« 이전계속 »
rhythmic jingle as the brass cushion owned by the headpestle struck the side of the man, I turned over the faded mortar. From time to time pages, reading here a few words the hut was darkened as the of description, here a scriptural low doorway was blocked by quotation underlined. By the entrance of a neighbour, chance I turned to the blank attracted by the tinkling in- pages at the end ; and started, vitation.
With a muttered for they were covered with “Salaam alaikum," they would close, clear, sloping handwriting, squat down in the increasing still legible except where here circle, only breaking the silence and there a smudge of water by an occasional “Y’Allah !” had obliterated a few lines. uttered in such heartfelt tones The first words that met my as would suggest that the cry eyes were startling
startling enough. to God was extracted from them As I shall now within a few by mortal agony. Through hours meet my Maker (for it the chinks in the rush walls is clear that these savages will of the hut came small sounds not be long in making an end of whispering and tittering, as of me), I propose to set down the village children satisfied some account of my adventure, their infant curiosity about the thinking that it may by good unusual visitor.
fortune fall into friendly hands." The marshman's hearth did I stopped reading in pure not boast the whole series of astonishment. The words coffee-pots which one sees in a seemed unreal, fantastic, meloshaikh's madhif, ranging in dramatic even. Yet as I looked size from the big gum-gum to again at the precise and angular the tiny dallah. My host pos- writing with its old-fashioned sessed only two, a large one of sis, as I remembered the earnestwhich the curving beaked spout ness of the old woman, and the was broken off short, and a strange care with which she small one black with age. In had treasured the book, my the first were kept the daily natural scepticism died away. leavings, so that each fresh I read on eagerly. brew was made not with water “I find myself strangely rebut with coffee; the small one signed to my fate, and, relying was reserved for the freshly- on God's mercy, have no fear made drink, strong, black, of the hereafter. Fear I have bitter, and pungent, as the only of the manner of my Arabs love it, whether in desert death, for which the preparaor in marsh.
tions recall too painfully the The long wait had given me stake and faggot, by which so time for further speculation many martyrs of
many martyrs of our faith about the old woman and her passed to Eternal Rest. These book. Idly, as I sat cross- lines are written as much to legged on the earthen floor, provide occupation for my leaning on the one carpet mind, as in the perhaps too
confiding hope that they may thick and matted, to tpix@ua by some means reach him whose πεπιλωμένον.” name is inscribed upon the fly- Again I could make nothing leaf.”
of the next few lines, but I turned back, knowing as the narrative continued : I did so that whatever had
night also was made been written there was now hideous by their cries and by illegible.
the beating of tam-tams, nor “I thank God that I, being could I have slept if I would, unwedded, leave no dependants since my body was devoured to mourn or otherwise suffer by swarms of mosquitoes, and through my death, which the my skin sore and burning as following circumstances, to- though it had been flayed by gether with the roving nature its unwonted exposure to the against which I was so often fierce of these parts.
. . [here a few lines were Though thankful to be at least obliterated by a smudge of alone, I lay in misery on the water) ... while making a hard earth, parched with thirst friendly visit to a tribe subject until this was allayed by the to the Sheikh of the Monte- girl Hareema, who stole in feikh, I was surprised by an towards dawn, bringing water unaccustomed noise outside the and some bread of the kind hut. A number of the tribe, that Sarah made for the three bursting in with shouts and Angels. Once again . hideous yells, seized upon me I tried to turn over, but the with every sign of hatred (where leaves had stuck together, and before had been friendship and though I separated them with mutual interest), and, snatch- the greatest care, I could read ing my pistols and cartouche- little of the next two pages. box, stript me naked, and cast Here and there a few words me, bound hand and foot, into stood out, tantalisingly clear : one of their naphtha-coated" jet-black hair in unconcraft. Here they have brought fined luxuriance, eyes lustrous, me by countless mazy windings and ... youthful elegance and into the heart, as I think, of symm.. but an innocent the Great Swampe. I offered child .
was due to much Buxis (Backsheesh 1) for arrive in the frigate Allig ... my release, but they seemed ssorah, where the British facintent upon my life.
tory in the go-downs of “ All day they ran in circles, Hamid Khan thousand screaming as if possessed with piastres their additional demons. They brandished in demands to our Indian friends the air their swords and lances, in cash. And indeed it is those that had any their mus- certain ... quets and matchlocks. Their What was certain ?
I was bodies were nude, their faces never to know, for on the next dreadful with passion, their hair page only one broken sentence
remained to end the story : were built, I thought of my “... and seven bales are lying fellow-countryman paying his at Abooshehr in the Gulph. "friendly visit” to just such
That was all; but I had another village. The confiding ceased to be incredulous. The buffalo calves, snuffing with ring of truth was in the last their soft moist nostrils as the words of this Englishman who boat brushed by them; the had faced his end so calmly, groups of half-naked men splitand had spent his last moments ting reeds for weaving mats ; in thinking of his friends and the slender
the slender black mashhufs settling his affairs. But the crossing slowly from island to story was incomplete. What island—the scene can hardly could have been the reason of have been different on that so sudden, so apparently un- calamitous morning, perhaps premeditated an attack by nearly a hundred years ago. marshmen whom
had And for sounds, the merry thought his friends ? I de- voices of children, the lowing cided to see the old woman of buffaloes, the hum of the again ; she might be able to majrasha husking rice, all fill in the gaps in the tragic drowning that warning, voicestory. Remembering her gar- less rustle of the reeds, to rulous blessings, I thought she which he was deaf, but which would probably be not un- I, with the strange story fresh willing to tell me what she in my mind, heard more clearly could, and turning to one of than before. my neighbours in the hut, I The mashhuf grounded. Baasked who she was.
halool jumped lightly out, and “Harimah the Blind," he re- ran up the bank to one of the plied. “W'Allah, she is long huts. He seemed to have in years."
some difficulty in inducing the Harimah the Blind ! The woman to see me again, for I unknown writer had spoken of could hear his persuasive tones “the girl Hareema.” Could and her fretful objections. At this withered old hag be the last she came stumbling out, girl whose beauty he had praised and I went up to meet her. We so highly! I remembered the stood together outside her doorvery phrases of his descrip- way, her blind old face raised tion. “ Lustrous eyes, jet-black half fearfully to mine. hair in unconfined luxuriance." “Who gave you this book ?" And now, “by Allah, she is I asked. long in years," the man had “ His name? I know it not." said. I called Bahalool, and Her voice was thin and dull told him to take me to the and weary, and she answered island to which Harimah the listlessly. Blind had returned.
“ What do you know of As we slid between the low him ?” mounds on which the huts “Naught, save that he was
friendly with my tribe, and and heavy and still. And the my tribe with him."
tantals left their home, and I fancied that she spoke with entered into the men of my more life in her worn-out tones, tribe, taking possession of their and tried another question. bodies so that they knew no “How did he die ?"
longer what they did. On “Die ! ” she said. “He did that same day it chanced that not die. It was I who suffered he of whom we speak had come worse than death. Waili, waili, among us, as he often did, for my eyes ! The tantals left to talk and drink coffee in the their homes that day-” She madhif of my uncle (may Allah broke off, staring at me with show him mercy). And the her sightless eyes.
wrath and fierce anger of those “Speak,” I urged.
evil ones fell upon the stranger ; “Effendim,"she began,speak- and they burst in upon him, ing far more clearly, as memory and carried him off to their woke her dull old brain from dwelling in the Marsh. its torpor, “I will tell you all “At night they made hosa, I know; afterwards trouble for so is the lust for blood me not, for what am I to you, quickened and made more fierce, or you to me? I have done and they purposed to put him his bidding, I have given what to death in the early morning. he gave me to another of his So they piled up bardi, and, own kind. Now I am old dragging him from the hut in and blind ; yet I will tell you which he lay naked and defenceall I can.” She squatted on less, they tied him to the mast the ground, and I followed of a danak, and thrust him into suit.
the midst of the bardi. Then * Be it known unto your they put fire to the heap. honour that near to Abu Sag- But I would not that he should hair lies another smaller ishan, die, and under cover of the which has no name. On it smoke I crept in and cut his no man ever builds his house bonds, bidding him hide among nor buries his dead, for it is the reeds until their frenzy the home of the tantals. There should be past. And in order those evil ones dwell, never that the tantals might be satisgoing forth from the ishan save fied, I stayed behind to scream. on windless days, for they fear But suddenly-ah, suddenly a that in a time of blowing wind great red flame leaped out they will not be able to return. upon me, seizing my clothes But that day—a hundred years and my hair, so that my screams ago it is ; nay, by the Son of were no longer feigned. I fled Abi Talib, more than a hun- from the place, and plunged dred, for I am very old—that into the water. But I could was a day without wind, hot see nothing ; I 3 blind, blind. Oh, Ali ! The suffering escaped the dreadful death preof that day
pared for him. Grateful for The old woman's monotonous his deliverance, ignorant of voice had become a wail, and its price, he had perhaps fled she beat her head with her to safety. Or might it be that, feeble arms. The strange story, escaping from one death, he corroborated as it was by the had found another in the endwitness of the book, was evi- less mazes of the Marsh! I dently true. But what of her should never know; the book explanation of the marshmen's and the old woman had told sudden frenzy of rage against all they could, and the Marsh the foreigner? Could one ac- would not give up its secret. copt it as a nineteenth-century Harimah, waking from her case of actual possession by trance, rose and turned listevil spirits, or was she speaking lessly away to her hut. As figuratively! I had often heard she passed me, without a glance, the people speak of tantals, the I caught an almost inaudible mad djinns feared and dreaded murmurby every Marsh Arab. A “Go, and may Allah protect powerful shaikh of my ac- you in your going." quaintance had admitted to Was it a prayer, hardly me, in lowered tones, that he formulated in her dim old had heard their laughter. But mind, that the fate of the I had never come across a case unknown traveller might not of possession such as those overtake me also ? Ungusrecorded in the New Testa- picious, unafraid, and confident, ment.
trusting in the friendship of “Waili, waili,” wept Hari- the simple Marsh-folk, he too mah the Blind. “Such is the had wandered in the wilderlot of women. I gave my eyes ness of reeds, alone of his for him, yet he came not kind. And suddenly he had again. Long have I waited, but found himself in conflict with in vain ; and now I am old, foroes of primitive passion that old, and blind. ..." Her voice neither he nor they could
stem. I ventured another question With the book still in my or two, but she stood in un- hand I walked back to the heeding silence, reliving, per- mashhuf. haps, what may have been “To the Chains ? asked the romance and the tragedy Bahalool. of her youth.
I glanced up at the sun, now “He came not again.” This, past its zenith. then, was the end of the story. "No," I said with a shiver, The owner of the book had 'to the river."