Love and the Rule of Law
In Warsaw, a shy and high-minded polio victim lives a life of seclusion caring for her odd family until a chance encounter plunges her into the intrigues of dirty politics; Zaremba, a wealthy businessman, is about to be arrested on trumped-up charges and only she can save him. Swept along by events, Cordelia finds her feelings increasingly involved with a stranger for whom she is both rescuer and victim. When Zaremba disappears, Cordelia must overcome surveillance, corruption, the media, and mounting humiliations and difficulties to learn the truth.
Although set in Poland, this is a story that could happen anywhere, as young democracies struggle against the temptations of covert operations and older democracies sometimes lead them astray.
But it was at moments like these that she realized most sharply
that her mother was lost to her. It was an old tragedy, though, and now
it affected Cordelia not with the intense pain of its first appearance,
but only in that it made her feel more friendless, stretched her nerves
a little tighter. Since she was alone she wanted to be truly alone. And
her mother was talking, she had to answer.
“Why have they gone?”
“No one tells me anything.”
“What shall I tell you? I had a very strange proposal today.”
“Did you, dear?” her mother sounded almost as if she were
responding, but Cordelia knew it was only coincidental. Her mother
began to mutter something to herself. Cordelia made another effort to
Zaremba wants me to – to enter into a civil contract with
him, what do you think? You like him, don’t you?”
“He’s a dog.”
“No, Mom, Hempseed is a dog.” Cordelia’s head began to hurt.
She glanced at her watch: 10:00. Her mother might be up for hours,
and she wanted so badly to go to bed. She reached for a book and
handed it to her mother, but her mother took it weakly and before long
put it angrily aside. “It’s garbage.”
“You’re probably right,” answered Cordelia wearily.
“It’s all garbage.” She gestured towards the bookshelves, but
that might have been only accidental. “It doesn’t help at all.”
“No.” It didn’t. That was true. There wasn’t a single book there
that Cordelia could reach down and that would help in her situation;
and yet, there were lines swimming up to consciousness: Milton, was it,
about virtue assailed by force and yet unhurt?
If this fail, the pillared firmament is rottenness,
And the earth’s base built on stubble.
Cordelia’s mother interrupted her thoughts. “You’re garbage
too.” She reached out and patted Cordelia on the shoulder.
Cordelia knew that her mother didn’t mean the words, had no
idea what she had said, meant, perhaps, something completely
different, if anything at all.
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