3 readings

0

Who voted?

Before him and slightly above his head, the hill crest
was clearly laid on the sky. Over it slid a sibilant invisi-
bility of wind like a sheet of water, and it seemed to him
that he might lift his feet from the road and swim up-
ward and over the hill on this wind which filled his
clothing, tightening his shirt across his chest, flapping
his loose jacket and trousers about him, and which
stirred the thick uncombed hair above his stubby quiet
face. His long shadow legs rose perpendicularly and fell,
ludicrously, as though without power of progression, as
though his body had been mesmerized by a whimsical
God to a futile puppet-like activity upon one spot, while
time and life terrifically passed him and left him behind.
At last his shadow reached the crest and fell headlong
over it.

The opposite valley rim came first into sight, azure
and aloof, in the level afternoon sun. Against it, like
figures rising in a dream, a white church spire rose, then
house-tops, red and faded green and olive half hidden in
budded oaks and elms. Three poplars twinkled their
leaves against a gray sunned wall over which leaned
peach and apple trees in an extravagance of fragile pink
and white; and though there was no wind in the valley,

bent narrowly to the quiet resistless compulsion of April
in their branches, then were still and straight again ex-
cept for the silver mist of their never ceasing, never es-
caping leaves. The entire valley stretched beneath him,
and his shadow, springing far out, lay across it, quiet
and enormous. Here and there a thread of smoke bal-
anced precariously upon a chimney. The hamlet slept,
wrapped in peace and quiet beneath the evening sun,
as it had slept for a century; waiting, invisibly honey-
combed with joys and sorrows, hopes and despairs, for
the end of time.

From the hilltop the valley was a motionless mosaic
of tree and house; from the hilltop were to be seen
no cluttered barren lots sodden with spring rain and
churned and torn by hoof of horse and cattle, no piles
of winter ashes and rusting tin cans, no dingy hoardings
covered with the tattered insanities of posted salacities
and advertisements. There was no suggestion of striving,
of whipped vanities, of ambition and lusts, of the drying
spittle of religious controversy; he could not see that
the sonorous simplicity of the court house columns was
discolored and stained with casual tobacco. In the valley
there was no movement save the thin spiraling of smoke
and the heart-tightening grace of the poplars, no sound
save the measured faint reverberation of an anvil.

The slow featureless mediocrity of his face twisted to
an internal impulse: the terrific groping of his mind. His
monstrous shadow lay like a portent upon the church,
and for a moment he had almost grasped something alien
to him, but it eluded him; and being unaware that there

was anything which had tried to break down the barriers
of his mind and communicate with him, he was unaware
that he had been eluded. Behind him was a day of harsh
labor with his hands, a strife against the forces of nature
to gain bread and clothing and a place to sleep, a victory
gotten at the price of bodily tissues and the numbered
days of his existence; before him lay the hamlet which
was home to him, the tieless casual; and beyond it lay
waiting another day of toil to gain bread and clothing
and a place to sleep. In this way he worked out the
devastating unimportance of his destiny, with a mind
heretofore untroubled by moral quibbles and principles,
shaken at last by the faint resistless force of spring in a
valley at sunset.

The sun plunged silently into the liquid green of the
west and the valley was abruptly in shadow. And as the
sun released him, who lived and labored in the sun, his
mind that troubled him for the first time, became quieted.
Here, in the dusk, nymphs and fauns might riot to a
shrilling of thin pipes, to a shivering and hissing of cym-
bals in a sharp volcanic abasement beneath a tall icy
star. * * * Behind him was the motionless conflagra-
tion of sunset, before him was the opposite valley rim
upon the changing sky. For a while he stood on one hori-
zon and stared across at the other, far above a world of
endless toil and troubled slumber; untouched, untouch-
able; forgetting, for a space, that he must return. * * *
He slowly descended the hill.
 
0