It is cold this winter and at nightfall, in a deserted Hyde Park, strollers are rare. Yet earlier, hand in hand, two shadows -- two old men -- hurried away before it was late to return to shelter of their old familiar home.
The old lovers, chilled to the bone, retired early -- earlier than usual -- to seek warmth from each other. Once they have achieved this goal, now huddled together in their large bed*, they share a moment of tenderness through their exhausted bodies.
It is almost blindly that they find each other while the night is falling. Their eyes are dim from having seen too many summers – with cataracts that must be dealt with soon. Gently they kiss, their lips a little slack. If they speak to each other, it is only in barely murmured whispers.
The large Park Lane house is also cold. They have been alone there since Mrs. Benson left them -- not before passing on to her heirs an obligation to renew the lease for those she considered rather like her own children.
Suddenly Blake breaks the silence in a breath against his friend's wrinkled cheek. "Dost thou remember our old ecstasy?"
It is not often, even in bed, that the former captain makes use of the old singular. Between this and their current posture, Mortimer has an idea of the occasion Blake is referring to but still languid after their previous embrace he prefers to ask, slightly teasing: "Wherefore should I recall that memory?"
In response, his lover's kisses become more pressing, his caresses more insistent. "Doth thine heart beat at my sole name still now?"
If he had had any doubt, Mortimer would now be certain that Blake was trying to titillate him. Although this is no longer true after years of familiarity -- and now that their love is no longer as forbidden -- he remembers well the feeling that this sole first name could arouse in him.
Francis's voice makes him shudder when he whispers, "Still dost thou see my soul in thy dreams?"
"No." That's what he says. How he hates those moments of desire when his excitement is beyond his body capabilities! The mind is disposed, but the flesh is weak. "Come on, Francis!" he pleads in a low voice. "Have mercy. You know I don't have your stamina. "
He grabs a wandering hand, brings it to his lips and whispers against the withered skin, "If you want me to accompany you again, you'll have to wait for me."
"All my life if I have to." With a kiss on the nearest shoulder, his lover calms his ardor again and occupies his hands with indolent caresses.
Then, when at last he feels his lover's body awakening again against him, he resumes his speech, brushing lips against lips. "Ah, the fine days of unspeakable glee when we both joined our mouths, our lips ! "
Mortimer moves and shivers. "Maybe," he whispers before plucking the offered kiss himself.
Again his lover becomes more forward. He murmurs sweet nothings, recalls the memory he evoked earlier. "How blue the heavens and our hope how high !"
Suddenly Mortimer freezes, as a memory imposes itself on him without warning. Suddenly he is no longer beside his lover, long ago in the sun. Again under the blue sky **, he is in Karachi.
He trembles and his teeth almost chatter. Anything, anything get out of that! Hurrying to escape the shadow that his torturers have left in his mind, he ducks further into the past, into his memory.
At Francis's side, the flight of the last members of the resistance, the night of the beginning of the third world war! He gasps, looking for air and a way out. "Hope has fled vanquished to the darkling sky."
Blake who has noticed his lover's turmoil makes his voice tender, and full of assurances. "And it was your victory, Philip. Your submarine did fly. "
It is quite unintenionally that he had thus awakened the specters of the war which still haunt his friend. So, slowly, he makes gentle amends.
While their murmurs dissolve into the night, when once more their mood becomes frivolous, they embrace again, giving in to fever. And with their hands joined around their perked up members, they both go to the wild oats they have sown together.
* Bought after the 27th of July 1967 of course.
** see the Secret of the Swordfish