“The Ape under the Velvet”

The small, tired eyes stared into his coldly.  “I have never seen England.”  The eyes wandered away round the table.  ” When I was last in Rome”,   he said, ” I saw a magnificent parade of the Italian army with guns and armoured cars and aeroplanes.”  He swallowed his raisins.  ” The aeroplanes were a great sight and made one think of God…  They made one think of God. That is all I know. You feel it in the stomach. A thunderstorm makes one think of God, too. But these aeroplanes were better than a storm. They shook the air like paper.”

Watching the full self-conscious lips enunciating these absurdities, Graham wondered if an English jury, trying the man for murder, would find him insane. Probably not: he killed for money; and the Law did not think that a man who killed for money was insane. And yet he was insane. His was the insanity of the sub-conscious mind running naked, of the ” throw back”, of the mind which could discover the majesty of God in thunder and lightning, the roar of bombing planes, or the firing of a five-hundred-pound shell; the awe-inspired insanity of the primaeval swamp. Killing, for this man, could be a business. Once, no doubt, he had been surprised that people should be prepared to pay so handsomely for the doing of something they could do so easily for themselves. But, of course, he would have ended by concluding, with other successful business men, that he was cleverer than his fellows. His mental approach to the business of killing would be that of the lavatory attendant to the business of attending to his lavatories or of the stockbroker towards the business of taking his commission: purely practical.

– Eric Ambler, Journey into Fear (Hodder & Stoughton Ltd., London, 1940)

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