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The man within, p.18
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       The Man Within, p.18

           Graham Greene
 
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  ‘You’ve won again,’ he said. ‘I’ll stay.’

  He looked up at her with angry resentment. Her eyes were glowing, but he noticed even at that moment that the glow was on the surface only and altered the nature of the drowsing depths no more than moonlight on a pond can transmute more than the face of the dark metallic water into silver.

  ‘Listen,’ he said, ‘since we’ve chosen to be fools we must make the best of it. Have you tools and wood? I want to mend the top bolt of the door.’ She led him into the shed, where he had slept first, and found him wood, nails, a saw, a hammer. Clumsily, for he was not used to working with his hands, he made a bolt and fastened it in place. ‘That helps to shut us in,’ he said. She was standing close beside him and he was on the point of taking her in his arms. Then a thought stopped him. I have the living against me, he thought, I do not want the dead also. To prevent a return of the temptation he tried to busy himself with means to their defence. ‘The cartridges?’ he asked. ‘Where are they?’ She brought them and he loaded the gun, leaving the others spread out on the table ready to the hand. Then he walked to the window, examined the outlook, entered the shed and reassured himself that the window was too high from the ground for a flank attack to be successful. ‘We are ready for them,’ he said dully. He was oppressed by a question. If Carlyon should be the first to come, could he shoot? He glanced out of the corners of his eyes at Elizabeth. It was she or Carlyon. He would have to shoot, and yet he prayed that it might be Hake or Joe who would offer himself to his bullet.

  ‘How far is your nearest neighbour?’ he asked.

  ‘Not more than a mile,’ she said. ‘He keeps a farm – and a cellar.’

  ‘You mean he’s a friend of these men?’ Andrews asked. ‘Surely if he heard shots he would send to Shoreham.’

  ‘You have lived very much on the sea, haven’t you?’ Elizabeth said. ‘You do not know this borderland, not close enough to the coast to be patrolled, not far enough away to have no dealings with smugglers. Here we are in the pocket of the Gentlemen.’ She unexpectedly clapped her hands. ‘What fun, after all, it is,’ she said.

  ‘Fun,’ he exclaimed. ‘Don’t you realize that it means death for someone?’

  ‘You are so afraid of death,’ she said.

  ‘I’m afraid of extinction,’ Andrews said, resting his hand on the barrel of the gun, in which he found comfort. ‘I am all that I have, I’m afraid of losing that.’

  ‘There is no danger,’ she said. ‘We go on.’

  ‘Oh, you believe in God,’ Andrews murmured, ‘and all that.’ He kicked his heels in an embarrassed fashion, not looking at her, blushing a little. ‘I envy you,’ he said. ‘You seem so certain, so sane, at peace. I’ve never been like that – at least only for a very little, while listening to music. – I’m listening to music now. Go on talking to me. While I hear you all this chaos,’ he put his hand to his head, ‘is smoothed out.’ He looked up at her suspiciously, expecting her laughter.

  Elizabeth asked with a small puzzled frown, ‘What do you mean by chaos?’

  ‘It is as though,’ Andrews said slowly, ‘there were about six different people inside me. They all urge different things. I don’t know which is myself.’

  ‘The one who left the knife and the one who stays here now,’ she said.

  ‘But then, what of the others?’

  ‘The devil,’ she answered.

  He laughed. ‘How old fashioned you are.’

  She put herself in front of him. ‘Look at me,’ she said. Hesitatingly he looked up and seeing her face glowing (the only word for that radiance, which gave her face the appearance of a pale crystal holding a sun or a star) the desire to take her in his arms was almost irresistible. But I must not, he told himself. I will not spoil these hours with her. I have spoiled everything I have touched. I will not touch her. He thrust his hands deep in his pockets and baulked desire gave his face a sullen, hostile look. ‘Tell me how you could return to warn me,’ Elizabeth asked, ‘when you do not believe in immortality. You risked death.’

  ‘Sentimentality,’ he said with a grin.

  A faint puzzled frown dimmed for a moment the radiance. ‘Why do you always make little of the good you do,’ she asked, ‘and make much of the bad?’

  He bit his lip angrily. ‘If you want to know why I came,’ he said, ‘I’ll tell you. Remember it’s your fault if all this peace is spoiled.’

  ‘No one can spoil my peace,’ she said. ‘Tell me.’

  He came closer and grinned at her angrily, as though he was going to do her a great wrong and hated her for that reason. ‘I came,’ he said, ‘because I loved you.’ He looked for a smile or even a laugh, but she watched him gravely, and the increase in her colour was so faint that it might have been imagined only.

  ‘I thought that was it,’ she said without moving, ‘but why this secrecy?’

  He stared at her in amazement. The candour in her eyes struck him with a kind of fear. ‘Must it remain in the past tense?’ she said. ‘You loved me. Is that all? Is it untrue now?’

  He moistened his lips, but could not speak. ‘If you cannot say you love me,’ she said with a slow but not mocking smile, ‘say again that you loved me an hour or two ago.’

  ‘Do you mean –’ he said. His hands moved out towards her hesitatingly, fingers afraid of the irrevocability of contact. Then with a leap of the heart he found his voice. ‘I love you,’ he said. ‘I love you.’ He held her now but at a distance. ‘I love you, too,’ she said, her eyes closed and her body trembling a little. He shut his eyes so that they might be together in a darkness, which would be empty of everything but themselves. Stumbling blindly through that darkness their mouths at first lost and then found each other. After a while they began to speak in whispers lest the darkness should be shattered by sound.

  ‘Why were you so long?’

  ‘How could I expect – I was afraid.’

  ‘Am I worse than death? You were not afraid of that.’ ‘I don’t fear it any longer. You are filling me with yourself. That means courage, peace, holiness.’

  He opened his eyes. ‘Do you know they gave you a surname in Court. It seemed so strange that you should have any other name than Elizabeth. A surname seems to tie you down to earth. I’ve already forgotten it. Open your eyes and tell me that this isn’t a dream.’

  She opened them. ‘How you talk,’ she said, ‘who were so silent about what really mattered.’

  ‘I’m excited,’ he said. ‘I want to laugh and shout and sing. I want to get wildly drunk.’

  He took his arms away and began to move restlessly round the room. ‘I am so happy,’ he said. ‘I’ve never felt like this before. What a curious feeling it is – happiness.’

  ‘This is only the beginning,’ Elizabeth said. ‘We have eternity.’

  ‘We have at any rate all our lives. Don’t squander time for that “perhaps”. Promise you’ll live long and slowly.’

  She laughed. ‘I’ll do my best.’

  ‘Come here,’ Andrews said and when she came he gazed at her with wonder. ‘To think that I can say come and you’ll come. You shouldn’t though. I wish you could realize how unworthy I am of you. Don’t laugh. I know every man says that. But it’s true of me. I’m a coward. It’s no use shaking your head. You can never wholly trust me. I told you that I was with a woman last night. I’m dirty, I tell you, soiled.’

  ‘Did you love her?’

  ‘You are very young after all, aren’t you? Men don’t go with harlots for that.’

  ‘Then it doesn’t touch me. Look,’ she spread out her arms and her chin again tilted upwards with that instinctive fighting gesture, ‘I will stand now for ever between you and them.’

  A shadow crossed Andrews’ face. ‘For ever is a long time. You must stay with me always. You must not die before me. If you did I should fall away.’ He laughed. ‘Here am I talking of death on the birthday of my life.’ He glanced apprehensively at the place where the coffin had lain. ‘He won
t come between us, will he?’ he implored. ‘His must be a jealous spirit’

  ‘Only a spirit,’ Elizabeth said. ‘We must pity him. He was kind to me in his way. He said that if he could not have me he would never let another man love me.’ Her fingers softly caressed the edge of the table. ‘Poor spirit,’ she whispered. ‘So soon defeated.’

  The thought of the dead man set up a chain of associations in Andrews’ mind. ‘It was Mrs Butler,’ he said, ‘who brought your name up in Court. Will she be coming here?’

  ‘Not for four days,’ Elizabeth said.

  ‘And we’ll be gone then from here. Where shall we go?’ But it was not material facts of sustenance, of earning a living which passed, image by image, through Andrews’ brain. He thought of the seasons they would see together; of summer, blue sea, white cliffs, red poppies in the golden corn; winter, to wake in the morning to see Elizabeth’s hair across the pillow, her body close to his, and outside the deep, white silence of snow; spring again with restless hedgerows and the call of birds. They would hear music together – organs in dim cathedrals speaking of sad peace, the heartaches of violins, the piano’s cold dropping notes, like water spilt slowly down a long echoing silence. And always the music of her voice, which seemed to him in this new foolish, drunken happiness more lovely than any instrument.

  ‘We will not go yet,’ she said, obstinate lines round her mouth. ‘What was it your Cockney Harry said? They will come today or tomorrow. We will face them first and then we will go.’

  He shrugged his shoulders. ‘If you will. I will pay any price, I think, for this happiness.’

  ‘You have not told me your story yet,’ she said.

  He hesitated. ‘We should be keeping a look-out.’

  She pouted her lips scornfully. ‘They will not come before dusk,’ she said. ‘Let’s sit down here on the floor by the fire,’ She smiled. ‘I’m tired of being old and wise. I want to be childish and be told a story.’

  She curled into the crook of his arm and he told her of the past two days; of how he had watched the smoke from the cottage chimney and thought it a flock of white birds round a saint (‘I was thinking most unsaintly thoughts of you,’ she interrupted); of the soft-eyed cattle who drank with him at the blue dewpond and of the bird which sang. He spread out the story of his walk slowly with meticulous detail, unwilling, as he had been in reality, to arrive in Lewes. But when he reached that part of his story he found a kind of flagellant pleasure in emphasizing his cowardice, his drunkenness and his lust. ‘I could not draw your picture,’ he said wryly. ‘I was a fool to think that I could ever draw you.’ He told her of Lucy, the scene in the Court, the acquittal, and of Cockney Harry’s arrival. ‘I put you out of mind,’ he said. ‘I was afraid to come and warn you. I went upstairs to sleep with that woman.’

  ‘But then you came,’ Elizabeth said.

  ‘Yes, but if only I had come at once, while I was comparatively clean.’

  ‘Forget all that,’ she said. ‘Everything is changed now. We have only the future not the past.’

  ‘I am afraid,’ he said, ‘of the past breaking in.’

  ‘Don’t be afraid.’ She suddenly pressed her mouth to his with a kind of vehement ferocity. ‘That is our dedication. If we are very close there will be no room for the past.’

  ‘Don’t tempt it,’ he implored.

  ‘You are so superstitious. It is always so with those who don’t believe in God.’

  He put up his hands to her face and pulled it down to him. ‘How sane and even you are,’ he said. ‘I can’t believe that you are younger than I am. You seem so wise. Dear sanity.’

  ‘Dear madness,’ she replied. ‘Tell me,’ Andrews said, ‘aren’t you afraid of this thing that has happened to us – this falling in love? It’s terribly changing. So strong that I feel that it could fling me at any moment into Heaven or Hell.’

  ‘I’m not afraid.’

  ‘And yet for you it’s so much worse,’ he said. ‘It must bring you pain.’

  ‘I’m not afraid of that kind of pain,’ she said. ‘You exaggerate it so. When there is anger I fear the anger – the kind of turmoil in the mind – but not the pain it may inflict.’

  ‘What do you fear most of all?’

  ‘Hate,’ she said.

  ‘For years,’ Andrews said, ‘I’ve longed for a peace, a certainty, a sanity. I thought I could get it perhaps in music, weariness, a number of things. I have it now. You are all of that. Do you wonder I want you? It would be worse than before if I should lose you now. You remember the parable about the swept room and the devils which entered worse than the first. You must possess me, go on possessing me, never leave me to myself.’

  As he talked he felt his exaltation wavering on its height. You’ll never stay the course, his heart mocked him. These are fine sentiments. They are not yours, you coward, drunkard, bully. These are the trumpets preparing for another betrayal. It seemed impossible, watching the peaceful depths of her eyes, to imagine that any man could give her a more permanent happiness than she already possessed within herself. He tried to imagine that astonishingly young wise face growing slowly older in a married tranquillity, lines appearing, the dark hair turning grey, the wisdom deepening. It was a blasphemy, he thought, to imagine for one moment that any man could satisfy a face with such sad eyes. The eyes were not sad, he felt, plunging deeper into a youthful romanticism, for any grief of her own. For herself there was a white tranquillity kindling into laughter round the mouth and on the surface of the eyes – laughter which could be in turn flippant, mocking, deep. It was, and he laughed at himself for sentimentality, a pity for the ways of the world and a too impetuous anxiety of the spirit to loose the body and plead for them before a divine tribunal.

  Elizabeth broke his thoughts by rising with a slight shake of her body as though to dispel vague dreams. ‘Wake up,’ she said. ‘However much you protest I am going to be practical.’ She fetched the gun from where it stood against the wall. ‘Show me how you loaded this,’ she said.

  Andrews took the gun in his hands, pulled out the cartridge, then looked up struck by suspicion. ‘Why do you want to know?’ he asked. ‘I’m going to be here to shoot for you. Do you think,’ he hesitated, feeling shame-facedly the justice of such a thought, ‘that I may run away?’

  Elizabeth coloured. ‘I never dreamed of such a thing,’ she said angrily. ‘Listen and believe this if you never believe another word I speak. I trust you absolutely.’

  ‘Thank you,’ Andrews said.

  ‘I will tell you,’ Elizabeth continued, with hesitation, ‘what I was thinking. I can’t bear you to imagine that I distrusted you. It was only this – I realized that I was being selfish again, as I was selfish when I sent you to Lewes. There’s little danger for me, but great danger for you. They want your life – they only want to frighten me. If they find me alone ready and armed they will go away, but they will not give up easily if you are here. Don’t interrupt, but listen. Leave me now before it is dusk. The road will be clear. Make your way to London. I can lend you money. We will arrange a meeting place where I can join you in a few days.’

  ‘I won’t leave you,’ Andrews said. The temptation had been conquered, he was astonished to find how completely. ‘Either you must come with me now or we both stay.’

  ‘I won’t go,’ she said obstinately. ‘Because I’m no strong walker. The two of us would move slowly and be more easily pursued. Better face them within four walls than in the open.’ She laughed. ‘Look at me. I am not stout, muscular, am I? I have always believed myself slim. Don’t disillusion me. Can you imagine me running for miles, scrambling over hedges, wading through ditches? I’d be a hopeless handicap.’

  ‘Well, I stay,’ he said with equal obstinacy.

  She watched him for a moment with a puzzled frown as if she were trying to devise some new method of appeal. ‘You are brave, you know,’ she said.

  ‘It’s not that,’ Andrews replied, ‘I haven’t the courage to leave yo
u.’

  He moved over to where the cups were hung in an orderly row above the sink. ‘Let’s pretend we have been married for years,’ he said, ‘and do pleasant ordinary things, cook food, wash up, talk to each other as though we had seen each other yesterday and would see each other tomorrow. This fresh love is too heady, too exalted as yet for me, too close to pain.’

  ‘The other will come too soon,’ Elizabeth said, ‘I do not want these ordinary things. You will know me so well in a year.’

  ‘I wish I could believe that,’ Andrews said.

  ‘Let’s keep the freshness while we can, even if it’s painful,’ Elizabeth whispered with sudden vehemence. ‘Don’t you see how quickly the time is going. It’s only a few hours till dusk. Oh, I know there’s no danger, but I’m a little frightened all the same. It’s hate again, hate coming.’

  ‘The door’s bolted.’

  Elizabeth stamped her foot in a sudden petulance. ‘Have your way,’ she said. ‘We’ll pretend what you wish, be indifferent now when we are fresh, have not when we may.’

  ‘I didn’t say indifferent,’ Andrews said. He caught her in his arms. ‘This is how I shall kiss you in five years’ time.’

  She laughed. ‘If I am sane, you are mad,’ she said. ‘Was there ever such an alliance? Come, take that cloth and dry those cups.’

 
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