“sigbjørn’s emotions now were entirely those of the cat’s—a hatred so pure it was almost beautiful”

book cover of 

Hear Us O Lord from Heaven Thy Dwelling Place 

by

Malcolm Lowry

Malcolm Lowry, “Gin And Goldenrod”

 

It was a warm, still, sunless day in mid-August. The sky did not appear so much cloudy as merely a uniform pearly gray, like the inside of a seashell, Primrose said. The sea, where they saw it through the motionless drooping trees, was gray too, the bay looked like a polished metal mirror in which the reflections of the lead-gray mountains were clear and motionless. In the forest it was very quiet, as though all the birds and small creatures had abandoned it, and the two figures of the man and his wife walking along the narrow footpath, and their little cat bounding along beside them, seemed the only things alive, so that when a vermilion and black and white garter snake wriggled off into the dry leaves and twigs it sounded loud as a deer crashing through the bracken.

 

Primrose was looking everywhere for the pair of goldfinches, whose nest, with its exquisite pale blue-white eggs, they had found in a trammon tree only six feet from the ground in May, and which they had watched all summer with delight, but their birds were nowhere to be seen.

 

"The dear goldfinches have gone to Alcapancingo," she said.

 

"Not so early… They’re just gone because they don’t like it here any more, with all these new houses going up and their old haunts destroyed."

 

"Don’t be gloomy, Sig darling. It’ll be all right."

 

Primrose and Sigbjørn Wilderness were now approaching the few houses on the fringe of the forest. The cat, black and white, with platinum whiskers, sat sniffing at a clump of spring beauty. He would go no further. Then he vanished. Sigbjørn and Primrose came out of the woods into a place where the ground was being cleared, then as by common consent turned off before they reached the store that had come in sightwhich was being partly dismantled in order to create a larger one—taking another side path to the left. This transverse path had also once led through the woods, but the ground on one side had been cleared for building. The bushes had been allowed to remain, and it was still a pleasant leafy way of thimbleberries and salmonberries, that in winter, in frost, in moonlight, made a trillion moons.

 

It brought them out abruptly on a dusty main highway, upon either side of which, as far as the eye could reach, lay sections of brown drainpipe and where a signpost said: To Dark Rosslyn.

 

Sigbjørn’s emotions now were entirely those of the cat’s—or what the cat’s would have been had he had the poor sense to accompany them this far: terror, fear, distrust, anger, anguish, and a hatred so pure in its intensity it was almost beautiful to experience. It was mid-afternoon, and Sunday, and now the cars honked and whined by in an all but continuous uproar, each sending up its private cyclone of dust from the road, against which the two had constantly to pause and turn their backs. The bus for Dark Rosslyn came past, snarling like a wild beast crashed by, leaving a backwash of air in which the trees thrashed for some moments. For there were trees again now, on either side of the road, for a short distance, then where there had been the woodland, through which they would have continued their path, there was a huge area of rubble, from which stumps of trees, blackened, hollow, some in cactus shapes, protruded as if blasted by lightning. Near at hand, on the highway, with no thought of privacy, some new houses had already been built, but owing to the law, no trees were left near them. Nevertheless, the destruction of the forest had opened up a magnificent view of the mountains and the inlet, that had been invisible from the road before, and you would have thought that all this evidence of growth and rebuilding would have been productive of anything but despair. On either side of the road a shallow ditch fell away to what, in other seasons, was a small brook, now dry and choked with weeds. Primrose, searching for wildflowers wherever a trace of moisture remained in these ditches, was wandering back and forth across the road, or even pausing vaguely in the middle to search the banks on either side. At these times Sigbjørn would shout at her or even seize her by the waist or shoulder and push her into the side. "Look out!" "My God, there’s a car—" "Primrose! There’s a—" "I know it. Look, darling—" and she was off again, swift and graceful in her scarlet corduroy slacks.

 

Sigbjprn’s anxiety shifted now, as for the moment she walked in single file ahead of him-though every time a car went by he almost jumped into the ditch himself— to their goal in Dark Rosslyn. He doubted his ability to find it in the maze of roads that wandered around the hillside at the edge of the town, wondered if he would recognise the house again, through the heavy dolorous recollections of the previous Sunday, and feeling in his right side still the pain of the fall in the black woods, he began to sweat. Now he wished to take off his shirt, knowing that if he said so Primrose would say brightly, "Well, why don’t you?" and somehow unable to do so on this main highway.

 

They passed the office of the Rosslyn Park Real Estate and Development Company: Rosslyn Par Enquire Here, Scenic View-Lots. Approved for Rational Housing Loans. Cash or Terms: past the hideous slash of felled trees, bare, broken, ugly land crossed by dusty roads and dotted with new ugly houses where only a few years ago rested the beautiful forest they had loved.

 

Look Out for Men! said a sign: Soft Shoulders: Keep away: Private: and now the road was half torn up and the ditches where the brook had been and the wildflowers of spring once grew were being filled in with a pipe line, bringingwater and all the commercial comforts and plumbing of civilisation to their once wild and lonely haven. Here, in particularly vicious slash, where some rank thistles and huge dandelions grew, they saw their goldfinches feeding along the thistles, and paused. Among them was a new bird, like a tiny yellow and black striped sparrow, and Primrose ran across the road again, followed by Sigbjørn, looking both ways at once.

 

"Look! It’s a pine martin."

 

"A martin’s a kind of rat."

 

"Yes, that’s right; but there’s a bird called a purple martin."

 

"You mean a pine siskin."

 

"Of course. But what’s it doing here on the coast? They only live in the high altitudes. Oh, isn’t it sweet."

 

The pine siskin darted away and they walked on past, now, thank God, the end of ugsome Rosslyn Park and the little new "coffee bar"—Sigbjorn glanced at it with pure hatred, it was Sunday, but anyhow you could only buy Coca-Cola and Seven-Up—the big new schoolhouse, a great concrete block of mnemonic anguish, and reached a short stretch still comparatively unspoiled. What did he mean by this—"comparatively unspoiled"? Were one’s emotions of horror even quite the truth? Canada was indeed a pretty large country to despoil. But her legends, nearly all her most valuable and heroic history was the history of spoliation, in one form or another. But man was not a bird, or a wild animal, however much he might live in the wilderness. The conquering of wilderness, whether in fact or in his mind, was part of his own process of self-determination. The plight was an old-fashioned one, that had become true again: progress was the enemy, it was not making man more happy or secure. Ruination and vulgarisation had become a habit. Nor—though they had found a sort of peace, a sort of heaven, and were now losing it again, had they, very consciously, been looking for peace. Nevertheless he could not help thinking of the green loveliness of their lost woodland, etc. etc., and all these conflicting clichés buzzed in his head as he followed Primrose, who had found a deep spot where a pool of water from the brook still lingered and here, shaded from the dust and heat of summer, a mass of wild blue forget-me-nots shone fresh and bright among damp emerald moss and near it some American brooklime.

 

But Sigbjørn could not climb down and pick them for her, he could not, even, remember the name, though he himself had first found and identified this latter flower in June. She didn’t want them now, Primrose said, they would be all wilted before they even reached Dark Rosslyn; perhaps he could pick her some on the way back. And now she had seen some goldenrod, growing among a great bank of pearly everlasting; the first goldenrod of the year. They would pick that on their way back too.

 

“I’m even more doubtful now," he said.

 

"Of what?"

 

"That I can find the house."

 

"But I phoned the taxi driver this morning. You told me to. I said we’d be along this afternoon. He knows where it is, doesn’t he?"

 

"I don’t think I can face him… With his knowing grin," he added.

 

"There’s the taxi driver’s house just ahead, honey. Come on, it’ll soon be over now."

 

"Besides, I wanted to save money," Sigbjørn said.

 

"Save!"

 

"Don’t be angry. I’m sure I can find it," Sigbjørn said, standing at the crossroads. "It’s just up there and off to the left, I think."

 

"Well… how far is it?" Primrose said dubiously.

 

"Not too far. Well—perhaps it’s a fair distance but if we don’t find it we can always come back and get the taxi."

 

Primrose hesitated, then took his arm and they went off up the side road. The road was unpaved and dusty but at least they were rid of the momentous traffic and the taxi driver, and Sigbjørn felt rather less sick and almost hopeful. But the intrusion of the taxi driver at all disturbed and confused him. Why had he told Primrose to phone the taxi driver? He thought he remembered him in relation to last Sunday but the connection between him and the object of their visit was vague. Nonetheless he had been sufficiently conscious of such a connection to think it worth getting Primrose to phone. And then, there was always the question that he’d thought he would never have been able to make it walking at all.

 

The road went downhill briefly toward the sea, turned sharply right, then left again and now ahead of them was a long steep hill. He gazed at it in dismay, for it didn’t look familiar at all. Had he really come this way? Or should he have made that other turn off to the left, as Primrose suggested was more likely. He hesitated, listening to the distant sound of traffic: the klaxons sounded like blended mouthorgans.

 

"No, I’m sure it’s this way. Come on," Sigbjørn said, and they started up the hill doggedly. Now, the traffic behind, a suburban dementia launched itself at them: flat ugly houses, the cleared land, stricken and bare, left without a tree to give shade or privacy or beauty; or strewn with half burned stumps and rubbish. Wy Wurk, Wy Wurry, Amble Inn (again), Dew Drop Inn, Dunwoiken, Kosy Kot, crowned by the masterpiece: Aunty So-Shall. But behind each one of these bourgeois horrors was still the dark forest, waiting, one hoped, for revenge.

 

They trudged slowly up the hill and now Sigbjørn really began to sweat, for it was hot here, with a sultry damp heat that made the air feel thick and hard to breath, and his side was hurting again. He looked anxiously back at Primrose who had removed her scarlet corduroy jacket and was panting and scowling behind him, for though she loved to walk she hated climbing hills, and at this moment she meant him to know it. Sigbjørn went ahead, but he could already see that it was as she said: the road wound directly away from Dark Rosslyn and back toward home. But there, too, just at the turn, was a rustic wood arch at the left which said Whytecliffe Resort, Riding Academy, Horses by the Day or Hour. Refreshments.

 

Sigbjørn waited unhappily until Primrose caught up with him.

 

"Well," she said. "Did you go to Whytecliffe?"

 

"I don’t think so. No."

 

"Surely you’d remember that thing." She pointed to the arch.

 

"I don’t know… but we might as well go and see."

 

"You go then. I’ll sit here and catch my breath." Tall cedars, Douglas firs, grew beyond the arch as he went up the bridle path, and it was a little cooler, a breath from the sea below freshened the air, and now he could see the bay beneath him, and for some reason this made him feel better. There, below him and to the right were the stables; people were getting on and off horses, calling to each other, and a young couple mounted and paced up the hill toward him: "What do I do?" "You just pull on the right rein and it’ll do it for you." And that was true too, once on it, the horse would do everything for you, even to throwing you off. It was hard to be angry with a place where you could hire horses, or see a riding academy as a symptom of modernity. He and Primrose always talked of riding together, though they never had. And how much better the money might have been spent here, with her—well, it was no use looking, he knew it wasn’t here he’d been the previous Sunday, and he turned back.

 

"Isn’t this where Greenslade lives now—at Whytecliffe somewhere," she said when he returned to the arch.

 

"I think so… Yes."

 

"We might go and find him then. He’ll know where it is."

 

"No!" Sigbjørn said. "No, I’ll find it, for Christ’s sake… or we’ll get the taxi driver. Come on."

 

"But Greenslade was with you. He’ll know—"

 

"No." Sigbjørn  started distractedly down the hill. "You said no yourself. You said you’d rather be in hell than meet Greenslade again."

 

"He’s a horrible man."

 

"Yapping about the benefits of civilisation. How easy it is for people to talk about the benefits of civilisation, who’ve never known the far greater benefits of not having anything to do with it all!"

 

Halfway down the hill Primrose suddenly took his arm.

 

"Look, Sigbjørn, there— those birds with the white stripes on their tails."

 

"Vesper sparrows?"

 

"No. They don’t have so much white. Oh, what are they?"

 

"Pipits. Some kind of pipits. American pipits," Sigbjørn said, as the birds lighted on a nearby alder tree. "Yeah. See how they’re bobbing their tails?"

 

"How clever you are—" Primrose held his arm tightly to her side. "And brave too. I think you’re swell. I know this is perfectly bloody for you."

 

"Thank you. I think you’re very fine too. But all this isn’t easy to do. And I don’t see why I’m doing it."

 

"But you said you wanted to make a new start, you said it was to be—"

 

"Yes it was. It is."

 

Watz-it-2-U. Opposite this house, a little further on, a narrow rutted road turned off to the right and Sigbjørn halted again; it didn’t look familiar yet he had the feeling the place was off in that direction. At the juncture of the road a stone house was in process of being built. The foundations were in, the walls were part way up, the window frames had taken their square or oblong gaping shapes and inside this half-built house three people were standing: a man, his wife, and a little boy about seven or eight. They were walking around it, they leaned on the windowsills, they pointed, now, toward where the roof would be, their every expression and gesture one of such hope and excitement and joy that Sigbjørn turned away: even were the fate of this house to be called Amble Inn, it was not right to look at them thus, he felt, gruesome though their odious nest might be.

 

He walked on quickly, but as the road made a sharp turn he halted suddenly before three houses in front of which there seemed to be a policeman, or a man in shirt sleeves and a navy blue cap like a policeman’s. He turned and almost ran back to where Primrose was lingering, around the bend, gazing at some more goldenrod.

 

"I think it’s over this way, but there’s a policeman there—"

 

"A policeman? Where?"

 

Primrose walked on around the bend then turned, beckoning. The policeman was a taxi driver. But he was not "their" taxi driver. He was a strange one, probably from the city, but if not a policeman, why a taxi driver here at this place, and why these other people standing nakedly and unguiltily about, but as it were too consciously unlocking—but no, the taxi driver was merely shepherding two elderly women who were looking rather too curiously at Sigbjørn, or so it seemed, and he hurried on again past the three houses and began to climb yet another hill that ran out of sight. But at the top of this hill the road stretched out, turning toward the highway with, oh God, yet another long, long, steep hill ahead.

 

"I won’t do it. I won’t," Primrose said. She stamped her foot. "If we’d got the taxi driver we’d have been there and had it all over by now. I won’t—"

 

"Please. Oh please, Primrose. Don’t be angry. As a matter of fact I’m sure it’s just down there," Sigbjørn yelled in a soft whisper. "Look, maybe it’s that—"

 

"I won’t—"

 

"Christ you said you didn’t want to see Greenslade. And Christ I’m doing my best. And Christ I think this is the house."

 

It might be. He hurried on and stopped at a corner where three more houses made a blind T. Here it was—or was it? There was this house on the near corner, a high-roofed, wooden house, in need of paint, with a bare, littered yard in which a little black kitten and a puppy were playing together and a small girl playing with a saw stared at them.

 

"Well, is this it?" Primrose caught up with him, tight-lipped and pale.

 

"Oh hush! You insisted on coming with me, now you might be—"

 

"What?"

 

"Oh for God’s sake, Primrose."

 

"I never did any such thing. You know you begged me to come, Sigbjørn—"

 

Sigbjørn, exasperated beyond endurance and smarting under his own unfair and untruthful charge at Primrose, gave one despairing glance around and rushed to the door where he knocked loudly.

 

"Why not try the back door?" Primrose suggested after a while.

 

The back door was open and they could see through into a dirty, dark kitchen with dirty dishes and bits of stale bread and food on the floor and sink. A radio played loudly. Sigbjørn knocked again. There was a deceptive air of slatternly innocence in a teapot sitting on the cookstove and though the place had something familiar about it he still couldn’t be sure. And if Al—Al? didn’t answer the door who on earth was he to ask for? He took the letter out of his pocket and tried again to make out the signature: "Dear Sigbjørn—you asked how you could send that $26.00 Your wife exerted so much pressure for me to be on my way the other morning that I forgot to leave you my address. Which is Yours truly F. Landry (Landing? Fanbug?) P.O. Box 32, Dark Rosslyn."

 

This same pressure he must have felt exerted upon himself, for it seemed he moved from the door, and was contemplating going around to the front again.

 

Primrose suddenly took his arm, then she kissed his cheek. "There now, Sig darling, it’ll soon be over now my brave one."

 

He took a deep breath and knocked again, loudly; the radio was turned off somewhere in the front of the house and footsteps sounded. Sigbjørn turned around.

 

"You promised," he whispered, "you promised to be nice—and to have a drink with him, if he offers us one."

 

And now someone, a man, the man Al, appeared, a short muscular fellow with untidy hair, dressed in unpressed trousers, suspenders over a soiled shirt, while his shoes were curled up at the toes and broken at one sole. Sigbjørn felt Primrose stiffen behind him, taking in every detail of his loose fat mouth, bad teeth and squinting eyes.

 

"Hello," Sigbjørn said.

 

"Hello. Come in." He opened the door and they filed into the squalid kitchen where Primrose sat down quietly on a chair and Sigbjørn stood beside the sink.

 

"Haven’t got a thing in the place," the man was saying, "but Al can get you a bottle." Sigbjørn, who had thought this man was Al, was confused, and now the beacon, the pharos, of the possible drink at the bootleggers’ that had shone before him all the way was gone. He remembered the rather hopeless, nearly empty bottle at home and glanced at Primrose, but she was gazing out the door, her clear, cold profile and glassy polite smile gave him no hope on this plane.

 

"I came to pay you the debt I owe you from last Sunday," Sigbjørn said. "I got your letter."

 

"Yeah? I’ve quit. Well, I’ve quit for a while anyways. After last Sunday. But there was no hurry about that. You could have sent me a check or something."

 

"Do I really owe you twenty-six dollars?"

 

"That’s right. There was eight bottles of gin drunk up here last Sunday. First time I ever served drinks in my house. I tried to get you to go, you know, but then the Indians came."

 

"Indians?"

 

"Yeah."

 

"But I paid for the first two bottles. I had the money, remember?" Sigbjørn said. "And Greenslade paid for his didn’t he? Or didn’t he?"

 

"He paid. But he went, after the first bottle was gone. He didn’t drink so much. He took his bottle and left. But you wouldn’t go. You wanted to take them two bottles home to drink with your wife, remember? But then them Indians came and you started buying them drinks and that’s bad stuff. You know. Indians. It ain’t safe. I was on hot bricks."

 

“I’m sorry if I caused you any trouble," Sigbjørn said.

 

"Oh, that’s all right, bud. But I never saw a man drink so much and stay on his feet. Them Indians passed out—one was laying on the floor over there, remember? And he was getting tough—you know how they do when they’re drinking. They feel insulted."

 

“They do," Sigbjørn said. "And by God—"

 

"Giving drinks to Indians, that’s bad. I tried to get you out, then to get you to lay down a little and you says: I’m going to lay down and sleep for exactly twenty minutes and then I’m going to get up and have another drink. And by God you done just that. Never saw anything like it, Missus." He turned to Primrose. "That’s just what he done. Exactly twenty minutes."

 

"Yes," she said.

 

"Well now, I hate to see a man get taken advantage of. Them Indians ought to of paid for some of it. You know when you get it from me on a Sunday, like, when the liquor stores is closed, I gotta charge a bit more and all. Tell you what, though, suppose we settle for twenty, how’s that?"

 

"Thank you .. . How did I spend thirty-nine dollars?"

 

"Well, brother, you drank it. Never saw a man drink so damn much and stand on his feet. I got a taxi and took you home, remember? That is, I let you off there by the store and you said you’d make it the rest of the way all right. And I put a bottle in your pocket, you wanted to take to your wife, did you get home with that?"

 

"I got lost in the forest."

 

"It’s the first time you’ve every done it," Primrose said.

 

"Well I’m damned." The man grinned. "You sure had a time for yourself, bud. But you got home O.K.?"

 

"Yes, I got home O.K. You saw me the next morning. I mean the morning after the next morning." Sigbjørn stared at the floor: but not that night. Where, actually, had he spent that night? Had he slept on the ground? drunk the bottle? where had he fallen? And the new sports jacket, precious because Primrose had given it to him for his birthday, worn only the second time that night—

 

"I’ve quit," the man was saying to Primrose now. "The person next door is very religious… one of them Indians fell down outside and he was quite obscene in his language …"

 

And why not, Sigbjørn thought, Christ why not! and he remembered the time when the deer used to come down through the woods and swim across the bay and there hadn’t been any bootlegger in Dark Rosslyn to sell you firewater on Sunday, or, come to that, any reason for drinking it. How easy to make a judgment here. The deduction made, another lie would speed to its total doom, were it wholly untrue: the evil is in its half-life, where it coalesces with all the other half-truths and quarter-truths to confuse us, the esemplastic medium of oversimplifications in which we live. The bootlegger, in times of prohibition, in great cities, has one function. The bootlegger, in times of partial prohibition, has another. The bootlegger, on Sundays, where there is Sunday prohibition, is a secular savior. The bootlegger, in rural places is as fundamental as the prostitute in the city—

 

“I’ve been batching it for three weeks—the wife’s in Saskatoon. That’s why the place is in such a mess," the man was saying apologetically to Primrose, and then to Sigbjørn: "Well, we’ll settle for twenty dollars, is that O.K.? And I’ll tell you what, there’s one of them Indians I know pretty well and maybe I can get a bottle out of him to pay his share. If I can I’ll bring it along, how’s that?"

 

"O.K." Sigbjørn said, handing over the twenty dollars.

 

Primrose went to the door. "It looks like rain," she said, "perhaps we’d better get started."

 

"Well, good-by."

 

"So long, bud. See you in jail."

 

"Ha ha."

 

"Ha ha."

 

Sigbjørn and Primrose Wilderness walked silently side by side down the road toward the long hill until they felt themselves out of sight of the houses. Then Primrose suddenly threw her arms around Sigbjørn.

 

"Darling Sig. Please forgive me for being so foul. I really was perfectly foul and God I’m sorry! Say you forgive me."

 

"Of course. I was disgusting too."

 

"You weren’t. You were brave. I know how awful that was for you and I—I thought you were gallant!"

 

"There are the pipits again— there."

 

"So they are."

 

Watz-it-2-U… Walking hand in hand they came to the bottom of the long hill and there was a new footpath branching off through the woods toward the highway, a shortcut which would eliminate the hill. "But Primrose, honey, maybe it’s private property. What if it ends up in somebody’s garden?"

 

"It doesn’t say so. Oh come on, Sigbjørn, let’s try it anyhow."

 

Primrose started down the path which, at first fairly wide, became more and more narrow and overgrown though now, just ahead, they could hear the snorting obscene traffic of the highway. Then suddenly the path debouched into a garden and there in front of them was a woman, hoeing. Sigbjørn and Primrose started to apologise together but the woman straightened up and smiled.

 

"Oh, that’s all right. Somebody comes in here every once in a while from that path. You can get through to the road. Just go round the garage there and down our drive."

 

They thanked her and Sigbjørn led the way, Primrose following behind.

 

Once more they were on the highway, pushed into the side of the ditch by the passing cars. Primrose was gathering pearly everlasting and tall dusty purple asters, she gathered them, for Sigbjørn could scarcely bend for the pain inhis side, so he carried them for her and walked behind. Kozy Kot. Amble Inn.

 

The rain began to fall, soft and gentle and cool, a benison. They came to the little boarded shelter of the bus stop and halted for a moment as they saw the bus approaching.

 

"Shall we take the bus?"

 

"Oh no. Let’s walk."

 

"But you’ll get wet. Won’t it spoil your clothes?" Sigbjørn said, for he loved her scarlet corduroy slacks and jacket.

 

"Not these. I don’t think it’s going to rain very hard anyhow. And I do want some goldenrod!"

 

The bus whined past and they turned their heads from that disgusting smell and blast which progress has schooled us to believe—as Proust observed—was nostalgic too. A silent ambulance looking, Sigbjørn thought, like a hearse, came up the road from the city and stopped before a house on the corner.

 

"Look—" Primrose said. "Do you remember that chap who used to sit on that porch typing every time we came by?"

 

"Oh yes—on the big heavy office typewriter. I hope he’s not—"

 

They lingered, watching the ambulance driver in conversation with a gray-haired woman on the porch, but it appeared he was only inquiring his way, and they started on, obscurely relieved that it wasn’t the man of the typewriter, to whom they’d never spoken a word.

 

Primrose walked ahead, carrying a single stem of scarlet bunchberries, that species of tiny dogwood they had discovered one spring, and Sigbjørn behind, carrying the goldenrod. He was watching Primrose in her scarlet slacks and the scarf she was wearing now over her head against the rain, which was of scarlet and cobalt and emerald and black and white and gold in the design of a curious bird with a cobalt beak and emerald feet.

 

"I have a confession to make, Sigbjørn," she said.

 

"May I know what?"

 

"You didn’t lose that bottle of gin. Yougave it to me when you came back the next morning. But I put it away and then you thought you’d lost it."

 

‘Then we have it now."

 

"Sure. And we can have a cocktail when we get back."

 

"Good girl."

 

They stepped into their own woods and the cat came leaping to meet them. In the cool silver rainy twilight of the forest a kind of hope began to bloom again.

 

MALCOLM LOWRY (1909-57) was born into comfortable circumstances in Birkenhead, England. He early proclaimed his unconventionality when he shipped out as a deckhand before attending university. After his graduation from Cambridge in 1931, he followed an itinerant and erratic literary career through Europe, Mexico, and the United States, eventually settling in the Vancouver area. For much of the time between 1939 and 1954 he and his wife, Marjorie Banner, lived in a shack in the squatters colony at Dollarton—the site of present-day Cates Park on the north shore of Burrard Inlet and the setting of "Gin and Goldenrod." During his lifetime Lowry published only two booths: Ultramarine (1932) and Under the Volcano (1947). His alcoholism contributed to his early death in England, after which many of his voluminous manuscripts were edited and published by his widow and his friends, including Hear Us O Lord From Heaven Thy Dwelling Place (1961), Lunar Caustic (1963), and October Ferry to Gabriola (1970).

 

Lowry’s letters indicate that he was wording on this story in 1950, although it was not published until four years after his death, in Hear Us O Lord From Heaven Thy Dwelling Place (1961).

 

—from Carole Gerson, (Editor). Vancouver Short Stories. Vancouver, B.C.: University of British Columbia Press, 1985.

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