The yard inside the castle walls was roughly the shape of a square.
Roughly a hundred feet per side. Filled with huge stone sculptures, all of the same gray coral as the walls. Crescent moons, obelisks.
“One thousand tons of coral, Mr. Crosley. Many years of my life to build these.”
“Impressive,” Lewis said.
“Do it all myself,” Leedskalnin said. “Use center of gravity, the place where energy of stone gathers. You understand?”
Lewis nodded. “Center of gravity,” he said. “Yes. I understand.”
Although the bit about energy of stone…he didn’t quite get that.
With each new sculpture, Leedskalnin told a story, often involving his lost love, Agnes Scuffs. His bright blue eyes twinkled at times, as if he were seeing the sculpture’s beauty through Agnes’s eyes, assessing its power to rekindle her feelings for him. At other times, he looked almost defeated, maybe surrendering to the heartbreak he obviously felt every day. Lewis began to realize that Leedskalnin was not only an eccentric man, he was also a sad one. As he proudly presented each piece, he sprinkled in mentions of “my Agnes” and “my sweet sixteen.”
He told Lewis that Agnes, who was ten years younger than Edward, had left him on the day before their wedding. Everything from the heart-shaped dining table to the bathtub to the rocker was made of coral and all had been fashioned with Agnes in mind. Though the sculptures were, in their way, remarkable, Lewis couldn’t help but feel the futility of building this monument for a woman who would never see it.
He tried not to feel that his mission for Powel was equally hopeless.
“Now,” Leedskalnin said, walking to the back wall of the castle, “I show you Rock Gate.”
Lewis followed him, stepping past a hole in the ground—a pit, surrounded by a low rock wall—a regular rock wall, not coral, the purpose of which wasn’t clear until he caught the faintest scent of a smell, coming from below.
The little pit was a well.
Lewis peered over the edge…
And at that instant, he felt something.
It made the hairs on his arm tingle.
It made the bones in his jaw vibrate.
The feeling lasted for a split-second, and then it was gone. Like a wind of some sort, rushing through him. Familiar somehow, as if he’d experienced it, or something like it, before. He tried to remember where and when.
They continued the tour, with the nine-ton Rock Gate that guarded the back of the castle, a massive slab of coral that spun on its axis with astounding ease. Center of gravity, Leedskalnin explained again. He showed Lewis the obelisk, the tallest sculpture on the grounds, with a hole in the top shaped like the star on the Latvian flag.
They stood under the chain hoist. Leedskalnin was on Lewis’s left; to Lewis’s right was a stone that stood fifteen feet tall. Another coral stone, a slab, really, standing straight on end. Maybe four feet across, two feet thick. Huge. It hadn’t looked this big from the road, standing next to the log tripod, but up close…
The carvings on the face of it looked almost like writing, but a kind Lewis couldn’t recall seeing before. Symbols, more than letters.
“I raised it last night,” Leedskalnin said.
“This stone?” Lewis said. “With that tripod?”
“Quite a task, as you might imagine.”
Lewis looked from the stone and then up at the hoist.
Truth was, he couldn’t imagine it. He’d been with the Army Corps of Engineers in France, done more than his share of quarrying stone. Using the same kind of makeshift equipment Leedskalnin used. No way that tripod could handle more than a few hundred pounds. Spindly thing like that.
“Perhaps you’re wondering how I managed it on my own,” Leedskalnin said. “My grandfather was a mason, you see. Taught me—how do you Americans say it?—the tricks of the trade.”
It’d take quite a trick to raise that much rock, Lewis thought. But if Leedskalnin wanted to pretend he’d done it all by himself, so be it. Lewis didn’t want to offend the man when he’d come here to ask for his help.
“Very impressive,” Lewis said.