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The Wave An Egyptian Aftermath   By: (1869-1951)

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An Egyptian Aftermath.



Author of 'Education of Uncle Paul,' 'A Prisoner in Fairyland' Etc.


TO: M. S.=k Egypt's Forgetful and Unwilling Child.



Since childhood days he had been haunted by a Wave.

It appeared with the very dawn of thought, and was his earliest recollection of any vividness. It was also his first experience of nightmare: a wave of an odd, dun colour, almost tawny, that rose behind him, advanced, curled over in the act of toppling, and then stood still. It threatened, but it did not fall. It paused, hovering in a position contrary to nature; it waited.

Something prevented; it was not meant to fall; the right moment had not yet arrived.

If only it would fall! It swept across the skyline in a huge, long curve far overhead, hanging dreadfully suspended. Beneath his feet he felt the roots of it withdrawing; he shuffled furiously and made violent efforts; but the suction undermined him where he stood. The ground yielded and dropped away. He only sank in deeper. His entire weight became that of a feather against the gigantic tension of the mass that any moment, it seemed, must lift him in its rising curve, bend, break, and twist him, then fling him crashing forward to his smothering fate.

Yet the moment never came. The Wave hung balanced between him and the sky, poised in mid air. It did not fall. And the torture of that infinite pause contained the essence of the nightmare.

The Wave invariably came up behind him, stealthily, from what seemed interminable distance. He never met it. It overtook him from the rear. The horizon hid it till it rose.

There were stages in its history, moreover, and in the effect it produced upon his early mind. Usually he woke up the moment he realised it was there. For it invariably announced its presence. He heard no sound, but knew that it was coming there was a feeling in the atmosphere not unlike the heavy brooding that precedes a thunderstorm, only so different from anything he had yet known in life that his heart sank into his boots. He looked up. There, above his head was the huge, curved monster, hanging in mid air. The mood had justified itself. He called it the 'wavy feeling.' He was never wrong about it.

The second stage was reached when, instead of trying to escape shorewards, where there were tufts of coarse grass upon a sandy bank, he turned and faced the thing. He looked straight into the main under body of the poised billow. He saw the opaque mass out of which this line rose up and curved. He stared against the dull, dun coloured parent body whence it came the sea. Terrified yet fascinated, he examined it in detail, as a man about to be executed might examine the grain of the wooden block close against his eyes. A little higher, some dozen feet above the level of his head, it became transparent; sunlight shot through the glassy curve. He saw what appeared to be streaks and bubbles and transverse lines of foam that yet did not shine quite as water shines. It moved suddenly; it curled a little towards the crest; it was about to topple over, to break yet did not break.

About this time he noticed another thing: there was a curious faint sweetness in the air beneath the bend of it, a delicate and indescribable odour that was almost perfume. It was sweet; it choked him. He called it, in his boyish way, a whiff. The 'whiff' and the 'wavy feeling' impressed themselves so vividly upon his mind that if ever he met them in his ordinary life out of dream, that is he was sure that he would know them. In another sense he felt he knew them already. They were familiar.

But another stage went further than all the others put together. It amounted to a discovery. He was perhaps ten years old at this time, for he was still addressed as 'Tommy,' and it was not till the age of fifteen that his solid type of character made 'Tom' seem more appropriate... Continue reading book >>

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