The Man Within, p.7Graham Greene
ANDREWS PUT THE closed knife back into his pocket. The dark which had been cold to him grew warm with friendliness. He was overwhelmed with an immense gratitude, so that he was unwilling to open the door and remind Elizabeth of his presence. She was as unapproachable to him in this mood as a picture, as holy as a vision. He remembered his first entrance to the cottage and his last sight of her before he sank exhausted, the pale resolute face set between two yellow flames.
Quietly as though he were in the presence of a mystery he turned the handle of the door and remained on the threshold unresolved and diffident. She was standing by the table cleaning the cups and plates which they had left.
‘Is that you?’ she said, without looking up. ‘Put these in the cupboard,’ and when he had obeyed her she returned to the fire and bending down to poke the coals murmured with a half-amused asperity, ‘A couple of fools.’
Andrews shifted from one foot to another. He found, faced by this devastating matter of factness, an inability to utter his thanks. He plucked nervously at a button and at last burst out in a tone almost of resentment, ‘I’m grateful.’
‘But what’s it all about?’ she asked spreading out her hands in a gesture of humorous perplexity. ‘I hate mysteries,’ she added, herself mysteriously brooding behind dark eyes flecked only on the surface by amusement.
‘Didn’t you hear what he said?’ Andrews replied and muttered in so low a tone that Elizabeth was forced to lean forward to catch his words, ‘A sort of Judas.’
‘Do you expect me to believe all that he said,’ she stared at Andrews in wide-eyed, innocent amusement. ‘He’s your enemy.’
‘Would you believe what I said?’ he asked with angry foreknowledge of the answer.
‘Of course,’ she said. ‘Tell me.’
He watched her in amazement, all his sentimental melodramatic instincts rose up in him to take advantage of the occasion. Oh, the blessed relief, he thought, to stumble forward, go down on my knees to her, weep, say ‘I am tired out. A hunted man pursued by worse than death.’ He could hear his own voice break on the phrase. But as he was about to obey those instincts, that other hard critical self spoke with unexpected distinctness. ‘You fool, she’ll see through that. Haven’t you enough gratitude to speak the truth?’ But then, he protested, I lose all chance of being comforted. But when he looked at her, the critic won. He stood where he was with hands clasped behind his back and head a little bent, but eyes staring intently, angrily for the first sign of contempt.
‘It’s all true,’ he said.
‘Tell me,’ she repeated.
‘It’s not a story which would interest you,’ he protested, in a vain hope of avoiding further humiliation.
She sat down and leaning her chin on her hand watched him with a friendly amusement. ‘You must earn your night’s lodging with the story,’ she said. ‘Come here.’
‘No,’ he clung as a desperate resort to a position in which he could at least look physically down upon her. ‘If I must speak, I’ll speak here.’
He twisted a button round and round till it dangled loosely on its cotton stalk. He did not know how to begin. He shut his eyes and plunged into a rapid current of words.
‘We were running spirits from France,’ he said, ‘and I betrayed them. That’s all there is to it. I wrote to the Customs officer at Shoreham and gave a date and an hour and a place. When we landed the gaugers were waiting for us. There was a fight, but I slipped away. It seemed that a gauger was killed.’ He opened his eyes and gazed at her angrily. ‘Don’t dare to despise me,’ he said. ‘You don’t know why I did it, my thoughts, feelings. I’m a coward, I know, and none of you can understand a coward. You are all so brave and quiet, peaceful.’
She took no notice of his angry outburst, but watched him thoughtfully. ‘I wonder why you did it?’ she answered.
He shook his head and answered in a kind of deep hopefulness, ‘You wouldn’t understand.’
‘But why,’ Elizabeth asked, ‘did you ever start smuggling? You are not made for that work.’
‘My father was a smuggler,’ Andrews said. ‘A common, bullying smuggler, but damnably clever. He saved money on it and sent me to school. What was the use of having me taught Greek, if I was to spend my life like this?’ and his hand in its vague comprehensive gesture included the bare room, the cold night, his muddy clothes and fear. He came a little nearer to the fire.
‘I will tell you why he sent me to school,’ he said, leaning forward as though to impart a confidence. ‘It was so that he could brag about it. He was proud of his success. He was never caught and they never had any evidence against him. His crew worshipped him. I tell you he’s become a legend on this coast. I’ve never dared to say these things about him to anyone but you. And all the time I was at sea, I could see how they wondered that such a mountain could bring forth such a mouse.’
‘Why do you hate your father so?’ Elizabeth asked. ‘Is it because of this?’ and with her mind she imitated the comprehensive gesture which he had made a minute before.
‘Oh, no,’ he said, ‘no.’ He watched her with a despairing intentness and a hopeless longing for some sign of comprehension. He pleaded with her not as an advocate to a jury but as a prisoner already condemned to his judge. ‘You can’t understand,’ he said, ‘what life was like with these men. I could do nothing which was not weighed up with my father and found wanting. They kept on telling me of his courage, of what he would have done, what a hero he was. And I knew all the time things they didn’t know, how he had beaten my mother, of his conceit, his ignorance, his beastly bullying ways. They gave me up in the end,’ he said smiling without any gaiety. ‘I was of no account. They were kind to me, charitably, because that man was my father.’
‘But why, why,’ she asked, ‘did you ever mix yourself up with them?’
‘That was Carlyon,’ he said softly, wondering whether the twisted feeling at his heart when he uttered the name was love or hate. It was at any rate something bitter and irrevocable.
‘The man who was here?’
‘Yes,’ Andrews said. ‘My father was killed at sea and they dropped his body overboard, so that even when he was dead, the law had no evidence against him. I was at school. My mother died a couple of years before. I think he broke her heart, if there’s such a thing as a broken heart. He broke her body anyway.’ Andrews’ face grew white as though from the blinding heat of an inner fire. ‘I loved my mother,’ he said. ‘She was a quiet pale woman who loved flowers. We used to go for walks together in the holidays and collect them from the hedges and ditches. Then we would press them and put them in an album. Once my father was at home – he had been drinking, I think – and he found us. We were so busy that we didn’t hear him when he called. He came and tore the leaves out of the album and scrumpled them in his fists, great unwieldy fists. He was unwieldy altogether, large, clumsy, bearded, but with a quick cunning brain and small eyes.’
‘Why did your mother marry him?’ Elizabeth asked.
‘They eloped,’ Andrews said. ‘My mother was incurably romantic.’
‘And when your father died?’
‘That was more than three years ago,’ Andrews continued in a tone as tired as though he were speaking of three centuries. ‘I was finishing school, and Carlyon brought the news. I was glad. You see it appeared to me to mean the end of fear. My father used to beat me unmercifully, because he said it would put courage into me. I think he was a little mad towards the end. My mother’s death frightened him, for he was superstitious. When I heard that he was dead, I thought it was the beginning of a life of peace.’
‘And why not?’ Elizabeth asked. ‘Why this?’
He bent his head sullenly. ‘I was alone,’ he said. ‘I wasn’t sure what to do. Carlyon asked me to come back with him and I went.’ He raised his head and said fiercely, ‘Can’t you understand? You’ve seen the man for yourself? There’s something about him … I was a boy,’ he added as though he was an old man disc
She screwed up her mouth as though at a wry taste. ‘Yes, but the betrayal?’ she said.
He drew himself up, moving a little away. ‘I don’t expect anyone to understand that,’ he said. He gave a momentary impression of great dignity, which he spoilt by an immediate capitulation. ‘You can’t realize the life I came to,’ he said. ‘There were storms and I was sea-sick. There were periods of night-long waiting off the coast for signals which did not come and I could not help showing my nerves. And there was no hope of any change, of any peace at last except death. My father had left his boat and every penny he had saved to Carlyon. That was why Carlyon came to me in Devon. He was curious to see the neglected son, and then I suppose he took pity on me. I believe he liked me,’ Andrews added slowly and regretfully with another painful twist at the heart.
‘I thought my father was dead,’ he continued, ‘but I soon found that he had followed me on board. The first member of the crew I met as I was hauled, pushed behind and pulled in front, on to the boat, was Joe, a fat, big, clumsy, stupid creature, a prize bull of a man. “You’ll soon get your sea legs, sir,” he said to me, “if you are your father’s son.” They worshipped my father, all except a wizened half-witted youth called Tims, whom my father had made his personal servant. My father, I suppose, had bullied him. He used to watch me slyly from a distance with a mixture of hatred and fear until he realized that I wasn’t “my father’s son”, when he began to treat me with familiarity, because we had both suffered from the same hand.’ Andrews paused, then began again with an exaggerated irony which did not disguise his own sense of shame. ‘They all soon realized that I wasn’t like my father, but they remained kind and only told me about six times a day what my father would have done in such and such a case. I used to take refuge with Carlyon. He never mentioned my father to me.’
Andrews had been speaking calmly, but with a strained note in his voice. Now he lost control of himself. ‘If I’m a coward,’ he cried, ‘haven’t I a mind? Wasn’t my brain of any use to them that they should treat me like a child, never ask my opinion, have me there on sufferance only, because of my father and because Carlyon willed it? I’m as good as Carlyon. Haven’t I outwitted the fool now?’ he ejaculated in hysterical triumph, and then fell silent before Elizabeth’s quiet passivity, remembering how she had lifted the cup to her lips and filled him with humility, as he crouched in the dark. Now he wished that she would speak, accuse him in so many words of ingratitude, rather than arraign him in silence before peaceful eyes. He grew resentful of her silence and fidgeted with his hands. ‘I’ve shown them that I’m of importance now,’ he said.
Elizabeth raised her hand to her head as though she felt an ache there. ‘So it was hate again,’ she said in a tired voice. ‘There seems to be hate everywhere.’
Andrews stared at her in amazement. On what had seemed the illimitable peace of her mind had appeared the cloud small as a man’s hand. For the first time a sense reached him of an unhappiness which was not his own. Watching the white face propped up on small clenched fists and touched only on the surface by the fire’s glow, he grew indignant with the world, with the dark which surrounded them, with fear, uneasiness, anything which could mar her perfect happiness. ‘She is a saint,’ he thought, remembering with a heart still half inclined to sentimental tears of gratitude the manner in which she had saved him from Carlyon.
He came a little nearer very cautiously, with a desire quite alien to his nature not to intrude on a sorrow which he could not share. ‘It is the dead man,’ he thought and became aware of a feeling of despairing jealousy. ‘It’s true then,’ his second self whispered, ‘always hate.’
‘No,’ he said out loud, speaking partly to her and partly to that other self, ‘not here. Hate’s not here,’ and when she looked up at him with a puzzled frown, he added, ‘I’m grateful.’ The poverty of his words! He grew aware of himself as a large, coarse body with soiled clothes and burst out indignantly, ‘It’s not fair that you should be touched by this.’ Suddenly in spirit he stretched out both hands to his own critic and begged him to take control, if only for a few minutes, of his actions. He said to Elizabeth, ‘It’s my fault. I know that. Perhaps it’s not too late. I’ll go now – this instant,’ and he turned hesitatingly and looked with shuddering distaste at the cold night outside. There was a suitable dwelling place for hate and there he would take it, leaving again in security this small warm room and its white occupant. Yet he did not want to go. It was not only that outside Carlyon and his two companions sought him, but that inside he would leave someone who seemed to carry far behind her eyes, glimpsed only obscurely and at whiles, the promise of his two selves at one, the peace which he had discovered sometimes in music.
He stood shamefully hesitating, the strength of his resolution exhausted in his words. ‘You needn’t go,’ she said. ‘You haven’t done me any harm,’ and seeing that he had not been affected by her unenthusiastic statement she added reluctantly, ‘I don’t want you to go.’
Andrews looked round at her. ‘Do you mean that?’ he asked.
‘Oh, it’s not your fascinating self,’ she said, with gentle mockery. ‘But I’m tired of being alone. I haven’t even the body with me now.’
‘No, but the spirit?’ he burst out, wilfully misunderstanding her words, seeing her body as a fragile and beautiful casing, which just succeeded in enclosing her lightly poised spirit that spoke in turn with mockery, friendship, sorrow, laughter and always with a pervading undertone of peace.
She did not understand. ‘I don’t know where that is,’ she said. ‘It will keep me safe anyway. I’ve said he was jealous, didn’t I? If you were drunk and full of lust,’ she added with an outspokenness which startled Andrews, ‘I should be safe.’
‘Yes, from anything of that kind, perhaps,’ Andrews said, ‘but from death?’
Elizabeth laughed. ‘Oh, I never thought of that,’ she said. ‘When I’m old will be time enough.’
‘How wonderful,’ Andrews said thoughtfully, ‘to live like that without the fear of death. You must be very brave. You are all alone here.’ He had completely forgotten his resolution to go, and now with sudden but not offensive familiarity he sat down on the floor by her feet and let the fire light up the wonder in his face to a warm glow. To Elizabeth it seemed that the lines with which fear had falsely aged his face were smoothed away, and it was a boy’s face which watched her with a boy’s enthusiasm. She smiled. ‘Not bravery but custom,’ she said.
He leant forward towards her, watching her face intently as though he were unwilling to miss the least shade, the smallest movement of the hidden muscles, the slightest change in the colour of what he began to consider in his heart were faultless eyes. ‘I’ve told you my story,’ he said. ‘Tell me yours. You say that I can stay the night here and it’s too early for sleep.’
‘It’s not an interesting story,’ Elizabeth said. ‘I have always lived here. I’ve never been further away than to school at Shoreham.’
‘And that man – who’s dead?’ Andrews asked, again with the puzzling twinge of jealousy.
‘I was here first,’ she said, as though she claimed like Venus priority over death. ‘I was born here, I think, but I can’t remember who my father was. I think he must have died or left my mother. What money there was came from my grandfather, a rich farmer as wealth is considered in these parts. As for the rest my mother took in lodgers, when she could get them, and when she failed, there was a little less to eat, that was all.’
‘And that man?’ Andrews repeated again with a stubborn boyish intentness.
She smiled. ‘You are very interested in him,’ she said. ‘He was one of my mother’s lo
‘I remember the day. I was about ten years old. We lived a very close life, you know, in this cottage. This was our only living-room. Above here are two rooms,’ and she pointed to a small door on the left of the fireplace. ‘My mother and I slept in one, and Mr Jennings – that was the name we knew him by – in another. He would be in to breakfast and supper and we ate with him down here. But after supper, because he was a quiet, brooding man who did not seem to care for company, we would take any work we had to do upstairs to our bedroom. I don’t know what he did all by himself but think and perhaps sleep in a chair by the fire, but sometimes I would wake in the very middle of the night and hear him going to his room. Perhaps he was one of those poor people who find it hard to sleep. You saw his face. Don’t you think there was something sleepless about it?’
‘It was a cunning wicked face, I thought,’ Andrews said.
‘Oh, no,’ Elizabeth protested, without anger. ‘He was cunning perhaps, but he was not wicked. He was kind to me in his own way,’ and she brooded for a moment on the past with a frown of perplexity.
‘Well, one night,’ she said, ‘after supper we were rising as usual to go upstairs, when he asked us to stay. It seemed astonishing to me, but my mother was quite undisturbed. She was a fatalist, you know, and it made her very serene but altogether unpurposeful. We stayed sitting there, I impatient to know the reason, but my mother apparently entirely uninterested. She took up her work and began to sew, as if it had always been her custom to work in this room. After a while he spoke. “I’ve been very comfortable here," he said. My mother looked up and said, “Thank you,” and went on with her sewing. Her answer seemed odd to me. I felt that he should have thanked her, not she him.’
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