15 MARCH 1963, Page 16


By GRAHAM GREENE THE woman wore an orange scarf which she had so twisted around her forehead that it looked like a toque of the Twenties, and her voice bulldozed through all opposition—the speech of her two companions, the young motor- cyclist revving outside, even the clatter of soup plates in the kitchen of the small Antibes restaurant which was almost empty now that autumn had truly set in. Her face was familiar to me; I had seen it looking down from the balcony of one of the reconditioned houses on the ramparts, while she called endearments to someone or something invisible below. But I hadn't seen her since the summer sun had gone, and I thought she had departed with the other foreigners. She said, 'I'll be in Vienna for Christ- mas. I just love it there. Those lovely white horses—and the little boys singing Bach.'

Her companions were English; the man was struggling still to maintain the appearance of a summer visitor, but he shivered in secret every now and then in his blue cotton sports-shirt. He asked throatily, 'We won't see you then in London?' and his wife, who was much younger than either of them, said, 'Oh, but you simply must come.'

'There are difficulties,' she said. 'But if you two dear people are going to be in Venice in the spring . .

'I don't suppose we'll have enough money, will we, darling, but we'd love to show you London. Wouldn't we, darling?'

'Of course,' he said gloomily.

'I'm afraid that's quite, quite impossible, be- cause of Beauty you see.'

I hadn't noticed Beauty until then because he was so well-behaved. He lay flat on the window- sill as inert as a cream-bun on a counter. I think he was the most perfect Pekingese I have ever seen—although I can't pretend to know the points a judge ought to look for. He would have been as white as milk if a little coffee had not been added, but that was hardly an imperfection —it enhanced his beauty. His eyes from where I sat seemed deep black, like the centre of a flower, and they were completely undisturbed by thought. This was not a dog to respond to the word 'rat' or to show a youthful enthusiasm if someone suggested a walk. Nothing less than his own image in a glass would rouse him, I imagined, to a flicker of interest. He was cer- tainly well fed enough to ignore the meal that the others had left unfinished, though perhaps he was accustomed to something richer than langouste.

'You couldn't leave him with a friend?' the younger woman asked.

'Leave Beauty?' The question didn't rate a reply. She ran her fingers through the long café-au-lait hair, but the dog made no motion with his tail as a common dog might have done. He gave a kind of grunt like an old man in a club who has been disturbed by the waiter. 'All these laws of quarantine—why don't your con- gressmen do something about them?'

'We call them MPs,' the man said with what I thought was hidden dislike. It was after eleven that I emerged again and, since the night was fine, except for a cold wind off the Alps, I made a circuit from the Place and, as the ramparts would be too exposed, I took the narrow dirty streets off the Place Nationale —the rue de Sade, the rue des Bains. . . . The dustbins were all out and dogs had made ordure on the pavements and children had urinated in the gutters. A patch of white which I first took to be a cat moved stealthily along the house- fronts ahead of me, then paused, and as I ap- proached snaked behind a dustbin. I stood amazed and watched. A pattern of light through the slats of a shutter striped the road in yellow, tigerish bars and presently Beauty slid out again and looked at me with his pansy face and black expressionless eyes. I think he expected me to lift him up, and he showed his teeth in warning.

'Why, Beauty,' I exclaimed. He gave his club- 'I don't care what you call them. They live in the middle ages. I can go to Paris, to Vienna, Venice—why, 1 could go to Moscow if I wanted, but I can't go to London without leaving Beauty in a horrible prison. With all kinds of undesirable dogs.'

'I think he'd have,' he hesitated with what I thought was admirable English courtesy as he weighed in the balance the correct term—cell? kenne12—`a room of his own.'

'Think of the diseases he might pick up.' She lifted him from the window-sill as easily as she might have lifted a stole of fur and pressed him resolutely against her left breast; he didn't even grunt. I had the sense of something com- pletely possessed. A child at least would have rebelled . . . for a time. Poor child. I don't know why I couldn't pity the dog. Perhaps he was too beautiful.

She said, 'Poor Beauty's thirsty.'

'I'll get him some water,' the man said.

'A half-bottle of Evian if you don't mind. I don't trust the tap-water.'

It was then that I left them, because the cinema in the Place de Gaulle opened at nine.

'I think I've got mass hysteria.' man grunt again and waited. Was he cautious because he found that I knew his name or did he recognise in my clothes and my smell that I belonged to the same class as the woman in the toque, that I was one who would disapprove of his nocturnal ramble? Suddenly he cocked an ear in the direction of the house on the ram- parts; it was possible that he had heard a woman's voice calling. Certainly he looked dubiously up at me as though he wanted to see whether I had heard it too, and perhaps because I made no move he considered he was safe. He began to undulate down the pavement with a purpose, like the feather boa in the cabaret act which floats around seeking a top-hat. I followed at a discreet distance.

Was it memory or a keen sense of smell which affected him? Of all the dustbins in the mean street there was only one which had lost its cover—indescribable tendrils drooped over the top. Beauty—he ignored me as completely now as he would have ignored an inferior dog— stood on his hind legs with two delicately feathered paws holding the edge of the bin. He turned his head and looked at me, without ex- pression, two pools of ink in which a soothsayer perhaps could have read an infinite series of predictions. He gave a scramble like an athlete raising himself on a parallel bar, and he was within the dustbin, and the feathered forepaws —I am sure that I have read somewhere that the feathering is very important in a contest of Pekingese—were rooting and delving among the old vegetables, the empty cartons, the squashy fragments in the bin. He became excited and his nose went down like a pig after truffles. Then his back paws got into play, discarding the rubbish behind—old fruit-skins fell on the pave- ment and rotten figs, fish-heads. . . . At last be had what he had come for—a long tube of intestine belonging to God knows what animal; he tossed it in the air, so that it curled round the milk-white throat. Then: he abandoned the dustbin, and he galumphed down the street like a harlequin, trailing behind him the intestine which might have been a string of sausages.

1 must admit I was wholly on his side. Surely anything was better than the embrace of a flat, sterile breast.

Round a turning he found a dark corner ob- viously more suited than all the others to gnawing an intestine because it contained a great splash of ordure. He tested the ordure first, like the clubman he was, with his nostrils, and then he rolled lavishly back on it, paws in the air, rubbing the cafe-au-lait fur in the dark shampoo, the intestines trailing from his mouth, while the satin eyes gazed imperturbably up at the great black Midi sky.

Curiosity took me back home, after all, by way of the ramparts, and there over the balcony the woman leant, trying, I suppose, to detect her dog in the shadows of the street below. 'Beauty!' I heard her call wearily, 'Beauty!' And then with growing impatience, 'Beauty! Come home! You've done your wee-wee, Beauty. Where are you, Beauty, Beauty?' Such small things ruin our sense of compassion, for surely, if it bad not been for that hideous orange toque, I would have felt some pity for the old sterile thing, perched up there, calling for lost Beauty.