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The razor's edge

The razor's edge
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by W. S. Maugham

(аn extract)

I found a message from Joseph, Elliott's manservant, to tell me that Elliot was ill in bed and would be glad to see me, so next day I drove over to Antibes. Joseph, before taking me up to see his master, told me that Elliot had had an attack of uremia and that his doctor took a grave view of his condition. He had come through it and was getting better, but his kidneys were diseased and it was impossible that he should ever completely recover. Joseph had been with Elliot for forty years and was devoted to him, but though his manner was regretful it was impossible not to notice the inner satisfaction with which, like so many members of his class, catastrophe in the house filled him.

'Ce pauvre monsieur,' he sighed. 'Evidently he had his manias but at bottom he was good. Sooner or later he must die.' He spoke already as though Elliot were at his last gasp.

'I'm sure he's provided for you, Joseph,' I said grimly.

'One must hope it,' he said mournfully.

I was surprised when he ushered me into the bedroom to find Elliot very spry. He was pale and looked old, but was in good spirits. He was shaved and his hair was neatly brushed. He wore pale blue silk pyjamas, on the pocket of which were embroidered his initials surmounted by his count's crown. These, much larger and again with the crown, were heavily embroidered on the turned-down sheet.

I asked him how he felt.

'Perfectly well,' he said cheerfully. 'It's only a temporary indisposition. I shall be up and about again in a few days. I've got the Grand Duke Dimitri lunching with me on Saturday, and I've told my doctor he must put me to rights by then at all costs.'

I spent half an hour with him, and on my way out asked Joseph to let me know if Elliot had to relapse. I was astonished a week later when I went to lunch with one of my neighbours to find him there. Dressed for a party, he looked like death.

'You oughtn't to be out, Elliot,' I told him.

'Oh, what nonsense, my dear fellow. Frieda is expecting the Princess Mafalda. I've known the Italian royal family for years, ever since poor Louisa was en poste at Rome, and I couldn't let poor Frieda down.'

I did not know whether to admire his indomitable spirit or to lament that at his age, stricken with mortal illness, he should still retain his passion for society. You would never have thought he was a sick man. Like a dying actor when he has the grease paint on his face and steps on the stage, who forgets for the time being his aches and pains, Elliot played his part of the polished courtier with his accustomed assurance. He was infinitely amiable, flatteringly attentive to the proper people, and amusing with that malicious irony at which he was an adept. I think I had never see him display his social gift to greater advantage. When the Royal Highness had departed (and the grace with which Elliot bowed, managing to combine respect for her exalted rank with an old man's admiration for a comely women, was a sight to see) I was not surprised to hear our hostess tell him that he had been the life and soul of the party.

A few days later he was in bed again and his doctor forbade him to leave his room. Elliot was exasperated.

'It's too bad this should happen just now. It's a particularly brilliant season.'

Край леза

Я знайшов повідомлення від Джозефа слуги Еліота, де йшлося про те, що Еліот лежав у ліжку хворий і був би радий мене бачити. Отже наступного дня я поїхав до Антібесу. Джозеф, перед тим як доповісти про мій візит своєму господареві, сказав мені, що у Еліота стався напад уремії і його лікар мав, серйозні побоювання щодо його стану. Він здолав (пройшов) це і йому покращило, але його нирки, були хворі і це було неможливо, щоб він повністю одужав. Джозеф був з Еліотом протягом сорока років і присвятив себе йому, але через його манеру співчутливості було неможливо не помітити внутрішнє задоволення, з яким подібно інших людей його класу, катастрофа в будинку наповнювала його.

“Бідолаха” – зітхнув він. Очевидно в нього була манія, але по суті він був хорошим. Рано чи пізно він мусив померти. Він говорив вже так, ніби то був останній подих Еліота.

“Я впевнений, він потурбується про тебе, Джозефе” – сказав я похмуро.

“Треба надіятися”, – сказав він скорботно.

Я був здивований, коли провівши мене в спальню, я знайшов Еліота дуже жвавим. Він був блідий і виглядав старим, але у хорошому настрої. Він був побритим і його волосся було охайно причесане. Він був одягнений в блідо-голубу шовкову піжаму, в піджак на якому в його графській короні були вишиті його ініціали. Такі, але більші і знову з короною були виразно нашиті на відкинутому простирадлі.

Я спитав його, як він себе почуває.

Прекрасно сказав він бадьоро. Це тільки тимчасове нездужання. Я видужаю вже через кілька днів. я маю ланч з великим герцогом Дімітрієм в суботу і я сказав лікарю, що він повинен вилікувати мене, чого б це не коштувало.

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