فصل 08

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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CHAPTER EIGHT

Snails

When the doctor glanced out of the window and saw Captain Corelli creeping up behind Lemoni in order to surprise her, he laid down his pen and went out into the afternoon sunlight.

‘Excuse me, children,’ said the doctor, ignoring the captain’s embarrassment, ‘Lemoni, do you remember that you told me you know a place where there were lots of snails? Can you come round this evening and show me where they are?’

Lemoni nodded importantly.

‘What’s all this about?’ asked the captain.

Stiffly, the doctor said, ‘Thanks to you Italians, there’s almost no food. We’re going out this evening to find snails.’

The captain wiped the sweat from his forehead and said, ‘Permit me to come and help.’

So in the evening, an hour before sunset, Pelagia and her father, Lemoni and the captain climbed over a low wall and then began crawling through impossibly thick undergrowth in their search for snails. It became immediately apparent that there were quantities of snails everywhere they looked. The child and three adults became so involved in their task that they did not notice they had become separated. The captain found himself on his own and paused for a second, realizing that he could not remember ever having felt so content.

‘Oh, oh no,’ came Pelagia’s voice from nearby.

Fearing that perhaps she had been hurt, the captain crawled towards the place where her voice had come from and found her unable to move, her hair caught in some briars, her neck pulled backwards. ‘Don’t laugh,’ she said crossly.

‘I’m not laughing,’ he said, laughing. ‘I was afraid you were hurt.’

‘If you don’t help me, I’ll murder you. Just stop laughing.’

‘Hold still,’ he told her, and reaching over her shoulders he began to pull the hair out piece by piece, as gently as he could. ‘I’ve done it,’ he said, pleased with himself, and as he drew back and his lips passed her cheek, he kissed it tenderly, before the ear.

She touched her fingertips to the place of the kiss, and said, shaking her head at him, ‘You shouldn’t have done that.’

He knelt back and held her gaze with his own. ‘I couldn’t help it. I’m sorry.’

They looked at one another for a long moment, and then Pelagia began to cry. ‘What’s the matter?’ asked Corelli, frowning in concern as Pelagia’s tears rolled down her cheeks and fell into the bucket among the snails. ‘You’re drowning them,’ he said, pointing. ‘What’s the matter?’

She gave a sad smile, and started crying again. He took her in his arms and patted her back. Suddenly she said, ‘I can’t stand it any more, not any of it. I’m sorry.’

‘Everything is horrible,’ agreed the captain, wondering if he too might start to cry. He took her head gently in his hands and touched at the tears with his lips. She gazed at him wonderingly and suddenly they found themselves underneath the briars, in the sunset, surrounded by escaping snails, deep in their first, secret, guilty kiss. Hungry and desperate, filled with light, they could not move away from each other, and when finally they returned home, they brought back fewer snails together than Lemoni brought on her own.

They became lovers in the old-fashioned sense. Their idea of making love was to kiss in the dark under the trees or sit on a rock watching the sea. He loved her too much to risk her unhappiness, and she had too much sense to take risks. Again and again she had seen the tragedy of girls with an unwanted child and the poisoned deaths of girls who had tried to end their pregnancies.

It was hard for Pelagia to love an invader and sometimes she shouted at Corelli, her eyes filled with tears of anger: ‘How can you bear to be here? Orders? Orders from a madman! Don’t you know you’re being used? Why don’t you take your guns and leave? Don’t you know who the enemy is?’

At these times the captain listened silently and bowed his head, the bitterness of his shame eating like a worm at the muscles of his heart. But they could not stop themselves from loving one another.

Gunter Weber managed to obtain a motorcycle for the captain, who turned up outside the doctor’s house one day wearing a cap and goggles.

‘Do you want to come for a ride?’ he asked.

Pelagia crossed her arms. ‘I’ve never been on one. In fact I’ve never been in a car either and I’m not starting now.’

‘I’ve never been on one either,’ he said, ‘but it’s very easy.’

‘Somebody might see us,’ said Pelagia.

The captain solved this problem by bringing Pelagia a disguise consisting of a cap, goggles and a long leather coat, and the next day they met around the bend of the road and rode off on the bike. They fell off twice, without injury, and she gripped his waist, whitefaced with terror. She climbed off, shaking, and realized she could not wait to get back on; it was splendid to ride a motorcycle.

They went to places where Pelagia could not have been recognized and to places that were deserted, and there she would put her arm through his and walk beside him, leaning her weight against his shoulder, always laughing. With him, she would always remember that she laughed. One day they discovered a ruined hut so old that the floor had sunk into the earth. They called it ‘Casa Nostra’, and in this secret house they would spread a blanket and lie embracing and talking.

All their lovers’ talk began with the phrase, ‘After the war’.

‘After the war, when we are married, let’s go to America; I’ve got relatives in Chicago. After the war we won’t bring up our children with any religion, they can make their own minds up when they’re older. After the war, we’ll go all over Europe and you can give concerts in hotels and that’s how we’ll live. After the war I’ll love you, I’ll love you forever after the war.’

It was during this period of happiness for Pelagia and the captain that Dr Iannis was woken one night by a gentle tapping on his window. Puzzled, the doctor looked out and saw a villager accompanied by a very tall fair-haired man wearing the Greek national costume, something that a wealthy man might wear once a year on a feast day. ‘We thought you were the man to help him,’ the villager told the doctor, before departing. The tall stranger smiled and held out his hand, speaking in an extraordinarily old-fashioned Greek that the doctor found almost impossible to understand. The stranger then climbed, uninvited, through the doctor’s window into the house, and took a huge radio out of his bag. Pelagia woke and came into her father’s room, saw the stranger and put her hand over her mouth, wide-eyed with amazement.

‘Who’s this?’ she demanded of her father.

‘How am I supposed to know,’ replied the doctor. ‘He says he’s called Bunnios and he talks Greek like a Spanish cow.’

The stranger bowed politely and shook Pelagia’s hand, then smiled charmingly and said, ‘Greek of the old days. Homer.’

‘Ancient Greek?’ exclaimed Pelagia, disbelievingly. The doctor tapped his finger to his forehead. ‘English?’ he asked.

‘English,’ agreed the man. ‘But, I must beg you…’

‘Of course we won’t tell anyone.’

The man smiled. It had been an awful burden to speak the finest ancient Greek and not be understood.

‘We are having an Italian officer sleeping in a room,’ said the doctor, whose English was not as good as he liked to believe, ‘so we are being very quiet, please. Are you a spy?’

The man nodded and asked, ‘Do you have any clothes I could have? I would be so grateful.’

The Englishman departed for the town of Argostoli at dawn, wearing trousers that ended half way down his legs, and having received some good advice from the doctor: ‘Look, OK? You accent terrible-terrible. Not to talk, understand? You are quiet until you learning. Also, you watch out Communists - they thieves. Italians OK, Germans not good, see?’

Bunnios, whose real name was Bunny Warren, soon found an empty hut in the hills where, using his huge radio, he reported in great detail to his British masters, informing them of troop movements in the area. He also set himself the task of learning modern Greek, and was assisted in this by the willing islanders.

The captain’s opera group, La Scala, became accustomed to meeting in the doctor’s house.

‘Your soldiers are stealing from people’s vegetable patches, when we’re dying of hunger already,’ said the doctor to Corelli one day, when the group was there.

‘If it’s true, they will be punished,’ the captain replied, already deeply shamed and embarrassed by the fact that some nights previously someone, obviously an Italian soldier, had stolen Pelagia’s goat.

‘We Germans do not do this,’ said Gunter Weber, with a pleased expression on his face.

‘Germans can’t sing,’ replied Corelli, ‘and anyway, I’ll get this investigated and I’ll put a stop to it. It’s too bad.’

Weber smiled. ‘You are very famous for defending the rights of the Greeks. I wonder if sometimes you understand why you are here.’

‘I try to think of it as a holiday. I don’t have your advantages, Gunter.’

‘Advantages?’

‘Yes. I don’t have the advantage of thinking that other races are inferior to mine.’

‘It’s a question of science,’ said Weber. ‘You can’t alter a scientific fact.’

Corelli frowned. ‘Science? I don’t care about science. Moral principles are important, not science.’

‘We disagree,’ said Weber in a friendly fashion. ‘Science tells us that the strong survive. Strength needs no excuses and doesn’t have to give reasons.’

‘Science is about facts, and morality is about values,’ said Carlo, who had been listening closely.

‘It’s also a matter of being able to live with yourself,’ Corelli added.

‘You’re a good man,’ said Gunter, ‘I admit it. Why don’t I get my record player from my car and we can all sing with Marlene Dietrich.’ He went to his car and proudly returned with the record player, which he put down on the table. He put on the record and Dietrich began to sing, her voice full of the sadness of knowledge, the longing for love.

‘Oh,’ exclaimed Weber, ‘her voice makes me melt,’ and Corelli said, ‘Antonia likes this. She’s going to sing.’ He began to accompany the song, playing so beautifully that in the village people stopped what they were doing and listened to Corelli fill the night. Pelagia left the kitchen, her form ghostlike in the light of the candles. ‘Please play that song again,’ she asked Weber. ‘It was so beautiful.’

‘Do you like it?’ asked Weber, and she nodded. ‘All right,’ he continued, ‘when I go home after the war, I’ll leave it with you. It would please me very much for you to have it.’

Pelagia was delighted. She looked at the smiling boy with his smart uniform and blond hair and was filled with pleasure. ‘You’re so sweet,’ she said, and kissed him naturally on the cheek, so that the boys of La Scala cheered and Weber went red and hid his eyes with his hand.

The time came when the doctor decided that it was necessary to discuss certain matters with Pelagia. ‘There’s something I have to talk to you about,’ he told her. ‘It has not escaped my notice that you have fallen in love with the captain.’

She went violently red and looked terribly shocked. ‘The captain?’ she said foolishly.

He began a long speech. ‘It’s not that I don’t like the captain. Of course, he’s a little mad, which is quite simply explained by the fact that he is Italian. In fact I like him very much, but you must remember that you are engaged to Mandras, and technically, the captain is an enemy. Can you imagine the pain you will suffer when people discover that you have given up the love of a Greek in favour of an invader? People will throw stones at you and spit, you know that, don’t you? You would have to move away to Italy if you wanted to stay with him, because here you might not be safe. Are you prepared to leave this island and this people?

‘And another thing. Love is a temporary madness. When it ends you have to work out whether your roots have so joined together that it is unimaginable that you should ever separate. Because that is what love is. Love isn’t breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every part of your body. No, don’t look so embarrassed, I’m telling you some truths. That is just being “in love”, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away.

‘I say to you that to marry the captain is impossible until our country is free again. I would be happy for you to do this, but this means that you have a love that will be delayed. Pelagia, you know as well as I do that love delayed means that physical passion increases. No, don’t look at me like that. Do you think I don’t know that young girls can be eaten by desire? Imagine if you got pregnant, what would you do? I would not assist in the murder of an innocent. Would you have the child, and then find that no man would ever marry you? I would not abandon you as long as I live, even under such circumstances. But imagine if I should die. What then?’

Pelagia had never felt so crushed in all her life and wept bitterly, but when she looked up, she found her father looking at her sympathetically. ‘You make everything sound so disgusting,’ she said. ‘You don’t know how it is.’

‘I went through a lot of this with your mother,’ he replied. ‘She was engaged to someone else. I do know how it is.’

‘You don’t forbid everything then?’ she asked hopefully.

‘No, I don’t forbid everything. I say you must be careful and act honourably to Mandras. Don’t give in to your desires, that’s all. The captain is a good man. Pray for our freedom, Pelagia, because then everything becomes possible.’

Pelagia stood up to go and her father said, ‘I did not intend to upset you. I was young once.’

‘Not everything was different in your day, then,’ she said as she left the room, and her father smiled, pleased that his words had not crushed his daughter’s spirit.

The doctor and the captain were sitting indoors at the kitchen table while the latter was removing a broken string from his mandolin. The doctor leaned back and sighed, then suddenly asked, ‘Are you and Pelagia planning to be married? As her father, I think I have a right to know.’

The captain was so surprised by the frankness of the question that he was unable to think of a reply. His relationship with Pelagia had only been able to proceed on the basis that no one ever brought the issue out into the open. He looked at the doctor anxiously.

‘You can’t live here,’ said the doctor. He pointed to the mandolin. ‘If you want to be a musician, this is the last place to be. And I don’t think that Pelagia could live in Italy. She is a Greek. She would die like a flower without sunlight.’

‘Ah,’ said the captain, for the lack of any intelligent remark.

‘It’s true,’ said the doctor. ‘I know you have not thought about it. Italians always act without thinking. Anyway, Pelagia is a Greek, that’s my point. So can it work?’

There was a silence between the two men. ‘I love her,’ said Corelli at last, as if this were the answer to the problem, which to him it was.

‘I know that. You’d have to live here, that’s all,’ said the doctor. ‘You might have to choose between loving her and becoming a musician.’

The doctor left the room, more for dramatic effect than for any other purpose, and then came back in. ‘And another thing. This is a very ancient land and we’ve had nothing except murder for two thousand years. We’ve got so many places full of bitter ghosts that anyone who goes near them or lives in them becomes heartless or insane. I don’t believe in God, captain, but I do believe in ghosts. And there will be many more deaths. It’s only a question of time. So don’t make any plans.’

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