VELLUM’S PARADISE, PART III

Summertime. Sunshine and stillness. A timeless composition wrought by the gilded fingers of the sun. The fluid moments of morning, of transition, the give and take, the push and pull of many colors have given way to the present moment. The brighter colors are dominant, a mélange gleaned from the rainbow, although here and there a deeper shade of green or purple can be seen within the borders of a more radiant color, for it is the light which fills all space. Immersing the room in a golden hue. Leadened by the heat and moisture, it has displaced the air, imbuing the moment with serenity. The walls, although newly painted, are indeterminate and no longer contain the pervading spirit of the composition. Through them, the foreground continues, as if forever; through a thousand portals, the view is extended. Along the mullions of the windows, there are shadows tinged violet and in the upper reaches of the lemon stained glass, they converge sharply into one another. In the folds and creases of the curtains, golden piers rise to the ceiling, forming an elaborate series of arcades and colonnades. Beyond them, with his legs crossed at full length in front of him, his arms resting across his stomach, Vellum reclines on the bed, propped up against cushions of brocaded material. His head is tilted such that his chin points to the ceiling and through his mouth smoke issues in silken strands from a cigarette suspended from his lips. His eyes are heavy and through slits, the polished glass on the walls sparkle resplendently with emanations of their own, beckoning his approach. From overhanging clusters of potted plants suspended from hooks in the ceiling, thick tendrils and leafy stems descend in emerald waves and overlap the sides of Thomas Cole’s distant mountain, eroded by the process of time and already shrouded in a verdure of its own. He wants to touch the mountain and stroke the cascading leaves, but the light encompasses him. He had lost the will to move. A range of lofty towers spire around him, threatening to swallow him with their rocky jaws. He hold his breath. His heart beats with excitement. Those by Russell are daubed deep blue with silver fissures descending into ravines filled with mist; and those by William Wall, though far gentler, are burning in autumnal raiment of orange, scarlet and cadmium. Below him, Catlin’s plains drift away, dust rising from the ground, bronze red and auburn; and overhead, in a sea of iridescent purple, Johnson’s full moon argues for equal attention, bright sulphur yellow. Upward the eye drifts into universe of vaulting greenery, Vellum’s crowning achievement, the coffee colored trunks, the arching limbs, the fully grown trees he bought months ago. The leaves glitter as if covered with silver dust and through a thousand outlets the spirit dissipates, escaping as smoke into myriad new configurations transubstantiated in the medium of light. Ever outward it travels from the tangling network of shadows, the tapestry of lines cast from above, across the floor and up the opposite wall. The twisting , interlacing limbs of Durrie weave through the matted textures, binding the small farm house to the wall. A church steeple protrudes above the sylvan mass, piercing clouds of vague and familiar shapes that seem to glow of their own accord; but it’s the prevailing spirit that fills them and gives them animation. It invades lifeless figures and draws from them a breath. Flesh tones glow with warmth. Still waters seem to run. One can almost hear the splashing of water. A river is drawn across a vast midland like a silver thread being wound on a spool of rough rock. In the distance there is a profusion of erubescence and turquoise. An eagle’s flight describes an arc overhead. Through pyramids of books stacked on the table, the eye is drawn through an infinite number of alleyways that seem to wind endlessly on and on. His eyes are drawn into crannies and corners, desiring treasures that lurk nearby, or deep within. At last there is a shimmering of water as the placid Missouri appears. Gliding through the tranquil body are Bingham’s trappers, one a boy, the other an old man; Vellum is resting his eyes upon them as his heart sinks into the waters of oblivion beneath.

A while passes. How much, he doesn’t know, nor does he care. He distributes the weight of his body, first feeling it in its entirety in his legs, then shifting it slowly to the postern and then to the shoulder blades. Closing his eyes, he lets the full weight of his head fall against the cushion. Gradually he forgets the presence of his body. He fancies it suspended in amber, a relic of a forgotten age, an age of prosperity and growth. Its luminosity flashes across the millennium through the vast expanse of Time, brightening the dark causeways into which so many moments have disappeared forever.

When he awakes, the quality of light has changed. He is on a hill overlooking San Francisco bay. Clipper ships are leaving through the gateway. The sun is seen shrouded in mist, blazing orange, while the air around it glows mulberry and carmine. The shadows lengthen. The colors dim. The day has ended.

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