THE COLLECTOR by John Fowles
Rarely does a publisher introduce a novel of such devastating power.
We invite you to open the first page of _The Collector_.
We believe you will be compelled to read on.
He tells the story first -- Frederick Clegg, an obscure little clerk and a collector of butterflies who one day goes on to net his finest specimen, Miss Miranda Grey, a soft, lovely twenty-year-old. In his colorless yet curiously expressive words, he tells of the months in which he stood by the office window and watched for the beautiful Miranda whenever she was home from art school. Then Frederick Clegg suddenly wins a fortune in a football pool and devises an ingenious way to make his dream come true:
_I thought, I can't get to know her in the ordinary way, but if she's with me, she'll see my good points, she'll understand. There was always the idea she would understand. I only wanted to do the best for her, make her happy and love me a bit._
He buys a secluded country house and, when all preparations have been made, kidnaps Miranda from outside her apartment in London.
The body of the novel concerns the two months during which Miranda is held prisoner in the cellar of the house. The story is revealed first as he tells it, then as she secretly records it in a diary which begins:
_It's the seventh night._
_Deep down I get more and more frightened. It's only surface calm._
_Waking up is the worse thing. I wake and for a moment I think I'm home or at Caroline's. Then it hits me._
_I don't care what he does. So long as I live._
_It's all the vile unspeakable things he _could_ do._
_Power. It's so _real_._
_Try try try to escape._
_It's all I can think of._
A remarkable feat of imagination, THE COLLECTOR is a novel of disquieting perception whose cumulative effect is all too memorable.
Copyright (c) 1963 BY JOHN FOWLES
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO PART OF THIS BOOK MAY BE REPRODUCED IN ANY FORM WITHOUT PERMISSION IN WRITING FROM THE PUBLISHER, EXCEPT BY A REVIEWER WHO MAY QUOTE BRIEF PASSAGES IN A REVIEW TO BE PRINTED IN A MAGAZINE OR NEWSPAPER.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOG CARD NO. 63-13451
FIRST AMERICAN EDITION
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
_que fors aus ne le sot riens nee_
WHEN she was home from her boarding-school I used to see her almost every day sometimes, because their house was right opposite the Town Hall Annexe. She and her younger sister used to go in and out a lot, often with young men, which of course I didn't like. When I had a free moment from the files and ledgers I stood by the window and used to look down over the road over the frosting and sometimes I'd see her. In the evening I marked it in my observations diary, at first with X, and then when I knew her name with M. I saw her several times outside too. I stood right behind her once in a queue at the public library down Crossfield Street. She didn't look once at me, but I watched the back of her head and her hair in a long pigtail. It was very pale, silky, like Burnet cocoons. All in one pigtail coming down almost to her waist, sometimes in front, sometimes at the back. Sometimes she wore it up. Only once, before she came to be my guest here, did I have the privilege to see her with it loose, and it took my breath away it was so beautiful, like a mermaid. Another time one Saturday off when I went up to the Natural History Museum I came back on the same train. She sat three seats down and sideways to me, and read a book, so I could watch her for thirty-five minutes. Seeing her always made me feel like I was catching a rarity, going up to it very careful, heart-in-mouth as they say. A Pale Clouded Yellow, for instance. I always thought of her like that, I mean words like elusive and sporadic, and very refined -- not like the other ones, even the pretty ones. More for the real connoisseur. The year she was still at school I didn't know who she was, only how her father was Doctor Grey and some talk I overheard once at a Bug Section meeting about how her mother drank. I heard her mother speak once in a shop, she had a la-di-da voice and you could see she was the type to drink, too much make-up, etcetera. Well, then there was the bit in the local paper about the scholarship she'd won and how clever she was, and her name as beautiful as herself, Miranda. So I knew she was up in London studying art. It really made a difference, that newspaper article. It seemed like we became more intimate, although of course we still did not know each other in the ordinary way. I can't say what it was, the very first time I saw her, I knew she was the only one. Of course I am not mad, I knew it was just a dream and it always would have been if it hadn't been for the money. I used to have daydreams about her, I used to think of stories where I met her, did things she admired, married her and all that. Nothing nasty, that was never until what I'll explain later. She drew pictures and I looked after my collection (in my dreams). It was always she loving me and my collection, drawing and colouring them; working together in a beautiful modern house in a big room with one of those huge glass windows; meetings there of the Bug Section, where instead of saying almost nothing in case I made mistakes we were the popular host and hostess. She all pretty with her pale blonde hair and grey eyes and of course the other men all green round the gills. The only times I didn't have nice dreams about her being when I saw her with a certain young man, a loud noisy public-school type who had a sports car. I stood beside him once in Barclays waiting to pay in and I heard him say, I'll have it in fivers; the joke being it was only a cheque for ten pounds. They all behave like that. Well, I saw her climb in his car sometimes, or them out together in the town in it, and those days I was very short with the others in the office, and I didn't use to mark the X in my entomological observations diary (all this was before she went to London, she dropped him then). Those were days I let myself have the bad dreams. She cried or usually knelt. Once I let myself dream I hit her across the face as I saw it done once by a chap in a telly play. Perhaps that was when it all started.
My father was killed driving. I was two. That was in 1937. He was drunk, but Aunt Annie always said it was my mother that drove him to drink. They never told me what really happened, but she went off soon after and left me with Aunt Annie, she only wanted an easy time. My cousin Mabel once told me (when we were kids, in a quarrel) she was a woman of the streets who went off with a foreigner. I was stupid, I went straight and asked Aunt Annie and if there was any covering-up to do, of course she did it. I don't care now, if she is still alive, I don't want to meet her, I've got no interest. Aunt Annie's always said good riddance in so many words, and I agree. So I was brought up by Aunt Annie and Uncle Dick with their daughter Mabel. Aunt Annie was my father's elder sister. Uncle Dick died when I was fifteen. That was 1950. We went up to Tring Reservoir to fish, as usual I went off with my net and stuff. When I got hungry and came back to where I left him, there were a knot of people. I thought he'd caught a whopper. But he'd had a stroke. They got him home, but he never said another word or properly recognized any of us again. The days we spent together, not together exactly, because I always went off collecting and he'd sit by his rods, though we always had dinner together and the journey there and home, those days (after the ones I'm going to say about) are definitely the best I have ever had. Aunt Annie and Mabel used to despise my butterflies when I was a boy, but Uncle Dick would always stick up for me. He always admired a good bit of setting. He felt the same as I did about a new imago and would sit and watch the wings stretch and dry out and the gentle way they try them, and he also let me have room in his shed for my caterpillar jars. When I won a hobby prize for a case of Fritillaries he gave me a pound on condition I didn't tell Aunt Annie. Well, I won't go on, he was as good as a father to me. When I held the pools cheque in my hands, he was the person, besides Miranda of course, I thought of. I would have given him the best rods and tackle and anything else he wanted. But it was not to be.
I did the pools from the week I was twenty-one. Every week I did the same five-bob perm. Old Tom and Crutchley, who were in Rates with me, and some of the girls clubbed together and did a big one and they were always going at me to join in, but I stayed the lone wolf. I never liked old Tom or Crutchley. Old Tom is slimy, always going on about local government and buttering up to Mr. Williams, the Borough Treasurer. Crutchley's got a dirty mind and he is a sadist, he never let an opportunity go of making fun of my interest, especially if there were girls around. "Fred's looking tired -- he's been having a dirty week-end with a Cabbage White," he used to say, and, "Who was that Painted Lady I saw you with last night?" Old Tom would snigger, and Jane, Crutch-ley's girl from Sanitation, she was always in our office, would giggle. She was all Miranda wasn't. I always hated vulgar women, especially girls. So I did my own entry, like I said. The cheque was for £73,091 and some odd shillings and pence. I rang up Mr. Williams as soon as the pools people confirmed the Tuesday that all was well. I could tell he was angry that I left like that, although he said at first he was pleased, he was sure they were all pleased, which of course I know they weren't. He even suggested I might invest in the Council 5% Loan! Some of them at Town Hall lose all sense of proportion. I did what the pools people suggested, moved straight up to London with Aunt Annie and Mabel till the fuss died down. I sent old Tom a cheque for £500 and asked him to share with Crutchley and the others. I didn't answer their thank-you letters. You could see they thought I was mean. The only fly in the ointment was Miranda. She was at home at the time of winning, on holidays from her art school, and I saw her only the Saturday morning of the great day. All the time we were up in London spending and spending I was thinking I wasn't going to see her any more; then that I was rich, a good spec as a husband now; then again I knew it was ridiculous, people only married for love, especially girls like Miranda. There were even times I thought I would forget her. But forgetting's not something you do, it happens to you. Only it didn't happen to me.
If you are on the grab and immoral like most nowadays, I suppose you can have a good time with a lot of money when it comes to you. But I may say I have never been like that, I was never once punished at school. Aunt Annie is a Noncon-formist, she never forced me to go to chapel or such like, but I was brought up in the atmosphere, though Uncle Dick used to go to the pub on the q.t. sometimes. Aunt Annie let me smoke cigarettes after a lot of rows when I came out of the army, but she never liked it. Even with all that money, she had to keep on saying spending it was against her principles. But Mabel went at her behind the scenes, I heard her doing it one day, and anyway I said it was my money and my conscience, she was welcome to all she wanted and none if she didn't, and there was nothing about accepting gifts in Nonconformism. What this is all leading to is I got a bit drunk once or twice when I was in the Pay Corps, especially in Germany, but I never had anything to do with women. I never thought about women much before Miranda. I know I don't have what it is girls look for; I know chaps like Crutchley who just seem plain coarse to me get on well with them. Some of the girls in the Annexe, it was really disgusting, the looks they'd give him. It's some crude animal thing I was born without. (And I'm glad I was, if more people were like me, in my opinion, the world would be better.) When you don't have money, you always think things will be very different after. I didn't want more than my due, nothing excessive, but we could see straight away at the hotel that of course they were respectful on the surface, but that was all, they really despised us for having all that money and not knowing what to do with it. They still treated me behind the scenes for what I was -- a clerk. It was no good throwing money around. As soon as we spoke or did something we gave the game away. You could see them saying, don't kid us, we know what you are, why don't you go back where you came from. I remember a night we went out and had supper at a posh restaurant. It was on a list the pools people gave us. It was good food, we ate it but I didn't hardly taste it because of the way people looked at us and the way the slimy foreign waiters and everybody treated us, and how everything in the room seemed to look down at us because we weren't brought up their way. I read the other day an article about class going -- I could tell them things about that. If you ask me, London's all arranged for the people who can act like public schoolboys, and you don't get anywhere if you don't have the manner born and the right la-di-da voice -- I mean rich people's London, the West End, of course.
One evening -- it was after the posh restaurant, I was feeling depressed -- I told Aunt Annie I felt like a walk, which I did. I walked and I suddenly felt I'd like to have a woman, I mean to be able to know I'd had a woman, so I rang up a telephone number a chap at the cheque-giving ceremony gave me. If you want a bit of you-know-what, he said. A woman said, "I'm engaged." I asked if she knew any other number, and she gave me two. Well, I took a taxi round to the second one's address. I won't say what happened, except that I was no good. I was too nervous, I tried to be as if I knew all about it and of course she saw, she was old and she was horrible, horrible. I mean, both the filthy way she behaved and in looks. She was worn, common. Like a specimen you'd turn away from, out collecting. I thought of Miranda seeing me there like that. As I said, I tried to do it but it was no good and I didn't try hardly. I'm not the crude pushing sort, I never have been, I always had higher aspirations, as they say. Crutchley used to say you had to push nowadays to get anywhere, and he used to say, look at old Tom, look where being slimy's got him. Crutchley used to be very familiar, much too so in yours truly's opinion, as I said. Though he knew when to be slimy when it paid; to Mr. Williams, for instance. A bit more life, Clegg, Mr. Williams once said to me, when I was on Inquiries. The public like a smile or a small joke once in a while, he said, we aren't all born with a gift for it, like Crutchley, but we can try, you know. That really riled me. I can say I was sick to death with the Annexe, and I was going to leave anyhow.
I was not different, I can prove it, one reason I got fed up with Aunt Annie was I started to get interested with some of the books you can buy at shops in Soho, books of stark women and all that. I could hide the magazines, but there were books I wanted to buy and I couldn't in case she tumbled. I always wanted to do photography, I got a camera at once of course, a Leica, the best, telephoto lens, the lot; the main idea was to take butterflies living like the famous Mr. S. Beaufoy; but also often before I used to come on things out collecting, you'd be surprised the things couples get up to in places you think they would know better than to do it in, so I had that too. Of course the business with the woman upset me though, on top of all the other things. For instance, Aunt Annie had set her heart on going on a sea-cruise to Australia to see her son Bob and Uncle Steve her other younger brother and his family, and she wanted me to go too, but like I say I didn't want to be any more with Aunt Annie and Mabel. It was not that I hated them, but you could see what they were at once, even more than me. What they were was obvious; I mean small people who'd never left home. For instance, they always expected me to do everything with them and tell them what I'd done if by any chance I had an hour off on my own. The day after the above-mentioned I told them flat I wasn't going to Australia. They took it not too bad, I suppose they had time to reckon it was my money after all.
The first time I went to look for Miranda it was a few days after I went down to Southampton to see off Aunt Annie; May loth, to be exact. I was back in London. I hadn't got any real plan, and I told Aunt Annie and Mabel I might go abroad, but I didn't truly know. Aunt Annie was scared, really, the night before they went she had a solemn talk with me about how I wasn't to marry, she hoped -- that is, without her meeting the bride. She said a lot about it being my money and my life and how generous I was and all that, but I could see she was really scared I might marry some girl and they'd lose all the money they were so ashamed of, anyway. I don't blame her, it was natural, especially with a daughter who's a cripple. I think people like Mabel should be put out painlessly, but that's beside the point. What I thought I would do (I already, in preparation, bought the best equipment in London) was to go to some of the localities where there were rare species and aberrations and get proper series. I mean turn up and stay somewhere for as long as I liked, and go out and collect and photograph. I had driving lessons before they went and I got a special van. There were a lot of species I wanted -- the Swallowtail for instance, the Black Hairstreak and the Large Blue, rare Fritil-laries like the Heath and the Glanville. Things most collectors only get a go at once a lifetime. There were moths too. I thought I might take them up. What I'm trying to say is that having her as my guest happened suddenly, it wasn't something I planned the moment the money came. Well, of course with Aunt Annie and Mabel out of the way I bought all the books I wanted, some of them I didn't know such things existed, as a matter of fact I was disgusted, I thought here I am stuck in a hotel room with this stuff and it's a lot different from what I used to dream of about Miranda and me. Suddenly I saw I'd thought myself into thinking her completely gone out of my life, as if we didn't live within a few miles of each other (I was moved into the hotel in Paddington then) and I hadn't anyhow got all the time in the world to find out where she lived. It was easy, I looked up the Slade School of Art in the telephone directory, and I waited outside one morning in the van. The van was the one really big luxury I gave myself. It had a special fitting in the back compartment, a camp bed you could let down and sleep in; I bought it to carry all my equipment for when I moved round the country, and also I thought if I got a van I wouldn't always have to be taking Aunt Annie and Mabel around when they came back. I didn't buy it for the reason I did use it for. The whole idea was sudden, like a stroke of genius almost. The first morning I didn't see her, but the next day at last I did. She came out with a lot of other students, mostly young men. My heart beat very fast and I felt sick. I had the camera all ready, but I couldn't dare use it. She was just the same; she had a light way of walking and she always wore flat heels so she didn't have that mince like most girls. She didn't think at all about the men when she moved. Like a bird. All the time she was talking to a young man with black hair, cut very short with a little fringe, very artistic-looking. There were six of them, but then she and the young man crossed the street. I got out of the van and followed them. They didn't go far, into a coffee-bar. I went into that coffee-bar, suddenly, I don't know why, like I was drawn in by something else, against my will almost. It was full of people, students and artists and such-like; they mostly had that beatnik look. I remember there were weird faces and things on the walls. It was supposed to be African, I think. There were so many people and the noise and I felt so nervous I didn't see her at first. She was sitting in a second loom at the back. I sat on a stool at the counter where I could watch. I didn't dare look very often and the light in the other room wasn't very good. Then she was standing right next me. I was pretending to read a newspaper so I didn't see her get up. I felt my face was red, I stared at the words but I couldn't read, I daren't look the smallest look -- she was there almost touching me. She was in a check dress, dark blue and white it was, her arms brown and bare, her hair all loose down her back. She said, "Jenny, we're absolutely broke, be an angel and let us have two cigarettes." The girl behind the counter said, "Not again," or something, and she said, "Tomorrow, I swear," and then, "Bless you," when the girl gave her two. It was all over in five seconds, she was back with the young man, but hearing her voice turned her from a sort of dream person to a real one. I can't say what was special in her voice. Of course it was very educated, but it wasn't la-di-da, it wasn't slimy, she didn't beg the cigarettes or like demand them, she just asked for them in an easy way and you didn't have any class feeling. She spoke like she walked, as you might say. I paid as quick as possible and went back to the van and the Cremorne and my room. I was really upset. It was partly that she had to borrow cigarettes because she had no money and I had sixty thousand pounds (I gave Aunt Annie ten) ready to lay at her feet -- because that is how I felt. I felt I would do anything to know her, to please her, to be her friend, to be able to watch her openly, not spy on her. To show how I was, I put five five-pound notes I had on me in an envelope and addressed it to Miss Miranda Grey, the Slade School of Art . . . only of course I didn't post it. I would have if I could have seen her face when she opened it. That was the day I first gave myself the dream that came true. It began where she was being attacked by a man and I ran up and rescued her. Then somehow I was the man that attacked her, only I didn't hurt her; I captured her and drove her off in the van to a remote house and there I kept her captive in a nice way. Gradually she came to know me and like me and the dream grew into the one about our living in a nice modern house, married, with kids and everything. It haunted me. It kept me awake at nights, it made me forget what I was doing during the day. I stayed on and on at the Cremorne. It stopped being a dream, it began to be what I pretended was really going to happen (of course, I thought it was only pretending) so I thought of ways and means -- all the things I would have to arrange and think about and how I'd do it and all. I thought, I can't ever get to know her in the ordinary way, but if she's with me, she'll see my good points, she'll understand. There was always the idea she would understand.
Another thing I began to do was read the classy newspapers, for the same reason I went to the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery. I didn't enjoy them much, it was like the cabinets of foreign species in the Entomology Room at the Natural History Museum, you could see they were beautiful but you didn't know them, I mean I didn't know them like I knew the British. But I went so as I could talk to her, so I wouldn't seem ignorant. In one of the Sunday papers I saw an advert in capitals in a page of houses for sale. I wasn't looking for them, this just seemed to catch my eye as I was turning the page. "FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD?" it said. Just like that. Then it went on:
Old cottage, charming secluded situation, large garden, 1 hr. by car London, two miles from nearest village . . .
-- and so on. The next morning I was driving down to see it. I phoned the estate agent in Lewes and arranged to meet someone at the cottage. I bought a map of Sussex. That's the thing about money. There are no obstacles. I expected something broken-down. It looked old all right, black beams and white outside and old stone tiles. It stood right on its own. The estate agent came out when I drove up. I thought he would be older, he was my age, but the public schoolboy type, full of silly remarks that are meant to be funny, as if it was below him to sell anything and there was some difference between selling houses and something in a shop. He put me off straight away because he was inquisitive. Still, I thought I better look round, having come all that way. The rooms were not much, but it was well fitted out with all mod cons, electricity, telephone and all. Some retired navy admiral or somebody had had it and died, and then the next buyer died unexpectedly as well and so it was on the market. I still say I didn't go down there with the intention of seeing whether there was anywhere to have a secret guest. I can't really say what intention I had. I just don't know. What you do blurs over what you did before. The chap wanted to know if it was just for myself. I said it was for an aunt. I told the truth, I said I wanted it to be a surprise for her, when she came back from Australia and so on. How about their figure, he wanted to know. I've just come into a lot of money, I said, to squash him. We were just coming downstairs when he said that, having seen everything, I thought. I was even going on to say it wasn't what I wanted, not big enough, to squash him more, when he said, well, that's the lot, bar the cellars. You had to go out through the back where there was a door beside the back door. He took the key from under a flowerpot. Of course the electricity was off, but he had a torch. It was cold out of the sun, damp, nasty. There were stone steps down. At the bottom he shone his torch round. Someone had whitewashed the walls, but it was a long time ago, and pieces had come off so that the walls looked mottled. Runs the whole length, he said, and there's this too. He shone the torch and I saw a doorway in the corner of the wall facing us as we came down the stairs. It was another large cellar, four big steps down from the first one, but this time with a lower roof and a bit arched, like the rooms you see underneath churches sometimes. The steps came down diagonally in one corner so the room ran away, so to speak. Just the thing for orgies, he said. What was it for? I asked, ignoring his silly facetiousness. He said they thought it might be because the cottage was so on its own. They'd have to store a lot of food. Or it might have been a secret Roman Catholic chapel. One of the electricians later said it was a smugglers' place when they used to be going to London from Newhaven. Well, we went back upstairs and out. When he locked the door and put the key back under a flowerpot, it was like down there didn't exist. It was two worlds. It's always been like that. Some days I've woken up and it's all been like a dream, till I went down again. He looked at his watch. I'm interested, I said. Very interested. I was so nervous he looked at me surprised and I said, I think I'll have it. Just like that. I really surprised myself. Because before I always wanted something up to date, what they call contemporary. Not an old place stuck away. He stood there looking all gormless, surprised that I was so interested, surprised I had money, I suppose, like most of them. He went away back to Lewes then. He had to fetch someone else interested, so I said I would stay in the garden and think things over before a final decision. It was a nice garden, it runs back to a field which had lucerne then, lovely stuff for butterflies. The field goes up to a hill (that is north). East there are woods on both sides of the road running up from the valley towards Lewes. West there are fields. There is a farmhouse about three-quarters of a mile away down the hill, the nearest house. South you have a fine view, except it was blocked by the front hedge and some trees. Also a good garage. I went back to the house and got the key out and went down into the cellars again. The inner one must have been five or six feet under the earth. It was damp, the walls like wet wood in winter, I couldn't see very well because I only had my lighter. It was a bit frightening, but I am not the superstitious type.
Some might say I was lucky to find the place first go, however I would have found somewhere else sooner or later. I had the money. I had the will. Funny, what Crutchley called "push." I didn't push at the Annexe, it didn't suit me. But I would like to see Crutchley organize what I organized last 5 summer and carry it through. I am not going to blow my own | trumpet, but it was no small thing. I read in the paper the other day (Saying of the Day) -- "What Water is to the Body, Purpose is to the Mind." That is very true, in my humble opinion. When Miranda became the purpose of my life I should say I was at least as good as the next man, as it turned out.
I had to give five hundred more than they asked in the advert, others were after it, everyone fleeced me. The surveyor, the builder, the decorators, the furniture people in Lewes I got to furnish it. I didn't care, why should I, money was no object. I got long letters from Aunt Annie, which I wrote back to, giving her figures half what I really paid. I got the electricians to run a power cable down to the cellar, and the plumbers water and a sink. I made out I wanted to do carpentry and photography and that would be my workroom. It wasn't a lie, there was carpentry to do all right. And I was already taking some photographs I couldn't have developed in a shop. Nothing nasty. Just couples. At the end of August, the men moved out and I moved in. To begin with, I felt like in a dream. But that soon wore off. I wasn't left alone as much as I expected. A man came and wanted to do the garden, he'd always done it, and he got very nasty when I sent him away. Then the vicar from the village came and I had to be rude with him. I said I wanted to be left alone, I was Nonconformist, I wanted nothing to do with the village, and he went off la-di-da in a huff. Then there were several people with van-shops and I had to put them off. I said I bought all my goods in Lewes. I had the telephone disconnected, too. I soon got in the habit of locking the front gate, it was only a grille, but had a lock. Once or twice I saw tradesmen look-ing through, but people soon seemed to get the point. I was left alone, and could get on with my work.
I worked for a month or more getting my plans ready. I was alone all the time; not having any real friends was lucky. (You couldn't call the Annexe people friends, I didn't miss them, they didn't miss me.) I used to do odd jobs for Aunt Annie, Uncle Dick taught me. I wasn't bad at carpentering and so on, and I fitted out the room very nicely, though I say it myself. After I got it dried out I put several layers of insulating felt and then a nice bright orange carpet (cheerful) fitting the walls (which were whitewashed.) I got in a bed and a chest of drawers. Table, armchair, etcetera. I fixed up a screen in one corner and behind it a wash-table and a camper's lavatory and all the etceteras -- it was like a separate little room almost. I got other things, cases and a lot of art books and some novels to make it look homely, which it finally did. I didn't risk pictures, I knew she might have advanced taste. One problem of course was doors and noise. There was a good old oak frame in the door through to her room but no door, so I had to make one to fit, and that was my hardest job. The first one I made didn't work, but the second one was better. Even a man couldn't have bust it down, let alone a little thing like her. It was two-inch seasoned wood with sheet metal on the inside so she couldn't get at the wood. It weighed a ton and it was no joke getting it hung, but I did it. I fixed ten-inch bolts outside. Then I did something very clever. I made what looked like a bookcase, only for tools and things, out of some old wood and fitted it with wooden latches in the doorway, so that if you gave a casual look it just seemed that it was just an old recess fitted up with shelves. You lifted it out and there was the door through. It also stopped any noise getting out. I also fitted a bolt on the inner side of the door which had a lock too down to the cellar so I couldn't be disturbed. Also a burglar alarm. Only a simple one, for the night. What I did in the first cellar was I put in a small cooker and all the other facilities. I didn't know there wouldn't be snoopers and it would look funny if I was always carrying trays of food up and down. But being at the back of the house I didn't worry much, seeing there was only fields and woods. Two sides of the garden there is a wall, anyhow, and the rest is hedge you can't see through. It was nearly ideal. I did think of having a stair run down from inside, but the expense was high and I didn't want risk of suspicions. You can't trust workmen now, they want to know everything. All this time I never thought it was serious. I know that must sound very strange, but it was so. I used to say, of course, I'll never do it, this is only pretending. And I wouldn't have pretended even like that if I hadn't had all the time and money I wanted. In my opinion a lot of people who may seem happy now would do what I did or similar things if they had the money and the time. I mean, to give way to what they pretend now they shouldn't. Power corrupts, a teacher I had always said. And Money is Power. Another thing I did, I bought a lot of clothes for her at a store in London. What I did was, in one I saw an assistant just her size and I gave the colours I always saw Miranda wear and I got everything there they said a girl would need. I told a story about a girl-friend from the North who'd had all her juggage stolen and I wanted it to be a surprise, etcetera. I don't think she believed me in the store, but it was a good sale -- I paid out nearly ninety pounds that morning.
I could go on all night about the precautions. I used to go and sit in her room and work out what she could do to escape. I thought she might know about electricity, you never know with girls these days, so I always wore rubber heels, I never touched a switch without a good look first. I got a special incinerator to burn all her rubbish. I knew nothing of hers must ever leave the house. No laundry. There could always be something.
Well, at last I went back up to London to the Cremorne Hotel. For several days I watched for her but I didn't see her. It was a very anxious time, but I kept on. I didn't take the camera, I knew it was too risky, I was after bigger game than just a street shot. I went twice to the coffee-bar. One day I spent nearly two hours there pretending to read a book, but she didn't come. I began to get wild ideas, perhaps she'd died, perhaps she wasn't doing art there any more. Then one day (I didn't want the van to get too familiar) as I was getting off the Underground at Warren Street, I saw her. She was getting off a train coming from the north on the other platform. It was easy. I followed her out of the station, and saw her go off towards the College. The next days I watched the tube station. Perhaps she didn't always use the tube to go home, I didn't see her for two days, but then the third day I saw her cross the road and go into the station. That's how I found out where she came from. It was Hampstead. I did the same thing there. I waited for her to come out the next day and she did and I followed her about ten minutes through a lot of little streets to where she lived. I walked on past the house she went into and found out the number and then at the end of the road the name of it. It was a good day's work. I booked out of the Cremorne three days before, and every night I moved into a new hotel and booked out the next morning so that I couldn't be traced. In the van I had the bed ready and the straps and scarves. I was going to use chloroform, I used it once in the killing-bottle. A chap in Public Analysis let me have it. It doesn't go weak but just to make sure I decided to mix in a bit of carbon tetrachloride, what they call CTC and you can buy anywhere. I drove round the Hampstead district and learnt the A to Z for that part off and how to get quickly away down to Fosters. Everything was ready. So now I could watch and when I saw the chance, do it. I was really peculiar those days, I thought of everything, just like I'd been doing it all my life. Like I'd been a secret agent or a detective.
It finally ten days later happened as it sometimes does with butterflies. I mean you go to a place where you know you may see something rare and you don't, but the next time not looking for it you see it on a flower right in front of you, handed to you on a plate, as they say. This night I was outside the tube as usual with the van up a side street. It had been a fine day but close; and it came on to thunder and rain. I was standing in the doorway of a shop opposite the exit, and I saw her come up the steps just as it was teeming. I saw she had no raincoat, only a jumper. Soon she ran round the corner into the main part of the station. I crossed, there were a mass of people milling about. She was in a telephone box. Then she came out and instead of going up the hill like she usually did she went along another street. I followed her, I thought it was no good, I couldn't understand what she was doing. Then she suddenly shot up a side road and there was a cinema and she went in. I saw what it was, she had rung up where she lived to say it was raining hard and she was going in the cinema to wait for it to clear up. I knew it was my chance, unless someone came to meet her. When she had gone in, I went and saw how long the programme lasted. It was two hours. I took a risk, perhaps I wanted to give fate a chance to stop me. I went into a cafe and had my supper. Then I went to my van and parked where I could see the cinema. I didn't know what to expect, perhaps she was meeting a friend. I mean I felt I was swept on, like down rapids, I might hit something, I might get through. She came out alone, exactly two hours later, it had stopped raining more or less and it was almost dark, the sky overcast. I watched her go back the usual way up the hill. Then I drove off past her to a place I knew she must pass. It was where the road she lived in curved up away from another one. There was trees and bushes on one side, on the other a whopping big house in big grounds. I think it was empty. Higher up there were the other houses, all big. The first part of her walk was in bright-lit streets. There was just this one place. I had a special plastic bag sewn in my mac pocket, in which I put some of the chloroform and CTC and the pad so it was soaked and fresh. I kept the flap down, so the smell kept in, then in a second I could get it out when needed. Two old women with umbrellas (it began to spot with rain again) appeared and came up the road towards me. It was just what I didn't want, I knew she was due, and I nearly gave up then and there. But I bent right down, they passed talking nineteen to the dozen, I don't think they even saw me or the van. There were cars parked everywhere in that district. A minute passed. I got out and opened the back. It was all planned. And then she was near. She'd come up and round without me seeing, only twenty yards away, walking quickly. If it had been a clear night I don't know what I'd have done. But there was this wind in the trees. Gusty. I could see there was no one behind her. Then she was right beside me, coming up the pavement. Funny, singing to herself. I said, excuse me, do you know anything about dogs? She stopped, surprised. "Why?" she said. It's awful, I've just run one over, I said. It dashed out. I don't know what to do with it. It's not dead. I looked into the back, very worried. "Oh the poor thing," she said. She came towards me, to look in. Just as I hoped. There's no blood, I said, but it can't move. Then she came round the end of the open back door, and I stood back as if to let her see. She bent forward to peer in, I flashed a look down the road, no one, and then I got her. She didn't make a sound, she seemed so surprised, I got the pad I'd been holding in my pocket right across her mouth and nose, I caught her to me, I could smell the fumes, she struggled like the dickens, but she wasn't strong, smaller even than I'd thought. She made a sort of gurgling. I looked down the road again, I was thinking this is it, she'll fight and I shall have to hurt her or run away. I was ready to bolt for it. And then suddenly she went limp, I was holding her up instead of holding her quiet. I got her half into the van, then I jerked open the other door, got in and pulled her after me, then shut the doors quietly to. I rolled and lifted her on to the bed. She was mine, I felt suddenly very excited, I knew I'd done it. I put the gag on first, then I strapped her down, no hurry, no panic, like I planned. Then I scrambled into the driving seat. It all took not a minute. I drove up the road, not fast, slow and quiet, and turned to a place I'd noticed on Hampstead Heath. There I got into the back again, and did the tying up properly, with the scarves and everything, so that she wouldn't be hurt, and so she couldn't scream or bang the sides or anything. She was still unconscious, but she was breathing, I could hear her, as if she had catarrh, so I knew she was all right.
Near Redhill I drove off the main road as planned and up a lonely side road and then got in the back to look at her. I laid a torch where it gave a bit of light and I could see. She was awake. Her eyes seemed very big, they didn't seem frightened, they seemed proud almost, as if she'd decided not to be frightened, not at any price. I said, don't be alarmed, I'm not going to hurt you. She remained staring at me. It was embarrassing, I didn't know what to say. I said, are you all right, do you want anything, but it sounded silly. I really meant did she want to go outside. She began to shake her head. I could see she meant the gag was hurting. I said, we're miles in the country, it's no good screaming, if you do, I'll put the gag straight back, do you understand? She nodded, so I undid the scarf. Before I could do anything she reached up as high as she could and sideways and she was sick. It was horrible. I could smell the chloroform and the sick. She didn't say anything. She just groaned. I lost my head, I didn't know what to do. I suddenly felt we had to get home as quick as possible, so I put the gag on again. She struggled, I heard her say under the cloth, no, no, it was horrible, but I made myself do it because I knew it was for the best in the end. Then I got into the driving-seat and on we went. We got here just after half past ten. I drove into the garage, went and looked about to make sure nothing had happened in my absence, not that I expected anything. But I didn't want to spoil the ship for the little bit of tar. I went down to her room, everything was all right, not too stuffy because I'd left the door open. I slept in it one night before to see if there was enough air and there was. There were all the doings to make tea with and so on. It looked very snug and cosy. Well, at last the great moment was come. I went up to the garage and opened the back of the van. Like the rest of the operation it went according to plan. I got the straps off her, made her sit up, her legs and feet still bound of course. She kicked about for a moment, I was obliged to say that if she did not keep quiet I would have to resort to more of the chloro and CTC (which I showed), but that if she kept still I wouldn't hurt her. That did the trick. I lifted her, she was not so heavy as I thought; I got her down quite easily; we did have a bit of a struggle at the door of her room, but there wasn't much she could do then. I put her on the bed. It was done. Her face was white, some of the sick had gone on her navy jumper, she was a real sight; but her eyes weren't afraid. It 'twas funny. She just stared at me, waiting. I said, this is your room. If you do what I say, you won't be hurt. It's no good shouting. You can't be heard outside and anyway there's never anyone to hear. I'm going to leave you now, there's some biscuits and sandwiches (I bought some in Hampstead) and if you want to make tea or cocoa. I'll come back tomorrow morning, I said. I could see she wanted me to take the gag off, but I wouldn't do it. What I did was I undid her arms and then immediately went back out; she struggled to get the gag off, but I got the door closed first and the bolts in. I heard her cry, come back! Then again but not loud. Then she tried the door, but not very hard. Then she began to bang on the door with something hard. I think it was the hairbrush. It didn't sound much, anyhow I put the false shelf in and knew you wouldn't hear anything outside. I stayed an hour in the outer cellar, just in case. It wasn't necessary, there was nothing in her room she could have broken the door down with even if she had the strength, I bought all plastic cups and saucers and aluminium teapot and cutlery, etcetera. Eventually I went up and went to bed. She was my guest at last and that was all I cared about. I lay awake a long time, thinking about things. I felt a bit unsure the van would be traced, but there were hundreds of vans like that, and the only people I really worried about were those two women who passed. Well, I lay there thinking of her below, lying awake too. I had nice dreams, dreams where I went down and comforted her; I was excited, perhaps I went a bit far in what I gave myself to dream, but I wasn't really worried, I knew my love was worthy of her. Then I went to sleep.
After, she was telling me what a bad thing I did and how I ought to try and realize it more. I can only say that evening I was very happy, as I said, and it was more like I had done something very daring, like climbing Everest or doing something in enemy territory. My feelings were very happy because my intentions were of the best. It was what she never understood. To sum up, that night was the best thing I ever did in my life (bar winning the pools in the first place). It was like catching the Mazarine Blue again or a Queen of Spain Fritil-lary. I mean it was like something you only do once in a lifetime and even then often not; something you dream about more than you ever expect to see come true, in fact.
I didn't need the alarm, I was up before. I went down, locking the cellar door behind me. I'd planned everything, I knocked on her door and shouted please get up, and waited ten minutes and then drew the bolts and went in. I had her bag with me which I had searched, of course. There was nothing she could use except a nail-file and a razor-blade cutter which I removed. The light was on, she was standing by the armchair. She'd got all her clothes on and she stared at me again, no sign of fear, bold as brass she was. It's funny, she didn't look quite like I'd always remembered her. Of course I'd never seen her so close before. I said, I hope you slept well. "Where is this, who are you, why have you brought me here?" She said it very coldly, not at all violent. I can't tell you. She said, "I demand to be released at once. This is monstrous." We just stood staring at each other. "Get out of the way. I'm going to leave." And she came straight towards me, towards the door. But I didn't budge. I thought for a minute she was going to attack me, but she must have seen it was silly. I was determined, she couldn't have won. She stopped right up close to me and said, "Get out of the way." I said, you can't go yet. Please don't oblige me to use force again. She gave me a fierce cold look, then she turned away. "I don't know who you think I am. If you think I'm somebody rich's daughter and you're going to get a huge ransom, you've got a shock coming." I know who you are, I said. It's not money. I didn't know what to say, I was so excited, her there at last in the flesh. So nervous. I wanted to look at her face, at her lovely hair, all of her all small and pretty, but I couldn't, she stared so at me. There was a funny pause. Suddenly she said accusing like, "And don't I know who you are?" I began to go red, I couldn't help it, I never planned for that, I never thought she would know me. She said slowly, "Town Hall Annexe." I said, I don't know what you mean. "You've got a moustache," she said. I still don't know how she knew. She saw me a few times in the town, I suppose, perhaps she saw me out of the windows of their house sometimes, I hadn't thought of that, my mind was all in a whirl. She said, "Your photo was in the paper." I've always hated to be found out, I don't know why, I've always tried to explain, I mean invent stories to explain. Suddenly I saw a way out. I said, I'm only obeying orders. "Orders," she said. "Whose orders?" I can't tell you. She would keep staring at me. Keeping her distance, too. I suppose she thought I would attack her. "Whose orders?" she said again. I tried to think of someone. I don't know why, the only name I could think of she might know was Mr. Singleton. He was the manager of the Barclays. I knew her father banked there. I saw him several times in there when I was, and talking with Mr. Singleton. Mr. Singleton's orders, I said. She looked really amazed, so I went on quick. I'm not meant to tell you, I said, he'd kill me if he knew. "Mr. Singleton?" she said, as if she wasn't hearing properly. He's not what you think, I said. Suddenly she sat down on the arm of the armchair, like it was all too much for her. "You mean Mr. Singleton ordered you to kidnap me?" I nodded. "But I know his daughter. He's . . . oh, it's mad," she said. Do you remember the girl in Penhurst Road? "What girl in Penhurst Road?" The one that disappeared three years ago. It was something I invented. My mind was really quick that morning. So I thought. "I was probably away at school. What happened to her?" I don't know. Except he did it. "Did what?" I don't know. I don't know what happened to her. But he did it, whatever it was. She's never been heard of since. Suddenly she said, "Have you got a cigarette?" I was all awkward, I got a packet out of my pocket and my lighter and went and passed them to her. I didn't know if I ought to light her cigarette, but it seemed silly. I said, you haven't eaten anything. She held the cigarette, very ladylike, between her fingers. She'd cleaned the jumper up. The air was stuffy. She took no notice. It was funny. I knew she knew I was lying. "You're telling me that Mr. Singleton is a sex maniac and he kidnaps girls and you help him?" I said, I have to. I stole some money from the bank, I'd go to prison if they found out, he holds it over me, you see. All the time she was staring at me. She had great big clear eyes, very curious, always wanting to find out. (Not snoopy, of course.) "You won a lot of money, didn't you?" I knew what I said was confused. I felt all hot and bothered. "Why didn't you pay back the money then? What was it -- seventy thousand pounds? You didn't steal all that? Or perhaps you just help him for the fun of it?" There's other things I can't tell you. I'm in his power. She stood up with her hands in her skirt pockets. She stared at herself in the mirror (metal, of course, not glass) for a change. "What's he going to do to me?" I don't know. "Where is he now?" He'll be coming. I expect. She said nothing for a minute. Then she suddenly looked as if she'd thought of something nasty, what I said might be true sort of thing. "Of course. This must be his house in Suffolk." Yes, I said, thinking I was clever. "He hasn't got a house in Suffolk," she said, all cold. You don't know, I said. But it sounded feeble. She was going to speak but I felt I had to stop her questions, I didn't know she was so sharp. Not like normal people. I came to ask you what you'd like for breakfast, there's cereal, eggs, etcetera. "I don't want any breakfast," she said. "This horrid little room. And that anaesthetic. What was it?" I didn't know it would make you sick. Really. "Mr. Singleton should have told you." You could see she didn't believe it about him. She was being sarcastic. I said in a hurry, would you like tea or coffee and she said coffee, if you drink some first, so with that I left her and went out to the outer cellar. Just before I shut the door she said, "You've forgotten your lighter." I've got another. (I hadn't.) "Thank you," she said. It was funny, she almost smiled.
I made the Nescafe and I took it in and she watched me drink some and then she drank some. All the time she asked questions, no, all the time I felt she might ask a question, she'd come out quickly with a question to try and catch me. About how long she had to stay, why I was being so kind to her. I made up answers, but I knew they sounded feeble, it wasn't easy to invent quickly with her. In the end I said I was going into the shops and she was to tell me what she wanted. I said I'd buy anything she wanted. "Anything?" she said. In reason, I said. "Mr. Singleton told you to?" No. This is from me. "I just want to be set free," she said. I couldn't get her to say anything more. It was horrible, she suddenly wouldn't speak, so I had to leave her.
She wouldn't speak again at lunch. I cooked the lunch in the outer cellar and took it in. But hardly any of it was eaten. She tried to bluff her way out again, cold as ice she was, but I wasn't having any. That evening after her supper, which she likewise didn't eat much, I went and sat by the door. For some time she sat smoking, with her eyes shut, as if the sight of me tired her eyes. "I've been thinking. All you've told me about Mr. Singleton is a story. I don't believe it. He's just not that sort of man, for one thing. And if he was, he wouldn't have you working for him. He wouldn't have made all these fantastic preparations." I didn't say anything, I couldn't look at her. "You've gone to a lot of trouble. All those clothes in there, all these art books. I added up their cost this afternoon. Forty-three pounds." It was like she was talking to herself. "I'm your prisoner, but you want me to be a happy prisoner. So there are two possibilities: you're holding me to ransom, you're in a gang or something." I'm not. I told you. "You know who I am. You must know my father's not rich or anything. So it can't be ransom." It was uncanny, hearing her think it out. "The only other thing is sex. You want to do something to me." She was watching me. It was a question. It shocked me. It's not that at all. I shall have all proper respect. I'm not that sort. I sounded quite curt. "Then you must be mad," she said. "In a nice kind way, of course." "You admit that the Mr. Singleton story is not true?" I wanted to break it gently, I said. "Break what?" she asked. "Rape? Murder?" I never said that, I answered. She always seemed to get me on the defensive. In my dreams it was always the other way round. "Why am I here?" I want you to be my guest. "Your guest!" She stood up and walked round the armchair and leant against the back, eyes on me all the time. She'd taken her blue jumper off, she stood there in a dark green tartan dress, like a schoolgirl tunic, with a white blouse open at the throat. Her hair swept back into the pigtail. Her lovely face. She looked brave. I don't know why, I thought of her sitting on my knees, very still, with me stroking her soft blonde hair, all out loose as I saw it after. Suddenly I said, I love you. It's driven me mad. She said, "I see," in a queer grave voice. She didn't look at me any more then. I know it's old-fashioned to say you love a woman, I never meant to do it then. In my dreams it was always we looked into each other's eyes one day and then we kissed and nothing was said until after. A chap called Nobby in R.A.P.C. who knew all about women, always said you shouldn't ever tell a woman you loved her. Even if you did. If you had to say "I love you," you said it joking -- he said that way it kept them after you. You had to play hard to get. The silly thing was I told myself a dozen times before I mustn't tell her I loved her, but let it come naturally on both sides. But when I had her there my head went round and I often said things I didn't mean to. I don't mean I told her everything. I told her about working in the Annexe and seeing her and thinking about her and the way she behaved and walked and all she'd meant to me and then having money and knowing she'd never look at me in spite of it and being lonely. When I stopped she was sitting on the bed looking at the carpet. We didn't speak for what seemed a long time. There was just the whir of the fan in the outer cellar. I felt ashamed. All red. "Do you think you'll make me love you by keeping me prisoner?" I want you to get to know me. "As long as I'm here you'll just be a kidnapper to me. You know that?" I got up. I didn't want to be with her any more. "Wait," she said, coming towards me, "I'll make a promise. I understand. Really. Let me go. I'll tell no one, and nothing will happen." It was the first time she'd given me a kind look. She was saying, trust me, plain as words. A little smile round her eyes, looking up at me. All eager. "You could. We could be friends. I could help you." Looking up at me there. "It's not too late." I couldn't say what I felt, I just had to leave her; she was really hurting me. So I closed the door and left her. I didn't even say good night. No one will understand, they will think I was just after her for the obvious. Sometimes when I looked at the books before she came, it was what I thought, or I didn't know. Only when she came it was all different, I didn't think about the books or about her posing, things like that disgusted me, it was because I knew they would disgust her too. There was something so nice about her you had to be nice too, you could see she sort of expected it. I mean having her real made other things seem nasty. She was not like some woman you don't respect so you don't care what you do, you respected her and you had to be very careful.
I didn't sleep much that night, because I was shocked the way things had gone, my telling her so much the very first day and how she made me seem a fool. There were moments when I thought I'd have to go down and drive her back to London like she wanted. I could go abroad. But then I thought of her face and the way her pigtail hung down a bit sideways and twisted and how she stood and walked and her lovely clear eyes. I knew I couldn't do it. After breakfast -- that morning she ate a bit of cereal and had some coffee, when we didn't speak at all -- she was up and dressed, but the bed had been made differently from at first so she must have slept in it. Anyhow she stopped me when I was going out. "I'd like to talk with you." I stopped. "Sit down," she said. I sat down on the chair by the steps down. "Look, this is mad. If you love me in any real sense of the word love you can't want to keep me here. You can see I'm miserable. The air, I can't breathe at nights, I've woken up with a headache. I should die if you kept me here long." She looked really concerned. It won't be very long. I promise. She got up and stood by the chest of drawers, and stared at me. "What's your name?" she said. Clegg, I answered. "Your first name?" Ferdinand. She gave me a quick sharp look. "That's not true," she said. I remembered I had my wallet in my coat with my initials in gold I'd bought and I showed it. She wasn't to know F stood for Frederick. I've always liked Ferdinand, it's funny, even before I knew her. There's something foreign and distinguished about it. Uncle Dick used to call me it sometimes, joking. Lord Ferdinand Clegg, Marquis of Bugs, he used to say. It's just a coincidence, I said. "I suppose people call you Ferdie. Or Ferd." Always Ferdinand. "Look, Ferdinand, I don't know what you see in me. I don't know why you're in love with me. Perhaps I could fall in love with you somewhere else. I . . ." she didn't seem to know what to say, which was unusual ". . . I _do_ like gentle, kind men. But I couldn't possibly fall in love with you in this room, I couldn't fall in love with anyone here. Ever." I answered, I just want to get to know you. All the time she was sitting on the chest of drawers, watching me to see what effect the things she said had. So I was suspicious. I knew it was a test. "But you can't kidnap people just to get to know them!" I want to know you very much. I wouldn't have a chance in London. I'm not clever and all that. Not your class. You wouldn't be seen dead with me in London. "That's not fair. I'm not a snob. I hate snobs. I don't pre-judge people." I'm not blaming you, I said. "I hate snobbism." She was quite violent. She had a way of saying some words very strong, very emphatic. "Some of my best friends in London are -- well, what some people call working class. In origin. We just don't think about it." Like Peter Catesby, I said. (That was the young man with the sports car's name.) "Him! I haven't seen him for months. He's just a middle-class suburban oaf." I could still see her climbing into his flashy M.G. I didn't know whether to trust her. "I suppose it's in all the papers." I haven't looked. "You might go to prison for years." Be worth it. Be worth going for life, I said. "I promise, I swear that if you let me go I will not tell anyone. I'll tell them all some story. I will arrange to meet you as often as you like, as often as I can when I'm not working. Nobody will ever know about this except us." I can't, I said. Not now. I felt like a cruel king, her appealing like she did. "If you let me go now I shall begin to admire you. I shall think, he had me at his mercy, but he was chivalrous, he behaved like a real gentleman." I can't, I said. Don't ask. Please don't ask. "I should think, someone like that must be worth knowing." She sat perched there, watching me. I've got to go now, I said. I went out so fast I fell over the top step. She got off the drawers and stood looking up at me in the door with a strange expression. "Please," she said. Very gently and nicely. It was difficult to resist. It was like not having a net and catching a specimen you wanted in your first and second fingers (I was always very clever at that), coming up slowly behind and you had it, but you had to nip the thorax, and it would be quivering there. It wasn't easy like it was with a killing-bottle. And it was twice as difficult with her, because I didn't want to kill her, that was the last thing I wanted.
She often went on about how she hated class distinction, but she never took me in. It's the way people speak that gives them away, not what they say. You only had to see her dainty ways to see how she was brought up. She wasn't la-di-da, like many, but it was there all the same. You could see it when she got sarcastic and impatient with me because I couldn't explain myself or I did things wrong. Stop thinking about class, she'd say. Like a rich man telling a poor man to stop thinking about money. I don't hold it against her, she probably said and did some of the shocking things she did to show me she wasn't really refined, but she was. When she was angry she could get right up on her high horse and come it over me with the best of them. There was always class between us.
I went into Lewes that morning. Partly I wanted to see the papers, I bought the lot. All of them had something. Some of the tripe papers had quite a lot, two had photographs. It was funny, reading the reports. There were things I didn't know before.
Longhaired blonde, art-student Miranda Grey, 20, who last year won a major scholarship to London's top Slade School of Art, is missing. She lived in term-time at 29 Hamnet Rd., N.W.3, with her aunt, Miss C. Vanbrugh-Jones, who late yesterday night alerted the police. After class on Tuesday Miranda phoned to say she was going; to a cinema and would be home soon after eight. That was the last time she was seen.
There was a big photo of her and beside it it said: _Have You Seen This Girl?_ Another paper gave me a good laugh.
Hampstead residents have been increasingly concerned in recent months about prowling "wolves" in cars. Piers Broughton, a fellow-student and close friend of Miranda, told me in the coffee-bar he often took Miranda to, that she seemed perfectly happy the day of her disappearance and had arranged to go to an exhibition with him only today. He said, "Miranda knows what London is like. She's the last person to take a lift from a stranger or anything like that. I'm most terribly worried about all this." A spokesman for the Slade School said, "She is one of our most promising second-year students. We are sure that there is some quite harmless explanation for her disappearance. Artistic young people have their whims." There the mystery rests. The police are asking anyone who saw Miranda on Tuesday evening, or who heard or noticed anything suspicious in the Hampstead area, to get in touch with them.
They said what clothes she was wearing and so on and there was a photo. Another paper said the police were going to drag the ponds on Hampstead Heath. One talked about Piers Broughton and how he and she were unofficially engaged. I wondered if he was the beatnik I saw her with. Another said, "She is one of the most popular students, always willing to help." They all said she was pretty. There were photos. If she was ugly it would all have been two lines on the back page. I sat in the van on the road verge on the way back and read all the papers said. It gave me a feeling of power, I don't know why. All those people searching and me knowing the answer. When I drove on I decided definitely I'd say nothing to her. As it happened, the first thing she asked me about when I got back was newspapers. Was there anything about her? I said I hadn't looked and I wasn't going to look. I said I wasn't interested in the papers, all they printed was a lot of tripe. She didn't insist. I never let her see papers. I never let her have a radio or television. It happened one day before ever she came I was reading a book called _Secrets of the Gestapo_ -- all about the tortures and so on they had to do in the war, and how one of the first things to put up with if you were a prisoner was the not knowing what was going on outside the prison. I mean they didn't let the prisoners know anything, they didn't even let them talk to each other, so they were cut off from their old world. And that broke them down. Of course, I didn't want to break her down as the Gestapo wanted to break their prisoners down. But I thought it would be better if she was cut off from the outside world, she'd have to think about me more. So in spite of many attempts on her part to make me get her the papers and a radio I wouldn't ever let her have them. The first days I didn't want her to read about all the police were doing, and so on, because it would have only upset her. It was almost a kindness, as you might say.
That night I cooked her a supper of fresh frozen peas and frozen chicken in white sauce and she ate it and seemed to like it. After, I said, can I stay a bit? "If you want," she said. She was sitting on the bed, with the blanket folded at her back like a cushion, against the wall, her feet folded under her. For a time she just smoked and looked at one of the art picture books I'd bought her. "Do you know anything about art?" she asked. Nothing you'd call knowledge. "I knew you didn't. You wouldn't imprison an innocent person if you did." I don't see the connection, I said. She closed the book. "Tell me about yourself. Tell me what you do in your free time." I'm an entomologist. I collect butterflies. "Of course," she said. "I remember they said so in the paper. Now you've collected me." She seemed to think it was funny, so I said, in a manner of speaking. "No, not in a manner of speaking. Literally. You've pinned me in this little room and you can come and gloat over me." I don't think of it like that at all. "Do you know I'm a Buddhist? I hate anything that takes life. Even insects' lives." You ate the chicken, I said. I caught her that time. "But I despise myself. If I was a better person I'd be a vegetarian." I said, if you asked me to stop collecting butterflies, I'd do it. I'd do anything you asked me. "Except let me fly away." I'd rather not talk about that. It doesn't get us anywhere. "Anyway, I couldn't respect anyone, and especially a man, who did things just to please me. I'd want him to do them because he believed they were right." All the time she used to get at me, you'd think we were talking about something quite innocent, and suddenly she'd be digging at me. I didn't speak. "How long shall I be here?" I don't know, I said. It depends. "On what?" I didn't say anything. I couldn't. "On my falling in love with you?" It was like nagging. "Because if it does, I shall be here until I die." I didn't answer that. "Go away," she said. "Go away and think it over."
The next morning she made the first attempt to escape. She didn't catch me off guard, exactly, but it taught me a lesson. She had her breakfast and then she told me her bed was loose, it was the far back leg, right up in the corner. I thought it was going to collapse, she said, there's a nut loose. Like a mutt I went to help her hold it and suddenly she gave me a heavy push, just as I was off balance, and ran past me. She was at the steps and up them like lightning. I had allowed for it, there was a safety hook holding the door back open and a wedge she was trying to kick away when I came after her. Well, she turned and ran, screaming help, help, help, and up the steps to the outer door, which was of course locked. She pulled at it and banged it and went screaming on, but I got her then. I hated doing it, but action was necessary. I got her round the waist and one hand over her mouth and dragged her down back. She lucked and struggled, but of course she was too small and I may not be Mr. Atlas but I am not a weakling either. In the end she went limp and I let her go. She stood a moment, then she suddenly jumped and hit me across the face. It didn't really hurt but the shock of it was most nasty, coming when I least expected it and after I'd been so reasonable when others might have lost their heads. Then she went into the room slamming the door behind her. I felt like going in and having it out with her, but I knew she was angry. There was real hatred in her looks. So I bolted the door and put up the false door.
The next thing was she wouldn't talk. That next lunch she said not a word when I spoke to her and said I was ready to let bygones be bygones. She just gave me a big look of contempt. It was the same that evening. When I came to clear, she handed me the tray and turned away. She made it very plain she didn't want me to stay. I thought she'd get over it, but the next day it was worse. Not only she didn't speak, she didn't eat. Please don't do this, I said. It's no good. But she wouldn't say a word, wouldn't even look at me. The next day it was the same. She wouldn't eat, she wouldn't speak. I'd been waiting for her to wear some of the clothes I'd bought, but she kept on wearing the white blouse and the green tartan tunic. I began to get really worried, I didn't know how long people could go without food, she seemed pale and weak to me. She spent all the time sitting against the wall on her bed, her back turned, looking so miserable I didn't know what to do. The next day I took in coffee for breakfast and some nice toast and cereal and marmalade. I let it wait a bit so she could smell it. Then I said, I don't expect you to understand me, I don't expect you to love me like most people, I just want you to try and understand me as much as you can and like me a little if you can. She didn't move. I said, I'll make a bargain. I'll tell you when you can go away, but only on certain conditions. I don't know why I said it. I knew really I could never let her go away. It wasn't just a barefaced lie, though. Often I did think she would go away when we agreed, a promise was a promise, etcetera. Other times I knew I couldn't let her do it. She turned then and stared at me. It was the first sign of life she'd shown for three days. I said, my conditions are that you eat food and you talk to me like you did at the beginning and don't try to escape like that. "I can never agree to the last." What about the first two, I said. (I thought even if she did promise not to escape, I'd still have to take precautions, so it was pointless, that condition.) "You haven't said when," she said. In six weeks, I said. She just turned away again. Five weeks then, I said after a bit. "I'll stay here a week and not a day more." Well, I said I couldn't agree to that and she turned away again. Then she was crying. I could see her shoulders moving, I wanted to go up to her, I did near the bed but she turned so sharp I think she thought I was going to attack her. Full of tears her eyes were. Cheeks wet. It really upset me to see her like that. Please be reasonable. You know what you are to me now; can't you see I haven't made all these arrangements just so you'd stay a week more? "I hate you, I hate you." I'll give you my word, I said. When the time's up you can go as soon as you like. She wouldn't have it. It was funny, she sat there crying and staring at me, her face was all pink. I thought she was going to come at me again, she looked as if she wanted to. But then she began to dry her eyes. Then she lit a cigarette. And then she said, "Two weeks." I said, you say two, I say five. I'll agree to a month. That'd be November the fourteenth. There was a pause, and she said, "Four weeks is November the eleventh." I was worried about her, I wanted to clinch it, so I said, I meant a calendar month, but make it twenty-eight days. I'll give you the odd three days, I said. "Thank you very much." Sarcastic, of course. I handed her a cup of coffee, which she took. "I've some conditions too," she said before she drunk it. "I can't live all the time down here. I must have some fresh air and light. I must have a bath sometimes. I must have some drawing materials. I must have a radio or a record-player. I need things from the chemist. I must have fresh fruit and salads. I must have some sort of exercise." If I let you go outside, you'll escape, I said. She sat up. She must have been acting it up a bit before, she changed so quickly. "Do you know what on parole means?" I replied yes. "You could let me out on parole. I'd promise not to shout or try to escape." I said, have your breakfast and I'll think about it. "No! It's not much to ask. If this house really is lonely, it's no risk." It's lonely all right, I said. But I couldn't decide. "I'm going on hunger strike again." She turned round, she was really putting on the pressure, as they say. Of course you can have drawing materials, I said. You only had to ask anyhow. And a gramophone. Any records you want. Books. The same with food. I told you you need only ask. Anything like that. "Fresh air?" She still had her back turned. It's too dangerous. Well, there was a silence, she spoke as plain as words, though, and in the end I gave in. Perhaps at night. I'll see. "When?" She turned then. I'll have to think. I'd have to tie you up. "But I'd be on parole." Take it or leave it, I said. "The bath?" I could fix up something, I said. "I want a proper bath in a proper bath. There must be one upstairs." Something I thought a lot about was how I would like her to see my house and all the furnishings! It was partly I wanted to see her there in it, naturally when I had dreams she was upstairs with me, not down in the cellar. I'm like that, I act on impulse sometimes, taking risks others wouldn't. I'll see, I said. I'd have to make arrangements. "If I gave you my word, I wouldn't break it." I'm sure, I said. So that was that. It seemed to clear the air, so to speak. I respected her and she respected me more afterwards. The first thing she did was write out a list of things she wanted. I had to find an art-shop in Lewes and buy special paper and all sorts of pencils and things: sepia and Chinese ink and brushes, special hair and sizes and makes. Then there were things from the chemist: smell-removers and so on. It was a danger getting ladies' things I couldn't want for myself, but I took the risk. Then she wrote down food to buy, she had to have fresh coffee, and a lot of fruit and vegetables and greens -- she was very particular about that. Anyway after she used to write down almost every day what we had to buy, she used to tell me how to cook it too, it was just like having a wife, an invalid one you had to do shopping for. I was careful in Lewes, I never went to the same shop twice running so that they wouldn't think I was buying a lot for one person. Somehow I always thought people could tell I lived on my own. That first day I bought a gramophone too. Only a small one, but I must say she looked very pleased, I didn't want her to know I didn't know anything about music but I saw a record with some orchestra music by Mozart so I bought that. It was a good buy, she liked it and so me for buying it. One day much later when we were hearing it, she was crying. I mean, her eyes were wet. After, she said he was dying when he wrote it and he knew he was dying. It just sounded like all the rest to me but of course she was musical.
Well, the next day she brought up the business about having a bath and fresh air again. I didn't know what to do; I went up to the bathroom to think about it without promising anything. The bathroom window was over the porch round the cellar door. Out the back, which was safer. In the end I got up some wood and boarded across the frame, three-inch screws, so she couldn't signal with the light or climb out. Not that there was anyone likely to be out the back late at night. That took care of the bathroom. What I did next was I pretended she was with me and walked up from below to see where the danger spots would be. The downstairs rooms had wooden inside shutters, it was easy to draw them across and lock them (later I got padlocks) so she couldn't attract attention through a window and no snoopers could be looking in and seeing things. In the kitchen I made sure all knives etcetera were well out" of harm's way. I thought of everything she could do to try and escape and in the end I felt it was safe. Well, after supper she was on to me again about the bath and I let her begin to go sulky again and then I said, all right, I will take the risk, but if you break your promise, you stay here. "I never break promises." Will you give me your parole of honour? "I give you my word of honour that I shall not try to escape." Or signal. "Or signal." I'm going to tie you up. "But that's insulting." I wouldn't blame you if you broke your word, I said. "But I . . ." she didn't finish, she just shrugged and turned and held her hands behind her. I had a scarf ready to take the pressure of the cord, I did it real tight but not so as to hurt, then I was going to gag her, but first she had me collect up the wash-things she needed and (I was very glad to see) she had chosen some of the clothes I had bought. I carried her things and went first, up the steps in the outer cellar and she waited till I unlocked the door and came up when I ordered, having first listened to make sure no one was about. It was very dark of course, but clear, you could see some stars. I took her arm tight and let her stand there for five minutes. I could hear her breathing deep. It was very romantic, her head came just up to my shoulder. You can hear it's a long way from anywhere, I said. When the time was up (I had to pull her) we went in through the kitchen and dining-room and into the hall and up the stairs to the bathroom. There's no lock on the door, I said, you can't shut it even, I've nailed a block in, but I shall respect your every privacy providing you keep your word. I shall be here. I had a chair on the landing outside. I am now going to take your hand-cords off if you give me your word you will keep the gag on. Nod your head. Well, she did, so I untied her hands. She rubbed them a bit, just to get at me, I suppose, then went in the bathroom. All went off without trouble, I heard her have her bath, splashing etcetera, quite natural, but I got a shock when she came out. She hadn't got the gag on. That was one shock. The other was the way she was changed with the new clothes and her hair washed, it hung all wet and loose on her shoulders. It seemed to make her softer, even younger; not that she was ever hard or ugly. I must have looked stupid, looking angry because of the gag, and then not being able to be it because she looked so lovely. She spoke very quick. "Look, it began to hurt horribly. I've given you my word. I give it to you again. You can put this back on if you like -- here. But I would have screamed by now if I'd wanted to." She handed me the gag and there was something in her look, I couldn't put it on again. I said, the hands will do. She had on her green tunic, but with one of the shirts I bought and I guessed she had on the new underclothes underneath. I did up her hands behind her back. I'm sorry I'm so suspicious, I said. It's just that you're all I've got that makes life worth living. It was the wrong moment to say a thing like that, I know, but having her standing there like that, it was too much. I said, if you went, I think I'd do myself in. "You need a doctor." I just made a noise. "I'd like to help you." You think I'm mad because of what I've done. I'm not mad. It's just, well, I've got no one else. There's never been anyone but you I've ever wanted to know. "That's the worst kind of illness," she said. She turned round then, all this was while I was tying. She looked down. "I feel sorry for you." Then she changed, she said, "What about washing? I've washed some things. Can I hang them out? Or is there a laundry?" I said, I'll dry them in the kitchen. You can't send anything to the laundry. "What now?" And she looked round. There was something mischievous about her sometimes, you could see she was looking for trouble, in a nice way. Teasing like. "Aren't you going to show me your house?" She had a real smile on, the first I ever saw; I couldn't do anything but smile back. It's late, I said. "How old is it?" She spoke as if she didn't hear me. There's a stone says 1621 over the door. "This is the wrong-coloured carpet. You ought to have rush matting or something. And those pictures -- horrible!" She moved along the landing to see them. Cunning. They cost enough, I said. "It's not money you go by." I can't say how strange it was, us standing there. Her making criticisms like a typical woman. "Can I look in the rooms?" I wasn't myself, I couldn't resist the pleasure, so I stood with her in the doorways and showed them, the one ready for Aunt Annie, and Mabel's, if they ever came, and mine. Miranda looked very close round each one. Of course the curtains were drawn, and I watched right next to her to see she didn't try any funny business. I got a firm to do it all, I said, when we were at the door of mine. "You're very neat." She saw some old pictures of butterflies I bought in an antique shop. I chose them, I said. "They're the only decent things here." Well, there we were, she was making compliments and I admit I was pleased. Then she said, "How quiet it is. I've been listening for cars. I think it must be North Essex." I knew it was a test, she was watching me. You've guessed right, I said. Acting surprised. Suddenly she said, "It's funny, I should be shivering with fear. But I feel safe with you." I'll never hurt you. Unless you force me to. It was suddenly as I always hoped, we were getting to know each other, she was beginning to see me for what I really was. She said, "That air was wonderful. You can't imagine. Even this air. It's free. It's everything I'm not." And she walked away, so I had to follow her downstairs. At the bottom in the hall she said, "Can I look in here?" Hung for a sheep as well as a lamb, I thought, anyway the shutters were across and the curtains. She went in the lounge and looked round it, touring round and looking at everything with her hands behind her back, it was comic, really. "It's a lovely room. It's wicked to fill it with all this shoddy stuff. Such muck!" She actually kicked one of the chairs. I suppose I looked like I felt (offended) because she said, "But you must see it's wrong! Those terrible chichi wall-lamps and" -- she suddenly caught sight of them -- "not china wild duck!" She looked at me with real anger, then back at the ducks. "My arms ache. Would you mind tying my hands in front of me for a change?" I didn't want to spoil the mood, as they say, I couldn't see any harm, as soon as I had the cords off her hands (I was all ready for trouble) she turned and held her hands out in front for me to tie, which I did. Then she shocked me. She went up to the fireplace where the wild duck were, there were three hung up, thirty-bob each and before you could say Jack Knife she had them off the hook and bang crash on the hearth. In smithereens. Thank you very much, I said, very sarcastic. "A house as old as this has a soul. And you can't do things like that to beautiful things like this old, old room so many people have lived in. Can't you feel that?" I haven't any experience in furnishing, I said. She just gave me a funny look and went past me into the room opposite, what I called the dining-room, though the furniture people called it the dual-purpose room, it was half fitted out for me to work in. There were my three cabinets, which she saw at once. "Aren't you going to show me my fellow-victims?" Of course I wanted nothing better. I pulled out one or two of the most attractive drawers -- members of the same genus drawers, nothing serious, just for show, really. "Did you buy them?" Of course not, I said. All caught or bred by me and set and arranged by me. The lot. "They're beautifully done." I showed her a drawer of Chalkhill and Adonis Blues, I have a beautiful var. _ceroneus_ Adonis and some var. _tithonus_ Chalkhills, and I pointed them out. The var. _ceroneus_ is better than any they got in the N.H. Museum. I was proud to be able to tell her something. She had never heard of aberrations. "They're beautiful. But sad." Everything's sad if you make it so, I said. "But it's you who make it so!" She was staring at me across the drawer. "How many butterflies have you killed?" You can see. "No, I can't. I'm thinking of all the butterflies that would have come from these if you'd let them live. I'm thinking of all the living beauty you've ended." You can't tell. "You don't even share it. Who sees these? You're like a miser, you hoard up all the beauty in these drawers." I was really very disappointed, I thought all her talk was very silly. What difference would a dozen specimens make to a species? "I hate scientists," she said. "I hate people who collect things, and classify things and give them names and then forget all about them. That's what people are always doing in art. They call a painter an impressionist or a cubist or something and then they put him in a drawer and don't see him as a living individual painter any more. But I can see they're beautifully arranged." She was trying to be nice again. The next thing I said was, I do photography too. I had some pictures of the woods behind the house, and some of the sea coming over the wall at Seaford, really nice ones, I enlarged them myself. I put them out on the table where she could see them. She looked at them, she didn't say anything. They're not much, I said. I haven't been doing it long. "They're dead," She gave me a funny look sideways. "Not these particularly. All photos. When you draw something it lives and when you photograph it it dies." It's like a record, I said. "Yes. All dry and dead." Well I was going to argue, but she went on, she said, "These are clever. They're good photographs as photographs go." After a bit I said, I'd like to take some pictures of you. "Why?" You're what they call photogenic. She looked down, then she looked up at me and said, "All right. If you want to. Tomorrow." That gave me a real thrill. Things were really changed. I decided about then it was time she went down. She didn't hardly object, just shrugged, let me tie the gag, and all went well as before. Well, when we were down, she wanted a cup of tea (some special China she made me buy). I took the gag off and she came out in the outer cellar (her hands still bound) and looked at where I cooked her meals and all that. We didn't say anything, it was nice. The kettle boiling and her there. Of course I kept a sharp eye on her. When it was made, I said, shall I be mother? "That's a _horrid_ expression." What's wrong with it? "It's like those wild duck. It's suburban, it's stale, it's dead, it's . . . oh, everything square that ever was. You know?" I think you'd better be mother, I said. Then it was strange, she smiled just like she was going to laugh, and then she stopped and turned and went into her room, where I followed with the tray. She poured out the tea, but something had made her angry, you could see. She wouldn't look at me. I didn't mean to offend you, I said. "I suddenly thought of my family. They won't be laughing over jolly cups of tea this evening." Four weeks, I said. "Don't remind me of it!" She was just like a woman. Unpredictable. Smiling one minute and spiteful the next. She said, "You're loathsome. And you make me loathsome." It won't be long. Then she said something I've never heard a woman say before. It really shocked me. I said, I don't like words like that. It's disgusting. Then she said it again, really screamed it at me. I couldn't follow all her moods sometimes.
She was all right the next morning, though she did not apologize. Also, the two vases in her room were broken on the steps when I went in. As always, she was up and waiting for me when I came in with her breakfast. Well, the first thing she wanted to know was whether I was going to allow her to see daylight. I told her it was raining. "Why couldn't I go out into the other cellar and walk up and down? I want exercise." We had a good old argument about that. In the end the arrangement was if she wanted to walk there in daytime she would have to have the gag on. I couldn't risk someone chancing to be round the back -- not that it was likely, of course, the front gate and garage gate were locked always. But at night just the hands would do. I said I wouldn't promise more than one bath a week. And nothing about daylight. I thought for a moment she would go into one of her sulks again, but she began to understand about that time sulks didn't get her anywhere, so she accepted my rules.
Perhaps I was overstrict, I erred on the strict side. But you had to be careful. For instance, at week-ends there was a lot more traffic about. Fine Sundays there were cars passing every five minutes. Often they would slow as they passed Fosters, some would reverse back to have another look, some even had the cheek to push their cameras through the front gate and take photos. So on week-ends I never let her leave her room. One day I was just driving out to go down to Lewes and a man in a car stopped me. Was I the owner? He was one of those ever-so-cultured types with a plum in their throat. The I'm-a-friend-of-the-boss type. He talked a lot of stuff about the house and how he was writing some article for a magazine and would I let him look round and take photographs, he especially wanted to have a look at the priest's chapel. There's no chapel here, I said. But my dear man, that's fantastic, he said, it's mentioned in the County History. In dozens of books. You mean that old place in the cellar, I said, as if I had just cottoned on. That's blocked up. Been bricked in. But this is a scheduled building. You can't do things like that. I said, well it's still there. It's just you can't see anything. It was done before I came. Then he wanted to look indoors. I said I was in a hurry, I couldn't wait. He'd come back -- "Just tell me a day." I wouldn't have it. I said I got a lot of requests. He went on nosing, he even started threatening me with an order to view, the Ancient Monuments people (whoever they are) would back him up, really offensive, and slimy at the same time. In the end he just drove off. It was all bluff on his part, but that was the sort of thing I had to think about.
I took the photos that evening. Just ordinary, of her sitting reading. They came out quite well. One day about then she did a picture of me, like returned the compliment. I had to sit in a chair and look at the corner of the room. After half an hour she tore up the drawing before I could stop her. (She often tore up. Artistic temperament, I suppose.) I'd have liked it, I said. But she didn't even reply to that, she just said, don't move. From time to time she talked. Mostly personal remarks. "You're very difficult to get. You're so featureless. Everything's nondescript. I'm thinking of you as an object, not as a person." Later she said, "You're not ugly, but your face has all sorts of ugly habits. Your underlip is worst. It betrays you." I looked in the mirror upstairs, but I couldn't see what she meant. Sometimes she'd come out of the blue with funny questions. "Do you believe in God?" was one. Not much, I answered. "It must be yes or no." I don't think about it. Don't see that it matters. "You're the one imprisoned in a cellar," she said. Do you believe, I asked. "Of course I do. I'm a human being." She said, stop talking, when I was going on. She complained about the light. "It's this artificial light. I can never draw by it. It lies." I knew what she was getting at, so I kept my mouth shut. Then again -- it may not have been that first morning she drew me, I can't remember which day it was -- she suddenly came out with, "You're lucky having no parents. Mine have only kept together because of my sister and me." How do you know, I said. "Because my mother's told me," she said. "And my father. My mother's a bitch. A nasty ambitious middle-class bitch. She drinks." I heard, I said. "I could never have friends to stay." I'm sorry, I said. She gave me a sharp look, but I wasn't being sarcastic. I told her about my father drinking, and my mother. "My father's weak, though I love him very much. Do you know what he said to me one day? He said, I don't know how two such bad parents can have produced two such good daughters. He was thinking of my sister, really. She's the really clever one." You're the really clever one. You won a big scholarship. "I'm a good draughtsman," she said. "I might become a very clever artist, but I shan't ever be a great one. At least I don't think so." You can't tell, I said. "I'm not egocentric enough. I'm a woman. I have to lean on something." I don't know why but she suddenly changed the subject and said, "Are you a queer?" Certainly not, I said. I blushed, of course. "It's nothing to be ashamed of. Lots of good men are." Then she said, "You want to lean on me. I can feel it. I expect it's your mother. You're looking for your mother." I don't believe in all that stuff, I said. "We'd never be any good together. We both want to lean." You could lean on me financially, I said. "And you on me for everything else? God forbid." Then, here, she said and held out the drawing. It was really good, it really amazed me, the likeness. It seemed to make me more dignified, better-looking than I really was. Would you consider selling this, I asked? "I hadn't, but I will. Two hundred guineas?" All right, I said. She gave me another sharp look. "You'd give me two hundred guineas for that?" Yes, I said. Because you did it. "Give it to me." I handed it back and before I knew what, she was tearing it across. Please don't, I said. She stopped, but it was torn half across. "But it's bad, bad, bad." Then suddenly she sort of threw it at me. "Here you are. Put it in a drawer with the butterflies." The next time I was in Lewes I bought her some more records, all I could find by Mozart, because she liked him, it seemed.
Another day she drew a bowl of fruit. She drew them about ten times, and then she pinned them all up on the screen and asked me to pick the best. I said they were all beautiful but she insisted so I plumped for one. "That's the worst," she said. "That's a clever little art student's picture." She said, "One of them is good. I know it is good. It is worth all the rest a hundred times over. If you can pick it in three guesses you can have it for nothing when I go. If I go. If you don't, you must give me ten guineas for it." Well, ignoring her dig I had three guesses, they were all wrong. The one that was so good only looked half-finished to me, you could hardly tell what the fruit were and it was all lop-sided. "There I'm just on the threshold of saying something about the fruit. I don't actually say it, but you get the idea that I might. Do you feel that?" I said I didn't actually. She went and got a book of pictures by Cezanne. "There," she said, pointing to a coloured one of a plate of apples. "He's not only saying everything there is about the apples, but everything about all apples and all form and colour." I take your word for it, I said. All your pictures are nice, I said. She just looked at me. "Ferdinand," she said. "They should have called you Caliban."
One day three or four after her first bath she was very restless. She walked up and down in the outer cellar after supper, sat on the bed, got up. I was looking at drawings she'd done that afternoon. All copies of pictures from the art-books, very clever, I thought, and very like. Suddenly she said, "Couldn't we go for a walk? On parole?" But it's wet, I said. And cold. It was the second week in October. "I'm going mad cooped up in here. Couldn't we just walk round the garden?" She came right up close to me, a thing she usually avoided and held out her wrists. She'd taken to wearing her hair long, tied up with a dark blue ribbon that was one of the things she wrote down for me to buy. Her hair was always beautiful. I never saw more beautiful hair. Often I had an itch to touch it. Just to stroke it, to feel it. It gave me a chance when I put the gag on. So we went out. It was a funny night, there was a moon behind the cloud, and the cloud was moving, but down below there was hardly any wind. When we came out she spent a few moments just taking deep breaths. Then I took her arm respectfully and led her up the path between the wall that ran up one side and the lawn. We passed the privet hedge and went into the vegetable garden at the top with the fruit trees. As I said, I never had any nasty desire to take advantage of the situation, I was always perfectly respectful towards her (until she did what she did) but perhaps it was the darkness, us walking there and feeling her arm through her sleeve, I really would have liked to take her in my arms and kiss her, as a matter of fact I was trembling. I had to say something or I'd have lost my head. You wouldn't believe me if I told you I was very happy, would you, I said. Of course she couldn't answer. Because you think I don't feel anything properly, you don't know I have deep feelings but I can't express them like you can, I said. Just because you can't express your feelings it doesn't mean they're not deep. All the time we were walking on under the dark branches. All I'm asking, I said, is that you understand how much I love you, how much I need you, how deep it is. It's an effort, I said, sometimes. I didn't like to boast, but I meant her to think for a moment of what other men might have done, if they'd had her in their power. We'd come to the lawn on the other side again, and then to the house. A car sounded and grew close and went on down the lane beyond the house. I had a tight hold on her. We came to the cellar door. I said, do you want to go round again? To my surprise, she shook her head. Naturally I took her back down. When I got the gag and cords off she said, "I'd like some tea. Please go and make some. Lock the door. I'll stay here." I made the tea. As soon as I took it in and poured it, she spoke. "I want to say something," she said. "It's got to be said." I was listening. "You wanted to kiss me out there, didn't you?" I'm sorry, I said. As usual I started to blush. "First of all I should like to thank you for not doing so, because I don't want you to kiss me. I realize I'm at your mercy, I realize I'm very lucky you're so decent about this particular thing." It won't happen again, I said. "That's what I wanted to say. If it does happen again -- and worse. And you have to give way to it. I want you to promise something." It won't happen again. "Not to do it in a mean way. I mean don't knock me unconscious or chloroform me again or anything. I shan't struggle, I'll let you do what you like." It won't happen again, I said. I forgot myself. I can't explain. "The only thing is, if you ever do anything like that I shall never never respect you, I shall never, never speak to you again. You understand?" I wouldn't expect anything else, I said. I was red as a beetroot by then. She held out her hand. I shook it. I don't know how I got . out of the room. She had me all at sixes and sevens that evening.
Well, every day it was the same: I went down between eight and nine, I got her breakfast, emptied the buckets, sometimes we talked a bit, she gave me any shopping she wanted done (sometimes I stayed home but I went out most days on account of the fresh vegetables and milk she liked), most mornings I cleaned up the house after I got back from Lewes, then her lunch, then usually we sat and talked for a bit or she played the records I brought back or I sat and watched her draw; she got her own tea, I don't know why, we sort of came to an agreement not to be together then. Then there was supper and after supper we often talked a bit more. Sometimes she made me welcome, she usually wanted her walk in the outer cellar. Sometimes she made me go away as soon as supper was over. I took photos whenever she would let me. She took some of me. I got her in a lot of poses, all nice ones, of course. I wanted her to wear special clothes, but I didn't like to ask. I don't know why you want all these photos, she always said. You can see me every day. So nothing happened really. There were just all those evenings we sat together and it doesn't seem possible that it will never be again. It was like we were the only two people in the world. No one will ever understand how happy we were -- just me, really, but there were times when I consider she didn't mind in spite of what she said, if she thought about it. I could sit there all night watching her, just the shape of her head and the way the hair fell from it with a special curve, so graceful it was, like the shape of a swallowtail. It was like a veil or a cloud, it would lie like silk strands all untidy and loose but lovely over her shoulders. I wish I had words to describe it like a poet would or an artist. She had a way of throwing it back when it had fallen too much forward, it was just a simple natural movement. Sometimes I wanted to say to her, please do it again, please let your hair fall forward to toss it back. Only of course it would have been stupid. Everything she did was delicate like that. Just turning a page. Standing up or sitting down, drinking, smoking, anything. Even when she did things considered ugly, like yawning or stretching, she made it seem pretty. The truth was she couldn't do ugly things. She was too beautiful. She was always so clean, too. She never smelt anything but sweet and fresh, unlike some women I could mention. She hated dirt as much as I do, although she used to laugh at me about it. She told me once it was a sign of madness to want everything clean. If that is so, then we must both have been mad. Of course it wasn't all peace and light, several times she tried to escape, which just showed. Luckily I was always on the look-out.
One day she nearly had me. She was dead cunning, when I went in she was being sick, and she looked a real mess. I kept on saying what's wrong, what's wrong, but she just lay there like she was in pain. "It's appendicitis," she got out in the end. How do you know, I asked. "I thought I'd die in the night," she said. She spoke like she hardly could. I said it could be other things. But she just turned her face to the wall and said, Oh, God. Well, when I got over the shock, I saw it might be just her game. The next thing was she was all doubled up like in a spasm and then she sat up and looked at me and said she would promise anything but she must have a doctor. Or go to hospital, she said. It's the end for me, I said. You'd tell them. "I promise, I promise," she said. Really convincing. She could certainly act. I'll make you a cup of tea, I said. I wanted time to think. But she doubled up again. There was all the sick on the floor. I remembered Aunt Annie said with appendicitis it could kill, only a year back the boy next door got it, and she said then they waited too long -- Aunt Annie knew all the time, and it was a wonder he never died. So I had to do something. I said, there's a house with a telephone down the lane. I'll run down. "Take me to hospital," she said. "It's safer for you." What's it matter, I said, like I was really in despair. It's the end. It's goodbye, I said. Until the police court. I could act too. Then I rushed out like I was very upset. I left the door open, and the outer door, and I just waited there. And out she came, in a minute. No more ill than I was. No trouble, she just gave me one look and went on back down. I looked nasty just to give her a scare. She had moods that changed so quick that I often got left behind. She liked to get me stumbling after her (as she said one day -- poor Caliban, always stumbling after Miranda, she said), sometimes she would call me Caliban, sometimes Ferdinand. Sometimes she would be nasty and cutting. She would sneer at me and mimic me and make me desperate and ask me questions I couldn't answer. Then other times she would be really sympathetic, I felt she understood me like no one since Uncle Dick, and I could put up with everything. I remember a lot of little things. One day, she was sitting showing me the secrets of some paintings -- secrets were the things you had to think about to see, the secrets of proportion and harmony she called them. We sat with the book between us and she talked about the pictures. We sat on the bed (she made me get cushions and a rug on it for the day), close but not touching. I made sure of that after the events in the garden. But one evening she said, don't be so stiff, I shan't kill you if your sleeve touches mine. All right, I said, but I didn't move. Then she moved, so our arms touched, our shoulders. All the time she went on talking and talking about the picture we were looking at, I thought she wasn't thinking about the touching but a few pages later she suddenly looked at me. "You're not listening." Yes, I am, I said. "No, you're not. You're thinking about touching me. You're all stiff. Relax." It was no good, she'd got me all tense. She stood up. She was wearing a narrow blue skirt I bought her and a big black jumper and a white blouse, the colours really suited her. She stood in front of me and after a bit she said, Oh, God. Then she went and beat her fist against the wall. She used to do that sometimes. "I've got a friend who kisses me every time he sees me and he doesn't mean anything -- his kisses are meaningless. He kisses everybody. He's the other side of you. You don't have any contact with anybody and he has it with everybody. You're both equally sick." I was smiling, I used to smile when she attacked me as a sort of defence. "Don't put on that ghastly smile." There's not much else I can do. You're always right. "But I don't want always to be right. Tell me I'm wrong!" Oh, you're right, I said. You know you're right. "Oh, Ferdinand!" she said. And then twice more, Ferdinand, Ferdinand, and she sort of prayed to heaven and acted someone in great pain, so I had to laugh, but suddenly she was all serious, or pretending it. "It's not a little thing. It's terrible that you can't treat me as a friend. Forget my sex. Just relax." I'll try, I said. But then she wouldn't sit by me again. She leant against the wall reading another book. Another day, it was downstairs, she just screamed. For no reason at all, I was fixing up a painting she'd done and wanted to see up on the wall and suddenly sitting on the bed she screamed, bloodcurdling it was and I jumped round and dropped the tape and she just laughed. What's up, I said. "I just felt like a good scream," she said. She was unpredictable. She was always criticizing my way of speaking. One day I remember she said, "You know what you do? You know how rain takes the colour out of everything? That's what you do to the English language. You blur it every time you open your mouth." That is just one sample of many, of the way she treated me. Another day she got round me on the subject of her parents. She'd been on for days about how they would be sick with worry and how mean I was not letting them know. I said I couldn't take the risk. But one day after supper she said, I'll tell you how to do it, without any risk. You wear gloves. You buy paper and some envelopes from Woolworth's. You dictate a letter to me to write. You go to the nearest big town and post it. You can't be traced. It might be any Woolworth's in the country. Well, she kept on at me so about it that one day I did what she suggested and bought some paper and envelopes. That evening I gave her a sheet and told her to write. "I am safe and not in danger," I said. She wrote it, saying, "That's filthy English, but never mind." You write what I say, I answered, and went on, "Do not try to find me, it is impossible." "Nothing's impossible," she said. Cheeky as usual. "I am being well looked after by a friend," I went on. Then I said, that's all, just put your name. "Can't I say, Mr. Clegg sends his regards?" Very funny, I said. She wrote something more and handed me the sheet of paper. It said, See you soon, love, Nanda, at the bottom. What's this? I asked. "My baby name. They'll know it's me." I prefer Miranda, I said. It was the most beautiful for me. When she had written the envelope I put the sheet in and then luckily I looked inside. At the bottom of the envelope there was a piece of paper no bigger than half a cigarette paper. I don't know how but she must have had it ready and slipped it in. I opened it out and looked at her. She was bold as brass. She just leant back in the chair and stared at me. She'd written very very small with a sharp pencil, but the letters were clear. It wasn't like her other note, it said:
D.M. Kidnapped by madman. F. Clegg. Clerk from Annexe who won pool. Prisoner in cellar lonely timbered cottage date outside 1621 hilly country two hours London. So far safe. Frightened. M.
I was really angry and shocked, I didn't know what to do. In the end I said, are you frightened? She didn't say anything, she just nodded. But what have I done? I asked. "Nothing. That's why I'm frightened." I don't understand. She looked down. "I'm waiting for you to do something." I've promised and I'll promise again, I said. You get all high and mighty because I don't take your word, I don't know why it's different for me. "I'm sorry." I trusted you, I said. I thought you realized I was being kind. Well, I'm not going to be used. I don't care about your letter. I put it in my pocket. There was a long silence, I knew she was looking at me, but I wouldn't look at her. Then suddenly she got up and stood in front of me and put her hands on my shoulders so that I had to look at her, she made me look down into her eyes. I can't explain it, when she was sincere she could draw the soul out of me, I was wax in her hands. She said, "Now you're behaving like a little boy. You forget that you are keeping me here by force. I admit it is quite a gentle force, but it is frightening." As long as you keep your word, I'll keep mine, I said. I had gone red, of course. "But I've not given you my word not to try and escape, have I?" All you live for is the day you see the last of me, I said. I'm just a nobody still, aren't I? She turned half away. "I want to see the last of this house. Not of you." And mad, I said. Do you think a madman would have treated you the way I have? I'll tell you what a madman would have done. He'd have killed you by now. Like that fellow Christie, I suppose you think I'm going for you with a carving-knife or something. (I was really fed up with her that day.) How daft can you get? All right, you think I'm not normal keeping you here like this. Perhaps I'm not. But I can tell you there'd be a blooming lot more of this if more people had the money and the time to do it. Anyway there's more of it now than anyone knows. The police know, I said, the figures are so big they don't dare say them. She was staring at me. It was like we were complete strangers. I must have looked funny, it was the most I'd ever said. "Don't look like that," she said. "What I fear in you is something you don't know is in you." What, I asked. I was still angry. "I don't know. It's lurking somewhere about in this house, this room, this situation, waiting to spring. In a way we're on the same side against it." That's just talk. "We all want things we can't have. Being a decent human being is accepting that." We all take what we can get. And if we haven't had much most of our life we make up for it while the going's good, I said. Of course you wouldn't know about that. Then she was smiling at me, as if she was much older than me. "You need psychiatric treatment." The only treatment I need is you to treat me like a friend. "I am, I am," she said. "Can't you see that?" There was a big silence, then she broke it. "Don't you feel this has gone on long enough?" No, I said. "Won't you let me go now?" No. "You could gag me and tie me up and drive me back to London. I'd not tell a soul." No. "But there must be something you want to do with me?" I just want to be with you. All the time. "In bed?" I've told you no. "But you want to?" I'd rather not speak about it. She shut up then. I don't allow myself to think of what I know is wrong, I said. I don't consider it nice. "You _are_ extraordinary." Thank you, I said. "If you let me go, I should want to see you, because you interest me very much." Like you go to the zoo? I asked. "To try and understand you." You'll never do that. (I may as well admit I liked the mystery man side of our talk. I felt it showed her she didn't know everything.) "I don't think I ever should." Then suddenly she was kneeling in front of me, with her hands up high, touching the top of her head, being all oriental. She did it three times. "Will the mysterious great master accept apologies of very humble slave?" I'll think about it, I said. "Humble slave very solly for unkind letter." I had to laugh; she could act anything. She stayed there kneeling with her hands on the floor beside her, more serious, giving me the look. "Will you send the letter, then?" I made her ask again, but then I gave in. It was nearly the big mistake of my life.
The next day I drove up to London. I told her I was going there, like a fool, and she gave me a list of things to buy. There was a lot. (I knew later to keep me busy.) I had to buy special foreign cheese and go to some place in Soho where they had German sausages she liked, and there were some records, and clothes, and other things. She wanted pictures by some artist, it had to be just this one name. I was really happy that day, not a cloud in the sky. I thought she had forgotten about the four weeks, well not forgotten, but accepted I would want more. Talk about a dream-world. I didn't get back till tea-time and of course went down straight to see her, but I knew at once something was wrong. She didn't look at all pleased to see me and she didn't even look at all the things I'd bought. I soon saw what it was, it was four stones she had made loose, to make a tunnel, I suppose. There was dirt on the steps. I got one out easy. All the time she sat on the bed not looking. Behind it was stone, so it was all right. But I saw her game -- the sausages and the special pictures and all that. All the soft soap. You tried to escape, I said. "Oh, shut up!" she cried. I began looking for the thing she had done it with. Suddenly something flew past me and clat-tered on the floor. It was an old six-inch nail, I don't know how she'd got hold of it. That's the last time I leave you alone for so long, I said. I can't trust you any more. She just turned, she wouldn't speak, and I was dead scared she'd go off on a hunger strike again, so I didn't insist. I left her then. Later I brought her her supper. She didn't talk, so I left her. The next day she was all right again, though she didn't talk, except a word, about the escape that nearly was; she never mentioned it after again. But I saw she had a bad scratch on her wrist, and she made a face when she tried to hold a pencil to draw.
I didn't post the letter. The police are dead cunning with some things. A chap I knew in Town Hall's brother worked at Scotland Yard. They only needed a pinch of dust and they would tell you where you came from and everything. Of course when she asked me I went red; I said it was because I knew she didn't trust me, etcetera. Which she seemed to accept. It may not have been kind to her parents, but from what she said they weren't up to much, and you can't think of everybody. First things first, as they say. I did the same thing over the money she wanted me to send to the H-bomb movement. I wrote out a cheque and showed it to her, but I didn't send it. She wanted proof (the receipt), but I said I had sent it anonymous. I did it to make her feel better (writing the cheque) but I don't see the point of wasting money on something you don't believe in. I know rich people give sums, but in my opinion they do it to get their names published or to dodge the tax-man. For every bath, I had to screw in the planks again. I didn't like to leave them up all the time. All went off well. Once it was very late (eleven) so I took her gag off when she went in. It was a very windy night, a proper gale blowing. When we came down she wanted to sit in the sitting-room (I got ticked off for calling it the lounge), hands bound of course, there seemed no harm, so I put the electric fire on (she told me imitation logs were the end, I ought to have real log fires, like I did later). We sat there a bit, she sat on the carpet drying her washed hair and of course I just watched her. She was wearing some slacks I bought her, very attractive she looked all in black except for a little red scarf. She had her hair all day before she washed it in two pigtails, one of the great pleasures for me was seeing how her hair was each day. Before the fire, however, it was loose and spread, which I liked best. After a time she got up and walked round the room, all restless. She kept on saying the word "bored." Over and over again. It sounded funny, what with the wind howling outside and all. Suddenly she stopped in front of me. "Amuse me. Do something." Well what, I asked. Photos? But she didn't want photos. "I don't know. Sing, dance, anything." I can't sing. Or dance. "Tell me all the funny stories you know." I don't know any, I said. It was true, I couldn't think of one. "But you must do. I thought all men had to know dirty jokes." I wouldn't tell you one if I knew it. "Why not?" They're for men. "What do you think women talk about? I bet I know more dirty jokes than you do." I wouldn't be surprised, I said. "Oh, you're like mercury. You won't be picked up." She walked away, but suddenly she snatched a cushion off a chair, turned and kicked it straight at me. I of course was surprised; I stood up, and then she did the same with another, and then another that missed and knocked a copper kettle off the side-table. Easy on, I said. "Come, thou tortoise!" she cried (a literary quotation, I think it was). Anyway, almost at once she pulled a jug thing off the mantelpiece and threw that at me, I think she called catch, but I didn't and it broke against the wall. Steady on, I said. But another jug followed. All the time she was laughing, there was nothing vicious exactly, she just seemed to be mad, like a kid. There was a pretty green plate with a cottage moulded in relief that hung by the window and she had that off the wall and smashed that. I don't know why, I always liked that plate and I didn't like to see her break it, so I shouted, really sharp, stop it! All she did was to put her thumb to her nose and make a rude sign and put her tongue out. She was just like a street boy. I said, you ought to know better. "You ought to know better," she said, making fun of me. Then she said, "Please come round this side and then I can get at those beautiful plates behind you." There were two by the door. "Unless you'd like to smash them yourself." Stop it, I said again, that's enough. But suddenly she came behind the sofa, going for the plates. I got between her and the door, she tried to dodge under my arm; however, I caught hers. Then she suddenly changed. "Let go," she said, all quiet. Of course I didn't, I thought she might be joking still. But then suddenly she said, "Let go," in a nasty voice that I did at once. Then she went and sat down by the fire. After a while she said, "Get a broom. I'll sweep up." I'll do it tomorrow. "I _want_ to clear up." Very my-lady. I'll do it. "It's your fault." Of course. "You're the most perfect specimen of petit bourgeois squareness I've ever met." Am I? "Yes you _are_. You despise the real bourgeois classes for all their snobbishness and their snobbish voices and ways. You do, don't you? Yet all you put in their place is a horrid little refusal to have nasty thoughts or do nasty things or be nasty in any way. Do you know that every great thing in the history of art and every beautiful thing in life is actually what you call nasty or has been caused by feelings that you would call nasty? By passion, by love, by hatred, by truth. Do you know that?" I don't know what you're talking about, I said. "Yes you do. Why do you keep on using these stupid words -- nasty, nice, proper, right? Why are you so worried about what's proper? You're like a little old maid who thinks marriage is dirty and everything except cups of weak tea in a stuffy old room is dirty. Why do you take all the life out of life? Why do you kill all the beauty?" I never had your advantages. That's why. "You can change, you're young, you've got money. You can learn. And what have you done? You've had a little dream, the sort of dream I suppose little boys have and masturbate about, and you fall over yourself being nice to me so that you won't have to admit to yourself that the whole business of my being here is nasty, nasty, nasty --" She stopped sudden then. "This is no good," she said. "I might be talking Greek." I understand, I said. I'm not educated. She almost shouted. "You're so stupid. Perverse." "You have money -- as a matter of fact, you aren't stupid, you could become whatever you liked. Only you've got to shake off the past. You've got to kill your aunt and the house you lived in and the people you lived with. You've got to be a new human being." She sort of pushed out her face at me, as if it was something easy I could do, but wouldn't. Some hope, I said. "Look what you could do. You could . . . you could collect pictures. I'd tell you what to look for, I'd introduce you to people who would tell you about art-collecting. Think of all the poor artists you could help. Instead of massacring butterflies, like a stupid schoolboy." Some very clever people collect butterflies, I said. "Oh, clever . . . what's the use of that? Are they human beings?" What do you mean? I asked. "If you have to ask, I can't give you the answer." Then she said, "I always seem to end up by talking down to you. I hate it. It's you. You always squirm one step lower than I can go." She went like that at me sometimes. Of course I forgave her, though it hurt at the time. What she was asking for was someone different to me, someone I could never be. For instance, all that night after she said I could collect pictures I thought about it; I dreamed myself collecting pictures, having a big house with famous pictures hanging on the walls, and people coming to see them. Miranda there, too, of course. But I knew all the time it was silly; I'd never collect anything but butterflies. Pictures don't mean anything to me. I wouldn't be doing it because I wanted, so there wouldn't be any point. She could never see that. She did several more drawings of me which were quite good, but there was something in them I didn't like, she didn't bother so much about a nice likeness as what she called my inner character, so sometimes she made my nose so pointed it would have pricked you and my mouth was all thin and unpleasant, I mean more than it really is, because I know I'm no beauty. I didn't dare think about the four weeks being up, I didn't know what would happen, I just thought there would be arguing and she'd sulk and I'd get her to stay another four weeks -- I mean I thought I had some sort of power over her, she would do what I wanted. I lived from day to day, really. I mean there was no plan. I just waited. I even half expected the police to come. I had a horrible dream one night when they came and I had to kill her before they came in the room. It seemed like a duty and I had only a cushion to kill her with. I hit and hit and she laughed and then I jumped on her and smothered her and she lay still, and then when I took the cushion away she was lying there laughing, she'd only pretended to die. I woke up in a sweat, that was the first time I ever dreamed of killing anyone.
She started talking about going several days before the end. She kept on saying that she would never tell a soul, and of course I had to say I believed her, but I knew even if she meant it the police or her parents would screw it out of her in the end. And she kept on about how we'd be friends and she'd help me choose pictures and introduce me to people and look after me. She was very nice to me those days; not that of course she didn't have her reasons. At last the fatal day (November 10th, the 11th was her release day) came. The first thing she said when I took her in her coffee was, could we have a celebration party tonight? What about guests, I said, joking, not that I was feeling lighthearted, need I add. "Just you and me. Because . . . oh, well, we've come through, haven't we?" Then she said, "And upstairs, in your dining-room?" To which I agreed. I had no choice. She gave me a list of things to buy at the posh grocer's in Lewes, and then she asked if I'd buy sherry and a bottle of champagne and of course I said I would. I never saw her get so excited. I suppose I got excited too. Even then. What she felt, I felt. To make her laugh I said, evening dress, of course. And she said, "Oh, I wish I had a nice dress. And I must have some more hot water to wash my hair." I said, I'll buy you a dress. Just tell me like before the colour and so on and I'll see what there is in Lewes. Funny, I'd been so careful, and there I was, going red. She gave me a smile, however, "I knew it was Lewes. There's a ticket on one of the cushions. And I'd like either a black dress, or no, a biscuit, stone -- oh, wait . . ." and she went to her paint-box and mixed colours like she did before when she wanted a scarf of a special colour when I was going to London. "This colour, and it must be simple, knee-length, not long, sleeves like this (she drew it), or no sleeves, something like this or like this." I always liked it when she drew. She was so quick, fluttery, you felt she couldn't wait to draw whatever it was. Naturally my thoughts were far from happy that day. It was just like me not to have a plan. I don't know what I thought would happen. I don't even know if I didn't think I would keep the agreement, even though it was forced out of me and forced promises are no promises, as they say. I actually went into Brighton and there after looking at a lot I saw just the dress in a small shop; you could tell it was real class, at first they didn't want to sell it without a fitting although it was the right size. Well, going back to where I parked the van I passed another shop, a jeweller's, and I suddenly had the idea that she would like a present, also it might make things easier when it came to the point. There was a sapphire and diamond necklace lying on a bit of black velvet, shape of a heart I remember -- I mean they'd arranged the necklace into a heart shape. I went in and it was three hundred pounds and I nearly walked right out again, but then my more generous nature triumphed. After all, I had the money. The woman in the shop put it on and it looked really pretty and expensive. It's only small stones, she said, but all very fine water and these Victorian designs. I remembered Miranda talking one day about how she liked Victorian things, so that did it. There was trouble about the cheque, of course. The woman wouldn't take it at first, but I got her to ring my bank and she changed her tune very quick. If I'd spoken in a la-di-da voice and said I was Lord Muck or something, I bet . . . still, I've got no time for that. It's funny how one idea leads to another. While I was buying the necklace I saw some rings and that gave me the plan I could ask her to _marry_ me and if she said no then it would mean I had to keep her. It would be a way out. I knew she wouldn't say yes. So I bought a ring. It was quite nice; but not very expensive. Just for show. When I got home I washed the necklace (I didn't like to think of it touching that other woman's skin) and hid it so that I could get it out at the correct time. Then I made all the preparations she said: there were flowers, and I put the bottles on the side-table, and laid out everything really grand hotel, with all the usual precautions, of course. We arranged I was to go down and fetch her at seven. After I took in the parcels I wasn't to see her, it was like it is before a wedding. What I decided was I would let her come up ungagged and untied just this once, I would take the risk but watch her like a knife and I would have the chloroform and CTC handy, just in case trouble blew up. Say someone knocked at the door, I could use the pad and have her bound and gagged in the kitchen in a very short time, and then open up. Well, at seven I had my best suit and shirt and a new tie I bought on and I went down to see her. It was raining, which was all to the good. She made me wait about ten minutes and then she came out. You could have knocked me down with a feather. For a moment I thought it wasn't her, it looked so different. She had a lot of French scent which I gave her on and she was really made up for the first time since she was with me; she had the dress on and it really suited her, it was a creamy colour, very simple but elegant, leaving her arms and her neck bare. It wasn't a girl's dress at all, she looked a real woman. Her hair was done up high unlike before, very elegant. Empire, she called it. She looked just like one of those model girls you see in magazines; it really amazed me what she could look like when she wanted. I remember her eyes were different too, she'd drawn black lines round them so she looked sophisticated. Sophisticated, that's exactly the word. Of course, she made me feel all clumsy and awkward. I had the same feeling I did when I had watched an imago emerge, and then to have to kill it. . I mean, the beauty confuses you, you don't know what you want to do any more, what you should do. "Well?" she said. She turned round, showing off. Very nice, I said. "Is that all?" She gave me a look under her eyebrows. She looked a real sensation. Beautiful, I said. I didn't know what to say, I wanted to look at her all the time and I couldn't. I felt sort of frightened, too. I mean, we seemed further apart than ever. And I knew more and more I couldn't let her go. Well, I said, shall we go up? "No cords, no gag?" It's too late for that, I said. That's all over. "I think what you're doing today, and tomorrow, is going to be one of the best things that ever happened to you." One of the saddest, I couldn't help saying. "No, it's not. It's the beginning of a new life. And a new you." And she reached out her hand and took mine and led me up the steps. It was pouring and she took one breath only before she went into the kitchen and through the dining-room into the lounge. "It's nice," she said. I thought you said that word meant nothing, I said. "Some things are nice. Can I have a glass of sherry?" I poured us one out each. Well, we stood there, she made me laugh, she kept on pretending that the room was full of people, waving at them, and telling me about them, and them about my new life, and then she put a record on the gramophone, it was soft music, and she looked beautiful. She was so changed, her eyes seemed alive, and what with the French scent she had that filled the room and the sherry and the heat from the fire, real logs, I managed to forget what I had to do later. I even said some silly jokes. Anyway she laughed. Well, she had a second glass and then we went through to the other room where I'd slipped my present in her place, which she saw at once. "For me?" Look and see, I said. She took off the paper and there was this dark blue leather case and she pressed the button and she just didn't say anything. She just stared at them. "Are they real?" She was awed, really awed. Of course. They're only little stones, but they're high quality. "They're fantastic," she said. Then she held out the box to me. "I can't take them. I understand, I think I understand why you've given them to me, and I appreciate it very much, but . . . I can't take them." I want you to, I said. "But . . . Ferdinand, if a young man gives a girl a present like this, it can only mean one thing." What, I asked. "Other people have nasty minds." I want you to have them. Please. "I'll wear them for now. I'll pretend they're mine." They are yours, I said. She came round the table with the case. "Put them on," she said. "If you give a girl jewellery, you must put it on yourself." She stood there and watched me, right up close to me, then she turned as I picked up the stones and put them round her neck. I had a job fastening them, my hands were trembling, it was the first time I had touched her skin except her hand. She smelt so nice I could have stood like that all the evening. It was like being in one of those adverts come to life. At last she turned and there she was looking at me. "Are they nice?" I nodded, I couldn't speak. I wanted to say something nice, a compliment. "Would you like me to kiss you on the cheek?" I didn't say, but she put her hand on my shoulder and lifted up a bit and kissed my cheek. It must have seemed hot, I was red enough by that time to have started a bonfire. Well, we had cold chicken and things; I opened the champagne and it was very nice, I was surprised. I wished I'd bought another bottle, it seemed easy to drink, not very intoxicating. Though we laughed a lot, she was really witty, talking with other people that weren't there again and so on. After supper we made coffee together in the kitchen (I kept a sharp eye open, of course) and took it through to the lounge and she put on jazz records I'd bought her. We actually sat on the sofa together. Then we played charades; she acted things, syllables of words, and I had to guess what they were. I wasn't any good at it, either acting or guessing. I remember one word she did was "butterfly." She kept on doing it again and again and I couldn't guess. I said aeroplane and all the birds I could think of and in the end she collapsed in a chair and said I was hopeless. Then it was dancing. She tried to teach me to jive and samba, but it meant touching her, I got so confused and I never got the time right. She must have thought I was really slow. The next thing was she had to go away a minute. I didn't like it, but I knew I couldn't expect her to go downstairs. I had to let her go up and I stood on the stairs where I could see if she did any monkey business with the light (the planks weren't up, I slipped there). The window was high, I knew she couldn't get out without my hearing, and it was quite a drop. Anyhow she came right out, seeing me on the stairs. "Can't you trust me?" She was a bit sharp. I said, yes, it's not that. We went back into the lounge. "What is it, then?" If you escaped now, you could still say I imprisoned you. But if I take you home, I can say I released you. I know it's silly, I said. Of course I was acting it a bit. It was a very difficult situation. Well, she looked at me, and then she said, "Let's have a talk. Come and sit here beside me." I went and sat. "What are you going to do when I've gone?" I don't think about it, I said. "Will you want to go on seeing me?" Of course I will. "You're definitely going to come and live in London? We'll make you into someone really modern. Someone really interesting to meet." You'd be ashamed of me with all your friends. It was all unreal. I knew she was pretending just like I was. I had a headache. It was all going wrong. "I've got lots of friends. Do you know why? Because I'm never ashamed of them. All sorts of people. You aren't the strangest by a long way. There's one who's very immoral. But he's a beautiful painter so we forgive him. And he's not ashamed. You've got to be the same. Not be ashamed. I'll help you. It's easy if you try." It seemed the moment. Anyway, I couldn't stand it any longer. Please marry me, I said. I had the ring in my pocket all ready. There was a silence. Everything I've got is yours, I said. "Marriage means love," she said. I don't expect anything, I said. I don't expect you to do anything that you don't want. You can do what you like, study art, etcetera. I won't ask anything, anything of you, except to be my wife in name and live in the same house with me. She sat staring at the carpet. You can have your own bedroom and lock it every night, I said. "But that's horrible. It's inhuman! We'll never understand each other. We don't have the same sort of heart." I've got a heart, for all that, I said. "I just think of things as beautiful or not. Can't you understand? I don't think of good or bad. Just of beautiful or ugly. I think a lot of nice things are ugly and a lot of nasty things are beautiful." You're playing with words, I said. All she did was stare at me, then she smiled and got up and stood by the fire, really beautiful. But all withdrawn. Superior. I suppose you're in love with that Piers Broughton, I said. I wanted to give her a jolt. She was really surprised, too. "How do you know about him?" I told her it was in the papers. It said you and him were unofficially engaged, I said. I saw right off they weren't. She just laughed. "He's the last person I'd marry. I'd rather marry you." Then why can't it be me? "Because I can't marry a man to whom I don't feel I belong in all ways. My mind must be his, my heart must be his, my body must be his. Just as I must feel he belongs to me." I belong to you. "But you don't! Belonging's two things. One who gives and one who accepts what's given. You don't belong to me because I can't accept you. I can't give you anything back." I don't want much. "I know you don't. Only the things that I have to give anyway. The way I look and speak and move. But I'm other things. I have other things to give. And I can't give them to you, because I don't love you." I said, that changes everything then, doesn't it. I stood up, my head was throbbing. She knew what I meant at once, I could see it in her face, but she pretended not to understand. "What do you mean?" You know what I mean, I said. "I'll marry you. I'll marry you as soon as you like." Ha ha, I said. "Isn't that what you wanted me to say?" I suppose you think I don't know you don't need witnesses and all, I said. "Well?" I don't trust you half an inch, I said. The way she was looking at me really made me sick. As if I wasn't human hardly. Not a sneer. Just as if I was something out of outer space. Fascinating almost. You think I don't see through all the soft as soap stuff, I said. She just said, "Ferdinand." Like she was appealing. Another of her tricks. Don't you Ferdinand me, I said. "You promised. You can't break your promise." I can do what I like. "But I don't know what you want of me. How _can_ I prove I'm your friend if you never give me a chance of doing so?" Shut up, I said. Then suddenly she acted, I knew it was coming, I was ready for it, what I wasn't ready for was the sound of a car outside. Just as it came up to the house, she reached with her foot like to warm it, but all of a sudden she kicked a burning log out of the hearth on to the carpet, at the same moment screamed and ran for the window, then seeing they were padlocked, for the door. But I got her first. I didn't get the chloroform which was in a drawer, speed was the thing. She turned and scratched and clawed at me, still screaming, but I wasn't in the mood to be gentle, I beat down her arms and got my hand over her mouth. She tore at it and bit and kicked, but I was in a panic by then. I got her round the shoulders and pulled her where the drawer was with the plastic box. She saw what it was, she tried to twist away, her head side to side, but I got the pad out and let her have it. All the time listening, of course. And watching the log, it was smouldering badly, the room was full of smoke. Well, soon as she was under good and proper, I let her go and went and put the fire out, I poured the water from a vase over it. I had to act really fast, I decided to get her down while I had time, which I did, laid her on her bed, then upstairs again to make sure the fire was really out and no one about. I opened the front door very casual, there was no one there, so it was O.K. Well, then I went down again. She was still out, on the bed. She looked a sight, the dress all off one shoulder. I don't know what it was, it got me excited, it gave me ideas, seeing her lying there right out. It was like I'd showed who was really the master. The dress was right off her shoulder, I could see the top of one stocking. I don't know what reminded me of it, I remembered an American film I saw once (or was it a magazine) about a man who took a drunk girl home and undressed her and put her to bed, nothing nasty, he just did that and no more and she woke up in his pyjamas. So I did that. I took off her dress and her stockings and left on certain articles, just the brassiere and the other so as not to go the whole hog. She looked a real picture lying there with only what Aunt Annie called strips of nothing on. (She said it was why more women got cancer.) Like she was wearing a bikini. It was my chance I had been waiting for. I got the old camera and took some photos, I would have taken more, only she started to move a bit, so I had to pack up and get out quick. I started the developing and printing right away. They came out very nice. Not artistic, but interesting. I never slept that night, I got in such a state. There were times I thought I would go down and give her the pad again and take other photos, it was as bad as that. I am not really that sort and I was only like it that night because of all that happened and the strain I was under. Also the champagne had a bad effect on me. And everything she said. It was what they call a culmination of circumstances. Things were never the same again, in spite of all that happened. Somehow it proved we could never come together, she could never understand me, I suppose she would say I never could have understood her, or would have, anyhow. About what I did, undressing her, when I thought after, I saw it wasn't so bad; not many would have kept control of themselves, just taken photos, it was almost a point in my favour. I considered what to do, I decided a letter was best. This is what I wrote: