For The Blood is the Life

Francis Marion Crawford

06 Mar, 2014 09:50 PM

He had dined at sunset on the broad roof of the old tower, because it was
cooler there during the great heat of summer. Besides, the little kitchen was
built at one corner of the great square platform, which made it more
convenient than if the dishes had to be carried down the steep stone steps,
broken in places and everywhere worn with age. The tower was one of those
built all down the west coast of Calabria by the Emperor Charles V early in
the sixteenth century, to keep off the Barbary pirates, when the unbelievers
were allied with Francis I against the Emperor and the Church. They have gone
to ruin, a few still stand intact, and mine is one of the largest. How it
came into my possession ten years ago, and why I spend a part of each year in
it, are matters which do not concern this tale. The tower stands in one of
the loneliest spots in Southern Italy, at the extremity of a curving rocky
promontory, which forms a small but safe natural harbor at the southern
extremity of the Gulf of Policastro, and just north of Cape Scales, the
birthplace of Judas Iscariot, according to the old local legend. The tower
stands alone on this hooked spur of the rock, and there is not a house to be
seen within three miles of it. When I go there I take a couple of sailors,
one of whom is a fair cook, and when I am away it is in charge of a
gnome-like little being who was once a miner and who attached himself to me
long ago.

My friend, who sometimes visits me in my summer solitude, is an artist by
profession, a Scandinavian by birth, and a cosmopolitan by force of
circumstances. We had dined at sunset; the sunset glow had reddened and faded
again, and the evening purple steeped the vast chain of the mountains that
embrace the deep gulf to eastward and rear themselves higher and higher
toward the south. It was hot, and we sat at the landward corner of the
platform, waiting for the night breeze to come down from the lower hills. The
color sank out of the air, there was a little interval of deep-grey twilight,
and a lamp sent a yellow streak from the open door of the kitchen, where the
men were getting their supper.

Then the moon rose suddenly above the crest of the promontory, flooding the
platform and lighting up every little spur of rock and knoll of grass below
us, down to the edge of the motionless water. My friend lighted his pipe and
sat looking at a spot on the hillside. I knew that he was looking at it, and
for a long time past I had wondered whether he would ever see anything there
that would fix his attention. I knew that spot well. It was clear that he was
interested at last, though it was a long time before he spoke. Like most
painters, he trusts to his own eyesight, as a lion trusts his strength and a
stag his speed, and he is always disturbed when he cannot reconcile what he
sees with what he believes that he ought to see.

"It's strange," he said. "Do you see that little mound just on this side of
the boulder?"

"Yes," I said, and I guessed what was coming.

"It looks like a grave," observed Holger.

"Very true. It does look like a grave."

"Yes," continued my friend, his eyes still fixed on the spot. "But the
strange thing is that I see the body lying on the top of it. Of course,"
continued Holger, turning his head on one side as artists do, "it must be an
effect of light. In the first place, it is not a grave at all. Secondly, if
it were, the body would be inside and not outside. Therefore, it's an effect
of the moonlight. Don't you see it?"

"Perfectly; I always see it on moonlit nights."

"It doesn't seem to interest you much," said Holger.

"On the contrary, it does interest me, though I am used to it. You're not so
far wrong, either. The mound is really a grave."

Next Classic Story >>


Post a Comment
No comments yet! Be the first
Your Comment

Do not post other site's link, it will be considered as spam