“Terrible Feng Shui here. Worst I ever saw. You two crazy?”
“Because of…?” Dixon indicating behind them, in thickening dusk, the Visto sweeping away.
“It acts as a Conduit for what we call Sha, or, as they say in Spanish California, Bad Energy.— Imagine a Wind, a truly ill wind, bringing failure, poverty, disgrace, betrayal,— every kind of bad luck there is,— all blowing through, night and day, with many times the force of the worst storm you were ever in.”
“No one intends to live directly upon the Visto,” Mason speaking as to a Child. “The object being, that the people shall set their homes to one side or another. That it be a Boundary, nothing more.”
“Boundry!” The Chinaman begins to pull upon his hair and paw the earth with brocade-slipper’d feet. “Ev’rywhere else on earth, Boundaries follow Nature,— coast-lines, ridge-tops, river-banks,— so honoring the Dragon or Shan within, from which Land-Scape ever takes its form. To mark a right Line upon the Earth is to inflict upon the Dragon’s very Flesh, a sword-slash, a long, perfect scar, impossible for any who live out here the year ‘round to see as other than hateful Assault. How can it pass unanswer’d?”
—Mason & Dixon, by Thomas Pynchon (p542).
“Mr. Dixon,” declares the Jesuit, “at present, owing to the pernicious Cult of Feng Shui, you would find it a Surveyor’s Bad Dream, — nowhere may a Geometer encounter an honest 360-Degree Circle,— rather, incomprehensibly and perversely, in wilful denial of God’s Disposition of Time and Space, preferring 365 and a Quarter.”
“That being the number of Days in a year, what Human Surveyor, down here upon Earth, would reject thah’,— each Day a single, perfect Chinese Degree,— were 360 not vastly more convenient, of course, to figure with? Surely God, being Omniscient, has little trouble with either…? all the Log Tables right there in His Nob, doesn’t he,—” Dixon, having been out tramping over the Fields and Fells for the past few weeks, with Table and Circumferentor, still enjoying a certain orthogonal Momentum, “and 365 and a quarter seems the sort of Division Jesuits might embrace,— the discomfort of all that extra calculation…? sort of mental Cilice, perhaps…?”
“Oh dear,” Emerson’s voice echoing within his Ale-can.
—Mason & Dixon, by Thomas Pynchon (p230).
“This is about Family, sure as the History of England. Inside any one Tribe of Indians, they’re all related, see? Kill you one Delaware, you affront the Family at large. Out there, if it’s Blood of mine, of course I must go out and seek redress,— tho’ I’ll have far less company.”
“Each alone lacking the Numbers, our sole Recourse is to band together.”
“These were said to be harmless, helpless people,” Dixon points out in some miraculous way that does not draw challenge or insult in return. Apprehensive among these Folk, Mason, who would have perhaps us’d one Adjective fewer, regards his Georgie Partner with a strange Gaze, bordering upon Respect.
“They were blood relations of men who slew blood relations of ours.” Jabez explains.
“Then if You know who did it, for the Lord’s sake why did You not go after them?”
“This hurt them more,” smiles a certain Oily Leon, fingering his Frizzen and Flint.
“Aye, they go on living, but without dear old Grandam,— puts a big Hole in the Blanket, don’t it?”
“You must hate them exceedingly,” Mason pretending to a philosophikal interest actually far more faint than his interest in getting out of here alive.
“No,” looking about as if puzzl’d, “not any more. That debt is paid. I’ll live in peace with them,— happy to.”
—Mason & Dixon, by Thomas Pynchon (pp 343-44).
When they see what is upon the Tavern Sign, Mason and Dixon exchange a look,— the Weapon depicted, Black upon White, is notable for the Device upon its Stock, a Silver Star of five Points, revers’d so that two point up and one down,— a sure sign of evil at work, universally recogniz’d as the Horns of the D——l. No-one would adorn a Firearm with it, who was not wittingly in the service of that Prince. This is not the first Time the Surveyors have seen it,— at the Cape, usually right-side-up, it is known as the Sterloop,— a sort of good-luck charm, out in the Bush. But ev’ry now and then, mostly on days of treacherous Wind or Ill-Spirits, one or both had spied upon a Rifle an inverted Star, much like what they observe now, against the Sky, plumb in the windless Forenoon.
—Mason & Dixon, by Thomas Pynchon (p342).
Mason sees it first,— then tipp’d by his frozen silence, Dixon. Catfish is packing a Lancaster Rifle, slung in Scabbard upon his Saddle, with an inverted Pentacle upon the Stock, unmistakable in the Moon-Light. Mason looks over, on the possibility that Dixon has a Plan, and sees Dixon already looking back at him, upon the same deluded Hope.
“Acutally,” says Dixon, “we only just arriv’d, so it isn’t as if we’ve ‘seen’ the River, if that poses any sort of problem,—”
“— and it certainly isn’t as if we’re planning to settle here,—”
Catfish with one huge hand slides the Rifle out and holds it up before him, noticing the Sterloop as if for the first time. He smiles without mirth at the Surveyors. “You think this is my Rifle? No! I took this Rifle! From a White Man I have wish’d to meet for a long time. He was a very bad man. Even White People hated him. Beautiful piece, isn’t it?”
“The Sign on it has evil Powers,” Mason warns. “You should take a Knife or something, and pry it out.”
“What happened to it’s owner?” Dixon with a look of unsuccessfully feign’d innocence.
The Delaware is delighted to share that information with them, pulling from a Bag he carries a long Lock of fair European Hair so freshly taken, ‘tis yet darkly a-drip, at one end, with Blood. “This very day, Milords. Had you been earlier, you might have met.”
Either Mason or Dixon might reply, “We’ve met,”— yet neither does. “It didn’t feel complete to me,” Mason admits later, “I expected he yet liv’d, screaming about the Woods, driven to revenge at any price, a Monomaniack with a Hole in the Top of his Head,—”
“— looking for that Rifle back,” adds Dixon.
—Mason & Dixon, by Thomas Pynchon (pp 680-81).
“— aye then here they come! How canny, with these greeaht Foahm Tops on ‘em, what do tha call thah’?”
“That is a ‘Head,’” Blackie quizzickal. “They don’t have that, back wherever you’re from? What kind o’ Ale-Drinker are you then, Sir?”
“Shall we quarrel, after all?”
“Innocent question,” Blackie looking about for support.
“Very well, as tha did ask,— I’m a faithful and traditional Ale-Drinker, Sir, who does thee a courtesy in even swallowing this pale, hopp’d-up, water’d-down imitation of Small Beer.”
“Far preferable,” replies Blackie, “— even if slanderously and vilely untrue,— to that black, sluggish, treacly substitute for Naval Tar, Sir, no offense meant, that they swill down over in England?” with a look that would have been meaningful, could it get much beyond a common Glower.
Dixon sighs, Ale Loyalty is important to him, as part of a pact with the Youth he wish’d to remain connected to. He lifts and drinks, as calmly as possible, the entire Pint of American Ale, without pausing for any Breath. Having then taken one at last, “O Error!” he cries, “How could I’ve so misjudg’d this?”
—Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon
Does Britannia, when she sleeps, dream? Is America her dream?— in which all that cannot pass in the metropolitan Wakefulness is allow’d Expression away in the restless Slumber of these Provinces, and on West-ward, wherever ’tis not yet mapp’d, nor written down, nor ever, by the majority of Mankind, seen,— serving as a very Rubbish-Tip for subjunctive Hopes, for all that may yet be true,— Earthly Paradise, Fountain of Youth, Realms of Prester John, Christ’s Kingdom, ever behind the sunset, safe till the next Territory to the West be seen and recorded, measured and tied in, back into the Net-Work of Points already known, that slowly triangulates its Way into the Continent, changing all from subjunctive to declarative, reducing Possibilities to Simplicities that serve the ends of Governments,— winning away from the realm of the Sacred, its Borderlands one by one, and assuming them unto the bare mortal World that is our home, and our Despair.
—Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon
One night I dream that I have come to a Bridge across a broad River, with small settlements at either approach, and in its center at the highest point of its Arch, a Curious Structure, some nights invisible in the river mists, Lanthorns burning late,— a Toll-House. Not ev’ryone is allow’d through, nor is paying the Toll any guarantee of Passage. The gate-keepers are members of a Sect who believe that by choosing correctly which shall dwell on one side of this River, and which the other, the future happiness of the land may be assur’d. Those rejected often return to one of the Inns clustered at either end of the Bridge, take a bed for the night, and try again in the morning. Some stay more than one night. When the Bills become too burdensome, the Pilgrims who wish strongly enough to cross, may seek employment right there,— at the Ale-Draper’s, or the laundry, or among the Doxology,— and keep waiting, their original purpose in wishing to cross often forgotten, along with other information that once seem’d important, such as faces, and their Names,— whose owners come now to my rooms to visit, and to instruct me in my Responsibilities, back wherever it is I came from. They say they have known me all my life, and seek to bring me away, “home” to where I may at least be seen to by Blood. Perhaps there is a young man, professing with the skill of an amateur actor to be my husband. “Eliza! do tha not recognize me? The little Ones,—” and so forth. Someone I cannot abide. Stubbornly, I look for some explanation of this Order to live upon a side of the River I’d rather be across from than on.
—Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon