The sestet. It was all right, he thought. He told the Spanish dawn he thought it was all right. Then he had a swig of Fundador. Not all that much left. She'd put her name into it, that one, Miss whoever-it-was, moon-woman. He told the sestet to his reflection like an elocutionist:
"Of man, rather. To most it seemed a mirror:
They strained their necks with gazing in the air,
Proud of those stony eyes unglazed by terror.
Though marble is not glass, why should they care?
There would be time for coughing up the error.
Someone was bound to find his portrait there."
And the meaning? It seemed pretty clear, really. This was what happened in a humanist society. The Garden of Eden (and that was in the other sonnet, the one that had rendered bloody Wapenshaw violent) was turned into a field where men built or fought or ploughed or something. They worshipped themselves for being so clever, but then they were all personified in an autocratic leader, like this Franco up there in Madrid. Humanism always led to totalitarianism. Something like that, anyway.
Enderby was moderately pleased with the poem, but he was more pleased with the prospect of a bigger structure, a sequence. Some years before he had published the volume called Revolutionary Sonnets. The book had contained things other than sonnets, but the title had derived from that opening group of twenty, each of which had tried to encapsulate-exploiting the theme and countertheme paradigm of the Petrarchan form-some phase of history in which a revolution had taken place. He felt now that it might be possible to wrest those twenty sonnets from that volume and, by adding twenty more with the cooperation of the Muse, build a sizeable sequence which would make a book on its own. A new title would be needed-something more imaginative than the old one, something like Conch and Cortex or something. So far he had these two sonnets-the Garden of Eden one and the new one about man building his own world outside the Garden. Somewhere at the back of his mind there pricked the memory of his having started and then abandoned, in a very rough state, another sonnet that, nicely worked up and carefully polished, would make a third. It was, he thought, really an anterior sonnet to these two, an image of the primal revolution in heaven-Satan revolting, that sort of thing. Lucifer, Adam, Adam's children. Those would make the first three. He felt that, with a certain amount of drunkenness followed by crapulous meditation, that sonnet could be teased back to life. He was pretty sure that the rhymes, at least, would come marching back, in U.S. Army soft-soled boots, if he left the gate open. Octave: Lucifer fed up with the dead order and unity of heaven. Wants action, so has to conceive idea of duality. Sestet: he dives, creates hell to oppose heaven. Enderby saw him diving. An eagle dropping from a mountain-top in sunlight. Out of Tennyson, that. The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls. Alls, balls, calls. Was that one of the sestet rhymes?
He felt excited. He toasted himself in the last of the Fundador. That bloody woman. But there was time for shame now and for the desire to make amends. He thought he had better go now to her room and apologise. He saw that it was not perhaps really all that polite to get out of bed and so on with a woman in order to write down a poem. Especially on toilet-paper brought in like triumphal streamers. Women had their own peculiar notion of priorities, and this had to be respected. But he had no doubt that she would see his point if properly explained. Suppose, he might say, she had suddenly spotted a new lunar crater while so engaged, would she not herself have leapt up as he had done? And then he could read his sonnet to her. He wondered whether it was worth while to dress properly for his visit. The dawn was mounting and soon the hotel would stir with insolent waiters coming to bedrooms with most inadequate breakfasts. But she might, thoroughly mollified by the sonnet, bid him back to bed again, her bed now, to resume what had, so to speak, that is to say. He blushed. He would go, as a film Don Juan he had once seen had gone, in open-necked shirt and trousers.
He went out on to the corridor, his sonnet wrapped round his wrist and one end secured with his thumb. Her room was just down there, on the same side as his own. When they had all, with Mr Mercer leading and Mr Guthkelch crying: "Keep in step there, you horrible lot," marched up together, he had definitely seen her allotted that room there. He went up to it now and stood before it, taking deep breaths and trying out a pleni-dental smile. Then he grasped the door-handle and boldly entered. Dawn-lit, the curtains drawn back, a room much like his own though containing luggage. She was lying in bed, possibly asleep, possibly-for every woman was supposed to be able to tell at once when there was an intruder, something to do with the protection of honour-pretending to be asleep. Enderby coughed loudly and said:
"I came to tell you I'm sorry. I didn't mean it. It just came over me, as I said."
She started awake at once, more surprised, it seemed, than angry. She had changed her nightdress to demure cotton, also the colour of her hair. It was the aircraft's stewardess. Miss Kelly was the name. Enderby frowned on her. She had no right-But perhaps he had entered the wrong room. She said:
"Did you want something? I'm not really supposed to be available to passengers, you know, except on the flight."
"No, no," frowned Enderby. "Sorry. I was after that other woman. The moon one. Miss Boolan."
"Miss Boland. Oh, I see. It's your wrist, is it? You've got that thing round your wrist. You've cut your wrist, is that it? All the first-aid stuffs on the aircraft. The hotel people might be able to help you."
"Oh, no, no, no," Enderby laughed now. "This is a poem, not an improvised bandage. I had to get up and write this poem, you understand, and I fear I annoyed Miss Boland, as you say her name is. I was going to apologise to her and perhaps read out this poem as a kind of peace-offering, so to speak. It's what's known as a sonnet."
"It's a bit early, isn't it?" She slid down into her bed again, leaving just her head and eyes showing. "I mean, everybody's supposed to be still asleep."
"Oh," Enderby smiled kindly, "it's not that sort of poem, you know. You're thinking of an aubade-a good-morning song. The Elizabethans were very fond of these. Hark hark the lark, and so on. When all the birds have matins said, and so forth. A sonnet is a poem in fourteen lines. For any occasion, I suppose."
"I know what a sonnet is," her voice said, muffled but sharp. "There's a sonnet in that book by Yod Crewsy."
Enderby stood paralysed, his own sonnet held forward like a knuckleduster. "Eh?" Thought fell in at a great distance and, in British tommies' clodhoppers, advanced steadily at a light infantry pace.
"You know. You were asking about pop-singers on the plane. Vesta Wittgenstein you were asking about too, remember. Yod Crewsy did this book of poems that won the prize. There's one in it he calls a sonnet. I couldn't make head nor tail of it really, but one of the BOAC ground-hostesses, educated you see, she said it was very clever."
"Can you," faltered Enderby, "can you remember anything about it?" Like Macbeth, he began to see that it might be necessary to kill everybody.
"Oh, it's so early. And," she said, a girl slow on the uptake, sitting up again, things dawning on her, "you shouldn't be in here really at this hour. Not at any hour you shouldn't. Nobody asked you to come in here. I'll call Captain O'Shaughnessy." Her voice was growing louder.
"One line, one word," begged Enderby. "Just tell me what it was about."
"You're not supposed to be in here. It's taking advantage of being a passenger. I'm not supposed to be rude to passengers. Oh, why don't you go?"
"About the devil and hell and so on? Was that it?
"I've had enough. I'm going to call Captain O'Shaughnessy."
"Oh, don't bother," groaned Enderby. "I'm just going. But it's liberty after liberty."
"You're telling me it's taking a liberty."
"First one thing and then another. If he's dead I'm glad he's dead. But there'll be other heads rolling, I can tell you that. Did it have something about an eagle in it? You know, dropping from a great height?"
Miss Kelly seemed to be taking a very deep breath, as though in preparation for shouting. Enderby went, nodding balefully, closing the door. In the circumstances, he did not much feel like calling on Miss Boland. Women were highly unpredictable creatures. No, that was stupid. You could predict them all right. He had thought he would never have to see blasted treacherous Vesta again, but he obviously had to confront her before he did her in. The future was filling itself up horribly. Things both monstrously necessary and sickeningly irrelevant. He wanted to get on with his poetry again.