(Parte 1 de 13)

This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart

1 The magic island

And if it's a boy,' Phylida said cheerfuly, we'l cal him Prospero.'

I laughed. Poor child! But why Prospero? Oh, of course, because of Prospero in The Tempest. Corfu was Shakespeare's magic island in The Tempest, wasn't it?'

Yes. We've already got one character from the play here − Miranda. And her brother's called Spiro, which sounds a bit like Prospero, doesn't it? Miranda and Spiro are twins.'

My sister smiled at me, and reached for the coffee pot. More coffee, Lucy?' she asked.

We were having breakfast outside in the sun, on the terrace of my sister's house on the beautiful island of Corfu, which lies off the west coast of Greece. Below the terrace, wooded cliffs fell steeply to a small, sheltered bay, where the sea lay calm and still. From where we sat, we could not see the bay, as it was hidden by the trees. But we had a wonderful view out across the sea, and to the north we could just see the snow−topped mountains of Albania in the distance.

My sister Phyllida is three years older than I am, and when she was twenty she married a Roman banker, Leonardo Forli. The Forli family had owned land on Corfu for many years and Leo's great−grandfather had built an enormous house, the Castello dei Fiori, in the woods above the bay. Later, Leo's father had built two smaller, more modern houses on the cliffs on the north and south sides of the bay. The house on the northern side was called the Villa Forli, and it was used by Phyllida and Leo. The house on the southern side was called the Villa Rotha, and it stood above the big boat−house which Leo's great−grandfather had built. This villa was rented by an Englishman, Godfrey Manning, who had been there since the previous autumn. He was writing a book, Phyllida had told me, and was taking a lot of photographs for it. The three houses were connected with the main road by the private road up to the Castello, and connected to each other by various paths through the woods and down to the bay.

That spring Phyllida was expecting her third child and the heat in Rome was too much for her. Therefore, Leo had persuaded her to go to Corfu, and to leave the other two children, who were at school, in the care of their grandmother in Rome. Leo, of course, was working, but he was going to visit Corfu at weekends whenever he could.

Phyllida had asked me to go and stay with her, and her invitation had come just at the right time. I'm an actress and the play I was in, my first in London, had closed after only two months. I was feeling very miserable. It had been a bad winter, and I was tired, depressed, and seriously wondering − at the age of twenty−five − if I should look for a different job. So it was wonderful to find myself on this magic island, with the sun shining brightly. It was far away from the cold of an English April.

I sat back in my chair, drank my coffee, and enjoyed the peace and beauty as I looked out towards the distant snows of Albania.

Well, Corfu is certainly a magic island for me,' I said dreamily. Who are these Shakespearean twins of yours, anyway?'

Oh, they're Maria's children. Maria's the woman who works for us here. Miranda helps her mother here, and Spiro works for Godfrey Manning at the Villa Rotha. Maria and the twins live in the village.'

But I could see that Phyllida had something else that she wanted to tell me.

Someone very famous is renting the Castello,' she informed me. What? That huge old house?' I said. Who wants to rent that?' Julian Gale.'

Julian Gale!' I sat up suddenly and stared at Phyllida in surprise. Do you mean Julian Gale, the actor?'

Yes,' my sister replied, pleased by my excitement.

Julian Gale had been one of Britain's finest actors for many years, and then two years ago, he had suddenly left the theatre and disappeared.

So he came here,' I said. I knew he was ill after that terrible accident, but then he just disappeared.'

Yes, well,' Phyllida said, he doesn't go out and nobody is allowed to go to the house, so I don't imagine that you'l even meet him.'

The Tempest was the last play he did,' I said. He was wonderful in it. I remember crying my eyes out over the famous "this rough magic" speech. Is that why he came to Corfu ?'

Phyllida laughed. I don't think so,' she replied. He was here during the war, and then he stayed on afterwards. Before his wife and daughter were killed in the accident, they all used to come here for holidays. He probably just remembered the Castello when he needed to disappear.'

Just then a young girl of about seventeen came in. She was wearing a red dress, which went well with her dark skin and hair. She had come to take away the breakfast things. She looked at me curiously, and then she smiled.

This is Miranda,' explained Phylida. If you want to go swimming this morning, I'l ask her to show you the way.'

I'd love to,' I replied.

Phyllida turned to Miranda. Will you show my sister the way to the beach when you've finished that, Miranda?'

Of course,' Miranda said, smiling.

The way to the beach was through the trees, and in a while we came to a fork in the path. The downhill path led to the beach and the uphill one, Miranda told me, was the private path to the Castello.

Where's the other villa? Mr Manning's?' I asked.

On the other side of the bay, at the top of the cliff,' she replied. You can't see it from the beach because of the trees, but there's a path from the boat−house up the cliff. My brother Spiro works there.'

What about your father?' I asked her. Where does he work?'

My father left us many years ago. He went over there.' She pointed towards Albania. He was a communist. Nobody can travel to Albania, so we don't know if my father is alive or dead.' Her eyes grew bright. But we have Spiro,' she said.

Wel, thanks very much, Miranda,' I said. Please tel my sister that I'l be back for lunch.'

I turned down the steep path under the trees. At the first bend I looked back. Miranda had gone, but I thought I saw something red on the forbidden path to the Castello.

2 A meeting

The bay was very quiet and there was no one else there. I changed into my swimsuit very quickly, under the trees. Then I crossed the hot, white sand. The blue−green water felt cool and silky and I swam gently along near the shore. Then I turned and floated lazily on my back, with my eyes closed against the bright sun.

Suddenly, I felt something cold swim past my leg. Afraid, I looked around wildly to see what it was. I saw something coming back towards me. Sharks!' I screamed silently. I didn't wait, but swam madly towards the rocks. When I reached them, I managed to pull myself up and climb out of the water. Then I turned to look again. It wasn't a shark. It was a dolphin. He lay quietly in the water and looked at me with his bright eyes. I watched him in delight. I knew what he wanted. The dolphin was inviting me, Lucy Waring, to go into the water and play with him.

But as I was about to go back into the water to join him, I heard a strange sound. Something flew past my ear and hit the water in front of the dolphin. It happened again. And suddenly I realized what was happening. These were bullets − someone was shooting at the dolphin. The shots were coming from the woods above the bay, and I shouted as loudly as I could, Stop that shooting! Stop it at once!'

I swam forward quickly into the sunlight. I hoped that my rough movement would frighten the dolphin and that he would swim away from the danger.

It did frighten him. He went under the water and disappeared.

I turned to look up at the cliffs. I could see the top of the Castello dei Fiori and its terrace. There was a man standing there, watching me. It was not Sir Julian because this man was too young and too dark. Perhaps it was his gardener.

I was very angry. Quickly, I picked up my things and ran towards the steps which led up to the terrace. The man waved to me and pointed southwards. That way, please,' he shouted in English.

I didn't listen. I was going to tell him what I thought and I went up those steps fast. Suddenly I came face to face with the man. He had come down to meet me and was waiting for me.

This is private ground,' he said coldly. Perhaps you'l be good enough to leave the way you came.

This only takes you to the terrace, and then through the house.' I wasted no words. Why were you shooting at that dolphin?' I asked. He looked surprised and puzzled. What are you talking about?' he said. Don't pretend that you don't know. I saw you.'

I certainly saw a dolphin,' he admitted, but I didn't see you until you shouted and jumped out from the trees. But you must have made a mistake. I heard nothing. Anyway, why would anybody want to shoot a dolphin?'

I'm asking you,' I said.

For a moment I thought I had said too much. He frowned angrily, and as we stared at each other in silence, I noticed him properly for the first time.

I saw a strongly built man of about thirty, carelessly dressed, with dark hair and eyes. His appearance suggested an aggressive character, I thought, but there was also something sensitive about the mouth. However, at the moment the aggressiveness was much more noticeable.

Wel,' he said sharply, I'm afraid you'l have to take my word for it. I did not shoot at the dolphin.

(Parte 1 de 13)