The Purple Cloud Part 23

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'I am not going to argue the matter,' I said. 'There _was_ that question of dates and wine, you see. And there always must be on an earth where millions of men, with varying degrees of cunning, reside.'

'Oh, not at all necessalily!' she cries with conviction: 'not at all, at all: since there are much more dates and wine than are enough for all.

If there should spling up more men now, having the whole wisdom, science, and expelience of the past at their hand, and they made an allangement among themselves that the first man who tlied to take more than he could work for should be killed, and sent to dleam a nonsense-dleam, the question could never again alise!'

'It arose before--it would arise again.'

'But no! I can guess clearly how it alose before: it alose thlough the sheer carelessness of the first men. The land was at first so vely, vely much more than enough for all, that the men did not take the tlouble to make an allangement among themselves; and afterwards the habit of carelessness was confirmed; till at last the vely oliginal carelessness must have got to have the look of an allangement; and so the stleam which began in a little long ended in a big long, the long glowing more and more fixed and fatal as the stleam lolled further flom the source. I see it clearly, can't you? But now, if some more men would spling, they would be taught--'

'Ah, but no more men will _spling_, you see--!'

'There is no telling. I sometimes feel as if they must, and shall. The tlees blossom, the thunder lolls, the air makes me lun and leap, the glound is full of lichness, and I hear the voice of the Lord G.o.d walking all among the tlees of the folests.'

As she said this, I saw her under-lip push out and tremble, as when she is near to crying, and her eyes moisten: but a moment after she looked at me full, and smiled, so mobile is her face: and as she looked, it suddenly struck me what a n.o.ble temple of a brow the creature has, almost pointed at the uplifted summit, and widening down like a bell-curved Gothic arch, draped in strings of frizzy hair which anon she shakes backward with her head.

'Clodagh,' I said after some minutes--'do you know why I called you Clodagh?'

'No? Tell me?'

'Because once, long ago before the poison-cloud, I had a lover called Clodagh: and she was a....'

'But tell me first,' cries she: 'how did one know one's lover, or one's wife, flom all the others?'

'Well, by their faces....'

'But there must have been many faces--all alike--'

'Not all alike. Each was different from the rest.'

'Still, it must have been vely clever to tell. I can hardly conceive any face, except yours and mine.'

'Ah, because you are a little goose, you see.'

'What was a goose like?'

'It was a thing like a b.u.t.terfly, only larger, and it kept its toes always spread out, with a skin stretched between.'

'Leally? How caplicious! And am I like that?--but what were you saying that your lover, Clodagh, was?'

'She was a Poisoner.'

'Then why call me Clodagh, since _I_ am not a poisoner?'

'I call you so to remind me: lest you--lest you--should become my--lover, too.'

'I am your lover already: for I love you.'

'What, girl?'

'Do I not love you, who are mine?'

'Come, come, don't be a little maniac!' I went. 'Clodagh was a _poisoner_....'

'Why did she poison? Had she not enough dates and wine?'

'She had, yes: but she wanted more, more, more, the silly idiot.'

'So that the vices and climes were not confined to those that lacked things, but were done by the others, too?'

'By the others chiefly.'

'Then I see how it was!'

'How was it?'

'The others had got _spoiled_. The vices and climes must have begun with those who lacked things, and then the others, always seeing vices and climes alound them, began to do them, too--as when one rotten olive is in a bottle, the whole ma.s.s soon becomes collupted: but originally they were not rotten, but only became so. And all though a little carelessness at the first. I am sure that if more men could spling now--'

'But I _told_ you, didn't I, that no more men will spring? You understand, Clodagh, that originally the earth produced men by a long process, beginning with a very low type of creature, and continually developing it, until at last a man stood up. But that can never happen again: for the earth is old, old, and has lost her producing vigour now.

So talk no more of men _splinging_, and of things which you do not understand. Instead, go inside--stop, I will tell you a secret: to-day in the wood I picked some musk-roses and wound them into a wreath, meaning to give them you for your head when you came to-morrow: and it is inside on the pearl tripod in the second room to the left: go, therefore, and put it on, and bring the harp, and play to me, my dear.'

She ran quick with a little cry, and coming again, sat crowned, incarnadine in the blus.h.i.+ng depths of the gold. Nor did I send her home to her lonely yali, till the pale and languished moon, weary of all-night beat.i.tudes, sank down soft-couched in quilts of curdling opals to the Hesperian realms of her rest.

So sometimes we speak together, she and I, she and I.

That ever I should write such a thing! I am driven out from Imbros!

I was walking up in a wood yesterday to the west--it was a calm clear evening about seven, the sun having just set. I had the book in which I have written so far in my hand, for I had thought of making a sketch of an old windmill to the north-west to show her. Twenty minutes before she had been with me, for I had chanced to meet her, and she had come, but kept darting on ahead after peeping fruit, gathering armfuls of amaranth, nenuphar, and red-berried asphodel, till, weary of my life, I had called to her: 'Go away! out of my sight'--and she, with suddenly pushed under-lip, had walked off.

Well, I was continuing my stroll, when I seemed to feel some quaking of the ground, and before one could count twenty, it was as if the island was bent upon wracking itself to pieces. My first thought was of her, and in great scare I went running, calling in the direction which she had gone, staggering as on the deck of some labouring s.h.i.+p, falling, picking myself up, running again. The air was quite full of uproar, and the land waving like the sea: and as I went plunging, not knowing whither, I saw to my right some three or four acres of forest droop and sink into a gulf which opened to receive them. Up I flung my arms, crying out: 'Good G.o.d! save the girl!' and a minute later rushed out, to my surprise, into open s.p.a.ce on a hill-side. On the lower ground I could see the palace, and beyond it, a small s.p.a.ce of white sea which had the awful appearance of being higher than the land. Down the hill-side I staggered, driven by the impulse to fly somewhither, but about half way down was startled afresh by a shrill pattering like musical hail, and the next moment saw the entire palace rush with the jangling clatter of a thousand bells into the heaving lake.

Some seconds after this, the earthquake, having lasted fully ten minutes, began to lull, and soon ceased. I found her an hour later standing among the ruins of her little yali.

Well, what a thing! Probably every building on the island has been destroyed; the palace-platform, all cracked, leans half-sunken askew into the lake, like a huge stranded ark, while of the palace itself no trace remains, except a mound of gold stones emerging above the lake to the south. Gone, gone--sixteen years of vanity and vexation. But from a practical point of view, what is a worst calamity of all is that the _Speranza_ now lies high-and-dry in the village: for she was bodily picked up from the quay by the tidal wave, and driven bow-foremost into a street not half her width, and there now lies, looking huge enough in the little village, wedged for ever, smashed in at the nip like a frail match-box, a most astonis.h.i.+ng spectacle: her bows forty feet up the street, ten feet above the ground at the stem, rudder resting on the inner edge of the quay, foremast tilted forward, the other two masts all right, and that bottom, which has pa.s.sed through seas so far, buried in every sort of green and brown seaweed, the old _Speranza_. Her steps were there, and by a slight leap I could catch them underneath and go up hand-over-hand, till I got foothold; this I did at ten the same night when the sea-water had mostly drained back from the land, leaving everything very swampy, however; she there with me, and soon following me upon the s.h.i.+p. I found most things cracked into tiny fragments, twisted, disfigured out of likeness, the house-walls themselves displaced a little at the nip, the bow of the cedar skiff smashed in to her middle against the aft starboard corner of the galley; and were it not for the fact that the air-pinnace had not broken from her heavy ropings, and one of the compa.s.ses still whole, I do not know what I should have done: for the four old water-logged boats in the cove have utterly disappeared.

I made her sleep on the cabin-floor amid the _debris_ of berth and everything, and I myself slept high up in the wood to the west. I am writing now lying in the long-gra.s.s the morning after, the sun rising, though I cannot see him. My plan for to-day is to cut three or four logs with the saw, lay them on the ground by the s.h.i.+p, lower the pinnace upon them, so get her gradually down into the water, and by evening bid a long farewell to Imbros, which drives me out in this way. Still, I look forward with pleasure to our hour's run to the Mainland, when I shall teach her to steer by the compa.s.s, and manipulate liquid-air, as I have taught her to dress, to talk, to cook, to write, to think, to live. For she is my creation, this creature: as it were, a 'rib from my side.'

But what is the design of this expulsion? And what was it that she called it last night?--'this new going out flom Halan'! 'Haran,' I believe, being the place from which Abraham went out, when 'called' by G.o.d.

We apparently felt only the tail of the earthquake at Imbros: for it has ravaged Turkey! And we two poor helpless creatures put down here in the theatre of all these infinite violences: it is too bad, too bad. For the rages of Nature at present are perfectly astonis.h.i.+ng, and what it may come to I do not know. When we came to the Macedonian coast in good moonlight, we sailed along it, and up the Dardanelles, looking out for village, yali, or any habitation where we might put up: but everything has apparently been wrecked. We saw Kilid-Bahr, Chanak-Kaleh, Gallipoli, Lapsaki in ruins; at the last place I landed, leaving her in the boat, and walked a little way, but soon went back with the news that there was not even a bazaar-arch left standing whole, in most parts even the line of the streets being obliterated, for the place had fallen like a house of dice, and had then been shaken up and jumbled. Finally we slept in a forest on the other side of the strait, beyond Gallipoli, taking our few provisions, and having to wade at some points through mora.s.s a foot deep before we reached dry woodland.

Here, the next morning, I sat alone--for we had slept separated by at least half a mile--thinking out the question of whither I should go: my choice would have been to remain either in the region where I was, or to go Eastward: but the region where I was offered no dwelling that I could see; and to go any distance Eastward, I needed a s.h.i.+p. Of s.h.i.+ps I had seen during the night only wrecks, nor did I know where to find one in all these lat.i.tudes. I was thus, like her 'Ablaham,' urged Westward.

In order, then, to go Westward, I first went a little further Eastward, once more entered the Golden Horn, and once more mounted the scorched Seraglio steps. Here what the wickedness of man had spared, the wickedness of Nature had destroyed, and the few houses which I had left standing round the upper part of Pera I now saw low as the rest; also the house near the Suleimanieh, where we had lived our first days, to which I went as to a home, I found without a pillar standing; and that night she slept under the half-roof of a little funeral-kiosk in the scorched cypress-wood of Eyoub, and I a mile away, at the edge of the forest where first I saw her.

The Purple Cloud Part 23

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The Purple Cloud Part 23 summary

You're reading The Purple Cloud Part 23. This novel has been translated by Updating. Author: M. P. Shiel already has 250 views.

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