The small pantomime was lost on right. . . But just now, something Pawling. In his eyes, full as they were else. You'll observe that Pawling Sahib of the reflected sky, she remained but a has been looking at the bit of brown over darkish spot, separated from the rest of there. Tell me, Badhoor, what's she the universe by that boundary-line called? Eh? What house? Eh? Come, which has been the chief and historic come!” preoccupation of art.

She was very

Pawling wanted to turn quietly and young, and at the same time there was walk away up the hill to the house. about her a singular maturity. His But, after all, it didn't matter enough. thoughts drifted easily from his work to He was not even angry with Clymer. its reward. Some day he would marry. He had a moment of imagination. Here He would marry a girl, probably, whom he was, and then there lay a vast, deep he did not yet know. "She would be gulf, and there on the other side, very quite young-younger, at any rate, than small, was Clymer. He folded his hands he. She would be plump, but not too behind his back and looked at Badhoor. plump, and she would have brown hair The seller of hasheesh was an old, lean and white arms. They would take a man with a big head and a gray beard. house in Toronto, with a lawn and a His legs protruded from his soiled loingarden. She would have babies. .. cloth as black and thin as a wadingHe was dimly aware of Clymer's voice bird's, and, like a wading-bird, he stood somewhere, saying: “Not bad! I give on one foot, with the sole of the other you my word of honor!”

resting on the inner face of the opposite He remained engrossed in the golden thigh. When he closed his eyelids, as he vista and the train of thought which it did from moment to moment, he seemed induced. She would have very dark but to veil his eyes, like an owl. brown hair, soft to the touch.

“Protector of the Poor," he mumbled. Clymer's voice was louder and more in Clymer began to bellow. Poor! Will sistent:

you hear that-poor! Selling hasheesh “Not bad! Not half bad! I say! I to all the wormy beggars in Holy Trinity give you my-”

and poaching cocoa into the bargain. Pawling looked up: Then he got up

Poor! But see here, I asked you a quesand stood stiff and straight on his tion!” meager, pipe-clayed legs. Heat came “Salaam, sahib, yes. Yes. She-she out of the sun-baked earth and ran over is called Léah, sahib. Yes, sahib. But him in a wave, striking fire to his neck as the sahib sees, and as Pawling Sahib and jaws and upward across his face. sees, she is nothing-a poor, ugly child

Clymer ran on with a venomous de of a dung-bitten cow-bellylight: “You're a smooth beggar. You're He veiled his eyes and remained a smooth Christian beggar, Pawling." standing on his one lean leg, dry, mo

He stood with his stomach thrust out, tionless, removed into another country. his arms akimbo, his finger-tips meeting The bones of his chest betrayed no in the small of his back, his head tilting breath. The gold had gone out of now to one side and now to the other in the river and the sky, leaving the a heavy, bird-like estimation of the world to float in the violet-gray liquor of young figure across the road. A smile dusk. moved his lips, sarcasm giving way to a Clymer's eyeballs seemed to swell, kind of paternal indulgence.

like tiny balloons, pressing out against "All right. But look-a-here, who is their lids. He was not used to receiving she? Hang take it! ... I say, ugly advice in the ranges. chap! You! What's your name, eh? Well, I am damned!” Badhoor? Yes, yes, I remember now. Badhoor was shaken. He put down I remember you well, Badhoor. Listen, his other foot. “Salaam, sahib, ProBadhoor, have you ever heard of praedal tector of the Old! 1-I am a poor man, larceny? No? Well, they'll tell you sahib, and she has no beauty. The sahib what it means one day in the Demerara would not give two claps of the hands Sessions if you don't stop your cocoa for her, sahib. She is my wife, sahib, poaching. Keep looking at me! That's these three days. Salaam, sahib, Pro

VOL. CXXXVI.-No, 813.-54

tector of the Innocent, and sahib, Pro- better. Clymer must have turned in tector of the Poor!”

now, for his voice was no longer audible.

Pawling went back between the sheds It was late. Pawling stood motionless and across the pegging-ground. On the in the shade of the last drying-shed, his compound, streaked with the shadows of head and neck thrust out from the pale- cabbage-palms, he passed Tung, the blue collar of his pajamas, the pupils of house-boy. He turned to look after his eyes, confused by the moon patterns him; the Chinese, at the lower end of the among the cocoa-trees, dilating moment compound, had done the same. For a by moment. With an absurd, elaborate moment their eyes met

across the caution he brought his gun up toward streaks, and then, making a sign of rehis shoulder. It was a fine weapon, a spect, the house-boy stole away downfine, twelve-gauge, repeating shot-gun hill in the direction of the coolie range. with his name-plate on the stock, given It meant nothing to Pawling. him at parting by his fellow-members in Clymer had not retired, after all. As the Highditch Club. . . . He stared Pawling mounted the long steps to the with one eye along the blue moon-fire on veranda, a voice powerful and turgid the barrel.

came out of the depths of the hammock, The recoil stung his collar-bone; his resuming the threadbare burden: ears were deafened; smoke made a white “Bu'-bu' she's not black, y' un'ercloud before his eyes. He let all the stan'—not black-like a nigger-black. breath out of his lungs with a grunt and No, no, no! White, Pawlin', white. felt better, as if a spring had been re Not white, y' un'erstan'. No, no—but leased. And, after all, it was only an white. Ary-Aryan. Tha's it. Aryan. other cocoa-pod. He could see it still Tha's what I been tryin' to Funny! hanging there on the lowermost branch Member g’ography. Aryan, white. of the third tree down, with a piece bit- White enough, anyway. 'Member g'ogten out of the side. A jaguar coughed a raphy—" mile away down-river, and off in the Pawling raised on his toes and spat back-bush a troop of red howlers was over the railing into the poinsettias. His swinging through the branches. He neck-cords throbbed with a dull pain. heard them in the hush following the "Good night,” he said, and would gun-shot. It seemed silly to remain have passed into the house had not Clystanding here.

mer, upending suddenly in his hamAnd yet

he did not wish to return to mock, detained him. There is no telling the house--not until Clymer had gone what the man had it in his muddled to bed. He had stood about all he could brain to say, for the touch of Pawling's of that. Up beyond the sheds and the damp nightclothes sent him off on a compound he could hear the befuddled fresh tack. voice even now, carrying on to an empty "Soppin' wet! Oh, my God! Standchair an interminable, drunken rigma- in' in rain. Fever-come down-feverrole. No, he would not go back, on any Die! Oh, my God! Young man-young account. He was afraid of himself, of white man-dead-dead as a-a doorwhat he might do to Clymer or say to

nail! Oh, my God!" He began to weep, Clymer. All the evening, till he had fat tears coursing down his fat cheeks. broken away, it had hung on his tongue Dead! Young white man dead as a to cry out: "You smut! You disgusting, a door-nail!” In a sudden excess of drunken smut!" No, he would not go. compassion he staggered up and flung

A sudden rain fell upon him while the his huge, soft arms about Pawling's neck, moon still shone; one of those crystal bearing him down, sobbing, “Must take peltings of the dry season which he had

care o'

white man-like fatherbeen warned to avoid as he would avoid like father an'-an'-sonpoison. The night was heavy and hot; Pawling fought with his teeth and the rain-drops were hot, too, but after nails and knees, smothered with flesh, ward the evaporation from his clinging sickened with stinking breath, making pajamas lowered his pulse and soothed strange noises in his throat, panting, inhis nerves.

He felt better, very much coherent. He was free, without quite

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

knowing how, and Clymer was down on lands; the sea miles, pleasant miles, the floor, a soft mountain of remorse, days and nights and weeks built of blue wailing over and over again that he had miles cast on the reckoning; the miles by been a young man himself once upon a train, the wheat-fields, towns, lakes, the time-a young man like Pawling--a night stops, cinders in the blanket folds, young white man.

voices of trainmen outside the transom Pawling stood quite still with his miles, miles, thousands upon thousands knuckles pressed to his cheeks. For the of miles over which the tidings of a death first time since he had come into the in exile would creep very slowly-almost tropics he was cool-cold. A breath of as slowly as if he were as far away from ice blew over him and he shivered. His the world as the sun, where everything whole frame was racked with shivering. was burning up in molten fire-blistering His teeth pounded together.

-hot on the neck and cheeks and beY-y-you 5-s-smut!

hind the ears.

Tung, the houseS-S-s-smut!

boy, came running on his soft wicker And then he ran, shuddering with the soles to pick him up. cold, into the dark of his own room.

He refused to be ill. He was not a He was sorry he had said that when drinking man, not at all the sort to be he found Clymer dead next morning, bowled over by a touch of tropical rain. “dead as a door-nail," in truth, lying on It was all bosh. He swore at the China his back on his bed with his arms boy for interfering with him and with stretched out and his mouth open. his indomitable purpose-strange broth

It is strange, as he stood there in the el-house oaths which had never before dawn, with the chamber sweeping in dim passed his lips or sullied his mind. ... circles about the fever of his head-it is They got him into his bed. .. strange that he was conscious of no It was high day when he opened his touch of the irony of things. Clymer's eyes, for he could see the sun streaking hour had struck on the night of his the shutters with white threads. He prophecy, the night when he had been watched the fies. They came in through too drunk to arrange the bed-net, and the sun-streaks and few across his room when Tung had been about another and straight away across the big room business, and yet there was no mark of beyond, and turned there and disapan incision on him, not one. Somewhere, peared through the doorway into Clydeep under the rolling fat of his skull, a

mer's room.

He remembered, with a tiny vessel had given away with an grunt of loathing. At the sound, a infinitesimal pop," and the vampires white-clad negro appeared beside his had left him to lie in peace, with his bed, McCarthy, the under-manager. naked stomach confronting the ceiling Yes, sir?” and his mouth fallen open.

“The Alies. The-body.” Pawling was thinking that it was too Quite right, sir." The man spoke bad he himself had said what he had. The in the respectful west London accents of irony of that did not escape him--that he the black colonial. “It was removed should have kept his silence so long, only last evening, sir. I took the liberty. to break it at last when a single moment You were indisposed, sir.” more would have been enough.

"Last evening? Oh yes, I see. Last Beyond the veil of his bodily discom- evening.” fort he was conscious of three emotions “Yes, sir. If you will be so good as to

-remorse for having called the man a rest easy, sir. The doctor from New "smut," horror of the presence of the Roordam Estate should be here by body, and the sense of an awful isolation. night. I sent Quigley down-river with He thought of the miles. A window

four paddlers, sir, and they should—” opened in a by-chamber of his brain, “Doctor? Why the doctor? I'm all showing him the miles—the river miles, right. I tell you I'm all right." crawling between the hot jungles, down Surely, sir, surely. Capital, sir! The and down; the estuary miles, a thin China boy is here, sir, and Quigley's liquor of mud stretching without end, woman is looking out. Thank you, sir. sweat, mosquitoes, a fetor of swamp The man receded. Tung's eyes were

watching somewhere, not unkindly, not His lips were slightly dry and his kindly, not anything. The wide, brown, tongue ran over them. He had never merciful hand of Quigley's woman came seen a man flogged. He had seen the hovering to blot out the world. . flogging-post, down beyond the com

There came an evening when he was pound, but he had never seen a naked himself again. His brain was swept man tied to it with his arms about it and clean of the mists which had led him his wrists bound together with a thong, groping and stumbling through the making one shadow with the post on hours, and a divine, cool languor lay the dust. He was wondering what sort upon his body. He was himself, and yet of a sound the lash would make, in the he was not himself. It was as if a husk air, and when it struck; what sort of a had been stripped from him, leaving mark it would leave on bone structures him naked to all the poignant percep and on muscles like sheaves of folded tions of reality, a child at the mercy of parchment; what color the mark would wonder.

be, at the instant, and later-say an Propped in his chair on the veranda, hour. he sat in judgment upon Badhoor, the His lips were dry again. He licked hemp-seller, who had been taken red them. Then he discovered that he was handed at last among the trees, with half shivering from head to foot, and, runa bag of cocoa-beans still damp from the ning his hand over his eyes, he cried out: pod. His half-closed eyes rested upon

What the devil, McCarthy! I tell the East-Indian standing before him, you I'm tired out. To-morrow! I sayerect, unmoving, unmoved, like a figure I'll think it over to-morrow! Now, now! in wood, blackened and emaciated by That's enough!” time. More than anything else, he won A wave of disgust swept over him. dered at himself, sitting in judgment. He closed his eyes tight to be rid of

His ears throbbed with the lees of the Badnoor and his naked whip-meat. He quinine they had given him, like a drum heard them moving off, down the steps, beating without end. From beyond it across the compound, the negro's cowcame the voice of the under-manager, hide alpargatas slapping softly on the carrying the indictment forward from dust long after the East-Indian's footperiod to period with his mellifluous pre falls had merged with the silence of the cision.

night. “Yes," he murmured from time to But this silence of the night was not a time. “Yes, yes.”

silence. When he had been alone with “If you might pardon, sir,” McCarthy it a few moments it began to touch the ventured, “I rightly think it would be raw of his perception with its myriad best to send him down-river to the voices. The mist rising in the river Sessions. I doubt, sir, he could put up valley was woven with fine threads of with the flogging. A strong, well- sound-the snarl of a kill in the farther fleshed man now-yes-quite right, sir. jungle, the single, hushed wailing of a And after a bit they're fit for the work poor-me-one, the cumulative impact of again. But, as you may see, sir, this a hundred thousand twigs falling simulchap

taneously upon the forest floor. A breeze,

moving the “women's tongues” at the Pawling's eyes played slowly over the corner of the veranda, set the long pods naked torso before him, modeled be to whispering. The only things silent tween the counter-fires of the moon on in the tropical night were the serpents the one side, and on the other the faint -fat gray adders, bushmasters coiled in yellow radiance from the lamp burning the poisonous dark beneath the leaves, within the house the intricate, gnarled pythons, their bodies making no sound arch of the rib-structure, the muscles on the tree-trunks or across the stems like sheaves of folded parchment, shad- of swaying grasses. ... Pawling lifted his ow-penciled, the sere pectoral muscles, voice: the arid subdivisions of the abdominals, “I say—Tung! Bring me my gun. the caverns eaten under the collar-bones Tung! I say—are you there? My gun and above the crests of the pelvis. -directly!”


« VorigeDoorgaan »