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Old 07-23-2014, 06:51 AM
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Default Round the Bend: Pages 229 through 230

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Table of Contents
............Round the Bend
ROUND the BEND
Nevil Shute, 1951

```(annotated and with added blue highlights by al-Brunardot)

CHAPTER EIGHT

And God shall make thy body pure, and give thee knowledge to endure
This ghost-life's piercing phantom-pain, and bring thee out to Life again.
JAMES ELROY FLECKER
229
FROM THAT time on there was a period when everything went well. It was autumn, for one thing, and with the onset of the winter weather nerves became less strained, tempers less ragged. As the nights got colder so that first a sheet was necessary over you for sleep, and then a blanket, everybody slept better and was able to relax. The summer is a bad time in the Persian Gulf, even if you can stand it. Every one of our party was accustomed to great heat or we wouldn't have been there, but even so—the summer's a bad time.

In Bahrein, the new Liaison Officer, Captain Morrison, turned out to be a great success. He was quite a young chap, not more than about thirty, but my God, he was good. He had come into the army when he was about twenty for the war, and had found his way into some branch of the Intelligence in Egypt and the Sudan. He had stayed in after the war was over and had been seconded for civil duties; he had travelled very widely in Arabia with the Bedouins. He spoke Arabic fluently and half a dozen dialects of it. He was unmarried.

He came up to the aerodrome soon after he arrived and came into my office. He had a shy, diffident manner, very unlike Hereward; there was no professional charm about him at all. It

230

was difficult to believe that he was in the army; he seemed just like an ordinary person.


He said, "I suppose you know what I've come for."

I must say, he got me a bit confused. As a matter of fact, I did know. Gujar Singh had told me that morning that he was coming to see me to ask me to have dinner with him in his quarters at the Residency. Gujar had heard that in the souk, of course. The gossip was that this young man had told the Resident that he wanted to tackle things in Bahrein from a different angle. He had told him that I, Tom Cutter, was one of the most influential people in the district, and that it was absolutely necessary to get my co-operation and advice in tackling the religious difficulties that seemed to have arisen. All this had got down to the souk in about five minutes, and ten minutes after that one or two grave, white-bearded old men had visited the house of the silk merchant, Mutluq bin Aamir, to tell the rumour to the Sister of the Teacher and ask her what she thought about it. Gujar Singh told me that Nadezna had told them gravely that it was a good thing and that the Teacher would certainly approve of any such co-operation from the Liaison Officer; so everybody in the souk was happy. As for me, I didn't know what to say to my shorthand typist, so I said nothing.

I temporized with Morrison. I said, "How on earth should I know what you've come for?"

"I just thought you might have heard something," he said awkwardly. "I wanted to ask you to have dinner with me tonight."

It was a friendly approach, meant in a friendly way. I was a bit embarrassed in my turn, because essentially I was a fitter come up from the bench, and I'd never had time for any social life or anything like that. "I'd like to do that," I said. "But there's just one thing. I'm afraid I haven't got a dinner jacket."

He said that didn't matter because there'd only be him and me, and so I dined with him that night. We sat on his verandah for a long time after dinner drinking his whiskey, and because he was simple and really anxious to learn what had been going on, I told him everything I knew.

We must have sat like that talking for over an hour after dinner, looking out into the still blue night, with the moon making a
Table of Contents
............Round the Bend
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