The Black Notebook
‘What’s the alternative, have you an intelligent suggestion?’ enquired Willi. ‘Don’t tell me. Being George, you believe it’s your duty to take the child into your house. That means the four old people will be shocked into their graves, apart from the fact no one will ever speak to them again. The three children will be ostracized at school. Your wife will lose her job. You will lose your job. Nine people will be ruined. And what good will that do your son, George? May I ask?’
‘And so that’s the end of it all?’ I asked.
‘Yes, it is,’ said Willi. He wore his usual expression at such moments, obstinate and patient, and his mouth was set.
‘I could make it a test case,’ said George.
‘A test case of what?’
‘All this bloody hypocrisy.’
‘Why use the word to me — you’ve just called me a hypocrite.’ George looked humble, and Willi said: ‘Who’d pay the price of your noble gesture? You’ve got eight people dependent on you.’
‘My wife isn’t dependent on me. I’m dependent on her. Emotionally that is. Do you imagine I don’t know it?’
‘Do you want me to put the facts again?’ said Willi, over-patient, and glancing at his text-books. Both George and I knew that because he had been called a hypocrite he would never soften now, but George went on: ‘Willi, isn’t there anything at all? Surely, it can’t be finished, just like that?’
‘Do you want me to say that it’s unfair or immoral or something helpful like that?’
‘Yes,’ said George, after a pause, dropping his chin on his chest. ‘Yes, I suppose that’s what I want. Because what’s worse is that if you think I’ve stopped sleeping with her, I haven’t. There might be another little Hounslow in the Boothby kitchen any day. Of course, I’m more careful than I was.’
‘That’s your affair,’ said Willi.
‘You are an inhuman swine,’ said George after a pause.
‘Thank you,’ said Willi. ‘But there’s nothing to be done, is there? You agree, don’t you?’
‘That boy’s going to grow up there among the pumpkins and the chickens and be a farm labourer or a half-arsed clerk, and my other three are going to get through to university and out of this bloody country if I have to kill myself paying for it.’
‘What is the point?’ said Willi. ‘Your blood? Your sacred sperm, or what?’
Both George and I were shocked. Willi saw it with a tightening of his face, and it remained angry as George said: ‘No, it’s the responsibility. It’s the gap between what I believe in and what I do.’