Saturday, September 18, 1982

The Traveller's Tale

My first short story written as an adult, never published. (I wrote nine, sold four; pretty good percentage.) In those far-off, golden, pre-video cassette days, there were still over a dozen high-paying monthly markets for short fiction and it was plausible to contemplate a career based on short fiction. I worked on this story for most of 1982 upon my return from Dominica and the Caribs for Geo magazine.  It was very much a portrait of Phyllis Shand Allfrey (1908 - 1986), whom I was privileged to meet. Though primarily a poet and politician, she wrote at least one superb novel, The Orchid House (1953), which has been reissued in paperback and even filmed as a miniseries for U.K. TV starring the young Rachel Weisz. 

"Before you leave the island," said Baptiste, "you should be sure to meet Mrs. Lavalie."

With the dusk, fireflies had begun to dart; already Baptiste’s face was merging with the shadows. It was my third evening at Papillote, a place Crusoe might've dreamed up: two wooden bungalows perched against a green canyon wall of maniacal foliage. From above came the steady wash and roar of a high waterfall and flutings of innumerable birds.

"Why should I meet Mrs. Lavalie?" I asked.

Baptiste grinned. “You see, she's a famous writer. They say the book she wrote many years ago is very great. Many, many years ago.”

I had come to the wild green island of Dominica for a rest; I was between books. I wanted a place the world had ignored. The island rises steeply from the sea, Caribbean on one coast, Atlantic the other, sleeping volcanoes covered with coconut palms and luxurious banana trees. The roads are poor, landslides frequent. But the air is perfumed and leaves you in a delirium of good health, and it took only three days for me recover from a year’s steady labor on a novel. There were hot springs in a grotto filled with bats, and wooden tables under a thatched roof where I read each morning, while wild chickens, geese, and peacocks wandered about.

Best of all, there were no other guests, and most of the time Baptiste left me to myself. I had no interest in Mrs. Lavalie, yet I didn't want to offend my host. For want of anything better, I said, “Where does she live?”

We were sitting at one of the open tables, Baptiste leafing through a magazine I’d bought when I changed planes from London in Miami. He was studying a photo essay on New York subways and talking to himself and me interchangeably.

He said, "Oh, she lives just a few miles from here. Before Roseau. She was born here, you see.” He paused. “And she as white as you. Her family was British for many, many generations. Then they settle."

I thought: if there's anything you must avoid, it's meeting this old lady. She'll be some ex-colonial biddy whose grandfather retired here from service in Inja, she'll have written one book a half-century ago, before her marriage, that was privately printed. It'll be called Quaint Tales of Old Dominica, Collected and Retold By One of Her Daughters. Or it'll be the darling story of the British girl’s visit to the island and all the friends she made. There was only one Jean Rhys, and she left here a long time ago.

My thoughts may have been cruel, but quiet and privacy are hard-won things, and I’d come here to make my time entirely my own. Yet I couldn't think how to change the tack of the conversation without being rude. I had a drink in front of me and it wasn't dinnertime; I needed nothing.

“Felicia Rose Lavalie,” recited Baptiste, without any further prompting from me. He glanced back to the magazine. "I would like to see that myself," he murmured, and pointed to a crowded subway platform. He shook his head in disbelief and turned the page. He was about to tell me more about Mrs. Lavalie, so I offered him the magazine. It seemed the easiest way out.

And yet the next morning her name seemed familiar, and in the vague way that elaborate or unusual names often do. I woke to a furiously dripping tap—it was raining thirty feet from my window. Mists dangled around the mountains’ summits. A change in the weather has a peculiar effect on the traveller: it makes him think something is about to happen, and it gives him the illusion he has been away a long time. Because I knew no one who'd been to Dominica I felt a great secret had been confided in me.

Those first moments after landing in a tiny plane from Antigua had been exquisite. A mountain of steaming vegetation rose beside the pocked airstrip. At the end of the tarmac, red poinciana trees and a small cemetery. A road wound up the tall coast to where the sun was descending in silver light. Beyond, the gun-metal grey Caribbean stood motionless, keeping its promise of peace.

I’d wanted nothing more at that moment. Now, over breakfast, I was a little bored. No one likes to think of himself as fickle. Baptiste, clearing away my plates, said he was driving to Roseau for supplies. Did I wish to come?

It stopped raining after we began threading our way down the canyons, and soon the air began to curdle from the heat. Small shops appeared and the hovels were more gaily painted, and we passed a stone wall with botanical gardens beyond. Even though it was early, the immaculate streets were full of people. Since Baptiste had many errands I told him I'd make my own way back.

It was already very hot, and I joined the ambling throng on the shaded side of King George Street. The shingled houses pressed tight together, most painted white or green or blue, shutters flung open and faces staring down. Roseau seemed higgledy-piggledy, and the mountains beyond gave its clutter a comic air.

Up Old Street the sea began. Past a French fort devastated by a hurricane was a circular wooden building, pale green with white trim, a veranda embracing it. In the garden stood an almond tree. A stone wall divided the garden from the blue Caribbean, and an aged cannon pointed out to sea. A girl lay sprawled on the cannon reading a magazine, her head against the muzzle; she glanced surreptitiously at me. Then I noticed the small sign above open red doors: LIBRARY.

I went in. Fiction was on the right wall, mostly familiar writers in British editions. I found my first and third novels there, and misfiled with them my travel book on the Sudan. None had been taken out for over a year—no point in autographing them.

Then I thought of Felicia Rose Lavalie. Surely she would be here, represented by several copies. Yet I couldn't locate her beside the pack of Jack Londons.

To the girl in pink at the front desk I said, “Excuse me, Miss, I am looking for a book by a local—”

Her arm flew up. She pointed to tall glass doors open on a Caribbean pouring blue light.

"Sir. Mr. Felix has got it. Lavalie Rose.” She pronounced the name like an elongated, musical “lovely.” She licked her lips; it was difficult switching to English from the patois. "On the porch." She pointed again. "You ask him when he's through with it, maybe.”

I nodded. "Thank you. His name is Felix?”

Mister Felix.”  Then she added. “He’s a writer too.”

I started to ask how she’d guessed my profession and then realized she'd meant Mrs. Lavalie. From the glass cases filled with rotten leather books, one gold title gleamed at me:  Six Months In the West Indies, by S.T. Coleridge. Coleridge had been here? Perhaps one of Mrs. Lavalie’s great-aunts had taken tea with him. I stepped onto the veranda.

The girl on the cannon was gone. A white dog lay asleep in the shade of the almond tree. A young man with thin flopped brown hair sat leaned against the wall of the library, legs drawn up to his chest. He wore faded jeans and a white shirt open halfway, sleeves rolled to his elbows. A small blue book, missing its dust jacket, was balanced on his knees, and a pair of sunglasses balanced on the book. He had large ears, a donkey’s ears, and his lips were pursed, as if I’d caught him whistling. He also had a suspicious air which, in this innocent place, made me suspicious. He reminded me of one of those scaly clerks in Dickens, with a name like Bartleby Smike.

"Good morning," I said. "The girl inside thought you might be through with the Lavalie book.”

He certainly looked through with it. He looked bored by it. I couldn't read the title on the spine.

He scrutinized me as if he thought he might know me from somewhere. But the only people who recognize middle-aged writers are younger writers, and he looked more like someone trying to cheat people out of their inheritances. He said, “I'll be through with it by this afternoon. It's yours after that.”

He meant: Go away.

"Not till then?” I said. I was hoping he'd offer it to me now so I wouldn't have to hang around Roseau in this heat. Near the almond tree two boys were watching us intently, transfixed by the sight of two white men together. I felt a brief irritation at being put in some allegiance with this slouching person.

"Not till then,” Felix murmured. He blinked out to sea. "It's an interesting enough book.”

His voice was flat, with the careless lack of intonation of someone so recently divorced from college they feel they can say anything they want, any way they want, and still be fascinating.

"I'll come back for it later, then," I said, and stepping off the veranda I crossed the garden to the road. The flagstones were hot enough to blur the air above them.

I wandered about Roseau for the next hour, I nearly fell asleep under a banyan tree in the botanical gardens. Through twisted trees that blotted sunlight I followed a steep rock staircase into the jungle, and passed an old man descending with a red-ribboned straw hat in one hand and a machete in the other. I heard the toy honks of cars piping in the stillness; from on high I saw the sloping gardens, the low town with houses like colored dice, the Caribbean calmly swelling the rim of the blue world.

What was he doing here? What had he heard about Mrs. Lavalie?

On Bath Road near the gardens I came to an old white wooden structure, once a club for British expatriates. It had the same sprawling abandon and paradoxically self-protective air of similar clubs I'd seen in the Far East. The sign out front read: La Robe Creole. Lunch & Dinner. On the sign was painted a slender black woman carrying bananas on her head.

It had not quite aged to nostalgia: stained mahogany, whirring fans, standing palms and locally woven stools at the bar, prints of West Indian plantation scenes on the walls. The second dining room would've been the billiards room. I took a table on the veranda, which looked out on the club’s tennis courts. A boy and girl were playing barefoot, with a single ball.

I ordered lunch, took out my notebook, and wrote: Frayed clothing. Grass sprouting between child’s legs. Net sagging like boy’s trousers. White umpire’s chair toppled like dead giant.

"Good afternoon.”

A shadow greyed my paper. Mr. Felix.

I said, "Is it afternoon already?”

"Just about." He sat down shamelessly in the cane chair facing me and stowed his knapsack under the table. It poked my sandal.

He said, "I thought you'd be here." He screwed up his face as if the next sentence gave him genuine physical pain. "You're Leo Harrison, aren't you.”

"That's right.”

He smiled thinly. One of his teeth, on the left upper, was gold. How old was he, to have such teeth? Twenty-five? Older.

He put out his hand, "John Felix.”

I shook hands with him perfunctorily. I am not one of those people who feel you can glean a lot from the other fellow’s handshake, and I dislike having mine slowly read. He had a man-to-man grip that felt as phony as late Hemingway. I tried to make mine unenthusiastic; he was blocking my view of the children.

He let my hand go as a young woman brought my lunch. Felix ordered his.

"Are you here to write?" he asked after she left.

"To eat." The soup, blessedly, was a cold one.

"I've written here every afternoon for a week now. After the luncheon crowd leaves. And when the day cools off—”  He grinned. “Well, the rum here is cheaper than the ice." Gales of laughter from the court. “Some days are more peaceful than others.”

"Why are you here?” I asked. Who’s paying? I wondered.

“Oh, I'm getting sent round the islands by a travel magazine. A pretty good one.” He didn't name it. He scratched one large ear.

"You're writing an article for them?”

“Articles.  On these islands the stories just beg you to breathe them in.”  His green eyes finally met my glance. “I"m hoping, I don't know, they may collect themselves into a book.”

He was taking out a pack of cigarettes as he spoke. I said, “Please don't, I'm eating." He looked insulted. I added, “You sound like you've already written quite a bit.”

"Oh, sure." He ticked books off his fingers like they were errands he’d run that morning. ”Two novels, both unpublished. One and a half books of short stories. No need to tell you about those.” He smiled sadly. “A few magazine articles. Published.”

The candor implicit in all this upset me. His face already had the scorned severity of someone whose hopes have been frustrated irrevocably. Where would being bitter get him?

"All that writing can only help," I said. "You don't want to publish too early. I'm sorry I did."

"I don't want to publish too late, either," he said darkly. "And you got started, didn't you. Well, if my magazine buys several pieces I can keep going for a year. I'll have another book done by then."

“That’s pretty fast," I said.

The young lady brought his sandwich and his face brightened. "Want to hear the truth about Mrs. Lavalie?" He had the smugness of someone with a secret.  “I'm sure everyone’s mentioned her.  As soon as they found out I was a writer they wanted me to meet her."

"Maybe you should've said you do something else."
He shrugged. "Maybe. It's strange to read her book, all right." He tapped my wrist. “She wrote it when she was my age, and it's damned well-written.” He leaned back. “But it wasn't what I expected. Not after I met her."

He looked triumphant.

"What did you expect?" I asked.

He lit a cigarette; I stirred my soup. That cigarette made me lose all sympathy for him.

He inhaled deeply. “They ought to call her Mrs. Lively." His face took on an expression of pity. “I suppose that's not very kind. You see, she's mad as a hatter."

He said it as casually as saying she had two feet.

"What does she say that's mad?"

He tapped the cigarette ash over the veranda railing. The girl on the court, on the way to retrieve the ball, noticed his action. "It's not just what she says. It's how she lives."

"Like a mad person?" I said. “By herself?"

He didn't hear the sarcasm. He glanced at me curiously, as if I'd unwittingly given him a good idea. "I don't see how anyone could live with her. Hundreds and hundreds of books on these sagging shelves—everything sagging—and at least a dozen cats wandering all over this tiny house that looks like a bomb went off inside it. She doesn't remember she wrote a book. Says she was once a great scientist, and she's got a secret formula that certain governments don't want to fall into enemy hands, and she won't tell it to them either, so they've squirreled her away—” He relished the phrase. “ —down here. She just sits and reads, all day long. Mutters to herself." He gave a brief laugh, a bark.

His posture, even seated, held a swagger now: he knew something I didn't.

I said, "That's pretty harmless. Reading all day."

He smiled. "We did talk about various writers, though. She mentioned you. She said—”  He glanced up, to recollect word for word. He licked his lips and looked back at me. "She said you were nothing but an entertainer, and a not very good one at that."

I said, "She's probably right,” and wondered if she was.

He grinned. "Have it your way." He was happy. He'd said something nasty to me, he'd gotten his revenge, and he hadn't had to take responsibility. "She gave me great material. I expect she's about seventy.” He wagged his finger at me. "You know why I'm telling you all this? I know you. If you stay here long enough you'll meet her and see what a great story she is. But she's my story.”

I said, “I'll be leaving in a day or two.”  Suddenly I'd had enough of the island.

"Don't you think it's quite a story?” he asked. "I mean, how the mighty are fallen." He spread his hands on the table. "Well, I just wanted you to know I got to her first.” He checked his watch. "So much for my last lunch on Dominica. This time tomorrow I'll be on Guadeloupe. Friday, Martinique. I've got a lot of islands to cover in the next month."

I said, “Suppose Mrs. Lavalie sees your story?”

He was silent an instant. Then he said quickly, “She’ll never see it down here, no way. Besides, it’s the truth.” He pushed back his chair and added, as if he’d been my invited guest all along, “Sorry to run. Lots to see before my early plane tomorrow.”  He grinned one last time, flashing gold. “The island-hopping life is the adventurous life.”

He retrieved his knapsack, plunked down enough money for his lunch, and left.  We didn’t shake hands; he was in too much of a hurry.

The children were gone, too, and the tennis court looked abandoned and forlorn.  I tried to make conversation with the young woman when she brought my bill and some tea, but a stranger is known by the company he keeps, and she wouldn’t speak to me now.  Perhaps Felix had asked her to sleep with him, or tipped poorly, or merely got on her nerves day after day.  He’d got on my nerves in one day—one hour—but it was poor Mrs. Lavalie, alone and mad, that I couldn’t get out of my mind. After leaving La Robe Creole I hurried back to the library to read her book.

But I should’ve guessed.  It wasn’t there.

Night fell and the cicadas began winding their watches as I wandered down the muddy canyon road, finding my tentative way with Baptiste’s electric torch. I had to see the old lady before I left, even if she were crazy.  If Dominica were a secret island that people didn’t know, mysterious and remote and untouched by the rest of the world, then Mrs. Lavalie was a Dominica within Dominica.

The palms and the underbrush were thick all around but the moon had risen, and through the foliage ahead a worn, cracked stone house with a sloping roof revealed itself dimly. There were no other houses nearby. Tendrils covered much of the stone, as if the jungle were trying to take possession. Lights gleamed, but blue curtains were fully drawn across the windows.

With every step I imagined those many cats gliding from the house and through the darkness to brush softly against my legs, their eyes aglow, beckoning me inside.

And then, as if on command, the hordes of cicadas were silenced around me. I knocked twice, and hugged the wine bottle to my chest. I hadn't wanted to come empty-handed, but perhaps it was the wrong gift for a madwoman.

"Who's there?" A woman's voice called faintly. I heard shuffling.

I said, "My name’s Leo Harrison. I hope I'm not disturbing you."

The door was unlatched with a clatter. "Be careful, Mr. Harrison," she said, “This door opens toward you."

Her accent was British but her voice had a lilt, a melody that was pure Caribbean. There was little tremor of age.

I stepped back and the door creaked and swung open. The flood of light made me squint. The cicadas took up their litany again. All I saw was a silhouette, only slightly smaller than myself, filling the doorway. Then she chuckled. "Well, this time the books precede the man. Do come in, I'm so delighted to meet you."

And then, as she fumbled for my hand, I saw her. Her face was dominated by quick green eyes, and her grey hair was pulled back and down behind her ears to frame the aristocratic line of her cheeks and jaw. She was smiling and gazing at me as if comparing me to someone she'd seen years ago. She looked barely sixty.

She said, "I was so hoping you'd come visit us. Baptiste stopped by this afternoon and told us you were here, but I told him not to pester you, and it's so difficult for us to reach Papillote, our car won't make the steep road."


"Baptiste didn't breathe a word," I said.

"I remember when he was a little boy," said Mrs. Lavalie. “We used to loan him books."

She led me down a brief dark hallway into the small house. Eighteenth and nineteenth century portraits in chipped gold frames and clippings from newspapers and magazines hung on the water-stained walls. Three cats regarded me curiously—from a cluttered table, from a furiously overcrowded bookcase lining most of one wall, and from a high shelf in the kitchen area of what seemed the only room. Low wooden beams straddled the ceiling; I guessed it had been a slave house once. Another cat brushed my legs.

"Dylan's quite affectionate," said Mrs. Lavalie. She was not small, as I'd imagined she would be. "I named him after Dylan Thomas. My favorite poet. I should apologize for the clutter, but I won't. You're a writer, you understand clutter. I'm afraid we still haven't recovered from the great hurricane." She indicated a tattered armchair for me. I removed a white cat and a yellow book before sitting down. The book was Nabokov’s Glory.

"Have you read it?” she asked. She sat at the cluttered table. “Not my favorite of his. I've read only three, it's difficult to get books here, you know." She indicated the shelves. "These are my dear, dear friends, all of them. I give away my enemies." She inclined her head at a purple Indian bedspread hung on a line beside the long bookcase. “My very dearest friends stay in the bedroom, such as it is. Except Robert, of course."

I said, “Which cat is he?”

She regarded me with amusement. "Robert is my husband. Cats do have limitations, you know."

A door behind her opened.  I was so surprised I started from my chair. A tall, elderly man in brown trousers and in an old blue terrycloth bathrobe, with a long, placid face, nodded politely.

“Felicia," he said, "you haven't offered him anything, I've been eavesdropping." He came over. "Robert Lavalie,” he said firmly, "former chief engineer with various drilling concerns, at your service, sir." We shook hands.

“This is Leo Harrison," said Felicia before I could introduce myself. She beamed at me. “You can't imagine how splendid it is to be with another writer. My friend Jean Rhys left here a long time ago and now she's gone, poor thing."

"What can I get you, sir?” said Robert. "We haven't much choice, I'm afraid, but—”

"Allow me," I said, adopting his manner without thinking. It seemed appropriate to the two of them. I handed the wine to Felicia. I said, “Accept this as an apology. I'm sorry I haven't yet had the pleasure of reading your novel."

She took the bottle and inclined her head slightly. "Yes, yes. The Poinciana Root.” She glanced at the label and passed the bottle onto her husband. "I'm behind on your work, I'm afraid, but I read the reviews from U.K. even if I can't get the books. Perhaps you can send me some?  I must say, you still look like your photographs." She smiled. "You know, a London publisher was going to bring my book out again last year. And then they backed down. But they said I was ‘a forgotten woman's classic.’ Can you imagine how it feels to be called that while you're still alive? It sounds as if I need dusting." She laughed gaily. “I chose to write poetry for forty years before setting out on another novel. I'm three-quarters through with it now. It wasn't a bad choice."

Robert strode to the kitchen with the wine. He still moved with the grace of a large man but his shoulders were bent. He said, “Do you have any idea how it feels to be married to a forgotten woman's classic?"

"Are you married, Mr. Harrison?” asked Felicia.

"I was divorced several years ago," I said. "No children."

Felicia nodded. "Robert and I are childless. But we raised two Carib boys who lost their parents, and we sent them both to college." She took the proffered glass from her husband. "We need a toast," she murmured.

"Wait a moment, Felicia," said Robert, who’d handed me a glass and gone back for his. “All right, we’ve a quorum now."

"To your new book,” I suggested. We drank, and then Felicia put down her glass and said, “I've one of your early books here that I like quite a bit, I want you to inscribe it for me." Her face fell. "Oh, dear, I do so wish I had a copy of my book for you.”

She was no more mad than I was, and her eyes betrayed the incisive mind that comes only with accomplishment. I knew from her manner, without reading a word she'd written, that she was a wonderful writer. And I knew John Felix was a thief, not only of books but of honor.

She said, “I’d like to give you something, and I'll forget once we start talking.” She sighed. "I don't even have a copy of my own book except in manuscript. I gave away all the copies I had but one over the years, and then after the hurricane so many books were lost in Roseau I just gave my last copy to the library."

Her husband said, “Bloody stupid thing to do if you ask me. They don't take care of books at that place. All that sea air.”

Felicia said reprimandingly, “Robert, the point of books is to be read." Her eyes lit on the yellow copy of Glory. The grey cat’s tail was draped over it, and he was squinting at all the human commotion.

"Off we go, Marcel," she said, and put him on the floor. The pages of the book had been slightly water-damaged. She said, "Everything here, including us, went through the hurricane. And survived, more or less intact."

She took up a nib pen and scratched in a strong, lean hand beneath the lone word GLORY on the title page: To Leo Harrison, in friendship, from Felicia Rose Lavalie, May 31, 198-.

I took it from her almost automatically; for the last minute I'd been thinking of someone else. My anger silenced me.

"You must excuse me while I change," said Robert. "Shan't be a moment." He pushed the hanging bedspread aside and I had a glimpse of a four-poster bed, more bookcases, and a Siamese.

Then Robert was gone and Felicia and I were alone.

The knowledge that we would almost certainly never see each other again made us speak intimately. I said, "Do you have any regrets you stayed on Dominica all these years?"

She paused before answering, and her hand stopped stroking the grey cat in her arms. It had fallen asleep. She gave a curious half-smile. “Of course I have regrets for all the lives I didn't lead. Don't you?"

I thought: Do I?

She laughed. "You're probably too young still. You know, there are advantages to being largely unknown as a writer, or known only for one's poetry, which amounts to the same thing. No one expects me to write in a certain way at all. I have no public life as a writer, Mr. Harrison. If I write badly today no one is fishing in my wastebasket tomorrow."

I said, "That's one reason I like London. The British leave everyone alone."

She shrugged. "I must say, though, at this point a little attention wouldn't hurt."

I wondered then if she’d been taken in by Felix. I said, "I met this young fellow in Roseau—"

“Felix the Cat! She raised her glass. "We should've drunk  to his health. He needs it more than we do.”

"Why do you say that?"

Her eyes danced. "He wants so badly to be a success. He told me about all the books he’d written. I told him the ones that matter are the ones he hasn’t written yet.  He told me time was running out for him. I told him to take more time. He said he couldn't think up any stories about Dominica for his magazine. I told him there are hundreds." She arched her eyebrows. "I know I must have been ridiculous when I was young, but I don't think I was ever at that ridiculous. Were you?"

“I hope not.”

She sighed. "The thing is, we even put him up here one night. Do you know, in the morning he didn't have the courtesy to say thank you? And—” The cat had awakened and she began to stroke it again. "He drank all of our lime rickey!”

It was our good luck that Baptiste's cousin worked at the tiny airport. The next morning the only young American man on the only flight out was surprised at how carefully his knapsack was searched, right on the tarmac. Felicia's book was there, all right. "Some words were exchanged," Baptiste told me with a grin, and some money may have changed hands, but the thief was allowed to leave. The island-hopper even waited for him. It would have left late, in any case.

I left Dominica a day after. I couldn't stay, thinking of John Felix and the story I knew he intended to write. I didn't tell Felicia of his intentions; nor did I tell her he'd stolen her book. I wonder now if I am being too polite using a name that is not his.

But I have changed his name, and I have written this to prevent him doing injury to Felicia. As impermanent as he feels his writing to be, it is still the most permanent act of his life.

I like to think that he has reconsidered, that the other islands gave him better stories. But perhaps not. Perhaps at this very moment, under overcast New York skies, he is stopping casually at a corner newsstand and buying the magazine containing this story because he sees my name on the cover and thinks he knows me. Perhaps by now he is reading these very words, with a mixture of rage and disbelief. Perhaps he does not understand, yet, that in writing this story I have helped him as much as I have helped Felicia.

And perhaps someday soon I will receive an angry letter from him, accusing me of stealing his story. Very well. But should he decide to change his plans, work to become what every good writer hopes to be—merely one traveller among many, accurately telling a tale he imagines to be the truth—then let me wish him, as one traveller to another, all the luck in the world.

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