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acts-of-faithWorse was to come. It turned out that the Leninist, far from feeling helpless and frightened and coming to Tom for that reason, was under the impression that Tom required his advice on how to deal with the crisis. Tom was sorely tempted to tell him there was no crisis at all, except the one that affected those Marxists who were or should have been under arrest for having created all the trouble. Yet then he thought of Dick, and he forbore, reflecting to himself that the Leninist’s aggressive attitude was just another example of the jackals falling upon the injured lion towards whom they had been sycophantic before. Sighing deeply, he allowed the Leninist to go on. To his horror he found that the Leninist was now not only trying to dictate to him a solution that required welcoming to his bosom those incorrigible Tamils who had refused to take the oath of allegiance; he was also suggesting scarcely veiled threats against Tom’s life if he did not comply. Tom was not sure whether the Leninist meant the threats to emanate from himself or from some amorphous entity such as Harry was devoted to, but it was all certainly extremely annoying. If he had not been the host at breakfast, for Tom the most sacred of meals, he might almost have thrown the blighter out or rather, dressed just as he was, into the jail he so richly deserved.

It was indeed only the arrival of Luke that saved the Leninist; or, if we are to take a broader view of the whole business, that saved Tom rather. Luke had been startled enough by the newspaper items about the march Harry was planning, and about what seemed Dick’s involvement in it. Soon after that shock, he had been rung up by one of his contacts in the Press who told him that Gerry had arranged what seemed to be an elaborate press conference for that very morning at the Presidential dwelling. Luke was convinced that something fishy was up. He would not have put it past Tom to have reversed direction completely, whether under pressure from Gerry or not, and to be about to announce his conversion, backed by all sorts of old organisations, to the philosophies preached by Harry. Even if the explanation were quite different, Luke felt that it was imperative to find out at once what was happening. He decided, though in fact he himself had never been invited to breakfast with Tom, to take advantage of the general assumption that Tom kept open house at that time, and to present himself there to be in at whatever was in train.

It was true that Tom did to a certain extent keep open house at breakfast. He had extended an open invitation to several people he would not have minded paying their respects to him and partaking of his hospitality early in the morning. But certain things were sacred, and amongst them was a man’s right to associate at the most personal moments of the day only with those whom he would have chosen of his own accord to be his friends. On state occasions certainly he had entertained Luke freely in the grandest of his drawing rooms, and once or twice he had even invited him to dinner; but breakfast was an intimate ritualistic feast, when a man was obliged to observe old traditions and revere the memory of his ancestors. As such, when Luke was announced, Tom excused himself and went out into the hallway to receive Luke and guide him into the public study that led off the corner of the front verandah.

Luke was somewhat upset at not being invited in to breakfast but, having glimpsed a lady within, he told himself that it must be a private occasion. He had to have a pretext for coming, however, and he did not want to refer to Gerry’s summons to the Press since that would more suitably come first from Tom. He gingerly broached therefore the subject of the newspaper reports. To his relief, Tom plunged heatedly into the subject straight away, and the initial frostiness with which he had inquired what Luke wanted melted away. Luke decided to play the subject for all it was worth, since the Press was due to turn up soon enough anyway, and then his anxiety would be satisfied without his having displayed any untoward suspicion. He and Tom therefore spent a very excited few minutes inveighing against CARP and the Press and Harry and even some Muslims.

It was almost immediately after Tom had taken Luke into the study that Dick appeared. He was slightly worried, both by the tone of the newspaper reports, and also by the fact that Dulcie, who was scrupulous about delivering messages to him after she had opened them herself, had told him that she had told Tom too the contents of Harry’s telegram and he had seemed none too pleased. Despite this Dick was sanguine enough to believe that he could assuage any irritation Tom might have felt, and it was with this purpose that he bounded into the breakfast room. To his surprise Tom was missing, and instead there sat there a female, admittedly not in her first youth, but with most alluring curves. Dick forgot about Tom at once. The woman seemed to strike some chord in his memory, and in any case he had by now reached the stage where he felt he had no warrant to be over particular about age. Furthermore, the woman was fingering her breast anxiously, a gesture that always caused him excitement, convinced as he was that it was evidence of a markedly sensuous nature. He promptly sat down beside her and, helping himself to bread and honey, introduced himself as Tom’s brother.

The Leninist, who had never thought very highly of Dick, merely simpered, and turned his head away. It was at this point that it struck Dick that this was the lady he had seen on the previous day at Veronica’s house. It was not in his nature to be cautious, and in any case it seemed to him best to try to find out as soon as possible what exactly the position was. He pulled his chair up closer and, a wedge of bread in one hand, put the other around the Leninist’s shoulders.

‘Didn’t I see you yesterday with Veronica?’ he asked gently.

The Leninist was too startled to reply. In the silence that ensued, Dick slowly slipped his hand downward and onto the Leninist’s breast. This prompted the Leninist to pull himself together, and he lifted up his own hand and firmly removed Dick’s. Not at all deterred, Dick allowed his hand to be removed, but continued to keep it on the Leninist’s shoulder, and not entirely still at that. He went on talking about MASH and MADAM, and why he had gone to see Veronica, and how the papers had misrepresented him, all the time keeping his eyes closely on the Leninist’s face to note any reaction, while his hand once again began to slide downward.

Ceylon Today 16 Nov 2014 – https://www.ceylontoday.lk/96-78373-news-detail-taken-at-the-flood.html

 

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