“Thank you, Samuel, for bringing us,” said Dahlia gently. “Your friends must be very fond of you to have lent you this lovely place.”
“Not fonder than we are,” said Myra, smiling at him.
I found Myra in the hammock at the end of the loggia.
“Hallo,” I said.
“Hallo.” She looked up from her book and waved her hand. “Mentone on the left, Monte Carlo on the right,” she said, and returned to her book again. Simpson had mentioned the situation so many times that it had become a catch-phrase with us.
“Fancy reading on a lovely morning like this,” I complained.
“But that’s why. It’s a very gloomy play by Ibsen, and whenever it’s simply more than I can bear, I look up and see Mentone on the left, Monte Carlo on the right—I mean, I see all the loveliness round me, and then I know the world isn’t so bad after all.” She put her book down. “Are you alone?”
I gripped her wrist suddenly and put the paper-knife to her throat.
“We are alone,” I hissed—or whatever you do to a sentence without any “s’s” in it to make it dramatic. “Your friends cannot save you now. Prepare to—er—come a walk up the hill with me.”
“Help! Help!” Whispered Myra. She hesitated a moment; then swung herself out of the hammock and went in for her hat.
We climbed up a steep path which led to the rock-village above us. Simpson had told us that we must see the village; still more earnestly he had begged us to see Corsica. The view of Corsica was to be obtained from a point some miles up—too far to go before lunch.
“However, we can always say we saw it,” I reassured Myra. “From this distance you can’t be certain of recognizing an island you don’t know. Any small cloud on the horizon will do.”
“I know it on the map.”
“Yes, but it looks quite different in real life. The great thing is to be able to assure Simpson at lunch that the Corsican question is now closed. When we’re a little higher up, I shall say, ‘Surely that’s Corsica?’ and you’ll say, ‘Not Corsica?’ as though you’d rather expected the Isle of Wight; and then it’ll be all over. Hallo!”
We had just passed the narrow archway leading into the courtyard of the village and were following the path up the hill. But in that moment of passing we had been observed. Behind us a dozen village children now trailed eagerly.
“Oh, the dears!” cried Myra.
“But I think we made a mistake to bring them,” I said severely. “No one is fonder of our—one, two, three ... I make it eleven—our eleven children than I am, but there are times when Father and Mother want to be alone.”
“I’m sorry, dear. I thought you’d be so proud to have them all with you.”
“I am proud of them. To reflect that all the—one, two ... I make it thirteen—all these thirteen are ours, is very inspiring. But I don’t like people to think that we cannot afford our youngest, our little Philomene, shoes and stockings. And Giuseppe should have washed his face since last Friday. These are small matters, but they are very trying to a father.”