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    AC Benus
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The Great Mirror of Same-Sex Love - Prose - 9. Gerald Basil Edwards "The Book of Ebenezer Le Page"

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from The Book of Ebenezer Le Page…

 

Jim only laughed when I told him about Liza. He said he always knew when I had been out with Liza because I looked like Victor when he came back from one of his gallivants. Victor was a good and faithful dog and hardly ever left his master’s heels; but every now and then he would go off after a bitch. He’d be gone for a week sometimes, and would be seen mooning along the lanes; but nobody would dare to try and bring him back. Then one morning, lo and behold, he’d be in his basket again. He would look grumpy and miserable, and have his fur torn; and, once, a hole in his ear, and, another time, a bad wound on the top of his head. For days after, he would only crawl out and lie in the sun, saying to himself, ‘Never again! Never again!’ […]

I spent a lot of my spare time on the farm with Jim. Of an evening, when I’d finished work and there wasn’t much had to be done in our garden, I’d go down; and on Saturday afternoons. I liked farming better than working in the greenhouses. Jim said I would have made a good farmer. ‘Better than you, anyway,’ I said. The trouble with Jim was that he was soft about the animals. They wasn’t just so much milk and butter and meat so far as he was concerned, but Rosie and Marie and Evangeline and Boney, the bull. It nearly broke Jim’s heart when the young bullocks had to go off to the slaughterhouse. ‘They haven’t had half a life,’ he’d say. When Timothy, the donkey, got so old he was of no use to anybody and was eating every other creature out of house and home, Jim’s father said he would have to be put down. Jim turned on his father. ‘All right, ‘ he said, ‘and when you get to be an old man, we’ll have you put down by a humane killer and your carcase carried on a truck to the Tram-shed to be burnt.‘ Timothy lived on for many more years and got fatter and fatter, until one day he was found dead in a field from overeating. The creatures knew Jim’s weakness. I could get the cows down the lane in five minutes. It used to take Jim half-an-hour and, even then, two or three would be wandering back to where they’d come from. He’d swear at them in all the colours of the rainbow; but they didn’t take a blind bit of notice. ‘Ah well, cows are cows,’ he’d say.

Christmas I always spent at home with my mother; but Jim came to us for Boxing Day. […] Those days, New Year was kept up nearly as much as Christmas; and New Year’s Eve in Town was nearly as good as Christmas Eve. I always went to Town with Jim New Year’s Eve, and stayed the night at his place. After a good supper, we would lie awake in his big bed and wait to hear the New Year come in. When the whistles and the hooters started going down St. Sampson’s, and the sirens from the ships, he would wish me a happy New Year and I would wish him one too; and then we’d curl up together and go to sleep.[i]

 

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Jim came home on embarkation leave. The very day he arrived in Guernsey, he came round to Les Moulins in the evening. ‘We’re going to Town Saturday night, the two of us,’ he said, ‘and you’re coming back to the farm for supper and stay the night.’ ‘Then will you come to dinner and tea with us on Sunday?’ I said. ‘For sure!’ he said. I can’t write about that Saturday and Sunday. It was too good. Jim looked magnificent. He was the picture of health, as Liza said, and looked years younger than when he went away, and was upright again and held his head up. When I walked down the High Street with him, I was as proud as if I walked with a king. It wasn’t that they had made a smart soldier of him. He was God’s own comic soldier. He was Jim. It wasn’t three or four, nor five or six, it was dozens who shouted out ‘Wharro, Jim! Comment sien va, mon viow?’ and up went his big hand and up came his big smile. People wanted to talk to him, people wanted to touch him, and he talked to anybody; but, even then, he dragged me in and kept hold of me by the elbow, as if I might run away. Supper at the farm was like old times, except that Wilfred and Gerald wasn’t there. Gerald was then a cadet in a training school for flying in Bristol. Lydia had supper with us and couldn’t take her eyes off her brother; and for once I liked her. After supper we went up to his old room and lay and talked in his big bed until I fell asleep against him with his arm around me like when we was kids on Lihou. There have been times in my life when I have thought the Bible is right and it is a curse to be born; but when I remember that stolen day of innocent happiness, how not for one moment was we out of touch, not even when we was asleep, I know it was worth being born for that.

He was up with the lark in the morning and out swearing at the cows. He was good at swearing before, but he was better now and used swear-words even I didn’t know. I think they was Welsh; but the cows didn’t take a blind bit more notice than when he used to swear at them in their own language. […] And, in the afternoon, when Jim and me was sitting on the rocks, he […] told me about his training. He was a good shot with a rifle, he said; but then he always had been. ‘If I can shoot birds, I suppose I can shoot men,’ he said; but I knew he didn’t like the idea. He didn’t like throwing hand-grenades. He said when he pulled the pin out of the Mills bomb, he was always afraid it would go off before he got it out of his hand. He hoped he wouldn’t be in a bayonet charge. ‘l couldn’t do that to a chap,’ he said. I said, ‘They’ll give you rum before you go over the top; and he’ll be trying to do the same to you.’ ‘l can’t rip a chap open,’ he said, ‘it don’t matter who he is.’ He spent the rest of his leave with Phoebe and the kids. I got a postcard from him from Southampton, saying he was on his way. At the bottom, he wrote, ‘Don’t sigh-ee, don’t cry-ee!’ I got one letter from him from France; but there was black lines through most of it. All I could read was ‘Don’t think I have forgotten you; if you don’t hear from me for a week or two, I’ll write again as soon as I can.‘ I saw the news in the Press. I had just come in from work and the Press was on the table where the boy had thrown it. My mother was frying some fish for our tea. I opened the Press as I always did, hardly thinking of what I was doing. I saw it at once. ‘Killed in Action. James Mahy, beloved son of James and Agnes Mahy of Les Grands Gigands, St. Sampson’s. For God and King and Country.’ I went out of doors. I cried.[ii]

—Gerald Basil Edwards,

concerning events 1913-1916

 

 

 

 

 

 


[i] from The Book of Ebenezer Le Page” Gerald Basil Edwards The Book of Ebenezer Le Page (Mt. Kisco, New York 1981), ps. 70-71

https://archive.org/details/bookofebenezerle00edwa

[ii] Ibid., ps. 117-118

_

Copyright © 2021 AC Benus; All Rights Reserved.
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3 hours ago, Parker Owens said:

I am so glad this passage made it into this collection. These pages live with me still. 

Dear Parker, I can't quite tell if your comments mean you are already familiar with this book. I only came upon it quite by happy accident, last week -- I suppose -- and was unprepared for its quality. However, many have written of the book, saying it's one of the best works of fiction from the end of the 20th century, and I can certainly see why they hold Ebenezer Le Page in such high regard; it's amazingly well written   

Edited by AC Benus
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45 minutes ago, AC Benus said:

Dear Parker, I can't quite tell if your comments mean you are already familiar with this book. I only came upon it quite by happy accident, last week -- I suppose -- and was unprepared for its quality. However, many have written about the book that it's one of the best works of fiction from the end of the 20th century, and I can certainly see why they hold Ebenezer Le Page in such high regard; it's amazingly well written   

I have read this book before, staying up late into the early hours of summer mornings to feast on it. In fact, I snagged my copy from my late mother's house, packing it away in a box before my brother could claim it. :)

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