THE SUN WAS BRIGHT now in the room and it was a new day.
You better get to work, he told himself. You can't change any of it back. Only one person can change it back and she can't know how she will wake nor if she'll be there when she wakes. It doesn't matter how you feel. You better get to work. You have to make sense there. You don't make any in this other. Nothing will help you. Nor would have ever since it started.
When he finally got back into the story the sun was well up and he had forgotten the two girls. It had been necessary to think what his father would have thought sitting that evening with his back against the green-yellow trunk of the fig tree with the enameled cup of whiskey and water in his hand. His father had dealt so lightly with evil, giving it no chance ever and denying its importance so that it had no status and no shape nor dignity. He treated evil like an old entrusted friend, David thought, and evil, when she poxed him, never knew she'd scored. His father was not vulnerable he knew and, unlike most people he had known, only death could kill him. Finally, he knew what his father had thought and knowing it, he did not put it in the story. He only wrote what his father did and how he felt and in all this he became his father and what his father said to Mob was what he said. He slept well on the ground under the tree and he waked and heard the leopard cough. Later he did not hear the leopard in the camp but he knew he was there and he went back to sleep. The leopard was after meat and there was plenty of meat so there was no problem. In the morning before daylight sitting by the ashes of the fire with his tea in the chipped enameled cup he asked Mob if the leopard had taken meat and Mob said,
"Ndiyo" and he said, "There's plenty where we re going. Get them moving so we can start the climb."
They were moving for the second day through the high wooded and park-like country above the escarpment when he stopped finally and he was happy with the country and the day and the distance they had made. He had his father's ability to forget now and not dread anything that was coming. There was another day and another night ahead in that new high country when he stopped and he had lived two days and a night today.
Now that he left that country his father was with him still as he locked the door and walked back to the big room and the bar.
He told the boy he did not want breakfast and to bring him a whiskey and Perrier and the morning paper. It was past noon and he had intended to drive the old Isotta into Cannes and see that the repairs were made but he knew the garages were closed now and it was too late. Instead he stood at the bar because that's where he would have found his father at that hour and, having just come down from the high country, he missed him. The sky outside was very much the sky that he had left. It was high blue and the clouds white cumulus and he welcomed his father's presence at the bar until he glanced in the mirror and saw he was alone. He had intended to ask his father about two things. His father, who ran his life more disastrously than any man that he had ever known, gave marvelous advice. He distilled it out of the bitter mash of all his previous mistakes with the freshening addition of the new mistakes he was about to make and he gave it with an accuracy and precision that carried the authority of a man who had heard all the more grisly provisions of his sentence and gave it no more importance than he had given to the fine print on a transatlantic steamship ticket.
He was sorry that his father had not stayed but he could hear the advice clearly enough and he smiled. His father would have given it more exactly but he, David, had stopped writing because he was tired and, tired, he could not do justice to his father's style. No one could, really, and sometimes his father could not either. He knew now, more than ever, why he had always put off writing this story and he knew he must not think about it now that he had left it or he would damage his ability to write it.
You must not worry about it before you start nor when you stop he told himself. You're lucky to have it and don't start fumbling with it now. If you cannot respect the way you handle your life then certainly respect your trade. You know about your trade at least. But it was a rather awful story really. By God it was.
He sipped the whiskey and Perrier again and looked out the door at the late summer day. He was cooling out as he always did and the giant killer made things better. He wondered where the girls were. They were late again and he hoped that this time it would be nothing bad. He was not a tragic character, having his father and being a writer barred him from that, and as he finished the whiskey and Perrier he felt even less of one. He had never known a morning when he had not waked happily until the enormity of the day had touched him and he had accepted this day now as he had accepted all the others for himself. He had lost the capacity of personal suffering, or he thought he had, and only could be hurt truly by what happened to others. He believed this, wrongly of course since he did not know then how one's capacities can change, nor how the other could change, and it was a comfortable belief. He thought of the two girls and wished that they would turn up. It was getting too late to swim before lunch but he wanted to see them. He thought about them both. Then he went into his and Catherine's room and took a shower and shaved. He was shaving when he heard the car come up and he felt the sudden empty feeling in his gut. Then he heard their voices and heard them laughing and he found a fresh pair of shorts and a shirt and pulled them on and went out to see how things would be.
The three of them had quiet drinks and then a lunch that was good but light and they drank Tavel and when they were eating cheese and fruit Catherine said,
"Should I tell him?"
"If you want," the girl said. She picked up her wine and drank part of it down.
"I forgot how to say it," Catherine said. "We waited too long."
"Can't you remember it?" the girl said.
"No, I've forgotten it and it was wonderful. We had it all worked out and it was really wonderful."
David poured himself another glass of Tavel.
"Do you want to try for just the factual content?" he asked.
"I know the factual content," Catherine said. "It's that yester day you made siesta with me and then you went to Marita's room but today you can just go there. But I've spoiled it now and what I wish is we could all just make siesta together."
"Not siesta," David heard himself say.
"I suppose not," Catherine said. "Well I'm sorry I said it all wrong and I couldn't help saying what I wished."
In the room he said to Catherine, "To hell with her."
"No, David. She wanted to do what I asked her. Maybe she can tell you."
"Well you have," she said. "That's not the point. Go and talk with her David. And if you want to fuck her then fuck her good for me."
"Don't talk rough."
"You used it. I just knocked it back. Like tennis.
"All right," David said. "What's she supposed to say to me?"
"My speech," Catherine said. "The one I forgot. Don't look so serious or I won't let you go. You're awfully appealing when you're serious. You'd better go before she forgets the speech."
"The hell with you too."
"That's good. Now you're reacting better. I like you when you are more careless. Kiss me goodbye. I mean good afternoon. You really better go or she really will forget the speech. Don't you see how reasonable and good I am?"
"You're not reasonable and good."
"You like me though."
"Do you want me to tell you a secret?"
"A new one?"
"An old one.
"You aren't very hard to corrupt and you're an awful lot of fun to corrupt."
"You ought to know."
"It was just a joke secret. There isn't any corruption. We just have fun. Go on in and have her make my speech before she forgets it too. Go on and be a good boy David."
In the room at the far end of the hotel David lay on the bed and said, "What's it all about really?"
"It's just what she said last night," the girl said. "She really means it. You don't know how much she means it.
"Did you tell her we'd made love?"
"She knew it."
"Does it matter?"
"It didn't seem to."
"Take a glass of wine, David, and be comfortable. I'm not indifferent," she said. "I hope you know that."
"I'm not either," he said.
Then their lips were together and he felt her body against his and her breasts against his chest and her lips tight against his and then open, her head moving from side to side and her breathing and the feel of his belt buckle against his belly and in his hands.
They lay on the beach and David watched the sky and the movement of the clouds and did not think at all. Thinking did no good and when he lay down he had thought that if he did not think then everything that was wrong might go away. The girls were talking but he did not listen to them. He lay and watched the September sky and when the girls had fallen silent he started to think and without looking at the girl he asked, "What are you thinking?"
"Nothing," she said.
"Ask me," Catherine said.
"I can guess what you're thinking."
"No you can't. I was thinking about the Prado."
"Have you been there?" David asked the girl.
"Not yet," she said.
"We'll go," Catherine said. "When can we go, David?"
"Anytime," David said. "I want to finish this story first."
"Will you work hard on the story?"
"That's what I'm doing. I can't work any harder."
"I didn't mean to hurry it."
"I won't," he said. "If you're getting bored here you two go on ahead and I'll find you there."
"I don't want to do that," Marita said.
"Don't be silly," Catherine said. "He's just being noble."
"No. You can go.
"It wouldn't be any fun without you," Catherine said. "You know that. We two in Spain wouldn't be fun."
"He's working, Catherine," Marita said.
"He could work in Spain," Catherine said. "Plenty of Spanish writers must have worked in Spain. I'll bet I could write well in Spain if I was a writer."
"I can write in Spain," David said. "When do you want to go?"
"Damn you, Catherine," Marita said. "He's in the middle of a story."
"He's been writing for over six weeks," Catherine said. "Why can't we go to Madrid?"
"I said we could," David said.
"Don't you dare do that," the girl said to Catherine. "Don't you dare to try to do that. Haven't you any conscience at all?"
"You're a fine one to talk about conscience," Catherine said.
"I have a conscience about some things."
"That's fine. I'm happy to know it. Now will you try to be polite and not interfere when someone is trying to work out what's best for everyone?"
"I'm going to swim," David said.
The girl got up and followed him and outside the cove while they treaded water she said, "She's crazy.
"So don't blame her."
"But what are you going to do?"
"Finish the story and start another."
"So what do you and I do?"
"What we can.