Story 5 - Silence: A Fable by Spitoufs
Story 5 - Silence: A Fable by Spitoufs
Alcman. The mountain pinnacles slumber valleys, crags and
caves are silent.
LISTEN to me, said the Demon as he placed his hand upon my head.
The region of which I speak is a dreary region in Libya, by the
borders of the river Zaire. And there is no quiet there, nor
The waters of the river have a saffron and sickly hue and they
flow not onwards to the sea, but palpitate forever and forever
beneath the red eye of the sun with a tumultuous and convulsive
motion. For many miles on either side of the rivers oozy bed is
a pale desert of gigantic water-lilies. They sigh one unto the
other in that solitude, and stretch towards the heaven their long
and ghastly necks, and nod to and fro their everlasting heads.
And there is an indistinct murmur which cometh out from among them
like the rushing of subterrene water. And they sigh one unto
the other.
But there is a boundary to their realm - the boundary of the dark,
horrible, lofty forest. There, like the waves about the Hebrides,
the low underwood is agitated continually. But there is no wind
throughout the heaven. And the tall primeval trees rock eternally hither and thither with a crashing and mighty sound. And from their high summits, one by one, drop everlasting dews. And at the roots
strange poisonous flowers lie writhing in perturbed slumber.
And overhead, with a rustling and loud noise, the gray clouds rush
westwardly forever, until they roll, a cataract, over the fiery
wall of the horizon. But there is no wind throughout the heaven.
And by the shores of the river Zaire there is neither quiet
nor silence.
It was night, and the rain fell and falling, it was rain, but,
having fallen, it was blood. And I stood in the morass among the
tall and the rain fell upon my head - and the lilies sighed one
unto the other in the solemnity of their desolation.
And, all at once, the moon arose through the thin ghastly mist,
and was crimson in color. And mine eyes fell upon a huge gray rock
which stood by the shore of the river, and was lighted by the light
of the moon. And the rock was gray, and ghastly, and tall, - and
the rock was gray. Upon its front were characters engraven in the
stone and I walked through the morass of water-lilies, until I
came close unto the shore, that I might read the characters upon
the stone.
But I could not decypher them. And I was going back into the morass, when the moon shone with a fuller red, and I turned and
looked again upon the rock, and upon the characters -
and the characters were DESOLATION.
And I looked upwards, and there stood a man upon the summit of the
rock and I hid myself among the water-lilies that I might discover
the actions of the man. And the man was tall and stately in form,
and was wrapped up from his shoulders to his feet in the toga of
old Rome. And the outlines of his figure were indistinct - but his
features were the features of a deity for the mantle of the night,
and of the mist, and of the moon, and of the dew, had left uncovered
the features of his face. And his brow was lofty with thought, and
his eye wild with care and, in the few furrows upon his cheek I
read the fables of sorrow, and weariness, and disgust with mankind,
and a longing after solitude.
And the man sat upon the rock, and leaned his head upon his hand,
and looked out upon the desolation. He looked down into the low
unquiet shrubbery, and up into the tall primeval trees, and up
higher at the rustling heaven, and into the crimson moon.
And I lay close within shelter of the lilies, and observed the
actions of the man. And the man trembled in the solitude -
but the night waned, and he sat upon the rock.
And the man turned his attention from the heaven, and looked out
upon the dreary river Zaire, and upon the yellow ghastly waters,
and upon the pale legions of the water-lilies. And the man listened
to the sighs of the water-lilies, and to the murmur that came up
from among them. And I lay close within my covert and observed the
actions of the man. And the man trembled in the solitude -
but the night waned and he sat upon the rock.
Then I went down into the recesses of the morass, and waded afar in
among the wilderness of the lilies, and called unto the hippopotami
which dwelt among the fens in the recesses of the morass. And the
hippopotami heard my call, and came, with the behemoth, unto the
foot of the rock, and roared loudly and fearfully beneath the moon.
And I lay close within my covert and observed the actions of the
man. And the man trembled in the solitude -
but the night waned and he sat upon the rock.
Then I cursed the elements with the curse of tumult and a
frightful tempest gathered in the heaven where, before, there had
been no wind. And the heaven became livid with the violence of the
tempest - and the rain beat upon the head of the man - and the
floods of the river came down - and the river was tormented into foam - and the water-lilies shrieked within their beds - and the
forest crumbled before the wind - and the thunder rolled - and the
lightning fell - and the rock rocked to its foundation.
And I lay close within my covert and observed the actions of the
man. And the man trembled in the solitude - but the night waned
and he sat upon the rock.
Then I grew angry and cursed, with the curse of silence, the river,
and the lilies, and the wind, and the forest, and the heaven,
and the thunder, and the sighs of the water-lilies. And they became
accursed, and were still. And the moon ceased to totter up its
pathway to heaven - and the thunder died away - and the lightning
did not flash - and the clouds hung motionless - and the waters sunk
to their level and remained - and the trees ceased to rock - and the
water-lilies sighed no more - and the murmur was heard no longer
from among them, nor any shadow of sound throughout the vast
illimitable desert. And I looked upon the characters of the rock,
and they were changed -and the characters were SILENCE.
And mine eyes fell upon the countenance of the man, and his
countenance was wan with terror. And, hurriedly, he raised his head
from his hand, and stood forth upon the rock and listened.
But there was no voice throughout the vast illimitable desert, and the charactes upon the rock were SILENCE.
And the man shuddered, and turned his face away, and fled afar off,
in haste, so that I beheld him no more.
Now there are fine tales in the volumes of the Magi - in the iron
bound, melancholy volumes of the Magi.
Therein, I say, are glorious histories of the Heaven, and of the
Earth, and of the mighty sea - and of the Genii that over-ruled
the sea, and the earth, and the lofty heaven.
There was much lore too in the sayings which were said by the
Sybils and holy, holy things were heard of old by the dim leaves
that trembled around Dodona -but, as Allah liveth, that fable
which the Demon told me as he sat by my side in the shadow of the
tomb, I hold to be the most wonderful of all! And as the Demon
made an end of his story, he fell back within the cavity of the
tomb and laughed. And I could not laugh with the Demon, and he
cursed me because I could not laugh. And the lynx which dwelleth
forever in the tomb, came out therefrom, and lay down at the feet
of the Demon, and looked at him steadily in the face.