Imágenes de páginas


denly into a wild triumphanting wildly from it like a penduYo yo yo yo! something like the lum run mad, then a suicidal chorus of hounds in full cry. fling, a crash in the covering That is the jödel of the Siamang. green, and so they are gone, .

Do you care for monkeys? Tame, they are the gentlest Personally, I know two kinds creatures. The Malays catch only, and detest them both — young ones and bring them to the Brok and the Kra. The our doors, knowing that buy Brok is a big, brown, fatuous we must. It is not among the baboon, of the familiar low- possibilities for a Mem to resist comedy pattern, for ever sput- the forlorn small speechless tering and scratching himself, thing, when it winds its long and fidgeting with hands and long arms and fingers round feet and making faces. Should her neck, and hides its black you desire to please him, you wrinked face of an old woman, will squat (just beyond the with round unhappy eyes, in length of his chain) in front of the softness of her morning him, and similarly scratch your gown. Or it lurches person, make faces, and sputter. the verandah on a pair of very Then in high good-humour he bandy little legs, balancing will amble round his post in as itself with outstretched arms. big a circle as his chain permits, But they always die.

They clutching at your hair with an who have weathered torrential adroit high kick as he passes. rains under the open heaven Such are his low delights. The die in captivity of consumption, Kra is a small grey person of and cough out their ill-comprepassionate appearance,

with hended souls like Christians, close - set fiery eyes, very like huddled in a blanket. my friend Brands, who keeps All day long the Siamang one. The tastes of this little are calling, omnipresent though fiend are still more primitive invisible. The Malays firmly namely, to fly straight at you believe that the utan rimba, with his tail sticking out and the heavy jungle, is inhabited his crest sticking up, and bite by a Folk Whose Voice We you again and again: he is Hear, a race of audible though worse than Brok.

unseen fairies; and I too am Far different is the gentle of the faith, because the more Siamang; but then he is a you sit quiet and watch with gibbon, and no monkey. In eyes and ears, the more surely assemblies on the tree-tops live you will know that the great the Siamang, whooping through precept of the rimba (very the octaves, calling to their different from what we friends from miles away, and taught in the nursery) is this : swooping off to meet them, Little beasts should be heard racing steeplechases with the but not seen. There are shady winds. I have seen, and hope paths all about the bungalow, to live and see again, a pack of where you can sit all day withthe Siamang going through the out fear of sunstroke. If you jungle—a long black arm and care to do so, perhaps once in a small crumpled body swing- a moon you may become aware



of a Kijang deer suddenly merry-go-round and of the buzmaterialised on the path be zer from the steelworks are set side you, who will gaze for a to their penance on ranges bemoment with untroubled eyes, yond the gully, and the sound and then vanish through the “by distance tame," like the underwood in a streak of dim- strains of that music which inishing crashes. Or a little heralded Roderick Dhu, comes frog may go by with frantic mellowed across the mountain. leaps, hard followed by a little Suddenly underneath snake. You will be lucky if rustic seat


threshingyou see even so much, although machine begins to burr. It is if the monstrous wizard Sang too near, too loud : the vibraKlembai were to pass and pluck tion jars painfully upon the ear. up the utan rimba (as he could) Then by the potency of that by its roots as we pluck moss magic droning a spell is cast from a tree, it would be mar

upon me.

The tropic night is vellous how dense a population transfigured, the screen of black were left naked and ashamed: foliage withdrawn. Lo, it is tiger, black panther, rhinoceros, the corner of a field on a winwild cattle, sambhur, mouse ter's afternoon. Grass wet with deer, sloth, tapir, porcupine, rain grows between the lines of pig, elephant, — by their foot- stubble over loose red clods. prints they are known.

There are round ricks and heavy But at nightfall: there is farm hands, and a threshinga legend (my own invention) machine champing corn. There which tells that whosoever has is a bank and hedge with the by means of any sound of music blackberry leaves only half brought death or madness upon faded. The air is cool, with his neighbour, he, when his faint sunshine and a white haze. time is come, is transported to It is Devon, with the smell of these wildernesses to work out her and the stillness of her his redemption for a hundred patiently expectant of the years.

And first, half a street's spring. Then, quick as it arose, length down the hillside, the old the sound ceases and the vision blind beggar with the pipes is gone. It was only a cicada, breaks into sudden lament a little green cicada, careless of among the unbending trees. and Devon and all the Does he know that his skirl is world, and he makes his music heard by human ears and take by scratching his head with his comfort ? “Milk, milk,” cries a foot. This he does, so naturaldespairing voice at our elbow, ists aver, to please his wife. and is sped. Then the child What an example to us all! with the Jew's-harp—that such While we are moving dinnera feeble thing should be so tor- wards there comes faintly from mented !-goes twanging and afar the snarl of a great cat sobbing by, not three yards be- hungry. It is “master stripes,” hind the green - black curtain. his grace before meat. The proprietors of the steam






Not easily would you have her knees by the green water found a girl more winning in most days of the week. Barea tender sort than Giovanna armed, splashed to the neck, Scarpa of Verona at one-and- bare-headed, out-at-heels, she twenty, fair-haired and flushed, rinsed and pommelled, wrung delicately shaped, tall and pli- and dipped again, laughed, chatant, as she then was. She had tered, flung her hair to the wind, to suffer her hours of ill report, her sweat to the water, in line but passes

for near a saint now, with a dozen other women bein consequence of certain mir- low the Ponte Navi; and if no acles and theophanies done on one thought any the worse of her account, which it is my busi- her, none, unhappily, thought ness to declare : before those she

any the better—at least in the was considered (if at all) as a way of marriage. It is probable girl who would certainly have that no one thought of her at been married three years ago if all.

Giovanna was a beauty dowries had not been of moment and a very good girl; but she in the matter. In a city of was a washerwoman for all that, maids as pretty as they are whose toil fed seven mouths. modest—which no one will deny Her father was Don Urbano, Verona to be—there may have curate of Santa Toscana across been some whose charms in the water. This may very easily either kind were equal to hers, sound worse than it is. In Don while their estate was better in Urbano's day, though a priest accord; but the speculation is might not marry, he might have idle. Giovanna, flower in the a wife-a faithful, diligent comface as she was, fit to be nose- panion, that is—to seethe his gay on any hearth, posy for any polenta, air his linen, and rear man's breast, sprang in a very his children. The Church lowly soil. Like a blossoming winked at her, and so continued reed she shot up to her inches until the Jesuits came to teach by Adige, and one forgot the that winking was unbecoming. muddy bed wondering at the But when Can Grande II. lorded slim

grace of the shaft with its in Verona the Jesuits did not, crown of yellow atop. Her hair and Don Urbano, good easy waved about her like a flag, man, cared not who winked at she should have been planted his wife. She gave him six in a castle; instead, Giovanna children before she died of the the stately calm, with her bil- seventh, of whom the eldest was lowing line, staid lips, and can- Giovanna, and the others, in an did grey eyes, was to be seen on orderly chain diminishing punc

[blocks in formation]

than grace.

tually by a year, ran down to stiff in the back. Possibly he Ferrantino, a tattered, shock was rheumatic, certainly he was headed rascal of more inches grumpy. He had a long slit

Last of all the mouth which played him a cruel good drudge, who had borne trick; for by nature it smiled these and many other bur- when by nature he was most dens for her master, died also. melancholy. Smile it would and Don Urbano was never tired of did, however cut-throat he felt : saying how providential it was if you wanted to see him grin that she had held off her demise from ear to ear you would wait until Giovanna was old enough till he had had an ill day's marto take her place. The curate ket. Then, while sighs, curses, was fat and lazy, very much in- invocations of the saints, or open terested in himself; his stipend hints to the devil came roaring barely paid his shot at the from him, that hilarious mouth “Fiore del Marinajo," under of his invited you to share dewhose green bush he was mostly lights. You had needs laugh to be seen.

Vanna had to roll with him, and he, cursing high up her sleeves, bend her straight and low, beamed all over his young back, and knee the board face. “ To make Baldassare by the Ponte Navi. I have no laugh” became a stock peridoubt it did her good—the work phrasis for the supreme degree is healthy, the air, the sun, the of tragedy among his neighwater-spray, kissed her beauty bours. About this traitor mouth ripe; but she got no husband of his he had a dew of scrubby because she could save no dowry. beard, silvered black; he had Everything went to stay the bushy eyebrows, hands and arms seven crying mouths.

covered with a black pelt: he Then, on a day when half her was a very hairy man. Also he twenty-first


had run after was a very warm man, as everythe others, old Baldassare Dar- body knew, with a hoard of dicozzo stayed on the bridge to florins under the flags of his oldrest from the burden of his pack clothes shop in the Via Stella. —on a breezy March morning Having spat into the water when the dust filled his eyes and many times, rubbed his hands, the wind emptied him of breath. mopped his head, and cursed Baldassare had little enough to most things under heaven and spare as it was. So he dropped some in it, Master Baldassare his load in the angle of the found himself watching the bridge, with a smothered “Ac- laundresses on the shore. They cidente !” or

some such, and were the usual shrill, shrewd, leaned to watch the swollen and laughing line — the trade water buffeted crosswise by the seems to induce high mirthgusts, or how the little mills and as such no bait for the old amid - stream dipped as they merchant by ordinary ; but just swam breasting the waves. In now the sun and breeze together so doing he became aware, in made a bright patch of them, quite a peculiar way, of Vanna set them at a provoking flutter. Scarpa.

Baldassare, prickly with dust, Baldassare was old, red-eyed, found them like their own cool



was up

linen hung out to dance itself ruminations. Shrug and explodry in the wind. Most of all sion signalled two stark facts: he noticed Vanna, whom he Baldassare was fifty-four, and knew well enough, because Vanna had no portion. when she knelt upright she Yet he remained watching on was taller and

way- the bridge, his chin buried in ward than the rest, and be- his knotty hands, his little eyes cause the wind made so plain blinking under stress of the the pretty figure she had. She inner fire he had. So it befell was very industrious, but no that La Testolina saw him, and less full of talk: there seemed said something shrill and saucy so much to say! The pauses to her neighbour. The wind were frequent in which she tossed him the tone but not the straightened herself from the

He saw the joke run hips and turned to thrust chin crackling down the line, all and voice into the debate. You heads look brightly up. The saw then the sharp angle and joke caught fire; he saw the fine line of light along that raised sun-gleam on a dozen perfect chin, the charming turn of the sets of teeth. Vanna's head neck, her free young shoulders

with the rest, sooner up and shapely head ; also you and the sooner down. Even heard her lively tones of ci and from that height the little twinksi, and saw how her shaking ling beacons from the bridge finger drove them home. The shot her through. He saw her wind would catch her yellow colour deepen, head droop: she hair sometimes and wind it was busy long before the others across her bosom like a scarf ; had


their joke dry. or it streamed sideways like a “Soul of a cat!” grunted Ballong pennon; or being caught dassare between his teeth,“ what by a gust from below, sprayed a rosy baggage it is !” He out like a cloud of litten gold. waited a little longer, then deVanna always joined in the liberately passed the bridge, laugh at her mishap, tossed her rounded the pillar by the steps, tresses back, pinned them up and went down to the women (both hands at the business); like a man who had made up and then, with square shoulders his mind. Lisabetta of the and elbows stiff as rods, set to roving eye caught the first hint working the dirt out of Don of his shadow. Her elbow to Urbano's surplice. Baldassare Nonna's ribs, Nonna's “Pst!” brooded, chewing straws. What in Nina's ear, spread the news. a clear colour that girl had, to Vanna's cheeks flew the flag. be sure ! What a lissom rascal “Buon giorno, Ser Baldasit was ! A fine long girl like sare!” shrilled La Testolina, that should be married; by all plump and black-eyed leader of accounts she would make a man mischief. a good wife. If he were a dozen “Giorno, giorno, La Testoyears the better of four-and-fifty lina,” growled the old man. he might

Then came Vanna, very busy, grew as shrug, and a “Ma !” to conclude red as a rose. The others knelt in true Veronese Baldassare's back on their heels; compli


« AnteriorContinuar »