Fact: There are differences between the first edition of The Charioteer, published in England in 1953, and the edition published in the U.S. in 1959. Most copies of the novel are based on the '59 version, which appears to be Renault's preferred edit (it's tighter).
Fact: I've posted about some of the edited scenes at the Mary Renault Fics live journal community.
Not Fact: A pre-publication proof version of The Charioteer came into my hands, complete with editors notes in the margins. One section is transcribed here, which the editor had marked "cut it; no one wishes to read such things." 1959 text in italics, with deletions and additions shown. R-rated, please.
Charioteer -- Chapter 15
transcribed by Laura Mason
It was the tall Sister who brought Laurie the news that he was for discharge in ten days' time. She added that he might go out walking if he wished; making, as he learned later, a virtue of necessity, for his new boot was ready and she had been told that he was to test it.
few evenings might have all merged for him later into a
and he thought of them almost as one. They
walked for the first hour, usually in the old town by the river,
among the ships' chandlers and tattooing shops which looked as if
they hadn't changed hands in a couple of centuries, or the steep
streets of flaking Adam houses that leaned above the Wells. Then they
would drop into some small local for a drink, and join in the talk if
it was a talkative pub. If Ralph had had any idea of showing Laurie
that he could "pass," he must have forgotten about it
almost immediately. Places like this had been the stuff of his daily
life too long for him to be conscious of his assimilation. He was
more than ever himself when he fell in with some merchant mate or
master, picking up the loose-ended gossip of the sea: "... They
had to fly out a second engineer to Rangoon, and from what I heard
when she berthed next to us at Colombo..." Sometimes Laurie
would feel himself almost forgotten; but in the middle of it Ralph
would look at his watch; the blackout would reseal itself behind
them; in the dim street he would smile and say, "Let's go home."
But the night that remained in so vivid in Laurie's memory they didn't visit in a pub nor escape to the respectable privacy offered by Ralph's rooms. No, Tuesday was too beautiful, one of those late autumn nights when it seems summer has resumed, lingering as if it will never leave. The air was warm and heavy with its own ephemerality. As soon as they met, without words it was decided not to waste this night indoors.
They left the well-traveled ways instead, wandering by the riverside until, thanks to the blackout, they might have been the only humans left on the earth. Even here there was no chill, no dampness, just the sensuality of water meeting shore in susurrus embrace. There was comfort in Ralph's physical presence, his arm there for Laurie's support yet not clinically impersonal. Laurie was also aware of Ralph's entire body, the heat of him -- all the carefully-controlled strength coiled within. Laurie's face went hot; he was growing aroused just walking with Ralph in this false summer warmth. He stopped. Ralph turned to him, questioning. A moment's silent staring, and Ralph's face changed, control jettisoned and naked yearning revealed.
Laurie knew they were about to be foolish. He didn't care.
Swift-moving wisps of clouds would reveal, then conceal, but once they spread Ralph's coat and settled in the shadows beneath a drunken willow tipping toward the water there was no need for light. Their hands swiftly found buttons and clasps, gently freeing each other from the cruel constriction of their clothing. In the friendly darkness, Laurie pulled off Ralph's glove and kissed the bare hand, feeling Ralph's eyes on him and glad he couldn't see the emotions in them.
Ralph's mouth descended on Laurie's as both pairs of hands went to work renewing acquaintance with all the places they'd discovered that could be aroused by teasing, tender touches. Their mouths separated only long enough for deep breaths and gasps of pleasure as questing tongues found tendons to map or ears to explore.
Their lovemaking had been growing more confident, but that alone couldn't explain their wildness this night. It seemed as if the moon was casting a spell, and some ancient god was claiming them as his sacrifice. Their bodies met, strength nearly equal, with a tingling like electricity drawn directly from earth, sky and water. Moans grew louder, the unseen townspeople forgotten. Laurie's hands dug into Ralph's shoulders as he pushed his arousal into Ralph's, crying out his pleasure at every slide and bump.
They were nature and being, they were alone in the universe with this swiftly-growing need that fed burning, devouring pleasure. When it ended, Laurie's ears rang with the echo of their shouts, blocking out the harsh panting from Ralph, still pressed close against him.
They stayed entwined until the night stilled around them once more. Then Ralph rose, stretched, stripped off what remained of his clothing, and jumped into the river.
Laurie laughed at his shout, but didn't move. Ralph soon came clambering up the bank, glowing with the wet, his hair plastered down and his face looking young and alive in the glimmer before another cloud covered the half-moon.
"Damned cold water," Ralph said, dripping it on Laurie as he hovered over him on all fours and claimed another kiss. "Good thing I have you to warm me up." Laurie let Ralph plunder his mouth again, pulling the chilled body close against his own. He could have been perfectly happy, except that the momentary vision of youthful Ralph had reminded him so vividly... He'd only seen Andrew in the moonlight that once, during the raid.
Laurie willed himself back to this present moment, but Ralph had already noticed his absence. He'd pulled away and was re-dressing himself in the silence. "You're beautiful, Ralph."
"We'd better get back," was the only reply as he helped Laurie back to his feet and into his scattered clothes.
got in, Ralph
would fix fixed the
blackout while Laurie got the fire going. Usually they never put on
the light at all, and tonight Laurie was grateful for the
friendly shadows where he could hide. As Ralph
said the room looked much better without it light.
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