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