Tag Archive: E from Books Read etc


read in july 2015

He improved his manners. He overheard one
officer tell another, “As much of a contrivance
as the aristocracy has always been, it
still constitutes the best check against mobs
of the uneducated and the unreflecting.” He
watched how the officers repeatedly bestowed
honor upon any native who resembled
a nobleman (or, at least, who resembled
some English idea of a nobleman).
On every island they visited, the Resolution’s
officers would single out any brown-skinned
man who had a finer headpiece than the others,
or who wore more tattoos, or who carried
a bigger spear, or who had more wives,
or who was borne upon a litter by other men,
or who—in the absence of any of these luxuries—
was simply taller than the other men.
The Englishmen would treat that person
with respect. This would be the man with
whom they would negotiate, and upon whom
they would bestow gifts, and who, sometimes,
they would pronounce “the king.” He
concluded that wherever English gentlemen
went in the world, they were always looking
for a king.
They gave up once more on the Northwest
Passage. They sailed to Macao. He saw fleets
of Chinese junks, and again encountered representatives
of the Dutch East India Company,
who seemed to be everywhere in their
simple black clothes and humble clogs. It appeared
to him that everywhere in the world,
somebody owed money to a Dutchman. In
China, Henry found out about a war with
France, and a revolution in America. It was
the first he had heard of it. In Manila, he saw
a Spanish galleon, loaded, it was said, with
two million pounds’ worth of silver treasure.
He traded his snowshoes for a Spanish naval
jacket. He fell ill from the flux—they all
did—but he survived it. He arrived in
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Sumatra, and then in Java, where, once
more, he saw the Dutch making money. He
took note of it.

But Banks was talking forward, as though
all were decided. “I’m funding a Peruvian
botanical expedition, and it departs Wednesday
next. You’ll be led by Mr. Ross Niven.
He’s a tough old Scot—perhaps too old, if I
may be candid—but he’s as hardy as anyone
you’ll ever meet. He knows his trees and, I
daresay, he knows his South America. I
prefer a Scotsman to an Englishman for this
sort of work, you know. They are more coldminded
and constant, more fit to pursue
their object with relentless ardor, which is
what you want in your man abroad. Your
salary, Henry, is forty pounds a year, and
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although it is not the sort of salary upon
which a young man can fatten his life, the
position is an honorable one, which carries
along with it the gratitude of the British Empire.
As you are still a bachelor, I am certain
you can make do. The more frugally you live
now, Henry, the richer a man you will
someday become.”

There was a florid scratching of pens,
and then Banks was lazily waving the letter
in the air to dry, saying, “Your task, Henry, is
the cinchona tree. You may know of it as the
fever tree. It is the source of Jesuit’s bark.
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Learn all you can about it. It’s a fascinating
tree and I’d like to see it more deeply studied.
Make no enemies, Henry. Protect yourself
from thieves, idiots, and miscreants.
Take plentiful notes, and be sure to inform
me in what sort of soil you find your specimens—
sandy, loamy, boggy—so we can try to
cultivate them here at Kew. Be tight with
your money. Think like a Scot, boy! The less
you indulge yourself now, the more you can
indulge yourself in the future, when you have
made your fortune. Resist drunkenness, idleness,
women, and melancholy; you can enjoy
all those pleasures later in life, when you are
a useless old man like me. Be attentive. Better
if you don’t let anyone know that you are
a man of botany. Protect your plants from
goats, dogs, cats, pigeons, poultry, insects,
mold, sailors, saltwater . . .”

Ever the orchardman’s son, Henry quickly
realized that most of the cinchona trees were
in poor condition, sick and overharvested.
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There were a few trees with trunks as thick
as his own midsection, but none any bigger.
He began to pack the trees with moss,
wherever the bark had been removed, to allow
them to heal. He trained the cascarilleros
to cut the bark in vertical strips, rather
than killing the tree by horizontally banding
it. He severely coppiced other sick trees, to
allow for new growth. When he became sick
himself, he kept on working. When he could
not walk from illness or infection, he had his
Indians tie him to his mule, like a captive, so
he could visit his trees every day.
He stayed up in Loxa for four miserable
years, barefoot and cold, sleeping in a hut
with barefoot and cold Indians, who burned
manure for heat. He continued to nurse the
cinchona groves, which legally belonged to
the Spanish Royal Pharmacy, but which
Henry had silently claimed for his own. He
was far enough back in the mountains that
no Spaniard ever interfered with him, and
after a time the Indians weren’t bothered by
him, either. He gleaned that the cinchona
trees with the darkest bark seemed to produce
a more potent medicine than the other
varieties, and that the newest growth produced
the most powerful bark. Heavy pruning,
therefore, was advisable. He identified
and named seven new species of cinchona,
but most of them he considered useless. He
focused his attention on what he called cinchona
roja—the red tree, the richest. He
grafted the roja onto the root stock of more
sturdy and disease-resistant varieties of cinchona
in order to produce a higher yield.

Henry had no idea what the man was talking
about, but he stayed silent. He had
learned in the past four years to speak only
when he knew that which he was speaking
about. Moreover, he had learned that silence
can sometimes relax a listener into thinking
that one might be intelligent.

To be fair to Henry, his head was not entirely
lucid. He had been alone for many
93/1294
years in a remote forest, and a young man in
the forest can become a dangerously unfettered
thinker. Henry had discussed this
topic with Banks so many times already in
his mind that he was impatient now with the
actual conversation. In Henry’s imagination,
everything was already arranged and already
successful.

When Banks began to laugh, Henry’s
stomach collapsed upon itself and folded into
a small, hard cube. His throat narrowed as
though he were, at last, noosed. He shut his
eyes and saw murder. He was capable of
murder. He envisioned murder and carefully
considered the consequences of murder. He
had a long while to ponder murder, while
Banks laughed and laughed.
No, Henry decided. Not murder.
When he opened his eyes, Banks was still
laughing, and Henry was a transformed human
being. Whatever youth had remained in
him as of that morning, it was now kicked
out dead. From that point forward, his life
would be not about who he could become,
but about what he could acquire. He would
never be a gentleman. So be it. Sod gentlemen.
Sod them all.

What’s more, Alma was clever like him.
Sturdy, too. A right little dromedary, she
was—tireless and uncomplaining. Never took
ill. Stubborn. From the moment the girl
learned to speak, she could not put an argument
to rest. If her millstone of a mother had
not steadfastly ground the impudence out of
her, she might have turned out to be frankly
rude. As it was, she was merely forceful. She
wanted to understand the world, and she
made a habit of chasing down information to
its last hiding place, as though the fate of nations
were at stake in every instance. She demanded
to know why a pony was not a baby
horse. She demanded to know why sparks
were born when she drew her hand across
her sheets on a hot summer’s night. She not
only demanded to know whether
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mushrooms were plants or animals, but
also—when given the answer—demanded to
know why this was certain.
Alma had been born to the correct parents
for these sorts of restless inquiries; as long as
her questions were respectfully expressed,
they would be answered. Both Henry and Beatrix
Whittaker, equally intolerant of dullness,
encouraged a spirit of investigation in
their daughter. Even Alma’s mushroom
question was granted a serious answer (from
Beatrix in this case, who quoted the esteemed
Swedish botanical taxonomist Carl
Linnaeus on how to distinguish minerals
from plants, and plants from animals:
“Stones grow. Plants grow and live. Animals
grow, live, and feel”). Beatrix did not believe
a four-year-old child was too young to be discussing
Linnaeus. Indeed, Beatrix had commenced
Alma’s formal education nearly as
soon as the child could hold herself upright.
If other people’s toddlers could be taught to

lisp prayers and catechisms as soon as they
could speak, then, Beatrix believed, her child
could certainly be taught anything.
As a result, Alma knew her numbers before
the age of four—in English, Dutch,
French, and Latin. The study of Latin was
particularly stressed, because Beatrix believed
that no one who was ignorant of Latin
could ever write a proper sentence in either
English or French. There was an early dabbling
in Greek, as well, although with somewhat
less urgency. (Not even Beatrix believed
a child should pursue Greek before the
age of five.) Beatrix tutored her intelligent
daughter herself, and with satisfaction. A
parent is inexcusable who does not personally
teach her child to think. Beatrix also
happened to believe that mankind’s intellectual
faculties had been steadily deteriorating
since the second century anno Domini, so
she enjoyed the sensation of running a

private Athenian lyceum in Philadelphia,
solely for her daughter’s benefit.
Hanneke de Groot, the head housekeeper,
felt that Alma’s young female brain was perhaps
overly taxed by so much study, but Beatrix
would hear none of it, for this is how
Beatrix herself had been educated, as had
every van Devender child—male and female—
since time immemorial. “Don’t be
simple, Hanneke,” Beatrix scolded. “At no
moment in history has a bright young girl
with plenty of food and a good constitution
perished from too much learning.”
Beatrix admired the useful over the vapid,
the edifying over the entertaining. She was
suspicious of anything one might call “an innocent
amusement,” and quite detested anything
foolish or vile. Foolish and vile things
included: public houses; rouged women;
election days (one could always expect
mobs); the eating of ice cream; the visiting of
ice cream houses; Anglicans (whom she felt

to be Catholics in disguise, and whose religion,
she submitted, stood at odds with both
morality and common sense); tea (good
Dutch women drank only coffee); people
who drove their sleighs in wintertime
without bells upon their horses (you couldn’t
hear them coming up behind you!); inexpensive
household help (a troublesome bargain);
people who paid their servants in rum
instead of money (thus contributing to public
drunkenness); people who came to you
with their troubles but then refused to listen
to sound advice; New Year’s Eve celebrations
(the new year will arrive one way or another,
regardless of all that bell-ringing); the aristocracy
(nobility should be based upon conduct,
not upon inheritance); and overpraised
children (good behavior should be expected,
not rewarded).
She embraced the motto Labor ipse Voluptas—
work is its own reward. She believed
there was an inherent dignity in remaining

aloof and indifferent to sensation; indeed,
she believed that indifference to sensation
was the very definition of dignity. Most of all,
Beatrix Whittaker believed in respectability
and morality—but if pushed to choose
between the two, she would probably have
chosen respectability.
All of this, she strove to teach her
daughter.

Alma learned that her father was impatient
with his workers, with his houseguests,
with his wife, with herself, and even with his
horses—but with plants, he never lost his
head. He was always charitable and forgiving
with plants. This made Alma sometimes long
to be a plant. She never spoke of this longing,
though, for it would have made her look like
a fool, and she had learned from Henry that
one must never look like a fool. “The world is
a fool who longs to be tricked,” he often said,
and he had borne it down upon his daughter
that there is a mighty gap between the idiots
and the clever, and one must come down on
the side of cleverness. To show a longing for
anything that one cannot have, for instance,
is not a clever position.

Alma always went to the woods fitted out
in the most sensible dress, armed with her
own personal collecting kit of glass vials, tiny
storage boxes, cotton wool, and writing tablets.
She went out in all weather, because delights
could be found in all weather. A late-
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April snowstorm one year brought the odd
sound of songbirds and sleighbells mingled
together, and this alone was worth leaving
the house for. She learned that walking carefully
in the mud to save one’s boots or the
hems of one’s skirts never rewarded one’s
search. She was never scolded for returning
home with muddied boots and hems, so long
as she came home with good specimens for
her private herbarium.
Soames the pony was Alma’s constant
companion on these forays—sometimes carrying
her through the forest, sometimes following
along behind her like a large, well-mannered
dog. In the summer, he wore
splendid silk tassels in his ears, to keep out
the flies. In the winter, he wore fur beneath
his saddle. Soames was the best botanical
collecting partner one could ever imagine,
and Alma talked to him all day long. He
would do absolutely anything for the girl,
except move quickly.

In her ninth summer, completely on her
own, Alma learned to tell time by the opening
and closing of flowers. At five o’clock in
the morning, she noticed, the goatsbeard
petals always unfolded. At six o’clock, the
daisies and globeflowers opened. When the
clock struck seven, the dandelions would
bloom. At eight o’clock, it was the scarlet
pimpernel’s turn. Nine o’clock: chickweed.
Ten o’clock: meadow saffron. By eleven
o’clock, the process begins to reverse. At
noon, the goatsbeard closed. At one o’clock,
the chickweed closed. By three o’clock, the
dandelions had folded. If Alma was not back
to the house with her hands washed by five
o’clock—when the globeflower closed and the
evening primrose began to open—she would
find herself in trouble.

Things must
be kept track of—even things one could not
comprehend. Beatrix had instructed her that
she must always record her findings in drawings
as accurate as she could make them, categorized,
whenever possible, by the correct
taxonomy.
Alma enjoyed the act of sketching, but her
finished drawings often disappointed her.
She could not draw faces or animals (even

her butterflies looked truculent), though
eventually she found that she was not awful
at drawing plants. Her first successes were
some quite good renderings of umbels—
those hollow-stemmed, flat-flowered
members of the carrot family. Her umbels
were accurate, though she wished they were
more than accurate; she wished they were
beautiful. She said as much to her mother,
who corrected her: “Beauty is not required.
Beauty is accuracy’s distraction.”

Whenever Alma encountered the workers’
children in the woods, she was struck by fear
and horror. She had a method for surviving
these encounters, though: she would pretend
they were not occurring at all. She rode both
past and above the children on her stalwart
pony (who moved, as always, at the slow and
unconcerned pace of cold molasses). Alma
held her breath as she passed the children,
looking neither to her left nor to her right,
until she had cleared the intruders safely. If
she did not look at them, she did not have to
believe in them.

“What sort of name is Whittaker? I
find it so uncommon.”
“Midland England,” Henry had replied.
“Comes from the word Warwickshire.”
“Is Warwickshire your family seat?”
“There, and other places, besides. We
Whittakers tend to sit wherever we can find a
chair.”
“But does your father still own property in
Warwickshire, sir?”
“My father, madam, if he is still living,
owns two pigs and the privy pot under his
bed. I doubt very much he owns the bed.”
162/1294
The Whittakers were not invited back to
dine with the Binghams again. The Whittakers
did not much care. Beatrix disapproved
of the conversation and dress of fashionable
ladies, anyway, and Henry disliked
the tedious manners of fine drawing rooms.
Instead, Henry created his own society,
across the river from the city, high upon his
hill. Dinners at White Acre were not playing
fields of gossip, but exercises in intellectual
and commercial stimulation. If there was a
bold young man out there in the world somewhere
accomplishing interesting feats,
Henry wanted that young man summoned to
his dinner table. If there was a venerable
philosopher passing through Philadelphia, or
a well-regarded man of science, or a promising
new inventor, those men would be invited,
also. Women sometimes came to the
dinners, too, if they were the wives of respected
thinkers, or the translators of important
163/1294
books, or if they were interesting actresses
on tour in America.
Henry’s table was a bit much for some
people. The meals themselves were opulent—
oysters, beefsteak, pheasant—but it
was not altogether relaxing to dine at White
Acre. Guests could expect to be interrogated,
challenged, provoked. Known adversaries
were placed side by side. Precious beliefs
were pummeled in conversation that was
more athletic than polite. Certain notables
left White Acre feeling they had suffered the
most impressive indignations. Other
guests—more clever, perhaps, or thicker of
skin, or more desperate for patronage—left
White Acre with lucrative agreements, or beneficial
partnerships, or just the right letter
of introduction to an important man in
Brazil. The dining room at White Acre was a
perilous playing field, but a victory there
could establish a fellow’s career for life.

Astonishingly, at some point, a sputtering
torch was thrust into her hands. Alma did
not see who gave it to her. She had never before
been entrusted with fire. The torch spit
sparks and sent chunks of flaming tar spinning
into the air behind her as she bolted
across the cosmos—the only body in the
heavens who was not held to a strict elliptical
path.
Nobody stopped her.
She was a comet.
She did not know that she was not flying.

While Beatrix spoke, Alma stared. How
could anything be as pretty and disturbing as
Prudence’s face? If beauty were truly accuracy’s
distraction, as her mother had always
said, what did that make Prudence? Quite
possibly the least accurate and most distracting
object in the known world! Alma’s sense
of disquiet multiplied by the moment. She
was beginning to realize something dreadful
about herself, something that she had never
before been given reason to contemplate: she
herself was not a pretty thing. It was only by
awful comparison that she suddenly came to
perceive this. Where Prudence was dainty,
Alma was large. Where Prudence had hair
spun from golden-white silk, Alma’s hair was
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the color and texture of rust—and it grew,
most unflatteringly, in every direction except
downward. Prudence’s nose was a little blossom;
Alma’s was a growing yam. On it went,
from head to toe: a most miserable
accounting.

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Review – Loved this book . I’m one of those once in a blue moon non-fiction readers , my knowledge on current issues coming from tweets , but rarely do i get down to reading an entire  book dedicated  solely to contemporary causes . This novel opened my eyes to a lot of animal right issues I had hitherto been unaware of. And the real genius of the writer lies in the fact that she beautifully  interweaves mystery , romance , adventure and the current problem of conservation of endangered species neatly into a piece of enjoyable fiction with a message . And the characters are so passionate about the wildlife – dolphins , orangutans – its not just a cause for them – their life rather – Desi feels truly alive only when she is in the ocean , swimming with the dolphins . Its not just one of the many things  in her life , rather her whole life is built around this passion of hers  .

Excerpts:

But so much of the research had been undertaken in marine parks. Connor didn’t want to work in an artificial environment. He was interested in how groups of wild
dolphins communicated with one another, and whether there were differences to the captive population. He hoped his work would complement the range of studies already completed or in progress in the field.

They’d had youth on their side, and the glorious arrogance that went with it. They had each  believed they could change the world; they were
emboldened at the thought of making memories, rather than distracted by the ones they already had. There had been peace in their surroundings too; nature’s beauty was a powerful balm for the mind. Pete  had often felt something similar in the Indonesian  rainforest – beguiled by sensory overload in a rare pocket  of unplundered world. But in recent years it has become  more and more surreal, like being at the point of a dream  where you become aware you can’t stay much longer.
With the orang-utans and so many other animals, species preservation has become a salvage operation – save what you can for as long as you can, and pray for a miracle,  which so far doesn’t seem to be forthcoming.  In Monkey Mia, they had experienced all the problems of day-to-day life, and there could be  disagreements between the different factions – the park  management, the scientists and the tourists. But, above all,  it had felt as though everyone was on the same side: the
dolphins were far more loved than they were threatened.  Whatever a person’s reasons for being there, whenever the  dolphins came to visit, everyone came away smiling.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly.
MAX EHRMANN

plasmatics-life:Dolphins

‘No’ – he sees her face come alive with the memory – ‘actually, it was when I was thirteen. I was in the ocean, and a dolphin appeared and swam along with me. It’s hard
to describe – it felt like we were in perfect sync. As though we were both completely at peace for a moment, and that was all there was in the world.’
Connor is nodding enthusiastically. ‘So often I hear people who are passionate about animals talk about these  moments of connection – of eyeballing a creature whose
language and ways are beyond you, and yet knowing in  that moment you have an understanding. I think once  you’ve had that experience, it changes you forever. I have  a friend who feels that way about elephants. And what about you, Pete?’ ‘I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life  then, as we all craned our necks to try to see him, and the  news helicopters hovered above, deafening us. I wanted to  be the guy who had understood enough about this awesome  animal to know how to help him.’ ‘Well, we’re taking on a challenge,’ Pete says. ‘Right  now, the world’s not looking good. The animals need all  the help they can get.’  ‘Hear, hear,’ Connor answers, raising his drink. ‘Let’s hope that our generation is the one that finally gets  it, and begins to make a difference.’

nichvlas:(by Mr. ghost+)

At times, he speaks to Desi as though she is  on the review committee – justifying what he’s done, and  outlining the discoveries he’s made. He is finding it more
and more difficult to focus exclusively on echolocation, since it is becoming clear that to do so is to isolate sounds from what he calls the ‘communication culture of dolphins’. When he first came up with the phrase, he had explained it to her excitedly. ‘When you talk to me, I don’t just listen to your words – I recognize your tone, and I study your posture. I “read” as much as I can to learn the details of what you’re trying to communicate. A lot of our  communication isn’t even verbal. Dolphins do something similar – their “noiseless”  communication is made up of things like belly rubbing for  greetings, or touching pectoral fins for reassurance. At  first, I wanted to stay out of the water so I didn’t disturb  their natural behaviours, but now I want to get in. I want to  come up with a new scientific method of studying and  integrating these different forms of communication – then  we can build a broader picture of the whole thing.’

The south was still struggling to get on its  feet after the Boxing Day tsunami, and when she heard of  White Wave she instantly loved the idea. It was a way to
make life meaningful again. For a while it had been  redemptive, but the more she got involved, the more she  began to see the politics, the bureaucracy, the endless red  tape and the misappropriated funds. On almost every  project, she witnessed cultural clashes and a slow erosion of values, which were replaced by the desire to keep  heads down, do the job, chalk it up as a victory and then
get out. Did all waves turn murky in the end, she began to  ask herself, with the detritus of their journey? Even waves of kindness, of wanting to do the right thing?  It was obvious there were others who felt the same  way. People began to meet in offshoot groups, to discuss  different ideas and objectives. Other plans were formed,  some more radical than others. And, perhaps inevitably,  she was drawn to one particular alliance: those who  thought that helping the wildlife was an integral part of helping the community. They were generally in the minority, but they were probably the most passionate
group of all.


LARA LOGAN: And did it surprise you, that they [the  chimpanzees] could be so cruel?
DR JANE GOODALL: It did, I thought they were like us
       but nicer.
LARA LOGAN: And they’re not?
DR JANE GOODALL: No, they’re just like us.
INTERVIEW ON SIXTY MINUTES,    OCTOBER 2010
Elizabeth begins to run after him and Connor brings up the rear. To his surprise, when they get there they are confronted by two men and a boy, all carrying rifles.
Chibesa and the other African man begin having a heated argument, while Elizabeth walks over to the Caucasian pair. ‘What are you doing here?’ The man puts an arm around his boy and stands straight-backed. ‘We’re on a game hunt,’ he says, and Connor jolts at the familiar North American accent.  Elizabeth leans closer to Connor. ‘They’re trophy  hunters,’ she whispers. ‘They pay thousands of dollars to  come here and have a few days of excitement, killing animals to decorate their mansions.’
As Connor watches the man standing proud, his rifle in his hand, and his teenage son resolute and defiant beside him, he comes the closest he has ever felt to
wanting to murder someone. But before he can do anything, the ground begins to shake.

A fierce drumming begins in his ears,  rising and rising in a long crescendo as the story of his life  plays out before him. The wind catches the tail of each
beat and carries it away, while he sees the forest in his  lungs; the ocean in his veins; the story of his life written in  the twist of a cloud and the bark of a tree. For a moment he  thinks he can hear the entire earth breathing.  And then a fire rushes through his chest, and turns the  world to cinders.

It is not enough to be compassionate – you must act.
HIS HOLINESS dalai lama

And yet, day after day, there is no sign of Berani. Pete is despondent by the end of day five, as the trackers radio in before indicating that they should turn around and
head back. It is late afternoon, and broken patches of  yellow sunshine stream through the forest canopy. A  rabble of pretty butterflies dance around the low-lying
grass and stop to gorge on the mud, while the men have to  take winding, circuitous trails to avoid stepping on them.  The trackers stop to study what could be cat prints, talking  rapidly between themselves, while Pete gets the feeling  that there are eyes on him. He peers into the canopy again,  hoping to find Berani, and instead spies a brightly  coloured wrinkled hornbill watching silently from a  nearby branch.

They are lying on the deck, watching the wind toying with  a few wisps of cloud.  ‘If you could alter one thing about the world,’ Connor  begins, ‘what would you change?’  ‘I’d get rid of evil,’ she replies without hesitation.  To her surprise, Connor laughs. ‘I don’t believe in
evil. It’s not a supernatural power. Don’t ever call anyone evil – the ignorant don’t deserve that kind of status.’  ‘You don’t believe in evil at all?’ she asks in
surprise.  ‘No, I believe in goodness. Evil, on the other hand, is  an absolute lack of goodness, and it’s so shocking when  we see it that we’ve given it a name, and made it into  something powerful. But it’s a negative. It’s empty. It’s  nothing.’

teen-note:invokes:self0bsession:kissmeok:OMG I just found the Hottest boy on tumblr and he’s single! <3His link’s here Addicted to his blog!!! WTF hes so fricken HOTI love his blog I reblogged everything :*He looks like zayn malik <333 MY OVARIES!

For a while the ocean becomes her closest friend.  She gets to know it intimately, observing the many changes  of its day. She watches as its colours merge from the lilac
blues of morning to the shimmering gold of sunset. She witnesses it sparkling in sunshine and glowering in the  deep grey of a storm. She sees the smooth surface begin to
roll, or become choppy with a million flashing breakers, before it subsides, and starts again. And eventually it dawns on her that this kaleidoscope  Her perspective begins to shift. Perhaps one day she will discern a different  meaning in everything that has happened.  And yet, it still feels as though she is walking down a
long, dark tunnel, with no idea what will be at the end. As  she waits for her baby to arrive, one empty day follows  another, until they are tethered together like paper-chain  dolls, and the world outside the shack ceases to exist .

The world is already a few weeks into the new millennium, and, despite all the hype, absolutely nothing  has changed. The papers still recycle the same stories, made into news by fresh names and places. And Desi  continues to meander despondently through her days,  working two part-time jobs at the cafe and the petrol  station, and looking after Maya. She does all she can to be  a responsible parent and citizen, but it often feels as  though she is living someone else’s life. Only when she’s  in the ocean can she still recognise herself, once her  surroundings drop away and all that remains are the  complementary rhythms of limbs and lungs.  Today, as always, it takes her a moment to adjust to  the shock of cold water, but before long it is revitalising.  She powers through her morning swim, staying parallel to  the coastline.   It’s time , she says to herself, to stop moping and embrace this quiet life by the ocean, even if it is routine.
Even if it doesn’t do much to change the world.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/1/16/The_Cove_2009_promo_image.jpg/250px-The_Cove_2009_promo_image.jpg

Kate has heard this ‘fact’ recently from her friend  Carl, and is unsure what to make of it. She hopes it is true, but it could be like those other stories she has come  across. She’d once heard of an elephant on a Thai beach rescuing a couple of tourists from the flooding water by swinging them onto its back. Later, she’d heard the same
tale retold as a mahout whipping the elephant into a run, two terrified riders already clinging to its harness.  Stories have a habit of getting skewed, and sometimes things are not quite as they seem.

But The Cove is different, because Kate has seen  these horrors for herself.  It began when Carl got hold of a copy of the Oscar winning documentary on DVD, and a group of them  watched it one night in the lounge room of their  As it all unfolded, there had been animated chatter  among the campaigners. Someone had spotted two rare  rough-toothed dolphins within the group – not part of the  fishermen’s allowed take. Sure enough, they spied these   dolphins cordoned off, huddled together as part of a group  of five.  A girl dressed in black had come over to talk to  Kate’s group. ‘Today it’s bottlenose, but tomorrow it  could be pilot whales, or Pacific white-sided dolphins,’  .

Connor sits up, and she can sense his excitement. ‘I’d  change the nature of memory. I’d make it so we could  remember everything, not just the edited highlights. Right
back to when we were babies – before we had any tools at  our disposal, particularly language – before we learnt  absolutely anything about the world. Imagine if we could  recall everything from our time in the womb onwards. If  we didn’t forget so much of the past, perhaps we wouldn’t  even need to change the future.’  ‘Do you want to change the future?’
He laughs. ‘Only if it isn’t with you.’

Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose - Gertrude Stein

In front of him on the architect’s drawing table was a large sketchpad with rough designs for what would soon be the rose garden. It was one of his pet projects and so far he had given Jamie no hint of what he was planning. As far as he was concerned, roses would get top billing and he was spending a disproportionate amount of time making sure that both his design and his selection of shrub varieties, climbers and ramblers were impeccable. He wanted it to come as a complete surprise.

Just when he first became infatuated with roses, he couldn’t remember. Much as with one’s taste in art, music and other pleasures mature, what had started as an amusing dalliance had developed over many years to become a passionate love affair. In this respect, he was certainly in good company that much he knew. He had lectured on the subject so many times that he could still rattle much of it off by rote.

 

              The names of writers, poets and artists who have commemorated and eulogized the rose would fill volumes. Starting with Sappho, Horace and Virgil, the rose weaves its literary way through the centuries in the prose of Shakespeare, Herrick, Wordsworth, Yeats and the Brownings. To this day books about roses appear and will continue to appear on bookshop shelves with predictable certainty. In the history of art the rose reigns supreme . Botticelli, Manet, de La Tour, Georgia O Keefe were all enthralled by the queen of flowers.Botanists, plant biologists and historians general ly agree that roses were cultivated five thousand years ago. (Fossil evidence in North America suggests that roses flourished at least thirty-two million years ago.) Over the centuries they bloomed in the land of the Pharaohs and were cultivated in Bronze Age Crete; Grecian coins of the fifth century BC depict a rose on one side. Roses just kept growing and growing in the plots and hearts of gardeners all over the globe. By the end of the eighteenth century there were more than a thousand varieties.

Today’s would-be rose aficionado is faced with a dazzling choice of old and new hybrids. Take your pick: from chaste whites and negligee pinks all the way to peppery and damson reds. Blooms the size of a fingernail or as large as a pie plate. Many voluptuously perfumed, most bristling with thorns.Miniature, ground cover, shrub, landscape, patio,standard, climber, rambler there’s a shape and size for every space.

   Next the neophyte rose buyer has to decide what species or variety to choose. Navigating the thicket of options is a bewildering exercise, one that requires considerable study and deliberation, professional help or a sharp pin.

      Four basic groups define the genus: species roses, antique roses, early nineteenth-century hybrids, and modern roses. With in each of the first three groups there are up to as many as two dozen different families of rose, and within those families, more roses. In the last group, modern roses, the division is enormous, resulting in many thousands of varieties.Kingston had spent several weeks ruminating over his choice of roses for Wickersham. There was no shortage of space for planting so the starting list was lengthy. Winnowing down the candidates had been both a trial and a pleasure. Adding names and crossing them off conjured memories of garden visits past. He could picture the lovely single Gallica,Complicata,threading its joyful way up through the branches of the old apple tree at Graham Stuart Thomas’s rose garden at Mottisfont Abbey and the exuberant Rosa felipes ‘Kiftsgate zooming fifty feet into the copper beech at the charming Gloucestershire garden after which it was named.The few pictures they had of the original rose garden at Wickersham all showed a typical layout. Orderly beds, some surrounded with low clipped box hedges, filled with nothing but regimented rows of roses. Kingston abhorred this kind of municipal garden look, judging the practice barely one step above the use of multicoloured bedding plants designed to replicate the Union Jack or the city name.

shastas-touch-of-beauty: 

        cute brkfast setting….luvit

The new rose garden at Wickersham would be one of the few areas that didn’t mirror its predecessor . Roses would be mixed in with shrubs, perennials and other plants, allowing them to show off their individuality and form, a technique now in common practice as exemplified at the garden at Sissinghurst. He was, however, going to make one small concession, in recognition of Britainâ’s celebrated rose hybridizer, David Austin, who created an entirely new category of roses known worldwide as English Roses. In any gardener’s dreams, the perfect rose would combine beauty of form, subtlety of colour, irresistible fragrance, resistance to disease and, above all, the ability to flower repeatedly.Such are the roses of David Austin. And Kingston was going to showcase them.                              

dyingofcute:fairy

She wished her sister, Leila, didn’t work every Saturday and Sunday. Before she took the Sunday job, Leila used to call it their day, and she’d taken Elizabeth around with her. Most of the nineteen-year-old girls like Leila were hanging around with boys, but Leila never did. She was going to go to New York to be an actress, not get stuck in Lumber Creek, Kentucky. “The trouble with these hick towns, Sparrow, is that everybody marries right out of high school and ends up with whiny little kids and Pablum all over their cheerleader sweaters. That won’t be me.”

Elizabeth liked to hear Leila talk about how it would be when she was a star, but it was scary too. She couldn’t imagine living in this house with Mama and Matt without Leila.

An abstract watercolor by Will Moses hung on the wall over the oyster-colored couch. An Aubusson rug shimmered on the dark tile. The reception desk was authentic Louis XV, but there was no one seated there. She felt an immediate sense of sharp disappointment, but reminded herself that Sammy would be back tomorrow night.

Weep No More, My Lady

She was a thin child with long legs and a spray of freckles across her nose. Her eyes were wide-set and mature—”Queen Solemn Face” Leila called her. Leila was always making up names for people—sometimes funny names; sometimes, if she didn’t like the people, pretty mean ones.

After a two-month absence, the apartment felt close and stuffy. But as soon as she opened the windows, a breeze blew in, carrying the peculiarly satisfying combination of scents that was so specially New York: the pungent aura of the small Indian restaurant around the corner, a hint of the flowers from the terrace across the street, the acrid smell of fumes from the Fifth Avenue buses, a suggestion of sea air from the Hudson River. For a few minutes Elizabeth breathed deeply and felt herself begin to unwind. Now that she was here, it was good to be home. The job in Italy had been another escape, another temporary respite.

QUOTE FOR THE DAY: Where is the love, beauty and truth we seek?—Shelley  Good morning, dear guest!   Welcome to another day of luxury at Cypress Point Spa.

We hope all our guests will have a pleasant and pampered day. Remember, to be really beautiful we must keep our minds tranquil and free of distressing or troubling thoughts.

Elizabeth studied the other woman’s hands. They were the hands of a working person, thick-knuckled and callused. The brightly colored fingernails were short and stubby, even though the manicure looked expensive. Her curiosity about Alvirah Meehan was a welcome respite from thinking about Leila. Instinctively she liked the woman—there was something remarkably candid and appealing about her— but who was she? What was bringing her to the Spa?

Elizabeth left them a few minutes later. The slanting rays of the sun danced on the beds of wild-flowers along the path to the bungalow Min had assigned her. Somewhere in her subconscious she experienced a sense of calm observing the brilliant checkerblooms, the wood roses, the flowering currant hedges. But the momentary tranquillity could not mask the fact that behind the warm welcome and seeming concern, Min and Helmut were different.

The persistent headache she’d had all evening began to ebb, the sense of enclosure faded; once again she began to experience the release she had always found in water. “Do you think it started in the womb?” she’d once joked to Leila. “I mean this absolute sensation of being free when I’m immersed.”

Elizabeth touched the far wall, brought her knees to her chest and flipped her body over, changing from a backstroke to a breaststroke in one fluid movement. Was it possible that Leila’s fear of personal relationships had begun at the moment of conception? Can a speck of protoplasm sense that the climate is hostile, and can that realization color a whole life? Wasn’t it because of Leila that she’d never experienced that terrible sense of parental rejection? She remembered her mother’s description of bringing her home from the hospital: “Leila took her out of my arms. She moved the crib into her room. She was only eleven, but she became that child’s mother. I wanted to call her Laverne, but Leila put her foot down. She said, ‘Her name is Elizabeth!'” One more reason to be grateful to Leila, Elizabeth thought.

The soft ripple that her body made as she moved through the water masked the faint sound of footsteps at the other end of the pool. She had reached the north end and was starting back. For some reason she began to swim furiously, as though  sensing danger.

A witty woman is a treasure; a witty beauty is a power.  —George Meredith

At six o’clock she got out of bed, pulled up the shade, then huddled back under the light covers. It was chilly, but she loved to watch the sun come up. It seemed to her that the early morning had a dreamy quality of its own, the human quiet was so absolute. The only sounds came from the seabirds along the shore.

Leila with her arms hugging her knees. “Sammy, he’s not that bad. He makes me laugh, and that’s a plus.”       “If you want to laugh, hire a clown.”

The letter had been written in Min’s florid, sweeping penmanship. Quickly, Elizabeth scanned her schedule. Interview with Dr. Helmut von Schreiber at 8:45; aerobic dance class at 9; massage at 9:30; trampoline at 10; advanced water aerobics at 10:30—that had been the class she taught when she worked here; facial at 11; cypress curves 11:30; herbal wrap at noon. The afternoon schedule included a loofah, a manicure, a yoga class, a pedicure, two more water exercises…

“Your face is like a fine carving,” he told her. “You are one of those fortunate women who will become more beautiful as you age. It’s all in the bone structure.”          Then, as if he were thinking aloud, he murmured, “Wildly lovely as Leila was, her beauty was the kind I that peaks and begins to slip away. The last time she was here I suggested that she begin collagen treatments, and we had planned to do her eyes as well. Did you know that?”

“Yes, you would have. When Leila gave you a nickname, it meant you were part of her inner circle.”        Was that true? Ted wondered. When you looked up the definitions of the nicknames Leila bestowed, there was always a double edge to them. Falcon: a hawk trained to hunt and kill. Bulldog: a short-haired, square-jawed, heavily built dog with a tenacious grip.

They are talking about me, Ted thought. They are discussing what can and cannot be done to win my eventual freedom as though I weren’t here. A slow, hard anger that now seemed to be part of his persona made him want to lash out at them. Lash out at them? The lawyer who supposedly would win his case? The friend who had been his eyes and ears and voice these last months? But I don’t want them to take my life out of my hands, Ted thought, and tasted the acid that suddenly washed his mo uth. I can’t blame them, but I can’t trust them either. No matter what, it’s as I’ve known right along: I have to take care of this myself.

He settled on the couch, where he could look out on the ocean and watch the sea gulls arcing over the foaming surf, beyond the threat of the undertow, beyond the power of the waves to crash them against the rocks.

, “There are just two people I know I can trust in this world: Sparrow and Falcon. Now you, Sammy, are getting there.” Dora had felt honored. “And the Q.E. Two”—Leila’s name for Min— “is a do-or-die friend, provided there’s a buck in it for her and it doesn’t conflict with anything the Toy Soldier wants.”

Dora handed the glass to Min and looked contemptuously at Helmut. That spendthrift, she thought, would put Min in her grave with his crazy projects! Min had been absolutely right when she’d suggested that they add a self-contained budget-price spa on the back half of the property. That would have worked. Secretaries as well as socialites were going to spas these days. Instead, this pompous fool had persuaded Min to build the bathhouse. “It will make a statement about us to the world” was his favorite phrase when he talked Min into plunging into debt. Dora knew the finances of this place as well as they did. It couldn’t go on.

“Well, let me tell you that everything you say about the place is true. Remember how the ad says, ‘At the end of a week here, you will feel as free and untroubled as a butterfly floating on a cloud?”

“Lots of people get stage fright. Helen Hayes threw up before every performance. When Jimmy Stewart finished a movie, he was sure no one would ever ask him to be in another one. Leila threw up and worried. That’s show biz.”

“Ted is lucky to have you,” he said. “I don’t think he appreciates it.”        “That’s where you’re wrong. Ted has to rely on me now to front for him in the business, and he resents it. To clarify that, he only thinks he resents me. The problem is, my very presence in his place is a symbol of the jam he’s in.”

The noon sun was high overhead. The breeze was coming gently from the Pacific, bringing the scent of the sea. Even the azaleas that had been crushed by the patrol cars seemed to be trying to struggle back. The cypress trees, grotesque in the night, seemed familiar and comforting under the splendid sunshine.

“Are you grateful, Min?” Cheryl asked. “I gather the Baron did write the play. You not only married nobility, a doctor, an interior designer, but also an author. You must be thrilled—and broke.”        “I married a Renaissance man,” Min told her. “The Baron will resume a full schedule of operations at the clinic. Ted has promised us a loan. All will be well.”

For love and beauty and delight. There is no death nor change.        —Shelley

I feel as if I’m digging and digging for the vein of truth the way the old prospectors dug for a vein of gold… The only trouble is I’m out of time, so I had to start blasting. But at the very least, I may have upset one of them enough so that he—or she—will make a slip.”

Outside, the darkness was now absolute. The moon and stars were again covered with a misty fog; the Japanese lanterns in the trees and bushes were hazy dots of light.

They had deliberately skipped the “cocktail” hour and could see the last of the guests leaving the veranda as the muted gong announced dinner. A cool breeze had come up from the ocean, and the webs of lichen hanging from the giant pines that formed the border of the north end of the property swayed in a rhythmic, solemn movement that was accentuated by the tinted lights scattered throughout the grounds.

He’d been walking all afternoon, trying to make himself stand at the edge of a cliff, battling his own personal demon in search of the truth.

The sight of Alvirah Meehan, ghostly pale, barely breathing, hooked to machines, was incredible to Scott. People like Mrs. Meehan weren’t supposed to be sick. They were too hearty, too filled with life.

The afternoon had fulfilled the morning’s promise. The sun was golden warm; there was no breeze; even the cypress trees looked mellow, their dark leaves shimmering, the craggy shapes unthreatening. The cheerful clusters of petunias, geraniums and azaleas, perky from recent watering, were now straining toward the warmth, the blossoms open and radiant.

“He’s guilty,” Bartlett said. “There’s no way I can get him off now. Give me a clean-cut liar and I can work with him. If I put him on the stand, the jury will find Teddy arrogant. If I don’t we’ll have Elizabeth describing how he shouted at Leila, and two eyewitnesses to tell how he killed her. And I’m supposed to work with that?” He closed his eyes. “By the way, he’s just proved to us that he has a violent temper.”

Bartlett had probably been on the phone with the district attorney. By now he would have some idea of the kind of sentence he might expect. It still seemed absolutely incredible. Something he had no mem ory of doing had forced him to become a totally different person, had forced him to lead a totally different life.

“I’d have thought she was sound as a dollar. A little chunky, but good skin tone, good heartbeat, good breathing. She was scared of needles, but that doesn’t give anyone cardiac arrest.”

Be serene. Be tranquil. Be merry. And have a pretty day.

A health reminder. By now you may be feeling muscles you’d forgotten you had. Remember, exercise is never pain. Mild discomfort shows you are achieving the stretch. And whenever you exercise, keep your knees relaxed.

“IN AQUA SANITAS,” the inscription read. For once Helmut was right. Water would soothe her, turn off her mind.

She decided to have dinner served in the bungalow. It was impossible to envision going through the motions of socializing with any of those people, knowing that Sammy’s body was in the morgue awaiting shipment to Ohio, that Alvirah Meehan was fighting for her life in Monterey Hospital.

Elizabeth wondered as she went into the welcome calm of her bungalow. Her senses absorbed the emerald-and-white color scheme. Splashy print on thick white carpeting. She could almost imagine there was a lingering hint of Joy mixed with the salty sea air.

The Baron lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply. His china-blue eyes watered. The reddish tint in his hair seemed brassy under the late-afternoon sun. The top of the convertible was down. A cool land breeze had dispelled the last of the daytime warmth. A sense of autumn was in the air.

“I know it sounds crazy, and I know Cheryl can lie as easily as most of us can breathe, but I’ve been thinking about this all day, and my gut feeling is she’s telling the truth

Alvirah Meehan! Scott rubbed his hands over suddenly weary eyes. That woman was bright. He thought of her comments at dinner. She was like the child in the fable The Emperor’s New Clothes who says, “But he has no clothes on!”

What does it prove? Elizabeth asked herself as she walked from the main house along the path to the clinic. If Helmut wrote that play, he must be going through hell. The author had put one million dollars into the production. That was why Min was calling Switzerland. Her nest egg in a numbered account was a standing joke. “I’ll never be broke,” she had always bragged. Min had wanted Ted acquitted so that she could license Cypress Point Spas in all his new hotels. Helmut had a much more compelling reason. If he was “Clayton Anderson,” he knew that even the nest egg was gone.

“Because I am appalled at the idea that Ted may spend the rest of his life in prison. Sometimes people do terrible things in anger, because they are out of control, things they might never do if they were not goaded beyond their ability to stop themselves. I believe that happened. I know that happened to Ted.”    Someday you will again face Leila. I think she will not thank you. You know how she was after she had been utterly outrageous. Contrite. Loving. Generous. All of it.”

“Elizabeth and I were very good friends. We liked each other. We enjoyed each other’s company. If I had my choice of being in Chicago on Wednesday and Dallas on Friday or the other way around, and found that a good friend with whom I could enjoy a late supper and relax was in those same cities, yes, I would arrange my schedule to do that. So what?”

While Craig and Bartlett went to confront the sheriff, Ted worked out with the Nautilus equipment in the men’s spa. Each piece of equipment he used seemed to emphasize his own situation. The row-boat that went nowhere; the bicycle that no matter how furiously pedaled, stayed in place.

There was something indefinably different about Sammy’s apartment. Elizabeth felt it was as though her aura as well as her physical being had departed. Her plants had not been watered. Dead leaves rimmed the planters.

Beauty is bought by judgment of the eye.            —Shakespeare

Then, as if his composure, his sense of order, had abandoned him, he leaned forward, his head in his hands, and began to cry.

Funny—when you’re just listening to people, you get a different perspective than when you’re sitting with them.          Alvirah checked her microphone to see that it was securely in place in the center flower of her sunburst pin and delivered an observation. “Voices,” she declared, “tell a lot about people.”

But she was seventy-one, Alvirah comforted herself, and it must have been real quick. That’s the way I want to go when it’s my turn. Not that she expected it to be her turn for a long time to come. As her mother said, “Our women make old bones.” Her mother was eighty-four and still went bowling every Wednesday night.

Carmel was still crowded with summer tourists, college students getting in one last fling before the fall semester. When he and Leila walked through town, she’d stopped traffic. The thought made him pull his sunglasses from his pocket. In those days, men used to look at him with envy. Now he was aware of hostility on the faces of strangers who recognized him.          Hostility. Isolation. Fear.          These last seventeen months had disrupted his entire life, had forced him to do things he would not have believed possible. Now he accepted the fact that there was one more monumental hurdle he had to overcome before the trial.

Ray was right, Nancy thought as she walked slowly back to the table. There was a time to stop
following the patterns of yesterday -a time to stop remembering and look only to the future. She
knew that a part of her was still frozen. She knew that the mind dropped a protective curtain over
painful memories – but it was more than that.

Seven years, Nancy thought. Life was a series of seven-year cycles. Carl used to say that your
whole body changed in that time. Every cell renewed itself. It was time for her to really look ahead
… to forget.  She glanced around the large, cheerful kitchen with the old brick fireplace, the wide oak floors,
the red curtains and valances that didn’t obstruct the view over the harbour. And then she looked at
Michael and Missy . . .

She’d fled here, completely across the continent – as far away from California as she could get; as
far away from the people she’d known and the place she’d lived and the college and the whole
academic community there. She never wanted to see them again -the friends who had turned out
not to be friends but hostile strangers who spoke of ‘poor Carl’ because they blamed his suicide on
her too.

She’d come to Cape Cod because she’d always heard that New Englanders and Cape people were
reticent and reserved and wanted nothing to do with strangers, and that was good. She needed a
place to hide, to find herself, to sort it all out, to try to think through what had happened, to try to
come back to life.

She’d cut her hair and dyed it sable brown, and that was enough to make her look completely
different from the pictures that had front-paged newspapers all over the country during the trial.

That first morning here, she’d made coffee and sat by the window. It had been a clear, brilliant  day – the cloudless sky purple-blue; the bay tranquil and still; the only movement the arc of sea  gulls hovering near the fishing boats.  With her fingers wrapped around the coffee cup, she’d sipped and watched. The warmth of the coffee had flowed through her body. The sunbeams had warmed her face. The tranquillity of the  scene enhanced the calming sense of peace that the long, dreamless sleep had begun.   Peace . . . give me peace. That had been her prayer during the trial; in prison. Let me learn to  accept. Seven years ago . . .   Nancy sighed, realizing that she was still standing by the bottom step of the staircase. It was so  easy to get lost in remembering. That was why she tried so hard to live each day . . . not look back  or into the future.

Begun as a hobby, it had become an absorbing daily activity. A publisher friend had read a few  chapters of it one week-end and promptly sent him a contract. The book was a case study of  famous murder trials. Jonathan worked on it five hours every day, seven days a week, starting  promptly at nine-thirty in the morning. The wind bit against him. He pulled out his muffler, grateful for the watery sunshine he felt on  his face as he glanced in the direction of the bay.

It was timing. The whole universe existed because of split-second timing. ……….

To willingly leave yourself open to failure -to tightrope-walk across  a dozen pits so that when the act was accomplished no one even glanced in your direction -that
was the way.

I am blown along a wandering wind,’ replied the voice irresolutely, ;and hollow, hollow, <br />
hollow all delight.

Between what matters and what seems to matter, how should the world we know judge wisely?

He was a man of middle height and spare figure, nearly sixty years old, by constitution rather delicate in health, but wiry and active for his age. A sparse and straggling beard and moustache did not conceal a thin but kindly mouth; his eyes were keen and pleasant; his sharp noseand narrow jaw gave him very much of a clerical air, and this impression was helped by hiscommonplace dark clothes and soft black hat. The whole effect of him, indeed, was priestly. He was a man of unusually conscientious, industrious, and orderly mind, with little imagination. His father’s household had been used to recruit its domestic establishment by means of advertisements in which it was truthfully described as a serious family. From that fortress of gloom he had escaped with two saintly gifts somehow unspoiled: an inexhaustible kindness of heart, and a capacity for innocent gaiety which owed nothing to humor. In an earlier day and with a clericaltraining he might have risen to the scarlet hat. His austere but not unhappy life was spent largely among books and in museums; his profound and patiently accumulated knowledge of a number of curiously disconnected subjects which had stirred his interest at different times had given him a place in the quiet, half-lit world of professors and curators and devotees of research; at their amiable, unconvivial dinner parties he was most himself. His favorite author was Montaigne.

So much being determined, Mr. Cupples applied himself to the enjoyment of the view for a

few minutes before ordering his meal. With a connoisseur’s eye he explored the beauty of the rugged coast, where a great pierced rock rose from a glassy sea, and the ordered loveliness of the vast tilted levels of pasture and tillage and woodland that sloped gently up from the cliffs toward the distant moor. Mr. Cupples delighted in landscape.

. ‘An enormous great breakfast, too—with refined conversation and  tears of recognition never dry.

She said that the worry and the humiliation of it, and the strain of trying to keep up appearances before the world, were telling upon her, and she asked for my advice.

I said I thought she should face him and demand an explanation of his way of treating her. But she would not do  that. She had always taken the line of affecting not to notice the change in his demeanor, and  nothing, I knew, would persuade her to admit to him that she was injured, once pride had led her into that course. Life is quite full, my dear Trent,’ said Mr. Cupples with a sigh, ‘of these obstinate silences and cultivated misunderstandings.’

I know that he was making a desert of the life of one who was like my own child to me. But I am under an intolerable dread of Mabel being involved in suspicion with regard to the murder. It is horrible to me to think of her delicacy and goodness being in contact, if only for a time, with the brutalities of the law. She is not fitted for it. It would mark her deeply. Many young women of twenty-six in these days could face such an ordeal, I suppose. I have observed a sort of imitative hardness about the products of the higher education of women today which would carry them through anything, perhaps. I am not prepared to say it is a bad thing in the conditions of feminine life prevailing at present. Mabel, however, is not like that. She is as unlike that as she is unlike the simpering misses that used to surround me as a child. She has plenty of brains; she is full of character; her mind and her tastes are cultivated; but it is all mixed up’—Mr. Cupples waved his hands in a vague gesture—’with ideals of refinement and reservation and womanly mystery. I fear she is not a child of the age. You never knew my wife, Trent. Mabel is my wife’s child.’

A painter and the son of a painter, Philip Trent had while yet in his twenties achieved some  reputation within the world of English art. Moreover, his pictures sold. An original, forcible talent and a habit of leisurely but continuous working, broken by fits of strong creative enthusiasm, were at the bottom of it. His father’s name had helped; a patrimony large enough to relieve him of the perilous imputation of being a struggling man had certainly not hindered. But his best aid to  success had been an unconscious power of getting himself liked. Good spirits and a lively,humorous fancy will always be popular. Trent joined to these a genuine interest in others that gained him something deeper than popularity. His judgment of persons was penetrating, but its process was internal; no one felt on good behavior with a man who seemed always to be enjoying himself. Whether he was in a mood for floods of nonsense or applying himself vigorously to a  task, his face seldom lost its expression of contained vivacity. Apart from a sound knowledge of  his art and its history, his culture was large and loose, dominated by a love of poetry.At thirty-two he had not yet passed the age of laughter and adventure. His rise to a celebrity a hundred times greater than his proper work had won for him came of a momentary impulse.

‘It had been like that,’ she ended simply, ‘for months before he died.’ She sank into the corner of a sofa by the window, as though relaxing her body after an effort. For a few moments both were silent. Trent was hastily sorting out a tangle of impressions. He was amazed at the frankness of Mrs. Manderson’s story. He was amazed at the vigorous expressiveness in her telling of it.

. . . what I want to  say is that along with it there had always been a belief of his that I was the sort of woman to take a great place in society, and that I should throw myself into it with enjoyment, and become a sort of  personage and do him great credit—that was his idea; and the idea remained with him after other delusions had gone. I was a part of his ambition. That was his really bitter disappointment, that I failed him as a social success.

the sort of girl I was, brought up to music and books and unpractical ideas, always

enjoying myself in my own way. But he had really reckoned on me as a wife who would do the honors of his position in the world; and I found I couldn’t.’

 

My absolute favorite thing is finding a book I can’t put down

And reading it until really late at night

And only stopping when my eyes start to hurt and my vision gets blurry from either sleep or strain

And when I put it down I realize how tired I am and fall asleep instantly.

In the morning, I wake up, and the first thing I do is pick up the book

And I read until I’m hungry.

I just love that.

http://exp.lore.com/post/40839657205/alan-watts-famous-recently-resurfaced-lecture-on

https://i0.wp.com/25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mdhjdzBs0A1qdvuy7o1_500.jpg

e FROM FICTION

I recall those years there is an unreality about them that I am unable to dispel. The problems discussed—the theories maintained of life, death, art, poetry, and any number of other unfathomed subjects, appear to me now so preternatural—the conceptions of his wonderful brain so startling, that I can hardly realize having ever been a part, even though but a faint reflex, of that dazzling and unsated life.

There was the long-barreled and elaborately ornamented gun of the Arab—the scimitar of the Turk—the blow-gun of the South American Indian—the bow and arrow of his northern brother. At the bottom of this array was a pair of French rapiers of the seventeenth century. The blades were crossed and rested upon a brass-headed nail, and upon this nail there hung, point downward, a jewel-hilted Italian stiletto or dagger, suspended by a silken cord.

“The insect has a true instinct,” he said, gently; “it has no fear of capture.””No; I should only hurt it and destroy its beauty.”

“Butterflies,” said the artist, “are like beautiful thoughts. They hover mistily about us, flitting away whenever we attempt to capture them; and if at last we are successful we find only too often that their wings have lost the delicacy of their bloom.”

“Good and bad are relative terms only,” he said, as one pronouncing a text. Every man fulfills his purpose. I can put a stroke of paint on my canvas, and you will call it white. I put another beside it, and by contrast the first appears gray. Still another, and the second has become gray, and the first still[Pg 46] darker. And so on, until I have reached the purest white we know. It is the same with humanity. Men are only dark or light as they are contrasted with others; nor can they avoid the place they occupy on God’s canvas any more than my colors can choose their places on mine. The world is a great picture. God is the greatest of all artists. His is the master hand—the unerring touch that lays on the lights, the half-tones and the shadows. Each fulfills its purpose. Without the shadows there would be no lights.

“What is true of masses is likewise true of individuals,” he continued, after a moment’s pause. “In a landscape, every blade of grass, every pebble, has its light and its dark side. If you see only the light side of an object, it is only because the shadow is turned from you. It is so with men; one side is sun, the other shadow. Sometimes the light, only, is presented to view, but the darker side is none the less there because unseen. Nature is never unbalanced. Whatever of brightness there is toward the sun there must be an equal amount of shadow opposing, with all the intergradations between. If the light is dim the shadow is soft; if the light is brilliant the shadow is black. Some of us are turned white side to the world, some the reverse; some show the white and the black alternately.”

“You believe in fate, then, and the absence of moral freedom,” he said reflectively”I believe nothing. Belief is not the word. What is, is right. To assert otherwise is an insult to the Supreme. He is all powerful, hence—wrong cannot exist.”  “I should be glad to hear your argument in support of that position.”

Argument! It is a self-evident truth! Argument is not necessary! Argument is never necessary! If an assertion is not true no amount of discussion will make it so, while the truth requires no support.

“Oh, they have! And how do you know that anyone has crossed over? You do not believe in the mortality nor the slumber of[Pg 49] the soul; no more do I; but time exists only with life. A man dies and in the same instant opens his eyes upon eternity, and yet a million of years may have been swept away in that instant. As a tired child you have fallen asleep. A moment later you have been called by your mother to breakfast. And yet, in that moment of dreamless sleep, the long winter night had passed. Adam, the first man, closing his eyes in death; you and I, who will do the same ten, twenty, forty years hence, and the generations who will follow us for a million years, perhaps, will waken to eternity, if there be a waking, in one and the same instant of time, without a knowledge of the intervening years. There were no years. Eternity has no beginning, no end, no measurement.”

I read some lines once that seemed to express the idea:

“I sometimes think life but a dream

Of some great soul in some great sphere,

And what appear as truths but seem,

And what seem truths do but appear.”

 

He repeated these words with slow earnestness, adding solemnly, “Who knows? Who knows?”

“But a man must stand somewhere. He that stands nowhere stands upon nothing.”[Pg 53]

The artist paused before the open window and stood looking out upon the dusk of the little scented garden. A faint reflected glimmer from some far-away lamp dimly illuminated one side of his face, silhouetting his striking profile sharply against a ground of blackness.

“If you mean,” he began, slowly, “that I should have some opinions, then I will tell you what they are.

“I believe neither in tariff nor trade. Currency nor coin. Traffic nor toil. I believe in nothing—but the absolute freedom of every living being. Freedom!—freedom from the curse of creeds, the blight of bigotry, and the leprosy of the law. Freedom to go and to come, to live and to die. Life without loathing, love without bondage. To live in some sunlit valley, where the bud is ever bursting into flower, the flower fading to fruit, and the fruit ripening to sustenance. The untouched bosom of Nature would yield enough for her children had not the curse of greed been implanted in their bosoms.”

Goetze had turned away from the window and was again striding up and down the floor in the dark.

“A beautiful poem, Julian,” said the other, dreamily; “but a sort of delightful barbarism, I’m afraid.”

“Barbarism? No! A higher, purer intellectuality than we have ever yet known—a civilization that knows not the curse of avarice nor the miseries of crime—the weariness of wealth nor the pangs of poverty. The garden of Eden is still about us, but we have torn up the flowers, and desecrated it with the lust of gain. Man was never driven out of that] garden. Greed was planted in his heart and he destroyed it.”

Grant sat in a pleasant warm daze, chewing and considering. He noted the
tightly-joined tops of the n’s and m’s. A liar? Or just secretive? A
curiously cautious trait to appear in the writing of a man with those
eyebrows. It was a strange thing how much the meaning of a countenance
depended on eyebrows. One change of degree in the angle this way or that
and the whole effect was different. Film magnates took nice little girls
from Balham and Muswell Hill and rubbed out their eyebrows and painted
in other ones and they became straightway mysterious creatures from Omsk
and Tomsk. He had once been told by Trabb, the cartoonist, that it was
his eyebrows that had lost Ernie Price his chance of being Prime
Minister. ‘They didn’t like his eyebrows,’ Trabb had said, blinking
owlishly over his beer. ‘Why? Don’t ask me. I just draw. Because they
looked bad-tempered, perhaps. They don’t like a bad-tempered man. Don’t
trust him. But that’s what lost him his chance, take it from me. His
eyebrows. They didn’t like ’em.’ Bad-tempered eyebrows, supercilious
eyebrows, calm eyebrows, worried eyebrows–it was the eyebrows that gave
a face its keynote. And it was the slant of the black eyebrows that had
given that thin white face on the pillow its reckless look even in
death.

The singing sand.

Uncanny but somehow attractive.

Singing sand. Surely there actually were singing sands somewhere? It had
a vaguely familiar sound. Singing sands. They cried out under your feet
as you walked. Or the wind did it, or something. A man’s forearm in a
checked tweed sleeve reached in front of him and took a bap from the
plate.

It was so like Tommy not to waste time or vitality on conventional
inquiries as to his journey and his health. Neither would Laura, of
course. They would accept him as he stood; as if he had been there for
some time. As if he had never gone away at all but was still on his
previous visit. It was an extraordinarily restful atmosphere to sink
back into.

‘How is Laura?’

‘Never better. Putting on a bit of weight. At least that’s what she
says. Don’t see it myself. I never liked skinny women.’

There had been a time, when they were both about twenty, when Grant had
thought of marrying his cousin Laura; and she, he had been sure, had had
thoughts of marrying him. But before any word had been said the magic
had faded and they were back on the old friendly footing. The magic had
been part of the long intoxication of a Highland summer. Part of hill
mornings smelling of pine needles, and of endless twilights sweet with
the scent of clover. For Grant his cousin Laura had always been part of
the happiness of summer holidays; they had graduated together from
burn-paddling to their first fishing-rods, and together they had first
walked the Larig and together had stood for the first time on the top of
Braeriach. But it was not until that summer at the end of their
adolescence that the happiness had crystallised into Laura herself; that
the whole of summer was focused into the person of Laura Grant. He still
had a slight lifting of the heart when he thought of that summer. It had
the light perfection, the iridescence, of a bubble. And because no word
had been said the bubble would never now be broken. It stayed light and
perfect and iridescent and poised, where they had left it. They had both
gone on to other things; to other people. Laura indeed had skipped from
one person to the next one with the bright indifference of a child
playing hop-scotch. And then he had taken her to that Old Boys’ dance.
And she had met Tommy Rankin. And that had been that.

‘What’s the fuss at the station?’ Tommy asked. ‘Ambulances and things.’

‘A man died on the train. I expect it is that.’

‘Oh,’ said Tommy, dismissing it. ‘Not your funeral this time,’ he added
in a congratulatory way.

‘No. Not my funeral, thank Heaven.’

‘They’ll miss you on the Embankment.’

‘I doubt it.’

‘Mary,’ said Tommy, ‘I could do with a pot of good strong tea.’ He
flicked the plate that held the baps with a contemptuous forefinger.
‘And another couple of these poor bargains.’ He turned his serious
childlike gaze on Grant and said: ‘They’ll have to miss you. They’ll be
one short, won’t they?’

‘What will they do to fill the gap?’ Tommy asked.

‘Promote Sergeant Williams, probably. His promotion is long overdue
anyhow.’

It had been no easier to tell the faithful Williams. When your
subordinate has openly hero-worshipped you for years it is not pleasant
to have to appear before him as a poor nerve-ridden creature at the
mercy of non-existent demons. Williams, too, had never had a nerve in
his body. He took everything as it came, placid and unquestioning. It
had not been easy to tell Williams and see the admiration change to
concern. To–pity?

THE peace induced by Tommy’s matter-of-fact acceptance of him deepened
as they drove into the hills. These two accepted him; standing around in
a detached benevolence, watching him come in a familiar quiet. It was a
grey morning, and still. The landscape was tidy and bare. Tidy grey
walls round bare fields, bare fences along the tidy ditches. Nothing had
begun to grow yet in this waiting countryside. Only a willow here and
there by a culvert side showed live and green in the half-shades.

It was going to be all right. This is what he had needed; this wide
silence, this space, this serenity. He had forgotten how benevolent the
place was; how satisfying. The near hills were round and green and kind;
beyond them were farther ones, stained blue by the distance. And behind
all stood the long rampart of the Highland line, white and remote
against the calm sky.

‘The river is very low, isn’t it?’ he said, as they came down into the
valley of the Turlie. And was invaded by panic.

That was the way it always happened. One moment a sane, free,
self-possessed human being, and the next a helpless creature in the grip
of unreason. He pressed his hands together to keep himself from flinging
the door open and tried to listen to what Tommy was saying. No rain for
weeks. They had had no rain for weeks. Let him think about the lack of
rain. It was important, the lack of rain. It spoiled the fishing. It was
to fish he had come to Clune. If they didn’t have rain there would be no
run of fish. No water for them. Oh God, help me not to make Tommy stop!
No water. Think intelligently about fishing. If they had had no rain for
weeks then rain must be due, mustn’t it? Why could you ask a friend to
stop the car and let you be sick and yet not ask him to stop the car so
that you could get out of its small shut-in-ness? Look at the river.
_Look_ at it. Remember things about it. That was where you caught your
best fish last year. That was where Pat slipped down when he was sitting
on the rock and was left hanging by the seat of his pants.

Overwork, the doctor called it.

‘Sit back and browse for a little,’ the doctor had said, crossing one
elegant Wimpole Street leg over the other and admiring the hang of it.

Grant could not imagine himself sitting back, and he considered browsing
a loathsome word and a contemptible occupation. Browsing. A fattening-up
for the table. A mindless satisfaction of animal desires. Browse,
indeed! The very sound of the word was an offence. A snore.

‘Have you any hobbies?’ the doctor had asked, his admiring glance going
on to his shoes.

‘No,’ Grant had said shortly.

‘What do you do when you go on holiday?’

‘I fish.’

‘You fish?’ said the psychologist, seduced from his Narcissian gazing.
‘And you don’t consider that a hobby?’

‘Certainly not.’

‘What is it, then, would you say?’

‘Something between a sport and a religion.’

And at that Wimpole Street had smiled and had looked quite human; and
assured him that his cure was only a matter of time. Time and
relaxation.

Well, at least he had managed not to open that door last night. But the
triumph had been dearly bought. He was drained and empty; a walking
nothingness. ‘Don’t fight it,’ the doctor had said. ‘If you want to be
in the open, go into the open.’ But to have opened that door last night
would have meant a defeat so mortal that he felt there would be no
recovery. It would have been an unconditional surrender to the forces of
Unreason. So he had lain and sweated. And the door had stayed closed.

But now, in the unrewarding dark of early morning, in the bleak
anonymous dark, he was as without virtue as if he had lost. ‘I suppose
this is how women feel after long labour,’ he thought, with that
fundamental detachment which Wimpole Street had noted and approved. ‘But
at least they have a brat to show for it. What have I got?’

His pride, he supposed. Pride that he had not opened a door that there
was no reason to open. Oh God!

‘Can’t you recognise a dead man when you see one?’ he said. Through the
haze of his tiredness he heard his own voice say it: ‘Can’t you recognise
a dead man when you see one? As if it were a thing of no moment. Can’t
you recognise a primrose when you see one? Can’t you recognise a Rubens
when you see one? Can’t you recognise the Albert Memorial when—-‘

‘Dead!’ said Yughourt in a kind of howl. ‘He can’t be! I’m due to go
off.’

That, Grant noted from his far-away stance, was all that it meant to Mr
Blast His Soul Gallacher.   Someone had taken leave of life, had gone out
from warmth and feeling and perception to nothingness, and all it meant
to Damn His Eyes Gallacher was that he would be late in getting off
duty.

He dropped the two suitcases on the platform and stood there (chattering
like a blasted monkey, he thought resentfully) and wished that it were
possible to die temporarily. In some last dim recess of his mind he knew
that to dither with cold and nerves on a station platform at six of a
winter morning was in the final resort a privilege; a corollary to being
alive; but oh, how wonderful it would be to achieve temporary death and
pick up life again at some happier moment.

‘To the hotel, sir?’ the porter said. ‘Yes, I’ll take them over when
I’ve seen to this barrow-load.’

He stumbled up the steps and across the bridge. The wood sounded
drumlike and hollow under his tread, great bursts of steam billowed up
round him from below, noises clanged and echoed from the dark vault
about him. They were all wrong about hell, he thought. Hell wasn’t a
nice cosy place where you fried. Hell was a great cold echoing cave
where there was neither past nor future; a black, echoing desolation.
Hell was concentrated essence of a winter morning after a sleepless
night of self-distaste.

He stepped out into the empty courtyard, and the sudden quiet soothed
him. The darkness was cold but clean. A hint of greyness in its quality
spoke of morning, and a breath of snow in its cleanness spoke of the
‘high tops’. Presently, when it was daylight, Tommy would come to the
hotel and pick him up and they would drive away into the great clean
Highland country; away into the wide, unchanging, undemanding Highland
world where people died only in their beds and no one bothered to shut a
door anyhow because it was too much trouble.

In the hotel dining-room the lights were on only at one end, and into
the gloom of the unlit spaces marched ranks of naked baize-topped
tables. He had never before, now he came to think of it, seen restaurant
tables undressed. They were really very humble shabby things stripped of
their white armour. Like waiters without their shirt-fronts.

 

Grant looked with interest at the pencilled words. The writer had
designed his effort in eight lines, it seemed, but had not been able to
think of the fifth and sixth. So that the scribble read:

     _The beasts that talk,
     The streams that stand,
     The stones that walk,
     The singing sand,_
            .    .
            .    .
     _That guard the way
     To Paradise._

Well, it was odd enough, in all conscience. The beginnings of delirium
tremens?

It was understandable that the owner of that very individual face would
see nothing so ordinary in his alcoholic dreams as pink rats. Nature
itself would turn cartwheels for the young man with the reckless
eyebrows. What was the Paradise that was guarded by so terrifying a
strangeness? Oblivion? Why had he needed oblivion so badly that it
represented Paradise to him? That he had been prepared to run the known
horror of the approaches to it?

Grant ate the fine fresh bap that there was ‘no chew in’ and considered
the matter. The writing was unformed but not at all shaky; it looked the
writing of an adult who wrote an unformed hand not because his
co-ordination was bad but because he had never quite grown up. Because
in essentials he was still the schoolboy who had originally written that
way. This theory was confirmed by the shape of the capital letters,
which were made in pure copy-book form. Odd, that so individual a
creature had had no desire to impress his individuality on the form of
his letters. Very few people indeed did not adapt the copy-book form to
their own liking; to their own unconscious need.

One of Grant’s milder interests had for years been this business of
handwriting; and in his work he had found the results of his long
observation greatly useful. Now and then, of course, he was shaken out
of any complacency about his deductions–a multiple murderer who
dissolved his victims in acid turned out to have handwriting remarkable
only for its extreme logic; which after all was perhaps appropriate
enough–but in general, handwriting provided a very good index to a man.
And in general a man who continued to use the schoolboy form for his
letters did so for one of two reasons: either he was unintelligent, or
he wrote so little that the writing had had no chance of absorbing his
personality.

Considering the high degree of intelligence that had put into words that
nightmare hazard at the gates of Paradise, it was obvious that it was
not lack of personality that had kept the young man’s writing
adolescent. His personality–his vitality and interest–had gone into
something else.

Into what? Something active, something extrovert. Something in which
writing was used for messages like: ‘Meet me Cumberland bar, 6.45,
Tony’, or for filling up a log.

But he was introvert enough to have analysed and put into words that
country-of-the-moon on the way to his Paradise. Introvert enough to have
stood apart and looked at it; to have wanted to record it.

Grant sat in a pleasant warm daze, chewing and considering. He noted the
tightly-joined tops of the n’s and m’s. A liar? Or just secretive? A
curiously cautious trait to appear in the writing of a man with those
eyebrows. It was a strange thing how much the meaning of a countenance
depended on eyebrows. One change of degree in the angle this way or that
and the whole effect was different. Film magnates took nice little girls
from Balham and Muswell Hill and rubbed out their eyebrows and painted
in other ones and they became straightway mysterious creatures from Omsk
and Tomsk. He had once been told by Trabb, the cartoonist, that it was
his eyebrows that had lost Ernie Price his chance of being Prime
Minister. ‘They didn’t like his eyebrows,’ Trabb had said, blinking
owlishly over his beer. ‘Why? Don’t ask me. I just draw. Because they
looked bad-tempered, perhaps. They don’t like a bad-tempered man. Don’t
trust him. But that’s what lost him his chance, take it from me. His
eyebrows. They didn’t like ’em.’ Bad-tempered eyebrows, supercilious
eyebrows, calm eyebrows, worried eyebrows–it was the eyebrows that gave
a face its keynote. And it was the slant of the black eyebrows that had
given that thin white face on the pillow its reckless look even in
death.

Well, the man had been sober when he wrote those words, that at least
was clear. That toper’s oblivion in compartment B Seven–the fugged air,
the rucked blankets, the empty bottle rolling about on the floor, the
overturned glass on the shelf–may have been the Paradise he sought, but
he was sober when he blue-printed the way to it.

The singing sand.

Uncanny but somehow attractive.

Singing sand. Surely there actually were singing sands somewhere? It had
a vaguely familiar sound. Singing sands. They cried out under your feet
as you walked. Or the wind did it, or something. A man’s forearm in a
checked tweed sleeve reached in front of him and took a bap from the
plate.

‘You seem to be doing yourself very well,’ Tommy said, pulling out a
chair and sitting down. He split the bap and buttered it. ‘There’s no
chew in these things at all nowadays. When I was a boy you sank your
teeth in them and pulled. It was evens which came away first: your teeth
or the bit of bap. But if your teeth won you really had something worth
having. A nice floury, yeasty mouthful that would last you for a couple
of minutes. They don’t taste of anything nowadays, and you could fold
them in two and put the whole thing in your mouth without any danger of
choking yourself.’

Grant looked at him in silence and with affection. There was no intimacy
so close, he thought, as the intimacy that bound you to a man with whom
you’d shared a Prep. school dorm. They had shared their public school
days too, but it was Prep. school that he remembered each time he
encountered Tommy anew. Perhaps because in all essentials that fresh
pinky-brown face with the round ingenuous blue eyes was the same face
that used to appear above a crookedly-buttoned maroon blazer. Tommy had
always buttoned his blazer with a fine insouciance.

It was so like Tommy not to waste time or vitality on conventional
inquiries as to his journey and his health. Neither would Laura, of
course. They would accept him as he stood; as if he had been there for
some time. As if he had never gone away at all but was still on his
previous visit. It was an extraordinarily restful atmosphere to sink
back into.

 

 

never knew heyer wrote mysteries too………………gud ones too . love this neville character and his fiance , forgot her name .

A breeze, hardly more than a whisper of wind, stirred the curtains at the long window,and wafted into the room the scent of the wisteria covering the wall of the house. The policeman turned his head as the curtains faintly rustled, his rather glassy blue eyes frowning and suspicious. Straightening himself, for he had been bending over the figure of a man seated behind the carved knee-hole desk in the middle of the room, he trod over to the window and looked out into the dusky garden. His torch explored the shadows cast by two flowering shrubs without, however, revealing anything but a nondescript cat, whose eyes caught and flung back the light for an instant before the animal glided into the recesses of the shrub. There was no other sign of life in the garden, and after a moment of keen scrutiny, the policeman turned back into the room, and went to the desk. The man behind it paid no heed, for he was dead, as the policeman had already ascertained. His head lay on the open blotter, with blood congealing in his sleek, pomaded hair.

Glass laid down the receiver, and restored his handkerchief to his pocket. “Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength, but trusted in his riches,” he said.

The sombre pronouncement recalled Simmons’s thoughts. He gave a sympathetic groan. “That’s true, Mr. Glass. Woe to the crown of pride! But how did it happen? How do you come to be here? Oh dear, oh dear, I never thought to be mixed up with a thing like this!”

Yes, but I don’t like murders. So inartistic, don’t you think? Besides, they don’t happen.”

“This has happened, sir,” said Glass, a little puzzled.

“Yes, that’s what upsets me. Murders only occur in other people’s families. Not even in one’s own circle. Ever noticed that? No, I suppose not. Nothing in one’s experience – one had thought it so wide! – has taught one how to cope with such a bizarre situation.”

He ended on an uncertain laugh; it was plain that under his flippancy he was shaken. The butler looked at him curiously, and then at Glass, who, after staring at Neville Fletcher for a moment, licked his pencil-point, and asked: “When did you see Mr. Fletcher last, if you please, sir?”

“At dinner. In the dining-room, I mean. No, let us be exact; not the dining-room; the hall.”

“Make up your mind, sir,” recommended Glass stolidly.

“Oh! And what about Mr. Neville? Was he annoyed?”

“I shouldn’t like to say, Sergeant. Mr. Neville is a peculiar young gentleman, not given to showing what he feels, if he feels anything, which I sometimes doubt.”

“Well I do, frequently,” said Neville, who had come into the room in time to hear this remark.

The Sergeant, unaccustomed to young Mr. Fletcher’s noiseless way of entering rooms, was momentarily startled. Neville smiled in his deprecating fashion, and said softly: ‘Good-evening. Isn’t it shocking? I do hope you’ve arrived at something? My aunt would like to see you before you go. Do you know who killed my uncle?”

“It’s early days to ask me that, sir,” replied the Sergeant guardedly.

“Your words hint at a prolonged period of suspense, which I find peculiarly depressing.”

“Very unpleasant for all concerned, sir,” agreed the Sergeant. He turned to Simmons. “That’ll be all for the present,” he said.

Simmons withdrew, and the Sergeant, who had been eyeing Neville with a good deal of curiosity, invited him to sit down. Neville obligingly complied with this request, choosing a deep armchair by the fireplace. The Sergeant said politely: “I’m hoping you may be able to help me, sir. I take it you were pretty intimate with the deceased?”

“Oh no!” said Neville, shocked. “I shouldn’t have liked that at all.”

“No, sir? Am I to understand you were not on good terms with Mr. Fletcher?”

“But I was. I’m on good terms with everyone. Only I’m not intimate.”

“Well, but, what I mean, sir, is -‘

“Yes, yes, I know what you mean. Did I know the secrets of my uncle’s life? No, Sergeant: I hate secrets, and other people’s troubles.”

He said this with an air of sweet affability. The Sergeant was a little taken aback, but rallied, and said: “At all events, you knew him fairly well, sir?”

“We won’t argue the point,” murmured Neville.

“Do you know if he had any enemies?”

“Well, obviously he had, hadn’t he?”

“Yes, sir, but what I’m trying to establish -‘

“I know, but you see I’m just as much at a loss as you are. You weren’t acquainted with my uncle?”

“I can’t say as I was, sir.”

Neville blew one smoke ring through another, and watched it dreamily. “Everybody called him Ernie,” he sighed. “Or Ernie dear, according to sex. You see?”

The Sergeant stared for a moment, and then said slowly: “I think I get you, sir. I’ve always heard him well spoken of, I’m bound to say. I take it you don’t know of any person with a grudge against him?”

Neville shook his head. The Sergeant looked at him rather discontentedly, and consulted Glass’s notebook. “I see you state that after you left the dining-room you went into the billiard-room, where you remained until Miss Fletcher came to find you. At what hour would that have been?”

Neville smiled apologetically.

“You don’t know, sir? No idea at all? Try and think!”

“Alas, time has hitherto meant practically nothing to me. Does it help if I say that my aunt mentioned that a most peculiar visitor was with my uncle? A fat little man, who carried his hat in his hand. She had seen him in the hall.”

“Did you see this man?” asked the Sergeant quickly.

“No.”

“You don’t know whether he was still with your uncle when you went up to your room?”

“Sergeant, Sergeant, do you think I listen at keyholes?”

“Of course not, sir, but -‘

“At least, not when I’m wholly incurious,” explained Neville, temporising.

“Well, sir, we’ll say that some time between 9.00 and 10.00 you went up to your room.”

“At half-past nine,” said Neville.

“At – A moment ago, sir, you said you had no idea what time it was!”

“Oh, I hadn’t, but I remember now one solitary cuckoo.”

The Sergeant shot a startled look towards Glass, standing motionless and disapproving by the door. A suspicion that the eccentric Neville Fletcher was of unsound mind had darted into his brain. “What might you mean by that, sir?”

“Only the clock on the landing,” said Neville.

“A cuckoo-clock! Well, really, sir, for a moment I thought – And it struck the half-hour?”

“Yes, but it’s quite often wrong.”

“We’ll go into that presently. Which way does your room face, sir?”

“North.”

“It’s at the back of the house, then? Would it be possible for you to hear anyone coming up the side path?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t hear anyone, but I wasn’t trying to.

“Quite,” said the Sergeant. “Well, I think that’ll be all for the present, thank you, sir. Of course, you understand that you will not be able to leave this house for a day or two? Just a matter of routine, you know. We’ll hope it won’t be long before we get the whole thing cleared up.”

“Yes, let’s,” agreed Neville. His gaze dwelt speculatively on a picture on the wall opposite the fireplace. “It wouldn’t be robbery, would it?”

“Hardly, sir, but of course we can’t say definitely yet. It isn’t likely a burglar would come when Mr. Fletcher was still up, not to mention the rest of the household.”

“No. Only the safe is behind that picture -just in case you didn’t know.”

“Yes, sir, so the butler informed me. We’ve been over it for finger-prints, and as soon as we can get Mr. Fletcher’s lawyer down we’ll have it opened. Yes, Hepworth? Found anything?”

The last words were addressed to a constable who had stepped into the room through the window.

“Not much, Sergeant, but I’d like you to have a look at one thing.”

The Sergeant went at once; Neville uncoiled himself, got up, and wandered out of the room in his wake. “Don’t mind me coming, do you?” he murmured, as the Sergeant turned his head.

“I don’t see as there’s any objection, sir. The fact is, a man was seen sneaking out by the side gate just after 10 p.m., and unless I’m mistaken he’s the chap we’re after.”

“A – a fat man?” suggested Neville, blinking.

“Ah, that would be too easy, wouldn’t it, sir?” said the Sergeant indulgently. “No, just an ordinary looking chap in a soft hat. Well, Hepworth, what is it?”

The constable had led the way to the back of a flowering currant bush, which was planted in a bed close to the house. He directed the beam of his torch on to the ground. In the soft earth were the deep imprints of a pair of high-heeled shoes.

“They’re freshly made, Sergeant,” said Hepworth. “Someone’s been hiding behind this bush.”

“The Women in the Case!” said Neville. “Aren’t we having fun?”

The Sergeant had found himself listening to a panegyric  ( A panegyric is a formal public speech, or (in later use) written verse, delivered in high praise of a person or thing,   ) on the late Ernest Fletcher: how charming he was; how popular; what perfect manners he had; how kind he had always been to his sister; how gay; how dashing; how generous! Out of this turmoil of words certain facts had emerged. Neville was the son of Ernie’s brother Ted, many years deceased, and certainly his heir. Neville was a dear boy, but you never knew what he would be up to next, and – yes, it did annoy poor Ernie when he got himself imprisoned in some horrid Balkan state – oh, nothing serious, but Neville was so hopelessly vague, and simply lost his passport. As for the Russian woman who had appeared at Neville’s hotel with all her luggage before breakfast one morning in Budapest, saying he had invited her at some party the night before – well, one couldn’t exactly approve, of course, but young men did get drunk sometimes, and anyway the woman was obviously no better than she should be, and really Neville was not like that at all. At the same time, one did rather feel for Ernie, having to buy the creature off. But it was quite, quite untrue to say that Ernie didn’t like Neville: they hadn’t much in common, but blood was thicker than water, and Ernie was always so understanding.

Questioned more closely, no, she knew of no one who nourished the least grudge against her brother. She thought the murderer must have been one of these dreadful maniacs one read about in the papers.

The Sergeant got away from her, not without difficulty, and very soon left the house. Aunt and nephew confronted one another in the drawing-room.

“I feel as though this were all a horrible nightmare!” said Miss Fletcher, putting a hand to her head. “There’s a policeman in the hall, and they’ve locked dear Ernie’s study!”

“Does it worry you?” asked Neville. “Was there anything there you wished to destroy?”

“That,” said Miss Fletcher, “would be most dishonest. Not but what I feel sure Ernie would have preferred it to having strangers poking their noses into his affairs. Of course I wouldn’t destroy anything important, but I’m sure there isn’t anything. Only you know what men are, dear, even the best of them.”

“No, do tell me!”

“Well,” said Miss Fletcher, “one shuts one’s eyes to That Side of a Man’s life, but I’m afraid, Neville, that there have been Women. And some of them, I think – though of course I don’t know – not what I call Nice Women.”

“Men are funny like that,” said Neville dulcetly.

“Yes, dear, and naturally I was very thankful, because at one time I made sure Ernie would get caught.”

“Caught?”

“Marriage,” explained Miss Fletcher. “That would have been a great blow to me. Only, luckily, he wasn’t a very constant man.”

Neville looked at her in surprise. She smiled unhappily at him, apparently unaware of having said anything remarkable. She looked the acme of respectability; a plump, faded lady, with wispy grey hair and mild eyes, red-rimmed from crying, and a prim little mouth, innocent of lip-stick.

“I’m now definitely upset,” said Neville. “I think I’ll go to bed.”

She said distressfully: “Oh dear, is it what I’ve told you? But it’s bound to come out, so you had to know sooner or later.”

“Not my uncle; my aunt!” said Neville.

“You do say such odd things, dear,” she said. “You’re overwrought, and no wonder. Ought I to offer that policeman some refreshment?”

He left her engaged in conversation with the officer on duty in the hall, and went up to his own room. After a short interval his aunt tapped on his door, desiring to know whether he felt all right. He called out to her that he was quite all right, but sleepy, and so after exchanging good-nights with him, and promising not to disturb him again, Miss Fletcher went away to her own bedroom in the front of the house.

Neville Fletcher, having locked his door, climbed out of his window, and reached the ground by means of a stout drain-pipe, and the roof of the verandah outside the drawing-room.

The garden lay bathed in moonlight. In case a watch had been set over the side entrance, Neville made his way instead to the wall at the end of the garden, which separated it from the Arden Road. Espaliers trained up it made the scaling of it a simple matter. Neville reached the top, lowered himself on the other side, and let himself drop. He landed with the ease of the trained athlete, paused to light a cigarette, and began to walk westwards along the road. A hundred yards brought him to a crossroad running parallel to Maple Grove. He turned up it, and entered the first gateway he came to. A big, square house was sharply outlined by the moonshine, lights shining through the curtains of several of the windows. One of these, on the ground-floor to the left of the front door, stood open. Neville went to it, parted the curtains, and looked into the room.

A woman sat at an escritoire, writing, the light of a reading-lamp touching her gold hair with fire. She wore evening dress, and a brocade cloak hung over the back of her chair. Neville regarded her thoughtfully for a moment, and then stepped into the room.

She looked up quickly, and gave a sobbing gasp of shock. The fright of her eyes gave place almost immediately to an expression of relief. Colour rushed into her lovely face; she caught her hand to her breast, saying faintly: ‘Neville! Oh, how you startled me!”

“That’s nothing to what I’ve been through tonight,” replied Neville. “Such fun and games at Greystones, my dear: you wouldn’t believe!”

She shut her blotter upon her half-finished letter. “You haven’t got them?” she asked, between eagerness and incredulity.

“All I’ve got is the jitters,” said Neville. He strolled over to her, and to her surprise went down on his knee.

“Neville, what on earth – ?”

“Are you an escapist?” inquired Neville solicitously. “Is that why you write improbable novels? Have you felt the banality of real life to be intolerable?”

“My novels aren’t improbable! It may interest you to know that the critics consider me as one of the six most important crime novelists.”

“If you think that you’re a bad judge of character,” said Neville.

Helen gave a strangled shriek of exasperation. “Oh, don’t, don’t! What does any of that matter at a time like this? What am I to do?”

Sally turned away from Neville. “All right, let’s get this thing straight,” she said. “I don’t feel I’ve got all the data. When did you start falling for Ernie Fletcher?”

“I didn’t. Only he was so attractive, and – and he had a sort of sympathetic understanding. Almost a touch of the feminine, but not quite that, either. I can’t explain. Ernie made you feel as though you were made of very brittle, precious porcelain.”

“That must have added excitement to your life,” said Neville reflectively.

 

“Lummy!” said Miss Drew elegantly. “Gilded vice, and haggard harpies, and suicides adjacent? All that sort of thing?”

“It wasn’t gilded, and I don’t know about any suicides, but it was a bad place, and yet – in a way – rather thrilling. If John knew of it – the people who belonged to it – Sally, no one would believe I wasn’t a bad woman if it was known I went to that place!”

“Well, why did you go there?”

“Oh, for the thrill! Like one goes to Limehouse. And at first it sort of got me. I adored the excitement of the play. Then I lost rather a lot of money, and like a fool I thought I could win it back. I expect you know how one gets led on, and on.”

“Why not have sold your pearls?”

A wan smile touched Helen’s lips. “Because they aren’t worth anything.”

“What?” Sally gasped.

“Copies,” said Helen bitterly. “I sold the real ones ages ago. Other things, too. I’ve always been an extravagant little beast, and John warned me he wouldn’t put up with it. So I sold things.”

“Helen!”

Neville, who had been reposing in a luxurious chair with his eyes shut, said sleepily: “You said you wanted copy, didn’t you?”

“Even if it didn’t concern Helen I couldn’t use this,” said Sally. “Not my line of country at all. I shall have to concentrate on the murder. By the way, Helen, who introduced you to this hell? Dear Ernie?”

“Oh no, no!” Helen cried. “He absolutely rescued me from it! I can’t tell you how divine he was. He said everything would be all right, and I wasn’t to worry any more, but just be a good child for the future.”

“Snake!” said Sally hotly.

“Yes, only – it didn’t seem like that. He had such a way with him! He got hold of those ghastly IOUs, and at first I was so thankful!”

“Then he blackmailed you!”

“N – no, he didn’t. Not quite. I can’t tell you about that, but it wasn’t exactly as you imagine. Of course, he did use the IOUs as a weapon, but perhaps he didn’t really mean it! It was all done so – so laughingly, and he was very much in love with me. I expect I lost my head a bit, didn’t handle him properly. But I got frightened, and I couldn’t sleep for thinking of my IOUs in Ernie’s possession. That’s why I told Neville. I thought he might be able to do something.”

“Neville?” said Miss Drew, in accents of withering contempt. “You might as well have applied to a village idiot!”

“I know, but there wasn’t anyone else. And he is clever, in spite of being so hopeless.”

“As judged by village standards?” inquired Neville, mildly interested.

“He may have a kind of brain, but I’ve yet to hear of him putting himself out for anyone, or behaving like an ordinarily nice person. I can’t think how you ever succeeded in persuading him to take it on.”

“The dripping of water on a stone,” murmured Neville.

“Well having taken it on, I do think you might have put your back into it. Did you even try?”

“Yes, it was a most painful scene.”

“Why? Was Ernie furious?”

“Not so much furious as astonished. So was I. You ought to have seen me giving my impersonation of a Nordic public-school man with a reverence for good form and the done-thing. I wouldn’t like to swear I didn’t beg him to play the game. Ernie ended up by being nauseated, and I’m sure I’m not surprised.”

“You know, you’re not hard-hearted, you’re just soulless,” Sally informed him. She glanced at her sister. “Was I invited to stay to be a chaperon?”

“Yes, in a way. Besides, I wanted you.”

“Thanks a lot. What happened tonight?”

“Oh, nothing, Sally, nothing! It was silly of me, but I thought if only I could talk quietly to Ernie, and – and throw myself on his generosity, everything would be all right. You were busy with your book, so I got my cloak, and just slipped round by the back way to Greystones, on the off chance of finding Ernie in his study.”

“Oh, don’t be a fool! Don’t you realise you’ll have led them straight to Helen?”

“Oh no! No, really I haven’t,” Neville replied, with his apologetic smile. “I climbed out of my window, and over the wall.”

“You – Did you really?” exclaimed Sally, her thunderous frown vanishing. “I must say I should never have thought it of you.”

“Atavism,” he explained.

“Oh, Neville, how on earth did you manage it?” Helen asked, a note of admiration in her voice.

He looked alarmed. “Please don’t get misled! It wasn’t a bit heroic, or daring, or even difficult.”

“It must have been. I can’t think how you did it! I should never have had the nerve.”

“No nerve. Merely one of the advantages of a University education.”

.

this novel is so relevant to the present times , with the london riots.

’interview with christie

I suppose you tke most of your characters from real life?V
An indignant denial to that monstrous suggestion  ’No, I don’t. I invent them. They are mine. They’ve goto
be my characters–doing what I want them to do, being what I want them to be–coming alive for me, having then- own ideas sometimes, but&
only because I’ve made the?
become real.So the author has produced the ideas, and the character!
–but now comes the third necessity–the setting.

’Leadership, besides being a great creativ”
force, can be diabolical . . .

The Author speaks_
The first question put to an author, personally, or throug7
the post, is_
’Where do you get your ideas from?V
The temptation is great to reply: ’I always go to Harrods,V
or ’I get them mostly at the Army & Navy Stores,’ or, snappily
Try Marks and Spencer.The universal opinion seems firmly established that there i!
magic source of ideas which authors have discovered
One can hardly send one’s questioners back to Elizabeth  times, with Shakespeare’s_
Tell me, where is fancy bred
Or in the heart or in the bead
How begot, how nourished
Reply, reply
You merely say firmly: “My own head.
That, of course, is no help to anybody. If you like the look of your questioner you relent_and go a little further  ’If one idea in particular seems attractive, and you fee>
you could do something with it, then you toss it around
play tricks with it, work it up, tone it down, and gradually get it into shape. Then, of course, you have to strt writin$
it. That’s not nearly such fun–it becomes hard work. Alternatively you can tuck it carefully away, in storage, for perhap!
using in a year or two years’ time. A second question–or rather a statement–is then like  to be_
’I suppose you tke most of your characters from real life? An indignant denial to that monstrous suggestionI
’No, I don’t. I invent them. They are mine. They’ve go to be my characters–doing what I want them to do, being
what I want them to be–coming alive for me, having their  own ideas sometimes, but only because I’ve made the?
become reed.So the author has produced the ideas, and the character!
–but now comes the third necessity–the setting. The firs two
come from inside sources, but the third is outside it must be there–waiting–in existence already. You don’invent
that–it’s there–it’s real You have been perhaps for a cruise on the Nile–yo,
remember it all–just the setting you want for this particular story. You have had a meal at a Chelsea cafe. A quarre>
was going on–one girl pulled out a handful of another    girl’s hair. An excellent start for the book you are going
to write next. You travel on the Orient Express.  You go to
tea with a friend. As you arrive her brother closes a book he  is reading–throws it aside, says: ’Not bad, but why on
earth didn’t they ask Evans?  So you decide immediately a book of yours shortly to be   written will bear the title. Why Didn’t They Ask EvansY
You don’t know yet who Evans is going to be. Never  mind. Evans will come in due course–the title is fixed  So, in a sense, you don’t invent your settings. They are outside you, all around you, in existence–you have \only to’lstretch out your&
hand and pick and choose. A railway train, a hospital, a London hotel, a Caribbean beach  country village, a cocktil party, a girls’ schoolI
But one thing only applies–they must be there–in existence  , Real people, real places. A definite place in time and
space. If here and now–how shall you get full information-U part from the evidence of your own eyes and ears? The answer is frighteningly simpleI
It is what the Press brings to you every day, served in your morning paper under the general heading of News
Collect it from the front page. What is going on in the world today? What is everyone saying, thinking, doing? Hold ur mirror to 1970 in EnglandI
Look at that front page every day for a month, make notes, consider and classifyI
Every day there is a killing
A girl strangled
Elderly woman attacked and robbed of her meagre savings
Young men or boys–attacking or attacked
Buildings and telephone kiosks smashed and gutted
Drug smuggling.
Robbery and assault
Children missing and children’s murdered bodies found no

far from their homes
Can this be England? Is England really like this? One feels–no–not yet, but it&
could beI
Fear is awakening–fear of what may be. Not so much because of actual happenings but because of the possible
causes behind them. Some known, some unknown, but felt. And not only in our own&
country. There are smaller paragraph!
on other pages–giving news from Europe–from
–from the Americas–Worldwide NewsI
Hi-jacking of planes
Kidnapping
Violence
RiotsI
HateI
Anarchy– growing stronger
All seeming to lead to worship of destruction, pleasur”
in cruelty
What does it all mean? An Elizabethan phrase echo!
from the past, speaking of Life_
< .. it is a lie”
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
, Signifying nothing
And yet one knows–of one’s own knowledge–how much
goodness there is in this world of ours–the kindnesses done
the goodness of heart, the acts of compassion, the kindness o+
neighbour to neighbour, the helpful actions of girls and boys
Then why this fantstic atmosphere of daily news–o+
things that happen–that are actual factsY
To write a story in this year of Our Lord 1970–you must come
to terms with your background. If the background i!
 

fantstic, then the story must accept its background. It, tooF
must be a fantasy–an extravaganza. The setting must includ”
the fantstic facts of daily life Can one envisage a fantstic cause? A secret Campaig#
for Power? Can a maniacal desire for destruction create&
new world? Can one go a step further and suggest deliveranc”
by fantstic and impossible-sounding meansY
Nothing is impossible, science has tught us thatI
This story is in essence a fantsy. It pretends to be nothin$
moreI
But most of the things that happen in it are happening, or giving promise of&
happening in the world of todayI
It is not an impossible story–it is only a fantstic oneI
aBook K
i;aINTERRUPTED JOURNEa
aChapter N
PASSENGER TO FRANKFUR’
Fasten your seat-belts, please.’ The diverse passengers i#
the plane were slow to obey. There was a general feelin$
that they couldn’t possibly be arriving at Geneva yet. Th”
drowsy groaned and yawned. The more than drowsy ha@
to be gently roused by an authoritative stewardessI
“Your seat-belts, please.V
The dry voice came authoritatively over the Tannoy. It explained in German, in&
French, and in English that a short period
of rough weather would shortly be experienced. Si%
Stfford Nye opened his mouth to its full extent, yawned an@
pulled himself upright in his seat. He had been dreamin$
very happily of fishing an English riverI
He was a man of forty-five, of medium height, with&
smooth, olive, clean-shaven face. In dress he rather liked t(
ffect the bizarre. A man of excellent family, he felt full=

t ease indulging any such isartorial whims. If it made th”
more conventionally dressed of his colleagues wince occasionallyF
that was merely a source of malicious pleasure t(
him. There was something about him of the eighteenthcentur=
buck. He liked to be noticedI
His particular kind of affecttion when travelling was&
kind of bandit’s cloak which he had once purchased i#
Corsica. It was of a very dark purply-blue, had a scarlelining
and had a kind of burnous hanging down behin@
which he could draw up over his head when he wished toF
so as to obviate draughtsI
Sir Stfford Nye had been a disappointment in diplomatiA
circles. Marked out in early youth by his gifts for great things,
he had singularly failed to fulfil his early promiseI
A peculiar and diabolical sense of humour was wont t(

fflict him in what should have been his most serious momentsI
When it came to the point, he found that he alway!
preferred to indulge his delicate Puckish malice to borin$
himself. He was a well-known figure in public life withouever
having reached eminence. It was felt that Stfford NyeF
though definitely brilliant, was not–and presumably neve%
would be–a safe man. In these days of tngled politics an@
tngled foreign relations, safety, especially if one were t(
reach ambassadorial rank, was preferable to brilliance. Si%
Stfford Nye was relegated to the shelf, though he was occa1S

asionally entrusted with such missions as needed the art o+
intrigue, but were not of too importnt or public a natureI
Journalists sometimes referred to him as the dark horse o+
diplomacyI
_ Whether Sir Stfford himself was disappointed with his own career, nobody ever&
knew. Probably not even Sir Stffor@
Page d
Passenger To Frankfurhimself.
He was a man of a certin vanity, but he was als(

man who very much enjoyed indulging his own proclivitie!
for mischiefI
He was returning now from a commission of inquiry i#
Malaya. He had found it singularly lacking in interestI
His colleagues bad, in his opinion, made up their mind!
beforehand what their findings were going to be. They sa:

nd they listened, but their preconceived views were no

ffected. Sir Stfford had thrown a few spanners into th”
works, more for the hell of it than from any pronounce@
convictions. At all events, he thought, it had livened things up. He wished there&
were more possibilities of doing thasort
of thing. His fellow members of the commission ha@
been sound, dependable fellows, and remarkably dull. Eve#
the well-known Mrs Nathaniel Edge, the only woman memberF
well known as having bees in her bonnet, was no fool whe#
it came down to plain facts. She saw, she listened and sh”
played safeI
I

 

adays when it occurred to Sir Stfford that it was a pity th”
paragraph was not true. He was a little–just a little-U
tired of wild flowers and, fond as he was of dear Lucy, he%
bility despite her sixty-odd years to race up hills at toM
speed, easily outpacing him, sometimes annoyed him. Alway!
just in front of him he saw the seat of those brighroyal
blue trousers and Lucy, though scraggy enough elsewhereF
goodness knows, was decidedly too broad in the bea?
to wear royal blue corduroy trousers. A nice little internationa>
pie, he had thought, in which to dip his fingers, i#
which to play about . . I

ir, were really excessively boring.

Journeys all over the globe. How romantic it ought to be
But there was something about the atmosphere of a Passengers
Lounge in an airport that chilled romance. It wa!
too full of people, too full of things to buy, too full of similar
coloured seats, too full of plastic, too full of human
beings, too full of crying children. ?He tried to remember wh(
had said_
I wish I loved the Human Race
I wish I loved its silly face”
Chesterton perhaps? was undoubtedly true. Put enoug7
people together and they looked so painfully alike thaone
could hardly bear it. An interesting face now, thoughSir
Stfford. What a difference it would make.

 

He was not going to the party. Literary sherry parties, even distinguished
ones, were not Grant’s cup of tea. He was going to collect Marta Hallard
and take her out to dinner. Policemen, it is true, do not normally take
out to dinner leading actresses who gravitate between the Haymarket and
the Old Vic; not even when the policemen are Detective-Inspectors at
Scotland Yard. There were three reasons for his privileged position, and
Grant was aware of all three. In the first place he was a presentable
escort, in the second place he could afford to dine at Laurent’s, and in
the third place Marta Hallard did not find it easy to obtain escort. For
all her standing, and her chic, men were a little afraid of Marta. So when
Grant, a mere Detective-Sergeant then, appeared in her life over a matter
of stolen jewellery, she had seen to it that he did not entirely fade out
of it again. And Grant had been glad to stay. If he was useful to Marta as
a cavalier when she needed one, she was even more useful to him as a
window on the world. The more windows on the world a policeman has the
better he is likely to be at his job, and Marta was Grant’s ‘leper’s
squint’ on the theatre.

With a policeman’s ingrained habit of inspection he let his eye run over
the crowd between them, but found nothing of interest. It was the usual
collection. The very prosperous firm of Ross and Cromarty were celebrating
the publication of Lavinia Fitch’s twenty-first book, and since it was
largely due to Lavinia that the firm was prosperous the drinks were
plentiful and the guests were distinguished. Distinguished in the sense of
being well-dressed and well-known, that is to say. The distinguished in
achievement did not celebrate the birth of _Maureen’s Lover_, nor drink
the sherry of Messrs Ross and Cromarty. Even Marta, that inevitable Dame,
was here because she was a neighbour of Lavinia’s in the country. And
Marta, bless her black-and-white chic and her disgruntled look, was the
nearest thing to real distinction in the room.

Grant saw the interest in the young man’s face as he looked at Liz
Garrowby, and wondered a little. Liz was a small plain girl with a sallow
face. True, she had remarkable eyes; speedwell blue and surprising; and
she had the kind of face a man might want to live with; she was a nice
girl, Liz. But she was not the type of girl at whom young men look with
instant attention. Perhaps it was just that Searle had heard rumours of
her engagement, and was identifying her as Walter Whitmore’s fiancée.

‘Marguerite? Oh, she was mad, of course.’

‘How mad?’

‘Ten tenths.’

‘In what way?’

‘You mean how did it take her? Oh, a complete indifference to everything
but the thing she wanted at the moment.’

‘That isn’t madness; that is merely the criminal mind at its simplest.’

Grant thought how independable Malta’s ignorances were.

‘It might still be homicide, though,’ Marta said, in the cooing,
considering voice that was her trade-mark on the stage. ‘I could just
stand the thyme and the bullets, but now that he has taken a ninety-nine
years’ lease of the spring corn, and the woodpeckers, and things, he
amounts to a public menace.’

‘Why do you listen to him?’

‘Well, there’s a dreadful fascination about it, you know. One thinks:
Well, that’s the absolute sky-limit of awfulness, than which _nothing_
could be worse. And so next week you listen to see if it really _can_ be
worse. It’s a snare. It’s so awful that you can’t even switch off. You
wait fascinated for the next piece of awfulness, and the next. And you are
still there when he signs off.’

‘It couldn’t be, could it, Marta, that this is mere professional
jealousy?’

‘Are you suggesting that the creature is a _professional_?’ asked Marta,
dropping her voice a perfect fifth, so that it quivered with the
reflection of repertory years, and provincial digs, and Sunday trains, and
dreary auditions in cold dark theatres.

‘No, I’m suggesting that he is an actor. A quite natural and unconscious
actor, who has made himself a household word in a few years without doing
any noticeable work to that end. I could forgive you for not liking that.
What did Marguerite find so wonderful about him?’

‘I can tell you that. His devotion. Marguerite liked picking the wings off
flies. Walter would let her take him to pieces and then come back for
more.’

‘There was one time that he didn’t come back.’

‘Yes.’

‘What was the final row about, do you know?’

‘I don’t think there was one. I think he just told her he was through. At
least that is what he said at the inquest. Did you read the obituaries, by
the way?’

‘I suppose I must have at the time. I don’t remember them individually.’

‘If she had lived another ten years she would have got a tiny par in among
the “ads” on the back page. As it was she got better notices than Duse. “A
flame of genius has gone out and the world is the poorer.” “She had the
lightness of a blown leaf and the grace of a willow in the wind.” That
sort of thing. One was surprised that there were no black edges in the
Press. The mourning was practically of national dimensions.’

‘It’s a far cry from that to Liz Garrowby.’

‘Dear, nice Liz. If Marguerite Merriam was too bad even for Walter
Whitmore, then Liz is too good for him. Much too good for him. I should be
delighted if the beautiful young man took her from under his nose.’

‘Somehow I can’t see your “beautiful young man” in the rôle of husband,
whereas Walter will make a very good one.’

‘My good man, Walter will broadcast about it. All about their children,
and the shelves he has put up in the pantry, and how the little woman’s
bulbs are coming along, and the frost patterns on the nursery window.
She’d be much safer with–what did you say his name was?’

‘Searle. Leslie Searle.’ Absentmindedly he watched the pale yellow neon
signature of _Laurent’s_ coming nearer.

‘I don’t think safe is the adjective I would apply to Searle, somehow,’ he
said reflectively; and from that moment forgot all about Leslie Searle
until the day when he was sent down to Salcott St Mary to search for the
young man’s body.

‘I’ve been in England for holidays quite often, yes. Not often as early in
the year as this, though.’

‘You haven’t seen England at all unless you have seen it in the spring.’

‘So I’ve heard.’

‘Did you fly over?’

‘Just from Paris, like a good American. Paris is fine in the spring too.’

‘So I’ve heard,’ she said, returning his phrase and his tone.

‘Press photography?’

‘Not Press. Just photography. I spend most of the winter on the Coast,
doing people.’

‘The Coast?’

‘California. That keeps me on good terms with my bank manager. And the
other half of the year I travel and photograph the things I want to
photograph.’

‘It sounds a good sort of life,’ Liz said, as she unlocked the car door and
got in.

‘It’s a very good life.’

The car was a two-seater Rolls; a little old-fashioned in shape as Rolls
cars, which last for ever, are apt to be. Liz explained it as they drove
out of the square into the stream of the late afternoon traffic.

‘The first thing Aunt Lavinia did when she made money was to buy herself a
sable scarf. She had always thought a sable scarf the last word in good
dressing. And the second thing she wanted was a Rolls. She got that with
her next book. She never wore the scarf at all because she said it was a
dreadful nuisance to have something dangling about her all the time, but
the Rolls was a great success so we still have it.’

‘What happened to the sable scarf?’

‘She swopped it for a pair of Queen Anne chairs and a lawn-mower.’

By the time they left the hotel the first street lamps were decorating the
daylight.

‘This is when I think lights look best,’ Liz said. ‘While it is still
daylight. They are daffodil yellow and magic. Presently when it grows dark
they will go white and ordinary.’

‘Yes. Every third cottage in the place has an alien in it. All degrees of
wealth, from Toby Tullis–the play-wright, you know–who has a lovely
Jacobean house in the middle of the village street, to Serge Ratoff the
dancer who lives in a converted stable. All degrees of living in sin, from
Deenie Paddington who never has the same weekend guest twice, to poor old
Atlanta Hope and Bart Hobart who have been living in sin, bless them, for
the best part of thirty years. All degrees of talent from Silas Weekley,
who writes those dark novels of country life, all steaming manure and
slashing rain, to Miss Easton-Dixon who writes a fairy-tale book once a
year for the Christmas trade.’

‘It sounds lovely,’ Searle said.

‘It’s obscene,’ Liz said, more hotly than she intended; and then wondered
again why she should be so on edge this evening. ‘

So Mrs Garrowby sat and brooded darkly behind her gracious exterior. She
was not afraid for the Trimmings silver, of course. She was afraid of what
she called the young man’s ‘personableness.’ She distrusted it for itself,
and hated it as a potential threat to her house.

For the introspective Liz, on the other hand, life had become all of a
sudden a sort of fun-fair. A kaleidoscope. A place where no surface ever
stayed still or horizontal for more than a few seconds together. Where one
was plunged into swift mock danger and whirled about in coloured lights.
Liz had been falling in and out of love more or less regularly since the
age of seven, but she had never wanted to marry anyone but Walter. Who was
Walter, and different. But never in that long progression from the baker’s
roundsman to Walter had she been aware of anyone as she was aware of
Searle. Even with Tino Tresca, of the yearning eyes and the tenor that
dissolved one’s heart like a melting ice, even with Tresca, craziest of
all her devotions, it was possible to forget for minutes together that she
was in the same room with him. (With Walter, of course, there was nothing
remarkable in the fact that they should be sharing the same air: he was
just there and it was nice.) But it was never possible to forget that
Searle was in a room.

Why? she kept asking herself. Or rather, why not?

It had nothing to do with falling in love, this interest; this excitement.
If, on Sunday night, after two days in his company, he had turned to her
and said: ‘Come away with me, Liz,’ she would have laughed aloud at so
absurd a notion. She had no desire to go away with him.

But a light went out of the room with him, and sprang up again when he
came back. She was aware of every movement of his, from the small mallet
of his forefinger as it flicked the radio switch, to the lift of his foot
as it kicked a log in the fireplace.

Why?

She had gone walking with him through the woods, she had shown him the
village and the church, and always the excitement had been there; in his
gentle drawling courtesy, and in those disconcerting grey eyes that seemed
to know too much about her. For Liz, all American men were divided into
two classes: those who treated you as if you were a frail old lady, and
those who treated you as if you were just frail. Searle belonged to the
first class. He helped her over stiles, and shielded her from the crowding
dangers of the village street; he deferred to her opinion and flattered
her ego; and, as a mere change from Walter, Liz found it pleasant. Walter
took it for granted that she was adult enough to look after herself, but
not quite adult enough to be consulted by Walter Whitmore, Household Word
Throughout the British Isles and a Large Part of Overseas. Searle’s was a
charming reversal of form.

She had thought, watching him move slowly round the interior of the
church, what a perfect companion he would have made if it were not for
this pricking excitement; this sense of wrongness.

Even the unimpressionable Lavinia, always but semi-detached from her
current heroine, was, Liz noticed, touched by this strange attraction.
Searle had sat with her on the terrace after dinner on Saturday night,
while Walter and Liz walked in the garden and Emma attended to household
matters.  As they passed below the terrace each time on their round of the
garden, Liz could hear her aunt’s light childlike voice babbling happily,
like a little stream in the half-dark of the early moonrise. And on Sunday
morning Lavinia had confided to Liz that no one had ever made her feel so
_abandoned_ as Mr Searle. ‘I am sure that he was something very wicked in
Ancient Greece,’ she said. And had added with a giggle: ‘But don’t tell
your mother that I said so!’

Miss Easton-Dixon lived in a tiny cottage on the slope behind the village
street. It had three windows, asymmetrical in their own right and in
relation to each other, a thatched roof, and a single chimney, and it
looked as if one good sneeze would bring the whole thing round the
occupant’s ears; but its aspect of disintegration was equalled only by its
spick and span condition. The cream wash of the plaster, the lime-green
paint of door and windows, the dazzling crispness of the muslin curtains,
the swept condition of the red-brick path, together with the almost
conscientious crookedness of everything that normally would be straight,
made a picture that belonged by right to one of Miss Easton-Dixon’s own
fairy-tale books for Christmas.

In the intervals of writing her annual story, Miss Easton-Dixon indulged
in handcrafts. In the schoolroom she had tortured wood with red-hot
pokers. When pen-painting came in she had pen-painted with assiduity, and
had graduated from that to barbola work. After a spell of sealing-wax, she
had come to raffia, and thence to hand-weaving. She still weaved now and
then, but her ingrained desire was not to create but to transform. No
plain surface was safe against Miss Easton-Dixon. She would take a cold
cream jar and reduce its functional simplicity to a nightmare of
mock-Meissen. In times which have seen the disappearance of both the attic
and the boxroom, she was the scourge of her friends; who, incidentally,
loved her.

She looked at Liz’s sallow little countenance and tried to remember when
she had last seen it so alive; so full of the joy of life. After a little
she remembered. It was on a Christmas afternoon long ago, and Liz had
experienced in the short space of an hour her first snow and her first
Christmas tree.

So far she had hated only Leslie Searle’s beauty. Now she began to hate
Leslie Searle.

Ratoff had at one time been the raison d’être and prospective
star of an embryo play of Toby Tullis’s which was to be called _Afternoon_
and was all about a faun. Unfortunately it had suffered considerable
changes in the processes of birth and had eventually become something
called _Crépuscule_, which was all about a little waiter in the Bois, and
was played by a newcomer with an Austrian name and a Greek temperament.
Ratoff had never recovered from this ‘betrayal’. At first he had drunk
himself into scintillations of self-pity; then he had drunk to avoid the
ache of self-pity that filled him when he was sober; then he was sacked
because he had become independable both at rehearsals and performance;
then he reached the ultimate stage of a ballet dancer’s downfall and
ceased even to practise. So that now, vaguely but surely, the fatty tissue
was blurring the spare tautness. Only the furious eyes still had the old
life and fire. The eyes still had meaning and purpose.

Walter thought with
a mild amusement how scandalised poor Serge would be if he could witness
the treatment to which his adored Toby was being subjected. Toby had by
now discovered that Leslie Searle was a fellow who photographed the
world’s celebrities, and was therefore confirmed in his suspicion that
Searle had known quite well who he was. He was puzzled, not to say
wounded. No one had been rude to Toby Tullis for at least a decade. But
his actor’s need to be liked was stronger than his resentment, and he was
putting forth all his charm in an effort to win over this so-unexpected
antagonist.

Sitting watching the charm at work, Walter thought how ineradicable was
the ‘bounder’ in a man’s personality. When he was a child his friends at
school had used the word ‘bounder’ loosely to describe anyone who wore the
wrong kind of collar. But of course it was not at all like that. What made
a man a bounder was a quality of mind. A crassness. A lack of sensitivity.
It was something that was quite incurable; a spiritual astigmatism. And
Toby Tullis, after all those years, stayed unmistakably a bounder. It was
a very odd thing. With the possible exception of the Court of St James’s,
there was no door in the world that was not wide open to Toby Tullis. He
travelled like royalty and was given almost diplomatic privileges; he was
dressed by the world’s best tailors and had acquired the social tricks of
the world’s best people; in everything but essence he was the well-bred
man of the world. In essence he remained a bounder. Marta Hallard had once
said: ‘Everything that Toby does is just a little off-key,’ and that
described it very well.

Looking sideways to see how Searle was taking this odd wooing, Walter was
delighted to observe a sort of absentmindedness in Searle as he consumed
his beer. The degree of absentmindedness was beautifully graded, Walter
noticed; any more would have laid him open to the charge of rudeness and
so put him in the wrong, any less might not have been obvious enough to
sting Tullis. As it was, Toby was baffled into trying far too hard and
making a fool of himself. He did everything but juggle with plates. That
anyone should be unimpressed by Toby Tullis was a state of affairs not to
be borne. He sweated. And Walter smiled into his beer, and Leslie Searle
was gentle and polite and a little absentminded.

Weekley had been watching them from the bar for some time, and now brought
his beer over to their table and greeted them. He came, as Walter knew,
for two reasons: because he had a woman’s curiosity, and because
everything beautiful had for him the attraction of the repulsive. Weekley
resented beauty, and it was not entirely to be held against him that he
made a very large income indeed out of that resentment. His resentment was
quite genuine. The world he approved of was, as Liz had said, ‘all
steaming manure and slashing rain’. And not even the clever parodies of
his individual style had sufficed to ruin his vogue. His lecture tours in
America were wild successes, not so much because his earnest readers in
Peoria and Paduca loved steaming manure but because Silas Weekley looked
the part so perfectly. He was cadaverous, and dark, and tall, and his
voice was slow and sibilant and hopeless, and all the good ladies of
Peoria and Paduca longed to take him home and feed him up and give him a
brighter outlook on life. In which they were a great deal more generous
than his English colleagues; who considered him an unmitigated bore and a
bit of an ass. Lavinia always referred to him as ‘that tiresome man who
always tells you that he was at a board school’, and held that he was just
a little mad. (He, on his part, referred to her as ‘the woman Fitch’, as
one speaking of a criminal.)

Weekley had come over to them because he could not keep away from the
hateful beauty of Leslie Searle, and Walter caught himself wondering if
Searle knew it. For Searle, who had been all gentle indifference with the
eager Toby, was now engaged in throwing a rope over the antagonistic
Silas. Walter, watching the almost feminine dexterity of it, was willing
to bet that in about fifteen minutes Searle would have Silas roped and
hog-tied. He glanced at the big bland clock behind the bar and decided to
time him.

Searle did it with five minutes to spare. In ten minutes he had Weekley,
resentful and struggling, a prisoner in his toils. And the bewilderment in
Weekley’s sunken eyes was greater than ever the bewilderment in Toby’s
fish-scale ones had been. Walter nearly laughed aloud.

And then Searle put the final touch of comedy to the act. At a moment when
both Silas and Toby were doing their rival best to be entertaining, Searle
said in his quiet drawl: ‘Do forgive me, won’t you, but I see a friend of
mine,’ and got up without haste and walked away to join the friend at the
bar. The friend was Bill Maddox, the garage keeper.

‘For the five hundred and seventh time, I do not eat pickles. I have a
palate, Williams. A precious possession. And I have no intention of
prostituting it to pickles. There was something among Searle’s things that
was a great deal more suggestive than any photograph.’

‘What, sir?’

‘One of the girl’s gloves,’ Grant said; and told him where it had been
found.

‘Well, well,’ Williams said, and chewed the information over in silence
for a little. ‘Doesn’t sound as if it had gone very far.’

‘What?’

‘The affair. If he was still at the stage of stealing her glove. Honestly,
sir, in this day and age I didn’t imagine that anyone was driven to making
do with a glove.’

So the beautiful young man had been sufficiently attracted to steal one of
his beloved’s gloves. Grant found it oddly endearing. An almost Victorian
gesture. Nowadays fetish-worship took much more sinister forms.

Photographs?’ Williams’s ears pricked.

‘Local ones that he has taken since he came here.’

‘Oh. Any of Walter Whitmore’s girl, by any chance?’

‘A very great number indeed.’

‘Yes? Posed ones?’

‘No, Williams, no. Romantic. Her head against a sunlit sky with a spray of
almond blossom across it. That kind of thing.’

‘Is she photogenic, would you say? A blonde?’

‘No, she is a small, dark, plainish creature with a nice face.’

‘Oh. What does he want to go on photographing her for? Must be in love

with her.’

Searle had occupied a first-floor room in the battlemented tower that
stuck out to the left of the Tudor front door, so that it had windows on
three sides of it. It was large and high, and was furnished in very
superior Tottenham Court Road, a little too gay and coy for its Victorian
amplitude. It was an impersonal room and Searle had evidently done nothing
to stamp it with his personality. This struck Grant as odd. He had rarely
seen a room, occupied for so long, so devoid of atmosphere. There were
brushes on the table, and books by the bedside, but of their owner there
was no trace. It might have been a room in a shop window.

Of course it had been swept and tidied since last it was occupied six days
ago. But still. But still.

The feeling was so strong that Grant paused to look round and consider. He
thought of all the rooms he had searched in his time. They had all–even
the hotel rooms–been redolent of their late occupier. But here was
nothing but emptiness. An impersonal blank. Searle had kept his
personality to himself.

As he went through Searle’s belongings Grant thought about Liz
Garrowby–Marta’s ‘dear nice Liz’–and her relations with William’s
‘push-ee’. There was never any saying what a woman saw in any man, and
Whitmore was of course a celebrity as well as a potentially good husband.
He had said as much to Marta, coming away from the party that day. But how
right had Marta been about Searle’s power to upset? How much had Liz
Garrowby felt Searle’s charm? How much of that eager welcome of hers in
the hall had been joy at Searle’s imagined safety and how much mere relief
from the burden of suspicion and gloom?

‘No, of course it isn’t too late. It isn’t ten o’clock yet.’ She sounded
weary. ‘Since this happened time stretches out and out. It’s like
having–hashish, is it? Are you looking for anything in particular,
Inspector?’

Grant had asked about their trip down the Rushmere, so as to set him
talking; if you got a man to talk enough he lost his defensive quality.
Whitmore was drawing too hard on his cigarette but talking quite freely.
Before he had actually reached their Wednesday evening visit to the Swan,
Grant deflected him. It was too early yet to ask him about that night.

Grant took this, rightly, as capitulation, and went away to collect
Williams. He liked Williams and liked working with him. Williams was his
opposite and his complement. He was large and pink and slow-moving, and he
rarely read anything but an evening paper; but he had terrier qualities
that were invaluable in a hunt. No terrier at a rat hole ever displayed
more patience or more pertinacity than Williams did when introduced to a
quarry. ‘I would hate to have you on my tail,’ Grant had said to him more
than once in their years of working together.

To Williams, on the other hand, Grant was everything that was brilliant
and spontaneous. He admired Grant with passion, and envied him without
malice; Williams had no ambition, and coveted no man’s shoes. ‘You’ve no
idea how lucky you are, sir,’ Williams would say, ‘not looking like a
policeman. Me, I go into a pub, and they take one look at me and think:
Copper! But with you, they just cast an eye over you and think: Army in
plain clothes; and they don’t think another thing about you. It’s a great
advantage in a job like ours, sir.’

Only Heaven that wrote the scroll of human life
Knows where its beginning is, and where its end—
If end there be. We mortals can not read its writ,
We even \now not whether the text runs down or up.

Yet when a judge is seated behind his scarlet bench
His is the power of Heaven, over life and death—
But not Heaven’s knowledge. Let him—and us!—beware
Lest passing judgment on others, we ourselves be judged.

My senses are numbed by the unbearable pain .

But isn’t it true that when a man has been touched by death, others can see its mark on him ? Every time I come upon one of my wives or concubines in the now deserted corridors, she quickly averts her face. When I look up from my papers in the office, I often catch my clerks staring at me. As they hurriedly bend again over their documents, I know that they covertly clasp the amulets they have taken to wear¬ing of late. They must feel that after I had come back from my visit to Han-yuan I was not merely very ill. A sick man is pitied; a man possessed is shunned.
They do not understand. They need only pity me. As one pities a man condemned to the inhuman punishment of inflicting on him¬self with his own hand the lingering death: being forced by the executioner to cut away his own flesh, piece by piece. Every letter I wrote, every coded message I sent out these last days cut away a slice of my living flesh. Thus the threads of the ingenious web I had been weaving patiently over the entire Empire were cut, one by one. Every thread cut stands for a crushed hope, a thwarted illusion, a wasted dream. Now all traces have been wept out; no one shall ever know. I even presume that the Imperial Gazette shall print an obitu¬ary, mourning me as a promising young official who met an un¬timely death by a lingering disease. Lingering, indeed, lingering till now there is nothing left of me but this bloodstained carcass.
This is the moment that the executioner plunges his long knife in the tortured criminal’s heart, giving him the merciful deathblow. Why, then, do you, fearful shadow, insist on prolonging my agony, you who call yourself by the name of a flower ?

 Who could rule men when himself not a man ? At last I knew there was only one solution.
Once I had taken that decision, I felt at peace. I enjoyed the charming surroundings. On my left the almond trees, laden with white blossoms whose scent hung heavily in the warm spring air. And on my right the silvery expanse of the moonlit lake
“The almond blossoms are out very early, this spring!”
And I said:
“It is the unexpected joys that are the greatest!”
“Are they always?” she asked with a mocking smile. “Come, I shall show you where I was sitting just now.”

“Liu comes from an old family in the capital, and was educated to become an official. But he failed to pass the second literary examination, and that em¬bittered him to such a degree that he gave up all his studies and became a merchant. In that he was so successful that now he is one of the richest men in this province and his commercial enter¬prises are spread over the entire realm. That is the reason why he travels about so much. But please never mention to him that I told you this, for his earlier failure still rankles!”

Judge Dee reflected that Liu himself was probably having a hangover from the wedding dinner. He con¬gratulated him, and added: “I regret to have missed this opportunity of meeting the professor. His conversation would doubtless have been most instructive.”
“A simple merchant like me,” Liu Fei-po said sullenly, “does not pretend to understand classical literature. But I have heard it said that book learning does not always imply a high character!”
There was an awkward pause. Han quickly gave a sign to the waiters, who rolled up the bamboo curtains.

Meeting and parting are constant in this inconstant world,
    Where joy and sadness alternate like night and day;
    Officials come and go, but justice and righteosness remain,
    And unchangeable remains forever the imperial way.

“You could at least have chosen a better district than Peng-lai, that dismal place of mist and rain, far away on the seacoast! Don’t you know the weird stories they tell about that region since olden times? They say that on stormy nights the dead rise there from their graves, and strange shapes flit about in the mist that blows in from the ocean. They even say that weretigers are still slinking about in the woods there. And to step in the shoes of a murdered man! Everyone in his senses would have refused that post if it were offered to him, but you even asked for it!”
    The young magistrate had hardly listened to him. Now he said eagerly, “Think of it, a mysterious murder to solve, right after one has arrived at one’s post! To have an opportunity right away for getting rid of dry-as-dust theorizing and paper work! At last I’ll be dealing with men, my friends, real, living men!”
       “The implications of that fact,” Secretary Liang added quickly, “you know as well as we! It means that the magistrate’s murder has ramifications here in the capital. Heaven knows what hornets’ nest you are going to stir up, and what intrigues of high officials you’ll get involved in! You have passed all the literary examinations with honors; here in the capital you have a great future before you. And you prefer to bury yourself in that lonely place, Peng-lai!”
    “I advise you, Dee,” the third young official said earnestly, “to reconsider your decision. There is still time; you could easily plead a sudden indisposition and ask for ten days’ sick leave. In the meantime they’ll assign another man to that post. Do listen to me, Dee. I am speaking to you as your friend!”
    Magistrate Dee noticed the look of entreaty in his friend’s eyes. He felt deeply touched. He had known Hou only for a year, but had formed a high opinion of his brilliant mind and his exceptional capacities. He emptied his wine cup and rose.
    “I appreciate your solicitude as a further mark of your staunch friendship!” he said with a warm smile. “Both of you are perfectly right, it would be better for my career if I stayed on in the capital. But I owe it to myself to go on with this undertaking. The literary examinations Liang referred to just now I consider as routine; I feel that they don’t count for me. And neither do I count the years of paper work I have had in the Metropolitan Archives here. I have yet to prove to myself that I am really capable of serving our illustrious emperor and our great people. The magistracy of Penglai is the real beginning of my career!”
    “Or the end,” Hou muttered under his breath. He rose also and walked to the window. The gravediggers had left their shelter and were starting their work. He grew pale and quickly glanced away. Turning round he said hoarsely, “The rain has stopped.”
    “Then I’d better go!” Magistrate Dee exclaimed.

“And my advice to you, magistrate,” he said calmly, “is that you carry your sword yourself, else you’ll be caught unawares again.” He turned his horse round, and the two disappeared among the trees.
    As Magistrate Dee took his sword from Hoong and hung it over his own back, the old man said contentedly, “You gave them a good lesson, sir. What kind of people would those two have been?”
    “Usually,” the magistrate replied, “it is men with some real or imagined grudge who choose to become outlaws. But their code is to rob only officials and wealthy people; they often help people in distress, and they have a reputation for courage and chivalry. They call themselves ‘brothers of the green woods.’ ‘”‘ell, Hoong, it was a good fight, but we have lost time. Let’s hurry on.”

 

A torrential rain came pouring down. They took shelter under a high tree on a plateau by the roadside, overlooking the fertile green peninsula on which the district of Peng-lai was located.
    While they were eating a cold snack Ma Joong told with gusto some stories about his adventures with farm girls. Magistrate Dee took no interest in ribald tales, but he had to admit that Ma Joong had a certain caustic humor that was rather amusing. But when he began on another similar story, the magistrate cut him short saying, “I am told that there are tigers in these parts. I thought those animals favored a drier climate.”
    Chiao Tai, who had been listening silently to the conversation, now remarked, “Well, that’s hard to say. As a rule those brutes keep to the high wooded land, but once they have acquired the taste for human flesh they’ll also roam about in the plains. We might get good hunting down there!”
    “What about those tales about weretigers?” Magistrate Dee asked.
    Ma Joong cast an uneasy glance at the dark forest behind them. “Never heard about it!” he said curtly.
    “Could I have a look at your sword, sir?” Chiao Tai asked. “It seemed a fine antique blade to me.”
    As he handed him the sword, the magistrate said, “It is called Rain Dragon.”

There, you’d better show me the tribunal.”
    Tang first took them to the spacious court hall. The tiled floor was swept clean, and the high bench on the platform in the back was covered with a piece of shining red brocade. The entire wall behind the bench was covered with a curtain of faded violet silk. In its center appeared as usual the large figure of a unicorn, symbol of perspicacity, embroidered in thick gold thread.
    They went through the door behind the curtain and, after having crossed a narrow corridor, entered the private office of the magistrate. This room was also well kept: there was not a speck of dust on the polished writing desk, the plaster walls were newly whitewashed. The broad couch against the back wall was of beautiful dark green brocade.

   “Your honor’s predecessor was a gentleman of considerable charm and culture. Perhaps a bit easygoing at times and impatient about details, but very precise in all things that really mattered, very precise indeed. He was about fifty years old, and he had a long and varied experience. An able magistrate, your honor.”
    “Did he,” Judge Dee asked, “have any enemies here?”
    “Not one, your honor!” Tang exclaimed. “He was a shrewd and just judge, well  liked by the people. I may say, your honor, that he was popular in this district, very popular indeed.”

“He was an enthusiastic devotee of the tea cult, your honor, and most particular about all its details. He always insisted on fetching the water himself from the well in his garden, and he also boiled it himself on the tea stove in his library. His teapot, cups and caddy are all valuable antiques. He kept them locked away in the cupboard under the tea stove. On my instructions the coroner also made experiments with the tea leaves found in the caddy, but those proved to be quite harmless.”
   

The coroner, Dr. Shen, was a dignified elderly man with an intelligent face. Tang whispered to the judge that he was the best physician in the district, and a man of noble character.

 

Judge Dee leaned back in his chair and took a folding fan from his sleeve. Fanning himself vigorously, he said with a contented smile, “Well, Hoong, I have now a fairly clear picture of the murdered man’s personality. I have glanced through the volumes with his own poetry it is written in exquisite style but rather shallow in content. Love poems predominate, most of them dedicated to famous courtesans in the capital or other places where Magistrate Wang served.”


    Judge Dee nodded, “That brocade folder cou gave me a few moments ago,” he said, “contained nothing but erotic drawings. Further, lie bad a few score books on wine, and the way it is made in various parts of the empire, and on cooking. On the other hand, he had built up a fine collection of the great ancient poets, every volume dog-eared and with his own notes and comments written in on nearly every page. The same goes for his comprehensive collection of works on Buddhism and on Taoist mysticism. But his edition of the complete Confucian classics is in as virgínal a state as when he purchased it! I further noticed that the sciences are well represented: most of the standard works on medicine and alchemy are there, also a few rare old treatises an riddles, conundrums and mechan-ical devices. Books on history, statecraft, administration and mathematics arc conspicuous by their absence.”
    Turning his chair round, the judge continued.
    “I conclude that Magistrate Wang was a poet with a keen sense of beauty, and also a philosopher deeply interested in mysticism. And at the same time he was a sensual man, much attached to all earthly pleasures-a not unusual combination, I believe. He was completely devoid of ambition; he liked the post of magistrate in a quiet district far from the capital, where he was his own master and where he could arrange his life as he liked. That is why he didn’t want to be promoted–I belive that Peng-lai was already his ninth post as magistrate! But he was a very intelligent man of an inquisitive mind-hence his interest in riddles, conundrums and mechanical devices-and that, together with his long practical experience, made him a fairly satisfactory magistrate here, although I don’t suppose he was very devoted to his duties. He cared little for family ties; that is why he didn’t remarry after his first and second ladies had died, and why he was content with ephemeral liaisons with courtesans and prostitutes. He himself summed up his own personality rather aptly in the name he bestowed on his library.”
    Judge Dee pointed with his fan at the inscribed board that hung over the door. Hoong couldn’t help smiling when he read, “Hermitage of the Vagrant Weed.”
        “In any case,” he said, “I’ll study this at leisure, though it is of course by no means certain that it concerns affairs that are connected with his murder. But inconsistencies are always worth special attention. Anyway we have now a good picture of the victim, and that’s, according to our handbooks on detection, the first step toward discovering the murderer!”