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From the New York Times bestselling author of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; Our Kind of Traitor; and The Night Manager, now a television series starring Tom. Cold war spy top story. The Spy Who Came In From The medical-site.info byJohn LeCarre Identifierpdfdownloadthespywho Carr has spun a single plot as ingenious and thrilling as the two predecessors on which it looks back: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and.
I didn't mind. Storms don't frighten me, and although the nearest living soul, as far as I knew, was ten miles away up the not very good secondary road to Lake George, the thought of the pines that would soon be thrashing outside, the thunder and lightning and rain, made me already feel snug and warm and protected in anticipation. And alone! But above all alone!
Who had written it? It was so exactly the way I felt, the way that, as a child, I had always felt until I had forced myself to 'get into the swim', 'be one of the crowd'--a good sort, on the ball, hep.
And what a hash I had made of 'togetherness'! I shrugged the memory of failure away. Everyone doesn't have to live in a heap. Painters, writers, musicians are lonely people. So are statesmen and admirals and generals. But then, I added to be fair, so are criminals and lunatics. Let's just say, not to be too flattering, that true individuals are lonely. It's not a virtue, the reverse if anything. One ought to share and communicate if one is to be a useful member of the tribe.
The fact that I was so much happier when I was alone was surely the sign of a faulty, a neurotic character.
I had said this so often to myself in the past five years that now, that evening, I just shrugged my shoulders and, hugging my solitude to me, walked across the big lobby to the door and went out to have a last look at the evening.
I hate pine trees. They are dark and stand very still and you can't shelter under them or climb them. They are very dirty, with a most un-treelike black dirt, and if you get this dirt mixed with their resin they make you really filthy.
I find their jagged shapes vaguely inimical, and the way they mass so closely together gives me the impression of an army of spears barring my passage. The only good thing about them is their smell, and, when I can get hold of it, I use pine-needle essence in my bath. Here, in the Adirondacks, the endless vista of pine trees was positively sickening.
They clothe every square yard of earth in the valleys and climb up to the top of every mountain so that the impression is of a spiky carpet spread to the horizon--an endless vista of rather stupid-looking green pyramids waiting to be cut down for matches and coat-hangers and copies of the New York Times.
Five acres or so of these stupid trees had been cleared to build the motel, which is all that this place really was. It has become smart to use 'Motor Court' or 'Ranch Cabins' ever since motels became associated with prostitution, gangsters and murders, for all of which their anonymity and lack of supervision is a convenience.
The site, tourist-wise, in the lingo of the trade, was a good one. There was this wandering secondary road through the forest, which was a pleasant alternative route between Lake George and Glens Falls to the south, and halfway along it was a small lake, cutely called Dreamy Waters, that is a traditional favourite with picnickers.
It was on the southern shore of this lake that the motel had been built, its reception lobby facing the road with, behind this main building, the rooms fanning out in a semicircle. There were forty rooms with kitchen, shower and lavatory, and they all had some kind of a view of the lake behind them. The whole construction and design was the latest thing--glazed pitch-pine frontages and pretty timber roofs all over knobbles, air-conditioning, television in every cabin, children's playground, swimming pool, golf range out over the lake with floating balls fifty balls, one dollar --all the gimmicks.
Cafeteria in the lobby, and grocery and liquor deliveries twice a day from Lake George. All this for ten dollars single and sixteen double. No wonder that, with around two hundred thousand dollars' capital outlay and a season lasting only from July 1st to the beginning of October, or, so far as the NO VACANCY sign was concerned, from July 14th to Labor Day, the owners were finding the going hard. Or so those dreadful Phanceys had told me when they'd taken me on as receptionist for only thirty dollars a week plus keep.
Thank heavens they were out of my hair!
Song in my heart? There had been the whole heavenly choir at six o'clock that morning when their shiny station-wagon had disappeared down the road on their way to Glens Falls and then to Troy where the monsters came from.
Mr Phancey had made a last grab at me and I hadn't been quick enough. His free hand had run like a fast lizard over my body before I had crunched my heel into his instep. He had let go then. When his contorted face had cleared, he said softly, 'All right, sex-box. Just see that you mind camp good until the boss comes to take over the keys tomorrow midday. Happy dreams tonight. Write us every day. What a couple! Right out of a book--and what a book! Dear Diary! Well, people couldn't come much worse, and now they'd gone.
From now on, on my travels, the human race must improve! I had been standing there, looking down the way the Phanceys had gone, remembering them. Now I turned and looked to the north to see after the weather. It had been a beautiful day, Swiss clear and hot for the middle of October, but now high fretful clouds, black with jagged pink hair from the setting sun, were piling down the sky.
Fast little winds were zigzagging among the forest tops and every now and then they hit the single yellow light above the deserted gas station down the road at the tail of the lake and set it swaying.
When a longer gust reached me, cold and buffeting, it brought with it the whisper of a metallic squeak from the dancing light, and the first time this happened I shivered deliciously at the little ghostly noise. On the lake shore, beyond the last of the cabins, small waves were lapping fast against the stones and the gun-metal surface of the lake was fretted with sudden catspaws that sometimes showed a fleck of white.
But, in between the angry gusts, the air was still, and the sentinel trees across the road and behind the motel seemed to be pressing silently closer to huddle round the camp-fire of the brightly lit building at my back. I suddenly wanted to go to the loo, and I smiled to myself. It was the piercing tickle that comes to children during hide-and-seek-in-the-dark and 'Sardines', when, in your cupboard under the stairs, you heard the soft creak of a floor-board, the approaching whisper of the searchers.
Then you clutched yourself in thrilling anguish and squeezed your legs together and waited for the ecstasy of discovery, the crack of light from the opening door and then--the supreme moment--your urgent 'Ssh! Come in with me! Standing there, a 'big girl' now, I remembered it all and recognized the sensual itch brought on by a fleeting apprehension--the shiver down the spine, the intuitive goose-flesh that come from the primitive fear-signals of animal ancestors.
I was amused and I hugged the moment to me. Soon the thunderheads would burst and I would step back from the howl and chaos of the storm into my well-lighted, comfortable cave, make myself a drink, listen to the radio and feel safe and cosseted.
It was getting dark. Tonight there would be no evening chorus from the birds. They had long ago read the signs and disappeared into their own shelters in the forest, as had the animals--the squirrels and the chipmunks and the deer. In all this huge, wild area there was now only me out in the open.
I took a last few deep breaths of the soft, moist air. The humidity had strengthened the scent of pine and moss, and now there was also a strong underlying armpit smell of earth.
It was almost as if the forest was sweating with the same pleasurable excitement I was feeling. Somewhere, from quite close, a nervous owl asked loudly 'Who? I took a few steps away from the lighted doorway and stood in the middle of the dusty road, looking north.
A strong gust of wind hit me and blew back my hair. Lightning threw a quick blue-white hand across the horizon. Seconds later, thunder growled softly like a wakening guard dog, and then the big wind came and the tops of the trees began to dance and thrash and the yellow light over the gas station jigged and blinked down the road as if to warn me.
It was warning me. Suddenly the dancing light was blurred with rain, its luminosity fogged by an advancing grey sheet of water. The first heavy drops hit me, and I turned and ran. I banged the door behind me, locked it and put up the chain.
I was only just in time. Then the avalanche crashed down and settled into a steady roar of water whose patterns of sound varied from a heavy drumming on the slanting timbers of the roof to a higher, more precise slashing at the windows.
In a moment these sounds were joined by the busy violence of the overflow drainpipes. And the noisy background pattern of the storm was set. I was still standing there, cosily listening, when the thunder, that had been creeping quietly up behind my back, sprang its ambush. Suddenly lightning blazed in the room, and at the same instant there came a blockbusting crash that shook the building and made the air twang like piano wire. It was just one, single, colossal explosion that might have been a huge bomb falling only yards away.
There was a sharp tinkle as a piece of glass fell out of one of the windows on to the floor, and then the noise of water pattering in on to the linoleum. I didn't move. I couldn't. I stood and cringed, my hands over my ears. I hadn't meant it to be like this! The silence, that had been deafening, resolved itself back into the roar of the rain, the roar that had been so comforting but that now said, 'You hadn't thought it could be so bad.
You had never seen a storm in these mountains. Pretty flimsy this little shelter of yours, really. How'd you like to have the lights put out as a start?
Then the crash of a thunderbolt through that matchwood ceiling of yours? Then, just to finish you off, lightning to set fire to the place--perhaps electrocute you? Or shall we just frighten you so much that you dash out in the rain and try and make those ten miles to Lake George.
Like to be alone do you? Well, just try this for size! My legs felt weak and I faltered to the nearest chair and sat down, my head in my hands. How could I have been so foolish, so, so impudent? If only someone would come, someone to stay with me, someone to tell me that this was only a storm! But it wasn't! It was catastrophe, the end of the world!
And all aimed at me! It would be coming again! Any minute now! I must do something, get help! But the Phanceys had paid off the telephone company and the service had been disconnected. There was only one hope! If I put it to 'Vacancy', there might be someone driving down the road. Someone who would be glad of shelter. But, as I pulled the switch, the lightning, that had been watching me, crackled viciously in the room, and, as the thunder crashed, I was seized by a giant hand and hurled to the floor.
I stayed like that for about ten minutes, listening to the roar of the rain, wondering if the electric shock had done me permanent damage, burned me, inside perhaps, making me unable to have babies, or turned my hair white. Perhaps all my hair had been burned off! I moved a hand to it. It felt all right, though there was a bump at the back of my head. Gingerly I moved. Nothing was broken. There was no harm. And then the big General Electric icebox in the corner burst into life and began its cheerful, domestic throbbing and I realized that the world was still going on and that the thunder had gone away and I got rather weakly to my feet and looked about me, expecting I don't know what scene of chaos and destruction.
But there it all was, just as I had 'left' it--the important-looking reception desk, the wire rack of paperbacks and magazines, the long counter of the cafeteria, the dozen neat tables with rainbow-hued plastic tops and uncomfortable little metal chairs, the big ice-water container and the gleaming coffee percolator--everything in its place, just as ordinary as could be.
There was only the hole in the window and a spreading pool of water on the floor as evidence of the holocaust through which this room and I had just passed.
What was I talking about? The only holocaust had been in my head!
There was a storm. There had been thunder and lightning. I had been terrified, like a child, by the big bangs. Like an idiot I had taken hold of the electric switch--not even waiting for the pause between lightning flashes, but choosing just the moment when another flash was due. It had knocked me out. I had been punished with a bump on the head. Served me right, stupid, ignorant scaredy cat! But wait a minute! Perhaps my hair had turned white! I walked, rather fast, across the room, picked up my bag from the desk and went behind the bar of the cafeteria and bent down and looked into the long piece of mirror below the shelves.
I looked first inquiringly into my eyes. They gazed back at me, blue, clear, but wide with surmise. The lashes were there and the eyebrows, brown, an expanse of inquiring forehead and then, yes, the sharp, brown peak and the tumble of perfectly ordinary very dark brown hair curving away to right and left in two big waves.
I took out my comb and ran it brusquely, angrily through my hair, put the comb back in my bag and snapped the clasp.
My watch said it was nearly seven o'clock. I switched on the radio, and while I listened to WOKO frightening its audience about the storm--power lines down, the Hudson River rising dangerously at Glens Falls, a fallen elm blocking Route 9 at Saratoga Springs, flood warning at Mechanicville--I strapped a bit of cardboard over the broken window-pane with Scotch tape and got a cloth and bucket and mopped up the pool of water on the floor.
Then I ran across the short covered way to the cabins out back and went into mine, Number 9 on the right-hand side towards the lake, and took off my clothes and had a cold shower. My white Terylene shirt was smudged from my fall and I washed it and hung it up to dry. I had already forgotten my chastisement by the storm and the fact that I had behaved like a silly goose, and my heart was singing again with the prospect of my solitary evening and of being on my way the next day.
On an impulse, I put on the best I had in my tiny wardrobe--my black velvet toreador pants with the rather indecent gold zip down the seat, itself most unchastely tight, and, not bothering with a bra, my golden thread Camelot sweater with the wide floppy turtleneck. I admired myself in the mirror, decided to pull my sleeves up above the elbows, slipped my feet into my gold Ferragamo sandals, and did the quick dash back to the lobby.
There was just one good drink left in the quart of Virginia Gentleman bourbon that had already lasted me two weeks, and I filled one of the best cut-glass tumblers with ice cubes and poured the bourbon over them, shaking the bottle to get out the last drop. Then I pulled the most comfortable armchair over from the reception side of the room to stand beside the radio, turned the radio up, lit a Parliament from the last five in my box, took a stiff pull at my drink, and curled myself into the armchair.
The commercial, all about cats and how they loved Pussy-foot Prime Liver Meal, lilted on against the steady roar of the rain, whose tone only altered when a particularly heavy gust of wind hurled the water like grapeshot at the windows and softly shook the building.
Inside, it was just as I had visualized--weatherproof, cosy and gay and glittering with lights and chromium.
We only had ten records, but whenever it came to be the turn of the Ink Spots' LP and the record got to 'Dream Boat', Derek would always plead, 'Play it again, Viv,' and I would have to go down on my knees and find the place with the needle. So now my eyes filled with tears--not because of Derek, but because of the sweet pain of boy and girl and sunshine and first love with its tunes and snapshots and letters 'Sealed With A Loving Kiss'.
They were tears of sentiment for lost childhood, and of self-pity for the pain that had been its winding sheet, and I let two tears roll down my cheeks before I brushed them away and decided to have a short orgy of remembering. My name is Vivienne Michel and, at the time I was sitting in the Dreamy Pines motel and remembering, I was twenty-three. I am five feet six, and I always thought I had a good figure until the English girls at Astor House told me my behind stuck out too much and that I must wear a tighter bra.
My eyes, as I have said, are blue and my hair a dark brown with a natural wave and my ambition is one day to give it a lion's streak to make me look older and more dashing.
I like my rather high cheekbones, although these same girls said they made me look 'foreign', but my nose is too small, and my mouth too big so that it often looks sexy when I don't want it to. I have a sanguine temperament which I like to think is romantically tinged with melancholy, but I am wayward and independent to an extent that worried the sisters at the convent and exasperated Miss Threadgold at Astor House.
It is for men to be oak and ash. I grew up in and beside this great river, with the result that my main hobbies are swimming and fishing and camping and other outdoor things. I can't remember much about my parents--except that I loved my father and got on badly with my mother--because when I was eight they were both killed in a wartime air crash coming in to land at Montreal on their way to a wedding. The courts made me a ward of my widowed aunt, Florence Toussaint, and she moved into our little house and brought me up.
We got on all right, and today I almost love her, but she was a Protestant, while I had been brought up as a Catholic, and I became the victim of the religious tug of war that has always been the bane of priest-ridden Quebec, so nearly exactly divided between the faiths. The Catholics won the battle over my spiritual well-being, and I was educated in the Ursuline Convent until I was fifteen.
The sisters were strict and the accent was very much on piety, with the result that I learned a great deal of religious history and rather obscure dogma which I would gladly have exchanged for subjects that would have fitted me to be something other than a nurse or a nun and, when in the end the atmosphere became so stifling to my spirit that I begged to be taken away, my aunt gladly rescued me from 'The Papists' and it was decided that, at the age of sixteen, I should go to England and be 'finished'.
This caused something of a local hullabaloo. Not only are the Ursulines the centre of Catholic tradition in Quebec--the Convent proudly owns the skull of Montcalm: for two centuries there have never been less than nine sisters kneeling at prayer, night and day, before the chapel altar--but my family had belonged to the very innermost citadel of French-Canadianism and that their daughter should flout both treasured folkways at one blow was a nine days' wonder--and scandal.
The true sons and daughters of Quebec form a society, almost a secret society, that must be as powerful as the Calvinist clique of Geneva, and the initiates refer to themselves proudly, male or female, as 'Canadiennes'.
Lower, much lower, down the scale come the 'Canadiens'--Protestant Canadians. The Canadiennes pride themselves on their spoken French, although it is a bastard patois full of two-hundred-year-old words which Frenchmen themselves don't understand and is larded with Frenchified English words--rather, I suppose, like the relationship of Afrikaans to the language of the Dutch.
The snobbery and exclusiveness of this Quebec clique extend even towards the French who live in France. These mother-people to the Canadiennes are referred to simply as 'Etrangers'!
I have told all this at some length to explain that the defection from The Faith of a Michel from Sainte Famille was almost as heinous a crime as a defection, if that were possible, from the Mafia in Sicily, and it was made pretty plain to me that, in leaving the Ursulines and Quebec, I had just about burned my bridges so far as my spiritual guardians and my home town were concerned. My aunt sensibly pooh-poohed my nerves over the social ostracism that followed--most of my friends were forbidden to have anything to do with me--but the fact remains that I arrived in England loaded with a sense of guilt and 'difference' that, added to my 'colonialism', were dreadful psychological burdens with which to face a smart finishing school for young ladies.
Miss Threadgold's Astor House was, like most of these very English establishments, in the Sunningdale area--a large Victorian stockbrokery kind of place, whose upper floors had been divided up with plaster-board to make bedrooms for twenty-five pairs of girls.
Actually I was saved by the Lebanese. She was so dreadful, petulant, smelly and obsessed with her money that most of the school took pity on me and went out of their way to be kind. But there were many others who didn't, and I was made to suffer agonies for my accent, my table manners, which were considered uncouth, my total lack of savoir-faire and, in general, for being a Canadian.
I was also, I see now, much too sensitive and quick-tempered. I just wouldn't take the bullying and teasing, and when I had roughed up two or three of my tormentors, others got together with them and set upon me in bed one night and punched and pinched and soaked me with water until I burst into tears and promised I wouldn't 'fight like an elk' any more.
After that, I gradually settled down, made an armistice with the place, and morosely set about learning to be a 'lady'. It was the holidays that made up for everything. I made friends with a Scottish girl, Susan Duff, who liked the same open-air things as I did. She too was an only child and her parents were glad to have me to keep her company.
So there was Scotland in the summer and skiing in the winter and spring--all over Europe, in Switzerland, Austria, Italy--and we stuck to each other through the finishing school and at the end we even 'came out' together and Aunt Florence produced five hundred pounds as my contribution to an idiotic joint dance at the Hyde Park Hotel, and I got on the same 'list' and went the rounds of similar idiotic dances at which the young men seemed to me rude and spotty and totally unmasculine compared with the young Canadians I had known.
But I may have been wrong because one of the spottiest of them rode in the Grand National that year and finished the course! And then I met Derek. It was the end of June and there wasn't much more of our famous 'season' to go and we decided to give a party for the few people we had met and actually liked.
The family across the landing were going abroad on holiday, and they said we could have their flat in exchange for keeping an eye on it while they were away.
We were both of us just about broke with 'keeping up with the Joneses' at all these balls, and I cabled Aunt Florence and got a hundred pounds out of her and Susan scraped up fifty and we decided to do it really well. We were going to ask about thirty people and we guessed that only twenty would come.
We bought eighteen bottles of champagne--pink because it sounded more exciting--a ten-pound tin of caviar, two rather cheap tins of foie gras that looked all right when it was sliced up, and lots of garlicky things from Soho.
We made a lot of brown bread-and-butter sandwiches with watercress and smoked salmon, and added some sort of Christmasy things like Elvas plums and chocolates--a stupid idea: no one ate any of them--and, by the time we had spread the whole lot out on a door taken off its hinges and covered with a gleaming table-cloth to make it seem like a buffet, it looked like a real grown-up feast.
The party was a great success, almost too much of a success. All the thirty came and some of them brought others and there was a real squash with people sitting on the stairs and even one man on the loo with a girl on his lap. The noise and the heat were terrific. Perhaps after all we weren't such squares as we had thought, or perhaps people really like squares so long as they are true squares and don't pretend.
Anyway of course the worst happened and we ran out of drink! I was standing by the table when some wag drained the last bottle of champagne and shouted in a strangled voice, 'Water! Or we'll never see England again. You've forgotten the cellar,' and he took me by the elbow and shoved me out of the room and down the stairs. We'll get some more from the pub. He was rather tight in a pleasant way and explained that he'd been to another party before ours and that he'd been brought by a young married couple called Norman, who were friends of Susan's.
He said his name was Derek Mallaby, but I didn't pay much attention as I was so anxious to get the drink back to the party. There were cheers as we came back up the stairs, but in fact the party had passed its peak and from then on people drifted away until there was nothing left but the usual hard core of particular friends, and characters who had nowhere to go for dinner.
Then they too slowly broke up, including the Normans, who looked very nice and told Derek Mallaby that he would find the key under the mat, and Susan was suggesting that we go to the Popotte across the way, a place I didn't care for, when Derek Mallaby came and lifted my hair away from my ear and whispered rather hoarsely into it would I go slumming with him?
So I said yes, largely I think because he was tall and because he had taken charge when I was stuck. So we drifted out into the hot evening street leaving the dreadful battlefield of the party behind, and Susan and her friends wandered off and we got a taxi in the King's Road.
Derek took me right across London to a spaghetti house called 'The Bamboo' near the Tottenham Court Road and we had spaghetti Bolognese and a bottle of instant-Beaujolais, as he called it, that he sent out for. He drank most of the Beaujolais, and told me that he lived not far from Windsor and that he was nearly eighteen and this was his last term at school and he was in the cricket eleven and that he had been given twenty-four hours off in London to see lawyers as his aunt had died and left him some money.
They had then gone back to Windsor and left him with the Normans. He was supposed to have gone to a play and then home to bed, but there had been this other party and then mine, and now how about going on to the ''? Of course, I was thrilled. The '' is the top nightclub in London and I had never graduated higher than the cellar places in Chelsea.
I told him a bit about myself and made Astor House sound funny and he was very easy to talk to, and when the bill came he knew exactly how much to tip and it seemed to me that he was very grown-up to be still at school, but then English public schools are supposed to grow people up very quickly and teach them how to behave.
He held my hand in the taxi, and that seemed to be all right, and they seemed to know him at the '' and it was deliciously dark and he ordered gins and tonics and they put a half bottle of gin on the table that was apparently his from the last time he had been there. Maurice Smart's band was as smooth as cream and when we danced we fitted at once and his jive was just about the same as mine and I was really having fun. I began to notice the way his dark hair grew at the temples and that he had good hands and that he smiled not just at one's face but into one's eyes.
We stayed there until four in the morning and the gin was finished and when we went out on to the pavement I had to hold on to him. He got a taxi and it seemed natural when he took me in his arms, and when he kissed me I kissed back. After I had twice taken his hand off my breast, the third time it seemed prissy not to leave it there, but when he moved it down and tried to put it up my skirt, I wouldn't let him, and when he took my hand and tried to put it on him I wouldn't do that either, although my whole body was hot with wanting these things.
But then, thank heavens, we were outside the flat and he got out and took me to the door and we said we would see each other again and he would write. When we kissed goodbye, he put his hand down behind my back and squeezed my behind hard, and when his taxi disappeared round the corner I could still feel his hand there and I crept up to bed and looked into the mirror over the washbasin and my eyes and face were radiant as if they were lit up from inside and, although probably most of the lighting-up came from the gin, I thought, 'Oh, my heavens!
I'm in love! The ice in my drink had dissolved. I got up and put in some more from the icebox and I went back and curled up in my chair and drank a careful mouthful of the bourbon to make it last and lit another cigarette, and at once I was back again in that endless summer. Derek's last term came to an end and we had exchanged four letters each. His first one had begun 'Dearest' and ended with love and kisses, and I had compromised with 'Dear' and 'love'.
His were mostly about how many runs he had made, and mine were about the dances I had been to and the films and plays I had seen. He was going to spend the summer at his home, and he was very excited about a second-hand MG his parents were going to give him and would I come out with him in it?
Susan was surprised when I said that I wouldn't be coming up to Scotland and that I wanted to stay on in the flat at any rate for the time being. I hadn't told her the truth about Derek, and because I always got up earlier than her, she didn't know about his letters. It wasn't like me to be secretive, but I treasured my 'love-affair' as I described it to myself, and it seemed to be so fragile and probably full of disappointments that I thought even to talk about it might bring it bad luck.
For all I knew I might be just one in a whole row of Derek's girls. He was so attractive and grand, at any rate at school, that I imagined a long queue of 'Mayfair' sisters, all in organdie and all with titles, at his beck and call. So I simply said that I wanted to look around for a job and perhaps I would come up later, and in due course Susan went north and a fifth letter came from Derek saying would I come down next Saturday on the twelve o'clock from Paddington and he would meet me with the car at Windsor station?
And so began our regular and delicious routine. The first day he met me on the platform. We were rather shy, but he was so excited about his car that he quickly hurried me out to see it.
It was wonderful--black with red leather upholstery and red wire wheels and all sorts of racing gimmicks like a strap round the bonnet and an outsize filler cap on the gas tank and the badge of the BRDC.
We climbed in and I tied Derek's coloured silk handkerchief round my hair and the exhaust made a wonderful sexy noise as we accelerated across the High Street lights and turned up along the river. That day he took me as far as Bray, to show off the car, and we tore through the lanes with Derek doing quite unnecessary racing changes on the flattest curves. Sitting so near the ground, even at fifty-one felt as if one was doing at least a hundred, and to begin with I clutched on to the safety grip on the dashboard and hoped for the best.
But Derek was a good driver and I soon got confidence in him and controlled my trembles. He took me to a fearfully smart place, the Hotel de Paris, and we had smoked salmon, which cost extra, and roast chicken and ice cream and then he hired an electric canoe from the boat-house next door and we chugged sedately up-river and under Maidenhead Bridge and found a little backwater, just this side of Cookham Lock, where Derek rammed the canoe far in under the branches.
He had brought a portable gramophone with him and I scrambled down to his end of the canoe and we sat and later lay side by side and listened to the records and watched a small bird hopping about in the network of branches over our heads.
It was a beautiful, drowsy afternoon and we kissed but didn't go any further and I felt reassured that Derek didn't after all think I was 'easy'. Later the midges came and we nearly upset the canoe trying to get it out of the creek backwards, but then we were going fast down-river with the current and there were a lot of other boats with couples and families in them, but I was quite certain we looked the gayest and handsomest of everyone. We drove back and went down to Eton and had scrambled eggs and coffee in a place called The Thatched House that Derek knew about and then he suggested we should go to the cinema.
The Royalty Kinema was on Farquhar Street, one of the small streets leading down from the Castle towards the Ascot road.
It was a meagre-looking place, showing two Westerns, a cartoon and so-called 'News' that consisted of what the Queen had been doing a month ago. I realized why Derek had chosen it when he paid twelve shillings for a box. There was one on each side of the projection room, about six feet square, dark and with two chairs, and as soon as we went in Derek pulled his chair close to me and began kissing and feeling me. At first I thought, Oh, God! Is this where he brings them? But after a bit I sort of melted and then his hands were slowly exploring me and they were gentle and seemed to know, and then they were there and I hid my face against his shoulder and bit my lip with the exquisite tingle and then it was all over and I was flooded with warmth and tears came by themselves out of my eyes and wet the collar of his shirt.
He kissed me gently and whispered that he loved me and that I was the most wonderful girl in the world. But I sat up and away from him and dabbed at my eyes and tried to watch the film and reflected that I had lost my virginity, or some kind of virginity, and that now he would never respect me again.
But then the interval came and he bought me an ice and put his arm round the back of my chair and whispered that it was being the most wonderful day of his life and that we must have the same day over and over again. And I told myself not to be silly. That this was just petting. Everybody did it, and anyway it had been rather marvellous and it wasn't as if I would get a baby or anything.
Besides, boys wanted to pet and if I didn't do it with him he would find some other girl who would. So when the lights went out again and his hands came back it seemed natural that they should go to my breasts and that excited me. Then his breath came panting against my neck and he said, 'Oh, Baby! He drove me back to catch the last train for London and we arranged to meet at the same time on the next Saturday and he stood and waved for as long as I could see him under the yellow lights of that darling little station and so our real love-affair began.
It was always the same, with perhaps different places for luncheon and high tea, the river, the gramophone, the little box in the cinema, but now there was added the extra thrill of the physical side and always, in the boat, the car, the cinema, our hands were on each other's bodies, more lingering, more expert as the endless summer drew on into September. In my memory of those days the sun is always shining and the willows dip into water as limpid clear as the sky. Swans ride in the shadows of the poplars and swallows dip and skim as the Thames slips down from Queens Eyot, past Boveney Lock and Coocoo Weir, where we used to bathe, and on down the long stretch through Brocas meadows towards Windsor Bridge.
It surely must have rained, there must have been noisy holiday-makers crowding our river, there must have been clouds in our private skies, but if there were I can't remember them. The weeks slipped by like the river, sparkling, luminous, full of enchantment. And then came the last Saturday of September and, though till then we had ignored the fact, a new chapter had to be opened.
Susan was coming back to the flat on Monday, I had the chance of a job, and Derek was going up to Oxford. We pretended it would all be the same. I would explain to Susan and there would be weekends when I could go to Oxford or Derek come up to London.
We didn't discuss our affair. It was obvious that it would go on. Derek had talked vaguely of my meeting his parents, but he had never pressed it and on our Saturdays together there were always so many better things to do.
Perhaps I thought it rather odd that Derek seemed to have no time for me during the week, but he played a lot of cricket and tennis and had hosts of friends all of whom he said were a bore. I didn't want to get mixed up in this side of his life, at any rate not for the present. I was happy to have him absolutely to myself for our one day a week. I didn't want to share him with a crowd of other people who would anyway make me shy.
So things were left very much in the air, and I just didn't look beyond the next Saturday.
That day Derek was particularly affectionate and in the evening he took me to the Bridge Hotel and we had three rounds of gins and tonics, though usually we hardly drank at all. And then he insisted on champagne for dinner and by the time we got to our little cinema we were both rather tight. I was glad, because it would make me forget that tomorrow would mean the turning of a new page and the breaking up of all our darling routines.
But when we got into our little box, Derek was morose. He didn't take me in his arms as usual but sat a little away from me and smoked and watched the film.
I came close to him and took his hand, but he just sat and looked straight in front of him. I asked him what was the matter. After a moment he said obstinately, 'I want to sleep with you. Properly, I mean. It was his rough tone of voice.
We had talked about it of course, but it was always agreed, more or less, that this would come 'later'. Now I used the same old arguments, but I was nervous and upset.
Why did he have to spoil our last evening? He argued back, fiercely. I was being a hard-boiled virgin. It was bad for him. Anyway, we were lovers, so why not behave like lovers? I said I was frightened of getting a baby.
He said that was easy. There were things he could wear. But why now? I argued. We couldn't do it here. Oh yes we could. There was plenty of room. And he wanted to do it before he went up to Oxford. It would sort of, sort of marry us. Tremulously I considered this. Perhaps there was something in it. It would be a kind of seal on our love. But I was frightened. Hesitantly I said had he got one of these 'things'?
He said no, but there was an all-night chemist and he would go and download one. And he kissed me and got up eagerly and walked out of the box.
I sat and stared dully at the screen. Now I couldn't refuse him! He would come back and it would be messy and horrible in this filthy little box in this filthy little back-street cinema and it was going to hurt and he would despise me afterwards for giving in. I had an instinct to get up and run out and down to the station and take the next train back to London.
But that would make him furious. It would hurt his vanity. I wouldn't be being 'a sport', and the rhythm of our friendship, so much based on us both 'having fun', would be wrecked.
And, after all, was it fair on him to hold this back from him? Perhaps it really was bad for him not to be able to do it properly. And, after all, it had to happen sometime. One couldn't choose the perfect moment for that particular thing. No girl ever seemed to enjoy the first time. Perhaps it would be better to get it over with.
Anything not to make him angry! Anything better than the danger of wrecking our love! The door opened and there was a brief shaft of light from the lobby. Then he was beside me, breathless and excited. There was a girl behind the counter. I didn't know what to call it.
I finally said, "One of those things for not having babies. You know. She asked me what quality. I said the best of course. I almost thought she was going to ask "What size? I giggled feebly back. Better to 'be a sport'! Better not to make a drama out of it! Nowadays nobody did.
It would make it all so embarrassing, particularly for him. His preliminary love-making was so perfunctory it almost made me cry. Then he pushed his chair to the back of the box and took off his coat and laid it down on the wooden floor. When he told me to, I lay down on it and he knelt beside me. He said to put my feet up against the front of the box and I did, and I was so cramped and uncomfortable that I said, 'No, Derek! Not here! And then the world fell in!
There was suddenly a great gush of yellow light and a furious voice said from above and behind me, 'What the hell do you think you're doing in my cinema? Get up, you filthy little swine. Derek was standing, his face white as a sheet. I scrambled to my feet, banging against the wall of the box. I stood there, waiting to be killed, waiting to be shot dead. The black silhouette in the doorway pointed at my bag on the floor with the white scrap of my pants beside it.
The manager banged the door of the box shut and got in front of us, thinking, I suppose, that we might make a run for it. Two or three people had seeped out of the back seats into the foyer. The whole audience must have heard the manager's voice.
Had the seats below us heard the whole thing, the argument, the pause, then Derek's instructions what to do? I shuddered. The ticket woman had come out of her box and one or two passersby, who had been examining the programme, gazed in from under the cheap coloured lights over the entrance. The manager was a plump, dark man with a tight suit and a flower in his buttonhole.
His face was red with rage as he looked us up and down. You're nothing better than a common prostitute. I've a damned good mind to call the police. Indecent exposure. Disturbing the peace. He must have used them often before in his sleazy little house of private darkness. He was looking at Derek. Only the Henley-Oxford road. At the back,' he added weakly. My mouth was dry. I swallowed. I gaped hopelessly at him. I remembered Chelsea.
The manager snapped his book shut. Get out of here both of you. We edged nervously past him and he followed us, still pointing. I know you both! You ever show up again, I'll have the police on you! I took Derek's arm why didn't he take mine?
We didn't stop until we got to a side street and we went in there and slowly started to work our way back to where the MG was parked up the hill from the cinema. Derek didn't say a word until we were getting close to the car. Then he said, matter-of-factly, 'Mustn't let them get the number.
I'll go and get her, and pick you up opposite Fullers on Windsor Hill. I stood and watched him go, the tall, elegant figure that was once more proud and upright, and then I turned and went back to where a lane led up parallel with Farquhar Street towards the Castle.
I found that I still had my pants crushed in my hand. I put them in my bag. The open bag made me think of my appearance. I stopped under a street-light and took out my mirror. I looked dreadful. My face was so white it was almost green, and my eyes belonged to a hunted animal. My hair stuck up at the back where it had been rumpled by the floor and my mouth was smeared by Derek's kisses. All of me felt unclean, degraded, sinful. What would happen to us? Would the man check on the addresses and put the police on us?
Someone would certainly remember us from today or from other Saturdays. Someone would remember the number of Derek's car, some little boy who collected car numbers.
There was always some Nosey Parker at the scene of a crime. Yes, of course it was, one of the worst in puritan England--sex, nakedness, indecent exposure. I imagined what the manager must have seen when Derek got up from me. I shivered with disgust. But now Derek would be waiting for me. My hands had automatically been tidying my face. I gave it a last look. It was the best I could do.
I hurried on up the street and turned down Windsor Hill, hugging the wall, expecting people to turn and point. Opposite Fullers, a policeman was standing by Derek's car, arguing with him.
Derek turned and saw me. I said she wouldn't be a minute. Had to, er, powder her nose. Didn't you, darling? More lies!
I said yes, breathlessly, and climbed into the seat beside Derek. The policeman grinned slyly at me, and said to Derek, 'All right, sir. But another time remember there's no parking on the Hill. Even for an emergency like that. Derek put the car in gear, thanked the policeman and gave him the wink of a dirty joke shared, and we were off at last.
Derek said nothing until we had turned right at the lights at the bottom. I acquired this digital copy from site Singles Classics. In this short story le Carre, although British, captures the heart and soul of a stereotypical German. There is the love for order, a sense that things must happen in a correct sequence.
His family home, however, is in East Germany. That is where his father resides. In the West, Koorp is a man of influence. He was not a person to be trifled with, not the person who would appreciate a joke if he perceived he was the one being made fun of. One day Herr Koorp receives a message that his father in East Germany has died.
His last wish was to be buried in the west. How will Herr Koorp respond to this request?