Towards Morning

I.A.R. Wylie





HE awoke violently. In the very midst of his dream he had been shot
out of a cannon's mouth straight into consciousness. Yet for a moment
he could not remember where he was. He seemed to be clinging to the
outer edge of a monster wheel which whirled him through darkness till
his brain went sick and giddy. Half-remembered landmarks flew past
him. He clutched at them, trying to stay his mad flight. But they slipped
through his fingers. The pace was at first too frightful his clutch too
feeble. But gradually the wheel began to revolve more quietly. The
landmarks settled in their accustomed places. He clung to one of them
it was the big majolica stove just opposite and this time his grip held.
The wheel jerked and came to a standstill and there was the Herr
Amtschreiber Felde in his plush covered chair and the grey early
morning light peering at him through the cracks in the closed shutters.
He did not move at first. His body ached all over, but he was glad to sit
quiet. Although it was still too dark to see anything clearly, it made him
feel more secure to recognise the dim outline of familiar objects the
table in the middle of the room, the four chairs drawn up stiffly in place,
the plush covered sofa with the carved wooden back, the Venetian
mirror shining like a polished shield on the opposite wall, the big
majolica stove--
It was the stove which held his attention longest. It explained his dream
and he always liked to have things explained. As soon as he had found
a natural cause for it, the dream did not trouble him so much. Yet it had
been rather terrible. Even now the memory of it held a queer, uncanny
fascination. Without being terrified any more, he could still understand
why he had been afraid. It had been an unusual dream in so far that
nothing had really happened in it. He had been sitting in his chair, close
to the warmth, drowsy with fatigue and worry and excitement, and then
suddenly he found himself in an empty plain. He was quite alone, but
afar off against the horizon loomed a Shape so black and huge that it
shut out the light of the sun. Its one red eye watched the Herr
Amtschreiber. It brightened and grew dim and brightened again, but it
never let go of him. And he sat there, puny and cowering and stark
naked and waited. He was not surprised that in spite of his puniness the
eye should be so intent upon him. He had a dim but profound

knowledge that they were vital to one another that if the eye closed he
himself would go out into nothingness and that if he could have turned
away his gaze the eye would be extinguished for ever. But he did not
want to turn away. That was the odd part of it. Though he knew quite
well that the eye would kill him in the end, he was fascinated
intoxicated. He felt that in a minute he would jump up and dance and
scream and yell unknown blasphemies till he dropped dead.
He, the respectable, respected Herr Amtschreiber felt that he was going
to dance stark naked and scream and yell blasphemies. But then
mercifully he had wakened just in time. And there he was, in his plush
arm-chair, stiff and aching from the embrace of the carved wooden
arms, but fully clad, and not even knowing what the blasphemies would
have been.
It was nothing but the stove after all. He remembered now that he had
gone to sleep staring at the fire glowing fiercely behind the glass
covered door. He had sat too close far too close and the heat had given
him nightmare. Now the fire was almost out It had a sullen, dying look
and the atmosphere of the room was dank and stuffy.
The door opened. A woman came shuffling softly over the parquet
flooring and loomed up at the Herr Amtschreiber's side. She carried a
funnel-shaped coal scuttle and opening the slot of the stove jerked in
the coal with an angry rattle.
The Herr Amtschrieber stirred and stretched himself.
"Has the Herr slept well?" she asked with a singing South German
"Na es geht." He got up and limped painfully about the room. He had a
bad taste in his mouth and his eyes were heavy and sore with unrestful
sleep. The woman came
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