Two Lives

PENGUIN BOOKS

TWO LIVES

William Trevor was born in 1928 at Mitchelstown, County Cork, spent his childhood in provincial Ireland, and now lives in Devon. He attended a number of Irish schools and later Trinity College, Dublin. He is a member of the Irish Academy of Letters. He has written many novels, including
The Old Boys
(1964), winner of the Hawthornden Prize;
The Children of Dynmouth
(1976) and
Fools of Fortune
(1983), both winners of the Whitbread Fiction Award;
The Silence in the Garden
(1988), winner of the
Yorkshire Post
Book of the Year Award;
Two Lives
(1991), which was shortlisted for the
Sunday Express
Book of the Year Award and includes the Booker-shortlisted novella
Reading Turgenev, Felicia’s Journey
(1994), which won both the Whitbread and
Sunday Express
Book of the Year Awards;
Death in Summer
(1998); and, most recently,
The Story of Lucy Gault
(2002), which was shortlisted for both the Man Booker Prize and the Whitbread Fiction Award. A celebrated short-story writer, his most recent collections are
After Rain
(1996);
The Hill Bachelors,
which won the Macmillan Silver Pen Award and the
Irish Times
Literature Prize; and
A Bit on the Side
(2004). He is also the editor of
The Oxford Book of Irish Short Stories
(1989). He has written plays for the stage and for radio and television; several of his television plays have been based on his short stories. Most of his books are available in Penguin.

In 1976 William Trevor received the Allied Irish Banks Prize, and in 1977 he was awarded an honorary CBE in recognition of his valuable services to literature. In 1992 he received the
Sunday Times
Award for Literary Excellence. In 1999 he was awarded the prestigious David Cohen British Literature Prize in recognition of a lifetime’s literary achievement. And in 2002, he was knighted for his services to literature.

Many critics and writers have praised his work: to Hilary Mantel he is ‘one of the contemporary writers I most admire’ and to Carol Shields ‘a worthy chronicler of our times’. In the
Spectator
Anita Brookner wrote, ‘These novels will endure. And in every beautiful sentence there is not a word out of place’, and John Banville believes William Trevor’s novels to be ‘among the most subtle and sophisticated fiction being written today’.

BY THE SAME AUTHOR

NOVELS

The Old Boys

The Boarding-House

The Love Department

Mrs Eckdorf in O’Neill’s Hote

Miss Gomez and the Brethren

Elizabeth Alone

The Children of Dynmouth

Other People’s Worlds

Fools of Fortune

The Silence in the Garden

Felicia’s Journey

Death in Summer

The Story of Lucy Gault

NOVELLAS

Nights at the Alexandra

Two Lives

SHORT STORIES

The Day We Got Drunk on Cake

The Ballroom of Romance

Angels at the Ritz

Lovers of Their Time

Beyond the Pale

The News from Ireland

Family Sins

The Collected Stories

After Rain

The Hill Bachelors

A Bit on the Side

PLAY

Scenes from an Album

NON-FICTION

A Writer’s Ireland

Excursions in the Real World

FOR CHILDREN

Juliet’s Story

WILLIAM TREVOR

TWO LIVES

READING TURGENEV
AND
MY HOUSE IN UMBRIA

PENGUIN BOOKS

For Jane

PENGUIN BOOKS

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

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Penguin Books Ltd. Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

www.penguin.com

First published by Viking 1991

Published in Penguin Books 1992

26

Copyright © William Trevor, 1991
All rights reserved

The moral right of the author has been asserted

Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser

ISBN: 978-0-14-192980-4

Reading Turgenev

1

A woman, not yet fifty-seven, slight and seeming frail, eats carefully at a table in a corner. Her slices of buttered bread have been halved for her, her fried egg mashed, her bacon cut. ‘Well, this is happiness!’ she murmurs aloud, but none of the other women in the dining-room replies because none of them is near enough to hear. She’s privileged, the others say, being permitted to occupy on her own the bare-topped table in the corner. She has her own salt and pepper.

‘Hurry now.’ Appearing from nowhere, Miss Foye curtly interrupts the woman’s private thought. ‘You have a visitor waiting.’

‘Would be Peter Martyr.’ Another woman, overhearing the news about a visitor, makes this suggestion, but at once there’s a general objection. Why should the visitor be identified so since the lone woman wouldn’t lift a hand to take the knife from his head, Peter Martyr not being of her religion?

‘Heretic!’ a voice calls out.

‘Heathen,’ another mutters.

The woman who eats alone pays no attention. They mean no harm; they are not against her; in their confusion they become carried away. But since she has been interrupted, she must make the best of things, she must consume the food: she will not be permitted into the visitor’s presence until her plate is clean. She swallows a forkful of egg and bacon pieces
without chewing. Grease, congealed, adheres to her tongue and the roof of her mouth. If she vomits she will not be permitted into the visitor’s presence. She rinses her mouth with tea. With her fingers she presses more buttered bread between her teeth. The others will tell on her if she does not eat all the bread. They will shout out and she’ll have to march back to the table. She softens the bread with more tea and washes it away. She passes among the women.

‘Tell me about the graveyard.’ A tiny woman, wizen-faced, rises and walks with her, whispering. ‘Tell me, darling, about the graveyard.’

‘Sit down, Sadie,’ Miss Foye commands. ‘Leave her be.’

‘She took off every stitch,’ another voice accuses and is immediately contradicted: Bríd Beamish it was who took off every stitch, who walked the streets for profit.

‘It’s not our business.’ Stately in grey, Miss Foye is brisk. This is her manner. She stands no nonsense. ‘Hurry now,’ she urges.

In the hall there is a disappointment. The visitor is not a stranger. He stands by the window, and speaks when Miss Foye has gone away. He states the purpose of his visit, all he says a repetition. ‘Nowadays it’s what’s being done,’ he explains, the opposite of anything in the old days: for months Miss Foye and the medicals have been saying it too. Those who have somewhere to go are better off in the community, that has been established. In other countries the change came years ago, Italy, America, places like that. We’re always a bit behindhand here.

‘Well, you have somewhere to go,’ the man reminds her. ‘No doubt about that, dear.’

‘I thought you might be Insarov. When I heard I had a visitor I said to myself it must be Insarov. To tell the truth, I was interrupted at my supper.’

She smiles and nods, then walks away.

‘No, come back,’ her husband begs. ‘They’ve asked me to go into it with you.’

Obediently she returns. He means no harm.

2

Mary Louise Dallon retained in her features the look of a child. In an oval face her blue eyes had a child’s wide innocence. Her fair brown hair was soft, and curled without inducement. Her temperament remained untouched by sophistication. Once in her life she was told she was beautiful, but laughed when the statement was made: she saw ordinariness in her bedroom looking-glass.

In the schoolroom next to the Protestant church Miss Mullover had once taught Mary Louise, and would have retained a memory only of a lively child had it not been for the same child’s sudden interest, at ten, in Joan of Arc – or Jeanne d’Arc, as Miss Mullover insisted upon. The saint was a source of such unusual fascination that Miss Mullover wondered for a while if the child possessed depths she had overlooked: an imagination that would one day bear fruit. But Mary Louise left the schoolroom with no greater ambition than to work in the local chemist’s shop, Dodd’s Medical Hall, and in that she was frustrated. Circumstances obliged her to stay at home, helping in the farmhouse.

In a different generation Miss Mullover had taught Elmer Quarry, who left her schoolroom to board at the Tate School in Wexford, nearly sixty miles away. The three Quarry children – Elmer and his sisters – came of a family that for many decades had been important in the town. The Dallons – out at Culleen – had struggled for as long to keep their heads above water.

In later years Miss Mullover observed from a distance the vicissitudes and worries that governed the family life of the Dallons, and the changeless nature of the Quarrys’ domestic and mercantile routine. She noted that money meant as much to Elmer Quarry in his middle age as it had to his forebears, that generally he was as cautious as his father and his grandfather had been, that he abundantly enhanced the Quarry reputation for good sense and a Protestant order of priorities. In each generation for more than a century the inheritor of Quarry’s drapery had married late in life, establishing himself in the business before he turned his thoughts to the securing of the line: the old house above the shop in Bridge Street had seen more than its share of young wives made widows before their time. So it was that in 1955 Elmer Quarry was still a bachelor and the only well-to-do Protestant for miles around. All over the county wealth had passed into the hands of a new Catholic middle class, changing the nature of provincial life as it did so.

The Dallons’ roadside farmhouse in the townland of Culleen had never been more than modest, and in 1955 even that modesty was considerably eroded: the whitewashed rendering was here and there fallen away, slates that had slipped out of place or cracked in half had not been replaced, a pane in an upstairs window was broken. Within the farmhouse, rooms were in need of redecoration; paint had chipped, damp loosened the tattered wallpaper of the stairway, the unused dining-room smelt of must and soot. Five Dallons lived in the farmhouse – Mary Louise and her sister Letty, her brother James, and her mother and father.

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