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It was not possible to proceed to that cabin with any degree of furtiveness, even though the hour was very late and the corridor-lights had been dimmed. The snores along the corridor were so loud that Hillier found it hard to believe them genuine; soon doors might fly open and outrage be registered from under curlers and out of mouths with their dentures removed. As an earnest of this, Wriste suddenly appeared at the end of the corridor to say 'Good luck, sir' as though Hillier were going in to bat. And Master Walters, in endragoned Chinese brocade dressing-gown, was pacing like a prospective father, puffing a Black Russian in a Dunhill holder. Hillier, remembering that 'father' was a relevant word here, asked kindly if there was any news.

'News?' The face, for all the precocity, was very young and blubbered. 'What news would there be? As a man sows so shall he reap. Arteriosclerosis. He knew he was bringing it on.' There seemed to be a flavour of Miss Devi's callous philosophy in all this.

'One can't always be blamed for the state of one's arteries,' said Hillier. 'Some people are just lucky.'

'If he dies,' said Alan, 'what's going to happen to Clara and me?'


'My sister. That other bitch can take care of herself, which is just what she's doing. My father wouldn't listen to reason. I told him not to re-marry. We were doing very nicely on our own, the three of us. And everything will go to her, everything. She hates us, I know she does. What will happen to us then?'

Snores answered. 'Modern medical science,' said Hillier lamely. 'It's amazing what they can do nowadays. He'll be right as rain in a day or two, you'll see.'

'What do you know about it?' said Alan. 'What do you know about anything? Spying up and down the corridor, as I can see, spy as you are. If he dies I'll get her. Or you can get her, being a spy. I'll pay you to get her.'

'This is a lot of nonsense,' said Hillier loudly. A voice from a cabin went shhhhhh. As he'd thought, there were people awake. 'We'll talk about this in the morning. But in the morning everything will be all right. The sun will shine – it will all be a bad dream, soon forgotten. Now get to bed.'

Alan looked at Hillier, who was naked under a bathrobe. 'That's two baths in half a day,' he said. Thank God, the boy still had some innocence in him. 'At least you're a very clean spy.'

'Look,' said Hillier, 'let's get this absolutely clear. I'm not a spy. Have you got that? There are spies, and I've actually met one or two. But I'm not one of them. If you could spot me as a spy, I can't very well be a spy, can I? The whole point of being a spy is that you don't seem to be one. Have you got that now?'

'I bet you've got a gun.'

'I bet you've got one too. You seem to have everything else.'

The boy shook his head. 'Too young for a licence,' he said. 'That's my trouble – too young for everything. Too young to contest a will, for instance.'

'Too young to be up at this hour. Get to bed. Take a couple of sleeping-tablets. I bet you've got those too.'

"You don't seem,' said Alan, 'to be too bad of a bloke, really. Have you got children?'

'None. Nor a wife.'

'A lone wolf,' said Alan. 'The cat that walks alone. I only wish you'd be straight with me. I'd like to strip the disguise off and find out what you really are.'

Miss Devi again. 'Tomorrow,' said Hillier. 'Everything will seem different tomorrow. Which is your cabin?'

'That one there. Come in and have a nightcap.'

'Many thanks,' said Hillier. 'But I have some rather urgent business to attend to.' He writhed as with bowel pain.

'That's all the eating,' said Alan. 'I saw that and I heard about the rest of it. Don't trust that man,' he whispered. 'He's a foreigner. He can't kid me with his posh accent.' And then, in an officer-tone: 'AH right. Off you go.' And he returned to his cabin. Wriste had also gone. Hillier padded to Cabin No.58. As he had expected, the door was not locked. He knocked and at once entered. Again as he had expected, Miss Devi said: 'You're late.'

'Delayed,' gulped Hillier. Miss Devi was lying on her bunk, naked except for her silver nose-ring. 'Unavoidably.' She had loosened her hair and her body was framed in it as far as the knees. Her body was superb, brown as though cooked, with the faintest shimmer of a glaze upon it; the jet-black bush answered the magnificent hair like a cheeky parody; the breasts, though full, did not loll but sat firmly as though moulded out of some celestial rubber; the nipples had already started upright. She reached out her arms, golden swords, towards him. He kicked off his slippers and let his bathrobe fall to the floor. 'The light,' he gasped. 'I must put out the-'

'Leave it on. I want to see.'

Hillier engaged. 'Araikkul va,' she whispered. Tamil? A southern woman then, Dravidian not Aryan. She had been trained out of some manual, but it was not that coarse Kama Sutra. Was it the rare book called Pokam, whose title Hillier had always remembered for its facetious English connotation? What now began was agonisingly-exquisite, something he had forgotten existed. She gently inflamed him with the mayil or peacock embrace, moved on to the matakatham, the poththi, the putanai. Hillier started to pass out of time, nodding to himself as he saw himself begin to take flight. Goodbye, Hillier. A voice beyond, striking like light, humorously catechised him, and he knew all the answers. Holy Cross Day? The festival of the exaltation of the Cross, September 14th. The year of the publication of Hypatia} 1853. The Mulready Envelope, The Morall Philosophie of Doni, the Kenning-ton Oval laid out in 1845, The White Doe of Rylstone, Markheim, Thrawn Janet, Wade's magic boat called Wingelock, Pontius Pilate's porter was named Cartaphilus the wandering Jew. WThen did Queen Elizabeth come to the throne? November, 1558. Something there tried to tug him back, some purpose on earth, connected with now, his job, but he was drawn on and on, beyond, to the very source of the voice. He saw the lips moving, opening as to devour him. The first is the fifth and the fifth is the eighth, he was told by a niggling earth-voice, but he shouted it down. He let himself be lipped in by the chewing mouth, then was masticated strongly till he was resolved into a juice, willing this, wanting it. Mani, mani was the word, he remembered. The mani was tipped, gallons of it, into a vessel that throbbed as if it were organic and alive, and then the vessel was sealed with hot wax. He received his instructions in the name of man, addressed as Johnrobert-jameswilliam (the brothers Maryburgh playing a fife over Pompeii, Spalato, Kenwood, Osterley) Bedebellblair: Cast forth doughtily! So to cast forth in that one narrow sweet cave would be to wreck all the ships of the world-Alabama, Ark, Beagle, Bellerophon, Bounty, Cutty Sark, Dreadnought, Endeavour, Erebus, Fram, Golden Hind, Great Eastern, Great Harry, Marie Celeste, Mayflower, Revenge, Skidbladnir, Victory. But it was the one way to refertilise all the earth, for the cave opened into myriad channels below ground, mapped before him like the tree of man in an Anatomy. The gallons of mani had swollen to a scalding ocean on which navies cheered, their masts cracking. The eighty-foot tower that crowed from his loins glowed whitehot and then disintegrated into a million flying bricks. He pumped the massive burden out. Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Sariel, Gabriel and Jerahmcel cried with sevenfold main voice, a common chord that was yet seven distinct and different notes. But, miracle, at once, from unknown reservoirs, the vessel began to fill again.

'Madu, madu!' she seemed to call. It was then now to be the gross way of the south. She bloated herself by magic to massive earthmother, the breasts ever growing too big for his grasp, so that his fingers must grow and he grow new fingers. The nipples were rivets boring through the middle metacarpal bones. His soreness was first cooled then anointed by the heat of a beneficent hell that (Dante was right) found its location at earth's centre. He was caught in a cleft between great hills. He worked slowly, then faster, then let the cries of birds possess his ears – gannet, cormorant, bittern, ibis, spoonbill, flamingo, curassow, quail, rail, coot, trumpeter, bustard, plover, avocet, oystercatcher, curlew, oriole, crossbill, finch, shrike, godwit, wheatear, bluethroat. The cries condensed to a great roar of blood. The cabin soared, its ceiling blew off in the stratosphere and released them both. He clung, riding her, fearful of being dislodged, then, as the honeyed cantilena broke and flowed, he was ready to sink with her, she deflating herself to what she had been, her blown river of hair settling after the storm and flood.

But even now it was not all over. The last fit was in full awareness of time and place, the mole on the left shoulder noted, the close weave of the skin, the sweat that gummed body to body. The aim was to slice off the externals of the jaghana of each, so that viscera engaged, coiling and knotting into one complex of snakes. Here nature must allow of total penetration, both bodies lingam and yoni. 'Now pain,' she said. Her talons attacked his back; it was as if she were nailing him to herself. When she perceived his sinking, she broke away – viscera of each retreating and coiling in again, each polished belly slamming to, a door with secret hinges. She gave his neck and chest the sounding touch, so that the hairs stood erect, passed, on to the half-moon on the buttocks, then the tiger's claw, the peacock's foot, the hare's jump, the blue lotus-leaf. She was essaying the man's part, and now she took it wholly, but not before Hillier had nearly swooned with the delectable agony of a piercing in his perineum so intense that it was as if he were to be spitted. She was on him then, and though he entered her it seemed she was entering him. He seemed raised from the surface of the bed by his tweaked and moulded nipples. He in his turn dug deep with plucking fingers into the fires that raged in the interlunar cavern, and soon what must be the ultimate accession gathered to its head. With athletic swiftness he turned her to the primal position and then, whinnying like a whole herd of wild horses, shivering as if transformed to protoplasm save for that plunging sword, he released lava like a mountain in a single thrust of destruction, so that she screamed like a burning city. Hillier lay on her still, sucked dry by vampires, moaning. The galaxies wheeled, history shrieked then settled, familiar sensations crept back into the body, common hungers began to bite. He fell from her dripping as from a sea-bathe and, as also from that, tasting salt. He sought his bathrobe, but she grabbed it first, covering herself with it. She smiled – not kindly but with malice, so that he frowned in puzzlement – and then she called: 'Come in!'

And so he entered, still in evening clothes, huge, bald, smiling. Mr Theodorescu. 'Ah, yes,' he organ-stopped. 'Accept only this brand. The genuine article.' The S burned on wet nakedness; it was too late now to attempt to hide it. 'Mr Hillier,' beamed Theodorescu. 'I thought it must be Mr Hillier. Now I definitely know.'

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