—Unlike Mr Erskine, he says, I am not a widely-travelled man. I speak no foreign language. I had an uncle who lived in the Algarve. I began learning Portuguese but I found it difficult. The words slid into each other and confused me. When my uncle died, I saw no point in continuing. Now I study German. German has a multitude of rules. I feel that German and I agree with each other.
A map or a course? Is he following one or being led by the other? Or neither? Or both? He would like to ask Al one or two questions. To clarify things. To check he has them straight. But the train is approaching the Gare du Nord.
The British Club is no longer what it must have been in its colonial heyday. The lawns and terraces are returning to the wild; the restaurant opens fitfully; the musty volumes in the library disintegrate on the shelves. But the tennis courts are still in use, the bar does brisk business and the cards room is frequently occupied.
When Rosalind approached me, I sought Queen Utrica’s counsel.— Matrimony is a sacrament, said the Queen. It is your duty to restore propriety.The stems of powdered monk-eye picked at dawn served Rosalind well; and Fatima died in frightful agony.
Barbara, Cherry and Denise have adopted the resigned expression that usually marks this stage of the evening. I should explain that the members of our group have different reading tastes and a book that is chosen by one seldom finds any favour with the rest. The usual practice, however, is to accept what’s been proposed as a fait accompli and to say nothing further. Which is why Freya’s intervention comes as a surprise.
Marriage is a tricky business. Or can be, for a year or two, while you find out who it is you’ve married. Sex may sometimes smooth the path. Although sex can be tricky, too.
Unlocking your bedroom door, you find that a sheet of paper has been slipped under it. The note, written in a bold but elegant hand, reads:
I HAVE SOMETHING OF YOURS. YOU MIGHT LIKE IT BACK.You think about this for a moment before dismissing it as childish nonsense. There has been a great deal of childish nonsense throughout the day.
Dad leaves the room and returns with a manila envelope.—You won’t feel badly about her, will you, Stephen? Promise me that.Dad never uses my mother’s name. Neither do I. She died when I was three years old. Leukaemia. I didn’t know her.—Your mother was very young and your father didn’t want a child. I was happy to marry your mother. Honoured.Dad passes me the envelope.—You’ll want to find your father, he says.—Yes, Dad, I say. I suppose I will.