Lundi 06 juin 2011

The wheat was golden brown

July haze hung over the valley, dimming outlines; heat shimmered the air above the fields. It was a day without hard edges. The breeze that moved through the valley was soft and warm. The corn was luxuriant, higher than a man’s head. The wheat was golden brown, responsive to any change in the wind; the entire field moved at once, as if it were a single organism rippling a muscle, relieving tension perhaps. Beyond the corn the land broke and tumbled down to meet the river, which looked smooth and unmoving. The river was crystal clear, but from the second floor of the hospital, by a trick of the haze-filtered light, the water became rust-colored and solid, metal dulled by neglect. Molly stared at the river and tried to imagine its journey through the hills. She let her gaze drift back toward the dock and the boat there, but trees concealed it from the upper floor of the hospital. There was a film of sweat on her face and neck. She lifted her hair from the back of her neck where some of it clung, plastered to her skin. “Nervous?” Miriam slipped her arm about Molly’s waist. Molly rested her head against Miriam’s cheek for a second, then straightened again. “I might be.” “I am,” Miriam said. “Me too,” Martha said, and she moved to the window also, and put her arm through Molly’s. “I wish they hadn’t chosen us.” Molly nodded. “But it won’t be for so long.” Martha’s body was hot against her, and she turned from the window. The apartment had been made from three adjoining hospital rooms with the partitions removed; it was long and narrow with six windows, and not one of them was admitting any breeze that late afternoon. Six cots lined the walls; they were narrow, white, austere. “Let me do your hair now,” Melissa called from the far end of the room. She had been combing and braiding her own hair for the past half hour, and she turned with a flourish. Dressed in a short white tunic with a red sash, corn-straw sandals on her feet, she looked cool and lovely. Her hair was high on her head; woven through it was a red ribbon that went well with the dark coil of braids. The Miriam sisters were inventive and artistic, the style setters, and this was Melissa’s newest creation, which would be copied by the other sisters before the end of the week. Martha laughed delightedly and sat down and watched Melissa’s skillful fingers start to arrange her hair. An hour later when they left their room, walking two by two, they moved like a single organism and looked as alike as the stalks of wheat. Other small groups were starting to converge on the auditorium. The Louisa sisters waved and smiled; a group of Ralph brothers swept past in a run, their long hair held back by braided bands, Indian fashion; the Nora sisters stepped aside and let Miriam’s group pass. They looked awed and very respectful. Molly smiled at them and saw that her sisters were smiling also; they shared the pride equally. As they turned onto the broader path that led to the auditorium steps, they saw several of the breeders peeking at them over the top of a rose hedge. The faces ducked out of sight, and the sisters turned as one, ignoring them, forgetting them instantly. There were the Barry brothers, Molly thought, and tried to pick out Ben. Six little Claras ran toward them, stopped abruptly, and stared at the Miriam sisters until they went up the stairs and into the auditorium. The party was held in the new auditorium, where the chairs had been replaced by long tables that were being laden with delicacies usually served only at the annual celebration days: The Day of the First Born; Founding Day; The Day of the Flood . . . Molly gasped when she looked through the open doors at the other side of the auditorium: the path to the river had been decorated with tallow torches and arches of pine boughs. Another ceremony would take place at dockside, after the feast. Now music filled the auditorium and sisters and brothers danced at the far end and children scampered among them, playing their own games that appeared governed by random rules. Molly saw her smaller sisters intent on pursuit, and she smiled. Ten years ago that could have been she, and Miri, Melissa, Meg, and Martha. And Miriam would have been somewhere else, having been eluded again, wringing her hands in frustration or stamping her foot in anger that her little sisters were not behaving properly. Two years older than they, she carried her responsibility heavily.

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He opened his eyes painfully. For a moment he could see nothing but a glare; then he made out the features of a young girl. She was reading a book, concentrating on it. Dorothy? She was his cousin Dorothy. He tried to rise, and she looked up and smiled at him. “Dorothy? What are you doing here?” He couldn’t get off the bed. On the other side of the room a door opened and Walt came in, also very young, unlined, with his nice brown hair ruffled. David’s head began to hurt and he reached up to find bandages that came down almost to his eyes. Slowly memory came back and he closed his eyes, willing the memory to fade away again, to let them be Dorothy and Walt. “How do you feel?” W-1 asked. David felt his cool fingers on his wrist. “You’ll be all right. A slight concussion. Badly bruised, I’m afraid. You’re going to be pretty sore for a while.” Without opening his eyes David asked, “Did I do much damage?” “Very little,” W-l said. Two days later David was asked to attend a meeting in the cafeteria. His head was still bandaged, but with little more than a strip of adhesive now. His shoulder ached. He went to the cafeteria slowly, with two of the clones as escorts. D-l stood up and offered David a chair at the front of the room. David accepted it silently and sat down to wait. D-l remained standing. “Do you remember our class discussions about instinct, David?” D-1 asked. “We ended up agreeing that probably there were no instincts, only conditioned responses to certain stimuli. We have changed our minds about that. We agree now that there is still the instinct to preserve one's species. Preservation of the species is a very strong instinct, a drive, if you will.” He looked at David and asked, “What are we to do with you?” “Don’t be an ass,” David said sharply. “You are not a separate species.” D-l didn’t reply. None of them moved. They were watching him quietly, intelligently, dispassionately. David stood up and pushed his chair back. “Then let me work. I’ll give you my word of honor that I won’t try to disrupt anything again.” D-l shook his head. “We discussed that. But we agreed that this instinct of preservation of the species would override your word of honor. As it would our own.” David felt his hands clench and he straightened his fingers, forced them to relax. “Then you have to kill me.” “We talked about that too,” D-1 said gravely. “We don’t want to do that. We owe you too much. In time we will erect statues to you, Walt, Harry. We have very carefully recorded all of your efforts in our behalf. Our gratitude and affection for you won’t permit us to kill you.” David looked about the room, picking out familiar faces. Dorothy. Walt. Vernon. Margaret. Celia. They all met his gaze without flinching. Here and there one of them smiled at him faintly. “You tell me then,” he said finally. “You have to go away,” D-l said. “You will be escorted for three days, downriver. There is a cart loaded with food, seeds, a few tools. The valley is fertile, the seeds will do well. It is a good time of year for starting a garden.” W-2 was one of the three to accompany him. They didn’t speak. The boys took turns pulling the cart of supplies. David didn’t offer to pull it. At the end of the third day, on the other side of the river from the Sumner farm, they left him. Before he joined the other two boys who left first, W-2 said, “They wanted me to tell you, David. One of the girls you call Celia has conceived. One of the boys you call David impregnated her. They wanted you to know.” Then he turned and followed the others. They quickly vanished among the trees. David slept where they had left him, and in the morning he continued south, leaving the cart behind, taking only enough food for the next few days. He stopped once to look at a maple seedling sheltered among the pines. He touched the soft green leaves gently. On the sixth day he reached the Wiston farm, and alive in his memory was the day he had waited there for Celia. The white oak tree that was his friend was the same, perhaps larger, he couldn’t tell. He could not see the sky through its branches covered with new, vivid green leaves. He made a lean-to and slept under the tree that night, and the next morning he solemnly told it good-bye and began to climb the slopes overlooking the farm. The house was still there, but the barn was gone, and the other outbuildings—swept away by the flood they had started so long ago. He reached the antique forest where he watched a flying insect beat its wings almost lazily and remembered his grandfather telling him that even the insects here were primitive—slower than their more advanced cousins, less adaptable to hot weather or dry spells. It was misty and very cool under the trees. The insect had settled on a leaf, and in the golden sunlight it too seemed golden. For a brief moment David thought he heard a bird’s trill, a thrush. It was gone too fast to be certain, and he shook his head. Wishful thinking, no more than wishful thinking. In the antique forest, a cove forest, the trees waited, keeping their genes intact, ready to move down the slopes when the conditions were right for them again. David stretched out on the ground under the great trees and slept, and in the cool, misty milieu of his dream saurians walked and a bird sang.
Par kaceyhanxu - 0 commentaire(s)le 06 juin 2011

I’ll come now

He stared at their smooth young faces; so familiar, living memories every one of them, like walking through his own past, seeing his aged and aging cousins rejuvenated, but rejuvenated with something missing. Familiar and alien, known and unknowable. Behind H-3 the swinging door opened and W-1 came out, still in surgical gown and mask, now down about his throat. “I’ll come now,” he said, and the small group opened for him. He didn’t look again at David after dismissing him with one glance. David followed him to the emergency room and watched his deft hands as he felt Clarence’s body, tested for reflexes, probed confidently along the spinal column. “I’ll operate,” he said, and that same confidence came through with the words. He motioned for S-l and W-2 to bring Clarence, and left once more. At the arrival of W-l, Sarah had moved back out of the way, and now she slowly turned and stripped off the gloves that she had put on in preparing to stitch up Clarence’s wound. Warren watched the two young people cover Clarence and strap him securely, then wheel him out the door and down the hall. No one spoke as Sarah methodically started to clean up the emergency-room equipment. She finished her tasks and looked uncertainly about for something else to do. “Will you take Margaret home and put her to bed?” David asked, and she looked at him gratefully and nodded. When she was gone David turned to Warren. “Someone has to see to the bodies, clean them up, prepare them for burial.” “Sure, David,” Warren said in a heavy voice. “I’ll get Avery and Sam. We’ll take care of it. I’ll just go get them now and we’ll take care of it. I’ll . . . David, what have we done?” And his voice that had been too heavy, too dead, became almost shrill. “What are they?” “What do you mean?” “When the accident happened, I was down to the mill. Having a bite with Avery. He was just finishing up down there. Section of the floor caved in, you know that old part where we should have put in a new floor last year, or year before. It gave way somehow. And suddenly there they were, the kids. Out of nowhere. No one had time to go get them, to yell for them to come running. Nothing, but there they were. They got their own two out of there and up to the hospital like fire was on their tails, David. Out of nowhere.” He looked at David with a fearful expression, and when David simply shrugged, he shook his head and left the emergency room, looking down the hall first, a quick, involuntary glance, as if to make sure that they would permit him to leave. Several of the elders were still in the waiting room when David went there. Lucy and Vernon were sitting near the window, staring out at the black night. Since Clarence’s wife died, he and Lucy had lived together, not as man and wife, but for companionship, because as children they had been as close as brother and sister, and now each needed someone to cling to. Sometimes sister, sometimes mother, sometimes daughter, Lucy had fussed over him, sewed for him, fetched and carried for him, and now, if he died, what would she do? David went to her and took her cold hand. She was very thin, with dark hair that hadn’t started to gray, and deep blue eyes that used to twinkle with merriment, a long, long time ago. “Go on home, Lucy. I’ll wait, and as soon as there is anything to tell you, I promise I’ll come.” She continued to stare at him. David turned toward Vernon helplessly. Vernon’s brother had been killed in the accident, but there was nothing to say to him, no way to help him. “Let her be,” Vernon said. “She has to wait.” David sat down, still holding Lucy’s hand. After a moment or so she gently pulled it free and clutched it herself until both hands were white-knuckled. None of the young people came near the waiting room. David wondered where they were waiting to hear about the condition of their own. Or maybe they didn’t have to wait anywhere, maybe they would just know. He pushed the thought aside angrily, not believing it, not able to be rid of it. A long time later W-1 entered and said to no one in particular, “He’s resting. He’ll sleep until tomorrow afternoon. Go on home now.” Lucy stood up. “Let me stay with him. In case he needs something, or there’s a change.” “He won’t be left alone,” W-l said. He turned toward the door, paused and glanced back, and said to Vernon, “I’m sorry about your brother.” Then he left. Lucy stood undecided until Vernon took her arm. “I’ll see you home,” he said, and she nodded. David watched them leave together. He turned off the light in the waiting room and walked slowly down the hall, not planning anything, not thinking about going home, or anywhere else. He found himself outside the office that W-l used, and he knocked softly. W-1 opened the door. He looked tired, David thought, and wasn’t sure that his surprise was warranted. Of course, he should be tired. Three operations. He looked like a young, tired Walt, too keyed up to go to sleep immediately, too fatigued to walk off the tension. “Can I come in?” David asked hesitantly. W-l nodded and moved aside, and David entered. He never had been inside this office. “Clarence will not live,” W-l said suddenly, and his voice, behind David, because he had not yet moved from the door, was so like Walt’s that David felt a thrill of something that might have been fear or more likely, he told himself, just surprise again. “I did what I could,” W-l said. He walked around his desk and sat down. W-l sat quietly, with none of the nervous mannerisms that Walt exhibited, none of the finger tapping that was as much a part of Walt’s conversation as his words. No pulling his ears or rubbing his nose. A Walt with something missing, a dead area. Now, with fatigue drawing his face, W-1 sat unmoving, waiting patiently for David to begin, much the same way an adult might wait for a hesitant child to initiate a conversation.

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David, forgive me. I was startled . . .” They were promiscuous, indeed it was practically required of them to be free in their loving. No one could anticipate how many of them eventually would be fertile, what the percentage of boys to girls would be. Walt was able to test the males, but since the tests for female fertility required rabbits which they did not have, he said the best test for fertility was pregnancy. The children lived together, and promiscuity was the norm. But only with one another. They all shunned the elders. David had felt his eyes burning as the girl spoke, still moving away from him. He had turned and left abruptly and had not spoken to her again in the intervening years. Sometimes he thought he saw her watching him warily, and each time he glared at her and hurried away. C-l had been like his own child. He had watched her develop, watched her learn to walk, talk, feed herself. His child, his and Celia’s. C-2 had been much the same. A twin, somewhat smaller, identical nevertheless. But C-3 had been different. No, he corrected: his perceptions of her had been different. When he looked at her he saw Celia, and he ached. He had grown chilled on the ridge, and he realized that the sun had set long ago and the lanterns had been lighted below. The scene looked pretty, like a sentimental card titled “Rural Life.” The large farmhouse with glowing windows, the blackness of the barn; closer, the hospital and staff building with the cheerful yellow lights in the windows. Stiffly he descended into the valley again. He had missed dinner, but he was not hungry. “David!” One of the youngest boys, a Five, called to him. David didn’t know whom he had been cloned from. There were people he hadn’t known when they were that young. He stopped and the boy ran to him, then past him, calling as he went, “Dr. Walt wants you.” Walt was in his room at the hospital. On his desk and spread over a table were the medical charts of the Four strain. “I’ve finished,” Walt said. “You’ll have to double-check, of course.” David scanned the final lines quickly, H-4 and D-4. “Have you told the two boys yet?” “I told them all. They understand.” Walt rubbed his eyes. “They have no secrets from each other,” he said. “They understand about the girls’ ovulation periods, about the necessity of keeping records. If any of those girls can conceive, they’ll do it.” His voice was almost bitter when he looked up at David. “They’re taking it over completely from now on.” “What do you mean?” “W-one made a copy of my records for his files. He’ll follow it through.” David nodded. The elders were being excluded again. The time was coming when the elders wouldn’t be needed for anything—extra mouths to feed, nothing else. He sat down and for a long time he and Walt sat in companionable silence. In class the following day nothing appeared to be different. No pair bonding, David thought cynically. They accepted being mated as casually as the cattle did. If there was any jealousy of the two fertile males, it was well hidden. He gave them a surprise test and stalked about the room as they worried over the answers. They would all pass, he knew; not only pass, but do exceptionally well. They had motivation. They were learning in their teens what he hadn’t grasped in his twenties. There were no educational frills, no distractions. Work in the classroom, in the fields, in the kitchens, in the laboratories. They worked interchangeably, incessantly—the first really classless society. He pulled his thoughts back when he realized that they were finishing already. He had allowed an hour, and they were finishing in forty minutes; slightly longer for the Fives, who, after all, were two years younger than the Fours. The two oldest Ds headed for the laboratory after class, and David followed them. They were talking earnestly until he drew near. He remained in the laboratory for fifteen minutes of silent work, then left. Outside the door he paused and once more could hear the murmur of quiet voices. Angrily he tramped down the hallway. In Walt’s office he raged, “Damn it, they’re up to something! I can smell it.” Walt regarded him with a detached thoughtfulness. David felt helpless before him. There was nothing he could point to, nothing he could attach significance to, but there was a feeling, an instinct, that would not be quieted. “All right,” David said, almost in desperation. “Look at how they took the test results. Why aren’t the boys jealous? Why aren’t the girls making passes at the two available studs?” Walt shook his head. “I don’t even know what they’re doing in the lab anymore,” David said. “And Harry has been relegated to caretaker for the livestock.” He paced the room in frustration. “They’re taking over.” “We knew they would one day,” Walt reminded him gently. “But there are only seventeen Fives. Eighteen Fours. Out of the lot they might get six or seven fertile ones. With a decreased life expectancy. With an increased chance of abnormality. Don’t they know that?” “David, relax. They know all that. They’re living it. Believe me, they know.” Walt stood up and put his arm about David’s shoulders. “We‘ve done it, David. We made it happen. Even if there are only three fertile girls now, they could have up to thirty babies, David. And the next generation will have more who will be fertile. We have done it, David. Let them carry it now if they want to.” By the end of summer two of the Four-strain girls were pregnant. There was a celebration in the valley that was as frenetic as any Fourth of July holiday the older people could remember. The apples were turning red on the trees when Walt became too ill to leave his room. Two more girls were pregnant; one of them was a Five. Every day David spent hours with Walt, no longer wanting to work at all in the laboratory, feeling an outsider in the classrooms, where the Ones were gradually taking over the teaching duties. “You might have to deliver those babies come spring,” Walt said, grinning. “Might start a class in delivery procedures. Walt-three is ready, I guess.” “We’ll manage,” David said. “Don’t worry about it. I expect you’ll be there.” “Maybe. Maybe.” Walt closed his eyes for a moment, and without opening them said, “You were right about them, David. They’re up to something.” David leaned forward and unconsciously lowered his voice. “What do you know?” Walt looked at him and shook his head slightly. “About as much as you did when you first came to me in early summer. No more than that. David, find out what they’re doing in the lab. And find out what they think about the pregnant girls. Those two things. Soon.” Turning away from David, he added, “Harry tells me they have devised a new immersion suspension system that doesn’t require the artificial placentas. They’re adding them as fast as they can.” He sighed. “Harry has cracked, David. Senile or crazy. W-one can’t do anything for him.” David stood up, but hesitated. “Walt, I think it’s time you told me. What’s wrong with you?” “Get out of here, damn it,” Walt said, but the timbre of his voice was gone, the force that should have propelled David from the room was not there. For a moment Walt looked helpless and vulnerable, but deliberately he closed his eyes, and this time his voice was a growl. “Get out. I’m tired. I need rest.” David walked along the river for a long time. He hadn’t been in the lab for weeks, months perhaps. No one needed him in the lab any longer. He felt in the way there. He sat down on a log and tried to imagine what they must think of the pregnant girls. They would revere them. The bearers of life, so few among so many. Was Walt afraid a matriarchy of some sort would develop? It could. They had discussed that years ago, and then dismissed it as one of the things they could not control. A new religion might come about, but even if the elders knew it was happening, what could they do about it? What should they do about it? He threw twigs into the smooth water, which moved without a ripple, all of a piece on that calm, cold night, and he knew that he didn’t care. Wearily he got up and started to walk again, very cold suddenly. The winters were getting colder, starting earlier, lasting longer, with more snows than he could remember from childhood. As soon as man stopped adding his megatons of filth to the atmosphere each day, he thought, the atmosphere had reverted to what it must have been long ago, moister weather summer and winter, more stars than he had ever seen before, and more, it seemed, each night than the night before: the sky a clear, endless blue by day, velvet blue-black at night with blazing stars that modern man had never seen. The hospital wing where W-l and W-2 were working now was ablaze with lights, and David turned toward it. As he neared the hospital he began to hurry; there were too many lights, and he could see people moving behind the windows, too many people, elders. Margaret met him in the lobby. She was weeping silently, oblivious of the tears that ran erratically down her cheeks. She wasn’t yet fifty, but she looked older than that; she looked like an elder, David thought with a pang. When had they started calling themselves that? Was it because they had to differentiate somehow, and none of them had permitted himself to call the others by what they were? Clones! he said to himself vehemently. Clones! Not quite human. Clones. “What happened, Margaret?” She clutched his arm but couldn’t speak, and he looked over her head at Warren, who was pale and shaking. “What happened?” “Accident down at the mill. Jeremy and Eddie are dead. A couple of the young people were hurt. Don’t know how bad. They’re in there.” He pointed toward the operating-room wing. “They left Clarence. Just walked away and left him. We brought him up, but I don’t know.” He shook his head. “They just left him there and brought up their own.” David ran down the hall toward the emergency room. Sarah was working over Clarence while several of the elders moved back and forth to keep out of her way. David breathed a sigh of relief. Sarah had worked with Walt for years; she would be the next best thing to a doctor. He flung his coat off and hurried to her. “What can I do?” “It’s his back,” she said tightly. She was very pale, but her hands were steady as she swabbed a long gash on Clarence’s side and put a heavy pad over it. “This needs stitches. But I’m afraid it’s his back.” “Broken?” “I think so. Internal injuries.” “Where the hell is W-one or W-two?” “With their own. They have two injuries, I think.” She put his hand over the pad. “Hold it tight a minute.” She pressed the stethoscope against Clarence’s chest, peered into his eyes, and finally straightened and said, “I can’t do a thing for him.”
Par kaceyhanxu - 0 commentaire(s)le 06 juin 2011

They were coming for us

He nodded, although she was still staring down at the farm and couldn’t see. He wanted to tell her to weep for her parents, to cry out, so that he could take her in his arms and try to comfort her. But she continued to sit motionlessly and speak in a dead voice. “They were coming for us, for the Americans. They blame us, for letting them starve. They really believe that everything is still all right here. I did too. No one believed any of the reports. And the mobs were coming for us. We left on a small boat, a skiff. Nineteen of us. They shot at us when we got too near Cuba.” David touched her arm and she jerked and trembled. “Celia, turn around and eat now. Don’t talk any longer. Later. You can tell us about it later.” She looked at him and slowly shook her head. “Never again. I’ll never mention any of it again, David. I just wanted you to know there was nothing I could do. I wanted to come home and there wasn’t any way.” She didn’t look quite so blue-cold now, and he watched with relief as she started to eat. She was hungry. He made coffee, the last of his coffee ration. “You want me to fill you in on anything here?” She shook her head. “Not yet. I saw Miami, and the people, all trying to get somewhere else, standing in line for days, standing on the trains. They’re evacuating Miami. People are falling dead, and they’re just leaving them where they fall.” She shivered violently. “Don’t tell me anything else yet.” The storm was over, and the night air was cool. They huddled under a blanket and sat without talking, drinking hot black coffee. When the cup began to tilt in Celia’s hand, David took it from her and gently lowered her to the bed he had prepared. “I love you, Celia,” he said softly. “I’ve always loved you.” “I love you, too, David. Always.” Her eyes were closed and her lashes were very black on her white cheeks. David leaned over and kissed her forehead, pulled the blanket higher about her, and watched her sleep for a long time before he lay down beside her and also slept. During the night she roused once, moaning, twisting about, and he held her until she quieted. She didn’t wake up completely, and what words she said were not intelligible. The next morning they left the oak tree and started for the Sumner farm. She rode Mike until they got to the cart; by then she was trembling with exhaustion and her lips were blue again, although the day was already hot. There wasn’t room for her to lie down in the cart, so he padded the back of the wooden seat with his bedroll and blanket, where she could at least put her head back and rest, when the road wasn’t too bumpy and the cart didn’t jounce too hard. She smiled faintly when he covered her legs with another shirt, the one he had been wearing. “It isn’t cold, you know,” she said matter-of-factly. “That goddamn bug does something to the heart, I think. No one would tell us anything about it. My symptoms all involve the circulatory system.” “How bad was it? When did you get it?” “Eighteen months ago, I think. Just before they made us leave Brazil. It swept Rio. That’s where they took us when we got sick. Not many survived it. Hardly any of the later cases. It became more virulent as time went on.” He nodded. “Same here. Something like sixty percent fatal, increasing up to eighty percent by now, I guess.” There was a long silence then, and he thought that perhaps she had drifted off to sleep. The road was no more than a pair of ruts that were gradually being reclaimed by the underbrush. Already grass covered it almost totally, except where the rains had washed the dirt away and left only rocks. Mike walked deliberately and David didn’t hurry him. “David, how many are up at the northern end of the valley?” “About one hundred ten now,” he said. He thought, two out of three dead, but he didn’t say it. “And the hospital? Was it built?” “It’s there. Walt is running it.” “David, while you’re driving, now that you can’t watch me for reactions or anything, just tell me about it here. What’s been happening, who’s alive, who’s dead. Everything.” When they stopped for lunch, hours later, she said, “David, will you make love to me now, before the rains start again?” They lay under a stand of yellow poplars, and the leaves rustled incessantly though no wind could be felt. Under the susurrous trees, their own voices became whispers. She was so thin and so pale, and inside she was so warm and alive; her body rose to meet his and her breasts seemed to lift, to seek his touch, his lips. Her fingers were in his hair, on his back, digging into his flanks, strong now, then relaxed and trembling, then clenched into fists that opened spasmodically; and he felt her nails distantly, aware that his back was being clawed, but distantly, distantly. And finally there were only the susurrant leaves and now and then a long, heaving sigh. “I’ve loved you for more than twenty years, did you realize that?” he said after a long time. She laughed. “Remember when I broke your arm?” Later, in the cart again, her voice came from behind him, softly, sadly. “We’re finished, aren’t we, David? You, I, all of us?” He thought, Walt be damned, promises be damned, secrecy be damned. And he told her about the clones developing under the mountain, in the laboratory deep in the cave.

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Winter came early in sheets of icy rain that went on day after day after day. The work in the laboratories increased, and David found himself blessing his grandfather for his purchase of Selnick’s equipment, which had come with detailed instructions for making artificial placentas as well as nearly completed work on computer programs for synthetic amniotic fluids. When David had gone to talk to Selnick about the equipment, Selnick had insisted—madly, David had thought at the time—that he take everything or nothing. “You’ll see,” he had said wildly. “You’ll see.” The following week he had hanged himself, and the equipment was on its way to the Virginia valley. They worked and slept in the lab, leaving only for meals. The winter rains gave way to spring rains, and a new softness was in the air. David was leaving the cafeteria, his mind on the work in the lab, when he felt a tug on his arm. It was his mother. He hadn’t seen her for weeks, and would have brushed past her with a quick hello if she hadn’t stopped him. She looked strange, childlike. He turned from her to stare out the window, waiting for her to release his arm. “Celia’s coming home,” she said softly. “She’s well, she says.” David felt frozen; he continued to stare out the window seeing nothing. “Where is she now?” He listened to the rustle of cheap paper and when it seemed that his mother was not going to answer him, he wheeled about. “Where is she?” “Miami,” she said finally, after scanning the two pages. “It’s postmarked Miami, I think. It’s over two weeks old. Dated May 28. She never got any of our mail.” She pressed the letter into David’s hand. Tears overflowed her eyes, and heedless of them she walked away. David didn’t read the letter until his mother had left the cafeteria. I was in Colombia for a while, eight months, I think. And I got a touch of the bug that nobody wants to name. The writing was spindly and uncertain. She was not well then. He looked for Walt. “I have to go get her. She can’t walk in on that gang at the Wiston place.” “You know you can’t leave now.” “It isn’t a question of can or can’t. I have to.” Walt studied him for a moment, then shrugged. “How will you get there and back? No gas. You know we don’t dare use any for anything but the harvest.” “I know,” David said impatiently. “I’ll take Mike and the cart. I can stay on the back roads with Mike.” He knew that Walt was calculating, as he had done, the time involved, and he felt his face tightening, his hands clenching. Walt simply nodded. “I’ll leave as soon as it’s light in the morning.” Again Walt nodded. “Thanks,” David said suddenly. He meant for not arguing with him, for not pointing out what both already knew—that there was no way of knowing how long he would have to wait for Celia, that she might never make it to the farm. Three miles from the Wiston farm, David unhitched the cart and hid it in thick underbrush. He swept over the tracks where he had left the dirt road, and then led Mike into the woods. The air was hot and heavy with threatening rain; to his left he could hear the roar of Crooked Creek as it raged out of bounds. The ground was spongy and he walked carefully, not wanting to sink to his knees in the treacherous mud here in the lowlands. The Wiston farm always had been flood-prone; it enriched the soil, Grandfather Wiston had claimed, not willing to damn nature for its periodic rampages. “God didn’t mean for this piece of ground to have to bear year after year after year,” he said. “Comes a time when the earth needs a rest, same as you and me. We’ll let it be this year, give it some clover when the ground dries out.” David started to climb, still leading Mike, who whinnied softly at him now and again. “Just to the knob, boy,” David said quietly. “Then you can rest and eat meadow grass until she gets here.” Grandfather Wiston had taken him to the knob once, when David was twelve. He remembered the day, hot and still like this day, he thought, and Grandfather Wiston had been straight and strong. At the knob his grandfather had paused and touched the massive bole of a white oak tree. “This tree saw the Indians in that valley, David, and the first settlers, and my great-grandfather when he came along. It’s our friend, David. It knows all the family secrets.” “Is it still your property up here, Grandfather?” “Up to and including this tree, son. Other side’s national forest land, but this tree, it’s on our land. Yours too, David. One day you’ll come up here and put your hand on this tree and you’ll know it’s your friend, just like it’s been my friend all my life. God help us all if anyone ever lays an ax to it.” They had gone on that day, down the other side of the knob, then up again, farther and steeper this time until once more his grandfather paused for a few moments, his hand on David’s shoulder. “This is how this land looked a million years ago, David.” Time had shifted suddenly for the boy; a million years, a hundred million, was all the same distant past, and he imagined the tread of the giant reptiles. He imagined that he smelled the fetid breath of a tyrannosaur. It was cool and misty under the tall trees, and below them the saplings grew, with their branches spread horizontally, as if to catch any stray bit of sunlight that penetrated the high canopy. Where the sun did find a path through, it was golden and soft, the sun of another time. In even deeper shadows grew bushes and shrubs, and at the foot of it all were the mosses and lichens, liverworts and ferns. The arching, heaving roots of the trees were clothed in velvet emerald plants. David stumbled and, catching his balance, came to rest against the giant oak tree that was, somehow, his friend. He pressed his cheek against the rough bark for a few moments, then he pushed himself away and looked up through the luxuriant branches; he could see no sky through them. When it rained, the tree would protect him from the full force of the storm, but he needed shelter from the fine drops that would make their way through the leaves to fall quietly on the absorbent ground. Before he started to build a lean-to, he examined the farm through his binoculars. Behind the house, there was a garden being tended by five people; impossible to tell if they were male or female. Long-haired, jeans, barefoot, thin. It didn't matter. He noted that the garden was not producing yet, that the plants were sparse and frail. He studied the east field, aware that it was changed but not certain what was different. Then he realized that it was growing corn. Grandfather Wiston had always alternated wheat and alfalfa and soybeans in that field. The lower fields were flooded, and the north field was grown up in grasses and weeds. He swept the glasses slowly over the buildings. He spotted seventeen people altogether. No child younger than eight or nine. No sign of Celia, nor of any recent use of the road, which was also grown up with weeds. No doubt the people down there were just as happy to let the road hide under weeds. He built a lean-to against the oak, where he could lie down and observe the farm. He used fir branches to roof the shelter, and when the storm came half an hour later he stayed dry. Rivulets ran among the garden rows below, and the farmyard turned silver and sparkly from this distance, although he knew that closer it would simply be muddy water inches deep. The ground was too saturated in the valley to absorb any more water. It would have to run off into Crooked Creek, which was inching higher and higher toward the north field and the vulnerable corn there. By the third day the water had started to invade the cornfield, and he pitied the people who stood and watched helplessly. The garden was still being tended, but it would be a meager harvest. By now he had counted twenty-two people; he thought that was all of them. During the storm that lashed the valley that afternoon, he heard Mike whinny and he crawled from the lean-to and stood up. Mike, down the slope of the knob, wouldn’t mind the rain too much, and he was protected from the wind. Still, he whinnied again, and then again. Cautiously, holding his shotgun in one hand, shielding his eyes from the lashing rain with the other, David edged around the tree. A figure stumbled up the knob haltingly, head bowed, stopping often, then moving on again, not looking up, probably blinded by the rain. Suddenly David threw the shotgun under the lean-to and ran to meet her. “Celia!” he cried. “Celia!” She stopped and raised her head. The rain ran over her cheeks and plastered her hair to her forehead. She dropped the shoulder bag that had weighed her down and ran toward him, and only when he caught her and held her tight and hard did he realize that he was weeping, as she was. Under the lean-to he pulled off her wet clothes and rubbed her dry, then wrapped her in one of his shirts. Her lips were blue, her skin seemed almost translucent; it was unearthly white. “I knew you’d be here,” she said. Her eyes were very large, deep blue, bluer than he remembered, or bluer in contrast to her pale skin. Before, she had been always sunburned. “I knew you’d come here,” he said. “When did you eat?” She shook her head. “I didn’t believe it was this bad here. I thought it was propaganda. Everyone thinks it’s propaganda.” He nodded and lighted the Sterno. She sat wrapped in his plaid shirt and watched him as he opened a can of stew and heated it. “Who are those people down there?” “Squatters. Grandmother and Grandfather Wiston died last year. That gang showed up. They gave Aunt Hilda and Uncle Eddie a choice, join them or get out. They didn’t give Wanda any chance at all. They kept her.” She stared down into the valley and nodded slowly. “I didn’t know it was this bad. I didn’t believe it.” Without looking back at him, she asked then, “And Mother, Father?” “They’re dead, Celia. Flu, both of them. Last winter.” “I didn’t get any letters,” she said. “Almost two years. They made us leave Brazil, you know. But there wasn’t any transportation home. We went to Colombia. They promised to let us go home in three months. And then they came one night, late, almost at dawn, and said we had to get out. There were riots, you know.”
Par kaceyhanxu - 1 commentaire(s)le 06 juin 2011

There was no book

David looked from his uncle to his father, to the other uncles and cousins in the room, and finally to his grandfather. He shook his head helplessly. “That’s crazy. What are you talking about?” Grandfather Sumner let out his breath explosively. He was a large man with a massive chest and great bulging biceps. His hands were big enough to carry a basketball in each. But it was his head that was his most striking feature. It was the head of a giant, and although he had farmed for many years, and later overseen the others who did it for him, he had found time to read more extensively than anyone else that David knew. There was no book, except the contemporary best sellers, that anyone could mention that he wasn’t aware of, or hadn’t read. And he remembered what he read. His library was better than most public libraries. Now he leaned forward and said, “You listen to me, David. You listen hard. I’m telling you what the goddamn government doesn’t dare admit yet. We’re on the first downslope of a slide that is going to plummet this economy, and that of every other nation on earth, to a depth that they never dreamed of. “I know the signs, David. The pollution’s catching up to us faster than anyone knows. There’s more radiation in the atmosphere than there’s been since Hiroshima— French tests, China’s tests. Leaks. God knows where all of it’s coming from. We reached zero population growth a couple of years ago, but, David, we were trying, and other nations are getting there too, and they aren’t trying. There’s famine in one-fourth of the world right now. Not ten years from now, not six months from now. The famines are here and they’ve been here for three, four years already, and they’re getting worse. There’re more diseases than there’s ever been since the good Lord sent the plagues to visit the Egyptians. And they’re plagues that we don’t know anything about. “There’s more drought and more flooding than there’s ever been. England’s changing into a desert, the bogs and moors are drying up. Entire species of fish are gone, just damn gone, and in only a year or two. The anchovies are gone. The codfish industry is gone. The cod they are catching are diseased, unfit to use. There’s no fishing off the west coast of the Americas. “Every damn protein crop on earth has some sort of blight that gets worse and worse. Corn blight. Wheat rust. Soybean blight. We’re restricting our exports of food now, and next year we’ll stop them altogether. We’re having shortages no one ever dreamed of. Tin, copper, aluminum, paper. Chlorine, by God! And what do you think will happen in the world when we suddenly can’t even purify our drinking water?” His face was darkening as he spoke, and he was getting angrier and angrier, directing his unanswerable questions to David, who stared at him with nothing at all to say. “And they don’t know what to do about any of it,” his grandfather went on. “No more than the dinosaurs knew how to stop their own extinction. We’ve changed the photochemical reactions of our own atmosphere, and we can’t adapt to the new radiations fast enough to survive! There have been hints here and there that this is a major concern, but who listens? The damn fools will lay each and every catastrophe at the foot of a local condition and turn their backs on the fact that this is global, until it’s too late to do anything.” “But if it’s what you think, what could they do?” David asked, looking to Dr. Walt for support and finding none. “Turn off the factories, ground the airplanes, stop the mining, junk the cars. But they won’t, and even if they did, it would still be a catastrophe. It’s going to break wide open. Within the next couple of years, David, it’s going to break.” He drank his eggnog then and put the crystal cup down hard. David jumped at the noise. “There’s going to be the biggest bust since man began scratching marks on rocks, that’s what! And we’re getting ready for it! I’m getting ready for it! We’ve got the land and we’ve got the men to farm it, and we’ll get our hospital and we’ll do research in ways to keep our animals and our people alive, and when the world goes into a tailspin we’ll be alive and when it starves we’ll be eating.” Suddenly he stopped and studied David with his eyes narrowed. “I said you’d leave here convinced that we’ve all gone mad. But you’ll be back, David, my boy. You’ll be back before the dogwoods bloom, because you’ll see the signs.” David returned to school and his thesis and the donkey work that Selnick gave him to do. Celia didn’t write, and he had no address for her. In response to his questions his mother admitted that no one had heard from her. In February in retaliation for the food embargo, Japan passed trade restrictions that made further United States trade with her impossible. Japan and China signed a mutual aid treaty. In March, Japan seized the Philippines, with their fields of rice, and China resumed its long-dormant trusteeship over the Indochina peninsula, with the rice paddies of Cambodia and Vietnam. Cholera struck in Rome, Los Angeles, Galveston, and Savannah. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, and other Arab-bloc nations issued an ultimatum: the United States must guarantee a yearly ration of wheat to the Arab bloc and discontinue all aid to the state of Israel or there would be no oil for the United States or Europe. They refused to believe the United States could not meet their demands. International travel restrictions were imposed immediately, and the government, by presidential decree, formed a new department with cabinet status: the Bureau of Information. The redbuds were hazy blurs of pink against the clear, May-softened sky when David returned home. He stopped by his house only long enough to change his clothes and get rid of his boxes of college mementos before he drove out to the Sumner farm, where Walt was staying while he oversaw the construction of his hospital. Walt had an office downstairs. It was a clutter of books, notebooks, blueprints, correspondence. He greeted David as if he hadn’t been away at all. “Look,” he said. “This research of Semple and Frerrer, what do you know about it? The first generation of cloned mice showed no deviation, no variation in viability or potency, nor did the second or third, but with the fourth the viability decreased sharply. And there was a steady, and irreversible, slide to extinction. Why?” David sat down hard and stared at Walt. “How did you get that?” “Vlasic,” Walt said. “We went to med school together. He went on in one direction, I in another. We’ve corresponded all these years. I asked him.” “You know his work?” “Yes. His rhesus monkeys show the same decline during the fourth generation, and on to extinction.” “It isn’t just like that,” David said. “He had to discontinue his work last year—no funds. So we don’t know the life expectancies of the later strains. But the decline starts in the third clone generation, a decline of potency. He was breeding each clone generation sexually, testing the offspring for normalcy. The third clone generation had only twenty-five percent potency. The sexually reproduced offspring started with that same percentage, and, in fact, potency dropped until the fifth generation of sexually reproduced offspring, and then it started to climb back up and presumably would have reached normalcy again.” Walt was watching him closely, nodding now and then. David went on. “That was the clone-three strain. With the clone-four strain there was a drastic change. Some abnormalities were present, and life expectancy was down seventeen percent. The abnormals were all sterile. Potency was generally down to forty-eight percent. It was downhill all the way with each sexually reproduced generation. By the fifth generation no offspring survived longer than an hour or two. So much for clone-four strain. Cloning the fours was worse. Clone-five strain had gross abnormalities, and they were all sterile. Life-expectancy figures were not completed. There was no clone-six strain. None survived.” “A dead end,” Walt said. He indicated a stack of magazines and extracts. “I had hoped that they were out of date, that there were newer methods, perhaps, or an error had been found in their figures. It’s the third generation that is the turning point then?” David shrugged. “My information could be out of date. I know Vlasic stopped last year, but Semple and Frerrer are still at it, or were last month. They may have something newer than I know. You’re thinking of livestock?” “Of course. You know the rumors? They’re just not breeding well. No figures are available, but, hell, we have our own livestock. They’re down by half.” “I heard something. Denied by the Bureau of Information, I believe.” “It’s true,” Walt said soberly. “They must be working on this line,” David said. “Someone must be working on it.” “If they are, no one’s telling us about it,” Walt said. He laughed bitterly and stood up. “Can you get materials for the hospital?” David asked. “For now. We’re rushing it like there’s no tomorrow, naturally. And we’re not worrying about money right now. We’ll have things that we won’t know what to do with, but I thought it would be better to order everything I can think of than to find out next year that what we really need isn’t available.” David went to the window and looked at the farm; the green was well established by now, spring would give way to summer without a pause and the corn would be shiny, silky green in the fields. Just like always. “Let me have a look at your lab equipment orders, and the stuff that’s been delivered already,” he said. “Then let’s see if we can wrangle me travel clearance out to the coast. I’ll talk to Semple; I’ve met him a few times. If anyone’s doing anything, it’s that team.”

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She looked at him then. “Why did you leave like that? They all think we’re going to fight again.” “We might,” he said. She smiled. “I don’t think so. Never again.” “We should start down. It’ll be dark in a few minutes.” But he didn’t move. “David, try to make Mother see, will you? You understand that I have to go, that I have to do something, don’t you? She thinks you’re so clever. She’d listen to you.” He laughed. “They think I’m clever like a puppy dog.” Celia shook her head. “You’re the one they’d listen to. They treat me like a child and always will.” David shook his head, smiling, but he sobered again very quickly and said, “Why are you going, Celia? What are you trying to prove?” “Damn it, David. If you don’t understand, who will?” She took a deep breath and said, “Look, you do read the newspapers, don’t you? People are starving in South America. Most of South America will be in a state of famine before the end of this decade if they aren’t helped almost immediately. And no one has done any real research in tropical farming methods. Practically no one. That’s all lateritic soil and no one down there understands it. They go in and burn off the trees and underbrush, and in two or three years they have a sunbaked plain as hard as iron. Okay, they send some of their bright young students here to learn about modern farming, but they go to Iowa, or Kansas, or Minnesota, or some other dumb place like that, and they learn farming methods suited to temperate climates, not tropical. Well, we trained in tropical farming and we’re going to start classes down there, in the field. It’s what I trained for. This project will get me a doctorate.” The Wistons were farmers, had always been farmers. “Custodians of the soil,” Grandfather Wiston had said once, “not its owners, just custodians.” Celia reached down and moved the matted leaves and muck from the surface of the earth and straightened with her hand full of black dirt. “The famines are spreading. They need so much. And I have so much to give! Can’t you understand that?” she cried. She closed her hand hard, compacting the soil into a ball that crumbled again when she opened her fist and touched the lump with her forefinger. She let the soil fall from her hand and carefully pushed the protective covering of leaves back over the bared spot. “You followed me to tell me good-bye, didn’t you?” David said suddenly, and his voice was harsh. “It’s really good-bye this time, isn’t it?” He watched her and slowly she nodded. “There’s someone in your group?” “I’m not sure, David. Maybe.” She bowed her head and started to pull her glove on again. “I thought I was sure. But when I saw you in the hall, saw the look on your face when I came in . . . I realized that I just don’t know.” “Celia, you listen to me! There aren’t any hereditary defects that would surface! Damn it, you know that! If there were, we simply wouldn’t have children, but there’s no reason. You know that, don’t you?” She nodded. “I know.” “For God’s sake! Come with me, Celia. We don’t have to get married right away, let them get used to the idea first. They will. They always do. We have a resilient family, you and me. Celia, I love you.” She turned her head, and he saw that she was weeping. She wiped her cheeks with her glove, then with her bare hand, leaving dirt streaks. David pulled her to him, held her and kissed her tears, her cheeks, her lips. And he kept saying, “I love you, Celia.” She finally drew away and started back down the slope, with David following. “I can’t decide anything right now. It isn’t fair. I should have stayed at the house. I shouldn’t have followed you up here. David, I’m committed to going in two days. I can’t just say I’ve changed my mind. It’s important to me. To the people down there. I can’t just decide not to go. You went to Oxford for a year. I have to do something too.” He caught her arm and held her, kept her from moving ahead again. “Just tell me you love me. Say it, just once, say it.” “I love you,” she said very slowly. “How long will you be gone?” “Three years. I signed a contract.” He stared at her in disbelief. “Change it! Make it one year. I’ll be out of grad school then. You can teach here. Let their bright young students come to you.” “We have to get back, or they’ll send a search party for us,” she said. “I’ll try to change it,” she whispered then. “If I can.” Two days later she left. David spent New Year’s Eve at the Sumner farm with his parents and a horde of aunts and uncles and cousins. On New Year’s Day, Grandfather Sumner made an announcement. “We’re building a hospital up at Bear Creek, this side of the mill.” David blinked. That was a mile from the farm, miles from anything else at all. “A hospital?” He looked at his uncle Walt, who nodded. Clarence was studying his eggnog with a sour expression, and David’s father, the third brother, was watching the smoke curl from his pipe. They all knew, David realized. “Why up here?” he asked finally. “It’s going to be a research hospital,” Walt said. “Genetic diseases, hereditary defects, that sort of thing. Two hundred beds.” David shook his head in disbelief. “You have any idea how much something like that would cost? Who’s financing it?” His grandfather laughed nastily. “Senator Burke has graciously arranged to get federal funds,” he said. His voice became more caustic. “And I cajoled a few members of the family to put a little in the kitty.” David glanced at Clarence, who looked pained. “I’m giving the land,” Grandfather Sumner went on. “So here and there we got support.” “But why would Burke go for it? You’ve never voted for him in a single campaign in his life.” “Told him we’d dig out a lot of stuff we’ve been sitting on, support his opposition. If he was a baboon, we’d support him, and there’s a lot of family these days, David. A heap of family.” “Well, hats off,” David said, still not fully believing it. “You giving up your practice to go into research?” he asked Walt. His uncle nodded. David drained his cup of eggnog. “David,” Walt said quietly, “we want to hire you.” He looked up quickly. “Why? I’m not into medical research.” “I know what your specialty is,” Walt said, still very quietly. “We want you for a consultant, and later on to head a department of research.” “But I haven’t even finished my thesis yet,” David said, and he felt as if he had stumbled into a pot party. “You’ll do another year of donkey work for Selnick and eventually you’ll write the thesis, a bit here, a dab there. You could write it in a month, couldn’t you, if you had time?” David nodded reluctantly. “I know,” Walt said, smiling faintly. “You think you’re being asked to give up a lifetime career for a pipe dream.” There was no trace of a smile when he added, “But, David, we believe that lifetime won’t be more than two to four years at the very most.”
Par kaceyhanxu - 1 commentaire(s)le 06 juin 2011
Samedi 04 juin 2011

acquired progressively

Miss Crawford listened with submission, and said to herself, "He is a well-bred man; he makes the best of it." "I do not wish to influence Mr. Rushworth," he continued; "but, had I a place to new fashion, I should not put myself into the hands of an improver. I would rather have an inferior degree of beauty, of my own choice, and acquired progressively. I would rather abide by my own blunders than by his." "_You_ would know what you were about, of course; but that would not suit _me_. I have no eye or ingenuity for such matters, but as they are before me; and had I a place of my own in the country, I should be most thankful to any Mr. Repton who would undertake it, and give me as much beauty as he could for my money; and I should never look at it till it was complete." "It would be delightful to _me_ to see the progress of it all," said Fanny. "Ay, you have been brought up to it. It was no part of my education; and the only dose I ever had, being administered by not the first favourite in the world, has made me consider improvements _in_ _hand_ as the greatest of nuisances. Three years ago the Admiral, my honoured uncle, bought a cottage at Twickenham for us all to spend our summers in; and my aunt and I went down to it quite in raptures; but it being excessively pretty, it was soon found necessary to be improved, and for three months we were all dirt and confusion, without a gravel walk to step on, or a bench fit for use. I would have everything as complete as possible in the country, shrubberies and flower-gardens, and rustic seats innumerable: but it must all be done without my care. Henry is different; he loves to be doing." Edmund was sorry to hear Miss Crawford, whom he was much disposed to admire, speak so freely of her uncle. It did not suit his sense of propriety, and he was silenced, till induced by further smiles and liveliness to put the matter by for the present. "Mr. Bertram," said she, "I have tidings of my harp at last. I am assured that it is safe at Northampton; and there it has probably been these ten days, in spite of the solemn assurances we have so often received to the contrary." Edmund expressed his pleasure and surprise. "The truth is, that our inquiries were too direct; we sent a servant, we went ourselves: this will not do seventy miles from London; but this morning we heard of it in the right way. It was seen by some farmer, and he told the miller, and the miller told the butcher, and the butcher's son-in-law left word at the shop." "I am very glad that you have heard of it, by whatever means, and hope there will be no further delay." "I am to have it to-morrow; but how do you think it is to be conveyed? Not by a wagon or cart: oh no! nothing of that kind could be hired in the village. I might as well have asked for porters and a handbarrow." "You would find it difficult, I dare say, just now, in the middle of a very late hay harvest, to hire a horse and cart?" "I was astonished to find what a piece of work was made of it! To want a horse and cart in the country seemed impossible, so I told my maid to speak for one directly; and as I cannot look out of my dressing-closet without seeing one farmyard, nor walk in the shrubbery without passing another, I thought it would be only ask and have, and was rather grieved that I could not give the advantage to all. Guess my surprise, when I found that I had been asking the most unreasonable, most impossible thing in the world; had offended all the farmers, all the labourers, all the hay in the parish! As for Dr. Grant's bailiff, I believe I had better keep out of _his_ way; and my brother-in-law himself, who is all kindness in general, looked rather black upon me when he found what I had been at." "You could not be expected to have thought on the subject before; but when you _do_ think of it, you must see the importance of getting in the grass. The hire of a cart at any time might not be so easy as you suppose: our farmers are not in the habit of letting them out; but, in harvest, it must be quite out of their power to spare a horse." "I shall understand all your ways in time; but, coming down with the true London maxim, that everything is to be got with money, I was a little embarrassed at first by the sturdy independence of your country customs. However, I am to have my harp fetched to-morrow. Henry, who is good-nature itself, has offered to fetch it in his barouche. Will it not be honourably conveyed?" Edmund spoke of the harp as his favourite instrument, and hoped to be soon allowed to hear her. Fanny had never heard the harp at all, and wished for it very much. "I shall be most happy to play to you both," said Miss Crawford; "at least as long as you can like to listen: probably much longer, for I dearly love music myself, and where the natural taste is equal the player must always be best off, for she is gratified in more ways than one. Now, Mr. Bertram, if you write to your brother, I entreat you to tell him that my harp is come: he heard so much of my misery about it. And you may say, if you please, that I shall prepare my most plaintive airs against his return, in compassion to his feelings, as I know his horse will lose." "If I write, I will say whatever you wish me; but I do not, at present, foresee any occasion for writing." "No, I dare say, nor if he were to be gone a twelvemonth, would you ever write to him, nor he to you, if it could be helped. The occasion would never be foreseen. What strange creatures brothers are! You would not write to each other but upon the most urgent necessity in the world; and when obliged to take up the pen to say that such a horse is ill, or such a relation dead, it is done in the fewest possible words. You have but one style among you. I know it perfectly. Henry, who is in every other respect exactly what a brother should be, who loves me, consults me, confides in me, and will talk to me by the hour together, has never yet turned the page in a letter; and very often it is nothing more than--'Dear Mary, I am just arrived. Bath seems full, and everything as usual. Yours sincerely.' That is the true manly style; that is a complete brother's letter." "When they are at a distance from all their family," said Fanny, colouring for William's sake, "they can write long letters." "Miss Price has a brother at sea," said Edmund, "whose excellence as a correspondent makes her think you too severe upon us." "At sea, has she? In the king's service, of course?" Fanny would rather have had Edmund tell the story, but his determined silence obliged her to relate her brother's situation: her voice was animated in speaking of his profession, and the foreign stations he had been on; but she could not mention the number of years that he had been absent without tears in her eyes. Miss Crawford civilly wished him an early promotion.

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That is what I was thinking of. As he has done so well by Smith, I think I had better have him at once. His terms are five guineas a day." "Well, and if they were _ten_," cried Mrs. Norris, "I am sure _you_ need not regard it. The expense need not be any impediment. If I were you, I should not think of the expense. I would have everything done in the best style, and made as nice as possible. Such a place as Sotherton Court deserves everything that taste and money can do. You have space to work upon there, and grounds that will well reward you. For my own part, if I had anything within the fiftieth part of the size of Sotherton, I should be always planting and improving, for naturally I am excessively fond of it. It would be too ridiculous for me to attempt anything where I am now, with my little half acre. It would be quite a burlesque. But if I had more room, I should take a prodigious delight in improving and planting. We did a vast deal in that way at the Parsonage: we made it quite a different place from what it was when we first had it. You young ones do not remember much about it, perhaps; but if dear Sir Thomas were here, he could tell you what improvements we made: and a great deal more would have been done, but for poor Mr. Norris's sad state of health. He could hardly ever get out, poor man, to enjoy anything, and _that_ disheartened me from doing several things that Sir Thomas and I used to talk of. If it had not been for _that_, we should have carried on the garden wall, and made the plantation to shut out the churchyard, just as Dr. Grant has done. We were always doing something as it was. It was only the spring twelvemonth before Mr. Norris's death that we put in the apricot against the stable wall, which is now grown such a noble tree, and getting to such perfection, sir," addressing herself then to Dr. Grant. "The tree thrives well, beyond a doubt, madam," replied Dr. Grant. "The soil is good; and I never pass it without regretting that the fruit should be so little worth the trouble of gathering." "Sir, it is a Moor Park, we bought it as a Moor Park, and it cost us--that is, it was a present from Sir Thomas, but I saw the bill--and I know it cost seven shillings, and was charged as a Moor Park." "You were imposed on, ma'am," replied Dr. Grant: "these potatoes have as much the flavour of a Moor Park apricot as the fruit from that tree. It is an insipid fruit at the best; but a good apricot is eatable, which none from my garden are." "The truth is, ma'am," said Mrs. Grant, pretending to whisper across the table to Mrs. Norris, "that Dr. Grant hardly knows what the natural taste of our apricot is: he is scarcely ever indulged with one, for it is so valuable a fruit; with a little assistance, and ours is such a remarkably large, fair sort, that what with early tarts and preserves, my cook contrives to get them all." Mrs. Norris, who had begun to redden, was appeased; and, for a little while, other subjects took place of the improvements of Sotherton. Dr. Grant and Mrs. Norris were seldom good friends; their acquaintance had begun in dilapidations, and their habits were totally dissimilar. After a short interruption Mr. Rushworth began again. "Smith's place is the admiration of all the country; and it was a mere nothing before Repton took it in hand. I think I shall have Repton." "Mr. Rushworth," said Lady Bertram, "if I were you, I would have a very pretty shrubbery. One likes to get out into a shrubbery in fine weather." Mr. Rushworth was eager to assure her ladyship of his acquiescence, and tried to make out something complimentary; but, between his submission to _her_ taste, and his having always intended the same himself, with the superadded objects of professing attention to the comfort of ladies in general, and of insinuating that there was one only whom he was anxious to please, he grew puzzled, and Edmund was glad to put an end to his speech by a proposal of wine. Mr. Rushworth, however, though not usually a great talker, had still more to say on the subject next his heart. "Smith has not much above a hundred acres altogether in his grounds, which is little enough, and makes it more surprising that the place can have been so improved. Now, at Sotherton we have a good seven hundred, without reckoning the water meadows; so that I think, if so much could be done at Compton, we need not despair. There have been two or three fine old trees cut down, that grew too near the house, and it opens the prospect amazingly, which makes me think that Repton, or anybody of that sort, would certainly have the avenue at Sotherton down: the avenue that leads from the west front to the top of the hill, you know," turning to Miss Bertram particularly as he spoke. But Miss Bertram thought it most becoming to reply-- "The avenue! Oh! I do not recollect it. I really know very little of Sotherton." Fanny, who was sitting on the other side of Edmund, exactly opposite Miss Crawford, and who had been attentively listening, now looked at him, and said in a low voice-- "Cut down an avenue! What a pity! Does it not make you think of Cowper? 'Ye fallen avenues, once more I mourn your fate unmerited.'" He smiled as he answered, "I am afraid the avenue stands a bad chance, Fanny." "I should like to see Sotherton before it is cut down, to see the place as it is now, in its old state; but I do not suppose I shall." "Have you never been there? No, you never can; and, unluckily, it is out of distance for a ride. I wish we could contrive it." "Oh! it does not signify. Whenever I do see it, you will tell me how it has been altered." "I collect," said Miss Crawford, "that Sotherton is an old place, and a place of some grandeur. In any particular style of building?" "The house was built in Elizabeth's time, and is a large, regular, brick building; heavy, but respectable looking, and has many good rooms. It is ill placed. It stands in one of the lowest spots of the park; in that respect, unfavourable for improvement. But the woods are fine, and there is a stream, which, I dare say, might be made a good deal of. Mr. Rushworth is quite right, I think, in meaning to give it a modern dress, and I have no doubt that it will be all done extremely well."
Par kaceyhanxu - 0 commentaire(s)le 04 juin 2011

never occurred

On reaching home Fanny went immediately upstairs to deposit this unexpected acquisition, this doubtful good of a necklace, in some favourite box in the East room, which held all her smaller treasures; but on opening the door, what was her surprise to find her cousin Edmund there writing at the table! Such a sight having never occurred before, was almost as wonderful as it was welcome. "Fanny," said he directly, leaving his seat and his pen, and meeting her with something in his hand, "I beg your pardon for being here. I came to look for you, and after waiting a little while in hope of your coming in, was making use of your inkstand to explain my errand. You will find the beginning of a note to yourself; but I can now speak my business, which is merely to beg your acceptance of this little trifle--a chain for William's cross. You ought to have had it a week ago, but there has been a delay from my brother's not being in town by several days so soon as I expected; and I have only just now received it at Northampton. I hope you will like the chain itself, Fanny. I endeavoured to consult the simplicity of your taste; but, at any rate, I know you will be kind to my intentions, and consider it, as it really is, a token of the love of one of your oldest friends." And so saying, he was hurrying away, before Fanny, overpowered by a thousand feelings of pain and pleasure, could attempt to speak; but quickened by one sovereign wish, she then called out, "Oh! cousin, stop a moment, pray stop!" He turned back. "I cannot attempt to thank you," she continued, in a very agitated manner; "thanks are out of the question. I feel much more than I can possibly express. Your goodness in thinking of me in such a way is beyond-- " "If that is all you have to say, Fanny" smiling and turning away again. "No, no, it is not. I want to consult you." Almost unconsciously she had now undone the parcel he had just put into her hand, and seeing before her, in all the niceness of jewellers' packing, a plain gold chain, perfectly simple and neat, she could not help bursting forth again, "Oh, this is beautiful indeed! This is the very thing, precisely what I wished for! This is the only ornament I have ever had a desire to possess. It will exactly suit my cross. They must and shall be worn together. It comes, too, in such an acceptable moment. Oh, cousin, you do not know how acceptable it is." "My dear Fanny, you feel these things a great deal too much. I am most happy that you like the chain, and that it should be here in time for to-morrow; but your thanks are far beyond the occasion. Believe me, I have no pleasure in the world superior to that of contributing to yours. No, I can safely say, I have no pleasure so complete, so unalloyed. It is without a drawback." Upon such expressions of affection Fanny could have lived an hour without saying another word; but Edmund, after waiting a moment, obliged her to bring down her mind from its heavenly flight by saying, "But what is it that you want to consult me about?" It was about the necklace, which she was now most earnestly longing to return, and hoped to obtain his approbation of her doing. She gave the history of her recent visit, and now her raptures might well be over; for Edmund was so struck with the circumstance, so delighted with what Miss Crawford had done, so gratified by such a coincidence of conduct between them, that Fanny could not but admit the superior power of one pleasure over his own mind, though it might have its drawback. It was some time before she could get his attention to her plan, or any answer to her demand of his opinion: he was in a reverie of fond reflection, uttering only now and then a few half-sentences of praise; but when he did awake and understand, he was very decided in opposing what she wished. "Return the necklace! No, my dear Fanny, upon no account. It would be mortifying her severely. There can hardly be a more unpleasant sensation than the having anything returned on our hands which we have given with a reasonable hope of its contributing to the comfort of a friend. Why should she lose a pleasure which she has shewn herself so deserving of?" "If it had been given to me in the first instance," said Fanny, "I should not have thought of returning it; but being her brother's present, is not it fair to suppose that she would rather not part with it, when it is not wanted?" "She must not suppose it not wanted, not acceptable, at least: and its having been originally her brother's gift makes no difference; for as she was not prevented from offering, nor you from taking it on that account, it ought not to prevent you from keeping it. No doubt it is handsomer than mine, and fitter for a ballroom." "No, it is not handsomer, not at all handsomer in its way, and, for my purpose, not half so fit. The chain will agree with William's cross beyond all comparison better than the necklace."

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"I want to be your neighbour, Sir Thomas, as you have, perhaps, heard me telling Miss Price. May I hope for your acquiescence, and for your not influencing your son against such a tenant?" Sir Thomas, politely bowing, replied, "It is the only way, sir, in which I could _not_ wish you established as a permanent neighbour; but I hope, and believe, that Edmund will occupy his own house at Thornton Lacey. Edmund, am I saying too much?" Edmund, on this appeal, had first to hear what was going on; but, on understanding the question, was at no loss for an answer. "Certainly, sir, I have no idea but of residence. But, Crawford, though I refuse you as a tenant, come to me as a friend. Consider the house as half your own every winter, and we will add to the stables on your own improved plan, and with all the improvements of your improved plan that may occur to you this spring." "We shall be the losers," continued Sir Thomas. "His going, though only eight miles, will be an unwelcome contraction of our family circle; but I should have been deeply mortified if any son of mine could reconcile himself to doing less. It is perfectly natural that you should not have thought much on the subject, Mr. Crawford. But a parish has wants and claims which can be known only by a clergyman constantly resident, and which no proxy can be capable of satisfying to the same extent. Edmund might, in the common phrase, do the duty of Thornton, that is, he might read prayers and preach, without giving up Mansfield Park: he might ride over every Sunday, to a house nominally inhabited, and go through divine service; he might be the clergyman of Thornton Lacey every seventh day, for three or four hours, if that would content him. But it will not. He knows that human nature needs more lessons than a weekly sermon can convey; and that if he does not live among his parishioners, and prove himself, by constant attention, their well-wisher and friend, he does very little either for their good or his own." Mr. Crawford bowed his acquiescence. "I repeat again," added Sir Thomas, "that Thornton Lacey is the only house in the neighbourhood in which I should _not_ be happy to wait on Mr. Crawford as occupier." Mr. Crawford bowed his thanks. "Sir Thomas," said Edmund, "undoubtedly understands the duty of a parish priest. We must hope his son may prove that _he_ knows it too." Whatever effect Sir Thomas's little harangue might really produce on Mr. Crawford, it raised some awkward sensations in two of the others, two of his most attentive listeners-- Miss Crawford and Fanny. One of whom, having never before understood that Thornton was so soon and so completely to be his home, was pondering with downcast eyes on what it would be _not_ to see Edmund every day; and the other, startled from the agreeable fancies she had been previously indulging on the strength of her brother's description, no longer able, in the picture she had been forming of a future Thornton, to shut out the church, sink the clergyman, and see only the respectable, elegant, modernised, and occasional residence of a man of independent fortune, was considering Sir Thomas, with decided ill-will, as the destroyer of all this, and suffering the more from that involuntary forbearance which his character and manner commanded, and from not daring to relieve herself by a single attempt at throwing ridicule on his cause. All the agreeable of _her_ speculation was over for that hour. It was time to have done with cards, if sermons prevailed; and she was glad to find it necessary to come to a conclusion, and be able to refresh her spirits by a change of place and neighbour. The chief of the party were now collected irregularly round the fire, and waiting the final break-up. William and Fanny were the most detached. They remained together at the otherwise deserted card-table, talking very comfortably, and not thinking of the rest, till some of the rest began to think of them. Henry Crawford's chair was the first to be given a direction towards them, and he sat silently observing them for a few minutes; himself, in the meanwhile, observed by Sir Thomas, who was standing in chat with Dr. Grant. "This is the assembly night," said William. "If I were at Portsmouth I should be at it, perhaps." "But you do not wish yourself at Portsmouth, William?" "No, Fanny, that I do not. I shall have enough of Portsmouth and of dancing too, when I cannot have you. And I do not know that there would be any good in going to the assembly, for I might not get a partner. The Portsmouth girls turn up their noses at anybody who has not a commission. One might as well be nothing as a midshipman. One _is_ nothing, indeed. You remember the Gregorys; they are grown up amazing fine girls, but they will hardly speak to _me_, because Lucy is courted by a lieutenant." "Oh! shame, shame! But never mind it, William" (her own cheeks in a glow of indignation as she spoke). "It is not worth minding. It is no reflection on _you_; it is no more than what the greatest admirals have all experienced, more or less, in their time. You must think of that, you must try to make up your mind to it as one of the hardships which fall to every sailor's share, like bad weather and hard living, only with this advantage, that there will be an end to it, that there will come a time when you will have nothing of that sort to endure. When you are a lieutenant! only think, William, when you are a lieutenant, how little you will care for any nonsense of this kind." "I begin to think I shall never be a lieutenant, Fanny. Everybody gets made but me." "Oh! my dear William, do not talk so; do not be so desponding. My uncle says nothing, but I am sure he will do everything in his power to get you made. He knows, as well as you do, of what consequence it is." She was checked by the sight of her uncle much nearer to them than she had any suspicion of, and each found it necessary to talk of something else. "Are you fond of dancing, Fanny?" "Yes, very; only I am soon tired." "I should like to go to a ball with you and see you dance. Have you never any balls at Northampton? I should like to see you dance, and I'd dance with you if you _would_, for nobody would know who I was here, and I should like to be your partner once more. We used to jump about together many a time, did not we? when the hand-organ was in the street? I am a pretty good dancer in my way, but I dare say you are a better." And turning to his uncle, who was now close to them, "Is not Fanny a very good dancer, sir?" Fanny, in dismay at such an unprecedented question, did not know which way to look, or how to be prepared for the answer. Some very grave reproof, or at least the coldest expression of indifference, must be coming to distress her brother, and sink her to the ground. But, on the contrary, it was no worse than, "I am sorry to say that I am unable to answer your question. I have never seen Fanny dance since she was a little girl; but I trust we shall both think she acquits herself like a gentlewoman when we do see her, which, perhaps, we may have an opportunity of doing ere long." "I have had the pleasure of seeing your sister dance, Mr. Price," said Henry Crawford, leaning forward, "and will engage to answer every inquiry which you can make on the subject, to your entire satisfaction. But I believe" (seeing Fanny looked distressed) "it must be at some other time. There is _one_ person in company who does not like to have Miss Price spoken of." True enough, he had once seen Fanny dance; and it was equally true that he would now have answered for her gliding about with quiet, light elegance, and in admirable time; but, in fact, he could not for the life of him recall what her dancing had been, and rather took it for granted that she had been present than remembered anything about her. He passed, however, for an admirer of her dancing; and Sir Thomas, by no means displeased, prolonged the conversation on dancing in general, and was so well engaged in describing the balls of Antigua, and listening to what his nephew could relate of the different modes of dancing which had fallen within his observation, that he had not heard his carriage announced, and was first called to the knowledge of it by the bustle of Mrs. Norris. "Come, Fanny, Fanny, what are you about? We are going. Do not you see your aunt is going? Quick, quick! I cannot bear to keep good old Wilcox waiting. You should always remember the coachman and horses. My dear Sir Thomas, we have settled it that the carriage should come back for you, and Edmund and William." Sir Thomas could not dissent, as it had been his own arrangement, previously communicated to his wife and sister; but _that_ seemed forgotten by Mrs. Norris, who must fancy that she settled it all herself. Fanny's last feeling in the visit was disappointment: for the shawl which Edmund was quietly taking from the servant to bring and put round her shoulders was seized by Mr. Crawford's quicker hand, and she was obliged to be indebted to his more prominent attention.
Par kaceyhanxu - 0 commentaire(s)le 04 juin 2011
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