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KALEIDOSCOPE ONE BY STEFAN ZWEIG CONTENTS AMOK THE BURNING SECRET MOONBEAM ALLEY TRANSFIGURATION . THE FOWLER SNARED THE GOVERNESS . AMOK IN March, 1912, when a big mailboat was unloading at Naples, there was an accident about which extremely in accurate reports appeared in the newspapers. I myself saw nothing of the affair, for in common with many of the...
KALEIDOSCOPE ONE BY STEFAN ZWEIG CONTENTS AMOK THE BURNING SECRET MOONBEAM ALLEY TRANSFIGURATION . THE FOWLER SNARED THE GOVERNESS . AMOK IN March, 1912, when a big mailboat was unloading at Naples, there was an accident about which extremely in accurate reports appeared in the newspapers. I myself saw nothing of the affair, for in common with many of the passengers, wishing to escape the noise and discom fort of coaling, I had gone to spend the evening ashore As it happens, however, I am in a position to know what really occurred, and to explain the cause. So many years have now elapsed since the incidents about to be related, that there is no reason why I should not break the silence I have hitherto maintained. I had been travelling in the Federated Malay States. Recalled home by cable on urgent private affairs, I joined the Wotan at Singapore, and had to put up with very poor accommodation. My cabin was a hold of a place squeezed into a corner close to the engineroom, small, hot, and dark. The fusty, stagnant air reeked of oil. I had to keep the electric fan running, with the result that a fetid draught crawled over my face re minding me of the fluttering of a crazy bat. From beneath came the persistent rattle and groans of the engines, which sounded like a coalporter tramping and wheezing as he climbed an unending flight of iron stairs from above came the no less persistent tread of feet upon the promenade deck. As soon as I had had my cabin baggage properly stowed away, I fled from the place to the upper deck, where with delight I inhaled deep breaths of the balmy south wind. But on this crowded ship the promenade deck, too, was full of bustle and disquiet. It was thronged with pas sengers, nervously irritable in their enforced idleness and unavoidable proximity, chattering without pause as they prowled to and fro. The light laughter of the women who reclined in deckchairs, the twists and turns of those who were taking a constitutional on the encumbered deck, the general hubbub, were uncongenial. In Malaya, and before that in Burma and Siam, I had been visiting an unfamiliar world. My mind was filled with new impressions, with lively images which chased one another in rapid succession. I wanted to contemplate them at leisure, to sort and arrange them, to digest and assimilate but in this noisy boulevard, humming with life of a very different kind, there was no chance of find ing the necessary repose. If I tried to read, the lines in the printed page ran together before my tired eyes when the shadows of the passersby flickered over the white page. I could never be alone with myself and my thoughts in this thickly peopled alley. For three days I did my utmost to possess my soul in patience, resigned to my fellowpassengers, staring at the sea. The sea was always the same, blue and void, except that at nightfall for a brief space it became resplendent with a play of varied colours. As for the people, I had grown sick of their faces before the three days were up. I knew every detail of them all. I was surfeited with them, and equally surfeited with the giggling of the women and with the windy argumentativeness of some Dutch officers coming home on leave. I took refuge in the saloon though from this haven, too, I was speedily driven away because a group of English girls from Shanghai spent their time between meals hammering out waltzes on the piano. There was nothing for it but my cabin. I turned in after luncheon, having drugged my self with a couple of bottles of beer, resolved to escape dinner and the dance that was to follow, hoping to sleep the clock round and more, and thus to spend the better part of a day in oblivion.
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