John Le Carre, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”

“All through the summer holidays, as he moved uncomfortable between one household and another, embracing and rejecting, Bill Roach fretted about Jim: whether his back was hurting; what he was doing for money now that he had no one to teach and only half a term’s pay to live on; worst of all, whether he would be there when the new term began, for Bill had a feeling he could not describe that Jim lived so precariously on the world’s surface that height at any time fall off it into a void; he feared that Jim was like himself, without a natural gravity to hold him on. He rehearsed the circumstances of their first meeting, and in particular Jim’s inquiry regarding friendship, and he had a hold terror that just as he had failed his parents in love, so had he failed Jim, largely owing to the disparity in their ages. And that therefore Jim had moved on and was already looking somewhere else for a companion, scanning other schools with his pale eyes. He imagined also that, like himself, Jim had had a great attachment that had failed him and that he longed to replace. But here Bill Roach’s speculation met a dead end: he had no idea how adults loved each other.”

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