I often marveled after I went to Pendorric that one’s existence could change so swiftly, so devastatingly. I had heard life compared with a kaleidoscope and this is how it appeared to me, for there was the pleasant scene full of peace and contentment when the pattern began to change, first here, then there, until the picture which confronted me was no longer calm and peaceful but filled with menace. I had married a man who had seemed to me all that I wanted in a husband—solicitous, loving, passionately devoted; then suddenly it was as though I were married to a stranger.
I first saw Roc Pendorric when I came up from the beach one morning to find him sitting in the studio with my father; in his hands he held a terra-cotta statue for which I had been the original, a slim child of about seven. I remembered when my father had made it more than eleven years before; he had always said it was not for sale.
The blinds had not yet been drawn and the two men made a striking contrast sitting there in the strong sunlight: my father so fair, the stranger so dark. On the island my father was often called Angelo because of the fairness of his hair and skin and his almost guileless expression, for he was a very sweet-tempered man. It might have been because of this that I fancied there was something saturnine about his companion.
“Ah, here is my daughter, Favel,” said my father as though they had been speaking of me.
They both stood up, the stranger towering above my father who was of medium height. He took my hand and his long dark eyes studied me with something rather calculating in the intentness of his scrutiny. He was lean, which accentuated his height, and his hair was almost black; there was an expression in his alert eyes which made me feel he was seeking something which amused him and it occurred to me that there might be a streak of malice in his amusement. He had rather pointed ears which gave him the look of a satyr. His was a face of contrasts; there was a gentleness about the full lips as well as sensuality; there was no doubt of the firmness of the jaw; there was arrogance in the long straight nose; and mingling with the undoubted humor in the quick eyes was a suggestion of mischief. I came to believe later that he fascinated me so quickly because I could not be sure of him; and it took me a very long time to discover the sort of man he was.
At that moment I wished that I had dressed before coming up from the beach.
“Mr. Pendorric has been looking round the studio,” said my father. “He has bought the Bay of Naples water color.”
“I’m glad,” I answered. “It’s beautiful.”
He held out the little statue. “And so is this.”
“I don’t think that’s for sale,” I told him.
“It’s much too precious, I’m sure.”
He seemed to be comparing me with the figure and I guessed my father had told him—as he did everyone who admired it: “That’s my daughter when she was seven.”
“But,” he went on, “I’ve been trying to persuade the artist to sell. After all, he still has the original.”
Father laughed in the rather hearty way he did when he was with customers who were ready to spend money, forced laughter. Father had always been happier creating his works of art than selling them. When my mother was alive she had done most of the selling; since I had left school, only a few months before this, I found myself taking it over. Father would give his work away to anyone who he thought appreciated it, and he needed a strongminded woman to look after business transactions; that was why, after my mother had died, we had become very poor. But since I had been at home, I flattered myself that we were beginning to pay our way.
“Favel, could you get us a drink?” my father asked.
I said I would if they would wait while I changed, and leaving them together went into my bedroom which led off the studio. In a few minutes I had put on a blue linen dress, after which I went to our tiny kitchen to see about drinks; when I went back to the studio Father was showing the man a bronze Venus—one of our most expensive pieces.
If he buys that, I thought, I’ll be able to settle a few bills. I would seize on the money and do it, too, before Father had a chance of gambling it away at cards or roulette.
Roc Pendorric’s eyes met mine over the bronze and, as I caught the flicker of amusement there, I guessed I must have shown rather clearly how anxious I was for him to buy it. He put it down and turned to me as though the statue couldn’t hold his interest while I was there, and I felt annoyed with myself for interrupting them. Then I caught the gleam in his eyes and I wondered whether that was what he had expected me to feel.
He started to talk about the island then; he had arrived only yesterday, and had not even visited the villas of Tiberius and San Michele yet. But he had heard of Angelo’s studio and the wonderful works of art to be picked up there; and so this had been his first excursion.
Father was flushed with pleasure; but I wasn’t quite sure whether to believe him or not.
“And when I came and found that Angelo was Mr. Frederick Farington who spoke English like the native he is, I was even more delighted. My Italian is appalling, and the boasts of ‘English spoken here’ are often … well a little boastful. Please, Miss Farington, do tell me what I ought to see while I stay here.”
I started to tell him about the villas, the grottoes, and the other well-known attractions. “But,” I added, “it always seems to me after coming back from England that the scenery and the blue of the sea are the island’s real beauties.”
“It would be nice to have a companion to share in my sight-seeing,” he said.
“Are you traveling alone?” I asked.
“There are so many visitors to the island,” I said consolingly. “You’re sure to find someone who is as eager to do the tours as you are.
“It would be necessary, of course, to find the right companion … someone who really knows the island.”
“The guides do, of course.”
His eyes twinkled. “I wasn’t thinking of a guide.”
“The rest of the natives would no doubt be too busy.”
“I’ll find what I want,” he assured me; and I had a feeling that he would.
He went over to the bronze Venus and began fingering it again.
“That attracts you,” I commented.
He turned to me and studied me as intently as he had the bronze. “I’m enormously attracted,” he told me. “I can’t make up my mind. May I come back later?”
“But of course,” said Father and I simultaneously.
He did come back. He came back and back again. In my innocence I thought at first that he was hesitating about the bronze Venus; then I wondered whether it was the studio that attracted him because it probably seemed very bohemian to him, full of local color and totally unlike the place he came from. One couldn’t expect people to buy every time they came. It was a feature of our studio and others like it that people dropped in casually, stopped for a chat and a drink, browsed about the place and bought when something pleased them.
What disturbed me was that I was beginning to look forward to his visits. There were times when I was sure he came to see me, and there were others when I told myself that I was imagining this, and the thought depressed me.
Three days after his first visit I went down to one of the little beaches on the Marina Piccola to bathe, and he was there. We swam together and lay on the beach in the sun afterwards.
I asked if he was enjoying his stay.
“Beyond expectations,” he answered.
“You’ve been sight-seeing, I expect.”
“Not much. I’d like to, but I still think it’s dull alone.”
“Really? People usually complain of the awful crowds, not of being alone.”
“Mind you,” he pointed out, “I wouldn’t want any companion.” There was a suggestion in those long eyes which slightly tilted at the corners. I was sure, in that moment, that he was the type whom most women would find irresistible, and that he knew it. This knowledge disturbed me; I myself was becoming too conscious of that rather blatant masculinity and I wondered whether I had betrayed this to him.
I said rather coolly: “Someone was asking about the bronze Venus this morning.”
His eyes shone with amusement. “Oh well, if I miss it, I’ll only have myself to blame.” His meaning was perfectly clear and I felt annoyed with him. Why did he think we kept a studio and entertained people there if not in the hope of selling things? How did he think we lived?
“We’d hate you to have it unless you were really keen about it.”
“But I never have anything that I’m not keen about,” he replied. “Actually though, I prefer the figure of the younger Venus.”
“Oh … that!”
He put his hand on my arm and said: “It’s charming. Yes, I far prefer her.”
“I simply must be getting back,” I told him.
He leaned on his elbow and smiled at me, and I had a feeling that he knew far too much of what was going on in my mind, and was fully aware that I found his company extremely stimulating and wanted more of it—that he was something more to me than a prospective buyer.
He said lightly: “Your father tells me that you’re the commercial brains behind the enterprise. I bet he’s right.”
“Artists need someone practical to look after them,” I replied. “And now that my mother is dead …”
I knew that my voice changed when I spoke of her. It still happened, although she had been dead three years. Annoyed with myself as I always was when I betrayed emotion, I said quickly: “She died of T.B. They came here in the hope that it would be good for her. She was a wonderful manager.”
“And so you take after her.” His eyes were full of sympathy now and I was pleased out of all proportion that he should understand how I felt. I thought then that I had imagined that streak of mischief in him. Perhaps mischief was not the right description but the fact was that while I was becoming more and more attracted by this man, I was often conscious of something within him that I could not understand, some quality, something which he was determined to keep hidden from me. This often made me uneasy while it in no way decreased my growing interest in him—but rather added to it. Now I saw only his sympathy, which was undoubtedly genuine.
“I hope so,” I answered. “I think I do.”
I still could not control the pain in my voice as I remembered, and pictures of the past flashed in and out of my mind. I saw her—small and dainty, with the brilliant color in her cheeks, which was so becoming but a sign of her illness; that tremendous energy which was like a fire consuming her—until the last months. The island had seemed a different place when she was in it. In the beginning she had taught me to read and write and to be quick with figures. I remembered long lazy days when I lay on one of the little beaches or swam in the blue water or lay on my back and drifted; all the beauty of the place, all the echoes of ancient history were the background for one of the happiest existences a child could know. I had run wild, it was true. Sometimes I talked to the tourists; sometimes I joined the boatmen who took visitors to the grottoes or on tours of the island; sometimes I climbed the path to the villa of Tiberius and sat looking over the sea to Naples. Then I would come back to the studio and listen to the talk going on there; I shared my father’s pride in his work; my mother’s joy when she had succeeded in making a good sale.
They were so important to each other; and there were times when they seemed to me like two brilliant butterflies dancing in the sunshine, intoxicated with the joy of being alive because they knew that the sun of their happiness must go down quickly and finally.
I had been indignant when they told me I must go away to school in England. It was a necessity, my mother pointed out, for she had reached the limit of her capabilities, and although I was a tolerable linguist (we spoke English at home, Italian to our neighbors, and, as there were many French and German visitors to our studio, I soon had a smattering of these languages) I had had no real education. My mother was anxious that I should go to her old school, which was small and in the heart of Sussex. Her old headmistress was still in charge and I suspected that it was all very much as it had been in my mother’s day. After a term or two I became reconciled, partly because I quickly made friends with Esther McBane, partly because I returned to the island for Christmas, Easter, and summer holidays; and as I was a normal uncomplicated person I enjoyed both worlds.
But then my mother died and nothing was the same again. I found out that I had been educated on the jewelry which had once been hers; she had planned for me to go to a university, but the jewelry had realized less than she had hoped (for one quality she shared with my father was optimism) and the cost of my schooling was more than she had bargained for. So when she died I went back to school for two more years because that was her wish. Esther was a great comfort at that time; she was an orphan who was being brought up by an aunt, so she had a good deal of sympathy to offer. She came to stay with us during summer holidays and it helped both Father and me not to fret so much with a visitor in the studio. We said that she must come every summer, and she assured us she would. We left school at the same time and she came home with me at the end of our final term. During that holiday we would discuss what we were going to do with our lives. Esther planned to take up art seriously. As for myself, I had my father to consider, so I was going to try to take my mother’s place in the studio although I feared that was something I should never be able to do entirely.
I smiled remembering that long letter I had had from Esther, which in itself was unusual, for Esther abhorred letter writing and avoided it whenever possible. On the way back to Scotland she had met a man; he was growing tobacco in Rhodesia and was home for a few months. That letter had been full of this adventure. There had been one more letter two months later. Esther was getting married and going out to Rhodesia.
It was exciting and she was wonderfully happy; but I knew it was the end of our friendship because the only bond between us now could be through letters which Esther would have neither time nor inclination to write. I did have one to say that she had arrived, but marriage had made a different person of Esther; she had grown far from that long-legged untidy-haired girl who used to walk in the grounds of the little school with me and talk about dedicating herself to Art.
I was brought out of the past by the sight of Roc Pendorric’s face close to mine, and now there was nothing but sympathy in his eyes. “I’ve stirred up sad memories.”
“I was thinking about my mother and the past.”
He nodded and was silent for a few seconds. Then he said: “You don’t ever think of going back to her people … or your father’s people?”
“People?” I murmured.
“Didn’t she ever talk to you about her home in England?”
I was suddenly very surprised. “No, she never mentioned it.”
“Perhaps the memory was unhappy.”
“I never realized it before but neither of them ever talked about … before they married. As a matter of fact I think they felt that all that happened before was insignificant.”
“It must have been a completely happy marriage.”
We were silent again. Then he said: “Favel! It’s an unusual name.”
“No more unusual than yours. I always thought a roc was a legendary bird.”
“Fabulous, of immense size and strength, able to lift an elephant … if it wanted to.”
He spoke rather smugly and I retorted: “I’m sure even you would be incapable of lifting an elephant. Is it a nickname?”
“I’ve been Roc for as long as I can remember. But it’s short for Petroc.”
“Not in the part of the world I come from. I’ve had a lot of ancestors who had to put up with it. The original one was a sixth-century saint who founded a monastery. I think Roc is a modern version that’s all my own. Do you think it suits me?”
“Yes,” I answered. “I think it does.”
Rather to my embarrassment he leaned forward and kissed the tip of my nose. I stood up hastily. “It really is time I was getting back to the studio,” I said.
Our friendship grew quickly and to me was wholly exciting. I did not realize then how inexperienced I was, and imagined that I was capable of dealing with any situation. I forgot then that my existence had been bounded by school in England, with its regulations and restrictions, our casual unconventional studio on an island, whose main preoccupation was with passing visitors, and my life with my father, who still thought of me as a child. I had imagined myself to be a woman of the world, whereas no one who could lay a true claim to such a description would have fallen in love with the first man who seemed different from anyone else she had met.
But there was a magnetism about Roc Pendorric when he set himself out to charm, and he certainly was determined to charm me.
Roc came to the studio every day. He always took the statuette in his hands and caressed it lovingly.
“I’m determined to have it, you know,” he said one day.
“Father will never sell.”
“I never give up hope.” And as I looked at the strong line of his jaw, the brilliance of his dark eyes, I believed him. He was a man who would take what he wanted from life; and it occurred to me that there would be few to deny him. That was why he was so anxious to possess the statue. He hated to be frustrated.
He bought the bronze Venus then.
“Don’t think,” he told me, “that this means I’ve given up trying for the other. It’ll be mine yet; you’ll see.”
There was an acquisitive gleam in his eyes when he said that and a certain teasing look too. I knew what he meant, of course.
We swam together. We explored the whole island and we usually chose the less well-known places to avoid the crowds. He hired two Neapolitan boatmen to take us on sea trips and there were wonderful days when we lay back in the boat letting our hands trail in the turquoise and emerald water while Giuseppe and Umberto, watching us with the indulgent looks Latins bestow on lovers, sang arias from Italian opera for our entertainment.
In spite of his dark looks there must have been something essentially English about Roc because Giuseppe and Umberto were immediately aware of his nationality. This ability to decide a person’s nationality often surprised me but it never seemed to fail. As for myself there was little difficulty in placing me. My hair was dark blond and there was a platinum-colored streak in it which had been there when I was born; it had the effect of making me look even more fair than I was. My eyes were the shade of water, and borrowed their color from what I was wearing. Sometimes they were green, at others quite blue. I had a short pert nose, a wide mouth and good teeth. I was by no means a beauty, but I had always looked more like a visitor to the island than a native.
During those weeks I was never quite sure of Roc. There were times when I was perfectly happy to enjoy each moment as it came along and not concern myself with the future; but when I was alone—at night, for instance—I wondered what I should do when he went home.
In those early days I knew the beginning of that frustration which later was to bring such fear and terror into my life. His gaiety often seemed to be a cloak for deeper feelings; even during his most tender moments I would imagine I saw speculation in his eyes. He intrigued me in a hundred ways. I knew that given any encouragement I could love him completely, but I was never sure of him, and perhaps that was one of the reasons why every moment I was with him held the maximum excitement.
One day, soon after we met, we climbed to the villa of Tiberius and never had that wonderful view seemed so superb as it did on that day. It was all there for our delight as I had seen it many times before—Capri and Monte Solaro, the Gulf of Salerno from Amalfi to Paestum, the Gulf of Naples from Sorrento to Cape Miseno. I knew it well, and yet because I was sharing it with Roc it had a new magic.
“Have you ever seen anything so enchanting?” I asked.
He seemed to consider. Then he said, “I live in a place which seems to me as beautiful.”
“Cornwall. Our bay is as beautiful—more so I think because it changes more often. Don’t you get weary of sapphire seas? Now, I’ve seen ours as blue—or almost; I’ve seen it green under the beating rain and brown after a storm and pink in the dawn; I’ve seen it mad with fury, pounding the rocks and sending the spray high, and I’ve seen it as silky as this sea. This is very beautiful, I grant you, and I don’t think Roman Emperors ever honored us in Cornwall with their villas and legends of their dancing boys and girls, but we have a history of our own which is just as enthralling.”
“I’ve never been to Cornwall.”
He suddenly turned to me and I was caught in an embrace which made me gasp. He said, with his face pressed against mine, “But you will … soon.”
I was conscious of the rose red ruins, the greenish statue of the Madonna, the deep blue of the sea, and life seemed suddenly too wonderful to be true.
He had lifted me off my feet and held me above him, laughing at me.
I said primly, “Someone will see us.”
“Do you care?”
“Well, I object to being literally swept off my feet.”
He released me and to my disappointment he did not say any more about Cornwall. That incident was typical of our relationship.
I realized that my father was taking a great interest in our friendship. He was always delighted to see Roc, and he would sometimes come to the door of the studio to meet us, after we’d been out on one of our excursions, looking like a conspirator, I thought. He was not a subtle man and it did not take me long to discover that some plan was forming in his mind and that it concerned Roc and me.
Did he think that Roc would propose to me? Was Roc’s feeling for me more definite than I dared hope, and had my father noticed this? And suppose I married Roc, what of the studio? How would my father get along without me, because if I married Roc I should have to go away with him.
I felt unsettled. I knew I wanted to marry Roc—but I was not sure about his feelings for me. How could I leave my father? But I had when I was at school, I reminded myself. Yes, and look at the result. Right from the beginning, being in love with Roc was an experience that kept me poised between ecstasy and anxiety.
But Roc had not talked of marriage.
Father often asked him to a meal, invitations Roc always accepted on condition that he should provide the wine. I cooked omelettes, fish, pasta, and even roast beef with Yorkshire pudding; the meals were well cooked because one of the things my mother had taught me was how to cook, and there had always been a certain amount of English dishes served in the studio.
Roc seemed to enjoy those meals thoroughly and would sit long over them talking and drinking. He began to talk a great deal about himself and his home in Cornwall; but he had a way of making Father talk, and he quickly learned about how we lived, the difficulties of making enough money during the tourist season to keep us during the lean months. I noticed that Father never discussed the time before his marriage, and Roc only made one or two attempts to persuade him. Then he gave it up, which was strange, because he was usually persistent—but it was characteristic of Roc simply because it was unexpected.
I remember one day coming in and finding them playing cards together. Father had that look on his face which always frightened me—that intent expression which made his eyes glow like blue fire; there was a faint pink color in his cheeks and as I came in he scarcely looked up.
Roc got up from his chair but I could see that he shared my father’s feeling for the game. I felt very uneasy as I thought: So he’s a gambler too.
“Favel won’t want to interrupt the game,” said my father.
I looked into Roc’s eyes and said coldly: “I hope you aren’t playing for high stakes.”
“Don’t worry your head about that, my dear,” said Father.
“He’s determined to lure the lire from my pockets,” added Roc, his eyes sparkling.
“I’ll go and get something to eat,” I told them, and went into the kitchen.
I shall have to make him understand Father can’t afford to gamble, I told myself.
When we sat over the meal my father was jubilant, so I guessed he had won.
I spoke to Roc about it the next day at the beach.
“Please don’t encourage my father to gamble. He simply can’t afford it.”
“But he gets so much pleasure from it,” he replied.
“Lots of people get pleasure from things that aren’t good for them.”
He laughed. “You know you’re a bit of a martinet.”
“Please listen to me. We’re not rich enough to risk losing money that has been so hard to come by. We live here very cheaply, but it’s not easy. Is that impossible for you to understand?”
“Please don’t worry, Favel,” he said, putting his hand over mine.
“Then you won’t play for money with him any more?”
“Suppose he asks me? Shall I say, I decline the invitation because your strong-minded daughter forbids us?”
“You could do better than that.”
He looked pious. “But it wouldn’t be true.”
I shrugged my shoulders impatiently. “Surely you can find other people to gamble with. Why do you have to choose him?”
He looked thoughtful and said: “I suppose it’s because I like the atmosphere of his studio.” We were lying on the beach and he reached out and turned me towards him. Looking into my face he went on: “I like the treasures he has there.”
It was in moments like this when I believed his feelings matched my own. I was elated and at the same time afraid I should betray too much. So I stood up quickly and walked into the sea; he was close behind me.
“Don’t you know, Favel,” he said, putting his arm round my bare shoulder, “that I want very much to please you?”
I had to turn and smile at him then. Surely, I thought, the look he gave me was one of love.
We were happy and carefree when we swam, and later, as we lay in the sun on the beach, I felt once more that supreme happiness which is being in love.
Yet two days later I came in from the market and found them sitting at the card table. The game was finished, but I could see by my father’s face that he had lost and by Roc’s that he had won.
I felt my cheeks flame and my eyes were hard as I looked into Roc’s face. I said nothing but went straight into the kitchen with my basket. I set it down angrily and to my dismay found my eyes full of tears. Tears of fury, I told myself, because he had made a fool of me. He was not to be trusted. This was a clear indication of it; he promised one thing and did another.
I wanted to rush out of the studio, to find some quiet spot away from everyone where I could stay until I was calm enough to face him again.
I heard a voice behind me: “What can I do to help?”
I turned and faced him. I was grateful that the tears had not fallen. They were merely making my eyes look more brilliant, and he should not guess how wretched I was.
I said shortly: “Nothing. I can manage, thank you.”
I turned back to the table and then I felt him standing close to me; he had gripped my shoulders and was laughing.
He put his face close to my ear and whispered: “I kept my promise, you know. We didn’t play for money.”
I shook him off and went to a drawer of the table, which I opened and rummaged in without knowing for what.
“Nonsense,” I retorted. “The game wouldn’t have meant a thing to either of you if there’d been no stakes. It isn’t that you enjoy playing cards. It’s win or lose. And of course you both think that you’re going to win every time. It seems absurdly childish to me. One of you has to lose.”
“But you must understand that I kept my promise.”
“Please don’t bother to explain. I can trust my eyes, you know.”
“We were gambling … certainly. You’re right when you said it wouldn’t interest us if we were not. Who do you think won this time?”
“I have a meal to prepare.”
“I won this.” He put his hand in his pocket and drew out the statuette.
Then he laughed. “I determined to get it by fair means or foul. Fortunately it turned out to be fair. So you see I kept my promise to you, I had my gamble, and I own this delightful creature.”
“Take the knives and forks for me, will you please?” I said.
He slipped the statue into his pocket and grinned at me. “With the greatest pleasure.”
The next day he asked me to marry him. At his suggestion we had climbed the steep path to the Grotto of Matromania. I had always thought it the least exciting of the grottoes and the Blue, Green, Yellow, and Red, or the Grotto of the Saints, were all more worth a visit, but Roc said he had not seen it and wanted me to take him there.
“A very appropriate spot,” he commented when we reached it.
I turned to look at him and he caught my arm and held it tightly.
“Why?” I asked.
“You know,” he replied.
But I was never sure of him—not even at this moment when he regarded me with so much tenderness.
“Matromania,” he murmured.
“I’d heard that this was dedicated to Mithromania known as Mithras,” I said quickly because I was afraid of betraying my feelings.
“Nonsense,” he replied. “This is where Tiberius held his revels for young men and maidens. I read it in the guide book. It means matrimony because they married here.”
“There seem to be two opinions then.”
“Then we’d better give it another reason for its importance. It’s the spot where Petroc Pendorric asked Favel Farington to marry him and where she said …”
He turned to me and in that moment I was certain he loved me as passionately as I loved him.
There was no need for me to answer.
We went back to the studio; he was elated and I was happier than I had ever been before.
Father was so delighted when we told him the news that it was almost as though he wished to get rid of me. He refused to discuss what he would do when I had gone, and I was terribly worried until Roc told me that he would insist on his accepting an allowance. Why shouldn’t he from his own son-in-law? He’d commission some pictures if that would make it easier. Perhaps that would be a good idea. “We’ve lots of bare wall space at Pendorric,” he added.
And for the first time I began to think seriously about the place which would be my home; but although Roc was always ready to talk of it in general, he said he wanted me to see it and judge for myself. If he talked to me too much I might imagine something entirely different and perhaps be disappointed—though I couldn’t believe I could be disappointed in a home I shared with him.
We were very much in love. Roc seemed no longer a stranger. I felt I understood him. There was a streak of mischief in him and he loved to tease me. “Because,” he told me once, “you’re too serious, too old-fashioned in many ways to be true.”
I pondered on that and supposed I was different from girls he had known, because of my upbringing—the intimate family circle, the school which was run on the same lines as it had been twenty or thirty years before. Also, I had felt my responsibilities deeply when my mother had died. I must learn to be more lighthearted, gay, up-to-date, I told myself.
Our wedding was going to be very quiet; there would be a few guests from the English colony, and Roc and I were going to stay at the studio for a week afterwards; then we were to go to England.
I asked him what his family would think of his returning with a bride they had never met.
“I’ve written and told them we’ll soon be home. They’re not so surprised as you imagine. One thing they have learned to expect from me is the unexpected,” he replied cheerfully. “They’re wild with delight. You see they think it’s the duty of all Pendorrics to marry, and they believe I’ve waited long enough.”
I wanted to hear more about them. I wanted to be prepared, but he always put me off.
“I’m not very good at describing things,” he answered. “You’ll be there soon enough.”
“But this Pendorric … I gather it is something of a mansion.”
“It’s the family home. I suppose you could call it that.”
“And … who is the family?”
“My sister, her husband, their twin daughters. You don’t have to worry, you know. They won’t be in our wing. It’s a family custom that all who can, remain at home, and bring their families to live there.”
“And it’s near the sea.”
“Right on the coast. You’re going to love it. All Pendorrics do and you’ll be one of them very soon.”
I think it was about a week before my wedding day that I noticed the change in my father.
I came in quietly one day and found him sitting at the table staring ahead of him, and because he had not seen me for a few moments I caught him in repose; he looked suddenly old; and more than that … frightened.
“Father,” I cried, “what’s the matter?”
He started up and he smiled but his heart wasn’t in it.
“The matter? Why, nothing’s the matter.”
“But you were sitting there …”
“Why shouldn’t I? I’ve been working on that bust of Tiberius. It tired me.”
I accepted his excuse temporarily and forgot about it.
But not for long. My father had never been able to keep things to himself and I began to believe that he was hiding something from me, something which caused him the utmost anxiety.
One early morning, about two days before the wedding, I awoke to find someone moving about in the studio. The illuminated dial of my bedside clock said three o’clock.
I hastily put on a dressing gown, quietly opened the door of my room, and, peeping out, saw a dark shadow seated at the table.
“Father!” I cried.
He started up. “My dear child, I’ve disturbed you. It’s all right. Do go back to bed.”
I went to him and made him sit down. I drew up a chair. “Look here,” I insisted, “you’d better tell me what’s wrong.”
He hesitated and then said: “But it’s nothing. I couldn’t sleep, so I thought it would do me good to come and sit out here for a while.”
“But why couldn’t you sleep? There’s something on your mind, isn’t there?”
“I’m perfectly all right.”
“It’s no use saying that when it obviously isn’t true. Are you worried about me … about my marrying?”
Again that slight pause. Of course that’s it, I thought.
He said: “My dear child, you’re very much in love with Roc, aren’t you?”
“Favel … you’re sure, aren’t you?”
“Are you worried because we’ve known each other such a short while?”
He did not answer that, but murmured: “You’ll go right away from here … to his place in Cornwall … to Pendorric.”
“But we’ll come to see you! And you’ll come to stay with us.”
“I think,” he went on, and it was as though he were talking to himself, “that if something prevented your marriage it would break your heart.”
He stood up suddenly. “I’m cold. Let’s get back to bed. I’m sorry I disturbed you, Favel.”
“Father, we really ought to have a talk. I wish you would tell me everything that’s on your mind.”
“You go along to bed, Favel. I’m sorry I disturbed you.”
He kissed me and we went to our rooms. How often later I was to reproach myself for allowing him to evade me like that. I ought to have insisted on knowing.
There came the day when Roc and I were married and I was so overwhelmed by new and exciting experiences that I did not give a thought to what was happening to my father. I couldn’t think of anyone but myself and Roc during those days.
It was wonderful to be together every hour of the days and nights. We would laugh over trifles; it was really the laughter of happiness, which comes so easily I discovered. Giuseppe and Umberto were delighted with us; their arias were more fervent than they used to be, and after we had left them Roc and I would imitate them, gesticulating wildly, setting our faces into tragic or comic masks, whatever the songs demanded, and because we sang out of tune we laughed the more. He would come into the kitchen when I was cooking, to help me he said; and he would sit on the table getting in my way until with mock exasperation I would attempt to turn him out, which always ended up by my being in his arms.
The memories of those days were to stay with me during the difficult times ahead; they sustained me when I needed to be sustained.
Roc was, as I had known he would be, a passionate and demanding lover; he carried me along with him, but I often felt bemused by the rich experiences which were mine. Yet I was certain then that everything was going to be wonderful. I was content to live in the moment; I had even stopped wondering what my new home would be like; I assured myself that my father would have nothing to worry about. Roc would take care of his future as be would take care of mine.
Then one day I went down to the market alone and came back sooner than I had expected.
The door of the studio was open and I saw them there—my father and my husband. The expression on both their faces shocked me. Roc’s was grim; my father’s tortured. I had the impression that my father had been saying something to Roc which he did not like, and I could not tell whether Roc was angry or shocked. I imagined my father seemed bewildered.
Then they saw me and Roc said quickly: “Here’s Favel.”
It was as though they had both drawn masks over their faces.
“Is anything the matter?” I demanded.
“Only that we’re hungry,” answered Roc, coming over to me and taking my basket from me.
He smiled and putting his arm round me gave me a hug. “It seems a long time since I’ve seen you.”
I looked beyond him to my father; he, too, was smiling, but I thought there was a grayish tinge in his face.
“Father,” I insisted, “what is it?”
“You’re imagining things, my dear,” he assured me.
I could not throw off my uneasiness but I let them persuade me that all was well, because I could not bear that anything should disturb my new and wonderful happiness.
The sun was brilliant. It had been a busy morning in the studio. My father always went down to swim while I got our midday meal, and on that day I told Roc to go with him.
“Why don’t you come too?”
“Because I have the lunch to get. I’ll do it more quickly if you two go off.”
So they went off together.
Ten minutes later Roc came back. He came into the kitchen and sat on the table. His back was to the window and I noticed the sunlight through the prominent tips of his ears.
“At times,” I said, “you look like a satyr.”
“That’s what I am,” he told me.
“Why did you come back so soon?”
“I found I didn’t want to be separated from you any longer, so I left your father on the beach and came back alone.”
I laughed at him. “You are silly! Couldn’t you bear to be away from me for another fifteen minutes?”
“Far too long,” he said.
I was delighted to have him with me, pretending to help in the kitchen, but when we were ready to eat, my father had not come back.
“I do hope he’s not got involved in some long conversation,” I said.
“He couldn’t. You know how people desert the beach for food and siesta at this time of day”
Five minutes later I began to get really anxious; and with good reason.
That morning my father went into the sea and he did not come back alive.
His body was recovered later that day. They said he must have been overcome by cramp and unable to save himself.
It seemed the only explanation then. My happiness was shattered, but how thankful I was that I had Roc. I did not know how I could have lived through that time if he had not been with me. My great and only consolation was that, although I had lost my father, Roc had come into my life.
It was only later that the terrible doubts began.
BRIDE OF PENDORRIC. Copyright © 1963, by Victoria Holt renewed 1987. Reprinted with the permission of Patricia Hamilton. All rights reserved. For information, address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.