1. Marbella

2. From Torremolinos to Churriana

3. Ben the Baker

4. After the Fashion Show

5. The Bronx

6. You are never too old to Learn

7. Peter from Poona

8. Rule Britannia

9. Sports and pastimes

10. The Constant Nymph

11. Ben rises to the Occasion


The Magician

'He is the true enchanter, whose spell operates, not upon the senses, but upon the imagination and the heart.'

The remainder of Ben's stay passed without incident. We had experienced adventure enough, and Ben was not his usual, cheerful self. The plight of the half-blinded man and the crippled girls preyed on his mind. I felt the need for some livelier company. Ben was always gentle and affectionate but he lacked the high spirits and witty brilliance which, I suspected, I could find in Stephen. I was pleased, therefore, when Stephen called me and proposed meeting for dinner. I explained that Ben was with me, but Stephen was in no way discouraged.

'Splendid fellow,' he chortled, 'Bring him along. I am sure that as accomplished a lady as you can cope with two beaux to her string.'
Between marbella and Estepona., there is restaurant, called Benemar, run by two Moroccan Jewish brothers, and it was there that we met. I liked their oriental salads with cooked vegetables and the inevitable couscous. Yet, I must admit that the evening was not a great success. In Stephen's presence, Ben became reticent and had little to say for himself, and I was conscious that Stephen would have preferred to be alone with me.

Then a very strange thing happened. I wanted to go to the toilet and freshen up, and I excused myself from the table. I had to go out of the dining room through the bar, and as I walked through, I heard somebody called my name. I turned around and found myself looking into the smiling face of Merlin Rees-Evans.

'I knew you'd be here,' he said triumphantly. 'I have been waiting to talk to you.'
'How could you have known I was coming to this restaurant?'
'Didn't I tell you, I'm a magician. There are many things I know, but they are hidden desires, secret.'
I gazed at him, not knowing whether to believe him or not.
'Well,' I said at least, 'I'd love to talk to you, but I am with two men of war already.'

'I know that too,' Merlin smiled. 'But don't let it worry you. All good things go in threes, Xaviera, and here I am the Third Man. But, no, I don't want to barge in. not tonight, anyway.'
There was a my story about this man, and suddenly, I knew that I had to be with him and penetrate his mask of inscrutability. Ben was going home and Stephen could wait.

'Tomorrow,' I told him, 'I shall be alone.'
'When shall I come?' He had no doubts. He seemed to know what I would be saying or doing before I did.
'Be at my apartment at nine,' I told him and walked away.
Next day, I packed ben the baker off, back to Churriana. Although he liked being with me, he could not stand the snobbishness and artificiality that is so common in Marbella for long, and he was glad to be getting out of the place.

On the stroke of nine o'clock, Merlin rang my doorbell. In one hand he held a bottle of red wine, in the other a bunch of red roses. He cocked a critical eye over my flat.

'Very comfortable,' was his judgment. 'I particularly like that picture.' He nodded towards a print of a painting by Leonore Fini. It showed three women, obviously quarrelling, one of whom was pushing another in the face.

'It's Franny's favourite,' I told him. 'It has that quality of implied violence.'
Merlin leaned back and regarded me thoughtfully. I had to admire his perfect self -assurance. He had the poise of a man to had everything under control.

'Do you spend much time here?' he asked.
'A few months every year. And during the spring, before it gets too hot, my mother usually stays with her friends.'
'Just your mother? What became of your father?'

Merlin tone was not in the least unfriendly, but I felt that he was analyzing my every word, getting the measure of me and making up his mind what sort of a frigidity in woman I really was. He struck me as too wise and level-headed to judge me in terms of my fame or notoriety or to be interested in my public image- my outer self as it were. He was studying the woman within, my true personality.

'My father died about eight years ago, while I was still living in Canada,' I answered him. 'And did your father know about your career in New York and how you got involved in the call girl business?' His voice brought memories of my father flooding back: there was something paternal about Merlin, himself.

'No, thank God! The shock would probably have killed him. it's strange the way things work out. You see, I loved my father more than any other living creature, and yet I left Holland to get away from him.'
'He was cruel to you?' Merlin asked.

'No, nothing like that. He was a dying man - he had a number of strokes and was no longer aware of what was going on around him. I just could not stand by and watch him suffer. There was nothing I could do to help him. I had to get away.'
I nodded.

'But your father must have been a man of great personality to have affected your the simple life so deeply. Beyond your love of your friends and even your most passionate affairs, your memory of him is still the mot precious thing in your life. Aren't I right?

I looked at Merlin in wonder. 'How on earth could you know all that after so short a time?'
'If you like, you can think of it as my magic. When you speak about your whole appearance changes. Then, I see you, not as the busy, successful writer, surrounded by fans and interviewers, but as a said, lonely, little girl. So tell me something about the extraordinary man who was your father.'

12. The Magician

13. Say it with Diamonds

14. The simple life

15. Forced to Fast

16. The Persian Boy

17. Penthouse Pet

18. The road to Morocco

19. Have you anything to Declare?

20. Men of War

21. Fiesta in Ojen

22. Highway Robbery