The Man Within, p.21Graham Greene
‘No,’ Carlyon said. ‘You must hate me. You can shoot if you like. If not I’ll wait for the officers. They are coming?’
Andrews nodded his head. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said, ‘for what I did against you.’ Across the table their hands met. ‘It’s extraordinary,’ Andrews said, ‘we’ve been sleeping. She’s woken us.’ His voice broke and he dropped his hand, for his words had brought up a piercingly clear vision of what seemed to him a perfect holiness which he would never meet again. ‘Carlyon,’ he said, ‘will you go – now before the officers come?’
‘What’s the use?’ Carlyon said dully, watching the dead face opposite him. They’ll find me. I shall be almost glad to hang for this. What a stupid business. She was finer than any of us.’
‘Go,’ Andrews repeated. ‘Don’t you understand I want to be alone with her.’ He clenched his hands in a spasm of fear, fear of the grief which must come when there was no voice to distract him, and yet, if his father were to be slain, he must be alone.
Carlyon rose and Andrews handed him the pistol. ‘You may need this,’ he said. ‘Listen. Will you promise never to interfere with me again.’
‘I promise,’ Carlyon said. ‘We’ve been fools. That’s all done with.’
‘I didn’t mean the past,’ Andrews said. ‘Promise.’
‘I promise.’ They did not shake hands again for Andrews suddenly turned and stood with his back to the door fighting the impulse to cry out to Carlyon, ‘Don’t go. I’m afraid to be alone.’ His hands over his eyes he felt the touch of tears for the first time. Yet none of them was because his friend had gone and he would not see him again. As his enmity for Carlyon seemed now only a child’s foolish and dangerous game with fire, so also his love. It was like a dream recalled after many hours – without reality. The two musics had fought for final mastery – one alluring, unreal, touched with a thin romance and poetry, the other clear-cut, ringing, sane, a voice carved out of white marble. One had gone out from him into a vague world, the other was silent in death, but silence had conquered.
He was alone with the body of his love and he dared not loose his hands from his face. If he had lived with her a little longer he might have come to believe in an immortality and a resurrection, but now both heart and brain denied the possibility. Spring and summer and winter might come and go through the centuries, but their individual bodies would never meet. He had hardly begun to hear her voice and he had scarcely touched her body, and now he would neither hear nor touch ever again. He knew now how a second could crawl, and he could not bear the thought of the passage of empty years.
Dropping his hands but with eyes lowered so that he should not see her face he knelt beside Elizabeth’s chair. ‘Do you know,’ he asked in a whisper, ‘that it was I that killed you?’ For was there anything of himself that was not his father? His father was his lust, and his cowardice had been fashioned by his father. He would find out. He had a plan, but he dared not think of it too closely, lest his father fearing defeat and death should make a last struggle and gain ascendency.
His own knife. He had left it to guard her and with it she had taken her life. What depth of terror and disillusionment must have led her to that sacrifice. He thought of her frightened, despairing, afraid of betraying him. She had whispered ‘soon’ in unbelief, but she must have hoped, until it was too late for hope and she knew that he would not return.
He lifted her hand and put it on his mouth. ‘Why were you so wise?’ he whispered. ‘My love, my love, if you had waited Carlyon would have come.’ Spring, summer, autumn, winter. ‘Did you think I loved you so little that I could go on for ever and ever without you?’ He began to weep not freely but with dry, lacerating, interrupted sobs which left him breathless and exhausted. His brain felt wearied out and yet he could not rest. Sights and sounds, disconnected, many of them meaningless, trod on each other’s heels, trampled across his brain till it felt aching and bleeding. A sprig of blackberries in a muddy lane, a shrill voice talking, talking in a crowded bar, a man with scrubby beard, a wheel that turned endlessly with gathering speed, a shock of stars that plunged across a great dark gap of space, voices raised in shouts, the whistle of wind in spars, the sound of water, a red face plunged at him shrieking questions, and then silence, a white face lit by candles, and darkness and an aching heart.
The fourth time. The fourth time he would find peace. He needed it now more than ever in his life before. Even extinction was not so dread as the continuance of this aching nightmare. He put his head upon Elizabeth’s knees and said aloud between ungainly efforts to retrieve his breath, ‘I’ll try.’
Very faint through the sound of his own hard breathing he heard the gravel of the path grate beneath a number of feet. For the second time he raised his eyes to Elizabeth’s face. The vacant eyes no longer horrified him. He saw them as hope, a faint hope that might be a stirring of belief. Something had gone out of them to leave them thus, and how could a tangible knife have struck so intangible a something. If there is anything of you in this room, he thought, you shall see. Again he kissed her hands and again the sound of the shifting gravel came to him.
He realized then that his time with Elizabeth was a matter of minutes only, and that he would not even be allowed to see her into the grave. Taking the body in his arms he held it to him with a greater passion than he had ever shown in life. Although he thought that he was spilling his words vainly into an unhearing silence he whispered into her ear the first proud words he had ever said, ‘I shall succeed.’ Then he closed her eyes, for he did not want so beautiful a body shamed by their imbecility before strangers, and laid her back in the chair. His hands clenched he waited for the door to open, waited but with no apprehension, clear in a double duty of salvation, of his friend from pursuit and of himself from his father.
The many feet had come to a standstill outside the door and their owners were hesitating. It was clear that they feared resistance. Presently a familiar voice shouted for it to be opened. Half sitting upon the table facing the dead girl Andrews remained silent. After another pause the handle was turned with a sudden rough resolution and the door was flung open.
There entered first with slow caution, gun at the ready, the man who had mocked Andrews when they waited together in the witnesses’ room. Some other men followed him with equal caution and ranged themselves against the wall, where they stood ready to shoot, their eyes turning nervously hither and thither, as though they dreaded some sudden attack.
‘So it’s you, Andrews, again,’ their leader said, with a grin intended for mockery. Andrews smiled back. He felt at last clear and certain of himself, happy in his decision.
‘Where are your friends?’
‘They’ve gone,’ he said and smiling at the association he caught a friendly echo of Carlyon’s voice. ‘They are all gone into the world of light, and I alone sit lingering here.’ Into what a harsh light had they passed and in what a refreshing darkness did he stay. It touched his hot brain with cool fingers like the fingers of a woman and the ache and restless longing and despair were at an end. And the darkness soon would grow deeper and in that darkness who knew but that there was a hope to find something which no knife could injure? It was no longer despair but a whimsical reproach with which he thought – if you had waited one month more, one week more, I might have believed. Now I hope.
‘They’ve gone,’ he repeated, his eyes turned not to the elderly revenue officer who addressed him, but to Elizabeth. The officer’s eyes followed his and remained fixed in a gradually growing horror and disgust.
‘What’s this?’ he said and suddenly moved round the table and came face to face with the body. ‘She’s dead,’ he added, voice falling into a whisper. He looked up. ‘Did they do this? We’ll hang them now.’
‘I killed her,’ Andrews said. ‘You’ll find my name on the knife.’ You are safe now, Carlyon, he thought, not with any bitter, soured or jealous love, but with a quiet and amused friendliness. We are quits. And yet it is true – I did k
Leaning forward, paler than when he entered, the man drew out the knife and read the name in the rude, schoolboy attempt at engraving. ‘You scum,’ he said. He gave an order to his men.
‘I’m coming quietly,’ Andrews said. ‘Didn’t I send for you?’ They watched him with puzzled, suspicious and totally uncomprehending eyes, but made no attempt to bind his hands.
‘There’s nothing more to stay for,’ Andrews said and walked to the door. They followed him as if he were their leader and outside formed round him without a word. It was quite dark, but the moon, like a ship on a land girt lake, sailed in a deep blue gap between the clouds, shedding a pale light upon their crumpled splendour. One star companioned her.
Andrews did not look back upon the cottage. Regret had gone, even remembrance of the graceless body abandoned there. To his own surprise he felt happy and at peace, for his father was slain and yet a self remained, a self which knew neither lust, blasphemy nor cowardice, but only peace and curiosity for the dark, which deepened around him. You were always right, he said, in the hope, not yet belief, that there was something in the night which would hear him, the fourth time has brought peace. His father’s had been a stubborn ghost, but it was laid at last, and he need no longer be torn in two between that spirit and the stern unresting critic which was wont to speak. I am that critic, he said with a sense of discovery and exhilaration.
It was the men around him who seemed overweighted with a kind of despair for the dead. They walked heavily and nervously, forgetting the prisoner in their horror of his act. They did not know how close they were treading to another deed. Aware of his safe presence in their midst they kept their eyes away from him in a kind of shame that any man could be so callous. To Andrews’ sense now there were two stars or it might be two yellow candles in the night around him. One was the sole companion of the moon, the other glimmered more brightly still in the belt of the officer in front of him and bore his own name. Slowly his hand stole out unnoticed on an errand of supreme importance, for between the two candles there was a white set face that regarded him without pity and without disapproval, with wisdom and with sanity.
The Man Within was the first novel of mine to find a publisher. I had already written two novels, both of which I am thankful to Heinemann’s for rejecting. I began this novel in 1926, when I was not quite twenty-two, and it was published with inexplicable success in 1929, so it has now reached the age of its author. The other day I tried to revise it for this edition, but when I had finished my sad and hopeless task, the story remained just as embarrassingly romantic, the style as derivative, and I had eliminated perhaps the only quality it possessed – its youth. So in reprinting not a comma has been altered intentionally. Why reprint then? I can offer no real excuse, but perhaps an author may be allowed one sentimental gesture towards his own past, the period of ambition and hope.
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Copyright © Graham Greene 1929
First published in Great Britain in 1929 by William Heinemann
Published by Vintage 2001
A CIP catalogue record for this book
is available from the British Library
Graham Greene, The Man Within
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