A novel of Present Day Discontents
All hands shall be feeble and all knees
shall be weak as water.
They shall also gird themselves with sackcloth,
and horror shall cover them;
and shame shall be on all faces,
and baldness upon all their heads.
– Ezekiel, vii
Table of Contents
1. The Anchor
2. A Note from the Summerhouse
3. Flying Iran Airways
6. Mrs Arrowsmith’s Establishment
7. Types of Rudeness
9. Baal is Mentioned
10. A Garden Party
11. Headington and Disappointment Street
12. The Secret Shooting
13. Akhram’s Tale
14. A Hint of Eternity
15. Bangalore on the Line
16. Real World Stuff
17. A Funeral for Old Holderness
18. Preparing for the Tropics
19. Another Visit to Eagles Rest
20. Haggard’s She
21. Quetzalcoatl & Co
22. The Meeting at the Village Hall
23. Every Existing Thing Has a Reason
By the same author from The Friday Project
About the Publisher
Phantom Intelligences open Thomas Hardy’s drama The Dynasts. The Shade of the Earth interrogates the Spirit of the Years. This is their first exchange.
Shade of the Earth
‘What of the Immanent Will and Its designs?’
Spirit of the Years
‘It works unconsciously, as heretofore,
Eternal artistries in Circumstance,
Whose patterns, wrought by wrapt aesthetic rote,
Seem in themselves Its single listless aim,
And not their consequence.’
A crouching figure was illuminated by the stub of a candle burning on a saucer. The figure was that of a full-skirted woman, kneeling before the candle on the floor of a little dark room in a hired house. Scalli – she now called herself Scalli, for none of the English for whom she worked could pronounce her real name – Scalli in her little dark room abased herself before the figure of her god. She addressed that imaginary figure, which she saw clearly, asking him to preserve her daughter, who was so far away. Her dog lay beside her in what it considered a reverential position: begging. Scalli also begged.
‘Oh, mighty Baal,’ Scalli said, ‘I know I am nothing in your sight. I know I am mere filth on the ground over which you walk. Yet I beg you hear my despicable voice. I cry out to you for my daughter Skrita in Aleppo. In Aleppo she lies sick. As you rose again from the dead, so I beg you, raise up Skrita. I cannot be by my daughter’s side. I beg you to be there in my stead and raise her back to health, oh mighty Baal!’ She rose slowly from her crouching position and went to sit on the side of her unmade bed. There was nothing else she could do, trapped in this alien land of England.
At this hour of a summer evening, the road running through Old Headington was quiet. Two young people, both female, one black, one white, strolled along the pavement and turned down Logic Lane. Sorrow is a constant; fortunately, we take a while to learn that. Out of friendliness, Ken Milsome walked with Justin Haddock to the crossroads. They had been drinking tea with Ken’s wife, Marie. It was no more than three hundred yards from this point to Justin’s house. Justin’s legs, a permanent trouble, were not troubling him too badly this evening. The two men stood together, watching the desultory traffic. Both morning and evening rush hour choked the road with cars driving to or from Oxford’s ring road; but at this time of day the automobile might not have been invented. Justin was wearing a panama hat, to protect his head from the sun: that head from which a generous proportion of hair had retreated. On the corner, opposite where the men stood, was the Anchor, one of the two village pubs – this the bigger and sterner of the two. It had been bought by a married couple but had recently been put up for sale. Rumour had it that this couple, unlikely as it might seem to most of the villagers, had been born in the chilly reaches of Siberia.
‘I was sympathetic at first,’ said Ken.
‘She’s Russian, the wife,’ said Justin.
‘Latvian,’ said Ken. ‘They’re both Latvian. She should have played to her strengths and served borscht and blinis or whatever Latvians eat. All she served was cod and parsley sauce.’
‘No doubt. She complained that she has no customers. “And I have so clean floor,” she told Marie. But she wouldn’t allow swearing in her pub, if you can believe it.’СКАЧАТЬ