Book//mark – Not After Midnight, 5 long stories | Daphne du Maurier, 1971

 Not After Midnight, 5 long stories | Daphne du Maurier, 1971
 Not After Midnight, 5 long stories, 1971                 Daphne Du Maurier  >
                                   cover by D. du Maurier’s daughter Flavia Tower      


“The soft humidity of the evening, so pleasant to walk about in earlier, had turned to rain.
The strolling tourists had melted away. One or two people hurried by under umbrellas. This
is what the inhabitants who live here see, he thought. This is the true life. Empty streets by
night, the dank stillness of a stagnant canal beneath shuttered houses. The rest is a bright
façade put on for show, glittering by sunlight.”

“It embarrassed her, as a child, to think that her father had fallen in love, or, if men must love,
then it should have been someone else, someone dark, mysterious and profoundly clever, not
an ordinary person who was impatient for no reason and cross when one was late for lunch.”

“Curious thing that the younger men of today were glib enough when they talked of ideals and
how everyone must progress in a changing world, but when the crunch came they were very
ready to let the older generation pay the piper.”

“The rest of the little party had moved away, embarrassed, distressed, unwilling witnesses
of what appeared to be an excess of faith.”

“many impressions to seize and hold, familiar loved façades, balconies, windows, water
lapping the cellar steps of decaying palaces, the little red house where D’Annunzio lived,
with its garden—our house, Laura called it, pretending it was theirs—and too soon the ferry
would be turning left on the direct route to the Piazzale Roma, so missing the best of the
Canal, the Rialto, the further palaces.”

“What a bore! Especially when the day had gone so well. She had no desire to read or listen
to records. His taste would be like her father’s, old Peter Cheyneys and John Buchans, he
used to read them over and over again. And music of the lighter sort, probably South Pacific.
The steward brought in her tea, and this time there were cherry jam and scones, freshly baked,
what’s more. She wolfed the lot. Then she pottered around the room, inspecting the shelves.
No Peter Cheyney, no John Buchan, endless books on Ireland, which she expected anyway,
Yeats forever, Synge, A.E., a volume on the Abbey Theatre.”

“It seemed to Lady Althea, as she stood there above the steps, that all the people pressing
forward were staring, not at the Dome of Rock, but at her alone, and were nudging on
another, whispering, smiling; for she knew, from her own experience of mocking others,
that there is nothing more likely to unite a crowd of strangers in a wave of laughter than
the sight of someone who, with dignity shattered, becomes suddenly grotesque.”

“He was not staring at her anymore. He was still. He had gone. The moment of truth had
vanished forever, and she would never know. What had happened was Then, was already
past, in some other dimension of time, and the present was Now, part of a future he could
not share. This present, this future, was all blank to him, like the empty spaces in the
photograph album beside the bed, waiting to be filled. Even, she thought, if he had read
my mind, which he often did, he would not have cared.”

“I am probably a dull man. Emotionally I have had no complications. I was engaged to a
pretty girl, a neighbor, when I was twenty-five, but she married somebody else. It hurt at the
time, but the wound healed in less than a year. One fault, if fault it is, I have always had,
which perhaps accounts for my hitherto monotonous life. This is an aversion to becoming
involved with people. Friends I possess, but at a distance. Once involved, trouble occurs,
and too often disaster follows.”

“Had I known, that last hour sitting there, talking and laughing about trivial things, that there
was a clot forming like a time bomb close to his heart, ready to explode, I would surely have
behaved differently, held on to him, at least thanked him for all my nineteen years of happiness
and love. Not flipped over the photographs in the album, mocking bygone fashions, nor yawned
halfway through, so that, sensing boredom, he let the album drop to the floor and murmured,
“Don’t bother about me, pet, I’ll have a kip.”

“Dogs that had been his which she had not known. “There’s dear old Punch…” (Punch, he used
to tell her, always knew when his ship was due home, and waited at an upstairs window.) Naval
officers riding donkeys… playing tennis… running races, all this before the war, and it had
made her think, “unconscious of their doom, the little victims play,” because on the next page it
became suddenly sad, the ship he had loved blown up, and so many of those laughing young men lost.”

“Friendship and duty are two separate things,” he said, “and I put duty first.
You are another generation, you wouldn’t understand.”

“Fine,” I answered. “Now what about a drink?” I followed him up the corridor once more,
across the entrance hall, and on through a swing door at the far end. I heard the light clack-clack
of ping-pong balls, and braced myself for frivolity. The room we entered was empty.
The sportsmen, whoever they were, were playing in the room beyond. Here there were easy
chairs, a table or two, an electric fire and a bar in the far corner, behind which my youthful
companion installed himself. I noticed, with misgiving, two enormous urns. “Coffee or cocoa?”
he asked. “Or do you prefer something cool? I can recommend the orange juice with a splash
of soda.” “I’d like a Scotch,” I said. He looked distressed. His expression became that of an
anxious host whose guest demands fresh strawberries in midwinter.”

“And so,” the Colonel was saying, “the Mandate was handed over to the U.N. in May, and
we were all out of the country by July 1st. To my mind we should have stayed. The whole
thing has been a bloody nonsense ever since. No one will ever settle down in this part of
the world, and they’ll still be fighting over Jerusalem when you and I have been in our
graves for years. Beautiful spot, you know, from this distance. Used to be pretty scruffy
inside the Old City.”

“He leaned over the rail and stared down into the Pool with interest. It was certainly not much
of a place, the water dark and rather slimy, the steps slippery-looking too. Grandfather must be
right, and it formed part of the city drain. The man who had been lame for thirty-eight years
was lucky when Jesus came along and healed him instantly, rather than waiting for someone
to lift him into the Pool. Perhaps Jesus realized the water was bad. There they go, he said to
himself, as the father, ignoring the child’s terrified screams, slowly descended the steps.
Freeing one hand, he dipped it in the Pool and sloshed the water three times over his daughter,
wetting her face, her neck, her arms. Then, smiling in triumph at the curious watchers above,
he ascended the steps to safety, his wife smiling with him, mopping the child’s face with a towel.
The child herself, bewildered, distraught, rolled her frightened eyes over the heads of the crowd.
Robin waited to see if the father would put her down, cured. Nothing happened, though. She
began screaming again, and the father, making soothing sounds, bore her away from the top
of the steps and was lost in the crowd. Robin turned to the Rev. Babcock.
“No luck, I’m afraid. There”

 Daphne du Maurier, Not After Midnight 
or Don’t Look Now and Other Stories, 1971

The story “Don’t Look Now” has been adapted in a 1973 film directed by Nicolas Roeg

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