Vol 1 No 9
The Laugh - part II
They took the ancient steamboat from the capital up the immense river, for a day and a night winding slowly among the forests loud with the cries of hidden birds, until on the second morning they found old Guimera with his 1929 Ford awaiting them on the little jetty.
For the whole of the voracious summer day they drove along the earth road over the wide savanna. Dust, entering everything, took the place of air; their lungs rasped with it. The sun, when they got out to snatch a hasty meal in a wayside bolishe, punched them savagely about the head and neck, before they reeled into the comparative shelter of thatched roof and mud walls.
After they had eaten, Raymond, slumped in the back seat, sleepy from wine, looked from time to time from under the palm hat tilted over his eyes at the powerful neck of Guimera and at Casandra’s black head of hair. And she is the daughter of that old bull, he thought. Some of him in her, too. But it was astonishing how beautiful the women in South America were. You passed one after another. And between her and himself, he wondered, what had brought it all about? Collision of Anglo-Saxon and Latin-American blood? Each dragging the other into its own stream? More than that, was there not perhaps in the two of them some affinity, transcending national characteristics, something, not ethnological, but psychological?
He could not think further; it was impossible to think anything in that crushing heat. He went to sleep.
It was late afternoon when he awoke, to find the light beginning its slow transmutations from white to pale yellow. They had arrived at the edge of the cañada, the depression, into which had flowed the accumulated heat of every hour since sunrise. The shock, as they hit it, rendered them speechless — until the old man growled:
— Puta! Qué calor de mierda.
Raymond, peering through the flap of the hood at his wife’s birthplace, took in an elementary piece of geometry: a square of some seven blocks of flat-roofed, white houses by seven, punctured by one hideous church spire, warped and weaved, as they coasted down the wide main street, by a few ancient Fords and forgotten makes of cars. Not even bad, he thought. Soulless. At the end of the six or seven blocks in either direction the streets struck the savanna; the next thing was the horizon — that lay some twenty miles distant. And that was that.
He leaned forward, touched the old man on the shoulder.
— Guimera, stop at the flower shop, if there is such a thing; I want to buy some flowers for the señora.
Up jerked the old man’s big round head in surprise. — Flores! Qué flores? He motioned with his head to a ragged bunch at the back of the rear seat, perhaps the second he had bought for his wife in forty-five years. Give her those, hombre, give her those . . .
His voice trailed off, uninterested.
— No. I want to buy my own. Drop me off.
Guimera, taking no notice, drove up to the principal house in the tiny plaza, stopped the car. The three of them got out, Casandra going inside the house immediately. Guimera, as he strode into his house, flicked his thumb over his shoulder. — Over there you’ll find a flower shop.
Raymond walked away across the street in the direction indicated, not wishing to enter the house with empty hands. Old doña Inés would probably be in bed, but somewhere about would be Lucía, the housekeeper, of whom he had heard so much, once Casandra’s nurse, and one or two Indian or mestiza girl servants.
He found the shop, entered, easing his hat, feeling the ring of pressure lift from his forehead. The place was large, comparatively cool, deserted. A few ferns trailed out of their pots, uncertain which way to go, bunches of odourless, stale carnations lolled wretchedly in two cracked vases. Otherwise nothing.
Wiping the heat off his face, he walked round loudly until, becoming impatient, he clapped his hands.
After a moment, there came a scuffling from the back of the shop. Down a long stone passage a woman in hair curlers and an overall and slippers shuffled out to the counter.
— Buenas tardes. Got anything besides these carnations?
For a second or two she stared at him in silence; then:
— Yes. Some nice gladioli.
— Show me them.
She continued staring at him a moment or two longer, then disappeared again, remaining absent for such a long time that he walked round behind the counter, and sat on a stool.
No doubt they would be wondering in the house what he was doing, why he had not entered straight away. No matter. He had been in the country eight years now, and knew that nothing mattered very much in South America, especially in the heat. They would merely wait, as he was having to wait, as everybody on the entire continent waited.
Eventually he heard again the slop-slop of the woman’s slippers, as she shuffled along the stone passage, bearing gladioli, white, pink and scarlet. They looked all right.
— How much are they?
— Fifty pesos.
— Fifty pesos a dozen!
— Yes, she said, catching his tone; they’re dear now.
Tonelessly she answered:
— Everything is dear now.
— Oh, I see, he said ironically.
— But the white ones are twenty pesos, she added.
— And the carnations?
He had little money; Casandra and he barely scraped along, but — What’s it all matter? he thought suddenly.
— Make me up half a dozen gladioli, mixed colours, half a dozen white gladioli, and a dozen carnations.
— Very good.
In the silence that followed she began to work, until eventually curiosity burst from her.
— What are they for? A presentation to somebody?
— Yes, he said, thinking, What the hell d’you think they’re for?
But after a moment his thoughts compelled him to add deliberately:
— For the señora de Guimera.
At that, the woman’s eyes opened wide — a cow-like look, he thought.
— La señora de Guimera! Of course! How stupid I am; you are Casandra Guimera’s husband. I didn’t realize. It must be because you are not wearing your uniform. The last time —
— Make up a nice bunch, will you? A bouquet. You know: paper, ribbon and stuff.
Checked, she regarded him with increasing curiosity. He looked back at her, thinking, You’ll get no change out of me.
— Bueno, she said. I’ll make up a nice bouquet for the señora; with cellophane and ribbon.
Again she disappeared. Again he sat down on the stool. The shop was silent, the town silent. Through the windows he looked at the wide street, clean, completely deserted at this hour, the windows of every house shuttered, as if an Indian invasion were expected.
Beyond the town the physical horizon was limitless; but the other horizon — how different that would be, he thought: the same as in little towns all over the world, everyone knowing everyone, watching, waiting silently through their long lives, until their end in the hideous cemetery they had passed some five kilometres outside the town. It was a perpetual drama, expanding, unbelievable, its force dominating them all day and night, the only type of intellectual pleasure — all of it compressed into those few crude cubes of brick and plaster and adobe: their theatre.
Now he himself had walked on to their stage, his act already begun; like all the others, helplessly he would make up his lines as he went along.
And the spectators? Already he could hear their whispers at the back of the shop. He got up, went to the door, looked outside.
The white-hot town rose up to meet him. There was no sound save, from the nearby plaza, the squeakings and knife-like rasping of the sparrows; they began to get on his nerves, and silently he cursed the woman for protracting the simple operation. Yet, he thought, for her it was not such a simple operation, but one charged with meaning, vibrant with a special significance, with its place in the town’s drama, in which she herself now had a brief walking-on part. Perhaps the excited whispers indicated that they realized he was not Alejandro. He did not know, and fell to wondering how best to treat the old mother. Once more he asked himself what upheaval had occurred inside her — Spanish, Catholic ‘to the marrow’, as the people phrased it — that she should have changed, allowing him at last entrance to her home? Ought he to treat her gravely, with old-fashioned courtesy? Or, blowing away the musty webs of her provincial inhibitions, to take her by storm, sweep her off her feet?
But it was difficult, if not impossible, to sweep off their feet someone already literally off them, lying in bed most of the day after a terrible operation. Perhaps, then, it were better to make a joke of it all. Perhaps ... He did not know: the whole thing turned meaningless each time he tried to think it out. It was recocida, as they said. Overcooked.
He decided to let things take their course — which is probably what they would do anyway, he reflected ironically. What he liked about Latin-Americans was their refusal to work out elaborate behaviour patterns; they merely allowed things to take their course.
At last the woman reappeared, began making up the flowers. The exact money, which he had got ready, he put down on the counter: seventy-five pesos.
As she arranged the long-stalked gladioli, she looked vacantly at the notes, until he realized she was counting them. Then:
— No. Eighty-five, she said.
— Eighty-five? How is that?
— The cellophane.
— You charge for that?
— Yes. I charge ten pesos for the cellophane and the ribbon.
Ten pesos for that stuff. She must know, then.
Suddenly impatient to be gone, he watched her pin up slowly the simple sheet of cheap cellophane, round which she then tied an orange silk ribbon. Completing the knot, over which she took a long time, she could not find her scissors, and again disappeared behind the partition. He was now prepared to wrench off the ribbon himself, and leave.
She returned, finished the task, took the money; he found himself once more in the empty white street. Unsteadied by the blows of the sun, he arrived at the Guimera house, pushed open the tall door.
It was deathly quiet and dark behind its closed shutters. He crossed a small entrance hall, then a sort of antesala, after which he found himself on a shabby patio of faded green and white mosaic, adorned with a few potted aspidistras. On to this patio opened some five or six doors. One of them was hers. Which?
There was still not a sound but, as he put down his hat on an iron table, Guimera suddenly appeared. Nervous, excited, he took Raymond firmly by the arm, guided him to a pair of tall doors.
— In here, he said brusquely, almost violently. Ahí está la vieja. There’s the old woman — in there, in there.
And he shoved the younger man through the doors.
Raymond found himself in a dark room without windows, whose ceiling was lost in obscurity, and in which he could at first see nothing. Then he made out a figure.
Standing in the middle of the room, wearing a sort of bathrobe, white, shapeless, the figure was turned away from him. Although it must have heard his entrance, it did not look round at him.
Preparing the enormous, crackling bouquet of flowers, he advanced, opening his mouth to say something — he did not know what — whence the figure turned, to face him.
He recoiled. The old woman’s face, white as her robe, was the face of a waxwork image, the eyes alone alive, glowing like coal-black jewels.
Alone, in silence they stood thus, facing each other for a space of time outside measurement, until he said jocularly:
— You see! The flower seller has arrived!
And he held out the huge sheaf, the cellophane crackling noisily in the room.
She kept her hands to herself, remaining silent, and again time ceased. Then her lips began to tremble, as she formed words.
— Quien es? she whispered. Who are you?
Her words rustled the silence, and to him she appeared tense, coiled, reminding him of a snake in the second before it lunges. He was tense himself, as they regarded each other in the dusky silence. For he knew now that she knew him.
They remained thus, looking at each other, when the door flew open, Casandra entered, saw them face to face, cried:
— Mama! Don’t you know who this is?
Her mother made no move. Her lips working again, her bright, living eyes staring out of her waxen face of death, she whispered:
— No, daughter. How should I know? Who is he?
— But it’s Raimundo, of course. Who else?
Without expression she whispered:
— My husband.
— He’s come to see you. Look! He’s brought you some beautiful flowers.
Doña Inés made no move, nor did she take her eyes from the man who had come to see her.
— Oh, it’s him then, is it? I didn’t know.
— But mama!
— I didn’t know, child. You never told me.
To this Casandra answered nothing.
All at once the old woman’s voice changed, quavered childishly.
— He said he was the flower seller, you see. Why didn’t he tell me?
Casandra turned to her husband, who had not moved a muscle during this charade.
— Go on. Aren’t you going to kiss my mamita?
Not allowing himself to think, he took a swift pace forward, placed his lips to the old woman’s cheek, felt no reciprocal salute on his own, thought:
Alabaster — only colder, harder.
And he gave her the flowers.
In the evening the heat ebbed a little. A huge setting sun and a round, ripe summer moon, white as though with its own heat, glared at each other from opposite quadrants; from the little plaza a heady perfume from the jacarandás and magnolias stole into the house. Casandra, entering again the bedroom in which she had slept as a child, thought: For me to return here is like entering a vacuum. Here I don’t think at all. I don’t believe anybody has ever thought anything in this house. People have just eaten and slept here, made love, and died — thinking nothing the whole of their lives.
She heard her father’s bellow from the patio:
— Casandra! Come and have a vermouth.
— In a minute, papa.
— Raimundo! shouted the old man to his guest, less than a yard from him. Have a glass of vermouth.
— Thanks, said the other, pushing his glass over the iron table.
The old man clumsily splashed in vermouth, until the tumbler was almost full. — Here, he said in a voice that shook the house; put some bitters in. Go on, go on. Metele, metele. Put some soda in too, hombre.
He might have been shouting above the roar of a shipyard.
Raymond shook in some Fernet-Branca, and the old man, seizing the soda syphon, squirted a fierce jet into the glass, which promptly overflowed; he ignored Raymond’s repeated ‘basta, basta’.
Raymond, raising his head to drink, saw in the shadows of the passage to the back of the house the figures of three women, knew them for Lucia, the housekeeper, and the two servant girls. Leaning against the wall, whispering among themselves, they were watching his every movement, weighing his every word — his unrehearsed lines. They would miss nothing, remember everything, including things that had never happened. For them, he knew, he was a copy of a proof sheet printed long ago on the dark presses of their provincial minds.
Suddenly Guimera, scraping his chair harshly over the patio floor, got to his feet, marched away, head down like a bull, to return carrying an enormous slice of cheese, shouting:
— Here, Raimundo! Have some of this, man.
Grabbing his chair as though it would escape him, he sat down noisily, gazed lengthily at the husband of his daughter, as a child regards an animal seen for the first time.
Soon, however, he became restless again, got up once more, to disappear in another direction. When he returned, he carried a large bag of walnuts. With a huge hunting knife he began to pulverize them, shoving the shattered mass of shells and nuts across the table to Raymond. Noisily he began to eat the nuts and take his vermouth. After a few moments, he bellowed:
— Lucía! The food, bring the food.
— Papa! said Casandra, entering the patio from her room, must you make such a din?
She crossed the patio, entering her mother’s room. — Mama, we’re just going to start supper.
Her mother looked at her, saying nothing; she was sitting on the edge of her bed, regarding a spot on the floor.
— What is the matter, mama? Aren’t you going to come and eat with us?
The old woman shook her head.
— But you’ve been all right today, mama.
— Not now, whispered her mother. I don’t feel so well now. I’ll have a little something in my room, perhaps.
— Come out for a little while, then.
— No, I’m not well enough to eat with all of you.
Casandra thought she understood.
— Raymond will be disappointed, she said.
— I’m sorry, said the old woman immediately; but I shall have to stay in my room. Besides — she added irrelevantly — Horacio is coming tonight.
— Yes. My doctor, said the other possessively of the only doctor within about 130 miles.
— Oh yes, of course, said Casandra, who had a poor opinion of him.
Knowing there was nothing more to be said, she went out, leaving the tall doors just ajar, and took her place at the table now set on the patio. Maruja, one of the mestiza girls, waited on them, and Lucía officiated for her mistress. Raymond, watching her serve the food, found her lean, stork-like, shrivelled — by a lifetime of waiting? he wondered, looking in that instant at Guimera.
The old man, now shirtsleeved, head bent so low over the table that he appeared to have no neck, was eating at an incredible speed, not removing his eyes once from his plate. To the accompaniment of most of a litre of red wine, he wolfed a dish of partridges in escabeche sauce, a large steak, roasted intestines and bull’s testicles, before uttering a word.
At last, wiping the lower part of his face on the table-cloth, he turned his attention to Raymond, whom he plied with every sort of drink: white wine, white beer, black beer, all in addition to the red wine the younger man was drinking. Finally, believing the other dissatisfied, he shouted to the other girl to bring a bottle of Gamba de Pernice.
— Dios mio! sighed Casandra, recalling past experiences with the powerful sparkling wine; that’s going to split everyone’s heads before morning.
Guimera, however, was not to be stopped. — Maruja! he shouted to the girl only a yard away from him: More glasses!
Although the sun had gone, the heat remained, as after an oven has been turned off; the wine was warm. Raymond put down his glass, not wishing to drink more. But Guimera pressed.
— Do you want some ice, Raimundo?
— No, thanks.
— Try some beer then; it’s cold.
— No, thanks.
The old man at that moment appeared to be watching over him as though over a long-lost son. He was also trying to make him a little drunk.
For a while they ate in silence. Raymond’s eyes every now and then rested on the tall doors behind which the old woman lay. Not a sound issued from her room which, windowless, was already in darkness. He did not ask himself what her thoughts might be: he was, he realized, the only one in the house besides herself who knew.
The Gamba de Pernice was brought and served; but Guimera, watching Raymond, appeared troubled. Suddenly, as if as the result of a difficult decision, he banged down his glass on the table, got up so violently that his chair fell over with a crash. No one took any notice nor even touched the chair.
He went to the kitchen, where, ignoring the other girl, he opened the refrigerator, wrenching out, after a tussle, a tray of ice. Taking it to the sink, he began to beat it furiously against the wall.
For a while the others listened to his oaths. Raymond, feeling for some reason his liking of the old man sharpen, began to smile. The din increased, until Lucia called out:
— Don Alonso! You’ll not get it out that way. Put it under the tap.
And Casandra, distraught at this exhibition in front of her second husband, cried:
The old man now put the ice-tray under the tap, and soon had succeeded in splashing water all over the kitchen floor. Finally, dislodging several chunks of ice, he returned to the table, held out triumphantly the tray to Raymond, who looked up with surprise.
— Here you have ice! said Guimera, elated.
— But, papa! said Casandra; Raimundo said he didn’t want any ice. Disillusioned, Guimera turned again to Raymond.
— You don’t want any ice, then?
— No, thanks.
Resignedly, Casandra said:
— Papa, put the ice back in the refrigerator.
But Guimera, picking up his chair, reseated himself, began clumsily hacking at the ice-blocks, finally shouted to Raymond:
— Here, Raimundo, have some ice,man. Here!
And with a series of crashes dropped four or five lumps into the other’s glass, which was empty.
Raymond looked at his glass; laughter tempted him. Then, without knowing why, he looked again at the doors of doña Inés’s room. All through this burletta, he thought, she has made no sound. Then he felt Lucia’s bright bird’s eyes on him — like a watching bird, he thought, waiting for the food it dares not take.
She cleared her throat. Something told him that a blow, albeit a puny one, was coming; but from what quarter or how he could not tell.
In her piping voice she began to relate.
— The day we brought the señora back from the hospital in Santa Teresa, there was a procession in Cañada de López — for the Virgen de Fátima. The whole town turned out, even the Indians and the poor people from across the arroyo. Never in my life have I seen so many people in Cañada.
— Yes, — interposed Casandra — and: when everyone was in the plaza, outside the church, the priest cried: Three cheers for the Virgen de Fátima! But all he got in reply was a miserable wail. So then he shouted — she gave an ironical imitation of the priest, rolling her r’s — Más fuerte, mis hijos, que la Virgen oiga sus fieles de Cañada de López! (Louder, my children, so the Virgin can hear her faithful of Cañada de López!)
Casandra’s city years had sophisticated her. The spectacle of the faithful of Cañada de López being exhorted to shout louder, so that the Virgin could hear them, was for her amusing — also for her husband, who burst into laughter.
And old Guimera, now carving himself huge portions of cheese and quince marmalade, permitted a malicious smile to spread over his face.
Lucía, however, unamused by the interruption, waited until the laughter had died; she had not said all she wanted.
— Yes, she continued, and something else was happening that day. Only one square away from the procession of the Virgin there was another gathering. — She paused to make sure of her audience. — And this other gathering was for another Virgin!
She stopped dramatically.
— Puta, what virgin? growled the old man, his mouth full.
— A virgin of another religion! she said, her voice rising an octave.
— Yes, but what religion, woman?
Lucía’s voice sharpened with scorn. —Another religion, in which they don’t pray and confess, as we do. And the men — she hissed the words — kiss each other!
There was a moment’s silence, then Guimera growled:
— Qué boludez! (What balls!)
And he rose brusquely, to disappear into one of the dark rooms opening on to the patio.
Triumphantly now Lucia continued, pressing together her thin lips which, thought Raymond, had never known the tenderness of a lover’s mouth.
— Yes! she cried, approaching her finale. Another religion!
Then, raising her voice still higher, in contemptuous emphasis and lancing her piercing bird’s glance straight at Raymond, she delivered her thrust!
— Yes, protestants there were. Protestants!
So that’s what it’s all about, thought Raymond. At last you’ve got it off your chest. And I know just what you mean, you old starved crow; but they’re all the same to me — Protestants, Catholics, Jews, the lot.
At that moment from the room Guimera had entered came the crash of collapsing furniture, and the tail of the old man’s standard oath:
—’to que lo parió.
Loudly Casandra sighed.
— My god, whatever is he up to now?
— Getting my bed ready, said Lucía complacently.
— Where’s he going to put it?
— In your mama’s room. I’m going to sleep with her tonight.
And the two of you, Raymond thought, will have plenty to gas about all night.
For a few moments there was calm. The patio, which was slowly being involved in the short summer darkness, suddenly brightened. Raymond, lifting his head, saw, sliding down one wall, moonlight, ghost-coloured, the same colour, he thought, as the old woman’s face. Then Guimera’s roar fragmentized the short silence.
From the kitchen, also looking on to the patio, came the answering slither of naked feet.
— Light the lamps, girl!
He emerged from the room, carrying a collapsible bed, shouting at no one in particular:
— Hey! I’ll get Raimundo a spittoon, in case he should need one during the night.
Stacking the bed noisily outside doña Inés’s door, he blundered away somewhere, then, remembering it was dark, shouted:
— Listen! I’ll get a torch, so Raimundo can see, in case he wants to go to the bathroom in the night.
But, after turning everything upside down, he was unable to find the torch and yelled:
— Yes, papa. What is it?
— Tell Raimundo I can’t find the torch, he said momentously. If he’s taken short in the night, he can do it out of the window on to the street.
Raymond, feeling the wine and food expand inside him, lit a long cigar; he was beginning to enjoy himself.
The dark-skinned girl slithered in, bearing the oil lamp. From the lowered wick the yellow light welled out to engage the shadows advancing from the edge of the patio and the blacker shadows round the sick woman’s door. Still she did not request a light.
Suddenly the front door bell jangled.
— Adelante! shouted Guimera at the top of his voice, reseating himself at the table. Some fruit! he added to one of the girls.
But the visitor, who apparently knew the house, had already entered. On to the patio he strode, the family doctor, the town doctor, the only doctor within 130 miles — shirt-sleeved, cigar in mouth, carrying a little black bag. He had grey wavy hair, grey moustache to match, and was the type, thought Raymond, who thinks himself irresistible to women, and probably is — to many fool enough not to see through him.
The doctor, putting his bag on the dinner table, entered at once into conversation with Guimera, his almost every sentence being rounded off with a proverb, a saying, a judgement.
Casandra regarded him with disgust. He was, she knew, something of a politiquero, a bit of a tub-thumper, and had thus for her a certain entertainment value; beyond that — nothing. She knew, too, that he was going with an Indian girl from across the arroyo, and that the welt on his forehead evidenced his wife’s recognition of it. She got up, went to her mother, whom she found seated on the bed in darkness, doing nothing.
— Mama, don’t you want a light — sitting in the dark like that?
— I don’t mind the dark, my child, said her mother, without moving.
— The doctor’s here.
— Ah! My doctor. Don’t let him come in yet; I want to get myself ready. Open the door, just a little, and let some light in. Not too much.
Casandra obeyed, looked at her mother curiously in the faint light entering from the patio.
— Mama, why do you like him so much?
— The doctor.
— Why? Porque me gusta, replied the old woman illogically.
— Yes, but he’s useless as a doctor, you know that.
— Maybe, but I like him, repeated her mother petulantly, driven into a corner.
She began to arrange her hair, then coyly added:
— You know why I like him, Casandra?
In a pathetic tone, she said:
— Porque me tiene lástima. He has pity for me.
Casandra returned to the patio, not knowing what to think, hurt to see her mother wasting feelings on a man she herself knew to be no good. Yet where else, she wondered, watching her father jerk the fruit bowl towards him, is she to get sympathy? The story of this household.
The doctor was now deep in his peroration, which concerned, as usual, his speciality: the decline and fall of the republic. He remained standing — probably because of his subject, thought Casandra derisively.
— Now, take patriotism, he was saying in a silky, persuasive voice. If we in this country had only that much — he showed the extreme tip of his little finger-nail — why then we could make this country really great.
He paused. No one commented. Guimera, the only one whose face was illuminated by the still down-turned lamp, looked a little glazed.
— But you know something? the doctor continued. With the English and the Germans — his tone became contemptuous — patriotism is a very different thing.
He broke off, looked at Guimera, who had demolished half the fruit, seeming to be taking little or no notice.
— Yes, he continued, wrinkling his moustache; with the English and the Germans, patriotism is exaggerated: they let themselves be billed for their countries!
He stopped abruptly, struck an attitude. The others watched him with indifferent curiosity, saying nothing. Then in Guimera’s eyes appeared a malicious glint. He grabbed another handful of apricots from the bowl, looked furtively from the doctor to Raymond, from Raymond to the doctor, then, leaning forward, turned up the lamp to full brilliancy. At the same time he moved it; the light bounded into Raymond’s face.
At once the doctor saw the new face, which appeared thus to have materialized out of the shadows. He ceased ranting, cried:
—Ah! Qué tal, qué tal? I never recognized you there in the dark. What a surprise. Such a long time. What do you tell me of your life?
Raymond, content after his meal, looked at the doctor through a cloud of cigar smoke, and said nothing.
The doctor then looked at him more closely, trying to make up his mind. At length:
— Do you know, I find you a bit thinner than when you last came.
And moving a little round the table, he clasped affectionately his hand round the other’s neck.
There was utter silence. Raymond was aware that Casandra had stopped eating, that Lucia’s bright bird glance was cocked triumphantly at himself, that in the passage shadows moved — and that one of the lofty doors of doña Inés’s room had swung silently open. The tall oblong of blackness thus disclosed became partly filled in with a blurred white form. Unmoving, the form waited. Trembling against his reply? he wondered.
Everyone, everything waited; even the moonlight, it seemed, had ceased spilling itself down the patio wall. He twisted in his chair, smiled up at the man he had never seen in his life.
— Yes, he said casually, I have lost a bit since then.
He ran his eye up and down the figure of the doctor; the others held their breath.
— But you, he added; I do believe you’ve gone the other way. You’re a little fatter, if I’m not mistaken.
A gasp came from Lucia. From Guimera a choking sound. Raymond, turning his head quickly, caught him off his guard.
The old man was half sprawled across the table, noisily, too noisily expectorating apricot stones, his head bent right over his plate. But in his eyes, peering up through his bushy brows and fixed on the doctor, lights were dancing, spangles of deep, hidden laughter, irrepressible, malicious, playing back the younger man’s thoughts — a laugh which for the second husband outbalanced everything, since the day he had taken Casandra.
The old man and the younger understood each other.
- 10th Muse
- Angel Exhaust
- Blithe Spirit
- Brando's hat
- Brittle Star
- Cannon's Mouth, The
- Coffee House, The
- Dream Catcher
- French Literary Review, The
- Frogmore Papers, The
- Global Tapestry
- Homeless Diamonds
- Interpreter's House, The
- Journal, The
- Lamport Court
- London Magazine, The
- Modern Poetry in Translation
- Monkey Kettle
- Neon Highway
- New Welsh Review
- North, The
- Obsessed with pipework
- Oxford Poetry
- Painted, spoken
- Paper, The
- Pen Pusher Magazine
- Poetry Cornwall
- Poetry London
- Poetry London (1951)
- Poetry Nation
- Poetry Review
- Poetry Salzburg Review
- Poetry Scotland
- Poetry Wales
- Purple Patch
- Rain Dog
- Reach Poetry
- Rialto, The
- Second Aeon
- Seventh Quarry, The
- Smiths Knoll
- Strange Faeces
- Tabla Book of New Verse, The
- Tolling Elves
- Ugly Tree, The
- Wolf, The
- Yellow Crane, The