By Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul

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The remaining L-shaped space was broken up into a bedroom, a verandah, a bedroom. Because the house faced west and had no protection from the sun, in the afternoon only two rooms were comfortably habitable: the kitchen downstairs and the wet bathroom-and-lavatory upstairs. In his original design the solicitor’s clerk seemed to have forgotten the need for a staircase to link both floors, and what he had provided had the appearance of an afterthought. Doorways had been punched in the eastern wall and a rough wooden staircase – heavy planks on an uneven frame with one warped unpainted banister, the whole covered with a sloping roof of corrugated iron – hung precariously at the back of the house, in striking contrast with the white-pointed brickwork of the front, the white woodwork and the frosted glass of doors and windows.

And why, except that it had moved everywhere with them and they regarded it as one of their possessions, had they kept the hatrack, its glass now leprous, most of its hooks broken, its woodwork ugly with painting-over? The bookcase had been made at Shorthills by an out-of-work blacksmith who had been employed by the Tulsis as a cabinet-maker; he revealed his skill in his original craft in every bit of wood he had fashioned, every joint he had made, every ornament he had attempted. And the diningtable: bought cheaply from a Deserving Destitute who had got some money from the Sentinel’s Deserving Destitutes Fund and wished to show his gratitude to Mr Biswas.

He went on forking, rocking the implement in the earth, tearing the roots that kept the earth firm. ’ He began to sing a wedding song. ’ Pratap said. ’ ‘O God! No, no,’ Bipti said. ‘I’ll go out and beat him like a snake,’ Pratap said, his voice rising out of control. ‘Prasad? ’ ‘Close the window,’ Bipti said. The singing stopped and Dhari said, ‘Yes, close the window and go to sleep. ’ Violently Bipti pulled the small window to, bolted it and kept her hand on the bolt. The digging and the breaking bottles continued.

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