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The Road To Port Haven

Kara Savalas knew that her father's men would come for her one day and she had long prepared for the
moment. She kept the few belongings she would need near at hand always, even when she went to her job at the
London docks, and always she was watchful for any sign of her countrymen, whom she could easily identify by their
hand-gestures, subtleties in their movements, the way they dressed and walked and carried themselves. A Greek
man in a London dockside fish market stood out like a kipper in a basket of cockles.
Her few friends, most of them genuine Cockney girls who had lived for generations within the sound of London's
Bow Bells, had from the beginning known that she was in some sort of trouble, but hadn't the slightest grasp of the
extent until one of them spotted the two men walking past the rows of girls cleaning fish, scrutinizing every face.
Maggie Finch, the closest thing Kara had to a friend, wiped her hands on her bloody apron and nudged elbows with
the Greek girl to discreetly get her attention.
'Here now, will you have a look at those two! They're up to no good if you ask me.'
Kara had though herself prepared for this moment, but the reality left her feeling leaden and cold inside. 'I- I
think I'll just step out for a moment-'
Maggie gave her a measured, unsurprised look, as though she, too, had suspected in advance that this moment
would come. 'You know those men, don't you.' It was a statement.
Trying not to lose her composure, Kara said, 'They were sent here by my- a very bad man. They want to kidnap
me and take me back to Athens.'
'Well, that's not going to happen today, luv, now is it! Here, you just be ready to make your exit. I'll take care of
these two.'
Kara stared aghast as the brawny Maggie Finch, with a florid complexion like red brick and forearms like a
butcher's, rolled up her sleeves and went to meet the threat of the two men in black Greek fisherman's garb.
'Here you! What do the pair of you think you're about, gawking at us poor girls like that? You ought to be
ashamed of yourselves-'
Kara didn't wait around to see the outcome, but picked up her carpetbag from where it lay underneath the table
and fled to the diminishing sound of Maggie Finch's brassy voice.
Only minutes later, dressed in clothing suitable for a cold, wet spring day in London, 1929, Kara appeared in a
narrow cobblestone street overshadowed by dirty brick warehouses, walking quickly down the two short blocks that
led to the waterfront docks. She had sold her soul for this moment- had sold her few precious belongings and the
jewelry foisted upon her by a former unwanted suitor- she had even parted with a tiny gold locket left to her by her
great-grandmother; and now, with the impoverished remnants of her life clutched in her bag, she fled to the piers
where those iron-hulled leviathans, the trans-Atlantic steamships, were berthed.
But luck was not on her side. None seemed to be leaving on that day, nor even that week. And with every delay
her fear grew, until by late afternoon she was consumed with mounting panic. At last, when she'd exhausted her last
hope, a smallish vessel that, though converted to steam, retained its twin masts from the final days of sail, a porter
touched her arm as she walked past him, despondent.
''Scuse me, Miss, but I couldn't help overhearing that you wanted on a ship quick as possible. There's a
passenger-freighter leaving in twenty minutes if you make haste.'
Kara thanked the elderly gentleman profusely, pressed a coin into his hand, gave him a quick peck on the
cheek, and left at a run.
This was the worst thing she could have done. Two men, their eyes drawn by her quick movement through the
throngs of people crowded on the docks, spotted her immediately and began giving chase.
Several times Kara almost stumbled and fell headlong as she ran along the slippery wooden bird-dropping-
spattered docks littered with greasy, untidily coiled hawsers, tools, cargo and refuse. The ship was not far away- but
the porter's estimate had been wrong! The first lines had already been cast off and the crew was preparing to haul in
the gangplank!
'Stop! Wait!'
The few passengers on board the vessel, peering down from a tiny side platform by the small crew's and
passenger's quarters, spotted the running girl and began cheering her on.
'Hold the gangplank! There's one more coming if she can make it!'
'Come on! The ship's already moving! Run for it, lass! Don't mind your bonnet- you can buy another when you
get to the Americas!'
Running pell-mell, almost tripping over her own shoes which were not made for running, clutching her hat with
one hand and the carpetbag to her chest with the other, Kara ran for all she was worth. As she drew near, part of her
registered the widening gap between gangplank and dock as the cheers and encouragement turned to warnings and
dismay. Staring whitely at the open expanse of water opening before her, something in her decided to trust her lot to
fate- she mustered one last burst of speed, closed her eyes and jumped.
Had the sailors standing with outstretched arms at the bottom of the gangplank been inexperienced or taken
wholly unawares, they wouldn't have expected this final act of desperation. But these were able-bodied men who'd
spent their entire lives at sea, and had been witness to all manner of the emotional extremes wrought by the need to
escape the clutches of the Old World. Though Kara had fallen short and seemed destined for a plunge into the murky
blue-green water, two separate outstretched hands deftly caught her even as she lost her hat and fell, the men
hanging from the bottom-most ropes of the gangplank. As they stood upright, with the rescued Kara steadied
between them, still clutching her carpetbag, they acknowledged with world-weary good nature the cheer that went up
from the watching passengers high above.
Unnoticed, two dark figures came skidding to a halt and watched the departing ship in stony silence.
The first officer, a retired British naval man, regarded Kara and her few belongings with wry amusement as one
of the deck hands brought her up to the wheelhouse.
'I hope you have money enough to pay for this trip,' he told her. 'Otherwise you may find yourself working your
way across the Atlantic.'
'I do have money,' Kara told him hopefully in her best broken English, 'but I don't mind working, it that's
possible.'
'Oh, it's possible,' he told her. 'Inevitable, judging by your dearth of visible assets. So tell me, are you running
away from someone or something, or are you yet another young hopeful on her way to New York?'
'We are going to New York?' she asked aghast, prompting chuckles from the bridge crew. 'But- I thought we
were going to the Americas!'
'They are one and the same, young lady,' the officer told her with some asperity. 'I take it you didn't exactly plan
this trip.'
'Oh, I planned it very well,' Kara said, 'only just the part where I get out of England. But- I was told that I needed
to get on your ship if I wanted to get to the Caribbean.'
'The Caribbean?' The officer raised an eyebrow. 'Why on earth do you want to go there? Do you have family or
friends living there? Or a job waiting for you? A husband?'
'I am told it has a climate like Greece,' she told him. 'It will be like home to me.'
The officer looked dubious. 'Young lady, the Caribbean is not the sort of place for a young girl your age! And
don't give me that hurt look! You'll go straight to New York and catch yourself a husband if you know what's good for
you! Now, go talk to Mr Hill, that charming young fellow who is about to wipe the smirk off his face, and he will get you
settled. After that, go to the galley and present yourself to the cook. Tell him I sent you. I hope for your sake you don't
mind cleaning fish.'
Groaning as she left for her quarters with Mr Hill, Kara muttered,'Fish again! I could tell you all there is to know
about cleaning fish!'
The trip across the Atlantic was not without small compensations. The people working in the galley were a fun-
loving, lighthearted bunch, and they often stayed up late playing cards, drinking tea, cocoa, rum and whiskey, and
filling the galley with cigarette smoke and singing and concertina music.
The passengers she saw very little of: they were a rather self-involved bunch who seemed to think little of the
crew of a mere passenger-freighter. But there was one man, a hard-bitten fellow Kara didn't particularly like the look
of, who apparently had a broad knowledge of travel by sea. After seeming to consider what sort of place she said that
she was hoping to find, he told Kara of an ideal location in the Spanish Caribbean called Secret Island. All she had to
do was take a ship from New York to the Bahamas, and from there could purchase a plane ticket and be flown to
Secret Island, an exotic tropical island paradise like no other. He told her that he was willing to travel with her all the
way there, but something about the manner of his attentions and his looks made her cool towards him, and she
assured the fellow that she was going to stay in New York for a time with relatives until she'd made her mind up about
any future plans.
She kept this knowledge about Secret Island to herself, however, and decided, based upon the name alone,
that she would go there, and hopefully be and remain safely out of reach of her father.
Kara Savalas was born in Athens, Greece, in the spring of 1910, and spoke the English language with an
accent that from the beginning had made life difficult. The move to England had been an attempt to get away from the
meddling ways of her family. Ever since then she'd had the unwanted attention of strangers attracted by her looks
and by the way she spoke, which in its way was just as bad. So far she'd fled the arranged marriage by her father to a
rich man old enough to be her grandfather; her subsequent life forced to live in a convent to scotch her family's
shame at her refusal to marry against her wishes; her homeland when her family came looking for her, thinking to
break her . . . and now she was on the run yet again.
She was nineteen years of age and felt as though she'd spent an entire tired and empty lifetime on the run from
people that had some use for her or other, regardless of her own wants, needs or desires. 'My own wants,' she
mused after waking and going out on the small deck of the ship and staring at the darkling sky, the stars appearing at
once as glittering and false as the façade she showed the world. 'What is it that I want? I've spent so much time trying
to get out from under the thumb of life that I've not been able to discover if there is any more to it. Wouldn't that be a
cruel irony! To discover that living under the thumb is what life is really all about!' She took a deep breath and tried to
calm her rattled nerves. And chuckled to herself without humour. 'And once again, despite the fact that I'm away and
on the run once more, I feel trapped!' Ired, she turned her thoughts once more to Secret Island and the Caribbean,
and felt something like hope.
Going back to her tiny quarters, she fell quickly asleep as the ship ploughed its way through the waters of the
Atlantic under sullen skies. She looked a small, vulnerable figure with round features and long, dark brown hair that
was very nearly black in the dim light. Her eyes, which were not entirely closed, were a deep liquid black like night
itself, in which the same cold stars shone; they were agitated, as though she were searching desperately for
something, though she knew neither that she was searching nor what she was searching for.
In the year 1929, it can truly be said that one has never really got the full effect of arriving at New York who has
not gone through its harbour and seen the Statue of Liberty and the outline of the city beyond, for New York is first
and foremost a port city, a city of docks and warehouses and steamships, of throngs of hopeful immigrants arriving
from the Old World to stand on the threshold of the New, bringing with them their hopes and dreams of a new life,
however unrealistic.
Among them stood young Kara Savalas, who a few short years before had been astounded by the sights and
sounds and smells of the Port of London. There was an excitement in the air she was not immune to, but it was
blunted and sobered by the knowledge that her father's reach extended even to this place, and for Kara his shadow
seemed to cast a pall over everything about her. She decided immediately to put New York and the North American
continent behind her.

That evening found her on a tiny freighter bound for the Bahamas, from where she hoped to catch a plane to
Secret Island. Thankfully there was no sign of the man she'd met on the boat, but still she found herself unable to
relax as the little freighter chugged through the night.
'We are here, Miss!'
Blinking sleep out of her eyes, Kara grabbed her carpetbag and made her way to where a few other passengers
were waiting on the low deck. It was early, the second day since her departure from New York, the day already
promising to be warm.
When she asked about air travel, a crewman directed her to a floating dock off the end of the pier where Kara
could see the tops of the wings of several aquatic aircraft that rocked and nodded, disturbed by tugs churning up the
water as they nosed the small freighter into its place at the dock. She gazed hopefully at a pair of brand-new
Catalinas, sturdy passenger flying-boats with lines of round passenger windows reminiscent of portholes. Perhaps
one of these would take her to Secret Island?
To her disappointment, the first man she approached, an American pilot, shook his head emphatically "No!" at
the mere mention of Secret Island. 'Not for one lone passenger, Miss. It's a fair ways out. You should've taken the
missionary boat this morning when you had the chance.'
'I've only just arrived here, and didn't have the chance,' she told him, feeling despondent.
'That's tough, I'm afraid. The missionary boat won't be back until next week.'
'Next week!'
Kara felt like crying as she found a place to sit, clutching her bag. Her money had almost run out. How on earth
was she going to get by here for a whole entire week?
At that moment she was approached by a tall, thin, nervous-looking young man in a once-white cloth suit,
clutching a soiled wide-brimmed white hat, who said in a quiet, somehow evasive voice, 'Excuse me, Señorita, but I
understand that you are looking for a plane to take you to Secret Island.'
'If I can afford it,' she said without much hope, knowing that she would probably be the only passenger, and
would therefore have to pay dearly for the expense.
The young man smiled, showing large yellowed-ivory teeth. 'How much money do you have?'
She almost balked when she spied the rickety twin-engine bi-plane listing on its battered pontoons. 'Isn't that
plane a bit . . . well . . . decrepit?'
The young man laughed out loud as he relieved her of her carpetbag. 'What, Dura? She is not so old- maybe
ten years.'
'I don't know,' Kara said with doubtful apprehension. 'Perhaps I should just take the other pilot's advice and wait
for the boat.'
'A boat, Señorita? A boat would get you there, surely, but you would have to be a bird to ascend the high cliffs
of Secret Island.'
Kara took a deep breath and gave herself into the hands of Fate once more. 'Well, if there is no other way. Lead
on.'
The moment the Dura's twin engines stuttered and vibrated into life in a cacophony of backfiring and oily blue
smoke, Kara's resolve suddenly deserted her. She left her seat and tried to navigate her way towards the pilot, but
the buck and heave of the plane as it rolled with the chop of the water threw her off-balance from side to side, turning
the aisle into an obstacle course of seat backs.
'Stop! Stop the plane! Please . . . let me off this death-trap . . .'
But her cries were drowned out as the engines' noise crescendoed to a deafening roar, and she could feel
through the soles of her feet the rush and acceleration of the plane, until at once the floating sensation dropped away
altogether and the old aeroplane took to the wing with all the grace of a Sopwith Camel hauling a shifting load of
anvils.
Wide-eyed with fear and dishevelled, Kara stumbled into the nearest seat to watch the ensuing journey with her
heart in her mouth. This was not at all how she had imagined her first flight would be! Clutching the armrests with
both hands, she closed her eyes, small frame stiff with fear, and muttered over and over to herself, 'I'll never fly again!
So help me, so long as I live, I'll never fly again!'
Half an hour had gone by when Secret Island loomed off the right wing as the aeroplane banked to make its
approach. It was a large island, green and lush and shaped like a mountain with steep, sheer sides and a flattened
top that appeared a convolution of hills. As they drew near, Kara spotted a lake shaped like a spear point whose tip
plunged deep into a mountainous valley, and as they descended it became apparent that this was to be their landing
point.
Rather than land on the open water, the aeroplane flew deep into the valley until they came in sight of
something that made Kara catch her breath. At the head of the spear point was an open area of fields, farmland,
orchards and meadow, and at the lake's edge resided a huge stone chateau. As the aeroplane finally lost momentum
and dropped towards the water's surface, Kara caught a glimpse beyond the chateau of rising hills covered in dense
forest, terraced farmland and grassland bordered on all sides by forest. 'No roads, no cars, no traffic,' she mused
absently. 'And clean air. Perhaps this place won't be so bad.'
Upon reaching the dock and securing the plane with it's engines still idling, the skinny young man removed
Kara's carpetbag to a nearby bench. 'Someone will come for you soon,' he smiled, casting a nervous glance in the
direction of the chateau. 'You'd best wait here.' With that he hastily untied and reboarded the plane, which, coughing
and smoking like an affront to the pristine beauty of its surroundings, turned and began making its way to rejoin the
smoke and factories of civilization.
After waiting for over an hour, Kara belatedly realised that no one was coming to get her and decided that she
might as well carry her own luggage up to the chateau. In the meantime, some warning sense made her check the
wallet she kept in her carpetbag.
It was empty.
'That- that miserable thief!'
Crying angry tears of frustration, she began walking towards the chateau. But when she finally gained the front
doors, she discovered neither bell nor knocker. She tried knocking on the massive wooden doors but they proved so
thick and dense that they absorbed her futile attempts to make her presence known. With a sigh, she was just about
to leave her luggage and try for a back entrance when she noticed a rope dangling to her left. A bell rope, perhaps?
She tried it, felt through its tautness that it was connected to some heavy and ungainly mechanism, and pulled. In
response, from within the house came a satisfyingly loud and musical chiming. Momentarily, an harassed-looking
woman dressed in black maid's attire answered and began speaking to Kara is rapid Spanish. Belatedly noting the
girl's incomprehension, she slowed her stream of words to a comprehensible trickle.
'You are the young horticulturalist, si? Please, come this way. We weren't expecting you for another two weeks-'
Kara stared. 'A horticulturalist? Me? There must be some misunderstanding. I've just been dropped off by a man
in a plane, and I've been robbed!'
It was the maid's turn to stare at her uncomprehendingly, glancing vainly towards the water for the nonexistent
aeroplane. 'A man in a plane robbed you? But . . . I do not understand. Who are you? Are you are related to the
Castellans?'
'The who?'
The maid indicated the mansion around them. 'The Castellans, the owners of this Casa. You are a relative? A
guest?'
Flushing with embarrassment, sensing that she was the victim of a criminal's hoax, Kara said, 'The man who
brought me here by plane said he was taking me to a place called Secret Island-'
'Dios!' the woman muttered, her features darkening with anger. 'He was a young man, si? Tall and skinny, with
big yellow teeth? And an old plane that should not still be flying?' Noting Kara's assent, she cursed under her breath.
'That- that dirty little criminal! He has done this before! Taken the money of unsuspecting turistas and flown them
only Dios knows where! I suppose I shall have to take you to the Señora, so that she may decide what is to be done
with you. Come, and leave your bag where it is. At least there are no thieves around here!'
She led Kara down a long corridor and up three flights of stairs, until they came at last to a door that was
partially open that led to a study. Within sat a classically elegant figure who was absorbed with an assortment of tiny
objects which she viewed under a large mounted adjustable lens. 'Yes, Maria,' she said without looking up.
'Your pardon, Señora Castellan, but Ricardo Galiano has stranded and robbed yet another turista and left her
on your premises.'
The woman grimaced. 'Only one this time?' She straightened in her chair, which in her was a truly formidable
gesture, and gave Kara an unsettlingly gauging look. 'What is your name, girl?'
Though she'd done nothing wrong, Kara felt humiliated and vulnerable, sensing the woman before her to be a
figure of some authority. Trying not to stutter, she said, 'I'm . . . my name is Kara . . . Kara Savalas.' Instinctively, she
curtsied, nervously.
'You've come all the way from Greece? Athens, by the sound of your accent.'
'Actually, no . . . I was living in England, but I'm from Athens originally-' She flinched as the woman looked her
up and down once more, reassessing.
'I see. And you were trying to get to the Mission on Secret Island. You do not look like one of the
Sisterhood. Are you a teacher?'
Kara stared. 'I do not know of any Mission. I was hoping to find work there, and a place to live.' For a moment
she wondered if the woman would or could set things right. Her heart sank, however, when the Señora raised an
eyebrow and spoke again.
'Well, I am afraid that you're stranded here for two weeks, at the very least. There won't be another ship or plane
until one arrives bearing my horticulturalist. In the meantime . . . I don't suppose you know anything about
horticulture?'
Feeling crushed, used, her gaze dropping, Kara shook her head.
'Well-' the woman began and sighed. 'This is not a resort, Señorita, nor is it the sort of place where a young
woman would normally come seeking employment. This is my home, and I expect people to do their fair share of
work around here. Have you any skills? What were you doing for a living in England?' When Kara began telling her
about her work in the fish market, the Señora shook her head impatiently. 'I'm afraid that your skills, such as they are,
will avail you nothing.' She paused for a long moment to take in Kara's bedraggled, defeated visage, and in a quieter,
kinder tone, she said, 'So tell me, young traveller, what is it that attracted a young hopeful like yourself to such a
place as Secret Island? There is nothing much there, you know; at least nothing worth a journey half way around the
world. It is a poor, isolated place, full of poverty-stricken villagers and their malnourished children. There are no
amenities or jobs there fit for a young girl like yourself. Didn't you know that?'
Fighting back tears, Kara muttered, 'But . . . the man on the boat to the Americas . . . he told me . . . he even
showed me pictures-'
The Señora shook her head and sighed, sympathetically. 'Little fool,' she said gently. 'It seems that you were
taken by an enticing-sounding name and a tall story told to you by a man who no doubt had questionable motives- tell
me, was he a rather sallow-faced fellow with bad teeth and sly-looking, heavily lidded eyes?'
'You know him?'Kara blurted in surprise.
'I know of him. He is an acquaintance of Ricardo's. Well, well, so Ricardo has found a way to drum up a little
extra business.'
Kara turned away, gritting her teeth with the effort of maintaining her composure.
The woman dismissed the maid with a gesture of her head, went to Kara, led her to a bench and seated both of
them. 'What's this, then? You look positively ill, child! Are you unwell?' She smiled sardonically. 'Running away from a
bad relationship, perhaps?'
Stung, Kara blurted, without meaning to, 'I have never had a relationship, Señora! I've spent too much time
trying to get away . . .'
The woman's gaze narrowed. 'Get away? Get away from what? Are you in some sort of trouble? Not with the
law, I hope.'
At this, Kara gave a miserable little laugh and shook her head. 'No, it's just that . . . first, my parents tried to
force me to marry this disgusting old man . . . and then, when I wouldn't give in, they put me in a convent, thinking the
worst of me. Then I ran away to England and got a job . . . but the people were strange there, and no one would
leave me alone, and the young men, they weren't to be trusted . . . and then some men came, sent by my father-'
Seemingly oblivious to this last remark, the Señora chuckled. 'I see. You don't like the lecherous sort, young or
old, eh? Well, perhaps we have a few things in common.'
'You mentioned a boat,' Kara said doubtfully. 'The man in the plane told me that no boats come to this island-'
'No doubt the wily Ricardo approached the island from the northwest,' Señora Castellan told her. 'If you had
approached from the other direction then you would have seen Port Haven in all its glory. And, yes, you heard me
correctly. It is a port, full of sea-going vessels of all descriptions, including two or three small passenger-freighters.'
Kara took a deep shuddering breath and let it out slowly. 'What am I to do? What will happen to me in the
meantime?'
Señora Castellan shrugged. 'I suppose that I shall have to tell Maria that you are to be our guest, and for your
part you will have to find some way to amuse yourself until I decide what to do with you.' She smiled thoughtfully. 'I
daresay you've come to the right place if you were seeking isolation! But I think you'll find this a place of . . . various
solitudes . . . and that solitude is the furthest thing from that soul-sickness called loneliness. You may even learn
about shared solitude here. But there- compose yourself and go and find Maria, and tell her that you are to be placed
in a guest room.' The woman regarded Kara wryly. 'You should bathe yourself and change into a light dress more
suited to our climate. You must be very hot in that heavy dress. When you are done it will be time for our mid-day
meal. We generally take breakfast, lunch and in-between meals in what in this household is referred to as the glass
room, that glassed-in structure you may have noticed on what for you would have been the far left side of the Casa. It
is cool and pleasant there, shaded by great trees and with a wonderful view of the lake and the valley. Now go, child.
I am a busy woman and have work to do.'
Kara discovered that a bath and a change of clothes did much to revitalise her mood. Once she was done, she
actually felt cleaner that she had for a long time- cleaner than on just the surface. As was her wont in her native
Greece at the estate her family lived in near Athens, she wore a simple peasant dress with nothing underneath that
was deliciously cool and free from constraint. She would have liked to go barefoot but decided upon a pair of light
leather sandals that matched her dress.
As she entered the glass room Señora Castellan looked up from her lunch and raised an eyebrow. 'I scarcely
recognised you, child! It seems that you somehow remained fresh and unspoiled beneath that false citified exterior,
though you have a . . . a wounded look about you. Well, don't just stand there, girl- sit down and join me! How on
earth did a shy girl like yourself ever manage to travel half way around the world on her own?'
'How, indeed,' Kara mused to herself. 'Well,' she admitted slowly, 'it's something like you said, about my exterior
being false. It's a bit like wearing a mask at a ball: the mask gives you a confidence you wouldn't normally have, but
you daren't ever remove it, because the act of wearing a mask means that you're concealing things about yourself-
things that can in some cases prove very . . . painful . . . if ever you're found out. Some of them are lies; some are
mistakes others make about you that prove useful; some are assumptions without any sort of foundation, some of
which create problems and some of which have their uses; I guess some of it has to do with making life glamourous,
but in certain circles it is a tool of survival . . . except that, as you say, it's all false.'
eñora Castellan gave her a bemused look. 'You do not sound at all like a girl born to work in a fish market. Your
people must have been well-off, eh?'
Kara wrinkled her nose and accepted a stuffed croissant from Maria. 'Anachronistically so- Maria! This is
fabulous!'
Maria, who appeared formidably dark and severe, allowed a ghost of a smile to touch her otherwise hard
features as she finished setting up their luncheon and left the two alone. As they ate together in silence, Señora
Castellan referring often to a sheaf of paperwork, Kara turned her attention to the view. The valley at the lakehead
was green, lush and tranquil, never looking twice the same as the sun passed overhead, continually changing the
arrangement of light and shade. This was, Kara decided, because of the particular alignment of the valley, which ran
from east to west. The deep valley of her ancestral home in Greece ran north to south, and consequently the days
were comparatively short and cool in the early mornings and late evenings. It too was subject to great variation in all
its facets over the course of the day. 'Who would have thought,' she mused, 'that there were so many different types
of valleys in the world. I'd always assumed they were all pretty much the same.'
'Perhaps you'd like to go exploring,' the Señora suggested with a smile, startling Kara out of her reverie. 'You'd
best use one of the back entrances this time; that way you may let yourself in and out without making Maria drop
whatever she's doing at the time. But don't you go traipsing through my gardens! If you feel you must look at them,
stay to the footpaths. I daresay they're clearly enough marked.'
Kara didn't need to be prompted twice. She took her dirty dishes into the kitchen and washed them, found a
back door through a utility room beyond the kitchen, navigated her way through a back utility shed full of tools,
cleaning implements, unused kitchen and food preserving equipment and firewood, and then found herself standing
on a narrow side path in the midst of the most bewitching back garden she had ever laid eyes on.
The place had an exotic, wild look, every flower, tree and shrub appearing to be native to the island. It was more
like stepping into a sort of floral jungle than a garden: she felt dwarfed by enormous broad-leafed plants and tall
brakes of fern, by flowering shrubs high as small trees, by clumps of towering palm trees that leaned like watchful
sentinels. Everywhere there grew a silent cacophony of brilliant flowers, some of them too enormous to be believed-
but something of their colour and their brilliance soon got to be overpowering, sending Kara moving on in search of a
setting more suited to her present mood.
Within moments she was out of the garden and onto a grassy lea with a number of small sheds and glass
greenhouses, and she followed a well-used footpath that brought her eventually to a field and another footpath that
wended its way down toward the lake, to a more subdued place of grassy knolls dotted with small white flowers and
low marshland with tall blowing grasses. Tiny brown birds occasionally and noisily betrayed their presence in the
grasses, chirping busily and chasing one another about, occasionally stopping to cling to a tall grass or marsh plant.
Kara found a knoll that seemed sunlit and inviting and lay herself down so that she could watch the clouds roll
slowly on by- something she hadn't done since she was a little girl. At once, her heart seemed to swell from within
her- and then, for no reason she could have put into words, a profound grief stole over her, and she hugged herself,
fighting back tears, trying to contain a hurt so intense that it made her breath short.
'Is the Isla Fiero such a terrible place that it makes you weep?'
Kara gasped, rolled over and sat up feeling like a fool, hastily wiping tears from her eyes. 'What? What are you
talking about? Who are you? You shouldn't sneak up on people like that!' A man like none she had ever seen stood
before her. He appeared at once very strong and stern, tall and with an air of command that made her instinctively
afraid of him. Yet there was something, a sort of humane compassion about his mien that took the edge off her fear.
Some distance behind him a black horse cropped the grass: evidently she'd not heard him approach and dismount
only a short distance away.
'Did not my mother, the Señora Castellan, inform you about me, her only son, Señorita? No? Well, then let me
introduce myself. I am called Roman, and it may well be said of me that I am truly the castellan of this island, Isla
Fiero.'
'This seems rather a peaceful place to be called Savage Island,' Kara said as though fending off the implications
of the word that under the circumstances seemed somehow provocatively connected to him.
'Savage does not only mean base and primitive, Señorita,' Roman told her. 'The base and the primitive may be
found in all societies and in all cultures, no matter how technologically advanced. The term can also refer to the wild
and menacing behaviour of a creature or place that by its nature will not endure the taming hand of what many
miscall "civilization."'
Kara was only half-listening, however, and physically and emotionally withdrew into herself as he spoke. Seeing
this, he stopped speaking to consider her.
At last, he said quietly, 'So it's true then. Ricardo has misappropriated your money and abandoned you here.
That's very odd . . . that he would risk coming here after I'd put him in fear of his life. Would you like me to fetch him
back here and have him set things to rights?'
Kara listened in silence until Roman mentioned Ricardo's return. 'Set things to rights? How do you mean?'
'I mean,' Roman told her, 'that I will compel him to return your money and take you back to the Bahamas, where
you can catch a ship back to New York.'
Kara writhed, faced with such a prospect. 'I'll take the money back, Señor Castellan, but I will not go back to
New York, nor will I set foot on that death trap of a plane! I'd sooner swim or paddle a dory! Would there be work for
me in the Bahamas, do you think?'
Roman raised an eyebrow at this and was silent for a long moment, considering. At last, he said, 'I suppose, but
not for a single young girl travelling alone. Regardless, Ricardo is not to be trusted, and my mother would be unduly
concerned, should you have any further unsupervised contact with him. No, now that I consider the matter further, I
think it best that you remain here as our guest for the time being. As my mother says, this is not a resort, but, well . . .'
he chuckled, withdrew a small black case from his breast pocket, took out a small cheroot and lighted it. 'This island
holds many quaint fascinations which may amuse you, Port Haven being not the least of them. And both Mother and
Maria have told me that they enjoy your company. In my entire lifetime they have agreed upon very little, so with your
leave I would like to keep you here a while yet.'
'Are there jobs in Port Haven?' Kara found herself asking hopefully.
Again, Roman raised an eyebrow. 'You might find a job on the docks cleaning fish or sorting shellfish, or at one
of the plantations picking coffee beans,' he told her, studying her reaction carefully. 'You might even find work on a
fishing vessel or a farm or orchard. But it's hard work and long hours you'd be looking at-'
'I am well used to hard work, Señor,' Kara muttered distractedly, uncomfortable under his scrutiny. 'As a child I'd
always dreamed of working outside, doing something truly useful, something that wasn't fake, like adorning an estate
house! No one thought I'd last a week on my own when I left home, but I did more than merely survive- I thrived! I
was dirt poor of course, but that was a small price to pay for being left alone . . . I've always wanted just to be left
alone . . . to be free of the unreasonable demands of tyrants.'
'You don't see poverty as a sort of tyranny?' he asked her sardonically.
She shrugged. 'At least it's a tyrant I can meet on my own terms, Señor.'
He seemed to take a fresh look at her at that.'True. What about the belongings you left behind in England?'
Avoiding his eye, she said, 'I sold everything of value I owned. I no longer own anything of value, sentimental or
otherwise.'
'You would simply pick up and start a new life here- is that it?'
'Yes . . . here, or wherever else I end up.'
He considered her in silence a long moment. At last, he said evenly, 'Take a few weeks here, first, before
making up your mind. Then, after two weeks, let me know what you wish to do with your life. Is it a deal?'
She looked up and, catching the amused glint in his eye, gave him an unwilling, small, wan smile in return. 'All
right, Señor Castellan. It's a deal.'
She spent the rest of the day wandering the lands about the Casa and along the lakeshore, feeling curiously
detached. By evening she was very tired and went to bed early, and then she slept soundly and deeply for the first
time in as long as she could remember.

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