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I screwed up my eyes, stuck my head forward, and stumbled after him into the murk, trying to avoid coils of rope and long cables mooring dead ships to the wharfside. Suddenly the black hull of the Pacific Fortune hung over us. Except for half-a-dozen hurricane lamps the ship was in darkness. The sailors were ashore. I followed Colin up the gangplank. At the top a man stepped out from the shadows. He was about fifty and cube-shaped.
Swinging me into the lamplight he looked me up and down, then said over his shoulder in a thick Glaswegian accent, 'Och, Colin, I thought we was gettin' a laddie! This was Mr Macdonald, my boss, the Bo's'n. We crossed the deck, went down the gangway, flicked on a light, along passages, down again, along more passages, down, down, to the aft of the ship where the sea crew had their quarters. An iron door was opened and I was shown into a small cabin.
Danny will be back soon - he'll explain everything. Have you eaten?
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Sign the list tomorrow at 9a. Welcome aboard, laddie. There were three bunks in the cabin. The two lower ones had already been taken. I clambered up into mine and sat there nervously swinging my legs. An hour later the door opened and Danny came in. He was about nineteen or twenty, skinny with an unexpectedly studious air. Danny had a crisp tongue which I later discovered enabled him to hold his own among the bigger, rougher sailors. Robby, a junior like myself but a couple of years older, followed.
Robby was amiable enough but overweight and afflicted with boils and indelicate odours. I was the youngest crew member, the only one who had never before been to sea. Danny showed me where to hang up my toothbrush, all that sort of thing, and said, 'I'm bollocked so it's lights out. Suddenly there was a rumpus outside the door. Drunken sailors crashing back from the bars, a sound which was to panic me often in the future. The door sprang open and a light went on.
Three young mariners were hooting round the cabin. They weaved across to my bunk and started to tug at the bedclothes. The ringleader, a heavy leathery crewman about twenty- five years old, was bellowing in a Scots slum voice, 'C'mon, let's have a look! Ooh, 'e's wearing pyjamas! Danny was shouting, Fuck off, Jock! We want our sleep if you want your breakfast! Robby was giggling uneasily and playing with a boil on his neck.
The alarm shook me rigid. Robby was already pulling on his trousers and saying, 'Get a move on, we've got to get the mess going before the sailors turn up, I'll show you the routine. We were the first up. Robby led the way along brilliant red decks and into the sailors' mess, which was spotless and had to be kept that way by us. He showed me how to make the tea, set the table for the crew, trot along - everything was done at a trot - to the Petty Officers' Mess and set it up for the Bo's'n, Colin and the Ship's Electrician known as 'Sparks' , then along more corridors to meet Chief Ship's Cook Heywood who resembled a barrel of lard.
His face opened in a grin and he said, 'Well I'll be blowed, whatever next! They lived amidships with their own mess and waited on the officers and passengers. There was a sharp distinction between the sea crew, who actually moved the vessel, and the stewards, who provided service for the elect.
The sailors dismissed them as a 'bunch of fairies'. Most of the stewards were English and all the sailors seemed to be Scotsmen called Jock, coarse-grained types yet good at heart. The passengers were even further away, somewhere in heaven - the Pacific Fortune was a 9, ton freighter carrying general cargo but with room for a dozen or so banana-boat travellers. One never saw them unless 'scruberising' their decks or painting the scuppers where the water ran off. Captain Perry one saw only when he chose to make the ship's round like Matron in a hospital. Having been introduced to the hot, steaming galley it was time to trot back to the sailors' mess to clear up the tea and ashtrays.
The crew would work until about 8a. Afterwards Robby and I had to dash away to serve the Petty Officers. Colin said I had a choice - to call the Bo's'n 'Sir' or 'Bo's'n'. I chose the latter because it sounded so nautical. When all this had been set in motion one was permitted to eat too, for about five minutes, before the clearing up had to be done. My duties were divided into one week in the mess, one week on deck, plus serving tea and breakfast daily.
Mess duty was no joy. Waiting on the sailors, cleaning out their quarters, scrubbing floors, polishing brass, waxing teak, lunch, tea - after which many of the sailors would finish for the day - dinner, collapse. Our part of the ship was usually silent by 9p. Scrubbing in the fresh air is more entertaining than scrubbing in the bowels so I preferred deck work, especially when entering or leaving a port. My overseer on deck was a taciturn Scot. I can't remember his name but presume it was Jock.
Since he had no regard for words I learnt as I went along. The first voyage began. The stevedores came on duty and cast us off at dawn. Winding the steel hawsers on to the bollards made my palms bleed. Jock said, 'Put these on', and my hands disappeared up to the elbows in deck gloves. But I lost some of my excruciating shyness and began asking questions which Jock ignored with a friendly smile.
At Liverpool the ship floated past the green bronze birds on top of the Liver Building. Father said that if one saw them flapping it was a premonition of tragedy at sea. First week out of port: passed quickly, everything so new, porpoises raced the ship, a white clipper in full sail passed by. In the mornings I ran up to the fo'c's'lehead to retrieve the flying fish which had inadvertently suicided there. First come, first served, delicious for breakfast. And at the end of the day, while the crew were gambling or unwinding in their bunks, I climbed to a secret place on the poop deck and sat on a pile of ropes in my oilskin.
Out in the Atlantic after dark the world is eerily bright. I wondered many things - and especially: what on earth am I doing on a poop deck with raw hands? Ten days out: the weather much warmer. The sailors began to take off their clothes, which was very disconcerting. I clung on to my jumper and black trousers. We worked without shoes or socks unless the steel decks became too hot.
We put up a canvas swimming-pool for the passengers. About two weeks out: I was running along the deck in the early morning when a remarkable smell hit me. The relentlessness of salt had abated, and a heavy scent was in the air. Even the old hands were growing frolicsome on it. Eight hours later - land! On the horizon a low green island wobbled between the blue water and the sky. My first palm trees. I had never been anywhere in my entire life and now - whack!
Palm trees! I kept rushing the sides of the ship and shouting, 'Can't we get off now? The ship rode at anchor all day in the Bay of Kingston, waiting for a berth. I asked if we might swim ashore like the sailors do in films with a Polynesian setting. Cook Heywood said, 'Ever seen sharks, laddie? An old salt had become very agitated. Apparently the saying goes: aarr, if a shark do follow your ship for three days it do portend a death on board.
Ours disappeared on the second night and the old salt lived to sleep again. Cook Heywood picked up a bucket of bones and offal and tipped it over the side.
At once, and I mean at once, the water convulsed in paroxysms of pink foam and teeth. It was absolutely mesmerising. The ship was overrun by hawkers in jazzy clothes with whom the crew bartered furiously. Last to arrive was a black woman of enormous size. She wore a peppermint-green blouse which couldn't have been cut lower, a blue skirt daubed with flowers, and a flamingo scarf tied round her head. She flapped on board in sandals. Actually, she sashayed. When she moved everything moved because she wore no undergarments.
This was Cynthia, the washerwoman, who had come to take the sailors' laundry ashore. Obviously she was very popular and knew all the men by name. They were phenomenal, and running down them was an unstoppable exudation of sweat. I emerged damp and red with the promise that 'One night, darlin, I's gonna show you der reeeel Kingston. They looked incongruous, seedy even, in that tropical landscape.dbctech.in/102-zithromax-price.php
Dean Wilson on The Ashes: The myth of team spirit in cricket and sport
Officially the party was in honour of a Royal Navy battleship moored in the bay. A group of young matelots moved towards me and I overheard 'Look at that skin! Only minutes before, I had discovered Coca-Cola, an invention of genius. So Coca-Colas started to arrive. For the first but not the last time I was horribly sozzled. They had fixed the Cokes with rum. The next morning I made another discovery. My first hangover. Double agony, because our cabin was at the bottom of the ship, just over the screws, where the heat is at its most aggressive.
True, there was a porthole. But this could not be opened in harbour because of rats. In fact it couldn't be opened at sea either because we should have been drowned. But when Cynthia, smoking a cigar, turned up to take me along the Kingston Waterfront, I knew exactly what to order. In and out of the little wooden bars we went, where three-piece tin-can bands make the sound of thirty, and smiles leer at you out of clouds of marijuana smoke - eventually I ordered so many rum and Cokes that I went quite off them.
Next stop: Cristobal, where South America begins. We went ashore across a solid red carpet of cockroaches the size of sparrows. The Panama Canal: the middle of it is a bayou, a steaming stretch of swampy water strung with liana and full of flying creatures straight from Jules Verne. Here the issue of salt tablets was added to my chores. I hardly needed them myself, being a salt addict. Salt over everything, even over anchovies, even today when I'm supposed to be on a sodium-restricted diet. Sliding out of the Canal into the boundless blue clarity of the Pacific Ocean, we almost bumped into a whale.
The idea was to avoid ramming it. The whale rose out of the sea like a cathedral, waved and gracefully disappeared. This went on for twelve hours because the animal had adopted our ship as a playmate. If you ram them you drive right into a mass of blubber and it sticks, forcing the ship to put into port to have the corpse removed. Usually I wouldn't press myself on Danny and Robby when ashore.
In public they were embarrassed by my effeminacy, I think. But the older sailors didn't give a damn. They were amused by the sight of a young thing groping pathetically into the mysteries of alcohol and adult life. But in San Francisco all the sailors had their special banging parlours to visit, so I went into the city alone. From the docks I caught the bus uptown past the gingerbread houses to Union Square where you have to press your face against the bus windows to see the tops of the skyscrapers.
I gravitated towards Chinatown. We had one in Liverpool but San Francisco's exploded all over me in a dazzle of Chinese neon. Too young to enter the bars, I walked agog for hours and hours and formed a lifelong friendship with the American hamburger. After the lights, the most noticeable feature of the district was the number of drunks vomiting in doorways. Then it went very quiet. It must have been the early hours of the morning. I had to return to ship and grew apprehensive between Fisherman's Wharf and dockland. No bright lights here. Out of the gloom, wailing and flashing, a cop car flew at me.
Two uniformed immensities jumped out, an entire hardware store hanging from their belts. I hadn't known there could be so many different instruments of persuasion. Hands up, against the wall, frisk; I knew the routine from James Cagney. They clanked around for a few minutes, checking my papers, expressing surprise at my being at sea 'aweady', and told me to hop in. I was treated to a motor tour of the city before being dropped back at the ship. Their surprise returned when I shook hands and said thank you.
Americans, I've since realised, are always impressed by civility. They don't quite know how to cope with it. If ever you find yourself the victim of aggression in the U. As we sailed out under the Golden Gate Bridge I very much hoped Seattle would be as stimulating - one was so inexperienced. But we did see a body float by with a bullet through its head, so even Seattle must have its moments.
And quiet. Our northernmost call was Woodfibre, an isolated lumberjack settlement with one coffee bar, where, surprise, we took on timber. It was in Canada that I gave my first interview. Colin had something to do with it because the radio people were allowed to come on board.
They introduced me to the listeners as 'the youngest person to go to sea since child labour was abolished'. Now the voyage reversed itself. Haiti was on the horizon for a while. My seventeenth birthday came and went like a piece of flotsam. Then only the sea. Whenever I could I retreated to my secret place on the poop deck. While we were in and out of port, everybody had plenty to occupy his attention but now, back in the small claustrophobic world of a ship in mid-Atlantic, my anxieties proliferated. At meal times the sailors flaunted their sexual conquests, while I sat in silence and became increasingly choked.
With all the toil I should have been developing male muscles but I remained puppyish. Most of the men showered in the evening after work. Always secretive about bathing, I was now so ashamed of my body that I crept out to shower in the middle of the night so that no one would see me unclothed. My behaviour of course only made them more curious. It was always a huge relief when the weather changed to wind and rain, so that everyone was covered in oilskins and there was no pressure for me to take off my top.
I was phobic about anyone seeing my chest. Instead of the hard pectoral muscles which all the other sailors loved to display as one of the bonuses of physical labour, there was a pulpiness around my nipples which I took to be rudimentary breasts. The ragging of that first night was repeated, usually at the instigation of the same young bullying Jock who now frightened me very much.
There was always a great commotion. Objectively nothing catastrophic happened - a few bruises in the scuffles - and the older men prevented matters getting out of hand. But it made me wretched. Sometimes they blew kisses and said 'Hullo, ducks' or 'girlie'. They would wink, slap my bottom, slip an arm round my waist. What was one supposed to do back?
All my wires were tangled up inside because, you see, I was excited by it as well as afraid. Had I been among the stewards, possibly it would have been easier. But I was at the Men's End of the ship, in the throes of a profound identity crisis brought on by puberty but not explained by it I never completed the proper physical cycle of male adolescence. Why did I have this curvaceous body? After three months of voyaging, the ship was in a filthy condition. If one wasn't asked to join up again all the fears about not being good enough were confirmed. I had made the grade as far as they were concerned.
I couldn't wait to return to the ship. When I did, it was a comfort to see that the seamen were by and large the same as on the first voyage. At least I knew where I stood with them. And one - tall, too handsome, blond, a friend of the young bully - thrilled me strangely. This could not be openly admitted, especially not to myself, but nor could it be disregarded because I went groggy every time we met. Half-way along the Ship Canal my overseer knocked me to the deck with one clout.
A whirring noise passed overhead, terminated by a violent whipcrack. One of the hawsers securing the ship in the lock had snapped and would have gone through me like a wire through butter. It wasn't a good start. Passing out into the Mersey I scrutinised the Liver Birds. A light flashed from them but did they move? Or was my mind wandering?
Life on board settled down to its jittery routine. One of the stewards I met in the galley presented himself as a suitor but I didn't respond, having adopted the condescension of the sailors with regard to these lesser mortals. Besides, the rejection of all advances had become automatic. Touching people is a very healthy activity. The absence of it made me morbidly sensitive. Nor could I accept my feeling for the Blond Sailor who caused such an upheaval in my prudish breast. I stared at him working on deck. He would look up, wink, and I'd turn away hot and confused. I was convinced a monstrous mistake had been made and only my being a woman would correct it.
There were no fantasies about dressing in such and such a way. I merely wanted to be whole. One night the Blond Sailor opened my cabin door, unbuttoned his shirt and started to kiss me. Two of his friends burst in to see how far he'd got. The Blond Sailor laughed and went off with them. But I was engulfed by shame and driven closer still to paranoia.
In Kingston Cynthia said, 'Why, honey, you sure is gettin' prettier every time I sees yooo. Cynthia, all Earth Mother and soothing powers. Yet really she could do no more than she already did. Which was my washing, free of charge. Colin took me up into the Blue Mountains for a drink. We sat on a terrace overlooking a misty valley.
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The alcohol churned and threw up the conviction that not only should I never be normal but that instead of getting better it was going to get worse which it did. I experienced an acute attack of panic which suddenly began to break me up from within, the eruption of intolerable pressures, and a compulsion to jump. Reason played no part in it. The compulsion emanated directly from the body. As we sailed for the Panama Canal on a calm sea I began to vomit from nerves and tried to pass it off as seasickness. The Blond Sailor knew he had broken down my reserve.
He appeared to swagger with extra self-assurance. The battle raged on inside me. In the Pacific the Bo's'n began to realise I was in a pretty bad way. He gave me work which was either alone or with older men but he couldn't isolate me. Knots, always my torture, now I had them in chest, stomach and head and they were getting tighter and tighter.
The sailors must have thought me a very odd kettle of fish. I was over-polite with them through fear of involvement. Physically I had deteriorated, eating little, working feverishly in an attempt to block my thoughts - so much so that the Bo's'n took me aside and told me to take it easy. But I was under excessive emotional strain. The upshot was that, walking down the street in San Pedro, I saw a sign saying 'Doctor' and went in. After an initial reticence I burst, ending up with 'I want to be a woman! I mean, you'll grow out of it. He gave me two sorts of pills, anti-depressant amphetamines and barbiturate sleepers, and told me to visit a psychiatrist as soon as I arrived back in England.
He added that he would waive his fee. Well, I hadn't a clue what a psychiatrist was. It was a new word. The amphetamines shrivelled up what remained of my appetite and shredded what remained of my nerves. The sleeping pills made me dizzier than I already was. By the time we reached Los Angeles I was totally screwed up. After clearing away the dinner I stayed on board and when my two cabin mates returned I pretended to be asleep. At about 3 a. It banged open. They were laughing and stank of drink. I fought like a tiger.
As usual the old men broke it up and I was left on the floor with a nosebleed. Later I relaxed sufficiently to weep. But I'd had enough. My mind went cool and I decided to kill myself. On this resolve I fell sound asleep for the first time in weeks. Next day I worked dispassionately through the schedule and after the last job, which was to clear up when Colin, Sparks and the Bo's'n had dined, I shut myself in the Petty Officers' Mess. No one would return there until the following day. Picture me looking androgynous under a mop of black hair, with a tall glass of water on my right and on a tabletop to my left two piles of pills, one pink, one yellow.
It was common knowledge that the way to kill oneself was to swallow an overdose of pills. But which ones? To hedge my bets I decided to swallow both, first a pink, then a yellow, then a pink, then a yellow, until they had all gone. I'd got half-way through when I began to shake, tingle and sweat. My vision flashed on and off.
It went into black and white. My final thought was 'This is wrong but so is everything else I do - hope Mum forgives me. Strange to say, I didn't blame the sailors. They didn't mean to be unkind and were only being their raunchy selves. Certainly if they'd realised what was really happening they would have done anything to make life easier.
But there was no way of getting it across. How could they be expected to understand what I couldn't understand myself? Actually their attempts to make contact with me, however rough and ready, were in fact an example not of their meanness but of their generosity of spirit. Sea people are wonderfully generous. They have simplicity and depth because dealing with the elements is their business. And because of this simplicity they are also touched by romance. I have always admired and loved them.
Later on, when I became well-known, I received many letters from sailors and from whole messes. Dear Miss Ashley - When you first appeared in the papers we have been collecting your photos and pinning them on our locker doors. Not long ago we decided to form a fan club and all the Mess wholeheartedly agreed. We thought that if you could send us a few autographed pictures D4 Mess, H. Excellent , Monday Tot Time. Dear Miss Ashley - It is with hearts full of hope that we write this our first letter to you, an ex-mariner and now a beautiful woman.
In our mess deck we have forty-one pin-ups of various young, good-looking women but nowhere among these can be found one such as you. We would willingly tear these down if we could replace them with portraits of yourself We write this letter in the belief that you will treat it as a sincere one, and it is you know.
The Lads, H. Dear Miss Ashley - I wish to thank you on behalf of all the lads for the photographs you very kindly sent. They now occupy a place of honour in the mess, where no matter where we look we can see them, not that we would want it any other way Take good care of yourself and the very best of luck and happiness in all you do. Sincerely yours, A. Derek Herron. Sirens rang in my head.
I came to and passed out, over and over again. On the third day I came to and managed to focus on the cheerful face of a middle-aged American nurse in a pale-blue and white uniform. And I was furious! The nurse was saying, 'Oh darling, you've got your whole life in front of you, how can you be so silly, it's a wonderful, wonderful world! She gave me something outlandish to eat called an avocado pear. It was divine.
The Pear was followed by a priest, blue-eyed American-Irish with a spine-chilling smile. He prefaced all his remarks with 'my child', which drove me up the wall. Eventually I had to say, 'Will you please leave me alone! A faintly embarrassed representative of Furness Withy said that the Pacific Fortune had left and I should not be allowed to rejoin it. I must say, Furness Withy's conduct was exemplary through all this.
But paradoxically the news saddened me. Despite everything the ship was my only home and contained my only friends. He added that I was being transferred to the Seamen's Mission, San Pedro, to convalesce and should be issued with meal vouchers to the value of three dollars per day. These could be cashed in unofficially so there was pocket money for bus rides out to the beach. The local Samaritans from the Norwegian Seamen's Church introduced me to teenage American voluntary workers who took me to Hollywood, to ball games, to the desert, to the Biggest Big Dipper in the World.
With their help my toehold on life returned amazingly quickly. One is so pliable when young. One snaps back. After months of playing around, I was told without warning to pack my bags for a midnight flight to New York City. I'd never been up before and was treated like God. The New York mission was grim and in a sinister part of town. Again I managed to cash in my vouchers, lived on hamburgers, hot dogs and french fries, and went into the head of the Statue of Liberty the arm was closed. The representative told me to pack again. I was on stand-by for the S.
America , which held the Blue Riband for the fastest Atlantic crossing. It was a case of having to take whatever berth was going. This turned out to be a luxury stateroom on U deck with yards and yards of panoramic windows. The menu was an astonishment. Here began my love affair with caviar but I baulked at using the First Class dining-room because my trousers were ragged and my thin freezing Californian shirts frayed to death.
However this get-up was perfect for the fancy-dress ball on the last night at sea. I went as Robinson Crusoe. Squaring my shoulders, opened the front door of Teynham Crescent. They were sitting round the wireless drinking tea. Stop all this shit about wanting to be a woman. He enjoys being nice, and he likes to be liked. He resists commitment of any kind, he hides the ultimate expression of his deepest concerns. He feels grateful to Britain, because he sees himself as a guest here, and that makes it hard for him to criticize Britain.
I asked Saunders how this had affected their relationship. I thought that was pretty ostentatious behavior. Meeting him nowadays, I do feel a sort of cutoff. He has distracted attention from people who have an equal right to it. A word on Stoppard and friendship. Most of those who know him well regard him as an exemplary friend. And he mails huge batches of postcards, which are not only funny but informative and helpful. He really works on his friendships. He alternated with another author, and every other week he was paid forty pounds for five episodes.
As far as I know, he had never met an Arab in his life. But the job kept him going for about nine months. I was told that no copies of the scripts were in existence—a body blow to theatrical history but conceivably good news to Stoppard. At first reluctant, Ewing eventually consented. He did not regret his decision.
The opening night got a handful of bad notices, but over the weekend the momentous, life-changing review appeared. Olivier liked it as much as I did, and within a week we had bought it. Directed by Derek Goldby, it opened at the Vic in April, Very seldom has a play by a new dramatist been hailed with such rapturous unanimity.
He wore smart but conservative clothes, being a dandy in the classic rather than the romantic mode. Of less than average height, he had the incipient portliness of the gourmet. His hair was trimmed short, and this gave him a somewhat bullet-shaped silhouette. He both walked and talked with purposeful briskness and elegance. Instead, he took a menial job in a chemical laboratory, spending most of his off-duty hours at evening classes, where he studied science. In , he began two years of military service, after which he made repeated attempts to enter Prague University.
All his applications were turned down. His next move was to offer himself for any theatrical work that was going. He found what he was looking for in the mid-sixties, when he was appointed Dramaturg i. In one sense, he was a traditional Czech writer. His plays were distorting mirrors in which one recognized the truth. Stoppard belongs in precisely the same tradition, of which there is no Anglo-Saxon equivalent. Some critics have glibly assigned both writers to the grab bag marked Theatre of the Absurd. Vera Blackwell says:. Like Stoppard, he had his first play performed in The hero, Hugo Pludek, is a student whose consuming interest is playing chess against himself.
Under their pressure, he attends a garden party thrown by the Liquidation Office, where he poses as a bureaucrat so successfully that before long he is put in charge of liquidating the Liquidation Office. Surely not the former, since how can anyone inaugurate his own liquidation?
Either liquidators must be trained to inaugurate or vice versa. But this poses a new question: Who is to do the training? At the end of the play, driven mad by living in a society in which all truths are relative and subject to overnight cancellation, Hugo feels his identity crumbling. He knows what is happening to him, but, good bureaucrat that he now is, he cannot resist it. In the course of a hysterical tirade, he declares:.
This was Absurdism with deep roots in contemporary anxieties. Authentic satire operates on the principle of the thermos flask: it contains heat without radiating it. His target was the use of language to subvert individualism and enforce conformity. Josef Gross, the managing director of a huge but undefined state enterprise, grows unsettled when he discovers that, on orders from above, the existing vernacular is being replaced by a synthetic language called Ptydepe, uncontaminated by the ambiguities, imprecisions, and emotional vagaries of ordinary speech.
Its aim is to abolish similarities between words by using the least probable combinations of letters, so that no word can conceivably be mistaken for any other. You see! It is a paradox, but it is precisely the surface inhumanity of an artificial language that guarantees its truly human function! Gross, reinstated to spearhead the introduction of Chorukor, remains what he has never ceased to be: a time-serving organization man.
This small masterpiece of sustained irony was staged throughout Europe and at the Public Theatre, in New York, where it won the Village Voice award for the best foreign play of the Off Broadway season. He is interrupted from time to time by a couple of technicians bearing an extremely disturbed and unreliable computer with which they propose to study his behavior patterns.
Here are some telescoped samples of Huml at work, with Blanka, his secretary:. H UML : Ah yes! Begins to pace thoughtfully to and fro while dictating to Blanka, who takes it down in short-hand —and thus attach to various things various values—full stop. Therefore, it would be mistaken to set up a fixed scale of values—valid for all people in all circumstances and at all times—full stop.
This does not mean, however, that in all of history there exist no values common to the whole of mankind—full stop. If those values did not exist, mankind would not form a unified whole—full stop. Would you mind reading me the last sentence? There exist situations—for example, in some advanced Western countries—in which all the basic human needs have been satisfied, and still people are not happy.
They experience feelings of depression, boredom, frustration, etc. In these situations man begins to desire that which in fact he perhaps does not need at all—he simply persuades himself he has certain needs which he does not have—or he vaguely desires something which he cannot specify and thus cannot strive for—full stop.
Hence, as soon as man has satisfied one need—i. Can science help man to solve his problems? The unique relationship that arises between two individuals is thus far the only thing that can—at least to some extent—mutually unveil their secrets. Values like love, friendship, compassion, sympathy, even mutual conflict—which is as unique and irreplaceable as mutual understanding—are the only tools we have at our disposal. By other means we may perhaps be able to explain man, but never to understand him. The fundamental key does not lie in his brain, but in his heart. Meanwhile, the computer has broken down, and emits a shrill bombardment of imbecile questions, endlessly repeated:.
Which is your favorite tunnel? Are you fond of musical instruments? How many times a year do you air the square? Where did you bury the dog? When did you lose the claim? Wherein lies the nucleus? Do you urinate in public, or just now and then? On August 21, , the Soviet Union, alarmed by the experiment in free Socialism that was flowering in Czechoslovakia, invaded the country and imposed on it a neo-Stalinist regime. A couple of weeks before its first night, in , I had written for this magazine a piece on the performing arts in Prague.
Of course, one can also spot Western influences. The sight of two bewildered men playing pointless games in a theatrical void while the real action unfolds offstage inevitably recalls Beckett. It redefined the minima of theatrical validity. It was as simple as that. He got away. Consider: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are unaccountably summoned to a mysterious castle where, between long periods of waiting, they receive cryptic instructions that eventually lead to their deaths.
They die uncertain whether they are the victims of chance or of fate. It seems to me undeniable that the world they inhabit owes its atmosphere and architecture to the master builder of such enigmatic fables—Franz Kafka, whose birthplace was Prague, and who wrote of just such a castle. Stoppard is nothing if not eclectic. And if we were to see it, we would say they were playing chess. But now imagine a game of chess translated, according to certain rules, into a series of actions which we do not ordinarily associate with a game —say, into yells and stamping of feet.
And now suppose these two people to yell and stamp instead of playing the form of chess that we are used to. Should we still be inclined to say they were playing a game? What right would one have to say so? They have been his companions. At the moment when they come across him in the play he is staggering under the weight of a burden intolerable to one of his temperament. Of all this, Guildenstern and Rosencrantz realise nothing. Now why exactly are you behaving in this extraordinary manner? They are close to his secret and know nothing of it. Nor would there be any use in telling them.
They are little cups that can hold so much and no more. They are types fixed for all time. To censure them would show a lack of appreciation. They are merely out of their sphere: that is all. The English critic C. We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.
But we are finally moved by the snuffing out of the brief candles he has lit. Tinged perhaps with sentimentality, an emotional commitment has nonetheless been made. To quote Clive James:. At curtain rise, there is a male corpse onstage. How did he find out? A general rule about Stoppard may be stated thus: The shorter the play, the harder it is to summarize the plot without sounding unhinged. People sometimes say that Stoppard, for all his brilliance, is fundamentally a leech, drawing the lifeblood of his work from the inventions of others.
At one point, when the stage is empty, a phone rings, and the critic Moon gets up to answer it. The first is the relativity of absolutely everything. The second is the definition of art. Is it a skill or a gift? Is it socially useful? Albert, in the earlier play, is painting a lofty railway bridge that will have to be repainted as soon as he has finished painting it. Despite the repetitious and mechanical nature of his job, he loves it, because it has a symmetry and coherence that are lacking in his life on the ground.
He is joined by Fraser, a would-be suicide, who has climbed the bridge in order to jump off. The world below, Fraser explains, is doomed:. After a while, however, he changes his mind. Seeing it all from above, at a distance, he finds order in the chaos.
The bridge finally collapses, with both men on it, when a massed phalanx of assistant painters marches across it without breaking step. It is a fine catastrophe, but also a neat escape hatch for Stoppard, who is thus absolved from the responsibility of telling us which view of life we should espouse—the long-shot or the closeup.
I shall not take up the challenge to summarize it, except to say that it concerns the careers and beliefs of three artists, one of whom is dead and may have been murdered by the others, either of or by both working in cahoots. For example:. The artist is a lucky dog. In any community of a thousand souls there will be nine hundred doing the work, ninety doing well, nine doing good, and one lucky dog painting or writing about the other nine hundred and ninety-nine.
Skill without imagination is craftsmanship and gives us many useful objects such as wickerwork picnic baskets. Imagination without skill gives us modern art. He also takes a sharp sideswipe at an artist who, having gone through a period of making ceramic food, realizes that this will not help to fill empty bellies. The artist decides instead to sculpture edible art out of sugar.
An artist is someone who is gifted in some way that enables him to do something more or less well which can only be done badly or not at all by someone who is not thus gifted. I once told Stoppard that, impressive though his dictum sounded, it could equally well be applied to a jockey. He wandered out of the room for a full minute, presumably to ponder, and then wandered back. This apparent unproductiveness was due partly to distracting upheavals in his private life the collapse of his first marriage, the cementing of his new relationship with Miriam and partly to an ingrained habit of preparing for his major enterprises with the assiduity of an athlete training for the Olympics.
He spends ages on research, does all the necessary cramming, reads all the relevant books, and then gestates the results. The real test, as Stoppard knew, would be his second play at the National. Early in , he told me, over lunch, that he had been reading the logical positivists with fascinated revulsion. He was unable to accept their view that because value judgments could not be empirically verified they were meaningless.
Accordingly, he said, he was toying with the idea of a play whose entire first act would be a lecture in support of moral philosophy. This led us into a long debate on morality—specifically, on the difference between the Judeo-Christian tradition in which the creator of the universe also lays down its moral laws, so that the man who breaks them is committing an offense against God and the Oriental tradition represented by Zen Buddhism in which morality is seen as a man-made convention, quite distinct from God or cosmogony.
A short, blunt human pyramid? I thought, How marvellous to have a pyramid of people on a stage, and a rifle shot, and one member of the pyramid just being blown out of it, and the others imploding on the hole as he leaves. Absolutely not a clue. One of the threads was the entirely visual image of the pyramid of acrobats, but while thinking of that pyramid I knew I wanted to write a play about a professor of moral philosophy.
There was a metaphor at work in the play already between acrobatics and mental acrobatics, and so on. In December, , I got a note from Stoppard saying that the new piece would not be ready until the following autumn. In the late summer of , I called him and begged him to give us some idea of its substance, since within a couple of weeks we had to fix our plans for the forthcoming season.
He replied that, although he had nearly finished the first draft, he could not possibly get it typed so soon. Might he therefore read it to us himself? Acting on this suggestion, I arranged a singular audition at my house in Kensington. The time was late afternoon, and Olivier had come straight from an exhausting rehearsal. Stoppard arrived with the text and a sheaf of large white cards, each bearing the name of one of the characters. We had a few glasses of wine, after which Stoppard announced that he would read the play standing at a table, holding up the appropriate card to indicate who was speaking.
What ensued was a gradual descent into chaos. Within an hour, Olivier had fallen asleep. Stoppard gallantly pressed on, and I have a vivid memory of him, desperate in the gathering dusk, frantically shuffling his precious pages and brandishing his cards, like a panicky magician whose tricks are blowing up in his face. After two hours, he had got no farther than the end of Act I. At that point, Olivier suddenly woke up.
For about thirty seconds, he stared at the ceiling, where some spotlights I had recently installed were dimly gleaming. Stoppard looked expectantly in his direction: clearly, Olivier was choosing his words with care. At length, he uttered them. Next day, it took all the backslapping of which Dexter and I were capable to persuade him that the play was worth saving. Or, to put it less starkly, a farcical defense of transcendent moral values. They have just won an election the time, unspecified, seems to be the near future , and no sooner are the votes counted than they take over the broadcasting services, arrest the newspaper proprietors, and appoint a veterinary surgeon Archbishop of Canterbury.
Archie encourages the philosophers on his staff mostly logical positivists to be part-time athletes, and it is they who form the human pyramid, perforated by a bullet, with which the action begins. Of course! The inevitable capstone to a career in veterinary medicine! Nabokov, another exile with a taste for verbal surprises, might have made the same choice. When I push my convictions to absurdity, I arrive at God. The two errors: We can either have a spiritual or a materialist view of life. If we believe in the spirit then we make an assumption which permits a whole chain of them, down to a belief in fairies, witches, astrology, black magic, ghosts and treasure-divining.
On the other hand, a completely materialistic view leads to its own excesses, such as a belief in Behaviourism, in the economic basis of art, in the social foundation of ethics, and the biological nature of psychology, in fact to the justification of expediency and therefore ultimately to the Ends-Means fallacy of which our civilisation is perishing. If we believe in a supernatural or superhuman intelligence creating the universe, then we end by stocking our library with the prophecies of Nostradamus, and the calculations on the Great Pyramid.
If instead we choose to travel via Montaigne and Voltaire, then we choke amid the brimstone aridities of the Left Book Club. In that great debate there is no question where Stoppard stands. Some ten years his junior, she is a star of musical comedy who has suffered a nervous breakdown and gone into premature retirement because the landing of men on the moon has destroyed her romantic ideals. She says:. Man is on the moon, his feet on solid ground, and he has seen us whole. We already know the answer. Captain Scott, the first Englishman to reach the moon, has a damaged spaceship that may not make it back to earth.
To reduce the weight load, he has kicked Astronaut Oates off the ladder to the command module, thereby condemning him to death. What is moral has been sacrificed in favor of what is practical. Remember that we are still dealing with a high—a very high—comedy. The ironic tone perfectly matches the absurd vision. Not necessarily one that I would agree with—politically and philosophically, Tom and I have very little in common. He simply takes my breath away. People sometimes say he has a purely literary mind. Diana Rigg played Dotty, and Michael Hordern, as George, had the part of his life: quivering with affronted dignity, patrolling the stage like a neurotic sentry, his face infested with tics, his fists plunging furiously into his cardigan pockets, he was matchlessly silly and serious at the same time.
I begged Olivier for permission to make cuts. Stoppard felt that alterations at this stage would upset the actors. Faced with this impasse, I took unilateral action. The next afternoon, just after the lunch break, I nipped into the rehearsal room ahead of the director and dictated to the cast a series of cuts and transpositions which reduced the text to what I considered manageable length. They were accepted without demur, and the matter, to my astonished relief, was never raised again. Two months later, the London Sunday Times , whose regular critic had given a rhapsodic account of the first night, unexpectedly published a second review of the play—written by Sir Alfred Ayer, Wykeham Professor of Logic at Oxford and, by general consent, the foremost living English philosopher.
He had made his name which was then plain A. Thus, Ayer represented, in its most Establishment form, the philosophical tradition that Stoppard had set out to undermine. Things and actions, you understand, can have any number of real and verifiable properties. But good and bad, better and worse, these are not real properties of things, they are just expressions of our feelings about them. The argument is between those who believe in absolute values, for which they seek a religious sanction, and those, more frequently to be found among contemporary philosophers, who are subjectivists or relativists in morals, utilitarians in politics, and atheists or at least agnostics.
George needs not one but two Gods, one to create the world and another to support his moral values, and is unsuccessful in obtaining either of them. For the creator he relies on the first-cause argument, which is notoriously fallacious, since it starts from the assumption that everything must have a cause and ends with something that lacks one.
It would provide a utilitarian motive for good behaviour, but that was not what he wanted. It could, more respectably, provide an object for emulation, but for that imaginary or even actual human beings could serve as well. The moral of the play, in so far as it has one, seemed to be that George was humane, and therefore human, in a way the others were not. This could have been due to his beliefs, but it did not have to be. Whatever Kant may have said, morality is very largely founded on sympathy and affection, and for these one does not require religious sanctions.
Even logical positivists are capable of love. The Thames idles past our table, visible through plate glass and weeping willows. The other guests were writers, athletes, accountants—all kinds of people. What worries me is not the bourgeois exception but the totalitarian norm. The only thing that would make me leave England would be control over free speech. I write plays of ideas uneasily married to comedy or farce. Nor, by the way, do I think of him as a biochemical parcel consumed by worms.
After lunch, coffee at the large, nondescript Victorian house that Tom bought four years ago in the nearby village of Iver, in Buckinghamshire. The garden, though spacious, is a bit too close for comfort to a traffic roundabout. The major-domo of the palace conducted him to a guest-chamber, and shortly afterwards one of the king's body- guard brought him a message that Masinissa desired to see him as soon as he had refreshed himself after his journey.
The chamber into which the young Greek was ushered was curiously bare to be the audience-room of a powerful king. The walls were of mud roughly washed with yellow; it was lighted by two large openings in the walls, unglazed, but furnished with lattices which could be closed at will by cords suspended from them; the pavement was of stone, not too carefully smoothed; for furniture it had a sideboard, with some cups, flagons, and lamps upon it, a table, two or three chairs for the use of visitors who were accustomed to these comfortless refinements, and a divan piled up with bright-coloured mats and blankets.
Near the divan was a brazier in which logs were smouldering. Masinissa, king of Numidia, was a man whose intellect and physical powers were alike remarkable. He had consolidated the wandering tribes of Northern Africa into a kingdom, which he had kept together and aggrandized with a politic firmness which never blundered or wavered. His stature, though now somewhat bowed with years, was exceptional. His face, seamed with a thousand wrinkles, and burnt to a dark red by unnumbered suns, the snowy whiteness of hair and beard, and the absolute emaciation of his form, on which not a trace of flesh seemed to be left, spoke of extreme old age.
And indeed he had more than completed his ninetieth year, an age not phenomenally rare among us, where the climate and the habits of life are less exhausting, but almost unheard of in a race whose fervid temperament seems to match their burning sky. The old man's strength was now failing him. Two years before, he had commanded an army in the field, and commanded it with brilliant success, routing the best troops and the most skilled generals that Carthage could send against him.
He was not one of the veterans who content themselves with counsel, while they leave action to the young. That day he had remained in the saddle from sunrise to sunset, managing without difficulty a fiery steed, whose saddle was no seat of ease. He had showed that on occasion he could deal as shrewd a blow with the sword, and throw as straight a javelin, as many men of half his age. But at ninety years of age two or three years may make a great difference.
Masinissa had fought his last battle. His senses were as keen as ever, the eyes flashed with their old fire, but his breathing was heavy and laboured, and his hands shook with the palsy of age. Can you be content to wait on an old man for a month or so? I shall hardly trouble you longer.
I have never been a whole day within doors save once for a spear wound in the throat, and once when they tried to poison me; and those who have lived in such fashion don't take long dying. Cleanor found his task an easy one. The old king suffered little, except from the restlessness which comes with extreme exhaustion. Even over this he maintained a remarkable control. It was not during his waking hours, but in his short periods of fitful slumber, that the uneasy movements of his limbs might be observed. His intelligence was as keen as ever, and his memory curiously exact, though it was on the far past that it chiefly dwelt.
What a story the young Greek could have pieced together out of the old man's recollections? He had seen and known the heroes of the last fierce struggle between Carthage and Rome, had ridden by the side of the great Scipio at Zama, and had been within an ace of capturing the famous Hannibal himself as he fled from that fatal field. The young Greek, surprised to find himself in such a position, was naturally curious to know why the old man preferred the companionship of a stranger to that of his own kindred.
When he ventured to hint something of the kind, the king smiled cynically. What do you think would have been the result if I had chosen one of my three sons to be with me now? Why, furious jealousy and plots without end on the part of the other two. And if I had had the three of them together? Well, I certainly could not have expected to die in peace. Quarrel they certainly will, but I can't have them quarrelling here. Mind, I don't say that they are worse than other sons; on the contrary, they are better.
I do hope they may live in peace when I am gone; at least, I have done my best to secure it. As the days passed, the king grew weaker and weaker, but his faculties were never clouded, and his cheerfulness was unimpaired. About ten days after the conversation recorded above, a Greek physician, whose reputation was widely spread in Northern Africa, arrived at the palace. The three princes had sent him. Masinissa, informed of his coming, made no difficulty about seeing him.
It would not be worth while, and, anyhow, they could not agree about it. Yes, let him come in. Of course he can't do me any good; but it is one of the penalties to be paid for greatness, that one must die according to rule. No one of any repute is allowed to die in these parts without having Timaeus to help him off. Yes, I will see him. And mind, Cleanor, when he has examined me have a talk with him, and make him tell you the absolute truth.
That afternoon after the physician had departed, the king summoned the young Greek to his chamber. As for these physicians, it is quite impossible for a patient to get the truth out of them. It seems to be a point of honour not to tell it. But I suppose he told it to you. Speak out, man; you don't suppose that I am afraid of what I have faced pretty nearly every day for nearly fourscore years. I have had my turn, a full share of the feast of life, and it would be a shameful thing if I was to grudge to go.
But there is trouble ahead for those who are to come after me. I have done my best for my kingdom, yet nothing can save it long. You know, I had to choose, when I was about your age, between Rome and Carthage, and my choice was the right one. If I had taken sides with Carthage, Rome would have swallowed up this kingdom fifty years ago; as it is, she will swallow us up fifty years hence.
Sooner or later we are bound to go. But it has lasted my time, and will last my sons' time too, if they are wise. And now, as to this matter. I have something to put in your charge. You have heard of Scipio? No one had any notion but that he came on military business. The Romans had asked me for help, and I didn't choose to give it just then. They hadn't consulted me in what they had done, and it was time, I thought, that they should have a lesson. We did discuss these matters; but what he really came for was a more serious affair.
I left it to him to divide my kingdom between my three sons. I had thought of dividing it in the usual way; this and that province to one, and this and that province to another. But he had quit another plan in his head, and it seemed to me wonderfully shrewd. Divide the offices of the kingdom. Let each prince have the part for which he is best fitted—one war and outside affairs, another justices, and a third, civil affairs.
The chief priest of the temple of Zeus in Cirta here has the document in his keeping. After this the old man was silent for a time. Rousing himself again, for he had been inclined to doze, he said:. And I want something that will give me a little strength. Cleanor filled a cup and handed it to the king. But tell me, do you think that I shall know anything about what is going on here when I am gone? What does Mastanabal say? I haven't had time to think about these things; but he reads, and you are something of a student too.
What do the philosophers say? To see things going wrong and not be able to interfere! But enough of this And now, Cleanor, about yourself. You do not love the Romans, I think? Indeed, who does love them? Not I; if I could crush them I would, as readily as I stamp my foot on a viper's head. But that is not the question. Can you make use of them? You shake your head. It does not suit your honour to pretend a friendship which you do not feel.
That has not been my rule, as you know, but there is something to be said for it. Well, it is a pity that you can't walk that way. Whether we love them or no, depend upon it, the future belongs to them. And I could have helped you with some of their great men. I have written a letter to Scipio, and two or three others to powerful people in Rome who would help you for my sake.
You can deliver them or not as you please. But tell me, what are you going to do if the Romans are out of the question? It can't hold out more than a year,—or two at the outside. And then the Roman's won't leave so much as one stone standing upon another. They won't run the chance of having another Hannibal to deal with. You might as well put a noose round your neck at once! But still I can help you, at least with some provision for the journey. Put your hand under my pillow and you will find a key.
Cleanor brought the casket and put it into the king's hands. Masinissa unlocked it and took out a rouleau of gold pieces, which he gave to Cleanor. You can sell the parchment to Bocchar the banker in Cirta here. He will charge you something for his commission, but it will save you trouble. And he will keep the money for you, or whatever part of it you please. It is a very handy way of carrying about money; but there is another that is more handy still. The old man took out a small leather bag full of precious stones.
It is true that the merchants will cheat you more or less when you want to sell them. Still, you will find these stones very useful. The jewels were worth at least five times as much as the order on the parchment. I have seen that all along, and that is one of the reasons why I give it.
And as for the 'too much', you must leave me to judge about that. My sons will find treasure enough when they come to divide my goods between them. I have been saving all my life, and this is but a trifle which they will not miss, and which you will find very useful. And now give me another cup of wine After this I will sleep a while.
You will stay,—and don't let that young villain Jugurtha come near me. Two or three hours afterwards Cleanor was startled to see the old man raise himself in bed, a thing which he had not been able to do without help for three or four days past. He hastened to the bedside, but the king, though his eyes were wide open, did not seem to see him. Yet something there was that he saw; his was no vacant stare, but a look full of tenderness. Then he began to speak, and his voice had a soft tone of which Cleanor could not have believed it was capable.
Why am I in such haste? Nay, dearest, look in our mirror for an answer. And besides, when you are mine, the Romans can have nothing more to say. Till to-morrow, then—but stay, let me give you a little token. Nay,"—and his voice changed in an instant to a note of horror—"what, pray, has changed my love-gift to this? And with a gesture as of one who dashed something to the ground, he sank down upon the bed, and in another moment was sleeping again. Early the next morning the king's three sons, who had heard the physician's report of their father's health, arrived at the palace.
Their emotion, as they knelt by the dying king, was genuine, though probably not very deep. The old man was perfectly self-possessed and calm. Probably you will not like it. What is there, indeed, that you would all like? But lay your hands on my head and swear that you will accept what I have done. What it is you had best not know till I am gone. But trust me that I have been just to all of you. And now farewell! Don't wait for the end. You will have your hands full, I warrant, as soon as the tribes know that the old man is gone.
The princes left the room and the old man turned his face to the wall and seemed to sleep. All the rest of that day Cleanor watched, but noticed no change. Just before dawn he heard the sleeper draw two or three deep breaths. He bade the slave who was in waiting in the ante-chamber call the physician.
But the man of science found no movement either of pulse or heart. When he held a mirror to the mouth, there was not the faintest sign of breath upon it. The world had seen the last of one of the most wonderful of its veterans. THE old king's body was roughly embalmed, in order to give some time before the celebration of the funeral. This was a more splendid and impressive ceremony than had ever been witnessed in that region.
The news of Masinissa's death had been carried far into the interior with that strange, almost incredible rapidity with which great tidings commonly travel in countries that have no regular means of communication. The old man had been one of the most prominent figures in Northern Africa for a space more than equal to an ordinary lifetime. Nor had he been one of the rulers who shut themselves up in their palaces, and are known, not in their persons, but by their acts. His long life had been spent, one might say, in the saddle.
There was not a chief in the whole region that had not met him, either as friend or as foe. Many had heard from their fathers or grandfathers the traditions of his craft as a ruler and his prowess as a warrior, and now they came in throngs to pay him the last honours. From the slopes of the Atlas range far to the west, and from the south as far as the edge of what is now called the Algerian Sahara, came the desert chiefs, some of them men who had never been seen within the walls of a city.
For that day, at least, were suspended all the feuds of the country, many and deadly as they were. It was the greatest, as it was the last honour that could be paid to the great chief who had done so much to join these warring atoms into a harmonious whole. The bier was carried by representatives of the states which had owned the late king's sway. Behind it walked his three sons; these again were followed by the splendid array of the war-elephants with their gorgeous trappings. The wise beasts, whom the degenerate successors of the old African races have never been able to tame, seemed to feel the nature of the occasion, and walked with slow step and downcast mien.
Behind the elephants came rank after rank what seemed an almost interminable cavalcade of horsemen. The procession was finished by detachments of Roman troops, both infantry and cavalry, a striking contrast, with their regular equipment and discipline, to the wild riders from the plains and hills of the interior.
The funeral over, there was a great banquet, a scene of wild and uproarious festivity—a not unnatural reaction from the enforced gravity of the morning's proceedings. Cleanor, who had the sober habits which belonged to the best type of Greeks, took the first opportunity that courtesy allowed of withdrawing from the revel.
He made his way to a secluded spot which he had discovered in the wild garden or park attached to the palace, and threw himself down on the turf, near a little waterfall. The fatigues of the day, for he had taken a great part in the ordering of the morning's ceremonial, and the exhausting heat of the banqueting hall had predisposed him to sleep, and the lulling murmur of the water completed the charm.
When he awoke, he found that he was no longer alone. A stranger in Roman dress was standing by, and looking down upon him with a kindly smile. When the young Greek had collected his thoughts, he remembered that he had already seen and been impressed by the new-corner's features and bearing. Then it dawned upon him that he was the officer in command of the detachment of Roman soldiers that had been present at the obsequies of the king. And, indeed, the man was not one to be hastily passed over, or lightly forgotten. In the full vigour of manhood—he was just about to complete his thirty-seventh year—he presented a rare combination of strength and refinement.
His face had the regularity and fine chiseling of the Greek type, the nose, however, having something of the aquiline form, which is so often one of the outward characteristics of military genius. The beauty of the features was set off by the absence of moustache and beard, a fashion then making its way in Italy, but still uncommon elsewhere. To the Greek it at once suggested the familiar artistic conception of the beardless Apollo. But the eyes were the most remarkable feature of the face.
They expressed with a rare force, as the occasion demanded, kindliness, a penetrating intelligence, or a righteous indignation against evil. But over and above these expressions, they had from time to time a look of inspiration. They seemed to see something that was outside and beyond mortal limits. In after years it was often said of Scipio—my readers will have guessed that I am speaking of Scipio—that he talked with the gods.
Ordinary observers did not perceive, or did not understand it. To a keen and sensitive nature, such as Cleanor's, it appealed with a force that may almost be called irresistible. All this did not reveal itself immediately to the young man, but he felt at once, as no one ever failed to feel, the inexplicable charm of Scipio's personality. Let me find a place by you;" and he seated himself on the grass. But you will say that a Roman has no business to be talking of naiads.
It is true, perhaps. Our hills, our streams, our oaks have no such presences in them. We have borrowed them from you. Our deities are practical. We have a goddess that makes the butter to come in the churn, curdles the milk for the cheese, and helps the cow to calve. There is not a function or an employment that has not got its patron or patroness. But we have not peopled the world of nature with the gracious and beautiful presences which your poets have imagined.
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Nor, I fancy," he added with a smile, "have your African friends done so. Cleanor, who would in any case have been too courteous to show to a casual stranger the hostility which he cherished against the Roman nation, felt at once the charm of the speaker's manner. He was struck, too, by the purity of the Roman's Greek accent, and by the elegance of his language, with which no fault could have been found except, perhaps, that it was more literary than colloquial.
He laughingly acknowledged the compliment which the Roman had paid to the poetical genius of his countrymen. A brisk conversation on literary topics followed. Cleanor, who was of a studious turn, had spent a year at Athens, listening to the philosophical teachers who were the successors of Plato at the Academy, and another year at Rhodes, then the most famous rhetorical school in the world.
Scipio, on the other hand, was one of the best-read men of his age. He was a soldier and a politician, and had distinguished himself in both capacities, but his heart was given to letters. In private life he surrounded himself with the best representatives of Greek and Roman culture. He now found in the young Greek, with whose melancholy history he was acquainted, a congenial spirit. Cleanor, on the other hand, who had something of the Greek's readiness to look down upon all outsiders as barbarians, was astonished to see how wide and how deep were the attainments of his new acquaintance.
The two thus brought together had many opportunities of improving the acquaintance thus begun. Scipio had to carry out the details of the division of royal functions mentioned in my last chapter. This was not a thing to be done in a day. The three brothers accepted the principle readily enough, though they felt that the one to whom the army had been allotted had the lion's share of power.
But when the principles came to be applied there were endless jealousies and differences of opinion. It required all Scipio's tact and personal influence to keep the peace unbroken. When this complicated business was finished, or at least put in a fair way of being finished, an untoward event cut short Scipio's sojourn in Africa. Two new commanders came out to take charge of the Roman army before Carthage. Scipio knew them to be rash and incompetent, and was unwilling to incur the responsibility of serving under them.
Accordingly he asked for permission to resign his command—he held the rank of tribune. The consuls, on the other hand, were not a little jealous of their subordinate's reputation and, above all, of his name. A Scipio at Carthage had a prestige which no one else could hope to rival, and they were glad to get rid of him. This interruption of an acquaintance which was rapidly ripening into friendship had an important bearing on Cleanor's life.
If anyone could have reconciled him to Rome, Scipio was the man. Scipio gone, the old feelings, only too well justified as they were, revived in full force. Hostility to Rome became, indeed, the absorbing passion of his life. It was a passion, however, which he concealed with the finesse natural to his race.
For the present his purpose could, he conceived, be better served outside the walls of Carthage than within them. Accordingly he accepted an offer from Mastanabal that he should undertake the duties of a private secretary. The siege operations had not been uniformly successful before they took over the command. There had been losses as well as gains. Still, on the whole, the besiegers had the balance of advantage. The defence had been broken down at more points than one. Carthage was distinctly in a worse position than it had been three months after the breaking out of the war. The besieged had done some damage to the Roman fleet, had burnt a considerable extent of siege-works, and had suffered a distinctly smaller loss in killed and wounded than they had been able to inflict on their assailants.
But if the damage that they suffered was less than that which they did, still it was less capable of being repaired, often indeed could not be repaired at all. If a ship was burnt, they could not build another; the losses of the garrison could not be filled up; the general waste of strength could not be repaired. Carthage, in short, had only itself to draw upon as a reserve; Rome had all the countries that bordered on the Mediterranean, from Greece westward. These were advantages which were certain to tell in the long run, but meanwhile much might occur to delay the final victory.
The first thing to happen in the Roman camp was that supplies began to fall short. The country round Carthage was, of course, so much wasted by this time that practically nothing could be drawn from it. Further off, indeed, there was plenty of food and forage, but the natives showed no readiness in bringing it into camp. The fact was that there was no market; buyers there were in plenty, but not buyers with money in hand, for the military chest was empty, and the pay of the soldiers months in arrear. The consequence of this was that the Roman generals practically raised the siege of Carthage, and devoted their time and strength to reducing the Carthaginian towns, hoping thus to supply their wants.
But in this attempt they made very little progress. They began by attacking the town of Clypea. Here they failed. The fleet could not make its way into the harbour, which the towns-people had effectually protected by sinking a couple of ships in the entrance, and the Roman engineers could not reach the walls of the town. They had better fortune with another small town in the neighbourhood, though their success was gained in a not very creditable way. The towns-people were disposed to come to terms, and a conference between their representatives and the Roman generals was accordingly held.
Terms were agreed upon, and the agreement had been actually signed, when some soldiers made their way into the town. The Romans at once broke up the meeting, and treated the place as if it had been taken by storm. This conduct was, of course, as unwise as it was wicked. Next to nothing was gained by the falsehood, while every Carthaginian dependency resolved to resist to the uttermost.
Hippo was the next place to be attacked. Its docks, its harbour, its walls were on a grand scale. Two hundred years before, Agathocles, tyrant of Syracuse, in his desperate struggle with Carthage had made it the base of his operations. A lavish expenditure, directed by the best engineers of the time, had made it almost impregnable. The Roman generals had, indeed, excellent reasons for attacking it. Till it was in their power, they could hardly hope to capture Carthage, for it stood almost between their own headquarters and that city, and commanded the route by which stores had to be carried to the besieging army.
But the Roman forces were quite unequal to the undertaking. Twice did the people of Hippo, helped by a sally from Carthage, destroy the siege-works, and when the time for retiring to winter quarters arrived, nothing had been accomplished by the besiegers. All this did vast damage to the prestige of the Romans. Far-seeing persons were convinced, as I have said, that the future belonged to them; but ordinary observers began to think, and not without some excuse, that their decline had begun. Among these were two out of three sons of King Masinissa.
Possibly dissatisfaction had something to do with their state of mind. Each had expected to get more than Scipio's award had given him; both grudged to Gulussa the command of the troops, suspecting that this meant in the end their own subjection to him. Gulussa himself seemed to be still loyal to Rome, but the general discontent had not failed to reach some of the high-placed officers in his army. Cleanor was still with Mastanabal, and, of course, watched the progress of affairs with intense interest.
His hopes rose high when tidings reached the palace that the Romans had abandoned the siege of Hippo. At the evening meal that day the subject was discussed, but in a very guarded way, for the prince was still, at least in name, an ally of Rome, and his young secretary, for this was the office which Cleanor now filled, was too discreet to ignore the fact. The hour for retiring had almost come when the confidential slave who waited on the prince hurriedly entered the chamber and placed a letter in his hands. It was a double tablet closely bound together with cords of crimson silk, these again being secured by seals.
Hastily cutting the cords with the dagger which he carried at his waist, the prince read the communication with that impassive and inscrutable look which it is one of the necessities of a despotic ruler to acquire. Rising shortly after from table he bade the young Greek good-night, but added, as if by an after-thought, "But stay, I have a book, a new acquisition, to show you. Come into the library. The library was a small inner room, of a semi-circular shape, which opened out of the dining-hall.
It had this great advantage, contemplated, no doubt, by the builder who designed it, that conversations held in it could not by any possibility be overheard. It had an outer wall everywhere except on the side which adjoined the dining-hall. It was built on columns, so that no one could listen beneath, and there was no storey over it. As long as the outer chamber was empty, absolute secrecy was ensured.
Only a bird of the air could carry the matters discussed in it. Hasdrubal, son of Gisco, to King Mastanabal greeting. Know that if you would save Africa, now, and now only, you have the opportunity. The Romans have fled from Hippo fewer by a third than when they first attacked it. Bithyas, commander of Gulussa's cavalry, has come over to us with seven hundred of his best troopers.
Strike then along with us such a blow as shall rid us of this devouring Beast now and for ever. Else you shall yourself surely be devoured. Think not that when Carthage is destroyed, there shall be any hope left for Numidia. Indeed, why should you? But you can judge of how things stand, judge, doubtless, better in some ways than I can, for there many things that we kings never see. Speak frankly. No one can overhear us. I hate Rome, but I fear her. She makes blunders without number, but always manages to succeed in the end. She chooses mere fools and braggarts for her generals, but always finds the right man at last.
So I read her history. There was a time when everyone believed that Hannibal would make and end of her, and yet she survived. She lost army after army, yet conquered in the end. After Flaminius and Varro she found a Scipio. And she has a Scipio now. I saw him, sire, the other day, and felt that he was a great man. Let me answer this letter in person, and answer it as I think best, if you can trust me so far. I have a plan, for I have been thinking of these matters night and day.
But don't ask me what it is. It is better that you should know nothing about it. I will start at once. It might look well if you were to send some troopers in pursuit. Of course they must not catch me. Put Juba in command, and we may rely on their not being too active. Let me have the letter; that will be enough. Will you forgive me if I steal Whitefoot from her stable? You make me curious, but I suppose that I may not ask any questions.
In any case, and whatever happens, count me as a sure friend. Before midnight Cleanor was well on his way to Carthage. At the first signs of dawn he drew rein, and halted for the day at a small cluster of palms, where there was abundance of herbage for his horse. Starting again at nightfall he reached the camp of Hasdrubal just as the light was showing itself in the east. The camp, it should be explained, was pitched outside the city. The larger half of the Carthaginian army occupied it. The remainder of the troops were stationed within the walls under the command of another Hasdrubal.
Cleanor, who had contrived to learn something about the arrangements of the camp, gave himself up into the hands of the officer commanding an outlying picket. Hasdrubal's letter proved, as he had anticipated, a sufficient passport, and he was conducted, after taking a few hours' rest, into the general's presence. The personality of Hasdrubal was not by any means attractive, and Cleanor could not help comparing his puny physique and sinister expression with the commanding figure and noble countenance of Scipio.
The Carthaginian may be best described by saying that he resembled the more ignoble type of Jew. Hasdrubal showed the relationship plainly enough. His black, ringlety hair, prominent nose, thick, sensual lips, and keen but shifty eyes, were just such as might have been seen at that day in the meaner quarters of Jerusalem or Alexandria then become the second capital of the Jews , and at the present time in the London Whitechapel or the Roman Ghetto.
On the present occasion, however, Hasdrubal wore his most pleasing expression. He was genuinely delighted to see Cleanor, as much delighted as he was astonished, for he had taken it for granted that the young man had perished in the destruction of Chelys. Things are looking more bright for Carthage than they have done for years past. We shall soon have all Africa with us. When that happens the Romans will have nothing left them but the ground that they stand on, and even that, I hope, not very long. You have heard of Bithyas with his squadron coming over to us?
We shall soon have the rest of Gulussa's army following him, and then there will be Gulussa himself and his brothers. You have been in Mastanabal's household; tell me how he stands.