Nadine Gordimer, "Which New Era Would That Be?"
Jake Alexander, a big, fat coloured man, half Scottish, half African, was shaking a large pan of frying bacon on the gas stove in the back room of his Johannesburg printing shop when he became aware that someone was knocking on the door at the front of the shop. The sizzling fat and the voices of the five men in the back room with him almost blocked sounds from without, and the knocking was of the steady kind that might have been going on for quite a few minutes. He lifted the pan off the flame with one hand and with the other made an impatient silencing gesture, directed at the bacon as well as the voices. Interpreting the movement as one of caution, the men hurriedly picked up the tumblers and cups in which they had been taking their end-of-the-day brandy at their ease, and tossed the last of it down. Little yellow Klaas, whose hair was like ginger-coloured wire wool, stacked the cups and glasses swiftly and hid them behind the dirty curtain that covered a row of shelves.
'Who's that?' yelled Jake, wiping his greasy hands down his pants.
There was a sharp and playful tattoo, followed by an English voice: 'Me —- Alister. For heaven's sake, Jake!'
The fat man put the pan back on the flame and tramped through the dark shop, past the idle presses, to the door, and flung it open. 'Mr Halford !' he said. 'Well, good to see you. Come in, man. In the back there, you can't hear a thing.' A young Englishman with gentle eyes, a stern mouth, and flat, colourless hair which grew in an untidy, confused spiral from a double crown, stepped back to allow a young woman to enter ahead of him. Before he could introduce her, she held out her hand to Jake, smiling, and shook his firmly. 'Good evening. Jennifer Tetzel,' she said.
'Jennifer, this is Jake Alexander,' the young man managed to get in, over her shoulder.
The two had entered the building from the street through an archway lettered NEW ERA BUILDING. Which new era would that be? the young woman had wondered aloud, brightly, while they were waiting in the dim hallway for the door to be opened, and Alister Halford had not known whether the reference was to the discovery of deeplevel gold mining that had saved Johannesburg from the ephemeral fate of a mining camp in the 'nineties, or to the optimism after the settlement of labour troubles in the 'twenties, or to the recovery after the world went off the gold standard in the 'thirties—really, one had no idea of the age of these buildings in this run-down end of the town. Now, coming in out of the deserted hallway gloom, which smelled of dust and rotting wood —- the smell of waiting -— they were met by the live, cold tang of ink and the homely, lazy odour of bacon fat—the smell of acceptance. There was not much light in the deserted workshop. The host blundered to the wall and switched on a bright naked bulb, up in the ceiling. The three stood blinking at one another for a moment: a coloured man with the fat of the man-of-the-world upon him, grossly dressed—not out of poverty but obviously because he liked it that way -— in a rayon sports shirt that gaped and showed two hairy stomach rolls hiding his navel in a lipless grin, the pants of a good suit misbuttoned and held up round the waist by a tie instead of a belt, and a pair of expensive sports shoes, worn without socks; a young Englishman in a worn greenish tweed suit with a neo- Edwardian cut to the waistcoat that labelled it a leftover from undergraduate days; a handsome white woman who, as the light fell upon her, was immediately recognizable to Jake Alexander.
He had never met her before but he knew the type well—had seen it over and over again at meetings of the Congress of Democrats, and other organizations where progressive whites met progressive blacks. These were the white women who, Jake knew, persisted in regarding themselves as your equal. That was even worse, he thought, than the parsons who persisted in regarding you as their equal. The parsons had had ten years at school and seven years at a university and theological school; you had carried sacks of vegetables from the market to white people's cars from the time you were eight years old until you were apprenticed to a printer, and your first woman, like your mother, had been a servant, whom you had visited in a backyard room, and your first gulp of whisky, like many of your other pleasures, had been stolen while a white man was not looking. Yet the good parson insisted that your picture of life was exactly the same as his own: you felt as he did. But these women— oh, Christ!—these women felt as you did. They were sure of it. They thought they understood the humiliation of the black man walking the streets only by the permission of a pass written out by a white person, and the guilt and swagger of the coloured man light-faced enough to slink, fugitive from his own skin, into the preserves—the cinemas, bars, libraries—marked 'EUROPEANS ONLY'. Yes, breathless with stout sensitivity, they insisted on walking the whole teeter-totter of the colour line. There was no escaping their understanding. They even insisted on feeling the resentment you must feel at their identifying themselves with your feelings ...
Here was the black hair of a determined woman (last year they wore it pulled tightly back into an oddly perched knot; this year it was cropped and curly as a lap dog's), the round, bony brow unpowdered in order to show off the tan, the red mouth, the unrouged cheeks, the big, lively, handsome eyes, dramatically painted, that would look into yours with such intelligent, eager honesty—eager to mirror what Jake Alexander, a big, fat coloured man interested in women, money, brandy, and boxing, was feeling. Who the hell wants a woman to look at you honestly, anyway? What has all this to do with a woman—with what men and women have for each other in their eyes? She was wearing a wide black skirt, a white cotton blouse baring a good deal of her breasts, and ear-rings that seemed to have been made by a blacksmith out of bits of scrap iron. On her feet she had sandals whose narrow thongs wound between her toes, and the nails of the toes were painted plum colour. By contrast, her hands were neglected-looking —- sallow, unmanicured -— and on one thin finger there swivelled a huge gold seal- ring. She was good-looking, he supposed with disgust.
He stood there, fat, greasy, and grinning at the two visitors so lingeringly that his grin looked insolent. Finally he asked, 'What brings you this end of town, Mr Halford? Sight-seeing with the lady?'
The young Englishman gave Jake's arm a squeeze, where the short sleeve of the rayon shirt ended. 'Just thought I'd look you up, Jake,' he said, jolly.
'Come on in, come on in,' said Jake on a rising note, shambling ahead of them into the company of the back room. 'Here, what about a chair for the lady?' He swept a pile of handbills from the seat of a kitchen chair onto the dusty concrete floor, picked up the chair, and planked it down again in the middle of the group of men who had risen awkwardly at the visitors' entrance. 'You know Maxie Ndube? And Temba?' Jake said, nodding at two of the men who surrounded him.
Alister Halford murmured with polite warmth his recognition of Maxie, a small, dainty-faced African in neat, businessman's dress, then said inquiringly and hesitantly to Temba, 'Have we? When?'
Temba was a coloured man -— a mixture of the bloods of black slaves and white masters, blended long ago, in the days when the Cape of Good Hope was a port of refreshment for the Dutch East India Company. He was tall and pale, with a large Adam's apple, enormous black eyes, and the look of a musician in a jazz band; you could picture a trumpet lifted to the ceiling in those long yellow hands, that curved spine hunched forward to shield a low note. 'In Durban last year, Mr Halford, you remember?' he said eagerly. 'I'm sure we met —- or perhaps I only saw you there.'
'Oh, at the Congress? Of course I remember you!' Halford apologized. 'You were in a delegation from the Cape?'
'Miss—?' Jake Alexander waved a hand between the young woman, Maxie, and Temba.
'Jennifer. Jennifer Tetzel,' she said again clearly, thrusting out her hand. There was a confused moment when both men reached for it at once and then hesitated, each giving way to the other. Finally the handshaking was accomplished, and the young woman seated herself confidently on the chair.
Jake continued, offhand, 'Oh, and of course Billy Boy—' Alister signalled briefly to a black man with sad, blood- shot eyes, who stood awkwardly, back a few steps, against some rolls of paper—'and Klaas and Albert.' Klaas and Albert had in their mixed blood some strain of the Bushman, which gave them a batrachian yellowness and toughness, like one of those toads that (prehistoric as the Bushman is) are mythically believed to have survived into modern times (hardly more fantastically than the Bushman himself has survived) by spending centuries shut up in an air bubble in a rock. Like Billy Boy, Klaas and Albert had backed away, and, as if abasement against the rolls of paper, the wall, or the window were a greeting in itself, the two little coloured men and the big African only stared back at the masculine nods of Alister and the bright smile of the young woman.
'You up from the Cape for anything special now?' Alister said to Temba as he made a place for himself on a corner of a table that was littered with photographic blocks, bits of type, poster proofs, a bottle of souring milk, a bow-tie, a pair of red braces, and a number of empty Coca-Cola bottles.
'I've been living in Durban for a year. Just got the chance of a lift to Jo'burg,' said the gangling Temba.
Jake had set himself up easily, leaning against the front of the stove and facing Miss Jennifer Tetzel on her chair. He jerked his head towards Temba and said, 'Real banana boy.' Young white men brought up in the strong Anglo-Saxon tradition of the province of Natal are often referred to, and refer to themselves, as 'banana boys', even though fewer and fewer of them have any connection with the dwindling number of vast banana estates that once made their owners rich. Jake's broad face, where the bright-pink cheeks of a Highland complexion —- inherited, along with his name, from his Scottish father —- showed oddly through his coarse, beige skin, creased up in appreciation of his own joke. And Temba threw back his head and laughed, his Adam's apple bobbing, at the idea of himself as a cricket- playing white public-school boy.
'There's nothing like Cape Town, is there?' said the young woman to him, her head charmingly on one side, as if this conviction were something she and he shared.
'Miss Tetzel's up here to look us over. She's from Cape Town,' Alister explained.
She turned to Temba with her beauty, her strong provocativeness, full on, as it were. 'So we're neighbours?'
Jake rolled one foot comfortably over the other and a spluttering laugh pursed out the pink inner membrane of his lips.
'Where did you live?' she went on, to Temba.
'Cape Flats,' he said. Cape Flats is a desolate coloured slum in the bush outside Cape Town.
'Me, too,' said the girl, casually.
Temba said politely, 'You're kidding,' and then looked down uncomfortably at his hands, as if they had been guilty of some clumsy movement. He had not meant to sound so familiar; the words were not the right ones.
'I've been there nearly ten months,' she said.
'Well, some people've got queer tastes,' Jake remarked, laughing, to no one in particular, as if she were not there.
'How's that?' Temba was asking her shyly, respectfully.
She mentioned the name of a social rehabilitation scheme that was in operation in the slum. 'I'm assistant director of the thing at the moment. It's connected with the sort of work I do at the university, you see, so they've given me fifteen months' leave from my usual job.'
Maxie noticed with amusement the way she used the word 'job', as if she were a plumber's mate; he and his educated African friends —- journalists and schoolteachers —- were careful to talk only of their 'professions'. 'Good works,' he said, smiling quietly.
She planted her feet comfortably before her, wriggling on the hard chair, and said to Temba with mannish frankness, 'It's a ghastly place. How in God's name did you survive living there? I don't think I can last out more than another few months, and I've always got my flat in Cape Town to escape to on Sundays, and so on.'
While Temba smiled, turning his protruding eyes aside slowly, Jake looked straight at her and said, 'Then why do you, lady, why do you?'
'Oh, I don't know. Because I don't see why anyone else -— any one of the people who live there -— should have to, I suppose.' She laughed before anyone else could at the feebleness, the philanthropic uselessness of what she was saying. 'Guilt, what-have-you ...'
Maxie shrugged, as if at the mention of some expensive illness he had never been able to afford and whose symptoms he could not imagine.
There was a moment of silence; the two coloured men and the big black man standing back against the wall watched anxiously, as if some sort of signal might be expected, possibly from Jake Alexander, their boss, the man who, like themselves, was not white, yet who owned his own business and had a car and money and strange friends -— sometimes even white people, such as these. The three of them were dressed in the ill-matched cast-off clothing that all humble workpeople who are not white wear in Johannesburg, and they had not lost the ability of rural people to stare, unembarrassed and unembarrassing.
Jake winked at Alister; it was one of his mannerisms -— a bookie's wink, a stage comedian's wink. 'Well, how's it going, boy, how's it going?' he said. His turn of phrase was bar-room bonhomie; with luck, he could get into a bar, too. With a hat to cover his hair and his coat collar well up, and only a bit of greasy pink cheek showing, he had slipped into the bars of the shabbier Johannesburg hotels with Alister many times and got away with it. Alister, on the other hand, had got away with the same sort of thing narrowly several times, too, when he had accompanied Jake to a shebeen in a coloured location, where it was illegal for a white man to be, as well as illegal for anyone at all to have a drink; twice Alister had escaped a raid by jumping out of a window. Alister had been in South Africa only eighteen months, as correspondent for a newspaper in England, and because he was only two or three years away from undergraduate escapades such incidents seemed to give him a kind of nostalgic pleasure; he found them funny. Jake, for his part, had decided long ago (with the great help of the money he had made) that he would take the whole business of the colour bar as humorous. The combination of these two attitudes, stemming from such immeasurably different circumstances, had the effect of making their friendship less self-conscious than is usual between a white man and a coloured one.
'They tell me it's going to be a good thing on Saturday night?' said Alister, in the tone of questioning someone in the know. He was referring to a boxing match between two coloured heavyweights, one of whom was a protege of Jake.
Jake grinned deprecatingly, like a fond mother. 'Well, Pikkie's a good boy,' he said. 'I tell you, it'll be something to see.' He danced about a little on his clumsy toes in pantomime of the way a boxer nimbles himself, and collapsed against the stove, his belly shaking with laughter at his breathlessness.
'Too much smoking, too many brandies, Jake,' said Alister.
'With me, it's too many women, boy.'
'We were just congratulating Jake,' said Maxie in his soft, precise voice, the indulgent, tongue-in-cheek tone of the protege who is superior to his patron, for Maxie was one of Jake's boys, too -— of a different kind. Though Jake had decided that for him being on the wrong side of a colour bar was ludicrous, he was as indulgent to those who took it seriously and politically, the way Maxie did, as he was to any up-and-coming youngster who, say, showed talent in the ring or wanted to go to America and become a singer. They could all make themselves free of Jake's pocket, and his printing shop, and his room in the lower end of the town, where the building had fallen below the standard of white people but was far superior to the kind of thing most coloureds and blacks were accustomed to.
'Congratulations on what?’ the young white woman asked. She had a way of looking up around her, questioningly, from face to face, that came of long familiarity with being the centre of attention at parties.
'Yes, you can shake my hand, boy,' said Jake to Alister. 'I didn't see it, but these fellows tell me that my divorce went through. It's in the papers today.'
'Is that so? But from what I hear, you won't be a free man long,' Alister said teasingly.
Jake giggled, and pressed at one gold-filled tooth with a strong fingernail. 'You heard about the little parcel I'm expecting from Zululand?' he asked.
'Zululand?' said Alister. 'I thought your Lila came from Stellenbosch.'
Maxie and Temba laughed.
'Lila? What Lila?' said Jake with exaggerated innocence.
'You're behind the times,' said Maxie to Alister.
'You know I like them —- well, sort of round,' said Jake. 'Don't care for the thin kind, in the long run.'
'But Lila had red hair!' Alister goaded him. He remembered the incongruously dyed, straightened hair on a fine coloured girl whose nostrils dilated in the manner of certain fleshy water-plants seeking prey.
Jennifer Tetzel got up and turned the gas off on the stove, behind Jake. 'That bacon'll be like charred string,' she said.
Jake did not move -— merely looked at her lazily. 'This is not the way to talk with a lady around.' He grinned, unapologetic.
She smiled at him and sat down, shaking her ear-rings. 'Oh, I'm divorced myself. Are we keeping you people from your supper? Do go ahead and eat. Don't bother about us.'
Jake turned around, gave the shrunken rashers a mild shake, and put the pan aside. 'Hell, no,' he said. 'Any time. But—' turning to Alister—'won't you have something to eat?' He looked about, helpless and unconcerned, as if to indicate an absence of plates and a general careless lack of equipment such as white women would be accustomed to use when they ate. Alister said quickly, no, he had promised to take Jennifer to Moorjee's.
Of course, Jake should have known; a woman like that would want to be taken to eat at an Indian place in Vrededorp, even though she was white, and free to eat at the best hotel in town. He felt suddenly, after all, the old gulf opening between himself and Alister: what did they see in such women -— bristling, sharp, all-seeing, knowing women, who talked like men, who wanted to show all the time that, apart from sex, they were exactly the same as men? He looked at Jennifer and her clothes, and thought of the way a white woman could look: one of those big, soft, European women with curly yellow hair, with very high heeled shoes that made them shake softly when they walked, with a strong scent, like hot flowers, coming up, it seemed, from their jutting breasts under the lace and pink and blue and all the other pretty things they wore -— women with nothing resistant about them except, buried in white, boneless fingers, those red, pointed nails that scratched faintly at your palms.
'You should have been along with me at lunch today,' said Maxie to no one in particular. Or perhaps the soft voice, a vocal tiptoe, was aimed at Alister, who was familiar with Maxie's work as an organizer of African trade unions. The group in the room gave him their attention (Temba with the little encouraging grunt of one who has already heard the story), but Maxie paused a moment, smiling ruefully at what he was about to tell. Then he said, 'You know George Elson?' Alister nodded. The man was a white lawyer who had been arrested twice for his participation in anti-colour-bar movements.
'Oh, George? I've worked with George often in Cape Town,' put in Jennifer.
'Well,' continued Maxie, 'George Elson and I went out to one of the industrial towns on the East Rand. We were interviewing the bosses, you see, not the men, and at the beginning it was all right, though, once or twice the girls in the offices thought I was George's driver —- "Your boy can wait outside." ' He laughed, showing small, perfect teeth; everything about him was finely made —- his straight-fingered dark hands, the curved African nostrils of his small nose, his little ears, which grew close to the sides of his delicate head. The others were silent, but the young woman laughed, too.
'We even got tea in one place,' Maxie went on. 'One of the girls came in with two cups and a tin mug. But old George took the mug.'
Jennifer Tetzel laughed again, knowingly.
'Then, just about lunch time, we came to this place I wanted to tell you about. Nice chap, the manager. Never blinked an eye at me, called me Mister. And after we'd talked, he said to George, "Why not come home with me for lunch?" So of course George said, "Thanks, but I'm with my friend here." "Oh, that's O.K.," said the chap. "Bring him along." Well, we go along to this house, and the chap disappears into the kitchen, and then he comes back and we sit in the lounge and have a beer, and then the servant comes along and says lunch is ready. Just as we're walking into the dining room, the chap takes me by the arm and says, "I've had your lunch laid on a table on the step. You'll find it's all perfectly clean and nice, just what we're having ourselves." '
'Fantastic,' murmured Alister.
Maxie smiled and shrugged, looking around at them all. 'It's true.'
'After he'd asked you, and he'd sat having a drink with you?' Jennifer said closely, biting in her lower lip, as if this were a problem to be solved psychologically.
'Of course,' said Maxie.
Jake was shaking with laughter, like some obscene Silenus. There was no sound out of him, but saliva gleamed on his lips, and his belly, at the level of Jennifer Tetzel's eyes, was convulsed.
Temba said soberly, in the tone of one whose good will makes it difficult for him to believe in the unease of his situation, 'I certainly find it worse here than at the Cape. I can't remember, y'know, about buses. I keep getting put off European buses.'
Maxie pointed to Jake's heaving belly. 'Oh, I'll tell you a better one than that,' he said. 'Something that happened in the office one day. Now, the trouble with me is, apparently, I don't talk like a native.' This time everyone laughed, except Maxie himself, who, with the instinct of a good raconteur, kept a polite, modest, straight face.
'You know that's true,' interrupted the young white woman. 'You have none of the usual softening of the vowels of most Africans. And you haven't got an Afrikaans accent, as some Africans have, even if they get rid of the African thing.'
'Anyway, I'd had to phone a certain firm several times,' Maxie went on, 'and I'd got to know the voice of the girl at the other end, and she'd got to know mine. As a matter of fact, she must have liked the sound of me, because she was getting very friendly. We fooled about a bit, exchanged first names, like a couple of kids -— hers was Peggy -- and she said, eventually, "Aren't you ever going to come to the office yourself?" ' Maxie paused a moment, and his tongue flicked at the side of his mouth in a brief, nervous gesture. When he spoke again, his voice was flat, like the voice of a man who is telling a joke and suddenly thinks that perhaps it is not such a good one after all. 'So I told her I'd be in next day, about four. I walked in, sure enough, just as I said I would. She was a pretty girl, blonde, you know, with very tidy hair —- I guessed she'd just combed it to be ready for me. She looked up and said "Yes?" holding out her hand for the messenger's book or parcel she thought I'd brought. I took her hand and shook it and said, "Well, here I am, on time -— I'm Maxie—- Maxie Ndube." '
'What'd she do?' asked Temba eagerly.
The interruption seemed to restore Maxie's confidence in his story. He shrugged gaily. 'She almost dropped my hand, and then she pumped it like a mad thing, and her neck and ears went so red I thought she'd burn up. Honestly, her ears were absolutely shining. She tried to pretend she'd known all along, but I could see she was terrified someone would come from the inner office and see her shaking hands with a native. So I took pity on her and went away. Didn't even stay for my appointment with her boss. When I went back to keep the postponed appointment the next week, we pretended we'd never met.'
Temba was slapping his knee. 'God, I'd have loved to see her face!' he said.
Jake wiped away a tear from his fat cheek -— his eyes were light blue, and produced tears easily when he laughed -— and said, 'That'll teach you not to talk swanky, man. Why can't you talk like the rest of us?'
'Oh, I'll watch out on the "Missus" and "Baas" stuff in future,' said Maxie.
Jennifer Tetzel cut into their laughter with her cool, practical voice. 'Poor little girl, she probably liked you awfully, Maxie, and was really disappointed. You mustn't be too harsh on her. It's hard to be punished for not being black.'
The moment was one of astonishment rather than irritation. Even Jake, who had been sure that there could be no possible situation between white and black he could not find amusing, only looked quickly from the young woman to Maxie, in a hiatus between anger, which he had given up long ago, and laughter, which suddenly failed him. On his face was admiration more than anything else -— sheer, grudging admiration. This one was the best yet. This one was the coolest ever.
'Is it?' said Maxie to Jennifer, pulling in the corners of his mouth and regarding her from under slightly raised eyebrows. Jake watched. Oh, she'd have a hard time with Maxie. Maxie wouldn't give up his suffering-tempered blackness so easily. You hadn't much hope of knowing what Maxie was feeling at any given moment, because Maxie not only never let you know but made you guess wrong. But this one was the best yet.
She looked back at Maxie, opening her eyes very wide, twisting her sandalled foot on the swivel of its ankle, smiling. 'Really, I assure you it is.
Maxie bowed to her politely, giving way with a falling gesture of his hand.
Alister had slid from his perch on the crowded table, and now, prodding Jake playfully in the paunch, he said, 'We have to get along.'
Jake scratched his ear and said again, 'Sure you won't have something to eat?'
Alister shook his head. 'We had hoped you'd offer us a drink, but—'
Jake wheezed with laughter, but this time was sincerely concerned. 'Well, to tell you the truth, when we heard the knocking, we just swallowed the last of the bottle off, in case it was someone it shouldn't be. I haven't a drop in the place till tomorrow. Sorry, chappie. Must apologize to you, lady, but we black men’ve got to drink in secret. If we'd've known it was you two...'
Maxie and Temba had risen. The two wizened coloured men, Klaas and Albert, and the sombre black Billy Boy shuffled helplessly, hanging about.
Alister said, 'Next time, Jake, next time. We'll give you fair warning and you can lay it on.'
Jennifer shook hands with Temba and Maxie, called 'Goodbye! Goodbye!' to the others, as if they were somehow out of earshot in that small room. From the door, she suddenly said to Maxie, 'I feel I must tell you. About that other story -— your first one, about the lunch. I don't believe it. I'm sorry, but I honestly don't. It's too illogical to hold water.'
It was the final self-immolation by honest understanding. There was absolutely no limit to which that understanding would not go. Even if she could not believe Maxie, she must keep her determined good faith with him by confessing her disbelief. She would go to the length of calling him a liar to show by frankness how much she respected him -— to insinuate, perhaps, that she was with him, even in the need to invent something about a white man that she, because she herself was white, could not believe. It was her last bid for Maxie.
The small, perfectly-made man crossed his arms and smiled, watching her go. Maxie had no price.
Jake saw his guests out of the shop, and switched off the light after he had closed the door behind them. As he walked back through the dark, where his presses smelled metallic and cool, he heard, for a few moments, the clear voice of the white woman and the low, noncommittal English murmur of Alister, his friend, as they went out through the archway into the street.
He blinked a little as he came back to the light and the faces that confronted him in the back room. Klaas had taken the dirty glasses from behind the curtain and was holding them one by one under the tap in the sink. Billy Boy and Albert had come closer out of the shadows and were leaning their elbows on a roll of paper. Temba was sitting on the table, swinging his foot. Maxie had not moved, and stood just as he had, with his arms folded. No one spoke.
Jake began to whistle softly through the spaces between his front teeth, and he picked up the pan of bacon, looked at the twisted curls of meat, jellied now in cold white fat, and put it down again absently. He stood a moment, heavily, regarding them all, but no one responded. His eye encountered the chair that he had deared for Jennifer Tetzel to sit on. Suddenly he kicked it, hard, so that it went flying on to its side. Then, rubbing his big hands together and bursting into loud whistling to accompany an impromptu series of dance steps, he said 'Now, boys!' and as they stirred, he planked the pan down on the ring and turned the gas up till it roared beneath it.