Sunday, March 13, 2011

As he dreamed

As he dreamed, he was standing again in the outer court of a house in Petersburg—a house to which he was debtor for one night's shelter; it was early morning and deadly cold. The whole picture was sharp as a cut crystal—the triple court-yard, the stone pavement, the gray well, and frozen pile of firewood. He saw, recognized, lost it, and knew himself to be skimming down the Nevskiy Prospekt and across the Winter Palace Square, where the great angel towers upon its rose-granite monument. Forward, forward he was carried, along the bank of the frozen Neva and over the Troitskiy bridge, the powdered snow stinging his face like pinpoints as it flew up from the nails in his little horse's shoes. Then followed a magnifying of the picture—massed buildings rising from the snow—buildings gold and turquoise-domed, that, even as they materialized, lost splendor and merged into the unpretentious frontage of the Finland station.

The scroll of the dream unwound; the dreamer moved, easing his position, shaking back a lock of dark hair that had fallen across his forehead. He was no longer rocking to the power of the north express; he was standing on the platform at the end of a little train that puffed out of the Finland station—a primitive, miniature train, white with frost and powdered with the ashes of its wood fuel. The vision came and passed a sketch, not a picture—a suggestion of straight tracks, wide snow plains, and the blue, misty blur of fir woods. Then a shifting, a juggling of effects! Åbo, the Finnish port, painted itself upon his imagination, and he was embarked upon the lonely sledge-drive, to the harbor. He started in his sleep, shivered and sighed at that remembered drive. The train passed over new points, the hoods of the lamps swayed, the lights blinked and winked, and his mind swung onward in response to the physical jar.

Åbo was obliterated. He was on board a ship—a ship ploughing her way through the ice-fields as she neared Stockholm; salt sea air flicked his nostrils, he heard the broken ice tearing the keel like a million files, he was sensible of the crucial sensation—the tremendous quiver—as the vessel slipped from her bondage into the cradle of the sea, a sentient thing welcoming her own element!

Katherine Cecil Thurston: Max

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