Swell a Progress

“If I believed,” said the voice, and sighed a little, “that I spoke to one who might bear my tale back to the world above, I of course should yet be silent. But this — I have been told — is impossible. And how should I presume to disturb that endless rolling voice? And how should I presume… So I answer you, and pay thus more my debt.”

“But your name,” said Hoopla, “and what you did, and what you were, and of what family?”

“Go gently,” said Nuncio. “Gently. Not all who suffer along this trench of evil are here out of malice borne, but and again by a thousand tiny cuts and moments lost in the turning of the page. Of such a caste is this soul, I think. Answer clearly,” he said, turned to the spirit, “and fear no ill-report.”

“My presence here is ill-report enough, but as you have asked I shall answer. I am, as you say, not one of the great souls that shook all heaven with their violence. But in my soul I nursed an eternal discontent, that could find no ease in the small rituals and kindnesses of a thousand teas and ices, and so grew foul within, though my tie was rich enough, asserted by — oh! — the simplest pin. And this I spread, turning my back on others and shaking my head quietly in the length of an afternoon speeding past, and dragged everyone down to my level. And her most of all whom I should have guarded against myself, and for this I must suffer here.”

And it fell silent. “Come on,” whispered Nuncio. “Leave him to his misery. Our way lies uphill and down. Leave him to his mermaids and his self-reproach.”