Sirius, by Olaf Stapledon

Chapter 16

Plaxy Conscripted

DURING the next few months I spent frequent week-ends at Tan-y-Voel. The more I saw of Sirius, the more I was drawn towards him. Always, of course, there was a latent but an acknowledged conflict over Plaxy. All three of us, however, were determined to work out a tolerable relationship, and between Sirius and me the strain was eased by a genuine mutual affection. Sometimes, of course, the latent conflict became overt, and only by heroic tact and restraint on one side or the other could friendliness be maintained. But little by little the identical spirit in each of us, as Sirius himself said, triumphed over the diversity of our natures and our private interests. Had I not actually experienced this close-knit triple relationship I should not have believed it possible. Nor should I, perhaps, have been able to sustain my part in it, had not my love for Plaxy been from the onset unpossessive; owing to the fact that I myself, like Sirius in his canine style, had sometimes loved elsewhere.

The three of us were drawn more closely together by the hostility of a small but active section of the local people. The Rev. Owen Lloyd–Thomas had on several occasions issued veiled warnings from his pulpit. A few other ministers, realizing, perhaps subconsciously, that the theme of the “unnatural vice” of a girl and dog was likely to increase their congregations, could not resist the temptation to use it for that end. The result was that a small but increasing number of persons who were in one way or another emotionally frustrated and in need of an object for persecution were using Plaxy and Sirius for the same sort of purpose as the Nazis had used the Jews. The neighbours were mostly far too friendly to be accessible to this disease of self-righteous hate; but farther afield, in fact throughout North Wales, rumours were spreading both about the vice and the supposed treasonable activities of the couple in the lonely cottage in Merioneth. Plaxy received anonymous letters which caused her much distress. Messages for “Satan’s Hound” were pinned on the door at night, including several threats that unless he released the spell-bound girl he would be shot. Pugh’s sheep were sometimes found maimed. One was slaughtered and laid at the cottage door. Obscene drawings of a girl and dog were scrawled on blank walls. A local paper published a leading article calling the population to action. A battle occurred on the moors between the canine inhabitants of Caer Blai and a number of youths and dogs who had come out to do Sirius to death. Fortunately they had no firearms, and they were routed.

Meanwhile events of another type were threatening to change the fortunes of all three of us. I was expecting to be sent abroad very soon. The prospect caused Plaxy to treat me with increased tenderness. And if Sirius’s grief was feigned, the imitation was very convincing. But worse than the prospect of my departure was the official order that Plaxy herself must take up some form of approved national service. We had hoped that she might be allowed to remain in peace as a farm worker, but her position was anomalous. The authorities could not see why a girl with a university training, living alone with a dog in the depths of the country, should be let off merely because she voluntarily helped on a neighbouring farm. The officials, however, were at first friendly, and anxious to interpret the regulations in a human manner. But just when it seemed most probable that Plaxy would be allowed to remain with Sirius, there was a marked and unaccountable change of tone. I suspect that some local enemy of Sirius had been telling tales of the scandalous and reputedly treasonous actions of the strange couple. Anyhow, whatever the cause, Plaxy was told that her appeal was rejected. Pugh put in a strong plea for her retention, but it was pointed out that he could easily find a land-girl to take her place. She could then be used for national service more suited to her capacity. Pugh offered to take on Plaxy herself as a land-girl, paying her the official wage. This was too obviously a put-up job. Authority became increasingly suspicious and uncompromising. Plaxy must either join one of the military organizations for women or take a temporary post in the civil service. She chose the latter, hoping to get herself attached to one of the great government offices evacuated into Lancashire or North Wales.

Plaxy was greatly distressed at the prospect of leaving. “This is my life,” she said to Sirius. “You are my life, for the present, anyhow. The war matters terribly, I know; but I can’t feel that it matters. It feels an irrelevance. At least, I can’t feel that it makes any difference to the war whether I stay or go. Surely I’m doing more useful work here, really, even for the war. It’s as though the hand of man were turning more and more against us. And oh, my dear, my sweet, what will you do without me to brush you and wash you and take thorns out of your feet, to say nothing of helping you with the sheep?” “I shall manage,” he said. “And you, though part of you hates to go, another part will be glad of it, wanting to be entirely human again. And you will be freed from all this silly persecution.” She replied, “Oh, yes, part of me wants to go. But that part of me isn’t really me. The real I, the whole real Plaxy, desperately wants to carry on. The bit of me that wants to go is just a dream self. The only consolation is that perhaps when I am gone the persecutors will leave you alone.”

At last the day came for Plaxy to go. Sirius would henceforth live with the Pughs, but Tan-y-Voel was to be kept ready to receive them whenever Plaxy had her leave. On the last morning Sirius did his best to help her with her final preparations, his tail (when he could remember it) kept bravely up. Before the village car was due to take her to the station she made tea for the two of them. They sat together on the hearth-rug, drinking it almost in silence. “How glad I am,” she said, “that I decided as I did on that last morning at Garth!” “And I,” he answered, “if it has not drawn you away, too far from your kind.” They heard the taxi hoot as it turned out of the main road. It roared up the hill in bottom gear. Plaxy sighed deeply and said, “My species has come to take me from you.” Then with sudden passion she clung to him and buried her face in the stubborn mane on his neck. Twisting himself round in her embrace, he snuggled to her breast. “Whatever happens now,” he said, “we have had these months together. Nothing can destroy that.”

The taxi stopped at the garden gate and hooted again. They kissed. Then she stood up, tossed back her hair, seized some luggage and met the taxi-man at the door. Seated in the car, she leaned out of the window to touch Sirius, saying only “Good-bye, good luck!” It had been arranged that this should be their parting. He would not go with her to the station.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00