Though Jude had made an oath, in all sobriety, to follow Gentle wherever she’d seen him go, her plans for pursuit were stymied by a number of claims upon her energies, the most pressing of which was Clem’s. He needed her advice, comfort, and organizational skills in the dreary, rainy days that followed New Year, and despite the urgency of her agenda she could scarcely turn her back on him. Taylor’s funeral took place on January ninth, with a memorial service which Clem took great pains to perfect. It was a melancholy triumph: a time for Taylor’s friends and relations to mingle and express their affections for the departed man. Jude met people she’d not seen in many years, and few, if any, failed to comment on the one conspicuous absentee: Gentle. She told everybody what she’d told Clem. That Gentle had been going through a bad time, and the last she’d heard he was planning to leave on holiday. Clem, of course, would not be fobbed off with such vague excuses. Gentle had left knowing that Taylor was dead, and Clem viewed his departure as a kind of cowardice. Jude didn’t attempt to defend the wanderer. She simply tried to make as little mention of Gentle in Clem’s presence as she could.
But the subject would keep coming up, one way or another. Sorting through Taylor’s belongings after the funeral, Clem came upon three watercolors, painted by Gentle in the style of Samuel Palmer, but signed with his own name and dedicated to Taylor. Pictures of idealized landscapes, they couldn’t help but turn Clem’s thoughts back to Taylor’s unrequited love for the vanished man, and Jude’s to the place he had vanished for. They were among the few items that Clem, perhaps vengefully, wanted to destroy, but Jude persuaded him otherwise. He kept one in memory of Taylor, gave one to Klein, and gave the third to Jude.
Her duty to Clem not only took its toll upon her time but upon her focus. When, in the middle of the month, he suddenly announced that he was going to leave the next day for Tenerife, there to tan his troubles away for a fortnight, she was glad to be released from the daily duties of friend and comforter but found herself unable to rekindle the heat of ambition that had flared in her at the month’s first hour. She had one unlikely touchstone, however: the dog. She only had to look at the mutt and she remembered—as though it were an hour ago—standing at the door of Gentle’s flat and seeing the pair dissolving in front of her astonished eyes. And on the heels of that memory came thoughts of the news she had been carrying to Gentle that night: the dream journey induced by the stone that was now wrapped up and hidden from sight and seeing in her wardrobe. She was not a great lover of dogs, but she’d taken the mongrel home that night, knowing it would perish if she didn’t. It quickly ingratiated itself, wagging a furious welcome when she returned home each night after being with Clem; sneaking into her bedroom in the early hours and making a nest for itself in her soiled clothes. She called it Skin, because it had so little fur, and while she didn’t dote on it the way it doted on her, she was still glad of its company. More than once she found herself talking to it at great length, while it licked its paws or its balls, these monologues a means to refocus her thoughts without worrying that she was losing her mind. Three days after Clem’s departure for sunnier climes, discussing with Skin how she should best proceed, Estabrook’s name came up.
“You haven’t met Estabrook,” she told Skin. “But I’ll guarantee you won’t like him. He tried to have me killed, you know?”
The dog looked up from its toilet.
“Yes, I was amazed too,” she said, “I mean, that’s worse than an animal, right? No disrespect, but it is. I was his wife. I am his wife. And he tried to have me killed. What would you do, if you were me? Yes, I know, I should see him. He had the blue eye in his safe. And that book! Remind me to tell you about the book sometime. No, maybe I shouldn’t. It’ll give you ideas.”