Twilight in Djakarta

Free Twilight in Djakarta by Mochtar Lubis

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Authors: Mochtar Lubis
not last long. The promotion had brought new hope for a house, which had again proved futile.
    ‘Do you want me to become corrupt like other people?’ Sugeng had shouted, and these shouted words kept reverberating in his mind over and over.
    By God, he swore inwardly, I know that until now I have fought off every temptation with all my strength. But if Hasnah must have a house, and if the only way to get a house is corruption, then I will engage in corruption. For Hasnah, for the baby who will be born, my baby!
    He rested his chin on his hands.
    How unjust is this world. People who want to be honest are not given a chance to remain honest. A matter of a simple house, that’s all, and a man wouldn’t need to do violence to his honour. No, not I, I will not succumb. Let Hasnah be angry, let Hasnah hate me! Yet, fused with this stream of thought, there was also the recognition that in the end he too would have to succumb. It was beyond his strength to fight with Hasnah every minute about the house.
    He got up, went to the bedroom, straight to the bed where Hasnah still lay sobbing. Sugeng embraced his wife and whispered,
    ‘Forgive me, Has, of course I’m wrong. But this time I promise truly that I’ll get a house for us.’
    He spoke with such sincerity that Hasnah, discerning this new tone in his voice, turned and embraced him. And they held each other caressingly.
    Dahlia was walking along the row of shops on Pasar Baru. 1 Who knows how many shops she had gone into already, she couldn’t remember herself. In each shop she had looked at all kinds of materials, but hadn’t bought a thing. She was rather discouraged by now. In one shop her chance had seemed almost within grasp. When she had been examining some cloth, a man, with the appearance of someone with money, had stood next to her. Dahlia had flashed him an alluring glance. And she had caught the response in his eyes. But, who knows why, the man had notfollowed up this opening, and while Dahlia was still pretending to bargain he just walked out.
    Probably he had no money, said Dahlia to herself.
    Soon afterwards Dahlia had left the shop. Practically all men who passed by turned to look at her, but there wasn’t a single one who was attractive enough to her. Dahlia walked slowly, stopping before shop-windows to tidy herself up and to look at the displayed goods, alone with her fancies. Her husband would be away another two weeks, and for two weeks she would be alone, quite free.
    Suddenly she was startled, uttering a little cry at the shock of someone bumping into her, and a male voice said,
    ‘Aduh, I beg your pardon, nyonya, 2 I didn’t see you.’
    Dahlia turned round and saw the man who had said it. She saw a young man, smartly dressed, carrying a package. Their glances locked, and they both smiled.
    ‘May I escort you, nyonya?’ said the young fellow without hesitation.
    ‘Thank you, if it isn’t too much trouble.’
    ‘Ah, not at all. My car is across the street.’
    The young fellow held her elbow, helping her across the street, and brought her to a Dodge sedan.
    He opened the front door for her, and then climbed in behind the wheel.
    When he had started the motor he turned to Dahlia and asked her, laughing,
    ‘Excuse me, we’re not acquainted yet. My name is Suryono.’
    ‘My name is Dahlia,’ replied Dahlia, smiling.
    ‘A lovely name, and its bearer is as lovely as the flower,’ answered Suryono flirtatiously.
    ‘Ah, you’ve a glib tongue, tuan!’ retorted Dahlia.
    ‘You’re not working?’ she asked. ‘How come you can go shopping in the middle of the day?’
    ‘I actually work at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but am now on a long leave. I work temporarily in business. Playing at imports. My office is N. V. Timur Besar, in the city.’
    After leaving Pasar Baru Street, Suryono turned towards Gunung Sahari Avenue.
    ‘Are you in a hurry to go home, Dahlia?’
    ‘Why do you ask?’ she answered archly.
    ‘Ah, if you’re in no

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