In the Sanguine Dawn

Edward Woodward

April 20, 2022


It is a truth generally accepted that what is living must also be dying. I know that I have been dead already, that I have lived already, that I have still to live, and that I have still do die. I maintain therefore that I do not exist. And yet my pen moves, and my hand writes, and so the reader reads. I was once a quarter of half the age I am at the present moment, or was, rather, when writing that word “present”. I have known every invisible, indivisible fraction of every conceivable number which might constitute an age. Dawn and dusk are inventions. Speed is illusory. Apples make bushels only in mirages. The single is identical to the many. Numbers, I have discovered, are infinitely expandable, for numbers, too, are fictitious. What was that, Maurice? No, these are not the ramblings of a maniac’s mirror, but something far more perceptual.

I never bothered to marry, or perhaps I never managed to marry. Regardless, I remain a single man, a man in want of nothing. My needs are few and simple. My estate is not a large one. All I have I own, and all I own I have owned for many years. My housekeeper, Maurice, is a sensible, pragmatic old chap, without any of the usual sensibilities which enable an earnest appreciation of art. He is otherwise pleasant enough, and quite useful with respect to practical matters. He had been butler to my father for most of his adult life, and remained so until the accident which killed him (ladder, lightening) — my father, that is, not Maurice. Maurice remains very much alive.

I mentioned just now that I do not consider myself quite as extant as perhaps I should. The marshes of morality are really rather deep, and difficult to navigate, naturally. Perhaps an apology is in order. To whom? Well, the reader of course. It is not polite to begin with such force. It ought to commence as a feather commences its fall, ought to sway, to flutter, to pitch and yaw, ever so gently — this leisurely tale, this long, looping, leisurely tale of mine. Maurice, your interruptions are ever such a bother.

I have before me a great gaping window. Every so often, a gust will deign to enter the room, and then, realising its error, will retrace its steps, rather hurriedly, and snag its sleeve on the curtains. The curtains are just as keen to escape. Otherwise, I have for company an old asthmatic fan, which does little more than assist in the circulation of the warmer currents, and this it does with quite a measure of reluctance. I am comfortable, however. My chair, a feeble old quadruped, has only this summer begun relenting to the same progression of time against which the author so heartily protests. Its left hindlimb has grown lame, so that its four hooves do not stand exactly level. A diagonal teetering has developed. It amuses me sometimes to find the point at which my weight is distributed evenly, at which I seem to float, to tilt, to totter on the precipice. It is only a game, of course, a game for children. But what marvellous fun.

These are not distractions, however. The world acts, and the writer responds. I am employing here a very specific technique. The narrator is not some acrobat straddling a special invisible tightrope trembling over the page. I am your narrator: he who knows every pivot of plot and wrinkle of trickery. Although, I am prepared to admit that mine is rather a simple mind, with little capacity for lexical cunning. By no means do these articles of circumstance (that chair, that fan, that window) hinder my ability to write. They add a sort of flavour to the text. The varnish has all but abandoned the chair. It’s mahogany hue is as ripe as it is honest. When I rub — one moment — when I rub my finger along its flanks, the wood offers a rich, olfactory glimpse into the forest from whence it came. That fan of mine, which is only as useful as the air it displaces, invites the most tropical of draughts into the most ordinary of households. You see, then, that I should have otherwise resorted already to writing of my past, my earlier adventures, which are not so different from those already described. The reader must learn the art of moderation, must find excitement in the mundane, pleasure in the ordinary. When I was twenty I lived in Berlin. My modest income proved sufficient, if only to offer... Oh, but there are plenty of chapters to follow. There is plenty of time for adventure!