The Black Notebook
And then there was the affair of George’s son. All the group knew about it. Yet George was by nature a discreet man and I’m sure during that year he was tormenting himself he had mentioned it to no one. Neither Willi nor I told anyone. Yet we all knew. I suppose that one night when we were half-drunk, George made some reference that he imagined was unintelligible. Soon we were joking about it in the way we now made joking despairing references to the political situation in the country. I remember that one evening George made us laugh until we were helpless with a fantasy about how one day his son would come to his house demanding work as a houseboy. He, George, would not recognize him, but some mystical link, etc., would draw him to the poor child. He would be given work in the kitchen and his sensitivity of nature and innate intelligence, ‘all inherited from me of course’, would soon endear him to the whole household. In no time he would be picking up the cards the four old people dropped at the card-table and providing a tender undemanding friendship for the three children — ‘his half-siblings’. For instance, he would prove invaluable as a ball-boy when they played tennis. At last his patient servitude would be rewarded. Light would flash on George suddenly, one day, at the moment when the boy was handing him his shoes, ‘very well-polished, of course’. ‘Baas, is there anything more I can do?’ ‘My son!’ ‘Father. At last!’ And so on and so on.
That night we saw George sitting by himself under the trees, head in his hands, motionless, a despondent heavy shadow among the moving shadows of the glittering spear-like leaves. We went down to sit with him, but there was nothing that any one could say.
On that last week-end there was to be another big dance, and we arrived by car and by train, at various times through the Friday, and met in the big room. When Willi and I arrived Johnnie was already at the piano with his red-faced blonde beside him; Stanley was dancing with Mrs Lattimore, and George was talking to Maryrose. Willi went straight over and ousted George, and Paul came over to claim me. Our relationship had remained the same, tender and half-mocking and full of promise. Outside observers might have, and probably did, think the link-up was Willi and Maryrose, Paul and myself. Though at moments they might have thought it was George and myself and Paul and Maryrose. Of course the reason why these romantic, adolescent relationships were possible was because of my relationship with Willi which was, as I’ve said, almost a-sexual. If there is a couple in the centre of a group with a real full sexual relationship it acts like a catalyst for the others, and often, indeed, destroys the group altogether. I’ve seen many such groups since, political and unpolitical, and one can always judge the relationship of the central couple (because there is always a central couple) by the relationships of the couples around them.