It was not like I exerted myself for as long as possible to put off going to bed. Senor Villegas helped me. He saw the lay of the land. The inevitable moment finally arrived. I plucked up as much courage as I could and decided not to restrain myself. Did I have to run around and show our marriage certificate to every idiot in South America who doubted that we were truly married? I could frame it and hang it on a string around my neck! One shouldn’t be too sensitive out here in the wilds. One needs a thick skin and not to bother if people talk nonsense. But my wife was not of the same view. She gave me a proper dressing down. First, again, because I had been so thoughtless as to call her senorita. Then because I have been “disobedient”. The least a woman can ask of her husband was blind and unquestioning obedience, she said. How could she otherwise put up with him? If he goes around and thinks that he can do what he wants? If he doesn’t realise that it is in his own best interests not to say or do anything without first being told? I don’t understand. Was it not so simple that my dim mind could grasp it? I kept my cool. Despite the taunt about my dim mind. As I reiterated at this point, a wise sincere man should remain silent and let his wife talk till she is finished. It gives her mental relief. It achieves nothing to argue. If a woman sees a certain thing in a certain way, no arguments help. Nothing other than time can satisfy her that she is possibly wrong. So I alone took all the blame for what had happened. I explained that she was completely correct and that I, as usual, had behaved like a fool. I ought to go down to the cabins and wake our fellow passengers up one after the other. I wouldn’t let them escape until they had learnt our marriage certificate by heart. If they were unwilling, I would threaten them with a gun. My wife darkened. She wanted only to be sure that I admitted that I was foolish not to want to behave like other sensible men. I agreed even to this. One should do as the crowd does and not emancipate oneself. The world endures no disobedience. It wants to have everyone the same. It wants to have as little difficulty as possible with individuality. In this manner, I was defeated. But inside I saw it as a victory. I had avoided a conflict. He who yields in this world is a wise man, goes an Indian saying. He who defies, a fool. This I learned through marriage.
So now I had to deal with the existence of a Mrs Willy Grebst and a daughter. This struck me as being particularly odd because of what Hans Erikson had written in The Rhythm of the Shoe. Erikson stated that he was the sole beneficiary of his Uncle Willy’s estate. “All his wealth he bequeathed to me,” Erikson wrote. He said nothing of Willy having a wife and daughter, his cousin. The estate comprised a stamp collection second only in quality to the King of England’s and a rare and expensive collection of jade and ivories. When the time came for the estate to be liquidated on Erikson’s attainment of his majority, he fully expected to become a millionaire overnight. But why would Willy pass his entire estate to his nephew when he himself had a wife and daughter: a child who was “his little princess”? It just didn’t make sense.