By Dan Jacobson<注1>
Fink, poor fellow, was a widower, and each of his daughters had said that she would rather be dead than live in a dump like Lyndhurst, so he had to live all by himself in the Diamond Hotel, near the office, on the other side of the Market Square. The food at the Diamond, Fink said, was giving him an ulcer in the stomach, so he ate his lunch with Gottlieb, at the Gottliebs' house. Carefully they drove to Gottlieb's house for lunch—one day in Gottlieb's car and the next day in Fink's—and ate the lunch that Sylvia and Mrs Gottlieb served them both. Then Gottlieb retired to his bedroom with the newspaper and had a little sleep until two o'clock, and Fink did the same in the lounge, with his shoes off and his stockinged<注2> feet pointing to the ceiling from the end of the sofa.
"It's no life for a man without a wife," Mrs Gottlieb reported to her husband. "He had holes in his socks today."
"Holes in his socks! A fine advertisement for his soft-goods!"<注3>
Mrs Gottlieb was not amused. "It's a shame. I'd offer to darn<注4> them, but he'd be offended. You know what he's like."
"Very well," Gottlieb nodded. "Poor fellow."
"He'd be hurt that I saw the holes in his socks. He has such terrible pride."
"Fink's pride is a terrible thing. It is eating him away."
Sometimes Riva cast about<注5> in her mind for a suitable widow for Fink. "It's what he needs," she said. "Then he'll be happy again."
Gottlieb was more cautious. "Perhaps he would be a little happier, and not so proud."
At other times Gottlieb reminded her that the man had three daughters, not one of whom had made it her business to stay in Lyndhurst and look after her father. Instead each one of them, as she had reached maturity of a sort,<注6> and eligibility without doubt for marriage, had deliberately gone off to Johannesburg in search of the professional man that each had succeeded in marrying. "A girl has to get married," Gottlieb admitted to his wife, "but is it impossible to manage it in Lyndhurst?"
And when he wanted to goad Fink, Gottlieb always inquired after Fink's daughters. "What has happened to Althea?" he would ask. "She married the lawyer?"
Fink would know what was coming. "Yes."
"He's doing well?"
"He's making a living."
Gottlieb would think this over for a moment or two.
"And Lynda? She married the doctor?"
"And how is his practice?"<注7>
"Very good. An excellent practice in a good suburb."
"And Claire, her husband is also making a living?"
"A first-class living."
"That's a good thing to hear. Three daughters, all married to good men, all making a living." Gottlieb would nod, Gottlieb would suck at his tea, absently Gottlieb would deliver his blow.<注8>
"I haven't seen them for a long time. I'd like to see them again. Are they coming down to Lyndhurst soon?"
Gottlieb would smile, Gottlieb would know he was on top. "When?"
"I don't know," Fink would shout. "I don't know their plans."
But if Fink had been really angered by Gottlieb's inquiries, he would tell Gottlieb, "They're coming down when your Irvine comes down. On exactly the same train, that's when they're coming down."
"My Irvine?" Gottlieb could see no connection between his Irvine and the questions he had been asking. Haughtily he asked, "My Irvine? He's very well. He's learning hard to be a specialist."
"And when he's finished he's coming to practice in Lyndhurst?"
"Perhaps," Gottlieb would lie uneasily; and Fink would reply with a pitying shrug of his shoulders:
"Perhaps is as good as a feast."<注9>-
(From The Price of Diamonds, 1957)