Glimpses of different things flash into my mind, in random sequence, and are gone. A shower of sparks . . . A feeling of shame . . . Someone unseen coughing, trying not to be heard . . .
Everything is as it was, I discover when I reach my destination, and everything has changed.
Does he know, even at that age, what his standing is in the street? He knows precisely, even if he doesn’t know that he knows it. In the very marrow of his bones he understands that there’s something not quite right about him and his family, something that doesn’t quite fit with the pigtailed Geest girls and the oil-stained Avery boys, and never will.
Cycling's plainly the right way to go to school; the bus that Stephen catches each day at the cracked concrete bus stop on the main road is plainly the wrong way. Green's the right color for a bicycle, just as it’s the wrong one for a belt or a bus.
The ways of the Haywards were no more open to questioning or comprehension than the domestic arrangements of the Holy Family.
Gratitude not only to Keith's mother but to Keith himself, to all the others after him whose adjutant and audience I was, and to everyone else who wrote and performed the drama of life in which I had a small, often frightening, but always absorbing part: Thank you for having me. Thank you, thank you.
What I remember, when I examine my memory carefully, isn’t a narrative at all. It’s a collection of vivid particulars. Certain words spoken, certain objects glimpsed. Certain gestures and expressions. Certain moods, certain weathers, certain times of day and states of light. Certain individual moments that seem to mean so much but that mean in fact so little until the hidden links between them have been found.
I think now that most probably Keith’s words came out of nowhere, that they were spontaneously created in the moment they were uttered. That they were a blind leap of pure fantasy. Or of pure intuition. Or, like so many things, of both.
She just is his mother, in the same way that Mrs. Sheldon's Mrs. Sheldon, and Barbara Berrill's beneath our notice, and my family’s slightly disgraceful. Everyone knows that these things are so. They don't have to be
explained or justified.
Yes, there’s a sinister unnoticeability about the whole performance, now that we know the truth behind it. There’s something clearly wrong about her, if you really look at her and listen to her as we now do.
I feel more strongly than ever the honor of my association with Keith. His family have taken on the heroic proportions of characters in a legend—noble father and traitorous mother playing out the never-ending conflict between good and evil, between light and dark.
There’s always been something sinister about Mr. Gort’s house and Trewinnick, of course. But there’s something sinister about all these silent houses when you look at them like this. The less you see happening on the outside, the more certain you are that strange things are going on inside…
“Anyway,” I say, “my father’s a German spy, too.”…
“Well, he is," I say. “He has secret meetings with people who come to the house. They talk in a foreign language together. It's German. I've heard them.”
It's like the War Effort and the perpetual sense of strain it induces, of guilt for not doing enough toward it. The War Effort hangs over us for the Duration, and both the Duration and the long examination board of childhood will last forever.
Even before this there were a lot of things piling up that I couldn’t tell Keith about. Barbara Berrill’s visit. Her stupid stories about his mother and his aunt. Now I’ve been burdened with another secret that I have to keep from him. But how can we possibly proceed if I don't tell him this one?
Not that I ever believed those stories for a moment. Or could have said anything about them to Keith even if I had. It would be telling tales. You can't tell tales.
We’ve come on a journey from the highest to the lowest—from the silver-framed heroes on the altars in the Haywards' house through the descending social gradations of the Close, from the Berrills and Geests to us, from us to the Pinchers, on down through the squalor of the Cottages and their wretched occupants, and then, reached even lower, to an old derelict taking refuge under a sheet of corrugated iron.
So far as I can piece it together, as the heir to Stephen’s thoughts, he neither thought she was nor didn’t think she was. Without Keith there to tell him what to think he’d stopped thinking about it all. Most of the time you don't go around thinking that things are so or not so, any more than you go around understanding or not understanding them. You take them for granted.
Lamorna. I find the word on my tongue over and over again, saying itself of its own accord. Lamorna is the softness of Barbara Berrill's dress as she leaned across me to look in the trunk. Lamorna is the correct scientific description of the contrast between the bobbly texture of her purse and the smooth shininess of its button. Lamorna is the indoor-firework smell of the match, and its two shining reflections in her eyes. But Lamorna is also the name of the softness in Keith's mother's voice…
What exactly was this unthinkable something? Nothing exactly. What's unthinkable can’t in its nature be exactly anything. Its inexactitude is what makes it so overpowering.
Whoever and whatever he was or wasn’t, Stephen was still quite clear about one thing: he was a German. There was no way round that.
Once again I feel the locked box beginning to open and reveal its mysteries. I'm leaving behind the old tunnels and terrors of childhood—and stepping into a new world of even darker tunnels and more elusive terrors.
Now all the mysteries have been resolved, or as resolved as they’re ever likely to be. All that remains is the familiar slight ache in the bones, like an old wound when the weather changes. Heimweh or Fernweh? A longing to be there or a longing to be here, even though I’m here already?