It would be futile to dwell on all the words which passed between us that afternoon ... after we had made love and I, anxious not to embarrass her husband, who would shortly be arriving back home from work, reluctantly resigned myself to a solitary evening at the hotel.  It was then, just before we departed, that Philomena revealed to me the real motive for her letter and subsequent invitation.  I couldn't have guessed beforehand, but it seemed a perfectly logical strategy on her part to keep me in suspense until the last moment, which is to say, until we had gone carnal together and she had evidently come to the conclusion that a more permanent relationship would not be out of the question.

     Now, as I sit in my train compartment on route to Norwich, everything falls into place, and I can only marvel at Philomena's audacity in seducing me on such mercenary terms.  I am glad, though, that I didn't wait around in my hotel room this morning for her intended visit in the company of Rachel, and am only sorry that I couldn't have left some kind of cogent excuse for my unscheduled departure.  As far as I am concerned, a couple of hours spent with Philomena is time well spent, especially if, as would more than likely have been the case, she had allowed me to undress her and slowly work my way over her tender flesh, taking pains to fulfil every last spasm of desire which the mutual chemistry of our two bodies engendered.  But with Rachel present - oh no! that would have been a completely different matter, and one that my past experiences could only caution me against pursuing.  For I had been deeply in love with her and had no desire to run the risk of resurrecting past misfortunes in a fresh outbreak of unrequited passion.  With Philomena, on the other hand, I felt relatively safe.  For, despite her considerable attractiveness, there was little risk of my becoming involved in a passionate love-affair with her.  But Rachel had been extremely dangerous from the romantic point-of-view and, for all I knew, could still be so!  If Philomena had wanted me to fall in love with Rachel all over again, then she was bound to be disappointed that I had made an escape while the going was good.... What, exactly, her reactions were, on discovering my absence from the hotel, I wouldn't like to guess.  Although I am pretty confident that Rachel would have been even more disappointed, given the magnitude of her past accomplishments.

     So now I am on my way home, fleeing from a potential threat to my spiritual integrity or, as it might alternatively be put, intellectual vanity.  I know, deep down, that a recrudescence of emotional love in my life, after all these barren years, would probably do me some good, bearing in mind my therapeutic need of whatever sensual stimulation I can get.  But I'm also mortally afraid of the consequences, afraid, above all, that I might be thrown off course as an artist, and thereupon diverted into channels not pertinent to my current or, indeed, previous artistic and literary preoccupations.  I still see myself as potentially a kind of ultimate messiah, and am therefore extremely wary of the dangers inherent in strong emotional attachments to another person.  Besides, I must also consider Susan and the possibly disruptive effects such attachments could have on our marriage, which, while far from ideal, is at least pleasantly tolerable.  I must even consider Philomena too, since it was she who induced me to go down to London, seduced me when I was there, reduced me to the unlikely status of an obedient sensual slave, and produced on me the extraordinary impression that she knew in advance I would accept her offer, even though I told her it would be necessary for me to have a serious think about it, as I am now attempting to do in this rather noisy compartment of a fast train to Norwich.  Probably she read how I felt about it in my face, and therefore didn't have to take my verbal reservations and hedgings too seriously.

     Well, the offer I am contemplating happens to be connected with the recent demise of her aged mother, who formally bequeathed to Philomena the estate she had inherited from her brother, some twenty-six years ago.  The maternal branch of Philomena's family line happens to be English, and rather wealthy at that.  Her mother was the daughter of a certain Colonel Blake, who acquired a quite extensive property in Gloucestershire just prior to the sudden outbreak, in August 1914, of World War One.  He was duly killed in action, so his only son, Gerald, inherited the property through primogeniture.  Like his father, Gerald also entered the army and, true to family tradition, was killed during the height of the desert campaign in North Africa during World War Two.  Surprisingly, he left no will.  But, as he was a bachelor at the time of his death, the Blake property duly found its way to his only sister, Margaret, who came over from Cork with her Irish husband to claim it.  Here, a few miles north of Huntley, in abundant space and peace, young Philomena Gill was raised.  For she was still merely an infant when her parents left Ireland, and accordingly knew next-to-nothing about the land of her birth.  She was sent, in due course, to boarding school, but returned to Blandon at the holidays, where she played with her younger sister, Daphne.  This arrangement continued virtually unbroken until Philomena left school and went up to university.  Whilst at college she met and married Nicholas Hawkins, preferring thereafter to live away from home for good.  Now, however, the death of her mother, who had outlived her father by several years, gave Philomena the opportunity to move out of her Finchley flat and return to Blandon, where a more privileged life surely awaited her.  And having lived in London for nearly eight years, Philomena was keen on the idea of doing so, not least of all because, like myself, she had found city life somewhat uncongenial.  But there was an obstacle in the way, and that was her husband, who wished to remain in London to continue in his chosen career as junior editor with a major West End publishers.  He liked his work, knew that he would be eligible for promotion to more responsible editorial duties in the near future, and had no desire to leave London - the city of his birth.

     Thus Philomena found herself faced with the decision of either selling the property, since her younger sister was now married to a South African millionaire and had no interest in returning to England to inherit it, or divorcing Nicholas Hawkins and finding a more suitable husband with whom to share it.  Partly for sentimental reasons and partly, too, because she genuinely wanted to live at Blandon, she had decided on the latter alternative.  And that is precisely where I come in, since she was hopeful that I could be induced to get a divorce and duly go and live with her in the country.  That is the real reason why I was invited to her flat and, to a certain extent, that is why I am now on my way back to Norwich, having opted to extricate myself from further complications or inducements in the interests of a little sober reflection and to recover some peace of mind.  My wife will doubtless be surprised to see me back so soon, for I had told her I would be away at least two days.  And my West End dealer will also be puzzled by my sudden volte-face, as communicated to him by telephone first thing this morning.  But I would have been in no fit state to discuss paintings today, what with Philomena's offer playing so heavily on my mind.  And what an offer!  For isn't a country house in spacious grounds just what I need to facilitate a quicker, more thorough recovery from my crippling depression?

     Yes, I had made it clear to Philomena, during lunch yesterday, that I wasn't completely satisfied with my current environment on the outskirts of Norwich, which is insufficiently rural for my needs.  Now I begin to understand the significance of the relief that came over her face, with the reception of this information.  For she must have been secretly hoping that my suburban existence would leave something to be desired, even granted that it signified an improvement, in my eyes, on the urban one to which I had grown so painfully accustomed in London.  No doubt, from that moment she was keener on the idea of inviting me back to her flat for the afternoon, more optimistic that her dreams would be fulfilled.  I had only to prove myself sexually competent ... for the way to be open for her to reveal her intentions to me, to put the proposition of rural co-habitation to me on the basis of my status as a self-supporting, independent artist.  There is nothing to stop me from moving to Gloucestershire with her except my marriage, though she thought I could dispose of that if I really wanted to, which is to say, if it suited my sensual needs to forsake Susan for the sake of more efficacious supplies of the pagan existence elsewhere.  Added to which, the prospect of Rachel's being introduced as a further incentive in this matter, and one has my current dilemma in a nutshell.  For I certainly wouldn't put it beyond Philomena to reintroduce Rachel to me solely for the purpose of enticing me to live with her - though where, exactly, Rachel would fit into the pattern, I can't as yet imagine!  Perhaps as a domestic functionary at Blandon, or someone who could be relied upon to pop in-and-out of it on a fairly regular basis?  I don't honestly know, and neither do I wish to speculate any further here, since I'm already confused enough with the option of moving there myself.  And how, I wonder, would I set about concocting a credible excuse for divorcing Susan, who has never gone out of her way to offend or betray me?  I shall have to consider that later, when I am in a better position to judge.

     But now that I'm on my way back to the little house in which I live, I feel a certain longing for Susan, even respect and sympathy towards her, which is doubtless partly derived from my recent infidelity.  In short, I would like to atone to her in some way, possibly by having it away with her as soon as I get indoors.  For she would be grateful, I feel confident, for a little sexual attention.  Women are usually grateful for that, since, whatever they may pretend to the contrary, it's basically what they live by, whereas we men are always aspiring after spiritual ambitions which generally leave them cold.  There is always the danger, in modern marriage, that the woman will be neglected in her vital needs to an extent which could never have happened in the - shall we say - more sensual past, and will rebel against her husband in consequence.  There are times, I have to admit, when I sense in Susan a longing for sex that my intellectual and artistic activities tend so often to deny her.  She is sitting near me, pretending to read a book or even to admire one of my paintings but, deep down, wishing she could drag me away from my cultural preoccupations awhile and have me gratify her sexual needs.  Sometimes, of course, I do gratify them - assuming I've satisfied my spiritual aspirations for the time being or have grown tired of work.  But often I refuse to sacrifice my world.  I exploit her cultural pretensions as a lady of good breeding, in order to remain firmly entrenched in it.  Consequently she has no option, short of complaining, but to play along with me, and this she usually does, because her vanity as a relatively liberated young woman apparently demands as much.

     Of course, I know full-well that, with my crippling depression, I still need as much sexual release as I can possibly get.  But my past habits, the fruit of prolonged solitude in north London, generally get the better of me, in spite of superficial appearances to the contrary, and thereby prevent me from leading the life of a compulsive lecher - assuming such a life would be acceptable to a person of Susan's sensitive disposition anyway (which, frankly, I incline to doubt!).  Nevertheless she persists in living with me, and I can only suppose that she derives a degree of compensatory satisfaction from my status as both a famous author - more famous, by far, than herself - and professional artist.  A paradox really, but that is generally the way of things in the modern world.  Women are increasingly becoming their own worst enemies these days.  They have their sexual needs as before, but persist in behaving more like men, so that the spiritual life begins to take priority.  In some marriages, however, the tension which arises between the basic physical needs of the wife and the spiritual ambitions of the husband is so great, that the marriage sooner or later snaps apart in divorce.  My own marriage can't be all that far from snapping, though I suppose I owe it to Susan's intellectual vanity more than anything else that we are still bound together, if only superficially so.  Perhaps also to the fact that when I do get around to having it off with her, I try my damnedest to satisfy her, as though to compensate her for all those times when I'm wholly indifferent to sex.  Then her pleas for clemency fall on deaf ears and I cause her to squirm and twist with fiendish delight.  I thrust up into her fissured sex like I want to rupture it, to pierce its undulating walls.  Sometimes I squeeze her breasts so hard that her milk squirts out of them onto my face.  She is afraid that my probing tongue will choke her and frantically turns her head from side to side in a vain attempt to escape it.  She wriggles desperately when I have her on her stomach and threaten to drive my fingers up her arse, probably because she fears they will become soiled with or stink of shit and that I will consequently contaminate her clothing or hair or something.  Even a hand thrust into her cunt is a threat of something or other to her - maybe a fear that it will get stuck there or that I will get urine on my fingers or cause her too much pain.

     Ah, poor Susan!  What haven't I inflicted upon you in the comparatively brief time we've been married!  To be sure, at heart we men are all sadists where you women are concerned, just as you women are all masochists where us men are concerned.  Your complaints and visible discomforts tend, instead of stopping us, to goad us on, to make us even more merciless towards you.  For just as a masochist obtains a limited degree of pleasure through the pain inflicted upon him by someone else, so the sadist obtains a limited degree of pleasure from inflicting pain on others.  And love-making, needless to say, involves the reciprocal relationship of masochism and sadism in mutually acceptable degrees.

     But pleasure obtained through pain is necessarily a negative emotion, is really a kind of tolerable or diluted pain.  Love-making isn't quite the undiluted pleasure it's superficially cracked-up to be!  There is pain at the heart of it all right, and that's why it is forever a feminine phenomenon, since women have a special capacity - one might almost say an appetite - for pain which men, except in exceptional circumstances, entirely lack.  Sex is therefore a kind of refined cruelty in which the woman's basic craving for pleasure-through-pain is satisfied by the antithetical disposition of the man to inflict the pain upon her for his own pleasure.

     The idea put forward by Lawrence Durrell that sadism in a man can lead to or be connected with homosexuality ... is basically false.  Rather, it's the inability of a man to inflict sexual pain on a woman which results in his being dubbed a fairy, and may or may not lead to homosexuality. 

     The Durrellian notion that the woman does not, within reason, want to be treated sadistically ... is completely untrue.  Naturally, there are limits to the acceptable extent of male sadism, beyond which it becomes overly Sadian and therefore quite unacceptable.  But the happiness, if one may so term it, of a woman ... is dependent on a degree of sadism in the male sex commensurate with sexual intercourse.  To be unwilling to inflict this necessary degree of pain on a woman is to become a fairy, and a fairy isn't necessarily a homosexual.  Rather, as a rule, are homosexuals to the manner born; people, in other words, whose predilection for their own sex is not founded on scruples of conscience in dealing with women, but follows as a matter of homosexual course.  A fairy, by contrast, can find himself going without sex altogether and be obliged, in his moral squeamishness, to make do with pornographic surrogates. 

     However, a fairy is the last thing that Susan could accuse me of being! and that is one of the reasons why we are still married.  She may protest and wriggle under pressure from my sexual assault, but she never categorically prohibits me from doing anything to her.  The way I see it, such protestations and wriggles are intended, above all else, to stimulate one's ardour, not to impede it.  The man who takes a woman at face value, in such matters, is making a grave mistake, in my honest opinion.  I learnt that lesson the hard way, and not least of all where Susan was concerned.

     On the day I first met her, in Hampstead, I managed to persuade her to come back to my bedsitter with me.  Her desires as a woman naturally fell in line with my persuasions, but her vanity as a well-bred young lady imposed the qualification that she would only visit my room as a friend.  I, like the inexperienced and naive young man I was, took it at face-value, and, although she dropped me one or two quite broad hints, whilst in my room, that sex wasn't completely out-of-the-question, I persisted in believing that a friend was all she really wanted to be.  When, therefore, the deadline for taking her back to Hampstead arrived (she had earlier contrived an alibi to the effect that she was due to meet someone at five o'clock later that afternoon), I had got no further than to show her some of my records, which, for obvious reasons, she wasn't particularly interested in seeing.  Her intellectual vanity had imposed the pretence of 'friendship only' upon me, and so, reluctantly, she was obliged to allow me to escort her to the bus stop.  Not surprisingly, that was the last I saw of her for a good many years, and I swore, thereafter, that I would never take a woman's word at face-value again!  For the most part I have kept to my pledge - as Susan would be able to attest.  Frankly, she would have few occasions in the recent past for regret!

     However, as all this wicked reflection flooded through my head, I was getting nearer home and so drawing closer to my masochistic companion, who was bound, I felt, to be surprised by my early return.  It had just gone eleven-thirty, so she would have ample time to cook me something good for lunch, as well, if needs be, as open her sexy legs to my sadistic assault.  I pushed open the front gate and hurried over the intervening space to our dark-green door, which I swiftly unlocked.  Once inside, I gently deposited my zipper bag on the floor and changed into my slippers.  Then I walked along the corridor, looked into each of the downstairs rooms, and discovered not a trace of my wife.  Suddenly it occurred to me that she might be upstairs.  So upstairs I went, hoping to find her there.  And I was not disappointed, since I could hear some laughter, alternating with what sounded like sobbing, coming from our bedroom at the rear of the house.  I was about to cry out: "What's all that noise about, then?" when a particularly loud shriek brought me to a sudden halt, and obliged me to cast a suspicious, puzzled look at the door from behind which it had come.  Was it Susan's habit to make such high-pitched noises by herself, I asked myself?  And, of course, I knew the answer to that question - which bordered on the rhetorical - could only be negative.  I realized there and then that someone or something was causing her to behave in such a fashion, and so I caught my breath and ascended the rest of the stairs as quietly as possible, anxious to discover just who or what it could be, but becoming ever more convinced, the nearer I got to our bedroom door, that there was only one possible explanation.

     Sure enough, as I put my suspicious eye to the keyhole and peered-in through its upper aperture, I found all the evidence I needed, as Leslie Richardson's head quickly became recognizable in a context of what could only have been oral sex taking place at the foot of our bed.  I nearly choked on my held breath as the moment of painful truth dawned upon me, but, fortunately, just managed to prevent myself making any give-away noises by drawing my strained eye away from the draughty keyhole and sliding to a sitting posture against the adjacent wall.  So that was it!  My premature return had brought me the revelation of Susan's adultery and obliged me to modify my sexual perspective of her at the very time when I was considering how best to atone to her for my own sexual infidelity of the day before!  I was a cuckold and dupe of my own egotistical complacency.  I had obviously underestimated Dr Richardson's interest in her, as well, needless to say, as her interest in him!  She must have called him out on false pretences, the crafty bitch, making it appear like an ordinary visit from the doctor but, in reality, preparing herself for the type of examination that only a lover could apply.  Unless I was seriously mistaken, and this was indeed Dr Richardson's customary way of dealing with his younger and more attractive female patients, I could draw no other inference from the noises which were still emanating from behind our bedroom door, nor doubt the horrified evidence of my eye, which was now aching from the effect of a kind of spiritual blow received at first-hand.  The only surprising thing was that they hadn't heard me come in, although, what with the noise being generated in their sexual obsession with each-other's private parts, even that became somehow understandable.

     Yet if ever one needed confirmation that the man's role was fundamentally sadistic and the woman's masochistic, here it was, in all its impassioned exhibitionism!  I could hardly bear to listen any longer, so unequivocally brutal were the doctor's carnal assaults upon my wife's most erogenous zones.  To take another look through the keyhole would have been the act of a masochist, and I was already beginning to feel like one from where I sat or, rather, lay, slumped against the wall.  But a sudden piercing shriek and tirade of prohibitory abuse from Susan which sounded like: "Don't you dare, you dirty brute!" nevertheless induced me to risk further humiliation, which I of course received as soon as I became aware of what had happened - namely, that Dr Richardson had manoeuvred Susan's legs into a position from which he could lie between them as he probed her gaping sex with thrusting tongue and mischievous fingers.  With her legs pinned right back and her rump kind of up in the air, Richardson had her completely at his mercy, and it was this that had led to her protestations ... as he manipulated her with an ardour worthy of a Roman patrician or full-blooded satyr!

     To be sure, I had never done anything even remotely like that to Susan, nor had I ever seen the cheeks of her crack pulled so immodestly far apart and betraying such cavernous depths of succulent flesh in and around what Dr Richardson would probably have called her vestibule.  She might almost have been on the verge of delivering a baby, so radical was the impression being created.  But I had no desire to dwell on that scene and, with a slight revulsion in my stomach, coupled to a mounting giddiness in my head, I backed away from the keyhole, tiptoed along the corridor, carefully descended the stairs, and, arriving back down in the entrance hall, leaned against the nearest wall for physical support.  For obvious reasons I couldn't stay in the house and neither could I intrude upon their love-making in the manner of an outraged husband, bearing in mind my own recent infidelity, not to mention the nervous state to which I had been reduced in consequence of my voyeuristic curiosity.  There was nothing for it but to pass the rest of the day somewhere in Norwich,  then return home again in the evening, by which time Dr Richardson would hopefully have left and thereby returned to more conventional duties.  I could pretend to having just arrived from the station, since that would be a lot easier to live with than the pretence of not knowing she had Richardson for a lover or, rather, sexual torturer.  And if she inquired about my business in London, I could pretend again, though not without a certain satisfaction derived from the sure knowledge that my relations with Philomena were entirely my own affair, not to be shared with anyone else!

     And so, with ironic resignation, I changed out of my slippers, ran a solicitous hand over my jacket, briefly regarded my distraught face in the hall mirror, and, picking up my luggage again, quietly made for the front door.  A divorce, I reckoned, would be easier for me to impose upon her now than before - even without an intrusive showdown!