The Art-Music, Literature and Linguistics Forum
December 11, 2023, 12:08:40 am
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
Did you miss your activation email?

Login with username, password and session length
News: Here you may discover hundreds of little-known composers, hear thousands of long-forgotten compositions, contribute your own rare recordings, and discuss the Arts, Literature and Linguistics in an erudite and decorous atmosphere full of freedom and delight.
  Home Help Search Gallery Staff List Login Register  

Part Four

Pages: [1]   Go Down
Author Topic: Part Four  (Read 23 times)
Level 8

Times thanked: 53
Offline Offline

Posts: 3405

View Profile
« on: July 18, 2023, 12:09:24 pm »

'IT doesn't matter. Fielding. It wasn't your fault.'

'But you were so close to your century.'

'I hope there'll be other chances. Next summer . . .'

'What a way to win,' I said. 'I should have known better than to handle the ball.'

'Somerset was just being bloody.'

'Somerset was going by the rules. That's what an umpire's there for . . . What shall we do now? It seems funny having the whole evening free.'

'Yes . . . How did your exams go, Christopher?'

'I think I just got by.' But at the recollection his face sagged, and suddenly a surprising amount of loose flesh was hanging under his chin. That's how you'll look in twenty years' time, I thought. Non te restituet pietas. Piety (yours or mine) will not preserve your beauty.

'You must be tired,' I said. 'Sit down there.'

He looked at me carefully, then sat down in the chair at his desk. I sat on the bookcase behind and placed my hands on his shoulders.

'You played wonderfully today,' I said, and started to rub the top of his spine with my thumbs. 'I could have watched you for ever.'

'Easy bowling,' he grunted; his body relaxed in the chair.

'But you must feel stiff after all that batting.'




Don't be greedy. Kiss him, if you like, then take him to watch the Junior House Tennis in the garden. Or take him along to Peter to talk about the match. Or go to the Monitors' room and play him a record. Don't spoil it now.



'And here?'

'Yes . . . yes.'

'Better now? Better, Christopher?'

'For Christ's sake. Fielding. TAKE ME SOMEWHERE SAFE.'

There was a path which led through the woods along the lip of the valley, and about half a mile down it, standing in a clearing near the edge of the trees, a group of abandoned farm buildings, from which, long ago, they had farmed what were now our football fields. Among these buildings was a hay-loft, which was still used to store the hay from the fields each summer. Later in the year the hay would become dry and prickly, but in July it was still sweet. A fine and private place, and thither I now took him.


We came back separately. Peter met me as I came in through the door by the boot-lockers.

'I've been looking for you,' he said. 'Frank died in hospital. Half an hour ago.'

That at least, I thought in bed that night, could not be blamed on me. Frank was an old man, and now, after a long and contented life (as far as could be known), he was dead. Unconscious to the last, they said. The best way to go.

That Christopher and I had been together in the hayloft when he died was neither here nor there. There could be no connection, no guilt . . . not on Frank's account. But oh dear God. what had I done to Christopher?

As soon as we had climbed up the ladder into the hayloft, he had looked at me very redly, as if to say. 'What now?' I took my coat off and he took off his; I lay down in the hay and he lay down beside me. By now I was almost more nervous than he was---far too nervous to have any sexual feeling---and so desperately anxious not to upset or disgust him that I could hardly bear to touch him. However. I undid the buttons of his shirt, loosened the top of his trousers, then stroked his hair and kissed him lightly.

'Let's get undressed,' I said.

He turned away from me, pulled off his shirt and trousers, and kept his back to me while I too undressed. When he judged that I had finished, he turned slowly back. Rather to my surprise, I saw he was very excited indeed. Since I was still too nervous to be in the least aroused, and since I was afraid lest he might notice this and perhaps be hurt, I moved right up against him and hugged him to me, the whole length of my body against the length of his. For ten seconds we lay like, this, ten seconds during which I realized that all I wanted was to hold him in this way, close and without movement, without being roused myself or further rousing him, simply feeling his warmth and knowing he felt mine. I put my mouth to his ear and kissed it.

'I love you,' I said.

Then, very slowly. I moved my knuckles down his spine not to demonstrate or stir desire but to soothe, to try to tell him to be still, just to lie against me and be still. But hardly had my hand passed down between his shoulder blades, when his whole body seemed to jerk and stretch as though pulled by a rack and I felt him coming against my belly.

'Oh,' he whimpered, 'oh, oh, oh.'

I did what I could. I held him very tight and stroked his hair until he finished. And then I eased him away from me.

'Lie still,' I said, 'lie quite still, and soon you'll feel all right.'

But his whimpering had passed into little sobs of distress. He turned away and started, still lying down, to put on his clothes.

'Lie still,' I said. 'It doesn't matter. It often happens like that.'

'You'd know,' he sobbed, and huddled into his shirt.

'Christopher, please . . .'

'I never wanted this,' he blubbered. 'You made me want it by fingering me, messing me about. You went on and on until I couldn't help it.'

'I only wanted to show you how much I . . . How fond of you I was.'

'Then why didn't you? Why didn't you talk to me the way I asked you to? That was what I wanted---oh, so much---for us to be real friends. There were so many things you could have told me.'

'But I did, I tried----'

'---No, you didn't. You thought I was stupid, and you told me nothing. You patronized me, Fielding. Patronized me and played about with me, until it all had to end in this.'

'But nothing's ended. If only you'll lie quiet . . .'

I reached for his hand, but he snatched it from me, scrabbled through the hay, thumped down the ladder and was gone. The next time I saw him was at lock-up adsum. He was very quiet and his face was all puffy. Thank God, I thought to myself, they'll think he's been crying for Frank.

And now, as I turned in bed this way and that, I had a sense of loss that lay in my stomach like a lump of jagged iron. But surely, I thought, I can make it up to him. I can go to him, ask to be forgiven, and talk to him in the way he wants. Then everything can start again. I had a comforting vision of Christopher and myself walking arm in arm across the cricket field. 'What a lot of things you know. Fielding,' Christopher was saying as he looked into my face and smiled 'now please tell me . . .' Start again? And where would it end this time? Suddenly I had a different vision---of Christopher as he had been that evening when his body suddenly stretched against mine 'Oh . . . oh, oh, oh.' And now I felt the desire which had deserted me in the hayloft, and my hand moved down my own flesh.


'What have you done to Christopher?' Peter Morrison said.


'Don't lie to me. Fielding. I saw him last night at adsum, and so did everyone else. He looked heart-broken.'

'That was because of Frank. He was always fond of him. and he was sitting next to him when he collapsed.'

'Let's hope that's what the rest of 'em think. I know better, I saw you going off together.'

'Well, if you're going to spy----'

'---I was just looking out of the window, and I didn't suspect anything---until I saw him later. Do you know the damage you may have done?'

'No one need find out . . . if you don't say anything. Even if you do, no one can prove it.'

'Let's just think of Christopher. The damage to Christopher.'

'But.' I said, 'you told me that it did no harm provided no one found out and made drama.'

'Certainly I told you that, and it's usually true. But there's a special condition here: Christopher is very fond of you, he near worships you, so he'll make his own drama. Get it? When you feel like that about someone, it's very hurtful to be used. Fielding. You didn't think of that, did you? You simply decided that you'd have your bit of fun.'

'That's not true,' I said. 'I did think and I did try very hard . . . not to do it. It just happened, and I couldn't help it.'

'All right,' said Peter kindly. I accept that. If he wanted it too, and if it wasn't deliberately planned by you, then it could have been all right. But evidently something went wrong. What, Fielding?'

I told him.

'I see,' Peter said. 'So on top of everything else there's loss of control . . . humiliation . . . in front of the one person in all the world whom he wants to impress. What are you going to do?'

'Ask to be forgiven. Tell him it was all my fault, that he's got nothing to be ashamed of, and then ask him to take me back.'

'You'd better make it good. It would be a great pity if Christopher did something . . . unexpected.'

'What do you mean?'

'Guilt, disgust, and humiliation. Quite a burden. So if he got desperate and tried to off-load some of it, it would make a very nasty mess.'

'But if I can manage him?'

'Least said, soonest mended. If Christopher's all right, who am I to complain? I only hope you've learned your lesson and that it won't happen again next year.'

'Thank you. Peter.'

'But just one more thing, Fielding. I hope that Somerset Lloyd-James wasn't looking out of his window at the same time as I was looking out of mine.'


'Yes. You must be careful of Somerset.'

'But he's our friend.'

'Somerset is growing up fast. Somerset is getting ready to break friends and influence people. There have been all the signs, even if you've been too busy to notice them.'

'I can't believe that Somerset----'

'---Just keep your eyes open, and you'll soon know all you need to and more. And that, Fielding, is my very last piece of advice. I now resign everything into your hands. When we meet in Whereham next month, you will be head of this House, I shall be a recruit under orders to join the colours. The king is dead and rather relieved to be: long live the king.'


'. . . Don't grovel, Fielding. It doesn't suit you.'

'Christopher. I'm trying to say I'm sorry.'

'There's nothing to be sorry about. You were very kind.'

'But you looked so awful last night. And all those things you said, about my messing you about, never talking to you properly. All that.'

'That was last night. I'm all right now.'

He looked it too. Just perceptibly older, perhaps, and certainly a little more thoughtful, but no longer ashamed or distressed. He was as bright and beautiful as ever. And yet something was missing. I did not know what it was, I only knew that something which I'd always cherished in Christopher was no longer there for me.

'You see, Fielding, I've been thinking. Yesterday was the first time for me, ever. So naturally I made rather a mess of it,' He laughed. 'Next time it'll be better, I promise you.'

'Next time?' I said stupidly.

'I could hardly sleep for thinking of it. I nearly came to you in your cube.'

There was no hesitation in his voice. Always before there'd been diffidence or deference, even when he was trying to be firm. Now he was sure of himself. And of me. I was being taken for granted.

'You see,' he said, 'I always thought that I'd hate it. Then, when it happened like that, I did hate it. But later . . . when I started to remember what you looked like, how it felt having you against me . . . I longed for you so much I could hardly bear it.'

There was candour in all this, candour and honesty. But what was it that had left him?

'Fielding, let's go there. Now.'

He smiled, or rather, that's what he thought he did. But his smile had changed: although the mouth and the lips were the same, there was a new look in the eyes, a look of invitation. It was no longer a smile, it was a leer. So that's what's gone, I thought: innocence. And then this look, which would have been so welcome in many others as a herald of casual pleasure, filled me, for a moment, with loathing. In others I should have thought it saucy, sexy, enticing; in Christopher I found it an obscene parody of something which I had once---only a day before---held almost sacred.

'Look,' I said: 'Peter suspects something. We must be careful.'

'We can go different ways and meet there.'

'Christopher . . . we must be sensible. Next quarter I'll be head of the House. There's too much to risk.'

'There wasn't yesterday,' he said.

But yesterday you had your innocence.

'I've already said I'm sorry about that.'

His face sagged, just as it had the previous evening when I asked him about his exams. His look was no longer obscene, only pitiable. I can't just desert him, I thought. And when it comes to it, I still want him all right . . . if only as an appetizing bundle of flesh. The same as all the rest of them now, but a lot of fun to be had (if only it can be safely had), a super twenty minutes in the hay. And after all, I thought, I owe him that.

'Listen,' I said. 'On the last night of quarter the door by the boot-lockers is left open all night for those with early trains. So we can go and come back in the dark and it'll be absolutely safe. Let's wait till then.'

His face brightened.

'All right,' he said. And then, 'Will you come and stay with me in the holidays? We shall be left alone most of the time. Will you come?'

'Yes---no---I'll have to think. My parents . . .'

'Of course. When can you let me know?'

'In a day or two. Before we break up.'

Don't desert him, not just like that. Play for time, and ease out gently. Don't let him be hurt.

'And on the last night of quarter,' he said, 'what time?'

'After Somerset's party.'

'I shall think about it every minute.'


Tumescence, detumescence, retumescence.

But I don't think it was that simple with Christopher. I think that he was hoping for a whole new world of physical pleasure. Despite his misfortune at the first venture, he had caught a glimpse of a strange and brilliant terrain; he had seen enough, if only just enough, to promise wonders. How far he expected me to help him in his exploration would be hard to say; but for the time at least, since I had guided him in his first foray, he would want my company.

But what had I to offer? Although the magic had gone---that much was certain---might there not still be friendliness and a little cheerful lust? But then again, prudence was quickly reasserting itself. It was one thing to take risks in a daze of love, quite another to take them for a momentary and familiar pleasure.


'Sixth Classical,' announced the Headmaster from the platform: 'First, Smithson: Brackenbury Leaving Bursary, Pilch Prize for Classical studies. Second, Higgs: Brackenbury Leaving Bursary, Liddel Prize for Greek Verse, Third, Gray: Lewis Prize for Latin Elegiac Verse and Wilkinson Award for Classical Literature. Fourth, Warmsby. Fifth Scott-Maiden: Muir Prize for most Improved scholar of the year . . .'

So that was it. I had beaten everyone in my own year and all but the two oldest in the year above me. The Wilkinson Award was worthy twenty guineas. The academic year had ended well.

According to a pleasing custom which the Headmaster detested but suffered, on the last night of the quarter senior boys would visit and entertain each other in their different Houses. Peter and I called on Somerset Lloyd-James, who had pompously invited us, some days before, to take a little wine with him. When we arrived, Somerset was dispensing Woodbines and Gimlets.

'I sent for some hock from home,' Somerset explained, 'but my father says that war-time Railway workers cannot be trusted. Next year, when things are back to normal..

'Never mind. What shall we drink to?'

A full moon looked disdainfully through Somerset's window,

'Departing friends.'

'Departing friends,' said Somerset, and hiccuped.

Six more people crowded in, among them Ivan Blessington and Christopher.

'I ordered some rather good hock,' said Somerset to the new arrivals, 'but It's finished. Gimlets on the table.'

Christopher raised his glass to me when he thought no one was looking.

'The toast,' said Somerset thickly, 'is departing friends, not returning ones.'

'Departing friends,' everybody said.

'When the Gimlets are gone,' said Somerset carefully, 'I think there is some sherry.'

'The Gimlets are gone.'

'Get the sherry.'

'And now,' said Peter, when everyone had poured himself some sherry, 'I shall propose another toast.'

'Good old Peter.'

'The School,' Peter said, and emitted something between a sob and a sneeze.

'Don't cry, old chap. You'll be back, you'll come and see us.' Somerset sat down, put his head on the table, and was sick. 'I knew that sherry was a mistake. Time to go.'

I wrote a note which said. 'See you at Broughton on 20th August,' and propped it against the sherry bottle for Somerset to see when he recovered.

'After that exhibition,' I said to Peter on the way across Founder's Court, 'I don't see that Somerset needs much watching.'

'Somerset can take time out,' said Peter, 'like anybody else. Five bob to a skivvy to clear up the mess, and tomorrow is another day.'

'Home tomorrow,' shouted Ivan, who had kind parents and several jolly siblings.

'Shush. The head man hates a row.'

Christopher touched my elbow. We fell behind.

'The hay-loft,' he whispered; 'I'll start now and wait.'

But my head was humming and the moon, I thought, was dangerously large. When we reached the House, I left the rest abruptly, lay down fully dressed on my bed, and did not wake until the first light was showing and Christopher, his face drawn and dirty, was standing over me.

'You never came.'

'I fell asleep.'

'Will you come in the holidays?'

'Come where?'

'To stay with me. You said you'd let me know.'

My head ached and there was a thick sweat all over me, under my crumpled clothes.

'I still don't know myself. I'll write.'


'In a few days.'

'I mean, when would you be coming?'

'It's difficult.' I gagged nastily and a spurt of pain flared from the base of my skull. 'Somerset's coming to me, and he mustn't get to know . . . about us.'

'Why should he get to know?'

'He sniffs things out. Peter's been warning me about him. God, I feel awful. Please go away.'

'I wish you'd be more definite.'

'How can I be? Somerset----'

Suddenly my mouth was full of a nauseous sherry-flavoured bile. Out of sheer pride I managed to swallow it back.

'Somerset's just an excuse,' Christopher was saying. 'The truth is you've finished with me. That's why you didn't come last night.'

'All right. I've finished with you. Now for God's sake go away and leave me in peace.'

'Good-bye then. Fielding.'


A few seconds later, realizing, despite my discomfort, what I had done, I raised myself on my elbow to speak some word of kindness. But by then Christopher had gone.

This afternoon, when the weekly mail reached the Squadron here on the Island, there was a letter for me from the Senior Usher. He has been retired for some five years now, and his leisure, despite the demands of his reading, eating and drinking, extends to an abundant correspondence with old friends. But as it happens, this is the first letter I have had from him for some months; which intermission he excuses by explaining that he has been on a cruise.

'. . . And unlike some of one's friends, whose first concern on leaving England is to notify their entire acquaintance of the fact, I regard such expeditions as 'time out', as periods during which one's countrymen and their affairs simply cease to exist. I neither write nor receive letters; I do not even read a newspaper. What, in heaven's name, is a holiday for?

'Even so, my dear Fielding, at one stage I found myself being very strongly reminded of you. We were making a three day call at the Piraeus, and I decided to go to Delphi, where there was to be a performance (alas, in one of those hideous Demotic versions which are now so popular) of Sophocles' Antigone. As soon as Antigone appeared on the stage. I could not but think of you. it was not so much a matter of physical likeness, though there was that, as of---how can I put it?---an aspect bestowed on her by her destiny. From the first second that the actress, a very good one, lifted her face to the audience, it was clear that Antigone was doomed, that the gods had grown bored with her and were going to have her blood. And this . . . this aura of impending disaster which hung about her reminded me of you, of you ten years ago, when you appeared, with your hangover, to say good-bye to me on the last morning of that cricket quarter in 1945. You had about you the look, almost the smell, of one who is shortly to be defeated. Unlike Antigone, you had no good reason to expect this---quite the reverse, for the quarter had ended for you in every kind of triumph and the next year, as it then seemed, must hold many more. Nevertheless, and whether or not you knew it at the time, your star had turned hostile and its new malignity was reflected in your eyes.

I hope you will pardon this piece of hindsight...'

Report Spam   Logged

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Pages: [1]   Go Up
Jump to:  

Powered by EzPortal
Bookmark this site! | Upgrade This Forum
SMF For Free - Create your own Forum

Powered by SMF | SMF © 2016, Simple Machines
Privacy Policy