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5

Did I do right to tell her to do what, and very soon after, she did? I did not see her again, though, had I had time and inclination to wander Soho or Notting Hill, I might well have spied her, smart with her little dog. I rang up Roper and told him of the discomfiture of Wurzel the West German Devil. He was elated. He thought a marriage could be saved through the elimination of what Brigitte would call the Hausfreund. He said nothing to Brigitte nor she to him of Wurzel's being kicked downstairs and out of doors. Let bygones be. Brigitte had been more tolerant, more loving (this seemed to me the best signal of the decision I had articulated for her); again (and this she might have done, had she not been going to leave) she told no lying story to Roper about attempted rape by his best friend or fiend (see: here is his cigar-butt, hurriedly crushed out). But, after a week, Roper came to my flat.

This I had expected. I had waited in every evening, expecting it, listening to Die Meistersinger. When Roper rang, Hans Sachs was opening Act III with his monologue about the whole world being mad: 'Wahn, wahn-'

'I can guess what she's done,' I said. 'She's gone back on the job. The job she'd already been doing in Germany.'

'There was no real proof of that,' he snivelled, grasping his whisky-glass as though to crush it. 'Poor little girl.'

'Poor little girl?'

'An orphan of the storm.' Oh my God. 'A war victim. We did this to her.'

'Who did? Did what?'

'Insecurity. Instability. The crash of all that meant anything. Germany, I mean. She doesn't know where she is or what she wants.'

'Oh, doesn't she? She doesn't want you, that's certain. Nor did she really want that bloody Wurzel. She just wants to do a job she can do.'

'Independence,' said Roper. 'Unsure of herself. She always talked about working, but she'd not been trained for anything. No education. That damnable war.'

That damnable. 'Oh my God, Roper, you're the end. You're totally incredible. She's just a natural prostitute, that's all. Good luck to her, if that's what she wants. But now you've got to forget all about her and get on with your work. If you're lonely, call on me any time. We'll go out and get drunk together in low pubs.'

'Drunk,' said Roper thickly. 'We're drunken beasts, that's what we are. Warmongers and ravishers and drunken beasts. But,' he said, when he'd taken a swig as though toasting that, 'she may come back. Yes, I'll be waiting for her. She'll come back crying, glad to be home again.'

'Get a divorce,' I said. 'Get a private detective on the job. They'll find her sooner or later. Evidence. No trouble at all.'

He shook his head. 'No divorce,' he said. 'That would be the final betrayal. Women are not what we are. They need protecting from the great destructive forces.'

I nodded and nodded, very grim. He'd mixed Brigitte up with the Virgin Mary (whom we'd all at school got into the habit of calling, as though she were a spy-ring or automation company, the BVM) and Gretchen in Goethe's Faust. 'Das Ewig-Weibliche zieht uns hinan,' I quoted. But he didn't recognise the quotation.

What I should have foreknown, sir, was that Roper would be thrown into a great empty pit where nothing was really to be trusted any more, where there was no belief in anything. Anything? There was the value of his work, wasn't there? Roper, gently but firmly led by Professor Duckworth, was professionally absorbed in that, but there must have been great areas of his brain suffering from inanition. Brain? Perhaps heart or soul or something. Blame England, yes, for Brigitte's defection, but let it come slowly-blame also the whole of Western Europe, blame even Germany for not being a good father to her. But you can't fill the irrational past with blame. You need something positive. We all need our irrational part to be busy with something harmless (the housewife's hands knitting while her eyes take the television in), letting our rational part get on with what, perhaps stupidly, we suppose to be the important purpose of life. Here, in brief, is the peril of being a scientist brought up on a fierce and brain-filling religion. He starts, in his late teens, by thinking that his new sceptical rationalism (bliss was it in that dawn to be alive) makes nonsense of Adam and Eve and transubstantiation and the Day of Judgement. And then, too late, he discovers that the doctrines don't really count; what counts is the willingness and ability to take evil seriously and to explain it. Supernature abhors a super-vacuum. When I returned from that Serbo-Croat refresher course you, sir, sent me on, I was pleased to find that Roper seemed to be living a nice, decent, normal, middle-class British life. I rang his home one evening to see how he was getting on, and I heard a voice somehow beer-flushed and, behind the voice, the noise of well-in-hand gaiety. A few people in, he said. Do come round, meet the boys and girls. News of Brigitte? News of who? Oh, her. No, no news. 'Come round,' he said, 'I've joined the Labour Party.'

'You've joined the-'

He rang off. He had joined the-Well, then, that was a relief. The NATO powers could breathe freely again. What could be safer than that he should be a member of the political party which provided either H. M. Government or Opposition? No more nasty guilt now, no more there can be no God if He failed to strafe -England, breathed breathily as, each hand crammed with warm Brigitte, he dug his hot spoon into that delicious honey-pot. I went round. Lights and merriment in the bay-window. A dark-haired girl let me in. The hall-light was bright: she was slim and sallow, dressed for no nonsense in a tweed skirt and yellow jumper. 'Oh, you must be-' Roper came into the hall. 'Ah, there you are!' His hair, like that of some pioneer labour leader, was shaggy and tousled. The living-room and dining-room had only recently, he told me, been knocked into one: forgive the smell of size. These were his friends, he said: Brenda Canning, a merry ginger girl in flashing glasses and jingling trinket-bracelet; Shaw, shy, who worked with Roper; Peter, no, sorry, Paul Younghusband a round man who smiled from striking a chord on a guitar; Jeremy Cavour, long, with a pipe, his ample grey hair parted on the left. Others. 'Not really a party,' said Roper. 'More of a study-group meeting.' There were cheese, bread, a carboy of pickles, bottles of light ale on the dining-table. 'What are you studying?' I asked. 'Oh,' said Roper, 'there's been a bit of talk about some of us scientists getting together to hammer out a sort of pamphlet. Socialism and Science. We hadn't really got down to the title, had we, Lucy?'

Lucy was the girl who had opened the door, unintro-duced to me perhaps because we'd already made functional contact, introductions perhaps being purely decorative or phatic. This Lucy was standing close to him and seemed to me, at that moment of being addressed, to touch him with a gentle thrust of the hip. Ah, I thought, they are friends. I looked at her with more attention, soon with something like favour wide-mouthed (generous), gate-toothed (sensual), small-eyed (shrewd), high-browed. It was a neat figure; the voice was a decent kind of South London. An attractive girl on the whole, but breathing of no gross earth-mother like Brigitte. The house looked very tidy; Lucy had opened the front door; Lucy said to me now: 'Can I get you some beer? All we have, I'm afraid.' I noted the 'we', saying: 'In a stein, please.' Roper clouded over. 'Sorry, stupid of me,' I said. 'There aren't steins any more.' This was at once taken up by a small man in the corner, weak-and-intellectual-looking, rings under his eyes. He cried: 'The house of Stein is fallen. Ah, Gertrude, Gertrude.' The round man with the guitar, Peter or Paul or something, improvised a silly jingle to the tune of 'Chopsticks': 'Einstein and Weinstein and Kleinstein and Schweinstein and Meinstein and Deinstein and Seinstein and Rheinstein and-' Roper smirked at me: what witty and erudite friends he now had. They all seemed to be scientist's assistants, none of them under thirty, most of them adolescently content with an evening of singsong and light ale. Light ale was now given to me. 'Thank you,' I said. 'What will you have, Winny?' asked Lucy of Roper. A choice, was there? Beer was all they had, she'd said. 'Lemon barley water,' said Roper. 'A small glass.' Well, the loss of Brigitte hadn't sent him howling to the drink. Or perhaps it had; perhaps he was being looked after now.

'Winny she calls you,' I said, when Lucy had gone to the kitchen.

'That's short for Edwin,' said Roper, smiling.

'Oh, Roper, Roper, I've known your name is Edwin for the last twenty years.'

'As long as that? How time goes.'

'Have you done anything about a divorce yet?' I asked.

'Plenty of time,' he said. 'Three years for desertion. I see now it could never be the same again as it used to be. Have you ever read Heracleitus? Everything flows, he said. You can't step into the same river twice. A pity. A terrible, terrible pity. Poor little girl.' I got in quickly, forestalling the Weltschmerz, with: 'How about this little girl?'

Lucy? Oh, Lucy's been a very great help. Just a good friend, you know, nothing more. She cooks me the odd meal. Sometimes we have a meal out. A very intelligent girl.' This seemed to have something to do with her skill with a menu, but then he said: 'She works our computer for us. Don't you, Lucy?' he smiled, waterily, as he took lemon barley from her. 'Our computer.'

'That's right,' she said. I felt that perhaps she would have preferred Roper to designate their relationship not in professional terms. To me she said: 'Are you a member of the party?'

'Oh, I'm progressive. I believe in soaking the rich. But I also believe in Original Sin.'

'Poor old Hillier,' smirked Roper. 'Still not emancipated.'

'My belief,' I said, 'has nothing to do with Father Byrne. People tend to choose the worse way rather than the better.

That's something experience has taught me. I use the theological term for want of a better one.'

'It's all environment,' said Roper. 'All conditioning.' He would have said more, but Lucy told him to save it. 'Everybody wants to sing,' she said. 'Don't you think we ought to have business first?'

'Business.' The word made Roper very serious and chin-jutting. 'We have a bit of discussion,' he told me. 'Brenda there takes the main conclusions down in shorthand. You'll stay, won't you? You may have some useful ideas to contribute. A fresh mind, you see. Perhaps we in the group are growing a little too familiar with each other's. Minds, I mean. But,' he chuckled, 'don't say anything about Original Sin.'

When the discussion started (and it was a very earnest sixth-form-type discussion, full of fundamentals), I found myself switching on the professional ear. But any hammering-out of the position of science and technology in a progressive society had to be above suspicion. Britain, whatever party happened to be in power, was now committed to socialism. This group was concerned with laying down a series of articles for a Socialist scientist's creed. The pipeman Cavour was presumably to do the actual writing of the proposed pamphlet, since he tried to fix all conclusions in a ponderous literary form, going er and ar in search of the mot juste, correcting people's grammar. 'Something like this,' he said. 'We er hold that the past is dead and the future is er upon us. Meaning the Scientific Revolution. We think in world terms, not er the antique terms of nationalism. Ultimately we envisage a World State and World Science. Ar.' Brenda, her token-bracelet jangling, was getting it all down. Lucy sat in one of the two moquette-covered armchairs, Roper on the arm. He seemed happy. He seemed to have got over sin. He was safe, sir.

Of course he was safe, cuddled by a humanitarian and rational philosophy which occasionally gives Britain a government. The whole Roper case, if I may call it that at that stage, was perhaps ready to bubble with a political extremism that, during a long Tory summer, sought fulfilment in a country that wasn't merely doctrinaire about a World State and World Science. Must a man be blamed for being logical? I don't know how far Lucy, who seemed to be a very serious girl, helped. I was out of England long before Roper. What I'm trying to say, sir (or would be trying to say if I were saying it), is that you can't condemn a man because an ineluctable process carries him. If you wanted Roper's logic and you did and still do you have to swallow it all. That is why I can't attempt any serious moral persuasion when, the day after tomorrow, late at night, I eventually reach him. The bribes, of course, he'll, and very rightly, scorn. It will have to be the ampoule, the forcible abduction of a Soviet citizen temporarily disguised as a drunken British tourist. And I'm doing this for the money.

I'm doing this for the money, for the terminal bonus (I am most bribable now) which, in my retirement, I shall need. If it were not for the retirement I should not be proposing to play a mean trick on a friend. But, as I've already told you in a real letter dispatched, received, ruminated, replied to -1 am retiring precisely because I'm sick and tired of having to play mean tricks. You might as well, while my hand is in, have the lot.

Lot what? Lot the next to the last in this shame's auction to bidding oblivion of the shabby contents of my long-leased spy-house. You have my report of the successful betrayal of Martinuzzi, very brief, totally factual. The lying code-message about Martinuzzi's being on the double game was, as we knew it would be, intercepted. When Martinuzzi was taken over to Rumania he expected, I suppose, praise, bonuses, promotion. We know what he got.

End of Martinuzzi. Of Signora Martinuzzi and the three bambini in Trieste also the end, but that, of course, irrelevant. The explosion of a paraffin stove in the little Casa Martinuzzi on the Via della Barriera Vecchia and the burning alive of mother and eldest child, as well as the cat and her kittens, was just an unfortunate accident. A spy should not give hostages to fortune: that's what whoever was responsible really meant. I was sick; I vomited a bellyload into the gutter. What made my shame worse was the visit of some British louts with guitars and emetic little songs; they filled the Opera House with infantile screamers. Their income, I read, amounted to something like two million lire a week; Martinuzzi was lucky to get half of that sum a year. All right, Martinuzzi was the enemy, but to whom do you think I felt closer? My very good fiend, Brigitte might have said. I spent some of my own few million lire on arranging for the adoption of the remaining two of the enemy's children; both need the most delicate plastic surgery. I don't mind games, but when they get too dirty I don't think I want to play any more.

You won't receive this letter, for this letter has not been written. But, if I get Roper back to you, and if you do to Roper what I fear you will, despite the promises in the letters in my coat-lining, I shall at least have rehearsed some of the content of his defence. The time is now two minutes to four. I shall forgo tea and a tabnab and not eat much dinner. To my satyriasis I say 'Down, sir, down.' I must be fit for the day after tomorrow, recognising my duty to my retirement. A little nap now, then. As ever, or rather not as ever, D.H. (729).


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