mother, and the daughter in her brown high-heeled shoes. She saw Aramon, dressed in clean clothes for once, standing with them in the new warmth of midday, the three of them gazing up at the startling new face of the Mas Lunel. The agents began taking photographs, one after another, from near and from far away. And Audrun knew what they were considering – that this transformation might put up the price of the mas still further.
    Half a million euros?
    She clutched the area of her heart. Her own little house had been built in four weeks for a few thousand. And it was the only shelter she would ever own.
    She stopped the agents on the road, waving her thin arms to flag down the car. She stuck her face in through the car window.
    ‘Excuse me,’ she said. ‘But I’m Monsieur Lunel’s sister and that house was once my home. And I saw what was done. He called the stonemason, and now the crack’s covered over, but it’s still there.’
    The agents had round faces, almost identically formed, with pursed little lipsticked mouths. The daughter was smoking, drawing deeply on some expensive mentholated brand and puffing the smoke out of the car window. They both stared wordlessly at Audrun.
    ‘A bit of cement won’t stop it widening,’ Audrun went on, clutching at the burning metal of the car, ‘the earth calls to the stones on either side. It never stops calling.’
    ‘Listen, Madame,’ said the mother, after a moment or two. ‘I think we have to make something clear to you. We’ve been asked by your brother to handle the sale of the mas. And that’s all. We honestly can’t have anything to do with a family feud.’
    Family feud.
    ‘Ah,’ said Audrun. ‘So he told you, did he? He told you how I was treated?’
    ‘How you were treated? No, no. Nothing in the past has anything to do with us. We’re just acting as agents for the sale.’
    ‘I’m not surprised he didn’t tell you. He pretends none of it ever happened.’
    ‘Well, I’m sorry, but we have to be on our way now. We’ve got another appointment, a very urgent appointment in Anduze.’
    ‘You should ask him about the crack. Ask him. He called Raoul. And I saw what Raoul did. I’m not lying. He just jammed a bit of mortar in . . .’
    But they weren’t listening any more. The mother threw the gear lever forwards and Audrun felt the car beginning to move and she had to hop and skip with it for a pace or two, then jerk out her head and watch it accelerate away.

A week after his arrival, hoeing tiny weeds from Veronica’s otherwise immaculate gravel courtyard on a warm afternoon, Anthony caught sight of his own reflection in one of her French windows and noticed how the southern sun had already taken away his London pallor and made him look more youthful.
    Admiring this new self, his mind blazed suddenly with a new thought:
    I could love again. After all, perhaps I could . . .
    Anthony straightened up and lifted his face to the sky.
    Love a woman, even? Why not? He’d loved his ex-wife Caroline in a companionable sort of way. Why shouldn’t he lead a comfortable but simple life with an attractive but undemanding woman, for ten or fifteen more years, and be at peace . . .
    . . . or then again, this part of France was full of tanned, dark-haired boys and the thought of these, and the way they might whisper to him in French in the hot nights, was now, already, giving him a tentative but gloriously welcome erection.
    He returned to his task with renewed energy, determined to root out every last weed from the courtyard. He hadn’t looked forward to gardening, but now he found that the work produced in him a sweet stillness of mind, in which hope had begun to gleam again, like the sun emerging from round the edges of a cloud.
    ‘You know you’ve saved me, don’t you?’ he said to Veronica that evening, as they sipped chilled white wine in the salon.
    ‘What do you mean?’ she said.
    ‘London’s killing me, V. It literally is. I’ve

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