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slanted tub, I stared out at it absorbedly.
staring at the twinkling expanse of sil ver-gray before me, and the two moonwhite things curvetting. The strong slap of the water beneath matched the strong salt breath now beginning to blow in from the sea. A sudden yawn, however, tore into my satisfaction. I realized that even silver-gray, moonlit wharf-boards belie their appearance and become hard; and that for all the poetry of the pale and airy world with which I was surrounded, I deeply and materialistically wanted to lie down. The friendly cat had spirited herself away. The harbor looked suddenly blank and empty, the black wharfshadows dreary.
So I rose stiffly, and picked my way cautiously along by the fish-house. There was, of course, the same wearisome necessity of being always very quiet. On the shore lay the silvered water-line of the old town, magical under the light; but no invitation came from there. My hand, as I passed, rested for an instant on the rim of one of the tipped-up tubs, great things, cavernous with shadow, and I wondered to find how velvet-soft it was inside. I stopped, feeling it with pleasure. It was absolutely dry, as soft as a peach, and very similar in touch. The fibers had been scrubbed until they were furry. I bent, putting my head in. How fresh and clean it smelled! It was as large as a tiny house.
And then an impulse seized me violently. I laughed, my head still in the tub; a broad gurgle of sound surrounded me. Quickly smothering the laugh, I gave one swift glance around at the empty night, and stepped into the tub, sliding unexpectedly far down. It rocked gently, then subsided. Smiling at my small quarters, I wriggled around; head-room was low, but cozy. As I turned, a perfect circle of moonlit harbor confronted me, framed by the dark edge of the tub. It contained three neat boats at anchor, and one point of land sticking out, an adequately furnished view, and, like everything I was destined to see that night, immoderately Japanese. Its roundness made it extraordinarily charming, after all, more a Botticelli of a landscape; and, still crumpled in the bottom of the
Whenever I touched the tub, I met a velvetiness; the whole tub smelled of wonder at the comfort of it, and finding a delicious curve whereby one's feet mildly ascended, following the halfcircle. The tub was offering its best hospitality, as my poor, bolted house had been rudely prevented from doing. Could there be a sweeter spot, a better outlook? Not even my wind-swept dune was more refreshingly bare and airy. airy. After a moment's hesitation I leaned my cheek boldly against the soft curve, concluding that if the tubs of antiquity were as comfortable as this one, I should certainly waste no more pity on Diogenes, and wondering, with our easy distrust of older times, if the philospher's selected residence could indeed have been as roomy, as seemly, and as presentable as mine.
Below, among dark mysteries of the under-wharf, the water placidly slipslopped; the sea-wind blew gently in, fluffing a lock of hair across my face. In another instant I was asleep.
A sound, huge and vague, began to trouble my weary half-consciousness. It grew clearer and steadier, becoming at last loudly syllabic:
"Ker-chug, ker-chug, ker-chug!" Waking, I listened tensely. It was a boat approaching! I could distinguish the wooden clop of oars on thole-pins, the short, hasty strokes of a fisherman accustomed to rowing in a sea. And it was coming horribly near; evidently he was rowing himself in from one of the schooners to land at this very fishhouse. He would have to pass close by my tub, for it was set in the only and narrow thoroughfare of the wharf, and as he passed, he would undoubtedly look in. At which somehow awful thought I shriveled far down into its depths. What were the embarrassments of a midnight inn to this! I dared not jump out or even glance out, for the tubs stood in a commanding position, and I should certainly be seen; so I continued to cower as low as possible, pulling my linen coat frantically down.
"Ker-chug, ker-chug-" but was that really any nearer? I listened, holding my breath. "Ker-chug, ker-chug, ker
chug-" Thank Heaven, it was going away, growing fainter and fainter!
That blessed and wholly delightful fisherman had betaken himself to some other wharf.
With a gasp of relief I sat up, my Panama very much over one eye, the sound of oars meanwhile drawing pleasantly farther and farther away. Peering cautiously from the Botticelli circle, I perceived a pallid rim of sky already showing to eastward, though a vigorous morning star was shining across the water, and my pink lighthouse still blinking on its bar. How lovely this dim hour before dawn! But soon,
I knew, more boats, more domestically minded fishermen, would be coming ashore; now was my time to climb out without being seen.
Woefully sleepy, I scrambled out, though with far more difficulty than I had coasted in. Was my tub a relative of Avernus, then, into which descent had ever been of classic ease? I stood upright on the wharf, 'feeling chilly and exposed, facing the dawnwind and the two lighthouse-eyes across the harbor. I glanced back into my comfortable refuge, giving it a grateful pat as I turned lingeringly away. Poor dear Diogenes! did etiquette ever rout you out of yours when you did n't want to go? Mine, I saw, had not budged from its original angle, but stood in a slanted row with the others,
empty and unremarkable. unremarkable. If early fishermen now visited the wharf or came ashore in their dories, they would see nothing to interest them in my night's establishment.
Perhaps, indeed, these special tubs, set up so insistently to the air, were soon to be used; perhaps they would pickle something in them this very day. Trying to choke back audible mirth at this diverting idea, I retreated along the wharf, on which there was now no revealing moonlight or any friendly blocks of shadows, either; for the moon had dipped low. My unique resting-place had given me at least an hour or two of solid, if circular, repose, and though I had never before been part of so Botticellish an arrangement, or slept in anything so engagingly simple and guileless as a tub, still, at the moment, weighed down by sleepiness, I could have obliterated myself gladly again within its rotund and kindly accommodation.
Soon the sandy road dimly led me around the point of our dune. The small house stood darkly, unrecognizably on its hill, a mere impersonal bump, making me feel oddly lonely as I stared up at it. The world seemed composed either of utter solitude, or else of a succession of places crowded with sleeping people, where one must try very hard to make no noise. Wearily I turned to the nearest dune-face, which
showed here and there a receptive, bald hollow untufted with beach-grass, and resigned myself to an intermittent doze, waking after a time to the roar of gratified mosquitoes from the marsh, who in the breathless dawn were having a fiesta over this unexpected meal spread upon the dune. Across the bay a red ball was rolling up behind a blue bar of distant shore. Sunrise!
A puff of air, foretelling the wind that comes up with the sun, met me as I ran down to the edge of our creek where it widened invitingly toward the harbor. It was running swiftly out, well on the ebb. The light glinted on the sandy bottom through the clear water; I looked at it longingly a moment, then seized my supine bag and fled up the path to the wooded hill.
Far out in the marsh a figure swathed in trailing white presently picked its way through the stiff-bladed grass to the edge of the upper creek. Splash! and down the deep channel it gleefully drifted, over great holes scooped by the current, a wall of bright-green reeds on each side, rosy clouds overhead, and the tips of the grass-wall becoming charmingly alight with sunrise; on and on, around a bend, hurrying with the serene hurry of the tide. The slit of sky above was changing to fiery red; the push and sweep of the water was delicious. Perhaps, I thought, as it curled around my chin, even Ophelia may have exulted in that brief moment in the "weeping brook" when
cast; and once it impelled me enough out of my course, so that I brushed against the bank of the marsh and felt its crabby breath in my face as I looked far into its mysterious, cathedral-like dusk between the stems of the reeds, which in the distance stirred slightly with the passing of some unseen watercreature. Near by, small brown crabs were scrabbling through the roots of the grasses, happy and light-hearted in their mud, just like biologists!—and waving their nippers ferociously at one another.
I, too, should have very much liked to chant or to shout, but was quite breathlessly busy steering around turns and over deep spots where one glanced thrillingly down and saw the delightful scary green depths below, with dim eels wriggling, and great crabs parading about. The strong-willed tide twisted freakishly, trying to cast me up on sand-bars, as all proper drift should be
With only the sweep of the tide about me, an unearthly glow from fiery cloud overhead, and the green, fast-flying walls on each side, the world was utterly shut out; indeed, after indefinite drifting, it had almost begun to seem as if there were no world but this one of silence and swift waters, when, swinging around a familiar bend, I found myself at last grounding on familiar sands.
Snatching my linen coat from its twig in the cherry-tree, I hastened gladly across the reassurance of stolid sand-flats under discouraged willows. The surface of the sea was wrinkling; a sailing-breeze had sprung up. I felt damp and cool and very salt, and ravenously hungry not so much for food as for mere, priceless speech with my kind, having lived through in that one night, it seemed, considerably more than my desired year of solitude.
From the harbor came inspiriting sounds: a competing chock of oars; ropes running through blocks as schooner-sails went up, the retrogressive rat-tatting of gasoleners already on their way to sea.
The good sunshine lay on white fences and houses, smoke soared ingratiatingly from many small chimneys, and as fishermen hurried back and forth from the shore, I found myself actually clutching at snatches of their rough talk and laughter, listening eagerly as to something precious.
By a familiar, gray wharf, which wandered seaward from the heart of the town, I stopped, staring at a line of busy figures in oilskins bent absorbedly over a row of tubs that stood besides the wall of a fish-house. Pickling had begun!¦
"In her own strength lies her pride. She is not a woman. beauty, loneliness, cruelty and the ultimate passion of all life."
HE prisoners who were to die by the queen's command at the rising of the sun (her brother) lay face downward in the sand, some of them drunken, and others sober despite the wine that the guards had permitted them on their last night on earth, and told the strange histories of their wayward souls-the histories that were to end at dawn.
There were twelve of them. They had come from all parts of the queen's kingdom to this moon-lit prison-yard, set about by insurmountable walls so thickly built that soldiers paced their heights three abreast. The prisoners, if they cared to look, could see them up there, their arms and armor glinting in the moonlight as they moved back and forth, so far above that they seemed to promenade among the stars. One date
tree in the distance beyond spread its palms against the moon-washed sky. The youngest prisoner, the silent and imperturbable boy who often smiled at his own thoughts, had a special name for the date-tree; "the queen's fan," he called it. The soldiers on the wall laughed and talked, but the prisoners could not hear them, and the soldiers could not hear the prisoners, who also talked and sometimes laughed.
Only the beasts slept, the great beasts from the jungle who paced by day the broad area that circled the deep-walled yard, and kept a watch that the most desperate man, even though condemned to die by torture, would hesitate to chance even in a drunken dream of freedom. And beyond the vast ring of the beasts there was still another
She is force-force,
circle, broad, and defined by sharp walls set within the higher outer wall. Here, where there were only sand and rocks, and about a spring a few low trees and some rank grass, lived the reptiles, long, evil snakes, forever athirst for the blood of man or horse or bird, or low-lying, prowling, seeking, hateful, forever waiting to whip his life from some intruder.
An ascetic young man, always pale and wet with a continual sweat, wiped the cold moisture from his eyelids, dried his hand in the sand, and then turned on his back to look up at the stars. was from another land, a land to the north; he had come preaching a strange religion. The sun, he had preached, was not God. The sun could not be God; the sun was only the sun. God was a mighty being who kept himself in a silver heaven, and with a million eyes looked down upon this world; God, he preached, had a million hands with which to scourge the wicked and the unbelievers and from which to pour benefits upon the righteous and the meek. The queen herself did not hesitate to listen to the strange prophets and priests that now and then came down the great yellow road that ran through her kingdom. They amused her; sometimes they excited her: but she felt that it was very bad for the morale of her subjects to have the validity of her religion debated. Her brother, the sun, whom all men and women and even the littlest children, worshiped as the giver of all good things, was not to be spoken of skeptically by strange young men from the north. So this white and feverish one was taken and flogged and