Archive for October, 2011

this novel is so relevant to the present times , with the london riots.

’interview with christie

I suppose you tke most of your characters from real life?V
An indignant denial to that monstrous suggestion  ’No, I don’t. I invent them. They are mine. They’ve goto
be my characters–doing what I want them to do, being what I want them to be–coming alive for me, having then- own ideas sometimes, but&
only because I’ve made the?
become real.So the author has produced the ideas, and the character!
–but now comes the third necessity–the setting.

’Leadership, besides being a great creativ”
force, can be diabolical . . .

The Author speaks_
The first question put to an author, personally, or throug7
the post, is_
’Where do you get your ideas from?V
The temptation is great to reply: ’I always go to Harrods,V
or ’I get them mostly at the Army & Navy Stores,’ or, snappily
Try Marks and Spencer.The universal opinion seems firmly established that there i!
magic source of ideas which authors have discovered
One can hardly send one’s questioners back to Elizabeth  times, with Shakespeare’s_
Tell me, where is fancy bred
Or in the heart or in the bead
How begot, how nourished
Reply, reply
You merely say firmly: “My own head.
That, of course, is no help to anybody. If you like the look of your questioner you relent_and go a little further  ’If one idea in particular seems attractive, and you fee>
you could do something with it, then you toss it around
play tricks with it, work it up, tone it down, and gradually get it into shape. Then, of course, you have to strt writin$
it. That’s not nearly such fun–it becomes hard work. Alternatively you can tuck it carefully away, in storage, for perhap!
using in a year or two years’ time. A second question–or rather a statement–is then like  to be_
’I suppose you tke most of your characters from real life? An indignant denial to that monstrous suggestionI
’No, I don’t. I invent them. They are mine. They’ve go to be my characters–doing what I want them to do, being
what I want them to be–coming alive for me, having their  own ideas sometimes, but only because I’ve made the?
become reed.So the author has produced the ideas, and the character!
–but now comes the third necessity–the setting. The firs two
come from inside sources, but the third is outside it must be there–waiting–in existence already. You don’invent
that–it’s there–it’s real You have been perhaps for a cruise on the Nile–yo,
remember it all–just the setting you want for this particular story. You have had a meal at a Chelsea cafe. A quarre>
was going on–one girl pulled out a handful of another    girl’s hair. An excellent start for the book you are going
to write next. You travel on the Orient Express.  You go to
tea with a friend. As you arrive her brother closes a book he  is reading–throws it aside, says: ’Not bad, but why on
earth didn’t they ask Evans?  So you decide immediately a book of yours shortly to be   written will bear the title. Why Didn’t They Ask EvansY
You don’t know yet who Evans is going to be. Never  mind. Evans will come in due course–the title is fixed  So, in a sense, you don’t invent your settings. They are outside you, all around you, in existence–you have \only to’lstretch out your&
hand and pick and choose. A railway train, a hospital, a London hotel, a Caribbean beach  country village, a cocktil party, a girls’ schoolI
But one thing only applies–they must be there–in existence  , Real people, real places. A definite place in time and
space. If here and now–how shall you get full information-U part from the evidence of your own eyes and ears? The answer is frighteningly simpleI
It is what the Press brings to you every day, served in your morning paper under the general heading of News
Collect it from the front page. What is going on in the world today? What is everyone saying, thinking, doing? Hold ur mirror to 1970 in EnglandI
Look at that front page every day for a month, make notes, consider and classifyI
Every day there is a killing
A girl strangled
Elderly woman attacked and robbed of her meagre savings
Young men or boys–attacking or attacked
Buildings and telephone kiosks smashed and gutted
Drug smuggling.
Robbery and assault
Children missing and children’s murdered bodies found no

far from their homes
Can this be England? Is England really like this? One feels–no–not yet, but it&
could beI
Fear is awakening–fear of what may be. Not so much because of actual happenings but because of the possible
causes behind them. Some known, some unknown, but felt. And not only in our own&
country. There are smaller paragraph!
on other pages–giving news from Europe–from
–from the Americas–Worldwide NewsI
Hi-jacking of planes
Anarchy– growing stronger
All seeming to lead to worship of destruction, pleasur”
in cruelty
What does it all mean? An Elizabethan phrase echo!
from the past, speaking of Life_
< .. it is a lie”
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
, Signifying nothing
And yet one knows–of one’s own knowledge–how much
goodness there is in this world of ours–the kindnesses done
the goodness of heart, the acts of compassion, the kindness o+
neighbour to neighbour, the helpful actions of girls and boys
Then why this fantstic atmosphere of daily news–o+
things that happen–that are actual factsY
To write a story in this year of Our Lord 1970–you must come
to terms with your background. If the background i!

fantstic, then the story must accept its background. It, tooF
must be a fantasy–an extravaganza. The setting must includ”
the fantstic facts of daily life Can one envisage a fantstic cause? A secret Campaig#
for Power? Can a maniacal desire for destruction create&
new world? Can one go a step further and suggest deliveranc”
by fantstic and impossible-sounding meansY
Nothing is impossible, science has tught us thatI
This story is in essence a fantsy. It pretends to be nothin$
But most of the things that happen in it are happening, or giving promise of&
happening in the world of todayI
It is not an impossible story–it is only a fantstic oneI
aBook K
aChapter N
Fasten your seat-belts, please.’ The diverse passengers i#
the plane were slow to obey. There was a general feelin$
that they couldn’t possibly be arriving at Geneva yet. Th”
drowsy groaned and yawned. The more than drowsy ha@
to be gently roused by an authoritative stewardessI
“Your seat-belts, please.V
The dry voice came authoritatively over the Tannoy. It explained in German, in&
French, and in English that a short period
of rough weather would shortly be experienced. Si%
Stfford Nye opened his mouth to its full extent, yawned an@
pulled himself upright in his seat. He had been dreamin$
very happily of fishing an English riverI
He was a man of forty-five, of medium height, with&
smooth, olive, clean-shaven face. In dress he rather liked t(
ffect the bizarre. A man of excellent family, he felt full=

t ease indulging any such isartorial whims. If it made th”
more conventionally dressed of his colleagues wince occasionallyF
that was merely a source of malicious pleasure t(
him. There was something about him of the eighteenthcentur=
buck. He liked to be noticedI
His particular kind of affecttion when travelling was&
kind of bandit’s cloak which he had once purchased i#
Corsica. It was of a very dark purply-blue, had a scarlelining
and had a kind of burnous hanging down behin@
which he could draw up over his head when he wished toF
so as to obviate draughtsI
Sir Stfford Nye had been a disappointment in diplomatiA
circles. Marked out in early youth by his gifts for great things,
he had singularly failed to fulfil his early promiseI
A peculiar and diabolical sense of humour was wont t(

fflict him in what should have been his most serious momentsI
When it came to the point, he found that he alway!
preferred to indulge his delicate Puckish malice to borin$
himself. He was a well-known figure in public life withouever
having reached eminence. It was felt that Stfford NyeF
though definitely brilliant, was not–and presumably neve%
would be–a safe man. In these days of tngled politics an@
tngled foreign relations, safety, especially if one were t(
reach ambassadorial rank, was preferable to brilliance. Si%
Stfford Nye was relegated to the shelf, though he was occa1S

asionally entrusted with such missions as needed the art o+
intrigue, but were not of too importnt or public a natureI
Journalists sometimes referred to him as the dark horse o+
_ Whether Sir Stfford himself was disappointed with his own career, nobody ever&
knew. Probably not even Sir Stffor@
Page d
Passenger To Frankfurhimself.
He was a man of a certin vanity, but he was als(

man who very much enjoyed indulging his own proclivitie!
for mischiefI
He was returning now from a commission of inquiry i#
Malaya. He had found it singularly lacking in interestI
His colleagues bad, in his opinion, made up their mind!
beforehand what their findings were going to be. They sa:

nd they listened, but their preconceived views were no

ffected. Sir Stfford had thrown a few spanners into th”
works, more for the hell of it than from any pronounce@
convictions. At all events, he thought, it had livened things up. He wished there&
were more possibilities of doing thasort
of thing. His fellow members of the commission ha@
been sound, dependable fellows, and remarkably dull. Eve#
the well-known Mrs Nathaniel Edge, the only woman memberF
well known as having bees in her bonnet, was no fool whe#
it came down to plain facts. She saw, she listened and sh”
played safeI


adays when it occurred to Sir Stfford that it was a pity th”
paragraph was not true. He was a little–just a little-U
tired of wild flowers and, fond as he was of dear Lucy, he%
bility despite her sixty-odd years to race up hills at toM
speed, easily outpacing him, sometimes annoyed him. Alway!
just in front of him he saw the seat of those brighroyal
blue trousers and Lucy, though scraggy enough elsewhereF
goodness knows, was decidedly too broad in the bea?
to wear royal blue corduroy trousers. A nice little internationa>
pie, he had thought, in which to dip his fingers, i#
which to play about . . I

ir, were really excessively boring.

Journeys all over the globe. How romantic it ought to be
But there was something about the atmosphere of a Passengers
Lounge in an airport that chilled romance. It wa!
too full of people, too full of things to buy, too full of similar
coloured seats, too full of plastic, too full of human
beings, too full of crying children. ?He tried to remember wh(
had said_
I wish I loved the Human Race
I wish I loved its silly face”
Chesterton perhaps? was undoubtedly true. Put enoug7
people together and they looked so painfully alike thaone
could hardly bear it. An interesting face now, thoughSir
Stfford. What a difference it would make.


He was not going to the party. Literary sherry parties, even distinguished
ones, were not Grant’s cup of tea. He was going to collect Marta Hallard
and take her out to dinner. Policemen, it is true, do not normally take
out to dinner leading actresses who gravitate between the Haymarket and
the Old Vic; not even when the policemen are Detective-Inspectors at
Scotland Yard. There were three reasons for his privileged position, and
Grant was aware of all three. In the first place he was a presentable
escort, in the second place he could afford to dine at Laurent’s, and in
the third place Marta Hallard did not find it easy to obtain escort. For
all her standing, and her chic, men were a little afraid of Marta. So when
Grant, a mere Detective-Sergeant then, appeared in her life over a matter
of stolen jewellery, she had seen to it that he did not entirely fade out
of it again. And Grant had been glad to stay. If he was useful to Marta as
a cavalier when she needed one, she was even more useful to him as a
window on the world. The more windows on the world a policeman has the
better he is likely to be at his job, and Marta was Grant’s ‘leper’s
squint’ on the theatre.

With a policeman’s ingrained habit of inspection he let his eye run over
the crowd between them, but found nothing of interest. It was the usual
collection. The very prosperous firm of Ross and Cromarty were celebrating
the publication of Lavinia Fitch’s twenty-first book, and since it was
largely due to Lavinia that the firm was prosperous the drinks were
plentiful and the guests were distinguished. Distinguished in the sense of
being well-dressed and well-known, that is to say. The distinguished in
achievement did not celebrate the birth of _Maureen’s Lover_, nor drink
the sherry of Messrs Ross and Cromarty. Even Marta, that inevitable Dame,
was here because she was a neighbour of Lavinia’s in the country. And
Marta, bless her black-and-white chic and her disgruntled look, was the
nearest thing to real distinction in the room.

Grant saw the interest in the young man’s face as he looked at Liz
Garrowby, and wondered a little. Liz was a small plain girl with a sallow
face. True, she had remarkable eyes; speedwell blue and surprising; and
she had the kind of face a man might want to live with; she was a nice
girl, Liz. But she was not the type of girl at whom young men look with
instant attention. Perhaps it was just that Searle had heard rumours of
her engagement, and was identifying her as Walter Whitmore’s fiancée.

‘Marguerite? Oh, she was mad, of course.’

‘How mad?’

‘Ten tenths.’

‘In what way?’

‘You mean how did it take her? Oh, a complete indifference to everything
but the thing she wanted at the moment.’

‘That isn’t madness; that is merely the criminal mind at its simplest.’

Grant thought how independable Malta’s ignorances were.

‘It might still be homicide, though,’ Marta said, in the cooing,
considering voice that was her trade-mark on the stage. ‘I could just
stand the thyme and the bullets, but now that he has taken a ninety-nine
years’ lease of the spring corn, and the woodpeckers, and things, he
amounts to a public menace.’

‘Why do you listen to him?’

‘Well, there’s a dreadful fascination about it, you know. One thinks:
Well, that’s the absolute sky-limit of awfulness, than which _nothing_
could be worse. And so next week you listen to see if it really _can_ be
worse. It’s a snare. It’s so awful that you can’t even switch off. You
wait fascinated for the next piece of awfulness, and the next. And you are
still there when he signs off.’

‘It couldn’t be, could it, Marta, that this is mere professional

‘Are you suggesting that the creature is a _professional_?’ asked Marta,
dropping her voice a perfect fifth, so that it quivered with the
reflection of repertory years, and provincial digs, and Sunday trains, and
dreary auditions in cold dark theatres.

‘No, I’m suggesting that he is an actor. A quite natural and unconscious
actor, who has made himself a household word in a few years without doing
any noticeable work to that end. I could forgive you for not liking that.
What did Marguerite find so wonderful about him?’

‘I can tell you that. His devotion. Marguerite liked picking the wings off
flies. Walter would let her take him to pieces and then come back for

‘There was one time that he didn’t come back.’


‘What was the final row about, do you know?’

‘I don’t think there was one. I think he just told her he was through. At
least that is what he said at the inquest. Did you read the obituaries, by
the way?’

‘I suppose I must have at the time. I don’t remember them individually.’

‘If she had lived another ten years she would have got a tiny par in among
the “ads” on the back page. As it was she got better notices than Duse. “A
flame of genius has gone out and the world is the poorer.” “She had the
lightness of a blown leaf and the grace of a willow in the wind.” That
sort of thing. One was surprised that there were no black edges in the
Press. The mourning was practically of national dimensions.’

‘It’s a far cry from that to Liz Garrowby.’

‘Dear, nice Liz. If Marguerite Merriam was too bad even for Walter
Whitmore, then Liz is too good for him. Much too good for him. I should be
delighted if the beautiful young man took her from under his nose.’

‘Somehow I can’t see your “beautiful young man” in the rôle of husband,
whereas Walter will make a very good one.’

‘My good man, Walter will broadcast about it. All about their children,
and the shelves he has put up in the pantry, and how the little woman’s
bulbs are coming along, and the frost patterns on the nursery window.
She’d be much safer with–what did you say his name was?’

‘Searle. Leslie Searle.’ Absentmindedly he watched the pale yellow neon
signature of _Laurent’s_ coming nearer.

‘I don’t think safe is the adjective I would apply to Searle, somehow,’ he
said reflectively; and from that moment forgot all about Leslie Searle
until the day when he was sent down to Salcott St Mary to search for the
young man’s body.

‘I’ve been in England for holidays quite often, yes. Not often as early in
the year as this, though.’

‘You haven’t seen England at all unless you have seen it in the spring.’

‘So I’ve heard.’

‘Did you fly over?’

‘Just from Paris, like a good American. Paris is fine in the spring too.’

‘So I’ve heard,’ she said, returning his phrase and his tone.

‘Press photography?’

‘Not Press. Just photography. I spend most of the winter on the Coast,
doing people.’

‘The Coast?’

‘California. That keeps me on good terms with my bank manager. And the
other half of the year I travel and photograph the things I want to

‘It sounds a good sort of life,’ Liz said, as she unlocked the car door and
got in.

‘It’s a very good life.’

The car was a two-seater Rolls; a little old-fashioned in shape as Rolls
cars, which last for ever, are apt to be. Liz explained it as they drove
out of the square into the stream of the late afternoon traffic.

‘The first thing Aunt Lavinia did when she made money was to buy herself a
sable scarf. She had always thought a sable scarf the last word in good
dressing. And the second thing she wanted was a Rolls. She got that with
her next book. She never wore the scarf at all because she said it was a
dreadful nuisance to have something dangling about her all the time, but
the Rolls was a great success so we still have it.’

‘What happened to the sable scarf?’

‘She swopped it for a pair of Queen Anne chairs and a lawn-mower.’

By the time they left the hotel the first street lamps were decorating the

‘This is when I think lights look best,’ Liz said. ‘While it is still
daylight. They are daffodil yellow and magic. Presently when it grows dark
they will go white and ordinary.’

‘Yes. Every third cottage in the place has an alien in it. All degrees of
wealth, from Toby Tullis–the play-wright, you know–who has a lovely
Jacobean house in the middle of the village street, to Serge Ratoff the
dancer who lives in a converted stable. All degrees of living in sin, from
Deenie Paddington who never has the same weekend guest twice, to poor old
Atlanta Hope and Bart Hobart who have been living in sin, bless them, for
the best part of thirty years. All degrees of talent from Silas Weekley,
who writes those dark novels of country life, all steaming manure and
slashing rain, to Miss Easton-Dixon who writes a fairy-tale book once a
year for the Christmas trade.’

‘It sounds lovely,’ Searle said.

‘It’s obscene,’ Liz said, more hotly than she intended; and then wondered
again why she should be so on edge this evening. ‘

So Mrs Garrowby sat and brooded darkly behind her gracious exterior. She
was not afraid for the Trimmings silver, of course. She was afraid of what
she called the young man’s ‘personableness.’ She distrusted it for itself,
and hated it as a potential threat to her house.

For the introspective Liz, on the other hand, life had become all of a
sudden a sort of fun-fair. A kaleidoscope. A place where no surface ever
stayed still or horizontal for more than a few seconds together. Where one
was plunged into swift mock danger and whirled about in coloured lights.
Liz had been falling in and out of love more or less regularly since the
age of seven, but she had never wanted to marry anyone but Walter. Who was
Walter, and different. But never in that long progression from the baker’s
roundsman to Walter had she been aware of anyone as she was aware of
Searle. Even with Tino Tresca, of the yearning eyes and the tenor that
dissolved one’s heart like a melting ice, even with Tresca, craziest of
all her devotions, it was possible to forget for minutes together that she
was in the same room with him. (With Walter, of course, there was nothing
remarkable in the fact that they should be sharing the same air: he was
just there and it was nice.) But it was never possible to forget that
Searle was in a room.

Why? she kept asking herself. Or rather, why not?

It had nothing to do with falling in love, this interest; this excitement.
If, on Sunday night, after two days in his company, he had turned to her
and said: ‘Come away with me, Liz,’ she would have laughed aloud at so
absurd a notion. She had no desire to go away with him.

But a light went out of the room with him, and sprang up again when he
came back. She was aware of every movement of his, from the small mallet
of his forefinger as it flicked the radio switch, to the lift of his foot
as it kicked a log in the fireplace.


She had gone walking with him through the woods, she had shown him the
village and the church, and always the excitement had been there; in his
gentle drawling courtesy, and in those disconcerting grey eyes that seemed
to know too much about her. For Liz, all American men were divided into
two classes: those who treated you as if you were a frail old lady, and
those who treated you as if you were just frail. Searle belonged to the
first class. He helped her over stiles, and shielded her from the crowding
dangers of the village street; he deferred to her opinion and flattered
her ego; and, as a mere change from Walter, Liz found it pleasant. Walter
took it for granted that she was adult enough to look after herself, but
not quite adult enough to be consulted by Walter Whitmore, Household Word
Throughout the British Isles and a Large Part of Overseas. Searle’s was a
charming reversal of form.

She had thought, watching him move slowly round the interior of the
church, what a perfect companion he would have made if it were not for
this pricking excitement; this sense of wrongness.

Even the unimpressionable Lavinia, always but semi-detached from her
current heroine, was, Liz noticed, touched by this strange attraction.
Searle had sat with her on the terrace after dinner on Saturday night,
while Walter and Liz walked in the garden and Emma attended to household
matters.  As they passed below the terrace each time on their round of the
garden, Liz could hear her aunt’s light childlike voice babbling happily,
like a little stream in the half-dark of the early moonrise. And on Sunday
morning Lavinia had confided to Liz that no one had ever made her feel so
_abandoned_ as Mr Searle. ‘I am sure that he was something very wicked in
Ancient Greece,’ she said. And had added with a giggle: ‘But don’t tell
your mother that I said so!’

Miss Easton-Dixon lived in a tiny cottage on the slope behind the village
street. It had three windows, asymmetrical in their own right and in
relation to each other, a thatched roof, and a single chimney, and it
looked as if one good sneeze would bring the whole thing round the
occupant’s ears; but its aspect of disintegration was equalled only by its
spick and span condition. The cream wash of the plaster, the lime-green
paint of door and windows, the dazzling crispness of the muslin curtains,
the swept condition of the red-brick path, together with the almost
conscientious crookedness of everything that normally would be straight,
made a picture that belonged by right to one of Miss Easton-Dixon’s own
fairy-tale books for Christmas.

In the intervals of writing her annual story, Miss Easton-Dixon indulged
in handcrafts. In the schoolroom she had tortured wood with red-hot
pokers. When pen-painting came in she had pen-painted with assiduity, and
had graduated from that to barbola work. After a spell of sealing-wax, she
had come to raffia, and thence to hand-weaving. She still weaved now and
then, but her ingrained desire was not to create but to transform. No
plain surface was safe against Miss Easton-Dixon. She would take a cold
cream jar and reduce its functional simplicity to a nightmare of
mock-Meissen. In times which have seen the disappearance of both the attic
and the boxroom, she was the scourge of her friends; who, incidentally,
loved her.

She looked at Liz’s sallow little countenance and tried to remember when
she had last seen it so alive; so full of the joy of life. After a little
she remembered. It was on a Christmas afternoon long ago, and Liz had
experienced in the short space of an hour her first snow and her first
Christmas tree.

So far she had hated only Leslie Searle’s beauty. Now she began to hate
Leslie Searle.

Ratoff had at one time been the raison d’être and prospective
star of an embryo play of Toby Tullis’s which was to be called _Afternoon_
and was all about a faun. Unfortunately it had suffered considerable
changes in the processes of birth and had eventually become something
called _Crépuscule_, which was all about a little waiter in the Bois, and
was played by a newcomer with an Austrian name and a Greek temperament.
Ratoff had never recovered from this ‘betrayal’. At first he had drunk
himself into scintillations of self-pity; then he had drunk to avoid the
ache of self-pity that filled him when he was sober; then he was sacked
because he had become independable both at rehearsals and performance;
then he reached the ultimate stage of a ballet dancer’s downfall and
ceased even to practise. So that now, vaguely but surely, the fatty tissue
was blurring the spare tautness. Only the furious eyes still had the old
life and fire. The eyes still had meaning and purpose.

Walter thought with
a mild amusement how scandalised poor Serge would be if he could witness
the treatment to which his adored Toby was being subjected. Toby had by
now discovered that Leslie Searle was a fellow who photographed the
world’s celebrities, and was therefore confirmed in his suspicion that
Searle had known quite well who he was. He was puzzled, not to say
wounded. No one had been rude to Toby Tullis for at least a decade. But
his actor’s need to be liked was stronger than his resentment, and he was
putting forth all his charm in an effort to win over this so-unexpected

Sitting watching the charm at work, Walter thought how ineradicable was
the ‘bounder’ in a man’s personality. When he was a child his friends at
school had used the word ‘bounder’ loosely to describe anyone who wore the
wrong kind of collar. But of course it was not at all like that. What made
a man a bounder was a quality of mind. A crassness. A lack of sensitivity.
It was something that was quite incurable; a spiritual astigmatism. And
Toby Tullis, after all those years, stayed unmistakably a bounder. It was
a very odd thing. With the possible exception of the Court of St James’s,
there was no door in the world that was not wide open to Toby Tullis. He
travelled like royalty and was given almost diplomatic privileges; he was
dressed by the world’s best tailors and had acquired the social tricks of
the world’s best people; in everything but essence he was the well-bred
man of the world. In essence he remained a bounder. Marta Hallard had once
said: ‘Everything that Toby does is just a little off-key,’ and that
described it very well.

Looking sideways to see how Searle was taking this odd wooing, Walter was
delighted to observe a sort of absentmindedness in Searle as he consumed
his beer. The degree of absentmindedness was beautifully graded, Walter
noticed; any more would have laid him open to the charge of rudeness and
so put him in the wrong, any less might not have been obvious enough to
sting Tullis. As it was, Toby was baffled into trying far too hard and
making a fool of himself. He did everything but juggle with plates. That
anyone should be unimpressed by Toby Tullis was a state of affairs not to
be borne. He sweated. And Walter smiled into his beer, and Leslie Searle
was gentle and polite and a little absentminded.

Weekley had been watching them from the bar for some time, and now brought
his beer over to their table and greeted them. He came, as Walter knew,
for two reasons: because he had a woman’s curiosity, and because
everything beautiful had for him the attraction of the repulsive. Weekley
resented beauty, and it was not entirely to be held against him that he
made a very large income indeed out of that resentment. His resentment was
quite genuine. The world he approved of was, as Liz had said, ‘all
steaming manure and slashing rain’. And not even the clever parodies of
his individual style had sufficed to ruin his vogue. His lecture tours in
America were wild successes, not so much because his earnest readers in
Peoria and Paduca loved steaming manure but because Silas Weekley looked
the part so perfectly. He was cadaverous, and dark, and tall, and his
voice was slow and sibilant and hopeless, and all the good ladies of
Peoria and Paduca longed to take him home and feed him up and give him a
brighter outlook on life. In which they were a great deal more generous
than his English colleagues; who considered him an unmitigated bore and a
bit of an ass. Lavinia always referred to him as ‘that tiresome man who
always tells you that he was at a board school’, and held that he was just
a little mad. (He, on his part, referred to her as ‘the woman Fitch’, as
one speaking of a criminal.)

Weekley had come over to them because he could not keep away from the
hateful beauty of Leslie Searle, and Walter caught himself wondering if
Searle knew it. For Searle, who had been all gentle indifference with the
eager Toby, was now engaged in throwing a rope over the antagonistic
Silas. Walter, watching the almost feminine dexterity of it, was willing
to bet that in about fifteen minutes Searle would have Silas roped and
hog-tied. He glanced at the big bland clock behind the bar and decided to
time him.

Searle did it with five minutes to spare. In ten minutes he had Weekley,
resentful and struggling, a prisoner in his toils. And the bewilderment in
Weekley’s sunken eyes was greater than ever the bewilderment in Toby’s
fish-scale ones had been. Walter nearly laughed aloud.

And then Searle put the final touch of comedy to the act. At a moment when
both Silas and Toby were doing their rival best to be entertaining, Searle
said in his quiet drawl: ‘Do forgive me, won’t you, but I see a friend of
mine,’ and got up without haste and walked away to join the friend at the
bar. The friend was Bill Maddox, the garage keeper.

‘For the five hundred and seventh time, I do not eat pickles. I have a
palate, Williams. A precious possession. And I have no intention of
prostituting it to pickles. There was something among Searle’s things that
was a great deal more suggestive than any photograph.’

‘What, sir?’

‘One of the girl’s gloves,’ Grant said; and told him where it had been

‘Well, well,’ Williams said, and chewed the information over in silence
for a little. ‘Doesn’t sound as if it had gone very far.’


‘The affair. If he was still at the stage of stealing her glove. Honestly,
sir, in this day and age I didn’t imagine that anyone was driven to making
do with a glove.’

So the beautiful young man had been sufficiently attracted to steal one of
his beloved’s gloves. Grant found it oddly endearing. An almost Victorian
gesture. Nowadays fetish-worship took much more sinister forms.

Photographs?’ Williams’s ears pricked.

‘Local ones that he has taken since he came here.’

‘Oh. Any of Walter Whitmore’s girl, by any chance?’

‘A very great number indeed.’

‘Yes? Posed ones?’

‘No, Williams, no. Romantic. Her head against a sunlit sky with a spray of
almond blossom across it. That kind of thing.’

‘Is she photogenic, would you say? A blonde?’

‘No, she is a small, dark, plainish creature with a nice face.’

‘Oh. What does he want to go on photographing her for? Must be in love

with her.’

Searle had occupied a first-floor room in the battlemented tower that
stuck out to the left of the Tudor front door, so that it had windows on
three sides of it. It was large and high, and was furnished in very
superior Tottenham Court Road, a little too gay and coy for its Victorian
amplitude. It was an impersonal room and Searle had evidently done nothing
to stamp it with his personality. This struck Grant as odd. He had rarely
seen a room, occupied for so long, so devoid of atmosphere. There were
brushes on the table, and books by the bedside, but of their owner there
was no trace. It might have been a room in a shop window.

Of course it had been swept and tidied since last it was occupied six days
ago. But still. But still.

The feeling was so strong that Grant paused to look round and consider. He
thought of all the rooms he had searched in his time. They had all–even
the hotel rooms–been redolent of their late occupier. But here was
nothing but emptiness. An impersonal blank. Searle had kept his
personality to himself.

As he went through Searle’s belongings Grant thought about Liz
Garrowby–Marta’s ‘dear nice Liz’–and her relations with William’s
‘push-ee’. There was never any saying what a woman saw in any man, and
Whitmore was of course a celebrity as well as a potentially good husband.
He had said as much to Marta, coming away from the party that day. But how
right had Marta been about Searle’s power to upset? How much had Liz
Garrowby felt Searle’s charm? How much of that eager welcome of hers in
the hall had been joy at Searle’s imagined safety and how much mere relief
from the burden of suspicion and gloom?

‘No, of course it isn’t too late. It isn’t ten o’clock yet.’ She sounded
weary. ‘Since this happened time stretches out and out. It’s like
having–hashish, is it? Are you looking for anything in particular,

Grant had asked about their trip down the Rushmere, so as to set him
talking; if you got a man to talk enough he lost his defensive quality.
Whitmore was drawing too hard on his cigarette but talking quite freely.
Before he had actually reached their Wednesday evening visit to the Swan,
Grant deflected him. It was too early yet to ask him about that night.

Grant took this, rightly, as capitulation, and went away to collect
Williams. He liked Williams and liked working with him. Williams was his
opposite and his complement. He was large and pink and slow-moving, and he
rarely read anything but an evening paper; but he had terrier qualities
that were invaluable in a hunt. No terrier at a rat hole ever displayed
more patience or more pertinacity than Williams did when introduced to a
quarry. ‘I would hate to have you on my tail,’ Grant had said to him more
than once in their years of working together.

To Williams, on the other hand, Grant was everything that was brilliant
and spontaneous. He admired Grant with passion, and envied him without
malice; Williams had no ambition, and coveted no man’s shoes. ‘You’ve no
idea how lucky you are, sir,’ Williams would say, ‘not looking like a
policeman. Me, I go into a pub, and they take one look at me and think:
Copper! But with you, they just cast an eye over you and think: Army in
plain clothes; and they don’t think another thing about you. It’s a great
advantage in a job like ours, sir.’

Endpaper: Stories with a personal history

Other People’s Books: Association Copies and the Stories They Tell. Photo: Special Arrangement

Other People’s Books: Association Copies and the Stories They Tell. Photo: Special Arrangement

Artistically produced, scholarly and entertaining accounts about famous association copies of rare books.

When bibliophiles make books for other bibliophiles, you get a book like the one I have the pleasure (and the luck) to write on. Other People’s Books: Association Copies and the Stories they Tell is the ultimate book about books: richly illustrated essays about famous association copies of rare books. An Association Copy in bibliospeak is a book signed and inscribed by the author to someone famous or someone significantly associated with the author. To illustrate: a hypothetical, plausible example, if Nehru were to have signed and inscribed a copy of Glimpses of World History to Gandhi. Such an association copy would be valued not just in the collector’s market, but would be a cultural artefact to be pursued and preserved. Another nice association copy would be a copy of A God of Small Things inscribed by Arundhati Roy to her mother. An intriguing association copy would be a copy of Sir Vidia’s Shadow, signed and inscribed by Paul Theroux to Naipaul. (I’ve heard that such a copy exists).

………………………………You can feast your eyes on the actual handwriting of Whitman, Thoreau, Fitzgerald, Jane Austen, and Herman Melville. Their personal inscriptions vary from being intimate to witty to overwrought. The physical book is quarter-leather (8×11 inches) hardbound, 224-pages, and “printed in four-colors in Italy in an edition of 1000 with 112 images”……………………

In his lively, wide ranging introduction here, scholar-bibliophile Thomas Tanselle writes that an association copy “indicates the life history of an individual copy…that they have both scholarly and emotional appeal… they make us probe deeper, inscriptions raise our curiosity – who is this person the book is presented to, what did they mean to the author? Sentiment is valid here, not sentimentality….”

A particular copy can evoke memories and associations that is quite outside the book, and in this sense, observes Tanselle gently, “We all have such personal associations with the books — inscribed or uninscribed — that we posses, and in this sense all copies of books are association copies.” But if an Association Copy has to arouse the interest and curiosity of a larger community of readers, scholars, and collectors, it has to have a personal history that culturally or historically resonates with and for everyone. (In other words, a book you inscribed to your mother is going to be of great worth and interest precisely to two people: you and your mum). Featured in this book are numerous marvellous instances of such unique, high-end copies. As one vintage book catalogue once described it: “An exhibition of books made interesting through their association.”

Thoreau and Whitman met just once in their lifetime and exchanged copies of their books after inscribing it to each other. Mark Dimunation, Chief of the Rare Book Division at the Library of Congress, records the story: It was an autumn afternoon in Brooklyn, 1856, when they met; Whitman with his Leaves of Grass, and Thoreau with A Week on the Concord, 1849. They offered each other their books. “Thoreau carefully pencilled: “H.D. Thoreau from Walt Whitman on the flyleaf. Whitman scrawled his signature…later Whitman documented this extraordinary meeting in the book with a longish note: ‘We had a two hours talk+walk — I liked him well — I think he told me he was busy at a surveying job down on Staten Island. He was full of animation – seem’d in good health — look’d very well — WW’. A century later, two separate book collectors pursuing both association copies tracked them down, and they are now reunited at the Library of Congress.

Gift from an aunt

Also featured here is a copy of the poems of William Cowper, gifted by Jane Austen to her favourite niece, Fanny. Cowper, poet and hymnodist, was Austen’s favourite verse maker and, visiting Fanny once, she couldn’t pass up the chance to thrust a copy of these poems on her. The inscription on the verso of the front free endpaper, which you can see a detailed close-up of in Other People’s Books, reads: ‘Fanny Cath Austen/June 29, 1808/The Gift of her Aunt Jane’.

Other association copies in this book that interested me: a copy of The Whale that Melville inscribed to his whaling mate, Richard Bentley in 1851, and the T.S. Eliot-inscribed copy of The Great Gatsby, with Fitzgerald, known for poor spelling, oblivious to the misspelling in the inscription: “For T.S. Eliot/Greatest of Living Poets/from his entheusiastic worshipper/ F. Scott Fitzgerald/Paris/Oct/1925”.

nature Fiona Macleod


For one who has lived so much among the hills and
loves the mountain solitude it may seem strange to aver that the most uplifting and
enduring charm in Nature is to be found in amplitude of space. Low and rolling lands give
what no highlands allow. If in these the miraculous surprise of cloud is a perpetual new
element of loveliness, it is loveliness itself that unfolds when an interminable land
recedes from an illimitable horizon, and, belonging to each and yet remote from either,
clouds hang like flowers, or drift like medusæ, or gather mysteriously as white bergs in
the pale azure of arctic seas.

We are apt to be deceived by the formal grandeur of mountains, by the massed colours and
contours of upbuilded heights, whether lying solitarily like vast sleeping saurians, or
gathered in harmonious, if tumultuous, disarray. There is a beauty that is uniquely of the
hills. The mountain lands have that which no lowland has. But in that company we shall not
find what the illimitable level lands will afford, what inhabits the wilderness, what is
the revelation of the desert, what is the lovely magic of the horizons of the sea. By the
sombre reaches of the Solway, in the fenlands of East Anglia, in the immensity of the
great bog which cinctures Ireland, in the illimitable lowland from Flanders to the last
brine-whitened Frisian meadows, I have seen a quality of aerial beauty that I have not in
like loveliness elsewhere found. Who that in mid-ocean has long watched the revelation of
distance and the phantasmagoria of cloud during serene days, or from island shores looked
across limitless waters till the far blue line seemed lifted to the purple-shadowed bases
of leaning palaces, can think of an excelling loveliness? Who that has seen the four-fold
azure, in east and west, in north and south, over the desert, and watched the secret veils
of a single pavilion of rose-flusht cumulus slowly be undone, till the vision is become a
phantom, and the phantom is become a dream, and the dream is become a whiteness and
stillness deep-sinking into fathomless blue, can forget that the impassive beauty of the
wilderness is wore searching and compelling than the continual miracle of wind-swept Alp
and cloud-shadowed, highland; that it has, in its majesty of silence and repose, that
which is perpetual on the brows of Andes and does not pass from Himalaya?

Perhaps in sheer beauty of pictorial isolation clouds are most lovely when viewed above
sea horizons, from shores of islands, or promontories, or remote headlands. In the South
this beauty is possibly more dreamlike, more poignantly lovely, than in the North.
Certainly, I have nowhere known cloud beauty excelling that in the Mediterranean and
Ionian seas, viewed from the Spanish coast, from the Balearic Isles, over against the
mountain-bastions of Sardinia and Corsica, from the headlands of Sicily, where Ithaka and
Zante are as great galleys in a magic ocean, where for weeks at midsummer the wine-dark
waters are untroubled between the cliffs of Hellas and the sands of Alexandria. Perhaps.
It is difficult to say of any region that there beauty is more wonderfully revealed than
elsewhere. It comes, and is present, and is upgathered; as the wind, that has no home,
that the shaken reed knows, that crumbles the crests of ancient hills; as the rainbow,
which is the same aerial flqme upon Helicon, upon Ida, on the green glen of Aghadoe, on
the steeps of Hecla in the Hebrides, that gives majesty and wonder to the village green,
and delivers mystery on the horizons of the frequented common.  It is like light,
whose incalculable arrivals are myriad, but which when most steadfast is most dreamlike, a
phantom: as moonlight on the mysterious upturned face of great woods; or as when, on
illimitable moors, the dew glistens on the tangled bent and pale flood of orchis where the
lapwings nest; or in golden fire, as when at the solstice the sorrel in the meadows and
the tansy in the wastes and the multitude of the dandelion are transmuted into a mirage of
red and yellow flame; or in rippling flood of azure and silver, when the daysprings
loosen; or in scarlet and purple and chrysoprase, when the South is as a clouded opal and
the West is the silent conflagration of the world.  There is not a hidden glen among
the lost hills, there  is not an uvisited shore, there is not a city swathed in smoke
and drowned in manu clamours, where light is not a continual miracle, where from dayset to
dawn, from the rising of the blue to the gathering of shadow, the wind is not habitual as
are the reinless, fierce, unswerving tides of the sea.  Beauty, and Light, and Wind:
they who are so common in our companionship  and so continual in mystery, are as one
in this—that none knows whence the one or the other is come, or where any has the last
excellence or differs save in the vibration of ecstacy, or whither the one of the other is
gone, when the moment, on whose wings it came or on whose brows it stood revealed, is no
lonber Eternity speaking the language of Time, but the silence of what is already timeless
and no more.

It has been said, less wisely than disdainfully, that the chief element of beauty is
destroyed when one know the secret of semblance.  Clouds, then, are forfeit in
loveliness when one knows the causes of their transformation, their superb illusion?
Not so.  Has the rose lost in beauty, has she relinquished fragrance, for all
that we have learned of her blind roots, the red ichor in her pettals, the green pigmant
in her stem, her hunger that must be fed in coarse earth, her thirst that must be quenched
in rain and dew, her desire that must mate with light?  Is the rainbow the less a
lovely mystery beause we know that it is compact of the round, courlorless raindrops such
as fall upon us in any shower?  Is the blue of an unclouded sky the less poignant for
us if we know that the sunlight which inhabits it is there, not the yellow of red or
suffused white which we discer, but itself an ineffaboe azure; that, there, the sun itself
is not golden or amber or bronze, but violet-blue?

I remember it was complained once of something I wrote—in effect, that cloud was the
visible breathing, the suspended breath of earth—that the simile was as inept as it was
untrue. None who knows how cloud is formed will dispute the truth in similitude: as to
disillusion, can that be “unpoetic” which is so strange and beautiful a thing?
The breath of a little child born in the chill of dawn, the breath of old age fading into
the soon untroubled surface of the mirror held against silent lips, the breath of the
shepherd on the hills, of the seamen on dark nights under frost-blue stars, the breath of
cows on the morning pastures, of the stag panting by the tarn, the breath of woods, of
waters, of straths, of the plains, of the brows of hills, the breath of the grass, the
breathing of the tremulous reed and the shaken leaf . . . are not these the continual
vapour of life; and what is cloud but the continual breath of our most deep and ancient
friend, the brown earth, our cradle, our home, and our haven?

If any reader wish to feel the invisible making of the cloud that shall afterward
rise on white wings or stream like a banner from mountain-bastions, let him stand on the
slopes of a furrowed hill in this midsummer season. He will then feel the steady,
upflowing tide of the warm air from the low-lying glens and valleys, a constant tepid
draught, the breath of the earth. It will not be long before the current which shook
yonder rose-flusht briar, which swayed these harebells as foam is blown, which lifted
yonder rowan-branch and softly trampled this bracken underfoot, is gathered by scaur and
sudden corrie to the sheer scarps of the mountain-summit, to be impelled thence, as a
geyser is thrown from an imperious fount, high into the cold and windy solitude: There it
may suddenly be transmuted to an incalculable host of invisible ice-needles, and become
cirrus; to float like thistledown, or to be innumerably scattered in wisps and estrays, or
long “greymares’-tails,” or dispersed like foam among vast,  turbulent
shallows. Or it may keep to the lee-side of the mountain-summit, and stretch far like a
serrated sword, or undulatingly extend like a wind-narrowed banner, covering as a flag the
climbing armies of pine and boulder and the inscrutable array of shadow.

Cirrus . . .what a beauty there is in the familiar name: what beauty of association
for all who love the pageant of cloud, and, loving, know somewhat of the science of the
meteorologist. It is not alone in this: memory and imagination are alike stirred by the
names of the three other of the four main divisions of Cloud—the Cumulus, the Stratus,
the Nimbus. From the grey and purple of earthward nimbus to the salmon-pink bastions of
the towering cumuli those unloosened mountains of the middle air, those shifting frontiers
of the untravelled lands of heaven, and thence to the dazzling whiteness of the last
frozen pinnacles of cirrus, all loveliness of colour may be found. Neither brush of
painter nor word of poet can emulate those apparitions of gold and scarlet, of purple and
emerald, of opal and saffron and rose, There every shade of dove-brown and willow-grey,
every subterfuge of shadow and shine, can be seen.

The cloud-lover will know that these four great divisions are but terms of convenience.
There are intervening children of beauty. Betwixt the earth-held, far-reaching nimbus and
the climbing cumulus, whose forehead is so often bathed in the rarest fires of sunset, is
the cumulonimbus. Between the cumulus and the stratus, whose habitual grey robe can be so
swiftly made radiant in yellow and orange and burning reds, is the strato-cumulus: a
sombre clan in the upper wilderness, heavy with brooding rains, moving in dark folds, less
persuaded of the great winds which may drive the as silent seeming stratus, some ten
thousand feet higher it may be, at the lightning speed of the eagle. Between the stratus
and cirrus there are the cirrocumulus and the cirro-stratus. The former is in one form as
commonly welcome as beautiful, the familiar “mackerel-sky,” harbinger of fair
weather—in another, it is the soft dappled sky that moonlight will turn into the most
poignant loveliness, a wilderness of fleecy hillocks and delicate traceries. The latter is
that drift-ice or broken-up snow-field enmassing which is so familiar. Both march from
horizon to horizon in ordered majesty, though when they seem like idle vapours
motionlessly suspended along the blue walls of heaven they are rustling their sheaves of
frost-fire armour, are soaring to more than twenty thousand feet above the earth, and are
surging onward with impetuous rush at the rate of from seventy to eighty miles an hour.

I have called them the children of beauty. But these children of cloud are many. In each
division, in each subdivision, there is again complex division. In a Gaelic story or
poem-saga they are called ” the Homeless Clan.” It is a beautiful name. But they
are not homeless whom the great winds of the upper world eternally shepherd, who have
their mortal hour in beauty and strength and force, and, instead of the havens and graves
and secret places of the creatures of earth, know a divine perpetual renewal.

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is there such a thing as free will, or is it up to a creator of some kind, or is it just a matter of chance that one acts and thinks as one does?

“Well, you’re at a transition point in your life, a time when you can go one way or another, and it’s usually at those times that we look back and try to make some sense of it all, see if we’ve done the right things, if we’ve ended up with the right people. And we remember people who aren’t with us anymore.”“Is that what you do? I mean, do you think about whether you ended up with the right people, wonder if you did the right things?” -LAURA CALDWELL

We can forgive, neutralise, erase; heal negative, traumatic or painful events from our past, but we cannot change the fact that they have actually occurred.

Only Heaven that wrote the scroll of human life
Knows where its beginning is, and where its end—
If end there be. We mortals can not read its writ,
We even \now not whether the text runs down or up.

Yet when a judge is seated behind his scarlet bench
His is the power of Heaven, over life and death—
But not Heaven’s knowledge. Let him—and us!—beware
Lest passing judgment on others, we ourselves be judged.

My senses are numbed by the unbearable pain .

But isn’t it true that when a man has been touched by death, others can see its mark on him ? Every time I come upon one of my wives or concubines in the now deserted corridors, she quickly averts her face. When I look up from my papers in the office, I often catch my clerks staring at me. As they hurriedly bend again over their documents, I know that they covertly clasp the amulets they have taken to wear¬ing of late. They must feel that after I had come back from my visit to Han-yuan I was not merely very ill. A sick man is pitied; a man possessed is shunned.
They do not understand. They need only pity me. As one pities a man condemned to the inhuman punishment of inflicting on him¬self with his own hand the lingering death: being forced by the executioner to cut away his own flesh, piece by piece. Every letter I wrote, every coded message I sent out these last days cut away a slice of my living flesh. Thus the threads of the ingenious web I had been weaving patiently over the entire Empire were cut, one by one. Every thread cut stands for a crushed hope, a thwarted illusion, a wasted dream. Now all traces have been wept out; no one shall ever know. I even presume that the Imperial Gazette shall print an obitu¬ary, mourning me as a promising young official who met an un¬timely death by a lingering disease. Lingering, indeed, lingering till now there is nothing left of me but this bloodstained carcass.
This is the moment that the executioner plunges his long knife in the tortured criminal’s heart, giving him the merciful deathblow. Why, then, do you, fearful shadow, insist on prolonging my agony, you who call yourself by the name of a flower ?

 Who could rule men when himself not a man ? At last I knew there was only one solution.
Once I had taken that decision, I felt at peace. I enjoyed the charming surroundings. On my left the almond trees, laden with white blossoms whose scent hung heavily in the warm spring air. And on my right the silvery expanse of the moonlit lake
“The almond blossoms are out very early, this spring!”
And I said:
“It is the unexpected joys that are the greatest!”
“Are they always?” she asked with a mocking smile. “Come, I shall show you where I was sitting just now.”

“Liu comes from an old family in the capital, and was educated to become an official. But he failed to pass the second literary examination, and that em¬bittered him to such a degree that he gave up all his studies and became a merchant. In that he was so successful that now he is one of the richest men in this province and his commercial enter¬prises are spread over the entire realm. That is the reason why he travels about so much. But please never mention to him that I told you this, for his earlier failure still rankles!”

Judge Dee reflected that Liu himself was probably having a hangover from the wedding dinner. He con¬gratulated him, and added: “I regret to have missed this opportunity of meeting the professor. His conversation would doubtless have been most instructive.”
“A simple merchant like me,” Liu Fei-po said sullenly, “does not pretend to understand classical literature. But I have heard it said that book learning does not always imply a high character!”
There was an awkward pause. Han quickly gave a sign to the waiters, who rolled up the bamboo curtains.

Meeting and parting are constant in this inconstant world,
    Where joy and sadness alternate like night and day;
    Officials come and go, but justice and righteosness remain,
    And unchangeable remains forever the imperial way.

“You could at least have chosen a better district than Peng-lai, that dismal place of mist and rain, far away on the seacoast! Don’t you know the weird stories they tell about that region since olden times? They say that on stormy nights the dead rise there from their graves, and strange shapes flit about in the mist that blows in from the ocean. They even say that weretigers are still slinking about in the woods there. And to step in the shoes of a murdered man! Everyone in his senses would have refused that post if it were offered to him, but you even asked for it!”
    The young magistrate had hardly listened to him. Now he said eagerly, “Think of it, a mysterious murder to solve, right after one has arrived at one’s post! To have an opportunity right away for getting rid of dry-as-dust theorizing and paper work! At last I’ll be dealing with men, my friends, real, living men!”
       “The implications of that fact,” Secretary Liang added quickly, “you know as well as we! It means that the magistrate’s murder has ramifications here in the capital. Heaven knows what hornets’ nest you are going to stir up, and what intrigues of high officials you’ll get involved in! You have passed all the literary examinations with honors; here in the capital you have a great future before you. And you prefer to bury yourself in that lonely place, Peng-lai!”
    “I advise you, Dee,” the third young official said earnestly, “to reconsider your decision. There is still time; you could easily plead a sudden indisposition and ask for ten days’ sick leave. In the meantime they’ll assign another man to that post. Do listen to me, Dee. I am speaking to you as your friend!”
    Magistrate Dee noticed the look of entreaty in his friend’s eyes. He felt deeply touched. He had known Hou only for a year, but had formed a high opinion of his brilliant mind and his exceptional capacities. He emptied his wine cup and rose.
    “I appreciate your solicitude as a further mark of your staunch friendship!” he said with a warm smile. “Both of you are perfectly right, it would be better for my career if I stayed on in the capital. But I owe it to myself to go on with this undertaking. The literary examinations Liang referred to just now I consider as routine; I feel that they don’t count for me. And neither do I count the years of paper work I have had in the Metropolitan Archives here. I have yet to prove to myself that I am really capable of serving our illustrious emperor and our great people. The magistracy of Penglai is the real beginning of my career!”
    “Or the end,” Hou muttered under his breath. He rose also and walked to the window. The gravediggers had left their shelter and were starting their work. He grew pale and quickly glanced away. Turning round he said hoarsely, “The rain has stopped.”
    “Then I’d better go!” Magistrate Dee exclaimed.

“And my advice to you, magistrate,” he said calmly, “is that you carry your sword yourself, else you’ll be caught unawares again.” He turned his horse round, and the two disappeared among the trees.
    As Magistrate Dee took his sword from Hoong and hung it over his own back, the old man said contentedly, “You gave them a good lesson, sir. What kind of people would those two have been?”
    “Usually,” the magistrate replied, “it is men with some real or imagined grudge who choose to become outlaws. But their code is to rob only officials and wealthy people; they often help people in distress, and they have a reputation for courage and chivalry. They call themselves ‘brothers of the green woods.’ ‘”‘ell, Hoong, it was a good fight, but we have lost time. Let’s hurry on.”


A torrential rain came pouring down. They took shelter under a high tree on a plateau by the roadside, overlooking the fertile green peninsula on which the district of Peng-lai was located.
    While they were eating a cold snack Ma Joong told with gusto some stories about his adventures with farm girls. Magistrate Dee took no interest in ribald tales, but he had to admit that Ma Joong had a certain caustic humor that was rather amusing. But when he began on another similar story, the magistrate cut him short saying, “I am told that there are tigers in these parts. I thought those animals favored a drier climate.”
    Chiao Tai, who had been listening silently to the conversation, now remarked, “Well, that’s hard to say. As a rule those brutes keep to the high wooded land, but once they have acquired the taste for human flesh they’ll also roam about in the plains. We might get good hunting down there!”
    “What about those tales about weretigers?” Magistrate Dee asked.
    Ma Joong cast an uneasy glance at the dark forest behind them. “Never heard about it!” he said curtly.
    “Could I have a look at your sword, sir?” Chiao Tai asked. “It seemed a fine antique blade to me.”
    As he handed him the sword, the magistrate said, “It is called Rain Dragon.”

There, you’d better show me the tribunal.”
    Tang first took them to the spacious court hall. The tiled floor was swept clean, and the high bench on the platform in the back was covered with a piece of shining red brocade. The entire wall behind the bench was covered with a curtain of faded violet silk. In its center appeared as usual the large figure of a unicorn, symbol of perspicacity, embroidered in thick gold thread.
    They went through the door behind the curtain and, after having crossed a narrow corridor, entered the private office of the magistrate. This room was also well kept: there was not a speck of dust on the polished writing desk, the plaster walls were newly whitewashed. The broad couch against the back wall was of beautiful dark green brocade.

   “Your honor’s predecessor was a gentleman of considerable charm and culture. Perhaps a bit easygoing at times and impatient about details, but very precise in all things that really mattered, very precise indeed. He was about fifty years old, and he had a long and varied experience. An able magistrate, your honor.”
    “Did he,” Judge Dee asked, “have any enemies here?”
    “Not one, your honor!” Tang exclaimed. “He was a shrewd and just judge, well  liked by the people. I may say, your honor, that he was popular in this district, very popular indeed.”

“He was an enthusiastic devotee of the tea cult, your honor, and most particular about all its details. He always insisted on fetching the water himself from the well in his garden, and he also boiled it himself on the tea stove in his library. His teapot, cups and caddy are all valuable antiques. He kept them locked away in the cupboard under the tea stove. On my instructions the coroner also made experiments with the tea leaves found in the caddy, but those proved to be quite harmless.”

The coroner, Dr. Shen, was a dignified elderly man with an intelligent face. Tang whispered to the judge that he was the best physician in the district, and a man of noble character.


Judge Dee leaned back in his chair and took a folding fan from his sleeve. Fanning himself vigorously, he said with a contented smile, “Well, Hoong, I have now a fairly clear picture of the murdered man’s personality. I have glanced through the volumes with his own poetry it is written in exquisite style but rather shallow in content. Love poems predominate, most of them dedicated to famous courtesans in the capital or other places where Magistrate Wang served.”

    Judge Dee nodded, “That brocade folder cou gave me a few moments ago,” he said, “contained nothing but erotic drawings. Further, lie bad a few score books on wine, and the way it is made in various parts of the empire, and on cooking. On the other hand, he had built up a fine collection of the great ancient poets, every volume dog-eared and with his own notes and comments written in on nearly every page. The same goes for his comprehensive collection of works on Buddhism and on Taoist mysticism. But his edition of the complete Confucian classics is in as virgínal a state as when he purchased it! I further noticed that the sciences are well represented: most of the standard works on medicine and alchemy are there, also a few rare old treatises an riddles, conundrums and mechan-ical devices. Books on history, statecraft, administration and mathematics arc conspicuous by their absence.”
    Turning his chair round, the judge continued.
    “I conclude that Magistrate Wang was a poet with a keen sense of beauty, and also a philosopher deeply interested in mysticism. And at the same time he was a sensual man, much attached to all earthly pleasures-a not unusual combination, I believe. He was completely devoid of ambition; he liked the post of magistrate in a quiet district far from the capital, where he was his own master and where he could arrange his life as he liked. That is why he didn’t want to be promoted–I belive that Peng-lai was already his ninth post as magistrate! But he was a very intelligent man of an inquisitive mind-hence his interest in riddles, conundrums and mechanical devices-and that, together with his long practical experience, made him a fairly satisfactory magistrate here, although I don’t suppose he was very devoted to his duties. He cared little for family ties; that is why he didn’t remarry after his first and second ladies had died, and why he was content with ephemeral liaisons with courtesans and prostitutes. He himself summed up his own personality rather aptly in the name he bestowed on his library.”
    Judge Dee pointed with his fan at the inscribed board that hung over the door. Hoong couldn’t help smiling when he read, “Hermitage of the Vagrant Weed.”
        “In any case,” he said, “I’ll study this at leisure, though it is of course by no means certain that it concerns affairs that are connected with his murder. But inconsistencies are always worth special attention. Anyway we have now a good picture of the victim, and that’s, according to our handbooks on detection, the first step toward discovering the murderer!”



Rabbit Position
By Anil Sharma on June 24, 2011 at 8:33 am

The real name of rabbit position is shashankasana. Shashi means Moon in Sanskrit. Ank means smear. So shashankasana means the asana in which you maintain the position of the shadow on the moon. This shadow resembles the shape of hare or rabbit. That is why most people call it rabbit position or hare position.

Rabbit position is the counter position of the camel position. In camel position the spine is bent backwards. Counter to this, in rabbit position, the spine is bent forward. We achieve the desired impact on the spine by performing these two asanas one after another. In tandem they give complete relief to the spine and the spine is toned up completely. This gives relief to the complete body.

Benefits of Rabbit Position:

  • The spine gets pleasurable relief when it is brought parallel to the earth. This provides rest to the spine.
  • Liver, spleen and stomach are impacted and hence they are activated.
  • While maintaining this position the diaphragm below the lungs is loosened. The capacity to breathe up to the abdomen increases. The diaphragm is stretched and this helps to increase the depth of your breath. Feel the throbbing in your naval. This is highly beneficial for asthmatic patients.
  • This position alleviates all type of anger and emotional instability. It has the capacity to cure even depressions.

Technique of Rabbit Position:

Free video by author explaining rabbit position. Sit down in vajrasana. Keep the waist and neck erect. Inhale slowly and deeply and while inhaling raise the arms together over the head. Your biceps clutching your ears. Stay in this position while full of breath and stretch your shoulders backwards a few seconds. Now while exhaling bend forwards along with your arms. Your buttocks stay locked to the ankles. Loosen your arms till the hands and elbows rest on the floor. Your forehead or chin may also touch the ground. Keep your breathing normal in this rabbit position (shashankasana). While inhaling stretch the arms and return slowly to the vajrasana position.

Point of concentration is Agya chakra between your eye brows about an inch inside.  Make sure that while bending forward your buttocks should not come off their position betweens the heels. While maintaining the position, when your arms, from elbows to hands are resting on floor and your forehead is touching the ground you will feel an unearthly tranquility descend on your squeezed body.

Enjoy this serenity. God be with you!

Camel Position
By Anil Sharma on June 20, 2011 at 7:44 am

Camel position is also called usthra asana in yogic language. Usthra means a camel in Sanskrit. In the final position of this asana, the body is curved like a camel. Hence its name, usthra asana (camel position). During the normal functioning of an individual, all through the day, whatever his profession, we usually bend forward. As a result of this the spine is disturbed only in a particular forward bending position. Usthra asana rectifies the possibilities of defects caused by this natural tendency to bend forward. This asana is practiced while sitting in vajrasana.

Technique of camel position:

See video by author explaining camel position. Sit in vajrasana and stand up on the knees. Keep the distance of your knees equal to the width of your shoulders. Both the feet behind the back should be parallel to each other. The soles of your feet should be pointing upwards. Now hold your waist with both hands. The tips of your thumbs should be touching each other. The fingers pointing towards your navel and your hands clutching both the sides of your waist. Now close your eyes. This is extremely important and obligatory as one can feel giddy while bending backwards. Now inhale slowly and simultaneously bend your neck and back backwards slowly. Stay in this position as long as possible. While staying, keep your breathing normal. The advanced students (sadhaks) can remove their hands from the waist and hang them loose backwards touching the soles of you feet. Come back to the original position slowly and rest in vajrasana.

The point of concentration should be the whole spine. The important thing to keep in mind is that the naval should remain outwards as far as possible so that it may have the most impact on the spine. While returning to the original position the movement should be utterly slow. Don’t make haste. No wonder “Haste makes Waste”. This is true about all yogic processes and is extremely important for any serious student (sadhak) of yoga.



Seraglio of Sorrow

Grey and empty skies pierced
by leaden cries.
Bleeds the heart in sorrow
that cannot cry.
Her days filled with shade,
dark memories surround her.

Joy passes quickly,
it’s pain and remorse remain.
Frozen in a moment,
the hopeless heart sinks into despair.
Her days filled with shade,
dark memories surround her.

Out her window softly,
the gentle breeze shakes the winter tree.
No one hears the blossoms falling
on the crystal snow.
Bright promises of future hope.

This is very strongly based on a poem quoted in the Judge Dee mystery _The Chinese Nail Murders_ as being of Chinese antiquity. I wanted something I could sing.

The original
“Winter’s Eve in the Seraglio”
The lonely birds cry in the lonely winter sky,
But lonelier still the heart — that may not cry.
Dark memories come and haunt her from the past,
Joy passes, it’s remorse and sorrow that last.
Oh that but once new love could still old pain:
The winter prune on new year’s eve in bloom again!
Opening the window she sees the shivering tree below
And hears the blossoms falling in the crystal snow.

Steve Jobs Quotes

quotations on: [Life]
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.

Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Adress, 2005

– More quotations on: [Death]

Sometimes life is going to hit you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith.


Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Adress, 2005

You can’t connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path.

Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Adress, 2005

– More quotations on: [Confidence]

“We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life.      Life is brief, and then you die, you know?          And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it.”

“Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

“In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains of the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.”

“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.”

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.”

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

“I’m the only person I know that’s lost a quarter of a billion dollars in one year…. It’s very character-building.”

“I’m as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do.”

“Quality is more important than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.”

“I’ve always wanted to own and control the primary technology in everything we do.”

“It comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much.”

“I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”

“It’s rare that you see an artist in his 30s or 40s able to really contribute something amazing.”

“I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”

“Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?”

“The products suck! There’s no sex in them anymore!”

“The cure for Apple is not cost-cutting. The cure for Apple is to innovate its way out of its current predicament.”