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The Sundial by Shirley Jackson
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bookshelves: fiction, north-america, own, 4-star, shirley-jackson

Foreword, by Victor LaValle

--The Sundial
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
June 13, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
June 13, 2014 – Shelved
June 13, 2014 – Shelved as: fiction
June 13, 2014 – Shelved as: north-america
July 11, 2016 – Shelved as: own
July 16, 2016 – Shelved as: 4-star
February 19, 2018 – Shelved as: shirley-jackson

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message 1: by Edward (last edited Jul 17, 2016 02:32PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Edward "The gardeners were growing careless with these walks far from the house; perhaps they knew that only Aunt Fanny habitually came along these ways, because the hedges beside the path had not been clipped smooth, making a straight green wall on either side; indeed, when Aunt Fanny looked up she could see that the hedges had been allowed to grow almost wild; were, in fact, in some places meeting overhead, darkening the path and giving an air of gloom to a walk which should have been agreeable and refreshing. 'My father,' Aunt Fanny said aloud, 'would not have tolerated this; Fancy, look there: the turnings of this walk should be perfect, lending themselves to a gentle easy saunter, and here we are slapped and confused. I wish,' Aunt Fanny said, 'that my father could see what has been done to the gardens.'
'There's a gardener,' Fancy said.
It was not until that moment, Aunt Fanny thought, that the faint depression she had been feeling deepened and centered and became conscious; walking in the gardens had always made Aunt Fanny feel happy, but when Fancy pointed out the gardener Aunt Fanny at the same time recognized that they had somehow strayed off the side path and were lost, perhaps even wandering onto someone else's property, although, as she told herself at once, they had not gone through the wall so it was really alright; certainly they had not been gone ten minutes from the house, and the Halloran property did not end ten minutes from the house in any direction.
'Fancy,' she said uneasily, 'I really think we had better go back,' but Fancy had run on ahead. There was light now, of a sort, but it was growing misty, and, with the green branches now reaching most frighteningly over her head and the faint touches of mist curling around the tips of leaves and through the branches and even almost hiding Fancy's feet as she ran, Aunt Fanny became, quickly and most pressingly, nervous, and, worse, bewildered. 'Fancy,' she called, 'come back at once,' but Fancy, as in a dream, ran on, always too far ahead to catch, running ankle deep through the mist, turning and even laughing as she ran ahead between the hedges; 'Fancy,' Aunt Fanny called, hurrying, 'come back.'
Then she too saw the gardener; he was standing on a ladder some distance down the path, and he was clipping the hedge. Aunt Fanny was perplexed, wondering how Fancy could have seen him before, so far back among the twisting curves of the path, but Fancy was running to him now, laughing, and Aunt Fanny, gasping, hurried on. Fancy caught the bottom of the gardener's ladder and spoke to him, laughing, and the gardener turned and looked down at her and nodded and pointed. When Aunt Fanny came up he turned back to the hedge and raised his clipper again. 'Fancy,' Aunt Fanny said, pulling at her, 'come away at once. We do not run and laugh before the gardeners,' she said severely but softly, 'Fancy, we always observe decorum; I am displeased that you should have run away from me.'
'I wanted to ask him the way,' Fancy said. She was walking quietly now, her cheeks faintly flushed from running. 'Didn't you think he was funny?'
'I hardly noticed, Fancy. One does not---'
'Dressed funny, I mean? And his hat?'
'I said, Fancy, I do not---'
'Look at him, then.' Fancy stopped, and shook at Aunt Fanny. 'Look and see how funny he is.'
'Look back on a gardener? I?' Aunt Fanny gave Fancy an irritable little pull. 'Fancy, behave yourself.'
'He's gone now, anyway.' Fancy moved slightly ahead and then said, 'Why, here's the garden; I didn't know we were so near it.' She moved between the arching branches overhead, the mist moving around her ankles, and Aunt Fanny, annoyed and frightened and tired, hurried to keep up with her; it would not do to let Fancy stray too far. A little girl and a defenseless woman, Aunt Fanny thought with sudden acute fear; strange gardeners around (and there had been something funny, Fancy was right---was it the turn of his head?), and neither of them sure of the way back.
'Please wait, Fancy,' she called, and followed, into the garden, and stopped. This was not her secret garden, this was not the garden which ought to have been at the end of the path they had taken, this was a garden so secret that Aunt Fanny wondered, shocked, if anyone had ever seen it before. Fancy, half-hidden in the mist, was dancing on the grass, and there were flowers, dull in the mist, but showing sullenly red and yellow and orange. Distantly, clouded, Aunt Fanny saw the hard whiteness of marble, and then through a break in the mist a narrow marble pillar. 'Fancy,' she cried out, moving forward and holding her hands guardingly before her, 'where are you?'
'Here,' Fancy called back.
'Where?'
'In the house.'
The voice died away and Aunt Fanny, tangled in mist now, began to cry helplessly. 'Fancy,' she said.
'Aunt Fanny,' but it came from far away.
Stumbling, Aunt Fanny went forward, hands out, and touched marble, but it was warm and she took her hand away quickly; hideous, she thought, it's been in the sun. Then she thought, why, this could be the summer house and I am only turned around; we could have strayed from the path and come into the garden by another way and that would be why it looked strange; this is certainly the summer house and it is silly of me to cry and stumble and be frightened. I shall go into the summer house, she thought, and sit down quietly on the bench, and when I have recovered myself I shall either call until Fancy finds her way to me---the wicked girl, to run away so---or I shall wait until this mist clears a little---and it must, of course; it is an early morning mist, a trifle; the sun will sweep it away; I have been in fogs many times worse than this and never been frightened; it was only because it was unexpected; I shall sit in the summer house until I am able to go on.
For a minute she stood very still with her eyes closed, trying to remember precisely the secret garden so that she might go into the summer house correctly in the mist. I must not fall down, she thought, because I shall not be able to get up again; if I fall down it will really be quite serious; I would have to call for help.
'Fancy,' she called, 'Fancy!'
Moving blindly, trying, although she could not, to watch her feet, trying not to stumble, she moved carefully and with extreme slowness around the summer house, remembering distinctly the pillars, the dark bushes on all sides, the four poplars around, the two low marble steps. If I sit in the summer house in the secret garden, she was telling herself reassuringly, if I go into the summer house from the secret garden, if I go into the summer house through the secret garden, I need only take four steps across the marble floor, four small steps across the marble floor and from the other side of the summer house I can look out over the long lawn and up the far lawn and past the pool and I will see the sundial and then the house. If I get into the summer house even the mist cannot stop me from seeing the house, and I can go down the two low marble steps on the other side and out onto the lovely long lawn and go straight, right down the middle of the lawn, even through mist, past the sundial, and go to the house.
Fancy, she realized, had probably gone that way already. Fancy was almost surely halfway home.
She stumbled, and put out her hand to catch herself against the marble pillar, but the mist cleared briefly and she saw that she had caught hold of the long marble thigh of a statue; standing soberly on his pedestal, the tall still creature looked down on her tenderly. The marble was warm, and Aunt Fanny drew her hand back and screamed 'Fancy, Fancy!' There was no answer, and she turned and ran madly, putting her feet down on flowers and catching herself against ornamental bushes; 'Fancy!' she screamed, taking hold of an outstretched marble hand beside her, 'Fancy!' stopping just short of a yearning marble embrace, 'Fancy!' and turned away crazily from a marble mouth reaching for her throat.
'Aunt Fanny?'
'Fancy! Where are you?'
'In the house.'
'Please come back, Fancy; please come back.' She was by a marble bench. Its back and sides were stained and uncared-for; there was a crack running clearly down one leg, there were dead leaves lying along the seat and heaped in the corners. Thankfully Aunt Fanny sat down; the bench was warm, and she moved, huddling herself together, sitting only on the edge of the bench. This is unspeakable, she thought; am I in the family graveyard? Why is this happening?
Unexpectedly, she thought of Essex---the path gets narrower all the time, she told herself---and was reassured. He will laugh at me, she thought; I must control myself. She forced herself to sit up primly on the edge of the marble bench, repressing firmly the nausea she felt at its warm pressure, and she smoothed the black linen of her dress across her lap, and tucked in her hair, which had somehow come loose, and crossed her ankles decently, and took her black-edged handkerchief from her bosom and dried her eyes and wiped away the dampness and grime from her face. Now, she thought; I may go mad, but at least I look like a lady.
A certain unfamiliar humor had come upon her with the thought of Essex; if he were here, she reflected, we would be sitting together on this marble bench and no one could see us in the mist. We would be in a deeply hidden garden---she could catch, now, the heavy sweetness of roses---and on a fair low seat, the marble warm beneath our hands. Distantly, she heard the music of a fountain, the touch of water upon itself, the low murmur of the fall. It came, perhaps, through the lifted curved hands of a marble nymph, running down her arms and over her shoulders and breast and clothing her in water falling softly, falling on and on. Then it might overflow one wide pool and fall on, down, into the reaching stone arms of a satyr who pushed upward to catch both hands full of water and let it fall gently against the arched backs and lifted heads of the dolphins who held him. Then, past the frozen dolphins, across the wide pool and on, down and down, into a great cup held by two maidens, overflowing the cup, going always past their stone smiling faces, their hard curls, on down and down over rocks and marble lilies, under and around marble fish and between the long legs of stone birds, necks always bent, heads always turned curiously. Far, far beyond, in a long sweet movement from the high curved hands of the nymph past the satyr, over the dolphins, between the maidens, leaving behind the lilies and the rocks and the fish and the birds, the moving water must be caught and imprisoned at last in a final narrowing agonizing eddy, twisted and trapped and forced down, pushed underground to run secretly and flow, perhaps, into the ornamental pool before the house, colored blue, and moving only faintly under the wind.
Roses, she thought: I would like to give Essex a rose. She put her head gently back against the marble bench, tears on her cheeks, and listened to the drops of water singing as they went down the fountain ('Frances, I have waited for you so long . . .' 'Impatient, Essex?' 'Impatient? Say rather mad . . . burning . . .'). She stirred, and smiled, and lifted her hand in tender protest, and looked upon the marble jeering face of a fiend, set into a shrine beside the bench, roses growing low against his head, dead petals caught between his thrusting teeth.
'Fancy,' she called, screaming, 'Fancy, Fancy!'
The moving water in the fountain called 'Fancy, Fancy' faintly, and the tortured marble face was warm.
'Aunt Fanny?'
'Please help me. Please come; please hurry!'
'I'm in the house.'
'Hurry!'
'I'm coming. I'm holding out my hand. It's all right, Aunt Fanny, I'm right here.'
And Aunt Fanny, turning, took hold of Fancy's hand, and it was warm marble; far away, she heard Fancy's mocking laughter and her voice singing."


message 2: by Fionnuala (new)

Fionnuala Loved it :-)


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