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DISGRACE J.M.Coetzee scannedbyheyst
FOR A MAN of his age, fifty-two, divorced, he has, to his mind, solved the problem of sex rather well. On Thursday afternoons he drives to Green Point. Punctually at two p.m. he presses the buzzer at the entrance to Windsor Mansions, speaks his name, and enters. Waiting for him at the door of No. 113 is Soraya. He goes straight through to the bedroom, which is pleasant-smelling and softly lit, and undresses. Soraya emerges from the bathroom, drops her robe, slides into bed beside him. 'Have you missed me?' she asks. 'I miss you all the time,' he replies. He strokes her honeybrown body, unmarked by the sun; he
stretches her out, kisses her breasts; they make love. Soraya is tall and slim, with long black hair and dark, liquid eyes. Technically he is old enough to be her father; but then, technically, one can be a father at twelve. He has been on her books for over a year; he finds her entirely satisfactory. In the desert of the week Thursday has become an oasis of luxe et volupté. In bed Soraya is not effusive. Her temperament is in fact rather quiet, quiet and docile. In her general opinions she is surprisingly moralistic. She is offended by tourists who bare their breasts (ùdders', she calls them) on public beaches; she thinks vagabonds should be rounded up and put to work sweeping the streets. How she reconciles her opinions with her line of business he does not ask.
Because he takes pleasure in her, because his pleasure is unfailing, an affection has grown up in him for her. To some degree, he believes, this affection is reciprocated. Affection may not be love, but it is at least its cousin. Given their unpromising beginnings, they have been lucky, the two of them: he to have found her, she to have found him. His sentiments are, he is aware, complacent, even uxorious. Nevertheless he does not cease to hold to them. For a ninety-minute session he pays her R400, of which half goes to Discreet Escorts. It seems a pity that Discreet Escorts should get so much. But they own No. 113 and other flats in Windsor Mansions; in a sense they own Soraya too, this part of her, this function. He has toyed with the idea of asking her to see him in her own time. He would like to
spend an evening with her, perhaps even a whole night. But not the morning after. He knows too much about himself to subject her to a morning after, when he will be cold, surly, impatient to be alone. That is his temperament. His temperament is not going to change, he is too old for that. His temperament is fixed, set. The skull, followed by the temperament: the two hardest parts of the body. Follow your temperament. It is not a philosophy, he would not dignify it with that name. It is a rule, like the Rule of St Benedict. He is in good health, his mind is clear. By profession he is, or has been, a scholar, and scholarship still engages, intermittently, the core of him. He lives within his income, within his temperament, within his emotional means. Is he happy? By most
measurements, yes, he believes he is. However, he has not forgotten the last chorus of Oedipus: Call no man happy until he is dead. In the field of sex his temperament, though intense, has never been passionate. Were he to choose a totem, it would be the snake. Intercourse between Soraya and himself must be, he imagines,rather like the copulation of snakes: lengthy, absorbed, but rather abstract, rather dry, even at its hottest. Is Soraya's totem the snake too? No doubt with other men she becomes another woman: la donna e mobile. Yet at the level of temperament her affinity with him can surely not be feigned. Though by occupation she is a loose woman he trusts her, within limits. During their sessions he speaks to her with a certain freedom, even on occasion unburdens himself.
She knows the facts of his life. She has heard the stories of his two marriages, knows about his daughter and his daughter's ups and downs. She knows many of his opinions. Of her life outside Windsor Mansions Soraya reveals nothing. Soraya is not her real name, that he is sure of. There are signs she has borne a child, or children. It may be that she is not a professional at all. She may work for the agency only one or two afternoons a week, and for the rest live a respectable life in the suburbs, in Rylands or Athlone. That would be unusual for a Muslim, but all things are possible these days. About his own job he says little, not wanting to bore her. He earns his living at the Cape Technical University, formerly Cape Town University College. Once a professor of modern languages, he has been, since Classics and Modern Languages were closed down as part of the great rationalization, adjunct
professor of communications. Like all rationalized personnel, he is allowed to offer one special-field course a year, irrespective of enrolment, because that is good for morale. This year he is offering a course in the Romantic poets. For the rest he teaches Communications 101, `Communication Skills', and Communications 201, 'Advanced Communication Skills'. Although he devotes hours of each day to his new discipline, he finds its first premise, as enunciated in the Communications 101 handbook, preposterous: 'Human society has created language in order that we may communicate our thoughts, feelings and intentions to each other.' His own opinion, which he does not air, is that the origins of speech lie in song, and the origins of song in the need to fill out with sound the overlarge and rather empty human soul.
In the course of a career stretching back a quarter of a century he has published three books, none of which has caused a stir or even a ripple: the first on opera (Boito and the Faust Legend: The Genesis of Mefistofele), the second on vision as eros (The Vision of Richard of St Victor), the third on Wordsworth and history (Wordsworth and the Burden of the Past). In the past few years he has been playing with the idea of a work on Byron. At first he had thought it would be another book, another critical opus. But all his sallies at writing it have bogged down in tedium. The truth is, he is tired of criticism, tired of prose measured by the yard. What he wants to write is music: Byron in Italy, a meditation on love between the sexes in the form of a chamber opera.
reads. while he faces his Communications classes. Because he has no respect for the material he teaches. flit phrases. They look through him when he speaks. and annotates their assignments. Month after month he sets. emasculated institution of learning he is more out of place than ever. correcting lapses in punctuation. . Nevertheless he fulfils to the letter his obligations toward them. their parents. he makes no impression on his students. fragments of song from the unwritten work. to his mind. He has never been much of a teacher. collects. and the state. tunes. in this transformed and. interrogating weakarguments. forget his name.11/504 Through his mind. burdened with upbringings inappropriate to the tasks they are set to perform. clerks in a post-religious age. so are other of his colleagues from the old days. spelling and usage. But then. Their indifference galls him more than he will admit.
The refrigerator holds a supply of bottled water. He doubts there is an irony to match it in hers. A place of assignation. a bowl with sachets of sugar. nothing more. Soraya keeps her makeup in an overnight bag. brings it home to him who he is in the world. In the bathroom there is soap and a pile of towels. a jar of instant coffee. also because it teaches him humility. The irony does not escape him: that the one who comes to teach learns the keenest of lessons. . well regulated. It is a feature of his profession on which he does not remark to Soraya. clean. while those who come to learn learn nothing. functional. in the cupboard clean bedlinen. In the kitchen of the flat in Green Point there are a kettle.12/504 appending to each paper a brief considered critique. He continues to teach because it provides him with a livelihood. plastic cups.
the most unguessed-at: a ground bass of contentedness. She obeyed. At New Year he gave her an enamelled bracelet. . A ready learner. It surprises him that ninety minutes a week of a woman's company are enough to make him happy. His needs turn out to be quite light. like the hum of traffic that lulls the city-dweller to sleep. compliant. which is quite unaffected. light and fleeting. at Eid a little malachite heron that caught his eye in a curio shop. He enjoys her pleasure. pliant. No emotion. who used to think he needed a wife.13/504 The first time Soraya received him she wore vermilion lipstick and heavy eyeshadow. or like the silence of the night to countryfolk. after all. He likes giving her presents. he asked her to wipe it off. Not liking the stickiness of the makeup. or none but the deepest. a home. like those of a butterfly. a marriage. and has never worn it since.
if poor ghostly Emma were ever to find her way to Cape Town. they have been shopping. They are carrying parcels. a moderated bliss. So this is the bliss the poets speak of! Well. He is in the city on business. glazen-eyed. two boys. They can only be her sons. flanked by two children.14/504 He thinks of Emma Bovary. So this is bliss!. marvelling at herself in the mirror. he would bring her along one Thursday afternoon to show her what bliss can be: a moderate bliss. he is walking down St George's Street when his eyes fall on a slim figure ahead of him in the crowd. then follows at a distance. . They disappear into Captain Dorego's Fish Inn. The boys have Soraya's lustrous hair and dark eyes. unmistakably. He hesitates. coming home sated. from an afternoon of reckless fucking. says Emma. Then one Saturday morning everything changes. It is Soraya.
Your secret is safe with me. Soraya's eyes meet his. a precarious double life.15/504 He walks on. for Soraya. if anything. The three are seated at a table in the window. But this glance between himself and Soraya he regrets at once. He has always been a man of the city. at home amid a flux of bodies where eros stalks and glances flash like arrows. the memory hangs uneasily over them. Nonetheless. lives lived in compartments. triple lives. The two little boys become . greater tenderness for her. turns back. But neither he nor she can put aside what has happened. he would like to say. Indeed. through the glass. he feels. For an instant. passes Captain Dorego's a second time. At their rendezvous the next Thursday neither mentions the incident. He is all for double lives. He has no wish to upset what must be.
to an extent. sisters fell away. His childhood was spent in a family of women. aunts. As mother. the real one. he could always count on a degree of magnetism. they were replaced in due course by mistresses. If he looked at a . Does he have any inkling of what his wife is up to. Leaving her bed afterwards. wives. step-father. his flowing hair. his good bones. he feels their eyes flicker over him covertly. playing quiet as shadows in a corner of the room where their mother and the strange man couple. or has he elected the bliss of ignorance? He himself has no son. In Soraya's arms he becomes. despite himself. to the other father. His thoughts turn.16/504 presences between them. a daughter. The company of women made of him a lover of women and. curiously. fleetingly. a womanizer. their father: foster-father. his olive skin. shadowfather. With his height.
pot plants in the corners. past. Without warning his powers fled. that was the backbone of his life. Glances that would once have responded to his slid over. for years. stale .17/504 woman in a certain way. to buy her. in one way or another. often. she would return his look. He existed in an anxious flurry of promiscuity. Then one day it all ended. Overnight he became a ghost. If he wanted a woman he had to learn to pursue her. with a certain intent. That was how he lived. with Venetian blinds over the windows. His introduction to Soraya took place in a dim little sitting-room off the front office of Discreet Escorts. he slept with whores. through him. he could rely on that. He had affairs with the wives of colleagues. for decades. he picked up tourists in bars on the waterfront or at the Club Italia.
A bull's eye. the older men in particular. He has a shrewd idea of how prostitutes speak among themselves about the men who frequent them.18/504 smoke hanging in the air. The entry said 'Afternoons only'. they laugh. cool sheets. From the beginning it was satisfactory. That was what decided him: the promise of shuttered rooms. The photograph showed her with a red passion-flower in her hair and the faintest oflines at the corners of her eyes. and the strangeness that has followed. he feels a growing coolness as she transforms herself into just another woman and him into just another client. Though Soraya still keeps her appointments. She was on their books under 'Exotic'. but they . just what he wanted. They tell stories. In a year he has not needed to go back to the agency. Then the accident in St George's Street. stolen hours.
as he is leaving the apartment. You had better phone first. They'll know.' He waits a few days. I'm going to take a break to look after her. maliciously.' `Phone the agency. then telephones the agency. daintily. I won't be here next week. 'My mother is ill.19/504 shudder too. It is a fate he cannot escape.' Ì don't have a number. he will be shuddered over. On the fourth Thursday after the incident. It depends on how she gets on.' `Will I see you the week after?' Ì'm not sure. Soon. Soraya? Soraya has left us. says the . Soraya makes the announcement he has been steeling himself against. as one shudders at a cockroach in a washbasin in the middle of the night.
unpractised. 'You don't say. it seems. There is a new secretary in his department.' he says. a popular nom de commerce in a hotel room in Long Street. Would you like an introduction to another of our hostesses? Lots of exotics to choose from -Malaysian. Drug-pedlars hang around the playing-fields. and the police do nothing. He takes her to lunch at a restaurant a discreet distance from the campus and listens while. that would be against house rules. 'Export-import. This one is no more than eighteen. Chinese. she complains about her sons' school. we cannot put you in touch with her.' she says. He spends an evening with another Soraya Soraya has become. `So what do you do?' she says as she slips off her clothes. For the past three years .20/504 man. to his mind coarse. No. over shrimp salad. you name it. Thai. she says.
to emigrate. at least you knew where you were. whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation. Now people just pick and choose which laws they want to obey. she works herself into a froth of excitement that in the end only . `You people?' he says. 'What people?' Ì mean your generation. How can you bring up children when there's anarchy all around?' Her name is Dawn. Bucking and clawing. It's anarchy. It is a failure.21/504 she and her husband have had their name on a list at the New Zealand consulate. I mean. The second time he takes her out they stop at his house and have sex. 'You people had it easier.
At what age. He lends her a comb. Severing. and animals survive well enough. retire from the game. he wonders. but then ageing is not a graceful business. did Origen castrate himself? Not the most graceful of solutions. so that one can turn one's mind to the proper business of the old: preparing to die. then snubs him. A clearing of the decks. A man on a chair snipping . In return she gives him a hurt look. drives her back to the campus. Might one approach a doctor and ask for it? A simple enough operation. if one ignores a certain residue of sadness. out of a textbook. After that he avoids her.22/504 repels him. taking care to skirt the office where she works. surely: they do it to animals every day. at least. tying off: with local anaesthetic and a steady hand and a modicum of phlegm one might even do it oneself. He ought to give up.
I demand you will never phone me here again. when the husband and children will be out. How are you? When can I see you again?' A long silence before she speaks. Instead. There is still Soraya. Within days he has her real name. but no more ugly. than the same man exercising himself on the body of a woman. 'This is David. her address.' . 'You are harassing me in my own house. from a certain point of view.' she says. he pays a detective agency to track her down. He ought to close that chapter.23/504 away at himself an ugly sight. 'I don't know who you are. He telephones at nine in the morning. never. her telephone number. `Soraya?' he says.
what should a predator expect when he intrudes into the vixen's nest. A shadow of envy passes over him for the husband he has never seen. into the home of her cubs? He puts down the telephone. She means command. . Her shrillness surprises him: there has been no intimation of it before. But then.24/504 Demand.
TWO WITHOUT THE Thursday interludes the week is as featureless as a desert. There are days when he does not know what to do with himself. taking the long route through the old college gardens. He enjoys the late-afternoon quiet of the reading room. adding to notes that already fill two fat files. He spends more time in the university library. He is returning home one Friday evening. from his Romantics course. Her name is Melanie Isaacs. enjoys the walk home afterwards: the brisk winter air. . gleaming streets. when he notices one of his students on the path ahead of him. reading all he can find on the wider Byron circle. the damp.
her smile sly rather than shy. large. Her outfits are always striking. Today she wears a maroon miniskirt with a mustard-coloured sweater and black tights.26/504 Not the best student but not the worst either: clever enough.' he says. Cape Town: a city prodigal of beauty. to the weight of the desiring gaze. with close-cropped black hair. 'Hello. She smiles back. he soon catches up with her. of beauties. Women are sensitive to it. . the gold baubles on her belt match the gold balls of her earrings. Does she know he has an eye on her? Probably. bobbing her head. She is small and thin. but unengaged. It is no great matter: barely a term passes when he does not fall for one or other of his charges. dark eyes. He is mildly smitten with her. She is dawdling. almost Chinese cheekbones. wide.
' From the gardens they pass into the quiet residential pocket where he has lived for the past twelve years. first with Rosalind.' Ì live just nearby. 'OK. my favourite time of day. `Do you live around here?' Àcross the line. then. I grew up in George. . Can I invite you in for a drink?' A pause. `My favourite season.27/504 It has been raining. alone. But I have to be back by seven-thirty.' Ìs Cape Town your home?' `No. I share a flat. cautious. from the pathside runnels comes the soft rush of water.' he remarks. after the divorce.
they were invented to ease the awkward passages. music: a ritual that men and women play out with each other. ushers the girl in. But the girl he has brought home is not just thirty years his junior: she is a student. When he returns she is standing at the bookshelves. He switches on lights. head on one side. No matter what passes between . He puts on music: the Mozart clarinet quintet. frankly ravished. takes her bag. reading titles. In the kitchen he opens a bottle of Meerlust and sets out biscuits and cheese. under his tutelage. He stares. There are raindrops on her hair.28/504 He unlocks the security gate. Nothing wrong with rituals. Wine. offering the same evasive and perhaps even coquettish little smile as before. unlocks the door. his student. She lowers her eyes.
29/504 them now. I liked the Wonderhorn stuff.' `Maybe. Wordsworth has been one of my masters.' `You shouldn't be saying that to me. Is he prepared for that? Àre you enjoying the course?' he asks.' 'I'm not so crazy about Wordsworth. Maybe he'll grow on me.' It is true. they will have to meet again as teacher and pupil. the harmonies of The Prelude have echoed within him. `Maybe by the end of the course I'll appreciate him more. 'Wunderhorn. Ì liked Blake. A . But in my experience poetry speaks to you either at first sight or not at all. For as long as he can remember.
30/504 flash of revelation and a flash of response. for all he knows. like steam locomotion? He is out of touch.' Ànd passions? Do you have any literary passions?' She frowns at the strange word. Like lightning. Do the young still fall in love.' Like falling in love. And Alice Walker. `Do you write poetry yourself?' he asks. I wasn't very good. out of date. Like falling in love. Falling in love could have fallen out of fashion and come back again half a dozen times. Ì did when I was at school. I haven't got the time now. unnecessary. 'We did Adrienne Rich and Toni Morrison in my second year. quaint. I got pretty . or is that mechanism obsolete by now.
'Say yes!' ÒK.31/504 involved. Will you join me? It will be very simple. I'm doing a diploma in theatre. `Come on!' he says. `What are your career plans?' he asks afterwards. In the most roundabout of ways. But I have to make a phone call first. `Stagecraft and design. silences. From the kitchen he hears murmurings.' The call takes longer than he expected. is she warning him off? Ì am going to throw together some supper.' She looks dubious. But I wouldn't call it a passion exactly.' So: not a creature of passion.' he says.' .
' . `Do you always cook for yourself?' she asks. Ì live alone. If I don't cook. opening a second bottle of wine.' she says. watching while he cooks.32/504 Ànd what is your reason for taking a course in Romantic poetry?' She ponders. wrinkling her nose. for someone so slight. Otherwise she sits on a stool. 'It's mainly for the atmosphere that I chose it.' What he throws together for supper is indeed simple: anchovies on tagliatelle with a mushroom sauce. no one will. I guess I should learn. 'I didn't want to take Shakespeare again. A healthy appetite. I took Shakespeare last year. She eats without inhibition. They eat in the diningroom.' Ì hate cooking. He lets her chop the mushrooms.
' `Don't go yet. impatiently sniffing the air. 'Thanks.33/504 `Why? If you really hate it. when the bowl is empty. `That's all. rising.' Together they contemplate the picture: the young wife with the daring clothes and gaudy jewellery striding through the front door. draining her glass.' He takes her by the hand and leads her to the sofa.' He slips a cassette into the video . marry a man who cooks. Reversals: the stuff of bourgeois comedy. Sorry . Do you like dance? Not dancing: dance. 'No dessert. the husband.I didn't know I would be having a guest. colourless Mr Right.' he says at the end. apronned. 'I have something to show you. unless you want an apple or some yoghurt. stirring a pot in the steaming kitchen.' she says.' Ìt was nice.
evanescent. their images. He wills the girl to be captivated too. 'It's a film by a man named Norman McLaren. I found it in the library. But he senses she is not. See what you think.' .34/504 machine. She raises the lid of the piano.' Sitting side by side they watch. ghosts of their movements. 'Do you play?' she says. fan out behind them like wingbeats. strikes middle C. When the film is over she gets up and wanders around the room. It's quite old. Recorded by a stroboscopic camera. It is a film he first saw a quarter of a century ago but is still captivated by: the instant of the present and the past of that instant. Two dancers on a bare stage move through their steps. À bit. caught in the same space.
' She peers into his study.' He puts on more music: Scarlatti sonatas.' she says when she comes out. Another time. when we know each other better.' `Didn't he die young?' .' `Will you play something for me?' `Not now.35/504 `Classics or jazz?' `No jazz. On his time in Italy. cat-music. I'm afraid. 'Can I look?' she says. `You've got a lot of Byron books. I'm out of practice. Ìs he your favourite?' Ì'm working on Byron. `Switch on the light.
But now I'm not. Or dried up. He went to Italy to escape a scandal. They all died young. Taken when she was young.36/504 `Thirty-six.' Àre you married?' Ì was.' He does not say: Now I make do with what comes my way. Less hemmed in by convention. Twice. `My mother. Or went mad and were locked away. He does not say: Now I make do with whores. Italy was a popular destination for the English in those days.' She makes another circuit of the room. They believed the Italians were still in touch with their natures. Settled down. Van I offer you a liqueur?' . more passionate. stopping before the framed photograph on the coffee-table. 'Is this your wife?' she asks. Had the last big love-affair of his life. But Italy wasn't where Byron died. He died in Greece. and settled there.
She has a duty to share it.' Across the rim of the cup she regards him steadily. but does accept a shot of whisky in her coffee.' His hand still rests against her cheek.' He touches her again. Spend the night with me. he leans over and touches her cheek. She does not withdraw. 'Why?' `Because you ought to.37/504 She does not want a liqueur. 'I'm going to invite you to do something reckless. 'Stay. . It is part of the bounty she brings into the world. As she sips.' he says. `You're very lovely.' `Why ought I to?' `Why? Because a woman's beauty does not belong to her alone. but does not yield either.
'I must leave.38/504 Ànd what if I already share it?' In her voice there is a hint of breathlessness. now only estranges. always. She puts down her cup.' he says.' Not a good move. Beauty does not own itself. mobile quality. I'm expected. `Then you should share it more widely. 'that thereby beauty's rose might never die. He has become a teacher again. The pentameter. man of the book.' . pleasurable. Yet at this moment he believes in them. guardian of the culture-hoard. whose cadence once served so well to oil the serpent's words. as old as seduction itself. She does not own herself. to be courted: exciting.' Smooth words. `From fairest creatures we desire increase. Exciting. Her smile loses its playful.
' `Very well. the stars are shining. enfolds her.' he says.' He reaches out. 'A lovely night. For a moment he can feel her little breasts against him. . unlocking the garden gate. She does not look up.39/504 The clouds have cleared. Good night. Then she slips his embrace and is gone. 'Shall I walk you home?' `No.
But he does not. On Sunday morning he drives to the empty campus and lets himself into the department office. He dials the number. Who is speaking?' `Tell her.THREE THAT IS WHERE he ought to end it. David Lurie. `Melanie?' Ì'll call her. Cape Town address. From the filing cabinet he extracts Melanie Isaacs's enrolment card and copies down her personal details: home address. A woman's voice answers.' . telephone number.
he ought to let her go.' There is still time for her to tell a lie. But he is in the grip of something. perhaps he does not own himself either. wriggle out. Not a good name for her. Shift the accent. She does not own herself. Ì thought you might like to go out to lunch. Meláni: the dark one. Too young. She will not know how to deal with him.' he says.41/504 Melanie . . twelve. shall we say. 'I'll pick you up at. `Hello?' In the one word he hears all her uncertainty. Beauty's rose: the poem drives straight as an arrow. and the moment passes. But she is too confused.melody: a meretricious rhyme.
stares out glumly over the sea. she is waiting on the sidewalk outside her apartment block. During the drive he tries to put her at ease. It is one of her diploma requirements. Her hips are as slim as a twelve-year-old's.' she says. She is wearing black tights and a black sweater. . He asks about her other courses. At the restaurant she has no appetite. Ìs something the matter? Do you want to tell me?' She shakes her head. Àre you worried about the two of us?' `Maybe. He takes her to Hout Bay. to the harbourside. She is acting in a play. she says.42/504 When he arrives. Rehearsals are taking up a lot of her time.
what is too far. What is far.' Too far. I'll take care. On the living-room floor. her hands slack above her head. he makes love to her. in a matter like this? Is her too far the same as his too far? It has begun to rain: sheets of water waver across the empty bay.43/504 `No need. so pleasurable that from its climax he tumbles into blank oblivion. to the sound of rain pattering against the windows. a . Her body is clear. `Shall we leave?' he says. When he comes back the rain has stopped. in its way perfect. he finds the act pleasurable. I won't let it go too far. her eyes closed. simple. The girl is lying beneath him. He takes her back to his house. though she is passive throughout.
Shall I send a mix?' `Send a mix. His own hands are under her coarse-knit sweater. 'I haven't got twelve pink. In a few minutes she is back. 'Red or white?' asks the woman.' he says. Melanie is not in class. From his office he telephones a florist. 'I must go. gathers her things. He makes no effort to detain her. He orders carnations. he thinks: straight out of George Grosz. on her breasts. which does not go away. dressed.' she whispers. she frees herself.' he says. Roses? Perhaps not roses. Her tights and panties lie in a tangle on the floor. Averting her face. After the storm. . He wakes the next morning in a state of profound wellbeing. his trousers are around his ankles. leaves the room.44/504 slight frown on her face. Red? White? 'Send twelve pink.
in the car she lowers the hood. A sudden gust blows the umbrella inside out. 'I'll give you a ride home. from heavy clouds blown in over the city from the west. A child! he thinks: No more than a child! What am I doing? Yet his heart lurches with desire. Her face is flushed. he is aware of the rise and fall of her chest. She licks away a drop of rain from her upper lip. Crossing the lobby of the Communications Building at the end of the day.45/504 Rain falls all of Tuesday. Crossing the square to the parking lot he draws her closer to shelter her. He comes up behind her. awkwardly they run together to the car. She is wearing a slick yellow raincoat. puts a hand on her shoulder.' He returns with an umbrella.' he says. he spies her at the doorway amid a knot of students waiting for a break in the downpour. . 'Wait for me here.
46/504 They drive through dense late-afternoon traffic. 'Are you all right?' She does not reply. He draws up before her apartment block.' `What about this evening?' Ì've got a rehearsal this evening. 'I missed you yesterday.' she says. Àren't you going to invite me in?' Ì think my flatmate is home. At a red light he takes her cold hand in his. not a lover.' he says. 'Thanks. But he has forgotten how to woo. 'Melanie!' he says.'`Then when do I see you again?' . The voice he hears belongs to a cajoling parent. staring at the wiper blades. trying to keep his tone light. opening the car door.
47/504 She does not answer. in her usual seat. Did anyone look it up in a dictionary?' . on Book 6 of The Prelude. `So. 'Thanks. The majestic white mountain. we also first beheld Unveiled the summit of Mont Blanc. They are still on Wordsworth. the poet in the Alps. and grieved To have a soulless image on the eye That had usurped upon a living thought That never more could be.' she repeats.' he reads aloud. On Wednesday she is in class. turns out to be a disappointment. `From a bare ridge. Why? Let us start with the unusual verb form usurp upon. Mont Blanc. and slides out.
and we grieved to see it. he says. they want to complain? What answer can he give them? What did he say to Melanie that first evening? That without a . you would have found that usurp upon means to intrude or encroach upon. `The clouds cleared. a soulless image. usurping completes the act of usurping upon. What was that living thought?' Silence again. a mere image on the retina. Why grieve? Because. the peak was unveiled.48/504 Silence. The very air into which he speaks hangs listless as a sheet. Ìf you had. for a traveller to the Alps. has encroached upon what has hitherto been a living thought. to take over entirely. says Wordsworth. is the perfective of usurp upon. A man looking at a mountain: why does it have to be so complicated. Usurp. A strange response.
or seems to be. cocooned from sense-experience. she is absorbed in the text. The great archetypes of the mind. The question is not. Can we find a way for the two to coexist? look at line 599. find themselves usurped by mere sense-images. Usurpation is one of the deeper themes of the Alps sequence. It is a theme we have touched on before. How can we keep the imagination pure. `Yet we cannot live our daily lives in a realm of pure ideas. pure ideas. As the . Wordsworth is writing about the limits of sense-perception. Her head is bowed.49/504 flash of revelation there is nothing. Where is the flash of revelation in this room? He casts a quick glance at her. protected from the onslaughts of reality? The question has to be. `The same word usurp recurs a few lines later.
their light begins to go out. perhaps it even contradicts the Mont Blanc moment. The passage is difficult.50/504 sense-organs reach the limit of their powers. as a means toward stirring or activating the idea that lies buried more deeply in the soil of memory. Blank incomprehension. nor the visual image burned on the retina. but the sense-image. overwhelming and disappointing us with its matter-of-fact clarity. He has gone too far too fast. wreathed in clouds. giving us a glimpse of the invisible. kept as fleeting as possible. How to bring them to him? How to bring her? .' He pauses. Nevertheless. Yet at the moment of expiry that light leaps up one last time like a candle-flame. Wordsworth seems to be feeling his way toward a balance: not the pure idea.
. her eyes meet his and in a flash see all. goddesslike form. But now. but at least it wakes them up. 'If you were blind you would hardly have fallen in love in the first place. For the first time she looks up. she drops her glance.' he says. Confused. Goddesses? What is he talking about? What does this old man know about love? A memory floods back: the moment on the floor when he forced the sweater up and exposed her neat.' It is hardly in Wordsworth. perfect little breasts. Archetypes? they are saying to themselves.51/504 `Like being in love. so as to keep her alive in her archetypal. do you truly wish to see the beloved in the cold clarity of the visual apparatus? It may be in your better interest to throw a veil over the gaze.
covering up. A week ago she was just another pretty face in the class. But she slips away in the throng. Wordsworthian moments we have all heard about. but we have the Drakensberg. Now she is a presence in his life.52/504 `Wordsworth is writing about the Alps. hoping for one of those revelatory.' Enough! He is sick of the sound of his own voice.' Now he is just talking. He dismisses the class. and sorry for her too. hoping for a word with her. a breathing presence. then lingers. 'We don't have Alps in this country. or on a smaller scale Table Mountain. 'But moments like that will not come unless the eye is half turned toward the great archetypes of the imagination we carry within us.' he says. . having to listen to these covert intimacies. which we climb in the wake of the poets.
a girl in high platform shoes with her hair done in a cascade of ringlets.53/504 The auditorium of the student union is in darkness. Unnoticed. Johannesburg. On stage a hairdresser. he is the only spectator. attends to two clients. one black. Sunset at the Globe Salon is the name of the play they are rehearsing: a comedy of the new South Africa set in a hairdressing salon in Hillbrow. . Patter passes among the three of them: jokes. Save for a balding man in a janitor's uniform a few rows in front of him. A fourth figure comes onstage. one white. insults. Catharsis seems to be the presiding principle: all the coarse old prejudices brought into the light of day and washed away in gales of laughter. he takes a seat in the back row. flamboyantly gay.
followed by a screaming and a scurrying around.' She turns to Melanie.' she replies . pick up a broom and make yourself useful.'the one you advertised. 'It's got to be snappier. dearie. Ahead of him the janitor stands up and with a heavy sigh leaves the auditorium. 'I've come for the job. The broom gets tangled in an electric cord. 'A more Marx Brothers atmosphere. 'OK?' Melanie nods. it is Melanie.' says the hairdresser. totters around the set pushing it before her. There is supposed to be a flash.' says the hairdresser. and behind her a young man in black leather who begins to fiddle with the wall-socket. The director comes striding onstage.' Her accent is glaringly Kaaps. He ought to be gone too.54/504 'Take a seat. Ag. She picks up a broom. but something goes wrong with the synchronization.' says the director. I'll attend to you in a mo. .
why must everything always be my fault?' Quietly he gets up.55/504 An unseemly business. 'It's not my fault. A bang. a flash. Can they be blamed for clinging to the last to their place at the sweet banquet of the senses? Onstage the action resumes. At four o'clock the next afternoon he is at her flat. follows the janitor into the darkness outside. Melanie pushes her broom. the tramps and drifters with their stained raincoats and cracked false teeth and hairy earholes . cycling shorts. She opens the door wearing a crumpled T-shirt. Yet the old men whose company he seems to be on the point of joining. `My gats. screams of alarm. slippers in the shape . sitting in the dark spying on a girl (unbidden the word letching comes to him).all of them were once upon a time children of God. with straight limbs and clear eyes.' squawks Melanie.
He has given her no warning. He carries her to the bedroom. kisses her feet. tasteless. not now!' she says. struggling. her limbs crumple like a marionette's. she is too surprised to resist the intruder who thrusts himself upon her. brushes off the absurd slippers. 'My cousin will be back!' But nothing will stop him. 'No. astonished by the feeling she evokes. goddess of the foaming waves. the wiggling bottom. Strange love! Yet from the quiver of Aphrodite. When he takes her in his arms. no doubt about that. Words heavy as clubs thud into the delicate whorl of her ear. .56/504 of comic-book gophers which he finds silly. Something to do with the apparition on the stage: the wig. the crude talk.
`Please. as soon as she is bare.' He obeys. not quite that.' she says when it is over. As though she had decided to go slack. undesired to the core. such .57/504 She does not resist. but then. Little shivers of cold run through her. she slips under the quilted counterpane like a mole burrowing. Not rape. All she does is avert herself avert her lips. avert her eyes. You must go. and turns her back on him. is overtaken with such dejection. when he reaches his car. `Pauline will be back any minute. but undesired nevertheless. like a rabbit when the jaws of the fox close on its neck. She lets him lay her out on the bed and undress her: she even helps him. as it were. raising her arms and then her hips. die within herself for the duration. So that everything done to her might be done. far away.
At the foot of the page he pencils a note to himself 'Provisional'. since it is the day of the midterm test. he has no doubt. of him. drives off. Is this cousin Pauline the flatmate. The next day she is not in class. is trying to cleanse herself of it. . the one whose disapproval Melanie is so afraid of? He rouses himself. she. He sees her running a bath. An unfortunate absence. A mistake. a huge mistake. He would like to slide into a bath of his own. that he sits slumped at the wheel unable to move. eyes closed like a sleepwalker's. When he fills in the register afterwards.58/504 dullness. At this moment. Melanie. stepping into the water. A woman with chunky legs and a no-nonsense business suit passes by and enters the apartment block. he ticks her off as present and enters a mark of seventy.
The scene does not come. 'Can I sleep here tonight?' she whispers. dressed from top to toe in black. She stays away the whole of the next week. In fact. `Come. Time after time he telephones. I just need to crash.' His heart is flooded with relief. for a scene. nothing. neither good nor bad. of course. with a little black woollen cap. Òf course.' . Then at midnight on Sunday the doorbell rings. I'm exhausted. he steels himself for angry words.' `No. He reaches out. It is Melanie. I'll make you some tea.59/504 Seventy: a vacillator's mark. without reply. avoiding his eye. no tea. embraces her. Her face is strained. pressing her against him stiff and cold. she is the one who is embarrassed.
draws her to him. he knocks at her door. he feels a tingling of desire. as the first birds are beginning to chirrup. She shrugs. At seven in the morning. When he returns half an hour later she is in a dead sleep. She is awake. He sits down on the bed. kisses her good night.60/504 He makes up a bed for her in his daughter's old room. lying with the sheet drawn up to her chin. . `There. covers her. looking haggard. leaves her to herself. Despite all. In his arms she begins to sob miserably. He eases off her shoes. fully clothed. Is something the matter? Do you want to talk?' She shakes her head mutely. `How are you feeling?' he asks.
61/504 there. at this moment? . 'Can I stay here a while?' she says. but her nose is clogged. He finds her a tissue.' he whispers.' She gathers herself and tries to speak. 'Tell Daddy what is wrong.' Almost he says. 'Tell me what is wrong. trying to comfort her. 'Would that be a good idea?' Whether it would be a good idea she does not say. `Stay here?' he repeats carefully. She has stopped crying. but long shudders of misery still pass through her. The sheet slips aside. Does she know what she is up to. Instead she presses herself tighter to him. her face warm against his belly. she is wearing only a singlet and panties.
But what will that matter? A last leap of the flame of sense before it goes out.' he murmurs. Now here she is in his house. What game is she playing? He should be wary. He folds the bedclothes aside. He stretches out on the bed beside her.62/504 When he made the first move. 'Of course you can stay. reaches down. every night he can slip into her bed like this. he had thought of it as a quick little affair . there might even be scandal. her buttocks. But he should have been wary from the start. quickly out. in the college gardens.' .quickly in. People will find out. Yet at this moment the thought is intoxicating. they always do. there will be whispering. The last thing in the world he needs is for Melanie Isaacs to take up residence with him. Every night she will be here. slip into her. 'Of course. strokes her breasts. no doubt about that. trailing complications behind her.
'you are looking much better. then we can talk. 'I have classes to meet. Mistress? Daughter? What. two doors away. in her heart. Ì'm going to leave now.63/504 In his bedroom. she is up.' he says. pulls the covers up over her shoulders. kisses her forehead. She seems thoroughly at home. Try to sleep again. sitting at the kitchen table. I'll be back at noon. `So. is she trying to be? What is she offering him? When he returns at noon. She turns away from him. the alarm clock goes off.' `Will you tell me now what this is all about?' .' He strokes her hair.' he says. eating toast and honey and drinking tea.' Ì slept after you left.
64/504 She avoids his eye. I promise. `Yes. You are telling me your drama work has priority. Will you be in class tomorrow?' `Yes. turns to face him. carries her cup and plate to the sink (but does not wash them). Is that OK?' `Yes. but the production is taking up all my time. 'Are you sure it's OK?' she says.' . It would have helped if you had explained earlier.' Ì understand. I know I've missed a lot of classes. after rehearsal.' Ànd when will next time be?' `This evening.' She gets up. 'I have to go.' Ì wanted to say. I'm late. it's OK. I'll explain next time. Not now.' she says.
Let him not forget that. getting away with too much. if they are together.65/504 She promises. He is vexed. To the extent that they are together. if she is behaving badly. She is behaving badly. . he has got away with more. she is learning to exploit him and will probably exploit him further. he is the one who leads. but with a promise that is not enforceable. But if she has got away with much. irritated. she the one who follows. he has behaved worse.
FOUR HE MAKES LOVE to her one more time. `Do you do this kind of thing often?' she asks afterwards. as good as the first time. and greedy for experience. `Do what?' `Sleep with your students. One moment stands out in recollection. he thinks: there might. Who knows. be a future. Have you slept with Amanda?' . She is quick. on the bed in his daughter's room. It is good. he feels a surge of joy and desire. If he does not sense in her a fully sexual appetite. he is beginning to learn the way her body moves. that is only because she is still young. when she hooks a leg behind his buttocks to draw him in closer: as the tendon of her inner thigh tightens against him. despite all.
I'll tell you some other time.' `Do you have pictures?' Ì don't collect pictures. Married twice. as little bashful as if she were . strolls around the room picking up her clothes.' `What happened to your first wife?' Ìt's a long story. Amanda is another student in the class. of course not. divorced twice. `Why did you get divorced?' she asks. Ì've been divorced twice.67/504 He does not answer. He has no interest in Amanda. I don't collect women.' Àren't you collecting me?' `No. a wispy blonde.' She gets up.
' . he has a thin goatee and an ear-ring. The same afternoon there is a knock at his office door and a young man enters whom he has not seen before. nods appreciatively at the bookcases. He looks older than most students. as perfectly formed. Without invitation he sits down. he looks like trouble.' Ìndeed. Melanie has told me about you. casts a look around the room. But the women he is used to are not as young. He is used to women more self-conscious in their dressing and undressing. `So you are the professor.' he says. he wears a black leather jacket and black leather trousers.68/504 alone. And what has she told you?' `That you fuck her. 'Professor David. He is tall and wiry.
The visitor ignores his question. 'A real ladies' man.' Light dances on his black eyeballs. What do you want?' `Don't you tell me what's enough. 'You think you're smart. sweeps right and left with his hands. `Who are you?' he says.' he continues.' The words come faster now. So. He leans forward. in a patter of menace. . You think you will still look so smart when your wife hears what you are up to?' `That's enough. The papers on the desk go flying. he thinks: the chickens come home to roost.69/504 There is a long silence. I should have guessed it: a girl like that would not come unencumbered. 'And don't think you can just walk into people's lives and walk out again when it suits you.
Though he stays up late into the night. The tyres are deflated. glue is injected into the doorlocks. his car. Professor Chips! But just wait and see!' Then he is gone. parked in the street.' He gets up. is vandalized. She is mixed up with a bravo and now I am mixed up with her bravo too! His stomach churns. The locks have to be replaced. the paintwork is scratched. A bravo. he thinks. 'Goodbye. 'That's enough! It's time for you to leave!' Ìt's time for you to leave!' the boy repeats. Instead. ÒK.70/504 He rises. mimicking him. saunters to the door. . the bill comes to six hundred rand. newspaper is pasted over the windscreen. Melanie does not come. waiting for her.
After this coup de main Melanie keeps her distance.71/504 Àny idea who did it?' asks the locksmith. Today there is a hush. He is not surprised: if he has been shamed. `None at all. What will he do indeed? What happened to his car was evidently not enough. what else? . What can he do? He must grit his teeth and pay. the boyfriend. Usually there is a buzz of talk from the students. they are clearly waiting to see what he will do about the intruder. and beside her. is the boy in black. with an air of cocky ease.' he replies curtly. she is shamed too. Though he cannot believe they know what is afoot. leaning back in his seat. hands in pockets. But on Monday she reappears in class. Evidently there are more instalments to come.
72/504 `We continue with Byron. His notes deal with 'Lara'. Usually she is a busy writer. 'As we saw last week. she sits huddled over her book. looking thin and exhausted. He reads aloud: . There is no way in which he can evade the poem. even Don Juan. Despite himself. A pity that must be his theme. but he is in no state to improvise.' Scandal. Today. Poor little bird. Byron the man found himself conflated with his own poetic creations . Manfred. notoriety and scandal affected not only Byron's life but the way in which his poems were received by the public. plunging into his notes.' he says. He steals a glance at Melanie. his heart goes out to her. whom I have held against my breast! He has told them to read 'Lara'. he thinks.with Harold.
`Who will gloss these lines for me? Who is this "erring spirit"? Why does he call himself "a thing"? From what world does he come?' He has long ceased to be surprised at the range of ignorance of his students. a dogged silence that organizes itself palpably . that shaped By choice the perils he by chance escaped. An erring spirit from another hurled. he can guide toward the mark. A thing of dark imaginings. they might as well have been hatched from eggs yesterday.73/504 He stood a stranger in this breathing world. PostChristian. with luck. What he does expect is a round of goodnatured guesses which. But today he is met with silence. So he does not expect them to know about fallen angels or where Byron might have read of them. posthistorical. postliterate.
he takes in his words. who lives dangerously. as long as a stranger is there to listen and judge and mock. Let us read further.' The boy has not looked down once at the text. a touch of bemusement. the dark angel. with a little smile on his lips. but we can assume they do not require oxygen. does not need to breathe. Of how angels live we know little.74/504 around the stranger in their midst. At home Lucifer. 'The angel hurled out of heaven. even creating danger for himself. All of a sudden he finds himself cast out into this strange "breathing world" of ours. `Lucifer. He could .' he says. They will not speak. "Erring": a being who chooses his own path. a smile in which there is. they will not play his game. Instead. just possibly.
And this same impulse would in tempting time Mislead his spirit equally to crime. But not in pity. He just does it. like a sleeper summoned to life. But in some strange perversity of thought. the boy responds. what kind of creature is this Lucifer?' By now the students must surely feel the current running between them. and. It is to the boy alone that the question has addressed itself. not because he ought. 'He does what he feels like. `So.75/504 At times resign his own for others' good. between himself and the boy.' . That swayed him onward with a secret pride To do what few or none would do beside. He doesn't care if it's good or bad.
He shakes his head. He doesn't act on principle but on impulse. he just does it. in this classroom. But. Note that we are not asked to condemn this being with the mad heart. The boy would like to press his intuition further. he can see that. the words will not come. we are invited to understand and sympathize. Perhaps he does indeed have intimations of what it is to have a mad heart. And perhaps he does. here. On the contrary. He wants to show that he knows about more than just motorcycles and flashy clothes. this being with whom there is something constitutionally wrong. Read a few lines further: "His madness was not of the head.76/504 Èxactly. and the source of his impulses is dark to him." A mad heart. . before these strangers. but heart. Good or bad. What is a mad heart?' He is asking too much. `Never mind.
77/504 But there is a limit to sympathy. Finally. He is exactly what he calls himself: a thing. exhausted. . Cain. Across their heads he calls to her: 'Melanie. Byron will suggest. it is all the same to them. it will not be possible to love him. can I have a word with you?' Pinch-faced. If they were alone he would embrace her. he is not one of us. a monster. Byron. Lucifer. try to cheer her up. that is. For though he lives among us. she stands before him. He will be condemned to solitude. They finish the poem. not in the deeper. My little dove. Again his heart goes out to her. more human sense of the word. they scribble down his words. He assigns the first cantos of Don Juan and ends the class early.' Heads bent. he would call her.
her head sunken. you are going to have to give more time to your work. and I don't want to make it more difficult. I know that. Tell him that.' . Melanie sits before him. I have obligations to my students. 'My dear. and closes the door on him. all of them. `you are going through a difficult time. he leads her up the stairway to his office.78/504 `Shall we go to my office?' he says instead. What your friend does off campus is his own business. You are going to have to attend class more regularly. And you are going to have to make up the test you missed. But I can't have him disrupting my classes. 'Wait here. Às for yourself.' he tells the boy. But I must speak to you as a teacher. from me.' he says. With the boyfriend trailing behind.
she seems to want to say. Melanie. even shock. All he can do is signal. It does not matter if you are not prepared.' What he wants to say cannot be said. How about next Monday. when it comes. is so subdued that he can barely hear: Ì can't take the test. Let us set a date. I haven't done the reading.79/504 She stares back at him in puzzlement. the point is to get it behind you. You have cut me off from everyone.' . You have made me bear your secret. I am no longer just a student. and hope that she understands. like everyone else. 'Just take the test. not decently. during the lunch break? That will give you the weekend to do the reading. How can you speak to me like this? Her voice.
Either she has not understood or she is refusing the opening. They wear helmets. She rises. sits with knees wide apart. meets his eye defiantly. Driving home from a concert that evening. Melanie. he stops at a traffic light. on the pillion. but he recognizes them nevertheless. Don't make the situation more complicated than it need be. `Melanie. slings her bag over her shoulder. pelvis arched. A quick shudder of lust tugs him.80/504 She raises her chin.' he repeats. A motorcycle throbs past.' Responsibilities: she does not dignify the word with a reply. I have responsibilities. here in my office. At least go through the motions. I have been there! . a silver Ducati bearing two figures in black. `Monday.
bearing her away.81/504 he thinks. . Then the motorcycle surges forward.
My daughter is in your class. I'm calling from George.' . 'Professor Lurie? Have you a moment to talk? My name is Isaacs. Melanie.FIVE SHE DOES NOT appear for her examination on Monday.' `Yes. Melanie has been such a good student. Instead. I wonder if you can help us. Barely an hour later a telephone call is switched through to his office. you know. It has come as a terrible shock to us.' `Professor. in his mailbox he finds an official withdrawal card: Student 7710 101SAM Ms M Isaacs has withdrawn from COM 312 with immediate effect. and now she says she is going to give it all up.
can you have a chat with her. talk some sense into her?' `Have you spoken to Melanie yourself? Do you know what is behind this decision?' `We spent all weekend on the phone to her. Professor. so maybe she is. her mother and I.' `She wants to give up her studies and get a job.overstressed.83/504 Ì'm not sure I understand. She always takes things so to heart. I wonder if I can ask. It seems such a waste. Professor.' . to spend three years at university and do so well. She has such respect for you. that's her nature. We don't want her to throw away all these years for nothing. maybe you can persuade her to think again. she gets very involved. But if you talk to her. She is very involved in a play she is acting in. you know. and then drop out before the end. but we just can't get sense out of her. overworked.
84/504 So Melanie-Meláni. Why not come clean? I am the worm in the apple. with her baubles from the Oriental Plaza and her blind spot for Wordsworth.' Respect? You are out of date. Mr Isaacs.' he says instead. Professor. Your daughter lost respect for me weeks ago. He would not have guessed it. you are! As I say. with its lies and evasions. I'll see what I can do. takes things to heart. That is what he ought to say. Melanie has such respect for you. You will not get away with it. Nor will father Isaacs in faraway George forget this conversation. he . whether I am the right person to speak to Melanie. Mr Isaacs. and with good reason. What else has he not guessed about her? Ì wonder.' `You are. 'I'll see what I can do. he tells himself afterwards.
'What do you mean. he says. says Pauline in a chilly voice.' `Tell her'. not available?' Ì mean she doesn't want to speak to you. the docile. There can be only one explanation. How can I help you when I am the very source of your woe? He telephones the flat and gets cousin Pauline. Attendance is poor. the passive. Tell her she is being very rash. Melanie is not available.' Wednesday's class goes badly. The story must be out. He is in the department office when he hears a voice behind him: 'Where can I find Professor Lurie?' . the only students who come are the tame ones. Friday's even worse.85/504 should have said. 'it is about her decision to withdraw.
' `Yes.' he begins. The man who has spoken is small.86/504 `Here I am. Isaacs. 'you may be very educated and all that.' The man pauses.' he says without thinking. Shall we go to my office?' `That won't be necessary. takes a deep breath. shakes his head. laying heavy stress on the word. he smells of cigarette smoke.' He pauses. 'Professor.' The two secretaries do not pretend to hide their curiosity. stoop-shouldered. There are students in the . thin. `Professor Lurie? We spoke on the telephone. gathers himself. 'It is not right. but what you have done is not right. How do you do. He wears a blue suit too large for him.
' Now is his chance indeed: let him who would speak.' he whispers. who can we trust? We never thought we were sending our daughter into a nest of vipers. 'I have business to attend to. A viper: how can he deny it? Èxcuse me. the blood thudding in his ears. `We put our children in the hands of you people because we think we can trust you. But he stands tongue-tied. If we can't trust the university. he turns and leaves.' Like a thing of wood. Professor Lurie. I can see it from your face. but if I was you I'd be very ashamed of myself. If I've got hold of the wrong end of the stick.87/504 office too. now is your chance to say. but I don't think so. . as the stranger's voice rises they fall silent. so help me God. speak. you may be high and mighty and have all kinds of degrees. No.
a memorandum arrives from the office of the Vice-Rector (Student Affairs) notifying him that a complaint has been lodged against him under article 3.1 of the university's Code of Conduct. ethnic group. I tell you now!' That is how it begins. Article 3. . The notification . with surprising dispatch.88/504 Into the crowded corridor Isaacs follows him. Next morning. sexual preference. or physical disability.which arrives in an envelope marked Confidential . gender. 'You can't just run away like that! You have not heard the last of it.is accompanied by a copy of the code.1 addresses victimization or harassment of students by teachers. Article 3 deals with victimization or harassment on grounds of race. He is requested to contact the Vice-Rector's office at his earliest convenience. 'Professor! Professor Lurie!' he calls. religion.
his heart hammering unpleasantly. he and cousin Pauline. `Lodge a complaint? What kind of complaint?' Ìt's private. worn her down. She is too innocent for that. trying to imagine what has happened.89/504 A second document describes the constitution and competences of committees of inquiry. `We want to lodge a complaint. then in the end marched her to the administration offices. he is convinced. locks the door of his office. the little man in the ill-fitting suit. and sits with the paper in his hand.' . They must have talked her into it. too ignorant of her power. Melanie would not have taken such a step by herself. Halfway through. He. the plain one. his concentration fails.' they must have said. He gets up. must be behind it. He reads it. the duenna.
First the name of the plaintiff: MELANIE ISAACS. and a pen.' `Go to room such-and-such. Isaacs. A hand takes up the pen. following procedure. daring her to object. we know what we want to do. The form is placed before them.' he would say. in careful block letters. `Yes. . a hand he has kissed.' `Have you thought it through? Is this really what you want to do?' they would respond. glancing at his daughter. a hand he knows intimately.' cousin Pauline would have interjected. would grow bolder. while Melanie stood by abashed 'against a professor.' In room such-and-such he. There is a form to fill in. 'We want to lay a complaint against one of your professors.90/504 `Harassment.
. at the foot of the page. The deed is done. its cross of righteousness: J'accuse. side by side. makes its X. The hand slows. his and hers. There. the downward gash of the I. searching for the one to tick. the flourish of the final s. writes the hand: PROFESSOR. Finally. Then a space for the name of the accused. Two in a bed. the date and her signature: the arabesque of the M. DAVID LURIE. outside regular hours. the l with its bold upper loop. Two names on the page.91/504 Down the column of boxes wavers the hand. points the nicotine-stained finger of her father. lovers no longer but foes. He calls the Vice-Rector's office and is given a five o'clock appointment. settles.
We are talking about a complaint laid by Ms Melanie Isaacs. David. Aram Hakim. Ìt's late.' `Very well. chair of his department. Also about' .'some pre-existing irregularities that seem to involve Ms Isaacs.92/504 At five o'clock he is waiting in the corridor. who chairs the university-wide committee on discrimination. 'so let's get to the point. sleek and youthful. How can we best tackle this business?' `You can fill me in about the complaint. we know why we are here. There are already two persons in the room: Elaine Winter.' says Hakim. Elaine?' . and Farodia Rassool from Social Sciences. emerges and ushers him in.he glances at Elaine Winter .
she regards him as a hangover from the past.' She regards him quizzically. . She also says she missed the mid-term test.' Smoothly Hakim intervenes. the sooner cleared away the better.he glances at . What we should do' . it should have been reported. If that is true. 'So unless there are two Melanie Isaacs . David. 'I have no defence. She has never liked him.'according to your records. 'Friends. Yet' -she glances at the file in front of her .93/504 Elaine Winter takes her cue.she has attended only two classes in the past month. `There is only one. this is not the time or place to go into substantial issues.' he says. 'There is a query about Ms Isaacs's attendance. According to her .her attendance is unblemished and she has a mark of seventy for the mid-term.I spoke to her on the phone .
Is there anything I am omitting. Its hearings will be held in camera. the matter will be handled in the strictest confidence. Farodia. Ms Isaacs's name will be protected too. A committee will be set up.94/504 the other two . and you will be expected to refrain from all contact with her. In the meantime. Its function will be to determine whether there are grounds for disciplinary measures. Elaine?' Tight-lipped. this harassment business. Ìt's always complicated. Your name will be protected. I need barely say. Ms Isaacs has officially withdrawn from the course she takes with you. You or your legal representative will have an opportunity to challenge its composition. until the committee has made its recommendation to the Rector and the Rector has acted. complicated as well as . I can assure you of that. Dr Rassool shakes her head. David. everything goes on as before.'is clarify procedure. David.
but Hakim raises a warning hand.' He is about to reply. I want to tell you you have all my sympathy. It is raining. 'Share my umbrella. But the building is locked and the doorkeeper has gone home. Really. He has had enough. These things can be hell.' He leaves in a fury. David. 'Sleep on it. 'Don't tell me what to do.' says Hakim.' he says. but we believe our procedures are good and fair.95/504 unfortunate. My one suggestion is. acquaint yourself with the procedures and perhaps get legal advice. then.' . Hakim has to let him out. at his car. David. play it by the book. `Speaking personally. so we'll just take it step by step. I'm not a child. The back exit is locked too.
holding their sessions in corners. gets into his car. He shrugs irritably. The case is supposed to be confidential. grinding reputations. he thinks. why does a younger colleague. . of course people talk. Gleeful whispers. with whom he has hitherto had perfectly cordial relations. put down her teacup and depart. turning day and night. Why else. The community of the righteous. but he is in no mood now for male chumminess.96/504 He has known Hakim for years. looking straight through him as she passes? Why do only two students turn up for the first Baudelaire class? The gossip-mill. they used to play tennis together in his tennis-playing days. when he enters the commonroom. does a hush fall on the chatter. over the telephone. but of course it is not. behind closed doors.
my advice would be.97/504 Schadenfreude. then the trial.' He mentions two names. 'Aim for a private . I was having an affair with the girl. all affairs are serious.' says the lawyer. 'how true are the allegations?' `True enough.' `Well. First the sentence.' `Serious?' `Does seriousness make it better or worse? After a certain age. In the corridors of the Communications Building he makes a point of walking with head held high. as a matter of strategy. get a woman to represent you. Like heart attacks. He speaks to the lawyer who handled his divorce. 'Let's get it clear first.
' `To fix me? To cure me? To cure me of inappropriate desires?' The lawyer shrugs. perhaps take a spell of leave. I'm simply saying that one of the options offered to you might be counselling. You give certain undertakings. Counselling. Your best hope. in return for which the university persuades the girl. Take a yellow card. to drop the charges.98/504 settlement.' `Counselling? I need counselling?' `Don't misunderstand me. Minimize the damage.' . Whatever you can negotiate. or her family. wait for the scandal to blow over. Community service. 'Whatever.' `What kind of undertakings?' `Sensitivity training.
slowly. They have been apart for eight years. War veterans.' He has dinner with his ex-wife Rosalind. of a sort. 'I may see her soon.' he says 'I'm thinking of taking a trip.' Scrawled in pencil at the bottom is a message: 'YOUR DAYS ARE OVER. sole issue of his first marriage. warily.99/504 On campus it is Rape Awareness Week. They speak of Lucy. A pamphlet is slipped under his door: 'WOMEN SPEAK OUT. living now on a farm in the Eastern Cape. announces a twenty-four-hour vigil in solidarity with `recent victims'. CASANOVA. they are growing to be friends again. Someone to count on when the worst arrives: the fall in the bathroom. It reassures him that Rosalind still lives nearby: perhaps she feels the same way about him. the blood in the stool. Women Against Rape. WAR.' .
' `Has this anything to do with the problems you are having? I hear you are having problems. in the juiciest detail. You're what . that's all.100/504 Ìn term time?' `Term is nearly over. I don't know what you do about sex and I don't want to know. you are not. It's in no one's interest to hush it up.' `Where did you hear that?' `People talk.' Ì will anyway. Am I allowed to tell you how stupid it looks?' `No. Stupid. David. and ugly too. Another two weeks to get through.fifty-two? Do you think a . no one's but your own. but this is not the way to go about it. Everyone knows about this latest affair of yours.
how could you?' The old tone has entered. `Don't expect sympathy from me. David. and why not? Really. .. That is what whores are for. not in this day and age. Perhaps it is the right of the young to be protected from the sight of their elders in the throes of passion. no mercy. and don't expect sympathy from anyone else either. the tone of the last years of their married life: passionate recrimination.? Do you ever think about that?' He is silent. Even Rosalind must be aware of that. No sympathy. after all: to put up with the ecstasies of the unlovely.101/504 young girl finds any pleasure in going to bed with a man of that age? Do you think she finds it good to watch you in the middle of your. Yet perhaps she has a point.. Everyone's hand will be against you.
And after you have seen Lucy?' Ì don't know. I'm not sure I will be permitted to come back to the university.' Rosalind goes on.' `Yes. What are you going to do with your time? What about your pension?' .102/504 Ànyway. I thought I'd drive up after the inquiry and spend some time with her.' `That's very quick. 'you say you'll see Lucy. don't you think? I won't ask if what you got from this girl was worth the price. 'An inglorious end to your career.' `The inquiry?' `There is a committee of inquiry sitting next week. I'm not sure I will want to.' Rosalind shakes her head.
your inamorata?'`Twenty. They can't cut me off without a penny. How old is she . There .' `Can't they? Don't be so sure. It sounds like a fabrication to me. Who told you about sleeping-pills?' She ignores the question. Is that true?' Ì know nothing about sleeping-pills. 'Was she in love with you? Did you jilt her?' `No.103/504 Ì'll come to some arrangement with them. Of age.' `The story is. she took sleeping-pills. Neither.' `Then why this complaint?' `Who knows? She didn't confide in me. There was a battle of some kind going on behind the scenes that I wasn't privy to. Old enough to know her own mind.
Really.' `Don't blame her! Whose side are you on? Of course I blame her! I blame you and I blame her. Are you in love with this young woman who is dragging your name through the mud?' `She isn't responsible.104/504 was a jealous boyfriend. I was taken completely by surprise. You should have expected the worst. Don't blame her. Anyway. David. She must have crumpled in the end.' . Aren't you supposed to ask that as well?' `Very well.' `You should have known. And I'm not sorry for saying so.' `You haven't asked whether I love her. The whole thing is disgraceful from beginning to end. There were indignant parents. it's all very demeaning. You are too old to be meddling with other people's children. Disgraceful and vulgar too.
105/504 In the old days he would. There's a piece about you. The next day Rosalind telephones. at this point. have stormed out. But tonight he does not. `.' `Well. They have grown thick skins. have you seen today's Argus?' `No. CTU is keeping tight-lipped about the latest in a series of scandals including fraudulent . against each other. he and Rosalind.' `What does it say?' `Read it for yourself ' The report is on page three: 'Professor on sex charge'. it is headed. . steel yourself. . 'David. is slated to appear before a disciplinary board on a charge of sexual harassment. He skims the first lines.
' William Wordsworth (1770-1850). author of a book on English nature-poet William Wordsworth. commentator upon. Blest be the infant babe. was not available for comment. . naturepoet.106/504 scholarship payouts and alleged sex rings operating out of student residences. Blest be the babe. No outcast he. David Lurie (1945-?). Lurie (53). and disgraced disciple of William Wordsworth.
Two of them he knows: Farodia Rassool and . vanity and self-righteousness. He nods to the committee members. he feels quite sure of himself. On the contrary. he thinks. his secretary. and a young woman. To his left sit Hakim. to his right are the three members of Mathabane's committee. He does not feel nervous. a student of some kind. the dangerous vanity of the gambler. Professor of Religious Studies. But he does not care. He is ushered in and seated at the foot of the table by Manas Mathabane himself. he has slept well.SIX THE HEARING Is held in a committee room off Hakim's office. who will chair the inquiry. Vanity. He is going into this in the wrong spirit. His heart beats evenly.
according to the papers in front of him. opening proceedings. 'I have reservations of a philosophical kind. . Professor Lurie.108/504 Desmond Swarts. `The body here gathered.' he replies. but I suppose they are out of bounds. Furthermore.' A general shifting and shuffling. All it can do is to make recommendations. The third. So let me ask: is there any member of the committee whose participation you feel might be prejudicial to you?' Ì have no challenge in a legal sense. you have the right to challenge its makeup.' says Mathabane. Dean of Engineering. 'I think we had better restrict ourself to the legal sense.' says Mathabane. teaches in the Business School. 'has no powers.
Have you any objection to the presence of a student observer from the Coalition Against Discrimination?' Ì have no fear of the committee. Is that a problem for you?' .109/504 'You have no challenge to the makeup of the committee. Mr Chairman. Do I need to summarize that statement? Professor Lurie?' `Do I understand.' `Very well. To the matter at hand. Let me remind you again. I have no fear of the observer. The first complainant is Ms Melanie Isaacs. that Ms Isaacs will not be appearing in person?' `Ms Isaacs appeared before the committee yesterday. who has made a statement of which you all have copies. this is not a trial but an inquiry. a student in the drama programme. Our rules of procedure are not those of a law court.
' He takes a deep breath. and concerns the validity of Ms Isaacs's record.110/504 `No. Pass sentence. Mathabane continues. I plead guilty to both charges. 'comes from the Registrar.' .' `That is the sum of it? Those are the charges?' `They are. and let us get on with our lives.' À second and related charge'. through the Office of Student Records. 'I am sure the members of this committee have better things to do with their time than rehash a story over which there will be no dispute. The charge is that Ms Isaacs did not attend all the classes or submit all the written work or sit all the examinations for which you have given her credit.
Its role is to hear both sides of the case and make a recommendation.' `Guilty of what?' .111/504 Hakim leans across to Mathabane. this is a committee of inquiry. despite the plea I have entered.' says Hakim.' Ì have stated my position. `Professor Lurie. I am guilty. we must continue with the hearing?' `We want to give you an opportunity to state your position. Again I ask. 'I must repeat. Murmured words pass between them. would it not be better if you were represented by someone familiar with our procedures?' Ì don't need representation. I can represent myself perfectly well. It has no power to take decisions. Do I understand that.
'This is all very quixotic.' `You are taking us in circles.' Now Farodia Rassool intervenes. I accept it.' Farodia Rassool sits back in her seat. I know of no reason why Ms Isaacs should lie. and of keeping false records. Professor Lurie. but have you actually read it?' I do riot wish to read Ms Isaacs's statement. Professor Lurie. 'You say you accept Ms Isaacs's statement. Professor Lurie.112/504 Òf all that I am charged with.' Òf everything Ms Isaacs avers. There are more important things in life than being prudent. but can you .' `But would it not be prudent to actually read the statement before accepting it?' `No.
a priest. Is there any reason why this debate should go on?' There is a whispered consultation between Mathabane and Hakim. I am beyond the reach of counselling. 'I have made my plea. I am not receptive to being counselled. 'No. I am a grown man. `You say you have not sought legal advice.' He turns to Mathabane. for instance. He can feel himself bristling. .113/504 afford it? It seems to me we may have a duty to protect you from yourself ' She gives Hakim a wintry smile. or a counsellor? Would you be prepared to undergo counselling?' The question comes from the young woman from the Business School. I have not sought counselling nor do I intend to seek it. Have you consulted anyone .
The atmosphere in the room is not good: sour.' A round of nods. CASANOVA. 'that the committee recess to discuss Professor Lurie's plea. says Mathabane. it seems to him. No word passes between them.114/504 Ìt has been proposed'. clearly the girl feels awkward.' says Mathabane. you say you accept the truth of the charges brought against you?' . `Professor Lurie. while we deliberate?' He and the student observer retire to Hakim's office.' What does she think of Casanova now that she meets him face to face? They are called back in. could I ask you to step outside for a few minutes. `to resume: Professor Lurie. 'YOUR DAYS ARE OVER. you and Ms van Wyk. `So.
all we get is subtle mockery. 'what it is specifically that Professor Lurie acknowledges . `The wider community is entitled to know'. Professor Lurie says he accepts the charges. riding over him.' he snaps back. Yet when we try to pin him down on what it is that he actually accepts. she continues. which I regard as fundamentally evasive. you have something you wish to say?' `Yes. To me that suggests that he accepts the charges only in name.115/504 Ì accept whatever Ms Isaacs alleges. 'There are no overtones in this case. the wider community is entitled -' He cannot let that go. In a case with overtones like this one.' `Dr Rassool. I want to register an objection to these responses of Professor Lurie's. raising her voice with practised ease.
what you want from me is not a response but a confession. You have expressed exactly what I wanted to say. I make no confession.' Mathabane: Ìf he is censured.116/504 and therefore what it is that he is being censured for.' Ìn our own minds I believe we are crystal clear. Farodia.' Èxactly. 'What goes on in my mind is my business.' It would be wiser to shut up. The question is whether Professor Lurie is crystal clear in his mind.' Ìf he is censured. and if we do not make it crystal clear in our recommendations. We fail to perform our duty if we are not crystal clear in our minds. what Professor Lurie is being censured for. but he does not. not yours. 'Frankly. Dr Rassool.' he says. Well. I put .
Professor Lurie pleads guilty.117/504 forward a plea.' `Then we should recommend the severest penalty.' says Mathabane.' . That is as far as I am prepared to go. I must protest.' `Mr Chair. That is my plea. Dr Rassool. but I ask myself. The issue goes beyond mere technicalities. That Professor Lurie be dismissed with immediate effect and forfeit all benefits and privileges. 'it is not up to us to impose penalties. Guilty as charged.' let me remind you again. as is my right. does he accept his guilt or is he simply going through the motions in the hope that the case will be buried under paper and forgotten? If he is simply going through the motions. I urge that we impose the severest penalty.
To be blunt. are you sure you don't want a postponement to give yourself time to reflect and perhaps consult?' `Why? What do I need to reflect on?' Òn the gravity of your situation. `Mr Chair. as I said while Professor Lurie was out of the room.118/504 `David?' The voice comes from Desmond Swarts. That's no joke in these days. David. you stand to lose your job. which I am not sure you appreciate. who has not spoken hitherto. are you sure you are handling the situation in the best way?' Swarts turns to the chair. I do believe that as members of a university community we ought not to proceed against a colleague in a coldly formalistic way.' `Then what do you advise me to do? Remove what Dr Rassool . 'David.
' Easily Hakim joins in. Your case is not unique. we are only human. David. . We have our weak moments.' he says. 'I hear no female voice. to wake him from his nightmare. David. all of us. We would like to find a way for you to continue with your career.' They are his friends. They do not want to see him begging in the streets. 'We would like to help you.' There is silence. Ìn this chorus of goodwill.119/504 calls the subtle mockery from my tone? Shed tears of contrition? What will be enough to save me?' `You may find this hard to believe. but we around this table are not your enemies. They want him back in the classroom. They want to save him from his weakness. to find a way out of what must be a nightmare.
it happened. The story begins one evening. After that I was not the same. As for the impulse. Suffice it to say that Eros entered. and at that moment something happened which. I became a servant of Eros. I forget the date. but not long past. let me confess. I will not try to describe. Ì was not myself. it . I give you a confession.' `You were not the same as what?' asks the businesswoman cautiously. Ms Isaacs.120/504 `Very well. You want a confession. Words passed between us.' Ìs this a defence you are offering us? Ungovernable impulse?' Ìt is not a defence.' he says. I was walking through the old college gardens and so. Our paths crossed. not being a poet. I was no longer a fifty-yearold divorce at a loose end. was the young woman in question.
' Farodia Rassool intervenes. is what was going on in this case. Yes. Mr Chair. I sense. I have denied similar impulses many times in the past. he says. not necessarily. he is guilty. Or extreme caution. 'We are again going round in circles. I am ashamed to say. but when we try to get specificity.121/504 was far from ungovernable. Perhaps a ban on mixing power relations with sexual relations.' `Don't you think'. says Swarts. 'that by its nature academic life must call for certain sacrifices? That for the good of the whole we have to deny ourselves certain gratifications?' `You have in mind a ban on intimacy across the generations?' `No. all of a sudden it is not abuse of a . Which. But as teachers we occupy positions of power.
That is why I say it is futile to go on debating with Professor Lurie. Melanie. Spoken in a voice quivering with righteousness. a huge hand stifling her cries? How absurd! Then he remembers: they were gathered here yesterday in this same room. with no mention of the pain he has caused.122/504 young woman he is confessing to. who barely comes to his shoulder. just an impulse he could not resist. that keeps her at such a pitch of anger? A shark among the helpless little fishies? Or does she have another vision: of a great thick-boned male bearing down on a girlchild. What does she see. and she was before them. when she looks at him.' Abuse: he was waiting for the word. We must take his plea at face value and recommend accordingly. no mention of the long history of exploitation of which this is part. Unequal: how can he deny that? .
' says the businesswoman. Ideally we would all have preferred to resolve this case out of the glare of the media.' says Swarts.' `Before we do that. Is there any form of statement he would be prepared to subscribe to?' `Why? Why is it so important that I subscribe to a statement?' `Because it would help to cool down what has become a very heated situation. it has acquired overtones that are beyond our control.123/504 Ì tend to agree with Dr Rassool. All eyes are on the university to see how we . But that has not been possible. 'I would like to plead with Professor Lurie one last time. It has received a lot of attention. Ùnless there is something that Professor Lurie wants to add. I think we should proceed to a decision. Mr Chair.
We on this committee see ourselves as trying to work out a compromise which will allow you to keep your job. That is quite mistaken. namely. it doesn't help to sneer at our efforts. so that you can think your position over. That is why I ask whether there is not a form of public statement that you could live with and that would allow us to recommend something less than the most severe sanction.' `What do you want the statement to contain?' . dismissal with censure.' `You mean. David. 'David. will I humble myself and ask for clemency?' Swarts sighs. At least accept an adjournment. listening to you.124/504 handle it. that you believe you are being treated unfairly. I get the impression.
Then we can decide whether to accept it in mitigation. There is a difference between pleading guilty to a charge and admitting you were wrong.125/504 Àn admission that you were wrong. David. Then we can see if it comes from his heart. First Professor Lurie must make his statement. 'That would be back to front. I am guilty of the charges brought against me.' `Don't play games with us. The statement should come from him. and you know that. Freely.' says Farodia Rassool.' Ì have admitted that.' Ànd that will satisfy you: an admission I was wrong?' `No. We don't negotiate first on what should be in his statement. in his own words.' .
I plead guilty.to divine whether it comes from my heart?' `We will see what attitude you express. Is that good enough for you?' `The question is not whether it is good enough for me. from the words I use .' . I took advantage of my position vis-a-vis Ms Isaacs.' `Very well. now you want more. We will see whether you express contrition. That is as far as I am prepared to go. Professor Lurie. I have had enough. 'I have said the words for you. the question is whether it is good enough for you. Let us go back to playing it by the book. and I regret it. you want me to demonstrate their sincerity. It was wrong. That is beyond the scope of the law. That is preposterous.126/504 Ànd you trust yourself to divine that. Does it reflect your sincere feelings?' He shakes his head.
`Can we talk to you just for a minute.' At first they do not recognize him. They catch up with him at the foot of the stairs. I will thank him for attending and excuse him. where people turn to stare at the tall man hurrying from his pursuers.127/504 `Right. pressing on into the crowded lobby. He ignores it. one even grabs at his jacket to slow him down.' says Mathabane from the chair. Professor Lurie?' says a voice. 'If there are no more questions for Professor Lurie. . He is halfway down the stairs before he hears the cry That's him! followed by a scuffle of feet.
plaited with amber beads. the hearing. hangs straight down on either side of her face.' says the girl. showing even white teeth. He pushes it away. A girl circles around him. Àbout how it was. Her hair.' . There is a flash.128/504 Someone bars his way. `How what was?' The camera flashes again. 'Hold it!' she says. `You know. She smiles. `What about?' A tape recorder is thrust toward him.' Ì can't comment on that. 'Can we stop and speak?' she says. He averts his face. stretches out a hand.
Do you regret what you did?' `No. 'I was enriched by the experience. If he wants to get away. Àre you sorry?' says the girl.' The smile remains on the girl's face.' .129/504 ÒK.' he says. he will have to push through them. so what can you comment on?' `There is nothing I want to comment on.' The loiterers and the curious have begun to crowd around.' `But if you had a chance?' `That isn't a real question. The recorder is thrust closer. 'So would you do it again?' Ì don't think I will have another chance.
' someone calls to the girl.' There is a titter. but for the moment is at a loss for how to suck him into further indiscretion. `He was what by the experience?' he hears someone ask sotto voce. The photograph appears in the next day's student newspaper. Ì already asked. above the caption 'Who's .' Confessions. apologies: why this thirst for abasement? A hush falls. Àsk him if he apologized. `He was enriched. more words for the belly of the little machine. They circle around him like hunters who have cornered a strange beast and do not know how to finish it off.130/504 She wants more.
By a trick of perspective the basket appears to sit on his head like a dunce's hat. Against such an image. eyes cast up to the heavens. `Sparring verbally with members of WAR after the hearing. 'The disciplinary committee investigating charges of harassment and misconduct against Communications Professor David Lurie was tight-lipped yesterday on its verdict. reaching out a groping hand toward the camera. Chair Manas Mathabane would say only that its findings have been forwarded to the Rector for action.131/504 the Dunce Now?' It shows him. The pose is ridiculous enough in itself. but what makes the picture a gem is the inverted waste-paper basket that a young man. grinning broadly. what chance has he? `Committee tight-lipped on verdict.' reads the headline. holds above him. Lurie (53) said he had .
'The committee has passed on its recommendation.' He has a call at home from Mathabane. It is quite short. David. were filed by students in his classes.' `Manas.132/504 found his experiences with women students "enriching". on condition that you issue a statement in your own person which will be satisfactory from our point of view as well as yours.' `Wait. May I read it to you?' `Read it. I . he says. He is prepared not to take extreme measures. `Trouble first erupted when complaints against Lurie.' . and the Rector has asked me to get back to you one last time. an expert on romantic poetry. we have been over that ground. I have a draft statement before me which would satisfy our requirements. Hear me out.
as well as abuse of the authority delegated to me by the University. I sincerely apologize to both parties and accept whatever appropriate penalty may be imposed. .' `That is it? That is the package?' `That is my understanding.' ' "Whatever appropriate penalty": what does that mean?' `My understanding is.133/504 Mathabane reads: 'I acknowledge without reservation serious abuses of the human rights of the complainant. In all probability. Whether you eventually return to teaching duties will depend on yourself. If you signify that you subscribe to the statement. you will not be dismissed. you will be requested to take a leave of absence. and on the decision of your Dean and head of department. which will have the status of a plea in mitigation.
to another universe of discourse.' `You are confusing issues. a secular plea.' . I appeared before an officially constituted tribunal. as members of what you call a secular tribunal if not as fellow human beings. David.134/504 the Rector will be prepared to accept it in that spirit. Repentance is neither here nor there. I won't do it. Before that secular tribunal I pleaded guilty. What goes on in your soul is dark to us. You are being asked to issue a statement. That plea should suffice.' `Manas. I told you what I thought. before a branch of the law.' Ìn what spirit?' À spirit of repentance. we went through the repentance business yesterday. Repentance belongs to another world. You are not being instructed to repent.
and I pleaded guilty to the charges.' `David. Not a great deal more. I am tired of it. That is all you need from me. for your own conscience.' `No. as I say. I can't. The criterion is whether you are prepared to acknowledge your fault in a public manner and take steps to remedy it. I can't go on protecting you from yourself. We want more. That is a matter. I hope you can see your way clear to giving us that. but more.' `Sorry. and so is the rest of the committee.135/504 Ì am being asked to issue an apology about which I may not be sincere?' `The criterion is not whether you are sincere. You charged me.' `Now we are truly splitting hairs. Do you want time to rethink?' .
' `Very well. Then I can only say. you will be hearing from the Rector. .136/504 `No.
and a low. . The front boundary is marked by a wire fence and clumps of nasturtiums and geraniums.SEVEN ONCE HE HAS made up his mind to leave. He clears out the refrigerator. and at noon is on the freeway. A stopover in Oudtshoorn. a crack-ofdawn departure: by mid-morning he is nearing his destination. sprawling farmhouse painted yellow. most of it arable. stables and outbuildings. His daughter's smallholding is at the end of a winding dirt track some miles outside the town: five hectares of land. the town of Salem on the GrahamstownKenton road in the Eastern Cape. the rest of the front is dust and gravel. there is little to hold him back. a wind-pump. locks up the house. with a galvanized-iron roof and a covered stoep.
Comfortably barefoot. dark. Lucy . From the shade of the stoep Lucy emerges into the sunlight. For a moment he does not recognise her. kissing him on the cheek. a tribe of young people who peddled leather goods and sunbaked pottery in Grahamstown and. of guests by the wagonful. which is large. A year has passed. Her hips and breasts are now (he searches for the best word) ample. dates from the time of large families. Six years ago Lucy moved in as a member of a commune. hugging her.138/504 There is an old VW kombi parked in the driveway. she comes to greet him. he pulls up behind it. holding her arms wide. What a nice girl. what a nice welcome at the end of a long trip! The house. the rump moving on to New Bethesda. When the commune broke up. in between stands of mealies. and she has put on weight. even at midday. and. he thinks. grew dagga. embracing him. chilly.
aside from the help. she wanted to farm it properly.' . or be found by. She had fallen in love with the place. older than Lucy. I've been alone. Now here she is. Ì'm going to put you in Helen's room. no longer a child playing at farming but a solid countrywoman. Helen is a large. sad-looking woman with a deep voice and a bad skin. a boervrou. in a house full of the smell of baking. someone better.' `How is Helen?' he asks. 'It gets the morning sun.' she says.139/504 stayed behind on the smallholding with her friend Helen. He helped her buy it. she said. He has never been able to understand what Lucy sees in her. You have no idea how cold the mornings have been this winter. `Helen has been back in Johannesburg since April. flowered dress. bare feet and all. privately he wishes Lucy would find.
Aren't you nervous by yourself?' Lucy shrugs. if there were to be a break-in. Dogs still mean something.' `But you have a weapon. I don't see that two people would be better than one. I haven't ever used it. I approve. the more deterrence. Anyhow. The more dogs. 'There are the dogs.140/504 `You didn't tell me that. I'll show you.' `Yes. philosophize.' Ì have a rifle. I bought it from a neighbour.' `Good. When all else fails.' `That's very philosophical. An armed philosopher.' . but I have it.
He unpacks his suitcase in Helen's room. cityfolk. this sturdy young settler. in the huge old wardrobe there is only a blue overall . Curious that he and her mother. He must be careful: nothing so distasteful to a child as the workings of a parent's body. Her own fingernails are none too clean. also home-made.141/504 Dogs and a gun. should have produced this throwback. intellectuals. But perhaps it was not they who produced her: perhaps history had the larger share. He is aware of her eyes on him as he eats. bread in the oven and a crop in the earth. She offers him tea. The drawers are empty. Country dirt: honourable. He is hungry: he wolfs down two blocklike slices of bread with prickly-pear jam. he supposes.
Now there are five. The dogs are excited to see her: Dobermanns. German Shepherds. with concrete bases. 'Watchdogs. If Helen is away.142/504 hanging. ridgebacks. Rottweilers. solidly built. Then she shows him over the boarding kennels. about not contaminating the septic tank. it is not just for a while. bull terriers. He knows the lesson but listens dutifully. galvanized poles and struts. 'Working dogs. The pets tend to come in during the summer holidays. On his last visit there had been only one pen. one week.' she says. sometimes just a weekend. shaded by young bluegum trees. Lucy takes him on a tour of the premises. on short contracts: two weeks. and heavy-gauge mesh.' Ànd cats? Don't you take cats?' . She reminds him about not wasting water. all of them.
'Katy? She's abandoned. on Saturday mornings. watches them morosely. Account unpaid for months. She gets . The owners have done a bunk. head on paws. I don't know what I'm going to do about her. I suppose. a tan-coloured bulldog bitch with a cage to herself who. and from selling flowers and garden produce. not even bothering to get up. She's sulking.' `Do you still have your stall at the market?' `Yes. 'Don't the dogs get bored?' He points to one. Nothing could be more simple. I'm thinking of branching into cats. I'll take you along. Try to find her a home. but otherwise she's all right. I'm just not set up for them yet.' This is how she makes a living: from the kennels.143/504 `Don't laugh.
. It's part of the package. Rains for the past two years have been good. In fact. A frontier farmer of the new breed. beetroot. co-proprietor. cattle and maize. past the beehives. By me or by Petrus. She talks easily about these matters. where a family of ducks coasts serenely. potatoes. since March.144/504 taken out every day for exercise. and through the garden: flowerbeds and winter vegetables .' He strolls with her past the mud-walled dam. They visit the pump and storage dam on the edge of the property. In the old days. chard.cauliflowers. Petrus is my new assistant. Quite a fellow.' Petrus?' 'You will meet him. the water table has risen. onions.
145/504 Today. leaving clear prints. . 'I've brought my books. History repeating itself. The more things change the more they remain the same. dogs and daffodils. His work is not a subject they often talk about.' 'Are you working on something in particular?' she asks carefully.then he does not have to be ashamed. Good! If this is to be what he leaves behind . A solid woman. embedded in her new life. Perhaps history has learned a lesson. this woman . though in a more modest vein. I just need a table and chair. back in the house. They walk back along an irrigation furrow. Lucy's bare toes grip the red earth. 'There's no need to entertain me.this daughter.' he says.
' 'I thought I would indulge myself. Characters talking and singing.' 'Why is it easier for a woman?' 'Easier. But there is more to it than that.' 'I didn't know you still had ambitions in that direction. or not the kind of book I have written in the past. Words and music. It's easier for a woman. Not a book. I mean. Something on the last years of Byron. rather. Or at least a man wants to leave something behind. to produce something with a life of its own.146/504 'I have plans. Something for the stage. One wants to leave something behind.' .
toward a very meagre accompaniment . Now I'm inclining the other way. .' 'Are you going to write the music yourself?' 'I'll borrow the music. oboe or maybe bassoon.147/504 'Doesn't being a father count?' 'Being a father . by comparison with being a mother. At the beginning I thought it was a subject that would call for quite lush orchestration. Which would have been beyond my powers.violin. for the most part. You must have heard about my troubles. being a father is a rather abstract business. cello. If something does come. But it's all in the realm of ideas as yet. . But let us wait and see what comes. The first and probably the last.I've been distracted. I have no qualms about borrowing. say. I haven't written a note . I can't help feeling that. you will be the first to hear.' . Like Strauss.
a tall man in blue overalls and rubber boots and a woollen cap.' 'Well. What I had to say they didn't care to hear. I was having less and less rapport.' A man is standing in the doorway. we won't go into that now. So perhaps I won't miss it. 'Petrus. come in.148/504 'Roz mentioned something on the telephone. meet my father. I was asked to resign. I was no great shakes as a teacher. Some other time. Perhaps I'll enjoy my release. I found.' 'Will you miss it?' 'Will I miss it? I don't know. with my students. .' says Lucy.' 'Have you left the university for good?' 'I have resigned.
Forty? Forty-five? Petrus turns to Lucy. 'You look after the dogs. shrewd eyes.' Petrus gives a broad smile. weathered face.' he says: 'I have come for the spray. 'I am the gardener and the dog-man. 'The dog-man. 'The spray. I'll fetch it.' He is left with Petrus. They shake hands. 'I look after the dogs and I work in the garden.' . 'I have just travelled up from Cape Town.' It's in the kombi.' he repeats.149/504 Petrus wipes his boots. savouring the phrase. There are times when I feel anxious about my daughter all alone here.' He reflects for a moment. Wait here. to break the silence. It is very isolated. A lined.' he says. Yes.
I think.150/504 'Yes. 'He has his head screwed on right. It's quite comfortable. I know.' .' he remarks. and children.' And he gives another smile. He goes off and spends time there occasionally.' He pauses.' 'Yes.' 'Does he live on the property?' 'He and his wife have the old stable. I've put in electricity. 'Petrus seems a good man. Lucy returns with a small bottle. 'You know the measurement: one teaspoon to ten litres of water. 'it is dangerous. He has another wife in Adelaide.' And Petrus ducks out through the low doorway. But here it is all right.' says Petrus. some of them grown up. 'Everything is dangerous today.
Good only for goats. they greet him back. Without warning a memory of the girl comes back: of her neat little breasts with their upstanding nipples.151/504 He leaves Lucy to her tasks and takes a stroll as far as the Kenton road. . Country ways. the sun already dipping over red hills dotted with sparse. A cool winter's day. bleached grass. A ripple of desire passes through him. Does Lucy really intend to spend her life here? He hopes it is only a phase. Exhausted. of her smooth flat belly. A group of children pass him on their way home from school. poor soil. he thinks. He greets them. Already Cape Town is receding into the past. Evidently whatever it was is not over yet. Poor land.
ces cheveux blonds. but Lucy does something with lemon peel and butter and allspice that makes them palatable. He will have to mind his manners. Letting herself go. he will have to be neat. Usually he does not like sweet potatoes. 'Will you be staying a while?' she asks. then sweet potatoes. more than palatable. A long time since he last lived with a woman. Soon she will be positively heavy. 'A week? Shall we say a week? Will you be able to bear me that long?' . Ample is a kind word for Lucy. Qu'est devenu ce front poli. as happens when one withdraws from the field of love. sourcils voőtés? Supper is simple: soup and bread.152/504 He returns to the house and finishes unpacking.
' .' 'And after the week.' 'It's nice of you to say so.153/504 'You can stay as long as you like. you're welcome to stay. I'm just afraid you'll get bored.' 'Roz said the atmosphere was nasty. Long visits don't make for good friends. Perhaps I'll just go on a ramble. where will you go?' 'I don't know yet. my dear. Lucy. I'm not a fugitive.' 'I won't be bored. but I'd like to keep your friendship.' 'Well.' `What if we don't call it a visit? What if we call it refuge? Would you accept refuge on an indefinite basis?' 'You mean asylum? It's not as bad as that. a long ramble.
Recantation. I would prefer simply to be put against a wall and shot. self-criticism.154/504 'I brought it on myself.' 'And are you so perfect that you can't do with a little counselling?' 'It reminds me too much of Mao's China. The code-word was counselling. It certainly went on when I was a student. If they prosecuted every case the profession would be decimated.' . which I wouldn't accept. Reformation of the character. public apology.' `Shot? For having an affair with a student? A bit extreme. Have done with it. I'm old-fashioned.' 'What kind of compromise?' 'Re-education. don't you think. I was offered a compromise. David? It must go on all the time.
'So you stood your ground and they stood theirs. Is that how it was?' 'More or less. his whole tirade sounds melodramatic. they wanted me castrated. Private life is public business. tears if possible.' . now that he hears it through another's ears. the sentence is final.' but he cannot say the words. remorse. David. In fact. excessive. They wanted a spectacle: breast-beating. A TV show. in fact. 'These are puritanical times. not to his daughter.155/504 He shrugs. It isn't heroic to be unbending.' He was going to add. The truth is. prurience and sentiment.' 'You shouldn't be so unbending. I wouldn't oblige. Is there still time to reconsider?' 'No. Prurience is respectable.
' 'Well. I am not complaining. . join in again. 'Does that go on every night?' 'One gets used to it. Serve one's time. One just has to buckle down and live out the rest of one's life. One dog mechanically. After a certain age one is simply no longer appealing. Not after a certain age. Stay here as long as you like.156/504 'No appeal?' 'No appeal. the loth to admit defeat.' He goes to bed early. without cease. In the middle of the night he is woken by a flurry of barking.' He shakes his head. One can't plead guilty to charges of turpitude and expect a flood of sympathy in return. that's a pity. and that's that. I'm sorry. On whatever grounds.
he wanders among the flowerbeds. Geese fly in echelon high overhead. whom Lucy keeps on a leash. What is he going to do with his time? 'Would you like to go for a walk?' says Lucy behind him.EIGHT HE HAS FORGOTTEN how cold winter mornings can be in the uplands of the Eastern Cape. He has not brought the right clothes: he has to borrow a sweater from Lucy. Hands in pockets. Out of sight on the Kenton road a car roars past. the abandoned one. the sound lingering on the still air. They take three of the dogs along: two young Dobermanns. and the bulldog bitch. .
hanging her tongue out.' says Lucy 'was it serious?' 'Didn't Rosalind tell you the story?' 'Not in any detail.' 'She came from this part of the world.' The bitch continues to strain. 'The girl you were involved with. She was . walk through scrubland. They leave the road.158/504 Pinning her ears back.' says Lucy. glancing around shiftily as if ashamed to be watched. 'She is having problems. From George. then through sparse pine forest. the bitch tries to defecate. Nothing comes. 'I'll have to dose her.
' 'Yes. The pressure became too much. there was me. 'Why did she denounce you?' 'She didn't say. but very attractive. It certainly had serious consequences. I suppose. Only middling as a student. And then her parents got to hear and descended on Cape Town.' 'And there was you. She was in a difficult position. Was it serious? I don't know.' he says.159/504 in one of my classes.' . I didn't have a chance to ask. There was a young man. bullying her.' 'But it's over with now? You're not still hankering after her?' Is it over with? Does he hanker yet? 'Our contact has ceased. I don't suppose I was easy. a lover or ex-lover. There were the strains of the classroom.
They turn. 'Well. Is Lucy.' . Perhaps. You have seen that for yourself ' 'Yes. Lucy. Women can be surprisingly forgiving.' says Lucy. looking back. she won't think too harshly of you. But .' There is silence. 'you have paid your price. 'To someone of my own generation.160/504 They have arrived at a gate with a sign that says 'SAPPI Industries .Trespassers will be Prosecuted'. do you mean? I wasn't made for marriage. his child. presuming to tell him about women? 'Have you thought of getting married again?' asks Lucy.
' Never before have he and Lucy spoken about his intimate life. then to whom can he speak? 'Do you remember Blake?' he says. It is not proving easy. To that extent they have made me a better person.' Therefore?' 'Every woman I have been close to has taught me something about myself. as time passes. not easier.161/504 'But what? But it is unseemly to go on preying on children?' 'I didn't mean that. But if not to her. Just that you are going to find it more difficult. 'Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires'? 'Why do you quote that to me?' 'Unacted desires can turn as ugly in the old as in the young.' .
CYCADS.' They walk on.' 'It's illegal to dig them up in the wild.' He looks at her sharply. 'I thought cycads were illegal. She smiles.' with an arrow: 'Cycads?' he says. the bitch padding behind. At the turnoff to the smallholding there is a painted sign he has not noticed before: 'CUT FLOWERS.162/504 'I hope you are not claiming the reverse as well. I'll show you.' she says. . That knowing you has turned your women into better people. I grow them from seed. panting. They return along the tar road. the young dogs tugging to be free. 'Just joking.
Swaddled against the cold. the job is done. 'It will do. Lucy wakes him at five.163/504 'And you? Is this what you want in life?' He waves a hand toward the garden. The heater does not work. By seven. with coffee. It is Saturday. toward the house with sunlight glinting from its roof. onions. as arranged. pockets of potatoes. where by the light of a halogen lamp he is already cutting flowers. The kombi is loaded with boxes of flowers. He offers to take over from Petrus. Lucy drives. peering through the . with dawn touching the hills and the dogs beginning to stir. but his fingers are soon so cold that he cannot tie the bunches.' replies Lucy quietly. market day. He passes the twine back to Petrus and instead wraps and packs. they join Petrus in the garden. Petrus stays behind. cabbage.
There is a smell of burning meat. There is a show of bonhomie from which Lucy. he hopes she does not notice. she takes the Grahamstown road. They are in what appears to be the produce quarter. stamp their feet.164/504 mistedwindscreen. On Donkin Square stallholders are already setting up trestle tables and laying out their wares. to the circus and the skating rink. eating the sandwiches she has made. whom once upon a time he used to drive to school and ballet class. to his relief. He sits beside her. So: a new adventure. people rub their hands. His nose drips. showing him life. is taking him on an outing. unfamiliar world. holds herself apart. curse. On their left are three African . showing him this other. His daughter. A cold mist hangs over the town.
also. Like Lucy. Lucy has brought two canvas stools. herbs. They drink coffee from a thermos flask. soupbones. preserves. honeybush tea. dried fruit. burned and burnt. Two weeks ago he was in a classroom explaining to the bored youth of the country the distinction between drink and drink up. and a little assistant in a balaclava cap who cannot be more than ten. packets of buchu tea. butter to sell. signifying an action carried through to its conclusion. from a bucket with a wet cloth over it.165/504 women with milk. waiting for the first customers. I have lived. The perfective. How far away it all seems! I live. . but also bottled jams. On their right are an old Afrikaner couple whom Lucy greets as Tante Miems and Oom Koos. they have potatoes and onions to sell. I lived. masa.
on a visit from Cape Town. Each time she introduces him: 'Meet my father. David Lurie. There is plenty of trade too at the milk-and-meat stall.' 'You must be proud of your daughter. as though her success were theirs too. very proud. Koos and Miems's are still speckled with earth. but the old couple. In the course of the morning Lucy takes in nearly five hundred rand. at eleven o'clock she drops her prices and the last of the produce goes. Her flowers sell steadily. Many of Lucy's customers know her by name: middle-aged women. with a touch of the proprietary in their attitude to her. most of them. 'Yes. Mr Lurie.' he replies. seated side by side wooden and unsmiling. .166/504 Lucy's potatoes.' they say. do less well. tumbled out into a bushel basket. have been washed clean.
His mind has become a refuge for old thoughts. once an active charity in Grahamstown. and no neck.' says Lucy. He ought to chase them out. bustling little woman with black freckles. or does not care enough. It is a resistance he has had to Lucy's friends before. after one of the introductions. with nowhere else to go. wiry hair. Nothing to be proud of: a prejudice that has settled in his mind. sweep the premises clean. The Animal Welfare League. a dumpy. close-cropped. But he does not care to do so. if that is all right with you. He does not like women who make no effort to be attractive.' He has not taken to Bev Shaw. indigent. 'I give her a hand sometimes.167/504 'Bev runs the animal refuge. idle. . settled down. has had to close down its operation. We'll drop in at her place on the way back.
There is not only Bev Shaw. The world would no doubt be a worse place without them. an ostrich-feather flywhisk). a clutter of ornaments (porcelain shepherdesses. cats everywhere underfoot. there is Bill Shaw too. He has nothing against the animal lovers with whom Lucy has been mixed up as long as he can remember. the cheeping of birds in cages. the yammer of a radio. So when Bev Shaw opens her front door he puts on a good face. though in fact he is repelled by the odours of cat urine and dog mange and Jeyes Fluid that greet them. cowbells. with a beet- . drinking tea at the kitchen table.168/504 However. a handful of volunteers led by Bev Shaw still runs a clinic from the old premises. The house is just as he had imagined it would be: rubbishy furniture. equally squat.
Dave. 'What do you think?' says Lucy afterwards in the car. 'I'm just picking up some medicines. Bill. wooden pallets. old tyres. 'Have a cup.' she says.' says Bill. . the last thing he wants to do is trade small talk with these people. rampant weeds. make yourself at home. 'We won't stay. he is tired. where chickens scratch around and what looks uncommonly like a duiker snoozes in a corner.169/504 red face and silver hair and a sweater with a floppy collar.' Through a window he glimpses the Shaws' back yard: an apple tree dropping wormridden fruit. an area fenced in with galvanized-iron sheets. sit down. He casts Lucy a glance.' It has been a long morning. 'Sit down.
Don't they have children?' 'No. It's a subculture of its own. On the list of the nation's priorities. I'm sorry. no children. I'm sure. now on her own. my child. it is. No.' 'That's wonderful. They are greatly relieved. first for Animal Welfare. Don't underestimate Bev. You too. She's not a fool. Does it matter? The animals she helps aren't despondent. There is no funding any longer.' 'Yes. She's been going into D Village for years. I just find it hard to whip up an interest in the .' 'It must be a losing battle. then. She does an enormous amount of good. animals come nowhere.' 'She must get despondent.170/504 'I don't want to be rude.' 'Yes.
no . but to me animal-welfare people are a bit like Christians of a certain kind. not in the least.171/504 subject. what you do. Everyone is so cheerful and well-intentioned that after a while you itch to go off and do some raping and pillaging. They are on the open road. It's admirable. `You think I ought to be painting still lives or teaching myself Russian..' He is surprised by his outburst..' says Lucy. she drives without glancing at him. . 'You think I ought to involve myself in more important things. .' He is already shaking his head. what she does. no. He is not in a bad temper. because I am your daughter. You don't approve . 'No . 'You think.' he murmurs. Or to kick a cat. I ought to be doing something better with my life.
They are not going to lead me to a higher life. So if . necessarily.172/504 of friends like Bev and Bill Shaw because they are not going to lead me to a higher life. We are of a different order of creation from the animals. Not higher. Lucy. That's the example that people like Bev try to set. there is no higher life.' 'Lucy. I don't want to come back in another existence as a dog or a pig and have to live as dogs or pigs live under us. by all means let us be kind to them. As for animals. But let us not lose perspective. this is the only life there is. Which we share with animals.' 'But it is true. Yes. I agree. and the reason is.' 'That's not true. don't be cross. This is the only life there is. To share some of our human privilege with the beasts. That's the example I try to follow. just different. my dearest.
173/504 we are going to be kind. but then does not.' Lucy draws a breath. They arrive at the house in silence. She seems about to respond to his homily. not because we feel guilty or fear retribution. . let it be out of simple generosity.
Saturday afternoon in South Africa: a time consecrated to men and their pleasures. The commentary alternates between Sotho and Xhosa. When he awakes. Petrus is beside him on the sofa with a bottle of beer in his hand. Bushbucks and Sundowns. 'My team.NINE HE IS SITTING in the front room. languages of which he understands not a word. He has turned the volume higher.' says Petrus. 'Bushbucks. neither team seems interested in winning. The score is nil-all. watching soccer on television.' . He nods off. He turns the sound down to a murmur.
There is a melee in the goalmouth. is it? Shall I leave?' . belabour each other. the Bushbucks goalkeeper is lying on the ground with the ball under his chest. 'He is a good goalkeeper. He gets up. reading. so tiny that they barely come up to the referee's chest. She looks at him quizzically.175/504 Sundowns take a corner. They must keep him. 'What are you reading?' he repeats. 'What are you reading?' he says. Boxing: two tiny men. When the dust clears. then takes the earplugs out of her ears. wanders through to the back of the house. leap in. Petrus groans and clasps his head. and then. 'It's not working out. circle. Lucy is lying on her bed. Petrus switches channels.' The game ends scoreless. 'He is good! He is good!' says Petrus.
most unstinting love. idly fondles her bare foot. David. He sits on the bed. like her mother. he is thinking. Has it . I'm glad to have you here.176/504 She smiles. 'Sit down. The Mystery of Edwin Drood: not what he would have expected. Attractive. it is working out perfectly well.' she says. Once you find things to do you won't be so bored. A woman in the flower of her years. or would it have worked out like that anyway? From the day his daughter was born he has felt for her nothing but the most spontaneous. Need he reproach himself. shapely. lays her book aside. Good bones. A good foot. yet lost to men. It takes a while to adjust to the pace of country life. 'From my point of view.' He nods absentmindedly. Impossible she has been unaware of it. attractive despite the heaviness. that's all. despite the unflattering clothes.
coming back from his wanderings. You could cut up the dog-meat. Has he fathered a woman of passion? What can she draw on.177/504 been too much.' he says. what not. Why should they not be open with each other. I've always found that . that love? Has she found it a burden? Has it pressed down on her? Has she given it a darker reading? He wonders how it is for Lucy with her lovers. in the realm of the senses? Are he and she capable of talking about that too? Lucy has not led a protected life. and he is not afraid now. how it is for her lovers with her. in times when no one else does? 'Once I find things to do. 'What do you suggest?' 'You could help with the dogs. He has never been afraid to follow a thought down its winding track. why should they draw lines.
enough to buy a hectare and a bit from me. He got a Land Affairs grant earlier this year. I'm sure he will. Will he pay me a wage for my labour. You could give him a hand.178/504 difficult. Petrus is busy establishing his own lands. Ask him to pay you. then he can move out of the stable. He can afford it. He has a cow that will calve in the spring. I'm not sure I can afford him any more. By Eastern Cape standards he is a man of substance. do you think?' 'Ask him. or a wife and a girlfriend. If he has played his cards right he could get a second grant to put up a house. We share the dam.' . Then there is Petrus. I like the historical piquancy. He has two wives.' 'Give Petrus a hand. Everything from there to the fence is his. I like that. I didn't tell you? The boundary line goes through the dam.
It sounds suspiciously like community service.' .' 'I'm dubious. You will have to do it out of the goodness of your heart.' 'You mean help Bev Shaw. They are desperate for volunteers. But don't expect to be paid. I'll handle the dog-meat. It sounds like someone trying to make reparation for past misdeeds.' 'You don't need to hit it off with her.' 'Yes. Lucy. What else?' 'You can help at the clinic.' 'I don't think she and I will hit it off.179/504 'All right. You have only to help her. I'll offer to dig for Petrus.
'As to your motives, David, I can assure you, the animals at the clinic won't query them. They won't ask and they won't care.' 'All right, I'll do it. But only as long as I don't have to become a better person. I am not prepared to be reformed. I want to go on being myself I'll do it on that basis.' His hand still rests on her foot; now he grips her ankle tight. 'Understood?' She gives him what he can only call a sweet smile. 'So you are determined to go on being bad. Mad, bad, and dangerous to know. I promise, no one will ask you to change.' She teases him as her mother used to tease him. Her wit, if anything, sharper. He has always been drawn to women of wit. Wit and beauty. With the best will in the world he could not find wit in Meláni. But plenty of beauty.
Again it runs through him: a light shudder of voluptuousness. He is aware of Lucy observing him. He does not appear to be able to conceal it. Interesting. He gets up, goes out into the yard. The younger dogs are delighted to see him: they trot back and forth in their cages, whining eagerly. But the old bulldog bitch barely stirs. He enters her cage, closes the door behind him. She raises her head, regards him, lets her head fall again; her old dugs hang slack. He squats down, tickles her behind the ears. 'Abandoned, are we?' he murmurs. He stretches out beside her on the bare concrete. Above is the pale blue sky. His limbs relax.
This is how Lucy finds him. He must have fallen asleep: the first he knows, she is in the cage with the water-can, and the bitch is up, sniffing her feet. 'Making friends?' says Lucy. 'She's not easy to make friends with.' 'Poor old Katy, she's in mourning. No one wants her, and she knows it. The irony is, she must have offspring all over the district who would be happy to share their homes with her. But it's not in their power to invite her. They are part of the furniture, part of the alarm system. They do us the honour of treating us like gods, and we respond by treating them like things.' They leave the cage. The bitch slumps down, closes her eyes.
'The Church Fathers had a long debate about them, and decided they don't have proper souls,' he observes. 'Their souls are tied to their bodies and die with them.' Lucy shrugs. 'I'm not sure that I have a soul. I wouldn't know a soul if I saw one.' 'That's not true. You are a soul. We are all souls. We are souls before we are born.' She regards him oddly. 'What will you do with her?' he says. 'With Katy? I'll keep her, if it comes to that.' 'Don't you ever put animals down?' 'No, I don't. Bev does. It is a job no one else wants to do, so she has taken it upon herself. It cuts her up terribly. You underestimate
her. She is a more interesting person than you think. Even in your own terms.' His own terms: what are they? That dumpy little women with ugly voices deserve to be ignored? A shadow of grief falls over him: for Katy, alone in her cage, for himself, for everyone. He sighs deeply, not stifling the sigh. 'Forgive me, Lucy,' he says. 'Forgive you? For what?' She is smiling lightly, mockingly. Tor being one of the two mortals assigned to usher you into the world and for not turning out to be a better guide. But I'll go and help Bev Shaw. Provided that I don't have to call her Bev. It's a silly name to go by. It reminds me of cattle. When shall I start?' 'I'll give her a call.'
THE SIGN OUTSIDE the clinic reads ANIMAL WELFARE LEAGUE W.O. 1529. Below is a line stating the daily hours, but this has been taped over. At the door is a line of waiting people, some with animals. As soon as he gets out of his car there are children all around him, begging for money or just staring. He makes his way through the crush, and through a sudden cacophony as two dogs, held back by their owners, snarl and snap at each other. The small, bare waiting-room is packed. He has to step over someone's legs to get in. 'Mrs Shaw?' he inquires. An old woman nods toward a doorway closed off with a plastic curtain. The woman holds a
goat on a short rope; it glares nervously, eyeing the dogs, its hooves clicking on the hard floor. In the inner room, which smells pungently of urine, Bev Shaw is working at a low steeltopped table. With a pencil-light she is peering down the throat of a young dog that looks like a cross between a ridgeback and a jackal. Kneeling on the table a barefoot child, evidently the owner, has the dog's head clamped under his arm and is trying to hold its jaws open. A low, gurgling snarl comes from its throat; its powerful hindquarters strain. Awkwardly he joins in the tussle, pressing the dog's hind legs together, forcing it to sit on its haunches. 'Thank you,' says Bev Shaw. Her face is flushed. 'There's an abscess here from an impacted tooth. We have no antibiotics, so hold him still, boytjie! - so we'll just have to lance it and hope for the best.'
She probes inside the mouth with a lancet. The dog gives a tremendous jerk, breaks free of him, almost breaks free of the boy. He grasps it as it scrabbles to get off the table; for a moment its eyes, full of rage and fear, glare into his. 'On his side - so,' says Bev Shaw. Making crooning noises, she expertly trips up the dog and turns it on its side. 'The belt,' she says. He passes a belt around its body and she buckles it. 'So,' says Bev Shaw. 'Think comforting thoughts, think strong thoughts. They can smell what you are thinking.' He leans his full weight on the dog. Gingerly, one hand wrapped in an old rag, the child prises open the jaws again. The dog's eyes roll in terror. They can smell what you are thinking: what nonsense! 'There, there!' he murmurs. Bev Shaw probes again with the lancet. The dog gags, goes rigid, then relaxes.
'So,' she says, 'now we must let nature take her course.' She unbuckles the belt, speaks to the child in what sounds like very halting Xhosa. The dog, on its feet, cowers under the table. There is a spattering of blood and saliva on the surface; Bev wipes it off. The child coaxes the dog out. 'Thank you, Mr Lurie. You have a good presence. I sense that you like animals.' 'Do I like animals? I eat them, so I suppose I must like them, some parts of them.' Her hair is a mass of little curls. Does she make the curls herself, with tongs? Unlikely: it would take hours every day. They must grow that way. He has never seen such a tessitura from close by. The veins on her ears are visible as a filigree of red and purple. The veins of her nose too. And then a chin that comes straight out of her chest, like a pouter
pigeon's. As unattractive.
She is pondering his words, whose tone she appears to have missed. 'Yes, we eat up a lot of animals in this country,' she says. 'It doesn't seem to do us much good. I'm not sure how we will justify it to them.' Then: 'Shall we start on the next one?' Justify it? When? At the Great Reckoning? He would be curious to hear more, but this is not the time. The goat, a fullgrown buck, can barely walk. One half of his scrotum, yellow and purple, is swollen like a balloon; the other half is a mass of caked blood and dirt. He has been savaged by dogs, the old woman says. But he seems bright enough, cheery, combative. While Bev Shaw is examining him, he passes a short burst ofpellets on to the floor.
He shudders. 'Blowfly. he sees that the wound is alive with white grubs waving their blind heads in the air. low and hoarse.' Bev Shaw straightens up. 'At least a week old. 'You should have brought him in long ago. 'Yes. Van you fasten his legs?' she asks. the woman pretends to reprove him. He straps the right hind leg to the right foreleg. teeters. The goat tries to kick again. I don't have the experience to try . It is too.' she says to the woman. She swabs the wound gently. too bad.190/504 Standing at his head. and indicates how. gripping his horns. gives a bleat: an ugly sound.' says the woman. The goat kicks.' She purses her lips. Bev Shaw touches the scrotum with a swab. 'I don't know what we can do. As the dirt comes away. 'Every night the dogs come.' says Bev Shaw. Five hundred rand you pay for a man like him. The goat trembles.
but the old fellow will come out sterile anyway. She seems to have lapsed into a trance of her own. and does she want that? And then there is the question of antibiotics. 'What do you say? Is it enough?' The goat stands stock still as if hypnotized. The goat does not stir. She motions to the woman to let go of the horns. The goat trembles but is still. my friend?' he hears her say. nuzzles his throat. Bev Shaw continues to stroke him with her head. The woman obeys. She is whispering. She can wait for Dr Oosthuizen on Thursday. 'What do you say. . stroking the throat upward with her own hair. Is she prepared to spend money on antibiotics?' She kneels down again beside the goat.191/504 a removal.
Shall I? Shall I keep him here?' The woman wavers. Then they are gone. casts it aside. He will let me do that for him. the obscene bulge quivering behind him. The woman drags the strap loose. 'What was that all about?' he asks.' she says to the woman. he can hear the accents of defeat. 'I can't make him better. then shakes her head. that's all.' Though she tries to control her voice. or you can leave him with me. 'You can have him back afterwards. 'I will help him through.' says Bev Shaw. The goat hears them too: he kicks against the strap.192/504 She collects herself and gets to her feet. You can wait for the doctor on Thursday. 'I'm afraid it's too late. . She begins to tug the goat toward the door. I can give him a quiet end. bucking and plunging.
blows her nose. so brave and straight and confident!' Lethal: the name of a drug? He would not put it beyond the drug companies. Sudden darkness. They are born prepared. They know how death comes to a goat. To his own surprise. he is trying to comfort her.193/504 Bev Shaw hides her face.' he says. from the waters of Lethe. Born with foreknowledge. It's their animal. What a pity! Such a good old fellow. 'I'm not sure. any of us. They don't have to be told what steel is for. but we can't force the owners. This is Africa. so to speak.' 'Do you think so?' she says. 'Perhaps he has already been through it. not without being escorted. 'Perhaps he understands more than you guess. There have been goats here since the beginning of time.' . I don't think we are ready to die. they like to slaughter in their own way. It's nothing. after all. and fire. I keep enough lethal for bad cases.
In the avian cage there is only one bird. Bev Shaw shows him around the yard. Bev Shaw.194/504 Things are beginning to fall into place. But Lucy is wrong. full of New Age mumbo jumbo. to lighten the load of Africa's suffering beasts. trying. not a veterinarian but a priestess. When the last of the day's cases has been dealt with.but of last resort. He spends all afternoon in the surgery. Interesting is not the word.her doctoring is too amateurish for that . He has a first inkling of the task this ugly little woman has set herself This bleak building is a place not of healing . For the rest there are dogs: not Lucy's well-groomed thoroughbreds but a mob of scrawny mongrels filling . helping as far as he is able. a young fisheagle with a splinted wing. He recalls the story of. absurdly. Lucy thought he would find her interesting. fleeing the huntsmen's dogs.who was it? St Hubert? who gave refuge to a deer that clattered into his chapel. panting and distraught.
barking. yapping. 'How do you pay for this stuff?' he asks. We get donations.' He is watching the dogs eat. But he comes in only one afternoon a week.195/504 two pens to bursting point. We hold public collections. waiting their turn. We offer a free neutering service. It surprises him how little fighting there is. 'We get it wholesale.' 'Who does the neutering? 'Dr Oosthuizen. accepting their lot. whining. and get a grant for that. leaping with excitement. our vet. The small. . the weak hold back. He helps her pour out dry food and fill the water-troughs. They empty two ten-kilogram bags.
allows the dog to smell his face. No one too high and mighty to smell another's backside.' He squats. 'They are very egalitarian.' 'And rats. eyes shining with wellbeing. aren't they. replete. They don't think it's a bad thing to have lots of offspring. his . Which reminds me: check yourself for fleas when you get home. 'No classes. 'They don't understand it. The more the jollier. Cats the same. of course.' says Bev Shaw. licks them.' 'And rats.' One of the dogs. sniffs his fingers through the mesh. They would just multiply and multiply if they had their way. Too many by our standards. there are just too many of them.196/504 'The trouble is.' he remarks. until they filled the earth. not by theirs. and we have no way of telling them.
' He watches her closely.' 'You don't mind?' 'I do mind. We'll put them down.' 'And you are the one who does the job. though it is probably nothing of the kind. I mind deeply. Then: 'Do you know why my daughter sent me to you?' 'She told me you were in trouble. I wouldn't want someone doing it for me who didn't mind.' 'Not just in trouble. 'Are they all going to die?' 'Those that no one wants. . Would you?' He is silent. In what I suppose one would call disgrace.197/504 breath. It has what he thinks of as an intelligent look.' 'Yes.
. 'If you are prepared .198/504 She seems uncomfortable. . He has to be careful not to allow old habits to creep back. He has stayed with his daughter only for brief periods before. presses them together. but perhaps he is imagining it. . do you still have a use for me?' he says. the habits of a parent: putting the toilet roll on the spool. chasing the cat off the sofa. Practise fitting in. her life. 'Knowing that. Practise for the old folks' home. and he does not help her. Practise for old age. opens them again. She does not know what to say. switching off lights. Now he is sharing her house.' She opens her hands. he admonishes himself.
giggling. And what does he know about these two in particular. sharing a bathtub.199/504 He pretends he is tired and. cuddling. . Is she calling Johannesburg. reliving girlhood . speaking to Helen? Is his presence here keeping the two of them apart? Would they dare to share a bed while he was in the house? If the bed creaked in the night. touching. the radio. where faintly the sounds come to him of Lucy leading her own life: drawers opening and shutting. Sapphic love: an excuse for putting on weight. the murmur of a telephone conversation. withdraws to his room. after supper.sisters more than lovers. Sharing a bed. baking gingerbread cookies. Lucy and Helen? Perhaps they sleep together merely as children do. trying on each other's clothes. would they be embarrassed? Embarrassed enough to stop? But what does he know about what women do together? Maybe women do not need to make beds creak.
Yet would he be any happier if the lover were a man? What does he really want for Lucy? Not that she should be forever a child. the bride of his youth reborn. Poor Lucy! Poor daughters! What a destiny. She becomes his second salvation. He wishes he could sleep. he does not like to think of his daughter in the throes of passion with another woman. though he knows less about that. in fairy-stories.toward his daughter.it cannot be helped .certainly not that. and a plain one at that. that is his fate. and not sleepy at all. . queens try to hound their daughters to their death! He sighs. But he is cold.200/504 The truth is. No wonder. what a burden to bear! And sons: they too must have their tribulations. forever innocent. But he is a father. forever his . and as a father grows older he turns more and more .
all the tedium of marriage rediscovered. middle-aged at thirty-two. yet even so cannot get to sleep. Summer heat. late-afternoon tea. returns to bed. drapes a jacket over his shoulders. . How brief the summer.' writes Byron. Byron is living with the Guicciolis in Ravenna: with Teresa. Fat. provincial gossip. malevolent husband. 'I have always looked to thirty as the barrier to any real or fierce delight in the passions. He is reading Byron's letters of 1820. 'The women sit in a circle and the men play dreary Faro. short-legged mistress. yawns barely hidden. his complacent. before the autumn and then the winter! He reads on past midnight.' He sighs again. and her suave.201/504 He gets up. In adultery.
'They come back every year. Or he and Melanie and Soraya. He gets up early. 'Aren't they lovely. I feel so lucky to be visited. 'Do you think you could live here. in this part of the world?' asks Lucy out of the blue. 'Why? Do you need a new dog-man?' . The same three. then take the two Dobermanns for a walk. That would be a solution of sorts. He and Lucy and Melanie.' Three.' she says. He finds her watching the wild geese on the dam.ELEVEN IT IS WEDNESDAY. To be the one chosen. but Lucy is up before him. They have breakfast together.
or a kennel attendant. The scandal will follow me.203/504 'No. I'm no longer marketable. stick to me. like a ledger clerk.you must have contacts there . Now.or at Port Elizabeth.' 'I don't think so. The dogs. if I took a job it would have to be as something obscure.' 'But if you want to put a stop to the scandalmongering. But surely you could get a job at Rhodes University . she has begun to separate. the astrology books. if they still have them. I wasn't thinking of that. No. observing him but never. shouldn't you be standing up for yourself? Doesn't gossip just multiply if you run away?' As a child Lucy had been quiet and self-effacing. the asexual clothes: in each he . the gardening. in her middle twenties. judging him. Lucy. as far as he knew.
I for one am curious.' . The case you want me to make is a case that can no longer be made. there is a curiosity to hear the dinosaur speak.204/504 recognizes a statement of independence. Making her own life. If I tried to make it I would not be heard. Corning out of his shadow. purposeful. my dear. what is the difference?' 'You miss the point. The turn away from men too. What is your case? Let us hear it. a moral dinosaur. Basta. 'Run away from the scene of the crime?' 'Well. considered.' 'That's not true. For practical purposes. Even if you are what you say. Good! He approves! 'Is that what you think I have done?' he says. you have withdrawn. Not in our day.
What vanity! Yet not a lie. while her arms flop like the arms of a dead person.' He sees himself in the girl's flat.205/504 He hesitates. peeling off her clothes. Does she really want him to trot out more of his intimacies? 'My case rests on the rights of desire. not entirely. I was a servant of Eros: that is what he wants to say. more slowly. with the rain pouring down outside and the heater in the corner giving off a smell of paraffin. In the whole wretched business there was something generous that was doing its best to flower. If only he had known the time would be so short! He tries again. in her bedroom. kneeling over her. when we were still living in . 'On the god who makes even the small birds quiver. but does he have the effrontery? It was a god who acted through me. 'When you were small.' he says.
This went on until the poor dog didn't know what to do. whining. Whenever there was a bitch in the vicinity it would get excited and unmanageable. At the smell of a bitch it would chase around the garden with its ears flat and its tail between its legs. a golden retriever. But desire is another . One can punish a dog. the people next door had a dog. what is the point? 'There was something so ignoble in the spectacle that I despaired. 'I don't see the point.' 'Dimly. for an offence like chewing a slipper.206/504 Kenilworth.' 'It was a male. And indeed.' says Lucy. A dog will accept the justice of that: a beating for a chewing. trying to hide.' He pauses. I don't know whether you remember. it seems to me. and with Pavlovian regularity the owners would beat it.
It was ready to punish itself. to spend the rest of its days padding about the living-room. But at the deepest level I think it might have preferred being shot. At that point it would have been better to shoot it. sighing and sniffing the cat and getting portly. It no longer needed to be beaten.' 'So males must be allowed to follow their instincts unchecked? Is that the moral?' 'No. What was ignoble about the Kenilworth spectacle was that the poor dog had begun to hate its own nature. No animal will accept the justice of being punished for following its instincts. It might have preferred that to the options it was offered: on the one hand.' 'Perhaps. to deny its nature. that is not the moral.' .' 'Or to have it fixed. on the other.207/504 story.
Your colleagues can breathe easy again. 'that is a view I incline toward myself ' He waits for her to go on.' he says cautiously. . David?' 'No. 'In any event. You loaded the sins of the city on to the goat's back and drove it out. That desire is a burden we could well do without. Sometimes I have felt just the opposite.' 'I must say.' A statement? A question? Does she believe he is just a scapegoat? 'I don't think scapegoating is the best description. you are safely expelled.208/504 'Have you always felt this way. 'Scapegoating worked in practice while it still had religious power behind it. 'to return to the subject. but she does not. while the scapegoat wanders in the wilderness.' she says. not always.' says Lucy.
Playing righthand man to a woman who specializes in sterilization and euthanasia. She is . 'Anyway. Purgation was replaced by the purge. It worked because everyone knew how to read the ritual.209/504 and the city was cleansed. Watchfulness became the watchword: the watchfulness of all over all. 'having said farewell to the city. 'Bev? You think Bev is part of the repressive apparatus? Bev is in awe of you! You are a professor. Then the gods died. Real actions were demanded instead of symbolism.' Lucy laughs.' he concludes. including the gods. what do I find myself doing in the wilderness? Doctoring dogs.' He is getting carried away. in the Roman sense. he is lecturing. The censor was born. and all of a sudden you had to cleanse the city without divine help. She has never met an old-fashioned professor before.
The dog at Lucy's side slows down.' Three men are coming toward them on the path. Ì've never laid eyes on them before. 'I don't know. or two men and a boy. bristles.' They reach the plantation boundary and turn back. A nod.210/504 frightened of making grammar mistakes in front of you. with countrymen's long strides. The strangers are out of sight. 'Should we be nervous?' he murmurs. The men are upon them. a greeting. They are walking fast. 'Who are they?' he asks. . and they have passed.' She shortens the Dobermanns' leashes.
wide. . threatening gestures. a little yellow sunhat. with a high forehead. flaring nostrils. Lucy quickens her pace. whom he seems to have adopted as his own. baggy trousers. bark and snap.211/504 As they near the house they hear the caged dogs in an uproar. He has a flat. The dogs. The dog at Lucy's side tries to tug loose. strikingly handsome. hisses at the dogs and makes sudden. 'Petrus!' calls Lucy. beside the cages. The three are there. sculpted cheekbones. waiting for them. Even the old bulldog bitch. His companions are both in overalls. But there is no sign of Petrus. 'Get away from the dogs!' she shouts. expressionless face and piggish eyes. The two men stand at a remove while the boy. is growling softly. he wears a flowered shirt. The taller of them is handsome. 'Flambe The boy saunters off and rejoins his companions. in a rage.
'We must telephone. She opens the third cage and releases the two Dobermanns into it.he gestures vaguely behind him .' 'Why must you telephone?' 'His sister' .' 'An accident?' `Yes.' 'What kind of accident?' À baby. A brave gesture.212/504 At Lucy's approach the dogs calm down. very bad. he thinks to himself.'is having an accident. but is it wise? To the men she says: 'What do you want?' The young one speaks.' 'His sister is having a baby?' .
213/504 'Yes. Erasmuskraal.' she says.' Lucy murmurs to him. 'Why didn't you phone from the forestry station?' 'Is no one there. The tall man follows.' 'Stay out here. inside the forestryconcession.' `Where are you from?' 'From Erasmuskraal.' He and Lucy exchange glances. After a . The story makes sense. and then. She unlocks the back door and enters. 'Come in. is a hamlet with no electricity. to the boy: 'Who is it who wants to telephone?' He indicates the tall. handsome man. no telephone.
unsure for the moment whether to follow or wait where he can keep an eye on the boy.214/504 moment the second man pushes past him and enters the house too. 'Lucy!' he calls again. The boy has picked up a bean-stake and is using it to keep the dog at bay. 'Petrus!' he shouts as loudly as he can. In front of the house he catches up with them. He lets go the bulldog's leash. The dog trots heavily after the boy. heading for the front door. he knows at once.. Something is wrong. 'Shu . . 'Lucy. 'Get him!' he shouts. come out here!' he calls.. From the house there is silence. and is about to go in when the door-latch clicks shut. The boy 'turns and sprints.
A blow catches him on the crown of the head. The bottom leaf is not bolted: a few heavy kicks and it swings open. On all fours he creeps into the kitchen.. thrusting with the stick. shu!' he pants. If I am still conscious then I am all right. He closes his eyes again. Abandoning them. he rushes back to the kitchen door. . the lavatory of Lucy's house. The door is locked. He is aware of being dragged across the kitchen floor. before his limbs turn to water and he crumples. Growling softly. the key is gone. He is lying face down on cold tiles. Then he blacks out.215/504 shu . He has time to think. the dog circles left and right.. Dizzily he gets to his feet. He tries to stand up but his legs are somehow blocked from moving. He is in the lavatory.
it is here. he and his heart? His child is in the hands of strangers. The house is still. But now it is not too late. and the space too cramped anyway. the door too old and solid. the dogs are barking. Without warning. the day of testing. Now he must do something. In his chest his heart hammers so hard that it too. 'Lucy!' he croaks. louder: 'Lucy!' He tries to kick at the door. than in frenzy. in its dumb way. In a minute. but he is not himself. but more in duty. How will they stand up to the testing. So it has come. . in an hour. will belong to the past. it seems. whatever is happening to her will be set in stone. must know.216/504 He sits down on the toilet seat and tries to recover. it will be too late. and then. and he is in the middle of it. without fanfare.
hit him as many times as is necessary. however mutely. Before him stands the second man. if necessary break the bottle too. He stumbles back. he can make out no sound from the house. . His face is placid.' The man gives him a push. holding an empty one-litre bottle by the neck.' says the man.217/504 Though he strains to hear. without trace of anger. If it entails hitting him with a bottle. knocking him off balance. It is merely a job he is doing: getting someone to hand over an article. The man raises the bottle. The keys. sits down heavily. he will hit him. surely he would hear! He batters the door. 'Lucy! Speak to me!' The door opens. Yet if his child were calling. the shorter one. 'No. 'Lucy!' he shouts.
A car door . He stands on the toilet seat and peers through the bars of the window. more excited. He shivers.218/504 'Take them. Just leave my daughter alone.' he says.' Without a word the man takes the keys. Why did he not recognise it in time? But they are not harming him. 'Take everything. A dangerous trio. Is it possible that what the house has to offer will be enough for them? Is it possible they will leave Lucy unharmed too? From behind the house comes the sound of voices. the second man is just disappearing around the corner of the house. Carrying Lucy's rifle and a bulging garbage bag. not yet. The barking of the dogs grows louder again. locks him in again.
and calls out some words. and they stand beneath the window. He is helpless. but Italian and French will not save him here in darkest Africa. The man reappears empty-handed. a missionary in cassock and topi waiting with clasped hands and upcast eyes while the savages jaw away in their own lingo preparatory to plunging him into their boiling cauldron. Now the tall man appears from around the front. He recognizes the sound: his car. a figure from a cartoon. that huge enterprise of upliftment? Nothing that he can see. There is a burst of laughter. He speaks Italian.219/504 slams. he speaks French. Mission work: what has it left behind. carrying the rifle. For a moment the two of them look straight into each other's eyes. 'Hai!' says the man. A moment later the boy joins him. discussing his fate. and smiles grimly. With practised ease . inspecting their prisoner. an Aunt Sally.
behind him he glimpses the boy in the flowered shirt. the man picks them off. thrusts the muzzle into the dogs' cage. following with its gaze the movements of this being who does not even bother to administer a coup de grâce. The remaining three dogs. with nowhere to hide. retreat to the back of the pen. flattens its ears. The biggest of the German Shepherds. another. The second man stands before him. One dog. with a gaping throatwound. shot through the chest. and the door to the toilet swings open again. Footfalls along the passage. A hush falls. Taking his time between shots. The man fires twice more. eating from a tub of ice-cream. snaps at it. There is a heavy report. milling about. For a moment the barking ceases. dies at once. whining softly. blood and brains splatter the cage. He tries to shoulder . sits down heavily.220/504 he brings a cartridge up into the breech. slavering with rage.
and at once he is bathed in cool blue flame. . his hair crackles as it catches alight. hurling out shapeless bellows that have no words behind them. he can die. only fear. For a moment his vision clears and he sees. he tries to wipe them.221/504 his way out. His eyes burn. and if he can die. He tries to stand up and is forced down again. Some kind of trip: they must practise it in soccer. he throws himself about. then so can Lucy. gets past the man. The scrape of a match. above all Lucy! He strikes at his face like a madman. As he lies sprawled he is splashed from head to foot with liquid. Struggling to get up. then falls heavily. So he was wrong! He and his daughter are not being let off lightly after all! He can burn. He recognizes the smell: methylated spirits. he is pushed back into the lavatory.
A flame dances soundlessly on the back of his hand.222/504 inches from his face. his whole scalp is . splashing water over his face. Behind him the door closes and the key turns. Save for a patch over one ear. There is a nasty smell of singed hair. there are blades of grass sticking out from the tread. beats out the last of the flames on his clothes. His eyes are stinging. He hangs over the toilet bowl. With wads of wet paper he bathes his face. He stands up. The toe of the shoe curls upward. blue overalls and a shoe. He struggles to his knees and plunges the hand into the toilet bowl. he seems to have no hair. one eyelid is already closing. He runs a hand over his head and his fingertips come away black with soot. dousing his head.
where the refrigerator stands open and food . 'Lucy!' he shouts. Burned. Is it over? Are they. At last. She is wearing a bathrobe. the key turns in the lock. By the time he has the door open. He trails after her through the kitchen. over and over. struggling against them. till he can hear an edge of craziness in his voice. going? 'Lucy!' he shouts. trying to blank it out. He writhes. everything is burned. her feet are bare. blessedly. Lucy has turned her back on him. and the crunch of tyres on gravel. Everything is tender. unbelievably. 'Are you here?' A vision comes to him of Lucy struggling with the two in the blue overalls. burnt. her hair wet. He hears his car start.223/504 tender.
'My dearest child!' he says. She opens the first cage and enters. decisively. She bends over it. and now for the first time she turns her gaze on him. A frown appears on her face. so is his own room. 'Lucy!' he calls again. 'My darlings. Gently. my darlings!' he hears her murmur. Faintly it wags its tail. his . The living-room is in a mess. she wriggles loose. 'What on earth did they do to you?' she says. speaks to it. She stands at the back door taking in the carnage of the dog-pens. He follows her into the cage and tries to take her in his arms.224/504 lies scattered all over the floor. Things have been taken: his jacket. The dog with the throat-wound is somehow still breathing.
'Don't come in. all that is left of his hair. coats his scalp and forehead.225/504 good shoes. He looks at himself in a mirror. Brown ash. One eyelid is swelling shut. He touches the skin: it is painful and beginning to ooze. 'Are you all right? Are you hurt?' Stupid questions. Underneath it the scalp is an angry pink. He goes to the bathroom. but the door is closed. Water trickles down his back. pouring glass after glass of water over his head. his eyebrows are gone. his eyelashes too. He tries to wash off the ash under the kitchen tap. she does not reply.' says Lucy's voice. and that is only the beginning of it. he begins to shiver with cold. .
every minute. just a vast circulatory system. Count yourself lucky not to be a prisoner in the car at this moment. Too many people. Otherwise one could go . Count yourself lucky to have escaped with your life. shoes. speeding away.226/504 It happens every day. too few things. in every quarter of the country. so that everyone can have a chance to be happy for a day. Above all Lucy. cigarettes. That is how one must see life in this country: in its schematic aspect. a pair of shoes. A risk to own anything: a car. That is the theory. What there is must go into circulation. he tells himself. Not enough to go around. a packet of cigarettes. or at the bottom of a donga with a bullet in your head. Not human evil. every hour. to whose workings pity and terror are irrelevant. Count Lucy lucky too. not enough cars. hold to the theory and to the comforts of theory.
mad. Cars, shoes; women too. There must be some niche in the system for women and what happens to them. Lucy has come up behind him. She is wearing slacks and a raincoat now; her hair is combed back, her face clean and entirely blank. He looks into her eyes. 'My dearest, dearest . . .' he says, and chokes on a sudden surge of tears. She does not stir a finger to soothe him. 'Your head looks terrible,' she remarks. 'There's baby-oil in the bathroom cabinet. Put some on. Is your car gone?' 'Yes. I think they went off in the Port Elizabeth direction. I must telephone the police.' 'You can't. The telephone is smashed.' She leaves him. He sits on the bed and waits. Though he has wrapped a blanket around
himself, he continues to shiver. One of his wrists is swollen and throbbing with pain. He cannot recollect how he hurt it. It is already getting dark. The whole afternoon seems to have passed in a flash. Lucy returns. 'They've let down the tyres of the kombi,' she says. 'I'm walking over to Ettinger's. I won't be long.' She pauses. 'David, when people ask, would you mind keeping to your own story, to what happened to you?' He does not understand. 'You tell what happened to you, I tell what happened to me,' she repeats. 'You're making a mistake,' he says in a voice that is fast descending to a croak. 'No I'm not,' she says.
'My child, my child!' he says, holding out his arms to her. When she does not come, he puts aside his blanket, stands up, and takes her in his arms. In his embrace she is stiff as a pole, yielding nothing.
ETTINGER IS A SURLY old man who speaks English with a marked German accent. His wife is dead, his children have gone back to Germany, he is the only one left in Africa. He arrives in his three-litre pickup with Lucy at his side and waits with the engine running. `Yes, I never go anywhere without my Beretta,' he observes once they are on the Grahamstown road. He pats the holster at his hip. 'The best is, you save yourself, because the police are not going to save you, not any more, you can be sure.' Is Ettinger right? If he had had a gun, would he have saved Lucy? He doubts it. If he had had a gun, he would probably be dead now, he and Lucy both.
His hands, he notices, are trembling ever so lightly. Lucy has her arms folded across her breasts. Is that because she is trembling too? He was expecting Ettinger to take them to the police station. But, it turns out, Lucy has told him to drive to the hospital. `For my sake or for yours?' he asks her. 'For yours.' 'Won't the police want to see me too?' 'There is nothing you can tell them that I can't,' she replies. 'Or is there?' At the hospital she strides ahead through the door marked CASUALTIES, fills out the form for him, seats him in the waiting room. She is all strength, all purposefulness, whereas the trembling seems to have spread to his whole body.
'If they discharge you, wait here,' she instructs him. 'I will be back to fetch you.' `What about yourself?' She shrugs. If she is trembling, she shows no sign of it. He finds a seat between two hefty girls who might be sisters, one of them holding a moaning child, and a man with bloody wadding over his hand. He is twelfth in line. The clock on the wall says 5.45. He closes his good eye and slips into a swoon in which the two sisters continue to whisper together, chuchotantes. When he opens his eye the clock still says 5.45. Is it broken? No: the minute hand jerks and comes to rest on 5.46. Two hours pass before a nurse calls him, and there is more waiting before his turn comes
to see the sole doctor on duty, a young Indian woman. The burns on his scalp are not serious, she says, though he must be wary of infection. She spends more time on his eye. The upper and lower lids are stuck together; separating them proves extraordinarily painful. 'You are lucky,' she comments after the examination. 'There is no damage to the eye itself. If they had used petrol it would be a different story.' He emerges with his head dressed and bandaged, his eye covered, an ice-pack strapped to his wrist. In the waiting-room he is surprised to find Bill Shaw. Bill, who is a head shorter than he, grips him by the shoulders. 'Shocking, absolutely shocking,' he says. 'Lucy is over at our place. She was going to fetch you herself but Bev wouldn't hear of it. How are you?'
'I'm all right. Light burns, nothing serious. I'm sorry we've ruined your evening.' 'Nonsense!' says Bill Shaw. 'What else are friends for? You would have done the same.' Spoken without irony, the words stay with him and will not go away. Bill Shaw believes that if he, Bill Shaw, had been hit over the head and set on fire, then he, David Lurie, would have driven to the hospital and sat waiting, without so much as a newspaper to read, to fetch him home. Bill Shaw believes that, because he and David Lurie once had a cup of tea together, David Lurie is his friend, and the two of them have obligations towards each other. Is Bill Shaw wrong or right? Has Bill Shaw, who was born in Hankey, not two hundred kilometres away, and works in a hardware shop, seen so little of the world that he does not know there are men who do not readily make friends, whose attitude toward friendships between men is
corroded with scepticism? Modern English friend from Old Englishfreond, from freon, to love. Does the drinking of tea seal a lovebond, in the eyes of Bill Shaw? Yet but for Bill and Bev Shaw, but for old Ettinger, but for bonds of some kind, where would he be now? On the ruined farm with the broken telephone amid the dead dogs. 'A shocking business,' says Bill Shaw again in the car. 'Atrocious. It's bad enough when you read about it in the paper, but when it happens to someone you know' - he shakes his head - 'that really brings it home to you. It's like being in a war all over again.' He does not bother to reply. The day is not dead yet but living. War, atrocity: every word with which one tries to wrap up this day, the day swallows down its black throat.
Bev Shaw meets them at the door. Lucy has taken a sedative, she announces, and is lying down; best not to disturb her. 'Has she been to the police?' 'Yes, there's a bulletin out for your car.' 'And she has seen a doctor?' 'All attended to. How about you? Lucy says you were badly burned.' 'I have burns, but they are not as bad as they look.' 'Then you should eat and get some rest.' 'I'm not hungry.' She runs water for him in their big, oldfashioned, cast-iron bath. He stretches out his pale length in the steaming water and tries to relax. But when it is time to get out,
wet hair combed back. in a field of white light. sends it flying. He has had a vision: Lucy has spoken to him. her words . save me!' . with surprising ease he falls asleep. helped to dry himself. A light goes on and Bev Shaw is before . He gets up. Later he hears Bill and Bev talking in low voices. a packet of burn dressings. In the vision she stands.'Come to me. He has come away from the hospital with a tube of painkillers. hands outstretched.237/504 he slips and almost falls: he is as weak as a baby. In the middle of the night he awakes in a state of the utmost clarity.still echo in his ears. helped into borrowed pyjamas. Bev Shaw settles him on a sofa that smells of cats. He has to call Bill Shaw and suffer the ignominy of being helped out of the bath. and a little aluminium gadget to prop his head on. stumbles against a chair. and lightheaded too. and knows it is he they are talking about.
It must be an effect of the pills. of course. But he cannot fail to notice that for the second time in a day she has spoken to him. 'I thought you were calling me. too queer. he tells himself: not a vision.' Lucy shakes her head. as if to a child . Lucy is not at all as in the vision. 'I'm sorry. He tries to get back to sleep but cannot. not even a dream.238/504 him in her nightdress.' he mumbles: his mouth is dry.a child or an old man. the figure of . The door to Lucy's room opens. she is tying the belt of a dressing-gown that is clearly not hers. 'I wasn't.' he says. 'I have to speak to Lucy. The word vision is suddenly too old-fashioned. It is three in the morning. his tongue thick. Nevertheless.' She is right. I had a dream. just a chemical hallucination. Her face is puffy with sleep. Go to sleep now.
His senses tell him she is awake. With a blanket wrapped around him he pushes open Lucy's door and enters. His wrist aches. ringing. and may their souls lead an independent life? Hours yet before sunrise. A soft pop as her lips separate. guarding her from harm. There is a chair by the bedside.239/504 the woman in the field oflight stays before him. After a long while he feels her begin to relax. Is it possible that Lucy's soul did indeed leave her body and come to him? May people who do not believe in souls yet have them. he sits down. warding off the bad spirits. . 'Save me!' cries his daughter. and the gentlest of snores. Cautiously he switches on the lamp and gets up. his eyes burn. her words clear. immediate. What is he doing? He is watching over his little girl. his scalp is sore and irritable.
a woman's burden. 'How is she?' he asks when she comes back. childbirth. Bev Shaw serves him a breakfast of cornflakes and tea. Or perhaps that is all that lesbians are: women who have no need of men. she seems to be saying. he wonders whether women would not be happier living in communities of women. Perhaps she simply prefers female company. Not for the first time. then disappears into Lucy's room. violation and its aftermath: blood-matters. women's preserve. accepting visits from men only when they choose. Bev Shaw responds only with a terse shake of the head. .240/504 It is morning. Not your business. Menstruation. Perhaps he is wrong to think of Lucy as homosexual.
god of chaos and mixture. touches her cheek. 'This is not an easy thing to talk about. Rape. Did they know what they were up to. Raping a lesbian worse than raping a virgin: more of a blow. she and Helen. He sits down beside her.' he says.' she says.' 'And is he taking care of all eventualities?' 'She. he taps on Lucy's door. No' . She is lying with her face turned to the wall. violator of seclusions. 'but have you seen a doctor?' She sits up and blows her nose.241/504 No wonder they are so vehement against rape.and now there is a crack of anger in her voice . 'I saw my GP last night. after Bill Shaw has gone off to work.'how . 'She. those men? Had the word got around? At nine o'clock. It is wet with tears. not he.
' `Why not?' .' 'Be sensible. On the farm. 'I'm sorry I asked.' 'On the farm?' 'Of course. Things have changed.' 'And then?' 'Then to go on as before. Lucy. then he can be irritable too. 'What are our plans for today?' 'Our plans? To go back to the farm and clean up. We can't just pick up where we left off.242/504 can she? How can a doctor take care of all eventualities? Have some sense!' He gets up.' he says. If she chooses to be irritable.
. she confronts him. Because it's not safe. I'm not going back for the sake of an idea. eyes glittering. neck stiff. I'm just going back. Not her father's little girl. and it's not an idea.' Sitting up in her borrowed nightdress. good or bad. not any longer.' It was never safe.243/504 'Because it's not a good idea.
With a sterile solution Bev washes the exposed pink underskin of the scalp. He recalls the goat in the clinic. as the young doctor put it. The eyelid is still closed and blisters have risen on his scalp. using tweezers. The most painful part is the flange of his right ear: it is. She does not speak while she works. the only part of him that actually caught fire. wonders whether. it felt the same peacefulness. In the cramped little bathroom Bev Shaw unwinds the bandages. submitting to her hands. then. but the damage is not as bad as it could have been. lays the oily yellow dressing over it. Delicately she anoints the folds of his eyelid and his ear. .THIRTEEN BEFORE THEY SET off he needs to have his dressings changed.
' 'Ask again. Shouldn't she see a gynaecologist as well?' Bev Shaw shifts uncomfortably. He tries again to raise the subject of the rape. but thinks: Like a mummy.' 'There's the risk of pregnancy. 'Lucy says she saw her GP last night.245/504 'There. with its neat white cap and blanked-out eye. standing back.' he remarks.' he presses on. He inspects the image in the mirror.' . There's the risk of HIV. 'You must ask Lucy yourself ' 'I have asked. I can't get sense from her. 'Shipshape.' 'Yes. 'There's the risk of venereal infection.' she says at last.
A grey mood is settling on him. indifferent to the future. . It may take weeks. Aimlessly he roams about the garden. Slumped on a plastic chair amid the stench of chicken feathers and rotting apples. a vital organ has been bruised. When that is finished.246/504 It is past eleven. abused . lighter than ricechaff. It is not just that he does not know what to do with himself.perhaps even his heart. but he is bleeding. ready to float away. tired to the bone. without desires. The events of yesterday have shocked him to the depths. inside him. For the first time he has a taste of what it will be like to be an old man. the weakness are only the first and most superficial signs of that shock. He has a sense that. he will be like a fly-casing in a spiderweb. it may take months before he is bled dry. The trembling. but Lucy shows no sign of emerging. without hopes. he feels his interest in the world draining from him drop by drop. brittle to the touch.
like a puffball on a breeze. the garden. will be my old self again. the onus is on him to manage their daily life. he knows. As for the men who visited them. silently. the future of the land as a whole .it is all a matter of indifference. Until she is herself again. In a while the organism will repair itself. He sees it quite clearly. he wants to say. the ghost within it. Just an after-effect. But it has come too suddenly. he has begun to float toward his end. the kennels. wherever they may be. but otherwise does not want to think about them. Lucy must work her own way back from the darkness to the light.247/504 He cannot expect help from Lucy. But the truth. he wishes them harm. It is a burden he is not ready for: the farm. and it fills him with (the word will not go . Patiently. Lucy's future. and I. an aftereffect of the invasion. he tells himself. his future. is otherwise. Like a leaf on a stream. His pleasure in living has been snuffed out. I do not care. let it all go to the dogs.
keeping her distance. odourless.248/504 away) despair. Lucy emerges from her room looking haggard. Indoors. The corpses of the dogs lie in the cage where they fell. Of Petrus there is no sign. tuck them under their arms. without nourishment. With the police following behind in their van. despair that is like a gas. The blood of life is leaving his body and despair is taking its place. the two policemen take off their caps. your limbs relax. you cease to care. Bev drives them out to the farm. He stands . There is a ring at the doorbell: two young policemen in spruce new uniforms. She refuses breakfast. even at the moment when the steel touches your throat. wearing the same clothes as yesterday. You breathe it in. tasteless. ready to begin their investigations. The bulldog Katy is still around: they catch a glimpse of her skulking near the stable.
All the while she speaks. She describes the men and what they were wearing. They tricked their way into the house. tried to set him on fire. or two men and a boy. the pen darting nervously across the pages of the notebook. a television set. soil them. clothes. There were three men. a rifle with ammunition. They are of her generation. she recites. They listen respectfully. a CD player. . as though drawing strength from him. they assaulted him. she describes the car. When her father resisted. as if she were a creature polluted and her pollution could leap across to them. taking down her every word.249/504 back. Lucy looks steadily at him. or else daring him to contradict her. poured spirits over him. took (she lists the items) money. leaves it to Lucy to take them through the story she has elected to tell. but edgy of her nevertheless. Then they shot the dogs and drove off in his car.
Words are beginning to take shape that have been hovering since last night at the edges of memory. Two old ladies locked in the lavatory / They were there from Monday to Saturday / Nobody knew they were there. 'How long did the whole incident take?' she says. It took much longer. Oh dear. 'Twenty minutes.250/504 When one of the officers asks. what can the matter be? Lucy's secret. his disgrace. A matter of indifference: he barely listens as Lucy goes through her story. . A chant from his childhood come back to point a jeering finger. Nevertheless he does not interrupt.' An untruth. How much longer? As much longer as the men needed to finish off their business with the lady of the house. as she knows. as he knows. Locked in the lavatory while his daughter was used. thirty minutes.
inspecting. The mess in the kitchen has been cleaned up (by Lucy? when?). as if reading the thought. The scene of the crime. no overturned furniture. In Lucy's room the double bed is stripped bare. pass on. the policemen avert their eyes.' they say as they leave. 'Try not to touch things.251/504 Cautiously the policemen move through the house. give us a call at the station. and. Ettinger remarks . 'A detective will come and take fingerprints. which they do not even notice. no more. If you remember anything else they took. then old Ettinger. No blood. Of the absent Petrus. A quiet house on a winter morning.' Barely have they departed when the telephone repairmen arrive. two spent matchsticks. he thinks to himself. Behind the lavatory door. no less.
'Poor Lucy. He walks Ettinger to the door. Now she does not react. 'Not one of them you can trust.252/504 darkly. Ettinger. Still. 'What are you going to tell the owners?' 'I'll tell them the truth. to fix the kombi. 'It must have been bad for her.' remarks Ettinger. At last he and Lucy are alone. No fool. it could have been worse.' he offers. In the past he has seen Lucy fly into a rage at the use of the word boy. he says.' 'Indeed? How?' 'They could have taken her away with them.' He will send a boy. 'I will bury the dogs if you show me where.' .' That brings him up short.
men he will probably never lay eyes on again. The whole story is what I have told. But his thoughts go to the three intruders. and he does not press her. but in a wider context are you sure this is the best course?' She does not reply. I will have to find out. listen to the gossip. They will read that . yet forever part of his life now. for the moment. The men will watch the newspapers. 'Why aren't you telling the whole story.' A pause. Lucy?' 'I have told the whole story.' He shakes his head dubiously.253/504 'Will your insurance cover it?' 'I don't know. 'I am sure you have your reasons. and of his daughter's. the three invaders. I don't know whether insurance policies cover massacres.
A grave for six fullgrown dogs: even in the recently ploughed earth it takes him the best part of an hour.254/504 they are being sought for robbery and assault and nothing else. his wrist aches again. and they will chuckle luxuriously. probably. Too ashamed. and by the time he has finished his back is sore. He trundles the corpses over in a wheelbarrow. his arms are sore. Contemptible. . he thinks. recollecting their exploit. too ashamed to tell. yet exhilarating. close to the boundary line. in a country where dogs are bred to snarl at the mere smell of a black man. Like shooting fish in a barrel. Is Lucy prepared to concede them that victory? He digs the hole where Lucy tells him. The dog with the hole in its throat still bares its bloody teeth. A satisfying afternoon's work. heady. they will say to each other. It will dawn on them that over the body of the woman silence is being drawn like a blanket.
butcher's meat for dogs that no longer have need of it.' Not true. It is because of what the freezer holds that Lucy will not sleep there: offal. bones. . Tor whom is this?' he asks. The freezer in the back room barely purrs. He returns to find Lucy installing a campbed in the musty little pantry that she uses for storage. One by one he tumbles the dogs into the hole.255/504 like all revenge. Tor myself ' 'What about the spare room?' 'The ceiling-boards have gone. then fills it in.' 'And the big room at the back?' 'The freezer makes too much noise.
So he moves his belongings into Lucy's room.256/504 'Take over my room. he offers his question again.' And at once he sets about clearing out his things.' . But does he really want to move into this cell. with its boxes of empty preserve jarspiled in a corner and its single tiny south-facing window? If the ghosts of Lucy's violators still hover in her bedroom. Eating is a ritual. They are not hungry. not allowed to take it over as their sanctum. You are an innocent party. Evening falls. why don't you want to tell? It was a crime. 'I'll sleep here.' he says. You did not choose to be the object. There is no shame in being the object of a crime. my dearest. and rituals make things easier. As gently as he can. 'Lucy. but they eat. then surely they ought to be chased out.
This has nothing to do with you.' 'Nothing could be further from my thoughts. The reason is that. gathers herself. You want to know why I have not laid a particular charge with the police. 'Are you trying to remind me of something?' 'Am I trying to remind you of what?' 'Of what women undergo at the hands of men. In another time. But in this place. 'Can I guess?' he says. Lucy draws a deep breath.257/504 Sitting across the table from him. then breathes out again and shakes her head. in another place it might be held to be a public matter. what happened to me is a purely private matter. . as long as you agree not to raise the subject again. as far as I am concerned. I will tell you. David.
' 'This place being what?' 'This place being South Africa.' 'Stop it. it is not. It is my business.258/504 at this time. you can set yourself apart from farmers like Ettinger? Do you think what happened here was an exam: if you come through. the hungrier it gets. David! I don't want to hear this talk of plagues and fires. Lucy. Vengeance is like a fire. you get a diploma and safe conduct into the future. Do you think that by meekly accepting what happened to you. or a sign to paint on the door-lintel that will make the plague pass you by? That is not how vengeance works. The more it devours. I don't agree with what you are doing.' 'I don't agree. mine alone. I am not just trying to .
I don't want to go on with this conversation. If that is what you think.' Never yet have they been so far and so bitterly apart.' 'Then help me. You keep misreading me. I don't act in terms of abstractions.' He wants to respond. Until you make an effort to see that. I can't help you. we agreed. 'David. but she cuts him short. you miss the point entirely. Guilt and salvation are abstractions. .259/504 save my skin. Is it some form of private salvation you are trying to work out? Do you hope you can expiate the crimes of the past by suffering in the present?' 'No. He is shaken.
offering to lend them a gun 'for the meanwhile'. Lucy ought to buy a pistol and a two-way radio. They ought to install bars. ländliche way of life. a perimeter fence.' he replies. 'Thank you.' He gets out Lucy's tools and repairs the kitchen door as well as he is able. security gates. They ought to turn the farmhouse into a fortress. Ettinger telephones. and take shooting lessons. She is subdued and .FOURTEEN A NEW DAY. But will she ever consent? She is here because she loves the land and the old. what is left for her to love? Katy is coaxed out of her hiding-place and settled in the kitchen. If that way of life is doomed. as Ettinger has done. 'We'll think about it.
following Lucy about. Life. The house feels alien. from moment to moment. a roll of plastic piping.261/504 timorous. sheets of galvanized iron. two halfgrown sheep. An old lorry groans up the rutted driveway and stops beside the stable. listening for sounds. they are continually on the alert. with much noise and commotion. keeping close to her heels. and finally. . is not as before. followed by his wife and the driver. which Petrus tethers to a fence-post. wearing a suit too tight for him. creosoted poles. violated. Then Petrus makes his return. From the back of the lorry the two men unload cartons. The lorry makes a wide sweep around the stable and thunders back down the driveway. Petrus steps down from the cab.
A plume of smoke begins to rise from the asbestos-pipe chimney.' 'Why didn't he tell you he was going away? Doesn't it strike you as fishy that he should disappear at precisely this time?' 'I can't order Petrus about.' he tells Lucy. 'With a load of building materials. He is his own master. He continues to watch.' . But where have they been? 'Petrus is back.' `Good. A handsome woman. easy movement empties a slop bucket. he thinks to himself. Petrus's wife emerges and with a broad. In a while. with her long skirt and her headcloth piled high. country fashion. A handsome woman and a lucky man.262/504 Petrus and his wife disappear inside.
It seems odd that the man has not yet reported to Lucy. It is he. ignorant as he is about farming. Lucy spends hour after hour lying on her bed. Lucy keeps to herself. of which she seems to have an unlimited store. staring into space or looking at old magazines. master the sluice system and lead water to save the garden from parching. Of Edwin Drood there is no more sign.263/504 A non sequitur. He spies Petrus out at the dam. with Lucy. He has decided to let everything pass. shows no interest in anything around her. in his work overalls. we had a big robbery on Wednesday while you were away. for the time being. 'You must have heard. He strolls over. expresses no feelings. She flicks through them impatiently. as though searching for something that is not there. but he lets it pass. exchanges greetings. who must let the ducks out of their pen.' .
a very bad thing.' says Petrus. 'Will Lucy go to the market tomorrow?' asks Petrus.264/504 'Yes. 'I don't know.' says Petrus.' he says. I am all right.' He pauses. But you are all right now. allows a silence to develop. what is the answer? 'I am alive. So yes.' . 'I heard. I suppose. a silence which Petrus ought to fill with the next question: And how is Lucy? He is wrong. not decently. 'As long as one is alive one is all right. 'Maybe. It is very bad. The question is. but he cannot take it otherwise. waits.' Is he all right? Is Lucy all right? Is Petrus asking a question? It does not sound like a question.' 'Because she will lose her stall if she does not go.
Because of the disgrace.' she says. Because of the shame.' 'Are you sure? It would be a pity to miss a week.' 'Why don't the two of you go. he has his own measure of shyness about . Not her story to spread but theirs: they are its owners.265/504 'Petrus wants to know if you are going to market tomorrow. 'I don't feel up to it. She would rather hide her face. that is what they have done to this confident. modern young woman. That is what their visitors have achieved. and he knows why. how they showed her what a woman was for.' She does not reply. How they put her in her place. With his one eye and his white skullcap.' he informs Lucy. 'He is afraid you might lose your stall. Like a stain the story is spreading across the district.
'Three unknown assailants have attacked Ms Lucy Lourie and her elderly father on their smallholding outside Salem. who received light injuries during the . No. of course. registration CA 507644. just not feeling well today.266/504 showing himself in public. I'll be sure to tell her. Mr Lourie. electronic goods and a firearm. No. responding politely to those friends of Lucy's who choose to commiserate. Unknown assailants the men are called.' he says. we are not hopeful. But for Lucy's sake he goes through with the market business. the police are overstretched. as I'm sure you know.' He reads their story as reported in the Herald. 'And the dogs. the robbers also shot and killed six watchdogs before escaping in a 1993 Toyota Corolla. In a bizarre twist. we lost a car. all but one. sitting beside Petrus at the stall. Yes. enduring the stares of the curious. my daughter is fine. making off with clothes. 'Yes.
Petrus does what needs to be done. while he sits and warms his hands. As for the actual trading. The reason is Lucy's absence. their takings are down: less than three hundred rand. and that is that. Petrus is the one who swiftly and efficiently lays out their wares. Just like the old days: bags en Klaas. there is little for him to do.' He is glad that no connection is made between Ms Lourie's elderly father and David Lurie.267/504 attack. Boxes . the one who knows the prices. takes the money. Nevertheless. no doubt about that. was treated at Settlers Hospital and discharged. makes the change. disciple of nature poet William Wordsworth and until recently professor at the Cape Technical University. Petrus is in fact the one who does the work. Except that he does not presume to give Petrus orders.
But though Petrus is paid a wage.' he says. As yet Petrus has offered no explanation for his absence. In the old days one could have had it out to the extent of losing one's temper and sending him packing and hiring someone in his place. bags of vegetables have to be loaded back into the kombi. however. strictly speaking. hired help. Petrus is no longer. is neighbour. say.268/504 of flowers. The word that seems to serve best. 'Not good. strictly speaking. Ettinger? Did Petrus know in advance what they were planning? In the old days one could have had it out with Petrus. . Petrus has the right to come and go as he wishes. But questions remain. Petrus shakes his head. he has exercised that right. It is hard to say what Petrus is. he is entitled to his silence. Does Petrus know who the strangers were? Was it because of some word Petrus let drop that they made Lucy their target rather than.
Like a dinosaur expiring and settling in the mud. In spite of which he feels at home with Petrus. their articulatedness. lost their articulations. however guardedly. he and Lucy and Petrus. Petrus knows it. the language has stiffened. Doubtless Petrus has been through a lot. Petrus is a man of his generation. Pressed into . But preferably not reduced to English. their articulateness. to like him. doubtless he has a story to tell. unwritten contract. and Petrus knows that he knows it. and that contract makes no provision for dismissal on grounds of suspicion.269/504 Petrus is a neighbour who at present happens to sell his labour. Stretches of English code whole sentences long have thickened. More and more he is convinced that English is an unfit medium for the truth of South Africa. He would not mind hearing Petrus's story one day. because that is what suits him. He sells his labour under contract. is even prepared. and he knows it. It is a new world they live in.
. his face and his hands. Petrus's story would come out arthritic. Then he would like to have Ettinger's too. Petrus would like to take over Lucy's land. or enough of it to run a herd on. gypsy friends. A plotter and a schemer and no doubt a liar too. a paysan. in the longer run. energy. What appeals to him in Petrus is his face. Lucy may have lasted longer than her hippie. Petrus will not be content to plough forever his hectare and a half.270/504 the mould of English. like peasants everywhere. If there is such a thing as honest toil. an enthusiast of the farming life rather than a farmer. Honest toil and honest cunning. a man of the country. A man of patience. resilience. then Petrus bears its marks. A peasant. He has his own suspicions of what Petrus is up to. bygone. but to Petrus Lucy is still chickenfeed: an amateur.
paying them off with the loot. he suspects. a man of the earth. Petrus has a vision of the future in which people like Lucy have no place. something it would .he casts around for the word . poor crops. But he cannot believe that. financial ruin. A good peasant takes care to have lots of sons. Country life has always been a matter of neighbours scheming against each other. Ettinger is another peasant. is something far more . tenacious. and the Ettinger son has fled.271/504 Ettinger will be a harder nut to crack. eingewurzelt. But Ettinger will die one of these days. the darkest reading would be that Petrus engaged three strange men to teach Lucy a lesson. The worst. In that respect Ettinger has been stupid. The real truth. it would be too simple. Lucy is merely a transient. But that need not make an enemy of Petrus. yet in a crisis ready to lend a hand. wishing on each other pests.anthropological.
months of patient. On the other hand. That is why he will not let go of the subject. With his feet crammed into Lucy's rubber boots. Then he breaks off. Nevertheless. shovelling out the mud. For a while he and Petrus work in concert. Petrus has emptied the concrete storage dam and is cleaning it of algae. stepping carefully on the slick bottom. scrubbing. and the offices of an interpreter. It is an unpleasant job. he does believe that Petrus knew something was in the offing. . he does believe Petrus could have warned Lucy. he climbs into the dam. he offers to help. scraping. That is why he continues to nag Petrus.272/504 take months to get to the bottom of. unhurried conversation with dozens of people.
takes the pipe from the pocket of his overalls. Petrus.273/504 'Do you know. What do you think? Am I wrong?' Petrus smokes a pipe. tamps down the tobacco in the bowl. His expression is perfectly tranquil. and did what they did. and disappeared afterwards like ghosts. opens the cap. over the hills. And I find it hard to believe that the reason they picked on us was simply that we were the first white folk they met that day. He stares reflectively over the dam wall. I find it hard to believe they arrived out of nowhere. . over open country. 'I find it hard to believe the men who came here were strangers.' he says. Now he straightens up. sucks at the pipe unlit. an old-fashioned pipe with a hooked stem and a little silver cap over the bowl.
'It was not simply theft. That is the job of the police.274/504 'The police must find them. or if you don't know you can surely guess. Petrus. They did not come just to do this to me. He puts the pipe away in his pocket. 'The police must find them and put them in jail. I am convinced they knew about Lucy. After they did what they did.' But the police are not going to find them without help.' He touches the bandages. Those men knew about the forestry station. 'They came to do something else as well. You know what I mean.' he persists. 'They did not come just to steal. How could they have known if they were complete strangers to the district?' Petrus chooses not to take this as a question. exchanges spade for broom. touches the eye-shield.' he says at last. you cannot expect Lucy calmly to .
Am I wrong? Am I wrong to want justice?' He does not care how he gets the words out of Petrus now.' A flurry of anger runs through him. flinging them over his shoulder. He picks up his spade and strikes whole strips of mud and weed from the dam-bottom. over the wall. You are whipping yoursef into a rage. he would like to say to Petrus. If it had been your wife instead of my daughter. he just wants to hear them. you would not be tapping your pipe and weighing your words so judiciously. I want those men to be caught and brought before the law and punished. strong enough to take him by surprise. you are not wrong. I am Lucy's father. 'No.275/504 go on with her life as before. Violation: that is . he admonishes himself: Stop it! Yet at this moment he would like to take Petrus by the throat.
he and Petrus finish off the job. uncovered. it was a violation. He helps Petrus clean up the irrigation system. yes. looks like a naked pink mollusc: he does not know when he will be bold enough to expose it to the gaze of others.276/504 the word he would like to force out of Petrus. side by side. The burns are taking longer. does all the things that Lucy no longer does. cooks the meals. This is how his days are spent on the farm. He is busy from dawn to dusk. it was an outrage. . He keeps the garden from going to ruin. The ear. He retains the skullcap and the bandage over his ear. He sweeps the floors. His eye is healing surprisingly fast: after a mere week he is able to use it again. In silence. Yes. He packs produce for the market. he would like to hear Petrus say. He helps Bev Shaw at the clinic.
and. repulsive . and have to be hushed. to a degree. to hide his face. he wants to be sure that Rosalind does not hear the story in some garbled . He goes to the shops in Salem as seldom as he can.one of those sorry creatures whom children gawk at in the street. to Grahamstown only on Saturdays.277/504 He buys a hat to keep off the sun. All at once he has become a recluse. 'Why does that man look so funny?' they ask their mothers. The end of roving. a country recluse. Who would have thought it would come to an end so soon and so suddenly: the roving. Though the heart be still as loving and the moon be still as bright. Nevertheless. worse than odd. the loving! He has no reason to believe their misfortunes have made it on to the gossip circuit in Cape Town. He is trying to get used to looking odd.
He composes a dispatch: 'Lucy and I have had some bad luck. My car was stolen. She stays up all night. Twice he tries to call her. Rosalind is in Madagascar. he is told. then to Bev Shaw to send off To Rosalind in darkest Africa. though shaken. The third time he telephones the travel agency where she works. then in the afternoons he finds her asleep on the sofa. without success. Trust you are having a good time. and there was a scuffle too. She has lost interest in food: he is the one who has to .278/504 form. scouting. Thought I'd let you know in case of rumours. her thumb in her mouth like a child. Nothing serious . claiming she cannot sleep. Lucy is not improving. in which I took a bit of a knock. he is given the fax number of a hotel in Antananarivo.' He gives the page to Lucy to approve.we're both fine.
half demented.to be stuck in the back of beyond. The demons do not pass him by. even turns the mattress over. This is not what he came for . nursing his daughter. Of the books he brought from Cape Town. half sleepwalking. There is still the Byron project. He has nightmares of his own in which he wallows in a bed of blood. cooking unfamiliar dishes because she refuses to touch meat. looking for stains. like a Benin mask. attending to a dying enterprise. like Thoth. gather his forces. One night. he strips his own bed. Here he is losing himself day by day.the rest were . or. If he came for anything. warding off demons. shouting soundlessly. it was to gather himself.279/504 tempt her to eat. only two volumes of the letters are left . runs from the man with the face like a hawk. panting.
and a Teresa too? He has. been putting it off for months: the moment when he must face the blank page. the whisper of reptile scales on marble staircases. if the truth be told. see what he is worth. The public library in Grahamstown can offer nothing but selections from the poems. Melody without climax. and. Snatches are already imprinted on his mind of the lovers in duet. soprano and tenor. invent a Byron who is true to Byron. the baritone of the humiliated husband. But does he need to go on reading? What more does he need to know of how Byron and his acquaintance passed their time in old Ravenna? Can he not. throbbing in the background.280/504 in the trunk of the stolen car. coiling wordlessly around and past each other like serpents. Will this be where the dark trio are at last brought to life: not in Cape Town but in old Kaffraria? . by now. strike the first note. the vocal lines.
'On Saturday I will slaughter them for the party. You and Lucy must come. He strolls over to Petrus.' says Petrus.' 'On Saturday?' 'Yes. A big party. who has his bicycle upside down and is working on it. has begun to annoy him.FIFTEEN THE TWO YOUNG sheep are tethered all day beside the stable on a bare patch of ground.' . steady and monotonous. 'Those sheep. Their bleating. I am giving a party on Saturday.' He wipes his hands clean.' he says 'don't you think we could tie them where they can graze?' 'They are for the party. 'I invite you and Lucy to the party.
They exist to be used.282/504 'Thank you. where there is abundant grass. When did a sheep last die of old age? Sheep do not own themselves. But even if the sheep are for the party. do not own their lives. their flesh to be eaten. then leisurely begin to graze. he unties them and tugs them over to the damside. Well. every last ounce of them. Petrus is nowhere to be seen. don't you think they could graze?' An hour later the sheep are still tethered. alike in size. their bones to be crushed and fed to poultry. Twins. . in all likelihood. The sheep drink at length. Exasperated. destined since birth for the butcher's knife. still bleating dolefully. in markings. nothing remarkable in that. even in their movements. They are black-faced Persians.
bitter gall. Descartes should have thought of that.' 'Petrus is a pennypincher. I wouldn't have thought two sheep would go very far. We should at least put in an appearance.283/504 Nothing escapes. In the old days it would have been an ox. The soul. It's a big day for him.' 'I'm not sure I like the way he does things bringing the slaughter-beasts home to . except perhaps the gall bladder. I would guess. which no one will eat. hiding. take them a present. 'Why is he throwing a party?' 'Because of the land transfer. It goes through officially on the first of next month. 'Petrus has invited us to a party. suspended in the dark.' 'He is going to slaughter the two sheep.' he tells Lucy.
that Lucy is still living in the shadow of the attack. But what if he is wrong? What if. He tells himself that he must be patient. after an attack like that.' 'What would you prefer? That the slaughtering be done in an abattoir. that time needs to pass before she will be herself. one is never oneself .' 'Wake up.284/504 acquaint them with the people who are going to eat them. This is Africa. His usual response is to withdraw into silence. David. so that you needn't think about it?' 'Yes. There are spells when the two of them are like strangers in the same house. This is the country.' There is a snappishness to Lucy nowadays that he sees no justification for.
one-two-three-four. It is past noon. skittish. The cat slaps at the belt. the cat dives after it. 'Men?' she says. Lucy dangles the belt of the gown before it. The cat is young. . playing with the cat. 'Which men?' She flicks the belt to one side.' he asks the same day. alert. are you? You didn't pick up something from those men?' She is sitting on the sofa in pyjamas and dressing-gown. light paw-blows. out of the blue. 'Lucy. one that he cannot put from his mind. 'you aren't hiding something from me. quick.285/504 again? What if an attack like that turns one into a different and darker person altogether? There is an even more sinister explanation for Lucy's moodiness.
Has she gone mad? Is she refusing to remember? But. Science has not yet put a limit on how long one has to wait.' 'How long will that take?' She shrugs. she is only teasing him.' 'I see. I have had tests. And by wait you mean wait for what I think you mean?' 'Yes. maybe. I have done everything one can reasonably do. I am not a child any more. Longer.' The cat makes a quick pounce at the belt. Three months. For ever. it would appear. I have seen a doctor. 'David. but the game is over now. .286/504 Which men? His heart stops. Now I can only wait. 'A month.
' he says. Presumably they have until Saturday morning. The next morning they are back on the barren patch beside the stable. unwashedness. Now that he is close to her. my dearest. It seems a miserable way to spend the last two days of one's life. He takes her hand. If the country can pass judgment on the city. 'At least it won't be for ever. He has other words: indifference. . then the city can pass judgment on the country too. a faint smell of staleness. two days. stalks away.287/504 He sits down beside his daughter. the cat jumps off the sofa. reaches him.' The sheep spend the rest of the day near the dam where he has tethered them. Country ways . 'At least you will be spared that. hardheartedness.that is what Lucy calls this kind of thing.
He stands before them. Nevertheless. The bond is not one of affection. under the sun. waiting for a sign.288/504 He has thought of buying the sheep from Petrus. their lot has become important to him. It is not even a bond with these two in particular. But what will that accomplish? Petrus will only use the money to buy new slaughter-animals. and pocket the difference. once he has bought them out of slavery? Set them free on the public road? Pen them up in the dog-cages and feed them hay? A bond seems to have come into existence between himself and the two Persians. waiting for the buzz in his mind to settle. And what will he do with the sheep anyway. suddenly and without reason. . he does not know how. whom he could not pick out from a mob in a field.
entering into his life. How does she get it right. He takes a step forward. The sun beats on his face in all its springtime radiance. he thinks? Do I have to become like Bev Shaw? He speaks to Lucy. returns.289/504 There is a fly trying to creep into the ear of one of them. Do I have to change. On the whole. The ear twitches again. circles. One has to be a certain kind of person. with fewer complications. stroking him. He remembers Bev Shaw nuzzling the old billy-goat with the ravaged testicles. this communion with animals? Some trick he does not have. perhaps. settles. The fly takes off. The sheep backs away uneasily to the limit of its chain. 'I have been thinking about this party of Petrus's. I . The ear twitches. comforting him.
worth agonizing over.' 'I'm not asking for that. Petrus and his guests are certainly not going to give up their mutton chops out of deference to you and your sensibilities. . 'Nevertheless?' 'Nevertheless. I'm . I would just prefer not to be one of the party. Nevertheless . I haven't changed my ideas. I can't say why. in this case I am disturbed. not this time. No.290/504 would prefer not to go. as far as I am concerned. Is that possible without being rude?' 'Anything to do with his slaughter-sheep?' 'Yes. which get to die. if that is what you mean.' 'Well. I still don't believe that animals have properly individual lives. Which among them get to live. is not.
Behind the stable they get a fire going. David.' 'Don't mock me.' she says. I never imagined I would end up talking this way.' Saturday is looming. Soon there comes on the wind the stench of boiling offal. in fact he is relieved. Preparations for Petrus's festivities begin at noon on Saturday with the arrival of a band of women half a dozen strong. He does not run the stall. 'You decide. 'Should we run the stall?' he asks Lucy. He does not query her decision. She shrugs.' 'God moves in mysterious ways. from which he infers that the . market day. wearing what looks to him like churchgoing finery.291/504 sorry.
chases her back to the farm. he can find only a vague sadness. the double deed. It is like sharing a house with strangers. that it is all over.292/504 deed has been done. 'Do you want to go for a walk?' he asks.' He takes the bulldog. sharing smells. . sharing noises. walking fast. and sets off alone on an eightkilometre loop. 'Thanks. Should he mourn? Is it proper to mourn the death of beings who do not practise mourning among themselves? Looking into his heart. but no. Too close. He knocks at Lucy's door. Take Katy. trying to tire himself out. but she is so slow and sulky that he grows irritated. he thinks: we live too close to Petrus.
music that he associates with the Johannesburg of his own youth. . with a necklace of painted wooden beads and matching earrings. Most are of their host's generation. laughter and music. There is one old woman over whom a particular fuss is made: wearing his blue suit and a garish pink shirt. It is dark before the younger folk make an appearance.293/504 At five o'clock the guests start arriving. he thinks to himselfquite jolly. by car. even. He watches from behind the kitchen curtain. Petrus comes all the way down the path to welcome her. 'Are you coming?' Unusually. by taxi. 'It's time.' says Lucy. He is not sure he likes the effect. on foot. solid. On the breeze comes a murmur of talk. Quite tolerable. staid. she is wearing a knee-length dress and high heels.
I'll come. .' 'Haven't you got a suit here?' 'No. smiling. father and daughter arm in arm.' 'All the more reason to dress up. he bearing their offering. At the open door they pause. I'm ready.' She carries a tiny flashlight. Petrus is nowhere to be seen. This is a big day in Petrus's life. she lighting the way. but a little girl in a party dress comes up and leads them in.294/504 Àll right.' 'Then at least put on a tie. They walk up the track to Petrus's house.' 'I thought we were in the country.
' . They are the only whites.295/504 The old stable has no ceiling and no proper floor. Then Petrus appears at their side. Curious glances are cast at the two of them. or perhaps only at his skullcap. Shaded lamps and pictures on the walls (Van Gogh's sunflowers. to the old-fashioned African jazz he had heard. There is dancing going on. 'No more dogs. She commences introductions. but at least it is spacious and at least it has electricity. He does not play the eager host. does not offer them a drink. Jane Fonda in her Barbarella outfit. a Tretchikoff lady in blue. Doctor Khumalo scoring a goal) soften the bleakness. Lucy knows some of the women. but does say. I am not any more the dog-man.
so all.pleasantfaced rather than pretty. clearly pregnant.296/504 which Lucy chooses to accept as a joke. 'She must unwrap it. 'We have brought you something. 'Yes. It is the first time he has seen her from close by. Lucy speaks a few words in Xhosa and presents her with the package.' says Lucy. it appears. There are by now half a dozen onlookers around them.' From the kitchen area. 'but perhaps we should give it to your wife. . nor does she meet his eyes.' says Lucy. if that is what they are to call it. She takes Lucy's hand but does not take his. shy. is well.younger than Lucy . Petrus summons his wife. you must unwrap it.' says Petrus. It is for the house. She is young .
can see. 'It's a bedspread. Yet can Petrus be blamed? The language he draws on with such aplomb is. Only the monosyllables can still be relied on. It is a cloth in a rather attractive Ashanti design. souring the moment. to Lucy: 'You are our benefactor. Nothing short of starting all over again with the ABC.297/504 Carefully.' says Petrus. By the time the big words . at pains not to tear the festive paper with its mandolins and sprigs of laurel. 'Thank you. and not even all of them. if he only knew it.' she whispers in English. and then. What is to be done? Nothing that he.' A distasteful word. `Lucy is our benefactor. the young wife opens the package. it seems to him. doubleedged. tired. the one-time teacher of communications. friable.' Lucy explains to Petrus. eaten from the inside as if by termites.
show them how to behave. Then he can show his sisters . money.' He rubs thumb and forefinger together. as if a goose has trodden on his grave. he will be long dead. Yes.' says Petrus. He shivers. We hope he will be a boy.' Petrus intervenes. fit to be trusted once more.298/504 come back reconstructed.when are you expecting the baby?' he asks Petrus's wife.' He pauses. What have you got against girls?' 'We are praying for a boy. 'In October. 'Always it is best if the first one is a boy. money. 'The baby is coming in October. purified.' Òh. 'Always money. 'The baby . She looks at him uncomprehendingly.' . 'A girl is very expensive.
no longer listening. Used of Jews. I pay. 'Now. with the same meaningful cock of the head. modestly she drops her eyes. pay. 'You must buy them this. you must buy them that. today. Your daughter is different. 'Boys can be expensive too. in the old days: moneymoney-money. 'Hey.' He repeats the fingerrubbing. it is all the same: pay. But presumably Petrus is innocent of that snippet of European tradition. Except your daughter. 'I pay.' he remarks. pay.' continues Petrus. getting into his stride.299/504 A long time since he last saw that gesture. doing his bit for the conversation. Clothes. a boy is better. 'No. Lucy!' . Your daughter is as good as a boy. the man does not pay for the woman. nice things. But that is old fashion.' He floats a hand above his wife's head. Almost!' He laughs at his sally.
He passes it on to Petrus. snapping his fingers. A new contingent of guests floods in. Soon she is joined by a young man. A plate of food finds its way into his hands. . 'I'm going to dance. Women are beginning to come in from outside.300/504 Lucy smiles. He dances opposite her. The party is getting into its swing.' says Petrus 'is for you. and moves away. nattily dressed. young. carrying trays of grilled meat. The air is full of appetizing smells. courting her. noisy. not old fashion at all.' she murmurs. 'No. On the floor she dances by herself in the solipsistic way that now seems to be the mode. loose-limbed. flashing her smiles. lively. tall. but he knows she is embarrassed.
.301/504 Otherwise we are passing plates all night. He finds a chair to perch on. sharing it with a skinny old man with rheumy eyes. a ladle of rice swimming in gravy. I am going to eat this. he thinks. I am going to eat it and ask forgiveness afterwards. Kind people. making him feel at home. a slice of pumpkin. he says to himself. lifting his legs high and thumping them down. a baked potato. pumping his arms.' Petrus and his wife are spending a lot of time with him. He glances across at Lucy. The young man is dancing only inches from her now. The plate he is holding contains two mutton chops. Country people. enjoying himself.
But some things will not wait. goes out at the back door. breathing fast. I don't want to kick up a fuss. I am going to be kicking up a fuss.302/504 Then Lucy is at his side. He thrusts his way past the bodies. David. He knows that face. There are almost as many guests outside as inside. A pity. 'Can we leave?' she says. . From the far side of the fire someone is staring at him. drinking. 'They are here. on this of all days. but can we leave at once?' 'Hold this. knows it intimately. talking. clustered around the fire.' 'Who is here?' 'I saw one of them out at the back.' He passes her the plate. he thinks. laughing. her face tense. At once things fall into place.
talking fast in Xhosa. He lays a hand on Petrus's sleeve. It is the third of them. the dull-faced apprentice. 'No. I do not know what this is.303/504 In front of the boy he plants himself. 'Who are you?' he says. 'I know you.' says Petrus angrily. 'Do you know who this is?' he asks Petrus. What is the trouble?' . Then Petrus is with them. the running-dog. The boy does not appear to be startled. but the words mean something else: By what right are you here? His whole body radiates violence. Petrus breaks off. storing himself up for it. On the contrary. The voice that issues from his throat is thick with rage. 'I do not know what is the trouble. the boy appears to have been waiting for this moment. gives him an impatient glare.' he says grimly.
He is one of them.304/504 'He . Again he speaks to Petrus. Lucy will confirm.was here before. Petrus speaks. 'He says he does not know what you are talking about. jostling. interjecting. Let him tell you why he is wanted by the police. a stream of angry words. say. . How can he expect Lucy to come out before these strangers. He knows perfectly well. but no one is dancing any longer: Petrus's guests are clustering around them. But let him tell you what it is about.' 'It is not true!' shouts the boy.' But of course Lucy will not confirm. pushing. face the boy. point a finger. The atmosphere is not good. with his pals. Music continues to unfurl into the night air.' 'He is lying.this thug .
' he says. It's not . 'Let's go. No longer is there friendliness in their aspect.' he repeats to Petrus. he is one of them. He has the telephone in his hand when Lucy stops him. The guests give way before them. Lucy has forgotten the flashlight: they lose their way in the dark. Lucy has to take off her shoes.305/504 Yes. no. There is a disapproving murmur from the onlookers. where Lucy stands waiting. don't do it. He was one of those who did the deed? 'I am going to telephone the police. Petrus is stony-faced. 'I am going to telephone the police. they blunder through potato beds before they reach the farmhouse.' he says. In a cloud of silence he returns indoors. 'David.
Tor God's sake. not to . Be sensible. why isn't it Petrus's fault? One way or another. astonished enough to turn on his daughter. What happened to me is my business. and now I fail to understand why you are protecting Petrus. And now he has the effrontery to invite them back. it was he who brought in those men in the first place. I fail to understand why you did not lay real charges against them. Why should I be sensible? Really. This is my life.306/504 Petrus's fault. mine alone. Petrus is not an innocent party. the evening will be destroyed for him. I am the one who has to live here. Lucy. If you call in the police. and if there is one right I have it is the right not to be put on trial like this. not yours.' 'Don't shout at me. Petrus is with them.' He is astonished. from beginning to end I fail to understand. David.
That's all gone. . As for Petrus. no one disappears in the Eastern Cape. I won't have it. In any event.' 'But in the meantime the boy will disappear!' 'He won't disappear. but this is not the way to do it. If you want to antagonize Petrus. Wait until morning.' `Lucy.307/504 have to justify myself. It's not that kind of place.not to you. you will never be able to hold your head up again. You can't call in the police. he is not some hired labourer whom I can sack because in my opinion he is mixed up with the wrong people. If you fail to stand up for yourself at this moment. not to anyone else. gone with the wind. Petrus knows him. Wait until you have heard Petrus's side of the story. I plead with you! You want to make up for the wrongs of the past. Lucy. you had better be sure of your facts first.
Pause and think about that. David! I don't need to defend myself before you. You have a . and you know it. I repeat: if you buckle at this point. With regard to the police.' 'Lucy. if you fail. let me remind you why we called them in in the first place: for the sake of the insurance. then we should never have involved them in the first place. you don't begin to know. you amaze me. you will not be able to live with yourself. Or cut our own throats. As for Petrus. the insurance would not pay out. You don't know what happened. if you are too delicate to call them in now. We should just have kept quiet and waited for the next attack.' 'Stop it.' Ì don't know?' 'No. As for the police. That is simply not true.308/504 You may as well pack your bags and leave. We filed a report because if we did not.
that is clear. Step by step. he and she are being driven apart. closes the door on him. trapped together with nowhere else to go.309/504 duty to yourself.' No: that is Lucy's last word to him. in the long run. closes him out. Their very quarrels have become like the bickerings of a married couple. and the sooner the better. Let me call the police. Or call them yourself ' 'No. Yet she too will have to leave. . to your own self-respect. How she must be rueing the day when he came to live with her! She must wish him gone. and there is nothing he can do about it. As a woman alone on a farm she has no future. to the future. as inexorably as if they were man and wife. She retires to her room.
He has a shaven head and a bull neck. around his neck. with his guns and barbed wire and alarm systems. are numbered. The big fire has died down. in the life she has chosen. There is a cluster of people at the back door. the music has stopped. He peers over their heads. a man of middle age. he wears a dark suit and. If Lucy has any sense she will quit before a fate befalls her worse than a fate worse than death. She is stubborn. a gold chain from which hangs a medal the size of a fist. and immersed. In the centre of the floor stands one of the guests. he approaches the stable from behind. of the kind that chieftains used to have bestowed . He slips out of the house. a door built wide enough to admit a tractor. too.310/504 Even the days of Ettinger. But of course she will not. Treading cautiously in the dark.
the odd one out. raises his voice. on the other with gnus or ibises rampant. but every now and then there is a pause and a murmur of agreement from his audience. Chieftains. The boy is standing nearby. The man is speaking. orating in rounded periods that rise and fall. . Symbols struck by the boxful in a foundry in Coventry or Birmingham. the Gold Coast. regina et imperatrix.311/504 on them as a symbol of office. He has no idea what the man is saying. Medals. The boy's eyes flit nervously across him. a mood of quiet satisfaction seems to reign. Kaffraria. stamped on the one side with the head of sour Victoria. He looks around. young and old. falters for a moment. among whom. Shipped all over the old Empire: to Nagpur. Other eyes turn toward him too: toward the stranger. just inside the door. The man with the medal frowns. Fiji. for the use of.
And if that spoils their get-together. he thinks. .312/504 As for him. to wear it as his own. so be it. let them know I am not skulking in the big house. He lifts a hand to his white skullcap. Let them know I am still here. he does not mind the attention. For the first time he is glad to have it.
Can he borrow tools.' He is in no mood to be helpful to Petrus. Ìt is not plumbing. he says. I know nothing about plumbing. The meeting she promised with Petrus does not take place. a distance of two hundred metres. 'It is pipefitting. wearing boots and overalls.' . and can David help him fit the regulator? 'I know nothing about regulators. It is time to lay the pipes.' says Petrus. He wants to lay PVC piping from the storage dam to the site of his new house. It is just laying pipes.SIXTEEN ALL OF THE next morning Lucy avoids him. Then in the afternoon Petrus himself raps at the back door. businesslike as ever.
As Petrus drones on about his plans. in fact. Petrus says nothing. he grows more and more frosty toward him. he says. It is Petrus himself he has begun to dislike. to pass him tools . it is good that she has given her permission. about junctions. The new pipe will have to cross Lucy's land. about pressurevalves.314/504 On the way to the dam Petrus talks about regulators of different kinds.to be his handlanger. it is an education to watch him. He would .' About the party. The role is not one he objects to. about the boy with the flickering eyes. His own role at the dam soon becomes clear. She is 'forward-looking'. not backwardlooking. Petrus needs him not for advice on pipefitting or plumbing but to hold things. It is as though none of that had happened. 'She is a forward-looking lady. showing off his mastery. he brings out the words with a flourish. Petrus is a good workman.
wipes his forehead. He would certainly not wish to be married to him.what is his name and where is he now?' Petrus takes off his cap. when he has had enough. That is what he is telling everyone. 'David. He seems to have a collection of headgear.' . 'You see. it is a hard thing you are saying. And I. A dominating personality. frowning. He is very angry that you are calling him a thief. Today he is wearing a peaked cap with a silver South African Railways and Harbours badge.315/504 not wish to be marooned with Petrus on a desert isle. he cuts across the flow. but he wonders what stories the old wife has to tell. The young wife seems happy. So it is hard for me too.' says Petrus.' he says. 'that young man who was at your house last night . that this boy is a thief. I am the one who must be keeping the peace. Petrus. At last.
That won't be enough to buy a new car.316/504 'I have no intention of involving you in the case. You will not be involved. Tut the insurance will give you a new car. trying to be patient. the insurance will give me a percentage of its own idea of what the old car was worth. Tell me the boy's name and whereabouts and I will pass on the information to the police. Then we can leave it to the police to investigate and bring him and his friends to justice. I will not be involved. bathing his face in the sun's glow.' he explains. there is a principle . Petrus. it will be a matter for the law.' Petrus stretches. 'Assuming it isn't bankrupt by now because of all the cartheft in this country.' Is it a question? A declaration? What game is Petrus playing? 'The insurance will not give me a new car. Anyhow.
ignoring the question. you buy another car with the insurance. you cannot put him in jail. let me ask you. 'Petrus. 'do you want to take this boy to the police? He is too young.' How has he landed in this dead-end? He tries a new tack.' 'No. That is not their business.' 'But you will not get your car back from this boy. he is not eighteen. then you have a car again.317/504 involved.' Ìf he is eighteen he can be tried. Petrus continues. If he is sixteen he can be tried. no. The best is. Your car is gone. He cannot give you your car. He does not know where your car is.' . We can't leave it to insurance companies to deliver justice. is this boy related to you?' 'And why'.
Heavily he settles on one knee and begins to work the coupling over the outlet pipe. 'Petrus.a good citizen and a good neighbour. I know! He is just a youth.318/504 'How do you know? He looks eighteen to me. But how can she do so when she is liable to be attacked at any moment by thugs who then escape scot-free? Surely you see!' Petrus is struggling to get the coupling to fit. She wants to make her life here. my daughter wants to be a good neighbour . he cannot go to jail. She loves the Eastern Cape.' 'I know. The skin of his hands shows deep. you must let him go!' For Petrus that seems to clinch the argument. he looks more than eighteen. rough . that is the law. you cannot put a youth in jail. she wants to get along with everyone.
I know what happened.' he announces suddenly. . But now it is all right.' 'You say? You will protect her?' 'I will protect her.' 'Who says it is all right?' 'I say. You can leave her.' Petrus smears more grease over the pipe.319/504 cracks. Petrus! Clearly she is not safe! You know what happened here on the twenty-first.' But she is not safe.' `Yes.' 'You didn't protect her last time. he gives little grunts as he works. 'It is all right. she is safe. there is no sign he has even heard. 'Lucy is safe here.
It is just a big mistake.' says Petrus.320/504 `You say you know what happened.' he repeats.' 'You know?' . 'He is not a criminal. But why not? 'The boy is not guilty. a far heavier crime. There was another crime as well.' 'He is not guilty. You must know what I mean. You say you know what happened. He is not a thief ' 'It is not just thieving I am speaking of. and then those three thugs turned up. 'You went away. What am I supposed to conclude?' It is the closest he has come to accusing Petrus. and now it seems you are friends with one of them. He is too young. but you didn't protect her last time.
stands up. 'Lucy and I are not getting on. Without a car he feels trapped on the farm. Do you need me here any longer?' 'No. On one of his afternoons at the clinic. straightens his back.' he says. Under normal circumstances I would have moved out by now. You know the future. now I must just dig the pipe in.' Despite Petrus's confidence in the insurance industry. What can I say to that? You have spoken. Petrus folds the clamp. 'I know. he unburdens himself to Bev Shaw.' The pipe is in. tightens it. I am telling you. Parents and children aren't made to live together. now it is easy. 'Nothing remarkable in that. gone back to .321/504 'I know.' 'You know. I know. there is no movement on his claim. I suppose.
' 'Petrus? What interest has Petrus in taking her under his wing?' . We have had that demonstrated to us. But she won't listen to me. You can't watch over Lucy for ever. Lucy is objectively in danger. I am trying to persuade her to hand over the operation to Petrus and take a break.' 'You have to let go of your children.' 'It will be all right. I have been the least protective of fathers.' 'I let go of Lucy long ago. But the present situation is different. She isn't safe. But I can't leave Lucy alone on the farm. Petrus will take her under his wing.322/504 Cape Town. David.
much less a good old chap. but he certainly turned a blind eye. You can depend on him. is itching for Lucy to pull out. The question is. look no further than at what happened to Lucy and me. Petrus slaved to get the market garden going for Lucy. But it is not like that at all. in my opinion. Petrus is not an oldstyle kaffir. he certainly . If you want proof.' 'That may be so. Petrus.' 'Depend on Petrus? Because Petrus has a beard and smokes a pipe and carries a stick. I am not saying she owes him everything. Without Petrus Lucy wouldn't be where she is now. you think Petrus is an old-style kaffir.323/504 'You underestimate Petrus. what does Petrus owe her?' 'Petrus is a good old chap. but she owes him a lot. It may not have been Petrus's brainchild.
You don't know what happened. David. 'But you weren't there. according to Bev Shaw.' His vehemence surprises Bev Shaw.' You weren't there.' she whispers: 'she has been through such a lot!' 'I know what Lucy has been through. I was there. You weren't.' Wide-eyed she gazes back at him. according to Lucy. 'Poor Lucy. was he not? In the room where the intruders were committing their outrages? Do they think he does not know what rape is? Do they think he has not suffered with his daughter? What more could he have witnessed than he is capable of imagining? Or do they think that. Where.324/504 didn't warn us.where rape . She told me. he certainly took care not to be in the vicinity. He is baffled.
He buys a small television set to replace the one that was stolen. in this place. sleep in his own bed. he is outraged. It is true. the entertainment. he is not prepared to abandon his daughter. if they can bear it.325/504 is concerned. despite Petrus's assurances. in his opinion as well as in Lucy's. no man can be where the woman is? Whatever the answer. for the present: in this time. He wants to be able to sit at his own desk again. He is tired of living out of a suitcase. In the evenings. But Cape Town is far away. he and Lucy sit side by side on the sofa watching the news and then. despite Lucy's obstinacy. tired of listening all the while for the crunch of gravel on the pathway. Despite Bev's counsel. after supper. This is where he lives. . outraged at being treated like an outsider. the visit has gone on too long. almost another country.
He tries to spend the daytime hours outdoors. when he is tired he sits by the dam. Presumably Lucy is healing too.' and think of it merely as the day when they were robbed. Sometimes he . The first words of the first act still resist him. So time does indeed heal all. He works in the garden. observing the ups and downs of the duck family. His scalp is healing over. brooding on the Byron project. Only the ear still needs daily attention. or if not healing then forgetting. The project is not moving. leaving Lucy free to breathe in the house. sealing it off.326/504 He has recovered the sight of his eye completely. the first notes remain as elusive as wisps of smoke. sheathing it. growing scar tissue around the memory of that day. 'The day we were robbed. All he can grasp of it are fragments. he need no longer use the oily dressing. So that one day she may be able to say.
in the larger scheme. He goes off to the Animal Welfare clinic as often as he can. as a headache. cleaning. from broken limbs. mopping up. from .327/504 fears that the characters in the story. D Village appears to have its own veterinary lore. its own healers. is slipping. Their loss fills him with despair. The dogs that are brought in suffer from distempers. from infected bites. from mange. despair as grey and even and unimportant. Even the most appealing of them. are beginning to fade away. The animals they care for at the clinic are mainly dogs. who for more than a year have been his ghostly companions. offering himself for whatever jobs call for no skill: feeding. less frequently cats: for livestock. Margarita Cogni. whose passionate contralto attacks hurled against Byron's bitch-mate Teresa Guiccioli he aches to hear. its own pharmacopoeia.
stroking it. no aftertaste. If. from intestinal parasites. benign or malign. When people bring a dog in they do not say straight out. in fact. dispatch it to oblivion. To each. One at a time he fetches them out of the cage at the back and leads or carries them into the theatre. 'I have brought you this dog to kill. from malnutrition. talking to it.' but that is what is expected: that they will dispose of it. leaving no residue. from old age. as alcohol is sublimed from water. easing its passage. There are simply too many of them. in what will be its last minutes. make it disappear.328/504 neglect. . So on Sunday afternoons the clinic door is closed and locked while he helps Bev Shaw lösen the week's superfluous canines. Lösung (German always to hand with an appropriately blank abstraction): sublimation. Bev gives her fullest attention. but most of all from their own fertility. What is being asked for is.
Although in an abstract way he disapproves of cruelty. it is because of his presence: he gives off the wrong smell (They can smell your thoughts). But that is not what happens. He is simply nothing. One Sunday evening. the smell of shame. Tears flow down his face that he cannot stop. He does not understand what is happening to him. The more killings he assists in. driving home in Lucy's kombi. the more jittery he gets. He assumes that . he actually has to stop at the roadside to recover himself.329/504 more often than not. he cannot tell whether by nature he is cruel or kind. He had thought he would get used to it. Nevertheless. Until now he has been more or less indifferent to animals. his hands shake. he is the one who holds the dog still as the needle finds the vein and the drug hits the heart and the legs buckle and the eyes dim. the dog fails to be charmed.
Habit hardens: it must be so in most cases. none will look straight at the needle in Bev's hand. Despite the silence and the painlessness of the procedure. locking their legs. grow carapaces over their souls. they droop their tails. despite the airtight bags in which they tie the newmade corpses. despite the good thoughts that Bev Shaw thinks and that he tries to think. the dogs in the yard smell what is going on inside. for instance.330/504 people from whom cruelty is demanded in the line of duty. as if they too feel the disgrace of dying. On the table some snap wildly left and right. people who work in slaughterhouses. He is convinced the dogs know their time has come. but it does not seem to be so in his. . they have to be pulled or pushed or carried over the threshold. They flatten their ears. some whine plaintively. He does not seem to have the gift of hardness. His whole being is gripped by what happens in the theatre.
Why pretend to be a chum when in fact one is a murderer? But then he relents.' He does not dismiss the possibility that at the deepest level Bev Shaw may be not a liberating angel . He has never liked being licked. if they want to. He is not. 'Someone has to do it. He tries not to sentimentalize the animals he kills.331/504 which they somehow know is going to harm them terribly. He avoids saying to her. Why should a creature with the shadow of death upon it feel him flinch away as if its touch were abhorrent? So he lets them lick him. a sentimentalist.' in order not to have to hear her say in return. or to sentimentalize Bev Shaw. 'I don't know how you do it. he hopes. and his first impulse is to pull away. Worst are those that sniff him and try to lick his hand. just as Bev Shaw strokes them and kisses them if they will let her.
and there consigns the bodies in their black bags to the flames. that beneath her show of compassion may hide a heart as leathery as a butcher's.332/504 but a devil. The morning after each killing session he drives the loaded kombi to the grounds of Settlers Hospital. He . it is he who takes charge of disposing of the remains.a mixture both casual and terrible. He tries to keep an open mind. But that would mean leaving them on the dump with the rest of the weekend's scourings: with waste from the hospital wards. to the incinerator. malodorous refuse from the tannery . Since Bev Shaw is the one who inflicts the needle. It would be simpler to cart the bags to the incinerator immediately after the session and leave them there for the incinerator crew to dispose of. carrion scooped up at the roadside.
smelling of singed fur. on to the feeder trolley. and when the trolley came back from its trip to the furnace.333/504 is not prepared to inflict such dishonour upon them. So on Sunday evenings he brings the bags to the farm in the back of Lucy's kombi. and on Monday mornings drives them to the hospital grounds. There he himself loads them. Rigor mortis had stiffened the corpses overnight. and cranks it back. On his first Monday he left it to them to do the incinerating. one at a time. the dog would as often as not come riding back too. while the workmen whose job this normally is stand by and watch. its plastic covering burnt away. parks them overnight. pulls the lever to empty it of its contents. blackened and grinning. cranks the mechanism that hauls the trolley through the steel gate into the flames. The dead legs caught in the bars of the trolley. .
when the hospital itself was built.m. It operates six days of the week.334/504 After a while the workmen began to beat the bags with the backs of their shovels before loading them. hot enough to calcify bone. it takes all afternoon to cool down. To them he is simply . The fire is stoked until mid-morning. to break the rigid limbs. Monday to Saturday. then charge the fire. On the seventh day it rests. temperatures of a thousand degrees centigrade are being generated in the inner chamber. he guesses that it dates from the 1950s. He does not know the names of the crew and they do not know his. When the crew arrive for work they first rake out the ashes from the previous day. By nine a. It was then that he intervened and took over the job himself. with an electric fan to suck air through the flues. The incinerator is anthracite-fuelled.
for the warmth. but particularly for pills. there are already numbers of women and children waiting to pick through it for syringes. despite the wire fence and the padlocked gate and the notice in three languages. anything for which there is a market. who hang about the hospital grounds by day and sleep by night against the wall of the incinerator. or perhaps even in the tunnel. he does not form part of the society of which the incinerator.335/504 the man who began arriving on Mondays with the bags from Animal Welfare and has since then been turning up earlier and earlier. He comes. is the hub. the gate and the notice are simply ignored. which they sell to muti shops or trade in the streets. . For the fence has long ago been cut through. There are vagrants too. pins. he does his work. By the time the orderlies arrive in the morning with the first bags of hospital waste. he goes. washable bandages.
then. The dogs are brought to the clinic because they are unwanted: because we are too menny. For his idea of the world. But when he is there.336/504 It is not a sodality he tries to join. a world in which men do not use shovels to beat corpses into a more convenient shape for processing. and if what he brings to the dump does not interest them. For the sake of the dogs? But the dogs are dead. that is only because the parts of a dead dog can neither be sold nor be eaten. That is where he enters their lives. Why has he taken on this job? To lighten the burden on Bev Shaw? For that it would be enough to drop off the bags at the dump and drive away. . and what do dogs know of honour and dishonour anyway? For himself. they are there.
He may not be their saviour, the one for whom they are not too many, but he is prepared to take care of them once they are unable, utterly unable, to take care of themselves, once even Bev Shaw has washed her hands of them. A dog-man, Petrus once called himself. Well, now he has become a dog-man: a dog undertaker; a dog psychopomp; a harijan. Curious that a man as selfish as he should be offering himself to the service of dead dogs. There must be other, more productive ways of giving oneself to the world, or to an idea of the world. One could for instance work longer hours at the clinic. One could try to persuade the children at the dump not to fill their bodies with poisons. Even sitting down more purposefully with the Byron libretto might, at a pinch, be construed as a service to mankind.
But there are other people to do these things - the animal welfare thing, the social rehabilitation thing, even the Byron thing. He saves the honour of corpses because there is no one else stupid enough to do it. That is what he is becoming: stupid, daft, wrongheaded.
THEIR WORK AT the clinic is over for the Sunday. The kombi is loaded with its dead freight. As a last chore he is mopping the floor of the surgery. 'I'll do that,' says Bev Shaw, coming in from the yard. 'You'll be wanting to get back.' 'I'm in no hurry.' 'Still, you must be used to a different kind of life.' 'A different kind of life? I didn't know life came in kinds.' 'I mean, you must find life very dull here. You must miss your own circle. You must miss having women friends.'
'Women friends, you say. Surely Lucy told you why I left Cape Town. Women friends didn't bring me much luck there.' 'You shouldn't be hard on her.' 'Hard on Lucy? I don't have it in me to be hard on Lucy.' 'Not Lucy - the young woman in Cape Town. Lucy says there was a young woman who caused you a lot of trouble.' 'Yes, there was a young woman. But I was the troublemaker in that case. I caused the young woman in question at least as much trouble as she caused me.' 'Lucy says you have had to give up your position at the university. That must have been difficult. Do you regret it?' What nosiness! Curious how the whiff of scandal excites women. Does this plain little creature think him
incapable of shocking her? Or is being shocked another of the duties she takes on like a nun who lies down to be violated so that the quota of violation in the world will be reduced? 'Do I regret it? I don't know. What happened in Cape Town brought me here. I'm not unhappy here.' But at the time - did you regret it at the time?' 'At the time? Do you mean, in the heat of the act? Of course not. In the heat of the act there are no doubts. As I'm sure you must know yourself ' She blushes. A long time since he last saw a woman of middle age blush so thoroughly. To the roots of her hair.
`Still, you must find Grahamstown very quiet,' she murmurs. 'By comparison.' 'I don't mind Grahamstown. At least I am out of the way of temptation. Besides, I don't live in Grahamstown. I live on a farm with my daughter.' Out of the way of temptation: a callous thing to say to a woman, even a plain one. Yet not plain in everyone's eyes. There must have been a time when Bill Shaw saw something in young Bev. Other men too, perhaps. He tries to imagine her twenty years younger, when the upturned face on its short neck must have seemed pert and the freckled skin homely, healthy. On an impulse he reaches out and runs a finger over her lips. She lowers her eyes but does not flinch. On the contrary, she responds, brushing her lips against his hand -
even, it might be said, kissing it - while blushing furiously all the time. That is all that happens. That is as far as they go. Without another word he leaves the clinic. Behind him he hears her switching off the lights. The next afternoon there is a call from her. 'Can we meet at the clinic, at four,' she says. Not a question but an announcement, made in a high, strained voice. Almost he asks, 'Why?', but then has the good sense not to. Nonetheless he is surprised. He would bet she has not been down this road before. This must be how, in her innocence, she assumes adulteries are carried out: with the woman telephoning her pursuer, declaring herself ready. The clinic is not open on Mondays. He lets himself in, turns the key behind him in the lock. Bev Shaw is in the surgery, standing
with her back to him. He folds her in his arms; she nuzzles her ear against his chin; his lips brush the tight little curls of her hair. 'There are blankets,' she says. 'In the cabinet. On the bottom shelf.' Two blankets, one pink, one grey, smuggled from her home by a woman who in the last hour has probably bathed and powdered and anointed herself in readiness; who has, for all he knows, been powdering and anointing herself every Sunday, and storing blankets in the cabinet, just in case. Who thinks, because he comes from the big city, because there is scandal attached to his name, that he makes love to many women and expects to be made love to by every woman who crosses his path. The choice is between the operating table and the floor. He spreads out the blankets on the floor, the grey blanket underneath, the pink on top. He switches off the light, leaves the room, checks that the back door is
locked, waits. He hears the rustle of clothes as she undresses. Bev. Never did he dream he would sleep with a Bev. She is lying under the blanket with only her head sticking out. Even in the dimness there is nothing charming in the sight. Slipping off his underpants, he gets in beside her, runs his hands down her body. She has no breasts to speak of. Sturdy, almost waistless, like a squat little tub. She grasps his hand, passes him something. A contraceptive. All thought out beforehand, from beginning to end. Of their congress he can at least say that he does his duty. Without passion but without distaste either. So that in the end Bev
Shaw can feel pleased with herself. All she intended has been accomplished. He, David Lurie, has been succoured, as a man is succoured by a woman; her friend Lucy Lurie has been helped with a difficult visit. Let me not forget this day, he tells himself, lying beside her when they are spent. After the sweet young flesh of Melanie Isaacs, this is what I have come to. This is what I will have to get used to, this and even less than this. 'It's late,' says Bev Shaw. 'I must be going.' He pushes the blanket aside and gets up, making no effort to hide himself. Let her gaze her fill on her Romeo, he thinks, on his bowed shoulders and skinny shanks. It is indeed late. On the horizon lies a last crimson glow; the moon looms overhead; smoke hangs in the air; across a strip of waste land, from the first rows of shacks, comes a
And let him stop calling her poor Bev Shaw. rests her head on his chest. Well. he is bankrupt. His thoughts go to Emma Bovary strutting before the mirror after her first big afternoon. At the door Bev presses herself against him a last time. let poor Bev Shaw go home and do some singing too. as he has let her do everything she has felt a need to do. . He lets her do it.347/504 hubbub of voices. If she is poor. I have a lover! I have a lover! sings Emma to herself.
to which he has coupled the old rotary plough that has lain rusting behind the stable since before Lucy's time. all very unlike Africa. to carry. Now he is too busy for that kind of thing. to water? Were this a chess game. If she had any sense she would quit: approach . he would say that Lucy has been outplayed on all fronts. that is to say ten years ago. Where is Lucy going to find someone to dig. the carry-man. the water-man. In a matter of hours he has ploughed the whole of his land. In olden times. All very swift and businesslike. Against this new Petrus what chance does Lucy stand? Petrus arrived as the dig-man. it would have taken him days with a hand-plough and oxen. from where he has no idea.EIGHTEEN PETRUS HAS BORROWED a tractor.
But better than passing her days in fear of the next attack. Not much of a life. on a slight rise overlooking the farmhouse. . when the dogs will not be enough to protect her and no one will answer the telephone. wearing clothes long out of fashion. She could even go back to what she and her friends did in their hippie days: ethnic weaving. She could open boarding kennels in the suburbs. ethnic basket-weaving. Defeated. eating alone. return to civilization. talking to her pets. consign the farm to Petrus. The surveyor has already paid his visit. work out a deal. It is not hard to imagine Lucy in ten years' time: a heavy woman with lines of sadness on her face. the pegs are in place. ethnic pot-decoration.349/504 the Land Bank. selling beads to tourists. she could branch out into cats. He approaches Petrus on the site he has chosen for his new residence.
Once he was a boy. are you?' he asks. building. now he is no longer. Now he can play at being one. 'If Lucy and I went back to Cape Town. you need to be skill. or you could do it on a percentage basis. it is a skill job. 'No.350/504 'You are not going to do the building yourself. that is just a job for a boy. That is not such a skill job. as Marie Antoinette could play at being a milkmaid. all that. He comes to the point.' . For digging you just have to be a boy.' Petrus speaks the word with real amusement. plastering. 'Bricklaying. I am going to dig the trenches. Petrus chuckles. would you be prepared to keep her part of the farm running? We would pay you a salary. A percentage of the profits. That I can do by myself.' he says. No.
' 'By the sea. showing teeth yellow from smoking.' He pronounces the words as if he has never heard them before.' 'I am sure she will come back.' He is irritated by Petrus's habit of letting words hang in the air. and smiles. She is very attached to this farm. There was a time when he thought he .' says Petrus. A holiday.' 'And Lucy will come back one day. by the sea. we could call you the farm manager if you like. 'Yes. if she wants. as if they have popped up before him like a rabbit out of a hat. But she has been having a hard time recently.' says Petrus. 'Yes. She needs a break.351/504 'I must keep Lucy's farm running. 'I must be the farm manager. She has no intention of giving it up.
'I don't see that either of us is entitled to question Lucy if she decides to take a break. 'Neither you nor I. there is no need to make a list. I am just exploring the possibility. I must go to the market . There won't be dogs. I am just asking in a general way.' 'How long I must be farm manager?' 'I don't know yet. if Lucy took a holiday.' 'And I must do all the things .352/504 might become friends with Petrus.' 'Petrus. I must plant the vegetables. Talking to Petrus is like punching a bag filled with sand. Petrus. would you be prepared to look after the farm?' .' he says. Now he detests him. seeing if you are agreeable.I must feed the dogs. I haven't discussed it with Lucy.
We can discuss details later. I just want a general answer.' he says. too much.' 'What condition is the car in? Is it driveable?' .' 'No. 'It is too much. His car has been recovered. Out of the blue comes a call from the police. where he may identify and reclaim it. sir. from a Detective-Sergeant Esterhuyse in Port Elizabeth. 'That's wonderful. Two men have been arrested.' he says. the docket stays open two years. It is in the yard at the New Brighton station. yes or no. 'I had almost given up hope.' Petrus shakes his head.353/504 'How I must go to the market if I do not have the kombi?' `That is a detail.
354/504 'Yes. I'll wait. . 'I'll wait in the car. 'Are you sure?' 'I don't like this place.' He presents himself at the charge office.' says Lucy. is directed along a maze of corridors to the Vehicle Theft Unit. to a flat. Emphatic signs forbid parking in front of the station. Detective-Sergeant Esterhuyse. searches through his files. fortress-like police station surrounded by a two-metre fence topped with razor wire. They park far down the road. a plump. you can drive it. blond little man.' In an unfamiliar state of elation he drives with Lucy to Port Elizabeth and then to New Brighton. where they follow directions to Van Deventer Street.
355/504 then conducts him to a yard where scores of vehicles stand parked bumper to bumper.' 'Where are the men now?' 'They're out on bail. 'Here in New Brighton.' 'You said you made arrests. fridges. you name it. You were lucky. Up and down the ranks they go. We got them on a tipoff. to have me identify them? Now that they are out on bail they will just disappear.' . Found a whole house full of stolen goods. Usually with the older Corollas the buggers chop it up for parts. videos. TVs.' 'Two guys. 'Where did you find it?' he asks Esterhuyse.' 'Wouldn't it have made more sense to call me in before you set them free. You know that.
. Can you open it?' The detective opens the car. They put on false plates.' he says. They stop before a white Corolla.' 'Even so.' He points to the number on the sheet: CA 507644. 'This is not my car. this is not my car. It says so on the docket. Are you sure my car isn't somewhere else in the lot?' They complete their tour of the lot. They change plates around. His car is not there.356/504 The detective is stiffly silent. 'My car had CA plates. 'They respray them.' he says. The interior smells of wet newspaper and fried chicken. 'I don't have a sound system. 'It's not my car.
' he says. he says. so whoever was arrested can't be whoever took my car. getting in. yanks fiercely on the wheel.' There is a long silence.357/504 Esterhuyse scratches his head. 'They have a Corolla. Anyway.' Lucy is sitting behind the wheel of the kombi. it's not my car. but it's not mine. He raps on the window and she unlocks the door. 'It's all a mistake. 'There must be a mixup. She starts the engine.' 'They are out again on bail. 'I'll check into it. logically?' she says. 'Does that follow.' 'Did you see the men?' 'The men?' 'You said two men had been arrested. her eyes closed. Leave me your number and I'll give you a call. .
He is becoming a nag. but there is no helping that. Our friends aren't going to be caught. He can hear the irritation in his voice but does nothing to check it. are the alternatives. as I see it. 'Lucy. Her face is stiff as she fights off tears. Are you ready for that?' Lucy switches off the engine. 'If they are caught it means a trial and all that a trial entails. not with the police in the state they are in. 'In any event. the trail is cold. it really is time for you to face up to your choices. . Either you stay on in a house full of ugly memories and go on brooding on what happened to you. or you put the whole episode behind you and start a new chapter elsewhere. a bore.' He gathers himself. So let us forget about that.358/504 'I didn't realize you were keen for them to be caught.' he says. Those. You will have to testify.
I just can't. And I'm sorry about your car. David. Because of who you are and who I am. indifference. But I can't.' She rests her head on her arms. he thinks to himself. Again the feeling washes over him: listlessness. I'm sorry about the disappointment. How. 'I can't talk any more. but also weightlessness.359/504 I know you would like to stay. speaking softly. I can't.' she says. 'I know I am not being clear. rapidly. as if he has been eaten away from inside and only the eroded shell of his heart remains. as though afraid the words will dry up. but shouldn't you at least consider the other route? Can't the two of us talk about it rationally?' She shakes her head. can a man in this . I'm sorry. her shoulders heave as she gives in. I wish I could explain.
The rest was . my dearest daughter. . a woman in slippers and a ragged dress is staring fiercely at them. He lays a protective hand on Lucy's shoulder. 'It was so personal.' . Can she smell his thoughts? It is he who takes over the driving. Lucy. speaks. My daughter. to his surprise.360/504 state fmd words. 'It was done with such personal hatred. expected. That was what stunned me more than anything. find music that will bring back the dead? Sitting on the sidewalk not five yards away. Halfway home. . Who one of these days will have to guide me. Whom it has fallen to me to guide. But why did they hate me so? I had never set eyes on them.' she says. he thinks.
'Yes. 'A history of wrong. but there is no more. It came down from the ancestors.' 'Did you think. The shock simply doesn't go away. but it wasn't. In the act.' In the act. Think of it that way. 'It was history speaking through them.361/504 He waits for more. The shock of being hated. for the moment.' he offers at last.' 'Afraid they are going to come back?' 'Yes. they wouldn't . It may have seemed personal. if you didn't lay a charge against them with the police. I mean.' 'That doesn't make it easier. Does she mean what he thinks she means? 'Are you still afraid?' he asks. if it helps.
Go to Holland. When you come back you can take stock. 'Lucy. but it won't work. Go overseas. Do it at once. David.' 'If I leave now. There is nothing you can suggest that I haven't been through a hundred times myself.362/504 come back? Was that what you told yourself?' 'No. Close down the kennels. until things have improved in this country. I won't come back. Lock up the house.' . Take a break for six months or a year. it could be so simple. pay Petrus to guard it. Thank you for the offer. I'll pay.' `Then what?' She is silent. make a fresh start.
363/504 'Then what do you propose to do?' 'I don't know. By three men. There are things you just don't understand.' . too risky to stop. This is a bad stretch. you don't understand what happened to me that day. which I appreciate. You were raped. 'On the contrary. you think you understand. 'Don't. but finally you don't.' He picks up speed.' `What don't I understand?' 'To begin with. Multiply. I understand all too well. Because you can't. You are concerned for my sake.' says Lucy. But whatever I decide I want to decide by myself.' He slows down and pulls off the road. without being pushed. 'I will pronounce the word we have avoided hitherto.' he says. 'Not here.
Because you were nothing to them.' There is a pause. I meant nothing to them. I did not save you. I could feel it.' 'And?' Her voice is now a whisper. I think they . 'At least the two older ones have. But you are right. her voice steadier now.' she resumes.' That is his own confession. If they had come a week earlier. She gives an impatient little flick of the hand. 'I think they have done it before. Disposed of. nothing. You were afraid that after you had been used you would be killed. 'And I did nothing. 'Don't blame yourself David. You couldn't have been expected to rescue me. I would have been alone in the house.364/504 'And?' 'You were in fear of your life.
. They see me as owing something. . They have marked me. perhaps that is how I should look at it too. what if that is the price one has to pay for staying on? Perhaps that is how they look at it. I think they do rape.365/504 are rapists first and foremost. A side-line. 'But isn't there another way of looking at it. They will come back for me.' 'Why not?' 'Because that would be an invitation to them to return.' `You think they will come back?' 'I think I am in their territory.' 'Then you can't possibly stay. Stealing things is just incidental. David? What if .' She broods a long while before she answers. They see .
you ought to know. tax collectors. exiting afterwards.366/504 themselves as debt collectors.when you trap her. Maybe. David. When it comes to men and sex. for men. like getting away with murder?' . nothing surprises me any more. leaving the body behind covered in blood doesn't it feel like murder.isn't it a bit like killing? Pushing the knife in. hold her down. . But trust your feelings. You said you felt only hatred from them. It is in their interest to make up stories that justify them.' 'I am sure they tell themselves many things. . Why should I be allowed to live here without paying? Perhaps that is what they tell themselves.' 'Hatred . hating the woman makes sex more exciting. get her under you. When you have sex with someone strange . You are a man. put all your weight on her .
'If they had been white you wouldn't talk about them in this way. For some men. the boy?' 'He was there to learn. for instance. Like dogs in a pack. without forethought: 'Was it the same with both of them? Like fighting with death?' 'They spur each other on.' he says.' 'And the third one.' .' he says. 'If they had been white thugs from Despatch.' They have passed the Cycads sign. you ought to know: does one speak to one's father like that? Are she and he on the same side? 'Perhaps.' And then rapidly. That's probably why they do it together. 'Sometimes.367/504 You are a man. Time is almost up.
' That is where the conversation ends. Subjugation. They want you for their slave. Covered in blood. a bath of blood? They do rape. 'It's too much. Sell the farm to Petrus and come away. What does she mean? Was he right after all when he dreamt of a bed of blood. Slavery.368/504 'Wouldn't I?' 'No. But Lucy's words echo in his mind.' He shakes his head. Subjection. the back seat piled with household goods. But it is something new you are talking about. that is not the point.' 'No. Sell up. Lucy.' `Not slavery. He thinks of the three visitors driving away in the not-too-old Toyota. their . I am not blaming you. you wouldn't.
He remembers. They must have had every reason to be pleased with their afternoon's work. wondering what the letter p.purring is the word that comes to him. was doing in the middle of a word held in such horror that no one would utter it aloud. In an art-book in the library there was a painting called The Rape of the Sabine Women: men on horseback in skimpy Roman armour. poring over the word rape in newspaper reports. as a child. their weapons. women in gauze veils flinging their arms in the air and wailing. trying to puzzle out what exactly it meant. tucked warm and satisfied between their legs . usually so gentle.369/504 penises. What had all this attitudinizing to do with what he suspected rape to be: the man lying on top of the woman and pushing himself into her? . they must have felt happy in their vocation.
did all they could to hurt her. Well. you weren't there. Lucy's . she could not breathe. From where he stands. This is not happening. Byron looks very old-fashioned indeed. Go on. call your dogs! No dogs? Then let us show you dogs! You don't understand. Among the legions of countesses and kitchenmaids Byron pushed himself into there were no doubt those who called it rape.370/504 He thinks of Byron. for their part. Call your dogs! they said to her. she is mistaken. to menace her. While the men. it is just a dream. says Bev Shaw. Lucy was frightened. to heighten her terror. But none surely had cause to fear that the session would end with her throat being slit. her limbs went numb. Her voice choked. from where Lucy stands. a nightmare. drank up her fear. she said to herself as the men forced her down. revelled in it. frightened near to death.
fill them with the ghost of himself. You are on the brink of a dangerous error. 'Dear David. The question is. You have not been .' Half an hour later an envelope is pushed under his door. 'Your father. But the road you are following is the wrong one. if he loses himself. if he concentrates. I must say the following. You wish to humble yourself before history. I plead with you. be there. be the men. It will strip you of all honour. inhabit them. With all the love in the world. he can. does he have it in him to be the woman? From the solitude of his room he writes his daughter a letter: 'Dearest Lucy. you will not be able to live with yourself.371/504 intuition is right after all: he does understand. listen to me.
Lucy. 'I cannot be a child for ever. the one with his paws over his eyes.372/504 listening to me. and I do not know what more I can do to make you see. 'You do not see this. the road I am following may he the wrong one. 'Yours. I am not the person you know. and will taste that defeat for the rest of my life. You cannot be a father for ever. I am a dead person and I do not know yet what will bring me back to life. But if I leave the farm now I will leave defeated. 'Yes. but you are not the guide I need. It is as if you have chosen deliberately to sit in a corner where the rays of the sun do not shine.' . I think of you as one of the three chimpanzees. All I know is that I cannot go away. I know you mean well. not at this time.
' says Bev Shaw.' 'So she chose you. the black bags are piled at the door. The business of dog-killing is over for the day. He and Bev Shaw lie in each other's arms on the floor of the surgery. Later she remarried.' . that is Lucy's last word. Lucy didn't get on with the new stepfather. Evie. 'You have never told me about your first wife.' Lucy's mother was Dutch. After the divorce she went back to Holland. She must have told you that. She asked to return to South Africa.373/504 That is their exchange. 'Lucy doesn't speak about her either. each with a body and a soul inside. Evelina. In half an hour Bev will go back to her Bill and he will begin loading the bags.
if only for a break. I was what used to be called a scholar. for the present.' . She says I am not a good guide.' 'But you were a teacher. I wrote books about dead people. to heed any advice I give. friends. a certain horizon. 'Lucy isn't inclined. She also chose a certain surround.' 'Of the most incidental kind. Certainly I never aspired to teach people how to live.' 'And?' He shrugs.374/504 'In a sense. but at least it doesn't breed nightmares. That was where my heart was. I taught only to make a living. She has family in Holland. Teaching was never a vocation for me. Holland may not be the most exciting of places to live. Now I am trying to get her to leave again.
The sun is going down. Her head is against his chest: presumably she can hear his heart. At the age of thirty-five he has begun to understand that life is precious. They have not made love. draws a breath to sing. alone on the stage. it is getting cold. with whose beat the . it has not come yet. but he is not in the mood to go on. He is on the point of setting off for Greece. it hovers somewhere on the horizon. they have in effect ceased to pretend that that is what they do together. 'You mustn't worry. As for the music.' says Bev Shaw. Sunt Iacrimae rerum. In his head Byron. he is sure of it. et mentem mortalia tangunt: those will be Byron's words.375/504 She waits for more.
'Bill and I will look after her. in this life.' She runs her fingers through the stubble of his hair.' . And there's Petrus. not being Lucy's father. 'It will be all right.' `Fatherly Petrus. 'You will see.' 'Yes. Petrus will keep an eye out. We'll go often to the farm.376/504 hexameter keeps step.' she whispers. I can't imagine.' 'Lucy says I can't go on being a father for ever.
' `When do you expect him?' . A youthful voice speaks: 'Hello?' 'I'm looking for Mr Isaacs. No. 8 Rustholme Crescent has a painted garden gate and an answerphone. when it was new. and creepers that spill over the vibracrete walls. have seemed rather bleak.' 'He's not home yet.NINETEEN THE HOUSE IS part of a development that must. trees. My name is Lurie. fifteen or twenty years ago. He presses the button. but has since been improved with grassed sidewalks.
The younger sister Melanie spoke of. The path leads to the front door. if anything.378/504 'Now-now. There are crumbs on her upper lip. She is eating a slice of cake. When do you expect your father home?' 'School comes out at three.' A buzz. which she holds daintily between two fingers. you can come inside. Melanie's dark hair. 'Good afternoon. . where a slim girl stands watching him. whose name he cannot for the moment recollect.' She holds the door open for him. white knee-length stockings. but he usually stays late. She is dressed in school uniform: marine-blue tunic. flattening herself as he passes. more beautiful. open-necked shirt. She has Melanie's eyes. she is. he pushes the gate open. It's all right. Melanie's wide cheekbones. the latch clicks.
She's a student. 'What's your name?' he asks.' He watches her closely. brush them off at the same instant the memory of her sister comes over him in a hot wave. The furniture gleams.379/504 He has an urge to reach out. Surely they tempted the gods by giving her a name like that! 'My name is David Lurie.' Desiree: now he remembers. but she gives no sign of recognition.what am I doing here? 'You can sit down if you like.' 'My sister is in Cape Town. the desired one. the room is oppressively neat. the dark one. he thinks . then Desiree. 'Desiree.' He sits down. Melanie the firstborn. 'I'm from Cape Town. God save me.' .
He does not say. if you can tell me how to get there. F. He wanders around until he comes upon a sign reading . different urgencies of passion. Desiree? I think I will try to catch your father at his school.' The school is of a piece with the housing estate: a low building in face-brick with steel windows and an asbestos roof. The two of them in the same bed: an experience fit for a king. The grounds are deserted. down probably to the most intimate detail. know her well.S. set in a dusty quadrangle fenced with barbed wire. Yet with differences: different pulsings of the blood. MARAIS says the writing on the one entrance pillar. 'Do you know what. MIDDLE SCHOOL says the writing on the other. looks at his watch. He shivers lightly.380/504 He nods. But he thinks: fruit of the same tree. I know your sister.
regards him in a puzzled way. Inside sits a plump middle-aged secretary doing her nails. `Do you remember me? David Lurie. 'Mr Isaacs!' she calls: 'Here's a visitor for you!' She turns to him. pauses. from which he peers out like a sharp-beaked bird caught in a sack.' Isaacs.' he says. behind his desk. there is a smell of stale smoke. . from Cape Town. Ìf you don't want to see me I'll leave at once. 'I'm looking for Mr Isaacs.' he says. The windows are closed. half-rises. He is wearing the same overlarge suit: his neck vanishes into the jacket.' says Isaacs.381/504 OFFICE. and sits down again.' 'Oh. Just go in.
'To what do I owe this pleasure?' He had expected to be tense.' says Isaacs.' says Isaacs. From where he sits he cannot see it. 'Sit. closing the last register.' There is a framed picture on the desk. you must be aware of it. 'After Melanie lodged her complaint. As a result I resigned my post. 'the university held an official inquiry. I'm just checking attendances. Do you mind if I finish first?' 'Please.' .382/504 'No. 'So. That is the history.' he says. apples of their father's eye. but he knows what it will be: Melanie and Desiree. but in fact finds himself quite calm. with the mother who bore them.
if you are prepared to hear it. runs his fingers down the shaft. 'You have heard Melanie's side of the story. giving away nothing. in a motion that is mechanical rather than impatient. The question is. . I would like to give you mine. I was passing through George today.' That much is true. and I thought I might stop and speak to you. I remember our last meeting as being .383/504 Isaacs stares at him quizzically. inverts it. and say what is on my heart. He does want to speak his heart. . . heated. over and over. 'Since then I have been at a loose end. what is on his heart? Isaacs has a cheap Bic pen in his hand. He continues. He runs his fingers down the shaft. But I thought I would drop in anyway.
He would not be surprised if Isaacs were something in the church. I think of it as a fire. The pen continues its dance.384/504 'It began without premeditation on my part. 'A fire: what is remarkable about that? If a fire goes out.' He pauses. that keep me going. 'In Melanie's case. you strike a match and start another one. a deacon or a server. They . however. It began as an adventure. I am trying to be frank. one of those sudden little adventures that men of a certain kind have. That is how I used to think. A sudden little adventure. that I have. Men of a certain kind. She struck up a fire in me. something unexpected happened. Yet in the olden days people worshipped fire. Does the man behind the desk have adventures? The more he sees of him the more he doubts it. whatever a server is. Excuse me for talking in this way.
That's the end. How is Melanie?' 'Melanie is well. The pen has stopped moving. Not hot enough to burn me up. It was that kind of flame your daughter kindled in me. a flame-god. I'm sure you can understand. and there is a crooked. it's outrageous. under the circumstances.' says the girl's father. 'I ask myself what on earth you think you are up to. since you ask. but real: real fire. coming to my school and telling me stories .burnt . So . She phones every week.385/504 thought twice before letting a flame die. they gave her a special dispensation to do that. `Mr Lurie. That's all I wanted to say.' 'I'm sorry. and doing well. She has resumed her studies. in self-defence.' Burned .burnt up. pained smile on his face. I know. She is going on with theatre work in her spare time.
She owns a farm. Isaacs is regarding him with what strikes him as piercing attention. a sort of book.' says Isaacs softly. I expect to spend some of my time with her. no doubt about that. One way or another I will keep myself busy.' He pauses. What about you? What are your plans now that you have left the profession?' 'I have a daughter myself.386/504 Melanie is all right. But mighty? Does mighty describe him? He thinks of himself as obscure . helping out. and the word leaves his lips like a sigh: 'how are the mighty fallen!' Fallen? Yes. 'So. Also I have a book to complete. there has been a fall. you will be interested to hear.
Good. On an impulse he reaches across the desk. tries to shake the man's hand.' 'Good. he says. ends up by stroking the back of it. `Perhaps it does us good'. 'to have a fall every now and then. 'Thank you for seeing me. No.' Òn my heart? No. besides the story of yourself and Melanie? You mentioned there was something on your heart. For the first time he detects a trace of Melanie in him: a shapeliness of the mouth and lips. As long as we don't break. I just stopped by to find out how Melanie was.' says Isaacs.' He . hairless skin.387/504 and growing obscurer.' He rises. I appreciate it. 'Mr Lurie. A figure from the margins of history.' says Isaacs: 'is there something else you want to tell me. still fixing him with that intent look. Cool. Good.
when Isaacs calls out: 'Mr Lurie! Just a minute!' He returns. in the outer office. I have no plans. which is now empty .388/504 reaches out a hand. We eat at seven. 'Goodbye.' 'Come and have a meal with us. Come anyway.' 'Perhaps.' . Break bread with us. straightforwardly this time. `What are your plans for the evening?' 'This evening? I've checked in at a hotel.' 'Goodbye.he is.' He is at the door . Let me write down the address for you. Perhaps not.' 'I don't think your wife would welcome that. Come for dinner. in fact.
He should have thought of that.' he says.' he says. and ushers him into the living-room. 'Come in. nor of the second daughter. A tight little petit-bourgeois .' They are teetotal. But Dezzy will borrow from the neighbours. Isaacs thanks him. 'We seem to have lost the corkscrew. He comes back. I have been to your home already. 'Good. and holds out a bottle of wine. there is a whispering in the kitchen. and met your daughter.389/504 ‘You don't need to do that. come in. It was she who directed me here. Of the wife there is no sign. but seems unsure what to do with the wine. 'I brought an offering. Van I give you some? I'll just go and open it. The front door is opened by Isaacs himself.' Isaacs does not bat an eyelid.' he says. clearly.' He leaves the room.
savings in the bank. All their resources concentrated on launching the two jewel daughters into the future: clever Melanie. on the first evening of their closer acquaintance. As she crosses the floor towards them she hesitates an instant. her eyes gleaming with excitement. holding out the bottle.390/504 household. conscious that a greeting is owed. frugal. the lawn mowed. The car washed. Her trim little body. her sexy clothes.lubricate her. Desiree. sitting beside him on the sofa drinking the coffee with the shot-glass of whisky in it that was intended to . Stepping out in the forest where the wild wolf prowls. . 'Pa?' she murmurs with a hint of confusion.the word comes up reluctantly . Desiree the beauty enters with the bottle and a corkscrew. prudent. with her theatrical ambitions. the beauty. He remembers Melanie.
391/504 So: she has found out who he is. She meets his gaze. 'Desiree. the man whose name is darkness.' `Hello. Her father has trapped her hand in his.' The hair that had screened her face is tossed back.' she murmurs. They have discussed him. had a tussle over him perhaps: the unwanted visitor. with a hatch to the kitchen. my God! As for her. still embarrassed. Desiree. My God. 'Hello.' he says. she cannot hide from him what is passing through her mind: So this is the man my sister has been naked with! So this is the man she has done it with! This old man! There is a separate little dining-room. Four places are set with . and he thinks. 'this is Mr Lurie. but stronger now that she is under her father's wing.
392/504 the best cutlery. Doreen. Mrs Isaacs.' Mrs Isaacs is a short woman. 'Sit. our guest. But he can see where the sisters get their looks. 'Excuse me a moment. And ye . candles are burning. 'You haven't met my wife.' 'I am grateful to you for receiving me in your home. He stands up.' Isaacs disappears into the kitchen. a good wife and helpmeet. She hangs her head. A real beauty she must have been in her day. the two parents together. growing dumpy in middle age. sit!' says Isaacs. Her features remain stiff. Mr Lurie. with bowed legs that give her a faintly rolling walk. she avoids his eye. Still no sign of his wife. no longer so brave. but she does give the slightest of nods. Then they return. Obedient. He is left facing Desiree across the table.
' Gratefully the child tumbles out of her chair. . 'come and help carry.393/504 shall be as one flesh. but it is better that I leave.' Isaacs gives a smile in which. Will the daughters take after her? 'Desiree.' she commands. an array of salads and pickles. I am just causing upset in your home. 'It was kind of you to invite me. rice. 'Mr Isaacs. sit down! We'll be all right! We will do it!' He leans closer. I appreciate it.' he says. 'Sit down. 'You have to be strong!' Then Desiree and her mother are back bearing dishes: chicken in a bubbling tomato stew that gives off aromas of ginger and cumin. to his surprise. there is a hint of gaiety.
'Am I the only one drinking?' he says.' He pours a glass. he bought the Late Harvest imagining it would be to their taste. and he.394/504 Just the kind of food he most missed. 'For what we are about to receive. living with Lucy. 'Amen. The Isaacs take hands. right to her mother. and a solitary wine glass. Well. There remains the prayer to get through.' say his wife and daughter. 'Go ahead. mumbles . David Lurie.' says Isaacs. left to the girl's father. The bottle of wine is set before him. may the Lord make us truly grateful.' says Isaacs. so much the worse for him. He does not like sweet wines. `Please. there is nothing for it but to stretch out his hands too.
but not about the incinerator in the hospital grounds or his stolen afternoons with Bev Shaw. the mother's small. Country life in all its idiot simplicity. it's hot. 'Mind. Those are her only words to him. to talk entertainingly. He talks about the Animal Welfare League. to fill the silences. the father's cool as silk. He glosses over the attack. mentioning only that his car was stolen.395/504 'Amen' too and lets go the two hands. During the meal he tries to be a good guest. Stitched together in this way. . about her bee-keeping and her horticultural projects.' she says as she passes his plate. about the boarding kennels. He talks about Lucy. about his Saturday morning stints at the market. fleshy. the story unrolls without shadows. Mrs Isaacs dishes up. warm from her labours.
of complications. was like that. He has a vision of himself stretched out on an operating table. from throat to groin he is laid open.' And he talks about Petrus. tosses it aside. of complicated people. but there are times when he wishes she were a simpler being: simpler. A surgeon. What is this? He cuts it out. What is all this stuff? growls the surgeon. bearded. 'She has a man who helps sometimes. He loves his daughter. he sees it all yet feels no pain. .does she run her farm all alone?' asks Isaacs. An African. Like a blade cutting the wind. Petrus. What is this? 'Your daughter . solid. He pokes at the heart. The man who raped her. bends over him. the leader of the gang. frowning. neater. He pokes at the gall bladder. A scalpel flashes.396/504 How he wishes it could be true! He is tired of shadows.
' says Isaacs. but somehow they get through the meal. with his two wives and his moderate ambitions.397/504 dependable Petrus. Conversation flags. goes off to do her homework.' he says.' he says.' 'Wait. 'About Melanie. Desiree excuses herself. But there was something I failed to supply. stay a moment. 'Yes?' 'One word more. 'I am due to make an early start tomorrow. . I believe. between the two of us. then I am finished. Mrs Isaacs clears the table. He can prevaricate no longer. despite our ages. He is less hungry than he thought he would be. They are alone. It could have turned out differently. 'I should be leaving.
Then we are very sorry. now he begins to pace up and down. The question is not. I manage love too well. He has not taken his seat.he hunts for the word . For which I am sorry. I apologize for the grief I have caused you and Mrs Isaacs. You lacked the lyrical. 'You are sorry. I ask for your pardon.' says Isaacs.'lyrical. we are all sorry when we are found out. we would not be where we are today. But I say to myself. If you had had the lyrical. 'So. I am sorry for what I took your daughter through. 'at last you have apologized. You have a wonderful family. if you understand me.' He ponders. you say. Better would be exemplary. I wondered when it was coming.' Wonderful is not right.398/504 something' . Even when I burn I don't sing. are we sorry? The question is. what lesson have we . I lack the lyrical.
I am not a believer. what does God want from you. But perhaps that is not true. 'Normally I would say'. but Isaacs raises a hand. 'May I pronounce the word God in your hearing? You are not one of those people who get upset when they hear God's name? The question is. not always. besides being very sorry? Have you any ideas. One can only be punished and punished. he tries to pick his words carefully. 'that after a certain age one is too old to learn lessons. Mr Lurie?' Though distracted by Isaacs's back-andforth. I wait to see. what are we going to do now that we are sorry?' He is about to reply. I am being punished for what happened between myself and your . As for God. In my own terms. he says.399/504 learned? The question is. so I will have to translate what you call God and God's wishes into my own terms.
you have no way to ask God. ask God. I am living it out from day to day. don't ask me. Why not? You didn't plan on it. So God must find his own means of telling you. You were passing through George. I do not murmur against it.400/504 daughter. But since you don't pray. Normally I would say. Why do you think you are here. Mr Lurie?' He is silent. I am sunk into a state of disgrace from which it will not be easy to lift myself. yet now you find yourself in our . trying to accept disgrace as my state of being. Mr Lurie. On the contrary. and it occurred to you that your student's family was from George. Is it enough for God. I will tell you. It is not a punishment I have refused. and you thought to yourself. do you think. that I live in disgrace without term?' 'I don't know.
He pushes the door open. 'So who did you really come to speak to?' Now he is sure of it: he does not like this man. does not like his tricks. you say.that is what they say. but why me? I'm easy to speak to. With Isaacs you get off easy .401/504 home. All the children at my school know that.' 'Yes. I had been thinking about it for some time. the same crooked smile as before. blunders through the empty diningroom and down the passage.' He is smiling again. I was not just passing through. I came to George for one reason alone: to speak to you. too easy. Sitting on the bed are . you came to speak to me. Am I right?' 'Not quite. That must come as a surprise to you. From behind a half-closed door he hears low voices. He rises. I was not telling the truth.
Desiree and her mother, doing something with a skein of wool. Astonished at the sight of him, they fall silent. With careful ceremony he gets to his knees and touches his forehead to the floor. Is that enough? he thinks. Will that do? If not, what more? He raises his head. The two of them are still sitting there, frozen. He meets the mother's eyes, then the daughter's, and again the current leaps, the current of desire. He gets to his feet, a little more creakily than he would have wished. 'Good night,' he says. 'Thank you for your kindness. Thank you for the meal.' At eleven o'clock there is a call for him in his hotel room. It is Isaacs. 'I am phoning to wish you strength for the future.' A pause.
'There is a question I never got to ask, Mr Lurie. You are not hoping for us to intervene on your behalf, are you, with the university?' 'To intervene?' 'Yes. To reinstate you, for instance.' 'The thought never crossed my mind. I have finished with the university.' Because the path you are on is one that God has ordained for you. It is not for us to interfere.' 'Understood.'
HE RE-ENTERS Cape Town on the N2. He has been away less than three months, yet in that time the shanty settlements have crossed the highway and spread east of the airport. The stream of cars has to slow down while a child with a stick herds a stray cow off the road. Inexorably, he thinks, the country is coming to the city. Soon there will be cattle again on Rondebosch Common; soon history will have come full circle. So he is home again. It does not feel like a homecoming. He cannot imagine taking up residence once more in the house on Torrance Road, in the shadow of the university, skulking about like a criminal, dodging old colleagues. He will have to sell the house, move to a flat somewhere cheaper.
His finances are in chaos. He has not paid a bill since he left. He is living on credit; any day now his credit is going to dry up. The end of roaming. What comes after the end of roaming? He sees himself, whitehaired, stooped, shuffling to the corner shop to buy his half-litre of milk and half-loaf of bread; he sees himself sitting blankly at a desk in a room full of yellowing papers, waiting for the afternoon to peter out so that he can cook his evening meal and go to bed. The life of a superannuated scholar, without hope, without prospect: is that what he is prepared to settle for? He unlocks the front gate. The garden is overgrown, the mailbox stuffed tight with flyers, advertisements. Though well fortified by most standards, the house has stood empty for months: too much to hope for that it will not have
been visited. And indeed, from the moment he opens the front door and smells the air he knows there is something wrong. His heart begins to thud with a sick excitement. There is no sound. Whoever was here is gone. But how did they get in? Tiptoeing from room to room, he soon finds out. The bars over one of the back windows have been torn out of the wall and folded back, the windowpanes smashed, leaving enough of a hole for a child or even a small man to climb through. A mat of leaves and sand, blown in by the wind, has caked on the floor. He wanders through the house taking a census of his losses. His bedroom has been ransacked, the cupboards yawn bare. His sound equipment is gone, his tapes and records, his computer equipment. In his study the desk and filing cabinet have been broken open; papers are scattered everywhere. The kitchen has been thoroughly stripped:
cutlery, crockery, smaller appliances. His liquor store is gone. Even the cupboard that had held canned food is empty. No ordinary burglary. A raiding party moving in, cleaning out the site, retreating laden with bags, boxes, suitcases. Booty; war reparations; another incident in the great campaign of redistribution. Who is at this moment wearing his shoes? Have Beethoven and Janácek found homes for themselves or have they been tossed out on the rubbish heap? From the bathroom comes a bad smell. A pigeon, trapped in the house, has expired in the basin. Gingerly he lifts the mess of bones and feathers into a plastic packet and ties it shut. The lights are cut off, the telephone is dead. Unless he does something about it he will spend the night in the dark. But he is too
depressed to act. Let it all go to hell, he thinks, and sinks into a chair and closes his eyes. As dusk settles he rouses himself and leaves the house. The first stars are out. Through empty streets, through gardens heavy with the scent of verbena and jonquil, he makes his way to the university campus. He still has his keys to the Communications Building. A good hour to come haunting: the corridors are deserted. He takes the lift to his office on the fifth floor. The name-tag on his door has been removed. DR S. OTTO, reads the new tag. From under the door comes a faint light. He 'mocks. No sound. He unlocks the door and enters.
The room has been transformed. His books and pictures are gone, leaving the walls bare save for a poster-size blowup of a comicbook panel: Superman hanging his head as he is berated by Lois Lane. Behind the computer, in the half-light, sits a young man he has not seen before. The young man frowns. 'Who are you?' he asks. 'I'm David Lurie.' 'Yes? And?' 'I've come to pick up my mail. This used to be my office.' In the past, he almost adds. 'Oh, right, David Lurie. Sorry, I wasn't thinking. I put it all in a box. And some other stuff of yours that I found.' He waves. 'Over there.' 'And my books?' 'They are all downstairs in the storage room.'
He picks up the box. 'Thank you,' he says. 'No problem,' says young Dr Otto. 'Can you manage that?' He takes the heavy box across to the library, intending to sort through his mail. But when he reaches the access barrier the machine will no longer accept his card. He has to do his sorting on a bench in the lobby. He is too restless to sleep. At dawn he heads for the mountainside and sets off on a long walk. It has rained, the streams are in spate. He breathes in the heady scent of pine. As of today he is a free man, with duties to no one but himself. Time lies before him to spend as he wishes. The feeling is unsettling, but he presumes he will get used to it. His spell with Lucy has not turned him into a country person. Nonetheless, there are things he misses - the duck family, for
instance: Mother Duck tacking about on the surface of the dam, her chest puffed out with pride, while Eenie, Meenie, Minie and Mo paddle busily behind, confident that as long as she is there they are safe from all harm. As for the dogs, he does not want to think about them. From Monday onward the dogs released from life within the walls of the clinic will be tossed into the fire unmarked, unmourned. For that betrayal, will he ever be forgiven? He visits the bank, takes a load of washing to the laundry. In the little shop where for years he has bought his coffee the assistant pretends not to recognize him. His neighbour, watering her garden, studiously keeps her back turned. He thinks of William Wordsworth on his first stay in London, visiting the pantomime, seeing Jack the Giant Killer blithely striding the
' He does not mention the raid on the house. protected by the word Invisible written on his chest. 'I thought I'd phone in case you were worried about me. You have only to say the word. 'I'm fine. I miss the ducks. Everyone has been helpful. In the evening he calls Lucy from a public telephone. 'Has Petrus been looking after you.' 'Well. I rattle about in the house like a pea in a bottle.412/504 stage. I can come back any time you need me. flourishing his sword.' . What is the good of burdening Lucy with his troubles? 'And Petrus?' he asks.' he says. I suspect. I'll take a while to settle down. or is he still wrapped up in his housebuilding?' 'Petrus has been helping out.
that would be the frankest answer: We are getting on very well without you. She has a whole trolleyful of purchases. but one of these days. Very well indeed . chair of his onetime department.' Who would have guessed. he finds himself in a queue behind Elaine Winter.413/504 'Thank you. 'Oh. struggling along as usual. Nervously she returns his greeting. But she is too polite to say the words. when his child was born. Not at present. he a mere handbasket. 'And how is the department getting on without me?' he asks as cheerily as he can. perhaps. David.' she replies vaguely. 'Have you been able to do any hiring?' . that in time he would come crawling to her asking to be taken in? Shopping at the supermarket.
A young man. The woman ahead of them in the queue is taking her time to pay. Who have not. very well. Aliter. David?. He is in language learning. so much for the dead masters.' So much for the poets. to whom he has not listened well. . Elaine. guided him well. 'Applied language studies. he must say. he might add. on a contract basis. and for him to respond. But he too is well brought up.414/504 'We have taken on one new person. he might respond. Very well. There is still room for Elaine to ask the next question. which should be. A right little prick.' I have met him. And how are you getting on. 'What is his specialism?' he inquires instead.
She pays by credit card. From the far side of the barrier she gives him a farewell wave. gesturing toward his basket. imported Italian cookies. real raisins). 'Give my regards to everyone!' She does not look back. chocolate bars .' he replies.' 'Wouldn't dream of it. Elaine. .415/504 'Wouldn't you like to go ahead of me?' she suggests instead. then takes some pleasure in observing as she unloads her purchases on to the counter: not only the bread and butter items but the little treats that a woman living alone awards herself . 'You have so little.as well as a pack of sanitary napkins.full cream ice cream (real almonds. 'Goodbye!' he calls over the cashier's head. Her relief is palpable.
the two would roam through the gloomy drawing-rooms singing of their baulked passion. for death. though too prudent to voice them. through. His life is becalmed. Teresa's soaring arias ignite no spark in him. Trapped in the Villa Guiccioli in the stifling summer heat of Ravenna. his own vocal line. the opera had had at its centre Lord Byron and his mistress the Contessa Guiccioli. goes past. he suspects. never be repeated. for apotheosis. Teresa feels herself to be a prisoner. As for Byron. with a . convoluted. Their early ecstasies will. spied on by Teresa's jealous husband.416/504 As first conceived. obscurely he has begun to long for a quiet retirement. she smoulders with resentment and nags Byron to bear her away to another life. over her. failing that. he is full of doubts. dark. That is how he had conceived it: as a chamber-play about love and death.
the jealous husband. Yet. first on Lucy's farm and now again here. the discarded mistress hammering at the windows. the conception is not a bad one. with Byron's pet monkeys hanging languidly from the chandeliers and peacocks fussing back and forth among the ornate Neapolitan furniture. has the right mix of timelessness and decay. restless music behind it.417/504 passionate young woman and a once passionate but now less than passionate older man. The characters balance one another well: the trapped couple. something that does not come from the heart. Formally speaking. A woman complaining to the stars that the spying of the servants forces her and her . There is something misconceived about it. the project has failed to engage the core of him. sung in an English that tugs continually toward an imagined Italian. as an action with a complex. The villa too.
he tries to pick Teresa up in middle age. and the solace of her lonely nights. holding the purse-strings tight.418/504 lover to relieve their desires in a broomcloset who cares? He can find words for Byron.does not match up to the music he has dreamed of. music whose harmonies. keeping an eye out that the servants do not steal the sugar. he hears shadowed in his inner ear. petulant . is long dead. running the household. wilful. is the . Byron. He tries another track. Teresa's sole remaining claim to immortality. Abandoning the pages of notes he has written. lushly autumnal yet edged with irony. greedy. precocious newlywed with her captive English Milord. The new Teresa is a dumpy little widow installed in the Villa Gamba with her aged father. but the Teresa that history has bequeathed him young. in the new version. abandoning the pert.
a contadina. then My love for ever. she looks more like a peasant. which her grand-nieces are meant to open after her death and peruse with awe. The complexion that Byron once so admired has turned hectic. In these letters. But there are rival letters in existence. With her heavy bust. Is this the heroine he has been seeking all the time? Will an older Teresa engage his heart as his heart is now? The passage of time has not treated Teresa kindly. than an aristocrat.419/504 chestful of letters and memorabilia she keeps under her bed. then My love. In the letters he wrote to her Byron calls her My friend. her stocky trunk. addressed to his English . letters she cannot reach and set fire to. her abbreviated legs. what she calls her reliquie. in summer she is overtaken with attacks of asthma that leave her heaving for breath.
he stayed with her only out of dutifulness. without prospects. Byron lists her flippantly among his Italian conquests. drawing upon his letters. After conquering the young Teresa from her husband. sleeping alone. makes jokes about her husband. it was in order to escape her that he sailed off to Greece and to his death. massaging her father's legs when they give him pain. alludes to women from her circle with whom he has slept. living out her days in a dull provincial town. Without him she is nothing: a woman past her prime. Byron soon grew bored with her. Byron's love is all that sets her apart. Her years with Byron constitute the apex of her life. In the years since Byron's death.420/504 friends. exchanging visits with women-friends. runs the story they tell. he found her empty-headed. . his friends have written one memoir after another. Their libels hurt her to the quick.
looking out over the marshes and pine-scrub of the Romagna toward the sun glinting on the Adriatic. ordinary woman? Can he love her enough to write a music for her? If he cannot. the Teresa he loved. the girl of nineteen with the blonde ringlets who gave herself up with such joy to the imperious Englishman. what is left for him? He comes back to what must now be the opening scene.421/504 Can he find it in his heart to love this plain. Mio Byron. a hush. falls silent. The tail end of yet another sultry day. her Byron? Byron is lost. tails off. Mio Byron. And she is lost too. The end of the prelude. that is the answer. A lone clarinet answers. Byron wanders among the shades. she calls again. and afterwards . her voice throbbing with sadness. Where is he. Teresa stands at a second-floor window in her father's house. she takes a breath. more strongly. she sings.
helping him along breath by breath. the voice of a ghost. saving him from going down. from the caverns of the underworld. you and I. and then a word she does not want to hear: secca. so faltering is the voice of Byron that Teresa has to sing his words back to him. I am here. the source of everything. slumbering after his great passion. supporting him. drawing him back to life: her child.422/504 stroked his brow as he lay on her naked breast. she sings. Do you remember? . the voice of Byron. a voice sings back. Mio Byron. It has dried up. breathing deeply. she sings a third time. So faint. and from somewhere. her boy. Do you remember how together we visited the spring of Arqu?? Together. dry. I was your Laura. I am your source. wavering and disembodied. Where are you? he sings.
for want of better.423/504 That is how it must be from here on: Teresa giving voice to her lover. giving voice to Teresa. And. perhaps . the man in the ransacked house. holding tight to Teresa. But by steps. for instance .through Gluck. and he.who knows? . that the two will demand a music of their own.lifting melodies. the music comes. it becomes clear that purloined songs will not be good enough. astonishingly. The halt helping the lame. he tells himself. Once that is done it will all be easier.lifting ideas too. in dribs and drabs. . Working as swiftly as he can. Then there will be time to search through the masters . as he begins to live his days more fully with Teresa and the dead Byron. he tries to sketch out the opening pages of a libretto. Get the words down on paper.
From the attic.424/504 Sometimes the contour of a phrase occurs to him before he has a hint of what the words themselves will be. As the action begins to unwind. too rich. now angry. But there is something about the sound of the piano that hinders him: too rounded. unfolds and blessedly reveals itself. from a crate full of old books and toys of Lucy's. it calls up of its own accord modulations and transitions that he feels in his blood even when he has not the musical resources to realize them. having hovered for days on the edge of hearing. . furthermore. now mournful. With the aid of the banjo he begins to notate the music that Teresa. sometimes the words call forth the cadence. At the piano he sets to work piecing together and writing down the beginnings of a score. too physical. sometimes the shade of a melody. he recovers the odd little seven-stringed banjo that he bought for her on the streets of KwaMashu when she was a child.
cradling the mandolin on which she accompanies herself in her lyric flights. Seated at his own desk looking out on the overgrown garden. The deeper he follows the Contessa into her underworld. becomes the silly plink-plonk of the toy banjo.425/504 will sing to her dead lover. while to one side a discreet trio in kneebreeches (cello. The lush arias he had dreamed of giving her he quietly abandons. and that palevoiced Byron will sing back to her from the land of the shades. Instead of stalking the stage. flute. he marvels at what the . Teresa now sits staring out over the marshes toward the gates of hell. to his surprise. bassoon) fill in the entr'actes or comment sparingly between stanzas. from there it is but a short step to putting the instrument into her hands. the more inseparable from her. singing her words for her or humming her vocal line.
his bed . So this is art. like a fish on a line. The refrigerator is empty. nor the elegiac. but the comic. living on black coffee and breakfast cereal. he thinks.426/504 little banjo is teaching him. and this is how it does its work! How strange! How fascinating! He spends whole days in the grip of Byron and Teresa. It is not the erotic that is calling to him after all. Six months ago he had thought his own ghostly place in Byron in Italy would be somewhere between Teresa's and Byron's: between a yearning to prolong the summer of the passionate body and a reluctant recall from the long sleep of oblivion. the voice that strains to soar away from the ludicrous instrument but is continually reined back. But he was wrong. He is in the opera neither as Teresa nor as Byron nor even as some blending of the two: he is held in the music itself. tinny slap of the banjo strings. in the flat.
And Byron? Byron will be faithful unto death. No matter. Why. but that is all he promises. nine syllables on C natural. Plink-plunk-plonk go the strings of the banjo. is another story. Out of the poets I learned to love. leaves chase across the floor from the broken window. Teresa. Plunkplink-plonk go the strings. she wants to be raised to the company of the Lauras and Floras of yore. O why do you speak like that? sings Teresa in a long reproachful arc. I found (descending chromatically to F). chants Byron in his cracked monotone. She wants to be loved.427/504 is unmade. sings Teresa. Plink. My love. swelling out the fat English monosyllable she learned in the poet's bed. echo the strings. he thinks: let the dead bury their dead. A woman . to be loved immortally. Let both be tied till one shall have expired. but life.
distending the sexual organs. leave me be! Years ago. leave me. complex proteins swirling in the blood. making the palms sweat and voice thicken as the soul hurls its longings to the skies. wallowing in love. he visited the same forest between Ravenna and the Adriatic coastline where a century and a half before Byron and Teresa used to go riding. bride of another man. That is what Soraya and the others were for: to suck the complex proteins out of his blood like snakevenom. He could fly to Venice . she cries: come to me. love me! And Byron. a cat on a roof.428/504 in love. pale as a ghost. exiled from life. to her misfortune. Somewhere among the trees must be the spot where the Englishman first lifted the skirts of his eighteen-year-old charmer. when he lived in Italy. mio Byron. has no one to suck the venom from her. echoes her derisively: Leave me. leaving him clear-headed and dry. Come to me. howling. Teresa in her father's house in Ravenna.
catch a train to Ravenna.429/504 tomorrow. Then one day there emerges from the dark another voice. incurious). Teresa leads. has not counted on hearing. and from the occasion a passion was born that kept Teresa howling to the moon for the rest of her natural life in a fever that has set him howling too. From the words he knows it belongs to Byron's daughter Allegra. page after page he follows. On those pine-needles Byron had his Teresa . but from where inside him does it come? Why have you left me? Come and fetch me! calls Allegra. so hot.rumpling her clothes. after his manner. tramp along the old riding-trails. so hot! she . one he has not heard before. getting sand into her underwear (the horses standing by all the while. So hot.' he called her . He is inventing the music (or the music is inventing him) but he is not inventing the history.'timid as a gazelle. pass by the very place.
too softly for her to hear. because he would rather be back where he belongs. on death's other shore.430/504 complains in a rhythm of her own that cuts insistently across the voices of the lovers. the other down. waveringly. Why have you forgotten me? Why will her father not answer? Because he has had enough of life. My poor little baby! sings Byron. TWENTY-ONE . Unlovely. that is Byron's. she has been passed from hand to hand and finally given to the nuns to look after. sunk in his old sleep. one line going up. unwillingly. To the call of the inconvenient five-year-old there comes no answer. so hot! she whines from the bed in the convent where she is dying of la mal'aria. the trio of instrumentalists play the crablike motif. unloved. Seated in the shadows to one side. neglected by her famous father. So hot.
Rosalind's long. 'Lucy says you are back in town.' he replies. pale body thrashing this way and that in the throes of a pleasure that was . His best memories are still of their first months together: steamy summer nights in Durban. 'Were you ever?' comments Rosalind drily. 'What happened to your ear?' 'It's nothing.' she remarks. Not the ministering type. She would shudder.' he replies. They meet in a coffee-shop in Claremont.431/504 ROSALIND TELEPHONES. if she had to touch it. As they talk her gaze keeps drifting back to the misshapen ear. he is sure. sheets damp with perspiration. 'You've lost weight. and will not explain further. Why haven't you been in touch?' Ì'm not yet fit for society.
I should have been more careful.' 'Is Lucy safe by herself in that lonely place?' 'No. Two sensualists: that was what held them together. while it lasted.' 'You said you had your car stolen.' says Rosalind.432/504 hard to tell from pain.' 'I forgot to mention: I heard the story of your trial.' 'Helen.' 'It was my own fault. But she will stay on nevertheless. It has become a point of honour with her. They talk about Lucy. I suspect they have broken up for good. she isn't safe. The inside story. Helen is back in Johannesburg. 'Grace. 'I thought she had a friend living with her. she would be mad to feel safe. . about the farm.
whatever you call it.433/504 'My trial?' 'Your inquiry. I heard you didn't make a good impression. David.' 'That may be so. they are about how well you put yourself across.' 'I wasn't trying to make an impression. you came across badly.' 'Oh? How did you hear? I thought it was confidential. but surely you know by now that trials are not about principles.' 'That doesn't matter. According to my source. What was the principle you were standing up for?' . your inquest. I was standing up for a principle. I heard you didn't perform well. You were too stiff and defensive.
They thought you were just obfuscating. whatever the principle was. It's too big for me. 'Anyway.' 'What will you do with your time? Will you look for a job?' .' 'That sounds very grand. Are you sure it wasn't just a case of being caught with your pants down?' He does not rise to the bait.434/504 'Freedom of speech. David. A great deceiver and a great self-deceiver. it was too abstruse for your audience. I am going to sell the house. What are you going to do about money? Did they take away your pension?' 'I'll get back what I put in. You should have got yourself some coaching beforehand. Freedom to remain silent. But you were always a great self-deceiver.
Has something happened?' Her questions are intrusive. I won't be moving in with Lucy. It wouldn't be a good idea. in fact. 'You shared my bed for ten years. I'm writing something.' 'An opera! Well. It won't make money. something to dabble at.' 'Why not? You and she have always got on well together.' 'A book?' 'An opera. And no. Will you move in with Lucy?' 'The opera is just a hobby. but Rosalind has never had qualms about being intrusive.435/504 'I don't think so.' she once said 'Why should you have secrets from me?' . I hope it makes you lots of money. My hands are full. that's a new departure.
and for what?' .436/504 'Lucy and I still get on well.' There is silence while they contemplate. your peccadilloes.' 'The story of your life. dark eyes. Just your type.' he replies. Big.isn't that her name? She is in a play at the Dock Theatre. the story of his life. You must have thought it would be another of your quick flings. changing the subject.' Rosalind says. 'My girlfriend?' 'Your inamorata.' 'Yes. 'I saw your girlfriend. 'But not well enough to live together. Cunning little weasel body. Didn't you know? I can see why you fell for her. You have thrown away your life. And now look at you. Melanie Isaacs . from their respective angles.
I don't want to get into an argument. Be sensible. .' 'I'm going to end up in a hole in the ground.437/504 'My life is not thrown away. So are we all. your name is mud.' 'But it is! You have lost your job. Your shirt isn't ironed.' She gathers up her packages.' 'That's enough. you hide out in Torrance Road like a tortoise afraid to stick its neck out of its shell. Rosalind. People who aren't good enough to tie your shoelaces make jokes about you. 'You are going to end up as one of those sad old men who poke around in rubbish bins. you've got ' She arrests her tirade. 'And so are you. I'm upset as it is. David. your friends avoid you.' he says. God know who gave you that haircut.
' The mention of Melanie Isaacs unsettles him. the smell of a mate. But there is something unfinished in the business with Melanie. Deep inside him the smell of her is stored. give me a call and I'll cook you a meal. said Rosalind.the dunce with the funny ear. he puts it behind him. a sign that the affair has not run its course? Yet the very idea of reapplying to Melanie is crazy.438/504 'When you are tired of bread and jam. the uncut hair. who ought to know. He has never been given to lingering involvements. What if their paths cross again. his and Melanie's? Will there be a flash of feeling. the rumpled collar? . Why should she speak to the man condemned as her persecutor? And what will she think of him anyway . When an affair is over. Does she remember his smell too? Just your type.
what will be the future of the species? That. He seems to be spending a lot of time sighing.439/504 The marriage of Cronus and Harmony: unnatural. No country. once all the fine words were stripped away. Regret: a regrettable note on which to go out. was the case for the prosecution. heedless. If the old men hog the young women. for the sake of the species. Half of literature is about it: young women struggling to escape from under the weight of old men. tired seed. The young in one another's arms. contra naturam. On trial for his way of life. seed that does not quicken. He sighs. for old men. at bottom. For unnatural acts: for broadcasting old seed. Until two years ago the Dock Theatre was a cold storage plant where the carcases of pigs and oxen hung waiting to be transported . engrossed in the sensual music. this. That was what the trial was set up to punish.
there is a new lead actor. Now it is a fashionable entertainment spot. Wearing a pink caftan over gold lame tights. She is altogether more sure of herself than before . He arrives late. she totters onstage on high heels. the direction more professional. her face garishly made up. Is it possible that in the months he has been away she has grown up. as hard to endure as before.in fact. the novice hairdresser. The set is more stylish. her hair piled in loops on her head. The lines she is given are predictable. but she delivers them with deft timing in a whining Kaaps accent. good in the part. positively gifted. Melanie has kept her part as Gloria. Nevertheless. found . he finds the play.440/504 across the seas. 'A runaway success brought back by popular demand': that is how Sunset at the Globe Salon is billed in its new production. taking his seat just as the lights are dimming. with its crude humour and nakedly political intent.
Yet when they laugh at Melanie's . ruddy-faced. perhaps she too has suffered.441/504 herself? Whatever does not kill me makes me stronger. for instance. are enjoying the play. He wishes he could have a sign. more of an impostor. They have taken to Melanie-Gloria. in a revelation secret to him alone. laugh uproariously when the characters trade slurs and insults. comfortable in their heavy flesh. they titter at the risque jokes. Perhaps the trial was a trial for her too. and come through. If he had a sign he would know what to do. The holidaymakers among whom he is seated. as naked and as perfect as on that last night in Lucy's old room. private flame and she were to stand before him. he could not feel more alien among them. Though they are his countrymen. If. those absurd clothes were to burn off her body in a cold.
pell-mell. as if she were his daughter. sunburnt and dusty. wiry legs. as if he has fallen into a waking dream. Mine! he would like to say. a tourist from Germany. slept with her. he remembers the softness of her hair. Like leaves blown on the wind. Without warning a memory comes back from years ago: of someone he picked up on the N1 outside Trompsburg and gave a ride to. turning to them. a stream of images pours down. They drove as far as Touws River. images of women he has known on two continents. its feather-lightness between his fingers. A fair field full of-folk: . some from so far away in time that he barely recognizes them. In a sudden and soundless eruption. checked into a hotel.442/504 lines he cannot resist a flush of pride. they pass before him. he fed her. a woman in her twenties travelling alone. He remembers her long.
By Melanie. all those lives? Are there moments when they too. Soraya: by each of them he was enriched. he would stand by it. and by the others too. or some of them. his heart floods with thankfulness. Bev Shaw. under the circumstances. He holds his breath. yet now. What has happened to them. all those women. at this moment. willing the vision to continue. by the girl in Touws River. Like a flower blooming in his breast. . are plunged without warning into the ocean of memory? The German girl: is it possible that at this very instant she is remembering the man who picked her up on the roadside in Africa and spent the night with her? Enriched: that was the word the newspapers picked on to jeer at. A stupid word to let slip. by Rosalind. even the failures.443/504 hundreds of lives all tangled with his. even the least of them.
There are twenty rows of seats between himself and Melanie. . but he hopes she can at this moment. jou dom meid!' screeches the hairdresser. and the stage is suddenly plunged into darkness. but what does that explain? If he is being led. smell his thoughts. A third hits him in the neck. A moment later another object flits past and hits the seat in front of him: a spitball of paper the size of a marble. Something raps him lightly on the head. smell him. across space. 'Jesus Christ. A flash of magnesium. calling him back to the world.444/504 Where do moments like this come from? Hypnagogic. then what god is doing the leading? The play is grinding on. no doubt. They have come to the point where Melanie gets her broom tangled in the electric cord.
They have until the end of the month to pay the back rent.' comes a hiss from behind him. On stage the action has progressed. He is supposed to turn and glare.445/504 He is the target. 'What are we going to do?' laments Miriam the hair-washing woman.' . soft enough not to be heard at the front of the house. A fourth pellet strikes his shoulder and bounces into the air. Sidney the hairdresser is tearing open the fatal envelope and reading aloud the landlord's ultimatum. no doubt of that. pretending not to notice. Or else stare stiffly ahead. Who did that? he is supposed to bark. failing which the Globe will have to close down. The man in the next seat steals a puzzled glance. 'Sss. Sss.
he seems quite at ease. and a pellet catches him on the temple. There is a sound behind him. 'Professor Lurie!' whispers Ryan hoarsely. angry murmurings. though he has uttered not a sound. Their eyes meet.. Sss. before he can reach the aisle. 'Be quiet!' exclaims the woman two seats away. Standing against the back wall is Ryan.' hisses Ryan again. cross looks. There is a little smile on his lips. Outrageous though his behaviour is.446/504 He turns. find his way out. the boyfriend with the ear-ring and goatee. The play goes on. directing herself at him. emerge into the windy. . Excuse me'). The point of a cigarette glows: Ryan has followed him into the parking lot. but there is around him now a definite flurry of unrest. . There are five pairs of knees to fight past ('Excuse me . moonless night. He turns.
man! Melanie will spit in your eye if she sees you. Didn't you learn your lesson?' 'What was my lesson?' 'Stay with your own kind.' . kind. prof. Ryan is speaking. driving deep into the woman's body. The seed of generation. Let her alone.447/504 'Are you going to explain yourself?' he snaps. making them kin. Drive. 'Are you going to explain this childish behaviour?' Ryan draws on his cigarette. driven to perfect itself.' Your own kind: who is this boy to tell him who his kind are? What does he know of the force that drives the utmost strangers into each other's arms. beyond all prudence? Omnis gens quaecumque se in se pecere vult. driving to bring the future into being. driven. 'Only doing you a favour.
on this night of revelations? They park in a cul-de-sac on the slopes of Signal Hill. 'Find yourself another life. takes a step closer. Under stars so bright one might think them on fire they face each other. he thinks. Afterwards she lies with her face in his lap. The girl is drunk or perhaps on drugs: he can get nothing coherent out of her. His hand on the steering wheel is trembling. The shocks of existence: he must learn to take them more lightly. Nonetheless. The streetwalkers are out in numbers.' He drives back slowly along the Main Road in Green Point. She is younger than she had seemed under the . Believe me.448/504 He drops his cigarette. prof. at a traffic light one of them catches his eye. Spit in your eye: he had not expected that. resting. she does her work on him as well as he could expect. a tall girl in a minute black leather skirt. Why not.
Will that be the verdict on him. How could I ever have forgotten it? Not a bad man but not good either. So this is all it takes!. sits up. he thinks. contented. even at his hottest. The trembling has ceased. the verdict of the universe and its all-seeing eye? The girl stirs.' TWENTY-TWO HE STAYS IN contact with Lucy by telephone. He feels drowsy.449/504 streetlights. Lacking in fire. not even by the measure of Byron. also strangely protective. Not cold but not hot. younger even than Melanie. 'I'm taking you back to where I found you. He lays a hand on her head. Not by the measure of Teresa. 'Where are you taking me?' she mumbles. In their conversations she is at pains .
he to give the impression that he does not doubt her. 'What has she told you?' 'She tells me that everything is fine. she does not need money.450/504 to assure him that all is well on the farm. No. But she sounds like a zombie.' he says. She is hard at work in the flowerbeds. Is she?' . where the spring crop is now in bloom. 'How is Lucy. she tells him. She sounds as if she is on tranquillizers. He telephones Bev Shaw. But something in Lucy's tone nags at him. 'You are the only person I can ask. but not too busy to help out. truthfully?' Bev Shaw is guarded. Petrus is busy with his house. The Shaws are frequent visitors. The kennels are reviving. She has two dogs on full board and hopes of more.
and she seems to be picking her words carefully there have been `developments'. May I stop off for a day or two?' `Has Bev been speaking to you?' 'Bev has nothing to do with it. . 'What developments?' 'I can't tell you.451/504 Bev Shaw evades the question. May I come?' He flies to Port Elizabeth and hires a car. Lucy's farm. Two hours later he turns off the road on to the track that leads to the farm. David. Don't make me. 'There is the possibility of a job.' he says. lying. she says . Lucy will have to tell you herself ' He calls Lucy. Lucy's patch of earth. 'I must make a trip to Durban. However.
it must cast a long shadow. Despite the time he has spent here. . not particularly skilfully erected. in the mornings. On Petrus's side graze a pair of scrawny heifers. A wire fence. she has not washed her hair. Petrus's house has become a reality.' she says. Her complexion is pasty. now marks the boundary between Lucy's property and Petrus's. 'Come in. There have been changes. Lucy opens the door wearing a shapeless smock that might as well be a nightdress. it feels like a foreign land. Grey and featureless. he guesses. Her old air of brisk good health is gone. it stands on an eminence east of the old farmhouse. 'I was just making tea.452/504 Is it his earth too? It does not feel like his earth. Without warmth she returns his embrace.
' she says. 'No. you and your GP.' . I am here.' 'I don't understand. because I am concerned about you.453/504 They sit together at the kitchen table. Are you all right?' 'I'm pregnant. She pours tea. `That can wait. I thought you took care of it.' `From whom? From that day?' `From that day. passes him a packet of ginger snaps. 'Tell me about the Durban offer.' 'You are what?' 'I'm pregnant. Lucy.
I can't run my life according to whether or not you like what I do.' 'I didn't know you felt that way. David. And I never said I took Ovral. I have taken every reasonable care short of what you are hinting at. But I am not having an abortion.' 'This has nothing to do with belief. Why did you keep it from me?' 'Because I couldn't face one of your eruptions. Not any .454/504 'What do you mean. no? You mean you didn't take care of it?' 'I have taken care.' 'You could have told me earlier. You never told me you did not believe in abortion. That is something I am not prepared to go through with again. Why should there be a question of abortion anyway? I thought you took Ovral.
I have a life of my own. 'Are you telling me you are going to have the child?' 'Yes. people are not divided into major and minor. contrary to what you think. taking her hand across the table. I am not minor. I am a minor character who doesn't make an appearance until halfway through.' 'A child from one of those men?' 'Yes.' An eruption? Is this not an eruption in its own right? 'That's enough. Lucy. You are the main character.' 'Why?' . and in my life I am the one who makes the decisions. just as important to me as yours is to you. Well. You behave as if everything I do is part of the story of your life.' he says.455/504 more.
.456/504 'Why? I am a woman. This has come as a shock to me. We can talk again later. Because there is a risk that he too might erupt. There is no question about that.' Why can they not talk now? Because he is shaken. I confess. The end of May. whatever you decide.' 'And your mind is made up?' 'Yes. Do you think I hate children? Should I choose against the child because of who its father is?' 'It has been known. When are you expecting it?' 'May. David.' 'Very well. but I will stand by you. Now I am going to take a walk.
They were not raping. Lucy was wrong. What kind of child can seed like that give life to. When could it have been? While she was still living at home? Did Rosalind know. Rapists rather than robbers. It was not the pleasure principle that ran the show but the testicles. attacking women. indulging their violent pleasures. He would never have guessed it. they were mating. Lucy called them rapists cum taxgatherers roaming the area. Well. to go through with it again. mixed .457/504 She is not prepared. sacs bulging with seed aching to perfect itself. and was he kept in the dark? The gang of three. lo and behold. Three fathers in one. the child! Already he is calling it the child when it is no more than a worm in his daughter's womb. And now. seed driven into the woman not in love but in hatred. Therefore she has had an abortion before. she says.
afraid he will come out with something rash.458/504 chaotically. which she has not taken back. 'the boy is back. yet suddenly everything is changed. utterly changed! Standing against the wall outside the kitchen. to mark her. clear skies.' . like a dog's urine? A father without the sense to have a son: is this how it is all going to end. he heaves and heaves and finally cries. He installs himself in Lucy's old room. 'By the way. hiding his face in his hands. meant to soil her. a mild sun.' she says. For the rest of the afternoon he avoids her. like water dribbling into the earth? Who would have thought it! A day like any other day. is this how his line is going to run out. Over supper there is a new revelation.
For years you used it against me when I was a child. And David. He is staying with Petrus. You can't have forgotten. His name is Pollux. helping him. Whether that means a real brother I don't know. Anyway. just Pollux?' 'P-O-L-L-U-X. to mortify me.' 'Of course you do.459/504 'The boy?' 'Yes.' .' 'Not Mncedisi? Not Nqabayakhe? Nothing unpronounceable. family obligations. But Petrus has obligations toward him. the boy you had the row with at Petrus's party. can we have some relief from that terrible irony of yours?' 'I don't know what you mean. Pollux turns out to be a brother of Petrus's wife's.
'Particularly what? Say it.' 'Particularly when he may be the father of the child you are carrying.' 'Don't get indignant. leave the farm . your situation is becoming ridiculous. sinister.' He does not finish the sentence. it doesn't help.460/504 'So it all begins to come out. I plead with you. David. it's not in my power. I would steer clear of him if I were you. worse than ridiculous. I don't know how you can fail to see it. According to Petrus. But I can't order him off the property. I just want to warn you he is around. Pollux has dropped out of school and can't find a job. Lucy.' 'Particularly . I suspect there is something wrong with him. And now young Pollux returns to the scene of the crime and we must behave as if nothing has happened.
' 'Stop calling it the farm. But no. . nothing has healed. This is not a farm. 'Good morning. It's the only sane thing left to do.we both know that. Nothing has changed between Lucy and himself. They snap at each other as if he has not been away at all. He clambers over the newbuilt fence. heavy. I'm looking for Petrus. it's just a piece of land where I grow things . I'm not giving it up.' She does not meet his eyes. but points languidly toward the building site.' He goes to bed with a heavy heart. David. Petrus's wife is hanging washing behind the old stables.461/504 before it is too late.' he says. Her movements are slow. It is morning. 'Molo.
' he says. 'I lie. There is a long palaver of greetings that ought to be gone through. 'Now I must tell him to go away because of this thing that happened?' 'You told me you did not know him. 'Lucy tells me the boy is back again. rolling the r.' he says. 'Pollux.' Petrus sets his pipe between his stained teeth and sucks vigorously.' he says. 'I lie to you.' He sucks again. Petrus is glazing windows. The boy who attacked her.462/504 Her time is near: even he can see that. You lied to me. Then he removes the pipe and gives a wide smile.' Petrus scrapes his knife clean. Tor why must I lie to you?' . lays it down. 'He is my relative. but he is in no mood for it.
463/504 'Don't ask me. He is my family. ask yourself.' He takes the pipe from his mouth. what happened. you come back again -why?' He stares challengingly. As naked an answer as he could wish. You come to look after your child. It is bad.' Petrus continues. Why do you lie?' The smile has vanished. He is a child. 'You have no work here.' 'Your child? Now he is your child. Well. Petrus. . My people. I also look after my child. 'I also say it is bad. No more lies. this Pollux?' 'Yes. 'You say it is bad. But it is finish. my people. Lucy is his people. 'You go away.' So that is it.
'He will marry Lucy.' Petrus brushes aside the insults. A jackal boy.' 'It is not finished. 'He will marry her. He is a child still. It is not finished. not pretending he does not understand.' 'You will marry whom?' .' Petrus stares reflectively. too young. 'Yes. On the contrary. I will marry. too young to be marry. A young thug. Don't pretend you don't know what I mean.' he says at last. It will go on long after I am dead and you are dead. Maybe one day he can marry. it is just beginning. only he is too young.' 'A dangerous child. 'It is finish. but not now.464/504 stabs the air vehemently with the stem. he is too young.
all this badness. 'Yes. This is not something I want to hear.' He cannot believe his ears. We Westerners. 'But I tell you. wait. I can see. He is positively chuckling.' .' he says carefully. 'You will marry Lucy.' We: he is on the point of saying. puffing on the empty pipe. waiting for a response. I can see. 'Explain to me what you mean.465/504 'I will marry Lucy. that is what all the shadow-boxing was for: this bid. this blow! And here stands Petrus foursquare. This is not how we do things. rather don't explain.' says Petrus. So this is it. No. then you tell Lucy. Then it is over.
I said I doubted you would be interested. I hope you didn't lose your temper. I know. 'But here'.' 'I tried to handle it lightly.' 'No.' Ìt wasn't blackmail. And perhaps he does indeed know.' . Does not want to marry a man.466/504 'Lucy does not want to marry. I can't make myself clearer than that. too dangerous. I didn't lose my temper. 'it is dangerous. She wants to live her own life. says Petrus.' says Petrus. You are wrong about that. I said I would relay his offer. A woman must be marry. It was blackmail pure and simple. 'Though I could hardly believe what I was hearing.' 'Yes. that's all. He would be a fool to underestimate Petrus. It is not an option she will consider.' he tells Lucy afterwards.
this is not the first time. I must tell you. dumbfounded. not a threat. is he aware of my condition? I have not told him. It is not a joke. astonished. The question is.' . Petrus has been dropping hints for a while now. . give me credit for that. ?' 'You mean.' 'Because. not offended.' 'I have no doubt that in some sense he is serious. in what sense? Is he aware that you are . That I would find it altogether safer to become part of his establishment.467/504 'Were you offended?' 'Offended at the prospect of becoming Petrus's father-in-law? No. . I was taken aback. But I am sure his wife and he will have put two and two together. but no. At some level he is serious.
He is offering an alliance. you told me there are two wives. Lucy! He is already married! In fact. The farm is my dowry.468/504 'And that won't make him change his mind?' 'Why should it? It will make me all the more part of the family. a deal. Petrus is not offering me a church wedding followed by a honeymoon on the Wild Coast. In any event. he is after the farm. it is not me he is after. in return for which I am allowed to creep in under his wing.' 'And that isn't blackmail? What about the personal side? Is there no personal side to the offer?' . I am fair game. David. I am without protection. How can you even contemplate it?' 'I don't believe you get the point. he wants to remind me. Otherwise.' `But this is preposterous. I contribute the land.
. Before you get on your high horse with Petrus. and I won't say why?' 'No.that his offer is not accepted. for patronage? To Ettinger? It is just a matter of time before Ettinger is found with a bullet in his back. Shall I convey your decision to Petrus . Practically speaking.469/504 'Do you mean. Wait.' 'Then we need not discuss it any further. except to drive home his message. I don't want to sleep with Petrus. there is only Petrus left. to be frank. but he is far away and anyhow powerless in the terms that matter here. Objectively I am a woman alone. I have no brothers. Definitely not. take a moment to consider my situation objectively. no. But. I have a father. would Petrus expect me to sleep with him? I'm not sure that Petrus would want to sleep with me. To whom can I turn for protection.
The child becomes part of his family. 'Propose the following. I have no illusions about him. I am prepared to send you to Holland. Say I accept his protection. Alternatively I am prepared to give you whatever you need to set yourself up again somewhere safer than here. I am in the process of selling the house in Cape Town.' It is as if she has not heard him. Say he can put out whatever story he likes about our relationship and I won't contradict him. say I will sign the . As his concubine. And at least I know Petrus. I know what I would be letting myself in for. ditto.470/504 Petrus may not be a big man but he is big enough for someone small like me. If he wants me to be known as his third wife. so be it.' she says. But then the child becomes his too. As for the land. 'Go back to Petrus. Think about it.' 'Lucy.
You know that. Lucy.' 'A bywoner. she is overweight in a slack.' 'Then what do you propose?' She sits in her housecoat and slippers with yesterday's newspaper on her lap. I repeat that.' 'A bywoner.471/504 land over to him as long as the house remains mine. Her hair hangs lank. I will become a tenant on his land. Including him. Legally it's not workable. But the house remains mine. And I keep the kennels.' 'It's not workable. unhealthy way. No one enters this house without my permission. More and more she has begun to look like one of those women who shuffle around the corridors of nursing homes .
no property. Perhaps that is what I must learn to accept. no weapons. no rights.472/504 whispering to themselves. No cards. 'How humiliating. and to end like this. Two proposals. But perhaps that is a good point to start from again. it is humiliating.' 'Yes. With nothing. 'Such high hopes. Tell him I give up the land. Not with nothing but. 'I have made my proposal. Tell him that he can have it.' There is a pause between them. To start at ground level.' he says finally.' . Why should Petrus bother to negotiate? She cannot last: leave her alone and in due course she will fall like rotten fruit. Go to Petrus and tell him what I have said. title deed and all.' 'No. With nothing. I agree. I'm not leaving. He will love that. no dignity.
As they approach the house he notices the boy. Katy has kept up with him. Katy has begun to growl. . but the boy is too absorbed to pay heed. like a dog. By the time he turns they are upon him.' TWENTY-THREE IT IS MID-MORNING. Surprisingly. the one whom Petrus called my people. taking the bulldog Katy for a walk. At first he thinks he is urinating.473/504 'Like a dog. either because he is slower than before or because she is faster. She snuffles and pants as much as ever. peeping at Lucy. but this no longer seems to irritate him. standing with his face to the back wall. He has been out.' 'Yes. then he realizes he is peering in through the bathroom window.
Show him his place. the boy tries to run. solid kick. Pollux! What a name! . so that he staggers. so that lie sprawls sideways. He strikes out with a fist. With a shout of pain he tries to pull free. but trips over his own feet. growling. 'You filthy swine!' More startled than hurt. Her teeth close over his elbow. and strikes him a second time.474/504 The flat of his hand catches the boy in the face. He would like to give the boy what he deserves: a sound thrashing. he thinks! This is what it is like to be a savage! He gives the boy a good. Phrases that all his life he has avoided seem suddenly just and right: Teach him a lesson. 'You swine!' he shouts. At once the dog is upon him. but his blows lack force and the dog ignores them. she braces her forelegs and tugs. The word still rings in the air: Swine! Never has he felt such elemental rage. So this is what it is like.
Then Lucy is on the scene. The boy tries to push her off. 'Ya ya ya ya ya!' he shouts in pain. 'Are you all right?' she says. Falling to her knees. ripping his shirt. Reluctantly the dog releases her grip. He seems on the point of crying. 'I will kill you!' he shouts. The boy is moaning with pain. . mounting the boy's body. speaking softly and urgently.475/504 The dog changes position. but she does not budge. Lucy grips the dog's collar. 'Katy!' she commands. Snot is running from his nostrils. tugging grimly at his arm. 'I will kill you!' he heaves. The dog gives her a sidelong glance but does not obey.
the sash slips loose and her breasts are bared. almost milky.' she says. Lucy turns away from the two of them. rounded. pearls of blood emerge on the dark skin. There are scoremarks from the dog's fangs. He is staring.476/504 Lucy folds back his sleeve. as they watch. let us go and wash it. The last time he saw his daughter's breasts they were the demure rosebuds of a six-yearold. The boy sucks in the snot and tears. the boy is staring too. In a single quick movement the boy scrambles to his feet and dodges out of range. A stillness falls. He . 'We will kill you all!' he shouts. unashamedly. Lucy is wearing only a wrapper. shakes his head. covers herself. As she rises. Now they are heavy. Rage wells up in him again. clouding his eyes. 'Come.
protecting the boy? Lucy speaks. David. A violent child in the body of a young man. 'This can't go on. but I can't cope with all of you together. though he still nurses his arm. But there is more. some angle to the business he does not understand. I can cope with you. Lucy is right. His gait is cocky once more. A disturbed child. Are you aware of that?' 'He is disturbed. deliberately trampling the potato bed. wrong in his head.477/504 turns. he ducks under the wire fence and retreats toward Petrus's house. Something is wrong with him. I can cope with Petrus and his aanhangers. What is Lucy up to.' 'He was staring at you through the window.' .
I must have peace around me. David.' She faces him squarely. squinting into the sunlight. If you want to think like that.' 'That is reckless talk. He is here. Anyway. Deficient. until you came back. 'David.' he goes on. with her achievements. I . we can't go on like this. He should be in an institution. looking for mischief.478/504 'Is that an excuse? An excuse for what he did to you?' Lucy's lips move. but he cannot hear what she says. pleased with herself. Morally deficient. Mentally deficient. he won't disappear in a puff of smoke. He is like a jackal sniffing around. Everything had settled down. 'He is shifty. what you think of him is beside the point. In the old days we had a word for people like him. Katy slumps down at her feet. panting lightly. everything was peaceful again. he is a fact of life. please keep it to yourself. 'I don't trust him.
479/504 am prepared to do anything. you said it. for the sake of peace. When he thinks of the boy and his threats. 'I didn't say it. .certainly not the boy. He has taught no one a lesson . and clearly she does not like what she sees.' 'And I am part of what you are prepared to sacrifice?' She shrugs. At the same time. he is ashamed of himself. All he has done is to estrange himself further from Lucy. make any sacrifice.' 'Then I'll pack my bags. he seethes with anger. He has shown himself to her in the throes of passion.' Hours after the incident his hand still tingles from the blows. He condemns himself absolutely.
opaque little eyes. If Pollux insults his daughter again. in control of himself.480/504 He ought to apologize. Teresa may be the last one left who can save him. too old to change. he cannot. and sings her longings. she plays the banjo in front of the servants and does not care if they smirk. She will not be dead. he is too old to heed. Teresa is past honour. but also the thought that like a weed he has been allowed to tangle his roots with Lucy and Lucy's existence. Something about Pollux sends him into a rage: his ugly. Lucy may be able to bend to the tempest. She pushes out her breasts to the sun. But he cannot. it would seem. Du musst dein Leben ändern!: you must change your life. She has immortal longings. not with honour. He is not. . his insolence. That is why he must listen to Teresa. he will strike him again. Well.
When I am added in. 'Is this just a visit or are you back for a while?' she asks. Hard to believe they once lay naked in each other's arms. What is the problem?' 'Between Lucy and myself? Nothing.481/504 He arrives at the clinic just as Bev Shaw is leaving. Nothing that can't be fixed. Like spiders in a bottle.' An image comes to him from the Inferno: the great marsh of Styx. we become too many. tentative as strangers. I hope. with souls boiling up in . Too many in too small a space. 'I am back for as long as is necessary.' 'I'm sorry. I am going to find a room for myself in town. She and I aren't hitting it off. The problem is with the people she lives among. But I won't be staying with Lucy. They embrace.
Vedi l'anime di color cui vine l'ira. Perhaps the time has come. And she is young. A punishment fitted to the crime. where would Lucy be now?' Bev Shaw is silent. But as long as Petrus is there. 'You are talking about that boy who has moved in with Petrus.' he says. Lucy is adaptable. surely Lucy will be all right.482/504 it like mushrooms. I must say I don't like the look of him.' Lucy adaptable? That is not his experience. 'If I had stood back from the beginning. for you to stand back and let Lucy work out solutions for herself. Is there something about him that Bev Shaw can see and he cannot? Because animals trust her. She lives closer to the ground than you. Women are adaptable. gnawing at each other. should he trust . Souls overcome with anger. 'You keep telling me to stand back. Than either of us. David.
to teach him a lesson? Animals trust her. 'Anyway. 'and some new disaster were to take place on the farm. 'I don't know. What is the lesson there? 'If I were to stand back.' There is a long silence between them. Between Lucy's generation and mine a curtain seems to have fallen. so I am looking for a room. how would I be able to live with myself?' She shrugs.' he continues. If you happen to hear of anything in Grahamstown. let . 'I can't stay with Lucy. and she uses that trust to liquidate them. 'Is that the question. David?' she asks quietly.' he stumbles on.483/504 her too. I don't know what the question is any more. I didn't even notice when it fell.
I know someone who can fit rails for you. From a friend of Bill Shaw's he buys a halfton pickup. What I mainly came to say is that I am available to help at the clinic.' According to its papers the truck is twelve years old. but the engine sounds smooth enough. it does .' 'You will need rails on the back. he tells himself. for which he pays with a cheque for R woo and another cheque for R7000 postdated to the end of the month.' says Bev Shaw. 'Animals. Dogs. so that they won't jump out.' 'My dogs don't jump. And anyway. 'What do you plan to use it for?' says the man.' 'That will be handy.484/504 me know.
tells his landlady he is in Grahamstown for outpatient treatment. but knows she thinks it is cancer. No matter. 'In case of fire. 'We don't allow cooking in the rooms. Carrying them up to his room. He does not say what the treatment is for. a small gas stove. you know.' . He is spending money like water. Nothing has to last for ever.' she says. an aluminium pot. pays a month's rent in advance.485/504 not have to last for ever. Mr Lourie. Following up an advertisement in Grocott's Mail. At a camping shop he buys an immersion heater. he meets his landlady on the stairs. He gives his name as Lourie. he hires a room in a house near the hospital.
the mattress lumpy. when he has the premises to himself.486/504 The room is dark. as he has got used to other things. In the bare compound behind the building he makes a nest of sorts. After breakfast he leaves for the clinic and spends the day there. for the rest do not speak. with a table and an old armchair from the Shaws and a beach umbrella to keep off the worst of the sun. more than the boarding-house. every day. He brings in the gas stove to make tea or warm up canned food: spaghetti and meatballs. picks out on . There is one other boarder. a retired schoolteacher. Sundays included. he cleans out their pens and occasionally talks to them. becomes his home. overfurnished. But he will get used to it. stuffy. They exchange greetings over breakfast. snoek and onions. otherwise he reads or dozes or. Twice a day he feeds the animals. The clinic.
Until the child is born.487/504 Lucy's banjo the music he will give to Teresa Guiccioli. what Teresa and her lover have done to deserve being brought back to this world? TWENTY-FOUR IN HER WHITE nightdress Teresa stands at the bedroom window. He rises from his seat. to them. Her eyes are closed. What a tale to tell back home: a mad old man who sits among the dogs singing to himself? Mad indeed. the boys drop down and scamper off whooping with excitement. to their parents. this will be his life. the dogs start barking. One morning he glances up to see the faces of three little boys peering at him over the concrete wall. It . How can he ever explain. to D Village.
Even the trio in the corner are quiet as dormice. breathing in the rustle of the wind. her voice barely above a whisper . the belling of the bullfrogs. 'Che vuol dir. my Byron!' She opens her arms wide.'che Sono?' Silence. 'Come to me. to appear on the horizon as a sun-god casting the glow .`Che vuol dir questa solitudine immensa? Ed io.' she sings. embracing the darkness.' she sings . She wants him to come on the wind. to wrap himself around her. to bury his face in the hollow between her breasts. embracing what it will bring. Alternatively she wants him to arrive on the dawn.488/504 is the darkest hour of the night: she breathes deeply. I plead. 'Come!' she whispers. The solitudine immensa offers no reply.
Sitting at his table in the dog-yard. so as not to wake her father. Plink-plunk goes the mandolin in her arms. she is haggard with longing. . from everything. he harkens to the sad. from her father's bad temper. swooping curve of Teresa's plea as she confronts the darkness. from the summer heat. from the Villa Gamba. she is sore. softly.489/504 of his warmth upon her. Cradling it like a child. she has not slept a wink. she returns to the window. Plinkplunk squawks the banjo in the desolate yard in Africa. From the chair where it rests she picks up the mandolin. She wants to be rescued -from the pain. This is a bad time of the month for Teresa. By any means at all she wants him back.
There is no action. stunted. not any more. might as well not exist. Yet despite occasional good moments. A lie. no development. punctuated now and then with groans and sighs from Byron offstage. halting cantilena hurled by Teresa into the empty air.490/504 Just something to dabble at. the truth is that Byron in Italy is going nowhere. but after decades of starvation it can crawl forth from its cave only pinched. It has become the kind of work a sleepwalker might write. The lyric impulse in him may not be dead. to raise Byron in Italy off the monotonous track on which it has been running since the start. just a long. He has not the musical resources. It would have been nice to be returned triumphant to society as the author of . he had said to Rosalind. The opera is not a hobby. It consumes him night and day. The husband and the rival mistress are forgotten. the resources of energy. deformed. He sighs.
As for recognizing it. But that will not be. His hopes must be more temperate: that somewhere from amidst the welter of sound there will dart up. he will leave that to the scholars of the future. promised her another life. there is one he has come to feel a particular fondness for. He hopes she will find it in her heart to forgive him. a single authentic note of immortal longing. Poor Teresa! Poor aching girl! He has brought her back from the grave. if it comes . Though it would have been nice for Lucy to hear proof in her lifetime. like a bird. if there are still scholars by then. .491/504 an eccentric little chamber opera. and think a little better of him. and now he is failing her. For he will not hear the note himself. Of the dogs in the holding pens. when it comes.he knows too much about art and the ways of art to expect that.
492/504 It is a young male with a withered left hindquarter which it drags behind it. cocks its head. in its grotesque way. Arbitrarily. he knows. the dog would die for him. he is sensible of a generous affection streaming out toward him from the dog. The dog is fascinated by the sound of the banjo. No visitor has shown an interest in adopting it. It is not 'his' in any sense. while he is reading or writing. listens. or snooze at his feet. the dog sits up. Whether it was born like that he does not know. When he strums the strings. Its period of grace is almost over. he releases it from the pen and lets it frisk. Sometimes. and the humming begins . soon it will have to submit to the needle. he has been adopted. he has been careful not to give it a name (though Bev Shaw refers to it as Driepoot). around the yard. unconditionally. nevertheless. When he hums Teresa's line.
he goes to Donkin Square to help Lucy at the market stall. Would he dare to do that: bring a dog into the piece. or howling. all things are permitted? On Saturday mornings. but if he is picking up signs. She is not obviously pregnant. Lucy is slowing down in her movements. placid look. She has begun to wear a self-absorbed.493/504 to swell with feeling (it is as though his larynx thickens: he can feel the hammer of blood in his throat). how much longer before . in a work that will never be performed. by agreement. allow it to loose its own lament to the heavens between the strophes of lovelorn Teresa's? Why not? Surely. Afterwards he takes her out to lunch. the dog smacks its lips and seems on the point of singing too.
All very nicely timed.' 'Has Petrus dropped any more hints?' 'Hints?' 'About you. About your place in the scheme.' 'Perhaps it will be different once the child' he makes the faintest of gestures toward his .' 'And their child? Isn't the child just about due?' 'Next week.494/504 the eagle-eyed daughters of Grahamstown pick them up too? 'How is Petrus getting on?' he asks. all but the ceilings and the plumbing. They are in the process of moving in. 'The house is finished.' 'No.
'is born. But you go ahead. 'Do you love him yet?' Though the words are his. after all. 'The child? No.' 'I suspect it is too late for me. How could I? But I will. They will not be able to deny that. David. a child of this earth.one can trust Mother Nature for that. toward her body . I'm just an old lag serving out my sentence. A good mother and a good person.' A good person. from his mouth. in dark times. they startle him. . I am determined to be a good mother. Love will grow .495/504 daughter. It will be.' There is a long silence between them. Not a bad resolution to make. You are well on the way. You should try to be a good person too.
The bees must be in their seventh heaven. the stables. the old dam on which he can make out specks that must be the ducks and larger specks that must be the wild geese. nor of his wile or tile jackal boy who runs with them.496/504 By unspoken agreement. ashblue. Petrus's new house. Lucy's visitors from afar. From the last hillcrest the farm opens out before him: the old house. Nonetheless. solid as ever. leaves the truck at the turnoff. he does not. At this distance the flowerbeds are solid blocks of colour: magenta. and walks the rest of the way. for the time being. A season of blooming. Of Petrus there is no sign. But Lucy is at work among the flowers. and. as he . come to his daughter's farm. not following the track but striking out over the veld. carnelian. one weekday he takes a drive along the Kenton road.
stretches. and a wide straw hat. Lucy straightens up. vulnerable tendons of the backs of her knees: the least beautiful part of a woman's body. has not yet noticed him. and therefore perhaps the most endearing. Still she is not aware of him. blue-veined skin and broad. As for the watchdog. with her back to him. immemorial. She is wearing a pale summer dress. a patch of fawn on the path beside her. the watchdog appears to be snoozing. the least expressive.497/504 picks his way down the hillside. clipping or pruning or tying. he can see the milky. . Lucy. His daughter is becoming a peasant. boots. As she bends over. Field-labour. bends down again. He reaches the fence and stops. he can see the bulldog too. peasant tasks.
his gift.498/504 So: once she was only a little tadpole in her mother's body. with luck. 'Lucy!' She does not hear him. just as long-lasting. So it will go on. A Joseph. When he is dead she will. With luck she will last a long time. A grandfather. and now here she is. solid in her existence. that with luck will be just as solid. being a grandfather? As a father he has not been much of a success. more solid than he has ever been. And from within her will have issued another existence. As a . till it may as well be forgotten. still be here doing her ordinary tasks among the flowerbeds. a line of existences in which his share. will grow inexorably less and less. What will it entail. long beyond him. Who would have thought it! What pretty girl can he expect to be wooed into bed with a grandfather? Softly he speaks her name. despite trying harder than most.
das ewig Weibliche. bees busy in a field of flowers. A scene ready-made for a Sargent or a Bonnard. The wind drops. patience. he has never had much of an eye for rural life. He must have a look again at Victor Hugo. for instance. But perhaps those virtues will come as other virtues go: the virtue of passion. poet of grandfatherhood. kindliness. He lacks the virtues of the old: equanimity. despite all his reading in . and at the centre of the picture a young woman. but even city boys can recognize beauty when they see it. There is a moment of utter stillness which he would wish prolonged for ever: the gentle sun. The truth is. can have their breath taken away. the stillness of midafternoon.499/504 grandfather he will probably score lower than average too. There may be things to learn. City boys like him. lightly pregnant. in a straw sunhat.
She is flushed from her labours and perhaps a little sunburnt. He clambers through the fence. Not much of an eye for anything.500/504 Wordsworth.' he says. She looks. smiles. 'Hello. 'Where is the truck?' asks Lucy. halfturns.' . 'I parked and took a walk. Lucy comes erect. suddenly. Katy lumbers up to him. more loudly.' Katy raises her head and stares shortsightedly in his direction. the picture of health. and where has that got him? Is it too late to educate the eye? He clears his throat. sniffs his shoes. 'Lucy.' she says. The spell is broken. 'I didn't hear you. except pretty girls.
from her. Sunday has come again. One by one he brings in the cats. He and Bev do not speak.501/504 'Will you come in and have some tea?' She makes the offer as if he were a visitor. to concentrate all his attention on the animal they are killing. Visitorship.all those whose term has come. He and Bev Shaw are engaged in one of their sessions of Lösung. and puts them away. the halt. then stands back and watches while he seals up the remains in a black plastic shroud. the crippled. He has learned by now. Good. One by one Bev touches them. the sound . a new start. then the dogs: the old. speaks to them. giving it . but also the young. the blind. the maimed. comforts them. visitation: a new footing.
What the dog will not be able to work out (not in a month of Sundays! he thinks). including one he will not yet have met with in his life: the smell of expiration. mixed smells still linger. Twenty-three. There is only the young dog left. the soft. Something happens in this room.502/504 what he no longer has difficulty in calling by its proper name: love. into the theatre with its zinctopped table where the rich. would already have lolloped after his comrades into the clinic building. something unmentionable: here the soul is yanked out of the body. the one who. what his nose will not tell him. then it is sucked away and is . is how one can enter what seems to be an ordinary room and never come out again. the one who likes music. He ties the last bag and takes it to the door. briefly it hangs about in the air. twisting and contorting. short smell of the released soul. given half a chance.
One gets used to things getting harder. it cannot be evaded. when the soul is out. It gets harder all the time. He can save the young dog. and the next day wheel the bag into the flames and see that it is burnt. this room that is not a room but a hole where one leaks out of existence.503/504 gone. and then. his legs buckle. when he will have to bring him to Bev Shaw in her operating room (perhaps he will carry him in his arms. bewilderingly. But a time must come. and whisper to him and support him in the moment when. It will be beyond him. yet easier too. one ceases to be surprised that what used to be as hard as hard can be grows harder yet. He will do all that . perhaps he will do that for him) and caress him and brush back the fur so that the needle can find the vein. for another week. burnt up. fold him up and pack him away in his bag. Harder. if he wishes. Bev Shaw once said.
'Come.' says Bev Shaw. He crosses the surgery. he reenters the surgery. It will be little enough.' he says. 'Come. less than little: nothing. 'Was that the last?' asks Bev Shaw. licks his cheeks. 'Are you giving him up?' 'Yes.' Bearing him in his arms like a lamb. 'I thought you would save him for another week. The dog wags its crippled rear.' He opens the cage door.504/504 for him when his time comes. his ears. He does nothing to stop it.' . bends. sniffs his face. I am giving him up. opens his arms. 'One more. his lips.
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