Archive for October 11th, 2018

The Needle, chalky cliff of Normandy: Brexit in geological time: Dover must have broken off this point, I suppose-b
Size: 50×40 watercolor

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Parting Of Ways

The day Joshua became eighteen his father allowed him to step out of Sans-Souci and see the world himself. “By lunch you ought to be here,” he said. Master Joshua agreed. As the groom brought his favorite horse, an Arabian stallion completely black and with a white crescent on its forehead, he was sure he was going to be bored. So he asked his older brother whether he wanted to come along. Nimrud gave him such a strange look that he was sorry he had asked. Josh didn’t understood why. He knew he and his brother didn’t see eye to eye. Over years it had grown so wide, it took an effort to talk.
Well, he had asked and his brother obviously preferred to stay put. That was that. So he went to the town on an easy trot. He was nevertheless somewhat apprehensive.
Sans-Souci was a world in itself. Everything he had known of life came from within its massive walls. He was dressed as richly as his father or his brother was used to wear. But having never before seen the world at large he wasn’t sure whether his dress was proper or not.
He was dressed in silk: and the silk came from so many millions of silkworms his father had cultivated in a mulberry orchard. Or take his riding boots. These were made of finest leather cut from hides of animals that were reared for the purpose. Wool, milk, butter, meat and what not were aplenty and each article came from the estate. Bevy of swans and cygnets bounded in the streams and the sight always pleased the eye; and their downy feathers lined the couch: so plump and soft no one in the family ever complained of being wide awake at unusual hours. Such a restful place it was. He could take ease and think paradise was where he lived. Leaving it for what? Wondered master Joshua. Naturally letting his reverie canter, he rode on a little dispirited.
After a quarter of an hour he came into the first town. What a shock! What a bedlam of sounds! Screeching matrons, peasants who went by with their nail-studded boots scraping,- ho the cries of the sick and the hungry, so mingled could not have spared such a sensitive young man. He galloped hard. Ahead was a village. He was shocked that there were too many cottages around a square. Those cottages were set cheek by jowl. “Who would live so close with everyone breathing on the other?” He saw clothesline with all sorts of articles left in the sun to drip dry. Filthy rags along some undergarments. A matron went on chattering to another among these unmentionables. He shuddered, ”Have they lost all their sense of dignity?” He never thought any self respecting woman would put her laundry out for all the world to see!” He could see here and there men who lolled about in casual clothes and least mindful of their language. He was disgusted with their crude manner and slovenly appearance. Their conversation was no better. Every sentence was punctuated with swear words that insulted his fastidious mind.
“By Jiminy!” he exploded. He held on to the reins lest he should fall off the horse. His face went white at what confronted him. ”Look at them! Can people take delight in their misfortune?”

Sans-Souci was never like this! His stable boys talked in low voices and they cast their eyes down when spoken to. His servants walked tiptoe in order not to disturb him. His nanny dressed herself primly and washed her person and hands scrupulously clean so as not to offend his senses. But what he saw outside his palace was offensive to him in every way. Why this difference, he wondered.
Further away he saw some people who were idling. He watched from far and they just did nothing. Never had he felt thus. ”Preposterous!” he thundered and tied the horse to a tree. He went to them and his face was a-tingle with outrage. In Sans-Souci all worked from sun up till sunset. His father’s tenants worked to death in a manner of speaking. ‘Work got them out of mischief,” as his father had often said.
“Hey you!”he shouted and they just stood up in alarm. Josh asked, ”Aren’t you ashamed that you waste your time?” He was sure there was nothing more shameful than wasting a beautiful day like that morning. One wizened old man replied with his sad eyes looking elsewhere, ”We cannot find work.”
“Go to Sans-Souci!” Master Josh said, “You shall find work there.” ” Yes we know.” “Do you refuse then?”
“Oh no master,” the old man replied. ”We are free men and we would like to live our own way. What for do we work? If not for giving us some dignity?”
“Does idleness give you dignity? He asked passionately,” I am sure you are not so misguided as to believe that?” “No master,” the old man explained that they wanted work so they could earn enough. “But if we cannot spend it in ways we think it necessary for us what is it?”
“What is the use of my hands if I cannot hold my baby in my leisure?” another asked. ”Or play cards with friends?” another one croaked.
Josh could get the drift. He asked the old man somewhat subdued, ”So you have your own idea of leisure?” He nodded and said he would on his part like to fish in the river. “Fishing clears my head and eases my tensions.”
“Do you fish?”
“How can I,” the old man replied sadly, ”the river belongs to your father.” “May be you can take up hunting or set traps?” The old man shook his head, ”All game, and fowls belong to your father. If we shoot a wild bird without his express order we would be thrown into gaol. For poaching. No doubt on that point.”
They shuffled away not willing to recite any more misery that blighted their lives. Josh stood there as if he were pole-axed. No shock could have come greater in his tender heart than the way Sans-Souci had emptied the their fortunes and happiness.
Master Joshua rode back in order to be present for lunch. His heart was in turmoil. Perhaps his father ought to explain better so he might find peace. He had lost it completely. So shocking was his first foray into the world.

Over lunch Father Adonai furtively watched his younger son. Even while his sons chattered of this and that he knew his younger son gave him ‘the spooks.’ In his eyes he saw ‘evil of the age’ as he would often refer to it. He knew it was the shock of his stepping out into the big bad world, alone and unprotected. “Did I go wrong?” he asked himself. Mercifully Josh said at the end of the meal, ”Papa I have reached the age of maturity.” His father waited for the axe to fall. The boy added,” If you love me, at least let me sort out my problems myself.”
“Problems?” the older boy quizzed, ”We live in Sans-Souci for god’s sake.”
“Yes, problems,” Josh said with a grim face,”I see evil of the age as Papa would often say, in Sans-Souci.”
Swallowing hard he added,”From here I can’t fight it.”
“I knew you were stepping out for disaster,” retorted Nimrud. The boy said quietly,”Allow me to go into the world. I intend to rub shoulders with it. Perhaps I can grind that monster to some manageable size.”
Father Adonai didn’t answer him directly. Instead he turned over to Nimrud to query. “No I stay put. I want to be with my papa. I have put my neck for the yoke and I intend to stay by your side.”
After the plates were cleared, they sat for a while. His father was deep in thought and at time he sent sidelong glances and turned his head away. Nimrud looked angry and chafing at the silence. It was the first time silence had come upon their free chatter. Father Adonai stood up and told his younger son that he was right. He had to face ‘evil of the age’ by himself. He asked if he had thought of his travel plans. The boy said he should know in a week’s time. His father placed his hand over his shoulder and said, ”Fine. Your share to Sans-Souci I shall arrange to pay you wherever you be and whenever you desire for it.” Father Adonai managed to reach his study and slumped onto his divan. He wept. In sorrow and also a little in pride. His younger son had in him the pluck. “He is not a quitter where his heart is concerned,”he mused,”I wish I could say the same for Nimrud.” Of Nimrud he reflected thus,’he knew his mind. A pity it is. Alas!’

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