A House for Mr. Biswas by Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul

By Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul

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Tara was a person of standing. It was her fate to be childless, but it was also her fate to have married a man who had, at one bound, freed himself from the land and acquired wealth; already he owned a rumshop and a dry goods shop, and he had been one of the first in Trinidad to buy a motorcar. Tara came and at once took control. ’ She also wore earrings and a nakphul, a ‘nose-flower’. She had a solid gold yoke around her neck and thick silver bracelets on her ankles. In spite of all her jewellery she was energetic and capable, and had adopted her husband’s commanding manner.

And painted it too. Patches of the netting were clogged, and varnish and paint had made a thick uneven skin on the woodwork. And in what colours he had painted it! Blue and green and even black. In 1938, the week the Pope died and the Sentinel came out with a black border, he had come across a large tin of yellow paint and painted everything yellow, even the typewriter. That had been acquired when, at the age of thirty-three, he had decided to become rich by writing for American and English magazines; a brief, happy, hopeful period.

Well,’ Tara said, ‘fashions are changing all the time these days. ’ She stroked her gold nose-flower. ’ ‘She will satisfy you,’ Bipti said. ‘Raghu had no money. But he trained his children well. Training, piety –’ ‘Quite,’ Tara said. ‘The time for crying is over, Bipti. ’ ‘Nothing. ’ ‘What do you mean? Are you trying to keep secrets from me? Everyone in the village knows that Raghu had a lot of money. ’ Pratap sucked his teeth. ‘He was a miser, that one. ’ They searched. They pulled out Raghu’s box from under the bed and looked for false bottoms; at Bipti’s suggestion they looked for any joint that might reveal a hiding-place in the timber itself.

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