Category Archives: Short stories

From Portuguese: Military Efficiency (A little Chinese story), by Lima Barreto

[My translation of the short story Eficiência militar (Historieta chinesa) by the Brazilian writer Lima Barreto, which was first published in the Careta newspaper in Rio de Janeiro in 1922]

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Li-hu Ang-Pô, the Regent of Canton, which was part of the Chinese Empire – “the Celestial Empire” or “the Middle Kingdom,” as it was called – had noticed that his army didn’t look at all warlike; nor had it demonstrated, in the most recent manoeuvres, any great military aptitude.

As everyone knows, during the ancient Chinese regime, the powers of the Regent of Canton were akin to those of an absolute monarch. He governed his province as a kingdom inherited from his parents, and his word was law.
The only restriction on his powers was the obligation to pay a hefty annual tax into the treasury of the Son of Heaven. The latter was comfortably ensconced amongst dozens of wives and hundreds of concubines in the mysterious imperial city of Peking but was invisible to the great masses of his people.
Having realised what a miserable state his army was in, Li-Hu Ang-Pô, the Regent of Canton, began to wonder what he should do to raise the morale of his army and make it more like… more like an army. As a result he doubled the soldiers’ rations of rice and dog meat; but this greatly increased the military expenditure of the kingdom; so, to mitigate that problem, it occurred to him – or rather, it was pointed out to him – that all he need do was double the taxes on fishermen, potters, and collectors of human manure (one of the main occupations in the labyrinthine city of Canton).

***

After a few months, he decided to test the success of the measures he’d introduced to enhance the pride, enthusiasm and martial vigour of his trusty soldiers. This took the form of general manoeuvres that would take place, when the cherry trees came into blossom in the spring, on the Plane of Chu-Wei-Hu – “Happy Days Plane” in our language. So, in due course, about fifty thousand Chinese soldiers, comprising infantry, cavalry and artillery, set up camp on the Plane of Chu-Wei-Hu under silk tents – silk being as common in China as canvas is here.

The commander-in-chief of that extraordinary army was General Fu-Shi-Tô, who’d begun his military career as a rickshaw-puller in Hong Kong. Indeed, he’d been so competent at that trade that the English governor had taken him for his own exclusive service.
The latter fact gave the General exceptional prestige amongst his countrymen because, although they generally detest foreigners – especially the English – they nevertheless respect the dreaded “red devils,” as they call the Europeans.
Having left the service of the British governor of Hong Kong, Fu-Shi-Tô could have no post in his own country other than general of the army of the Regent of Canton; and once appointed to that post, he immediately showed himself to be an innovator, making improvements both to troops and to ordnance – in recognition of which he was awarded the solid gold medal of the Imperial Order of the Dragon. It was he who replaced the cardboard cannons of the Cantonese army with those of Krupp, earning billions of taels in the process by way of commission, which he shared with the Regent. The French firm Canet wouldn’t have been so generous, which convinced him that Krupp’s cannons were better. So it’s clear that the ex-servant of the governor of Hong Kong knew a thing or two about artillery.

***

Li-Hua Ang-Pô’s army had been camping for over a month on Happy Days Plane, when the Regent decided to go and inspect the manoeuvres before conducting the final review.

Together with his retinue, which included his brilliant hairdresser Pi-Nu, he set off for the beautiful plane, fully expecting to see manoeuvres befitting a genuine Teutonic army. He was imagining glorious victories and how his profitable position as almost-king of the rich province of Canton would be secured for ever. With a powerful army at hand, no-one would dare to try and oust him.
When he arrived, he observed everything attentively and with curiosity. At his side, Fu-Shi-Tô explained strategies and tactics with a breadth of knowledge indicative of someone who had studied the Art of War between the shafts of a rickshaw.
But the Regent wasn’t happy. He’d noticed hesitancy and lack of élan in the troops, lack of speed and accuracy in the manoeuvres, and lack of obedience to the commander-in-chief and the officers; in short, instead of an army that should have been able to threaten the whole of China – should it wish to oust him from his comfortable and profitable position as Regent of Canton -, instead of all that, a decided lack of military efficiency. He pointed this out to the General, who responded thus:
“Your Most Excellent, Venerable, Powerful, Gracious and Celestial Highness is right; but those defects can easily be put right.”
“How?” asked the Regent.
“Simple! Our current uniforms are too similar to the German. We’ll make them more like the French, and that will fix everything.”
Li-Hu Ang-Pô pondered for a few moments, remembering that time he was in Berlin, the banquets the court dignitaries of Potsdam had laid on for him, the welcome he’d been given by the Kaiser and, above all, the taels he’d received via General Fu-Shi-Tô… It would be ingratitude on his part; but… He pondered a bit more until, finally, he barked out an order:
“Change the uniforms! Immediately!”

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR

(The following biographical details have been translated from the [now defunct] Casa Lima Barreto website.)

Afonso Henriques de Lima Barreto was born in Rio de Janeiro on 13 May 1881 and died in the same city on 1 November 1922. The son of a typographer at the National Printing Works and of a state-school teacher, he was of mixed race. He was taught at first by his own mother, who died when he was seven. Through the influence of his godfather, Viscount Ouro Preto, an imperial minister, he completed his studies at the Pedro II National School, from where he went, in 1897, to the Polytechnic with the intention of studying to be an engineer. He had to give up his course, however, in order to become the breadwinner at home, after his father – bursar at the Colony for the Insane on Governador Island – himself became mentally ill in 1902. In the same year he had his first work published in the student press. The family moved to the Rio de Janeiro suburb of Engenho de Dentro, where the future writer decided to take part in a public examination for a vacancy in the Ministry of War. He came second but, because the first-placed candidate withdrew, he was able to take up the post, which he did in 1903.

Because his salary was only small, the family moved to a modest house in the suburb of Todos os Santos in which, in 1904, he began the first version of his novel Clara dos Anjos (Clara of the Angels). In the following year he began his novel Recordações do escrivão Isaías Caminha (Memoirs of the Clerk Isaías Caminha), which was published in Lisbon in 1909. He also published a series of reports in the Correio da Manhã newspaper and commenced the novel Vida e morte de M. J. Gonzaga de Sá (Life and Death of M. J. Gonzaga de Sá), which was not published until 1919. He participated in the Fon-Fon magazine and in 1907, together with some friends, launched the Floreal magazine, which survived for only four numbers but attracted the attention of the literary critic José Veríssimo. During this period he devoted himself to reading, in the National Library, the great names of world literature, including the European realist writers of the period; he was one of the few Brazilian writers who became familiar with the works of the Russian novelists.

In 1910 he was a juryman in a trial that condemned some soldiers involved in a student’s murder, an incident that came to be called ‘The Spring of Blood’; as a result he was passed over when it came to any possibilities of promotion in the secretariat of war. In the space of three months, in 1911, he wrote the novel Triste fim de Policarpo Quaresma (The Sad End of Policarpo Quaresma), which was published in instalments in the Jornal do Comércio, for which he wrote, and also in the Gazeta da Tarde. In 1912 he published two instalments of the Aventuras do Dr. Bogoloff (The Adventures of Dr. Bogoloff), in addition to little humorous books, one of them printed in the O Riso magazine.

Although alcoholism was beginning take hold of him, it did not prevent him from continuing to work for the press and, in 1914, he commenced a series of daily feuilletons in the Correio da Noite. In 1915 the A Noite newspaper published his novel Numa e a ninfa (Numa and the Nymph) in instalments, and he began a long phase of work with the Careta magazine, writing political articles on various topics.  In the first months of 1916, the novel Triste fim de Policarpo Quaresma appeared as a book, together with some notable short stories such as ‘A Nova Califórnia’ (New California) and ‘O homem que sabia javanês’ (The Man who Spoke Javanese); these were warmly received by the critics, who saw Lima as a true successor to Machado de Assis. He began writing for the political weekly A.B.C. After being hospitalised in July 1917, he delivered to his editor, J. Ribeiro dos Santos, the manuscript of Os Bruzundangas (The Bruzundangans – Bruzundanga being Lima’s satirical name for Brazil), which was not published until a month after his death, in 1922.

He applied for a vacancy in the Brazilian Academy of Letters, but his application was not even considered. He published the second edition of Isaías Caminha and, subsequently, the novel Numa e a ninfa in book form. He started publishing articles and feuilletons in the alternative press of the period: A Lanterna, A.B.C. and Brás Cubas, which published an article of his showing sympathy for the revolutionary cause in Russia. After being diagnosed with toxic epilepsy, he was pensioned off in December 1918 and he moved to another house in the Rua Major Mascarenhas in Todos os Santos, where he lived until his death.

At the beginning of 1919 he ceased his collaboration with the A.B.C. weekly, because he took issue with an article it published criticising the blacks. He published the novel Vida e morte de M. J. Gonzaga de Sá, which was personally edited and sent for typing by the editor Monteiro Lobato; this was the only one of Lima’s books to receive such standard editorial care and for which he was well paid; it was also well advertised, being praised by both old and new literary critics, such as João Ribeiro and Alceu Amoroso Lima. At this time he applied once more for a vacancy at the Brazilian Academy of Letters; on this occasion his application was accepted, but he was not elected, although he received the permanent vote of João Ribeiro. Under the title of ‘As mágoas e sonhos do povo’ (The People’s Sufferings and Dreams), he started publishing, in the Hoje magazine, weekly feuilletons of so-called ‘urban folklore’ and he entered into a second phase of collaboration with Careta, which lasted until his death.

From December 1919 to January 1920 he was hospitalised in consequence of a nervous breakdown, an experience recounted in the first chapters of the memoir O cemitério dos vivos (The Cemetery of the Living), which was not published until 1953, when it was issued in a single volume together with his Diário íntimo (Intimate Diary). In December 1920 Gonzaga de Sá was short-listed for the literary prize of the Brazilian Academy of Letters for the best book of the previous year; it received an honourable mention. In the same month, the short-story book Histórias e sonhos (Stories and Dreams) was published, and the manuscript of Marginália (Odds and Ends), comprising articles and feuilletons already published in periodicals, was delivered to his friend, the editor F. Schettino; the manuscript was lost, however, and the book did not come to be published until 1953.

A section of O Cemitério dos vivos was published in January 1921 in the Revista Souza Cruz, under the title ‘As origens’ (The Origins); but the work remained incomplete.  In April of that year he went to the little town of Mirassol in the State of São Paulo, where a doctor friend of his, Ranulfo Prata, who was also a writer, tried to put him together again, but in vain. With his health badly undermined, he turned into a sort of recluse in his little house in Todos os Santos, where friends came to visit him and where his sister Evangelina looked after him devotedly. Whenever possible, however, he would embark on another walk through the city he loved, keeping reading, meditation and writing for home, despite the constant presence of his father’s madness, which got worse through a series of crises.

In July 1921 Lima applied for a vacancy in the Brazilian Academy of Letters for the third time, but he withdrew his application for ‘entirely personal and private reasons.’ He delivered the manuscript of Bagatelas (Trifles) to the publisher; this book was a collection of his principal journalistic work from 1918 to 1922, in which he analysed, with rare vision and clarity, the problems of the country and of the world after the 1st World War. However, Bagatelas was not published until 1923. In November 1921 he published, in the Revista Souza Cruz, the text of a speech ‘O destino da literatura’ (‘The Destiny of Literature’) that he had been due to make – but had not managed to do so – in the town of Rio Preto, near Mirassol. In December he began work on the second version of his novel Clara dos Anjos, which he finished the following January. The manuscript for Feiras e mafuás (One Thing and Another) was delivered for publication, which did not happen until 1953.

In May 1922 the magazine O Mundo Literário published the first chapter of Clara dos Anjos, ‘O carteiro’ (The Postman). His health was declining steadily as a result of rheumatism and alcoholism amongst other things, and Lima suffered heart failure and died on 1 November 1922. They found him holding the copy of the Revue des Deux Mondes – his favourite journal – which he had just been reading. Two days later, his father died. They were both buried in the São João Batista cemetery, in accordance with Lima’s wishes.

In 1953 a publisher issued some volumes of his unpublished works. But it was only in 1956, under the direction of Francisco de Assis Barbosa and with the collaboration of Antônio Houaiss and M. Cavalcanti Proença, that all his work  was published in 17 volumes; these comprised all the novels mentioned above and also the following titles that were not published during his life: Os bruzundangas, Feiras e mafuás, Impressões de leitura (Literary Impressions), Vida urbana (City Life), Coisas do reino de Jambon (A Report from the Kingdom of Jambon), Diário íntimo, Marginália, Bagatelas, O cemitério dos vivos and two further volumes containing all his correspondence – both letters sent and letters received. In the following decades Lima has been the subject of many studies, both in Brazil and abroad. His works, particularly his novels and short stories, have been translated into English, French, Russian, Spanish, Czech, Japanese and German.  He has been the subject of doctoral theses in the United States and Germany. To mark the centenary of his birth in 1981, conferences were held about him throughout Brazil, resulting in the publication of innumerable books, including essays, bibliographies and psychological studies of the author and his works. There is currently a growing interest in him among new Brazilian writers, who see him as a pioneer of the sociological novel. His literary production, which is vast in view of his early death, is gaining him – quite rightly – more and more distinction.

Translator’s note: In an obituary for Lima in the Jornal do Brasil on 5 November 1922 , Coelho Neto – who had given the oration at Machado’s funeral in 1908 – described him as:

one of the best novelists Brazil has had, who observed things with the power and precision of a microscope, and who wrote with magisterial assurance, describing ordinary life like no one else has done. Just as he was neglectful of himself, of his own life, so was Lima Barreto neglectful of the work he constructed, not seeking to correct its defects of language, presenting it just as it flowed from his pen, without the necessary revision, the indispensable polishing, the definitive final touch which a work of art needs. Despite everything, however, what has remained to us of this man is worth so much by way of observation of life and depiction of characters that the rough edges cannot destroy the beauty: sometimes they compromise it here and there but only in the same way that a wall with stains and cracks can affect the harmony of a fresco, but cannot negate the magnificence of the painting.

Despite the nit-picking, this might be considered gracious in view of the virulent criticisms made of Coelho Neto by Lima.

From Portuguese: THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS, by Machado de Assis

(My translation of the story O caminho de Damasco, which was originally published in the Jornal das Famílias in Rio de Janeiro in 1871.)

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I

THE THREE FRIENDS

It was two o’clock of an afternoon in June and it was a magnificent winter’s day – neither cold, nor rainy, nor sunny. That’s to say, the emperor star was still dominating the skies with his splendid rays but, on that particular day, his rays were soft and gentle. So, it wasn’t a sun for lizards to warm themselves by, but it was just the right sun for someone who was walking across Aclamação Square.

Ouvidor Street was just as busy as usual. There were people standing in front of the shops or sitting inside them; people walking down the street, people walking up; men, ladies and, once in a while, a horse-drawn carriage – all of which gave the principle road in Rio de Janeiro a bright and breezy look. Here and there, you could see a group of politicians exchanging news or ogling the ladies as they passed by, which, after all, is far more pleasurable than talking about the defence budget. As it happens, the minister of defence was speaking about that very thing in the House of Representatives at that very moment.There were also dandies – la jeunesse dorée –, who were discussing the latest goings on or the latest fashions. And amongst them, funnily enough, were some grey beards and even white beards. But if you were to ask those grey beards and white beards what they were doing there, they would no doubt have replied that youth has more to do with what’s inside than what’s out, and that ice can cover the mountain tops without descending to the plain. (And by “the plain” they mean “the heart.”)

Near Quitanda Lane, between the Garnier bookshop and the offices of the Jornal do Commercio, three elegant young men had been having a chat. One of them was just heading off downhill, another uphill and the third was about to get into a tilbury, which was standing there waiting for him. The first had black sideburns, the second a full beard, while the third just had an elegantly waxed, chestnut-brown moustache.

“So we’re agreed,” the sideburns called out to the others. “Ten o’clock at the door of the Alcazar Theatre.”

“Whoever arrives first will need to wait,” said the full beard.

“Yes,” said sideburns. “But let’s try not to be late.”

The moustache agreed, but asked for some laxity for himself. “I need to take care of the old lady.”

Sideburns shook his head impatiently.

“Really, Aguiar! I don’t know what to make of you. You’re a grown man, but you live like a nun!”

Full beard couldn’t help smiling: he was well aware of how little his friend resembled a nun. And he knew that sideburns was equally well informed about what Aguiar got up to.

Aguiar explained, as well as he could, the situation with the old lady, and the three of them promised to be at the door of the Alcazar at 10 o’clock that evening.

And just when Aguiar was about to say his final goodbye, a carriage drove out of Quitanda Lane into Ouvidor Street. It was pulled by a chestnut horse and driven by a youth dressed in white, whose expression of disdain for the pedestrians he passed would almost make you think that Cleopatra or Achilles must be inside the carriage; but one glance would disabuse you of such a notion: lolling on the seat of the carriage was a thin, blond girl, whose looks might have come from heaven, but whose dress and adornments were more reminiscent of purgatory.

The tears of sinners were crystallised in the refulgent jewellery that adorned her ears, her neck and her fingers. She was looking lazily at the passers-by to the left of the carriage, but without moving her head, and with such an aristocratic expression that one could understand both the arrogance of the coachman and the curiosity of the passers-by.

When she saw our three friends, she smiled and inclined her head slightly. Sideburns gestured something to her, to which she responded with a raised hand. All of it without the carriage stopping.

“Good – Candinha knows,” said sideburns. “We won’t have to send a note.”

And, after once more promissing to be there at ten, the three friends continued on their separate ways.

Of the three, it’s Aguiar who’s of most interest to us. He’s off in the tilbury, but it doesn’t matter: we’ll arrive in time to enter his house with him.

II

THE BLACK SPOT

At the time, Jorge Aguiar was 23 years old. The previous year he’d returned from São Paulo with a degree certificate in his pocket and a number of young ladies jostling in his heart. I could say he also brought some knowledge of the law in his head, that is, if I didn’t intend to be scrupulously historically accurate. The fact is, he’d learnt only the minimum necessary to scrape through the exams, and even that minimum had remained behind on the Cubatão Mountains, without him missing it at all. The young ladies in his heart had been carried as far as Guanabara Bay, but it’s certain they didn’t disembark with him. Anyway, they weren’t worth it: his affection for none of them had merited being brought back home.

He’d have had a hard time if he’d had to make his living from what he’d learnt at college. But even though some say fortune is blind, in his case it had the eyesight of a lynx and knew it would have to make some adjustments to his life if he wasn’t to come a cropper. Jorge’s family was sufficiently well-off to keep him in the style to which he was accustomed. So he could sleep soundly and awaken in peace.
But it wasn’t all roses for him. There was a black spot in his blue sky. A black spot that wasn’t his father, who had that sort of blind affection for him that would accept no ifs or buts. In that respect he was a sort of Dr Pangloss, seeing a good reason for each and every deviation of his son from the straight and narrow. Not only that, but he nursed a dream of seeing Aguiar become a government minister. For that, he said, it was necessary to allow him a few months of freedom; after which he’d rein him in and try and get him the first seat that became available in a provincial assembly.
Such were the thoughts and plans of old Silvestre Aguiar, whose own youth had not been exactly monastic.
No, the black spot was Jorge’s mother. Dona Joaquina was an austere and respectable lady, even though sharp-tongued, loud, despotic and possessed of unusual energy for a fifty-two-year-old. No-one in the Aguiar household could remember her ever having been quiet for a whole hour – other than when she slept, of course, which did provide some blessed relief for the rest of the family. But she slept very little, waking at five in the morning.
You wouldn’t need to be terribly perspicacious to notice that Dona Joaquina was the real boss of the house. Silvestre was one of those anything-for-a-quiet life husbands: he never got annoyed, impatient or bored; he was known to have had various affairs, but none of those ladies had displaced his affection for his “plump little pudding.”
“Nature,” he used to say, “includes raging rivers and placid streams. If we were all raging rivers, humanity would have no placid streams. It’s good to have both. Providence likes there to be a tranquil rivulet, like me, at the foot of a mighty waterfall like Joaquina. And that’s called ‘harmony’.”
I should point out that, when he married Dona Joaquina, Silvestre was aware neither of her garrulousness, nor of her impetuosity. But it’s possible that, at the time, those gifts of hers weren’t yet fully developed. Their romance had begun on the occasion of the coronation festivities. One of Silvestre’s relatives had given a dinner, at which the two families – his and Joaquina’s – had met. It was generally thought she’d never marry because she’d already had five or six suitors and had despatched each and every one with a decisiveness that gave a foretaste of her future modus vivendi. So it was quite a surprise when, three months later, after Silvestre had gone to ask her parents for her hand, she replied to them in the affirmative.
“They’ll be happy together,” said her mother. “The reason she refused all those offers of marriage must be that God has been keeping this one for her especially.”
And, indeed, they were happy, Silvestre’s character perfectly complementing that of his wife. Dona Joaquina would occasionally get annoyed with the passivity of her husband, and would have no hesitation in letting him know; but, as he didn’t offer any sort of resistance, she always ended up having – as he explained it to himself – to “forego the joys of battle.”
So, this was the Dona Joaquina who was the black spot in Jorge’s sky. He had to be home by 10 p.m. at the latest, despite Silvestre’s feeble attempts to support his son’s cause. This he’d do by remarking that the lad couldn’t be expected to live the life of a nun; and that word “nun” – so insignificant in the mouth of anyone else – would then, in Dona Joaquina’s, give material for a lecture running to ten fullscap pages. Her husband would resort to silence, and 10 p.m. at the latest it was.
For a long time, Jorge followed his mother’s orders, but his friends helped to pervert his upright and chaste character; with the result that one night he arrived home at 11. His mother was still up and came to open the door for him in person.
“Oh! Mummy!” he exclaimed in shock.
Dona Joaquina said nothing. She closed the door and ascended the stairs quietly in front of him. It was the only occasion she hadn’t used her mouth to deal with a problem, and her reaction was all the more sublime on that account.
From then on, Jorge was scared of disobeying his mother; but, as strolls and visits to the theatre and to parties didn’t really fit with such obedience, the young man eventually got a key made for himself, which gave him ample opportunities to take wing.
In addition he managed to conjure up lots of invitations to dinner parties and dances, which the good lady didn’t object to.
And in these ways, and various others, our Jorge Aguiar managed to evade the vigilance and the orders of his mother. The one who wasn’t fooled was his father, who frequently saw him slipping out and guessed the real reason for all those invites; but good old Silvestre applauded his son’s craftiness, thinking it augured well for a career in politics.

III

CLARINHA

When Jorge Aguiar arrived home, Dona Joaquina was giving her final orders in respect of a large quantity of coconut cakes and checking on the task she’d given to two young seamstresses that morning. Silvestre was playing backgammon with Fr Barroso, and Clarinha was playing some German variations on the piano.

This Clarinha, who’s suddenly appeared in this story unannounced, was a niece of Dona Joaquina, and thus a cousin of Jorge. She’d lost here mother while still a child; and her father had become infatuated, two years before, with an Italian woman who’d arrived in Rio on the dubious pretext of being a singer; so he’d hitched his star to the lady of his dreams and was now accompanying her around Italy. Thus, to all intents and purposes, Clarinha had lost both her parents. But Dona Joaquina treated her just as if she were her own daughter.
The young woman was extraordinarily beautiful, which was only enhanced by her air of deep melancholy – a melancholy that was understandable, given that, having been born into a well-off family, she’d seen her father squander his inherited wealth and had lost her mother at an age when she most needed her; and then to be completely abandoned by her father and obliged to depend on the goodwill of her aunt and uncle. Consequently it was no surprise that she didn’t often laugh.
However, she overcame the slings and arrows of her outrageous fate by learning to work with a docility which her aunt found enchanting. Dona Joaquina used to say her neice had inherited her own competence in the art of home management. Indeed, it would have been difficult to find another young woman – Clarinha was 18 at the time – possessed of such gravity, prudence, energy and orderliness. She spent such spare time as she had in studying music and French, because she was hoping to become a teacher eventually and to be able to make her own way in the world.
Whilst admiring her niece’s prudence, Dona Joaquina sought to allay the fears that gave rise to it by assuring her that, for as long as she was alive – and even afterwards – Clarinha would want for nothing. In addition, she was young, and it wouldn’t be long before marriage would provide her with absolute security.
“Marriage?” said Clarinha, sadly. “That’s not for me.”
“Why not?”
“Who’d want to marry me?”
“Any young man who’s not an idiot, Clarinha. You think it’s easy to find a wife like you?”
Clarinha shook her head and said nothing.
Indeed, her behaviour confirmed a predisposition to spinsterhood. She seemed indifferent to men, she didn’t beautify herself before going to balls, she didn’t dance at them, she didn’t linger by the window, and she was perfectly deaf to the admiration that her beauty elicited. She usually wore dark clothes because she was drawn to their melancholy colours; her manners were modest and reserved; she didn’t talk much and, as I said, she laughed even less.
So, at the request of Fr Barroso, she was playing the piano in the lounge. The priest was crazy about music and, with the insouciance of a born backgammon player, was wont to remark that music would take the edge off Aguiar’s defeats. It certainly was the case that the host rarely overcame his guest.
“A two and a one,” said Commander Aguiar as he threw the dice and tapped one of the priest’s boards.
“No chance!” replied the priest as he shook the dice.
“Now you’ll see what it’s all about! I need double four.”
“Stop gabbing and throw!”
The priest threw the dice.
“Double four!”
Silvestre Aguiar scratched his nose, while the implacable priest, having beaten his opponent twice, blew his nose noisily into a red handkerchief.
“It’s no good without snuff,” he muttered.
“Hasn’t the boy come back yet?” said Aguiar. “It was careless of me. I should have bought some yesterday.”
Clarinha stopped playing and was just about to go and check whether the boy had returned when her uncle told her there was no need.
At that moment, Jorge entered the lounge. He kissed his father’s hand, shook hands with Fr Barroso and went to greet his cousin.
“You know what?” the priest whispered to the commander. “Why don’t the two of them get married?”
“I wouldn’t get in their way, if they wanted,” Silvestre replied. “But it’s up to them. I don’t think they’re courting. And anyway, the lad hasn’t quite left the folly of youth behind yet.”
“Forgive me for saying so,” said the priest, “but he’s heading for trouble like this. Youthful habits are rarely left behind. You need to rein him in before it’s too late.”
“I was no different myself at his age,” said Silvestre, “but nowadays I’m second to none when it comes to behaviour. Leave him be. He’ll follow the same path as his father.”
Jorge exchanged a few words with his cousin before heading to his room, leaving her to continue playing the piano, and the two old gentlemen to finish their game.
But then a new character appeared upon the scene: Dr Marques – forty-four years old, ruddy-faced, energetic, with greying hair and beard. He was the family’s doctor and had known the commander since they were boys. Indeed, they were the closest of friends. He and the priest were the most regular guests in the house.
“Just the person!” said the priest. “Have you got the box?”
“Of course,” said the doctor, after going to shake hands with Clarinha.
“Thanks be to God! Let’s have a pinch then.”
“Two!” Silvestre corrected him. “Two pinches! The attack has to come from both port and starboard.”
The two backgammon players wiped their fingers before each taking a generous pinch from the doctor’s bag. The priest inserted his in both nostrils, after which he used his handkerchief to brush off the dust that had fallen on his shirt. For his part, the commander pressed down his right nostril with his thumb before introducing the whole pinch into his left.
Dr Marques left them to carry on with the backgammon and went over to the piano, just as Clarinha was about to get up and leave the room.
“Don’t you want to play any more?” he asked.
“I need to do something,” she whispered, without looking up.
Dr Marques gave a quick glance at the two backgammon players. Seeing they were concentrating on the dice, he whispered in her ear:
“And your reply?”
“Let me go…”

She walked rapidly to the door and disappeared, leaving Marques standing awkwardly by the piano – as the reader will certainly imagine. Meanwhile Fr Barroso threw the dice before exclaiming happily:

“Poor you, Commander! Poor you!”

IV

A PIECE OF ADVICE

Dr Marques went to look for Jorge and found him in the study, sitting in the sofa and reading a novel by Feydou. He shut the door and pulled up a chair. Without changing his position, Jorge closed the book, using a bill from his tailor as a bookmark.

“Any news?” he asked.
“No,” came the reply. “And that’s the worst of it.”
“How come?”
“I asked her for her reply just now, but she didn’t say anything; and the way she left the room has left me with no hope. I think your advice about writing the letter wasn’t so good.”
“Nonsense! It was perfectly good advice: a letter doesn’t prove anything about her not liking you. It could still turn out fine. Let me tell you something.”
“What?”
“Don’t get disheartened. My cousin will have to yield because she won’t find a better husband than you… You’ll make her happy. The only reason she didn’t reply is because she’s so shy. She’s worried it might be taken amiss. Look, why don’t you have a word with my mother?”
“Your mother?”
“Yes. Clarinha has great respect for her; I’m sure it’s the thing to do. Go and speak to her. That should do the trick.”
Dr Marques stood up, took a pinch of snuff, walked to the mirror, patted his whiskers and returned to his seat by the sofa.
“Are you sure she hasn’t got another suitor?”
“Well, I can’t be absolutely sure, but nothing suggests she has. Clarinha’s a very private person; she spends her time looking after the house. So, I can’t see inside her head, but I haven’t heard anything… Take my advice: speak to my mother.”
“Fair enough!” said Marques. “I will.”
As can be seen, the family doctor was in love with Silvestre Aguiar’s niece. I don’t want to make out that this was one of those fiery, unbridled passions of youngsters, nor one of those mellow, latter-day loves of maturity. Rather, it was a mild, temperate and considered affection. Dr Marques had never married; everything suggested permanent bachelorhood, and so it would have been until the day he died, if Clarinha’s qualities – her industry and her innocent and grave demeanour – had not impressed themselves on him so far as to awaken the idea of marriage.
The prospect of staid family life began to seduce him. And reason soon backed up the idea, comparing a solitary old age with an old age made easier by the care of a worthy and solicitous wife. Clarinha seemed to have all the necessary qualities to be his companion, and he’d confided in his friend Jorge. In turn, Jorge had recommended an epistolary approach, and – with the docility of an obedient dog – Dr Marques had duly plucked up the courage to write a letter to the young lady.
And that’s the letter they’d been talking about. We already know that the young lady not only had not responded, but had even, apparently, fled from her suitor. This could have been because she was in love with someone else, as he’d suggested to Jorge, or it could simply have been the result of her timidity, accustomed as she was to comply with the rigid doctrines of Dona Joaquina. In the opinion of that good lady, a bride should only get to know the groom on the day of her marriage.
“And that’s more than enough,” she used to say.
It’s certainly the case that old Aguiar’s wife no longer remembered their wedding day, not to speak of their courtship. But that’s only natural: people have ideas appropriate to their age; fifty-year-olds don’t have much sympathy for the folly of twenty-year-olds, and the latter find the austerity of fifty-year-olds distinctly odd.
Clarinha, however, was happy to be guided by the ideas of her aunt, and it’s quite possible that her reserve was simply the result of that influence.
What’s certain is that Marques had made no progress when Jorge suggested going to speak with his mother, a suggestion which the doctor accepted and resolved to put into practice the following day.
It should not be thought, however, that Jorge’s advice originated in sympathy for his friend’s cause. In fact he was completely indifferent who his cousin might marry. He would have given the same advice to any man who’d asked for it. The principal concern of the commander’s son was to be completely free to enjoy life as he wished, without the need to worry about anything. The lady who’d passed by when he was talking with his friends in Ouvidor Street was – hard as it is to say – more important to him than his cousin. In a nutshell, he was well advanced in the career of a libertine.
As soon as the doctor had left the study, Jorge resumed his reading. Shortly after that, he was called to dinner. He dined, he dozed a little, later on he pretended to be having a cup of tea and, at half past ten, when his mother thought the whole house was reposing in the lap of her virtuous doctrines, our Jorge opened the door and hurried eagerly towards pleasure.

V

HOW A LAD IS LOST

I  think the reader can do without a description of the party at which Jorge was the life and soul. It was one of the most magnificent suppers there had ever been in the hotels of Rio. And it finished when dawn was sweeping the darkness from the sky, and the sweepers were sweeping the streets.

Jorge had rather overdone it with the wine, as a consequence of which his mind was a little dulled. Fortunately no-one saw him enter the house, where he slept until midday, having ordered the servant – who was privy to his adventures – to tell the old lady he had been unwell in the night. The good woman was greatly alarmed when she was told, but nevertheless she ordered that he should not be woken up – exactly as her son wanted.
Jorge’s adventures were legion. He’d completed his education so successfully that he’d acquired the reputation of being one of the greatest madcaps in the whole of Rio. As a result, there was hardly a banquet, an outing or some hare-brained scheme in which he wasn’t a conspicuous participant.
His father was giving him a generous allowance, and Jorje didn’t tarry in squandering it. Although he used it, at first, for his necessities, it wasn’t long before his allowance became much less than his expenditure; and when such a situation arises, either in the finances of an individual or in those of a country, the result is a thing called “a deficit.” Finding himself in possession of such a thing, Jorje was faced with two choices: work or credit. The latter had the great advantage of dispensing with the former. So, Jorge addressed the problem partly by leaving some of his debts open and partly by having recourse to lenders.
He did this without losing either his glittering social position or the disinterested affections of some of the young ladies of that time. These affections generally showed themselves in the form of a mad, headlong passion. And during two or three weeks they’d conjure up for him visions of a heavenly, romantic life, filled with the purest and most devoted love. They wouldn’t hesitate to sacrifice, for his sake, all and every suitor, past or present. Jorge was in seventh heaven. Although, in theory, he didn’t believe in love, whether in relation to these young ladies or to anyone else, in practice he was flattered by the attentions of such frivolous and giddy butterflies.
His self-satisfaction, however, tended to be dented somewhat, round about the end of the second or third week, when the butterfly would send the object of her attentions a bill for some present he’d bought her, or a simple request for repayment of a loan. So Jorge’s illusions proved costly.
And there were other outgoings. In the society in which he occupied such a prominent position, there was a certain class of men whose communist ideals had only one defect: they related to other people’s pockets. Jorge’s pocket – ever available and ever generous – was one of that number. Not only that, but the commander’s son had his pride and would have been mortified to have been called a cheapskate.
The real person who suffered all those setbacks was his father, who paid for his son’s frivolities, including his bills and debts. After a few months, the Commander came to the conclusion that Jorge’s apprenticeship was proving rather costly. So he decided it was time for it to end.
After all, he thought, he must be bored with bachelor life by now and ready to turn to more serious things. It’s very wrong to try and engage young men in serious things before they’ve become bored with frivolities. A man who doesn’t make mistakes in his youth, makes them in his old age. So, let’s sort it out.
But it was too late.
Jorge was thoroughly entrenched in his bad habits; he’d gone further in that direction than many others in a lifetime. He was no longer open to reason. Silvestre tried gentle persuasion, but to no avail. And when he tried more robust methods, the resistance he encountered made him realise how bad the situation was – the situation he himself had created.
Dona Joaquina didn’t let the opportunity pass of justifiably pointing out to her husband, in the strongest possible terms, the error of his ways. The boy wouldn’t obey her any more, which she blamed on Silvestre’s complacency when their son first set out on the wrong road. I could give a verbatim transcript of the speech in which Dona Joaquina described the situation to her crestallen and shamefaced husband; but I won’t, if you don’t mind, because she didn’t stop until she ran out of breath.

VI

THE WEDDING

During those months in which Jorge gave free rein to his every whim, Dr Marques had advanced his cause vis-à-vis Clarinha, albeit only a little. After hesitating for two months, he’d plucked up the courage to reveal his feelings to the young lady’s aunt. The latter responded favourably, imposing just one condition: that her niece should love him.

“Ah! Senhora,” said Marques, “I can’t guarantee anything in that regard. I don’t know whether she loves me or not. Donna Clarinha is so shy that there’s no way of knowing…”
“Fair enough,” replied Donna Joaquinha. “I’ll make it my job to find out. But the reason I imposed that condition is that I know Clarinha very well; I know she’s a very sensible girl who is perfectly able to choose her own husband. Were it otherwise, it would be down to me to find her a fiancé.”

***

Donna Joaquina was as good as her word. She asked Clarinha if she’d ever thought of marriage.
“Marrying? Me?”
“Yes, you.”
“No, I’ve never thought about it.”
Clarinha’s tone was cold and indifferent; nevertheless, it seemed to her aunt that the idea had saddened her.
Perhaps she’s already in love with him, she thought.
There followed some moments of silence.
“Did you know that a man has expressed a desire to marry you?” asked Aguiar’s wife in the end.
Clarinha’s eyes opened wide. “To marry me?”
“Yes, you.”
“You’re pulling my leg, Auntie.”
“Why would I do that? Don’t you deserve to have a husband?”
Clarinha didn’t reply.
“And that man is a good acquaintance of ours.”
“Ah!”
“So you’ve noticed?”
Clarinha laid her hand on her heart.
“No,” she murmured.
“Can you guess who it is?”
“No, I’ve no idea.”
“It’s Dr Marques.”
Clarinha went pale. The dear old lady kept her eyes on her face, trying to read her feelings. But – truth be told – Donna Joaquina didn’t know how to read physiognomies. Whatever the cause of the commotion in Clarinha’s face, her aunt decided it was a good omen for the doctor.
She loves him, she thought. There’s no doubt. Everything’s settled.
It took Clarinha ten minutes to recover her voice.
“You know what’s best for me, Auntie. I’ll do as you wish.”
“What I wish!” exclaimed Donna Joaquina. “No, no!
Nothing of the kind! This is just a discussion.”
“Dr Marques is an excellent man,” said Clarinha.
“And will be an excellent husband?” asked a smiling Donna Joaquina by way of conclusion.
Clarinha didn’t reply, which the Commander’s wife took for agreement. Consequently she lost no time in letting the doctor know the result of her mission.

***

As soon as Clarinha was alone, she ran to her room and burst into tears – silent, stifled tears, so that no-one would hear or even suspect. Then she took a portrait from a draw, gazed at it for a long time and kissed it over and over again. When she reappeared in the sitting room, there was no sign that’s she’d been crying. She just looked sad but, as that was her natural state, no-one sought to know why.

***

When Marques heard how Donna Joaquina had got on, he couldn’t contain his joy.

“But,” said Aguiar’s wife, “I think it would be a good idea for you to hear it from Clarinha’s own lips, because I was only reading her face.”
Marques lost no time to personally sound out Clarinha’s heart. He was an honest man and would have hated to think of her marrying him against her will.
The result of this new attempt was more satisfactory than the result of the first. Although the young lady didn’t exactly confess her love in the words of a passionate heart, she did speak very affectionately to the doctor. So Donna Joaquina set about arranging the wedding.
Silvestre Aguiar’s participation in that process amounted to suggesting that his niece’s wedding should take place within a month and a half. His agreement to the wedding itself had been requested as a mere formality, because Donna Joaquina’s decision was perfectly sufficient in that respect. And, in any case, Aguiar had no objections at all; on the contrary, he was all in favour.
“I always said the doctor was a crafty old so-and-so,” he observed. “The way in which he’s stolen the young lady from us is proof perfect.”
However, Fr. Barroso, who was considered one of the family, was not so happy when it was his turn to be approached for approval.
“I’ve nothing against it,” he said, “but… does Clarinha love him?”
“No question!” said Dona Joaquina.
The priest looked at the commander’s niece; the satisfaction he saw in her face was so pronounced that he did no more than shrug his shoulders and congratulate her and her aunt and uncle.
But that afternoon, finding himself alone with the young lady, he asked her:
“What’s this all about, Clarinha? What about your love for…?”
“It died,” she replied sadly. “It was a hopeless love – the sort of love that kills you if it doesn’t die. It probably would have been better if it had killed me; but God just wanted it to die. I’m not complaining; I’m resigned to my fate.”
The priest shook his head.
“No, Clarinha. Your love didn’t die: you still feel it, and that’s bad, my daughter; it’s wrong to be marrying one man when you love another…”
“Oh, no!” said Clarinha. “No! I assure you it died; and even if it hasn’t yet, I swear that it will.”
“You swear! My poor child! Do you know what you’re saying?”
Two tears appeared in her eyes. The priest saw them and embraced her.
“Never!” she said. “What would be the point of being married to a man who doesn’t love me, who can’t love me?”
“Yes,” the priest murmured sadly, “Jorge is on the road to ruin.”
“I’ll be marrying an honest man,” Clarinha continued. “It’s true I don’t love him; but I do have some affection and respect for him; you might even say I’m happy – as happy as a wretched person can be. But please don’t mention any of this; it would only cause trouble for all of us.”
Barroso hugged her again.
“You’re a good soul, Clarinha, and you deserve to be happy. This is all your father’s fault. If he hadn’t abandoned you, you would probably never have fallen in love with your cousin; it all came from living in the same house. Your father…”
“Forgive him,” she answered. “My father has a bad head but a good heart. Come now! Promise me you won’t try to stop this marriage.”
“If that’s your wish, I promise.”
She kissed his hand. “Thank you.”
And it was good old Fr Barroso who celebrated the marriage, and who was trembling when he had to say the sacred words. When the ceremony was over, he whispered – with a tear in his eye – to the groom:
“Make her happy. She deserves it.”
Jorge attended the wedding. He complimented the bride rather nonchalantly, made a few off-colour jokes to some of his male friends, and left to spend the night in the Alcazar.

***

Now we leap forward about eleven months. All the main characters in this story are still alive. The commander still plays backgammon with the priest; Donna Joaquina’s loquacity has diminished somewhat with the passage of time; and, as for Jorge, he’s making the most of the debauched reputation he’s gained at his father’s expense. Silvestre has tried everything he could think of to drag his son back from the benighted path on which he himself unwittingly set him, but in vain; the die’s been cast.

Aguiar had achieved something, however: he’d arranged a civil-service job for his son, to see if he’d get the habit of work. But Jorge saw it principally as a source of income and spent as few hours on it as he could. He clocked in at 9 a.m., which was, in itself, quite an effort, and left the office at 11 a.m. On many occasions he didn’t go into work at all, so that the state wouldn’t get into the habit of expecting him. But he always went in on the first day of the month, which was pay day.
Meanwhile, Marques was happy; his wife was all he could have dreamt of: homely, affectionate, devoted and respectful. For her part, Clarinha wasn’t happy, but it could have been worse. Her husband was an honest man, who lived for her and tried as hard as he could to make her happy. And it pained him to see the melancholy look in her face; but she assured him it was just her nature.
“I’ve always been like this. It’s just how I am. You’ve never known me any different, have you?”
“That’s true,” the doctor replied, “but if only I could find a way…”
“I’m happy, I really am,” she said, smiling sadly.

***

One night, Commander Aguiar, who rarely, if ever, went to the theatre and had very old fashioned ideas on the subject, decided to go to see a play by Ginásio. His wife didn’t accompany him; she hated the theatre.

Having bought his ticket, he entered the auditorium. At the end of the first act, he went out to the vestibule, where he came across a friend.
“Fancy seeing you here!” said the friend.
“Yes, I know,” said Aguiar. “But, just like anyone else, I do like to see new things once in a while. And you?”
“I still haven’t retired… Where are you sitting?”
“In the gallery.”
“Come to my box.”
So Aguiar went to his friend’s box, which was at the second level.
The curtain was raised, and the second act began. Half way through, the door of the next box opened, and a woman entered. From the extravagance of her dress and her manners, it was clear she was a lady of fashion. All eyes, all binoculars and all eyeglasses turned in her direction and, for five minutes, the action wasn’t on the stage but in the auditorium. And although the anonymous lady had the air of an ingénue, she wasn’t: she’d elicited exactly the effect she wanted.
Like everyone else, Silvestre turned to look at her. And shortly afterwards a young man followed her into the box – an elegant, red-faced young man who was a little unsteady on his feet.
It was only with difficulty that Aguiar managed to keep quiet: it was Jorge.
Shaking with anger, Silvestre stood up and glared at his son. But Jorge didn’t notice; instead he scanned the opposite boxes before sitting down on the far side of the your lady, which was about all he could do for the sake of decorum.
The commander stayed on his feet, still glaring at his son. It was not until after Jorge had looked through his binoculars at the stage and then at some of the boxes on the other side, and until after he’d stretched himself lazily on his chair, that he noticed his father.
He froze.
Silvestre continued to glare at him. Jorge diverted his eyes twice, only to return them – twice – to his father. Finally he stood up, picked up his hat and left.
Aguiar didn’t wait for the play to finish.
He returned home and asked if his son had arrived; he was told that he had. He ordered that Jorge be summoned, and the latter was not tardy in arriving; on entering his father’s study, he flung himself at his feet.
The commander gave him a thorough dressing-down, with the conclusion that, if he didn’t mend his ways, he’d be thrown out of the house.
Jorge returned to his room, embarrassed and annoyed – but still not repentant. What extraordinarily bad luck to have met his father in the theatre, given that his father almost never went! He imagined some ill-wisher must have been behind it. He ran various plans through his head before falling into a deep sleep, from which he didn’t wake until breakfast-time.
Old Aguiar told the priest what had happened in the theatre and asked for advice what to do if his son didn’t mend his ways. After a few moments thought, Fr Barroso replied:
“I don’t know what to say. Maybe it would be best to wait and see if he does mend his ways… Would you like me to speak to him?”
“Yes please.”
“But it’s your own fault, Commander. Spare the rod, spoil the child. How many times did I tell you it was a bad idea to let him run wild like that? And this is the result.”
So Fr Barroso sent an invitation to Jorge to come to the presbytery – an invitation that caused the young man some alarm. What might the priest want to talk about? But, deep down, he knew.
His first instinct was to ignore the invitation but, eventually, he went. The priest was awaiting him impatiently.
The presbytery was a modest building, modestly furnished. The priest was sitting in a high-backed leather chair in front of a writing desk and was engrossed in a large book. He didn’t move when the commander’s son was shown into the room by the servant. After a few moments, he gestured for the servant to leave and continued reading until he got to the bottom of the page. Then he closed the book and invited the young man to take a seat in front of him.
“Jorge,” he asked, “how long are you intending to continue with this sort of life?”
As the priest expected, there was no answer. So he continued:
“Your father had such hopes for you! He did his utmost to get you a good job and a position in society. And you’ve squandered it all for the life of a libertine. By the time your father realised how bad it had got, it was almost too late. But he never expected to see what he saw last night. Imagine – if you can – the shame and the pain that it caused him.”
The priest fell silent again before continuing:
“There’s still time; everything’s not lost. You can save yourself; you must save yourself.”
“Fr Barroso,” said Jorge, “I don’t deny my life’s been a bit free and easy, but I haven’t done anything so completely out of the ordinary.”
“And well do I know it,” replied the priest. “You’ve been doing the ordinary things of this world. And some of the ordinary things of this world are among the very worst things…”
“But I don’t do anything that needs to be changed…”
The priest made a gesture of impatience.
“And what about the scandal yesterday evening?”
“What happened yesterday was just a coincidence.”
“An honest man wouldn’t expose himself to such a coincidence.”
Jorge frowned.
“Oh! Forgive me for being taken aback! I’m old, I’m simple, and I’m a priest; but I have the right to tell you the truth: you’re an idiot. That’s the least I can say to you.”
The priest had raised his voice, and his anger was more than evident. Despite himself, Jorge felt cowed by the authority of that good, old man. He said nothing, but Fr Barroso insisted he promise to devote himself to his career and overcome his bad habits.
Jorge thought for a while before replying, “Alright, I promise to turn over a new leaf.”
“And you really mean it?”
The young man hesitated again before saying, “Yes.”
He didn’t really mean it, but the reverend father was an honest man who preferred to believe in the honesty of others.
“Glad to hear it. Turn over a new leaf, Jorge; it will only do you good, you’ll see. Just think how happy it will make your parents! When I think…”
The old man sighed.
“When you think?” said Jorge.
“When I think,” Fr Barroso continued, “that today you could have been a happy man alongside a happy wife… a woman who loved you…”
“Which woman?” asked Jorge. “Who was she?”
The priest was just about to say, when he suddenly remembered how inappropriate that would be, given that Clarinha was now married. So he said nothing.
“Which woman?” Jorge repeated.
Without replying, the old man stood up.
Jorge stared at him, trying as hard as he could to think who it could be. But he couldn’t think of anyone, so he asked yet again, “Which woman?”
“What’s the point?” said the old priest. “The benefits she would have brought you are no longer available…”
“No longer?”
“That’s right: no longer.”
“Why? …”
“Because… Because she’s dead.”
Jorge couldn’t believe what the priest had just said.
“But if she’s dead, what harm is there in telling me her name? … Hold on! … Are you trying to tell me… It’s Clarinha, isn’t it?!”
The priest shook his head.
I’m right, Jorge thought. It’s her.
“It doesn’t matter,” said Fr Barroso. “The past is the past. You’ve promised to turn over a new leaf; are you prepared to do that?”
Jorge at least felt sufficiently constrained as to avoid repeating a promise he had no intention of keeping; instead he proferred his hand, as if in response to the question.
“May God be your guide,” said the priest. “It was I who baptised you; don’t let me die knowing I couldn’t save, for a second time, a soul entrusted to my care.”
Having summoned up an appearance of humility in response to those heartfelt words, Jorge took his leave as soon as he could.

VII

PITCHED BATTLE

The austere old priest was wrong: Jorge hadn’t left as a changed man; all the advice and all the promises had evaporated from his mind. Of all that Fr Barroso had said, the only thing that remained with him was the thought of Clarinha’s love.

If he’d been told back then, he’d almost certainly have shrugged and gone to tell his closest friends about it. Being loved by her was one thing, but marriage would have meant less freedom and serious obligations, things that were anathema to his way of thinking. But now the situation was different; the idea that a married lady was in love with him when she was single opened his eyes to new hopes and possibilities.
It’s true, he thought to himself, it’s all getting a bit tedious. It will be good to take a break; I can get back into the swing of things afterwards. An affair would be something new. Clarinha used to love me; who knows if she won’t love me again?
Jorge spent the whole night entertaining himself with these and similar thoughts. A passionate affair with his cousin would have the advantage of making it look as if he really had turned over a new leaf, as he’d necessarily have to devote to it the time that he’d otherwise devote to painting the town red.
It was with these ideas that he awoke the following day. His father still looked like thunder; so, to start creating the illusion he planned, he stayed at home that day. He took himself off to his study, where his mother found him reading. And from that day forward he adopted a way of life that completely fooled both his family and Fr Barroso. So much so, that Silvestre recovered the cheerfulness that his visit to the theatre had caused him to lose; and the priest – delighted to see the change in the young man – readily forgave all his previous stupidity. Happiness was flowering once more at home.

***

Up until that point, whenever Clarinha went to visit her aunt and uncle, her cousin hadn’t been home, which had been a great relief to her. After the apparent change in Jorge’s habits, however, not only did she find him at home, but he seemed to have a much better relationship with his parents. Whereas, before, they preferred not to talk about him, now they were overflowing with joy at the return of the prodigal son. Marques expressed his amazement to Jorge at the sudden change.

“Well,” said Jorge, “it’s simply that I’ve turned over a new leaf.”
“Really?”
“Really.”
Marques was delighted at this unexpected turn of events – unlike Clarinha, who saw Jorge’s presence as an obstacle to her relationship with her aunt and uncle; not because she still loved him, nor because she was afraid for herself, but because he’d be a constant reminder of a recent past.
Jorge had acquired skills of dissimulation beyond his years. He treated his cousin with no more than routine affability and didn’t let slip the slightest sign that he knew she used to love him.
He did notice, however, her reserve towards him, and the awkwardness his presence caused her – those vague signs that she really had been in love with him before she married the doctor.
Very well, Doctor! Jorge said to himself. You’ve got a new and more difficult campaign in front of you. Before it was just skirmishes. Now I’m challenging you to pitched battle: winner takes all!
He began to frequent the doctor’s house; at first, Clarinha didn’t appear; but, one day, her astute cousin invited himself for dinner. The young woman had to make her appearance. She managed to remain reserved, but it was difficult when faced with Jorge’s respectful manners and affectionate language. The sinner appeared to have undergone a Damascene conversion.
In addition, Clarinha’s innocence and naivety led her to a dangerous conclusion: that to continue to steer clear of her cousin would be a proof of weakness and unjustifiable fear; and that it would be more appropriate to her married state if she faced up to him. Avoiding him would be like acknowledging he still had some power over her, whereas she now knew he didn’t.
So it was not long before their old intimacy was re-established, even though – as in the past – an intimacy that was no more than superficial. Jorge deluded himself into thinking she was in love with him again. Even so, he’d wait for her to make the first move; to do so himself would be too risky.
Let the enemy get tired, he thought. A good tactic. Worthy of a general!
And with that thought he let the days pass without breaking his self-imposed silence.
He noticed how attentive and affectionate the young woman was to her husband, and the peace that reigned between them – so much so that he began to envy Marques. It might be said it was only then that a window of redemption, however small, began to open up for him. The sight of the others’ happiness invited him to seek his own happiness, but he was convinced his happiness lay only in his cousin, and she was lost for him.
One morning, between puffing on his cigar and drinking his coffee, his train of thought ran as follows:
What am I doing? It can’t go on like this. I need to do something. The poor girl must think I’m a terrible lover.
So, later that day, while sitting talking to his cousin, he came straight out with a declaration of love.
Furious, Clarinha immediately stood up, responding to what he’d said with chilly silence before leaving him alone in the room.
But the young man was not to be rebutted so easily. He ceased his visits for a few days; and when he did return it was together with his mother and father, so that Clarinha could hardly fail to appear. Jorge calculated, correctly, that she wouldn’t have confided in her husband about what had happened.
Good! he thought. All is not lost.
In time, the situation returned more or less to what it had been before.
One day he wrote a letter to Clarinha, left it on the piano while she was playing, and promptly headed for the door. She called him back. He turned and said, “You need to open it.” She didn’t. Instead, when he approached, she returned it to him unopened.
“Cousin,” she said. “You might at least acknowledge the kindness I’ve shown you as a relative. Because it is kindness, to have heard your insulting words and not to have conveyed them to my husband. If there’s one thing you could do to make up for it, it would be to forget I exist and never return to my house.
“But why such cruelty?” said Jorge, trying to give his voice a tone of misery and despair.
Clarinha didn’t reply.
“And yet,” said Jorge, “once upon a time…”
The young woman looked at him in astonishment.
“Once upon a time you were head over heels in love with me.”
Clarinha went pale.
“That’s nonsense. I always treated you with respect, but… My husband’s coming! Try repeating to him what you’ve just said to me.”
Indeed, she’d heard his footsteps in the corridor, and he was just entering the room. She’d raised her voice for the final words, in the hope of resolving things with a short, sharp shock; but Marques hadn’t heard; he approached and shook Jorge warmly by the hand.
For the next three days, the latter refrained from visiting; on the fourth day, he entered the room with the intimacy of a family member – an intimacy that Marques was only too happy to encourage between the two families.
On this occasion, Marques was sitting on the sofa and Clarinha was sitting in front of him on a stool; she was looking at him with such affection and respect that the young man felt forced to avert his eyes. It was the first time the serpent of jealousy had bitten his heart.
“Come in!” said the doctor, noticing how Jorge had hesitated at the door. “Don’t be alarmed! We’re just two happy creatures, and that’s partly thanks to you.”
Clarinha looked at her husband.
“That’s a surprise for you, isn’t it?” Marques said to his wife. “It was Jorge who encouraged me when I didn’t dare do more than admire you in silence. The idea of writing that first letter, to which you didn’t reply, was his.”
“Ah!” she said, before extending her hand to her cousin and adding, “Thank you!”
The happiness that seemed to be expressed by that gesture and those words delighted her husband; whereas Jorge, offended and jealous, hardly touched her fingers.
Meanwhile Clarinha was thinking:
So he had no idea at that time that I loved him; but who could have told him? Fr Barroso? … Impossible! … And yet no-one else knew; it was him, it had to be. But why?

VIII

FROM BAD TO WORSE

One shouldn’t play with fire – a simple truth that Jorge learnt the hard way when he found himself engulfed in the flames he’d lit so carelessly.

Just to be clear, they weren’t purifying flames; his love had not been ignited in heaven. The fire came from the earth or from hell: a raging, voluptuous, insensitive passion, a mixture of caprice, sensuality and madness.
But the situation had changed: he noticed that the doctor’s affability towards him had completely disappeared.
She’s told him everything, he thought.
He tried to find out the truth, but how? He could drag it out of Clarinha, but she wasn’t giving him the opportunity: she would no longer receive him when she was alone, only speaking to him in the presence of her husband.
Jorge was desperately trying to find a way of resolving the crisis caused by the free rein he’d given to his criminal passion; he was furious with his cousin and he hated Marques; in fact, he hated the whole world in so far as it was placing obstacles in the way of his deplorable ambition.
One Sunday, when he was mulling over all this in his room, Fr Barroso appeared at the door. Jorge stood up to speak to him but, with a look of thunder, the priest ignored him and went to sit in a chair.
Jorge tried to make a joke about how grumpy Fr Barroso looked, but the priest interrupted the attempt:
“I haven’t come to make jokes, Jorge, but to give you a piece of my mind and, if needs be, to punish you. Don’t be surprised! I can easily tell all to your father, who’s an honest man. You might think I’m meek and mild, but it’s just my thin outer shell; inside I’m burning with hatred for anything that offends morality and virtue.”
“But I’ve mended my ways…”
“No,” said the priest. “It’s even worse than it was. New wine shouldn’t be poured into old bottles.”
Jorge realised that the reference was to the current state of his passions and, in his heart of hearts, he had to admit that he hadn’t changed for the better.
The priest sat in silence for a while, before saying, “I know everything.”
“What everything?”
“I know that you dared to set your sights on someone who only deserved your respect; and I regret that, inadvertently, I was the cause of it; but that doesn’t excuse you: it was vile, what you did. She told me everything and asked my advice. I advised her to tell her husband, but she didn’t want to; she said it would only make him feel ashamed, and she didn’t want that. I accepted her point of view, but I too had something on my conscience, and I told her everything.”
“You did!” Jorge got to his feet all of a sudden.
“Yes, I did,” said the priest calmly. “What’s that to you? I did what I saw as my duty: I listened to my conscience.”
Furious, Jorge stood there biting his lips.
Fr Barroso continued:
“I also asked her not to let it become a scandal, for her own sake and for the sake of your parents, who are decent people. You yourself were irrelevant to my request. She promissed, and she was as good as her word – which doesn’t prevent her from holding you in contempt.”
“And?” said Jorge, with a gesture of impatience.
“At first she wasn’t in agreement: she was afraid that if she said anything it would disrupt her domestic harmony and the happiness of her aunt and uncle. But when I assured her that nothing of the kind would happen, she thanked me… I can see you find all this mortifying, but bear with me… Clarinha deserves to be adored like an angel. You have forfeited that treasure… Yes, I can say that now, given that you already know it; you’ve forfeited it because she loved you in silence and you knew nothing about it, so immersed were you in the world of bought love and futile pleasures.”
This was salt added to Jorge’s wound. He felt humiliated and angry. He wanted to speak, but the priest wouldn’t let him.
“So,” said Fr Barroso, “I’ve come to ask you or, to be more precise, to insist, that you never go back to your cousin’s house, and that you forget her. You must do that whether you like it or not. And let me tell you: I’m prepared to do whatever it takes to protect her.”
“Protect her?” said Jorge, after a pause. “But she doesn’t need to be protected: I’ve never done her any harm. Is it my fault that I fell…”
The priest interrupted him.
“Let’s not talk about love, let’s talk about duty. Do you agree never to return to her house and to stop thinking about her?”
“Fair enough,” said Jorge. “I won’t go there again, but when it comes to thinking about her…”
“My son,” said the priest, lowering his voice. “There are sins of thought as well as of deed. It will be better if you wipe her from your mind. May I give you some advice.”
“What advice?”
“Leave Rio for a while. When you return, I’m sure you’ll come and give me a hug because you’ll have realised what an abyss I’ve saved you from.

IX

GOING AND COMING

Fr Barroso’s visit had left the amorous young man irritated, but a few hours of reflection were enough to convince him that further efforts would be in vain. Everything and everyone was against him; it was a contest he couldn’t win.

Added to this was his growing annoyance at the knowledge that his cousin had been in love with him and that he hadn’t noticed.

The most sensible thing would be to call it a day.
But his vanity got in the way; that great motor of human activity is often more powerful than any reasons of conscience or impulses of the heart. Jorge asked himself if it was appropriate to lay down his arms in the face of danger, no matter how great; and if it was appropriate to succumb to a stupid imposition of polite society. His vanity said No. But, as his vanity was saying one thing, and reality another, he found it best – like it or not – to adopt the priest’s suggestion.
When she finds out, he thought, that I’ve left for her sake, in order to assuage the pain, she’ll believe my pain is real, and that will only be to the good. Once upon a time she loved me, and she won’t have forgotten that.
Having obtained permission from his work, he left Rio after a few days. He told his father he hadn’t been feeling too well and needn’t to go to the country for a bit of rest and quiet. Aguiar and Dona Joaquina were suspicious, but Fr Barroso managed to convince them their son was telling the truth.
“Off you go,” said the priest to Jorge the day before his departure. “I’m glad you’ve listened to me and that you can still hear the voice of your conscience.”
The poor priest! If he’d only known that this was just another ruse! A way of giving the rejected lover a certain je ne sais quoi.
And so Jorge departed.

***

That night, Aguiar and Fr Barroso sat down to start a game of backgammon.

“Tell me, Father: do you think my son has really turned over a new leaf?”
“Yes, I do, Silvestre. He’d gone off the straight and narrow, but his heart is sound and he’s pulled himself together now. Believe me!”
In recent times, Clarinha had looked even sadder than usual but, after her cousin’s departure, she looked really cheerful and was even more affectionate towards her husband. This was due, in no small part, to the unshakeable confidence the doctor had shown in her during the previous goings-on.
When she consulted her heart, she found nothing relating to her cousin.
Or rather, there was something: a shade of disgust, a bitter memory that this honest wife could not forgive. A comparison of the affection, kindness and respect she received from her husband with Jorge’s cold and calculating passion was all in favour of the former.
This is the way things were when Dr Marques fell gravely ill. From the very first days, it was clear the illness was terminal. His suffering was considerable and, if anything, Clarinha’s was even more so. A secret voice seemed to be whispering to her that she was going to lose her companion. One of the doctors who was attending Marques thought it best to tell her the sad truth; on hearing it, she held herself together bravely, even though the depth of her sorrow was clear. Meanwhile Fr Barroso visited the patient as often as the priest’s age and duties permitted.

***

One day, Jorge appeared from out of the blue. He’d found out about Marques’s illness and had returned to Rio as fast as he could. At least, that was the explanation he gave. The truth was that he was fed up with being away; he’d only heard that Marques was ill when he arrived in Rio. He’d gone to his home, but his parents weren’t in. One of the servants, however, had told him the illness was terminal.

He hurried to his cousin’s house.
The sight that met him affected him more than he’d expected. Clarinha was sitting beside her husband’s bed, sad but resigned, and indifferent to everything around her.
Marques looked at Jorge and recognised him. He extended a skinny and tremulous arm, and the young man grasped and held his hand. Jorge then offered his hand to Clarinha, but she either didn’t notice his gesture or didn’t want to cause grief to Marques. The patient smiled weakly.
Jorge left the room.
The doctors gave Marques only five or six days more. He was aware of his state and was preparing himself to die.
No matter how sad all this was, however, it wasn’t enough, at first, to stop Jorge thinking almost exclusively of his cousin – except that he eventually started to experience a new sensation. It was as if the presence of death had started to purify his passion. Seeing the poor wife on the verge of widowhood and dedicating herself entirely to caring for her life’s companion until his last breath; seeing how zealously she was looking after him, her silent tears, the hours and hours she stayed with him, her words of consolation, her tenderness; it was as if all of this awakened something that had lain dormant in his heart, and the pure flower of his eighteen-year-old self began to bloom anew.
On many occasions he sat with the patient himself, in the course of which he often found himself alone with his cousin. They helped each other with whatever needed to be done; but whenever Marques fell asleep, they both remained silent, she with her eyes fixed on her husband, he with his on her.
It wasn’t easy for her to agree to her cousin’s presence; but her uncle had insisted on it, and she had to concede.
The old priest was also not happy about Jorge being there, but it was the young man himself who’d said to him, the day after he’d arrived, “You’re probably surprised that I’m here.”
“I am,” said the priest.
“I swear to you that…”
“Swear nothing,” said Fr Barroso. “All I ask is that you respect death.”
When it came to the end, Marques died in the arms of his wife. The widow’s tears and despair were heart-rending. Everyone tried to console her – everyone except Jorge, who left the house and didn’t return until the next day.

X

THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS

Three months later, Fr Barroso was in the house when Jorge appeared. He was cheerful and unusually polite.

“Father,” he said. “I’m arriving happy, but I could be leaving sad. It all depends on you.”
“On me?”
“Yes, Father.”
“Explain.”
Jorge sat down.
“Do you remember me telling you I’d turned over a new leaf?”
“I do.”
“I was lying.”
“And I’m sorry to hear it.”
“Yes, I was lying, Father. You shouldn’t be surprised. At that time, I thought common sense was just prejudice, and that I was right while everyone else was wrong. But now, Father, I’ve really turned over a new leaf.
The priest smiled.
“And you won’t be surprised,” he said, “that I have every right not to believe you.”
“You do, but I hope to convince you this time.”
After a few moments, Jorge continued.
“When I agreed to leave Rio, it was not with the best of intentions. I was just pretending to go along with your advice; but, in the depths of my soul, I was only interested in one thing. I returned unexpectedly because the thought of… of the person we both know had taken control of me.”
“I guessed as much,” said the priest.
“But when I arrived,” Jorge continued, “and when I saw that divine woman, so tormented, so sad, at the side of her dying husband, lavishing ever care on him that nature or religion could inspire, when I confronted that sombre spectacle, I swear to you, Father, that at that moment all my recent past dissolved, and I became a new man.”
What? thought the old priest. Is this really the same Jorge?
“I didn’t tell you this at the time,” Jorge continued. “I wanted to make sure I wasn’t mistaken, that I really loved that girl with the pure adoration she deserves. Three months have passed, and I still feel the same… I love her, and I beg you to say a word on my behalf.”
“What do you want then?” asked the priest.
“I want to marry her.”
“Really?”
“With all my heart and soul.”
The priest stood up and took the young man in his arms.
“That’s good,” he said, “that’s very good. You can count on me, Jorge. I shall be the advocate for your cause. Didn’t I say you still had a good heart? Everything was not lost…”
Jorge’s response to the old priest’s kindness was no less sincere; he told him all his hopes and fears, the greatest of which was that he’d be turned down.”
“Why?”
“It would be entirely understandable if she won’t forgive me for the way I behaved.”
“She will forgive you,” said the priest. “Perhaps she won’t love you now, but she’ll grow to love you. Go in peace and leave it to God, who loves sinners who repent.”
Jorge left the presbytery torn between fear and hope. But he believed in the old priest, and he knew that if anyone could convince Clarinha it was he. And when his parents got to know the situation, they too would speak in his favour.
Jorge didn’t want to get married without there being an alliance of hearts first; but what seemed most essential to him was to convince his cousin that he was desperate for her love.
Would she grow to love him again? Aye, there’s the rub, as Hamlet said.
Jorge headed straight for home. On the way, he met some friends. All of them were amazed at the change that had come over him.
“God help us!” said one. “You look like an anchorite!”
“Finally!” said another, who was standing a little way off.”
“Finally what?” asked Jorge.
“You’ve finally fallen in love. Why else would you look so pale?”
Others – those who owed him money – gave him a wide berth. Jorge didn’t even notice them; he had just one thought: Clarinha.
No surprise, therefore, that when, continuing on his way, the lady we met briefly in the first chapter of this story called his name on passing him by, he didn’t so much as raise his hat. She felt mortally offended and, that night, seated between two acquaintances at the Alcazar, painted a sorry picture of him.
“Do you remember,” said one of them, “that it was Jorge who bought you your carriage?”
“That’s all water under the bridge,” she replied philosophically. “Whatever he bought me or didn’t buy me back then, he’s turned into a complete lout.”

***

Fr Barroso was as good as his word; he went to speak to Clarinha. The widow greeted her old friend with real affection. It was a week since he last visited, and she was becoming concerned for his health.

“It’s good to see you,” she said. “I was worried you might not be well.”
“No, I’m perfectly well,” he said. “On the contrary, I’ve never been so healthy. And do you know why?”
“Why?”
“Because I was talking to your cousin Jorge yesterday.”
Clarinha said nothing.
“He’s saved, he’s cured, the good fellow. He’s just worried about one thing: that you won’t forgive him. You need to forgive him, Clarinha.”
“I forgive him everything.”
“No, not like that; you need to forgive him sincerely, with a bit of oomph! Because he’s truly sorry, and all he needs to be as happy as he was once upon a time, and as he should be now if he hadn’t gone off the rails, is to be pardoned by you. You will pardon him, won’t you?”
“You know very well,” said Clarinha, “that I can’t disobey you. I grant him forgiveness as you request.”
“With all your heart?”
“With all my heart.”
“It’s a question,” said Fr Barroso, “of saving a soul. Anyone else would happily refuse to get involved, but I’m a priest; it’s my duty to contribute to the cessation of sin. Jorge has come back to life, but anything could knock him off course again, and forever.”
Clarinha had already guessed the rest.
“It’s only three months since my husband died,” she said. “Give me time to grieve for the best of men. As for Jorge, his soul is beyond saving. I’ve forgiven him; that’s all.”
The young woman remained resolute, and Jorge didn’t find out how the conversation had gone because the old priest thought it best not to tell him – perhaps, despite everything, because he still felt a touch of resentment about the way Jorge had behaved. But he did try to console him.
Old Aguiar insisted on his niece coming to live in her old home; but she declined – she didn’t want to live so close to her cousin.
Meanwhile Jorge lost no opportunity to meet her and see her. His presence, the respect he showed her, the proofs of his dedication, his exemplary life and, in addition, certain memories that remained in the young woman’s heart, all of this set in motion the natural denouement.

***

A year after the death of Dr Marques, the cousins got married. The news caused amazement in the dubious society that had been Jorge’s early education in adulthood.

“He was half lost already,” was the mocking comment of the lady he’d accompanied that night at the Ginásio when the Commander had seen him.
It was Fr Barroso who conducted the wedding ceremony. His joy can hardly be imagined, almost as if it was all his own work. And, in truth, he wouldn’t have been far wrong.
A month later, when he was visiting the new couple in their house, Jorge recalled the profound impression he had in the five days during which he’d accompanied the death throes of Dr Marques.
“It was only then,” he said, “that I really fell in love.”
The priest smiled.
Nihil sub sole novum,” he said. “Nineteeen centuries ago, the same thing happened to a famous man who used to persecute Christians. When he was on his way to Damascus, a vision turned his life around. That man was St Paul. He married the best of brides, the Church, and – please God – you two will love each other as those two did. God will forgive me the comparison because to love is to be close to heaven.”

TRANSLATIONS FROM PORTUGUESE

Clasics in Ñspel: NUMBER 13, by M R James

NUMBR 13

M R JEMZ

Amñ ɖ tǎnz v Jutḷnd, Vîborg justli holdz a hî ples. It z ɖ sīt v a biṣ́pric; it hz a hansm bt olmst intîrli ny cʈīdṛl, a ćarmñ gardn, a lec v gret byti, n mni storcs. Nir it z Hald, acǎntd wn v ɖ pritiist ʈñz in Denmarc; n hard bî z Finderup, ẃr Marsk Stig mrdrd Cñ Eric Glipñ on St Ssīła’z De, in ɖ yir 1286. Fifti-six bloz v sqer-hedd ayn mesz wr trest on Eric’s scul ẃn hiz tūm wz opnd in ɖ sevntīnʈ snćri. Bt I am nt raitñ a gîd-bc.

Ɖr r gd hotelz in Vîborg—Preisler’z n ɖ Fīnix r ol ɖt cn b dzîrd. Bt mî cuzn, huz xpirịnsz I hv t tel y nǎ, wnt t ɖ Goldn Layn ɖ frst tîm ɖt h viẓtd Vîborg. H hz nt bn ɖr sins, n ɖ folowñ pejz wl, phps, xplen ɖ rīzn v hiz abstnśn.

Ɖ Goldn Layn z wn v ɖ vri fy hǎzz in ɖ tǎn ɖt wr nt dstroid in ɖ gret fîr v 1726, ẃć practicli dmoliśt ɖ cʈīdṛl, ɖ Sognekirke, ɖ Raadhuus, n so mć els ɖt wz old n inṭrestñ. It z a gret red-bric hǎs—ɖt z, ɖ frunt z v bric, wɖ corbisteps on ɖ geblz n a txt ovr ɖ dor; bt ɖ cortyard intu ẃć ɖ omnibus drîvz z v blac n ẃît wŭd n plastr.

Ɖ sún wz dclînñ in ɖ hevnz ẃn mî cuzn wōct p t ɖ dor, n ɖ lît smout fl upn ɖ impozñ fsād v ɖ hǎs. H wz dlîtd wɖ ɖ old-faśnd aspect v ɖ ples, n promist himslf a ʈuṛli saṭsfactri n aḿzñ ste in an ín so tipicl v old Jutḷnd.

It wz nt biznis in ɖ ordnri sns v ɖ wrd ɖt hd bròt Mr Anḍsn t Vîborg. H wz ingejd upn sm rsrćz intu ɖ Ćrć hisṭri v Denmarc, n it hd cm t hiz nolij ɖt in ɖ Rigsarkiv v Vîborg ɖr wr peprz, sevd fṛm ɖ fîr, rletñ t ɖ last dez v Romn Cʈoḷsizm in ɖ cuntri. H pṛpozd, ɖrfr, t spend a cnsidṛbl tîm—phps az mć az a fortnît or ʈri wīcs—in xaṃnñ n copiyñ ɖz, n h hopt ɖt ɖ Goldn Layn wd b ebl t gv him a rūm v sfiśnt sîz t srv alîc az a bedrūm n a studi. Hiz wśz wr xplend t ɖ landlord, n, aftr a srtn amǎnt v ʈt, ɖ latr sjstd ɖt phps it mt b ɖ bst we fr ɖ jntlmn t lc at wn or tū v ɖ larjr rūmz n pic wn fr himslf. It sīmd a gd îdīa.

Ɖ top flor wz sn rjctd az inteilñ tù mć gtñ upsterz aftr ɖ de’z wrc; ɖ secnd flor cntend no rūm v xacli ɖ dmnśnz rqîrd; bt on ɖ frst flor ɖr wz a ćôs v tū or ʈri rūmz ẃć wd, so far az sîz wnt, sūt admṛbli.

Ɖ landlord wz stroñli in fevr v Numbr 17, bt Mr Anḍsn pôntd ǎt ɖt its windoz cmandd onli ɖ blanc wōl v ɖ nxt hǎs, n ɖt it wd b vri darc in ɖ afṭnun. Îɖr Numbr 12 or Numbr 14 wd b betr, fr bʈ v ɖm lct on ɖ strīt, n ɖ brît īvnñ lît n ɖ priti vy wd mor ɖn compnset him fr ɖ adiśnl amǎnt v nôz.

Ivnć̣li Numbr 12 wz s’lectd. Lîc its nebrz, it hd ʈri windoz, ol on wn sîd v ɖ rūm; it wz ferli hî n unyẓ́li loñ. Ɖr wz, v cors, no fîrples, bt ɖ stov wz hansm n rɖr old—a cást-ayn irex́n, on ɖ sîd v ẃć wz a repriznteśn v Ebṛham sacṛfîsñ Îzac, n ɖ inscripśn, ‘I Bog Mose, Cap. 22,’ abv. Nʈñ els in ɖ rūm wz rmarcbl; ɖ onli inṭrestñ picćr wz an old culrd print v ɖ tǎn, det abt 1820.

Suprtîm wz aproćñ, bt ẃn Anḍsn, rfreśt bî ɖ ordnri ablūśnz, dsndd ɖ sterces, ɖr wr stl a fy minits bfr ɖ bel rañ. H dvotd ɖm t xaṃnñ ɖ list v hiz felolojrz. Az z yźl in Denmarc, ɖer nemz wr dspleid on a larj blacbōrd, dvîdd intu coḷmz n lînz, ɖ numbrz v ɖ rūmz biyñ pentd in at ɖ bginñ v ć lîn. Ɖ list wz nt xîtñ. Ɖr wz an advc̣t, or Sagförer, a Jrmn, n sm bagmen fṛm Copnhagn. Ɖ wn n onli pônt ẃć sjstd eni fūd fr ʈt wz ɖ absns v eni Numbr 13 fṛm ɖ têl v ɖ rūmz, n īvn ɖs wz a ʈñ ẃć Anḍsn hd olrdi notist haf a duzn tîmz in hiz xpirịns v Deniś hotelz. H cd nt hlp wunḍrñ ẃɖr ɖ objx́n t ɖt ptiklr numbr, comn az it z, wz so wîdspred n so stroñ az t mc it dificlt t let a rūm so tic̣td, n h rzolvd t asc ɖ landlord f h n hiz colīgz in ɖ pṛfeśn hd acć̣li met wɖ mni claynts hu rfyzd t b acoṃdetd in ɖ ʈrtīnʈ rūm.

H hd nʈñ t tel m (I am gvñ ɖ stori az I hŕd it fṛm him) abt ẃt pást at supr, n ɖ īvnñ, ẃć wz spent in unpacñ n arenjñ hiz cloɖz, bcs, n peprz, wz nt mor ivntfl. Twdz ilevn o’cloc h rzolvd t g t bed, bt wɖ him, az wɖ a gd mni uɖr ppl nawdez, an olmst nesṣri priliminri t bed, f h mnt t slīp, wz ɖ rīdñ v a fy pejz v print, n h nǎ rmembrd ɖt ɖ ptiklr bc ẃć h hd bn rīdñ in ɖ tren, n ẃć alon wd saṭsfî him at ɖt preznt momnt, wz in ɖ pocit v hiz gretcot, ɖen haññ on a peg ǎtsd ɖ dînñrūm.

T run dǎn n s’kr it wz ɖ wrc v a momnt, n, az ɖ paṣjz wr bî no mīnz darc, it wz nt dificlt fr him t fînd hiz we bac t hiz ǒn dor. So, at līst, h ʈt; bt ẃn h arîvd ɖr, n trnd ɖ handl, ɖ dor intîrli rfyzd t opn, n h còt ɖ sǎnd v a hesti muvmnt twdz it fṛm wɖn. H hd traid ɖ roñ dor, v cors. Wz hiz ǒn rūm t ɖ rît or t ɖ left? H glanst at ɖ numbr: it wz 13. Hiz rūm wd b on ɖ left; n so it wz. N nt bfr h hd bn in bed fr sm minits, hd réd hiz wóntd ʈri or for pejz v hiz bc, bloun ǎt hiz lît, n trnd ovr t g t slīp, dd it ocŕ t him ɖt, ẃr-az on ɖ blacbōrd v ɖ hotel ɖr hd bn no Numbr 13, ɖr wz undǎtidli a rūm numbrd 13 in ɖ hotel. H flt rɖr sori h hd nt ćozn it fr hiz ǒn. Phps h mt hv dn ɖ landlord a litl srvis bî okpayñ it, n gvn him ɖ ćans v seyñ ɖt a wel-born Ñgliś jntlmn hd livd in it fr ʈri wīcs n lîct it vri mć. Bt probbli it wz yzd az a srvnt’s rūm or smʈñ v ɖ cnd. Aftr ol, it wz most lîcli nt so larj or gd a rūm az hiz ǒn. N h lct drǎẓli abt ɖ rūm, ẃć wz ferli psptbl in ɖ haf-lît fṛm ɖ strīt-lamp. It wz a krịs ifct, h ʈt. Rūmz yẓ́li lc larjr in a dim lît ɖn a fl wn, bt ɖs sīmd t hv cntractd in leñʈ n groun pṛporśṇtli hayr. Wel, wel! slīp wz mor importnt ɖn ɖz veg rūṃneśnz—n t slīp h wnt.

On ɖ de aftr hiz arîvl Anḍsn atact ɖ Rigsarkiv v Vîborg. H wz, az wn mt xpct in Denmarc, cîndli rsivd, n axes t ol ɖt h wśt t si wz md az īzi fr him az poṣbl. Ɖ dokmnts leid bfr him wr far mor ńmṛs n inṭrestñ ɖn h hd at ol antiṣpetd. Bsdz ofiśl peprz, ɖr wz a larj bundl v corispondns rletñ t Biṣ́p Jörgen Friis, ɖ last Romn Caʈ̇lic hu hld ɖ si, n in ɖz ɖr cropt p mni aḿzñ n ẃt r cōld ‘intiṃt’ dītelz v prîṿt lîf n indivijl caṛctr. Ɖr wz mć tōc v a hǎs ǒnd bî ɖ Biṣ́p, bt nt inhaḅtd bî him, in ɖ tǎn. Its tennt wz apaṛntli smẃt v a scandl n a stumḅlñbloc t ɖ rformñparti. H wz a dsgres, ɖe rout, t ɖ siti; h practist sīcrit n wicid arts, n hd sold hiz soul t ɖ eṇmi. It wz v a pìs wɖ ɖ gros c’rupśn n sūṗstiśn v ɖ Baḅloniś Ćrć ɖt sć a vîpr n blud-sucñ Troldmand śd b patṛnîzd n harbrd bî ɖ Biṣ́p. Ɖ Biṣ́p met ɖz rproćz boldli; h pṛtstd hiz ǒn abhoṛns v ol sć ʈñz az sīcrit arts, n rqîrd hiz antaġnists t brñ ɖ matr bfr ɖ propr cort—v cors, ɖ spirićl cort—n sift it t ɖ botm. Nwn cd b mor redi n wilñ ɖn himslf t cndem Mag. Nicolas Francken f ɖ evidns śoud him t hv bn gilti v eni v ɖ crîmz inforṃli alejd agnst him.

Anḍsn hd nt tîm t d mor ɖn glans at ɖ nxt letr v ɖ Protistnt līdr, Rasmus Nielsen, bfr ɖ record ofis wz clozd fr ɖ de, bt h gaɖrd its jenṛl tenr, ẃć wz t ɖ ifct ɖt Crisćn men wr nǎ no longr baund bî ɖ dsiźnz v Biṣ́ps v Rom, n ɖt ɖ Biṣ́p’s Cort wz nt, n cd nt b, a fit or compitnt trîbynl t juj so grev n weiti a cōz.

On līvñ ɖ ofis, Mr Anḍsn wz acumṗnid bî ɖ old jntlmn hu prizîdd ovr it, n, az ɖe wōct, ɖ convseśn vri naćṛli trnd t ɖ peprz v ẃć I hv jst bn spīcñ.

Herr Scavenius, ɖ Arc̣vist v Vîborg, ɖo vri wel informd az t ɖ jenṛl run v ɖ dokmnts undr hiz ćarj, wz nt a speṣ́list in ɖoz v ɖ Ref̣meśn pirịd. H wz mć inṭrestd in ẃt Anḍsn hd t tel him abt ɖm. H lct fwd wɖ gret pleźr, h sd, t siyñ ɖ pubḷceśn in ẃć Mr Anḍsn spouc v imbodiyñ ɖer contents. ‘Ɖs hǎs v ɖ Biṣ́p Friis,’ h add, ‘it z a gret puzl t m ẃr it cn hv std. I hv studid cerf̣li ɖ tpogṛfi v old Vîborg, bt it z most unluci—v ɖ old térịr v ɖ Biṣ́p’s proṗti ẃć wz md in 1560, n v ẃć w hv ɖ gretr part in ɖ Arkiv—jst ɖ pìs ẃć hd ɖ list v ɖ tǎn proṗti z misñ. Nvr mînd. Phps I śl sm de s’xid t fînd him.’

Aftr tecñ sm x’sîz—I fget xacli hǎ or ẃr—Anḍsn wnt bac t ɖ Goldn Layn, hiz supr, hiz gem v peśns, n hiz bed. On ɖ we t hiz rūm it ocŕd t him ɖt h hd fgotn t tōc t ɖ landlord abt ɖ omiśn v Numbr 13 fṛm ɖ hotel bōrd, n olso ɖt h mt az wel mc śr ɖt Numbr 13 dd acć̣li xist bfr h md eni refṛns t ɖ matr.

Ɖ dsiźn wz nt dificlt t arîv at. Ɖr wz ɖ dor wɖ its numbr az plen az cd b, n wrc v sm cnd wz evidntli gwñ on insd it, fr az h nird ɖ dor h cd hír ftsteps n vôsz, or a vôs, wɖn. Jrñ ɖ fy secndz in ẃć h hōltd t mc śr v ɖ numbr, ɖ ftsteps sīst, sīmñli vri nir ɖ dor, n h wz a litl startld at hírñ a qc hisñ briɖñ az v a prsn in stroñ xîtmnt. H wnt on t hiz ǒn rūm, n agn h wz s’prîzd t fînd hǎ mć smōlr it sīmd nǎ ɖn it hd ẃn h s’lectd it. It wz a slît dis’pôntmnt, bt onli slît. F h faund it riyli nt larj inuf, h cd vri īẓli śift t anɖr. In ɖ mntm h wontd smʈñ—az far az I rmembr it wz a pocithanc̣ćīf—ǎt v hiz portmanto, ẃć hd bn plest bî ɖ portr on a vri inadiqt tresl or stūl agnst ɖ wōl at ɖ farɖist end v ɖ rūm fṛm hiz bed. Hir wz a vri krịs ʈñ: ɖ portmanto wz nt t b sìn. It hd bn muvd bî ofiśs srvnts; dǎtlis ɖ contents hd bn pt in ɖ wordrob. No, nn v ɖm wr ɖr. Ɖs wz vxeśs. Ɖ îdīa v a ʈeft h dsmist at wns. Sć ʈñz rerli hapn in Denmarc, bt sm pìs v stypidti hd srtnli bn pformd (ẃć z nt so uncomn), n ɖ stuepige mst b svirli spocn t. Ẃtvr it wz ɖt h wontd, it wz nt so nesṣri t hiz cumf̣t ɖt h cd nt wêt tl ɖ mornñ fr it, n h ɖrfr setld nt t rñ ɖ bel n dstrb ɖ srvnts. H wnt t ɖ windo—ɖ rît-hand windo it wz—n lct ǎt on ɖ qayt strīt. Ɖr wz a tōl bildñ oṗzit, wɖ larj spesz v ded wōl; no pasrz-bî; a darc nît; n vri litl t b sìn v eni cnd.

Ɖ lît wz bhnd him, n h cd si hiz ǒn śado clirli cast on ɖ wōl oṗzit. Olso ɖ śado v ɖ birdd man in Numbr 11 on ɖ left, hu pást t n fro in śrtslīvz wns or twîs, n wz sìn frst bruśñ hiz her, n lêtr on in a nîtgǎn. Olso ɖ śado v ɖ okpnt v Numbr 13 on ɖ rît. Ɖs mt b mor inṭrestñ. Numbr 13 wz, lîc himslf, līnñ on hiz elboz on ɖ windosil lcñ ǎt intu ɖ strīt. H sīmd t b a tōl ʈin man—or wz it bî eni ćans a wmn?—at līst, it wz smwn hu cuvrd hiz or hr hed wɖ sm cnd v dreṗri bfr gwñ t bed, n, h ʈt, mst b pzest v a red lampśêd—n ɖ lamp mst b flic̣rñ vri mć. Ɖr wz a dstñt pleyñ p n dǎn v a dul red lît on ɖ oṗzit wōl. H crend ǎt a litl t si f h cd mc eni mor v ɖ figr, bt bynd a fold v sm lît, phps ẃît, mtirịl on ɖ windosil h cd si nʈñ.

Nǎ cem a distnt step in ɖ strīt, n its aproć sīmd t rcōl Numbr 13 t a sns v hiz xpozd pziśn, fr vri swiftli n sudnli h swept asd fṛm ɖ windo, n hiz red lît wnt ǎt. Anḍsn, hu hd bn smocñ a siġrét, leid ɖ end v it on ɖ windosil n wnt t bed.

Nxt mornñ h wz wocn bî ɖ stuepige wɖ hot wōtr, ets. H rǎzd himslf, n aftr ʈncñ ǎt ɖ c’rect Deniś wrdz, sd az dstñtli az h cd:

‘Y mst nt muv mî portmanto. Ẃr z it?’

Az z nt uncomn, ɖ meid laft, n wnt awe wɖt mcñ eni dstñt ansr.

Anḍsn, rɖr iṛtetd, sat p in bed, intndñ t cōl hr bac, bt h rmend sitñ p, stẹrñ stret in frunt v him. Ɖr wz hiz portmanto on its tresl, xacli ẃr h hd sìn ɖ portr pt it ẃn h frst arîvd. Ɖs wz a rūd śoc fr a man hu prîdd himslf on hiz akṛsi v obẓveśn. Hǎ it cd poṣbli hv iscept him ɖ nît bfr h dd nt pritnd t unḍstand; at eni ret, ɖr it wz nǎ.

Ɖ dêlît śoud mor ɖn ɖ portmanto; it let ɖ tru pṛporśnz v ɖ rūm wɖ its ʈri windoz apir, n saṭsfaid its tennt ɖt hiz ćôs aftr ol hd nt bn a bad wn. Ẃn h wz olmst drest h wōct t ɖ midl wn v ɖ ʈri windoz t lc ǎt at ɖ weɖr. Anɖr śoc awêtd him. Strenjli un’bzrvnt h mst hv bn last nît. H cd hv sworn ten tîmz ovr ɖt h hd bn smocñ at ɖ rît-hand windo ɖ last ʈñ bfr h wnt t bed, n hir wz hiz siġrét-end on ɖ sil v ɖ midl windo.

H startd t g dǎn t brecfst. Rɖr lêt, bt Numbr 13 wz lêtr: hir wr hiz būts stl ǎtsd hiz dor—a jntlmn’z būts. So ɖen Numbr 13 wz a man, nt a wmn. Jst ɖen h còt sît v ɖ numbr on ɖ dor. It wz 14. H ʈt h mst hv pást Numbr 13 wɖt noṭsñ it. Ʈri stypid mstecs in twelv aurz wr tù mć fr a mʈodicl, akṛt-mîndd man, so h trnd bac t mc śr. Ɖ nxt numbr t 14 wz numbr 12, hiz ǒn rūm. Ɖr wz no Numbr 13 at ol.

Aftr sm minits dvotd t a cerfl cnsiḍreśn v evrʈñ h hd hd t īt n drinc jrñ ɖ last twenti-for aurz, Anḍsn dsîdd t gv ɖ qsćn p. F hiz îz or hiz bren wr gvñ we h wd hv plenti v oṗtyṇtiz fr aṣtenñ ɖt fact; f nt, ɖen h wz evidntli biyñ trītd t a vri inṭrestñ xpirịns. In îɖr ces ɖ dveḷpmnt v ivnts wd srtnli b wrʈ woćñ.

Jrñ ɖ de h cntinyd hiz xaṃneśn v ɖ ipisc̣pl corispondns ẃć I hv olrdi súṃrîzd. T hiz dis’pôntmnt, it wz incmplit. Onli wn uɖr letr cd b faund ẃć rfŕd t ɖ afer v Mag. Nicolas Francken. It wz fṛm ɖ Biṣ́p Jörgen Friis t Rasmus Nielsen. H sd:

‘Olɖo w r nt in ɖ līst dgri inclînd t asnt t yr jujmnt cnsrnñ ǎr cort, n śl b priperd f nīd b t wɖstand y t ɖ utrmost in ɖt bhaf, yt fr-az-mć az ǎr trusti n wel-ḅluvid Mag. Nicolas Francken, agnst hūm y hv derd t alej srtn fōls n mliśs ćarjz, hʈ bn sudnli rmuvd fṛm amñ s, it z apaṛnt ɖt ɖ qsćn fr ɖs tîm fōlz. Bt fr-az-mć az y frɖr alej ɖt ɖ Aposl n Ivanjlist St Jon in hiz hevnli Apoc̣lips dscrîbz ɖ Holi Romn Ćrć undr ɖ gîz n simbl v ɖ Scarlit Wmn, b it noun t y,’ ets.

Srć az h mt, Anḍsn cd fînd no sīql t ɖs letr nr eni clu t ɖ cōz or manr v ɖ ‘rmuvl’ v ɖ casus belli. H cd onli s’poz ɖt Francken hd daid sudnli; n az ɖr wr onli tū dez btwn ɖ det v Nielsen’z last letr—ẃn Francken wz evidntli stl in biyñ—n ɖt v ɖ Biṣ́p’s letr, ɖ deʈ mst hv bn cmplitli unixpctd.

In ɖ afṭnun h peid a śort vizit t Hald, n tc hiz ti at Baekkelund; nr cd h notis, ɖo h wz in a smẃt nrṿs frem v mînd, ɖt ɖr wz eni indceśn v sć a fełr v î or bren az hiz xpirịnsz v ɖ mornñ hd léd him t fir.

At supr h faund himslf nxt t ɖ landlord.

‘Ẃt,’ h asct him, aftr sm indifṛnt convseśn, ‘z ɖ rīzn ẃ in most v ɖ hotelz wn vizits in ɖs cuntri ɖ numbr ʈrtīn z left ǎt v ɖ list v rūmz? I si y hv nn hir.’

Ɖ landlord sīmd aḿzd.

‘T ʈnc ɖt y śd hv notist a ʈñ lîc ɖt! I’v ʈt abt it wns or twîs mslf, t tel ɖ truʈ. An edycetd man, I’v sd, hz no biznis wɖ ɖz sūṗstiśs nośnz. I wz bròt p mslf hir in ɖ hî scūl v Vîborg, n ǎr old mastr wz olwz a man t set hiz fes agnst enʈñ v ɖt cnd. H’z bn ded nǎ ɖs mni yirz—a fîn upstandñ man h wz, n redi wɖ hiz handz az wel az hiz hed. I rec̣lect s bôz, wn snǒi de—’

Hir h plunjd intu reṃnisns.

‘Ɖen y d’nt ʈnc ɖr z eni ptiklr objx́n t hvñ a Numbr 13?’ sd Anḍsn.

‘Ā! t b śr. Wel, y unḍstand, I wz bròt p t ɖ biznis bî mî pur old faɖr. H cept a hotel in Aarhuus frst, n ɖen, ẃn w wr born, h muvd t Vîborg hir, ẃć wz hiz netiv ples, n hd ɖ Fīnix hir untl h daid. Ɖt wz in 1876. Ɖen I startd biznis in Silkeborg, n onli ɖ yir bfr last I muvd intu ɖs hǎs.’

Ɖen foloud mor dītelz az t ɖ stet v ɖ hǎs n biznis ẃn frst tecn ovr.

‘N ẃn y cem hir, wz ɖr a Numbr 13?’

‘No, no. I wz gwñ t tel y abt ɖt. Y si, in a ples lîc ɖs, ɖ cmrśl clas—ɖ travlrz—r ẃt w hv t pṛvîd fr in jenṛl. N pt ɖm in Numbr 13? Ẃ, ɖ’d az sn slīp in ɖ strīt, or snr. Az far az I’m cnsrnd mslf, it wd’nt mc a peni difṛns t m ẃt ɖ numbr v mî rūm wz, n so I’v ofn sd t ɖm; bt ɖe stic t it ɖt it brñz ɖm bad luc. Qonttiz v storiz ɖe hv amñ ɖm v men ɖt hv slept in a Numbr 13 n nvr bn ɖ sem agn, or lost ɖer bst custmrz, or—wn ʈñ n anɖr,’ sd ɖ landlord, aftr srćñ fr a mor grafic frêz.

‘Ɖen ẃt d y yz yr Numbr 13 fr?’ sd Anḍsn, conśs az h sd ɖ wrdz v a krịs añzayti qt dispṛporśṇt t ɖ importns v ɖ qsćn.

‘Mî Numbr 13? Ẃ, d’nt I tel y ɖt ɖr z’nt sć a ʈñ in ɖ hǎs? I ʈt y mt hv notist ɖt. F ɖr wz it wd b nxt dor t yr ǒn rūm.’

‘Wel, yes; onli I hapnd t ʈnc—ɖt z, I fansid last nît ɖt I hd sìn a dor numbrd ʈrtīn in ɖt pasij; n, riyli, I am olmst srtn I mst hv bn rît, fr I sw it ɖ nît bfr az wel.’

V cors, Herr Kristensen laft ɖs nośn t scorn, az Anḍsn hd xpctd, n emf̣sîzd wɖ mć iṭreśn ɖ fact ɖt no Numbr 13 xistd or hd xistd bfr him in ɖt hotel.

Anḍsn wz in sm wez rlivd bî hiz srtnti, bt stl puzld, n h bgan t ʈnc ɖt ɖ bst we t mc śr ẃɖr h hd indd bn subjict t an iluźn or nt wz t invît ɖ landlord t hiz rūm t smoc a sgar lêtr on in ɖ īvnñ. Sm foṭgrafs v Ñgliś tǎnz ẃć h hd wɖ him formd a sfiśntli gd xks.

Herr Kristensen wz flatrd bî ɖ invteśn, n most wilñli axptd it. At abt ten o’cloc h wz t mc hiz apiṛns, bt bfr ɖt Anḍsn hd sm letrz t rait, n rtîrd fr ɖ prṗs v raitñ ɖm. H olmst bluśt t himslf at cnfesñ it, bt h cd nt dnî ɖt it wz ɖ fact ɖt h wz bcmñ qt nrṿs abt ɖ qsćn v ɖ xistns v Numbr 13; so mć so ɖt h aproćt hiz rūm bî we v Numbr 11, in ordr ɖt h mt nt b oblîjd t pas ɖ dor, or ɖ ples ẃr ɖ dor òt t b. H lct qcli n sspiśsli abt ɖ rūm ẃn h entrd it, bt ɖr wz nʈñ, bynd ɖt indfîṇbl er v biyñ smōlr ɖn yźl, t woṛnt eni msgvñz. Ɖr wz no qsćn v ɖ prezns or absns v hiz portmanto tnît. H hd himslf emtid it v its contents n lojd it undr hiz bed. Wɖ a srtn ef̣t h dsmist ɖ ʈt v Numbr 13 fṛm hiz mînd, n sat dǎn t hiz raitñ.

Hiz nebrz wr qayt inuf. Oceźṇli a dor opnd in ɖ pasij n a per v būts wz ʈroun ǎt, or a bagman wōct past humñ t himslf, n ǎtsd, fṛm tîm t tîm, a cart ʈundrd ovr ɖ atrośs coblstonz, or a qc step hurid alñ ɖ flagz.

Anḍsn finiśt hiz letrz, ordrd in ẃisci n soda, n ɖen wnt t ɖ windo n studid ɖ ded wōl oṗzit n ɖ śadoz upn it.

Az far az h cd rmembr, Numbr 14 hd bn okpaid bî ɖ loyr, a stêd man, hu sd litl at mīlz, biyñ jenṛli ingejd in studiyñ a smōl bundl v peprz bsd hiz plet. Apaṛntli, hvr, h wz in ɖ habit v gvñ vnt t hiz animl spirits ẃn alon. Ẃ els śd h b dansñ? Ɖ śado fṛm ɖ nxt rūm evidntli śoud ɖt h wz. Agn n agn hiz ʈin form crost ɖ windo, hiz armz wevd, n a gōnt leg wz cict p wɖ s’prîzñ ajiḷti. H sīmd t b bér-fŭtd, n ɖ flor mst b wel leid, fr no sǎnd btreid hiz muvmnts. Sagförer Herr Anders Jensen, dansñ at ten o’cloc at nît in a hotel bedrūm, sīmd a fitñ subjict fr a historicl pentñ in ɖ grand stîl; n Anḍsn’z ʈts, lîc ɖoz v Eṃli in ɖ ‘Misṭriz v Ūdolfo’, bgan t ‘arenj ɖmslvz in ɖ folowñ lînz’:

Ẃn I rtrn t mî hotel,

At ten o’cloc p.m.,

Ɖ wêtrz ʈnc I am unwel;

I d nt cer fr ɖm.

Bt ẃn I’v loct mî ćembr dor,

N pt mî būts ǎtsd,

I dans ol nît upn ɖ flor.

N īvn f mî nebrz swòr,

I’d g on dansñ ol ɖ mor,

Fr I’m aqentd wɖ ɖ lw,

N in dspt v ol ɖer jw,

Ɖer protests I d’rîd.

Hd nt ɖ landlord at ɖs momnt noct at ɖ dor, it z probbl ɖt qt a loñ powm mt hv bn leid bfr ɖ rīdr. T juj fṛm hiz lc v s’prîz ẃn h faund himslf in ɖ rūm, Herr Kristensen wz struc, az Anḍsn hd bn, bî smʈñ unyźl in its aspect. Bt h md no rmarc. Anḍsn’z foṭgrafs inṭrestd him mîṭli, n formd ɖ txt v mni ōṭbạgraficl dscorsz. Nr z it qt clir hǎ ɖ convseśn cd hv bn dvrtd intu ɖ dzîrd ćanl v Numbr 13, hd nt ɖ loyr at ɖs momnt bgun t sñ, n t sñ in a manr ẃć cd līv no dǎt in enwn’z mînd ɖt h wz îɖr xidñli drunc or revñ mad. It wz a hî, ʈin vôs ɖt ɖe hŕd, n it sīmd drî, az f fṛm loñ dsys. V wrdz or tyn ɖr wz no qsćn. It wnt sêlñ p t a s’prîzñ hît, n wz carid dǎn wɖ a dsperñ mon az v a wintrwind in a holo ćimni, or an orgn huz wind felz sudnli. It wz a riyli hoṛbl sǎnd, n Anḍsn flt ɖt f h hd bn alon h mst hv fled fr refyj n ssayti t sm nebr bagman’z rūm.

Ɖ landlord sat opn-mǎɖd.

‘I d’nt unḍstand it,’ h sd at last, wîpñ hiz fōrhed. ‘It z dredfl. I hv hŕd it wns bfr, bt I md śr it wz a cat.’

‘Z h mad?’ sd Anḍsn.

‘H mst b; n ẃt a sad ʈñ! Sć a gd custmr, tù, n so s’xesfl in hiz biznis, bî ẃt I hír, n a yuñ faṃli t brñ p.’

Jst ɖen cem an impeśnt noc at ɖ dor, n ɖ nocr entrd, wɖt wêtñ t b asct. It wz ɖ loyr, in déshabillé n vri ruf-herd; n vri angri h lct.

‘I beg pardn, sr,’ h sd, ‘bt I śd b mć oblîjd f y wd cîndli dzist—’

Hir h stopt, fr it wz evidnt ɖt nɖr v ɖ prsnz bfr him wz rsponsbl fr ɖ dstrbns; n aftr a momnt’s lul it sweld fʈ agn mor wîldli ɖn bfr.

‘Bt ẃt in ɖ nem v Hevn dz it mīn?’ brouc ǎt ɖ loyr. ‘Ẃr z it? Hu z it? Am I gwñ ǎt v mî mînd?’

‘Śrli, Herr Jensen, it cmz fṛm yr rūm nxt dor? Z’nt ɖr a cat or smʈñ stuc in ɖ ćimni?’

Ɖs wz ɖ bst ɖt ocŕd t Anḍsn t se n h riylîzd its fytiḷti az h spouc; bt enʈñ wz betr ɖn t stand n lisn t ɖt hoṛbl vôs, n lc at ɖ brōd, ẃît fes v ɖ landlord, ol pspîrñ n qiṿrñ az h clućt ɖ armz v hiz ćer.

‘Imposbl,’ sd ɖ loyr, ‘imposbl. Ɖr z no ćimni. I cem hir bcz I wz cnvinst ɖ nôz wz gwñ on hir. It wz srtnli in ɖ nxt rūm t mîn.’

‘Wz ɖr no dor btwn yrz n mîn?’ sd Anḍsn īgrli.

‘No, sr,’ sd Herr Jensen, rɖr śarpli. ‘At līst, nt ɖs mornñ.’

‘Ā!’ sd Anḍsn. ‘Nr tnît?’

‘I am nt śr,’ sd ɖ loyr wɖ sm hezteśn.

Sudnli ɖ crayñ or sññ vôs in ɖ nxt rūm daid awe, n ɖ sñr wz hŕd sīmñli t laf t himslf in a crūnñ manr. Ɖ ʈri men acć̣li śivrd at ɖ sǎnd. Ɖen ɖr wz a sîḷns.

‘Cm,’ sd ɖ loyr, ‘ẃt hv y t se, Herr Kristensen? Ẃt dz ɖs mīn?’

‘Gd Hevn!’ sd Kristensen. ‘Hǎ śd I tel! I nǒ no mor ɖn y, jntlṃn. I pre I me nvr hír sć a nôz agn.’

‘So d I,’ sd Herr Jensen, n h add smʈñ undr hiz breʈ. Anḍsn ʈt it sǎndd lîc ɖ last wrdz v ɖ Sōltr, ‘omnis spiritus laudet Dominum,’ bt h cd nt b śr.

‘Bt w mst d smʈñ,’ sd Anḍsn—‘ɖ ʈri v s. Śl w g n invstget in ɖ nxt rūm?’

‘Bt ɖt z Herr Jensen’z rūm,’ weild ɖ landlord. ‘It z no ys; h hz cm fṛm ɖr himslf.’

‘I am nt so śr,’ sd Jensen. ‘I ʈnc ɖs jntlmn z rît: w mst g n si.’

Ɖ onli wepnz v dfns ɖt cd b mustrd on ɖ spot wr a stic n umbrela. Ɖ xpdiśn wnt ǎt intu ɖ pasij, nt wɖt qecñz. Ɖr wz a dedli qayt ǎtsd, bt a lît śon fṛm undr ɖ nxt dor. Anḍsn n Jensen aproćt it. Ɖ latr trnd ɖ handl, n gev a sudn vigṛs pś. No ys. Ɖ dor std fast.

‘Herr Kristensen,’ sd Jensen, ‘wl y g n feć ɖ strongist srvnt y hv in ɖ ples? W mst si ɖs ʈru.’

Ɖ landlord nodd, n hurid of, glad t b awe fṛm ɖ sīn v ax́n. Jensen n Anḍsn rmend ǎtsd lcñ at ɖ dor.

‘It z Numbr 13, y si,’ sd ɖ latr.

‘Yes; ɖr z yr dor, n ɖr z mîn,’ sd Jensen.

‘Mî rūm hz ʈri windoz in ɖ dêtîm,’ sd Anḍsn wɖ dificlti, s’presñ a nrṿs laf.

‘Bî Jorj, so hz mîn!’ sd ɖ loyr, trnñ n lcñ at Anḍsn. Hiz bac wz nǎ t ɖ dor. In ɖt momnt ɖ dor opnd, n an arm cem ǎt n clwd at hiz śoldr. It wz clad in ragid, yelǒiś linn, n ɖ bér scin, ẃr it cd b sìn, hd loñ gre her upn it.

Anḍsn wz jst in tîm t pl Jensen ǎt v its rīć wɖ a crî v dsgust n frît, ẃn ɖ dor śut agn, n a lo laf wz hŕd.

Jensen hd sìn nʈñ, bt ẃn Anḍsn huridli tld him ẃt a risc h hd run, h fél intu a gret stet v ajteśn, n sjstd ɖt ɖe śd rtîr fṛm ɖ enṭprîz n loc ɖmslvz p in wn or uɖr v ɖer rūmz.

Hvr, ẃl h wz dveḷpñ ɖs plan, ɖ landlord n tū ebl-bodid men arîvd on ɖ sīn, ol lcñ rɖr sirịs n alarmd. Jensen met ɖm wɖ a toṛnt v dscripśn n xpḷneśn, ẃć dd nt at ol tnd t incurij ɖm fr ɖ fre.

Ɖ men dropt ɖ crobarz ɖe hd bròt, n sd flatli ɖt ɖe wr nt gwñ t risc ɖer ʈrots in ɖt devl’z den. Ɖ landlord wz mizṛbli nrṿs n undisîdd, conśs ɖt f ɖ denjr wr nt fest hiz hotel wz ruind, n vri loʈ t fes it himslf. Luc̣li Anḍsn hit upn a we v raliyñ ɖ dmoṛlîzd fors.

‘Z ɖs,’ h sd, ‘ɖ Deniś curij I hv hŕd so mć v? It z’nt a Jrmn in ɖr, n f it wz, w r fîv t wn.’

Ɖ tū srvnts n Jensen wr stuñ intu ax́n bî ɖs, n md a daś at ɖ dor.

‘Stop!’ sd Anḍsn. ‘D’nt lūz yr hedz. Y ste ǎt hir wɖ ɖ lît, landlord, n wn v y tū men brec in ɖ dor, n d’nt g in ẃn it gvz we.’

Ɖ men nodd, n ɖ yungr stept fwd, rezd hiz crobar, n dlt a tṛmnḍs blo on ɖ upr panl. Ɖ rzult wz nt in ɖ līst ẃt eni v ɖm antiṣpetd. Ɖr wz no cracñ or rendñ v wŭd—onli a dul sǎnd, az f ɖ solid wōl hd bn struc. Ɖ man dropt hiz tūl wɖ a śǎt, n bgan rubñ hiz elbo. Hiz crî drù ɖer îz upn him fr a momnt; ɖen Anḍsn lct at ɖ dor agn. It wz gn; ɖ plastr wōl v ɖ pasij stérd him in ɖ fes, wɖ a cnsidṛbl gaś in it ẃr ɖ crobar hd struc it. Numbr 13 hd pást ǎt v xistns.

Fr a brīf spes ɖe std prf̣cli stl, gezñ at ɖ blanc wōl. An rli coc in ɖ yard bnʈ wz hŕd t cro; n az Anḍsn glanst in ɖ d’rex́n v ɖ sǎnd, h sw ʈru ɖ windo at ɖ end v ɖ loñ pasij ɖt ɖ īstn scî wz pelñ t ɖ dōn.

‘Phps,’ sd ɖ landlord, wɖ hezteśn, ‘y jntlṃn wd lîc anɖr rūm fr tnît—a dubl-bedd wn?’

Nɖr Jensen nr Anḍsn wz avrs t ɖ sjsćn. Ɖe flt inclînd t hunt in cuplz aftr ɖer lêt xpirịns. It wz faund cnvińnt, ẃn ć v ɖm wnt t hiz rūm t c’lect ɖ articlz h wontd fr ɖ nît, ɖt ɖ uɖr śd g wɖ him n hold ɖ candl. Ɖe notist ɖt bʈ Numbr 12 n Numbr 14 hd ʈri windoz.

* * * * *

Nxt mornñ ɖ sem parti ri’smbld in Numbr 12. Ɖ landlord wz naćṛli añśs t avôd ingejñ ǎtsd hlp, n yt it wz impeṛtiv ɖt ɖ misṭri ataćñ t ɖt part v ɖ hǎs śd b clird p. Acordñli ɖ tū srvnts hd bn indyst t tec upn ɖm ɖ fuñśn v carpntrz. Ɖ frnićr wz clird awe, n, at ɖ cost v a gd mni iritriṿbli damijd plancs, ɖt porśn v ɖ flor wz tecn p ẃć le nirist t Numbr 14.

Y wl naćṛli s’poz ɖt a scelitn—se ɖt v Mag. Nicolas Francken—wz dscuvrd. Ɖt wz nt so. Ẃt ɖe dd fînd layñ btwn ɖ bīmz ẃć s’portd ɖ florñ wz a smōl copr box. In it wz a nītli-foldd veḷm dokmnt, wɖ abt twenti lînz v raitñ. Bʈ Anḍsn n Jensen (hu pruvd t b smʈñ v a paliogṛfr) wr mć xîtd bî ɖs dscuṿri, ẃć promist t aford ɖ ci t ɖz xtrordnri fnomina.

* * * * *

I pzes a copi v an astṛlojicl wrc ẃć I hv nvr réd. It hz, bî we v frunṭspìs, a wŭdcut bî Hanz Sebald Beham, reprizntñ a numbr v sejz sītd rnd a tebl. Ɖs dītel me inebl coṇsŕz t îdnṭfî ɖ bc. I canot mslf rec̣lect its tîtl, n it z nt at ɖs momnt wɖn rīć; bt ɖ flîlīvz v it r cuvrd wɖ raitñ, n, jrñ ɖ ten yirz in ẃć I hv ǒnd ɖ volym, I hv nt bn ebl t dtrmin ẃć we p ɖs raitñ òt t b réd, mć les in ẃt lanḡj it z. Nt dsimilr wz ɖ pziśn v Anḍsn n Jensen aftr ɖ pṛtractd xaṃneśn t ẃć ɖe sbmitd ɖ dokmnt in ɖ copr box.

Aftr tū dez’ contmpleśn v it, Jensen, hu wz ɖ boldr spirit v ɖ tū, haẓdd ɖ cnjcćr ɖt ɖ lanḡj wz îɖr Latin or Old Deniś.

Anḍsn vnćrd upn no s’mîzz, n wz vri wilñ t srendr ɖ box n ɖ parćmnt t ɖ Historicl Ssayti v Vîborg t b plest in ɖer ḿziym.

I hd ɖ hol stori fṛm him a fy munʈs lêtr, az w sat in a wŭd nir Upsala, aftr a vizit t ɖ lîbrri ɖr, ẃr w—or, rɖr, I—hd laft ovr ɖ contract bî ẃć Daniel Salthenius (in lêtr lîf Pṛfesr v Hībru at Königsberg) sold himslf t Setn. Anḍsn wz nt riyli aḿzd.

‘Yuñ idịt!’ h sd, mīnñ Salthenius, hu wz onli an unḍgrajụt ẃn h cmitd ɖt indiscreśn, ‘hǎ dd h nǒ ẃt cumṗni h wz cortñ?’

N ẃn I sjstd ɖ yźl cnsiḍreśnz h onli gruntd. Ɖt sem afṭnun h tld m ẃt y hv réd; bt h rfyzd t drw eni infṛnsz fṛm it, n t asnt t eni ɖt I drù fr him.

CLASICS IN ÑSPEL

ÑSPEL

Clasics in Ñspel: THE ASH TREE by M R James

Ɖ AŚTRĪ

M R JEMZ

Evrwn hu hz travld ovr Īstn Ñgḷnd nz ɖ smōlr cuntrihǎzz wɖ ẃć it z studd—ɖ rɖr danc litl bildñz, yẓ́li in ɖ Itałn stîl, srǎndd wɖ parcs v sm eti t a hundṛd ecrz. Fr m ɖe hv olwz hd a vri stroñ atrax́n, wɖ ɖ gre pelñ v split oc, ɖ nobl triz, ɖ mírz wɖ ɖer rìdbedz, n ɖ lîn v distnt wŭdz. Ɖen, I lîc ɖ pilrd portico—phps stuc on t a red-bric Qīn Án hǎs ẃć hz bn fest wɖ stuco t brñ it intu lîn wɖ ɖ ‘Grìśn’ test v ɖ end v ɖ etīnʈ snćri; ɖ hōl insd, gwñ p t ɖ rūf, ẃć hōl òt olwz t b pṛvîdd wɖ a gaḷri n a smōl orgn. I lîc ɖ lîbrri, tù, ẃr y me fînd enʈñ fṛm a Sōltr v ɖ ʈrtīnʈ snćri t a Śecspir qorto. I lîc ɖ picćrz, v cors; n phps most v ol I lîc fansiyñ ẃt lîf in sć a hǎs wz ẃn it wz frst bilt, n in ɖ pîpñ tîmz v landlordz’ pṛspeṛti, n nt līst nǎ, ẃn, f muni z nt so plentifl, test z mor vẹrid n lîf qt az inṭrestñ. I wś t hv wn v ɖz hǎzz, n inuf muni t cīp it tgɖr n entten mî frendz in it moḍstli.

Bt ɖs z a dgreśn. I hv t tel y v a krịs siriz v ivnts ẃć hapnd in sć a hǎs az I hv traid t dscrîb. It z Castrñm Hōl in Suf̣c. I ʈnc a gd dīl hz bn dn t ɖ bildñ sins ɖ pirịd v mî stori, bt ɖ isnśl fīćrz I hv scećt r stl ɖr—Itałn portico, sqer bloc v ẃît hǎs, oldr insd ɖn ǎt, parc wɖ frinj v wŭdz, n mír. Ɖ wn fīćr ɖt marct ǎt ɖ hǎs fṛm a scor v uɖrz z gn. Az y lct at it fṛm ɖ parc, y sw on ɖ rît a gret old aśtrī growñ wɖn haf a duzn yardz v ɖ wōl, n olmst or qt tućñ ɖ bildñ wɖ its branćz. I s’poz it hd std ɖr evr sins Castrñm sīst t b a forṭfaid ples, n sins ɖ mot wz fild in n ɖ Iliẓbīʈn dwelñhǎs bilt. At eni ret, it hd wel-nî atend its fl dmnśnz in ɖ yir 1690.

In ɖt yir ɖ district in ẃć ɖ Hōl z sićuetd wz ɖ sīn v a numbr v wićtrîlz. It wl b loñ, I ʈnc, bfr w arîv at a just esṭmet v ɖ amǎnt v solid rīzn—f ɖr wz eni—ẃć le at ɖ rūt v ɖ yṇvrsl fir v wićz in old tîmz. Ẃɖr ɖ prsnz akzd v ɖs ofns riyli dd imajin ɖt ɖe wr pzest v unyźl pǎr v eni cnd; or ẃɖr ɖe hd ɖ wil at līst, f nt ɖ pǎr, v dwñ misćif t ɖer nebrz; or ẃɖr ol ɖ cnfeśnz, v ẃć ɖr r so mni, wr xtortd bî ɖ cruwlti v ɖ wićfîndrz—ɖz r qsćnz ẃć r nt, I fansi, yt solvd. N ɖ preznt naṛtiv gvz m pōz. I canot oltgɖr swīp it awe az mir invnśn. Ɖ rīdr mst juj fr himslf.

Castrñm cntribytd a victim t ɖ auto-da-fé. Msz Muɖ̇sǒl wz hr nem, n ś difrd fṛm ɖ ordnri run v vilijwićz onli in biyñ rɖr betr of n in a mor influenśl pziśn. Ef̣ts wr md t sev hr bî sevṛl repytbl farmrz v ɖ pariś. Ɖe dd ɖer bst t tsṭfî t hr caṛctr, n śoud cnsidṛbl añzayti az t ɖ vrdict v ɖ jri.

Bt ẃt sīmz t hv bn fetl t ɖ wmn wz ɖ evidns v ɖ ɖen pṛpraytr v Castrñm Hōl—Sr Máʈy Fél. H dpozd t hvñ woćt hr on ʈri difṛnt oceźnz fṛm hiz windo, at ɖ fl v ɖ mūn, gaɖ̇rñ sprigz ‘fṛm ɖ aśtrī nir mî hǎs’. Ś hd clîmd intu ɖ branćz, clad onli in hr śift, n wz cutñ of smōl twigz wɖ a pkłrli crvd nîf, n az ś dd so ś sīmd t b tōcñ t hrslf. On ć oceźn Sr Máʈy hd dn hiz bst t capćr ɖ wmn, bt ś hd olwz tecn alarm at sm axdntl nôz h hd md, n ol h cd si ẃn h got dǎn t ɖ gardn wz a hér runñ acrs ɖ paʈ in ɖ d’rex́n v ɖ vilij.

On ɖ ʈrd nît h hd bn at ɖ penz t folo at hiz bst spīd, n hd gn stret t Msz Muɖ̇sǒl’z hǎs; bt h hd hd t wêt a qortr v an aur baṭrñ at hr dor, n ɖen ś hd cm ǎt vri cros, n apaṛntli vri slīpi, az f jst ǎt v bed; n h hd no gd xpḷneśn t ofr v hiz vizit.

Mnli on ɖs evidns, ɖo ɖr wz mć mor v a les strîcñ n unyźl cnd fṛm uɖr p’riṣ́nrz, Msz Muɖ̇sǒl wz faund gilti n cndemd t dî. Ś wz hañd a wīc aftr ɖ trîl, wɖ fîv or six mor unhapi crīćrz, at Beri St Edṃndz.

Sr Máʈy Fél, ɖen Depytiśerif, wz preznt at ɖ x’kśn. It wz a damp, drizli Marć mornñ ẃn ɖ cart md its we p ɖ ruf grashil ǎtsd Norʈget, ẃr ɖ galoz std. Ɖ uɖr victimz wr aṗʈetic or brocn dǎn wɖ miẓri; bt Msz Muɖ̇sǒl wz, az in lîf so in deʈ, v a vri difṛnt tmpr. Hr ‘pôzṇs Rej’, az a rportr v ɖ tîm pts it, ‘dd so wrc upn ɖ Bîstandrz—ye, īvn upn ɖ Hañmn—ɖt it wz constntli afrmd v ol ɖt sw hr ɖt ś prizntd ɖ livñ Aspect v a mad Divl. Yt ś ofrd no Rzistns t ɖ Ofisrz v ɖ Lw; onli ś lct upn ɖoz ɖt leid Handz upn hr wɖ so dîrfl n veṇṃs an Aspect ɖt—az wn v ɖm aftwdz aśurd m—ɖ mir Ʈt v it préid inẉdli upn hiz Mînd fr six Munʈs aftr.’

Hvr, ol ɖt ś z rportd t hv sd wr ɖ sīmñli mīnñlis wrdz: ‘Ɖr wl b gsts at ɖ Hōl.’ Ẃć ś rpitd mor ɖn wns in an unḍton.

Sr Máʈy Fél wz nt unimprest bî ɖ bẹrñ v ɖ wmn. H hd sm tōc upn ɖ matr wɖ ɖ Vicr v hiz pariś, wɖ hūm h travld hom aftr ɖ asîzbiznis wz ovr. Hiz evidns at ɖ trîl hd nt bn vri wilñli gvn; h wz nt speṣ́li infctd wɖ ɖ wić-fîndñ meńa, bt h dclerd, ɖen n aftwdz, ɖt h cd nt gv eni uɖr acǎnt v ɖ matr ɖn ɖt h hd gvn, n ɖt h cd nt poṣbli hv bn mstecn az t ẃt h sw. Ɖ hol trnzax́n hd bn rpugnnt t him, fr h wz a man hu lîct t b on pleznt trmz wɖ ɖoz abt him; bt h sw a dyti t b dn in ɖs biznis, n h hd dn it. Ɖt sīmz t hv bn ɖ jist v hiz sntimnts, n ɖ Vicr aplōdd it, az eni rīzṇbl man mst hv dn.

A fy wīcs aftr, ẃn ɖ mūn v Me wz at ɖ fl, Vicr n Sqîr met agn in ɖ parc, n wōct t ɖ Hōl tgɖr. Ledi Fél wz wɖ hr muɖr, hu wz denjṛsli il, n Sr Máʈy wz alon at hom; so ɖ Vicr, Mr Crǒm, wz īẓli pswedd t tec a lêt supr at ɖ Hōl.

Sr Máʈy wz nt vri gd cumṗni ɖs īvnñ. Ɖ tōc ran ćīfli on faṃli n pariś matrz, n, az luc wd hv it, Sr Máʈy md a meṃrandm in raitñ v srtn wśz or intnśnz v hiz rgardñ hiz istets, ẃć aftwdz pruvd xidñli ysfl.

Ẃn Mr Crǒm ʈt v startñ fr hom, abt haf past nîn o’cloc, Sr Máʈy n h tc a priliminri trn on ɖ gravld wōc at ɖ bac v ɖ hǎs. Ɖ onli insidnt ɖt struc Mr Crǒm wz ɖs: ɖe wr in sît v ɖ aśtrī ẃć I dscrîbd az growñ nir ɖ windoz v ɖ bildñ, ẃn Sr Máʈy stopt n sd:

‘Ẃt z ɖt ɖt runz p n dǎn ɖ stem v ɖ aś? It z nvr a sqiṛl? Ɖe wl ol b in ɖer nsts bî nǎ.’

Ɖ Vicr lct n sw ɖ muvñ crīćr, bt h cd mc nʈñ v its culr in ɖ mūnlît. Ɖ śarp ǎtlîn, hvr, sìn fr an instnt, wz imprintd on hiz bren, n h cd hv sworn, h sd, ɖo it sǎndd fūliś, ɖt, sqiṛl or nt, it hd mor ɖn for legz.

Stl, nt mć wz t b md v ɖ momntri viźn, n ɖ tū men partd. Ɖe me hv met sins ɖen, bt it wz nt fr a scor v yirz.

Nxt de Sr Máʈy Fél wz nt dǎnsterz at six in ɖ mornñ, az wz hiz custm, nr at sevn, nr yt at et. Hiṛpon ɖ srvnts wnt n noct at hiz ćembrdor. I nīd nt pṛloñ ɖ dscripśn v ɖer añśs liṣnñz n rnyd baṭrñz on ɖ panlz. Ɖ dor wz opnd at last fṛm ɖ ǎtsd, n ɖe faund ɖer mastr ded n blac. So mć y hv gest. Ɖt ɖr wr eni marcs v vayḷns dd nt at ɖ momnt apir; bt ɖ windo wz opn.

Wn v ɖ men wnt t feć ɖ parsn, n ɖen bî hiz d’rex́nz roud on t gv notis t ɖ coṛnr. Mr Crǒm himslf wnt az qc az h mt t ɖ Hōl, n wz śoun t ɖ rūm ẃr ɖ ded man le. H hz left sm nots amñ hiz peprz ẃć śo hǎ jenyin a rspct n soro wz flt fr Sr Máʈy, n ɖr z olso ɖs pasij, ẃć I trnscrîb fr ɖ sec v ɖ lît it ʈroz upn ɖ cors v ivnts, n olso upn ɖ comn b’lifs v ɖ tîm:

‘Ɖr wz nt eni ɖ līst Tres v an Entṛns hvñ bn forst t ɖ Ćembr: bt ɖ Cesmnt std opn, az mî pur Frend wd olwz hv it in ɖs Sīzn. H hd hiz Īvnñdrinc v smōl El in a silvr vesl v abt a pîntmeźr, n tnît hd nt drunc it ǎt. Ɖs Drinc wz xamind bî ɖ Fziśn fṛm Beri, a Mr Hojcinz, hu cd nt, hvr, az h aftwdz declerd upn hiz Oʈ, bfr ɖ Coṛnr’z qst, dscuvr ɖt eni matr v a veṇṃs cnd wz preznt in it. Fr, az wz naćṛl, in ɖ gret Swelñ n Blacnis v ɖ Corps, ɖr wz tōc md amñ ɖ Nebrz v Pôzn. Ɖ Bodi wz vri mć Dsordrd az it leid in ɖ Bed, biyñ twistd aftr so xtrim a sort az gev tù probbl Cnjcćr ɖt mî wrɖi Frend n Petṛn hd expîrd in gret Pen n Aġni. N ẃt z az yt unixplend, n t mslf ɖ Arğmnt v sm Horid n Artfl Dzîn in ɖ Prṗtretrz v ɖs Barbṛs Mrɖr, wz ɖs, ɖt ɖ Wimin ẃć wr intrustd wɖ ɖ leyñ-ǎt v ɖ Corps n wośñ it, biyñ bʈ sad Prsnz n vri wel Rspctd in ɖer Mōrnfl Pṛfeśn, cem t m in a gret Pen n Dstres bʈ v Mînd n Bodi, seyñ, ẃt wz indd cnfrmd upn ɖ frst Vy, ɖt ɖe hd no snr tućt ɖ Brest v ɖ Corps wɖ ɖer necid Handz ɖn ɖe wr snṣbl v a mor ɖn ordnri vayḷnt Smart n Ecñ in ɖer Pāmz, ẃć, wɖ ɖer hol Fōrarmz, in no loñ tîm sweld so imodṛtli, ɖ Pen stl cntinywñ, ɖt, az aftwdz pruvd, jrñ mni wīcs ɖe wr forst t le bî ɖ x’sîz v ɖer Cōlñ; n yt no marc sìn on ɖ Scin.

‘Upn hírñ ɖs, I snt fr ɖ Fziśn, hu wz stl in ɖ Hǎs, n w md az cerfl a Prūf az w wr ebl bî ɖ Hlp v a smōl Magṇfayñ Lénz v Cristl v ɖ cndiśn v ɖ Scin on ɖs Part v ɖ Bodi: bt cd nt dtct wɖ ɖ Instṛmnt w hd eni Matr v Importns bynd a cupl v smōl Puñćrz or Prics, ẃć w ɖen cncludd wr ɖ Spots bî ẃć ɖ Pôzn mt b intṛdyst, rmemḅrñ ɖt Rñ v Pǒp Borgia, wɖ uɖr noun Spesimnz v ɖ Horid Art v ɖ Itałn Pôznrz v ɖ last ej.

‘So mć z t b sd v ɖ Simtmz sìn on ɖ Corps. Az t ẃt I am t ad, it z mirli mî ǒn Xperimnt, n t b left t Psteṛti t juj ẃɖr ɖr b enʈñ v Valy ɖr-in. Ɖr wz on ɖ Tebl bî ɖ Bedsîd a Bîbl v ɖ smōl sîz, in ẃć mî Frend—puñćl az in Matrz v les Momnt, so in ɖs mor weiti wn—yst nîtli, n upn hiz Frst Rîzñ, t rīd a sét Porśn. N I tecñ it p—nt wɖt a Tir dyli peid t him ẃć fṛm ɖ Studi v ɖs purr Admbreśn wz nǎ pást t ɖ contmpleśn v its gret Orijinl—it cem intu mî Ʈts, az at sć momnts v Hlplisnis w r pron t cać at eni ɖ līst Glimr ɖt mcs promis v Lît, t mc trîl v ɖt old n bî mni acǎntd Sūṗstiśs Practis v drw̃ ɖ Sortes; v ẃć a Prinsipl Instns, in ɖ ces v hiz lêt Secrid Maɉsti ɖ Blesid Martr Cñ Ćarlz n mî Lord Fōcḷnd, wz nǎ mć tōct v. I mst nīdz admit ɖt bî mî Trîl nt mć Asistns wz afordd m: yt, az ɖ Cōz n Oṛjin v ɖz Dredfl Ivnts me hiraftr b srćt ǎt, I set dǎn ɖ Rzults, in ɖ ces it me b faund ɖt ɖe pôntd ɖ tru Qortr v ɖ Misćif t a qcr Intelijns ɖn mî ǒn.

‘I md, ɖen, ʈri trîlz, oṗnñ ɖ Bc n plesñ mî Fngr upn srtn Wrdz: ẃć gev in ɖ frst ɖz wrdz, fṛm Lūc xiii. 7, Cut it dǎn; in ɖ secnd, Îzaia xiii. 20, It śl nvr b inhaḅtd; n upn ɖ ʈrd Xperimnt, Job xxxiv. 30, Hr yuñ wnz olso suc p blud.’

Ɖs z ol ɖt nīd b qotd fṛm Mr Crǒm’z peprz. Sr Máʈy Fél wz dyli cofind n leid intu ɖ rʈ, n hiz fynṛl srmn, prīćt bî Mr Crǒm on ɖ folowñ Súnde, hz bn printd undr ɖ tîtl v ‘Ɖ Unsrćbl We; or, Ñgḷnd’z Denjr n ɖ Mliśs Dīlñz v Anticrîst’, it biyñ ɖ Vicr’z vy, az wel az ɖt most comnli hld in ɖ nebrhd, ɖt ɖ Sqîr wz ɖ victim v a rīcrudesns v ɖ Pǒpiś Plot.

Hiz sun, Sr Máʈy ɖ secnd, s’xidd t ɖ tîtl n istets. N so endz ɖ frst act v ɖ Castrñm traɉdi. It z t b mnśnd, ɖo ɖ fact z nt s’prîzñ, ɖt ɖ ny Baṛnét dd nt okpî ɖ rūm in ẃć hiz faɖr hd daid. Nr, indd, wz it slept in bî enwn bt an oceźnl vizitr jrñ ɖ hol v hiz okpeśn. H daid in 1735, n I d nt fînd ɖt enʈñ ptiklr marct hiz rên, sev a krịsli constnt mortaḷti amñ hiz catl n lîvstoc in jenṛl, ẃć śoud a tndnsi t incris slîtli az tîm wnt on.

Ɖoz hu r inṭrestd in ɖ dītelz wl fînd a sttisticl acǎnt in a letr t ɖ Jntlmn’z Maġzīn v 1772, ẃć drwz ɖ facts fṛm ɖ Baṛnét’s ǒn peprz. H pt an end t it at last bî a vri simpl xpīdịnt, ɖt v śutñ p ol hiz bīsts in śedz at nît, n cīpñ no śīp in hiz parc. Fr h hd notist ɖt nʈñ wz evr atact ɖt spent ɖ nît indorz. Aftr ɖt ɖ dsordr cnfînd itslf t wîld brdz, n bīsts v ćes. Bt az w hv no gd acǎnt v ɖ simtmz, n az ol-nît woćñ wz qt unpṛductiv v eni clu, I d nt dwel on ẃt ɖ Suf̣c farmrz cōld ɖ ‘Castrñm sicnis.’

Ɖ secnd Sr Máʈy daid in 1735, az I sd, n wz dyli s’xidd bî hiz sun, Sr Rićd. It wz in hiz tîm ɖt ɖ gret faṃli py wz bilt ǎt on ɖ norʈ sîd v ɖ pariśćrć. So larj wr ɖ Sqîr’z îdīaz ɖt sevṛl v ɖ grevz on ɖt unhaloud sîd v ɖ bildñ hd t b dstrbd t saṭsfî hiz rqîrmnts. Amñ ɖm wz ɖt v Msz Muɖ̇sǒl, ɖ pziśn v ẃć wz akṛtli noun, ʈancs t a not on a plan v ɖ ćrć n yard, bʈ md bî Mr Crǒm.

A srtn amǎnt v inṭrest wz xîtd in ɖ vilij ẃn it wz noun ɖt ɖ feṃs wić, hu wz stl rmembrd bî a fy, wz t b xymd. N ɖ fīlñ v s’prîz, n indd dsqayt, wz vri stroñ ẃn it wz faund ɖt, ɖo hr cofin wz ferli sǎnd n unbrocn, ɖr wz no tres ẃtvr insd it v bodi, bonz, or dust. Indd, it z a krịs fnominn, fr at ɖ tîm v hr beriyñ no sć ʈñz wr dremt v az reẓrex́nmen, n it z dificlt t cnsiv eni raṣ́nl motiv fr stìlñ a bodi uɖ̇wz ɖn fr ɖ ysz v ɖ dsctñrūm.

Ɖ insidnt rvîvd fr a tîm ol ɖ storiz v wićtrîlz n v ɖ xplôts v ɖ wićz, dormnt fr forti yirz, n Sr Rićd’z ordrz ɖt ɖ cofin śd b brnt wr ʈt bî a gd mni t b rɖr fūlhardi, ɖo ɖe wr dyli carid ǎt.

Sr Rićd wz a pstiḷnt iṇvetr, it z srtn. Bfr hiz tîm ɖ Hōl hd bn a fîn bloc v ɖ melǒist red bric; bt Sr Rićd hd travld in Iṭli n bcm infctd wɖ ɖ Itałn test, n, hvñ mor muni ɖn hiz prīdisesrz, h dtrmind t līv an Itałn palis ẃr h hd faund an Ñgliś hǎs. So stuco n aślr masct ɖ bric; sm indifṛnt Romn marblz wr plantd abt in ɖ entṛnshōl n gardnz; a rīpṛdux́n v ɖ Sibl’z tmpl at Tiṿli wz irectd on ɖ oṗzit banc v ɖ mír; n Castrñm tc on an intîrli ny, n, I mst se, a les ingejñ, aspect. Bt it wz mć admîrd, n srvd az a modl t a gd mni v ɖ neḅrñ jntri in afṭyirz.

* * * * *

Wn mornñ (it wz in 1754) Sr Rićd wouc aftr a nît v dscumf̣t. It hd bn windi, n hiz ćimni hd smoct psistntli, n yt it wz so cold ɖt h mst cīp p a fîr. Olso smʈñ hd so ratld abt ɖ windo ɖt no man cd gt a momnt’s pīs. Frɖr, ɖr wz ɖ prospect v sevṛl gsts v pziśn arîvñ in ɖ cors v ɖ de, hu wd xpct sport v sm cnd, n ɖ inrodz v ɖ dstmpr (ẃć cntinyd amñ hiz gem) hd bn lêtli so sirịs ɖt h wz afreid fr hiz repyteśn az a gemprizrvr. Bt ẃt riyli tućt him most nirli wz ɖ uɖr matr v hiz slīplis nît. H cd srtnli nt slīp in ɖt rūm agn.

Ɖt wz ɖ ćīf subjict v hiz medteśnz at brecfst, n aftr it h bgan a sisṭmatic xaṃneśn v ɖ rūmz t si ẃć wd sūt hiz nośnz bst. It wz loñ bfr h faund wn. Ɖs hd a windo wɖ an īstn aspect n ɖt wɖ a norɖn; ɖs dor ɖ srvnts wd b olwz pasñ, n h dd nt lîc ɖ bedsted in ɖt. No, h mst hv a rūm wɖ a wstn lc-ǎt, so ɖt ɖ sún cd nt wec him rli, n it mst b ǎt v ɖ we v ɖ biznis v ɖ hǎs. Ɖ hǎscīpr wz at ɖ end v hr rzorsz.

‘Wel, Sr Rićd,’ ś sd, ‘y nǒ ɖt ɖr z bt ɖ wn rūm lîc ɖt in ɖ hǎs.’

‘Ẃć me ɖt b?’ sd Sr Rićd.

‘N ɖt z Sr Máʈy’z—ɖ Wst Ćembr.’

‘Wel, pt m in ɖr, fr ɖr I’l lî tnît,’ sd hr mastr. ‘Ẃć we z it? Hir, t b śr’; n h hurid of.

‘Ǒ, Sr Rićd, bt nwn hz slept ɖr ɖz forti yirz. Ɖ er hz hardli bn ćenjd sins Sr Máʈy daid ɖr.’

Ɖus ś spouc, n rusld aftr him.

‘Cm, opn ɖ dor, Msz Ćiḍc. I’l si ɖ ćembr, at līst.’

So it wz opnd, n, indd, ɖ smel wz vri clos n rʈi. Sr Rićd crost t ɖ windo, n, impeśntli, az wz hiz wǒnt, ʈrù ɖ śutrz bac, n fluñ opn ɖ cesmnt. Fr ɖs end v ɖ hǎs wz wn ẃć ɖ olṭreśnz hd bérli tućt, groun p az it wz wɖ ɖ gret aśtrī, n biyñ uɖ̇wz cnsild fṛm vy.

‘Er it, Msz Ćiḍc, ol tde, n muv mî bedfrnićr in in ɖ afṭnun. Pt ɖ Biṣ́p v Cilmor in mî old rūm.’

‘Pre, Sr Rićd,’ sd a ny vôs, brecñ in on ɖs spīć, ‘mt I hv ɖ fevr v a momnt’s inṭvy?’

Sr Rićd trnd rnd n sw a man in blac in ɖ dorwe, hu baud.

‘I mst asc yr induljns fr ɖs intruźn, Sr Rićd. Y wl, phps, hardli rmembr m. Mî nem z Wiłm Crǒm, n mî granfaɖr wz Vicr in yr granfaɖr’z tîm.’

‘Wel, sr,’ sd Sr Rićd, ‘ɖ nem v Crǒm z olwz a pasport t Castrñm. I am glad t rny a frendśp v tū jeṇreśnz’ standñ. In ẃt cn I srv y? fr yr aur v cōlñ—n, f I d nt mstec y, yr bẹrñ—śoz y t b in sm hest.’

‘Ɖt z no mor ɖn ɖ truʈ, sr. I am rîdñ fṛm Norij t Beri St Edṃndz wɖ ẃt hest I cn mc, n I hv cōld in on mî we t līv wɖ y sm peprz ẃć w hv bt jst cm upn in lcñ ovr ẃt mî granfaɖr left at hiz deʈ. It z ʈt y me fînd sm matrz v faṃli inṭrest in ɖm.’

‘Y r mîti oblîjñ, Mr Crǒm, n, f y wl b so gd az t folo m t ɖ parlr, n drinc a glas v wîn, w wl tec a frst lc at ɖz sem peprz tgɖr. N y, Msz Ćiḍc, az I sd, b abt e’rñ ɖs ćembr… Yes, it z hir mî granfaɖr daid… Yes, ɖ tri, phps, dz mc ɖ ples a litl dampiś… No; I d nt wś t lisn t eni mor. Mc no dificltiz, I beg. Y hv yr ordrz—g. Wl y folo m, sr?’

Ɖe wnt t ɖ studi. Ɖ pacit ẃć yuñ Mr Crǒm hd bròt—h wz ɖen jst bcm a Felo v Cler Hōl in Cembrij, I me se, n subsiqntli bròt ǎt a rspctbl idiśn v Polieṇs—cntend amñ uɖr ʈñz ɖ nots ẃć ɖ old Vicr hd md upn ɖ oceźn v Sr Máʈy Fél’z deʈ. N fr ɖ frst tîm Sr Rićd wz cnfruntd wɖ ɖ eṇgmaticl Sortes Biblicae ẃć y hv hŕd. Ɖe aḿzd him a gd dīl.

‘Wel,’ h sd, ‘mî granfaɖr’z Bîbl gev wn prūdnt pìs v advîs—Cut it dǎn. F ɖt standz fr ɖ aśtrī, h me rest aśurd I śl nt nglect it. Sć a nst v ctarz n êgz wz nvr sìn.’

Ɖ parlr cntend ɖ faṃli bcs, ẃć, pndñ ɖ arîvl v a c’lex́n ẃć Sr Rićd hd md in Iṭli, n ɖ bildñ v a propr rūm t rsiv ɖm, wr nt mni in numbr.

Sr Rićd lct p fṛm ɖ pepr t ɖ bc̦es.

‘I wundr,’ sz h, ‘ẃɖr ɖ old prófit z ɖr yt? I fansi I si him.’

Crosñ ɖ rūm, h tc ǎt a dumpi Bîbl, ẃć, śr inuf, bòr on ɖ flîlīf ɖ inscripśn: ‘T Máʈy Fél, fṛm hiz Luvñ Godmuɖr, Án Ōlḍs, 2nd Sptmbr 1659.’

‘It wd b no bad plan t tst him agn, Mr Crǒm. I wl wejr w gt a cupl v nemz in ɖ Croniclz. H’m! ẃt hv w hir? “Ɖǎ ślt sīc m in ɖ mornñ, n I śl nt b.” Wel, wel! Yr granfaɖr wd hv md a fîn omn v ɖt, hé? No mor prófits fr m! Ɖe r ol in a têl. N nǎ, Mr Crǒm, I am infiṇtli oblîjd t y fr yr pacit. Y wl, I fir, b impeśnt t gt on. Pre alǎ m—anɖr glas.’

So wɖ ofrz v hosṗtaḷti, ẃć wr jenyinli mnt (fr Sr Rićd ʈt wel v ɖ yuñ man’z adres n manr), ɖe partd.

In ɖ afṭnun cem ɖ gsts—ɖ Biṣ́p v Cilmor, Ledi Mẹri Hrvi, Sr Wiłm Cntfīld, ets. Dinr at fîv, wîn, cardz, supr, n dsprsl t bed.

Nxt mornñ Sr Rićd z disinclînd t tec hiz gun wɖ ɖ rest. H tōcs wɖ ɖ Biṣ́p v Cilmor. Ɖs preḷt, unlîc a gd mni v ɖ Îriś Biṣ́ps v hiz de, hd viẓtd hiz si, n, indd, rzîdd ɖr, fr sm cnsidṛbl tîm. Ɖs mornñ, az ɖ tū wr wōcñ alñ ɖ teris n tōcñ ovr ɖ olṭreśnz n impruvmnts in ɖ hǎs, ɖ Biṣ́p sd, pôntñ t ɖ windo v ɖ Wst Rūm:

‘Y cd nvr gt wn v mî Îriś floc t okpî ɖt rūm, Sr Rićd.’

‘Ẃ z ɖt, mî lord? It z, in fact, mî ǒn.’

‘Wel, ǎr Îriś pezntri wl olwz hv it ɖt it brñz ɖ wrst v luc t slīp nir an aśtrī, n y hv a fîn groʈ v aś nt tū yardz fṛm yr ćembrwindo. Phps,’ ɖ Biṣ́p wnt on, wɖ a smîl, ‘it hz gvn y a tuć v its qoḷti olrdi, fr y d nt sīm, f I me se it, so mć ɖ freśr fr yr nît’s rest az yr frendz wd lîc t si y.’

‘Ɖt, or smʈñ els, it z tru, cost m mî slīp fṛm twelv t for, mî lord. Bt ɖ tri z t cm dǎn tmoro, so I śl nt hír mć mor fṛm it.’

‘I aplōd yr dtrṃneśn. It cn hardli b holsm t hv ɖ er y briɖ strend, az it wr, ʈru ol ɖt līfij.’

‘Yr lordśp z rît ɖr, I ʈnc. Bt I hd nt mî windo opn last nît. It wz rɖr ɖ nôz ɖt wnt on—no dǎt fṛm ɖ twigz swīpñ ɖ glas—ɖt cept m opn-aid.’

‘I ʈnc ɖt cn hardli b, Sr Rićd. Hir—y si it fṛm ɖs pônt. Nn v ɖz nirist branćz īvn cn tuć yr cesmnt unls ɖr wr a gel, n ɖr wz nn v ɖt last nît. Ɖe mis ɖ peinz bî a ft.’

‘No, sr, tru. Ẃt, ɖen, wl it b, I wundr, ɖt scraćt n rusld so—ai, n cuvrd ɖ dust on mî sil wɖ lînz n marcs?’

At last ɖe agrìd ɖt ɖ rats mst hv cm p ʈru ɖ îvi. Ɖt wz ɖ Biṣ́p’s îdīa, n Sr Rićd jumt at it.

So ɖ de pást qaytli, n nît cem, n ɖ parti dsprst t ɖer rūmz, n wśt Sr Rićd a betr nît.

N nǎ w r in hiz bedrūm, wɖ ɖ lît ǎt n ɖ Sqîr in bed. Ɖ rūm z ovr ɖ cićn, n ɖ nît ǎtsd stil n worm, so ɖ windo standz opn.

Ɖr z vri litl lît abt ɖ bedsted, bt ɖr z a strenj muvmnt ɖr; it sīmz az f Sr Rićd wr muvñ hiz hed rapidli t n fro wɖ onli ɖ slîtist poṣbl sǎnd. N nǎ y wd ges, so dsptiv z ɖ haf-darcnis, ɖt h hd sevṛl hedz, rǎnd n brǎniś, ẃć muv bac n fwd, īvn az lo az hiz ćst. It z a hoṛbl iluźn. Z it nʈñ mor? Ɖr! smʈñ drops of ɖ bed wɖ a soft plump, lîc a citn, n z ǎt v ɖ windo in a flaś; anɖr—for—n aftr ɖt ɖr z qayt agn.

Ɖǎ śl sīc m in ɖ mornñ, n I śl nt b.

Az wɖ Sr Máʈy, so wɖ Sr Rićd—ded n blac in hiz bed!

A pel n sîḷnt parti v gsts n srvnts gaɖrd undr ɖ windo ẃn ɖ nyz wz noun. Itałn pôẓnrz, Pǒpiś emiṣriz, infctd er—ol ɖz n mor gesz wr haẓdd, n ɖ Biṣ́p v Cilmor lct at ɖ tri, in ɖ forc v huz lowr bauz a ẃît tomcat wz crǎćñ, lcñ dǎn ɖ holo ẃć yirz hd nwd in ɖ trunc. It wz woćñ smʈñ insd ɖ tri wɖ gret inṭrest.

Sudnli it got p n crend ovr ɖ houl. Ɖen a bit v ɖ éj on ẃć it std gev we, n it wnt sliɖ̇rñ in. Evrwn lct p at ɖ nôz v ɖ fōl.

It z noun t most v s ɖt a cat cn crî; bt fy v s hv hŕd, I hop, sć a yel az cem ǎt v ɖ trunc v ɖ gret aś. Tū or ʈri scrīmz ɖr wr—ɖ witṇsz r nt śr ẃć—n ɖen a slît n mufld nôz v sm cmośn or struġlñ wz ol ɖt cem. Bt Ledi Mẹri Hrvi fentd ǎtrît, n ɖ hǎscīpr stopt hr irz n fled tl ś fél on ɖ teris.

Ɖ Biṣ́p v Cilmor n Sr Wiłm Cntfīld steid. Yt īvn ɖe wr dōntd, ɖo it wz onli at ɖ crî v a cat; n Sr Wiłm swoloud wns or twîs bfr h cd se:

‘Ɖr z smʈñ mor ɖn w nǒ v in ɖt tri, mî lord. I am fr an instnt srć.’

N ɖs wz agrìd upn. A ladr wz bròt, n wn v ɖ gardnrz wnt p, n, lcñ dǎn ɖ holo, cd dtct nʈñ bt a fy dim indceśnz v smʈñ muvñ. Ɖe got a lantn, n let it dǎn bî a rop.

‘W mst gt at ɖ botm v ɖs. Mî lîf upn it, mî lord, bt ɖ sīcrit v ɖz teṛbl deʈs z ɖr.’

P wnt ɖ gardnr agn wɖ ɖ lantn, n let it dǎn ɖ houl cōśsli. Ɖe sw ɖ yelo lît upn hiz fes az h bnt ovr, n sw hiz fes struc wɖ an increjḷs terr n loɖñ bfr h craid ǎt in a dredfl vôs n fél bac fṛm ɖ ladr—ẃr, haṗli, h wz còt bî tū v ɖ men—letñ ɖ lantn fōl insd ɖ tri.

H wz in a ded fent, n it wz sm tîm bfr eni wrd cd b got fṛm him.

Bî ɖen ɖe hd smʈñ els t lc at. Ɖ lantn mst hv brocn at ɖ botm, n ɖ lît in it còt upn drî līvz n rubiś ɖt le ɖr fr in a fy minits a dns smoc bgan t cm p, n ɖen flem; n, t b śort, ɖ tri wz in a blêz.

Ɖ bîstandrz md a rñ at sm yardz’ distns, n Sr Wiłm n ɖ Biṣ́p snt men t gt ẃt wepnz n tūlz ɖe cd; fr, clirli, ẃtvr mt b yzñ ɖ tri az its ler wd b forst ǎt bî ɖ fîr.

So it wz. Frst, at ɖ forc, ɖe sw a rǎnd bodi cuvrd wɖ fîr—ɖ sîz v a man’z hed—apir vri sudnli, ɖen sīm t c’laps n fōl bac. Ɖs, fîv or six tîmz; ɖen a similr bōl lept intu ɖ er n fél on ɖ gras, ẃr aftr a momnt it le stl. Ɖ Biṣ́p wnt az nir az h derd t it, n sw—ẃt bt ɖ rmenz v an inorṃs spîdr, veṇs n sird! N, az ɖ fîr brnd lowr dǎn, mor teṛbl bodiz lîc ɖs bgan t brec ǎt fṛm ɖ trunc, n it wz sìn ɖt ɖz wr cuvrd wɖ grêiś her.

Ol ɖt de ɖ aś brnd, n untl it fél t pìsz ɖ men std abt it, n fṛm tîm t tîm cild ɖ brūts az ɖe dartd ǎt. At last ɖr wz a loñ inṭvl ẃn nn apird, n ɖe cōśsli clozd in n xamind ɖ rūts v ɖ tri.

‘Ɖe faund,’ sz ɖ Biṣ́p v Cilmor, ‘b’lo it a rǎndd holo ples in ɖ rʈ, ẃr-in wr tū or ʈri bodiz v ɖz crīćrz ɖt hd plenli bn smuɖrd bî ɖ smoc; n, ẃt z t m mor krịs, at ɖ sîd v ɖs den, agnst ɖ wōl, wz crǎćñ ɖ anaṭmi or scelitn v a hymn biyñ, wɖ ɖ scin draid upn ɖ bonz, hvñ sm rmenz v blac her, ẃć wz pṛnǎnst bî ɖoz ɖt xamind it t b undǎtidli ɖ bodi v a wmn, n clirli ded fr a pirịd v fifti yirz.’

CLASICS IN ÑSPEL

ÑSPEL

Clasics in Ñspel: “Oh, whistle and I’ll come to you, my lad,” by M R James

‘Ǒ, ẂISL, N I’L CM T Y, MÎ LAD’

M R JEMZ

‘I  s’poz y wl b gtñ awe priti sn, nǎ Fl Trm z ovr, Pṛfesr,’ sd a prsn nt in ɖ stori t ɖ Pṛfesr v Ontography, sn aftr ɖe hd sat dǎn nxt t ć uɖr at a fīst in ɖ h’spitbl hōl v St Jemz’z Colij.

Ɖ Pṛfesr wz yuñ, nīt, n prisîs in spīć.

‘Yes,’ h sd; ‘mî frendz hv bn mcñ m tec p golf ɖs trm, n I mīn t g t ɖ Īst Cǒst—in pônt v fact t Brnsto—(I der se y nǒ it) fr a wīc or ten dez, t impruv mî gem. I hop t gt of tmoro.’

‘Ǒ, Parcinz,’ sd hiz nebr on ɖ uɖr sîd, ‘f y r gwñ t Brnsto, I wś y wd lc at ɖ sait v ɖ Tmplrz’ prīsepṭri, n let m nǒ f y ʈnc it wd b eni gd t hv a dig ɖr in ɖ suMr’

It wz, az y mt s’poz, a prsn v anṭqerịn psyts hu sd ɖs, bt, sins h mirli apirz in ɖs prolog, ɖr z no nīd t gv hiz intîtlmnts.

‘Srtnli,’ sd Parcinz, ɖ Pṛfesr: ‘f y wl dscrîb t m ẃr’bts ɖ sait z, I wl d mî bst t gv y an îdīa v ɖ lî v ɖ land ẃn I gt bac; or I cd rait t y abt it, f y wd tel m ẃr y r lîcli t b.’

‘D’nt trubl t d ɖt, ʈancs. It’s onli ɖt I’m ʈncñ v tecñ mî faṃli in ɖt d’rex́n in ɖ Loñ, n it ocŕd t m ɖt, az vri fy v ɖ Ñgliś prīsepṭriz hv evr bn proprli pland, I mt hv an oṗtyṇti v dwñ smʈñ ysfl on of-dez.’

Ɖ Pṛfesr rɖr snift at ɖ îdīa ɖt planñ ǎt a prīsepṭri cd b dscrîbd az ysfl. Hiz nebr cntinyd:

‘Ɖ sait—I dǎt f ɖr z enʈñ śowñ abv grǎnd—mst b dǎn qt clos t ɖ bīć nǎ. Ɖ sì hz incroćt tṛmndsli, az y nǒ, ol alñ ɖt bit v cǒst. I śd ʈnc, fṛm ɖ map, ɖt it mst b abt ʈri-qortrz v a mîl fṛm ɖ Glob Ín, at ɖ norʈ end v ɖ tǎn. Ẃr r y gwñ t ste?’

‘Wel, at ɖ Glob Ín, az a matr v fact,’ sd Parcinz; ‘I hv ingejd a rūm ɖr. I cd’nt gt in enẃr els; most v ɖ lojñhǎzz r śut p in wintr, it sīmz; n, az it z, ɖe tel m ɖt ɖ onli rūm v eni sîz I cn hv z riyli a dubl-bedd wn, n ɖt ɖe hv’nt a cornr in ẃć t stor ɖ uɖr bed, n so on. Bt I mst hv a ferli larj rūm, fr I am tecñ sm bcs dǎn, n mīn t d a bit v wrc; n ɖo I d’nt qt fansi hvñ an emti bed—nt t spīc v tū—in ẃt I me cōl fr ɖ tîm biyñ mî studi, I s’poz I cn manij t ruf it fr ɖ śort tîm I śl b ɖr.’

‘D y cōl hvñ an xtra bed in yr rūm rufñ it, Parcinz?’ sd a bluf prsn oṗzit. ‘Lc hir, I śl cm dǎn n okpî it fr a bit; it’l b cumṗni fr y.’

Ɖ Pṛfesr qivrd, bt manijd t laf in a crtịs manr.

‘Bî ol mīnz, Rojrz; ɖr’z nʈñ I śd lîc betr. Bt I’m afreid y wd fînd it rɖr dul; y d’nt ple golf, d y?’

‘No, ʈanc Hevn!’ sd rūd Mr Rojrz.

‘Wel, y si, ẃn I’m nt raitñ I śl most lîcli b ǎt on ɖ lincs, n ɖt, az I se, wd b rɖr dul fr y, I’m afreid.’

‘Ǒ, I d’nt nǒ! Ɖr’z srtn t b smbdi I nǒ in ɖ ples; bt, v cors, f y d’nt wont m, spīc ɖ wrd, Parcinz; I ś’nt b ofndd. Truʈ, az y olwz tel s, z nvr ofnsiv.’

Parcinz wz, indd, scrūpyḷsli p’lît n stricli truʈfl. It z t b fird ɖt Mr Rojrz smtmz practist upn hiz nolij v ɖz caṛcṭristics. In Parcinz’z brest ɖr wz a conflict nǎ rejñ, ẃć fr a momnt or tū dd nt alǎ him t ansr. Ɖt inṭvl biyñ ovr, h sd:

‘Wel, f y wont ɖ xact truʈ, Rojrz, I wz cnsiḍrñ ẃɖr ɖ rūm I spīc v wd riyli b larj inuf t acoṃdet s bʈ cumftbli; n olso ẃɖr (mînd, I śd’nt hv sd ɖs f y hd’nt prest m) y wd nt consttyt smʈñ in ɖ nećr v a hindṛns t mî wrc.’

Rojrz laft lǎdli.

‘Wel dn, Parcinz!’ h sd. ‘It’s ol rît. I promis nt t inṭrupt yr wrc; d’nt y dstrb yrslf abt ɖt. No, I w’nt cm f y d’nt wont m; bt I ʈt I śd d so nîsli t cīp ɖ gosts of.’ Hir h mt hv bn sìn t wnc n t nuj hiz nxt nebr. Parcinz mt olso hv bn sìn t bcm pnc. ‘I beg pardn, Parcinz,’ Rojrz cntinyd; ‘I òt’nt t hv sd ɖt. I fgot y dd’nt lîc leṿti on ɖz topics.’

‘Wel,’ Parcinz sd, ‘az y hv mnśnd ɖ matr, I frīli ǒn ɖt I d nt lîc cerlis tōc abt ẃt y cōl gosts. A man in mî pziśn,’ h wnt on, rezñ hiz vôs a litl, ‘canot, I fînd, b tù cerfl abt apirñ t sañśn ɖ cuṛnt b’lifs on sć subjicts. Az y nǒ, Rojrz, or az y òt t nǒ; fr I ʈnc I hv nvr cnsild mî vyz—’

‘No, y srtnli hv nt, old man,’ pt in Rojrz sotto voce.

‘—I hold ɖt eni smbḷns, eni apiṛns v cnseśn t ɖ vy ɖt sć ʈñz mt xist z iqivḷnt t a rnunsieśn v ol ɖt I hold most secrid. Bt I’m afreid I hv nt s’xidd in s’krñ yr atnśn.’

‘Yr undivîdd atnśn, wz ẃt Dr. Blimbr acć̣li sd,’ Rojrz inṭruptd, wɖ evri apiṛns v an rnist dzîr fr akṛsi. [Mr Rojrz wz roñ, vide “Dombi & Sun,” Ćaptr XII.] ‘Bt I beg yr pardn, Parcinz: I’m stopñ y.’

‘No, nt at ol,’ sd Parcinz. ‘I d’nt rmembr Blimbr; phps h wz bfr mî tîm. Bt I nīd’nt g on. I’m śr y nǒ ẃt I mīn.’

‘Yes, yes,’ sd Rojrz, rɖr hesṭli—‘jst so. W’l g intu it fŭli at Brnsto, or smẃr.’

In rpitñ ɖ abv daylog I hv traid t gv ɖ impreśn ẃć it md on m, ɖt Parcinz wz smʈñ v an old wmn—rɖr henlîc, phps, in hiz litl wez; toṭli desttyt, alas! v ɖ sns v hymr, bt at ɖ sem tîm dōntlis n snsir in hiz cnvix́nz, n a man dzrvñ v ɖ gretist rspct. Ẃɖr or nt ɖ rīdr hz gaɖrd so mć, ɖt wz ɖ caṛctr ẃć Parcinz hd.

* * * * *

On ɖ folowñ de Parcinz dd, az h hd hopt, s’xid in gtñ awe fṛm hiz colij, n in arîvñ at Brnsto. H wz md welcm at ɖ Glob Ín, wz sefli instōld in ɖ larj dubl-bedd rūm v ẃć w hv hŕd, n wz ebl bfr rtîrñ t rest t arenj hiz mtirịlz fr wrc in apl-pî ordr upn a cmodịs tebl ẃć okpaid ɖ ǎtr end v ɖ rūm, n wz srǎndd on ʈri sîdz bî windoz lcñ ǎt sìẉd; ɖt z t se, ɖ sntṛl windo lct stret ǎt t sì, n ɖoz on ɖ left n rît cmandd prospects alñ ɖ śor t ɖ norʈ n sǎʈ rspctivli. On ɖ sǎʈ y sw ɖ vilij v Brnsto. On ɖ norʈ no hǎzz wr t b sìn, bt onli ɖ bīć n ɖ lo clif bacñ it. Imīɉtli in frunt wz a strip—nt cnsidṛbl—v ruf gras, dotd wɖ old ancrz, capstnz, n so fʈ; ɖen a brōd paʈ; ɖen ɖ bīć. Ẃtvr me hv bn ɖ orijinl distns btwn ɖ Glob Ín n ɖ sì, nt mor ɖn sixti yardz nǎ seṗretd ɖm.

Ɖ rest v ɖ popyleśn v ɖ ín wz, v cors, a golfñ wn, n includd fy elimnts ɖt cōl fr a speśl dscripśn. Ɖ most cnspiks figr wz, phps, ɖt v an ancien militaire, secṛtri v a Lundn club, n pzest v a vôs v increḍbl streñʈ, n v vyz v a pṛnǎnsidli Protistnt tîp. Ɖz wr apt t fînd utṛns aftr hiz atndns upn ɖ miṇstreśnz v ɖ Vicr, an estiṃbl man wɖ incḷneśnz twdz a picćresc rićl, ẃć h gaḷntli cept dǎn az far az h cd ǎt v defṛns t Īst Angłn tṛdiśn.

Pṛfesr Parcinz, wn v huz prinsipl caṛcṭristics wz pluc, spent ɖ gretr part v ɖ de folowñ hiz arîvl at Brnsto in ẃt h hd cōld impruvñ hiz gem, in cumṗni wɖ ɖs Crnl Wilsn: n jrñ ɖ afṭnun—ẃɖr ɖ proses v impruvmnt wr t blem or nt, I am nt śr—ɖ Crnl’z dmīnr asymd a cuḷrñ so lŭrid ɖt īvn Parcinz jibd at ɖ ʈt v wōcñ hom wɖ him fṛm ɖ lincs. H dtrmind, aftr a śort n frtiv lc at ɖt briṣlñ mstaś n ɖoz incarṇdînd fīćrz, ɖt it wd b wîzr t alǎ ɖ inflụnsz v ti n tbaco t d ẃt ɖe cd wɖ ɖ Crnl bfr ɖ dinr aur śd rendr a mītñ inevitbl.

‘I mt wōc hom tnît alñ ɖ bīć,’ h rflectd—‘yes, n tec a lc—ɖr wl b lît inuf fr ɖt—at ɖ ruinz v ẃć Dizni wz tōcñ. I d’nt xacli nǒ ẃr ɖe r, bî ɖ we; bt I xpct I cn hardli hlp stumḅlñ on ɖm.’

Ɖs h acumpliśt, I me se, in ɖ most litṛl sns, fr in picñ hiz we fṛm ɖ lincs t ɖ śnglbīć hiz ft còt, partli in a gorsrūt n partli in a bgiś ston, n ovr h wnt. Ẃn h got p n sveid hiz srǎndñz, h faund himslf in a pać v smẃt brocn grǎnd cuvrd wɖ smōl dpreśnz n mǎndz. Ɖz latr, ẃn h cem t xamin ɖm, pruvd t b simpli masz v flints imbedd in mortr n groun ovr wɖ trf. H mst, h qt rîtli cncludd, b on ɖ sait v ɖ prīsepṭri h hd promist t lc at. It sīmd nt unlîcli t rword ɖ sped v ɖ xplorr; inuf v ɖ fǎndeśnz wz probbli left at no gret depʈ t ʈro a gd dīl v lît on ɖ jenṛl plan. H rmembrd vegli ɖt ɖ Tmplrz, t hūm ɖs sait hd b’loñd, wr in ɖ habit v bildñ rǎnd ćrćz, n h ʈt a ptiklr siriz v ɖ humps or mǎndz nir him dd apir t b arenjd in smʈñ v a srklr form. Fy ppl cn rzist ɖ tmteśn t trî a litl aṃćr rsrć in a dpartmnt qt ǎtsd ɖer ǒn, f onli fr ɖ saṭsfax́n v śowñ hǎ s’xesfl ɖe wd hv bn hd ɖe onli tecn it p sirịsli. Ǎr Pṛfesr, hvr, f h flt smʈñ v ɖs mīn dzîr, wz olso trūli añśs t oblîj Mr Dizni. So h pêst wɖ cer ɖ srklr eria h hd notist, n rout dǎn its ruf dmnśnz in hiz pocit-bc. Ɖen h pṛsidd t xamin an obloñ eminns ẃć le īst v ɖ sntr v ɖ srcl, n sīmd t hiz ʈncñ lîcli t b ɖ bes v a platform or ōltr. At wn end v it, ɖ norɖn, a pać v ɖ trf wz gn—rmuvd bî sm bô or uɖr crīćr ferae naturae. It mt, h ʈt, b az wel t prob ɖ sôl hir fr evidnsz v mesnri, n h tc ǎt hiz nîf n bgan screpñ awe ɖ rʈ. N nǎ foloud anɖr litl dscuṿri: a porśn v sôl fél inwd az h scrept, n dsclozd a smōl caṿti. H lîtd wn mać aftr anɖr t hlp him t si v ẃt nećr ɖ houl wz, bt ɖ wind wz tù stroñ fr ɖm ol. Bî tapñ n scraćñ ɖ sîdz wɖ hiz nîf, hvr, h wz ebl t mc ǎt ɖt it mst b an arṭfiśl houl in mesnri. It wz rectanğlr, n ɖ sîdz, top, n botm, f nt acć̣li plastrd, wr smuɖ n reğlr. V cors it wz emti. No! Az h wɖdru ɖ nîf h hŕd a mtalic clinc, n ẃn h intṛdyst hiz hand it met wɖ a s’lindricl objict layñ on ɖ flor v ɖ houl. Naćṛli inuf, h pict it p, n ẃn h bròt it intu ɖ lît, nǎ fast fedñ, h cd si ɖt it, tù, wz v man’z mcñ—a metl tyb abt for inćz loñ, n evidntli v sm cnsidṛbl ej.

Bî ɖ tîm Parcinz hd md śr ɖt ɖr wz nʈñ els in ɖs od rspticl, it wz tù lêt n tù darc fr him t ʈnc v unḍtecñ eni frɖr srć. Ẃt h hd dn hd pruvd so unixpctidli inṭrestñ ɖt h dtrmind t sacṛfîs a litl mor v ɖ dêlît on ɖ moro t arcioḷji. Ɖ objict ẃć h nǎ hd sef in hiz pocit wz baund t b v sm slît valy at līst, h flt śr.

Blīc n soḷm wz ɖ vy on ẃć h tc a last lc bfr startñ homẉd. A fent yelo lît in ɖ wst śoud ɖ lincs, on ẃć a fy figrz muvñ twdz ɖ clubhǎs wr stl viẓbl, ɖ sqot martelo tǎr, ɖ lîts v Ōldzi vilij, ɖ pel ribn v sandz inṭsctd at inṭvlz bî blac wŭdn grônñz, ɖ dim n mrṃrñ sì. Ɖ wind wz bitr fṛm ɖ norʈ, bt wz at hiz bac ẃn h set ǎt fr ɖ Glob. H qcli ratld n claśt ʈru ɖ śngl n gend ɖ sand, upn ẃć, bt fr ɖ grônñz ẃć hd t b got ovr evri fy yardz, ɖ gwñ wz bʈ gd n qayt. Wn last lc bhnd, t meźr ɖ distns h hd md sins līvñ ɖ ruind Tmplrz’ ćrć, śoud him a prospect v cumṗni on hiz wōc, in ɖ śep v a rɖr indistñt prṣnij, hu sīmd t b mcñ gret ef̣ts t cać p wɖ him, bt md litl, f eni, progres. I mīn ɖt ɖr wz an apiṛns v runñ abt hiz muvmnts, bt ɖt ɖ distns btwn him n Parcinz dd nt sīm mtirịli t lesn. So, at līst, Parcinz ʈt, n dsîdd ɖt h olmst srtnli dd nt nǒ him, n ɖt it wd b absrd t wêt untl h cem p. Fr ol ɖt, cumṗni, h bgan t ʈnc, wd riyli b vri welcm on ɖt lonli śor, f onli y cd ćūz yr cmpańn. In hiz uninlîtnd dez h hd réd v mītñz in sć plesz ẃć īvn nǎ wd hardli ber ʈncñ v. H wnt on ʈncñ v ɖm, hvr, untl h rīćt hom, n ptiklrli v wn ẃć caćz most ppl’z fansi at sm tîm v ɖer ćîldhd. ‘Nǎ I sw in mî drīm ɖt Crisćn hd gn bt a vri litl we ẃn h sw a fǎl fīnd cmñ ovr ɖ fīld t mīt him.’ ‘Ẃt śd I d nǎ,’ h ʈt, ‘f I lct bac n còt sît v a blac figr śarpli dfînd agnst ɖ yelo scî, n sw ɖt it hd hornz n wñz? I wundr ẃɖr I śd stand or run fr it. Luc̣li, ɖ jntlmn bhnd z nt v ɖt cnd, n h sīmz t b abt az far of nǎ az ẃn I sw him frst. Wel, at ɖs ret, h w’nt gt hiz dinr az sn az I śl; n, dir m! it’s wɖn a qortr v an aur v ɖ tîm nǎ. I mst run!’

Parcinz hd, in fact, vri litl tîm fr dresñ. Ẃn h met ɖ Crnl at dinr, Pīs—or az mć v hr az ɖt jntlmn cd manij—rênd wns mor in ɖ militri bŭzm; nr wz ś pt t flît in ɖ aurz v brij ɖt foloud dinr, fr Parcinz wz a mor ɖn rspctbl pleyr. Ẃn, ɖrfr, h rtîrd twdz twelv o’cloc, h flt ɖt h hd spent hiz īvnñ in qt a saṭsfactri we, n ɖt, īvn fr so loñ az a fortnît or ʈri wīcs, lîf at ɖ Glob wd b s’portbl undr similr cndiśnz—’ispeṣ́li,’ ʈt h, ‘f I g on impruvñ mî gem.’

Az h wnt alñ ɖ paṣjz h met ɖ būts v ɖ Glob, hu stopt n sd:

‘Beg yr pardn, sr, bt az I wz abruśñ yr cot jst nǎ ɖr wz smʈñ fél ǎt v ɖ pocit. I pt it on yr ćst v drorz, sr, in yr rūm, sr—a pìs v a pîp or sumʈnc v ɖt, sr. Ʈanc y, sr. Y’l fînd it on yr ćst v drorz, sr—yes, sr. Gd nît, sr.’

Ɖ spīć srvd t rmînd Parcinz v hiz litl dscuṿri v ɖt afṭnun. It wz wɖ sm cnsidṛbl krioṣti ɖt h trnd it ovr bî ɖ lît v hiz candlz. It wz v bronz, h nǎ sw, n wz śept vri mć aftr ɖ manr v ɖ modn dogẃisl; in fact it wz—yes, srtnli it wz—acć̣li no mor nr les ɖn a ẃisl. H pt it t hiz lips, bt it wz qt fl v a fîn, cect-up sand or rʈ, ẃć wd nt yīld t nocñ, bt mst b lūsnd wɖ a nîf. Tîdi az evr in hiz habits, Parcinz clird ǎt ɖ rʈ on t a pìs v pepr, n tc ɖ latr t ɖ windo t emti it ǎt. Ɖ nît wz clir n brît, az h sw ẃn h hd opnd ɖ cesmnt, n h stopt fr an instnt t lc at ɖ sì n not a b’letd wondrr steśnd on ɖ śor in frunt v ɖ ín. Ɖen h śut ɖ windo, a litl s’prîzd at ɖ lêt aurz ppl cept at Brnsto, n tc hiz ẃisl t ɖ lît agn. Ẃ, śrli ɖr wr marcs on it, n nt mirli marcs, bt letrz! A vri litl rubñ rendrd ɖ dīpli-cut inscripśn qt leɉbl, bt ɖ Pṛfesr hd t cnfes, aftr sm rnist ʈt, ɖt ɖ mīnñ v it wz az obskr t him az ɖ raitñ on ɖ wōl t Belśazr. Ɖr wr lejndz bʈ on ɖ frunt n on ɖ bac v ɖ ẃisl. Ɖ wn réd ɖus:

FLA

FUR BIS

FLE

Ɖ uɖr:

QUIS EST ISTE QUI UENIT

‘I òt t b ebl t mc it ǎt,’ h ʈt; ‘bt I s’poz I am a litl rusti in mî Latin. Ẃn I cm t ʈnc v it, I d’nt b’liv I īvn nǒ ɖ wrd fr a ẃisl. Ɖ loñ wn dz sīm simpl inuf. It òt t mīn: “Hu z ɖs hu z cmñ?” Wel, ɖ bst we t fînd ǎt z evidntli t ẃisl fr him.’

H blù tnttivli n stopt sudnli, startld n yt plizd at ɖ not h hd iliṣtd. It hd a qoḷti v infiṇt distns in it, n, soft az it wz, h smhǎ flt it mst b ōḍbl fr mîlz rnd. It wz a sǎnd, tù, ɖt sīmd t hv ɖ pǎr (ẃć mni sénts pzes) v formñ picćrz in ɖ bren. H sw qt clirli fr a momnt a viźn v a wîd, darc xpans at nît, wɖ a freś wind blowñ, n in ɖ mdst a lonli figr—hǎ imploid, h cd nt tel. Phps h wd hv sìn mor hd nt ɖ picćr bn brocn bî ɖ sudn srj v a gust v wind agnst hiz cesmnt, so sudn ɖt it md him lc p, jst in tîm t si ɖ ẃît glint v a sìbrd’z wñ smẃr ǎtsd ɖ darc peinz.

Ɖ sǎnd v ɖ ẃisl hd so faṣnetd him ɖt h cd nt hlp trayñ it wns mor, ɖs tîm mor boldli. Ɖ not wz litl, f at ol, lǎdr ɖn bfr, n reṗtiśn brouc ɖ iluźn—no picćr foloud, az h hd haf hopt it mt. “Bt ẃt z ɖs? Gdnis! ẃt fors ɖ wind cn gt p in a fy minits! Ẃt a tṛmnḍs gust! Ɖr! I ń ɖt windofaṣnñ wz no ys! Ā! I ʈt so—bʈ candlz ǎt. It z inuf t ter ɖ rūm t pìsz.”

Ɖ frst ʈñ wz t gt ɖ windo śut. Ẃl y mt cǎnt twenti, Parcinz wz struġlñ wɖ ɖ smōl cesmnt, n flt olmst az f h wr pśñ bac a strdi brglr, so stroñ wz ɖ preśr. It slacnd ol at wns, n ɖ windo bañd t n laćt itslf. Nǎ t rīlît ɖ candlz n si ẃt damij, f eni, hd bn dn. No, nʈñ sīmd amis; no glas īvn wz brocn in ɖ cesmnt. Bt ɖ nôz hd evidntli rǎzd at līst wn membr v ɖ hǎshold: ɖ Crnl wz t b hŕd stumpñ in hiz stocñd fīt on ɖ flor abv, n grǎlñ. Qcli az it hd rizn, ɖ wind dd nt fōl at wns. On it wnt, monñ n ruśñ past ɖ hǎs, at tîmz rîzñ t a crî so dezḷt ɖt, az Parcinz disinṭrestidli sd, it mt hv md fansifl ppl fīl qt uncumftbl; īvn ɖ unimajiṇtiv, h ʈt aftr a qortr v an aur, mt b hapịr wɖt it.

Ẃɖr it wz ɖ wind, or ɖ xîtmnt v golf, or v ɖ rsrćz in ɖ prīsepṭri ɖt cept Parcinz awec, h wz nt śr. Awec h rmend, in eni ces, loñ inuf t fansi (az I am afreid I ofn d mslf undr sć cndiśnz) ɖt h wz ɖ victim v ol manr v fetl dsordrz: h wd lî cǎntñ ɖ bìts v hiz hart, cnvinst ɖt it wz gwñ t stop wrc evri momnt, n wd entten grev sspiśnz v hiz luñz, bren, livr, ets.—sspiśnz ẃć h wz śr wd b dspeld bî ɖ rtrn v dêlît, bt ẃć untl ɖen rfyzd t b pt asd. H faund a litl vcerịs cumf̣t in ɖ îdīa ɖt smwn els wz in ɖ sem bot. A nir nebr (in ɖ darcnis it wz nt īzi t tel hiz d’rex́n) wz tosñ n ruṣlñ in hiz bed, tù.

Ɖ nxt stej wz ɖt Parcinz śut hiz îz n dtrmind t gv slīp evri ćans. Hir agn oṿixîtmnt asrtd itslf in anɖr form—ɖt v mcñ picćrz. Experto crede, picćrz d cm t ɖ clozd îz v wn trayñ t slīp, n r ofn so litl t hiz test ɖt h mst opn hiz îz n dsprs ɖm.

Parcinz’z xpirịns on ɖs oceźn wz a vri dstresñ wn. H faund ɖt ɖ picćr ẃć prizntd itslf t him wz cntinẏs. Ẃn h opnd hiz îz, v cors, it wnt; bt ẃn h śut ɖm wns mor it fremd itslf afreś, n actd itslf ǎt agn, nɖr qcr nr slowr ɖn bfr. Ẃt h sw wz ɖs:

A loñ streć v śor—śngl éjd bî sand, n inṭsctd at śort inṭvlz wɖ blac grônz runñ dǎn t ɖ wōtr—a sīn, in fact, so lîc ɖt v hiz afṭnun’z wōc ɖt, in ɖ absns v eni landmarc, it cd nt b dstnḡśt ɖr-fṛm. Ɖ lît wz obskr, cnveyñ an impreśn v gaɖ̇rñ storm, lêt wintr īvnñ, n slît cold ren. On ɖs blīc stej at frst no actr wz viẓbl. Ɖen, in ɖ distns, a bobñ blac objict apird; a momnt mor, n it wz a man runñ, jumpñ, clamḅrñ ovr ɖ grônz, n evri fy secndz lcñ īgrli bac. Ɖ nirr h cem ɖ mor obvịs it wz ɖt h wz nt onli añśs, bt īvn teṛbli frîtnd, ɖo hiz fes wz nt t b dstnḡśt. H wz, morovr, olmst at ɖ end v hiz streñʈ. On h cem; ć s’xesiv obsṭcl sīmd t cōz him mor dificlti ɖn ɖ last. ‘Wl h gt ovr ɖs nxt wn?’ ʈt Parcinz; ‘it sīmz a litl hayr ɖn ɖ uɖrz.’ Yes; haf clîmñ, haf ʈrowñ himslf, h dd gt ovr, n fél ol in a hīp on ɖ uɖr sîd (ɖ sîd nirist t ɖ spectetr). Ɖr, az f riyli unebl t gt p agn, h rmend crǎćñ undr ɖ grôn, lcñ p in an attyd v penfl añzayti.

So far no cōz ẃtvr fr ɖ fir v ɖ runr hd bn śoun; bt nǎ ɖr bgan t b sìn, far p ɖ śor, a litl flicr v smʈñ lît-culrd muvñ t n fro wɖ gret swiftnis n ireğlaṛti. Rapidli growñ larjr, it, tù, dclerd itslf az a figr in pel, fluṭrñ dreṗriz, il-dfînd. Ɖr wz smʈñ abt its mośn ẃć md Parcinz vri unwilñ t si it at clos qortrz. It wd stop, rêz armz, bǎ itslf twdz ɖ sand, ɖen run stūpñ acrs ɖ bīć t ɖ wōtr éj n bac agn; n ɖen, rîzñ uprît, wns mor cntiny its cors fwd at a spīd ɖt wz starṭlñ n teṛfayñ. Ɖ momnt cem ẃn ɖ psywr wz hoṿrñ abt fṛm left t rît onli a fy yardz bynd ɖ grôn ẃr ɖ runr le in hîdñ. Aftr tū or ʈri inifcćl castñz hiɖr n ɖiɖr it cem t a stop, std uprît, wɖ armz rezd hî, n ɖen dartd stret fwd twdz ɖ grôn.

It wz at ɖs pônt ɖt Parcinz olwz feld in hiz reẓluśn t cīp hiz îz śut. Wɖ mni msgvñz az t insipịnt fełr v îsît, oṿwrct bren, xesiv smocñ, n so on, h fîṇli rzînd himslf t lît hiz candl, gt ǎt a bc, n pas ɖ nît wecñ, rɖr ɖn b tormntd bî ɖs psistnt paṇrama, ẃć h sw clirli inuf cd onli b a morbid rflex́n v hiz wōc n hiz ʈts on ɖt vri de.

Ɖ screpñ v mać on box n ɖ gler v lît mst hv startld sm crīćrz v ɖ nît—rats or ẃt nt—ẃć h hŕd scuri acrs ɖ flor fṛm ɖ sîd v hiz bed wɖ mć ruṣlñ. Dir, dir! ɖ mać z ǎt! Fūl ɖt it z! Bt ɖ secnd wn brnt betr, n a candl n bc wr dyli pṛkrd, ovr ẃć Parcinz pord tl slīp v a holsm cnd cem upn him, n ɖt in no loñ spes. Fr abt ɖ frst tîm in hiz ordrli n prūdnt lîf h fgot t blo ǎt ɖ candl, n ẃn h wz cōld nxt mornñ at et ɖr wz stl a flicr in ɖ socit n a sad mes v gutrd grīs on ɖ top v ɖ litl tebl.

Aftr brecfst h wz in hiz rūm, ptñ ɖ fiṇśñtućz t hiz golfñcostym—fortyn hd agn alotd ɖ Crnl t him fr a partnr—ẃn wn v ɖ meidz cem in.

‘Ǒ, f y plīz,’ ś sd, ‘wd y lîc eni xtra blancits on yr bed, sr?’

‘Ā! ʈanc y,’ sd Parcinz. ‘Yes, I ʈnc I śd lîc wn. It sīmz lîcli t trn rɖr coldr.’

In a vri śort tîm ɖ meid wz bac wɖ ɖ blancit.

‘Ẃć bed śd I pt it on, sr?’ ś asct.

‘Ẃt? Ẃ, ɖt wn—ɖ wn I slept in last nît,’ h sd, pôntñ t it.

‘Ǒ yes! I beg yr pardn, sr, bt y sīmd t hv traid bʈ v ’m; lìstwez, w hd t mc ’m bʈ p ɖs mornñ.’

‘Riyli? Hǎ vri absrd!’ sd Parcinz. ‘I srtnli nvr tućt ɖ uɖr, xpt t le sm ʈñz on it. Dd it acć̣li sīm t hv bn slept in?’

‘Ǒ yes, sr!’ sd ɖ meid. ‘Ẃ, ol ɖ ʈñz wz crumpld n ʈroud abt ol wez, f y’l xkz m, sr—qt az f enwn ’adn’t pást bt a vri pur nît, sr.’

‘Dir m,’ sd Parcinz. ‘Wel, I me hv dsordrd it mor ɖn I ʈt ẃn I unpáct mî ʈñz. I’m vri sori t hv gvn y ɖ xtra trubl, I’m śr. I xpct a frend v mîn sn, bî ɖ we—a jntlmn fṛm Cembrij—t cm n okpî it fr a nît or tū. Ɖt wl b ol rît, I s’poz, w’nt it?’

‘Ǒ yes, t b śr, sr. Ʈanc y, sr. It’s no trubl, I’m śr,’ sd ɖ meid, n dpartd t gigl wɖ hr colīgz.

Parcinz set fʈ, wɖ a strn dtrṃneśn t impruv hiz gem.

I am glad t b ebl t rport ɖt h s’xidd so far in ɖs enṭprîz ɖt ɖ Crnl, hu hd bn rɖr rpînñ at ɖ prospect v a secnd de’z ple in hiz cumṗni, bcem qt ćati az ɖ mornñ advanst; n hiz vôs būmd ǎt ovr ɖ flats, az srtn olso v ǎr ǒn mînr powts hv sd, ‘lîc sm gret bordn in a minstrtǎr’.

‘Xtrordnri wind, ɖt, w hd last nît,’ h sd. ‘In mî old hom w śd hv sd smwn hd bn ẃiṣlñ fr it.’

‘Śd y, indd!’ sd Parcinz. ‘Z ɖr a sūṗstiśn v ɖt cnd stl cuṛnt in yr part v ɖ cuntri?’

‘I d’nt nǒ abt sūṗstiśn,’ sd ɖ Crnl. ‘Ɖe b’liv in it ol ovr Denmarc n Norwe, az wel az on ɖ Yorx́r cǒst; n mî xpirịns z, mînd y, ɖt ɖr’z jenṛli smʈñ at ɖ botm v ẃt ɖz cuntrifoc hold t, n hv hld t fr jeṇreśnz. Bt it’s yr drîv’ (or ẃtvr it mt hv bn: ɖ golfñrīdr wl hv t imajin aproprịt dgreśnz at ɖ propr inṭvlz).

Ẃn convseśn wz rzymd, Parcinz sd, wɖ a slît heztnsi:

‘A propos v ẃt y wr seyñ jst nǎ, Crnl, I ʈnc I òt t tel y ɖt mî ǒn vyz on sć subjicts r vri stroñ. I am, in fact, a cnvinst disḅlivr in ẃt z cōld ɖ “sūṗnaćṛl”.’

‘Ẃt!’ sd ɖ Crnl, ‘d y mīn t tel m y d’nt b’liv in secnd-sît, or gosts, or enʈñ v ɖt cnd?’

‘In nʈñ ẃtvr v ɖt cnd,’ rtrnd Parcinz frmli.

‘Wel,’ sd ɖ Crnl, ‘bt it apirz t m at ɖt ret, sr, ɖt y mst b litl betr ɖn a Sadysi.’

Parcinz wz on ɖ pônt v anṣrñ ɖt, in hiz opińn, ɖ Sadysiz wr ɖ most snṣbl prsnz h hd evr réd v in ɖ Old Tsṭmnt; bt fīlñ sm dǎt az t ẃɖr mć mnśn v ɖm wz t b faund in ɖt wrc, h prifŕd t laf ɖ akześn of.

‘Phps I am,’ h sd; ‘bt—Hir, gv m mî clīc, bô!—Xkz m wn momnt, Crnl.’ A śort inṭvl. ‘Nǎ, az t ẃiṣlñ fr ɖ wind, let m gv y mî ʈiyri abt it. Ɖ lwz ẃć guvn windz r riyli nt at ol prf̣cli noun—t fiśrfoc n sć, v cors, nt noun at ol. A man or wmn v xntric habits, phps, or a strenjr, z sìn rpitidli on ɖ bīć at sm unyźl aur, n z hŕd ẃiṣlñ. Sn aftwdz a vayḷnt wind rîzz; a man hu cd rīd ɖ scî prf̣cli or hu pzest a b’romitr cd hv fōrtold ɖt it wd. Ɖ simpl ppl v a fiśñvilij hv no b’romitrz, n onli a fy ruf rūlz fr prof̣sayñ weɖr. Ẃt mor naćṛl ɖn ɖt ɖ xntric prṣnij I posć̣letd śd b rgardd az hvñ rezd ɖ wind, or ɖt h or ś śd cluć īgrli at ɖ repyteśn v biyñ ebl t d so? Nǎ, tec last nît’s wind: az it hapnz, I mslf wz ẃiṣlñ. I blù a ẃisl twîs, n ɖ wind sīmd t cm abṣlutli in ansr t mî cōl. F enwn hd sìn m—’

Ɖ ōdịns hd bn a litl restiv undr ɖs hrañ, n Parcinz hd, I fir, fōḷn smẃt intu ɖ ton v a lecćrr; bt at ɖ last sntns ɖ Crnl stopt.

‘Ẃiṣlñ, wr y?’ h sd. ‘N ẃt sort v ẃisl dd y yz?

Ple ɖs stroc frst.’ Inṭvl.

‘Abt ɖt ẃisl y wr ascñ, Crnl. It’s rɖr a krịs wn. I hv it in mî—No; I si I’v left it in mî rūm. Az a matr v fact, I faund it yesṭde.’

N ɖen Parcinz nretd ɖ manr v hiz dscuṿri v ɖ ẃisl, upn hírñ ẃć ɖ Crnl gruntd, n opînd ɖt, in Parcinz’z ples, h śd himslf b cerfl abt yzñ a ʈñ ɖt hd b’loñd t a set v Pepists, v hūm, spīcñ jenṛli, it mt b afrmd ɖt y nvr ń ẃt ɖe mt nt hv bn p t. Fṛm ɖs topic h dvrjd t ɖ inorṃtiz v ɖ Vicr, hu hd gvn notis on ɖ prīvịs Súnde ɖt Frîde wd b ɖ Fīst v St Toṃs ɖ Aposl, n ɖt ɖr wd b srvis at ilevn o’cloc in ɖ ćrć. Ɖs n uɖr similr pṛsidñz consttytd in ɖ Crnl’z vy a stroñ prizumśn ɖt ɖ Vicr wz a cnsild Pepist, f nt a Jeźuit; n Parcinz, hu cd nt vri reḍli folo ɖ Crnl in ɖs rījn, dd nt dis’gri wɖ him. In fact, ɖe got on so wel tgɖr in ɖ mornñ ɖt ɖr wz nt tōc on îɖr sîd v ɖer seṗretñ aftr lunć.

Bʈ cntinyd t ple wel jrñ ɖ afṭnun, or at līst, wel inuf t mc ɖm fget evrʈñ els untl ɖ lît bgan t fel ɖm. Nt untl ɖen dd Parcinz rmembr ɖt h hd mnt t d sm mor invstgetñ at ɖ prīsepṭri; bt it wz v no gret importns, h rflectd. Wn de wz az gd az anɖr; h mt az wel g hom wɖ ɖ Crnl.

Az ɖe trnd ɖ cornr v ɖ hǎs, ɖ Crnl wz olmst noct dǎn bî a bô hu ruśt intu him at ɖ vri top v hiz spīd, n ɖen, instd v runñ awe, rmend haññ on t him n pantñ. Ɖ frst wrdz v ɖ worịr wr naćṛli ɖoz v rprūf n obɉgeśn, bt h vri qcli dsrnd ɖt ɖ bô wz olmst spīćlis wɖ frît. Inqîriz wr yslis at frst. Ẃn ɖ bô got hiz breʈ h bgan t hǎl, n stl cluñ t ɖ Crnl’z legz. H wz at last dtaćt, bt cntinyd t hǎl.

‘Ẃt in ɖ wrld z ɖ matr wɖ y? Ẃt hv y bn p t? Ẃt hv y sìn?’ sd ɖ tū men.

‘Ǎ, I sìn it wîv at m ǎt v ɖ winda,’ weild ɖ bô, ‘n I d’nt lîc it.’

‘Ẃt windo?’ sd ɖ iṛtetd Crnl. ‘Cm pl yrslf tgɖr, mî bô.’

‘Ɖ frunt winda it wz, at ɖ ’otel,’ sd ɖ bô.

At ɖs pônt Parcinz wz in fevr v sndñ ɖ bô hom, bt ɖ Crnl rfyzd; h wontd t gt t ɖ botm v it, h sd; it wz most denjṛs t gv a bô sć a frît az ɖs wn hd hd, n f it trnd ǎt ɖt ppl hd bn pleyñ jocs, ɖe śd sufr fr it in sm we. N bî a siriz v qsćnz h md ǎt ɖs stori: Ɖ bô hd bn pleyñ abt on ɖ gras in frunt v ɖ Glob wɖ sm uɖrz; ɖen ɖe hd gn hom t ɖer tiz, n h wz jst gwñ, ẃn h hapnd t lc p at ɖ frunt winda n si it awîvñ at him. It sīmd t b a figr v sm sort, in ẃît az far az h ń—cd’nt si its fes; bt it wîvd at him, n it wor’nt a rît ʈñ—nt t se nt a rît prsn. Wz ɖr a lît in ɖ rūm? No, h dd’nt ʈnc t lc f ɖr wz a lît. Ẃć wz ɖ windo? Wz it ɖ top wn or ɖ secnd wn? Ɖ secind wn it wz—ɖ big winda ẃt got tū litl ’nz at ɖ sîdz.

‘Vri wel, mî bô,’ sd ɖ Crnl, aftr a fy mor qsćnz. ‘Y run awe hom nǎ. I xpct it wz sm prsn trayñ t gv y a start. Anɖr tîm, lîc a brev Ñgliś bô, y jst ʈro a ston—wel, no, nt ɖt xacli, bt y g n spīc t ɖ wêtr, or t Mr Simpsn, ɖ landlord, n—yes—n se ɖt I advîzd y t d so.’

Ɖ bô’z fes xprest sm v ɖ dǎt h flt az t ɖ lîclihd v Mr Simpsn’z lendñ a fevṛbl ir t hiz cmplent, bt ɖ Crnl dd nt apir t psiv ɖs, n wnt on:

‘N hir’z a sixpns—no, I si it’s a śilñ—n y b of hom, n d’nt ʈnc eni mor abt it.’

Ɖ yʈ hurid of wɖ ajtetd ʈancs, n ɖ Crnl n Parcinz wnt rnd t ɖ frunt v ɖ Glob n rec̣nôtrd. Ɖr wz onli wn windo anṣrñ t ɖ dscripśn ɖe hd bn hírñ.

‘Wel, ɖt’s krịs,’ sd Parcinz; ‘it’s evidntli mî windo ɖ lad wz tōcñ abt. Wl y cm p fr a momnt, Crnl Wilsn? W òt t b ebl t si f enwn hz bn tecñ liḅtiz in mî rūm.’

Ɖe wr sn in ɖ pasij, n Parcinz md az f t opn ɖ dor.

Ɖen h stopt n flt in hiz pocits.

‘Ɖs z mor sirịs ɖn I ʈt,’ wz hiz nxt rmarc. ‘I rmembr nǎ ɖt bfr I startd ɖs mornñ I loct ɖ dor. It z loct nǎ, n, ẃt z mor, hir z ɖ ci.’ N h hld it p. ‘Nǎ,’ h wnt on, ‘f ɖ srvnts r in ɖ habit v gwñ intu wn’z rūm jrñ ɖ de ẃn wn z awe, I cn onli se ɖt—wel, ɖt I d’nt apruv v it at ol.’ Conśs v a smẃt wìc clîmax, h bizid himslf in oṗnñ ɖ dor (ẃć wz indd loct) n in lîtñ candlz. ‘No,’ h sd, ‘nʈñ sīmz dstrbd.’

‘Xpt yr bed,’ pt in ɖ Crnl.

‘Xkz m, ɖt z’nt mî bed,’ sd Parcinz. ‘I d’nt yz ɖt wn. Bt it dz lc az f smwn hd bn pleyñ trics wɖ it.’

It srtnli dd: ɖ cloɖz wr bundld p n twistd tgɖr in a most torćs cnfyźn. Parcinz pondrd.

‘Ɖt mst b it,’ h sd at last. ‘I dsordrd ɖ cloɖz last nît in unpacñ, n ɖe hv’nt md it sins. Phps ɖe cem in t mc it, n ɖt bô sw ɖm ʈru ɖ windo; n ɖen ɖe wr cōld awe n loct ɖ dor aftr ɖm. Yes, I ʈnc ɖt mst b it.’

‘Wel, rñ n asc,’ sd ɖ Crnl, n ɖs apild t Parcinz az practicl.

Ɖ meid apird, n, t mc a loñ stori śort, dpozd ɖt ś hd md ɖ bed in ɖ mornñ ẃn ɖ jntlmn wz in ɖ rūm, n hd’nt bn ɖr sins. No, ś hd’nt no uɖr ci. Mr Simpsn, h cep’ ɖ ciz; h’d b ebl t tel ɖ jntlmn f enwn hd bn p.

Ɖs wz a puzl. Invstgeśn śoud ɖt nʈñ v valy hd bn tecn, n Parcinz rmembrd ɖ dispziśn v ɖ smōl objicts on teblz n so fʈ wel inuf t b priti śr ɖt no prancs hd bn pleid wɖ ɖm. Mr n Msz Simpsn frɖrmr agrìd ɖt nɖr v ɖm hd gvn ɖ dyplic̣t ci v ɖ rūm t eni prsn ẃtvr jrñ ɖ de. Nr cd Parcinz, fer-mîndd man az h wz, dtct enʈñ in ɖ dmīnr v mastr, mistris, or meid ɖt indcetd gilt. H wz mć mor inclînd t ʈnc ɖt ɖ bô hd bn impozñ on ɖ Crnl.

Ɖ latr wz unwontidli sîḷnt n pnsiv at dinr n ʈrt ɖ īvnñ. Ẃn h bád gdnît t Parcinz, h mrmrd in a gruf unḍton:

‘Y nǒ ẃr I am f y wont m jrñ ɖ nît.’

‘Ẃ, yes, ʈanc y, Crnl Wilsn, I ʈnc I d; bt ɖr z’nt mć prospect v mî dstrbñ y, I hop. Bî ɖ we,’ h add, ‘dd I śo y ɖt old ẃisl I spouc v? I ʈnc nt. Wel, hir it z.’

Ɖ Crnl trnd it ovr jinjrli in ɖ lît v ɖ candl.

‘Cn y mc enʈñ v ɖ inscripśn?’ asct Parcinz, az h tc it bac.

‘No, nt in ɖs lît. Ẃt d y mīn t d wɖ it?’

‘Ǒ, wel, ẃn I gt bac t Cembrij I śl sbmit it t sm v ɖ arcioḷjists ɖr, n si ẃt ɖe ʈnc v it; n vri lîcli, f ɖe cnsidr it wrʈ hvñ, I me priznt it t wn v ɖ ḿziymz.’

‘’m!’ sd ɖ Crnl. ‘Wel, y me b rît. Ol I nǒ z ɖt, f it wr mîn, I śd ćuc it stret intu ɖ sì. It’s no ys tōcñ, I’m wel awer, bt I xpct ɖt wɖ y it’s a ces v liv n lrn. I hop so, I’m śr, n I wś y a gd nît.’

H trnd awe, līvñ Parcinz in act t spīc at ɖ botm v ɖ ster, n sn ć wz in hiz ǒn bedrūm.

Bî sm unforćṇt axidnt, ɖr wr nɖr blîndz nr crtnz t ɖ windoz v ɖ Pṛfesr’z rūm. Ɖ prīvịs nît h hd ʈt litl v ɖs, bt tnît ɖr sīmd evri prospect v a brît mūn rîzñ t śîn d’recli on hiz bed, n probbli wec him lêtr on. Ẃn h notist ɖs h wz a gd dīl anoid, bt, wɖ an inɉnywti ẃć I cn onli envi, h s’xidd in rigñ p, wɖ ɖ hlp v a relwe rug, sm seftipinz, n a stic n umbrela, a scrīn ẃć, f it onli hld tgɖr, wd cmplitli cīp ɖ mūnlît of hiz bed. N śortli aftwdz h wz cumftbli in ɖt bed. Ẃn h hd réd a smẃt solid wrc loñ inuf t pṛdys a dsîdd wś t slīp, h cast a drǎzi glans rnd ɖ rūm, blù ǎt ɖ candl, n fél bac upn ɖ pilo.

H mst hv slept sǎndli fr an aur or mor, ẃn a sudn clatr śc him p in a most unwelcm manr. In a momnt h riylîzd ẃt hd hapnd: hiz cerf̣li-cnstructd scrīn hd gvn we, n a vri brît frosti mūn wz śînñ d’recli on hiz fes. Ɖs wz hîli anoyñ. Cd h poṣbli gt p n rīcnstruct ɖ scrīn? or cd h manij t slīp f h dd nt?

Fr sm minits h le n pondrd ovr ol ɖ posbiḷtiz; ɖen h trnd ovr śarpli, n wɖ hiz îz opn le breʈlisli liṣnñ. Ɖr hd bn a muvmnt, h wz śr, in ɖ emti bed on ɖ oṗzit sîd v ɖ rūm. Tmoro h wd hv it muvd, fr ɖr mst b rats or smʈñ pleyñ abt in it. It wz qayt nǎ. No! ɖ cmośn bgan agn. Ɖr wz a ruṣlñ n śecñ: śrli mor ɖn eni rat cd cōz.

I cn figr t mslf smʈñ v ɖ Pṛfesr’z bwildrmnt n horr, fr I hv in a drīm ʈrti yirz bac sìn ɖ sem ʈñ hapn; bt ɖ rīdr wl hardli, phps, imajin hǎ dredfl it wz t him t si a figr sudnli sit p in ẃt h hd noun wz an emti bed. H wz ǎt v hiz ǒn bed in wn bǎnd, n md a daś twdz ɖ windo, ẃr le hiz onli wepn, ɖ stic wɖ ẃć h hd propt hiz scrīn. Ɖs wz, az it trnd ǎt, ɖ wrst ʈñ h cd hv dn, bcz ɖ prṣnij in ɖ emti bed, wɖ a sudn smuɖ mośn, slipt fṛm ɖ bed n tc p a pziśn, wɖ ǎtspred armz, btwn ɖ tū bedz, n in frunt v ɖ dor. Parcinz woćt it in a horid pplex̣ti. Smhǎ, ɖ îdīa v gtñ past it n iscepñ ʈru ɖ dor wz intolṛbl t him; h cd nt hv bòrn—h dd’nt nǒ ẃ—t tuć it; n az fr its tućñ him, h wd snr daś himslf ʈru ɖ windo ɖn hv ɖt hapn. It std fr ɖ momnt in a band v darc śado, n h hd nt sìn ẃt its fes wz lîc. Nǎ it bgan t muv, in a stūpñ posćr, n ol at wns ɖ spectetr riylîzd, wɖ sm horr n sm rlif, ɖt it mst b blînd, fr it sīmd t fīl abt it wɖ its mufld armz in a gropñ n randm faśn. Trnñ haf awe fṛm him, it bcem sudnli conśs v ɖ bed h hd jst left, n dartd twdz it, n bnt n flt ovr ɖ piloz in a we ẃć md Parcinz śudr az h hd nvr in hiz lîf ʈt it poṣbl. In a vri fy momnts it sīmd t nǒ ɖt ɖ bed wz emti, n ɖen, muvñ fwd intu ɖ eria v lît n fesñ ɖ windo, it śoud fr ɖ frst tîm ẃt manr v ʈñ it wz.

Parcinz, hu vri mć dslîcs biyñ qsćnd abt it, dd wns dscrîb smʈñ v it in mî hírñ, n I gaɖrd ɖt ẃt h ćīfli rmembrz abt it z a hoṛbl, an intnsli hoṛbl, fes v crumpld linn. Ẃt xpreśn h réd upn it h cd nt or wd nt tel, bt ɖt ɖ fir v it wnt nî t maḍnñ him z srtn.

Bt h wz nt at leźr t woć it fr loñ. Wɖ formiḍbl qcnis it muvd intu ɖ midl v ɖ rūm, n, az it gropt n wevd, wn cornr v its dreṗriz swept acrs Parcinz’z fes. H cd nt, ɖo h ń hǎ periḷs a sǎnd wz—h cd nt cīp bac a crî v dsgust, n ɖs gev ɖ srćr an instnt clu. It lept twdz him upn ɖ instnt, n ɖ nxt momnt h wz hafwe ʈru ɖ windo bcwdz, uṭrñ crî upn crî at ɖ utmost pić v hiz vôs, n ɖ linn fes wz ʈrust clos intu hiz ǒn. At ɖs, olmst ɖ last poṣbl secnd, dlivṛns cem, az y wl hv gest: ɖ Crnl brst ɖ dor opn, n wz jst in tîm t si ɖ dredfl grūp at ɖ windo. Ẃn h rīćt ɖ figrz onli wn wz left. Parcinz sanc fwd intu ɖ rūm in a fent, n bfr him on ɖ flor le a tumbld hīp v bedcloɖz.

Crnl Wilsn asct no qsćnz, bt bizid himslf in cīpñ evrwn els ǎt v ɖ rūm n in gtñ Parcinz bac t hiz bed; n himslf, rápt in a rug, okpaid ɖ uɖr bed, fr ɖ rest v ɖ nît. Rli on ɖ nxt de Rojrz arîvd, mor welcm ɖn h wd hv bn a de bfr, n ɖ ʈri v ɖm hld a vri loñ conslteśn in ɖ Pṛfesr’z rūm. At ɖ end v it ɖ Crnl left ɖ hoteldor cariyñ a smōl objict btwn hiz fngr n ʈum, ẃć h cast az far intu ɖ sì az a vri brōni arm cd snd it. Lêtr on ɖ smoc v a brnñ asndd fṛm ɖ bac preṃsz v ɖ Glob.

Xacli ẃt xpḷneśn wz paćt p fr ɖ staf n vizitrz at ɖ hotel I mst cnfes I d nt rec̣lect. Ɖ Pṛfesr wz smhǎ clird v ɖ redi sspiśn v delirium tremens, n ɖ hotel v ɖ repyteśn v a trubld hǎs.

Ɖr z nt mć qsćn az t ẃt wd hv hapnd t Parcinz f ɖ Crnl hd nt inṭvind ẃn h dd. H wd îɖr hv fōḷn ǎt v ɖ windo or els lost hiz wits. Bt it z nt so evidnt ẃt mor ɖ crīćr ɖt cem in ansr t ɖ ẃisl cd hv dn ɖn frîtn. Ɖr sīmd t b abṣlutli nʈñ mtirịl abt it sev ɖ bedcloɖz v ẃć it hd md itslf a bodi. Ɖ Crnl, hu rmembrd a nt vri dsimilr ocuṛns in India, wz v ɖ opińn ɖt f Parcinz hd clozd wɖ it it cd riyli hv dn vri litl, n ɖt its wn pǎr wz ɖt v frîṭnñ. Ɖ hol ʈñ, h sd, srvd t cnfrm hiz opińn v ɖ Ćrć v Rom.

Ɖr z riyli nʈñ mor t tel, bt, az y me imajin, ɖ Pṛfesr’z vyz on srtn pônts r les clir cut ɖn ɖe yst t b. Hiz nrvz, tù, hv sufrd: h canot īvn nǎ si a srplis haññ on a dor qt unmuvd, n ɖ specṭcl v a scercro in a fīld lêt on a wintr afṭnun hz cost him mor ɖn wn slīplis nît.

CLASICS IN ÑSPEL

ÑSPEL

Clasics in Ñspel: THE MEZZOTINT by M R James

Ɖ METSOTINT

M R JEMZ

Sm tîm ago I b’liv I hd ɖ pleźr v telñ y ɖ stori v an advnćr ẃć hapnd t a frend v mîn bî ɖ nem v Denistn, jrñ hiz psyt v objicts v art fr ɖ ḿziym at Cembrij.

H dd nt publiś hiz xpirịnsz vri wîdli upn hiz rtrn t Ñgḷnd; bt ɖe cd nt fel t bcm noun t a gd mni v hiz frendz, n amñ uɖrz t ɖ jntlmn hu at ɖt tîm prizîdd ovr an artḿziym at anɖr Yṇvrṣti. It wz t b xpctd ɖt ɖ stori śd mc a cnsidṛbl impreśn on ɖ mînd v a man huz voceśn le in lînz similr t Denistn’z, n ɖt h śd b īgr t cać at eni xpḷneśn v ɖ matr ẃć tndd t mc it sīm improbbl ɖt h śd evr b cōld upn t dīl wɖ so ajtetñ an imrjnsi. It wz, indd, smẃt cnsolñ t him t rflect ɖt h wz nt xpctd t aqîr enćnt mańscripts fr hiz insttyśn; ɖt wz ɖ biznis v ɖ Ślbrnịn Lîbrri. Ɖ oʈoṛtiz v ɖt insttyśn mt, f ɖe plizd, ransac obskr cornrz v ɖ Continnt fr sć matrz. H wz glad t b oblîjd at ɖ momnt t cnfîn hiz atnśn t inlarjñ ɖ olrdi unṣpást c’lex́n v Ñgliś topgraficl drw̃z n ingrevñz pzest bî hiz ḿziym. Yt, az it trnd ǎt, īvn a dpartmnt so homli n fmiłr az ɖs me hv its darc cornrz, n t wn v ɖz Mr. Wiłmz wz unixpctidli intṛdyst.

Ɖoz hu hv tecn īvn ɖ most liṃtd inṭrest in ɖ aqziśn v topgraficl picćrz r awer ɖt ɖr z wn Lundn dīlr huz ed z indispnsbl t ɖer rsrćz. Mr. J. W. Britnl publiśz at śort inṭvlz vri admṛbl caṭlogz v a larj n constntli ćenjñ stoc v ingrevñz, planz, n old scećz v manśnz, ćrćz, n tǎnz in Ñgḷnd n Wêlz. Ɖz caṭlogz wr, v cors, ɖ ABC v hiz subjict t Mr. Wiłmz: bt az hiz ḿziym olrdi cntend an inorṃs akḿleśn v topgraficl picćrz, h wz a reğlr, rɖr ɖn a copịs, bayr; n h rɖr lct t Mr. Britnl t fil p gaps in ɖ ranc n fîl v hiz c’lex́n ɖn t s’plî him wɖ reṛtiz.

Nǎ, in Febrri v last yir ɖr apird upn Mr. Wiłmz’z dsc at ɖ ḿziym a caṭlog fṛm Mr. Britnl’z emporịm, n acumṗniyñ it wz a tîpritn cḿṇceśn fṛm ɖ dīlr himslf. Ɖs latr ran az foloz:

Dir Sr,

W beg t cōl yr atnśn t Nu. 978 in ǎr acumṗniyñ caṭlog, ẃć w śl b glad t snd on apruvl.

Yrz feʈf̣li,

J. W. Britnl.

T trn t Nu. 978 in ɖ acumṗniyñ caṭlog wz wɖ Mr. Wiłmz (az h obzrvd t himslf) ɖ wrc v a momnt, n in ɖ ples indcetd h faund ɖ folowñ entri:

978.—Uņoun. Inṭrestñ metsotint: Vy v a mánrhǎs, rli part v ɖ snćri. 15 bî 10 inćz; blac frem. £2 2ś.

It wz nt speṣ́li xîtñ, n ɖ prîs sīmd hî. Hvr, az Mr. Britnl, hu ń hiz biznis n hiz custmr, sīmd t set stor bî it, Mr. Wiłmz rout a postcard ascñ fr ɖ articl t b snt on apruvl, alñ wɖ sm uɖr ingrevñz n scećz ẃć apird in ɖ sem caṭlog. N so h pást wɖt mć xîtmnt v antiṣpeśn t ɖ ordnri lebrz v ɖ de.

A parsl v eni cnd olwz arîvz a de lêtr ɖn y xpct it, n ɖt v Mr. Britnl pruvd, az I b’liv ɖ rît frêz gz, no xpśn t ɖ rūl. It wz dlivrd at ɖ ḿziym bî ɖ afṭnunpost v Saṭde, aftr Mr. Wiłmz hd left hiz wrc, n it wz acordñli bròt rnd t hiz rūmz in colij bî ɖ atndnt, in ordr ɖt h mt nt hv t wêt ovr Súnde bfr lcñ ʈru it n rtrnñ sć v ɖ contents az h dd nt pṛpoz t cīp. N hir h faund it ẃn h cem in t ti, wɖ a frend.

Ɖ onli îtm wɖ ẃć I am cnsrnd wz ɖ rɖr larj, blac-fremd metsotint v ẃć I hv olrdi qotd ɖ śort dscripśn gvn in Mr. Britnl’z caṭlog. Sm mor dītelz v it wl hv t b gvn, ɖo I canot hop t pt bfr y ɖ lc v ɖ picćr az clirli az it z preznt t mî ǒn î. Vri nirli ɖ xact dyplic̣t v it me b sìn in a gd mni old ínparlrz, or in ɖ paṣjz v undistrbd cuntrimanśnz at ɖ preznt momnt. It wz a rɖr indifṛnt metsotint, n an indifṛnt metsotint z, phps, ɖ wrst form v ingrevñ noun. It prizntd a fl-fes vy v a nt vri larj mánrhǎs v ɖ last snćri, wɖ ʈri roz v plen saśt windoz wɖ rusṭcetd mesnri abt ɖm, a paṛpit wɖ bōlz or vāzz at ɖ anglz, n a smōl portico in ɖ sntr. On îɖr sîd wr triz, n in frunt a cnsidṛbl xpans v lōn. Ɖ lejnd A. W. F. sculpsit wz ingrevd on ɖ naro marjin; n ɖr wz no frɖr inscripśn. Ɖ hol ʈñ gev ɖ impreśn ɖt it wz ɖ wrc v an aṃćr. Ẃt in ɖ wrld Mr. Britnl cd mīn bî afixñ ɖ prîs v £2 2ś. t sć an objict wz mor ɖn Mr. Wiłmz cd imajin. H trnd it ovr wɖ a gd dīl v cntmt; upn ɖ bac wz a pepr lebl, ɖ left-hand haf v ẃć hd bn torn of. Ol ɖt rmend wr ɖ endz v tū lînz v raitñ; ɖ frst hd ɖ letrz—ñli Hōl; ɖ secnd,—six.

It wd, phps, b jst wrʈẃl t îdnṭfî ɖ ples reprizntd, ẃć h cd īẓli d wɖ ɖ hlp v a gaẓtir, n ɖen h wd snd it bac t Mr. Britnl, wɖ sm rmarcs rflectñ upn ɖ jujmnt v ɖt jntlmn.

H lîtd ɖ candlz, fr it wz nǎ darc, md ɖ ti, n s’plaid ɖ frend wɖ hūm h hd bn pleyñ golf (fr I b’liv ɖ oʈoṛtiz v ɖ Yṇvrṣti I rait v indulj in ɖt psyt bî we v rīlaxeśn); n ti wz tecn t ɖ acumṗnimnt v a dscuśn ẃć golfñprsnz cn imajin fr ɖmslvz, bt ẃć ɖ conśienśs raitr hz no rît t inflict upn eni non-golfñprsnz.

Ɖ cncluźn arîvd at wz ɖt srtn strocs mt hv bn betr, n ɖt in srtn imrjnsiz nɖr pleyr hd xpirịnst ɖt amǎnt v luc ẃć a hymn biyñ hz a rît t xpct. It wz nǎ ɖt ɖ frend—let s cōl him Pṛfesr Bncs—tc p ɖ fremd ingrevñ n sd:

‘Ẃt’s ɖs ples, Wiłmz?’

‘Jst ẃt I am gwñ t trî t fînd ǎt,’ sd Wiłmz, gwñ t ɖ ślf fr a gaẓtir. ‘Lc at ɖ bac. Smʈñli Hōl, îɖr in Susix or Esix. Haf ɖ nem’z gn, y si. Y d’nt hapn t nǒ it, I s’poz?’

‘It’s fṛm ɖt man Britnl, I s’poz, z’nt it?’ sd Bncs. ‘Z it fr ɖ ḿziym?’

‘Wel, I ʈnc I śd bai it f ɖ prîs wz fîv śilñz,’ sd Wiłmz; ‘bt fr sm unrʈli rīzn h wonts tū giniz fr it. I c’nt cnsiv ẃ. It’s a rećid ingrevñ, n ɖr r’nt īvn eni figrz t gv it lîf.’

‘It’s nt wrʈ tū giniz, I śd ʈnc,’ sd Bncs; ‘bt I d’nt ʈnc it’s so badli dn. Ɖ mūnlît sīmz rɖr gd t m; n I śd hv ʈt ɖr wr figrz, or at līst a figr, jst on ɖ éj in frunt.’

‘Let’s lc,’ sd Wiłmz. ‘Wel, it’s tru ɖ lît z rɖr clevrli gvn. Ẃr’z yr figr? Ǒ, yes! Jst ɖ hed, in ɖ vri frunt v ɖ picćr.’

N indd ɖr wz—hardli mor ɖn a blac blot on ɖ xtrim éj v ɖ ingrevñ—ɖ hed v a man or wmn, a gd dīl mufld p, ɖ bac trnd t ɖ spectetr, n lcñ twdz ɖ hǎs.

Wiłmz hd nt notist it bfr.

‘Stl,’ h sd, ‘ɖo it’s a clevrr ʈñ ɖn I ʈt, I c’nt spend tū giniz v ḿziym̦uni on a picćr v a ples I d’nt nǒ.’

Pṛfesr Bncs hd hiz wrc t d, n sn wnt; n vri nirli p t Hōl tîm Wiłmz wz ingejd in a ven atmt t îdnṭfî ɖ subjict v hiz picćr. ‘F ɖ vǎl bfr ɖ ñ hd onli bn left, it wd hv bn īzi inuf,’ h ʈt; ‘bt az it z, ɖ nem me b enʈñ fṛm Gstñli t Lañli, n ɖr r mni mor nemz endñ lîc ɖs ɖn I ʈt; n ɖs rotn bc hz no indx v trṃneśnz.’

Hōl in Mr. Wiłmz’z colij wz at sevn. It nīd nt b dwelt upn; ɖ les so az h met ɖr colīgz hu hd bn pleyñ golf jrñ ɖ afṭnun, n wrdz wɖ ẃć w hv no cnsrn wr frīli bandid acrs ɖ tebl—mirli golfñ wrdz, I wd hesn t xplen.

I s’poz an aur or mor t hv bn spent in ẃt z cōld comn-rūm aftr dinr. Lêtr in ɖ īvnñ sm fy rtîrd t Wiłmz’z rūmz, n I hv litl dǎt ɖt ẃist wz pleid n tbaco smoct. Jrñ a lul in ɖz oṗreśnz Wiłmz pict p ɖ metsotint fṛm ɖ tebl wɖt lcñ at it, n handd it t a prsn mîldli inṭrestd in art, telñ him ẃr it hd cm fṛm, n ɖ uɖr ptiklrz ẃć w olrdi nǒ.

Ɖ jntlmn tc it cerlisli, lct at it, ɖen sd, in a ton v sm inṭrest:

‘It’s riyli a vri gd pìs v wrc, Wiłmz; it hz qt a fīlñ v ɖ r’mantic pirịd. Ɖ lît z admṛbli manijd, it sīmz t m, n ɖ figr, ɖo it’s rɖr tù gṛtesc, z smhǎ vri impresiv.’

‘Yes, z’nt it?’ sd Wiłmz, hu wz jst ɖen bizi gvñ ẃisci n soda t uɖrz v ɖ cumṗni, n wz unebl t cm acrs ɖ rūm t lc at ɖ vy agn.

It wz bî ɖs tîm rɖr lêt in ɖ īvnñ, n ɖ vizitrz wr on ɖ muv. Aftr ɖe wnt Wiłmz wz oblîjd t rait a letr or tū n clir p sm od bits v wrc. At last, sm tîm past midnît, h wz dspozd t trn in, n h pt ǎt hiz lamp aftr lîtñ hiz bedrūm candl. Ɖ picćr le fes upwdz on ɖ tebl ẃr ɖ last man hu lct at it hd pt it, n it còt hiz î az h trnd ɖ lamp dǎn. Ẃt h sw md him vri nirli drop ɖ candl on ɖ flor, n h dclerz nǎ f h hd bn left in ɖ darc at ɖt momnt h wd hv hd a fit. Bt, az ɖt dd nt hapn, h wz ebl t pt dǎn ɖ lît on ɖ tebl n tec a gd lc at ɖ picćr. It wz indybitbl—rancli imposbl, no dǎt, bt abṣlutli srtn. In ɖ midl v ɖ lōn in frunt v ɖ uņoun hǎs ɖr wz a figr ẃr no figr hd bn at fîv o’cloc ɖt afṭnun. It wz crōlñ on ol forz twdz ɖ hǎs, n it wz mufld in a strenj blac garmnt wɖ a ẃît cros on ɖ bac.

I d nt nǒ ẃt z ɖ îdiyl cors t psy in a sićueśn v ɖs cnd, I cn onli tel y ẃt Mr. Wiłmz dd. H tc ɖ picćr bî wn cornr n carid it acrs ɖ pasij t a secnd set v rūmz ẃć h pzest. Ɖr h loct it p in a dror, sportd ɖ dorz v bʈ sets v rūmz, n rtîrd t bed; bt frst h rout ǎt n sînd an acǎnt v ɖ xtrordnri ćenj ẃć ɖ picćr hd unḍgn sins it hd cm intu hiz pześn.

Slīp viẓtd him rɖr lêt; bt it wz cnsolñ t rflect ɖt ɖ bhevyr v ɖ picćr dd nt dpnd upn hiz ǒn uns’portd tstiṃni. Evidntli ɖ man hu hd lct at it ɖ nît bfr hd sìn smʈñ v ɖ sem cnd az h hd, uɖ̇wz h mt hv bn tmtd t ʈnc ɖt smʈñ grevli roñ wz haṗnñ îɖr t hiz îz or hiz mînd. Ɖs posbiḷti biyñ forćṇtli pricludd, tū matrz awêtd him on ɖ moro. H mst tec stoc v ɖ picćr vri cerf̣li, n cōl in a witnis fr ɖ prṗs, n h mst mc a dtrmind ef̣t t aṣten ẃt hǎs it wz ɖt wz reprizntd. H wd ɖrfr asc hiz nebr Nizbit t brecfst wɖ him, n h wd subsiqntli spend a mornñ ovr ɖ gaẓtir.

Nizbit wz disingejd, n arîvd abt 9.20. Hiz host wz nt qt drest, I am sori t se, īvn at ɖs lêt aur. Jrñ brecfst nʈñ wz sd abt ɖ metsotint bî Wiłmz, sev ɖt h hd a picćr on ẃć h wśt fr Nizbit’s opińn. Bt ɖoz hu r fmiłr wɖ yṇvrṣtilîf cn picćr fr ɖmslvz ɖ wîd n dlîtfl renj v subjicts ovr ẃć ɖ convseśn v tū Feloz v Canṭbri Colij z lîcli t xtnd jrñ a Súnde mornñ brecfst. Hardli a topic wz left unćalinjd, fṛm golf t lōntenis. Yt I am baund t se ɖt Wiłmz wz rɖr dstrōt; fr hiz inṭrest naćṛli sntrd in ɖt vri strenj picćr ẃć wz nǎ rpozñ, fes dǎnwdz, in ɖ dror in ɖ rūm oṗzit.

Ɖ mornñpîp wz at last lîtd, n ɖ momnt hd arîvd fr ẃć h lct. Wɖ vri cnsidṛbl—olmst treḿḷs—xîtmnt h ran acrs, unloct ɖ dror, n, xtractñ ɖ picćr—stl fes dǎnwdz—ran bac, n pt it intu Nizbit’s handz.

‘Nǎ,’ h sd, ‘Nizbit, I wont y t tel m xacli ẃt y si in ɖt picćr. Dscrîb it, f y d’nt mînd, rɖr mînytli. I’l tel y ẃ aftwdz.’

‘Wel,’ sd Nizbit, ‘I hv hir a vy v a cuntrihǎs—Ñgliś, I prizym—bî mūnlît.’

‘Mūnlît? Y’r śr v ɖt?’

‘Srtnli. Ɖ mūn apirz t b on ɖ wen, f y wś fr dītelz, n ɖr r clǎdz in ɖ scî.’

‘Ol rît. G on. I’l swer,’ add Wiłmz in an asd, ‘ɖr wz no mūn ẃn I sw it frst.’

‘Wel, ɖr’z nt mć mor t b sd,’ Nizbit cntinyd. ‘Ɖ hǎs hz wn—tū—ʈri roz v windoz, fîv in ć ro, xpt at ɖ botm, ẃr ɖr’z a porć instd v ɖ midl wn, n—’

‘Bt ẃt abt figrz?’ sd Wiłmz, wɖ marct inṭrest.

‘Ɖr r’nt eni,’ sd Nizbit; ‘bt—’

‘Ẃt! No figr on ɖ gras in frunt?’

‘Nt a ʈñ.’

‘Y’l swer t ɖt?’

‘Srtnli I wl. Bt ɖr’z jst wn uɖr ʈñ.’

‘Ẃt?’

‘Ẃ, wn v ɖ windoz on ɖ grǎndflor—left v ɖ dor—z opn.’

‘Z it riyli so? Mî gdnis! h mst hv got in,’ sd Wiłmz, wɖ gret xîtmnt; n h hurid t ɖ bac v ɖ sofa on ẃć Nizbit wz sitñ, n, caćñ ɖ picćr fṛm him, veṛfaid ɖ matr fr himslf.

It wz qt tru. Ɖr wz no figr, n ɖr wz ɖ opn windo. Wiłmz, aftr a momnt v spīćlis s’prîz, wnt t ɖ raitñtebl n scribld fr a śort tîm. Ɖen h bròt tū peprz t Nizbit, n asct him frst t sîn wn—it wz hiz ǒn dscripśn v ɖ picćr, ẃć y hv jst hŕd—n ɖen t rīd ɖ uɖr ẃć wz Wiłmz’z stetmnt ritn ɖ nît bfr.

‘Ẃt cn it ol mīn?’ sd Nizbit.

‘Xacli,’ sd Wiłmz. ‘Wel, wn ʈñ I mst d—or ʈri ʈñz, nǎ I ʈnc v it. I mst fînd ǎt fṛm Garwŭd’—ɖs wz hiz last nît’s vizitr—‘ẃt h sw, n ɖen I mst gt ɖ ʈñ foṭgraft bfr it gz frɖr, n ɖen I mst fînd ǎt ẃt ɖ ples z.’

‘I cn d ɖ foṭgrafñ mslf,’ sd Nizbit, ‘n I wl. Bt, y nǒ, it lcs vri mć az f w wr asistñ at ɖ wrcñ ǎt v a traɉdi smẃr. Ɖ qsćn z, hz it hapnd olrdi, or z it gwñ t cm of? Y mst fînd ǎt ẃt ɖ ples z. Yes,’ h sd, lcñ at ɖ picćr agn, ‘I xpct y’r rît: h hz got in. N f I d’nt mstec, ɖr’l b ɖ devl t pe in wn v ɖ rūmz upsterz.’

‘I’l tel y ẃt,’ sd Wiłmz: ‘I’l tec ɖ picćr acrs t old Grīn’ (ɖs wz ɖ sīńr Felo v ɖ Colij, hu hd bn Brsr fr mni yirz). ‘It’s qt lîcli h’l nǒ it. W hv proṗti in Esix n Susix, n h mst hv bn ovr ɖ tū cǎntiz a lot in hiz tîm.’

‘Qt lîcli h wl,’ sd Nizbit; ‘bt jst let m tec mî foṭgraf frst. Bt lc hir, I rɖr ʈnc Grīn z’nt p tde. H wz’nt in Hōl last nît, n I ʈnc I hŕd him se h wz gwñ dǎn fr ɖ Súnde.’

‘Ɖt’s tru, tù,’ sd Wiłmz; ‘I nǒ h’z gn t Braitn. Wel, f y’l foṭgraf it nǎ, I’l g acrs t Garwŭd n gt hiz stetmnt, n y cīp an î on it ẃl I’m gn. I’m bginñ t ʈnc tū giniz z nt a vri xorbtnt prîs fr it nǎ.’

In a śort tîm h hd rtrnd, n bròt Mr. Garwŭd wɖ him. Garwŭd’z stetmnt wz t ɖ ifct ɖt ɖ figr, ẃn h hd sìn it, wz clir v ɖ éj v ɖ picćr, bt hd nt got far acrs ɖ lōn. H rmembrd a ẃît marc on ɖ bac v its dreṗri, bt cd nt hv bn śr it wz a cros. A dokmnt t ɖs ifct wz ɖen drwn p n sînd, n Nizbit pṛsidd t foṭgraf ɖ picćr.

‘Nǎ ẃt d y mīn t d?’ h sd. ‘R y gwñ t sit n woć it ol de?’

‘Wel, no, I ʈnc nt,’ sd Wiłmz. ‘I rɖr imajin w’r mnt t si ɖ hol ʈñ. Y si, btwn ɖ tîm I sw it last nît n ɖs mornñ ɖr wz tîm fr lots v ʈñz t hapn, bt ɖ crīćr onli got intu ɖ hǎs. It cd īẓli hv got ʈru its biznis in ɖ tîm n gn t its ǒn ples agn; bt ɖ fact v ɖ windo biyñ opn, I ʈnc, mst mīn ɖt it’s in ɖr nǎ. So I fīl qt īzi abt līvñ it. N bsdz, I hv a cnd v îdīa ɖt it wd’nt ćenj mć, f at ol, in ɖ dêtîm. W mt g ǎt fr a wōc ɖs afṭnun, n cm in t ti, or ẃnvr it gts darc. I śl līv it ǎt on ɖ tebl hir, n sport ɖ dor. Mî scip cn gt in, bt nwn els.’

Ɖ ʈri agrìd ɖt ɖs wd b a gd plan; n, frɖr, ɖt f ɖe spent ɖ afṭnun tgɖr ɖe wd b les lîcli t tōc abt ɖ biznis t uɖr ppl; fr eni rūmr v sć a trnzax́n az wz gwñ on wd brñ ɖ hol v ɖ Fasmaṭlojicl Ssayti abt ɖer irz.

W me gv ɖm a respît untl fîv o’cloc.

At or nir ɖt aur ɖ ʈri wr enṭrñ Wiłmz’z sterces. Ɖe wr at frst slîtli anoid t si ɖt ɖ dor v hiz rūmz wz unsportd; bt in a momnt it wz rmembrd ɖt on Súnde ɖ scips cem fr ordrz an aur or so rlịr ɖn on wīcdez. Hvr, a s’prîz wz awêtñ ɖm. Ɖ frst ʈñ ɖe sw wz ɖ picćr līnñ p agnst a pîl v bcs on ɖ tebl, az it hd bn left, n ɖ nxt ʈñ wz Wiłmz’z scip, sītd on a ćer oṗzit, gezñ at it wɖ undisgîzd horr. Hǎ wz ɖs? Mr. Filćr (ɖ nem z nt mî ǒn invnśn) wz a srvnt v cnsidṛbl standñ, n set ɖ standd v eticét t ol hiz ǒn colij n t sevṛl neḅrñ wnz, n nʈñ cd b mor ełn t hiz practis ɖn t b faund sitñ on hiz mastr’z ćer, or apirñ t tec eni ptiklr notis v hiz mastr’z frnićr or picćrz. Indd, h sīmd t fīl ɖs himslf. H startd vayḷntli ẃn ɖ ʈri men wr in ɖ rūm, n got p wɖ a marct ef̣t. Ɖen h sd:

‘I asc yr pardn, sr, fr tecñ sć a frīdm az t set dǎn.’

‘Nt at ol, Roḅt,’ inṭpozd Mr. Wiłmz. ‘I wz mīnñ t asc y sm tîm ẃt y ʈt v ɖt picćr.’

‘Wel, sr, v cors I d’nt set p mî opińn agnst yrz, bt it e’nt ɖ pictur I śd ’añ ẃr mî litl grl cd si it, sr.’

‘Wd’nt y, Roḅt? Ẃ nt?’

‘No, sr. Ẃ, ɖ pōr ćîld, I rec̣lect wns ś si a Dor Bîbl, wɖ picćrz nt ’af ẃt ɖt z, n w ’ad t set p wɖ hr ʈri or for nîts aftwdz, f y’l b’liv m; n f ś wz t ceć a sît v ɖs scelintn hir, or ẃtvr it z, cariyñ of ɖ pōr bebi, ś wd b in a tecñ. Y nǒ ’ǎ it z wɖ ćildṛn; ’ǎ nrviś ɖe git wɖ a litl ʈñ n ol. Bt ẃt I śd se, it d’nt sīm a rît pictr t b leyñ abt, sr, nt ẃr enwn ɖt’s laybl t b startld cd cm on it. Śd y b wontñ enʈñ ɖs īvnñ, sr? Ʈanc y, sr.’

Wɖ ɖz wrdz ɖ xḷnt man wnt t cntiny ɖ rǎnd v hiz mastrz, n y me b śr ɖ jntlṃn hūm h left lost no tîm in gaɖ̇rñ rnd ɖ ingrevñ. Ɖr wz ɖ hǎs, az bfr undr ɖ wenñ mūn n ɖ driftñ clǎdz. Ɖ windo ɖt hd bn opn wz śut, n ɖ figr wz wns mor on ɖ lōn: bt nt ɖs tîm crōlñ cōśsli on handz n niz. Nǎ it wz irect n stepñ swiftli, wɖ loñ strîdz, twdz ɖ frunt v ɖ picćr. Ɖ mūn wz bhnd it, n ɖ blac dreṗri huñ dǎn ovr its fes so ɖt onli hints v ɖt cd b sìn, n ẃt wz viẓbl md ɖ spectetrz pṛfǎndli ʈancfl ɖt ɖe cd si no mor ɖn a ẃît domlîc fōrhed n a fy straġlñ herz. Ɖ hed wz bnt dǎn, n ɖ armz wr tîtli claspt ovr an objict ẃć cd b dimli sìn n îdnṭfaid az a ćîld, ẃɖr ded or livñ it wz nt poṣbl t se. Ɖ legz v ɖ apiṛns alon cd b plenli dsrnd, n ɖe wr hoṛbli ʈin.

Fṛm fîv t sevn ɖ ʈri cmpańnz sat n woćt ɖ picćr bî trnz. Bt it nvr ćenjd. Ɖe agrìd at last ɖt it wd b sef t līv it, n ɖt ɖe wd rtrn aftr Hōl n awêt frɖr dveḷpmnts.

Ẃn ɖe asmbld agn, at ɖ rliist poṣbl momnt, ɖ ingrevñ wz ɖr, bt ɖ figr wz gn, n ɖ hǎs wz qayt undr ɖ mūnbīmz. Ɖr wz nʈñ fr it bt t spend ɖ īvnñ ovr gaẓtirz n gîd-bcs. Wiłmz wz ɖ luci wn at last, n phps h dzrvd it. At 11.30 p.m. h réd fṛm Muri’z Gîd t Esix ɖ folowñ lînz:

16½ mîlz, Anñli. Ɖ ćrć hz bn an inṭrestñ bildñ v Normn det, bt wz xtnsivli classîzd in ɖ last snćri. It cntenz ɖ tūm v ɖ faṃli v Fransis, huz manśn, Anñli Hōl, a solid Qīn Án hǎs, standz imīɉtli bynd ɖ ćrćyard in a parc v abt 80 ecrz. Ɖ faṃli z nǎ xtñt, ɖ last ér hvñ dis’pird mstirịsli in inf̣nsi in ɖ yir 1802. Ɖ faɖr, Mr. Arʈr Fransis, wz loc̣li noun az a talntd aṃćr ingrevr in metsotint. Aftr hiz sun’z dis’piṛns h livd in cmplit rtîrmnt at ɖ Hōl, n wz faund ded in hiz stydio on ɖ ʈrd aṇvrsri v ɖ dzastr, hvñ jst cmplitd an ingrevñ v ɖ hǎs, impreśnz v ẃć r v cnsidṛbl reṛti.

Ɖs lct lîc biznis, n, indd, Mr. Grīn on hiz rtrn at wns îdnṭfaid ɖ hǎs az Anñli Hōl.

‘Z ɖr eni cnd v xpḷneśn v ɖ figr, Grīn?’ wz ɖ qsćn ẃć Wiłmz naćṛli asct.

‘I d’nt nǒ, I’m śr, Wiłmz. Ẃt yst t b sd in ɖ ples ẃn I frst ń it, ẃć wz bfr I cem p hir, wz jst ɖs: old Fransis wz olwz vri mć dǎn on ɖz poćñfeloz, n ẃnvr h got a ćans h yst t gt a man hūm h sspctd v it trnd of ɖ istet, n bî dgriz h got rid v ɖm ol bt wn. Sqîrz cd d a lot v ʈñz ɖen ɖt ɖe der’nt ʈnc v nǎ. Wel, ɖs man ɖt wz left wz ẃt y fînd priti ofn in ɖt cuntri—ɖ last rmenz v a vri old faṃli. I b’liv ɖe wr Lordz v ɖ Mánr at wn tîm. I rec̣lect jst ɖ sem ʈñ in mî ǒn pariś.’

‘Ẃt, lîc ɖ man in Tés o’ ɖ Drḅvilz?’ Wiłmz pt in.

‘Yes, I der se; it’s nt a bc I cd evr rīd mslf. Bt ɖs felo cd śo a ro v tūmz in ɖ ćrć ɖr ɖt b’loñd t hiz ansestrz, n ol ɖt wnt t sǎr him a bit; bt Fransis, ɖe sd, cd nvr gt at him—h olwz cept jst on ɖ rît sîd v ɖ lw—untl wn nît ɖ cīprz faund him at it in a wŭd rît at ɖ end v ɖ istet. I cd śo y ɖ ples nǎ; it marćz wɖ sm land ɖt yst t b’loñ t an uncl v mîn. N y cn imajin ɖr wz a rǎ; n ɖs man Gōdi (ɖt wz ɖ nem, t b śr—Gōdi; I ʈt I śd gt it—Gōdi), h wz unluci inuf, pur ćap! t śūt a cīpr. Wel, ɖt wz ẃt Fransis wontd, n grand jriz—y nǒ ẃt ɖe wd hv bn ɖen—n pur Gōdi wz struñ p in dubl-qc tîm; n I’v bn śoun ɖ ples h wz berid in, on ɖ norʈ sîd v ɖ ćrć—y nǒ ɖ we in ɖt part v ɖ wrld: enwn ɖt’s bn hañd or md awe wɖ ɖmslvz, ɖe beri ɖm ɖt sîd. N ɖ îdīa wz ɖt sm frend v Gōdi’z—nt a rleśn, bcz h hd nn, pur devl! h wz ɖ last v hiz lîn: cnd v spes ultima gentis—mst hv pland t gt hold v Fransis’z bô n pt an end t hiz lîn, tù. I d’nt nǒ—it’s rɖr an ǎt-v-ɖ-we ʈñ fr an Esix poćr t ʈnc v—bt, y nǒ, I śd se nǎ it lcs mor az f old Gōdi hd manijd ɖ job himslf. Bu! I het t ʈnc v it! hv sm ẃisci, Wiłmz!’

Ɖ facts wr cḿṇcetd bî Wiłmz t Denistn, n bî him t a mixt cumṗni, v ẃć I wz wn, n ɖ Sadysiyn Pṛfesr v Ofioḷji anɖr. I am sori t se ɖt ɖ latr ẃn, asct ẃt h ʈt v it, onli rmarct: ‘Ǒ, ɖoz Brijf̣d ppl wl se enʈñ’—a sntimnt ẃć met wɖ ɖ rspśn it dzrvd.

I hv onli t ad ɖt ɖ picćr z nǎ in ɖ Aślịn Ḿziym; ɖt it hz bn trītd wɖ a vy t dscuṿrñ ẃɖr simṗʈetic ñc hz bn yzd in it, bt wɖt ifct; ɖt Mr. Britnl ń nʈñ v it sev ɖt h wz śr it wz uncomn; n ɖt, ɖo cerf̣li woćt, it hz nvr bn noun t ćenj agn.

CLASICS IN ÑSPEL

ÑSPEL

From Czech: GOOD LUCK by Karel Čapek

(My translation of Karel Čapek’s short story Případy pana Janíka, which was published in Povídky z jedné kapsy in 1929)

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The Mr Janík I’m talking about isn’t Dr Janík from the ministry, or the Janík who shot dead Jirsa the landowner, nor the Janík who’s reputed to have performed 326 consecutive cannons at billiards, but rather the Janík who was the boss of Janík & Holeček’s, paper and cellulose wholesalers – the polite little man who, after unsuccessfully wooing Miss Severa, resolved never to marry. So, to put it in a nutshell and for the avoidance of doubt, that Janík. The paper merchant.

Well, this particular Mr Janík became a paper merchant by sheer chance. It was when he was spending his summer holiday by the River Sázava, just at the time when they were searching for the body of Růžena Regnerová, who was murdered by her fiancé Jindřich Bašta, who poured petrol over her body, set it alight and buried it in the woods. Although Bašta was found guilty of her murder, they weren’t able to find her body. The police combed the woods for nine days, with Bašta telling them it was here or it was there, but they never found anything. It was clear that, at his wits’ end, he was either trying to confuse them or to gain time, or both.

Jindřich Bašta was a young man from a respectable and wealthy family but, when he was born, the doctor probably squeezed the forceps around his head too much, because something about him wasn’t quite right; that’s to say, there was something perverse and strange about him. So, as white as a ghost, and with his nystagmic eyes flitting nervously here and there – a sorry sight –, he led the police hither and thither through the woods for nine days. The police trudged alongside him through bilberry undergrowth and through mud, becoming more and more furious and more and more determined to wear the beast out so much that sooner or later he’d lead them to the right place. Bašta became so exhausted that he could scarcely stand on his feet, and he kept sinking to the ground and croaking, “Here! I buried her here!”

At which point one of the policemen would bellow, “On your feet, Bašta! It’s not here! Get going!” And Bašta would obediently haul himself up and stagger on for a bit, before collapsing once more with exhaustion. So it was quite a procession: four policemen, two detectives, a few gamekeepers, and some old men with hoes; not to mention that wreck of a man, Jindřich Bašta.

Mr Janík had got to know the policemen in the pub. As a result, he too was allowed to accompany that tragic procession, without anyone demanding to know what the hell he was doing there. And it should be noted that he carried with him some boxes containing sardines, salami, a bottle of cognac and similar things, which the other searchers had no objection to partaking of. But the ninth day was so dire that Mr Janík had decided he wouldn’t return on the morrow. The policemen kept shouting in anger, the gamekeepers declared they’d had enough and had better things to do, the old men with the hoes grumbled that twenty crowns a day was a pittance for such drudgery, and Jindřich Bašta lay collapsed on the ground, trembling uncontrollably and no longer even attempting to respond to the yelling and abuse from the policemen.

But at that very moment – that desperate and desolate moment –, Mr Janík did something that wasn’t exactly in the script: he knelt down beside the young man, shoved a cheese roll into his hand and said sympathetically, “Look, Mr Bašta… Come now, Mr Bašta… Can you hear me, Mr Bašta?”

Mr Bašta howled, before bursting into tears. “I’ll find it…,” he sobbed, “I’ll find it, sir.” He tried to stand up, and one of the detectives came and helped him, almost gently.

“Just lean on me, Mr Bašta. Mr Janík will help you on the other side. That’s it! So, Mr Bašta, you’ll show Mr Janík where she’s buried now, won’t you?”

An hour later, Jindřich Bašta was standing, smoking a cigarette, above a shallow grave, out of which a thigh bone was sticking.

“Is that the body of Růžena Regnerová?” asked PC Trnka between gritted teeth.

“It is,” replied Jindřich Bašta calmly, as he tapped the ash from his cigarette into the hole. “Do you need anything else?”

***

“You know,” said PC Trnka to Mr Janík in the pub that evening, “you’re quite a psychologist, I’ve got to give you that. Your good health! The fellow softened up as soon as you said, “Mr Bašta.” All he wanted was a bit of respect, the miserable so-and-so! And to think of the trouble we’d gone to with him… How did you know politeness would do the trick?”

The hero of the hour blushed slightly. “Well, it’s like this, you know. I… that’s how I speak to everyone, you know. The thing is, I felt sorry for him, for Mr Bašta, so I wanted to give him that cheese roll…”

“Instinct!” declared PC Trnka. “That’s what I call sixth sense and psychology. Your very good health, Mr Janík! You’re wasted! You should have been a detective…”

***

Some time later, Mr Janík was travelling in the night train to Bratislava, where the annual general meeting of shareholders in a Slovak papermill was going to take place, and because he had some shares in it himself, he was anxious to be there.

“Please wake me before we get to Bratislava,” he asked the conductor. “I don’t want to miss my stop.” Whereupon he headed for his comparment in the sleeping car and crawled into the bottom bunk. As he was alone, he made himself as comfortable as he could, thought for a while about various business matters, and fell asleep.

He had no idea what the time was when the conductor opened the door for another man, who immediately got undressed and climbed up to the top bunk. As he did so, Mr Janík caught a glimpse of a pair of trousers and a pair of unusually hairy legs. Then he heard grunting as the man snuggled beneath the blanket, and then the man turned the light off, leaving darkness again and the rattling and clanking of the train.

Mr Janík dreamt about this and that, but mainly that he was being pursued by a pair of hairy legs. Then he woke up because it was unusually quiet all of a sudden and someone was shouting, “See you in Žilina!” Mr Janík scrambled hurriedly out from his bunk, looked out of the window, and saw that the train was already standing at Bratislava station. The conductor had forgotten to wake him up! He didn’t even have time to swear; instead he got dressed, feverishly, over his pyjamas, stuffed his belongings into his pockets and managed to jump down on to the platform just as the station master was raising his hand for the train to leave.

“Damn you!” he shouted, shaking his fist at the departing train.

Then he went to the gents’ toilets to get dressed properly. And it was when he’d just started to sort out the items in his pockets that he froze: instead of one wallet in his breast pocket, there were two; in the bulkier one, which wasn’t his, there were sixty new Czechoslovak 500-crown banknotes. The wallet clearly belonged to his nocturnal fellow-traveller; but the still sleepy Mr Janík couldn’t begin to think how it had got into his pocket.

It goes without saying that the first thing he did was to find a policeman so that he could give him the stranger’s wallet. And the policeman left Mr Janík dying with hunger while he telephoned Galanta for them to inform the passenger in Couch 14 that his wallet with his money in it was at the police station in Bratislava. Whereupon, after providing his personal details, Mr Janík went to have breakfast. But then someone from the police station came looking for him and asked whether it wasn’t some sort of mistake: the man in Couch 14 said he hadn’t lost his wallet. So Mr Janík had to go to the police station again and explain once more how he came by it. Meanwhile two men in civies took the sixty banknotes somewhere, leaving him to wait for half an hour. When they came back, they took him to some higher-up policeman.

“Sir,” said the higher-up policeman, “we’re just sending a telegraph to Parkány-Nána to ask them to arrest the passenger in Couch 14. Can you give me a precise description of him?” But Mr Janík could only say that the passenger in question had remarkably hairy legs. Which wasn’t a satisfactory answer as far as the higher-up policeman was concerned. “The thing is,” he said all of a sudden, “those banknotes are counterfeit. You’ll have to wait here until we can bring you face to face with your fellow-passenger.”

In his head, Mr Janík cursed the conductor who hadn’t woken him up on time and hence has caused him, in his haste, to put that wretched wallet into his pocket. It wasn’t until about an hour later that a message came back from Parkány-Nána that the passenger in Couch 14 had got out at Nové Zámky and, at the moment, no one knew where he’d gone from there.

“Mr Janík,” the higher-up policeman announced eventually, “we won’t detain you any longer for the time being. We’ll refer the matter to Inspector Hruška in Prague – he deals with counterfeiting. But I can tell you this is serious. Return to Prague as soon as possible and they’ll give you a call. In the meantime, please accept my thanks for so successfully getting hold of these fakes. It won’t be a coincidence, believe you me.”

***

Mr Janík had hardly got back to Prague before they called him to the police headquarters. There he was greeted by an extraordinarily large man – who everyone called Mr President – and a sinewy, yellowish fellow, who turned out to be the aforementioned Inspector Hruška.

“Have a seat, Mr Janík,” said the large man, as he opened the seal on a small packet. “Is this the wallet that you… erm, that you found in your pocket at Bratislava station?”

“It is,” answered Mr Janík, wearily.

The large man took the banknotes out of the wallet and counted them. “Sixty,” he said. “They all have the serial number 27451. The office in Cheb asked us to look out for that number.”

The sinewy man took hold of one of the notes, closed his eyes and rubbed it between his fingers. Then he sniffed it.

“These are from Štýrský Hradec. The ones from Geneva aren’t so sticky.”

“Štýrský Hradec,” mused the large man. “That’s where they make these things for Pešť, isn’t it?”

The sinewy man only blinked. “I’d need to go to Vienna,” he said. “But the police there won’t hand him over.”

“Hm,” said the large man. “So try to get him here somehow. If that’s not possible, tell them we’ll give them Leberhardt in exchange. Good day, Hruška. And you, sir” – turning to Mr Janík – “I can’t thank you enough. You’re the one who found Jindřich Bašta’s fiancée, aren’t you?”

“It was purely a coincidence,” said Mr Janík emphatically. “I really… I didn’t have any intention…”

“You have the gift of luck,” said the large man, nodding his head. “It’s a gift from God, Mr Janík. One person doesn’t come across anything during his whole life; another stumbles upon the best cases as if by chance. You should join us, Mr Janík.”

“That’s not possible,” said Mr Janík. “I… that’s to say, I have my own business… a successful business that I inherited from my grandfather…”

The large man sighed. “As you wish, but you’d be sorely missed. It’s not everyday you come across someone as damned lucky as you. We’ll meet again, Mr Janík.”

***

About a month later, Mr Janík was dining with a business friend from Leipzig. Of course, these business lunches are quite something. The cognac, in particular, was of the best. In short, Mr Janík definitely did not wish to go home on foot, so he signalled to the wine waiter: “A taxi, please!”

When he left the hotel, he saw the taxi already waiting at the entrance. He climbed in, shut the door and – rather the worse for wear – forgot to tell the driver his address. Nevertheless, the taxi set off and, comfortably ensconced in the corner, Mr Janík fell asleep.

He had no idea how long they’d been driving, but he woke up when the car stopped and the driver opened the door for him.

“We’re here, sir. You need to go upstairs, sir.”

Mr Janík had no idea where he was, but because the cognac had dulled any concern he might otherwise have had, he went up the stairs and opened a door behind which loud conversation could be heard. There were about twenty people there, who all turned impatiently towards the door. Suddenly there was a strange silence. One of the men stook up and approached Mr Janík.

“What do you want here, sir? Who are you?”

“Mr Janík looked around in amazement. He recognised five or six of the men – rich people who were said to have some sort of special interest in politics. But Mr Janík kept out of politics.

“Goodness gracious!” he said in a friendly tone. “There’s Mr Koubek, and there’s Mr Heller. Hello, chaps! I wouldn’t say No to a drink, lads.”

“Where’s this fellow come from?” one of the men shouted angrily. “He’s not one of us, is he?”

Two of them pushed Mr Janík back out to the landing.

“How did you get here?” asked one of them. “Who invited you?”

All this rough treatment brought Mr Janík to his senses.

“Where am I?” he demanded. “Where the devil have I been taken?”

One of the men ran down the stairs and button-holed the driver.

“Where did you pick up this man, you idiot?”

“In front of the hotel, of course,” said the driver. “They told me in the evening to wait for a gentleman in front of the hotel at ten o’clock and bring him here. That gentleman got into the taxi at ten o’clock without saying anything. So I brought him here…”

“Christ Almighty!” shouted the other. “It’s somebody else! You’ve dropped us right in it!”

Mr Janík sat down resignedly on the top step.

“Ah,” he said, sounding rather amused. “It’s some sort of secret meeting, isn’t it? Now you’ll have to strangle me and bury my body somewhere. A glass of water, please!”

“No,” said the one who’d stayed with him at the top of the stairs. “You’re wrong. Neither Mr Koubek nor Mr Heller are inside there, do you understand? It’s a mistake. We’ll get you taken back to Prague. You’ll have to forgive us. It was a misunderstanding.”

“It’s no problem,” said Mr Janík graciously. “I know that, on the way, the driver will shoot me and bury my body in a wood somewhere. It doesn’t matter. My fault for forgetting to give him my address. What a fool I am!”

“You’re drunk, aren’t you?” said the man, sounding rather relieved.

“Slightly,” agreed Mr Janík, remaining seated on the top step. “The thing is, I was at dinner with Meyer, from Dresden. My name’s Janík, by the way – wholesale paper and cellulose. A well-established company. Founded by my grandfather. Pleased to meet you.”

“Go and sleep it off,” said the other. “Once you’ve had a good sleep, you won’t even remember that… hm, that we treated you so badly.”

“Quite right,” said Mr Janík in a dignified manner. “Go to bed, sir. Where is my bed?”

“At home,” said the other. “The driver will take you home. Allow me to help you to your feet.”

“No need,” said Mr Janík. “I’m not as drunk as you. Go to bed. Driver!”

The car set off back, and Mr Janík made a point of observing where they were going.

***

The next morning he telephoned the police headquarters to inform them of his night-time adventure. The voice from the other end came after a few moments of silence.

“That’s remarkably interesting, Mr Janík. We’d be most grateful if you’d come over immediately.”

***

When Mr Janík arrived, four men, including the large, corpulent fellow, were waiting for him. Mr Janík had to repeat what had happened and who he’d seen.

“The car had registration number N XX 705,” said the large man when Mr Janík had finished speaking. “A private car. I don’t know three of the six men Mr Janík recognised. Gentlemen, I’ll leave you now. Mr Janík, come with me, please.”

Mr Janík soon found himself sitting in complete silence in the office of the large man, who was walking up and down, deep in thought.

“Mr Janík,” he said eventually. “I really need to ask you not to say a word about this to anyone. Reasons of state – you understand?”

Mr Janík nodded silently. Jesus Christ! he thought. What have I got myself into now?

But the large man was speaking again.

“Mr Janík. I’m not exaggerating when I say we need you. You’re incredibly lucky. They can talk all they like about methodology, but a detective who doesn’t have plain, down-to-earth luck is of no use. We need people who are lucky. It’s not that we’re not intelligent, but you can’t buy good luck. Join us!”

“But what about my business?” whispered Mr Janík, not looking at all happy.

“Your partner will look after it. You and your extraordinary gift are wasted on it. What do you say?”

“I… I’ll need to think about it,” stuttered Mr Janík. “I’ll come back in a week, but if there’s no avoiding it… and if I’ve got the capability… I don’t know. I’ll come back and tell you.”

“Good,” said the large man, offering his large hand. “You needn’t have any doubts about yourself. I’ll see you next week.”

***

A whole week had not gone by before Mr Janík returned, looking decidedly happier.

“I’m back,” he announced breezily.

“And you’ve made up your mind?” asked the large man.

“Yes, thank goodness! I’ve come to tell you I’m not the person you’re looking for.”

“Really? Why not?”

“Just imagine!” said Mr Janík. “My chief clerk’s been embezzling from my business for five years, and I’ve only just found out. What an idiot I am! So, you tell me, sir, what good I’d be as a detective. God in heaven! I’ve been working with that joker for five years, and I didn’t know anything! So you can see how useless I am! And it was making me sick with worry! Mary, Mother of God! I’m so glad nothing will come of it. I’m off the hook now, aren’t I? Thanks anyway!”

Clasics in Ñspel: THE IDYLL OF MISS SARAH BROWN, by Damon Runyon

The Guardian, 2020: "I wish more people would read ... Damon Runyon's short stories." Photo: Granger Historical Picture Archive/Alamy.

Ɖ IDIL OV MIS SẸRA BRǍN

Demn Ruńn

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V  ol ɖ hî pleyrz ɖs cuntri evr siz, ɖr z no dǎt bt ɖt ɖ gai ɖe cōl Ɖ Scî z ɖ hîist. In fact, ɖ rīzn h z cōld Ɖ Scî z bcz h gz so hî ẃn it cmz t betñ on eni propziśn ẃtvr. H wl bet ol h hz, n nbdi cn bet eni mor ɖn ɖs.

Hiz rît nem z Oḅdaia Masṭsn, n h z orijiṇli ǎt v a litl tǎn in suɖn Coḷrado ẃr h lrnz t śūt craps, n ple cardz, n wn ʈñ n anɖr, n ẃr hiz old man z a vri wel-noun sitizn, n smʈñ v a sport himslf. In fact, Ɖ Scî tlz m ɖt ẃn h fîṇli clīnz p ol ɖ lūs scrać arnd hiz homtǎn n dsîdz h nīdz mor rūm, hiz old man hz a litl prîṿt tōc wɖ him n sz t him lîc ɖs:

“Sun,” ɖ old gai sz, “y r nǎ gwñ ǎt intu ɖ wîd, wîd wrld t mc yr ǒn we, n it z a vri gd ʈñ t d, az ɖr r no mor oṗtyṇtiz fr y in ɖs brg. I am onli sori,” h sz, “ɖt I am nt ebl t bancrol y t a vri larj start, bt,” h sz, “nt hvñ eni ptetoz t gv y, I am nǎ gwñ t stec y t sm vri vałbl advîs, ẃć I prsṇli c’lect in mî yirz v xpirịns arnd n abt, n I hop n trust y wl olwz ber ɖs advîs in mînd.

“Sun,” ɖ old gai sz, “no matr hǎ far y travl, or hǎ smart y gt, olwz rmembr ɖs: sm de, smẃr,” h sz, “a gai z gwñ t cm t y n śo y a nîs brand-ny dec v cardz on ẃć ɖ sìl z nvr brocn, n ɖs gai z gwñ t ofr t bet y ɖt ɖ jac v spedz wl jump ǎt v ɖs dec n sqrt sîdr in yr ir. Bt, sun,” ɖ old gai sz, “d nt bet him, fr az śr az y d y r gwñ t gt an ir fl v sîdr.”

Wel, Ɖ Scî rmembrz ẃt hiz old man sz, n h z olwz vri cōśs abt betñ on sć proṗziśnz az ɖ jac v spedz jumpñ ǎt v a sìld dec v cardz n sqrtñ sîdr in hiz ir, n so h mcs fy mstecs az h gz alñ. In fact, ɖ onli riyl mstec Ɖ Scî mcs z ẃn h hits St Lui aftr līvñ hiz old homtǎn, n luzz ol hiz ptetoz betñ a gai St Lui z ɖ bigist tǎn in ɖ wrld.

Nǎ v cors ɖs z bfr Ɖ Scî evr siz eni bigr tǎnz, n h z nvr mć v a hand fr rīdñ p on matrz sć az ɖs. In fact, ɖ onli rīdñ Ɖ Scî evr dz az h gz alñ ʈru lîf z in ɖz Gidịn Bîblz sć az h fîndz in ɖ hotelrūmz ẃr h livz, fr Ɖ Scî nvr livz enẃr els bt in hotelrūmz fr yirz.

H tlz m ɖt h rīdz mni îtmz v gret inṭrest in ɖz Gidịn Bîblz, n frɖrmr Ɖ Scî sz ɖt sevṛl tîmz ɖz Gidịn Bîblz cīp him fṛm gtñ ǎt v lîn, sć az ɖ tîm h fîndz himslf priti mć frozn-in ovr in Sinṣnati, ẃt wɖ owñ evrbdi in tǎn xpt mbi ɖ mẹr fṛm pleyñ gemz v ćans v wn cnd n anɖr.

Wel, Ɖ Scî sz h siz no we v mītñ ɖz obḷgeśnz n h z fiğrñ ɖ onli ʈñ h cn d z t tec a run-ǎt pǎdr, ẃn h hapnz t réd in wn v ɖz Gidịn Bîblz ẃr it sz lîc ɖs:

“Betr z it,” ɖ Gidịn Bîbl sz, “ɖt ɖǎ śdst nt vǎ, ɖn ɖt ɖǎ śdst vǎ n nt pe.”

Wel, Ɖ Scî sz h cn si ɖt ɖr z no dǎt ẃtvr bt ɖt ɖs mīnz a gai śl nt wlś, so h rmenz in Sinṣnati untl h maṇjz t wigl himslf ǎt v ɖ sićueśn, n fṛm ɖt de t ɖs, Ɖ Scî nvr ʈncs v wlśñ.

H z mbi ʈrti yirz old, n z a tōl gai wɖ a rǎnd cisr, n big blu îz, n h olwz lcs az iṇsnt az a litl bebi. Bt Ɖ Scî z bî no mīnz az iṇsnt az h lcs. In fact, Ɖ Scî z smartr ɖn ʈri Fiḷdelfia loyrz, ẃć mcs him vri smart, indd, n h z wel istabliśt az a hî pleyr in Ny Orliynz, n Ścago, n Los Anɉlīz, n ẃrvr els ɖr z eni ax́n in ɖ we v cardpleyñ, or crapśūtñ, or horsrêsñ, or betñ on ɖ besbōl gemz, fr Ɖ Scî z olwz muvñ arnd ɖ cuntri folowñ ɖ ax́n.

Bt ẃl Ɖ Scî wl bet on enʈñ ẃtvr, h z mor v a śort-card pleyr n a crapśūtr ɖn enʈñ els, n frɖrmr h z a gret hand fr proṗziśnz, sć az r olwz cmñ p amñ sitiznz hu folo gemz v ćans fr a livñ. Mni sitiznz prifŕ betñ on proṗziśnz t enʈñ y cn ʈnc v, bcz ɖe fiğr a propziśn gvz ɖm a ćans t ǎtsmart smbdi, n in fact I nǒ sitiznz hu wl sit p ol nît mcñ p proṗziśnz t ofr uɖr sitiznz ɖ nxt de.

A propziśn me b onli a probḷm in cardz, sć az ẃt z ɖ prîs agnst a gai gtñ esz bac-t-bac, or hǎ ofn a per v dysz wl win a hand in stud, n ɖen agn it me b sm vri dafi propziśn, indd, olɖo ɖ dafịr eni propziśn sīmz t b, ɖ mor sm sitiznz lîc it. N nwn evr siz Ɖ Scî ẃn h dz nt hv sm propziśn v hiz ǒn.

Ɖ frst tîm h evr śoz p arnd ɖs tǎn, h gz t a besbōl gem at ɖ Pologrǎndz wɖ sevṛl prominnt sitiznz, n ẃl h z at ɖ bōlgem, h baiz himslf a sác v Hari Stīvnz’ pīnuts, ẃć h dumps in a sîdpocit v hiz cot. H z ītñ ɖz pīnuts ol ʈru ɖ gem, n aftr ɖ gem z ovr n h z wōcñ acrs ɖ fīld wɖ ɖ sitiznz, h sz t ɖm lîc ɖs:

“Ẃt prîs,” Ɖ Scî sz, “I canot ʈro a pīnut fṛm secnd bes t ɖ homplet?”

Wel, evrbdi nz ɖt a pīnut z tù lît fr enbdi t ʈro it ɖs far, so Big Nig, ɖ crapśūtr, hu olwz lîcs t hv a litl ɖ bst v it runñ fr him, spīcs az foloz:

“Y cn hv 3 t 1 fṛm m, strenjr,” Big Nig sz.

“Tū C’z agnst six,” Ɖ Scî sz, n ɖen h standz on secnd bes, n tecs a pīnut ǎt v hiz pocit, n nt onli ẃips it t ɖ homplet, bt on intu ɖ lap v a fat gai hu z stl sitñ in ɖ grandstand ptñ ɖ zñ on Bil Teri fr nt tecñ Wōcr ǎt v ɖ box ẃn Wōcr z gtñ a pestñ fṛm ɖ uɖr club.

Wel, naćṛli, ɖs z a most astoṇśñ ʈro, indd, bt aftwdz it cmz ǎt ɖt Ɖ Scî ʈroz a pīnut lodd wɖ led, n v cors it z nt wn v Hari Stīvnz’ pīnuts, îɖr, az Hari z nt selñ pīnuts fl v led at a dîm a bag, wɖ ɖ prîs v led ẃt it z.

It z onli a fy nîts aftr ɖs ɖt Ɖ Scî stets anɖr most unyźl propziśn t a grūp v sitiznz sitñ in Mindi’z resṭront ẃn h ofrz t bet a C not ɖt h cn g dǎn intu Mindi’z sélr n cać a liv rat wɖ hiz bér handz n evrbdi z gretli astoniśt ẃn Mindi himslf steps p n tecs ɖ bet, fr orḍneṛli Mindi wl nt bet y a nicl h z alîv.

Bt it sīmz ɖt Mindi nz ɖt Ɖ Scî plants a tem rat in ɖ sélr, n ɖs rat nz Ɖ Scî n luvz him dirli, n wl let him cać it eni tîm h wśz, n it olso sīmz ɖt Mindi nz ɖt wn v hiz diśwośrz hapnz upn ɖs rat, n nt nwñ it z tem, nocs it flatr ɖn a pancec. So ẃn Ɖ Scî gz dǎn intu ɖ sélr n starts trayñ t cać a rat wɖ hiz bér handz h z gretli s’prîzd hǎ inh’spitbl ɖ rat trnz ǎt t b, bcz it z wn v Mindi’z prsnl rats, n Mindi z arnd aftwdz seyñ h wl le plenti v 7 t 5 agnst īvn Stranglr Luis biyñ ebl t cać wn v hiz rats wɖ hiz bér handz, or wɖ boxñgluvz on.

I am onli telñ y ol ɖs t śo y ẃt a smart gai Ɖ Scî z, n I am onli sori I d nt hv tîm t tel y abt mni uɖr vri rmarcbl proṗziśnz ɖt h ʈncs p ǎtsd v hiz reğlr biznis.

It z wel-noun t wn n ol ɖt h z vri onist in evri rspct, n ɖt h hets n dspîzz ćītrz at cardz, or dîs, n frɖrmr Ɖ Scî nvr wśz t ple wɖ eni ɖ bst v it himslf, or enwe nt mć. H wl nvr tec ɖ insîd v eni sićueśn, az mni gamblrz luv t d, sć az ǒnñ a gamḅlñhǎs, n hvñ ɖ psntij run fr him instd v agnst him, fr olwz Ɖ Scî z stricli a pleyr, bcz h sz h wl nvr cer t setl dǎn in wn spot loñ inuf t bcm ɖ ǒnr v enʈñ.

In fact, in ol ɖ yirz Ɖ Scî z driftñ arnd ɖ cuntri, nbdi evr nz him t ǒn enʈñ xpt mbi a bancrol, n ẃn h cmz t Brōdwe ɖ last tîm, ẃć z ɖ tîm I am nǎ spīcñ v, h hz a hundṛd G’z in caśmuni, n an xtra sūt v cloɖz, n ɖs z ol h hz in ɖ wrld. H nvr ǒnz sć a ʈñ az a hǎs, or an ōtṃbil, or a pìs v juwlri. H nvr ǒnz a woć, bcz Ɖ Scî sz tîm mīnz nʈñ t him.

V cors sm gaiz wl fiğr a hundṛd G’z cmz undr ɖ hed v ǒnñ smʈñ, bt az far az Ɖ Scî z cnsrnd, muni z nʈñ bt jst smʈñ fr him t ple wɖ n ɖ dolrz me az wel b donuts az far az valy gz wɖ him. Ɖ onli tîm Ɖ Scî evr ʈncs v muni az muni z ẃn h z brouc, n ɖ onli we h cn tel h z brouc z ẃn h rīćz intu hiz pocit n fîndz nʈñ ɖr bt hiz fngrz.

Ɖen it z nesṣri fr Ɖ Scî t g ǎt n dig p sm freś scrać smẃr, n ẃn it cmz t digñ p scrać, Ɖ Scî z practicli sūṗnaćṛl. H cn gt mor ptetoz on ɖ streñʈ v a teḷgram t sm ples or uɖr ɖn Jon D. Roc̣félr cn gt on c’latṛl, fr evrbdi nz Ɖ Scî’z wrd z az gd az ẃīt in ɖ bin.

Nǎ wn Súnde īvnñ Ɖ Scî z wōcñ alñ Brōdwe, n at ɖ cornr v forti-nînʈ Strīt h cmz upn a litl bunć v miśnwrcrz hu r holdñ a rlijs mītñ, sć az miśnwrcrz luv t d v a Súnde īvnñ, ɖ îdīa biyñ ɖt ɖe me rǎnd p a fy sinrz hir n ɖr, olɖo prsṇli I olwz clem ɖ miśnwrcrz cm ǎt tù rli t cać eni sinrz on ɖs part v Brōdwe. At sć an aur ɖ sinrz r stl in bed restñ p fṛm ɖer sinñ v ɖ nît bfr, so ɖe wl b in gd śep fr mor sinñ a litl lêtr on.

Ɖr r onli for v ɖz miśnwrcrz, n tū v ɖm r old gaiz, n wn z an old dol, ẃl ɖ uɖr z a yuñ dol hu z tūṭlñ on a cornit. N aftr a cupl v gandrz at ɖs yuñ dol, Ɖ Scî z a gonr, fr ɖs z wn v ɖ most bytifl yuñ dolz enbdi evr siz on Brōdwe, n ispeṣ́li az a miśnwrcr. Hr nem z Mis Sẹra Brǎn.

Ś z tōl, n ʈin, n hz a frst-clas śep, n hr her z a lît brǎn, gwñ on blond, n hr îz r lîc I d nt nǒ ẃt, xpt ɖt ɖe r wn-hundṛd-p’-snt îz in evri rspct. Frɖrmr, ś z nt a bad cornitpleyr, f y lîc cornitpleyrz, olɖo at ɖs spot on Brōdwe ś hz t ple agnst a scatband in a ćopsui jônt nir bî, n ɖs z tuf comṗtiśn, olɖo at ɖt mni sitiznz b’liv Mis Sẹra Brǎn wl win bî a larj scor f ś onli gts a litl mor s’port fṛm wn v ɖ old gaiz wɖ hr hu hz a big beis drum, bt dz nt pǎnd it harti inuf.

Wel, Ɖ Scî standz ɖr liṣnñ t Mis Sẹra Brǎn tūṭlñ on ɖ cornit fr qt a spel, n ɖen h hírz hr mc a spīć in ẃć ś pts ɖ blast on sin vri gd, n būsts rlijn qt sm, n sz f ɖr r eni soulz arnd ɖt nīd sevñ ɖ ǒnrz v sem me step fwd at wns. Bt nwn steps fwd, so Ɖ Scî cmz ovr t Mindi’z resṭront ẃr mni sitiznz r congṛgetd, n starts telñ s abt Mis Sẹra Brǎn. Bt v cors w olrdi nǒ abt Mis Sẹra Brǎn, bcz ś z so bytifl, n so gd.

Frɖrmr, evrbdi fīlz smẃt sori fr Mis Sẹra Brǎn, fr ẃl ś z olwz tūṭlñ ɖ cornit, n mcñ spīćz, n lcñ t sev eni soulz ɖt nīd sevñ, ś nvr sīmz t fînd eni soulz t sev, or at līst hr bunć v miśnwrcrz nvr gts eni bigr. In fact, it gts smōlr, az ś starts ǎt wɖ a gai hu plez a vri fer sort v trombon, bt ɖs gai tecs it on ɖ lam wn nît wɖ ɖ trombon, ẃć wn n ol cnsidr a drti tric.

Nǎ fṛm ɖs tîm on, Ɖ Scî dz nt tec eni inṭrest in enʈñ bt Mis Sẹra Brǎn, n eni nît ś z ǎt on ɖ cornr wɖ ɖ uɖr miśnwrcrz, y wl si Ɖ Scî standñ arnd lcñ at hr, n naćṛli aftr a fy wīcs v ɖs, Mis Sẹra Brǎn mst nǒ Ɖ Scî z lcñ at hr, or ś z dumr ɖn sīmz poṣbl. N nbdi evr fiğrz Mis Sẹra Brǎn dum, az ś z olwz on hr toz, n sīmz plenti ebl t tec cer v hrslf, īvn on Brōdwe.

Smtmz aftr ɖ strītmītñ z ovr, Ɖ Scî foloz ɖ miśnwrcrz t ɖer hedqortrz in an old stoŗūm arnd in Forti-etʈ Strīt ẃr ɖe jenṛli hold an indorseśn, n I hír Ɖ Scî drops mni a larj cōrs not in ɖ c’lex́nbox ẃl lcñ at Mis Sẹra Brǎn, n ɖr z no dǎt ɖz nots cm in handi arnd ɖ miśn, az I hír biznis z bî no mīnz so gd ɖr.

It z cōld ɖ Sev-a-Soul Miśn, n it z run mnli bî Mis Sẹra Brǎn’z granfaɖr, an old gai wɖ ẃiscrz, bî ɖ nem v Arvīd Aḅnaʈi, bt Mis Sẹra Brǎn sīmz t d most v ɖ wrc, includñ tūṭlñ ɖ cornit, n viẓtñ ɖ pur ppl arnd n abt, n ol ɖs n ɖt, n mni sitiznz clem it z a gret śem ɖt sć a bytifl dol z westñ hr tîm biyñ gd.

Hǎ Ɖ Scî evr bcmz aqentd wɖ Mis Sẹra Brǎn z a vri gret misṭri, bt ɖ nxt ʈñ enbdi nz, h z seyñ hlo t hr, n ś z smîlñ at him ǎt v hr wn-hundṛd-p’-snt îz, n wn īvnñ ẃn I hapn t b wɖ Ɖ Scî w run intu hr wōcñ alñ Forti-nînʈ Strīt, n Ɖ Scî hōlz of n stops hr, n sz it z a nîs īvnñ, ẃć it z, at ɖt. Ɖen Ɖ Scî sz t Mis Sẹra Brǎn lîc ɖs:

“Wel,” Ɖ Scî sz, “hǎ z ɖ miśn doj gwñ ɖz dez? R y sevñ eni soulz?” h sz.

Wel, it sīmz fṛm ẃt Mis Sẹra Brǎn sz ɖ soul-sevñ z vri slo, indd, ɖz dez.

“In fact,” Mis Sẹra Brǎn sz, “I wuri gretli abt hǎ fy soulz w sīm t sev. Smtmz I wundr f w r lacñ in gres.”

Ś gz on p ɖ strīt, n Ɖ Scî standz lcñ aftr hr, n h sz t m lîc ɖs:

“I wś I cn ʈnc v sm we t hlp ɖs litl dol,” h sz, “ispeṣ́li,” h sz, “in sevñ a fy soulz t bild p hr mob at ɖ miśn. I mst spīc t hr agn, n si f I cn fiğr smʈñ ǎt.”

Bt Ɖ Scî dz nt gt t spīc t Mis Sẹra Brǎn agn, bcz smbdi weiz in ɖ sacs on him bî telñ hr h z nʈñ bt a pṛfeśnl gamblr, n ɖt h z a vri undizîṛbl caṛctr, n ɖt hiz onli inṭrest in haññ arnd ɖ miśn z bcz ś z a gd-lcñ dol. So ol v a sudn Mis Sẹra Brǎn plez a plenti v ćil fr Ɖ Scî. Frɖrmr, ś sndz him wrd ɖt ś dz nt cer t axpt eni mor v hiz ptetoz in ɖ c’lex́nbox, bcz hiz ptetoz r nʈñ bt il-gotn genz.

Wel, naćṛli, ɖs hrts Ɖ Scî’z fīlñz no litl, so h qits standñ arnd lcñ at Mis Sẹra Brǎn, n gwñ t ɖ miśn, n tecs t mnġlñ agn wɖ ɖ sitiznz in Mindi’z, n śowñ sm inṭrest in ɖ aferz v ɖ cḿṇti, ispeṣ́li ɖ crapgemz.

V cors ɖ crapgemz ɖt r gwñ on at ɖs tîm r nʈñ mć, bcz practicli evrbdi in ɖ wrld z brouc, bt ɖr z a hed-n-hed gem run bî Neʈn Dtrôt ovr a garij in Fifti-secnd Strīt ẃr ɖr z oceźṇli sm ax́n, n hu śoz p at ɖs crapgem rli wn īvnñ bt Ɖ Scî, olɖo it sīmz h śoz p ɖr mor t fînd cumṗni ɖn enʈñ els.

In fact, h onli standz arnd woćñ ɖ ple, n tōcñ wɖ uɖr gaiz hu r olso standñ arnd n woćñ, n mni v ɖz gaiz r vri hî śots jrñ ɖ goldruś, olɖo most v ɖm r nǎ az clīn az a jêbrd, n mbi clīnr. Wn v ɖz gaiz z a gai bî ɖ nem v Brandibotl Bêts, hu z noun fṛm cǒst t cǒst az a hî pleyr ẃn h hz enʈñ t ple wɖ, n hu z cōld Brandibotl Bêts bcz it sīmz ɖt yirz ago h z a gret hand fr bltñ a brandibotl arnd.

Ɖs Brandibotl Bêts z a big, blac-lcñ gai, wɖ a larj bīzr, n a hed śept lîc a pér, n h z cnsidrd a vri imoṛl n wicid caṛctr, bt h z a priti slic gamblr, n a fast man wɖ a dolr ẃn h z in ɖ muni.

Wel, fîṇli Ɖ Scî ascs Brandibotl ẃ h z nt pleyñ n Brandi lafs, n stets az foloz:

“Ẃ,” h sz, “in ɖ frst ples I hv no ptetoz, n in ɖ secnd ples I dǎt f it wl d m mć gd f I d hv eni ptetoz ɖ we I am gwñ ɖ past yir. Ẃ,” Brandibotl sz, “I canot win a bet t sev mî soul.”

Nǎ ɖs crac sīmz t gv Ɖ Scî an îdīa, az h standz lcñ at Brandibotl vri strenjli, n ẃl h z lcñ, Big Nig, ɖ crapśūtr, pics p ɖ dîs n hits ʈri tîmz handrunñ, bñ, bñ, bñ. Ɖen Big Nig cmz ǎt on a six n Brandibotl Bêts spīcs az foloz:

“Y si hǎ mî luc z,” h sz. “Hir z Big Nig hotr ɖn a stov, n hir I am wɖt a bob t folo him wɖ, ispeṣ́li,” Brandi sz, “ẃn h z lcñ fr nʈñ bt a six. Ẃ,” h sz, “Nig cn mc sixz ol nît ẃn h z hot. F h dz nt mc ɖs six, ɖ we h z, I wl b wilñ t trn sqer n qit gamḅlñ fr evr.”

“Wel, Brandi,” Ɖ Scî sz, “I wl mc y a propziśn. I wl le y a G not Big Nig dz nt gt hiz six. I wl le y a G not agnst nʈñ bt yr soul,” h sz. “I mīn f Big Nig dz nt gt hiz six, y r t trn sqer n jôn Mis Sẹra Brǎn’z miśn fr six munʈs.”

“Bet!” Brandibotl Bêts sz rît awe, mīnñ ɖ propziśn z on, olɖo ɖ ćansz r h dz nt qt unḍstand ɖ propziśn. Ol Brandi unḍstandz z Ɖ Scî wśz t wejr ɖt Big Nig dz nt mc hiz six, n Brandibotl Bêts wl b wilñ t bet hiz soul a cupl v tîmz ovr on Big Nig mcñ hiz six, n fiğr h z gtñ ɖ bst v it, at ɖt, az Brandi hz gret confidns in Nig.

Wel, śr inuf, Big Nig mcs ɖ six, so Ɖ Scî wīdz Brandibotl Bêts a G not, olɖo evrbdi arnd z seyñ Ɖ Scî mcs a teṛbl oṿle v ɖ naćṛl prîs in gvñ Brandibotl a G agnst hiz soul. Frɖrmr, evrbdi arnd fiğrz ɖ ćansz r Ɖ Scî onli wśz t gv Brandi an oṗtyṇti t gt in ax́n, n nbdi fiğrz Ɖ Scî z on ɖ levl abt trayñ t win Brandibotl Bêts’ soul, ispeṣ́li az Ɖ Scî dz nt sīm t wś t g eni frɖr aftr peyñ ɖ bet.

H onli standz ɖr lcñ on n sīmñ smẃt dprest az Brandibotl gz intu ax́n on hiz ǒn acǎnt wɖ ɖ G not, fedñ uɖr gaiz arnd ɖ tebl wɖ caśmuni. Bt Brandibotl Bêts sīmz t fiğr ẃt z in Ɖ Scî’z mînd priti wel, bcz Brandibotl z a crafti old gai.

It fîṇli cmz hiz trn t handl ɖ dîs, n h hits a cupl v tîmz, n ɖen h cmz ǎt on a for, n enbdi wl tel y ɖt a for z a vri tuf pônt t mc, īvn wɖ a led pnsl. Ɖen Brandibotl trnz t Ɖ Scî n spīcs t him az foloz:

“Wel, Scî,” h sz, “I wl tec ɖ odz of y on ɖs wn. I nǒ y d nt wont mî dou,” h sz. “I nǒ y onli wont mî soul fr Mis Sẹra Brǎn, n,” h sz, “wɖt wśñ t b freś abt it, I nǒ ẃ y wont it fr hr. I am yuñ wns mslf,” Brandibotl sz. “N y nǒ f I lūz t y, I wl b ovr ɖr in Forti-etʈ Strīt in an aur pǎndñ on ɖ dor, fr Brandi olwz setlz.

“Bt, Scî,” h sz, “nǎ I am in ɖ muni, n mî prîs gz p. Wl y le m ten G’z agnst mî soul I d nt mc ɖs for?”

“Bet!” Ɖ Scî sz, n rît awe Brandibotl mcs hiz for.

Wel, ẃn wrd gz arnd ɖt Ɖ Scî z p at Neʈn Dtrôt’s crapgem trayñ t win Brandibotl Bêts’ soul fr Mis Sẹra Brǎn, ɖ xîtmnt z practicli intns. Smbdi teḷfonz Mindi’z, ẃr a larj numbr v sitiznz r sitñ arnd argywñ abt ɖs n ɖt, n telñ wn anɖr hǎ mć ɖe wl bet in s’port v ɖer arğmnts, f onli ɖe hv smʈñ t bet, n Mindi himslf z olmst cild in ɖ ruś fr ɖ dor.

Wn v ɖ frst gaiz ǎt v Mindi’z n p t ɖ crapgem z Rgret, ɖ horspleyr, n az h cmz in Brandibotl z lcñ fr a nîn, n Ɖ Scî z leyñ him twelv G’z agnst hiz soul ɖt h dz nt mc ɖs nîn, fr it sīmz Brandibotl’z soul cīps gtñ mor n mor xpnsiv.

Wel, Rgret wśz t bet hiz soul agnst a G ɖt Brandibotl gts hiz nîn, n z gretli insultd ẃn Ɖ Scî canot fiğr hiz prîs eni betr ɖn a dubl sw, bt fîṇli Rgret axpts ɖs prîs, n Brandibotl hits agn.

Nǎ mni uɖr sitiznz rqst a litl ax́n fṛm Ɖ Scî, n f ɖr z wn ʈñ Ɖ Scî canot dnî a sitizn it z ax́n, so h sz h wl le ɖm acordñ t hǎ h fiğrz ɖer wrd t jôn Mis Sẹra Brǎn’z miśn f Brandibotl misz ǎt, bt abt ɖs tîm Ɖ Scî fîndz h hz no mor ptetoz on him, biyñ nǎ arnd ʈrti-fîv G’z luzr, n h wśz t gv marcrz.

Bt Brandibotl sz ɖt ẃl orḍneṛli h wl b plizd t xtnd Ɖ Scî ɖs acoṃdeśn, h dz nt cer t axpt marcrz agnst hiz soul, so ɖen Ɖ Scî hz t līv ɖ jônt n g ovr t hiz hotel tū or ʈri blocs awe, n gt ɖ nîtclarc t opn hiz dampr so Ɖ Scî cn gt ɖ rest v hiz bancrol. In ɖ mntm ɖ crapgem cntinyz at Neʈn Dtrôt’s amñ ɖ smōl oṗretrz, ẃl ɖ uɖr sitiznz stand arnd n se ɖt ẃl ɖe hír v mni a dafi propziśn in ɖer tîm, ɖs z ɖ dafiist ɖt evr cmz t ɖer atnśn, olɖo Big Nig clemz h hírz v a dafịr wn, bt canot ʈnc ẃt it z.

Big Nig clemz ɖt ol gamblrz r dafi enwe, n in fact h sz f ɖe r nt dafi ɖe wl nt b gamblrz, n ẃl h z argywñ ɖs matr bac cmz Ɖ Scî wɖ freś scrać, n Brandibotl Bêts tecs p ẃr h līvz of, olɖo Brandi sz h z axptñ ɖ wrst v it, az ɖ dîs hv a ćans t cūl of.

Nǎ ɖ upśot v ɖ hol biznis z ɖt Brandibotl hits ʈrtīn lics in a ro, n ɖ last lic h mcs z on a ten, n it z fr twenti G’z agnst hiz soul, wɖ abt a duzn uɖr sitiznz gtñ enẃr fṛm wn t fîv C’s agnst ɖer soulz, n cmplenñ bitrli v ɖ prîs.

N az Brandibotl mcs hiz ten, I hapn t lc at Ɖ Scî n I si him woćñ Brandi wɖ a vri pkłr xpreśn on hiz fes, n frɖrmr I si Ɖ Scî’z rît hand crīpñ insd hiz cot ẃr I nǒ h olwz pacs a Betsi in a śoldrholstr, so I cn si smʈñ z roñ smẃr.

Bt bfr I cn fiğr ǎt ẃt it z, ɖr z qt a fus at ɖ dor, n lǎd tōcñ, n a dol’z vôs, n ol v a sudn in bobz nbdi els bt Mis Sẹra Brǎn. It z plen t b sìn ɖt ś z ol stīmd p abt smʈñ.

Ś marćz rît p t ɖ craptebl ẃr Brandibotl Bêts n Ɖ Scî n ɖ uɖr sitiznz r standñ, n wn n ol r fīlñ sori fr Dóbr, ɖ dormn, ʈncñ v ẃt Neʈn Dtrôt z bǎnd t se t him fr letñ hr in. Ɖ dîs r stl layñ on ɖ tebl śowñ Brandibotlz Bêts’ last ʈro, ẃć clīnz Ɖ Scî n gvz mni sitiznz ɖ frst mīnz ɖe injô in sevṛl munʈs.

Wel, Mis Sẹra Brǎn lcs at Ɖ Scî, n Ɖ Scî lcs at Mis Sẹra Brǎn, n Mis Sẹra Brǎn lcs at ɖ sitiznz arnd n abt, n wn n ol r smẃt dumfǎndd, n nbdi sīmz t b ebl t ʈnc v mć t se, olɖo Ɖ Scî fîṇli spīcs p az foloz:

“Gd īvnñ,” Ɖ Scî sz. “It z a nîs īvnñ,” h sz. “I am trayñ t win a fy soulz fr y arnd hir, bt,” h sz, “I sīm t b abt haf ǎt v luc.”

“Wel,” Mis Sẹra Brǎn sz, lcñ at Ɖ Scî most svirli ǎt v hr hundṛd-p’-snt îz, “y r tecñ tù mć upn yrslf. I cn win eni soulz I nīd mslf. Y betr b ʈncñ v yr ǒn soul. Bî ɖ we,” ś sz, “r y riscñ yr ǒn soul, or jst yr muni?”

Wel, v cors p t ɖs tîm Ɖ Scî z nt riscñ enʈñ bt hiz ptetoz, so h onli śecs hiz hed t Mis Sẹra Brǎn’z qsćn, n lcs smẃt dsorġnîzd.

“I nǒ smʈñ abt gamḅlñ,” Mis Sẹra Brǎn sz, “ispeṣ́li abt crapgemz. I òt t,” ś sz. “It ruinz mî pur ppā n mî bruɖr Jo. F y wś t gambl fr soulz, Mistr Scî, gambl fr yr ǒn soul.”

Nǎ Mis Sẹra Brǎn opnz a smōl blac leɖr pocit-bc ś z cariyñ in wn hand, n plz ǎt a tū-dolr bil, n it z sć a tū-dolr bil az sīmz t hv sìn mć srvis in its tîm, n holdñ p ɖs dys, Mis Sẹra Brǎn spīcs az foloz:

“I wl gambl wɖ y, Mistr Scî,” ś sz. “I wl gambl wɖ y,” ś sz, “on ɖ sem trmz y gambl wɖ ɖz partiz hir. Ɖs tū dolrz agnst yr soul, Mistr Scî. It z ol I hv, bt,” ś sz, “it z mor ɖn yr soul z wrʈ.”

Wel, v cors enbdi cn si ɖt Mis Sẹra Brǎn z dwñ ɖs bcz ś z vri angri, n wśz t mc Ɖ Scî lc smōl, bt rît awe Ɖ Scî’z dyc cmz fṛm insd hiz cot, n h pics p ɖ dîs n handz ɖm t hr n spīcs az foloz:

“Rol ɖm,” Ɖ Scî sz, n Mis Sẹra Brǎn snaćz ɖ dîs ǎt v hiz hand n gvz ɖm a qc slñ on ɖ tebl in sć a we ɖt enbdi cn si ś z nt a pṛfeśnl crapśūtr, n nt īvn an aṃćr crapśūtr, fr ol aṃćr crapśūtrz frst briɖ on ɖ dîs, n ratl ɖm gd, n mc rmarcs t ɖm, sć az “Cm on, bebi!”

In fact, ɖr z sm criṭsizm v Mis Sẹra Brǎn aftwdz on acǎnt v hr hest, az mni sitiznz r īgr t strñ wɖ hr t hit, ẃl uɖrz r jst az añśs t bet ś misz, n ś dz nt gv ɖm a ćans t gt dǎn.

Wel, Scrantn Slim z ɖ sticgai, n h tecs a gandr at ɖ dîs az ɖe hit p agnst ɖ sîd v ɖ tebl n bǎns bac, n ɖen Slim holrz, “Winr, winr, winr,” az sticgaiz luv t d, n ẃt z śowñ on ɖ dîs az big az lîf, bt a six n a fîv, ẃć mcs ilevn, no matr hǎ y fiğr, so Ɖ Scî’z soul b’loñz t Mis Sẹra Brǎn.

Ś trnz at wns n pśz ʈru ɖ sitiznz arnd ɖ tebl wɖt īvn wêtñ t pic p ɖ dys ś lez dǎn ẃn ś grabz ɖ dîs. Aftwdz a most obnox́s caṛctr bî ɖ nem v Red Nǒz Regn trîz t clem ɖ dys az a slīpr n gts ɖ hīv-o fṛm Neʈn Dtrôt, hu bcmz vri indignnt abt ɖs, stetñ ɖt Red Nǒz z trayñ t gv hiz jônt a roñ rap.

Naćṛli, Ɖ Scî foloz Mis Brǎn, n Dóbr, ɖ dormn, tlz m ɖt az ɖe r wêtñ fr him t unloc ɖ dor n let ɖm ǎt, Mis Sẹra Brǎn trnz on Ɖ Scî n spīcs t him az foloz:

“Y r a fūl,” Mis Sẹra Brǎn sz.

Wel, at ɖs Dóbr fiğrz Ɖ Scî z baund t let wn g, az ɖs sīmz t b most insultñ lanḡj, bt instd v letñ wn g, Ɖ Scî onli smîlz at Mis Sẹra Brǎn n sz t hr lîc ɖs:

“Ẃ,” Ɖ Scî sz, “Pōl sz ‘F eni man amñ y sīmiʈ t b wîz in ɖs wrld, let him bcm a fūl, ɖt h me b wîz.’ I luv y, Mis Sẹra Brǎn,” Ɖ Scî sz.

Wel, nǎ, Dóbr hz a priti fer sort v meṃri, n h sz ɖt Mis Sẹra Brǎn tlz Ɖ Scî ɖt sins h sīmz t nǒ so mć abt ɖ Bîbl, mbi h rmembrz ɖ secnd vrs v ɖ Soñ v Soḷmn, bt ɖ ćansz r Dóbr mufs ɖ numbr v ɖ vrs, bcz I lc ɖ matr p in wn v ɖz Gidịn Bîblz, n ɖ vrs sīmz a litl tù mć fr Mis Sẹra Brǎn, olɖo v cors y nvr cn tel.

Enwe, ɖs z abt ol ɖr z t ɖ stori, xpt ɖt Brandibotl Bêts slîdz ǎt jrñ ɖ cnfyźn so qaytli īvn Dóbr scersli rmembrz letñ him ǎt, n h tecs most v Ɖ Scî’z ptetoz wɖ him, bt h sn gts batd in agnst ɖ faro banc ǎt in Ścago, n ɖ last enbdi hírz v him h gts rlijn ol ovr agn, n z prīćñ ǎt in San Źose, so Ɖ Scî olwz clemz h bìts Brandi fr hiz soul, at ɖt.

I si Ɖ Scî ɖ uɖr nît at Forti-nînʈ Strīt n Brōdwe, n h z wɖ qt a raft v miśnwrcrz, includñ Msz Scî, fr it sīmz ɖt ɖ soul-sevñ biznis pics p wundrf̣li, n Ɖ Scî z gvñ a big beis drum sć a frst-clas ẃacñ ɖt ɖ scatband in ɖ ćopsui jônt cn scersli b hŕd. Frɖrmr, Ɖ Scî z hoḷrñ btwn ẃacs, n I nvr si a gai lc hapịr, ispeṣ́li ẃn Msz Scî smîlz at him ǎt v hr hundṛd-p’-snt îz. Bt I d nt lingr loñ, bcz Ɖ Scî gts a gandr at m, n rît awe h bginz hoḷrñ:

“I si bfr m a sinr v dīpist dai,” h holrz. “Ǒ, sinr, rpnt bfr it z tù lêt. Jôn wɖ s, sinr,” h holrz, “n let s sev yr soul.”

Naćṛli, ɖs crac abt m biyñ a sinr imbaṛsz m no litl, az it z bî no mīnz tru, n it z a gd ʈñ fr Ɖ Scî ɖr z no copr in m, or I wl g t Msz Scî, hu z olwz bragñ abt hǎ ś winz Ɖ Scî’z soul bî ǎtpleyñ him at hiz ǒn gem, n tel hr ɖ truʈ.

N ɖ truʈ z ɖt ɖ dîs wɖ ẃć ś winz Ɖ Scî’z soul, n ẃć r ɖ sem dîs wɖ ẃć Brandibotl Bêts winz ol hiz ptetoz, r stricli foni, n ɖt ś gts intu Neʈn Dtrôt’s jst in tîm t cīp Ɖ Scî fṛm cilñ old Brandibotl.

CLASICS IN ÑSPEL

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Clasics in Ñspel: THERE WILL COME SOFT RAINS, by Ray Bradbury

The Ray Bradbury website

ƉR WL CM SOFT RENZ

Re Bradḅri

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In ɖ livñrūm ɖ vôscloc sañ, Tíc-toc, sevn o’cloc, tîm t gt p, tîm t gt p, sevn o’cloc! az f it wr afreid nbdi wd. Ɖ mornñhǎs le emti. Ɖ cloc tict on, rpitñ n rpitñ its sǎndz intu ɖ emtinis. Sevn-nîn, brecfsțîm, sevn-nîn!

In ɖ cićn ɖ brecfststov gev a hisñ sai n ijctd fṛm its worm intirịr et pìsz v prf̣cli brǎnd tost, et egz súnisîd-up, sixtīn slîsz v bêcn, tū cofiz, n tū cūl glasz v milc. “Tde z Ōġst 4, 2026,” sd a secnd vôs fṛm ɖ cićnsīlñ, “in ɖ siti v Aḷndel, Caḷforńa.” It rpitd ɖ det ʈri tîmz fr meṃri’z sec. “Tde z Mr. Feɖ̇ston’z brʈde. Tde z ɖ aṇvrsri v Tilita’z marij. Inśuṛns z peybl, az r ɖ wōtr, gas, n lît bílz.”

Smẃr in ɖ wōlz, rīlez clict, meṃriteps glîdd undr ilectric îz.

Et-wn, tíc-toc, et-wn o’cloc, of t scūl, of t wrc, run, run, et-wn! Bt no dorz slamd, no carpits tc ɖ soft tréd v rubr hìlz. It wz renñ ǎtsd. Ɖ weɖrbox on ɖ fruntdor sañ qaytli: “Ren, ren, g awe; rubrz, rencots fr tde…” N ɖ ren tapt on ɖ emti hǎs, ecowñ.

Ǎtsd, ɖ garij ćîmd n liftd its dor t rvil ɖ wêtñ car. Aftr a loñ wêt ɖ dor swuñ dǎn agn.

At et-ʈrti ɖ egz wr śrivld n ɖ tost wz lîc ston. An aḷmińm wéj scrept ɖm dǎn a metl ʈrot ẃć djstd n fluśt ɖm awe t ɖ distnt sì. Ɖ drti diśz wr dropt intu a hot wośr n imrjd twnc̣lñ drî.

Nîn-fiftīn, sañ ɖ cloc, tîm t clīn. Ǎt v woṛnz in ɖ wōl, tîni robótmîs dartd. Ɖ rūmz wr acrōl wɖ ɖ smōl clīnñ animlz, ol rubr n metl. Ɖe ʈudd agnst ćerz, ẃrlñ ɖer mstaśt runrz, nȉdñ ɖ rugnap, sucñ jntli at hidn dust. Ɖen, lîc mstirịs invedrz, ɖe popt intu ɖer buroz. Ɖer pnc ilectric îz fedd. Ɖ hǎs wz clīn.

Ten o’cloc. Ɖ sún cem ǎt fṛm bhnd ɖ ren. Ɖ hǎs std alon in a siti v rubl n aśz. Ɖs wz ɖ wn hǎs left standñ. At nît ɖ ruind siti gev of a redioactiv glo ẃć cd b sìn fr mîlz.

Ten-fiftīn. Ɖ gardnsprinclrz ẃrld p in goldn fǎnts, filñ ɖ soft mornñ er wɖ scaṭrñz v brîtnis. Ɖ wōtr pltd windopeinz, runñ dǎn ɖ ćard wst sîd ẃr ɖ hǎs hd bn brnd īvnli fri v its ẃît pent. Ɖ intîr wst fes v ɖ hǎs wz blac, sev fr fîv plesz. Hir ɖ siluét in pent v a man mowñ a lōn. Hir, az in a foṭgraf, a wmn bnt t pic flǎrz. Stl farɖr ovr, ɖer iṃjz brnd on wŭd in wn tîtanic instnt, a smōl bô, handz fluñ intu ɖ er; hayr p, ɖ imij v a ʈroun bōl, n oṗzit him a grl, handz rezd t cać a bōl ẃć nvr cem dǎn. Ɖ fîv spots v pent – ɖ man, ɖ wmn, ɖ ćildṛn, ɖ bōl – rmend. Ɖ rest wz a ʈin ćarcold leyr. Ɖ jntl sprinclŗen fild ɖ gardn wɖ fōlñ lît.

Untl ɖs de, hǎ wel ɖ hǎs hd cept its pīs. Hǎ cerf̣li it hd inqîrd, ‘Hu gz ɖr? Ẃt’s ɖ paswrd?” n, gtñ no ansr fṛm lonli foxz n ẃînñ cats, it hd śut p its windoz n drwn śêdz in an old-meidnli priokpeśn wɖ slf-pṛtx́n ẃć bordrd on a mcanicl paṛnoia.

It qivrd at ć sǎnd, ɖ hǎs dd. F a sparo bruśt a windo, ɖ śêd snapt p. Ɖ brd, startld, flù of! No, nt īvn a brd mst tuć ɖ hǎs!

Ɖ hǎs wz an ōltr wɖ ten ʈǎznd atndnts, big, smōl, srvisñ, atndñ, in qîrz. Bt ɖ godz hd gn awe, n ɖ rićl v ɖ rlijn cntinyd snslisli, yslisli.

Twelv nūn.

A dog ẃînd, śiṿrñ, on ɖ fruntporć.

Ɖ fruntdor rec̣gnîzd ɖ dog vôs n opnd. Ɖ dog, wns larj n fleśi, bt nǎ gn t bon n cuvrd wɖ sorz, muvd in n ʈru ɖ hǎs, tracñ mud. Bhnd it ẃrd angri mîs, angri at hvñ t pic p mud, angri at incnvińns.

Fr nt a līf fragmnt blù undr ɖ dor bt ẃt ɖ wōlpanlz flipt opn n ɖ copr-scrap rats flaśt swiftli ǎt. Ɖ ofndñ dust, her, or pepr, sizd in minićr stīl jwz, wz rêst bac t ɖ buroz. Ɖr, dǎn tybz ẃć féd intu ɖ sélr, it wz dropt intu ɖ sayñ vnt v an insiṇretr, ẃć sat lîc īvl Bāl in a darc cornr.

Ɖ dog ran upsterz, histericli yelpñ t ć dor, at last riylîzñ, az ɖ hǎs riylîzd, ɖt onli sîḷns wz hir. It snift ɖ er n scraćt ɖ cićndor. Bhnd ɖ dor, ɖ stov wz mcñ pancecs ẃć fild ɖ hǎs wɖ a rić ǒdr n ɖ sént v mepl siṛp. Ɖ dog froʈt at ɖ mǎʈ, layñ at ɖ dor, snifñ, its îz trnd t fîr. It ran wîldli in srclz, bîtñ at its teil, spun in a frenzi, n daid. It le in ɖ parlr fr an aur.

Tū ’cloc, sañ a vôs.

Delic̣tli snsñ dce at last, ɖ rejimnts v mîs humd ǎt az softli az bloun gre līvz in an ilectricl wind.

Tū-fiftīn.

Ɖ dog wz gn.

In ɖ sélr, ɖ insiṇretr gloud sudnli n a ẃrl v sparcs lept p ɖ ćimni.

Tū ʈrti-fîv.

Brijteblz sprǎt fṛm patiowōlz. Pleyñcardz flutrd ontu padz in a śǎr v pips. Martīniz maṇfstd on an ocn bnć wɖ eg saḷd sanẉjz. Ḿzic pleid.

Bt ɖ teblz wr sîḷnt n ɖ cardz untućt.

At for o’cloc ɖ teblz foldd lîc gret buṭflîz bac ʈru ɖ panld wōlz.

For-ʈrti.

Ɖ nrṣriwōlz gloud.

Animlz tc śep: yelo jrafs, blu laynz, pnc anṭlops, lîlac panʈrz cvortñ in cristl substns. Ɖ wōlz wr glas. Ɖe lct ǎt upn culr n fanṭsi. Hidn filmz cloct ʈru ɖ wel-ôld sprocits, n ɖ wōlz livd. Ɖ nrṣriflor wz wovn t rzmbl a crisp síṛl medo. Ovr ɖs ran aḷmińm roćz n ayn cricits, n in ɖ hot stil er buṭflîz v delic̣t red tiśu wevrd amñ ɖ śarp aroma v animlsporz! Ɖr wz ɖ sǎnd lîc a gret matd yelo hîv v bìz wɖn a darc beloz, ɖ lezi bumbl v a pŕñ layn. N ɖr wz ɖ patr v ocāpi fīt n ɖ mrmr v a freś junglren, lîc uɖr hūfs fōlñ upn ɖ sumr-starćt gras. Nǎ ɖ wōlz dzolvd intu distnsz v parćt wīd, mîl on mîl, n worm endlis scî. Ɖ animlz drù awe intu ʈornbreics n wōtrhoulz. It wz ɖ ćildṛn’z aur.

Fîv o’cloc. Ɖ baʈ fild wɖ clir hot wōtr.

Six, sevn, et o’cloc. Ɖ dinrdiśz mnipyletd lîc majic trics, n in ɖ studi a clic. In ɖ metl stand oṗzit ɖ harʈ ẃr a fîr nǎ blezd p wormli, a sgar popt ǎt, haf an inć v soft gre aś on it, smocñ, wêtñ.

Nîn o’cloc. Ɖ bedz wormd ɖer hidn srcits, fr nîts wr cūl hir.

Nîn-fîv. A vôs spouc fṛm ɖ studisīlñ: “Msz. MCleḷn, ẃć powm wd y lîc ɖs īvnñ?”

Ɖ hǎs wz sîḷnt.

Ɖ vôs sd at last, “Sins y xpres no prefṛns, I śl s’lect a powm at randm.” Qayt ḿzic rouz t bac ɖ vôs. “Sẹra Tīzdel. Az I rcōl, yr fevrit…

Ɖr wl cm soft renz n ɖ smel v ɖ grǎnd
N swoloz src̣lñ wɖ ɖer śiṃrñ sǎnd

 

N frogz in ɖ pūlz sññ at nît

N wîld plumtrīz in treḿḷs ẃît.

Robinz wl wer ɖer feɖ̇ri fîr,

Ẃiṣlñ ɖer ẃimz on a lo fns-wîr,

N nt wn wl nǒ v ɖ wor, nt wn

Wl cer at last ẃn it z dn.

Nt wn wd mînd, nɖr brd nr tri,

F mancînd periśt utrli

N Sprñ hrslf, ẃn ś wouc at dōn,

Wd scersli nǒ ɖt w wr gn.”

Ɖ fîr brnd on ɖ ston harʈ n ɖ sgar fél awe intu a mǎnd v qayt aś on its tre. Ɖ emti ćerz fest ć uɖr btwn ɖ sîḷnt wōlz, n ɖ ḿzic pleid.

At ten o’cloc ɖ hǎs bgan t dî. Ɖ wind blù. A fōlñ trībau craśt ʈru ɖ cićnwindo. Clīnñsolvnt, botld, śatrd ovr ɖ stov. Ɖ rūm wz ablez in an instnt! “Fîr!” scrīmd a vôs. Ɖ hǎs lîts flaśt, wōtrpumps śot wōtr fṛm ɖ sīlñz. Bt ɖ solvnt spred on ɖ l’nołm, licñ, ītñ, undr ɖ cićndor, ẃl ɖ vôsz tc it p in cōṛs: “Fîr, fîr, fîr!”

Ɖ hǎs traid t sev itslf. Dorz sprañ tîtli śut, bt ɖ windoz wr brocn bî ɖ hīt, n ɖ wind blù n suct upn ɖ fîr.

Ɖ hǎs gev grǎnd az ɖ fîr in ten biłn angri sparcs muvd wɖ flemñ īz fṛm rūm t rūm n ɖen p ɖ sterz. Ẃl scuriyñ wōtŗats sqīct fṛm ɖ wōlz, pistld ɖer wōtr, n ran fr mor. N ɖ wōlsprez let dǎn śǎrz v mcanicl ren.

Bt tù lêt. Smẃr, sayñ, a pump śrugd t a stop. Ɖ qnćñ ren sīst. Ɖ rzrv wōtrs’plî ẃć fild ɖ baɖz n wośt ɖ diśz fr mni qayt dez wz gn.

Ɖ fîr cracld p ɖ sterz. It féd upn Pcasoz n Matīsz in ɖ upr hōlz, lîc delic̣siz, becñ of ɖ ôli fleś, tndrli crispñ ɖ canvsz intu blac śevñz.

Nǎ ɖ fîr le in bedz, std in windoz, ćenjd ɖ culrz v dreps!

N ɖen, riinforsmnts.

Fṛm atic trapdorz, blînd robótfesz pīrd dǎn wɖ fōsit mǎɖz guśñ grīn cemicl.

Ɖ fîr bact of, az īvn an elifnt mst at ɖ sît v a ded snec. Nǎ ɖr wr twenti snecs ẃipñ ovr ɖ flor, cilñ ɖ fîr wɖ a clir cold venm v grīn froʈ.

Bt ɖ fîr wz clevr. It hd snt flemz ǎtsd ɖ hǎs, p ʈru ɖ atic t ɖ pumps ɖr. An xploźn! Ɖ aticbren ẃć d’rectd ɖ pumps wz śatrd intu bronz śrapnl on ɖ bīmz.

Ɖ fîr ruśt bac intu evri clozit n flt v ɖ cloɖz ɖt huñ ɖr.

Ɖ hǎs śudrd, oc bon on bon, its bérd scelitn crinjñ fṛm ɖ hīt, its wîr, its nrvz rvild az f a srjn hd torn ɖ scin of t let ɖ red veinz n cpiḷriz qivr in ɖ scōldd er. Hlp, hlp! Fîr! Run, run! Hīt snapt mirrz lîc ɖ frst britl wintr îs. N ɖ vôsz weild Fîr, fîr, run, run, lîc a trajic nrṣrirîm, a duzn vôsz, hî, lo, lîc ćildṛn dayñ in a forist, alon, alon. N ɖ vôsz fedñ az ɖ wîrz popt ɖer śīɖñz lîc hot ćesnuts. Wn, tū, ʈri, for, fîv vôsz daid.

In ɖ nrṣri ɖ jungl brnd. Blu laynz rord, prpl jrafs bǎndd of. Ɖ panʈrz ran in srclz, ćenjñ culr, n ten miłn animlz, runñ bfr ɖ fîr, vaniśt of twd a distnt stīmñ rivr…

Ten mor vôsz daid. In ɖ last instnt undr ɖ fîr aṿlanć, uɖr coṛsz, oblivịs, cd b hŕd anǎnsñ ɖ tîm, pleyñ ḿzic, cutñ ɖ lōn bî rmot-cntrol mowr, or setñ an umbrela franticli ǎt, n in ɖ slamñ n oṗnñ fruntdor a ʈǎznd ʈñz haṗnñ, lîc a clocśop ẃn ć cloc strîcs ɖ aur insenli bfr or aftr ɖ uɖr, a sīn v meniac cnfyźn, yt yṇti; sññ, scrīmñ, a fy last clīnñ mîs dartñ brevli ǎt t cari ɖ horid aśz awe! N wn vôs, wɖ sblîm disrigard fr ɖ sićueśn, rīdñ powtri alǎd ol in ɖ fîri studi, untl ol ɖ filmspūlz brnd, untl ol ɖ wîrz wiɖrd n ɖ srcits cract.

Ɖ fîr brst ɖ hǎs n let it slam flat dǎn, pufñ ǎt scrts v sparc n smoc.

In ɖ cićn, an instnt bfr ɖ ren v fîr n timbr, ɖ stov cd b sìn mcñ brecfsts at a sîc̣paʈic ret, ten duzn egz, six lovz v tost, twenti duzn bêcn strips, ẃć, ītn bî fîr, startd ɖ stov wrcñ agn, histericli hisñ!

Ɖ craś. Ɖ atic smaśñ intu ɖ cićn n parlr. Ɖ parlr intu sélr, sélr intu subsélr. Dīpfrīz, armćer, filmteps, srcits, bedz, n ol lîc scelitnz ʈroun in a clutrd mǎnd dīp undr.

Smoc n sîḷns. A gret qontti v smoc.

Dōn śoud fentli in ɖ īst. Amñ ɖ ruinz, wn wōl std alon. Wɖn ɖ wōl, a last vôs sd, ovr n ovr agn n agn, īvn az ɖ sún rouz t śîn upn ɖ hīp v rubl n stīm:

“Tde z Ōġst 5, 2026, tde z Ōġst 5, 2026, tde z…”

CLASICS IN ÑSPEL

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From Czech: THE POET by Karel Čapek

(My translation of Karel Čapek’s short story Básník, which was published in Povídky z jedné kapsy in 1929)

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It was an entirely routine case: at four in the morning a car had run over a drunk old woman in Žitná Street and had sped off. And now the young Trainee Detective Inspector Mejzlík was tasked with finding out which car it was. A trainee inspector takes something like that seriously.

“Hm,” said Detective Inspector Mejzlík to Police Constable 141, “so you saw, from a distance of three hundred yards, the car speeding away and a body lying in the road. What did you do first of all?”

“First of all, I ran to provide first aid to the lady who’d been run over, sir.”

“First of all, you should have observed the car and only then have taken care of the old granny. But perhaps” – Inspector Mejzlík scratched his head – “perhaps I’d have done the same. So you didn’t get the number of the car. But did you get anything else about it?”

Constable 141 hesitated. “I think it was a sort of dark colour. sir. Maybe blue or red. It wasn’t easy to see, because of the smoke from the exhaust.”

Inspector Mejzlík frowned. “Jesus Christ! How am I supposed to locate the car? Am I meant to run up to every driver and ask, ‘Did you run over an old granny by any chance?’ Well, what would you do?”

Constable 141 shrugged his shoulders in lower-rank helplessness. “Well, one witness appeared, sir, but he doesn’t know anything either. He’s waiting over there, sir.”

Inspector Mejzlik was feeling more and more annoyed. “Well, bring him over.”

When the witness came over, the inspector looked at his crib sheet and, without even looking at him, asked mechanically, “Name and address?”

The answer came loud and clear. “Jan Králík, mechanical engineering student.”

“So you were present at four o’clock this morning when an unidentified car ran over Božena Macháčková.”

“Yes, and I can confirm that the driver was culpable. You see, Inspector, there was no other traffic on the road. If the driver had slowed down at the crossroads…”

How far away were you standing?”

“About ten yards. I was accompanying my friend from… from a café, and when we got to Žitná Street…”

“What’s your friend’s name? I haven’t got a note of that.”

“Jaroslav Nerad, the poet,” the witness replied, with a note of pride. “But he wouldn’t be able to tell you anything.”

Inspector Mejzlík realised he was clutching at straws. “Why not?”

“Because he… he’s a poet. When the accident happened, he burst into tears and ran off home like a little child. The thing is, we were in Žitná Street when, all of a sudden, a car came speeding up behind us…”

“What was its number?”

“Sorry, Inspector. I didn’t notice. I was just watching as it sped towards us, and I was just saying to myself that…”

“What make of car was it?”

 “A four-stroke combustion engine, but I don’t know anything about makes of cars.”

“And what colour was it? Who was in it? Was it open-top or not?”

The witness looked confused. “I don’t know. I think it was black, but I didn’t really notice because, when the accident happened, I was saying to Nerad, ‘Look! Those scoundrels have run someone over, and they’re not going to stop.”

Inspector Mejzlík wasn’t happy. “Hm… That’s certainly an understandable and ethically correct reaction, but I’d have been happier if you’d noticed the car number. It’s amazing, sir, how inattentive people are. Of course you know the driver is guilty, and you know those people are scoundrels, but you don’t think to look at the number plate. Everyone can judge, but to observe things really closely… Thank you, Mr Králík. I won’t detain you any longer.”

An hour later, Constable 141 rang the doorbell at the house of Jaroslav Nerad’s landlady. Yes, the poet was at home, but he was sleeping.

A few moments later his little, anxious eyes were peeping round the door at the constable. Somehow he couldn’t remember exactly what had happened, but he did understand, eventually, why he needed to go to the police station. But he wasn’t keen on the idea. “Do I have to? The thing is, I can’t remember anything. Last night I was a bit…”

“Pissed?” suggested Constable 141 sympathetically. “I understand, sir. I’ve known a lot of poets. So, get yourself dressed, please. Shall I wait for you?”

This led to a discussion between the poet and the constable about the best places to go at night, about life in general, about unusual phenomena in the skies, and many things besides. Politics was the only subject neither of them was interested in. So their journey to the police station was accompanied by a friendly and informative conversation.

Inspector Mejzlík was waiting for him. “You are Mr Jaroslav Nerad, poet. And you witnessed an unidentified car running over Božena Macháčková.”

The poet took a deep breath. “Yes.”

“Could you tell me what the car looked like? Was it open-top or closed? What colour was it? Who was inside it? What was its registration number?”

The poet racked his brains for a few moments. “I don’t know. I didn’t notice.”

But the inspector was insistent. “Don’t you remember any details at all?”

“None at all. I never pay any attention to details.”

The inspector assumed an ironic tone. “So if you didn’t observe the details, would you care to say what you did observe?”

“The general mood. You know, the empty street… the beginnings of daybreak… the woman lying there…”

And then it struck him. “I’ve just remembered I wrote something about it when I got home!” He rummaged in his pockets and pulled out a quantity of envelopes, bills and suchlike. “No, that’s not it,” he muttered. “Nor this… Hold on, maybe this.” He was staring at the back of an envelope.

“Would you be so good as to show me that?” asked Inspector Mejzlík.

“It’s nothing,” said the poet. “But if you like, I’ll read it to you.” At which point his eyes bulged and, drawing out the long syllables in a sing-song voice, he recited the following:

Dark houses march left right halt

dawn plays its mandolin

girl why do you blush

let’s go 120 horse-power

to the end of the world

or Singapore

Stop stop the car flies

our great love bites the dust

trampled girl flower

swan’s neck breasts

the drum sticks drum

why do I cry so

“That’s it.”

“Would you mind awfully,” said the inspector, “to tell me what that’s supposed to mean?”

The poet looked surprised. “Well, of course it’s that terrible accident. Don’t you understand it?”

The inspector frowned. “I think not. Surprisingly enough, I didn’t manage to recognise in it that, on Žitná Street at 4 a.m. on the 15th of July,  a car with registration number such and such ran over a sixty-year-old beggar called Božena Macháčková; and that she was taken to the General Hospital, where she is in a critical condition. As far as I am aware, sir, your poem makes no allusion to those facts. So, no, I didn’t understand it.”

The poet rubbed his nose. “The details you’ve just mentioned are just the raw, outward reality, Inspector. But a poem is the inner reality. A poem contains free, surreal ideas that evoke reality in the mind of the poet. Do you see? Visual and aural associations, for instance. If the reader surrenders to them, he’ll understand.”

A note of admonishment had crept into Jaroslav Nerad’s voice.

“What nonsense, Mr Nerad! Let me have your masterpiece for a moment, would you? Thank you. Right, here we have, hm… ‘Dark houses, march left right halt.’ Kindly tell me what that’s meant to mean.”

“Well, that’s Žitná Street,” explained the poet calmly. “Two rows of houses, you know?”

“And why couldn’t it be the Národní Avenue just as well? … Eh?”

The answer was immediate. “Because that’s not so straight.”

“Well, continuing… ‘Dawn plays its mandolin’… That’s fair enough. ‘Girl, why do you blush’… Where did she come from?”

“The blush of dawn,” said the poet laconically.

“Ah! Sorry… ‘Let’s go 120 horse-power to the end of the world’… What about that, eh?”

“The car must have been coming.”

“And was it 120 HP?”

“That I can’t say, but it means it was going fast. As if the driver wanted to fly to the end of the world.”

“Ah, like that. ‘Or to Singapore’… Why on earth to Singapore exactly?”

This was met with a shrug. “I don’t know. Maybe because Malaysians live there.”

“And what did that car have to do with Malaysians? What, I ask you?”

For a while, the poet knitted his brow and shifted about uncomfortably as if that one had really got him cornered. But eventually he said, “Maybe the car was brown. Something was definitely brown. Why would I have said Singapore otherwise?”

“So there you have it,” said the inspector. “The car was red, blue or black. What am I meant to make of it all?”

“Choose brown,” said the poet. “It’s a pleasant colour.”

Inspector Mejzlík read on: “Our great love bites the dust. Trampled girl flower.” That’s the drunken beggar woman, is it?”

The poet became annoyed. “I’m not going to say ‘drunken beggar woman,’ am I? She was simply a woman. Don’t you understand?”

“Oh! Right! … And what about ‘swan’s neck breast, the drum sticks drum’? Is that what you call ‘free association’?

Here the poet felt really confused himself. “Let me see it again.” He gazed at the piece of paper. ‘Swan’s neck breast, the drum sticks drum.’ What’s that meant to mean?”

“That’s exactly what I’m asking,” muttered the inspector rather contemptuously.

“Hold on.” The poet frowned again. “There must have been something there that reminded me of… Listen! Doesn’t the number two remind you of a swan’s neck?” He pulled a pencil out of his pocket and wrote a 2.

“Ah!” Now it was Inspector Mejzlík’s turn to frown. “And what about ‘breasts’?”

“That’s easy, isn’t it? Number 3 – two semicircles.”

“And then you’ve got ‘The drum sticks drum’.” A note of excitement was entering the inspector’s voice.

The poet thought again for a moment. “A drum and drum sticks… A drum and drum sticks… That could be number 5, couldn’t it? Look!” and he drew a number 5. “The belly is like a drum, and above it are the drum sticks…”

“Wait!” said Inspector Mejzlík. He wrote down 235. “Are you sure the car’s number was 235?”

“I didn’t notice the number at all,” said Jaroslav Nerad. “But there must be something in it. Where else could it have come from?” He gazed at the poem again. “And, you know what? That’s the best part of the whole poem.”

Two days later, Inspector Mejzlík paid a visit to the poet. The poet wasn’t asleep this time. He had a young woman with him, and his efforts to find a free chair for the inspector proved fruitless.

“Don’t worry!” said the inspector. “I only popped in to say that the car really did have registration number 235.”

The poet looked non-plussed. “Which car?”

“Swan’s neck breasts, the drum sticks drum,” said the inspector, without stopping for breath. “And Singapore as well!”

“Ah! I wondered what you were talking about for a moment,” said the poet. “So you see – inner meaning. Would you like me to read you some other poems, now that you’ll be able to understand them?”

“Not just now,” said Inspector Mejzlík hurriedly. “When I’ve got another knotty case.”

TRANSLATIONS FROM CZECH

 

From Czech: THE THEFT OF DOCUMENT 139/VII(C) by Karel Čapek

(My translation of Karel Čapek’s short story Ukradený spis 139/VII, odd. C, which was published in Povídky z jedné kapsy in 1929)

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At 3 a.m. the telephone rang at garrison headquarters.

“Col. Hampl here, from the general staff. Send me two military policemen immediately. And tell Lt. Col. Vrzal… Yes, yes, from Intelligence… to get over here right away. Yes, now, in the middle of the night! Yes, by car! Yes, now, damn it!”

And that was that.

Lt. Col. Vrzal arrived an hour later at the house, which was out in one of the posher suburbs. He was greeted by an elderly and terribly anxious man in civies, i.e. in shirt and trousers.

“Lt. Col., the most god-awful thing has happened… Sit down, sit down… A bloody wretched stupid stupid thing! A right ruddy bastard of a thing! Can you imagine? The day before yesterday the chief of general staff gave me a document and said, ‘Work on this at home, Hampl. The fewer people who know about it, the better! Don’t say a word in the office. So, off you go! I’m giving you leave to work on it at home. But be bloody careful! Bloody careful.’”

“What sort of document was it?” asked Lt. Col. Vrzal.

Col. Hampl hesitated for a moment.

“Well, I suppose you better know. It was from Section C.”

“Ah!” Lt. Col. Vrzal began to look extremely concerned. “And…?”

“Well, it’s like this… I was working on it all day yesterday. But what the ruddy hell am I meant to do with it at night? Stick it in a drawer? That would never do… I don’t have a safe. And if someone knew I’d got the document, I dread to think what’d happen. So, for the first night, I hid it under the mattress. And it got pretty well scrunched up, believe me!”

“I expect so,” said Lt. Col. Vrzal.

“No surprise there,” sighed the colonel. “My wife’s even heavier than me… So the next night she suggested putting it in an empty macaroni tin and keeping it in the pantry. Because she locks the pantry at night and keeps the key with her. You see, we have a terribly overweight maid, who’ll eat anything she can lay her hands on. My wife said nobody would ever think of looking for it there. Well, I thought that was a good idea…”

Lt. Col. Vrzal interrupted: “Has your pantry got a secondary window on the inside?”

“Blast it!” groaned the colonel. “That never occurred to me! No, just the outside. I was so busy thinking about the Sázava case and other stupid things like that, that I completely forgot about the window! Damn the bloody thing!”

“And so…?” asked the lieutenant colonel.

“Well, what do you expect? At two in the morning, my wife hears the maid shouting her head off downstairs. So she goes down, and there’s Mára bawling, ‘There’s a thief in the pantry!’ So my wife runs for the key and wakes me up. I grab my handgun, run downstairs and unlock the pantry and… Bloody hell! The window’s been prised open and the macaroni tin’s gone. And so has the thief.” The colonel heaved a sigh. “End of story.”

Lieutenant Colonel Vrzal drummed his fingers on the table. “Did anyone know you had that document at home, Colonel?”

A picture of woe, the colonel shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know, my friend. The ruddy spies aren’t so thick as you might think.”

But then he remembered he wasn’t speaking to a mere private. “I mean to say, Lieutenant Colonel, they’re very clever people. But I didn’t tell anyone, without a word of a lie. And in any case, how could they know it was in the macaroni tin?”

“Where were you when you put the document into it?” asked the lieutenant colonel.

“Here, at this table.”

“And where was the tin?”

“Hold on a minute… I was sitting here and I had the tin in front of me.”

The lieutenant colonel leant against the table and stared at the window opposite. In the dewy dawn he could make out a red-roofed and grey-walled house. Deep in thought, he asked, “Who lives there?”

The colonel thumped the table. “Ruddy hell! That never occurred to me! I think he’s a Jew, the man who lives there. He’s a bank manager or something. God damn it! I can see it now! Vrzal, I think we’re on to something!”

“May I take a look at the pantry?” the lieutenant asked warily.

“Certainly. Come with me. This way.” And the colonel eagerly led the way.

“Here it is. The tin was on the top shelf over there… Mára, this is none of your business! Be off with you to the attic or the cellar!”

The lieutenant colonel put on a pair of gloves, clambered up to the window and had a good look at it. “Prised open with a chisel. The frame is soft wood, Colonel. A boy could have done it easily.”

“Damn it!” hissed the colonel. “Can’t we even make a half-decent window in this country?”

There were two figures on the other side of the grill.

“Are they the military police?” asked Lt. Col. Vrzal. “Good. I’ll take a look from outside. But I must request that you don’t leave the house without permission, Colonel.”

“OK,” said the colonel. “But why?”

“So that you’re here in case… The two soldiers will remain where they are, of course.”

The colonel took a deep breath and swollowed with difficulty. “I understand… Would you like some coffee? I could get my wife to make some.”

“There’s no time for that now,” said the lieutenant colonel rather sharply. “Of course, don’t say a word about the stolen document to anyone. Unless… unless you get a phone call. And something else: tell the maid the thief only stole some tins.”

“But listen,” begged the colonel. “You will find that document, won’t you?”

“I shall certainly look for it,” replied the lieutenant colonel, clicking his heels.

The colonel spent the rest of that morning slumped in an armchair like a broken man. When he wasn’t expecting the two military policemen to come and arrest him at any moment, he was trying to think what Lt. Col. Vrzal was doing in order to bring the huge, clandestine machinery of the secret service to bear on the problem. But then, imagining the hoo-ha that must have broken out at headquarters, he groaned.

“Karel,” said his wife for about the twentieth time – she’d made sure to hide his gun in the maid’s wardrobe – “wouldn’t you like something to eat?”

“Leave me in peace, for Christ’s sake!” he growled. “I think the Jew next door must have seen it.”

Sighing, his wife returned to the kitchen in tears.

The doorbell rang. The colonel stood up and straightened himself, so as to submit to his imminent arrest with appropriate military dignity. And he wondered which officers they’d sent.

But instead of officers, it was a little red-haired fellow who entered the room, with a bowler hat in his hands. He had squirrel-like teeth.

“How do you do, sir? My name is Pištora. I’m from police headquarters.”

“What do you want?” the colonel blurted out, trying to shift his stance, at the same time, from Attention to At ease.

Detective Constable Pištora grinned, in rather too familiar a way for the colonel’s liking. “I believe your pantry’s been burgled. And here I am!”

“And what’s it got to do with you?” snapped the colonel.

“Well,” replied Detective Constable Pištora, still grinning, “this is our patch. Your maid, she mentioned to the baker this morning that your pantry had been burgled, and so I says to the superintendent, ‘How about if I hop over there and take a look?’”

The colonel was already shaking his head. “It’s not worth it. They only took… they only took a tin of macaroni. You can forget about it.”

“That’s strange,” said Detective Constable Pištora, “that they didn’t snaffle anything else.”

“It is strange, Detective Constable Pištora, but it’s none of your business.”

But the detective constable merely smiled beatifically as a thought occurred to him. “I bet someone disturbed them!”

“Yes, no doubt. And now I bid you good day, Detective Constable.”

“Ah! But!” said the detective constable, smiling and frowning at the same time. “I think I need to take a look at your pantry before I take my leave, don’t you?”

The colonel was about to explode, but instead he just sighed. “Come on then.” And he led the little man to the pantry.

The detective constable’s eyes darted about the narrow room. “Well, well, well! Window prised open with a chisel. Must’ve been Pepek or Andrlík.”

“What on earth are you talking about?” asked the colonel.

“It was either Pepek or Andrlík who done it. But I think Pepek’s in the clink at the moment. If it had been just the glass that was taken out, that would’ve been Dundr, Lojza, Novák, Hosička or Kliment. But this job’s down to Andrlík.”

“I sincerely hope you’re right, Detective Constable.”

But the detective constable was frowning again. “Or… or perhaps there’s another pantry specialist in the district. But surely not? That’s to say, Mertl also does windows with a chisel, but he never goes for pantries, sir, never.” Detective Constable Pištora grinned. “I think I’ll go and have a feel of Andrlík’s collar.”

“And give him my regards while you’re at it,” growled the colonel.

It’s unbelievable, he thought when he was left once more to his own gloomy ruminations, it’s unbelievable how incompetent our police are! If only they’d look for finger prints or footprints! A specialist approach. But to go about it in such an airy-fairy way! … They’d be no match for one of those foreign spies! … I wish I knew what Vrzal’s up to.

Unable to resist, he reached for the phone. After half an hour of huffing and puffing, he finally got through. “Hello, Lieutenant Colonel,” he said in a mellifluous voice. “Hampl here. I was wondering… how far… I know you can’t say anything, but I only… I know, but if you’d just kindly tell me if it’s already… Ruddy hell, still nothing? … Yes, yes, I know it’s a difficult case, but… Just a moment, please, Vrzal. A thought just occurred to me. What about if I offer ten thousand to whoever catches the thief. I don’t have more, but you know, for a job like that… Yes I know that wouldn’t be possible, it would be a private matter. I couldn’t do it in my official capacity… Or what about making the offer to the police detectives, eh? … No, of course you wouldn’t know about that. But if you somehow hinted to them that Colonel Hampl has promised ten thousand… OK, so leave it with your station manager. Yes, please, my friend! … Forgive me for interrupting you… Thank you.”

Colonel Hampl felt much relieved after this generous decision on his part. He felt that at least now he was himself involved in some way in the hunt for that damned, thieving spy. He lay down on the sofa, because all the alarums and excursions had tired him out, and he was soon dreaming of a hundred, nay! two hundred, nay! three hundred men – all of them red-haired and squirrel-toothed like Detective Constable Pištora – searching trains, stopping cars speeding to the borders, waiting for their prey behind street corners and suddenly stepping out with the words, “I arrest you in the name of the law. Come with me and keep your mouth shut.” And then he dreamt that he was doing a balistics exam at the military academy.

Groaning, he awoke and found himself bathed in sweat.

Somebody rang the doorbell. The colonel jumped to his feet and tried to arrange his thoughts. But the squirrel-toothed detective constable was already entering the room.

“It’s me again!” he said. “It was him, sir, just as I said.”

“Who?” asked the colonel, still struggling to reorganise his thoughts.

“Who?” Detective Constable Pištora was so taken aback by the question that he even stopped grinning. “Who else? I told you Pepek’s in Pankrác jail.”

“Why on earth do you keep going on about that Andrlík fellow, Detective Constable?”

The detective constable’s eyes were almost popping out of their sockets in disbelief. “Because it was him who stole the macaroni from the pantry of course! We’ve got him down the police station already. So that’s that, but I just wanted to ask… He – Andrlík – says there wasn’t any macaroni in the tin, it was just some bumf. So, is that right?”

“My good man,” exlaimed the colonel hurriedly, “where is that… erm… bumf?”

Detective Constable Pištora grinned. “In my pocket… Now where have I…?” He started searching his pockets. “Aha! Is this it?”

With tears of relief in his eyes, the colonel snatched the precious, crumpled Document 139/VII(C) from the constable’s hand. “My dear man,” he sighed, “I can’t thank you enough…” He turned and called his wife. “Come here, my dear. It’s Sergeant… Inspector… erm…”

“Constable Pištora,” said the little fellow, giving a full-on squirrel smile.

“He’s found the stolen document,” the colonel continued shouting to his wife. “Do come here, and bring the cognac and some glasses… Constable Pištora, I’d… you’ve no idea… that’s to say, so that you know… Have a drink, Constable Pištora.”

The constable grinned. “But it was nothing! … Just some bumf, sir! And I almost forgot: the tin’s at the police station, Madam.”

“Blow the tin!” said the colonel, now with a big smile on his face himself. “But my dear Constable Pištora, how did you manage to find the document so quickly? Your good health!”

“Cheers!” said the constable. “But, heaven help us! It was really nothing. When it’s theft from a pantry, we go after Andrlík or Pepek. But Pepek’s doing two months at Pankrác. If it’s an attic, we go for Písecký, Tondera the Cripple, Kaner, Zima or Houska…”

“But… but… but… Constable. Listen, what about if it’s a case of espionage? Prosit, Constable!”

“Thank you kindly… Well, espionage, we don’t cover that. But brass keys, that would be Čeněk or Pinkus, copper wire we’ve only got one, Toušek, at the moment, and if it’s beer pipes, that would have to be Hanousek, Buchta or Šlesinger. We’re on to it straight away, sir. And safe-breakers… we get them from all over the republic. So many of them! Twenty-seven at the last count, but six of them are in the slammer.”

“Serves them right,” said the colonel bloodthirstily. “Drink up, Constable!”

“Thank you very much,” said Constable Pištora, “but I don’t drink a lot, me. Thank you, cheers! … All these… these crooks and criminals, they’re not too bright, sir. Each of them’s only got his only little trade, and he plies it until we catch him. Like this Andrlík. Ah! he thinks, as soon as he clocks me approaching. That’ll be Constable Pištora about that pantry. ‘Constable, it weren’t nothing, all I got was some bumf in a tin. And I had to scarper before I could do anything else.’ ‘Doesn’t matter,’ I say to him, ‘you’ll get a year at least all the same, you twit.’”

“A year’s prison?” asked Colonel Hampl, sympathetically. “Isn’t that a bit much?”

“But it’s burglary,” said the constable, displaying his teeth once more. “So, my regards, sir. I’ve still got a shop-window to do. That’ll be Kleček or Rudl… If you should need anything else, just ask at the station. All you have to do is say Constable Pištora.”

“Please, Constable Pištora. I wonder if you would… erm… for your help… That’s to say, those papers are… nothing special certainly, but all the same… I wouldn’t want to lose them, you know. So, perhaps you’d accept this for your help,” and he pressed a fifty-crown note into the constable’s hand.

Surprise and gratitude caused Constable Pištora to put on a serious face. “But there’s really no need,” he said, as he hurriedly pocketed the banknote. “It wasn’t anything… Thank you very much, sir. And if you ever need anything else…”

“I gave him fifty crowns,” the Colonel told his wife in the warm after-glow of his benevolence. “Twenty would have been enough for a PC Plod like him, but…” – waving his hand magnanimously – “the main thing is, the ruddy document’s been found.”

TRANSLATIONS FROM CZECH