Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

held the horrible suspicion at merciful madness coming to bay, and laughed back at the them as first freedom. Many ground face; but the laugh stories of these gruesome endstuck in my throat, and—I ings came flocking to me as I can say it now-came near to sat still with my head in my being a sob.... That log hands. I saw my own dead with the jagged hollow limb body stretched at the foot of a sticking out of it, the closely tree, and felt very sorry for nibbled grass-no, the hideous myself. For a little while I thing must be impossible. I gave up, and literally mourned got myself to ground slowly, for myself as both dear and jeering again at the suspicion. departed, forgetting that for

All the while I knew it was every man who loses himself the truth, and there, so that and dies, there must be hunnothing should be wanting to dreds that lose themselves and drive it home, was my own are either found by others or sheath-knife, stuck in the log find themselves. I had left it there after cut- I lifted my head and stared ting my fill of tobacco. As I at the moon. My horse, that I dragged the knife out of the had left with the rein loose wood and looked stupidly at upon the ground, had stopped my initials carved on the feeding, and stood with drooped handle, my heart went to head and one foreleg bent, & water in me, and I shivered statue of fatigue : the night with fear, for now indeed was breeze, that had seemed like I lost, and the arch curse of some last remnant of comthe lost man had come upon panionship, had died away, me, to wander in a perpetual and there was a stillness that circle, always under the im- was as deadly still as though pression that I was going the very earth itself, void now straight.

of all other human beings, had I felt beaten, cowed by the halted in its eternal march to loneliness, hungry, thirsty, and watch me die. oh! so very small. Suddenly Into the vast hush that the senseless rage gripped me awed me like a presence there again, and I flared round upon came daring it like a goblin the horse ; but I said nothing, apparition a little tiny noise of nor did I strike him any more, tapping that startled me to a for something of my manhood tingling, though, oddly enough, came to the rescue, and I sat it filled me at the same time down upon the log to take my with gratitude. Tap, tap, gruel as best I could. It was tick, tick, ... I laughed softly like being in a prison of which as I recognised a friend that I all the doors were open, yet had clean forgotten, and pulled somehow there was no escape. out my watch. It was five

I knew that the bush took minutes to twelve, not midits yearly toll, and that a night yet. “Well done, old heavy one, of men who died watch!” I said to it out loud, slowly of hunger and thirst, a “don't you hurry.” I certainly

had been going ahead too fast now that the moon was up, altogether, looking face to face surely I would be able to keep with the day after to-morrow my back to it and travel westand the day after that, and all ward till I came to some road the time I hadn't been six hours or habitation. Then for the away from my friends the first time there occurred to justices. There came the me the primary instrument for picture as I waved them good. the salvation of the lost man. bye: well, that wasn't going to To send my voice out farther be farewell to the world and I stood upon the log, put my all the joy of it, not without a hands to my mouth, and sent fight anyhow. There was a out a long wailing coo-e-e. slight reaction as I thought of There came no answering how these good fellows would sound. I shouted again, listturn out and track me down if ened again : there was not they knew of my strait, and of even the faintest echo. My how they never could possibly voice went out into the night know.

and, if it may be said of a Pride may be the forerunner sound, disappeared. It seemed, of falling : it compensates by indeed, like something more of being among the best of restora- me that was lost, and would tives after the fall. It was go on wandering in hunted another experience to add to circles until it died somewhere my adventures; here is a pride alone. And the stillness that that floats youth on to the followed was worse by far than doing of much good work, and the hush that had succeeded some evil. I was travelling to the death of the night through another cluster of out- breeze, for it brought a feelof-the-way sensations, and even ing that I had somehow done the recurrent thought that some wrong, that I had disafter a fight for life I might turbed or hurt something. have to go out alone and un- Often afterwards I had that spoken, became a sort of melan- same sensation, but it was not choly self-gratification. It had for many years—indeed, not been the way of pioneer heroes until only a little way back and explorers from all time; from the present time—that their way was good enough for I came to some dim knowledge me. All this was not very ex- of my crime. alted, perhaps, but such as it Women often go deeper into was it set me slowly on my the mysteries of life than men. mental feet again, and gave One told me this, that often me heart to make another bid in summer she would go out for the liberty that lay some- into the garden at night-time. where outside my open prison. Unlike most women, she would

Without doubt I had un- be entirely without fear of the wittingly guided the horse dark. Even if there were no while thinking that I had left moon nor any stars it would everything to him. This time be to her like going among I would take entire charge, and friends, to walk or stand for hours in the shrubberies, or For I had known loneliness look with a deep sense of com- such as fortunately she can panionship and yet of wonder never know. I had shouted at the night - altered flowers myself hoarse to fill the quiet and the great self-contained bushland with what I took for trees.

song, and thought that I had Only there was one con- company. It was only living dition, which was that she on the memories that were must make as little noise as associated with the song; and possible. If she would move when I had finished there she must tread softly from would be no applause, but place to place, so as not to only an opposing, chilling, disdisturb anything. For at the turbed silence that frightened. slightest noise the spirits of Utterly awed and unstrung, I the night, the humanity that had stared into the camp-fire lurked in the trees, the earth, that seemed to have a right the flowers, and the wordless to make its tiny noises where little sounds that were all I had none. Gradually I had around, would become-80 she lifted my eyes to the heavens. put it-hostile, and she would Very gently and slowly the immediately become afraid, but stars, the grass, the trees, and only until she was quiet again. the other things had gathered As she forced herself back round and made friends. With eagerly into the same silence a minimum of noise I had then that was around her she be- crept into my blankets by the came merged in it, and could fire, and looked around, to find feel all of them — “All of a palpable, friendly, comforting what?” I said ; but she took peace, and later-sleep. no notice — regarding her as To have these presences of a friend. It seemed to her solitude for friends is, to the that this dark - time was the man who must live much alone, only time in which the things the saving grace from lonely

- “What things ?I said madness. I had had them, and again; but she went on — I had never thanked them. would take any notice of her; It had been left for her, who and it was an exquisite pleasure had never known the stress of to be taken in amongst them, utter loneliness as I had, to to be treated as an equal by point out to me, as it were, the stately trees, the beautiful to introduce me, to these so unroses, and all the other things. assuming helpmeets of mineI did not any longer say “What helpmeets through many weary things ?” for I was beginning to years. It is then, through her, understand her, and to gather, if she will do it for me, that I as yet only dimly, that I had wish to thank them; for still felt all this before, and had she must always know them but never as she had come better than I do. to know about it, and to feel I only know that they go grateful to the presences of rather they come-to make up solitude.

all that there is of peace in this

world. Perhaps her better shaped mosquito - curtain I knowledge means a clearer could see the dim outlines of a forecast, than that given to human shape. Then I jumped most, of the Peace that passeth aside startled, my face and all understanding.

hair tingling-something had I do not know.

rubbed against both my legs. Once more I rode off into the I looked down and saw that night, keeping my moon shadow it was a bob-tailed Smithfield dead ahead of me. It was easy sheep-dog, that stood perfectly now to hold on a comparatively still looking up at me. straight course. Moreover, it What could have cowed him was one that I knew was, 80 that, being awake, he had roughly speaking, in the direc- made no sound at a strange tion I wanted to go.... arrival; or had the dog been Suddenly a glimmer rose up expecting somebody? Then he in front of me, and presently stretched himself out on the I came out on to a small ground with his head resting clearing. On the far side of on my foot. I saw it all in a it was a bark hut, with a hole flash : the shepherd, his master, in the wall for a window. was dead, and the dog wanted Between me and the hut was companionship and sympathy a large roughly built yard that in his grief. I stooped and my lately acquired sheep-lore patted him on the head: he told me held about two and made none of the ordinary dog a half thousand sheep. I rode answers to such an advance, round the yard, got off my but just wriggled his jaws a horse, and looked in through little farther across my boot, the window. The candle that as much as to say, “I don't had guided me was stuck mind so much now you're crookedly in the mouth of a here.” bottle that stood on a packing- I turned to my horse to case by the side of a bunk. mount and ride away from I noted all the squalid un- this desolation. Foot in stirtidiness of a man who lived rup, I paused, and it came to carelessly among the dirti- me that I had no evidence nesses that grow like fungi in the man was dead, except that that dank mental swamp that there was a dog that had not is called loneliness. Unwashed barked and was particularly rusty tin dishes and plates were undemonstrative and mournscattered over the rough table ful. The ridiculous inconclusbuilt of packing - cases; the iveness of this reasoning set earthen floor was littered with me gaping at the fly - away rubbish and ancient copies of a state of my mind, which at big weekly from the far-away the same time would allow of capital city on the sea-coast. no alternative. Nevertheless,

No dog had barked at my my hands and eyes must be approach or since: this fact satisfied. Perhaps he was not now struck me with a quick dead but dying, in which case uncanny chill. Under a bell. I might help him ; and again, perhaps, after all, I was a little The dog, who had known mad from hunger, thirst, and without any touching of eyethe lost feeling, and he was balls, was looking up at me only sleeping the sleep of the gratefully. I knew, if any tired shepherd, in which case more proof were needed, that I could rouse him and get the had the old shepherd been alive meat and drink that I stood and asleep, the dog would have in need of, and directions that done his best to tear me to would get me back on to my pieces. I could not eat or drink road.

in that place. At the door I I hung my bridle-rein over turned back to the dog: where a post of the yard and walked he had stood by me he was back to the hut, the dog fol- stretched on the ground. lowing me. As I stooped to "You'd better come along pass through the low doorway with me,” I said. “Come on.” the dog ran ahead, and, stand- He looked up at the bunk, ing by the foot of the bunk, then put his head down on his put up his head, and sent forepaws, and watched me out a long-drawn howl that quietly until I turned my back seemed to fill the place with on him. grief that was tangible : you Outside in the open there could have put out your hand was a new radiance in the east and plucked sorrow into it. struggling up to drown the There was neither sound nor light of my friend the moon, movement from under the who presently took on the apmosquito - curtain. Then I pearance of nothing but a lost knew, but still my hands and little piece of a cloud swinging eyes must feel and see. I very slowly to the west. took off my hat as I came I hunted round the clearing, to the bunkside.

the while the sheep in the yard He was a very old man, began to bleat, and couples of older, I judged, than our oldest them to charge buttingly at shepherd at the camp; he had one another, making a noise a long grey-white beard, and that had much headache in it. his hands were folded across Then wheel-tracks that greeted his chest. He was like a pic- my eyes like two old friends, ture that I called to mind as I and seemed the end of lonelilooked at him, of Moses in an ness, and spoke of food as well old Bible at home. I had as companionship. They were heard that a live man must running away from the eastern move if his naked eyeball is light, and as I looked along touched, so I lifted the curtain, them there came suddenly a stretched out my forefinger, voice from no great distance and boldly touched the glassy away singingsurface. There was no tremor anywhere. I closed his eyes,

“Wait till the clouds roll by, Jenny,

Wait till the clouds roll by." and dropped the curtain of that silent, lonely last act in the It had been the popular song drama of a lifetime.

when I had left the capital, and

who present nothing bowinging

« AnteriorContinuar »