Round the Bend: Pages 161 through 164
ROUND the BEND
Nevil Shute, 1951
```(annotated and with added blue highlights by al-Brunardot)
I had to get away and be alone, to think things over. "Yes," I said. "I think I'll go out today and look around a bit more."
Ma said, "Taking Doris again?"
I shook my head. "I'll go alone. I've got a lot of things I've got to have a think about."
She said no more, and I went out after a time and got the car from the bombed site and drove down to the central post office. I sent a very long cable to Gujar Singh from there, two sheets of it. I asked him to let me know at once by cable if I ought to return; I said I would fly back immediately if there was any need, and come back again to England a week later to fetch the Tramp. If everything was quiet and in order in Bahrein, I said, he should fly to England himself by B.O.A.C. on Friday arriving on Saturday, and I would meet him at Heath Row. We would go to Plymouth on Monday morning and take delivery of the Tramp and fly it out to Bahrein as soon as possible.
I sent this off and went back to the car. I had done the right thing, I felt, and I had done what was in my power to take control of the events that I had started, but I was most unhappily aware that I was vacillating wildly. Twenty-four hours before I had been driving out with Doris Waters to look for a garage and an English home, perhaps with her. Now all that had gone down the wind and was almost forgotten, so that Dad had had to remind me about it at breakfast, and here I was, having just sent off a cable committing myself to go back to Bahrein.
It crossed my tired mind that I could go back for a week or two, perhaps, just to get things straightened up in order to hand over clean to Airservice Ltd.
I drove north that day, through Winchester and Whitchurch, on the road to Newbury. I drove on in a dream, not thinking much where I was going to, not really caring. I got sleepy presently for I had had two bad nights, and so I pulled into the side of the road somewhere and slept in the driver's seat a bit, nodding forward on the wheel.
I woke up half an hour later with a bad taste in my mouth, and wondered where I was, and what the hell I had come there for. There was no sense in it. I turned the car and drove back south again, and presently I found a pub and stopped, and went in for
a pint and a couple of packets of biscuits as my lunch. I felt better after that.
By mid afternoon I was running south and entering the outskirts of Winchester. I had been a choir boy once, when I was young. When you're in a bit of trouble I think your mind goes back to childhood, to the time when you had no responsibilities, when all decisions were made for you. That's a grand time, that is. I got to thinking of my time in the choir that Sunday afternoon as I drove into Winchester. I'd got nothing better to do, and I turned left down the High street and then right, and parked by the cathedral.
It was quiet, and dim, and cool in the cathedral. I stood at the end of the nave vaguely looking round; it was restful, and a good place to think in. Presently I went into the north aisle and began to walk slowly up it, looking at all the names of famous people on the walls and on the floor I walked on, Sir Henry Wilson who was murdered, and Jane Austen. Maybe they'd had their troubles too, I thought, and like me they'd not known what to do for the best.
There was an old man in a long black cloak at the end of the aisle. He came up to me and said quietly, "The service is in the choir this afternoon, sir. May I show you a seat?" It was on the tip of my tongue to say I didn't want to go to any service, and then I thought perhaps I did, and so he took me through the carved screen and put me in a choir stall of old, carved wood, with more prayer books in front of me than you could shake a stick at.
There wasn't anything in particular about that service. Good singing, a hymn or two, an anthem, all in the familiar ritual that I had known as a boy. I was still tired, and once or twice I nearly fell asleep upon my knees. Maybe God did that for me. I know when it was over and I walked out of the choir I was rested and quite calm. I knew what I'd got to do. I'd got to go back to Bahrein and forget about the garage.
I drove back to Southampton with a mind at ease. It was bad luck on Dad and Mum and Doris, but it had to be. It was just one of those things. I parked the car upon the vacant lot and before going home I walked round to the Waters' house. The old man came to the door himself.
"Evening, Mr. Waters," I said. "Doris in?"
She came to the door behind him, and he went back into the room. "Look, Doris," I said. "I've got to tell you something. Like to walk down the street a minute?"
She came out, and we walked together down the road past all the kids playing. "About that garage business," I said. "It's all off. I'm going back to Bahrein."
"Oh, Tom! Wouldn't they buy the business?"
"It's not that," I said. "It's something different. Things aren't so good out there."
"How long will you be gone for?"
"A long time," I said quietly. "When once you start a thing, you've got to see it through." I turned to her. "You mustn't count upon me coming back at all."
"I see," she said quietly. "I understand, Tom."
She didn't understand, of course, but her way was the best. "I thought I'd better let you know," I said a bit awkwardly. "I'll have to be getting back out there as soon as ever I can."
She smiled. "Then all I can do is wish you luck." She'd got plenty of guts.
I smiled with her. "Maybe I'll need it." I held out my hand, and she took it. "Good-bye, Doris. I'm sorry it's turned out like this."
"I'm sorry, too," she said. "Good-bye, Tom."
I walked back to our house, and went down to the Lion with Dad and had a game of darts with him. There's no sense in agonizing over what can't be helped, and it pleased Dad no end to have me in the pub with him. I only had a few days left to please them in.
Next morning there was a letter for me, from Mr. Norman Evans of Airservice Ltd. He said they'd had a board meeting and he was pleased to be able to tell me that they had unanimously resolved to make an offer for my business. He went on to the details. Broadly speaking, they would take over the Tramp contract. They would pay sixty-five thousand pounds for the remainder of the assets at that date. That meant that after paying back the loan from Sheikh Abd el Kadir I'd have thirty-five thousand pounds' clear profit from the sale of the business.
It was about seven thousand pounds better than I thought they'd go to. At the end of the letter, Mr. Evans said he hoped that I'd be able to reconsider my decision to leave aviation. He said that if I should do so, would I get in touch with him?
I walked down to the telephone box at the corner of our street, and rang him up at Morden. As I stuck the sixpences and shillings in the slot while the children gaped at me through the glass, I felt as if I was signing my own death warrant, and perhaps I was.
He came on the line at last. "This is Cutter," I said. "Mr. Evans, I've been thinking this thing over, and I'm not selling just yet. I'm in a bit of trouble out there, and I've got to get back quick. I'm sorry if I've led you up the garden."