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