CHAPTER THREE: MIND OF AN OUTSIDER
the years of his enforced exile in
Ah, how one suffered through the ears! There were times when he wished he were deaf, so that he could forget about the damn neighbours and get on with his studies in peace. Times, too, when he reflected that it would have been better had man been endowed, at birth, with a tiny switch on the side of his head which enabled one to switch hearing on-and-off at will, as the occasion demanded. Being partly of diabolic origin, however, nature had not supplied any such device, and so one was obliged to tolerate whatever crude noise came one's way - assuming one hadn't taken the sensible precaution of plugging-up with wax. For his own part, Morrison was prepared to believe that 70-80% of his impersonal sufferings were directly or indirectly related to noise, and that, without hearing, life would be almost agreeable. Almost! Because then one would be deprived of the sound of great music, not to mention the possibility of listening to the sounds, sexual or otherwise, of an attractive woman's voice every once in a while.
Returning to his bedsitter with Julie, it was indeed the sound of her voice that he was particularly conscious of, so pleasant was it for him to be hearing her speak again, after so many years. How sick and tired he had grown of proletarian voices, of cockney accents laced with vicious expletives and snide denigrations! Whenever he ate lunch at the local café, there would always be a group of men there whose conversation was copiously laced with swearwords of an explicitly sexual nature. His cultivated sensibilities would be offended by their coarse words and banal phrases, and he would turn away from them in disgust, filled with a kind of Trotskyite loathing for their incessant vulgarity. Paradoxically, however, he had come to understand the logic of the proletariat's particular choice of swearwords and to regard it, not altogether unreasonably, as manifesting a basic moral superiority over the upper classes.
Of course, he knew himself to be essentially upper-middle-class in his moral sensibilities, and thus subject to the occasional use of words such as damn, bloody, bastard, and so on. But, having lived so long in a proletarian environment, he could to some extent empathize with the employment of such typically proletarian expletives as 'cunt', 'fuck', 'fucking bastard', 'cock-up', etc., which testified, whether or not their users realized the fact, to a contempt for sex. J.B. Priestley had himself remarked somewhere that, in using such words, the people concerned were 'coarsely contemptuous' of their sexual relations, and, by God, how true that statement was!
On the other hand, the bourgeoisie, in living closer to nature in their suburban houses, generally had more respect for sex, which is, after all, a natural act, and consequently refrained from the use of swearwords expressing contempt for it. Yet this, ironically, struck Morrison as representing a lower and inferior attitude to that expressed by the typical proletarian, who was only too ready, at times, to accuse someone of being a 'fucking bastard', i.e. a bastard who fucks, or a 'fucking cunt', i.e. a cunt which fucks or, alternatively, a cunt for fucking, and other such variations on an accusatory theme. The proletariat, instinctively or otherwise, could see the sexual act and parts of the body as being intrinsically low and were prepared, in consequence, to brand them with words designed to emphasize that lowness. Not so the bourgeoisie, who had a much greater respect for such matters, and would have been ashamed to use anything stronger than 'bastard' or 'bloody'. And so it generally was with Peter Morrison, though he had on one or two past occasions given way to stronger denigrations of his neighbours when circumstances had obliged him to lose his temper and hurl retaliatory abuse at them - either directly or, more usually, through their walls. Afterwards he would regret it, but that was only to be expected. He could never quite evade his idealistic conscience!
Julie's voice fell silent, however, as soon as they reached the house where Morrison lived, whether because she was becoming nervous at the fate she imagined probably lay in store for her or because of some other reason, he couldn't quite decide. Perhaps it was simply the derelict appearance of the old tenement itself, which now disgusted or depressed her? Yes, he had often felt that way himself when approaching it. There could be no question of one's identifying with the building or even the street as a whole, no possibility of one's thinking: 'This is a community I'm an integral part of, and this is where I'm proud to live!' No, absolutely not! All one could be conscious of, apart from a feeling of shame, was the thought that one was simply isolated here, an outsider blown in from the provinces by adverse circumstances who couldn't pretend that he had been brought-up in such a street or had any real respect for it. It was all somehow alien, other, distasteful. And one was obliged, through poverty, to endure it, to live with it willy-nilly. One was, in a very real sense, its victim. Just as, in living in a single bedsitter among noisy neighbours, one was a victim of the lumpen proletariat. No question of one's loving them, under those circumstances! One's socialism, largely forced upon one through environmental conditioning, could only be tempered by a loathing of their condition, by the hope that one day it would be replaced by something higher.
And so we needn't be surprised if Peter Morrison felt ashamed to be living where he was and, partly on that account, disinclined to invite such women as would ordinarily have appealed to him back to his room. The thought of dragging a well-spoken, cultured young lady (assuming he could have found one in the local milieu) up the dismal stairs, past the scratches and dirt on the walls, along the bare floorboards of the carpetless corridor, and into his dingy room, with its dirty walls, battered furniture, stained ceiling, grimy windows, tattered carpet, etc., was too humiliating to bear for long, and had always precluded him from making the experiment. So, needless to say, had the fact that, once there, she would have been subject to both neighbour and environmental noises, including, in the latter case, the malignant barking of several nearby dogs, the screaming of vicious kids - not children! - in the next-door alleyway, the hammering of nearby workmen, and a whole host of often indescribable disturbances which would have contributed, he felt sure, to their mutual humiliation and disgrace!
But as if that wasn't bad enough, there was the even worse prospect, so far as Morrison was concerned, of having his conversation and actions overheard by the nearest neighbours, whose close proximity to him behind their all-too-thin walls, under his floor in the ground-floor room or above his ceiling in the attic room, would be bound to inhibit him and make him feel unpleasantly self-conscious, what with his classy accent and studious interests. He couldn't even bring himself to play classical music or modern jazz through his stereo speakers these days, but, partly because he was afraid to draw more noise from his neighbours than he already had to endure, and partly because he didn't want to unduly emphasize his cultural superiority over them, habitually employed headphones for the purpose, thereby keeping his musical tastes to himself.
Alas, what a pity that the downstairs neighbours couldn't do the same! How often he had to endure the regular thump-thump-thump of exceedingly banal bass parts to tedious rock or pop songs which the young couple underneath habitually played, the volume of their radiogram at a level guaranteed to disturb even someone half-deaf! Why, he wondered, did responsible adults and irresponsible adolescents have to share the same house? Surely a law prohibiting the indiscriminate mixing of such disparate age-groups in lodging houses or other communal buildings would have saved people like himself a great deal of unnecessary hardship? Yes, but like it or not, there were a thousand-and-one other non-existent laws which could have been brought into existence expressly for that purpose too, but which, thanks or no thanks to the existing political state-of-affairs in the country, failed to materialize. That was simply the way of things!
Fortunately for Peter Morrison on this occasion, however, the room into which he led his female captive wasn't subject to the intrusion of any such external noises but, to his great relief, almost deathly silent. Even the huge shaggy dog, a few houses away, was uncharacteristically quiet, probably because he was dozing or sleeping. Good, let sleeping dogs lie, as the saying went. Too often people did their damnedest to disturb them! "Well, this is it," he said with an air of enforced bravado, after he had gently closed the door behind Julie's advancing form and freed himself from the oppressive burden of his rejected typescripts. "This is where I live and work."
Julie gave the room a brief if slightly condescending inspection, before removing her short leather coat and, at Morrison's bidding, sitting herself down on the nearest chair to-hand, which was neither hard nor soft but somewhere in-between, part of the stuffing knocked out of it and the upholstery torn in a number of fairly conspicuous places. This aspect of its appearance, however, she preferred not to notice but, instead, focused her attention on the modest bookcase which stood next to it, the top shelf crammed with his typescripts, the middle shelf given over to his tiny collection of favourite paperbacks, and the bottom one, which was the tallest, serving to house his fairly substantial collection of LPs, most of which had been bought second-hand and were now, like their owner, somewhat dated. "Gosh, what a lot of work you've done!" she exclaimed, as her bright eyes alighted on the piled-up typescripts. "And not one of them accepted by a publisher?"
"No," Morrison tersely confirmed, a look of embarrassment on his clean-shaven face. "In a sense, they're all too good to be published."
"How d'you mean 'too good'?" she queried, slightly puzzled.
"Too philosophical, too progressive, too revolutionary, too serious-minded, too truthful, too anti-Christian, too anti-bourgeois, too ... transcendental," he replied, his tone-of-voice grave, his countenance stern, like he had just stepped out of his natural self into some all-too-familiar professional persona with world-shattering implications! "My approach to writing is ... too idealistic, in a word, for the money-grubbing commercial requirements of the capitalistic publishing establishment, who require much less-elevated typescripts. The publishing bourgeoisie live off adventure stories, war stories, pornography, crime stories, thrillers, romances, the occult, etc., which I would find it impossible, not to say undesirable, to write. My works, focusing on religious, political, social, and cultural matters, are evidently insufficiently commercial to prove economically viable, so far as the great majority of publishers are concerned. No doubt, the bastards are right to believe that! Most people are probably either too base or too stupid to appreciate such writings, or have been corrupted and brainwashed by the publishing establishment into only buying the sort of commercial trash which tends to prevail!" Julie did her best to smile sympathetically through the haze of embarrassment which engulfed her in the wake of his bluntness, before dropping her gaze down to the middle shelf, where some thirty or so publications were to be seen in order of author. They were all classical works and included six by Nietzsche - The Will to Power being the most conspicuous on account of its greater bulk. "I see you like Nietzsche," she commented, by way of observation.
"Liked Nietzsche would be nearer the mark," he corrected, looking at the battered spines of the paperbacks in question. "All those works were bought over five years ago and aren't particularly indicative of my current tastes, which, for want of adequate money, are dependent on the local library. Some idiotic impulse compels me to hold on to them, as though to prove to any prospective visitor to my room that I'm relatively cultured and not semi-literate, like the neighbours.... Not that I have any visitors as a rule, as I think I intimated to you earlier. Still, one grows sentimentally attached to certain books, whether or not one is no longer inclined to read them. They were important to one once, and that's the main thing!"
"Yes, I quite agree," said Julie, offering him a brisk nod of her wavy-blonde head. "Where Nietzsche is concerned, one's virtually on sacred ground. He's one of those writers whose works didn't appeal to a very wide public in his own day, either."
"Quite so," Morrison conceded, grimacing slightly at the thought of Nietzsche being sacred, though he was quite the most Catholic Lutheran he knew and no mean transcendentalist as far as the Superman was concerned. "Nietzsche didn't sell very many books in his own day, and neither, for that matter, did Baudelaire and Schopenhauer - two outstanding geniuses who also grace my shelf," he went on. "But that's usually the fate of exceptional men, in any case. They're too intelligent and noble for the broad masses, and not therefore subject to mass appreciation. Only a relatively small number of higher types ever appreciate them, and not always while their alive, either!"
Julie had lost interest in the books and was looking through his collection of records, which were mostly modern jazz. She was relieved to see that he shared a number of her tastes and commented approvingly on various albums, including ones by Jean-Luc Ponty, Frank Zappa, Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Al DiMeola, George Duke, and Herbie Hancock. She, too, was into modern jazz and progressive rock these days, especially when it was of a transcendental order. "Do you meditate?" she asked, during a pause in her investigations.
He smiled wryly and emphatically shook his head. "I used to practise a sort of Taoist brand of Transcendental Meditation in the past," he confessed, blushing slightly, "but nowadays I'm fundamentally too socialist to be much interested in it."
She wondered what on earth he could mean, and accordingly pressed him to explain himself.
"Well, if I were English, I think I'd be more inclined to practise meditation," he averred. "But because I'm Irish, I tend to look on it as an irrelevant pursuit at present."
Julie frowned deeply, wondering what-on-earth he was getting at. She had almost forgotten he was Irish anyway, his accent being passably English.
"I mean, to me," he went on, "Ireland is potentially if not actually a revolutionary country, whereas Britain, well, Britain is simply part of the old capitalistic order, the civilization that's slowly coming to a decrepit end. There's no chance of radical social change ever happening in this country, but I believe there's a fair chance of such change happening in Ireland in the future, and that it's therefore the duty of every intelligent, politically progressive Irishman to encourage it."
"You sound like a revolutionary," said Julie, a shade nervously.
"Maybe I am one," Morrison admitted. "After all, these works ..." and here he pointed to his typescripts, those in the leather bag included "... are fundamentally revolutionary, pointing the way towards a brighter future. I don't have anything positive to say about parliamentary democracy, and nothing particularly positive to say of its puritanical religious corollary, either. On the contrary, I look forward to the establishment of what I call the transcendental civilization, the next and final civilization in the world, which must surely follow on the heels of socialism."
"So you do believe in transcendentalism!" Julie exclaimed, a distinct note of relief in her voice.
"Yes, but with certain reservations," Morrison conceded. "I'm not a practising Buddhist or a radical Hindu or anything of the sort, and neither can I envisage the future development of transcendentalism in traditional Oriental terms, which are much too naturalistic to pass muster in tomorrow's world. What we'll require, for want of a better phrase, is technological transcendentalism, in which the natural body will be superseded by an artificial support-and-sustain system for the brain, for the self, which will then be able to cultivate an extensive and well-nigh exclusive spirituality. Only thus, with the most advanced technological assistance, will the long-awaited goal of salvation from the flesh become transcendentally possible. Only thus will mankind be able to attain to the heavenly Beyond in the spiritual perfection of the Holy Ghost."
Julie's face had turned pale, then red, then back to pale again, or so it appeared. "Christ, you seem to speak with some authority!" she remarked, her voice strained with nerves.
"That's because I believe I have the truth," he confidently asseverated. "Because I have pursued the truth of our future destiny further than any other living man and am consequently in possession of ideas which are completely new to the world and, for that very reason, suspect and even worrying to the publishing bourgeoisie! Now d'you begin to see why I've had my works rejected time and time again? I'm a voice crying in the urban wilderness, and this time it isn't the voice of Christ but, to all intents and purposes, of the Second Coming - the Messianic figure who stands at the cross-roads between Christianity and transcendentalism and, in rejecting the former, points the way towards the latter! I'm not a materialist in any strictly Marxist or, rather, Bolshevik sense. Rather, I trace my intellectual lineage from Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Spengler to Huxley, Koestler, and de Chardin, with particular emphasis on Nietzsche, whom I regard as the last great thinker prior to myself. I have carried the burden of enlightenment beyond Zarathustra, with his concept of the Superman, to a stage whereby the destiny of man is explained in terms of attainment to the heavenly Beyond through the aid of technological progress and, consequently, the gradual phasing-out of the natural body. What the future will signify is not so much the East or the West ... as the coming together of both East and West into the highest possible civilization - the combining of the maximum technology with the maximum meditation, until the goal of heavenly salvation is attained to in spiritual transcendence. The endemic doing of the West will be placed at the service, through technology, of the endemic being of the East, so that, instead of remaining a largely mundane and ultimately futile exercise, meditation will become the means through which spiritual salvation can be achieved. By itself, without technology, it's doomed to frustration and, ultimately, to failure. The body inevitably detracts from one's spiritual potential, imposing so many sensual obligations upon one. The Asians, in their valiant endeavour to overcome it, only succumbed to disease, poverty, and starvation. They lacked technology. In the future, we shall increasingly supply that lack or, rather, they'll compromise with technology while we compromise with meditation, albeit spicing it up, so to speak, with synthetic stimulants. Eventually, once technology has reached its peak, meditation will take over completely, freeing the whole of humanity for the last leg of its evolutionary journey to the heavenly Beyond. And this last leg I regard as the post-human millennium, the higher phase of the transcendental civilization when, with the gradual 'withering away' of the State, religion will completely supersede politics, freeing man from materialistic concerns once-and-for-all. It will be the 'open stretch of realization' that Henry Miller describes in Sunday After the War."
Julie lip-smiled half-heartedly in her bemusement, her blue eyes staring at the writer as much out of astonishment that she was actually hearing all this from him ... as out of respect that he was actually speaking to her. "So you're not satisfied that the Millennium, the coming time of happiness on earth to which socialists look forward, is the goal of evolution?" she deduced, after due consideration.
"No, not by any means!" Morrison immediately confirmed. "That's why I'm not a socialist in the narrow Marxist sense, but can see further ahead to a transcendental climax of evolution, largely because I haven't dismissed spirituality and thereby reduced everything to materialism. Our ultimate goal must be the heavenly Beyond, as Christians have for centuries maintained, though especially during the ages of faith. They weren't fools or madmen to do that, and we would be grossly oversimplifying the issue to imagine otherwise! Rather, they looked upon it from a necessarily egocentric, and therefore misguided, point of view, which led them to posit salvation in a posthumous afterlife. This we can no longer accept, for at death one simply dies, and that's all there is to it. Our evolutionary progress, over the past two centuries of rapid industrialization and expanding urbanization, has ensured that we don't fall into the same egocentric trap. For, living as we do ... cut off to a considerable extent from the proximity and influence of exterior nature, our psyche is no longer quite as balanced between the subconscious and superconscious minds as was formerly the case, but has become increasingly lopsided on the side of the latter, and thus subject to a greater influx of logical, rational thought than ever before. We must accordingly come to accept, now, that salvation from the flesh is something which will take us centuries to achieve rather than something that happens following death. At death, the spirit simply dies, it isn't saved. But, in the future, the spirit will be enabled to overcome the mortality of the flesh through our technology largely having got rid of the latter, and thereby freed us for the privilege of attaining to the heavenly Beyond. We'll be elevated to so many static units of potential transcendence and consequently live, as self-centred brains, for an indefinite period of time - until such time, in fact, as highly-cultivated spirit detaches itself from the brain and becomes truly transcendent. For transcendent spirit doesn't at present exist in the world, but is only potentially present in our rather mundane, flesh-clogged spirits. It's something which can only come about at the climax of evolution."
Julie frowned slightly and involuntarily bit her lip. It was somewhat upsetting for her, a beautiful woman, to hear that the flesh would have to be overcome through technology in the future. She couldn't resign herself to the idea but, for the sake of avoiding argument, kept her misgivings to herself. Nevertheless, the contention that transcendent spirit didn't exist at present prompted her to ask whether, in that case, the world was devoid of God, as Nietzsche had maintained.
"Yes, I'm afraid it is," Morrison replied. "For if we equate God with the highest possible existence, it follows that such a supreme existence, being dependent for its manifestation on the conversion of mundane spirit into transcendent spirit, doesn't yet exist. We live in a world struggling towards God, not in a world under God's protection."
"Then what has man been worshipping these past two, nay, several thousand years?" Julie retorted, her incredulity tempered by scepticism.
"If you want to know the painful truth ... the Creator," Morrison averred. "And the Creator, whether regarded as the Father, the Ground, Jehovah, the Almighty, or whatever, isn't really God in any true and ultimate sense but, for want of a better word, the Devil. Yes, man has been effectively worshipping the Devil! At first, in the earliest phase of his religious evolution, more or less openly, in the form of sun-worship, but subsequently, in the later pagan and early Christian eras, under cover of euphemistic extrapolations from the Cosmos, like 'the Father'. Of course, true Christians put more emphasis on Jesus Christ than His 'Father', the Creator. But even they weren't entirely immune to Creator-worship, as any Catholic will tell you.... I, however, don't worship the Creator, for I'm opposed to unconscious diabolism. I wish to see men creating God, doing what they can to further the development of pure spirit in the world instead of worshipping some extrapolation from the Cosmos which, rather than being supremely divine, is fundamentally diabolic, a sort of powerful alpha rather than a truthful omega. Thus I'm an atheist, but an atheist with this difference: I know the Devil exists."
"As the sun?" Julie asked.
"Yes, and not only as our sun but, more pervasively, as all suns, or stars, in the Cosmos," Morrison confirmed, his voice stern and, for the first time that afternoon, almost bitter. "At bottom the Cosmos is evil, and so, needless to say, is life. But, as men, it's our duty to further the development of civilization, which is an artificial phenomenon, and thus attain, eventually, to absolute salvation in a supreme order of being. This, essentially, is what life's all about. Struggling to defeat nature and attain to the Supernatural, no matter how difficult the struggle or protracted the attainment! We can only go forwards and up, not backwards and down, like some writers, including D.H. Lawrence and John Cowper Powys, would evidently have us do! However, they're unlikely to prevail over us."
"But you are, though?" Julie surmised.
"Eventually," he averred. "Which is to say, once I can find a publisher and acquire public recognition - a thing, alas, which seems increasingly unlikely in England, as the typescripts on my bookshelf should indicate. For the publishing establishment here would not appear to be interested in higher thought or inner truth, but only in making what money they can out of commercial writings which are inherently the converse of Truth! A sad fact, but there it is!1 In a sense, nothing more than a reflection of the moral inadequacy of the capitalist system, its dependence on commercial success, and consequent reluctance to take chances with revolutionary or original works. Besides, they're not revolutionary here but decidedly reactionary, opposing radical change in the aforementioned direction. They have ceased to lead the world, as, in some ways, they did a century or two ago, but are only really interested in defending what they've achieved against assailants or would-be assailants of a progressive order, especially anti-worldly and other-worldly ones. In my view Britain is no longer Great, or magnanimous, but becoming increasingly petty, an enemy of evolutionary progress. Fortunately or unfortunately for me, I'm not British but Irish.... Yes, I've lived here most of my damned life, having been brought over from Ireland at the tender age of two-and-a-half by a pro-British mother whose father was a Belfast Protestant who converted, nominally, to Catholicism in order to marry a Southern Catholic while serving with the British Army in the South during the Irish Uprising. Subsequently he moved to England and settled down with his Irish wife, who bore him a daughter. I never knew him, but when he died my grandmother took her daughter back to Ireland, which she evidently missed, and there the latter met my father, who was also a Southern Catholic, and I, too, am a man of culture and truth, unable to reconcile myself to British so-called civilization, with its materialistic individualism and competitive economics, its endemic brutality. That's why I've now decided to send typescripts to Dublin, in the hope that they'll meet with more appreciation there than here. For Ireland is, after all, a different country, not one that need necessarily remain tied to bourgeois values. There's a possibility that Ireland will become an evolutionary country, not an opponent of ideological progress, like Britain. If my writings are likely to be understood and appreciated anywhere, it should be in the land of my birth, not in this superficial place! These people, on the contrary, are played out! We, however, are only just beginning to live again after submission to several centuries of alien rule at the hands of, first, feudal and, then, capitalist barbarians. But the times are changing and we should be among those who are in the vanguard of changing them, not aligned with the stuck-in-the-muds of bourgeois reaction!"
"It's a pity I'm not Irish," Julie at length remarked. "Then at least one could have some confidence in the future."
"Julie Phillips ... you're Welsh, aren't you?" Morrison half-smilingly deduced.
Again Julie bit her lip, but managed to nod all the same. It would hardly have been appropriate, she felt, to admit now that she was married, and married to an Englishman by name of Foster at that!
"That's probably why I was able to fall in love with you all those years ago," he averred, turning sentimental, "you being a Celt, like myself. As it happens, I've never felt drawn to Anglo-Saxon women. Which is one of the reasons why I've been alone all these years, I suspect."
It was a comment that brought a deep blush out of Julie, for it confirmed her suspicions concerning Peter Morrison's previous feelings towards her. He had been in love with her after all, though she had never been absolutely sure of it, especially since he had once sent a love letter to a friend of hers. "You positively sound like a racist!" she opined.
"I suppose it's more a question of ethnic tribalism than racism," he replied, smiling, "since I have no time for racists in the usual anti-black sense of the word, and am all in favour of racial equality in the usual multiracial sense. Yet I'm in no doubt that I've experienced a degree of racial or, at any rate, ethnic prejudice at the hands of various Englishmen and, more especially, Englishwomen over the years, bearing in mind the number of rejection slips to my name, which only confirms what I believe about their fear of ethnic subversion at the hands of radical Irishmen like myself. But that doesn't surprise me really, since, with due respect to the largely protestant Scots and Welsh, only an Irishman of Catholic descent could have pursued Truth so intensely as I did, and, as it runs contrary to the interests and beliefs of British civilization, which is rooted in power and accordingly upholds a constitutional monarchy, what else could I expect? The amazing thing is that, having lived all but the first three years of my life in England, I'm still an Irishman, still a person who attaches more importance to Truth than to power, and accordingly to the inner than to the outer, to omega than to alpha. It just goes to show that ethnicity can't be discarded as an insignificant thing, not even in this day and age, and that one's name is more than just a name. As a Jew to an Arab or a Greek to a Turk or a Croat to a Serb, so an Irish Celt is to an English Anglo-Saxon, whether or not he likes the fact. We don't belong to their civilization, for our blood doesn't beat in time with theirs."
"And what would you say I was?" Julie asked him, unable to suppress an involuntary smile of complicity.
"A bit of a Welsh Celt," he smilingly averred.
Julie nodded gently in response to the apparent logic of Morrison's suggestion. "I suppose I'll have to concede you a point there, though I must say you don't sound particularly Irish yourself. They'd take you for an Englishman in Ireland, I'm sure."
"Until they read my writings," he confidently retorted. "However that may be, I've no desire to stay any longer in London. It's nothing but a source of depression to me, a long-standing humiliation!"
She had almost forgotten about his depression by now and felt momentarily sorry for him again. He had need of company all right, especially from the opposite sex. But was she the one to give it to him? She thought of her husband or, rather, Dennis Foster's smug face came stealing into her mind's eye, and she remembered that she would have to be back home by five if she didn't want to arouse his suspicions. It was already ten-past four - later than she thought. She couldn't afford to spend any more time with Morrison and told him so, reminding him that she had a friend to meet.
"Oh forgive me!" he responded, becoming embarrassed. "I hadn't realized I was detaining you."
"Not to worry," said Julie, as she stood up and began to put on her coat. "You made the time pass quickly anyway."
It was only now, when she was on the point of leaving, that Peter Morrison felt a tinge of regret that he hadn't initiated any sexual relations with her but, on the contrary, had kept talking all the time. If there was one thing he really needed it was sex, and here he was, letting a beautiful woman take her leave of him without having given her so much as a single kiss! His intellectuality, born of years of solitude and poverty, had got the better of him as usual, making him quite overlook the sexual possibilities her presence afforded. And he had waited so long for the opportunity of being alone with her, had tortured himself night and day with thoughts about her body. Really, it was enough to make one ashamed of oneself! However, maybe there was still a way of saving the situation or at least of turning it to some future account, and so he asked, albeit without any confidence of success: "Would you like to come over here again some other day?"
'Like' was hardly the word to Julie, who found the experience of being in his company something of a strain. But, remembering that he was desperately lonely and in need of what company he could get, she returned him a positive answer, despite her marital qualms or, perhaps, because of them.
"Then how about Thursday afternoon?" he boldly suggested. It was now Tuesday.
"Yes, I think I may be able to make it then," she agreed after a moment's deliberation, during which her mind went through a plethora of calculations and permutations.
"Excellent! Then I look forward to seeing you again." And, with that said, he politely escorted her to the door.