‘The Garden of Eden’

[This fragment was found among Munro’s papers after his death and first published as part of his sister’s memoir of him. Ethel Munro’s (rather idiosyncratic) commentary on it runs thus: “Eve is depicted as a very stubborn, even mule-like character. The serpent simply cannot get her to eat the forbidden fruit. She does not see that any good will come of it, and she is placidly happy in her limited knowledge. […] How she eventually succumbed I don’t know. Hector had a special detestation for this type of character, stubborn, placid, unimaginative, like the awful, good child in ‘The Story Teller’ […]”]

The Serpent elaborated all the arguments and inducements that he had already brought forward, and improvised some new ones, but Eve’s reply was unfailingly the same. Her mind was made up. The Serpent gave a final petulant wriggle of its coils and slid out of the landscape with an unmistakeable air of displeasure.

“You haven’t tasted the Forbidden Fruit, I suppose?” said a pleasant but rather anxious voice at Eve’s shoulder a few minutes later. It was one of the Archangels who was speaking.

“No,” said Eve placidly, “Adam and I went into the matter very thoroughly last night and we came to the conclusion that we should be rather ill-advised in eating the fruit of that tree; after all, there are heaps of other trees and vegetables for us to feed on.”

“Of course it does great credit to your sense of obedience,” said the Archangel, with an entire lack of enthusiasm in his voice, “but it will cause considerable disappointment in some quarters. There was an idea going about that you might be persuaded by specious arguments into tasting the Forbidden Fruit.”

“There was a Serpent here speaking about it the last few days,” said Eve, “he seemed rather huffed that we didn’t follow his advice, but Adam and I went into the whole matter last night and we came to t—”

“Yes, yes,” said the Archangel in an embarrassed voice, “a very praiseworthy decision, of course. At the same time, well, it’s not exactly what everyone anticipated. You see Sin has got to come into the world, somehow.”

“Yes?” said Eve, without any marked show of interest.

“And you are practically the only people who can introduce it.”

“I don’t know anything about that,” said Eve placidly; “Adam and I have got to think of our own interests. We went very thoroughly—”

“You see,” said the Archangel, “the most elaborate arrangements have been fore ordained on the assumption that you would yield to temptation. No end of pictures of the Fall of Man are destined to be painted and a poet is going one day to write an immortal poem called ‘Paradise L—’”[1]

“Called what?” asked Eve as the Archangel suddenly pulled himself up.

“‘Paradise Life.’ It’s all about you and Adam eating the Forbidden Fruit. If you don’t eat it I don’t see how the poem can possibly be written.”

Eve is still dogged — says she has no appetite for more fruit.

“I had some figs and plantains and half a dozen medlars early this morning, and mulberries and a few mangosteens in the middle of today, and last night Adam and I feasted on young asparagus and parsley-tops with a sauce of pomegranate juice; and yesterday morning—”

“I must be going,” said the Archangel, adding rather sulkily, “If I should see the Serpent would it be any use telling him to look round again—?”

“Not in the least,” said Eve. Her mind was made up.

“The trouble is,” said the Archangel as he folded his wings in a serener atmosphere and recounted his Eden experiences, “there is too great a profusion of fruit in that garden; there isn’t enough temptation to hunger after one special kind. Now if there was a crop failure—”

The idea was acted on. Blight, mildew and caterpillars and untimely frosts worked havoc among trees and shrubs and herbs; the plantains withered, the asparagus never sprouted, the pineapples never ripened, radishes were worm-eaten before they were big enough to pick. The Tree of Knowledge alone flaunted itself in undiminished luxuriance.

“We shall have to eat it after all,” said Adam, who had breakfasted sparsely on some mouldy tamarinds and the rind of yesterday’s melon.

“We were told not to, and we’re not going to,” said Eve stubbornly. Her mind was made up on the point—.

  1. Paradise Lost by John Milton (1608–1674).

‘The Garden of Eden’ by Saki (H.H. Munro), taken from ‘Biography of Saki’ by E. M. Munro. Notes © 2017 Bruce Gaston. No reproduction without permission.