tales of mystery and imagination revisited: mortimer's adventures in america

1 THE STRANGE HISTORY OF DANIEL MORTIMER Copyright Julian Scutts 2000 Prefatory Note by Executor of Algernon Catchpole’s Last Will and Testament: After Mr. Catchpole's unexpected and untimely death, this "cautionary note" together with the appended "documentation" purportedly written by one "Daniel Mortimer" fell to Mr Catchpole's estate. In order that any proceeds from the publication of this "documentation" augment the value of the aforementioned person's estate and thereby assist in paying off certain financial obligations accrued at the Ascot Horse Racing Course, not to mention those accrued at the Newmarket Racing Course, I, Winston Charles Hogsworth, partner in the firm of Hogsworth, Hogsworth Chitwitt-Jones and Hogsworth, at the behest of the aforesaid Mr. Algernon Catchpole's widow, Mrs. Edwina Catchpole, do present the aforementioned "prefatory note" and "documentation" for publication. Chancery Court, Cheetham Square, London. January 12th nineteen hundred and ninety-nine. Document Est445/ACat/Misc./14& Attachment CAUTIONARY NOTE TO THE READER I have known Daniel Mortimer from the days we were both pupils at St. Hugh's' College near Glastonbury. We went up to Oxford together, he to read English, I to study History and Philosophy. He always struck me as an odd ball even as a boy, and I understand that he underwent a course of psychiatric therapy during his Oxford days. It was, however, only on meeting him after his trip to America in the autumn of 1975 that I seriously entertained misgivings about the state of his mental health. Shortly before his disappearance a few months ago, he committed certain papers to my trust, among them the following account of his experiences in America. I gather that it his intention to return to the United States, there to renounce the fleeting pleasures of this world and join a Mennonite settlement in Pennsylvania. My feeling is that only a woman could induce a man to do such a thing, but far be it from me to inflict my prejudices on others; nor do I feel called upon to expatiate on the text I append, text that might well appeal to a certain readership at a time when the surreal, the mystical and the fantastic are so very much "in." On one reading, this story reveals the workings of a mind in a most pitiably distraught state. Alternatively, the writer, fearful of the harsh censure of literary criticism, elected to give his tale the semblance of a personal documentation. I myself find the whole matter somewhat disquieting, the more so for having tried to suppress the urge to see it brought to the attention of a wider public. As a historian I do feel bound to mention one point at least: The writer, inclined (as ever) to mystify what a little research could have cleared up very easily, ponders at one point why the Liberty Bell was forged before rather than after the popular cry for America's political independence. He refers to the Biblical text to which the bell got its name, namely Leviticus, Chapter 25, Verse 10: "Declare liberty throughout and.." If he had gone to the trouble of doing his homework a little more diligently, he would have recognized that this reference to liberty was not politically tendentious to begin with. The bell simply commemorated the granting

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Daniel Mortimer records his strange experiences in America, starting with a halloween party and leading to his encounter with Harry, not the sort of person you would normally want to meet in a dark alley. Three introductory video clips at https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=julianselfkant+mortimer&oq=julianselfkant+mortimer&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&gs_l=youtube-psuggest-reduced.12...0l0l0l34036l0l0l0l0l0l0l0l0ll0l0.The story continues on audio files beginning on the page: http://www.julian-scutts.de/index.php?option=com_docman&task=cat_view&gid=26&dir=DESC&order=name&Itemid=56&limit=5&limitstart=40


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THE STRANGE HISTORY OF DANIEL MORTIMER Copyright Julian Scutts 2000 Prefatory Note by Executor of Algernon Catchpole’s Last Will and Testament: After Mr. Catchpole's unexpected and untimely death, this "cautionary note" together with the appended "documentation" purportedly written by one "Daniel Mortimer" fell to Mr Catchpole's estate. In order that any proceeds from the publication of this "documentation" augment the value of the aforementioned person's estate and thereby assist in paying off certain financial obligations accrued at the Ascot Horse Racing Course, not to mention those accrued at the Newmarket Racing Course, I, Winston Charles Hogsworth, partner in the firm of Hogsworth, Hogsworth Chitwitt-Jones and Hogsworth, at the behest of the aforesaid Mr. Algernon Catchpole's widow, Mrs. Edwina Catchpole, do present the aforementioned "prefatory note" and "documentation" for publication. Chancery Court, Cheetham Square, London. January 12th nineteen hundred and ninety-nine. Document Est445/ACat/Misc./14& Attachment CAUTIONARY NOTE TO THE READER I have known Daniel Mortimer from the days we were both pupils at St. Hugh's' College near Glastonbury. We went up to Oxford together, he to read English, I to study History and Philosophy. He always struck me as an odd ball even as a boy, and I understand that he underwent a course of psychiatric therapy during his Oxford days. It was, however, only on meeting him after his trip to America in the autumn of 1975 that I seriously entertained misgivings about the state of his mental health. Shortly before his disappearance a few months ago, he committed certain papers to my trust, among them the following account of his experiences in America. I gather that it his intention to return to the United States, there to renounce the fleeting pleasures of this world and join a Mennonite settlement in Pennsylvania. My feeling is that only a woman could induce a man to do such a thing, but far be it from me to inflict my prejudices on others; nor do I feel called upon to expatiate on the text I append, text that might well appeal to a certain readership at a time when the surreal, the mystical and the fantastic are so very much "in." On one reading, this story reveals the workings of a mind in a most pitiably distraught state. Alternatively, the writer, fearful of the harsh censure of literary criticism, elected to give his tale the semblance of a personal documentation. I myself find the whole matter somewhat disquieting, the more so for having tried to suppress the urge to see it brought to the attention of a wider public. As a historian I do feel bound to mention one point at least: The writer, inclined (as ever) to mystify what a little research could have cleared up very easily, ponders at one point why the Liberty Bell was forged before rather than after the popular cry for America's political independence. He refers to the Biblical text to which the bell got its name, namely Leviticus, Chapter 25, Verse 10: "Declare liberty throughout and.." If he had gone to the trouble of doing his homework a little more diligently, he would have recognized that this reference to liberty was not politically tendentious to begin with. The bell simply commemorated the granting

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2of a royal charter to the people of Pennsylvania in 1701, fifty years before. A parallel is drawn between this anniversary and the fifty-year jubilee of Biblical times. At least we historians must keep our feet firmly on the ground when those with literary pretensions ventilate their fertile imaginations with little regard for the objective truth and its doubtless uncomfortably exacting demands. Algernon Catchpole, Oxford 1984. Memo: Angela, keep on hold, bit snowed under just now, deal with later ATTACHMENT From Daniel Mortimer's Papers deposited at the Premises of Algernon Catchpole, and subsequently adjoined to Mr. Catchpole's estate subsequent to exhaustive though regretfully fruitless investigations as to the present whereabouts of Daniel Mortimer I: THE MORTIMER PAPERS He rode forth conquering and to conquer A Lord of time, of this realm emperor. His steed so pale, sure-deadly was his dart And strong the hand that held his iron rod. Within the walls of that dark tower mewed up, His captives cry for freedom and for light, And one who quaffed too deeply his red wine Must ride a nightmare to the ocean's bed. I begin my story with no illusions, for I am fully aware that no one is likely to believe one word of it, yet I am left with no alternative to writing it down other than that of going mad. I have little doubt that any of my readers who follows my account to the last page, to whom I may well have to pay a heavy debt on the fearful Day of Judgement for having robbed that person of his or her most valuable time, will conclude, in any case, that I am already in that most pitiable and lamentable of conditions that is madness by name. I arrived at Logan International Airport, Boston, at a very unseasonable time - in the late afternoon of October the 31st. My trip to America was, it seemed, the result of a coincidence of events in no way related to each other. I had just come into some money--hardly a fortune, though it seemed to be when I was thereby liberated from my student's penury. My impecunious state was relieved by the sad passing of Aunt Lisa. As the reading of her last will and testament revealed, she must have looked on me with no small measure of affection during her final years. I was -- to use a hackneyed phrase foot-loose and fancy-free, having just obtained a degree in English (German Subsid.) at Oxford. It was my aim to engage in academic research taking Edgar Allan Poe or the verse of Emily Dickinson as my dissertation theme. It so happened that some American friends wrote suggesting that I should come over to stay with them at their home near Boston. This was an opportunity I could not turn down. Boston was Edgar Allan Poe's town of birth, after all. I could do some biographical fieldwork on him and possibly on Emily Dickinson,

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3too. Last but not least, I could see something of America. Thus it was that I landed at Logan Airport at the end of October. As a matter of fact, the flight over had been pretty terrifying. An airhostess I spoke to confessed that she had never experienced anything like it before, nor did she hope to experience anything like it again. At one point I thought the plane was being torn apart as by a giant's hand, and I was obviously not the only person on board to entertain such feelings. There was no problem telling which religion a passenger belonged to. Some prayed clutching Bibles or crucifixes. As a priest next to me crossed himself, someone in the row ahead intoned the schema. An Arab in flowing robes, heedless of the Captain's warnings, undid his safety belt and prostrated himself on the floor. A friend of his, who was gesticulating wildly and pointing at something ahead of him, cried "Sheikh Maut! Sheikh Maut!" I would hardly term myself a religious type, certainly no "Holy Joe," but I felt, as do many at a moment of dire distress, the need to pray, though I was regrettably a little out of practice.” Not yet, Lord," I began. "I'm too young to go. Give me a chance to serve Thee to a ripe old age. Grant me an extension, as Thou didst to Hezekiah." I suppose my use of the archaic "thee" and "thou" goes back to my days at Sunday school, when Mr. Robertson would lead in prayer. As long as he addressed himself to religious themes, it didn't matter so much, but there was always a giggle or the half-suppressed snort when he said things like: "Everybody hopeth and prayeth that the weather for our outing shall be most clement, yea warm and sunny." The battering the plane was receiving was no laughing matter, and my prayer was in dead earnest. Scarcely had the name of Hezekiah passed my lips when a strange sense of calm overcame me. Shortly afterwards the turbulence was ended and we continued our flight to Boston without the least shake and vibration. My cases and baggage had just been cleared by the customs and I was looking for somewhere to sit in the waiting hall when I heard someone call my name: "Hi! Danny! Let me get your bags for you. The car's outside." "Hello, Pete!" I answered. "It's great to see you again. It must be three years since you and the family visited us on your trip over to Britain. How's everybody keeping? Well, I hope." "You bet! They're all at home just dyin' to see yer, and that goes for Dracula and Frankenstein, too." "Oh really?" I said with complete open-mindedness. "You bet! They're all waiting there." As we drove through the tunnel connecting the airport with the town, Pete asked about the flight over. He was not impressed greatly when I told him of the mortal danger I had been in. Having been a bomber-pilot in the USAF, he was inclined to dismiss my description of a bumpy flight as the understandable exaggeration of a civilian flight passenger who had never seen "real action." "You don't bother about turbulence when the flak shells are a-burstin' all around. On my first mission--hell--was I scared? It was no use cryin' for Mammy! I soon got used to it though. Yer get fatalistic in the end. You know, the bullet with some guy's name on it, and all that. I was too young to see much of the Jap showdown, but I got my fair share of the Korean hell. Let's have a look at downtown Boston. I'll just show you the places of interest." I dimly remembered from my history lessons that Boston was where the American Revolution got under way. "We've got a heavy program lined up for you, boy--Lexington, Concord, Cape

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4Cod, where the Pilgrim Fathers landed, Cambridge and Harvard. Either me or one of the boys will be free to drive you to town and show you around. See that red line over there?" I could see a continuous red line on the nearby pavement. "It runs from the State House over there--that building with a gold dome - and leads all the way to Paul Revere's house, year -even further -like to the Constitution -that's a ship -and maybe to Bunker Hill. You know, the whites of their eyes and all that. It's called 'the Freedom Trail.' You heard of Paul Revere, I suppose?" 'Paul Revere? Why, he was the one who rode through the night to..". "...Spread the good news about the revolution and tell everybody to throw out the bloody British!" Though I would hardly term myself a fanatical patriot, I was rather taken aback on hearing this, but when Pete slapped his hand on my leg with a hearty guffaw, I felt much relieved that my host had no intention of avenging the Boston Massacre on me. As it happened we passed the old brick Colonial building in front of which the atrocity took place. It were well with the world if seven deaths could appall us today as much as they did in the eighteenth century and merit such a name. "What's that modern building over there on the other side of the square?" I asked. "That's the city hall commemorating J. F. Kennedy. Heard of him, I suppose?" I laughed politely. "Yep, the Kennedys originally came from the area round the docks where the Irish immigrants settled. Then the Italians came. We'll have to have a pizza down there some time. Here in Boston, we have a good number of blacks, too. Don't get me wrong. I'm no racist, but race is a big problem here right now, especially the way it affects the schools. Plenty of people I know are taking their kids out of the public schools and sending them to expensive private ones. See, the public schools, specially those in the downtown areas, are going to the dogs, if they haven't already gotten there. You heard of busing? Like that's enforced integration, right? It's no damn use legislating to change people's hearts. The Civil War never really solved the question of emancipation, right? At the most it gave the process of emancipation a kinduva boost. You get what I'm trying to say?" I nodded. "In any case," Pete continued, "the real issue the Civil War was fought over was the preservation of the Union, not slavery. That was just the red flag to get people mad about, right? I don't wanna sound callous, but do you know something? Both Lincoln and Kennedy--now this may shock yer - were lucky enough to get assassinated before their images got too besmirched by too much messing around in politics - like after the hero's stuff was over." The lights changed to red. "'Scuse my going on about politics like this. See that tall building over there? It looks like it's made of glass. That's the Hancock Building. They say it's jinxed. Its windowpanes keep cracking for no apparent reason. Now we'll leave downtown Boston and drive along the Charles, that's the river between Boston and Cambridge." After passing through Boston's suburbs, we drove onto a pike. We continued for about twenty miles before turning left down a minor road. This led through a

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5number of small townships consisting of houses built in the Colonial style. "This is it!" Pete said at last as we turned into a narrow driveway. "Home sweet home! I bought the house and several acres of woodland before the big hike in property prices. What could you get for fifty thousand dollars these days? Some poky little condominium, you bet." I was just about to ask what a condominium was when I thought I saw something strange in the obscurity of the trees. "What's that?" I shouted. "What's what?" asked startled Pete. "Was that some kind of a monk or friar I saw darting between the trees? The lights caught him as we turned the bend." "A monk, eh? That'll probably be one of the guests taking a stroll for a breath of fresh air. Wait till we get to the house!" As we drove on, the house came to view. All the lights were funny colors, green, lurid red or blue. There was eerie music. A witch, apparently, was leaning over the parapet of the veranda. As I got out of the car, she ran up to me shouting: "Hello there! Is that you, Danny Boy?" That voice with a British accent was familiar. Of course! It was Jenny - Pete's daughter-in-law. She used to be the girl next door. The family settled in America when she was in her teens. The last time she and George came over to England, Pete and his wife accompanied them on the trip. Pete and I struck up some kind of father-son relationship. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that my father had died only two years before. While Pete was parking the car, Jenny led me into the house where she introduced me to Countess Dracula, who bore an uncanny resemblance to Hilda, Pete's wife. It was Halloween! Silly of me to forget. George appeared in a winding sheet followed by other members of the family likewise dressed for the occasion. "You must have had a very tiring trip," said George as he adjusted his winding sheet. "Come into the dining-room and join the fun. There's plenty to eat." For starters I was treated to coffee, toast and maple syrup. This will keep the wolf from the door until the meal proper was served. Three weird sisters brought on the best bone china. There was chicken, ham, roast potatoes, asparagus, corn, beans and greens followed by a fruit salad with lychees and an assortment of cheeses, all laced with aperitifs, various wines including Amontillado (for Poe specialists), bourbon and rum, and more coffee. Jenny and George kept me company as we exchanged items of family news. Jenny was in the third month of pregnancy. They would stay with Pete and Hilda until the new house was ready. Pete said my room was ready any time I fancied turning in. Though I was very tired, curiosity prompted me to stay up a little longer and enter into the party spirit. I felt like asking a shapely young vampirette for a dance, but the fuzzy feeling in my head made me think better of it. I was content to watch the others enjoying themselves. Frankenstein's monster danced with a siren or sea-nymph with aquatic plants hanging from her head. A very seductive witch cum bunny girl was doing a tango with a zombie with a nail through his head. Everything was suitably macabre. I suddenly thought of the monk I had seen in the grounds. Though I didn't actually see him, I somehow felt his presence in the house. Sometimes I was sure he was in the proverbial corner of my eye though the elusive figure never came into full view. Eventually I felt so dog-tired that I

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6simply had to excuse myself and leave for my bedroom. Hilda was in the hall answering a telephone call. She appeared to be deeply concerned about something, so I didn't interrupt the conversation to say good night. Once in my room, I happened to look out of my window. Frankenstein's monster hurried to his car and drove off at great speed. I tottered into bed and fell asleep. It had been a very tiring and demanding day. Down at the breakfast table next morning I learnt the reason for Hilda's distress. Apparently a neighbor had been taken ill during the night and had died in the early hours. Strangely enough, he had been invited to the Halloween party but, being indisposed, couldn't come. "Poor old Harry!" said Hilda. "Who'd have thought?" "In the midst of life..." Pete interjected with appropriate gravity. "Pete, you're being gloomy," said his wife with an air of reprimand. "We'll have to go to the funeral, I suppose. Danny, I am sorry for you. What a start for your trip to America! What places do you figure on seeing? Why don't you rent a car and tour New England and the eastern states?" "I have a better idea," said George. "He can drive my old Chevy." "Your old Chevy!" scoffed Pete. "I doubt he'd get as far as Connecticut with That old bone-shaker." George protested that his old Chevy had never let him down - well not too seriously, and car rental was expensive. "Anyway, how far do you want to go?" asked Jenny. "As far south as Washington or Richmond," I answered. "Why Richmond?" asked Pete. "Edgar Allan Poe lived there and..." "That guy!" exclaimed Hilda. "Say, wasn't he the one that wrote all those horror stories like 'The Fall of the House of Usher'? --Real scary!" "That's the one," I rejoined. "Actually, a great deal of interest is being taken in Poe these days. He influenced Baudelaire, the father of French symbolism." "Did he now?" asked Pete, his face expressive of profound admiration. "Another cookie, Danny. Some more coffee?" "How did you like the party?" asked George. "Some good get-ups, eh?" "I thought the one with a nail through his head was particularly striking." I commented. "Right! That was Mike Millowvitz, a business colleague," explained Pete. "I thought Frankenstein's monster was very convincing." "Sure," sighed Hilda. "That was Rev. Pearson, our minister. Oh, he's a wonderful man. He cares about people. He left as soon as he heard the news about Harry Freeman being ill. Everybody loves him, don't they, Pete?" "Sure do, Hilda." "And who was the one in a monk's habit?" I inquired. "In a monk's habit? Er...I can't remember anyone in a monk's habit. Can you Hilda? Have another cookie, Dan," said Pete, a shade disconcerted. II: OF FOOD AND THOUGHT.... I took things easy for a few days, going for walks in the woods or just relaxing indoors. When the day of the funeral came, I went along to the service, too. As far as my memory permits, I shall cite the words spoken at the funeral oration:

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7"Dearly beloved sisters and brethren in the Lord! We are met here today on this sad occasion to inter the mortal remains of our departed brother Harry Freeman. We mourn. He has entered a mansion prepared for him by God. While we are still chained to our time-bound carnal bodies, he is truly a free man. Here, in this passing world of sin, we may begin to know and enjoy our Lord's freedom. Even now we partake of the bread from Heaven as in earlier times the Children of Israel ate manna on their journey through the wilderness of Sin towards the Promised Land. We, like Moses, will never enter into the fullness of God's blessings this side of Jordan's cold waters. Yet we have this merciful consolation. Yet may we climb the heights of Pisgah. We may yet catch a glimpse of the Better Land beyond Jordan in which there is no disease, no hunger, no sorrow, no darkness or blemish. Without a hope of reaching this blessed land prepared for the faithful, Solomon's verdict on human existence is final: 'Vanity of vanities, smith the preacher, all is vanity.' Faith, we are taught, is the substance of things unseen. In Whom, then, have we placed our faith? Who is our Joshua, our guide and leader, as we, a pilgrim band, march on to the Promised Land?" "Jesus!" shouted a little girl in the front row triumphantly. As the girl's mother waggled a reproving finger, the minister, his face beaming, admonished: "'Suffer the little children to come unto me, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.' Is it not wonderful to find such wisdom in one so young? The public ministry of Jesus began at the banks of the Jordan. In baptism we sinners share in the baptism of Jesus. With Jesus we die, with Christ we rise again. Though we shed tears of sorrow at the sad passing of our brother, our tears are mingled with the joyful assurance that the Lord has prepared him a mansion. I hope and trust that each and every person present here can share in that blessed assurance. Perhaps one sheep is yet without the fold, still uncertain, still burdened . . ." "Jesus!" shouted the 1ittle girl in the front row, hopeful of the minister's renewed approbation. This time she was disappointed, for the minister made no outward reaction to her interjection save to adjust his clerical collar. While funerals and their somber rites are incontestably depressing in their influence on the participants' mood, they not uncommonly exert a psychologically uplifting force on the selfsame person. Some suppose this feeling derives from a sense of triumph at the deceased person's expense. Perhaps the truth is more sublime. As I walked home, having adamantly refused a lift in Pete's car, I experienced a mysteriously enhanced awareness of autumn's beauties. 1 was a Shelley or Keats in vision if not talent. Oh, 1 had dabbled in poetry a little. Who hasn't? I once got a contribution accepted by a little magazine. No, my poetry was not for the world. It was perhaps little more than a snapshot album of my impressions, those I didn't want to forget. Whether or not my increasing restlessness had anything to do with Shelley's "West Wind" I could not tell, but I knew that I could longer content myself with sedentary pursuits. I stayed with the Anderson's another week and traveled into Boston a few times. Parts of the town retain a Georgian or Victorian character, while parts of Cambridge reminded me of places in rural Essex where I used to roam. Of course, I tried to get down to some serious study in a library on the Harvard

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8campus but my mind kept wandering. O that word "wandering"! What does it mean? Winter was approaching, and so I had better not wait too long if I was contemplating a tour. George's Chevy was hardly a car for winter driving. The night before my departure, Pete and George helped me work out a route taking in New York, Philadelphia, the Amish country, Washington and Virginia. I was in the thralls of great expectation. At breakfast next morning, Pete gave me a final pep talk. He briefed me on such points as the speed limit of 55 M.P.H. to be strictly observed, how to drive in New York and what to watch out for when walking in the street. George warned me not to put the Chevy through its paces too much and not to drive in the hills when it snowed. Pete told me to keep his visiting card in my wallet, just in case. If ever I landed in trouble, I shouldn't hesitate to make a collect call. I said I would probably be away for three or four weeks so they should expect me back in early December. Our parting seemed to take an unconscionably long time, the more so for my having to return several miles back to their house when I realized that I had left my watch in the bathroom. I was reminded of an Amish proverb on the wall in the living room, which read: "The hurrier I go, the behinder I get." Once I really got under way on my travels, it was with no small trepidation. I had never driven anything like a Chevy before. I was not used to driving in American traffic. I imagined some of the dangerous situations I might have to face and then all those stories about muggings I had heard about. Apparently it was the "blacks and Hispanics" I had to be wary about--or rather particularly wary about. To quote Pete: "These days even the high school kids are killers." After driving for a half an hour or so, these misgivings somehow evaporated. Driving was a pleasure, the road users all keeping to the legal limit. The wooded hills of Massachusetts that gave the state its Indian name, or the sight of them drifting past, pacified me to no end. As the car progressed mile by mile, my mind flitted through time and space in random fashion, or rather under the controlling influence of the power of association. Trees: "In allen Wipfeln / Spürest du / kaum einen Hauch."(In all the tree-tops, you barely sense a breath") Goethe - German lessons - the German teacher - Peter Schlemihl - the Devil in a grey coat - Daniel Webster - King Phillip - Indian uprising - Massachusetts and trees - full circle - birds - Eve - Why I didn't take the chance - Puritan inhibitions - sin - death - Harry -Freeman's funeral - coffins - trees - full circle - sky - freedom - slavery - blacks - (now I turn right) - probably - certainty - Descartes -"Cogito ergo sum" - do I exist? - Who else might be driving this car? - Does the car exist? Perhaps I'm imagining it - I? - I! - I exist - the car exists - cognito ergo vrumm - the road exists - America exists - Columbus - discovery - 1492 - history - 1066 and all that - William the Conqueror - the Tower of London - Richard III - Gloucester - West Country - the old school - Chas, the doddering old Latin master who fed our translations to his geese - Juno’s geese - d'you know? - what? - what would you do if...? - wood? - trees - full circle - square - Trafalgar - Nelson - one eye - I? - you - who? - Dr. Who - time travel - (that guy's doing over 55) - 77 - Sunset Strip - breasts - sex - Eve - the Tree of Knowledge - ...... (What’s wrong with the engine?) I drew in. The engine showed signs of being overheated. Fortunately I had a canister of water--I decided to wait a few minutes to let the radiator cool down.

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9In this time I checked my position on the map and refreshed myself with some coffee from a thermo flask to the elegiac tones of a hillbilly lover's complaint on the radio. Good clean air, the horses frisking in a nearby field--it was good to be alive on that crisp and strangely exhilarating November day. I filled up my radiator and continued the journey to New York, eager and ready to discover whatever chance or fate held in store for me. When I paid the man at tollbooth and crossed the bridge leading to the city of New York, little did I know... As I approached the city of New York, those old feelings of apprehension returned. I thought back to the first time I drove in Paris. It beats me how survived la Place de l'Etoile. From the moment I paid the toll at the bridge leading into Manhattan, such apprehensions gave way to a feeling of excited anticipation. Pete, of course, had already explained to me the main features of the New York street system--"Dan - you can't go wrong as long as you note the number of the street and which way it runs. They usually alternate with one going east, the next west, if you see what I mean. He gave me the address of a cheap (cheap for Manhattan) hotel just off Broadway. I found my way there without much trouble, though I didn't like the way those taxis were being driven. In New York, I resolved, I would give the car a rest. By the time I had booked in at the hotel, it was almost past lunchtime. I had a pizza and wine at a restaurant round the corner. When I asked for the bill, the smiling waiter replied: "Sir, you give me the bill, I give you the check." I got out my map and worked out how to get to the Metropolitan Museum. So it was situated at the eastern side of Central Park, was it? Having heard all those stories about Central Park, I thought a taxi would be the safest way to get there. I asked the waiter if it would be safe for me to walk through the park, while it was still light, of course. "Sure thing. About this time you'll just meet kids, dog-walkers, young couples, senior citizens and the like." Once at the museum, I adopted a strictly chronological approach, beginning with Ancient Egypt and continuing through Classical Greece and Rome, Medieval Art, the Renaissance, the great Flemish and Dutch masters, Watteau, David, the Impressionists, Modern Art, Picasso, Klee and Chagall. Finally, however, I came across an exhibition of paintings by the handicapped with a note of explanation and a short biography beside each picture. I was particularly struck by the work of a blind artist from Maine. Apparently he had been blinded in a car accident but refused to give up art. He had both the courage and altruism to continue. He just needed to be told the color of the oil he was using before putting brush to canvas, a certain corrective element being supplied by the commentaries of fellow artists. His painting bore the title "The Sea at Sunset." As with an impressionist painting, it revealed more of its secrets the further back one stood from it. What had appeared from close up as random concoction of odd colors, when viewed from the far wall, took on weird and fascinating shapes and configurations, a world of living things. Were these forms "really there" in the sense of being the product of a deliberate creative act, or was I projecting the phantasms of my own imagination onto an arbitrary mass of color? In any case, can such neat distinctions between matter and percept, subject and object, the artist's mind and my own, be made without obscuring the perception of an infinitely complex truth? This was the picture as it appeared to me. In the foreground, rocks covered with

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10slime and something suggestive of seaweed protruded from the waves. In the surrounding shallows there was life, but what kind of life? It was difficult to discern. It was almost as though lemmings or some other animals of the rodent family had tumbled into the brine and were frantically fighting for their lives. As you looked further out to sea, the turbulence abated. At last the sea merged into the sky, itself suggestive of a realm of eternal peace, the abode of celestial spirits as Blake or Dante might have pictured them. Certainly the sun was right out of a Blake engraving, the source of spiritual as well as physical energy. Once outside the Metropolitan Museum, I had a pretzel at a stall and headed back in the direction of the hotel. The day was drawing in, so I didn't enter the park. As I paced south, the silhouettes of the skyline took on an eerie and threatening appearance. Perhaps it was my imagination again, but the great skyscrapers ahead loomed against the reddish light of dusk, as might once have the heaven-storming titans of legend. The Empire State Building, was it not the twentieth-century equivalent of the Tower of Babel, the spire of some monument erected to the glory of heroic materialism? It would probably be overstretching it to so interpret the coincidence that the building was completed at about the same time as the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Turning right, I left Fifth Avenue and headed towards Broadway. I stopped to buy a copy of Time Magazine before entering a cafe for coffee and a slice of cheesecake. While I was waiting for my order, a gentleman wearing a trilby asked if the seat opposite was still free. He seemed to be eager to start a conversation. I didn't reciprocate. It wasn't so much that I was in an unfriendly or uncommunicative mood as that I had become engrossed in this article about the Bermuda Triangle. Apparently a businessman in a private jet was flying in the area when radio contact with the plane was lost, the last message to get transmitted being: "It's out of this world! It's...!" Next I felt like watching a film and joined the long queue outside Radio City. While waiting, I happened to overhear a young man tell his girlfriend about the break-in at his apartment. Nothing in his voice betrayed great excitement or agitation. Evidently it was just one of those things. Inside, Radio City is vast, grandiose, almost baroque. You've probably read Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. Remember the funny part with a description of a tearjerker movie in Radio City? Anyway, the one I saw was more in the "Zombie" line, with Atlantis thrown in. This marine research team is investigating an area of the Indian Ocean where strange phenomena have been reported--eerie green lights sighted by airmen and sailors, vessels and planes have vanished without a trace. As in the story of the Marie Celeste, ships have been found adrift and crewless with no sign fight or commotion having taken place. Eventually this guy Ray Hope gets to bottom of it all when he discovers that these weird sirens are responsible for the disappearances in question by luring sailors into the water with the magic of their beautiful singing. Wearing special earphones with an electronically controlled jamming device, he enters the danger zone and with the help of a specially designed bathyscaphe reaches their sub-oceanic base and then somehow manages to find a way in. Inevitably he gets captured and is then placed in an airlock with transparent sides--a sort of aquarium in reverse. He receives a handsome diet of carbohydrates and albumen for much the same reason that Hansel and Gretel did, but this dishy siren, who falls in love with him, helps him to escape. They find their way back to the bathyscaphe and manage to reach the surface. Then the siren sings:

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11"Fare thee well, fair mortal, for we must part, I must go my way, Thou must go thine, Thou to the land, And I to the brine, Yet from thy presence banned, I am a prisoner of thy heart." Ray Hope tells his story to his superiors only to be placed in special military hospital for nervous disorders. He remains there till one day a high-ranking officer comes and asks him to repeat his story. A battle cruiser has been found drifting on the open sea with all of her crew gone except for a couple of badly mutilated corpses like those left by Jack the Ripper or a school of flying piranhas. He is then taken before a board of government high-ups, top brass and owlishly bespectacled oceanographers for cross-examination. Finally they get the message and ask him to lead a special commando group against the sirens. They locate the base and decide to nuke it. Special depth charges are timed to explode at noon. All but Ray Hope retire at daybreak. He's still looking for Dagona, whatever her name is. Anyway, he finds her...and, embracing in true Hollywood fashion, they sink beneath the waves. The indecisive ending could leave the way for a sequel. Something like: "The Sirens Strike Back." When the movie was over I felt like a bite. I found a Chinese place off Broadway. It was only half-full and I chose a quiet corner all to myself. The nearest person was seated in an alcove in the other corner. A waiter with inscrutable smile gave me the menu and I ordered spare rib with rice. He asked me to specify which, boiled or fried. I wanted fried. I had a job keeping a straight face. True to my cliché-ridden expectations, he couldn't pronounce "r" and produced the sound "l" instead. A moment later I was back in the lecture hall where Professor Cardew was holding forth on phonetics. What were morphemes again? The atoms of meaning? Something like that. All I could remember with any certainty was that morphemes were significant variables in the context of a particular language although the very same sounds, "r" or "l" for example, might be insignificant, and therefore usually unnoticed, in another language, in which case they were allophones or something, anyway not morphemes. Actually the lectures weren't obligatory. In fact I only went along to them because of a rather shapely bird doing Classics and French. I used to think of ways of chatting her up, perhaps with some opening like: "Would you contend that Verlaine was hardly a 'symboliste' in the proper sense of that term?" I never brought it off. In any case she was engaged to a Ph.D. in Genetics, I gather. Funny, I had the feeling I was being watched--not for the first time since my arrival in America, either. My rational self brushed the thought aside. Still, that fellow in the alcove gave me the creeps. I was sure that he was eyeing me. When I cast the occasional glance in his direction, I seemed to detect a slight movement of his eyes. He looked Hispanic, too. I remembered Pete's caution. "Watch out for blacks and Puerto Ricans. Now there are as many good blacks and Hispanics as there are Wasps, but, Dan, don't take any chances." The waiter brought on the food. It was a feast just to smell it and just a few mouthfuls induced a profound feeling of well-being, that equilibrium of mind where perception, memory and reflection, like instruments in some mysterious concert of the inner self, harmonize in the interplay of sense and thought. I shall never forget the trauma I experienced on becoming aware of being

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12aware. I was cycling in the country near my home at the time. It was the awareness that my mind was something distinct from the things of which the mind is conscious. What is the mind? The very question threatened old certainties, even the assumption that perception can be relied on as a true representation of reality. Even the truest representation falls short of being what it represents and cannot be absolutely true. I felt the anguish of utter isolation. It was as though some kind of inner voice was insisting that the mind can know nothing beyond itself, nothing of the real world outside the mind. Cogito ergo sum? Sum ergo cogito? Yet the notion that the thinker and his thoughts are "inside" and all the rest is "outside" is a metaphor, useful or otherwise, devoid of absolute validity. Ultimately we are no more capable of willing what we think than what we see or hear. Our freedom lies in choosing from the available options. To apply a gastronomic metaphor, we can only order what's on the menu, and even then the requested item may be off. We are not the absolute masters of any faculty we name our own, whether it be to eat, drink, see, hear, smell or think. The mind knows no laboratory conditions. We can only philosophize like Descartes, if the conditions allow, if we are sane, educated, well fed, haven't had a row with the wife or the boss. The Cartesian axiom implies that the present, the moment of thought, exists independent of the past and time itself. Yet we cannot use words we have never learnt. The unity of language, thought and experience can never be destroyed. The three are both inside and outside the conscious mind, located on the indefinable borderline between future and past time, thought and perception. We perceive by interrelating our impressions of sight and sound by abstract categories inherent in the mind. Equally, we grapple with the unseen realities of the mind and spirit by metaphors, images and symbols based on the world we perceive, the world of flowers, birds, trees and children. No image without imagination, no imagination without the image. Let materialists and idealists argue which came first. Both form an indissoluble whole. The waiter asked if I wanted a dessert. I ordered a carafe of wine with afters. It's about time I got down to my research more seriously, I thought. I had already had some success hunting down useful material in the archives of Harvard and Yale, most of it on microfilm. Tomorrow I could visit Columbia...That guy was looking at me, and laughing at my expense. The waiter poured the rich red contents of the carafe into my glass. He placed a bowl of lychees on the table. A glass of that wine and I was away again. Wine, any wine, has sacramental significance. There I was kneeling at the altar to receive communion. With me the post-confirmation religious phase lasted quite some time, till I reached university, in fact. I used to keep my quiet times of prayer, I attended every Sunday service, went to Bible study classes, upheld the faith in the face of the objections raised against Christianity by agnostics and atheists, strengthened the faith of the weak, reproved backsliders, prayed for the conversion of family and friends, waged war on the flesh. My fundamentalist zeal brought me into conflict with my father and his liberal ideas and socialist politics. It was his "First give men enough food, adequate housing and proper sanitation and then worry about their souls" against my "Seek ye first the Kingdom and all these things shall be added to you," his "Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven" against my "Man shall not live by bread alone." Just as we were

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13beginning to understand each other, Father's health, never good because of his diabetic condition, took a sudden turn for the worse. I was only sixteen when he died. The blow of bereavement was all the harder to accept for my fears on account of his eternal destiny. As he had apparently never accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, I could establish no theologically sound basis for the hope of his having died in a state of grace. Having been predisposed to a gloomy outlook on life by this experience, I became interested in the more somber side of Calvinist theology through the influence of a very earnest, one might say dour, young Bible class teacher, who always wore a dark grey suit. The way of salvation, he was always eager to stress, was straight and narrow, and few there were that found it. The many, who smoked, drank, played any form of sport on the Lord's Day and cards on any day at all, danced or committed fornication, adultery or sodomy, were bound for Hell. Not all the leaders of the Bible class were like him. Carol, a cheerful young lady in her early twenties, emphasized that simply avoiding sin was no great virtue. Christian witness was to convince the worldly by showing that a pursuit of Christian virtues brought that fulfillment and contentment which showed up the pleasures of the world to be shallow and dissatisfying. She would often introduce her talks by playing a recording of the Rolling Stones favorite: "I Can't Get No Satisfaction." Every Christian had to conduct a personal campaign of person-to-person evangelism. No opportunity should slip by. Sitting in a cafeteria, traveling by train, hitchhiking, the believer should find ways of engaging complete strangers in a conversation that would lead to a discussion concerning the things of God. I too earnestly sought to be a "fisher of men" in the classroom, and later the lecture hall. One thing can be said for the techniques of personal evangelism, even from a non-partisan point of view. They allow one to break through the artificial barriers to communication that convention and often a complete lack of concern for those around us impose. Of course, the idea of preaching to every creature has a rather doctrinaire, almost presumptuous ring about it, but it does encourage concern for the next man or woman, souls and doctrine apart. Though my loss of faith in Christianity entailed my freedom, to booze, wench and cast inhibitions to the wind, I felt, as time went on, that a greater freedom had been forfeited into the bargain. I never felt quite secure in my newly erected rationalist fortress, however impregnable it may once have seemed. Thoughts about God, Heaven, the Devil and Hell still troubled me from time to time. I once awoke in the middle of the night with the feeling that an evil being was hovering above me. That was surprising (and terrifying) enough, but not so surprising as the fact that I prayed to God for deliverance. Only after breakfast did a rational answer present itself. It was my suppressed unconscious making a comeback in much the same way as the Wehrmacht fought back in the Ardennes counteroffensive or the hysteria of witch-hunting reached a crescendo in the initial phase of the modern period rather than in the Middle Ages. Only when the modern age had reached a more advanced stage would the Devil's function merely be one of supplying writers with a useful, even necessary, metaphor. But now I was getting over such psychological hangovers. Even good and evil had come to appear to be categories devoid of any absolute or transcendental significance. Just after returning to my seat after a visit to the washroom, a feeling of unease came over me. It had something to do with that guy leering at me from his dark

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14corner. I asked the waiter for the check. So did that guy. Perhaps he was a mugger or homicidal maniac. Good, the waiter came to me first. That would give me a minute's start. Once outside the restaurant I would make a dash for the main street where I should be reasonably safe. "Keep the change," I blurted and left my table though my legs felt like lead. Just as the door was closing behind me, I heard someone, that guy presumably, shout in Spanish. In my panic I turned left instead of right. I ran for all I was worth a few minutes only to discover that I had run into a blind alley. I stood still and looked back. Everything was dark except for a pinpoint of light in the far distance. I felt safe at last. I retraced my steps toward the restaurant. Then I heard footsteps and the word "Senor!" followed by a peal of laughter. I ran into a churchyard, tripped over a gravestone, picked myself up and dashed into an adjacent children's playground. My pursuer was gaining on me. Again my legs felt lead-heavy. I had no more air in my lungs, but I had to go on or...the thought was too terrible to contemplate. My sole consolation lay in there being no time for contemplation. I stumbled and fell into a pond of freezing water. So intense was the physical shock that I experienced the momentary feeling of being freed from time and space, of being projected into what I suppose occultists and others refer to as the astral plain, hyperconsciousness or something. As I tuned my senses to a perception of the physical world--a world I might well be on the point of leaving--I became aware of a man's silhouette towering above me. He withdrew something from his inside pocket. Such was my detachment that little more than a faint curiosity led me to consider whether a gun or a knife was more preferable from the victim's point of view. Just be quick, I thought. Now he was dangling something in front of me. The thought of a slow, exquisitely painful, death sent shudder of terror through my limbs. As I looked into his face, I saw no sign of sadistic glee, only a look of amused triumph. Now I was sure that I was not dealing with a homicidal maniac, just a work-a-day mugger. Of course, all he wanted was money. Understandable, when you think about it and consider the economic and social privations he would have to face. The least I could do was to offer him my wallet. I said "Momento, senor" with a false smile, and felt for my wallet. I had that feeling in the pit of my stomach when I found it wasn't there, or there in my large side pockets, or there in my back trouser pocket. Why was Fate so cruel? Barely had I summoned up the courage to die like a man when the hope of a reprieve raised my spirits but to cast them down again. Then I saw what he was holding......... My wallet! I must have left it in the restaurant. Once my immediate relief had subsided, I felt something of a fool walking down the road to the restaurant. Had the whole episode not been caused by a disgraceful lack of trust in my fellow human beings? Had I not fallen into a trap that was of my own prejudiced making? The fact that my companion genuinely tried to suppress his giggles only rubbed salt into the wound. Even the poker face expression of the waiter yielded to a broad beaming smile when I entered the restaurant. The Hispanic gave me his address and suggested, in good English, that I visit his family next day. I ordered a taxi and finally got back to the hotel just after midnight.

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15III: SOME WEIRDOS WILL DRESS UP IN ANYTHING Next day I awoke with a bad cold and terrible aches and pains. I had a solid breakfast and lashings of coffee, taking full advantage of my freedom to drink as many cups as I liked at no extra charge. The morning passed uneventfully. I made some inquiries at the University of Columbia and went to the library where I photocopied a number of recent articles on E. A. Poe. I then had a snack at MacDonald's. As I munched a hamburger, I consulted my town map. I decided on leaving the boat trip round Manhattan Island and the UN for another day. I'd do the Empire State and Greenwich Village and maybe Wall Street before going to a movie in the evening. It was almost twelve noon, so I would have to get a move-on. As I was walking down the street, a gentleman with a snow-white beard so starkly contrasting against his black coat and his black broad-rimmed hat, stepped in front of me as he appeared from the entrance of a store then closed for renovation. He was holding what appeared to be a leather thong with two black cubes attached. "You Jewish?" he asked. I just looked at him blankly, too surprised to give an immediate answer, and this hesitation must have confirmed his impression that I was. "Laid tefillin yet?" I gathered that laying tefillin had something to do with that leather strap. I answered in all honesty that I hadn't. "So let's have your arm then, your left arm, or aren't you right-handed?" As I was left-handed, I had to expose my right arm. It reminded me of having my blood pressure taken. In fact, he had two leather straps, one with a loop to tighten around the upper arm, and another with a larger loop to place over the head. To each a cube with shiny black surfaces was attached. He placed a knitted skullcap on my head and a prayer shawl from which four knotted tassels hung over my shoulders. Having tightened the loop at the end of the strap for the arm, he made me recite a prayer in Hebrew with the aid of a card from which I could read a transliteration in the Latin alphabet. He wound the strap round my arm seven times before having me say another prayer as he placed the other strap over my head. With this done he wound the loose end of the strap round my middle finger. I then recited a prayer, repeating the words after him and reading from a printed card . Neatly winding the leather straps into a compact ball, he explained that no one should begin a working day on an empty stomach and that prayers and tefillin were what he termed a spiritual breakfast. He said that he would like to give me a booklet about Jewish prayer and life. He asked me to accompany him to his apartment a few blocks away as he had not got the booklet on him. Perhaps I would like coffee and cake. He told me that he had spent a few weeks in London on a business trip in the early fifties. When I hesitated on being asked which shul I went to, he apologized for causing me any embarrassment. "Sorry, you're not observant, of course. I don't blame you, personally. It's basically a question of education. Most Jewish kids these days are ignorant of their spiritual heritage. No wonder the 'Jesus People' and 'Jews for Jesus' missionaries are making headway.

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16We turned into a side street. I heard the clinking of keys his pocket. "We're there," he said. "Feeling fit? My apartment's on the fourth floor. I'm afraid the elevator is out of action. We'll have to walk like on the Sabbath.' On entering his apartment he raised his hand and touched something shiny and rectangular in shape nailed up to the right side of the door. "You know what that is, I suppose?--A mezuzah. It contains verses from the Torah like the tefillin you put on. Every door belonging to a Jew should have one." Everything in his apartment conveyed a sense of tradition and antiquity, yet in a homely kind of way. Placed prominently on the dining-room table was a large silver candelabrum that displayed great intricacy of design and artistry. "You like the menorah?" he asked as I gazed at it in admiration. "It's been in the family for generations. It originally came from Poland, early eighteenth century. When I die, it'll go to my nephew in Brooklyn. Here's the booklet, by the way. "Thank you, I 'll read it very closely," I promised. "While I go and see to the coffee, have a look at my collection of haggadoth in the next room," he suggested. Though small, not to say cramped, this room was a miniature museum full of glass cases and pictures. "This is a collector's piece," he said with pride and deep affection. "Very old. Look at the beautiful pictures. I'll take it out and you can look at it in the dining room. Take care when you turn the pages." Though I could not make head or tail of the writing the pictures told their own story. The Haggadah, evidently, was the story of the flight of the Israelites from Egypt. I was particularly fascinated by the picture that showed the crossing of the Red Sea at the point when the Children of Israel had safely reached the eastern bank and the Egyptian pursuers were about to be trapped by inrushing waters of the Red Sea. As I looked at the faces of the Israelites and Egyptians more closely, two seemed almost identical in the sense of awe and fear they expressed, though separated from each other by the great divide. The fear on the Egyptian's face I interpreted as a premonition of impending disaster. The other Egyptians were so intent on pursuit that they had not yet noticed the threatening movement of the waters. Their gleeful faces reflected their expectation of the imminent capture of the quarry. The fear of the Israelites was clearly grounded in the selfsame expectation, the fear of men with vacant eyes and gaping mouths--save for the one Israelite that shared a strange affinity with the Egyptian whose striking facial expression I had already marked. It was not fear for his own life or even for the lives of his own people. He too had recognized that it was the Egyptians and not the Israelites who were doomed. His fear was for the fate of his enemies. Was it therefore altruistic in nature or was it the dread of contemplating death per se - the fate of all flesh, as opposed to the mere threat of his own imminent extinction? Perhaps he was an Egyptian himself. Perhaps his counterpart was his brother. Perhaps it was just me reading too much into my impressions. "Milk and sugar?" "Both please, just one lump." An awkward silence followed. I suppose I should have told him at that point that I was a Gentile but, as I felt guilty for not having made that clear at the outset, I couldn't bring myself to clarify my religious status over coffee. I could have

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17passed a comment on the weather but discarded this ploy in favor of one that would make him the topic of conversation. His accent was not that of a native born American. "You have lived in New York for many years, I suppose." "Since 1939," he replied. "I lived in Amsterdam at the time. I got a visa through a friend in the diamond business. He had connections. Diamonds business, you know. I am retired now for three years. You know where I come from? My father was a jeweller in Cologne. I returned there after the war. Nothing..." Tears filled his eyes, downcast as if fixing their glance at some object near his feet. As the silence continued, I could think of nothing fitting or adequate to say, and this caused me intense embarrassment. Our dialogue resumed when he asked me how long I had been in the States. We talked for another half an hour or so. I cannot now recall all that was said in much detail, though we touched on the State of Israel and Zionism, on the problems of American Jews. It was how he spoke that most impressed me, his dignity, his sadness tempered by something as indestructible as hope is meant to be. He told me about Sarah, whom he wanted to marry. They were separated in the turmoil of the late thirties. She had found her way to Palestine, apparently, and had married there. I remember something else, too. He told me that he was born late on the 9th of Av. Though I did not venture to ask him about the significance of this date, I subsequently learnt from a Jewish friend that the 9th, a day of fasting, marked the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the nadir of Jewish fortunes throughout history. Falling in August, it coincided with such events as the expulsion of the Jewish population from England and Spain. At least I can guess as to the nature of his inner strength. As I left, he said a final prayer of blessing and wished me God's protection. Even then I didn't tell him. I was about to, but he made some gesture that I took to mean "I know." I walked straight back to my hotel. I felt unsettled. Earlier I had thought of spending the evening at the movies. but I was no longer in the mood. Perhaps the reason lay in my contemplation of life's sombre realities, the immediate consequence of my latest personal encounter. Perhaps it was my awareness of time and its exigencies weighing upon me. I decided to spend one more full day in New York. That night my bedtime reading included the Book of Ecclesiastes. On the following morning I visited the United Nations Building and had a meal in Chinatown. While ferreting in my pockets, I found the address of the young Hispanic who went to much trouble to return my wallet. On the spur of the moment I called a taxi and told the driver to take me to the place on the card. We followed a route that ran under the elevated section of a railroad for a few minutes before taking us into street of dingy tenements. We stopped opposite what looked like a warehouse to the north of which lay an automobile scrap yard. When I paid the fare, the cab driver wished me a good time. The street looked deserted. As the cab drove off, I felt what a baby presumably does when the umbilical cord is severed. The building in front of me was Number 369 - the one where Juan lived. Just as I approached the entrance, the door opened and two young men walked out. They stood at either side of the doorway and eyed me suspiciously. I thought it wise to ask if they could help me. I told them I was looking for Juan Hernandes.

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18"Sure Juan lives here," said one of them as he obligingly rang the bell for me. A middle-aged woman opened a window on the second floor and leant out. They told her that I wanted to see Juan. It was the situational context rather than my knowledge of Spanish that allowed me to draw this conclusion. As I climbed the bare wooden steps, I could hear bars, chains and bolts being moved. I had to wait in front of the door for about a minute before I could be let in. The woman, in her early fifties I should guess, welcomed me with a smile. She led me into the living room and beckoned me to be seated. I gathered that I was to wait for Juan. Apparently he would be returning home quite soon. The room was clean and tidy, though plainly furnished. Every surface and ledge was covered with ornaments or pictures of the family, evidently a large one. The shelves and bookcases were full up, too. Though the majority of books were in Spanish, quite a number were in English and covered such subjects as political science and sociology. Perhaps one or more of the members of the family had studied these subjects at college. The door opened and a girl of ten or eleven came in. "Hi, you a friend of Juan?" she asked. "Er, yes. So you're his sister?" I answered. "Sure. I'm Isabella. Wanna watch the kids' show?" Rightly assuming that I had no objection, she dashed to the set and switched it on. Bert was the first to appear on the screen. He was making a pudding and, in the process, added salt instead of sugar. When it was ready everybody pretended that it was lovely while trying to hide pieces of it away. Isabella was killing herself. In the meantime I had directed my attention to the books. That one looked interesting. "The Crisis of Postwar America" by John Vance. I took it from its place and had a browse through. The author evidently took a Marxist standpoint. The introduction treated the relevant historical background. The drift of it was that the American Revolution harbored both progressive and reactionary elements. Patrician oligarchies sought to preserve their trading and other interests against the encroachments of central bureaucratic control. Lofty philosophical ideas about liberty were necessary and useful in that they made it seem that all those who had grievances against aspects of the colonial system shared a common ideological cause. When Thomas Paine explicitly advocated independence, the idea was seized upon because it was realistic, not because the radical philosophy on which it was based had been understood and adopted by the majority of the patriots. The question of slavery was shelved, as this question of principle would prove divisive, not conducive to the immediate aim. Perhaps the author might--in his next book--consider how Marxist dogmas have proved useful to those whose main concern has been to pursue certain pre-Marxist (e.g. Czarism) aims. My thoughts were interrupted by the doorbell. Isabella rushed to the window to see if it was Juan. It was. When he entered, he seemed genuinely pleased to see me, surprised as he was. Perhaps he had given me his card as a gesture, not thinking the invitation would be taken up. He couldn't help giggling when he told his mother and sister that I was the one who had forgotten his wallet. Over coffee and cakes we discussed how we could spend the evening. He suggested going bowling, seeing a movie, visiting a disco and strolling down Broadway. I told him I would not be staying up late, as I was leaving the city

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19next day. He told me something about his family. His father came from Panama originally. The family moved over to the States in the fifties. Juan had four brothers, all older than he, and three sisters. The eldest was married with a child of her own. Isabella was the youngest in the family, and horribly spoilt. His eldest brother Carlos was member of the faculty of Political Science at the University of Texas, having taken his doctor's degree at Columbia. Juan himself wanted to set up a business, maybe in second-hand cars. His mother had always wanted him to become a priest. Somebody in the family should answer the highest calling. Juan said that he would think more about religion when he was older. He would repent when it was worth his while. He told of his three girl friends, Elisabetha being particularly shapely. When asked why he didn't keep to one at a time, he told me that good organization could resolve most additional complications and then the advantages of going parallel over the consecutive approach: The latter was much too slow if you wanted to understand the manifold nature of the female psychology. When I left the room to go to the toilet, Juan followed to show me the way. A door was ajar and I could see a cup containing toothbrushes on a shelf in the room behind. Juan shouted "no" and pointed at another door. Then I realized that the bathroom and the kitchen were the same place. Later in the evening I enjoyed a stew cooked according to a Latin American recipe flavored with hot spices. However fleeting my impression of Ibero-American family life, I gauged something of the warm, close (but not stifling) spirit engendered by its spontaneity, its uninhibited expressions of affection. I was interested to know more about the Hispanic population of New York. I learnt that West Side Story didn't present the whole truth. I had observed that Spanish enjoyed the status of an official language and that it was widely used for advertising. At about ten o'clock Juan drove me to Broadway in an old Ford he was going to do up and sell at a profit. That's where the scrap yard down the road came in handy. We had a coffee at an Italian ice cream parlor in Broadway before parting. He was telling me about a friend of his who had died of a strange blood disease when a cold feeling came over me. Juan asked me how I liked the ice. I looked up at the window just as a hooded figure passed by. "You all right?" he asked. "Sure, " I answered. "Tell me, are there any monasteries near here?" "Monastery? They got some. Why?" "Nothing. I just thought I saw a monk pass by outside." "Maybe," said Juan before adding with an expression of amusement--"Or more like some weirdo dressed like one. Some nuts will put on anything." I paid the bill and we were just saying our parting words when a police car drove past flashing its lights and wailing with its siren. An ambulance followed. I told Juan that I wanted to buy some flowers for his mother as a token of appreciation. He said there was a late-night flower store round the corner. When we got there, we caught up with the police car and the ambulance. A crowd had gathered outside a cinema where they were showing that crazy film . Then the vendor said: "So some guy got stabbed. Girlfriend or funeral? There's beautiful orchids from Florida."

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20IV: MEETING RACHEL AND ESTHER Next morning I made an early start. By eight o'clock I had settled up at the hotel, had breakfast and set out for Philadelphia. Once I had crossed the Hudson and reached the New Jersey pike, a feeling of exhilaration overcame me. At heart was a country-boy after all, one for whom big cities held only a superficial attraction. It was good to be in open country and surrounded by relatively fresh air. Perhaps my heady feelings were in part responsible for my deviation from the proper route and I had a strange knack of missing the right turnings. I stopped the car to ask a mounted policeman how to reach the center of Philadelphia. "Oh, downtown Philly, sure" he said pointing to an intersection. "Take a right and keep going till you hit Philly. Its straight ahead of you.” Once there, I left the car in a parking house below street level just beside Independence Hall, which, as I was soon to be reminded, was where the American Congress took place before the new Federal capital was founded in 1800. To my mind, the building and its furnishings composed a national shrine harboring such sacred relics as the quill and inkstand used at the signing of the Declaration of Independence One of the custodians, a lady dressed according to the fashion of the eighteenth century, explained something about the crack the bell sustained at a date I know longer remember. Ideals lived longer than the physical objects, which symbolized them, she opined, and in any case the bell was made in England when the colonists were too worried about the French to think about things like independence. Until then, I had always assumed that the bell was commissioned specifically to honor America’s fight for liberty. In fact the name of the bell derives from a text in the Book of Leviticus enjoining the Israelites to declare liberty throughout their land in the year of jubilee, occurring every fifty years. Just one of those strange coincidences that dot the pages of history, I suppose. Are there immutable “laws” of history, or do historians discern patterns in a random mass of factual date according to their own preconceived notions? Washington won in the end, of course, but there was no small element of sheer luck in his surviving precarious close shaves resulting at times from his own miscalculations. Fortunately for him, his adversary Lord Howe made similar blunders, but what was a Whig doing when fighting a Tory war, anyway? Whatever, I decided to have a look around downtown Philadelphia, a charming place with its pretty little cottages and neat front gardens as I sensed an air of peace and harmony I imagined to be a residue from those early years in the state’s history over which the Quakers presided. After a meal of roast beef rounded off with slices of apple pie I set off in the car, the engine of which soon began to splutter rather ominously, in a westerly direction, following a narrow road that led into Lancaster County. It was sunny, but there was a slight nip in the air. The Pennsylvanian countryside, interspersed with clean-looking white farmsteads gilded by the declining sun, took on an idyllic appearance quite

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21distinct from anything I had experienced in America before. It was as though I was entering another temporal setting, not just a geographical one. Of course, any travels encounters not only new places but the history in which they are saturated. To this extent at least every traveler is a time traveler. The sun was about to dip under the horizon as I approached Lancaster, where I planned to stay the night. Just then I noticed two Amish girls walking on the grassy verge. George had told me a little about this Mennonite group, which adhered so strictly to its formal costumes, its pacifist principles, its rejection of modern technology, particular the motor car. I decided on the spot to indulge in a little linguistic fieldwork. I stopped the car, which didn’t need much help in getting stopped in any case, let down my window, and said to two rather startled young ladies in their bonnets and Amish attire: “Entschuldigung, führt diese Straße nach Lancaster?” They smiled blankly, either too surprised to answer or baffled by my German pronunciation “Er,.. how far is it to Lancaster?” “About ten miles,” said the prettier of the two. “Don’t the Amish speak German?” “Sort of,” the girl replied. “At least we understand Pennsylvanian Dutch a bit, but our grandparents speak it all the time.” When I ventured to ask a question about their religion, they affirmed their belief in the one true God. I thanked the girls for their help and attention and drove on, but barely had I gone a mile than the engine of my car started to chug and splutter producing noises that were attended a moment later by that of hissing steam and a disconcerting gurgling sound. I was lucky to get the car off the road before my vehicle shuddered to a final halt I should have known better than to trust George’s boneshaker. As there was nothing for it but to get in touch with the local breakdown service, I left the car in search of a nearest household with a telephone. That would prove more difficult than I first supposed. I could see a farmstead about half a mile away and found a path leading to it through the adjacent fields. When I reached the farm’s forecourt, the whole place seemed to be deserted. I knocked on the door but no one came. Venturing glances through the front windows of the farmhouse, I could detect no signs of life. I was on the point of leaving when I noticed that the doors of an outhouse were slightly ajar. When peeked inside, I could first only see the light from a small window, but as my eyes adjusted to the darkness I could make out the shapes of certain objects. There were three books in leather binding, one of which was open, lying on a crude wooden bench. Beside them there was a builder’s level, and not far away, leaning against the adjacent wall, a scythe. Just as I was on the point of leaving, I heard snoring from one of the corners of the building. Having no wish to disturb

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22anyone’s slumber, I decided to look for help elsewhere, perhaps in a neighboring farm. On my way back to the road I saw two people walking in my direction, and as they came close, I recognized them as the Amish girls I had recently spoken to. They waved to me in, probably having guessed that I needed help after a breakdown. They didn’t seem surprised when I told them of my predicament a moment later. “I’m sorry, we don’t have a telephone,” the prettier one informed me. “We’re Amish,” said her sister rather sternly. “Don’t worry,” said the other, we’ll find a way to get you out of trouble. By the way, this is my sister Esther, and my name is Rachel.” Just as I introduced myself, a voice from behind boomed: “And I’m Martin Pfeiffer, the owner of this land and the father of these two young ladies, who are not accustomed to being approached by strangers of the opposite sex.” I turned round and saw a tall burley and bearded man in breeches wearing a hat in the traditional Mennonite style. “He drives, too,” said Esther, as her sister looked down and blushed. “Please accept my apologies for any inconvenience I may have caused you. There’s something wrong with the engine of my car, and…” I said. “That’s what comes of trusting the infernal combustion engine instead of the guidance of heaven,” the devout farmer interjected. I lacked either the courage or the conviction to contradict him. Rachel, meanwhile, reminded her father of the Christian’s duty to help all those in need, whether or not they were believers or had not entered into the fullness of light. The farmer told his daughters to prepare supper and then addressed me. “Mr. er… “Mortimer, Daniel Mortimer.” “Well, Mr. Mortimer, would you care to accompany me while I round up the horses for the night. I assented naturally, and followed him to a meadow in which three grazing horses loomed against the dying ember of twilight. “Time, my beauties, time you were all in for the night,” the farmer shouted as he shooed them into their paddock. While two of them needed no coaxing, a frisky little foal, evidently in no mood to renounce his freedom, needed a little persuasion to comply with his owner’s wishes.

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23 With the horses safely locked up for the night, the farmer and I walked to the farmhouse. One of the girls was drawing the curtains but not before I observed the cosy flicker oil-lamps through several windows. Just as I was pondering what to do about the car, the apparently gruff farmer surprised me by saying: “Mr. Mortimer, would be very happy and honored if you would stay on the farm for the night. I’m afraid we can offer you little in the way of luxury, just a bed in the loft of a humble barn. As you have gathered, we have no telephone, but even if we had, I doubt it would be worthwhile trying to contact a breakdown service.” I thanked the farmer for his kind offer of hospitality, which I accepted. I told him that I was a little worried as to whether the car was a safe distance from the road. He remained silent for a few moments, as though contending with conflicting thoughts, produced, perhaps, by a gut reaction against any kind of involvement with cars. In the event, he grudgingly consented to help push the car safely onto the green verge beside the road. “Will here do?” he asked, not wishing the offending vehicle to encroach onto his own land. Even if moving a car, as opposed to being moved by one, did not constitute a transgression, the vehicle’s close proximity to his farm might cause offence in Amish circles. On entering the house I was struck by its extreme plainness, which was not a drab desolate plainness but one exuding homely simplicity. No pictures or photographs adorned the walls, and when went to the bathroom , I found no mirror over the wash basin. The evening meal, preceded by grace in German, consisted of the healthy fare of home-grown vegetables and cereals. The Amish, Mr. Pfeiffer informed me, grew their own wheat, ground their own flour and baked their own bread, always mindful of their dependence on divine mercy. He then went on to tell something about himself and his family. His wife had died seven years before. His two son and eldest daughter had married and established their own homes. Now only he and his two daughters were left on the farm, and I sensed an abiding sadness in the farmers household that passing years might mitigate but not finally dispel. I learned more about the Amish, their European origins, their beliefs and guiding principles and consequent exemption from the usual military and educational obligations of American citizens. He then threw light on that most distinctive and apparently most absurd aspect of the Amish belief system - their steadfast refusal to utilize the benefits of modern technology. The farmer surprised me by the poignancy of his argumentation. The Amish, he said, were not behind the times but ahead of them., having their faith anchored in eternal verities. They recognized in technology Man’s attempt to become self-sufficient. to reach a state of independence unaffected by the vagaries of nature and - though this would hardly be admitted in so many words - from the prerogative of God. So long as Man did not relate his discoveries in the natural realm to the humble recognition of his fallibility and dependence on God, technology would ensnare

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24its maker like the man-made idols of earlier time against which the Hebrew prophets had inveighed. Not so far away, he said, there was a monument of this modern idolatry, the Three Mile nuclear power station near the town of Harrisburg. The nations of the world, he added, were possessed by the spirit of Tubal-Cain, the first provider of military equipment. Only by repentance might they escape the confusion and destruction that awaited them at the end of the path they were following, only so could they prevent their progress towards Hades. Though I refrained from stating a point of view, I showed a sympathetic appreciation of the general principles to which the Amish adhered, if only by way of a nod or hum. Though I did not venture to say so, I felt that the Amish had little chance of influencing the politicians and planners who might b able to change the general course of events. Technology itself was not wrong but its mindless application. Nevertheless I was disabused of the prejudiced assessment that the Amish posed the fossil remain of German pietism. They demonstrated that it was still possible, on a small scale at least, to forgo the benefits of technology still lead a contented and fulfilled life. At least they did not allow themselves to be browbeaten by those who argued with some justification that anyone who switched on an electrical appliance had no right to quibble about acid rain or the risks of using plutonium in atomic power stations. . Mr. Pfeiffer concluded with the words: “Man has survived for thousands of years without modern technology. Can humanity exist for another fifty years with it? It’s like a drug. It creates its own necessities and remedy, a bigger dose next time. After dinner I helped the girls with the washing-up. Rachel told me about a young man who needed help from an Amish family after his motorcar had broken down. He was so impressed by what he saw of Amish life and practical religion that he eventually became a member of the Amish community himself. He now had a farm of his own, a lovely wife and three, soon four, children. When I asked whether he had found it difficult to change his way of life according to the strict demands of the Amish religion, she answered that true faith enabled believers to overcome hardships and the temptations of the world. Esther for her part told of a case when a convert had lapsed so gravely that he had to be “shunned.” Just as she was about to explain what shunning involved, Mr. Pfeiffer entered the kitchen. He wanted to show me to my quarters and kindly offered to carry one of my cases. Before wishing me a good night’s rest, he suggest that on the following morning, on the Lord’s Day, I would be welcome to attend a meeting of worship and prayer on a neighboring farm and I expressed my willingness to do so. Early next morning I was wakened by a knock on the door of my room. “Leaving in half an hour,” Mr. Pfeiffer shouted. “There’s bread and cheese on the kitchen table, if you want a bite to eat.” Rachel welcomed me with a warm engaging smile. As I ate my breakfast, she outlined what I was to expect at the meeting. The more traditional Amish, she said, had no church buildings. Services took place in private houses and

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25families took turns playing host to their neighbors. We were going to the Kellers five miles down the road to Lancaster. She gave me a German hymnal and a Bible to browse through while I waited for a horse and carriage. Just as I was reading Luther’s hymn “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott,” the neighing of a horse and clicking hooves announced that waiting time was over. Mr. Pfeiffer, sitting proudly in the coachman’s seat, controlled the horse with ease and dexterity. From the outside the square black carriage didn’t look big enough to hold three people, yet once inside it comfortably accommodated me and the two girls seated opposite me. The service lasted for well over two hours, longer than I had anticipated. There was no musical accompaniment to the hymns, which were chanted like the psalms in the Anglican liturgy. There were lengthy readings from the Pentateuch, the book of Samuel and the gospels. Then it was time for one of the brethren to preach the word before communion. The speaker was an elderly gentleman who too a verb from the Palms as his opening text. A horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his strength (Psalm 33, 17). He enjoined the congregation to consider why the kings of Israel and Judah were forbidden to “multiply horses unto themselves.” The Children of Israel fleeing from Egypt walked to safety when the waters of the Read Sea were miraculously parted but the pursuing Egyptians on horseback were drowned. In choosing the weaker things of the world before the mighty, the Lord bestowed greater favors on the humble ass than on the noble steed. What horse had ever been granted the power of speech? Unbelievers might scoff at the story of Balaam’s ass, but the speaker assured the congregants that he had met quite a number of loquacious donkeys in his time. Horses had been the favored beasts of those seeking mastery over their fellows, and at the end of the world the four horses of the Apocalypse would bring conquest, famine and death in the trail. Jesus chose to sit on the colt of an ass on Palm Sunday, not a horse, the symbol of military pride. Only when concluding his sermon did the preacher put in a good word for the otherwise disparaged quadruped. He quoted a verse from the book of Habakkuk stating :”Surely Thou ridest upon Thy horses and chariots of salvation.” However, as the general tenor of the sermon had been against horses, the preacher’s final sentence was apt enough: So don’t let anybody get puffed up just because he’s got more horses than anybody else.” I assumed that this admonition related in some way to local community politics, so the point was lost on me. After the service, a number of people remained for a while to have a cordial chat with their friends and neighbors. Rachel introduced me to some of the young people in the congregation. Having learned of my mishap, a young man kindly offered to take me into Lancaster on the following day. He could even recommend a garage and there was a twinkle in his eyes as he told me. He

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26agreed to collect me next morning at 10 o’clock. During this conversation I could not help noticing a look of sadness on Rachel’s face. A certain Mr. Jacobs invited the Pfeiffers and me to dinner on his farm nearby. By usual standards (if not by Amish ones), the Jacobs family was large. Mrs. Jacobs looked remarkably young for a mother of nine children, the youngest of whom was a babe in arms. She and the eldest daughter, who had not attended the service, cordially welcomed me, almost as though I were a member of the Pfeiffer family. At the dinner table I sat between Mr. Jacobs and Rachel. It became apparent very soon that Mr. Jacobs was a man of considerable erudition. I wondered how a farmer could find the time to read so many books as he evidently had, until he told me that his farm was jointly run by his brother and himself and that his sons bore the brunt of the heavy duties that farming demands. He had inherited a library of several thousand books from his elder brother, who had left the Amish fold for a university career and to this he had added no small number of his own acquisitions. He promised to show me round the library in the half-hour interval between dinner and an afternoon devotional service. He told me more about the Amish, a particularly strict offshoot of the Mennonite movement. They practiced “shunning,” a punishment which amounted to an almost total ostracizing of an offender by members of the Amish community. It was reassuring to learn that this penalty had been imposed very rarely in recent times. I gained the impression that Mr. Jacobs was more liberal in outlook than the great majority of his coreligionists. When I had the opportunity to inspect his library, my suspicion was strengthened, for it contained many books that in no way related to the religious outlook of the Amish. Some books were works belonging to the great classics of German and European literature, including the writings of Goethe, Schiller, Jean Paul and Heinrich Heine. He must have gathered from my surprised reactions that I found that the composition of his library somewhat out of keeping with the Amish religion, for he pre-emptively justified his possession of a library such as his. God’s presence, he pleaded, was evident in all manifestations of the human spirit and mind, even when they seemed to negate religious dogmatism. The mind was Man’s greatest and yet most abused possession, for without it nothing else in creation could be appreciated. It followed that all great minds and intellects deserved the respect and attention of the pious, though never uncritical or unqualified praise. Mr. Jacobs told me that it would soon be time for him to prepare for the afternoon devotional meeting and he would therefore have to leave me for a while. He suggested that I browse in his library. As it happened, Mr. Jacobs took out a tome of Jean Paul’s works, opened it at a certain page and placed the book in my hands before leaving the library. . Though I had not made a detailed study of his works, I knew that as a writer of prose fiction he had explored the realm of the human unconscious in literary representations of dreams and dreamlike states of mind. For the modern taste his novels evince an all too complicated and rambling structure, but his descriptions of visions and dreams can be read and enjoyed in isolation, independently, that is to say with

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27little or no regard to their context within the formal structure of the works in which they are set. I looked down at the open pages of the book I was holding. They contained the opening passage of “the Speech of the Dead Christ” (Die Rede des toten Christus”). It is probable that most of my readers - o precious hope that I still have any - are acquainted with this piece of prose, so, at the risk of incurring charges of plagiarism or the appropriation of another’s intellectual property, I shall attempt to paraphrase the “speech I have just referred to - if only to convey some idea of the state of mind which my reading induced. The passage begins with a lament occasioned by the dismal prospect of a universe from which god was or seemed to be absent, a universe each constituent part of which is seen as a minute globule of mercury as it aimlessly runs hither and thither, now being absorbed by kindred globules, now becoming separate again. The human soul finds no counterpart of itself and thus suffers the fate of an orphan lost in an impersonal universe which assumes the aspect of a stone sphinx, a vast iron mask. Participating in this nightmare vision, the reader witnesses the scene now described. A man falls asleep in a church graveyard. As he church clock strikes eleven, the sleeper wakes during a total eclipse of the sun. The tombs burst open and disgorge the dead. The charnel house grates. Disembodies shadows flit to and fro. A strange fog drapes over the scene. The dead want to know the time of day, but the dial of the church clock contains no numbers or hands, and in their stead there looms “the dark finger of eternity. The dead are beating the hollow breasts when suddenly the church tower emits two deafening screeches. Christ appears before the dead. “Jesus,” they cry, ”is God in heaven?” “There is no God,” Jesus answers. “I have search the entire universe, its every chasm, cleft, abyss, peak and cranny in Hell and Heaven. “Father, where art Thou?” I cried, but no answer penetrated the din of storm and thunder. I looked for the eye of the universe but found only a gaping socket. The universe appeared to me as a monstrous shape that spewed out and regurgitated its own substance as its lay sprawling over the void. The jarring sound of discords and confusion filled my ears.” Dead children ask: ”Have we then no Heavenly Father?” Jesus, tears filling his eyes, declares: ”No, we are all fatherless, we are orphans:” The shrill discord of the universe reaches a crescendo. The children, the sun and the earth vanish away. Only Christ now stands at the pinnacle of boundless nature to survey the stars and planets form an endless procession of flickering spots of light. What horror to behold each world in turn disgorge its tribute of

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28living souls into the vast ocean of death. Cold necessity and insane chance hold sway as the whirlwind of destruction rages through the universe extinguishing all light in its wake. In deep anguish Jesus pleads to the Father to reveal Himself, to bring sense back into the universe, to relieve this unmitigated loneliness and desolation, to prove that vanity and the void do not have the last say. Unanswered, Jesus turns back to the world of man, saying: “Once I walked upon the earth, knew day and night, blue skies, clouds and rain. Then I still ha a loving Father, communed with Him, and in the hour of death I cried. ‘Take me, Thy son, unto thy bosom.’ Earth-dwellers, you may still trust Him, you who joyfully pray in hope of waking to greet the light of a new dawn after the sleep of death. Vain hope! Praise Him now while life shall last, or He will be lost to you for ever.” Now a vast measureless serpent holds the universe in the grip of its constricting coils and begins to crush it with irresistible power. There is one last terrible moment of unbearable tension as the tongue of a great bell is about to toll the last knell of time. The dreamer wakes. With an overwhelming sense of relief he finds himself back in the peaceful churchyard as he witnesses the splendor of sunset above fields of purple. Now he experiences the presence of God and is able to praise Him. Life spreads its wings and nature rejoices to the music of harmony, joy and love. I replaced the book in its proper place, then listened. A hymn was being sung. I left the library and walked towards those who were singing. He door of room in which they were was ajar, and I tentatively looked in. The first person I saw was Rachel, the very picture of demure charm and innocence. Her eyes caught mine and she beckoned me to a chair in the row behind her. Just as I was seated, she turned round pointing to the hymn then being sun. So simple a kindness, yet how it made my heart melt within me. It was a coup de foudre I shall never forget unto my dying day. . Next day Jesse came to pick me up, as we had arranged. On the way to Lancaster he confessed that some of the boys weren't always as strictly pious as appearances might suggest. They had secret caches of jeans and other items of profane clothing and these they would wear on their "nights out in town." He dropped me at a garage and had a word with a mechanic before wishing me well and leaving. Luckily the breakdown truck was available and within twenty minutes I was back at the farm. Much to my relief the car only required minor repairs. The mechanic put in anti-freeze and I was set to go. I walked to the farm and thanked the Pfeiffers for all they had done. They accompanied me to the farm gate, where I shook each by the hand, exchanging with Rachel an affectionate squeeze. As I drove off, a dewy-eyed Rachel was still at the gate where she waved for as long as I could see her. Her parting words were: "Always remember, God answers prayer."

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29 V: NEW WORLD Christ bearing Dove, wind-blown, sail On, beyond the Flood's deep, to Land. In nativity's bay, Under the low sun rising, Maria sinks, childbearing. Between the Virgin and land, Uprising from whale's belly, She bears Jonah to the day. As I drove on towards Washington, I became increasingly aware that a transition was taking place. I could not make my mind up as to what this transition involved. With each extra mile interposed between me and Rachel, the cynic in me increased his stock of munitions--excuse the atrocious mixture of metaphors--and the rooks of realism pecked at the soil where the seeds of love had been sown. The voice of doubt reminded me that romantic inclinations hardly ever survive in the desert of separation. And then there was the insuperable barrier of religion and tradition. Only the vague hope that there was something greater than all obstacles remained. Such hopes must bide their time. I switched on the radio on passing the Maryland state boundary. I caught the end of the weather forecast. Winter was round the corner; there was already snow in the Virginian hills. I stopped at a garage to tank up. I had a snack in the adjoining cafeteria. It was there that a young man with a distinctly hippie appearance came to my table and asked whether I could give him a lift to Washington. I agreed if he accepted the risk of being driven in a car that seemed to be extremely prone to having breakdowns. Once we were on the road he told me something about himself and his background. Apparently he had been a. student at Berkeley before giving up all that” study crap" and discovering "what life was really all about." he had got caught up in the .Jesus Movement and shifted allegiance from one sectarian group to another until he decided to do his own thing and set up as a apostle of esoteric truth. He now had disciples in most major cities; in fact he was going to Washington to tell the saints "where it was at after new disclosures of the Heavenly Principle" .He went on to explain some of his religious theories. It all had something to- do with the coming of the last days, when the forces of God would finally overthrow Satan and his minions, these having shown their hand in ruling human affairs since the discovery of the ninth planet in 1930. This event was closely followed by Hitler's rise to power and the advent of the Plutonian age. The forces of Good had brought an end to the Nazi menace, but the means employed to achieve this-total war, nuclear weapons and the use of terror tactics--were playing into the Devil's hands. He could find his way back in via the tradesmen's entrance, .so to speak. Even men of good will had lost sight of the fact that God was the author of true peace. God's position had been usurped by the principle of terror, now considered the most reliable protector of world peace. For the apostle this was tantamount to allowing the Mafia or the Hell's Angels to

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30supplant the police as the defenders of the law. The Devil was encouraging the indiscriminate use of computers and electronic surveillance in areas of government, finance And organization. In this connection, the apostle referred to a text in the Book of Revelation that foretold that the Devil would seek to rule the world by means of a number, the number six hundred and sixty-six. This would enable him, or rather his representative, the Beast, to vet all buying and selling. He explained that the powers of Evil were organized along much the same lines as the powers of Good, evidenced by a comparable tripartite structure. The Book of Revelation told of a triumvirate consisting of "the Dragon, the beast with ten horns and seven heads, one of which was healed of a mortal wound, and the Second Beast, in whose power it lay to make the image of the First Beast speak. The apostle inferred from this that the Second Beast would be some kind of media wizard, an adept in propaganda and the skill of controlling a police state--in short, a man in the tradition of a Joseph Goebbels. Washington, D. C., the apostle continued, would be the scene of a final contest between the powers of Good and Evil. With its Capitol and Senate it shared with Moscow the distinction of being the modern manifestation of imperial Rome, the city established on seven hills. Being situated between Maryland and Virginia, the city laid an implicit claim to being the center of a new Messianic world order. It also incurred the risk of being taken over by opposition forces. By now we were quite close to Washington, and I chipped in to ask if he could recommend a hotel in the medium price range. He handed me a card with the address of a place in Arlington. "I know the guy who runs the place," he said. "Jake Power's the name. Just say you're a friend of Dave Blake, and he'll give you a discount." Jake was not exactly a believer, he confided, but he knew things. Basically, he was a normal, fun-loving sort of a guy--not like his brother Bill, a big shot in the Pentagon establishment, and most certainly not like his other brother, Harry. Dave had never met Harry personally, but by all accounts he was "way out." Further than that, he had "strange habits." For the rest of the drive, my companion--thankfully--did not lay on the esoteric quite so thickly, though he made occasional mention of his mission to warn the world of impending disaster before it was too late. He gave me a few useful tips about what to do and see in Washington. He told me to visit the museums belonging to the Smithsonian Institute and not to miss Ford's Theatre, where Abraham Lincoln was shot. Just the other side of the river in Virginia, Mount Vernon, Washington's ancestral home, was well worth looking over. It was an exciting moment seeing Washington's skyline for the first time with the dome of the Capitol glistening in the sunlight. I dropped him outside a drugstore in D Street. Before leaving he showed me how to get to Jake's place on street map and asked if I would like to contribute to "the work." I gave him three dollars. Time presses on. At the moment of writing only a fortnight remains before my departure and we have reached the concluding episode of my story, the most fantastic. It began ordinarily enough though. The day I reached Washington was Monday, the 20th of November. First I drove to the downtown area and

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31attended to a number of practical matters like cashing checks and gathering information as to the whereabouts of libraries and academic institutions. I bought some picture postcards showing Washington in cherry blossom time, and wrote greetings to friends and relatives as I enjoyed coffee in a snack bar. I entered into a conversation with a number of black Washingtonians who were discussing the question of emancipation. One of them, a student of law, located the source of present day conflicts in the naive assumption of early abolitionists that emancipation just meant release from slavery and the possession of the right to vote. This led to the ending of the Anti-Slavery movement in 1870 and the final note of optimism with which the leading campaigner, Wendell Phillips, dismissed its members when he said: "Today, therefore, the Anti-Slavery movement may fairly leave its client to the broad influences of civilization and society.” Another member of the group recited a few of the old songs dating back to the days of slavery, including one about a promise of manumission: "My old Mistriss promise me, W'en she died, she'd set me free, She lived so long dat 'er head got bal', An' she give out'n de notion a dyin' at all." In the late afternoon, just as it was getting dark, I drove over the Potomac to Arlington, where the road led uphill to the gates of the Military Cemetery. After consulting my street plan, I found my way to Jake's motel without difficulty. At the reception desk I asked if I could see Mr. J. Power. I was told that he would be in the bar as from 9 o'clock. He liked to serve customers at the bar personally. I went to my room and had a lie down, as I was suffering from a headache. When I entered the bar at just after nine, I found the bar empty except for couple of shady figures in an obscure corner and the bartender, who looked anything but the manager of a big motel. Almost as if he was expecting my arrival, the man greeted me with the words: "Mighty pleased to meet you, sir. I'm Jake Power and I run this place. I don't think I had the pleasure of meeting you before." I introduced myself as a friend of Dave Blake. "That madman!" Jake exclaimed, "I suppose he promised you a discount at my expense. Maybe I'll do that on account of you being an English gentleman. Anyhow, you can have one on the house. Try some of this stuff," he said, pointing at a bottle of bourbon. "What I like about you Britishers," he remarked, "is you got tradition. I like that. In fact, my family goes way back, too, like--er--we're descended from the first Virginians--We're aristocrats with blue blood. Brother Harry can even prove that we're all descended from William the Conqueror." Jake was much impressed when I told him that my surname originated with the Crusades, being derived from "Morte Mer," or the Dead Sea and the lords who took their name from it.

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32Treating me to a second bourbon, he told me about brother Bill, who held a position of responsibility in the Pentagon establishment where he was in charge of a project referred to unofficially as the Doomsday Machine. Jake, for his part, confessed to being a connoisseur of the good things of life--wine, women and song--while Bill had always been the serious type--straight, humorless, dedicated, ruthless both with himself and with others. Brother Harry was different again. He was certainly the least conventional of the three. No one, apparently, knew what he did or where he held out. Perhaps Bill knew, but, being either too secretive or loyal to let on, pretended not to know. Harry was always on "business missions," it was said. Some took him to be a cleric or the chief executive in a morticians' firm. By the time he passed me a third drink I was beginning to feel rather dizzy. "There's plenty to see this side of the river, you know," he continued. ''You must see the Kennedy Memorial in Arlington Cemetery, the Pentagon, and Mount Vernon. If the weather's fine tomorrow, I'd have a look at the country round about. You never know. A cold front is on its way." I thanked him for the drinks and he told me not to worry about the discount, either. Finally he wished me a good trip. Back in my room, my attention was drawn to two pictures hanging near the door that had escaped my attention before. Both depicted the figure of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, one showing him being followed by a swarm of rats, the other by the children of Hamelin. I recalled the lectures on Browning that I had attended at university. It was strange that the poet's most popular work hardly ever received a mention, and when it did, only in a disparaging tone. For some reason I associated the pictures with something else--the picture in that Haggadah I had looked at in New York. Perhaps I sensed a strange affinity between the Red Sea and the River Weser. If I remembered my Bible correctly, had not the plague of locusts ended when the west wind cast them into the Red Sea? Conversely, were the children of Hamelin not led to a joyous promised land if we are to believe the lame child's story? It was much too late in the night to pursue thoughts about the symbolism of water or biblical parallels. The last thing I can clearly remember of that night was how the sweet thought of Rachel came to me as I laid my head on the pillow a moment before sleep. Next morning I enjoyed a full breakfast, again with lashings of coffee at no extra charge. I followed Jake's advice and drove to Mount Vernon. It was a beautiful, crisp autumnal day. The ancestral home proved well worth visiting with its splendid view of the Potomac River, its Georgian grace and the historic interest afforded by its furnishings and outside the gardens and outhouses where servants and slaves used to live and work. From there I drove inland as far as the hills and the enchanting caverns and grottoes illuminated by colored lights in the same vicinity. My car developed engine trouble on the way back but I managed to get back to the motel. Jake happened to be in the reception hall when I arrived. He told me not to worry about the car and all. Luckily there was a garage next to the motel, which always provided guests with a repairs service as soon as needed. They would see to the car tomorrow. Jake kindly offered to

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33give me a lift into town at 9 o'clock. After a substantial meal l retired to my room. I flicked through the channels to see if there was anything worth watching. One of them was showing Richard the Third. Though normally an avid observer of Shakespearean theatre, tiredness got the better of me at the part where Clarence, immured in the Tower, recounts his nightmare dream vision of a drowning man. I slept fitfully that night. Perhaps the thought of Clarence and the butt of Malmsey had penetrated my subconscious. Even the coming of the morning brought little relief. The rising sun dispensed no feeling of renewal. As I looked out of the window in the direction of Washington, a dismal ghostly landscape, obscure in the morning fog, confronted me. Down at the breakfast table, even the coffee, my habitual morning consolation, tasted bitter, and a feeling vaguely akin to nausea put me off my food. Jake, when he appeared, didn't seem his usual friendly self, either. He beckoned me to hurry, it being past nine already. We hardly exchanged a word in the car. The waters of the Potomac, as we crossed, were Stygian in their grey sluggishness. The Lincoln Memorial, or rather its shadowy profile, took on the aspect of a massive headstone. Jake dropped me in Pennsylvania Avenue. Did I not detect a note of irony his parting words? "Enjoy yourself, wontcher?" VI: D.C.’s EERIER SIDE There is a goddess green with years Who stands in freedom's name, Holds high the torch of Liberty Above the sea and land. To claim her promise multitudes Braved, tempest tossed, the deep. To tyranny each back was turned, By hope each face was lit. Once by a passage through the waves The Israelites were led Out from a land of bitter toil Towards their promised home. Horatius with blood on brow Had faced alone the foe, Then headlong plunged into the deep And swam the Tiber's flow. But conquest has its rivers too, Much suffering brings much power, For Joshua crossed the Jordan, Caesar the Rubicon.

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34This is the law of history, Shall be as it has been, But if the root is bitter Then bitter is the tree. For if we hate the tyrant More than his tyranny, The morrow are our foes our slaves And the tyrants we. In history's chains our feet are bound, My hands are bound to thine. Should one but suffer perfectly His kingdom shall not fail. What I remember about the greater part of that day was not so much the things I saw and heard as how I felt. I had been subject to moods of black depression since my father's death, and it was another of those days when each passing minute awakens the horrors of the pit and the pendulum. Were these not but the symbols of passing time to one acutely conscious of the presence of death in life, who sees the particles of time slip through his fingers before he can hold them and call them his own for a moment, however brief? After looking at the White House I visited a museum belonging to the Smithsonian Institute. It was devoted to American history and particularly its sociological and technological aspects. There were life-size tableaux showing scenes from the time when there were slaves and indentured servants, Indian uprisings and palisades. An original Model T Ford motorcar was on display. I thought of Henry Ford's famous quip about history being bunk. Maybe, Mr. Ford, but whatever history is, bunk or otherwise, you're part of it now. When "now"--our "now"--becomes "then," what of all the great issues for the sake of which we, collectively, are prepared to exterminate millions of our contemporaries, thereby giving them an alibi for doing the same to us...? Oh, I'm sure brother Bill would have an answer. Compared to so great an Atlas as he, I, foot-loose, irresponsible and free, must cut a very puny figure. Then I thought of Rachel. In my mind's eye I saw her with a lamp in her hand. She was not bold and resolute like the Statue of Liberty, nor was her lamp as imposing torch held by the goddess, but it, and it alone, shed light in the cavernous gloom by which I was surrounded. By the time I left the museum, the mist had become so dense that even passers-by seemed to flit by like the denizens of the underworld in the epic of Gilgamesh. The graceful temple-like buildings of classical Washington had become the silhouettes a dead past cast on the thin shroud of the present. I bought a copy of the Washington Post at a corner kiosk and went to a self-service restaurant for a bite. The leading article was about Franco, who had died a day or two before. I thought of the large team of doctors and nurses

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35assigned to the task of keeping him alive and immortal for as long as possible. According to my psychiatrist, I was depressive, but not a particularly severe case. Yet I knew that mental suffering and the power of insight were often coterminous, particularly when normality is taken to signify those states and attitudes of mind that best allow us to function in society and at work. A feeling of nausea still prevented me from enjoying my food. I spent the afternoon "researching" in libraries and museums. "Researching" in this case did not mean systematic study in terms of poring over information held on microfilm or microfiche. Evidently I was in no mood for that. I simply browsed through various literary works at the behest of an irresponsible curiosity itself stimulated by promptings of the most tenuous associations. Tenuous associations, however, are often the most interesting and revealing ones, for they most resemble the flights of imagination at work in the mind of a composer, an artist or a poet. I read a bit of Byron here, a bit of Poe there, then a bit of Shelley, a bit of Browning or Wordsworth, and so on. Thus it seemed to me that I read not merely from the works of individual poets but poetry. That sounds banal or platitudinous, I know. Perhaps this poem can better express the thought: LONG EARS In many styles, in many forms, in prose or verse or song, on parchment, scroll, on page or leaf, and in the tongues of every land, reeds numberless as stars whisper sweet and bitter truths in the ears of Joseph's corn. Two are the hands of time. The hour has no second chime, yet one the hand that holds the reed while shepherds play and ploughmen weave. The state of depression itself predisposes the sufferer to having a deep insight into any poem that springs from the poet's anguish at recognizing the misery well as the greatness of the human soul. Is not this silent suffering - with love the chief spur to creativity ~ the pain of never forgetting mortality even in the moment of bliss the implicit truth behind every description and symbol? With new eyes I read Byron's "Destruction of Semnacherib," that poem known to many a schoolboy doing recitation homework. "Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown That host on the morrow lay withered and strewn" These lines recalled the opening verses of Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind" and their evocation of fallen leaves, those "Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,/ Pestilence-stricken multitudes." Then the penultimate line of Byron's poem: "And there lay the rider distorted and pale,

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36With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail." Horses again! Here the symbol of vainglorious ambition, the lust for power and empire and, as the poet Gray declared long ago, their end. Death only? Each pole implies its contrary. What of Roland in Browning's famous poem? Did he not bear 'the Good News' of deliverance and salvation to the people of Aix? If religion and art help us to face the dark realities of death and life's transience, do they not both in their several ways, here by the assertion of faith, there by wresting beauty and truth from the lion's jaws, promise the ultimate conquest of life and love and the defeat of death? As far as secondary literature was concerned, I read an article in a literary magazine on Robert Browning's four music teachers when he was still a boy. One of them had been the Jewish musician Isaac Nathan, the very man who years before had prompted Lord Byron to write The Hebrew Melodies to which "The Destruction of Semnacherib" originally belonged, as the words to be set to certain "ancient melodies" purportedly originating in the days of the Temple at Jerusalem. The article suggested that this personal link between the great Romantic and the great Victorian had been passed over by literary scholarship, for music posed the underlying theme in so much of Browning's poetry. One should not forget the general title Bells and Pomegranates under which "The Pied Piper of Hamlin" first appeared, for it alluded to the golden ornaments belonging to the High Priest's vestments at the time of his entering the Holy of Holies to fulfill his sacred duties as the mediator between God and people. Here golden bells betokened the sublime mediating role of music in elevating the human spirit. Music! Religion, Poetry and Love! Music, inspiration, the point where sense ends and the ineffable begins- "And to know not if, save in this, such gift be allowed to man, That out of three sounds he frame, not a fourth sound, but a star". Then I recalled that the Pied Piper played three notes before playing the tune so alluring and fatal to the rats, so enchanting and wonderful to the children. Were not these the first three rungs of the ladder wherewith the mortal race may scale the Heavens, or they reach down to man--Jacob’s ladder? Rachel, as long as the music of your name rings in these ears, not even the dark dungeon of Giant Despair shall cut me from the light of Heaven. I felt alive again. I left the library and its rows of musty books with spring in my step, a sense of exuberance at being alive and with the channels of perception made hypersensitive to impressions of sight and sound. The fog had lifted, though dark clouds obscured the western sky save where they yielded to patches of a beautiful turquoise blue. When I reached the Mall, a demonstration was taking place. It was the twenty-second of November and the twelfth anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination. One placard read: WHO KILLED JFK?

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37Another: NO MORE WATERGATES, NO MORE VIETNAMS! According to one speaker, the fall of Vietnam was a salutary warning from Heaven to teach America once more to do what it said on every dollar bill: "In God we trust." Let the nation's true strength lie in its moral example and not in firepower and atom bombs alone. There was a cloudburst, and the crowds began to disperse. Through a parting in the rain clouds a flash of golden light lit up the dome of the Capitol against the dark canvas of the eastern sky. I hurried across the Mall in a northerly direction; my earlier nausea had given away to the healthy urge to vacate my bowels. I entered a self-service restaurant, which offered the requisite facilities. While drinking coffee, I pondered my next move. I thought of taking a taxi straight back to Arlington. Then I remembered something that Blake guy said and decided to pay Ford's Theatre a visit. I had checked its position on a street plan. It could only be a few blocks away. On leaving the place, I walked down the street to the next crossing, where a group of black youths was standing. I asked them to direct me to Ford's Theatre on Tenth Street. "I can't tell yer where to go, man, 'cos you're standin' on 10th Street." "Say, Britisher, aincher?" inquired another member of the group. "Yer wanna be careful with them Britishers, they're capable of burnin' down the White House." "Well," said another, "if you got the convictions, I got the box of matches." I thanked them all for their help and walked on only a few steps to find myself right outside the theatre. I fancied it might be some kind of a museum now but was surprised to discover that it was still the home of living drama. I ascended the stairs to the gallery. The interior evinced a simple elegance. The edge of the graciously curving gallery almost seemed to touch the stage and the box to its right where President Lincoln and his wife were sitting on that fateful night. Just then a group of tourists came in. The leader began: "It was in April, 1865--the Civil War had just ended--that Abraham Lincoln, our great president and the liberator of Negro slaves, was cut down in his prime by a deranged fanatic, John Wilkes Booth. On that night, the President and Mrs. Lincoln were sitting in that cosy little box watching a performance of a play with the title Our American Cousin. Now it was in the intermission that the President, in high spirits now that the war was over at last, discussed with his wife their projected tour of Europe and the Holy Land. His last words were: "There is no place I should like to see so much as Jerusalem." Then the doors flew open. The assassin, who as an actor himself, would enter the theatre at odd times to collect his mail, shot the President at blank range with his derringer. He then

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38leapt onto the stage and, brandishing a dagger, cried: "Sic semper tyrannis--Virginia is avenged!" That bit in Latin means--"So be it to all tyrants." The President was carried to a tailor's house across the street, where he died a short time afterwards. The assassin managed to get away from the theatre but was followed to a deserted warehouse and surrounded. He was never caught alive. It remains uncertain whether he died from his own bullet or from that of a pursuer. That's the story." After a slight hesitation. he added. "And Lincoln wasn't the last president to be killed by an assassin." The listeners gave each other knowing looks. "In fact, this century began with the assassination of an American president," said the guide as if to test the historical knowledge of the group. "MacDonald, wasn't it?" a lady suggested. The guide corrected her, adding: "At least we all know who the next one was... Everybody assented. "Which president came after Lincoln?" a gentleman asked. "Andrew Johnson," the guide answered. "Johnson?" someone said. "Say, it was Lyndon B. Johnson who came after Kennedy?" "I once read an article in a news magazine," said a lady with a Texas accent,” that listed a whole string of funny coincidences linking the two deaths." "Such as?" a sceptic asked. "Well, apparently, both the presidents were warned not to go either to the play or to Dallas. Yeah, and Lincoln's private secretary was a Kennedy, and Kennedy's a Lincoln, or something like that." "Strange"--"How eerie!"- -"It's "Fate, I suppose!" scoffed the sceptic. "What fate? You mean coincidence. It's all a matter of statistics. I once knew of a case when a guy was dealing at cards. The players looked at their cards in blank amazement. Each had got a compete suite of hearts, diamonds, clubs or spades. With all the millions of card games being played, it's bound to happen some time. You call it the law of averages." Just at that moment I heard someone chuckling. Such strange, sinister chuckles, it made a shiver go down my spine. I looked round--just as someone left. No, it couldn't be...that grey habit again. I would have run down the stairs to see who that person was, but a commotion started when an elderly gentleman had a funny turn. He slumped onto a chair and began muttering incomprehensibly. He seemed to be trying to say something to do with the stairs, to judge from the direction in which he was pointing. His chalk-white complexion was like that of a man who has seen a ghost.

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39VII: NOT FOR LOVE OR MONEY I left the theatre in a pensive mood. I did not pay attention to the direction in which I was walking, if any. It was now dark. I suddenly became aware of the delicious smell of roast meet wafting my way. I followed my nose round a corner and into a narrow dimly lit side street. I came across a strange little restaurant with the arresting name of "THE HOUSE OF FLESH." I had been in cafes and bars with quaint names and macabre interior decorations before. What mattered to me then was the hunger I felt. That smell of roast beef had the same effect on me as that mess of pottage had once had on Esau. The place was empty, or so it seemed. A surly-looking waiter appeared from behind a purple curtain. his thin lips, curled up at one corner, suggested the grin of a skull. Without a word he lit two black tapers on the candelabrum standing on the table and placed the menu in front of me. This included a number of unconventional items such as jellied serpent and crocodile's eggs, though I assumed that the roast bat was just there as a gimmick. I certainly was not going to order chauve-souris a la maison that evening. I just kept to the more pedestrian dish of roast potatoes and steak. We have very good wines, sir," said the waiter, adding as though by way of an after-thought "--red wines. I chose an exotic Balkan variety. The waiter returned with the wine and a silver goblet. How kinky, I thought. The bottle could have done with a dusting, but the wine itself left a pleasant enough taste on the palate, slightly acrid perhaps. Further draughts, however produced a strange feeling of muzziness. At last the waiter came with the steak. It was rare all right. Just as I put fork to mouth, I heard the wail of a passing siren. Maybe it was the ambulance coming to pick up the old gentleman who had suffered an attack at Ford's Theatre, I thought. I inspected the interior of the restaurant more closely. However much of a gimmick it all was, it struck me as convincing, in its own way, rather like the Gothic castle set in a Boris Karlov film. Perhaps it was something out of Edgar Allan Poe. There were finer touches, too--a calendar affixed to the wall by a coffin nail, for example. The day's date was ringed in what I assumed was red ink. This gave me cause for reflection. It was the twenty-second of November, a fateful day in the annals of American and world history. I reached into my left-inside jacket pocket and brought out my wallet. This I opened and from one of its compartments I took out an old envelope on which I started to doodle. First I wrote the date: 22. 11. 75 I proceeded thus: 22 + 11 = 33 33 · 3 = 11

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40ABCDEFGHIJK. 1234567R9 10 11 Vacantly staring at the figures and letters on the envelope, I began to feel distinctly ill at ease. For the first time I could sense that someone else was in the room with me. Perhaps he had slipped in unnoticed. Perhaps he had been there all the time. My eyes had become adjusted to the darkness. As I looked at the walls, I could make out a little niche or alcove in each of them just large enough to accommodate a couple of seats. Just right for couples eating out. On second thoughts, perhaps not. What a place to take a girl! The waiter came in to light a candle another table. I ate up the rest of my food. It was time to be getting along. I looked into my goblet to discover that the dregs had solidified, or rather coagulated, into a most unpleasant looking black mass. Another anxiety state was coming on. I somehow felt that if I happened to turn my head towards the lighted candle, I would see something capable of instilling the most profound terror within me. Even as a child I experienced a superstitious fear of anything that hung in dark wardrobes or fell draping the chairs in dark bedroom corners. I just had to leave. A breath of fresh air would do a power of good. All I had to do was pay and leave. Where was the waiter? Once outside I would hail a taxi and drive straight back to the motel. I would have an early night, get up early, have a big breakfast with lashings of coffee. I would check out, leave Washington and make south for Richmond and Williamsburg. There everything would be fine, just fine. I could continue my research on Poe without these adventitious props. Why wouldn't the waiter come? Each moment seemed like an hour. I heard the clicking of a clock on the wall. I could just make out its pendulum looking like the scythe of time swaying to and fro. To my horror, I heard movements, the sound of a chair-leg scraping along the floor, rats' feet scratching the paneling, a skeleton rattling in a cupboard, things like that. Like Lot's wife I looked round or rather half round. I dashed for the exit like a mad thing. For one dread moment I thought that the door was locked. I pulled it open with all the strength I could muster. I ran and I ran and I ran. Now I knew that my imagination had not been playing tricks on. The street was in total darkness like the darkness in Byron's poem on that theme. Just a power cut, the voice of reason assured. Maybe, but I wanted to reach the safety and security afforded by neon lights and illuminated advertisements, people looking at shop windows, cars driving down the street and the familiar smell of exhaust fumes. I had to get back to people. Then I saw a light, just a speck at first. As I ran with bursting lungs, the speck became a pool of light, the pool the world of people, cars and street lamps. I felt an immense relief. I slackened my pace and deeply inhaled the air. I could have kissed the first person I met walking down the street. I promised myself a double scotch at the next bar I came across. How good to be with ordinary men and women again. At the end of the block a bar was waiting for me. The nightmare was over. With a whiskey glass in my hand I could see things in perspective. What a fool I had been. So I had had a meal in a gimmicky restaurant, I had allowed my fertile imagination to get the better of me again and I had caught a glimpse of a fellow wearing a hooded vestment. It must have been a cleric who felt like

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41eating out for a change or more likely an actor who was waiting for a dress rehearsal. I had funny feeling in the pit of my stomach. This time it had nothing to do with fears about the paranormal, but it was unpleasant nonetheless. I hadn't paid the bill... but hadn't I taken out my...? In a reaction of sheer panic I felt for my wallet. My fears were fully justified. My wallet was not there. All I had on me was dime. The barman asked if it was time for a refill. He must have guessed that something was up from the startled expression on my face. I had to make a split-second decision. Either I would have to try and explain the situation or break for it. I couldn't face the idea of being on the run again. I looked the barman in the eyes and explained as best I could. When I told him about a restaurant around the corner, and he asked which one, I said that it was called "The House of Flesh." He made a face, then nodded at two guys standing behind near the door. They approached slowly with looks I can only describe as menacing. The bartender remarked on the very fine gold watch I was wearing. It would do nicely as a security while I went back to "The House of Flesh" to collect my wallet. Hardly had I left the bar when another thought struck me. The wallet contained my travelers' checks and my credit card. I would really be stuck if I did not get it back. Now came the test. I would have to return to the restaurant. If, as my reasoning self maintained, I had fallen victim to my own fancies, all I had to do was return there, apologize for leaving like that, ask for the wallet and pay the bill. There was just one little problem: Where was the restaurant? I looked for the intersection I had run to along a street with no lights. All the intersections I came across connected streets with their lamps in working order. Easy. The technical fault responsible for the darkness of the street I had run along had been rectified in the meantime. Fine, but that did not help me find the street. I turned right down a street I thought might have been the one I had come along, but it did not lead to "The House of Flesh." When I asked people if they could direct me to "The House of Flesh," they looked at me strangely, some with a smile of amusement, some with a gesture signifying suspicion, distrust or even fear. I felt embarrassed when I asked people where "The House of Flesh" was, but when I simply asked them if they knew of a restaurant which had rather strange interior decorations, they would invariably ask what it was called. I still had to say "The House of Flesh" in the end. Under any other circumstances l would have discontinued my quest, but other circumstances would not have been desperate. Without embracing Marxism or any of its tenets, I came to feel that a stranger in a big city with only a dime in his pocket was more a ghost than a living man in what I believe they term "the period of neo-capitalism." With no watch, either, I was losing my sense of time. I decided I would ask just one more person before returning to Arlington, if need be, on foot. To my immense relief, the person, a suave young man-about-town, said he knew lust the place I was looking for. He led me down a dark street. My heart was palpitating with excitement. He was giggling about something, but I had no idea what. When we turned a corner, I could see a red light. It was not quite as I remembered, but I was sure my ordeal was coming to an end. It would be too cruel to contemplate any other outcome. The young man pointed to a building and left with another giggle. It was only when I entered the place that I realized that I found myself in the foyer of a brothel. Before I had time to beat a retreat, a young and by no means unattractive young woman came up to me. Waggling her sparsely clad

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42anatomy, she asked if I had any special requests. Perhaps I just wanted standard terms and half an hour's fun. I told her that talk about any kind of terms, special or standard, was irrelevant, as I had only a dime on me. She laughed at the joke and ruffled my hair. When I emptied my pockets to show her that a dime was all I had, she just laughed so loud that a middle-aged lady and a tough guy came up to us wanting to know what all the fuss was about. She told them that I was just a harmless nut. She told me that a dime was good only for one thing and that also involved letting one's pants down. She whispered something in the lady's ear. Whatever the suggestion was, it did not meet with approval. "There's no room left for charity in this world," she said. "Come back when your finances are okay. Ask for Lola. You're cute." This incident was the final straw. Though it was now cold and damp, I would just have to cut my losses and walk to Arlington with no money, travelers' checks, credit card or the gold watch my father gave me for getting my "O" Levels. After a ten minutes' walk I came across a public convenience, which was just as well. I needed to use one badly. As the girl said, a dime is good for one thing, at least. Barely had I closed the toilet door behind me, when I heard someone else come down the steps accompanied by a strange rattling noise. I sat there for ten minutes not daring to make a sound. I listened for another five minutes but could hear no sign of life. I dashed out of the toilet and up the steps leading to the street. The fog had become denser. I walked ahead until I reached the Mall. Walking along, I could just make out the Constitution Monument and the White House illuminated by floodlight. The fog grew denser. An owl hooted. Again I had that funny feeling of not being alone. But one was in sight. What was that noise? My imagination was playing tricks on me again. I thought I heard the crackle of dead leaves under foot. There was a park on the left. I came to realize that I must have left the main road. The paving stones became less regular in shape and size before vanishing altogether. Little more remained than a track. I was just thinking of retracing my steps when I heard a strange rattling sound and twigs snapping. I quickened my pace. I was not the only one to do , it seemed. I started to run. The path was slippery, so slippery in fact that my running did little to augment my forward progress. Soon there was no path to follow, and I was forced to jump over bushes or duck under low-hanging branches. Sometimes, as I brushed past briars, thorns scratched my legs and arms. As in a nightmare, the cause of fear lay not in the knowable, however horrid, but in threats and dangers, which impinge upon the consciousness from the unknown realm.. No thought could bring hope or relief, not even the thought of Rachel, for a voice within told me that a sinful wretch such as I could never win the heart of so fair and pure a being. In vain I scanned the pages of literature for consolation. Those lines, which did spring to mind, were far from consoling, whether penned by Coleridge or Robert Browning: Like one, that on a lonesome road Doth walk and fear and dread And having once turned round, walks on

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43And then no more his head; Because he knows a frightful fiend Doth close behind him tread. For mark, no sooner was I fairly found Pledged to the trail~, after a pace or two Than pausing to throw backward a last view O'er the safe road, 'twas gone; grey plain all round, Nothing but plain to the horizon's bound. I might go on; nought else remained to do. No doubt remained. The strange figure I had caught a glimpse of in "The House of Flesh" was the one following at my heels. My ears told me that he was gaining on me despite my athletic exertions. Perhaps he was a brother of Spring-Heeled Jack, the bogeyman of the Victorian nursery room, or the werewolf. The crackle and snap of breaking twigs got ever louder. I heard a noise like the gnashing of teeth. My limbs ached, my legs felt as heavy as lead, their movement slow and barely responsive to the will. Just as I was ~n the point of giving in to a feeling of utter resignation to my fate, I saw an iron railing ahead. This signaled my final hope. If only I could reach and surmount that railing, there might be a chance of escaping my pursuer. I mustered all my strength for the dash, and by one last stupendous effort, I reached the obstacle and leapt. For an agonizing second I balanced on top of the railing, my legs not knowing which way to go, before lunging headlong down the other side. As I fell, I caught a glimpse of the Potomac's waters rolling down below.

VII I: FLATLINING IN THE POTOMAC The shock of falling into the cold river induced an experience so strange that I am daunted by the attempt to describe it. It was as though the names of all rivers and oceans babbled in my ears--the Potomac, the Rhine, the Amazon, the Thames, the Ganges, the Euphrates, the Seine, the Yang-Tse, the Weser, the Jordan. Then came the sensation of falling through air, as though I had been back in the airliner to Boston. The turbulence had become unbearable and the doors had burst open. I had been sucked out of the plane into the atmosphere. Falling, I could hear a sound like the squealing of rats. Below was a livid sea from which there rose the stench of putrefaction. Soon the color of this infernal sea had changed to a lurid red and yellow. My horror increased when I saw the loathsome forms on its surface-decaying corpses, skeletal wrecks, a scabby crust floating like pack ice on a frozen sea. Even more terrible than the scene itself was the awareness that I was about to be made part of it - like the wretched creatures I could see being merged and dissolved into the vile mass. Now I could make out hideous things like sea spiders that were crawling on the crust and lunging their probes into bodies as they floated by. I cannot remember the moment or even the manner of my immersion, only the futile

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44effort to prevent myself sinking into the morass. My frantic movements attracted the attention of one of those giant spiders. Slowly and deliberately it worked its way toward me. My legs felt something slimy and slippery; a feeling of utter disgust made me retch. I hoped for a quick, merciful end. Then something white of yet indefinite shape approached. It seemed to wade toward me. As it brushed past, I somehow knew there remained one chance of deliverance. I flung my arms round what I could now imagined to be the neck of a pale mare. I tightened my grip. I was being drawn along faster and faster until, to my immense horror, it made a terrifying plunge downwards into the depths of the foul sea. I held my breath until my lungs were near to bursting. The thought of breathing in that polluted substance terrified. When I could hold my breath no longer, I experienced for a moment that feeling of self-abandonment a dying man must feel. My eyes, hitherto kept closed, opened to a scene where all was drenched in a deep red light. The exquisite pain was over. I could breathe. The substance through which I was borne became translucent and air-like. The savor of sweet wine was on my tongue and the mane of the pale mare waved, as might the leaves of a plant in clear water. Fear had yielded to a sensation of emotional as well as physical buoyancy, for I now surveyed a delectable land where the mountains and hills had put on delicate hues of red and pink, a land with fairy castles where everybody from the King, with his long white beard, and Queen to the humblest servant were spellbound by the enchanting tone of the minstrel. Now confidently astride the white mare, I looked down over forests of trees that swayed to and fro, rising and heaving, like gigantic underwater plants. Fish and birds shared the same airy-liquid medium. The landscape gradually changed. Scenes of luxuriant growth were replaced by the desolation of a rocky and sandy waste. The horse no longer "swam" but moved on its hoofs in customary manner along a lonely track. This led into a rocky chasm, which was so narrow at one point that there was barely room to pass. As I looked up, the walls of rock took on the shapes of giants or titans raging against the heavens. Soon the chasm widened into a spacious canyon in which the first sight to meet my eyes was that of a magnificent temple facade cut into the rose-red sandstone. As I rode forward, more temples in the rock appeared. The path was now a paved road leading into a colonnade. Between the columns were the statues of great men in ages past, the emperors of Rome, philosophers and poets. Rough stones yielded to white marble, this to the gleam of silver and gold. I statues of gold; precious stones lay on the ground like pebbles by the wayside. I saw a figure like the Queen of Heaven adorned with precious stones--diamonds, sapphires, amethysts and emeralds. I could hear the music of the flute, lyre, trumpet and tumbrel and a woman's voice singing a lullaby. At last the statues came to life. A nymph clad in gold and purple smiled graciously, her hand outstretched for me to clasp. I tried to reach it, but the mare, like the ship of Ulysses, carried me past death and danger, for then I noticed a skull, overlaid with gold and silver, resting at her feet. The colonnade splayed out into a great forum beyond which stood a magnificent temple of white stone. I rode to the foot of a broad flight of steps leading to a forecourt in front of the temple's main portal. As I looked up, I beheld a great throne of white marble with six ivory chairs at either side. Twelve elders came through the great door and sat in their appointed places. At either side of the door stood a man in shepherd's attire with a ram's horn in his hand. This he placed to his lips and blew a sound that began as a long monotonous wail and ended in a series of high-pitched notes

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45like the call of a bird. A grave patriarch appeared at the door. A figure with a winged helmet walked beside him. When they reached the white throne, the patriarch sat while his attendant stood beside him holding a scroll of parchment. The horse climbed a flight of steps until we reached a white circle, and here it stood quite still. One of the elders rose from his seat and said my name. The patriarch looked at the attendant, and the attendant inspected the scroll. He made a sign with his staff. The patriarch, pointing at me, pronounced: "Not yet." His grave face yielded to a smile when he again said--this time to me personally--"Not yet." At that very moment I sensed a sharp pain in the back of my neck. I felt myself being pulled back through time. In the space of a few moments all that I had experienced in my strange vision flashed before me in reverse sequence, the forum, the colonnade, the canyon, the chasm, the desert, the lush forests and fairy castles. The pain grew more intense, for it was as though a bony hand had clasped me by the neck. Then the evil stench of the loathsome sea almost stifled me as the horrors of that hideous sight appeared again for a mercifully brief moment before I was braced by the sudden sensation of cold water over all my body. I looked up into the clear night sky. The stars seemed to be so near, like specks of silver I could sift through my fingers. With what awe I contemplated the greatness of the universe and the smallness of man. Only the divine spirit implanted in the human soul was not subject to the laws of physics and chemistry, which governed all else. It was as though I could hear Rachel say: "Many waters cannot quench love." I was conscious that I was being ferried back to the riverside. When l fully came to, I found myself lying on a mossy slope overlooking the Potomac. I enjoyed the rich aroma of decaying leaves. I must have fallen into the river, I thought. Something about a chase through bushes was coming back to me.. "You forgot something, Daniel--your wallet." I could hardly believe my ears. "I took the liberty of paying the waiter for the meal and the wine. I think this is yours too. You left it in a bar as a security, remember? Jake asked me to return it to you. "Thank you," I said, totally nonplussed, "Thank you very much indeed." I was still trying to figure everything out in my mind. The voice of rationalism in me chortled triumphantly: "Danny, you superstitious fool! Fancy just running out of the restaurant like that without paying, then running through the streets like a mad thing, then ordering a drink with only a dime in your pocket, failing to find your way back to the restaurant and then, to top it all, running off like a startled hare and jumping into

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46the Potomac. And all because you saw someone in a clerical habit. There are monks and friars, you know! Had you forgotten that there are still people around with enough true Christian charity to make them chase after nuts like you and return things you have left in the most unearthly places? This guy even dived into the Potomac after you and saved your life. Shame on you. As your father always said, a little less Edgar Allan Poe and a little more common sense. You're so heavenly-minded, you're no earthly good." Yet there was one thing my rational self could not explain. The hand that dangled my watch in front of me had no skin on it! IX: THE MOST WAY-OUT CHARACTER I HAVE EVER MET One part of me suspected it all along. Incidentally, I happened to notice that between the knuckles and the joint of his middle finger-bone a gold ring holding inlaid ruby and bearing the letter "H" loosely sat. Having a strong sense of occasion, I was overcome though undaunted. ”Sir...er...it was very foolish of me running away from you like that and fall- into the river." "Perhaps, but then your behavior was quite typical of your kind. Those who run away from me quite often precipitate their untimely deaths. Besides, if I'm really intent on catching someone, any attempt to escape will not avail. "Would it be proper to ask if... " "I derive any pleasure from hunting mortals? No, I even feel a certain affection for you. I like people to face up to me, to look me in the face, so to speak. I like to be treated as an equal, that's all. There's no need for superstitious dread, that kind of thing. That's silly. I just expect to receive the respect that attaches to my office. But there's one thing I can't put up with, though; that's when folks snub me as though I didn't count or even exist. Take a case just the other day--One of my detractors was walking down the street with his nose in the air, as usual. I must confess to feeling a tinge of satisfaction, hardly schadenfreude, when the mandate was given to settle up accounts. I saw to it that a manhole cover was removed just at the right--or wrong--moment." "You need a mandate?" "Of course. I'm in the executive rather than the legislative branch, you know. People go to extremes. Either I don't exist or I'm God! No, I can't always be certain until the last moment whether to go through with a job, whether my services will be required." "I don't quite follow."

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47"Don't worry, you will sooner or later. Now take yourself as an example. You remember the flight to Boston, don't you? Rather bumpy, wouldn't you say?" "I most certainly would! Hey, you..." "Thought your moment had come, eh?" "To be honest, I really thought it had." "This may surprise you. I wasn't too sure, either--or rather I mistakenly concluded that the plane would disintegrate and all on board would die. No, one can never be too sure about these things. It's only a hunch, but your prayer with its mention of Hezekiah may well have had something to do with it. Honest! God is always open to suggestions. Remember the story of Jonah? I sometimes even get a mandate to save people from themselves. You know the story about Clive of India?" "You mean, everything has its appointed term?" "You could put it like that. But why ask me? You've read the Book of revelation, I suppose. "You mean the part where it says: 'Vanity of Vanity, saith the preacher, 'all is vanity.' Rather depressing, to say the least. "Actually you quoted from Ecclesiastes. If you mean sombre, I agree. Men and women must simply come to accept the vanity of life before they can appreciate its true value. That's where I come in. If people took more account of me, they would surely take life and its unique opportunities that much more serious1y. Some, of course, go to the other extreme and fall in love with me. It can't be my looks that does it. In any case, I'm not what you'd describe as an ideal partner, the marrying kind, whatever. I'm too career-minded for that, and when would I be at home? No, seriously, I'll be along soon enough. People should be getting on with the business of living. Then there are those who describe me as the enemy of mankind. It depends how you want to look at things. It's men who design atom bombs, not the likes of me. If they're looking for the enemy of mankind, it's not me they're after, it's the Thief." "The Thief?" "Yes, the Thief of Time, man's most precious commodity, and the one that's most often squandered. If you have time, you'll get your chances to make money, if it's money you're after. Having money doesn't always give you time, not even a second. Take it how you will. Some millionaires I've known would have given up all their substance just for another day. Of course they would. If they couldn't tell a bargain when they saw one, they wouldn't have become millionaires. not even all the funds of the IMF can redeem a lost hour." "Funny, I'm sure I've heard someone say something like that before. Yes, it was during one of those five-minute religious slots at breakfast-time, I think."

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48"Quite possibly. There's little that I can tell you that you couldn't work out for yourself if you reflect a little and take time to study the three books... "The what? The Three Books, did you say? Which books?" "First the Book of Divine Revelation--the Bible, for short, without making allowances for such variations as the Koran. Then the Book of Nature. Thirdly, the Book of History." "I get your meaning as far as the first two books were concerned--more or less - but I'm not quite sure about this 'Book of History.' That's new." "In geometry a line is defined by two points, from the beginning-point and the end-point. A lifetime runs between birth and death. Cities, nations, even stars and planets exist in the space between two points." "That's all very abstract, if you'll allow me to say. I never took History at school. I was put off by learning all those dates. History must be interesting, though, once you get into it. A funny feeling came over me when I was in Ford's Theatre. Somehow, it all came alive--History I mean. By the way, was it...?" "Yes, I'm afraid it was. You must forgive me chuckling like that. I had no intention of scaring anybody or seeming superior. It's just that my sense of humor sometimes gets the better of me, especially when people glibly explain everything away in terms of statistics. They get so emphatic and pompous about it, too. They don't seem to realize that their talk about 'luck,' 'chance' and 'coincidence' quite honestly adds up to a confession of ignorance, when you think about it. "And it was you the time..." "Quite in the line of duty, I assure you. I can always be found rubbing shoulders with the crowd, if you really look. People don't usually notice I'm about. On the whole a good thing, I suppose. Far be it from me to distract people from attending to their daily affairs. Life must go on." "Talking of history, were the deaths of Kennedy and Lincoln related in some way?" "As a matter of policy I steer clear of discussing matters in any way connected with politics, but I don't wish to dodge the question entirely. Why not? Everything is, ultimately. Read what history has indelibly written for all those with eyes to see. Take the years 1066 and l660." "Er--the Norman Conquest and the Restoration of Charles II? Yes. But I don't quite see the connection. Was it got something to do with the fact that England has never been successfully invaded since 1066?" "Partly. You will agree that it is from the year 1066 that we number the kings and queens of England. For example, we do not refer to Edward the Confessor

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49as Edward I." "Yes, as you say, we number--he came before 1066. I get your point, but, with all respect, does that matter?" "What was restored in 1660?" "The monarchy, I suppose." "And who had overthrown the monarchy, temporarily at least?" "Oliver Cromwell." "How long for?" "England was without a kin8 from 1649 until 1660." "Which is 1066--somewhat rearranged. No, Cromwell interrupted the line of monarchs founded by the Conqueror, but he did not succeed in terminating it. Even so, he did point forward to a new era. Like Julius Caesar he was wise enough to repudiate the kingly crown. Perhaps he had set his eyes on a yet greater object. Kings might bow to Caesar, but never Caesar to a king." "But that was two thousand years ago!" "Two thousand years! What's that? True, a long time for mortals. You see, the same point that marks an end also marks a beginning. Underlying all things is continuity. Why is the past relevant if it can never be recalled? Only because it is part of a continuous totality to which the present belongs. Let me be precise. When did the Roman Empire end? When Ravenna became the capital of the Western Empire? Or with the demise of Romulus Augustulus? With the fall of Constantinople? Has it ever come to an end? Did not the Czars claim their title from the Byzantine emperors? As far as Cromwell was concerned, we see in him the beginning of a new line, a new page perhaps~--but not of a new book. He was the first Caesar of the Latter Age, an age whose imminent end will bring with it at least the close of a chapter. Cromwell was born in 1599. " "Why is that so significant? If he was going to be born, it had to be in some year, didn't it?" "Wait! Napoleon and Wellington were born in 1769, within three months of each other. " "If I follow your meaning, these Caesars of the latter age as you call them, tend to get born in a year ending with a '9.' What about Hitler?" "1889." "Stalin?" "1879. "

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50 "Are all these Caesars dictators?" I asked, pointing at the Lincoln Memorial. "By no means. 1809." Having read up on the life of Washington catch him out. "What about Washington, then?" I asked. "Born in 1732 on the 22nd of February."*(Death seems to be suffering from a slip of memory here. The actual date was the 17th or February 1712 - Catchpole) "That would be an exception to the rule then, would it?" "Don't forget that a line has an end as well as a beginning. Washington died in 1799, the year before this city bearing his name was founded. There will always be exceptions, of course. Take Franco. You yourself said they tend to be born in years ending in '9.' It's a theory, after all. Don't forget I've been around for so much longer than any of your historians, and things tend to leave an impression on the mind. Your grandfather may have seen Halley's comet when it appeared in 1910. I can remember it in 1066 and long before." "I can't pass off these things as 'coincidence' any more, but I still find it hard to lump Lincoln1n and Napoleon together under the heading of 'Caesar.'" "I find no particular difficu1ty myself, but then, consider me. Am I not the merciless tyrant that some would have me be--and the great leveler, the ultimate democrat, the impartial judge of all, no matter their social rating? Who hut I preaches so eloquently the brotherhood of man, if men had ears to hear? Is there freedom without death? Excuse my going on like this. I am so terribly misunderstood. If I don't put in a good word for myself, who else will? How would you like chasing around--like this?" he said as he rattled his hones more in sorrow than anger. "I've got tales to tell, though," he continued. "I'll never forget the night Napoleon and I met face to face." "On the Isle of St. Helena?" I inquired. "St. Helena? Goodness no!" "At Waterloo then?" "Hardly." "There's only Moscow left." "Aye, at Moscow! He was looking through a window at the embers of Moscow. Suddenly the panes frosted over. He looked round. A brave man, Napoleon. He

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51didn't flinch when he saw my face." "What did he say?" "Nothing. What could he? We both nodded in a kind of mutual recognition then he turned to the window. He looked sad but not frightened.' "Why do you think that was?" "People are frightened when they fear for their own physical welfare. As I said, Napoleon was a brave man. No, he understood the political and strategic significance of our encounter. He perceived what the frost on the windowpane and the ashes of Moscow meant for his political ambitions. "So it's all - err - - programmed?" "You could put it like that. Though hardly a poet myself, I've done my share of inspiring poets to write. Only God and Love share the same class. I would couch what you are trying to say in more poetic terms. For everything there is a season, a time to be born, and a time to die. I'm not very original, I'm afraid, but I can make a pertinent quotation. That’s from Ecclesiastes too, by the way: Much as I would like to continue chatting like this, boy, duty calls. "I very much appreciate your giving up so much of your valuable time to this-- er --interview. There's so much else I would have liked to ask you about dates and numbers." "Indeed, much instruction lies in numbers, much wisdom in their interpretation, yet one kind of numbering excels all other kinds in importance." "Which?" I cried. "Psalm 90, verse 12. Really must be getting along.” To the click of his finger-bones, he summoned his pale steed. This appeared as a wandering star. It grew in size until it assumed the shape of a horse descending from the night sky. Then it came to rest beside his master. Having mounted his steed, he turned round, allowing me to catch a glimpse of his face. I shall not attempt to describe it. Earlier it would have struck terror into me, that is all I can say. As horse and rider ascended into the starry sky, he turned to me a last time "Au revoir!" I shouted. "Au revoir!" he answered, "Auf Wiedersehen! Hasta la vista! See you!" I required no further proof that he was a master of all living tongues, not to mention a few dead ones, for good measure.

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52"When?" I asked. The words had no sooner parted from my lips than I realized the folly of my question. "When the lease expires. You have had one extension, so use well the time that remains. When I return, it won't be for a chat." The rider and his pale horse rose higher and higher till all I could see of them was a point of light that moved like a roving planet among the stars. Suddenly I felt dizzy. I slumped to the mossy ground and fell into a deep sleep. It had been a very eventful and tiring day. If my readers expect any further accounts of strange encounters, I must disappoint them. The end of my tale will come as an anticlimax perhaps. When I round next morning I found myself laid out on a hospital bed. A pretty nurse was at my bedside with a syringe in her hand. When I opened my eyes and looked at her, she said: "So you are awake at last. You're something of a curiosity around these parts." A doctor came in and inspected my eyes with an ophthalmoscope. "You're lucky to be alive," he commented. "When they picked you up, they first took you for dead: You had us fooled. You must have been in some deep trance state. Do you do yoga? Anyway, welcome back to life!" Next day I was asked to write a report of the incidents leading to my being found on the bank of the Potomac. Before my "return to life" the police were going to treat me as a case of homicide. Even now the file had not been closed. They had not been able to work out how my clothes were drenched through though my wallet remained dry. My report was quite candid, making reference to an unnamed person wearing a hood and clerical habit. Alluding to his skeletal appearance, I referred to "the signs of severe malnutrition" he evinced, "his skinny, even skinless fingers. Shortly after I had handed in the report, they transferred me to another department of the hospital, where I was placed under the supervision of a team of neurologists and psychologists. I was required to do a number of psychological tests--you know, with ink blotches and that kind of thing. I had to repeat my account of what I had experienced in and around the Potomac. They would buy the dream but not the conversation with Death. That bore "the traits of a conscious effort of allegorization." Then the tests were discontinued and I was left "to rest" for a few days. Eventually a young doctor from London entered the room. He gave every impression of wanting to help a fellow-countryman in trouble. I seized on this heaven-sent opportunity. I told him everything. He paid close attention to every word I said., Now and again he made a nod or other gesture of sympathy. He asked intelligent questions. A great burden was lifted when he expressed his belief that modern science could not explain everything and added that even the Russians were taking a close interest in parapsychology and telepathy. He gave me an injection, saying it would help me to feel better. I became very drowsy afterwards. It was not only the drug that gave me a wonderful feeling of well-being. The consciousness that at least a

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53compatriot had given me a fair hearing greatly contributed to my sense of euphoria. I could hear them talking about me. They must have assumed that I was asleep. I can distinctly remember his words to the nurse: "Poor chap! Stark raving bonkers, of course!" Next day who should come bouncing into my room but Pete. His sympathy and bonhomie cheered me up no end. "How are you then?" he would ask. "There, there, everything will work out fine, just fine--you'll see. We were all so shocked to learn about your--er--accident..." Give him his due, Pete did a lot to help in practical ways. With his arrival everything somehow got cleared up. At the end of the week I was discharged. Pete saw to the hospital bills. The police file was closed. According to their assessment, I had lost my bearings and had fallen into an acute anxiety state centering on the problems of time and money. That's why I discarded my wallet and watch before jump into the river. One problem remained. If I had managed to swim back to the bank, why should I have fallen into a coma-state on dry land? They conceded that it was possible that "an unknown party," i.e. "the skeletal figure in a cleric's robes (here my state of mind would have to be taken account of) had rescued me before vanishing from the scene. He would have had his own reasons for not wanting to get involved. The whole way my case was treated struck me as odd, as though there something behind it I could not fathom. Even today, I am not sure which is the more impenetrable--the occult or bureaucracy. Pete decided to have the boneshaker scrapped on the spot. We flew back to Boston. I never asked who paid for the ticket I stayed with Pete and Hilda for a few days. I was given a terrific .send--off the day I flew back to London. No turbulence this time. Very smooth. Seated next to me was an impeccably dressed gentleman of about fifty. His swarthy face sported a pert moustache that neatly bordered his upper lip like a line drawn in black ink. His English was too good to be that of a native speaker. He was, in fact, an Egyptian professor of English who had just completed a sabbatical tour in the United States. I engaged him in conversation by commenting that Robert Browning was one of my favorite poets. I had noticed that he had "The Pied Piper of Hamlin in front of him. Not only this: he was actually underlining parts of it in differ colors of ink. I made a mental note of those lines marked in red: "What's dead can't come to life, I think" "He never can cross that might top" "And ere he blew three notes..." It was good to find someone else shared my view that the poem had not received the serious attention it warranted. Even if it did not count as one of Browning's difficult works, it could still be read at more than one level of meaning. The professor explained that the origins of the legend went back to the age of the Plague and the Black Death. In the early Latin versions of the story, the hill to which the Pied Piper led the children was Mount Calvary. Suddenly I thought of the Arabs who fell into a panic during the turbulence on the flight over. What was it they shouted? Something like Check Mate or Sheikh something. The professor was able to put me right.

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54With an uncanny smile he said: "I think you mean Sheikh Maut--the Lord of Death in Arabian folklore." As it happens I have a copy of a translation of a poem in Arabic referring to this figure. Yes, the original author is anonymous but we know who the translator was, an eccentric scholar and minor poet by the name of Dr. Percy Roderick Askew. Not much known outside the field, you know. Had rather an ambiguous standing in view of the undisclosed, some thought dubious nature of his sources. Wrote articles on Chatterton and Macpherson, the "translator of ancient texts in Gaelic." Here I have a spare copy." (see attachment) Looking out of the window ,I surveyed the banks of cumulus below and imagined I could see in them sleeping giants or fairy castles in a far-off land beyond the reach of fear and death and war. Funny, only when we were preparing to land did I notice something on the middle finger of the professor's right hand. It was a gold ring carrying a large red stone. I had seen one very like it somewhere else not so long before. FROM HAMLIN'S DESOLATION Who is like the Pied Piper In his coat of red and gold? who is like the minstrel that sings away our gnawing cares, and drowns them in the rivers that wash the green-blue sea? Who is like the physician healing of plagues in Egypt land? Or who like the prophet leading out his children bound? Who is like the chastener that humbles the proud and vain? Who is like the victor that 'can cross that mighty top'? Who is like the player that breathed sweetly as a bird of dawn three notes upon his pipe? Who is like the skull-capped dancer outdancing the dancer Death? Can we, feet frozen, answer? Who is like the Pied Piper in his coat of red and gold, whose eyes like salted flames absorb green seas and golden shores, who leads away his children to a joyous, promised land, who like the sun in red and gold dies but to rise again? Whither he passed we do not know, nor guess his kith and kin?

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55 He is like Melchizedek, Musician, Priest and King, He is the Lord of summer. of autumn, winter, sprlng.

Attachment 2. Dr. P.A. Askew's Translation of anonymous Arabic Poem. What was that? Or what was that? A cat's shadow by moonlight? So told this tale a desert pilgrim to his son: "That day the sun seemed from my brow a camel's hair away. Below my feet burning liquid gold. Upon a dune a figure stood like none I ever saw. But for Allah's mercy I that day had died where on my knees I fell. Was this Sheikh Maut, of whom once Abdul spake in fearful tone.’ The night Infant brother died, I saw an angel's shape louring over the cradle where he lay and snatched methought his very breath away? ' And many more have told such tales. Some say in black, some say in white some say in garbs of gold an purple stripe Sheikh Maut appears in palaces, or where the beggar cries:’ For Allah, and His mercy's sake a coin, a coin.' I heard no voice save that of sand and wind: 'Here all is one, the endless sea of land, but not to mock, he preaches unto deaf and blind. It is to teach the brotherhood of Man'" © Copyright 2001 netrov (UN: netrov at Writing.Com). All rights reserved. netrov has granted Writing.Com, its affiliates and its syndicates non-exclusive rights to display this work.