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ANDREW ELIOT’S DIARY. Yesterday was “Moratorium Day.” All over the country there were protests against the war in Vietnam.
October 16, 1969
Yesterday was “Moratorium Day.” All over the country there were protests against the war in Vietnam.
No one was surprised that there were demonstrations in Washington, New York, and Berkeley. But what astonished a lot of hard-liners were the gatherings in such unlikely places as Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, and Denver.
And what really staggered people was the antiwar march — of all places — on Wall Street .
I worked as hard as hell trying to encourage people from the financial community to find the guts to join our noontime walk for peace. I spent the better part of a week making phone calls to all sorts of executives, trying to convince them that the war was wrong not only morally but economically. (The latter argument was very helpful.) I got a lot of curses and hang-ups, but I also got a lot of recruits.
Still, in my wildest dreams, I never imagined that we’d amass a crowd of nearly ten thousand. Someone was quoted in today’s Times as saying it was the largest demonstration ever staged on the Street.
It was a clear, sunny day, and as we strode along, most of us wearing black armbands, above us a skywriting plane spelled out “For Peace.” Our journey ended at old Trinity Church, whose pews were soon filled to overflow. There, one after another, nearly a hundred of the most important corporate executives in the country rose to the stone pulpit to take turns reciting the names of the boys killed in Southeast Asia.
Among the readers were several former cabinet members and an amazing number of partners in the big investment banks. These guys, I think, were the bravest. Because the companies whose shares they traded were directly involved in the war.
For some unknown reason — maybe my last name — I was asked to be one of the readers. It was an honor that made me sick at heart.
Of course, today was the aftermath. My old competitive spirit took pleasure to see in the morning paper that our Wall Street rally had outdrawn the one in Central Park. I hope the jeans-and-guitar crowd hears about this and realizes that we gray-flannel guys have consciences too.
Then I got to the office and the heat began. Most of the partners of Downs, Winship, were far from pleased by my activities. The day before, they had told me — some in not so many words — that I was an unpatriotic bastard, disloyal to my country as well as to them. I took their opprobium as politely as I could, figuring it would dissipate in a few days.
But I didn’t expect the phone call that came at exactly nine-thirty. The blast of “You blathering idiot!” nearly blew my ear off. It was Dad.
For the better part of twenty minutes he ranted on, barely pausing for breath. About what a fool I was. Did I not realize, he asked, what damage “shenanigans” like yesterday’s march could cause? Was I not literate enough to read that my own trust portfolio had several thou sand shares of Oxyco, most of whose business relied on defense contracts?
I couldn’t reply to any of this because he wouldn’t stop talking long enough to let me do so. But finally he asked me something that was not rhetorical.
Did I not think I had disgraced the Eliot name?
Usually he grinds me into the ground with this sort of question, but this time I had an answer.
Was the Reverend Andrew Eliot disloyal to King George in 1776? Or did he follow the course his con science dictated?
This kind of stopped Dad in his tracks.
He clearly could not think of how to react. So after a minute I reminded him, “That’s what the Revolution was all about, Dad.” I then politely said goodbye and hung up.
It was the first time in my entire life that I stood up to him and had the last word.
Andrew’s was far from an isolated case. The conflict in Vietnam was tearing America apart on every level. Hawks against doves, rich against poor, parents against their children.
And it put a near-unbearable strain on the relations between George Keller and Catherine Fitzgerald.
On October 15, 1969, she had dared to take the day off to join the Washington protest march. And when she saw George the next evening, Cathy had “forgotten” to remove the black armband from her coat.
“Would madam care to check her wrap?” asked the maître d’ as he showed them to a table in Sans Souci.
“Yes,” George quickly answered.
“No, thank you,” she politely overruled him. “I’m still feeling a bit chilly.”
And she kept the garment draped over her shoulder, with the offending sleeve as conspicuous as possible.
“Cathy,” said George nervously. “Do you know what th? hell you’re doing?”
“Yes,” she replied. “Do you? Look, if you want to date me, you have to take my principles too. They come with the package.”
“But people are staring,” he whispered. “Important people.”
“Don’t be paranoid, George. I only wish they were. This restaurant is closer to the seat of power than the White House gates.”
He shook his head in consternation.
“Can’t we even have a truce at the dinner table?”
“I’m certainly not in favor of belligerence.” She smiled. So Ill compromise for once and put you out of your misery.”
With that, she took the sleeve of her coat and slowly began to tear the armband from it.
Anyone who had not noticed it before now knew it had been there. Especially since Cathy handed it across the table to George, with an innocent smile.
“Here, Dr. Keller, use it as you see fit.”
Now, having made her point, she considerately changed the conversation to an issue of mutual interest. Was Henry Kissinger going to marry Nancy Maginnes or not?
“Why do I put up with you?” he asked, only half-jokingly, as they were driving home.
“Because, to paraphrase one of your heroes, Senator Goldwater, ‘in your heart you know I’m right.’ ”
“But it’s common knowledge that I don’t have a heart,” he replied.
“I disagree. It’s well hidden, but it’s there. Which is why I put up with you.”
Catherine Fitzgerald was not alone among the junior and senior members of the National Security Council who were trying to persuade the government to veer from what they regarded as a suicidal course.
Naturally, being “Kissinger’s shadow,” George not only held opposing views but was actively involved in the escalation of hostilities. Nixon still wanted a victory, and his inner circle was determined to give him one. They would spare no effort. And no bombs.
“Can’t you convince Henry that this is folly?” Cathy asked George one evening.
“Can’t you forget about the war even when we’re in bed?” he retorted.
“No, I can’t. Please George, I know he respects your opinion.”
“I can’t make him end it just like that.”
“You could try,” she said softly. And then added, “It’s going to get even worse, isn’t it?”
“I don’t know.”
“You do, too. But you just don’t trust me. Why? I’m not some undercover agent. Can’t you level with me?”
“Cathy, I swear I don’t know any more than you do.”
“Would you tell me if you did?”
“What do you think?” he asked, kissing her again.
On April 20, 1970, President Nixon announced that 150,000 American troops would be withdrawn from South Vietnam the following spring. The doves took heart.
Two days later, Nixon began a series of secret meetings with Kissinger and a few trusted aides. To discuss widening the war by invading neutral Cambodia, to destroy the enemy’s supply depots.
George was proud to be one of those who Kissinger regarded as trustworthy enough to include in these strategy sessions. His pride increased when he realized that not even the Secretary of Defense was present.
Nixon was in an angry mood. “The damn North Vietnamese are romping in Cambodia. We’ve got to move boldly to show them and the Russians that we can hang tough.”
“Not everybody in the State Department would agree with you, Mr. President,” George dared to comment respectfully.
“Jerks,” murmured Nixon.
On Sunday, April 26, 1970, the President decided to commit thirty-two thousand American troops to the invasion of Cambodia. In his own words: “Knock them all out.” Plans were finalized with the military in Southeast Asia without the knowledge of several key cabinet members.
That same afternoon, the National Security Council met to debate the merits of a possible Cambodian invasion, Only a few of them knew that the decision had already been made. The attack was set to begin forty-eight hours later.
Kissinger “objectively” presented the argument to his assembled staff.
“We have a very stark choice,” he began gravely. “We could permit North Vietnam to overrun Cambodia. Or we could commit troops and try to stop them. A successful attack might be a step toward achieving an honorable peace. Any comments?”
Many speakers had deep misgivings about this potential escalation.
Though she was by far the most junior person present, Catherine Fitzgerald bravely raised her hand. “With due respect, I think if the government goes ahead with this invasion, every campus in America will explode.”
Kissinger answered her calmly. “Our decision must not be swayed by a group of rootless, self-indulgent adolescents with no sense of political realities.”
Catherine could not stop herself from responding, “Isn’t that a bit harsh, Dr. Kissinger?”
“Perhaps that was an overgeneralization. I beg your pardon, Miss Fitzgerald.”
The debate grew more heated and even less conclusive.
“I’m glad you called Henry on that antistudent remark,” George said, as they were sharing a bottle of white wine in her apartment that evening. “But I think if you weren’t so pretty you wouldn’t have gotten away with it.”
She brushed off the compliment and remarked, “You were certainly quiet today.”
“I don’t think I had anything to add,” he replied evasively. “Besides, everybody knows where I stand.”
“Yes. Right behind Kissinger. The point is, where does he stand?”
“I don’t know,” George lied.
Though the President did not announce it officially till the evening of April 30, the National Security Council was informed of the U.S. invasion of Cambodia on April 28.
There was outrage among some of the members, who realized that the entire debate on Sunday had been nothing but a charade. Several senior members stormed into Henry’s office and immediately resigned.
But the disaffection was even more widespread among the younger aides, some of whom cut off promising government careers to quit in protest.
Catherine Fitzgerald was among the first to leave. And after delivering a strongly worded letter to one of Kissinger’s secretaries, she marched ten paces down the corridor to the office of George Keller.
“You bastard!” she exploded before he had even shut the door. “You ruthless, heartless bastard! You have no respect for anything or anyone. You and that Svengali of yours trifle with human lives —”
“Cathy, please calm down —”
“No, let me finish, George. Because today I’m walking out of the White House and out of your life.”
“Cathy, be reasonable. I’m not responsible —”
“But you knew ! You knew and you didn’t even trust me enough to tell me.”
“Well, I was right, judging by this hysterical reaction,” George countered.
“It isn’t hysterical — dammit. It’s human. In all your great assimilation of English words, George, did you ever really learn the meaning of that word?”
Before he could reply, she disappeared.
He sat motionless at his desk for several minutes, mulling over what had happened.
I suppose it was inevitable, he rationalized. Anyway, we couldn’t have gone on much longer fighting our own private war.
Maybe Henry’s right. Women should only be a hobby.
Six days later, after four students were killed at Kent State University in a protest demonstration, a taxi driver appeared at George Keller’s home, bearing a battered suitcase.
Inside he found a pile of shirts, ties, and other clothes that he had left at Cathy’s place. There was also a page onto which she had neatly pasted newspaper photographs of the four victims.
Her message was simple and direct: “These are your children, Dr. Keller.”
If Alice found her Wonderland by entering the looking glass, Ted Lambros first spied his as he was peering through the dusty windows of a British Rail carriage as it slowed down just before Oxford station.
On that same chilly autumn day, Cameron Wylie took the Lambros trio on a walking tour of a university which had been conducting classes more than three full centuries before Columbus found America. Some of the original colleges, like Merton and St. Edmund’s Hall, still had portions from the late 1260s. And there was also a vestige of the Middle Ages in Exeter, Oriel, and “New” College.
Magdalen, a relative newcomer from the fifteenth century, was Oxford’s jewel, with its exquisite gardens bordering the river Cherwell. It even had a deer park, which made little Ted feel like he was in a fairy tale.
And finally, Christ Church, dominated by the huge octagonal Tom Tower built by Christopher Wren (an imitation of which adorned Harvard’s Dunster House). This was Wylie’s college, where he had arranged temporary Common Room privileges for Ted.
“What do you think, kiddo?” Ted asked his son, as they stood in the Great Quadrangle.
“It’s all so old, Daddy.”
“That’s the best atmosphere for getting new ideas,” Sara commented.
“Quite right,” said the Regius Professor.
They then proceeded in his Morris Minor to the small terraced house in Addison Crescent that was to be their lodgings for the year.
Confronted with the fading greens and browns and tired furniture, the only comment Sara could manage was, “Oh, Professor Wylie, it’s so quaint.”
“All credit to my wife,” he answered gallantly. “Heather tracked it down. You have no notion of how grotty so many flats are here in Oxford. She’s filled the fridge with some basics, just to tide you over till she drops in tomorrow morning. Now I must take my leave, I’ve got a pile of galleys to correct.”
Sara cooked eggs and sausages for dinner, sang young Ted to sleep, and then descended to the sitting room.
“It’s cold as hell in here,” she commented.
“All three of these electric bars are blazing,” Ted replied and pointed to the orange-glowing fireplace.
“That looks like a dilapidated toaster.” Sara frowned. “And it’s just about as warm.”
“Come on, honey,” Ted cajoled, “where’s your sense of adventure?”
“Frozen,” Sara answered, as she opened up the sherry Mrs. Wylie had thoughtfully provided for them, “Couldn’t Heather have found us someplace that had central heating?”
“Hey look,” Ted reasoned, “I’ll grant this isn’t Buckingham Palace, but it’s only a couple of minutes from Teddie’s school, and we can walk right into town.” And then he noticed. “Hey, why have you got your hat and gloves on? Are you going somewhere?”
“Yeah. To bed. I’m not a polar bear.”
The next morning Ted met Wylie at the entrance to the Bodleian and the professor introduced him to an elderly librarian who then made Ted recite the ancient “Readers’ Oath” aloud.
“I hereby undertake not to remove from the Library, or to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document, or other object belonging to it or in its custody; not to bring into the Library or kindle therein any fire or flame.…”
Of course, no books could be borrowed from this hallowed repository. Even Oliver Cromwell himself, when he was ruler of the land, was not allowed this privilege.
So for most of his daily work Ted used the collection at the Ashmolean Museum. Here each morning he would pass imposing Greek statuary on his way to the stuffy room that housed the classics of the classics — and indeed some of the men who’d written them.
One afternoon that first week he bought himself a Christ Church scarf on Broad Street, He wanted to be just as Oxonian, or more, as anyone in Oxford.
Several times a week he lunched in College with Cameron — they were now on a first-name basis. Here he met not only scholars in his field but luminaries from the other disciplines as well.
It was soon clear to all the classicists from other colleges that this young American was Wylie’s special protégé. And, therefore, on the evening of Ted’s lecture to the Philological Society, they came ready to attack.
The talk was splendid. By far the best he’d ever given. And Wylie leapt to his feet and trumpeted, “I think that the Society has just heard a most distinguished presentation. And if Professor Lambros is not too fatigued, perhaps he’d entertain one or two questions.”
Four hands shot up, all brandishing invisible knives.
The “inquiries” were really probes to see if Ted had substance as a scholar. But, like Horatius at the bridge, he staunchly held them off, decapitating Tarquin after Tarquin. And with it all he never lost his winsome smile.
The warm applause was but a tiny index of his victory. For nearly every don attending waited patiently to shake his hand — and offer invitations to have lunch with them .
Several hours later, Ted and Sara were walking homeward, arm in arm, intoxicated by his triumph.
“Onoma tou Theou ,” she rhapsodized in loving imitation of his mother. “You were unbelievable. I wish the guys at Harvard could have heard you here tonight.”
“Don’t worry,” Ted replied, with newly bolstered self-assurance, “they’ll hear about it soon enough.”
By January, when Hilary term began, Ted Lambros was almost a fixture on the Oxford scene. So much so that the head of the University Press always tried to sit near him at High Table, to win his next book for OUP.
Wylie, who was himself revising the Oxford edition of Euripides, offered a special seminar for graduates as well as postgraduates on the Alcestis . And he asked Ted to collaborate with him.
In retrospect, there was an element of irony in the choice of play. For Euripides’ heroine nobly sacrifices herself to save her husband, and thereby perpetuates their marriage. Whereas the seminar itself led to the death knell of Ted’s relationship with Sara.
Perhaps it was inevitable. For his great success at Oxford had aroused in him a wild cerebral ecstasy. He felt intellectually priapic.
The object of his affection — or, as he unconsciously considered it, the prize for his achievements — was an auburn-haired, nineteen-year-old undergraduate named Felicity Hendon.
Two things made her conspicuous at the seminar. First, her splendid command of Greek, which was exceptional even by Oxford’s high standards. And then her body, whose slender sensuality was noticeable even beneath her loosely flowing — and short — academic gown. Ted had difficulty taking his eyes off her legs.
Felicity had come to Oxford to make intimate acquaintance with the noblest minds. In truth, her initial reason for taking the seminar was to attempt to seduce the Regius Professor himself.
Yet, there was Ted. An academic old enough to qualify as “senior” in her estimation, but who still possessed what she acknowledged as the vestiges of youthful vigor.
And with it all, Ted thought he was seducing her .
The whole adventure started with an unpretentious gathering to which Felicity and Jane, her roommate, asked the nine students and two teachers from the seminar. Like almost every Oxford invitation, it implicitly excluded wives.
Sara had grown used to this inequity, though she continued to resent it. She knew Ted enjoyed visiting those High Tables at the different colleges. Especially when they were black-tie evenings. He, who once would cringe at fastening his bow tie to go out and wait on tables, now was thrilled to don the very same cravat to go to academic dinners with his penguin-suited fellow Fellows.
And Sara did derive some pleasure from the fact that Ted was having fun. Besides, she knew he would reciprocate next year when they returned to Canterbury and she started working for a doctorate at Harvard.
Though students at St. Hilda’s College, the two girls lived in a small rented flat on Gresham Road. That February evening the festivities began with cheap white wine, then changed to even cheaper red to grace the execrable food the hostesses imagined was a gourmet meal.
Cameron was the first to leave. His relationship with Heather was notorious in Oxford. They were most unfashionably faithful to each other. And so he always departed for home as early as good manners would allow. The students disappeared by casual attrition — for studies, assignations, pot, or simply sleep.
At a little after ten, a hood in motorcycle gear materialized. Ted’s anxiety turned quickly to relief when he discovered it was Janie’s boyfriend Nick, a third-year student reading medicine at Trinity. She hurried for her helmet and they zoomed off toward The Perch for one quick drink before repairing to his rooms.
Ted and Felicity were alone.
He looked at her and wondered if she sensed his hunger for that youthful body.
“I’ll help clear up,” he offered gallantly.
For an instant, he felt panicked and uncertain. Ted was suddenly aware that he had not touched another woman for nearly a decade.
How do you start this sort of thing?
As she was piling dirty dishes in the sink, he moved behind her and tentatively placed his arms around her waist. She took his hands and moved them up to clasp her breasts. Then, without further words, she turned and joined him in a fiery embrace.
Ted got home after midnight. As he slipped into bed, Sara stirred and murmured, “How did it go, honey?”
“Not bad,” he answered quietly. She fell asleep again.
He remained awake for a long time and pondered the significance of what he had begun that night.
The next day at breakfast — and at many meals thereafter — Ted kept wondering if it showed. Could Sara, who understood him so well, read his face, deciphering the hieroglyphics of his guilt?
He felt noblesse oblige to show her amorous attention. He tried making love to her with increased ardor. But gradually he grew resentful of this obligation to display connubial affection.
Sure, Sara deserved respect. She was a loyal wife. The mother of his son. And a true friend. But she was not exciting. Not merely now, when she had let herself put on some weight. But as far as he recalled, she had never been that sensual.
Perhaps that was what had so drawn him to Felicity. She awakened in him dormant feelings he had thought forever gone. She was dynamic. Not just physically, but intellectually.
And there was something else, although Ted did not realize it at first. The greatest thrill of all was that it was. Illicit.
After a while, he reassured himself that Sara had not noticed anything. Still, her very presence was an inconvenience. Assignations with Felicity had to be scheduled for afternoons or early evenings. Only rarely could they meet at night.
Once he fabricated yet another college banquet. And Sara, faithful, trusting (boring), never even checked. Even her naive passivity started to annoy him.
Felicity kept urging him to spend a weekend with her. But what pretext could he find? Oxford functions seemed to shut down automatically on Saturday and Sunday.
Then Fate flashed him an amber light, suggesting he go forward — but with caution.
Philip Harrison ’33, currently a high executive of the U.S. International Banking Commission, arrived in London on a ten-day visit for the government. Generous as usual, he took a suite at Claridge’s next to his own, so that his daughter, son-in-law, and beloved grandson could enjoy a break from academic tedium.
As soon as her father had announced his visit, Sara began to check the theater listings in The Times . While her husband looked for a plausible excuse to free himself to spend the weekend driving through the romantic villages of Gloucestershire.
Then he and Felicity could spend entire evenings in one of the historic Cotswold inns. And make some history themselves.
Sara Lambros was happy to be staying at Claridge’s. Not that she particularly enjoyed elegant hotels, but quite simply because she reveled in the central heating.
And the warmth of her father’s love.
Philip Harrison could not help mentioning that his daughter looked pale. Her fire, he thought, was burning low. Indeed, it seemed as if her pilot light was all but extinguished. Sara blamed the frigid Oxford weather. And yet how could she explain the fact that Ted looked radiant?
She argued that hard work obviously agreed with him. She recounted his triumph with the Philological Society and little Ted’s success at the local primary school. Now he’d taken up soccer.
“You’re a real little jock, aren’t you?” his grandfather said, smiling affectionately.
“And he’s not too bad at Latin either,” Sara added proudly. “The English really start them early.”
“I guess they’re still culturally more advanced than we are, her father observed. “Their theater certainly is. I had to resort to my contacts at the Embassy just to get us four seats to Olivier’s Othello .”
“Oh, Daddy, I’ve been dying to see it. When are we going?”
“The best I could do was the Saturday matinee.”
“Oh gosh,” Ted responded anxiously, “Saturday’s gonna be a problem for me. You know I’ve almost finished the first draft of my Euripides book….”
“Yes, Sara told me. Congratulations.”
“Well, Cameron Wylie called me last night and said he wanted to spend the whole weekend going over it with me. I didn’t even have a chance to mention it to Sara.”
“Oh, Daddy,” little Ted complained, “I like it here in London.”
“Well, you can stay with Mummy and Grandpa,” he reassured his son. And then turned to Mr. Harrison. “I’m really sorry, but it was an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up. Don’t you agree, honey?”
Though deeply hurt, she was forced to play the reluctant accomplice.
“I guess Ted’s right,” she said loyally. “How long will you be gone?”
“Oh, don’t worry, I’ll be back in London in time for dinner Sunday night.”
The seven-hundred-year-old George Inn in the Cotswold town of Winchcombe was once used by pilgrims to St. Kenelm’s tomb.
This weekend it was playing host to a twentieth-century couple on an extremely secular journey.
“What do you think?” Felicity asked, as she unpacked a small bottle of vodka and began to pour it into the hotel glasses.
“It’s sort of a medieval version of a motel,” he answered.
Ted felt decidedly uneasy. Winchcombe was a relatively short drive from Oxford and someone might chance to see them. And more importantly the early pangs of conscience he had felt now blossomed into full-fledged qualms.
He could not silence an inner voice that kept reiterating, Lambros, what you’re doing’s called adultery. And it’s a sin. You have a wife and kid. And what about those sacred vows you took?
Ah yes, but that was long ago. And in another country. And besides, the wench has changed. And dammit, the times have changed as well.
“Ted, where are you?”
Felicity’s voice shattered his ethical reverie. And for the first time he became aware that her hands were exploring intimate areas of his anatomy.
“Are you having second thoughts — or cold feet?” she inquired coquettishly.
“Neither,” he replied, to convince her if not himself.
“Hey,” she coaxed. “Then will you take your clothes off and give me a little proof of your enthusiasm?”
Zippers glided open. She stood enticingly before him, Aphrodite in a medieval inn.
He could think of nothing else as she now beckoned him to bed.
They drove back Sunday afternoon and reached Oxford just as darkness was approaching. And it was not merely chance that made him choose the Folly Bridge for her to drop him, so he could wend his way discreetly homeward in the dusk.
For throughout their wildly carnal weekend, whenever the ecstasy abated, Ted had been unable to fight off the demons of remorse. Despite inward invocations of the New Morality, his conscience was still rooted firmly in the fifties. And he already felt that he would have to pay a price for his brief moment of adventure.
But he never dreamed that it would be so soon.
The moment he opened the door of Addison Crescent, he found the incarnation of the Furies waiting for him.
“You left the house unlocked,” said Cameron Wylie, his face half in shadows.
“Yeah,” said Ted distractedly. “Uh — I’m sorry I kept you waiting, but I didn’t know you were coming —”
“Nor did I,” the Regius Professor answered, traces of displeasure in his voice.
“I tried ringing you, then came round to leave a note. But then I saw the door was open and I assumed you’d be arriving about now. So I waited.”
There was a sudden silence. And then Wylie burst out angrily, “You bloody fool. You bloody, stupid fool.”
“I’m sorry, Professor, I don’t understand,” Ted stammered, instinctively demoting himself back to pupil’s status.
“I don’t care about your morals, Lambros. I just gave you credit for more common sense. I’ll grant adultery’s as popular at Oxford as any place on earth. But most of those who practice it don’t play with undergraduates. That girl’s nearly half your age.”
The sanctimonious dressing-down began to anger Ted. He gathered courage for a quiet counterattack.
“Is that what you came to see me about?”
“No,” Wylie responded, “that was just my prologue. Sara rang me, wanting to speak to you.”
Oh shit, he thought. I knew I should have telephoned.
“She was very apologetic,” Wylie continued. “But it was an emergency.”
Ted suddenly grew anxious. “Did something happen to her father?”
“No,” Cameron replied. “It’s your son. He was taken very ill. They rushed him into hospital. When Sara phoned she was at her wit’s end.”
A shiver chilled Ted to the core. “Is he — alive?” He looked at Wylie, his eyes pleading for an answer.
“He’ll be all right. You’ve missed the worst of it. Fortunately, she had her father there.”
“Where is he? Where’s my son?”
“At the children’s hospital in Paddington Green.” Though Ted wanted to bolt from the room, something kept him frozen to the spot. “Does Sara have any idea where I’ve been?”
“No,” answered the professor. “I hardly thought it appropriate.” He paused, then added, “I’ll leave that to you.”
It was Sunday and the trains to London crept like pious snails. And — all the way Ted thought, Suppose he dies before I get there.
He who gave no thought to Christ from one Easter to the next, now started to converse with Him. To negotiate for little Ted’s survival. Please, Lord, I’ll pay the price. Take anything from me, but let him live.
His morbid thoughts were not relieved as he rushed through the portals of the hospital. It was bare and ill-lit and, to Ted, seemed ominously empty.
He found Sara and her father on the second floor outside the Lewis Carroll ward.
“Is he all right?” Ted quickly asked.
“Yes,” she answered. “Didn’t Wylie tell you everything?”
“No,” he replied.
Sara began to recount the story at breakneck speed. As if she had to get it out as quickly as she could. For her own catharsis.
“He woke up last night with an incredibly high fever —”
“Over a hundred and five,” her father added, as he too relived the painful moments. “Thank God when we got him here the doctor on duty knew exactly what it was. She put him —”
“She?” Ted intruded with atavistic disapproval. And then immediately apologized. “Sorry I stopped you. Please tell me what’s wrong.”
“Viral pneumonia,” Philip Harrison announced. “Calm down, Ted. The big crisis is behind us.”
Damn, he inwardly berated himself. And I wasn’t there.
Just then Dr. Rama Chatterjee appeared in the distance.
“Here she comes,” said Sara. “Maybe we can see Teddie now.”
Ted’s confidence in female physicians was not enhanced by the discovery that this one was Indian.
“He’s sleeping comfortably,” the doctor said with a smile as she approached, and then addressed the new arrival. “You must be Professor Lambros. He was asking for you.”
“I want to see him now,” Ted demanded. “And after that I want to see the head of your department.”
“You can do both at once,” said Dr. Chatterjee good-naturedly. “I’m the Chief of Pediatrics.”
In the days that followed, Sara rarely left her son’s side, She even slept next to him on a folding bed the hospital provided.
Ted also spent most of the daylight hours at the hospital. He and Sara would sit in the same glass cubicle and each in turn engage their son in conversation. But they rarely talked to each other.
She seemed emotionless. But Ted assumed it was merely a way of hiding her anxiety about their sick child. He had already convinced himself that her preoccupation had made her oblivious to the difficulty she had had in reaching him the previous Sunday.
When visiting hours ended, Ted and his father-in-law would have dinner and then stroll on the perimeter of Hyde Park.
They quickly exhausted topics of mutual interest. So one evening Ted delivered a monologue about how he’d been knifed at Harvard, an incident that in his own imagination had acquired the mythic magnitude of the assassination of Julius Caesar.
Mr. Harrison merely indicated interest by punctuating Ted’s harangues with “hmm’s” and “ah’s.”
The moment they returned to Claridge’s, the Harvard Overseer said good night and hastened to his room.
Early Friday morning a large Daimler arrived for Mr. Philip Harrison.
It would be a long day for him. He and Ted would take Sara and his grandchild from Paddington Green to the John Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford. He would then have to hurry back to Heathrow and catch the last plane to Geneva.
He was, after all, on a mission for the government of the United States, and could put off his obligations no longer.
Dr. Vivian Stone was waiting for them at the Radcliffe and saw to it that the young patient was installed as quickly as possible in a comfortable bed.
Looking at Sara’s haggard face, the pediatrician remarked, “Rama Chatterjee told me you’ve been camping out with little Ted all week. I suggest you go home and get a proper night’s sleep, Mrs. Lambros. We don’t want two patients on our hands.”
When they were back at Addison Crescent, it dawned on Ted that he and Sara had not really talked privately since the whole thing had begun. He had attributed her silence to fatigue and worry, but still he felt impelled to reestablish their lines of communication.
“Thank God he’s all right,” he remarked, choosing the least abrasive comment to open conversation.
Sara did not reply. She had her back to him and was unpacking.
“It must have been deadly for you. I mean being on your own like that. It was lucky Dad was in London.”
She whirled around, her face flushed with anger. “He’s not your father, dammit!” she snapped. “And I’m sick of having to be civil to you for his sake. I’m going to the hospital now. When I get back I want you out of here. And I don’t mean just you, I mean your clothes and every one of your academic books. Just be damn sure you don’t take any of mine.”
“Sara, what’s all this?”
“Listen,” she answered bitterly, “I’ve stood by you for twelve years. Caring for you. Doing half your research. Keeping together the pieces of your fragile confidence. I’ve listened, I’ve sympathized. I’ve practically turned myself into a human handkerchief for you to cry into —”
“No, dammit, Lambros, let me finish. I didn’t mind any of it, I didn’t even mind having to be both parents to our son — as long as I thought I meant something to you. But then you had to choose Oxford — the biggest small town on earth — to slap me in the face. My God, everybody knows you were screwing that little tramp! And if that wasn’t humiliation enough, you had to flaunt it right in front of my father!”
Ted had never heard her speak with such fury.
“Sara, please don’t blow this out of proportion. Except for this one … indiscretion, I’ve always been completely faithful to you. I mean, that girl didn’t mean a damn thing to me. Look, I was wrong. I made a mistake. It could happen to almost anybody.”
“Ted, I could’ve possibly accepted your ‘indiscretion,’ as you so fastidiously put it, if our marriage were really solid. But you simply don’t love me anymore. Let’s stop pretending. We haven’t had a real marriage for a long time.”
“Are you saying that you want a divorce?”
“Yes. The sooner the better.”
“What about the little guy? We can’t do this to him. It isn’t fair.”
“Look, Ted, he’s not so little anymore. And he can sense what’s happening to us. So don’t give me that old junk about staying together for the children’s sake.”
“Sara,” he replied forcefully, “I refuse to allow you to do this.”
“You refuse?” She looked at him with quiet outrage. “Whatever you may think, I’m neither your puppet nor your pet. So, to put it into the decent obscurity of a learned tongue, apage te, tuas res habeto !”
She knew she had succeeded in bruising him. The crowning blow was her reciting the Roman formula for divorce, which, as they both knew, was what the man should say to the woman .
It was just after teatime when Ted rang the bell on Gresham Road, Felicity was pleased to see him, but somewhat surprised by the suitcases he had brought along.
“You look like you’re packed to leave town. Are you?”
“No,” Ted replied self-consciously. “I’m afraid Sara’s kicked me out. Could you put me up for the night?”
“Yes,” she grinned, “I suppose we have room for you and your books.”
But once he was inside, she quickly spelled out the limits of his tenure.
“Listen, Ted, I’m happy to help you out with your little difficulty. But I hope you don’t plan to stay for any length of time.
“Do you think you can tolerate my presence for, say, a couple of weeks?” he asked, affecting his most charming smile.
“Oh please, Ted,” she replied, “two or three days at the most.”
“That’s fairly cold comfort. I mean, after all, your roommate Janie and her motorcyclist —”
“Yes, but that’s different,” Felicity explained.
“Because I hate messy situations.”
At the hospital the next morning they tried not to say anything that would worry their recuperating son.
But when they left his room at lunchtime Sara said coolly, “Let’s go where we can talk in private.”
Short-sighted despair made him believe that there was still a possibility for reconciliation. He was quickly disabused. She simply wanted to outline the terms of their divorce. It was only his emotional exhaustion — compounded by the fatigue of sleeping on Felicity’s couch — that kept him from protesting that she seemed to be talking at him rather than to him. For she was not negotiating or discussing. She was dictating the conditions.
Sara did not want alimony. She felt that he should pay fair share of child support. Even this would be reasonable, since there was no tuition to pay. She intended to keep Teddie in the same state school next year.
“You want to stay in Oxford?”
“Yes,” she replied coolly. “And anyway, that’s no longer your business.”
“Excuse me, Sara,” he said resentfully. “I’m not going to let you keep my son an ocean away from me. Besides, what the hell are you going to do here?”
“What do most people do at Oxford if they’re not working in the car factories?” she replied sarcastically. “As outrageous as it may seem, I’m going to start a degree. I do have a Radcliffe magna from the Dark Ages, you may recall. You can visit little Ted at Christmas and in the summer.”
“Do you have any idea what a transatlantic ticket costs, Sara?”
“Relax. I’ll be spending Christmas with my family in Connecticut. And before we say another word, let’s get one thing straight. I won’t allow him to become a psychological cripple because of this. I’ll never say a nasty word about you. You have my word of honor. And I’ll see to it that you spend as much time together as possible.”
“And suppose I try to fight you in court?” he asked, trying a bit of poker playing.
“Don’t waste the effort,” she replied unemotionally. “My father’s lawyers will grind you into moussaka meat.”
Ted Lambros drank his way back across the Atlantic. The pretext for his inebriation was intellectually motivated. It was based on the famous line in Virgil, Varium et mutabile semiper femina . Or, as he loosely translated it, “All women are unpredictable bitches.”
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