The Silent Star of Stratford

Alec Guinness, Tyrone Guthrie and all those people at the Festival, they couldn’t see a fine actress when she was under their noses. But Karen had her own script and life itself was her stage

VERA JOHNSON August 15 1953

The Silent Star of Stratford

Alec Guinness, Tyrone Guthrie and all those people at the Festival, they couldn’t see a fine actress when she was under their noses. But Karen had her own script and life itself was her stage

VERA JOHNSON August 15 1953

The Silent Star of Stratford

Alec Guinness, Tyrone Guthrie and all those people at the Festival, they couldn’t see a fine actress when she was under their noses. But Karen had her own script and life itself was her stage

VERA JOHNSON

EVERY NIGHT the moths came to heat their wings against her window. As a little girl she had been afraid of the dark and even now when she told people she was thirty-five and sometimes remembered uneasily that she was actually forty-seven —a lamp burned beside her bed to ward off the shadows. Drawn by the light, the moths hurled themselves against the pane, their wings making a horrible soft flapping noise against the glass. Once, in her dreams, a monstrous creature the size of an eagle had hurtled right through the glass and flown to her bed. Its hairy legs and soft pulpy body weighted down her chest and the drooping wings smothered her with a musty stench. After that, she took a sleeping pill every night.

A Short Story

Perhaps it was because of the sleeping pills that she found it so hard to wake up in the mornings. Every day it seemed more of an effort. The harsh jangle of the alarm—a sound almost as horrible as the soff beat of moth wings— hammered into her skull with cruel insistence. Then she lay in the dark silence, letting her bruised mind slowly come to life. “Where am I? —what day is it?—what have I got to do?”

On this particular morning the answers struggled laboriously from the drugged depths of her brain. She was in Stratford, Ontario. It was Monday, July 13, the day the Festival opened.

She unclosed her eyes slowly, squinting at the hard bright sunlight. Oh God, she thought, I can’t face it. She covered her eyes with her hand, but the loud ticking of the clock continued to nag at her. At last she pushed herself up, swung her legs over the side of the bed and rested there for a moment. Downstairs she could hear the high-pitched whine of t he vacuum cleaner. I must hurry, she told herself. I must get going.

Her toes explored beneath the bed, found slippers and slid into them. She walked groggily to the door and opened it, and the whine of the vacuum rose to a grating squeal. She fled from it to the bathroom, locked the door and ran the tap noisily.

It was always better after she had washed, needling her flesh with icy water. She could feel the life slowly coming back into her body, and her brain began to work.

Deliver the record to Guinnessthat’s the first thing, she reminded herself. Then buy a necklace to wear with her new dress, and call on Jenny, and she must see Alan even if it was only for a moment, and then and then— . . . But she couldn’t plan any further ahead until she had a cup of coffee.

Despite the urge for coffee which fluttered her stomach, she dressed with her usual care girdle smoothed down over narrow hips, garters adjusted exactly, stocking seams centred, the sash of her dress tied with beautiful precision in an elaborate bow. She took the bobby pins from her hair and combed and brushed it into shape. Then came t he ritual of making up —cold cream smeared on and wiped off, liquid powder smoothed over the wrinkles and crow’s-feet, rouge applied in a red daub and then gently spread out under the cheekbones, eye shadow rubbed in, mascara brushed onto lashes that had been curled with a patented curler, eyebrow pencil stroked over the few hairs that had not been removed by tweezers and extended in a dramatic line, the outline of a Cupid’s-bow mouth drawn with a brush dipped in lipstick and then patiently filled in, perfume daubed behind the ears and in the hollow of her throat.

At last she could take off the make-up cape and turn slowly before the mirror, inspecting herself from every angle. Watching her reflection, she began to feel herself a person again as if the night had broken her into litt le bits and only now, when all the pieces had been assembled and welded, could she begin to function once more. A personality looked at her from the mirror— Karen Thorpe, actress. She dropped her eyelids, peering roguishly from beneath spiky lashes, and at the back of her mind she could hear a voice saying, “Beautiful, fascinating Karen Thorpe smiling the enigmatic, haunting smile that has made her the toast of the continent and drawn men

to her as moths are lured by the brilliance of a candle flame.”

No not' moths. . The smile faded. She reached for her jewelry box, selected a pair of silver earrings, large and garish as a gypsy’s, and screwed them into the lobes. A last lingering look a pat of the hair and she was ready to face the day.

Mrs. Osborne was in the kitchen when Karen made her entrance. Even after five weeks she was still enthralled by the phenomenon of a real live actress actually staying in the house, but this morning Karen found her attentions a little tedious.

Mrs. Osborne was an avid listener, marveling and cluck-clucking in all the right places, but Karen had begun to tire of playing for the same audience day after day, especially when the audience was a dowdy middleaged woman with a pudding face and no interests in life apart from her grandchildren.

“Well, I never!” Mrs. Osborne said, and “You don’t say!” and “My, oh my!” and every morning she warned Karen, “You’ll make yourself ill if you keep on like that just hlack coffee and a cigarette for breakfast.”

Today she was all in a fluster about the opening of the Shakespearean Festival. “You can feel it just as soon as you step outside the door the excitement. It’s like a fever running through the town. Aren’t you all on edge?”

Karen’s smile was a trifle world-weary. “If you’d seen as many first nights as I have, Mrs. Osborne .” She shrugged her shoulders eloquently. “Besides, tonight I’ll just be part of the audience. It’s tomorrow 1 make my little effort.” The intonation on the word “my” was perfect self-deprecating, slightly rueful, and yet with implications of grandeur. Mrs. Osborne was enraptured. “I wish I could see it,” she said, “but I’ll be baby sitting for my daughter tonight and tomorrow. Their tickets cost them three dollars each!” She was torn between pride and horror at such extravagance. “Imagine you could see six shows for that. They’re going to a party afterwards, so I won’t be home till all hours.”

Karen looked at her watch and started. “Goodness I’ll have to hurry. I promised Alec Guinness to drop in with a recording he wanted to hear.” Mrs. Osborne was in ecstasy. “Oh my,” she said, “imagine that.”

She sighed happily, plump hands folded dreamily in her lap. Then she asked, “Is he as nice as they say he is?”

Karen smiled patronizingly. “Oh, Alec’s a dear,” she said lightly.

But as she walked along the street later with the straw cart-wheel hat shading her face from the sun and her red-tipped nails sheathed in nylon gloves and the record in its cardboard case beneath her arm she thought that perhaps the phrase had been excessive. He was nice enough but nothing out of the ordinary. When she had talked to him about the recording of herself doing some of Portia’s speeches, his manner had been cold? distant? Maybe “disinterested” was a better word to describe it. “dust to give you a small idea of what I can do, Mr. Guinness,” she had said. “I know you’re frightfully busy, hut it only takes three minutes and you can just keep it at home and whenever you have a spare moment there’s no rush at all, I’ll be in Stratford till the Festival’s over anyway I’ll just slip it in as I’m passing some day and you can return if whenever you’re ready .” And all the time he had stood there, eyes squinting a little against the smoke that rose from his cigarette, face expressionless, saying nothing.

No, he was not really a “dear.” None of the fop people were. Once they had achieved success, they lost all interest in the people who were still struggling upwards. Younger artists like herself were the only ones with a real feeling for the theatre.

She thought bitterly of the effort it had cost her to land even a walk-on part in the Festival the letters, the phone calls, the telegrams, the interviews, the finagling. They’d tried to brush lier off as if she were some high-school juvenile, hut she had refused to be ignored.

Even at the end, when they had suddenly relented, there had been a sting in the offer. She remembered Cecil Clarke’s voice over the phone --“Dr. Guthrie has decided he would like to have one or two elderly ladies for the court scenes in All's Well and wondered if you were still interested.” Her fingers had gripped the receiver and angry words leaped to her tongue —but you didn’t talk that way to an assistant director, not when long years in the theatre had schooled you in self-control. A Continued on paffe 57

The Silent Star of Stratford

CONTINUED FROM PAGE 13

pause—then her carefully modulated voice had answered, “Why certainly, Mr. Clarke. I should be delighted.”

So here she was in Stratford. Tomorrow night she would move about the stage as one of the anonymous “Ladies” in the play, and speak not a word. The years of elocution lessons, training in dramatics, Little Theatre work, professional stage experience all for nothing. Even if Irene Worth fell ill, she would not be called on, although she had studied the roles of Helena and Queen Margaret until she was wordperfect. Guthrie -the mighty director, she thought sarcastically, the renowned Doctor Guthrie—had passed her by when he was choosing understudies.

There was always a chance, of course, that both the star and the understudy might fall ill. It wasn’t likely, hut it could happen. Then Guthrie would take a different tone—pleading, desperate. “Miss Thorpe, I realize that we have no right to ask it—but this is an emergency. You’re the only person who can save the Festival.” And then the performance, the endless curtain calls, the cheers of the cast, the champagne supper, the raves in the New York papers, the movie contracts . . .

It could happen. But even if it didn’t there were other possibilities. Supposing Alec Guinness took the record back to England with him. He had all the contacts and would know which producer would be most interested. And then a few words dropped in the casual British way that was so effective (“Rather an exceptional person stage presence — projection — brilliance —emotional depths—.”) . . . The rosy haze of the future spread before her all the way along Mornington Street to the house where Archdeacon Lightbourn lived.

She often came by here on the way to rehearsals, even though it meant walking several extra blocks. There was always a chance that Guinness would be in the garden, or else setting out for a stroll. A casual encounter could lead to bigger things—an invitation to tea, the development of a real friendship, introductions to people who were in a position to help you.

Today, instead of sauntering idly past the house she walked boldly up to the front door and knocked. A girl she didn’t know answered—one of the Light bourn girls, perhaps? You couldn’t always tell who was important and who wasn’t. Some of the really important people looked so undistinguished that you were apt to overlook them at first, and afterwards it was too late.

She smiled her most ravishing smile and said warmly, “Hello! I promised Mr. Guinness that I’d pop in with this record next time I was passing. Is he home?”

“He’s resting right now,” the girl said, “but I’ll see that he gets it.”

“Would you really? Oh, that’s so good of you.”

She hesitated a moment and then, because there was nothing else to do, handed over the record, said “Thank you so much” in a low, throaty voice and glided hack down the path.

Her mood was spoiled. It seemed doubtful now that Guinness would even listen to the record, much less take it to England with him. Why should he? she thought cynically. He’s at the top, he’s set for life now, he doesn’t need to associate with walk-ons any more. Well, if that’s the way he

feels, far be it from me to bother him. She set her chin at a determinedly gay angle and walked along with brisk strides, hut her heart wasn’t in the performance. Not until she reached the jewelry store did her spirits begin to rise again, stimulated by the prospect of buying something new. When she saw the three-piece set, her heart gave a great bound. It was so right, so absolutely perfect for her gown - a necklet of emerald green stones, with a fringe of rhinestones dangling in glittering profusion. She held it in her hand, tenderly. The rhinestone fringe on the matching earrings would hang almost to her shoulders. She saw herself floating down the aisle of the theatre a vision of shining splendor. “I’ll take it,” she said. The price was more than she could afford, hut there were other ways to economize. Exultant now, she stood outside the jewelry store and for the first time caught the mood of the town. There was a hust le and excitement that was new to Stratford, a heady sense of anticipation that made people smile at strangers and walk with a new spring in their step. She felt it she shared it. What wonderful people, she thought, what a wonderful city, what a wonderful day! She let herself be carried along with the crowd and then, recognizing a coffee shop that Alan sometimes visited, decided to stop for a sandwich. Only one booth was empty, and a few moments after she sat down a middle-aged couple asked permission to share it. She agreed graciously. Nothing bothered her now—not even the fact that Alan wasn’t here. She was happy. She had finished her sandwich and was sipping black coffee and smoking when the man acro&s the table finally worked up enough courage to speak. “Pardon me for asking,” he said, “but do you happen to be one of the actresses in the Festival?” Karen tilted her head and laughed musically. “How did you guess?” she said, and then—with a protesting flutter of her hand “No, don’t tell me. Sometimes I’ve tried to fool people into thinking I was a stenographer or a housewife or something like that, but it’s no use. I suppose when you’ve been on the stage long enough, you acquire a sort of aura that people recognize immediately.” “Yes I guess aura’s a good word for it,” the man said. He looked uncomfortable. Karen hastened to put him at his ease. “Have you come to watch the Festival?” she said. “That’s right; we drove all the way from Massachusetts. I teach English in a high school there—place called Rowley, not far from Boston.” “We can hardly wait till tonight,” the woman said, “and this makes it even more exciting—meeting you, I mean. What part are you playing?” “Oh, I’m just a lowly walk-on,” Karen said humorously, “one of the Ladies in All’s Well.” She chuckled. “Three months ago if anyone had suggested 1 do such a thing—well, it was just inconceivable. But working with Tony—that’s different.” “Tony?” the man said, puzzled. “Oh sorry,” Karen said apologetically. “I’m so used to calling him Tony I forgot that other people wouldn’t know the name. I meant Dr. Guthrie, of course. He’s a darling.” She looked down at the table and smiled in private recollection. Then, raising her eyes, she said. “Actually, I’d hoped to play Lady Anne in Richard and Helena in All’s Well, but it seemed impossible for me to get away—radio and TV commitments, you know. It wasn’t until

the last minute that I was able to arrange it. So—here I am!” She shrugged her shoulders, and the three of them laughed together. Such nice people, Karen thought. Such a nice town. She felt so good that she decided to take a taxi instead of walking, even though she couldn’t afford it. At the O-Cedar factory, where the property workshop was located, she asked the driver to wait. Jenny was all alone in the great empty barn of a place with its smell of varnish and glue and fresh paint. The ordered confusion of helmets and breastplates and elaborate jewelry had disappeared, and the pallid corpse of King Henry VI—with the thick blood oozing through its shroud —no longer rested on its elaborate bier. “Jenny, darling,” Karen said joyfully. Jenny started and turned away from the sink where she was washing her hands. Such a bit of a thing, Karen thought. With those great dark eyes she looks like a fawn about to run away into the bushes. No style, of course but what could you do with a meagre frame like that? Still, she was a nice child. “Where is everybody?” Karen asked. “Jackie’s gone for lunch,” Jenny said. She had a light high voice that wouldn’t have reached past the first row of a theatre. “The others have finished for the season. There’s really nothing to do—we’re just touching up a few odds and ends.” “I can’t stay,” Karen said. “There’s a cab waiting. But there was something I just had to say to you. You know what we were talking about yesterday?” “Yes,” Jenny said guardedly. “Well, I wanted to ask you—.” Karen hesitated. “It’s just that—,” she said, and her voice was choked a little with emotion, “I hope you won’t mention it to Alan. Some things—it’s better to keep locked up - here.” She rested one hand poignantly over her heart. “I’ve made my decision now I want to forget it. You understand, don’t you?” “Yes, I understand,” Jenny said in a very low voice. “Then it’s settled. Bless you, my dear.” Karen took Jenny’s limp boneless hand and pressed it with both of hers. “I want you to be happy—both of you. That’s all that matters.” She was misty-eyed as she walked to the taxi and there was a lump in her throat—but she felt wonderful all the same. I shall have my memories, she thought—and the knowledge that I did what was right. When the cabdriver spoke to her the words came through a fog. “What?” she said -and then, collecting herself, “Oh. Yes. Let me see . . . the Festival Club. That’s it.” That’s where they’ll be, she thought blissfully, leaning back against the seat and closing her eyes. Stratford was crowded with newspapermen two hundred of them, somebody had said. Brooks Atkinson of the New York Times and John Beaufort of the Christian Science Monitor and the two critics from England and Wolcott Gibbs —or was that just a rumor? and Nathan Cohen of the CBC and all the others. It was important to keep in with the press; they could make you or break you. And it was always an advantage to meet them personally and create a good impression before they saw the performance. The Festival Club was jammed. Karen paused in the doorway, peering through the smoky haze until she spotted the publicity director of the Festival sitting at a table, surrounded by a group of men. She swept over to them. “Oh, Miss Jolliflfe,” she called gaily,

“how are you! Such a hectic day—I thought I’d just pop in for a long cool drink.”

She laughed roguishly, and Mary Jolliffe smiled up at her—but with a definite lack of enthusiasm.

“You know, dear, I was wondering about my pictures,” Karen said. “Have you used them all up yet? Do you want more?”

“No thanks not yet.”

“Well if you do, just let me know.” Karen smiled at the men. “You know what actresses are like—we’re always concerned about publicity!” The men stared back at her without interest. “Well, I’ll have to hurry,” she said. “See you later.” With a gay little wave of the hand she swept away.

She found an empty chair at the other side of the room and ordered iced coffee. Some publicity director, she thought sarcastically. Probably my pictures are just sitting on a shelf in the office gathering dust while she draws a nice fat cheque for doing nothing. She must make plenty, the way she dresses. And for what? The only mention I’ve had so far was that one stinking little line in the Tely.

A man sitting at a table nearby was staring at her as he chewed on a sandwich. From beneath lowered eyelids she assessed him—tall, greying, distinguished-looking, smartly dressed — American, probably. She slowly raised her eyes and gave him a sultry smile. After all, it might be Wolcott Gibbs or somebody just as prominent. He pushed back his chair and moved over to her table.

“Hello, sweetheart,” he said. “Where have you been all my life?”

Too late, she realized that he was sodden drunk. Still, she reminded herself, even important people sometimes indulged a little too freely. She smiled again—this time a little shyly.

“Oh, just stuck up here in Canada,” she said wryly. “And where have you been all your life?”

The man looked at her glassily. “That’s a good one,” he said. “Where have I been all my life!” He chuckled quietly. “Why, I’ve been right here in Stratford. Joe Pennyworth’s the name—I’m a salesman. He leaned his elbows on the table and brought his face close to Karen’s. “How'd you like a nice long drive, baby?” he said confidentially. “I’ve got a bottle cached in the car.”

For once Karen forgot about making an exit. She simply fled - down the stairs and out onto the street. She was still hurrying along the sidewalk when someone gripped her arm and stopped her. It was Alan.

“Listen,” he said, “I want to see you after the show tonight. Some place where we can talk privately.”

For a moment she stared at him blankly, not quite taking it in. Then her mind darted ahead, planning, and again she was in control of herself. “All right,” she said with a slow smile. “My place. Mrs. Osborne will be out and we can use the living room.”

“Half an hour after it’s over,” Alan said. “See you then.”

She watched his blond head bobbing along the sidewalk until he was out of sight. Then she turned and walked slowly on. Suddenly she could not bear the noisy mobs of people. She waved at a passing taxi and the driver halted with a screech of brakes.

Once inside the cab, it was better. She could lean back with her eyes closed and think about this sudden, this wonderful thing that had happened.

He wanted to see her after the show, to talk privately—that could mean only one thing. All these weeks she had watched the smooth agility of his movements about the stage,

yearned over the way his blond hair waved up from the high forehead, felt the attraction between them growing into a rich warm spiritual bond—and now, at last, it would reach its climax. Oli God, she thought, I must be ready for this moment. I must not fail him.

She had planned the evening meticulously, but now the schedule she had worked out with such relish was just a means of passing time. She forced herself to eat dinner, had a long leisurely bath, dressed in the pale green chiffon gown she had bought on a special week-end trip to Toronto, brushed her hair till it glistened, made up her face, decked herself out in the new jewelry but it was all mechanical,

( lie routine of a sleepwalker.

In her mind, she was already living through the scene that faced her. She must he firm yet tender. “There’s ! just no future for us, Alan,’’ she would ; say. “First of all there’s the difference | in ages. You’re only thirty, I’m thirtyfive.” With a twinge, she remembered that it was really forty-seven—hut she must forget that. Certainly she didn’t look more than thirty-five. Anyway, there was another, more important harrier. “1 decided long ago that I must choose between marriage and a career I couldn’t have both. I’m afraid I’m wedded to the theatre, Alan.” He would stare at her dully - perhaps he would he kneeling, look' ing up at her. “Is there no hope?” he would ask, and she would lay a compassionate hand on his brow and shake her head sadly.

I Posing before the mirror, she thought, all his life he will remember me like ! this a naiad risen from the sea, hare ¡shoulders mounting from the mist of [green chiffon, auburn head poised i regally on the slender neck (God, j I’m glad I didn’t let Guthrie persuade i me to dye it grey), the dangling rhinestones glittering in the lamplight.

Then the cahd river hanged on the door. She wound the pale green chiffon stole about her shoulder, draped her i mouton wrap over her arm, picked up ' her evening hag and descended the j stairs like a queen proceeding to her ; coronation.

For a moment, as she stood outside ; the tent theatre - its smoke-blue walls J and terra-cotta roof merging in the I shadows of the tall trees—she was : afraid she might he too early, hut she j had timed her arrival perfectly.

As the applause for the prologue died away she swept down the aisle, everyj one’s eye upon her, to the special [ stage-side seat. There were only j sixteen of these seats, and it was ‘ well-known that they cost six dollars j each. Only the elite had indulged in such extravagance.

There was a hush Then the Duke of Gloucester limped onto the stage —an evil, twisted little man in dirty drab clothes, with seraggly hair and an ugly humped hack. For a few moments Karen was caught up in the play, carried away by the compelling viciousness of Richard’s personality.

'Then Lady Anne approached from another direction, wearing deep mourning. Behind her the corpse —resting in an elaborate coffin—was carried in by a group of grieving men. One of them was Alan.

Until he left the stage, Karen saw nothing but his face and when he was gone her mind bridged the gap of hours and began re-creating the scene that lay ahead.

Again she shook her head sadly—but this time Alan refused to accept her decision. “We love each other,” he

insisted. “That’s all that matters.

Don’t talk to me about age—why, you have the body and spirit of a young girl. And there’s nothing to prevent you having a career—look at Alfred

Luntand Lynn Fontanne, for example.” She protested. “I can’t do it, Alan. Think of Jenny. She’s in love with you.” Alan laughed. “Jenny! Why, she’s just a child. I need a mature woman, not an infant.”

The arguments began again, but it was inevitable that he should win. Renunciation was not the answer. Resides, even if she rejected him, he would never find happiness with Jenny.

. . . When she finally pressed his head to her bosom in mute acceptance, a storm of joy welled up in her heart, a crashing like thunder, and suddenly she realized that what she heard was reala tremendous thunder of applause. The play was over.

It took hours to force her way outside, interminable hours to locate a cab, dreary hours to drive home. But still, at the appointed time she was ready.

The doorbell rang. With slow sure step she walked to the door and opened it. And then the whole scene fell apart—because standing beside Alan, still looking like a frightened fawn, was Jenny.

For a lightning moment Karen’s poise was shattered. Then she took a deep breath and smiled a welcome. “Come in,” she said.

She invited them to sit on the chesterfield, offered them cigarettes, lit one herself and sat on the arm of a chair, smiling and waiting completely in command of the situation.

Alan seemed to have trouble finding the right words. At last he said, “Karen, I want to get something cleared up. You see, yesterday I asked Jenny to marry me.”

“Oh, you darlings,” Karen said ecstatically. “That’s simply wonderful news. I’m so happy for you.”

“Well,” Alan said uncomfortably, “she seems to have got the impression that you and I— well, that we had plans of our own.”

“Why, Jenny,” Karen said, a touch of surprise in her voice, “you know I made it perfectly clear that Alan and 1 could never be anything more than friends.”

Alan said coldly, “Did anybody ever suggest otherwise?”

Karen laughed softly. “Now, Alan darling, don’t sound so insulted. It’s hardly complimentary to me.”

“But damn it, Karen—” he began. She stopped him. “We’ve both made it plain that Jenny has nothing to worry about. Isn’t that enough?” Alan looked at Jenny, and her dark eyes accused him. He turned fiercely on Karen.

“Tell her the truth,” he said. “Was 1 ever alone with you at any time?” “Only once,” Karen said and her voice was tender. “You remember.” “Oh—yes, I’d forgotten. The time 1 met you walking in the park and we sat under that big tree on the island for a couple of hours. All right. Did I so much as lay a finger on you?” “No,” Karen said softly.

“Did I say anything that would lead you to believe I was the slightest bit interested in you romantically?”

“Alan,” Karen said gently, “let’s not torture ourselves like this. Jenny understands, I’m sure. Now why can’t we just forget the whole thing?”

Alan yelled at her, “But there’s nothing to forget!” He turned to Jenny and said hoarsely, “Believe me, I’d no more think of making love to Karen than J would to mv own mother.”

Jenny’s big dark eyes turned on Karen with a look that was indecipherable. Then she said, “All right. I believe you. Now let’s go.”

Karen stood at the window and watched them walk down the street, hand in hand. Poor little Jenny, she

thought pityingly. The future wouldn’t be so bright for her, married to a man like Alan—a man who would deceive her with half-truths and omissions, but never a direct lie. What he had said about their night on the island was true as far as it went—but he had said nothing about the look in his eyes, the shadings of his voice, the mingling of their souls in a perfect communion. Poor little Jenny.

Karen let the curtain drop and walked slowly up the stairs. She felt drained, empty, and yet somehow at peace with herself. From now on she

would concentrate her whole attention on her career. There was—there must be—no room for anything else in her life.

She changed into pyjamas, smeared her face with cold cream and wiped it off with tissue. She was applying a second, lighter layer when she heard the sound she dreaded the moths beginning to batter the window, striving to reach the light. For a moment panic shook her. She screamed, “Go away!” and grabbed the clock to throw at them. Just in time—and with a sudden sickening jolt she

realized what would have happened if she had smashed the window. They would all have rushed in at her, dragging their hairy legs over her flesh, smothering her with their musty wings. Terrified by her narrow escape, she set the clock back on the dresser, gulped down her sleeping pill, and hurried into bed.

With the covers pulled over her head, she waited for oblivion —but even when the drug began nibbling at the t^dges of her mind, dulling her senses, she could still hear the soft beat of wings against the window. ^