She wandered moodily about the clearing, kicking at the grass, then bent down and picked something up. It was an old steel helmet, thick with rust, a jagged hole in the side. You still find these all over the woods, she said. I'm not even sure whether it's Russian or German. She turned it slowly over and over in her hands, crumbling more of the rusty metal off. Then she hurled it away and brushed the rust off her hands. The helmet hit a tree, bounced off in a shower of rust and fell into a bramble bush where it perched on a a branch, bobbing up and down like some great brown bird alighting. Raya seemed to be abashed by the ridiculousness of it, and picked it out of the bush. They sat down side by side on a fallen tree trunk sodden, like everything else, with the stored wetness of winter. Raya turned the helmet over in her hands again, feeling its texture curiously. Poor old helmet, she said, Manufactured and issued and worn and punctured and lost and rusted by the forces of historical necessity. Found and touched and lost again by Raissa P. metelius, lecturer.
I beg your pardon?" says Howard.Freddie clears his throat, and forces himself to look Howard in the eye."I said, I'm God."He folds his arms very tightly, and looks away over Howard's shoulder. He is plainly embarrassed. So is Howard. He is embarrassed to have embarrassed Freddie."I'm terribly sorry," says Howard."Can't be helped," says Freddie. "Just one of those things.""I mean, I'm sorry not to have known.""Not at all. I'm sorry I had to spring it on you like that."There is an awkward silence. Freddie fiddles with his biscuit, breaking it into small pieces, and dropping crumbs which catch in the hairy surface of his trousers."Well," says Howard. "Congratulations.""Oh," says Freddie. "Thanks."----------The more Howard thinks about it, the less he knows where to look or what to do with his hands. He tries putting them behind his back and looking at the floor, smiling reflectively. Freddie is having difficulties, too. He puts his dry biscuit down, and with his left hand seizes his right elbow. With his right hand he takes hold of his chin. Then he, too, examines the floor."On second thoughts," he says, "I don't know about congratulations. Not like being elected to a fellowship, or whatever. Wasn't open to other candidates, you see.
I can't help feeling," says Howard, sticking his head forward ruefully, "now I know who you are, that I've been a bit outspoken in some of my remarks about the system.""Not at all!" says Freddie."Not a bit!" says Caroline."But I must in all honesty say," says Howard very quickly, jutting his chin out and smilingly blinking his eyes, "that I still think there are a number of things in the universe which really need seriously looking into.""Oh, the whole thing!" says Freddie with feeling."Ghastly mess," says Caroline."Absolute disaster area," says Freddie."Frightful," says Caroline."So far as one can understand it," says Freddie."Freddie feels frightfully strongly about it, you see," says Caroline.Howard looks from one to the other in astonishment."Good heavens!" he says. "I should never have guessed....""Oh, Freddie's a terrific radical," says Caroline."Really?" says Howard."A terrible firebrand, really," says Caroline.Freddie knots himself up."A bit firebrandish," he admits."A bit of a Maoist, to tell you the truth," says Caroline.She looks sideways at Howard to see how he is taking this. So does Freddie."A Maoist?" says Howard, astonished."Permanent revolution," says Caroline."That style of thing," agrees Freddie."What he feels, you see," says Caroline, "is that people ought to struggle pretty well all the time against the limitations of the world and their own nature. Not stop."Howard gazes at Freddie, deeply impressed."Don't worry," says Freddie. "I don't think my views have much effect.