[ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]
.Later, at different stages of his career, he disseminated such contradictory statements on the subject of his own political history that card-holding membership remains uncertain.Most of his acquaintances inclined to think that at one moment or another he had belonged to some not very distinguished grade of the communist hierarchy.Certainly he pertained to the extreme Left and subscribed to several ‘anti-fascist’ organisations.He himself tended to cloak his political activities in mystery in so far as they took practical form: occasionally hinting that these activities might be more important, even more sinister, than persons like myself supposed.‘The Lewis gun may be sounding at the barricades earlier than some of your Laodicean friends think,’ he had announced in a rasping undertone at the climax of our controversy about Milton—or Meredith.‘I can never remember what the Laodiceans did.’‘They were “neither hot nor cold”.’‘Ah.’Such revolutionary sentiments, as I have said, were common enough then, especially in the verse of the period, on which Quiggin was an authority.However, he had seemed rather unusually annoyed that evening, so that in spite of his friendliness in the foyer of the cinema I was not at all sure what sort of a reception I should get when I arrived on his doorstep.I went by train, and found a taxi had been sent to meet me at the station.We drove a mile or two through pretty country and by the low stone wall of a large estate.Quiggin was living in a small, grey, comparatively modern house, hardly a cottage in the sense that comes immediately to the mind—the cottage in a forest inhabited by a peasant in a fairy story, or the gabled, half-timbered sort of the Christmas card by which a robin sits in the snow—but, although the building itself was bleak, the situation was pleasant enough, in fact enchanting: overlooking woods, fields and distant hills, not another house in sight.Quiggin was in a mood to be agreeable.When he set out to please, he was rarely unable to keep the most unpromising people amused; or at least quiet.He would assume his North Country accent, together with an air of informed simplicity, that would charm all kind of unexpected persons, normally in hearty disagreement with his literary or political opinions.He was particularly accomplished at effecting a reversal of feeling in the case of those who, on introduction, had taken an immediate dislike to his face or his clothes.Probably with that end in view, he cultivated a certain irregularity of dress.For example, when he opened the door on my arrival he was wearing a dark-grey woollen garment with a zip-fastener down the front, which, in conjunction with rope-soled canvas shoes, made him look like an instructor in some unusual sport or physical exercise.‘Come in,’ he said, ‘Mona is blonding her hair.She will be along soon.’Mona’s hair had been black in the days when I had first set eyes on her at Mr.Deacon’s birthday party above the antique shop off Charlotte Street, but, even before she had married Templer—when her Cupid’s bow mouth was still advertising toothpaste on the hoardings—it had already taken on a metallic honey colour.She looked distinctly sluttish when at length she appeared, far less trim than when married to Templer, a reversion to the Charlotte Street period when she had been an artists’ model.However, she had not returned to the style of dress of her bohemian days, trousers and sandals or whatever was then the fashion.Instead, wearing an old black coat and skirt, an outfit not much suited to the country, she retained a kind of shabby smartness of appearance.I had not seen her for some time, and had forgotten the formal perfection of her face.Her skin was coarse, it was true, and her fixed smile recalled the days when her photograph was on the front of every London bus; yet, even admitting such defects, the detail of every feature insisted upon admiration.She was like a strapping statue, Venus conceived at a period when more than a touch of vulgarity had found its way into classical sculpture.I could not help thinking how odd it was that, having once married Templer, she should have deserted him for Quiggin.In the general way of gossip she had the reputation of a beautiful girl not particularly attractive to men.Naturally, with looks like hers, she had been accustomed to all the outward paraphernalia of male attack; certainly at what might be called the ‘picking-up’ level.In a railway carriage, or on board ship, there had always been a man to approach her with greater or lesser delicacy; but Templer and Quiggin (my informant was Templer) were the only men to have taken her ‘seriously’.It had even been suggested (by Quiggin’s old friend and rival, Mark Members, probably without much truth) that in her early days Mona had had emotional leanings towards her own sex.Latterly, there had been no talk of that sort.Her manner usually suggested that she was interested in no one except herself; although the fact remained that she had abandoned a comfortable home, and relatively rich husband, to share Quiggin’s far from destitute, though not particularly luxurious existence [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]