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Atlantida

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Crystal Thielkien
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« on: March 30, 2009, 03:26:48 pm »

the stretches of silver salt, the tawny hillocks, the flat gold dunes that are crested over, when the "alizé" blows, with a shimmering haze of pale sand.

Cegheir-ben-Cheikh! He is the man. There recurs to my mind Duveyrier's tragic phrase, "At the very moment the Colonel was putting his foot in the stirrup he was felled by a sabre blow." 1 Cegheir-ben-Cheikh! There he is, peacefully smoking his cigarette, a cigarette from the package that I gave him. . . . May the Lord forgive me for it.

The lamp casts a yellow light on the paper. Strange fate, which, I never knew exactly why, decided one day when I was a lad of sixteen that I should prepare myself for Saint Cyr, and gave me there André de Saint-Avit as classmate. I might have studied law or medicine. Then I should be today a respectable inhabitant of a town with a church and running water, instead of this cotton-clad phantom, brooding with an unspeakable anxiety over this desert which is about to swallow me.

A great insect has flown in through the window. It buzzes, strikes against the rough cast, rebounds against the globe of the lamp, and then, helpless, its wings singed by the still burning candle, drops on the white paper.


p. 7

It is an African May bug, big, black, with spots of livid gray.

I think of the others, its brothers in France, the golden-brown May bugs, which I have seen on stormy summer evenings projecting themselves like little particles of the soil of my native countryside. It was there that as a child I spent my vacations, and later on, my leaves. On my last leave, through those same meadows, there wandered beside me a slight form, wearing a thin scarf, because of the evening air, so cool back there. But now this memory stirs me so slightly that I scarcely raise my eyes to that dark corner of my room where the light is dimly reflected by the glass of an indistinct portrait. I realize of how little consequence has become what had seemed at one time capable of filling all my life. This plaintive mystery is of no more interest to me. If the strolling singers of Rolla came to murmur their famous nostalgic airs under the window of this bordj I know that I should not listen to them, and if they became insistent I should send them on their way.

What has been capable of causing this metamorphosis in me? A story, a legend, perhaps, told, at any rate by one on whom rests the direst of suspicions.

Cegheir-ben-Cheikh has finished his cigarette. I hear him returning with slow steps to his mat, in barrack B, to the left of the guard post

p. 8

Our departure being scheduled for the tenth of November, the manuscript attached to this letter was begun on Sunday, the first, and finished on Thursday, the fifth of November, 1903.

Olivier Ferrières,
Lt. 3rd Spahis.   


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Footnotes
3:1 This letter, together with the manuscript which accompanies it, the latter in a separate sealed envelope, was entrusted by Lieutenant Ferrières, of the 3rd Spahis, the day of the departure of that officer for the Tassili of the Tuareg (Central Sahara), to Sergeant Chatelain. The sergeant was instructed to deliver it, on his next leave, to M. Leroux, Honorary Counsel at the Court of. Appeals at Riom, and Lieutenant Ferrières' nearest relative. As this magistrate died suddenly before the expiration of the term of ten years set for the publication of the manuscript here presented, difficulties arose which have delayed its publication up to the present date.

6:1 H. Duveyrier, "The Disaster of the Flatters Mission." Bull. Geol. Soc., 1881.



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