Introduction to THE KINGSWOOD BLACK BOOKS
THE KINGSWOOD BLACK BOOKS forms the second
subcycle and comprises the four novels, THE FOURTH
MAN, LUPITA, CROW STATION and SOLOMON’S
DREAM. The origins of the tetralogy lie in an initial
unconscious impulse in the 1960s which only came to full
conscious in the early 1980s, after the trilogy, NOTHING
DARKER THAN THE LIGHT, had been completed.
In a very real sense, perhaps owing to the way in which the
first elements of the tetralogy – which now form much of
THE FOURTH MAN – came into being, the biography of
Richard Butler is an unavoidably provisional affair. Little of
it has been revised – and that only for reasons of clarity of
sense – and even less has been rewritten. Each novel had in a
way only one chance of being written and we get only what
could be captured on the first attempt.
There is no standard against which Richard Butler can be
measured. He exists in a void, and his whole world therefore
exists in a void. That is the nature of freedom.
The interesting question for me now is this: does the reader
get more than one chance to read the tetralogy?
THE FOURTH MAN – Introduction
This in a way is the first novel. It was not conceived as such
but it was composed in most of its parts before THE WHITE
CITY, the first novel to be written as such. THE FOURTH
MAN has roots in stories begun in the sixties and composed
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from then until the early eighties. A mixture of overweening
ambition and fundamental spiritual timidity would have
prevented the realisation of the work before the NOTHING
DARKER THAN THE LIGHT trilogy had been completed.
However, once the novel had been compiled, its four by four
structure was seen to provide the underlying structure for the
whole cycle of novels. The Introduction to the DARK
LIBERATION cycle can be found under that name.
THE FOURTH MAN itself is the first novel of the Richard
Butler tetralogy, THE KINGSWOOD BLACK BOOKS,
which comprises the second sub-cycle of the whole series.

THE FOURTH MAN – Summary
The novel is about the sentimental education of an Irish man,
Richard Butler. Given the limited possibilities of the
biographical novel, the experiences of Butler are conveyed by
means of sixteen episodes that concentrate on the key
incidents in his life between childhood and his mid-thirties.
These sixteen episodes are arranged in four sections of four
episodes each. The sections are not titled but they concern, in
turn, the family, the group, the social, and the individual, the
final section indicating the meaning of the title of the work:
the moral imperative that we achieve (what can best be called
for now) individuality.
THE FOURTH MAN is an attempt to achieve a sense on one
hand of the fragmentary nature of modern life, the experience
of disconnection and decentred-ness, yet on the other hand,
the intense aura of significance that accompanies certain key
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experiences in this alienated life, and how by reflection on
these intense moments some sense can be made of our lives
by tracing the implicit connections between these moments.
A number of narrative techniques have been used to achieve
this end, ranging from first and third person narration,
variable focus on Butler, rhetorical devices like figuration,
reinforcement and connotation, and a variety of settings in
Ireland, England and Europe. It is hoped that THE FOURTH
MAN succeeds in conveying the early life of Richard Butler
in a convincing way, and that it also provides for the reader
an example of how we ought to interpret the moments of
illumination that occur in all our lives.
THE FOURTH MAN is about 84,000 words long.

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THE FOURTH MAN

PHILIP MATTHEWS

© Philip Matthews 1984

5

I

6

THE APPLE

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for though he was more puzzled than embarrassed by the prospect of a fight. beyond necessity. for it was his nature to be passionate of mind and word and. with the wall to complete the rough ring. Antipathies in their natures predisposed them to it. who faced Richard from Gussie’s right side. thoroughly inactive in the world. and displayed various degrees of interest in the proceedings. The result was that while Gussie performed his role as referee with gusto – as leader.The tiff that was the cause of the fight between Jimmy Sullivan and Richard Butler occurred quite suddenly during one of their childish games. The remaining boys in the group stood in a semicircle. arms slack by his side. His mother had just laid down a large shopping bag and was smiling in relief. which 8 . a ferocious one. Richard’s younger brother appeared at the backdoor to their house and in all innocence shouted to tell him that mother was home. In the matter of fact voice she used with the two boys. managed to put a good face on it. by age. both had forgotten the reason for it. Just when Gussie thought he had worked everyone. of the group of boys he was used to assuming it during times of conflict – Richard stood to one side of him. By reaction Richard made his excuses and ran the short distance to the door and up the garden to the house. Jimmy. But by the time Gussie Hanrahan had found a quiet spot in the lane behind Richard’s house and had arranged the rules of the fight. up to the proper pitch. faintly embarrassed by the prospect of action. a memory of the emotion of the tiff remained in him to give authority to his grimace and flexed arms. including himself.

and laughed. She produced two large red apples and handed one to each of them. Then he released Richard. She caught these glances. As she had made this suggestion many times before the boys merely smiled. Gussie grasped Richard’s shoulder impatiently and squared him up against Jimmy. she complained lightly of the weight of the bag and wondered why they didn’t arrange to come and meet her and help her with it. His brother chose to sit on the grass in the garden and eat his apple in the sunshine. He quickly thanked his mother for the apple and dashed up the garden path.mingled mockery and pleasure. Almost half the apple was eaten by the time he rejoined his friends. 9 . Jimmy stood watching him. By then his father should be home and they would sit around the table together. Richard took his and bit into it immediately. Richard’s eyes glazed as he staggered back to the wall. ready for the fight. tea would soon be ready. Seeing the apple. Some of the audience complained that the punch had been a foul and appealed to Gussie to do something about it. he pulled it from his hand and told him to fight now. A warm feeling of anticipation flushed his body as the thought struck him that now his mother was home from her shopping. hoping the fight was over and he had won. He heard Gussie’s impatient voice calling him. Jimmy was still stanced. as they did every evening. his hand tremoring with tension. their eyes flickering from her face to the bag on the table. stood back and shouted ‘Go!’ Jimmy hit Richard one panicky punch low down in the solar plexus. She automatically called after him to care he didn’t dirty himself.

As he licked the last of the juice from his lips he took note of the situation and cried ‘Foul!’ Then he announced it was time for tea and led the gang up the lane in the general direction of their homes. (Except for the core.) He took one final look of satisfaction as the butt before throwing it away. for he believed that apple seeds were poisonous. 10 .But Gussie was busy gorging the apple.

FRIDAY AFTERNOON 11 .

Brother Desmond didn’t know why.Brother Desmond made a quick flourish. On the third floor of the new wing: Dublin stretched away below him to the west. What he remembered most clearly from his teens were the evenings on the playing fields. Some of the boys had finished copying the equation into their exercise books and were gazing docilely before them. gangling youth would very soon become rebellious. Brother Desmond sighed. straw-headed boy at the back. He spun on his heels. He could not remember himself at that age. buds clearly seen at this height. he didn’t think he did. Very few trees were to be seen. of relief. a hurly in his aching hands. even after twelve years. Perhaps it really frightened him. It was the age they were at: twelve going on thirteen. 12 . At least. He could see it growing in his eyes as a kind of terror. The day had remained calm and bright: early spring. Then he turned on his heels and walked quickly to the window and looked out. he paused. The city still puzzled him. squat in this temperate climate. Instinct told him that this strong. When he came to the big. Living in the country had perhaps made a difference. on the board with the chalk as he scratched the figure two: the last piece finally unravelled from the jigsaw of the equation for the benefit of his pupils. a grey waste of low slate roofs extending as far as the reddish bulk of the brewery. but luckily those few were directly below. Brother Desmond scanned the forty boys. bordering the playground: plane trees. staring at the bright sky with the euphoria of exhaustion. soutane swishing through the air.

though Brother Desmond knew it was really apathy. Understand? Tastes? That hadn’t helped at all. stung beyond endurance by the youth’s inability to answer even the most elementary question. He went 13 . encouraging the cows or bullying the dog.’ He spoke the word to the world at large beyond the high window. for he couldn’t draw attention to the boy’s peculiarities. Most of the boys had finished copying the equation by now. He would wait one more minute. He turned back to the window and gazed up at the puffs of cloud approaching from the southwest. and he would crave the simplicity of childhood.And then there was Corrigan. about him. He knew who would be the last in finishing: Purcell. With him there would be trouble of another sort. All but a few had transcribed the equation. Twice already this term he had thrashed him. the desire for the open country surged in him. though intending it to draw his class’s attention. He couldn’t punish him. Five to three. Against his will. Nothing but the foulest filth issued from that slack. Dark woods and bright meadows: the lowing of the milch cows in the evening light. Then he would remember his father’s voice out in the byre. Brother Desmond glanced across at the electric clock over the door. He had spoken to Brother Robinson. ‘Now. the Head Brother. Grime ingrained into his neck and his skin glazed as a result of an unhealthy diet. His stupidity was a goad. Already he had had to move him three times since Christmas. reptilian mouth of his. and had been told to try to understand the lad’s tastes. Sometimes the structures of the abstract knowledge he imparted day after day escaped him and he was left hollow and vertiginous.

one of the seen-to-be-bright boys occupying the front desks.’ The boy slipped happily back to his desk. immediately raised his hand and piped ingratiatingly: ‘Please. Fussy. but then he manfully took hold of himself and carried the thick algebra book to the board. he picked a fresh stick of chalk from the runnel under the board. However. his eyes bright because of the attention he was receiving. It was ten past three. starting at the top and working his way slowly down. ‘What don’t you understand?’ he said. Brother. ‘Sit down. ‘For Monday do the first six questions on page twenty six. Charitably.to the board and began to rub out the figures. unwillingly warming to the boy. Brother Desmond cut him off by saying: ‘Well. To the unbounded delight of the class it broke as he laboriously wrote the first figure.’ Brother Desmond gave him the hard eye.’ he said in his baritone southern accent. When Higgins opened his mouth to speak. 14 . Higgins. he left x = 2 untouched. He did not have to look around to know that they were now scribbling feverishly.’ Higgins blanched. conscious of being in everyone’s sight. go up to the board and do the first question. The example I have given will show you how they are to be done. ‘Now. He turned to the class and buried his hands in the folds of his soutane. he solved the problem without any trouble. He was conscious of both punishing the slower boys and yet of teasing them. could you go over it again? I don’t fully understand it.’ Higgins. which didn’t surprise Brother Desmond.

Most of you. He sat down.’ Brother Desmond was aggrieved that Butler knew the answer. ‘1593?’ It was a question. and not only 15 . ‘Butler. ‘Tell him. and waited until quiet had settled once again on the room. then he spoke sarcastically. case. Brother Desmond stared at his class for a while. Sit down. ‘O’Callaghan. Every period began with this tension as corrected work was given back.’ Butler wasn’t paying attention.’ he barked suddenly. watching them sternly. for he was as weary as they: ‘For Irishmen. while yet half erect: ‘1598. They knew there could be some very grim post-mortems. ‘Yes. ‘Right. even paper bag. ignoring the scramble as the class searched schoolbag. The boy gulped and tugged the lapel of his blazer.’ Brother Desmond snapped.‘Open your history books. Everyone in the class knew why the question had been asked.’ O’Callaghan disappeared as though a trapdoor had been sprung under him. It was a kind of victory for him. A red-headed boy with a long freckled face started and leaped to his feet. you know precious little about the most tragic period of your history. He had been gazing out the window. both of you. he got slowly to his feet and said in a dry voice.’ He went to his desk and lifted out a pile of exercise books. He had written 1596 in the test on Wednesday. for the appropriate book. Brother?’ ‘When was the battle of the Yellow Ford fought?’ O’Callaghan blushed a bright crimson and began to twist his fingers. Nevertheless.

Caden and his sweets. I give you fair warning that I will set a paper on the same subject on Monday and that I expect you all to write perfect answers.O’Callaghan. he thought with a certain finality. ‘The sooner you understand that the man who does not know his nation’s history cannot claim his place among his people the better. Brother Desmond opened his dog-eared history book and looked down at the woodcut of Hugh O’Neill: VGO CONTE DI TIRONE. The boys at the back came forward and squeezed into the front desks. Do you understand?’ Forty heads nodded. Half-three. Instead. A flash of movement caught his eyes. Fifteen minutes to go. ‘It is not good enough.. ‘Now. He felt the rising tension in the room.’ The cloud of apprehension evaporated as quickly as it had formed. I think I would be justified in punishing three quarters of you for the slovenly work done on Wednesday. I will make no allowance. They know what to expect. who remains nameless..’ He paused again. One of you. move up three to a desk and I will read the chapter to you. letting his words sink in. even included the massacre of Drogheda in the wars of the Ulster Princes. 16 .’ He brought his open hands down on to his desk with hollow thuds. ‘You have the weekend to study your books. Remember.’ He paused. got the dates wrong. so that the class crowded up close to him.

17 . He could hear the hard leather ball strike the ash and hear the cries thin and urgent in the open under the bright spring sky.Tomorrow they played the Brothers of O’Connells on the playing fields at Dolphin’s Barn.

PASSION 18 .

not quite sure of the object of our escapade. high in the clear air. as I had come to recognise. As an evening such as this came on. talking and poking about. I would become restless. we would decide to wander through it. Tommy Hagan and myself. would go where-ever he 19 . and watch the bright sky with greater ease. Something in the outside world seemed to call to me and I would well up inside and go to meet it. through a wood at the edge of the city on one of those long summer evenings when the sun sets over a period of hours in a blaze of white light. The evenings. when. and the compress of the heat of the day was dissipated. I knew that there. where the sun never shone at all.The three of us had been away. I would find peace. when the inhabitants of the city – well. Tommy. Ben Scott. long as they were. I could not be easy. But the mountains were always my secret objective. It was usual for the three of us. at least mine were. were not endless. I was in my early teens then. or my mother grew apprehensive of the bees that buzzed very audibly among the roses and chrysanthemums. But for my part. realising the impossibility of reaching the foothills in the time we had available. they would go indoors and sit in the front of the house. to venture out of the old suburb in which we lived and make our way through Harold’s Cross and Terenure. it being a rare thing. until we came to this wood. our eyes always on the mountains before us. my parents. at any rate – would sit out in their gardens and enjoy the relief of the cool air and the security of a cloudless sky. rambling. Though if the flies became too much of a nuisance. They were evenings of grace.

He was older than Tommy or I. seems to have been one of apprehension. had been done and that we could go home and look forward to tomorrow as a new day. bits of stick in our hands. going on seventeen at the time of this particular incident. which we had used to slice through the lower branches of the trees. We came out of the wood and stood at the edge of a rough meadow that sloped down to a ruined boundary wall. if photographs of the time are of any use. It had been part of an estate once upon a time. he would always desire for himself what others desired for him. And where his expression was one of strained attention. with a pink. was a different case. his father. Tommy’s was one of watchfulness. on the other hand. 20 . and much taller. having been promoted. or so it appeared to us in our disappointment. for he could take a hint like nobody else I knew. Tommy had joined my class at school a year previously. and he did. knowing already in his fourteen years that most of the important things occur on the edge of vision. almost a different species in fact.was led. a form of watchfulness also. where the masks begin to dissolve. We stood there. a civil servant. He would go far in the world. pockmarked face. accentuated by a slight cast in his right eye. staring non-plussed at the evening. he was heavy boned and blond. Ben. realising perhaps that it was almost at an end and that our duty. My expression. coming with his family to Dublin from somewhere in Munster. although defensive and lacking in ingenuity. Where Tommy and I were slim and brown headed.

as he said a number of times. He had lost his mother six years before and it was said that his family had become wild as a result. sensing that it sprang from helplessness. Ben took two steps ahead into the long grass and halted. much less what to do in defence. The evening turned about and the light which had been fading flared and intensified on our eyes as we peered down towards them. gazing down. his eyes glistening and odd. their heads barely showing above the tall grass. as my parents did. for why else would a youth of his age seek friends among us who were nearly three years his junior. his face deeply shadowed in the light. was thought to be more restrained and considerate – hence the reason for his being allowed to be my friend. the cast no doubt creating this impression. because of his helplessness: he was also more inclined to discuss things with Tommy than with me. I was afraid of him. But I had always doubted the sincerity of his consideration. They were sitting in a corner of the meadow. our attention was riveted to the spot where they lay. 21 . Then he turned and beckoned us abruptly with his hand. And once he had told us. his older brothers being the example to prove this observation. but I hesitated. He never realise that I was afraid of him and was trying hard to anticipate him. though what I was to expect I didn’t know. because. I looked at him too intently while he spoke. Behind Ben’s authoritative gesture I sensed bravado. Ben. Tommy moved quickly enough. Perhaps he was conscious of the cast in his eye.It was Tommy – of course – who spotted the girls. so that we were obliged to squint. perhaps he thought I indulged him. the mother’s favourite. close to the wall.

followed by Tommy. and smiled. Tommy stood a little to one side of him. Besides. For my part. the colours drained from it so as to leave only the harsh white light. One of the girls squealed. I wondered. Ahead of me. holding it with one hand while the other was jammed in his trouser pocket. Ben was laughing. and I knew instinctively that they had seen us coming out of the wood and were lying there waiting for us. who picked his way carefully through the flattened grass in his wake. Ben called to the girls in a casual voice that tried to embrace. hoping no doubt that they would not see the cast. He rested his stick on the ground. I was terrified by the sight of them. fidgeting and pulling 22 . Tommy smiled. wondering what had happened to the evening – everything had been thrust at a distance and had become strangely merciless. making a great deal of noise. Ben was standing over them. looking about me. what sort of girls were they to sit alone like this in the dusk? When I reached the spot where they sat. The girls too were laughing. plucking at the long grass as they did. Why had they not stood up and come forward to meet us.Ben set off down the meadow. I trailed behind. pushing his stick into the ground and pulling it out with effort. Throwing my piece of stick away. when we had given them no more than a searching glance. though we had often passed groups of girls in the wood or the public park nearby. They were so restless: laughing. The sky was greatly enlarged. his large hands embracing the top of the stick. or at least moved away? We had never approached girls before in this manner. his nose high in the air as he averted his face.

which was stuck deep in the soil. In awe I saw that she was gazing up at me. in which the three remaining girls joined. looking at the girl who was nearest to me. but did not reply. Ben continued to watch her. hunkered down in such a position as not to align himself with anybody. girl or boy. moving with alacrity. ‘We’re waiting for the last bus. his eyes twinkling. The four girls screamed with laughter and made eyes at each other. the girl replied. sixteen or 23 . with a toss of her lank. dark hair. Then he went and sat beside her. Paddy Last!’ and shrieked with laughter. Tommy bent forward. his mouth twisting slightly as he grinned. pointed at me and cried: ‘Here he comes. and smiled.’ the oldest girl replied. his legs crossed under him. smiled a smile at the horizon before looking directly at the girl who had spoken. I remained standing.’ Ben repeated. ‘Paddy Last. One of them. ‘And what are four girls doing sitting in a lonely place like this?’ Ben asked rhetorically. though it was edged with strain. Though I was sure she was older than me. Tommy. He clenched his stick. Finally. ‘Kimmage. seeing me. ‘Where do you live?’ he asked her.unconsciously at the grass. this time speaking in his normal voice. ‘What do you want to know for?’ the girl retorted. imitating his religious teacher. Ben blocked his vision. speaking to him alone and scrutinising him.’ Ben sighed and pulled the stick out of the ground. Ben.

And I was glad of it. but most of all I felt as though I was suspended naked in a place as dark as it was light. it had not been ironed. She had on a hand-knitted cardigan of green wool that was faded in comparison with the translucence of the olive green buttons that held it fastened about her. In the twilight the landscape had finally come to rest at an immense distance from me. content with it. Then I squeezed the hand. and the brightness throbbed with shadow. pale. the world had taken several more violent turns before me. She was pulling frantically at the grass beside her. But the hand jerked away when I touched it. Her eyes were a dull blue and wore a dazed expression. even the white light had ebbed appreciably. biting her lower lip as she did. quiet and unmoving. and this time it remained in mine. as I wanted it to be. She had a thin face. She nodded to me. I was filled with peace. Again I grasped the hand. The collar of her dress was turned out over the cardigan. and feeling the response. for the darkness was pierced by light. for all I had to do now was reach out and touch the hand that rested on the grass beside me. it emerged again at her waist and was spread out over her legs and feet. In the small space of time between joining the group and sitting down with them. Though it was freshly washed. hesitant as it was. I said something which I knew instinctively would reassure her. with a small pointed nose above compressed lips. though what the words were I did not know. Timidly I sat down beside her and said ‘Hello’ lamely. she did not seem much taller than me. 24 . and things would remain as they were and I would not be frightened.seventeen.

the big girl shouted back: ‘Mind you go straight home to your mammies now. trapped by her side.’ In the twilight her face seemed drawn and worn: she must have been in her twenties. As the girls moved away through the grass. And don’t get lost in the dark. I saw that Ben was lying over the girl he was with. singing at the top of their voices. His stick lay to one side. the one I had sat with. where he had tossed it. who talked quietly together. ‘Home. ‘we’re keeping these children from their beds.’ Two of the girls linked her on either side. I was vaguely embarrassed to see her standing there. she scrambled to her feet and joined the other girl. She looked at him for what seemed a long time. kissing her. linked the girl on the right. facing the two remaining girls. Then she pushed his arm away and stood up and brushed her dress down. girls. the other was out of sight.’ she said loudly. Abreast. but the sight of Ben’s face stopped me. Tommy was hunkered down. I wanted to laugh at her. What pain there was in it! I released the hand of the girl beside me. She had her hand in his hair. the remaining girl. by the weight of his body.When I focused back on to the world. Mutely. leaning on his stick. amused by his confusion. separated from me. 25 . He appeared to be unmoved by it all. I assumed. Suddenly Ben’s girl pulled away from him and sat up. it struck me as being absurd that a girl could dress like that in public. they marched through the grass towards the boundary wall. When she turned I could see that the back of her dress was hopelessly creased.

he did not look after those girls as we did. After all. (Where was Tommy?) The cyclist looked up. head down. Ben paused for a moment to look about him. Ben leading. But I. I shouted to the world at large to look out. he swerved away on to the grass. through a gap in the wall. Tommy?’ He clapped him on the shoulder. and then smiled at me. glared back at him. being aware of the moistness of my hand. but whatever he did for those five minutes. Just then a cyclist came whizzing along the path. Naively. and I’m sure Ben did. ‘Well. it’s getting late. and their singing had become a murmur. angling away from the direction the girls had taken. Back and forth his eyes swivelled: I guessed he was looking for the girls. with Tommy immediately behind him. Ben chose this moment to resume walking. Ben turned to Tommy and said: ‘That was a change. pumping with all his might on the pedals.We watched them go. eh. tapping the side of his shoe as he did. I thought he was living in hope. who was looking about for his stick.’ Tommy smiled at Ben. we’d better head off home. When the stick had been found we set off in file through the grass. I was: but it had very little to do now with that slip of a girl. We climbed over the wall at a point where it had been reduced in height by a fall and landed in the public park. what was the use? When they had finally disappeared. 26 . or the sky. I wanted no conspiracy with him. I suspect Tommy watched us. for he was so attentive as he looked in their direction and rubbed his lips together. Seeing Ben in his path. at least I did.

but slimmer. with such little cause. He placed his hands behind his back and allowed the stick to dangle. and even with my limited appreciation. and older. Ben leaped back. ‘You blind bastard. He was slightly taller than Ben. ‘Watch were you’re going. I hung back.’ Ben bellowed after him and swore violently. ‘You should keep your eyes open. his arm outstretched to receive it. sidled up to Ben and stood at his side. and began tugging his jacket off. ‘you nearly killed me. showing up more clearly the pockmarks high on his cheeks. peering into Ben’s eyes. Ben broke his gaze and stood back.’ Ben raged. stripped off his jacket. pushing the bicycle onto the grass and laid it on its side. folded it and laid it across the saddle. Then he turned to face the approaching Ben. The cyclist went over to his bicycle. They stood facing each other.one foot dragging along the ground. The cyclist dismounted. He placed his two feet on the ground and looked back at us. The cyclist bent down slowly. When Ben had his jacket off. raising his stick in fright. The cyclist managed to stop.’ the cyclist said dully. not taking his eyes off Ben – he ignored Tommy – and pulled out his bicycle clips and slipped them into his pocket. The cyclist arced back on to the asphalt. Tommy. I could find no entry into what was happening. quick off the mark as usual. both squinting in the poor light. Tommy was beside him.’ His pink cheeks deepened in colour. 27 . I was not going to join Ben and Tommy in fighting this stranger. braking his slithering machine furiously.

I still stood some distance away. he whimpered and then jammed his lips together. As he lay dazed. who was forced to retreat. sensing victory. while his opponent had lost some buttons when Ben had clutched at him on one occasion to keep his balance. Ben leaped forward and stood over him. Ben. his head striking the ground. his arms hanging loosely at his sides. Looking down at the figure he straddled. For fifteen minutes they stood up to each other. their hair was splayed across their faces. for he returned his attention to the business of rolling up his sleeves. beginning with a grunt and becoming a loud sigh as his fist struck home. Before I could reply. began to cry out as he struck his opponent. I realised what was happening. He tripped and fell back. They fought at first without a sound. The cyclist remained silent as he fought back. barely able to see the contestants. Tommy came across to me and said. Not knowing any better. Finally. He narrowed his eyes meaningfully. The owner threw a glance at me. All at once 28 . It was an animal cry. his two fists bunched and jerking as his muscles throbbed. Soaked in perspiration. completely in control. waited for him.Incredulously. ‘You keep an eye on that other boy’. The right eye of the cyclist was swollen and already darkening. Ben charged in and pummelled the cyclist. but I must have seemed harmless to him. he had returned to the fighters. Ben. Ben’s shirt was torn at the armpit. I went and took my place beside the bicycle. punching and slapping and whirling about on the grass. Towards the end. but he had bloodied Ben’s nose.

‘I shouldn’t have done that to him.he opened his fists and walked away towards Tommy and his jacket. The cyclist gravely took it and they shook hands. he had little use for such passions. snuffling the blood in his nose. not where he was going. Assuming it was my duty. In silence. realising as I did what had been required of me: I should have brought his jacket to him. he extended his right. Ben came back. I ran forward to help the cyclist to his feet. his jacket gripped in his left hand. There was no sign of Tommy. 29 . His eyes shone with tears as he spoke. intending to administer to him as best I could. rubbing his knuckles and gazing up at the sky. Ben was standing on his own. the cyclist nodded.’ Now I know why Tommy had gone off. anyway. as if he was experiencing the first tremors of pain. I nodded in return. ‘I shouldn’t have beaten him like that. But he was on his feet before I reached him. But I just couldn’t help it. As I saw it. I realised with shock that he was crying.’ he said. Passing me on his way to his machine.

EDGE 30 .

The consensus of the group was that they should go round by road to the hostel in Glenmalure. still they gave one another good reasons for going by road rather than over the mountain. ‘It’s almost ten. a grudged. There would be others coming over. but at the moment many asked.Last week. She had to be there. Only Richard so far had not agreed. chilled shuffling.’ In any case Julie was warden: she had to get there early. The gas-rings used for cooking had done little to warm the air in the long bare room. You couldn’t expect people to sit around in the snow waiting for her.. privately.’ ‘Oh bloody hell. No one was arguing with them. Dick?’ 31 . ‘It’ll be like a tomb. The atmosphere was testy: habitual comforts were missed.. Richard drew the curtains with deliberate abruptness. There was still the clatter of breakfast-making. from Imaal and Valleymount. the air not warm but close and soporific. It would be counted a good weekend afterwards by most.. ‘Bloody freezing. he was asked. coughing.There’s turf there?’ ‘And paraffin. The curtains were still drawn. hungry and exposed. Richard cleared up after his breakfast and went into the dormitory to pack his ruck. ‘Aren’t you coming round by the road.’ Someone lay under a pile of blankets on one of the lower bunks..’ When he returned to the kitchen with his pack. why they had volunteered to put themselves out like this.

Julie came out into the light. 32 . of joy: a terrible joy that rose up without end.. The sky was brittle pale blue. It was only then that he saw that the sun was shining into the room. The ridge above ran clear to the west against the sky.. ‘Dick. He opened the door. The light was yellow. It hurt his eyes. wanting to expand without limit.. The heaviness across his face was a barrier: his eyes were still warm with sleep. Dick?’ She felt as he did. It was like a long. The snow at his feet was crystalline in the sunlight.’ Barry was rubbing his eyes with his red meaty hand. ‘Some of them aren’t ready yet. the better to push through his own torpor. long scream – of terror. ‘Aren’t you coming along the road with us. striving for goodness knows what. ‘Hey! Shut the door for God’s sake!’ Derry Bawn scintillated above the forest. He snatched a shallow breath. Alcohol had weakened them.Shay is only coming out now. an unbroken gleam of crystal. Richard breathed in deeply for the first time.Richard dropped the ruck by the door. Paraig was in shirt-sleeves.’ But the air was like chilled wine: clear and biting. shivering. Inwardly. The sharp cold pinched his dry unshaven face. Richard could sense: they all did.. without flavour or scent. there was an intensity: the clear cold air and brilliant slopes heightened some part of them. It rose up and up.

’ It was there at least – his face was still pinched – a low but precise timbre.On your own?’ He put his boot down on to the snow beyond the door.’ ‘They’ll be down in the forest.’ Fondling the taut strap. ‘There’ll be other animals. He was momentarily on the other side of the torpor: he could walk a thousand miles today. Julie heard the assertion too.’ ‘Oh. He had entered that world... ‘Yes. It crunched with a finite precision. He locked into it. corduroys. ‘I want to photograph the deer in the snow. and then felt what was left over in himself – what was not simple. He felt he was wrapping himself around these words with such a powerful intention.. embellished brogues.’ She was chagrined by the simplicity of the frozen world. She knew there was no point in attempting to match it.’ 33 .Are you going up there? May I come with you?’ Heavy handknit polo-neck. It was an unnecessary challenge: it excluded so much. ‘Oh.’ His voice was still precise: but it had an overtone of assertion now.. I’ll go over. It was simple: flat blue sky. ‘Be careful. flaring buttery sun.. Dick..Richard heard it in his own voice: ‘No. Richard looked at the camera hanging at his breast. The assertion was made on behalf of that desire: Richard realised he had become hostage to the desire of his complexity. known to be an entity only through its desire for expansion. It was a jumble. crystal slopes. ‘Excuse me. It was the complex part of him that was torpid.

The torpor was gone. Richard saw. The youngster drove himself to keep up. ‘I’m ready. under the trees.’ ‘Let’s go then. ‘Don’t you feel the cold?’ ‘There’s no wind. He looked at the sheer slope on the other side of the lake.’ Richard stepped out on to the virgin snow.’ On his own or with the usual group. The youngster caught the glance. He had done it because. working up a good pace.’ Richard led the way down past the hotel and along the lower lake.The camera is the motive. on the path beside the upper lake. thanks to the camera.Are you ready?’ ‘Just get my anorak and bag. head down in concentration. Richard pulled up the sleeves of his jumper and shirt. Out in the sun again.. ‘Maybe I should take my anorak off?’ ‘Would you feel warm enough?’ Richard glanced at the camera.. Richard would not have rolled up his sleeves. ‘Sure. The 34 . The jutting pines were blue-green against the snow. Already he saw the mountains through the eyes of the youngster. The mountains became picturesque. the mountains were picturesque. Richard saw him subside within his zipped-up anorak. his brown corduroys and shining brogues. rolling their ends back under to keep them above his elbows. He wanted to fill the limits of that. The camera and the animals that might be photographed short-circuited joy and terror and the rest of the jumble.

You might see something here. ‘We’ll go up the valley. but he abhorred the idea of traversing that plane: it would reimmerse him in the picturesque.’ ‘Tony. Richard was outside that boundary. The camera clicked a few times. let’s go. ‘There’s no depth. ‘It’s hard to catch with a camera. He preferred to work towards the high ridge: it reduced the world to a line. still and remote.’ Richard pointed towards the bare ridge beyond the lake.. Tony looked up the broad slope of Lugduff to the left. ‘What’s your name? Mine is Dick Butler. all white. with both wonder and fear. the jumble gone. beside a stream.’ ‘Well. At the very top he heard Tony suck in his breath.picturesqueness now had its boundary in the youngster. to an edge. this time puzzled. The snow was blinding.Tony Hackett.’ 35 ..’ The slope was unbroken white. Its remoteness accentuated by the long narrow valley that led up to it. Tony. The mountains were irrelevant: the desire in him was suddenly expanded. Richard knew that the slope was the direct route over. His eyes were wide. Tony stared again. isn’t it?’ Richard said. Above that ridge there was another ridge.. Tony nodded and followed Richard along the valley floor. The world was mountain-peak after peak. a desert. You might get something to photograph up there. silent. etched against the pallid sky.’ Tony nodded. ‘They’ll look like eggs. but Richard said. Tony was trying to restore the picturesque.

It doesn’t look it?’ ‘No. the highest mountain. The Glen of Imaal is below it. You can see Kippure beyond. Do you have any chocolate?’ Tony took out a paper bag. The remoteness was gone. Then Mullaghcleevaun – Moanbane... bars of Milk Tray.Thanks all the same. Behind you – over there – that’s Tonelagee.’ Tony stared at Lugnaquilla. Kit-Kat.Richard unslung his ruck and took out a bar of Bournville. Come on. where they’ve put the television transmitter.’ ‘That’s the highest one. To its right is Table Mountain. It’s too cold to sit about. Tony hurriedly repacked his haversack and ran after him. We’ll go up there. then he relaxed. ‘You should keep those till this evening. ‘I have my lunch here. The food will make you lethargic. and with it his fear of the attenuation. isn’t it?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘What’s that over there?’ ‘Lugnaquilla. 36 .’ He took out some tins. The few minutes alone among the bare mountains had worked on him. He broke off half and offered it to Tony. Richard extracted a bar of Milk Tray.’ ‘It’s just a big lump of granite from here. ‘Eat that – while you walk. Breathlessly he asked: ‘Where are we?’ ‘That’s Conavalla over there. There were sweets. He feared the attenuation.’ Richard walked on.

‘Conor McNally.’ ‘You know him?’ Richard smiled.. He pointed it out to Tony. Let it dissolve in your mouth. On Conavalla. But it’s a bit late in the day for that. Tony shouted: ‘Look! There’s someone else. We’ll go back towards Lugduff. You might find something to photograph there.’ ‘There’s a ton of stuff here. climbing the long slope of Lugnaquilla. Richard spotted a hare bounding down towards Glendalough. which Tony photographed. ‘Come on. That way you stay fresh. I suppose he can’t resist – he loves these hills. Later. ‘I’d know his walk anywhere.’ ‘You haven’t climbed before?’ ‘No – my father gave me the camera for Christmas.’ ‘You’d never know. You let your stomach close up.’ ‘Don’t you feel hungry?’ ‘No.’ They came upon the tracks of a fox. Over there. they heard deer barking in the distance.’ Richard studied the distant figure striding rapidly across the snow.’ Tony snorted maliciously. Dick?’ ‘They’re down in the forest above Glendalough. You’d never find them in there..’ ‘You shouldn’t bring tins.’ 37 .’ ‘Where’s he going?’ ‘Up on to Lug.’ ‘My mother.‘Don’t chew the chocolate.’ Richard turned away. ‘Can we go over there. Too heavy.

Tony hitched the straps. Sensing Tony’s growing dejection. Richard saw Tony’s compressed mouth and realised he had never seen true night before.’ He led Tony back towards Lugduff. the day was ebbing and a powdery light was flaring above the col between Glenmalure and the Glen of Imaal. Tony. Don’t think about it. but he knew it would serve no purpose. with increasing frequency as he tired. Don’t try to see things more clearly. He couldn’t judge whether the snow covered a rock or a bush of gorse. ‘Down here’. he sighed with disappointment. Everywhere. he said casually: ‘Follow in my footsteps.Richard shrugged and led the way towards Mullacor. The gloomy mountains were withdrawing into themselves.’ Richard kept to the steep slope as much as he could. Richard was tempted to forewarn Tony. The hostel is beside it. we’d better think of going down. Let your eyes relax.’ In the dusk. They worked slowly along the shoulder. Richard said: ‘This will bring us down near a foot-bridge over the river. to share it with him. 38 . Instead. Tony. what had been remote now began to seem alien. sighting from time to time at Lugnaquilla. When Tony saw the extent of the forest. Don’t interfere consciously. Let your body follow the evidence of your eyes directly. ‘The night is always like this. of his haversack and camera. ‘Come on. avoiding the temptation of the level protrusions. By the time they reached the point at which Richard said.’ The slope became steeper.

The slope was becoming more littered with protrusions. Tony. On the sides of your boots. feeling his way steadily down the slope. he worked his way back off them at an angle. He concentrated only on maintaining an even pace. Richard felt himself grow numb and spread out. ‘Dick. Then he became aware that he was negotiating a steep slope in the snow at night. That’s it.’ If one of them slipped.. The snow was phosphorescent. Follow my footsteps. Stepping on to rocks. It created a warm sensation. but he felt Tony follow closely.’ Richard became conscious of the silence. The world turned. His name marked the silence by its absence. back towards the slope. Then the bush became more dense. ‘Sing. Now he leaned back. Thorns snagged his clothes. His track twisted back and forth. In the starlight Richard’s eyes began to discern the difference between the snow covering rocks and the snow covering bushes. Tony. as though following the radiation of his presence rather than the intricate details of his footprints. Change sides.’ 39 .. like a serpent. He began to tread the rocks and skirt the bushes. Tony.‘Walk crabwise. vertiginous. Don’t think. so Tony too would become mesmerised by his feet. ‘Out loud. But his feet went on finding their way. The ground could no longer be seen. Snow flurried against Richard’s arms and face.’ Then it was dark. Regularly but not too often.

yea yea yea. Richard deliberately slowed his pace. voice breaking.’ Tony mumbled drily... Soon the bushes would thin. He cleared the bushes. A light flashed below. Richard accompanied his boots. A paaale moon was riiiising upooon the greeee.. The world became the square inches around Richard’s boots. avoiding the thorns as best he could. stricken. singing hoarsely. The snow was like milk below. The light was steady below.‘What? What will I sing?’ ‘Anything at all. twisting and turning from rock to slope to rock. Dick. ‘Louder. pressing between the bushes. ‘Keep singing!’ ‘Okay.. Their tracks were less twisted now. ‘Diiiick!’ 40 . Tony followed closely. there was a terrible void. Dick! A light!’ ‘Diiiiick!’ The call was faint. She loves you.’ The singing filled up the silence. Tony sang Danny Boy.. Anything. ‘Look. They would trip out of exhaustion long before they reached the valley floor. The slope was less steep.louder!’ ‘She loves you. its echo fainter. yea yea yea. A pop song..’ There were fewer rocks now. Outside that. always out of key. The temptation to run was very great. shining in their direction.

seeing him for the first time. then?’ Richard smiled tautly. He was no longer leaning backwards. ‘What do you think.’ Tony nodded. Tony?’ 41 . crunched under their feet. You don’t have to sing anymore – if you don’t want to.’ Tony studied Richard. a tired but trusting gesture. ‘Okay. They would have crossed further down the valley. ‘Was it dangerous.’ The beam of light was unsteady at that distance.’ Tony looked up behind him. He rolled down his sleeves. Not far beyond the torch. Tony came down to his side.‘Yeeeooooh!’ The torch swung and lit them. The muscles up the back of his thighs were clenched. but it lit the ground before him. He wondered what Richard had been doing. Tony. his arm grazing Richard’s. ‘Is that why the others wouldn’t come over this way?’ ‘No. The snow. Dick?’ ‘Nothing happened. Richard waved. ‘What were they afraid of. ‘The hostel is there. frozen again.

II 42 .

DANCING IN THE DARK 43 .

Jane said. Then he saw her naked. After thirty minutes he had become aware that Jane’s mother was dominating the working of the ouija board. They did not seem conscious of how they were being subordinated and restricted by the purely egotistical desire of Mrs Blake.’ Walking towards the sea-wall in the midsummer dawn. her stout friend and her nineteen years old brother. She was excited: but a compressed excitement. Richard glanced at Jane beside him. Richard felt it should have been more assured. released by alcohol or some drug. working her way through the implications of the night-long clash. The waves of excitement radiating from Jane were the more intense because they originated in her intellect rather than in her emotions. He had set out to thwart her for their sakes. He had no sense of victory: but Jane ought to be more deeply affected by what she regarded as a defeat of her mother. she did not express the benefit such a fundamental clash ought to have brought her. Richard. ‘You beat her. Richard now saw. where the sun was rising. She spoke as an observer. As an expression of radical triumph. veiled behind her quick intelligence. as though subliminally aware of Richard’s reservation. They sat side by side on the sea-wall. At 44 . more exultant. Watching the fiery line of the horizon. dominating Jane. Richard attempted to follow her mind. but she was nonetheless self-absorbed – still. looking across Bull Island towards Howth Head. She praised his victory. The displacement made him uneasy. Richard suddenly realised.’ she repeated. She held his hand in her habitual deliberate way. ‘You won. ‘You won!’ She said it with uncharacteristic elation.

Then Richard was in the kitchen talking to Edward. Richard could not remember clearly what had happened then. fiddling with unwashed cutlery. Even so soon after the event. Sheila went home then. in Richard a desire to pierce the more pervasive feeling shared by the whole family. Edward went into the kitchen.first. but it took her some time to pinpoint Richard. Sheila and Edward. Edward over by the sink. Mrs Blake became aware of the new control over the movements on the board. identifying himself with the truth of his own insight.And Jane? 45 . But there must have been some sense in them. and looked up to find her glaring at him with round enraged eyes. though possessed by the antagonism.. He heard Mrs Blake hiss. but he no longer controlled his finger. a sullen. trying to intimidate him while hiding her own desire from them. Then Mrs Blake again. Richard couldn’t remember what questions were asked or what answers were given. Mrs Blake had carped at him behind the pretence of continuing to play her game with Jane. dark brooding over a past wrong that turned them inwards. a more muted and competitive antagonism between them: a resentment on Edward’s part. Richard. drinking tea. had answered Jane’s mother with assured clarity.. he simply diverted the pointer to an adjacent letter in an arbitrary manner. downwards and backwards. in the bare untidy kitchen. She did so only when she realised that he was no longer shunting the pointer arbitrarily. His finger controlled its movements. rancour without name or reason. because it was only when Mrs Blake drove the pointer right off the board that they realised something was wrong.

Then he released her and looked down into her eyes. Richard crushed Jane within his arms. Richard. but it was merely an objective summation. Oh Jane! In his spaciousness. ‘She had it coming to her. Richard.’ he said.’ She smiled. Jane. 46 . ‘You did it. Richard.Richard had averted his eyes from the risen sun without knowing it. he was aroused suddenly by the intensity in them both. It contained gratitude for what he had done to her mother. but stiffly. Jane! Jane! She returned his gaze. I knew you could do it. ‘And I love you. Holding her. the after-shock of his declaration throbbing in him.’ It was a statement of appreciation. His heart expanded: it shone in his eyes. Jane thought he was exultant too. trying to transmit his deep spirit to her. Then she pressed her cheek to his.Jane? Oh God. Her eyes were precise too: sincere but deliberate.’ She squeezed him in her precise way. It exploded in him: ‘I love you. he felt the spaciousness of the morning. He held her.’ Yet his expansion found no echo in her. the bliss modified by her consciousness of the gestures. caressing the nape of his neck with her fingertips. She said. Barriers fell away within him.. Jane! He jumped down off the wall onto the compact tidal sand.. I do. Jane jumped and Richard caught her in his arms. ‘Come on.

He kissed Jane. Richard. Then he realised that he could do anything he wished. Jane. a unity in him: here now in the dawn and in the substantial future before him. a future on his expansion. held her. As though waiting for this instant.. Jane. 47 . He was conscious that he would always have some reason for whatever he would do in the future. hugged her. Richard. Their precise expression of her intellectual control added an intensity to his expectation. underlining the sincerity she projected in her voice. putting a name.’ Richard’s heart was full: there was substance in it now. drawing his full attention to her. He gasped at the beauty he saw in her eyes. a motivation. ‘I want to have your children. When Pauline recrossed her legs he heard the familiar low rasp of the meshes as her nylons slid one over the other.’ she said.. Jane pulled her head back and looked at him reachingly. ‘Oh Jane. Children! It cut through everything in him.feeling that her responses were not sufficient to meet his own release.’ Her eyes remained precise. ‘Richard. Richard felt his searching expression become expectation of revelation as he looked into her eyes. His own mind leaped and he said: ‘We must go away.’ His expansion took her up now.

By association. how a glass was held. her permed hair bobbing neatly. Richard breathed deeply and looked at Pauline with hazed euphoria. her curved painted nails coming to point back towards her breasts as just that particular angle. he looked around the crowded cellar lounge. the immediate presence that was rooted in her body of flesh and bone and blood. The fingers that held the cigarette bent. the play of gesture were familiar. responding to the limitation of the moment. red and moist. as always at this point. Pauline sensed his response. She ducked her head. He could read the meaning of every sign there. her mouth open. her rounded cheeks dimpling. the flushed skin. Richard sensed the solidity of her. He 48 . the colour of a blouse. the disposition of a body. Richard laughed with her. He gazed at the bright shine of the tip of her shoe. The toes of her suspended foot came up. he remembered that it was Pauline who had created this specific situation in the beginning. Richard reached for his glass on the low table. The sexual tension in him reached its crisis: could it grow outwards or must it be curbed and dissipated within? Then. as content to wait. the fingers clutching an earlobe. the rounded bodies. Then. The crisis past. then felt his arm press hers as he lowered the glass to his lap. She laughed: her dark blue eyes dancing. He drank the stout. In the low red light. as happy as she was. He saw it all clearly from behind the screen of his euphoria. and who had accepted it on their first night out by simply opening her thighs when he touched her knees.

‘No?’ Her eyes widened.yes.’ ‘The other fellow. She sits with her body angled so that her head is towards him...She lays her arm along the curve of her hip and thigh....When she puts her glass down. Wait. 49 . Watch.. ‘Her boyfriend.’ ‘And?’ Richard felt Pauline’s thigh press his as she leaned forward... ‘She leaves her breasts clear... ‘Neither is she...could understand the whole room because it was part of the limitation of the moment. She grasped the danger there at once. She points her hip at him and has crossed her legs so that he can see the line of her thigh.. Dick?’ Her voice was expectant: Richard was to break the spell of the place.He’s watching her. Pauline’s voice came to him behind the screen: ‘What do you see. ‘The fellow facing her is her boyfriend’s friend. surprised yet ready to laugh. smiling. on her left.’ ‘He can’t see. expecting Richard to find a joke there.’ ‘Yes.Ha.. and spreads her fingers a little over the roundness of her thigh. Pauline.. Richard gestured with his head: ‘There.’ Pauline nodded...’ ‘Uhh. See how her body is presented to him... her eyes keen in the dim light.’ He felt Pauline’s body start beside him. Then they would leave.’ Pauline’s fingers clutched at his knee.’ Richard turned to look at her. Aware of her arm against his and her thigh against his..Do you see how that girl sits?’ ‘With the red hair?’ ‘Yes. She forces him back in his seat.’ ‘He’s not conscious of it.That’s her boyfriend beside her.

‘Let’s walk out. sniffed them and offered them to Pauline to sniff also. Pauline’s heels clicking. his eyes quizzical. Mirth bubbled on Pauline’s lips. He felt Pauline’s weight against him. The sun set and the residual midsummer glow remained. They walked out. Richard stretched himself and said. He became aware of Pauline’s contentment. ‘It’s not that. smiling to reassure her.Richard paused. ‘The sun doesn’t set this time of year. he felt his own expectation and his certainty of fulfilment. Pauline’s heels clicked on the pavements. Richard rubbed leaves between his palms. Pauline uncrossed her legs and Richard stood up. Pauline linking his arm. Richard. ‘I’ll pay the taxi. moving around the northern arc towards the east. It’s midsummer. talked easily. and felt the mass of her breast on his arm. He glanced at Pauline. as though a shock rippled through her. Wait till you see’. She gazed at him. if you like. waiting. her here-and-now satisfaction with an adequacy that was sufficient in itself. By reaction.’ He looked at her. not listening to himself. Out in Grafton Street. leaning slightly against him.’ Pauline kept her face mobile as she watched him. like a charge run down.’ Richard looked up at the twilit sky. At the same time she realised that the scene he had described was not funny. Suddenly she frowned slightly. Richard absently smoothing leaves between his fingers. Gradually the roads became empty of traffic and silent. from shoulder down to his hip. Richard’s talk petered out. They walked in silence. seeing the familiar shape of 50 . euphoric still and full of the evening.

feeling their union of adequacy and expectation. because of the nature of their mutual dependence. to her particular style of clothes. He couldn’t put a name on it. of contentment and fulfilment. he felt a nameless anxiety invade him. For the first time. But he realised that this apprehension was abiding.. when it had been a virtue. And the hurt that underlay that acceptance. from her tidy hair and characteristic nose. Confidence. laughing. her eyes twinkling. his embrace became a demand for closure and reassurance. She squeezed him once. but there was. watching him. sensing the apprehension in her. He could depend upon her.. formal rather than fashionable. that he could not be dependent upon her. as she depended upon him.. He stared back. and saw also what he had known from the beginning. then lifted her head and sought his eyes. He saw that mirth was her chosen persona. her eyes dancing. Then he saw her more clearly and sensed her acceptance of something. so that instead of expressing affection and contentment. an understanding of something utterly beyond him. because it seemed so many things. Pauline stepped away. Pauline was surprised by the urgency of his embrace. and the sharpness of her patent-leather shoes. an assertion.. 51 . a strict limit beyond which she would not help him. defensiveness. But when he embraced her. He moved towards her. Pauline caught his glance and turned to him. Richard saw her from the outside.her. and that it was overlaid by a.

To keep outside the vastness of the mood. She thinks she know what I’m thinking. Richard thought. the other side of acceptance: she was encouraging Richard.Pauline moved in some small way and it hit Richard: it wasn’t that she wouldn’t help him beyond a certain point. he was also defined for Pauline by this event. Pauline tilted her head to one side. he projected himself back within the limits of his relationship with Pauline. feeling the anxiety recede as the consciousness of her gift drew him back within her orbit. there was an event in her past which defined her whole life. she couldn’t help him. that might not last and which she was grasping fully for its present value. She had done it because of something in him that corresponded to the origins of her history: an event in his life that made them equals. What she aroused in him and satisfied frankly had its origins in that event. Because of all this. It was fatalistic. The limit Pauline had placed on their relationship could include only part of him. The limit existed because she had a history of her own. 52 . no more than she could help herself. Then she smiled. Richard realised. though it was a helpless kind of happiness. Pauline looked very happy at that moment. appraising him with her twinkling mobile eyes. The anxiety rose in Richard again. But relief was momentary only. Why had she created the desire in him? Why had she chosen him to bind with this gift? Richard smiled back.

feeling her presence beside him. without incongruity. the keen. he could do nothing else but press her arm in against his side and say insinuatingly: ‘Let’s hope your mother is asleep tonight.’ Then.’ She shook her head. Illustrating.’ Turning to Richard. imitated the song itself: ‘Talkinngg about my gen-eraaa-shuuun. deliberate within her own abandonment. as though wondering at her own silliness. she took up the backing refrain: ‘Talk-ing ‘bout my gen-eration.. Richard. she repeated.’ laughing again. She broke from his grasp and threw her arms heavily about his neck. Richard read volumes in what she said. ‘I like that song. she sang to him: ‘Why don’t they all fu-fu. Jane chanted: ‘Why don’t they all fa-fa-fade away.Myy gererashuun. pressing herself to him.. The 53 .’ Jane said to him confidingly. In the face of that. light with the proudfulness of his own happiness.. Richard moved in his own bliss.’ When he asked himself what the event in his life was. the anxiety loomed again.He nodded his head in understanding. He saw the whole dark bloc she gestured towards in her abstraction. We don’t have far to go now. abstracted bliss on her face. the hum of conversation rising in the background. letting his arms around her take the whole burden of her body.’ Pauline turned to him in a compulsive way and exploded in mirth. deep desire surfacing in this dark room. before conversation took the place of the music. In the lull.. Pauline reached for him and said: ‘I’m dying for a cup of tea.

abstracted. the parts he knew named but the part that haunted Jane unnamed. He felt in the way she held him. The voice boomed in the bass-bias. She moved her head. her chin 54 . Then the music started again. Suddenly. so-precise hand with his finger-tips. but nothing in their individual selves had to be abandoned or ignored. pure possibility for him. and their future rolled up into a single ball of pure unadulterated happiness. It was clear blue. He delighted in the awareness that informed the movement of her head. The amplifier squawked. drowning the voices around him. Jane. the rhythm. He touched Jane’s slim. though it wasn’t loud. She moved her arms around his shoulders and neck. the promise. not too close and not too far away. Light and shadow played across Jane’s face as they turned and turned. drawing Jane to him. the steadiness of her eyes and mouth. the music. He gestured on Jane’s hand with his finger-tips and she turned back towards the dark square of the dance-floor. Buoyed by her presence. himself. instinctively maintaining the balance between them and the third thing. fondling the hairs on his nape. He sighed deeply.specifics of the bloc rose before him. looking at the dancers nearby. the measured balance that gave him a sense of his whole rhythmic self as well as the sense of what she was for him. feeling it to be an ample gesture. turning and turning to the music. His bliss merged with hers at every point. he faced the bloc and then in his imagination turned his back on it and faced the future. The first notes of the tenor saxophone thrilled Richard. redolent with the promise of so much for his whole sense of his own existence.

he did not lose confidence. ‘England?’ Jane asked.pressing into the soft niche below his collar bone. Richard. ‘Daddy is in Leeds. ‘Don’t be silly. ‘Could you find work there?’ 55 .’ Jane frowned and Richard saw for the first time that for him there seemed to be another future beyond the future she had given him. the appetite satisfied or the ball drained.’ he said evenly. she turned and led them off the floor to a table away from the band. The air of silliness was gone. Jane had to peer slightly to see Richard.’ She looked at him. and when it had finally melted away. ‘We’ll work. I could stay with him.’ And ‘to start with’ echoed there too. so Jane drew back. She wanted to draw his attention to her own concern. Richard felt she was caught in something. not smiling. Richard? We have no money. anyway. so he added: ‘To start with.’ But she should look forwards.’ He looked at her. not backwards as he first suspected. to show her that confidence.’ The power of her promise was such that. and Richard felt he was the circumference to her centre. As it slackened. ‘Yes. His pure happiness expanded and expanded until. ‘Away where?’ ‘Anywhere. ‘How would we live?’ Richard saw that she was looking downwards. ‘Where will we go.’ Jane spoke in a tone that did not challenge his confidence. ‘Away. wanting her to trust him. England. it began to slacken and the dim room take on shape again. but he couldn’t name it. even deflated. There was something after the ‘to start with’.

to bring her out to him. He was delighted she was unmoved because the situation he sympathised with was one that must be overcome. ‘I’ll give it tomorrow. 56 . searching his eyes. Jane turned back to him. more tenuously. Her father supported his family in Dublin. he reminded himself that she was only seventeen.‘Why not?’ Richard added the tone of confidence to his voice this time.’ Now she looked at him. He sat back. He leaned forward. she accepted what he offered. He knew what he would say next. But she seemed lost in her awareness of what they were deciding. She saw what she wanted to see. ‘I have to give a month’s notice. At least that. With a stab of sympathy. to his delight. letting her look away and think. It would be crucial.’ He searched her face. yet to Richard’s surprise and. He was glad she accepted it. prepared to press her up to his own level of emotional awareness: ‘Jane. He saw by the way she looked vacantly out towards the dance-floor that she had committed herself to leaving Dublin. as though as a matter of course.’ But she said. But she was prepared to leave her mother now. when the time came. feeling the strength of his three years’ seniority and his willingness to face all the possibilities their being together brought. the consciousness of her commitment steadying her: ‘When will we go?’ He embraced her with his sympathy. while remaining unmoved. her voice a little lost. because it was all he could give her at present for the inevitability of her situation.

.’ Jane seemed to be searching the deserted street.’ Richard reactively stepped closer to her in his delight at the prospect of spending more time with her. Mother won’t let you into the house again. She swayed again. he didn’t want to fragment it into specifics or cause her to concentrate on only one contributing factor. Richard took her hand.‘I’ll write to daddy tomorrow. Though it was powerful and weighed heavily on her.. alert to the overload on the word ‘gin’. For good or bad..’ he gestured towards her head. ‘Let’s go then. Richard leaped up.’ ‘It’s too strong. ‘Will we get a taxi – or do you want to walk?’ 57 . Her mother drank gin. ‘The gin was stronger than I expected. They compressed and compressed her. I was only going to walk you into town so you could get a taxi.’ Richard smiled wryly. and just as quickly brought it under control.’ His words failed again as he sensed the simplicity of the emotion that pressed her. ‘Can we go up to your house?’ ‘Sure. The air outside.’ She touched his cheek and stood up. Around her mouth was uncharacteristically slack. Outside in George’s Street. ‘I expected that.. She swayed. And it was the first time Jane and he had been in a pub together. when Richard turned to the left: ‘No. ‘Are you alright?’ In her calming gestures he read the state of her emotions. Richard. he believed it should work through it as a whole. then quickly expanded her awareness to her body and her surroundings. Jane said.

‘Maybe you should go home. her cheek against his chest. immovable. leaning on his hand. Jane..’ He squeezed her shoulder and buried his face in her hair. I love you.’ She turned to the right. Concerned about her as the wrenching eased. ‘Richard.. I’ve practically nothing on me.’ When she looked up he saw that she was miserable behind her habitual light. Jane.’ His only concern now was for her. Richard had to moisten his mouth before he could speak.’ Richard put his arm around her shoulder. even if cold implacability was part of it. ‘Will we go now? It’s chilly. Jane. should destroy it.’ Jane swooned into his embrace. Jane was as fragile as a glass rose for him just then. She looked at him. The agony was cold.‘Walk. like a chill.’ His feeling was like an agony. ‘No. He saw that she couldn’t let it out.’ She looked down at the short party dress and her bare legs.’ And the light was in her eyes again. Richard bent to her and spoke fervently: ‘It’s alright. He was suddenly terrified in case some small trivial thing. ‘Jane. He spoke to get her attention. but now it was as though it had been turned over. Something was wrenching and wrenching his heart. The light in her was fanned by a sudden surge of conviction: ‘I want to stay with you. He felt it push in between them. There was no light. There was something they had together. ‘Oh. The wrenching returned. I love you. ‘It’s alright.’ 58 . Richard. implacable. Richard strained his eyes downwards to look at her. Jane looked up. Her stare was stony.

Richard’s heart somersaulted again. He took her hand
and began walking. The future he had lived with for a week
now shrank until it was defined by the bend in the road a
hundred yards away. But that was enough for him at this
moment.
Pauline suddenly said, though it was obvious to
Richard that she had waited for the right moment to say it:
‘She was a virgin. That’s why she was shy – of the other
fellow, I mean.’
She had surrendered her woollen jacket because of the
warmth of the evening. She felt exposed in white blouse,
wine cotton skirt, wine shoes and tan nylons. Richard could
see that from how she held her arms, stiffly, elbows jutting
slightly. She was an indoor person, a rosy light, rosy glow on
her cheeks, body over-warm and lubricious.
Richard caught the implication of what she had said.
‘Do you think so?’ He had suggested taking a walk, because
of the heat, rather than going to their usual haunt. Without the
alcohol and the intimacy of the cellar lounge, there was no
euphoria. Instead, there was an edgy conflict in him, a
temptation to be wilful. ‘I thought she didn’t want to know
what was going on.’ He looked at Pauline. She, too, was
edgy. But she was passive before it, not wilful. Richard
realised that her strength, and power, lay in her acceptance.
‘She seemed the sort of girl whose virginity lies between her
ears.’
Pauline started, her eyes dilating. Her acceptance was
her capacity to start over again at every moment. She would
59

not be hurt by his decision to go away, Richard realised. She
would be returned to the original hurt. She would start out
again from there. ‘It depends on what she wants.’
Richard felt his complex of conflicts cross the complex
in Pauline. The word ‘wants’ nagged him. It would be better
if Pauline spoke about needs. But ‘needs’ created a new
ambiguity; one that included him too. The word touched
depths he could not cope with. He vented the stress by
humming a tune. The words sang in his mind: ‘your
debutante knows what you need, but I know what you
waaant.’ The insinuation in the words triggered an everwidening vista of his will acting on the outside world. But it
did not take long for this sphere to become an horizon of
profound frustration.
Richard looked up at the high twilit sky. He felt
vulnerable: but immediately he was suffused with pleasure. It
wiped out the conflict in him. What was external to him was
not his space: he had his own space now. His will was strong
there.
This was the moment to tell Pauline. But he found
himself saying instead: ‘What do you think she wants, then?’
Pauline looked at him, her eyes bright so that nothing
could be read in them. Then she laughed suddenly and said:
‘I don’t know!’ Richard heard the gap that told him she was
being rhetorical.
Richard waited, conscious of his warm body moving
with unaccustomed ease in the warm air. He realised that this
consciousness of warmth arose because of the gap he had
heard in Pauline’s voice.
60

In the mounting silence, Pauline relented and offered:
‘She wants to keep her virginity for the man she marries.’
Richard heard the gap again. It was arousing him. And
it was arousing Pauline too. The gap opened the way to the
heart of Pauline: to her deepest wish.
Into the gap, Richard said: ‘That’s not what I meant.
She doesn’t want at all. She’s been reared not to want sexual
pleasure.’
The word ‘need’ rose again in his mind. But it evoked
the idea of passivity, which was irrelevant here. Richard
ignored it.
‘But the signals she was sending the other fellow,
Dick?’
‘She’d be shocked if you told her about that.’ He
looked into Pauline’s eyes. ‘She didn’t know what she was
doing.’
Pauline stopped and faced Richard. ‘She wanted him
anyway.’
Richard stopped, looking absently from Pauline’s eyes
to her hair and back again. ‘How do you know?’
‘The way she showed herself off!’ Richard had never
seen Pauline so vehement. ‘It was in her, Dick. She’s crazy
about him!’
‘So that all the other fellow had to do was seduce her?’
The word ‘seduce’ was the wrong word, but Richard wanted
to throw the source of Pauline’s sudden passion into relief.
He pressed on: ‘Anyway, he didn’t seem to notice what she
was up to.’
She laughed again, her eyes wide open, as though
pushing back at Richard: ‘That’s what you think!’
61

Richard turned away to deflect her, sensing he could
no longer hide from her his awareness of what they were
talking about. He looked at a distant tree outlined against the
bronze sky. Then he nodded and looked at her. He asked,
already knowing the answer: ‘Why didn’t he take her up on
it?’
Pauline jerked her head forward. ‘He will.’ Her earnest
tone showed Richard that she was trying one last time to
draw him out into the open.
Richard made his own clinching move, relying on his
intuition: ‘What about her boyfriend?’
The gap in her suddenly closed. The flicker of reproach
in her eyes told Richard that his intuition had been right. He
walked on slowly, so that Pauline could catch up quickly.
Now was the moment. As she came abreast and looked
at him in order to regain contact, Richard said: ‘I’m planning
to go away, Pauline.’
The act of walking allowed her to brace herself without
visible effort, but Richard saw it in the way she held her
head. When she spoke, her eyes were again the bright masks:
‘Why?’
Richard faltered in his step, surprised. He had not
expected her to ask that question: ‘When?’ and ‘Where to?’,
yes, but not ‘Why?’ At once he realised he could not answer
the question for her.
Pauline walked beside him, watching him, waiting.
Then she asked again, pressing him: ‘Why?’
A plausible answer would not form in Richard’s mind.
He had no intention of telling her the actual circumstances
62

that had led to his decision. In any case, that wouldn’t answer
her question.
Pauline opened her handbag, still walking, and took
out a newspaper clipping. She gave it to Richard, saying
matter-of-factly. ‘I meant to give it to you last week. I
forgot.’
The clipping looked older than a week to Richard. He
stopped to read it under a street lamp:
BODY OF MISSING CLIMBER FOUND
The body of Conor McNally(23) of
Terenure, reported lost in the Wicklow
Mountains last January, was discovered
yesterday by a local farmer among rocks at the
foot of Lugnaquilla. Gardaí said the remains
were identified by the youth hostelling card
found on the body. An inquest will be held in
Dublin tomorrow.
‘How old is this?’ Richard asked sharply. He felt what
seemed by now an abiding anxiety come into a new, definite
focus. He saw Conor walking up the side of the snow-clad
mountain, and imagined his up-tilted head, the depth of his
habitual calm.
‘When did you decide to go away?’ Pauline retorted,
her eyes filled with her mirth.
Then relief came to Richard as a broad composure, like
a wide river at night. There was nothing new in the report.
Conor’s death had already had its effect on him. What had
63

been working on him for the last six months was some part of
himself, set in motion by Conor’s death. The relief he felt
was part of that too,
Richard smiled at Pauline to make peace with her.
When she smiled in return, the mirth in her face, he said, to
stop her trying to cajole him again, ‘There’s someone else,
isn’t there?’
She bit her lip like a spoiled little girl and nodded. Her
acceptance made frankness possible: that was why she
seemed wilful now.
‘And he wants to marry you?’
Again she nodded. This time in the repeated gesture
Richard saw that her frankness acted as a mask: it covered the
deeper hurt. Then he saw in its entirety the façade she had
created for him. Her mirth, her sexual openness, like her
frankness now, were signs of an abandonment in her, an
enslavement to her acceptance of that past event.
Pauline spoke to his back: ‘I felt you wouldn’t, Dick.’
She paused and Richard caught a glimpse of what lay beyond
the façade. It was some kind of mistake, a failure of
understanding: her own mistake, no one else’s. It was a
mistake she was condemned to repeat over and over again:
that was what her acceptance amounted to. ‘Dick...’ He
turned to her. She seemed isolated from him now, her
limitation giving her a rounded, tender quality. ‘We clicked.’
Her mirth came back, now that they were in contact again.
She laughed, ‘I couldn’t resist it, Dick!’
Richard nodded for her sake. On the other level, he
saw the question for him beyond the façade Pauline had
created: Why had Conor gone up Lug so late in the day? He
64

was surprised by that question. It was not about death, as he
had all along feared.
He put his arm around Pauline and turned her about,
back towards the city centre. She pressed into him, moving
her head to catch his eyes: ‘You couldn’t resist it either, sure
you couldn’t?’
The façade came back. But that was all it was. He
hadn’t breached the façade, Richard realised: Pauline had
done it by holding the clipping back. He was relieved he had
not gone that far. He might never have learned the truth about
his own anxiety.
He laughed along with her mirth as he drew her to
begin walking.
On the slope above the trees they had a view of the
western peaks of the mountains. In the clear air they were like
sentinels. But to Richard now their watch was either pointless
or profound in a tenuous, wearying way.
Jane shielded her eyes against the sunlight, studying
the mountains, and asked: ‘Which one did he die on?’
Richard hunkered down beside her, bringing his head
level with hers. He was aware of the warmth the closeness
raised in him. He pointed at the high granite ridge that
formed the horizon to the south. ‘Beyond that. You can’t see
it from here.’
‘How could it happen, Richard? You said he was the
most experienced walker among you.’
‘He was, Jane. And he was tireless.’ He sat down and
looked at her profile. Her short blue corduroy skirt had ridden
65

But it was there. There are cliffs on either side. ‘I love you. nourished and protected by his love. He must have gone too close to the edge and fallen into one of the Prisons. Jane frowned slightly. that Richard knew he could repeat it over and over for the rest of his life. Richard knew she was concentrating on how he had spoken. He was giving her slim white body a home here. so unified. Her white legs seemed part of the heather on which they lay. to her awareness of him. Richard knew that if he repeated the words so soon again she would be overwhelmed. Jane relaxed and moved all of her body slightly. She turned to draw his attention back to her.’ It was so simple to say. Richard smiled blissfully at her. They shaped her. She looked back at 66 . He saw the effect of his words on her. then?’ ‘The ridge he followed narrows near the summit. ‘What happened. They gave her something she could not look at. like a litany. Richard was surprised by that recognition: Jane wasn’t at ease in this open country. yet they made her apprehensive. sensing something in Richard but not understanding it. He must leave her free of that power. Joyfully. he withdrew their pressure and their threat.up on her thighs. Her consciousness could not give her body a home. He must give her time to grow. there. Richard realised.’ She nodded and looked south again. Jane. that she could not hope for or accommodate with any finality. Then he understood that he was making her a part of this familiar heathery world.

‘And you?’ Richard declined to talk about himself alone yet.’ Jane’s eyes glazed. lingering on the sounds he made: ‘Coming out on the bus this morning. studying what was evident in his eyes. 67 . Jane. ‘What. heart-full: ‘Conor walked these mountains as though on a pilgrimage. Otherwise.’ She nodded and he saw his own light go into her directly for the first time.him. He was always tireless and always calm.’ He saw that she understood the word ‘calm’ fully. After a pause. ‘I thought of all the things I might do. Now there was only Jane and himself. Jane. We must build it up in ourselves. he continued: ‘He looked for something outside him. I realised what I should do with my life. showing Richard her withdrawal. Her eyes became intelligent again. ‘Is that why you don’t climb anymore?’ He touched her insight. loving the delicacy of the contact: ‘Because Conor died up there. Jane.’ When she nodded.’ He paused. Richard?’ The way opened. you mean?’ Instantly her eyes were alert to him. But Richard had expected that: he had the greater understanding here. her eyes steady but alive with what she was surmising.’ The reference to himself eased the pressure on Jane. But they all seemed to close in around me. He was at once pent up. Richard knew that Conor’s death had receded into the past: it was Conor’s own death. how could he come to love her? He spoke softly now. He wanted to give himself up. as he did now. Jane. then. ‘It’s as though he had to walk a certain number of miles first. They seemed to stop up something in me. He could tell her. Jane. ‘It’s not outside us. becoming mirrors were they had been beams. Except one thing.

and Richard felt her withdraw into her own thoughts. Her body became an object to her whenever he touched her – that he saw now: he made her 68 . Looking for his own image of fear. obvious way. He knew the image had been prompted by Jane’s tone of voice. He saw his fear clearly. She frowned again. In the silence. It surprised Jane too. When he spoke. He knew that was his reaction to the idea of fear: it was the strength of his will. When he returned his attention to Jane. He caressed her cool smooth thigh. like white marble embedded in the green earth.. he realised that they had drifted even further apart. Jane’s thighs seemed far away. Suddenly she asked in an objective tone. It was the fear of delusion: why Conor had climbed so late in the day. as she had asked him to do.’ What made his love for her possible also made his decision a necessity: he could not have come to love her if he had not been moving towards the decision to. But he had been talking about himself. The way Jane’s hand hovered above his showed Richard her helplessness. he saw instead the image of himself pressing forward on a white slope.’ The formulation surprised him. ‘The best way to do it is by writing.holding her eyes with his. he saw that what he had said and how he had said it went beyond her in a simple. ‘You’re not afraid?’ The image of fear in Richard’s mind then was of a dark hole behind him. he knew that what he was saying was a judgement on their future together: ‘I’ve no intention of throwing my life away. Jane..

Richard sighed as the melancholy swept over him: what alternative do I give her anyway? 69 . He gripped her thigh. He lifted his hand from her thigh and touched her hand. Jane. She was the projection of both his fear and his weapon against that fear. She embodied both the temptation of self-abandonment and his intention to build himself to withstand that temptation. He got to his feet and stretched. ‘She’ll stay for a few weeks only. ‘It’s alright. ‘Jane. Everything. The prospect of going away returned. Richard saw in her expression how much she was still in her family. But he was content for the moment: he had told her everything. while knowing that this was her worst fear with him. ‘Do you mind?’ Jane shrugged. But they just waited. But the tunnel was there anyway: that’s what starting out is like. He turned away and looked at the mountains. When Jane turned her body to face him. something coming from outside the arena of her consciousness: it distracted her from what preoccupied her intelligence.’ The reassurance released her to herself.conscious of it. But his love for her must cut through even that. now with a new density. Richard. he knew she had something to tell him: ‘Sheila is coming to Leeds with me. Daddy is out most of the time. as though he was about to enter a tunnel. Mother asked her. But it was too soon to expect otherwise.’ Richard nodded. as they always did.’ When she looked up. that he would finally demand too much of her. Yet his love cut through all of that. Richard felt himself deflate.’ She heard his voice as an object too.

Richard recognised how unconscious her bodily movements were: Jane did not finally care about herself. He saw for the first time what he had undertaken to do. Seen from aside like this. But he had to love her in any case. brush down her skirt and pick up the matching blue corduroy jacket.He watched Jane get to her feet. The emptiness he saw in her found a bleak echo in himself: Does she really want me to love her at all? Jane turned to him. It was his love that had made his decision possible: it was the bridge between his fear and his decision to struggle against it. waiting to go. She seemed small and distant against the green expanse of the slope. 70 .

BONA FESTA 71 .

Nearby a voice called out in French: ascending and broadening freely into the clear coolness of the morning. In the moment of innocence between sleeping and awakening his mind sought to retrieve the calm oblivion with its half-sense of dreams and thoughts. A girl’s. Michael lifted his stiff back by means of his elbow and settled it flat on the mattress. solidly demanding his attention and labelling. One of the other voices laughed shrilly. A bird called. He raised his arms towards the 72 . his face cast upwards like a defiant Captive who had yielded to sleep alone.Richard started with the shock of awakening. Spain! The seal was broken. Outside the tent Richard dressed discreetly and hurriedly. he twisted himself on to his back. warm and intimate. Michael. Screwing up his eyes against the blue glare of the tent. He smiled.’ Richard waved his hand in reply and moved away. He unzipped his sleeping bag and sat up. Along the opposite of the tent lay Michael Johnson. Grasshoppers rattled in the grass. Maman!’ A mother’s voice. rise and shine. Irish twit. while the sounds of the morning intruded themselves as unidentified noises. he bent down to the flap and shouted roughly: ‘Right.’ Michael stiffened and awoke. Two voice replied in ragged accord: ‘Oui. ‘Good morning. When he had finished. a wind shivered the walls of the tent. The voice called again – a woman’s voice. There’s another day in it. his harsh face stillsmooth in sleep. He lay twisted in his bag.

‘Tea nearly ready?’ he asked in a sardonic tone. For him the profit of the moment was the peace and serenity that lay in his mind. ‘Obviously not. He looked up at his friend. He was absorbed in some vague pleasant mood and watched with mesmerised attention the commonplace phenomenon of water being boiled. Richard was hunched against the side of the car in front of a small stove on which lay a saucepan of water.’ the other replied. He returned his attention to the pot of water. the surface of which was more agitated now and the bubbles rising in hurried strings and bursting with greater force. His mind right out to his eyes was smothered by its effect – chaos and displeasure filled him and produced a feeling of gnawing incompleteness. carrying his stiff back like a weight that pressed his head forward and forced his arms away from their natural line along his body.apex of the tent and stretched and yawned. But it was too strained and too easily lost in the morning air to make any impression on Richard.’ he replied defensively. Through habit he reached out for his cigarettes. ‘How is your head? You were very drunk last night. 73 . The sagging of the car on its springs broke Richard’s reverie.’ ‘How about no post-mortems on last night. to hang forward and outsplayed. Michael leaned on the bonnet of the car. extracted one and lit it. He arose from his couch without grace and shuffled out into the early sun. and to redress the balance he asked. At the moment the surface trembled slightly and popped small bubbles.

Richard responded and looked towards him and nodded in agreement. and looked back to the road ahead. ‘The commerce of the seas. ploughed its black hulk. Men earning their keep out there. Richard sat beside him and mused over the dark mantle of the pine woods that covered the small hills inland. with the sparkle of the early sun. We can have breakfast there as well. Then he looked beyond him to the sea. I’ve known him for years. holding firmly the steering wheel. He called to Richard above the hum of the motor and the clashing of the tires against the small stones on the road and said in a crisp voice: ‘We’ll go down to the hotel and see Desanova. pointing.’ He looked quickly in Richard’s direction. 74 . a small tanker. Michael. as did the cork-oaks that dotted the slopes of the sea-edged hills. Michael shifted his back against the seat. So far he had not looked seawards. The sea. grunted.’ Michael followed the line of the finger. leaving a trail of confused water. Out on the sea a ship. He was filled with the freshness of a new day and pleasure at the prospect of driving. Remember? I told you about him. Michael drove. It was beginning to pain him again: the slow nagging pain deep in the bones of his spine that could easily be put out of mind when active but which returned to his consciousness as a curse when he relaxed. pleased him. It’ll be a bit more civilised than usual for us.When they had drunk tea they drove down to the coast. as that would bring Michael into his line of vision and cause the embarrassment of their looking at each other without anything to say. ‘Look.’ he said.

Right on the water’s edge. his hair flopped on his forehead and his blue eyes gleamed with private exhilaration. Richard straightened himself in his seat with great selfpossession. On the sea small boats rested at anchor. ‘That was a small one. on the moment. ‘Where?’ Richard asked.’ called Michael in a sea-captain’s voice.’ ‘Oh. The car surged ahead towards the sea. ‘There’s the hotel now. Richard was thrown towards the door. or 75 . pulsing with light: tidy and inert. running like a great gash towards the sea. they don’t only run hotels and restaurants. ‘The next bend is tighter.‘Don’t be so depressing.’ he said in a testy voice. You see. Clustered alongside them were the houses of the village. A valley opened out below them to the left. ‘We’re on holiday here and should be enjoying ourselves. turning to look down at the coast. shut up.’ The car rushed around a long curve and picked up speed on the downhill gradient. gripping the wheel firmly. judged the sweep of the car through the bend and. ‘Stand by.’ Michael said above the whine of the engine.’ He sat rigid and alive behind the wheel. accelerated. he allowed his body yield to the pressure. Three white cubes lay by the sea. His face passive. Michael. ‘But it’s the first sign we’ve had in the last fortnight that they do that sort of thing here.’ The tension of anticipation had pursed his lips. The car swung sharply to the right.’ He nodded in the general direction of home. That sort of thing is back there.

They sat on the harbour wall and studied the high and square bulk of the hotel front. After parking the car opposite the hotel. lit a cigarette as they entered the narrow street of the village. The row of houses and cottages were set in the shade beneath the cliff. one within the other. Again Richard surrendered to the dictates of the car’s motion and lay against the door. Richard. turning the car into the following left bend. he accelerated out into the straight. double-clutching with swift. Again. chugging about with little leaps on the waves. Richard was lifted away from the door. a skier and his boat left two angles of wash. He raised his hands to the roof in exultation. The sunlight made all colours sharp and hardedged. their windows and doors gaping.’ Richard confirmed.’ Michael replied with emphasis. Michael’s face was concentrated as he guided the car. practised movements. fighting the torpor of his inactivity. the village seemed dead. through the bend. ‘One of the best appointed along this part of the coast. Michael braked again and changed gear.moved. He was filled with dull inertia: a droplet trickled coldly from his armpit. Further out. He pulled on the big wheel. ‘It’s a very neat hotel.’ Richard said carefully. like useless idols. ‘Very neat. Except for one of the villagers and a small group of tourists. Michael braked savagely and turned right into the bend. at the right moment. they agreed to stroll over to the sea-wall before eating. wheels slipping. It was sectioned into 76 . ‘That was a beauty!’ he shouted.

’ he said. For Michael the sun was a curious dream. ‘It’s a dreadful box. ‘No. Richard sat beside him with his arms folded across his chest. suffusing it with heat and producing a desirous discomfort. gripping it with outstretched fingers. The sun on Michael’s back warmed his ache. they could see people looking out at their approach. ‘If I had sufficient money to afford this place. here and there people sat absorbing the hot dry rays.squares of open suntraps. or perhaps out to sea at the skier. Turning his body at the waist towards Richard. Michael hoisted himself to his feet.’ 77 . one suntrap?’ ‘You’re envious.’ ‘What do you get? One room. studying the large anchor set upright nearby as a pagan symbol. Within. ‘That may be so to your aesthetic mind. ‘Well? Shall we breakfast?’ They walked across the carpark towards the glass doors of the hotel. I would hire a small house or at least select a place with more character than this. but it is still the finest hotel hereabouts. strangely harsh and unyielding in the eternal blue of the sky. one bath. desired through months and rain in Yorkshire. one for each room. He braced his arms against the stone. whose boat disturbed the air with its high-pitched whine.’ Richard said almost coyly. to Richard it was a novelty of the holiday.’ Richard started slightly and wondered. These people have worked for the pleasure and comfort of this place. he said. Michael.

the hotel was cool and dark. They drank and talked quietly. without the attendant heat.’ When the girl had nodded and disappeared through a door behind the counter. Michael. gleamed with a brilliance that was near to bursting beyond limits in its intensity. but don’t criticise these people for choosing this place. He felt graceless and troubled. ‘What will you have for breakfast? Coffee? Roll?’ Richard answered ‘Yes. I enjoyed it and I was treated kindly by the guests who were here at the time. over their heads and down to their waists. the concerted gaze of the two upset her. Michael continued through the foyer to the bar and asked the serving girl: ‘Where is Señor Desanova? I would like to see him. He smiled. yes’ quickly to rid himself of Michael’s invitation to join him in a partnership of familiarity.Michael stopped and said sharply: ‘You may do what you like with your money. Her flow of words came slowly to a 78 . In the foyer people sat about in casually arranged chairs. a silent panorama which. The two visitors stood and listened with respect. Inside. Her eyes looked from side to side. It’s better than our grotty tent. As she spoke. But I doubt the value of their choice.’ Michael replied angrily: ‘My parents brought me here several years ago after my operations. Michael half-turned his torso towards Richard.’ Richard acknowledged these remarks silently and walked on. The girl returned and began speaking volubly in staccato Spanish. Through the high windows they could see the sea and cliffs.’ ‘I don’t. who dawdled a few feet from the counter. hardly moving.

‘Richard. come over and I will introduce you to Señor Desanova. around and around. ‘Señor Desanova. gentlemen.’ Michael swore kindly at him.’ The girl turned and ran back through the door. But I have so many people coming here every year. At last he burst out in an exclamation of memory.’ They shook hands and both simultaneously became aware of Richard standing nearby. and he in return said. Michael smiled at Richard. ‘We don’t understand one blessed word. you understand. and you must give me time to bring your face to my mind. Señor Johnson.’ Richard withdrew to study the rolls stacked in a glass case at the end of the bar. Can I help you? My girl. do you remember me? Michael Johnson? I was here with my parents some years ago.’ Michael leaned forward stiffly over the counter. watching them without expression. ‘It was silly of me not to remember. she does not understand the English. palm over back. ‘Ah. He rubbed his hands together. now I remember you. beaming broadly at the two young men who had put his maid to flight. ‘I still don’t like the damned place.’ 79 .broken halt. Richard leaned forward and said gently. then said with irony: ‘Yo no comprendo.’ he said loudly and smote his brow with his palm. ‘Of course. I apologise for her. With a bustle Señor Desanova entered.’ He though quickly. Michael explained the circumstances of their previous meeting to the hotel owner.

’ 80 . A silence followed. ‘Do you come from the same part of England as Señor Johnson. she eyed the two young men with apprehension.’ He turned and clapped his hands. But I have met some in Barcelona.’ Michael said. along this part of the coast’ – he waved an arm in the direction – ‘has become very popular. Desanova insisted that while they waited for the food they should each have a brandy. He took her by the arm and led her to the counter. one at each side. you know. A very warm and generous people.Richard shook the warm. Desanova raised his hands to shoulder height and smiled broadly. As Desanova spoke. the Irish.’ ‘Why of course. I do not have many coming here. I have built two blocks. More people drive to Spain now. pointing in opposite directions. ‘Sí. as if coming out of a trance. ‘Business. and here. has increased.’ Richard replied. certainly.’ Michael said after he had tasted the brandy. from Dublin.’ Richard bowed slightly in acknowledgement. moist hand.’ ‘Ah. ‘Maria!’ The young girl reappeared. ‘Señor Desanova.’ He spoke in a rush. ‘May we have some breakfast.’ ‘No. ‘You will have coffee and rolls? Yes?’ Maria fled to the rear of the hotel clutching and order in her hand. ‘I see you have enlarged the hotel. ‘I come from Ireland. But I live in London now.

Michael said in undertones: ‘You shouldn’t have set him off like that. ‘Ah.’ He suddenly became impassioned. then continued more quietly. ‘The pot is closer to you. much money in taxes.. as if awaiting something: something that would justify all the effort of living.’ Maria reappeared carrying a large tray covered by a napkin. but what do we get in return. 81 . Desanova shook hands with his two guests and wished them ‘Adios’ and departed. your breakfast. he thought.. of course.Richard looked about him at the residents. for these extensions. Was it.’ Desanova started with surprise. They had come from tense. the Catalans. but they are very small. and we have a saying that the family is supported by two of its sons. ‘Spain is a large family of races. We pay taxes. in these hotels along the coast’ – again he waved his hands – ‘we make much money for Spain. you get state aid. As she set out the food and coffee. followed closely by Maria. will you be mother?’ Richard asked when they were seated. well dressed.?’ he paused and reflected. They sat poised. crowded Northern cities to rest. appealing to both Michael and Richard. well nourished. because of his youth or out of envy that he thought that of them? He turned to the hotel owner. We. the Basques and we.’ He escorted them to a table in lounge. ‘What we give to Madrid in taxes is very great. ‘Michael. ‘Sí.’ While pouring the coffee. but we receive little in return. ‘Señor.’ ‘Like what?’ Richard asked in surprise. gentlemen.

‘The Catalans have always been good businessmen and traders.’ He smiled a quick smile of relief at Michael. But beneath the surface all was cool: green and silent. he reached over for the coffee pot. ‘But that was the time of Aragon.’ He lifted his cup to his mouth. Richard’s head bobbed up into the surface.’ he said heavily. and then began its gradual descent to the Pyrenees. But Michael intervened and poured coffee for him. bidden by an obscure guilt for Richard’s sensitivity. They haven’t forgotten what happened in the Civil War. In the Middle Ages they had independence for a while and actually controlled the western Mediterranean. They don’t like Franco’s regime.‘About central government and taxation. ‘I bet they complained about taxes even then.’ Though Michael was listening to him. breaking the light into a million refractions.’ Richard felt the inertia invade him: the weight of history. The sky was vast and brittle. The sun reached its zenith on time. Richard was talking to himself. seeking to rationalise the weight on him. ‘since the time of the Carthaginians. he swam towards the sailing dinghy. Discovering it to be empty. full of brightness that reflected on land and sea. And Franco won’t let them forget him.’ 82 . The sea slapped and shifted aimlessly. his body surging through the wavecrests. Fixing his position. when kings ruled in Saragossa and the traders lived in Barcelona. When close to the boat he called out: ‘Ship ahoy! Permission to come aboard.

Taking the rope.’ He pulled himself up and edged down the boat. Surfacing directly under Michael. Through the waves he could see the distant outline of the coastal slopes and the villas set on them like sugar cubes.’ Michael called in an easy voice. Then he scrambled aboard. ‘What?’ shouted Richard. You’re too clumsy for this art of sailing. Embraced by the warm freedom of the sea. he felt a tingle of fear at the sight of those definite shapes which remained unmoved by the heat and sun. Richard. spitting water and screwing up his eyes. 83 . Setting the sail at the desired angle. ‘Set the boat’s head first. ‘Stand by for boarding party. ‘Not that way. Michael threshed water and shook his head violently. Grinning.’ he said with satisfaction. He grabbed it and tried to secure it to one side and then to the other side of the boat.‘Go and feed the fishes.’ he called. ‘That’s how it’s done. reached out and pulled him aboard. for God’s sake.’ Richard trod water and turned in the direction of the shore. he leered at him. The wind caught it and set the spar swinging from side to side. Richard ran up the sail. squat and inert. trying to shake the water from his ears. When he had helped him into the boat. When Michael surfaced. Michael made a rude sign and pointed to the shore: ‘Swim back. seeing the pain in his eyes. With sudden energy he dived beneath the green surface and swam frog-like under the keel. he guided the boat about till it faced the shore.’ Michael shouted. he reached up and gripped him about the waist and pulled him back into the water. he tied it down.

going into the water or coming out of it.’ ‘What else could I have done?’ Richard replied in annoyance.’ he said harshly. What help would you need from me anyway. for heaven’s sake. The heat was heavy and tiresome – the blazing heat 84 . ‘I would have the sense to realise that you had helped me from your own good judgement and would be accordingly grateful. let’s stop this arguing – it’s far too hot. ‘It’s supposed to be a part of friendship that one helps the other without keeping a balance sheet. Michael. leaned forward and placed his elbows on the table. ‘Don’t be so damned conceited. ‘Now. ‘You needn’t have been so solicitous in the boat.’ He slumped in his chair.Richard smiled with ironic contrition and insisted that he ‘skippered’ the boat while Michael rested. sitting down. ‘It was the sudden shock of the water that caused the pain. Once ashore.’ In silence both looked down on the beach. who sat with his back to the sun. they returned the dinghy to its owner and walked up the crowded beach to a café.’ ‘Surely if I needed help and you gave it.’ ‘Even so. at people with brown skins and others with burnt red skins.’ Richard’s voice was hard and he pronounced each word precisely.’ ‘Gratitude!’ Michael hissed with suppressed anger. keeping his voice low in self-conscious regard for the people seated nearby. They sat on the veranda overlooking the beach and ordered wine and bread.’ Richard shrugged his shoulders. who were moving about. ‘You were obviously in agony. I could have managed it alone.

Though the mound was growing. Scooping the sand into his small bucket. The child was digging a hole. ‘Hang on. jerking his eyes off the labouring child.’ Michael stretched his arms. ‘Digging a hole or building a mountain?’ ‘Simply passing the time. Richard got into the car and absently took an old and ragged book from the glove compartment. and had a rest before dinner. Michael drew Richard’s attention to a child playing in the sand. with no apparent object.of noon being maintained now by the lowering sun. Then he consulted his watch: ‘I think it’s time we went back. Richard threw his head back to ease a tension: ‘Maybe. Two young women with white skins.’ He lowered himself awkwardly to the ground and pulled his head beneath the car. When they reached the car.’ Michael replied. Michael 85 . But. Dick. Michael said. newcomers to the beach. an effeminate Cockney who wore a garish jockey’s cap. because of the heat or perhaps the constant nervous attention they received from their escort. looked in their direction a few times. He flicked through the pages. reading small pieces here and there. as sand trickled continuously into it. ‘I wonder what he’s doing?’ Richard mused distantly. any interest that had been aroused evaporated. smiling. I expect. the projected hole had not deepened appreciably. I want to check that front spring. he carried it patiently to a spot six feet away and emptied it on a growing mound. But building mountains seems to be easier than digging holes.’ They collected their swimming gear and shirts and walked through the cool café into the street. Later.

he called.’ He pointed to one of the group.’ Michael laughed. ‘Listen to this: As in all the Bagur beaches. I must talk to her. he said. produce on the beach an atmosphere of solitude and remoteness. Walking towards the group. ‘I don’t fancy scrambling around the engine. ‘It would do you good to use your hands for a change. ‘I know that girl.’ He switched off the motor and got out of the car. Getting into the car. Michael wrenched the ignition key.’ A girl turned in surprise. ‘Michael. Her face lighted in recognition. after all. the lack of picturesqueness. ‘Deborah. and a tall venerable middle aged man moved among them.’ ‘I hope not. holding parts together for you.’ By way of reply.’ he said flatly. Hold on. She waved and cried. ‘Hallo. ‘It’s keeping together. We might not have to do that welding job. Deborah. A group of English holidaymakers passed them in the direction of the beach. checking names off a list. the ever-present sea.’ Richard replied. Some carried skis. Michael Johnson! Are you down here too?’ She detached herself from the group and came to meet him.clambered to his feet and gave a thumbs-up. ‘They must be staying hereabouts as usual. Richard opened the book and said. they shook 86 . ‘Ballocks. the seriousness of nature. Instinctively.’ Michael said suddenly. I say.

’ He started the engine and put the car in gear. Richard watched them for a moment. of corners and minute capes of a continuous diversity. elated. The girl allowed her arms to dangle loosely at her sides. a fitting object for the end of our odyssey. ‘It goes on and on.hands. The sun had sunk behind the line of coastal hills and the shady coolness gave a calm relief to the evening. ‘I said we would go over to Tamariu tonight. of bays and points. put one arm akimbo and stroked the flank of his nose. ‘everything is arranged for tonight. raising the book: The littoral is a succession of entrances and exits. He did not look up until Michael sat back in behind the wheel. This sinuosity of the coast seen against the mountains whole – and this view is best appreciated above all from the sea going out for a half mile – is of suggestive vivacity. ‘What on earth are you reading?’ Michael asked. ‘Where?’ Richard asked. No more wandering about the province looking for fun. As they spoke Michael shuffled his feet. ‘Listen to this.’ Richard said ironically. flipping from page to page.’ he said suddenly. ‘Well. Michael hummed as he drove and Richard read from his book. but her head jutted as she spoke. They drove easily up towards Bagur.’ 87 . then returned to his book.’ he said.’ Michael replied as he drove out on to the road. ‘Right.

‘Joy. by this fabled Spain in all its sublime splendour. his voice husky with emotion: ‘You see. ‘Richard. But his response was disturbed by the noise and vibration of the car. The immense mystical world before them put them in awe. ‘is what we should feel.’ ‘What?’ Richard said. why we all come here. held the balance between the glory and the poignancy it effected in them. With relief both relaxed. ‘Surely something like that makes the holiday worth while? I mean.’ Michael said after a short while. you stroke your girl’s hand and go off for a drink. To their right the sea was calm and pastel.‘A chap called Pla. He was suffused with a kind of intense anger. the beauty of the country itself should satisfy. Richard looked up.’ They breasted a ridge. Both were silenced. The instincts of both measured the evening’s effect and. the other to his driving.’ ‘He obviously had plenty of time on his hands. We must have some of this now and again.’ Richard felt the sadness. ‘Like a painting? And after viewing it.’ he said shortly.’ The road dipped down into the next valley and they were carried down into the shadow again. He lived in the last century. Then Michael spoke. for a moment. caught between the rational and the sentimental. Richard. one to his reading.’ 88 . Banks of cloud hung between the high peaks and filled the valleys below them. Before them the sun was settling down into the Pyrenees. The plains of Spain stretched from the mountains to the foot of the ridge: bronze-misted with little shadow-black poplars in lines here and there. with the currents around the islets a deeper hue.

’ Richard pointed to the book on his knees. ‘I mean that it should satisfy completely. stony city and crawled through the narrow streets. ‘Will you close up your window.’ ‘Here. then purple. at first covered with the thinnest of veils. Richard closed the book. no. is lit up by a great mass of smoke. ‘You see? Tremulous amid the blood and smoke. first ochre. They entered the sad. Michael saw streets and people and felt the returning ache in his bones. The distant mountains.’ Michael replied quickly.‘No. the smoke of the land and the evaporation of the waters. blood red and dramatic. not liberation.’ They parked the large red Fiat in the carpark opposite the police barracks in Palafrugell. takes on all the shades of blue and purple. who was locking and testing the doors. Richard? It’s getting chilly. It reminded Richard of Connaught towns. From the wide and fruitful plain. you mean. Everything was grey: the streets. He springs sighed under the 89 . He read: The sky. then carmine.’ They crossed the narrow valley and began climbing towards Bagur through terraced fields set like gigantic steps up to the city. seem to rise gently to the heavens. That’s sublimation. not like that. Richard leaned his weight on the front of the car. While awaiting Michael. the faceless churches and gaping houses – a foreign place filled with foreign lives and foreign habits. like this. please.

The massive doors were open wide and they could see into the badly lit courtyard. Richard. he asked Michael if the faulty spring would hold out for the journey back to England. across the street. was the police barracks. Michael walked on. they leaned back slightly to arrange their centres of gravity for the best comfort. The Federales. Going down the sloping street. its face impassive. Michael wore an electric blue shirt and white slacks. Two policemen entered the yard through a door at the rear and walked towards the street. One of them hitched his belt and 90 . a beige cotton shirt and fawn trousers. He said that the local chaps were decent enough. the few windows let into it barred thickly. The two policemen were lounging against the door jambs. He asked Richard if he remembered the incident reported last week when six striking workers had been shot in the south of the country. As they walked from the carpark Richard complained of the poor quality of Michael’s razor. Michael was amused by the complain and replied facetiously. were drafted in to handle the greater crimes against the state and keep a finger on the local pulse. saying how his face stung in the night air. In reaction. Michael reminded Richard that there were two police forces in Spain: the local or provincial force and the Federales. on the other hand. Michael replied that he thought it would. Richard remembered and cast a curious glance back at the building. Stepping back and rubbing his hands with his handkerchief. He completed his task and joined Richard at the front of the car.pressure. Before them. settled in the area and dealing usually with misdemeanours. They had showered and changed after an hour’s rest at the campsite. followed closely by Richard.

The other took a final draw of his cigarette and casually flicked it into the middle of the road. native of the town. The old man noticed Richard looking at him and after surveying him quickly returned his eyes to the ground before him. that the spirit was in all ways superior to the flesh. they walked on. Mollified. he continued. Small shops lined the right side and threw shafts of light on to the roadway. but that the callings of the flesh were stronger than the aspirations of the spirit. They crossed a road and entered a more narrow street. and. Michael replied that it was both. Do you find copulation a traumatic experience? Michael replied that he did. No. passed by. A pity. Richard said sympathetically. Richard wondered if such loneliness was of the Spirit or the Flesh. They passed the shops and walked on into the gloom of a street faced on both sides with dark houses. the most ordinary advance to a girl can become a source of anguish.resettled his holster on his thighs. that coupled with a sense of inferiority because of my ailment. Do 91 . Richard questioned him again. Michael offered Richard a cigarette and lit it for him. Three girls. Richard asked him if he believed that. he was told. Richard called ‘Buenos noches’ in an amiable voice. but it was lost in the abrasive racket made by the large wheels on the gritty road. but I am unfortunately conditioned to such a belief. An old peasant came towards them. but it had been the object of his upbringing and education that he should control such callings. laughing together and utterly ignoring them. leading a donkey and a cart. Michael remarked on the loneliness of the male when separated from his loved one and suggested a practical remedy for such loneliness.

Tantalised by the smell of food in the hot air. over a charcoal fire. And you. shouted orders in Catalan. which do you believe is the stronger. Richard. Life corrupts and the spirit renews.you feel then that your loved one back in Yorkshire keeps you on sufferance alone? Michael tensed his free hand until his fingers were stiffly splayed. offering each other first entrance in the style of old-time gentlemen. They stood without in the pouring light. past the huge chicken spit. took the fore and entered. Seated at last at a table to the rear of the room. Yes. apologising for the disturbance they created. The lights of the town centre glowed in the night sky before them. he asked. they walked down the broad entry. Looking down at them. but living is a thing of beauty. smells of your religion. Michael threw away the butt of his cigarette. a cacophony of divers tongues. The eating room proper was a bedlam of noises: the clashing of cutlery. where dozens of carcasses turned and turned. they allowed their moods adapt to the atmosphere. they edged their way through the diners. he said. Richard laughed outright at this – his laughter became a shout that resounded in the dim streets about and finally produced a hollow echo somewhere in the darkness to their right. That. crackling and spitting. Muted and polite. They turned another corner. At the end of the street lay their destination. a restaurant. Richard replied. I believe that. Therefore we carry on living and try to keep abreast of the corruption. The 92 . seeing the nonsense of this impasse. Michael said. yes. The adobéd walls and wattled ceilings reflected the light of the guttering fat candles distributed about the tables.

He de-shelled his prawns. He raised his glass in toast to Michael and drank. cork-floats. leather harness and gutting knives which hung on the walls underlined the smell of seafood and wine. he spoke shyly. as though overawed by the bustle and noise about them. Richard gazed about absorbing the milieu. one of them demonstrating his method of spearing fish underwater. in a corner. three Germans huddled. cut his meat. A feeling of physical and mental wellbeing suffused him. Beside them an English family ate: their children shouting and calling for more of this and more of that. A private and petite group of French. Initially. when all light is human light and comfort light. While reaching for his glass. watching Richard’s face carefully to gauge his reactions. by sensation. An eagerness for night-life flowed through him: a subjective energy which comes to a man when there is no sun to humble him or to make absurd his egoism.nets. Their eyes were bright and zealous. made by man for man’s comfort. while reminiscing on his previous holiday in Spain. as if freed from some constraint that had lain on his during the physical activity of the day. The rough wine stung their tongues with vinegar sharpness and flowed. which he had poured. Their parents answered self-consciously. one of them a woman of great beauty with spiteful eyes. He related the practicalities of the 93 . Beyond. drank his measure of wine and bobbed his head to his fork as he talked. Richard saw with surprise that his arm was brown and veined. Throughout the meal Michael talked. Michael called his attention to the wine. sat close by eating in silence. While Michael looked out for the waitress. into their veins. constantly looking about to see if their conduct was noticed.

glad to have done with these preliminaries. His son howled and threw things on the floor. he recalled incidents and his reactions to them. Michael turned away abashed. and the girl. Richard looked at him nonplussed. The diners looked at the scene: some with disgust. the comfort and convenience of the hotel. rebuked her husband. as she had been then. A child’s voice shouted in pain and anger. He reassembled images of the girl. and relieved. The woman had her wine glass raised to her lips. she arched her brows and quizzed him with her eyes. Carried on by his emotion. Michael turned to look.holiday first: the operations and the need for convalescence. Except for the 94 . His mother called on him to quieten and. his other hand clutching the side of his head. Resourcefully he smiled and shrugged his shoulders very slightly. His sense of oppression grew and all at once he became aware of his outflowing and in panic at the thought of his folly went silent. Then. others with annoyance. the heat of the sun and the pleasure and release it had given him. chewing slowly on a morsel of meat. he talked around the essence. his arm still upraised. Seeing his gaze. in a changed tone. Catching sight of the French party. and their time together. Deborah. The English father was drawing himself back across the table. he remarked on the beauty of the woman in their company. the cheer he received from the guests. a few with relish. unable to break out of orbit towards it. the quick uplift in morale and the indulgence of his parents. he gradually introduced what he considered the essence of his memory – his mood at the time.

He knew of a small house. The square was crowded. During the walk to the central plaza. Michael pointed out that most of the congregation sat. He said he would like to settle in this part of the country. filled with the hubbub of voices. similar to those of Yorkshire. On that side. hard to find. would the change be an achievement or a compensation. chairs were arranged in rows. facing a particular side of the square. Richard shrugged his shoulders. in irregular school Spanish. Michael dismissed this immediately. Richard nodded constantly as the plan was unfolded. that having once settled here he would find liberal amusements. The notice 95 . and said that the quiet rhythm of life in Sa Riera would absolve him of the need for such trivia. hoping to earn enough money in the summer to tide him over the winter. Richard asked a man close by. situated in the valley above Sa Riera. The man maintained his native reserve and simply pointed to a coloured notice tacked to the trunk of a tree. He could not picture Michael’s projected life: but. chairs and people. Richard suggested that they leave. Waiters hurried through the concentration of tables. he asked if he would not find the very conservative society repressive. in front of a large café. When Michael finished. each looking down at the area of table immediately before him. what was to be expected. which he could rent. on which lay various musical instruments. he wondered. The wine and the warmth of the restaurant had eased his pain to the extent that he was unaware of it now. They were silent. or contrived to sit. Michael talked of a secret of his.Germans. carrying loaded trays aloft. For a living he would instruct tourists in the handling of sailing boats.

Inglés. which would continue for a week. fanned his face with mockfussiness. Michael. he wiped his face with a convenient cloth and began talking. complaining of the heat and the pressure of work. he offered to buy Richard one more drink before 96 . but when others joined in the laughter he returned his attention to the fainted woman. An old peasant sitting at the back of the room cried. Discovering that none was available. Rebuked. He drew Michael’s attention to it. with a smile. and said. a boy ran in shouting at the top of his voice. and lo! The Spanish celebrate it in the middle of summer. After shouting his orders to the barmaid. Inside. he swore. Richard said no matter.proclaimed the opening of the Festival Primavera. saying soothingly. As Richard counted out pesetas to pay for the drinks. A very redfaced woman was carried in. Michael watched the scene with increasing distaste. Huh. busy looking around for a vacant table. and began slapping the back of her hand. Turning. and led the way to the nearest bar. The waiter turned and spoke sharply to him. that the Irish celebrate the beginning of spring in the depths of winter. throwing her arm out in his direction as though to present him as a lazy old fool. they chose stools that gave them a view of the bandstand and ordered coffee and brandy. The barmaid jeered him. The waiter jumped away from the bar and told the two locals carrying her where she was to be placed. who had by now been seated. he quietened and stood leaning against the bar and stared vacantly at the ceiling. Al right. and laughing. ladee. only half heard. Richard lost his concentration and dropped the coins remaining in his hand on to the counter. A waiter rushed in bearing a tray filled with glasses and crockery.

Richard said he was and turned his attention to him. Richard nodded to Michael to come out into the open. But Michael deflated and nodded in agreement. Once. Michael asked peevishly. Without waiting for a reply. when he looked at him to add force to some point he had made. their bodies swaying in rhythm to the steps of the dance. Are you listening to me. 97 . His voice was harder and more guttural now. When he had paid for the drinks he began talking again. A trickle of perspiration eased its way out from Michael’s hairline and rolled over his forehead. The square was successfully enclosed away from the night. The buildings that lined the squares were the walls. The splayed branches caught the light of the street lamps and created a magical roof. where there was room. a shrill instrument piped a series of notes. lit by their own various lighting. circles of dancers had formed. he left the bar. picking up the threads of his earlier monologues. Take it easy. Richard was surprised by the fierce dogged stare of his eyes. the band began playing. watching the dancing. Here and there around the square. in reply. Richard looked out and saw the musicians file out of the café opposite and take their places among the arranged chairs. A ragged applause came from the square. They danced gravely. and braced himself for the reaction.they got to hell out of the town. taking the series for a theme. and. Outside in the square. Richard finally murmured. Within the circle of sycamores the audience sat at rest.

Don’t forget you’ve been drinking. consequently. A pair of headlights suddenly shone in their faces: a small French car apparently skipped into sight. illuminated by the dashboard light.’ ‘That’s not the point. Again the car bucked in the struggle of conflicting forces. ‘That was dangerous. Instead. It will go on till five in the morning. causing the car to tremble and buck. looked out blankly on to the dark countryside. While its occupants looked at them. ‘Try to be a bit more careful.’ Richard said with deliberate calm. shocked and 98 . Richard.Michael drove fast and recklessly. braced over the wheel as if drawing strength from it. His face.’ Michael shouted. He looked across at Michael. We came here for fun and games.’ He drove into a bend.’ ‘An hour won’t make much difference. was masked by his cold preoccupation with his object. for Christ’s sake! Can’t a man have a little fun. Richard’s eyes were heated and moist and. he could no longer judge the line of the road. The car swerved slightly and sped out of the turn. They usually do. through habit. his voice pitched with strain. Another bend.’ ‘Oh. Trees and bushes rushed by in the headlights. Michael made a panic adjustment to the wheel. in whose hands and skill he must put judgement. like some bloody tourist. Michael drove with an intention. ‘I thought you were keen on coming to this place in Tamariu. The tyres screeched on the gravel. you want to watch the natives dancing. After a while Michael sat back and said gruffly.

but did not absolve him from it.’ 99 . It wasn’t real enough. Michael self-consciously broke the silence. You were actively involved in the crisis.’ He was laughing good-naturedly. You are in the car with me. You’re being the intellectual again.’ But the moment of danger had given him insight. As the other car swept past. trying to be profound. You simply don’t want to admit to being afraid. The car mounted the verge.’ ‘Nonsense. ‘That was close. And the easing gave him pleasure. the whine of its motor audible for a second. I had the submission of the powerless. Michael pulled back on to the road and completed the turn without reducing speed. Michael muttered to himself and swung the wheel. showering stones against the underside with a fierce clatter. ‘Not real enough? It was for me. Richard was suddenly aware that Michael wasn’t driving anywhere in space: he was driving something out of himself. while I was passive. He ran at death. the driver glanced over in vague admonishment. but was too good at his expression to kill himself. Did you get a fright?’ ‘I don’t know.mesmerised. except what had happened on previous nights: he would get drunk and angry. Richard experienced an instant of submission to the events and returned their stares helplessly. with condescension. You experienced the fear that is part of responsibility. His expression eased his pain. You were as much involved as I was. Nothing would happen for him tonight. first one way and then the other. ‘I don’t know about that.

The patriarch. in fact. one of the sons said something and spat. his mind was a blank. Michael. presided complacently over the gathering. were grouped about a number of tables. Four policemen walked on to the promenade from the village. he cursed him for his moodiness and walked off. Any utterance he chose to make from time to time was received with respect and usually answered by one of his older sons. who smoked and chatted. The atmosphere so affected Richard that he would not leave when Michael stood up and drained his glass. ‘I had everything under control. When they had walked on a few yards. interspersed by easy laughter. At Richard’s suggestion they went to a bar on the promenade. being conscious of their duty. that I would rather be in fear of my fate than in submission to it. Their conversation was desultory and intimate. a baby on his knee.‘I assure you. though. behind were two Federales. Richard felt the hackles rise at the sight of their weapons. were grim. to be fondled and hugged in simple affection. to have a drink before entering the clamour of the nightclub. Richard listened to the unintelligible language as if listening to music and allowed its gentle mood to relax him. the night being cool and silent. Richard sat in apparent meditation.’ They rumbled and tumbled easily down the curving road into the village. running to whosoever called to them.’ Michael said sharply.’ ‘There was no need to fear. local police. comprising three generations. Exasperated. The old man rebuked him 100 . Behind him a large Spanish family. As they passed the bar the family fell silent. The children ran among them. They came two by two: in front. who.

The insistent tone tensed him. ‘Don’t loose your cool. from Dublin in Ireland. commanding all of them to be silent.’ Michael turned to his companion at the bar. Richard pulled back.’ He laughed. Richard entered the nightclub and stood in the doorway.’ 101 . Have you been swimming again?’ Richard looked down at his dark-stained shoes and trousers. He replied mildly in a bantering voice: ‘It was warm and the sea was cool. ‘Your feet are wet. Richard finished his drink and walked across the promenade and down to the beach. ‘Ho. ‘Well? What do you think of that?’ Michael asked. We almost hit a car on a bend and in avoiding it almost ran off the road. my wild Irish dreamer! Have you communed with your god?’ He looked down his body insolently. ‘This is my holiday partner – Richard.and addressed the group in a louder voice. thrusting his head forward so as to look into Richard’s face. When I asked him if he had been frightened. ‘I’ve already answered that. Otherwise you’ll make a fool of yourself. almost falling off the stool as he did. whatever you do. We had a near thing on the way down here. ‘Listen. As he spoke the loudness of his voice drew the attention of others. blinking dazedly in the light and noise. Michael saw him with a start and raised his glass to him. he said it wasn’t real enough!’ Richard leaned between Michael and his drinking companion and called the barman.’ he said simply.

Michael. ‘Yes. ‘This is your friend. ‘Don’t go. The floating joy had carried him out over the phosphorescent sea.’ Michael cut between the three.’ The girls looked at Richard with new interest. Then he returned to talk to his companion beside him. The gentle tension held him. Sandra stood uncertain. The moon 102 . then took Sandra by the arm and guided her through the crowd to the window seat.’ Sandra said loudly. ‘It must be beautiful on the beach at this time of night. this is Sandra. Deborah beckoned to another girl. We can sit over by the window presently. She wanted to meet you. ‘Will we all have a drink?’ As he spoke he reached out and clutched Deborah’s wrist. isn’t it?’ she said with deliberate politeness. ‘Watch out.Richard turned away and caught sight of a girl coming towards them.’ Michael brought the drinks and handed them from the counter without ceremony. gesturing with his hands. Richard paused. His voice was slurred and abstracted: ‘He’s been swimming in the sea. turning to Richard. who stood in the background. ‘How lovely. here comes your girlfriend.’ he said quickly. until Richard said..’ Michael was suddenly adrift. But he introduced them. She pulled away in distaste and then walked off. ‘Richard..’ he said. Joy welled in him again like swelling and poised at their peak. That’s what kept him. at last. Michael was moved to speak.’ Richard smiled reflectively. unable to focus himself. thrilled him. ‘Spain. It is he.

‘Yes.’ ‘He may have had the wrong idea about tonight. she continued. But tonight he cut her cold. To distract her from her mood. She was quite hurt by it. Richard asked.’ ‘So is he. Though they could not see it. we do. He expected a lot on the strength of his last time here. She continued looking out the window.had risen.’ 103 . That is. And it has started again? We must see it tomorrow night.’ ‘You mean you come here every year?’ ‘Yes. He is very sensitive. He made no attempt to be friendly towards them. ‘Oh. When he was here before he was almost in love with Deborah. Looking out the window. its light illuminated the low slopes beyond the road outside. my parents and I. ‘Has Michael changed very much since you last knew him?’ ‘He has become very hard. I think. It’s enchanting just to lie about and do nothing but doze and soak up the sun. ‘Have you seen the dancing in Palafrugell?’ She brightened immediately. I met him when he was here before.’ she replied.’ Sandra made no reply. ‘I first saw it three years ago. He tried to take her away from her friends when she introduced him. These warm nights and the long hot days. you know. ‘The Sardanas? Isn’t it a wonderful spectacle?’ she said with feeling. I never realised that. and bitter. ‘Have you known Michael before?’ Richard asked.’ Richard stroked the side of his glass. ‘It’s so beautiful here.’ She looked at him quickly.

We’re leaving tomorrow.’ he said. You must be sad to leave.’ She brightened again. Now she started and looked at him. making it gay: ‘You’re a woman.’ She lowered her eyes as though to renounce that responsibility.’ ‘I’m afraid it’s something of a novelty. ‘I would like to hear your impressions of the dance. Are you going home tomorrow? What a pity.’ ‘I would have included you in the party. You give me the impression that you really love Spain. Her face was round and plump. ‘But I would have liked to see that dancing again. Sandra. first let me recite you a short poem about the dance. ‘But you had little time for us today.’ Richard watched her as she spoke. She was tall and well-fleshed. You should be complimented. 104 . ‘Tell me about the Sardanas. Richard lifted her face gently.’ ‘I didn’t mean.’ She paused and pursed her lips in concentration. ‘Why are you watching me like that?’ Richard felt the resonance in him. It affected the timbre of his voice. She had returned to looking at the moonlight on the slope outside. What were you reading? Whatever it was must have been interesting. her fair hair lying salt-matted on her shoulders.. a comfortably reared girl with her childhood still close to her. ‘Well. I’m sure you’ll like it.’ he said winningly.‘I won’t be here then.. because you were so engrossed in it.’ she said seriously. In his joyousness she scintillated in the fact that she was young and alive.

He was too sick to stay up late. It was no objective description: the images she produced took complete command of her mind.La Sardana es la dansa mes bella De totes les dances que es fan y es desfan. it was a rebirth of innocence.’ ‘I don’t think so. Richard looked around to where he had left him. she suddenly asked: ‘Did Michael enjoy the dancing? I don’t think he saw it before.’ Reminded of Michael’s existence. puffy fingers. Richard was not affected by her emotion. ‘Most of it. She smiled and shook her hair. making vague descriptive gestures with his hands. ‘It’s a pity he and Deborah argued as they did. he was speaking to two of the Germans who had been in the restaurant earlier in the evening. letting her earlier mood run. She stroked the wood of the sill with strong. When she had finished. To Richard’s surprise. It was not innocence. But he had moved to a table and was now in deep conversation. ‘They would be so much happier now otherwise. ‘Do you understand it?’ she asked brightly. My Spanish is a mixture of school learning and overheard conversation. He was too impatient to get down here.’ 105 . but he felt he understood it. Que amb mida y amb pause valenta oscillant.’ Sandra lamented.’ Sandra looked out the window as she spoke about the dance. Es mobil magnifica a nella.

‘Tell me. bringing his face close to hers. without touching. Richard laughed with her. Richard saw. Freude. He took her hand from the sill and squeezed it. down the gentle gradient towards the sea. and looked up at him. She nuzzled her face against his touch. ‘Did you really walk through the waves?’ ‘Yes I really did.’ Richard replied with the same intimacy.’ she asked intimately. laughing suddenly. She squeezed his hand in return with earnest appeal. attempting to grasp the reality of his changed latitude in the changed inclination of the stars. ‘I did it for joy.But Richard moved against the sentiment: ‘I don’t know how Deborah is feeling.’ He spoke caressingly. the change in atmosphere. Richard gazed up at the stars. Sandra stood up and walked towards the door. They walked side by side.’ Then he straightened in his seat and touched her lightly on the cheek. identifying the familiar constellations. But the presence of the warm 106 . Generous eyes... ‘Don’t worry yourself about them. Pure receptiveness. all young. ‘Would you like to walk on the beach?’ Richard asked. but Michael might be happier at the moment than you think. He felt an upsurge of desire for her. I’m sure they’re old enough to fend for themselves. Outside. made them quiet and self-conscious. from the smells and noise of the club to the sweet silence of the night. Without replying.’ She drew her head back. more to draw attention to himself than to impart information. as though in regret. Sandra sighed. Her eyes were moist and they glistened in the light.

The two Germans sat opposite him and 107 . But he had to do it.’ Then she threw her arms about his neck. When Richard returned he saw that Michael was slumped in his chair. The family had gone. nicotine and desire. aren’t they. They crossed the promenade on to the beach. He drew her back to him and pressed his face into her hair. Sandra responded by turning her face to him. Her desire leapt in her and she pressed back against Richard. She stopped and seemed to wait.’ Richard said. Richard had a fleeting feeling of pity for her. She put her fingers on his lips and said ambiguously: ‘Bastard. Nothing was left but the street lights and some pieces of paper that waffled weakly in the night wind. He was trying very hard to pour coke into a glass of white rum. walking a little behind. but it passed and was replaced by one of eagerness. Sandra looked at him with a mixture of irony and regret. When they parted. which set his teeth on edge and tingled along his diseased spine. She paused to look up. her mouth slack and gaping. Their kiss was too rough at first and Sandra pulled back.body beside him made it too difficult. The bottle shook in his hand. reached forwards and grasped her hips. But then they rejoined for the sheer pleasure of it. jarring against the rim of the glass. ‘They’re beautiful. Sandra hummed some vague melody. both shaking with the force of their passion. Richard. Richard’s head hammered with the combined effects of alcohol. He could not drink the rum on its own: it should be mixed with coke. pointing up.

Richard’s eyes were hollowed and dark and his face raw about his mouth and cheeks. As Richard walked towards the street he called after him: ‘And don’t forget.’ He indicated the two Germans.’ Michael fumbled in his pockets. ‘Did you get it?’ Richard replaced the glass and bent down to Michael. Will you give me the car keys then? I’ll come and collect you in the morning. ‘Am I ready? No.’ Richard said. ‘Are you ready?’ he said with residual gaiety. As he poured the liquid his hand shook slightly. coming out of his stupor. it’s you. looking over at the Germans. but he held the bottle high over the glass and allowed the coke splash and froth.’ He looked closely at Richard. ‘They at least had the decency to talk to me while you went off with that female. The eyes of the Germans were alive and bright with the force of life. and Michael now and again looked over at them and smiled in gratitude. ‘Don’t kill yourself in it. He took the bottle from Michael’s hand. This completed. he made a small bow to the Germans and raised the glass and drank. ‘Hoi! That’s my drink. ‘Oh. ‘Come on.’ he said. Leave me alone. he handed them over with a look of defiance.’ ‘No. You can’t do that.’ ‘Very well.’ Michael shouted. I don’t want to go.encouraged him along in their own language.’ ‘It’s after four and the sun is rising. I’m not. When he found the keys. I’m going to sit here all night and talk to my friends.’ 108 . motorcars are real: they’re made of steel. the night is over.

‘Were you afraid of it?’ His eyes were puffed.Seated behind the wheel.’ Richard said. But before he had finished the cigarette. He lit a cigarette and closed his eyes. ‘Give me the keys. The array of knobs and instruments. He called out Richard’s name in a singsong voice and stumbled on the gravely surface. and. raising his voice. the familiar smell of their presence and the memories all these inspired.’ Michael shrugged stiffly and then clambered awkwardly into the driving seat. when he would fetch Michael from where-ever he found to sleep off the drink.’ Michael looked at him askance.’ Richard said sharply. When he reached the car he tapped on the window and said. too loudly. he asked: ‘Are you sure you weren’t afraid?’ ‘Yes. ‘I thought you were going back to the campsite. the prospect of making the return journey beginning that day. of the torpor at the end of a day’s driving. As Richard got in beside him.’ Richard got out of the car. but the blankness was gone. ‘I didn’t feel like driving it. I’m quite sure.’ ‘They’re in the ignition. Richard plugged the key into the ignition and sat back. the smell of burnt oil and dust. filled him with a loathing for the machine. feeling the mood of the car close about him. Michael came down the avenue. ‘I had a revulsion for the whole machine. finally. content to sit there until the morning proper. ‘Why should I be ashamed of admitting it if it were true?’ 109 . He walked around the car. of racing and bumping down through England and France.

Or rather.. then out along the road to Bagur. On the point of sleep.’ he said insinuatingly. ‘I’m sorry we’re leaving it tomorrow. his head throbbed with the emotion of memories. ‘Nothing.. today. Richard. The sun was risen a few degrees above the sea and its light cleared the land of night. 110 .’ Michael said as they crossed one of the many ridges on the road. ‘I just wondered. nothing.Michael switched the key.’ Richard mumbled in reply.’ He drove slowly up to Palafrugell and around the now empty square. ‘It’s a beautiful country.

THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS 111 .

More disturbing was his habit when they met of insisting that she 112 . This expression. together with her red hair. race or class. She found him shabby. as satisfied self-respect. reminded many of an Irish woman writer then living in London. She found their reserve striking at first. Within the fog of this temporising life she managed to come in contact with Richard Butler. But outside the flat she ‘talked to everyone’. he lived what was for her a frighteningly anonymous life as editor and writer of a small literary-cum-political magazine. regardless of age. but discovering that it lacked the status she expected. indifferently kept though usually tidy. She struck up acquaintances with many people. She took a position in a bank. distracted and naively passionate. didn’t seem important so long as she kept to herself. ‘A change of scenery’ she told her friends in Dublin with the bravado that characterised her then. and her flat blue eyes. her strong face came to express a capacity for enduring the inertia of the individual life coupled with its disavowal in a secretive piety. Under these circumstances. and though she made no friends she found them all ‘very interesting’. she left. as she told her mother. While he had been resident in a less impenetrable London for two years. Various types of work followed and status. She shared a large roomy flat on the corner of a square not far from Earls Court tube station with an Australian draughtswoman and two English nurses.Claire Burke came to London shortly after Christmas. but she soon learned to accept it and even to respond to it in like manner. it served as a topic in letters to family and friends.

bottomless pool of existence that could never be ruffled. moments of strange. realised that Richard did not really like women. the gratification of hunger a metaphor for their discovered love. when they paced side by side in silence. In July. she really wanted to be led. That evening Richard was convinced he had plumbed the depths of woman. the day became an extended and much digressed essay on the beauty of earlier civilisations. with the trees only now achieving their limp fullness of foliage. hearttwisting melancholy. moist-eyed affection. speechless. Claire 113 . Claire. The day ended in a quiet restaurant. especially Claire. in order that she might retain some element of caprice. reaching back to the dawn of human activity. for though she often stood on her dignity to curb him. The journey down the river. it was now hot and sticky in the city and she had taken to dressing in a casual. with Claire a captive audience. But she never would choose. the roll of the water a medium for freedom and gaiety. moments of quiet.choose what to do and where to go. released them from their individual Londons and prepared them for the wistful serenity of the observatory on the ancient hill. The great expedition during this first part of their intimacy was to Greenwich. chilled and symmetrical. Though it was a humid day of early summer. for her part. indifferent manner. They had moments of delight. the city crouched in concrete confusion along the banks. their mood was autumnal. for he had glimpsed in Claire a black. For Richard. when they were driven apart only to be reunited in tender.

a girl she had known at school in the convent on the Green. but also to be studied carefully. She was reticent about this man. the latter springing from memories of Catherine at school. or else because she was extraordinarily close. Over coffee Catherine did most of the talking. Claire made only a passing remark to Richard about meeting Catherine. It was she who suggested a coffee in a nearby shop: Claire agreed. Only a month in London. full of hesitancies. someone to be flattered. With her pacing up and down 114 . Against Claire’s diffused greeting. she was like a terrier finally let off the leash. Catherine again burst upon the scene a few days later when she visited Claire at her flat. and he smiled and nodded and let it pass. Catherine was direct and blandly social. the latter something of a heroine. after having long been teased with the prospect of this freedom. but without losing the rhythm of her monologue. Already she had made a circle of friends. she described some of them at length with dispassion. It had been short-lived because there had been little to learn about Claire. almost at times peremptory. and had established a steady relationship with a Dublin man who was half her age again older than her. an expression of surprise and vaguely condescending amusement on her face. Catherine was about two years younger than Claire and there had been a short-lived friendship between them when Catherine had been fourteen and Claire sixteen.chanced to meet Catherine Hackett. Addresses were exchanged and then Catherine was gone and Claire was surprised to feel first an emptiness before the flat colours and the inconsequent bustle of the coffee shop rushed in upon her to fill the vacuum and oppress her.

Dreamlessly. feeling herself expand to pure amorphousness to fill the space of the room. and then bewildered. Richard was present at their next meeting and after an initial sharp exchange of leading questions and witty answers. She sat all the while. in which none of the three could get to grips with any topic. Then Catherine was gone again and the room and its furnishings became stark and implacable. and soon felt in some way left outside of the undercurrent that came to exist between them in their mutual forbearance. Claire was surprised. However. like the flickering of a light far away. watching Catherine pace and listening to her. the large room became remote and staid. by the incident itself. and it was pleasant to be hypnotised in this way by another person. sleep finally took her and released her. to feel herself being lived by someone else. both Richard and Catherine seemed to call a truce and accept each other on appearance. her hands skimming over its rough fabric. It was a relief to trust someone like this. where she lay for hours rigid like a newly-trapped animal. outwardly plumply furred but as taut as a trigger within. she had to drag herself off to bed. Catherine seemed distant.behind the enormous sofa drawn up before the fireplace. reduced to banality. by their intense probing reaction to each other. for everything became peaceful and opaque: she had no wishes for herself and yet the wishes of others for her were rendered impotent in this silencing universe. an 115 . and ended in a trough of sullenness. and Claire realised with a pleasing resignation how much she took the adjuncts to her life for granted. Trembling inwardly. That evening limped along.

The driver of the car. which when compared with the history of any region of Ireland – or of Europe for that matter – was unique. dwelling most of all on the fact that this region had enjoyed over a thousand years of continuous peace and wellbeing. when the sun settles on a day well worth the trouble and effort. and she felt the need to draw in her horns until Claire had regained her composure. who couldn’t help overhearing. Catherine had led her to expect it. He was not put out by this. was necessarily extended to Richard. This sense of the superfluous made her uneasy. But Claire felt that there was a superfluity in this scene. Claire had expected someone different. but instinct told him that she would rather go with Catherine. was a source of embarrassment to both girls. a plump silent man. still unnamed. Catherine was quick to sense the disappointment.invitation to Claire from Catherine to spend the weekend with her and her man. It occurred to him to ask Claire to stay over and travel with him. Claire had never experienced this before. where the presence of the mountains and the sea contrasted inescapably with the human endeavour of the city and the day dies on a primitive gyre. Friday evening was one of those replete evenings of the Home Counties in summer. 116 . and Catherine was more than willing to go into details. Richard then discovered that he could not make it and would have to follow by train on Saturday morning. for taken on its own terms it made her life seem futile. Catherine’s arrangement that they drive down with them on Friday evening was accepted by Claire. She compared it with Dublin landscapes.

and while Catherine took meat from the freezer and drew water for coffee. I tapped it with a hammer and then cemented all the holes and gaps. served well to cover up the feeling of betrayal. now restless at his sides. They were ancient. If I had known what the place was like in the beginning I wouldn’t have 117 . It was dark when the silent man. Three days! Then the first joist that was put in knocked lumps out of the wall. you know. Then I had to fight with the local council to get them to connect me with the sewage they laid on for those new houses across the road.The stream of comment issuing from Catherine. I got the place cheap but I’m sure I’ve spent as much again fixing it up. Ancient! They hammered when the pipes were closed and hummed when they were open. unlocked the front door of the cottage. his arms now folded across his chest. he stood in the centre of the lounge. I had a fire burning in the back for three days solid. George Hallion. Then I discovered the dry rot. Or the money. ceilings were all rotten. When I finally persuaded the council to extend the sewer. I had all the pipes ripped out. A terrible mess. and spoke to Claire: ‘I had terrible trouble with the pipes. Floors. It must have been about three hundred years old. So all that had to come out. twisted about in her seat to face Claire in the back. You wouldn’t believe the amount of work I put into this place. every one of them – luckily they were external – but even so there was a terrible mess. Rotten! Even the oak beams in here. I decided to put the plumbing in properly. who had by now been reabsorbed by the girls. With the ground-floor rooms flooded with white electric light.

Of a long line of entrepreneurs. Catherine spoke and held the attention of the other two without much difficulty: perhaps because she was in fact thinking aloud. ‘It’s lovely. he didn’t think she would have been interested. I think it’s lovely. who didn’t trust alcohol.’ When George returned he said that he had never thought of telling her. and Claire. he should have told me. She could be thrillingly insistent.’ Claire said. Never! There are plenty of good bargains all over the south-east!’ George was in business in a modest way. contented herself with coffee. ‘I’ve just told George that it was well worth the trouble. pausing to repeat a significant point. ‘It was well worth the trouble.’ ‘It’s not important. he was bred to a philosophy of precarious independence. There was a faint smile of amusement on her lips. ‘Do you like the place?’ Catherine asked.bought it.’ Then Catherine brought in the coffee and George slipped out to fetch a bottle of whisky from the car.’ Catherine stiffened. Then they sat.’ ‘Trouble? What trouble?’ ‘Fixing the plumbing and floors. seemingly 118 . made both Claire and George an entranced audience. an action that both revealed her private self and yet also involved them as she used their past actions and words to illustrate her discourse. Catherine and George drinking whisky. ‘All the same.’ ‘He didn’t tell me about that.

then said: ‘Yes. Catherine inhaled her cigarette with exaggerated force. George did not come in to Catherine as he usually did when they stayed in the cottage and she lay awake for a while. and then rose up and went into Claire. and parried. choosing between evasion and admission. ‘Don’t you love him?’ ‘What is love?’ It was beginning to annoy Catherine again. that when she wanted to. bright and thoughtless. shaking her head. powers of attention. Her thin face was a mask of many faces. Claire could maintain a distance between them.finding new insights there. and gratified.’ Surprised. as it used to at school. now sated. she would have been an abstract figure as many-faceted as a diamond. and her feeling for pace and rhythm buoyed them up and swept them along as they sensed the creative success in her struggle between content and rhetoric. ‘You’re still a virgin. ‘Should I?’ ‘How do I know?’ Catherine replied sharply. Claire said: 119 . her thin body a tense accumulator of passions: sculptured. aren’t you?’ Claire paused. ‘Do you miss Richard?’ Claire smiled. with all the subtle fire of a thing created under high pressure from muddy amorphous clay. Her manner amused Claire’s slack.’ ‘How is that? I thought you were more attractive to men than I am.

She knew that 120 . I’m sure of that. ‘Don’t you know what you are like?’ ‘I can never decide. But she wasn’t. ‘I hope for nothing. Expanded. Claire?’ Claire’s eyes dilated and lost focus. Claire smelled whisky and tobacco.. It makes them feel they are children again. Men like that. no longer hearing her. Can’t I be left alone with myself?’ She clutched Catherine’s wrist. Alone in the dark Claire knew that she should be afraid of Catherine.’ ‘Oh. do you know that? What does the likes of Richard find in you?’ Claire stared at her. ‘You’re not stupid. Catherine released her hold and stood erect. You’re turgid.’ Catherine seemed to be arguing with herself.’ ‘What does turgid mean?’ ‘Swollen. Catherine leaned over her and stared at her.’ ‘Decide? You don’t decide.’ Claire increased the distance between them. Then she caught Claire’s shoulder through the bedclothes and squeezed it.‘Do you really think so?’ ‘Of course. you discover it in what you do and the way you do it. Catherine left. ‘I don’t understand you. Claire.’ Claire laughed and so broke the spell. full.’ ‘Am I really like that?’ ‘Yes!’ This with impatience. ‘I thought you were intelligent. ‘What are hoping for. wide-eyed and tense..

Richard asked Claire and then Catherine for food. and refused point blank to go with him. Claire watched him from the window and he greeted her with: ‘The taxi from Didcot cost me two pounds. walking up the short path from the road with a disgruntled expression on his face. When he had eaten. shame had long since become interwoven with the fear. George said ‘No’ and left it at that. Catherine grimaced and went and scrambled some eggs. ‘It was bloody murder getting here. Claire didn’t move.’ Richard said cheerfully.’ She laughed at his aggrieved tone and so Richard gripped her arms and squeezed them till her face contorted with pain and she pleaded with him to let her go. Claire bubbled with laughter. but she had managed to evade it all this time. Because of this.’ The girls sensed the antipathy immediately. though a trace of 121 . George was formal and asked him if he liked the surrounding countryside. Catherine stood in the door appraising the three of them. He did and then they kissed. as though this was the most absurd thing in the world. George was placid and logical: ‘You should have come down with us last night. he stated that he had consulted a map and intended walking the ridge that lay about a mile to the south. He had been up since seven. Richard arrived at about eleven in the morning.she should have admitted to fear a long time ago.

(Damn him. but only because everyone else was determined to be active.) Richard. there was naturally an impulsive sympathy. She took his hand and his manner softened. She felt herself draw closer to Richard’s company. And this unnerved Catherine. Nevertheless. George offered Claire a game of tennis in the garden and she accepted. He was no audience: he was a critic. a wary respect. Catherine had recognised before now that Richard was of that brand of Irishman for whom everything had its opposite and contradiction. as though to accommodate her. thought that Catherine was too ruthless and that she exposed herself too much in the process. the countryside came to seem dead. But Catherine was willing.resentment could be detected in his voice. The landscapes were at first serene and relieving. between them. for whom encounter was a confrontation that produced exhaustion and an experience similar to that of hearing cymbals crashing at close range. Richard and Catherine walked for over an hour in silence. for his part. In a deeply frustrating way. and they brooded on the day. but as the business of tramping along the rough trackway wearied them. but who could find no way of separating it from its antithesis. all those trees and fields below them in the broad shallow valleys became monotonous and inert. But the day brooded on them as they walked along the ridge towards the west. she thought. who knew that one of the elements in a dualism should be preferable to the other. And both hated the barriers each felt forced to erect against the other. 122 .

very green grass for some time. She stood in the one spot for what seemed a long time. She quaked inside and shivers shot up and down her spine. she was at first angry. she felt grateful to him. Richard had brought her. inward-turned malice of his kind. with all the harsh. her hand clenched against her belly and her eyes tightly shut. Then his face lit up in a way that frightened her and he laughed aloud. tight expression. 123 . Having stared down at the patches of bare chalk among the short. Whether she liked it or not. Her body vibrated in tune with this sensation of release and she had to stop and concentrate on not losing her balance. savouring this relief of gratitude. She didn’t know what she was looking at or what she was supposed to see. There was mockery and the release of pent-up forces in it as mystery was dissolved. she had submitted to his judgement and leadership. Richard stood at the top of the slope and stared down at the oblique and from that angle unrecognisable Uffington White Horse. The laugh cut into her. She thought he was being ironic. back up the slope. He appeared to be in a trance. she turned and glanced askance at Richard. standing before something she didn’t understand. But there was a mystery in it.By the time they reached Richard’s objective both were exhausted. She bit her lip till it hurt and the aftermath of pain was a thrill of release. Realising how she had been led. He had a memory of an aerial photograph of the site. their minds numbed. staring down with a grim. But Catherine hadn’t. She turned and walked away from him. Then she saw how revealing the laugh was. shoulders bowed.

or anything else. George was crouched over his plate while Claire sat away from him at the far end of the table. George raised his head. ‘We walked to the White Horse..’ ‘If you had taken the trouble to ask me..’ He glanced at Richard... It’s only a few miles along the road. ‘But I didn’t think you were interested in that sort of thing. then at Claire. The tennis game was long ended and George and Claire sat at lunch in the spacious kitchen when Catherine and Richard arrived back. and went and piled salad from the bowl and gave it to Richard.’ Catherine’s voice was sharp and confident. you know. and said: ‘Oh yes? Did you? I meant to take you down to see it. ‘You could have said something. Then everything was transparent and she couldn’t see Richard. coughed as though he had not spoken for some time. If he were to come over to her. 124 .. picking at her food. She discovered she was crying. She saw that he understood.When it had passed and she felt drained and lucid. How was I to know? How am I to know what you like if you don’t tell me?’ ‘I didn’t know it existed until Richard showed it to me. Catherine glanced at Claire.’ Catherine announced loudly as soon as she crossed the threshold. she looked up and saw that Richard was watching her. shrugged her shoulders.’ George looked at Richard again..

They stretched out without touching and dozed until Claire said: ‘Do you know what George said about me?’ ‘No. smiling: ‘Did he then?’ ‘I wonder what he meant. At the door he turned to Richard and Claire and waved his hands in the air. It was far too warm for running around like that.’ ‘Maybe it was your wilfulness. We played one set and I got fed up. What?’ ‘He said I have a man’s head on a woman’s body. he gulped and sighed ‘You know. What caused him to say it?’ ‘I don’t know.’ 125 .’ Richard followed Claire out into the garden and lay down beside her on the grass in the sun. I threw my racquet in a corner and went inside. saying ‘Whoops. Neither could put a finger on it. and said that he too would rest upstairs.The meal was eaten in silence. his coffee hardly touched. Do you think I have a man’s mind?’ ‘I’ve never thought of you like that. About to say something.’ which struck both Claire and George as being uncharacteristic of her.’ Richard lazily turned his head to her. Afterwards Catherine said she would go and lie down for an hour or so. I’m exhausted after that walk – Richard fairly steams along when he gets going. but there was an unusual sense of spaciousness and acceptance in it. Ten minutes later George got up from the table.

’ She paused. in any case. Richard and Claire drove over to Wantage. ‘But what about Catherine? Don’t you think she is very intellectual?’ ‘After a fashion. Richard caught George looking over at her several times.’ Richard stared at him. almost habitual. His curiosity was casual yet furtive. In the ensuing silence the hum of the summer’s day seemed to fill up the world. piercing and querulous. Then he leaned in Richard’s direction. But she’s a woman in spite of herself. screwing her face against the sunlight. until their shoulders touched. Catherine stayed in her room that evening but George. George was forced to expand: 126 . the nearest town. for a drink.‘Yes. Very soon she was sleeping gently. The two men became interested in the game of billiards that some of the locals were playing. It might have been something like that. and squinting in a gesture of confidence he said: ‘I like robust women. Her voice was suddenly cut off.’ Claire’s face was suddenly uneasy: ‘I don’t know what you mean. Claire sighed audibly. She rolled over until she lay against Richard.’ Then they heard Catherine’s voice. They left Claire sitting up at the bar – she turned her nose up at the suggestion that she come and watch also. Right now it’s too warm.’ ‘I’ll explain it some other time if you really want to know.

’ he said. Be happy.’ The drive back was made in silence. ‘Why? Aren’t you enjoying yourself?’ ‘Not much. ‘What do you make of that?’ Richard asked. They returned their attention to the game of billiards. inviting Richard to do the same. you two. It’s dull here. Richard old son.’ ‘Oh Dick!’ There was exasperation in her voice. a plea that seemed to say ‘Be happy! Be happy at any price. George stopped in the door and said: ‘You know. Going up to his room. she’s far too pally.’ He looked over at her. ‘Anyway.’ Richard went and looked out the window at the intense rural darkness. You seemed to enjoy your walk with Catherine.’ 127 . ‘We should have gone back to London this evening. But Richard heard something else. an edge of malice in his tone: ‘But you know. She’s one of these modern types. Richard’s continued stare stopped him at this point. She’s a fine woman. do what you like. Claire made a moue.’ ‘I thought you were happy today. She doesn’t want to be a woman. ‘He’s drunk. As he turned to go and join Claire George spoke out of the corner of his mouth.’ He grimaced violently and left them. if only for my sake. you have the run of the house.‘Take Claire now. You know what I mean?’ he didn’t wait for their reply. Once Richard had mastered the rules of the game he lost interest.

Dick. I suppose it was. Then in the short corridor.’ ‘Oh. if you want to know. he realised that he should try now to make love to her. you certainly made Catherine’s day.’ ‘Perhaps. whispering ‘Are you still awake?’ 128 .’ ‘But you know she likes you. objective way. it was too hot. he heard her moving about downstairs.’ Lying in bed. But it’s not often we get out of London. You arouse her curiosity.’ Richard came away from the window. her steps hollow on the thinly carpeted floor.’ ‘What do you mean?’ ‘I’ve never seen her so open as she was when she came back from that tramp. She can’t be trusted. The insight carried with it the poignancy of regret. In seeing her reposed. Richard remembered George’s comments. ‘I’m going up. They drew attention to her in a new.’ ‘Goodnight then.’ ‘I don’t particularly like her.’ ‘She looks for attention so as to escape from herself. But anyway. but you can be coldminded at times.‘You should have come. She knocked and came into his room.’ ‘That’s Catherine. He heard her on the stairs. The disembodied sounds were witnesses to her existence.’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Attention? My God.’ ‘I didn’t do anything special.

don’t you see that?’ ‘Yes.‘Yes. I do. As a child wants love. She appeared to be self-possessed and serious. ‘But she wants too much from the world and in the end she will get nothing. don’t you?’ 129 .’ She came and sat on the side of the bed. I suppose you would say she wanted to be loved.’ Claire said. Richard suddenly saw Claire as he had not seen her before: right down into her core. Then he felt he was being sucked into her. a reflective laugh.’ ‘But she’s not a child. not from within herself – it came from the deep unruffled part of her. To me she wants attention and praise.’ ‘Isn’t passion selfish?’ Claire moved with a start. The call came from within her. as though nothing had happened. ‘You call it passion.’ Now it hit him: ‘And yet you envy her. He felt as though his own body was being matched with hers. As a woman. cell for cell. The yearning this aroused was intense and yet not sexual.’ ‘But she’s very vulnerable. Maybe it seems different to you. into her existence of blood and muscle and cells. She murmured the word ‘passion’. There he saw what she wanted of him: she wanted him to make her perfectly happy.’ ‘Yes. I mean.’ Claire laughed. as though she thought the key to Catherine lay there. ‘I call it utter selfishness. That’s what makes her so passionate. ‘I just wanted to tell you that you are not coldminded.’ ‘That’s alright.

.’ ‘No. They want it to be the first time every time. That’s terrible. She’s always been able to stir herself into action. ‘Women like Catherine won’t make rules. In a way.’ ‘She’s just a different type of person.’ ‘Well he is. not a whore. She’s much more alive than I am.’ ‘And what about me. when George forced himself on her?’ ‘Is that what happened?’ He felt her shudder.’ Claire went still. They make the most elaborate rules. It’s too late. I didn’t give it much thought. I didn’t think George could be like that.’ ‘They don’t. ‘Why do you bother with me? I give you nothing at all.’ ‘You make her out to be a whore of some kind. hasn’t she?’ ‘Perhaps that depends on what she wants..’ ‘But she never wins. ‘Poor Catherine. her voice shaking with sudden self-pity.‘Yes.’ ‘When? Like this afternoon. She really has the most awful life.’ ‘Never? I like to think she does.’ ‘She takes chances. Dick?’ She paused. ‘Didn’t you know that?’ ‘No.’ Claire began plucking at the bedspread. They’re lost women.’ ‘I won’t argue with you.’ ‘If you call it that. ‘Why did he do that?’ Her curiosity was genuine.’ 130 .’ ‘No! Not in this way.

Instead she felt as though she was stepping aside and leaving this grotesque business to do with her body. his passion became the abstraction of a force applied elsewhere. and she felt the cold sear in her body. and the terrible helplessness of it. When she whispered ‘Please don’t’ Richard murmured ‘I know. He pulled her arm and she sank down beside him. ‘But I don’t. Released. clinging to him. There was no going back from this point: this was what she had sought. She saw their frantic tussle. She was shaking all over. rigid in an agony of shame and fear. and in its stunning obliquity Claire became expansive as a dark bubble waiting to enclose him in its own image. her arms embraced Richard. Claire lay passive at first. In this insight he saw also his own aloneness. her body smooth and cold. He felt the shape of her against him through the bedclothes. and turned inwards towards the peace and 131 . feeling very alone with her. He kissed her brow. Then she saw it all quite clearly. I know’ and she calmed and let herself go slack against him. and her passions. to Richard. its blind secularity.’ she insisted.He laid his hand on her arm. But she could not see how she could go on from this point either: she could never accommodate this other world Richard was bringing her. feeling the warm flesh give way to his pressure. Now that she was close to him he saw beyond the image of repose to the terrible otherness of her: closest. she seemed furthest away. the desperate outburst shame had dammed for so long. When he tried to break out of this knowledge. even though she had never admitted it to herself.

Someone had fooled her. She no longer had any excuse. She discovered she had made a profound mistake. the knowledge she could not avoid had. Stepping sideways had not done the damage.obscurity of her silencing universe. and crying was useless now. 132 . But it was no longer there. when it was too late.

RETURN 133 .

the station was almost deserted. His earlier feelings of eagerness and anticipation. One drink at least he would have. the skin puckered about his eyes. these feelings at once gave up the insight that to a child affection and family relations were pre-literate. gripped a new blue suitcase in his hand. He was gazing up at the electronic departure board above the platform. were now fading. not the father. During the short walk across the concourse to the bar he experienced a curious sensation. His face was pale. and an empty Euston Station is an insult to the homegoing Irishman. Interrogated. with brown hair straggled out over the collar of his jacket. It was as though something inside him melted and ran down his spine. He showed that what had been vertical could become horizontal. London. impossible to express in words. He had heard all the stories about drinking from Euston to Dun Laoghaire – but never before had he felt less like drinking than he did now. Instead. he became uneasy. that had consumed him during the tube ride across the city. In this knowledge the child became. but absolute in the experiencing of them. but the teacher of the man. what 134 . of average height and build. And unused to this sensation as he was. He reckoned he had twenty minutes to spare before he need take his seat on the train.It was the off-season: eight-thirty in the evening in the great concourse of Euston Station. Time enough for a drink. Apparently there were really no heroics in taking a train home to Dublin: besides. if only as a gesture to tradition. The intended traveller. because of the complexity inherent in simplicity. he was immediately aware of the feelings that lay behind it.

It was with a strange trepidation the Richard Butler approached the bar counter and excused his way through the drinkers. raising his brows. There was a joke in all this. opened it and extracted two cigarettes. Richard thought.had been the straight line of ambition could once again become the spatial.’ he said. He was dressed in a greasy grey suit. His hair. Richard gestured that he was to take the second cigarette also. ‘Keep it for later. sensing some trap. ‘Have it before you go to bed. exposing a dark hairy chest. He took a cigarette box from his pocket. showing brilliant white teeth. hung down on his forehead. The man took one of them. Catching sight of Richard watching him. While waiting for his drink to be served he noticed a man of his own age who was crouched in the centre of the room. ‘Two?’ the man asked carefully. one hand in his jacket pocket. who swivelled his eyes from side to side sizing up the drinkers. A soiled white shirt was open to his waist. the trouser-ends suspended two or three inches above his ankles. emotional thing called life. jet-black and straight.’ What bed? He thought as he finished speaking. he shambled over and grinned. most of whom seemed to be passing the time before boarding the same train as he. The man hesitated. Richard gestured again. Richard nodded. 135 . the other poised before him on a level with his chin. He made gestures with two fingers as his mouth to mime smoking. His eyes were bright with cleverness and trickery. his smile broader now.

and exhaled a great cloud of smoke. ‘That’s alright now.’ he said simply. He puffed vigorously. saying over and over what a great man he was. ‘You’re a great man. Richard suspected a joke somewhere. Then he insisted on shaking Richard’s hand.’ Richard said firmly. He waited expectantly. putting the matches away. looking from Richard’s face to the box of matches in his hand.’ he said. ‘A match. ‘There now. Left alone. I can’t even afford a match. He put the cigarette between his lips.’ he said.The man looked narrowly at Richard. grinning again.’ the man said. He drained his glass and turned to leave. eyeing the crowd at the bar.’ Richard said to conclude. Richard struck a match and lit the man’s cigarette. The man turned to stand at right angles to Richard. now drinking a hurriedly poured bottle of stout over at 136 . The minutes ticked by to the accompaniment of the chatter and laughter of the bar. Richard produced a box and gave the man a dozen or so matches.’ the man said. ‘Thank God we’re not. thank God. inhaling deeply with obvious pleasure. but it was as though they were leaving a prison. The begging man. a holiday mood. then he took the second cigarette. He was struck by the note of relief among the motley dressed crowd: he had expected excitement. ‘We’re not all poor. ‘You’re a great man. He overtly placed it with care in the top pocket of his suit. Richard paid for his drink and stood at the bar sipping the whiskey.

He settled for one that was empty of people but which contained two large. It drew across the complicated points outside the station. caught Richard’s eye. The train soon after jerked into motion. as if by instinct. one on the floor. In the end he had to compromise. He did not know why he should feel uneasy. Grinning. He lit a cigarette and tried to regain his equilibrium within the habitual actions of smoking. He could not find an empty compartment. the second jammed precariously on the overhead rack. clattering. unless some memory pricked him. Then the compartment was too 137 . Soon the suburbs of London were flashing by. Richard felt at peace. With the journey started. to a compartment. allowing the absent owner of the cases the right to the seat by the window. or sometimes two. Richard cut the air sharply with the edge of his hand and quickened his step. He sat by the door of the compartment.the far side of the room. he mimed smoking with his two fingers and nodded his head as though to encourage Richard. but at once its place was taken by unease. The train wasn’t crowded. As the full meaning of what was happening came home to him he experienced an instant’s elation. but what passengers there were had spread themselves thinly over the length of the train. and gathered speed. strong suitcases. metallic amber lights damping whatever character and beauty the Victorian houses might have. the dull. with one. knowing that he was in the hands of others. Richard hauled his suitcase the length of the train looking for a compartment that was empty – for he too. wanted to be alone.

warm: then he thought he was too close to the engine – he
could imagine the strain on the carriage, caught as it was
between the pull of the huge electric unit and the resistance of
the trailing carriages.
The train had by now cleared the city and its
surrounding dormitory towns and was racing through the
countryside. Villages and farms, their lights dotting the night
on either side of him, seemed chock-a-block on the land. The
population of England, crowded on to its part of the island,
was foreign to him and he felt a defensive contempt for the
existences he passed so quickly in the night.
The whirr of the wheels on the continuous-weld track
began to calm him. He took a book from his case and settled
more deeply into his seat. But it was difficult to read as the
pulseless sound about him reduced the significance of the
words. Wearily, he put the book down and gazed across the
compartment and out the window. In time he began to doze.
His last thought before he fell asleep was one of contempt for
himself: he was so Irish.
He was awakened by the return of the owner of the two
cases, who slid the compartment door open savagely and
tripped over Richard’s outstretched feet. He looked down at
Richard with exaggerated force, apparently unable to decide
whether he should be aggressive or merely malicious. He was
thick-set and middle-aged, with a large wart at the corner of
his left eye. His face was red, his eyes narrowed by folds of
flesh. He was also drunk, with the tension of the loner who is
an habitual drinker. He glared at Richard for some time; then
without a word he went and sat by the window, on the
opposite side to Richard. For a few minutes he fumbled about
138

lighting a cigarette and darting hard looks out the window
from time to time, as though the task was beyond him and
someone else was to blame. It struck Richard that he was
acting. At last, while puffing the cigarette, the man spoke,
though with apparent reluctance, for he continued to look out
the window.
‘Going across for a holiday?’ His voice was gruff, with
a southern accent.
Richard stiffened at the note of belligerence. Here was
loneliness grown to self-sufficiency that produced a bluntness
born of curiosity that lacked sympathy.
‘Yes,’ Richard replied, though he was not. He had
made the most convenient answer because he did not feel
beholden to do otherwise.
The man looked at him sharply, suspicious of mockery.
‘What part of London are you in?’ he asked.
What part? Richard asked himself quickly. Somewhere
general make it.
‘Camden Town,’ he replied, though it was not true.
‘I know it. A lot of Greeks there, and Irish.’ The man
grinned tightly, as though he had successfully tested Richard.
Silence. The train was slowing, passing through the
outer suburbs of some town. The man looked out the
window.
‘Crewe,’ he said simply, obviously familiar with the
route. ‘We change engines here.’
He looked quickly at Richard, to see how he was
taking this stream of information.
Richard took his cue.
‘Why?’ he asked.
139

‘Why what?’
‘Why change engines?’
‘Because...because this is the end of the electrified line.
They’ll put a diesel engine on now.’
Richard said ‘I see’ and felt everything go rushing into
the vacuum that followed. He looked at his watch. He must
have been asleep for over two hours.
The man stretched his legs out before him and yawned.
His expression was much kindlier now.
‘You come from Dublin, don’t you,’ he said, looking
directly at Richard.
‘Yes. Born and bred,’ Richard replied lightly.
The man laughed shortly, coughing moistly. He rubbed
his chin with a large red hand and Richard could hear the
rough sandpapery sound caused by his stubble.
The stationary train jerked slightly as the diesel engine
was shunted into place and coupled up. Two uniformed
porters slouched by along the platform, their night-faces
smooth, with merry, boozy eyes. The platform was large and
deserted: a lighted oasis in this limbo of night and strange
places.
Imperceptibly at first, the train began to move, gliding
away from the light and out into the darkness once more.
Now it beat a tattoo on the rails, the beat becoming more
staccato as the train picked up speed.
The man spoke again.
‘Won’t be long now. A quick run across Wales and
we’re there.’ There was confidence in his voice, as if Richard
was at last being admitted into a secret world.
140

Richard wondered what he should say now. He did not
want the tenuous link between them to collapse again.
‘I’m afraid I don’t know the line at all,’ he said, setting
himself behind a small rampart of formality, the better to be
seen.
‘No? How long have you been away then?’ the man
said, his voice freer. ‘It must have been a couple of years at
least, judging by your accent?’
Richard started at this. Accent?
‘Three years.’
‘And did you not go home on holiday in that time at
all?’ The man was shaking his head.
‘No.’
The man continued to shake his head.
‘What about your Mammy? Didn’t she write to ask you
to come for a holiday?’
‘I suppose she did, but she didn’t insist on it.’
The man shook his head more slowly and seemed sad.
But when he glanced up, Richard was surprised to see that his
expression was one of incredulity.
‘Sure I’ve been in London for twenty years and I go
home twice a year, and sometimes three times,’ he said with
open admission.
Again Richard sensed a slackening of the tension
between them. The man was begging too many questions; he
must divert the conversation.
‘Do you always travel by boat?’ he asked, getting
behind his rampart again.
‘I do.’
141

The man was staring out the window. Richard could
see his face reflected in the glass. His eyes were screwed up
as he tried to organise some statement in his mind.
‘It’s easy-going, you see. You can take your time
and...and have a drink and a chat. I flew only the once, that
was when the Mammy died, and I flew over to Cork.’ He
shuddered in memory. ‘Sure there was no peace at all, going
here and then there, waiting for hours. And I was stuck in this
little seat by a small round window where I could see the
wing jumping up and down.’
Richard nodded sympathetically.
‘Then why don’t you take to boat to Cork or Rosslare,
so you would have less travelling to do?’ he asked when the
man had slumped back into silence, the outburst having
apparently exhausted him.
‘Ah, I’ve always come this way,’ the man said.
‘Breakfast and a wash in Dublin, then the train from
Kingsbridge in the afternoon. I get there time enough.’
Richard felt he was butting again into private worlds.
But before he could speak, the man spoke out again, this time
waving his hand as though to brush away some obstruction.
‘There’s only the old man and the sister there now, and
damned little peace with the two of them fighting all the
time.’
Before he could stop himself, Richard blurted out,
logically enough:
‘Then why do you bother to go?’
This brought the man up sharply. He looked at Richard
full in the eye. He looked at him fiercely for half a minute,
his mouth pursed and his cheeks puffed out as if ready to
142

shout. Then his brows twitched and his eyes slid away to
gaze at Richard’s chest.
Richard felt the tension between them slacken and
finally die. He sat back in his seat and lit a cigarette.
The train was hurtling through the night: a driver sat up
front, unflinching and probably unthinking, as this monster
charged from point A to point B. For no good reason Richard
had a thought: man must be sober in his relations with
machines.
The thought chilled him through and through.
The man, from his corner of the compartment, said to
the night, though presumably it was meant for Richard’s ears:
‘Jesus.’
At Holyhead there was unreality. Behind the harbour
the town slept, its gables, spires and roofs ghastly against the
night sky in the amber street lights. The boat, floodlit by
white light, towered over the train and the station. In the rush
from train to boat, beneath the glare of the lights, the boat
was reduced to gangplanks and much-repainted steel hull
plates. Porters, men of the night and cheerful, huddled here
and there in heavy black overcoats with collars turned up
against the sea-chill.
The first class lounge had an unreal, temporary air –
the furniture and colours too solid; one knew it was a ship,
for here was the usual trick of too much solidity to lull the
traveller into believing that ships were as stable as land.
Richard was surprised to find the bar open and the
barman eager to serve him. He pushed his suitcase behind
some chairs and went and bought himself a drink.
143

Few people were in the lounge: they had travelled up
on the earlier train. As Richard had seen throughout the
journey, and as he himself had done – or tried to do – these
people huddled by themselves, a drink of one kind or another
before them on small circular tables. One, a small tubby man,
sat away in a corner, a pipe in his mouth. He gazed steadily
before him. Two other occupants were women, both nearing
middle age, with stout figures and round homely faces. No
one seemed particularly sad or anxious. Among them there
seemed an acceptance of inertia and patience, as if these were
the real conditions of human life.
Richard sat at peace. His mind took advantage of this
state and wandered away from his body and along the
tenuous chain of memory. It fretted through time, settling
here and there as it had done at Euston Station. This time,
however, it produced a memory from the greatest distance.
He was a child, with the complete existence of the
preoccupied child, showing his mother a shell he had found
on the seashore. She sat on a canvas chair, a floppy white hat
on her head. It was really his hat, he knew, but it had fallen
from his head so often as he played on the sand that his
mother, having picked it up for the hundredth time, finally
placed it on her own head. He held the white shell in his little
hand towards her, his face twisted to the left and his eyes
screwed up against the glare of the declining sun. She smiled,
gazing at the shell. He could see that the sun made her
drowsy, but still he insisted that she admire the shell he had
brought her. Behind her the land was flat and green, with
erect trees away on the skyline. At last she reached out and
took the shell from him and put it in the pocket of her dress.
144

He seemed to be trying to resume an interrupted monologue. holding his chair. he ran away to play again.’ He sat down and leaned forward towards the two men. three men and a woman. He was saying: ‘I live in the imagination. her two hands lightly clasped on her knees. talked in a loud slurred voice. one of the men. The woman had already composed herself in her chair. down across the soft sand on to the firmer tidal sand and so towards the sea’s edge. ‘there is only one state worth our attention.’ With this last sentence his voice changed..and that is the imagination. bent their heads forward in mute attention. Ann? They carried out test after test and couldn’t find anything wrong with me. I have to do that. you see. I must work. ‘Remember. Yes.’ he continued. While they arranged chairs around a table. ‘In this world. ‘I work. I am free to enter my imagination..’ He turned now to the woman. ‘Why. in that three weeks I read all the plays of Shaw. As with the delivery of the final conclusive proof of an 145 . but the bearded man raised his hand to stop him. having sat down. on the skyline. his eyes screwed up against the sunlight. all the time looking back to the spot where he thought his mother sat. But when it’s done. he looked carefully in that direction.’ He turned his attention to the two men.’ The other two men. bearded and comfortably ascetic-looking. he saw only sand dunes and summer chalets and the trees beyond the beach. Instead. Richard was awakened by the arrival of a group of four. ‘Well. but could not see her. When he reached the sea. when I was in hospital that time.Contented.’ One of the men tried to speak.

’ he cried.. ‘Shaw. ‘Drink. You’ll have us all under the table. surely. swaying slightly. When the dapper man asked the woman what she would have. asking him for help in carrying the drink.. drink. Have an Irish.argument. ‘They’ll have Irish on this boat. even if I say so myself.’ The bearded man suddenly shouted. ‘Ask them if they have this brand. yes.thick. Yes. we’re leaving Sassenachland at last!’ and while the dapper man walked unsteadily to the bar. where he got into conversation with the barman. he delivered this sentence harshly and with pride.. He screwed up his face. the stout man leaned forward to the woman. nodded his head. While away at the bar. murmuring. I’m good at my work. The stout man raised the beer-can he had been holding and said.. with a gleaming high forehead. who had earlier tried to interrupt him. The dapper man at the bar called to him. ‘Irish. perhaps one with a finer meaning.’ This last word was blurted out as if freshly conceived in his mind. They’re so damned literal I mean. It was apparent that he had intended using some other word.’ He half-turned towards the bar and the waiting barman.’ The dapper man grinned.so. He was dapper.. the bearded man laughed loudly and said. ‘Yes. 146 .. he continued impulsively: ‘Those English! I never know how to take them. ‘What? Another one? You’ve had four already. The stout man. and said to the woman. Yet they give me the feeling that I’m so.’ The bearded man said he would have a whiskey.’ The third man stood up.

shaking her head. he began talking to her. She laughed at him. Now he said something to her and put two fingers lightly on her cheek. and raised her hand to the spot. but the stout man had watched her. but each attempt he made to sing failed as his voice went flat. and even after they had sat down. and continued talking. The dapper man tried to draw her attention to the glass he was holding out to her. The stout man grasped her hand gently. now took the opportunity the pause in the gallantries offered and suggested to the stout man that they come and visit him at his home in Skerries while they were in Dublin. it would take too long to arrange like that. The stout man said he wanted plenty of warning before they descended on his peace and quiet. the words coming gutturally. When the drinks were brought by the two other man. Catching her eyes. he thrust the glass into her hand and apologised for it being Scotch. His voice was bass and thickened by drink. We haven’t the rest of eternity. the glass wavering in his hand. the scepticism acting as a barrier to his specific proposal. almost unconsciously. tossing her dark hair. He cleared his throat.’ He wanted to meet the stout man’s wife and children. Hearing 147 . the stout man went on talking to her. She smiled stiffly. paused to explain the tale it had to tell. who had been watching the dapper man with a sarcastic expression. He hummed. It was his idea to sing a song. ‘Jesus. The bearded man said loudly. She watched him sceptically as he spoke.She had sat gazing at the bearded man while he spoke. though judging from the continuous dilation of her eyes. his words affected her as a general possibility. Using the entry gained. The bearded man.

Then they all started arguing about the merits of their particular favourites. One night. ‘What do you make of that?’ 148 . the English?” They all to a man dismissed them as worse than useless. old man.” I shouted. and angry. ‘Sing one of our own. ‘Listen. ‘We’ll never be our own men so long as we take any notice of them. We let them do it. listening to them.’ he cried.’ The dapper man looked up. I stepped into the circle and asked them. “if the English didn’t conquer it?” One of the senior officers patted me on the shoulder and said gently. She smiled sweetly at him. disagreed and said that for his money the Gurkhas were the best. “Then what’s all the bull about the British Empire. the woman asked him how many children he had. I’ll tell you something. “Don’t you see. one of the old order. Needless to say I was pretty pissed by then. During the war I was a captain in the Western Desert. during a booze-up in the mess. said that the Irish were the greatest fighting men in the world.this. ‘Four’ was the reply. under Monty. one of the English officers. surprised and puzzled by his vehemence. also English. The bearded man rejected this with a wave of his hand. At this. The bearded man sat upright and addressed the whole group. He was definitely going to sing a song about the Earl of Clare. another officer. “What about your own bloody soldiers. The dapper man stood up and gripped the back of his chair. mind you.” There you are! They let them do it!’ He shook his head. When the first chance came. Of course I was left out of this and I went on drinking to one side. until I got browned off with it all.

she continued to stare at them until the two men returned from the bar and interrupted them. listening. head down. save for short comments passed from time to time. with the stage silent as though between acts. The 149 . Richard had watched all this as though he was watching a play.The dapper man laughed and said it was damned funny. The dapper man was told to sit down before he fell down. However. when she resumed her contemplation of the glass before her. quite close to Richard. she lost interest and sat with her hands pushed deep into the pockets of the heavy tartan jacket she wore. He had smiled. as though they were aliens. The dapper man cheered. The combined effects of the alcohol. Now. To him they were stage Irish. A pulse of vibration throbbed the floor under their feet. he noticed the interest taken in them by one of the lone women. It had been easy to smile because their respective personalities had been united in the third. They fell silent. and the loud conversation of the group. Suddenly everyone noticed that the ship was moving away from the dock. the drama they both watched. Richard went to buy another drink. to see if the drama had the same interest for him. her chin resting on her breast. Back in her seat. Once she had turned and looked at Richard. The stout man sat silent. had thrust him out of himself. He felt excluded from the group. especially now that he was at sea. She had been to the bar and as she waited to be served she had turned to watch them. This he did. the removal of responsibility for himself. When the stout man had taken the woman’s hand her eyes had narrowed intently.

looked about him and then disappeared. She sensed him and looked up. he gulped his drink. It too stirred a memory. had made him want to create an enemy. the ship was rolling slightly as it turned towards the harbour mouth and he had to walk slowly and carefully. But he had also experienced a strong desire to protect her. but she did not look up. though seeing no object from which she needed protection. the lips compressed and down drawn. This had excited him. He was angry with himself for no apparent reason. gave him a curious excitement. he noticed. In looking for an enemy. for she could obviously handle the stout man.energy. Returning with his drink. Once the ship reached the open sea beyond the harbour it 150 . A steward ducked his head around the door. Being an outsider watching on. She looked at him blankly. stirring within him a desire for this freedom of action and expression. her eyes shining moistly with the effect of the drink. Irritated. The ship was rolling more violently now as it passed through the harbour mouth. This is what baffled him. The coquetry of the woman had moved him. he glanced at the lone woman out of sudden curiosity. he had found himself. she had been open and vulnerable to him. The sight of her bowed head and her strong black hair. and the consequent impression of size. And in attempting to escape this anger he discovered there was no refuge for his mind. Her mouth was small. he was overcome by a feeling of desolation. which was streaked with grey. of the men finally touched him. As he passed he looked at her again. When he sat down. But she had baffled him.

The dapper man. his tenor voice broke loose from the constraint that 151 . The bearded man. the bearded man shouted across that if she had another one of those she would definitely be sick. feeling behind him for the back of the chair. She’ll settle in a few minutes. He leaned over the woman. He was going to sing. then shuffled heavily to the bar.’ the bearded man said impatiently. ‘Holy God. pushing back his chair. He was obviously passing over the threshold in the stages of intoxication from the drowning of consciousness into the stage where instinct took over and the man is wakened for his final fling.’ The stout man stood up. joined in.wallowed deeply and rose in a great heave against both wind and sea. He smiled vacantly at the woman. and ran his fingers through his untidy hair. He was dejected. the curt order to sit down having annoyed him. But as they progressed through the song and reached its emotional climax. When she nodded. who was sitting with her arms folded. her face tensed. The stout man turned and glared at him. He staggered to his feet. ‘It’s only the currents along the coast. now looked up. He began to sing She moves through the fair in a quavering voice that was guided by a desire for a real musical quality that was not there. ‘A bloody storm. and asked her if she wanted a Scotch. his nose twisted in contempt. bellowing hoarsely at first by way of comment on the other’s singing. ‘Have another drink. who had been dozing in his chair. bringing his face close to hers.’ he said tonelessly.’ ‘Sit down.’ the dapper man shouted.

bell-like. She glanced quickly at him. The boat began to wallow and roll once more. The woman looked at him with a look that amounted to hostility. considering the state she’s in. fighting to retain her balance against the lurching of the boat. and walked out of the lounge. suddenly agile. You never know. She jerked her head back in fright and put her two hands to her mouth. The woman stood up. The stout man. her eyes sightless with nausea. The barman behind him grinned broadly. ‘Someone should go with her to the cabin. The bearded man asked her where she was going.accompanying the dapper man demanded and swiftly surged to his own level. His grip on the chair slipped away in the sudden shock and he fell heavily against the woman. The stout man applauded from the bar. glad that his customers were enjoying themselves. ‘There now. supporting herself by holding the backs of chairs. there now. The stout man turned to the other two men and said. The pleasure he felt reminded him of something. pawing the empty air before him and throwing glances about the lounge.’ 152 . and shivered sweetly at the peak of one long-held note. was thrown to one side. Hearing the singing persuaded Richard to accept the group as real people. who had remained standing. rushed from the bar to help the fallen man to his seat. she might fall and hurt herself.’ he said when he had ended. this time with greater violence. The dapper man. embarrassed and proud.

‘One of us will be a gentleman. I’ll go and see if she is alright. Besides. his head nodding.’ Having left unsaid what he had intending saying 153 . he’s a strange one. you should mind your own business. He talked incoherently. ‘You don’t know the half of it.’ the bearded man said..’ he said and continued in a lower tone.’ He stood up abruptly.’ The bearded man looked at him with passion. After all. who sat primly with pursed lips. who had watched her going without moving and who could see down part of the corridor outside. ‘I was only trying to do the best for her.you know.The bearded man.’ When he had gone. she’s been a long time away. ‘No need.’ After a moment’s silence the dapper man began talking to the bearded man. at least. ‘Someone should go to see if she’s alright. said.’ ‘I tell you there is no need. ‘I’ll go and do it myself.’ The dapper waved his hand at him. murmuring. ‘An unfortunate couple. ‘Sure they don’t.. She’ll look after herself. Ah. Finally he spoke. He was shaking with anger. gulping constantly. The stout man turned and sat down. There was a querulous and ambiguous tone in his voice as he said. ‘I told you there was no need... The stout man drank beer from a can and stared moodily at the floor. the stout man leaned forward to the dapper man and said. She’s gone to the jacks to puke up her dinner and drink.’ The stout man made as though to follow her. trying to console the other.

Then he brightened. God knows. He lay his head against the back of his chair. ‘Will you have one more drink before turning in. I will.’ The stout man was shaking his head. life’s short enough without fighting into the bargain. ‘Fair play to everyone. and slowly the humming formed itself into a song: The bells of hell Go ting-a-ling-a-ling Go ting-a-ling-a-ling Go ting-a-ling-a-ling The bells of hell Go ting-a-ling-a-ling For you but not for me. you know. I tell you. But let you interfere and they’ll both go for you like two hounds at a hare. he went on. ‘I don’t like to see anyone unhappy. O Death where is Thy sting-a-ling-a-ling Thy sting-a-ling-a-ling Thy sting-a-ling-a-ling 154 . ‘Aye.’ He shook his head dismally. but I don’t like to see anyone unhappy. straightening his shoulders. ‘They fight something terrible. I say.and hoping the hint would suffice.’ he asked. As the dapper man went to the bar the stout man began humming to himself.’ The dapper man nodded in sympathy with this sentiment.’ The stout man was still overcome with mortification.

‘I wonder if any sleep could be got on a night like this. ‘It will have to do. and quietly left the lounge. She glanced in Richard’s direction. 155 .’ Richard replied. nodding in the direction of the sleeping man. The lone woman near Richard stood up and lifted her jacket more comfortably on her shoulders.’ she said. ‘It’s a rough night.’ The woman darted him a side glance.’ ‘He did. He whispered to the barman. As the stout man came to the end of his song he nestled down more snugly in the chair and folded his arms over his paunch. to cancel the order he had made.’ she continued amiably. ‘It’s cold here for sleeping. Within a short time he was snoring. He couldn’t be sure whether she was joking or not. at first quizzically. then a look of cuteness crossed his face.’ she stated.O Death where is Thy sting-a-ling-a-ling Or grave thy victory. Richard grinned. ‘Yes. He had been watching her from the instant she stood up. The dapper watched the stout man singing for a while. ‘Grand lively lads. indifferent to the rolling of the boat.’ Richard replied guardedly. brushing down her skirt. He thought she might still be joking. glancing towards the snoring figure. She smiled at him. Richard smiled in return.

moving away towards the door.‘It will then. Then he decided to go on deck for a few minutes’ air. He stood up and stretched. The stout man still slept. from which passengers were prohibited. separating the first class from the second. As he dozed he remembered sharply what the woman had offered. ‘Goodnight. and at the other end by a gangway leading up to the bridge. he called after her. ‘Goodnight then. To let her know that he knew. allowing it to roll in sympathy with the ship. She bent down and picked up her large handbag. the ship’s rolling was now more noticeable. his nose raised in the air.’ She paused at the door and turned her head. ‘Sleep well. Richard smiled. He felt cold. He 156 . feeling uncomfortably stiff. She left the lounge. But this time he couldn’t be sure whether he had the seashell or not. Richard felt a slight surge of nausea.’ she said.’ she said. The area that composed the leeward deck was defined at one end by a stout wire fence. With the exception of the sleeping man and himself. or if he was supposed to be looking for it on the wet sand that edged the sea. everyone else having gone below. Perhaps because of the lack of distraction. He suddenly realised that she had been deadly serious. A stronger wave of nausea passed over him. He lay back in his chair and relaxed his body. When he awoke the sea was calmer. troubled. the lounge was now empty.’ Richard replied. right enough. Then he slept. and dreamed again of playing by the seashore.

He regretted having left London – after all. DUBLIN! The face of the beggar at Euston station sprang into his mind. The dull taste on his mouth and the dryness of his taste put him off smoking. The Galwayman said good morning and complained of the cold. resenting the intrusion. Dublin. his white skin blue against the mass of wiry black hair. Later he met a Galwayman who shivered in his shirtsleeves and held a tray with two cups of tea and two plates of buttered toast on it. grinning. ‘No.’ 157 . When the sky had lightened. Dublin. He was shivering continuously now. hungry and soiled. it was rough. he had been reasonably comfortable there. greasy and rolling. ‘The wife was sick all night. Dublin. A piercingly cold wind eddied about him. ‘Did you ever see such a night as last night?’ he continued. He went and huddled on a bench. He was lonely and desolate. ‘and I thought I was the great one looking after her.’ the Galwayman said.crossed to the rail and saw lights low on the sea forward of the ship. He felt cold.’ Richard replied. Dublin. until I got sick myself. a blue-purple light distinguishing the low racing clouds. Dublin. Dublin. Richard took to pacing the deck to warm himself. and the sea could be seen. Dublin. Dublin.

’ the Galwayman urged. The Galwayman raised the tray.’ Richard drank the second cup more slowly. Richard lit a cigarette. ‘What about you and your wife?’ ‘She won’t touch it.’ Feeling the warmth of the tea radiating his body. ‘It’ll only go to waste. Take it. The Galwayman was staring out to sea. Neither of us want any of it. ‘Going over on holiday?’ he asked the Galwayman between sips. When he had drained the cup he put it back on the tray. ‘Train to Galway?’ Richard asked. savouring its warmth and flavour. ‘Have the second cup. The Galwayman flinched. eyeing the tea. ‘Will you have one of these?’ he offered.‘I must have been the only one aboard who wasn’t sick.’ Richard replied. You can take the toast too.’ ‘Are you sure?’ Richard asked. I don’t want it.’ Richard lifted a cup from the tray and gulped down half of the hot tea. ‘God. even the thought of it makes me feel sick. Richard took out his cigarettes. The Galwayman grinned and nodded. ‘Will you have one of these?’ he asked. The car’s in the hold. Nothing had ever tasted so sweet. suddenly curious to know how the man felt about landing in Ireland.’ 158 . raising the tray again. ‘Sure. ‘No. He felt his body come to life.

growing amazed. Slinging it. I mean. ‘Sure it would have gone to waste. It was very kind of you. She takes the children over for the summer every year. ‘Nearly there. ‘From Dublin?’ 159 .’ Richard said.’ ‘Ach.’ They stood together then. at his own curiosity. ‘Aye. But it’d cost a lot of money. This is what comes of curiosity. ‘Ha. ‘Aye.’ Richard nodded in comprehension.’ the Galwayman said pensively. I’m sure. I’ve thought of that. The Galwayman looked at him with caution. But when you’re married and have a couple of kids. Some gulls flew about above the ship.‘Tricky. ‘Would you not think of moving back to Ireland then? I hear it’s a boom country now. more and more amazed at his curiosity. ‘I do. They’re well used to it. don’t think of it.’ he said. Richard drained the cup.’ the Galwayman said. he thought. you can’t move around so easily. then he asked delicately. The Kish light came into sight close by. ‘The wife wants to. ‘Thanks for the tea. ‘Not much.’ Richard said. watching the sea in silence.’ ‘No more than London does. ‘Like London?’ Richard asked. He paused.’ the Galwayman replied.’ the Galwayman said in a surprised tone.’ ‘And do you look after yourself then?’ Richard asked.’ Richard said in a man-toman voice. and delighted.

‘It’s a great country in the end. ‘Goodbye now.’ the Galwayman stated. turning towards the entrance to the cabins. Richard braved the wind and walked around to the front of the ship and looked across at the land.’ ‘You’ve been away a long time. He wanted to cry out and embrace the hills. The Kish light flashed strongly at them. ‘I thought you’d been away a long time. ‘Looking forward to seeing your people. 160 .’ Richard looked at him.’ Richard said. are you?’ the Galwayman asked. with Howth Head to the right and the mountains to the left. looking intently at the Kish light. He hadn’t thought it all still existed. ‘I suppose so. wondering if he was joking. with cloud in long streams down their flanks.’ ‘It’s your accent. as if they were his mother. suddenly daunted. ‘They’ll be glad to see you.’ the Galwayman said. He caught his breath when he saw the mountains – purple.’ Silence.’ the Galwayman said. The amber-lit ring of the coast roads defined the city. The solidity of it all stunned him. She was sick something terrible last night.’ the Galwayman said with even greater delicacy. ‘I’m going down now to see if the wife is any better. ‘Three years.’ When he had gone.‘Yes. you see.

III 161 .

SNOW 162 .

through which the early sun shone. clear and fresh: the silence accentuated by the guttering frizzle of frying bacon from the adjoining kitchen.’ he said. She came over and stood close to him without touching. The front door opened. to open him again to the conscious human world. The young woman moved with unconscious grace. placed his hands close over it and rubbed them firmly together.’ Did you enjoy your walk?’ ‘I walked up the valley there. ‘Morning.’ she replied.In the morning room a young woman moved about preparing breakfast. The second window looked down across the lowering valley to the mudflats and out beyond to the sea. It was a long rectangular room with two windows facing each other in the shorter walls. In one. sir. A silence lay on the room. ‘There was not a sinner soul on the roads. fully occupied with her task of preparation. The young woman paused in her work and turned expectantly towards the opening door. except for one old woman working 163 . He crossed the room to the fire. Richard’s face. facing south. ‘Morning.’ he replied. There was a bustle of clothing and the pace of footsteps down the short hall. ‘What chance some food?’ ‘Almost ready.’ she said with quiet gay irony. Speaking the words seemed to loosen him from some fixed state of mind. smiled a lop-sided smile.’ he said. Muckish mountain was framed. ‘I’m ravenous. Mags. turning his head to her. puckered and red above his beard. bean-a-tigh. half in the red light of the sun and half black and sombre in shade. which was edged by the hills that lined the much-indented lough.

who watched me with curiosity as I passed. that he finally threw it away in disgust. allowing the countryside to show its own colours. The sunlight had whitened. he experienced a desire to spit out the acrid taste that lay on his tongue.’ Margaret laughed. Even now. Looking at it lying in the grass.’ Richard said. and tried to place himself in the view. the paper blackened and smouldering. pouting slightly. 164 . and the saliva on his tight lips wet the tip of his cigarette.’ ‘That was just a little kiss to start the day. and in comparison to the damp odorous grass further up on the banks it seemed washed and pure.in a farmyard. He had been down a small road surrounded by trees. At its edges grass swayed in the water. Richard crossed to the south window and looked out at the mountain. he thought. the thin blue smoke that rose from it wavering in the light wind. The way I have come. It became such a damp miserable squib. he felt soiled and poor. drawing back. The sharpness of the air made it difficult for his pinched and tingling nose to breathe. standing on a narrow bridge and looking down at a stream that gurgled and splashed. She seemed rather taken aback when I wished her good morning.’ she said. While she continued preparing the meal. She put her arm around his waist and reached and kissed him lightly on the beard. ‘Come on. her gaiety bubbling up and shining in her eyes. ‘This won’t get the breakfast ready. standing in the warm room. She obviously took me for a half-witted visitor out walking at that hour of the day. He turned away in disconsolation. Too soon after the event.

her own sense of beauty that created an aura of light. Her face was one thing. 165 . The emanations of warmth made him drowsy. even now drew from him what every woman wanted – submission. Each morning he must gather them together. Today again the indecisions of yesterday and the revisions of last week slip away.He crossed the room and sat in an easy chair by the fire. As she laid the table the contact of delft and cutlery made ringing melodious sounds through the silence. Sensing his eyes on her. At times like this confusion was his only link with his immediate past. Her face was at times angular and severe. He watched her as she worked.’ His eyes had a strong evenness that neither dared nor retreated.’ While they ate.’ he greeted them. a subtle sparkling that flowed out from her eyes. Her slim body was bent forward over the table. ‘That’s a fine morning. which gave the impression of childishness. Margaret’s father came in and joined them. causing her hair to fall in black waves about her face. Margaret called to him: ‘Breakfast is ready. These eyes. dark and opaque. except for the roundness of the jawbone. note them and try to form new decisions. especially when drawn and tired. She smiled. He rubbed his hands briskly together and looked from Richard to Margaret. Margaret turned to him. Through his aimless thoughts came the awakening sensations of confusion. Margaret entered carrying tableware. As she did she put up her hand and drew the waves of hair back off her face. Margaret’s beauty was her joy in life. her beauty another. questioning his gaze. ‘Good morning.

166 . He says his sheep have wandered far up the mountain and he’ll have the devil’s job getting them in.’ After the meal Richard sat with Joseph by the fire drinking whiskey. ‘But Scotland seems to have escaped it.’ he said deliberately. ‘Aye. I think she thought me mad. Did you meet anyone on the road?’ ‘Only an old woman in a farmyard. cutty. She would. But he thinks it will snow.’ Richard said. ‘Old John Gallagher.’ ‘Daddy.’ Margaret insisted.’ ‘They’ve had snow in the south and in England. Only visitors go out walking like that on a holiday. Daddy.’ Margaret said and leaned over and kissed him lightly on the cheek. He feels it in his bones. ‘Yes.’ Joseph Stewart laughed.’ Margaret interjected.’ ‘I heard you getting up.’ Richard replied. hopes it won’t. ‘And a fine morning for walking. ‘There was a blackbird in the garden this morning. ‘Well. That means we’ll have snow.’ Joseph looked with good humour at the couple. Margaret was in the adjoining room washing the breakfast things and singing absently to herself. who lives up by Muckish. ‘And it’s always so beautiful when it does.’ ‘But it always snows in Donegal at Christmas. I doubt if it will snow here.‘Morning. doesn’t it?’ ‘Aye. and it’s cold enough for it.

’ ‘Aye.’ Joseph looked up at him with barely concealed irony in his eyes. ‘with her mother away in London.’ he said.’ He finished his drink and stood up.’ he said.’ Her feet made dull thuds on the stairs. Margaret entered the room. Take care.’ Joseph replied.’ ‘Surely a man who loved life as your father did would have fought to remain alive. ‘He’s had a good life and now he’s tired. I spoke as if he was already dead. ‘If you ask me. there was ice on the roads when I was out. ‘I’ve washed up everything. ‘Tell her I won’t be back until this evening. she’s enjoying herself. ‘Always cleaning this or that. Good God. She used to drive her mother mad.’ ‘Right. Richard thought.’ Joseph said. ‘It gives her a sense of responsibility and something to talk about. She never could be easy.’ Joseph replied.’ Richard smiled.’ Joseph said. She’ll be glad to get back to Dublin tomorrow and have a rest. ‘Can’t the doctor do something for him? Injections or drugs?’ ‘He’s a tired old man.’ 167 .‘How is your father?’ Richard asked. ‘Tell Margaret that I’ve gone up to Rows to see my father. ‘Sinking slowly. Now I must go up and clean the bedrooms. It won’t be long now. ‘She’s had a lot to do over Christmas. staring into the fire.

taking its sound with it. Rows. Joseph’s car coughed and revved. 168 . Peace settled again like a warm transparent shroud about him and the room. The whiskey lay heavy in his stomach and his head throbbed warmly with the first waves of intoxication. showing how it was done in his day. Four sons. the engine revved again and the car moved away. the ancient manliness of the music and dance being expressed by his virile vigour. Joseph sat by the bed with his three brothers. And an old man who danced at a wedding. jerking his arms by his side and hitching his shoulders in an almost threatening manner. There was a click of gears. Richard turned his head away. symmetrical.When he had left Richard sat back in his chair. spread out above an arc of forest. in having no object. Richard tensed. with two wings and a body. The whine of a starter cut the silence. its potential. Then an image in his mind: a white house. Now his time was up. four children looking at a large man with white hair who gripped the pillow with his left hand. This. High up on Ards peninsula and overlooking the sea. refusing to nestle in some hollow with carefully planted trees and pretend to merge with its surroundings. gamely facing the surrounding hills. His body lay inert and heavy like the furniture. Unused to such complete absence of sound. Richard could not accept. They noted the loss of colour in the extremities of his face and in his hand. was reduced to a state of tense expectancy. The short movements stating the step and answering the rhythms with the greatest economy.

a little agitated. ‘Your father has gone to Rows. A joyful energetic force that had momentarily sated itself. She reached beneath her chair and drew up her handbag.’ Richard replied sharply. so instead they prayed. ‘Sinking slowly. her eyes glinted with incipient anger. From it she took a bottle of white lotion. A living force. She poured some into the palm of her hand.’ She looked at him quickly. ‘I don’t know.’ she said. ‘Have you finished your housewifely duties?’ he asked. ‘Yes. She crossed the room and sat down opposite him.’ It irritated him that she should attempt to involve him in her work. ‘Did he say how grandfather was?’ she asked impersonally. his voice harder and without warmth. he thought.’ 169 . ‘I’ve told you what he said and that’s all I know.’ ‘Will he be here for dinner?’ she asked. It was perched on a rose bush. the flowers of last summer brown decayed remains on its branches. at last.They were at a loss for words or thoughts. Abruptly she turned away. ‘For all the help you gave me. Margaret stood at the window watching a blackbird that sang. ‘He said he would be back later in the evening.’ he said. Richard watched her.

170 .. ‘He took to his bed about three weeks ago.’ She smiled. and he feels his time has come. ‘And there is nothing you or I can do for him. She formed her fingers into a bracelet about her wrist and turned her arm back and forth within this ring. massaging it down the ridges of the bones towards her wrist. squeezed some brown liquid into her palm and began stroking it on to her face. ‘You said yesterday that his heart was still strong. She opened her eyes and looked at him. habitual movements: graceful and personal. Neat.’ She screwed the cap back on to the bottle and placed it on the floor beside her. Richard was taken aback by her apparent unconcern. ‘How long has he been ill?’ Richard asked.’ There was reverence and acceptance in her voice. He said he felt dizzy and didn’t want to eat.’ She rubbed the lotion on to her other hand and wrist. Uncle Jim fed him glucose and brandy.He watched her as she patted the lotion onto the back of her hand.’ Richard began. and leaning back her head she smoothed the cream over her eyelids.’ she replied. ‘Since last week he’s refused the glucose. Daddy says he hasn’t moved since then. He’s lain there ever since.’ She suddenly pointed out the window.’ ‘He’s old and tired. ‘Sure the doctors. Then she rubbed it in. Then he gripped the pillow and asked to be left alone in peace. Next she took from her bag a small tube. but not the brandy. ‘Why doesn’t the doctor do something?’ he said.. grandfather is dying.’ ‘Has anybody tried to feed him?’ ‘Oh yes. ‘Dick. ‘On Christmas Eve he woke up and blessed himself. She had closed her eyes.

‘Oh. was reminded of their father and how he also moved with the same neatness and sureness as if to avoid upsetting some fine balance between himself and a much more powerful and unpredictable force. Seeing that brother and sister were in conversation.’ Margaret laughed. Margaret’s brother. he luxuriated in the pleasing shadows 171 . Richard allowed the mood of the evening to enter him and lying back in his chair. His movements were economical and neat. which cast a bronze mantle on the land and emphasised the brilliance of the steely blue sky. ‘See how those dark clouds are gathering about the top of Muckish. James. and consequently they regarded each other with a respect that was the product of unfamiliarity and based on their different affections for Margaret. Once again the natural colours had been overwhelmed by the sun’s light. damn your snow. Richard looked out at the mountain. It will snow today. Neither tried to contrive his standing with the other to a forced friendship. after dinner. They had met only twice previously in the year that Richard had known Margaret. Richard and he greeted one another with reserve and shook hands. watching him greet his sister.’ Later in the day.‘Look!’ she said eagerly. like Margaret he had black wiry hair that poised over his forehead like a wave. ‘Poor Dick. There are some things more important than snow.’ Richard shook himself in annoyance. He doesn’t like the snow. Richard. arrived. James was tall and strong and.

’ James said quickly. When the small lamp by the bed had been lighted. After a moment he opened his eyes and stared blankly at his son as it from a great distance. Joseph placed the glass on the table and retreated to his chair. he would survive tomorrow night.. The rheumy eyes stared unmoved. The redness of the sun haunted the room. ‘He says that if he survives tonight.’ Margaret told him. Margaret again wished for 172 ..’ ‘But if he survives tonight. Helplessly. He crossed to the bed and gently shook the old man’s hand. The sounds organised themselves as music: carefully. Jim. ‘The doctor says that granddad is very ill. covering everything with a still bronze. balancing plates on their knees.’ James said. Joseph raised the glass into father’s sight and attempted to lift his head. ‘It’s just our way of putting it. They took their evening meal seated about the fire. In Rows. ‘Dick! Dick! Wake up!’ The music faded from Richard’s mind as he sat upright.and sounds that were there. Richard turned his sleepy eyes to James. and pointed to the light-switch. ‘James has brought a message from Daddy. Joseph Stewart beckoned to his brother. Joseph took the bottle and glass from the table and poured a measure. on top of the hill.’ Richard began in puzzlement. he played through the last movement of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony.

’ Richard said.snow. Even the noise was unidentifiable. Puzzled. he peered out into the lane. he concluded. ‘That’s Daddy’s room. Her brother indulgently assured her that she would have it. ‘There might be a window open. There was a noise at the door.’ Crossing the room he remembered that there had been no wind of any strength that day. insisted that the snow-front was moving down a trough to the south-east of Donegal and therefore it would not snow. they sat stock-still. As he sat down he heard a noise at the top of the stairs. Moreover.’ Margaret said with satisfaction. It was quiet and dark. half crouched above his chair.’ he said in explanation. Open-eyed. he returned and reported. ‘I’m nearest to the door. ‘I’ll go and check. however. and looked quickly at the other two. He froze. carefully placing his plate on the floor beside his chair. Richard. The hair on Richard’s neck bristled. He checked all the rooms and found nothing unusual. ‘I’ll answer it. Back downstairs he assured Margaret and James that they were the only people in the house.’ Opening it. the sky was clear. 173 . this time directly overhead. while his mind frantically sought for reasons. His hands were clammy and his spine tingled: gently and persistently. Richard’s nerve endings opened and reached out and probed every corner and niche of the house.’ he said evenly. ‘It must have been the wind. There was another sound.

Upstairs. Margaret looked up at him as he entered the room. 174 . Deep in his mind he expected something new and hitherto beyond his experience to happen. he passed from room to room.’ he said. He was suddenly aware of the powerful force the Stewarts negotiated. The empty rural night had a density that was both terrifying and yet comforting. and he steeled himself for what he might find. Richard thought. and cried. he wondered. She seemed excited but relieved. ‘Do you remember. he noted mentally. Everything seemed in its place in the half-light that reflected into the rooms from the light on the stairs. ‘Grandfather is dead.’ Richard shook himself and moved from his frozen position in the centre of the room.’ Margaret announced. there was nothing. his eyes wide in wariness. now unseen in the dark. Then it was gone from him. ‘I’ll go and check again.James looked at Margaret. Richard noted absently that neither of them was afraid. What had happened there.’ Margaret said. His eyes showed strong reaction which settled into acceptance of some realised knowledge when Margaret nodded slightly. He went to a window and stared over in the direction of Rows. passing along his spine. where I’m sitting. Nonsense. Except for a sensation. when Mammy’s mother died. ‘We heard noises – three raps like the ones tonight – and she sat down here. James. But he looked at his watch: seven forty five. and James agreed. like a weak current of electricity.

At what time did he die? ‘I’m sure I don’t know. I suppose.’ Richard replied. have ye?’ he said.’ she said.’ 175 . He had to be content with that solution. trying to find causes. ‘Quite. He shivered. Shortly afterwards. At about ten someone brought news of the old man’s death. Richard.’ he said carefully. He had died peacefully. He remembered his feeling of rejection that morning and realised that he was excluded from understanding though not from experiencing some things.’ The room seemed to be closing in on him. and a son who had seen his father die. Earlier in the evening. James watched Richard with amusement.‘He must be dead. until he tingled with fear. Richard saw two persons contending in him: a man who had witnessed an old man die a justifiable death. ‘Daddy is dead. He left James and Margaret to talk together and let his mind probe into the mystery. His shoulders were slack and his face pale and drawn.’ Richard said. ‘There are still things in this world that we don’t understand. Joseph Stewart stepped into the bar. ‘You’ve heard. shivering again.’ The drink eased Richard’s shocked nerves. He laboured over the incident. ‘Beyond me. While they waited for Margaret. ‘Let’s go up to the village and have a drink.

176 . He felt a great sympathy for him and his loss. Richard refrained from asking the question that buzzed around in his head. James stood up and crossed to stand beside his father. the death was later than that. and finally in your room. I will. then at the head of the stairs.’ James returned and handed his father a glass almost full with whiskey. it was nine o’clock. ‘You’ll have a wee drop. ‘At what time did he die. ‘At about a quarter to eight. father?’ ‘Aye. his father sat between Richard and Margaret. Dick? First at the door.’ she said without ceremony. ‘Well.’ ‘And when did you hear these noises?’ Joseph asked Richard. I’m sure of it.’ he replied.Richard realised that the second force had won.’ While James went to the bar. The father looked up at him and then turned to Richard again.’ she persisted. now. there are always noises in old houses like ours.’ ‘We heard three raps in the house this evening. ‘The first time I saw a clock after his death. Margaret eventually asked it instead. Joseph looked quickly at Richard and saw the curiosity in his eyes.’ he said carefully. ‘Richard heard them too. ‘Didn’t you. ‘Ah sure.’ he replied evenly. Daddy?’ ‘I can’t remember. Out of respect for the bereavement.

‘It’s uncanny.’ ‘You don’t mind father trying to cover up the incident of the noises?’ ‘No. Richard reached and gripped her arm lightly.’ he said. do ye know.‘There are always noises in these old houses. ‘I have to go back and arrange things.’ Joseph answered quietly. James?’ James said he supposed that was true. And I suppose you were all keyed up after sitting all day in the house. Joseph stood up and hitched his coat about his shoulders. do you know.’ he said.’ Margaret said firmly. It’s not very important. ‘Will ye all have another drink?’ he asked.’ At last Richard found the key to the mystery. of course not. ‘It’s all right. ‘Were you actually present when your father died?’ ‘No. ‘I just don’t know what to make of it.’ 177 .’ ‘He thought you might make fun of his ways. Isn’t that right. Margaret. Through the gloom of the night they could see the pinpoints of lights strung unevenly around the lough. and when I came back he was gone. speaking carefully.’ Margaret and Richard stood in the garden behind the house. ‘Tell me. Mr Stewart. Richard pointed in the direction of Rows.’ he said soothingly.’ he asked. ‘I was in the bathroom. ‘But we all heard the noises. ‘I think it was just your imagination.

Good God! Snow. The anchor and comfort of the place must at least balance with that which had to be endured. ‘I’ll make tea for us. Something light fell on his nose.‘I’m obviously less open to these influences than your father is.’ Margaret reached and kissed him. 178 .’ Alone. Another dropped gently on to his eyelid. It’s very cold. He looked at it in amusement: the beginner of my daily troubles. Richard lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply. and the knowledge that if life was bad in one place. In Dublin such a mood at that morning’s would have produced a secure disgust. Don’t stay out her too long. it would be no better anywhere else. he thought. He’s lived all his life among them.

TRUE LOVE 179 .

Instead. She had been elected by the literary society to prepare the house for their annual party. belonging to the parents of one of the founder members of the society. But though she had sprayed the rooms with a floral air freshener. Elsa greeted the occupants of the car as they ran to the porch. the society had chosen to ignore the hotel in which it had been held. Grains of sand. Though the previous year’s affair had been voted a success. The reason for this change of venue reads thus in the minutes of the relevant meeting: That the affair would not have to end at a given time and would take place in an atmosphere of the utmost informality and conviviality. but four and even five times in some rooms. looking for a space among the cars already lined against the boundary fence that surrounded the house. which had been closed since the previous summer. She had spent the day cleaning out the house. and the more lackadaisical members had been only too glad to vote her the privilege of making all the preparations for the night. But those of Dublin would note the sluggish. nasal quality in her speech and think otherwise. not merely once. removing long-wilted brown flowers and dusting the furniture. 180 . sweeping sand and crushed seashell out into the drive. In the doorway Elsa waited. People unfamiliar with Dublin would call it a typical Dublin accent. resident in the city since the end of the war. Its driver peered through the heavy rain. She was a German. they arranged that this year’s celebration would take place in a holiday house. She was also efficient and hardworking. Her accent was flat.Another car edged into the sandy drive. the place still smelled of decayed flowers and seasalt. in a seaside resort north of Dublin called Portrane.

still pointing and repeating himself. ‘It’s almost eleven and he’s not here yet. He greeted the newcomers absently. the record player is in the large room. But he may have come by train. I remember now. pointing out to them the two cloakrooms and telling them to go into the large room on their right when they had taken off their coats. ‘Elsa. he continued. He then confused them by saying that they could also go into the room at the end of the hall. ‘No. Elsa. John Walsh came bustling down the hall. where he said to Elsa. Lord. but. He’s the president. Then he said he wasn’t sure how he would get out.’ John looked at his watch. did he tell you how he intended getting out here?’ Elsa remained impassive in the face of his agitation. He edged past them in the confined space.’ ‘That’s it. grated underfoot. and came up to the front door. then we’d know where he was.’ 181 . He said he might come out by train or by car. because of the drinking.impossible to remove since the first season of the house’s existence. Perhaps he has come in without my seeing him. then settled his glasses more firmly on his nose. ‘I haven’t seen him yet. Elsa. as some people had gathered there. He might be sheltering up at the station. he should have taken a lift from someone. He should have been here to welcome the members. But Margaret was against using the car. has Dick come yet?’ Elsa looked out into the night and then turned back to John.

John recognised the figure and rushed forward. ‘Where? Where? He might be in this one. called greetings to John and Elsa. That teacher – what’s his name – Paul something or other. 182 . Pat. a widow and a lively woman.’ They walked together over to Elsa.‘There’s a car coming down the track. have you seen Dick Butler? It’s after eleven and he’s not here yet. We’ve been expecting him since nine. Ma.’ ‘Thank God for that. ‘And don’t get wet coming in. secretive eyes. As she passed them she shouted back to the car.’ The car lumbered across the wet sand and stopped in front of the house. A middle-aged women got out and literally ran around behind the car to the porch. ‘Stephen. a young man with a pale.’ she continued and ducked out of view down the hall.’ Elsa said. Behind them stood the other passenger in the car. tense face and quick.’ ‘Yes. who had shared the back seat with Stephen. Mary Higgins. ‘He’s down in a pub by the station with his girlfriend.’ came the tired answer. He was a furtive devourer of books and reckoned to be inarticulate. Stephen and Elsa greeted each other. will bring him up in his car. The rear doors of the car swung open.’ Stephen turned his sad eyes to John. ‘Mind how you park it. He was tall and lightly bearded and carried his knowledge and the confusion of his knowledge like a heavy weight that sagged his shoulders and lengthened his face.

that they had it going now and intended playing records.’ For a second his face was blank. ‘But listen. Tom Jones has a very strong voice. Catherine. ‘I bought this record this morning.’ John interrupted him. We’ll put it on afterwards. while in reality he was only trying to get a word in edgeways.John called out in a tenor voice that could not shout to know if anyone had brought records and if so would they please give them to him. had brought a record player. John.’ ‘I know. then it suddenly brightened again..’ ‘But I was going to put it on now. He was smiling at John’s speech. we’re putting on a record of some band music. But devil the bit of notice they’re taking. He also told them that he himself had bought a record in Eason’s. he told them it was by Tom Jones and called She’s a Lady. Holding it above his head.’ ‘I know. John.’ Tony replied. He often found it impossible to attract John’s attention and used the device of appearing to absorb and understand everything that John said to him. so don’t worry..’ he said urgently in his ear. Tony Hackett came to his side. ‘John.’ 183 . John turned to him and said brightly. He explained to the unheeding gathering that Tony Hackett and his sister. ‘It’s very sexy. ‘I was telling them about the record player. it’s called. Tony. He explained that he had heard it on the radio yesterday morning while dressing and had so liked it that he had gone into the city this morning especially to buy it.

the passion in her voice silencing him. ‘Margaret. who sat on a stool and stared at the record player. almost in reaction to the sound.Music burst upon them: a brassy rendition of American Patrol. Some people began to dance. 184 .’ Then she saw someone in the crowd and moved away. ‘John. John chided her for her cruelty. Are there as many as expected?’ He was holding a glass in one hand and a bottle of stout in the other. when it occurred. for goodness sake. ‘Half eleven. you’ve got her at last.’ he said. You should have seen him jump when the music started. was explosive. ‘That young chap.’ ‘Where is he?’ he looked at his watch.’ She was now fully developed at twenty one and still with a strong feeling for life.’ she said. More often it was frustrated. But since returning to her cramped and highly regulated family.’ she pointed to the corner by the fire – it was the silent bookworm. calling.’ Tony also saw her. ‘He saw me holding our record of Beethoven’s concertos and thought I was going to put it on. looking about him. She was laughing. I think the president has arrived. this feeling only sometimes found expression. I’ll kill him for being late.’ Richard Butler came through the crowd. so that release. and the din of conversation rose in competition. John. ‘Oh. ‘He’ll get over it. ‘Good evening. ‘We seem to have a good crowd. Catherine Hackett came over to them. Her long hair swung on her shoulders as she moved. I see.

Dick. Didn’t someone tell you?’ He turned to Tony. Dick. The train was miserable. He shook his head in habitual annoyance.’ ‘We missed it. so we took a bus as far as Swords and John came over and collected us. he held the bottle away from him. ‘What delayed you?’ ‘Oh. Richard laughed.’ He turned to Richard.’ His eyes were red and strained. ‘Don’t you stray. John supposed. Stephen came over.’ ‘Just as well. Richard took Tony by the elbow and suggested they tour the house. It didn’t take long. the house was modest. ‘Don’t drink too much. It’s a shame the way we’ve left everything to her. ‘You took a long time getting here. ‘I’m going to help Elsa with the food. The place is still open. We were down in some pub. When he had done it.’ John started to move away.‘We expected you long before now. Meanwhile. ‘They’re not too fussy about the time. He had been drinking all evening. Margaret appeared from nowhere and took it from him. trying to find a place to put it.’ she said. and they ended up on the porch. You have a speech to give.’ he said.’ John said severely. half teasingly.’ Richard nodded and began pouring the Guinness into the glass. The seasmells were strong here and with them their memories of 185 . ‘Don’t you know we’re at a party?’ She smiled bravely at him and put the bottle on a nearby table. ‘What happened to you? I thought you were taking the train out.

goodness. Tony was relatively complacent.childhood holidays by the sea. regular. Tony. Surely she should have a two syllable name. and the like. an iambic foot. intelligence. Richard couldn’t avoid an element of bitterness. whole. Unstress for her. It’s so clumsy on such a slip of beauty. ‘The meal is ready. and then asked teasingly. To Tony he said.’ Tony looked sideways at him. ‘Margaret is a human being.’ he watched her as she walked away. the other for the effacement of experience. an unknown quality. frowned and then smiled.’ Tony frowned again. making much play of the winter’s night around them. Margaret came up behind them. ‘You don’t agree?’ Richard asked. It’s an unsuitable name. ‘Come on. on wheels. that would stress the effect of her beauty.’ Tony said softly. his memories of Renvyle were part of an unbroken continuum of experience in which his life was comfortable. ‘What’s my symbol?’ ‘The Age of Reason. Humanity in a person is an assumption. stress for her beauty. We seek symbols for personality – beauty. Margaret’s is beauty. Dick. They talked about those days. ‘Margaret. He felt that his life by comparison was broken and that he looked back on his summers in Rush across a pile of negating memories.’ 186 . Dick. But they complemented each other: one with the desire for experience. Are you coming in?’ ‘We’ll be right in.

Tony grimaced and walked down the hall. hear. ‘Say whatever you want. none of that socialism here. Richard continued. Richard turned to him. Most of the crowd at the party were in the room. Some waved their plastic forks.’ he corrected. I’m stuck with my own humanity.’ John Walsh saw them at once and cried out. ‘And what’s yours?’ Tony asked over his shoulder. that is true for all of us subjectively. almost in mockery. ‘Hear.’ Richard spoke across the room to John. as something I must keep close to. none of that social democracy here.’ John replied. ‘Now. But Richard forestalled him. others cried out. ‘I don’t know.’ Tony turned and stared hard at him and looked as though about to speak. ‘Of course. suddenly testy. 187 . ‘Call us “fellow members”. ‘At last. whose father owned the house.’ He stood up in an oldfashioned way to greet him.’ ‘Now. unproven. ‘Surely you mean democracy?’ Tony laughed out. our president. ‘Perhaps truth. Richard followed.’ Seeing the scepticism in Tony’s face as they entered the room. ‘Should I address them as “Ladies and Gentlemen”?’ There was some doubtful laughter. eating chicken and salad from paper plates.’ Tony said behind Richard. called from the back of the room. Richard Butler. Michael Delahunty.

Mother. But he had an ascetic Irish face.’ 188 .’ ‘That’s a pity. and static ideas.’ ‘I hope so. I’m hoarse with the talking. when she brought food to him. no. ‘Of course you could.Richard asked Elsa.’ John was listening with an absentminded look on his face. John?’ Margaret asked him. Come whatever way you like. We wouldn’t mind. Mags? Oh. ‘Are you going to sing tonight. but I forgot. won’t we. ‘Will you say your few words. ‘How are we going to get home?’ ‘I don’t know.’ John overheard them. You wouldn’t wear your boots. Dick. It’s still raining heavily. There was some fuss as he sought a place to put his plate and glass. Richard was amused by John’s stilted mannerisms. ‘No. dear. He peered at her with wide-open eyes. He was proud of his unIrish origins. supplemented by the traditional Irish problems: Church. Margaret came over. but I’m sure something will be arranged.’ Elsa came up and said.’ he concluded generously. so we can get the plates cleared away. Dick? Some of us are staying over till morning. to give him a bottle of stout.’ ‘I couldn’t wear boots coming to a party. ‘Are you going home tonight. Margaret instinctively shrank back. claiming descent from Palatine farmers settled in County Limerick. I’ve been shouting and bawling trying to organise this place while you were down in that pub.’ ‘We’ll walk home.

but I have attended many meetings over the last year and have witnessed this dichotomy: that some of you are well established in life. and those with ambition don’t stay very long with us.’ he began. Seeing Stephen McArdle looking at him gave him his idea. His head was fogged and he craved a cigarette.’ He looked about the room to stress this point. though our society is of little social consequence outside of its members. we have enjoyed our weekly meetings and from all appearances we will continue to do so for a long time to come.Richard stepped forward and the room gradually quietened.’ he bowed to her. I’m sure Elsa. Those of you from Dublin may feel some nostalgia for the summer in a place like this. he knew. But the younger members tend to take their reading more seriously. as I said. trying to find there a philosophy for their future life. ‘The very idea of holding the annual get-together of a city literary society in the depths of the country in February unnerves me. However.’ He was rambling. ‘I have been your president for the last three months. and he thought hard for a subject.’ 189 . we are. but even so there is still sand on the floor and the smell of the sea in the atmosphere of the place. for whom literature is a source of entertainment and interest – it is essentially a hobby. ‘Now. a literary society and therefore eccentric enough to do it. ‘has cleaned the house out thoroughly. ‘I can’t for the life of me be formal. The silence clouded his mind and he felt the effect of the alcohol.

’ Richard paused. ‘But the dichotomy I mentioned. John asked Richard and Margaret if Margaret would dance with him. one of the younger members read a fine and intelligent paper on the philosophy of Existentialism. In no time the room was jammed with dancing couples. Richard decided he would drink another bottle of stout. he saw the silent bookworm sitting with a stout young girl. and he knew that he did. He replied with mock diffidence and led her graciously on to the floor. ‘I don’t honestly know myself. it will also be with us. who created a terrific din. but most seemed surprised by the abrupt ending. ‘What were you going on about at all.’ Some clapped. Thank you. staring at the ring of faces before him. John became excited and told everybody nearby that he had bought it and asked them if they thought it was a good record.’ He took out a box of cigarettes and extracted one. John came over. Recently. whose face was alive with a hesitant. 190 . His audience moved restlessly. but the older members greeted it with derision. telling them that she’s a lady. ‘This greatly troubled the author. Dick?’ Richard laughed to release tension.’ But he did know. The Widow Higgins asked Tony if he would dance with her. Tom Jones burst on them. It puzzled all of us because of its obscure words and references. ‘That’s all.He had withdrawn himself a great distance from his voice. Edging down the room. The younger members remained puzzled.

Stephen. an emotion that had long been dormant. He put on a ballad. He was caressing her white arm and whispering in her ear. He discovered he was closest to the record player and so decided he would change the record. Stephen was seated in the corner between the table and the fire.’ Stephen said. the record came to an end. As Richard passed them she leaned sideways and brushed her ear along his lips.’ ‘Did it work?’ ‘Of course not. ‘I wasn’t just defending you. Stephen. He had talked about it to him.smiling eagerness. He took up another bottle and searched for a glass. Richard noticed how the firelight flickered and darted on and about him. Richard thought. How could he absorb knowledge. An emotion heaved itself in Richard’s heart. ‘Here. Finding one. in which a girl sang of her lover who had left her to go to the city.’ Richard said and gave him the newly poured stout. How could you upset these people with things they don’t understand or care about?’ Stephen shrugged. asking his advice. His face was haggard. he poured the Guinness. His will pushed it down again. staring morosely at the flames. Richard had told him what he knew of the places Stephen intended visiting. ‘You needn’t have defended me like that in your speech. Then. While he poured the stout. not caring that the glass had been used by someone else. I was trying to get something out of my system. when everyone 191 . have a drink. when he is eternally tired? He remembered that Stephen had planned to tour the continent last summer.

then Stephen would carry the burden of it within himself. Margaret is looking for you. extracting what juices she could from him. But Mary Higgins gripped her man convulsively. He crossed the garden at the back of the house to the fence that separated the house from the public beach. Margaret and Catherine were in a corner talking. Richard had accepted this. John. ‘Dick. If it were true. Her son. Afterwards Tony had shown contempt for what he called Stephen’s failure. Both had been embarrassed. Richard suspected that Stephen was a masochist. As he walked across the room he discovered to his surprise that he was swaying. it was adequate justification. Tony had his arms about the shoulders of the widow. if it were false. kissing her on the lips. quietly and privately. His eyes were open. nursing perhaps a deep religious guilt.’ The crowd had thinned. Catherine and Margaret had expressed pity. Tony had run into him in Grafton Street. His father had been ill. Richard smiled: he was sure Tony was studying himself kissing the woman. Richard had asked him why he hadn’t gone. 192 . wrapped in an awkward embrace. The rain had stopped. I’m going to put Tom Jones on again. Again that vague emotion stirred in him. and he had to help out in their shop. John Walsh hurried down the room towards them. May – were kissing. Richard went down the hall on to the porch. not questioning it. I think he’s a hit here tonight. But beyond these considerations. dozing.thought he was in Paris or Italy. was stretched out on a sofa. The bookworm and the stout girl – Richard remembered her name. Pat. Stephen had said.

a clean wind and the regular pulse of the ghostly sea.’ She stood beside him and looked out to sea. ‘I thought you were sick or something. was Sunday and she had her children to prepare for Mass and Communion. peace. Her face was white in the frame of black hair. Her throat. Come along in. sustained by them. she looked at her watch. He was inspired to kiss her. Her tasks were finished.’ ‘No. He answered quietly. created by an emptying bladder. dear.’ They met Elsa at the door. Margaret came across the garden. Unhappiness he could accept. regardless of how it is effaced. There was clarity. 193 . she told them. They waved her goodbye as she drove out on to the track. But then his mind responded to the impulse by repeating: a clean mind is a scrubbed mind. but realising it would involve him in a chain of reactions too soon. producing long curving lines of phosphorescent milk that fell with calm sound on to the wet sand. thrown. A new freshness arose in him. She was on her way home. calling his name.Below him. I see the waves upon the shore. and tomorrow. but dissatisfaction was intolerable. were subtly lit and shaded like a rare miniature of ivory. and the two lines of muscle that angled down to her breast and produced a hollow of shadow. For an instant he was enmeshed in these things. He pissed out through the fence on to the sand. For an instant he longed to believe in something absolute. or rather today. the waves frothed in the seaward wind. like light dissolved in star-showers. See. he simply said: ‘It’s cold out here.

and the bookworm’s lips moved constantly at her ear. She was followed by Pat. ‘Him?’ She looked back and wrinkled her nose. the widow’s son.’ Catherine marched into the room. ‘Good God. pressed cheek to cheek.’ she admitted. Beside him sat Michael Delahunty. John smiled and composed himself.’ Richard ejaculated. It works every time. Ere we switch off the light. 194 . his feet stretched out to the fire. ‘I used to do that at parties. Richard stepped forward. The young couple were still embraced. Stephen looked over his head at the breastwork. he was crouched forward to Stephen’s mouth. He was calling for attention. Tony was sitting with the widow in the gloom of a corner. the air was heavy and smelled of stale food and drink. Let’s get this right. who listened to him. I’ll listen to you.’ This caused some people to look up and pay attention. We do what and with which and to whom? He came down through the laughter to Richard. ‘John. She said. John was unsteady on his feet as he stood with his back to the fire. Stephen sat in the corner. ‘I’m going to give a small recitation.’ he called hoarsely. then spoke slowly: A lesbian lass from Khartoum Took a nancy boy up to her room. ‘He is pretty awful. Both were agitated.Inside. He was gay.

only words. taking Margaret with her. The house was quiet. ‘We must arrange outings during the summer.’ It was John’s acquired vocation. while drawing his finger through the froth of his stout. but all words.’ John suddenly said. Not seeing her. His head was heavy and John’s words seemed to come from a great distance. ‘some of the members took exception to your remarks tonight. ‘By the way.Pat yawned hugely and looked about for his mother. we must keep at them to take a bigger part in the running of the Society. Dick. he went and lay on the sofa. ‘Any stout left?’ he asked gently. which he opened and handed to him. I told you before that it’s only a social club. Create a greater interest for the members – you know. Dick.’ 195 . who listened and nodded. ducking his head instinctively in the doorway. they drank and talked. thousands of them. Catherine went away. spreading out in a great cloud of confusion around John. They wondered what right you had to make statements like that about them. Sitting facing each other across a card table. John delved into a corner and produced a bottle. They noticed then that Tony and the widow had disappeared. Richard invited John to have a drink with him in the back room. Stephen came into the room. the organisation and running of the Society. John was outlining his projects and ambitions for the Society to Richard.

young girls are so disorganised in their emotions that they can be very trying.’ ‘She’s old enough to be your mother. ‘It happens all the times in the best books. ‘How did you feel after that meeting?’ ‘It didn’t matter much. you looked pretty down after it. ‘Well. ‘There you all are. It wasn’t very well organised.’ Tony stepped through the doorway. You can’t blame them for not understanding. Her emotion was particular and organised to set ends. sex.’ he said. Tony raised his hand before his face and rubbed his thumb across his finger tips. ‘Trust you. So much of today’s literature has sex. I just wrote pages of stuff on the subject.’ Richard asked. 196 . Even that piece you wrote for the magazine ended with sex.’ John said quickly.’ he said expansively.’ ‘Yes. that’s it. ‘Any stout left?’ ‘Enjoy yourself?’ Richard asked. Besides.’ Even the glass in his hand seemed to much for him to support. his voice pitched in irony.‘Stephen. ‘The happy ending to a happy book. John snorted and turned on Richard.’ Stephen smiled wanly and Richard laughed loudly. ‘I’ve just told you. Dick. Tony replied dispassionately.’ John said in disgust. ‘It was very fine. He was smiling broadly. We must organise these things better than we have done in the past.

It was ajar and surrendering to the temptation he peeped in. There was sudden activity as John. calling for men to dance with her. he went to the door of the bedroom.and nothing but sex in it.’ John ignored what Richard said. He could hear feet scraping and hammering the floorboards and the ringing exultations of wild dancing yells. Irish dance music. eyes lightly closed. only dirty-minded scribblers. They’re not true writers at all. He stared down the hall and out into the night.’ ‘There was nothing explicit in it. 197 . and listened to his measured speech. The whiteness of her body was startling and she smiled blissfully. The bookworm and the stout girl were lying side by side on the narrow bed. Michael Delahunty and a friend of his roused up two girls by getting them to read it.’ Just then the house erupted into music. Richard started back into the hall. Richard knelt and searched for a bottle of stout. He changed his mind about the drink and decided he must join in. You thought it was “poetical” at the time. He heard the mutter of words coming from one of the bedrooms. pressed close together. Margaret came out of the big room. ‘Literature should be beyond all that.’ ‘Whatever else. but by the time he got to the door the record ended and silence settled again on the house. Curious. He was as though transfixed by the emotion that finally heaved through to recognition. then Tony and Stephen made for the door. Catherine shouted from the big room.

’ she whispered in sudden passion. Her eyes were moist with love. They sat together by the fire. both silent.’ ‘Remind you of what?’ ‘Nothing. ‘Why are you so sad?’ ‘I’m not sad. the bookworm entered.’ She put her arms on his shoulders.’ She came closer to him. The stout girl followed on his heels. She was so close that he could feel her warm breath on his neck. He rubbed his eyes and yawned. They remind me of something. what are you doing out in the hall? Listen. Richard couldn’t take his eyes off them. ‘Dick. Just a memory. Dick. that’s all.’ Sitting together in the back of the car. Margaret noticed this. Her face was very slack and her plump arms hung limply at her sides.’ ‘Your eyes are all bright and warm. nothing. Mrs Higgins has offered us a lift home. ‘We’ll be home in less than an hour. It 198 . How beautiful you are like that. Oh dearest. She stroked his hands. While they waited for the widow and her son to find their coats. Mrs Higgins laughed a lot and repeated over and over how much she had enjoyed herself.’ She put her arm about his waist and drew him into the big room.’ she hugged him tightly. Margaret snuggled in close to Richard. which he had entwined in his lap. ‘You look so sad and loving.‘Dick. ‘Why are you staring at them? Do you know them?’ ‘No reason.

with its bump that made it cruel-looking – like a Norman. she whispered. Still.’ ‘What was is it you remembered at the party?’ 199 . ‘What’s wrong? I love you. She stroked his fingers. In the flat he refused tea and began to undress immediately. She was shocked to see how cold and remote his eyes were. Daren’t touch him when he’s like that. Best policy for now. love. ‘I love you. His eyes an hour ago. She said their minds are like wombs. As he bent to pull his trousers over his feet she lay across his back and kissed his neck. Love. His lips were pursed and attractive: she put her fingers lightly on them. But when he’s warm and relaxed. stuck away with his thoughts. She was delighted. He jerked his head away. she thought. He turned to her slowly. Lit and unlit. most men were like that: the thing was to ignore them while it passed. his trousers in his hand. only more confused their ours. A feeling of love and contentment filled her body.was raining again and it drummed on the roof and hissed beneath the wheels. then down his nose. In one of his thinking moods. It was lit in the flash of the streetlamps then hidden. Margaret looked up at Richard’s face. What more can I say?’ She was suddenly very near to tears. ‘Say nothing. He rarely told her what he thought about. She followed the line of one eyebrow with a finger and then crossed the bridge of his nose on to the other brow.’ she whispered. Passive and white. he’s the best man in the world. Catherine called it their ‘periods’.

He was fast asleep. You were younger and more innocent then. ‘Because out of it all there are three or four incidents remaining in my memory that will never be surpassed for as long as I live. Why should it interfere with you so?’ He had settled himself down in the bed and lay looking up at the ceiling. now that she is a dream in my mind?’ ‘But it happened so long ago.’ ‘Don’t be silly. I did believe then that I loved her. ‘That young couple you noticed me watching – the one they call the bookworm and the girl. though I am not sure now what the word means. ‘Tell me. but it didn’t work out. She watched him as she would study a painting: as a medium for unlocking her mind. Even so. She who had held herself for 200 . ‘Is that all? Sure. I have a right to know. May – they reminded me of a girl I knew some years ago. It was only teenage romance.’ ‘Well. that happens to everyone.’ ‘Perhaps. it’s impossible to escape such an experience. But I suffer only my own experience.’ She was derisive. if you must.’ ‘Again perhaps.’ He was intense with restraint. who can take her place. I was in love with her.’ She felt her stomach turn over. And as I discovered this evening.’ He had his back to her and she could hear the rapid clicks as he wound his watch.‘Nothing that would concern you.

It was sure to be sentimental. without turning a hair? Coupled now with a man she could love wholeheartedly. It wasn’t only that girl that was the cause. How many had she refused. Rain teemed down on the Gothic spire opposite. or quarter. And that she was sure was love: the willingness to carry the whole burden of the other. 201 . He was fascinated by that spire in moonlight. but who could not.the day she would meet the man she truly loved. because men are lost and useless when they have to carry burdens like that. She remembered she had once told him that she hoped he would die before her. She nodded slowly to herself in understanding. It was true love. when all the time it was only half of him. love her completely. But that wouldn’t really solve the whole problem. She crossed to the window. She must get him to tell the whole story. or only a tiny fraction that she knew and felt. She looked over at him: she had been so sure of him. that it was he who spoke to her. or would not. No.

MASQUE 202 .

relaxed.’ she replied. Seeing his frown of dissatisfaction. can’t you look where you’re going?’ she said in exasperation. Margaret. knowing that if she didn’t there would be a cold war between them by the time he had finished his first pint. ‘For God’s sake. he was fairly gasping for a drink and determined to ignore her demand to return home now because she was hungry. she continued: ‘I’m not having anything stronger on an empty stomach. waiting while she bought this and that item she needed and stoically endured her pleas to come and look at various things which took her fancy in shop-windows. You can if you want. ‘Well. being used to this. Richard. Dick. he gratefully laid down his burden. coming unheeding behind him.By the time Richard had led Margaret through the market. containing two newly framed antique maps. giving him a withering look that was designed to make him feel as if eight years old and not more than two feet tall. what will you have. it’s your idea to come in here.’ 203 . ‘A half pint of something?’ He wanted her to take something alcoholic so she would relax. stretched his arms and finally rubbed his hands in anticipation. The large rectilinear parcel. Once inside and having found an empty table. jammed edgeways in the door of the pub. hit against him and almost tipped the vegetables out on to the pavement. ignored her and concentrated instead on getting himself and his parcel through the stiffly sprung door. I want to eat. Mags?’ he asked. ‘I’ll just have a bitter lemon.

upon which she would stand. Meanwhile she would tap her foot. As he became immersed in his work. though art. He softly whistled the theme from the opening movement of Mozart’s Clarinet 204 . ‘Are you not hungry?’ Ignoring this. filling glasses. he knew that a second could only improve his sense of wellbeing. Behind the counter three barmaids scurried to and fro. Three years together. She drank frugally of her beverage. she seemed to retreat into the security of her childhood values. two years of literary endeavour for him. he took his glass and went to the crowded bar. ‘Are you going to have more?’ she feigned. Richard sighed gently and groped for his cigarettes. all of which. He drained his glass and rhetorically asked Margaret if she would have another drink. As a bird will respond to human music which. reduce the crowd in the bar to its proper moral stature and fall back on her dignity. and two years of growing rectitude for her. when added to the calls of the drinkers. must seem to the bird to be an unearthly clamour. decapping bottles and operating the cash register. ignoring Richard and gazing about at the patrons with disdain. and that regardless of Margaret’s mute censure. so Richard began to whistle. But he had been over this course enough times in their three years together to know the outcome and to know it wasn’t worth worrying about. learned in the depths of Donegal and hardly suited to life in London. created a cacophony that stimulated Richard’s freshly addled senses.By the time he had drunk the first pint. Margaret would grumble for a while afterwards until she felt she had appeased her outraged self-respect.

I don’t think you render it too accurately.’ He pointed vaguely to the back of the bar.’ Richard replied.’ Richard realised that he must have been whistling directly into the fellow’s ear. he replied: ‘I wasn’t trying to hassle you. a role he had become used to assuming. leaving a space free at the bar. took up his filled glasses and moved away. by whistling. it’s from the first movement of Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet. Contrite and good-humoured. though. The seated figure turned to Richard and said: ‘I wasn’t going to move for you. At last a youth pocketed his change.’ ‘I dare say I don’t. ‘However.Quintet. as the Americans say.’ ‘I know there shouldn’t be seats at a bar like this. especially a crowded one. he said: ‘Did my whistling annoy you? I didn’t intend it to. As Richard paid for his drink. but I got tired walking back and forward for a drink from over there. finding himself taking the role of wit in the face of the more literalminded English. Do you know it?’ 205 . ‘What is the piece? It’s half familiar. It sounds far more agreeable inside my head than when I whistle it. Richard quickly sidled around the seated figure who had blocked his access and immediately found a barmaid awaiting his command. with respect. all the while trying to catch a barmaid’s eye. I’ve had the piece in my head all morning threatening to break into song at the slightest chance.’ The seated stranger laughed at Richard’s indulgence and seemed to find relief in it from his own self.

Richard took a sup of his beer and said: ‘Was it Symphony number forty? I know that was all the rage last summer. the expression that precludes intimacy with lonely people.. After listening for a minute. Tell me what it is. It was played everywhere for weeks. as you seem familiar with classical music.. It’s absolutely marvellous. can you tell me what this is. a popular piece. ‘On and on. though not the piece Richard had mentioned. you just sit back and enjoy it. I thought everyone knew that. obviously trying to recall something.Mozart. Though it sounds a damn sight different in the original.‘Mozart.’ ‘That must have been it.’ Partially relieved. in which the melody was hummed four or five times. I’m surprised you don’t know it. As he continued to grope for the words he wanted. the stranger all the time gazing earnestly into his face. as if he were on the point of crying. he said: ‘You must know it.. Richard shook his head and said: ‘I give up. his eyes settled on Richard’s face and assumed an expression of pleading.. ‘Well. His face cleared and he said: ‘Mozart.’ And he began to hum some notes. blue. like all Mozart.?’ the stranger said.’ 206 . the same piece of music over and over. Refreshed and recollected. I bought a record of his recently for my daughter.. Even his eyes. clear and apparently steady.’ Richard was amazed to see the man’s lips suddenly pucker.. The stranger turned his head away and gulped some beer from his glass. became baleful.. It goes on and on.’ He laughed suddenly.’ ‘It’s from Carmen..’ the other said.

207 .. he figuratively ducked his head and drank his beer. and then makes an impassioned speech before being sentenced to death. her manner totally changed. He turned to Margaret and smiled. In fact Ian Paisley told me that he was the greatest of them. not E-T. happy to have caused a minor sensation. But Margaret’s interest had been taken and she began to question him. ‘A man who marches into the stronghold of his enemies with a handful of followers. sure she was being fooled. She put on her distant manner.. his voice a tone or two lower. ‘If music be the food of love. ‘But call me Bob.’ he said to her. He wasn’t surprised when Margaret said she too would ‘have something’. she laughed out loud.’ Richard said. who Richard judged to be about fifty.’ Richard said. I know he’s one of your patriots. to lull the chap while she probed him unmercifully. isn’t it?’ When Bob heard this.Richard took another sup of his beer and thought: Oh hell. the greatest patriot? A pretty suicidal patriotism. When he sensed Margaret’s curiosity take precedence over her amusement. interrupted them and asked Bob what he would have. Richard. He looked at Richard.’ ‘Hardly. seeing things looked well for another half an hour or so. She eyed him sternly. was intoning to his glass. as Robert Emmet. ‘I must go back to my girlfriend. grinning. The stranger. Will you come across and join us?’ When the stranger sat down and introduced himself to Margaret.’ ‘Listen. which he did with a grace that surprised Richard. he explained: ‘It’s a Yorkshire name: O-T-T.

208 . carrying on the work of another Irishman. the latter with near joy. I haven’t a clue what you are. now in his excitement he was shaking it vigorously. can you guess what I do?’ Bob asked him when he returned with the drink. He told them in a quiet. Flann O’Brien.’ Richard said to himself: Oh Christ. ‘I write. At the moment I’m writing the history of the bicycle in Ireland. ‘What do you paint?’ she asked. and switched facets of his personality. And rushed on: ‘Even when I was in Art School. ‘The sea. ‘Well try anyway. winded voice: ‘A painter. ‘Whose style do you copy?’ Bob asked. all those years ago. ‘What do you do?’ he asked Richard.’ ‘All the time?’ Richard asked sceptically.’ Bob was crestfallen. the sea. ‘Is that what you are?’ Bob cried.‘Tell me. otherwise there’ll be no fun in it. Again Bob ducked his head figuratively.’ Richard replied cheerfully. ‘Not for the life of me. while Richard grinned. what I really wanted to do was write!’ Bob had gripped Richard’s arm.’ Both Margaret and Bob looked at him: the former with surprise. Richard.’ ‘Bob. In all its moods and colours. You could be anything from a truck driver to a company director for all I know – they all dress pretty much the same nowadays. Margaret became newly interested.

saying: ‘It’s almost closing time.. Bob leapt up. Bob seemed to frisk about. so far anyway.. shooting off 209 . A bell sounded from the direction of the bar. There’s a club up in the city that I know. ‘How he could catch mood. and she was hungry. looking at his watch. ‘Because if you are not.. Bob asked Richard and Margaret if they intended going anywhere in particular when they left the pub. Just the right word in the right place.. ‘What do you do?’ ‘I’m the breadwinner. as if to create the intimacy such a reply needed.. where we can have our fill. The stuff seems to have it’s own style. a hint of dryness in his voice. Well.. I’m sure I could do a story if I put my mind to it.’ Margaret wasn’t sure.. I enjoy your company.. it was a long time since he had immersed himself in an open-ended booze-up. She looked sideways at Richard.. Again his eyes brightened as he spoke to her.‘Nobody’s really. One moment beside them.’ ‘Do you know someone who would publish it?’ Richard asked.. Bob turned to Margaret. Richard said ‘Yes’..’ ‘Do you like Hemingway? His short stories?’ Here he gave what was almost an exultant cry. Walking through the afternoon crowds of Brixton.’ she replied. I hope you’ll come with me.. she had this bag of shopping. Will you have another drink?’ When he returned with the drinks.

comments on the state of things.. Surely they would look to themselves by now.. a semblance of pity in it. Margaret smiled at Richard. his blue eyes twinkling. he said: ‘Well? Do you know?’ ‘I don’t follow you. on the negroes. The Britons like it. Bob was livid with enjoyment.’ he said. the Phoenicians gave them saffron. you don’t understand. to be shunted like driftwood into a shop arcade..’ he said.’ A large negro bore down on them.’ Richard tried hard to collect his scattered wits. ‘You see. he was separated and forced ahead.. He had a growing desire for boisterous disorder.they wore it on their faces as a cosmetic. ‘The Phoenicians. She was beginning to enjoy herself. Until he asked Richard: ‘Who is it the British look to for civilisation?’ Then before Richard could reply. They regrouped as they descended the steps into the Tube station. His head bobbed about in front of them. overjoyed. so they traded it to them. ‘No.’ He had to shout to be heard over the clamour. Bob shook his head.’ 210 . ‘I thought you meant who they look to nowadays. ‘No... she was being entertained. on the immigrants who jostled about them.. who brought them the first contact with civilisation. scattering Bob once more. When Richard and Margaret breasted him.. The discontinuities stimulated Richard.

letting his head sway limply to the motion of the train. saffron. ‘For goodness sake. conquer parts of the Mediterranean. If the Phoenicians did not attempt to conquer the Britons. and with the necessary bloodshed. It lifted those tribes by giving them joy and pride in themselves. unlike the Romans. after all. Margaret surveyed the half dozen people in the carriage.’ Bob listened to this in silence.’ Seated in the train. his eyes baleful. The conversation did not interest her: she was hungry again. his lips puckered. ‘But the colour.’ The hollow rumbling of the train gave Richard the excuse to shout. they appreciated colours. but she was patient.’ Bob said wearily. The Phoenicians had civilisation. who brought war. like a stricken Madonna. something he desired to do in order to release his feelings. which grows in Poland. that he always made a point of buying Saturday’s edition when in 211 . speaking over Margaret’s head (she was between them. Bob.’ In Leicester Square Richard delayed them while he tried to purchase a copy of the Irish Times. by the way. with Richard first and lowest): ‘It’s taken from the crocus. it was because it was unnecessary or impossible. yes. They did. ‘Yes. he commented: ‘They brought civilisation in peace. was the symbol of our earliest civilisations. you’re telling us only part truths.On the escalator Bob said. The attitude of the Phoenicians to the Britons would be similar to that of the British in the nineteenth century to a small and economically unimportant tribe in New Guinea or Polynesia. explaining. as he left them standing outside the Tube station.

00). a newspaper (Daily Telegraph: 4p). What on earth was she doing in this part of the city when she should be cooking lunch and cleaning out the flat? Richard laughed and took the other two by the arm and. Margaret said she was cold. after asking Bob the way to the ‘trough’. He said no. but his voice was drowned in the roar of traffic. the previous evening. which was really a convenience for those who wished to continue their drinking during the late afternoon. and a wrapper containing the remains of a sandwich (West Kensington. the three of them sat about a formica-topped table at the back of the room. When he returned without a copy. Richard placed his rectilinear parcel carefully against the legs of his chair. Margaret looked doubtful. and when little notice was taken of her complaint. away from the hubbub at the counter. turned up her nose and asked Bob if they could get food in his club. looking at the eating houses in sight. she sat upright in her chair with a stiff smile. Margaret. He mentioned names. when other licensed premised were closed. intending to suffer it. Brixton Market). a worn kit bag (NV). as if it was the common lot of womankind. In the club. the two men realising that little could be done about it. the wind chilled her. a paperback (A Man Could Stand Up. Liability). and began apologising in advance for the patrons and the condition of the place. He liked to know what was happening on the literary and political scenes.town. led them up a side street past second-hand book shops and strip clubs. with a stern warning to Margaret to be careful and not to kick 212 . he insisted on having something to eat. Ford Madox Ford: 2½p. Bob threw his luggage on the floor beside him: a windcheater (Navy Stores: £2. they were sold out.

‘The Small Fellow’ at the end of the counter: underworld and had been missing from the club for three months. but the sight of the man trying to put his glass to his mouth made him reluctant. He was very intelligent and had an important position in the university nearby. Margaret put her bag of shopping standing upright on the floor near her chair: value of foodstuffs: £1. Bob wanted to take him over and introduce him. It was now Richard’s turn to buy the drinks. She constantly patted one of the men on the cheek and only interrupted it to pinch his chin.25 approx. The Manageress. be off to the West End when the pubs open. French. plus four black buttons (to replace the three remaining on her tartan coat): 2½p: Brixton Market.against it. both eighteenth century.. as it was adjacent to her feet. A tall man dressed in heathery tweeds who gripped the bar and nodded his head stiffly as he listened to his interlocutor. ‘Just two I picked up cheap and decided to have framed. A very fat woman dressed in blue.’ Richard said in reply to Bob’s query. ‘Oh the prints. Richard smiled uncertainly.’ He demurred at Bob’s request to open the package so he could see them. One of Dublin and one of the British Isles. Irish and a ‘Fine Woman’. Bob pointed out to Richard some of the better known members of the club. The two men looked sharply at him and then at the table where Bob and Margaret sat in 213 . While Margaret sat with her set smile. saying it wasn’t worth it. ‘This Chap Here’ looking foolishly at the floor – Scottish. ‘Helloo’. The stout woman said. Doubtful activities. who sat at the bar and held court before two men of small stature. fascinated by the mountain of flesh.

he knew what’s-his-name. When this was completed he confirmed his negative answer. Bob said no. Why didn’t Richard write a story based on their meeting and subsequent adventures. Bob. who had done that church. he wondered. But Bob insisted. Bob was gulping his drink and held his hand up to her. a well known Irish writer. a writer should be capable of turning any incident he heard or experienced into an entertaining piece of prose. Richard shook his head. As the two men relaxed. Richard offered Bob a cigarette. Or was he an architect. but wondered if Richard was acquainted with thinga-me-jig. thus showing the unfortunate man’s personality in public and hastening his destruction. On his return. After all. Richard wasn’t. while shaking his head to clear the mist of alcohol which was embracing it. Richard. replied that he could see neither scheme or idea in the events of the day. He shook his head as he sucked the last essence of beer off his teeth. secure. He then suggested that Bob write it. Richard asked him if he knew such-andsuch. And then Bob had it. No. as he took it.conversation. but. Bob condemned a certain Irish television personality for prompting a certain Irish writer to swear on British television. The price of the drink shocked him. Margaret mentioned an Irish sculptor. as his introduction 214 . He could use Hemingway as a model. said he had that from the man’s wife. both subject matter and stylist. Richard was repelled by the heavy perfume that surrounded the woman like an aura of decay. the cigarette transfixing his fingers. he said. the equally wellknown Irish writer. Too arbitrary. he said. on the other hand. which the smile of common citizenship of the manageress did nothing to soften.

which Bob assured her was the nicest tasting beer available. And look at that awful woman there. While Bob was away. Before getting her to accept the lager. But she tossed her head in horror and said.’ Bob hid his head figuratively and noticing that their glasses were empty. In the end.’ Richard was annoyed. after some disjointed dialogue. outside the usual run. and Richard. ‘and show it to me next week.’ ‘Is it that late? Oh Dick.’ Richard insisted. the day’s gone and I’ve nothing done. bravado aroused by the drink and becoming careless of his self-regard. that baleful look again! You look like a wretched spaniel. The unusual course of events had thrown his groatsworth of knowledge of the female 215 . slapped himself on the knee and said: ‘Ah.’ At which Bob smiled a graceful feminine smile of deprecation. Bob had suggested she take sherry or wine or whisky instead. ‘At this time of day?’ She kept in mind the fact that a meal needed cooking and rooms needed cleaning. ‘Do it. Bob’s face puckered at this. This time he asked Margaret particularly to have something special. needed a few seconds in which to regain her more public composure. It’s dirty. she leaned over to Richard and said: ‘I don’t like this place. She. and that she must keep herself in fit condition for these tasks. Can’t we finish up now and go home. What time is it?’ ‘Twenty to five.to the world of letters. having fallen into that mood of female self-regard. look at the carry-on of her. stood up and insisted on buying another round. she agreed to take some Danish beer.

‘Patience. Bob explained that he had been drinking all morning. The newly filled glasses stood at the French woman’s elbow. as if she was guilty of some misdemeanour. Then he asked Richard if he would come and help him carry the other drinks over. The scene tickled his fancy. Richard edged around the two small-sized worshippers to grasp them. Bob placed the drink before her with some ceremony. and that without recovering from the previous night’s binge. While walking to the counter. Manful. Richard gave a great horse-laugh in 216 . catching sight of him. as he felt a little unsteady. and gabbled in his throat.psyche into disorder.’ he said limply. When Bob returned. As Richard moved away. she smiled sweetly at him. who was standing in the background. waving his hand between them. I’d love to – you’re such a baby of a man. The woman said to Bob. a glass gripped in each hand. Bob. because of his relative youth. the cruelty of it. Bob looked at her balefully.’ she continued. did likewise. When they had resettled at the table and had taken a sup of their drinks. my friend. in her loud voice: ‘I’ll give you the gamaroosh.’ Bob looked apologetically at the two courtiers. without his secret knowledge to guide him through the storm. Richard. and he felt himself faced with the superficial mannerism of female revolt. She reached majestically and chucked his chin. ‘I’ve seen you in here before: slinking about the place like a lost puppy. laughed joyously.

her maternal feelings now aroused.’ Bob said. ‘Damn it all. wishing now to be sure of the type of company she was keeping.’ This seemed to make Bob feel lonely. Margaret looked at him in puzzlement. for the satisfaction of the man. She waved. In philosophy. Bob literally squirmed. ‘Married to an engineer and lives abroad. ‘It’s awful to be lonely in this world. Richard.’ Richard. and said so. 217 . ‘Then you must be lonely. ‘Then it’s not so bad.’ he said in exasperation. Bob thought it was for the satisfaction of the woman. His head sagged. for instance. ‘Love. Margaret was disgusted. Richard told her. Richard watched this with disgust.’ ‘No. now well soaked. ‘Who the hell isn’t lonely? And no amount of mothering will resolve it. Bob hung his head. By coincidence.’ Margaret.’ she said. was in a fit condition to enter the lists. She died fifteen years ago. I’m sorry to hear that.’ ‘She’s married. said.memory of the incident.’ Richard interjected. ‘Are you married?’ Margaret asked. ‘What’s the gamaroosh?’ The two men disagreed as to what it was.’ ‘He has a daughter. not philosophy. the French woman was looking in their direction.’ Bob said at once. ‘I was. She gave the French woman a venomous look. A man must seek his own resolution elsewhere. You must be very lonely.’ ‘Oh.

): Heraclitus. He had been sitting watching with his mouth agape. that Richard in terms of one colour. Bob. in fact of All that Man could Grasp: The Great Thoughts: The Past: History. as an aside to his main theme. ‘The Wisdom of the Emotions.‘No. the colour of brain tissue.’ ‘The Romance. because otherwise there would be nothing to talk about: we would be as the beasts of the field. of the Universe.. he said. ‘What you want to do is escape from yourself. No. awaiting its Great Destiny which had been Foreordained. to lose identity in something else. Bob responded. Here Bob interrupted him.’ he said grandiloquently. of Form: the Sinuosity of Shape: the Malleability of Matter: the Mistiness of Reality.’ Bob replied forcefully. Love: At Oneness: Peace: Art: The Sea and its Motions: Colour (Here he said. 218 . most likely grey. Richard mentioned the Great Flux: Becoming: Essence (He said here that Existence could not conceive of itself without first conceiving of Essence. The Intellect: Logos: Man as the Inheritor of the Earth. of Colour. To Become Part with Everything. not really listening but responding to the emotions of the words. Richard went further: the Mystery of the Universe: the Soul nourished before Time in the Cradle of the Universe. not to be outdone: the Mystery of the Sea. getting a word in edgeways. said: Being: Robert Emmet.): Here and Now. Thought and understanding. of the Stars.’ Richard took a large gulp of his drink and set off..

As they left. called: ‘Au revoir. ‘Will we have something to eat?’ Richard said. in general form if not size. who now had five men about her. Margaret said. Dick? It’s a quarter past six.Richard sat upright in his chair.’ Bob started and said.’ The evening air revived them. Let’s go to one of them.’ She looked at her watch. I’ve been sitting in that place for the last three hours dying of the hunger. They took a table by the window and Margaret immediately pointed to the aquarium. his eyes bright and kindly. A waiter 219 .’ At his elbow Margaret said: ‘It’s about time you thought of that. in a lull: ‘You’re making fools of yourselves. The larger world of London invigorated them. their respective bundles held untidily in their grasps.’ Richard agreed and finished off his drink in one long gulp. The drink will be cheaper there. especially the black fish the resembled a trout. ‘I’m starving. ‘The pubs will be open.’ They entered the first restaurant they came to. ‘Do you know what time it is. while Bob leaned forward. charged with the awful responsibility for man. Everybody is watching you. The fish flicked its tail and was gone into a clump of green plants. the French woman. They made a course roughly for Leicester Square. filled with hope and willingness-to-please.

his tail flicking in little darts. Margaret turned her attention to the aquarium. The waiter. The waiter gave a dazzling smile when he heard Richard say: ‘It’s an Indian place. His eyes were moist.’ Bob nodded. ‘If you think it is important. not a Chinese. Richard said he was quite comfortable. The black fish had returned and swam lazily back and forth. Bob gazed at Margaret.’ Richard replied. As Richard accepted a cigarette and Margaret. not Chinese. Bob fumbled in his pockets and produced cigarettes. Richard took a menu and immediately grasped that they were in an Indian. the waiter finally got their orders and departed with alacrity to see to them.’ The waiter returned with soup for Richard. But you are supposed to be the writer. Margaret turned up her nose and said they should go – she didn’t like Indian food. thinking with a chill in his spine what it would be like to make head or tail of the adventure. for the hundredth time.’ ‘No. He had reached that stage in his drinking where he needed to pause 220 . you should do it yourself. politely and patiently declined. that the dishes were tempting. puzzled. their blueness piercing and cold. and he and Bob had great difficulty finding a convenient place for his belongings. Think of all that has been said by us. yellow skinned and pretty. While he drank.came. Relieved. Then Margaret and Bob had a curry each. Bob obligingly agreed and half rose. blinked. Bob said: ‘You must write a story of this day.’ ‘I would certainly like to. restaurant. if only they would be clear as to what they wanted. poised to obey their commands.

wiped his mouth and sniffed the spicy odours that hung in the air about him. We might even buy a painting. he turned to Bob. Margaret. an older woman – obviously the mother of one of them. the circle turning and turning in cycles of vast 221 . his wife had a look of self-justified satisfaction on her face. what with his nonsense about writing and philosophy. Momentarily satisfied. she marshalled her children efficiently. ‘I haven’t pained in four years.’ he said. noticing his gaze. sure in her heart that Richard was to blame for the wasted day. if we can afford your prices. talking in their native tongue. The man seemed prematurely grey. For the first time he noticed the music: sitar and tabla: distant and melancholy. Margaret thought of her untidy rooms. that is. his brain sweetly addled.’ Margaret and Richard were non-plussed. Two waiters lounged by the cash register. but with veiled eyes. his eyes bright and moist. perfectly at home in the place. ‘I simply can’t do it anymore. mysterious. its boundaries set only by the caprice of the woman. Further away.and rest himself in coyness with a woman: to let his personality float in freedom. the children were clean and welldressed. spooned soup into his mouth while he read Weekend. His mouth puckered. and three children. Richard gazed at a group of middle class Indians nearby: a middle aged couple. and said: ‘You must invite us to your place to see some of your work. a youth with red. responded in her true Donegal way: her eyes said. Well? Richard.’ Bob hung his head. finished his soup. rough skin and dressed in a bright red shirt. open at he neck.

. I’m going.’ he said to Margaret.’ ‘Don’t be so hard. but as if he had decided anew. On the inside of the front cover was written: 222 . and seemed about to resume his seat.. fluid. Bob. ‘Can’t you suffer the mere rituals of living? When we have enjoyed our food. uncaring. It’s degrading.’ When Richard said ‘Wait’ he paused. ‘You act as if you are some kind of god.’ she said. his things clutched untidily against his breast.. ‘I’ll make it some evening as a surprise. He looked utterly vulnerable...’ Richard said. ‘Poor man. female. Having to sit about in places like this. a lost child.. Bob was trying to gather up his belongings. ‘He’s lonely in the world. ‘I must ask the waiter if he can get me the recipe. he went back to collecting his things. uncared for.’ Margaret was picking at her food.’ ‘And don’t you go pitying him. far above all this.’ ‘He’ll get by. He nodded his head quickly in farewell.’ Bob paused at the door. we’ll go and enjoy some more drink..lengths of time – he slipped down unguarding into the ring of time. and it amazed him that he could eat it. helpless. Richard said it was terrific: he was sure there was garlic in it.’ Then Richard noticed that Bob had dropped his book. Eating his kebab..’ she said. ‘Hell. It wasn’t her familiar Chinese curry and she didn’t like it: too greasy. as he did he mumbled: ‘I can’t wait any longer here. Then he was gone. He picked it up. for he had a revulsion for it. infected by Bob’s mood but his voice indifferent. suddenly angry.

’ As she stood up from the table. I’m going to clean up. He was delighted and happy: ‘. And you’re not a bit worried.’ When she had gone. ‘Has he forgotten his book?’ Margaret asked. I’m finished..R. ‘Coffee for two. ‘Oh. poised to obey..’ ‘No. Will you be ready when I come back. Below that were a group of letters: S-L--A-E and C------/MARKET.of being a part of the supernatural paraphernalia of inscrutable Destiny…’ 223 . as if written in excitement: COVERED MARKET. The other word Richard knew: SELFSAME..’ Richard said. Emmott. written in a less formal script. and his address in Norbury. ‘Yes. He had worked it out this morning while waiting for Margaret and listening to Mozart. absently opening the book at chapter one. the waiter approached Richard. and below that. Look at the time.. we’ll have coffee first. But the other clue had eluded him. ‘Will there be anything else?’ he asked. and can you give me the recipe for the kebab you served me? It was delicious.’ She reached for her handbag. ‘Well. Margaret said: ‘The day’s wasted.’ He was laughing at the opening paragraph of the story.A.

STRICT NEUTRALITY 224 .

The strands are golden at low tide: the colour fits in well with the blues and purples of the land. mountains. and no longer does my heart clamour at the sight of well-arranged trees. but the effort required to amass sufficient capital and to clear ourselves with the immigration. However. I don’t much like the place – too suburban – and I would prefer to be in Belsize Park again. meeting like lovers on streetcorners or in public houses in the evening. It is now July and we have come to a small village in county Donegal. sea and sky. rivers. It is quiet. It is quite friendly in the sunlight of a summer’s day and I have often 225 . In that time we have lived in Dublin. and for a short time in Paris. like husband and wife. We sometimes live together.Margaret and I have been together for five years now. etc. objectively speaking. We once thought to try North America. Margaret. but Margaret has this hankering after the security of quiet treelined streets and anonymous but tidy semis. perhaps too quiet. an impressive height as Irish mountains go. in the far north-west tip of Ireland. London. From the window of my room I can see the mountain that rises from the front door to a height of over two thousand feet. sharing a small flat out in Streatham. I would like to try Paris again. I gave up dreaming of the peace of the countryside many years ago. From Margaret’s bedroom (naturally she and I have separate rooms here) I can see the sea and the purple hills of the peninsula. and sometimes apart. Greece and the sun. the scenery is good in this part of the world. At the moment we are living in London. health and security departments of several governments led to so much stress and argument that we finally gave up the idea. to spend a week or so with Margaret’s people.

beautiful.) I have never had sufficient reason to visit the remaining three pubs or the other shop. have I crossed the subtle line that separates outsider and local. I respond in like manner. partakes of this 226 . pockets of bog – always dampen my enthusiasm. I bow to this and go gently. drinking in the pub.been tempted to climb it – I have even plotted my route. sudden squalls. but what can I do? I chose to enter their society. I grow tired of it at times. Six children were reared here and the atmosphere remembers them with a deep dusty pensiveness. The surrounding countryside. treating them like mandarins. as I have said. The village is quiet: four pubs. all straggled along a mile of road. on earlier visits I often made a fool of myself by overdoing the greetings. one that of Margaret’s parents. one shop and two houses. only in the evenings. and then only to find myself adrift among the impenetrable and yet highly tendentious mutterings of sheep farmers deep in their drink. But the stories I hear about it – mists. two shops and about a score of houses. (The rest of her relations farm in various parts of the surrounding townlands. The villagers nod to me along the road. knowing by now who I am and probably a lot more besides. two petrol stations. for I have not the patience nor will to submit to it. There is no doubt that there were hard times in the early years: I feel the weight of an enduring patience. The house is quiet these days. This is my third holiday here and so far I have been in one pub. Yet it is hard to escape it. I have actually spoken to very few of them. the other that of a relation. I suspect I am being mocked. a view of the world that does not rise above the practical effort to secure simple basic ends.

and afterwards he pulled on a pair of heavy boots and announced his intention of footing turf on his acre of bog. I silently cry out at times. forcing myself against my better judgement to be modest and willing to do my utmost. Last night Margaret’s father came home as usual from the farm he manages for a religious community. My body aches and my head pounds. I have tried to evade this concrete sense of inertia. Margaret and her parents showed surprise at this and stared at me with provocative condescension. It is early morning as I write this. All the same. for I merely unite myself with the natural state and I awake hours later feeling I have lost some superior spark. whether in frustration and spite. We ate together. It is a foolish gesture. I do not know. be it human intelligence or mere wilfulness. or perverse worship.endurance and compounds it by the fact that it has existed for millions of years. Four cigarettes since rising have not helped an acid stomach. kicking stones and cutting at the hedges as I go. this walking. He looked tired and I felt vaguely curious and so I volunteered to help him. This seemed to relieve them of any responsibility for what might happen to me and on this silent understanding Margaret’s father agreed to let me accompany 227 . I dare not go down to make tea for fear of disturbing the still-sleeping family. and comfort myself with the belief that a man’s life is mercifully short. Often I have taken myself off alone to walk the lough. walking hard and long until my mind is numb and at rest. I reacted and insisted upon helping.

Time passed. it did not presume on some expectation – rather it originated in a deep well of experience. He threw off his jacket and jumped down from the bank into the trench. Joseph Stewart was about ten feet ahead of me. for I liked the balance and dignity of the simple structure. I nodded and set to the job with a will that was essentially charitable. and hopped into the car beside him. He threw me one look and resumed his labour. With mixed feelings of duty and bravado. then followed a path that led between worked bogland. I followed him.him. climbing around the flank of the mountain to a remote hanging valley. It was really very pleasant. I went upstairs. This reproach was not righteous. I was not doing this for myself and therein entered the element of play. He parked the car at the end of the metalled road and we walked along a stony track for over a mile. He drove along narrow rutted boreens. his body bent throbbing with effort as he expertly threw sod upon sod. wanting to break the silence. very reserved. He led me to the end of the trench and showed me but once how to foot turf so that the wind could pass between the sods and so dry them. Now. changed into older clothes and heavy shoes. It was an 228 . He sank until water welled up over the toes of his boots. called necessity. I took care to pile the sods with a certain elegance. until we reached a working no different from all the others we had passed. this quick glance was reserved. Then I looked up. but in it was a reproach so overwhelming that I started as though he had struck me. I said loudly that it was a beautiful evening. mucky sods of turf and pools of ruffled water abounding. The wind gusted and the sun sank in the west.

. It came to me. He was four yards away now. I shrank away and saw the enormity of my helplessness. I didn’t pity him – what would be the point of such a pretension? I saw him for what he was and loved him in my need for his company. I did not stand in a bog. I went towards Joseph Stewart – proud of myself as I drew closer. Fuelled by this love. I did not think as I laboured. He had a name for every ridge and outcrop on the mountain – animals and birds. and then it went away. to find reason to laugh out. did not see mountains. I looked at Joseph in panic. did not feel the sun or the wind: they were simply a series of accidents and collisions that implied nothing whatever about my personal existence. I looked about me – I wanted desperately to joke.. In my freedom I sought the company of others. The mountain was unchanged. I groped towards him. I was thoroughly alone then. eagerly footing the four yards of wet resisting turf. My body came to be racked with pain and my smoke-stained lungs were unceasingly stabbed by the force of my breathing. proven or exploited. it touched me. as was the ridge opposite: the wind swept me and sunlight fell on me – yet I realised that I was merely accidental within their order.expression no words could articulate. We had a few drinks together afterwards before going home. I was ahead of the world. nevertheless thoughts came to me. I was free. labouring with an even intention over those sodden sods. resting against the high counter and talking easily 229 . The bog had features for him – faces and curious statuary. it could not be justified. The sky heralded a good day on the morrow.

I am relieved. I will rest today because every muscle in my body aches. There is more human life in a city and. But it has taught me that my foolishness has been even greater than that. I overdid it last night. I hear Margaret’s father on the stairs. In the light of this morning it seems a foolish thing to have done. I am a city man. after all. 230 . I will have some tea now.Margaret and I return to London tomorrow.

IV 231 .

INERTIA 232 .

’ John Walsh said. He gazed out at the buildings that composed the western part of the university campus and at the countryside beyond. with incipient jowls. sit down and gulp a cup of coffee. John Walsh had sat on in the tubular steel chair by the cluttered desk after speaking. hidden beneath the vented flap of his jacket.‘I still can’t get over the energy you have. Round. running away into Cheshire. drowning now in the richness of the sunset. Richard Butler half smiled. His green eyes gazed attentively at the squat concrete structures. He stood with his hands clasped behind him. his eyes wide behind his glasses.’ John went on. ‘You drive up here from London. though their sensuality was more subjective sensation than outward expression. In response to the enthusiasm which lay behind the remark. half grimaced in reply to the rather obvious remark. his face was heavy and lined by habitual tension. mouthing forward as if to place a kiss. handsome. His face was flared in the light of the closing evening. and then jump and begin pacing about the room. his eyes enlarging even further behind the lenses. His lips were pursed. ‘It’s amazing. But at the same time he felt cheated to think that John characterised him in this way. waiting with expectancy for Richard’s reply. slim knuckled fingers 233 .’ Richard while listening had paused by the window. They were ripe and sensual. knowing the other’s impulsiveness. Richard felt flattered. because it did nothing to reassure him in the face of the ambiguity of this ‘energy’. One hand clutched the arm of the chair while the other rested lightly on his chest. his face lengthening in his peculiar smile. wondering what’s next.

half shadowed by a wave of wiry brown hair. have you? I mean. The brown eyes that goggled behind the thickish lens set the mark of startled enthusiasm that dominated all his activities. my life and studies are not so particularly attractive to you.’ 234 . with clear tanned skin stretched on prominent. The protracted silence came to agitate him.’ At last Richard turned away from the window. ‘Can we go and see him?’ he asked. ‘How is Bahrsan? Is he here?’ he asked.’ Richard crossed the room to the bookcase. The face that seemed to pop out of the black.’ Still Richard remained silent. Most of the students are away on Easter vacation. was long and thin.outspread and bent. yes. bones. ‘Yes. But things are quieter this weekend. he picked up a tattered volume of Walter Scott and flipped over the pages. like the head of an ostrich from its plumage. And he’s as well as can be expected. wrinkled sweater. he said. unformed by self-awareness. ‘Admittedly there were some interesting people to meet the last time. though shapely. Leaning forward in his chair. ‘He’ll be glad to see you. His lips were thin and naïve. ‘Yes.’ John said quickly. I’m sure. he’s here. They wouldn’t bring you back here a month after your last visit. Idly. drawing his head back to avoid the dust and musty smell he released. The brow was high and slender. You know he’s up to his eyes in work. gazing out the window. He’s very cut off here. preparing his thesis. and you had your little romance into the bargain. ‘You really haven’t come to see me again so soon. of course we can. His face vanished in the dusty gloom of the room.

Richard had replaced the book and stood watching John. and then carefully locked up. did you hear that Catherine Hackett is getting married in the autumn? Tony says they’re well matched. but the latter’s bulky figure and slightly hunched shoulders gave the impression of greater density and force. But from what I’ve heard he’s a steady sort of man. as if by having removed the distractions of colour and form. Then he sought his keys. John was some two or three inches taller than Richard. it could now allow the pulse of the world to be sensed. talking on and on. the night seemed to close in and breathe about them. the metal hanger falling with a clatter to the floor.Suddenly he was all activity. with his head screwed on right. by the sudden confusion of words and action. as if remembering a last piece of news. They walked in silence for some minutes. John turned his head in askance and said: ‘Oh. John opened the door. He jumped to his feet and hurried to the bed and pulled his shoes from under it. a solicitor. As they followed a downward sloping path through a lawn bordered by tall beeches.’ 235 . They walked down a short corridor and out into the twilight. He pulled an old frayed leather jacket from the wardrobe. pinned down. as it were. allowed the other to exit. Then. ‘Are you ready?’ Richard nodded. he turned to Richard and asked. When at last he had found his keys and stuffed them in his pocket. As he slipped them on he talked in fits and starts: short bursts of speech that hopped from subject to subject.

each hidden by his share of convention. Used to being always surrounded by people. ‘Oh. the silence was intense.’ Richard said to end the discussion. While John walked with swinging arms.’ They crossed the ageometric area of macadam bounded by the library. suddenly testy.Richard shrugged his shoulders and said indifferently.’ he said with barely concealed censure. ‘But you know she used to fancy you. having abandoned any attempt at conversation.’ Richard laughed in a settled way. Who knows?’ John suddenly darted his head at Richard. 236 . ‘That’s because you don’t bother. The library and the church were unlit. this gaunt silent place seemed to beckon to him. They passed between two blocks then and walked towards a door set in a wall. as if to say that here he could do as he wished and nobody would be the wiser. I thought you two would be well matched. Richard felt anonymous and isolated.’ I hope she’ll be happy. and the area was lit by high sodium lights. ‘Well perhaps they are. especially a steady one. church and students’ union. and open on the uneven fourth side to a small hill on which a radio dish was situated.’ Then in response to John’s continued gaze he said. ‘Anyway. silent now. as though his response to this was typical: ‘But I don’t have the prospects a solicitor might have.’ John looked away. Few people were to be seen. and except for the low rumble of the nearby motorway. went through it and across a garden into a two-storied building. It was full darkness now.

and swung the door open wide to admit them. thrown down on a sheet of foolscap beside an open book on his desk. Bahrsan invited them to sit. as Bahrsan occupied himself with greeting Richard. there to study our books without apparent purpose. The air in the room was warm and heavy with an obscure sweet perfume. as if to confirm John’s choice. seeing this.’ Richard remained silent. Richard chose to sit on the bed.Bahrsan smiled broadly when he saw Richard and John. noting automatically the moist warmth of his hand and the loose palpy grip. he jerked his head quickly and sat on a chair beside the door. ‘So you have returned to visit us again. as the Turk turned to him. but also as if in weak admonishment. We are like monks. His glasses lay. ‘I’ve already asked him that. locked away in our cells. and he could read the titles and authors on the spines of the books. John spoke suddenly and dispassionately. Richard?’ he said. There were two shelves.’ He pointed wearily at the bookcase that occupied the wall from the desk to the door. Slightly bowed. the room was so narrow. The other. ‘What you find attractive in us. Then. John stood on the threshold. he went and sat in the swivel chair by the desk and sprawled his legs out before him. Throwing out his arm to embrace the room in its sweep. The top shelf held volumes on Plato. Except that we come and see you. gazing at the bookcase before him. In the corner 237 . ranging from academic tomes to slim popular works in paperback. waved his hand weakly in the air. and got no answer. one hand adjusting his glasses. Richard shook hands with the Turk. On the lower shelf were books on Locke and the German Idealists. I don’t know.

‘I came to see if it was true that I have missed something through not going to university. ‘No. smiling.’ he said. he turned to Richard.’ Richard stretched on the bed.’ Bahrsan sat forward. ‘John used 238 . ‘I think I have become too impatient with my life now. Above the bookcase a photograph of a blond nude girl was taped to the wall.’ Bahrsan said sadly. ‘So far so good. Especially working alone. their paper and gum spines cracked and creased. I suppose I got tied up in something or other. Instead. I don’t think I will ever go now. Richard became aware that the other two were watching him. ‘If it doesn’t seem to arrogant. ‘How is your thesis coming along?’ he asked. and thought it better to work alone. raising his feet from the floor. nothing like that. ‘Yes. beside the desk. no. I came out of curiosity. a half dozen novels lay in a stack.’ He gestured at John and himself. Bahrsan tapped first the sheet of foolscap on the desk.’ He turned to John. you have life. Then. then a drawer of the desk.’ ‘Working together disciplined us. Again he felt that tension in him when faced with acquiescence. Have you dropped the idea of working together?’ John started in his chair and sat up straighter. awaiting his reply.’ He glanced at John. Richard. intent on explaining. You see. we try to understand it as you and those like you make life.of this shelf. ‘We have surrendered it. and said. ‘I haven’t seen you for nearly four weeks. Your impatience proves it. But it is very difficult. intent on Richard.

too. as if to himself: ‘He’s so possessive. but we don’t make a song and dance about living here. Dick. He believed Richard’s reasoning served expediency rather 239 . excused himself and left the room.’ John nodded his head and quietened.to come here each day. John? Can you imagine how foreign this country must seem to him?’ ‘I’ve never bothered him with mine. So long as we don’t get too nationalistic. but never convinced him. John leaned forward and hissed.’ ‘Foreigners? By the time you and I had finished school we knew as much about England and its history and literature as we did of Ireland’s. we won’t see too much difference between the two countries. We’re foreigners too. which sets him off about Turkey and its social system. and then repeated. Do you mind?’ John nodded his head. and work. He’s always talking about his studies or complaining of loneliness.’ ‘Can’t you see he’s lonely here. or I would go to his room. He. When he’s studying with you. ‘Can we continue this over in the Union? This room is too close for me. Richard decided he must get out to someplace where he could move as he spoke or listened. He can’s do the work before him without dragging the whole of his life into it. Richard’s bluntness always quietened him.’ He paused. he never gives you a moment’s peace. It served to reinforce the atmosphere and reassure us. was glad to escape. As soon as the door closed.’ Though he had not been in the room for long. Bahrsan stood up immediately. ‘He’s so possessive.

waiting for Bahrsan’s return. As I’ve told you. seeing as how I’m out in the greater world.than truth and that it was a result of his need for action. He had his hands dug into his trousers’ pockets. as if to reduce his exposure to the night. his lips pursed in concentration. Unlike himself. and his form bent. to walk alongside Richard. he came abreast of them. surprised to find himself suddenly straining within himself and feeling pathetic. Hurriedly he jumped up and followed.’ He laughed with a gentle irony. he thought once again. his jacket buttoned up. Outside. Bahrsan re-entered the room. as though there was some secret to be learned there. this time to himself. I suppose they feel now that I wouldn’t be interested in the local news. his black hair brushed till it shone like coal. Richard always pointed his attention to the world outside. a warm feeling of greater control and restraint. who was protected by a reserve. Richard and Bahrsan were already walking down the corridor. What Richard lacked. Though the air was warm enough for the two Irishmen to feel no discomfort. He lacked any sort of spiritual identity. By the time John had awakened from his reverie. and watched Richard. wearing a brown corduroy suit. But he was lost there. I think they feel that I have rejected them and their world. ‘Not since I saw you last. who peered at the nude. shrill voice. ‘Have you heard from your family lately?’ John asked Richard in a quick. 240 . Bahrsan was shivering slightly. is a private life. He nodded. Nobody needed him to turn his attention to a person and see the inner world there.

‘But don’t you miss them? It was a shock to them that you simply dropped everything as you did. John. Not to believe in love is to die. brought to this knowledge. ‘And you’re becoming bitter. caught between the desire to believe and the knowledge that he could never submit to believing.’ ‘It was becoming too restrictive. And yet he felt stronger than that someone or something.’ Richard said. Dick. And once again. We wanted different things from life. ‘Yes. on one hand. John. while he on the other was the sceptic. His voice took on a probing quality again.’ He paused. sensing once again the immense void that lay between them. shaking his head. you seemed to us to be planning to marry.’ John said with feeling. who said anything about love? When have you ever seen love that wasn’t destroyed by compromise? Have you ever seen lovers who know each other?’ ‘You’re a disappointed man.’ John was testy in an abstract way. more actual. He felt that his life served someone or something else’s purpose. so loud that Bahrsan looked up at them from his musings. ‘Anyway. he felt the old plummeting of unease that made him so restless. After all. without his ever understanding what that purpose was. But it’s a belief that’s beyond evidence. ‘You hurt Margaret terribly.’ He said this as a simple statement.’ Richard nodded. We should have ended it sooner.’ ‘Perhaps. After a pause he went on in a louder voice. accepting and believing. ‘But what about love? I thought you loved her. you know. 241 . capable of destroying it.

‘It’s like religion in that it demands faith. a gigantic figure praying with outstretched arms. Bahrsan who had been listening to their conversation. Then. suddenly said in an oblique way? ‘Love? We only love that which is unobtainable. from that angle. he felt the old rush of feeling for everything around him that amounted to love and the will to defend and protect everything. Dick. but with his doubts and growing bitterness. which now resembled. ‘Yes.’ They came out on to the area of macadam. too. Richard looked at him briefly. appreciating what he had said. and at the snub inert mass of the radio dish. With the completion of this familiar line of reasoning. love is always put to the test.’ John made a sound in his throat. Unlike religion. he looked over at the open side of the square. That puts an impossible burden on human beings.not physically. having walked down between the church and the library. and crossed in the direction of the students’ Union. there is nothing beyond the beloved to bolster one’s faith in love. belief without evidence.’ There was a deep resignation in his voice. drawn to it. But unfortunately. as though clearing it. and said firmly. as though instructing a schoolboy: ‘You must simply believe it. at the low hill outlined against the night sky that glowed softly with stars. for he did not think that he would be able to face the great void that he would create.’ he repeated in a abstract tone. unlike religion. 242 . he would have to destroy himself after his moment of release. But he knew that if he were to destroy it. John.

He was taken with a crushing sense of inertia and in reaction he looked around. I haven’t seen him for some time now. John pondered. wanting to get out of the university. filled with a sense of its own cleverness.’ His voice softened.’ He paused. John’s insight had deflated the expectancy that had buoyed him.’ John cried. stopping and pointing at Richard.’ 243 . His voice became edged with cunning. no. ‘But don’t you know that he has dozens of girls. You’ve come to look at your handiwork. the one you spent the night with. and then replied: ‘I don’t know. and again became edged with cunning.Again he felt isolated and tempted. though I expect he didn’t mind that so much. ‘Now I know. ‘Will Peter Yorke be here. Grace.’ John turned and looked at him sharply.’ Richard nodded. especially among the younger students? I expect he wasn’t put out by your need for a Sabine. ‘There’s more to it than that. Isn’t that it?’ Richard was suddenly oppressed by the place. to see how Peter has reacted to your taking his girl from him. ‘No. suddenly realising why Richard had made his second visit. ‘Why? What interest have you in poetry? You rather patronised him the last time. You know. do you think?’ he asked John. ‘I wanted to see him. knowing he was going to unsettle Richard. he disappears from here from time to time to stay with a crowd down in the village. to lose himself in the group of towns below. You’ve come to see that girl.

I don’t see Peter here. he felt. Peter Yorke played skittles with Bahrsan. their drinks firmly memorised.’ Richard sat down in a deliberate way. ‘We’ll see. nor that girl. the tower of the library and the twin squat nipplelike spires of the church reflected the sodium light of the square like shivered pale memorials. we’ll see. The untidy old woman who ran the place laid her huge breasts on the bar and watched Peter’s game avidly. Richard sat with John and some other students about a small fire. resenting Richard’s silence. to ease his discomfort at being beaten so consistently.’ Except for a few groups of students huddled around tables about the room. John said to Richard: ‘Well. And if you do want to find them. a great space about him. the bar was deserted. There was. John. He was surprised by his calmness. talking in a casual way. With a strong sense of obscure courtesy. while Peter was an expert who played with keen concentration and self-effacing asides to the Turk. said. returning his many kindnesses to her with this worship.As they entered the Union and ascended the stairs to the bar. musty and 244 . The air in the room was sweet with drink smells. Bahrsan insisted on buying the drinks. who knew next to nothing about the game. God knows where they are tonight. ‘Why don’t you sit down. John?’ In the pub in the old part of Stoke. When he had gone off to the bar. He was further surprised to discover that he had achieved this calm space by means of an abandonment of himself. Through the plate glass windows which composed the wall of the room on their right.

unable to warm over the prickly sensation of the rain which had come on during their walk from the university. but with a will-power that was a product of a self-consciousness that left her straining between what she ought to be and what she wished to be. in her manner. which was suspended by a chain from a pole on the edge of the table. Instead she was as supple as a cat. The hands grasping the pint glass were firm and attractive. between the fireplace and the window. also brown. rather than held by any interesting activity in the room itself. the flesh smooth and rounded with almost hairless sallow skin. which gave a clue to her body. gazed fixedly at the scene before her. Her lips were small and slightly agap and moist with cider. She shivered still. Her eyes. matching the atmosphere of the locality in its superseded brownness. for they conveyed a sense of practicality and precision that with purpose could give pleasure to another.ancient. Though she was small. watching the room. almost aggressive. not more than five feet two in height. She focused her eyes on Peter. They were controlled by some tension within. They were small-boned. Her brown hair was cut in a fringe above her rounded brow. for they started catlike when they perceived any movement at the outer range of vision and sought to nail the movement down and bring it under her control. who was about to swing the ball. except for her arms. she did not give the impression of petiteness: she was too short and sturdy. Grace Athena Saunders sat back in the corner. looking at his frail figure as it braced for the 245 . Her body was hidden in the folds of a shapeless white cardigan and long draped skirt. though they had been here for almost an hour.

She felt that though he might be toughened by his life in London. His clothes stood out significantly against the motleyness of the others. His withered left arm was clutched in against his breast like the leg of a newly-born bird. John. except towards his fellow Irishman. she thought: he could be caught unawares by a woman.’ He stood up and asked the students what they wanted. ‘Mine. Then she switched her eyes to the group nearby. Last of all. She drained her glass and asked: ‘Whose round is it?’ One of the students jumped up. It’s mine. There was a flair in it. she couldn’t tell which. ‘Yes. He did it with a seriousness that was either mocking or intended to maintain a neutrality between his world and theirs. I think. raising his hand to the student. he turned to 246 . while the tensed fingers of his good hand swayed the ball to and fro as he prepared to take the shot.’ Richard said. which enclosed the minds of most of those she knew. there were many parts of his mind untouched by study and unmarked by cynicism. Except for the visitor. in boredom or tension. except perhaps Peter. his face turned like a surprised spaniel’s. with whom he was instead light and bantering. held there for protection as a useless but loved object. an agreeable self-awareness that showed discipline with colour but also a cheerful liking for it. trying to remember the order of buyers. who bent their heads forwards towards the fire in conversation. He would have a tremendous capacity for tenderness. He thought for a moment. She felt vaguely relieved while looking at him. who had laid his head back against the mantleshelf and swallowed from time to time.shot.

Were all the Irish so naïve. Peter then turned and walked to the fireplace.’ He took the glass and moved away to the bar. was clean. At that moment Peter cried. returning twice to take the other glasses. The hand. ‘Howzatt!’ and grinning. especially the nervous clutching at his spectacles. Peter smiled. she felt a tiny revulsion at his willingness to please. Keeping her head down. watching his movements. fleshed and sure. John?’ he asked. but it was his habit to balance it lightly in his good hand for a moment and then press it back into its usual crooked position. ‘Oh no. The latter shrugged and smiled. Seeing that Peter and Bahrsan had joined the group. she thrust the glass at him and said: ‘Cider. It had not moved. he touched Bahrsan lightly on the arm. Draught. he asked them if they would have a drink. It was so sincere. then nodded. thought. ‘Will you have a game.’ And then inadvertently: ‘My fourth so far. as if to transfer responsibility. As he spoke he resettled his crippled arm to his breast. The picture of the two of them standing facing each other 247 . as would a child? Richard began carrying the filled glasses across. to be of service. But more than that. Richard was being patronising.’ Grace. grateful to have it over and done with. could well believe it.Grace and extended his hand for her glass. so eager to invade another person with their personalities. she saw. The last time I played it I almost killed myself with the swings I put on the ball. Bahrsan nodded quickly in reply. his head started forward. Grace thought that by the tone of his voice. John peered at him through his glasses.

reinforced the suspicion. Her skin prickled as she realised how sensual was his concentration. as considerate as ever. looking first at the rustic print over the fireplace. More than that. While Richard was attractively dressed. Peter. to study the bottles and advertisements. but seemed to absorb the details. ‘Have you ever played skittles?’ ‘Never. In comparison to the students. He did not gaze idly at the trappings of the room. As he turned his head. almost affected by them. and seemed to have a genuine affection for Richard. and an indifferently coloured knitted scarf wrapped many times about his neck. but as Richard insisted. then turning to the bar. declined at first.’ she said matter-of-factly. rumpled slacks. he finally accepted. He started at hearing his name called. not moving from her semi-reclined position on the chair. ‘Richard. and again became aware of his potential for tenderness. Grace continued. as though comparing them with others he had seen elsewhere.’ he replied. giving her due 248 . He had then only looked at her superficially. some of which were pre-war. looking at her fully for the first time since they had been introduced two hours previously. as she continued to study him. if only because he was tired sitting and Peter had been on his feet since they came in. Peter wore his old tweed jacket. When all the drinks had been passed around. Grace watched Richard as he stood behind the chairs. how much for the moment he was intent and lost in his surroundings. he seemed far more mature and balanced. Richard insisted that Peter take his seat. She was taken by his innocence. he seemed greatly aware of them. the ends dangling below his waist. But Peter smiled. a little large.

inanimate objects. As he listened. no body odour. he sensed.attention. her recession from him. standing close to her. She poised the ball and swung it.’ Both had a sudden feeling of comradeship. rising from her chair and flicking the folds of her long skirt forward. ‘No. ‘But first let me get some more of this. Having spent the previous five minutes studying fixed. It caused her reality to recede from him into the inertness of a statue. Now he saw what he wished to see: the untidy clothes.’ Grace said.’ Richard said quickly. knocking six of them over.’ She raised her glass before his eyes. holding the small black ball. as though they were preparing for guests. made him feel suddenly stronger. ‘I’ll get the drink. for he considered that only the most pitiable of the students looked natural in them. the sight of her vulnerability and. But knowing that he could make no advance to her. he experienced a rush of feeling that softened him towards her. and explained how he should swing it. Beyond that he noticed how compressed her lips seemed to be. You go and prepare the board. though it’s easy to play it. and the masculine hold she had on her glass. no more. and the affectation in them. nothing. Her eyes stared at him firmly. 249 . Richard stood head and shoulders over Grace as she leaned forward over the table. ‘Shall we play? I’ll show you. he became aware of something lacking: she had no scent. The chain vibrated as the ball curved out and then back sharply to strike the pins squarely. but glazing from time to time.

her face lacking the usual female feint of helplessness when dealing with kinetics. so as to put it among the pins. The ball grazed the corner pin without knocking it and completed its swing by wrapping round the metal pole. Let’s play a few games and see how I get on.‘There. keeping her face turned away from Richard. a good swing would make him boisterous. Grace studied her game closely and played consistently. While Richard set up the pins for the second game. ‘I should be able to pick it up quickly enough. so that he would ruin the following swing.’ he said quickly. Peter appeared at his side.’ He recognised the doggedness in her. carefully calculating each swing. The second game was closer. ‘Swing it outwards. She set up the nine pins in three rows of three and offered Richard first swing. aimed and swung it gently. you must swing the ball back to your left. She shrugged her shoulders. rhythmically. and easily won the first game. His playing was irregular. ‘It seems to be a judgement of instinct that’s needed more than anything else. as Richard stood back and watched Grace prepare a swing. ‘Missed. He laughed a lot. but not feeling competitive he still played half-heartedly. taking his jacket off after ten minutes and loosening his tie.’ she said.’ she said. ‘But if you wish to strike the outer pins.’ She paused. Grace played with concentration. the moral seriousness of intent that made her nation so miserable and self-pitying at times.’ She looked up at him. suddenly serious. Richard was more sure of his aim. Grace went and brought more drink. 250 . During this game.

Quickly and with sudden nervousness. Grace having completed her turn. flushed. ‘Well. if I’m up to it. went off to buy another round of drinks. But I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. As he set up the pins and then crouched to swing the ball.’ He stepped up to the table. ‘Yes. swaying slightly. Grace won the game and Peter. Grace remained beside Richard. though he had been told by John that they were lovers. he could not help noticing how Peter and Grace stood apart from each other.’ he replied. having got Richard’s agreement to play one game.‘Are you enjoying it?’ he asked. ‘You played well. It’s hardly known south of here. The politeness of his answer appeared to oppress her as she turned away the pleasantry of 251 . Grace was watching him intently. her flesh becoming an armour and taking on a sheen. ‘I don’t suppose you have played it before. her fringe tapping against her forehead. He took more care this time and pleaded a little to fortune to help him. Eight of the pins went crashing and spinning off the pedestal. her voice muffled. Grace gave a cheer and clapped her hands.’ Richard smiled. ‘But you could do better if you tried harder.’ ‘I’m sorry I couldn’t take it seriously enough.’ she said. she put her glass to her lips and gulped down the cider. and harder.’ ‘Right. her head bowed.’ She nodded.’ Nevertheless. it’s interesting. as if strangers. if you are up to it. I’ll give you a game when you two are finished. She seemed to become smaller before his eyes. while Peter said: ‘Jolly good.

aware of a new unease that cut him off from the others gathered in the room. the chain taut as it described a hyperbola. he stopped making consoling remarks. A sparse growth of hair covered his upper lip and straggled down the sides of his face. He looked down at Grace again. pained but without bitterness. Peter smiled modestly. The group at the fire were huddled in conversation. ‘Jolly good.’ Then with his first swing he knocked over all the pins. Peter said. When he realised that Richard was playing within his limits and allowing him to show his mastery. Peter swung it cleanly each time. Peter returned and handed Richard his drink. Richard noticed that Grace had returned to her seat in the corner. Dismissing her from his mind. who listened intently. and that his modesty and willingness to cheer his opponent served to allay his own 252 . and pointed at the chin. When Richard’s first ball knocked over seven pins. Richard on his part sensed that Peter would not play this game if he was not master of it. He looked over her head to gaze down the room. Peter nodded at this and said again. he could not eliminate the trembling in the chain to aim more accurately. as though to apologise for his skill. Peter talked with the old woman. long. her small blue eyes sparkling like little moist stones. His eyes were kind. and usually managed to level the board. Richard could appreciate Bahrsan’s glum face.’ His second swing missed the remaining pins. and though his first swing was good enough to knock over six or seven pins. His face was pleasant. he settled down to play more carefully than before.it. ‘Jolly good. the third clipped one and it toppled over reluctantly.

Peter took him by the arm and drew him to the fire. looking up and resettling his glasses on his nose. young gen’lmen. calling as she did. The man is an expert. for it was like a piece of white porcelain compared to the dusty ruddiness of the hand that held it. and when he nodded. They looked at him with resentment.’ She shuffled around the counter and switched off the light above the skittle table. Relieved. ‘Did he win?’ John asked. laughing. his face flushing with momentary impatience. began to drift towards the street door. Richard was embarrassed to see the hurt in the poet’s eyes. the three of them 253 . the old woman rapped on the counter with an empty bottle. Time. like a guardian angel. If Richard had more practice he would be as good as me. Just then. He turned to the others in reaction. They to a man looked in Peter’s direction.’ Peter raised his hand in deprecation. The students drained their glasses as though they had been waiting for this moment and stood up. even John. unwilling to test himself. ‘No.’ ‘It would need more patience than I have to practice that much. Peter smiled and clasped his useless hand in the palm of his good one as though to warm it. ‘Time. Peter won. Peter was talking to Bahrsan and John. ‘Of course. Together. reaching the required number of points while Richard still needed twenty.misery at being so good at the game and yet unable and. it was not a fair game. he guessed. pushing back their chairs.’ Richard said.

Richard 254 . intent upon ignoring them. It won’t take long. turned and looked towards him. he said loudly: ‘Why the hell didn’t we drive down here? Must we walk back along that muddy footpath. ‘Don’t worry. his eyes wide and wary. Richard glanced at her quickly. Peter? Because if we do. our clothes will be ruined. nodding repeatedly in excitement. standing beneath a street-light.’ Grace and the red-haired student joined them. Peter was clutching John’s arm as he spoke to him. It’s only a mile or so. In the brown gloom of the street. Richard drained his glass and went to the back of the bar to the toilet. hearing Richard’s approach. The other students huddled nearby. Richard walked smartly up the bar towards the street door. The student. embracing the glass with both hands. He saw Grace pull her arm from the red-haired student’s grasp and lean forward. Then she drank. and squinted up at him. nodding sleepily.followed. John’s head was bent in his direction. Bahrsan stood alone. The student bent over her. Then she lifted her glass to her mouth and bit on it. his lips curling involuntarily. but she kept her head down. she held it before her for a few seconds before opening her hands. As Richard came up to Peter and John. One of the students. came in from the street and pulled Grace by the arm.’ Peter smiled widely. hands in his pockets and head sunk into his body against the chill of the air. Richard. When it was empty. a tall red-headed one with a long shaggy beard. Richard heard the glass smash as he re-entered the bar. She raised her head. we’ll walk back by the road. Richard returned the look. making a resounding cracking sound.

’ Distracted. her bent form and her vulnerability. watching Richard watching Grace. swallowed into the vortex caused by the suddenness of events. and started up the street with John and Bahrsan. his feeling for Grace holding him still. to pull her out of her dogged seriousness and away from the influences that seemed to weigh her down. small and deeply hidden in her as it was. where she did not have to face it or rationalise and project it into a future for meaning. A sharp sensation of desire and pathos passed from him like a charge into her. he thought. deserted now even by the red-haired student. ‘I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. She was like a nineteenth century work-girl.thought she looked pathetic. Richard paused. ‘We’re going to read some Hardy. his past receded from his. She turned her head to him and smiled.’ ‘Will you come back with us. He wanted to make her laugh. He felt a sudden flow of feeling for her smallness. Peter made some sound. Then she walked to his side and put her arm within his.’ He paused. He looked down at her. 255 . Richard nodded. like a calling to order. and met with resignation and submission. The students fell into a ragged column behind him. a wan and flicker of a smile that betrayed her feeling of triumph. Richard?’ Peter asked gently. She looked up at him. Richard felt a cold wind about his heart. She was standing near him. she can’t be more than twenty one or two. and wilfulness. He wanted her to be clear and gay and quick – Good God. even her hand was grimy.

’ They walked together until they came to a telephone box. ‘We must walk from here. 256 . she found the door. then at Grace. His eyes mocked Richard. ‘Are you alright?’ he asked. her dress caught about her legs. Richard clambered out and caught her by the shoulders. Groping. and back again to Richard. looked at Richard. Suddenly she gripped his arm urgently and called to the driver to stop.’ Richard explained to the driver that they would walk the rest of the way. Peter turned and looked back at them. ‘We’ll have to take a taxi. Richard allowed himself to relax as it sped along the quiet narrow roads.A hundred yards away. oh. He paid the fare. His face was flat and calm in the dim light and Richard saw the acknowledgement and loss there. the car was small and cramped. She began to hiccup. She stood in the centre of the road. It soon arrived.’ Grace said in a practical tone. Grace was slumped against him. where Richard rang for a taxi. who had the butt of a handrolled cigarette in his mouth. unlit and stained with his saliva. The driver. ‘Oh.’ Her eyes were screwed tight. breathing deeply and swaying. The driver spoke a pure local dialect. holding his arm tightly. I can’t stay in that car. its sides emblazoned with the company’s name and telephone number like an American cab. ‘Why? Can’t you walk the distance to the university?’ ‘I don’t live at the uni. adding that they had not very far to go. opened it and tumbled out. I live in a cottage in a village near Crewe. his brows arching. It was absurd. Alarmed.

he quickly recognised. and gazed half-consciously at the dark countryside. It seemed at first to be a response to her vulnerability. The match scraped loudly against the sandpaper of the matchbox and flared. for the sound was languid and complete. He stared down at her. Richard searched her bag and found them. living night. and felt the rise of a huge temptation to let go. her voice now more controlled. The taxi. 257 . Then an uneasiness moved him to think of her as a woman and to desire her. with a desire for constancy and harmony. Grace inhaled deeply and expelled the smoke in a long ebbing sigh. then again to her. which seemed to Richard to be uncharacteristic of her. He felt powerful and complete then. Its gentle hum faded into the silence of the night. the shapes of the trees and hedges outlined against a purple. to do something that would be complete and final. causing both to start back. and could afford tenderness. ‘Cigarettes. star-massed sky. But Grace could not carry the burden of his overwhelming desire to let go and so it faded. He touched her arm and said: ‘How do you feel now?’ She slid her arm around him without replying and held herself tight against him. leaving him vibrant with a gentle joy that was. having turned. passed them going in the direction of the towns. then to the silent. She stiffened her body then.Grace was fumbling in her bag when he returned to her. In the silence Richard could hear the cigarette crackle and hiss behind him. At first he held her small still body against him as he would a child’s – protectively. a small vulnerable pulse.’ she said. and slowly she drew away from him.

To her reduced range of feeling and to her mind that sought for conscious equilibrium. It took them half an hour to walk to the cottage. and that her condition as he saw it was not a call for assistance or pity: it was the result of the singularity of her. her way of dressing. Here she looked up at him. She was afraid he would laugh or cry. Confronted by the directness of her attention. He compared it with the noise and light of the city. Grace remained silent. he felt larger and more expanded than he had for years. To break the silence between them Richard tried to express an emotion by commenting on the night and its silences. It looked foolish. until he began to reminisce on his childhood. apparently not listening. her drinking. or go swinging her about. making sure to relate concrete memories and opinions. he had no resources in him for pity.only a compensation. the vacuity of uncensored expression of emotion was naïve and threatening. her doggedness. The condition of her life. Grimly she nodded to herself and took his arm and drew him to begin walking. Then his earlier feeling returned. She was the only person present: nothing gay and shining and laughing 258 . all were Grace Saunders. He sensed a comradeship with her. fearing she was more than merely curious. her eyes beseeching him. As he touched her elbow gently to attract her attention. He spoke haltingly and generally. Grace looked up at him when she felt his touch and saw the bright warmth in his eyes. He was suddenly aware of her independence. and not slide away to the emotions of memories. He could only feel sympathy with her. he felt shy. He could not pity her.

A short driveway led up to a dilapidated garage at the side of the house and a path ran from it at right angles to the front door. he wondered. Did she believe they were real. while she went and filled the kettle. She fumbled for some time looking for the key. And watching her face as she listened to his memories uncoil for her. Grace motioned in the direction of the fireplace and sofa. It was modest. he could see the greedy light in her eyes. if she decided to return before they did. the sink piled high with crockery. a cooker and a cupboard. Old dark beams crossed the ceiling in parallel lines. She was devouring his purposely simple anecdotes. Her greedy humourless eyes seemed to eat him up without any inclination to share in the joke of it all. dull white plastered walls and a slate roof. a large ancient sofa facing it. To the right were a sink. As she searched she explained that her two friends had gone away for the weekend and had hidden the key for her. the partial truths they were? He was momentarily repelled by her. The cottage was on the edge of the village. first under the doormat. They entered a long shabby room with an open staircase ascending on their left. Before them at the end of the room was a small black fireplace. Somehow. with smooth. or does she accept them for the fictions. then on the ledges of the small windows flanking the door. Grace led him around to the back of the house to a door sheltered by a small wooden porch.could ever come out of her. she had never been innocent: she could not change. There was a small guttering fire in the grate with the ashy debris of its day’s 259 . She found it tucked into a corner of one of the ledges.

’ Again she nodded. ‘Five cats?’ Richard asked in surprise.consumption lying in the hearth. ‘The fire is lighting. ‘I used some firelighters I found.’ She put the cats on the floor. He found firelighters in a paper bag of coal lying nearby and broke them and set the pieces among the half consumed coals. Richard asked her if he should stoke it up. ‘There should be six. continuing to watch the cats. He could hear her calling names in the garden.’ Richard continued. Grace had left the house. When she reappeared she carried two cats in her arms and three more ran about her feet.’ She nodded. Richard 260 . looking about him as if to prove he had made some obscure tests to arrive at this conclusion. because he had crouched for so long. he stood up and surveyed the room. her back to him as she put the kettle on the cooker. and stood watching with satisfaction as the cats rushed forward and began lapping the milk. ‘If you want to.’ She emptied a pint of milk into a large bowl on the floor. He felt dizzy. She left the cats and took the kettle off the cooker and poured water into two cups. ‘You should be careful.’ Richard said. Feeling the damp chill of the house. ‘These rooms are damp.’ she replied. you know. ‘But I’ll leave the door ajar for him. The drabness of the room filled him with a sense of lethargy. or else you’ll catch pneumonia or something. I don’t know where Thomas has got to. When their lazy greasy flames began to spread and flint on the facets of the coals. trying to brush against her.

’ She looked back to the fire. He thought you very brave. It was any woman anywhere. anyway. ‘All artists are free. He says you keep denying yourself.’ 261 . ‘He loaned us some of your stories. And he could not help making her innocent now that he had a definite and tangible purpose for her. But he realised then that she wasn’t interested in his writings. and the ritual softened the edges of their individual and unknown selves. ‘But I said that all artists do that. It was provoking another line of thought. The image of her preoccupation with coffeemaking made her vulnerable in its simplicity and commonness. ‘That depends on which stories he’s read. and he was everyman. He saw that he desired her because she was a woman. She thrust one cup at him and sat on the edge of the sofa and huddled forward towards the fire. her cup at her lips and the steam warming her face.watched her speculatively.’ She darted a glance at him and he knew he had suddenly disappeared for her.’ she said in a muffled voice. Richard sipped the coffee and then made a sound. ‘I write. The breach of tenderness was sealing off and desire was growing again.’ Richard sipped the coffee again. But she remained practical. not because she was Grace Saunders. ‘John told me you were a writer.’ She looked at him more deliberately this time. uncomfortably selfconscious. She came towards him with a cup in each hand. Peter liked them. the steam rising and condensing quickly in the cold air.

The regret in her voice was so uncharacteristic of her
that Richard bent slightly to look at her more closely. Her
eyes were moist.
‘Everyone is free, Grace,’ he said softly but with
emphasis. ‘But only artists, as you call them, and criminals
and saints know it.’
Grace clenched the rim of the cup between her teeth
and stared hard into the fire. Then she said with a tremor of
annoyance:
‘No, you misunderstand me, Richard. Only artists are
free. The rest of us are...sinners.’
The last word seemed to surprise her and make her
more angry. Richard sat down beside her and lay back,
wanting to avoid her subjective anger. Grace turned to look at
him, preparing to speak again. But when she saw that he had
cut himself off from her, she clamped her lips together and
looked back into the fire.
Richard let himself drift as a way of avoiding the lines
of abstract thought which the word ‘sinners’ stimulated. Then
he found himself thinking of his childhood again, then of his
parents. Freed of dependence on them, he saw how accidental
was their parenthood, their motherhood and their fatherhood.
There was pathos in their self-limitation: his childhood
happiness and security, seen from his present position, had
not been worth their efforts, even though it was valuable to
him.
‘Richard,’ Grace said beside him. ‘Do you know that
John had a visitation from his mother? She even spoke to
him, calling his name.’
He broke from his reverie and its regret.
262

‘She died nearly six years ago... He was very attached
to her, I know.’
‘Did she really come to him?’ Her voice was touched
with eagerness.
‘I don’t know. It may have been an hallucination. He’s
under great strain here and he’s lonely... But he was very
close to her, as I’ve said.’
‘Imagination? Only that?’ The smooth skin of her face
puckered about the eyes and mouth. It frightened her a little.
‘Do you believe in God?’ she asked, recovering some
of her eagerness.
Richard looked at her, startled by her effrontery.
‘God?’ He thought for a while. ‘Let me put it this way.
I’ve a feeling of always being observed and that every action
is recorded, or anyway, significant... I’m not religious, if that
is what you imply. I think everything that happens can be
known.’
Grace showed some satisfaction when she heard this.
‘You’re a Roman Catholic?’ she asked.
‘I suppose so, though it’s years since I practised it.’
She nodded. ‘Then why can’t you accept that John’s
mother did appear to him? If the universe is as complete as
you believe it, then she must be somewhere in it.’
‘No. that’s too mystical. There’s no reason for
believing that she is anywhere now that she is dead, other
than in John’s mind and memory.’
‘Pah,’ Grace said, turning her face away. ‘You Irish
never answer the questions you’re asked.’
Richard laughed at her petulance. He put his arm
around her shoulder and drew her to him. She lay stiffly
263

against him, like a dispossessed waif, her cottage damp and
untidy and distant. The iron re-entered her. The glimpse she
had again of Richard’s naivety had given her a moment’s
ease. But his laughter had cut her, forcing her back into
herself. She saw that his tenderness and amiability were
general, not particular. He would be tender towards any
woman, she needed only to arouse his pity. The grip of his
hand on her shoulder suddenly frightened her. Those clean,
healthy fingers were strong and steady: they clamped her
down. She realised that he could kill her, without meaning to.
He was too strong and uncontrolled. While nerving herself to
break from his grip, she thought of Peter. He had looked back
at them as they left. No more than that. She was alone with
Richard.
She resolved to be practical.
‘Richard,’ she said softly but firmly to convey
confidence and purpose. As she spoke, she lifted his arm off
her.
Richard bent his head to her, smiling, and kissed her
lips. His lips were thick, but their sensitivity surprised Grace.
She suffered it, knowing that his hand had dropped away
from her. Then, when she thought he had had enough, she
broke away from him and stood up. Her lips trembled.
‘I want to see if Thomas has come in.’
She went to the door and looked back once at
Richard’s form before going out. In the small garden,
bounded by high bushes, she called the cat’s name softly,
feeling herself to be distracted, even fussy. As she vented her
feelings on the name ‘Thomas’, she felt a thrill run along her
264

body. She had had pleasure from his kiss. She panicked and
called the cat more urgently.
‘There are six cats in here.’ Richard was standing in
the doorway. He had taken his jacket off and stood with his
hands jammed in his trouser pockets. ‘You should have
counted them before you went out.’
Grace was uncertain. The chill of the night made her
shiver.
‘Come in,’ Richard said easily, ‘or you’ll catch your
death in that wet grass.’
She stepped through the uncut grass, her head bent.
When she reached the door, Richard took her gently by the
shoulders and said:
‘You silly girl. You should have counted them first.’
‘I was suddenly worried about him.’
He bent down to her face. She caught the whiff of him
– part shaving scent, part perspiration – she had a vision of
his energy. It went pulse pulse in him, and never ceased. How
many men were like him, she wondered. Pumping and
thudding, half kindness, half brutality.
‘Come in. It’s late. You should go to bed and sleep off
all the drink you’ve had tonight. As they say, tomorrow is
another day.’
He led her across the room by the arm. He had placed
his jacket neatly over the back of the sofa. Now he gripped
his tie at the knot and with one clean swoop pulled it loose
and broke the knot with practised fingers.
‘Give me a blanket and I’ll sleep on the sofa here,
before the fire. I’ll pile on some more coal so it’ll keep until
morning.’
265

Grace opened a door to the right of the fireplace and
went into the front room, her bedroom. The front door of the
cottage opened into this room, but she had sealed it off and
put a trunk before it. She picked her way through the debris
of four years’ residence to the bed. Most of the bedclothes
were on the floor, where they had fallen that morning. She lit
a candle and placed it on the chair by the head of the bed. The
room flickered into vision. Shadows loomed up on the walls.
Her own shadow was cast up on the wardrobe and seemed to
dominate her. Sketches of fantastic and grotesque figures,
men and animals, with grossly enlarged heads and feet, hung
about the dark-painted walls. On the mantleshelf, above the
bed, were some volumes, small tarnished caskets, and bottles
of pills and tonics. Blank and perplexed, she made up the
bed, conscious of the wrinkled sheets and soiled pillow. She
could hear Richard moving about next door. He was pacing
the room restlessly. With quick movements she laid the
blankets and tucked them in. Her mind was affright.
Practicality had gone to the wind. She steeled herself as she
listened to Richard’s paces. He was humming softly to
himself. Her reserve and suspicion of feelings were still
protecting her. She undressed quickly, throwing her skirt and
cardigan on to a nearby chair. She shivered in the cold air.
Still he paced. He could lie down, she pleaded to herself. She
took her night-dress from where it hung on the headboard and
slipped into it. Icily it fell down her body like a shower of
cold water. Her body was suspended below her, half numb.
Self-conscious, she felt her stomach tighten. She was
completely distracted now, shivering uncontrollably. She
touched one of her breasts, quickly, softly.
266

‘Grace,’ Richard called from the other room. Hearing
no reply, he called again, ‘Grace.’
It was the first time he had called her name.
‘What is it?’ she asked, her voice broken.
‘The blanket. Where is the blanket?’
Silence. Richard resumed his pacing. He disliked the
room, it was far too untidy. But he liked the beams of oak.
Obviously, he thought, they had built the newer frontage
about an older skeleton. The open staircase was dull oaken
too. At the door leading to the garden he turned and walked
back towards Grace’s room. The cats had disposed
themselves about the place. Some were foraging under the
sink and one had settled down on some clothes on a chair
under the stairs, its form rounded and sleek. Two lay before
the fire, silently watching the flames. Passing, he picked up a
book from the desk under the side window. Sociology. Must
belong to one of the other girls, he mused. At the end of the
beat he looked at the door to Grace’s room, partially open. It
was silent in her room. Had she gone to bed, he wondered,
and forgotten about the blanket? He tensed. He desired her:
that was the truth. He turned and walked with measured
threads down the room. She had stiffened against him each
time he had touched her. He couldn’t force her. He had
sympathy with her, for something in common was shared by
them. But he sensed that they were suspended at the moment
in polarity. He had liked her earnestness, her habit of
constantly creating purpose. If she could be gay, she would
be so petite, he thought, charming and quick. Then he
remembered her claustrophobia and her frigidity, and angrily
he flung the book across the room. It hit the wall and fell on
267

to the stairs. The cats looked about quickly, tensing, and
watched the spot where the book had fallen, expectant. When
he turned at the garden door Grace was standing in front of
the fire in a long night-dress, her hands limply by her sides
and empty.
‘Don’t sleep out here,’ she said simply. ‘It will be too
cold by morning. Come inside.’ She knew there were empty
beds upstairs.
In his mind Richard saw Peter smiling, his childlike
arm clutched to his chest.
Grace had already clambered into bed when Richard
entered the room. She lay with her face towards the wall, into
the dark. Richard undressed slowly, having found a place to
hang his clothes. He looked about him as he did, noting with
pursed disapproving lips the sketches and the untidiness.
Grace turned in the bed when she heard the soft lapping
sound of his feet, and saw his stark white monkish body and
the quick illusion of his pendulating sex among the clutch of
dark hair. She fell away, dreading him. He surged down
beside her, grunting as he felt the shock of cold. She hated his
eagerness and his childish noises as he rummaged like a dog
to make himself comfortable.
He lay on his back, his arms bent under his head,
looking at the flickering shadows on the ceiling. When he
spoke, his voice was rich in his throat in the half light and
echoed distantly in the corners of the room.
‘Grace, are you going to sleep?’
She stirred and rolled on to her back. She was dull with
self-pity. ‘Not yet,’ she replied with resignation.
268

.’ he said sharply. But what stands against it is individual consciousness. ‘You’re confusing superstition with belief. ‘Not essentially. as I see it. almost merrily. Sometimes I try to. He was a different person to Grace now. The universe of things and actions is inert. and the someone who watches all the actions in it? Is that not the same as believing in God?’ ‘Of course not. because I was raised as a Catholic?’ ‘Yes. it goes on and on as it is.’ She paused. I thought all Roman Catholics believed in God. Belief as rationalisation seems to obscure the terror to which superstition is the response. She felt a comradeship with him. especially the Irish. Something I see or a feeling I have. To such a consciousness the universe is an accident. Grace stiffened.’ ‘But what about the complete universe you spoke of earlier.’ ‘Is there a difference?’ She was bracing to argue this. Other times it comes in a flash that there is. but then everything seems so distant and mocking. ‘I honestly don’t know.’ ‘Did you think I did.’ ‘Not really.‘Do you believe in God? You seemed to attach some importance to the question when you asked it earlier on. and the life of the 269 .’ Richard laughed easily.’ he said. ‘Superstition. ‘Then how are they different?’ Lulled by the night and by his repose. as though he were her husband.. Richard spoke to the ceiling. She was surprised by his seriousness. ‘Let me put it this way.

’ ‘But what about God?’ Grace asked with sudden impatience. I’m only saying it because otherwise we’ll be arguing in circles all night.’ He paused. That’s probably why people nowadays believe that freedom lies in the expression of knowledge. But because it is a complete act. because they are believed to partake of the act of knowing itself.’ Grace’s eyes were wary in the candlelight. not of the object of knowing.’ Richard shook himself.’ Grace shifted and Richard rolled over to face her. You see.’ Richard said to her. freedom is an aspect of consciousness. take the word “universe”. and a matter of awareness. ‘But on another level the words or concepts used to express acts of knowing also appear to be complete. because it is part of consciousness. 270 .. staring at Grace. The act of knowing is always complete. It is used to refer to something complete. levels. say so. By accident I mean that the individual can find no adequate cause or causes to explain the existence of the universe or the self.. ‘Look. then. But she shook her head for him to go on. like the contents of the perceived environment. But this kind of completeness is illusory.individual is also an accident. But it is impossible for any person or group to list all those contents. For instance. ‘Freedom then lies between the unavoidable act of knowing and the consciousness of the impossibility of saying what you know. here. ‘There are two – well. if this is too pedantic. the object of knowing always appears as complete in consciousness. self-conscious. ‘OK. It is the awareness of these accidents that produces the freedom of the individual.

‘Putting it metaphorically. At once sublime.‘God is the big all-inclusive word or concept.’ Richard laughed in a yelp and rolled over and kissed her. freedom is the dark pit into which we are continuously falling. It can be rejected. ‘Would you like to be a Catholic?’ She started and stared at him in a speculative way.’ Something dropped away from him. laughing at her. ‘And belief is the rationalisation of terror. But not your intellectual church. of course. She stared at the shadow-play on the ceiling. Richard rolled away. conscious of taunting her.’ Grace tried sarcasm: ‘You had better tell me now what the terror is. but he sounded resentful: ‘Is that good enough for you?’ Grace rolled on to her back with a deliberate abrupt movement. He stared down at her. His delight made her cold again and she pushed him away without trying to make her actions seem as something else. guessing immediately. ‘Sometimes. then said: ‘Then freedom is not the truth. Richard laughed softly. appreciating his power of intuition. 271 .’ Grace suddenly grabbed his hand. ‘So it is the greatest illusion. ‘Freedom. I’m attracted to the mystery of it.’ He turned back to her.’ Feeling too confined by her coldness.’ His smile seemed a smirk or a sneer.’ ‘And the authority.’ he said. ‘But people believe in God!’ she said angrily. feeling at the same time a new exposure to him.

In the following silence the candle guttered. just below the ear. It was part of him essentially. Grace felt all the tightness in her flow. But she had equated tenderness with softness. she realised. Seen thus objectively. gently but firmly. She could feel his swelling penis nod against her thigh. Richard saw the hours of darkness that were before him. A warm salt taste tanged her mouth. She seemed to wilt down against his side and he felt her small smooth form press him. Convulsively she ate him. He turned and faced her. not something he gave to others in need out of charity. She had never felt so free. Richard fell back on the bed. Grace realised she had walked into a trap. her head buried by him in the blackest darkness she had ever known. the idea horrified her. brushing lightly along his palm.’ And it worked. She lay now half under him.’ It was true. And she had submitted to it. She had desired the tenderness he seemed to offer so as to obtain temporary relief. she thought.‘I suppose so. how cold he is. How cold. throwing shadows in splurges up the wall and ceiling. laughing and replete. He put gentle pressure on the hand that still gripped his. Grace’s fingers responded. Drawing up her night-dress. Thinking of what they had said. But it was true. he murmured ruefully. His desire flared. he embraced her. to bring her closer: ‘I suppose we all seek power in one way or the other. Abruptly she darted forward her head and gripped her teeth into his neck. and stroked her smooth back. She had never approved so much in her 272 . Now she knew it was bait. with sentimentality. The bed shook and grated and she felt the bedclothes pull over her shoulders and tighten on her.

‘Will I have a baby?’ were her first words as she came back to herself. panting and licking her teeth. you won’t. She wanted him to reveal himself to her and approve.. He was rubbing his face and chest with the sheet. you jumped away at the moment.’ Her voice trailed away. controlling herself. You’re such a strange mixture of daring and retreating. ‘Why do you ask?’ Richard asked.. hot compress under which she had been submerged. But then he entered her and. Richard rolled away.’ ‘Oh. ‘No. don’t worry. taking away the moist. with her.. Grace suddenly yearned for him to come closer.. staring at her. ‘Do you want a baby?’ ‘I thought.. contented with himself. He seemed at peace. ‘Are you a virgin?’ Richard asked softly. ‘The thought just struck me that you might be. She felt as though she had failed to clear her 273 . ‘No. Did she want a baby? As she realised she did. She had thought that this blind compulsive operation must yield a baby.’ She was disappointed. of their act together. But he remained away.’ What horrified her most was that she had been so unthinking.’ he replied.life any action as she did this one of eating him. The residual peace was dissolving. Besides. the whole moment passed away and her head cleared. but abstracted away from her. his arms above the covers. equally breathless.’ she replied matter-of-factly. She was afraid. and in its place the fear became horror. ‘It’s rarely so complete the first time. Richard was lying beside her gazing at the ceiling.. confused.

she realised. If he had. She had acted on impulse. ‘You’ve soaked me. and in doing so had submitted totally to this man beside her. she had acted.’ 274 . Her tone had been ironic and brave. I do. She realised that that amazed her. more aware of that than his words. almost gaily.’ She realised his intention and allowed herself to relax. bully for my body. She had forgotten herself – she had abandoned herself. ‘Is that important? Your body knew. ‘Well?’ he asked lightly. wondering if he had abandoned himself too. ‘You are your body. then he had not killed her.’ She moved her body against the thrill he was passing into her. ‘Do you feel good?’ ‘Oh. She looked at him closely.’ ‘Poor things.’ she said. Between her thighs was damp and chilled. He liked that in her. Richard turned to her again and touched her nipple with a finger. not school. Now she felt radiation from her breast.’ He laughed.’ she bantered. But I can hardly remember what happened. This is sex. communicating his well-being to her. ‘A million babies.action with some higher ruling authority. fascinated by the knowledge. grateful to hear him speak so openly. ‘But what about me?’ He fondled her breast.’ ‘Well. who was a stranger. She knew this time that the tension growing in her was an indication of her readiness to submit again. And yet. ‘Well?’ he asked again. ‘Yes.

Yes. ‘They hurted. He knew she was commenting to herself on her property. She had a sudden sense of possessing him.’ Richard heard the cold possessive woman in her. Richard if you like. and do women make girls out of boys then?’ ‘I don’t know.’ ‘Do men make boys. suddenly chilling.’ she said dispassionately..’ ‘Would they all be boys. it’s nice. She touched his sex where it lolled across his thigh. ‘Paul?’ ‘Well. ‘What peculiar things you think of. do you think?’ ‘I don’t know.’ ‘Peter hated me to touch his balls.’ Richard laughed.’ Everything is alright then.. sighing hissingly through his teeth.. Paul one. He was naïve.. I do. He stiffened. She slid her hand over the lumps of his testicles and gripped them tightly. ‘Now hush. 275 .’ She put her fingers on his lips. she thought: he approves. I feel you very deeply now.’ she replied. ‘Am I hurting you?’ ‘No. Paul two and so on. The frizzled hair tickled her hand.‘Names?’ ‘What?’ ‘How would we name them all?’ ‘I don’t know. comparing one piece with another.

But that’s hardly possible. yes. He’ll say now that he’s grown out of it.‘Do you often have sex?’ he asked. We probably passed each other every day without knowing it. though Grace understood it as a question. He could not imagine her innocent even then.’ There was no triumph as Richard had expected. she thought..’ ‘Love. slipping behind her coldness. she thought: what does he mean? ‘Satisfy me?’ she said. It was reflective.’ It was a statement. ‘Why did you ask in that tone?’ she said. ‘Hardly ever now. It hurts him. As I wanted to be satisfied. when you first met?’ Satisfy.. 276 . ‘Weren’t you ever in love?’ ‘Like that? Of course.’ ‘How long have you known him?’ ‘About two years. he says. When she continued. But he didn’t. I would have noticed his arm immediately. ‘Yes.’ She paused.’ So final. He asked: ‘You’re still in love with him?’ She heard the questioning. Love. we were both in this university for two years without knowing of one another’s existence. ‘Yes. her voice was withdrawn. ‘Just think.’ ‘And did he satisfy you two years ago. A year ago. but couldn’t decide if he spoke out of curiosity or jealousy.

hunting that which eluded her. ‘He needs me. allowing the question to move in her. her dream man – goodness striving for wholeness in the man who conceived her in a unique act..’ Richard said harshly.’ Something snapped in Grace. Slowly she quietened. But she returned herself. The tears were like hot needles on her tired eyes. whispering. Richard held her firmly..’ she said more loudly. ‘There now.’ she said forthrightly. trying to draw her back.’ She squeezed his gonads again until Richard gasped and clutched her arm. She welled up to it.. sure of his resources of strength. Richard. there now’. The feeling taunted her. sobbing less and less. His sympathy with her reached out after her. But it was only a gesture now: she had escaped him. if you think he wants to be treated as a misfortunate child. remaining just beyond the reach of her straining awareness. Her secret charity sought her father.’ ‘You only pity him.‘I don’t know. Richard held her still.’ she pleaded. or what he wants. He brushed her hair from about her ears.’ ‘You don’t know what a man is. rocking her gently as if she were a child. ‘We had a purpose in life.. His arm is so withered. The whole world rolled away from her and in its place loomed a feeling. fighting resignation. a desire. ‘No. She fell back into the forbidden past of her childhood. his one ball shot up into her stunted singularity. ‘I was to stand by him while he wrote his poetry and help him. 277 . ‘He’s weak and needs looking after. no.

’ He caught sight of a corner of blue paper sticking out from under a pile of lecture notes. He could not face up to climbing in beside her again.He got out of bed when she pulled away from him and padded over to where he had laid his clothes and returned with his handkerchief.’ Grace said. Beside her was the hollow in the mattress that he had occupied for the last few hours. The elegiac Romantic quality of the imagery chimed. absently looking at things. He drew it out and brought it over to the bed. Richard still strained to meet the mood of the poem. The bed was rumpled. Grace propped herself up on the pillow and wiped her face with the handkerchief. They’re typed on blue paper. Sitting on the edge. his back to Grace. The room about him was barren. ‘I’ve never heard it recited before. textbooks and bric-a-brac lay about on the odd pieces of furniture. as if out of nowhere. ‘Are you interested in his poetry?’ ‘I want to see what it is like. Clothes. almost burnt down. It was 278 . From the far corner. but the cadence was all wrong. he asked: ‘Do you have any of his poetry here?’ Grace was lying on her back now. over by the trunk. with a note of hesitation. staring at the ceiling. to find it worthy of Grace’s tears. the sheets creased in a million ways. She had pulled her night-dress down.’ ‘There are some on the trunk beside you. he recited the lines he found there. He walked around the room. The candle was guttering spasmodically.

’ ‘Some other girl?’ ‘I don’t think so. ‘I’m not sure how to evaluate modern poetry. The horizon – the reality – is the same.as though Peter had one foot in a ‘poetical’ world and one in a contemporary reality that was totally prosaic. Grace spoke as though from a distance: ‘What do you think of it?’ Richard paused. It was a definite force.’ he shook his head. looking down at his genitals.. you know. Richard?’ He rubbed his hands. It’s mine to look after him.’ ‘Do you think it is good?’ Grace looked at him.’ Richard carefully folded the sheet in two and placed it beside the candle on the chair.’ He looked at her. trying to be sincere. hating what she saw as his egotism. 279 . searching. how can I read them!’ she flared. ‘Did he write this for you?’ ‘No. ‘I can’t remember it. ‘But do you like it. The tension in the room was suddenly ferocious. ‘I’m indifferent to it.’ Grace looked at him with contempt.’ ‘You mean you don’t care about it at all?’ ‘Oh. The only difference that I can see between what I do and their poetry is condensation.. ‘Most of it is prosy. The mood of the poem hung on the air in the memory of his own voice reciting.’ he said coldly. feeling passion as he broke through his puzzlement. ‘I don’t. ‘It’s his business to be a poet.

but immediately he knew they were not. grinning obscenely. Then he distinctly heard a voice say in a generous tone: ‘Jolly good. ‘He believes in it. He held his baby-fingers in his good hand and laughed contentedly. ‘Of course he does.’ He turned and bent towards her. Frightfully.’ he heard himself saying. not for what he produces.’ Peter Yorke was standing at the wall. Instinctively looking up. They were all too human. Richard saw that two grotesques on the opposite was seemed to form themselves into a death mask. The passion seized Richard again. The poet is valued nowadays for what he aims to do. ‘What are you staring at?’ Grace repeated. 280 . like seeds of innocence. ‘Jolly good.’ The candle flickered. not the poetry. The poet dares to constitute himself as a poet. Like Yeats. Grace? It is the poet that counts. its light increasingly more yellow. taunting and bright with hysteria. his mouth open grinning and moist.’ she said shakily. Then the hate evaporated and was replaced by a childish vulnerability. His face was worn and white. ‘It’s a matter of intention. ‘Do you see. for instance. Peter laughed again and hiked up his hand on his breast to make it more comfortable. His eyes sparkled as indifferently as gems.Grace stared at him with hate. Richard thought they were the Devil’s eyes. above a table. expressing the truth everyone knew. They were every human being’s eyes.’ And was gone.

only served as reminders? All knowledge in defining something positive also defined something that it was not. what if it was real?’ He sat on the edge of the bed. A smell of wax wafted over them. With an element of certainty. But did Peter know that all expression. Then he abandoned himself and said: ‘In any case. Richard looked at that which was not.I think. The passion had consumed him. John. he said “Jolly good” when I swung that good shot. He could do it without much fear because it was Peter in his poem who revealed it for him this time..’ He got in beside her. 281 .’ ‘No.’ ‘You’re overtired.’ Grace raised her brows. too drained to care much.‘Eh? Oh nothing. The current along his spine grew stronger.. He nodded and turned back to Grace.’ He looked back at the wall with a regret for the passing of the passion. He went across the room. ‘What was jolly good? Oh. not himself. I know I only imagined it. ‘I had a vision of Peter telling me that it was “Jolly good”.’ Richard said distractedly. Richard shivered as a huge chill ran down his body.’ Grace said. It must have stuck in my mind afterwards. Then the candle gave a last flare of yellow light and went out.’ Richard’s voice faltered on the last two words. even the highest art. ‘He said it to encourage me. He experienced again the feeling of regret. ‘You remember he came to watch us playing skittles? Well. standing up. you’re as bad as that other Irishman. the pit. ‘Come into bed or you’ll catch a cold.

The impulsive urge that had made her ask Richard if he had given her a baby awoke in her a possibility.’ 282 . ‘Is your neck sore?’ ‘How? Where?’ She groped around the side of his face and neck and felt the small punctures on his skin. ‘And I never felt a thing. the darkness weighed upon her. I bit you. Her head was clearer now that the alcohol had run through her system.I am nothing.’ He jerked his head away in reaction to the sting of the wounds. She felt haunted by an emotion more immediate than her feeling for Peter. he said in his mind. prickling her in a way she didn’t like. Even so. You’re a cat. ‘Are you sleepy?’ she asked. And Richard was strong and energetic. he felt no distance between them. ‘You’re awake?’ she asked softly. She had vowed herself to him and she would stand by him. Grace had also been thinking. doing what she could for him. Grace stirred beside him. ‘There.’ In the dark. She had been thinking of Peter and their early days together in a mood of acceptance. It might not happen again that she would have the chance she had now. For an instant it was true. Grace. Spontaneity was its own moral justification. That resolve had given her satisfaction and a return of purpose. Then curiosity grew. ‘Not particularly.

expressing a cold and secret voluptuousness that was her abandonment.’ she murmured. the few students who had been in the bar already dispersed to their quarters. ‘It was nice to bite and bite. Together they walked slowly down the stairs and out into the night. Bahrsan and Richard. feeling the heat of his penis in her groin. John. They were a relaxed trio then. of regret. her fingers moving surely and lightly. But Richard moved with the earlier sympathy to think that he could love her. She was sure and purposeful. She could eat him up. consume him. She was convulsed by the knowledge that the night and its secrets was over. You could take it. head 283 . the three of them. hands by his side. She shifted closer to him. knowing it would arouse him. They strolled across the square and back along the pathways they had come. because there was no more drink and they had to go out into the night. John glanced at them and walked on. emptied their glasses with mixed feelings: of relief. confiding gesture. Richard was deeply moved again and he promised to come again soon. About them was peace.She stroked the area about the wound. When the barman set about putting up the shutters of the bar. their various moods soothed by alcohol. At the point where their ways parted. Bahrsan drew Richard aside with a diffident. glad that the evening together was at an end. taking command of that part of him that was beyond his reach. In the morning she cried when Richard left to return to the university.

Richard tried to be as decent as he could about it as he turned down the offer. shaking Richard’s arm as though to stress his point. You are a happy man. making conventional comments whenever necessary. that such a being existed. Bahrsan grasped Richard by the elbow and said: ‘I envy you. he inevitably became lonely because of the feeling of helplessness it created.’ He saw that Richard’s face was set and pursed. But more deeply. He explained that not being used to drink. ‘I think you are a lucky man. after trying very hard to explain what he was attempting to do in his thesis. Richard snorted a laugh.’ A wave of pity rose in him as he said this. ‘You get what you want because you limit your ambition.thrown back so that the light of the lamps glinted on his glasses. Richard. Bahrsan asked Richard if he would come back to his flat for coffee. Finally. rather than his impotent struggle for a synthesis of thought. Bahrsan began speaking. He wished for himself such energy and resolve. looking up at the dark sky. Unable to bring himself to leave Richard. He admired the energy of the man and his effectiveness. having seen him sweep Peter’s girlfriend off her feet the last time he was here. You are happy and that is good. as he knew 284 . remained and listened. compromised by the other’s sincerity. as though resolved on some purpose.’ Bahrsan continued in a pedagogic tone. putting Plato on Locke or Locke on Plato. Richard. He wanted Richard to admit all this so that he could go off to his bed with the thought that he had been in the company of a happy man. Richard.

Bahrsan. as if to make sure of being included in its appeal to the heavens. its doors wide open. He paused while traffic passed. heading for the six towns below. He 285 . seeing the confusion of loneliness. He reached the public road and crossed to the tiny island in the middle that surrounded a tall spreading oak. Bahrsan lifted his face in gratitude and smiled farewell. Richard looked at the Turk. spread out to the horizon and Wales. who knows? You might be right. Yet Richard nodded his head in assent and said: ‘Well. On a small hill to the right stood the church. feeling a massive complacency and satisfaction. he wanted to hear that ambition had a limit. He saw there the superstition of the intellectual: the belief that the pursuit of knowledge of itself was worthy of the suffering it engendered. sexuality and intellectual presumption.’ He drew his arm away from the other’s grasp and began to walk away into the dark. Immediately before him was the village inn.but was not at that moment acknowledging. savouring it in his awareness of the other’s ardent gaze. quilt-like. Then he looked at Bahrsan again. his hands thrust deep in his pockets. He looked about at the night. Then he set off along the path towards the gate in the wall. The early sun glared silently down on to the open country to the left that lay. its spire soaring above the headstones scattered about the slopes of the hill. Richard walked along the road from the university to the village. The few red-bricked houses of the village seemed to cluster beneath this aspiring finger.

brooding on a time completely gone now. But he being a stranger. one hand resting beside his glass on the counter. The sluggishness left him. As he walked the few paces to the counter. placing them down in a line with their stumpy fingers. as though to recognise him and claim him for their own. so many of them dead or old or grown up and like him departed from there. a happy focus. A group of students sat about a table in the middle of the room. Just inside the door on the right old men played dominoes. Even neighbours. almost everyone turned to look at him. rising from time to time to a rich burr. Teachers in soutanes and tight. complete and important to him. and with a hop. step and jump he landed at the door of the pub. Behind him the voices of the locals murmured. odorous suits. The pub had an atmosphere of contentment. The road cleared. He pictured quickly and with a start of feeling his childhood world. The liquid fired his throat and he winced as its cold fury slid down to his stomach. they quickly returned to their recreations. exposing places and thoughts and people that composed his life until that moment. He remembered his parents then.decided to have a quick drink. The shock was such as to transform his mood in a subtle way. The house and the neighbourhood of his childhood now seemed meaner. He ordered whisky and paid for it. It would loosen him up. for the last twenty four hours lay on his head like a compress of cotton wool. The inner and outer of that world dismayed him: he could not bring them together. At the back of the room darts were being thrown. But they also seemed hidden. He remained standing at the bar. 286 . something he was unused to and which made him feel strangely defensive. his world broadened. younger.

an uncritical and bitter memory stamped in his mind. he could see that clearly. He had been so at risk: but only now did he see that. Loneliness was either a posture of monstrous 287 . addressing perhaps other isolated individuals. The present seemed to lose focus. writing appeared to be a reaction to something he could not control. and recognise there the terrors of insecurity and exposure that surrounded his childhood. But that was because he saw them from the outside across a great chasm. Yes. The whisky was clouding his consciousness. The act of writing seemed from this point of view a strangely dishonest act. It brought him back to his present. He realised he had been bathing in the stunning light of innocence even while he viewed it with bitterness. he portrayed it for himself and for others as the act of a self-aware and constitutionally isolated individual consciousness. He could see it now because he had finally turned away from the past. of lack of consciousness. Isolation was either wilful or unavoidable: a vanity of self-pity or something truly terrifying. in this country pub. and because his feelings in response to these images were feelings that couldn’t help see the vulnerability of innocence. Abstractly. He drank again. That frightened him. Here he posited the act of writing as a gesture of self-realisation against the background of a silencing void. until he reminded himself that his present was in any case momentarily in abeyance. But was that true or just a bit of self-glorification? From the historical point of view. In the fading of that innocence he felt his grip on the present weaken.Their features were fixed now forever in a point of view.

egotism or a fundamental condition of man that could not be faced without risking suicide or madness as the destruction of consciousness itself. board and habits were attended to he would remain passively content. He had an air of animal satisfaction: so long as his needs of bed. With that he saw it as something that did grow from reaction. What he had done was to break away from that treadmill. He was pot-bellied and dour. Richard felt an unreasoning hostility towards the man and felt tempted to shake the man’s complacency. Then suddenly he didn’t know what he was trying to think about. to seek the truth at least about himself at least. He watched the barman come and glance at him and his drink. That routine constantly pushed the hope of human realisation into a future that seemed never to approach. he told himself. It was a reaction to a society that had threatened to drown his identity and turned him into a ritual that bridged an animal routine from birth to death. He drank again. Concentrate on the act of writing. And one thing he had discovered was that while the hope was ever-present. that his writing was inessential. But in his anger he suddenly realised. He would have cried except that his thoughts were abstractions with the 288 . tremoring. The feeling of helplessness was total. his face tanned and slack. It had to be. that it was a distraction in the way the barman’s needs were distractions. the possibility of realisation was also ever-present. with a receding hairline and a domed smooth brow. as those people were either helpless before that ever-present hope or else afraid of it. as though it had crept in behind the distraction of anger.

Close by. Oh God. He went out into the sun. he returned self-consciously to thinking. the clink of glasses. Fully projected out of himself. 289 . He walked past a ploughed field. But they have nothing worthwhile to do. Richard turned down by the pub and took the narrow road that led to the students’ residences. At once he understood. the church towered. the walls of the furrows glazed where the plough had pressed. Putting it back on the counter he nodded to the barman with a comradeship the barman would not recognise. So he questioned his helplessness. Men have the pride and energy to do something worthwhile. He heard the hubbub behind him in the bar. Richard clenched his fists tightly. how much I love! But instead of crying. The cars dashing past were inconsequential. the earth brown and moist. whether we like it or not. We do everything for each other. whether it is exploitation or servility. shining with the same steady permanence on the countryside. Human activity is therefore driven by necessity or a reactive wilfulness. the white stained headstones strewn about it. the sincerity and the cheating. A breeze gusted from the south-west. Behind everything. The university was hidden in a hollow and further sheltered by trees. He drained his glass. we are always approaching one another. chilly and sharp. he thought with a real anguish. a spring wind. he looked around to see that the sun was now quite high in an almost cloudless sky. a sudden laugh.distance of theory. any of us would simply die. his arms trembling with tension at his sides. evidence of generations. all the honesty and dishonesty. What is that if it is not love? Left alone.

In his projection. Peter Yorke was leaning against the radiator by the window across the room. They watched him. ‘We heard you were here for the weekend. He walked towards the block ahead of him and entered the foyer. the pines cold-green and austere. Richard pulled a scrap of paper from his pocket and read the address on it. peculiarly elastic in tone.’ The red-haired student stepped away slowly. ‘Hello. as though his presence was only a gesture on his part and the surrounding countryside an arrangement of two dimensional props. He turned down an inclining track. feeling himself being shaped by the sound. passed the carpark and entered a courtyard between the apartment blocks. Behind the redhaired student Grace was bent over an untidy cooker. as if the musicians wished to remove the emphasis from the blues beat. his hand poised at the bell. then turned and walked to the window. He wasn’t fooled by the necessity of its presence. At once someone shouted ‘Come in.Before him a wooded knoll rose. He pressed the bell. the only active human within their view.’ Pushing the door open. whose hand was raised to open the door. In some of the windows students gazed out. The cluster of modern buildings came into sight. to stand beside Peter. glancing away the sunlight. 290 . his shrunken arm resting across his thighs. written in John’s careless hand. He held a slim volume in his good hand. He paused. It was rock music.’ Peter said warmly. Richard had the sensation of stepping lightly. Richard could hear music on the other side of the door. Richard was confronted by the red-haired student.

having shown no reaction to his presence. Then they dropped to the ground. Exams. abstracted.’ ‘Ah yes. You’d need to rest. He looked intently at Grace. it unnerved him. seeking some sign of recognition. so as to stop himself turning and leaving the room. ‘Have you been down to play skittles? No? You should have got in touch with me yesterday.’ he said not sure what he was saying to cover up his turmoil. But her eyes were like moist pebbles. In the silence. Richard said to Grace: 291 . We have our finals soon. Richard turned to Peter.’ Grasping at the straw. You have a definite talent for it. ‘I thought I’d drop by and see you.’ The record came to an end and silence crept into the room on the tail of the arm’s automatic return to rest. I haven’t played it again. you see. I would have gone down with you and played a game. as they sighted on him.Grace looked up at Richard. Richard continued to look down at Grace. First of all I shall rest at home. ‘No. there was no trace of malice or embarrassment. Dumbfounded.’ Peter was jovial. The music was too loud. was turned to him.’ While Peter spoke. oval and smooth like a child’s. Richard said. pushing the fringe of hair from her eyes as she did. How is he? I haven’t seen him for – how long is it? – times seems to fly – almost three weeks. Just a quiet visit to John this time. I don’t know yet.’ Richard said lamely. ‘Well. glad to see you again. ‘Ah I see. ‘What will you do afterwards? Teach?’ ‘Oh. Her small brown face.

‘Probably? Are you thinking of going to your mother? After all that has happened?’ The red-haired student moved away from this exchange and hunkered down before a rack of records. Grace seemed distressed. as though it was a question she had answered many times. 292 . lifting his withered arm to his chest as he walked. Peter spoke to her.. then they lost expression again. Then her eyes were startled for an instant. Richard looked at Peter and then at Grace. He was numb with shock. Grace?’ It was pointed. She threw a pleading glance at Peter. it’s not that. ‘Of course I’ll spend it with you. ‘Two months sunning in County Durham before anything else.’ She spoke impersonally.‘What will you do for the summer.’ The music blared and drowned his words.. Then he came over to Richard. She seemed to be drugged.’ She touched her forehead in a gesture of self-reassurance. Peter looked at the red-haired student with annoyance. He looked at Richard.’ he said with sudden irony. She looked at him in an unfocused way. I’ll probably spend it with Peter. It would give her a chance to speak. ‘No. At the door. I read. no. Where else would I go?’ Peter pursed his lips and nodded.’ The red-haired student slid a record from its cover and went to the record player. his voice loud in the silence and a little strained. Yet he was not surprised. Richard said: ‘By the way. ‘There. ‘I’m not sure yet.

Richard decided to push through the barrier of unfamiliarity too. He suddenly looked very frail. The silence was like a mercy. ‘Let’s go into the hall. ‘Grace is not well. Richard. Peter.’ 293 . Richard followed him. ‘So Grace told me. ‘Vertigo. Peter started to walk towards the stairs.’ Peter looked ready to cry. ‘That’s why she’s so distant. to signal that he was not staying long.’ he said close to the latter’s ear.’ he said. he spoke himself. his eyes rising to meet Richard’s. his head bobbing as though to catch every word that Richard uttered. She’s on all sorts of drugs. Peter grasped Richard’s elbow with diffidence. Richard turned to face towards the stairs. ‘It’s a bad attack this time. Richard.’ He looked into Richard’s eyes again. his lips pursed as though considering whether he should break a barrier or not.’ When Peter clasped his lips together and looked away. not his own. ‘I said that I read one of your poems.’ Richard glanced back towards the closed door in reaction to hearing Peter speak her name. weary at having to repeat himself. feeling a tension rise between them.‘I can’t hear you in here. Peter bent towards him. But when Richard said no more. At the head of the stairs. ‘What is it? Is it serious?’ He realised he was responding to Peter’s concern.’ He closed the door.

feeling the thinness of it. Do you understand that. and I’ve wondered why you don’t write poetry. Peter?’ 294 .’ Peter laughed too. Any poem I would write would seem a lie. Peter. Remembering it. as though they had a life of their own. They were flexing in a spasmodic way. Peter. He let the words flow out of himself: ‘I choose not to. She doesn’t remember it very clearly.Peter was looking at his baby fingers. seeming to presume on some past intimacy. ‘Do you write poetry. he remembered the lesson of it. ‘I don’t believe I could find words to bear the weight. Richard was forced to expand. Richard resisted the intimacy. showing a doggedness similar to Grace’s. Richard?’ Peter suddenly asked into the ease between them. ‘I’ve read some of your stories. remembering the vision or whatever it was. to tell Peter about it. ‘She said you had some kind of vision. He put his hand on Peter’s shoulder. and shook him playfully.’ Richard wanted to laugh again. but he couldn’t find the right perspective for laughter. He waited.’ ‘Why not?’ Peter asked. I don’t. Peter. Richard. The tension between them dissolved. ‘No.’ Richard felt the space left for him to speak. laughing. ‘You know what the Irish are like for seeing ghosts.’ But Peter wasn’t satisfied.

’ Suddenly silent. When Richard made as if to go.’ He waved farewell. Peter lifted his wasted arm in his good hand and seemed to weigh it. He obviously wanted to say something more. 295 . knowing the irony and trickery of his retort: ‘Sure Peter. resenting the admonishment. How can you write those?’ Now Richard did laugh. ‘Because I want to. gently. dressed as usual in his greasy black sweater and leather jacket. He turned and put his hand on the stair-rail. Peter.. ‘Ah. I can maintain the surface there. The engine burst into life. There are more words to spread out. ‘Why do you write.’ He looked at Richard with an intent expression. Then he laughed easily.’ Peter nodded in a professional way. and said. John stood by the car. It’s. he said. But it’s also a first-class pain in the arse. Richard gave an aimless chuckle and shrugged his shoulders. Peter. Richard. blurting it out: ‘Writing is a serious business. like a net. Richard. seeing the nature of his own commitment.’ Richard threw his head back. Richard turned the ignition key.. ‘I believe in poetry. He felt very relieved. ‘I’ll keep an eye out in London for a book of your poems. Peter?’ Richard took up the reciprocation available to him. not looking back.’ The poet looked gaunt.‘But your stories.

looking up and letting in the clutch. 296 . Take care. ‘Remember.’ John replied with determined enthusiasm. I did a lot of amateur dramatics while I was in the Bank. As the car moved. looking up from checking the petrol gauge. John?’ Richard asked. ‘Look me up if you are ever in London. he called. It’s how you teach it. yes. It’s not what you teach that counts. ‘Yes. untouched by the elements outside.’ When he got to the motorway. He shot along. A high-pitched squeal filled the interior of the car. he crossed to the fast lane and pushed his speed up to eighty five. Richard remembered that John’s mother had been a teacher.’ he said.‘Will you make a good teacher. John. ‘Do that.’ As he put the car in gear. I’ll make it interesting for them. feeling a great force welling up inside him.

CHANCE MEETING 297 .

something that only compassion could comprehend: black olives. all his life – it was by now a habit – commenting upon her strange. He was turning the corner into a narrow street near the Luxembourg Gardens. his mind digesting the image of her. He caught her appeal just as she slid from his sight and the decision to stop. as though drawn back to reconsider a possible purchase among the display. too lacking in the placid smoothness of the Northern beauty – it reminded him of the sharp diet of the Mediterranean peasant. forceful walk. He was passing on. singular beauty while yet knowing she was not beautiful. Their eyes met. crossed. and raised her plucked brows in his direction. towards her mouth – lips and nails painted the same brilliant hue of red – but stopped when the hand was breast-high. and returned to meet once again. hurrying through the chilly streets to a nearby Metro station. last week. with sharp. attentive eyes. She was turning away from gazing into the window of a dress shop. something monotonous and eternal. filing it. She paused in the act of turning away from the shop window and seemed to hesitate. grapey wine. with a long sloping Cretan face – features recorded on the walls of Knossos – and simply. She was dark. having completed some small piece of business. that her face was too stark. comparing it to other images of other women picked up that day. then she raised her hand up towards her face. white bread and red. He was very pale. though attractively dressed. and a concentrated. just one of the many she had inspected during a stroll that afternoon. as befits the North in late autumn.The meeting was very casual. 298 .

to turn and re-approach her, took a fraction of a second: a
space of time in which he tested a number of personalities –
the passer-by, the man-in-a-hurry-somewhere, the virile-manconfronted-by-an-attractive-woman. He stopped walking,
turned, and discovered he was looking at her back, at her
delayed action of turning to face him and make the request
she wished to make. He saw her plump calf twist away, her
green shoe pivot on its heel, her full skirt tremble and fill and
swing, her slim shoulders under the bistre-rich jacket change
in perspective and then reveal the slight swell of her small
breasts. Her face came towards him, starkly attractive, a
speculation of beauty and its temptations, her eyes brown and
impassive, her crimson lips changing shape, filling,
broadening, then silkily drawing apart – the hint of saliva
along the inner borders of the lipstick.
She came closer to him: he felt like encircling her, like
walking around and around her – let her eyes follow him,
expressionless, impassive – let him put his own feelings into
them; let her lips move as they did now, soundlessly
mouthing words that did not fall on his ears, that did not
awaken his mind – let him put words on them, meanings that
would be meaningless to her. But she came forward with a
card in her hand. She raised it gently to his eyes, and her eyes
narrowed and asked him to read.
Yet he felt himself go towards her, growing larger,
growing more potent, more embracing, reckless – free... He
took the card she offered him – the scarlet nails were short
and carefully shaped, the cuticles trimmed and even – and
while he read the card he went down after the retreating
fingers, hungry for them, for their soft touch...
299

She retired from him while he read the card, one leg
thrust out, her body poised on the heel of the other. He read
the card with a fury, knowing that she was examining him,
that she would see the flat colouring of the Northerner, pallid
skin, the yellowed eyes, the light, undistinguished hair. It
would be poor food indeed when compared with the rich
organic servings of her land! How could the presumption of a
straining will, the sheer egomania, compare with the lithe,
disarming grace and ritual of her people, of her kind and
blood?
He read the card and realised that it was the address of
an hotel near the Opera. He raised his eyes to her: green,
objective, appropriating her with the sacrilege of
presumption; and met the calm, mediating brown of hers. He
spoke – harshly, he thought; she replied in French, a touch of
the comic in her face. He filled the space left by the comedy,
growing larger, ever larger, but becoming attenuated in will
and growing larger in service of her. He thought for her,
reasoned for her, persuading himself on her behalf.
Her face flickered with complacency: she watched him
impassively, knowing full well what he was doing for her.
He described the route to the Metro station; then he
walked with her to the Metro station, keeping close to her,
but taking care not to touch her. She stood by him in the
station as he showed her the route on the plan of the Metro
system. She stood too close to him, her jacket several times
grazed his hand, as he bade farewell to her, so that he offered,
and then presumed to do it, to escort her to her hotel.
300

They sat side by side in the train. His two hands rested
rather brutishly on his knees, he could do nothing else with
them; she composed her plump hands in her lap, all ten
scarlet nails in full view. Frequently he glanced at her from
the corner of his eye, at first submitting to the resistance of
her bistre outfit, but soon he grew bold or more in need
(really, it was because he thought he was unseen) and saw
through the fabrics to her flesh and her body, to the brown
starkness of it, to its enduring physicality, but also to its
responses and surrenders; he saw it then in the completeness
of its activities, and was ashamed. He withdrew his gaze and
speculations from its truth, and contented himself instead
with the public display of her hands.
In the street outside the hotel, she took his hand in hers
and led him through the crowded foyer, she oblivious to
everything, natural in her natural needs; he not there, but
retired to another purpose more respectable, where intention
could be sincere.
In her room, she embraced him once and then sat him
on the bed and went into the tiny bathroom. He heard the
surge of flushing water and she returned, smoothing her
dress, and sat by him. She placed her hand in his with
complete equanimity.
He looked at the hand in his own open palm, feeling
himself grow rigid: the hand was small and dark, folded
along its length, within the square of his pink palm. He
wanted to talk to her, to regain some conventional mode with
her, for the shock of being taken to this room had been too
much, if only because he had not planned for it, and he
301

needed to regain some command of her, through the objectmaking trick of conversation. He would have asked her about
her life and used it to project her into a past, so that he might
know her away from the immediacy of this moment in the
hotel room and then bring the image forward to join them on
the bed and protect him from the solid and silent vision of her
now, her hand lying in his, her strange face upon him, lit by
the naked light of her most natural need. She was shameless.
He would prefer her not to see his own desire, for that would
expose him totally.
She sat patiently beside him for many minutes; her
hand moved a few times in his, but caused no reaction; and
then she withdrew it and stood and walked across the room.
She stopped at the door, in the light of his vision, and literally
posed herself before him. His face was set and stern, he was
not himself; his cheeks were flushed, his eyes seemed to
bulge, as though with the force of will they tried desperately
to reduce the world outside to being their object. She didn’t
pity him: presumption deserves no pity – let it be its own hell.
Unable to satisfy her, cut off from her pity, he became as
inert as a rock, as natural and as final, and she felt her body
sag with disappointment. She sagged with her body, slipping
down into a new pleasure, the pleasure of future possibility,
not of some future act that replaced her present
disappointment and compensated for it but of pure
anticipation and faith in her own being and its future.
He saw that her position by the door was an invitation
to leave, that she was releasing him, and the thought of it
pushed him to a crisis. Now he felt shame: he was going to
fail – he was going to fail himself. He rehearsed the
302

possibility of rising and approaching her, of re-engaging with
her; though he tried, he could not tie the new beginning on to
the earlier rupture: it involved a request, really a submission
on his part – there was something he would have to admit and
he did not want to admit it: he did not want his failure made
public between them, for he believed that a past wrong could
never be righted, that experience in time laid down layers of
memory, as a sea lays layers of sediment on its bed, and to
pretend that one layer could be connected with another was
insincere and committed the impiety of connecting good with
evil. He saw her sag and saw the light go from her sloping
face; one leg buckled forward and her knee dented the gentle
flow of her skirt; he saw the hand rise slowly until the scarlet
tips touched her throat. He filled with tenderness for her and
it embraced her forlorn figure, the down-turned, hooded eyes,
the sensitive hand, the kink of her knee in the skirt. He saw
her now, the might-have-been; she was intensely beautiful –
because she was beyond him – and she was chaste and cool.
The tenderness grew fierce and began to masquerade as love;
but love could not find its object and so he began to pity her;
and his pity found an object and he came to see that he could
serve her. He shook as he rose to his feet and went to her.
She watched him come towards her. His eyes were
bright and moist, as though with love; but she felt no
response to him, so she knew he didn’t desire her. He came
close to her and paused, staring at her face. She returned his
gaze, knowing that her disappointment showed as a gentle
chiding. He didn’t realise that the moment was past, that she
had passed on to the future, there patiently to await the
opportunity. He took her hand from her throat and kissed it.
303

The act was reverent and she felt the laughter rise in her
breast: Pitre! Pitre! – the word sang in her head. But when he
dropped on to his knees before her and wrapped his arms
about her hips and laid his face into her groin, she was
shocked: it was a grievous wrong, she was no longer a
woman; he divided her, part chaste virgin, a mental thing, and
part an object for his service, a part that was no longer her
own. She shuddered when she saw the savagery of it.
He was abject and serious before her, wanting only to
serve her, to abolish his own will and submit entirely to her
dispositions. (That his wish to abolish his will was false he
knew deep down; he knew well that it was his will that
guided him, but it was necessary that he disown it, for then it
would be a better agent on his behalf.) He kissed her hand
and the contact with her was so powerful – it blazed his mind
with the knowledge that he was in command, for he took the
hand and he kissed it: it had not been offered, the kiss had not
been accepted – that he felt compelled to take a greater hold
on her. He slipped to his knees and threw his arms about her
and pressed his face into her body, feeling his mind and body
grow icy with love for his own success. The shudder was
transmitted to him through his face: he knew he had won.
She refused at first to go with him to the bed, but
agreed when it became obvious that he would take her there
by the door. He aroused her, but that was never at issue, she
had known from the first moment that this was possible, and
aroused, she submitted. She did not submit to him, she
submitted to the act that joined them, to the ritual of
lovemaking; but he did not realise this; he believed she
304

submitted to him, to his masculine will and force, and he
acted accordingly, feeling that he had the freedom of her, of
her being. He was not intentionally cruel, nevertheless she
experienced pain; he liked her cries and her sudden
thrashings, they replaced her potential love for him, now
gone; his use of her was a survey of the possible
gratifications to be gained from a woman’s body – he would
not believe it was a search, for she was not an end in herself.
Afterwards he went to the nearest Metro station and
took a train to his hotel. He fell on his bed and cried. For the
next week he felt as though he were dead.
Afterwards she didn’t cry, but she grieved, not for her
mistreated body, but for loss of innocence. The next day she
made the long journey home to Marseille, the grief tearing
her heart out.

305

ÜBER ETWAS. ÜBER IRGEND ETWAS 306 .

half aware that John buoyed them up just above the realities of envy and outrage.His fellow workers in the Mannheim plastics factory called him ‘Valsch’. John to 307 . he was shy of their bustle and tactile familiarity. and contempt. their frame of mind determined by the pettiest incidents. In the evenings they parted company and went their own ways: the Turks and Portuguese to their hostels. He was an Irishman from County Limerick. Grundstufe and Hoch. naive but cunning within their own societies. These swarthy workers. immigrant labour imported from Turkey and Portugal. who had recently completed his studies for a degree in English Literature at an English university. His tendency to adopt poses and attitudes best suited to humouring them. with the exception of the chargehands. and whether he had decided to throw up his career in a Dublin bank after fifteen years service in order to improve himself or had reacted to what he might have felt to be the growing barrenness of his life. They had very little German and no English. which he used sparingly and with trepidation. But in one thing they were unanimous: ‘Valsch’ afforded them endless amusement. John walked a tightrope of inspired social tact between pits of appeasement and malice. John had some German. and they responded like a good audience. John Walsh’s fellow workers were. no one was sure. though not without his reminiscences of ‘timely escapes’ from the clutches of a number of Irishwomen bent on matrimony and children. were cheerful or melancholy by turns during working hours. He was unmarried. He was in his early thirties. made him appear a clown in their eyes.

lay within the scope of the formalities of an examining body and the entrants board of a Catholic teacher training college near London. flat dialect of the natives. and the laughter of those at home in familiar surroundings. His studies were completed and what followed from a total of six years of effort. The girls. cars parked outside suburban homes. She pressed him with her hip and dawdled with him in a doorway. clubs and brothels. the rapid. her blouse open 308 . to explore. Between these visits he continued to haunt the town with his silent gaunt form and penetrating stare. He discovered bars. having no reason for this choice but experiencing however a mindless gratification on her ample moist consoling flesh. going off into the darkness of Germany. Consequently he had nothing to think about. an irrational but compulsive preoccupation with matters he could neither control nor decide. the cars and trams. the arm he laid over her firm shoulders tremoring.walk in the city. and found one big blond whore to whom he returned regularly. the alien pedestrians. He patronised swank and grub indiscriminately. He absorbed the names over shops and factories. but a lot to worry about. nonchalant but genetically purposeful. laughed frankly and bared his penis under the table and masturbated him briskly. Then one night one of the Mannheim girls was sufficiently attracted to him for him to offer to buy her a drink. all the while clinking glasses with him and shouting ‘Prosit!’ He walked with her afterwards. He made a serious attempt to speak his German. five years of correspondence courses and a final year’s residence. to calm his unease. brunette. he heard the trains rumbling.

its horn tooting. feeling released and anxious. At sunrise. silencing streets. With the exception of an occasional ‘Hi’ from the Americans. all 309 . he was left to himself. two Americans. Intimidated. as an invitation to group. and ran towards the rear door that was swung open for her. but his tolerance pointed to repeated experiences of this ritual. She tapped John’s cheek. It took him a half hour to do so. He was invited to join them. about four in the morning. The small backroom. Discovering that nobody had a home to go to. John tagged along with them as far as the station. until a car pulled up at the kerb. He puffed a few times on the joint before it went out and then threw it away.for him. they gave him a joint and a light. John tried to follow his monologue. until he came upon the railway station in the early hours of the morning. An American talked to him non-stop about Vietnam. but John preferred the blurring of the senses that the music imposed. Here he fell in with a group of hippies. They took him with them to a cellar where more hippies lay about listening to rock music and smoking. one French and five Germans: five men and three girls. He felt brittle and nauseated for a while after afterwards. disappointed him: several of the brighter hippies sat on the floor talking in a mixture of German and American slang. John distinctly heard the driver shout to whoever sat beside him: ‘Über etwas!’ That night he walked for hours through the dark. a fat middleaged man came through a door that John had not noticed and threw the lot out. addressing him as ‘Man’. In any case. her eyes so bright. separated by a dull-red curtain.

and once crossed the frontier to visit Nancy. John stayed at the bar and tried to talk to her in his broken German. He went by train to Karlsruhe and Bonn. hands deep in his pockets. As he remarked.the time overwhelmed by the brilliant clarity with which he saw his surroundings. But as John spoke to Rutta. He stared at her. grey wet skies. brought him to his senses. of all ages and races. with a slight northern accent. He ran away. John began to extend the range of his excursions. as it was that year. and Rutta responded in her practical way. The conversation continued in an offhand manner. made difficult by the language barrier 310 . One Sunday evening he took a roundabout route from the station to his room and came upon a small dingy tavern. to the famous university town of wide streets and gardens and. and in a way that indicated that he often remarked. Towards the end of his stay in Mannheim. The Gastwirtin came up then and was introduced as her father. amongst the tourists. whose name was Rutta. A three-way conversation ensued. and strolled about the campus. with the father translating when necessary. in reality between John and the daughter. eyes swivelling over the dark buildings. he suddenly recognised the barmaid as the brunette he had met weeks before. With his third glass she looked at him in a significant way. At the station the sight of so many down-and-outs. He drank beer in the student taverns. the father seemed to intrude himself between them. When ordering his second glass of beer. But his favourite jaunt was to Heidelberg. things hadn’t been the same since the British troops left. He spoke English well.

At nine-thirty the dull ache across the back of his skull became intolerable and he had to decide on a course of action. when it finally came to it that day. John arrived at the station at eight feeling extremely tense. but John. 2O30. nein. On Friday his fellow workers dropped all pretence and cursed him roundly in Turkish and Portuguese. Even so. mounting desperation and significant looks. but John could not understand.and the fact that the father’s blunt body stiffened and filled the spaces between the words. beim Bahnhof. They would have beaten him up if things warranted that. She shook her said and said. In the factory. was even more wretched than they to their way of thinking. pointing a stubby finger. She tried to explain. This tension reached its first peak at eight-thirty and then sagged as the minutes passed and Rutta did not appear. 311 . He went that evening to the tavern and sat at a table at the back of the room and watched Rutta. the chargehand came and dismissed him on the spot. ‘Nein. In the factory on the following day his preoccupation with Rutta dampened the spirits of his fellow workers. John went to his room and thought about Rutta. Later that night he dreamed of her. Mein Vater’. Tuesday and Wednesday likewise in the factory and the tavern. Thursday evening he asked her to come out with him. On Friday evening Rutta slipped him a small square of cardboard on which was written: Morgen abend. She threw a frightened glance towards the backroom of the tavern. malice and anger. in the tavern.

and the shock of it threw him to his knees. He whistled softly. Rutta reappeared at the window. he saw Rutta silhouetted against the drawn blind in what was obviously her room. He continued singing. fascinated to see her pull her blouse up over her head. John shook with excitement at seeing this apparition. She shook her head violently. hearing John sing and knowing he saw her. it was The Rose of Tralee. It grasped Rutta’s shoulder and jerked her away from the window. and that she was not to blame. The blind was lifted and Rutta’s face was pressed against the window for an instant. her breasts quivering as she fought to break her father’s grasp. From that position he saw the father embrace his daughter and finally drag her away from the window. This brought John to his climax. He recognised the air. Still on his knees.He walked quickly to the tavern and discovered it in darkness. Above the silent bar. She stood erect before the window and fumbled at her waist. John was surprised to find calm in him in place of the 312 . head bowed and silence all around him. afraid to break his last tenuous line with her. The silhouette moved. This was shorter and stockier. He guessed why she had not come. but his mouth was too dry. He moistened his mouth and began to sing instead. head thrown back. She cupped her breasts in her hands and stood there. John saw that she was crying. Then she turned at an angle and unhooked her bra. John was close to the point of ejaculation when a second silhouette suddenly entered the frame of the window. John’s singing faltered and he became weak at the knees. John sang more loudly.

. But then he saw her breasts again and the thought return in a more frightening form: Was Rutta the same girl as. But to. who? Then he knew he would never escape this moment.’ 313 ... ‘Oh. who? There was no one there.habitual clamour. Then a totally irrelevant thought came to him: Was Rutta the same girl? He instantly dismissed the thought and sought the calm again. All he could do was to return home. He grasped at this calm. Mamma. sinking into it. Like a prayer. John breathed..

REHEARSALS 314 .

as did most of the people at the party. I watched her breasts swing and tremble.The two of them stood apart from the crowded and noisy red room. though they were obviously aware of each other’s presence. I stepped closer to her and said ‘Enjoying yourself?’ I could have 315 . if mildly self-protective. and I realised she was not going to run back to her station by the fire. I remained a respectable distance from her. her face that rather fixed handsomeness. She must have been in her mid-twenties – her body had that mature fullness. I had been about to change my expression from polite interest to one of So-what?-I-wasonly-doing-you-a-favour when she decided to accept my offer. with a certain inward concentration. spancelled by habits of companionship? I had never seen either before. When the record came to an end. one on either side of the unlit gasfire. She danced. curiosity. and watched her while giving both of us time to settle down together in this ritual of dance. She started when I spoke to her and looked at me with unapproachable disdain. They did not look at each other. She did not even once glance at me. Her breasts were full under the blue silk-like dress and they swung nicely to the rhythm of the rest of her body. Reluctant friends. yet she condescended to dance with me. both turned slightly away from the room and in towards this alcove. waving my arms and kicking my feet out. I asked the older of the two. My eyes remained there and I became agreeably enthralled by them. which was surmounted by an alcove faced with copper sheet. and I quickly replaced both with an ironic. She took two steps away from the fireplace and began to wave her arms and kick her feet out. and felt nice.

By straining my eyes I could see a couple of inches down into her cleavage. So. If she had wanted to jig and swing to it I would have submitted gracefully.answered this question for myself without troubling her. However. and I let her make the first move. lift left. I did so coolly. arms out. She had taken trouble with her dress and toilet. They smelled nice. if it could be called that. just waiting for me to take her in my arms. lightly tanned and freckled. this time in slow tempo. something neutral and uncontroversial. but I had to say something. too. and so on. perhaps. which was a pity. This raised my enthralment a notch. I held her hand out from her hip. I am too worn down by these parties by now to play the role of hero-as-an-original-man. not hurrying it. moving around with a certain amount of 316 . and laid a limp arm about her waist and took her slightly moist palm in against mine. would have been preferable. lift right. hoping for nothing. she turned and stanced herself before me. but they had a nice shape to them: fleshy. but I did that only once and then returned to studying her shoulders. Our steps were elementary. She remained inert. even a one-look-andone-smile friend. Not obviously stimulating. I was cool. She did not once look at me during this manoeuvre. She did no more than throw me one silencing glance and return to gazing at some obscure segment of the wallpaper on the opposite wall. I didn’t mind. I simply enjoyed the sight and knowledge of her. putting a little tension into it so as to put a little tension into our dancing. for now I was dancing with a stranger when a friend. and at the upper reaches of her breasts. I stood close to her and looked down at her shoulders and chest. However. A new record was put on.

so I studied it. with reaches of green and flecks of yellow. but if I had been a tailor’s dummy it would have made no difference to her. because it was a reflex. The record came to an end. her hand rested on my shoulder. And her iris was hazel. Instead. Her cheek was close. She was attractive and kissable. Then the eye rolled and her pupil lit upon me and I saw an elongated version of my own head in it.rhythm. No. Her eyes had been given a lot of attention. Which means she looked at me looking at her. As usual. brows trimmed and darkened – the white of her eye was brilliant marble by contrast. 317 . It was a non-plus moment. I made the most of it. an assortment of creams layered on with some expertise. nor because I had reached the peak of some burning desire for her body equally as suddenly. so why not? However. A habit. I didn’t. I let my eyes drop down her body. Her make-up was heavy. I lifted my head back and focused upon the wall nearby. a fullscale world of its own. a number of subtle shades of pink/red were discernible before one reached the opacity of the undercoats and her skin. tremulous in reaction to the lights and atmosphere of the room. The dress reached just below her knees and hung in such a way as to cover her legs and ankles from this angle. In fact. I wanted to kiss her brow. I kept my arm about her waist and she did not struggle to escape its patronage. seeing at the edge of my vision her brown dark hair. I could make out the light down that covered her cheek and trailed down from her hair on her neck and forehead. contracting and expanding as though a heart alive. Mascaras and shadow. a surprisingly pleasing contrast at that distance. No matter. Not because I was violently in love with her all of a sudden.

What were another girl’s breasts. for her nipples were embossed on the fabric of her dress. how soft they were. tinted red by the lamps of the room. They were lightly protected. Another record. among so many girl’s breasts. regardless of how full. full. Her breasts were full. In an instant. To save myself. so there was nothing to go wild about. I tightened my embrace of her waist and nothing happened. between two steps. Her breasts grazed my shirt front and if I had wanted to concentrate enough perhaps I could have separated the minor impression of her nipples within the major impression of her breasts. round and ample. What new thing could be discovered at another party? when all the new things had been revealed during the first dozen or so parties. and. slid past my eves. except that now and again her breasts grazed my chest. and the pale wallpaper. as I have said. We danced. I tightened my embrace of her waist. some full and soft? What was another girl? another rehearsal of some well-worn mystery of sex? when there had been many girls. This had happened before. this time pluckier because the flesh was more alive and 318 . I was cold and depressed. very soft. But why bother? I knew without having to concentrate that hidden within the soft resistance and then the trembling waver there was another encounter. many rehearsals. I was sure. We took our places in each other’s arms again and recommenced our two-step shuffle. many times. quick plunge of depression and it passed quickly. from this angle they filled my vision. again slow.I record a fact: it wasn’t important at that moment. It was a small. There was enough to see as it was without needing the supplementary delights of her legs.

her style of dancing changed. except that perhaps the caressing of her breasts had caused her to lose control of herself. press her back and so squash 319 . her arm about my shoulder reeling me in and closing about my neck. but none the worse for that: touch her buttocks and her groin pressed mine. Her breasts crushed against me. my arms around a slimmer girl: delighted arms. She came closer to me. And the easiest thing to do is to change. Her mouth turned and opened upon my neck. Her hand in my hair. It returned with the knowledge that though the images of her breast and nipple were true. like the first time. So I contemplated a drink and a cigarette. I was comforted. they were neither real nor moving. She loosed my hand and wrapped her now free arm across my back. I thought this and knew then that I was not going to evade the depression that easily. Her hair fell across my face. more trusting. soft but now amorphous. blessed body. I laid my freed hand across her back and returned her hugs to encourage her to continue them. Suddenly then. Why this change? I didn’t know.assertive. at some long forgotten party for teenagers. Something else would have to be done. liking their projection: this was reflex. I didn’t think too much about it. She did. Her belly and groin confronted mine. And here the mystery began again and I was ever young. a generous acknowledgement of what was granted by us both to both – a cleaner hinterland. I caressed the back presented to my hands and pressed the breasts in against my chest the more to please her and myself: in time I reached her buttocks and skated over them speculatively. oh more loving for being more innocent.

What had happened wasn’t all that unusual. I was glad it hadn’t and I hadn’t. As though nothing had happened. head down. Better a bad ejaculation than being lost in time. A kind of panic: trying to escape the unavoidable by rushing it to its conclusion. The trembling subsided and I poured more gin and tonic. I poured myself another drink.further her breasts – and she encouraged this by pressing and gouging her own breasts of her own accord against my manly. I trembled all the way down the short hall into the kitchen. Paroxysm. 320 . Yet it hadn’t ended like that. standing on her side of the fire. Time to rejoin the party. She had nearly succeeded. I traced her cleavage down and she came in against me as though we were mated. Then the record was over and she was away. No ice. Is there anything more useless than a walking-wank with a one-dance-girl? Is there anything as bitter? I lit a cigarette and very soon I was quite elated. I drank the sweet concoction with little pleasure.. she was very desirable.. A shy girl suddenly tearing loose. and back with her friend. Yes. I poured some gin into a glass and splashed in tonic. bonehard chest. I had brought her close to me so I too could get over the top as quickly and as cleanly as possible and get it over with before the deja vu and the regret got there first. If the dance had lasted another five seconds I would have spilled. And another thing: the compulsion to force a hurried climax betrayed an underlying desire to make love in a more amiable and extended manner. I realised then that I had reacted to my depression by doing the same thing.

buoyed up by a nostalgia for what might have been. Ah. What did it imply? Something sinister? The girl I had danced with stood with one knee bent forward. is protecting who? They ran. the two of them ran from the room. Suddenly.The two of them still stood apart from the crowded and noisy red room. The rise and fall of her breasts. among the few couples that danced. And it was further darkened by the appearance of a young man with a sallow face and long lank black hair in the centre of the room. The fingers. Surprise. Both threw me glances as they ran. Significant? What coursed in her blood? Had she not recovered as quickly as me? One hand rested. I tingled in memory: it was poetic. however. Surprise. I wondered. and in the poetry the pain of regret. She expressed a clean nubility and an unsure mixture of smugness and grace. The slight concavity of her back above the swell of her buttocks. Surprise? If it was.. on the wall beside the alcove. He searched the room 321 . surprise. They were an intriguing couple. it was also comical. I was piqued. One on either side of the unlit gasfire. you will note. and the room was darker and duller for their absence.. were bent and pressed together. The younger girl looked no more than eighteen. the delicate shading about them creating perspective and allowing me to envisage their depth as well as their contour. fingers splayed. Another sign? This was her left hand and on the third finger a slim band of gold. I lit a cigarette. I became somewhat abstracted. the other hung loosely at her side. Both. Each turned slightly away from the room and in towards the copper-faced alcove. so that it left its imprint on her dress. Who.

Before I had reached the door I heard the shouts.with every indication of panic and potential violence. A husband or a serious boyfriend. And a searching husband or boyfriend. She did not wait for her husband to come and protect her (he was in the front room talking to Paul and Jill Macmahon). but found no spoor. as though throwing down the gauntlet of I-dareyou-and-I’ll-kick-your-balls-in and said with great precision: ‘I don’t know where she is’. but I decided I would go and pour myself another drink. stood opposite him: a slim. he hurried from the room. his panic. whose house and party it was. A missing wife or girlfriend. including me. He was a husband and he searched for his wife in the blue silk-like dress. I was not necessarily curious. his bad manners. Most people present were wide-eyed. I knew what he 322 . athletic figure with pretty blond hair. his utter futility. she threw out an arm. The Teenager was much too smug to deserve this chap on her tail. The lank-haired husband was saying. If it had been a play or a film I would have laughed at this point. shapely nails begrimed): ‘Paula Nicholson!’ as though this explained everything. Sandra. Let him search. He looked at everybody. And I had a part. a small part offstage. finger-joints white. It was fairly real and therefore it could bite. tensely and almost in entreaty (he was back to the wall. And drunk. one hand flat against it. Instead. the general rumpus of enforced restraint. One and one makes two. But it wasn’t and I didn’t. Helplessly. He repeated ‘Paula Nicholson’ a few times and Sandra replied ‘I don’t know where she is’ in response and then both of them seemed to deflate. That much I guessed. The kitchen was in emotional disorder. and a bottle or two crash.

he managed to bring the room to some kind of order. We had celebrated the novelty of its being her first time with a man 323 . Sandra and I had escaped once from a party up the road and slipped in through this front door. He immediately ordered a search of the house. came into the room. glazed. The lank-haired Mr Nicholson explained himself and Sandra explained something and Simon listened patiently to both of them. Just then. and even led Mr Nicholson up the stairs to the bedrooms. If it had been the police. for instance. Nor did Sandra. he was ready to wreck the place.’ I found the tonic easily enough and splashed some in on top of the gin. Simon. with or without a warrant. She pushed her hair off her forehead. Anyone could slip in as someone went out. I reached over for it as Sandra continued: ‘How on earth did he get in? I gave strict instructions that no gate-crashers were to be let in. Sandra’s husband. their contents like weak blood on the imitation parquet flooring. I did not.’ I nodded in acknowledgement and looked over her shoulder to see if the bottle of gin had survived. Perhaps better than he did himself. a habit of hers when she is excited: ‘Christ. Being taller than anyone else and physical to boot. She saw me and came over. It had. did. Her smile was bright. Patience is his finest point. Two bottles of Algerian red lay in pieces. Some followed the two of them. he would not have acted with more alacrity. By now Mr Nicholson had levered himself away from the wall and was approaching the company in the room with an air of generalised menace.was after better than Sandra. I told Simon before that this would happen if he didn’t keep an eye on the door.

other than Simon on the floor of the front room. Goodbye. Mr Nicholson was contrite but his panic was so great that he could not command either good manners or a little grace: he shouted something and barged out through the body of the search party and soon we all hear the front door slam. her skin is perfect. I pour the first of these gins. That slam is like the prick of a pin to a balloon: the party deflates. A few more gins and I will be away to my bed. Simon and Mr Nicholson returned with three or four other men in the rear. I drink the gin down in one swallow and I am suddenly faced with a vacuum. With a pathetic diffidence he had explained patiently that it was not my fault. I stand on its brink. as I have done 324 . where I had danced with Mrs Nicholson. enthralling party. And it was without success. Simon has taken Sandra away. her figure is perfect: yet she knows she cannot hold a man’s attention for more than a minute. Simon had known about it from the start. This is not depression: this is a more pervasive feeling. but I feel no desire to socialise. He had not told me whose fault he thought it was and I had not asked him. perhaps she did and chose not to show it. I tell myself that I am bored. when it was over between Sandra and I he had called to see me. Sandra is a truly wilful person. boredom. She didn’t seem to notice that I wasn’t listening to her. It was an all-male search party. Sandra continued talking and I nodded now and again. It had been a bright beginning but it had not lasted long. She wore a pair of wellcut blue denim overalls and a rather coy shirt of cherry pink cotton. She exuded good physical condition. I know other faces in the room.

and as usual nothing happens.. I want to drive through the quiet streets. I will sleep this night and tomorrow read the papers and supplements. I want to get into my car and drive through this well-worn suburb to my flat. I look and see it very clearly: the clean white paper cylinder. I had intended drinking four. but I live a life that runs constantly to excess. I light a cigarette. I love the rather chintzy kitchen. Suddenly I love the cigarette. I expand and love the world. The future is there alright. I will eat at one and at seven and then go out for the evening. I smell the burning tobacco. through the ghastly amber light. You may not believe it. I love the gin and tonic. I want to move. I wasn’t. Lived it five hundred times. Through excess is the way home. under the trees (it is summer) and past the modest semis. I drink some gin and tonic.many times before. For one thing the future has disappeared and nothing has taken its place. My bladder called. Apathy? Ennui? Well-worn despair? I pour the second of my last gins as I think this. My throat tightens. but I have already lived it. Not quite.. I was ready for the world now. I finish my last gin and tonic. The flavour is so familiar. I don’t honestly know what boredom is. This love hurts: I’m alive again and back in time. Very sweet Virginia: plain and strong. to move with the world I love. I want to move.. love the imitation crystal glass that contains it. I pour my last gin. I look at the cigarette. the gold lettering. but three will be sufficient. with its bright purposeful homeliness. 325 .. The word ‘boredom’ does not kill boredom.

It didn’t.’ called a muffled voice. I said ‘Yes’. ‘Just a sec. An ending in the minor key: relief. sounding less muffled. Obviously she was trying to do two jobs at once. ‘Will you help me with these straps. as Pete is Peter and Madge is Margaret. The bathroom is fairly small: a bath to the left.. Nothing loath. Answering the minor call of nature before the major call. The bathroom was occupied. Mounting the stairs two at a time.’ she repeated. I heard the rustle of clothing. Then the latch was drawn. Richard?’ She asked me in a voice she would use to ask the help of a stranger. As endings go. Our hair mingled 326 .... or crouched on the pot.’ Sandra invited. somewhere else. I slipped in. ‘It’s me. a poetic bliss of sorts.I mounted the stairs two at a time. it was good. Except that she was fouled up in one of them. I waited for the door to open. Perhaps she feels more secure in her own bathroom. I pushed heavily against the door before I realised this. She looked up and smiled a public sort of smile: we were not in the bathroom and her clothes were not undone: it was all something else. ‘It’s open. say to open the door of her car at the supermarket. someone bent over. ‘Who is it?’ she said next.. less bent over or crouched. Richard. Hot water gushed into the basin.’ I am always Richard to Sandra. ‘Are you in a hurry?’ Afraid of what replying ‘no’ might walk me into. the bowl in the right corner and a washbasin towards the door. ‘I’m almost finished. I helped her. ‘Just a sec.’ She sounded carefree.. Sandra was struggling with the straps of her overalls in front of the basin. It was Sandra.

‘Oh. She watched herself drying her own hands.’ ‘Who?’ I asked absently. she thanked me and turned her attention to the gushing tap. Buttoning them. I went to the bowl. ‘I thought he would go for me in the kitchen.twice and I had to wrench forcefully a couple of times to get the straps down to the buttons on the bib. I thought he would foam at the mouth or something. The single piece of tissue was hardly creased and was marked with nothing more than a light brown stain. my eyebrows lifting. for bathrooms are peaceful places. surprise. you never know. ‘Do you know her? His wife.’ ‘Oh.’ Something crossed my mind. She had been watching me: but she was not embarrassed about not having flushed her crap away. What had Sandra been planning? ‘I thought she would bring her husband. the backs of my hands lay against her small breasts: back of left hand upon right breast and right on left. She turned the tap off and lifted a nice clean towel from the rail beside the basin. She looked at me: ‘The way his eyes stared. I was merely an attendant in her home. Then Sandra interrupted my peace. He might be an epileptic.’ I turned to her. The water still gushed behind me.’ She said this reflectively. She had forgotten to flush the bowl. I waited then. I flushed it all away into the sewers. she could have been talking about a dream. I mean. a suspicion. Dressed. yes. It was nice.’ I replied. thinking it the best place to wait until she had finished her ablution. ‘That man’s wife. with: ‘You know you were dancing with her. but not that nice. they might have been plastic coated foam rubber. She cleans for me.’ Surprise. It expressed everything or nothing. It seemed a good idea at the time to 327 . A thin stool and a few pieces of floating shit betrayed a dry run. She watched me with a cocky smile.

Richard.’ She said this as though we had never fucked. She should have been prepared for it. Honestly. Richard. Besides. I let her go. However. ‘It’s funny you’ve never married. asking: ‘Why?’ ‘The way you led that woman on.’ I flushed the bowl with sudden fury. You can easily afford it now.’ Nothing sinister. Now she looked at herself in the mirror.’ She smiled at me in the mirror: ‘After all. Calmly. The gin had made 328 . I stuffed my penis away and zipped up. We’d had our fling years ago. after all. I was in the process of shaking the last few drops from my penis. I could make up later.’ Sandra was now brushing her hair.invite her. I said: ‘Who for instance? You?’ It wasn’t a good counterstroke. I felt reasonably good and remembered my mood downstairs. ‘Uh huh. then she was at my side. It looks like affectionate abuse on paper.’ I said noncommittally. I’m a married woman. I dried myself. She threw her head up and marched out of the bathroom. ‘You’re an absolute scoundrel. It wasn’t: it was arch. there were others down there who are more your sort. ‘You must be in your middle thirties now.’ I heard her put the comb down. My piddle spurted against the side of the bowl and hissed down into the reservoir of water. To my deep satisfaction.’ ‘Uh huh. With the clearing of my bladder came the clearing of my head. She looked down at it. It struck me suddenly that she might be stalling. I obeyed her and unzipped. A thought crossed my mind: Does she want me to fuck her here in the bathroom? Surely not. Imitation Victorian. You won’t shock me. She was smirking when I turned to her. ‘You go ahead.’ she said calmly. her overall thing was almost a chastity belt. she wasn’t. Don’t mind me. I ran my hands under the cold water and splashed some on my face.

‘You’re the one who danced with Paula. ‘Will you come in here.’ Indeed. I should have anticipated her. when: ‘Excuse me. Not knowing what would happen next. It was too complicated.me slow and I didn’t like that. I noticed her breasts immediately: they were my introduction to her. She looked tired: way past her bedtime. her legs were drawn up under her bottom – the nylon stocking about her knees ready to burst apart under the pressure. Her self-possession was comical. Her breasts trembled as the rest of her shook with sobs. I dipped into depression. Teenager came and stood beside me and imitated 329 . ‘I saw you come up the stairs. But it was impossible to explain what had happened during that dance with the woman in blue. ‘I thought you were. It was Teenager. I thought. the sort suburban Cockneys who have been through school speak. It would seem as though I was making excuses for myself. I want you to help me.’ she said with satisfaction. Too late and too much drink for thoughts like this. her elbow resting between the pillow and the headboard. I had one foot on the stairs: the front door was open below and I could see the sterile glow of the streetlighting. I was neutral. She propped her head on her right hand.’ ‘Yes?’ I said politely before turning. otherwise it would have been presumptuous. I made for the door: the easiest thing to do is to change. I followed her into the spare bedroom.’ She came into the light on the landing.’ It was a flat statement delivered in Neo-Cockney. On the bed sat or lay the woman in blue: Mrs Paula Nicholson. and her left hand was buried between her thighs. the part I knew best. I made my ‘Uh huh’ speech.

but I stopped her by asking: ‘Why didn’t he come with you?. This produced results: ‘I didn’t tell him about it. ‘Mind if I smoke?’ I asked conversationally. mascara all down her cheeks: the layers of translucent cosmetic had long been ruined. As I did I prepared my opening gambit (Right. She won’t tell me. except perhaps an incredulous stare. She pulled her hand from between her thighs and signalled that I could go ahead. Angie has never been to a party like this before and she said she would enjoy it too. eyes red. She bit her lower lip and nodded.’ Teenager said disarmingly. a little out of character: ‘Remember me?’ I thought it best to get over this potentially traumatic memory first. ‘I thought she might tell you. He’ll beat me. ‘Hi. I wanted to come on my own.’ ‘What’s wrong with her?’ I asked clinically. I asked Angie to come so we could have an adventure. Her flesh was hot and it quivered violently at my touch. She turned a bruised-looking face to me./What’s the matter then?) but she saved me the trouble by blurting out: ‘He’ll beat me. wise old adult that I am. tell me all about it.’ The important point about this statement is that I had no answer for it. eager to do my bidding.my study of her. I know it. Then I sat down beside the woman in blue. ‘I don’t know. She began to repeat it. I lit a cigarette.’ Well. I sent Teenager downstairs to fetch some water. I shook her shoulder gently. I explained something about fresh water and tank water. and enjoy myself. He went out to play football and I knew he would drink with his mates afterwards and I thought we would be back before he got home.’ I said. see. I didn’t know the party wouldn’t get going till nearly twelve o’clock and I couldn’t 330 . Away she went. ‘She’s been like this since we came up here.

I brought the water to Paula and she gulped it down. I should have shown anger or disapproval. but we’ll think of something. ‘Will he beat her?’ she asked me. It frightened me.’ I remembered Teenager and the water. wringing her hands and staring at the floor. more eager curiosity than concern in her voice. ignoring my earlier distinction between fresh and tank water. And then he came in like a madman and I knew he would beat me if he found me here. She should have been back long before now. Her naivety charmed me. but I couldn’t. Her sobbing subsided. pity. I don’t know how he found out we were here. Then she sat on the edge of the bed.’ I felt pity for her. you fix yourself up and I’ll take the two of you home.pull myself away without having just one dance or something to make the night worthwhile. Angie’s Mom must have told him. She threw me one look and ran her fingers through her hair. She jumped back and looked at me with defiance. because I told her that Angie would be home before twelve. and awesome. She seemed relieved by this confession. I went to the bathroom and filled the tooth-glass. but it wasn’t anything serious. because strange.’ I reminded her. A distant. ‘I don’t know. because he’s straight. He’ll murder me for that. I don’t know how you’ll pacify him. I checked myself and said: ‘Look. I opened the door and discovered her bent before it. I said: ‘Has he beaten you before?’ ‘Oh yes. ‘Fix yourself. I was ashamed and we ran up here and hid under the bed and waited till he was gone. because intense. Teenager followed me in. This is the first time I’ve lied to him. Maybe she was worried too. He would beat me in front of all these nice people. She had no water.’ She looked up at me.’ I replied curtly. I 331 . hands on her knees and her mouth open.

’ And I couldn’t help adding: ‘You must have had a worse time. ‘Because I’m young and not married. She thinks you’re sexy. ‘She didn’t think of that. I thought you would dance with me next. She danced only once as far as I know.’ Now I was surprised. ‘She couldn’t have enjoyed herself. She went into the bathroom. ‘How can you be so sure?’ I bantered.’ She threw me a very sweet look as she said the latter.turned to Teenager and told her to help her. I thought it was interesting.’ ‘But. then she stopped and glanced at me and came back. Paula applied cream and lipstick. She could only think of the fun she was going to have here.’ She paused before replying: ‘Oh. wrinkled her young face and then turned to me. She leaped to obey me and in a second it was as though I wasn’t in the room: they began to bicker at once about what should be done. and she fought against it: ‘But you would have.’ This was frankly said.’ I interjected. You’re no different than the other men. to business: ‘Why did she come without him? She must have known there would be trouble. However. Had I been wrong about her? ‘How do you 332 . I did so. then she suddenly broke off doing this and agreed with Angie. Still bickering. Anyway. not worth worrying about.’ I smiled openly: ‘That’s no guarantee.’ She was suddenly crestfallen. She composed her hands in her lap. You never got to dance at all.’ Angie flopped down on the bed and patted that I was to follow suit. Angie made as though to follow her. Paula wanted to replace her make-up and Angie wanted her to go and wash the whole lot off. She waited until the door of the bathroom closed before saying: ‘She liked you. I smiled. When the party was over and she had to go home again was like the end of the world to her.

‘men are always asking me to go to bed with them. which she accepted in silence. ‘I saw you look at Paula downstairs as though you would like to eat her. I stuck it out: ‘And do you?’ She gave me a long theatrical look: ‘What do you think?’ Then she looked clever and superior: ‘I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction. Angie mistook this for rebuff.’ I continued. still poised in the centre of the room.’ I decided not to pursue the subject. I waited until she had exhaled her first lungful of smoke before speaking: ‘How many children have you?’ She replied glumly: ‘Four. But I wasn’t to escape so easily. Then I turned quickly on Angie. Nevertheless. I said: ‘Feeling better?’ She smiled wanly and nodded. All arse and tits. I did feel rebuffed. ‘Look at me. She turned quickly to me and said: ‘But you are nice.’ She made sure she was in the light and that I could see her clearly – when: Paula came back. I sat back and lit another cigarette.’ she said with a mixture of defiance and entreaty. I sat beside Paula and offered her a cigarette.’ I was in again with a chance in her own private tragi-comedy. She looked ungainly. This was getting too deep. ‘we’ll think of something. She had washed her face and combed her hair. with affectionate brusqueness.’ I said too-stiffly. and told her.mean?’ ‘Oh. We were getting on to thin ice: I didn’t know how serious she was trying not to be. She looked less of a disaster area now and more of a woman fat and old before her years. ‘Thank you. She stood up and stanced herself with parted legs before me. She put her hand to her face in surprise and ran out.’ I had asked for that.’ she flounced.’ I had 333 . I lit it for her. to run and wash her face.’ I stood up and told Paula to sit on the bed. ‘Don’t worry.

generous. I felt it wash over me. She had spoken with a mixture of emotions: resentment. She looked at me as though I had broken into a foreign language. in a word. I suddenly saw her stools: bumper. ‘Are you not happy?’ I asked her tenderly. She laughed: an atavistic laugh. I put my hand on her fine knee and said: ‘I’ll tell Mrs Amesbury. pain. It sank down between her thighs and she jerked convulsively and sobbed. steaming. but also with pride and satisfaction. ‘I had the first one when I was seventeen. My breath caught. She wouldn’t have me in to clean if she thought that. moist. ‘Did you enjoy yourself at all tonight?’ I asked her.always thought that children were a source of happiness for women. though not in any way hindering me. ingratitude. ‘Will you go to more parties?’ I said.. ‘Yes!’ No more than that. She tossed her head as though to defy me further: ‘Yes. In actuality it wasn’t: her whole body expressed it. She was disarmingly shy: ‘Yes.’ I squeezed her knee and she smiled at me and pressed down on my hand. I was tensed up. I got enough. I did not want her to see my blush.’ I was sure she had been 334 . I moved my hand slowly up her thigh and her hand remained resting on mine. see?’ I lowered my eyes. It seems unconvincing on paper. Her eyes were very red. it wasn’t encouragement – it was charity.’ Then she was defiant: ‘I did. I returned her stare.’ This was meant to explain something. ‘Really?’ I countered.’ She looked me in the eye in a provocative way. I think she meant it to explain everything. She marched in with a set face and said offhandedly: ‘Don’t mind me.. I stared at her heaving breasts – then: Angie came back.’ She patted my hand. ‘Don’t you dare.

‘Well.’ Simon was on his feet. Paula stayed for a moment to talk with Simon and we heard both of them laughing. you know. Sandra looked up. doting expression. I thought you had gone hours ago. I hadn’t thought of jealousy. I had difficulty in hiding my erection when I stood up.’ Paula said loudly. He was terribly upset. Great party. I got out of the room and hurried down the stairs. 335 . Everyone heard Paula come down those stairs. ‘I’m dropping some people off.’ I said by way of apology or explanation: not knowing which was required at this moment. followed by a murderous looking Angie. sitting around the now lit gasfire.’ Paula came down into the hall. ‘Why. While Angie walked with me to the car.’ She paused before continuing: ‘Your husband was looking for you.’ she said in her most public voice. ‘are we ready?’ I caught Angie’s glance at Paula: she was jealous.’ I said breezily.listening at the door again. and a few others. everybody. In the hall Sandra stopped me: ‘Richard. Mr Amesbury. They were drinking coffee and listening to Simon and Garfunkel. Paula recognised it and smiled sweetly in return. I pulled myself together. And what was worse. I pulled my hand away and Paula’s face lost that bland. Over her shoulder I saw Simon and the Macmahons. damning accent and volume. Paula. ‘I thought you had gone absolutely ages ago. I minded her. ‘He’ll get over it. I’ve never seen such a worried man. violently so. He came to the door with us – Sandra had disappeared. Paula pushed her head over Sandra’s shoulder and called into the cosy room: ‘Goodnight.’ She seemed friendly. considerate and physical. but thinking of it now I realised it explained a lot of their behaviour in the bedroom. It came straight from the shoulder and Sandra got it between the eyes.

loudly. ‘we’ll all go up. threw one killing look at Paula and went off down a path towards a block of the flats.’ I decided to be firm with her: ‘OK. I could picture Simon’s growing flush. She was quiet now. ‘What’s wrong?’ I asked. Paula wrenched at the unfamiliar door-handle.’ I insisted. Then she came out on to the pavement. There would be war in the Amesbury household on the subject of Paula’s continued employment as cleaner.’ I volunteered. my voice betraying tension.’ Then Angie in the back muttered: ‘Not me. We passed the first block and then came to some trees. to see how I had reacted to Angie. ‘It’s not that. waving to Simon.’ she said. It wasn’t far to the council estate. Paula stopped walking and grasped my arm. It was quiet. You go home and I’ll walk Paula home. Paula had quietened as we neared her home.’ We got out of the car. then she smiled and shrugged.’ 336 . The laughter broke upon the sleeping street like the instant of creation. under the harsh sodium lights the council had provided. We walked in silence down the same path. Angie gave a long theatrical sigh of boredom. I stopped outside on the road. ‘Let’s all go up and try to explain to your husband what happened. I lied to him and that’s that. obviously beginning to steel herself for the coming trouble. ‘Come in here. I could do little to protect her. but she didn’t lose heart. with only a few lights on in the flats. I don’t want to have to fight him off. I remarked on the rather stark beauty of the trees in the white light of the sodium lamps. She was chuckling as she got in beside me. Angie hesitated. I don’t think she either expected or wanted me to do anything.’ ‘No matter. saying: ‘Billy won’t listen to anything we have to say. still laughing. Paula glanced at me.

she became an object of my service. ‘It’s late. She leaned back against a tree. and very moist. Perhaps unavoidably. you know. her desire had a pattern that was familiar to me. It was awkward at first. her tongue very ticklish and wet. four children.’ She caught my hand. until she thrust forward and lifted her body. she quickly pulled up her stockings and panties and settled them upon her with a complicated twist 337 . ‘Don’t you want to?’ she asked. well-worn. she said almost in desperation: ‘Do it to me. When I lifted her dress. our passions were furious and utterly abandoned. Though it didn’t last very long. then I entered her: ample. Afterwards. ‘But shouldn’t you go in?’ I asked. she immediately bent and pulled/pushed her panties and stockings down and pulled them over her foot. Once in the dark of the little grove.She pointed towards the trees. suddenly querulous. bent her knees apart and held up her dress to further facilitate me. Her eyes were closed and her mouth hung open. They were as soft as I had imagined them to be. then she broke away. I was mechanical in unzipping and pushing my own clothes down.’ She spoke with urgency rather than passion. She seemed to struggle. So were her lips. I stepped closer to her. I did not believe then that I was either the true cause or true object of her intense desire.’ I squeezed her breasts and her face crumpled as she sighed loudly. much fucked from early years. When she had finally caught my eye. She lifted my hand and pressed it fitfully against her breasts. Her mouth was huge. and it was this I responded to. Nevertheless. She caught me by the shoulders and stared up at me. she said: ‘Kiss me. It was this realisation which prompted me to let go. please.

She giggled a lot between the trees and the stairs that led up to her flat. It wasn’t that I felt guilty for leading Paula on.’ The last thing I did before she went was to shake her hand. It was because I saw. ‘Not now he won’t. She repeated it often. seemingly returning to earth. I felt muzzy and slightly self-conscious as I walked down the path to my car..’ ‘Won’t he have locked you out?’ ‘No. that our passions are ultimately not our own. I wasn’t. for being the cause of her troubles. It was a complicated gesture – as wise as I could be at four in the morning. I had a nagging feeling that I had left something behind. though less now than earlier. Day had come. He took the bolt off so I wouldn’t hear him coming in when he’s drunk. I’ll sleep on the settee. Had she been leading me along with some obscure scheme? ‘He’ll be asleep.and push of her hips. That was lovely. At the foot of the stairs I said: ‘Will he beat you?’ I was uneasy for her. I don’t think she knew who she was speaking to.’ she said. but I thought then that it was regret.It was four in the morning: the start of a bright Sunday.. I was puzzled. I also saw that the sky was light in the east. ‘The light’s out. though perhaps not for the first time. Anyway.’ she explained. 338 . ‘Better be hung for a sheep as a lamb’ was the motto. Perhaps it was shame. .’ She was abstracted. Then she kissed me clumsily and said in a low voice: ‘Thanks.

The bra that showed plainly through it was all humps and bumps and too small for its purpose.. which was sun-bleach in colour. Don’t misunderstand me: this is not an example of Welfare State poverty. It looked as though it had been hastily run up. a kind of protective wrapping for the reader. It colour was indeterminate: either a blue of sorts or a purple of sorts. But it didn’t. made of a cheap nylon fabric that had been washed to a shade of dull white with a hint of pale blue. She had obviously raked her hair. It was an example of 339 . The skirt she wore was far too tight on her hips (the zip at the back was broken and didn’t fasten fully. The blouse was as bad: again too tight (bare flesh between the buttons down the front). I had had time to look at her in the bedroom before Paula returned from the bathroom (Angie had been right: I hadn’t paid much attention to her downstairs). Angie sat on my car. looking up at the bright new day with confident expectation... using material that had been woven on a home-made loom by either a blind or crippled person. exposing a diamond of mud coloured panties) and hung unevenly.. The sun always rises.The story should have ended there for sure: nightthoughts ending with the greeting of a new day. These people no longer know what poverty is – neither do they know what richness is. once or twice – while cleaning her teeth or something. She wore no make-up except a clashing (clashing with what?) lipstick. The two things most obvious about her are (1) her unusually spherical breasts and (2) how badly she dressed. swinging her legs. I have not hitherto mentioned this because there was no reason to.

She was a private person. Her blouse underwent terrific strain. ‘Well. She sounded as though she was deeply puzzled by something. but I didn’t.Welfare State indifference.’ I left her out there on her own. Before I had the key in the ignition she was in beside me. She was not a pretty sight. ‘Paula did. She slipped off the car and murmured. I nodded with studied complacence: I would give her nothing. I opened the door and got in behind the wheel.’ She tilted her head: ‘Enjoy yourself?’ Yes.’ I said levelly. challenging her eyes. a suburban person. It stung. keeping some kinds of personal truths to herself. She waved a careless hand offhandedly: ‘You took your time. By rights she should go home now. an evasion of social pride and self-respect. I don’t feel like going home. It rankled against her will. ‘Oh’. She was not sexy. her eyes straight ahead. but she looked as though she could undertake it as a practical activity without doing anything foolish. her hands in her lap. the jealousy was still there. So. I’m off.’ She suddenly stretched her hands above her head. It’s after four. ‘I changed my mind. 340 . but she did look tremendously fit and sane. and that for better or worse.’ It was matter-of-fact: but it betrayed a remnant of her earlier jealousy. She looked over at me: ‘Take me to your flat. pressing them against the roof.’ I rattled my keys. I should have spoken then. This annoyed her: ‘Did you get what you wanted?’ I had a suspicion that she had been watching. I didn’t play: I was oblique: ‘I thought you had gone home. And sceptical. She sat quite still for at least a half minute.

were themselves in a daunting way: they could not be turned into something else. ‘Come on now. ‘No. She was direct and very physical. as I have said. You’re more of a Richard than a Dick. bare and white. Her skirt slid slowly back up her thigh. I’ll call you Richard. You go home. promised nothing. Angie. moved.’ She looked at me in triumph.’ It was the first time I had called her by name and she noticed it: ‘What’s your name?’ She said this while continuing to gaze straight ahead. She had a pronounced face: stubby nose. ‘They don’t know. Two more inches and I would have seen the crotch of her mud yellow panties. did Angie subvert your whole ego? Did one seek only the appropriate means for release while the other sought the whole man? Angie returned to looking out the windscreen. regular. Your parents will be worried about you. Jealousy was prompting her. stiff and sticky with Paula. The party’s over. ‘And your proper name is Angela?’ 341 . she didn’t ordinarily make appeals of this sort. hard-looking lips. Angie.’ She shook her head with instant annoyance and slid lower in the seat. But you can call me Dick. if you wish. ‘Richard. Was this how she gained her victories? Where Paula gave you her breasts to reduce you. and steady blue eyes.I knew that her request.’ she said wearily. or instruction. as though my remark about her parents betrayed my stupidity. Anyway. I was tired. But she was not a subtle girl. Her bare legs were real. wasn’t sexy as such. Her knee was level with my eye.’ ‘No. My penis. She lifted her left foot on to the shelf under the glove compartment.

’ ‘What if I called you Angela?’ I teased. honest. Then relinquishing: ‘Angela O’Brien. How easily she was flattered. I want to talk to you.’ She was flattered. You needn’t drive me back. Angie had taken her foot down. ‘I won’t be a nuisance.’ ‘But it’s so late.’ she asked face to face. Her need for attention made her more human. ‘Let me go home with you.‘Yeah.’ 342 . She won some kind of victory. She threw her eyes to the roof. fresh quality that I was not used to seeing. my way of matching her toughness. But remember.’ I tried to sound firm and final. The sun was almost up. I can look after myself. ‘Just like you. Angela. Then she turned and grasped my hand: ‘Please! I won’t stay long. The street had a clean. I know I can talk to you. I relented and said dispassionately. this is your idea. The red sky just above the line of chestnut trees on the edge of the estate was turning to pure fire. the sun is up. ‘Now.’ Toughly said. She didn’t seem that self-conscious of her body. Was this an experiment that had failed? I suddenly doubted it. will you go home. But I don’t like it. Yet it wasn’t jealousy that drove her. It struck me that each day began like this. Look.’ She glanced in that direction and dismissed it with a twist of her nose.’ Her hand was dry and strong.’ She sat upright and clasped her hands about her knee: ‘Don’t worry. while switching on the engine: ‘Alright.

looked around.’ I was defensive. with little more than the necessities in it.. While I switched the kettle on she went into the other rooms. We met back in the sitting room. after all.’ She looked at me with intimacy: ‘I must tell you this. bits of this and that. As though you were different from them all. You know. She chose a straight-backed chair by the table. ‘What did you expect?’ I asked. Richard.Indeed. Lousy furniture.so simple. then she warns me off rape! I put the car in gear and moved off as quietly as possible: My flat is modest. nodding and beginning to smile: ‘Nice’ was all she said. Richard. When I first saw you I thought you were queer. ‘I’m not different. We were. But it was appreciative. by any standards. ‘It is really good. sentimental. It’s so..’ She said this as though it was a hard-earned judgement. She smiled in a way that I can only describe as intimate.’ I motioned that she should sit where-ever she wished. She waved one hand at me. Angie put her hands on her hips.’ 343 . She was trying to have it all her own way. strangers. you know. First she pleads with me to take her to my flat.’ ‘Why?’ ‘The way you seemed apart from everybody at the party. She waved that hand again: ‘Oh. ‘I never guessed it would be like this.

‘Do you want any thing?’ she asked me. Was she trying to programme me again? ‘You’re modest and you’re independent!’ Independence. ‘What have you got?’ ‘Bread. unexpectedly boisterous. I made tea. she said: ‘You know he’ll beat her. I don’t like coffee. Because you were so patient with Paula. In no time at all she had some sandwiches prepared. Angie ate everything before her.’ I opened the fridge.’ She busied herself. Efficiently. When she had finished. It was boiling.’ ‘You mean Paula?’ 344 . perhaps. ‘Are you hungry?’ I asked her again. I asked Angie whether she wanted tea or coffee. I waited for her to answer. cheese. but she came into the kitchen. you are! That’s why I thought you were queer. ‘Let me fix something. ‘Are you hungry?’ I called.’ she sang in reply.’ I fell back.’ ‘Oh. It was difficult to eat much: I would have preferred sleep to food.‘Oh. But modesty? ‘Hardly modest. She resumed her seat by the table and I sat opposite.’ We went back to the sitting room. you are.’ She came over to the fridge. ‘Whatever you are making for yourself. Angie. ‘Oh good.’ she shouted. Tomatoes. ‘Some cheese and tomato. ‘Eggs? Some bacon. I poured the tea.’ The kettle! I hurried into the kitchen. You made tea.

’ ‘Why then did she do it?’ ‘She wanted to enjoy herself. That’s why she got into such a state tonight. I think she actually likes it. She poured tea for both of us. as she said. they are usually punished in some way or other.’ ‘That’s nonsense. I was aware of the constant movement within myself. You’re being morbid. The rays of the sun fell on the chimney pots of the houses on the other side of the avenue. And she did enjoy herself. Everything was very quiet. 345 . Funny thing is. Even so.’ ‘She was only trying to stop you worrying about her. He’s crazy about her. The beauty of the morning didn’t distract me.’ ‘How do you know?’ ‘He does it regularly. I am. The minute they’re happy they get guilty and expect to be punished. It seemed little more than a silent still image.’ ‘Don’t you believe that?’ ‘No. You made her night for her.’ ‘But she said he would be asleep. He’ll still be up. And because she enjoyed herself and was happy.‘Yes. of course not. she says.’ ‘Are you ever happy?’ ‘Yes. Angie came back. I looked out the window. for she went on: ‘They’re all like that. she knew she would be punished.’ She went to get the teapot.’ I must have looked shocked. studying that image released something in me: in contrast to the morning scene.

I can’t let go. She was trying to wrap the two of us in a cocoon of rational passivity. you’re always letting go. because you never get to the bottom of them. The sun was still shining on the chimneys. That’s what she meant by ‘talk’: she wanted to kill life with words. It let in more of life than she could safely handle. But she didn’t seem to realise that she was also trapping life in the cocoon with us.‘Are you happy. Angie?’ She didn’t answer. I realised that one can be very aware of the movement of the sun when it is rising.’ I finished my tea. ‘I just don’t have the nerve. Richard. aren’t you?’ Angie’s voice was tender. ‘Are you afraid of being punished?’ ‘I don’t know.’ 346 .’ she said shortly.’ She looked at me with a peculiar dogged intentness and I knew she was going to confess something private. a pose. ‘You’re like that too. You’re just refusing to acknowledge that.’ ‘Nerve?’ I prompted. It was beginning to touch the roofs. I watched her walk out with the teapot and come back and sit down. but it seemed a weakness in her. ‘Yes. Her face was grim. Not the way Paula does. I don’t want to be touched by people and things. I don’t know why they’re always punished. Richard. From her. I knew what she meant. it was an appeal of the wrong kind. So I said: ‘Angie. She takes it both ways. ‘No. But I want everything to be peaceful.

just as forthrightly. She showed no reaction to this.’ She did. Not like that. she said ‘Yeah’ into the cup with a tone of contempt that showed her refusal to be convinced. I don’t do what Paula and her likes do. Look at how you dress. Then she took up her cup and drank. The talk was ended. I stood up. ‘No.She didn’t like that. She shook her head with a kind of intimidating authority. But it was hard to know what was motivating her: jealousy.’ she said again. I’ll drive you home. Instead.’ ‘Look.’ I said. ‘Come on. Five fifteen. I rubbed my chin and waited in silence. But look. or a means to go on talking.’ I glanced at my watch. didn’t I?’ I felt too weary to argue with her. ‘I want to get to bed.’ Once she said that I wasn’t surprised. I was 347 . I mean. I’ve only just got here.’ She looked at me in surprise. But she said: ‘I didn’t mean it that way. to cover her self-consciousness. my teasing sounding malicious.’ ‘No. It frightened her. ‘I thought you didn’t give satisfaction. ‘Would you like me to go in with you? Go to bed with you.’ she said directly to me. you punish yourself even so. ‘Look. she was totally preoccupied and serious. as though something else was on her mind. ‘You go in and I’ll let myself out when I’m ready. loneliness. When she had drunk. I told you I’d walk home. ‘Not yet.

So I said: ‘You’re still jealous of Paula. I asked: ‘You know why Paula gets punished. As a parting shot. as I had planned to do. I mean. Angie? Her tits? Her cosmetics? Or the children?’ I went to the door. Everyone knows what happiness is. Though she might have. No. my head cleared. You’re different. My bladder was insistent. Well. ‘Goodness. But she was being different to her usual self. Instead I suddenly realised what happiness is. It’s her selfishness. Angie?’ She didn’t like talking about her. Anyway. Is she crazy about him?’ I darted to the bathroom. superstition anyway. She flared: ‘That fat old bitch!’ Then she quietened and said insinuatingly: ‘How could you fancy an old bag like that.’ ‘But he’s crazy about her!’ she shouted. I’ve told you that. gesturing that she wasn’t really interested. Richard?’ I suppose there were deeper motives. that much was true. aren’t you?’ It worked. I wouldn’t mind it with you. no. I didn’t think of what I had just said. and I responded to that. Pissing. of course. I stepped back towards the door. ‘I suppose you’ve got some religious reason about sex.’ Her passivity made her a sexual object. I can talk with you.’ she threw at me. Angie. ‘Crazy about what. but that was enough. But that’s always a chimera. She steals her gratification from others. nor did I anticipate her reaction. ‘Here’s another thing. my bladder was full after the tea. Really talk.talking about the guys who hang around the estate. The 348 .

a book in her hand. because that’s the only way to experience it. She heard me come in and turned. She was bent over and her skirt was drawn tightly across her buttocks. ‘Yes. I had to make a note of it immediately. ‘Is this where you write?’ Angie was standing beside me. It didn’t seem a story insight and I’m not a philosopher.’ She seemed amazed. into which I sometimes put those profound thoughts which are both too personal and far less profound on second reading. That’s when you do think about it. happiness is transcendent. Angie was poking about my few books on the shelf beside the fireplace. I mean something which is done rather than thought. I decided to put it into my old red diary. I had been happy earlier in the night. Then I saw that it is also like passion. ‘Hey. The backs of her knees were blue. but it was a crest of insight. it just is. the diamond of mud coloured cloth stretched into a new and irregular shape. is this you? Richard Butler?’ I glanced at the spine. in memory. reading passages. I flushed away my piss. Richard. Then everything went clunk and everything was in place. like love and passion. in that it is recognised only when it is past. But I don’t have to think about it. I searched the drawer of my desk. I realised that I am in fact a happy person. And from the quiet centre of my bathroom in the early hours of Sunday morning. So. She began to flip through it.difficulty lies in saying what it is. But like love. 349 . not sure which notebook to use. She picked up a pencil and I grabbed it from her. it is a form of active identification. It may not be true.

‘Leave that alone. To Angie I said as I went back to the desk: ‘Take your clothes off. But so what. Perhaps there’s only one constant/ pervasive state (etc) and many words which touch it at different points. The pen was beside it: 350 . if it’s true.’ Instinct told me to say this. Passion. It’s the word she wants. Why? Return to the whole – can’t lose consciousness why? Angie jumped back when I straightened up. She has to be allowed to maintain her autonomy: she must be allowed do things her own way as far as possible. Do words then fragment the whole? Yes. Love. She leaned over. I finally caught what she had said and replied. ‘It was one of the kids in the block.’ Then she said. I just wondered. She was still buzzing and holding the book.’ She looked down. Anyway.’ Suddenly I got it. yes. I got the notebook again.’ I found a pen. I concentrated on her: she wanted to confess again. ‘Is it important?’ I nearly missed that. ‘He said I was too cold and dry. But it’s all around her as it is. But I write. She answered without hesitation: ‘No. Angie?’ It’s quantum physics. watching me write: Transcendence: a state/mood/passion which consciousness of can radically affect. the whole drawer. because I was thinking that either knowledge is a tissue of illusions or else there was truth in it. like everyone. ‘Are you a virgin. ‘No. I knew she would like nothing better than dive into that notebook. Happiness.’ She came closer.

Her piss hissed and spluttered. Transcendence is ‘wider’? than human: it must be allowed its place. ‘I must wash myself. Then she went and sat on the bowl. She looked down herself momentarily unsure and selfconscious.’ She said this as though she was slowly releasing herself to something that could be dangerous.Consciousness is human: it is always there. ‘You’ve a nice soft body. ‘I didn’t realise you were passionate. Then I released myself and went into the bathroom. naturally.’ ‘I do. Angie has a superb body. Her eyes on it reminded me. Enough of that.’ she said behind and below me. My penis was semi-erect. arms folded under her breasts. Therefore(!) consciousness must become transcendent. I don’t mind. She seemed very relieved to be nude. letting her hands fall by her sides. Richard. I dried myself. loosening as she did. pulling gently on the hair.’ Of course. even in madness. slightly bent and 351 . ‘Don’t bother. I was right to tell her to undress. The words are running away with themselves. I thought. When I turned I caught my breath. She put her hand out in a careful way and stroked my bottom.’ I let her put her arms about me and press herself against me. Then she looked at me: ‘Now you. I stared.’ She walked over. I glanced down. She watched me for a while. The sight of her drying herself. She followed me in.

long-suffering way. She glanced at me once and I saw a curious elation in her. ‘What are you afraid of? You can always go home. My desire calmed somewhat and we broke apart and went into the bedroom. clinging to me and arching her body. as though she had finally found something. frightened. I stepped back.opened. as I’ve told you. Richard. prompted me to turn suddenly and embrace her. Angie. It was a dutiful act.’ ‘It’s not that. ‘Don’t do that!’ she said in a childish. 352 . her hands across her breasts and groin.’ I sat on this side of the bed. though it wasn’t just that. But the urge came on me again and I reached my hand between her legs and grabbed her sex.’ she said abstractly. then came back to me. I don’t like it. Under the cover of the words she went around the bed and got in on that side. and said directly to me: ‘Can I read your book. I must have hurt her. her eyes bright. for she spun on me with blazing eyes. as though she was alone. She glared at me. She went to the bed. She was fighting fear with a cold counter-passion. But then she regained her balance and laughed and hugged me with not too surprising strength. ‘Don’t sneak up on me like that. Richard?’ She pulled up her shoulders in a kind of exultation: ‘I’d love to read everything you’ve written!’ I heard the word ‘talk’ again. stopped. only her head showing. I caught her by surprise and she tipped back. ‘There’s only one way to do it.’ She lay down and covered herself. She went to the bed again and this time she bent to pull back the clothes.

Richard Butler. pinning me with her weight. I felt all the kinks in me loosen. she shouted: ‘Oh. Tired. Before she could get over her surprise. hearing it echo as a kind of fundamental question: ‘Why me. Those were the two 353 . I lay on her and spread her arms. ‘Like dogs.’ She paused. She resisted me at first. ‘I’m not. She rolled and dropped down on me. So I said. just to remind her: ‘You were jealous of her. Glaring at me. shouting into my face: ‘Because you’re different. fuck you. I was jealous that you preferred her to me!’ She was right.’ It was so apt that it made me laugh. I straddled her. Laughing. ‘That’s the way you were like with Paula.’ and to prove it I reared up and threw her over. Like most people. I got in beside her.’ She was coldly livid in response. fearful and resentful. she saw that sex and violence intersected. I finally saw what she wanted. But it was still only female rivalry. When I looked. then she relented with a sobbing sigh. She was passive. I saw that she was puzzled by my laughter. Angie?’ She caught my ears and pinned them back. I got off her and sat up in the bed. So I said.She seemed to be thinking. looking down at her body and face. She didn’t move when my body touched hers. I wasn’t jealous of what that tart could do. I said. that’s why!’ She was hurting me and I was losing my temper. I began to feel chilly.

I went into the sitting room and took out the notebook again. That’s what she meant by punishment. Angie wanted a third way. I said with a deliberate wry humour: ‘You have a beautiful body. It goes in circles. I read what I had written earlier. what she called ‘talk’. She has a beautiful body: perfectly proportioned and with alabaster skin. that is.ways. difference. waiting to see what I would do next. this might also lead to the loss of consciousness. Angie lay as I had left her. the blankets across her legs.’ I got into bed beside her and pulled up the clothes. If it was to be argued that union could be achieved by the abandonment of action. I paused. Angie. Now I added: A transcendent consciousness would be impossible. She was silent now. but I don’t like philosophy. I drew the curtains on the brightening sunlight. Words instead of actions.’ I bent and kissed her tight dry lips. ‘Try to be happy. taking the notebook and pen with me. I went back to the bedroom. I could see the next step. Consciousness arises in difference – it couldn’t be both sameness and difference. But what good is it to her if it only arouses proprietary desire? Even so. feeling both the brightness of insight and the dissolution of the earlier synthesis. Between the transcendent and consciousness lies the world of action. In the notebook I wrote: 354 . I crossed and looked down at her.

aware that I was back where I started. I had to trust her to know it. But I couldn’t tell her that. But how to escape consciousness???? I dropped it on the floor. We slept. Then Angie turned and snuggled in against me. feeling drowsiness coming with the growing warmth. It had been a long night.So only transcendence is possible – love happiness passion. It was delightful to feel her perfect body warm my back. I sighed contentedly. I turned away from Angie and snuggled down. 355 .

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