Three more women were hanged as witches at Union Square last night.
Both the county government and the legislature at Sacramento have issued proclamations that declare such acts of vigilantism "counter to the progressive ideals of the Republic" and have made it known to the general populace that the San Francisco Police Department does not and cannot recognise any reclusive or furtive actions by one's neighbour as witchcraft; and that further hangings during the current hysteria will be prosecuted with considerably more vigour than even your conventional murder would ordinarily warrant.
Their appeals to civilization go well-applauded in these quarters, but these are difficult times. The Devil has exited Hell and walks the earth, or so most people believe.
They say the infernal portal from which Satan has emerged was located in northeast Kansas somewhere. And they point to a dustbowl that stretches westward from that supposed gate out to Pueblo County, Colorado 1000 miles away, and they point to the perpetually dark and swirling cloud that has covered this vast area. The Eye of Satan, this enormous meterological freak is called, not only on the Plains, but out here on the coast, as well.
It is a poor time to ask restraint of the masses, to be sure.
Half a million of them have come west, and they all talk of the devil; they all talk of witches. They hoard the bits of shiny silver paper that they believe wards off the familiars and the spirits and the other agents of the diabolical, and when they find one they believe to be a witch or a warlock, they begin to slit throats in their ritual of mob panic.
I received a note from Snowden yesterday in the post. He tells me that Chamberlain has appointed Deputy Leader Simon to the newly re-created position of Witchfinder General. I daresay Chamberlain has found a man with the proper temperament for the job, but that a sensible fellow like Chamberlain should have found it necessary to create the post at all is quite simply flabbergasting.
Soon the Crown will be hanging witches, too.
Snowden's inquiries concerning business that came along with this grave news were probably best not made, however. Our ship is docked at China Basin and its refrigerated holds are still nearly full of our fine double Gloucester and Stilton. San Francisco is a city full of chefs and cheesemongers, but none of them, it seems, are in any kind of mood given our dark times to spend funds on a new product, no matter how qualitative, no matter how delicious.
Money is therefore running low for me, and so is my laudanum. I've been filling the dropper only three-quarters of late, and the lack has not only made my days with its frustrating calls upon our customers difficult, it has confounded my sleep in this dreary hotel room as well. I dream often of the pond I know deep within the New Forest, but in these dreams, I am not with the lovers I have taken. I am instead alone, and I strip naked, and dive downward into the cold and slimy waters, and after a while my feet touch the muddy bottom, and I open my mouth, and breathe deeply . . . .
I wake shaking and trembling, horrified, drained by the apocalyptic vision, and struck by how apt my low-grade fever dream seems for these troubled times. And struck, also, by how sometimes it seems as if our world is nothing more than the nightmare lyrics to a shanty written by an opium-eater in his throes, all the strangeness and the evil seemingly ingrained in this world merely the twisted verse of some talented songsmith deranged by his whimsical indulgence into narcotics. . . . .
Procol Harum - A Salty Dog - 4 - The Devil Came From Kansas.mp3
192 kbps mp3 with lyrics, up for six weeks (or longer) (Right click and save as target)
File under: Proto-Trower