A Burnt Out Case

A Burnt Out Case by Graham Greene Read Free Book Online

Book: A Burnt Out Case by Graham Greene Read Free Book Online
Authors: Graham Greene
which hung at the corner of the veranda. She was carrying a roman policier in the Série Noire . She gave a whistle that was scarcely audible, but Rycker heard it. ‘That damn puppy,’ he said. ‘She loves her puppy more than she loves me – or God.’ Perhaps the Van Der Hum affected the logic of his transitions. He said, ‘I’m not jealous. It’s not a man I worry about. She hasn’t enough feeling for that. Sometimes she even refuses her duties.’
    ‘What duties?’
    ‘Her duties to me. Her married duties.’
    ‘I’ve never thought of those as duties.’
    ‘You know very well the Church does. No one has any right to abstain except by mutual consent.’
    ‘I suppose there may be times when she doesn’t want you.’
    ‘Then what am I supposed to do? Have I given up the priesthood for nothing at all?’
    ‘I wouldn’t talk to her too much, if I were you, about loving God,’ Querry said with reluctance. ‘She mightn’t see a parallel between that and your bed.’
    ‘There’s a close parallel for a Catholic,’ Rycker said rapidly. He put up his hand as though he were answering a question before his fellow novices. The bristles of hair between the knuckles were like a row of little moustaches.
    ‘You seem to be very well up in the subject,’ Querry said.
    ‘At the seminary I always came out well in moral theology.’
    ‘I don’t fancy you need me then – or the fathers either. You have obviously thought everything out satisfactorily yourself.’
    ‘That goes without saying. But sometimes one needs confirmation and encouragement. You can’t imagine, Querry, what a relief it is to go over these problems with an educated Catholic.’
    ‘I don’t know that I would call myself a Catholic.’
    Rycker laughed. ‘What? The Querry? You can’t fool me. You are being too modest. I wonder they haven’t made you a count of the Holy Roman Empire – like that Irish singer, what was his name?’
    ‘I don’t know. I am not musical.’
    ‘You should read what they say about you in Time .’
    ‘On matters like that Time isn’t necessarily well informed. Would you mind if I went to bed? I’ll have to be up early in the morning if I’m to reach the next ferry before dark.’
    ‘Of course. Though I doubt if you’ll be able to cross the river tomorrow.’
    Rycker followed him along the veranda to his room. The darkness was noisy with frogs, and for a long while after his host had said good night and gone, they seemed to croak with Rycker’s hollow phrases: grace: sacrament: duty: love, love, love.

    ‘You want to be of use, don’t you?’ the doctor asked sharply. ‘You don’t want menial jobs just for the sake of menial jobs? You aren’t either a masochist or a saint.’
    ‘Rycker promised me that he would tell no one.’
    ‘He kept his word for nearly a month. That’s quite an achievement for Rycker. When he came here the other day he only told the Superior in confidence.’
    ‘What did the Superior say?’
    ‘That he would listen to nothing in confidence outside the confessional.’
    The doctor continued to unpack the crate of heavy electrical apparatus which had arrived at last by the Otraco boat. The lock on the dispensary door was too insecure for him to trust the apparatus there, so he unpacked it on the floor of his living-room. One could never be certain of the African’s reaction to anything unfamiliar. In Leopoldville six months before, when the first riots broke out, the attack had been directed at the new glass-and-steel hospital intended for African patients. The most monstrous rumours were easily planted and often believed. It was a land where Messiahs died in prison and rose again from the dead: where walls were said to fall at the touch of fingernails sanctified by a little holy dust. A man whom the doctor had cured of leprosy wrote him a threatening letter once a month; he really believed that he had been turned out of the leproserie, not because he was cured, but

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