think, was grinding hard work. If it paid off, maybe that was an acceptable position. When it didnât pay off, or paid so poorly relative to the amount of work put in, it was hardly a tolerable way of life.
He walked and walked, first over soft sand, then over firm sand, and stepped through the little lip of white into the sea. It was not as warm as he had expected. This after all was the Atlantic. But it was the contrast with the exceptional temperature of the air. He swam along towards some rocks, then lay floating for a time just enjoying himself. It was worth coming, just for this.
He wondered when he should ring Edouard de Blaye. Without any particular effort on his part, he had come to know a number of influential people. A Wykehamist, single, in his twenties, good-mannered, with a keen sense of humour and enjoyment, able to play the piano and the guitar, fluent in three languages, fond of the arts, he was a natural for the invitation to dinner or a weekend. This had been even more so in Paris than in London; and among his acquaintances, or friends, was a slim blond Norman Frenchman whose father was the very rich Baron de Blaye.
They hadnât seen each other for more than a year, but Edouard had told Matthew that his father had built a luxury winter house in Morocco â at Taroudant, only fifty miles from Agadir â and Edouard had issued a vague but warmly meant invitation to come and see them if he were in the vicinity and would like to spend a few days there. It had been one of the reasons why Matthew had chosen Agadir over other possibilities; it would be agreeable to accept the invitation at the end of his holiday, or earlier if it suited. He had only booked for one week at the Saada. It would be agreeable to spend a few days in luxury â and free luxury â before returning to England and life entirely on his own again, in genteel poverty.
Matthew had never been one of these angry young men â he was too easygoing â but once, when a schoolboy of fifteen, he had run away from home. He got on quite well with his stepfather, who was a successful stockbroker, but he felt he had nothing much in common with him â nor really with his mother either â and did not want to go to Scotland with them. When he was eventually found and brought back he was decidedly unpopular as his disappearance had wrecked their holiday.
He had called himself Matthew Arkell, which was a name he picked out of the obituaries in The Times , and had wandered cheerfully with his guitar almost as far west as he could go. Working a day here and there, playing in a pub at nights, he had finished up at a farm at St Just in Penwith, where they had eventually found him. He had good-temperedly explained his case, his reasons for going, his experiences on the road, clearly and without rancour or regret. All very simple, yet all very complex. John Morris had taken him to a psychiatrist, who had told them not to worry, the boy was passing through an identity crisis. âWhat rot,â Matthew said when his mother incautiously told him the verdict. âIt isnât that at all. I know damn well who I am, but I also know that who I am is not who I want to be!â
In the end he had written it up in a humorous way after his return to school; and putting it on paper had helped him to sort out his feelings. He won a prize for this effort and it was printed in the school magazine â presumably being thought acceptable because it was home he had run away from, not school.
It was time to go inshore, but his body had grown accustomed to the water, and it no longer felt cold. Rona, he knew, would have loved this, and he felt briefly a heel for not having told her where he was going and invited her to come, possibly, just possibly, with the idea â¦
But it couldnât ever be. She had made her feelings explicit, and she wasnât one to change her mind like a weathercock. There had been a girl like that once