Sunday, 20th. During the night I caught cold. When I went to bed about midnight my soft palate was raw. I tossed and turned and had bad dreams. My kidneys hurt badly. About every hour, it seemed I had to make the long trip through the dark house to the john in the ell. I heard the clocks chiming all night. I finally left the dining room light on so I wouldn't stub my toes so often.
At dawn I noticed Catch was missing from the foot of my bed. Glancing into Cara's room on my way by, I saw him on her bed. I must have been a regular windmill.
I got up around 9:30 and took a shower. By the time I was through, Cara was up, making breakfast.
"Poor Charles," she said as I went through the kitchen. "Sit down and have something." I shook my head and got dressed. When I came back I had coffee. She has been busy since. She went into Wiscasset to pick up the Times and some cold remedies. Nothing did any good until she made me a toddy. The steam and the whiskey have finally made me feel human enough to do some reading.
I read the Times, but I didn't feel up even to the headlines: the vice-president and his cretinous multisyllabic insults; the fighting in the Middle East; hijacks of planes; twelve-year-olds dying because they shot up heroin; eighteen-year-olds dying because they were shot in Vietnam; the world shot in the ass with pollution.
"Cara," I said as we sat at the fire in the parlor, "If you have to buy newspapers, do me a big favor and keep them out of my sight."
Her eyes clouded over, as the sky has been doing. 'You can't escape that way, Charles," she said. The fire hissed on the grate behind her where she lay with Catch.
"I can fucking well give it a good try," I said. She watched me go into the study. I've closed the door and have looked up the Americana article on "Devil" — referred to in the one on witchcraft. It continues to refute Gilpin:
Most of the old religions of the past acknowledged a host of demons, who, like their gods, were not ordinarily considered, in a moral point of view, as good or bad, but merely as exercising a salutary or injurious influence. In the latter case, they were looked upon as punishing spirits, without inimical or wicked purpose.
The article an "Demon," which I looked up also, gives a good historical background on the differences between pagan "demons" and Christian "devils."
Seeva, the judging and destroying god of the Indian mythology, is a symbol of the great power of nature, which is alternately beneficial and injurious, but in itself neither good nor evil. The doctrine of Zoroaster, who adopted an evil principle, called Ahriman, opposed to the good principle, and served by several orders of inferior spirits (in order to explain the existence of evil in this world), spread the belief in such spirits among the people. The Greek mythology did not distinguish with the same precision between the good and bad spirits. The Titans, it is true, struggled against the gods, but not for any merely moral reason, and the gods are not represented as patterns of pure morality. The cacodemons of the Greek mythology, as, for instance, the Furies, always appear more in the character of punishing than of malignant spirits.
On the contrary, Hecate, the goddess of the lower world and of enchantment, and the Lamiae, corresponding to the witches of the modern popular belief, have more of what we understand under the diabolical character. Typhon, who partakes in the fate of the Titans, properly belongs to the Egyptian mythology, in which he appears as the origin of evil, under the figure of a horrid monster. Similar to him is Beelzebub, or Beelzebul, who, from the mythology of Western Asia, was introduced into the belief of the Hebrews.
This is the crucial point In the development of the Christian devil. Heretofore, there had been no conception of evil as a force by itself, in opposition to an all-powerful God, The original Hebrew Satan had been God's agent, sent to test Man and find whether he was worthy. Sorcerers, to this point, were not in league with any spirit of evil - they merely had knowledge of magic, or necromancy, which they could use for their own good or evil purposes. The necromantic arts were neutral, like the sciences today (which, no doubt, would be necromancy, if we still. used the word); only men can conceive of good or evil. My students, in blaming science for the troubles of the world, are again inventing the Devil.
But to this juncture, sorcerers were not yet "witches," who compacted with the Devil, who gave them in return magic powers.
But as the captivity of the Hebrews in Babylon had in many respects a decisive influence upon their way of thinking and prevailing notions, by the acquaintance which they acquired with the ideas of the Chaldeans, the idea of the devil, as the principle of evil, resembling Ahriman, first appeared among the Jews after that captivity. He is called Satanas, in Greek, the fiend, destroyer, antagonist. The word devil is derived from [diabalos]. This Satan, however, is to be distinguished from the one in the book of Job" — i.a., God's agent.
The latter is no fiend, but the accuser before the throne of the Almighty, and belongs to the heavenly servants of God.
In other words, when the Greeks came to translate the old and New Testaments, they used the same tern to translate the old Satanus and the new Christian Devil. Hence, Gilpin's (and many others') inability — through confusion and ignorance, to say that "all ages" have believed in witches and witchcraft.
I am enlightened, but not much encouraged by this. The world's history is a record of orbits spun through Iight for a while, then back into darkness. What kind of age is this? Is there "progress"? The only sure view is hindsight, and hindsight does not ensure a vision of the sure future. Christ, the Enlightened One, assured us of darkness as soon as He was dead.
Cara has come in while I was writing with a wonderful cup of something — even better than the toddy. I asked her what it was and she replied, "sassafras tea, with rum, honey, and Indian balsam,"
It has cleared my head for a while, but I think a fever has set in. Where did she get sassafras? The liquid is pink, and there are some grains or bits of leaf floating in it — mint, I think, but I can't taste things very well. For the first time in months, I feel a little horny. But my eyes feel like stones.
Monday, 21st. Last night I was feverish. Cara sat up with me, dozing in a chair. She kept some of her tea handy — in a thermos, I think — I remember taking sips between dreams.
Sometimes it was Norine beside the bed. I remember a huge Os Externum descending to swallow me. One time I recall crying out about the wings in the chimney, but not what it was I cried. Norine and Cara soothed me — they were lying beside me, on either side, and their hands stroked my privy parts, which burned.
Towards morning I woke, clear-headed, to find Cara cleaning me up. She had taken off my pajama bottoms and thrown them on the floor. She smiled as she used the towel on my navel and thighs. "Too bad we couldn't have used this in a less wasteful way, Charles," she said. "But it's a good sign. At least we know there's nothing physically wrong with you."
I was too exhausted to say or do anything. I closed my eyes and slept soundly at last.
At ten I woke again, but I am too weak to think of doing anything still. I want to get to the books, but Cara won't let me. "Plenty of time for that tomorrow, " she says. "What do you find in those old things?"
"Everything," I told her, and made her bring me my journal. I want it all down here: the only sure place is the past, and as I write, already this moment turns into a word in a frame, I can see myself as I cannot before the ink is there, filling the white space between the blue lines that run on and on through the days of these pages.
I lie here and stare at the blankness ahead, riffling these pages, and I am, filled with faint dread. But when I riffle backward, there I am, lying across these lines, solid as a clock, and the dread falls away into clean sheets, the sun flooding through the windows, a little fire in the grate, and Cara downstairs humming a little, walking the great planks the floor is made of.
She has switched me now to plain tea and aspirin. Tomorrow there's a book I want to look at.
Tuesday, 22nd. Another very bad night. The cold has gone down into my chest, but my cough is dry. Cara has tried to make me stay down, but I got dressed and went to the library.
I looked through Dr. Chase's Practical Recipes, but found nothing. I had more luck with John Quincy's Pharmacopoeia Officinalis Extemporanea. Or, A Complete English Dispensatory —, the twelfth edition, London: Thomas Longman, at the Ship in Paternoster Row, 1742:
Sassafras. It is the wood of a very large Tree, which grows in Florida, Virginia, &c. It is of an aromatic Scent: some compare it to Fennel. John Baubine calls it Lignum Pavanum;- and Caspar Baubine distinguishes it — ex Florida ficulneo folio, from the Places it is brought from; and it is the Anbubia of Piso. It is very drying: and hot, tho' not quite so much as the Guaiacum. It is used in all the same Intentions, and it is much more met with in extemporaneous Prescriptions, than in the Shop Medicines; tho' the College, in their Dispensatory, give us an Electuary of which this is the basis, and whence it has its Name. This is somewhat come into fashion in Families, by way of Tea; which the Shavings of it make agreeably enough; but the Scandal of its being good in Venereal Cases, is a great detriment to its Credit; which prevents a great deal more, good being: done by it, than otherwise might be; for 'tis certainly...an admirable Sweetener. tho with some indeed it does not well agree, at first especially, and in Morning; as it affects the head Iike some Perfumes, and occasions Pains, Drowsiness, and Vapours; but Use, and first drinking it in Afternoons, will with most Constitutions wear off these Inconveniencies.
Next I looked up balsam, but could find no such thing as "Indian balsam," which is what Cara called it. Perhaps this is it:
Tolutanum, of Tolu. The Tree producing this, is a Species of the Pine, and distinguished, Foliis Ceratae similibus, by Caspar Baubine; and is the Balsamifera quarta of Hernandez. This is a Balsam of a deep yellowish Colour, approaching near to red; and of a most delicate scent, much beyond any other Balsam. Schroeder says 'tis brought from some Parts of the African continent, near Carthage; but we have it from the West Indies. It first flows from the Tree which produces it, of the Consistency of ordinary Turpentine; but by keeping we meet with it in the Shops frequently so hard as to be brittle: and it seems not the worse for being so; its balsamic Parts cohering too closely to fly off in the Waste. It is a most excellent Balsamic and Restorative; is very good in all Decays, particularly of the Lungs. It softens and thickens the Blood; and cures Catarrhs, and Coughs from tickling Defluctions. Its healing Virtues also extend to the remotest Parts; and it is an extraordinary Medicine in Seminal Weaknesses, and old Gleets, in both Sexes.
I begin to see that Cara is trying to cure me of more than a cold. When I asked Cara where she had gotten that recipe for Sassafras Tea, she laughed and reminded me she was a country girl.
"My grandmother taught me all I know," she said, and went back out into the kitchen where she is at work cooking up something that stinks. She pays no attention to me when I ask what it is. She just says, "You'll find out, Charles. We've got to get you over your Norine hangups, and I think I have a way." I bet Dr. Chase would have loved to meet her grandmother.
The weather is very hot and wet, and I have been unable to think about my novel. My mind wanders when I try.
Wednesday, 23rd. We have had a caller The Rev. Ralph Hawkins of the local Episcopal Church overstreet whose bells disturb us Sunday mornings. He came to the door about ten this morning dressed in flare-bottom trousers, a red sweater, moccasins, and a clerical collar.
Cara met him at the door, and he asked if Mr. Ally were at home, he presumed he was speaking with Mrs. Ally.
"Wrong assumption," Cara told him, "but come in anyway."
I happened to be standing behind Cara, a little out of his line of vision. Cara's retort didn't phase him at all. He came in and caught sight of me.
"Ah, Mr. Ally. Welcome to Frankfort. Sorry not to have gotten here sooner." His smile was perfectly tennis, and he looked like a tennis player: tall and athletic — all except for the long tow hair and sideburns. He held out his hand, and I took it reflexively. Cara stood aside, sizing him up.
I recognized the type at once — the New Breed of pastor, hip and intelligent. I had run into his kind on two campuses; on both, the preachers had been into social action — counseling draft resisters, speeders and acid-heads, heading picket lines, taking ads in the local papers against the war, preaching sermons that outraged the solid citizens.
I hadn't thought the two local churches had full-time ministers. Sure enough, when he was settled in the parlor Hawkins, with a glass of Scotch in his hands, explained all.
"I'm doing this part-time," he said, smiling — one was meant to melt into that toothy tennis grin. Though he lived in town, his real job was on a nearby college campus. "But, hell," he said, "the natives need a little Salvation too." He sipped his drink. "Mainly, though, I wanted to meet Charles Ally. Not many famous writers around after the summer folks bug out."
That was meant to be flattering, but it came off as an insult. The only way he could have heard of me was from a member of the English department at the college where he worked. Unless he read little magazines and poetry books himself. Looking him over, I decided he might just do that.
I'm afraid I was somewhat surly. I recognized the name Hawkins as a local one, from headstones in the graveyard. "If you'd wanted to meet me, you could've done so before this. My family and I have spent one or two summers here in the past, while my Uncle John was ill especially. And my mother used to bring me up for visits when I was a kid." As I said this, it occurred to me finally that that was how Cara had known about the farm. While Uncle John had been in hospital — a nursing home, actually — Norine, Melany and I a few years earlier had come up to be caretakers, sort of, for the farm. Cara had been a student then, and I must have told her where we would be during the summer. It cleared up a mystery I had nearly forgotten.
Hawkins raised his eyebrows into his forelock. "This is my family town too," he said, "But my branch of the family's from the West Coast. I've only just moved here this fall. I couldn't have met you, Mr. Ally."
"Aside from curiosity," I asked, "what's your business with us?"
He shrugged his square shoulders. "None," he said. "I don't suppose you'd care to attend Sunday services?"
I shook my head and Cara frowned. He caught the look out of the corner of his eye and laughed, throwing his head back so that the forelock of blond hair flopped back into place.
"Don't worry, Miss...?"
Cara shook her head faintly. "Just Cara," she said. "The name's Italian, and you couldn't pronounce it."
"Call her 'beautiful lady,'" I said. "Lots of men do."
I could see Cara begin to flush angrily, but Hawkins paid me no attention, finessing the situation nicely.
"Okay, Cara it is," he said. "Lots of people call me Ralph, but I prefer Rafe."
That made sense. Why not one more little affectation?
He drained his glass and stood up. "May I come again?"
Cara stood too, but I stayed in my Morris chair.
"May I come again?" the very reverend Rafe Hawkins repeated.
I looked up. "What for?"
"To bug your ass. If you need anything, I'm up on Blind Man's Hill, first house on your left, in the middle of the grade." He nodded to me, turned to leave the room after handing Cara his glass.
She took it. "Come again. I mean it." She reached out and touched his sleeve. "This house gets too quiet sometimes, and Charles isn't always so grouchy. He's got a cold." She gave me a significant look — or maybe the look was for Hawkins' benefit. I have no doubt he'll be back.
It's the first day of autumn, and unbearably hot. It's also been humid the past two days. My cold has broken, but my eyes have hurt so badly, my head feels so tight, that I can hardly bear to write, and can in no wise think of going to the books. Tomorrow things may be better. It seems to be trying to cool off, though the air is wet still.
Catch wants to go up attic, but I'd prefer to go up myself first. I understand squirrels can be rabid these days. I must try to get some sleep tonight at least.