viernes, 29 de abril de 2022

Edgardo and Selina


The sun was setting over Sloperton Grange, and reddened the window of the lonely chamber in the western tower, supposed to be haunted by Sir Edward Sedilia, the founder of the Grange. In the dreamy distance arose the gilded mausoleum of Lady Felicia Sedilia, who haunted that portion of Sedilia Manor, known as "Stiff-uns Acre." A little to the left of the Grange might have been seen a mouldering ruin, known as "Guy's Keep," haunted by the spirit of Sir Guy Sedilia, who was found, one morning, crushed by one of the fallen battlements. Yet, as the setting sun gilded these objects, a beautiful and almost holy calm seemed diffused about the Grange.

The Lady Selina sat by an oriel window, overlooking the park. The sun sank gently in the bosom of the German Ocean, and yet the lady did not lift her beautiful head from the finely curved arm and diminutive hand which supported it. When darkness finally shrouded the landscape she started, for the sound of horse-hoofs clattered over the stones of the avenue. She had scarcely risen before an aristocratic young man fell on his knees before her.

"My Selina!"

"Edgardo! You here?"

"Yes, dearest."

"And--you--you--have--seen nothing?" said the lady in an agitated voice and nervous manner, turning her face aside to conceal her emotion.

"Nothing--that is nothing of any account," said Edgardo. "I passed the ghost of your aunt in the park, noticed the spectre of your uncle in the ruined keep, and observed the familiar features of the spirit of your great-grandfather at his usual post. But nothing beyond these trifles, my Selina. Nothing more, love, absolutely nothing."

The young man turned his dark liquid orbs fondly upon the ingenuous face of his betrothed.

"My own Edgardo!--and you still love me? You still would marry me in spite of this dark mystery which surrounds me? In spite of the fatal history of my race? In spite of the ominous predictions of my aged nurse?"

"I would, Selina"; and the young man passed his arm around her yielding waist. The two lovers gazed at each other's faces in unspeakable bliss. Suddenly Selina started.

"Leave me, Edgardo! leave me! A mysterious something--a fatal misgiving--a dark ambiguity--an equivocal mistrust oppresses me. I would be alone!"

The young man arose, and cast a loving glance on the lady. "Then we will be married on the seventeenth."

"The seventeenth," repeated Selina, with a mysterious shudder.

They embraced and parted. As the clatter of hoofs in the court- yard died away, the Lady Selina sank into the chair she had just quitted.

"The seventeenth," she repeated slowly, with the same fateful shudder. "Ah!--what if he should know that I have another husband living? Dare I reveal to him that I have two legitimate and three natural children? Dare I repeat to him the history of my youth? Dare I confess that at the age of seven I poisoned my sister, by putting verdigris in her cream-tarts,--that I threw my cousin from a swing at the age of twelve? That the lady's-maid who incurred the displeasure of my girlhood now lies at the bottom of the horse- pond? No! no! he is too pure,--too good,--too innocent, to hear such improper conversation!" and her whole body writhed as she rocked to and fro in a paroxysm of grief.

But she was soon calm. Rising to her feet, she opened a secret panel in the wall, and revealed a slow-match ready for lighting.

"This match," said the Lady Selina, "is connected with a mine beneath the western tower, where my three children are confined; another branch of it lies under the parish church, where the record of my first marriage is kept. I have only to light this match and the whole of my past life is swept away!" she approached the match with a lighted candle.

But a hand was laid upon her arm, and with a shriek the Lady Selina fell on her knees before the spectre of Sir Guy.


"Forbear, Selina," said the phantom in a hollow voice.

"Why should I forbear?" responded Selina haughtily, as she recovered her courage. "You know the secret of our race?"

"I do. Understand me,--I do not object to the eccentricities of your youth. I know the fearful destiny which, pursuing you, led you to poison your sister and drown your lady's-maid. I know the awful doom which I have brought upon this house! But if you make way with these children--"

"Well," said the Lady Selina, hastily.

"They will haunt you!"

"Well, I fear them not," said Selina, drawing her superb figure to its full height.

"Yes, but, my dear child, what place are they to haunt? The ruin is sacred to your uncle's spirit. Your aunt monopolizes the park, and, I must be allowed to state, not unfrequently trespasses upon the grounds of others. The horse-pond is frequented by the spirit of your maid, and your murdered sister walks these corridors. To be plain, there is no room at Sloperton Grange for another ghost. I cannot have them in my room,--for you know I don't like children. Think of this, rash girl, and forbear! Would you, Selina," said the phantom, mournfully,--"would you force your great-grandfather's spirit to take lodgings elsewhere?"

Lady Selina's hand trembled; the lighted candle fell from her nerveless fingers.

"No," she cried passionately; "never!" and fell fainting to the floor.


Edgardo galloped rapidly towards Sloperton. When the outline of the Grange had faded away in the darkness, he reined his magnificent steed beside the ruins of Guy's Keep.

"It wants but a few minutes of the hour," he said, consulting his watch by the light of the moon. "He dare not break his word. He will come." He paused, and peered anxiously into the darkness. "But come what may, she is mine," he continued, as his thoughts reverted fondly to the fair lady he had quitted. "Yet if she knew all. If she knew that I were a disgraced and ruined man,--a felon and an outcast. If she knew that at the age of fourteen I murdered my Latin tutor and forged my uncle's will. If she knew that I had three wives already, and that the fourth victim of misplaced confidence and my unfortunate peculiarity is expected to be at Sloperton by to-night's train with her baby. But no; she must not know it. Constance must not arrive. Burke the Slogger must attend to that.

"Ha! here he is! Well?"

These words were addressed to a ruffian in a slouched hat, who suddenly appeared from Guy's Keep.

"I be's here, measter," said the villain, with a disgracefully low accent and complete disregard of grammatical rules.

"It is well. Listen: I'm in possession of facts that will send you to the gallows. I know of the murder of Bill Smithers, the robbery of the tollgate-keeper, and the making away of the youngest daughter of Sir Reginald de Walton. A word from me, and the officers of justice are on your track."

Burke the Slogger trembled.

"Hark ye! serve my purpose, and I may yet save you. The 5.30 train from Clapham will be due at Sloperton at 9.25. IT MUST NOT ARRIVE!"

The villain's eyes sparkled as he nodded at Edgardo.

"Enough,--you understand; leave me!"


About half a mile from Sloperton Station the South Clapham and Medway line crossed a bridge over Sloperton-on-Trent. As the shades of evening were closing, a man in a slouched hat might have been seen carrying a saw and axe under his arm, hanging about the bridge. From time to time he disappeared in the shadow of its abutments, but the sound of a saw and axe still betrayed his vicinity. At exactly nine o'clock he reappeared, and, crossing to the Sloperton side, rested his shoulder against the abutment and gave a shove. The bridge swayed a moment, and then fell with a splash into the water, leaving a space of one hundred feet between the two banks. This done, Burke the Slogger,--for it was he,--with a fiendish chuckle seated himself on the divided railway track and awaited the coming of the train.

A shriek from the woods announced its approach. For an instant Burke the Slogger saw the glaring of a red lamp. The ground trembled. The train was going with fearful rapidity. Another second and it had reached the bank. Burke the Slogger uttered a fiendish laugh. But the next moment the train leaped across the chasm, striking the rails exactly even, and, dashing out the life of Burke the Slogger, sped away to Sloperton.

The first object that greeted Edgardo, as he rode up to the station on the arrival of the train, was the body of Burke the Slogger hanging on the cow-catcher; the second was the face of his deserted wife looking from the windows of a second-class carriage.


A nameless terror seemed to have taken possession of Clarissa, Lady Selina's maid, as she rushed into the presence of her mistress.

"O my lady, such news!"

"Explain yourself," said her mistress, rising.

"An accident has happened on the railway, and a man has been killed."

"What--not Edgardo!" almost screamed Selina.

"No, Burke the Slogger!" your ladyship.

"My first husband!" said Lady Selina, sinking on her knees. "Just Heaven, I thank thee!"


The morning of the seventeenth dawned brightly over Sloperton. "A fine day for the wedding," said the sexton to Swipes, the butler of Sloperton Grange. The aged retainer shook his head sadly. "Alas! there's no trusting in signs!" he continued. "Seventy-five years ago, on a day like this, my young mistress--" But he was cut short by the appearance of a stranger.

"I would see Sir Edgardo," said the new-comer, impatiently.

The bridegroom, who, with the rest of the wedding-train, was about stepping into the carriage to proceed to the parish church, drew the stranger aside.

"It's done!" said the stranger, in a hoarse whisper.

"Ah! and you buried her?"

"With the others!"

"Enough. No more at present. Meet me after the ceremony, and you shall have your reward."

The stranger shuffled away, and Edgardo returned to his bride. "A trifling matter of business I had forgotten, my dear Selina; let us proceed." And the young man pressed the timid hand of his blushing bride as he handed her into the carriage. The cavalcade rode out of the court-yard. At the same moment, the deep bell on Guy's Keep tolled ominously.


Scarcely had the wedding-train left the Grange, than Alice Sedilia, youngest daughter of Lady Selina, made her escape from the western tower, owing to a lack of watchfulness on the part of Clarissa. The innocent child, freed from restraint, rambled through the lonely corridors, and finally, opening a door, found herself in her mother's boudoir. For some time she amused herself by examining the various ornaments and elegant trifles with which it was filled. Then, in pursuance of a childish freak, she dressed herself in her mother's laces and ribbons. In this occupation she chanced to touch a peg which proved to be a spring that opened a secret panel in the wall. Alice uttered a cry of delight as she noticed what, to her childish fancy, appeared to be the slow-match of a fire- work. Taking a lucifer match in her hand she approached the fuse. She hesitated a moment. What would her mother and her nurse say?

Suddenly the ringing of the chimes of Sloperton parish church met her ear. Alice knew that the sound signified that the marriage party had entered the church, and that she was secure from interruption. With a childish smile upon her lips, Alice Sedilia touched off the slow-match.


At exactly two o'clock on the seventeenth, Rupert Sedilia, who had just returned from India, was thoughtfully descending the hill toward Sloperton manor. "If I can prove that my aunt Lady Selina was married before my father died, I can establish my claim to Sloperton Grange," he uttered, half aloud. He paused, for a sudden trembling of the earth beneath his feet, and a terrific explosion, as of a park of artillery, arrested his progress. At the same moment he beheld a dense cloud of smoke envelop the churchyard of Sloperton, and the western tower of the Grange seemed to be lifted bodily from its foundation. The air seemed filled with falling fragments, and two dark objects struck the earth close at his feet. Rupert picked them up. One seemed to be a heavy volume bound in brass.

A cry burst from his lips.

"The Parish Records." He opened the volume hastily. It contained the marriage of Lady Selina to "Burke the Slogger."

The second object proved to be a piece of parchment. He tore it open with trembling fingers. It was the missing will of Sir James Sedilia!


When the bells again rang on the new parish church of Sloperton it was for the marriage of Sir Rupert Sedilia and his cousin, the only remaining members of the family.

Five more ghosts were added to the supernatural population of Sloperton Grange. Perhaps this was the reason why Sir Rupert sold the property shortly afterward, and that for many years a dark shadow seemed to hang over the ruins of Sloperton Grange.


Bret Harte, "Selina Sedilia, by Miss Μ. E. B-dd-n and Mrs. H-n-y W-d"
Condensed Novels

sábado, 14 de agosto de 2021

I cosmonauti di Umberto Eco



C’era una volta la terra. E c’era una volta Marte. 

Stavano molto distanti l’uno dall’altra, in mezzo al cielo e intorno c’erano milioni di pianeti e di galassie. Gli uomini che stavano sulla terra volevano raggiungere Marte e gli altri pianeti: ma erano così lontani!Comunquesi misero d’impegno. Primalanciaronodei satelliti che giravano intorno alla Terra per due giorni e poitornavano giù.Poi lanciavano dei razzi che facevano alcuni giri intorno alla Terra, ma invece ditornare giù, alla fine sfuggivano all’attrazione terrestre e partivano per lo spazio infinito.Dapprimanei razzi misero dei cani: ma i cani non sapevano parlare, e attraverso la radio trasmettevano solo «bau bau».Il cosmonauta sichiamava così perchépartiva ad esplorare il cosmo: e cioè lo spazio infinito coi pianeti, le galassie e tutto quello che ci sta intorno.Un bel mattino partirono dalla terra tre razzi.Sul primo c’era un americano che fischiettavatutto allegro un motivettojazz. Sul secondo c’era un russo che cantava con voce profonda «Volga, Volga». Sul terzo c’era un cinese che cantava una bellissima canzone, che agli altri due sembrava stonataTutti e tre volevano arrivare primi su Marte per mostrare chi era il più bravo.L’americano infatti non amava il russo e il russo non amava l’americano, e il cinese diffidavadi tutti e due.E questo perché l’americano per dire “buongiorno” diceva «how do you do»Il russo diceva: «3APABCTBYNTE». E il cinese diceva: «YJYJY!». Cosìnon si capivano e si credevano diversi.Siccometutti e tre erano bravi, arrivarono su Marte quasi nello stesso momento.Sceserodalle loro astronavi col cascoe la tuta spaziale... Trovarono un paesaggio meraviglioso e inquietante: il terreno era solcatoda lunghi canali pieni d’acqua color verde smeraldo. C’erano strani alberi blu con uccelli mai visti, dalle piumedi colore stranissimo. All’orizzonte si vedevano montagne rosse che mandavano strani bagliori.I cosmonauti guardarono il paesaggio e si guardarono l’un l’altro, e se ne stavano ciascuno in disparte, diffidando l’uno dell’altro.Poiè scesa la notte. C’era intorno uno strano silenzio, e la Terra brillava nel cielo come una stella lontana.I cosmonauti si sentivano tristi e sperduti e l’americano, nel buio, chiamò la mamma.

2Disse: «Mommy»...E il russo: «Mama.» E il cinese: «Ma-Ma.»Ma capirono subito che stavano dicendo la stessa cosa e provavano gli stessi sentimenti. Così sorrisero, si avvicinarono, accesero insieme un bel fuoco e ciascuno cantò le canzoni del suo paese. Allora si fecero coraggio e, attendendo il mattino impararono a conoscersi.Poi arrivò il mattino: faceva molto freddo. E improvvisamente da un ciuffod’alberi uscì un marziano. A vederlo era davvero orribile! Era tutto verde, aveva due antenne al posto delle orecchie, una proboscidee sei braccia.Li guardò e disse: «GRRRR!» Nella sua lingua voleva dire: «Mamma mia, chi sono quegli esseri orribili?!»Ma i terrestri non lo capirono e erano sicuri che il suo era un ruggitodi guerra. Era così diverso da loro che non erano capacidi capirlo e di amarlo. Si sentirono subito d’accordo e si schieraronocontro di lui.Di fronte aquel mostrole piccole differenze scomparivano. Che importavase parlavano un linguaggiodiverso? Capirono che erano tutti e tre esseri umani.L’altro no. Era troppo brutto e i terrestri pensavano che chi è brutto è anche cattivo.Cosìdecisero di ucciderlo con i loro disintegratoriatomici.Ma improvvisamente, nel gelodel mattino, un uccellinomarziano che era evidentemente fuggitodal nido, cadde al suolotremando di paura.Pigolavadisperato, più o meno come un uccellino terrestre. Facevadavvero pena.L’americano, il russo e il cinese lo guardarono e non seppero trattenere una lacrimadi compassione. E a quel puntoaccadde un fatto strano. Anche il marziano si avvicinò all’uccellino, lo guardò e lasciò sfuggire due filidi fumo dalla proboscide. E i terrestri, di colpo, compresero che il marziano stava piangendo. A modo suo, come fanno i marziani.Poi videro che si chinavasull’uccellino e lo sollevavatra le sue sei braccia cercando di scaldarlo.Il cinese si volsealloraai due amici terrestri “Avete capito?” disse: “noi credevamo che questo mostro fosse diverso da noi, e inveceanche lui ama gli animali, sa commuoversi, ha un cuore e certamente anche un cervello! Credete che sia ancora il caso di ucciderlo”?Non era neppure una domandada farsi. I terrestri avevano ormai capito la lezione: non bastache due creature siano diverse perché debbano essere nemiche.Perciòsi avvicinarono al marziano e gli tesero la mano.Ed egli, che ne aveva sei, strinsein una volta sola la mano a tutti e tre, mentre con quelle libere faceva gestidi saluto.E additandola terra lassùnel cielo, fece capire che desiderava farsi un viaggio, per conoscere gli altri abitanti e studiare insieme a loro il modo di fondareuna grande repubblica spaziale in cui tutti andassero d’amoree d’accordo.I terrestri dissero di sì tutti contentiE per festeggiarel’avvenimentogli offrirono una bottigliettadi acqua freschissima portata dalla terra. Il marziano tutto felice infilòil naso nella bottiglia, aspirò, e poi disse che quella bevandagli piaceva molto, anche se gli faceva girare un po’ la testa. Ma ormaii terrestri non si stupivanopi

Avevano capito che sulla Terra, come su gli altri pianeti, ciascunoha i propri gusti, ma è solo una questione di capirsi a vicenda.


Umberto Eco, I tre cosmonauti

domingo, 18 de julio de 2021

Les voyages temporels de Jacques Rigaut alias Palentête


Un brillant sujet


à André Breton.

Un mobile animé d’une vitesse telle qu’il fait, selon le plan de l’Équateur et dans le sens inverse à celui de la rotation de la terre, une fois le tour de cette sphère, pendant que celle-ci se serait déplacée d’une quantité négligeable, se conçoit. Avec quelques figures et une bonne réputation, il n’est pas plus difficile de représenter le temps comme une spirale que le temps absolu ou la marche du temps, et un mobile parti d’un point à midi, passerait par 6, 0, 18 heures, et arriverait au midi du jour précédent, — et la suite.

Un ingénieur divorcé construit un appareil en forme d’œuf géant, qui, par des différences de température obtenues par l’électricité et sans influencer la température de la cellule ménagée à l’intérieur de cet œuf, est propre à remonter le courant du temps. Une inquiétude subsiste : on craint que le voyageur ne rajeunisse au cours de son expédition, on craint de trouver à la première station, un nourrisson, ou, si le voyage se prolonge, le père et la mère du voyageur, et peut-être toute son ascendance comprimée dans l’appareil.

Un jeune homme sentimental — soit Palentête — veut profiter de cette invention pour refaire sa vie. Il se propose de retrouver, sept ans en arrière, une maîtresse perdue, et de recommencer cette expérience autant de fois qu’il le faudra pour obtenir un amour réussi.

Départ de Palentête, arrivée de Palentête. Il pénètre dans l’appartement de sa maîtresse : « Moi prime ! s’écrie-t-il en se trouvant en présence d’un Palentête âgé de 20 ans, couché dans le lit de sa maîtresse. J’avais imparfaitement prévu l’intégralité du passé. Je suppose qu’en emmenant le Palentête, ici présent avec moi dans mon œuf, et qu’en faisant une station chaque année, je pourrai me recueillir à mes différents âges, et me confronter dans une même pièce avec une vingtaine de mes exemplaires de toutes les tailles ».

Rivalité de Palentête et de Palentête. Palentête, fort de la connaissance de ce qui va se passer, supplante Palentête. Désespéré, Palentête menace de se suicider. Effroi de Palentête qui redoute que ce suicide n’entraîne sa mort ; il cède la place à Palentête et remonte dans son appareil.

Désireux de se dégourdir les Jambes, Palentête s’arrête 23 ans en arrière, dans le même pays. Divers incestes sont consommés. Palentête a quelques raisons de croire qu’il est son propre père.

« Napoléon, Hannibal, les Pyramides ! Zut ! Passons au déluge ! » articule Palentête en s’appliquant sur la poitrine une machine à enregistrer les battements du cœur, afin de rester capable d’évaluer son âge. Palentête part à la découverte de la Genèse.

Incertain de rencontrer Dieu et impuissant à modifier un passé dont il est issu, Palentête s’applique à en créer de nouvelles versions, juste de quoi déconcerter ceux des hommes de son époque qui s’aventureraient à sa suite dans le passé et qui risquent de ne plus rien y rencontrer de conforme à l’histoire :

A la fin du règne d’Auguste, Palentête, après avoir parcouru six mois la province de Judée, découvre un enfant, Jésus de Nazareth, endormi sous un olivier ; il lui injecte du cyanure de potasse dans les veines.

Quelques années plus loin, il guette, pendant ses promenades, une fillette d’Égypte ; un jour qu’il l’aperçoit seule, il se jette sur elle et, avec sa pince à gaz, il lui mutile le nez. Cette fillette s’appelait Cléopâtre.

Faisant halte dans l’Amérique du sud, Palentête découvre à des hommes rouges l’usage de la vapeur et de l’électricité. On l’honore comme une divinité ; sur sa demande, on lui livre chaque mois 50 filles et 50 garçons.

Palentête enseigne dans les 5 continents le dogme du suicide obligatoire à 20 ans.

Palentête dépose entre les mains d’Homère la deuxième Aventure céleste de Monsieur Antipyrine de Tristan Tzara.

Palentête s’illustre par des prophéties sous différents noms : Ezéchiel, Jérémie, Isaïe.

(...) Ses conserves alimentaires sont épuisées, Palentête est obligé de s’arrêter fréquemment. II perd plusieurs mois à jouer la comédie de la divinité, pour se faire remettre des provisions. Une barbe blanche lui cache la poitrine. De vieillesse, Palentête meurt dans son œuf qui tourne encore.

Jacques RIGAUT.


miércoles, 16 de junio de 2021



“Disaster in space: an astronaut is dead. But is he dead? Closed in a perfect capsule, his body is intact. Is he alive? His voice is not heard by man, his thought is still. All that one knows is that his body -dead? alive?- turns in space around the earth at enormous speed. On a clear night, a luminous point crosses the sky from one horizon to the other. Sailors check their course against that point; on silent islands mothers show the miracle of something -a man- that moves amongst the stars and is distinguished from them by movement. He has a name. Russian? American? A common name, a sound like the sound of a star´s name, but a man´s name. Dead? Alive?

Perhaps we will never hear of such a things, perhaps a disaster in space will never occur. But what would occur if it should occur? Perhaps nothing more than what is written in this brief hypothetical account. Or perhaps everything in the world would change because man could not support the idea of a perfect cadaver or a live man without voice and without thought turning in space, beyond contact and beyond understanding. But how many perfect cadavers and live men without voice and without thought surround us every day on earth? Why must we await- and fear- a disaster in space, in order to become aware of our world?

Matta, 1966