Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dunsany V

Here's one of Dunsany's understated little apocalypses, where more is going on than at first seems. Developed at full length, if might well have fit into UNKNOWN WORLDS a quarter-century later. Once again this comes from FIFTY-ONE TALES [1915].

"Taking Up Piccadilly"

Going down Piccadilly one day and nearing Grosvenor Place I saw, if my memory is not at fault, some workmen with their coats off -- or so they seemed. They had pickaxes in their hands and wore corduroy trousers and that little leather band below the knee that goes by the astonishing name of "York-to-London."

They seemed to be working with peculiar vehemence, so that I stopped and asked one what they were doing.

"We are taking up Piccadilly," he said to me.

"But at this time of the year?" I said. "Is it usual in June?"

"We are not what we seem," said he.

"O I see," I said, "you are doing it for a joke."

"Well not exactly that," he answered me.

"For a bet?" I said.

"Not precisely," said he.

And then I looked at the bit that they had already picked, and though it was broad daylight over my head it was darkness down there, all full of the southern stars.

"It was noisy and bad and we grew aweary of it," said he that wore corduroy trousers. "We are not what we appear."

They were taking up Piccadilly altogether.

--Lord Dunsany

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