She was smartly dressed for the evening in bronze stockings and a brief, but not too brief, gold dress, a gold stole round her tanned shoulders, her hair up at the back. On her left wrist she had a gold chain from which miniscule figurines depended. It was a restaurant of subdued lights, and Enderby could not see what the figurines were or meant. She was perfumed, and the perfume suggested something baked-a delicate but aphrodisiacal souffl'e seasoned with rare liqueurs. Enderby was wearing one of Rawcliffe's Edwardian suits-it did not fit too badly-and even Rawcliffe's gold watch and chain. One thing Enderby did not like about this place was that the mortician collage man from the Doggy Wog was in it and was obviously a respected and regular customer. He sat at a table opposite and was eating with his fingers a brace of roast game-birds. He had greeted this girl with a growl of familiarity but now, picking the meat from a backbone, he kept his eyes sternly on her. He did not apparently remember Enderby. She had returned his greeting with an American air-hostess's "Hi."
Tonight she was not going to have greasy stew and pickled onions and stepmother's tea. She read the menu intently, as though it contained a Nabokovian cryptogram, and ordered a young hare of the kind called a capuchin, marinated in marc, stuffed with its own and some pig's liver as well as breadcrumbs, truffle, and a little preserved turkey-meat, and served with a sauce full of red wine and double cream. Before it she had a small helping of jellied boar. Enderby, confused, said he would have sheep's tongue en papillotes, whatever they were, that was. And, after dry martinis which she sent back as neither dry nor cold enough, they had champagne-Bollinger '53. She said it was not very exciting, but it seemed to be the best they had, so they put, at her demand, another bottle on ice while they were drinking this one. Enderby uneasily saw signs of a deliberate intention to get tight. Soon, clanking down her fork, she said:
"A fancied superiority to women. Despise their brains so pretend to despise their bodies as well. Just because you can't have their bodies."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Juvenilia. One of your," she belched gently, "juvenilia."
"Juvenilia? But I never published any of my juvenilia." Several bar-customers were interested in the repeated word: a gland injection, a sexual posture, a synthetic holiday resort. She began to recite with mocking intensity:
They fear and hate
the Donne and Dante in him, this
gift to turn heat to a flame, a kiss
to the gate of a mons-
ter's labyrinth. They hold
and anchor a thin thread -"
"Not so loud," went Enderby with quiet force, blushing. The mortician was looking sardonic over a large dish of blood-coloured ice cream.
"- the tennis party, the parish dance:
stale pus out of dead
Someone at the bar, unseen in the dimness, applauded. "I didn't write that," said Enderby. "You're getting me mixed up with somebody else."
"Am I? Am I? I suppose that's possible. There's so much minor poetry about."
"What do you mean-minor?"
She downed a long draught of Bellinger, as though the recitation had made her thirsty, belched with no excuse-me, and said:
"There was that other nasty little thing about meeting a girl at a dance, wasn't there? Juvenilia, again." Or a disease perhaps, one of those gruesomely pleasant-sounding ones like salmonella. She took more champagne and, with world-weary tone and over-sharp articulation, recited:
"Semitic violins by the wailing wall
Gnash their threnody
For the buried jungle, the tangle of lianas -"
"I think," Enderby said sternly, "that I have some right to know-"
"Or say that was before, in the first flush,
And say that now
A handful of coins, image and milled edge worn,
Is spilled abroad to determine
Our trade of emotions."
"I mean, apart from how you know all that, and I don't believe it's mine anyway-"
"On this background are imposed
Urges, whose precise nature it is difficult to define:
Shells shaped by forgotten surges."
"I'm not having any more of this," and Enderby grasped her thin wrist firmly. She shook herself free with little effort and said:
"Too rich for you, is it?" She sniffed at his half-eaten sheep's tongue en papillotes. "A lot of things are too rich for you, aren't they? Never mind, mumsy will ook after him den. Let me finish." Enderby, very wretched, let her.
"One understands so little, having no words
To body forth thoughts, no axe
To reach flagged soil, no drills
To pierce to living wells. It would tax
My energies overmuch now to garner you
Out of worn coins, worn shells."
She took another bumper of fuming wine, belched like an elfin trumpet of triumph, then waved smiling across to the mortician. He said:
"That's telling him."
"You're being bloody unfair," said Enderby loudly and, to the mortician, more loudly, "You keep your nose out of this, sod." The mortician looked at Enderby with very small interest and went on eating ice cream.
"Big untrue postures," she delivered. "Pretence. You can't make major poetry out of pretence."
"I tell you," said Enderby, "it was my stepmother's fault, but that's all over now. Pretence, you say," he added cunningly, "but very memorable pretence. Not," he super-added, "that I wrote that. I'm sure I didn't." He was pretty sure, anyway.
"I can remember anything," she said smugly. "It's a gift." Then she went phew. "God, it's warm in here." And she pulled her stole off roughly, showing her glowing young shoulders.
"It's not really warm, you know," said Enderby. And, hopefully: "Perhaps it's all that champagne. Perhaps you're not feeling too well."
"I feel fine," she said. "It's the sun within me. I'm a beaker full of the warm south. Nice tension of opposites there: cooled a long age in the deep-delved earth." She had drunk most of the first bottle and was now doing very well with the second. "I won't pretend that you wrote that, because you didn't. Poor boy. But his name was not writ in water." Enderby felt chilled when he heard that. "Posterity," she then said. The poet addresses posterity. And what is posterity? Schooknarms with snotty kids trailing round the monuments. The poet's tea-mug with an ingrained ring of tannin-stain. The poet's love-letters. The poet's falling hair, trapped in brush-bristles rarely washed. The poet's little failings-well-hidden, but not for ever. And the kids are bored, and the texts are covered with thumb-marks and dirty little marginalia. They've read the poems, oh yes. They're posterity. Do you never think of posterity?"
Enderby looked warily at her. "Well, like everybody else -"
"Minor poets hope that posterity will turn them into major ones. A great man, my dear, who suffered the critics' sneers and the public's neglect. Halitotic breathing over your corpse. Reverent treading through the poet's cottage, fingering the pots and pans."
Enderby started. "That's brought back a dream. I think it was a dream. The pots and pans fell, and I woke."
"Oh, come on, let's finish this champagne and go. I can't eat any more of this muck. Creamed leveret's bones, ugh. Let's go and swim."
"At this hour? And it's very cold, the sea I mean. And besides -"
"You don't swim. I know. You're preparing your body for honoured corpsedom. You don't do anything with it. All right, you can watch me swim." She filled both their flutes and downed hers, re-filled and downed again.
"What I meant to say was-It's a bit difficult, I know, but -" He called for the bill. "Cuenta, par favor." Quite the little Tangerine, he was thinking. Settling here for corpsedom. No, not that. He had his work, hadn't he? And there was this other matter, and he'd better blurt it out now before the bill came. "I know," he said stiffly but urgently, "there's a great disparity of age. But if you could see your way-I mean, we get on all right together. I would leave it to you to decide on the precise nature of the relationship. I ask nothing." The bill came: another flame-haired Goth of a Spanish waiter, flashing a gold tunthus. It was a lot of dirhams. Enderby counted out note after note after note, all from Rawcliffe's mattress.
"You only ask me," she said. The champagne was done, and she upturned the bottle to hold it like a thyrsus. "Come on, I'm burning."
The mortician growled something about that being okay then. She smiled and nodded. "What do you do over there?" asked Enderby jealously. "You go over there. The dog place, I mean. I know you do."
"I go to a lot of places. I'm a beezy leetle girl. The world's bigger than you could ever imagine."
The doorman whistled a petit taxi or taxi chico. It was a windy night in a hilly street, no more. But a dirty old Moor shuffled to them to offer a small parcel of marijuana for five dirhams. "Shit," she said. "Dilutions for the tourists. All teased out of fag-ends collected from the gutters." She gave the old man a brief mouthful of what sounded like fluent Arabic. He seemed shocked. Enderby was past being surprised. In the taxi he said:
"What do you say then? The precise nature of the relationship -"
"You leave to me. Right. I heard you the first time." They rolled seawards. The driver, a moustached thin Moor with a skullcap, kept turning round to have a look at her. She banged him on the shoulder, saying: "Keep your fucking eyes on the road." And to Enderby: "All I want at the moment is my swim. I don't want avowals and the precise nature of the relationship." She was silent then, and Enderby thought it prudent also to be silent. They came to near the gate, only the single track to cross, which opened on to the beach steps and the-But El Acantilado Verde had been painted out and the new name as yet only lightly stencilled. Manuel had a brother who did that sort of thing.
The bar looked grim and functional under the plain lights. "Come in here," Enderby invited, leading her to his own room. There were table-lamps, shaded in warm colours, that all came on together when he clicked the switch by the door. Many of Rawcliffe's Moorish curiosa were still around, but there was now a lot of naked shelf-space to be clothed. But with what? He didn't read much. Perhaps he ought to read more, keep in touch with the posterity of which she, all said and done, was very nearly a member. Read about media and the opening up of the psyche with drugs. All sorts of things. Enderby had bought a bedspread of camel-hair, its design undistinguished, as well as new sheets and a new mattress. There was still something raffish, riffish, Rawcliffesque about the bed on the floor, in the middle of the floor. Enderby had not yet sufficiently breathed on things.
"Hm," she said. "How about calling that cook-boy of yours to see about some coffee? I'd like some coffee afterwards."
"Oh, he's not here. They all sleep out. Yo," Enderby said, with painful roguery, "duermo solo." And then: "Of course, you can't swim, can you? You forgot, I forgot. You've nothing to swim in." He smiled.
"That's right," she said. "Nothing. I shall swim in nothing." And, before Enderby could say anything, she darted over to his book-shelves and picked on a gilt-backed folio.
"That," said Enderby, "isn't mine. It was left by him. Don't look at it, please." Fool, he should have thought. "And don't swim with nothing on. It's too cold, there are laws against it, the police will come along, this is a Muslim country, very strict about indecency."
"Indecency," she said, looking through the volume. "Yes. Dear dear dear. That seems more painful than pleasurable."
"Please don't." He meant two things. He felt he wanted to wring his hands. But she dropped the book on the floor and then started to take her dress off. "I'll make coffee myself," he said, "and there's some rather good cognac. Please don't."
"Good, we'll have that afterwards." And she kicked off her spiky shoes and began to peel down her stockings, sitting on Enderby's bedside chair to do it more easily. And then. He gulped, wondering whether to turn his back, but that somehow, after that book, might seem hypocritical. Bold Enderby, unmoved, watching. But:
"Go in as you are, by all means, but -" But going in as she was now meant going in very nearly as she wanted to go in. And now entirely. Oh God. Enderby saw her totally naked, all gold, with no shocking leprous bands where they might, beach decency being observed, be expected to be. He just stood there, a butler called in by her eccentric ladyship. She looked him hard, though soft, in the eyes. He gnashed his teeth at her ghastly young beauty, all revealed. She said:
"Time enough." Huskily. Then she lay on the camel-hair, eyes not leaving his, and said: "Love. You meant to say love. Come on, take me. Darling. I'm yours, all yours. When I give I give. You know that." He did know it. And she held out gold blades of arms, gold foil gleaming in her oxters. And gold below on the mount. "You said," she said, "I must decide on the precise nature of the relationship. Well, I'm deciding. Darling, darling. Come on."
"No," gasped Enderby. "You know I can't. That isn't what I meant."
"Just like Mr Prufrock. Darling, darling, you can do anything you like. Come, don't keep me waiting."
"It won't do," said Enderby, dying. He saw himself there with her, puffing in his slack whiteness. "I'm sorry I said what I said."
She suddenly drew her knees up to her chin, embracing her shins, and laughed, not unkindly. "Minor poet," she said. "We know now where we stand, don't we? Never mind. Be thankful for what you've got. Don't ask too much, that's all." And she leapt from the bed, brushing his hand with the smoothness of her gold flank, just for a fraction of time, as she ran past him to the door, out of the door, out of the building, out of the arena, towards the sea.
Enderby sat on the bed, blood forming patterns in his eyes. His heart growled as it thumped. Off to the bloody sea, where Rawcliffe was. But no. Rawcliffe was in the Mediterranean, east of here. She was out in the fringes of the Atlantic, a bigger sea. One sometimes forgot that it was the Atlantic here, the Atlantic and Africa and all the big stuff. Minor poet in Africa, facing the Atlantic. There would undoubtedly be phosphorescence all round her as she plunged further into the Atlantic.