I don’t know why I was nervous as I was on my way to see Margo. I had to congratulate her on her birthday which is exactly a day before mine. I knew she was bound to remember mine and therefore could not very well try and forget hers.
I had not seen her for a long time and was worried I might not know what to say. Fortunately I knew that their secretary had committed suicide. If I managed to bring up that subject, it would be enough to keep her talking.
She received me with her usual non-committal friendliness and declared her delight at the little bouquet I had brought her – tulips and daffodils, which, she explained, should never be put into the same vase together.
Nessie came in from behind – he must have seen me arrive – exclaiming that he was utterly pleased to see me. I told him I did not believe it and kissed him. He then took me round the downstairs rooms to show me all their magnificent azalias which were in full bloom as a result of Margo’s efforts. He wanted to take me upstairs to their bedroom as well, but his wife thought this not fitting and protested. He shrugged his shoulders and submitted.
Talking is no problem when Nessie is there. He volunteered the information that his secretary had committed suicide – I told them I knew already; Margo was interested to hear who from – and that they had had a lot of trouble because of that. Apparently it is a problem finding secretaries, one they had had their eyes on having “got herself pregnant”, another one being able to do it on a part-time basis only. He mentioned his book to me, and I asked him how he was getting on. Not very well, he said. But he will get a good commission, perhaps he even said : a very good one, and was expecting his publisher to come and see him. I felt terribly envious of him being so successful and dropped a hint that I was trying to write something, too. He seemed to be concerned about his own writing only and whispered to me that Margo didn’t know much about it.
He left me to her after that and she took me to the greenhouse to show me more azalias, then upstairs to her room where I was allowed to choose a Chagall postcard for my birthday. She had seen the exhibition. Did I like these paintings ? Of course, one has to relate to them, if one wants to get anything out of it. Her eyes turned dreamy as she said “ it’s all unity; there is no duality ”. I chose the card with the chrysanthemums and a little figure flying through them rather than the farmyard one. She thought that was the one I would go for and expressed her birthday wishes for me on the back. She even put it inside an envelope. I was hoping she would not write my name on it, so that I could use it again, but she spoilt it.
Somebody knocked on the door, a tall, self-possessed, foreign looking girl smelling strongly of garlic : she must have been treated by Nessie for some chest or other complaint. She in fact seemed to have an appointment with both Nessie and Margo. She handed a parcel to Margo as a birthday present and as she was leaving to see the doctor insisted on it being opened. Margo ripped it open quickly, because the other lady appeared to be on the point of going out (she was in fact far from it) and brought to light a cardigan from Ecuador, handknitted by a vegetarian, out of angora wool which had been dyed in vegetables, onion probably, the lady thought. Margo put it on and was delighted. The sleeves looked a little tight to me, but she said it was perfect. Her foreign visitor turned out to be Italian with an English husband, having lived in Ecuador and speaking five languages fluently, this latter information given by Margo for my benefit. I felt duly insignificant – I only know three languages, one of them being my mother tongue which I speak best – in this far-travelled and talented company. This lady was also taking up a course in diary-writing – did I know anything about that ? Bearing in mind my miserable and heavily criticized attempts in this field, I could only shake my head sadly in denial. I somehow felt there was nothing interesting about me at all.
The lady definitely left now to see the doctor, and Margo received a telephone call from some dear lady who wanted a book back she had lent her a long time ago. Margo was all smiles, saying she would make an effort and people should not lend her books. The book was by C.G.Young, which reminded me of another book by this author, one I had seen recently, with the author’s photograph. All my family had been struck by the likeness between him and Nessie ! I told Margo. She received the information serenely, remarking about archetypes occurring everywhere in life, also in Chagall … The circle was closed. We had no more to say to one another.
As I went to my car, the Italian girl was in the waiting-room – was she still waiting ? Nessie never kept me waiting !- and waved to me. Maybe she was impressed by the great big Rover I was driving. According to Margo they did not have much money, not even a house of their own …