She sat there on her deckchair looking as though she owned the world. The whole ship seemed to be there especially because she wanted it.
Surprisingly she was very friendly when I sat near her and over the voyage we had several interesting conversations. She seemed interested in the fact I was a writer.
Before we disembarked at Cannes she sent me a note, inviting me for tea the next afternoon. Her hotel was one I had only ever dreamed of, never imagining I could enter it.
At 4 precisely I arrived, and was met by a very polite young manager who personally escorted Madame’s guest to her suite.
The view was stunning, the tea delightful, little pieces of heaven on a plate.
Then she ordered wine. It was of the sort I had never had in my life before. The taste was unique, dark, red and rich, but so smooth that it felt like velvet in my mouth. She said, “A toast – to the anniversary of my freedom”. So I raised my glass. We drank, and then she said, “I feel I may not see too many more of these anniversaries. One day I’d like the story told, if you would be so kind as to do so after my death.
She sat sipping her glass and began.
“I married rather young to a man somewhat older and extremely rich. I discovered too late that he was a tyrant, he beat me often, carefully so that it did not show in public. I was so sad and depressed I planned to take my life, as he’d told me he’d see me dead before he’d let me leave him.
On the evening I planned it, he was out again (with his mistress). The servants had all retired of gone for the night, I was alone. I opened one of his precious bottles of wine from the tiny vineyard in France. He was the only person to own bottles from every one of the previous 10 years, each tastier than the previous one. I thought that it would hide the taste of the poison. I mixed it in the bottle shaking it with my hand over the top so as to be sure it all dissolved.
I took the bottle and glass to the large sitting room, and sat in his large chair to drink it.
At that moment I heard a noise behind me. I leaped up. Why I never will understand. There was a masked intruder. I screamed and he hit me over the head.”
She paused and smiled. “Feel here, the scar remains”
“I must have fallen, because I knew no more.
My husband returned a while later, saw me lying on the floor in a pool of blood and with my hands and feet bound and stepped over me. He saw the bottle and glass and said ‘really Dianne you shouldn’t have taken one of my special wines for yourself. Well, I’m well rid of you, and I think I need a glass to celebrate’. He poured himself a glass, sat in his chair with his feet resting on me and drank it down. Then he rose and went to the telephone and called the police. ‘David du Mille, he announced, someone has broken in and killed my wife, please come at once.’
He staggered back to his chair and fell into it.
When the police arrived they discovered us thus. Me on the floor, still tied up, beginning to regain consciousness and he, dead in his chair.
The official verdict was that he was so overcome at presuming his wife was dead that he killed himself. I was obviously the victim of the intruder, who by the way stole two valuable paintings and some of the jewellery he had given me.
When the thief and accomplice were found, it turned out to be the brother of his mistress who had broken in and attacked me, and his mistress in possession of the stolen goods. They had a good while in prison for it.
So I have had a long, happy life as the wealthy widow of David du Mille. The woman he betrayed me with, well she never really amounted to much after she left the prison.”
She smiled and raised her glass again. “I bought the vineyard, and every year drink it all myself with friends. This is some of the wine. I owe it to the vineyard, after all a glass of wine gave me my freedom.”