Innocent Invader. Anne Mather

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Название Innocent Invader
Автор произведения Anne Mather
Жанр Контркультура
Серия Mills & Boon Modern
Издательство Контркультура
Год выпуска 0
isbn 9781472099686

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accommodated only a small proportion of the children. Those children that did attend were restless and dilatory, only waiting for the bell to be free so that they could swarm into the warm sea, or go out with their fathers in the fishing boats as they had done for generations. Whether it was all worthwhile was a problem that Jason sometimes pondered; would they be happier knowing the outside world and its problems, or was it more sensible to leave them in ignorance to live a life which, if narrow in outlook, was broad in experience?

      His family, the Cordovas, had governed the island since the first white settlement was made there over three hundred years ago. Only sixteen miles by twelve at its widest point, it had provided little interest for the French or the English, and gradually the white population had increased and today there were over thirty white families on the island. The rest of the near seventy thousand population was made up of Africans, Indians, and Creoles, with a fair proportion of mulattos amongst them.

      During the tourist season, a time Jason abhorred, day-trippers from St. Vincent or Grenada came to the island, but as there were no hotels suitable for their accommodation they were forced to leave at nightfall. For this Jason was grateful. He intended that as far as possible the island should retain its individuality. He wanted no neon-lighted, chrome-plated monoliths turning Cordova into another Martinique or Trinidad.

      Jason turned now from his contemplation of the view, and reached for a cigarette which he lit before shedding the white bathrobe which was his only garment. He dressed leisurely in the tight cotton trousers and loose shirt which were the usual garb of the planter at his work. He pulled knee-length leather boots on to his feet and after running the comb through his thick black hair which was over-long and brushed his collar, he opened his bedroom door silently, and crossing the wide landing descended the stairs.

      The stairs were marble, as was the mosaic floor of the cool hall below. From this hall, corridors led off to the various regions of the house, while the cooking and servants’ quarters were at the rear of the building in a separate one-storey dwelling. Everywhere was painted white, and at this early hour of the morning the scent of beeswax filled the air. The floors of the living rooms were wood, and Beulah, the African housemaid, polished them religiously until they shone like the polished surface of a table.

      Jason walked along the corridor to the dining room which he and Irena used, and seated himself at the long refectory table. His place had been laid as usual, with the fruit and rolls and coffee he always enjoyed at this time. Romulus, the elderly manservant, came to see whether there was anything else he required, but Jason shook his head and the man bowed and left him.

      The wide french doors were open, and through them he could again see the beach and the shadowy blue horizon. A breeze blew in, ruffling his hair, and he ran a hand lazily round the back of his neck, stretching for a moment.

      His thoughts turned to the argument he had had with Irena the previous evening, and his expression darkened. As always, to mar the beauty of the day, the problem of Irena was fresh in his mind. He finished his breakfast, shrugged his shoulders as though to lift the thoughts that plagued him and, leaving the table, he went out of the french doors and stood on the verandah for a moment breathing deeply. Then he turned and walked round to the rear of the building, where, beyond the pool, and hidden among trees was the stable where he kept his horses. He kept two hunters, and three ponies for the children.

      Apollo, his black stallion, was being saddled in readiness for him as he approached, and he patted the horse encouragingly, and produced an apple for it from his pocket, holding it in the palm of his hand, and allowing Apollo to nuzzle the fruit with his soft mouth.

      Jacob, the stable boy, stood back to admire his handiwork, and said: “Mucho bello, señor!” in a satisfied voice.

      Jason straddled the animal, and nodded down at the boy. “Si, Jacob. Esta bien. Gracias,” and pressing his heels into the animal's sides he rode out of the stable yard.

      The air was like wine as he rode down the steep incline to the beach, and then, giving the horse its head, he galloped swiftly along the damp sand. Apollo, sensing his master's mood, sped on winged feet, until Jason slowed him to a canter and finally to a trot. Wheeling the horse round suddenly, he rode up the bank and into the shade of the casuarinas. Dismounting, he flung himself down on the sand and stretched before reaching for a cigarette. After lighting the cigarette he lay back, looking upwards through the tracery of leaves to the blueness of the sky above him. It was going to be another perfect day. Although he had visited many foreign countries in his lifetime, and had attended school in England, nevertheless there was nowhere to compare with Cordova.

      But, as always, when he had time to think, his thoughts turned to Irena and the terrible argument they had had the previous evening about Serena and the children. Their arguments of late were always about Serena and the children. If only Antonio were still alive, things would not have been so bad. As it was, with his brother dead, he felt responsible for his brother's widow and their three children.

      The children were aged eight, seven and five and urgently needed a governess. The schools on the island were only for the West Indian children. All the white families employed tutors or governesses until the children were old enough to attend boarding schools. If Antonio had been alive things would have been different. He would have seen that the children were properly educated. As it was, Irena's attitude towards Eloise, Ricardo and Marie forestalled Jason from acting in the matter for the sake of a peaceful life. But finally he had decided that he could not be responsible any longer for their education. He had tried to instil a little knowledge into their heads, and although Spanish was the most widely used tongue on the island, the children could speak English quite fluently already so that later they could attend an English school as he had done. But the short time he had to devote to them every day was not enough and mostly they ran wild. Serena, child that she was, had no idea how to maintain discipline, and her indifference only made them worse. If only Irena had been a normal, healthy human being, kindly disposed to her nephew and nieces, she could have done so much for them. But Irena refused to acknowledge their existence except in moments of anger, and although they all lived in the same house, there were two separate households. For Jason and the children the situation was intolerable, and the children were most frequently to be found down in the cane fields, playing with the children of the plantation workers. But now Jason had decided it could not go on. They must be taught; not only elementary lessons but how to behave, before it was too late.

      He rolled on to his stomach and stubbed out his cigarette in the sand, watching a sandfly flitting across the ground in search of some interesting article on which to settle himself. Its steady progress was relaxing.

      If only Serena had been the daughter of one of the Spanish families here on the island, things might have been different, more tenable. But his brother had married a beautiful young Creole in Trinidad and had brought her back to Cordova. That was nine years ago, and Serena had been sixteen at the time. Irena had been outraged. Although at that time Antonio had had his own house, it had been near Jason's own, and Serena had thought she would be as welcome there as in her own home. In consequence, she had often appeared at the villa while the men were at work, until Irena and she had had such a row that neither of them had spoken since. Serena had been eight months pregnant at that time, and it had disturbed her so much that the baby was premature. For a time it had looked as though both Serena and the baby would die. Miraculously both had survived, but Antonio had not entered Jason's home from the time on. He remained friends with Jason, and Jason was always welcome at their home, but there was no social life between the two families. It had caused quite a stir on the island, and Jason had despised the whole affair.

      And now he was faced with a much greater problem, a problem which had grown worse during the two years it had been his. Antonio had been killed while on a business trip to the United States two years ago. He had left Serena a widow with three young children, and little money of their own. Antonio had only worked for Jason. He had not had any share in the company. He had forfeited that years ago when he left home to live in Trinidad.

      After Antonio's funeral Jason had told Serena that he wanted the four of them to come and live at the villa. To begin with she had refused, but circumstances had forced her to see reason, and that was how things stood today, except for the fact that he had advertised