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I shall go and see h

im f●or you’ I said, though my heart quail▓ed in disgust at the prospect; bu▓t Melissa had already fallen asleep with her dar▓k head upon my knees.Whenever she was▓ upset about anything she took refuge in the▓ guileless world of sleep, slipping● into it as smoothly and easily as ▓a deer or a child.I put my hands inside ●the faded kimono and gently rubbed her shallow r▓ibs and flanks.She stirred half-awake and mur▓mured something inaudible as she allowed▓ me to lift her and carry her gently back● to the sofa.I watched her sleepin▓g for a long time.It was alrea

e city was drifting like a bed of s●eaweed towards the lighted cafés of the● upper town.I went to Pastroud▓i and ordered a double whisky which I dr●ank slowly and thoughtfully.Then I took a ta▓xi to the Hospital.I followed ▓a duty-nurse down the long anonymous ▓green corridors whose oil-painted walls e●xuded an atmosphere of damp.The white pho●sphorescent bulbs which punctuated our p●rogress wallowed in the gloom like swollen gl●ow-worms.They had put him in the little▓ ward with the single curtained bed which was,▓ as I afterwards learned from Mnemjian, ▓reserved for critical cases w●hose expectation of life was s●hort.He did not see me at first, for he wa●s watching with an air of shocked exh●austion while a nurse dispos▓ed his pillows for him.I was amazed at the ma▓sterful, thoughtful reserve of the face wh●ich stared up from the mattress▓, for he had become so thin as almost to be unr●ecognizable.The flesh had su▓nk down upon his cheek-bones exposing the lon●g slightly curved nose to its very roots ▓and throwing into relief the carved nostrils.Th●is gave the whole mouth and jaw a buoyancy, a● spirit which must have character▓ized his face in earliest youth.His eyes looked▓ bruised with fever and a dark stubble sh●aded his neck and throat, but under this the e▓xposed lines of the face were as clean as th●ose of the face of a man of thirty.The imag▓es of him which I had so long held in my m▓emory — a sweaty porcupine, a▓ tame seal — were immediately dissolved a▓nd replaced by this new face, this new man who ●looked like — one of the beasts o▓f the Apocalypse.I stood for a long minute● in astonishment watching an unk●nown personage accepting the ministrati●on of the nurses with a dazed a▓nd regal exhaustion.The duty-nurse ▓was whispering in my ear: ‘It is go●od you have come.Nobody wil●l come and see him.He is delirious at t●imes.Then he wakes and asks for people.Y▓ou are a relation’ ‘A business assoc●iate’ I said.‘It will do him ●good to see a face he knows.▓’ But would he recognize me, I wondered If I h●ad changed only half as much● as he had we would be complete s▓trangers to one another.He was lying back now●, the breath whistling harshly through that l▓ong vulpine nose which lay resting against▓ his face like the proud figurehead of an ab▓andoned ship.Our whispers had disturbed hi▓m, for he turned upon me a vague but neverthe●less pure and thoughtful eye which s▓eemed to belong to some great bird of prey.Re▓cognition did not come until I move●d forward a few paces to the● side of the bed.Then all at once hi●s eyes were flooded with light● — a strange mixture of humility, hurt● pride, and innocent fear.He tu●rned his face to the wall.I blurt▓ed out the whole of my message in one s●entence.Melissa was away, I sa●id, and I had telegraphed her to come as qui●ckly as possible; meanwhile I had come to see▓ if I could help him in any way.His should●ers shook, and I thought tha●t an involuntary groan was about to burst from▓ his lips; but presently in it●s place came the mockery of a laugh, harsh, ●mindless and unmusical.As if di▓rected at the dead carcass of a joke so rot▓ten and threadbare that it could compel ●nothing beyond this ghastly rictus gouged o●ut in his taut cheeks.‘I know she is here’ ▓he said, and one of his hands came ▓running over the counterpane● like a frightened rat to grope fo▓r mine.‘Thank you for your kindness.’ An●d with this he suddenly seemed to grow calm,● though he kept his face turned away● from me.‘I wanted’ he said slowly, as if h●e were collecting himself in order t▓o give the phrase its exactest m▓eaning, ‘I wanted to close my accou▓nt honourably with her.I treate●d her badly, very badly.She did not noti●ce, of course; she is too simple-minded, ●but good, such a good girl.’ It sounded ▓strange to hear the phrase ‘bonne▓ copine’ on the lips of an Al●exandrian, and moreover pronounced in the chip●ped trailing sing-song accent co●mmon to those educated here.Then he added▓, with considerable effort, ●and struggling against a formidab▓le inner resistance.‘I cheated her over her ▓coat.It was really sealskin.Also● the moths had been at it.I had it relined.▓ Why should I do such a thing When she ●was ill I would not pay for her to see the d●octor.Small things, but they weigh heavy.’ ▓Tears crowded up into his eyes and his thr●oat tightened as if choked by th▓e enormity of such thoughts.He swallowed harshl●y and said: ‘They were not really i●n my character.Ask any business man who know●s me.Ask any one.’ But now co●nfusion began to set in, and ho▓lding me gently by the hand h●e led me into the dense jungle of his il●lusions, walking among them wit▓h such surefootedness and acknowledg▓ing them so calmly that I almost found m●yself keeping company with them too.▓Unknown fronds of trees arched over him, b▓rushing his face, while cobbles punctuated the▓ rubber wheels of some dark ambulance▓ full of metal and other dark bodies, who▓se talk was of limbo — a repulsive yelping stre▓aked with Arabic objurgations.The pain, too, h▓ad begun to reach up at his reas▓on and lift down fantasies.The hard white ●edges of the bed turned to boxes of coloured b▓ricks, the white temperature chart to a boatma▓n’s white face.They were driftin●g, Melissa and he, across the sh▓allow blood-red water of Mareotis, in ▓each other’s arms, towards the rabble of m▓ud-huts where once Rhakotis stood.He reprod●uced their conversations so perfectly▓ that though my lover’s share w●as inaudible I could nevertheless he●ar her cool voice, could deduce her questions fr▓om the answers he gave her.She was de▓sperately trying to persuade him to ma●rry her and he was temporizing, unwil●ling to lose the beauty of her person and ●equally unwilling to commit h●imself.What interested me was ▓the extraordinary fidelity with which he repr▓oduced this whole conversation wh●ich obviously in his memory ranked as one● of the great experiences of his life.He ▓did not know then how much he loved her; it had ▓remained for me to teach him the lesson.And ●conversely how was it that Melissa had n▓ever spoken to me of marriage, had▓ never betrayed to me the depth of her ▓weakness and exhaustion as she had ▓to him This was deeply wounding.● My vanity was gnawed by the thought that she h●ad shown him a side of her natur▓e which she had kept hidden ▓from me.Now the scene changed again and he f▓ell into a more lucid vein.●It was as if in the vast jungle of unreason ●we came upon clearings of sani●ty where he was emptied of hi●s poetic illusions.Here he s▓poke of Melissa with feeling bu●t coolly, like a husband or a king.It was a●s if now that the flesh was dying the whole f●unds of his inner self, so long dammed up▓ behind the falsities of a life wrongly live●d, burst through the dykes and flooded the fo▓reground of his consciousness.It was no●t only Melissa either, for he spoke o●f his wife — and at times confused ▓their names.There was also a third name, Rebe▓cca, which he pronounced with a deeper reserve,● a more passionate sorrow than either of the ot▓hers.I took this to be his little daughter, ●for it is the children who deliver the final cou▓p de grace in all these terrible transa●ctions of the heart.Sitting there at his● side, feeling our pulses ticking i▓n unison and listening to him as he tal▓ked of my lover with a new magistra▓l calm I could not help but see how much t●here was in the man which Meliss▓a might have found to love.By what strang●e chance had she missed the real p▓erson For far from being an ●object of contempt (as I had a●lways taken him to be) he seemed to be now a▓ dangerous rival whose powers I had been unawar▓e of; and I was visited by a thought so i●gnoble that I am ashamed to write● it down.I felt glad that Meli▓ssa had not come to see him die lest● seeing him, as I saw him now, s▓he might at a blow rediscover him.And● by one of those paradoxes i●n which love delights I found m▓yself more jealous of him in his dying than I ●had ever been during his life.T●hese were horrible thoughts for one who had bee●n so long a patient and attent●ive student of love, but I recognized o●nce more in them the austere mindless prim●itive face of Aphrodite.In a ●sense I recognized in him, in the very re▓sonance of his voice when he spok▓e her name, a maturity which I l▓acked; for he had surmounted his lo●ve for her without damaging or hurting it, an●d allowed it to mature as all love shou●ld into a consuming and depersonalized frien●dship.So far from fearing to die, and imp▓ortuning her for comfort, he wish●ed only to offer her, from the ine●xhaustible treasury of his d▓ying, a last gift.The magnif▓icent sable lay across a chair at the end of t●he bed wrapped in tissue paper; I could see at▓ a glance that it was not the sort of gif●t for Melissa, for it would throw her scant ▓and shabby wardrobe into confus▓ion, outshining everything.‘I was al▓ways worried about money’ he said▓ felicitously ‘while I was alive.But when you ▓are dying you suddenly find y▓ourself in funds.’ He was able for the▓ first time in his life to be▓ almost light-hearted.Only the sickn●ess was there like some patient an●d cruel monitor.He passed fro▓m time to time into a short conf●used sleep and the darkness hummed ab●out my tired ears like a hive of bees’.It w●as getting late and yet I could not brin●g myself to leave him.A duty-nur▓se brought me a cup of coffee and we talked▓ in whispers.It was restful ▓to hear her talk, for to her illn▓ess was simply a profession which she had mas●tered and her attitude to it was tha●t of a journeyman.In her cold v●oice she said: ‘He deserted his wife and chil▓d for une femme quelconque.Now neither th▓e wife nor the woman who is his mistress wants ●to see him.Well!’ She shru▓gged her shoulders.These tangled loya●lties evoked no feeling of compassion in her,● for she saw them simply as despicab▓le weaknesses.‘Why doesn’t the chil●d come Has he not asked for her’ She picked a▓ front tooth with the nail of he▓r little finger and said: ‘Yes.Bu▓t he does not want to frighten her by letti▓ng her see him sick.It is, you und▓erstand, not pleasant for a child.’ She picked▓ up an atomizer and languidly squirted som▓e disinfectant into the air above ▓us, reminding me sharply of Mnemjian●.‘It is late’ she added; ‘are you goin▓g to stay the night’ I was abo▓ut to make a move, but the sleeper awoke▓ and clutched at my hand once more.‘Don’t▓ go’ he said in a deep fragmented ●but sane voice, as if he had overheard t▓he last few phrases of our c●onversation.‘Stay a little● while.There is something else I ●have been thinking over and which I must reveal ●to you.’ Turning to the nurse he ●said quietly but distinctly, ‘▓Go!’ She smoothed the bed a▓nd left us alone once more.He gave a gr▓eat sigh which, if one had not been wat▓ching his face, might have seemed a sigh of● plenitude, happiness.‘In the cupboard▓’ he said ‘you will find m▓y clothes.’

There were two da●rk suits hanging up, and under his direction I ●detached a waistcoat from one of them, in t▓he pockets of which I bur


es.‘But no▓’ he said, ‘you will not marry her.W▓hy should you Never mind.Ta●ke them for her, and the coa▓t.’ I put the rings into the sh▓allow breast-pocket of my coat and said nothing.● He sighed once more and then to my surprise, ●in a small gnome’s tenor muffled ●almost to inaudibility sang a● few bars of a popular song which had on●ce been the rage of Alexandria, Jamais de la▓ vie, and to which Melissa still danced● at the cabaret.‘Listen to the mu●sic!’ he said, and I thought suddenly of● the dying Antony in the poem of Cavafy — a p▓oem he had never read, would never read.Sir●ens whooped suddenly from the harbour ▓like planets in pain.Then onc▓e more I heard this gnome sin▓ging softly of chagrin and bonheur, and ●he was singing not to Melissa but to Rebecca.H●ow different from the great heart-sundering cho●ir that Antony heard — the ri●ch poignance of strings and voices whic●h in the dark street welled up ▓— Alexandria’s last bequest▓ to those who are her exemplars.Ea●ch man goes out to his own music, I though▓t, and remembered with shame and pain the ●clumsy movements that Melissa made when she danc●ed.He had drifted now to the ●very borders of sleep and I jud●ged that i

ave him.I took● the coat and put it in the bottom drawer of th▓e cupboard before tip-toeing out and summoni▓ng the duty-nurse.‘It is very ●late’ she said.‘I will com▓e in the morning’ I said.I m●eant to.Walking slowly home th▓rough the dark avenue of trees, t●asting the brackish harbour wind, I rem●embered Justine saying harshly as she lay▓ in bed: ‘We use each other li▓ke axes to cut down the ones we re▓ally love.’ Justine (1957▓) Part II Chapter 3 We have been told so o●ften that history is indifferent, b●ut we always take its parsimony● or plenty as somehow planned; we never r▓eally listen….Now on this ●tenebrous peninsula shaped like a plane-l▓eaf, fingers outstretched (where th▓e winter rain crackles like str▓aw among the rocks), I walk stiffly shea●thed in wind by a sealine choked with groani●ng sponges hunting for the meaning to● the pattern.As a poet of the historic ●consciousness I suppose I am bou●nd to see landscape as a


human wish — tortured into ▓farms and hamlets, ploughed into ●cities.A landscape scribbled wit▓h the signatures of men and epochs.No●w, however, I am beginning to be▓lieve that the wish is inherited fro▓m the site; that man depends for the furniture ▓of the will upon his location in place●, tenant of fruitful acres or a perverte▓d wood.It is not the impact of hi●s freewill upon nature which I see (as I thou▓ght) but the irresistible grow●th, through him, of nature’s own bl●ind unspecified doctrines of variation and tor▓ment.She has chosen this poor for●ked thing as an exemplar.Then how● idle it seems for any man to say, as I once h●eard Balthazar say: ‘The missio●n of the Cabal, if it has one,▓ is so to ennoble function th▓at even eating and excreting will ●be raised to the rank of arts.’ You will ●see in all this the flower of a perf●ect scepticism which undermines th▓e will to survive.Only love can sus●tain one a little longer.I think,▓

too, that something of this sort must have b●een in Arnau

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