‘If you had only six months, wouldn’t you choose a little comfort . . .?’ The glasses slipped off his nose and smashed. He said ‘respect’ with a sob. He said, ‘I always dreamt one day . . . the university.’ He was in the bathroom now, staring blindly where he supposed D. to be, backing towards the basin. ‘And then the doctor said six months . . .’ He gave a yelp of mournful anguish like a dog . . . ‘die in harness . . . with that foot in Oxford Street . . . “bona matina,” “bona matina”. . . cold . . . the radiator’s never on.’ He was raving now — the first words which came into his head as if he had a sense that as long as he talked he was safe; and any words which emerged from that tormented and embittered brain couldn’t help but carry the awful impress of the little office, the cubicle, the cold radiator, the roller picture on the wall: ‘un famil gentilbono.’ He said, ‘The old man creeping round on rubber soles . . . I’d get the pain . . . had to apologize in Entrenationo . . . or else the fine . . . no cigarettes for a week.’ With every word he came alive . . . and the condemned must not come alive: he must be dead long before the judge passes sentence. ‘Stop!’ D. said. Mr K.’s head switched round like a tortoise’s. The blind eyes had got the direction wrong. ‘Can you blame me?’ he said. ‘Six months at home . . . a professor . . .’ D. shut his eyes and pressed the trigger. The noise took him by surprise and the kick of the gun: glass smashed, and somewhere a bell rang.
* * *
MR K. was laid carefully out on the divan: the pious book lay by his ear. ‘God is in the candlelight, waiting in your home.’ He looked excessively unimportant with a red rim across the bridge of his nose where the spectacles had rubbed it. D. said, ‘His doctor had given him six months. He was afraid he was going to end suddenly teaching Entrenationo. They paid him two shillings an hour.’
‘What are we going to do?’
‘It was an accident.’
‘He died because you shot at him they can call that murder.’
‘It’s the second time. I should like to be charged with an honest malice-aforethought murder for a change.’
‘You always joke when it’s you who are concerned,’ she said.
* * *
It was a fantastic country, D. thought. Civil war provided nothing so fantastic as peace. In war life became simple — you didn’t worry about sex or international languages or even getting on: you worried about the next meal and cover from high explosives.
* * *
They had found out all about his visit to the Entrenationo soirée with Mr K. and a man had come forward who said that Mr K. had made a scene because he was being followed. A man called Hogpit. ‘He wasn't being followed by me,’ D. said. ‘I left him outside the Entrenationo office.’
* * *
He sat on the edge of his bunk: he felt dizzy. After all, he thought, I am a bit old for this kind of life. He felt a sensation of pity for Mr K., who had dreamed in vain of a quiet life in a university far behind the lines — well, at least he hadn’t died in an Entrenationo cubicle in the presence of some sharp oriental like Mr Li, who would resent the interruption of a lesson he had paid for in advance. And there was Else — the terror was over: she was secure from all the worse things which might have happened to her. The dead were to be envied. It was the living who had to suffer from loneliness and distrust. He got up; he needed air.
SOURCE: Greene, Graham. The Confidential Agent: An Entertainment (Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1971), pp. 140-141, 144, 149, 186, 205. (Original editions: William Heinemann Ltd., 1939; New York, The Viking Press, 1939.)
Graham Greenes Entrenationo (1)
Graham Greenes Entrenationo (2)
Esperanto & Interlinguistics Study Guide / Esperanto-Gvidilo
Graham Greene @ Ĝirafo
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