Saturday, 14 April 2007

From "Mercier and Camier"

by Samuel Beckett.

[...] How strange, said Mercier, I had to wrestle with just such an angel.
One of us will yield in the end, said Camier.
Quite so, said Mercier, no need for both to succumb.
It would not be a desertion, said Camier, not necessarily.
Far from it, said Mercier, far from it.
By that I mean a forsaking, said Camier.
I took you to, said Mercier.
But the chances are it would, said Camier.
Would what? said Mercier.
Be one, said Camier.
Well obviously, said Mercier. To go on alone, left or leaver . . . Allow me to leave the thought unfinished.
They paced on a little way in silence. Then Mercier said:
I smell kips.
All is in darkness, said Camier. No light of any colour.
No number.
Let us ask this worthy constable, said Mercier.
They accosted the constable.
Pardon, Inspector, said Mercier, would you by any chance happen to know of a house . . . how shall I say, a bawdy or a brothelhouse, in the vicinity.
The constable looked them up and down.
Guaranteed clean, said Mercier, as far as possible, we have a horror of the pox, my friend and I.
Are you not ashamed of yourselves, at your age? said the constable.
What is that to you? said Camier.
Ashamed? said Mercier, Are you ashamed of yourself Camier, at your age?
Move on, said the constable.
I note your number, said Camier.
Have you our pencil? said Mercier.
Sixteen sixty-five, said Camier. The year of the plague. Easy to remember.
Look you, said Mercier, to renounce venery because of a simple falling off in erotogenesis would be puerile, in our opinion. You would not have us live without love, Inspector, were it but once a month, a night of the first Saturday, for example.
And that’s where taxpayers’ good-looking money goes, said Camier.
You’re arrested, said the constable.
What is the charge? said Camier.
Venal love is the only kind left to us, said Mercier. Passion and dalliance are reserved for blades like you.
And solitary enjoyment, said Camier.
The constable seized Camier’s arm and screwed it.
Help, Mercier, said Camier.
Unhand him please, said Mercier.
Camier gave a scream of pain. For the constable, holding fast his arm with one hand the size of two, with the other had dealt him a violent smack. His interest was awakening. It was not every night a diversion of this quality broke the monotony of his beat. The profession had its silver lining, he had always said so. He unsheathed his truncheon. Come on with you now, he said, and no nonsense. With the hand that held the truncheon he drew a whistle from his pocket, for he was no less dextrous than powerful. But he had reckoned without Mercier (who can blame him?) and to his undoing, for Mercier raised his right foot (who could have foreseen it?) and launched it clumsily but with force among the testicles (to call a spade a spade) of the adversary (impossible to miss them). The constable dropped everything and fell howling with pain and nausea to the ground. Mercier himself lost his balance and came down cruelly on his hipbone. But Camier, beside himself with indignation, caught up the truncheon, sent the helmet flying with his boot and clubbed the defenceless skull with all his might, again and again, holding the truncheon with both hands. The howls ceased. Mercier rose to his feet. Help me! roared Camier. He tugged furiously at the cape, caught between the head and the cobbles. What do you want with that? said Mercier. Cover his gob, said Camier. They freed the cape and lowered it over his face. Then Camier resumed his blows. Enough, said Mercier, give me that blunt instrument. Camier dropped the truncheon and took to his heels. Wait, said Mercier. Camier halted. Mercier picked up the truncheon and dealt the muffled skull one moderate and attentive blow, just one. Like a partly shelled hard-boiled egg, was his impression. Who knows, he mused, perhaps that was the finishing touch. He threw aside the truncheon and joined Camier, taking him by the arm. Look lively now, he said. On the edge of the square they were brought to a stand by the violence of the blast. Then slowly, head down, unsteadily, they pressed on through a tumult of shadow and clamour, stumbling on the cobbles strewn already with black boughs trailing grating before the wind or by little leaps and bounds as though on springs. On the far side debouched a narrow street the image of it they had just left. He didn’t hurt you badly, I hope, said Mercier. The bastard, said Camier. Did you mark the mug? This should greatly simplify matters, said Mercier. And they talk of law and order, said Camier. We would never have hit on it alone, said Mercier. Best now go to Helen’s, said Camier. Indubitably, said Mercier. Are you sure we were not seen? said Camier. Chance knows how to handle it, said Mercier. Deep down I never counted but on her. I don’t see what difference it makes, said Camier. You will, said Mercier. The flowers are in the vase and the flock back in the fold. I don’t understand, said Camier. They went then mostly in silence the short way they had still to go, now exposed to the full fury of the wind, now through zones of calm, Mercier striving to grasp the full consequences for them of what had chanced, Camier to make sense of the phrase he had just heard. But they strove in vain, the one to conceive their good fortune, the other to arrive at a meaning, for they were weary, in need of sleep, buffeted by the wind, while in their skull, to crown their discomfiture, a pelting of insatiable blows.

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