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Something Quite Beautiful (No Greater Love) by Amanda Prowse - book cover, An unforgettable short story, from the million-copy bestseller Amanda Prowse.
Table of contents

There, by watching his account carefully, he was able to spend his days with little worry. His small radio kept him informed of the Second World War, and then the war in Palestine. Time and his life moved slowly, but one day it spurted into his handkerchief. At the clinic they told him the worst—cancer of the thyroid and some TB infection. And today he was dying.

For the last week, Avraham had been in a coma. In that time his sons had been notified by his landlady, and they, somehow, found Itzik who came without Hannah. Itzik had questioned them carefully on this, but he said very little otherwise. Avraham could feel his brother weighing carefully all that they said, and he was glad.

The blood throbbed, then pounded in his brain. No, his brain shrieked, Itzik was not to blame, Hannah could have waited. He felt his very being curse her in her grave. All that was left of his body hurled itself headlong at the headstone of her grave. With this imaginary effort, Avraham actually half sat up in his bed. He sank back against the pillows, moaning and tossing his body from side to side, his hands pressed to his temples to keep the blood and hate from gushing out into the small world around him.

The face of a small girl peered cautiously around its edges. In a moment, the door swung wide on its hinges and the room was filled with strangers. The only face he recognized was that of his landlady. She came up to the foot of his bed, the others pressed close around her. Avraham looked from one to the other slowly, then he lowered his eyes.

He looked up at her. She was pointing to a tall, heavy-set man with a large rocklike head. He was dressed in a dark gray suit which must have been pressed many times. He looks like me, Avraham thought. The room was very still. The children seemed to sense that something beyond death was going on around them and they stared wide-eyed at Avraham, then clung tightly to their mothers. One of the girls began to cry. Before another word could be spoken, heavy footsteps were heard clumping into the other room.

They all turned, and those nearest the door shushed the speaker in the other room. The others moved away from the door as a well-built man in his late thirties entered in a bright sport suit, clutching a bag of rolls in one hand and a newspaper in the other. On his face was a graveness so deep that it could only be acting, and in an instant it did turn into a loud smile.

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He lay still and tried to smile. This is Rosie, my wife; and here is Susan Ellen, my daughter, and.

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Again, there was silence. Avraham turned his eyes to Jack. There he was, smiling as if he had done his duty, but without the slightest thought that his father lay dying. A sharp pain cut through Avraham, and he moaned slightly, then coughed. Sputum lay on his lips. Jack whispered hurriedly to those around him and they all filed out, except Jack and Harry and Itzik.

The room was clothed with the echoes of shuffling feet and hushed sounds. As he heard the question, Avraham thought of only one thing: I must let them give me something or I go to my grave alone. Then his eyes fell on the bag of rolls on the bed. Itzik threw back his head and laughed, the gold watch chain dancing before his heaving stomach. However, Jack seemed to be thinking bitterly of something.

Harry, who had been standing off to the side, walked to the bed and without a word tore into the bag, but Jack caught his arm. Jack threw out his chest and pouted at full height, then turned and walked out the door. His face was spread with anger, but with the same promise that it would vanish as his graveness had. Jack gets a little annoying sometimes, but he means well. Harry and Itzik bent down to him and held his hands. He wept, and as his arms fluttered in slight spasms, Harry and Itzik held them tighter. He wanted to slide back away from them, but their strength kept him here and now.

Jack made me sign the funeral announcement. Why, why did you leave us? Can I, can you do any more? Harry bent over Avraham and kissed him on the forehead, then he walked slowly from the room. Avraham felt his son go from him, then he became aware of a sense of power as he lay there—he was alone with Itzik in the room. He was dying, and he had the rights of the dying for last requests; this much was clear to him.

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Avraham closed his eyes feeling at peace. Again, Itzik had protected him from a painful thought! Sure, she must have been fat when she died, but between Itzik and Avraham now was only this beautiful girl. Avraham held out his hand which Itzik grasped firmly. Now I can rest, Avraham thought Clouds floated through his brain, mixing, stretching out; and he heard footsteps once again in the room. Suddenly, a monstrous pain shot through his throat and he clutched at it wildly, then flung his hand across the bed sweeping the bag of rolls onto the floor. The clouds and the pain melted into a clot and he felt himself sinking beneath its weight.

Sign in to Commentary Email address. Remember me. But the Oak-tree understood, and felt sad, for he was very fond of the little Nightingale who had built her nest in his branches. So the Nightingale sang to the Oak-tree, and her voice was like water bubbling from a silver jar. When she had finished her song the Student got lip, and pulled a note-book and a lead-pencil out of his pocket. I am afraid not. In fact, she is like most artists; she is all style, without any sincerity. She would not sacrifice herself for others.

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She thinks merely of music, and everybody knows that the arts are selfish. Still, it must be admitted that she has some beautiful notes in her voice. What a pity it is that they do not mean anything, or do any practical good. And when the Moon shone in the heavens the Nightingale flew to the Rose-tree, and set her breast against the thorn.

All night long she sang with her breast against the thorn, and the cold crystal Moon leaned down and listened. All night long she sang, and the thorn went deeper and deeper into her breast, and her life-blood ebbed away from her. She sang first of the birth of love in the heart of a boy and a girl. And on the topmost spray of the Rose-tree there blossomed a marvellous rose, petal following petal, as song followed song. Yale was it, at first, as the mist that hangs over the river - pale as the feet of the morning, and silver as the wings of the dawn.

As the shadow of a rose in a mirror of silver, as the shadow of a rose in a water-pool, so was the rose that blossomed on the topmost spray of the Tree. But the Tree cried to the Nightingale to press closer against the thorn. So the Nightingale pressed closer against the thorn, and louder and louder grew her song, for she sang of the birth of passion in the soul of a man and a maid. And a delicate flush of pink came into the leaves of the rose, like the flush in the face of the bridegroom when he kisses the lips of the bride.

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But the thorn had not yet reached her heart, so the rose's heart remained white, for only a Nightingale's heart's-blood can crimson the heart of a rose. And the Tree cried to the Nightingale to press closer against the thorn.

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  8. So the Nightingale pressed closer against the thorn, and the thorn touched her heart, and a fierce pang of pain shot through her. Bitter, bitter was the pain, and wilder and wilder grew her song, for she sang of the Love that is perfected by Death, of the Love that dies not in the tomb.

    And the marvellous rose became crimson, like the rose of the eastern sky. Crimson was the girdle of petals, and crimson as a ruby was the heart. But the Nightingale's voice grew fainter, and her little wings began to beat, and a film came over her eyes. Fainter and fainter grew her song, and she felt something choking her in her throat. Then she gave one last burst of music. The white Moon heard it, and she forgot the dawn, and lingered on in the sky.

    Someone else who had that kind of experience was the English poet William Wordsworth. In a poem that he worked on from until his death in , he wrote about how being in touch with Nature had shaped his whole life. We can probably all relate to this in some way. The lengthy poem , known as The Prelude, has many moments like this in which Wordsworth essentially thanks Nature for the influence it had on him. A similar respect for Nature is shared by many of the greatest human minds, from Plato to Beethoven.

    But while Wordsworth was writing his masterpiece, a fellow devotee of Nature was carving a path through the rainforests of what is now Venezuela. That man was Alexander von Humboldt, a Prussian naturalist and explorer. What he saw in in the Aragua Valley disturbed him deeply. The hills all around, which the locals told Humboldt had been full of greenery a few decades before, had been stripped of trees.

    The forest was gone. Now, whenever heavy rains came, the water was washing away the very soil of the hills themselves. Nearby rivers were also fed with greater volumes of water, and the resulting torrents were damaging yet more land downstream.

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    In her magnificent biography of Humboldt, The Invention of Nature , the historian Andrea Wulf explains that this is where Humboldt started to realise that people did not just have the capacity to enjoy Nature. We could also harm it. She recounts how, just a few weeks later, Humboldt stumbled on some Spanish monks in the Orinoco rainforest. They were lighting their huts by burning oil from turtle eggs. The local population of turtles was sadly dwindling as a result.

    In that age of Romanticism, humanity was developing new ways of expressing admiration for Nature, and at the same time realising that we have a responsibility to look after it. Wordsworth and Humboldt both knew this. But nowadays many of us seem to have forgotten. In , local flooding devastated a number of towns in the UK.

    Polls later reported found that public attitudes to Nature suddenly spiked immediately afterwards. However, that newfound enthusiasm quickly fell away in subsequent polls. That initial surge of interest in nature had been wasted. Unfortunately, many of us are pretty wasteful. In the 19th Century, global waste production rose tenfold and is predicted to double again by The growth in the human population is part of the explanation, but cannot account for all of the extra rubbish.

    We produce more rubbish than any other pollutant. Shamefully, huge amounts of plastic now roam the oceans , where they threaten marine life by blocking out the sunlight that nourishes plankton and algae. The surface of the planet is getting warmer. This has been confirmed by measurements all around the globe, going back many decades.