(Feb 7th to 13th)
The brown and red tobacco- and snuff-jars, with Crowns, Garters, and names of forgotten mixtures in gold leaf; the polished ‘Oronoque’ tobacco-barrels on which favoured customers sat ; the cherry-black mahogany counter, the delicately moulded shelves, the reeded cigar-cabinets, the German-silver-mounted scales, and the Dutch brass roll- and cake-cutter, were things to covet.
This is from “In the Interests of the Brethren” in Debits and Credits.
The narrator meets a fellow Freemason, Lewis Burges, a London tobacconist, in his old-established and sumptuously furnished establishment, who takes him to a Lodge run by a group of wealthy merchants. Contrary to official policy, they have thrown their meetings open to any soldiers on leave, or convalescent from wounds, who can pass a test that demonstrates their Masonic credentials. The story describes the leniency of the examiners, with the visitors’ pleasure at the familiar ritual, good food and repose they can find in the secure setting the Lodge provides.
Our electric lights, set low down in the windows before the tun-bellied Rosamond jars, flung inward three monstrous daubs of red, blue, and green, that broke into kaleidoscopic lights on the faceted knobs of the drug-drawers, the cut-glass scent flagons, and the bulbs of the sparklet bottles. They flushed the white-tiled floor in gorgeous patches; splashed along the nickel-silver counter-rails, and turned the polished mahogany counter-panels to the likeness of intricate grained marbles—slabs of porphyry and malachite.
This is from “Wireless” in Traffics and Discoveries.
The narrator is in a chemist’s shop, to witness an experiment in Marconi’s new wireless telegraphy. They are trying to communicate with a similar apparatus thirty or forty miles away. But there is also a strange communication with the past. In the vivid kaleidoscopic atmosphere of the shop, there are myriad vivid images; outside it is bitterly cold, and in the grocery next door game birds and a hare are swinging in the east wind. Mr Shaynor, the chemist’s assistant, a consumptive, falls into a drugged trance, and writes fragments of verse, reproducing “The Eve of St Agnes” by John Keats, himself a consumptive pharmacist’s assistant, who lived some eighty years before.
There were still, hot hollows surrounded by wet rocks where he could hardly breathe for the heavy scents of the night flowers and the bloom along the creeper buds; dark avenues where the moonlight lay in belts as regular as checkered marbles in a church aisle; thickets where the wet young growth stood breast-high about him and threw its arms round his waist; and hilltops crowned with broken rock, where he leaped from stone to stone above the lairs of the frightened little foxes.
This is from “The Spring Running” in The Second Jungle Book.
As the year turns, Spring comes with a rush, ‘all the smells are new and delightful, and the whiskers of the Jungle People quiver to their roots …Then, perhaps, a little rain falls, and all the trees and the bushes and the bamboos and the mosses and the juicy-leaved plants wake with a noise of growing that you can almost hear’. Mowgli feels a strange restlessness, and decides to make a ‘Spring Running’ in the moonlight to the marshes of the north.