THE CRIME

BLUE VOYAGE with regrets to Conrad Aiken

I

I mustn't forget to get a mailing card. I wish I had another cup of coffee. Be calm, be calm. 586 B. C. While Jeremiah wont down into Egypt Cain and Abel were carried captive to Babylon, no it was Ezokiel. Ezekiel saw de wheel, catharsis, children cry for it; he won't ask that anyway.

II

The great vaulted room sways and shivers in the chill light, and the army of tables and chairs, row on row, advances in sinister procession. Bell strikes, two strokes, trembling. Demipest sat down at a table, drew towards him the blue book, fat and loathsome in its emptiness. A completely depitilated proctor advances, passing out examination questions. The indifference of a god. O misery, misery! Question One: cold death, like the shadow of a dark angel's wing, crawls rapidly over the stillness. The fountain-pen, possessed of demons, bounces obscenely on the floor. Ink.

III

The last question. Last, but not least. Last in the list. List while you last. I am going slightly but irrevocably mad, The Widow's had this question cold--a' babbled of green fields. Bibliography appended to the examination paper of William Demipest, undergraduate, imbecile, procrastinator. Question One. Lecture delivered at the Manter Hall School the night before last. Question Two. Lecture delivered at the Manter Hall School last night; not heard by William Demipest, but revealed to him by the man across the hall, whose memory was doubtless inaccurate. Cad! Putting the blame on some one else. Question Three. William Demipest has no authority for his remarks except, possibly, God.

IV

A figure rises, moves slowly towards the door, sways slightly, impervious to the thunder which rises like a cloud from the floor, trembles in the pendant air. The courage of Smith. Coward! I lack the ordinary manhood to rise and hand in this paper. When I was twelve years old . . . my stepfather hit me on the head with a paper-weight, . . . surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. I will sit here, afraid to leave until the last minute has ticked itself into obscurity, because an inferiority complex shall follow me all the days of my life Misery.

V

A leter written by William Demipest, two days later:

My Dear Professor Q.:

You need not think that when you made out your examination paper, with the express and unmitigated purpose of flunking me out of college, I did not recognize your intention. Lay not that Battering unction to they soul. Bloody, but unbowed. I could, except for my pride . . . on yet. I have my pride . . . tell you the story of my childhood. You would pity me then. It would rate an A. My father hit me on the head with a paper-weight, one summer by the sea, bluer than a vast, incalculable blue book, gleaming in the sun. Beauty. But there is no need to tell you this. You could never appreciate it. Permit me, with my sincerest congratulations upon an examination flawless in its inscrutability, to remain yours, etc., (not sent.)

VI

Penny post-card received by William Demipest nine days later. E.