The opening of Chapter XIII of the book ‘Panda’, the first of a trilogy of books written by Pearl Curran and Patience Worth which were published as ‘The Sorry Tale’ in 1917 provides a good example of one of the descriptive writing styles of Patience Worth. I think it is rather simple writing and at times choppy perhaps but if one reads it carefully and slowly letting the images form in one’s mind, I think that it provides a very good example of Patience Worth’s ability to generate a sense of place.
Patience Worth used different writing styles in her published works and ‘The Sorry Tale’ is unique in that language usage and writing style seem to be especially created by Patience Worth for this work. The language is Modern English but the grammar and form are a creation of Patience Worth. The style can be confusing as it seems to be written as one who was present at the time. Characters walk into the scene and speak without being named and some characters have several names so at times one does not know who is speaking until much later in the narrative.
It is difficult for me to believe that Pearl Curran wrote this either from her conscious mind or from her subconsciousness mind. Pearl Curran had a limited formal education, having had to drop out of the first year of high school due to illness when she was around 14 or 15 years old. She claimed to have had no interest in writing or history and she never traveled outside of the central part of the United States prior to writing ‘The Sorry Tale.’
One may get a sense of actually being there as the scene unfolds. Perhaps Pearl Curran or Patience Worth was just reporting what she saw 2000 years ago when she danced as the “white mist” Theia for the Roman Emperor Tiberius.
The morn spread forth the golded tresses of the sun, and lo, a star still rested upon a cloud bar. And Jerusalem slept. The temples stood whited, and the market’s place shewed emptied. Upon the temple’s pool the morn-sky shewed, and doves bathed within the waters at its edge.
Beside the market’s way camels lay, sunk upon their folded legs, and chewed, their mouths slipping o’er the straw, and tongues thrust forth to pluck up more for chewing. The hides shewed like unto a beggar’s skull, hair fallen off o’er sores.
The day had waked the tribes, and narrowed streets shewed bearded men, and asses, packed. The temple priests stood forth upon the stoned steps and blew upon the shell that tribesmen come. From out the pillared place the smoke of incense curled, and within the stone made echo of the chants and sandals-fall of foot.
And tribes sought out the place, and lo, like unto ants they swarmed up and o’er the steps, to sit and make wisdom of the wording of the priests.
And merchants spread forth their wares upon the temple steps that they who came from out should see. Bent and shrunk like unto the skins of ox, they sat and whined, hands spread forth o’er the wares. Filthed hands bore fruits, and faces dead looked out from swathing of cloth; and they whined, and shewed sores and twisted limbs.
Beside the pool stooped women who put therein their hands and cast drops upon withered greens. One, dark and black-locked, held between her knees a youth of young years and searched within his locks for abominations, but stopping that she eat from off a fruit that lay beside. Within the market’s place the merchants brought forth cloths and hung, spread wide o’er the bins, and shewed of breads and fishes and jewels and cloths and skins. And made word one unto another of the wares.
A beggar squatted at the road’s skirt plucking at his scabs, and grinned unto the passers through his whines.
Within the walls the men of other lands came forth. And smells sent them up unto the day, scents of spice and fruits and filth. And the wall’s gate had been oped since the light and the beggars came within like dreams unto night.
The patter of ass’s hoof sounded upon the stoned street and brown-stained lad came after, shouting unto the market men: “Water! Water, that ye sup!”
And lo, upon the ass there hung two jugs of skin. And the man came forth and brought out bowls. And he loosed the jugs and sat them upon his hip that he pour forth. And they supped and wiped their beards upon their hands and their hands upon their mantles.
And there came from out the narrow street a maiden, who wore o’er her face a cloth, and she bore a tray of fruits and blooms. And upon her arms there shewed copper bands, and at her ankles they shewed, and the flesh of her bare legs was stained green with their touching. And o’er her breast hung a broad strand of black locks, and her bosom shewed dark beneath the white cloth that covered it. And within her ears hung hoops of metal. And she chanted of her wares and cast sharp glances unto the market’s men. And the youths of the market’s men called unto her and held up moneys, and lo, she cast down her eyes and saw them not.
“Nada hath tucked her heart with the blooms.” said the market’s men, and Nada shrugged and cast bloom unto the men.
And lo, the lad of the water jugs looked up unto her and the dark skin of her cheek burned. And the men laughed loud and spake:
“Nada hath loving for the white-skin of Rome. Yea, but the sun of Jerusalem hath darkened him. Lucius, thou knowest she looketh unto thee at the every day!”
And he shewed his white teeth in smiling. And lo, there came forth from out the bin that shewed of jewels that looked precious, a one bent, whose beard shewed long and black and who rubbed his hands one upon the other. And they called his name “Jacob.”
And Nada looked unto him with frowning and spake:
“Thou Jew! Thinkest thou that seeking out upon the roadway thou mayest tempt the hoard of him! Lucius, he hath seen thee take of moneys and seeketh thee that thou shalt spend within the bin of him!”
And Jacob spread forth his hands and smiled and made words of lamentation, and spake of the jewels he had within his bin, that, should they seek, would rob him of his bread, so little did they bring and so much had he put forth for their buying. And Nada said:
“Lest then we do thee wrong, we seek thee not.”