down the alley, beyond the cobweb-envelope and into the twisting Cretan maze of moonlit mansions and meandering mewses, cobbled, clattering go the feet, the feet that scurry, the feet that skeet, carrying the carapatic encumberant form of ye Caterpillar. Lanthorns of green glass glittering thier sub-aquatic doom glow but what's behind the light? Drizzle on lichen on granite gate-posts topped with orbs. Globular sentinels. It seems that there are whole sections of the town that lay undiscovered by me even after years of habitation here. Amazing that you can live in a place for years, never knowing about these 'other' districts. But you can just step through an archway and you hear the sound of a fiddle and distant laughter and a new vista unrolls to your eye. Murky streets of mansions antiquated. Leafy avenues at dusk, free from motor-traffic, only the vague echo of muffled hooves from the faraway horse. A leaf flutters silently down from a stately plane-tree. Sinuous quadrilles slither from slide-octave trombones, serpents, viols and bassunes. Mellow twighlight and the streets are all deserted. We seem to be back in the eighteenth century; a carriage rattles by, driven by a footman in powdered wig and silk tail coat. Following the streets of the night, one can wander free through a dream-woven tapestry whose threads are the slumberous thoughts and wishes of the drowzing town. Purple sundown streaming through leaves of bronze and copper.
Thought I heard the scratching of a quill on parchment, the smooth glide of a cuniform stylus at play on a clay tablet. The rattle of a phonograph being wound up. Pizzicato strings of a Haydn quartet. The chink of a tile hitting the floor of the courtyard of a Zen monastery in Kyoto - was it?
The quadrille drifts back in as dusks' fogs swirl slightly scattered askew. Always these situations recurring rattled patterns of matters mysterious refracted back through fractured lenses of antiquated magnifying glasses. Mosaic pavements of obsidian shards unfurl throughout this distinguished district, distinctly digressing down instinctive inherent inroads, into the forgotten streets.
Past the shack where Pasternak snacked on shattered crackers with his natterjack toad. Roads rolling, bowling along, bowing out owl-like past boarded-up railings, palings and rows of oars. Cumulus, gaseous liminous, luminescent lustre on lobstertail alleyways, sacks of coal in cul-de-sacs. Alley cats, stray cats, cats that wail, cats of soul, coal-sacks and blackened stumps of claim-jumpers burned-out shacks. How long will this go on? I wondered. These verbal vernacular pathways going from the synaptic ragtime synchopators to the artists quarter left of the bank. Down a misy lane I turned my wandering feet, past weeping willow avenues, still fresh from summer rain. Sleeping in the rain walking in the clouds, stumble-footed nocturnal, haunter of sylvian star-pastures, the encloacked and out-shadowed form of the Caterpillar was unseen and nowhere to be on the scene. Then, like a cataleptic cavalier capsising a cantilever crane a figure was looming. I loomed towards the figure. The gas-lights spat and flickered fitfully, casting a thin a greasy glow into the swirling gloom of the night. The quadrille had ceased, not a dog barked. Footsteps approaching. Above the stout gate-post of a crumbling mansion, caught in the gas-light, a cobweb strung with beads of moisture shivered loosely, a thing of great artfullness. The figure is nearer now, walking straight towards me. And the walk, it's familiar, irregular, almost volcanic, like a flow of lava. And as he drew nearer, the bluey-green shimmer that came off his skin and emanated from all around was a bedazzlement supreme. And he told me of many a thing, and I tried so hard to recall it all, but could not help being distracted by the scintillating light. The flowing light that rolled in shining waves of blue. This self-emanating light left a deep impression on me, and it's flavour and atmosphere have stayed with me more vividly than the words that accompanied it.
This looming figure, this giant-midget, this little embodiment of natural presence never fails to scatter a silver trail of sparkling delight wherever he goes. Operating on levels barely perceptible to the ordinary human conciousness, he goes quietly about his work, his never-ending work. It seems he'd been in Egypt, where he'd gone to Heliopolis to make contact with his opposite number, a character know only as 'The Scarab'.
The Scarab was a top-level papyrus man - or beetle - anyway he knew his papyri and could translate them into demotic laconic pictograms which he could then transmit to Blighty by telegraph or semaphore if the lines were down across the desert.
This being the season of the dread Sirocco, the Bedouin would be doing much of the signalling, and in this way, the newly unearthed wisdom of Alexander the Great, and the scholars and philosophers he encouraged and supported, was being transmitted from the site of the excavations, straight to the Caterpillar's centre of operations in Britain.
I don't know why the Caterpillar picked me to help spread his message - after our rare encounters I'm always too dazzled to recall and represent his words. Perhaps he has others - if so, I know nothing of them, yet if he relies on me alone, well, I suppose he has his reasons. Soon my luminous friend departed, leaving the glow of his aura, like the strange and wonderful glow-worms of summer nights passed. And as the dew settled in the hedges I threaded and treaded my footsteps back through the sprawling labyrinth of gaunt granite mansions and cobbled byways. Wandering through red-brick districts and toppling thatched rows of Jacobean hovels, slumbering side-streets and serpentine alleys, my feet seeking streets familiar, a-wandering the night -town, a few sparkling lights on a dark rock rearing out of the sea... A vast ocean swirls around this rocky shore, but blanketed in fog, the town drowzes under the archaic arc-light of argon-glass green lanthorns. What lurketh behind the light of their doom-glow? Returning from the 'other' districts, past globular gate-posts of lichen-strewed granite. I ushered past houses in the fall. Drizzle-haloes caught in gas-lamp's glow. Clattering cobbled Minoan mazes give way to plazas and meandering boulevards. Streets spin out and ramble like the Spanish boots on the feet of the gypsy. Footsteps skeetering the twisting streets towards morning and the familiar scene of Ordinary Street. But first to pass beyond the cobweb-envelope, down the alley, step through the looking-glass.