BEGINNING in this issue with “The Lure of the Lavender Trees,” by Maryland Allen, THE CAVALIER intends to make the experiment of a weekly short story in both Esperanto and English for those of its readers who are already familiar with the international language, and in the hope that students will find this feature a source of instruction and interest.
Whether or not this innovation will prove popular, can he determined only after a consistent experiment. The decision rests with our readers. If it is approved, I shall leave nothing undone to bring it to the highest possible state of development. On the other hand. if you don’t like it, I don’t like it. But, being receptive to suggestion and anxious to please, I will strive to give you anything that you may desire in the line of fiction.—THE EDITOR.
“Go on,” said the bartender.
The man leaned farther across the polished surface of the bar. “It’s true,” he protested earnestly. “I swear it’s true. Let me tell you—ˮ
“Go on,” said the bartender with the same weary contempt.
“It’s true!” cried the man again.
“What’s true?ˮ broke in Abbott. It was night in San Francisco, and we were looking for the Great Adventure.
“Oh, he was mate of the Idalee,” said the barkeeper, jerking his thumb and speaking as if the stranger was dead or deaf. “She was wrecked somewhere, and he gets picked up and comes back here with his hair white and a screw loose and wants to tell me some rip-snortin’ lie or other. But no, he don’t, and so I tell him. He don’t work off his nightmares on me for free drinks.”
The man turned his back on the bar. It was plain that he followed the sea, and that he was educated. He took off his soft hat and ran his thin, brown fingers through hair that was thick and white as cloth.
“Chaps,” he said appealingly—he kept his face curiously averted as he spoke, but his black eyes looked up at us dilated and a little wild—“Chaps, if you would have a drink with me and let me tell you—”
The barkeeper helped us carry our drinks to the table farthest across the room. “He’s nutty, I tell you,” he growled, and put down the handfull of cigars that Abbott had ordered. “You don’t even remember where the blamed old ship went down, Jim Moylhan.ˮ
He glared the stranger accusingly in the face.
“It was south of the line,” burst out the man with a kind of dreadfuI eagerness as if he must be telling, and yet was afraid. “It was south of the line, I can tell you that much. And we saw them a long distance away. They were streaming purple against the sky like a banner from the sea; bending and beckoning even at that distance. They were lavender in the lingering, gorgeous hues of sunset and lavender in the quick flash of day. A strange sight for shipwrecked men, chaps, but it seemed a welcome one to the bride. She saw them first.
“ ‛Oh,’ she cried, and pointed: ‘Oh, God be praised!’
“We rested on our oars, the captain, her man, and I. We looked, and I think we did praise God. And that shows, chaps, what poor, dense, helpless creatures human beings are.
“ ‘Land!’ said the captain, and he looked grave. ‘Land there!’
“The bride’s man laughed. ‘You’re all turned around without your compass, cap’n,’ he says, ‘and your broken-backed Findlay’s at the bottom of the sea. Sure enough it’s land. Let’s go.’
“But the captain looked dubious. ‘I’ve sailed these seas for thirty years,’ says he, ‘and I’ve never missed so much as a pipeful of land, chart or no chart. It don’t seem familiar to me.’
“Then the bride laughed.” His somber, brown face lightened. “Well, chaps, that closed the argument.
“All day we pulled toward that swinging purple signal in the sky. Then the trades died; the sun set and we moved over a sea of molten gold. The white clouds burned crimson, the soft blue of the sky seemed to reflect the glow, and against the red furnace of the western horizon the lavender banner hung motionless.
“Very slowly the glory faded and the moon rose. It seemed to swing far out of the sky and dimmed the brightness of the stars. The water moved in gentle swells and peaceful, shining ripples. The whole great silence of the sea was filled with restful calm. And we, struggling with the oars, tortured by hunger and thirst, still shaking with the horror of a great ship’s death—we seemed intruding, out of place, and chaps, somehow I felt ashamed. The purple banner moved very gently then. It beckoned slowly all through that night, and the captain said something about the land breeze.
“The bride slept close against shoulder of her man, and the rest of us were not intended to sleep. But I know we did, and I know the boat still moved forward. Maybe it was the current—I don’t know. South of the line, chaps, currents are not only things that are queer. I do know that when the day came in that single lightning stroke the bride set us all leaping with a cry.
“ ‘They’re trees,’ she screamed, ‘they’re trees!’'
“The tide was out. As far as we could see on either hand the top of the reef hunched up, deep yellow and sea-stained. Directly opposite us gaped the opening like a missing front tooth. The water in the lagoon was bright green; the beach shone dazzling white. Beyond that came a wide strip of soft, velvety turf, a shade darker green than the lagoon. Then, like a solid wall, from where the beach curved to where the beach ended, arose the lavender-trees.
“They stood up tall and straight, and yet seemed to droop. Chaps, even the stems were lavender. It was very still and blazing hot, and they stood so motionless you could hardly tell the leaves from the branches. They were strangely beautiful with the blue sky behind them and the dark green turf, the white beach, and the pale green lagoon in front. But they were terrible. You could not see through nor beneath them. There was not a crack nor a cranny for the eye to pierce. They seemed placed together with a devilish contrivance of color to protect or to conceal, and there were no other trees in sight.
“We sat in that boat, chaps, like foolish, gaping images, and stared.
Then the bride began to whimper and crouched beside her man.
“ ‘Let’s go away,’ she whined. ‘I am afraid. Let’s go away.’
“Her man pulled back, too, and the ﬂesh of his face seemed to fall away and leave his eyes sticking out. But the captain picked up his oar and put it over the side of the moving boat.
“ ‘There’s a hell of a current here,’ says he; ‘ steady aft, there, Moylhan.’
“So we two worked our oars in the water, and the boat flew through the opening, skimmed the lagoon, and darted half-way up the beach. I ask you to remember, chaps, that we were weak and exhausted and the tide was running out.
“Where the boat grounded in the sand a bright, clear stream of water ran out of the trees. It made a crystal streak across the soft grass and down the white beach to the lagoon. The captain was in the bow, and he fell down before it first. He did not seem at all surprised to find a running stream on an atoll. He had been rather startled at the mere thought of land in those seas, but he fell on his hands and knees beside that water, and drank like a pig, grunting and sucking it into his throat. As for me, honestly, chaps, I didn’t think. A mate’s not paid to kick. If the captain's suited, that settles the business. I did feel a little surprised, but I was mostly angry because he didn’t wait for the bride. And then the water sickened me.
“It was sweet and fresh enough, all right, and, God knows, I had dreamed of nothing else since that night the ship went down. But I didn’t drink to amount to anything; I couldn’t—there was something wrong. It ran down my baked throat cool and wet, and stopped there. Somehow my mind wouldn’t let it go any farther, and I ejected it upon the sand. Then the bride jerked upright and began the same thing. But her man and the captain kept on drinking. Only the bride’s man did not drink so much.
“I felt so weak that I sat right down where I was, and then I saw that the lavender-trees were watching. I saw something come out of them, chaps. It was something that I could only sense with my nerves, but it felt and felt about, up and down, and came closer with every breath I drew.
“The captain was still drinking, and the bride’s man knelt as if dazed with his hand up to his head. The bride came and sat down beside her man. Out of the blue sky the sun poured down. The sea drummed against the reef and washed its yellow back with foam. The beach glared white, the strip of turf shone like a dark emerald, the bright water flowed through it without a murmur and made a little ripple against the life-boat’s gray side, and, reaching out from that misty, mysterious wall of lavender foliage and wood, the something that I could only sense swayed this way and that, feeling, feeling, feeling.
“The same thing that spoke in any mind about the water told me to take hold of the boat, and when I did so the thing drew back into the trees. Perhaps I looked white; I know I felt like death. The bride stared up at me from where she knelt beside her man, and I saw that she knew.
“Then the captain got to his feet with a satisfied grunt. ‘We’ll have to forage for some food,’ says he, ‘but we’ll sleep first. When the trades begin to blow I’ll put up a signal.’
“He looked aloft and seemed to notice the trees for the ﬁrst time. ‛Are they purple?’ says he. ‘Are they purple?’
“But the bride’s man was already asleep. I hung onto the boat and looked at the bride, and neither of us answered. We thought, and each knew the other was thinking—fear. I felt hysterical, all wild and confused. But I could see her growing calmer, calling on her courage. and getting a prompt reply. Somehow the captain did not seem to expect an answer. He slumped down where he stood and I watched him begin to shore. I wanted
to tell the bride that she was brave, but my tongue was stuck behind my teeth, my eyes closed, and I slept in the shadow of the boat.
“It was the bride’s scream awoke me. ‘Drop him!’ she screeched.ˮ
The stranger paused and looked from Abbott to me with those wild, terror-dilated eyes. The sweat burst out across his lined, sunburnt forehead.
"God, chaps,” he whispered, “I never heard a woman cry like that before—I couldn—I couldn’t stand it again.”
A tense silence fell about the table. Abbott and I exchanged glances. He looked horriﬁed at the sequel to his friendly offer, but very eager.
As for me, I longed to cry "fake, if only to show that I still retained my sanity, but the words would not come. I looked across at the burly barkeeper serving out drinks so stolidly, and I wanted to hear him say again that the stranger was “nutty.”
I was wild to speak to the man, too, and get him started again, but I did not dare. At last:
“ ‘Drop him, drop him! ’ She said it over four times. ‘Drop. him, drop him!’
“I dragged myself up beside the boat, chaps, while the bride clung to her man and he fought her with his hands, and there lay the captain upon the soft turf half-way to the lavender-trees. The bride looked at me.
“ ‘Go and get him,’ she crooked.
“I tried to walk and my bare feet felt like they were suckered to the sand. I got the captain about his middle and he bellowed like a bull. The trades had come up while we slept. The purple branches swept and swayed and the leaves stood up in the wind without a sound. As I lifted the captain a drooping lavender branch streamed across the green turf and swept about my waist. Oh, God! chaps, I-—I—-but the bride screamed again, the branch blew away, and I dragged the captain to the beach.
“The captain lay where I threw him and soon he slept and breathed hard. About his neck there was a thin, purple mark like a string tied close. I saw the bride look at it and catch her breath. Then she glanced at me. But she did not speak and we both turned away. Chaps, we saw the fear in each other’s eyes.
“The bride’s man" still sat with his knees hugged in his arms and his black eyes moved swiftly here and there, up and down. Sometimes he shivered and the sweat dripped from him like water and his legs jerked convulsively. Then with a deep sigh the stiffness would go out of him and his chin flop limply on his knees. I knew he felt the thing—the thing that moved in and out between those purple tree stems seeking, seeking, seeking, like fingers among sand.
“When the sun went over behind the grove the captain groaned and sat up. No light came through the lovely cloud of silently moving leaves, and there were no shadows on the green turf.
“The captain stared at the reef, the peaceful evening sky, and then at the lavender-trees. He looked awfully worried.
“ ‘This ain’t the place for an island,’ he muttered. He said it over again. ‘This ain’t the place for an island.’ Then he said very loud, ‘The hell I'm thirsty!’
“He tried to drag himself to his feet, but he couldn’t; so he went for the water on his hands and knees. The bride looked at me and ran her dry tongue along her black lips.
“ ‘Stop him!’ she croaked like a frog in the marsh. ‘Stop him!’
“But the captain made it before I did, and glued his mouth to the water that had no more business to be there than the land. I couIdn’t pull him away. I did get my arms about him, but he would not budge an inch. So I started to creep for the boat. But the bride looked at me, and I turned back. Chaps, I felt ashamed.
“Somehow the captain got to this feet. He turned and stared us over
very slowly. He looked at me creeping toward him on my hands and knees, at the bride squatting in the shadow of the boat holding tightly to her man’s arm, and the bride’s man shivering and sweating, watching that thing which was feeling closer and closer and closer.
“ ‘I’m goin’ to find us something to eat,’ says the captain. His voice sounded thick and guttural, and the thin, purple mark about his neck seemed to tighten like a pulled string. He went up the beach to the green sod.
“The bride looked at me again. ‘Stop him,’ she rasped. But I, chaps, what could I do?
“The purple branches tossed high toward the blue sky, swept out across the soft turf, and all without a sound. The captain grasped the air close in front of his neck as if the string pulled too hard.
“Then he began to run in queer, skipping strides, and all the while his hands fought to loosen up that choking grip. The bride’s man scuffled and kicked up the sand trying to follow, and the bride struggled to hold him down.
“But I crouched beside the water and watched the captain run under the purple trees. The color closed about him like a quick-shut door. The branches dipped and beckoned as before and the leaves stood out straight without a whisper. Then he began to scream and the bride’s man answered.”
Again there fell a tense, strained silence. My cigar was out. I looked from Abbott to the stranger and back to Abbott again. I saw they both were panting.
“ ‘The bride looked at me,’ said the stranger, ‛and I crawled back to help. She was fighting like a cat to keep him down beside the boat. My God, chaps, I didn’t know any man, even a half dead one, would treat a woman the way he did. I bumped his head against an oarlock and that didn’t help. He was weak, but not so weak as we two, and he scrambled to his feet at last. Then the bride caught him about the knees, his head cracked against the boat and he lay between us. And all the while, behind those silent purple branches, the captain screamed and screamed.
"I started to go after him, chaps, but the bride caught me back. She took her man by the feet and made me lift his shoulders. We pulled and twisted and got him into the boat. Then I started again, but she took my head between her hands and turned it so that I looked out to sea.
“ ‘Don’t turn back,’ she whispered.
“ ‘Moylhan, Mojilhan!’ the captain shrieked. ‘Jim, oh, Jim!’
“ ‛Our Father,’says the bride—and she began to push the boat—“who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name—’
“She pressed her tender bosom against the bow. Chaps, I helped. But it seemed to me that the boat had grown there to that white beach and the captain’s screams rose higher. They went through my head like white-hot knives.
“ ‘Jim, Jim! Help me, oh, Jim!’
“I stopped pushing on the boat and started to turn around—‘Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,’ croaked the bride.
“Chaps, we got that boat into the lagoon. The water was waist deep in second. I heard the captain still screaming, but the bride was close beside me.
“ ‘—on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread—’
“Perhaps it was her praying that made me push harder. It was that or her eyes. The next I remember she was in the boat and I felt her fingers pulling at mine.
“I scrambled, she pulled. Then I fell flat in the bottom beside the bride’s man and we passed through the opening and out to sea. The bride took an oar. I did the same, and we worked with the bride’s man in the bilge water at our feet.
“It was the Tropic Queen picked us up. We were not rowing then. Three
days after I asked if the bride was living and the bride’s man. The doctor told me that they were and likely to live a long time.
“In another week I heard the passengers running up and down the deck; I heard a tug whistle and smelled the green freshness of the land. The doctor slapped me on the back.
“ ‛Look up,’ he said. ‛Look up, man. This is God’s country and San Francisco.’
“Then, chaps, I raised my eyes for the first time since the bride turned them from the lavender-trees.”
In the tense silence which followed Abbott drew a deep breath.
“Well?” he demanded.
The stranger started and passed his hand through his damp, white hair.
“Well!” he repeated blankly.
“Yes, well?” burst out Abbott. “What’s the answer, what’s it all about, what’s the explanation?”
“Answer, explanation?” groped the stranger. “I—I don’t understand," he finished slowly.
Then a deep red burned in Abbott’s smooth cheek, and he pushed back his chair, quickly. “And I have wasted my money on a mystery without an explanation!” he cried angrily. “An hour spent on stuff that is absolutely worthless. No magazine will buy a mystery story that is not explained in detail.ˮ
“Explained in detail,” repeated the stranger dazedly. “It’s true, I tell you.ˮ
But Abbott was on his way across the room, muttering disgustedly.
“Abbott!” I cried. I caught him as he stepped into the street. “May I try it?” I asked.
“Yes, you can try it,” he snorted contemptuously, “but it won’t go. I tell you no editor will take a mystery story that is not fully explained. You can try it.ˮ
SOURCE: Allen, Maryland. The Lure of the Lavender Trees, with La Allogo de la Lavendaj Arboj, translated by D. O. S. Lowell, The Cavalier, vol. 24, no. 3, January 18, 1913, pp. 550-555, 555-560.
Note: Neither the original typography nor the original two-column formatting is preserved here.
This occasions the second appearance of an Esperanto translation in The Cavalier, and the first of a new series that generated five translations. For links to all the English originals and Esperanto translations and more information, see:
The Cavalier: Covers & Contents
J. U. Giesy (John Ulrich, 1877-1948) & His Collaborators
In 2112 (1912) by J. U. Giesy & J. B. Smith
2112 (1912) by J. U. Giesy & J. B. Smith,
translated into Esperanto by Elmer E. Haynes, M.D.
In 2112, by J. U. Giesy
& J. B. Smith,
translated from Esperanto by Forrest J. Ackerman
Esperanto in The Scrap Book, April - June 1907
(with 2 articles by D. O. S. Lowell)
Farewell to Esperanto
by Bob Davis, the Editor
(The Cavalier, 15 Feb 1913)
“Esperanto—A Closed Incident”
by the Editor [Bob Davis],
with images of the entire letter column
“Heart to Heart Talks”
Elmer E. Haynes & John A. Morris on J. U. Giesy et al in the pulps (1915)
Esperanto, the Wonderful New Language (1907)
by D. O. S. Lowell
translation of L. L. Zamenhof's La Vojo
by D. O. S. Lowell
Esperanto in early science fiction to 1930 by Everet F. Bleiler
J. U. Giesy (John Ulrich, 1877-1948) & His Collaborators
Esperanto & Interlinguistics Study Guide / Retgvidilo pri Esperanto & Interlingvistiko
Philosophical and Universal Languages, 1600-1800, and Related Themes: Selected Bibliography
& Utopia Literaturo en Esperanto /
Science Fiction & Utopian Literature in Esperanto:
Gvidilo / A Guide
Science Fiction & Utopia Research Resources: A Selective Work in Progress
J. U. Giesy @ Ĝirafo
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