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The Spike [or Victoria University College Review 1961]


page 94


Jocelin was a tall girl, and a girl who is tall is more tall than girl and may feel her strangeness and acquire the air of a little lost rabbit. Jocelin was too tall perhaps. One noticed her tallness and forgot she was a girl.

'Children,' she said, 'now we are going to sing. Stand up, form a circle and let us sing. .

One always seems to giggle when one mentions week-ends on Monday mornings, going back to the office or to whatever work one does. One giggles and winks and tries to be casual. She could not keep her eyes open and she felt bruised and crushed by big Peter's hands and body, which were the hands and body of one of the footballers of the town's team.

She had drunk too much; she had gone to bed too late; she had been made love to, under cover of drunkenness, by Big Pete, who did not want any responsibility and did not know how to take a girl without getting sozzled first.

Somehow she could not giggle and sighed instead.

'Peter smells', she thought. 'Perhaps because he is a Maori : you notice them in a bus or at the pictures.'

She thought of John and the thought of John was as clear and pure as that of a mountain air : John and Peter were two different things, or two different men. Does that mean anything?

The piano was playing; then she realized that she was hammering at the keys rather carelessly. The children in her classroom were trying to follow the tune but there was no tune and each child seemed to go his or her own way, forgetting the lines and forgetting the melody.

Jocelin closed her eyes and saw Father O'Reagan, the only priest who would go through, with her and for her, some perfunctory gesture he called absolution. She did not believe in the laving power of his words or his hieratic hand-lifting any longer, and still she could not think of doing away with them altogether. She felt like a dope-addict. Father O'Reagan grinned at her from behind the grates of his confessional. What's the use of repenting ? It'll happen again and again and again.'

Why did John leave her?

She looked out, on the play-ground with the swimming pool, and followed for a moment a few boys running after a ball and tackling one another under the drizzling rain.

The grass seemed greener and tired. It reclined on the ground and waited for the sun to come out. The hills of Waikato have the same hues at times. . . She saw herself on her father's farm, not so long ago, a country-girl wanting to go to town, where big footballers are fun and want to marry you. 'Does Peter want to marry me? Do I want to marry him ?'

She was too tired to stay and teach. She wondered if Mrs North would take her class so that she could go home.

She stopped playing, shushed the class, and said, 'Be quiet for a moment. I'll be back'. She went into the class-room next-door.

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drawing of female head

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'Oh Eileen', she sighed, 'I'm so tired. I don't know what it is, but I must go home. Would you take my class?'

'What is it, my dear. What's the matter?' Mrs North said.

Jocelin realized that now she had to tell her or tell a lie. Eileen loved knowing other people's affairs. 'Perhaps', Jocelin thought, 'it's because once you've been a farmer's wife, you always remain a farmer's wife, even if he's divorced you. Gossipping and being curious are the only things that seem to relieve monotony.'

'Nothing, Eileen', she said, 'Perhaps it's just my time to be off colour.'

'Oh dear', Mrs North said, why don't you get married? That's the best cure, you know.'

'Look at yourself', Jocelin thought. 'Maybe', she said. 'Would you take my class then?'

Well', Mrs North sighed, 'shouldn't you see the headmaster first? I wouldn't want to go over his head.' She smiled. Jocelin thought, 'Why doesn't she say she doesn't want to do it?' and said, 'I'll see Mr Donegan then. I shan't be a moment. Would you keep an eye on my class in the meantime?'

'Yes, I'll do that.'

On her way to the headmaster's office, Jocelin peered at her class from behind the window-pan6. The class was like a miniature bedlam, with a Lilliputian crowd milling restlessly over the small tables, around the desk and at the piano. It was like looking at people from the top of the Eiffel Tower, from the wrong end of some field-glasses. 'And you can't even spank the blasted brats,' she thought. 'You can't even think that you've thought you want them all drowned in that swimming-pool at times.'

She opened the door, peeked inside, waited against hope that the noise would abate, noticed a group of small boys fighting in a corner and a tiny blond fellow in tears, and felt her irritation grow.

'Oh God,' she said, 'they'll never be quiet again.'

'Quiet, children,' she said aloud, and banged gently against the door. 'Quiet, please. Mrs North will look after you. Nov, be good and don't let me down.'

Nobody heard her; she slammed the door shut again and walked towards the head-master's office at the end of the corridor.

The secretary was in the ante-room, behind her typewriter, and barely lifted her head when Jocelin went in.

'Hi', Jocelin said, 'is Mr Donegan in?'

'Come in, come in,' Mr Donegan said from his room. Shut the door', he said, 'sit down. What can I do for you? Anything wrong?'

She shut the door, sat down and said, 'I am not very well and I think I ought to go home.' And you think what you like. 'Can Mrs North take my class for the rest of the day?'

She was looking at him, from the other side of his desk, and did not really care who he was or what he was. She noticed again the wart on the side of his nose, that looked like an overblown fly on the side of a mountain, and his bald head and his large blue eyes. She felt as if she were on trial, one of those strange, undefined page 97 revolutionary Middle-Eastern trials, where accused sit on ordinary chairs at the bottom of a pit-like enclosure, with the crowd looking down from the galleries and the court looking down from the bench, and the prosecutor gesticulating from the bare red-tiled floor.

Mr Donegan had come around close to her chair and was expressing his concern for her and how she should think of herself more and how the class was unimportant. 'You are working too much,' he said, and she did not know what he meant really. She said, 'Thank you. I'll be back as soon as I can.'

Standing up, she was taller than Mr Donegan, and Mr Donegan was just an old man with a wart and an incipient roundedness where the waist should have been.

'I don't want to teach,' she thought, 'I don't want to do anything but have a man and a family of my own.'

'Good-bye, Mr Donegan. I'll tell Mrs North.'Bye,' she said to the secretary. 'Get well quickly,' she answered and, when Jocelin was out, she shook her head and looked at Mr Donegan. 'I wonder . . .' she said. 'Since Johnny left her, she has been a different girl.'

Everybody seems to know everything about everybody else,' he said, and went out.

Now that Jocelin knew she could go home, her tiredness had disappeared. She walked along the corridor and looked at the doors and felt like pulling faces at the other teachers inside. 'You are so utterly stupid, useless and full of your own importance. Who cares about the brats?'

She thought of what was supposed to be a teacher's sacred duty and could not see any sacredness in it. 'We are supposed to bring them up good and nice, but then what happens ? 'All they need to be is farmers, rugby players and jolly good fellows. They'll be afraid of marrying a girl who dresses smartly or who seems to know more than they do.

Was that the reason why John had left her

The girls will want to catch a man and work him to death and have an American car and £10,000 in the bank.

Was that what she wanted of John ?

And, still, there are girls who marry for less.

With a sudden change, the weather had improved. The rain had stopped and she looked forward to her three miles by bicycle, from the school to where she lived, and the lazy day ahead. She would go home, open a tin, eat something, have a bath and lie on the carpet in front of the electric fire. She was glad her landlady would be away for a week, somewhere on a farm near Ruatoria.

Her class was in an uproar. Mrs North had not done anything about it and the children seemed to have run amok. She did not bother but went to Eileen's class and said, 'Mr Donegan says it's all right. I'll do the same for you some day.'

'I never feel sick,' said Mrs North tartly. How long do you think you'll be away ?'

'I don't know.'

'It's hard to have two classes,'Mrs North said. Then she saw Mr Donegan at the door and added, 'But I guess I'll manage. Now, you go and have a good rest.'

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'Thank you; 'bye.'

Out of the school grounds the road, at that time of the morning, had little or no traffic, except for a few cars driven by women, and some delivery vans.

'I am glad I am not well,'Jocelin thought and smiled at her little lie, 'I could not face Peter tonight.'How funny it is that a tall girl seems to fit only one of these beefy, sixteen-stone human locomotors. When you've finished with one, you can only start up with another: it stays all in the team, a family affair.

It was not true, and she knew it, but she liked to dramatize. Actually, if she had been a man, and a girl had done to her what she had done to John, she would not have behaved in any other way. More than anything else, it must have been his pride; or, she could say, his lack of understanding. But a man like John does not break an engagement with a girl after he has been going around with her for three years. Perhaps the problem was: did she care for him? So, now, it was Peter. Who knows what Father O'Reagan will say? He should know, anyway. He knows what happened before John and with John, and should have enough imagination by now. But Father O'Reagan, of course, is not a man; he is not a woman either; he is something half-way, in between: he is a long-frocked priest. And priests are not quite normal, are they? Oh God, what did I say?

She went up Artillery Street, looked up at the twin rows of leafless trees, thought of the birds up there in the summer, said 'Hullo' to the pump attendant who had come out of his cubicle to put some petrol in the tank of a car. 'Look at him', she said. He whored and gambled and now hasn't got a penny to his name.'At the intersection, she got down from her bicycle and decided to walk on the pavement and look again at the shop windows. There was nothing new: the same colours, the same goods for sale, the same lack of imagination. She saw the bamboo curtain of the 'Expresso Coffee Bar' and saw the shop was open and went in. That was the centre of the intellectual life in the town : a few teachers, the unmarried ones, and the reporters from the Herald and one or two public servants sat there when they were off duty. But, truly, everybody was intellectual and artistic these days : it gave the necessary added interest in life. The watchmaker from across the road, who painted water-colours and the scenarios for the plays of the Theatrical Society, the grocer who wrote poetry, and all the clerks in the various solicitors' offices. What was the use of going to Paris, she mused, when she had everything here? Perhaps, she said, I want to go to Paris only to have two or three love affairs and I don't want to admit it.

There was only Herbert in the shop, and Julie. Julie was giving him a hand cleaning up and getting ready for the day's business.

'What are you doing here at this time?'Julie said. She had a typical country voice, a typical New Zealand voice, with drawls and nasals and distortions that one could never quite come to accept as only another, but just as good, facet of English. Her hair gave her face a spiritual, indefinable quality. People raved about her, after she had been elected Miss Country Town the year before, and they were proud of her achievements, the way they were proud of their prize-winning cows for the firmness of their flanks and their milk output.

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Jocelin said, 'I did not feel very well. I was going home when I saw it was open and came in.'

'I'll make you some coffee.'

Herbert said, Jocelin, I am so worried about my costume. It doesn't fit me. I can't wear those trousers. They are too big.'

'Oh keep quiet,'Julie said. Jocelin can't do anything about them. She is in charge of the musical arrangements.'

'Gee . . .' he said, 'I'm afraid they'll have to do without me, if they don't fix my trousers.'

'You'd think he were the male lead,'Jocelin thought.

'Isn't he just like a girl?' said Julie, coming back. She was the leading lady, in spite of the fact that she could not sing. Everybody, however, had thought that 'Miss Country Town 'would look well on the notices and that — if she were in — her father would partly finance the show.

'What was the matter?'Julie said.

'Just Monday morning, I guess.'

'How is Peter?'

'All right, I think : he drank a lot last night and nearly smashed the car. Why?'

'No reason. I saw you two getting out of town yesterday after Mass.'

'We went to Morere,'Jocelin said.

'Did you have a hot bath ?'

The things people want to know ... and the reasons why they want to know. . Just curiosity, I guess. There were the thermal pools at Morere and three huts with small concrete tubs full of hot water, where one Had to get in without a costume 'because of the sulphur'. It does not mean, of course, that, if a girl and a boy go to the huts together, they have to get into the tub at the same time. And, anyway, what if they do?

'We didn't have a bath,' she said vaguely.

'Will you be at rehearsal tonight?'

'I'll have to see. Perhaps not.'

They sat, looking out; Herbert mumbled something from behind the counter. Jocelin stirred her coffee very slowly and then thought she had forgotten to pour any sugar in it.

She tried to catch what Herbert was saying and turned towards him when the bamboo curtain was pushed aside and she saw a man stand undecided at the entrance. He came in eventually and Jocelin recognized him: a travelling salesman she had met at her cousin's house three months before. He 'did' the town regularly, and she heard that he got mixed up with girls occasionally, but he was not a local boy and nobody knew exactly what he was like with a girl and the reputation of a girl was never really ruined. Furthermore, he was a foreigner, a chap from Holland or Italy, somewhere, and everybody knows that no good girl would be so stupid as to get involved with a man like that. There was a story about the little Droily girl getting into trouble with him, but that was a rumour. And, anyway, the girl was so young. . .

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Jocelin remembered the boys she had met on the Continent or thought she remembered the way they were and he suddenly seemed to her like a plank of brightness in a sea of boredom and conventionality.

He recognized her and nodded and she said, 'Hullo there, Julius. Come and sit down here.'

'Hullo,' he said.

'You know Julie, don't you?'

Who doesn't? But perhaps she doesn't know me.'

I've seen you around town,'Julie said, 'I've heard about you.'

'Small world...'

'Are you working? I have always envied salesmen: their time seems to be their own . . Jocelin said.

'I should be working, but I don't feel like it. I envy all those other bees in shops and offices instead. I wish I had £30,000 a year tax-free.'

Who wouldn't ?'

'Well, what are you going to do ?'Julius said.

'About what?'

'The thirty thousand.'

Silly, that's just talk. . .'

'All right, then. What are you doing just now?'

A pick-up at this time of the morning, she thought, fancy that.

'I am going home, because I am not feeling well.'

'I'll give you a lift,' he said. 'I've got my car outside.'

'You foreigners . . .' Julie said.

'We what ?'

'You foreigners are so fast and smooth.'

'Keep them here for more than two weeks and they are foreigners no longer..'

I've got my bike with me,'Jocelin said.

'Leave it here. Where do you live?'

'Yes, do,'Julie said.

Well, why not?

Now she was resenting his presence. She regretted accepting the lift, asking him in, speaking to him at all. Life was already complicated enough as it was. For her, at least. Juilius was sitting in an armchair in the sitting room, while she was making her bed. Couldn't he see it was nearly a brush-off ? She never managed to get up in time to tidy her room before she went to school. And she had to have a bath.

'Jocelin . . .' Julius called.

'Yes . . .'

'Have you got a boy-friend?'

People don't ask questions like that.

'Well, have you ?' he said again.

The cheek.


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'I was wondering . . .' he said. 'You are too tall; your dresses are too smart for a place like this; you don't seem to fit with the men around here. There are plenty of cow-cockies, but somehow I can't see you marry one of them.'

Apart from that, what else can you talk with a girl about? He thought there was nothing else a girl could really be interested in and that it was naïve and strained to tell them about the weather, the beauty of the flowers in the garden, the exhilarating experience of pig-hunting and rugby-scrumming.

Jocelin felt the directness of the question and warmed up to him, grateful in a way for what she took to be an interest in herself, in her own, big, personal self.

'I am tall, I am well dressed, I am clever. And that is me in three short sentences,' she thought. 'And I am not offended by his lack of propriety and he is not supposed to know anything about me.'

'I guess I'll marry a farmer, sometime,' she said.

He had been leaning against the door jamb, watching her and talking, and did not know what he wanted and whether he would get it and where the whole thing would end.

'What does it feel to be as tall as you?'Now that he had found out that she responded to that sort of personal approach, he decided to follow it and to remark on what was obviously her most noticeable characteristic.

'You know?' she said. 'It sounds corny, but I feel like crying at times. That is, I felt, I Felt, like crying at times. But then I got used to it and started to emphasize my tallness with high heel shoes and short dresses and so on. It is just another trick, but it helps, and one gets tough and thinks that all men are short and that one doesn't care.'

'How are you going to talk to a cow-cocky like this?'

'I won't.'

'That won't be hard. He'll keep milking his cows and saying that his wife used to be a school-teacher; you'll keep spending his money and carrying his children. Somehow it doesn't seem right to me. . .'

'I should be angry, Julius,' she said. 'You are saying too many things you oughtn't to. I shouldn't let you if I didn't think that you are not from here and that, where you are from, everybody behaves like you. Do they? By the way, where are you from?'

'From a piece of ground just like this : a bit older, maybe, a bit better. . .'


'It doesn't matter,' he said. 'I leave it to you people here to worry so much about the place you come from. Perhaps you do it out of an inferiority complex : you haven't got a tradition and you are trying to build one up. But the way you go about it is sickening.'

'Aren't you proud of the place you come from?'

'What for?'

'You must be Italian.'


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'They haven't got any national pride usually.'

'Maybe they have overgrown the stage of tribal allegiances.'

'Are you Italian?'

'Ever been to Europe?' he said without answering.

'Yes. Most girls here have.'

'The finishing touches. . .' he said ironically.

'What do you mean?'

'Where did you go?'

'I went to France and Spain. But I only spoke English and I felt terribly out of place.'

'Did you go before or after your engagement?'

'Who told you I was engaged?'

Your cousin, three months ago. She told me you'd been terribly upset.'

'She talks too much.'

'Did you go before or after?'

Jocelin had finished making her bed and now gathered some stockings and other underwear from a chair and threw them into a drawer. She turned to look at him and said, 'Didn't you blush?'

'No,' he said.

That's hopeful.'

'Have you noticed how we talk about things and never seem to say anything definite?'

'Do we?'

'Jocelin,' he said, are you a virgin?'

'Yes. This is definite, isn't it?'

'It is. It must be hard.'

So that is how he starts making advances.

'You people have got sex on your brains all the time. We have discipline, self-respect,' she said.

'I see.'

'How easy it is to lie,'Jocelin thought.

'What do you see?'

'How everything runs smoothly here and how everybody outside the Anglo-Saxon world is a sex-maniac.'He was nearly sure that Jocelin had lied. As far as he knew, to find a girl still a girl at eighteen was a much more unlikely possibility than earning his thirty thousand pounds a year. But, on the other hand, she had positively said that no man had ever known her. Although it was difficult for him to imagine no 'moments of weakness', no 'sudden, irresistible impulses', no 'nasty deed' by some man or other, in Jocelin's life, no drunken parties, no curiosity, none of the usual justifications for her love affairs, he thought he ought to try and admit that there was just a chance, slim as it was, that Jocelin was still what she claimed to be. And that thought moved him slightly and made him look at her as if she were a rare specimen of a nearly extinct species.

'How do you like it here?' she said.

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Imagine if the question wouldn't pop up sooner or later. 'What do you expect to hear?' he said.

'The truth:

'One is stuck.'

'We don't like to hear it.'

'I beg your pardon. It's very good.'

'You can always go back, if you don't like it here.'

'That's right.'

'Why don't you go?'

'My missionary spirit,' he said. 'These are still Pacific Islands, you know. I do feel you need being saved.'There was no point in explaining that a man has only a certain number of years to waste and throw away and move around and that, after-wards, he must stop somewhere.

'Let's have a drink,' she said.

'That's an idea.'

'Do you like whisky?'

'I am becoming civilized: I do.'

They had not moved till then, and he was still at her bedroom door when she brushed against him to come out and go to the drinks cabinet in the sitting room. He stood still as she went and said, 'You Are tall; but you are slender and doe-like.'

'If Father O'Reagan knew what I think,' she thought he wouldn't like it: 'You know,' she said, 'I was just thinking of Father O'Reagan and his eyebrows if he knew I am alone with a stranger.'

'Are you a Catholic?'

'In a way.'

'Isn't it all nonsense?'

'I don't know. What are you ?'

'An atheist.'

'Don't be ridiculous.'

'You are the one who is,' he said.

That seemed to end their discussion. She did not wish to analyze the validity or solidity of her beliefs, but she had an ingrained, indistinct notion that atheists are dangerous and on the fringe of either lunacy or stupidity. It was true her religion did not seem to help her much, but that was her fault, not the religion's or God's. However, she felt she liked Julius now. He was easy to talk to and to be talked to by and she did not want to have to be unpleasant.

Julius went back to the armchair and waited for Jocelin to go to him with a glass. She half-filled it with whisky and said 'Water?' and he said, 'Neat. I am the hero of an American novel written thirty years ago.'

'The prehistoric era.'

'Do you know any of the American writers?'

'Blasphemy,' she said. 'I am a good girl.'Then she laughed. Then she added, 'Can they write? The Americans, I mean ?'

'Well,' he said, 'of course they owe a lot to the English ones.'

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'I thought so,' she said. Then she gulped her drink and shuddered and sat down and pulled faces. How can anybody. . . ?'

He drank too, and the drink affected him immediately and went to his head and made him feel easier and optimistic. It did the same for Jocelin, evidently, because she said, 'I never thought it could be like this.'


'Everything. Let's get maudlin. . .'

'And cry a little? and sigh ?'

'You don't understand,' she said. 'Tell me I am slender and doe-like again.'

He told her and she drank again and said, 'Pull the blinds down, switch the fire on and then come back and say something. I thought I hated you half an hour ago.'

While he did what she had asked, she sat down and lay relaxed, with her eyes closed, thinking of indistinct shapes that looked like Johnny and had Mr Donegan's wart and Peter's skin and Julius's voice.

He came back at last and thought that perhaps he should do something and then he thought that these girls were different; that perhaps she gave him ideas but she did not really mean them and that he had better wait and see what game she was playing.

'Are you from here?' he said.

'No,' he said. 'I was born on the best little farm in the Southern Hemisphere; I bet all farms would look or be the same to you, but we've got Pride in our lousy stinking birthplaces.'

'Don't worry. I don't care. What else did you do?'

'Training College; Europe; teaching since I came back. I've been giving piano lessons to little snotty girls, too, and playing at theatrical shows.'

'A full life,' he said teasingly. 'That's why people need God, isn't it ?'

'Maybe,' she said. Although it never seemed to lead you anywhere. A girl starts somewhere, say on a farm; she ends up somewhere, say in a paddock, or in the rear seat of a car, or on a farmer's wife's Axminster carpet, talking to a salesman who doesn't sound like a salesman. That first boy who took me home, she thought, and I don't even remember his name and I waited for him and God didn't send him back and I was longing for it and I didn't know what it was. And John. And the blond South African rugby player who was just another sort of salesman like this one and I went after him and John didn't like it when I lost my head like that. And John. And Antoine who was such a lousy bastard, and Gustav who gave me a lift to Barcelona and wanted me to whip him, and this foolish, blundering Julius, and Peter, and John again. That was somewhere, wasn't it, this nowhere a girl does end up into?

The house, the street outside, another street further on, the shops, people like Mrs North and Mr Donegan and Julie and Herbert. But it is all right as long as nobody knows. The way things seemed to her, though, nobody was supposed to know what really went on. And that was good. Only Father O'Reagan knew about her, for instance, but he didn't matter.

'What does honesty mean?' shes asked. She was depressed again, but not the page 105 same depression she had felt in her classroom, earlier in the morning. Why doesn't he do something to make me forget where I am?

'The fact is,' she said aloud and belligerently, 'that I could simply be called a bitch, but that I do not think of myself as one. You nearly made me laugh when you believed that I am still as I am supposed to be. What do you think I went with John three years for?'

'Engagement you call it, don't you ?'

'That's the name,' she said.

'Did you go to bed with him ?'

'How naive can you be?'

'Did he drop you?'

'You talk too much.'

'I want to know where I stand.'

'You'll never get anywhere.'

'Listen to me : shall I make love to you ?'

'You stupid fool!' she cried. 'You stupid fool — you have ruined everything.'

'Look here, what did you want me to do? Start pawing you without saying anything?'

'Whoever said that Continental lovers are marvelous?'

'Not I,'Julius said. 'Why do you get so upset? I would like to make love to you, really.'

'But can't you see? You've broken it; you are like a flat-footed elephant in a china shop.'

He looked at her wondering at what had happened, sure in a way that he had behaved logically and sensibly and just beginning to be impatient at what seemed to him an unnecessary raving.

'You've made me very unhappy,' she said.

'Try and get a Social Security benefit.'

'Don't try to be funny.'

Ask Father O'Reagan to help you, then.'

'He isn't any good when I am all gone and unnecessary-like.'

'Now you are the heroine of an American novel written thirty years ago.'

'That's the trouble here,' she said, that's the trouble: we are always half a century behind.'

He felt he had to go : Jocelin was like a discharged spring now and he should just put her to bed and see her again at some other time. There are always unforeseen spokes getting into people's wheels : what was the matter with her? 'I'll have to see her again when she is sober.'

'I think I'd better be going, Jo,' he said, 'but I'd like to make a date with you.'

'Where are you going?'

'Up the coast. But I'll be back on Saturday night and I'll take you somewhere on Sunday, shall I?'

'Don't bother,' she said. 'An awful lot of driving just for a tall girl.'

'I'll take you to Morere. I've got nothing else to do.'

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'Why don't you start building a financial empire?'

'No guts. And I love my fellow-beings too much.'



'Stick to small girls; they are easier to handle.'And she was not sure whether she wanted him not to come back. But if he came, what would happen with Peter? She would stand by and watch them fight and she would be terribly flattered and pleased, like a lady of old at a knightly tournament.

'Bye, Jocelin. Thanks for the whisky.'

'Don't mention it.'

She did not see him out and he found himself walking towards his car, wondering what the little piece of world he was now on was to other people : a dot on a map, a handful of air under a naked tree.

He wished he had been working now.

Is there a girl by the name of Jocelin anywhere? He moved away from the house, then stopped and turned because he thought Jocelin might have come to the window. The blinds of the sitting room windows were still down; the place was dead and uninhabited. And as he was looking, it was as if, from the house, there came upon him the fundamental quality of the whole country, its essence, a representative sample of its utter loneliness and uncommunicativeness. 'And it isn't even as if it were haunted,' he thought. 'I wish I could believe in ghosts, because, at least, ghosts are something.'

And when he started the engine, Jocelin heard the growling and rustling away of the car and mumbled to herself, 'What did I bring you here for? I know you won't come back on Sunday.'

Renato Amato