Autodidact: self-taught

Oct
07
2012

Blackwood

by V. L. Craven

Blackwood ‘The Empty House’
001. Certain houses, like certain persons, manage somehow to proclaim at once their character for evil.
002. In the case of the latter, no particular feature need betray them; they may boast an open countenance and an ingenuous smile; and yet a little of their company leaves the unalterable conviction that there is something radically amiss with their being: that they are evil. Willy nilly, they seem to communicate an atmosphere of secret and wicked thoughts which makes those in their immediate neighbourhood shrink from them as from a thing diseased.
003. Instinctively, by a sort of sub-conscious preparation, he kept himself and his forces well in hand the whole evening, compelling an accumulative reserve of control by that nameless inward process of gradually putting all the emotions away and turning the key upon them—a process difficult to describe, but wonderfully effective, as all men who have lived through severe trials of the inner man well understand.
004. To his aunt’s occasional remarks Shorthouse made no reply, realising that she was simply surrounding herself with mental buffers—saying ordinary things to prevent herself thinking of extra-ordinary things.
005. It was as if the whole world—for all experience seemed at that instant concentrated in his own consciousness—were listening to the grating noise of that key.

Blackwood ‘The Wendigo’
001. the various Nimrods returned to the bosoms of their respective families with the best excuses the facts of their imaginations could suggest.
002. He was deeply susceptible, moreover, to that singular spell which the wilderness lays upon certain lonely natures, and he loved the wild solitudes with a kind of romantic passion that amounted almost to an obsession.
003 Hank knew him and swore by him. He also swore at him, “jest as a pal might,” and since he had a vocabulary of picturesque, if utterly meaningless, oaths, the conversation between the two stalwart and hardy woodsmen was often of a rather lively description.
004 Overhead the stars were brilliant in a sky quite wintry, and there was so little wind that ice was already forming stealthily along the shores of the still lake behind them. The silence of the vast listening forest stole forward and enveloped them.
005 Hank and Défago were at it hammer and tongs, or, rather, hammer and anvil, the little French Canadian being the anvil.
006 Hank, he saw, was swearing like a mad African in a New York nigger saloon; but it was the swearing of “affection.”
007 The lake gleamed like a sheet of black glass beneath the stars. The cold air pricked. In the draughts of night that poured their silent tide from the depths of the forest, with messages from distant ridges and from lakes just beginning to freeze, there lay already the faint, bleak odors of coming winter.
008 Motionless as a Hemlock stem merging his figure into the surrounding blackness in a way that only wild men and animals understand, he turned, still moving like a shadow,
009 And soon after he slept, the change of wind he had divined stirred gently the reflection of the stars within the lake. Rising among the far ridges of the country beyond Fifty Island Water, it passed over the sleeping camp with a faint and sighing murmur through the tops of the big trees that was almost too delicate to be audible. With it, down the desert paths of night, there passed a curious, thin odor, strangely disquieting, an odor of something that seemed unfamiliar—utterly unknown.
010 There had been a light fall of snow during the night and the air was sharp.
011 The bleak splendors of these remote and lonely forests rather overwhelmed him with the sense of his own littleness.
012 A sky of rose and saffron, more clear than any atmosphere Simpson had ever known, still dropped its pale streaming fires across the waves, where the islands—a hundred, surely, rather than fifty—floated like the fairy barques of some enchanted fleet. Fringed with pines, whose crests fingered most delicately the sky, they almost seemed to move upwards as the light faded—about unmilked tea strong enough to kill men who had not covered thirty miles of hard “going,” eating little on the way.
013 Just behind them a passing puff of wind lifted a single leaf, looked at it, then laid it softly down again without disturbing the rest of the covey.
014 The shadow of an unknown horror, naked if unguessed, that had flashed for an instant in the face and gestures of the guide, had also communicated itself, vaguely and therefore more potently, to his companion.
015 …He gave it the benefit of the doubt; he was Scotch.
016 When a somewhat unordinary emotion has disappeared, the mind always finds a dozen ways of explaining away its causes
017 He did not realize that this laughter was a sign that terror still lurked in the recesses of his soul—that, in fact, it was merely one of the conventional signs by which a man, seriously alarmed, tries to persuade himself that he is not so.
018. though his reason successfully argued away all unwelcome suggestions, a sensation of uneasiness remained, resisting ejection, very deep-seated—peculiar beyond ordinary.
019. And it was in that moment of distress and confusion that the whip of terror laid its most nicely calculated lash about his heart
020. To him, in that moment, it seemed the most shattering and dislocating experience he had ever known, so that his heart emptied itself of all feeling whatsoever as by a sudden draught.
021. Behind the screen of memory and emotion with which experience veils events,
022. How Simpson found his way alone by the lake and forest might well make a story in itself, for to hear him tell it is to know the passionate loneliness of soul that a man can feel when the Wilderness holds him in the hollow of its illimitable hand—and laughs
023. Like many another materialist, that is, he lied cleverly on the basis of insufficient knowledge, because the knowledge supplied seemed to his own particular intelligence inadmissible.
024. It was so easy to be wise in the explanation of an experience one has not personally witnessed.
025. “And that’s as sartain as the coal supply down below!
026. His uncle’s method of explaining—”explaining away,” rather—the details still fresh in his haunted memory helped, too, to put ice upon his emotions.
027. “And where you heered him callin’ an’ caught the stench, an’ all the rest of the wicked entertainment,”
028. It was not the first time, that a man had yielded to the singular seduction of the Solitudes and gone out of his mind;
029. bladder faces blown up by the hawkers on Ludgate Hill, that change their expression as they swell, and as they collapse emit a faint and wailing imitation of a voice.
030. “An’ if it is I’ll swab the floor of hell with a wad of cotton wool on a toothpick,
031. To this day he thinks of what he termed years later in a sermon “savage and formidable Potencies lurking behind the souls of men, not evil perhaps in themselves, yet instinctively hostile to humanity as it exists.”

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