The Wrath and the Wind
Alexander Key

Once Captain Maury glanced up, and though it would have bee impossible to see out into the night, the heavy black slanting brows that shadows the lows narrowing eyes gave him such a look of intense piercing concentration that Finch, always uneasy under that glance, had the uncomfortable feeling of having been observed. (14)

The east astern was still a questionable void, a liquid blackness that almost instantly erased the schooners pale phosphorescent wake. (16)

Some of them were dead. He knew the smell of death. That smell had been creeping through the bulkheads for days, but it had been faint and subtly filling the vessel and he had been living with it and not realizing; now the full power of it poured upon him. He clutched the railing with both hands and held on tightly and shook his head, then let go of the rail and slid over to the weather side of the hatch and braced himself against the bulwarks. He felt very tired and old and the taste in his mouth was the taste of failure. (17)

He got up and leaned against the bulwarks again and pressed his palms against his eyes and wished the dawn would hurry. He wanted suddenly to be ashore, to be done with the whole wretched business. (17)

It was one of those ghostly nights in which not even tangible thing like spars and rigging seemed to have substance. It was the way everything must look, he thought, to the eyes of the dead. Each time the bow rose he strained to see over the crest of the swell ahead, but there was only the nothingness into which the swells seemed to float away and vanish. But overhead the flush was brightening. It gave him the strange feeling of sailing at the bottom of a vast abyss. (18)

He rubbed his eyes wearily and peered about. They were on the edge of a thinning fog bank, with little veils and spearheads of fog creeping ahead, low-lying and opalescent. The sea was purple in the open lanes, and over it the fog shimmered fantastically in a hundred colors as the sun tried to break through. He cursed it for the beauty he could not feel. It seemed only ghastly and unreal. (20)

In the sea’s lonesomness a woman is always in a man’s thoughts. (22)

Maury, listening to the leadsman sing out the soundings, felt a peculiar disembodiment as if the past half hour had been a ridiculous fragment out of time, a tragicomedy without beginning or end that he had merely witnesses from afar. (28)

But this was like everything else in his life. He had always been changing decks, so to speak, and sailing off on a tangent. It seemed impossible to order one’s life, to plan and follow through on a course of reason. Something always happened. Something unaccountable, some sudden decision or act of the moment. (28)

There was an odd vagueness about her that gave him the impression she was existing only in some remote ephemeral world of her own. (29)

…"Slavery is an old evil. I’ll not waste breath defending it. But while those of us who profit from it directly may be guilty, at least our hypocrisy can hardly match that of you gentlemen who condemn it and yet indirectly subscribe to it."
"Eh? How do you mean., sir?"
Maury stood up and pointed casually to the cone of sugar on the table. "Take that...I noticed you used a bit of it in your coffee. Without slave labor you wouldn’t have it. And the shirt you are wearing. An excellent shirt, sir, made of the very finest long staple. But it was grown by slave labor, and no doubt woven by northern weavers who are no better off than slaves and probably get less to eat. (32)

There was something in her, some force, some uncommon vitality, that set her entirely apart from her background. (34)

Behind the dunes rose the tall, dark ranks of pines, and spacing them in the lower areas, cool and secretive in the sun’s glare, were the little close groves of palms. There was color everywhere, color undreamed. She had never see water so blue and so green and purple. It was purple under the cloud shadows, and near the island there were long streaks as bright as emerald. (39)

Deep in her, hidden, she had felt a queer surge of gladness when her mother died. It was like the unlocking of a door that had always been closed, a strange bright secret door leading into an exotic garden. (40)

At any gambling table, Two-Jack, in luck or out of it, could be the embodiment of cool insolence; but in these vast and imponderable depths he was quickly cowed to an acute consciousness of his own insignificance. (64)

A man hates to feel unimportant. (81)

Truth is impersonal. (83)

"…you can set a fracture and repair a knife wound—as men have been doing for forty centuries. But your victims still scream in agony and die of countless ills that a knife could cure. You are endowed with the ability to uncover new facts in both surgery and medicine—but are you seeking this knowledge? No. you turn your back on it because it does not happen to flatter your pride and purse."
"I’m not a crusader. I want my privacy."
"You do not have to crusade to be a seeker of knowledge. But you do not seek. You waste yourself. So one point must be charged against you." (84)

"You’ve seen too much. You are old and evil. And you are not helping me by telling me what I already know. I’m adrift and I’ve lost my course,--I need help…."(85)

"You stone bastard." He dashed a spray of rum in Kul’s face. "Stone. That’s all you are. Cold stone. What could you know of life and warmth and love?"
From the bowels of Kul came a sigh, like the faint movement of dead air long imprisoned in a cavern. "I have seen more life, St. John, than any living thing will ever see. In my time I was great among the gods. Many men have worshipped me. I have been feared and hated too. I have known warmth. And once, yes, I knew love. A child loved me. She came and played with me, not thinking me ugly or evil or mighty and untouchable. She kissed me and placed a flower in my lap. For this sacrilege she was killed."
A drop of rum, which might have been a tear, coursed down the pitted cheek of Kul. "It is a strange thing, love. All men seek it in one way or another, but few find it because they do not know it. (86)

A woman always left some part of herself in every room she occupied. (87)

He had been working north, but in the dark, sinuous maze of water lanes he had lost all sense of approximate location. (89)

Carey, as one who recognized that his tenure of life might be brief, looked with tolerant amusement on everything, including all forms of wickedness and, in spite of his afflictions, made it a point to miss nothing that might give him pleasure. An arthrnmitic, emancipated to a shadow, he hobbled about painfully on his wasted limbs, never complaining, always cheerful and full of chatter, his blue eyes ever as bright and beady and full of mischief as a mockingbirds. (99)

Carey dreamed, planned and fired others—and then withdrew. He was no businessman. He was a playwright who created drama that he might watch for his own amusement. (109)

In their eyes he could see that faintly sad look of wisdom which was beginning to replace innocence. Poor things, he thought, they’ve been sheltered till now and trained in the graces and the arts, all for the purpose of bringing the highest possible price at a private sale. Why does creation—and procreation—have to be so damn unjust? (120)

What were the qualities of whiteness? Spirit? Pride? Intelligence? Some inner purity and beauty? All those perhaps, when applied to Zeda, but when you analyzed them there was not one that held to the laws of man and pigment. Tulita for example, became a Negro. And Jug Slatter became something much less than one. (129)

"Man," said Carey, "has been suffering under the general state of things since the day the first recorded thought. But he comes to learn that there is neither good nor bad and that, in a large sense, nothing ever changed. He lives, is driven to procreation, suffers according to his nature and reluctantly dies. His reluctance to die is a curious thing. Even when life is intolerable, something drives him on and on and on….."(131)

"You are a romanticist."
"I thought all romanticists were poets."
"Perhaps they are at heart.. They must either express or seek. You are driven to seeking, so you follow the sea. Personally I loath it—except to contemplate it form the safety of my veranda. But for you, no doubt, it has a siren call; you see beauty and witchery in every phase of it—and it’s always more interesting on the horizon. Naturally your every instinct rebels at trade, and you have little practice with established law. That’s the romanticist. Therefore, in your seeking you are forced to cross the line. And since only a hard-bitten realist can succeed in that sort of thing, you are bound to fail."(132)

Love it the word that man has given for a craving that he does not understand. Man is alone and incomplete and afraid. He seeks completion, fulfillment, escape from his loneliness. He seeks, in a small measure, to become immortal, so that he can leave his aloneness and fear behind him. I know, for I have always been horrible alone. (133)

Maury smiled. "You evil old man," he said to Carey.
"It’s the country, Maury. It eats into one like a subtle poison, loosening all moral fibers. We northerners are particularly susceptible; we are corrupted and destroyed before we know it. (145)

Another girl was on the dais now and Slatter had shed his coat. He looked at Slatter’s red streaming face and then at the girl and wondered if she was the one who had had the baby. Not that it made any difference, really. What was another baby? There were too many babies and the race was not getting any better. And this girl was like the others, frightened at first, and now excited. Hell, they all loved it. And why not—with a room full of white men debasing themselves and yapping for their favors like a pack of hounds? Every girl who went on the block became, for a little while, superior to every man who cried his bid.
And why did it matter? Whether you courted your woman or bought her or took her by force, and weather she was black or white or red, it was all the same to Nature. Cold, imponderable Nature, by every possible device, urging you to mate. It made you physically uncomfortable if you did not mate. It gave you vanity and made you preen and crow like any barnyard cock to attract a woman and so made your mating easier. And it drove every woman to every mad extreme so that the seed of man, any man, might be implanted within her. All so that the festering race of man would be perpetuated and go on and on. Blindly on. For what? Was it merely to blight the earth and furnish a passing amusement for a chuckling god? Or was there a pattern to it all that his feeble brain could not perceive. (149)

You just don’t shoot a man because he calls you names. (159)

In his cottage on the beach Rodman Carey, untroubled by conscience and ignoring his cares, listened a bit wistfully. Man, he thought, is a perennial child, born afraid, and he created God in his own image to give him comfort in his fear. But many of us have no comfort. For our own reason destroys God, and we must walk alone in the dark. (174)

In the corner room across the hall Catherine lay motionless, troubled yet curious. That disquieting voice seemed an inextricable part of the nights, and the threat of it was the threat of the land. She sat up presently, digging her fingers restlessly into the sheet. The intangible threat sharpened her desire for life and her thoughts circled with undefined longings. I am here, she told herself--here where I wanted to come--but nothing is the way it should be. Nothing. Am I to go on and on like this, until I am empty like Cousin Etta? (175)

Nothing is impossible, if two people care enough for each other. (180)

It was the savant again. The voice was low now, but frenzied and intense and somehow deeply terrible. The words, lost and meaningless in the distance, reached them only as a dread implication, an elemental beating of sound as unsettling as the sure knowledge of disaster.
All at once the tenseness went out of her and she clung to him. "That voice, there's something awful about it. It makes me afraid. I. . . I've never been afraid before."
"Don't pay attention to him. There's nothing to be afraid of."
"Maybe it's just life. He makes it seem so dreadfully uncertain and short."
"It is that, God knows."
"But is shouldn't be that way."
He caresses her hair again. "How should it be?"
"I don't know. I wish I did know. I. . . I just want to crowd all I can into life before I die. I don't mean just parties and social things. I loathe them really." She raised her head. "Look at the night! It's so beautiful. It seems to promise so much that we never have. I. . . sometimes I wish I'd been born a savage. Or maybe a deer or a wild thing. Then I could be free and run on the beach. . . "(180)

There was a strangeness in this land, a something insidious and unsettling and slowly exciting like a low prelude to violence. It was in the faint but mad orchestration of the frogs and in the voices of the water. It was always in the water. On the quiet nights it had the sadness of a lullaby and the softer sounds of loves and lovers; but behind it was a wildness. There was always a singing in it and a wailing. Always a beauty ad a terror. (183)

She sighed and closed her eyes and took a deep breath as if to breathe in the color. Why did she love read so? At times it was intoxicating, and she felt a stirring of something pagan and savage. She trembled at the thought of it. Red, red, red! The color of dark memories and passion, and the color of violence and blood. She had never been able to wear it, for the color was too intimate and personal, and its significance was too great for any casual display. At moments she wanted to abandon herself to it. (189)

Fear drove her to her trembling to her feet. She looked once at Maury, then stepped backward and turned and ran unsteadily away with the sort of horror that a murder feels after passion is spent. For she knew she had murdered love. (201)

Why am I here? He asked. Why am I here in this place of shadows, in this lost corner on an infinitesimal and trifling speck of dust that is whirling through unknown space in so many different directions at one, slavishly following some remote pattern that is beyond comprehension? Why am I here, and what placed me here? And who and what it this that is myself? Not the head nor the body of me of the part of me that knows pain and hungers. That is only the machine, the house I live in. But who and what am I, the unknown who orders the machine and dwells within the house? No man knows me, and no woman. I am not even allowed to know myself. I am hidden here alone behind two windows, looking out when I will, seeing, but never seen. Am I, too, like this particle to which I cling, only a slave to some remote and incomprehensible pattern? (216)

I used to think once that one could retain intangible things. But you can't. You've got to be realistic. This is all that counts. It's very real, and I need it. (227)

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