Last but not least in the course of this chapter and this evening, both of which are important primarily as forerunners of the exciting events that will follow fast upon them, we come to Tom. We have seen little of him recently which is not surprising for he has had little to do. This has now begun to irk him. After the stunning successes of his principal ministers on television, with their more and more histrionic accounts of what really happened during the riots, he feels himself superseded, the more so because both the international press and national gossip have not refrained from pointing out the vast discrepancies and disparities between his performance and theirs. Furthermore when he permitted John, partly as a response to all this in an attempt to divert interest to more immediate matters, to unveil a new economic package, he has been overwhelmed by the intensity of the response, which has even begun to take on a dangerous political tone. He realises now that the tremendous respect he inspired for so long, when no one dared to criticize anything he did or said, sprang only from his air of authority; now that that has been once dissipated, blame and resentment and querying and intrigue have begun to fall upon him like a miasma.
Most alarming of all is the fact that Gerry too has taken to behaving extraordinarily, and exercising her in any case erratic independent initiative in areas about which she understands nothing, and in which she could do incalculable damage. It is not that she has not behaved extraordinarily before. This she had always done, in the days before he became President, whenever his party had been voted out of power. It was partly to prevent recurrences of her peculiarities that he had, after finally achieving power himself, turned himself into a President, and an Executive one at that, and one who would prove perpetual to boot. It is, he sighs to himself resignedly, a proof of the vanity of human wishes that, even with all these arrangements, Gerry has begun to behave peculiarly once more. Man disposes and God disposes, he reflects, reverting as he tends to do at times of crisis to the faith of his less distant forefathers; clearly she is once again convinced that he is vulnerable, which is why she slips far more often than she used to do into the secret room where she takes a drop of brandy now and then whenever she feels unusually nervous.
That alone would not have mattered. What is particularly upsetting now is that she has begun to meddle in politics too, thus making it clear for the first time that she does not have enough faith in him to see the crisis through to a successful conclusion. That she sees Dick in secret is bad enough; but when it has to do with politics, when his own younger brother Dick whom he has always had to protect now appears at the head of political interest groups which he has to take seriously, when everyone believes that the force behind these organizations is his own wife, then Tom feels fundamentally threatened, not only in his role as President, but also in his very being as a Man. For once Tom feels that the fact that he is a Perpetual Executive is of less consequence than that he allowed himself, at his wife’s behest, to be sterilized. It profits a man nothing, he ponders bitterly, to gain even the whole world if he has lost that which can never be regained; and it is even worse when it looks as though he might lose the whole world too, or at least when it seems as though his nearest and dearest does not think him capable of retaining it. With his many years of experience in politics, Tom knows that everything is a question of confidence. If it is believed that even one’s own wife has no faith in one, for whatever reason, then one might as well be prepared to give up. Continue reading