Phillip in Majorca (2)
Hands waved from his motorboat, the Serenella, named after his daughters, as he reached the edge of the rocks by the sea. The boat changed course, almost upsetting Nell who was skiing behind it, headed back and then, just before it reached the shore, veered again so that Nell came shooting round after it in a wide arc and, throwing away the rope, drifted towards him and sank into the waves.
‘Hullo, Dad, there you are!’ said the pretty girl. She kissed him on his dry cheek. ‘Did you see me? Only one foot? Do you want a go, Dad? Did you have a good journey?’
‘Well, goodness, I don’t know if my old limbs ...’
‘Oh go on Dad, you’ll be alright. I’ll swim out after you. Lovely to see you, Dad. Shall I help you?’
Phillip stepped down into the green water and attached the skis to his feet by their green rubber holds, then he knelt beneath the waves and she held him upright against her body, shouted out to the motorboat, and with a cream of water under its stern it started up, then slackened so that the pressure would not be too strong. Then as the dripping rope went taut, revved again and slowly Phillip’s naked feet rose till they were gliding in the lacy top of the water, and then as the boat gathered speed, he straightened out and rejoiced in that moment of bliss, the moment of skidding feet, the cool black water slopping beneath him, bounded on either side by the flashing, ridged triangle of curved sea water.
I’d been up in the scrubby woods behind the house doing some drawing. I joined them on board the Serenella for their evening expedition. The boat headed round into the
next bay, the Bahia di Pollencia, on whose rocky shore stood
a white concrete villa, built in the shape of a yacht. ‘It’s only a little place, of course,’ said Elvira, its owner, as she helped us out onto the jetty, ‘not much more than a little nid d’amore, as I call it. Not like your great place, Phillip.’
‘Well, mine’s only a farm, after all,’ said Phillip.
‘Now come up au premier etage du chateau! Here we have my bedroom. La chambre de la reine ....’
Phillip drew me slightly behind as we followed her, ‘Don’t ask her about her husband,’ he whispered as we continued on the ‘grand tour du chateau’. Would you tell Nell he doesn’t seem to be here, I think he must have left her.’
We moved ahead again to catch up with the others.
‘Et maintenant, la grande salle a manger,’ cried Elvira, throwing open some glass doors. ‘I’m sorry if the table is laid a little oddly, we’ve had a crise in the kitchen.’
‘Tell me one thing, Elvira,’ said Phillip.
‘Anything, my sweet!’
‘How d’you manage to grow grass like that in the summer?’ He pointed through the French windows, where could be seen a narrow lawn.
‘Ah, but have you looked at it closely?’ said Elvira, ‘You see, that’s my little deception.’
‘What, is it artificial?’
‘No, no, mon cheri, not that. No, it is growing all right. Jacques waters it for me twice a day, every morning and every evening. But feel it. It looks like grass doesn’t it? So green and appetising. But feel it!
I wandered out and did as she said. ‘Ow!’ I exclaimed, drawing back my hand from the sharp spikes.
‘It looks like grass but it is actually autre chose!’ said Elvira with a chortle. ‘It’s the only green thing which will grow in this climate!’
‘No, but honestly, who’d really spend an evening like that for pleasure?’ Phillip demanded of me when a combination of boat and car had finally deposited us back in the old barn which, its craggy stone flags now replaced by shiny grey marble, was one of our sitting rooms.
‘Her and her little nid d’amore, as she calls it!’ said Phillip, ‘I happen to know how much that number cost! And now her husband has trotted off, couldn’t stick it any longer, got out while the going was good.’
After a silent moment he added, more to himself than me, ‘Honestly, if you totted us up tonight at that dinner party, we had something like twenty million dollars between us, and not one of us ...’ He shook his head back and forth, gazing through the barn door at the far away sea. He did not finish the sentence.
‘Oh well, let’s have some more slosh. And would you be so good as to put on that Bach again on the radiogram?’
I poured him another drink and placed the needle back at the start of the record. The music soared up into the rafters and Phillip demanded, ‘Why isn’t this, this music enough? Why can’t a man live his life in art instead of this trudge from party to party, social contact to social contact, social intercourse, sexual intercourse, and always degrades himself? Human relationships are degrading.’
I said, ‘Oh, surely not always?’
‘I’ve found them so,’ said Phillip simply.
‘Not always. I don’t believe that.’
‘No, nor do I,’ said Phillip, veering suddenly, ‘It’s money, isn’t it? Money destroys the love in all of us! My father brought me up to believe that money would buy me anything; friends, wives, mistresses. And it did, and I always knew that when it ran out there’d be somewhere I could get more, so I never even had to bother to behave well to the friends, wives, mistresses I had but went after new ones.
‘At my father’s place he had twenty-nine dogs. He paid a girl a full time wage to keep those dogs in trim. I used to watch her going down the valley with those dogs dancing around her, licking her, loving her. My father was the one that should have had that love. He was paying this girl a huge sum a week to steal the love that should go to him! That’s what money does.’
‘Why don’t you get rid of your money then?’ I asked.
‘What?’ asked Phillip, not completely understanding the question.
A varnished boat was creaming across the bay. In its stern sat Janet, a young woman in a white swimsuit, and two young men in desert jackets. Phillip told me later he had met her at a party in London. He was a little shy of her. Seeing her approach from an upstairs window at Al Canada, he’d hastened down across the terrace, down the steps and under the pines, edged his white trousered legs beneath the wheel of the car and eased it down the stony fields towards the shore.
The gleaming motor-boat seemed incongruous in the sea as did Phillip’s light blue car as it approached across the land. Vehicle and boat showed an unexpected texture, they were like costly jewels or goblets, carelessly cast in an inappropriate setting of ocean and scrub. They drew slowly closer to each other like exploratory machines on a new planet.
The boat reached the shore first and Phillip slid from his car seat almost before it had lurched to a stop, left open and swinging the powder-blue door. He marched swiftly down to the shore and was in time to hand Janet out while her boatmen deposited her luggage, then struggled with rope and fender to keep the boat from battering itself too hard against the rocks.
‘Just delivering this young lady and good luck to you,’ said one of the men in desert jackets.
‘Yes, sorry to yield her up,’ said the other, a harrassed man with thin ginger hair.
The subject of their speech bent at her neat hips and knees and plucked a frond of seaweed which had been languishing over her lamé sandals and gilded toes.
‘Huh, come up, have a drink, have a chat, see the place, have a drink?’ said Phillip.
‘You, you, er, coming, er, old boy?’ he asked, placing his arm on the elbow of the thin-haired man.
‘No, thanks very much, Mr, er, Phillip, think we’ll toddle.’
‘Yes,’ said the other, ‘the Princess is expecting us.’
‘What, that old stick!’ said Phillip, then to cover his gaffe, began to laugh. ‘Huh! Uh huh! Uh huh! Huh!’
‘She’s a friend of ours,’ said the red-haired man stuffily.
‘Well, goodbye,’ said the other hastily, drawing the redhead back into the boat.
‘Goodbye, goodbye!’ shouted Phillip, waving vociferously, as the two men crouched down into the boat and the engine spluttered beneath the stern. ‘Er, have a drink!’ he shouted as an afterthought, but the little boat was already heading off to the land of pleasure across the bay.
Phillip turned towards the girl. He took her arm and gazed at her nervously yet intently.
‘That drink would not be entirely disagreeable to me,’ said Janet, smiling at Phillip.
Deftly she began to move along the rocks towards the shore. At the end of the rocks, just touched by a faint mist of spray, her white calf luggage stood carelessly piled by the boatman. ‘Leave the baggage,’ said Phillip, ‘the servants will fetch it. Who were your friends?’
‘Oh,’ she said, ‘I forgot to introduce you!’ She placed a feather-light bronzed hand on his arm. ‘The blue-eyed one is called Philip, the other one was my husband.’
‘Your husband?’ asked Phillip, astonished. ‘I never knew you were married.’
‘You, you, you, you never told me!’
‘It didn’t seem important.’
‘Why, er, don’t you, er.’
‘I don’t see him that much.’
‘All the same,’ said Phillip, ‘I, I must have seemed, seemed very rude!’
‘Oh no!’ she tossed out, superbly.
But Phillip was still disorientated by this sudden disclosure. ‘What, what, what does he do?’ he jerked out at length, ‘your husband?’
She tossed her fair and candid face towards him. ‘Well, he makes money, Phillip.’ She sighed ever so slightly. ‘But he doesn’t make nearly as much as you!’
‘Good heavens, I don’t make it!’ Phillip tossed out, waving his hands, astonished and shocked, ‘My old Dad did that!’
She stopped suddenly. ‘Oh! The car!’
‘I say!’ said Phillip.
The car had inched her chromium nose down the shingle and now rested like a faint blue jewel with the waves just crisping round the fenders.
‘Huh!’ cried Phillip. ‘Quick, the brake!’
His creased white duck trousered legs plunged into the phosphorescent water, he leant over and fixed the brake, then returned, dripping, to the girl.
‘Is it all right?’ she asked, delighted.
‘Huh, huh! Huh, huh!’ laughed Phillip. ‘I suppose so.’
Now in a small cloud of dust a servant who had been watching the scene from the terrace through binoculars rattled down the slope in a landrover with seven others to rescue the car. In the brief moment before they arrived she turned her head towards him for him to kiss her. But Phillip was preoccupied.
The mist was coming thicker now, drifting across the water. The first breath of the breeze on which it was borne touched their cheeks. ‘It’s nicer over here instead of the other side amid all that noise, don’t you think?’ asked Phillip hopefully, and the girl, who was secretly yearning for a little of the fired vitality of those cocktails and that cool music of the Bahia di Pollensa, tossed her head, took his hand, looked into his blue eyes and said, ‘Yes.’
Phillip was planning the next few days. He would teach her to waterski, sunbathing, drinking, sometimes going to visit old shrines and churches, sometimes shutting himself up alone in his room and listening to music.
Later Phillip stepped across the passage to the room where Janet was sitting on a low stool by the window ledge, already smartly dressed for dinner, gazing out over the ocean to where a yacht tossed, the pink sunset on its sails.
‘Er, walk up the hill?’ he asked. ‘I thought we might go for a stroll up the hill.’
As they passed the kitchen, she clattering on her high heels and he shyly holding her arm, a gust of warm air wafted out from the big room where many people were at work. He paused for a moment by the big door, peered nervously in, then asked, ‘Er, how long till dinner?’ Then ‘Quanto tiempo a la desayuno?’ he tried in Spanish.
‘It’s alright, dear,’ said Janet. ‘I can see it’s going to be a good half hour.’
As they climbed a little way up the hill behind the house they could see where the evening haze was settling across the far distant side of the bay. On that wooded shore an occasional hotel rose into a dusk that was perfumed with tarmac and roses and gasolene. Phillip fancied he heard the pumping thrum of softly swinging bands, and thought to himself that the further shore was a factory for not the creation but the dispensation of wealth.
Also far away, at the other side of the bay, the fairy lights of the straw huts on the beach had been lit, and over the thatch, too far for him to see, bikini clad couples on flimsy wooden platforms set in the sands were executing the mamba and the chachacha, twisting and turning their brown limbs, while smart young servants, fully clothed in spotless white uniforms, plied them with cocktails from raffia trays.
Now the mists were rising across the waters, and the country was returning to its primaeval state, with mountains looming above the bay and incongruous on a distant crag, a monastery.
They sat by a fallen tree trunk beneath the pines. She was a saucy provocative young woman with ash-white hair on a poodle head with wide blue eyes at the top of a pillar thin neck. Her body was evenly bronzed. She was twenty-six and beautiful.
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