He takes a few turns around the room, in such precise dog's paces that he almost trips in the snowy bits. On the washstand a comb, thick with dirt and grease from Hylas' sable locks; on the pisspot holder a thriller, face down; the book he had lent the boy on the first day of his campaign for higher thinking and purer love is deep in dust. The bed lamp is on. Hylas is afraid to sleep in the dark. On the shelf is a broken enema syringe and carton of crab ointment. Tarquin explores these things with disgust.

"Clare," he says, "get up."

He has always promised that he would begin to take a strong line with the gigolo one of these days. So "Get up." The truncated body raises itself grimly from the bed: born again on the third day. Clare's soft black curls hang on end with a blue-black electric life of their own. His pillow is greasy. The yellow goat's eyes stare out of the window, not seeing Tarquin. He is not properly awake. At the sight of my beauty sitting up there in his dirty sheets Tarquin is angry. He would like to take a stick and beat some decency into him. He comes and stands behind me, snapping, "Get up, and don't be such a lazy fellow." He is hoping that Clare will imagine the words came from me. Clare sighs, sitting there, as yellow as a potentate in the snowy quilt. Lifts his soiled feet clear of the bed, and lays them down beside him, contemplating the dirty soles.

Tarquin agitates the doorknob and rehearses exits. He is angry but nervous with lorve. "Next thing I'll know," says Clare, "I'll wake up and find you in bed with me." This produces a sort of insanity. Tarquin begins to whistle. "In bed," continues Hylas, "right here in the bloody bed wiv me." In all this I do not exist. Custom merely has demanded my presence.

Tarquin bounds down the passage to his room. As always when he walks, the energy seems drawn to his head, like a top, pulling him up on his toes. He locks the door loudly, insultingly. Without speaking he begins to make tea. He is quivering with rage. His great bald cranium shines. I can see that he will not be able to keep away after all. However, tea, sugar, and a drop of stale milk. Custom has rather staled this eternal psychic crisis, so that I am not surprised when be flings down his cup, and reaches for the door again. In God is my hope, though the Devil will have scope. Tarquin whizzes down the passage to the box room like a prima donna, his robe purling after him. He bursts open the door and stands still, staring in full on the yellow eyes. His resolution to insult, to injure, to ravage, dissolves inside him. His very guts are liquefied by rage and contrition. He is so humble now, so plaintive, so full of expression, so docile, so in love. It is astounding, this change. Then, like a blow in the solar plexus, Clare's yellow voice, "Go away." Boisterously be yells, "Get to fucking hell out of here and lemme be, will yer?"

The world is laid out before the fire like a chessboard on which we plan the most exciting moves. It is only a game. Tarquin is running barefooted on the scorched Cretan rocks, while the dark-eyed shepherd is allowing himself to be overtaken, to be gathered up, covered in kisses. Instead of his gaunt stringy body he should really have a fine lithe trunk. And a sheepskin. Not to mention a flute. "You will not mock me," he says seriously, "because I can see in your face that you believe in love. In dying for love." He holds a spatulate finger between us, which we contemplate, as if expecting it to die there, visibly, in the air.

--- The Black Book
©1955, Lawrence Durrell


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