Authors: Charles Williams
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PRAISE FOR THE WRITING OF CHARLES WILLIAMS
“One of the most gifted and influential Christian writers England has produced this century.” â
“[Williams has a] profound insight into Good and Evil, into the heights of Heaven and the depths of Hell, which provides both the immediate thrill, and the permanent message of his novels.” âT. S. Eliot
“Reading Charles Williams is an unforgettable experience. It proves that one can write about the weird and fantastic in such a compelling manner as to appeal to any reader of modern novels.” â
The Saturday Review of Literature
“Charles Williams took the form of the thriller and used it to create an extraordinary genre that has sometimes been called âspiritual shockers.' His books are immensely worth reading, even if you consider yourself unspiritual and immune to shock.” âHumphrey Carpenter, author of
The Inklings: C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Their Friends
“With a powerful imagination fed by trinitarian and incarnational faith, Charles Williams used fiction to explore how people react when the supernatural enters their lives, and how then to find the path of peace. The fantasy novels that result make a riveting read.” âJ. I. Packer, theologian and author of
All Hallows' Eve
“The work of a gifted man and obviously the expression of devoutly held convictions â¦ No stranger novel has crossed my path in years.” â
The New York Times
“A story that makes a real word of supernatural â¦ A tale of horror surpassing even the works of the recognized masters.” â
Chicago Sunday Tribune
“A strange story â¦ poignant beauty such as prose fiction rarely achieves. The final impression is more as if the three books of the
had been compressed into one novel.” â
The New York Times Book Review
“A great English believer unites the seen with the unseen in a glory and a terror that are unforgettable.” â
New York Herald Tribune
“It is satire, romance, thriller, morality and glimpses of eternity all rolled into one.” â
The New York Times
The Place of the Lion
From the top of the bank, behind a sparse hedge of thorn, the lioness stared at the Hertfordshire road. She moved her head from side to side, then suddenly she became rigid as if she had scented prey or enemy; she crouched lower, her body trembling, her tail swishing, but she made no sound.
Almost a mile away Quentin Sabot jumped from the gate on which he had been sitting and looked at his wrist-watch.
“I don't see much sign of this bus of yours,” he said, glancing along the road.
Anthony Durrant looked in the same direction. “Shall we wander along and meet it?”
“Or go on and let it catch us up?” Quentin suggested. “After all, that's our direction.”
“The chief use of the material world,” Anthony said, still sitting on the gate, “is that one can, just occasionally, say that with truth. Yes, let's.” He got down leisurely and yawned. “I feel I could talk better on top of a bus than on my feet just now,” he went on. “How many miles have we done, should you think?”
“Twenty-three?” Quentin hazarded.
“Thereabouts,” the other nodded, and stretched himself lazily. “Well, if we're going on, let's.” And as they began to stroll slowly along, “Mightn't it be a good thing if everyone had to draw a map of his own mindâsay, once every five years? With the chief towns marked, and the arterial roads he was constructing from one idea to another, and all the lovely and abandoned by-lanes that he never went down, because the farms they led to were all empty?”
“And arrows showing the directions he wanted to go?” Quentin asked idly.
“They'd be all over the place,” Anthony sighed. “Like that light which I see bobbing about in front of me now.”
“I see several,” Quentin broke in. “What are theyâlanterns?”
“They look like themâthreeâfive,” Anthony said. “They're moving about, so it can't be the road up or anything.”
“They may be hanging the lanterns on poles,” Quentin protested.
“But,” Anthony answered, as they drew nearer to the shifting lanterns, “they are not. Mortality, as usual, carries its own star.”
He broke off as a man from the group in front beckoned to them with something like a shout. “This is very unusual,” he added. “Have I at last found someone who needs me?”
“They all seem very excited,” Quentin said, and had no time for more. There were some dozen men in the group the two had reached, and Quentin and Anthony stared at it in amazement. For all the men were armedâfour or five with rifles, two with pitchforks; others who carried the lanterns had heavy sticks. One of the men with rifles spoke sharply, “Didn't you hear the warning that's been sent out?”
“I'm afraid we didn't,” Anthony told him. “Ought we?”
“We've sent a man to all the cross-roads this half hour or more,” the other said. “Where have you come from that you didn't meet him?”
“Well, for half an hour we've been sitting on a gate waiting for a bus,” Anthony explained, and was surprised to hear two or three of the men break into a short laugh, while another added sardonically, “And so you might wait.” He was about to ask further when the first speaker said sharply, “The fact is there's a lioness loose somewhere round here, and we're after it.”
“The devil there is!” Quentin exclaimed, while Anthony, more polite, said, “I seeâyes. That does seem a case for warning people. But we've been resting down there and I suppose your man made straight for the cross-roads and missed us.” He waited to hear more.
“It got away from a damned wild beast show over there,” the other said, nodding across the darkening fields, “close by Smetham. We're putting a cordon of men and lights round all the part as quickly as we can and warning the people in the houses. Everything on the roads has been turned awayâthat's why you missed your bus.”
“It seems quite a good reason,” Anthony answered. “Was it a large lioness? Or a fierce one?”
“Fierce be damned,” said another man, who possibly belonged to the show. “It was as tame as a white mouse, only some fool startled it.”
“I'll make it a darn sight tamer if I get a shot at it,” the first man said. “Look here, you gentlemen had better get straight ahead as fast as you can. We're going to meet some others and then beat across the fields to that woodâthat's where it'll be.”
“Can't we help you?” Anthony asked, looking round him, “It seems such a pity to miss the nearest thing to a lion hunt we're ever likely to find.”
But the other had made up his mind. “You'll be more use at the other end,” he said. “That's where we want the numbers. About a mile up that way there's the main road, and the more we've got there the better. It isn't likely to be on any roadânot even this oneâunless it just dashes across, so you'll be pretty safe, safer along here than you will be across the fields with us. Unless you're used to country by night.”
“No,” Anthony admitted, “not beyond an occasional evening like this.” He looked at Quentin, who looked back with an expression of combined anxiety and amusement, murmuring, “I suppose we go on, thenâas far as the main road.”
“Yoicksâand so on,” Anthony assented. “Good night then, unless we see you at the end. Good luck to your hunting.”
“It ought to be forbidden,” a man who had hitherto been silent said angrily. “What about the sheep?”
“O keep quiet,” the first man snapped back, and during the half-suppressed wrangle the two friends parted from the group, and stepped out, with more speed and more excitement than before, down the road in front of them.
“What enormous fun!” Anthony said, in an unintentionally subdued voice. “What do we do if we see it?”
“Bolt,” Quentin answered firmly. “I don't want to be any more thrilled than I am now. Unless it's going in the other direction.”
“What a day!” Anthony said. “As a matter of fact, I expect it'd be just as likely to bolt as we should.”
“It might think we were its owners,” Quentin pointed out, “and come trotting or lolloping or whatever they do up to us. Do you save me by luring it after you, or do I save you?”
“O you save me, thank you,” Anthony said. “These hedges are infernally low, aren't they? What I feel I should like to be in is an express train on a high viaduct.”
“I hope you still think that ideas are more dangerous than material things,” Quentin said. “That was what you were arguing at lunch.”