Читать онлайн "The Twyborn Affair" автора Уайт Патрик - RuLit - Страница 59


Выбрать главу

‘You’re right, Eddie,’ she agreed. ‘You shouldn’t neglect your mother.’

After eating a ration of cold mutton alone in the cottage, he began regretting his decision not to let himself enjoy Marcia’s cooked meal, her down pillows, the warmth of her body. Was he a masochist as a man? He didn’t think so. He would have been had he loved her; he wanted to love, and might still, somewhere in the geography of flesh, come across the wherewithal for kindling its spirit. Up till now he was only enjoying the perks of love and the re-discovered womb.

He did, however, get out his writing-pad to justify his decision. Was the pad another masochistic touch? It was one he had bought from a Syrian hawker who came round from time to time. Marcia not unnaturally would have despised the ruled paper from his cheap pad. Even the slatternly recipient of his duty letter had a taste for expensive writing-paper, with watermarks and monograms; if Eadie had forsworn her grandfather’s coat of arms it was due to an inherent bashfulness.

So it seemed to him, as he sat poised above his ostentatiously modest pad, by the light of the kerosene lamp, that he was the only dishonest one.



In his state of drift, at the mercy of ‘Bogong’, the Lushingtons, the climate, and other influences, some of them inadmissible except to himself, the date eluded him.

He wrote

Dear Mother,

too bleak, too upright, and waited for what comes shooting out, finally, like milk, or sperm …

… should have written an age ago, and you’ll wonder why I haven’t. Physical exhaustion no doubt, Monaro cold, spasmodic depression. But don’t jump to the conclusion that I regret having come here. If nothing else, my body is hardening. I’m learning much that is practical in its own context, otherwise irrelevant. I can hear you laughing, and to some degree I share your amusement. I wish I had inherited more of my father’s legal blood and rational approach to the seriousness of life. But there we are — Eadie!

What I’d like to correct, Mother, is your impression of Marcia Lushington. She’s not what I’d call a bad woman, or not much worse than most of us, if our components could be seen squirming under the microscope. The bacilli of my own nature might appear related. Aren’t you perhaps blaming her for showing up your own faults? That is how most blame is doled out. I shouldn’t be accusing you of this if I didn’t know how alike we are. It should have brought us closer together, but never has. If I’m more lenient to Marcia it may be because I have none of her blood in my veins, while given to the same sensuality, lust, deceits. If these traits seem more evident in Marcia, it’s because she’s had greater cause to develop them. In a graveyard beside the house three short-lived children are buried. Greg wanted them there. He wanted a son. At least one of the dead children is not his, I suspect for no good reason beyond that of knowing my own capacity for deceit to be the equal of Marcia’s. Since I have never conceived or begotten a child, there is less concrete evidence in my case, only the shadows of deceit which flicker through the undergrowth of a life which has not been without its shady patches.

Marcia is respected by her servants, the neighbourhood, and obviously loves the land she owns. She is loved and respected (I believe) by her husband, an amiable, virtuous character, whose simplicity disguises intuitions of which he seems only half-aware. He has just gone off to Europe, for what purpose I haven’t been told. If Marcia knows, she doesn’t show. She is prepared to indulge his motives, perhaps because they suit her purposes. From my own experience, I’m inclined to think that Greg’s frequent disappearances are part of a desire to lose — or find himself, which perhaps one never succeeds in doing.

I shall leave you here, dear Mother, hoping I haven’t written anything too distasteful.



When he had finished, he sat looking at the word which promises so much, yet never illuminates to the extent that one hopes it will. He was tempted to climb back up the hill and creep into Marcia’s great warm womb of a bed. When more than likely she would not have had him since his rejection of her earlier that evening.

Instead he got between the army blankets, on his own narrow stretcher, and dreamed an astonishing dream in which Marcia played no part. He awoke in the Sunday dawn and burrowed deeper into the blankets, trying to mend his broken dream. Of course he did not succeed, and was left with the gritty resentment of those who are dispossessed by waking.

Whatever else fragmented and eluded, the themes of conscious life flowed into a common stream, of endlessness rather than infinity: the takeover of day from night, summer from winter, the diet of mutton, slug-riddled cabbage and grey potato, Peggy Tyrrell’s recitative of births, deaths, and lotteries, Prowse’s morose narrative of Kath’s defection. Eddie could have touched Kath, rounded out like a waxwork, her belongings crammed into a pair of Globeite cases, the kiddy trailing by its celluloid arm a doll in a tartan frock. Kath had barely left before she started leaving again, her sour-milk complexion emphasised against the sooty mesh of the fly-proof door. Don had half a mind to go out at night into the paddock and suck on the muzzle of a gun, like his dad, to put an end to it all.

Eddie pointed out, ‘You couldn’t do it, with Greg away, and Marcia up there on her own.’

‘Marcia’s not all that helpless.’

‘But depends on you.’

Don smiled a sceptical ginger smile. ‘Help me off with me boots, Ed.’ He had finished the last of the current bottle, his name pencilled in copybook hand below the maker’s. ‘Don’t know what I’d do without yer.’

After the final assisted contortion out of singlet and pants into pyjamas, the manager subsided on his bed, at the summit of which the brass balls had been jingling an accompaniment.

It was correspondence which alleviated the prolonged phase between winter and summer at ‘Bogong’, and those Saturday nights when, Don and Peggy away in town, Eddie climbed the hill and shared what Marcia described as ‘the scrumptious meal Mrs Quimby has prepared for you, darling — she’d have fobbed me off with a poached egg.’

Marcia would ask sharply, ‘What have you heard from my husband, Eddie?’

Eddie would tell of the highly coloured post-card he had just received, with its snatches of information on Roman churches, race meetings in England and Ireland, or the train journey from Bergen to Christiania.

‘But surely he’s written to you?’ he asked.

‘Naturally he’s written to me. At some length.’ She sighed. ‘He sent me a poem about a glacier.’

‘Then I can’t think why you’re anxious to know what he wrote on a post-card to an acquaintance.’

‘Aren’t I at liberty to wonder what he writes to others?’

‘I’d like to read one of his poems.’

By then the table had been cleared, the servants gone to their quarters, and Marcia and he withdrawn to the warmth of her bed and their united bodies.

‘The one about the glacier,’ he added, kissing her between breasts which had begun to heave and protest.

‘It’s far too private,’ she told him. ‘I mean,’ she said, ‘you only show your poem to those you want to see it — unless, of course, you throw it wide open to the public.’

Round him she had wrapped importunate thighs.

‘Rather like a cunt,’ he suggested as he strained to return the passion expected of him.

‘Oh,’ she moaned, ‘I find this sort of thing — so hateful — in you — and know you’ll — never — love me.’

After reaching their climax, and while still coupled, she tore her mouth apart from his, her head thrown sideways on the pillow.



2011 - 2018