《庶出的标志》第四章 试译


来自: Cousteau 2016-10-10 16:41:31

  • Cousteau

    Cousteau 2016-10-10 16:47:47


    Old Azureus's manner of welcoming people was a silent rhapsody, Ecstatically beaming, slowly, tenderly, he would take your hand between his soft palms, hold it thus as if it were a long sought treasure or a sparrow all fluff and heart, in moist silence, peering at you the while with his beaming wrinkles rather than with his eyes, and then, very slowly, the silvery smile would start to dissolve, the tender old hands would gradually release their hold, a blank expression replace the fervent light of his I pale fragile face, and he would leave you as if he had made a mistake, as if after all you were not the loved one--the loved one whom, the next moment, he would espy in another corner, and again the smile would dawn, again the hands would enfold the sparrow, again it would all dissolve.
    Some twenty prominent representatives of the University, some of them Dr Alexander's recent passengers, were standing or sitting in the spacious, more or less glittering drawing room (not all the lamps were lit under the green cumuli and cherubs of its ceiling) and perhaps half a dozen more coexisted in the adjacent _mussikisha__ [music room], for the old gentleman was a mediocre harpist _à ses heures__ and liked to fix up trios, with himself as the hypotenuse, or have some very great musician do things to the piano, after which the very small and not overabundant sandwiches and some triangled _bouchées,__ which, he fondly believed, had a special charm of their own due to their shape, were passed around by two maids and his unmarried daughter, who smelt vaguely of eau de Cologne and distinctly of sweat. Tonight, in lieu of these dainties, there were tea and hard biscuits; and a tortoiseshell cat (stroked alternately by the Professor of Chemistry, and Hedron, the Mathematician) lay on the darkshining Bechstein. At the dry-leaf touch of Gleeman's electric hand, the cat rose like boiling milk and proceeded to purr intensely; but the little medievalist was absent-minded and wandered away. Economics, Divinity, and Modem History stood talking near one of the heavily draped windows. A thin but virulent draught was perceptible in spite of the drapery. Dr Alexander had sat down at a small table, had carefully removed to its north-western corner the articles upon it (a glass ashtray, a porcelain donkey with paniers for matches, a box made to mimic a book) and was going through a list of names, crossing out some of them by means of an incredibly sharp pencil. The President hovered over him in a mixed state of curiosity and concern. Now and then Dr Alexander would stop to ponder, his unoccupied hand cautiously stroking the sleek fair hair at the back of his head.
    'What about Rufel?' (Political Science) asked the President. 'Could you not get him?'
    'Not available,' replied Dr Alexander. 'Apparently arrested. For his own safety, I am told.'
    'Let us hope so,' said old Azureus thoughtfully. 'Well, no matter. I suppose we may start.'
    Edmund Beuret, rolling his big brown eyes, was telling a phlegmatic fat person (Drama) of the bizarre sight he had witnessed.
    'Oh, yes,' said Drama. 'Art students. I know all about it.' _'Ils ant du toupet pourtant,'__ said Beuret.
    'Or merely obstinacy. When young people cling to tradition they do so with as much passion as the riper man shows when demolishing it. They broke into the _Klumba__ [Pigeon Hole--a well-known theatre] since all the dancing halls proved closed. Perseverance.'
    'I hear that the _Parlamint__ and the _Zud __[Court of Justice] are still burning,' said another Professor.
    'You hear wrongly,' said Drama, 'because we are not talking of that, but of the sad case of history encroaching upon an annual ball. They found a provision of candles and danced on the stage,' he went on, turning again to Beuret, who stood 'with his stomach protruding and both hands thrust deep into his trouser pockets. 'Before an empty house. A picture which has a few nice shadows.'
    'I think we may start,' said the President, coming up to them and then passing through Beuret like a moonbeam, to notify another group.
    'Then it is admirable,' said Beuret, as he suddenly saw the thing in a different light. 'I do hope the _pauvres gasses__had some fun.'
    'The police,' said Drama, 'dispersed them about an hour ago. But I presume it was exciting while it lasted.'
    'I think we may start in a moment,' said the President confidently, as he drifted past them again. His smile gone long ago, his shoes faintly creaking, he slipped in between Yanovsky and the Latinist and nodded yes to his daughter, who was showing him surreptitiously a bowl of apples through the door.
    'I have heard from two sources (one was Beuret, the other Beuret's presumable informer),' said Yanovsky--and sank his voice so low that the Latinist had to bring down and lend him a white-fluffed ear.
    'I have heard another, version,' the Latinist said, slowly unbending. 'They were caught while attempting to cross the frontier. One of the Cabinet Ministers whose identity is not certain was executed on the spot, but (he subdued his voice as he named the former President of the State)... was brought back and imprisoned.'
    'No, no,' said Yanovsky, 'not Me Nisters. He all alone. Like King Lear.'
    'Yes, this will do nicely,' said Dr Azureus with sincere satisfaction to Dr Alexander who had shifted some of the chairs and had brought in a few more, so that by magic the room had assumed the necessary poise.
    The cat slid down from the piano and slowly walked out, on the way brushing for one mad instant against the pencilstriped trouser leg of Gleeman who was busy peeling a dark-red Bervok apple. Orlik, the Zoologist, stood with his back to the company as he intently examined at various levels and from various angles the spines of books on the shelves beyond the piano, now and then pulling out one which showed no title--and hurriedly putting it back: they were all zwiebacks, all in German-- German poetry. He was bored and had a huge noisy 'family at home.
    'I disagree with you there--with both of you,' the Professor of Modem History was saying. 'My client never repeats herself. At least not when people are all agog to see the repetition coming. In fact, it is only unconsciously that Clio can repeat herself. Because her memory is too short. As with so many phenomena of time, recurrent combinations are perceptible as such only when they cannot affect us any more--when they are imprisoned so to speak in the past, which _is__ the past just because it is disinfected. To try to map our tomorrows with the help of data supplied by our yesterdays means ignoring the basic element of the future which is its complete nonexistence. The giddy rush of the present into this vacuum is mistaken by us for a rational movement.'
    'Pure Krugism,' murmured the Professor of Economics.
    'To take an example'--continued the Historian without noticing the remark: 'no doubt we can single out occasions in the past that parallel our own period, when the snowball of an idea had been rolled and rolled by the red hands of schoolboys and got bigger and bigger until it became a snowman in a crumpled top hat set askew and with a broom perfunctorily affixed to his armpit--and then suddenly the bogey eyes blinked, the snow turned to flesh, the broom became a weapon and a full-fledged tyrant beheaded the boys. Oh, yes, a parliament or a senate has been upset before, and it is not the first time that an obscure and unlovable but marvellously obstinate man has gnawed his way into the bowels of a country. But to those who watch these events and would like to ward them, the past offers no clues, no _modus vivendi--__ for the simple reason that it had none itself when toppling over the brink of the present into the vacuum it eventually filled.'
    'If this be so,' said the Professor of Divinity, 'then we go back to the fatalism of inferior nations and disown the thousands of past occasions when the capacity to reason, and act accordingly, proved more beneficial than scepticism and submission would have been. Your academic distaste for applied history rather suggests its vulgar utility, my friend.'
    'Oh, I was not talking of submission or anything in that line. That is an ethical question for one's own conscience to solve. I was merely refuting your contention that history could predict what Paduk would say or do tomorrow. There can be no submission--because the very fact of our discussing these matters implies curiosity, and curiosity in its turn is insubordination in its purest form. Speaking of curiosity, can you explain the strange infatuation of our President for that pink-faced gentleman yonder--the kind gentleman who brought us here? What is his name, who is he?'
    'One of Maler's assistants, I think; a laboratory worker or something like that,' said Economics.
    'And last term,' said the Historian, 'we saw a stuttering imbecile being mysteriously steered into the Chair of Paedology because he happened to play the indispensable contrabass. Anyhow the man must be a very Satan of persuasiveness considering that he has managed to get Krug to come here.'
    'Did he not use,' asked the Professor of Divinity with a mild suggestion of slyness, 'did he not use somewhere that simile of the snowball and the snowman's broom?'
    'Who?' asked the Historian. 'Who used it? That man?'
    'No,' said the Professor of Divinity. 'The other. The one whom it was so hard to get. It is curious the way ideas he expressed ten years ago--'
    They were interrupted by the President who stood in the middle of the room asking for attention and lightly clapping his hands.
    The person whose name had just been mentioned, Professor Adam Krug, the philosopher, was seated somewhat apart from the rest, deep in a cretonned armchair, with his hairy hands on its arms. He was a big heavy man in his early forties, with untidy, dusty, or faintly grizzled locks and a roughly hewn face suggestive of the uncouth chess master or of the morose composer, but more intelligent. The strong compact dusky forehead had that peculiar hermetic aspect (a bank safe? A prison wall?) which the brows of thinkers possess. The brain consisted of water, various chemical compounds and a group of highly specialized fats. The pale steely eyes were half closed in their squarish orbits under the shaggy eyebrows which had protected them once from the poisonous droppings of extinct birds--Schneider's hypothesis. The ears were of goodly size with hair inside. Two deep folds of flesh diverged from the nose along the large cheeks. The morning had been shaveless. He wore a badly creased dark suit and a bow tie, always the same, hyssop violet with (pure white in the type, here Isabella) interneural macules and a crippled left hindwing. The not so recent collar was of the low open variety, i. e., with a comfortable triangular space for his namesake's apple. Thick-soled shoes and old-fashioned black spats were the distinctive characters of his feet. What else? Oh, yes--the absent-minded beat of his forefinger against the arm of his chair.
    Under this visible surface, a silk shirt enveloped his robust torso and tired hips. It was tucked deep into his long underpants which in their turn were tucked into his socks: it was rumoured, he knew, that he wore none (hence the spats) but that was not true; they were in fact nice expensive lavender silk socks.
    Under this was the warm white skin. Out of the dark an ant trail, a narrow capillary caravan, went up the middle of his abdomen to end at the brink of his navel; and a blacker and denser growth was spread-eagled upon his chest.
    Under this was a dead wife and a sleeping child.
    The President bent his head over a rosewood bureau which had been drawn by his assistant into a conspicuous position. He put on his spectacles using one hand, shaking his silvery head to get their bows into place, and proceeded to collect, equate, tap-tap, the papers he had been counting. Dr Alexander tiptoed into a far corner where he sat down on an introduced chair. The President put down his thick even batch of typewritten sheets, removed his spectacles and, holding them away from his right ear, began his preliminary speech. Soon Krug became aware that he was a kind of focal centre in respect to the Argus-eyed room. He knew that except for two people in the assembly, Hedron and, perhaps, Orlik, nobody really liked him. To each, or about each, of his colleagues he had said at one time or other, something... Something impossible to recall in this or that case and difficult to define in general terms--some careless bright and harsh trifle that had grazed a stretch of raw flesh. Unchallenged and unsought, a plump pale pimply adolescent entered a dim classroom and looked at Adam who looked away.
    'I have called you together, gentlemen, to inform you of certain very grave circumstances, circumstances which it would be foolish to ignore. As you know, our University has been virtually closed since the end of last month. I have now been given to understand that unless our intentions, our programme and conduct are made clear to the Ruler, this organism, this old and beloved organism, will cease to function altogether, and some other institution with some other staff be established in its stead. In other words, the glorious edifice which those bricklayers, Science and Administration, have built stone by stone during centuries, will fall... It will fall because of our lack of initiative and tact. At the eleventh hour a line of conduct has been planned which, I hope, may prevent the disaster. Tomorrow it might have been too late.
    'You all know how distasteful the spirit of compromise is to me. But I do not think the gallant effort in which we shall all join can be branded by that obnoxious term. Gentlemen! When a man has lost a beloved wife, when an animal has lost his feet in the aging ocean; when a great executive sees the work of his life shattered to bits--he regrets. He regrets too late. So let us not by our own fault place ourselves in the position of the bereaved lover, of the admiral whose fleet is lost in the raging waves, of the bankrupt administrator--let us take our fate like a flaming torch into both hands.
    'First of all, I shall read a short memorandum--a kind of manifesto if you wish--which is to be submitted to the Government and duly published... and here comes the second point I wish to raise--a point which some of you have already guessed. In our midst we have a man... a great man let me add, who by a singular coincidence happened in bygone days to be the schoolmate of another great man, the man who leads our State. Whatever political opinions we hold--and during my long life I have shared most of them--it cannot be denied that a government is a government and as such cannot be expected to suffer a tactless demonstration of unprovoked dissension or indifference. What seemed to us a mere trifle, the mere snowball of a transient political creed gathering no moss, has assumed enormous proportions, has become a flaming banner while we were blissfully slumbering in the security of our vast libraries and expensive laboratories. Now we are awake. The awakening is rough, I admit, but perhaps this is not solely the fault of the bugler. I trust that the delicate task of wording this... this that has been prepared... This historical paper which we all will promptly sign, has been accomplished with a deep sense of the enormous importance this task presents. I trust too that Adam Krug will recall his happy schooldays and carry this document in person to the Ruler, who, I know, will appreciate greatly the visit of a beloved and world-famous former playmate, and thus will lend a kinder ear to our sorry plight and good resolutions than he would if this miraculous coincidence had not been granted us. Adam Krug, will you save us?'
    Tears stood in the old man's eyes and his voice hadtrembled while uttering this dramatic appeal. A page of foolscap skimmed off the table and gently settled on the green roses of the carpet. Dr Alexander noiselessly walked over to it and restored it to the desk. Orlik, the old zoologist, opened a little book lying next to him and discovered that it was an empty box with a lone pink peppermint on the bottom.
    'You are the victim of a sentimental delusion, my dear Azureus,' said Krug. 'What I and the Toad hoard _en fait de souvenirs d'enfance__ is the habit I had of sitting upon his face.'
    There was a sudden crash of wood against wood. The zoologist had looked up and at the same time put down _Buxum biblioformis__ with too much force. A hush followed. Dr Azureus slowly sat down and said in a changed voice: 'I do not quite follow you, Professor. I do not know who the... whom the word or name you used refers to and--what you mean by recalling that singular game--probably some childish tussle... lawn tennis or something like that.'
    'Toad was his nickname,' said Krug. 'And it is doubtful whether you would call it lawn tennis--or even leapfrog for that matter. _He__ did not. I was something of a bully, I am afraid, and I used to trip him up and sit upon his face--a kind of rest cure.'
    'Please, my dear Krug, please,' said the President, wincing. 'This is in questionable taste. You were boys at school, and boys will be boys, and I am sure you have many enjoyable memories in common--discussing lessons or talking of your grand plans for the future as boys will do--'
    'I sat upon his face,' said Krug stolidly, 'every blessed day for about five school years--which makes, I suppose, about a thousand sittings.'
    Some looked at their feet, others at their hands, others again got busy with cigarettes. The zoologist, after showing a momentary interest in the proceedings, turned to a newfound bookcase. Dr Alexander negligently avoided the shifting eye of old Azureus, who apparently was seeking help in that unexpected quarter.
    'The details of the ritual,' continued Krug--but was interrupted by the ching-ching of a little cowbell, a Swiss trinket that the old man's desperate hand had found on the bureau.
    'All this is quite irrelevant,' cried the President. 'I really must call you to order, my dear colleague. We have wandered away from the main--'
    'But look here,' said Krug. 'Really, I have not said anything dreadful, have I? I do not suggest for instance that the present face of the Toad retains after twenty-five years the immortal imprint of my weight. In those days, although thinner than I am now--'
    The President had slipped out of his chair and fairly ran towards Krug.
    'I have remembered,' he said with a catch in his voice, 'something I wanted to tell you--most important--_sub rosa--__ will you please come with me into the next room for a minute?'
    'All right,' said Krug, heaving out of his armchair.
    The next room was the President's study. Its tall clock had stopped at a quarter past six. Krug calculated rapidly, and the blackness inside him sucked at his heart. Why am I here? Shall I go home? Shall I stay?
    '... My dear friend, you know well my esteem for you. But you are a dreamer, a thinker. You do not realize the circumstances. You say impossible, unmentionable things. Whatever we think of--of that person, we must keep it to ourselves. We are in deathly danger. You are jeopardizing the--everything...'
    Dr Alexander, whose courtesy, assistance and _savoir vivre__ were really supreme, slipped in with an ash tray which he placed at Krug's elbow.
    'In that case,' said Krug, ignoring the redundant article, 'I have to note with regret that the fact you mentioned was but its helpless shadow--namely an afterthought. You ought to have warned me, you know, that for reasons I still cannot fathom you intended to ask me to visit the--'
    'Yes, to visit the Ruler,' interpolated Azureus hurriedly.'I am sure that when you take cognizance of the manifesto, the reading of which has been so unexpectedly postponed--'
    The clock began striking. For Dr Alexander, who was an expert in such matters and a methodical man, had not been able to curb the tinkerer's instinct and was now standing on a chair and pawing the danglers and the naked face. His ear and dynamic profile were reflected in pink pastel by the opened glass door of the clock.
    'I think I prefer going home,' said Krug.
    'Stay, I implore you. We shall now quickly read and sign that really historical document. And you must agree, you must be the messenger, you must be the dove--'
    'Confound that clock,' said Krug. 'Can't you stop its striking, man? You seem to confuse the olive branch with the fig leaf,' he went on, turning again to the President. 'But this is neither here nor there, since for the life of me--'
    'I only beg you to think it over, to avoid any rash decision. Those school recollections are delightful _per se--__little quarrels--a harmless nickname--but we must be serious now. Come, let us go back to our colleagues and do our duty.'
    Dr Azureus, whose oratorical zest seemed to have waned,briefly informed his audience that the declaration which all had to read and sign, had been typed in the same number of copies as there would be signatures. He had been given to understand, he said, that this would lend a dash of individuality to every copy. What was the real object of this arrangement he did not explain, and, let us hope, did not know, but Krug thought he recognized in the apparent imbecility of the procedure the eerie ways of the Toad. The good doctors, Azureus and Alexander, distributed the sheets with the celerity that a conjuror and his assistant display when passing around for inspection articles which should not be examined too closely.
    'You take one, too,' said the older doctor to the younger one.
    'No, really,' exclaimed Dr Alexander, and everybody could see his handsome face express a rosy confusion. 'Indeed, no. I would not dare. My humble signature must not hobnob with those of this august assembly. I am nothing.'
    'Here--this is yours,' said Dr Azureus with an odd burst of impatience.
    The zoologist did not bother to read his, signed it with a borrowed pen, returned the pen over his shoulder and became engrossed again in the only inspectable stuff he had found so far--an old Baedeker with views of Egypt and ships of the desert in silhouette. Poor collecting ground on the whole--except perhaps for the orthopterist.
    Dr Alexander sat down at the rosewood desk, unbuttoned his jacket, shot out his cuffs, tuned the chair proximally, checked its position as a pianist does; then produced from his vest pocket a beautiful glittering instrument made of crystal and gold; looked at its nib; tested it on a bit of paper; and, holding his breath, slowly unfolded the convolutions of his name. Having completed the ornamentation of its complex tail, he raised his pen and surveyed the glamour he had wrought. Unfortunately at this precise moment, his golden wand (perhaps resentful of the concussions that its master's various exertions had been transmitting to it throughout the evening) shed a big black tear on the valuable typescript.
    Really flushing this time, the V vein swelling on his forehead, Dr Alexander applied the leech. When the corner of the blotting paper had drunk its fill without touching the bottom, the unfortunate doctor gingerly dabbed the remains.
    Adam Krug from a vantage point near by saw these pale blue remains: a fancy footprint or the spatulate outline of a puddle.
    Gleeman re-read the document twice, frowned twice, remembered the grant and the stained-glass window frontispiece and the special type he had chosen, and the footnote on page 306 that would explode a rival theory concerning the exact age of a ruined wall, and affixed his dainty but strangely illegible signature.
    Beuret who had been brusquely roused from a pleasant nap in a screened armchair, read, blew his nose, cursed the day he had changed his citizenship--then told himself that after all it was not his business to combat exotic politics, folded his handkerchief and seeing that others signed, signed.
    Economics and History held a brief consultation during which a sceptic but slightly strained smile appeared on the latter's face. They appended their signatures in unison and then noticed with dismay that while comparing notes they had somehow swapped copies, for each copy had the name and address of the potential undersigner typed out in the left-hand corner.
    The rest sighed and signed, or did not sigh and signed, or signed--and sighed afterwards, or did neither the one nor the other, but then thought better of it and signed. Adam Krug too, he too, he too, unclipped his rusty wobbly fountain pen.The telephone rang in the adjacent study.
    Dr Azureus had personally handed the document to him and had hung around while Krug had leisurely put on his spectacles and had started to read, throwing his head back so as to rest it on the antimacassar and holding the sheets rather high in his slightly trembling thick fingers. They trembled more than usually because it was after midnight and he was unspeakably tired. Dr Azureus stopped hovering and felt his old heart stumble as it went upstairs (metaphorically) with its guttering candle when Krug nearing the end of the manifesto (three pages and a half, sewn) pulled at the pen in his breast pocket. A sweet aura of intense relief made the candle rear its flame as old Azureus saw Krug spread the last page on the flat wooden arm of his cretonned armchair and unscrew the muzzle part of his pen, turning it into a cap.
    With a quick flip-like delicately precise stroke quite out of keeping with his burly constitution, Krug inserted a comma in the fourth line. Then _(chmok)__ he remuzzled, reclipped his pen _(chmok)__ and handed the document to the distracted President.
    'Sign it,' said the President in a funny automatic voice.
    'Legal documents excepted,' answered Krug, 'and not all of them at that, I never have signed, nor ever shall sign, anything not written by myself.'
    Old Azureus glanced around, his arms slowly rising. Somehow nobody was looking his way save Hedron, the mathematician, a gaunt man with a so-called 'British' moustache and a pipe in his hand. Dr Alexander was in the next room attending to the telephone. The cat was asleep in the stuffy room of the President's daughter who was dreaming of not being able to find a certain pot of apple jelly which she knew was a ship she had once seen in Bervok and a sailor was leaning and spitting overboard, watching-his spit fall, fall, fall into the apple jelly of the heart-rending sea for her dream was shot with golden-yellow, as she had not put out the lamp, wishing to keep awake until her old father's guests had gone.
    'Moreover,' said Krug, 'the metaphors are all mongrels whereas the sentence about being ready to add to the curriculum such matters as would prove necessary to promote political understanding and to do our utmost is miserable grammar which even my comma cannot save. I want to go home now.'
    _'Prakhtata meta!'__ poor Dr Azureus cried to the very quiet assembly. _'Prakhta tuen vadust, mohen kern! Profsar Krug malarma ne donje... Prakhtata!'__
    Dr Alexander, faintly resembling the fading sailor, reappeared and signalled, then called the President, who still clutching the unsigned paper, sped wailing towards his faithful assistant.
    'Come on, old boy, don't be a fool. Sign that darned thing,' said Hedron, leaning over Krug and resting the fist with the pipe on Krug's shoulder. 'What on earth does it matter? Affix your commercially valuable scrawl. Come on! Nobody can touch our circles--but we must have some place to draw them.'
    'Not in the mud, sir, not in the mud,' said Krug, smiling his first smile of the evening.
    'Oh, don't be a pompous pedant,' said Hedron. 'Why do you want to make me feel so uncomfortable? I signed it--and my gods did not stir.'
    Without looking, Krug put up his hand to touch lightly Hedron's tweed sleeve.
    'It's all right,' he said. 'I don't care a damn for your morals so long as you draw your circles and show conjuring tricks to my boy.'
    For one dangerous moment he felt again the hot black surge of grief and the room was almost melted... but Dr Azureus was speeding back.
    'My poor friend,' said the President with great gusto. 'You are a hero to have come. Why did not you tell me? I understand everything now! Of course, you could not have given the necessary attention--your decision and signature may be postponed--and I am sure we all are heartily ashamed of ourselves for having bothered you at such a moment.'
    'Go on speaking,' said Krug. 'Go on. Your words are conundrums to me but don't let that stop you.'
    With an awful feeling that a piece of utter misinformation had bedeviled him, Azureus stared, then stammered: 'I hope, I am not... I mean, I hope I am... I mean, haven't you... isn't there sorrow in your family?'
    'If there is, it is no concern of yours,' said Krug. 'I want to go home,' he added, blasting out suddenly in the terrible voice that would come like a thunderclap when he arrived at the climax of a lecture. 'Will that man--what's his name--drive me back?'
    From afar Dr Alexander nodded to Dr Azureus.

    The mendicant had been relieved. Two soldiers sat huddled on the treadboard of the car, presumably guarding it. Krug, being eager to avoid a chat with Dr Alexander, promptly got into the back. To his great annoyance, however, Dr Alexander, instead of taking the wheel, joined him there. With one of the soldiers driving while the other protruded a comfortable elbow, the car screeched, cleared its throat and hummed through the dark streets.
    'Perhaps you would like--' said Dr Alexander, and, groping on the floor, attempted to draw up a rug so as to unite under it his and his bedfellow's legs. Krug grunted and kicked the thing off. Dr Alexander tugged, fidgeted, tucked himself in all alone, and then relaxed, one hand languidly resting in the strap on his side of the car. An incidental street lamp found and mislaid his opal.
    'I must confess I admired you, Professor. Of course you were the only real man among those poor dear fossils. I understand, you do not see much of your colleagues, do you? Oh, you must have felt rather out of place--'
    'Wrong again,' said Krug, breaking his vow to keep silent. 'I esteem my colleagues as I do my own self, I esteem them for two things: because they are able to find perfect felicity in specialized knowledge and because they are not apt to commit physical murder.'
    Dr Alexander mistook this for one of the obscure quips which, he had been told, Adam Krug liked to indulge in and laughed cautiously.
    Krug glanced at him through the running darkness and turned away for good.
    'And you know,' continued the young biodynamicist, 'I have a curious feeling, Professor, that somehow or other the numerous sheep are prized less than the one lone wolf. I wonder what is going to happen next. I wonder, for instance, what would be your attitude if our whimsical government with apparent inconsistency ignored the sheep but offered the wolf the most munificent position imaginable. It is a passing thought of course and you may laugh at the paradox (the speaker briefly demonstrated the way it might be done) but this and other possibilities, perhaps of a quite opposite nature, somehow or other come to the mind. You know, when I was a student and lived in a garret, my landlady, the wife of the grocer below, used to insist that I should end by setting the house on fire, so many candles did I burn every night while poring over the pages of your admirable in every respect--'
    'Shut up, will you?' said Krug, all of a sudden revealing a queer streak of vulgarity and even cruelty, for nothing in the innocent and well-meaning, if not very intelligent prattle of the young scientist (who quite obviously had been turned into a chatterbox by the shyness characteristic of overstrung and perhaps undernourished young folks, victims of capitalism, communism and masturbation, when they find themselves in the company of really big men, such as for instance someone whom they know to be a personal friend of the boss, or the head of the firm himself, or even the head's brother-in-law Gogolevitch, and so on) warranted the rudeness of the interjection; which interjection however had the effect of ensuring complete silence for the rest of the trip.
    Only when the somewhat roughly driven car swerved into Peregolm Lane, did the unrestful young man, who realized no doubt the bewildered state of mind of the widower, open his mouth again.
    'Here we are,' he said genially, 'I hope you have your_sesamka__ [latchkey]. We must be dashing back, I'm afraid. Good night! Happy dreams! _Proshchevantze!'__ [jocose 'adieu'].
    The car vanished while the square echo of its slammed door was still suspended in mid-air like an empty picture frame of ebony. But Krug was not alone: a thing that resembled a helmet had rolled down the steps of the porch and lay at his feet.
    Close up, close up! In the farewell shadows of the porch, his moon-white monstrously padded shoulder in pathetic disharmony with his slender neck, a youth, dressed up as an American Football Player, stood in one last deadlock with a sketchy little Carmen--and even the sum of their years was at least ten less than the spectator's age. Her short black skirt with its suggestion of jet and petal half veiled the quaint garb of her lover's limbs. A spangled wrap drooped from her left hand and the inner side of her limp arm shone through black gauze. Her other arm circled up and around the boy's neck and the tense fingers were thrust from behind into his dark hair; yes, one distinguished everything--even the short clumsily lacquered fingernails, the rough schoolgirl knuckles. He, the tackler, held Laocoon, and a brittle shoulder-blade, and a small rhythmical hip, in his throbbing coils through which glowing globules were travelling in secret, and her eyes were closed.
    'I am really sorry,' said Krug, 'but I have to pass. _Donje te zankoriv__ [do please excuse me].'
    They separated and he caught a glimpse of her pale, darkeyed, not very pretty face with its glistening lips as she slipped under his door-holding arm and after one backward glance from the first landing ran upstairs trailing her wrap with all its constellation--Cepheus and Cassiopeia in their eternal bliss, and the dazzling tear of Capella, and Polaris the snowflake on the grizzly fur of the Cub, and the swooning galaxies--those mirrors of infinite space _qui m'effrayent, Blaise,__ as they did you, and where Olga is not, but where mythology stretches strong circus nets, lest thought, in its ill-fitting tights, should break its old neck instead of rebouncing with a hep and a hop--hopping down again into this urine-soaked dust to take that short run with the half pirouette in the middle and display the extreme simplicity of heaven in the acrobat's amphiphorical gesture, the candidly open hands that start a brief shower of applause while he walks backwards and then, reverting to virile manners, catches the little blue handkerchief, which his muscular flying mate, after her own exertions, takes from her heaving hot bosom-- heaving more than her smile suggests--and tosses to him, so that he may wipe the palms of his aching weakening hands.


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