페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

I filled my

Twining, when he found me existing, Sherry Spencer over in China-ricetourist fashion, in the best hotel on the Christians and all. Sherry groans over island, to ask me to come up to the

the Oriental mind. Heavens! It's someMission and pay him a visit. Pure thing you can get your teeth into, anyKingsborough clannishness made it pos- how, even if it bites back. These folk sible for me to accept; for, though we aren't anything. They're a law unto had plenty of common acquaintance, we themselves. No, they're not; they're had never known each other, and mis- just a set of privileges unto themselves. sionaries are not my tipple. They are Nature cockers them as if they were like ginger-ale, neither intoxicating nor worth it. . . . Man, you can't teach the refreshing. I had been in twenty minds Gospel to a bunch of people who don't about accepting, and finally I went up want anything they haven't got. They to see for myself. Having seen, I stayed. don't even regret the good old days of The scene got me. I was new to the long pig. South Seas.

Dying out, aren't they?" I shall never forget how I found Twin “Oh

yes,

and they'll be Presbyterians ing, that first day, when I went to return when they're dead, I shouldn't wonder.” his visits. He was sitting on a palm And he kicked the ruins of the cocoanutwreathed eminence, gazing fixedly down heap with a white-canvas toe. a forty-five-degree slant of vegetation, That was Twining's state of mind at the huddle of roofs whence I had when I first envisaged him and his situaclimbed to his hill. Behind him, the tion. I did not reply; I leaned back and wooden buildings of his new compound looked, taking my ease; for on this gashed the dense, illimitable green of the occasion I should have to decide whether jungle. In a year or two the compound or not to accept his invitation. He did would be assimilated to the landscape; not interrupt my contemplation, even by it would be caressed, covered, crept over, shying another cocoanut. by innumerable vegetable parasites. But eyes with the scene, my lungs with the now it was a raw wound in the beauty air, my heart with all that uncompreof the forest. The town lay a few hun hended exotic implication. The beauty dred feet below. Beyond the roofs were was overpowering. Nothing that you docks of a sort, and enough corrugated could reasonably ask for was omitted iron to prove that this paradise existed from the landscape. Mountain, gorge, commercially. Then the boats, the reef, and valley were assembled in a hundred and the ocean which took up the tale of romantic contours; infinity where the jungle left it off. tinkled softly in my ears; the trees and Twining sat there on his volcanic head- flowers were those of an emperor's land, staring; and as I approached, a dream. A cool, sweet trade-wind ruffled little pile of cocoanuts toppled over on all that gorgeousness into life. And for his left foot as he jerked it nervously. the last fillip, the thatched roofs below, The Chinese boy who had guided constant hint that you were on the me to his retreat disappeared with the threshold of something you could never merest grunt of announcement. Twining hope to understand. ... Down in the nodded, then picked up a cocoanut and town were officials, commercial travelers, Alung it petulantly down the slant of beach-combers, men “from Sydney vegetation, in the direction of the town. (sinister appellation), natives in corduIt grazed the green tree-tops for a roy trousers-dramatic, full of plot for second or two, then dipped through the comic opera or a

comic opera or a shilling shocker. But I branches of a breadfruit and fell, no would eschew drama; I would live for a doubt, to earth somewhere.

time on the unspoiled heights. “A perfectly good cocoanut wasted," Had I but known it, I was like a man I remarked, as I sat down beside him. with weak nerves refusing Stevenson and

“I'd like to waste a few thousands," taking to Sophocles. But I did not he groaned. “It would be a darned know. good thing for these dwellers in Eden if "I'll stay, thank you,” I said at last, they had to rustle a little more for a and waved my hand inclusively to sugliving. On my word, I sometimes envy gest that it was to Nature I succumbed.

unseen

torrents

[ocr errors]
[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small]

She was

“Ripping, isn't it? I'm so glad you unreality of that island and its beauty. will,” was Twining's rejoinder. His tone It was out of the world as I conceived told me that he was glad, but the tribute and knew the world; I hung, suspended to the scenery was merely conventional. in time, over the landscape of a dream.

So I came up and stayed with Twining There was no past or future; no relaand his aunt Miriam at the Mission. I tion, no claim, no human plot. I might have, as well as I can, given you some (as in childhood one dreams of doing) inkling of Twining. You will know more have been floating on cirrhus clouds or about him later. I must not, I suppose, treading the Milky Way. That is why take time to expound Aunt Miriam, this story will never seem to me morbid. though I succumbed at once to her pe From this fourth-dimensional world culiarly American charm. It is enough in which I moved and breathed I was here to define her externally—a woman awakened, after many weeks, by the of sixty-odd, with iron-gray hair, and a entrance of the heroine. Even then I vast serenity which veiled her executive did not wake all at once, for the manner type. She was not Roger's aunt; she of her entrance was in keeping with the and her husband had adopted Roger, scene. We were dining that night, Roger who was an orphan, and it was her late and I, with the British consul, and we husband, “Uncle Ephraim” (he, too, in took a short cut through the jungle, his time, a Kingsborough man), who had instead of going round by road. The destined Roger to the “foreign field.” trail was well marked and well used, but Roger's vocation was not spontaneous, even so, the wild guava clipped us close you see; it was a form of gratitude, an and we tripped over the offspring of the earnest of devotion; and that is impor- patriarchal bamboos. As we tore down tant. Aunt Miriam was there to see that the last slant, she rose-materialized, he did his job; but she was especially you might say-before our eyes: a white and chiefly there to help him through figure, rounding a huge palm-trunk and the months of his novitiate, to keep his standing suddenly before us. house until he got a wife (“helpmeet” laughing, under her wreath of orchids, was often Aunt Miriam's word). Then and the juice of a half-eaten mango ripshe would go back to her sisters in Illi- pled lusciously over her right hand. nois, to whom she wrote long journal She made no pretence of not knowing letters. Aunt Miriam never went down us, or of introducing herself. She did not the Mission hill to the town. She

even say, “You are Mr. Twining and knitted endlessly, and made calico

and made calico Mr. Malcolm, and I am Letitia Quayle, clothes for those native children whom whom you are to meet at dinner. She the grim wolf with privy paw had not merely greeted and joined us. Nor did yet devoured. And she would sit for she apologize for the mango (which is a hours, her writing-pad on her lap, gazing fruit without social virtues), though she at the summit of the volcanic headland

threw it away where I had first found Roger and had did not know, just at first, how it made my earth-shaking decision. We affected Twining, for I was busy feeling had people to dinner now and then, and the pleasant shock of it to the full. She I explored passes and ravines and caves was artless and exquisite as a dryad or while Roger was busy below us with as Virginia on the sands of Mauritius. dark souls that matched the dark skins. She came forward as if she belonged to

I stayed with them, as retrospec us, as if we all belonged together in some tively it seems to me, an unconscionably naïf legend. She did not break the long time. I was a loafer, with my hands dream. She was natural as the mango in my pockets, and I had never seen that she Aung away to rot beneath the anything I liked so much as this. I bamboos. Perhaps I can describe better sketched a little; I dipped into Twin- the effect of her apparition if I say that ing's folk-lore books; I bathed in cold my mind suddenly became a reminiscent mountain pools; I held Aunt Miriam's welter of Atala, Typee, and the like wool for her to wind. The place en -though she was fair as a lily. chanted me in no metaphorical sense. I It was I who made foolish talk until can never hope to reproduce for you the we turned into the consular garden.

wear

Twining was dumb. Only as we climbed taught me this thing which I had never the steps of the verandah he turned to seen-as you would recognize an earthher and asked, “Do you ever quake the first time you felt it. Love blue?"

at first sight was its name; even before "Constantly." And the least shade we reached the consular garden Roger of formality, of Europeanism, crept over had handed over the key. So much her face.

beauty lies buried for me in that South “I thought so.” He turned away and

Sea isle to which I shall never return, walked up to the consul.

and the most beautiful of all things in My thoughts veered sharply to Aunt that isolated dream, I now feel, was the Miriam, above. Perhaps the “help- suddenness and completeness of Roger meet" was nearer than she thought. Twining's surrender to the miracle. Roger was pale, his dark eyes had re They step through the pages of the great captured their lost fervor, and an im- fairy-tales—the Dantes, the Romeos, the mortal curiosity sharpened his fine feat Siegfrieds—and we watch and listen, ures. Mentally I withdrew on the spot.

and are moved to tears, and go away I devoted myself to that eminent scien disbelieving. But once in a thousand tist, Professor Quayle, fellow of every moons Life makes the incomparable society that exists for the purpose of gesture for herself; and I shall always discovering the skeleton in the racial thank God, in spite of everything, that closet. It was worth while. He was I have seen love burst into complete eclectic, as the great scientists are; he flower in a single instant. knew a lot about anthropology, and Letitia? Well, she was a woman; she could see the humor of a dinosaur. His had her part to play; and, that evening, talk was delightful; negligently chal- after his hoarse question (“Do you ever lenged by our host, he became the

wear blue?” How it rings, sinister in my Scheherazade of the Stone Age. Also he ears, but sweet!) she played it. But he had been everywhere-scientists are the saw her first stepping out of the forest pampered children of our generation as Virginia. Letitia Quayle was comand his metaphors were as good as his plicated, yes. But what is more comfacts. If this be “shop,” I thought, let plicated than a flower? We prate of the me never hear anything else. etitia simplicity of nature by way of disparaghad accompanied him to many places ing the poor little nursery subtleties of far from trade centres, and joined in civilization. We are great fools. Letitia with eager anecdotes. A curious educa- Quayle was simple as a rose; and let the tion, I reflected, as I listened to her. She botanists say how simple that is. Now had never been to Paris or Rome, but you see what I mean. She was idyshe was intimate with sharks and fruit- llically natural—and very complex. She eating bats, and the Falls of the Zambesi bloomed and glowed with perfect fitness were to her a more familiar name than at the heart of that tropic jungle; she Niagara Fair, very fair, her blond surprised us no more than a butterfly. hair growing in a widow's peak; young But-simple? I stick to my own theory. with the very essence of youth; a child In spite of her initial playing of the not of cosmopolis, but of the planet. part, Letitia came to Roger Twining I let my eyes dwell on her in sheer very naturally. Professor Quayle was pleasure, this girl of strictly Saxon feat due to stay for a month, investigating uring, whose familiar allusions were to coral formations. Aunt Miriam lifted places, people, food, and customs that I Letitia bodily from the hospitalities behad never heard of. The only drawback low and carried her up to the Mission to my irresponsible delight (for, remem headland. I do not know how else to put ber, I had withdrawn while yet there it, though of course Mrs. Twining never was time—had taken a great backward stirred from the compound. There leap before I reached the threshold) was seemed to be no formal invitations; Roger's silence. Though I had never simply, Aunt Miriam expected her, and witnessed the phenomenon before, I she came. Roger and I would take her knew what it was and what it meant: back, late in the evening, after dinner. the stored experience of the race had Mrs. Twining had seen, as I had seen,

« 이전계속 »