The Darkening Green (Faber Finds)

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The caique began to heel over; but, at that moment, God took a hand in things; he sent a thunderbolt. The hatch covers were burst open and the sea filled with coal. The caique was lightened, righted itself, and we were saved.

The Darkening Green by Elizabeth Clarke - AbeBooks

No more of that! I lit a pipe, leaned against the wall and made myself comfortable. I hesitated for a moment. Into which verses should I dip? Into the burning pitch of the Inferno, or the cleansing flames of Purgatory? Or should I make straight for the most elevated plane of human hope? I had the choice. Holding my pocket Dante in my hand, I rejoiced in my freedom. The verses I was going to choose so early in the morning would impart their rhythm to the whole of the day.

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I bowed over this intense vision in order to decide, but I did not have the time. Suddenly, disturbed, I raised my head. Somehow, I felt as if two eyes were boring into the top of my skull; I quickly looked behind me in the direction of the glass door. A mad hope flashed through my brain: 'I'm going to see my friend again. A stranger of about sixty, very tall and lean, with staring eyes, had pressed his nose against the pane and was looking at me.

He was holding a little flattened bundle under his arm. The thing which impressed me most was his eager gaze, his eyes, ironical and full of fire. At any rate, that is how they appeared to me. As soon as our eyes had met - he seemed to be making sure I was really the person he was looking for - the stranger opened the door with a determined thrust of his arm. He passed between the tables with a rapid, springy step, and stopped in front of me. Trusting to providence? Why do you ask?

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He had hollow cheeks, a strong jaw, prominent cheek-bones, curly grey hair, bright piercing eyes. What could I do with you? Just like that, because he wants to? Well, take me, shall we say, as cook. I can make soups you've never heard or thought of His bluff ways and trenchant words pleased me. Soups pleased me, too. It would not be a bad thing, I thought, to take this loose-knit fellow with me to that distant, lonely coast. Soups and stories He looked as if he had knocked about the world quite a lot, a sort of Sinbad the Sailor I liked him.

You weigh everything to the nearest gramme, don't you? Come on, friend, make up your mind. Take the plunge! I closed my Dante. With feet, hands or head - all of them. It'd be the limit if we chose what we did!

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I'm a good miner. I know a thing or two about metals, I know how to find the veins and open up galleries.


I go down pits; I'm not afraid. I was working well. I was foreman, and had nothing to complain about. But then the devil took a hand in things. Last Saturday night, simply because I felt like it, I went off all of a sudden, got hold of the boss, who had come that day to inspect the place, and just beat him up What had he done to you? Nothing at all, I tell you!

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I was the first time I saw him. The poor devil had even handed out cigarettes. It just came over me, that's all.

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You know the tale of the miller's wife, don't you? Well, you don't expect to learn spelling from her backside, do you? The backside of the miller's wife, that's human reason. This one seemed to me the most astounding of all, and I liked it. I looked at my new companion with keen interest. His face was furrowed, weather-beaten, like worm-eaten wood. A few years later another face gave me the same impression of worn and tortured wood: that of Panait Istrati.

He wrote in French.

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Or tools? A variety of cimbalom or dulcimer, usually played with a small hammer or plectrum. Do you play the santuri? I sing old Klephtic tunes from Macedonia. Then I take my hat round - this beret here! Sometimes they call me Baker's-Shovel, because I'm so lanky and my head is flattened like a griddle-cake.

Or else I'm called Passa Tempo because there was a time when I hawked roast pumpkin seeds. They call me Mildew, too, because wherever I go, they say, I get up to my tricks. Everything goes to the dogs. I have other nicknames as well, but we'll leave them for another time I heard the santuri for the first time at one of my village fetes, over there at the foot of Olympus.

It took my breath away. I couldn't eat anything for three days. May his soul rest in peace.

The Darkening Green by Elizabeth Clarke

Are you a gipsy? D'you mean to say you'd turn into a strummer? It was a kid's idea, but I was still half-baked then, my blood was hot. I wanted to get married, the poor idiot! Anyway, I spent everything I had and more besides, and bought a santuri. The one you're looking at.