The Night Of The Bullsñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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I’ve always wanted to write—which is not to say I’ve always wanted to be a professional writer. On the contrary, for years I only wrote for my own pleasure and it wasn’t until my husband suggested sending one of my stories to a publisher that we put several publishers’ names into a hat and pulled one out. The rest, as they say, is history. And now, one hundred and sixty-two books later, I’m literally—excuse the pun—staggered by what’s happened.
I had written all through my infant and junior years and on into my teens, the stories changing from children’s adventures to torrid gypsy passions. My mother used to gather these manuscripts up from time to time, when my bedroom became too untidy, and dispose of them! In those days, I used not to finish any of the stories and Caroline, my first published novel, was the first I’d ever completed. I was newly married then and my daughter was just a baby, and it was quite a job juggling my household chores and scribbling away in exercise books every chance I got. Not very professional, as you can imagine, but that’s the way it was.
These days, I have a bit more time to devote to my work, but that first love of writing has never changed. I can’t imagine not having a current book on the typewriter—yes, it’s my husband who transcribes everything on to the computer. He’s my partner in both life and work and I depend on his good sense more than I care to admit.
We have two grown-up children, a son and a daughter, and two almost grown-up grandchildren, Abi and Ben. My e-mail address is email@example.com and I’d be happy to hear from any of my wonderful readers.
The Night of the Bulls
Table of Contents
About the Author
IN early April the mistral blows down the valley of the Rhone, gathering its chilling blast from the ice-clad slopes of Haute Provence, to howl its stormy way across the untrammelled marches of the Camargue with a shrieking vengeance.
Then, neither man nor beast attempts to challenge its dominance, and only the brave heads of irises and daffodils, growing wild among the reeds, dare to suggest that spring is coming to the estuary.
But when the spiteful wind departs, with a suddenness which is in itself unnerving, the warmth of the sun is more than enough to banish the remembrance of ice-covered wastes where seabirds have striven desperately to find food, following in the tracks of the wild white horses whose hooves break up the packed ice. The whole delta comes to life, colourful as it is never colourful in high summer when the heat of the sun parches the marshes to cracked stretches of mud-flats, and there is life and activity everywhere. Placid lagoons and blue marshes teem with wildlife, the cheeky reed-warbler, clinging to the tall grasses, the brightly coloured plumage of the bee-eater, darting down to catch some insect skimming the surface of the water, and the almost exotic grace of the flamingo, walking the lagoons with regal elegance.
This was the time of year Dionne knew so well. This was the time when she had come to Provence, to this especial corner of France which had come to mean so much in her young life. And now she was coming back, and there was the same twisted tugging of her emotions troubling her as there had been when she had left here so precipitately three years ago. But how could there not be … in the circumstances?
The Caravelle tilted suddenly and she sank back in her seat, gripping the arms tightly, feeling nausea welling up inside her. She had to remind herself that she was still aboard the aircraft coming in to land at Marignane, and despite her vivid recollections of the Camargue, she knew there was no welcome waiting for her there.
A young man seated across the aisle from her leaned towards her anxiously. She had been aware of his speculative stare from time to time during the flight, but she had discouraged any attempt he might have made to be sociable. She wanted no involvement with any man.
But now he sensed her rising panic, the near hysteria that enveloped her when she seriously considered what she was doing.
Touching her arm lightly, he said: ‘Pardon, mademoiselle, but are you ill?’
His accent was unmistakably French, and she wondered how he had known that she was English. Unless he had heard her talking to the stewardess, perhaps.
Struggling up in her seat, inside the securing strap of her safety belt, she managed a faint smile: ‘Thank you, monsieur, but I’m all right. The – the landing always unnerves me.’
‘Ah!’ The young man nodded understandingly, and she was struck by the clearcut lines of his profile. He really was a most attractive young man, and Clarry would say that she was a fool for repulsing every young man who showed an interest in her. But Clarry was not here, she was alone, and she had more than enough to cope with at the moment. So discouraging any further conversation she transferred her gaze to the window, seeing the tarmac of the runway seemingly rushing up to meet them. She closed her eyes, and there was a slight jolt. The plane’s undercarriage took the weight; they had landed.
Dionne unfastened her belt, ran a questing hand over the smooth chignon in the nape of her neck, and rose to her feet, gathering her belongings. From the brilliance of the sun on the tarmac, she did not think she would need her coat and she slung this over her arm, grasping the strap of her travelling bag.
‘May I be of assistance, mademoiselle?’
It was the young man again. Most of the other passengers were disembarking, wishing the stewardess goodbye, disappearing down the flight of steps to the formality of the airport buildings, but the young man had obviously waited for her.
Dionne smiled a dismissal, shaking her head, and without a backward glance walked swiftly down the aisle to the exit. The air outside was incredibly warm and sweet-smelling, and not even the roar of a jet overhead could wholly dispel the poignance of the moment for her.
Then, shaking sentimentality aside, she ran down the steps and walked towards the Customs building.
It was soon over. The officials smiled at her warmly with the inconsequence of Frenchmen faced with an attractive female, and she emerged feeling flushed and a little more confident to face what was ahead. She looked about her, unable to dispel a faint surge of excitement. The air smelt so deliciously of the perfumes of the flowers mingled with the tang of the sea, while the heat of the sun was warm upon her back. She wondered where she would find the car which she had hired in advance and which was to be awaiting her here at the airport. There were plenty of cars about as well as the buses waiting to take passengers into Marseilles.
The young man from the plane emerged and walked casually across to join her. Dionne bit her lip rather impatiently. She hoped he was not going to prove a nuisance. When he spoke to her again she turned to him with an expression of exasperation marring her smooth forehead above eyes which were an amazing shade of sea green.
‘ Yes, monsieur? ’
‘You are being met, mademoiselle?’ he queried, and Dionne hesitated only a moment before nodding. After all, it was only a distortion of the truth. ‘Then you do not require a lift, mademoiselle?’
‘Thank you, no.’ Dionne moved a few paces away, continuing to scan the cars parked by the kerb in an effort to find the one belonging to Inter-France Travel. There seemed a constant stream of cars coming and going, the glare of the sun glinting dazzlingly on paint and chromework.
Fumbling in her bag, Dionne drew out dark glasses and slid them on to her nose. They were huge squares of polaroid glass and successfully hid her expression. She hoped the young man would take the hint and disappear about his own business, but presently he was beside her again, saying: ‘I think you dropped this, mademoiselle.’
Dionne spun round ready to make some chilling rejection of his supposition and then gasped in surprise as she recognized her hotel reservation in his hand.
‘Oh – oh, thank you,’ she said awkwardly. ‘I – I must have dropped it when I took out my sunglasses, Thank you.’
The young man smiled. ‘It was my privilege, mademoiselle,’ he responded politely. ‘However, I could not help but notice you are intending to stay in Arles. A beautiful city. I live quite near there myself.’
Dionne caught her breath. ‘Really,’ she exclaimed. ‘I see.’ She glanced round swiftly. ‘I agree. It is a beautiful city.’
The young man frowned. ‘Are you sure I cannot give you a lift, mademoiselle?’
‘Oh, no!’ Dionne moved a deprecating hand. ‘I – well – actually I’ve hired a car. It should be here … somewhere.’
The young man listened attentively and then scanned the waiting vehicles with a practised eye. ‘Come,’ he said. ‘I think I know where we might find your transport, mademoiselle.’
It seemed he knew what he was talking about, and as he took charge of her cases Dionne had no alternative but to follow him. In no time at all he had found the small Citr?en, introduced her to the attendant, and in the process discovered her name, Dionne thought to herself rather uncharitably, and had thrust her cases into the boot.
‘Perhaps we shall meet again, mademoiselle,’ he remarked lightly, as she bade him goodbye and thank you. ‘I am often in Arles and I should be most happy if you would allow me to buy you dinner one evening.’
Dionne smiled vaguely, allowing his invitation to go by without comment. After all, it was reasonable that he should assume she was merely a tourist in the area. He could not possibly be aware of the real reasons behind her visit, reasons which were scarcely acceptable even to herself.
She drove away with his saluting silhouette visible in her rear view mirror and wished with a desperate feeling of inadequacy that she had been only a tourist after all.
She drove west from Marseilles, and then turned north, following the road to Arles across the great Plaine de la Crau. This was a rather desolate area, bare and uninviting, and only in places was some attempt at cultivation being made. She remembered that once Manoel had told her that in legend Hercules was supposed to have come up against a race of giants on this plain and had called on Zeus to help him. The god had rained down rocks and stones and saved the hero from death, but ever afterwards the area had been littered with the rubble from the battle.
A quiver ran through her. For the first time since leaving London she had allowed thoughts of him to invade her mind and it was devastating what even a thought could do to her. She stretched out a hand searching for her handbag and finding it. Extracting a pack of cigarettes, she put one between her lips and lit it with trembling fingers. She did not smoke much, and only when she was under strain, but right now she needed something.
It was after six by the time she reached Arles, and she felt travel-stained and weary. She drove straight to her hotel, checked in, and after refusing anything but a sandwich, which they agreed to send to her room, she went straight upstairs to take a shower. Afterwards, she dressed in a silk housecoat and seated herself by her window overlooking one of the small squares to eat her sandwiches and drink some of the excellent coffee which the proprietress had thoughtfully provided.
A breeze stirred the branches of the plane trees, and several youths cavorted about on bicycles beneath the windows, but it was very peaceful and relaxing, and Dionne allowed her taut nerves to slacken. There was no point in maintaining such a rigid control on herself. The chances of meeting Manoel by accident were very slim indeed, and when she did see him it would be on her terms, not his. If he agreed to see her …
She thrust the half-eaten plate of sandwiches away, as memories came to pain and disturb her newly found peace. What if he refused to see her? He might very well do so. After all, he was not to know the truth, of that she was determined.
She poured another cup of coffee and held the cup between her two hands, cradling its warmth against her palms. She must go over in her mind what she had to say to him. It would not do for her to be disconcerted by any question he might ask. She must have her story so clear in her mind that she would not make any mistakes.
She sank back in her seat, replacing her empty cup in its saucer. Reaching for her handbag, she extracted a leather wallet and opened it. From inside she withdrew several photographs, looking at them tenderly.
The small boy whose image gazed out at her with trusting sincerity touched a chord inside her and she felt the unaccustomed prick of tears behind her eyes. It was a long time since she had allowed herself the luxury of crying. She wondered what he was doing now, whether he was behaving himself for Clarry.
On impulse, she bent her head and touched the pictured lips with her own. ‘Good night, Jonathan,’ she whispered huskily, before putting the photographs back in the wallet and securing it in the larger of her two suitcases. Just in case, she thought regretfully.
In the morning she was awakened by the brilliance of the sun forcing its way through the curtains at her window. For a moment she couldn’t remember where she was and she wondered why Jonathan’s cot was not in its usual place beside her bed. But then as consciousness returned with pressing awareness the reality of her surroundings enveloped her.
Thrusting the depression which seldom left her aside, she slid out of bed and went to the window, drawing aside the curtains and looking down on the square. Some children were playing in the little formal garden in the centres, chasing a ball and shrieking with delight. The sight caused a sharp pain in the region of her heart and she drew back from the window and went into her bathroom.
Later, dressed in close-fitting navy trousers and a shirt-necked white blouse she surveyed her reflection in the dressing-table mirror. She looked cool and slim and businesslike, the dark hair in its chignon accentuating the air of maturity she was endeavouring to assume. But in spite of all her efforts, the upward tilt of her lovely eyes and the generous sweep of her rather sensuous mouth betrayed her youth and uncertainty. With a feeling of helplessness, she went down to the dining-room.
After breakfast, she drove into the centre of Arles. It was not a large place, but it was a market town and in consequence its mornings were filled with activity. She found herself tempted by the delicious array of sea-foods available on the stalls, but resisted the inducements of the stallholders to buy. Instead, she parked the Citr?en and walked round the shops, filling in time until lunch.
She had decided to telephone the Mas St. Salvador at lunchtime in the hope that she would be able to speak to Manoel, who perhaps came home for lunch. She had no desire to speak to his mother, or his father either for that matter. This concerned herself and Manoel, and Manoel alone.
After posting a card to Clarry assuring her of her safe arrival, she found herself becoming increasingly agitated as the morning wore on. It was annoying to feel so emotional about the whole affair, and somehow she must calm that emotionalism before she saw Manoel. It would not do for him to see how stupid she was.
She refused to speculate upon his reactions to her arrival. No doubt he was married to Yvonne now, and had commitments of his own. He might even refuse to see her. Certainly if Yvonne had anything to do with it, he would. And in any case, why should she suppose he might lend her money on the strength of a relationship they had had three years ago, and which he obviously did not consider binding?
She drove back to the hotel soon after twelve and entered the reception hall almost reluctantly. She had noticed a public telephone booth in the hall for use by the patrons and she walked across to it determinedly. She wanted to get the call over before her courage wavered.
Although she had written the number down she could remember most of it without difficulty and with trembling fingers she lifted the receiver and asked the operator for her call. By the time she heard the ringing tone at the other end of the line her palms were moist with sweat and tiny beads of perspiration were standing on her brow.
The receiver was lifted at last and a woman’s voice said: ‘Oui? Mas St. Salvador. Qui est-ce?’
Dionne’s voice cracked, but she managed to say faintly: ‘Madame – St. Salvador?’
‘Non, c’est Jeanne! Vous voulez Madame St. Salvador?’
‘Non, non!’ Dionne’s tone was urgent. ‘Er – Monsieur St. Salvador, Monsieur Manoel St. Salvador, est-il l??’
Jeanne hesitated a moment, and then she replied: ‘Non, mademoiselle, il est en Avignon.’
Dionne’s heart sank to the pit of her stomach. Manoel – in Avignon! For how long? She thought quickly. She could go on asking Jeanne, who she knew to be the old housekeeper, questions, but whether or not she received answers was doubtful. Already she could sense reserve in the old woman’s voice and a desire to know who should want to speak to Monsieur Manoel. With a thudding heart, she said: ‘Merci,’ and rang off, finding to her dismay that she was shaking all over.
Emerging from the phone booth she found the hotel manager in the hall and he regarded her anxiously, noting her pale cheeks and over-bright eyes.
‘Is something wrong, mademoiselle?’ he queried solicitously.
Dionne managed to shake her head with what she hoped was casual composure. ‘No – no, nothing,’ she replied swiftly. ‘It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?’
‘Beautiful,’ he echoed, nodding, and she fled up the stairs to her room.
As she changed for lunch into a cotton shift in a rather attractive shade of lemon which Clarry had made for her Dionne tried desperately to assimilate her position. She combed and secured her hair again in the chignon, touched eye-shadow to her slightly olive lids, and applied a colourless lustre to her mouth, but she did all these things automatically. She had somehow not planned beyond the phone call. If she were to ring again and Manoel should not be there a second time, the family would begin to become suspicious of her motives and she dared not risk that. But how else could she contact him? She could not possibly drive all the way to Avignon on the off-chance of meeting him.
She descended to the dining-room with a distinctly hollow feeling in her stomach that had little to do with food.
She ate little, even though the fish soup was delicious, and refused anything more than some fresh fruit afterwards. She enjoyed the coffee; it was invigoratingly strong, and as she sipped it she sought about in her mind for a reason to drive out to the manade itself.
Leaving the restaurant, she crossed the reception area to the wide entrance to the hotel, looking out on the shaded square with thoughtful eyes. There were not many guests staying in the hotel. It was early yet for tourists in Arles. They would come later, in May and June, when the festivals began, when the gypsies gathered for their own particular celebrations …
Dionne pressed a hand to her suddenly churning stomach. It was all so bitterly familiar, and so unfair somehow that she should have had to come back here at this particular time of year. She touched her fingers to her lips feeling again the dryness of salted bread and the thirst for red wine poured from earthenware pitchers. She could hear the excited noise, the music, the uninhibited thrill of being part of a ritual that had taken place for hundreds of years …
With tightly clenched fists she turned back into the hotel. It was no use. She had to go through with it, however painful and ugly it might be. For Jonathan’s sake.
She spent the afternoon in the hotel, much to the manager’s amazement. He had obviously written her down as a tourist, and that she should not be out sampling the tourist’s places of interest was clearly an enigma to him. Several times she caught him watching her from the doorway of the lounge and she deliberately pretended not to notice so that she would not embarrass him.
In the late afternoon, when the shadows in the square were lengthening, she left the lounge and made her way to the telephone booth again. Her knees trembled slightly, and she had difficulty in co-ordinating her movements. But she reached the booth at last and lifted the receiver.ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî