Monday, January 28, 2013

The Smoke-Man

Today's quoted passage from HIDDEN FACES (1944), the novel by Salvador Dali:

"It must have been at about half-past eleven in the evening that the Count of Grandsailles and Veronica, sitting before the extinguished fire in the fireplace, were finishing a game of chess. Veronica had just picked up a black knight with the pink, blue-tinged pincers of her long fingers, and at the moment when she was lifting it slowly from the chessboard in deep thought she suddenly became motionless. She turned her head toward the door leading to the patio, which had unexpectedly opened. In the doorway stood an old cowboy dressed like a beggar, his grey moustache drooping over his lips, his eyes smoke-coloured, his skin very wrinkled like an Indian's, his hat respectfully held in front of his chest while with his other hand he held a gnarled stick. At the end of this stick dangled a little bundle wrapped in a very clean white handkerchief.
Grandsailles and Veronica looked at him questioningly and the man finally said in a far-away voice, full of tenderness, 'I am the smoke-man! I have come a long way, and I always travel on foot.'
'You're what man?" asked Grandsailles, not quite sure he had heard right.
'The smoke-man,' he repeated.
'The smoke-man,' Veronica repeated in turn as if it were more natural to her.
Grandsailles got up and had him sit down, shutting the door that the smoke-man had blithely left open.
'I passed through this way because the servants would not have let me come in. I heard in the village that your fireplace doesn't work.' He cast a glance full of malice at the extinguished fire, and it seemed as if in the depth of the misty smoke of his eyes sparks of fire were kindled in the exact centre of each of his pupils. 'I am the smoke-man -- I get rid of the smoke in fireplaces when no one else can. I know the winds of this region...'"

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