Regarding the Will o' the Wisp post from the Chair some weeks back, I stumbled upon a nice passage in a book that I am reading–The Works of Guy De Maupassant. 1903 first edition.

He is a french short story writer from the early 20th century. Most of these stories so far are interesting in the way of a twist, with backdrops of war relations, sexual tension in terms of class distinction–i.e., lady of high standing or prostitute, stories regarding status– outlander or soldier– commoner and his standing in his small social circle, pregnant milkmaid, etc. These stories are interesting and entertaining in terms of language and settings/social settings and endings–a good short story diversion type read.

I just read a Prussian military story that was really well done. A small band of occupying soldiers couped up in a manor house under rainy weather with a French priest who will not ring bells due to the occupation and the soldiers getting restless. And then they send out for some French women to entertain them for an evening. Then the drama builds.

The particular story with a passage about a marsh was very moving, a descriptive and interesting scene. Two men are going out into a 3:00 am morning blind with very cold temperatures to hopefully hunt exotic wildfowl. It is a setting near an old growth forest where the best and most diverse fowl can be taken. It is a marsh that they are walking into.

Here is the writing from the story entitled "Love":

I am passionately fond of water and above all the marshes, where the whole unknown existence of aquatic animals palpitates. The marsh is an entire world in itself on the world of the earth-a different world, which has its own life, its settled inhabitants and its passing travelers, its voice, its noises, and above all its mystery. Nothing is more impressive, nothing more disquieting, more terrifyingly occasional, than a fen. Why should a vague terror hang over these low plains covered with water? Is it the low rustling of the rushes, the strange will o' the wisp lights, the silence which prevails on calm nights, the still mists which hang over the surface like a shroud; or is it the almost inaudible splashing so slight and so gentle, yet sometimes more terrifying then the cannons of men or the thunders of the skies, which make these marshes resemble countries one has dreamed of, terrible countries holding an unknown and dangerous secret?

No, something else belongs to it–another mystery, perhaps the mystery of creation itself! For was it not in stagnant and muddy water, amid the heavy humidity of moist land under the heat of the sun, that the first germ of life pulsated and expanded to the day?

The story continues into a hunt for fowl where the two men share an ice block blind in the marsh with a hole at the top so they can light a fire. They hold out as long as possible in the cold until a fire is warranted for basic survival. They light a fire in the ice block and then they hear cries of fowl overhead -maybe the fire spooked them or the upcoming dawn was coincident–either way they step out of the blind and see the fire inside the icy ball. The description of light and dark, fire and ice, dawn and dark, wet and cold is simply excellent. On top of this is the rush of energy for the hunt.

The time in the icy house waiting for dawn with no fire reminds me of waiting for an entry in a position-you get colder and colder, bored and ready to do something stupid, play your hand out of boredom-or simply going to sleep. I am right now in a strung out trade due to my making (waiting for an exit) and find solace in waiting. I can always light a fire and declare it over, or can I hold out some more and make it work. Either way it's a long walk back to the cabin and the cognac is gone.


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