grass. The student steadies himself and continues, turning back up the broad avenue of Pushkinstrasse. He is alerted momentarily by the cry of some exotic beast awakening in the nearby Zoo. A milkman's cart, decorated in blue, red and green, passes him, its cans jingling, its boney horse rolling her old eyes in the shade of her blinkers as she takes her familiar course. He reaches the Lugnerhoff at last, where the Protestant martyrs were burned in 1497. Here the houses are suddenly close-packed, leaning one upon the other like a crowd of old men around a game of bowls. In the centre of the cobbled court is a baroque fountain: the defiant Hussites about to mount their pyre. The student crosses Lugnerhoff to reach the narrow entrance to Korkziehiergasse and sunlight touches a green copper roof. Only the upper floors on the right-hand side of the alley are so far warmed by the sun; all the rest remain in deep shadow. The student opens a door into a courtyard and disappears. His feet can still be heard climbing the iron staircase to the room over what was once a stable now used by Jewish street-traders to store their goods.

Further up Korkziehiergasse, ascending the steep grey serpentine slope which leads from here to Cutovskiplatz, her knuckles blue as her fingers grasp inch by inch the metal bannister, the old candy-woman is a threadbare silhouette in the morning light. This hunched, exhausted and vulnerable little creature was once the darling of the Schoen Theatre: 'a spark of true life-force surrounded by the putrescent glow of simulated vitality', as Snarewitz described her fifty years ago. Marya Zamarovski lived for love in those days and gave herself up to the moment thoroughly and generously. Her men, while they continued to be attractive to her, had everything they desired. With every lover, she discarded houses, jewels, furniture and money, until almost simultaneously her wealth became exhausted together with her beauty and her public success. She opened a chocolate shop, but was cheated out of it by the last man she loved. Now she sells her sweets from the heavy tray about her neck. She will stand in Cutovskiplatz until evening, not far from the theatre where she used to perform (it continues to put on popular melodramas and farces). I buy candied violets from her for Alexandra who nibbles at one and offers it to me. I bite. The scented sweet mingles its strong perfume with her subtle cologne and I resist the urge to draw her to me. There is a noise from the river. On the quays the coal-heavers carry sacks to the little steamers. The docks of Mirenburg are sometimes as busy as any seaport. In winter the merchants, wrapped in overlarge fur coats which will give them the appearance of so many sober fledgelings standing in concourse, will supervise their cargoes. It is now seven o'clock in the morning and the express from Berlin is steaming into the station. The workman's cafes, bristling with newspapers in German, Czech and Svitavian, fill with smoking red sausages and dark coffee, purple arms and blue overalls, the smell of strong cigarettes, the sound of cutlery and argument. Waiters and waitresses, their big enamel trays held above their heads, move rapidly amongst the crowded marble-topped tables. We hear a bellow from the Berlin train.

On the balconies of the hotels above Cutovskiplatz a few early risers are breakfasting. One can locate a hotel at this hour by the distinctive aura of cafe-au-lait and croissants. Soon the English tourists in their Burberrys and Ulsters will emerge and make for Mladota where they will disdain the little funicular car running up beside it and insist on trudging all one hundred and twenty steps, irrespective of the weather; then they will head for the Cathedral of St-Maria-and-St-Maria, or go to the Radota Bridge which spans the Ratt. The balustrades of this bridge are supported on both sides by Romanesque pillars representing the famous line of Svitavian kings whose power was broken in 1370 by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV who, by diplomacy and threat, set his own candidate upon the throne and insisted Svitavia be called by its German name of Waldenstein and Mirov-Cesny become Mirenburg, with the effect that Svitavian is now only spoken fluently in the rural districts.

The Ratt is a fast-flowing river. Upstream is the Oder and downstream the Danube. She is loved by barge- men as a good, safe river, spine of the most sophisticated canal system in the world. The Ratt is the chief contributor to Waldenstein's prosperity. Several hundred yards from the Radota Bridge, beside older cobbled quays, are cramped coffee-houses and restaurants, covered in hand-written advertisements and posters so that it is almost impossible to see through windows where weathered barge-captains and pale shipping clerks drink thick Rattdampfen soup from Dresden crockery and wipe their lips on Brno linen. The conversation is nothing but lists of goods and prices in a dozen currencies. Steam from tureens behind the counters threatens to peel placards from the glass and on a misty evening one can go outside and scarcely notice any difference in visibility from the interior.

In the tall white and brown cafe on the corner of Kanalstrasse and Kaspergasse, underneath the billboard advertising a brand of Russian tea, sit drinking the Slav nationalists. Many have been up all night and some have just arrived. They argue in fierce but usually inexpert Svitavian or Bohemian. They quote the poetry of Kollar and Celakovsky: Slavia, Slavia! Thou name of sweet sound but of bitter memory; hundred times divided and destroyed, but yet more honoured than ever. They refuse to speak German or French. They wear peasant blouses under their frock-coats. They affect boots rather than shoes and rather than cigars they smoke the yellow cigarettes of the peasant. Though most of them have been educated at the universities of Prague and Heidelberg, even Paris, they reject this learning. They speak instead of 'blood' and 'instinct', of lost glories and stolen pride. Alexandra tells me her brother was for a while of their number and it is the chief reason her parents decided to take him to Rome. I tell her I am grateful to her brother for his radicalism. Her little stomach is so soft. I touch it lightly with my fingertips. I move my hand towards her pubis. She jumps and gently takes hold of my wrist. What yesterday had been of peripheral interest to me today becomes central, abiding, almost an obsession. I take as keen a delight in the contents of jewellery shop windows, the couturiers, the fashion magazines as I once took in watching a horse-race or reading about exotic lands. This change has not been gradual, it seems to have occurred overnight, as if I cannot remember any other life. Alexandra has me. My blood quickens. Now I am remembering the detail of the pleasure. I wave Papadakis away. I cling to the sensation. It becomes more than memory. I experience it again. What have I invented? Is she my creation or is she creating me? Commonplace events are of no consequence. The room darkens. A background of red velvet and roses. Her passivity; her weakness. Her sudden, fierce passion and her sharp, white teeth. She becomes strong, but she remains so soft. The cathedral bells are chiming. We are playing a game. She understands the rules better than I. I break away from her and stand upright. I go to the window and part the curtains. She is laughing from the twisted sheets. I turn towards her again:

'You are hopeless.'

Papadakis is at my shoulder, asking for instructions. I tell him to light my lamp. She pushes her head under the pillow. Her feet and calves are hidden by the linen; her bottom curves in the brown gloom and her vertebrae are gleaming. She comes to the surface, her dark curls damp with sweat, and I return to her, forcing her down on her face and laying my penis in the cleft of her rear, denying myself the heat of her vagina: I have never known such heat, before or since, in a woman's sex. She bites at my hand. Traffic is noisy in the square today; a political demonstration of some kind, Papadakis says: he is contemptuous. 'Communists.' We hire a carriage and driver to take us east to Staromest, the hilly semi-rural suburb of Miren-burg where proud-eyed little girls watch over goats and chickens and shoo off strangers as if they were foxes. Here, amid the old cottages and windmills, we shall stop at an inn and either lunch there or ask them for a picnic. One or two fashionable 'Resting Houses' have been built in Staromest. They are frequented by invalids and the elderly and are staffed by nuns. Thus the peace of the hills is somewhat artificially preserved from the natural encroachment of the city. The apartment blocks stand below, silent besiegers who must inevitably conquer. We pass a small convoy of vivid gypsy wagons. Alexandra points at a brown and white pony as if I could buy it for her. The earth roads are still dry. From the dust the plodding gypsies do not look at us as we pass. We stop to gaze on the rooftops.

I point out, in the curve of the river, the old dock known as Suicide Bay. By some trick of the current most of those who fling themselves off the Radota Bridge are washed in to this dock. We can also see the distant race- track, dark masses of horses and spectators, bright silks and flags against the green turf. Closer to us is the cupola of the great Concert Hall where tonight one can hear Smetana and Dvorak on the same programme as Wagner, Strauss and Debussy. Mirenburg is more liberal in her tastes than Vienna. Not far from the Concert Hall is a gilded sign, by Mucha, for the Cabaret Roberto, which offers popular singers, comedians, dancers and trained animals in a single evening's entertainment. Alexandra wishes to attend Roberto's. I promise her we shall go, even though I know she is as likely as I am to change her mind in the next half-hour. She touches my cheek with warm lips. I am enraptured by the city's beauty. I watch a green and gold tramcar, drawn by two chestnut horses, as it moves towards Little Bohemia, the Jewish Quarter, where from Monday to Thursday a market flourishes.

The tramcar reaches its terminus, near the market. The core of the market is in Gansplatz but nowadays it has spread through surrounding streets and each street has come to be identified by its stalls. In Baverninstrasse is second-hand clothing, linen, lace and tapestries; in Fahnestrasse antiques and sporting-guns; in Hangengasse

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