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Graham Greene

The End of the Affair

First published in 1951
Man has places in his heart which do not yet exist, and into them enters suerin! in order
that they may ha"e existence.
# $%O& '$O(
'OO) O&*
+ story has no be!innin! or end, arbitrarily one chooses that moment o experience rom which
to loo- bac- or rom which, to loo- ahead. . say /one chooses/ with the inaccurate pride o a
proessional writer who # when he has been seriously noted at all # has been praised or his
technical ability, but do . in act o my own will choose that blac- wet 0anuary ni!ht on the
Common, in 1912, the si!ht o 3enry Miles slantin! across the wide ri"er o rain, or did these
ima!es choose me4 .t is con"enient, it is correct accordin! to the rules o my crat to be!in 5ust
there, but i . had belie"ed then in a God, . could also ha"e belie"ed in a hand, pluc-in! at my
elbow, a su!!estion, /6pea- to him, he hasn/t seen you yet./
For why should . ha"e spo-en to him4 . hate is not too lar!e a term to use in relation to
any human bein!, . hated 3enry # . hated his wie 6arah too. +nd he, . suppose, came soon ater
the e"ents o that e"enin! to hate me, as he surely at times must ha"e hated his wie and that
other, in whom in those days we were luc-y enou!h not to belie"e. 6o this is a record o hate ar
more than o lo"e, and i . come to say anythin! in a"our o 3enry and 6arah . can be trusted, .
am writin! a!ainst the bias because it is my proessional pride to preer the near#truth, e"en to
the expression o my near#hate.
.t was stran!e to see 3enry out on such a ni!ht, he li-ed his comort and ater all # or so .
thou!ht # he had 6arah. To me comort is li-e the wron! memory at the wron! place or time, i
one is lonely one preers discomort. There was too much comort e"en in the bed sittin!#room .
had at the wron! # the south # side o the Common, in the relics o other people/s urniture. .
thou!ht . would !o or a wal- throu!h the rain and ha"e a drin- at the local. The little crowded
hall was ull o stran!ers/ hats and coats and . too- somebody else/s umbrella by accident # the
man on the second loor had riends in. Then . closed the stained#!lass door behind me and made
my way careully down the steps that had been blasted in 1911 and ne"er repaired. . had reason
to remember the occasion and how the stained !lass, tou!h and u!ly and 7ictorian, stood up to
the shoc- as our !randathers themsel"es would ha"e done.
8irectly . be!an to cross the Common . reali9ed . had the wron! umbrella, or it spran! a
lea- and the rain ran down under my macintosh collar, and then it was . saw 3enry. . could so
easily ha"e a"oided him: he had no umbrella and in the li!ht o the lamp . could see his eyes
were blinded with the rain. The blac- lealess trees !a"e no protection, they stood around li-e
bro-en waterpipes, and the rain dripped o his sti dar- hat and ran in streams down his blac-
ci"il ser"ant/s o"ercoat. . . had wal-ed strai!ht by him, he wouldn/t ha"e seen me, and . could
ha"e made certain by steppin! two eet o the pa"ement, but . said, /3enry, you are almost a
stran!er,/ and saw his eyes li!ht up as thou!h we were old riends.
/'endrix,/ he said with aection, and yet the world would ha"e said ;he; had the reasons
or hate, not me.
/<hat are you up to, 3enry, in the rain4/ There are men whom one has an irresistible
desire to tease, men whose "irtues one doesn/t share. 3e said e"asi"ely, /Oh, . wanted a bit o air,/
and durin! a sudden blast o wind and rain he 5ust cau!ht his hat in time rom bein! whirled
away towards the north side.
/3ow/s 6arah4/ . as-ed because it mi!ht ha"e seemed odd i . hadn/t, thou!h nothin!
would ha"e deli!hted me more than to ha"e heard that she was sic-, unhappy, dyin!. . ima!ined
in those days that any suerin! she underwent would li!hten mine, and i she were dead . could
be ree, . would no lon!er ima!ine all the thin!s one does ima!ine under my i!noble
circumstances. . could e"en li-e poor silly 3enry, . thou!ht, i 6arah were dead.
3e said, /Oh, she/s out or the e"enin! somewhere,/ and set that de"il in my mind at wor-
a!ain, rememberin! other days when 3enry must ha"e replied 5ust li-e that to other in=uirers,
while . alone -new where 6arah was. /+ drin-4/ . as-ed, and to my surprise he put himsel in step
beside me. <e had ne"er beore drun- to!ether outside his home.
/.t/s a lon! time since we/"e seen you, 'endrix./ For some reason . am a man -nown by
his surname # . mi!ht ne"er ha"e been christened or all the use my riends ma-e o the rather
aected Maurice my literary parents !a"e me.
/+ lon! time./
/<hy, it must be # more than a year./
/0une 1911,/ . said.
/+s lon! as that # well, well./ The ool, . thou!ht, the ool to see nothin! stran!e in a year
and a hal/s inter"al. $ess than i"e hundred yards o lat !rass separated our two /sides/. 3ad it
ne"er occurred to him to say to 6arah, /3ow/s 'endrix doin!4 <hat about as-in! 'endrix in4/
and hadn/t her replies e"er seemed to him... odd, e"asi"e, suspicious4 . had allen out o their
si!ht as completely as a stone in a pond. . suppose the ripples may ha"e disturbed 6arah or a
wee-, a month, but 3enry/s blin-ers were irmly tied. . had hated his blin-ers e"en when . had
beneited rom them, -nowin! that others could beneit too, /.s she at the cinema4/ . as-ed.
/Oh no, she hardly e"er !oes./
/6he used to./
The >onteract +rms was still decorated or Christmas with paper streamers and paper
bells, the relics o commercial !aiety, mau"e and oran!e, and the youn! landlady leant her
breasts a!ainst the bar with a loo- o contempt or her customers.
/>retty,/ 3enry said, without meanin! it, and stared around with a certain lost air, a
shyness, or somewhere to han! his hat. . !ot the impression that the nearest he had e"er beore
been to a public bar was the chophouse o &orthumberland +"enue where he ate lunch with his
collea!ues rom the Ministry.
/<hat will you ha"e4/
/. wouldn/t mind a whis-y./
/&or would ., but you/ll ha"e to ma-e do with rum./ <e sat at a table and in!ered our
!lasses, . had ne"er had much to say to 3enry. . doubt whether . should e"er ha"e troubled to
-now 3enry or 6arah well i . had not be!un in 19?9 to write a story with a senior ci"il ser"ant
as the main character. 3enry 0ames once, in a discussion with <alter 'esant, said that a youn!
woman with suicient talent need only pass the mess#room windows o a Guards/ barrac-s and
loo- inside in order to write a no"el about the 'ri!ade, but . thin- at some sta!e o her boo- she
would ha"e ound it necessary to !o to bed with a Guardsman i only in order to chec- on the
details. . didn/t exactly !o to bed with 3enry, but . did the next best thin!, and the irst ni!ht .
too- 6arah out to dinner . had the cold#blooded intention o pic-in! the brain o a ci"il ser"ant/s
wie. 6he didn/t -now what . was at: she thou!ht, . am sure, . was !enuinely interested in her
amily lie, and perhaps that irst awa-ened her li-in! or me. <hat time did 3enry ha"e
brea-ast4 . as-ed her. 8id he !o to the oice by tube, bus or taxi4 8id he brin! his wor- home
at ni!ht4 8id he ha"e a briecase with the royal arms on it4 Our riendship blossomed under my
interest, she was so pleased that anybody should ta-e 3enry seriously. 3enry was important, but
important rather as an elephant is important, rom the si9e o his department: there are some
-inds o importance that remain hopelessly damned to unseriousness. 3enry was an important
assistant secretary in the Ministry o >ensions # later it was to be the Ministry o 3ome 6ecurity.
3ome 6ecurity # . used to lau!h at that later in those moments when you hate your companion
and loo- or any weapon... + time came when . deliberately told 6arah that . had only ta-en
3enry up or the purpose o copy, copy too or a character who was the ridiculous, the comic
element in my boo-. .t was then she be!an to disli-e my no"el. 6he had an enormous loyalty to
3enry @. could ne"er deny thatA, and in those clouded hours when the demon too- char!e o my
brain and . resented e"en harmless 3enry, . would use the no"el and in"ent episodes too crude to
write... Once when 6arah had spent a whole ni!ht with me @. had loo-ed orward to it as a writer
loo-s orward to the last word o his boo-A . had spoilt the occasion suddenly by a chance word
which bro-e the mood o what sometimes seemed or hours at a time a complete lo"e. . had
allen sullenly asleep about two and wo-e at three, and puttin! my hand on her arm wo-e 6arah.
. thin- . had meant to ma-e e"erythin! well a!ain, until my "ictim turned her ace, bleary and
beautiul with sleep and ull o trust, towards me. 6he had or!otten the =uarrel, and . ound e"en
in her or!etulness a new cause. 3ow twisted we humans are, and yet they say a God made us:
but . ind it hard to concei"e o any God who is not as simple as a perect e=uation, as clear as
air. . said to her, /./"e .ain awa-e thin-in! o Chapter Fi"e. 8oes 3enry e"er eat coee beans to
clear his breath beore an important conerence4/ 6he shoo- her head and be!an to cry silently,
and . o course pretended not to understand the reason # a simple =uestion, it had been worryin!
me about my character, this was not an attac- on 3enry, the nicest people sometimes eat coee
beans... 6o . went on. 6he wept awhile and went to sleep. 6he was a !ood sleeper, and . too-
e"en her power to sleep as an added oence.
3enry dran- his rum =uic-ly, his !a9e wanderin! miserably amon! the mau"e and oran!e
streamers. . as-ed, /3ad a !ood Christmas4/
/7ery nice. 7ery nice,/ he said.
/+t home4/ 3enry loo-ed up at me as thou!h my inlection o the word sounded stran!e.
/3ome4 (es, o course./
/+nd 6arah/s well4/
/3a"e another rum4/
/.t/s my turn./
<hile 3enry etched the drin-s . went into the la"atory. The walls were scrawled with
phrases, /8amn you, landlord, and your breasty wie./
/To all pimps and whores a merry syphilis and a happy !onorrhea./ . went =uic-ly out
a!ain to the cheery paper streamers and the clin- o !lass. 6ometimes . see mysel relected too
closely in other men or comort, and then . ha"e an enormous wish to belie"e in the saints, in
heroic "irtue.
. repeated to 3enry the two lines . had seen. . wanted to shoc- him, and it surprised me
when he said simply, /0ealousy/s an awul thin!./
/(ou mean the bit about the breasty wie4/
/'oth o them. <hen you are miserable, you en"y other people/s happiness./ .t wasn/t
what . had e"er expected him to learn in the Ministry o 3ome 6ecurity. +nd there # in the phrase
# the bitterness lea-s a!ain out o my pen. <hat a dull lieless =uality this bitterness is. . . could
. would write with lo"e, but i . could write with lo"e, . would be another man, . would ne"er
ha"e lost lo"e. (et suddenly across the shiny tiled surace o the bar#table . elt somethin!,
nothin! so extreme as lo"e, perhaps nothin! more than a companionship in misortune. . said to
3enry, /+re you miserable4/
/'endrix, ./m worried./
/Tell me./
. expect it was the rum that made him spea-, or was he partly aware o how much . -new
about him4 6arah was loyal, but in a relationship such as ours had been you can/t help pic-in! up
a thin! or two... . -new he had a mole on the let o his na"el because a birthmar- o my own had
once reminded 6arah o it, . -new he suered rom short si!ht, but wouldn/t wear !lasses with
stran!ers @and . was still enou!h o a stran!er ne"er to ha"e seen him in themA, . -new his li-in!
or tea at ten, . e"en -new his sleepin! habits. <as he conscious that . -new so much already,
that one more act would not alter our relation4 3e said, /./m worried about 6arah, 'endrix./
The door o the bar opened and . could see the rain lashin! down a!ainst the li!ht. + little
hilarious man darted in and called out, /<ot cher, e"erybody,/ and nobody answered.
/.s she ill4 . thou!ht you said..
/&o. &ot ill. . don/t thin- so./ 3e loo-ed miserably around # this was not his ;milieu;. .
noticed that the whites o his eyes were bloodshot: perhaps he hadn/t been wearin! his !lasses
enou!h # there are always so many stran!ers, or it mi!ht ha"e been the ater#eect o tears. 3e
said, /'endrix, . can/t tal- here,/ as thou!h he had once been in the habit o tal-in! somewhere.
/Come home with me./
/<ill 6arah be bac-4/
/. don/t expect so./
. paid or the drin-s, and that a!ain was a symptom o 3enry/s disturbance # he ne"er
too- other people/s hospitality easily. 3e was always the one in a taxi to ha"e the money ready in
the palm o his hand, while we others umbled. The a"enues o the Common still ran with rain,
but it wasn/t ar to 3enry/s. 3e let himsel in with a latch-ey under the Bueen +nne anli!ht and
called, /6arah. 6arah./ . lon!ed or a reply and dreaded a reply, but nobody answered. 3e said,
/6he/s out still. Come into the study./
. had ne"er been in his study beore, . had always been 6arah/s riend, and when . met
3enry it was on 6arah/s territory, her hapha9ard li"in!#room where nothin! matched, nothin!
was period or planned, where e"erythin! seemed to belon! to that "ery wee- because nothin!
was e"er allowed to remain as a to-en o past taste or past sentiment. *"erythin! was used there:
5ust as in 3enry/s study . now elt that "ery little had e"er been used. . doubted whether the set o
Gibbon had once been opened, and the set o 6cott was only there because it had # probably #
belon!ed to his ather, li-e the bron9e copy o the 8iscus Thrower. +nd yet he was happier in his
unused room simply because it was his, his possession. . thou!ht with bitterness and en"y, i one
possesses a thin! securely, one need ne"er use it.
/+ whis-y4/ 3enry as-ed. . remembered his eyes and wondered i he were drin-in! more
than he had done in the old days. Certainly the whis-ies he poured out were !enerous doubles.
/<hat/s troublin! you, 3enry4/ . had lon! abandoned that no"el about the senior ci"il
ser"ant, . wasn/t loo-in! or copy any lon!er. /6arah,/ he said.
<ould . ha"e been ri!htened i be had said that, in 5ust that way, two years a!o4 &o, .
thin- . should ha"e been o"er5oyed # one !ets so hopelessly tired o deception. . would ha"e
welcomed the open i!ht i only because there mi!ht ha"e been a chance, howe"er small, that
throu!h some error o tactics on his side . mi!ht ha"e won. +nd there has ne"er been a time in
my lie beore or since when . ha"e so much wanted to win. . ha"e ne"er had so stron! a desire
e"en to write a !ood boo-.
3e loo-ed up at me with those red#rimmed eyes and said, /'endrix, ./m araid./ . could no
lon!er patroni9e him: he was one o misery/s !raduates, he had passed in the same school, and
or the irst time . thou!ht o him as an e=ual. . remember there was one o those early brown
photo!raphs in an Oxord rame on his des-, the photo!raph o his ather, and loo-in! at it .
thou!ht how li-e the photo!raph was to 3enry @it had been ta-en at about the same a!e, the
middle ortiesA and how unli-e. .t wasn/t the moustache that made it dierent # it was the
7ictorian loo- o conidence, o bein! at home in the world and -nowin! the way around, and
suddenly . elt a!ain that riendly sense o companionship. . li-ed him better than . would ha"e
li-ed his ather @who had been in the TreasuryA. <e were ellow stran!ers.
/<hat is it you/re araid o, 3enry4/
3e sat down in an easy chair as thou!h somebody had pushed him and said with dis!ust,
/'endrix, ./"e always thou!ht the worst thin!s, the "ery worst, a man could do.../ . should
certainly ha"e been on tenterhoo-s in those other days, stran!e to me, and how ininitely dreary,
the serenity o innocence.
/(ou -now you can trust me, 3enry./ .t was possible, . thou!ht, that she had -ept a letter,
thou!h . had written so ew. .t is a proessional ris- that authors run. <omen are apt to
exa!!erate the importance o their lo"ers and they ne"er oresee the disappointin! day when an
indiscreet letter will appear mar-ed /.nterestin!/ in an auto!raph catalo!ue priced at i"e
/Ta-e a loo- at this then,/ 3enry said.
3e held a letter out to me, it was not in my handwritin!. /Go on. Cead it,/ 3enry said. .t
was rom some riend o 3enry/s and he wrote, /. su!!est the man you want to help should apply
to a ellow called 6a"a!e, 159 7i!o 6treet. . ound him able and discreet, and his employees
seemed less nauseous than those chaps usually are./
/. don/t understand, 3enry./
T wrote to this man and said that an ac=uaintance o mine had as-ed my ad"ice about
pri"ate detecti"e a!encies. .t/s terrible, 'endrix. 3e must ha"e seen throu!h the pretence./
/(ou really mean...4/
T ha"en/t done anythin! about it, but there the letter sits on my des- remindin! me... .t
seems so silly, doesn/t it, that . can trust her absolutely not to read it thou!h she comes in here a
do9en times a day. . don/t e"en put it away in a drawer. +nd yet . can/t trust... she/s out or a wal-
now. + ;wal-;, 'endrix./ The rain had penetrated his !uard also and he held the ed!e o his
slee"e towards the !as ire.
/./m sorry./
/(ou were always a special riend o hers, 'endrix. They always say, don/t they, that a
husband is the last person really to -now the -ind o woman... . thou!ht toni!ht, when . saw you
on the Common, that i . told you, and you lau!hed at me, . mi!ht be able to burn the letter./
3e sat there with his damp arm extended, loo-in! away rom me. . had ne"er elt less
li-e lau!hin!, and yet . would ha"e li-ed to lau!h i . had been able.
. said, /.t/s not the sort o situation one lau!hs at, e"en i it is antastic to thin-... /
3e as-ed me lon!in!ly, /.t is antastic. (ou do thin- that ./m a ool, don/t you...4/
. would willin!ly ha"e lau!hed a moment beore, and yet now, when . only had to lie, all
the old 5ealousies returned. +re husband and wie so much one lesh that i one hates the wie
one has to hate the husband too4 3is =uestion reminded me o /how easy he had been to decei"e,
so easy that he seemed to me almost a conni"er at his wie/s unaithulness, li-e the man who
lea"es loose notes in a hotel bedroom conni"es at thet, and . hated him or the "ery =uality
which had once helped my lo"e.
The slee"e o his 5ac-et steamed away in ront o the !as and he repeated, still loo-in!
away rom me, /O course, . can tell you thin- me a ool./
Then the demon spo-e, /Oh no, . don/t thin- you a ool, 3enry./
/(ou mean, you really thin- it/s... possible4/
/O course it/s possible. 6arah/s human./
3e said indi!nantly, /+nd . always thou!ht you were her riend,/ as thou!h it was . who
had written the letter.
/O course,/ . said, /you -now her so much better than . e"er did./
/.n some ways,/ he said !loomily, and . -new he was thin-in! o the "ery ways in which .
had -nown her the best.
/(ou as-ed me, 3enry, i . thou!ht you were a ool. . only said there was nothin! oolish
in the idea. . said nothin! a!ainst 6arah./
/. -now, 'endrix. ./m sorry. . ha"en/t been sleepin! well lately. . wa-e up in the ni!ht
wonderin! what to do about this wretched letter./
/'urn it./
/. wish . could./ 3e still had it in his hand and or a moment . really thou!ht he was !oin!
to set it ali!ht.
/Or !o and see Mr 6a"a!e,/ . said.
/'ut . can/t pretend to him that ./m not her husband. 0ust thin-, 'endrix, o sittin! there in
ront o a des- in a chair all the other 5ealous husbands ha"e sat in, tellin! the same story... 8o
you thin- there/s a waitin!#room, so that we see each other/s aces as we pass throu!h4/ 6tran!e, .
thou!ht, you would almost ha"e ta-en 3enry or an ima!inati"e man. . elt my superiority
sha-en and the old desire to tease awo-e in me a!ain. . said, /<hy not let me !o, 3enry4/
/(ou4/ . wondered or a moment i . had !one too ar, i e"en 3enry mi!ht be!in to
/(es,/ . said, playin! with the dan!er, or what did it matter now i 3enry learnt a little
about the past4 .t would be !ood or him and perhaps teach him to control his wie better. /.
could pretend to be a 5ealous lo"er,/ . went on. /0ealous lo"ers are more respectable, less
ridiculous, than 5ealous husbands. They are supported by the wei!ht o literature. 'etrayed lo"ers
are tra!ic, ne"er comic. Thin- o Troilus. . shan/t lose my ;amour propre; when . inter"iew Mr
6a"a!e./ 3enry/s slee"e had dried, but he still held it towards the ire and now the cloth be!an to
scorch. 3e said, /<ould you really do that or me, 'endrix4/ and there were tears in his eyes, as
thou!h he had ne"er expected or deser"ed this supreme mar- o riendship.
/O course . would. (our slee"e/s burnin!, 3enry./
3e loo-ed at it as thou!h it belon!ed to someone else.
/'ut this is antastic,/ he said. /. don/t -now what ./"e been thin-in! about. First to tell you
and then to as- you # this. One can/t spy on one/s wie throu!h a riend # and that riend pretend
to be her lo"er./
/Oh, it/s not done,/ . said, /but neither is adultery or thet or runnin! away rom the
enemy/s ire. The not done thin!s are done e"ery day, 3enry. .t/s part o modern lie. ./"e done
most o them mysel./
3e said, /(ou/re a !ood chap, 'endrix. +ll . needed was a proper tal- # to clear my head,/
and this time he really did hold the letter to the !as lame. <hen he had laid the last scrap in the
ash#tray, . said, /The name was 6a"a!e and the address either 159 or 129 7i!o 6treet./
/For!et it,/ 3enry said. /For!et what ./"e told you. .t doesn/t ma-e sense. ./"e been !ettin!
bad headaches lately. ./ll see a doctor./
/That was the door,/ . said. /6arah/s come in./
/Oh,/ he said, /that will be the maid. 6he/s been to the pictures./
/&o, it was 6arah/s step./
3e went to the door and opened it, and automatically his ace ell into the absurd lines o
!entleness and aection. . had always been irritated by that mechanical response to her presence
because it meant nothin! # one cannot always welcome a woman/s presence, e"en i one is in
lo"e, and . belie"ed 6arah when she told me they had ne"er been in lo"e. There was more
!enuine welcome, . belie"e, in my moments o hate and distrust. +t least to me she was a person
in her own ri!ht # not part o a house li-e a bit o porcelain, to be handled with care.
/6arah,/ he called. /6ar#ah,/ spacin! the syllables with an unbearable alsity.
3ow can . ma-e a stran!er see her as she stopped in the hall at the oot o the stairs and
turned to us4 . ha"e ne"er been able to describe e"en my ictitious characters except by their
actions. .t has always seemed to me that in a no"el the reader should be allowed to ima!ine a
character in any way he chooses, . do not want to supply him with ready#made illustrations. &ow
. am betrayed by my own techni=ue, or . do not want any other woman substituted or 6arah, .
want the reader to see the one broad orehead and bold mouth, the conormation o the s-ull, but
all . can con"ey is an indeterminate i!ure turnin! in the drippin! macintosh, sayin!, /(es,
3enry4/ and then /(ou4/ 6he had always called me /you/. /.s that you4/ on the telephone, /Can
you4 <ill you4 8o you4/ so that . ima!ined, li-e a ool, or a ew minutes at a time, there was
only one /you/ in the world and that was me.
/.t/s nice to see you,/ . said # this was one o the moments o hate. /'een out or a wal-4/
/.t/s a ilthy ni!ht,/ . said accusin!ly, and 3enry added with apparent anxiety, /(ou/re wet
throu!h, 6arah. One day you/ll catch your death o cold./
+ clichD with its popular wisdom can sometimes all throu!h a con"ersation li-e a note o
doom, yet e"en i we had -nown he spo-e the truth, . wonder i either o us would ha"e elt any
!enuine anxiety or her brea- throu!h our ner"es, distrust, and hate, E . cannot say how many
days passed. The old disturbance had returned and in that state o blac-ness one can no more tell
the days than a blind man can notice the chan!es o li!ht. <as it the se"enth day or the twenty#
irst that . decided on my course o action4 . ha"e a "a!ue memory now, ater three years ha"e
passed, o "i!ils alon! the ed!e o the Common, watchin! their house rom a distance, by the
pond or under the portico o the ei!hteenth#century church, on the o#chance that the door would
open and 6arah come down those unblasted and well#scoured steps. The ri!ht hour ne"er struc-.
The rainy days were o"er and the ni!hts were ine with rost, but li-e a ruined weather#house
neither the man nor the woman came out: ne"er a!ain did . see 3enry ma-in! across the
Common ater dus-. >erhaps he was ashamed at what he had told me, or he was a "ery
con"entional man. . write the ad5ecti"e with a sneer, and yet i . examine mysel . ind only
admiration and trust or the con"entional, li-e the "illa!es one sees rom the hi!h road where the
cars pass, loo-in! so peaceul in their thatch and stone, su!!estin! rest.
. remember . dreamed a lot o 6arah in those obscure days or wee-s. 6ometimes . would
wa-e with a sense o pain, sometimes with pleasure. . a woman is in one/s thou!hts all day, one
should not ha"e to dream o her at ni!ht. . was tryin! to write a boo- that simply would not
come. . did my daily i"e hundred words, but the characters ne"er be!in to li"e. 6o much in
writin! depends on the supericiality o one/s days. One may be preoccupied with shoppin! and
income tax returns and chance con"ersations, but the stream o the unconscious continues to
low undisturbed, sol"in! problems, plannin! ahead, one sits down sterile and dispirited at the
des-, and suddenly the words come as thou!h rom the air, the situations that seemed bloc-ed in
a hopeless impasse mo"e orward, the wor- has been done while one slept or shopped or tal-ed
with riends. 'ut this hate and suspicion, this passion to destroy went deeper than the boo- # the
unconscious wor-ed on it instead, until one mornin! . wo-e up and -new, as thou!h . had
planned it o"erni!ht, that this day . was !oin! to "isit Mr 6a"a!e.
<hat an odd collection the trusted proessions are. One trusts one/s lawyer, one/s doctor,
one/s priest, . suppose, i one is a Catholic, and now . added to the list one/s pri"ate detecti"e.
3enry/s idea o bein! scrutini9ed by the other clients was =uite wron!. The oice had two
waitin!#rooms, and . was admitted alone into one. .t was curiously unli-e what you would
expect in 7i!o 6treet # it had somethin! o the musty air in the outer oice o a solicitor/s,
combined with a "o!uish choice o readin! matter in the waitin!#room which was more li-e a
dentist/s # there were ;3arper/s 'a9aar; and ;$ie; and a number o French ashion periodicals,
and the man who showed me in was a little too attenti"e and well#dressed. 3e pulled me a chair
to the ire and closed the door with !reat care. . elt li-e a patient and . suppose . was a patient,
sic- enou!h to try the amous shoc- treatment or 5ealousy.
The irst thin! . noticed about Mr 6a"a!e was his tie, . suppose it represented some old
boys/ association, next how well his ace was sha"ed under the aint brush o powder, and then
his orehead, where the pale hair receded, which !listened, a beacon#li!ht o understandin!,
sympathy, anxiety to be o ser"ice. . noticed that when he shoo- hands he !a"e my in!ers an
odd twist. . thin- he must ha"e been a reemason, and i . had been able to return the pressure, .
would probably ha"e recei"ed special terms.
/Mr 'endrix4/ he said. /6it down. . thin- that is the most comortable chair./ 3e patted a
cushion or me and stood solicitously beside me until . had successully lowered mysel into it.
Then he drew a strai!ht chair up beside me as thou!h he were !oin! to listen to my pulse. /&ow
5ust tell me e"erythin! in your own words,/ he said. . can/t ima!ine what other words . could
ha"e used but my own. . elt embarrassed and bitter, . had not come here or sympathy, but to
pay, i . could aord it, or some practical assistance.
. be!an, /. don/t -now what your char!es are or watchin!4/
Mr 6a"a!e !ently stro-ed his striped tie. 3e said, /8on/t worry about that now, Mr
'endrix. . char!e three !uineas or this preliminary consultation, but i you don/t wish to proceed
any urther . ma-e no char!e at all, none at all. The best ad"ertisement, you -now,/ # he slid the
;clichD; in li-e a thermometer # /is a satisied client./
.n a common situation, . suppose, we all beha"e much ali-e and use the same words. .
said, /This is a "ery simple case,/ and . was aware with an!er that Mr 6a"a!e really -new all
about it beore . be!an to spea-. &othin! that . had to say would be stran!e to Mr 6a"a!e,
nothin! that he could unearth would not ha"e been du! up so many do9ens o times already that
year. *"en a doctor is sometimes disconcerted by a patient, but Mr 6a"a!e was a specialist who
dealt in only one disease o which he -new e"ery symptom.
3e said with a horrible !entleness, /Ta-e your time, Mr 'endrix./
. was becomin! conused li-e all his other patients.
/There/s really nothin! to !o on,/ . explained.
/+h, that/s my 5ob,/ Mr 6a"a!e said. /(ou 5ust !i"e me the mood, the atmosphere. . assume
we are discussin! Mrs 'endrix4/
/&ot exactly./
/'ut she passes under that name4/
/&o, you are !ettin! this =uite wron!. 6he/s the wie o a riend o mine./
/+nd he/s sent you4/
/>erhaps you and the lady are # intimate4/
/&o. ./"e only seen her once since 1911./
/./m araid . don/t =uite understand. This is a watchin! case, you said./
. hadn/t reali9ed till then that he had an!ered me so much. /Can/t one lo"e or hate./ . bro-e
out at him, /as lon! as that4 8on/t ma-e any mista-e. ./m 5ust another o your 5ealous clients, .
don/t claim to be any dierent rom the rest, but there/s been a time#la! in my case./
Mr 6a"a!e laid his hand on my slee"e as thou!h . were a retul child. /There/s nothin!
discreditable about 5ealousy, Mr 'endrix. . always salute it as the mar- o true lo"e. &ow this
lady we are discussin!, you ha"e reason to suppose that she is now # intimate with another4/
/3er husband thin-s that she/s decei"in! him. 6he has pri"ate meetin!s. 6he lies about
where she/s been. 6he has # secrets./
/+h, secrets, yes./
/There may be nothin! in it, o course./
/.n my lon! experience, Mr 'endrix, there almost in"ariably is./ +s thou!h he had
suiciently reassured me now to !o ahead with the treatment, Mr 6a"a!e returned to his des-
and prepared to write. &ame. +ddress. 3usband/s occupation. <ith his pencil poised or a note,
Mr 6a"a!e as-ed, /8oes Mr Miles -now o this inter"iew4/
/Our man mustn/t be obser"ed by Mr Miles4/
/Certainly not./
/.t adds a complication./
/. may show him your reports later. . don/t -now./
/Can you !i"e me any acts about the household4 .s there a maid4/
/3er a!e4/
/. wouldn/t -now. Thirty#ei!ht4/
/(ou don/t -now i she has any ollowers4/
/&o. +nd . don/t -now her !randmother/s name./
Mr 6a"a!e !a"e me a patient smile, . thou!ht or a moment that he planned to lea"e his
des- and pat me down a!ain. /. can see, Mr 'endrix, that you ha"en/t had experience o in=uiries.
+ maid/s "ery rele"ant. 6he can tell us so much about her mistress/s habits # i she is willin!.
(ou/d be surprised what a lot ;is; rele"ant to e"en the simplest in=uiry./ 3e certainly that
mornin! pro"ed his point, he co"ered pa!es with his small scratchy handwritin!. Once he bro-e
o his =uestions to as- me, /<ould you ob5ect, i it was ur!ently necessary, to my man comin! to
your house4/ . told him . didn/t mind and immediately elt as thou!h . were admittin! some
inection to my own room. /. it could be a"oided... /
/O course. O course. . understand,/ and . really belie"e he did understand. . could ha"e
told him that his man/s presence would be li-e dust o"er the urniture and stain my boo-s li-e
soot, and he would ha"e elt no surprise or irritation. . ha"e a passion or writin! on clean sin!le#
lined oolscap, a smear, a tea#mar-, on a pa!e ma-es it unusable, and a antastic notion too- me
that . must -eep my paper loc-ed up in case o an unsa"oury "isitor. . said, /.t would be easier i
he !a"e me warnin!... /
/Certainly, but it/s not always possible. (our address, Mr 'endrix, and your telephone
/.t/s not a pri"ate line. My landlady has an extension./
/+ll my men use !reat discretion. <ould you want the reports wee-ly or would you preer
only to recei"e the inished in=uiry4/
/<ee-ly. .t may ne"er be inished. There/s probably nothin! to ind out./
/3a"e you oten been to your doctor and ound nothin! wron!4 (ou -now, Mr 'endrix,
the act that a man eels the need o our ser"ices almost in"ariably means that there is somethin!
to report./
. suppose . was luc-y to ha"e Mr 6a"a!e to deal with. 3e had been recommended as
bein! less disa!reeable than men o his proession usually are, but ne"ertheless . ound his
assurance detestable. .t isn/t, when you come to thin- o it, a =uite respectable trade, the detection
o the innocent, or aren/t lo"ers nearly always innocent4 They ha"e committed no crime, they
are certain in their own minds that they ha"e done no wron!, /as lon! as no one but mysel is
hurt/, the old ta! is ready on their lips, and lo"e, o course, excuses e"erythin! # so they belie"e,
and so . used to belie"e in the days when . lo"ed.
+nd when we came to the char!es, Mr 6a"a!e was surprisin!ly moderate, three !uineas a
day, and expenses, /which must be appro"ed o course/. 3e explained them to me as /the odd
coee, you -now, and sometimes our man has to stand a drin-/. . made a eeble 5o-e about not
appro"in! whis-y, but Mr 6a"a!e didn/t detect the humour. /. -new a case,/ he told me, /when a
month/s in=uiry was sa"ed by a double at the proper time # the cheapest whis-y my client e"er
paid or./ 3e explained that some o his clients li-ed to ha"e a daily account, but . told him .
would be satisied with a wee-ly one.
The whole aair had !one "ery bris-ly, he had almost con"inced me by the time . came
out into 7i!o 6treet that this was the -ind o inter"iew which happened to all men sooner or later.
/+nd i there/s anythin! more you could tell me that would be rele"ant4/ . remember Mr 6a"a!e
had said # a detecti"e must ind it as important as a no"elist to amass his tri"ial material beore
pic-in! out the ri!ht clue. 'ut how diicult that pic-in! out is # the release o the real sub5ect.
The enormous pressure o the outside world wei!hs on us li-e a ;peine orte et dure;. &ow that .
come to write my own story the problem is still the same, but worse # there are so many more
acts, now that . ha"e not to in"ent them. 3ow can . disinter the human character rom the hea"y
scene # the daily newspaper, the daily meal, the traic !rindin! towards 'attersea, the !ulls
comin! up rom the Thames loo-in! or bread, and the early summer o 19?9 !lintin! on the
par- where the children sailed their boats # one o those bri!ht condemned pre#war summers4 .
wondered whether, i . thou!ht lon! enou!h, . could detect, at the party 3enry had !i"en, her
uture lo"er. <e saw each other or the irst time, drin-in! bad 6outh +rican sherry because o
the war in 6pain. . noticed 6arah, . thin-, because she was happy, in those years the sense o
happiness had been a lon! while dyin! under the comin! storm. One detected it in drun-en
people, in children, seldom elsewhere. . li-ed her at once because she said she had read my
boo-s and let the sub5ect there # . ound mysel treated at once as a human bein! rather than as
an author. . had no idea whate"er o allin! in lo"e with her. For one thin!, she was beautiul,
and beautiul women, especially i they are intelli!ent also, stir some deep eelin! o ineriority
in me. . don/t -now whether psycholo!ists ha"e yet named the Cophetua complex, but . ha"e
always ound it hard to eel sexual desire without some sense o superiority, mental or physical.
+ll . noticed about her that irst time was her beauty and her happiness and her way o touchin!
people with her hands, as thou!h she lo"ed them. . can only recall one thin! she said to me, apart
rom that statement with which she be!an # /(ou do seem to disli-e a lot o people./ >erhaps . had
been tal-in! smartly about my ellow writers. . don/t remember.
<hat a summer it was. . am not !oin! to try and name the month exactly # . should ha"e
to !o bac- to it throu!h so much pain, but . remember lea"in! the hot and crowded room, ater
drin-in! too much bad sherry, and wal-in! on the Common with 3enry. The sun was allin! lat
across the Common and the !rass was pale with it. .n the distance the houses were the houses in
a 7ictorian print, small and precisely drawn and =uiet, only one child cried a lon! way o. The
ei!hteenth#century church stood li-e a toy in an island o !rass # the toy could be let outside in
the dar-, in the dry unbrea-able weather. .t was the hour when you ma-e conidences to a
3enry said, /3ow happy we could all be./
. elt an enormous li-in! or him, standin! there on the Common, away rom his own
party, with tears in his eyes. . said, /(ou/"e !ot a lo"ely house./
/My wie ound it/
. had met him only a wee- a!o # at another party, he was in the Ministry o >ensions in
those days, and . had buttonholed him or the sa-e o my material. Two days later came the card.
. learned later that 6arah had !ot him to send it. /3a"e you been married lon!4/ . as-ed him.
/Ten years./
/. thou!ht your wie was charmin!./
/6he/s a !reat help to me,/ he said. >oor 3enry. 'ut why should . say poor 3enry4 8idn/t
he possess in the end the winnin! cards # the cards o !entleness, humility and trust4
/. must be !oin! bac-,/ he said. /. mustn/t lea"e it all to her, 'endrix,/ and he laid his hand
on my arm as thou!h we/d -nown each other a year. 3ad he learnt the !esture rom her4 Married
people !row li-e each other. <e wal-ed bac- side by side, and as we opened the hall#door, . saw
relected in a mirror rom an alco"e two people separatin! as thou!h rom a -iss # one was 6arah.
. loo-ed at 3enry.
*ither he had not seen or he did not care # or else, . thou!ht, what an unhappy man he
must be.
<ould Mr 6a"a!e ha"e considered that scene rele"ant4 .t was not, . learnt later, a lo"er
who was -issin! her: it was one o 3enry/s collea!ues at the Ministry o >ensions whose wie
had run away with an able seaman a wee- beore. 6he had met him or the irst time that day, and
it seems unli-ely that he would still be part o the scene rom which . had been so irmly
excluded. $o"e doesn/t ta-e as lon! as that to wor- itsel out.
. would ha"e li-ed to ha"e let that past time alone, or as . write o 19?9 . eel all my
hatred returnin!. 3atred seems to operate the same !lands as lo"e, it e"en produces the same
actions. . we had not been tau!ht how to interpret the story o the >assion, would we ha"e been
able to say rom their actions alone whether it was the 5ealous 0udas or the cowardly >eter who
lo"ed Christ4
<hen . !ot home rom Mr 6a"a!e/s and my landlady told me that Mrs Miles had been on the
telephone, . elt the elation . used to eel when . heard the ront door close and her step in the
hall. . had a wild hope that the si!ht o me a ew days beore had wo-en not lo"e, o course, but
a sentiment, a memory which . mi!ht wor- on. +t the time it seemed to me that i . could ha"e
her once more #howe"er =uic-ly and crudely and unsatisactorily # . would be at peace a!ain, .
would ha"e washed her out o my system, and aterwards . would lea"e her, not she me.
.t was odd ater ei!hteen months/ silence diallin! that number, Macaulay FF5?, and odder
still that . had to loo- it up in my address boo- because . was uncertain o the last di!it. . sat
listenin! to the rin!in! tone, and . wondered whether 3enry was bac- yet rom the Ministry and
what . should say i he answered. Then . reali9ed that there was nothin! wron! any more with
the truth. $ies had deserted me, and . elt as lonely as thou!h they had been my only riends.
The "oice o a hi!hly#trained maid repeated the number into my ear#drum. . said, /.s Mrs
Miles in4/
/Mrs Miles4/
/.sn/t that Macaulay FF5?/
/. want to spea- to Mrs Miles./
/(ou/"e !ot the wron! number,/ and she ran! o. .t had ne"er occurred to me that the
small thin!s alter too with time.
. loo-ed Miles up in the directory, but the old number was still there, the directory was
more than a year out o date. . was 5ust !oin! to dial .n=uiries when the telephone ran! a!ain,
and it was 6arah hersel. 6he said with some embarrassment, /.s that you4/ 6he had ne"er called
me by any name, and now without her old terms o aection she was at a loss. . said, /'endrix
/This is 6arah. 8idn/t you !et my messa!e4/
/Oh, . was !oin! to rin! you, but . had to inish an article. 'y the way, . don/t thin- ./"e
!ot your number now. .t/s in the boo-, . suppose4/
/&o. &ot yet. <e/"e chan!ed. .t/s Macaulay 2EG1. . wanted to as- you somethin!./
/&othin! "ery dreadul. . wanted to ha"e lunch with you, that/s all./
/O course. ./d be deli!hted. <hen4/
/(ou couldn/t mana!e tomorrow4/
/&o. &ot tomorrow. (ou see, ./"e simply !ot to !et this article... /
/<ould Thursday do4/
/(es,/ she said, and . could almost ima!ine disappointment in a monosyllable # so our
pride decei"es us.
/Then ./ll meet you at the Cae Coyal at one./
/.t/s !ood o you,/ she said, and . could tell rom her "oice that she meant it./ Hntil
/Hntil Thursday./
. sat with the telephone recei"er in my hand and . loo-ed at hate li-e an u!ly and oolish
man whom one did not want to -now. . dialled her number, . must ha"e cau!ht her beore she
had time to lea"e the telephone, and said, /6arah. Tomorrow/s all ri!ht. ./d or!otten somethin!.
6ame place. 6ame time,/ and sittin! there, my in!ers on the =uiet instrument, with somethin! to
loo- orward to, . thou!ht to mysel, . remember. This is what hope eels li-e.
. laid the newspaper lat on the table and read the same pa!e o"er and o"er a!ain because .
wouldn/t loo- at the doorway. >eople were continually comin! in, and . wouldn/t be one o those
who by mo"in! their heads up and down betray a oolish expectation. <hat ha"e we all !ot to
expect that we allow oursel"es to be so lined with disappointment4 There was the usual murder
in the e"enin! paper and a >arliamentary s=uabble about sweet#rationin!, and she was now i"e
minutes late. .t was my bad luc- that she cau!ht me loo-in! at my watch. . heard her "oice say,
/./m sorry. . came by bus and the traic was bad./
. said, /The tube/s =uic-er./
/. -now, but . didn/t want to be =uic-./
6he had oten disconcerted me by the truth. .n the days when we were in lo"e, . would try
to !et her, to say more than the truth # that our aair would ne"er end, that one day we should
marry. . wouldn/t ha"e belie"ed her, but . would ha"e li-ed to hear the words on her ton!ue,
perhaps only to !i"e me the satisaction o re5ectin! them mysel. 'ut she ne"er played that
!ame o ma-e#belie"e, and then suddenly, unexpectedly, she would shatter my reser"e with a
statement o such sweetness and amplitude... . remember once when . was miserable at her calm
assumption that one day our relations would be o"er, hearin! with incredulous happiness, . ha"e
ne"er, ne"er lo"ed a man as . lo"e you, and . ne"er shall a!ain./ <ell, she hadn/t -nown it, .
thou!ht, but she too played the same !ame o ma-e#belie"e.
6he sat down beside me and as-ed or a !lass o la!er, /./"e boo-ed a table at Cules,/ .
/Can/t we stay here4/
/.t/s where we always used to !o./
>erhaps we were loo-in! strained in our manner, because . noticed we had attracted the
attention o a little man who sat on a soa not ar o. . tried to outstare him and that was easy. 3e
had a lon! moustache and awn li-e eyes and he loo-ed hurriedly away, his elbow cau!ht his
!lass o beer and spun it on to the loor, so that he was o"ercome with conusion. . was sorry
then because it occurred to me that he mi!ht ha"e reco!ni9ed me rom my photo!raphs, he mi!ht
e"en be one o my ew readers. 3e had a small boy sittin! with him, and what a cruel thin! it is
to humiliate a ather in the presence o his son. The boy blushed scarlet when the waiter hurried
orward, and his ather be!an to apolo!i9e with unnecessary "ehemence.
. said to 6arah, /O course you must lunch where"er you li-e./
/(ou see, ./"e ne"er been bac- there./
/<ell, it was ne"er your restaurant, was it4
/8o you !o there oten4/
/.t/s con"enient or me. Two or three times a wee-./
6he stood up abruptly and said, /$et/s !o,/ and was suddenly ta-en with a it o cou!hin!.
.t seemed too bi! a cou!h or her small body, her orehead sweated with its expulsion.
/That/s nasty./
/Oh, it/s nothin!. ./m sorry./
/./d rather wal-./
+s you !o up Maiden $ane on the let#hand side there is a doorway and a !ratin! that we
passed without a word to each other. +ter the irst dinner, when . had =uestioned her about
3enry/s habits and she had warmed to my interest, . had -issed her there rather umblin!ly on the
way to the tube. . don/t -now why . did it, unless perhaps that ima!e in the mirror had come into
my mind, or . had no intention o ma-in! lo"e to her, . had no particular intention e"en o
loo-in! her up a!ain. 6he was too beautiul to excite me with the idea o accessibility.
<hen we sat down, one o the old waiters said to me, /.t/s a "ery lon! time since you/"e
been here, sir,/ and . wished . hadn/t made my alse claim to 6arah.
/Oh,/ . said, /. lunch upstairs nowadays./
/+nd you. Ma/am, it/s a lon! time too.../
/&early two years,/ she said with the accuracy . sometimes hated.
/'ut . remember it was a bi! la!er you used to li-e./
/(ou/"e !ot a !ood memory, +lred,/ and he beamed with pleasure at the memory. 6he had
always had the tric- o !ettin! on well with waiters.
Food interrupted our dreary small#tal-, and only when we had inished the meal did she
!i"e any indication o why she was there. /. wanted you to lunch with me,/ she said, /. wanted to
as- you about 3enry./
/3enry4/ . repeated, tryin! to -eep disappointment out o my "oice.
/./m worried about him. 3ow did you ind him the other ni!ht4 <as he stran!e at all4/
/. didn/t notice anythin! wron!,/ . said.
/. wanted to as- you # oh, . -now you/re "ery busy #whether you could loo- him up
occasionally. . thin- he/s lonely./
/<ith you4/
/(ou -now he/s ne"er really noticed me. &ot or years./
/>erhaps he/s be!un to notice you when you aren/t there./
/./m not out much,/ she said, /nowadays,/ and her cou!h con"eniently bro-e that line o
tal-. 'y the time the it was o"er, she had thou!ht out her !ambits, thou!h it wasn/t li-e her to
a"oid the truth. /+re you on a new boo-4/ she as-ed. .t was li-e a stran!er spea-in!, the -ind o
stran!er one meets at a coc-tail party. 6he hadn/t committed that remar-, e"en the irst time, o"er
the 6outh +rican sherry.
/O course./
/. didn/t li-e the last one much./
/.t was a stru!!le to write at all 5ust then # >eace comin!.../ +nd . mi!ht 5ust as well ha"e
said peace !oin!.
/. sometimes was araid you/d !o bac- to that old idea #the one . hated. 6ome men would
ha"e done./
/+ boo- ta-es me a year to write. .t/s too hard wor- or a re"en!e./
/. you -new how little you had to re"en!e. I,/
/O course ./m 5o-in!. <e had a !ood time to!ether: we/re adults, we -new it had to end
some time. &ow, you see, we can meet li-e riends and tal- about 3enry./
. paid the bill and we went out, and twenty yards down the street was the doorway and
the !ratin!. . stopped on the pa"ement and said, /. suppose you/re !oin! to the 6trand4/
/&o, $eicester 6=uare./
/./m !oin! to the 6trand./ 6he stood in the doorway and the street was empty. /./ll say
!ood#bye here. .t was nice seein! you./
/Call me up any time you are ree./
. mo"ed towards her, . could eel the !ratin! under my eet. /6arah,/ . said. 6he turned her
head sharply away, as thou!h she were loo-in! to see i anyone were comin!, to see i there was
time... but when she turned a!ain the cou!h too- her. 6he doubled up in the doorway and
cou!hed and cou!hed. 3er eyes were red with it. .n her ur coat she loo-ed li-e a small animal
/./m sorry./
. said with bitterness, as thou!h . had been robbed o somethin!, /That needs attendin!
/.t/s only a cou!h./ 6he held her hand out and said, /Good#bye # Maurice./ The name was
li-e an insult. . said /Good#bye/, but didn/t ta-e her hand, . wal-ed =uic-ly away without loo-in!
round, tryin! to !i"e the appearance o bein! busy and relie"ed to be !one, and when . heard the
cou!h be!in a!ain, . wished . had been able to whistle a tune, somethin! 5aunty, ad"enturous,
happy, but . ha"e no ear or music.
<hen youn! one builds up habits o wor- that one belie"es will last a lietime and withstand any
catastrophe. O"er twenty years . ha"e probably a"era!ed i"e hundred words a day or i"e days
a wee-. . can produce a no"el in a year, and that allows time or re"ision and the correction o
the typescript. . ha"e always been "ery methodical and when my =uota o wor- is done, . brea-
o e"en in the middle o a scene. *"ery now and then durin! the mornin!/s wor- . count what .
ha"e done and mar- o the hundreds on my manuscript. &o printer need ma-e a careul cast#o
o my wor-, or there on the ront pa!e o my typescript is mar-ed the i!ure # J?,F21. <hen .
was youn! not e"en a lo"e aair would alter my schedule. + lo"e aair had to be!in ater lunch,
and howe"er late . mi!ht be in !ettin! to bed # so lon! as . slept in my own bed #. would read the
mornin!/s wor- o"er and sleep on it. *"en the war hardly aected me. + lame le! -ept me out o
the +rmy, and as . was in Ci"il 8eence, my ellow wor-ers were only too !lad that . ne"er
wanted the =uiet mornin! turns o duty. . !ot, as a result, a =uite alse reputation or -eenness,
but . was -een only or my des-, my sheet o paper, that =uota o words drippin! slowly,
methodically, rom the pen. .t needed 6arah to upset my sel#imposed discipline. The bombs
between those irst dayli!ht raids and the 71s o 1911 -ept their own con"enient nocturnal
habits, but so oten it was only in the mornin!s that . could see 6arah, or in the aternoon she
was ne"er =uite secure rom riends, who, their shoppin! done, would want company and !ossip
beore the e"enin! siren. 6ometimes she would come in between two =ueues, and we would
ma-e lo"e between the !reen!rocer/s and the butcher/s.
'ut it was =uite easy to return to wor- e"en under those conditions. 6o lon! as one is
happy one can endure any discipline, it was unhappiness that bro-e down the habits o wor-.
<hen . be!an to reali9e how oten we =uarrelled, how oten . pic-ed on her with ner"ous
irritation, . became aware that our lo"e was doomed, lo"e had turned into a lo"e#aair with a
be!innin! and an end. . could name the "ery moment when it had be!un, and one day . -new .
should be able to name the inal hour. <hen she let the house . couldn/t settle to wor-, . would
reconstruct what we had said to each other, . would an mysel into an!er or remorse. +nd all the
time . -new . was orcin! the pace. . was pushin!, pushin! the only thin! . lo"ed out o my lie.
+s lon! as . could ma-e#belie"e that lo"e lasted, . was happy # . thin- . was e"en !ood to li"e
with, and so lo"e did last. 'ut i lo"e had to die, . wanted it to die =uic-ly. .t was as thou!h our
lo"e were a small creature cau!ht in a trap and bleedin! to death, . had to shut my eyes and
wrin! its nec-.
+nd all that time . couldn/t wor-. 6o much o a no"elist/s writin!, as . ha"e said, ta-es
place in the unconscious, in those depths the last word is written beore the irst word appears on
paper. <e remember the details o our story, we do not in"ent them. <ar didn/t trouble those
deep sea#ca"es, but now there was somethin! o ininitely !reater importance to me than war,
than my no"el # the end o lo"e. That was bein! wor-ed out now, li-e a story, the pointed word
that set her cryin!, that seemed to ha"e come so spontaneously to the lips, had been sharpened in
those underwater ca"erns. My no"el la!!ed, but my lo"e hurried li-e inspiration to the end.
. don/t wonder that she hadn/t li-ed my last boo-. .t was written all the time a!ainst the
!rain, without help, or no reason but that one had to !o on li"in!. The re"iewers said it was the
wor- o a cratsman, that was all that was let me o what had been a passion. . thou!ht perhaps
with the next no"el the passion would return, the excitement would wa-e a!ain o rememberin!
what one had ne"er consciously -nown, but or a wee- ater lunchin! with 6arah at Cules . could
do no wor- at all. There it !oes a!ain # the ., ., ., as thou!h this were my story, and not the story
o 6arah, 3enry, and o course, that third, whom . hated without yet -nowin! him, or e"en
belie"in! in him.
. had tried to wor- in the mornin! and ailed, . dran- too much with my lunch so the
aternoon was wasted, ater dar- . stood at the window with the li!hts turned o and could see
across the lat dar- Common the lit windows o the north side. .t was "ery cold and my !as ire
only warmed me i . huddled close, and then it scorched. + ew la-es o snow drited across the
lamps o the south side and touched the pane with thic- damp in!ers. . didn/t hear the bell rin!.
My landlady -noc-ed on the door and said, /+ Mr >ar-is to see you,/ thus indicatin! by a
!rammatical article the social status o my caller. . had ne"er heard the name, but . told her to
show him in.
. wondered where . had seen beore those !entle apolo!etic eyes, that lon! outdated
moustache damp with the climate4 . had only turned on my readin! lamp and he came towards it,
peerin! shortsi!htedly: he couldn/t ma-e me out in the shadows. 3e said, /Mr 'endrix, sir4/
3e said, /The name/s >ar-is,/ as thou!h that mi!ht mean somethin! to me. 3e added, /Mr
6a"a!e/s man, sir./
/Oh yes. 6it down. 3a"e a ci!arette./
/Oh no, sir,/ he said, /not on duty # except o course, or purposes o concealment./
/'ut you aren/t on duty now4/
/.n a manner, sir, yes. ./"e 5ust been relie"ed, sir, or hal an hour while . ma-e my report.
Mr 6a"a!e said as how you/d li-e it wee-ly # with expenses./
/There is somethin! to report4/ . wasn/t sure whether it was disappointment . elt or
/.t/s not =uite a blan- sheet, sir,/ he remar-ed complacently, and too- an extraordinary
number o papers and en"elopes rom his poc-et in searchin! or the ri!ht one.
/8o sit down. (ou ma-e me uncomortable./
/+s you please, sir./ 6ittin! down he could see me a little more closely. /3a"en/t . met you
somewhere beore, sir4/ . had ta-en the irst sheet out o the en"elope, it was the expenses
account, written in a "ery neat script as thou!h by a schoolboy. . said, /(ou write "ery clearly./
/That/s my boy. ./m trainin! him in the business./ 3e added hastily, /. don/t put anythin!
down or him, sir, unless . lea"e him in char!e, li-e now./
/3e/s in char!e, is he4/
/Only while . ma-e my report, sir./
/3ow old is he4/
/Gone twel"e,/ he said as thou!h his boy were a cloc-. /+ youn!ster can be useul and
costs nothin! except a comic now and then. +nd nobody notices him. 'oys are born lin!erers./
/.t seems odd wor- or a boy./
/<ell, sir, he doesn/t understand the real si!niicance. . it came to brea-in! into a
bedroom, ./d lea"e him behind./ . read, ;0anuary 1J; Two e"enin! papers Ed.
Tube return lKJd.
Coee. Gunters EK#
3e was watchin! me closely as . read. /The coee place was more expensi"e than . cared
or,/ he said, /but it was the least . could ta-e without drawin! attention./
;0anuary 19;
Tubes EK1d.
'ottled 'eers ?K#
Coc-tail EK2d.
>int o 'itter 1K2d.
3e interrupted my readin! a!ain. /The beer/s a bit on my conscience, sir, because . upset a
!lass owin! to carelessness. 'ut . was a little on ed!e, there bein! somethin! to report. (ou
-now, sir, there/s sometimes wee-s o disappointment, but this time on the second day... /
O course . remembered him, and his embarrassed boy. . read under 0anuary 19 @. could
see at a !lance that on 0anuary 1J there was only a record o insi!niicant mo"ementsA, /The
party in =uestion went by bus to >iccadilly Circus. 6he seemed a!itated. 6he proceeded up +ir
6treet to the Cae Coyal, where a !entleman was waitin! or her. Me and my boy... /
3e wouldn/t lea"e me alone. /(ou/ll notice, sir, it/s in a dierent hand. . ne"er let my boy
write the reports in case there/s anythin! o an intimate character./
/(ou ta-e !ood care o him,/ . said.
/Me and my boy sat down on a proximate couch,/ . read. /The party and the !entleman
were ob"iously "ery close, treatin! each other with aectionate lac- o ceremony, and . thin- on
one occasion holdin! hands below the table. . could not be certain o this, but the party/s let
hand was out o si!ht and the !entleman/s ri!ht hand too which !enerally indicates a s=uee9e o
that nature. +ter a short and intimate con"ersation they proceeded on oot to a =uiet and
secluded restaurant -nown to its customers as Cules and choosin! a couch rather than a table
they ordered two por- chops./
/+re the por- chops important4/
/They mi!ht be mar-s o identiication, sir, i re=uently indul!ed in./
/(ou didn/t identiy the man, then4/
/(ou will see, sir, i you read on./
/. dran- a coc-tail at the bar when . obser"ed this order o the por- chops, but . was
unable to elicit rom any o the waiters or rom the lady behind the bar the identity o the
!entleman. +lthou!h . couched my =uestions in a "a!ue and nonchalant manner they ob"iously
aroused curiosity, and . thou!ht it better to lea"e. 3owe"er by stri-in! up an ac=uaintance with
the sta!e door-eeper o the 7aude"ille Theatre . was able to -eep the restaurant under
/3ow,/ . as-ed, /did you stri-e up the ac=uaintance4/
/+t the bar o the /'edord 3ead/, sir, seein! as the parties were saely occupied with the
order or chops, and aterwards accompanied him bac- to the theatre, where the sta!e door /.
-now the place,/
/. ha"e tried to compress my report, sir, to essentials./
/Buite ri!ht./
The report continued, /+ter lunch the parties proceeded to!ether up Maiden $ane and
parted outside a !eneral !rocery. . had the impression they were labourin! under !reat emotion,
and it occurred to me that they mi!ht be partin! or !ood, a happy endin! i . may say so to this
+!ain he interrupted me anxiously, /(ou/ll or!i"e the personal touch4/
/O course./
/*"en in my proession, sir, we sometimes ind our emotions touched, and . ;li-ed; the
lady # the party in =uestion, that is./
/. hesitated whether to ollow the !entleman or the party in =uestion, but . decided my
instructions would not permit the ormer. . ollowed the latter thereore. 6he wal-ed a little way
towards Charin! Cross Coad, appearin! much a!itated. Then she turned into the &ational >ortrait
Gallery but only stayed a ew minutes... /
/.s there anythin! more o importance4/
/&o, sir. . thin- really she was 5ust loo-in! or a place to sit down because next thin! she
turned into a church./
/+ church4/
/+ Coman church, sir, in Maiden $ane. (ou/ll ind it all there. 'ut not to pray, sir. 0ust to
/(ou -now e"en that much, do you4/
/&aturally . ollowed the party in. . -nelt down a ew pews behind so as to appear a ;bona
ide; worshipper, and . can assure you, sir, she didn/t pray. 6he/s not a Coman, is she, sir4/
/.t was to sit in the dar-, sir, till she calmed down./
/>erhaps she was meetin! someone4/
/&o, sir. 6he only stayed three minutes and she didn/t spea- to anyone. . you as- me, she
wanted a !ood cry./
/>ossibly. 'ut you are wron! about the hands, Mr >ar-is./
/The hands, sir4/
. mo"ed so that the li!ht cau!ht my ace more ully.
/<e ne"er so much as touched hands./
. elt sorry or him now that . had had my 5o-e # . elt sorry to ha"e scared yet urther
someone already so timid. 3e watched me with his mouth a little open, as thou!h he had
recei"ed a sudden hurt and was now waitin! paralysed or the next stab. . said, /. expect that sort
o mista-e oten happens, Mr >ar-is. Mr 6a"a!e ou!ht to ha"e introduced us./
/Oh no, sir,/ he said miserably, /it was up to me./ Then he bent his head and sat there,
loo-in! into his hat that lay on his -nees. . tried to cheer him up. /.t/s not serious,/ . said. /. you
loo- at it rom the outside, it/s really =uite unny./
/'ut ./m on the inside, sir,/ he said. 3e turned his hat round and went on in a "oice as
damp and dreary as the common outside, /.t/s not Mr 6a"a!e . mind about, sir. 3e/s as
understandin! a man as you/ll meet in the proession # it/s my boy. 3e started with !reat ideas
about me./ 3e ished rom the depths o his misery a deprecatin! and ri!htened smile. /(ou
-now the -ind o readin! they do, sir. &ic- Carters and the li-e./
/<hy should he e"er -now about this4/
/(ou/"e !ot to play strai!ht with a child, sir, and he/s sure to as- =uestions. 3e/ll want to
-now how . ollowed up # that/s the thin! he/s learnin!, to ollow up./
/Couldn/t you tell him that ./d been able to identiy the man # 5ust that, and . wasn/t
/.t/s -ind o you to su!!est it, sir, but you ha"e to loo- at this all round. . don/t say .
wouldn/t do it e"en to my boy, but what/s he !oin! to thin- i he e"er comes across you # in the
course o the in"esti!ation4/
/That/s not necessary./
/'ut it mi!ht well happen, sir./
/<hy not lea"e him at home this time4/
/.t/s 5ust ma-in! matters worse, sir. 3e hasn/t !ot a mother, and it/s his school holidays and
./"e always !one on the lines o educatin! him in his holidays # with Mr 6a"a!e/s ull appro"al.
&o. . made a ool o mysel that time, and ./"e !ot to ace it. . only he weren/t =uite so serious,
sir, but he does ta-e it to heart when . ma-e a loater. One day Mr >rentice # that/s Mr 6a"a!e/s
assistant, a rather hard man, sir # said, /+nother o your loaters, >ar-is,/ in the boy/s hearin!.
That/s what opened his eyes irst./ 3e stood up with an air o enormous resolution @who are we to
measure another man/s coura!e4A and said, /./"e been -eepin! you, sir, tal-in! about ;my;
/./"e en5oyed it, Mr >ar-is,/ . said without irony. /Try not to worry. (our boy must ta-e
ater you./
/3e has his mother/s brains, sir,/ he said sadly. /. must hurry. .t/s cold out, thou!h . ound
him a nice sheltered spot beore . came away. 'ut he/s so -een . don/t trust him to -eep dry.
<ould you mind initiallin! the expenses, sir, i you appro"e them4/
. watched him rom my window with his thin macintosh turned up and his old hat turned
down: the snow had increased and already under the third lamp he loo-ed li-e a small snowman
with the mud showin! throu!h. .t occurred to me with ama9ement that or ten minutes . had not
thou!ht o 6arah or o my 5ealousy: . had become nearly human enou!h to thin- o another
person/s trouble.
0ealousy, or so . ha"e always belie"ed, exists only with desire. The Old Testament writers were
ond o usin! the words /a 5ealous God/, and perhaps it was their rou!h and obli=ue way o
expressin! belie in the lo"e o God or man. 'ut . suppose there are dierent -inds o desire.
My desire now was nearer hatred than lo"e, and 3enry . had reason to belie"e, rom what 6arah
once told me, had lon! ceased to eel any physical desire or her. +nd yet, . thin-, in those days
he was as 5ealous as . was. 3is desire was simply or companionship, he elt or the irst time
excluded rom 6arah/s conidence, he was worried and despairin! # he didn/t -now what was
!oin! on or what was !oin! to happen. 3e was li"in! in a terrible insecurity. To that extent his
pli!ht was worse than mine. . had the security o possessin! nothin!. . could ha"e no more than .
had lost, while he still owned her presence at the table, the sound o her eet on the stairs, the
openin! and closin! o doors, the -iss on the chee- # . doubt i there was much else now, but
what a lot to a star"in! man is 5ust that much. +nd perhaps what made it worse, he had once
en5oyed the sense o security as . ne"er had. <hy, at the moment when Mr >ar-is returned across
the Common, he didn/t e"en -now that 6arah and . had once been lo"ers. +nd when . write that
word my brain a!ainst my will tra"els irresistibly bac- to the point where pain be!an.
+ whole wee- went by ater the umblin! -iss in Maiden $ane beore . ran! 6arah up.
6he had mentioned at dinner that 3enry didn/t li-e the cinema and so she rarely went. They were
showin! a ilm o one o my boo-s at <arner/s and. so, partly to /show o/, partly because . elt
that -iss must somehow be ollowed up or courtesy/s sa-e, partly too because . was still
interested in the married lie o a ci"il ser"ant, . as-ed 6arah to come with me. /. suppose it/s no
!ood as-in! 3enry4/
/&ot a bit,/ she said, /3e could 5oin us or dinner aterwards4/
/3e/s brin!in! a lot o wor- bac- with him. 6ome wretched $iberal is as-in! a =uestion
next wee- in the 3ouse about widows./ 6o you mi!ht say that the $iberal #. belie"e he was a
<elshman called $ewis # made our bed or us that ni!ht.
The ilm was not a !ood ilm, and at moments it was acutely painul to see situations that
had been so real to me twisted into the stoc- clichDs o the screen. . wished . had !one to
somethin! else with 6arah. +t irst . had said to her, /That/s not what . wrote, you -now,/ but .
couldn/t -eep on sayin! that. 6he touched me sympathetically with her hand, and rom then on
we sat there with our hands in the innocent embrace that children and lo"ers use. 6uddenly and
unexpectedly, or a ew minutes only, the ilm came to lie. . or!ot that this was my story, and
that or once this was my dialo!ue, and was !enuinely mo"ed by a small scene in a cheap
restaurant. The lo"er had ordered stea- and onions, the !irl hesitated or a moment to ta-e the
onions because her husband didn/t li-e the smell, the lo"er was hurt and an!ry because he
reali9ed what was behind her hesitation, which brou!ht to his mind the ine"itable embrace on her
return home. The scene was a success, . had wanted to con"ey the sense o passion throu!h some
common simple episode without any rhetoric in words or action, and it wor-ed. For a ew
seconds . was happy # this was writin!, . wasn/t interested in anythin! else in the world. . wanted
to !o home and read the scene o"er, . wanted to wor- at somethin! new, . wished, how . wished,
that . hadn/t in"ited 6arah Miles to dinner.
+terwards # we were bac- at Cules and they had 5ust etched our stea-s # she said, /There
was one scene you did write./
/+bout the onions4/
/(es./ +nd at that "ery moment a dish o onions was put on the table. . said to her # it
hadn/t e"en crossed my mind that e"enin! to desire her # /+nd does 3enry mind onions4/
/(es. 3e can/t bear them. 8o you li-e them4/
/(es./ 6he helped me to them and then helped hersel.
.s it possible to all in lo"e o"er a dish o onions4 .t seems improbable and yet . could
swear it was 5ust then that . ell in lo"e. .t wasn/t, o course, simply the onions #it was that sudden
sense o an indi"idual woman, o a ran-ness that was so oten later to ma-e me happy and
miserable. . put my hand under the cloth and laid it on her -nee, and her hand came down and
held mine in place. . said, /.t/s a !ood stea-,/ and heard li-e poetry her reply, /.t/s the best ./"e e"er
There was no pursuit and no seduction. <e let hal the !ood stea- on our plates and a
third o the bottle o claret and came out into Maiden $ane with the same intention in both our
minds. +t exactly the same spot as beore, by the doorway and the !rill, we -issed. . said, /./m in
/Me too./
/<e can/t !o home./
<e cau!ht a taxi by Charin! Cross station and . told the dri"er to ta-e us to +rbuc-le
+"enue # that was the name they had !i"en amon! themsel"es to *astbourne Terrace, the row o
hotels that used to stand alon! the side o >addin!ton 6tation with luxury names, Cit9, Carlton,
and the li-e. The doors o these hotels were always open and you could !et a room any time o
day or an hour or two. + wee- a!o . re"isited the terrace. 3al o it was !one #the hal where the
hotels used to stand had been blasted to bits, and the place where we made lo"e that ni!ht was a
patch o air. .t had been the 'ristol: there was a potted ern in the hall and we were shown the
best room by a mana!eress with blue hair, a real *dwardian room with a !reat !ilt double bed
and red "el"et curtains and a ull#len!th mirror. @>eople who came to +rbuc-le +"enue ne"er
re=uired twin beds.A . remember the tri"ial details "ery well, how the mana!eress as-ed me
whether we wanted to stay the ni!ht, how the room cost iteen shillin!s or a short stay, how the
electric meter only too- shillin!s and we hadn/t one between us, but . remember nothin! else #
how 6arah loo-ed the irst time or what we did, except that we were both ner"ous and made lo"e
badly. .t didn/t matter. <e had started # that was the point. There was the whole o lie to loo-
orward to then. Oh, and there/s one other thin! . always remember. +t the door o our room @/our
room/ ater hal an hourA, when . -issed her a!ain and said how . hated the thou!ht o her !oin!
home to 3enry, she said, /8on/t worry. 3e/s busy on the widows./
/. hate e"en the idea o his -issin! you,/ . said. /3e won/t. There/s nothin! he disli-es more
than onions./
. saw her home to her side o the Common. 3enry/s li!ht shone below the door o his
study, and we went upstairs. .n the li"in!#room we held our hands a!ainst each other/s bodies,
unable to let !o. /3e/ll be comin! up,/ . said, /any moment./
/<e can hear him,/ she said, and she added with horriyin! lucidity, /There/s one stair that
always s=uea-s./
. hadn/t time to ta-e o my coat. <e -issed and heard the s=uea- o the stair, and .
watched sadly the calmness o her ace when 3enry came in. 6he said, /<e were hopin! you/d
come up and oer us a drin-./
3enry said, /O course. <hat will you ha"e, 'endrix4/ . said . wouldn/t ha"e a drin-: .
had wor- to do.
/. thou!ht you said you ne"er wor-ed at ni!ht./
/Oh, this doesn/t count. + re"iew./
/.nterestin! boo-4/
/&ot "ery./
/. wish . had your power o # puttin! thin!s down./
6arah saw me to the door and we -issed a!ain. +t that moment it was 3enry . li-ed, not
6arah. .t was as thou!h all the men in the past and all the men in the uture cast their shade o"er
the present. /<hat/s the matter4/ she as-ed me. 6he was always =uic- to read the meanin! behind
a -iss, the whisper in the brain.
/&othin!,/ . said. /./ll call you in the mornin!./
/.t would be better i . called you,/ she told me, and caution, . thou!ht, caution, how well
she -nows how to conduct an aair li-e this, and . remembered a!ain the stair that always #
/always/ was the phrase she had used #s=uea-ed.
'OO) T<O
The sense o unhappiness is so much easier to con"ey than that o happiness. .n misery we seem
aware o our own existence, e"en thou!h it may be in the orm o a monstrous e!otism, this pain
o mine is indi"idual, this ner"e that winces belon!s to me and to no other. 'ut happiness
annihilates us, we lose our identity. The words o human lo"e ha"e been used by the saints to
describe their "ision o God, and so, . suppose, we mi!ht use the terms o prayer, meditation,
contemplation to explain the intensity o the lo"e we eel or a woman. <e too surrender
memory, intellect, intelli!ence, and we too experience the depri"ation, the ;noche oscura;, and
sometimes as a reward a -ind o peace. The act o lo"e itsel has been described as the little
death, and lo"ers sometimes experience too the little peace. .t is odd to ind mysel writin! these
phrases as thou!h . lo"ed what in act . hate. 6ometimes . don/t reco!ni9e my own thou!hts.
<hat do . -now o phrases li-e /the dar- ni!ht/ or o prayer, who ha"e only one prayer4 . ha"e
inherited them, that is all, li-e a husband who is let by death in the useless possession o a
woman/s clothes, scents, pots o cream... +nd yet there was this peace...
That is how . thin- o those irst months o war # was it a phoney peace as well as a
phoney war4 .t seems now to ha"e stretched arms o comort and reassurance all o"er those
months o dubiety and waitin!, but the peace must, . suppose, e"en at that time ha"e been
punctuated by misunderstandin! and suspicion. 0ust as . went home that irst e"enin! with no
exhilaration but only a sense o sadness and resi!nation, so a!ain and a!ain . returned home on
other days with the certainty that . was only one o many men # the a"ourite lo"er or the
moment. This woman, whom . lo"ed so obsessi"ely that i . wo-e in the ni!ht . immediately
ound the thou!ht o her in my brain and abandoned sleep, seemed to !i"e up all her time to me.
+nd yet . could eel no trust, in the act o lo"e . could be arro!ant, but alone . had only to loo- in
the mirror to see doubt, in the shape o a lined ace and a lame le! #why me4 There were always
occasions when we couldn/t meet # appointments with a dentist or a hairdresser, occasions when
3enry entertained, when they were alone to!ether. .t was no !ood tellin! mysel that in her own
home she would ha"e no opportunity to betray me @with the e!otism o a lo"er . was already
usin! that word with its su!!estion o a non#existent dutyA while 3enry wor-ed on the widows/
pensions or # or he was soon shited rom that 5ob # on the distribution o !as#mas-s and the
desi!n o appro"ed cardboard cases, or didn/t . -now it was possible to ma-e lo"e in the most
dan!erous circumstances, i the desire were there4 8istrust !rows with a lo"er/s success. <hy,
the "ery next time we saw each other it happened in 5ust the way that . should ha"e called
. wo-e with the sadness o her last cautious ad"ice still restin! on my mind, and within
three minutes o wa-in! her "oice on the telephone dispelled it. . ha"e ne"er -nown a woman
beore or since so able to alter a whole mood by simply spea-in! on the telephone, and when she
came into a room or put her hand on my side she created at once the absolute trust . lost with
e"ery separation.
/3ello,/ she said, /are you asleep4/
/&o. <hen can . see you4 This mornin!4/
/3enry/s !ot a cold. 3e/s stayin! at home./
/. only you could come here... /
/./"e !ot to stay in to answer the telephone./
/0ust because he/s !ot a cold4/
$ast ni!ht . had elt riendship and sympathy or 3enry, but already he had become an
enemy, to be moc-ed and resented and co"ertly run down.
/3e/s lost his "oice completely./
. elt a malicious deli!ht at the absurdity o his sic-ness, a ci"il ser"ant without a "oice
whisperin! hoarsely and ineecti"ely about widows/ pensions. . said, /.sn/t there any way to see
/'ut o course./
There was silence or a moment on the line and . thou!ht we had been cut o. . said,
/3ello. 3ello./ 'ut she had been thin-in!, that was all, careully, collectedly, =uic-ly, so that she
could !i"e me strai!htaway the correct answer. /./m !i"in! 3enry a tray in bed at one. <e could
ha"e sandwiches oursel"es in the li"in!#room. ./ll tell him you want to tal- o"er the ilm # or that
story o yours/, and immediately she ran! o the sense o trust was disconnected and . thou!ht,
how many times beore has she planned in 5ust this way4 <hen . went to her house and ran! the
bell, . elt li-e an enemy # or a detecti"e, watchin! her words as >ar-is and his son were to watch
her mo"ements a ew years later. +nd then the door opened and trust came bac-.
There was ne"er any =uestion in those days o who wanted whom # we were to!ether in
desire. 3enry had his tray, sittin! up a!ainst two pillows in his !reen woollen dressin!#!own, and
in the room below, on the hardwood loor, with a sin!le cushion or support and the door a5ar, we
made lo"e. <hen the moment came, . had to put my hand !ently o"er her mouth to deaden that
stran!e sad an!ry cry o abandonment, or ear 3enry should hear it o"erhead.
To thin- . had intended 5ust to pic- her brain. . crouched on the loor beside her and
watched and watched, as thou!h . mi!ht ne"er see this a!ain # the brown indeterminate#coloured
hair li-e a pool o li=uor on the par=uet, the sweat on her orehead, the hea"y breathin! as thou!h
she had run a race and now li-e a youn! athlete lay in the exhaustion o "ictory.
+nd then the stair s=uea-ed. For a moment we neither o us mo"ed. The sandwiches were
stac-ed uneaten on the table, the !lasses had not been illed. 6he said in a whisper, /3e went
downstairs./ 6he sat in a chair and put a plate in her lap and a !lass beside her.
/6uppose he heard,/ . said, /as he passed,/
/3e wouldn/t ha"e -nown what it was./
. must ha"e loo-ed incredulous, or she explained with dreary tenderness, />oor 3enry.
.t/s ne"er happened # not in the whole ten years,/ but all the same we weren/t so sure o our
saety, we sat there silently listenin! until the stair s=uea-ed a!ain. My "oice sounded to mysel
crac-ed and alse as . said rather too loudly, /./m !lad you li-e that scene with the onions,/ and
3enry pushed open the door and loo-ed in. 3e was carryin! a hot#water#bottle in a !rey lannel
co"er. /3ello, 'endrix,/ he whispered.
/(ou shouldn/t ha"e etched that yoursel,/ she said.
/8idn/t want to disturb you./
/<e were tal-in! about the ilm last ni!ht./
/3ope you/"e !ot e"erythin! you want,/ he whispered to me. 3e too- a loo- at the claret
6arah had put out or me. /6hould ha"e !i"en him the /E9,/ he breathed in his un#dimensional
"oice and drited out a!ain, claspin! the hot#water#bottle in its lannel co"er, and a!ain we were
/8o you mind4/ . as-ed her, and she shoo- her head. . didn/t really -now what . meant # .
thin- . had an idea that the si!ht o 3enry mi!ht ha"e roused remorse, but she had a wonderul
way o eliminatin! remorse. Hnli-e the rest o us she was unhaunted by !uilt. .n her "iew when a
thin! was done, it was done, remorse died with the act. 6he would ha"e thou!ht it unreasonable
o 3enry, it he had cau!ht us, to be an!ry or more than a moment. Catholics are always said to
be reed in the conessional rom the mortmain o the past # certainly in that respect you could
ha"e called her a born Catholic, althou!h she belie"ed in God as little as . did. Or so . thou!ht
then and wonder now.
. this boo- o mine ails to ta-e a strai!ht course, it is because . am lost in a stran!e
re!ion, . ha"e no map. . sometimes wonder whether anythin! that . am puttin! down here is true.
. elt that aternoon such complete trust when she said to me suddenly, without bein! =uestioned,
/./"e ne"er lo"ed anybody or anythin! as . do you./ .t was as i, sittin! there in the chair with a
hal#eaten sandwich in her hand, she was abandonin! hersel as completely as she had done, i"e
minutes bac-, on the hardwood loor. <e most o us hesitate to ma-e so complete a statement #
we remember and we oresee and we doubt. 6he had no doubts. The moment only mattered.
*ternity is said not to be an extension o time but an absence o time, and sometimes it seemed to
me that her abandonment touched that stran!e mathematical point o endlessness, a point with no
width, occupyin! no space. <hat did time matter # all the past and the other men she may rom
time to time @there is that word a!ainA ha"e -nown, or all the uture in which she mi!ht be
ma-in! the same statement with the same sense o truth4 <hen . replied that . lo"ed her too in
that way, . was the liar, not she, or . ne"er lose the consciousness o time, to me the present is
ne"er here, it is always last year or next wee-.
6he wasn/t lyin! e"en when she said, /&obody else. *"er a!ain./ There are contradictions
in time, that/s all, that don/t exist on the mathematical point. 6he had so much more capacity or
lo"e than . had # . couldn/t brin! down that curtain round the moment, . couldn/t or!et and .
couldn/t not ear. *"en in the moment o lo"e, . was li-e a police oicer !atherin! e"idence o a
crime that hadn/t yet been committed, and when more than se"en years later . opened >ar-is/s
letter the e"idence was all there in my memory to add to my bitterness.
/8ear sir,/ the letter said, /. am !lad to be able to report that me and my boy ha"e made riendly
contact with the domestic at &umber 1F. This has enabled the in"esti!ation to proceed with
!reater speed because . am sometimes able to ta-e a s=uint at the party/s en!a!ement boo- and
thus obtain mo"ements, also inspect rom day to day the contents o the party/s waste#paper
bas-et, rom which . include herewith an interestin! exhibit, which please return with
obser"ations. The party in =uestion also -eeps a diary and has -ept one or some years, but so ar
the domestic who in uture . shall reer to or !reater security as my riend has not been able to
lay hand on it, bein! as how the party -eeps the same under loc- and -ey, which may or may not
be a suspicious circumstance. +part rom the important exhibit attached hereto, the party seems
to spend a !reat deal o time in not -eepin! the appointments arran!ed as per her en!a!ement
boo- which has to be re!arded as a blind, howe"er personally unwillin! to ta-e a low "iew or
cast a bias in an in"esti!ation o this order where exact truth is desired or the sa-e o all parties./
<e are not hurt only by tra!edy, the !rotes=ue too carries weapons, undi!niied,
ridiculous weapons. There were times when . wanted to crush Mr >ar-is/s ramblin! e"asi"e
ineicient reports into his mouth in the presence o that boy o his. .t was as i in my attempt to
trap 6arah @but or what purpose4 To hurt 3enry or to hurt mysel4A . had let a clown come
tumblin! into our intimacy. .ntimacy. *"en that word smac-s o Mr >ar-is/s reports. 8idn/t he
write once, /Thou!h . ha"e no direct e"idence o intimacy ha"in! ta-en place at 12 Cedar Coad,
the party certainly showed an intent to decei"e/4 'ut that was later. .n this report o his . learned
only that on two occasions when 6arah had written down en!a!ements to "isit her dentist and her
dressma-er, she had not turned up at her appointments i they had e"er existed: she had e"aded
+nd then turnin! o"er Mr >ar-is/s crude document, written in mau"e in- on cheap
notepaper in his thin <a"erley handwritin!, . saw the bold clean writin! o 6arah hersel. . had
not reali9ed . would reco!ni9e it ater nearly two years.
.t was only a scrap o paper pinned to the bac- o the report, and it was mar-ed with a bi!
+ in red pencil. Hnder the +, Mr >ar-is had written, /.mportant in "iew o possible proceedin!s
that all documentary e"idence should be returned or ilin!./ The scrap had been sal"a!ed rom
the waste#paper bas-et and smoothed careully out as it mi!ht ha"e been by a lo"er/s hand. +nd
certainly it must ha"e been addressed to a lo"er, /. ha"e no need to write to you or tal- to you,
you -now e"erythin! beore . can spea-, but when one lo"es, one eels the need to use the same
old ways one has always used. . -now . am only be!innin! to lo"e, but already . want to
abandon e"erythin!, e"erybody but you, only ear and habit pre"ent me. 8ear.../ There was no
more. .t stared boldly up at me, and . couldn/t help thin-in! how . had or!otten e"ery line o all
the notes she had once addressed to me. <ouldn/t . ha"e -ept them i they had e"er conessed so
completely to her lo"e, and or ear o my -eepin! them hadn/t she always in those days been
careul to write to me, as she put it, /between the lines/4 'ut this latest lo"e had burst the ca!e o
lines. .t had reused to be -ept between them out o si!ht. There was one code word . did
remember # /onions/. That word had been allowed in our correspondence to represent discreetly
our passion. $o"e became /onions/, e"en the act itsel /onions/. /+lready . want to abandon
e"erythin!, e"erybody, but you,/ and onions . thou!ht, with hatred, onions # that was the way in
my time.
. wrote /&o comment/ under the scrap o letter, put it bac- in an en"elope and addressed it
to Mr >ar-is, but when . wo-e in the ni!ht . could recite the whole thin! o"er to mysel, and the
word /abandon/ too- on many -inds o physical ima!e. . lay there unable to sleep, one memory
ater another pric-in! me with hatred and desire, her hair annin! out on the par=uet loor and
the stair s=uea-in!, a day in the country when we had lain down in a ditch out o "iew o the
road and . could see the spar-le o rost between the ronds o hair on the hard !round and a
tractor came pushin! by at the moment o crisis and the man ne"er turned his head. <hy doesn/t
hatred -ill desire4 . would ha"e !i"en anythin! to sleep. . would ha"e beha"ed li-e a schoolboy
i . had belie"ed in the possibility o a substitute. 'ut there was a time when . had tried to ind a
substitute, and it hadn/t wor-ed.
. am a 5ealous man # it seems stupid to write these words in what is, . suppose, a lon!
record o 5ealousy, 5ealousy o 3enry, 5ealousy o 6arah and 5ealousy o that other whom Mr
>ar-is was so maladroitly pursuin!. &ow that all this belon!s to the past, . eel my 5ealousy o
3enry only when memories become particularly "i"id @because . swear that i we had been
married, with her loyalty and my desire, we could ha"e been happy or a lietimeA, but there still
remains 5ealousy o my ri"al # a melodramatic word painully inade=uate to express the
unbearable complacency, conidence and success he always en5oys. 6ometimes . thin- he
wouldn/t e"en reco!ni9e me as part o the picture, and . eel an enormous desire to draw attention
to mysel, to shout in his ear, /(ou can/t i!nore me. 3ere . am. <hate"er happened later, 6arah
lo"ed me then./
6arah and . used to ha"e lon! ar!uments on 5ealousy. . was 5ealous e"en o the past, o
which she spo-e to me ran-ly as it came up # the aairs that meant nothin! at all @except
possibly the unconscious desire to ind that inal spasm 3enry had so woeully ailed to e"o-eA.
6he was as loyal to her lo"ers as she was to 3enry, but what should ha"e pro"ided me with some
comort @or undoubtedly she would be loyal to me tooA an!ered me. There was a time when she
would lau!h at my an!er, simply reusin! to belie"e that it was !enuine, 5ust as she reused to
belie"e in her own beauty, and . would be 5ust as an!ry because she reused to be 5ealous o my
past or my possible uture. . reused to belie"e that lo"e could ta-e any other orm than mine, .
measured lo"e by the extent o my 5ealousy, and by that standard o course she could not lo"e me
at all.
The ar!uments always too- the same orm and . only describe one particular occasion
because on that occasion the ar!ument ended in action # a stupid action leadin! nowhere, unless
e"entually to this doubt that always comes when . be!in to write, the eelin! that ater all perhaps
she was ri!ht and . was wron!.
. remember sayin! an!rily, /This is 5ust a han!#o"er rom your old ri!idity. + ri!id
woman is ne"er 5ealous, you simply ha"en/t cau!ht up yet on ordinary human emotions./
.t an!ered me that she didn/t ma-e any claim. /(ou may be ri!ht. ./m only sayin! . want
you to be happy. . hate your bein! unhappy. . don/t mind anythin! you do that ma-es you happy./
/(ou 5ust want an excuse. . . sleep with somebody else, you eel you can do the same #
any time./
/That/s neither here nor there. . want you to be happy, that/s all./
/(ou/d ma-e my bed or me4/
.nsecurity is the worst sense that lo"ers eel, sometimes the most humdrum desireless
marria!e seems better. .nsecurity twists meanin!s and poisons trust. .n a closely belea!uered city
e"ery sentry is a potential traitor. *"en beore the days o Mr >ar-is . was tryin! to chec- on her,
. would catch her out in small lies, e"asions that meant nothin! except her ear o me. For e"ery
lie . would ma!niy into a betrayal, and e"en in the most open statement . would read hidden
meanin!s. 'ecause . couldn/t bear the thou!ht o her so much as touchin! another man, . eared
it all the time, and . saw intimacy in the most casual mo"ement o the hand.
/<ouldn/t you want me to be happy, rather than miserable4/ she as-ed with unbearable
/./d rather be dead or see you dead,/ . said, /than with another man. ./m not eccentric.
That/s ordinary human lo"e. +s- anybody. They/d all say the same # i they lo"ed at all./ . 5ibed at
her. /+nyone who lo"es is 5ealous./
<e were in my room. <e had come there at a sae time o day, the late sprin! aternoon,
in order to ma-e lo"e: or once we had hours o time ahead o us and so . s=uandered it all in a
=uarrel and there was no lo"e to ma-e. 6he sat down on the bed and said, /./m sorry. . didn/t mean
to ma-e you an!ry. . expect you/re ri!ht./ 'ut . wouldn/t let her alone. . hated her because .
wished to thin- she didn/t lo"e me, . wanted to !et her out o my system. <hat !rie"ance, .
wonder now, had . !ot a!ainst her, whether she lo"ed me or not4 6he had been loyal to me or
nearly a year, she had !i"en me a !reat deal o pleasure, she had put up with my moods, and
what had . !i"en her in return apart rom the momentary pleasure4 . had come into this aair
with my eyes open, -nowin! that one day this must end, and yet, when the sense o insecurity,
the lo!ical belie in the hopeless uture descended li-e melancholia, . would bad!er her and
bad!er her, as thou!h . wanted to brin! the uture in now at the door, an unwanted and premature
!uest. My lo"e and ear acted li-e conscience. . we had belie"ed in sin, our beha"iour would
hardly ha"e diered.
/(ou/d be 5ealous o 3enry,/ . said.
/&o. . couldn/t be. .t/s absurd./
/. you saw your marria!e threatened... /
/.t ne"er would be,/ she said drearily, and . too- her words as an insult and wal-ed strai!ht
out and down the stairs and into the street. .s this the end, . wondered, playactin! to mysel4
There/s no need e"er to !o bac-. . . can !et her out o my system, can/t . ind somewhere a =uiet
riendly marria!e that would !o on and on4 Then perhaps . wouldn/t eel 5ealous because .
wouldn/t lo"e enou!h, . would 5ust be secure, and my sel#pity and hatred wal-ed hand in hand
across the dar-enin! Common li-e idiots without a -eeper.
<hen . be!an to write . said this was a story o hatred, but . am not con"inced. >erhaps
my hatred is really as deicient as my lo"e. . loo-ed up 5ust now rom writin! and cau!ht si!ht o
my own ace in a mirror close to my des-, and . thou!ht, does hatred really loo- li-e that4 For .
was reminded o that ace we ha"e all o us seen in childhood, loo-in! bac- at us rom the shop#
window, the eatures blurred with our breath, as we stare with such lon!in! at the bri!ht
unobtainable ob5ects within.
.t must ha"e been some time in May 191G when this ar!ument bro-e out. <ar had helped
us in a !ood many ways, and that was how . had almost come to re!ard war as a rather
disreputable and unreliable accomplice in my aair. @8eliberately . would put the caustic soda o
that word /aair/, with its su!!estion o a be!innin! and an end, upon my ton!ue.A . suppose
Germany by this time had in"aded the $ow Countries, the sprin! li-e a corpse was sweet with
the smell o doom, but nothin! mattered to me but two practical acts # 3enry had been shited to
3ome 6ecurity and wor-ed late, my landlady had remo"ed to the basement or ear o air#raids,
and no lon!er lur-ed upon the loor abo"e watchin! o"er the banisters or undesirable "isitors.
My own lie had altered not at all, because o my lameness @. ha"e one le! a little shorter than
the other, the result o an accident in childhoodA: only when the air#raids started did . eel it
necessary to become a warden. .t was or the time bein! as thou!h . had si!ned out o the war.
That e"enin! . was still ull o my hatred and distrust when . reached >iccadilly. More
than anythin! in the world . wanted to hurt 6arah. . wanted to ta-e a woman bac- with me and
lie with her upon the same bed in which . made lo"e to 6arah: it was as thou!h . -new that the
only way to hurt her was to hurt mysel. .t was dar- and =uiet by this time in the streets, thou!h
up in the moonless s-y mo"ed the blobs and beams o the searchli!hts. (ou couldn/t see aces
where the women stood in doorways and at the entrances o the unused shelters. They had to
si!nal with their torches li-e !low#worms. +ll the way up 6ac-"ille 6treet the little li!hts went
on and o. . ound mysel wonderin! what 6arah was doin! now. 3ad she !one home or was she
waitin! on the chance o my return4
+ woman lashed on her li!ht and said, /$i-e to come home with me, dear4/ . shoo- my
head and wal-ed on.
Further up the street a !irl was tal-in! to a man, as she lit up her ace or him, . !ot a
!limpse o somethin! youn!, dar- and happy and not yet spoiled, an animal that didn/t yet
reco!ni9e her capti"ity. . passed and then came bac- up the road towards them: as . approached
the man let her and . spo-e. /$i-e a drin-4/ . said.
/Comin! home with me aterwards4/
/./ll be !lad o a =uic- one./
<e went into the pub at the top o the street and . ordered two whis-ies, but as she dran-
. couldn/t see her ace or 6arah/s. 6he was youn!er than 6arah, she couldn/t ha"e been more than
nineteen, more beautiul, one mi!ht e"en ha"e said less spoiled, but only because there was so
much less to spoil, . ound . no more wanted her than . wanted the company o a do! or a cat.
6he was tellin! me that she had a nice lat on the top loor only a ew houses down, she told me
what rent she had to pay and what her a!e was and where she was born and how she had wor-ed
or a year in a cae. 6he told me she didn/t !o home with anybody who spo-e to her, but she
could see at once . was a !entleman. 6he said she had a canary called 0ones named ater the
!entleman who had !i"en it her. 6he be!an to tal- o the diiculty o !ettin! !roundsel in
$ondon. . thou!ht, i 6arah is still in my room . can rin! up. . heard the !irl as-in! me whether i
. had a !arden . would sometimes remember her canary. 6he said, /(ou don/t mind me as-in!, do
$oo-in! at her o"er my whis-y . thou!ht how odd it was that . elt no desire or her at
all. .t was as i =uite suddenly ater all the promiscuous years . had !rown up. My passion or
6arah had -illed simple lust or e"er. &e"er a!ain would . be able to en5oy a woman without
+nd yet surely it was not lo"e that had brou!ht me into this pub: . had told mysel all the
way rom the Common that it was hate, as . tell mysel still, writin! this account o her, tryin! to
!et her out o my system or e"er, or . ha"e always told mysel that i she died, . could or!et
. went out o the pub, lea"in! the !irl with her whis-y to inish and a pound#note as a
sal"e to her pride, and wal-ed up &ew 'urlin!ton 6treet as ar as a telephone#box. . had no torch
with me and . was orced to stri-e match ater match beore . could complete the diallin! o my
number. Then . heard the rin!in! tone and . could ima!ine the telephone where it stood on my
des- and . -new exactly how many steps 6arah would ha"e to ta-e to reach it i she were sittin!
in a chair or lyin! on the bed. +nd yet . let it !o on rin!in! in the empty room or hal a minute.
Then . telephoned to her home and the maid told me she had not yet come in. . thou!ht o her
wal-in! about on the Common in the blac-#out # it wasn/t a "ery sae place in those days, and
loo-in! at my watch . thou!ht, i . hadn/t been a ool we should still ha"e had three hours
to!ether. . went bac- home alone and tried to read a boo-, but all the time . was listenin! or the
telephone which ne"er ran!. My pride pre"ented me telephonin! her a!ain. +t last . went to bed
and too- a double dose o sleepin!#drau!ht, so that the irst . -new in the mornin! was 6arah/s
"oice on the telephone, spea-in! to me as i nothin! had happened. .t was li-e perect peace
a!ain until . put the recei"er down, when immediately that de"il in my brain prompted the
thou!ht that the waste o those three hours meant nothin! at all to her.
. ha"e ne"er understood why people who can swallow the enormous improbability o a
personal God bo!!le at a personal 8e"il. . ha"e -nown so intimately the way that demon wor-s
in my ima!ination. &o statement that 6arah e"er made was proo a!ainst his cunnin! doubts,
thou!h he would usually wait till she had !one to utter them. 3e would prompt our =uarrels lon!
beore they occurred, he was not 6arah/s enemy so much as the enemy o lo"e, and isn/t that what
the de"il is supposed to be4 . can ima!ine that i there existed a God who lo"ed, the de"il would
be dri"en to destroy e"en the wea-est, the most aulty imitation o that lo"e. <ouldn/t he be
araid that the habit o lo"e mi!ht !row, and wouldn/t he try to trap us all into bein! traitors, into
helpin! him extin!uish lo"e4 . there is a God who uses us and ma-es his saints out o such
material as we are, the de"il too may ha"e his ambitions: he may dream o trainin! e"en such a
person as mysel, e"en poor >ar-is, into bein! his saints, ready with borrowed anaticism to
destroy lo"e where"er we ind it ? For . thou!ht . could detect in >ar-is/s next report a !enuine
enthusiasm or the de"il/s !ame. +t last he had really scented lo"e and now he stal-ed it, his boy
at his heels li-e a retrie"er. 3e had disco"ered where 6arah was spendin! so much o her time,
more than that, he -new or certain that the "isits were surreptitious. . had to admit that Mr
>ar-is had pro"ed himsel an astute detecti"e. 3e had arran!ed with the help o his boy to !et the
Miles/s maid outside the house 5ust at the moment when the /party in =uestion/ wal-ed down
Cedar Coad towards &o .12. 6arah stopped and spo-e to the maid, whose day o it was, and the
maid introduced her to youn! >ar-is. Then 6arah went on and turned the next corner, where
>ar-is himsel was waitin!. 3e saw her wal- a little way and then return. <hen she ound the
maid and youn! >ar-is were out o si!ht she ran! the bell at &o .12. Mr >ar-is then set to wor-
to chec- on the inhabitants o &o .12. This was not so easy, as the house was di"ided into lats
and he had no means yet o -nowin! which o the three bells 6arah ran!. 3e promised a inal
report in a ew days. +ll he had to do, when next 6arah started out in this direction, was to !et
ahead o her and dust the three bells with powder. /There is, o course, apart rom exhibit +, no
proo o misconduct by the party in =uestion. . on the stren!th o these reports such proos are
re=uired with a "iew to le!al proceedin!s, it may be necessary ater a suitable inter"al to ollow
the party into the lat. + second witness, who can identiy the party, would be re=uired. .t is not
necessary to catch the party in the act: a certain disarran!ement o clothes and a!itation mi!ht be
held suicient by the Courts./
3atred is "ery li-e physical lo"e, it has its crisis and then its periods o calm. >oor 6arah,
. could thin-, readin! Mr >ar-is/s report, or this moment had been the or!asm o my hatred, and
now . was satisied. . could eel sorry or her, hemmed in as she was. 6he had committed nothin!
but lo"e, and here were >ar-is and his boy watchin! e"ery mo"ement, plottin! with her maid,
puttin! powder on bells, plannin! "iolent eruptions into what perhaps was the only peace that
nowadays she en5oyed. . had hal a mind to tear up the report and call the spies o her. >erhaps .
would ha"e done so i . had not, at the seedy club to which . belon!ed, opened a ;Tatler; and
seen 3enry/s photo!raph. 3enry was successul now, in the last 'irthday 3onours he had
recei"ed a C. '. *. or his ser"ices at the Ministry, he had been appointed Chairman o a Coyal
Commission, and here he was at the !ala ni!ht o a 'ritish ilm called ;The $ast 6iren;, pallid
and pop#eyed in the lashli!ht with 6arah on his arm. 6he had lowered her head to escape the
lash, but . would ha"e reco!ni9ed that close -notty hair which trapped or resisted the in!ers.
6uddenly . wanted to put out my hand and touch her, the hair o her head and her secret hair, .
wanted her lyin! beside me, . wanted to be able to turn my head on the pillow and spea- to her, .
wanted the almost imperceptible smell and taste o her s-in, and there was 3enry acin! the
pressman/s camera with the complacency and assurance o a 8epartmental head.
. sat down under a sta!head presented by 6ir <alter 'esant in 1J9J and wrote to 3enry. .
wrote that . had somethin! o importance to discuss with him and would he lunch with me # he
could choose any day durin! the next wee-. .t was typical o 3enry that he ran! up with !reat
promptitude and at the same time su!!ested . should lunch with him # ne"er ha"e . -nown a man
who was a more uneasy !uest. . can/t remember exactly what the excuse was, but it an!ered me.
. thin- he said his own club had some particularly !ood port, but the real reason was that the
sense o obli!ation ir-ed him # e"en the small obli!ation o a ree meal. 3e little !uessed how
small his obli!ation was !oin! to be. 3e had chosen a 6aturday and on that day my club is
almost empty. The daily 5ournalists ha"e no paper to produce, the school inspectors ha"e !one
home to 'romley and 6treatham, . ne"er -now =uite what happens on that day to the cler!y #
perhaps they stay indoors to prepare their sermons. +s or the authors @or whom the club had
been oundedA, nearly all o them are han!in! on the wall # Conan 8oyle, Charles Gar"ice,
6tanley <eyman, &at Gould, with an occasional more illustrious and amiliar ace, the li"in!
you can count on the in!ures o one hand. . ha"e always elt at home in the club because there is
so little li-elihood o meetin! a ellow writer.
. remember 3enry chose a 7ienna stea- # it was a mar- o his innocence. . really belie"e
that he had no idea what he was orderin! and expected somethin! li-e a <iener 6chnit9el.
>layin! as he was away rom the home !round, he was too ill at ease to comment on the dish and
somehow he mana!ed to ram the pin- so!!y mixture down. . remembered that pompous
appearance beore the lashli!hts and made no attempt to warn him when he chose Cabinet
>uddin!. 8urin! the hideous meal @the club that day surpassed itselA we tal-ed elaborately about
nothin!. 3enry did his best to lend an appearance o Cabinet secrecy to the proceedin!s o a
Coyal Commission that were reported daily in the >ress. <e went into the loun!e or coee and
ound oursel"es entirely alone beside the ire in a waste o blac- horsehair soas. . thou!ht how
suitable the horns alon! the walls were to the situation, and puttin! my eet up on the old#
ashioned ender shut 3enry irmly into his corner. . stirred my coee and said, /3ow/s 6arah4/
/>retty well,/ 3enry said e"asi"ely. 3e tasted his port with care and suspicion, he hadn/t
or!otten, . suppose, the 7ienna stea-.
/+re you still worried4/ . as-ed him.
3e shited his !a9e unhappily. /<orried4/
/(ou were worried. (ou told me so./
/. don/t remember. 6he/s pretty well,/ he explained wea-ly, as thou!h . had been reerrin!
to her health.
/8id you e"er consult that detecti"e4/
/. hoped you/d or!otten it. . wasn/t well # you see, there was this Coyal Commission
brewin!. . was o"erwor-ed./
/8o you remember . oered to see him or you4/
/<e must both ha"e been a bit o"erwrou!ht./ 3e stared up at the old horns o"erhead,
screwin! up his eyes in his attempt to read the name o the donor. 3e said stupidly, /(ou seem to
ha"e a lot o heads./ . wasn/t !oin! to let him o. . said, /. went to see him a ew days later./
3e put down his !lass and said, /'endrix, you had absolutely no ri!ht... /
/./m payin! all the char!es./
/.t/s inernal chee-./ 3e stood up, but . had him penned in where he couldn/t !et past
without an act o "iolence, and "iolence wasn/t in 3enry/s character.
/6urely you/d ha"e li-ed her cleared4/ . said.
/There was nothin! to clear. . want to !o, please./
/. thin- you ou!ht to read the reports./
/./"e no intention... /
/Then . thin- . shall ha"e to read you the bit about the surreptitious "isits. 3er lo"e letter .
returned to the detecti"es or ilin!. My dear 3enry, you/"e been properly led up the !arden./
. really thou!ht that he was !oin! to hit me. . he had, . would ha"e struc- bac- with
pleasure, struc- bac- at this oa to whom 6arah had remained in her way so stupidly loyal or so
many years, but at that moment the secretary o the club came in. 3e was a man with a lon! !rey
beard and a soup#stained waistcoat, who loo-ed li-e a 7ictorian poet but in act wrote little sad
reminiscences o the do!s he had once -nown. @;For *"er Fido; had been a !reat success in
191E.A /+h, 'endrix,/ he said, /. ha"en/t seen you here in a lon! while./ . introduced him to 3enry
and he said with the =uic-ness o a hairdresser, /./"e been ollowin! the reports e"ery day./
/<hat reports4/ For once 3enry/s wor- had not come irst to his mind when that word was
/The Coyal Commission./
<hen at last he had !one, 3enry said, /&ow will you please !i"e me the reports and let
me pass./
. ima!ined that he had been thin-in! thin!s o"er while the secretary was with us, so .
handed him the last report.
3e put it strai!ht into the ire and rammed it home with the po-er. . couldn/t help thin-in!
that the !esture had di!nity. /<hat are you !oin! to do4/ . as-ed.
/(ou ha"en/t !ot rid o the acts./
/To hell with the acts,/ 3enry said. . had ne"er heard him swear beore.
/. can always let you ha"e a carbon copy./
/<ill you let me !o now4/ 3enry said. The demon had done its wor-, . elt drained o
"enom. . too- my le!s o the ender and let 3enry pass. 3e wal-ed strai!ht out o the club,
or!ettin! his hat, that blac- superior hat that . had seen come drippin! across the Common # it
seemed an a!e and not a matter o wee-s a!o.
. had expected to o"erta-e him, or at least to come in si!ht o him ahead up the lon! reach o
<hitehall, and so . carried his hat with me, but he was nowhere to be seen. . turned bac- not
-nowin! where to !o. That is the worst o time nowadays # there is so much o it. . loo-ed in the
small boo-shop near Charin! Cross under!round and wondered whether 6arah at this moment
mi!ht ha"e laid her hand on the powdered bell in Cedar Coad with Mr >ar-is waitin! round the
corner. . . could ha"e turned bac- time . thin- . would ha"e done so, . would ha"e let 3enry !o
wal-in! by, blinded by the rain. 'ut . am be!innin! to doubt whether anythin! . can do will e"er
alter the course o e"ents. 3enry and . are allies now, in our ashion, but are we allies a!ainst an
ininite tide4
. went across the road, past the ruit#haw-ers, and into the 7ictoria Gardens. &ot many
people were sittin! on the benches in the !rey windy air, and almost at once . saw 3enry, but it
too- me a moment to reco!ni9e him. Out o doors, without a hat, he seemed to ha"e 5oined the
anonymous and the dispossessed, the people who come up rom the poorer suburbs and nobody
-nows # the old man eedin! sparrows, the woman with a brown#paper parcel mar-ed 6wan L
*d!ar/s. 3e sat there with his head bent, loo-in! at his shoes. . ha"e been sorry or mysel or so
lon!, so exclusi"ely, that it seemed stran!e to me to eel sorry or my enemy. . put the hat =uietly
down on the seat beside him and would ha"e wal-ed away, but he loo-ed up and . could see that
he had been cryin!. 3e must ha"e tra"elled a "ery lon! way. Tears belon! to a dierent world
rom Coyal Commissions.
/./m sorry, 3enry,/ . said. 3ow easily we belie"e we can slide out o our !uilt by a motion
o contrition.
/6it down,/ 3enry commanded with the authority o his tears, and . obeyed him. 3e said,
/./"e been thin-in!. <ere you two lo"ers, 'endrix4/
/<hy should you ima!ine...4/
/.t/s the only explanation./
/. don/t -now what you are tal-in! about./
/.t/s the only excuse too, 'endrix. Can/t you see that what you/"e done is # monstrous4/ +s
he spo-e he turned his hat o"er and chec-ed the ma-er/s name.
/. suppose you thin- ./m an awul ool, 'endrix, not to ha"e !uessed. <hy didn/t she
lea"e me4/
3ad . !ot to instruct him about the character o his own wie4 The poison was be!innin!
to wor- in me a!ain. . said, /(ou ha"e a !ood sae income. (ou/re a habit she/s ormed. (ou/re
security./ 3e listened seriously and attenti"ely as thou!h . were a witness beore the Commission
!i"in! e"idence on oath. . went sourly on, /(ou were no more trouble to us than you/d been to the
/There were others too4/
/6ometimes . thou!ht you -new all about it and didn/t care. 6ometimes . lon!ed to ha"e it
out with you # li-e we are doin! now when it/s too late. . wanted to tell you what . thou!ht o
/<hat did you thin-4/
/That you were her pimp. (ou pimped or me and you pimped or them, and now you are
pimpin! or the latest one. The eternal pimp. <hy don/t you !et an!ry, 3enry4/
/. ne"er -new./
/(ou pimped with your i!norance. (ou pimped by ne"er learnin! how to ma-e lo"e with
her, so she had to loo- elsewhere. (ou pimped by !i"in! opportunities... (ou pimped by bein! a
bore and a ool, so now somebody who isn/t a bore and ool is playin! about with her in Cedar
/<hy did she lea"e you4/
/'ecause . became a bore and a ool too. 'ut . wasn/t born one, 3enry. (ou created me.
6he wouldn/t lea"e you, so . became a bore, borin! her with complaints and 5ealousy./
3e said, />eople ha"e a !reat opinion o your boo-s./
/+nd they say you/re a irst#class chairman. <hat the hell does our wor- matter4/
3e said sadly, /. don/t -now anythin! else that does,/ loo-in! up at the !rey cumulus
passin! abo"e the south ban-. The !ulls lew low o"er the bar!es and the shot#tower stood blac-
in the winter li!ht amon! the ruined warehouses. The man who ed the sparrows had !one and
the woman with the brown#paper parcel, the ruit#sellers cried li-e animals in the dus- outside
the station. .t was as i the shutters were !oin! up on the whole world: soon we should all o us
be abandoned to our own de"ices. /. wondered why you hadn/t been to see us all that time,/ 3enry
/. suppose # in a way # we/d !ot to the end o lo"e. There was nothin! else we could do
to!ether. 6he could shop and coo- and all asleep with you, but she could only ma-e lo"e with
/6he/s "ery ond o you,/ he said as thou!h it were his 5ob to comort ;me;, as thou!h my
eyes were the ones bruised with tears.
/One isn/t satisied with ondness./
/. was./
/. wanted lo"e to !o on and on, ne"er to !et less.../ . had ne"er spo-en to anyone li-e this,
except 6arah, but 3enry/s reply was not 6arah/s. 3e said, /.t/s not in human nature. One has to be
satisied.../ but that wasn/t what 6arah had said, and sittin! there beside 3enry in the 7ictoria
Gardens, watchin! the day die, . remembered the end o the whole /aair/.
6he had said to me # they were nearly the last words . heard rom her beore she came drippin!
into the hall rom her assi!nation # /(ou needn/t be so scared. $o"e doesn/t end. 0ust because we
don/t see each other.../ 6he had already made her decision, thou!h . didn/t -now it till next day,
when the telephone presented nothin! but the silent open mouth o somebody ound dead. 6he
said, /My dear, my dear. >eople !o on lo"in! God, don/t they, all their li"es without seein! 3im4/
/That/s not our -ind o lo"e./
/. sometimes don/t belie"e there/s any other -ind./ . suppose . should ha"e reco!ni9ed that
she was already under a stran!er/s inluence # she had ne"er spo-en li-e that when we were irst
to!ether. <e had a!reed so happily to eliminate God rom our world. +s . shone the torch
careully to li!ht her way across the de"astated hall, she said a!ain, /*"erythin! must be all ri!ht.
. we lo"e enou!h./
/. can/t turn on any more,/ . said. /(ou/"e !ot e"erythin!./
/(ou don/t -now,/ she said. /(ou don/t -now./
The !lass rom the windows crumbled under our eet. Only the old 7ictorian stained !lass
abo"e the door had stood irm. The !lass turned white where it powdered li-e the ice children
ha"e bro-en in wet ields or alon! the side o roads. 6he told me a!ain, /8on/t be scared./ . -new
she wasn/t reerrin! to those stran!e new weapons that still, ater i"e hours, droned steadily up
rom the south li-e bees.
.t was the irst ni!ht o what were later called the 71s in 0une 1911. <e had become
unused to air#raids. +part rom the short spell in February 1911, there had been nothin! since the
blit9 petered out with the !reat inal raids o 1911. <hen the sirens went and the irst robots
came o"er, we assumed that a ew planes had bro-en throu!h our ni!ht deence. One elt a sense
o !rie"ance when the +ll Clear had still not sounded ater an hour. . remember sayin! to 6arah,
/They must ha"e !ot slac-. Too little to do,/ and at that moment, lyin! in the dar- on my bed, we
saw our irst robot. .t passed low across the Common and we too- it or a plane on ire and its
odd deep bumble or the sound o an en!ine out o control. + second came and then a third. <e
chan!ed our minds then about our deences. /They are shootin! them li-e pi!eons,/ . said, /they
must be cra9y to !o on./ 'ut !o on they did, hour ater hour, e"en ater the dawn had be!un to
brea-, until e"en we reali9ed that this was somethin! new.
<e had only 5ust lain down on the bed when the raid started. .t made no dierence. 8eath
ne"er mattered at those times # in the early days . e"en used to pray or it, the shatterin!
annihilation that would pre"ent or e"er the !ettin! up, the puttin! on o clothes, the watchin!
her torch trail across to the opposite side o the Common li-e the tail#li!ht o a slow car dri"in!
away. . ha"e wondered sometimes whether eternity mi!ht not ater all exist as the endless
prolon!ation o the moment o death, and that was the moment . would ha"e chosen, that .
would still choose i she were ali"e, the moment o absolute trust and absolute pleasure, the
moment when it was impossible to =uarrel because it was impossible to thin-. . ha"e complained
o her caution, and bitterly compared our use o the word /onions/ with the scrap o her writin!
Mr >ar-is had sal"a!ed, but readin! her messa!e to my un-nown successor would ha"e hurt less
i . hadn/t -nown how capable she was o abandonment. &o, the 71s didn/t aect us until the act
o lo"e was o"er. . had spent e"erythin! . had, and was lyin! bac- with my head on her stomach
and her taste # as thin and elusi"e as water # in my mouth, when one o the robots crashed down
on to the Common and we could hear the !lass brea-in! urther down the south side.
/. suppose we ou!ht to !o to the basement,/ . said.
/(our landlady will be there. . can/t ace other people./
+ter possession comes the tenderness o responsibility when one or!ets one is only a
lo"er, responsible or nothin!. . said, /6he may be away. ./ll !o down and see,/
/8on/t !o. >lease don/t !o./
T won/t be a moment./ .t was a phrase one continued to use, althou!h one -new in those
days that a moment mi!ht well be eternity lon!. . put on my dressin!#!own and ound my torch.
. hardly needed it, the s-y was !rey now and in the unlit room . could see the outline o her ace.
6he said, /'e =uic-./
+s . ran down the stairs . heard the next robot comin! o"er, and then the sudden waitin!
silence when the en!ine cut out. <e hadn/t yet had time to learn that that was the moment o ris-,
to !et out o the line o !lass, to lie lat. . ne"er heard the explosion, and . wo-e ater i"e
seconds or i"e minutes in a chan!ed world. . thou!ht . was still on my eet and . was pu99led by
the dar-ness, somebody seemed to be pressin! a cold ist into my chee- and my mouth was salty
with blood. My mind or a ew moments was clear o e"erythin! except a sense o tiredness as
thou!h . had been on a lon! 5ourney. . had no memory at all o 6arah and . was completely ree
rom anxiety, 5ealousy, insecurity, hate, my mind was a blan- sheet on which somebody had 5ust
been on the point o writin! a messa!e o happiness. . elt sure that when my memory came
bac-, the writin! would continue and that . should be happy.
'ut when memory did return it was not in that way. . reali9ed irst that . was lyin! on my
bac- and that what balanced o"er me, shuttin! out the li!ht, was the ront door, some other
debris had cau!ht it and suspended it a ew inches abo"e my body, thou!h the odd thin! was that
later . ound mysel bruised rom the shoulders to the -nees as i by its shadow. The ist that
itted into my chee- was the china handle o the door, and it had -noc-ed out a couple o my
teeth. +ter that, o course, . remembered 6arah and 3enry and the dread o lo"e endin!.
. !ot out rom under the door and dusted mysel down. . called to the basement but there
was nobody there. Throu!h the blasted doorway . could see the !rey mornin! li!ht and . had a
sense o !reat emptiness stretchin! out rom the ruined hall, . reali9ed that a tree which had
bloc-ed the li!ht had simply ceased to exist # there was no si!n o e"en a allen trun-. + lon!
way o wardens were blowin! whistles. . went upstairs. The irst li!ht had lost its banisters and
was a oot deep in plaster, but the house hadn/t really, by the standard o those days, suered
badly, it was our nei!hbours who had cau!ht the ull blast. The door o my room was open and
comin! alon! the passa!e . could see 6arah: she had !ot o the bed and was crouched on the
loor # rom ear, . supposed. 6he loo-ed absurdly youn!, li-e a na-ed child. . said, /That was a
close one./
6he turned =uic-ly and stared at me with ear. . hadn/t reali9ed that my dressin!#!own
was torn and dusted all o"er with plaster: my hair was white with it, and there was blood on my
mouth and chee-s. /Oh, God,/ she said, /you/re ali"e./
/(ou sound disappointed./
6he !ot up rom the loor and reached or her clothes. . told her, /There/s no point in your
!oin! yet. There must be an +ll Clear soon./
/./"e !ot to !o,/ she said.
/Two bombs don/t all in one place,/ . said, but automatically, or that was a piece o
ol-lore that had oten pro"ed alse.
/(ou/re hurt./
/./"e lost two teeth, that/s all./
/Come o"er here, let me wash your ace./ 6he had inished dressin! beore . had time to
ma-e another protest #no woman . ha"e e"er -nown could dress as =uic-ly. 6he bathed my ace
"ery slowly and careully.
/<hat were you doin! on the loor4/ . as-ed.
/<ho to4/
/To anythin! that mi!ht exist./
/.t would ha"e been more practical to come downstairs./ 3er seriousness ri!htened me. .
wanted to tease her out o it.
/. did,/ she said, /. didn/t hear you./
/There was nobody there. . couldn/t see you until . saw your arm stretchin! out rom
under the door. . thou!ht you were dead./
/(ou mi!ht ha"e come and tried./
/. did. . couldn/t lit the door./
/There was room to mo"e me. The door wasn/t holdin! me. ./d ha"e wo-en up./
/. don/t understand. . -new or certain you were dead./
/There wasn/t much to pray or then, was there4/ . teased her. /*xcept a miracle./
/<hen you are hopeless enou!h,/ she said, /you can pray or miracles. They happen, don/t
they, to the poor, and . was poor./
/6tay till the +ll Clear./ 6he shoo- her head and wal-ed strai!ht out o the room. .
ollowed her down the stairs and be!an a!ainst my will to bad!er her. /6hall . see you this
/&o. . can/t./
/6ome time tomorrow..
/3enry/s comin! bac-./
3enry. 3enry. 3enry # that name tolled throu!h our relationship, dampin! e"ery mood o
happiness or un or exhilaration with its reminder that lo"e dies, aection and habit win the day.
/(ou needn/t be so scared,/ she said, /lo"e doesn/t end.../ and nearly two years passed beore that
meetin! in the hall and, /(ou4/
For days ater that, o course, . had hope. .t was only a coincidence, . thou!ht, that the telephone
wasn/t answered, and when ater a wee- . met the maid and in=uired about the Mileses and learnt
that she was away in the country, . told mysel that in war#time letters are lost. Mornin! ater
mornin! . would hear the rattle in the post#box and deliberately . would remain upstairs until my
landlady etched my mail. . wouldn/t loo- throu!h the letters # disappointment had to be
postponed, hope -ept ali"e as lon! as possible: . would read each letter in turn and only when .
reached the bottom o the pile could . be certain that there was nothin! rom 6arah. Then lie
withered until the our o/cloc- post, and ater that one had to !et throu!h the ni!ht a!ain.
For nearly a wee- . didn/t write to her, pride pre"ented me, until one mornin! .
abandoned it completely, writin! anxiously and bitterly, mar-in! the en"elope addressed to the
north side, /Hr!ent/ and />lease orward/. . !ot no reply and then . !a"e up hope and remembered
exactly what she had said. />eople !o on lo"in! God, don/t they, all their li"es without seein!
3im4/ . thou!ht with hatred, she always has to show up well in her own mirror, she mixes
reli!ion with desertion to ma-e it sound noble to hersel. 6he won/t admit that now she preers to
!o to bed with M.
That was the worst period o all, it is my proession to ima!ine, to thin- in ima!es, ity
times throu!h the day, and immediately . wo-e durin! the ni!ht, a curtain would rise and the
play would be!in, always the same play, 6arah ma-in! lo"e, 6arah with M, doin! the same thin!s
that we had done to!ether, 6arah -issin! in her own particular way, archin! hersel in the act o
sex and utterin! that cry li-e pain, 6arah in abandonment. . would ta-e pills at ni!ht to ma-e me
sleep =uic-ly, but . ne"er ound any pills that would -eep me asleep till dayli!ht. Only the robots
were a distraction durin! the day, or a ew seconds between the silence and the crash my mind
would be clear o 6arah. Three wee-s passed and the ima!es were as clear and re=uent as at irst
and there seemed no reason why they should e"er end, and . be!an =uite seriously to thin- o
suicide. . e"en set a date, and . sa"ed up my sleepin! pills with what was almost a sense o hope.
. needn/t ater all !o on li-e this indeinitely, . told mysel. Then the date came and the play went
on and on and . didn/t -ill mysel. .t wasn/t cowardice, it was a memory that stopped me #the
memory o the loo- o disappointment on 6arah/s ace when . came into the room ater the 7.
had allen. 3adn/t she, at heart, hoped or my death, so that her new aair with M would hurt her
conscience less, or she had a -ind o elementary conscience4 . . -illed mysel now, she
wouldn/t ha"e to worry about me at all, and surely ater our our years to!ether there would be
moments o worry e"en with M. . wasn/t !oin! to !i"e her that satisaction. . . had -nown a way
. would ha"e increased her worries to brea-in! point and my impotence an!ered me. 3ow .
hated her.
O course there is an end o hate as there is an end o lo"e. +ter six months . reali9ed
that . had not thou!ht o 6arah all one day and that . had been happy. .t couldn/t ha"e been =uite
the end o hate because at once . went into a stationer/s to buy a picture postcard and write a
5ubilant messa!e on it that mi!ht # who -nows4 # cause a momentary pain, but by the time . had
written her address . had lost the desire to hurt and dropped the card into the road. .t was stran!e
that hate should ha"e been re"i"ed a!ain by that meetin! with 3enry. . remember thin-in!, as .
opened Mr >ar-is/s next report, i only lo"e could re"i"e li-e that too.
Mr >ar-is had done his wor- well, the powder had wor-ed and the lat had been located #
the top lat in 12 Cedar Coad, the occupant, a Miss 6mythe and her brother, Cichard. . wondered
whether Miss 6mythe was as con"enient a sister as 3enry was a husband, and all my latent
snobbery was aroused by the name # that y, the inal e. . thou!ht, has she allen as low as a
6mythe in Cedar Coad4 <as he the end o a lon! chain o lo"ers in the last two years, or when .
saw him @and . was determined to see him less obscurely than in Mr >ar-is/s reportsA would . be
loo-in! at the man or whom she had deserted me in 0une 19114
/6hall . rin! the bell and wal- ri!ht in and conront him li-e an in5ured husband4/ . as-ed
Mr >ar-is @who had met me by appointment in an +. '. C. # it was his own su!!estion as he had
the boy with him and couldn/t ta-e him into a barA.
/./m a!ainst it, sir,/ Mr >ar-is said, addin! a third spoonul o su!ar to his tea. 3is son sat
at a table out o earshot with a !lass o oran!eade and a bun. 3e obser"ed e"erybody who came
in, as they shoo- the thin watery snow rom their hats and coats, watched with his alert brown
beady eyes as thou!h he had to ma-e a report later # perhaps he had, part o the >ar-is trainin!.
/(ou see, sir,/ Mr >ar-is said, /unless you were willin! to !i"e e"idence, it complicates thin!s in
the Courts./
/.t will ne"er reach the Courts./
/+n amicable settlement4/
/+ lac- o interest,/ . said. /One can/t really ma-e a uss about a man called 6mythe. ./d
5ust li-e to see him # that/s all./
/The saest thin!, sir, would be a meter inspector./
/. can/t dress up in a pea-ed cap./
/. share your eelin!s, sir. .t/s a thin! . try to a"oid. +nd ./d li-e the boy to a"oid it too
when the time comes./ 3is sad eyes ollowed e"ery mo"ement his boy made. /3e wanted an ice,
sir, but . said no, not in this weather,/ and he shi"ered a little as thou!h the thou!ht o the ice had
chilled him. For a moment . had no idea o his meanin! when he said, /*"ery proession has its
di!nity, sir./
. said, /<ould you lend me your boy4/
/. you assure me there/ll be nothin! unpleasant, sir,/ he said doubtully.
T don/t want to call when Mrs Miles is there. This scene will ha"e a Hni"ersal certiicate./
/'ut why the boy, sir4/
/./ll say he/s eelin! ill. <e/"e come to the wron! address. They couldn/t help lettin! him
sit down or a while./
/.t/s in the boy/s capacity,/ Mr >ar-is said with pride, /and nobody can resist $ance./
/3e/s called $ance, is he4/
/+ter 6ir $ancelot, sir. O the Cound Table./
/./m surprised. That was a rather unpleasant episode, surely./
/3e ound the 3oly Grail,/ Mr >ar-is said.
/That was Galahad. $ancelot was ound in bed with Guine"ere./ <hy do we ha"e this
desire to tease the innocent4 .s it en"y4 Mr >ar-is said sadly, loo-in! across at his boy as thou!h
he had betrayed him, /. hadn/t heard./
&ext day # to spite his ather # . !a"e the boy an ice in the 3i!h 6treet beore we went to Cedar
Coad. 3enry Miles was holdin! a coc-tail party # so Mr >ar-is had reported, and the coast was
clear. 3e handed the boy o"er to me, ater twitchin! his clothes strai!ht. The boy was wearin!
his best thin!s in honour o his irst sta!e appearance with a client, while . was wearin! my
worst. 6ome o the strawberry ice ell rom his spoon and made a splash upon his suit. . sat in
silence till the last drop was drained. Then . said, /+nother4/ 3e nodded. /6trawberry a!ain4/
3e said, /7anilla,/ and added a lon! while ater, />lease./
3e ate the second ice with !reat deliberation, careully lic-in! the spoon as thou!h he
were remo"in! in!erprints. Then we went hand in hand across the Common to Cedar Coad li-e
a ather and son. 6arah and . are both childless, . thou!ht. <ouldn/t there ha"e been more sense
in marryin! and ha"in! children and li"in! =uietly to!ether in a sweet and dull peace than in this
urti"e business o lust and 5ealousy and the reports o >ar-is4
. ran! the bell on the top loor o Cedar Coad. . said to the boy, /Cemember. (ou/re
eelin! ill./
/. they !i"e me an ice.../ he be!an, >ar-is had trained him to be prepared.
/They won/t./
. assumed it was Miss 6mythe who opened the door #a middle#a!ed woman with the !rey
tired hair o charity#, ba9aars. . said, /8oes Mr <ilson li"e here4/
/&o. ./m araid... /
/(ou don/t happen to -now i he/s in the lat below4/
/There/s nobody called <ilson in this house./
/Oh dear,/ . said. /./"e brou!ht the boy all this way, and now he/s eelin! ill... /
. dared not loo- at the boy, but rom the way in which Miss 6mythe !a9ed at him, . elt
sure he was silently and eiciently carryin! out his part, Mr 6a"a!e would ha"e been proud to
ac-nowled!e him as a member o his team.
/8o let him come in and sit down,/ Miss 6mythe said.
/.t/s "ery -ind o you./
. wondered how oten 6arah had passed throu!h this door into the little cluttered hall.
3ere . was in the home o M. >resumably the brown sot hat on the hoo- belon!ed to him. The
in!ers o my successor # the in!ers that touched 6arah # daily turned the handle o this door
which opened now on the yellow lame o the !as#ire, pin-#shaded lamps burnin! throu!h the
snow#!rey aternoon, a waste o cretonne loose co"ers. /Can . etch your little boy a !lass o
/.t/s "ery -ind o you./ . remembered . had said that beore.
/ Or some oran!e#s=uash./
/(ou mustn/t bother./
/Oran!e#s=uash,/ the boy said irmly, a!ain the lon! pause and /please/ as she went
throu!h the door. &ow we were alone . loo-ed at him, he really did loo- ill, crouchin! bac- on
the cretonne. . he had not win-ed at me, . would ha"e wondered whether perhaps... Miss
6mythe returned, carryin! the oran!e#s=uash, and . said, /6ay than- you, +rthur./
/.s his name +rthur4/
/+rthur 0ames,/ . said.
/.t/s =uite an old#ashioned name./
/<e/re an old#ashioned amily. 3is mother was ond o Tennyson./
/(es,/ . said and she loo-ed at the child with commiseration.
/3e must be a comort to you./
/+nd an anxiety,/ . said. . be!an to eel shame, she was so unsuspicious, and what !ood
was . doin! here4 . was no nearer meetin! M, and would . be any happier or !i"in! a ace to the
man upon the bed4 . altered my tactics. . said, /. ou!ht to introduce mysel. My name is 'rid!es./
/+nd mine is 6mythe./
/. ha"e a stron! eelin! . ha"e met you somewhere beore./
/. don/t thin- so. . ha"e a "ery !ood memory or aces./
/>erhaps . ha"e seen you on the Common./
/. !o there sometimes with my brother./
/&ot by any chance a 0ohn 6mythe4/
/&o,/ she said, /Cichard. 3ow is the little boy eelin!4/
/<orse,/ said >ar-is/s son.
/8o you thin- we ou!ht to ta-e his temperature4/
/Can . ha"e some more oran!e#s=uash4/
/.t can do no harm, can it4/ Miss 6mythe wondered. />oor child. >erhaps he has a e"er./
/<e/"e trespassed on you enou!h./
/My brother would ne"er or!i"e me i . didn/t ma-e you stay. 3e/s "ery ond o children./
/.s your brother in4/
/./m expectin! him any moment./
/3ome rom wor-4/
/<ell, his wor-in! day is really 6unday./
/+ cler!yman4/ . as-ed with secret malice and recei"ed the pu99lin! answer, /&ot exactly./
+ loo- o worry came down li-e a curtain between us and she retired behind it with her pri"ate
troubles. +s she !ot up the hall door opened and there was M. . had an impression, in the dus- o
the hall, o a man with a handsome actor/s ace # a ace that loo-ed at itsel too oten in mirrors, a
taint o "ul!arity, and . thou!ht sadly and without satisaction, . wish she had better taste. Then
he came throu!h into the li!ht o the lamps. The !ross li"id spots which co"ered his let chee-
were almost li-e mar-s o distinction # . had mali!ned him, he could ha"e no satisaction in
loo-in! at himsel in any !lass.
Miss 6mythe said, /My brother Cichard. Mr 'rid!es. Mr 'rid!es/s little boy is not eelin!
well. . as-ed them in./
3e shoo- hands with his eye on the boy, . noticed the dryness and heat o his hands. 3e
said, /./"e seen your boy beore./
/On the Common4/
3e was too powerul or the room, he didn/t !o with the cretonne. 8id his sister sit here,
while they, in another room... or did they send her out on errands while they made lo"e4
<ell, . had seen the man: there wasn/t anythin! to stay or # except all the other =uestions
that now were released by the si!ht o him # where had they met4 3ad she made the irst mo"e4
<hat had she seen in him4 3ow lon!, how oten had they been lo"ers4 There were words she
had written that . -new by heart, /. ha"e no need to write to you or tal- to you... . -now . am only
be!innin! to lo"e, but already . want to abandon e"erythin!, e"erybody but you,/ and . stared up
at the raw spots on his chee- and thou!ht, there is no saety anywhere, a humpbac-, a cripple #
they all ha"e the tri!!er that sets lo"e o.
/<hat was the real purpose o your comin!4/ he suddenly bro-e into my thou!hts. /. told
Miss 6mythe # a man called <ilson.../
/. don/t remember your ace, but . remember your son/s./ 3e made a short rustrated
!esture as thou!h he wanted to touch the boy/s hand, his eyes had a -ind o abstract tenderness.
3e said, /(ou don/t ha"e to be araid o me. . am used to people comin! here. . assure you . only
want to be o use./
Miss 6mythe explained, />eople are oten so shy./ . couldn/t or the lie o me thin- what
it was all about.
/. was 5ust loo-in! or a man called <ilson./
/(ou -now that ;.; -now there/s no such man./
/. you would lend me a telephone directory . could chec- his address.../
/6it down a!ain,/ he said and brooded !loomily o"er the boy.
/. must be !oin!. +rthur/s eelin! better and <ilson.../ 3is ambi!uity made me ill at ease.
/(ou can !o i you want to, o course, but can/t you lea"e the boy here # i only or hal an
hour4 . want to tal- to him./ .t occurred to me that he had reco!ni9ed >ar-is/s assistant and was
!oin! to cross#=uestion him. . said, /+nythin! you want to as- him you can as- me./
*"ery time he turned his unmar-ed chee- towards me my an!er !rew, e"ery time . saw
the u!ly la"id chee- it died away and . couldn/t belie"e # any more than . could belie"e that lust
existed here amon! the lowered cretonnes, with Miss 6mythe !ettin! tea. 'ut despair can
always produce an answer and despair as-ed me now, <ould you so much rather it was lo"e and
not lust4
/(ou and . are too old,/ he said. /'ut the schoolmasters and the priests # they/"e only 5ust
be!un to corrupt him with their lies./
/. don/t -now what the hell you mean,/ . said, and added =uic-ly, /./m sorry,/ to Miss
/There you are, you see,/ he said. /3ell, and i . an!ered you, as li-e as not you/d say My
.t seemed to me that . had shoc-ed him, he mi!ht be a &onconormist minister, Miss
6mythe had said he wor-ed on 6undays, but how horribly bi9arre that a man li-e that should be
6arah/s lo"er. 6uddenly it diminished her importance, her lo"e aair became a 5o-e, she hersel
mi!ht be used as a comic anecdote at my next dinner party. For a moment . was ree o her. The
boy said, /. eel sic-. Can . ha"e some more oran!eade4/
Miss 6mythe said, /My dear, . thin- you/d better not./
/Ceally . must be ta-in! him away. .t/s been "ery !ood o you./ . tried to -eep the spots
well in "iew. . said, /./m "ery sorry i . oended you at all. .t was =uite by accident. . don/t
happen to share your reli!ious belies./
3e loo-ed at me with surprise. /'ut . ha"e none. . belie"e in nothin!./
/. thou!ht you ob5ected.../
/. hate the trappin!s that are let o"er. For!i"e me. . !o too ar, Mr 'rid!es, . -now, but
./m sometimes araid that people will be reminded e"en by con"entional words #!ood#bye or
instance. . only . could belie"e that my !randson would not e"en -now what a word li-e !od
had meant to us any more than a word in 6wahili./
/3a"e you a !randson4/
3e said !loomily, /. ha"e no children. . en"y you your boy. .t/s a !reat duty and a !reat
/<hat did you want to as- him4/
/. wanted him to eel at home here because then he mi!ht return. There are so many
thin!s one wants to tell a child. 3ow the world came into existence. . wanted to tell him about
death. . wanted to rid him o all the lies they in5ect at school./
/Cather a lot to do in hal an hour./
/One can sow a seed./
. said maliciously, /That comes out o the Gospels./
/Oh, ./"e been corrupted too. (ou don/t need to tell me that./
/8o people really come to you # on the =uiet4/
/(ou/d be surprised,/ Miss 6mythe said. />eople are lon!in! or a messa!e o hope./
/(es, hope,/ 6mythe said. /Can/t you see what hope there/d be, i e"erybody in the world
-new that there was nothin! else but what we ha"e here4 &o uture compensation, rewards,
punishments./ 3is ace had a cra9y nobility when one chee- was hidden. /Then we/d be!in to
ma-e this world li-e hea"en./
/There/s a terrible lot to be explained irst,/ . said.
/Can . show you my library4/
/.t/s the best rationalist library in 6outh $ondon,/ Miss 6mythe explained.
/. don/t need to be con"erted, Mr 6mythe. . belie"e in nothin! as it is. *xcept now and
/.t/s the now and thens we ha"e to deal with./
/The odd thin! is that those are the moments o hope./
/>ride can mas=uerade as hope. Or selishness./
/. don/t thin- that has anythin! to do with it at all. .t happens suddenly, or no reason, a
scent... /
/+h,/ 6mythe said, /the construction o a lower, the ar!ument rom desi!n, all that
business about a watch re=uirin! a watchma-er. .t/s old#ashioned. 6chweni!en answered all that
twenty#i"e years a!o. $et me show you... /
/&ot today. . must really ta-e the boy home./
+!ain he made that !esture o rustrated tenderness, li-e a lo"er who has been re5ected. .
wondered suddenly rom how many death#beds he had been excluded. . ound . wanted to !i"e
him some messa!e o hope too, but then the chee- turned and . saw only the arro!ant actor/s
ace. . preerred him when he was pitiable, inade=uate, out o date. +yer, Cussell # they were the
ashion today, but . doubted whether there were many lo!ical positi"ists in his library. 3e only
had the crusaders, not the detached.
+t the door # . noticed that he didn/t use that dan!erous term !ood#bye # . shot directly at
his handsome chee-, /(ou should meet a riend o mine, Mrs Miles. 6he/s interested.../ and then .
stopped. The shot had !one home. The spots seemed to lush a deeper red and . heard Miss
6mythe say, /Oh, my dear,/ as he turned abruptly away. There was no doubt that . had !i"en him
pain, but the pain was mine as well as his. 3ow . wished my shot had !one astray.
.n the !utter outside >ar-is/s boy was sic-. . let him "omit, standin! there wonderin!, has
he lost her too4 .s there no end to this4 3a"e . now !ot to disco"er (4
>ar-is said, /.t really was "ery easy, sir. There was such a crush, and Mrs Miles thou!ht . was one
o his riends rom the Ministry, and Mr Miles thou!ht . was one o ;her; riends./
/<as it a !ood coc-tail party4/ . as-ed, rememberin! a!ain that irst meetin! and the si!ht
o 6arah with the stran!er.
/3i!hly successul . should say, sir, but Mrs Miles seemed a bit out o sorts. + "ery nasty
cou!h, she/s !ot./ . heard him with pleasure, perhaps at this party there had been no alco"e#
-issin! or touchin!. 3e laid a brown#paper parcel on my des- and said with pride, /. -new the
way to her room rom the maid. . anyone had ta-en notice o me, . should ha"e been loo-in! or
the toilet, but nobody did. There it was, out on her des-: she must ha"e wor-ed on it that day. O
course, she may be "ery cautious, but my experience o diaries is they always !i"e thin!s away.
>eople in"ent their little codes, but you soon see throu!h them, sir. Or they lea"e out thin!s, but
you soon learn what they lea"e out./ <hile he spo-e . unwrapped the boo- and opened it. /.t/s
human nature, sir, that i you -eep a diary, you want to remember thin!s. <hy -eep it otherwise4/
/8id you loo- at this4/ . as-ed.
/. ascertained its nature, sir, and rom one entry 5ud!ed she wasn/t o the cautious type./
/.t/s not this year/s,/ . said. /.t/s two years old./
For a moment he was dashed.
/.t will ser"e my purpose,/ . said.
/.t would do the tric- as well, sir # i nothin!/s been condoned./
The 5ournal was written in a bi! account boo-, the amiliar bold handwritin! crossed by
the red and blue lines. There were not daily entries and . was able to reassure >ar-is # /.t co"ers
se"eral years./
/. suppose somethin! must ha"e made her ta-e it out to read./ .s it possible, . wondered,
that some memory o me, o our aair, had crossed her mind this "ery day, that somethin! may
ha"e troubled her peace4 . said to >ar-is, /./m !lad to ha"e this, "ery !lad. (ou -now, . really
thin- we can close our account now./
/. hope you eel satisied, sir./
/Buite satisied./
/+nd that you/ll so write to Mr 6a"a!e, sir. 3e !ets the bad reports rom clients, but the
!ood ones ne"er !et written. The more a client/s satisied, the more he wants to or!et: to put us
ri!ht out o mind. (ou can hardly blame them./
/./ll write./
/+nd than- you, sir, or bein! -ind to the boy. 3e was a bit upset, but . -now how it is #
it/s diicult to draw the line o"er ices with a boy li-e $ance. 3e !ets them out o you with hardly
a word said./ . lon!ed to read, but >ar-is lin!ered. >erhaps he didn/t really trust me to remember
him and wanted to impress more irmly on my memory those han!#do! eyes, that penurious
moustache. /./"e en5oyed our association, sir # i one can tal- o en5oyin! under the sad
circumstances. <e don/t always wor- or real !entlemen e"en when they ha"e titles. . had a peer
o the realm once, sir, who lew into a ra!e when . !a"e him my report as thou!h . were the
!uilty party mysel. .t/s a discoura!in! thin!, sir. The more you succeed the more !lad they are to
see the last o you./
. was "ery conscious o wantin! to see the last o >ar-is and his words wo-e my sense o
!uilt. . couldn/t hurry the man away. 3e said, /./"e been thin-in!, sir, ./d li-e to !i"e you a little
memento # but then that/s 5ust what you wouldn/t want to recei"e./ 3ow stran!e it is to be li-ed. .t
automatically awa-ens a certain loyalty. 6o . lied to >ar-is, /./"e always en5oyed our tal-s./
/<hich started, sir, so inauspiciously. <ith that silly mista-e./
/8id you e"er tell your boy4/
/(es, sir, but only ater some days, ater the success with the waste#paper bas-et. That
too- away the stin!./ . loo-ed down at the boo- and read, /6o happy. M. returns tomorrow./ .
wondered or a moment who M. was. 3ow stran!e too and unamiliar to thin- that one had been
lo"ed, that one/s presence had once had the power to ma-e a dierence between happiness and
dullness in another/s day.
/'ut i you really wouldn/t resent a memento, sir.../
/O course . wouldn/t, >ar-is./
/. ha"e somethin! here, sir, that mi!ht be o interest and use./ 3e too- out o his poc-et an
ob5ect wrapped in tissue paper and slid it shyly across the des- towards me. . unwrapped it. .t
was a cheap ash#tray mar-ed 3otel Metropole, 'ri!htlin!sea. /There/s =uite a history, sir, with
that. (ou remember the 'olton case./
/. can/t say . do./
/.t made a !reat stir, sir, at the time. $ady 'olton, her maid and the man, sir. +ll
disco"ered to!ether. That ashtray stood beside the bed. On the lady/s side./
/(ou must ha"e collected =uite a little museum./
/. should ha"e !i"en it to Mr 6a"a!e # he too- a particular interest # but ./m !lad now, sir,
. didn/t. . thin- you/ll ind the inscription will e"o-e comment when your riends put out their
ci!arettes, and there/s your answer pat # the 'olton Case. They/ll all want to hear more o that./
/.t sounds sensational./
/.t/s all human nature, sir, isn/t it, and human lo"e. Thou!h . was surprised. &ot ha"in!
expected the third. +nd the room not lar!e or ashionable. Mrs >ar-is was ali"e then, but . didn/t
li-e to tell her the details. 6he !ot disturbed by thin!s./
/./ll certainly treasure the memento,/ . said.
/. ash#trays could spea-, sir./
/.ndeed, yes./
'ut e"en >ar-is with that proound thou!ht had inished up his words. + last pressure o
the hand, a little stic-y @perhaps it had been in contact with $ance/sA, and he was !one. 3e was
not one o those whom one expects to see a!ain. Then . opened 6arah/s 5ournal. . thou!ht irst .
would loo- or that day in 0une 1911 when e"erythin! ended, and ater . had disco"ered the
reason or that there were many other dates rom which . could learn exactly, chec-in! them with
my diary, how it was that her lo"e had petered out. . wanted to treat this as a document in a case #
one o >ar-is/s cases # should be treated, but . hadn/t that de!ree o calmness, or what . ound
when . opened the 5ournal was not what . was expectin!. 3ate and suspicion and en"y had dri"en
me so ar away that . read her words li-e a declaration o lo"e rom a stran!er. . had expected
plenty o e"idence a!ainst her # hadn/t . so oten cau!ht her out in lies4 # and now here in writin!
that . could belie"e, as . couldn/t belie"e her "oice, was the complete answer. For it was the last
couple o pa!es . read irst, and . read them a!ain at the end to ma-e sure. .t/s a stran!e thin! to
disco"er and to belie"e that you are lo"ed, when you -now that there is nothin! in you or
anybody but a parent or a God to lo"e.
'OO) T3C**
... anythin! let, when we/d inished, but (ou. For either o us. . mi!ht ha"e ta-en a lietime
spendin! a little lo"e at a time, e-in! it out here and there, on this man and that. 'ut e"en the
irst time, in the hotel near >addin!ton, we spent all we had. (ou were there, teachin! us to
s=uander, li-e you tau!ht the rich man, so that one day we mi!ht ha"e nothin! let except this
lo"e o (ou. 'ut (ou are too !ood to me. <hen . as- (ou or pain. (ou !i"e me peace. Gi"e it
him too. Gi"e him my peace # he needs it more.
;1E February 1912.;
Two days a!o . had such a sense o peace and =uiet and lo"e. $ie was !oin! to be happy
a!ain, but last ni!ht . dreamed . was wal-in! up a lon! staircase to meet Maurice at the top. .
was still happy because when . reached the top o the staircase we were !oin! to ma-e lo"e. .
called to him that . was comin!, but it wasn/t Maurice/s "oice that answered: it was a stran!er/s
that boomed li-e a o!#horn warnin! lost ships, and scared me. . thou!ht, he/s let his lat and
!one away and . don/t -now where he is, and !oin! down the stairs a!ain the water rose beyond
my waist and the hall was thic- with mist. Then . wo-e up. ./m not at peace any more. . 5ust want
him li-e . used to in the old days. . want to be eatin! sandwiches with him. . want to be drin-in!
with him in a bar. ./m tired and . don/t want any more pain. . want Maurice. . want ordinary
corrupt human lo"e. 8ear God, you -now . want to want (our pain, but . don/t want it now. Ta-e
it away or a while and !i"e it me another time.
;+ter that . started the boo- rom the be!innin!. 6he hadn/t entered the 5ournal e"ery
day, and . had no wish to read e"ery entry. The theatres she had been to with 3enry, the
restaurants, the parties # all that lie o which . -new nothin! had still the power to hurt.;
;1E 0une 1911.;
6ometimes . !et so tired o tryin! to con"ince him that . lo"e him and shall lo"e him or
e"er. 3e pounces on my words li-e a barrister and twists them. . -now he is araid o that desert
which would be around him i our lo"e were to end, but he can/t reali9e that . eel exactly the
same. <hat he says aloud, . say to mysel silently and write it here. <hat can one build in the
desert4 6ometimes ater a day when we ha"e made lo"e many times, . wonder whether it isn/t
possible to come to an end o sex, and . -now that he is wonderin! too and is araid o that point
where the desert be!ins. <hat do we do in the desert i we lose each other4 3ow does one !o on
li"in! ater that4
3e is 5ealous o the past and the present and the uture. 3is lo"e is li-e a medie"al
chastity belt, only when he is there, with me, in me, does he eel sae. . only . could ma-e him
eel secure, then we could lo"e peaceully, happily, not sa"a!ely, inordinately, and the desert
would recede out o si!ht. For a lietime perhaps.
. one could belie"e in God, would he ill the desert4 . ha"e always wanted to be li-ed or
admired. . eel a terrible insecurity i a man turns on me, i . lose a riend. . don/t e"en want to
lose a husband. . want e"erythin!, all the time, e"erywhere. ./m araid o the desert. God lo"es
you, they say in the churches, God is e"erythin!. >eople who belie"e that don/t need admiration,
they don/t need to sleep with a man, they eel sae. 'ut . can/t in"ent a belie.
+ll today Maurice has been sweet to me. 3e tells me oten that he has ne"er lo"ed
another woman so much. 3e thin-s that by sayin! it oten, he will ma-e me belie"e it. 'ut .
belie"e it simply because . lo"e him in exactly the same way. . . stopped lo"in! him, . would
cease to belie"e in his lo"e. . . lo"ed God, then . would belie"e in 3is lo"e or me. .t/s not
enou!h to need it <e ha"e to lo"e irst, and . don/t -now how. 'ut . need it, how . need it.
+ll day he was sweet. Only once, when a man/s name was mentioned, . saw his eyes
mo"e away. 3e thin-s . still sleep with other men, and i . did, would it matter so much4 .
sometimes he has a woman, do . complain4 . wouldn/t rob him o some small companionship in
the desert i we can/t ha"e each other there. 6ometimes . thin- that i the time came he would
reuse me e"en a !lass o water: he would dri"e me into such complete isolation that . would be
alone with nothin! and nobody # li-e a hermit, but they were ne"er alone, or so they say. . am so
muddled. <hat are we doin! to each other4 'ecause . -now that . am doin! to him exactly what
he is doin! to me. <e are sometimes so happy, and ne"er in our li"es ha"e we -nown more
unhappiness. .t/s as i we were wor-in! to!ether on the same statue, cuttin! it out o each other/s
misery. 'ut . don/t e"en -now the desi!n.
;1F 0une 1911.;
(esterday . went home with him and we did the usual thin!s. . ha"en/t the ner"e to put
them down, but ./d li-e to, because now when ./m writin! it/s already tomorrow and ./m araid o
!ettin! to the end o yesterday. +s lon! as . !o on writin!, yesterday is today and we are still
<hile . waited or him yesterday there were spea-ers out on the Common, the .. $. >. and
the Communist >arty, and the man who 5ust tells 5o-es, and there was a man attac-in!
Christianity. The Cationalist 6ociety o 6outh $ondon or some name li-e that. 3e would ha"e
been !ood#loo-in! i it hadn/t been or the spots which co"ered one chee-. There were "ery ew
people in his audience and no hec-lers. 3e was attac-in! somethin! dead already, and .
wondered why he too- the trouble. . stayed and listened or a ew minutes, he was ar!uin!
a!ainst the ar!uments or a God. . hadn/t really -nown there were any # except this cowardly
need . eel o not bein! alone.
. had a sudden ear that 3enry mi!ht ha"e chan!ed his mind and sent a tele!ram to say
that he would be home. . ne"er -now what . ear most # my disappointment or Maurice/s
disappointment. .t wor-s the same way with both o us, we pic- =uarrels. . am an!ry with mysel
and he is an!ry with me. . went home and there was no tele!ram, and . was ten minutes late in
meetin! Maurice and be!an to be an!ry so as to meet his an!er and then unexpectedly he was
sweet to me.
<e had ne"er beore had =uite so lon! a day, and there was all the ni!ht to ollow. <e
bou!ht lettuce and rolls and the butter#ration # we didn/t want much to eat and it was "ery warm.
.t/s warm now too, e"erybody will say, what a lo"ely summer, and ./m in a train !oin! into the
country to 5oin 3enry, and e"erythin!/s o"er or e"er. ./m scared, this is the desert, and there/s
nobody, nothin!, or miles and miles around. . . were in $ondon, . mi!ht be -illed =uic-ly, but
i . were in $ondon ./d !o to the telephone and rin! the only number . -now by heart. . oten
or!et my own, . suppose Freud would say that . want to or!et it because it/s 3enry/s number
too. 'ut . lo"e 3enry, . want him to be happy. . only hate him today because he is happy, and .
am not and Maurice is not, and he won/t -now a thin!. 3e/ll say . loo- tired and thin- it/s the
curse # he no lon!er bothers to -eep the count o those days.
This e"enin! the sirens went # . mean last e"enin! o course, but what does it matter4 .n
the desert there/s no time. 'ut . can come out o the desert when . want to. . can catch a train
home tomorrow and rin! him up on the telephone. 3enry will be still in the country perhaps, and
we can spend the ni!ht to!ether. + "ow/s not all that important # a "ow to somebody ./"e ne"er
-nown, to somebody . don/t really belie"e in. &obody will -now that ./"e bro-en a "ow, except
me and 3im # and 3e doesn/t exist, does he4 3e can/t exist. (ou can/t ha"e a merciul God and
this despair.
. . went bac-, where would we be4 <here we were yesterday beore the sirens went, and
the year beore that. +n!ry with each other or ear o the end, wonderin! what we should do
with lie when there was nothin! let. . needn/t wonder any more # there/s nothin! to ear any
more. This is the end. 'ut, dear God, what shall . do with this desire to lo"e4
<hy do . write /dear God/4 3e isn/t dear # not to me he isn/t. . he exists, then he put the
thou!ht o this "ow into my mind and . hate him or it. . hate. *"ery ew minutes a !rey stone
church and a public#house run bac-wards down the line, the desert is ull o churches and public#
houses. +nd multiple stores, and men on bicycles, and !rass and cows, and actory chimneys.
(ou see them throu!h the sand li-e ish throu!h the water in a tan-. +nd 3enry waits too in the
tan-, raisin! his mu99le or my -iss.
<e paid no attention to the sirens. They didn/t matter. <e weren/t araid o dyin! that
way. 'ut then the raid went on and on. .t wasn/t an ordinary raid, the papers aren/t allowed to say
yet, but e"erybody -nows. This was the new thin! we had been warned about. Maurice went
downstairs to see i there was anyone in the basement #he was araid about me and . was araid
about him. . -new somethin! was !oin! to happen.
3e hadn/t been !one two minutes when there was an explosion in the street. 3is room
was at the bac- and nothin! happened except that the door was suc-ed open and some plaster
ell, but . -new that he was at the ront o the house when the bomb ell. . went down the stairs,
they were cluttered with rubbish and bro-en banisters, and the hall was in an awul mess. . didn/t
see Maurice at irst, and then . saw his arm comin! out rom under the door. . touched his hand, .
could ha"e sworn it was a dead hand. <hen two people ha"e lo"ed each other, they can/t
dis!uise a lac- o tenderness in a -iss, and wouldn/t . ha"e reco!ni9ed lie i there was any o it
let in touchin! his hand4 . -new that i . too- his hand and pulled it towards me, it would come
away, all by itsel, rom under the door. &ow, o course, . -now that this was hysteria. . was
cheated. 3e wasn/t dead. .s one responsible or what one promises in hysteria4 Or what promises
one brea-s4 ./m hysterical now, writin! all this down. 'ut there/s not a sin!le person anywhere to
whom . can e"en say ./m unhappy because they would as- me why and the =uestions would
be!in and . would brea- down. . mustn/t brea- down because . must protect 3enry. Oh, to hell
with 3enry, to hell with 3enry. . want somebody who/ll accept the truth about me and doesn/t
need protection. . ./m a bitch and a a-e, is there nobody who will lo"e a bitch and a a-e4
. -nelt down on the loor, . was mad to do such a thin!, . ne"er e"en had to do it as a
child # my parents ne"er belie"ed in prayer, any more than . do. . hadn/t any idea what to say.
Maurice was dead. *xtinct. There wasn/t such a thin! as a soul. *"en the hal#happiness . !a"e
him was drained out o him li-e blood. 3e would ne"er ha"e the chance to be happy a!ain. <ith
anybody . thou!ht, somebody else could ha"e lo"ed him and made him happier than . could, but
now he won/t ha"e that chance. . -nelt and put my head on the bed and wished . could belie"e.
8ear God, . said # why dear, why dear4 # ma-e me belie"e. . can/t belie"e. Ma-e me. . said, ./m a
bitch and a a-e and . hate mysel. . can/t do anythin! o mysel. Ma-e me belie"e. . shut my
eyes ti!ht, and . pressed my nails into the palms o my hands until . could eel nothin! but the
pain, and . said, . will belie"e. $et him be ali"e, and . ;will; belie"e. Gi"e him a chance. $et him
ha"e his happiness. 8o this and ./ll belie"e. 'ut that wasn/t enou!h. .t doesn/t hurt to belie"e. 6o
. said, . lo"e him and ./ll do anythin! i you/ll ma-e him ali"e. . said "ery slowly, ./ll !i"e him up
or e"er, only let him be ali"e with a chance, and . pressed and pressed and . could eel the s-in
brea-, and . said. >eople can lo"e without seein! each other, can/t they, they lo"e (ou all their
li"es without seein! (ou, and then he came in at the door, and he was ali"e, and . thou!ht now
the a!ony o bein! without him starts, and . wished he was saely bac- dead a!ain under the
;9 0uly 1911.;
Cau!ht the J.?G with 3enry. *mpty irst#class carria!e. 3enry read aloud the >roceedin!s
o the Coyal Commission. Cau!ht taxi at >addin!ton and dropped 3enry at the Ministry. Made
him promise to be home toni!ht. Taxi#man made mista-e and dro"e me to the south side, past
&umber 11. 8oor mended and ront windows boarded. .t is horrible eelin! dead. One wants to
eel ali"e a!ain in any way. <hen . !ot to the north side there were old letters that hadn/t been
orwarded because . told them /orward nothin!/. Old boo- catalo!ues, old bills, a letter mar-ed
/Hr!ent. >lease orward/. . wanted to open it and see i . were ali"e still, but . tore it up with the
;1G 0uly 1911.;
. thou!ht, . shall not be brea-in! my promise i accidentally on the Common . run into
Maurice, and so . went out ater brea-ast and a!ain ater lunch and a!ain in the early e"enin!,
wal-in! about and ne"er seein! him. . couldn/t stay out ater six because 3enry had !uests or
dinner. The spea-ers were there a!ain as they were in 0une, and the man with the spots was still
attac-in! Christianity and nobody was carin!. . thou!ht, i only he could con"ince me that you
don/t ha"e to -eep a promise to someone you don/t belie"e in, that miracles don/t happen, and .
went and listened to him or a while, but all the time . was loo-in! round in case Maurice mi!ht
come in si!ht. 3e tal-ed about the date o the Gospels and how the earliest one wasn/t written
within a hundred years o Christ bein! born. . had ne"er reali9ed they were as early as that, but .
couldn/t see that it mattered much when the le!end be!an. +nd then he told us that Christ ne"er
claimed to be God in the Gospels, but was there such a man as Christ at all and what do the
Gospels matter anyway, compared with this pain o waitin! around and not seein! Maurice4 +
woman with !rey hair distributed little cards on which his name was printed, Cichard 6mythe,
and his address in Cedar Coad, and there was an in"itation to anybody to come and tal- to him in
pri"ate. 6ome people reused to ta-e the cards and wal-ed away as thou!h the woman was
as-in! or a subscription and others dropped them on the !rass @. saw her pic- some up, or
economy/s sa-e . supposeA. .t seemed "ery sad # the horrible spots, and tal-in! about somethin!
nobody was interested in, and the cards dropped were li-e oers o riendship turned down. . put
the card in my poc-et and hoped he saw me do it.
6ir <illiam Malloc- came to dinner. 3e was one o $loyd Geor!e/s ad"isers on &ational
.nsurance, "ery old and important. 3enry o course has nothin! to do with pensions any lon!er,
but he -eeps an interest in the sub5ect and li-es to recall those days. <asn/t it widows/ pensions
he was wor-in! on when Maurice and . had dinner or the irst time and e"erythin! started4
3enry be!an a lon! ar!ument with Malloc- ull o statistics about whether i widows/ pensions
were raised another shillin! they would reach the same hei!ht as ten years a!o. They disa!reed
about the cost o li"in!, and it was a "ery academic ar!ument because they both said the country
couldn/t aord to raise them anyway. . had to tal- to 3enry/s chie in the Ministry o 3ome
6ecurity, and . couldn/t thin- o anythin! to tal- about but the 71s, and . lon!ed suddenly to tell
e"erybody about comin! downstairs and indin! Maurice buried. . wanted to say, . was na-ed, o
course, because . hadn/t had time to dress. <ould 6ir <illiam Malloc- ha"e e"en turned his
head, or would 3enry ha"e heard4 3e has a wonderul -nac- o hearin! nothin! but the sub5ect
in hand and the sub5ect in hand at that moment was the cost#o#li"in! index or 191?. . was
na-ed, . wanted to say, because Maurice and . had been ma-in! lo"e all the e"enin!.
. loo-ed at 3enry/s chie. 3e was a man called 8unstan. 3e had a bro-en nose and his
battered ace loo-ed li-e a potter/s error # a re5ected#or#export ace. +ll he would do, . thou!ht,
was smile, he wouldn/t be cross or indierent #he would accept it as somethin! that human
bein!s did. . had a sense that . had only to ma-e a mo"e and he would reply to it. . wondered,
why shouldn/t .4 <hy shouldn/t . escape rom this desert i only or hal an hour4 . ha"en/t
promised anythin! about stran!ers, only about Maurice. . can/t be alone or the rest o my lie
with 3enry, nobody admirin! me, nobody excited by me, listenin! to 3enry tal-in! to other
people, ossili9in! under the drip o con"ersation li-e that bowler hat in the Cheddar Ca"es, ;15
0uly 1911.;
3ad lunch with 8unstan at the 0ardin des Gourmets. 3e said.., ;E1 0uly 1911. ;
3ad drin-s with 8unstan at home, while he waited or 3enry. +ll went on to...
;EE 0uly 1911. ;
3ad dinner with 8. 3e came home aterwards or another drin-. 'ut it didn/t wor-, it
didn/t wor-.
;E? 0uly 1911; # ;?G 0uly 1911. ;
8. telephoned. 6aid . was out. 6tarted on tour with 3enry. Ci"il 8eence in 6outhern
*n!land. Conerences with Chie <ardens and 'orou!h *n!ineers. 'last problems. 8eep shelter
problems. The problem o pretendin! to be ali"e. 3enry and . sleepin! side by side ni!ht ater
ni!ht li-e i!ures on tombs. .n the new reinorced shelter at 'i!well#on#6ea the Chie <arden
-issed me. 3enry had !one ahead into the second chamber with the mayor and the en!ineer, and
. stopped the <arden, touchin! his arm and as-in! him a =uestion about the steel bun-s,
somethin! stupid about why there weren/t double bun-s or the married. . meant him to want to
-iss me. 3e twisted me round a!ainst a bun-, so that the metal made a line o pain across my
bac- and -issed me. Then he loo-ed so astonished that . lau!hed and -issed him bac-. 'ut
nothin! wor-ed. <ill it ne"er wor- a!ain4 The mayor came bac- with 3enry. 3e was sayin!, /+t
a pinch we can ind room or two hundred./ That ni!ht, when 3enry was at an oicial dinner, .
as-ed trun-s to !et me Maurice/s number. . lay on my bed, waitin! or it to come throu!h. . said
to God, ./"e -ept my promise or six wee-s. . can/t belie"e in you, . can/t lo"e you, but ./"e -ept
my promise. . . don/t come ali"e a!ain, ./m !oin! to be a slut, 5ust a slut. ./m !oin! to destroy
mysel =uite deliberately. *"ery year ./ll be more used. <ill you li-e that any better than i .
brea- my promise4 ./ll be li-e those women in bars who lau!h too much and ha"e three men with
them, touchin! them without intimacy. ./m allin! in pieces already.
. -ept the recei"er tuc-ed in my shoulder, and the *xchan!e said, /<e are rin!in! your
number now./ . said to God, . he answers, ./ll !o bac- tomorrow. . -new exactly where the
telephone stood beside his bed. Once . had -noc-ed it down in my sleep, hittin! out with my ist.
+ !irl/s "oice said, /3ello,/ and . nearly ran! o. . had wanted Maurice to be happy, but had .
wanted him to ind happiness =uite so =uic-ly4 . elt a bit sic- in the stomach until lo!ic came to
my aid, and . made my brain ar!ue with me # why shouldn/t he4 (ou let him, you want him to
be happy. . said, /Could . spea- to Mr 'endrix4/ 'ut e"erythin! had !one lat. >erhaps he
wouldn/t e"en want me to brea- my promise now, perhaps he had ound somebody who would
stay with him, ha"e meals with him, !o with him to places, sleep with him ni!ht ater ni!ht till it
was sweet and customary, answer his telephone or him. Then the "oice said, /Mr 'endrix isn/t
here. 3e/s !one away or a ew wee-s, ./"e borrowed the lat./
. ran! o. +t irst . was happy, and then . was miserable a!ain. . didn/t -now where he
was. <e were not in touch. .n the same desert, see-in! the same water#holes perhaps, but out o
si!ht, always alone. For it wouldn/t be a desert i we were to!ether. . said to God, /6o that/s it. .
be!in to belie"e in you, and i . belie"e in you . shall hate you. . ha"e ree will to brea- my
promise, ha"en/t ., but . ha"en/t the power to !ain anythin! rom brea-in! it. (ou let me
telephone, but then you close the door in my ace. (ou let me sin, but you ta-e away the ruits o
my sin. (ou let me try to escape with 8., but you don/t allow me to en5oy it. (ou ma-e me dri"e
lo"e out, and then you say there/s no lust or you either. <hat do you expect me to do now, God4
<here do . !o rom here4/
<hen . was at school . learnt about a )in! # one o the 3enrys, the one who had 'ec-et
murdered # and he swore when he saw his birthplace burnt by his enemies that because God had
done that to him, /because (ou ha"e robbed me o the town . lo"e most, the place where . was
born and bred, . will rob (ou o that which (ou lo"e most in me./ Odd how ./"e remembered that
prayer ater sixteen years. + )in! swore it on his horse se"en hundred years a!o, and . pray it
now, in a hotel room at 'i!well#on#6ea # 'i!well Ce!is. ./m !oin! to rob you, God, o what you
lo"e most in me. ./"e ne"er -nown the $ord/s >rayer by heart, but . remember that one # is it a
prayer4 O what you lo"e most in me.
<hat do you lo"e most4 . . belie"ed in you, . suppose ./d belie"e in the immortal soul,
but is that what you lo"e4 Can you really see it there under the s-in4 *"en a God can/t lo"e
somethin! that doesn/t exist, he can/t lo"e somethin! he cannot see. <hen he loo-s at me, does
he see somethin! . can/t see4 .t must be lo"ely i he is able to lo"e it. That/s as-in! me to belie"e
too much, that there/s anythin! lo"ely in me. . want men to admire me, but that/s a tric- you learn
at school # a mo"ement o the eyes, a tone o "oice, a touch o the hand on the shoulder or the
head. . they thin- you admire them, they will admire you because o your !ood taste, and when
they admire you, you ha"e an illusion or a moment that there/s somethin! to admire. +ll my lie
./"e tried to li"e in that illusion # a soothin! dru! that allows me to or!et that ./m a bitch and a
a-e. 'ut what are you supposed to lo"e then in the bitch and the a-e4 <here do you ind that
immortal soul they tal-ed about4 <here do you see this lo"ely thin! in me # in me, o all people4
. can understand you can ind it in 3enry # my 3enry, . mean. 3e/s !entle and !ood and patient.
(ou can ind it in Maurice who thin-s he hates, and lo"es, lo"es all the time. *"en his enemies.
'ut in this bitch and a-e where do you ind anythin! to lo"e4
Tell me that, God, and ./ll set about robbin! you o it or e"er.
3ow did the )in! -eep his promise4 . wish . could remember. . can remember nothin!
more about him than that he let the mon-s scour!e him o"er the tomb o 'ec-et. That doesn/t
sound li-e the answer. .t must ha"e happened beore.
3enry/s away a!ain toni!ht. . . !o down into the bar and pic- a man up and ta-e him on
to the beach and lie with him amon! the sand#dunes, won/t . be robbin! you o what you lo"e
most4 'ut it doesn/t wor-. .t doesn/t wor- any lon!er. . can/t hurt you i . don/t !et any pleasure
rom it. . mi!ht as well stic- pins in mysel li-e those people in the desert. The desert, . want to
do somethin! that . en5oy and that will hurt you. Otherwise what is it but mortiication and that/s
li-e an expression o belie. +nd belie"e me, God, . don/t belie"e in you yet, . don/t belie"e in
you yet 1 ;1E 6eptember 1911. ;
$unched at >eter 0ones and bou!ht new lamp or 3enry/s study. + prim lunch surrounded
by other women. &ot a man anywhere. .t was li-e bein! part o a re!iment. +lmost a sense o
peace. +terwards went to a news cinema in >iccadilly and saw ruins in &ormandy and the
arri"al o an +merican politician. &othin! to do till se"en when 3enry would be bac-. 3ad a
couple o drin-s by mysel. .t was a mista-e. 3a"e . !ot to !i"e up drin-in! too4 . . eliminate
e"erythin!, how will . exist4 . was somebody who lo"ed Maurice and went with men and
en5oyed my drin-s. <hat happens i you drop all the thin!s that ma-e you .4 3enry came in. .
could tell he was "ery pleased about somethin!, he ob"iously wanted me to as- him what it was,
but . wouldn/t. 6o in the end he had to tell me. /They are recommendin! me or an O. '. *./
/<hat/s that4/ . as-ed.
3e was rather dashed that . didn/t -now. 3e explained that the next sta!e in a year or two
when he was head o his department would be a C. '. *., and ater that,/ he said, /when . retire
they/ll probably !i"e me a ). '. *./
/.t/s conusin!,/ . said, /couldn/t you stic- to the same letters4/
/<ouldn/t you li-e to be $ady Miles4/ 3enry said, and . thou!ht an!rily, all . want in the
world is to be Mrs 'endrix and . ha"e !i"en up that hope or e"er. $ady Miles # who doesn/t
ha"e a lo"er and doesn/t drin- but tal-s to 6ir <illiam Malloc- about pensions. <here would ;.;
be all that time4
$ast ni!ht . loo-ed at 3enry when he was asleep. 6o lon! as . was what the law considers
the !uilty party, . could watch him with aection, as thou!h he were a child who needed my
protection. &ow . was what they called innocent, . was maddened continually by him. 3e had a
secretary who sometimes ran! him up at home. 6he would say, /Oh, Mrs Miles, is 3. M. in4/ +ll
the secretaries used those unbearable initials, not intimate but companionable. 3. M. . thou!ht,
loo-in! at him asleep, 3. M. 3is Ma5esty and 3is Ma5esty/s consort. 6ometimes in his sleep he
smiled, a moderate brie ci"il ser"ant smile, as much as to say, yes, "ery amusin!, but now we/d
better !et on with the 5ob, hadn/t we4
. said to him once, /3a"e you e"er had an aair with a secretary4/
/$o"e aair./
/&o, o course not. <hat ma-es you thin- such a thin!4/
/. don/t -now. . 5ust wondered./
/./"e ne"er lo"ed any other woman,/ he said and be!an to read the e"enin! paper. .
couldn/t help wonderin!, is my husband so unattracti"e that no woman has e"er wanted him4
*xcept me, o course. . must ha"e wanted him, in a way, once, but ./"e or!otten why, and . was
too youn! to -now what . was choosin!. .t/s so unair. <hile . lo"ed Maurice, . lo"ed 3enry, and
now ./m what they call !ood, . don/t lo"e anyone at all. +nd (ou least o all.
;J May 1915. ;
<ent down to 6t 0ames/s >ar- in the e"enin! to watch them celebrate 7. *. day. .t was
"ery =uiet beside the loodlit water between the 3orse Guards and the palace. &obody shouted or
san! or !ot drun-. >eople sat on the !rass in twos, holdin! hands. . suppose they were happy
because this was peace and there were no more bombs. . said to 3enry, /. don/t li-e the peace./
/ ./m wonderin! where . shall be drated rom the Ministry o 3ome 6ecurity./
/Ministry o .normation4/ . as-ed, tryin! to be interested.
/&o, no, . wouldn/t ta-e it. .t/s ull o temporary ci"il ser"ants. 3ow would you li-e the
3ome Oice4/
/+nythin!, 3enry, that pleased you,/ . said. Then the Coyal Family came out on the
balcony and the crowd san! "ery decorously. They weren/t leaders li-e 3itler, 6talin, Churchill,
Coose"elt, they were 5ust a amily who hadn/t done any harm to anybody. . wanted Maurice
beside me. . wanted to be!in a!ain. . wanted to be one o a amily too.
/7ery mo"in!, isn/t it,/ 3enry said. /<ell, we can all sleep =uiet at ni!ht now,/ as thou!h
we e"er did anythin! else at ni!ht but 5ust sleep =uiet.
;1G 6eptember 1915. ;
. ha"e !ot to be sensible. Two days a!o when . was clearin! out my old ba! # 3enry
suddenly !a"e me a new one as a /peace present/ # it must ha"e cost him a lot o money # . ound
a card sayin! /Cichard 6mythe 12 Cedar Coad 1#2 daily or pri"ate ad"ice. +nyone welcome./ .
thou!ht, . ha"e been pulled about lon! enou!h. &ow ./ll ta-e a dierent medicine. . he can
persuade me that nothin! happened, that my promise doesn/t count, ./ll write to Maurice and as-
him i he wants to !o on a!ain. >erhaps ./ll e"en lea"e 3enry. . don/t -now. 'ut irst ./"e !ot to
be sensible. . won/t be hysterical any more. ./ll be reasonable. 6o . went and ran! the bell in
Cedar Coad.
&ow ./m tryin! to remember what happened. Miss 6mythe made tea and ater tea she
went and let me alone with her brother. 3e as-ed me what my diiculties were. . sat on a chint9
soa and he sat on a rather hard chair with a cat on his lap. 3e stro-ed the cat and he had
beautiul hands and . didn/t li-e them. . almost li-ed the spots better, but he chose to sit showin!
me only his !ood chee-.
. said, /<ill you tell me why you are so certain there isn/t a God4/
3e watched his own hands stro-in! the cat, and . elt sorry or him because he was proud
o his hands. . his ace hadn/t been mar-ed, perhaps he would ha"e had no pride.
/(ou/"e listened to me spea-in! on the Common4/
/(es,/ . said.
/. ha"e to put thin!s "ery simply there. To stin! people into thin-in! or themsel"es.
(ou/"e started thin-in! or yoursel4/
/. suppose so./
/<hat church ha"e you been brou!ht up in4/
/6o you aren/t a Christian4/
/. may ha"e been christened # it/s a social con"ention, isn/t it4/
/. you ha"en/t any aith, why do you want my help4/
<hy indeed4 . couldn/t tell him about Maurice under the door and my promise. &ot yet .
couldn/t. +nd that wasn/t the whole point, or how many promises ./"e made and bro-en in a
lietime. <hy did this promise stay, li-e an u!ly "ase a riend has !i"en and one waits or a maid
to brea- it, and year ater year she brea-s the thin!s one "alues and the u!ly "ase remains4 . had
ne"er really aced his =uestion, and now he had to repeat it.
. said, /./m not sure that . don/t belie"e. 'ut . don/t want to./
/Tell me,/ he said and because he or!ot the beauty o his own hands and turned towards
me his u!ly chee-, or!ettin! himsel in the desire to help, . ound mysel tal-in! # about that
ni!ht and the bomb allin! and the stupid "ow.
/+nd you really belie"e,/ he said, /that perhaps.. /(es./
/Thin- o the thousands o people all o"er the world prayin! now, and their prayers aren/t
/There were thousands o people dyin! in >alestine when $a9arus.../
/<e don/t belie"e that story, do we, you and .4/ he said with a -ind o complicity.
/O course not, but millions o people ha"e. They must ha"e thou!ht it reasonable... /
/>eople don/t demand that a thin! be reasonable i their emotions are touched. $o"ers
aren/t reasonable, are they4/
/Can you explain away lo"e too4/ . as-ed.
/Oh yes,/ he said. /The desire to possess in some, li-e a"arice, in others the desire to
surrender, to lose the sense o responsibility, the wish to be admired. 6ometimes 5ust the wish to
be able to tal-, to unburden yoursel to someone who won/t be bored. The desire to ind a!ain a
ather or a mother. +nd o course under it all the biolo!ical moti"e./
. thou!ht, it/s all true, but isn/t there somethin! o"er4 ./"e du! up all that in mysel, in
Maurice too, but still the spade hasn/t touched roc-. /+nd the lo"e o God4/ . as-ed him.
/.t/s all the same. Man made God in his own ima!e, so it/s natural he should lo"e him. (ou
-now those distortin! mirrors at airs. Man/s made a beautiyin! mirror too in which he sees
himsel lo"ely and powerul and 5ust and wise. .t/s his idea o himsel. 3e reco!ni9es himsel
easier than in the distortin! mirror which only ma-es him lau!h, but how he lo"es himsel in the
<hen he spo-e o distortin! and beautiyin! mirrors, . couldn/t remember what we were
tal-in! about or the thou!ht o all those times since adolescence when he had loo-ed in mirrors
and tried to ma-e them beautiyin! and not distortin! simply by the way he held his head, .
wondered why he hadn/t !rown a beard lon! enou!h to hide the spots: wouldn/t the hair !row
there or was it because he hated deception4 . had an idea that he was a man who really lo"ed the
truth, but there was that word lo"e a!ain, and it was only too ob"ious into how many desires his
lo"e o truth could be split. + compensation or the in5ury o his birth, the desire or power, the
wish to be admired all the more because the poor haunted ace would ne"er cause physical
desire. . had an enormous wish to touch it with my hand, to comort it with words o lo"e as
permanent as the wound. .t was li-e when . saw Maurice under the door. . wanted to pray, to
oer up some inordinate sacriice i only he could be healed, but now there was no sacriice let
or me to oer.
/My dear,/ he said, /lea"e the idea o God out o this. .t/s 5ust a =uestion o your lo"er and
your husband. 8on/t conuse the thin! with phantoms./
/'ut how do . decide # i there/s no such thin! as lo"e4/
/(ou ha"e to decide what will be the happiest in the lon! run./
/8o you belie"e in happiness4/
/. don/t belie"e in any absolute./
. thou!ht the only happiness he e"er !ets is this, the idea that he can comort, ad"ise,
help, the idea that he can, be o use. .t dri"es him e"ery wee- on to the Common, to tal- to
people who mo"e away, ne"er as-in! =uestions, droppin! his cards on the tur. 3ow oten does
anybody really come as . ha"e come today4 . as-ed him. /8o you ha"e many callers4/
/&o,/ he said. 3is lo"e o truth was !reater than his pride. 3e said, /(ou are the irst # or a
"ery lon! time./
/.t/s been !ood to tal- to you,/ . said. /(ou/"e cleared my mind =uite a lot./ .t was the only
comort one could !i"e him # to eed his illusion.
3e said shyly, /. you could spare the time, we could really start at the be!innin! and !o
to the root o thin!s. . mean, the philosophical ar!uments and the historical e"idence./
. suppose . must ha"e made some e"asi"e reply or he went on, /.t/s really important. <e
mustn/t despise our enemies. They ha"e a case./
/They ha"e4/
/.t/s not a sound one, except supericially. .t/s specious./ 3e watched me with anxiety. .
thin- he was wonderin! whether . was one o those who wal-ed away. .t seemed a little thin! to
as- when he said ner"ously, /+n hour a wee-. .t would help you a !reat deal,/ and . thou!ht,
ha"en/t . all o time now4 . can read a boo- or !o to a cinema, and . don/t read the words or
remember the pictures. Mysel and my own misery drum in my ear and ill my eyes. For a
minute this aternoon . or!ot them. /(es,/ . said, /./ll come. .t/s !ood o you to spare the time,/ .
said, sho"ellin! all the hope . could into his lap, prayin! to the God he was promisin! to cure me
o, /$et me be o use to him./
;E October 1915. ;
.t was "ery hot today and it dripped with rain. 6o . went into the dar- church at the corner
o >ar- Coad to sit down or a while. 3enry was at home and . didn/t want to see him. . try to
remember to be -ind at brea-ast, -ind at lunch when he/s home, -ind at dinner, and sometimes .
or!et and he/s -ind bac-. Two people bein! -ind to each other or a lietime. <hen . came in
and sat down and loo-ed round . reali9ed it was a Coman church, ull o plaster statues and bad
art, realistic art. . hated the statues, the cruciix, all the emphasis on the human body. . was tryin!
to escape rom the human body and all it needed. . thou!ht . could belie"e in some -ind o a God
that bore no relation to oursel"es, somethin! "a!ue, amorphous, cosmic, to which . had promised
somethin! and which had !i"en me somethin! in return # stretchin! out o the "a!ue into the
concrete human lie, li-e a powerul "apour mo"in! amon! the chairs and walls. One day . too
would become part o that "apour # . would escape mysel or e"er. +nd then . came into that
dar- church in >ar- Coad and saw the bodies standin! around me on all the altars # the hideous
plaster statues with their complacent aces, and . remembered that they belie"ed in the
resurrection o the body, the body . wanted destroyed or e"er. . had done so much in5ury with
this body. 3ow could . want to preser"e any o it or eternity, and suddenly . remembered a
phrase o Cichard/s # about human bein!s in"entin! doctrines to satisy their desires, and .
thou!ht how wron! he is. . . were to in"ent a doctrine it would be that the body was ne"er born
a!ain, that it rotted with last year/s "ermin. .t/s stran!e how the human mind swin!s bac- and
orth, rom one extreme to another. 8oes truth lie at some point o the pendulum/s swin!, at a
point where it ne"er rests, not in the dull perpendicular mean where it dan!les in the end li-e a
windless la!, but at an an!le, nearer one extreme than another4 . only a miracle could stop the
pendulum at an an!le o sixty de!rees, one would belie"e the truth was there. <ell, the pendulum
swun! today and . thou!ht, instead o my own body, o Maurice/s. . thou!ht o certain lines lie
had put on his ace as personal as a line o his writin!, . thou!ht o a new scar on his shoulder
that wouldn/t ha"e been there i once he hadn/t tried to protect another man/s body rom a allin!
wall. 3e didn/t tell me why he was in hospital those three days, 3enry told me. That scar was
part o his character as much as his 5ealousy. +nd so . thou!ht, do . want that body to be "apour
@mine yes, but his4A, and . -new . wanted that scar to exist throu!h all eternity. 'ut could my
"apour lo"e that scar4 Then . be!an to want my body that . hated, but only because it could lo"e
that scar. <e can lo"e with our minds, but can we lo"e only with our minds4 $o"e extends itsel
all the time, so that we can e"en lo"e with our senseless nails, we lo"e e"en with our clothes, so
that a slee"e can eel a slee"e.
Cichard/s ri!ht, . thou!ht, we ha"e in"ented the resurrection o the body because we do
need our own bodies, and immediately . admitted that he was ri!ht and that this was a airy#tale
we tell each other or comort, . no lon!er elt any hate o those statues. They were li-e bad
coloured pictures in 3ans +ndersen, they were li-e bad poetry, but somebody had needed to
write them, somebody who wasn/t so proud that he hid them rather than expose his oolishness. .
wal-ed up the church, loo-in! at them one ater the other, in ront o the worst o all # . don/t
-now who she was##a middle#a!ed man was prayin!. 3e had put his bowler hat beside him and
in the bowler hat, wrapped in newspaper, were some stic-s o celery.
+nd o course on the altar there was a body too # such a amiliar body, more amiliar than
Maurice/s, that it had ne"er struc- me beore as a body with all the parts o a body, e"en the parts
the loin#cloth concealed. . remembered one in a 6panish church . had "isited with 3enry, where
the blood ran down in scarlet paint rom the eyes and the hands. .t had sic-ened me. 3enry
wanted me to admire the twelth#century pillars, but . was sic- and . wanted to !et out into the
open air. . thou!ht, these people lo"e cruelty. + "apour couldn/t shoc- you with blood and cries.
<hen . came out into the pla9a . said to 3enry, /. can/t bear all these painted wounds./
3enry was "ery reasonable # he/s always reasonable. 3e said, /O course it/s a "ery materialistic
aith. + lot o ma!ic... /
/.s ma!ic materialistic4/ . as-ed.
/(es. *ye o newt and toe o ro!, in!er o birth#stran!led babe. (ou can/t ha"e anythin!
more materialistic than that. .n the Mass they still belie"e in transubstantiation./
. -new all about that, but . had an idea that it had more or less died out at the
Ceormation, except or the poor o course. 3enry put me ri!ht @how oten has 3enry rearran!ed
my muddled thou!htsA. /Materialism isn/t only an attitude or the poor,/ he said. /6ome o the
inest brains ha"e been materialist, >ascal, &ewman. 6o subtle in some directions, so crudely
superstitious in others. One day we may -now why, it may be a !landular deiciency./
6o today . loo-ed at that material body on that material cross, and . wondered, how could
the world ha"e nailed a "apour there4 + "apour o course elt no pain and no pleasure. .t was
only my superstition that ima!ined it could answer my prayers. 8ear God, . had said. . should
ha"e said, 8ear 7apour. . said . hate you, but can one hate a "apour4 . could hate that i!ure on
the Cross with its claim to my !ratitude # /./"e suered this or you/, but a "apour... +nd yet
Cichard belie"ed in less e"en than a "apour. 3e hated a able, he ou!ht a!ainst a able, he too- a
able seriously. . couldn/t hate 3ansel and Gretel, . couldn/t hate their su!ar house as he hated the
le!end o hea"en. <hen . was a child . could hate the wic-ed =ueen in 6now <hite, but Cichard
didn/t hate his airy#tale 8e"il. The 8e"il didn/t exist and God didn/t exist, but all his hatred was
or the !ood airy#tale, not or the wic-ed one. <hy4 . loo-ed up at that o"er#amiliar body,
stretched in ima!inary pain, the head droopin! li-e a man asleep. . thou!ht, sometimes ./"e hated
Maurice, but would . ha"e hated him i . hadn/t lo"ed him too4 Oh God, i . could really hate
you, what would that mean4
+m . a materialist ater all, . wondered4 3a"e . some !landular deiciency that . am so
uninterested in the really important unsuperstitious thin!s and causes # li-e the Charity
Commission and the index o li"in! and better calories or the wor-in! class4 +m . a materialist
because . belie"e in the independent existence o that man with the bowler, the metal o the
cross, these hands . can/t pray with4 6uppose God did exist, suppose he was a body li-e that,
what/s wron! in belie"in! that his body existed as much as mine4 Could anybody lo"e him or
hate him i he hadn/t !ot a body4 . can/t lo"e a "apour that was Maurice. That/s coarse, that/s
beastly, that/s materialist, . -now, but why shouldn/t . be beastly and coarse and materialist. .
wal-ed out o the church in a lamin! ra!e, and in deiance o 3enry and all the reasonable and
the detached . did what . had seen people do in 6panish churches, . dipped my in!er in the so#
called holy water and made a -ind o cross on my orehead.
;1G 0anuary 1912.;
. couldn/t stand the house toni!ht, so . wal-ed out into the rain. . remembered the time
when . had stuc- my nails into my palms, and . didn/t -now it but (ou mo"ed in the pain. . said,
/$et him be ali"e,/ not belie"in! in (ou, and my disbelie made no dierence to (ou. (ou too- it
into (our lo"e and accepted it li-e an oerin!, and toni!ht the rain soa-ed throu!h my coat and
my clothes and into my s-in, and . shi"ered with the cold, and it was or the irst time as thou!h .
nearly lo"ed (ou. . wal-ed under (our windows in the rain and . wanted to wait under them all
ni!ht only to show that ater all . mi!ht learn to lo"e and . wasn/t araid o the desert any lon!er
because (ou were there. . came bac- into the house and there was Maurice with 3enry. .t was
the second time (ou had !i"en him bac-, the irst time . had hated (ou or it and (ou/d ta-en my
hate li-e (ou/d ta-en my disbelie into (our lo"e, -eepin! them to show me later, so that we
could both lau!h # as . ha"e sometimes lau!hed at Maurice, sayin!, /8o you remember how
stupid we were...4/
;1J 0anuary 1912.;
. was ha"in! lunch with Maurice or the irst time or two years # . had telephoned and
as-ed him to meet me #and my bus !ot held up in the traic at 6toc-well and . was ten minutes
late. . elt the ear or a moment . always elt in the old days, that somethin! would happen to
spoil the day, that he would be an!ry with me. 'ut . had no desire to !et in irst now with my
an!er. $i-e a lot o other thin!s the capacity or an!er seems dead in me. . wanted to see him and
as- him about 3enry. 3enry/s been odd lately. .t was stran!e o him to !o out and drin- in a pub
with Maurice. 3enry only drin-s at home or at his club. . thou!ht he mi!ht ha"e tal-ed to
Maurice. 6tran!e i he/s worried about me. There/s ne"er been less cause or worry since we
married irst. 'ut when . was with Maurice there didn/t seem any other reason to be with him
except to be with him. . ound out nothin! about 3enry. *"ery now and then he tried to hurt me
and he succeeded because he was really hurtin! himsel, and . can/t bear to watch him hurtin!
3a"e . bro-en that old promise, lunchin! with Maurice4 + year a!o . would ha"e thou!ht
so, but . don/t thin- so now. . was "ery literal in those days because . was araid, because . didn/t
-now what it was all about, because . had no trust in lo"e. <e lunched at Cules and . was happy
5ust bein! with him. Only or a little . was unhappy, sayin! !ood#bye abo"e the !ratin! . thou!ht
he was !oin! to -iss me a!ain, and . lon!ed or it, and then a it o cou!hin! too- me and the
moment passed. . -new, as he wal-ed away, he was thin-in! all -inds o untrue thin!s and he
was hurt by them, and . was hurt because he was hurt.
. wanted to cry unobser"ed, and . went to the &ational >ortrait Gallery, but it was
students/ day # there were too many people, so . went bac- to Maiden $ane and into the church
that/s always too dar- to loo- at your nei!hbour. . sat there. .t was =uite empty except or me and
or a little man who came in and prayed =uietly in a pew behind. . remembered the irst time .
had been in one o those Churches and how . had hated it. . didn/t pray. . had prayed once too
oten. . said to God, as . mi!ht ha"e said to my ather, i . could e"er ha"e remembered ha"in!
one, 8ear God, ./m tired.
;? February 1912.;
Today . saw Maurice but he didn/t see me. 3e was on his way to the >onteract +rms, and
. trailed behind him. . had spent an hour in Cedar Coad # a lon! dra!!in! hour tryin! to ollow
poor Cichard/s ar!uments and only !ettin! rom them a sense o in"erted belie. Could anyone be
so serious, so ar!umentati"e about a le!end4 <hen . understood anythin! at all, it was some
stran!e act . didn/t -now that hardly seemed to me to help his case. $i-e the e"idence that there
had been a man called Christ. . came out eelin! tired and hopeless. . had !one to him to rid me
o a superstition, but e"ery time . went his anaticism ixed the superstition deeper. . was helpin!
him, but he wasn/t helpin! me. Or was he4 For an hour . had hardly thou!ht o Maurice, but then
suddenly there he was, crossin! the end o the street.
. ollowed him all the way, -eepin! him in si!ht. 6o many times we had been to!ether to
the >onteract +rms. . -new which bar he/d !o to, what he/d order. 6hould . !o in ater him, .
wondered, and order mine and see him turn and e"erythin! would start o"er a!ain4 The
mornin!s would be ull o hope because . could telephone him as soon as 3enry let, and there
would be e"enin!s to loo- orward to when 3enry warned me that he would be home late. +nd
perhaps now . would lea"e 3enry. ./d done my best. . had no money to brin! Maurice and his
boo-s brou!ht in little more than enou!h to -eep himsel, but on typin! alone, with me to help,
we should sa"e ity pounds a year. . don/t ear po"erty. 6ometimes it/s easier to cut your coat to
it the cloth than lie on the bed you/"e made.
. stood at the door and watched him !o up to the bar. . he turns round and sees me, . told
God, ./ll !o in, but he didn/t turn round. . be!an to wal- home, but . couldn/t -eep him out o my
mind. For nearly two years we had been stran!ers. . hadn/t -nown what he was doin! at any
particular hour o the day, but now he was a stran!er no lon!er because . -new as in the old days
where he was. 3e would ha"e one more beer and then he would !o bac- to the amiliar room to
write. The habits o his day were still the same and . lo"ed them as one lo"es an old coat. . elt
protected by his habits. . ne"er want stran!eness.
+nd . thou!ht, how happy . can ma-e him and how easily. . lon!ed a!ain to see him
lau!h with happiness. 3enry was out. 3e had had a lunch en!a!ement ater the oice, and he
had telephoned to say that he wouldn/t be in till se"en. . would wait till hal past six and then .
would telephone Maurice. . would say, . am comin! or toni!ht and all the other ni!hts. ./m tired
o bein! without you. . would pac- the lar!e blue suitcase and the small brown one. . would ta-e
enou!h clothes or a month/s holiday. 3enry was ci"ili9ed and by the end o a month the le!al
aspects would ha"e been settled, the immediate bitterness would be o"er, and anythin! else .
needed rom the house could be etched at leisure. There wouldn/t be much bitterness, it wasn/t
as thou!h we were still lo"ers. Marria!e had become riendship, and the riendship ater a little
could !o on the same as beore.
6uddenly . elt ree and happy. ./m not !oin! to worry about you any more, . said to God
as . wal-ed across the Common, whether you exist or whether you don/t exist, whether you !a"e
Maurice a second chance or whether . ima!ined e"erythin!. >erhaps this is the second chance .
as-ed or him. ./m !oin! to ma-e him happy, that/s my second "ow, God, and stop me i you can,
stop me i you can.
. went upstairs to my room and . be!an to write to 3enry. 8arlin! 3enry, . wrote, but that
sounded hypocritical. 8earest was a lie, and so it had to be li-e an ac=uaintance, /8ear 3enry./
6o, /8ear 3enry,/ . wrote, /./m araid this will be rather a shoc- to you, but or the last i"e years
./"e been in lo"e with Maurice 'endrix. For two years nearly we ha"en/t seen each other or
written but it doesn/t wor-. . can/t li"e happily without him, so ./"e !one away. . -now . ha"en/t
been much o a wie or a lon! time, and . ha"en/t been a mistress at all since 0une 1911, so
e"erybody/s the worse o air round. . thou!ht once . could 5ust ha"e this lo"e aair and it would
peter slowly and contentedly out, but it hasn/t wor-ed that way. . lo"e Maurice more than . did in
19?9. ./"e been childish, . suppose, but now . reali9e that sooner or later one has to choose or one
ma-es a mess in all directions. Good#bye. God bless you./ . crossed out /God bless you/ "ery
deeply so that it couldn/t be read. .t sounded smu!, and anyway 3enry doesn/t belie"e in God.
Then . wanted to put $o"e, but the word sounded unsuitable althou!h . -new it was true. . do
lo"e 3enry in my shabby way.
. put the letter in an en"elope and mar-ed it 7ery >ersonal. . thou!ht that would warn
3enry not to open it in anybody/s presence # or he mi!ht brin! home a riend, and . didn/t want
his pride hurt. . pulled out the suitcase and be!an to pac- and then . suddenly thou!ht, where did
. put the letter4 . ound it at once, but then . thou!ht, suppose in my hurry . or!et to put it in the
hall and 3enry waits and waits or me to come home. 6o . carried it downstairs to put it in the
hall. My pac-in! was nearly done # only an e"enin! dress to old, and 3enry wasn/t due or
another hal an hour.
. had 5ust put the letter on the hall table on top o the aternoon/s post when . heard a -ey
in the door. . snatched it up a!ain, . don/t -now why, and then 3enry came in. 3e loo-ed ill and
harassed. 3e said, /Oh, you/re here4/ and wal-ed strai!ht by me and into his study. . waited a
moment and then . ollowed. . thou!ht, ./ll ha"e to !i"e him the letter now, it/s !oin! to need
more coura!e. <hen . opened the door . saw him sittin! in his chair by the ire he hadn/t
bothered to li!ht, and he was cryin!.
/<hat is it, 3enry4/ . as-ed him. 3e said, /&othin! ./"e !ot a bad headache, that/s all./
. lit the ire or him. . said, /./ll !et you some "en!anin./
/8on/t bother,/ he said. /.t/s better already./
/<hat sort o day ha"e you had4/
/Oh, much the same as usual. + bit tiresome./
/<ho was your lunch date4/
/'endrix4/ . said.
/<hy not 'endrix4 3e !a"e me lunch at his club. + horrible lunch./
. came behind him and put my hand on his orehead. .t was an odd thin! to be doin! 5ust
beore lea"in! him or e"er. 3e used to do that to me when we were irst married and . had
terrible ner"ous headaches because nothin! was !oin! ri!ht. . or!ot or a moment that . would
only ;pretend; to be cured that way. 3e put up his own hand and pressed mine harder a!ainst his
orehead. /. lo"e you,/ he said. /8o you -now that4/
/(es,/ . said. . could ha"e hated him or sayin! it, it was li-e a claim. . you really lo"ed
me, . thou!ht, you/d beha"e li-e any other in5ured husband. (ou/d !et an!ry and your an!er
would set me ree.
/. can/t do without you,/ he said. Oh yes, you can, . wanted to protest. .t will be
incon"enient, but you can. (ou chan!ed your newspaper once and you soon !ot used to it. These
are words, con"entional words o a con"entional husband, and they don/t mean anythin! at all,
then . loo-ed up at his ace in the mirror and he was cryin! still.
/3enry,/ . said, /what/s wron!4/
/&othin!. . told you./
/. don/t belie"e you. 3as somethin! happened at the oice4/
3e said with unamiliar bitterness, /<hat could happen there4/
/8id 'endrix upset you in some way4/
/O course not. 3ow could he4/
. wanted to ta-e away his hand, but he held it there. . was araid o what he/d say next, o
the unbearable burdens he was layin! on my conscience. Maurice would be home by now, i
3enry hadn/t come in, . would ha"e been with him in i"e minutes. . would ha"e seen happiness
instead o misery. . you don/t see misery you don/t belie"e in it. (ou can !i"e anyone pain rom
a distance. 3enry said, /My dear, . ha"en/t been much o a husband./
/. don/t -now what you mean,/ . said.
/./m dull or you. My riends are dull. <e no lon!er #you -now # do anythin! to!ether./
/.t has to stop sometime,/ . said, /in any marria!e. <e are !ood riends./ That was to be my
escape line. <hen he a!reed . would !i"e him the letter, . would tell him what . was !oin! to do,
. would wal- out o the house. 'ut he missed his cue, and ./m still here, and the door has closed
a!ain a!ainst Maurice. Only . can/t put the blame on God this time. . closed the door mysel.
3enry said, /. can ne"er thin- o you as a riend. (ou can do without a riend,/ and he loo-ed
bac- at me rom the mirror and he said, /8on/t lea"e me, 6arah. 6tic- it a ew more years. ./ll
try.../ but he couldn/t thin- himsel what he/d try. Oh, it would ha"e been better or both o us i
./d let him years a!o, but . can/t hit him when he/s there and now he/ll always be there because
./"e seen what his misery loo-s li-e.
. said, /. won/t lea"e you. . promise./ +nother promise to -eep, and when . had made it .
couldn/t bear to be with him any more. 3e/d won and Maurice had lost, and . hated him or his
"ictory. <ould . ha"e hated Maurice or his4 . went upstairs and tore up the letter so small
nobody could put it to!ether a!ain, and . -ic-ed the suitcase under the bed because . was too
tired to start unpac-in!, and . started writin! this down. Maurice/s pain !oes into his writin!, you
can hear the ner"es twitch throu!h his sentences. <ell, i pain can ma-e a writer, ./m learnin!,
Maurice, too. . wish . could tal- to you 5ust once. . can/t tal- to 3enry. . can/t tal- to anyone.
8ear God, let me tal-.
(esterday . bou!ht a cruciix, a cheap u!ly one because . had to do it =uic-ly. . blushed
when . as-ed or it. 6omebody mi!ht ha"e seen me in the shop. They ou!ht to ha"e opa=ue !lass
in their doors li-e rubber#!oods shops. <hen . loc- the door o my room, . can ta-e it out rom
the bottom o my 5ewel#case. . wish . -new a prayer that wasn/t me, me, me. 3elp ;me;. $et
;me; be happier. $et ;me; die soon. Me, me, me.
$et me thin- o those awul spots on Cichard/s chee-. $et me see 3enry/s ace with the
tears allin!. $et me or!et me. 8ear God, ./"e tried to lo"e and ./"e made such a hash o it. . .
could lo"e you, ./d -now how to lo"e them. . belie"e the le!end. . belie"e you were born. .
belie"e you died or us. . belie"e you are God. Teach me to lo"e. . don/t mind my pain. .t/s their
pain . can/t stand. $et my pain !o on and on, but stop theirs. 8ear God, i only you could come
down rom your Cross or a while and let me !et up there instead. . . could suer li-e you, .
could heal li-e you.
;1 February 1912.;
3enry too- a day o wor-. . don/t -now why. 3e !a"e me lunch and we went to the
&ational Gallery and we had an early dinner and went to the theatre. 3e was li-e a parent
comin! down to the school and ta-in! the child out. 'ut he/s the child.
;5 February 1912.;
3enry/s plannin! a holiday abroad or us in the sprin!. 3e can/t ma-e up his mind
between the chateaux o the $oire or Germany where he could ma-e a report on the morale o
the Germans under bombin!. . ne"er want the sprin! to come. There . !o a!ain. . want. . don/t
want. . . could lo"e (ou, . could lo"e 3enry. God was made man. 3e was 3enry with his
asti!matism, Cichard with his spots, not only Maurice. . . could lo"e a leper/s sores, couldn/t .
lo"e the borin!ness o 3enry4 'ut ./d turn rom the leper i he were here, . suppose, as . shut
mysel away rom 3enry. . want the dramatic always. . ima!ine ./m ready or the pain o your
nails, and . can/t stand twenty#our hours o maps and Michelin !uides. 8ear God, ./m no use.
./m still the same bitch and a-e. Clear me out o the way.
;2 February 1912.;
Today . had a terrible scene with Cichard. 3e was tellin! me o the contradictions in the
Christian churches, and . was tryin! to listen, but . wasn/t succeedin! "ery well, and he noticed
it. 3e said to me suddenly, /<hat do you come here or4/ and beore . could catch mysel, . said,
/To see you./
/. thou!ht you came to learn,/ he said, and . told him that/s what . meant.
. -new he didn/t belie"e me, and . thou!ht his pride would be hurt, and he/d be an!ry, but
he wasn/t an!ry at all. 3e !ot up rom his chint9y chair and came and sat with me on the chint9y
soa on the side where his chee- wouldn/t show. 3e said, /.t/s meant a lot to me, seein! you e"ery
wee-,/ and then . -new that he was !oin! to ma-e lo"e to me. 3e put his hand on my wrist and
as-ed, /8o you li-e me4 /
/(es, Cichard, o course,/ . said, /or . wouldn/t be here./
/<ill you marry me4/ he as-ed, and his pride made him as- it as thou!h he were as-in!
whether ./d ta-e another cup o tea.
/3enry mi!ht ob5ect,/ . said, tryin! to lau!h it o.
/&othin! will ma-e you lea"e 3enry4/ and . thou!ht an!rily, i . ha"en/t let him or
Maurice, why the hell should . be expected to lea"e him or you4
/./m married./
/That doesn/t mean anythin! to me or you./
/Oh yes, it does,/ . said. . had to tell him some time.
/. belie"e in God,/ . said, /and all the rest. (ou/"e tau!ht me to. (ou and Maurice./
/. don/t understand./
/(ou/"e always said the priests tau!ht you to disbelie"e. <ell, it can wor- the other way
3e loo-ed at his beautiul hands # he had those let. 3e said "ery slowly, /. don/t care
what you belie"e. (ou can belie"e the whole silly ba! o tric-s or all . care. . lo"e you, 6arah./
/./m sorry,/ . said.
/. lo"e you more than . hate all that. . . had children by you, ./d let you per"ert them./
/(ou shouldn/t say that./
/./m not a rich man. .t/s the only bribe . can oer, !i"in! up my aith./
/./m in lo"e with somebody else, Cichard./
/(ou can/t lo"e him much i you eel bound by that silly "ow./
. said drearily, /./"e done my best to brea- it, but it didn/t wor-./
/8o you thin- me a ool4/
/<hy should .4/
/To expect you to lo"e a man with this./ 3e turned his bad chee- towards me. /(ou belie"e
in God,/ he said. /That/s easy. (ou are beautiul. (ou ha"e no complaint, but why should . lo"e a
God who !a"e a child this4/
/8ear Cichard,/ . said, /there/s nothin! so "ery bad.../ . shut my eyes and put my mouth
a!ainst the chee-. . elt sic- or a moment because . ear deormity, and he sat =uiet and let me
-iss him, and . thou!ht . am -issin! pain and pain belon!s to (ou as happiness ne"er does. . lo"e
(ou in (our pain. . could almost taste metal and salt in the s-in, and . thou!ht, 3ow !ood (ou
are. (ou mi!ht ha"e -illed us with happiness, but (ou let us be with (ou in pain.
. elt him mo"e abruptly away and . opened my eyes. 3e said, /Good#bye./
/Good#bye, Cichard./
/8on/t come bac-,/ he said, /. can/t bear your pity./
/.t/s not pity./
/./"e made a ool o mysel./
. went away. .t wasn/t any !ood stayin!. . couldn/t tell him . en"ied him, carryin! the
mar- o pain around with him li-e that, seein! (ou in the !lass e"ery day instead o this dull
human thin! we call beauty.
;1G February 1912.;
. ha"e no need to write to (ou or tal- to (ou, that/s how . be!an a letter to (ou a little
time a!o, and . was ashamed o mysel and . tore it up because it seemed such a silly thin! to
write a letter to (ou who -now e"erythin! beore it comes into my mind. 8id . e"er lo"e
Maurice as much beore . lo"ed (ou4 Or was it really (ou . lo"ed all the time4 8id . touch (ou
when . touched him4 Could . ha"e touched (ou i . hadn/t touched him irst, touched him as .
ne"er touched 3enry, anybody4 +nd he lo"ed me and touched me as he ne"er did any other
woman. 'ut was it me he lo"ed, or (ou4 For he hated in me the thin!s (ou hate. 3e was on (our
side all the time without -nowin! it. (ou willed our separation, but he willed it too. 3e wor-ed
or it with his an!er and his 5ealousy, and he wor-ed or it with his lo"e. For he !a"e me so much
lo"e, and . !a"e him so much lo"e that soon there wasn/t anythin! let, when we/d inished, but
(ou. For either o us. . mi!ht ha"e ta-en a lietime spendin! a little lo"e at a time, e-in! it out
here and there, on this man and that. 'ut e"en the irst time, in the hotel near >addin!ton, we
spent all we had. (ou were there, teachin! us to s=uander, li-e you tau!ht the rich man, so that
one day we mi!ht ha"e nothin! let except this lo"e o (ou. 'ut (ou are too !ood to me. <hen .
as- (ou or pain, (ou !i"e me peace. Gi"e it him too. Gi"e him my peace # he needs it more.
;1E February 1912.;
Two days a!o . had such a sense o peace and =uiet and lo"e. $ie was !oin! to be happy
a!ain, but last ni!ht . dreamed . was wal-in! up a lon! staircase to meet Maurice at the top. .
was still happy because when . reached the top o the staircase we were !oin! to ma-e lo"e. .
called to him that . was comin!, but it wasn/t Maurice/s "oice that answered: it was a stran!er/s
that boomed li-e a o!horn warnin! lost ships, and scared me. . thou!ht, he/s let his lat and !one
away and . don/t -now where he is, and !oin! down the stairs a!ain the water rose beyond my
waist and the hall was thic- with mist.
Then . wo-e up. ./m not at peace any more. . 5ust want him li-e . used to in the old days.
. want to be eatin! sandwiches with him. . want to be drin-in! with him in a bar. ./m tired and .
don/t want any more pain. . want Maurice. . want ordinary corrupt human lo"e. 8ear God, you
-now . want to want (our pain, but . don/t want it now. Ta-e it away or a while and !i"e it me
another time.
. couldn/t read any more. O"er and o"er a!ain . had s-ipped when a passa!e hurt me too much. .
had wanted to disco"er about 8unstan, thou!h . hadn/t wanted to disco"er that much, but now .
had read on, it slipped ar bac- in time, li-e a dull date in history. .t wasn/t o present importance.
The entry . was let with was an entry only one wee- old. /. want Maurice. . want ordinary
corrupt human lo"e./
.t/s all . can !i"e you, . thou!ht. . don/t -now about any other -ind o lo"e, but i you
thin- ./"e s=uandered all o that you/re wron!. There/s enou!h let or our two li"es, and .
thou!ht o that day when she had pac-ed her suitcase and . sat wor-in! here, not -nowin! that
happiness was so close. . was !lad that . hadn/t -nown and . was !lad that . -new. . could act
now. 8unstan didn/t matter. The air#raid warden didn/t matter. . went to the telephone and dialled
her number.
The maid answered. . said, /This is Mr 'endrix. . want to spea- to Mrs Miles./ 6he told
me to hold on. . elt breathless as thou!h . were at the end o a lon! race as . waited or 6arah/s
"oice, but the "oice that came was the maid/s tellin! me that Mrs Miles was out. . don/t -now
why . didn/t belie"e her. . waited i"e minutes and then with my hand-erchie stretched ti!ht
o"er the mouthpiece . ran! a!ain.
/.s Mr Miles in4/
/&o, sir./
/Could . spea- to Mrs Miles then4 This is 6ir <illiam Malloc-./
There was only a "ery short pause beore 6arah replied, /Good e"enin!. This is Mrs
/. -now,/ . said, /. -now your "oice, 6arah./
/(ou... . thou!ht.../
/6arah,/ . said, /./m comin! to see you./
/&o, please no. $isten, Maurice. ./m in bed. ./m spea-in! rom there now./
/+ll the better./
/8on/t be a ool, Maurice. . mean ./m ill./
/Then you/ll ha"e to see me. <hat/s the matter, 6arah4/
/Oh, nothin!. + bad cold. $isten, Maurice./ 6he spaced her words slowly li-e a !o"erness
and it an!ered me. />lease don/t come . can/t see you./
/. lo"e you, 6arah, and ./m comin!./
/. won/t be here. ./ll !et up./ . thou!ht, . . run, it will only ta-e me our minutes across the
Common: she can/t dress in that time./ ./ll tell the maid not to let anybody in./
/6he/s not !ot the build o a chuc-er#out. +nd ./d ha"e to be chuc-ed out, 6arah./
/>lease, Maurice... ./m as-in! you. . ha"en/t as-ed anythin! o you or a lon! time./
/*xcept one lunch./
/Maurice, ./m not awully it. . 5ust can/t see you today. &ext wee-... /
/There/"e been a terrible lot o wee-s. . want to see you now. This e"enin!./
/<hy, Maurice4/
/(ou lo"e me./
/3ow do you -now4/
/&e"er mind. . want to as- you to come away with me./
/'ut, Maurice, . can answer you on the phone 5ust as well. The answer/s no./
/. can/t touch you by telephone, 6arah./
/Maurice, my dear, please. >romise you won/t come/
/./m comin!./
/$isten, Maurice. ./m eelin! awully sic-. +nd the pain/s bad toni!ht. . don/t want to !et
/(ou don/t ha"e to./
/. swear ./ll !et up and dress and lea"e the house, unless you promise... /
/This is more important to both o us, 6arah, than a cold./
/>lease, Maurice, please. 3enry will be home soon/
/$et him be./ . ran! o.
.t was a worse ni!ht than the one when . met 3enry a month beore. This time it was sleet
instead o rain, it was hal#way to snow and the ed!ed drops seemed to slash their way in throu!h
the buttonholes o one/s raincoat, they obscured the lamps on the Common, so that it was
impossible to run, and . can/t run ast anyway because o my le!. . wished . had brou!ht my war#
time torch with me, or it must ha"e ta-en ei!ht minutes or me to reach the house on north side.
. was 5ust steppin! o the pa"ement to cross when the door opened and 6arah came out. .
thou!ht with happiness, . ha"e her now. . -new with absolute certainty that beore the ni!ht was
out we should ha"e slept to!ether a!ain. +nd once that had been renewed, anythin! mi!ht
happen. . had ne"er -nown her beore and . had ne"er lo"ed her so much. The more we -now the
more we lo"e, . thou!ht. . was bac- in the territory o trust.
6he was in too much o a hurry to see me across the wide roadway throu!h the sleet. 6he
turned to the let and wal-ed rapidly away. . thou!ht, she will need somewhere to sit down and
then . ha"e her trapped. . ollowed twenty yards behind, but she ne"er loo-ed bac-. 6he s-irted
the Common, past the pond and the bombed boo-shop, as thou!h she were ma-in! or the tube.
<ell, i it were necessary, . was prepared to tal- to her e"en in a crowded train. 6he went down
the tube#stairs and up to the boo-in!#oice, but she had no ba! with her and when she elt in her
poc-ets no loose money either # not e"en the three halpence that would ha"e enabled her to
tra"el up and down till midni!ht. Hp the stairs a!ain, and across the road where the trams run.
One earth had been stopped, but another had ob"iously come to mind. . was triumphant. 6he was
araid, but she wasn/t araid o me, she was araid o hersel and what was !oin! to happen when
we met. . elt . had won the !ame already, and . could aord to eel a certain pity or my "ictim.
. wanted to say to her, 8on/t worry, there/s nothin! to ear, we/ll both be happy soon, the
ni!htmare/s nearly o"er.
+nd then . lost her. . had been too conident and . had allowed her too bi! a start. 6he had
crossed the road twenty yards ahead o me @. was delayed a!ain by my bad le! comin! up the
stairsA, a tram ran between, and she was !one. 6he mi!ht ha"e turned let down the 3i!h 6treet
or !one strai!ht ahead down >ar- Coad, but . couldn/t see her. . wasn/t "ery worried # i . didn/t
ind her today, . would the next. &ow . -new the whole absurd story o the "ow, now . was
certain o her lo"e, . was assured o her. . two people lo"ed, they slept to!ether: it was a
mathematical ormula, tested and pro"ed by human experience.
There was an +. '. C. in the 3i!h 6treet and . tried that. 6he wasn/t there. Then .
remembered the church at the corner o >ar- Coad, and . -new at once that she had !one there. .
ollowed, and sure enou!h there she was sittin! in one o the side aisles close to a pillar and a
hideous statue o the "ir!in. 6he wasn/t prayin!. 6he was 5ust sittin! there with her eyes closed. .
only saw her by the li!ht o the candles beore the statue, or the whole place was "ery dar-. . sat
down behind her li-e Mr >ar-is and waited. . could ha"e waited years now that . -new the end o
the story. . was cold and wet and "ery happy. . could e"en loo- with charity towards the altar and
the i!ure dan!lin! there. 6he lo"es us both, . thou!ht, but i there is to be a conlict between an
ima!e and a man, . -now who will win. . could put my hand on her thi!h or my mouth on her
breast, he was imprisoned behind the altar and couldn/t mo"e to plead ;his; cause.
6uddenly she be!an to cou!h with her hand pressed to her side. . -new she was in pain
and . couldn/t lea"e her alone in pain. . came and sat beside her and put my hand on her -nee
while she cou!hed. . thou!ht, . only one had a touch that could heal. <hen the it was o"er, she
said, />lease won/t you let me be./
/./ll ne"er let you be,/ . said.
/<hat/s come o"er you, Maurice4 (ou weren/t li-e that the other day at lunch./
/. was bitter. . didn/t -now you lo"ed me./
/<hy do you thin- . do4/ she as-ed, but she let my hand rest on her -nee. . told her then
how Mr >ar-is had stolen her diary # . didn/t want any lies between us now.
/.t wasn/t a !ood thin! to do,/ she said.
/&o./ 6he be!an to cou!h a!ain and aterwards in her exhaustion she leant her shoulder
a!ainst me.
/My dear,/ . said, /it/s all o"er now. The waitin!, . mean. <e/re !oin! away to!ether./
/&o,/ she said.
. put my arm round her and touched her breast. /This is where we be!in a!ain,/ . said. /./"e
been a bad lo"er, 6arah. .t was the insecurity that did it. . didn/t trust you. . didn/t -now enou!h
about you. 'ut ./m secure now./
6he said nothin!, but she still leant a!ainst me. .t was li-e an assent. . said, /./ll tell you
how it had better be. Go bac- home and lie in bed or a couple o days # you don/t want to tra"el
with a cold li-e that. ./ll rin! up e"ery day and see how you are. <hen you are well enou!h, ./ll
come o"er and help you pac-. <e won/t stay here. . ha"e a cousin in 8orset who has an empty
cotta!e . can use. <e/ll stay there a ew wee-s and rest. ./ll be able to inish my boo-. <e can
ace the lawyers aterwards. <e need a rest, both o us. ./m tired and ./m sic- to death o bein!
without you, 6arah./
/Me too./ 6he spo-e so low that . wouldn/t ha"e heard the phrase i . had been a stran!er
to it, but it was li-e a si!nature tune that had echoed throu!h all our relationship, rom the irst
lo"e#ma-in! in the >addin!ton hotel. /Me too/ or loneliness, !ries, disappointments, pleasures
and despairs, the claim to share e"erythin!.
/Money/s !oin! to be short,/ . said, /but not too short. ./"e been commissioned to do a $ie
o General Gordon and the ad"ance is enou!h to -eep us or three months comortably. 'y that
time . can hand in the no"el and !et an ad"ance on that. 'oth boo-s will be out this year, and
they should -eep us till another/s ready. . can wor-, with you there. (ou -now, any moment now
./m !oin! to come throu!h. ./ll be a "ul!ar success yet, and you/ll hate it and ./ll hate it, but we/ll
buy thin!s and be extra"a!ant and it will be un, because we/ll be to!ether./
6uddenly . reali9ed she was asleep. *xhausted by her li!ht she had allen asleep a!ainst
my shoulder as so many times, in taxis, in buses, on a par-#seat. . sat still and let her be. There
was nothin! to disturb her in the dar- church. The candles napped around the "ir!in, and there
was nobody else there. The slowly !rowin! pain in my upper arm where her wei!ht lay was the
!reatest pleasure . had e"er -nown.
Children are supposed to be inluenced by what you whisper to them in sleep, and .
be!an to whisper to 6arah, not loud enou!h to wa-e her, hopin! that the words would drop
hypnotically into her unconscious mind. /. lo"e you, 6arah,/ . whispered. /&obody has e"er lo"ed
you as much beore. <e are !oin! to be happy. 3enry won/t mind except in his pride, and pride
soon heals. 3ell ind himsel a new habit to ta-e your place # perhaps he/ll collect Gree- coins.
<e are !oin! away, 6arah, we are !oin! away. &obody can stop it now. (ou lo"e me, 6arah,/ and
. ell silent as . be!an to wonder whether . ou!ht to buy a new suitcase. Then she wo-e
/./"e been asleep,/ she said.
/(ou must !o home now, 6arah. (ou/re cold./
/.t isn/t home, Maurice,/ she said. /. don/t want to !o away rom here./
/.t/s cold./
/. don/t mind the cold. +nd it/s dar-. . can belie"e anythin! in the dar-./
/0ust belie"e in us./
/That/s what . meant./ 6he shut her eyes a!ain, and loo-in! up at the altar . thou!ht with
triumph, almost as thou!h he were a li"in! ri"al, (ou see # these are the ar!uments that win, and
!ently mo"ed my in!ers across her breast.
/(ou/re tired, aren/t you4/ . as-ed. /7ery tired./
/(ou shouldn/t ha"e run away rom me li-e that./
/.t wasn/t you . was runnin! rom./ 6he mo"ed her shoulder. />lease, Maurice, !o now./
/(ou ou!ht to be in bed./
/. will be soon. . don/t want to !o bac- with you. . 5ust want to say !ood#bye here./
/>romise you won/t stay lon!./
/. promise./
/+nd you/ll telephone to me4/
6he nodded, but loo-in! down at her hand where it lay in her lap li-e somethin! thrown
away, . saw that she had her in!ers crossed. . as-ed her with suspicion, /(ou are tellin! me the
truth4/ . uncrossed her in!ers with mine and said, /(ou aren/t plannin! to escape me a!ain4/
/Maurice, dear Maurice,/ she said, /. ha"en/t !ot the stren!th./ 6he be!an to cry, thrustin!
her ists into her eyes as a child does.
/./m sorry,/ she said. /0ust !o away. >lease, Maurice, ha"e a bit o mercy./
One !ets to the end o bad!erin! and contri"in!, . couldn/t !o on with that appeal in my
ears. . -issed her on the tou!h and -notty hair, and comin! away . ound her lips, smud!y and
salt, on the corner o my mouth. /God bless you,/ she said, and . thou!ht, That/s what she crossed
out in her letter to 3enry. One says !ood#bye to another/s !ood#bye unless one is 6mythe and it
was an in"oluntary act when . repeated her blessin! bac- to her, but turnin! as . let the church
and seein! her huddled there at the ed!e o the candle#li!ht, li-e a be!!ar come in or warmth, .
could ima!ine a God blessin! her, or a God lo"in! her. <hen . be!an to write our story down, .
thou!ht . was writin! a record o hate, but somehow the hate has !ot mislaid and all . -now is
that in spite o her mista-es and her unreliability, she was better than most. .t/s 5ust as well that
one o us should belie"e in her, she ne"er did in hersel.
The next ew days . had to ma-e a !reat eort to be sensible. . was wor-in! or both o us now.
.n the mornin! . set mysel a minimum o se"en hundred and ity words on the no"el, but
usually . mana!ed to !et a thousand done by ele"en o/cloc-. .t/s astonishin! the eect o hope,
the no"el that had dra!!ed all throu!h the last year ran towards its end. . -new that 3enry let or
wor- around nine#thirty, and the most li-ely hour or her to telephone was between then and
twel"e#thirty. 3enry had started comin! home or lunch @so >ar-is had told meA: there was no
chance o her telephonin! a!ain beore three. . would re"ise my day/s wor- and do my letters
until twel"e#thirty, and then . was released howe"er !loomily rom expectation. Hntil two#thirty
. could put in time at the 'ritish Museum Ceadin! Coom, ma-in! notes or the lie o General
Gordon. . couldn/t absorb mysel in readin! and note#ta-in! as . could in writin! the no"el, and
the thou!ht o 6arah came between me and the missionary lie in China. <hy had . been in"ited
to write this bio!raphy4 . oten wondered. They would ha"e done better to ha"e chosen an author
who belie"ed in Gordon/s God. . could appreciate the obstinate stand at )hartoum # the hatred o
the sae politicians at home, but the 'ible on the des- belon!ed to another world o thou!ht rom
mine. >erhaps the publisher hal hoped that my cynical treatment o Gordon/s Christianity would
cause a ;succNs de scandale;. . had no intention o pleasin! him, this God was also 6arah/s God,
and . was !oin! to throw no stones at any phantom she belie"ed she lo"ed. . hadn/t durin! that
period any hatred o her God, or hadn/t . in the end pro"ed stron!er4
One day as . ate my sandwiches, on to which my indelible pencil somehow always !ot
transerred, a amiliar "oice !reeted me rom the des- opposite in a tone hushed out o respect
or our ellow wor-ers. /. hope all !oes well now, sir, i you/ll or!i"e the personal intrusion./
. loo-ed o"er the bac- o my des- at the unor!ettable moustache. /7ery well, >ar-is,
than- you. 3a"e an illicit sandwich4/
/Oh no, sir, . couldn/t possibly... /
/Come now. .ma!ine it/s on expenses./ Celuctantly he too- one and openin! it up
remar-ed with a -ind o horror, as thou!h he had accepted a coin and ound it !old, /.t/s real
/My publisher sent me a tin rom +merica./
/.t/s too !ood o you, sir./
/. still ha"e your ash#tray, >ar-is,/ . whispered, because my nei!hbour had loo-ed an!rily
up at me.
/.t/s o sentimental "alue only,/ he whispered bac-. /3ow/s your boy4/
/+ little bilious, sir./
/./m surprised to ind you here. <or-4 (ou aren/t watchin! one o us, surely4/ . couldn/t
ima!ine that any o the dusty inmates o the readin!#room # the men who wore hats and scar"es
indoors or warmth, the .ndian who was painully studyin! the complete wor-s o Geor!e *liot,
or the man who slept e"ery day with his head laid beside the same pile o boo-s # could be
concerned in any drama o sexual 5ealousy.
/Oh no, sir. This isn/t wor-. .t/s my day o, and the boy/s bac- at school today./
/<hat are you readin!4/
/The Times $aw Ceports, sir. Today ./m on the Cussell case. They !i"e a -ind o
bac-!round to one/s wor-, sir. Open up "istas. They ta-e one away rom the daily petty detail. .
-new one o the witnesses in this case, sir. <e were in the same oice once. <ell, he/s !one
down to history as . ne"er shall now./
/Oh, you ne"er -now, >ar-is./
/One does -now, sir. That/s the discoura!in! thin!. The 'olton case was as ar as ./ll e"er
!et. The law that orbade the e"idence in di"orce cases bein! published was a blow to men o my
callin!. The 5ud!e, sir, ne"er mentions us by name, and he/s "ery oten pre5udiced a!ainst the
/.t had ne"er struc- me,/ . said with sympathy.
*"en >ar-is could awa-e a lon!in!. . could ne"er see him without the thou!ht o 6arah. .
went home in the tube with hope or company, and sittin! at home, in dyin! expectation o the
telephone#bell rin!in!, . saw my companion depart a!ain, it wouldn/t be today. +t i"e o/cloc- .
dialled the number, but as soon as . heard the rin!in!#tone . replaced the recei"er, perhaps 3enry
was bac- early and . couldn/t spea- to 3enry now, or . was the "ictor, since 6arah lo"ed me and
6arah wanted to lea"e him. 'ut a delayed "ictory can strain the ner"es as much as a prolon!ed
*i!ht days passed beore the telephone ran!. .t wasn/t the time o day . expected, or it
was beore nine o/cloc- in the mornin!, and when . said, /3ullo,/ it was 3enry who answered.
/.s that 'endrix4/ he as-ed. There was somethin! "ery =ueer about his "oice, and .
wondered, has she told him4 /(es. 6pea-in!./
/+n awul thin!/s happened. (ou ou!ht to -now. 6arah/s dead./
3ow con"entionally we beha"e at such moments. . said, /./m terribly sorry, 3enry./
/+re you doin! anythin! toni!ht4/
/. wish you/d come o"er or a drin-. . don/t ancy bein! alone./
'OO) F.7*
. stayed the ni!ht with 3enry. .t was the irst time . had slept in 3enry/s house. They had only
one !uest#room and 6arah was there @she had mo"ed into it a wee- beore so as not to disturb
3enry with her cou!hA, so . slept on the soa in the drawin!#room where we had made lo"e. .
didn/t want to stay the ni!ht, but he be!!ed me to.
<e must ha"e drun- a bottle and a hal o whis-y between us. . remember 3enry sayin!,
/.t/s stran!e, 'endrix, how one can/t be 5ealous about the dead. 6he/s only been dead a ew hours,
and yet . wanted you with me./
/(ou hadn/t so much to be 5ealous about. .t was all o"er a lon! time a!o./
/. don/t need that -ind o comort now, 'endrix. .t was ne"er o"er with either o you. .
was the luc-y man. . had her all those years. 8o you hate me4/
/. don/t -now, 3enry. . thou!ht . did, but . don/t -now./
<e sat in his study with no li!ht on. The !as#ire was not turned hi!h enou!h to see each
other/s aces, so that . could only tell when 3enry wept by the tone o his "oice. The 8iscus
Thrower aimed at both o us rom the dar-ness. /Tell me how it happened, 3enry./
/(ou remember that ni!ht . met you on the Common4 Three wee-s a!o, or our, was it4
6he !ot a bad cold that ni!ht. 6he wouldn/t do anythin! about it. . ne"er e"en -new it had
reached her chest. 6he ne"er told anybody those sort o thin!s/ # and not e"en her diary, .
thou!ht. There had been no word o sic-ness there. 6he hadn/t had the time to be ill in.
/6he too- to her bed in the end,/ 3enry said, /but nobody could ha"e -ept her there, and
she wouldn/t ha"e a doctor # she ne"er belie"ed in them. 6he !ot up and went out a wee- a!o.
God -nows where or why. 6he said she needed exercise. . came home irst and ound her !one.
6he didn/t !et in till nine, soa-ed throu!h worse than the irst time. 6he must ha"e been wal-in!
about or hours in the rain. 6he was e"erish all ni!ht, tal-in! to somebody, . don/t -now who, it
wasn/t you or me, 'endrix. . made her see a doctor ater that. 3e said i she/d had penicillin a
wee- earlier, he/d ha"e sa"ed her./
There wasn/t anythin! to do or either o us but pour out more whis-y. . thou!ht o the
stran!er . had paid >ar-is to trac- down, the stran!er had certainly won in the end. &o, . thou!ht,
. don/t hate 3enry. . hate (ou i you exist. . remembered what she/d said to Cichard 6mythe, that
. had tau!ht her to belie"e. . couldn/t or the lie o me tell how, but to thin- o what . had thrown
away made me hate mysel too. 3enry said, /6he died at our this mornin!. . wasn/t there. The
nurse didn/t call me in time./
/<here/s the nurse4/
/6he inished her 5ob o "ery tidily. 6he had another ur!ent case and let beore lunch./
/. wish . could be o use to you./
/(ou are, 5ust sittin! here. .t/s been an awul day, 'endrix. (ou -now, ./"e ne"er had a
death to deal with. . always assumed ./d die irst # and 6arah would ha"e -nown what to do. .
she/d stayed with me that lon!. .n a way it/s a woman/s 5ob # li-e ha"in! a baby./
/. suppose the doctor helped./
/3e/s awully rushed this winter. 3e ran! up an underta-er. . wouldn/t ha"e -nown where
to !o. <e/"e ne"er had a trade#directory. 'ut a doctor can/t tell me what to do with her clothes #
the cupboards are ull o them. Compacts, scents # one can/t 5ust throw thin!s away... . only she
had a sister.../ 3e suddenly stopped because the ront door opened and closed, 5ust as it had on
that other ni!ht when he had said, /The maid,/ and . had said, /.t/s 6arah./ <e listened to the
ootsteps o the maid !oin! upstairs. .t/s extraordinary how empty a house can be with three
people in it. <e dran- our whis-y and . poured another. /./"e !ot plenty in the house,/ 3enry said.
/6arah ound a new source.../ and stopped a!ain. 6he stood at the end o e"ery path. There wasn/t
any point in tryin! to a"oid her e"en or a moment. . thou!ht, why did (ou ha"e to do this to us4
. she hadn/t belie"ed in (ou she would be ali"e now, we should ha"e been lo"ers still. .t was sad
and stran!e to remember that . had been dissatisied with the situation. . would ha"e shared her
now happily with 3enry.
. said, /+nd the uneral4/
/'endrix, . don/t -now what to do. 6omethin! "ery pu99lin! happened. <hen she was
delirious @o course, she wasn/t responsibleA, the nurse told me that she -ept on as-in! or a
priest. +t least she -ept on sayin!, Father, Father, and it couldn/t ha"e been her own. 6he ne"er
-new him. O course the nurse -new we weren/t Catholics. 6he was =uite sensible. 6he soothed
her down. 'ut ./m worried, 'endrix./
. thou!ht with an!er and bitterness, (ou mi!ht ha"e let poor 3enry alone. <e ha"e !ot
on or years without (ou. <hy should (ou suddenly start intrudin! into all situations li-e a
stran!e relation returned rom the +ntipodes4
3enry said, /. one li"es in $ondon cremation/s the easiest thin!. Hntil the nurse said that
to me, ./d been plannin! to ha"e it done at Golders Green. The underta-er ran! up the
crematorium. They can it 6arah in the day ater tomorrow./
/6he was delirious,/ . said, /you don/t ha"e to ta-e what she said into account./
/. wondered whether . ou!ht to as- a priest about it. 6he -ept so many thin!s =uiet. For
all . -now she may ha"e become a Catholic. 6he/s been so stran!e lately./
/Oh no, 3enry. 6he didn/t belie"e in anythin!, any more than you or me./ . wanted her
burnt up, . wanted to be able to say, Cesurrect that body i you can. My 5ealousy had not
inished, li-e 3enry/s, with her death. .t was as i she were ali"e still, in the company o a lo"er
she had preerred to me. 3ow . wished . could send >ar-is ater her to interrupt their eternity.
/(ou are =uite certain4/
/Buite certain, 3enry./ . thou!ht, ./"e !ot to be careul. . mustn/t be li-e Cichard 6mythe, .
mustn/t hate, or i . were really to hate . would belie"e, and i . were to belie"e, what a triumph
or (ou and her. This is to play act, tal-in! about re"en!e and 5ealousy, it/s 5ust somethin! to ill
the brain with, so that . can or!et the absoluteness o her death. + wee- a!o . had only to say to
her /8o you remember that irst time to!ether and how . hadn/t !ot a shillin! or the meter4/, and
the scene would be there or both o us. &ow it was there or me only. 6he had lost all our
memories or e"er, and it was as thou!h by dyin! she had robbed me o part o mysel. . was
losin! my indi"iduality. .t was the irst sta!e o my own death, the memories droppin! o li-e
!an!rened limbs.
/. hate all this uss o prayers and !ra"e#di!!ers, but i 6arah wanted it, ./d try to !et it
/6he chose her weddin! in a re!istry oice,/ . said, /she wouldn/t want her uneral to be in
a church./
/&o, . suppose that/s true, isn/t it4 /
/Ce!istration and cremation,/ . said, /they !o to!ether,/ and in the shadow 3enry lited his
head and peered towards me as thou!h he suspected my irony.
/$et me ta-e it all out o your hands,/ . su!!ested, 5ust as in the same room, by the same
ire, . had su!!ested "isitin! Mr 6a"a!e or him.
/.t/s !ood o you, 'endrix./ 3e drained the last o the whis-y into our !lasses, "ery
careully and e"enly.
/Midni!ht,/ . said, /you must !et some sleep. . you can./
/The doctor let me some pills./ 'ut he didn/t want to be alone yet. . -new exactly how he
elt, or . too ater a day with 6arah would postpone or as lon! as . could the loneliness o my
/. -eep on or!ettin! she/s dead,/ 3enry said. +nd . had experienced that too, all throu!h
1915 # the bad year #or!ettin! when . wo-e that our lo"e#aair was o"er, that the telephone
mi!ht carry any "oice except hers. 6he had been as dead then as she was dead now. For a month
or two this year a !host had pained me with hope, but the !host was laid and the pain would be
o"er soon. . would die a little more e"ery day, but how . lon!ed to retain it +s lon! as one suers
one li"es.
/Go to bed, 3enry./
/./m araid o dreamin! about her./
/(ou won/t i you ta-e the doctor/s pills./
/<ould you li-e one, 'endrix4/
/(ou wouldn/t, would you, stay the ni!ht4 .t/s ilthy outside./
/. don/t mind the weather./
/(ou/d be doin! me a !reat a"our./
/O course ./ll stay./
/./ll brin! down some sheets and blan-ets./
/8on/t bother, 3enry,/ but he was !one. . loo-ed at the par=uet loor, and . remembered
the exact timbre o her cry. On the des- where she wrote her letters was a clutter o ob5ects, and
e"ery ob5ect . could interpret li-e a code. . thou!ht. 6he hasn/t e"en thrown away that pebble. <e
lau!hed at its shape and there it still is, li-e a paper#wei!ht. <hat would 3enry ma-e o it, and
the miniature bottle o a li=ueur none o us cared or, and the piece o !lass polished by the sea,
and the small wooden rabbit . had ound in &ottin!ham4 6hould . ta-e all these ob5ects away
with me4 They would !o into the waste#paper bas-et otherwise, when 3enry at last !ot around to
clearin! up, but could . bear their company4
. was loo-in! at them when 3enry came in burdened with blan-ets. /. had or!otten to
say, 'endrix, i there/s anythin! you want to ta-e... . don/t thin- she/s let a will./
/.t/s -ind o you./
/./m !rateul now to anybody who lo"ed her./
/./ll ta-e this stone i . may./
/6he -ept the oddest thin!s. ./"e brou!ht you a pair o my py5amas, 'endrix./
3enry had or!otten to brin! a pillow and lyin! with my head on a cushion . ima!ined .
could smell her scent. . wanted thin!s . should ne"er ha"e a!ain # there was no substitute. .
couldn/t sleep. . pressed my nails into my palms as she had done with hers, so that the pain mi!ht
pre"ent my brain wor-in!, and the pendulum o my desire swun! tirin!ly to and ro, the desire to
or!et and to remember, to be dead and to -eep ali"e a while lon!er. +nd then at last . slept. .
was wal-in! up Oxord 6treet and . was worried because . had to buy a present and all the shops
were ull o cheap 5ewellery, !litterin! under the concealed li!htin!. &ow and then . thou!ht .
saw somethin! beautiul and . would approach the !lass, but when . saw the 5ewel close it would
be as actitious as all the others # perhaps a hideous !reen bird with scarlet eyes meant to !i"e the
eect o rubies. Time was short and . hurried rom shop to shop. Then out o one o the shops
came 6arah and . -new that she would help me. /3a"e you bou!ht somethin!, 6arah4/
/&ot here,/ she said, /but they ha"e some lo"ely little bottles urther on./
/. ha"en/t time,/ . be!!ed her, /help me. ./"e !ot to ind somethin!, or tomorrow/s the
/8on/t worry,/ she said. /6omethin! always turns up. 8on/t worry,/ and suddenly . didn/t
worry. Oxord 6treet extended its boundaries into a !reat !rey misty ield, my eet were bare, and
. was wal-in! in the dew, alone, and stumblin! in a shallow rut . wo-e, still hearin!, /8on/t
worry,/ li-e a whisper lod!ed in the ear, a summer sound belon!in! to childhood.
+t brea-ast time 3enry was still asleep, and the maid whom >ar-is had suborned
brou!ht coee and toast in to me on a tray. 6he drew the curtains and the sleet had chan!ed
blindin!ly to snow. . was still bleary with sleep and the contentment o my dream, and . was
surprised to see her eyes red with old tears. /.s anythin! the matter, Maud4/ . as-ed, and it was
only when she put the tray down and wal-ed uriously out that . came properly awa-e to the
empty house and the empty world. . went up and loo-ed in at 3enry. 3e was still in the depths o
dru!!ed sleep, smilin! li-e a do!, and . en"ied him. Then . went down and tried to eat my toast.
+ bell ran! and . heard the maid leadin! somebody upstairs # the underta-er, . supposed,
because . could hear the door o the !uest#room open. 3e was seein! her dead, . had not, but .
had no wish to, any more than . would ha"e wished to see her in another man/s arms. 6ome men
may be stimulated that way, . am not. &obody was !oin! to ma-e me pimp or death. . drew my
mind to!ether, and . thou!ht. &ow that e"erythin! is really o"er, . ha"e !ot to be!in a!ain. . ha"e
allen in lo"e once, it can be done a!ain. 'ut . was uncon"inced, it seemed to me that . had !i"en
all the sex . had away.
+nother bell. <hat a lot o business was !oin! on in the house while 3enry slept. This
time Maud came to me. 6he said, /There/s a !entleman below as-in! or Mr Miles, but . don/t
li-e to wa-e him./
/<ho is he4/
/3e/s that riend o Mrs Miles,/ she said and or the only time admitted her share in our
shabby collaboration.
/(ou/d better show him up,/ . said. . elt "ery superior to 6mythe now, sittin! in 6arah/s
drawin!#room, wearin! 3enry/s py5amas, -nowin! so much about him while he -new nothin!
about me. 3e loo-ed at me with conusion and dripped snow on to the par=uet. . said, /<e met
once. ./m a riend o Mrs Miles./
/(ou had a small boy with you./
/That/s ri!ht./
/. came to see Mr Miles,/ he said. /(ou/"e heard the news4/
/That/s why . came./
/3e/s asleep. The doctor !a"e him pills. .t/s been a bad shoc- to all o us,/ . added
oolishly. 3e was starin! round the room, in Cedar Coad, comin! out o nowhere, she had been
as dimensionless, . suppose, as a dream. 'ut this room !a"e her thic-ness, it was 6arah too. The
snow mounted slowly on the sill li-e mould rom a spade. The room was bein! buried li-e 6arah.
3e said, /./ll come bac-,/ and turned drearily away, so that his bad chee- was turned on
me. . thou!ht, that was where her lips rested. 6he could always be snared by pity.
3e repeated stupidly, /. came to see Mr Miles and say how sorry..,/
/.t/s more usual on these occasions to write./
/. thou!ht . mi!ht be o some use,/ he said wea-ly.
/(ou don/t ha"e to con"ert Mr Miles./
/Con"ert4/ he as-ed, ill at ease and bewildered.
/To the act that there/s nothin! let o her. The end. +nnihilation./
3e bro-e suddenly out,/ . wanted to see her, that/s all./
/Mr Miles doesn/t e"en -now you exist. .t/s not "ery considerate o you, 6mythe, to come
/<hen is the uneral4/
/Tomorrow at Golders Green./
/6he wouldn/t ha"e wanted that,/ he said and too- me by surprise.
/6he didn/t belie"e in anythin!, any more than you claim you do./
3e said, /8on/t any o you -now4 6he was becomin! a Catholic/
/6he wrote to me. 6he/d made up her mind. &othin! . could ha"e said would ha"e done
any !ood. 6he was be!innin! # instruction. .sn/t that the word they use4/ 6o she still had secrets, .
thou!ht. 6he had ne"er put that in her 5ournal, any more than she had put her sic-ness. 3ow
much more was there to disco"er4 The thou!ht was li-e despair.
/That was a shoc- or you, wasn/t it4/ . 5eered at him, tryin! to transer my pain.
/Oh, . was an!ry o course. 'ut we can/t all belie"e the same thin!s./
/That/s not what you used to claim./
3e loo-ed at me, as thou!h he were pu99led by my enmity. 3e said, /.s your name
Maurice by any chance4/
/.t is./
/6he told me about you./
/+nd . read about you. 6he made ools o us both./
/. was unreasonable./ 3e said, /8on/t you thin- . could see her4/ and . heard the hea"y
boots o the underta-er comin! down, and . heard the same stair crea-. /6he/s lyin! upstairs. The
irst door on the let/
/. Mr Miles.../
/(ou won/t wa-e him./
. had put on my clothes by the time he came down a!ain. 3e said, /Than- you./
/8on/t than- me. . don/t own her any more than you do./
/./"e !ot no ri!ht to as-,/ he said, /but . wish you/d #you lo"ed her, . -now./ 3e added as
thou!h he were swallowin! a bitter medicine, /6he lo"ed you./
/<hat are you tryin! to say4/
/. wish you/d do somethin! or her./
/For her4/
/$et her ha"e her Catholic uneral. 6he would ha"e li-ed it./
/<hat earthly dierence does it ma-e4/
/. don/t suppose any or her. 'ut it always pays us to be !enerous./
/+nd what ha"e . to do with it4/
/6he always said that her husband had a !reat respect or you./
3e was turnin! the screw o absurdity too ar. . wished to shatter the deadness o this
buried room with lau!hter. . sat down on the soa and be!an to sha-e with it. . thou!ht o 6arah
dead upstairs and 3enry asleep with a silly smile on his ace, and the lo"er with the spots
discussin! the uneral with the lo"er who had employed Mr >ar-is to sprin-le his door#bell with
powder. The tears ran down my chee-s as . lau!hed. Once in the blit9 . saw a man lau!hin!
outside his house where his wie and child were buried.
/. don/t understand,/ 6mythe said. 3e held his ri!ht ist closed as thou!h he were prepared
to deend himsel. There was so much that neither o us understood. >ain was li-e an
inexplicable explosion throwin! us to!ether. /./ll be !oin!,/ he said and reached or the door#-nob
with his let hand. + stran!e idea occurred to me because . had no reason to belie"e he was let#
/(ou must or!i"e me,/ . said. /./m rattled. <e/re all rattled./ . held out my hand to him, he
hesitated and touched it with his let. /6mythe,/ . said, /what ha"e you !ot there4 8id you ta-e
anythin! rom her room4/ 3e opened his hand and showed a scrap o hair. /That/s all,/ he said.
/(ou hadn/t any ri!ht./
/Oh, she doesn/t belon! to anybody now,/ he said, and suddenly . saw her or what she
was # a piece o reuse waitin! to be cleared away, i you needed a bit o hair you could ta-e it,
or trim her nails i nail trimmin!s had "alue to you. $i-e a saint/s her bones could be di"ided up
#i anybody re=uired them. 6he was !oin! to be burnt soon, so why shouldn/t e"erybody ha"e
what he wanted irst4 <hat a ool . had been durin! three years to ima!ine that in any way . had
possessed her. <e are possessed by nobody, not e"en by oursel"es.
/./m sorry,/ . said.
/8o you -now what she wrote to me4/ 6mythe as-ed. /.t was only our days a!o,/ and .
thou!ht with sadness that she had had time to write to him but not to telephone to me. /6he wrote
# pray or me. 8oesn/t it seem odd, as-in! ;me; to pray or her4/
/<hat did you do4/
/Oh,/ he said, /when . heard she was dead, . prayed./
/8id you -now any prayers4/
/.t doesn/t seem ri!ht prayin! to a God you don/t belie"e in./
. ollowed him out o the house: there was no point in remainin! till 3enry wo-e. 6ooner
or later he had to ace bein! on his own, 5ust as . had. . watched 6mythe 5er-in! his way across
the Common ahead o me, and . thou!ht. +n hysterical type. 8isbelie could be a product o
hysteria 5ust as much as belie. The wet o the snow, where the passa!e o many people had
melted it, wor-ed throu!h my soles and reminded me o the dew o my dream, but when . tried
to remember her "oice sayin!, /8on/t worry,/ . ound . had no memory or sounds. . couldn/t
imitate her "oice. . couldn/t e"en caricature it, when . tried to remember it, it was anonymous #
5ust any woman/s "oice.
The process o or!ettin! her had set in. <e should -eep !ramophone records as we -eep
. came up the bro-en steps into the hall. &othin! but the stained !lass was the same as
that ni!ht in 1911. &obody -nows the be!innin! o anythin!. 6arah had really belie"ed that the
end be!an when she saw my body. 6he would ne"er ha"e admitted that the end had started lon!
beore, the ewer telephone calls or this or that inade=uate reason, the =uarrels . be!an with her
because . had reali9ed the dan!er o lo"e endin!. <e had be!un to loo- beyond lo"e, but it was
only . who was aware o the way we were bein! dri"en. . the bomb had allen a year earlier, she
wouldn/t ha"e made that promise. 6he would ha"e torn her nails tryin! to release me. <hen we
!et to the end o human bein!s we ha"e to delude oursel"es into a belie in God, li-e a !ourmet
who demands more complex sauces with his ood. . loo-ed at the hall, clear as a cell, hideous
with !reen paint, and . thou!ht, she wanted me to ha"e a second chance and here it is, the empty
lie, odourless, antiseptic, the lie o a prison, and . accused her as thou!h her prayers had really
wor-ed the chan!e, what did . do to you that you had to condemn me to lie4 The stairs and
banisters crea-ed with newness all the way upstairs. 6he had ne"er wal-ed up them. *"en the
repairs to the house were part o the process o or!ettin!. .t needs a God outside time to
remember when e"erythin! chan!es. 8id . still lo"e or did . only re!ret lo"e4
. came into my room and on the des- lay a letter rom 6arah.
6he had been dead or twenty#our hours and unconscious or lon!er than that. 3ow
could a letter ta-e so lon! across a strip o common4 Then . saw that she had put my number
wron!, and a little o the old bitterness seeped out. 6he wouldn/t ha"e or!otten my number two
years a!o.
There was so much pain at the idea o seein! her writin! that . nearly held the letter to the
!as#ire, but curiosity can be stron!er than pain. .t was written in pencil, . suppose because she
was writin! in bed.
/8earest Maurice,/ she wrote, /. meant to write to you the other ni!ht ater you had !one
away, but . elt rather sic- when . !ot home and 3enry ussed about me. ./m writin! instead o
telephonin!. . can/t telephone and hear your "oice !o =ueer when . say ./m not !oin! to come
away with you. 'ecause ./m not !oin! to come away with you Maurice, dearest Maurice. . lo"e
you but . can/t see you a!ain. . don/t -now how ./m !oin! to li"e in this pain and lon!in! and ./m
prayin! to God all the time that he won/t be hard on me, that he won/t -eep me ali"e. 8ear
Maurice, . want to ha"e my ca-e and eat it li-e e"erybody else. . went to a priest two days a!o
beore you ran! me up and . told him . wanted to be a Catholic. . told him about my promise and
about you. . said, ./m not really married to 3enry any more. <e don/t sleep to!ether # not since
the irst year with you. +nd it wasn/t really a marria!e, . said, you couldn/t call a re!istry oice a
weddin!. . as-ed him couldn/t . be a Catholic and marry you4 . -new you wouldn/t mind !oin!
throu!h a ser"ice. *"ery time . as-ed him a =uestion . had such hope: it was li-e openin! the
shutters o a new house and loo-in! or the "iew, and e"ery window 5ust aced a blan- wall. &o,
no, no, he said, . couldn/t marry you, . couldn/t !o on seein! you, not i . was !oin! to be a
Catholic. . thou!ht, to hell with the whole lot o them and . wal-ed out o the room where . was
seein! him, and . slammed the door to show what . thou!ht o priests. They are between us and
God, . thou!ht: God has more mercy, and then . came out o the church and saw the cruciix they
ha"e there, and . thou!ht, o course, he/s !ot mercy, only it/s such an odd sort o mercy, it
sometimes loo-s li-e punishment. Maurice, my dearest, ./"e !ot a oul headache, and . eel li-e
death. . wish . weren/t as stron! as a horse. . don/t want to li"e without you, and . -now one day .
shall meet you on the Common and then . won/t care a damn about 3enry or God or anythin!.
'ut what/s the !ood, Maurice4 . belie"e there/s a God # . belie"e the whole ba! o tric-s, there/s
nothin! . don/t belie"e, they could subdi"ide the Trinity into a do9en parts and ./d belie"e. They
could di! up records that pro"ed Christ had been in"ented by >ilate to !et himsel promoted and
./d belie"e 5ust the same. ./"e cau!ht belie li-e a disease. ./"e allen into belie li-e . ell in lo"e.
./"e ne"er lo"ed beore as . lo"e you, and ./"e ne"er belie"ed in anythin! beore as . belie"e now.
./m sure. ./"e ne"er been sure beore about anythin!. <hen you came in at the door with the
blood on your ace, . became sure. Once and or all. *"en thou!h . didn/t -now it at the time. .
ou!ht belie or lon!er than . ou!ht lo"e, but . ha"en/t any i!ht let.
/Maurice, dear, don/t be an!ry. 'e sorry or me, but don/t be an!ry. ./m a phoney and a
a-e, but this isn/t phoney or a-e. . used to thin- . was sure about mysel and what was ri!ht and
wron!, and you tau!ht me not to be sure. (ou too- away all my lies and sel#deceptions li-e they
clear a road o rubble or somebody to come alon! it, somebody o importance, and now he/s
come, but you cleared the way yoursel. <hen you write you try to be exact and you tau!ht me
to want the truth, and you told me when . wasn/t tellin! the truth. 8o you really thin- that, you/d
say, or do you only thin- you thin- it4 6o you see it/s all your ault, Maurice, it/s all your ault. .
pray to God 3e won/t -eep me ali"e li-e this./
There wasn/t any more. 6he seemed to ha"e had a -nac- o !ettin! her prayers answered
e"en beore they were spo-en, because hadn/t she started dyin! that ni!ht when she came in out
o the rain and ound me with 3enry4 . . were writin! a no"el . would end it here, a no"el, .
used to thin-, has to end somewhere, but ./m be!innin! to belie"e my realism has been at ault
all these years, or nothin! in lie now e"er seems to end. Chemists tell you matter is ne"er
completely destroyed, and mathematicians tell you that i you hal"e each pace in crossin! a
room, you will ne"er reach the opposite wall, so what an optimist . would be i . thou!ht that this
story ended here. Only, li-e 6arah, . wish . weren/t as stron! as a horse.
. was late or the uneral. . had !one into town to meet a man called <aterbury who was !oin! to
write an article on my wor- in one o the little re"iews. . tossed up whether ./d see him or not, .
-new too well the pompous phrases o his article, the buried si!niicance he would disco"er o
which . was unaware and the aults . was tired o acin!. >atroni9in!ly in the end he would place
me # probably a little abo"e Mau!ham because Mau!ham is popular and . ha"e not yet
committed that crime # not yet, but althou!h . retain a little o the exclusi"eness o unsuccess, the
little re"iews, li-e wise detecti"es, can scent it on its way.
<hy did . e"er trouble to toss up4 . didn/t want to meet <aterbury, and certainly . didn/t
want to be written about. For . ha"e come to an end o my interest in wor- now, no one can
please me much with praise or hurt me with blame. <hen . be!an that no"el about the ci"il
ser"ant . was still interested, but when 6arah let me, . reco!ni9ed my wor- or what it was # as
unimportant a dru! as ci!arettes to !et one throu!h the wee-s and years. . we are extin!uished
by death, as . still try to belie"e, what point is there in lea"in! some boo-s behind any more than
bottles, clothes or cheap 5ewellery4 and i 6arah is ri!ht, how unimportant all the importance o
art is. . tossed up, . thin-, simply rom loneliness. . hadn/t anythin! to do beore the uneral, .
wanted to ortiy mysel with a drin- or two @one may cease to care about one/s wor-, but one
ne"er ceases to care about con"entions, and a man must not brea- down in publicA.
<aterbury was waitin! in a sherry#bar o Tottenham Court Coad. 3e wore blac-
corduroy trousers and smo-ed cheap ci!arettes, and he had with him a !irl much taller and
better#loo-in! than he was who wore the same -ind o trousers and smo-ed the same ci!arettes.
6he was "ery youn! and she was called 6yl"ia and one -new that she was on a lon! course o
study that had only be!un with <aterbury # she was at the sta!e o imitatin! her teacher. .
wondered where, with those loo-s, those alert !ood#natured eyes and hair the !old o
illuminations, she would end. <ould she e"en remember <aterbury in ten years and the bar o
Tottenham Court Coad4 . elt sorry or him. 3e was so proud now, so patroni9in! to both o us,
but he was on the losin! side. <hy, . thou!ht, catchin! her eye o"er my !lass at a particularly
atuous comment o his about the stream o consciousness, e"en now . could !et her rom him.
3is articles were bound in paper, but my boo-s were bound in cloth. 6he -new she could learn
more rom me. +nd yet, poor de"il, he had the ner"e to snub her when occasionally she made a
simple human unintellectual comment. . wanted to warn him o the empty uture, but instead .
too- another !lass and said, /. can/t stay lon!. . ha"e to !o to a uneral in Golders Green./
/+ uneral in Golders Green,/ <aterbury exclaimed. /3ow li-e one o your own
characters. .t would ha"e to be Golders Green, wouldn/t it4/
/. didn/t choose the spot./
/$ie imitatin! art./
/.s it a riend4/ 6yl"ia as-ed with sympathy and <aterbury !lared at her or her
irrele"ance. /(es./
. could see that she was speculatin! # man4 woman4 what -ind o a riend4 and it pleased
me. For . was a human bein! to her and not a writer, a man whose riends died and who attended
their unerals, who elt pleasure and pain, who mi!ht e"en need comort, not 5ust a s-illed
cratsman whose wor- has !reater sympathy perhaps than Mr Mau!ham/s, thou!h o course we
cannot ran- it as hi!h as...
/<hat do you thin- o Forster4/ <aterbury as-ed.
/Forster4 Oh. ./m sorry. . was 5ust wonderin! how lon! it too- to Golders Green./
/(ou ou!ht to allow orty minutes,/ 6yl"ia said. /(ou ha"e to wait or an *d!ware train./
/Forster,/ <aterbury repeated irritably.
/(ou/ll ha"e to ta-e a bus rom the station,/ 6yl"ia said.
/Ceally, 6yl"ia, 'endrix hasn/t come here to tal- about how to !et to Golders Green./
/./m sorry, >eter, . 5ust thou!ht... /
/Count six beore thin-in!, 6yl"ia,/ <aterbury said. /+nd now can we !et bac- to *. M.
/&eed we4/ . as-ed.
/.t would be interestin! as you belon! to such dierent schools... /
/8oes he belon! to a school4 . didn/t e"en -now that . did. +re you writin! a text#boo-4/
6yl"ia smiled and he saw the smile. . -new rom that moment he would !rind sharp the
weapon o his trade, but it didn/t matter to me. .ndierence and pride loo- "ery much ali-e, and
he probably thou!ht . was proud. . said, /. really ou!ht to be !oin!./
/'ut you/"e only been here i"e minutes. .t/s really important to !et this article ri!ht./
/.t/s really important or me not to be late at Golders Green./
/. don/t see why./
6yl"ia said, /./m !oin! as ar as 3ampstead mysel. .ll put you on your way./
/(ou ne"er told me,/ <aterbury said with suspicion.
/(ou -now . always see my mother on <ednesdays./
/Today/s Tuesday./
/Then . needn/t !o tomorrow./
/.t/s "ery !ood o you,/ . said, /./d li-e your company./
/(ou used the stream o consciousness in one o your boo-s,/ <aterbury said with
desperate haste. /<hy did you abandon the method4/
/Oh, . don/t -now. <hy does one chan!e a lat4/
/8id you eel it was a ailure4/
/. eel that about all my boo-s. <ell, !ood#bye, <aterbury./
/./ll send you a copy o the article,/ he said as thou!h he were utterin! a threat. /Than-s./
/8on/t be late, 6yl"ia. There/s the 'arto- pro!ramme on the Third at six#thirty./
<e went to!ether into the dDbris o Tottenham Court Coad. . said, /Than- you or
brea-in! up the party./
/Oh, . -new you wanted to !et away,/ she said.
/<hat/s your other name4/
/6yl"ia 'lac-,/ . said, /it/s a !ood combination. +lmost too !ood./
/<as it a !reat riend4/
/+ woman4/
/./m sorry,/ she said, and . had the impression that she meant it. 6he had a lot to learn, in
the way o boo-s and music and how to dress and tal-, but she would ne"er ha"e to learn
humanity. 6he came down with me into the crowded tube and we strap#hun! side by side.
Feelin! her a!ainst me . was reminded o desire. <ould that always be the case now4 &ot desire,
but only the reminder o it. 6he turned to ma-e way at Good!e 6treet or a newcomer, and . was
aware o her thi!h a!ainst my le! as one is aware o somethin! that happened a lon! time a!o.
/This is the irst uneral ./"e e"er been to,/ . said to ma-e con"ersation.
/+re your ather and mother ali"e, then4/
/My ather is. My mother died when . was away at school. . thou!ht ./d !et a ew days/
holiday, but my ather thou!ht it would upset me, so . made nothin! out o it at all. *xcept . was
let o prep, the ni!ht the news arri"ed./
/. wouldn/t li-e to be cremated,/ she said.
/(ou/d preer worms4/
/(es, . would./
Our heads were so close to!ether that we could tal- without raisin! our "oices, but we
couldn/t loo- at each other because o the press o people. . said, .t wouldn/t matter to me one
way or the other,/ and wondered immediately why . had bothered to lie, because it had mattered,
it must ha"e mattered, or it was . in the end who had persuaded 3enry a!ainst burial.
On the aternoon beore, 3enry had wa"ered. 3e had telephoned as-in! me to come o"er.
.t was odd how close we had become with 6arah !one. 3e depended on me now much as beore
he had depended on 6arah # . was somebody amiliar about in the house. . e"en pretended to
wonder whether he would as- me to share the house when once the uneral was o"er, and what
answer . would !i"e him. From the point o "iew o or!ettin! 6arah there was nothin! to choose
between the two houses, she had belon!ed to both.
3e was still ha9y with his dru!s when . arri"ed, or . mi!ht ha"e had more trouble with
him. + priest sat ri!idly on the ed!e o an armchair in the study, a man with a sour !aunt ace,
one o the Cedemptorists probably who ser"ed up 3ell on 6undays in the dar- church where .
had last seen 6arah. 3e had ob"iously anta!oni9ed 3enry rom the start and that had helped.
/This is Mr 'endrix, the author,/ 3enry said. /Father Crompton. Mr 'endrix was a !reat
riend o my wie/s./ . had the impression that Father Crompton -new that already. 3is nose ran
down his ace li-e a buttress, and . thou!ht, perhaps this is the "ery man who slammed the door
o hope on 6arah.
/Good aternoon,/ Father Crompton said with such ill#will that . elt the bell and the
candle were not ar away.
/Mr 'endrix has helped me a !reat deal with all the arran!ements,/ 3enry explained.
/. would ha"e been =uite ready to ta-e them o your hands i . had -nown./
There had been a time when . hated 3enry. My hatred now seemed petty. 3enry was a
"ictim as much as . was a "ictim, and the "ictor was this !rim man in the silly collar. . said, /(ou
could hardly ha"e done that surely. (ou disappro"e o cremation./
/. could ha"e arran!ed a Catholic burial./
/6he wasn/t a Catholic/
/6he had expressed the intention o becomin! one./
/.s that enou!h to ma-e her one4/
Father Crompton produced a ormula. 3e laid it down li-e a ban- note. /<e reco!ni9e the
baptism o desire./ .t lay there between us waitin! to be pic-ed up. &obody made a mo"e. Father
Crompton said. /There/s still time to cancel your arran!ements./ 3e repeated, /. will ta-e
e"erythin! o your hands,/ repeated it in a tone o admonition as thou!h he were addressin!
$ady Macbeth and promisin! her some better process o sweetenin! her hands than the perumes
o +rabia.
3enry said suddenly, /8oes it really ma-e much dierence4 O course, ./m not a Catholic,
ather, but . can/t see... /
/6he would ha"e been happier.../
/'ut why4/
/The Church oers pri"ile!es, Mr Miles, as well as responsibilities. There are special
Masses or our dead. >rayers are re!ularly said. <e remember our dead,/ he added, and . thou!ht
an!rily, how do you remember them4 (our theories are all ri!ht. (ou preach the importance o
the indi"idual. Our hairs are all numbered, you say, but . can eel her hair on the bac- o my
hand, . can remember the ine dust o hair at the base o her spine as she lay ace down on my
bed. <e remember our dead too, in our way.
<atchin! 3enry wea-en . lied irmly, /<e/"e absolutely no reason to belie"e she would
ha"e become a Catholic/
3enry be!an, /O course the nurse did say,/ but . interrupted him, /6he was delirious at the
Father Crompton said, /. would ne"er ha"e dreamed o intrudin! on you, Mr Miles,
without serious reason./
/. had a letter rom Mrs Miles written less than a wee- beore she died,/ . told him. /3ow
lon! is it since you saw her4/
/+bout the same time. Fi"e or six days a!o./
/.t seems "ery odd to me that she didn/t e"en mention the sub5ect in her letter./
/>erhaps Mr... Mr 'endrix, you hadn/t her conidence./
/>erhaps, ather, you 5ump a little too =uic-ly to conclusions. >eople can be interested in
your aith, as- =uestions about it, without necessarily wishin! to become Catholics./ . went
=uic-ly on to 3enry, /.t would be absurd to alter e"erythin! now. 8irections ha"e been !i"en.
Friends ha"e been in"ited. 6arah was ne"er a anatic. 6he would be the last to want any
incon"enience caused or the sa-e o a whim. +ter all,/ . dro"e on, ixin! my eyes on 3enry, /it
will be a perectly Christian ceremony. &ot that 6arah was e"en a Christian. <e saw no si!ns o
it anyway. 'ut you could always !i"e Father Crompton money or a Mass./
/.t isn/t necessary. . said one this mornin!./ 3e made a mo"ement with his hands in his
lap, the irst brea- in his ri!idity, it was li-e watchin! a stron! wall shit and lean ater a bomb
had allen. /. shall remember her e"ery day in my Mass,/ he said.
3enry said with relie as thou!h that settled matters, /7ery !ood o you, ather,/ and
mo"ed a ci!arette#box.
/.t seems an odd and impertinent thin! to say to you, Mr Miles, but . don/t thin- you
reali9e what a !ood woman your wie was./
/6he was e"erythin! to me,/ 3enry said.
/+ !reat many people lo"ed her,/ . said.
Father Crompton turned his eyes on me li-e a headmaster who hears an interruption at
the bac- o the class rom some snotty youn!ster.
/>erhaps not enou!h,/ he said.
/<ell,/ . said, /to !o bac- to what we were discussin!. . don/t thin- we can alter thin!s
now, ather. .t would cause a !reat deal o tal- too. (ou wouldn/t li-e tal-, would you, 3enry4/
/&o. Oh no./
/There/s the insertion in ;The Times;. <e should ha"e to put in a correction. >eople
notice that -ind o thin!. .t would cause comment. +ter all you aren/t un-nown, 3enry. Then
tele!rams would ha"e to be sent. + lot o people will ha"e had wreaths deli"ered already to the
crematorium. (ou see what . mean, ather./
/. can/t say that . do./
/<hat you as- is not reasonable./
/(ou seem to ha"e a "ery stran!e set o "alues, Mr 'endrix./
/'ut surely you don/t belie"e cremation aects the resurrection o the body, ather4/
/O course . don/t. ./"e told you my reasons already. . they don/t seem stron! enou!h to
Mr Miles, there/s no more to be said./ 3e !ot up rom his chair, and what an u!ly man he was.
6ittin! down he had at least the appearance o power, but his le!s were too short or his body,
and he rose, unexpectedly small. .t was as i he had suddenly mo"ed a lon! way o.
3enry said, /. you/d come a little sooner, ather. >lease don/t thin-... /
/. don/t thin- anythin! wron! o you, Mr Miles./
/O me perhaps, ather4/ . as-ed with deliberate impertinence.
/Oh, don/t worry, Mr 'endrix. &othin! you can do will aect her now./ . suppose the
Conessional teaches a man to reco!ni9e hate. 3e held his hand out to 3enry and turned his bac-
on me. . wanted to say to him, (ou/re wron! about me. .t/s not 6arah . hate. +nd you are wron!
about 3enry too. 3e is the corrupter, not me. . wanted to deend mysel, /. lo"ed her/, or surely
in the Conessional they learn to reco!ni9e that emotion too.
/3ampstead/s the next stop,/ 6yl"ia said.
/(ou/"e !ot to !et out to see your mother4/
/. could come on to Golders Green and show you the way. . don/t usually see her today./
/.t would be an act o charity,/ . said.
/. thin- you/ll ha"e to ta-e a taxi i you are to be on time./
/. suppose it doesn/t really matter missin! the openin! lines /
6he saw me to the courtyard o the station, and then she wanted to !o bac-. .t seemed
stran!e to me that she had ta-en so much trouble. . ha"e ne"er seen any =ualities in me or a
woman to li-e, and now less than e"er. Grie and disappointment are li-e hate, they ma-e men
u!ly with sel#pity and bitterness. +nd how selish they ma-e us too. . had nothin! to !i"e
6yl"ia, . would ne"er be one o her teachers, but because . was araid o the next hal hour, the
aces that would be spyin! on my loneliness, tryin! to detect rom my manner what my relations
with 6arah had been, who had let whom, . needed her beauty to support me.
/'ut . can/t come in these clothes,/ she protested when . be!!ed or her company. . could
tell how pleased she was that . wanted her with me. . -new . could ha"e ta-en her rom
<aterbury there and then. 3is sands had already run out. . . chose he would listen to 'arto-
/<e/ll stand at the bac-,/ . said. /(ou mi!ht be 5ust a stran!er wal-in! round./
/+t least they are blac-,/ she said, reerrin! to her trousers. .n the taxi . let my hand lie on
her le! li-e a promise, but . had no intention o -eepin! my promise. The crematorium tower was
smo-in!, and the water lay in hal#ro9en puddles on the !ra"el wal-s. + lot o stran!ers came by
# rom a pre"ious cremation, . supposed, they had the bris- cheerul air o people who ha"e let a
dull party and can now /!o on/.
/.t/s this way,/ 6yl"ia said.
/(ou -now the place "ery well./
/8addy was done here two years a!o./
+s we reached the chapel e"eryone was lea"in!. <aterbury/s =uestions about the stream
o consciousness had delayed me 5ust too lon!. . had an odd con"entional stab o !rie # . hadn/t
ater all seen the last o 6arah, and . thou!ht dully, so it was her smo-e that was blowin! o"er the
suburban !ardens. 3enry came blindly out alone, he had been cryin! and he didn/t see me. .
-new nobody else, except 6ir <illiam Malloc-, who wore a top hat. 3e !a"e me a loo- o
disappro"al and hurried on. There were hal a do9en men with the air o ci"il ser"ants. <as
8unstan there4 .t wasn/t "ery important. 6ome wi"es had accompanied their husbands. They at
least were satisied with the ceremony # you could almost tell it rom their hats. The extinction o
6arah had let e"ery wie saer.
/./m sorry,/ 6yl"ia said.
/.t wasn/t your ault./
. thou!ht, i we could ha"e embalmed her, they would ne"er ha"e been sae. *"en her
dead body would ha"e pro"ided a standard to 5ud!e them by.
6mythe came out and splashed =uic-ly away amon! the puddles, spea-in! to nobody. .
heard a woman say, /The Carters ha"e as-ed us or the wee-#end o the tenth./
/<ould you li-e me to !o4/ 6yl"ia as-ed.
/&o, no,/ . said, /. li-e ha"in! you around./
. went to the door o the chapel and loo-ed in. The runway to the urnace was empty or
the moment, but as the old wreaths were bein! carried out, new ones were bein! carried in. +n
elderly woman was -neelin! incon!ruously in prayer li-e an actor rom another scene cau!ht by
the unexpected raisin! o a curtain. + amiliar "oice behind me said, /.t/s a sad pleasure to see
you here, sir, where by!ones are always by!ones./
/(ou/"e come, >ar-is,/ . exclaimed.
/. saw the announcement in ;The Times;, sir, so . as-ed Mr 6a"a!e/s permission to ta-e
the aternoon o./
/8o you always ollow your people as ar as this4/
/6he was a "ery ine lady, sir,/ he said, reproachully. /6he as-ed me the way once in the
street, not -nowin!, o course, my reason or bein! around. +nd at the coc-tail party she handed
me a !lass o sherry./
/6outh +rican sherry4/ . as-ed him miserably.
/. wouldn/t -now, sir, but the way she did it # oh, there weren/t many li-e her. My boy
too... 3e/s always spea-in! about her./
/3ow is your boy, >ar-is4/
/&ot well, sir. &ot at all well. 7ery "iolent stomachaches./
/(ou/"e seen a doctor4/
/&ot yet, sir. . belie"e in lea"in! thin!s to nature. Hp to a point/
. loo-ed round at the !roups o stran!ers who had all -nown 6arah. . said, /<ho are these
people, >ar-is4/
/The youn! lady . don/t -now, sir./
/6he/s with me./
/. be! your pardon. 6ir <illiam Malloc- is the one on the hori9on, sir./
/. -now him./
/The !entleman who/s 5ust a"oided a puddle, sir, is the head o Mr Miles/s department./
/That/s the name, sir./
/<hat a lot you -now, >ar-is./ . had thou!ht 5ealousy was =uite dead, . had thou!ht
mysel willin! to share her with a world o men i only she could be ali"e a!ain, but the si!ht o
8unstan wo-e or a ew seconds the old hatred. /6yl"ia,/ . called, as thou!h 6arah could hear me,
/are you dinin! anywhere toni!ht4/
/. promised >eter.,./
/For!et him./
+re you there4 . said to 6arah. +re you watchin! me4
6ee how . can !et on without you. .t isn/t so diicult, . said to her. My hatred could
belie"e in her sur"i"al, it was only my lo"e that -new she existed no more than a dead bird.
+ new uneral was !atherin!, and the woman by the rail rose in conusion at the si!ht o
the stran!ers comin! in. 6he had nearly been cau!ht up in the wron! cremation.
/. suppose . could phone./
3ate lay li-e boredom o"er the e"enin! ahead. . had committed mysel, without lo"e .
would ha"e to !o throu!h the !estures o lo"e. . elt the !uilt beore . had committed the crime,
the crime o drawin! the innocent into my own ma9e. The act o sex may be nothin!, but when
you reach my a!e you learn that at any time it may pro"e to be e"erythin!. . was sae, but who
could tell to what neurosis in this child . mi!ht appeal4 +t the end o the e"enin! . would ma-e
lo"e clumsily, and my "ery clumsiness, e"en my impotence i . pro"ed impotent, mi!ht do the
tric-, or . would ma-e lo"e expertly, and my experience too mi!ht in"ol"e her. . implored 6arah,
Get me out o this, !et me out o it, or her sa-e, not mine.
6yl"ia said, /. could say my mother was ill./ 6he was ready to lie, it was the end o
<aterbury. >oor <aterbury. <ith that irst lie we should become accomplices. 6he stood there in
her blac- trousers, amon! the ro9en puddles, and . thou!ht, this is where a whole lon! uture
may be!in. . implored 6arah, Get me out o it. . don/t want to be!in it all a!ain and in5ure her. ./m
incapable o lo"e. *xcept o you, except o you, and the !rey old woman swer"ed towards me,
crac-lin! the thin ice. /+re you Mr 'endrix4/ she as-ed.
/6arah told me,/ she be!an, and while she hesitated a wild hope came to me that she had a
messa!e to deli"er: that the dead could spea-.
/(ou were her best riend # she oten told me./
/. was one o them./
/./m her mother./ . hadn/t e"en remembered her mother was ali"e, in those years there had
always been so much to tal- about between us that whole areas o both our li"es were blan- li-e
an early map, to be illed in later.
6he said, /(ou didn/t -now about me, did you4/
/+s a matter o act... /
/3enry didn/t li-e me. .t made it rather aw-ward, so . -ept away./ 6he spo-e in a calm
reasonable way, and yet the tears came out o her eyes with an eect o independence. The men
and their wi"es had all cleared o, the stran!ers pic-ed their way amon! the three o us, !oin!
into the chapel. Only >ar-is lin!ered, thin-in!, . suppose, that he mi!ht yet be o use to me in
supplyin! urther inormation, but he -ept his distance, -nowin!, as he would ha"e said, his
/./"e a !reat a"our to as- o you,/ 6arah/s mother said. . tried to remember her name #
Cameron, Chandler, it be!an with a C./ . came up today rom Great Missenden in such a hurry.../
6he wiped the tears out o her eyes indierently as i she were usin! a washcloth. 'ertram, .
thou!ht, that was the name, 'ertram.
/(es, Mrs 'ertram,/ . said.
/+nd . or!ot to chan!e the money into my blac- ba!./
/+nythin! . can do./
/. you would lend me a pound, Mr 'endrix. (ou see, . ha"e to !et some dinner in town
beore . lea"e. .t/s early closin! at Great Missenden,/ and she wiped her eyes a!ain as she spo-e.
6omethin! about her reminded me o 6arah, a matter#o#actness in her !rie, perhaps an
ambi!uity. 3ad she /touched/ 3enry once too oten4 . said, /3a"e an early dinner with me./
/(ou wouldn/t want to be bothered./
/. lo"ed 6arah,/ . said.
/6o did ../
. went bac- to 6yl"ia and explained, /That/s her mother. ./ll ha"e to !i"e her dinner. ./m
sorry. Can . rin! you up and ma-e another date4/
/O course./
/+re you in the boo-4/
/<aterbury is,/ she said !loomily, /&ext wee-./
/./d lo"e it./ 6he put her hand out and said, /Good#bye./ . could tell that she -new it was
one o those thin!s that had missed the moment. Than- God, it didn/t matter # a mild re!ret and
curiosity as ar as the tube station, a cross word to <aterbury o"er the 'arto-. Turnin! bac- to
Mrs 'ertram, . ound mysel spea-in! a!ain to 6arah, (ou see, . lo"e you. 'ut lo"e had not the
same con"iction o bein! heard as hate had.
+s we approached the crematorium !ates, . noticed that >ar-is had slipped away. . hadn/t
seen him !o. 3e must ha"e reali9ed that now . had no more need o him.
Mrs 'ertram and . had dinner at the .sola 'ella. . didn/t want to !o anywhere . had e"er
been with 6arah, and o course at once . be!an to compare this restaurant with all the others we
had "isited to!ether. 6arah and . ne"er dran- Chianti and now the act o drin-in! it reminded me
o that act. . mi!ht as well ha"e had our a"ourite claret, . couldn/t ha"e thou!ht o her more.
*"en "acancy was crowded with her.
/. didn/t li-e the ser"ice,/ Mrs 'ertram said.
/./m sorry./
/.t was so inhuman. $i-e a con"eyor belt./
/.t seemed suitable. There were prayers ater all./
/That cler!yman # was he a cler!yman4/
/. didn/t see him./
/3e tal-ed about the Great +ll. . didn/t understand or a lon! time. . thou!ht he was
sayin! the Great +u-./ 6he be!an to drip a!ain into her soup. 6he said, /. nearly lau!hed and
3enry saw me. . could see that he put that a!ainst my account./
/(ou don/t hit it o4/
/3e/s a "ery mean man,/ she said. 6he wiped her eyes with her nap-in and then she rattled
her spoon iercely in the soup, stirrin! up the noodles. /. once had to borrow ten pounds rom him
because ./d come to $ondon to stay and or!ot my ba!. .t could happen to anybody./
/O course it could./
/. always pride mysel on not ha"in! a debt in the world./
3er con"ersation was li-e the tube system. .t mo"ed in circles and loops. . be!an by the
coee to notice the recurrin! stations, 3enry/s meanness, her own inancial inte!rity, her lo"e or
6arah, her dissatisaction with the uneral ser"ice, the Great +ll # that was where certain trains
went on to 3enry.
/.t was so unny,/ she said. /. didn/t want to lau!h. &obody lo"ed 6arah more than . did./
3ow we all, always, ma-e that claim and are an!ered when we hear it on another/s ton!ue. /'ut
3enry wouldn/t understand that. 3e/s a cold man./
. made a !reat eort to switch the points. /. don/t see what other -ind o ser"ice we could
ha"e had./
/6arah was a Catholic,/ she said. 6he too- her !lass o port and swallowed hal o it in a
/&onsense,/ . said.
/Oh,/ Mrs 'ertram said, /she didn/t -now it hersel./
6uddenly, inexplicably, . elt ear, li-e a man who has committed the all#but#perect crime
and watches the irst unexpected crac- in the wall o his deception. 3ow deep does the crac- !o4
Can it be plu!!ed in time4
/. don/t understand a thin! you/re sayin!./
/6arah ne"er told you . was a Catholic # once4/
/. wasn/t "ery much o one. (ou see, my husband hated the whole business. . was his third
wie, and when . !ot cross with him the irst year, . used to say we weren/t properly married. 3e
was a mean man,/ she added mechanically.
/(our bein! a Catholic doesn/t ma-e 6arah one./
6he too- another !ulp at her port. 6he said, /./"e ne"er told another soul. . thin- ./m a bit
ti!ht. 8o you thin- ./m ti!ht, Mr 'endrix4/
/O course not. 3a"e another port./
<hile we were waitin! or it, she tried to switch the con"ersation, but . brou!ht her
relentlessly bac-. /<hat did you mean # 6arah was a Catholic4/
/>romise you won/t tell 3enry./
/. promise,/
/<e were abroad one time in &ormandy. 6arah was 5ust o"er two. My husband used to !o
to 8eau"ille. 6o he said, but . -new he was seein! his irst wie. . !ot so cross. 6arah and . went
or a wal- alon! the sands. 6arah -ept on wantin! to sit down, but ./d !i"e her a rest and then
we/d wal- a little. . said, OThis is a secret between you and me, 6arah.O *"en then she was !ood
at secrets # i she wanted to be. . was scared . can tell you, but it was a !ood re"en!e, wasn/t it4/
/Ce"en!e4 . don/t understand you "ery well, Mrs 'ertram./
/On my husband, o course. .t wasn/t only because o his irst wie. . told you, didn/t .,
that he wouldn/t let me be a Catholic4 Oh, there were such scenes i . tried to !o to Mass, so .
thou!ht, 6arah/s !oin! to be a Catholic, and he won/t -now and . shan/t tell him unless . !et
really an!ry./
/+nd didn/t you4/
/3e went and let me a year ater that./
/6o you were able to be a Catholic a!ain4/
/Oh, well, . didn/t ;belie"e; much, you see. +nd then . married a 0ew, and he was diicult
too. They tell you 0ews are awully !enerous. 8on/t you belie"e it. Oh, he was a mean man./
/'ut what happened on the beach4/
/O course, it didn/t happen on the beach. . only meant we wal-ed that way. . let 6arah by
the door and went to ind the priest. . had to tell him a ew lies # white ones o course # to explain
thin!s. . could put it all on my husband, o course. . said he/d promised beore we married, and
then he/d bro-en his promise. .t helped a lot not bein! able to spea- much French. (ou sound
awully truthul i you don/t -now the ri!ht words. +nyway he did it there and then, and we
cau!ht the bus bac- to lunch./
/8id what4/
/'apti9ed her a Catholic/
/.s that all4/ . as-ed with relie.
/<ell, it/s a sacrament # or so they say./
/. thou!ht at irst you meant that 6arah was a real Catholic,/
/<ell, you see, she was one, only she didn/t -now it. . wish 3enry had buried her
properly,/ Mrs 'ertram said and be!an a!ain the !rotes=ue drip o tears.
/(ou can/t blame him i e"en 6arah didn/t -now./
/. always had a wish that it would /ta-e/. $i-e "accination,/
/.t doesn/t seem to ha"e /ta-en/ much with you,/ . couldn/t resist sayin!, but she wasn/t
oended. /Oh,/ she said, /./"e had a lot o temptations in my lie, . expect thin!s will come ri!ht
in the end. 6arah was "ery patient with me. 6he was a !ood !irl. &obody appreciated her li-e .
did./ 6he too- some more port and said, /. only you/d -nown her properly. <hy, i she/d been
brou!ht up in the ri!ht way, i . hadn/t always married such mean men, she could ha"e been a
saint . truly belie"e./
/'ut it 5ust didn/t ta-e,/ . said iercely, and . called the waiter to brin! the bill. + win! o
those !rey !eese that ly abo"e our uture !ra"es had sent a drau!ht down my bac-, or else
perhaps . had cau!ht a chill in the ro9en !rounds, i only it could ha"e been a deathly chill li-e
.t didn/t ta-e, . repeated to mysel all the way home in the tube, ater depositin! Mrs
'ertram at Marylebone, and lendin! her another three pounds /because tomorrow/s <ednesday
and . ha"e to stay in or the char/. >oor 6arah, what had /ta-en/ had been that strin! o husbands
and step#athers. 3er mother had tau!ht her eecti"ely enou!h that one man was not enou!h or
a lietime, but she hersel had seen throu!h the pretence o her mother/s marria!es. <hen she
married 3enry she married or lie, as . -new with despair.
'ut that wisdom had nothin! to do with the shity ceremony near the beach. .t wasn/t (ou
that /too-/, . told the God . didn/t belie"e in, that ima!inary God whom 6arah thou!ht had sa"ed
my lie @or what concei"able purpose4A and who had ruined e"en in his non#existence the only
deep happiness . had e"er experienced, oh no, it wasn/t (ou that too-, or that would ha"e been
ma!ic and . belie"e in ma!ic e"en less than . belie"e in (ou, ma!ic is your cross, your
resurrection o the body, your holy Catholic church, your communion o saints.
. lay on my bac- and watched the shadows o the Common trees shit on my ceilin!. .t/s
5ust a coincidence, . thou!ht, a horrible coincidence that nearly brou!ht her bac- at the end to
(ou. (ou can/t mar- a two#year#old child or lie with a bit o water and a prayer. . . be!an to
belie"e that, . could belie"e in the body and the blood. (ou didn/t own her all those years, .
owned her. (ou won in the end, (ou don/t need to remind me o that, but she wasn/t decei"in! me
with (ou when she lay here with me, on this bed, with this pillow under her bac-. <hen she
slept, . was with her, not (ou. .t was . who penetrated her, not (ou.
+ll the li!ht went out, dar-ness was o"er the bed, and . dreamed . was at a air with a !un
in my hand. . was shootin! at bottles that loo-ed as thou!h they were made o !lass but my
bullets bounded o them as thou!h they were coated with steel. . ired and ired, and not a bottle
could . crac-, and at i"e in the mornin! . wo-e with exactly the same thou!ht in my head, or
those years you were mine, not 3is.
.t had been a macabre 5o-e o mine when . thou!ht that 3enry mi!ht as- me to share his house. .
had not really expected the oer and when it came . was ta-en by surprise. *"en his "isit a wee-
ater the uneral was a surprise, he had ne"er been to my house beore. . doubt whether he had
e"er come much nearer to the south side than the ni!ht . met him on the Common in the rain. .
heard my bell rin! and loo-ed out o the window because . didn/t want to see "isitors # . had an
idea it mi!ht be <aterbury with 6yl"ia. The lamp by the plane#tree on the pa"ement pic-ed out
3enry/s blac- hat. . went downstairs and opened the door. /. was 5ust passin! by,/ 3enry lied.
/Come in./
3e stood and dithered aw-wardly while . !ot my drin-s out o a cupboard. 3e said, /(ou
seem interested in General Gordon./
/They want me to do a $ie./
/+re you !oin! to do it4/
/. suppose so. . don/t eel much li-e wor- these days./
/.t/s the same with me,/ 3enry said.
/.s the Coyal Commission still sittin!4/
/.t !i"es you somethin! to thin- about./
/8oes it4 (es, . suppose it does. Hntil we stop or lunch./
/.t/s important wor- anyway. 3ere/s your sherry./
/.t won/t ma-e any dierence to a sin!le soul./
<hat a lon! way 3enry had tra"elled since the complacent photo!raph in the ;Tatler;
that had so an!ered me. . had a picture o 6arah, enlar!ed rom a snapshot, acedown on my
des-. 3e turned it o"er. /. remember ta-in! that,/ he said. 6arah had told me the photo!raph had
been ta-en by a woman#riend. . suppose she had lied to sa"e my eelin!s. .n the picture she
loo-ed youn!er and happier, but not more lo"ely than in the years . had -nown her. . wished .
had been able to ma-e her loo- that way, but it is the destiny o a lo"er to watch unhappiness
hardenin! li-e a cast around his mistress. 3enry said, /. was ma-in! a ool o mysel to ma-e her
smile. .s General Gordon an interestin! character4/
/.n some ways./
3enry said, /The house eels "ery =ueer these days. . try to -eep out o it as much as
possible. . suppose you aren/t ree or dinner at the club4/
/./"e !ot a lot o wor- . ha"e to inish./
3e loo-ed round my room. 3e said, /(ou ha"en/t much space or your boo-s here./
/&o. . ha"e to -eep some o them under the bed./
3e pic-ed up a ma!a9ine that <aterbury had sent me beore the inter"iew to show an
example o his wor- and said, /There/s room in my house. (ou could ha"e practically a lat to
yoursel./ . was too astonished to answer. 3e went rapidly on, turnin! o"er the lea"es o the
ma!a9ine as thou!h he were really uninterested in his own su!!estion, /Thin- it o"er. (ou
mustn/t decide now./
/.t/s "ery !ood o you, 3enry./
/(ou/d be doin! me a a"our, 'endrix./
. thou!ht, <hy not4 <riters are re!arded as uncon"entional. +m . more con"entional
than a senior ci"il ser"ant4
/. dreamed last ni!ht,/ 3enry said, /about all o us./
/. don/t remember much. <e were drin-in! to!ether. <e were happy. <hen . wo-e up .
thou!ht she wasn/t dead./
/. don/t dream o her now./
/. wish we/d let that priest ha"e his way./
/.t would ha"e been absurd, 3enry. 6he was no more a Catholic than you or me./
/8o you belie"e in sur"i"al, 'endrix4/
/. you mean personal sur"i"al, no./
/One can/t dispro"e it, 'endrix./
/.t/s almost impossible to dispro"e anythin!. . write a story. 3ow can you pro"e that the
e"ents in it ne"er happened, that the characters aren/t real4 $isten. . met a man on the Common
today with three le!s./
/3ow terrible,/ 3enry said seriously. /+n abortion4/
/+nd they were co"ered with ish scales./
/(ou/re 5o-in!./
/'ut pro"e . am, 3enry. (ou can/t dispro"e my story any more than . can dispro"e God.
'ut . 5ust -now he/s a lie, 5ust as you -now my story/s a lie./
/O course there are ar!uments./
/Oh, . could in"ent a philosophic ar!ument or my story, . daresay, based on +ristotle./
3enry abruptly chan!ed the sub5ect bac-. /.t would sa"e you a bit i you came and stayed
with me. 6arah always said your boo-s weren/t as successul as they should be./
/Oh, the shadow o success is allin! upon them./ . thou!ht o <aterbury/s article. . said,
/+ moment comes when you can hear the popular re"iewers dippin! their pens or the plaudits #
e"en beore the next boo-/s written. .t/s all a =uestion o time./ . tal-ed because . hadn/t made up
my mind.
3enry said, /There/s no ill#eelin! let, is there, 'endrix4 . !ot an!ry with you at your club
# about that man. 'ut what does it matter now4/
/. was wron!. 3e was only some cra9y tub#thumpin! rationalist who interested her with
his theories. For!et it, 3enry./
/6he was !ood, 'endrix. >eople tal- but she was !ood. .t wasn/t her ault . couldn/t, well,
lo"e her properly. (ou -now ./m awully prudent, cautious. ./m not the sort that ma-es a lo"er.
6he wanted somebody li-e you./
/6he let me. 6he mo"ed on, 3enry./
/8o you -now . read one o your boo-s once # 6arah made me. (ou described a house
ater a woman in it had died./
/;The +mbitious 3ost;./
/That was the name. .t seemed all ri!ht at the time. . thou!ht it "ery plausible, but you !ot
it all wron!, 'endrix. (ou described how the husband ound the house terribly empty, he mo"ed
about the rooms, shitin! chairs, tryin! to !i"e an eect o mo"ement, o another bein! there.
6ometimes he/d pour himsel drin-s in two !lasses./
/. or!et it. .t sounds a bit literary./
/.t/s o the mar-, 'endrix. The trouble is, the house doesn/t seem empty. (ou see, oten in
the old days ./d come home rom the oice, and she would be out somewhere # perhaps with you.
./d call and she wouldn/t answer. Then the house was empty. . almost expected to ind the
urniture !one. (ou -now . did lo"e her in my way, 'endrix. *"ery time she wasn/t there when .
came home those last months . dreaded to see a letter waitin! or me. /8ear 3enry/... you -now
the -ind o thin! they write in no"els4/
/'ut now the house ne"er seems empty li-e that. . don/t -now how to express it. 'ecause
she/s always away, she/s ne"er away. (ou see, she/s ne"er anywhere else. 6he/s not ha"in! lunch
with anybody, she/s not at a cinema with you. There/s nowhere or her to be but at home./
/'ut where/s her home4/ . said.
/Oh, you/"e !ot to or!i"e me, 'endrix. ./m ner"y and tired # . don/t sleep well. (ou -now
the next best thin! to tal-in! to her is tal-in! about her, and there/s only you./
/6he had a lot o riends. 6ir <illiam Malloc-, 8unstan /. can/t tal- about her to them.
+ny more than to that man, >ar-is./
/>ar-isP/ . exclaimed. 3ad he lod!ed himsel in our li"es or e"er4
/3e told me he/d been at a coc-tail party we !a"e. The stran!e people 6arah pic-ed up.
3e said you -new him too./
/<hat on earth did he want with you4/
/3e said she/d been -ind to his little boy # God -nows when. The boy/s sic-. 3e seemed to
want somethin! o hers or a memento. . !a"e him one or two o her old children/s boo-s. There
were a lot o them in her room, all scrawled o"er in pencil. .t was a !ood way o !ettin! rid o
them. One can/t 5ust send them to Foyle/s, can one4 . don/t see any harm in it, do you4/
/&o. That was the man . put to watch her, rom 6a"a!e/s detecti"e a!ency./
/Good God, i ./d -nown... 'ut he seemed really ond o her./
/>ar-is is human,/ . said. /3e/s easily touched./ . loo-ed around at my room # there
wouldn/t be any more o 6arah where 3enry came rom, less perhaps, or she would be diluted
/./ll come and stay with you, 3enry, but you must let me pay some rent/
/./m so !lad, 'endrix. 'ut the house is reehold. (ou can pay your share o the rates./
/Three months/ notice to ind new di!s when you marry a!ain./
3e too- me =uite seriously. /. shall ne"er want to do that. ./m not the marryin! -ind. .t
was a !reat in5ury . did to 6arah when . married her. . -now that now./
6o . mo"ed to the north side o the Common. . wasted a wee-/s rent because 3enry wanted me to
come at once, and . paid i"e pounds or a "an to ta-e my boo-s and clothes across. . had the
!uest#room and 3enry itted up a lumber#room as a study, and there was a bath on the loor
abo"e. 3enry had mo"ed into his dressin!#room, and the room they had shared with the cold
twin beds was let or !uests who ne"er came. +ter a ew days . be!an to see what 3enry meant
by the house ne"er bein! empty. . wor-ed at the 'ritish Museum until it closed, and then . would
!o bac- and wait or 3enry, and usually we went out and dran- a little at the >onteract +rms.
Once when 3enry was away or a ew days at a conerence at 'ournemouth, . pic-ed up a !irl
and brou!ht her bac-. .t wasn/t any !ood. . -new it at once, . was impotent, and to sa"e her
eelin!s . told her that . had promised a woman . lo"ed ne"er to do this with anyone else. 6he
was "ery sweet and understandin! about it, prostitutes ha"e a !reat respect or sentiment. This
time there had been no re"en!e in my mind, and . elt only sadness at abandonin! or e"er
somethin! . had en5oyed so much. . dreamed o 6arah aterwards and we were lo"ers a!ain in
my old room on the south side, but a!ain nothin! happened, only this time there was no sadness
in the act. <e were happy and without re!ret.
.t was a ew days aterwards that . pulled open a cupboard in my bedroom and ound a
pile o old children/s boo-s. 3enry must ha"e looted this cupboard or >ar-is/s boy. There were
se"eral o +ndrew $an!/s airy boo-s in their coloured co"ers, many 'eatrix >otters, ;The
Children o the &ew Forest;, ;The Golliwo! at the &orth >ole;, and also one or two older boo-s
# Captain 6cott/s ;$ast *xpedition; and the >oems o Thomas 3ood, the last bound in school
leather with a label sayin! that it had been awarded to 6arah 'ertram or proiciency in +l!ebra.
+l!ebraP 3ow one chan!es.
. couldn/t wor- that e"enin!. . lay on the loor with the boo-s and tried to trace at least a
ew eatures in the blan- spaces o 6arah/s lie. There are times when a lo"er lon!s to be also a
ather and a brother, he is 5ealous o the years he hasn/t shared. ;The Golliwo! at the &orth >ole;
was probably the earliest o 6arah/s boo-s because it had been scrawled all o"er, this way and
that way, meanin!lessly, destructi"ely, with coloured chal-s. .n one o the 'eatrix >otters her
name had been spelt in pencil, one bi! capital letter arran!ed wron!ly so that what appeared was
6+4 +3. .n ;The Children o the &ew Forest; she said written "ery tidily and minutely /6arah
'ertram 3er 'oo-. >lease as- permission to borrow. +nd i you steal it will be to your sorrow/.
They were the mar-s o e"ery child who has e"er li"ed, traces as anonymous as the claw mar-s
o birds that one sees in winter. <hen . closed the boo- they were co"ered at once by the drit o
. doubt whether she had e"er read 3ood/s poems, the pa!es were as clean as when the
boo- was handed to her by the headmistress or the distin!uished "isitor. .ndeed as . was about to
put it bac- in the cupboard a lea o print dropped on the loor # the pro!ramme probably o that
"ery pri9e#!i"in!. .n a handwritin! . could reco!ni9e @but e"en our handwritin! be!ins youn!
and ta-es on the tired arabes=ues o timeA was a phrase, /<hat utter pile/. . could ima!ine 6arah
writin! it down and showin! it to her nei!hbour as the headmistress resumed her seat, applauded
respectully by parents. . don/t -now why another line o hers came into my head when . saw that
school!irl phrase with all its impatience, its incomprehension and its assurance, /./m a phoney
and a a-e./ 3ere under my hand was innocence. .t seemed such a pity that she had li"ed another
twenty years only to eel that about hersel. + phoney and a a-e. <as it a description . had used
o her in a moment o an!er4 6he always harboured my criticism, it was only praise that slid
rom her li-e the snow.
. turned the lea o"er and read the pro!ramme o E? 0uly 19E2, the <ater Music o
3andel played by Miss 8uncan, C.C.M., a recitation o /. wandered lonely as a cloud/ by
'eatrice Collins, Tudor +yres by the 6chool Glee 6ociety, 7iolin Cecital o Chopin/s <alt9 in +
lat by Mary >ippitt. The lon! summer aternoon o twenty years a!o stretched out its shadows
towards me, and . hated lie that so alters us or the worse. . thou!ht, that summer . had 5ust
be!un my irst no"el, there was so much excitement, ambition, hope, when . sat down to wor-, .
wasn/t bitter, . was happy. . put the lea bac- in the unread boo- and thrust the "olume to the
bac- o the cupboard under the ;Golliwo!; and the 'eatrix >otters. <e were both happy with
only ten years and a ew counties between us, who were later to come to!ether or no apparent
purpose but to !i"e each other so much pain. . too- up 6cott/s ;$ast *xpedition;.
That had been one o my own a"ourite boo-s. .t seemed curiously dated now, this
heroism with only the ice or enemy, sel#sacriice that in"ol"ed no deaths beyond one/s own.
Two wars stood between us and them. . loo-ed at the photo!raphs, the beards and !o!!les, the
little cairns o snow, the Hnion 0ac-, the ponies with their lon! manes li-e out#dated hair#
dressin!s amon! the striped roc-s. *"en the deaths were /period/, and /period/ too was the school
!irl who mar-ed the pa!es with lines, exclamation mar-s, who wrote neatly in the mar!in o
6cott/s last letter home, /+nd what comes next4 .s it God4 Cobert 'rownin!./ *"en then, .
thou!ht, ;3e; came into her mind. 3e was as underhand as a lo"er, ta-in! ad"anta!e o a
passin! mood, li-e a hero seducin! us with his improbabilities and his le!ends. . put the last
boo- bac- and turned the -ey in the loc-.
/<here ha"e you been, 3enry4/ . as-ed. 3e was usually the irst at brea-ast and sometimes he
had let the house beore . came down, but this mornin! his plate had not been touched and .
heard the ront door close sotly beore he appeared.
/Oh, 5ust down the road,/ he said "a!uely.
/'een out all ni!ht4/ . as-ed.
/&o. O course not./ To clear himsel o that char!e he told me the truth. /Father Crompton
said Mass today or 6arah./
/.s he still at it4/
/Once a month. . thou!ht it would be polite to loo- in./
/. don/t suppose he/d -now you were there./
/. saw him aterwards to than- him. +s a matter o act . as-ed him to dinner./
/Then . shall !o out./
/. wish you wouldn/t, 'endrix. +ter all, in his way, he was a riend o 6arah/s./
/(ou aren/t turnin! a belie"er too, are you, 3enry4/
/O course ./m not. 'ut they/"e as much ri!ht to then#"iews as we ha"e./
6o he came to dinner. H!ly, ha!!ard, !raceless with the Tor=uemada nose, he was the
man who had -ept 6arah rom me. 3e had supported her in the absurd "ow which ou!ht to ha"e
been or!otten in a wee-. .t was to his church that she had wal-ed in the rain see-in! a reu!e
and /catchin! her death/ instead. .t was hard or me to show e"en bare politeness and 3enry had
to shoulder the burden o the dinner. Father Crompton was not used to dinin! out. One had the
impression that this was a duty on which he ound it hard to -eep his mind. 3e had "ery limited
small tal-, and his answers ell li-e trees across the road.
/(ou ha"e a !ood deal o po"erty around here, . sup#pose4/ 3enry said, rather tired, o"er
the cheese. 3e had tried so many thin!s # the inluence o boo-s, the cinema, a recent "isit to
France, the possibility o a third war.
/That/s not a problem,/ Father Crompton replied.
3enry wor-ed hard. /.mmorality4/ he as-ed with the sli!htly alse note we can/t a"oid
with such a word.
/That/s ne"er a problem,/ Father Crompton said.
/. thou!ht perhaps # the Common # one notices at ni!ht... /
/(ou !et it happenin! with any open space. +nd it/s winter now anyway./ +nd that closed
/6ome more cheese, ather4/
/&o, than- you./
/. suppose, in a district li-e this, you ha"e a !ood deal o trouble raisin! money # or
charity, . mean4/
/>eople !i"e what they can./
/6ome brandy with your coee4/
/&o than- you./
/(ou don/t mind i we.../
/O course . don/t. . can/t !et to sleep on it, that/s all, and . ha"e to !et up at six./
/<hate"er or4/
/>rayer. (ou !et used to it./
/./m araid ./"e ne"er been able to pray much,/ 3enry said, /since . was a boy. . used to
pray to !et into the second M7./
/+nd did you4/
/. !ot into the third. ./m araid that -ind o prayer isn/t much !ood, is it, ather4/
/+ny sort/s better than none. .t/s a reco!nition o God/s power anyway, and that/s a -ind o
praise, . suppose./ . hadn/t heard him tal- so much since dinner had started.
/. should ha"e thou!ht,/ . said, /it was more li-e touchin! wood or a"oidin! the lines on
the pa"ement. +t that a!e anyway./
/Oh well,/ he said, /./m not a!ainst a bit o superstition. .t !i"es people the idea that this
world/s not e"erythin!./ 3e scowled at me down his nose. /.t could be the be!innin! o wisdom./
/(our church certainly !oes in or superstition in a bi! way # 6t 0anuarius, bleedin!
statues, "isions o the "ir!in #that sort o thin!./
/<e try to sort them out. +nd isn/t it more sensible to belie"e that anythin! may happen
The bell ran!. 3enry said, /. told the maid she could !o to bed. <ould you excuse me,
/./ll !o,/ . said. . was !lad to !et away rom that oppressi"e presence. 3e had the answers
too pat, the amateur could ne"er hope to catch him out, he was li-e a con5uror who bores one by
his "ery s-ill. . opened the ront door and saw a stout woman in blac- holdin! a parcel. For a
moment . thou!ht it was our charwoman until she said, /+re you Mr 'endrix, sir4/
/. was to !i"e you this,/ and she thrust the parcel =uic-ly into my hand as thou!h it
contained somethin! explosi"e. /<ho/s it rom4/
/Mr >ar-is, sir./ . turned it o"er in perplexity. .t e"en occurred to me that he mi!ht ha"e
mislaid some e"idence which now too late he was handin! o"er to me. . wanted to or!et Mr
/. you/d !i"e me a receipt, sir4 . was to put the parcel into your own hands./
/. ha"en/t a pencil # or paper. . really can/t be bothered./
/(ou -now how Mr >ar-is is about records, sir. ./"e !ot a pencil in my ba!./
. wrote the receipt out or her on the bac- o a used en"elope. 6he stowed it careully
away and then scuttled to the !ate as thou!h she wanted to !et as ar as possible as =uic-ly as she
could. . stood in the hall wei!hin! the ob5ect in my hand. 3enry called out to me rom the
dinin!#room, /<hat is it, 'endrix4/
/+ parcel rom >ar-is,/ . said. The phrase sounded li-e a ton!ue twister.
/. suppose he/s returnin! the boo-./
/+t this hour4 +nd it/s addressed to me./
/<ell, what is it then4/ . didn/t want to open the parcel, weren/t we both o us en!a!ed in
the painul process o or!ettin!4 . elt as thou!h . had been punished enou!h or my "isit to Mr
6a"a!e/s a!ency. . heard Father Crompton/s "oice sayin!, /. ou!ht to be o now, Mr Miles./
/.t/s early yet./
. thou!ht, i . stay out o the room, . shan/t ha"e to add my politeness to 3enry/s, he may
!o sooner. . opened the parcel.
3enry was ri!ht. .t was one o the +ndrew $an! airy boo-s, but a piece o olded
notepaper stuc- out between the lea"es. .t was a letter rom >ar-is.
/8ear Mr 'endrix,/ . read, and thin-in! it was a note o than-s my eyes impatiently too-
in the last sentences. /6o under the circumstances . would rather not ha"e the boo- in the house
and hopin! that you will explain to Mr Miles that there is no in!ratitude on the part o yours
truly, +lred >ar-is./
. sat down in the hall. . heard 3enry say, /8on/t thin- ./"e !ot a closed mind, Father
Crompton.../ and . be!an to read >ar-is/s letter rom the be!innin!, /8ear Mr 'endrix, . am
writin! to you and not Mr Miles bein! assured o your sympathy due to our close e"en thou!h
sad association and you bein! a literary !entleman o ima!ination and accustomed to stran!e
e"ents. (ou -now my boy has been bad lately with awul pains in his stomach and not bein! due
to ice#cream . ha"e been araid o appendicitis. The doctor said operate, it can/t do any harm, but
. ha"e !reat ear o the -nie or my poor boy, his mother ha"in! died under it due to ne!li!ence
. am sure, and what would . do i . lost my boy the same way4 . would be =uite alone. For!i"e
all the details, Mr 'endrix, but in my proession we are trained to put thin!s in order and explain
irst thin!s irst, so the 5ud!e can/t complain he hasn/t been !i"en the acts plainly. 6o . said to the
doctor on Monday, let/s wait until we are =uite certain. Only . thin- sometimes it was the cold
that did it and he waitin! and watchin! outside Mrs Miles/s house, and you will or!i"e me i .
say she was a lady o !reat -indness who deser"ed to be let alone. (ou can/t pic- and choose in
my 5ob, but e"er since that irst day in Maiden $ane . wished it was any other lady . had the
watchin! o.
+nyway my boy was upset terribly when he heard how the poor lady had died. 6he only
spo-e to him once, but somehow he !ot the idea, . thin-, that his mother had been li-e her, only
she wasn/t, thou!h a !ood true woman in her way too whom . miss e"ery day o my lie. <ell,
when his temperature was 1G? which is hi!h or a boy li-e him, he be!an to tal- to Mrs Miles
5ust the same as he had done in the street, but he told her he was watchin! her which o course he
wouldn/t do, ha"in! proessional pride e"en at his a!e. Then he be!an to cry when she went
away, and then he slept, but when he wo-e up his temperature bein! still 1GE, he as-ed or the
present she had promised him in the dream. 6o that was why . bothered Mr Miles and decei"ed
him o which . am ashamed there not bein! a proessional reason, only my poor boy.
/<hen . !ot the boo- and !a"e it him he became calmer. 'ut . was worried because the
doctor said he would not ta-e any more ris-s and he must !o to hospital on <ednesday and i
there had been an empty bed he would ha"e sent him that ni!ht. 6o you see . couldn/t sleep or
worryin! because o my poor wie and my poor boy and bein! araid o the -nie. . don/t mind
tellin! you, Mr 'endrix, that . prayed "ery hard. . prayed to God and then . prayed to my wie to
do what she could because i there/s anyone in hea"en, she/s in hea"en now, and . as-ed Mrs
Miles i she was there, to do what she could too. &ow i a !rown man can do that, Mr 'endrix,
you can understand my poor boy ima!inin! thin!s. <hen . wo-e up this mornin!, his
temperature was ninety#nine and he hadn/t any pain, and when the doctor came there wasn/t any
tenderness let, so he says we can wait a while and he/s been all ri!ht all day. Only he told the
doctor it was Mrs Miles who came and too- away the pain # touchin! him on the ri!ht side o the
stomach i you/ll or!i"e the indelicacy # and she wrote in the boo- or him. 'ut the doctor says
he must be -ept "ery =uiet and the boo- excites him, so under the circumstances . would rather
not ha"e the boo- in the house <hen . turned the letter o"er there was a postscript.
/There is somethin! written in the boo-, but anyone can see that was many years a!o
when Mrs Miles was a little !irl, only . can/t explain that to my poor boy or ear the pain mi!ht
return. Cespectully, +. >./ . turned to the lylea and there was the unormed scribble with
indelible pencil 5ust as . had seen it beore in the other boo-s in which the child 6arah 'ertram
had composed her mottoes.
/<hen . was ill my mother !a"e me this boo- by $an!.
. any well person steals it he will !et a !reat ban!.
'ut i you are sic- in bed
(ou can ha"e it to read instead./
. carried it bac- with me into the dinin!#room. /<hat was it4/ 3enry as-ed.
/The boo-,/ . said. /8id you read what 6arah had written in it beore you !a"e it to >ar-is4/
/&o. <hy4/
/+ coincidence, that/s all. 'ut it seems you don/t need to belon! to Father Crompton/s
persuasion to be superstitious./ . !a"e 3enry the letter, he read it and handed it to Father
/. don/t li-e it,/ 3enry said. /6arah/s dead. . hate to see her bein! bandied about /. -now
what you mean. . eel it too./
/.t/s li-e hearin! her discussed by stran!ers./
/They aren/t sayin! anythin! ill o her,/ Father Crompton said. 3e laid the letter down. /.
must !o now./ 'ut he made no mo"e, loo-in! at the letter on the table. 3e as-ed, /+nd the
. pushed the boo- across to him. /Oh, it was written years a!o. 6he wrote that -ind o
thin! in a lot o her boo-s li-e all children./
/Time/s a stran!e thin!,/ Father Crompton said.
/O course the child wouldn/t understand it was all done in the past./
/6t +u!ustine as-ed where time came rom. 3e said it came out o the uture which didn/t
exist yet, into the present that had no duration, and went into the past which had ceased to exist. .
don/t -now that we can understand time any better than a child./
/. didn/t mean.../
/Oh well,/ he said, standin! up, /you mustn/t ta-e this to heart, Mr Miles. .t only !oes to
show what a !ood woman your wie was./
/That/s no help to me, is it4 6he/s part o the past that has ceased to exist./
/The man who wrote that letter had a lot o sense in him. There/s no harm in prayin! to
the dead as well as or them./ 3e repeated his phrase, /6he was a !ood woman./
Buite suddenly . lost my temper. . belie"e . was annoyed chiely by his complacency, the
sense that nothin! intellectual could e"er trouble him, the assumption o an intimate -nowled!e
o somebody he had only -nown or a ew hours or days, whom we had -nown or years. . said,
/6he was nothin! o the sort./
/'endrix,/ 3enry said sharply.
/6he could put blin-ers on any man,/ . said, /e"en on a priest. 6he/s only decei"ed you,
ather, as she decei"ed her husband and me. 6he was a consummate liar./
/6he ne"er pretended to be what she wasn/t/
/. wasn/t her only lo"er #/
/6top it,/ 3enry said. /(ou/"e no ri!ht... /
/$et him alone,/ Father Crompton said. /$et the poor man ra"e./
/8on/t !i"e me your proessional pity, ather. )eep it or your penitents./
/(ou can/t dictate to me whom ./m to pity, Mr 'endrix./
/+ny man could ha"e her./ . lon!ed to belie"e what . said, or then there would be nothin!
to miss or re!ret. . would no lon!er be tied to her where"er she was. . would be ree.
/+nd you can/t teach me anythin! about penitence, Mr 'endrix. ./"e had twenty#i"e years
o the Conessional. There/s nothin! we can do some o the saints ha"en/t done beore us./
/./"e !ot nothin! to repent except ailure. Go bac- to your own people, ather, bac- to
your bloody little box and your beads./
/(ou/ll ind me there any time you want me./
/Me want you, ather4 Father, . don/t want to be rude, but ./m no 6arah. &o 6arah./
3enry said with embarrassment,/ ./m sorry, ather./
/(ou don/t need to be. . -now when a man/s in pain./
. couldn/t !et throu!h the tou!h s-in o his complacency. . pushed my chair bac- and
said, /(ou/re wron!, ather. This isn/t anythin! subtle li-e pain. ./m not in pain, ./m in hate. . hate
6arah because she was a little tart, . hate 3enry because she stuc- to him, and . hate you and
your ima!inary God because you too- her away rom all o us./
/(ou/re a !ood hater,/ Father Crompton said.
Tears stood in my eyes because . was powerless to hurt any o them. /To hell with the lot
o you,/ . said.
. slammed the door behind me and shut them in to!ether. $et him spill his holy wisdom
to 3enry, . thou!ht, ./m alone. . want to be alone. . . can/t ha"e you, ./ll be alone always. Oh, ./m
as capable o belie as the next man. . would only ha"e to shut the eyes o my mind or a lon!
enou!h time, and . could belie"e that you came to >ar-is/s boy in the ni!ht with your touch that
brin!s peace. $ast month in the crematorium . as-ed you to sa"e that !irl rom me and you
pushed your mother between us # or so they mi!ht say. 'ut i . start belie"in! that, then . ha"e to
belie"e in your God. ./d ha"e to lo"e your God. ./d rather lo"e the men you slept with.
./"e !ot to be reasonable, . told mysel !oin! upstairs. 6arah has been dead a lon! time
now, one doesn/t !o on lo"in! the dead with this intensity, only the li"in!, and she/s not ali"e, she
can/t be ali"e. . mustn/t belie"e that she/s ali"e. . lay down on my bed and closed my eyes and .
tried to be reasonable. . . hate her so much as . sometimes do, how can . lo"e her4 Can one
really hate and lo"e4 Or is it only mysel that . really hate4 . hate the boo-s . write with their
tri"ial unimportant s-ill, . hate the cratsman/s mind in me so !reedy or copy that . set out to
seduce a woman . didn/t lo"e or the inormation she could !i"e me, . hate this body that en5oyed
so much but was inade=uate to express what the heart elt, and . hate my untrustin! mind, that set
>ar-is on the watch who laid powder on door bells, riled wastepaper bas-ets, stole your secrets.
From the drawer o my bedside table . too- her 5ournal and openin! it at random, under a
date last 0anuary, . read, /O God, i . could really hate you, what would that mean4/ +nd .
thou!ht, hatin! 6arah is only lo"in! 6arah and hatin! mysel is only lo"in! mysel. ./m not worth
hatin! # Maurice 'endrix, author o ;The +mbitious 3ost;, ;The Crowned .ma!e;, ;The Gra"e
on the <ater#Front;, 'endrix the scribbler. &othin! # not e"en 6arah # is worth our hatred i (ou
exist, except (ou. +nd, . thou!ht, sometimes ./"e hated Maurice, but would . ha"e hated him i .
hadn/t lo"ed him too4 O God, i . could really hate you...
. remembered how 6arah had prayed to the God she didn/t belie"e in, and now . spo-e to
the 6arah . didn/t belie"e in. . said, (ou sacriiced both o us once to brin! me bac- to lie, but
what sort o a lie is this without you4 .t/s all "ery well or you to lo"e God. (ou are dead. (ou
ha"e him. 'ut ./m sic- with lie, ./m rotten with health. . . be!in to lo"e God, . can/t 5ust die. ./"e
!ot to do somethin! about it. . had to touch you with my hands, . had to taste you with my
ton!ue, one can/t lo"e and do nothin!. .t/s no use your tellin! me not to worry as you did once in
a dream. . . e"er lo"ed li-e that, it would be the end o e"erythin!. $o"in! you . had no appetite
or ood, . elt no lust or any other woman, but lo"in! him there/d be no pleasure in anythin! at
all with him away. ./d e"en lose my wor-, ./d cease to be 'endrix. 6arah, ./m araid.
That ni!ht . came wide#awa-e at two in the mornin!. . went down to the larder and !ot
mysel some biscuits and a drin- o water. . was sorry . had spo-en li-e that about 6arah in ront
o 3enry. The priest had said there was nothin! we could do that some saint had not done. That
mi!ht be true o murder and adultery, the spectacular sins, but could a saint e"er ha"e been !uilty
o en"y and meanness4 My hate was as petty as my lo"e. . opened the door sotly and loo-ed in
at 3enry. 3e lay asleep with the li!ht on and his arm shieldin! his eyes. <ith the eyes hidden
there was an anonymity about the whole body. 3e was 5ust a man # one o us. 3e was li-e the
irst enemy soldier a man encounters on a battleield, dead and indistin!uishable, not a <hite or
a Ced, but 5ust a human bein! li-e himsel. . put two biscuits by his bed in case he wo-e and
turned the li!ht out J My boo- wasn/t !oin! well @what a waste o time the act o writin!
seemed, but how else could time be spent4A and . too- a wal- across the Common to listen to the
spea-ers. There was a man . remembered who used to amuse me in the pre#war days and . was
!lad to see him saely bac- on his pitch. 3e had no messa!e to con"ey li-e the political and the
reli!ious spea-ers. 3e was an ex#actor and he 5ust told stories and recited snatches o "erse. 3e
would challen!e his audience to catch him out by as-in! or any piece o "erse. /The +ncient
Mariner,/ somebody would call, and at once, with !reat emphasis, he would !i"e us a =uatrain.
One wa! said, /6ha-espeare/s Thirty#6econd 6onnet/ and he recited our lines at random and
when the wa! ob5ected, he said, /(ou/"e !ot the wron! edition./ . loo-ed around at my ellow
listeners and saw 6mythe. >erhaps he had seen me irst, or he had the handsome side o his ace
turned towards me, the side 6arah had not -issed, but i so he a"oided my eye.
<hy did . always wish to spea- to anybody whom 6arah had -nown4 . pushed my way
to his side and said, /3ullo, 6mythe./ 3e clamped a hand-erchie to the bad side o his ace and
turned towards me./ Oh, it/s Mr 'endrix,/ he said.
/. ha"en/t seen you since the uneral./
/./"e been away./
/8on/t you still spea- here4/
/&o./ 3e hesitated and then added unwillin!ly, /./"e !i"en up public spea-in!./
/'ut you still !i"e home#tuition4/ . teased him.
/&o. ./"e !i"en that up too./
/&ot chan!ed your "iews, . hope4/
3e said !loomily, /. don/t -now what to belie"e./
/&othin!. 6urely that was the point./
/.t was./ 3e be!an to mo"e a little way out o the crowd and . ound mysel on his bad
side. . couldn/t resist teasin! him a little more./ 3a"e you !ot toothache4/ . as-ed.
/&o. <hy4/
/.t loo-ed li-e it. <ith that hand-erchie./
3e didn/t reply but too- the hand-erchie away. There was no u!liness to hide. 3is s-in
was =uite resh and youn! except or one insi!niicant spot.
3e said, /. !et tired o explainin! when . meet people . -now./
/(ou ound a cure4/
/(es. . told you ./"e been away./
/To a nursin! home4/
/&ot exactly./ 3e added unwillin!ly, /.t was done by touch./
/. ha"e no aith. ./d ne"er !o to a =uac-./
/<hat was it4 Hrticaria4/
3e said "a!uely, to close the sub5ect. /Modern methods. *lectricity./
. went bac- home and a!ain . tried to settle to my boo-. +lways . ind when . be!in to
write there is one character who obstinately will not come ali"e. There is nothin! psycholo!ically
alse about him, but he stic-s, he has to be pushed around, words ha"e to be ound or him, all
the technical s-ill . ha"e ac=uired throu!h the laborious years has to be employed in ma-in! him
appear ali"e to my readers. 6ometimes . !et a sour satisaction when a re"iewer praises him as
the best#drawn character in the story, i he has not been drawn he has certainly been dra!!ed. 3e
lies hea"ily on my mind whene"er . start to wor- li-e an ill#di!ested meal on the stomach,
robbin! me o the pleasure o creation in any scene where he is present. 3e ne"er does the
unexpected thin!, he ne"er surprises me, he ne"er ta-es char!e. *"ery other character helps, he
only hinders.
+nd yet one cannot do without him. . can ima!ine a God eelin! in 5ust that way about
some o us. The saints, one would suppose, in a sense create themsel"es. They come ali"e. They
are capable o the surprisin! act or word, They stand outside the plot, unconditioned by it. 'ut
we ha"e to be pushed around. <e ha"e the obstinacy o nonexistence. <e are inextricably bound
to the plot, and wearily God orces us, here and there, accordin! to his intention, characters
without poetry, without ree will, whose only importance is that somewhere, at some time, we
help to urnish the scene in which a li"in! character mo"es and spea-s, pro"idin! perhaps the
saints with the opportunities or ;their; ree will.
. was !lad when . heard the door close and 3enry/s ootsteps in the hall. .t was an excuse
to stop. That character could remain inert now till mornin!, it was the hour at last or the
>onteract +rms. . waited or him to call up to me @already in a month we were as set in our ways
as two bachelors who ha"e li"ed to!ether or yearsA, but he didn/t call and . heard him !o into his
study. +ter a while . ollowed him, . missed my drin-.
. was reminded o the occasion when . came bac- with him irst: he sat there, beside the
!reen 8iscus Thrower, worried and de5ected, but now watchin! him . elt neither en"y nor
/+ drin-, 3enry4/
/(es, yes. O course. . was only !oin! to chan!e my shoes./ 3e had his town and his
country shoes and the Common in his eyes was country. 3e bent o"er his laces, there was a -not
that he couldn/t untie # he was always bad with his in!ers. 3e !ot tired o stru!!lin! and
wrenched the shoe o. . pic-ed it up and uncoiled the -not or him.
/Than- you, 'endrix./ >erhaps e"en so small an act o companionship !a"e him
conidence. /+ "ery unpleasant thin! happened today at the oice,/ he said.
/Tell me./
/Mrs 'ertram called. . don/t thin- you -now Mrs 'ertram./
/Oh yes. . met her the other day./ + curious phrase #the other day, as thou!h all days were
the same except that one.
/<e/"e ne"er !ot on "ery well to!ether,/
/6o she told me./
/6arah was always "ery !ood about it. 6he -ept her away./
/8id she come to borrow money4/
/(es. 6he wanted ten pounds # her usual story, in town or the day, shoppin!, run out,
ban-s closed... 'endrix, ./m not a mean man, but . !et so irritated by the way she !oes on. 6he
has two thousand a year o her own. .t/s almost as much as . earn./
/8id you !i"e it her4/
/Oh yes. One always does, but the trouble was . couldn/t resist a sermon. That made her
urious. . told her how many times she/d done it and how many times she had paid me bac- # that
was easy, the irst time. 6he too- out her che=ue boo- and said she was !oin! to write me a
che=ue or the whole lot there and then. 6he was so an!ry that ./m certain she meant it. 6he/d
really or!otten that she had used her last che=ue. 6he had meant to humiliate me and she only
succeeded in humiliatin! hersel, poor woman. O course, that made it worse./
/<hat did she do4/
/6he accused me o not !i"in! 6arah a proper uneral. 6he told me a stran!e story... /
/. -now it. 6he told it to me ater a couple o ports./
/8o you thin- she/s lyin!4/
/.t/s an extraordinary coincidence, isn/t it4 'apti9ed at two years old, and then be!innin!
to !o bac- to what you can/t e"en remember... .t/s li-e an inection./
/.t/s what you say, an odd coincidence./ Once beore . had supplied 3enry with the
necessary stren!th: . wasn/t !oin! to let him wea-en now. /./"e -nown stran!er coincidences,/ .
went on. /8urin! the last year, 3enry, ./"e been so bored ./"e e"en collected car numbers. That
teaches you about coincidences. Ten thousand possible numbers and God -nows how many
combinations, and yet o"er and o"er a!ain ./"e seen two cars with the same i!ures side by side
in a traic bloc-./
/(es. . suppose it wor-s that way,/
/./ll ne"er lose my aith in coincidence, 3enry./
The telephone was rin!in! aintly upstairs, we hadn/t heard it till now, because the switch
was turned o in the study.
/Oh dear, oh dear,/ 3enry said, /. wouldn/t be a bit surprised i it were that woman a!ain./
/$et her rin!,/ and as . spo-e the bell stopped.
/.t isn/t that ./m mean,/ 3enry said. /. don/t suppose she/s borrowed more than a hundred
pounds in ten years./
/Come out and ha"e a drin-./
/O course. Oh, . ha"en/t put on my shoes./ 3e bent o"er them and . could see the bald
patch on the crown o his head, it was as thou!h his worries had worn throu!h #. had been one o
his worries. 3e said, /. don/t -now what ./d do without you, 'endrix./ . brushed a ew !rains o
scur o his shoulder. /Oh well, 3enry.../ and then beore we could mo"e the bell be!an to rin!
/$ea"e it,/ . said.
/./d better answer. (ou don/t -now.../ 3e !ot up with his shoe#laces dan!lin! and came
o"er to his des-. /3ello,/ he said, /Miles spea-in!./ 3e passed the recei"er to me and said with
relie, /.t/s or you./
/(es,/ . said, /'endrix here./
/Mr 'endrix,/ a man/s "oice said, /. elt ./d !ot to rin! you. . didn/t tell you the truth this
/<ho ;are; you4/
/6mythe,/ the "oice said.
/. don/t understand./
/. told you ./d been to a nursin! home. . ne"er went to one./
/Ceally it couldn/t matter less to me./
3is "oice reached or me alon! the line. /O course it matters. (ou aren/t listenin! to me.
&obody treated my ace. .t cleared up, suddenly, in a ni!ht./
/3ow4 . still don/t.../
3e said with an awul air o conspiracy, /(ou and . -now how. There/s no !ettin! round it.
.t wasn/t ri!ht o me -eepin! it dar-. .t was a.../ but . put down the recei"er beore he could use
that oolish newspaper word that was the alternati"e to /coincidence/. . remembered his clenched
ri!ht hand, . remembered my an!er that the dead can be so parcelled up, di"ided li-e their
clothes. . thou!ht, 3e/s so proud that he must always ha"e some -ind o re"elation. .n a wee- or
two he/ll be spea-in! about it on the Common and showin! his healed ace. .t will be in the
newspapers, /Cationalist 6pea-er Con"erted by Miraculous Cure./ . tried to summon up all my
aith in coincidence, but all . could thin- o, and that with en"y, or . had no relic, was the ruined
chee- lyin! at ni!ht on her hair.
/<ho is it4/ 3enry as-ed. . hesitated a moment whether to tell him, but then . thou!ht,
&o. . don/t trust him. 3e and Father Crompton will !et to!ether.
/6mythe,/ . said.
/6mythe4 /
/That ellow 6arah used to "isit./
/<hat did he want4/
/3is ace has been cured, that/s all. . as-ed him to let me -now the name o the specialist.
. ha"e a riend.../
/*lectric treatment4/
/./m not sure. ./"e read somewhere that urticaria is hysterical in ori!in. + mixture o
psychiatry and radium./ .t sounded plausible. >erhaps ater all it was the truth. +nother
coincidence, two cars with the same number plate, and . thou!ht with a sense o weariness, how
many coincidences are there !oin! to be4 3er mother at the uneral, the child/s dream. .s this
!oin! to continue day by day4 . elt li-e a swimmer who has o"er#passed his stren!th and -nows
the tide is stron!er than himsel, but i . drowned, . was !oin! to hold 3enry up till the last
moment. <asn/t it, ater all, the duty o a riend, or i this thin! were not dispro"ed, i it !ot into
the papers, nobody could tell where it would end4 . remembered the roses at Manchester # that
raud had ta-en a lon! time to be reco!ni9ed or what it was. >eople are so hysterical in these
days. There mi!ht be relic#hunters, prayers, processions. 3enry was not un-nown: the scandal
would be enormous. +nd all the 5ournalists as-in! =uestions about their lie to!ether and di!!in!
out that =ueer story o the baptism near 8eau"ille. The "ul!arity o the pious >ress. . could
ima!ine the headlines, and the headlines would produce more /miracles/. <e had to -ill this thin!
at the start.
. remembered the 5ournal in my drawer upstairs and . thou!ht, That has to !o too, or that
could be interpreted in their way. .t was as thou!h to sa"e her or oursel"es we had to destroy her
eatures one by one. *"en her children/s boo-s had pro"ed a dan!er. There were photo!raphs #
the one 3enry had ta-en, the >ress mustn/t ha"e that. <as Maud to be trusted4 The two o us had
tried to build a ma-eshit house to!ether, and e"en that was bein! bro-en up.
/<hat about our drin-4/ 3enry said.
/./ll 5oin you in a minute./
. went up to my room and too- the 5ournal out. . tore the co"ers o. They were tou!h, the
cotton bac-in! came out li-e ibres: it was li-e tearin! the limbs o a bird, and there the 5ournal
lay on the bed, a pad o paper, win!less and wounded. The last pa!e lay upwards and . read
a!ain, /(ou were there teachin! me to s=uander, so that one day we mi!ht ha"e nothin! let
except this lo"e o (ou. 'ut (ou are too !ood to me. <hen . as- (ou or pain, (ou !i"e me
peace. Gi"e it him too. Gi"e him my peace # he needs it more./
. thou!ht, you/"e ailed there, 6arah. One o your prayers at least has not been answered.
. ha"e no peace and . ha"e no lo"e, except or you, you. . said to her, ./m a man o hate. 'ut .
didn/t eel much hatred: . had called other people hysterical, but my own words were
o"erchar!ed. . could detect their insincerity. <hat . chiely elt was less hate than ear. For i this
God exists, . thou!ht, and i e"en you # with your lusts and your adulteries and the timid lies you
used to tell # can chan!e li-e this, we could all be saints by leapin! as you leapt, by shuttin! the
eyes and leapin! once and or all, i you are a saint, it/s not so diicult to be a saint. .t/s
somethin! 3e can demand o any o us, leap. 'ut . won/t leap. . sat on my bed and said to God,
(ou/"e ta-en her, but (ou ha"en/t !ot me yet. . -now (our cunnin!. .t/s (ou who ta-e us up to a
hi!h place and oer us the whole uni"erse. (ou/re a de"il, God, temptin! us to leap. 'ut . don/t
want (our peace and . don/t want (our lo"e. . wanted somethin! "ery simple and "ery easy, .
wanted 6arah or a lietime and (ou too- her away. <ith (our !reat schemes (ou ruin our
happiness li-e a har"ester ruins a mouse/s nest, . hate (ou, God, . hate (ou as thou!h (ou
. loo-ed at the pad o paper. .t was more impersonal than a scrap o hair. (ou can touch
hair with your lips and in!ers and . was tired to death o the mind. . had li"ed or her body and .
wanted her body. 'ut the 5ournal was all . had, so . shut it bac- in the cupboard, or wouldn/t that
ha"e been one more "ictory or 3im, to destroy it and lea"e mysel more completely without
her4 . said to 6arah, all ri!ht, ha"e it ;your; way. . belie"e you li"e and that 3e exists, but it will
ta-e more than your prayers to turn this hatred o 3im into lo"e. 3e robbed me and li-e that -in!
you wrote about ./ll rob 3im o what he wants in me. 3atred is in my brain, not in my stomach or
my s-in. .t can/t be remo"ed li-e a rash or an ache. 8idn/t . hate you as well as lo"e you4 +nd
don/t . hate mysel4
. called down to 3enry, /./m ready,/ and we wal-ed side by side o"er the Common
towards the >onteract +rms: the li!hts were out, and lo"ers met where the roads intersected, and
on the other side o the !rass was the house with the ruined steps where 3e !a"e me bac- this
hopeless crippled lie.
/. loo- orward to these e"enin! wal-s o ours,/ 3enry said.
. thou!ht, in the mornin! ./ll rin! up a doctor and as- him whether a aith cure is possible.
+nd then . thou!ht, better not: so lon! as one doesn/t -now, one can ima!ine innumerable cures...
. put my hand on 3enry/s arm and held it there: . had to be stron! or both o us now, and he
wasn/t seriously worried yet.
/They are the only thin!s . do loo- orward to,/ 3enry said.
. wrote at the start that this was a record o hate, and wal-in! there beside 3enry towards
the e"enin! !lass o beer, . ound the one prayer that seemed to ser"e the winter mood, O God,
(ou/"e done enou!h, (ou/"e robbed me o enou!h, ./m too tired and old to learn to lo"e, lea"e
me alone or e"er.
The *nd
Graham Greene was born in 19G1. On comin! down rom 'alliol Colle!e, Oxord, he wor-ed or
our years as subeditor on ;The Times;. 3e established his reputation with his ourth no"el,
;6tamboul Train;. .n 19?5 he made a 5ourney across $iberia, described in ;0ourney <ithout
Maps;, and on his return was appointed ilm critic o the ;6pectator;. .n 19E2 he had been
recei"ed into the Coman Catholic Church and "isited Mexico in 19?J to report on the reli!ious
persecution there. +s a result he wrote ;The $awless Coads; and, later, his amous no"el ;The
>ower and the Glory;. ;'ri!hton Coc-; was published in 19?J and in 191G he became literary
editor o the ;6pectator;. The next year he undertoo- wor- or the Forei!n Oice and was
stationed in 6ierra $eone rom 1911 to 191?. This later produced the no"el, ;The 3eart o the
Matter;, set in <est +rica.
+s well as his many no"els, Graham Greene wrote se"eral collections o short stories,
our tra"el boo-s, six plays, three boo-s o autobio!raphy # ;+ 6ort o $ie;, ;<ays o *scape;
and ;+ <orld o My Own; @published posthumouslyA # two o bio!raphy and our boo-s or
children. 3e also contributed hundreds o essays, and ilm and boo- re"iews, some o which
appear in the collections ;Celections; and ;Mornin!s in the 8ar-;. Many o his no"els and
short stories ha"e been ilmed and ;The Third Man; was written as a ilm treatment. Graham
Greene was a member o the Order o Merit and a Companion o 3onour. Graham Greene died
in +pril 1991.