He had better write a postcard to Walter .
He opened the myth book again and there ( along the margin next to Robert Graves' imaginative interpretation of the creation of the Dactyls from Rhea's fingertips ) were the names of four Munich bars and Meredith Wilder's address .
The bars were marked as Walter had marked them in a small black book kept in a nearly secret drawer .
The code , which had probably something to do with sex or some other interest , Nicolas was determined to find out and put to use .
A card to Walter would get him an introduction to this Meredith , and that might be good for something .
Nicolas called on his muse , a line came back :
`` Squaresville , man , and all the palazzos are crummy Palasts '' .
That ought to draw a laugh , Nicolas reasoned , as he stored the line away on the wax tape that was his mind .
And indeed , his postcard did draw from Walter a letter recommending his friend , the poet Nicolas Manas , to his friend Meredith Wilder .
Five days later , on receiving it , Meredith sat drumming his dactyls on his writing table .
Dammit ! !
He inwardly cried .
His hand was large and square and heavily tanned .
The voice crying in him was the voice of guilt .
His four weeks in Italy had turned into nearer three months .
He had returned to the pension a week ago .
Now , he was just in the late poems of Holderlin and therefore had most of the nineteenth century before him -- plus next semester's class preparation .
He was determined to spend an industrious summer .
Well , maybe Manas wouldn't call .
Meredith's fingers slowed and stopped over a line before him : Sie lacheln , die Schwarzen Hexen .
The menace of Manas gradually faded as Meredith asked himself should he translate it , ' How the dark fates laughed ' ? ?
Or , more rhythmically , ' The swarthy witches are laughing ' ? ?
And he missed the point that the swarthy witches might be laughing at him for hoping to escape Nicolas Manas .
But Nicolas , too , was being interrupted , that morning .
Not by the 11:00 sun which had spread a warmth around his spot of grass in the English Gardens and sent him off to sleep ; ;
but by a blond girl in a sweater and skirt who stood a few yards off and tenderly regarded him .
Should she wake him ? ?
She didn't have the heart .
Her heart , her maternal feeling , in fact her being was too busy expressing itself , as quietly thrilled by this sight of her Nicolas curled asleep under a blanket , in a park like a scene from Poussin .
She was just not able to break the spell .
( Would she have been able to had she known that the blanket belonged to a young ballet dancer Nicolas had found his first night in one of Walter's marked bars ? ?
Nicolas : `` Look , Nicolas doesn't go to bed with boys -- no sex , see ? ?
So if all these beers was to get me in bed , man , you just spent a lot of money '' .
Ballet dancer : Protests , tears , and `` take what you want , Nicolas , I am a dancer , you are a poet , it is all beautiful '' .
To this meek conjugation Nicolas had replied , `` O.K. I can use this blanket .
And when you get off this job tonight , well , you can gimme something to eat '' .
And , as a matter of fact , Nicolas had slept in the park only part of one night , when he discovered that Munich's early mornings even in summer are laden with dew .
He had always known how to find a bed , and on his own terms .
He used the blanket for late morning naps when hosts of the night had gone off to jobs and proved reluctant to leave him in their small rooms with their few possessions .
Mary Jane Lerner knew none of this .
) Her Nicolas lay curled in the sun like a fawn , black hair falling over his eyes .
She was telling herself that this might just be her reward at the end of a long meaningful search for truth .
This was surely a reunion in art , it was all that poetry promised .
That long night with Nicolas and marijuana in Venice had opened her eyes .
His advice , his voice saying his poems , the fact that he had not so much as touched her -- on the contrary , he had put his head back and she had stroked his hair -- this was all new .
Her eyes had opened , she had caught a glimpse of a new faith .
The next day he was gone .
Mary Jane might not be the most intelligent woman , but she was one of the most determined .
Even so , it took her several days to force Walter to tell her Nicolas's whereabouts .
Packing a small suitcase , informing her husband whom she found in Harry's Bar that she was taking a train to Germany to get away for a while , patting his arm , refusing a drink , getting on the train -- all this had only taken her two hours .
She had arrived this morning and come straight to the English Gardens .
`` Dear girl '' , Walter had finally said , `` he writes me that he is sleeping in the English Gardens '' .
`` How like him '' ! !
Mary Jane had smilingly said .
`` His address '' , Walter added , `` is that great foundling home , the American Express .
And I will greatly appreciate it if you will not tell your husband .
'' For the last half hour Mary Jane had criss-crossed half the length of the Gardens and , at last , come upon her knight .
His presence there , asleep in the grass , confirmed all that Mary Jane believed it was in his power to teach her : freedom from the tedium of needs such as hotels , the meaning of nature , how to live , simply , with the angels .
She set down her suitcase .
Should she wake him ? ?
Smiling , she sat down on the suitcase and waited and watched .
The sun grew hotter as it approached the midday .
Nicolas was dreaming he had his head pressed against the dashboard of a speeding car .
He began sweating .
In his dream he cried , `` Slow down , for Chrissake '' ! !
He half woke and rolled over with his face in the cooler grass .
His nose was tickled .
He sneezed .
He blew his nose expertly between his fingers .
He spit .
He half sat up and scratched at the hair on his forehead and then , more vigorously , between his legs .
He belched , he stretched .
Mary Jane got up , quietly , and walked away .
Twenty minutes later she was at the desk of the Grafin's pension , her tears dried , signing a hotel form and asking for a bath .
Mary Jane belonged to a world acquainted with small attractive hotels and pensions in all the major and minor cities .
She had retreated to this world .
The Grafin , who was charmed by her , told her , `` Your sister who was here two years ago has quite dark hair .
Families are very interesting .
Nevertheless , there is no bath .
But a young American has a bath next to his room and I shall ask him if you might use it this once .
And then we shall see .
'' ( The Grafin was partial to the word shall .
Meredith was irritated when the Grafin knocked at his door and told him , `` She is a great beauty ! !
Shall we allow her not to have a bath ? ?
Actually , she is a sad beauty , I believe .
You shall see her at dinner '' .
Rather erotically he listened to the bath water running ; ;
when it stopped he began busily typing , sitting up in a virtuous way .
Before dinner , he shaved for the second time that day .
A thing he did not like doing , generally .
Singing into the mirror and his interested eyes , he was pleased to note , when he stripped for his own bath , that he still had the best part of his Italian sun tan .
He flexed his muscles for several minutes , got into the tub , and then grew self-conscious of splashing as he washed .
In the small gallery used as the guests' dining room , Meredith sat down at his place and , as always , began teasing the young waitress .
He was asking had it been she who left the love note in his sheets ( she also served as maid ) when he saw the Grafin followed by a stately blond girl approaching his table .
It would be literary license calculated to glamorize life to say that he , oh , dropped his napkin , so startled was he by Mary Jane's beauty .
Yet he did drop his badinage with the ordinary country girl as much in deference to the Grafin as acknowledgement that here , indeed , was something special .
Mary Jane had made very little effort .
Above a dark green skirt she wore a pale green cashmere sweater with , as he soon perceived , no brassiere beneath .
Her white blond hair was clean and brushed long straight down to her shoulders .
Perhaps her eyes were larger and more of a summer blue for all they had seen and wept that day .
She had touched her face , truly a noble and pure face , only with a lip salve which made her lips glisten but no redder than usual .
The result was grace and modesty .
As she was rather tired this evening , her simple `` Thank you for the use of your bath '' -- when she sat down opposite him -- spoken in a low voice , came across with coolnesses of intelligence and control .
Meredith began falling in love .
Soup : `` Only this morning '' ; ;
veal cutlets : `` Oh , I couldn't possibly eat all this '' ! !
Wine : `` Then you were typing poems this afternoon '' ? ?
Fruit compote : `` If you think I would understand it '' ; ;
a smile .
`` What a beautiful room .
Like as if it were built of books '' .
Having opened the windows onto the terrace , lit the fire , translated the motto , Meredith grinned and took down a little triplet of books bound together in old calfskin .
Opening these he brought out a schnapps bottle and small gold thimble-sized glasses hidden inside it .
`` I think the maids tipple in the afternoon '' .
`` Those sweet girls ? ?
Oh you're joking .
It tastes a little like poppyseed .
What's its name ? ?
Steinhager '' She whispered Steinhager to herself , several times , memorizing it .
`` Would you first read the poem aloud to me and then let me read it to myself '' ? ?
Meredith's voice was always deep , with rough bass notes in it ; ;
in reading , on platforms , even in the large auditorium of the Y.M.H.A. , Poetry Center nights , his voice was intimate , thoughtful , and a trifle shy .
His new poem , a love poem , told of a young husband leading his wife upstairs to the bedroom when the lights in the house have failed .
The husband points the steps out with his flashlight : `` Its white stare filling her pale eyes To the blind brim with appetite , Bleaching her hands that grazed my thighs And sent us from the table in surprise To let the dishes soak all night , '' ( Mary Jane asked herself if Meredith was blushing at this line , or was it the fire ? ?
) But he read on .
In the bedroom before the husband and wife find their way to the bed , the lights go on : `` In dull domestic radiance I watch her staring face , still blind , Start wincing in obedience To dirty waters , counters , pots and pans , Waiting below stairs , in her mind '' .
Mary Jane took the page from him and began reading it , moving her lips with the words .
`` Oh , it's that myth , about Orpheus and What is her name ? ?
I can never pronounce it '' .
She repeated `` Eurydice '' .
The third time rather urgently .
But with her hand poem again .
She raised her face and nodded , `` It's sweet , and very sad '' .
They discussed the way people never tell each other the things on their minds .
They finished the small bottle of Steinhager .
She confessed she was unhappy , he asked was it her husband ? ?
She began to explain , `` There was this poet , in Italy '' He interrupted , `` Please don't judge all poets '' .
They smiled .
At her door , two or three hours later , Mary Jane whispered , `` Everyone is asleep '' .
Kissing her he whispered , several times , `` Eurydice '' .
The third time rather urgently .
But with her hand softly on his cheek for a last moment , she closed the door and he went back down the hall and into his bed excited , expectant , and finally faintly grinning with the feel of her hand against his mouth .