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Part One

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« on: July 18, 2023, 08:08:37 am »


23rd May. 1959.

This evening I have just taken my old journal out again. Originally it consisted only of scattered incidents and observations. but I put it all into coherent form while I was stationed on the island of Santa Kytherea in 1955. Although I took another look at it last year, while I was in hospital after that Cyprus business, and tidied it up a bit for the sake of self-respect and the honour due to the English language, I never thought that it would have any value, other than as a private reminder of what I would really have done much better to forget. However, Gregory Stern is prepared to pay me handsomely to turn it into a novel. Though he has never seen it, he seems to have a very strong hunch about it. and all that on the strength of a chance word or two---for I very nearly didn't mention it at all. I thought of Christopher, and I was going to keep quiet; but then again it all happened a long time ago now, and Gregory Stern, on whom I must be largely dependent for years to come, was very pressing.

In any event, there it is. I've undertaken to turn this journal into a novel . . . a work of 'fiction'. I suppose the first step is to read it through once more . . .

The Journal of Fielding Gray ...

On the second Sunday after the war in Europe ended, we had a service in the school chapel in memory of the dead. As many old boys as could be reached at short notice had been told about it, and the visitors' pews were crowded with uniforms. While all of us were wearing scruffy grey flannels and patched tweed jackets, the champions of England were hung about with every colour and device in the book. There were the black and gold hats of the guardsmen, the dark green side-caps of the rifles, kilts swaying from the hips of the highlanders, and ball buttons sprayed all over the horse artillerymen; there were macabre facings and curiously knotted lanyards; there were even the occasional pairs of boots and spurs, though these were frowned on in 1945 because of Fascist associations.

At first the service was in keeping with these sumptuous appointments. A spirited rendering of 'Jerusalem', the political implications of which escaped most present, set up a smug sense of triumph; and that passage from the Apocrypha which they always have at these affairs, though it paid a decent tribute to the rank and file, left us in no doubt that what really mattered was material wealth and traditional rule. I myself had a place in the Sixth Form block which commanded a good view of the visitors, and I could see, by this time, that the magnificent officers were openly preening themselves, as if the whole show had been got up solely in their applause. Indeed, when the role of the dead was called (a proceeding which took some time), there were unmistakable signs of boredom and pique; there was much fingering of canes and riding whips, much fidgeting with Sam Browne belts; the warriors were not assembled, it seemed, to listen at length to the achievements of others. At the very least, they appeared to feel, the list could have done with some discreet editing.

'Connaught la Poeur Beresford,' boomed the Senior Usher, 'Lieutenant, the Irish Guards. Died in a Field Hospital of wounds received at Anzio. Previously awarded the Military Cross for gallantry in the Libyan desert.'

Well, that was all right: even the supercilious cavalier in the cherry-coloured trousers could hardly find fault with that. But:

'Michael John Blood. Corporal, the Royal Corps of Signals. Died of pneumonia in the Military Hospital at Aldershot.'

That, of course, really would not do at all. Or rather. It would do well enough provided that no one called attention to it. There was no need to drag it out in public, a sentiment evidently held by a young and marble-jawed major, who was obsessively stroking a huge hat of khaki felt. Watching the major sneer, I felt a guilty pang of sorrow for Michael John Blood, who had been scrofulous and bandy to the point of caricature but who had never sneered at anyone. RJJP. Who was this major to spit on the pathetic grave?

But then again, who was I to be critical, even of a sneering bully like that? Shutting my ears to the grinding rehearsal of mortality, I reflected that my own state of mind, while perhaps less invidious than that of the gathered junkers, was comparable and quite as selfish. ('Norman Isaac Cohen. Captain, the Parachute Regiment' . . . Cohen?) For the only feeling of which I was really conscious, on that beautiful summer's evening in the first Maytime of peace, was one of relief: relief that no one was going to kill me, that I could now proceed without let into a future which promised both pleasure and distinction. There was, for a start, a whole summer of cricket before me; and after that I was to stay on at school a further year, during which time I would be Head of my House (perhaps of the entire school) and would attempt to convert the Minor Scholarship, which I had won to Lancaster College the previous April, into a full-blooded Major Award. Thus a place at Cambridge was already awaiting me, and since my father was well provided with money (if not exactly generous), I could enter the contest with an easy mind as one whose motive was honour and not necessity.

'William King Fullworthy. Sergeant, the Intelligence Corps. Somewhere in the Burmese jungle.'

Somewhere in the jungle. It only went to show. Fullworthy, who was scarcely two years older than I was, had won, before he went for a soldier, the most brilliant of all the brilliant awards that Lancaster had to offer. But Fullworthy, it seemed, would not return to claim it: situation vacant. Whereas I, Fielding Gray, had only to step outside into the evening sun, and on all sides the world would lie serene about me, to bring me knowledge, sing my praises, yield me joy.

And so surely, I thought, in the face of this dispensation I must at least try to show gratitude. But to whom? To what?

Tobias Ainsworth Jackson. Lieutenant-Colonel, the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. Died of cardiac failure while commanding the 14th Supply Depot at Woking.'

Died of drink. Everyone knew the story, as Woking was not far away and Colonel Jackson, bored with running what was in effect a military funeral parlour, had frequently and calamitously visited his old school. No, I could not be grateful to him for the future which had been restored to me. But to whom else? To dead, bandy Blood? Distasteful. To the rose-lipped Cornet of the Blues, who was poutily languishing opposite? Ridiculous. To the sneering major? Never. To God? He shouldn't have let the whole thing start in the first place. To Fate then? Perhaps. Or to Luck? That, surely, was nearer the mark. One's gratitude was due to Lady Luck, who would resent, one might presume, too much concern for those she had deserted. Prudence dictated that Fullworthy, somewhere in the jungle, should be left to rot unwept.

'Alastair Edward Farquar Morrison. Captain, the Norfolk Yeomanry. Killed on the beaches of Crete, having first conducted himself with great courage and devotion to duty. Captain Morrison, being pinned down by machine-gun fire . . .'

It was very difficult not to weep for him. Alastair Morrison had been a man if ever there was one. Like his younger brother Peter. Very slowly I turned my head until I could see, further down the row, the large round face and sturdy trunk of Peter Morrison.

' . . . Upon which Captain Morrison waded back into the sea, dragged one man to safety and then returned for the other. He was shot dead a few yards before he reached shelter, Posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.'

Peter's face, as I watched him, seemed to crumple slightly; he blinked once, then blinked again; after which he sniffed firmly, folded his arms over his chest, and resumed his usual aspect of calm, good-humoured authority. Over the years I had learned to love that look; but now, very soon, Peter would be gone---not across Styx, like his brother, yet assuredly into a different world. For Peter, a year older than myself and at present Head of our House, would leave at the end of the summer; and although I was heir apparent, I would have preferred my friend's company to his title.

'Hilary James Royce. Major, the Royal Fusiliers. Killed In the retreat from Tobruk.

'Percival Nicholas de Courcy Sangster. Second-Lieutenant, the Rajputana Rifles. Killed in the defence of Singapore.

'Lancelot Sassoon-Warburton. Brigadier, formerly of the Ninth Lancers. Killed during the evacuation of Dunkirk . . .

Who would there be, I wondered, to replace Peter when the summer was over? There would be, of course, Somerset: Somerset Lloyd-James, my exact contemporary, who was now sitting just behind me, nostrils bubbling and spots glowing, as they always did when he was amused or excited. But Somerset, though a clever and entertaining friend, could never mean the same to me as Peter; for all his shrewdness he showed little understanding. And besides, he was in a different House. Even if he could and would help, he was not always available. Whereas Peter . . . Peter had always been there when wanted, for his home was not far from mine and we had known each other since we were tiny children.

'Cyprian Jordan Clement Willard Wyndham Trefusis, tenth and last Baron Trefoil of Truro . . . Trelawney, Squadron-Leader . . . Trevelyan . . .

By this time the old boys were very restless indeed. The marble-jawed major was clawing ferociously at his felt hat. The cherry-trousered legs of the blast cavalier were being crossed, re-crossed, positively entwined. Sufficient unto the day, I thought, the evil thereof. I would worry about Peter's departure when it was nearer---there were, after all. nine weeks to the end of the quarter. And there was, too, someone else Not just Somerset Lloyd-James. Someone very different.

The Honourable Andrew Usquebaugh Midshipman, the Royal Navy . . . Valence . . . Vallis . . . Vazey . .  . Would it never stop? All right, so they're all dead. What good will it do them or anybody else to carry on about it? 'Alan George Williams . . . Derek Williams . . . Geoffrey Alaric Williams . . . Dear God.

Yes. There was someone else all right, and he would still be in the school next year. Christopher Roland, who was sitting on the other side of chapel, beyond the choir in the Fifth Form block: short wavy tow hair, square creamy forehead; mild eyes, wide-set, and soft nose; full lips curved slightly downwards; dented chin. My own age and my own House. Not clever, but easy to talk to. Not handsome, but good to look on. Strong build and bones, but a gentle skin. 'Godfery Trajan Yarborough ..X, Y. Z. Surely there was no demise to record under Z?

'Zaccharias,' bawled the Senior Usher, 'Pilot Officer, the Royal Air Force.

'And lastly. Emanuel Zyn, Private. The Pioneer Corps. Died of tuberculosis in the hospital of Colchester Military Prison, where he was a member of the maintenance staff.'

Although the fate of Private Zyn provoked the contempt of all present, the hymn which now followed put them in better accord with the proceedings. 'For all the Saints,' though nominally about the dead, was too brisk in metre and bracing in tune to have reference to any but the living. Joyfully, the heroes in the visitors' pews mouthed their own praises, while the boys, courteous to their guests and glad to be on their feet for a change, added their loyal support. I sang with ironic relish (or so I told myself). Peter Morrison, along the row, joined tunelessly but solidly in, Somerset Lloyd-James behind me lisped away with spirit; and from the Fifth Form block Christopher Roland turned towards me, caught my eye and smiled. One way and the other, 'For all the Saints' restored optimism and good humour all round, so that when the Headmaster mounted the pulpit during the last rollicking verse, he was assured of a friendly audience for his address.

The audience did not remain friendly for long.

'Already.' the Headmaster said, 'the expected voices are to be heard among you. “It is all over", the voices are saying: “Victory has been secured. Statesmen have wrought and politicians have intrigued; industrialists have been enriched, general officers have been ennobled; humble men have died and (we trust) will not be soon forgotten, and moralists have moralized assiduously on all these and other accounts. But now it is all over and we can return to the business and pleasure of the old, the real, life. We have endured six years of bereavement, danger, discomfort and official interference; and now we will have recompense in full".'

Now I came to think of it, this was exactly what everyone around me had indeed been saying; and to judge from the faces of the warriors it was a fair assessment of current opinion in the Mess. And what else, I asked myself, could the head man expect? Wars were fought either to annex or to preserve. This one, as we had all been told to the point of vomiting, had been fought to preserve freedom, and freedom, to all present in the chapel, meant a return to life as it had been before the struggle started. What they wanted, what I wanted was a return to normal: an end of rationing, of regulations, of being bossed about by common little men in offices, and of depressing notices about duty all over the place. We all wanted, we had all earned, some fun; and who better to pay the bill than the ill conditioned louts who had made all the trouble in the first place?

'This,' said the Headmaster, 'is what the expected voices, the voices of common self-interest, are already saying. It is my duty to tell you. both you who have fought and you who have been made to sit helpless while your friends and brothers went out to die, that there can be no recompense and no return to the old life. This truth is both economic and political; England at present affords no substance for prizes, and the people of England (to say nothing of the world) will no longer tolerate what most of you here would mean by “the old life”. But it is not on an economic or political level that I speak now. I must speak as a Christian. And as a Christian, I am to tell you that past inconvenience docs not entitle you to present repayment, least of all at the expense of others, our so called enemies, who have suffered worse. “But,” the expected voices will cry indignantly, “it was their fault." Their fault? The fault of ignorant peasants and misguided artisans, of children of your own age, who are at this minute starving among the rubble of their homes? Their fault? And even if it were, shall there be no forgiveness . . . no charity . . . no love?'

There was precious little love to be seen on the faces in the visitors' pews. There was anger, pride, incredulity, sullenness, boredom or greed: no love. And really, I thought, why should there be? People who started wars of aggression, particularly with the British, deserved everything they got; it was no good asking my sympathy for the Germans, leave alone my love. Clearly, life must go on its way, and if luck had destined me for the comfortable courts of Lancaster rather than the ruined backstreets of Berlin, then there was no point in making myself miserable about it.

'And as for a return to the old life,' the Headmaster was saying, 'I tell you, again as a Christian, that what has happened cannot be dismissed as though it had never been. You cannot say, “The war is over, let us forget it and do as we did before.” The enormity has been too great; the residue of guilt is so vast that we must all bear our share of it. We cannot retire into our pleasant gardens to sit at leisure while the world's wound festers outside our wall. It is not merely a question of feeding the hungry, or curing the maimed and diseased, though these offices will be important: it will also be required of us to acknowledge and to understand a cosmic infection of hatred and evil, which must henceforth be purified and for which the least of us here present must atone.'

As the Headmaster descended from the pulpit and began to walk back down the aisle towards his stall. I could hear a low and resentful muttering among the officers. One of them gestured obscenely, looked for a moment as if he were going to shout at the Headmaster's retreating back, was checked by a sharp but sympathetic nudge from his neighbour's one remaining elbow. The Headmaster was notorious for subjecting others to the exaggerated demands of his own conscience, but just this once, I felt, he might have been more tactful. Doctor Bunter at the organ, scenting trouble, broke prematurely into the introductory bars of the final hymn, with the result that half the congregation failed to find the place in time and 'The Day Thou gavest, Lord, has ended' started off like a bucolic round rendered by six hundred lugubrious drunks. But when, half way through the second verse, proper control was achieved, the sad familiar song began to take effect. The officers relaxed and sang with restrained solidarity. The boys bellowed happily away in a sentimental trance. There was now a feeling, all through the building, as of souls melting and mingling into one another to form one huge and quivering spiritual colloid. It was a communion on the lowest possible level, a common agreement to wipe out an intolerable debt with the liquid of a few easy tears.

And Doctor Bunter had thought up a fitting climax, a final outrage of titilation. As the voices proceeded with lachrymose satisfaction through the last verse ('So be it, Lord; Thy Throne shall never Like Earth's proud kingdoms pass away'), the organ was reinforced by the drums and bugles of the school J.T.C., symbolically stationed behind the 1914-18 Memorial Screen; and as the last echoes of the hymn were yet fading, a roll of kettle drums was succeeded, irresistibly, by the soaring notes of the Retreat. Cheeks moist, eyes shining, all listened to the call that announced the end of the day: the end of the day for the last Trefoil of Truro and for Private Zyn, for scrofulous Blood and knightly Morrison; the end of the day for boozer Jackson; for scholar Fullworthy, whose elegiac verses had been so delicate; for Connaught la Poeur Beresford; for Williams (A.) and Williams (G.); for Vallis, who had made the winning hit on another evening long ago, and for little Usquebaugh who had always funked his tackles; the end of the day for Sangster and Sassoon-Warburton, that promising young brigadier; for Royce, who had died alone in the desert, and for Vazey, one of fifty suffocated in a submarine, for Captain Cohen, who had been circumcised by a Rabbi, and for Captain Yarborough, who had been circumcised by a bullet: for all these, the end of the day. Tell England with the drum and with the bugle: these, your sons, are dead.

Yet plenty, after all, remained alive; and these, having given thanks for their preservation, mingled in a grand passagio up and down the terrace which overlooked the 1st XI cricket ground.

'And what,' said Peter Morrison, 'did you think of the head man's sermon?'

'Typical,' I told him. 'They all sat around while this horrible mess was cooking, and now they tell us we've got to clear it up.'

The mess is there,' said Peter. 'Something must be done.'

'Of course. But need they be so mealy-mouthed? If they just said. “We're sorry, but it's happened, and now we need your help", then all right. But no. It seems we have to feel guilty as well.'

'Everyone has to feel guilty,' said Somerset Lloyd-James, who had just joined us; 'ever since Adam ate the apple.'

'And what.' said Peter, 'were you doing at a Church of England service? I thought you went to some foul little place in the town. Incense and images.'

'I had special dispensation,' lisped Lloyd-James. 'in order to hear the head man preach. I was anxious to ascertain his views.'

'The official line?' I said aggressively. 'Well, now you know it. Sackcloth and ashes.'

'You might have known for yourself.' said Lloyd-James, 'that your life would not suddenly become one long round of pleasure just because the war was at an end.'

'Of course I knew. I simply hoped that there would be some prospect of pleasure, that's all. Not people lecturing me about my guilt for a war which started when I was eleven.'

'Good evening, gentlemen,' said the Headmaster behind us. 'I should like you to meet Major Constable. You especially,' he said to me. 'Major Constable has been appointed Tutor of Lancaster. He is being prematurely released from the Army to take up his duties.'

Out from behind the Headmaster stepped the Major who had clawed his felt hat in chapel.

'You?' I said stupidly.

Major Constable did not seem surprised.

'Yes, me,' he said. His voice was mild, his face, as in chapel, ferocious.

'I'm sorry, er---er---Major Constable, I----'

'---Mister,' said Major Constable; 'or to you, as a future Lancaster man. Tutor. I shall be out of the army by this time tomorrow. The college is anticipating rather a rush.'

'I'll be getting on,' the Headmaster said: 'you'll write, Robert, as soon as you're settled in Lancaster?'

'Yes Headmaster.' said Constable, as intensely as if be were going to send a new instalment of the scriptures. I'll write.'

The Headmaster stalked off.

'He seems rather agitated today,' I said.

'He is a busy man,' Somerset Lloyd-James put in sternly. 'We're all going to be busy,' said Major-Mister Constable with an air of dedication. 'You heard what the Headmaster said in his sermon.'

'You didn't,' I said carefully, 'seem to be agreeing with him at the time.'

'On the contrary. Any emotion I showed sprang from a sense of the urgency of what he said. There has been far too much complacency these last few days.'

'Perhaps, sir.' said Peter softly, 'it's just a feeling of relief?'

I laughed in the cynical and disillusioned manner which I had been carefully cultivating ever since first reading Dorian Gray three months before.

'I don't know,' said Major Constable unctuously, 'that the subject is one for laughter.'

Clearly I was losing marks.

'Tell me, sir,' I said wildly, 'what is your subject?'

For a split second he wore a look of outraged vanity, as if it were unpardonable in me not to know.

'Economics . . . You, the Headmaster tells me, are a classical man. Might one ask what you had in mind for the future?'

'I'm hoping to become a don . . . a Fellow of the college.' Constable twitched violently.

'Why?' he demanded.

But at this moment the Senior Usher appeared, ushering before him the cavalryman in the cherry trousers.

'I thought,' said the Senior Usher, 'that you'd all be interested to meet Captain Detterling. The only boy in the history of the school ever to make a double century in a school match.'

Detterling was not in the least like a schoolboy hero. Though elegantly got up, he had a stringy physique, an unhealthy colour, and a morose mouth. Although the evening was warm he shivered frequently. His hand, when I shook it, was very damp.

'I must congratulate you,' the Senior Usher was saying to Constable with open distaste, 'on your new appointment to Lancaster. Let's hope,'---with heavy sarcasm---'that you'll get things back to normal without delay.'

'One must look forward rather than back just now. . . . You'll excuse me, gentlemen. I have a train. It's nice,' said Constable dubiously, 'to have met you.'

'A dreary man, that,' said the Senior Usher loudly before Constable had gone ten yards. 'I can't conceive what Lancaster is thinking of. He's not even a good economist. If he were, the authorities would have found him something more important to do during the war than running around with a lot of black men.'

'Gurkhas,' Captain Detterling said languidly. They're not really quite black, you know.'

'Perhaps,' said Peter, 'he wanted to help with the fighting. He seems to be a conscientious man.'

'Conscientious?' the Senior Usher snorted. 'He's as red as Detterling's ridiculous trousers.'

'Oh I say, sir.'

'Look forward rather than back, indeed. Before you can turn round, he'll have that college changed into an institute. He'll put a cafeteria in Hall, he'll sell the port to endow bursaries for the sons of dustmen, and he'll grow cabbages on the front lawn.'

'As it happens,' said Somerset Lloyd-James. 'he comes of a very good family. They were Hereditary Constables and Knights Banneret of Reculver Castle. Hence their name.'

'Much comfort that'll be to Gray here when his college has been turned into a night school.'

The Senior Usher sailed on his way and Detterling trailed off behind him. Peter, Somerset and I walked slowly down the steps on to the cricket ground and then towards the square at its centre. The crowd on the terrace grew thinner and the sun was low.

'The head man,' said Peter after a long pause, 'was right about one thing. The hungry must be fed and the homeless sheltered. Forget the guilt, as I propose to, and there is still a lot to be done.'

'What will you do, Peter? ' I said.

'I shall grow food.'

'And you, Somerset?'

'I shall advise people for their own good,' said Lloyd-James coolly. 'Giving advice is going to be very much the thing to do, I shall be an expert in an age of experts.'

'What will you be expert about?'

'Whatever people think they are most concerned about.'

Somerset was always slow to commit himself.

'And what,' said Peter Morrison, 'are you going to do. Fielding? Your turn.'

'You heard me say. I want to be a don.'

'What sort of don?'

'A wining and dining don. A witty, worldly, comfortable don.'

'All that,' said Peter, 'is incidental. What will be at the centre of it?'

Too soon to know.'

'I disagree. To me, fertility is the central object, fertility for my land---it will be mine now Alastair is dead---and also for myself. To Somerset, if I am not mistaken, the central object is power. What, Fielding, is yours?'

A bell jangled in the distance.

'I must go and count heads,' said Lloyd-James.

'So must we . . . Am I to have an answer, Fielding?'

'I think . . . that I want truth.'

'A tall order?'

'Not about everything. Only in my own small way. In some small corner I shall try to establish the truth.'

'Limited and limiting,' said Lloyd-James.

'Satisfying. If only to myself.'

Peter said nothing but nodded carefully. Then we separated. Lloyd-James to assist at adsum in his House, Peter and I to do the same office in ours.


This is a story of promise and betrayal. I am writing it, some ten years after it was enacted, on the island of Santa Kytherea, in a small white house between the mountains and the sea. I am doing so, first because there is very little else to do (the routine duties of the Squadron will be quite adequately supervised by Sergeant-Major Bunce), and secondly because I wish to establish, once and for all, what went wrong in that summer of 1945. 'Promise and betrayal.' I have written above, implying that I was the golden boy who received the traitor's kiss. But was it really like that? And if so, what, exactly, was promised, and who or what betrayed?


First things first. How did it all begin?

I have already described Christopher. Imagine him, then, on a winter's afternoon, running home from the Fives Courts: cheeks flushed, stockings down over ankles, gym shoes spattered with mud, shorts (because of clothes rationing) noticeably outgrown. It is nearly tea time and it is just getting dark. I am coming the other way, clumping along in gum-boots, having spent the afternoon drearily gardening (to help the War Effort). Our paths meet where we must both turn off for our House. Christopher waves, smiles, runs on ahead, and I just stand there, while God knows what desires are stirred inside me. And yet this was not lust---I swear it. I had had a vision, after three hours of grinding tedium among oafish and tetchy boys I had seen someone graceful and kind and gay, someone, moreover, who had waved me a share of his grace, smiled me a portion of his gaiety, as he passed in the evening light.

And that was how it all began, in December 1944, about five months before the day of the Memorial Service. And in the meantime? Outwardly just good friends, as the papers say, playing our games and gossiping our gossip, much as we always had since we first met as new boys some years before; but inwardly, as far as I was concerned, there was now a deep longing to protect and to cherish, to fondle (but only as a comforter) and (as a brother) to embrace. That smile had roused my soul. But how was I to tell Christopher? And what would he reply?

The problem was the more difficult as Christopher was a creature of very little brain. This is not to say that he was half-witted; on an everyday level he managed his affairs competently enough; but he was a boy of very conventional outlook and not pervious to ideas or books. To embark on an exegesis of Platonic love (for such this surely was), its history and implications, was therefore impossible. He would have thought I was mad. On the other hand, the fact that he was so conventional did hold out a slight hope; for convention at our school took in, as an abiding if scarcely a wholesome clement in school life, the notion of the 'pash' which any boy might entertain for another, Usually a younger one. With some such notion Christopher was undoubtedly familiar. But yet again, the concept of a 'pash' was so set around with petty guilt and assorted silliness that this was not at all the level on which I wanted to proceed. 'Christopher. I've got a pash on you.' No, definitely no. Whatever it was I felt for Christopher, love Platonic or love Romantic, agape, eros or caritas, it was altogether too serious to be demeaned by the idiom of the lower fourth.

Yet in the end everything turned out much easier than I had thought possible. For the truth is that Christopher had a sensibility (if not an intelligence) which I had underrated; and on the evening of the memorial service, after five months of mere cerebration on my part, he simply took the initiative himself.

Despite the severity of the Headmaster's sermon, he had proclaimed a modest concession in honour of victory. After seven o'clock adsum there would be no Sunday prep, and each House might conduct its own celebration, in such manner as seemed fit to its master. In our House, the Headmaster's own, a seemly sing-song was ordained. I shall never know quite how it happened, but at some point this innocent entertainment suddenly took on a grotesque, a superealian licence. One moment we were all singing 'The Lincolnshire Poacher'; the next---memory recalls no interval---the monitors' gramophone was playing 'Jealousy', and the elder half of the House was coupled with the younger in a shambling, sweaty tango. Even Peter Morrison, enveloping his study fag, was performing elephantine steps across the dining-room floor. I myself was dancing with a pert and pretty little new boy, who was writhing from his hips as if his life depended on it---when a hand descended on his shoulder, there was a gruff 'Excuse me', and Christopher had taken his place.

'What's happened to everyone?' I said.

'I don't know, but it's all right. It's because the war's over. Just this once, it's all right.'

Although he did not come close, he gripped my hand and my shoulder very tight.

'All right for you being the girl?' I said fatuously.

This he ignored.

'Your hair's in your eyes,' he said.

He let go my hand and moved his own towards my forehead.

'Auburn,' he said oddly. 'That's the word, isn't it? Auburn.' The music stopped and he quickly withdrew his hand, Someone put on 'The Girl in the Alice Blue Gown', to which we now began to waltz decorously. Christopher was a good dancer, light, yielding, following without effort as no doubt he would have led. But the choice of record was a bad one and dispelled the satyr spirit that had briefly descended. Peter Morrison released his study fag, stopped the music, banged on the panelling for silence.

'Tidy up for prayers,' he called, dismissing the incident for ever, 'and look sharp about it. The head man will be through in ten minutes.' So that's that, I thought. 'Just this once, it's all right . . . Your hair . . . auburn.' And then the music stopped.

But late that night, as Christopher and I were walking upstairs to bed, I felt the back of his hand brushing against mine and then his fingers curling round my own. Together we walked down the long row of cubicles, until we reached his. It was quite dark. Everyone else was asleep, or should have been, for these were junior cubicles, of which we had joint charge, and the occupants had been sent to bed two hours ago. In any case, provided we were quiet no one would realize if we both went into Christopher's cubicle; no one would interfere. The darkness was all ours and we knew it; and knowing it squeezed hands the tighter---and said good night.

For Christopher I cannot answer. For myself, it was fear which made me leave him when I did. I only wanted to be with him and hold him; but this might lead to other desires, on his part too, perhaps, and these, I thought, might end by provoking his disgust. That night outside his cubicle I loved him so much that the thought of incurring his anger or distaste made me sick with terror. What did he want? He gave no sign, I could not tell, I must not gamble; so I let go his hand and slunk away, cursing my timid heart, to my solitary school bed.

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