|Автор произведения||Anne Mather|
|Серия||Mills & Boon Modern|
“Yes,” she said clearly, “I'm Sarah Winter.”
Jason stared at her incredulously, and then he moved his shoulders helplessly. She was nothing at all like the woman he had expected. She was young, much too young, and how could she possibly be expected to handle those three wild things that were his nephew and nieces?
As he stared at her, Sarah felt half amused suddenly. Brought up as she had been, supremely conscious of the presence of both heaven and hell, she thought that this man must surely as closely resemble her imaginings of the devil himself as was humanly possible. She wondered what Sister Theresa would have made of him. She thought the gentle nuns might have found him even more overpowering than she did herself.
“Well,” he said at last, “you're certainly much younger than we expected. As I recall it, your age was not questioned. The fact that you'd had experience with young children pointed to your being older.”
“Does it matter?” asked Sarah, beginning to feel uncomfortable under his close scrutiny. “I am experienced, and if you've come to meet me, I suggest we go on up to the Cordova residence and ascertain their views on the matter.”
Her voice was cool now and detached, and Jason admired her veneer of assurance. For that was all it was, he was certain. He could tell from her revealing eyes that she was far from relaxed. And she did not realise to whom she was speaking, that was obvious.
“Very well,” he agreed easily. “Let's go!” It amused him to keep her in ignorance of his identity for the time being. She would learn soon enough.
The market was a mass of moving humanity, and Jason went ahead, forging a way through to the Land Rover. The laughing greetings of the West Indians were acknowledged casually, and Sarah wondered who he could be to be known so well, and to arouse such apparent respect among these people.
He helped her into the seat beside the driving seat, and then walked lithely round the vehicle to slide in beside her. Sarah found herself admiring the rippling muscles of his back and thighs as he walked, and the smoothness of his long legs as he slid in beside her. There was something wholly masculine about him that she had never encountered before in her associations with men. It embarrassed her to think this way. For so long she had considered herself immune from the desires of the flesh.
Forcing her thoughts into more innocent channels, she began to look about her with interest as the Land Rover drove up the curving main street of the town. There were shops, but few shop windows, and the goods for sale were displayed outside the stores. Indians sat in the shop doorways, smoking and drinking, and showing little concern for their progress. The flamboyant colours of material hung outside one store caught Sarah's eye, and she said impulsively: “I should have brought my sewing machine. I can see I must make myself some dresses from these gorgeous materials.”
Jason looked at her briefly, and then said: “I imagine the seamstress who sews for my wife could run you up anything you required.”
Sarah shook her head. “I wouldn't dream of it. Does she have a machine?”
“I'm afraid not. The Indian women prefer to do everything by hand. They produce works of art, believe me!”
“Oh, I do.” Sarah shrugged. “I suppose I'll have to do likewise, I like sewing.”
Jason smiled a little. “You may find your time a little limited. You haven't met your charges yet.”
“That doesn't worry me. I've been used to handling a class of almost forty children, so three on their own shouldn't provide much difficulty.”
Jason refrained from commenting. Already he was thinking that at the end of this trial period of one month, he would have to start all over again in finding a governess.
They were driving now between the high walls of the villas of the white families, and between the wrought iron gateways, Sarah could see the paved courtyards and fountains, the swimming pools and tennis courts, so removed from the squalid little huts down in the town. The swarming children there had appalled her. However could they all be taught?
“So,” said Jason suddenly, “what do you think?”
“About the island?” Sarah gave an involuntary gesture. “I can hardly take it all in. It's very beautiful, but the poverty disturbs me. I think if I lived here I would try to do something for these people. Ignorance is a great breeder.”
Jason nodded his assent, surprised at her remarks. He had not thought she would be any different from the rest of the white population. Particularly the women; they, for the most part, acted as though they knew nothing about the squalor beneath their windows.
“You're right, of course,” he said now. “But they don't welcome help. They're too used to this kind of life. You may be surprised to learn that they've very happy, in their way. And very contented, a word that's gone out of use in so-called civilised countries.”
Sarah frowned. “Are you content?”
“Me?” Jason laughed, amused at her candour. “I suppose you would think I ought to be.”
“Why not? In such idyllic surroundings? After all, the sun can ease a lot of heartache.”
“Are you a philosopher, Miss Winter?”
Sarah laughed now, and looked at him in sudden liking. “You might say that. But I'm afraid I've always been told that talking is not acting, and I do an awful lot of talking.”
As the Land Rover curved round a promontory, Sarah gasped at the precarious angle of the road, and looked down breathlessly on the harbour below them, the steamer much smaller now from this height. “My luggage!” she gasped suddenly, “I forgot all about it!”
“Abe, the harbourmaster, will have it sent up to you,” said Jason easily. “There were no other passengers on the Celeste, so there'll be no cause for concern.”
“Thank you.” Sarah lay back in her seat, and in doing so looked upwards, her eyes caught by the sight of the ruined walls of a house, just visible on a high, jutting headland above them. “What's that place? That ruin?”
Jason did not look up but kept his eyes on the curving road ahead. “That was the old Cordova house,” he replied quietly. “It was burned out about fifteen years ago.”
“Really!” Sarah was intrigued. “That must have been some spectacle, high above the island like that.”
“It was.” Jason's fingers tightened on the wheel, and Sarah, glancing at him, wondered why his expression had darkened in that way. Surely it was no concern of his.
The road was curving down again now, and the sea was getting nearer. They ran down a final incline and turned between wrought iron gates, which were the entrance to the drive of the Cordova house. Sarah saw a cream, colour-washed house, over-hung with pink bougainvillea, with balconies to all the upper windows, the doors of which stood open to the clean air. Storm shutters were bolted back and a stout pair of doors with wrought iron hinges guarded the entrance. A porticoed walk stretched round the building, and its white pillars gave a Grecian touch to an otherwise Moorish-styled dwelling.
Jason stopped the Land Rover at the foot of the steps leading