Nothing is impossible.
Billy stands on the threshold of Parliament, the first day he enters it, and closes his eyes for a moment, showing himself that this too, he has done.
So much work to be accomplished. So much that is broken, or never built to purpose, or in the hands of fools and fiends.
People believe that things must be so because they are so. That things are right because they are usual. That things are wrong because they are alien.
Even the evil of this land is frighteningly obtuse, or the country would not languish under so much debt. What is the point of being immoral, if unsuccessfully?
Wilber would chastise him on this last, he knows, and he smiles to himself.
Wilber – bright and sweet and earnest, speaking occasionally of a childhood raised in a Nonconformist tradition, of both fear and love of God - which by the time Billy met him had receded in the face of daily life, of University habit, of drinking and gambling.
But there is in Wilber a need for love, and a capacity to grant it running deeper than Billy can understand. Wilber must adore something, must give his heart somewhere, or wilt and fade.
For now, Billy knows - with the careful conditional confidence of a man too pragmatic, too young – that which Wilber loves is him.
And Wilber sees no evil in it, and Billy prays – or would pray, were that deed more than a figure of speech to him – that no serpent whispers in Wilber’s innocent ear to show him otherwise.
It was years ago, during their first acquaintance, that Wilber confided to him that he was not moved by the flesh as other men are, that abstinence had never seemed to him a trial, that mortification was something his own body, with its strange illnesses and fevers, seemed contented to undertake on its own behalf.
At University, drunk and happy, Wilber once sat and kissed Billy, on the mouth, for almost a quarter of an hour, with a mumbled explanation about trying – and in Wilber’s head, perhaps, at least with alcohol to ease the way, it probably seemed a lesser error than obtaining a woman.
Billy has never forgotten that night. The taste in his mouth, the thick harsh port and the scent of Wilber and the warmth of him, and the movement of his tongue, dragging heat through Billy’s core until it coalesced and hardened and he panted, willing himself to keep still, to recall that Wilber wanted none of this and that if Wilber struggled to understand why any man would marry, he would never see anything but madness in this, in Billy’s thirst, desperate and vital and unchangeable no matter who condemned it.
A glass of port can bring the moment back to him. And a second, a third, can force it back into the shadows.
For Wilber loves him, is with him whenever possible, ready to tease and hug and plan the mastery of the whole world, rejoicing in each other’s brilliance as they ascend through power.
They both burn too bright, and their bodies wear thin under them – neither of them has ever been truly well for a year together. Perhaps that unites them, in the face of all the hale, staunch lords who strut and posture and have eighty-nine bastards and tired wives.
In a man with no strength of body, some assurance of life beyond this frail skein becomes enticing; Wilber would not see it that way, but perhaps that will be the start, the instinct that pushes him back into the words, the endless words of God that Billy cannot hear as more than noise.
There is so much to be done in the world. Billy has no hope of heaven beyond that which man may build for himself, but what could be built?
Freedom, that is the start of it - that is the word that will surge up through the next decades, of that he is certain.
As he stands here, at this moment, people are chained and sold with less care than that afforded cattle. That is where the end must begin. Whilst man may do that to man, what fiery pit indeed the world is.
Hatred is a foul thing, love a sweet one, and one day in the garden, love will wander free and it will be said: Now nothing is forbidden.
And if that be because by then there is no Power seen to forbid it, or if that be because men find that the Power so often called the very embodiment of love could never loathe it, Billy will never know; children of children who will not be his own shall make that discovery.
He must make a beginning.
Nothing is impossible, Billy knows, and he steps forward, determined.