freedom in it. Alma could not imagine ever feeling so free. On this day, while he sprawled, she sat carefully on a nearby rock.

Elizabeth Gilbert