Synopsis: Scott writes vignettes of conversations he'd overheard at a cocktail party that reveal the shocking severity of the racist mindsets in apartheid South Africa.
Capetown, South Africa.–Cocktail parties are the same the world over, I guess; the same small, pale drink that can't be analyzed, the same limp little sandwiches cunningly shaped in hearts, spades, clubs and diamond; same people.
Only the conversation is different and here is the kind you might hear, as I did earlier this evening, at a Capetown party:
"Sometimes I really think they go too far with their silly laws. You know what a gem Martha is. The best cook I ever had and never talks back. A perfect dear. There was just the one drawback. The girl insisted on having her weekends off so that she could go home to her husband and that was just when I wanted her, with all the entertaining Basil and I do.
"Well, of course, it's against the law–what do they say?–'Non-Europeans must not live together upon the premises of a European'. Something like that. But it seemed so silly. Anyway, I suggested that Martha have her husband visit her for the weekend and it worked fine until last week. He's really a very nice chap for a Colored, I must say. Never smokes or drinks.
"Then, my dear, one morning there's a ring at the front door. The police are there. They order me, order me, to show them to Martha's room and, of course the poor things are quite naturally in bed.
"They'll let them out in a month, I daresay, but it does seem so unfair."
"If there's anything I can't stand, Derek, it's an America who comes down here and thinks he can change everything in a minute.
"We had a chap in the office the other day–New Yorker–who said he'd absolutely refused to fill out the form the immigration people hand you when you arrive. Very simple form. All it asks is that you declare yourself 'European' or 'Non-European'. Dammit, nothing so terrible about that, is there?
"But this Yank fellow would have none of it. Said he was not a European or a non-European, but an American. Made a great bloody fuss about it.
"Poor show, you know. After all, 'When in Rome do as the Romans do' and all that sort of thing. Do you think, Derek?"
"Oh it was a perfect scream, Daphne. You know as well as I do that George has some Colored blood in him. That's why he's always prattling about giving the blacks the vote and all that sort of nonsense. Guilty conscience, I expect, for having crossed over to our side.
Well, we were at this party the other night and there was George, silly ass, arguing as usual about his nigger friends. So, of course, the men just put him right in his place, as he jolly well should be, and that just made George angrier. I really thought he'd have a fit.
"And it was then that dear, dear Basil leaned across and said – oh, ever so softly – 'Calm down George. You're getting WHITE with rage.'
"Well, you can bet that shut him up."
"Did I tell you about getting my driver's license the other day, Phillip? Chap on the desk was one of those great Dutch brutes. I've no doubt he wields a heavy club when he visits the locations.
"When I'd filled out the forms and got my card I made a little joke about hoping I'd never have it taken away because of an accident.
"Well, I'm damned if the fellow didn't say, 'If you ever hit a black, sir, go back and finish him and then you won't have to worry.'
"Meant it, by George. Deadly earnest. I suppose it's good advice, at that, butI did think it was rather cheeky of the fellow."