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HOME arrow PROSE FICTION arrow The strange History of Daniel Mortimer

The strange History of Daniel Mortimer PDF Drucken E-Mail
By Julian Scutts

Prefatory Note by Executor of Algernon Catchpole’s Last Will and Testament:

After Mr. Catchpole's unexpected and untimely death, this "cautionary note" together with the appended "documentation" purportedly written by one "Daniel Mortimer" fell to Mr Catchpole's estate. In order that any proceeds from the publication of this "documentation" augment the value of the aforementioned person's estate and thereby assist in paying off certain financial obligations accrued at the Ascot Horse Racing Course, not to mention those accrued at the Newmarket Racing Course, I, Winston Charles Hogsworth, partner in the firm of Hogsworth, Hogsworth Chitwitt- Jones and Hogsworth, at the behest of the aforesaid Mr. Algernon Catchpole's widow, Mrs. Edwina Catchpole, do present the aforementioned "prefatory note" and "documentation" for publication.
Chancery Court, Cheetham Square, London.
January 12th nineteen hundred and ninety-nine.

Document Est445/ACat/Misc./14& Attachment

CAUTIONARY NOTE TO THE READER

I have known Daniel Mortimer from the days we were both pupils at St. Hugh's' College near Glastonbury. We went up to Oxford together, he to read English, I to study History and Philosophy. He always struck me as an odd ball even as a boy, and I understand that he underwent a course of psychiatric therapy during his Oxford days. It was, however, only on meeting him after his trip to America in the autumn of 1975 that I seriously entertained misgivings about the state of his mental health. Shortly before his disappearance a few months ago, he committed certain papers to my trust, among them the following account of his experiences in America. I gather that it his intention to return to the United States, there to renounce the fleeting pleasures of this world and join a Mennonite settlement in Pennsylvania. My feeling is that only a woman could induce a man to do such a thing, but far be it from me to inflict my prejudices on others; nor do I feel called upon to expatiate on the text I append, text that might well appeal to a certain readership at a time when the surreal, the mystical and the fantastic are so very much "in." On one reading, this story reveals the workings of a mind in a most pitiably distraught state. Alternatively, the writer, fearful of the harsh censure of literary criticism, elected to give his tale the semblance of a personal documentation. I myself find the whole matter somewhat disquieting, the more so for having tried to suppress the urge to see it brought to the attention of a wider public. As a historian I do feel bound to mention one point at least: The writer, inclined (as ever) to mystify what a little research could have cleared up very easily, ponders at one point why the Liberty Bell was forged before rather than after the popular cry for America's political independence. He refers to the Biblical text to which the bell got its name, namely Leviticus, Chapter 25, Verse 10: "Declare liberty throughout and.." If he had gone to the trouble of doing his homework a little more diligently, he would have recognized that this reference to liberty was not politically tendentious to begin with. The bell simply commemorated the granting of a royal charter to the people of Pennsylvania in 1701, fifty years before. A parallel is drawn between this anniversary and the fifty-year jubilee of Biblical times. At least we historians must keep our feet firmly on the ground when those with literary pretensions ventilate their fertile imaginations with little regard for the objective truth and its doubtless uncomfortably exacting demands.

Algernon Catchpole, Oxford 1984.

Memo:
Angela, keep on hold, bit snowed under just now, deal with later
ATTACHMENT
From Daniel Mortimer's Papers deposited at the Premises of Algernon Catchpole, and subsequently adjoined to Mr. Catchpole's estate subsequent to exhaustive though regretfully fruitless investigations as to the present whereabouts of Daniel Mortimer

I: THE MORTIMER PAPERS

He rode forth conquering and to conquer
A Lord of time, of this realm emperor.
His steed so pale, sure-deadly was his dart
And strong the hand that held his iron rod.

Within the walls of that dark tower mewed up,
His captives cry for freedom and for light,
And one who quaffed too deeply his red wine
Must ride a nightmare to the ocean's bed.

I begin my story with no illusions, for I am fully aware that no one is likely to believe one word of it, yet I am left with no alternative to writing it down other than that of going mad. I have little doubt that any of my readers who follows my account to the last page, to whom I may well have to pay a heavy debt on the fearful Day of Judgement for having robbed that person of his or her most valuable time, will conclude, in any case, that I am already in that most pitiable and lamentable of conditions that is madness by name.
I arrived at Logan International Airport, Boston, at a very unseasonable time - in the late afternoon of October the 31st. My trip to America was, it seemed, the result of a coincidence of events in no way related to each other. I had just come into some money--hardly a fortune, though it seemed to be when I was thereby liberated from my student's penury. My impecunious state was relieved by the sad passing of Aunt Lisa. As the reading of her last will and testament revealed, she must have looked on me with no small measure of affection during her final years. I was -- to use a hackneyed phrase foot-loose and fancy-free, having just obtained a degree in English (German Subsid.) at Oxford. It was my aim to engage in academic research taking Edgar Allan Poe or the verse of Emily Dickinson as my dissertation theme. It so happened that some American friends wrote suggesting that I should come over to stay with them at their home near Boston. This was an opportunity I could not turn down. Boston was Edgar Allan Poe's town of birth, after all. I could do some biographical fieldwork on him and possibly on Emily Dickinson, too. Last but not least, I could see something of America.
Thus it was that I landed at Logan Airport at the end of October. As a matter of fact, the flight over had been pretty terrifying. An airhostess I spoke to confessed that she had never experienced anything like it before, nor did she hope to experience anything like it again. At one point I thought the plane was being torn apart as by a giant's hand, and I was obviously not the only person on board to entertain such feelings. There was no problem telling which religion a passenger belonged to. Some prayed clutching Bibles or crucifixes. As a priest next to me crossed himself, someone in the row ahead intoned the schema. An Arab in flowing robes, heedless of the Captain's warnings, undid his safety belt and prostrated himself on the floor. A friend of his, who was gesticulating wildly and pointing at something ahead of him, cried "Sheikh Maut! Sheikh Maut!" I would hardly term myself a religious type, certainly no "Holy Joe," but I felt, as do many at a moment of dire distress, the need to pray, though I was regrettably a little out of practice.” Not yet, Lord," I began. "I'm too young to go. Give me a chance to serve Thee to a ripe old age. Grant me an extension, as Thou didst to Hezekiah." I suppose my use of the archaic "thee" and "thou" goes back to my days at Sunday school, when Mr. Robertson would lead in prayer. As long as he addressed himself to religious themes, it didn't matter so much, but there was always a giggle or the half-suppressed snort when he said things like: "Everybody hopeth and prayeth that the weather for our outing shall be most clement, yea warm and sunny." The battering the plane was receiving was no laughing matter, and my prayer was in dead earnest. Scarcely had the name of Hezekiah passed my lips when a strange sense of calm overcame me. Shortly afterwards the turbulence was ended and we continued our flight to Boston without the least shake and vibration.
My cases and baggage had just been cleared by the customs and I was looking for somewhere to sit in the waiting hall when I heard someone call my name: "Hi! Danny! Let me get your bags for you. The car's outside."
"Hello, Pete!" I answered. "It's great to see you again. It must be three years since you and the family visited us on your trip over to Britain. How's everybody keeping? Well, I hope."
"You bet! They're all at home just dyin' to see yer, and that goes for Dracula and Frankenstein, too."
"Oh really?" I said with complete open-mindedness.
"You bet! They're all waiting there."
As we drove through the tunnel connecting the airport with the town, Pete asked about the flight over. He was not impressed greatly when I told him of the mortal danger I had been in. Having been a bomber-pilot in the USAF, he was inclined to dismiss my description of a bumpy flight as the understandable exaggeration of a civilian flight passenger who had never seen "real action."
"You don't bother about turbulence when the flak shells are a-burstin' all around. On my first mission--hell--was I scared? It was no use cryin' for Mammy! I soon got used to it though. Yer get fatalistic in the end. You know, the bullet with some guy's name on it, and all that. I was too young to see much of the Jap showdown, but I got my fair share of the Korean hell. Let's have a look at downtown Boston. I'll just show you the places of interest."
I dimly remembered from my history lessons that Boston was where the American Revolution got under way.
"We've got a heavy program lined up for you, boy--Lexington, Concord, Cape Cod, where the Pilgrim Fathers landed, Cambridge and Harvard. Either me or one of the boys will be free to drive you to town and show you around. See that red line over there?"

Sorry.....if you want to read the whole story, you must it download. In the DOWNLOAD-AREA  you can find the document as a PDF with 55 sites!

 
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