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