one day, or so we are told, the sun will disappear. or burn out. or something like that. disappear, burn out, is there a difference? strange to say, such considerations often occupy my mind. often occupy it for quite long stretches of time in fact, quite irrespective of my surroundings or my so-called circumstances. and did even when i was a schoolboy, much to my discomfort at the hands of my schoolmates.
i was forcefully reminded of the imminent - or perhaps not so imminent disappearance or burning out of the sun, as the case may be - by the said sun's most forcefully beating down on my head as i stood by the side of the road to b----------,
watching the disappearing form of fenwick as he strode forcefully, without so much as a look back or a by your leave, in good - nay perfect form, one foot in front of the other, first the left, then the right, absolutely the proper form to take a walk or for that matter even an evening stroll - though as i previously indicated it was far from evening, with the sun, which showed no sign at all of burning out or disappearing, banging down on my poor head - only nominally protected as it was by my hat - not a bad hat, quite in the latest style inasmuch as i was able to judge of such things, but hardly a pith helmet or up to the task of doing a pith helmet's work if it comes to that, fenwick as i said heading down toward the horizon and over it on his way to b--------------, there to enjoy a glass at the hostage and crawfish - was that really the name of the pub - the hostage and crawfish? - to be sure i had not written it down when he pronounced it, hardly thinking it necessary at the time, even if i had a pen and paper handy,
and i am not one of those gentry who find it necessary to burden myself with those appurtenances when i am only going for my morning walk, the hostage and crawfish, yes, a singular name, but perhaps not for the town of b------------, for who knows what sort of name they find proper or useful, and it did to the best of my poor memory seem to be the name fenwick had indicated, and who was i to doubt him?
who was i doubt him? indeed. i had my pressing concerns to occupy myself. such as - who was i, and what was i doing here on the side of this dusty road, so far, so far from my nicely kept - small to be sure, but very nicely and neatly kept room in mrs flanagan's rooming house - a good soul, mrs flanagan, a good soul, everyone agreed she was a good soul - and she charged a reasonable rent, yes a very reasonable rent, as she was a good soul, yes a good soul, whatever were the precise definition and wider implications of that term, she was always lighting candles, she must have been a good soul.
and i - was i a good soul? i could not recall anyone ever applying that singular terminology to myself - but then, who knows what one's fellow creatures - curious term that, "fellow creatures", even more curious than "good soul" when you stop to think about it - who knows what one's fellow creatures think of oneself at any given moment in time or if they think of one at all, eh? unless you happen to be the lord mayor or standing for election to parliament, and the citizenry are encouraged to write scathing letters to the irish times about your moral character and fitness for high office and the letters are actually printed - so they must have taken some thought - but about your moral character and fitness for office,
which is not the same as one's actual "self", is it? let alone your soul, good or not as the case may be. and then the lord mayor or the prime minister of ireland or the king of sweden could fall down and break their necks and no one would give them a thought any more or write letters to the irish times or the times of london or le monde - perhaps one final round of particularly fiery missives saying good riddance. as for me, i never give the lord mayor or the prime minister a thought. where was i?
the sun. i was wondering about the sun, if it would ever stop burning. not today, i decided forcefully - insofar as i was capable of forceful thought, or indeed of any kind of forceful behavior, physical or mental. "physical" or "mental" indeed - another consideration to stop the brain for indefinite stretches and cause it to stare through the vacant eye into vacant space until rudely recalled to one's so-called "surroundings". but do they really surround one? are they not filled with holes through which the abyss gan be glimpsed? glimpsed?
fenwick. i had no more glimpse of fenwick. unlike the sun, he had quite disappeared. over the hill - actually over a very flat horizon, a very flat horizon indeed - and far away.
the madness of following him - what had possessed me, what had possessed me to think i could relieve the neverending tedium of my wretched existence for even one day, for even one tentative sally forth from the implacable round of my assigned and appointed routines.
it was time to go back to town. or was it? had fenwick said he would stand me a pint at the hostage and crawfish? did i want a pint? did i want to see fenwick again? here at least, were questions i could answer.
i turned around. i looked back down the road. i recognized none of it. it looked very long. had i really walked down it? why? oh, why?
i heard a voice. "help me." it was costermayne. i had forgotten about him.
"help me." i stepped behind the bushes where fenwick and i had dragged him and looked down at him. fenwick had indeed been justly judicious about his own marksmanship, as there was a hole the size of a half crown in costermayne's forehead.
"help me." costermayne looked straight up at me.
i hardly knew what to say. "you seem in rather poor shape, costermayne. with that great bloody hole in the middle of your head."
"muggleton - muggs - good old muggs. my dearest chum." his voice was surprisingly clear.
"i hardly think we were 'chums,' costermayne. though it was a long time ago."
"ah, you forget. but there is nothing like a bullet in the brain to sharpen one's memories. help me, muggs! at least help me up!"
i looked back over my shoulder at the now enticing road. "and if i help you up, can you walk?"
"no, no, you must help me! we were chums, muggs, like brothers! i mean, a brother is only flesh and blood, but chums were lads together, isn't that splendid, ha ha! help me here, and we will share a good laugh together some day, over a pint!"
"yes, but can you walk? i can't carry you."
"no, no need for that. just let me sit up. and then you can go for help."
"back to town?"
"no, no. only to my cousin's castle - castle morwyn,"
"there is no castle around here." i was beginning to feel dizzy, and was certain that the bullet in his brain had affected costernayne's judgment.
"yes, yes, it is just behind that great hedge there, and over the moor. castle morwyn - filled with morwyns. old morwyn, young morwyn, admiral morwyn, reverend morwyn - plenty of morwyns! a morwyn to suit every taste! "
"in a bloody castle?"
"well, they call it a castle. it's a building, a building. the years could have been kinder to it. not exactly a schoolboy's notion of a castle, or an american's. come, muggs, there's a good chap, it is not even a mile away!"
"on the other side of the hedge you say? can they give me a glass of water?"
"water? ha, ha! a glass of whatever you desire, old fellow! old morwyn will blow the cobwebs off his fabled wine cellar for you. i guarantee it! or he will feel the rough edge of my tongue, that he will, ha ha!"
i sighed. i noticed a shadow at my feet. was it my imagination, or was the day finally beginning to wane?