Tuesday evening was in fact when Sarah arrived, looking like a beauty queen - or so it seemed to Timothy's overwrought imagination - and bringing a recording of Massenet's Werther, which she wanted him to hear because she was on it.
"I know you're familiar with the work itself," she stated, as he took the slender box-set in his eager hands. "But since it's the only recording I've so far made in French, it may prove of some fresh interest to you."
"Decidèment," Timothy smilingly assured her. "We'll put it on straightaway."
"Please don't feel under any obligation to," said Sarah, following him into his sitting-room. "I mean, you needn't play it just because I'm here." But Timothy seemed resolved on playing it now, and so she was obliged to let him. "Ah, what a nice room this is!" she enthused, while taking off her coat. Underneath she wore a pale-green satin miniskirt with black nylon stockings and matching high-heels. Her dark hair hung down her back in a plaited ponytail.
"Yes," Timothy agreed. "It's where I like to relax." Although, with the ravishing proximity of Sarah Field in front of him at that moment, he felt anything but relaxed! In fact, her image had played on his mind throughout the past few days, keying him up for the present. He could hardly be blamed therefore if, no sooner than he had set side one of Werther in motion, he took her in his arms and lovingly applied his mouth to hers.
To his gratification, she responded warmly, enabling him to unzip her skirt and run his hands over her ample behind, as though to erase the imprint of Lord Handon's liberties there the week before. It seemed that she, too, was keen to explore the pleasures of the senses. For her hand took care of his zip shortly afterwards.
"Are you going to let me open your purse again?" he teasingly inquired of her.
Purse?" she queried, wrinkling-up her brows in feigned puzzlement.
"You know," he smiled, still teasing.
A knowing blush suffused her cheeks. "Provided you put something rich into it," she joked.
He needed no further encouragement on that score but lifted her off her feet and set about the task to-hand, removing her tiny nylon panties with one hand and freeing his already-erect penis with the other. In the background, so to speak, the disc was well under way, but now that he was succumbing to the physical enticements of Sarah's moist 'purse', it meant little or nothing to him. He was quite familiar with the libretto anyway, and preferred not to hear certain parts of it again - for instance, the lines sung by Werther in Act One, which went:-
enivre-moi de parfums.
Mère eternellment jeune, adorable et pure!
viens m'inonder de tes rayons!
and clashed violently with
his own philosophical viewpoint concerning nature and the sun. No, he could certainly do without that, even though it was
something of a pleasure to hear the voice of Sarah following on behind, in her
But the opera singer's body was more interesting to him now than her voice and, since he hadn't had much tangible sex these past few years, he was keen to satisfy his needs in some measure, to redress the balance slightly or, at any rate, pay some dues to the world, as it were, for being a man rather than a god. Besides, he had become slightly less theocratic and correspondingly more democratic off late, which made coitus virtually de rigueur.
Yes, he put something rich into her empty 'purse' all right, filling it up with tiny pearls of glistening sperm the making of which caused her to squirm in an ecstasy of sensual delight and expend her wealth in due course. Oh, she clung to him like a leech, draining every last drop of the precious deposit from him, as though her very life depended upon it. But then, all of a sudden, it was over, and he withdrew from her with the rapidity of a passing tornado, leaving her ravished form to topple to the carpet just in front of the electric fire. He had filled her 'purse' all right, but what if she became pregnant? Would he marry her? Would he be capable of living with an opera singer - he, a man of the spirit? He turned towards her and said: "Sarah, supposing you become pregnant ...?" But the words sounded hollow and he immediately regretted it. Somehow, one shouldn't ask such embarrassing questions!
Yet, to his surprise, she calmly answered: "I take the pill, Tim."
The pill? Ah, yes! Why hadn't it occurred to him? She wouldn't have allowed him to have his way with her otherwise, not with her professional life to consider and the fact that they had only known each other less than a week - since last Thursday, in fact. No, of course not! How stupid of him to panic.
"Would you rather I became pregnant, then?" she asked, to his further surprise.
"Well ..." and he hesitated, wondering how best to answer. For, in a sense, he would, since he had put so much effort into satisfying their mutual desires. It seemed a waste of energy that she was defeating his sperm with the pill. A futile, not to say gratuitous, undertaking. But, on the other hand, he hadn't known her long enough to be confident that she would make a good wife; wasn't absolutely convinced that it would be in their mutual interests to embark upon the hazardous course of raising a family.
Naturally he was pretty keen on her, might even have fallen in love with her in his own offhand way, and couldn't pretend that he didn't want to get married some day. But whether to this particular woman ... that was something he couldn't very well tell at present. All he knew for sure was that he didn't want to rush into anything prematurely, like he risked doing this evening. He did, however, want to make some woman pregnant sooner or later, to have a son or a daughter and thus play a part, no matter how small, in keeping the human race going. For it was only through propagation that humanity could continue to evolve and one day attain to the climax of evolution, only through reproducing itself that it could eventually attain to transcendent spirit. His son or daughter would be chronologically closer to this long-awaited consummation of evolution than himself, and that was worth knowing. The heavenly Beyond was our goal all right, but we couldn't get to it without reproducing ourselves en route. Willy-nilly, propagation was a must.... "Well," he said again, "I suppose I'd like you to become pregnant eventually, but I've no desire to rush you into anything." In fact, this was said in spite of himself, in order not to hurt her feelings. For he still wasn't absolutely sure that he, personally, would want to make her pregnant.
Sarah smiled understandingly and put her arms round his waist. "I wouldn't allow you to rush me into anything," she softly assured him.
"But if I really wanted to give you a child?" he remarked.
"I'd probably allow you to," she responded.
Timothy was visibly surprised. "Just like that?" he sceptically asked.
"Yes, because it's better that way, better to have a child by a man who really wants to give you one ... than by someone you have to coax it out of, like he's afraid of the consequences or something," Sarah replied.
"But what about your opera career?"
Sarah frowned slightly and closed her eyes a moment, before saying: "It could wait."
"Oh, don't think I don't love singing," she assured him. "But if I could love a man more, then my career would have to take second place."
"You wouldn't consider it a waste of your professional time then, having a child?" he conjectured sceptically.
"Not if the man was worthy of my love," she confirmed, smiling. "A woman first and foremost, a singer secondly."
"Even if you were on the verge of world fame?"
Again Sarah hesitated a moment before replying, turning her face towards the electric fire as though to gather strength from its bright orange filaments. "Yes, even then," she said, swallowing hard.
Timothy was indeed surprised! He had never been in such a seemingly privileged position before. It was almost disconcerting to hear her admit such a thing. Enough to make one feel guilty. "And you consider me worth sacrificing your career for?" he tentatively and almost bashfully inquired of her.
She sat up beside him and placed a tender kiss on his nearest cheek, saying: "Yes, Tim, I do. For a while, at least."
Automatically he reciprocated her tenderness, then said: "I'd have thought there were plenty of other men just as worthy of your love with whom you come into regular contact on the opera stage."
"Not at present," she confessed, offering him a slightly forlorn glance. "One comes into professional contact with plenty of men, admittedly. Yet they're often unsuitable or otherwise engaged at the time. Indeed, you'd be surprised how lonely an opera singer can be! We spend most of our time singing about love and romance, but we're not necessarily experiencing what we sing. It's mostly just an act, you know. And sometimes a rather difficult one, too.... But don't let me burden you with my problems. Suffice it to say that at present I don't know of another man whom I'd be prepared to sacrifice my career for, and that's a good enough reason to be on the pill." She smiled reassuringly but without parting her lips, withholding from him that sparkle of teeth to which he had become gratefully accustomed. "By the way," she added, "you're not opposed to the pill, are you?"
"No, although I'm aware it can entail certain physical inconveniences and lead to a variety of psychological hang-ups," Timothy replied. "But, fundamentally, I think it's a good thing, even if it might be improved upon in the course of time. It makes for greater sexual freedom, at any rate."
"Freedom from unnecessary or unwanted accidents," Sarah confirmed, smiling. "More sexual liberty and a safeguard against rape - assuming one should ever have the misfortune to be raped."
"Ah, I see your point," Timothy admitted, blushing faintly. "It's a rather pessimistic thought, but I suppose you'd feel more confident being out alone in the dark or stuck in a lift with some male stranger, if you were on the pill."
"Certainly as far as pregnancy is concerned," Sarah conceded. "But then there would always be the risk of venereal disease."
"An unsavoury subject!" Timothy declared, wincing at the thought of it. "However, in getting back to the advantages of being on the pill, let's just remember it gives us more control over nature, and that's something we need to get as much control over as possible. Nature is fundamentally evil, since torn between the earth's molten core and the sun. Therefore if we can regulate our sexuality so that we don't invariably fall into its predatory trap, so much the better!"
"I recall your anti-natural sentiments in the drawing-room at Rothermore House," Sarah confessed. "Not to mention Lady Pamela's opposition to them. She would undoubtedly be against the pill."
"Yes, though probably not against condoms," Timothy opined. "However, she's well past the age of having to worry about pregnancy, so I dare say that contraception of any description would be of little interest to her. Geraldine would be the person for whom contraception has particular significance."
"Absolutely!" concurred Timothy, as the thought of that suddenly evoked the memory of their walk around the grounds of Rothermore House, the previous Friday morning, during which time Geraldine had made a variety of flirtatious claims upon poor Gowling's sensibilities. Yet it also evoked a less amusing memory, which was the spectacle of Joseph Handon standing on the wooden bridge with the arms of Sheila and Sarah draped about his waist and his hands on their respective behinds. In the excitement of Sarah's arrival at his flat this evening, Timothy had quite forgotten about the episode in question, which had caused him more than a little uncertainty over the weekend. Since the subsequent events at Rothermore House had taught him nothing further about it, he was still in some doubt as to its actual significance, even with Sarah beside him. But he couldn't very well question her now, and thus betray the fact that, together with the other members of his group, he had been watching the goings-on from a discreet distance. That simply wouldn't do at all! No, he would just have to keep it to himself and hope for the best, hope, in other words, that Lord 'handy' Handon hadn't begun a private affair with Sarah behind his back. It seemed unlikely, but, all the same, one couldn't be absolutely sure - not when she had the pill to safeguard her freedom!
"Have you personally ever used sex aids?" she asked, startling Timothy out of his morose reflections.
"Sex aids?" he gasped, unsure of exactly what she meant.
"You know, special ribbed condoms or flashy little rubber gadgets that fit onto your cock and provide the participants with an extra thrill or two."
The writer laughed impulsively and shook his head. "Alas, no!" he confessed. "But I do believe in them, though."
"Yes, I believe in anything that makes sex a less purely natural affair. It attests to a higher level of civilization, this inclination to bring synthetics or whatever to bear on sex. For the further civilization evolves, the more power it must gain over nature. The highest civilization would be that which was most anti-natural and therefore synthetic. Contemporary civilization hasn't as yet attained to the highest possible peak of synthetic excellence, by any means! Nevertheless, the growth of such industries as you allude to is a good thing, and should be encouraged."
"You frighten me a little," said Sarah, frowning apologetically.
"You needn't be," Timothy assured her.
"But isn't it mostly just commercial exploitation, this outpouring of sexual aids and stimulants?"
"No, it's not just that, it's also civilization - higher civilization, as I've said. And if we continue to evolve, as we should do, then you can be pretty certain that the use of synthetic aids will become more widespread and their construction correspondingly more efficacious. Sex as an art rather than simply a utilitarian obligation. Sex spiritualized through film and disc. Sex elevated through sophisticated gadgets. And eventually perhaps, as we become ever more civilized, actual sex phased-out of society and replaced by sublimated sex, in order that we may concentrate more thoroughly on attaining to the Omega Point, the culmination of evolution."
"But how would we reproduce ourselves?" Sarah queried, her regard turning sharply quizzical.
"By artificial means," said Timothy confidently.
"Oh, absolutely! We would enter this world through science rather than sex, and thus get off to a better start, morally speaking. We would thereby be able to take our spiritual aspirations more seriously, since we'd no longer be semi-animals with beast-like passions."
"You frighten me again."
"Ah, don't worry! This isn't likely to happen overnight. Evolution is a tremendously long process, after all, and we have only comparatively recently begun to embark upon the sublimation of sex on a widespread, not to say wide-ranging, basis, thanks in large measure to the development of photography. There's still a great deal of literal sex in society, which will doubtless continue to be the case for some time to come. Yet even sublimated sex must eventually be outgrown, so to speak, as we concentrate more exclusively on the cultivation of spirit. You won't attain to God by sitting in front of a sex video for hours on end, you know. But unless you do elevate sex from the body to the mind, as it were, you'll always be stuck with it in the body, world without fucking end, and no transcendence will be possible."
"No, I suppose not," Sarah wearily conceded. For, in truth, she found all this somewhat too futuristic and speculative for her liking, and was quite surprised that Timothy looked upon it with such evident relish. But he was, after all, a man of spiritual foresight, a genuine intellectual leader, so what he said had to be taken seriously to some extent. It was no use pretending that he was a fool or dupe of his own illusions. He spoke with a certain moral authority born, no doubt, of premeditated deliberation. Which was evidently what people like Lady Handon found so disagreeable about him. "And do you believe that we'll stand a better chance of attaining to God through the aid of test-tubes, artificial insemination, sperm banks, et cetera, than otherwise?" she asked him in due course.
"I do," he confidently replied, "since one only stands a chance of transcending the body, in my opinion, by cultivating the spirit as much as possible. So long as we come into this world via the flesh, we shall always be its slaves. However, don't forget that this transcendental hope only applies to people in the future, not to us personally. I have no illusion that I'll personally attain to ultimate divinity, especially after a bout of sensual gratification like we've shared this evening! The transformation from mundane spirit to transcendent spirit is the culmination of evolution, as I've already said, and that would be an exclusively heavenly phenomenon, so that the highest civilization just prior to it would probably be composed entirely of men or, rather, supermen who had been programmed for spiritual transcendence and brought into this world through science. After all, if you do away with sex, of what use are women?"
Sarah was even more surprised to hear this than what had preceded it, and duly opened her mouth in astonishment. "A society without women?" she exclaimed.
"One can imagine science programming the sex of the test-tube babies," Timothy calmly rejoined, "in order to minimize or preclude unnecessary sexual distractions in the ultimate civilization. I don't know ... it's simply speculation on my part. But I shouldn't be surprised if that or something like it did transpire to being the case. For women would maintain fleshy temptations, and, frankly, you can't be ultra-spiritual and be tempted by the flesh at the same time! There would have to be one-way traffic towards the Beyond, it seems to me, or nothing at all. No homosexuality either, of course."
"But, then, women wouldn't be candidates for Heaven!" Sarah protested.
"Quite so! The culmination of human evolution would be a completely supermasculine affair, eternity being entirely spiritual. But women, it seems to me, are fundamentally appearance, not essence, and, as such, God isn't literally for them. Their business is primarily to keep the species going until such time as they're no longer necessary, science having taken over. They're a bit like the stars that shine-on in the heavens and keep life going, but aren't destined for blissful eternity themselves. The stars will one day perish, leaving the Universe to its ultimate perfection in God. And so, too, I believe, will women ... considered in literally feminine as opposed to liberated terms. So, too, in a sense will men, since everybody will be unisexually superhuman, if not supra-human, rather than human, and therefore the old dichotomy between men and women will cease to exist."
"Oh, but that's terrible!" Sarah objected. "How can you say such a thing?"
"It isn't terrible really," Timothy countered. "On the contrary, it would, if true, be right and just. Women of the unliberated type I have in mind, who are mostly conventional in any case, wouldn't want Heaven, the Holy Spirit, or whatever you prefer to term this hypothetical culmination of evolution. They're what they are, and that's all there is to it. It's not as if they were being denied anything, if you see what I mean. What's essentially relevant to us is fundamentally irrelevant to them. There's no disgrace in that."
There then ensued a thoughtful silence between Timothy and Sarah, during which the writer moved closer to the singer and put an arm round her waist. Then he kissed her tenderly on the cheek a few times, sucking away the tears that were rolling down it. She looked weak and fragile at this moment, but ever so loveable!
"Supposing you're right," she at length stammered, turning her face fully towards him, "supposing your speculations are valid, what right have I to love such a man as you, someone as clever as yourself?"
"Don't talk like that!" Timothy reproved her, frowning. For he had indeed been pained by it. "I may be exceptionally clever, but I'm not above women - at least comparatively liberated ones. Don't think that I despise you, Sarah, I don't! But I do know that men and women are fundamentally of different constitution, and that what's desirable for the one sex isn't necessarily desirable or indeed possible for the other - at least not in the case of the great generality of unliberated women, who remain fundamentally sexy and, hence, seductive, scorning spirituality in favour of maternal ambitions, their beauty commensurate with a worldly disposition or status." He kissed her again and she smiled weakly through the avalanche of tears that were now streaming down her face.
"I've been fed so much crap all my life," she confessed, "that it rankles a bit when one hears something which sounds like the truth! Perhaps women like me just aren't constitutionally qualified to bear it?"
"Possibly not ultimate truth," Timothy conceded. "But you are constitutionally qualified to bear children, and if ..." he hesitated on the verge of continuing. For it came as quite a shock to him, this thought which had suddenly welled-up in his mind, like a water-bubble rising to the surface. Had he changed his mind then, or come to a final decision?
"Yes?" Sarah pressed him.
"Well, if you ever wanted to bear a child of mine, I'd be more than happy to give you one." The words were out of his mouth before he had quite realized exactly what he was saying.
"You would?" Sarah exclaimed, her face showing renewed signs of surprise and astonishment.
He hesitated anew, not sure how best to answer, then smiled and said: "As soon as you like."
"Oh but can you really afford to?"
"And you'll marry me?"
"Good, then that settles it!"
"Are you quite sure?"
"Even with your spiritual aspirations?"
He smiled wryly and nodded his head, saying: "My dear lady, even if I were to dedicate the rest of my life to celibacy and meditation and religious thought, I doubt very much that I'd attain to God. All that's too far into the future, so far as I'm concerned. Besides, you wouldn't unduly distract me from my spiritual pursuits, would you?"
"I'd try not to," Sarah promised, becoming noticeably embarrassed, as well she might. "Although that isn't entirely for me to decide, is it? But ... I'm not absolutely certain you love me in any case, so how can I be sure you mean what you say?"
"I do love you," Timothy asserted.
"Really? Truly?" She looked at him suspiciously, almost quizzically again.
"Well ..." But he couldn't say that he really did.
"Aren't you simply trying to mollify me, after what you said about God and women?" she deduced.
He hadn't quite realized how much he was doing that, but now, with her bright eyes fixed firmly upon him, it seemed unquestionably true. He had simply taken pity on her and given way to a momentary impulse of reckless generosity. He didn't really mean what he had said, and admitted as much with a regretful nod.
"Think carefully before you come to a final decision where such important subjects as love and marriage are concerned!" Sarah sternly advised him.
"Yes," he said. "I'm sorry." For he realized that his speculations concerning the future had driven a wedge of bitterness between them and made her feel somewhat afraid and even suspicious of him. Admittedly, it had been callous of him to say what he did. But it was his nature to assert what he believed to be true irrespective of the consequences, possibly because he habitually felt himself to be up against so many lies and falsehoods, so many things that ran contrary to his grain ... that nothing short of a fanatical affirmation of what he believed in would suffice to sustain him in his individual struggle against collective expedience, the artist against society, the outsider against tradition, truth against strength, idealism against materialism. Perhaps that very fact rendered him constitutionally unfit to live with a woman? He didn't know, but he hoped not anyway. After all, he had no real desire to spend the rest of his life alone, a victim of his genius. Maybe, in due course, Sarah would get over her little shock and come back to him again, emotionally speaking? Then, with any luck, they could get married and start a family - assuming, of course, that he could love her enough to warrant their embarking on such a responsible undertaking, and that she really would be prepared to sacrifice her singing career for him.... Or would it be for herself? No, he didn't need to turn cynical. And even if it would be self-interest on her part, so what? Wouldn't that be a good enough reason to do so? Yes, of course it would! He smiled to himself and turned towards her again, saying: "No hard feelings?"
"No," she straightaway admitted, showing him a brief glimpse of sparkling white teeth. "I'm rather grateful for what we've done and said this evening. You've enlightened me in certain respects."
"Yes, you've helped me to understand the age we live in and the position of women in relation to it," she confirmed, "as well as contributed towards unburdening me of some spiritual pretensions."
Timothy turned his face away in embarrassment. "I hope that won't prove to your detriment," he commented.
"No, I didn't have all that many religious illusions anyway," she confessed. "In fact, I had more or less worked out the same ideas myself - intuitively, as it were. And since I don't meditate or practise yoga ..."
"Don't allow me to deceive you into assuming that women have no business meditating," Timothy interposed on a note of genuine concern. "They have, even if they won't attain to God personally. At least, their children will profit not only from their example and encouragement, but from whatever spiritual inheritance they may receive. For I'm convinced that a child whose mother had regularly meditated ... would be more disposed to meditation, in later life, than one whose mother hadn't."
"You may be right," Sarah conceded, nodding warily. "Although I'm not particularly inclined towards meditation myself, so any child of ours wouldn't get much of an example from his mother. I have assumed, of course, that it would be a boy."
"Sarah, you needn't think that I'd begrudge us a girl. Boy or girl, they're both necessary to the future progress of humanity. Besides, if the truth were known, most men would probably prefer a daughter to a son in any case, if only to have an extra female about the house in later years."
"Forgive me, I was being unkind to you."
There was a short pause in their conversation before Timothy,
realizing that side one of the Werther album had lain silent
for some time, suggested they listen to the other side together. "About this business of the
"Naturally. We mustn't disappoint poor Girish, after all."
"No, I suppose not." And with that said, they settled down to some additional opera for the remainder of the evening.