Page images

And so with the names of these flowers of the East, they seem to glow like the flowers themselves or the skies above them: Bougainvillea, Flame of the Forest, Hibiscus, Alamander. The last only lacks an S to prove my theory conclusively.

This morning by unparalleled exertions we were up by five o'clock, and had walked as far as the trigonometrical station, a sort of gigantic beehive thatched with palms on the tip-top of the mountain. The ground has been cleared-over an acre-of all but bracken, and gives an uninterrupted view of the two great mountain-ranges to East and West; ours being but a stepping stone between the Kinta valley we live in to the east, and the empty Western valley with its grey waste of tree-tops, and reaches of the Silver River shining ten miles away. Over these there hangs a perfect rainbow in a perfect semicircle, beginning and ending in the clouds high above the faint blue distances. The

Kinta valley lies between us and the dawn. It has been bearing half the world's output of tin for several years, and its smooth denuded surface is pitted with flooded mine-holes. There is also an artificial Serpentine to irrigate the rice-fields, and loops of the winding river are visible. All these patches of water are as silver in the dark-blue haze with a pink flush round their margins, when the grey clouds overhead turn quickly to rosemadder. Away south the sea lies narrow as a ribbon; and where the Eastern range descends abruptly towards the coast its base is washed by a

mist of brilliant whiteness. There, from behind the last steel-blue buttress of the mountains, we saw a sudden ray thrust like a spear across the silver level: brighter than crocuses in snow the sun had risen. And then the mist that ebbs and flows about our own hillside came rolling up through the tree-tops like a mirage of the flood-tide among the rocks, leaving us stranded on an islet in grey ocean, in unutterable solitude.

Have you ever had the desire to be for once so isolated and untrammelled as to be able to shout and sing your loudest and none to hear? It is best for dignity, I find, to make sure the isolation is real before gratifying this harmless fancy— which we did not. Out of the encircling gloom came a pattering of naked footsteps and answering cries of assistance. We saw the shadowy forms of the coolies who keep up the bridlepath, and fled from our gallant rescuers. The glory had departed: breakfast-time was at hand.

After breakfast there are many things to while away the time,-early lunch, lunch, tea, late tea, and finally dinner, for the mountain air is appetising. In the intervals you can smoke cigarettes and sit about listening to the orchestra of the jungle.

From a dozen directions in the greenwood sea below there floats a sound most strange, most musical. Now it is the deepest resonant note of an organ; now a repetition of high clear whoops; then it is the two sounds alternating rapidly; then bursting sud

denly into a wild triumphant Yo yo yo yo! something like the chorus of hounds in full cry. That is the jödel of the Siamang. Do you care for monkeys? Personally, I know two kinds only, and detest them both the Brok and the Kra. The Brok is a big, brown, fatuous baboon, of the familiar lowcomedy pattern, for ever sputtering and scratching himself, and fidgeting with hands and feet and making faces. Should you desire to please him, you will squat (just beyond the length of his chain) in front of him, and similarly scratch your person, make faces, and sputter. Then in high good-humour he will amble round his post in as big a circle as his chain permits, clutching at your hair with an adroit high kick as he passes. Such are his low delights. The Kra is a small grey person of passionate appearance, with close set fiery eyes, very like my friend Brands, who keeps one. The tastes of this little fiend are still more primitive— namely, to fly straight at you with his tail sticking out and his crest sticking up, and bite you again and again: he is worse than Brok.

Far different is the gentle Siamang; but then he is a gibbon, and no monkey. In assemblies on the tree-tops live the Siamang, whooping through the octaves, calling to their friends from miles away, and swooping off to meet them, racing steeplechases with the winds. I have seen, and hope to live and see again, a pack of the Siamang going through the jungle- -a long black arm and a small crumpled body swing

ing wildly from it like a pendulum run mad, then a suicidal fling, a crash in the covering green, and so they are gone,

Tame, they are the gentlest creatures. The Malays catch young ones and bring them to our doors, knowing that buy we must. It is not among the possibilities for a Mem to resist the forlorn small speechless thing, when it winds its long long arms and fingers round her neck, and hides its black wrinked face of an old woman, with round unhappy eyes, in the softness of her morning gown. Or it lurches across the verandah on a pair of very bandy little legs, balancing itself with outstretched arms. But they always die. They who have weathered torrential rains under the open heaven die in captivity of consumption, and cough out their ill-comprehended souls like Christians, huddled in a blanket.

All day long the Siamang are calling, omnipresent though invisible. The Malays firmly believe that the utan rimba, the heavy jungle, is inhabited by a Folk Whose Voice We Hear, a race of audible though unseen fairies; and I too am of the faith, because the more you sit quiet and watch with eyes and ears, the more surely you will know that the great precept of the rimba (very different from what we are taught in the nursery) is this: Little beasts should be heard but not seen. There are shady paths all about the bungalow, where you can sit all day without fear of sunstroke. If you care to do so, perhaps once in 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 snake. You will be lucky if you see even so much, although if the monstrous wizard Sang Klembai were to pass and pluck up the utan rimba (as he could) by its roots as we pluck moss from a tree, it would be marvellous how dense a population were left naked and ashamed: tiger, black panther, rhinoceros, wild cattle, sambhur, mousedeer, sloth, tapir, porcupine, pig, elephant,-by their footprints they are known.

But at nightfall: there is a legend (my own invention) which tells that whosoever has by means of any sound of music brought death or madness upon his neighbour, he, when his time is come, is transported to these wildernesses to work out his redemption for a hundred years. And first, half a street's length down the hillside, the old blind beggar with the pipes breaks into sudden lament among the unbending trees. Does he know that his skirl is heard by human ears and take comfort? "Milk, milk," cries a despairing voice at our elbow, and is sped. Then the child with the Jew's-harp-that such a feeble thing should be so tormented!-goes twanging and sobbing by, not three yards behind the green - black curtain. The proprietors of the steam

Suddenly underneath our rustic seat the threshingmachine begins to burr. It is too near, too loud: the vibration jars painfully upon the ear. Then by the potency of that magic droning a spell is cast upon me. The tropic night is transfigured, the screen of black foliage withdrawn. Lo, it is the corner of a field on a winter's afternoon. Grass wet with rain grows between the lines of stubble over loose red clods. There are round ricks and heavy farm hands, and a threshingmachine champing corn. There is a bank and hedge with the blackberry leaves only half faded. The air is cool, with faint sunshine and a white haze. It is Devon, with the smell of her and the stillness of her patiently expectant of the spring. Then, quick as it arose, the sound ceases and the vision is gone. It was only a cicada, a little green cicada, careless of us and Devon and all the world, and he makes his music by scratching his head with his foot. This he does, so naturalists

aver, to please his wife. What an example to us all!

While we are moving dinnerwards there comes faintly from afar the snarl of a great cat hungry. It is "master stripes," before meat.







NOT easily would you have found a girl more winning in a tender sort than Giovanna Scarpa of Verona at one-andtwenty, fair-haired and flushed, delicately shaped, tall and pliant, as she then was. She had to suffer her hours of ill report, but passes for near a saint now, in consequence of certain miracles and theophanies done on her account, which it is my business to declare: before those she was considered (if at all) as a girl who would certainly have been married three years ago if dowries had not been of moment in the matter. In a city of maids as pretty as they are modest-which no one will deny Verona to be there may have been some whose charms in either kind were equal to hers, while their estate was better in accord; but the speculation is idle. Giovanna, flower in the face as she was, fit to be nosegay on any hearth, posy for any man's breast, sprang in a very lowly soil. Like a blossoming reed she shot up to her inches by Adige, and one forgot the muddy bed wondering at the slim grace of the shaft with its crown of yellow atop. Her hair waved about her like a flag, she should have been planted in a castle; instead, Giovanna the stately calm, with her billowing line, staid lips, and candid grey eyes, was to be seen on

her knees by the green water most days of the week. Barearmed, splashed to the neck, bare-headed, out-at-heels, she rinsed and pommelled, wrung and dipped again, laughed, chattered, flung her hair to the wind, her sweat to the water, in line with a dozen other women below the Ponte Navi; and if no one thought any the worse of her, none, unhappily, thought any the better-at least in the way of marriage. It is probable that no one thought of her at all. Giovanna was a beauty and a very good girl; but she was a washerwoman for all that, whose toil fed seven mouths.

Her father was Don Urbano, curate of Santa Toscana across the water. This may very easily sound worse than it is. In Don Urbano's day, though a priest might not marry, he might have a wife a faithful, diligent companion, that is to seethe his polenta, air his linen, and rear his

children. The Church winked at her, and so continued until the Jesuits came to teach that winking was unbecoming. But when Can Grande II. lorded in Verona the Jesuits did not, and Don Urbano, good easy man, cared not who winked at his wife. She gave him six children before she died of the seventh, of whom the eldest was Giovanna, and the others, in an orderly chain diminishing punc

1 Copyright in the United States of America.

tually by a year, ran down to
Ferrantino, a tattered, shock-
headed rascal of more inches
than grace.
Last of all the
good drudge, who had borne
these and many other bur-
dens for her master, died also.
Don Urbano was never tired of
saying how providential it was
that she had held off her demise
until Giovanna was old enough
to take her place. The curate
was fat and lazy, very much in-
terested in himself; his stipend
barely paid his shot at the
"Fiore del Marinajo," under
whose green bush he was mostly
to be seen.
Vanna had to roll
up her sleeves, bend her straight
young back, and knee the board
by the Ponte Navi. I have no laugh
I have no
doubt it did her good-the work
is healthy, the air, the sun, the
water-spray, kissed her beauty
ripe; but she got no husband
because she could save no dowry.
Everything went to stay the
seven crying mouths.

Then, on a day when half her
twenty-first year had run after
the others, old Baldassare Dar-
dicozzo stayed on the bridge to
rest from the burden of his pack
-on a breezy March morning
when the dust filled his eyes and
the wind emptied him of breath.
Baldassare had little enough to
spare as it was. So he dropped
his load in the angle of the
bridge, with a smothered "Ac-
cidente!" or some such, and
leaned to watch the swollen
water buffeted crosswise by the
gusts, or how the little mills
amid - stream dipped as they
swam breasting the waves.
so doing he became aware, in
quite a peculiar way, of Vanna


Baldassare was old, red-eyed,

stiff in the back. Possibly he was rheumatic, certainly he was grumpy. He had a long slit mouth which played him a cruel trick; for by nature it smiled when by nature he was most melancholy. Smile it would and did, however cut-throat he felt: if you wanted to see him grin from ear to ear you would wait till he had had an ill day's market. Then, while sighs, curses, invocations of the saints, or open hints to the devil came roaring from him, that hilarious mouth of his invited you to share delights. You had needs laugh with him, and he, cursing high and low, beamed all over his face. "To make Baldassare laugh" became a stock periphrasis for the supreme degree of tragedy among his neighbours. About this traitor mouth of his he had a dew of scrubby beard, silvered black; he had bushy eyebrows, hands and arms covered with a black pelt: he was a very hairy man. Also he was a very warm man, as everybody knew, with a hoard of florins under the flags of his oldclothes shop in the Via Stella.

Having spat into the water many times, rubbed his hands, mopped his head, and cursed most things under heaven and some in it, Master Baldassare found himself watching the laundresses on the shore. They were the usual shrill, shrewd, and laughing line - the trade seems to induce high mirthand as such no bait for the old merchant by ordinary; but just now the sun and breeze together made a bright patch of them, set them at a provoking flutter. Baldassare, prickly with dust, found them like their own cool

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »