The Power and the Glory, p.1Graham Greene
About the Author
Also by Graham Greene
Chapter 1: The Port
Chapter 2: The Capital
Chapter 3: The River
Chapter 4: The Bystanders
About the Book
Graham Greene was born in 1904. On coming down from Balliol College, Oxford, he worked for four years as sub-editor on The Times. He established his reputation with his fourth novel, Stamboul Train. In 1935 he made a journey across Liberia, described in Journey Without Maps, and on his return was appointed film critic of the Spectator. In 1926 he had been received into the Roman Catholic Church and visited Mexico in 1938 to report on the religious persecution there. As a result he wrote The Lawless Roads and, later, his famous novel The Power and the Glory. Brighton Rock was published in 1938 and in 1940 he became literary editor of the Spectator. The next year he undertook work for the Foreign Office and was stationed in Sierra Leone from 1941 to 1943. This later produced the novel, The Heart of the Matter, set in West Africa.
As well as his many novels, Graham Greene wrote several collections of short stories, four travel books, six plays, three books of autobiography – A Sort of Life, Ways of Escape and A World of My Own (published posthumously) – two of biography and four books for children. He also wrote hundreds of essays, and film and book reviews, some of which appear in the collections Reflections and Mornings in the Dark. Many of his novels and short stories have been filmed and The Third Man was written as a film treatment. Graham Greene was a member of the Order of Merit and a Companion of Honour. He died in 1991.
ALSO BY GRAHAM GREENE
The Man Within
It’s a Battlefield
A Gun for Sale
The Confidential Agent
The Ministry of Fear
The Third Man
The End of the Affair
The Quiet American
A Burnt-out Case
Travels with my Aunt
Dr Fischer of Geneva or
The Bomb Party
The Human Factor
The Tenth Man
England Made Me
The Power and the Glory
The Heart of the Matter
The Fallen Idol
Loser Takes All
Our Man in Havana
The Honorary Consul
The Captain and the Enemy
The Last Word and Other Stories
May We Borrow Your Husband?
Journey Without Maps
The Lawless Roads
In Search of a Character
Getting to Know the General
Mornings in the Dark
A Sort of Life
Ways of Escape
Fragments of an Autobiography
A World of my Own
Lord Rochester’s Monkey
An Impossible Woman
The Little Train
The Little Horse-Bus
The Little Steamroller
The Little Fire Engine
The Power and the Glory
Th’ inclosure narrow’d; the sagacious power
Of hounds and death drew nearer every hour.
CHAPTER 1: The Port
Mr Tench went out to look for his ether cylinder, into the blazing Mexican sun and the bleaching dust. A few vultures looked down from the roof with shabby indifference: he wasn’t carrion yet. A faint feeling of rebellion stirred in Mr Tench’s heart, and he wrenched up a piece of the road with splintering finger-nails and tossed it feebly towards them. One rose and flapped across the town: over the tiny plaza, over the bust of an ex-president, ex-general, ex-human being, over the two stalls which sold mineral water, towards the river and the sea. It wouldn’t find anything there: the sharks looked after the carrion on that side. Mr Tench went on across the plaza.
He said ‘Buenos dias’ to a man with a gun who sat in a small patch of shade against a wall. But it wasn’t like England: the man said nothing at all, just stared malevolently up at Mr Tench, as if he had never had any dealings with the foreigner, as if Mr Tench were not responsible for his two gold bicuspid teeth. Mr Tench went sweating by, past the Treasury which had once been a church, towards the quay. Half-way across he suddenly forgot what he had come out for – a glass of mineral water? That was all there was to drink in this prohibition state – except beer, but that was a government monopoly and too expensive except on special occasions. An awful feeling of nausea gripped Mr Tench in the stomach – it couldn’t have been mineral water he wanted. Of course his ether cylinder . . . the boat was in. He had heard its exultant piping while he lay on his bed after lunch. He passed the barbers’ and two dentists’ and came out between a warehouse and the customs on to the river bank.
The river went heavily by towards the sea between the banana plantations; the General Obregon was tied up to the bank, and beer was being unloaded – a hundred cases were already stacked upon the quay. Mr Tench stood in the shade of the customs house and thought: what am I here for? Memory drained out of him in the heat. He gathered his bile together and spat forlornly into the sun. Then he sat down on a case and waited. Nothing to do. Nobody would come to see him before five.
The General Obregon was about thirty yards long. A few feet of damaged rail, one lifeboat, a bell hanging on a rotten cord, an oil-lamp in the bow, she looked as if she might weather two or three more Atlantic years, if she didn’t strike a Norther in the gulf. That, of course, would be the end of her. It didn’t really matter: everybody was insured when he bought a ticket, automatically. Half a dozen passengers leant on the rail, among the hobbled turkeys, and stared at the port, the warehouse, the empty baked street with the dentists and the barbers.
Mr Tench heard a revolver holster creak just behind him and turned his head. A customs officer was watching him angrily. He said something which Mr Tench did not catch. ‘Pardon me,’ Mr Tench said.
‘My teeth,’ the customs man said indistinctly.
‘Oh,’ Mr Tench said, ‘yes, your teeth.’ The man had none: that was why he couldn’t talk clearly. Mr Tench had removed them all. He was shaken with nausea – something was wrong – worms, dysentery . . . He said, ‘The set is nearly finished. Tonight,’ he promised wildly. It was, of course, quite impossible; but that was how one lived, putting off everything. The man was satisfied: he might forget, and in any case what could he do? He had paid in advance. That was the whole world to Mr Tench: the heat and the forgetting, the putting off till tomorrow, if possible cash down – for what? He stared out over the slow river: the fin of a shark moved like a periscope at the river’s mouth. In the course of years several ships had stranded and they now helped to prop up the ba
Mr Tench thought: ether cylinder: I nearly forgot. His mouth fell open and he began moodily to count the bottles of Cerveza Moctezuma. A hundred and forty cases. Twelve times a hundred and forty: the heavy phlegm gathered in his mouth: twelve fours are forty-eight. He said aloud in English, ‘My God, a pretty one’: twelve hundred, sixteen hundred and eighty: he spat, staring with vague interest at a girl in the bows of the General Obregon – a fine thin figure, they were generally so thick, brown eyes, of course, and the inevitable gleam of the gold tooth, but something fresh and young. . . . Sixteen hundred and eighty bottles at a peso a bottle.
Somebody whispered in English, ‘What did you say?’
Mr Tench swivelled round. ‘You English?’ he asked in astonishment, but at the sight of the round and hollow face charred with a three-days’ beard, he altered his question: ‘You speak English?’
Yes, the man said, he spoke a little English. He stood stiffly in the shade, a small man dressed in a shabby dark city suit, carrying a small attaché case. He had a novel under his arm: bits of an amorous scene stuck out, crudely coloured. He said, ‘Excuse me. I thought just now you were talking to me.’ He had protuberant eyes; he gave an impression of unstable hilarity, as if perhaps he had been celebrating a birthday, alone.
Mr Tench cleared his mouth of phlegm. ‘What did I say?’ He couldn’t remember a thing.
‘You said my God a pretty one.’
‘Now what could I have meant by that?’ He stared up at the merciless sky. A vulture hung there, an observer. ‘What? Oh just the girl I suppose. You don’t often see a pretty piece round here. Just one or two a year worth looking at.’
‘She is very young.’
‘Oh, I don’t have intentions,’ Mr Tench said wearily. ‘A man may look. I’ve lived alone for fifteen years.’
They fell silent and time passed, the shadow of the customs house shifted a few inches farther towards the river: the vulture moved a little, like the black hand of a clock.
‘You came in her?’ Mr Tench asked.
‘Going in her?’
The little man seemed to evade the question, but then as if some explanation were required: ‘I was just looking,’ he said. ‘I suppose she’ll be sailing quite soon?’
‘To Vera Cruz,’ Mr Tench said. ‘In a few hours.’
‘Without calling anywhere?’
‘Where could she call?’ He asked, ‘How did you get here?’
The stranger said vaguely, ‘A canoe.’
‘Got a plantation, eh?’
‘It’s good hearing English spoken,’ Mr Tench said. ‘Now you learnt yours in the States?’
The man agreed. He wasn’t very garrulous.
‘Ah, what wouldn’t I give,’ Mr Tench said, ‘to be there now.’ He said in a low anxious voice, ‘You don’t happen, do you, to have a drink in that case of yours? Some of you people back there – I’ve known one or two – a little for medical purposes.’
‘Only medicine,’ the man said.
‘You a doctor?’
The bloodshot eyes looked slyly out of their corners at Mr Tench. ‘You would call me perhaps a – quack?’
‘Patent medicines? Live and let live,’ Mr Tench said.
‘Are you sailing?’
‘No, I came down here for – . . . oh well, it doesn’t matter anyway.’ He put his hand on his stomach and said, ‘You haven’t got any medicine, have you, for – oh hell. I don’t know what. It’s just this bloody land. You can’t cure me of that. No one can.’
‘You want to go home?’
‘Home,’ Mr Tench said, ‘my home’s here. Did you see what the peso stands at in Mexico City? Four to the dollar. Four. O God. Ora pro nobis.’
‘Are you a Catholic?’
‘No, no. Just an expression. I don’t believe in anything like that.’ He said irrelevantly, ‘It’s too hot anyway.’
‘I think I must find somewhere to sit.’
‘Come up to my place,’ Mr Tench said. ‘I’ve got a spare hammock. The boat won’t leave for hours – if you want to watch it go.’
The stranger said, ‘I was expecting to see someone. The name was Lopez.’
‘Oh, they shot him weeks ago,’ Mr Tench said.
‘You know how it is round here. Friend of yours?’
‘No, no,’ the man protested hurriedly. ‘Just a friend of a friend.’
‘Well, that’s how it is,’ Mr Tench said. He brought up his bile again and spat it out into the hard sunlight. ‘They say he used to help . . . oh, undesirables . . . well, to get out. His girl’s living with the Chief of Police now.’
‘His girl? Do you mean his daughter?’
‘He wasn’t married. I mean the girl he lived with.’ Mr Tench was momentarily surprised by an expression on the stranger’s face. He said again, ‘You know how it is.’ He looked across at the General Obregon. ‘She’s a pretty bit. Of course, in two years she’ll be like all the rest. Fat and stupid. O God, I’d like a drink. Ora pro nobis.’
‘I have a little brandy,’ the stranger said.
Mr Tench regarded him sharply. ‘Where?’
The hollow man put his hand to his hip – he might have been indicating the source of his odd nervous hilarity. Mr Tench seized his wrist. ‘Careful,’ he said. ‘Not here.’ He looked down the carpet of shadow: a sentry sat on an empty crate asleep beside his rifle. ‘Come to my place,’ Mr Tench said.
‘I meant,’ the little man said reluctantly, ‘just to see her go.’
‘Oh, it will be hours yet,’ Mr Tench assured him again.
‘Hours? Are you certain? It’s very hot in the sun.’
‘You’d better come home.’
Home: it was a phrase one used to mean four walls behind which one slept. There had never been a home. They moved across the little burnt plaza where the dead General grew green in the damp and the gaseosa stalls stood under the palms. Home lay like a picture postcard on a pile of other postcards: shuffle the pack and you had Nottingham, a Metroland birthplace, an interlude in Southend. Mr Tench’s father had been a dentist too – his first memory was finding a discarded cast in a wastepaper basket – the rough toothless gaping mouth of clay, like something dug up in Dorset – Neanderthal or Pithecanthropus. It had been his favourite toy: they tried to tempt him with Meccano, but fate had struck. There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in. The hot wet river-port and the vultures lay in the wastepaper basket, and he picked them out. We should be thankful we cannot see the horrors and degradations lying around our childhood, in cupboards and bookshelves, everywhere.
There was no paving; during the rains the village (it was really no more) slipped into the mud. Now the ground was hard under the feet like stone. The two men walked in silence past barbers’ shops and dentists’; the vultures on the roofs looked contented, like domestic fowls: they searched under wide dusty wings for parasites. Mr Tench said, ‘Excuse me,’ stopping at a little wooden hut, one storey high, with a veranda where a hammock swung. The hut was a little larger than the others in the narrow street which petered out two hundred yards away in swamp. He said, nervously, ‘Would you like to take a look around? I don’t want to boast, but I’m the best dentist here. It’s not a bad place. As places go.’ Pride wavered in his voice like a plant with shallow roots.
He led the way inside, locking the door behind him, through a dining-room where two rocking-chairs stood on either side of a bare table: an oil-lamp, some copies of old American papers, a cupboard. He said, ‘I’ll get the glasses out, but first I’d like to show you – you’re an educated man . . .’ The dentist’s operating-room looked out on a yard where a few turkeys moved with shabby nervous pomp: a drill which worked with a pedal, a dentist’s chair gaudy in b
‘Very fine,’ the stranger commented.
‘It’s not so bad, is it,’ Mr Tench said, ‘for this town. You can’t imagine the difficulties. That drill,’ he continued bitterly, ‘is made in Japan. I’ve only had it a month and it’s wearing out already. But I can’t afford American drills.’
‘The window,’ the stranger said, ‘is very beautiful.’
One pane of stained glass had been let in: a Madonna gazed out through the mosquito wire at the turkeys in the yard. ‘I got it,’ Mr Tench said, ‘when they sacked the church. It didn’t feel right – a dentist’s room without some stained glass. Not civilized. At home – I mean in England – it was generally the Laughing Cavalier – I don’t know why – or else a Tudor rose. But one can’t pick and choose.’
He opened another door and said, ‘My workroom.’ The first thing one saw was a bed under a mosquito tent. Mr Tench said, ‘You understand – I’m pressed for room.’ A ewer and basin stood at one end of a carpenter’s bench, and a soap-dish: at the other a blow-pipe, a tray of sand, pliers, a little furnace. ‘I cast in sand,’ Mr Tench said. ‘What else can I do in this place?’ He picked up the case of a lower jaw. ‘You can’t always get them accurate,’ he said. ‘Of course, they complain.’ He laid it down, and nodded at another object on the bench – something stringy and intestinal in appearance, with two little bladders of rubber. ‘Congenital fissure,’ he said. ‘It’s the first time I’ve tried. The Kingsley cast. I doubt if I can do it. But a man must try to keep abreast of things.’ His mouth fell open: the look of vacancy returned: the heat in the small room was overpowering. He stood there like a man lost in a cavern among the fossils and instruments of an age of which he knows very little. The stranger said, ‘If we could sit down . . .’
Mr Tench stared at him blankly.
‘We could open the brandy.’
‘Oh yes, the brandy.’
The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene / Mystery & Detective / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes