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TABLE OF CONTENTS
REVIEWS of NINE NOVELS by Edaar Mitteliholzar
Thunder Returning ...
Latticed Echoes ...
Tinkling in the Twilight ...
The Weather Family ...
Kaywana Blood ...
The Harrowing of Hubertus ...
The Life and Death of Sylvia ..
Children of Kaywana ...
The Weather in Middenshot ...
A.J. Seymour. Dec. 1961.'
A.J. Seymour. Dec. 1960.
A.J. Seymour. Dec. 1959.
A.J. Seymour. Dec. 1959.
Joy Allsopp. May 1958.
Joy Allsopp. May 1955.
Evelyne Rayman. Dec. 1953.
Joy Allsopp. July 1953.
A.J. Seymour. July 1953.
PALACE OF THE PEACOCK (Wilson Harris)
by A.J. Seymour. Dec. 1960 ...
BLACK MIDAS (Jan Carew)
by A.J. Seymour. Dec. 1958 ...
TO SIR WITH LOVE (E.R. Braithwaite)
by Joy Allsopp. Dec. 1959. ...
Wherethe Firesare not quenched .. Carl T. Uchlein. July 1954.
Spirit of the Sea Wall ...
Banim Creek ...
Fences upon the Earth ...
The Madrigal ...
Lulu an de Camoodi ...
Out, out the Fire ...
Editor: A.J. SEYMOUR
A.J. Seymour. Dec. 1946.
Wilson Harris. Dec. 1961.
Wilson Harris. July 1954.
Wilson Harris. June 1947.
Wilson Harris. Dec. 1945.
Jacqueline de Weever. Dec. 1959.
Florence Caviglioli. Dec. 1959.
Martin Carter, May 1958.
GUYANA SUGAR CORPORATION LIMITED
AE E rBII IAA
our name implies
Guysuco is deeply involved in the Nation's
important goal of self-sufficiency in agricultural
produce. Continuous research, technological
advancement and agricultural diversification in
crops such as corn, legumes, cassava, oil palm as
well as aquaculutre, further increase the Corp-
oration's contribution to the Nation's economic
Guysuco s expansion programme now includes
the training of female apprentices, and in 1979
a new Diagnostic Centre was provided to offer
better medical care for its employees.
Because of these diversified programmes we say
that Guysuco is more than our name implies -
we are more than Sugar.
The literary magazine, Kykoveral, constituted an important part
of the intellectual history of Guyana and the Anglo-Caribbean in the
1940's and 1950's. More than anything else, the heart of Kyk lay in
its poetry, in the originality, range and vitality of the poems in its
pages, and the deep moral seriousness pointing to nationhood which
permeated everything printed.
In the eighth issue, the aims were re-affirmed-"to watch over all
the Guyana scene and to maintain intellectual activity in British Guiana
and the West Indies at its highest level; to be a forum for challenging
ideas and opinions interestingly set out with which the reader may not
agree but which are perfectly compatible with the free play of intellect;
to gather from everywhere ideas and influences which will improve the
quality of our thinking."
Over the 17 years of its existence, thirty-eight short stories or
extracts from novels were published. The decision to reprint selec-
tions in this issue made it possible to bring to readers of a new genera-
tion four short stories written by Wilson Harris, now one of the out-
standing novelists in the English language, and the single stories sent
in by two of Guyana's leading poets, Martin Carter and A.J. Seymour.
Reprinted also are a story in the tradition of the medieval fairy tale
and fantasy, a folk tale in creolese understood to have been in currency
in the upper reaches of the Berbice River, and a tale of man on earth
attaining moral perceptions, unusual for its authorial plausibility and
In its reviews sections, the magazine dealt with many wide-ranging
publications in literature, history and allied sciences, and these commu-
nicated the excitement in creating an intellectual tradition which
vitalised the reading and discussion of the passionate few engaged on
nation-building. Some of these contemporary reviews have also been
In Guyana as in the rest of the Anglo-Caribbean, the short story is the
father of the novel. It is because the writer, often incidentally a poet,
can try his hand at depicting an episode in his community life so that he
and other readers are satisfied that he will think of attempting the novel
in its definition of a succession of linked episodes. So the short story is
generally the first flight of the novelist. But whereas in England, public-
ation of a book of short stories is relatively difficult unless the author is a
successful novelist; in Guyana and the Caribbean, publishing a short
story is relatively easy since it can be easily printed in a magazine or
newspaper. The short story has a definite set of conventional roles such
as condensed length, single character vision and theme, a slice of life with
meaning, selectivity of significant detail, suspense, and climax. There
has been a strong tradition in Guyana of the short story. Soon after the
first World War, the Daily Chronicle and the Daily Argosy used to pub-
lish in December, the Christmas Annual and the Christmas Tide respect-
ively full of short stories and articles and even more significantly, full of
advertisements, which made the publications very profitable.
There were in recent decades, two major masters of the short story form
K. H. Cregan and H.V. Webber. Taking the story pattern of the English
commercial magazine as their guide, these writers gradually developed a
sophisticated approach to life and its problems, generally in the style of
boy meets girl, and used all the graces of the forum to attract and hold
the attention of readers. Of recent years, short stories written by
Guyanese novelists have been added to the Canon, and both for general
reading and for instruction in school. Collections of short stories have
been published in the United Kingdom for Caribbean use. It would be
instructive to compare these stories with the best of those published in
the annual confections, to draw conclusions as to the merits of the
commercial and the "literary" short story the plot, characterisation,
complications,suspense, action, time-sequence, subtleties of personality
and insights into community values.
For decades now, stimulated perhaps by the Christmas Tide and Annual
Competitions, there has been interest in the craft of the short-story. For
example, as a young writer in the 1930's, I was attracted to the genre
and was able to borrow from Guy de Weever, my brother-in-law, two
volumes on the craft of the short story written by John Gallishaw, and
I studied these as part of my preparation to become a writer.
In recent years, the Creative Writing Section of the Department of
Culture has offered courses in the art and craft of the short story and the
play for students, teachers and interested members of the general public.
The purpose of the course, was to enable class members to assimilate the
skills involved in plotting and drafting the short story. Lecture dis-
cussions related to these skills to the national goals of Guyanese society
and included analysis of the conceptional nature of writing as an activity
of the mind. -A.JS.
By Edgar Mittelholzer
In Thunder Returning, the second volume of the projected trilogy
upon which Edgar Mittelholzer is now engaged, we have a tragedy
following upon the comedy of manners which is the essence of Latticed
Echoes. The emphasis is no longer upon the "social Follies" of the
characters, Richard and Lindy, but the author apparently takes as a
text the line from Hamlet "this Way madness lies" and provides a
study in imbalance leading to madness, arising from the obsessive
jealousy working in the mind of a pregnant mother. There are flashes
of Sophoclean pity and terror in the Oedipus cycle of plays, where in-
discipline and circumstance dehumanise an attractive personality.
But let me outline the story. Richard Lehrer, the Guianese archi-
tect with the German ancestry working in Georgetown, finds that both
his English wife and the German wife of his friend, the English Engineer
with whom he had an affair some months ago, are pregnant by him at
the same time. His wife Lydia cannot forget his unfaithfulness with
Lindy her former friend and nurses her jealousy to a pitch of hysteria
which leads her to make an attempt upon the person of Lindy to cause
her to lose her baby. (This attempt is made when Lindy comes to
Georgetown from her home in New Amsterdam on a visit with her
husband, Tommy Rowleyson). It is now clear to Tommy that he is
sterile and he seeks solace in rum drinking and in orgies of self-pity.
The author also engages on a parallel study of Tommy's disin-
tegration by self-pity as he broods upon his lack of manhood and we
have an extraordinary picture of two households, seventy miles apart,
in occasional communication by letter and telephone with one another,
but the well-being of each progressively destroyed by cankers of
thoughts and memories. (This is what Blake meant when he wrote the
poem, 'Oh, Rose thou art sick"). There are many complications and
eventually after Lindy is delivered of a boy and Lydia of a girl, Lydia
takes her own life in a fit of aberration while she is by herself in
hospital. Tommy is involved in a struggle to make the housemaid drink
with him and Lindy s baby has a fall which decides Lindy that she
must leave her husband
The book is relieved by the introduction of a new character,
Richard s aunt, a spinster of 65, who had devoted her life to looking
after her father (now in his nineties) and finds that as her father passes
into his dotage and his death, increasingly he exhibits contempt for her
and this causes her to reassess her own sacrifice and dedication. Aunt
Emily finds she is called upon to act as mediator between Richard and
Lindy and to become a confidante and adviser to Lindy in her trouble.
This exposes her to the hostility of Lydia and the peaceful backwater
of her life is suddenly converted into a rapidly seething maelstrom
which forces her to make unaccustomed decisions. Aunt Emily grows
up before our very eyes, and it is her development which to a certain
extent makes the book bearable and relieves the overall picture of dis-
integrating personalities. She stands for life where nearly all the others
stand for death. Itt is extraordinary how the character of Aunt Emily
becomes the main image of New Amsterdam as the story progresses and
how the leitmotiv which is herself in the story ("tide turns ....
yearning years .... withering tensions .... sad birds chirp and twitter
... Crab Island .... ebbs.... Vrymen's Erven") becomes mellowed
as she acts as mother confessor and adviser in lives of greater complexity
than her own. Life suddenly has purpose and this takes her mind off
her own perpetual analysis of failures.
As always with Edgar Mittelholzer, this is a book you must read to
the end as quickly as possible. The action and the dialogue are com-
pulsive. What might keep us back is this new technique of the Leit-
motiv. The author takes his technique from Wagner's "The Ring" by
describing the characters in the story by symbols. These passages pro-
vide a pleasing musical effect and are adjuncts to to the dialogue which
carries the complete story. The leitmotivs tell you, if you care to study
them, which characters are involved in a scene and often the emotions
and conflicts which you will find. But of course, no one will study
them and everyone will be inclined to run rapidly along the compul-
sive story. It is surprising, however, how much we are conscious of
towards the end of the book as we learn the hang of the technique and
as the story itself accumulates its tensions.
When the book is cosed and we think back upon the effect, we
may be inclined to congratulate the author on the great (Germanic?)
industry he had displayed in the technique which we realise has been
there all the time, like music in the cinema, affecting our moods and
determining our responses. We will be grateful also for the "secondary
dialogue 'he has provided as scaffolding by way of the thought-passages
included in brackets.
By Edgar Mittelholzer
In this novel Edgar Mittelholzer has come home again. It is a
curious feature of the creative imagination that no matter how far it
soars upwards, or how far it ranges outwards, it always comes home
again. As T.S.Eliot says, "Home is where one starts from". It is
inevitable that the patterns of memories we lay carefully, deposit after
deposit, into our archives of the mind, are those out of which we spin
our truest webs, no matter where we live. And so in "Latticed Echoes"
this novel with a new technique, there is the old familiar atmosphere of
New Amsterdam. In the novel, the town is still the sleepy hollow of
Rip Van Winkle, full of gossip, a backwater of thought and emotion and
of solid old fashioned furniture, relatively undisturbed by the sweep-
ing changes taking their course in Guiana.
Of course this is not the first time Edgar has described New
Amsterdam. Therearedelightful hintsand intimations of New Amsterdam
to be found in "The Life and Death of Sylvia" and in that book which
we all praise"Shadows Move Among Them."New Amsterdam figures al-
so.ln the prose account "With a Carib Eye" in which Edgar gives his re-
actions to the West Indian and Guianese society, we have other
The New Amsterdam of "Latticed Echoes" is however largely
that of the stranger and not of the resident, because Edgar introduces
two couples from abroad, or rather a couple newly married and a son
of New Amsterdam who is bringing back an English wife. But to bear
witness to the truth of the town, there is the authentic moaning of the
alligator in the Lochaber Canal, and of course there is the wonderful
pealing and clashing of church bells for which New Amsterdam is
famous, as dusk falls on the Sunday evening. It is not all clear however.
We have to body out with our memories many aspects of New Amster-
dam itself, because of the new method which Edgar uses in this book.
We'll come back to this but it's a method which partakes, to my mind,
of the technique Virginia Woolf uses in "Mrs. Dalloway," and also re-
miniscent of the manner of the Aldous Huxley of "Brave World" and
"Point Counter Point." We have no descriptions of what the characters
look like, except as we pick up incidental touches in their narrative,
but we get to feel that we know the characters very well indeed,
What I think is one of the triumphs of characterization is the char-
acter of the play, Lindy around whom everything happens. Born in Ger-
many intensely anxious to have a child, worried over the possibility that
it is her fault and not that of her husband, speaking English as a foreign
language with just enough twang to make it attractive and to evoke the
paternal feeling in others, partnered by a husband who increasingly
gives himself up to drink, she is a stranger in every sense of the word in
this country where her husband has come to work as an engineer. Gra-
dually all the tendrills of our sympathy move out towards her, and in a
clever way the author builds our interest.
I don't think Richard, the Guianese, who is the other main charac-
ter like the second of a pair of eyes is a loveable character. Even on
the ship where one first makes his acquaintance as he travels back to
Guiana with his wife, the reader feels that he is hiding something-
perhaps that he is not fully in love with his wife. The author achieves his
effect by the use of menacing symbols and dark memories from the past
which run through his mind. What are these symbols? The sound of dis-
tant artillery,thebass buzzing of giant bees, the sense of being trapped in
a huge basement deep down in the core of the earth. His Yorkshire
wife, Lydia, by contrast is gay and rather girlish. She is obviously very
much in love with her husband, and very jealous of anyone in whom he
shows interest As the story progresses and we learn more of Richard
he exhibits other aspects which displease us. There is, to the Guianese
reader at least, a distasteful trait. As he talks with his wife, we feel he
is seeking to justify his Teutonic blood, and to belittle his Guianese
roots. His grandfather, who also loves the Germanic ideals, is an imposs-
ible man who takes advantage of his considerable age to be rude to
everyone in earshot and in sight, and who rather bullies the spinster
daughter who looks after the home and has dedicated her life to him.
We should look also at the English engineer Tommy Rowleyson who
is Lindy's husband. He is rather attractive to women in a filmstar sort of
way, but when we come upon him in the book, he has already become
addicted to alcohol and drinks nearly all day. This may be to amuse
himself in a country where there is hardly much else to do, and he finds
boon cup-companions at Albion and Port Mourant, so makes his way up
the Corentyne road rather frequently, to lower the level of a bottle. He
has discovered half way through the story, from a doctor that he is ster-
ile, and that the child his German wife so frevently desires can never be
fathered by him. How shall he break the news to her?
At the same time, Tommy becomes involved in labour trouble with
the road gangs under his control-this is not unusual development in
Guianese labour relations- and we are conscious of a careless bravery
and his laudable determination to do what he considers right, whatever
support he receives or doesn't receive,from the Georgetown headquart-
ers, under pressure from the Trade Union. On one of the nightly visits to
drink on the Corentyne, Tommy has the windshield of his car smashed
by a stone-it's by touches like this that the author builds up the tension
in the story.
In the meantime Lindy, wuth German thoroughness is undergoing
physical exercise, studying many books and taking long daily walks to
induce fertility. She finds it, but not in any cerebral or unusual sense-
indeed, quite normally- when Richard makes love to her to the sound
of a moaning alligator. And this is where the problem really begins.
Tommy knows he is sterile, Lindy realises she is fertile because she is to
have a baby, and here is a building upof dramatic tension until there is a
shattering scene in Tommy's house with smashed mirrors, pointed re-
volvers and the hysteria of a highly emotional and intricate series of
encounters which nearly wrecks both marriages and nearly takes a
life. At the end however, the emotion subsides and leaves them all ex-
hausted with somehow their characters altered. The primeval innocence
of Eden will never be with them again, but there is a new understand-
ing and a humility on all sides which hadn't been there before. This is
the bare bones of the story but, oh how excitingly is Edgar able to
clothe it with his storyteller's artl
There is a recurrent theme in Edgar Mittelholzer's novels that we
come upon here also-the praising of the discipline and the strength of
the Germanic tradition, as if Schopenhauer and Nietzche are always ex-
acting their tribute from Edgar's German-Swiss ancestry. It's very strong
in The Weather in Middenshot"-actually Edgar makes a sermon of it
there, much to the reader's annoyance, as the action slows up. It's pres-
ent also in the Kaywana series, as a desirable family characteristic; you
find touches of it in "Shadows Move Among Them" and it speaks, by
it s absence, in "Life and death of Sylvia"... But here it's displeasing
since it expresses itself as a belittling of the Guianese tradition. This I
feel is so displayed in "Latticed Echoes" as to be a disturbing aspect of
the characterization, and even less palatable than the leitmotif of sym-
bols to portray characters. We accept the symbolic technique as we go
on, but Richard is not forgiven.
There are many successes in the book of course and the story is so
beautifully told and rises, as we said before, to the impossible climax of
those shattered mirrors, pointed revolvers, protestations of guilt and hy-
sterical climaxes of emotion, all of which are true to the characters
which we have seen building up as we turn the pages.
What is the significance of the title "Latticed Echoes" and the story
to which the title is the gateway? The title tells us that we are merely
overhearing what are echoes and that we are behind a screen of lattice-
worK where we discern only imperfectly what is going on. The method
is disturbing at first because we have to learn phrases and passages which
represent the characters. I remember long ago seeing a film of Pride and
Prejudice and everytime Mr. Collins came in, there was a special phrase
which prepared us for his personality. I nearly said, for his particular
type of genius. After a time, whenever we hear the music, we expect the
character to appear, and there he is. It is like a special knock on the door
or a special weight of step upon the passageoutside a room, which brings
with it the knowledge of a special person's arrival. We've got to learn the
symbol before we can react fully.
Well, in the book, there are only four characters who rate for the
special technique, and they are brought together in the town of New
Amsterdam where Richard was born. Because Richard is a type of the
author, as this is his birthplace and he too is of German extraction, the
reader tends to introduce an autobiographical element, to the story's
disadvantage. But as we said before his symbols include the artillery and
the giant bees. Lindy as a symbol seemscool,clear and incandescent,but
in certain conversations with Richard a snake uncoils amid the shadows,
terrible in its echoes through the latticed stirring of blacksage and lind-
ens. (This incidentally is the snake on the cover jacket.) But I think the
reader can indulge in this game, which compares with crosswords and
detective stories of finding the phrases and symbols which go along
with the other characters. It slows down the reading in the first few
pages to a tempo which is unusual in a Mittleholzer novel.
I would suggest that this is the first use of the new technique and
that the author is therefore feeling his way through to greater mastery.
The technique obtrudes here, but in later books will probably be better
assimilated. What can I say in German to toast the new technique? Up
and the mellowing of the new technique
Tinkling in the Twilighr
by Edgar Mittelholzer
A TINKLING IN THE TWILIGHT by Edgar Mittelholzer (Secker &
Warbug 18/-). The vein of humour which used to be sardonic in his
previous books I remember the sardonic overtones and echoes in
Morning at the Office and Shadows Move Among Them seems to
be changing from the intellectual to the earthy in the Mittelholzer
canon. Perhaps success is mellowing the author. However, in this new
novel, the author makes his hero the retiring bookseller who lives in
Paddington, alone with his Yogi routine, undergo a quietly humorous
transformation in personality which gives release to his suppressed
sex life and changes him from a figure of fun to a figure of sympathy.
The change, is, in a sense, accidental, but it suddenly forces Brian
Liddard to look outwards from his tightly controlled absorption with
himself and his own states of mind. If we know our Mittelholzer, we
know that he believes sex of some sort is a key to open the cup-
boards of humbug and let the roaches and cobweb out and very soon,
this is an element mixed into the unravelling of the plot which then
moves with his usual mastery of suspense to the end.
What is the story? The tale of a man who by brooding upon changes
of time in the past unwittingly stumbles upon a door which leads
him into the future, and to his horror finds that he is powerless to
control the opening and the closing of the door. Edgar has often des-
cribed the state of mind of a man going mad, or believing that he is
going mad, but on this occasion we all feel the sense of fun as Brian
describes in his notebook the strange feelings he has, and the frus-
trations which come upon him are comic in situation. Is it not comic
for this austere bachelor to be suddenly faced with the charms of a
professional "pedestrian" and to have to wriggle out to the accom-
planiment of her mocking laughter?
Even more entertaining to the reader with any interest in the future are
the glimpses of the world of 2064 into which Brian breaks through
(I wonder does Edgar see himself as a reincarnation of George
Orwell or the younger, more platinum Aldous Huxley ? Can he re-
sist the temptation to become prophet as well as professional enter-
tainer?) First of all, music and we hear the opening chord of
Pembroke's Murder Symphony. After the blood-curdling scream
of the music, the audience in its rapt darkness, with the orchestra in
its pit under the floor, responded to the significant silences, the lovely
Howling Hiatuses, the scream and thunder and the sob and wail.
Then Art. In 2039, it will take the Times critic nearly 2% hours to find
the Yellow Dot in a painting by Charles Partridge. You see, the painting
was in the Dot Obscuro of Art tradition. "Whoever paints human
figures and landscapes and still life as they did in the old days"?
The Mittelholzer projection about the novel of 2064 is of course
an interesting one. In that time ahead of us readers go to creative
literature for their sound, not sense. "The critics praise impact and
contact, not content". Of course, as the historian told him, it was
sentimentality which eventually slew the society of the 1950's.
Democracy is a music hall word and the country is run on the coterie
system which evolved in Germany. But I must stop here.
Service, Security, & Protection -
Your family, your home
your personal belingings
with an Insurance Policy
1, Avenue of the Republic, G/town
Serving Guyana and the Caribbean
The Weather Family
By Edgar Mittelholzer
The WEATHER FAMILY by Edgar Mittelholzer (Secker and
Warburg- 18/-) is one of the liveliest of the Mittelholzer books. There
is a gaiety and freshness, like that of a girl preparing for her first ball,
which recaptures on a larger scale the sheer gamin quality of Olivia,
that little Puck he created in Shadows Move Among Them. In this
recipe for a Book Society choice, he has compounded the normal in-
gredients of middle-aged bachelor teacher, a West Indian family with
its teenagers and its tensions and thrown in for good measure a West
Indian hurricane which tosses housetops curlicue against trees, pours
the rain in a liquid eiderdown upon the canefields, unearths a fan mill
like a toy machine. The link between the family and the hurricane is
a rain gauge, because the family is crazy on changes in the weather and
has perfected a technique of plotting these variations. So to them,
Janet the hurricane is an occasion for exhilaration than for fear. To
this reader, there is something Rabelesian about the vast screen of sea
and sky and the antic play of the hurricane, like a kitten with houses
and trees. The intrigue of the love story, or rather stories, and the
adolescent approach of the young heroine are reduced to minor key
by the larger character known to be lurking out in the ocean off Barbados
and suddenly appearing on the stage to bring characters together and
resolve all tensions in a great wave of contiguity. All the poet in
Mittelholzer rises to the surface as he describes the panther wind
smashing the Gospel Hall into splinters ("God's match box" he calls
it) The last few pages of the novel seem the fierce ending of a tremen-
dous passage of music where no member of the orchestra draws breath
but plays plungingly on like an ordered chaos to the end.
By Edgar Mittelholzer
It must be, I suppose, more difficult to write a historical novel
where the characters live in recent times, within living memory of so
many people, because there is then room for contradiction. Neverthe-
less Edgar Mittelholzer has produced such a work in his latest book,
KAYWANA BLOOD, the last of the trilogy dealing with the lives and
loves of the van Groenwegel family, a stirring tale.
As in the two previous novels, the story of the family is interwoven
with an account of the history of British Guiana. This book, dealing
as it does with the period from the nineteenth century to the present,
has as interesting a historical background as the others. In the hands
of this excellent storyteller it becomes easy to understand the frustra-
tion of the planters in whose memory the colony had passed uncon-
cernedly from hand to hand, being in turn Dutcn, French, Dutch,
British and at one time nearly achieving Swedish nationality. The story
of the growth of the city from Longchamps, chastely laid out in squares
by the French, to the Dutch Stabroek, then Georgetown with its re-
curring ravishments by fire, would fascinate anyone.
For those who are on one side or the other of the old argument
about heredity and environment, there is much food for further debate.
The 'Old Blood' comes out again in very much the same way as in the
former generations. In every generation of the family there is the son
or daughter who becomes intense either in love, politics, or simply in
defence of the old family motto The Van Groenwegels never run'. In
the end, very neatly, the family name dies out as there are no more sons
to bear it, but the old blood continues in the many branches who, for
various reasons, use a different name, and who now, have in their veins
not only the blood of their common ancestor Kaywana, but also that
of just about every race which has settled in British Guiana African,
East Indian, Chinese and Portuguese. The family has spread itself in
another direction also, and can now be traced in every level of society,
from English aristocracy to the most despicable of small shopkeepers.
Mr. Mittelholzer's favourite views concerning religion and sex, are
once more given an airing, and he presents another facet of the picture
of Rev. John Smith, the famous missionary and martyr, one which is
not usually told to children in Sunday School.
Anyone reading Mr. Mittelholzer's books must be aware of his
sensitivity to the beauty of trees, to the various moods of the weather,
to the music of nature. He paints nostalgic pictures of a part of the
country with which he is obviously intimately familiar.
The story ends at the time of the 1953 elections, just at a point
when the reader would ask eagerly, 'And what happened next'. After
following the fortunes of the Van Groenwegel family through all the
generations and through three centuries, it would be useless to suppose
that everyone could live happily ever after. They could not, not with
the 'Old Blood' spread around in so generous a fashion. The only hope
is that in this ever new and modem environment the family traditions
will speak in gentler tones, and that the new blood intermingled with
the old will modulate the same old themes into new and richer harmonies.
.. thee going tbkig
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Rahaman' Park. Greater Geortown. Phone 68686.
The Harrowing of Hubertus
By Edgar Mittelholzer
Those of us who enjoyed "Children of Kaywana" and waited an-
xiously for the second volume of the series, will not be disappointed
in "The Harrowing of Hubertus". The story continues chronologically
from 1763 until 1802 and we follow the fortunes and misfortunes of
theVan Groenwegel family and of British Guiana through a very in-
teresting period of history.
It was at this time that the government of British Guiana changed
hands with Dutch to English in 1781 then French in 1782. Through
the enthusiasm of the loveable if lisping Wilfred, with his passion for
statistics, we are kept informed of all that takes place at the new Fort.
St. George "very near to Plantation Labourgade at the very mouth of
the river, East Bank. The name of the Governor at that time was
When the French took over in 1782 the Dutch planters, having
been made to take an oath of allegiance to the English the year before,
were now called upon to take one to the French.
And no sooner had the French taken over than this most interesting
proclamation was issued "To all whom it may concern, be it known
that it is considered necessary, from the great extent of this river and
its banks (the Demerara) to have a capital which will become the busi-
ness centre where religion will have a temple, justice a palace, war its
arsenals, commerce its counting houses, industry its factories, and
where the inhabitants may enjoy the advantage of social intercourse."
And so was born the town which we now call Georgetown. The French
were systematic. They planned the town well, and passed a law that all
kitchens should be built in brick, to reduce the risk of fire.
In 1784 British Guiana once again became Dutch and again the
planters were called upon to take oaths of allegiance. The fort at the
mouth of the river ceased to be called Fort St. George and was re-
named Fort William Frederick, and the new town of Longchamps
was renamed Stabroek.
But the romance of our own history is only part of the attraction
of this novel. As in his previous novels, Edgar Mittelholzer has created
vivid characters. Hubertus dominates the book. He has great strength,
physical and of character. He has schooled himself to speak English as
well as his native Dutch.. He is greatly influenced by the traditions of
the family, even though he takes care not to instill them into his
children as his ancestor Hendrike did. There are times when he is very
ashamed of his ancestry, but yet when prompted by his cousin Faustina
or by his own daughter Luise, he cannot help conforming to the van
Groenwegel tradition, and then he is proud of 'the blood I despise -
or imagine I despise.
But he is always struggling with himself. As he says 'How can one
be loyal to God and to the flesh at one and the same time? The flesh is
of necessity evil,yet to yield to its urges is to woundthe spirit. The spirit
cannot grow in stature while the flesh is being satiated.' And he never
really solves this problem.
His wife Rosalind is English, and everything about her is well order-
ed, her household, her children, herself. She is deeply religious and is
greatly troubled by her husband's lapses from the high standard he has
set himself. She is however always ready to forgive and try to help him
find peace within himself. If she has a fault it is only lack of under-
standing, but then, as Hubertus' cousin Faustina says 'Good, pure
people don't always understand'.
Edward is the sort of person who knows the loneliness of being
alone in a crowd, The rest of the family have always thought him queer.
from the time he was a small boy. Edgar Mittleholzer excels in his port-
rayal of this sensitive yet strong character who has a passion and genius
for design and later is among the first to build a town house in the new
town created by the French. The love of twenty-eight year old Luise for
Edward, ten years her junior, would normally invite unfavourable re-
actions from the reader for these characters, but here the author succeeds
in arousing sympathy for both Luise and Edward in this most unusual
No mention of any of Edgar Mittleholzer's books about Guiana can
be complete without reference to his awareness of the beautiful in
nature, especially those things peculiarly Guianese 'dismal December
rains 'the air cool with the scent of leaves and fruit blossoms and the
vague aroma of damp earth'. One feels that Hubertus' great love of trees
is the author's -
"Hubertus ... looked past the men at the fruit trees, The sun
glittered in their foliage and the sackies and kiskadees twittered
amidst the branches. The mangoes were in blossom and very
faintly on the air drifted turpentine aroma that of a sudden grew
stronger as a breeze, audible a moment ago as a hissing far away, now
sizzling through the foliage of the trees.'
And there is a moment in time like a beautiful bubble that has
somehow been preserved for us and that can never be destroyed for the
kiskadees will always sing and the mango trees blossom in Guiana.
The Life and Death of Sylvia
By Edgar Mittelholzer
Once again Edgar Mittelholzer shocks his readers to attention with
the dark and tortuous maze of the human mind and his abrupt and un-
glossed descriptions of life.
His latest novel "The Life and Death of Sylvia", rises like a
trumpet call against the brittle society in British Guiana. Sylvia's life
from The suggestion of a sigh mounts in feeling to a heart-rendering
Sylvia is a girl of mixed blood whose English father with his un-
conventional ideas and unrestricted way of life was the main influence
in moulding her character. Charlotte, her mother of African and
Amerindian parentage, weak, maudlin and with streaks of cruelty in her
character, can do nothing to help her children retain their social posi-
tion when their father is murdered. With no education she is not astute
enough to save her husband's estate from the promissory-note-eating
Mr. Knight, a man without the redeeming features of Scrooge. He turns
the financial screw not only because he has obtained their patrimony
through Charlotte's ignorance, but with the hope that Sylvia in unac-
customed poverty would agree to be his mistress.
A brighter touch is Sylvia's friendship with the lovely Naomi and
Milton Copps who befriends her and tries to put the necessary steel into
a romantic adolescent mind not strong enough to fight injustice.
Sylvia s job-hunting and the insults, she receives, her hopeless
enmeshment in poverty, her fight to keep her ideals alive are realistically
dealt with. Like Milton Copps' description of the music he likes, the
tragic theme is alive with dissonant chords.
The vivid descriptions of people and scenes, the particular flavour,
mark the author not only as a brilliant writer but an observant Guianese
He knows his people and country. His description of the different
levels of society with its "tangled mass of cliques and clans and sub-
cliques and sub-clans is bitter but true.
People who because of their cliques know nothing of each other,
distrust and despise those of other complexions and hair-quality who
show their admiration for wealth regardless of culture, fail to remove
the barriers that hammer understanding and unity.
His colourful word-paintings of city, coastlands, rivers and sea are
touched with poetry. Georgetown takes new glamour with descriptions
that tell of "the looming dignity of cabbage palms, the languid fragility
of coconut palms, the mysterious foliage of mango trees, breadfruit
trees stamping the silhouette of their grotesque leaves, like devil
hands against a patch of mauve sky" ....... "Evening settled in
violet around you and turned the air soft and leafy-smelling. How
could anything seem sordid when such pinks and yellows were blending
together over the river the insects were cheeping in the grass. And look
at the Saman trees in Main Street patterned in spidery sepia against the
skyline of housetops. Sniff the invisible fragrance of flowers" ...
"The air smelt fresh and filled with night dew, leafy and full of earth
and flower scents '.
More the introvert type of novelist, Mittelholzer is absorbed with
the workings of the mind and once again brings in the strains of the
Oedipus-complex and masochism which were high notes in the "Children
of Kaywana" and "Shadows Move Among Them." But although the
minds of his characters may be touched with dark shadows, and more
probably because of it, they seem to be very realistic.
New in this novel is Sylvia's Dali-like dreams which are used with
Freudian effect. The author's interest in the supernatural seems to have
found a natural outlet in her dreams of "old men turning somersaults ...
a car rushed past. A ship sailed after it. It sailed on the hard surface
of the street ....... the sun made the water sparkle with a thousand
eyes ..... a jostling crowd of round breasts thousands of pages closing
in against her" ..... These dreams stand out like a sub-conscious
motif to Sylvia s untimely end.
Children of Kaywana
By Edgar Mittelholzer
In his Foreword to the historical novel "CHILDREN OF KAY-
WANA" Edgar Mittelholzer says he has no doubt that many people will
read the book simply as a tale, not caring two hoots about the historical
background. I suppose there are people who will and they will enjoy
the tale tremendously. But for Guianese there is the added enjoyment
of reading about the history of their own country.
The average Guianese has a far too vague idea of the history of
B.G.,and this is a pity, not only because we have a most fascinating
history, but because as A.L.Rowse says in his book "The Use of His-
tory" "It is most important for a nation to have a rational and
commonsense, a true tradition of its own history: one that makes sense
of the past and makes events and their upshot intelligible. It is an essential
factor in the strength and coherence of a people and a chief element
in their success and effectiveness." Of course, one has the excuse
that there are few books available on the history of B.G., and one has
to be interested enough to find them and piece his knowledge to-
But now Edgar Mittelholzer has done this for us. His novel "Chil-
dren of Kaywana" must be the result of years of painstaking and
ture he has painted of the life of the early settlers in B.G. is vivid and
The story moves through six generations of the Van Groenwegel
family. First we meet Kaywana, daughter of an English sailor who in
1595 came ashore when an English ship captained by Sir Walter Ral-
egh came into the Berbice river. Kaywana lives on the Corentyne
with her mother's tribe and one day she meets a Dutch sailor, who
however dies in the raid of 1611 when the Corentyne settlement was
wiped out by Spaniards. Kaywana, with the other survivors, go to live
in Essequibo, where there is a Dutch settlement at Cartabo Point.
Here, her son is born. Later she becomes housekeeper to a Dutch
trader, and also mother of his six children. With this colourful beginn-
ing the story goes on and the fifth generation of the family can claim
English, Indian, Dutch, Negro, Spanish and Carib blood. They are
The story is not centred only in Essequibo, presenting a picture of
life on the romantic Fort Island. Kyk-Over-AI, Cartabo Point and the
old familiar names that stir in all Guianese a desire to know more of
their history, but through the experiences of a branch of the family
who settle on the Corentyne, we also live again the exciting events
that took place there, culminating in the Slave Rebellion of 1763.
The theme that runs through the book is best expressed by quoting
Hendrikie The family is what matters. The family must come before
all other considerations. You must keep repeating to yourselves: I come
from a great family. I must never let down the family name. I'm proud
that I'm a van Groenwegel. The van Groenwegels never run." as she
drills her grandchildren. And in each generation there are some who stick
to the old traditions and one or two who are more interested in books or
painting than in fighting and the family honour. In the end, Jacques,
who has been rather despised by the others because of his 'soft streak'
and physical cowardice, decides to go back and help defend his old
home. He sends a message to his wife and young sons- "Tell her that
it is a matter of indifference to me whether she tells our sons the tales
of old or not for l.m convinced now that heredity decides all family
histories...while the Christian philosophy is an excellent one a civil-
ised philosophy -, we must live up to its ideals only in so far as it enab-
les us to be humans one to another:it must not be allowed to convert
us into sentimental weaklings; we must always remember the animal
and we must always be prepared for outbreaks of savagery. And in order
that savagery might be kept in check we must be strong physically
strong. Physical strength results in moral strength... the fool who att-
empts to evade the truth or escape from reality is doomed from the
beginning ... weakness is always bad. Strength is always good."
Most of this of course is the philosophy of Edgar Mittelholzer him-
self, and throughout the book one will find expressions of his own -
sometimes rather startling- ideas on religion and sex.
Then there is the poetry of Edgar Mittelholzer's descriptive pass-
ages. He seems to be particularly aware of the sound and look of the
river. Of the Essequibo, he says "The air was still and warm, and the
river kept up its hushed soughing against the bank, amidst the roots of
the mangrove and the courida and the wild cacao.Far away in the south
over the jungle, lightning flashed in swift, crooked forks, but they could
hear no thunder. Only, all the while, the river whispering. Monotonous-
ly with vague menace." And again "Some days there would be a gale
on the Essequibo. High wind with slanting rain rushing over the bush and
the choppy water. It would go swooping up the Mazaruni, and when
Laurens looked across at Kyk-over-al he would see it like a frayed mon-
ster sleeping mysteriously in the river, hazed but unheedful of the pelt-
ing moisture." On other days the brown muddy water flashed in a
dazzle of morning sunshine."
Yes, it is obvious that Edgar Mittelholzer knows and loves his
land. We look forward to the other two volumes in the Kaywana series.
The Weather in Middenshot
By Edgar Mittelholzer
In his fifth and latest novel, "The Weather in Middenshot", Edgar
Mittleholzer has for the first time written a full story in which the action
takes place outside of the British Caribbean. Coming after "Correntyne
Thunder", "A Morning at the Office", "Shadows Move Among Them"
and the "Children of Kaywana", this new book to me is a kind of in-
terlude written with the left hand, as he works on the second book in
the Kaywana series. It's very interesting too from the view point that
from his experience of living in England after five or six years,
Mittelholzer has woven a novel with this pattern of events. Is this a
judgement on England?
First of all, let us consider the story. The action is laid in a fictitious
village in England named Middenshot not far from the Broadmoor lun-
atic asylum. The principal actors are Mr. Jarrow, who has been harmlessly
mad for seventeen years since he was involved in a motor smash: his wife
Mrs Jarrow, whom he believes to be dead and whom he only speaks to
at the spiritualistic seance which he stages once a week; his elderly dau-
ghter Grace, who shrinks away from any change of the routine of living
with her father and mother, but who still dreams of a possible romantic
attachment with a village neighbour, Mr Holme, an ex-policeman who
grows orchids. But Mr Holme's daily char-girl, young Hyacinth, is also
in love with him, and she firmly believes and as the story tums out rightly
believes, that her fortune would be made by her figure and particularly
by her rump which is the shapeliest in the village. Into this quiet village
life, there are suddenly introduced terror and horror. A homicidal
lunatic escapes from the neighboring asylum, and night after night an
innocent victim is found murdered. Two talkative and moralising de-
tectives come into the village, the emotional life of which experiences a
sudden rise in temperature; Mr Jarrow plays a great part in destroying
the murderer. Hyacinth wins the affection of Mr Holme, Grace shrinks
back into her routine family life, Mr Jarrow brings back his wife from
the dead and resumes his life with her after these seventeen years and
the village falls back into another routine of quiet, with its characters
To describe the story in this way is to omit three important char-
acters in delineating which Edgar Mittleholzer excels They are the
wind, the fog and the show. It is the weather in Middenshot which
cements the tale and holds the story together. The wind was a lewd
demon, Mittleholzer tells us, whining and whooping down the chimney
and determined to hurl a hoarse coughing horror through the cottage
where Grace was shivering. And the fog was a white murrain upon Mid-
denshot, spreading slowly through the trees and over- the ground,
thick and furry. That was how the weather looked to old Mr. Jarrow
who hadthefog in his mind. To Mr. Holme in his dreaming the fog was
a warm soft animal, like Hyacinth and her femalness, and to Hyacinth
herself, scrubbing the rectory floor, the fog was an occasion for weav-
ing cobweb fantasy.
The detectives North and Southerby come with the tick plick of
the snowflakes against the window-panes. The snow was like detective
Southerby's moralising on how to get rid of perverted minds in our
civilisation; it was a soothing insistence, a quilt up above, shedding its
The whole philosophy of the book is summed up perhaps in one
of Grace Jarrow's thoughts, as she remembers half-afraid, half-long-
ingly, her walk with Mr. Holme the morning before, going into the
village High Street She thinks "It's like the weather, I suppose. Wind,
fog or snow, we can do nothing. We can only wait and take what
So the winter weather dominates the story and as I say, Edgar ex-
cels in the touches of poetic resemblances as he describes these changes.
The book as a whole is almost Pan-like. (Should I say Panic?) in its
appreciation of natural things. It might so easily have become a melo-
drama, but it is saved from this by a certain insistence upon the heroic
qualities of man.
Technically, the writing is of a high order; the author has used the
device of the interior monologue, how people think in their minds.
Because the author is Mittelholzer and therefore some of the emphasis
is on sex, there are passages in this interior monologue which resemble
the thinking of James Joyce's Mrs. Bloom in "Ulysses", thinking that is
stripped naked of censorship. But regularly, by skilful selection, as in
the section of the book on the fog, under whose protection murder is
perpetrated, there is an attractive combination of snatches of the
thoughts of various characters. This gives the reader an immediate im-
pact and also lends an all-wise, all-seeing and perceiving of the way
people's minds are moving, an Olympian view-point which completely
justifies the craft of writing. Incidentally, it's sometimes like the
careful plaited conversations in Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World".
I'm always interested in Mittelholzer's characters and the way he
works them out in his books. I think for instance, that he is not quite
fair to Grace Jarrow. After a very sympathetic beginning, he seems to
lose interest in her because she is an elderly spinster, and this reader
feels that his interest in Hyacirth benefits at Grace's expense. As if he
too, like Mr Holme, had decided to choose the earthy rather than the
idealistic character. Mrs Jarrow is successful as a nice sentimental, faith-
ful, elderly wife, and Mr Jarrow's method in his madness becomes clear
in the end, with perhaps sufficient uncertainty as to the originof his
motive to make his character an intriguing one. The question one asks
is 'Did Mr Jarrow really plan all these years to avenge on Major Rudstow
the crime he had committed on Mr Jarrow's childhood sweetheart,
Above everything else when one comes to think of it, Edgar
Mittelholzer's book is a sermon. He intended it to be a sermon because
he regularly and deliberately holds up the story to let the detective
Southerby and the others preach to us. What is the text of the sermon,
I shall tell you in words of the discourse that Southerly and the others
keep on pouring out, with the same insistence as the snow falling, and
these are their words :-
"Men are really only self-tamed beasts, but beasts remain beasts,
whatever coating of civility and culture is laid over them. A small per-
centage of us continually menaces the safety of those with the better de
veloped brains. Our business therefore is to eliminate these inferior b
brains wherever they occur ... a brain that makes for constructive peace-
ful living is a good brain, a brain that militates for chaos and destruction
is a bad brain.
Most people avoid the dreadful. Think only of what's pleasant. But
the dreadful is always there, always simmering behind our backs, or
beyond our blinkers, always waiting to surge into view... It's strength
or weakness that counts in this life of ours.- If you act with strength,
you win out and you achieve worthwhile states of being. If you act
with weakness, you lose and you suffer chaos and defeat.
The requisites of a successful human civilisation are four:- strength,
discipline, alertness and elasticity it shouldn't shackle itself to rigid
formulae of thought and behaviour ... What we need is an education
free of religious bias and based on the elements of courtesy. Courtesy is
a quality possible of attainment by all humans everywhere but can we
ever hope to unite the world of men in religious thought and myth?"
We can say this novel "The Weather in Middenshot" takes Mittel-
holzer to another philosophical position. In the novel "Shadows Move
Among Them" he had been telling us that we must withdraw from the
world to heal ourselves like the sick hero. Now he tells us that society
can purge itself in a totalitarian way.
But Edgar, isn't this the path away from all the ideals of demo-
cracy? Aren't we like Mr. Holme, the orchid grower, giving up Grace
with her finer feelings, for Hyacinth and her shapely rump?
PALACE of the PEACOCK
By Wilson Harris
From another point of view, the same question may perhaps be ask-
ed of Wilson Harris that readers ask of E.R. Braithwaite, the author of
"To Sir With Love" Is his work a novel in the classic or accepted
sense of the word? With Braithwaite, one is left wondering whether we
are reading the plain text of the story of a man who encountered and
overcame prejudice in one of the out-skirts of London, or has the text
been treated to show how steadfastness and human sympathy can pay
dividends in the hearts of the underprivileged? At the end some readers
and reviewers claim the result is a little bit of both. But people have
tended to shy away from the view that E.R. Braithwaithe is a novelist,
despite the presentation of the matter in its story style, and to say that
this is autobiography.
When the perceptive reader comes upon "Palace of the Peacock",
this first book by Wilson Harris, he'also will want to ask whether
this is a novel in the accepted sense of the word. Here is the tale of a
number of dead men who travel up river into the interior of Guiana as
a crew under the compulsion of their leader with a "dead seeing material
eye '. The voyage seems to have no purpose in it, the narrator, the I
character, confesses early that his left eye has an incurable infection,
while his right eye, which is actually sound, goes blind in his dream; in
fact,the reader on the very first page is robbed of the quality of logical
judgement by the introduction of an element of symbolic violence which
is described as a dream. Everywhere the material world is overlaid by
symbol as we can see from the following passage.
'We walked to the curious high swinging gate like a waving symbol
and warning taller than a hanging man whose toes almost touched the
ground the gate was as curious and arresting as the prison house we had
left above and behind, standing on the tallest stilts in the world".
The reader then finds himself following the crew in their journey;
they come to an Amerindian Mission where for a moment, people crowd
about them to verify whether this was the same crew which had been
drowned to a man -in the rapids below the Mission not so long ago. Then
they shrink away before the leader Donne, who had a bad name in the
savannahs and they vanish. The tale then passes into a description of the
characteristics of the crew, and the story picks up again with the decision
to follow the people of the Mission up river where they have fled. The
journey up river continues, but now the atmosphere of nightmare has
thickened. The crew talk and quarrel, and the author tells us of their
personal lives and backgrounds. One by one they fall into the second
death. On the fifth morning, they abandon the boat and climb up
ladders nailed on the sides of the huge cliff walls within which the boat
has been travelling.
As they climb, the survivors come upon a vision in the cliff. There is
a young carpenter in a room with "a rectangular face, chiselled and cut
from the cedar of Lebanon." and he touches a primitive ram which runs
out of a picture on the wall. Strange things happen. Then at another
window in the cliff, there is a room with a solitary candle and a woman
with a child no higher than her knee. In the vision, the woman is dressed
only in her hair, and the watcher goes blind.
On the seventh day,there is the vision of the peacock, the tree that
suddenly waved its arms and walked "This was the palace of the pea-
cock and the windows of the soul looked out and in". The faces of the
dead crew appear at windows in the Palace of the Peacock.
Then there is music, "and it seemed to me as I listened I had un-
derstood that no living ear on earth can truly understand the fortune of
love, and the art of victory over death, without mixing blind joy and
sadness, and the sense of being lost with the nearness of being found."
On the last page we read -
"One was what I am in the music buoyed and supported above
dreams by the undivided soul and anima in the universe from whom the
word of dance and creation first came, the command to the starred pea-
cock who was instantly transported to know and to hug to himself his
true invisible otherness and opposition, his true alien spiritual love with-
out cruelty and confusion in the blindness and frustration of desire...
Each of us now held at last in his arms what he had been forever seeking
and what he had eternally possessed."
This is the bare outline of the book, but it is enough to show that a
powerful imagination is at work on the convention of the novel, overlay-
ing the narrative of a boat trip up a Guiana river with many symbols such
as the vision of the carpenter and the seven days of creation mixed with
the idea of the return from the dead. The characters are treated as types
of Guiana with their mixed origins Schomburgh and Donne are namws
with deliberate evocation of historical personages the brutality of
events and the broken dialect of speech are in sharp contrast with the
web of abstractions which clothes the tale. There are sudden kys
to the meaning of the book which the reader stumbles upon in
passage the sense of fear that breeds bitterness in our mouths, con-
structing the events of all appearance and reality into the vain prison
they are, "the wall that had divided him from his true otherness and
possession was a web of dreams." Overtones will be heard of the Ancient
Mariner, of Homeric myth, of Dante's Inferno and of Dostoevsky.
The reader is not always sure of the meaning of what is happening
Although the background is Guianese and the characters are Guianee
types, the approach is philosophical rather than historical, rooted in
Guiana, but not necessarily of Guiana. Those who know the write's
poetry will realise that he has reforged the sensuously exciting style
of "Eternity to Season" so that it can bear the other harmony of prom,
but one has the impression that this poetic imagination, like that of
George Barker in his first novel "Janus", is straining at the frontier
where symbolic meaning shades into incoherence. This is a first book;
we await with great interest a second from a writer who, if he succeeds
will affect the tradition of the novel.
`9 D 0EMIO
When next you're in town, drop in
ano pay us a visit Right n the
nerve-cente ot'the city. DEMICO
HOUSE is proqd to serve all Guyanese
with their wide range of quality
products. DEMICO HOUSE
S. a name all Cuyanese can
be proud of!
By Jan Carew
Jan Carew in "Black Midas" presents a racy story of a diamond
digger who strikes it rich, makes a fortune and then comes down river
from the interior and loses it all in Georgetown. It's typical of the
stories we know of gold and diamond diggers who light their cigars at
Bartica with five dollar notes and send extravagant telegrams to rela-
tives in town. In another sense it's typical of the Guianese, the West
Indian, the colonial, that he is successful when he pits his skill and
strength against nature but when he comes into the field of personal
relationships, he is less successful, he is duped right and left by crafty
confidence men and even in the area of what is called love, he fails
because male friendships are never trustworthy and crack from jealousies
and female affairs stop with the body and never get close to the mind
and the spirti.
There is another way of reacting to the world of "Black Midas".
Like the legendary King of Phrygia, Ocean Shark finds that the fortune
that brings him present happiness in material things costs him the
friendship of his men companions and the affections of his women
friends. Unlike Midas, .Shark is unrepentant and the fever is in his
blood. As he says towards the end of the story, "I'm sorry 'bout every-
thing, Pancho, 'bout the girl, bout Bullah, 'bout all the time and money
I wasted, but what's the use! Lord, if you ask me what I want to do
now, all I can tell you is that I want to strike it rich again.
There is folk poetry in the early sections of the book, in the des-
cription of Mahaica and of the boy's life with his grandmother and his
unscrupulous uncle who steals from his road gang wages. And there is
a fine ring in the statement of Brother C (the only real father that
Shark was to know). "Boy, the white man does write down all they
story black and white, but we does keep we own lock up in we belly.
Time will come when we got to write down we story too,cause if we
don't write it down, it going to get lost"At least the story of the dia-
mond digger has been written down in "Black Midas". But here I must
make a personal comment."
I remember when Jan Carew paid his last visit to British Guiana, and
went into the interior with Wilson Harris. As he states in a note at the
beginning of the novel, he thanks Wilson and Herbert Scotland for
valuable background material. There is one thing I regret and I say it
here and now. Ocean Shark, the name given by Jan Carew to his hero
was also a real person of whose prowess there are many tales scattered
over British Guiana. The late B.R. Wood, the burly Conservator who
organised the Forestry Department in the 1930's once told me some of
them saying that Ocean Shark knew the bush like the palm of his hand
and that he could go in at any one point and come out, incredibly and
miraculously, at any given other point, between here and Brazil. In his
book, "The Marches of El Dorado," Michael Swan recounts a few of
the Ocean Shark stories and of his poker face dealing with Amerindians
and ranchers alike. These tales established an Ocean Shark personality
which is completely alien from the personality built up in Black Midas.
Jan s character doesn't have the aplomb, the cool adroitness and
the bluff that belong to the Ocean Shark of interior legend. There is
one instance which could come into the canon the occasion when
Ocean Shark's equipage arriving for the races at Durban Park is so
impressive that you forgive the Militia Band for making the mistake of
believing that the Governor's party had arrived and so striking up the
National Anthem. But even here Jan's hero wears it unlike one
accustomed to the purple. He moves about like a man with a high
fever and is taken home limp as an empty sack.
This particular reader was therefore disturbed throughout the book
by the validity of the remark that truth was stranger than fiction. The
Ocean Shark of truth shall I delicately say legend far surpases the
Shark of fiction, and if Jan Carew had given another name to his hero,
all this conflict in the mind of one reader at least would not have arisen.
We wanted a type not the mythical king of the type of diamond seeker.
But to the readers in the United Kingdom and the United States of
America, these problems of adjustment will not arise. They will see the
picture of a society pitted against elementals, the difficulty and reluc-
tance of nature to yield her treasure and the difficulty of the
elementary passions of acquisition and possession that he who has
must hold and he who falters will fail in a primitive society, geographi-
cally and moralistically not far from Darwin's Amazonia. The dangers
of man and beast and river and rock-face breed a naturalheroism and
so a basic comradeship among the characters.
The novel is episodic, rather than built together and there are per-
haps too many sexual overtones, but that too is the life and we look
forward with great interest to further linguistic experiments and more
racy stories from Carew's pen.
To Sir with Love
By E.R. Braithwaite
Francis Thompson in his 'Hound of Heaven' said,
"I sought no more that after which I strayed
In face of man or maid:
But still within the little children's eyes
Seems something, something that replies
They at least are for me, surely for mel
I turned me to them very wistfully:
In his search not only for employment, but also for understand-
ing, this is what Mr. Braithwaite did. After demobilisation from the
R.A.F. and equipped with 'a science degree and varied experience in
engineering technology', he applied with a certain amount of confiden-
ce for suitable jobs. But at his very first interview, after encountering
the scarcely veiled disapproval of the receptionist he was told that in
spite of fulfilling all the requirements of the job, his appointment
'would adversely affect the balance of good relationship which has
always obtained in this firm'. This theme was repeated with only slight
variations as he applied to fill other vacancies. Eventually, after eigh-
teen months, he is advised to apply for a job as a teacher. Here he is
at last accepted, and is sent to a school in the East End of London.
A feeling of desperation was quite possibly coupled with wistful-
ness as he faced his class for the first time. For this was a class of teen-
agers, boys and girls, children who were underprivileged, underfed, sus-
picious. He, like these children, had faced many deprivations and frus-
trations though for different reasons. Would children judge him just
as another teacher, or would they too, debit his colour first? Perhaps
one could even say there might have been some sort of kinship between
these children from London slums and a negro from a little known
colony. Both have feelings of bitterness to be overcome and an eager-
ness to wrest something better from life. It is interesting to surmise
the possible differences in attitudes which might have resulted if the
school to which this teacher were appointed had been in a more select
area of London.
At this time in the history of human relationships, when Little
Rock and Notting Hill are fresh in the memories of all those interes-
ted in the colour problem, this account of a negro school teacher suc-
cesfully winning the confidence and even affection of a class of English
children is like the proverbial spot of blue in a very cloudy sky. Mr.
Braithwaite s fundamental belief in the essential goodness of people ir-
respective of colour or creed shines through the story. He writes with
integrity not only concerning his relationship with the pupils, but also
with other people. Through the unexpected kindness of a Jewish
tobacconist, he is helped in his search for lodgings near the school. He
goes to the suggested home at once, but is told, "Sorry I'm not letting'.
A voice from inside calls out, "Who's it Mum?" and the woman replies
scornfully, Some darky here asking about the room'. As he turns
away the young voice cries out 'Oh Gawd Mum' it's Sir, it's me teacher'.
That the mother later visited the school specially to ask 'Sir' to take
the vacant room speaks volumes.
Even as he begins to realise and take pleasure in the hero-worship
the children exhibit, he realises that there can be pitfalls. The mother
of the most attractive girl in his class asks him to have a word with her
daughter who's been staying out late at night. 'She'll take notice of
what you say, Sir, she always does'. Although flattered, the teacher
realises the danger of becoming involved in the family affairs of this
good looking widow and her aubum haired daughter. Someone else
is equally conscious of the unfavourable gossip that could arise from
this situation. Gillian, his best friend on the staff, warns him to be
A different problem arises when he visits Gillian's parents. On a
completely different social plane from the school children, Gillian's
father is connected with international finance, and often travels abroad,
Her mother is a fashion designer and the family home is at Richmond.
While,with the ease of good breeding,the parents accept Ricky as a well
educated and interesting person, they are aware that this friendship
with their daughter is more than a passing fancy. They make no secret
of their anxiety that she should be contemplating the difficulties of
a mixed marriage. Besides, they're worried about their grandchildren,
'they'll belong nowhere and nobody will want them'. But Ricky
answers proudly, 'I hope we will have children and those children will
belong to us and we will want them.' He might have added that the
children could happily belong in his own country too.
One wonders waht difference it might have made to the story if
Mr. Braithwaite had not been lucky enough to have the constant friend-
ship and encouragement of his landlord and landlady, affectionately
referred to as Mom and Dad. In the evening he could freely discuss the
day's difficulties with them, and enjoy the benefit of their advice. It
must have made a considerable difference to the bouyancy of his spirit
to return each evening to a home, a place of unclouded relationships, a
haven from the cold and unsympathetic vibrations of a large city.
The children as well as the rest of the staff are sketched in with
bold strokes. The cool viciousness with which these 'force-ripe' boys
and girls set out to 'break' their new teacher is told with candour. His
was no sudden or miraculous victory, a weaker character would have
given in early in the game. Facing the same class all day of every school
day, trying every method of reaching them, of claiming their interest
and attention in spite of themselves, this must have been a severe
physical as well as mental strain. Only sustained and imaginative effort
could have achieved the dramatic success which led up to the climax in-
dicated by the title of the book. Joy Allsopp
Where the Fires are not quenched
By C.T. Uchlein
The Guyanese who knew Carl T. Uchlein in the 1930's
in his position of Secretary to the Income Tax Commis-
sioners, and probably judged him as a little, matter-of-
fact man without a touch of humour in him, may be sur-
prised to read this compelling vision of life in the caveman
age which he said was vouchsafed to him in a dream.
The story is written in the 18th century manner and
is remarkable for the subtle authorial touches and fine
work choice that belie the deceptive opening seemingly
drawing attention to a prosy and tiresome insomnia.
These lead the reader on sympathetically into the story.
Uchlein is full of little details like the time of the vision
12.30 a.m., the long white beard of the Magus from
Lagash in Babylonia, the modest appraisal of himself in
comparison with him and their incredible journey through
space and time to the cavemen. We are told that the
Magus had been sent to instruct the dreamer in the be-
ginnings of religion and the discernment of right from
wrong. The author tells us with a minimum of detail how
the memory and mind of the persons he was examining
was like an open book before him and he could see the
reason for every move, and how his thoughts and his
mind were operating.
This is a tale told with the clarity of a vision of two
cavemen Dang and Tung, and of Lall the voluptuous,
lighter-skinned woman from another tribe over whom
they fought. The moral of the story applicable then and
in our time, is that leaders must not break the laws they
have made or they willsuffer retribution from higher
I have a habit- whether good or bad I cannot say-and that is to
dream. At the same time if it be bad, I am afraid that I will not bring
myself to make any effort to be rid of it as it gives me lots of matter
which is very interesting and so that I can occupy my leisure hours try-
ing to fix a meaning to the strange scenes I have witnessed and what
they meant to teach me, if in fact they are direct revelations as I some-
times believe them to be. Also there is much that is amusing, sometimes
hilarious, and also at times too much that is horrible and occasionally
positively terrifying. In spite of this last I do not desire to be rid of a
habit which affords me such interest which at times is as positively ab-
sorbing as the one which is in my mind at the present moment and which
I will relate to you.
One night in March of this year, I went to bed at the usual hour but
in spite of the night being very cool and very breezy, I was unable to go
to sleep promptly. =1 searched aboutfor the reason but seemingly nothing
was wrong. I apparently was not suffering from indigestion, I had not
slept during that day and was not overtired, but try as I might, I did not
close my eyes until nearly 12.30 a.m. I did not seem to have been sleeping
for a long time when I was vouchsafed a vision. Isay vouchsafed ad-
visedly because the dream that I had was of such a nature that if one
considered that it was sent by design as in my secret heart I would like
it to be deemed, vouchsafed is exactly the word that I should use with
reference to this manifestation that I then received.
There appeared to me a seer of the ancient world, and he himself
was an ancient man, his long white beard hung straight down his breast
until it nearly reached his feet, so that at times it seemed capable of
tripping him up. His head was perfectly bald without a grain of hair
showing, and was shining and round as an egg. His face was lined with
wrinkles which crossed every portion that was left exposed by his vol-
uminous beard. But withal he still kept himself perfectly neat and his
eyes were bright and piercing, as if it was his intention to, and he did
exactly see right through one.
He informed me that he was one of the Magi and resided in ancient
Babylonia, and I have an idea that he mentioned the ancient city of
Lagash. He, however, did not mention his name and told me that he had
been sent, but by whom he did not say, to instruct me in the beginings
of religion. He also suggested that if I gave his teaching the attention
that it was worth and followed his reasoning closely, there was hope, but
he did not appear to think that it would come about, that in time I
might become as wise as he. But looking at his apparent extreme age, I
certainly thought that I would be dead and buried before I reached that
exalted height. He also was kind enough to address me as his son, but I
thought that he might with truth have put me several generations fur-
He spoke for some time or so it seemed, but what he said I cannot
now very well remember, so that it seems that his estimate of my ability
to follow his reasoning was correct, and that the difficulty which I would
have to reach the position intellectually to which he had arrived was very
real indeed. He did say, however, that every distinct part of a creed was
the result of some experience in the human race which from the circum-
stances had impressed itself on the imagination of the people in an in-
delible fashion, and that mankind had fought its way upward from a
savage (I would almost say an animal) state, and that every new vision
broke with such inspiring forcefulness on some particular individual that
the impression was that he had been vouchsafed an inspired revelation.
That at one time mankind lived without the knowledge of right and
wrong and that some person superior to the rest developed a conscience
and thereby felt exceedingly sorrowful for some sin he had committed,
which of course happened when he had been found out and punishment
was about to overtake him or perhaps what he deemed was the great
punishment for that particular act.
He then stated that he would take me to see an incident in the life
of people living when the world wasyoung in order, that I might under-
stand what he was telling me. He then put his right arm around me and
though he was ancient, yet his arm seemed to have lacked no strength.
His power also over nature must have been great, and I felt a thrill at the
thought that at some date I might reach the same development and I was
pleased with the idea of imagining how I could surprise my contempor-
aries by the exercise of similar gifts.
He bore me up with him in the air and we began to shoot through
space at an unheard of rate but always parallel to the earth's surface.l
will never forget my sensations during this journey,. At first I was over-
come by an overmastering fear but gradually it subsided, and it was suc-
ceeded by a feeling of great content, and I enjoyed every moment of
this long journey. We sped over rivers and lakes, woods and forests, hills
andforest-clothed mountains, seas and oceans, but whether it was a jour-
ney to the particular place where these people dwelt or over the cent-
uries to their epoch I cannot tell, though it appear to have been the
latter.For at first the configuration of the land resembled the present
surface of the earth, but it subsequently took a formation which was al-
together new and strange.
At last, however, we landed in valley running at the foot of a high
mountain on the face of which were innumerable caves. It was morning
and the first peep of dawn was just showing. The place seemed to be
the abode of a very primitive tribe who lived in the caves two or more
families generally being found in each. At the entrance of each cave a
fire was burning, which seemed to have been placed there to keep away
savage animals which otherwise would have gone into the caves and des-
troyed the inhabitants. Two or more persons seemed responsible for each
flame and it seemed that they had taken watches in which to attend to
the fire, for in the faint light of dawn I would see a dim figure appear at
the entrance of one of the caves and let fall a bundle of firewood on it
and then draw back into the shadow. Also, here and there I would see
the dim figure of some prehistoric carnivora approaching an entrance and
have to turn back because of the fires. I saw the terrible sabre-tooth tiger,
the gigantic cave bear and various other beasts of the carnivora species.
Gradually the dawn began to lighten, and the various animals
to slink away to their lairs, and figures of men and women appeared in
the entrances of the caves. At last when it was fairly light, a woman
stepped out of a cave apparently to carry out some duty. She came
boldly out looking to left and right, but at the same time not neglecting
to arm herself with a blazing brand. And it was well that she had taken
this precaution, for a large cave bear, which had been hidden behind a
huge projection of rock nearby, suddenly appeared and charged down
upon her with a savage roar. She promptly flung the blazing brand in his
face, turned and ran for the shelter of the cave, at the same time shout-
ing at the top of her voice in her language which seemed to be made up
only of monosyllabic words. At the sound of this alarm, men hurried
out of each cave, each armed w ith a brand and a club or spear sharpened
into a fine pointThey surrounded the bear which had drawn back from
the brand flung at him by the woman, and which menaced by the blazing
torches, was able to put up only a half-hearted fight and began to make
a slow retreat The men of the tribe still half surrounded it and pressed
as close to it as circumstances would permit. Now and again they were
able to get close enough to drive a spear in its side or deal it a blow
from a club. At last vhen the fight had lasted fully half-an-hour and the
bear had stopped for a moment in seeming bewilderment, perhaps ex-
hausted by the continual harrowing which he had endured, a huge man,
not so tall but the broadest across the chest that I have seen, and armed
with a mighty club, rushed in and struck the bear a savage blow be-
tween the eyes with all his might, which laid him dead at his feet, The
bear however, had got his own back because in the path which the fight
had traversed, there were two casualties, one man whose head had been
crushed with a blow from his paw, and another whose thigh was laid
open and who lay on the ground as if dead.
When the bear collapsed the tribe, evidently bent on not taking any
risks, still continued to beat and pierce his carcase with their spears until
there was left no doubt that the bear was dead. They then made a circle
round the dead body and shouted and roared at the tops of their voices
stamped, jumped and skipped. Just before they had begun the dance of
victory, the brands had all been thrown on the ground in a heap which
had begun to blaze. The people then made a circle around and still
shouting, began to bow down themselves before it, and obviously
showed their adoration and reverence as to a great and mighty god who
alone was able to bring down the great cave bear by his strength and for
whom all creation had such a wholesome respect. Then the big man who
had killed the bear approached the body from which he cut off two
huge junks of flesh, threw them on the flames, and let them be devour-
ed apparently as an offering to the god.
After they had taken up the wounded man and carried him into his
cave where his wives gave him such attention as their experience suggest-
ed they cut up the meat and each household took its portion The big
man who officiated at the worship of the god also supervised the shar-
ing of the kill and it seemed that he was the chief of the tribe. They now
came and went about their daily duties, and I was able to notice more
especially their personal characteristics. They were a dark-skinned race,
and were absolutely without clothing of any kind and showed their
bodies without a sense of shame or fear. They had low foreheads and
broad faces, and in height, averaged 5ft. 4in., but were an exceptionally
broad-chested and long-armed race. The chief of the tribe was a gant.
He was fully 5ft. 6in. and broader in proportion. Also his face seemed
more intellectual than that of his fellows and seemed to have been given
to more thought, if that is possible in such a man
I may mention that while my companion and I were able to see
and hear everything, we were not visible to the tribe but were like a pair
of ghosts moving among them. We were as if we had put on the invisible
helmet, and we were able to move freely among the people see every-
thing, hear all that was said, note all the private motions and actions of
each individual without the inconvenience of being seen outselves. After
a space of time which seemed to be about two days, I got to know every-
thing about the most important personages. The first in importance was
of course, the chieftain whose name was Daug. He had about ten wives
and lived with them in the topmost cave which was big and roomy. It
appears that the tribe which numbered about eighty men and about two
hundred women had come originally from a place aboutsix days journey
away, where they had been familiar with fire. This place seemed to have
had a subterranean volcano and in spots the flames could be seen issuing
through cracks which had been made in the rock. The place, however,
was more or less desert and there was not much hunting to be found
there. The tribe therefore deemed it advisable to seek better hunting
grounds. They then sent exploring expeditions, and at last the spot was
discovered. They brought the fire with them and worshipped it as a god
but did not know all its uses for instance, they deemed that anything
thrown into the fire and even slightly scorched had been accepted by the
god, and the scorching was a srgn that he had devoured some of it and it
became consecrated to the god. Anything there which became partially
burnt or scorched was immediately thrown into the fire as a sign that the
god had accepted it and required the sacrifice by all faithful worshippers.
For example, the man who was slain in thefight with the bear had fallen
on his torch and had received a burn on his side. His body was taken and
burnt before nightfall with appropriate ceremonies. Again, a woman at-
tendant on the fire, of which I will explain more fully further on, was
one day accidentally burnt on the leg. She was immediately brought be-
fore the chief who adjudged her to have been consecrated by the god.
She was put into a pen, and I may say well looked after. Every hunts-
man had to bring a portion of his kill and present it to her, on an appro-
priate day she was brought out and with a regular ceremony her head
was bashed in, her body flung on a heap of fuel arranged before the
caves and so consumed amid the dances and worship of the whole tribe.
The fire was kept burning day and night by the oldest women in the
tribe in a cave which had fissures which seemed to go through the moun-
tain to the other side, and these fissures were used as chimneys. The
fuel used was peat-like earth which was brought from a spot some dis-
tance away. The fire had to be kept burning day and night, and the
women attended to it in watches. As my conductor and I stood over this
fire he said to me. "This is the origin of all vestal fires and vestal virgins,
although at present this tribe attributes no virtue to virginity or scarcely
realises what it is.'
Daug took a great interest in the tribe, always watched over the
members and endeavoured to prevent as much as he was able strife am-
ong the men, as that was one reason for the small proportion of men.
His judgements seemed to have made improvement in the behav-
iour of the tribe although the aggressor was never put to death. If the
fight was for the possession of a weapon or a kill, and the aggressor won,
the spoil was confiscated and consecrated to the god by being burnt
publicly. If the prize were a woman, the bachelors of the tribe were
made to compete for her and she was given to the winner of the com-
petition. As an example, in one instance that I saw was, the throwing of
a spear at an object Here I may state that I did not see everything neces-
sarily but that the memory and mind of the person whom I was exam-
ining was like an open book before me at the moment, and I could see
the reason for every move and also how his thoughts and his mind were
operating. Daug then was much in advance of his people, was a very
successful chief, and the tribe seemed to be happy and contented under
his rule. He had begun to rule about 12 years before, the preceding chief
having been killed in a great fight with a sable-toothed tiger which Daug
had afterwards succeeded in killing. Even then he had to dispose of two
claimants for the chieftainship before he was established in the office.
Since then his rule had never been challenged.
There was another man in the tribe in whom I took a great interest.
This was a youngster called Tung. One could see that he had just reached
man's estate and yet he was quite as tall as Daug, though not as broad,
but it seemed that when he reached full maturity he would even be tall-
er and broader than the latter. His mind also was as much developed as
Daug s, but at present he had no ambition except to be thought a good
hunter as unquestionably he was. No man in the tribe was capable of
teaching him anything about hunting, and moreover he was an adept
with every weapon. Though at the contest which I have related above, he
had been absent for some days, and that brings me to an incident which
I will relate. One morning my companion decided to follow Tung when
he left for hunting. At daybreak he took his spear and his club and set
out on a brisk walk. He went through the forest with his eyes and ears
alert for a possible enemy. After walking rapidly for about half-an-hour,
he found a tree trunk and a pole drawn into a river bank. He jumped
on the trunk and pushed it off into the stream. The current immediately
took him and carried him rapidly down the stream. He used the pole
then to steer the log so as not to run into the bank and not to be taken
too far out into the centre of the river. The river here was about a mile
and the current was strong. So he went along at a fast rate, and we who
were following were walking, or rather running on the surface of the
stream in order to keep up with the log. It had gone some distance, when,
with a loud roar, a huge sabre-toothed tiger sprang from the bank some dis
tance ahead and was seen swimming towards the log. Tung immediately
fastened his pole in some branches which were attached, and crouched
on the log with his club held at the ready. The sabre-toothed tiger app-
roached and stretched out one of his forelegs to grip the log. Tung imm-
ediately sprang at it, and brought his club down with a resounding smack
on the leg breaking the bones. The tiger drew back his leg with a roar,
seemed staggered for a second, but immediately continued swimming
with his good leg which he soon after stretched forth and found it dealt
with like the other. This tiger was now in an unfortunate position. He
could not swim against the tide because of his broken forelegs, so he
drifted down the river until he was carried below by a huge crocodile-
After his victory Tung continued on his voyage. About mid-day he
was leaning over the side of his craft looking intently in the water as if
waiting for something to appear, with his spear ready to strike. Suddenly
his arm shot forward, and when the spear was pulled out there wasa large
fish with the spear stuck through the body. He immediately pulled the
body to pieces and crammed the flesh in his mouth. At about mid-after-
noon, he arrived at a little alcove on the bank of the stream. Here he
landed, pulled the log up partly on the bank, hid it with the overhanging
leaves, and with his weapons and the balance of the fish he strode off
through the forest. After about one hour's walk he came to a glade and
from his actions seemed to have expected to have'met someone or some-
thing. Not seeing anyone, he waited for a few seconds, and then uttered
a sharp animal cry. This was immediately answered and soon after there
came into theglade a young woman. She was of much lighter shade than
Tung and probably her body was something voluptuous by the way that
he looked at her, but I am unable to appreciate that in any such
creature. Her face was as ugly as Tung's people, her hair hung matted
over her forehead, and she was as nude as he was and as unashamed.
The only difference that I saw was her lighter skin. I may state here
that in examining Tung's mind sometime before I had discovered that
he had discovered the art of sailing on a log and being able to steer a
course with the end of a pole and on his first voyage he was startled
about this spot at seeing a face peering out at him. The face immediate-
ly disappeared so he circled round, and after seeing nothing further he
approached the land with great caution and sprang ashore. When sear-
ching in the forest, this woman suddenly sprang out and fled through
the forest. Tung immediately sped in pursuit and it was evident from
the start that he was overtaking her. After some considerable time had
elapsed and a fairly good distance had been covered, the woman tripped
herself up by catching her foot in a root and fell outstretched on the
ground. Tung immediately secured her, and in spite of her struggles,
scratches and bites, bore her through the forest. At last he came to
this glade and there Tung, perhaps sick of her blows, because by this
time his face was covered with blood, handfuls of his hair had been
plucked out, and his eye was completely closed, deposited her on the
turf and began to belabour her with the end of his spear until she be-
gan to whimper with pain. Then she opened her eyes and stared at Tung
with a frightened look like some whipped cur. Tung then put an end to
the punishment took her in his arms again, and this time she made no
attempt to struggle. He deposited her at the foot of a tree, sat down be-
side her and began to make love to her This at first she resisted, but we
had better draw a veil over their future actions.
When they were finished, they hunted through the forest and killed
a small animal which modern scientists claim is the ancestor of the
modern horse. Then as it was near sunset they climbed to the top of a
huge tree and settled themselves to sleep. The next week was spent in
hunting, sleeping, and of course, in love-making. These primitive people
seemed to be able to communicate thoughts to each other, although they
do not understand each other s language. Tung then made the woman to
understand that he must go away to his own people, and did not know
when he would return but would endeavour to do so in about 10 days'
time, and that she must keep a look out for him. He then embarked on
the trunk and as the current was not so strong in the shallows near the
bank, he was able to push his craft only with the help of the pole. In 10
days he was back, and at regular intervals he visited the woman as he did
on this trip.
This time as the woman came into the glade, shemotionedTung into
the shadiest part and there immediately told him that her man had be-
come suspicious about her frequent long absences.. With a companion
he had followed her on this occasion as she had hidden and seen them
searching for her, and at the present moment they might not be very far
away. Tung then decided that they should.....hide... They therefore en-
sconced themselves in the branches of a tree and were enjoying them-
selves when they were suddenly startled by hearing the sudden report of
a snapped twig below them. Tung sprang up as readily as a startled an-
imal, peered through the foliage, and saw two men climbing up into the
tree. Seeing that they were discovered, they descended and Tung as
quickly descended, dropped off on the end of the trunk and faced them.
Each was armed with a club and they both rushed at Tung together. He
circled around them until he got them into a position of one in front
of the other when he pressed the first one, barred a blow from his
club and brought his club down with a smashing blow on hishead. His
man was killed immediately and his dead body fell against his companion
who was then, for a moment, put out of action. Tung was quick to seize
his chance. He rushed in and dealt with this one as he had dealt with his
companion. Now master of the stricken field, Tung leaned on his club
and surveyed his fallen foes. The woman, springing out of the tree, drew
near and put her arms around him with an expression of pride and rev-
erence in her eyes. They then left the spot, and after spending the bal-
ance of the day together, it was decided that the woman should return
with Tung to his people. So on the next morning, they set out, the wo-
man being provided with a pole of her own. Thus they made more rapid
progress, and after an uneventful voyage Tung returned to the caves
with his new found wife. It was amusing to watch the curiosity dis-
played by the members of Tung's tribe. They crowded around the
woman, pinched her, prodded her, and often rubbed her very hard until
the skin was almost bruised as if they thought she might have had a
covering of some colouration over her skin which gave her this fair col-
our. One man even attempted to run his spear into her to make sure that
she was mortal and could bleed and also die. He was stopped by Tung's
aggressive attitude.Altogether, she was molested in this way for the first
few days after she became as one of the tribe as far as any notice of her
was taken, but altogether the others seemed always suspicious and not
In a day or-two-she settled down as Tung's accepted wife in his cave
and entered fully into the life of the tribe. At first she was afraid of the
fires which she saw burning, but at last Tung was able to get her to hold
a brand. She did this with a great amount of caution as if she expected
it to leap from the stick on to her. After a week she came and went
freely and I said that she must have been voluptuous from the way she
was regarded by the men, for Tung had to kill two to keep his prize. I
noticed Daug often sitting in front of his cave and eying her with a sen-
suous look on his face. So bad it got that on one occasion he followed
her into the forest and attempted to induce her to give herself to him.
He said, "I big chief, Tung little boy. I eat him up in no time. I am more
suited to you. Come to me." To all of which she said, "No, Tung great
warrior,. He kill two great warriors of my people. He kill you too."
Such was her faith in Tung's prowess, and she remained faithful always.
At last, about two months after she had arrived among the tribe, Tung
early in the morning went into the forest to hunt. Daug saw him go and
immediately followed. Tung went through the forest as usual with a
wary step, but Daug was lurking behind. He was certainly shadowing him
with murder in his heart. When they had got into the heart of the
Daug made an effort to increase his pace and immediately made a slight
sound which attracted Tung's attention. He swung round on the instant
and the rivals were face to face. He sensed what Daug had intended to do
and was immediately on the defensive. Daug with his great club seemed
intent on closing in. Tung realising that he had a strong opponent to
deal with came to the conclusion that it was best to keep at a distance
and use his spear. Then they circled around each other for some time.
Tung meanwhile made several attempts to get at Daug with his spear
which the chief skilfully avoided, but he did not come off altogether
scatheless, as at one time Tung succeeded in piercing his arm. Thus they
went with Tung circling round Daug, and at last Daug managed to catch
hold of his opponent's spear and as his club was too heavy to wield with
one hand, he dropped that and they closed. It was evident from the start
thet the fight would go to Daug as he was the stronger and the heavier
man. They wrestled for a long time and at last fell, Daug above, Tung
below. The end of this fight was gruesome for he literally tore Tung to
strands, but at the same time he did not come off without evidence of
the fight for Tung's teeth had met several times in his arms and else-
where in his body.
Bloody but victorious, Daug rose and gathered up his weapons and
the weapons of his dead foe,and set off for the caves. As he got near he
had reasoned with himself that he had made a law which I have related
before, that if a man killed another for the woman the prize was to be
forfeited. Therefore, if he said that he had killed Tung he would lose
Lall. He therefore made up his mind to lie and to say that Tung had
been attacked by a savage species of ape which roamed thereabouts. So
walking boldly into the clearing he related the occurrence to all who
might choose to hear. He said that he had heard the roaring of the beast
and when he came on the scene he had found Tung almost dead. He had
rushed in and succeeded in despatching the beast, but not until he had
got the wounds visible on his body.
The people came around and listened respectfully but Lall, remem-
bering the incident in the forest, seemed inclined to doubt his word.
However, being a newcomer to the tribe and as the others, because of
the fear they had for Daug, accepted the tale without comment, she was
obliged to acquiesce. Then Daug, turning to her, told her that as her man
was dead she must come to his cave. She looked helplessly around, but
seeing no one likely to give her assistance, she meekly obeyed, went be-
fore him and entered the cave. The next days Daug was not seen, but
the next day he appeared famished-looking and went hunting.He brou-
ght back his kill,and he and his woman enjoyed their fill.Things went
on in the usual way with the tribe for about a week when one day after
it had been very hot and close during the morning,the earth began to
tremble, a split appeared in the mountain and a huge rock came crash-
ing down the mountain side. Lall and several other persons were stand-
ing in its path and they were all cruched to death by it. Daug was not
there at the time. He had felt the earthquake in the forest and had rush-
ed to see if anything had happened. When he stepped into the clearing he
was told of the happening. He said nothing but his face was distorted
with pain. He went to his cave but in the evening he came out and called
the people about him. Seating himself on the chieftain's stone he spoke
to them in this wise, "I Daug, the great chieftain, made a law that who-
soever coveted a woman and fought for and won, that woman should
be forfeit and given to another. It is not the law, O people? Hear, all
people. When Tung was killed, it was no ape that killed him, but I. I kill-
ed him for the sake of Lal, his woman. I followed him through the for-
est to kill him but he turned and saw me coming and we fought. And I,
because of my great strength, for who can conquer me,killed him. But
fire, our god, who sees all things and is a terrible and just god, saw me
and was determinedthat I should lose Lall, and today she has been taken
away. Terrible and just is Fire and terrible in his judgments." And seiz-
ing a brand from the fire before the entrance of a cave, he waved it be-
fore them shouting, "Worship Fire, the just and terrible god, who drove
off our enemies and can punish those of us who will do wrong and who
will not obey the laws and has this day punished me, even me, Daug,
the great chief."
And the people fell on their faces and worshipped, and Daug also
fell on his face and worshipped the fire, holding his hand aloft.
CO-OPERATIVE INSURANCE SERVICE
For Good Sound Reasons
on all insurance matters
By A.J. Seymour
Greenheart the only piece of fiction published by the
Editor in the career of Kyk, is described as a fable around
the famous Guyana wood. It is a story with an emphasis
upon the unusual and even amazing, and created for the
purpose of moral instruction.
As with many Guyanese stories, the writer weaves
little plot development, avoiding the attributes of the
English, glossy-magazine story. The main element, the
vision of life informing the work, is that of the concept
and consciousness of the need to attain the unity of the
Technically there is a story within a story. It is of
interest that arts and science are equally stressed, that the
character had been a mathematical student and that half
way through, the focus changed to light upon the
There are several elements of interest in the story -
how it dawned upon Ida Montague as a widow of 30
that she could transfer her life into one of purpose; her
physical power as a woman and the death of her
Amerindian husband; the rigorous education plan for her
sons and the story of their political dominations of their
racial groups. But this is all woven into the free play of
conversation between Matthews and Jim Pearce and his
The story Matthews told Jim Pearce and his sister Edith began
characteristically, at the end. It began with a scene on the balcony of
the Guiana Public Buildings when a woman steps forward to receive the
insignia of D.B.E. from the Governor.
The citation is "for outstanding work in bringing together the six
peoples of British Guiana" and there behind her, towering, are her five
sons. Each one of them was the leader of a racial group in the colony
and among themselves they formed the members of a committee that
had overcome all inter-racial feeling. They called it the Guiana Com-
There was the tall stoop-shouldered Vincent. He took after his
English father Fielding, the engineer who first married Ida Montaque at
23 and died a year later from black water fever. Then there was Abel
the boy born of the Dutch merchant who deserted her and got a
divorce. Big strapping Henry was there too, son of the African insurance
canvasser who was killed in the New Amsterdam motor crash.
As Matthews told the story, it seemed incredible that one woman
could by accident have five sons from husbands of different races. But
Matthews explained to Jim that the first three sons had been born
without her realising the strangeness of the thing.
The first three had been husbands, the English Engineer dead of
black water fever, the Dutch merchant who divorced her, the African
Insurance Canvasser killed by accident. She was only 30, then and it
dawned upon her that she could bring up these sons of hers to be leaders
in their racial groups and still be brotherly one to the other.
That transformed her from a drifting individual into a woman with
She- married again. It wasn't difficult as she was 30 an attractive,
tall, well-built woman, and something had integrated in her personality.
Suddenly she had poise and quick-intelligence and she walked now like
She chose as her fourth husband a teacher with Amerindian blood
in him. She loved him as much as a woman with a mission can love a
man and she cared for his creature comforts.
Fiercely, she wanted a son with Amerindian blood in him. Two
daughters came. Her children, they were, so she loved them both and
was passionate with grief when one died; but the third child was a boy,
a boy who to her surprise, had in him the beginnings of a poet. Strange
moodiness, a quick memory for tones of voices and a gift for illumina-
ting phrases. That the Amerindian characteristics were dominant in
him came as no surprise to her; she had willed that that should happen
through too many long hours of sleepless nights, bending her will to
shape the destiny of an unborn son.
When Matthews told them that this fourth husband died also, Jim
was not surprised. Unless a man's will is very strong, it cannot resist a
purposeful woman's. Jim wouldn't believe that she killed him psychica-
lly but he weakened and died when the mission of this strange wife of
his broke in upon his consciousness. The Amerindian strain in him
carried an eastern fatalism and he grew to feel himself a pawn in a game
beyond his ambit. So he succumbed to the Queen.
The fifth husband was an East Indian and she bore him sons. But
Jim found he had already lost interest in Matthews' story. He could
appreciate the fact that she never achieved her aim, never got six
sons of different races. That would have been too perfect and making
the inscrutable laws of fate bend to mathematical patterns.
She lived with her East Indian husband for twenty-two more years
before she died, she who had followed funeral processions for four
husbands. Jim thought of the wife of Bath and her "husbands at
church-door I have had five" but this was a mission. This was different.
But he had lost interest, Jim found. When Matthews was telling
Edith and himself of the rigorous education plan this woman had set
for her sons and how relentlessly she kept them to it, how she punished
them for deviation and kept them growing straight like greenheart trees,
how she succeeded, the story of their varying political dominations of
their racial groups, right up to the king's recognition of her services -
all this while Jim found his imagination straying back to the Amerin-
dian poet this woman numbered among her sons.
Listening to him Jim Pearce wondered at this oddly sure young
man of 27. Matthews had grown rather well, he thought.
This ywang man had been a pupil of his in trigonometry years ago.
That evening he had dropped in to pay a courtesy call to his old tutor
and his sister. Matthews had declared he wanted to write poetry.
He had brought a poem along, he said. So Jim Pearce had asked
him to read it for them.
'Well, you'll read it aloud, won't you? But wait a minute."
He moved across to the radio and turned the knobs and by great
luck he came upon exactly what he was looking for Orchestral music
to use as a background for what Matthews would read.
'Go ahead now'.
Matthews knew what Jim Pearce meant and in his pleasant but
rather monotonous voice, he began to read while the music in the back-
ground gave him the resonance he wanted.
Orpheus drew his music from the trees
Before they changed to instruments
Made the small fruit trees sing him ditties
Trees like the towering greenheart played him drums.
"All the slim tree-nymphs slipped without the trunks
As if in answer to the Orphic call
Till a dark tree-god with great eyes of green
Came clambering down the boughs.
There by the river
Stood the young Orpheus, watching water swirl
And tumbling in a gurgling melody
Around the stones, But the tall tree-god stopped
That water music
Tamed the wild anger in his green eyes."
There was a little silence and then Edith turned and said to Jim.
"I think that has something in it, Jim."
Jim hesitated for a minute and carefully chose his words.
He wanted neither to patronise him nor speak harshly.
"Matthews, it has the poet's sensitiveness and a sense of rhythm.
It has imagery too. But you haven't quite seen it. Why Orpheus? Your
Greek subject is mixed with the tropicainess of towering greenheart and
there's a touch of the artificial in the word ditties." Jim shrugged his
shoulders, but he knew Matthews would pursue him.
"But", he began "is it hopeless -"
"Of course, it isn't hopeless. But take greenheart as your theme,
get your power on to our country Guiana."
Matthews spoke eagerly. 'That's what I want to do; that's what I
really want to write. This is just apprentice work."
Jim smiled. "What do you really want to write, Matthews?" He
didn't expect the flood of enthusiasm that poured out in reply.
"I want to write about Guiana. Pin the soul of this country down
upon paper, but in such a way that what I write is a banner and a flame
fanning out on the wind of time. I want an epic that will fuse us all
together and give Guiana direction for the next century."
Edith stopped knitting for a while as Matthews spoke and then
went on threading the steel needles in and out, In and out.
'That's a rather tall assignment, isn't it, Matthews." Jim didn't
like haywire schemes and this looked like one, though he didn't expect
Matthews to have the kind of temperament that would have this
"Oh, I know that and that's why I've come to you, Sir."
Sensitive to the change in conversation atmosphere, Jim looked up
at him and found he couldn't see him well in the dark. Edith noticed it
and got up and switched on the light. The sudden light caught him
rather wincing from it. He was flattering him, Jim knew, but there was
something seemingly sincere about his words. Matthews really thought
he could help, he decided, and so he leaned forward symphathically,
and yet he didn't want Matthews to think he had succumbed to flattery.
'This isn't trigonometry, Matthews, and perhaps I can't help you.
You want to write an epic of Guiana. Tell me the story you have in
Matthews sat there hunched in the big easy chair and he began to
talk. He talked with an urgency that put compelling fingers on one's
nerves and made one restless. This boy he wasn't much more than
that was burning with a love for his country and as he talked, he had
a habit of clenching and unclenching his fists as if he wanted to get
to grips with something.
And this was the story he was telling them.
At last Matthews came to an end. The flood of talk ceased. It has
been both narrative and running commentary with skilful thumbnail
sketches of character and incident and at the end he slumped back into
his chair, psychologically exhausted.
'You re the first people I told this to", he said.
To his surprise Jim found the hour-long summary had manipulated
a number of infinitely subtle adjustments in his attitude towards
Matthews and he could no longer, well "patronise him that was the
word as before. This young man had a vision of Guiana that he
lacked and an intensity he would never match, he realized again to the
full that strange self-appraisal that comes to a man when his juniors in
years take their places at his shoulder and measure their strides to his.
"It s a wonderful story", Jim spoke slowly, "and you are suffi-
cient craftsman to know that it could never go into verse. You have
half a dozen novels there, Matthews".
'I know it has to be a saga in prose but do you think I can do it? I
was thinking of it as a short story."
'No Matthews, that could never be a short story and then you have
the stuff in you to write a panel of novels. But Matthews "
"Matthews, I'm interested in your Amerindian poet. Does he write
any poetry? '
'He does. He is the most spiritual of the half-brothers. He goes
and broods upon Kaieteur and upon the top of Roraima, he does
medical missionary work among "his people" as he calls them. He
translates the Gospel according to St. John for them to read in their
tongues and he writes the epic in poetry that I want to write and can-
not. He tells the story of Amalivaca as Homer would tell it broad and
simple and deep about his rock-writing, his philosophy, his music, his
scientific work, on canoes and tides. And he recites this long poem of
his to his people and they learn it by heart. The poem tells, too, how
the Amerindians offended Makonaima and of the curse that fell upon
this people that makes them impotent before foreign invaders."
Jim was silent. Matthews had it all carefully planned.
'It will take you eight years and it will nearly kill you but you'll
write this saga Matthews and good luck to you."
Jim Pearce had said eight years, but it took Matthews twelve and it
killed him too.
Book after book, they came out every two years. The style was
lofty and intense, the matter a cruel survey of contemporary life. It
was not until the fourth book was out that critics in Europe began to
acclaim the power of the work.
Approval went up, waveringly at first, like thin smoke and then in
full flood. But fame and fortune came too late for Matthews.
The fearful strain of the intense writing of six novels, his poverty
and his inherent ill health had snapped his powers; only his powerful
will had kept the parts of his body together until the last line was
written then he collapsed.
The note of congratulation Jim wrote arrived before he died, but
he was never able to read it He was already unconscious and two days
later Guiana received back unto herself her greatest literary son.
Edith and Jim stood by and mourned. In his hand he had
crumpled up a bit of paper Matthews had left with him years before.
"Edith, we need drums here".
"Oh." She hadn't remembered. Jim could see that.
"No. I'm thinking, Edith, of the only poem Matthews ever wrote
so far as we know."
"Orpheus drew his music from the trees, trees like the flowering
greenheart played him drums."
"You're right, Jim. He did take greenheart as his theme Guiana.
He's done a great job for his country."
YOU'VE GOT A LOT TO LIVE
AND PEPSI'S GOT A LOT TO GIVE
Spirit of the Sea Wall
By Wilson Harris
In this story "Spirit of the Sea Wall", readers will
find the beginnings of the craftsmanship, the bewildering
use of metaphor and the staggering transformations that
border on surrealism with which Wilson Harris has made
us familiar in his novels.
The personae are few-the"l" narrator who is a scare-
crow wearing a cocked hat on the sea wall looking out to
a sea which is higher than the land. An old beggar-woman
comes up and puts the cocked hat on her head. She says
the hat was left there for the fun of it by her dead fisher-
man husband. The old woman talks crazily about her
wild, loving husband, and is suddenly transformed for a
while into a young beauty with full breasts rising, and
swelling thighs in the sea a magical, bewitching change.
There is the sea "neither man nor God can fight the
sea forever and for good." The city behind is Godstown
but it is also the city of Troy, a toy city, an old buried
city, buried long ago, ruin after ruin beneath the flag and
grey shawl of the sea.
Then an important crowd gathers as the old woman
becomes beautiful again, and it confronts the curious horror
and the spectacle. A man reaches out of the crowd to reach
the billowing woman in the sea as she tosses and dances.
"She is dead" he cried, unable to encompass any other
I stood on the wall of Godstown facing the maternal forgotten sea;
the ocean had always been grey and sorrowful here lapping the wall
guarding a buried city. Like a heavy spotted shawl the sea had always
blown restlessly and churned furiously on the beach and ground before
I stood in my habitual place, with sudden alarm and consternation
beholding the sea as if for the first time higher than the city's ground:
the blowing restless flag and shawl was all around me and about. Indeed
the wind blew anxious sea-spray upon me wrapping my empty trouser-
legs around my scarecrow feet. I felt I was a ghost standing in a vain
exposed position, the true everlasting spirit blew on one hand, and an
archaic roadway and field stood on the other; the field stretched a full
miJe away and the traffic of Godstown crawled at the distant extremity.
My alarm grew on beholding my toy city, the mechanics of an old
buried town, buried long, long ago it seemed beneath the flag of the
sea. Buried so deep I had to excavate alien and higher ruins to find it.
And now that it was seen, and empoldered, and guarded at last, I was
filled with such alarm. Which Godstown was it indeed I beheld beneath
the sea, was it the first or the last? Ruin after ruin was its fable and
history. And a grave displaced verticality was its haunting alarming and
ruinous and confused place and position.
I raised my scarecrow head and stood braced against the first and
the last sea-wall confused by the blowing wind and sea. I wondered
whether I should feel proud to stand this way not knowing truly
where I stood threatened by the ancient sea and shawl and mother of
man. I knew my defences would sooner or later be rendered useless.
I had driven new sticks and shafts to secure my foundations and situa-
tion, a gaunt scarecrow standing before the sea. All was slipping slowly
into the ruinous well: at last nothing remained save my cocked hat,
blown a little to one side, resting perilously on the sea-wall. It w~s so
sopping and wet it had acquired weight to stand against the spirit in the
wind. A mythos began to grow and appear around my cocked puddle
The first Godstown marched forward in space and looked back-
wards with the raining eye of constellations and stars. The last Troy
stood on Argo's mythical beam or upon another equally drenched
constellation in the heavens. No ruinous wall and grave could contain
my cocked hat of such dimensions. The wind and sea blew steadily
into and out of my head. An old woman was approaching: she was
mumbling to herself beneath the sea's shawl. She came to me and lifted
my shopping hat and head like a child cradled in the sea's hands. I felt
the wind blowing in the roof of my skull hither and thither as she
cocked my head upon her head.
She was one of that curious sea of beggar-women, patrolling Gods-
town like conscience and muse, who floated and devoured pennies
and scraps. She knew how to hug the debris of the world to her bosom.
She mumbled and sagged and moaned to my cocked scarecrow hat -"'
know you wouldah fall down. Neither man nor god can fight the sea
forever and for good. You don't know that? Sooner or later the old
lady got to get you ... She was mumbling all the time a little crazily.
The wind in heaven tried to blow my hat off her head but she held
it fast with her grey seas' hand that smelt of salt-fish and rum. The
rank suffocating odour rose and almost devoured my head and her
nostrils too, I felt. The seas' cruel death-smell grew wholesome and life-
giving again as though life had turned to death and then returned to life
"Me hands smell and taste like if they dead and they living still",
she mumbled, a little crazily again. "They hold life and death over and
over again", she said, "'that's why they smelling and tasting so. I
borning and I burying man all the time: I is an old mother and young
bride rolled into one". She cackled with a sea-bird's swift racing cry.
She grew mournful and silent, looking anxiously towards the
horizon. I wonder why me man hang up he hat and he clothes pon a
cross-stick deh"? she suddenly cried to me and to herself in one
cunning breath. She continued in the same cackling strain "He's lef'
this behind like a fool's head and skin to show he risking he neck all the
time for the fun of it. I can't understand he at-all at-all". She spoke
with a baiting livid look.
Who is he?" I whispered shrieking and shrill where the wind
whistled in the crevices of my cocked hat and skull. "Nobody here but
me and you."
'Is me dream man lef' you behind, old cocked hat on a stick, is me
wild loving fisherman, me adventuring child, me flesh is he gone, flesh,
me blood is he spilled blood", she cried, a seagull's incomprehensible
ghostly cry. Her appearance turned romantical and voluptuous. A
magical bewitching change had occurred. She straightened her back.
The wind and water blew and filled her limbs and bosom generously.
Every wringle puffed and vanished and her eyes widened and sparkled
I saw her full breasts rising and swelling beneath my starred and cocked
hat. The smell in her sea-self no longer revolted but turned keen as a
knife slicing the air.
"Is I mek me gone lover's Christ cocked hat into every ghost of a
stick and a shell like you" she rolled her eyes toward her swelling
thighs in the sea.
The wind blew and the seas heaved and turned. I suddenly realized
an important crowd stood on the sea-wall confronting the curious
horror and the spectacle. They saw a vulgar old woman, the wind and
a billowing and distending her drowned dress, and they saw my cock-
ed scarecrow hat stuck rakishly on her skull. It was a common sight
and yet it disturbed them to the very marrow. The sea had risen high
near the top of the wall and over at times when it had swept the cocked
hat from where it had first fallen and blown.
One of the men in the crowd stretched forward and tried to reach
the billowing woman in the sea but she tossed and danced and evaded
him, nearly dislodging my cocked hat. The man's empty face grew
greyer than ever with horror and the sea. "She's dead", he cried,
unable to encompass any other living thought.
My old cocked hat bowed to the sea-wall.
By Wilson Harris
"Banim Creek introduces the typical Wilson Harris
background. A team of four tide-readers live in a camp
in Banim Creek, up the Canje River and they come in
contact with a couple, Paula and her husband Mark. Three
of the four tide-readers have known one another for years
but the fourth is a new-comer, who loves to captivate
everyone he comes in contact with. Paula was a well
educated girl who ran away and married her father's
chauffeur; he "beat her up when he can't get liquor."
The narrator is a philosopher often brooding on the
timelessness of the river, the jet-black river with its islands
of grass as the source of prophecy and of decision in the
drama of life. As he watches the interplay of character
with the unpredictable shifts of events around the one
woman in the middle of five men, he says "I could not
help wondering whether that secret companion to which
one is ever attached, as to one's conscience, was bringing
sharply before me the reconstruction of a tragedy that
had happened in the spiritual sense already, if it had not
yet occurred in the physical order of things."
In the last paragraph, the "I" narrator felt he had to
pay the utmost attention to the story of Mark and Paula.
"Their relationship was an important link in the chain I
found myself so painfully reconstructing. The chain of
man's existence and his eternal damnation or his eternal
heaven on earth. '
Extract from an unpublished novel
It was as a boarder occupying a room in the same house that I had
learnt so much about Marie, Champ and Jerry. As fate would have it
Champ, Jerry and I met again, so many years after, working on our pre-
ent job. Van was apparently the complete stranger in our midst. But
somehow from the outset he too seemed to belong to an existing pattern
of things like an integral link in a chain. The trend of my thoughts dur-
ing the past hour had taken such a phenomenal grip on my mind that I
felt a whole school of ideas seeking to be marshalled properly or related
properly in perspective. I stirred uneasily and raised myself slightly on
my elbow to see if there were signs of someone coming yet. The river
was as calm as a lake. I felt suddenlystiffand arose to a sitting posture, I
got up entirely after a while and sauntered slowly to the cokerite tree in
the clearing. There was a better view of the river here, and I sat on the
ground and leaned against the trunk of the cokerite palm.
There was a remarkable sameness about the river. The same jet black
water, the same green islands of grass. I asked myself-what was it that
filled me with such a sense of foreboding? If I could answer this question
I felt I would have the key to my present thoughts. Nothing had actually
happened yet, to the best of my knowledge, but it was strange that I
should feel as if something had happened or was actually happening,
something terrible and tragic. The very sameness or apparent changeless-
ness in the physical world in one's own experience suggested that things
present had already existed, and things to come were already present.
This gave me a core around which to order my thoughts. The drama of
human life might be the visible form of events that had already occurred
in the spiritual sense;. Hereinlay the source of prophecy and even per-
haps of every decision, conscious or unconscious, in that it was an
awareness of the spiritual origin, and the material actual thing might even
possibly offer a freedom to alter the fateful course of things One's de-
cision could be the veritable grace of God for someone else, who knows?
or someone else's decision might be the miraculous stroke of fortune
that influenced still someone else away from doom into an act of repen-
tance. Heaven, hell and purgatory were surely the stages already present
and active in human destiny: this is reward for the good reward for the
bad, and the grace that lies halfway in between, to be eternally chosen
or eternally rejected.
Banim Creek was the name of the place where the tide-readers'
camp ground lay. We had travelled up the main river for many hours to
get there. There were sixteen of us to be encamped in parties of four,
several miles apart along the river banks. The officer in charge of oper-
ations had utilised the time travelling in discussion of the dry, statistical
side of our job. Eventually he dumped four of us at Banim and steamed
away in the big survey launch.
Van, the stranger amongst us, was a tall, handsome Negro was qdite
distinguished-looking with a strong face and a straight nose. His lips were
his worst feature. They revealed a peculiar sore-looking scar like a bum
when he opened his mouth to laugh or speak. There was something
slightly repellent about that scar. But this flaw was lost in an earnest and
serious quality that gave his whole expression an indefinable charm. It
was a great disappointment to find as the weeks and months rolled by
that Van very often was striking a pose. And yet to say precisely what
that pose was, or to try and track him down in his trickery was to find
oneself more and more deeply involved in a maze.
I used to watch Jerry staring at Van like a hunter at a new indefatig-
able animal. Jerry became more and more determined to expose Van
once and for all.
As for Van he never lost sight of his objective, which was to capti-
vate all with whom he came into contact and to worm himself into the
hearts of men. He realized he might fail with Jerry but he kept a sharp
eye on the remainder of us.
The first great battle of wits between Jerry and Van occurred in
connection with a woman living six miles down-stream of Banim. She
came to the camp for the first time selling greens and paw-paw fruit. She
was Portuguese, fair-skinned, with light, waving brown hair that clung to
her brow in moist places. She was very frail-looking in a sexy, appealing
manner. I felt instantaneously drawn to her and yet repelled by a sort of
bulging largeness beneath her eyes. There were also cruel weals across
her face and arms. She appeared quite shamelessly prepared to expose
these weals and seemed to derive satisfaction in explaining that her hus-
band had brutally beaten her. It happened whenever he had no money
to spend and became crazy for liquor, she said.
Her tale aroused in Jerry his high-pitched, bitter laugh.
"You look like you like getting beat up! he said. But Champ cried,
selecting beans and fruit from the woman's basket at the same time,
'Don't worry with Jerry, madam. He'salways like that, always disagree-
"Disagreeable? And why not?" said Jerry. "I always say some peo-
ple always looking for trouble. They only happy when they getting
tricked and they in trouble I don't trust nobody. When I fall in with
anybody I do it 'cause I got to. I watch every step after that!" He too
selected greens from the basket on the selling, exclaiming:-
'You agree with what I say lady?"
The woman replied vaguely-"l don't know!" Van who had made no re-
mark so far squatted near the woman and helped himself liberally to
greens and fruit.
"Ah hope you will always trust me lady!" he said cheerfully. "You
ain t no man-hater, I canseethat!"Champ had been counting some loose
coins in his pocket. He drew the woman aside while paying her and
whispered something. She nodded. Jerry gave his ironical laugh like a
hunter who scents his game. Van too looked verythoughtful Suddenly
he had an idea and his countenance lit up.
"I got some washing," he addressed the woman. "It would put a
bit in your way".
The woman gave no answer but gently tidied her hair. Her hands
were remarkably slender. I found myself observing them with fascinat-
ion. They seemed entirely foreign, far too aristocratic for the circumst-
ances in spite of several callouses. They had a miraculously blue, frail
outline of veins.
'You always lived here in the river?" I asked her. She turned her
bulging eyes on me and they seemed to grow even larger as she replied-
'I ran away from home when I was nineteen. My father is one of the
wealthiest merchants in town." She smiled when she saw my surprise,
and continued before anyone could speak -
"I was educated at the best schools"
"And your husband?"
"He was my father's chauffeur."
Jerry gave a grunting incredulous sound: "You little liarl I bet you
don't even know who your father ist You think we are fools, eh?"
The woman looked hurt and annoyed. Her face flushed. I saw a
baiting look come into Jerry's eyes.
"Well just tell us his name, this wealthy father of yours I suppose
he has cut you off without a cent, eh? Maybe you can never go back I"
"I'm ashamed to go back," the woman replied simply, the anger
draining out of her countenance. 'And I don't care what you think or
say since you do not understand. "Have you ever found," she said look-
ing at us appealingly out of those sickening eyes of hers, "that to go
back, before you realise what caused you ever to leave, is sometimes to
die? I prefer to learn to live where ever I am".
'How do you mean to go back is to die?" Champ asked in bewild-
erment. "And you say you got a wealthy old man to look after yuh?"
The woman caressed the weals on her skin, lost in thought At last
-"I said I was ashamed to go back. I was wrong. It is my father who is
ashamed of me and my husband. He does not wish us to remain together
if I go back!"
"And you prefer to stay in this bush, and get bite by fly, mosquito?
Get mark up and beat up by that precious husband of yours? You is a
Don't you understand there's no place for me to go? It would have
to be me and someone else, I can't go alone!" "I understand just how
you feel", said Van coming to her assistance with that earnest look of
his. 'It's life, that's what it is. It's not you is funny. It's life is funny."
The woman turned and stared at Van for the first time as if she
hadn't seen him before. She felt that here was someone to whom she
could talk. Champ was still bewildered. The lady did not fit into any
scheme of things he had known in the past. And yet for some reason or
other he felt an acute disgust with himself as though the whole matter
should have been a simple one for him to understand, or any man for
that matter. He wondered to himself whether the woman was lying, or
whether the whole thing was not a kind of dream she had had, and that
everybody has at some time or other and then forgetsI A dream of com-
panionship you may call it perhaps.
Jerry had been following the conversation closely. He had been
keeping a shrewd eye on Champ and Van.
"I feel so sorry for you,ladyl When I listen to you talk I feel you
need a lot of goodcommonsense pumped into that head of yours."
Jerry wagged a finger in the direction of Van and grimaced -
"Not a lot of easy romantic stuff. Believe me there's a trick in that
Champ silently agreed wholeheartedly with Jerry's remarks. Some-
thing like satisfaction with himself returned, The woman was obviously
unwelll How could she so patiently endure the brutality in her present
mode of living when a million dollars waited around the corner! Either
she was a liar or a very sick woman to abandon everything for nothing.
And she seemed to find something painfully pleasant in Jerry's words.
She replied as if with melancholy relish "Oh you're sorry for me? I do
need your sympathy"
Jerry laughed. It was his plan to play off Champ and Van against
each other. He felt he had helped to restore Champ's belief in himself.
The knight of compassion had been rudely shaken a short while ago
when the woman with the greens and paw-paw fruit, who stirred his int-
erest and desire appeared to move so strangely out of his grasp and
comprehension like a phenomenon of nature At the same time Jerry
knew he had baited a trap for Van.
The great battle of wits had started in earnest. Champ took a corial
and disappeared down river after sunset. Jerry jokingly remarked that
Champ had gone on his mission of love. I, too remembered how Champ
had whispered to the woman while paying her for his share of the greens
and fruit. It was a beautiful evening. Deep in the west a great glow still
lingered, a blue pool charged by an expanding sensuous purity of light.
But this expansion was only a illusion. The scene rapidly darkened and
the stars had to come out on duty at last in every inch of the sky.
I booked the tide readings with the help of a torchlight hour after
hour. It is strange how one's eyes become accustomed to the darkness,
that inky blue tropical darkness that floods the whole world. Then how
innumerable and complex are the heavenly stars, and how sharp and
clear are their earthly reflections in the mirror of waters! There came a
ripple of disturbance as I watched and a corial shot up to the selling
turning up the cold reflected watery stars into churning streaks of light.
Champ had returned. He clambered up the ladder against the selling and
came over to me where I stood.
"Hi Charles", he said. "No go at all with that woman!" There was a
note of bewilderment and exasperation in his voice. He stood for a long
time pensive and then as if in explanation -
"The husband's away downriver. I say to myself she hate him how
she talk talk today But I don't know for sure now. She say adultery is
not in her line!" Champ shook his head -
"The woman's crazy I tell you, Charles. But I like she all the same.
Ah really like the kid and Ah going to look her up again"
It was nearly midnight. I shone my torch on the gauge and booked
the level of the river. The high tide was close at hand.
In spite of Champ s optimism fortune did not smile on him. The
aristocratic woman of the fruit basket kept him at arm's length. Every-
one in the camp sensed his disappointment, and Van constantly rebuk-
You still following up the little woman? Aw, have a heart. You
can't see she ain't the kind of woman out for just a good time? You be-
lieve she come all the way in this jungle just for a good time? She is the
sort of woman you got to love and she got to love you before all you
can come together and make one."
"But she husband cruel to she!" Champ insisted.
"She still got pity for him," Van declared. "and who knows which
is stronger-pity or love?"
"Love," Champ cried.
"Well give her then, 'Van laughed. If you've got it to give!"
Champ did not appear ever to lose hope that he had it to give. He
looked forward constantly to the frequent visits the woman of the
greens made to the camp. Most often Van was away hunting or collect-
ing firewood. Jerry was often present, though sometimes he too was out
hunting or fishing. Champ alone never missed her whenever she came.
His approaches however, were all to no avail.
Jerry decided the time had come for him to show his hand and
spring the trap as every good hunter must eventually do. The afternoon
came he had chosen for that purpose. He pattered out to meet the"lady
with the greens' when she arrived. It was a bright, glaring afternoon.
The tide was falling and the inflowing stream had checked, the river was
getting ready to turn. The floating patches of grass on the river seemed
not to move at all as if time itself were dragging, waiting for a sudden
impulse to give it direction.
"You look nice-nice lady!" Champ said.
'Nicer than usual when she come here?" Jerry asked with a laugh.
"I dunno", Champ said, wrinkling his brow. "You know you treat-
ing me bad?" he whispered to the woman. She smiled in a nervous
"I'm sorry Champ! Let's be just friends like that. What more can
you really desire?"
Champ turned his hot gaze on her arms.
"You need someone to care you", he muttered like a man repeating
a time worn lesson. Then uneasily realising that Jerry and I had over-
heard his remarks, he became silent and glum.
The woman completed her sales,. She gathered the full white skirt
of her dress closely around her, and gingerly lowered herself into her
small craft by the selling. A gentle twist and the craft entered the slow-
moving stream. She waved her paddle, the blade flashed another day's
farewell in the sun. Soon the craft turned the bend and could no langer
be seen from the selling,
No sooner it disappeared Jerry spun on us-"A bitchl just a bitch.
But that don't interest me anyway. She ain't my woman. And men are
just as low anyway" he laughed. "That's why I trust nobody. No
permanent woman for me and avoid trouble I sayl" Then suddenly like
a crouching panther, he spat out
"She's been meeting Van when she leave hey at the plum tree past
the bend. You doubt? Go now and see. I track them down a few times
well I tell you go and see him. You'll know what a low, scheming
crook the admirable Van isl" There was a blaze in his eyes as he con-
tinued almost to himself.
"Can you beat it? Men are all traitors I tell youl I've never forgot-
ten that lesson. He has taken your place Champ. He's the fountainhead
of compassion now." Jerry laughed suddenly his high, ironical laugh,
peering at Champ with a kind of frightful glee.
All Champ said was-"Plum tree past the bend?" And he caught up
a stick and was off. But even as he turned off the stalling to pass the
camp, Van appeared coming from the very opposite direction, upriver.
He had a bundle of firewood on his head, which he threw to the ground
near the camp. We all stood dumbfounded watching him, and then
Champ gave a shout.-
"Look Van deh right here Jerryl What in hell yuh bin trying to
say?" Jerry gave a sulky grin. He cried to Van.
"How come you pass up the lady with the greens today Van?
Like you miss her today No kisses under the plums today?"
Van stared at Jerry coldly-
"You got a dirty mind, boy," he said. "What in hell are you talking
"You know what I'm talking about," said Jerry watchfully.
"You talking 'bout you own brutishness," Champ cut in roughly.
A terrible feeling of hate for Jerry suddenly possessed his entire heart
and soul. "You always know more than everybody. It's your hand
always against every man's hand. You talk 'bout traitors. But you
worse than a traitor. You ain't grow up yet man. You sick-sick-sick,
manl. Champ choked on his own words. He felt empty and forsaken,
ashamed in some tragic way.
Jerry said nothing. He remained extremely watchful. And then as
if satisfied there was no real danger he relaxed. The decision for life or
death always rests with the hunter, no, the hunted. He was quite sure
Paula her name was: the aristocratic lady who sold greens, and had
become such a centre of attraction.The surprising accusation that Jerry
had levelled at Van made any reconciliation Van had hoped to accom-
plish with Jerry impossible. In one respect Van had emerged victorious in
the battle of wits. For instance Champ now hated Jerry. But in another
and hidden respect Van was involved in a deeper and more frightful
struggle. His first adversary in the form of Jerry, the ruthlessly free man,
retired behind a proud contemptuous barrier; and Van was left face to
face with himself as in a mirror, and he did not like the image he saw
there. Thus a second battle of wits had ensued between Van ahd a new,
subtle adversary, the human conscience it was and no other.
As I sat there in the cool of the clearing, possessed by the strain of
my thoughts, watching the changeless river before me, I could not help
wondering whether that secret companion to which one is ever
as to one's conscience, was bringing sharply before me the reconstruct-
ion of a tragedy that had happened in the spiritual sense already if it had
not yet occurred in the physical order of things. In this way I perceived
the burden of my participation in it.I had been too passivecertainly not
sufficiently active to help avert the disaster. In fact it was this deepening
sense of loss which occurs when anyone dies whether friend or foe -
that seemed to sharpen my perceptions to such a degree that a
halo of reflection imbued every minute thing that had happened.lt were
as though a kind of penance had started within me to atone for a fault I
And yet it is not always clear what participation is possible to the
individual, whether any action of his might not further speed events
down the incline. Perhaps our secret prayers are more effective since
courage and compassion, it is certain, come from God. Not from man
who is merely an actor and an agent, whether he chooses to acknow-
ledge it or not, to his ultimate credit or downfall.
So it was that Champ whose agency was a perverse and fatal com-
passion, continued his pursuit of Paula. And Jerry whose agency was
self-revelation took a malicious delight in assuming the role that Van
had no longer stomach to perform: that is rebuking Champ for his
pursuit of Paula which constantly sought to impose upon her a kind of
prostitution that would only further complicate her personal problems.
Van's loss of stomach before Champ, Jerry and myself finally drove
him to the greatest form of deception. He began to play a kind of
superhuman role. How else can I describe it? His role was the role of
Satan himself for he had successfully exorcised all human conscience.
And this was his second paradoxical victory. It started when he became
friendly with Paula's husband-Mark his name was-and invited him
every day to the camp at Banim. It was child's play after that to in-
struct Mark in reading the tide gauge. Mark understood quickly, and
Van utilised him during his spell at the gauge, many a time, to read
the tides. Mark received monetary consideration every time he acted
for Van. In this way Van was free to cruise down river hunting or fish-
ing. It was rare, however, that he returned with either game or fish. His
excuse was the season and the weather were unpropitious. But in truth
and in fact he had found a higher sort of game. His double victory had
ushered in the satanic role of power in eclipsing his all-too-human ad-
versaries in the faculty of bringing down the most precious game life
had to offer, that is, love. He secretly met Paula, and impressed upon
her more and more his sympathy and compassion for her plight He
succeeded where Champ continually failed, as Champ was bound to
fail ever since his encounter with Marie when he had been dismissed by
her, in her enduring role as Woman (that embodies both fertility and
death) from all reckoning as a living truly compassionate body. Van
succeeded, too, in discrediting Mark: but only for a while since Mark
was to accomplish what Champ was failing or had failed to do: sub-
mission to the enduring and spiritual good.
One has to be careful not to let one's thoughts race ahead too
quickly With this warning ringing in my ears as if uttered by a voice in
the wind or in the trees around me I knew it was necessary to pay the
utmost attention to the story of Mark and Paula. Their relationship was
an important link in the chain I found myself so painfully reconstruc-
tingl the chain of man's existence and his eternal damnation or his
eternal heaven on earth.
Fences upon the Earth
By Wilson Harris
"Fences upon the Earth" is the inner monologue of
an "I" narrator who watches the encounter between an
angry capitalist and the descendant of generations of
peasants who have been bound to the land.
The lorry had stopped for lunch on the British South
American Hinterland Road,and the philosopher-observer
had wandered into the forest, where the trees, solid and
timeless, settle their roots each moment deeper and
deeper into the ancient earth. He sees a man drinking at
a creek and bathing his hands, but possessing calm dignity
and a natural simplicity of possession of the earth he
stood upon. A capitalist comes up and shouts angrily
that he is trespassing upon the land of the mining com-
pany he represents. He curses and it seems as if the
peasant will kill him, but he grows calm again and walks
The value of the account with this slender story line
is that the experience of wisdom and mastery had been
secret and wordless. The observer tells us the deep things
he has seen in the encounter. Then the truck driver blows
his horn to start the journey again.
At noon the truck stopped at a huge clearing on the Hinterland
Road. Everybody climbed out stiffly with a grand feeling of relief. A
hill fell away gradually from the road, and there was a path going down.
After I had had my sandwiches I set out for a stroll. Soon I had left the
clearing where the lorry had stopped. Soon the mighty trees closed in
over my head; yet not entirely for many bright sunbeams were clinging
like innumerable butterflies to the high branches far up at the tops of
I remember something I had read somewhere a long time ago.
Something about people hearing the trees grow in forests. And I
thought that surely I would hear the trees grow in this forest. They
were so solid, so timeless. One seemed each moment to hear them
quietly settling deeper and deeper; their mighty roots thrusting farther
and farther into the ancient earth. It was all very strange and fantastic
Suddenly at a turn in the path I came upon a creek at the foot of
the hill. A man was standing by the creek drinking and bathing his
hands. He had not heard me approach. The sand underfoot had muf-
fled my footsteps. My first impulse was to go forward and speak to
him. But I was struck by something about him I felt I would like to
stand quietly by and watch him. I felt he had something important
to tell me, but not with words. Something important he would tell
me simply, by his movements, by the lift of his head, by his hands, and
by his feet moving upon the ground. I slipped quietly into the bush at
the side of the track, and hugged close against the spur of a huge tree.
From there I could watch him, without being seen.
And now what words may I use to describe the feelings that came
upon me at the sight of this man? I felt no shame that I had to stand
by, hiding from him like a robber, or a thief in the night.This was in-
evitable. I believed in the rightness of my action. It was the thing to
do, here and now. Drawing room conventions did not hold at this
place or time. Dimensions had altered. Time had altered. In their
place each moment unfolded itself slowly and deliberately with im-
mense secrecy, with the deep urgency of growth, a part of the pattern
of the dynamic earth.
It is important that I should say what I felt when I looked at this
man standing by the creek. But I may as well tell you here and now
that this is impossible; because what I felt was wordless. Many hap-
penings in this world defy art or language, and this was one of those
I knew when I looked at this man that I was very happy watching
him. I believe looking at him, I knew in those moments the greatest
happiness in my life. For the first time that I could remember I looked
upon a human being standing upon the earth, not falsely, by force or
subterfuge, or bravado, or by any sort of empty pretension, but very
simply, as though to own the earth were to carry the most natural and
easeful burden in the world.
I saw that the man was preparing to leave, and I felt sorry that he
was going. He had picked up a few fishes he had been cleaning, emptied
his saucepan into the creek, and was stooping finally for his axe; but,
at that moment, a loud shout came from the bend in the path, where
I had first seen him. He did not show any surprise, but picking up his
axe, turned very slowly, as though he were vaguely concerned at this
intrusion on his solitude. What he saw did not perturb him much,
nevertheless a slight frown had gathered between his brows.
It was John Muir who had shouted: a very angry John Muir. But I
have forgotten you may not remember John Muir. John Muir is the re-
presentative of the big mining company from South Africa or Austrailia
or somewhere that has taken huge concessions on this territory to work
gold and diamonds.
We had both travelled on the British South American Hinterland
Road that morning and when we had stopped for lunch, and I had
come on my stroll, I had left him busy supervising the unloading of his
He passed quite close to me now, and I could sense his wrath and
belligerency. Anger, I thought did not suit him. He was too corpulent.
His face was fat, and his hands were fat. And he seemed a very alien
and ridiculous figure to find in this part of the world. But when I
heard what he was saying I was shocked into urgency. I knew sud-
denly he was a strong man and a ruthless one despite appearances. I
knew there was great danger in his words, that something terrible
was liable to happen. He was shouting "You bloody fooll What in
hell d ye mean by messing up my creek? D'ye know you're trespassing?
Get to hell off this land I"
But the man by the creek facing John Muir did not move. I had
a splendid view of him now. His face was very dusky, dusky as the bark
of the tree against which I was standing.His hair was black like coals and
crisp on his forehead. It made the duskiness of his skin seem lighter
and browner by contrast. He wore a brief vest and shorts, and bare-
footed. He stood very easy and very quiet, as a man would, who stands
by his own hearth, waiting to greet the stranger who is within his doors.
His limbs were powerful. They had the perfection oftheyoung trees
that stand rooted in the forests, breathing forth an ageless symmetry in
The sharp, bitter words assailed him but as yet he showed no sign
of anger. He brushed them aside in his wordless fashion. He was full of
patience and dignity. He was full of magnanimity. His language was
the language of poise, of gesture. He felt that his presence was enough.
It would speak for him with finality and precision, his attitude implied
that it was a bit puzzling, all the noise and confusion. The stranger
could not mean what he was saying. Surely he would explain what it
was all about without so much fussl However it would not do to be
hasty. Haste was bad. He would wait, and listen to all the words that
were being spoken. He himself did not need words. His presence was
enough. It was final.
I saw that John Muir's anger had turned into something cold and
calculating and bitter. His strong and ruthless nature could not tolerate
this silent dignity. He must shock this man into action. He must wring
from him words or protests or subservience. He must impress upon him
that he was master. He spoke horrible words. Slowly, in answer to his
words, I felt that a tide of fury had begun to rise like a flood of bitter
waters. It was wordless fury, the most terrible fury in the world. I
could have cursed John Muir for his stupidity, for his lust, for the blind-
ness that lay in the midst of his strength and his ruthlessness. Yet, after
reflection, I am not sure that he was blind. Maybe he was courting a
battle of wills, maybe he was courting violence. I am not sure. What is
there, a man may be sure of, at such moments?
And I was not so much concerned about John Muir. It was the
man by the creek that held my interest. I was afraid for him. I am baf-
fled to explain the nature of my fear. But I felt he was in danger. I
felt he might lose his mastery over the earth. That mastery that had
seemed to me so patent and obvious a thing, part of his birthright, the
gift of the Unknown God. I felt that he might be swept into madness.
I remembered those horrible whirlpools one sees sometimes in danger-
ous rivers, and I felt he might allow himself to be sucked down by his
fury, into the bottomless whirlpools of his own nature.
When suddenly I saw him lift his hands, I knew it was the end.
There was violence in those hands. John Muir would never escape. And
then, as if to precipitate the threatening disaster, John Muir spoke words
that I felt must surely seal his doom -
"I shall drive you off the land. I shall chase you and your people
off the land. I shall put up fences. Fences to keep you off, that's what
D'ye hear me?"
Surely it was plain that only a miracle could have saved John Muir
after that! Tell me, do you not agree with me? Imagine a man living
on a spot of land. He has lived there all his life, He is bound to the land
by innumerable ties. His forefathers were there before him. They lived
and died on the land. Would you dare to tell that man, you would put
fences upon his land? That you would drive him off the land?
Only a miracle would save you after that. Only a miracle could
save John Muir. The funny thing is, the miracle happened. The miracle
happened and John was saved.
The transition was baffling. The transition from fury to calmness.
I felt the shock of that transition. I saw the effort, the horror of the
last few moments, the darkness on the face of the man standing by the
creek. I saw his hands filled with a terrible eagerness, grow calm and
easy again. It was over in a moment. A moment, as the books say, that
was an eternity. I know it is incredible. Few men would believe what
I say, that such fury had passed into calmness. But I swear it. It is
true. A miracle had happened. For how else can this thing be described,
but as a miracle?
Suddenly John Muir laughed, a laugh of triumph. He felt he had
scored. He felt he had won a battle of wills, and was now master. I
looked at the man by the creek, and I knew better. In a flash I saw the
truth. I saw a little of the truth behind the miracle. It is funny how
one gets these flashes. Maybe it was some trivial act performed. The
man by the creek might have moved his hand on his axe in some pe-
culiar fashion; he might have shuffled his feet in a peculiar fashion. It
might have been the lift of his head. I do not know. But in a flash he
had spoken to me in his wordless language. What he said was this: -
Let the stranger build his fences. Something divine in me prevents me
from killing him. I could kill him easily. I could crush his flabbiness
to pulp. But to what end? What is the use of violence? There has been
enough violence on the earth. Nothing can be built or preserved by
violence. I have no fences to build I shall trust to my destiny. I shall
trust to the forces that brought me on this spot I call my home. I shall
trust to the deep things that tie me to the earth to give me my rightful
place in the sun. These things shall never fail me, I know I believe. I
keep faith with the earth. I trust God. That is enough. There is no
other way. I shall be patient.
He turned abruptly. He swung his axe across his shoulder. I saw
him take a path, known only to himself along the creek, in the thick
forest. The trees clustered protectingly about him. They and he spoke
the same language, the wordless language of being, the language of
When he was gone, John Muir laughed again. But his laugh to me
was hollow. A miracle had happened. I believe humbly that I had seen
a little of the truth behind the miracle. But John Muir did not under-
stand. I do not know whether he will ever understand.
Suddenly I heard the impatient honk of the truck blowing far back
on the road; I guessed that my friends were impatient to be on their
way again. All around the deep forest seemed alive and whispering.
Everything was still the same as before. Even the sun-bright butter-
flies I had noticed when I had first entered the forest, were still
clinging to their precarious perch far up overhead on the tops of the
mighty trees of the forest.
Ye, I know what you will say. The words I have used are inade-
quate. Forgive me. I know, it was inevitable that it should be so.
The whole thing had been secret and wordless.
By Wilson Harris
"Tomorrow" was published by Wilson Harris in 1945
but it foreshadows some of the qualities we have learnt to
expect in his novels. The figure of the "I" narrator who is
a microcosm of the reflective imagination, reading meaning
into an otherwise indifferent environment oran unfinished
statue in the corner of the room, the swift transformation
of mood in a character, the sudden even irrational appear-
ance of people and events so that the web of personal re-
lationships is unpredictably strained, the striving in the
dialogue for deeper psychic meaning-we find it all in his
early short story.
Perhaps the unfinished statue Wilson Harris
tells us about is a symbol of Guiana-
The heavy, pouring rain chased me off the street, onto the pave-
ment, against a dilapidated old building, that might have been a shop, a
lawyer's office or a gambling saloon. I huddled against the closed door,
but even here the rain, driving in gusts beneath the over-arching shed
that jutted across the pavement, reached me with cold, bitter, naked
insistence. It was late afternoon. In an hour or so it would be dark. I
began to wonder whether it might not be better to take a drenching and
get home, than stand here taking chill, with the lonely drab street
before me, the hustling raindrops that flickered in upon me, every now
and then, my only companions.
Suddenly I felt the door behind me moving. It had opened slightly
looking back, I saw an eye appear at the crevice. A voice began
speaking "Won't you come in? The rain is so heavy!"
The door opened wider still. The eye grew to be a face, the face a
form: the form of an old man standing in the doorway. He said again -
"Come in. Come in. It's so cold out there! Come in." I looked at the
rain, the drenched street, the heavy skies. Then I looked at the old man
and I was held by a peculiar quality in the expression of his eyes: a sort
of intensity, fire, a sort of hunger. These qualities contrasted strangely
with a very old face, a face, lined, thin, fragile and kindly with that
kindliness and compassion the years sometimes bring to those who are
deserving of their solace.
The old man said again "Come in. Come in," urgently. This
time I accepted his invitation at once. He led me along a passage to a
room at the end of the passage. The room was brilliantly lit by a
powerful electric bulb. It was an austere room. The walls were old and
almost bare. scratched and broken in places. There was only one pic-
ture in the room. A picture of the Kaieteur Fall. When he saw me look-
ing at it, the old man said-
'I like that." He seemed to be seeking words to express his
thoughts. 'It has power. Beauty, Mystery. It is a symbol for this land.
The symbol of power waiting to be harnessed. Of beauty that goes
hand in hand with terror and majesty. Of the mystery that lies in men's
hearts, waiting to be explored, given form and direction and purpose."
He made a wide gesture with his hand and was silent. But the look in
his eyes spoke volumes for what his thoughts were, and his feelings, and
He pointed me to a chair. He himself took one, near a large table,
'scattered with numerous sheets of paper, covered with figures of all
sorts, sketches, notes and calculations. For the first time I began
wondering who was this old man. His features were dark, but unmis-
takably European, I thought. Living long in the Tropics, he had got
bronzed by the continual exposure.
He was bronzed at the statue standing in one comer of the room.
From the moment I had entered I had been conscious of this silent,
mysterious figure. It seemed to hold an immense secret locked too deep
for words in its heart. Its long shadow falling upon the floor crossed
the threshold of the room like a threat to all who came, a dark invita-
tion, the proud gesture of a hand lifted with some abscure power to
smite or to bless.
It was a figure cut out of stone. The form of a man. The whole
body was relaxed, yet watchful. There was strength and beauty and
sublimity in the limbs. The arms were lifted in prayer, in entreaty, in
hope. Seeing such a form one would expect the face of an angel, a saint
a god. But the face, though it held a suggestion of beauty, of godli-
ness, was baffling. It was the beginning of a face, with blind eyes, tor-
mented, struggling to be born, struggling for vision. There was a promise
of a noble head, but that promise had to develop from a sinister, un-
shapen mass. There were cruel lines about his head, too, and about his
face, that were fighting to emerge, to become dominant and enduring
features. I told myself this face is a mask. Looking at the mask, I
said, there is something behind the mask. What is it? It is something
that is beautiful and grand and wonderful. But then again, with a queer
shiver, I said, it might not be so grand, so beautiful, so wonderful.
Sitting in the chair, the old man had offered me, I stared at the
stature and sought with all my imagination to probe into its mystery
and its clouded beauty. The old man suddenly sprang up with im-
patience. "You should pity me," he cried."I have been working on this
thing for years, and I can't finish it." I started.
'Can't finish it? But it s a masterpriece. It's wonderful." He
looked at me strangely. He said at last: "You don't understand. The
head. The face. I tell you it's incomplete"
'Yes the face is strange,' I agreed, getting up, going closer to the
'Ahl" The old man threw up his hands despairingly. "But what
am I to do? I canet finish it. I try. I make drawings. I go out. I
examine people's faces. I have travelled all over the world. I dream in
the night of this face. For days I have gone without food thinking of
this face. My sketches would fill volumes. But I don't know how to do
it. I carft. I tell you I can't. "Tiny beads of perspiration bedewed his
brow. 'I hoped that maybe one day a bar of light striking upon the
head at some distinctive angle would be prophetic. The mask would
fall away. The face would be born at last. Or else a thread of music.
Sheer melody that might greet me one day at home or walking on the
street, would be the voice of God, and I would understand at last. But
there has been nothing. Nothing."
"You are not the first stranger I have brought here. I am always
welcoming strangers, But everytime Nothing. Nothing." He threw
up his hands with a sort of hopelessness. "I'm sorry," I said with a
gesture of sympathy. "No," the old man cried, glancing at me with
those keen, vivid eyes of his, "it's not your fault, nor anybody's. It's
my fault. It s I who am blind."
"Maybe my blood is too old. And this is the epitome of my
achievement. Maybe I do not understand. Maybe the new people to be
born are beyond my genius. I shall not be the one that shall understand.
But someone will come out of the byways of the world and he will
understand this new people, because maybe he will be one of the new
people. His will be a new story, the beginning of a new heritage, the
end of today, the beginning of the dream that will help to shape
He turned with me and we both stood looking at the beautiful
figure of the statue, with its dim face, its obscure expression, its arms
raised to the sky full of entreaty, prayer and a sublime hope.
Suddenly there was a loud knocking at the door, and we both came
out of our dream..The old man left the room and disappeared into the
passage. I heard voices. Soon he was back with a companion: a woman
looking rather wet and frightened, yet holding herself with boldness
and forced bravado. She looked at me sharply when she came in, then
dismissed me with a sigh of relief, as much as to say,"Oh! he's alright.
He won't harm anyone."
The old man said 'This is Mary. I've known her for years,
since she was a kid. She looks after my meal and so on. I love her
as if she were my daughter." He smiled in a scrt of gentle, apologetic
Mary was looking at us both rather keenly. Something of the
frightened air that hung about her had gone, and suddenly I was struck
by a strange, dark solemnity fixed upon her face. She began speaking
in a very jerky manner,"l feel better, now I've come here. It's so quiet
sort of." She lifted her head with a sort of defiance. She said:
"l"ve got something terrible to tell you." I noticed that her eyes
were very sad and very beautiful. She said in a low whisper, like a
sigh, "The police are after me. I've done murder, I killed a man to-
night." There was a sort of sob in her throat as she said this, and I,
listening to her, felt suddenly that I did not know whether everything
might not be a dream after all and I a dreamer, in a strange world..Out-
side the rain stopped. The room was very silent. I waited for Mary,
the statue, the strange old man to vanish, and I to find myelf propped
against my pillows, at home, in bed.
But the old man's voice brought me back to the reality of the
moment. He was crying -
"What's all this, Mary? What have you been up to?"
Mary did not answer. She had started moving about the room in
a fit of restlessness. She came to a dead stop close by the statue. She
was staring at the uplifted arms. She cried, "This is like me. I've al-
ways held out my arms reaching for something." She continued in a
quieter tone, "But I've never discovered what that something meant,
what it really was." She stood very still with a sort of dreaming,
terrible, confused look on her face. Her arms were still partly lifted,
still tense, filled with quivering life, like a drowning man snatching at
the beauty of the world. She lowered her arms and continued "I've
always wanted lovely things. A home and lights and music, and a lot of
things. When I met him I thought I had everything. He was the lights
in my life. He was the music. He was everything. Then he started
taunting me, and despising me, and going out and leaving me for days
on end. I became lonely. There were no more lights, no more beauty."
She paused, shaken by a terrible ague. She looked at us with beseech-
ing eyes. "I should have left him maybe. But I was afraid. The world
was so strange, and the people all acted like strangers. Once I tried to
ask you to help me," she looked at the old man "But words
would'nt come. Everything was so deep. Funnily, you who were my
best friend, suddenly became the greatest stranger of all." There was a
puzzled look in her eyes. "It's funny isn't it? Why? Tell me?" But
the old man only bowed his head and was silent.
She looked at him with remorseful eyes, and in his gesture beheld
much of the frustration and the bitterness in her life. She lifted her
arms with a sort of desperation. Her body was poised, beautiful and
tense, like some watcher looking out into a new country.
Her face was dark and confused like a lamp that is dim, burning
low. She and the statue had the same lifted prayerful arms, the same
obscure expression, the same dim potentiality for good or evil. She
stood thus for a long time, then her arms fell to her side. She went on
in a quiet, bitter voice.
'Everything is so confused in this world, that when one reaches for
the lights, one sometimes picks the shadows." She paused for a full
moment, then she went on very softly. 'To-night, when I got home,
I found him,packed, just about to leave. He was going away." She
paused again a very long time. She continued "I would never see him
again. There would be no more warmth left in the world. I would be
lonely. I would have no one to turn to. I said in a strangled voice -
you can't go. But he laughed in my face like a devil and putting his
hand on my shoulder pushed me away roughly. I was mad after this. A
madness that must have been growing in me for years and years. There
was a red darkness in my eyes. I rushed to my dressing table. He
sensed what I was about, too late. He tried to reach me. His face was
black and scared and terrible a wild beast that knows it is going to
die. I shot him without thinking. With his own revolver, the one I had
stolen from him a few nights before. "She laughed in a terrible way,
and I could see all her teeth, firm and strong and white. Her eyes
flashed, full of dark fury. But gradually coming to herself, a look of
lostness settled about her mouth like the tears that bring relief to all
the terrible passion of this human heart of ours.
She was very quiet now. But I noticed a queer, listening look on
her face, and she started at the slightest sound. We, too, were caught
up in these moments of tense expectancy, as though we waited for the
crack of doom.
'They're coming," she cried at last with a wild stare. "Don't give
me upl" She turned to the old man with a despairing cry."Tell them
I'm not here." The old man patted her shoulder soothingly. "All
right. All right. Everything will be all right." There was a loud knock
at the door. He left the room. We heard him saying, "She's not here"
and the gruff reply. "Very well sir, sorry to trouble you, Goodnight."
Then suddenly, Mary seemed to undergo a swift change. She cried
in a loud voice "Officer, Officer, I'm here." There was a startled
silence outside then quick commotion at the door. Voices were raised
in argument. Mary kept insisting. "I'm here. I'm here."
The clatter of big boots shook the house, and a police officer
appeared, the old man behind him still protesting in a feeble voice.
Mary went up tp the old man, "It's no use," she said, "I'm going to give
myself up." She put her hands on his shoulders, and her raised arms
and the statue's raised arms were like the raised arms of brother and
sister. She said to him, "You've been so kind to me. But I know you
would prefer me to face what has happened. I've been running away
from myself too long all these years. Sometimes it's hard for people
like me to know what are the things we really want in this world. May-
be everytime we run away from ourselves, we make it harder and harder
to find out. Maybe if we go on running we'll never find out. Maybe
it's time we start meeting ourselves, knowing ourselves. I believe that's
what we're going to do from now on." Her arms on his shoulders were
poised with beauty and hope. For a swift moment her clouded, obscured
expression had lifted, like a veil moved aside to reveal a flash of
splendid beauty: a beacon light flashing out quickly across wastes of
darkness. Then her face grew clouded again, bitter and obscure. Her
arms fell to her side. She seemed to regret what she had done. In one
instant she had been conscious of stature, of powerful hands to help
her forward, a family of hearts to console her, but then quickly this was
gone, like a dream. In its wake, she was aware of emptiness, of
standing alone with darkness and loneliness pressing upon her, and fear
growing and growing within her. Who would hear or understand the
dark meaning of her life? Couple the light and shadow, the good and
the bad into a true pattern? And what was that pattern? No one had
ever told her. They would simply treat her like an outcast, a woman
without a people, without a home, without a friend.
The policeman spoke at last, "Come on, lady," he said, I'm
She looked at us with a terrible sort of appeal. She seemed to be
trying to summon again that bright feeling of a moment ago that
moment of clarity, that moment of fulfilment when with a smile in her
lips she had faced the future sure and unafraid. Her lips moved and her
whole being was tense with feeling. The statue looking at her, with
understanding in its obscure eyes, lifted its arms to the skies in prayer
and entreaty and hope.
When I left the old man for home, the rain had long stopped. The
air was clear and chill and sweet, and the polished stars glittering in
the wide heavens promised good weather.
'A bright to-morrowl" I cried, wishing upon a falling star that fled
swiftly across the dark heavens until it was lost in space, and I could
follow it no more.
By Jacqueline de Weever
The Madrigal in which the creative imagination is
centered upon music, is in the fairy-tale tradition but
there is more than a touch of medieval fantasy overlaying
the tale. The framework of the ancient Egyptian ritual
written on the old papyrus of three steps backwards with
the words of renunciation of the things most precious to
her spoken to the new moon, takes us back to the sixteenth
century, and the sinister character with the ring displaying
the huge stone of black jade is an emissary of the agents
of black art.
The power of imagination works vividly in this story,
and the pair of male characters against whom the beautiful
and mysterious Arianne develops her personality allows
for a considerable plausibility of episode. Auberi, the
lover, is stimulated to compose music of a glowing rich-
ness to the delight of audiences and the violence of the
closing pages races us on to the end.
In "The Madrigal" the major power is that of love.
'What is any gift however wonderful" asks Arianne "com-
pared to the gift of being able to love?" There is a child
within us, bright and full of longing for liberation, and we
have dreams of longing within us that relate to our un-
fulfilled desires and it is happy to seek the aid of magi-
cal beings to realise them. Suffering enchances the deve-
lopment of spirit as well as of art and there is an eager
but aristocratic tone which is optimistic and sophisti-
cated in a most attractive manner.
On a clean crisp morning, the young musician Auberi was walking
on the seashore enjoying the sea air as his habit was whenever he was
holidaying in the country. Today the sea was calm and of a deep, rich
amber colour, the waves, as they lashed against the shore, topped with
their salty, crusty foam. He always yearned after the sea, and loved to
sit alone on the stone jetty, watching the waves lash against it, drawing
back, gathering force, and lashing again, always in perfect timing to the
rhythm of the sea, until he felt himself become a part of the rhythm of
the waves and the sea. This morning the tide was going out, and he walked
down to the very edge of the water, listening to the sea, with the taste of
the fresh morning in his mouth, the sky fused into an intense blue by the
sun whose fires were beginning to gather strength, flecked with little
white clouds like handfuls of sheep's wool, flung out over the blue by a
careless hand. The wind too, was crisp and very clean, as if in its travels
over the sea it had met with nothing unpleasant, so pure it was. Auberi
stretched his arms out to the sea, filled his lungs with the wonderful air,
and if he only knew how, he would have willed himself to dance on
the white foam of the amber waves It was on such clear mornings
as this that the strange mood took hold of him, and as he stood there
with his barefeet on the warm sand, it came over him. It was a mood in
which the sand on the sea-shore became the sand of the desert, the dis-
tant capstan on the jetty loomed into Cheops' pyramid, the wind as it
blew against his face full of the whisperings, the singing, of Arab voices
the whole atmosphere charged with the breath of Egypt. In the grip of
these powerful sensations he found himself trying to fit together the
pieces of a very ancient existence, but each time the mood slipped away
like the sand slipping through his toes, and he was left with the feeling
that he had not resolved the melody of this existence into its final
cadence. He now sighed heavily as the mood slipped away once again,
and looked up the beach to continue his walk. He could not move
however, for his feet refused to carry him; what his eyes saw com-
manded his feet to stand still. For not many yards away lay the shape
of a human being.
After the initial shock had worn away a little, he forced his be-
numbed legs to take him to the body, and as he bent over it, he saw
that it was a young woman. Her wet clothes clung to her body, her
hair coiled around her throat like a snake; yet as he bent over her,
Auberi saw her lips move, her eyelids flutter and close again, and
a moan oozed from her throat. Quickly he picked her up in his arms
and as fast as he could he returned to his little house which was not
far from the beach.
He carried her into his study and put her on his couch, but her
clothes were so cold that he decided to dry her. He peeled off her dress,
made of such coarse brown cloth that he thought perhaps she was a
fisherman's daughter, and when she lay before him clothed only in her
hair, his heart trembled at her loveliness. She was small, but withal,
finely built. As he remained lost in contemplation of the wonder, she
turned her head a little and moaned again, a moan which cut through
his contemplation as a sharp rapier cuts through a piece of silk. Reali-
sing again that she was cold, he poured a little brandy down her throat,
wrapped her up in blankets, and removed her from his study, preferring
to give her his bed where she would be more comfortable. Although
she did not awaken, her state gradually changed from unconsciousness
to sleep, and as he watched her sleep, she seemed to grow more beauti-
ful; her hair, which was now dry, was like strands of black silk, her every
breath was like the clean crisp air at the seashore. He felt his heart
quicken with desire, so he left the room, closing the door behind him.
Whenever he needed help or advice, he had always gone to his
friend, Richard, the writer who lived next door, now he felt he needed
advice, for he was bewildered by the finding of the girl, her beauty
and his own desire. Perhaps he ought to fetch the doctor, for he could
not understand why she should continue to sleep. She was all so still;
and as he stood hesitating in front of the door, Richard himself came
from the front porch.
'Oh, how glad am I to see you!" exclaimed Auberi. "I've found a
precious jewel!" At this Richard raised his left eyebrow, a habit he
had when he was sceptically amused. Auberi told him how he had
found a girl on the beach, about an hour and a half ago, and.how he
had tried to resuscitate her; and although he believed that she was
past all danger, yet he was disturbed that she should sleep so long.
Richard looked at her, and while he conceded that she was alive, and
breathing regularly, he urged Auberi to call a doctor. But this idea no
longer appealed to Auberi. He felt that the doctor might take her away
and although he had had the girl with him only such a short time, his
heart pricked him at the thought of a separation from her. Instead of
sending her a doctor, he asked Richard to remain with him, to wait
with him while she slept, until she should wake up, and this Richard
agreed to do. The whole day passed while they waited; evening came
deepened into night, and at last Richard went home.
If you need me during the night, I'll be working, you'll see my
light from my study. This is a curious thing, and I think you should
call a doctor. You won t? Well, good luck." With that he was gone.
Auberi was distressed. He gave her a last look before he curled up
on the couch in the study, hesitating between calling the doctor and
leaving her alone. The excitement of the day had tired him, and since
he was sure she was alive, he decided to wait until the morning. If she
still slept, then he would call the doctor. He put out the lamps and
went to sleep.
About midnight he thought he heard music, but he was always
hearing music in his dreams, for was he not a musician? It sounded as if
someone was quietly humming a quaint melody to the accompaniment
of a lute. He decided thar he was dreaming, turned over, and tried to
sleep, but the song continued. He could hear the fingers plucking
the strings of the instrument, and the voice had the deep rich notes of a
violincello. He opened his eyes. The silver bow of a crescent moon was
sending fine streaks of golden light through the window; and now the
music was very near, so he turned slowly in its direction, enchanted by
the sound and a little afraid by its beauty. Now he was stupified, for
he was face to face with the girl he had rescued, but how marvellous
she now was! She was sitting in the moonlight, wearing a gown of
gentian and gold silk, a gown moulded to her bosom, billowing out in
deep folds of blue and gold, and long sleeves of blue slashed to show
the gold lining underneath. She seemed poised for flight out of her
gown as a butterfly is poised on the brink of the cocoon before flying
off into the world. Her throat was a finely wrought pillar set between
a handsome pair of shoulders, her face was soft and smooth, and when
she smiled, the smile reached from her full ripe lips to the depths of her
magnificent black eyes, eyes full of mystery and a vague longing, into
which Auberi found himself longing to gaze. She was lovely, exquisitely
and wonderfully made. As Auberi gazed at her, giving his eyes time to
drink in her beauty, she continued to hum softly, her fingers plucking
the lute, now and then, lifting those eyes to Auberi's face. His heart
and his eyes were enchanted, and when she came nearer to his couch,
put her head against his knees and continued her song, the enchant-
ment grew stronger, and again he felt the desire he had experienced
earlier in the day. Gently he took the lute from her, and tilted her
face up to his.
"You are lovely,' he said, "Where do you come from? What is
your name? You know I found you on the beach this morning, and
I have been waiting all day for you to wake up".
"My name is Arianne," she answered softly, "and I belong to you.
But my Auberi, why not take the beautiful things in life gratefully,
without asking questions?" He was surprised that she knew his name,
and before he could ask her anymore questions she put her arms around
him, kissed him on the lips, and as his own arms tightened about her, all
his senses rushed out to discover her. His vision, touch, taste, smell,
even his hearing, embarked on a voyage of discovery of this unknown
The next morning when Auberi opened his eyes, he found himself
alone, and his heart stood still in fear least it had been deceived by a
dream or hallucination. He got up slowly, pricking up his ears, and
crossed the room to the window on the other side, almost expecting to
find his house in a strange setting; but when he looked out the window
he saw Richard bending over his rose bush. He smiled at his own fear,
turned from the window, making up his mind that the events of the
night before could very well have been a dream, when he saw the lute
on a table nearby. The sight of the lute evoked all the delight, and his
heart trembled with the remembering, of the night before. As his
thoughts formed the name"Arianne"she came into the room, in a frock
the pale yellow of buttercups, which lighted up every contour of her
face and body.
"There is one question I must ask you," Auberi said as casual as he
could. "Last night you were dressed in a marvellous blue and gold
gown, today you are wearing a yellow dress. When I brought you here,
I brought only you. Am I dreaming or are you real?"
"Touch me, 'she said in her deep rich voice. "What does your hand
tell you? This is real, is it not?" she asked, drawing his head down to
her full bosom.
A few days later Auberi and Richard were sitting in the shade of
the lime trees, drinking lemonade from tall glasses frosty with ice, for it
was midday, the sun was at its zenith; they were a Ittle tired with
digging vegetables in Richard's vegetable garden. "Your Arianne is truly
beautiful, Auberi. But'it is strange to me that she has no home to go
to, but it is content to stay with you." Richard was doubtful, and full
of misgiving. 'Her loveliness makes me think of the sea, the sea
creatures. Has she told you how she happened to get herself half
drowned? Perhaps a jealous lover tried to kill her."
Auberi was silent a few moments before answering; he swung him-
self in the hammock for a moment or two, running his hand over the
place where he had stitched a piece of the coarse brown cloth of
Arianne s old dress to the inside of his shirt, and when he spoke he
gazed into the blue and green distance before ehim. "I love her Richie,
and I am afraid of my love for her. When she speaks, I feel that she has
spoken to me before, sometime, long ago. I feel transported to another
place, another age, and I feel that all the music I have written have been
puny attempts to recapture the music of that time, the music of that
voice. I feel as if I have been carrying within me the desire for that
sound for a very long time."
Sometimes at night, while he was working on his novel, Richard
would hear Arianne singing to her lute, and many times he felt a strong
desire to sing with her. Her songs were quaint and delicate pieces, and
as he listened to them, Richard thought of blue waters lashing against
marble steps, gardens filled with heavily scented flowers, ladies in rich
gowns of silk and brocade gentlemen in tights and cloaks with silver
daggers hanging from belts of beaten gold. He would shake his head
and blink his eyes to shut out the visions, but as long as she sang they
persisted. One day he mentioned it to Auberi. "Auberi", he said,
"what do you think of when Arianne sings?"
'What do you mean?"
"Sometimes at night I hear her singing, and I find myself thinking
of brocades and silks, silver daggers."
Auberi smiled indulgently. "You think that strange? She loves
sixteenth century music, and I have been thinking of asking you to
learn a part so that you can join in a madrigal with us. Of course we
need at least four voices, but since it is just to enjoy ourselves, three
will have to do. I'll teach you what you have to sing."
When Richard knew his part, they decided to sing the madrigal to-
gether one evening after supper, but Arianne stopped them after the
first stanza. "We don't do justice to the master's music like this,
Auberi,' she said softly. "I think I'll sing two parts, and you and
Richard sing your own parts as before." The men exchanged glances,
and their heart beats quickened as if in anticipation of the beauty that
was to follow. She sang the upper and middle voices, the soprano and
the alto, while Auberi sang the tenor and Richard the bass, her voice
weaving itself into the men's like the gold and silver threads in a wine-
red brocade. Her voice was indeed marvellous. Auberi got the impres-
sion that it had been carved, moulded, and shaped by the music of the
madrigal for centuries, so that the melting flowing lines, the pathos as
well as the perfection, had been left clinging to the voice as gold dust
clings to the cloth over which it had been spilt. As they sang together,
the harmonies gradually went to their heads like wine, intoxicating
them delicately and delightfully, and when the song was finished, there
was silence for a full minute, their minds held by the music as with
strong but fine threads of silk, held as much prisoner as the silk worm is
held by its silken bonds. But as Arianne played a little coda on her
lute, they felt the bonds loosen, the silence fade, and the music take
possession of the room.
Soon they were singing together every evening. Arianne made the
most delicious honey and rice cakes, and provided sapodillas with wine
added to delight the taste. Auberi fell more and more in love with her,
his whole being stirring and growing with one glance from her black
eyes. She filled his days with tender care and his nights with delight,
while he drank in her loveliness at every turn. The very air he breathed
seemed to be a part of her, because she moved in it. Especially did her
grace in playing the lute move him, so filled with music were her fingers
One day, he examined the lute, and found that it was made of finely
polished wood, inlaid with ivory and mother-of-pearl. Like everything
about her it was exquisite, but in spite of its beauty, it showed signs
of great age.
'Arianne, I like your lute, but I don't remember finding it with
She took his face between her palms and a shiver of sweetness ran
through him. 'It was given to me a very, very, very long time ago, and
he who gave it to me promised me that whenever I sang with it,l would
be able to sing in as many voices as I chose. Touch me, Auberi, I feel
I am living only when you touch me. You are going to ask me who
gave me the lute, and I will tell you. An old man, whose name I do not
know, gave it to me when I was quite a small child, and he is long since
dead. Perhaps my lute is a magic one,"*and she ran her fingers lovingly
over it. "It is not enough for you that I am here, my Auberi? When
your hands caress me, I care only to be clothed with the garments your
fingers can weave for me. Kiss me," and when he kissed her, it was as
if he was in a wine press and the sweetest grapes were being pressed
into his mouth so that the juice ran down his chin.
There are now occurred a change in Auberi. He had been on holi-
day six weeks already, weeks which had been spent in reading, roaming
the countryside with Richard, lying in his hammock under the lime
trees, with not even a desire to write a single note. Now he found him-
self working, creating such wonderful sounds that his music took on a
glowing richness, and he composed more easily than before. He worked
ceaselessly while Arianne watched him anxiously. Many times in a
night she would get up an make him hot chocolate which he loved to
drink when he was working, or she would sit under his desk and hug his
knees until he stopped working from sheer exhaustion. Once in bed, he
would cradle his head in her bosom and fall asleep immediately, while
her desire was left to thread the darkness alone. She poured her tender-
ness for him over his curly head, kissed his hair and running her fingers
through it, longing for him in the very tips of her fingers, the palms of
her hands, in the edges of her lips.
The last week of his holiday arrived and Auberi allowed himself
time to relax. He closed the piano, put up his manuscripts, held out
his arms to her. "Come, my Arianne, come down with me to the sea
before we go. Oh, it s been such a long time since I really held you in
my arms; come with me to the sea."
As they walked along the shore, he told her how he had been en-
joying the fine morning when he found her nearly dead. "How did that
happen? Did a jealous lover try to drown you?" he asked, remembering
Richard s explanation. For answer, she leaned her head against his
shoulder and whispered.
'Auberi, I love.you. It seems to me that I have loved you before,
once upon a time, and that I lost you. Now that I have found you
again I won't lose you, although you ask me questions the answers to
which I do not know. Look how calm the sea is, and how beautiful!"
After that, Auberi forced himself to swallow any questions which
begged for utterance. Instead he revelled in her beauty and took his fill
of her love.
The next week they returned to the city with Richard and Auberi
began rehearsing the new compositions with the orchestra. Arianne
continued her tender care of him, and also undertook to care for his
garden, for the only things which grew well in Auberi's garden were his
roses. He neglected everything else. She cut away the vines which were
killing the jasmine and mimosa, removed the anthuriums and put them
in the damp cool and shade under the front stairway, pruned the fangi-
pani, and soon the garden was filled with the fragrant perfumes of the
flowers, the night air filled with their scents. On such nights, love was
a lovelier thing because of flowers.
One evening there was a ball given to honour the composer whose
music everyone was enjoying, as the concerts had begun and people
were flocking from far and near to hear the music which Auberi had
written. For it turned out that his music was so well received that
everybody was talking about it. He took Arianne to the ball, and she
wore a dress that took his breath away, everytime he looked at her.
It was made of white gossamer silk, moulding the contours of her
exquisite shoulders and bosom, and billowing out from under the
bosom in deep, rich folds of white and gold; it was the same style of
dress as the one she had been wearing after she had waked out of her
long sleep, but a more magnificent one. Over her hair she wore a little
cap embroidered with seed pearls and diamonds, and her elegance
created quite a stir among the ladies present. As they went up the
broad staircase, a tall ascetic man passed them. His face showed that
he was almost middleaged, yet he had a head of unusually black hair;
on the little finger of his left hand he wore a ring with a gigantic stone
of black jade. On his way down the stairs, he passed for a moment to
gaze after Arianne. She shivered.
'Do you know him?" asked Auberi, when the gentleman had
'No,' she replied, in a too-frightened whisper.
'Then why do you shiver? Tell me, my love, are you afraid?"
'No, Auberi, it is nothing. Let's not talk about it."
About half way through the ball, the stranger appeared and asked
for a dance with Arianne. Auberi looked straight into his eyes. Those
eyes held just a hint of mockery of him and all the world. Arianne gave
Auberi s hand a frightened squeeze and for as long as he was able,
Auberi kept an eye on them while they danced. When they were
swallowed up in the crowd, and when the music for three sets of dances
had been played and they had not returned, he went to look for them.
In the course of his search he met Richard, who was, in his turn,
looking for Auberi, for he had seen Arianne leave with the gentleman,
but he had no idea where they had gone, and this piece of news upset
Auberi very much. Could it be that his Arianne was being unfaithful?
The two friends left the ballroom, hurried into the street where
Auberi took the direction to the left. He thought he heard singing in
four parts calling his name, but in his deranged state of mind he could
not believe his ears. Nevertheless the singing continued, and he followed
it. It took him out of the city, down to the sea shore, with Richard
following him. Where the sea lapped agianst the shore there were two
figures wrestling with each other, and from the belt of one of them a
silver dagger gleamed in the moonlight. As they hurried toward the
figures, Arianne's voice called out: 'Take his dagger away from him,
slay him, and then plunge the dagger into my breast." Auberi froze in
horror on the spot, and as Richard rushed forward to get the dagger,
the voice called out again. "No, Auberi must do it."
The thought of killing his Arianne chilled Auberi's blood, but the
voice cried again. 'Do it, or you will never see me again."
In despair and rage, Auberi attacked the man, who was a skilful
and strong wrestler, and only after a dreadful struggle did the musician
half crazed with his love, succeed in driving the dagger into the breast
of the man. As the body sank into the sea, the waves bore it away
swiftly, taking Arianne with them. At this, Auberi tried to pull her out,
but the sea had a strange force and continued to bear her away. "Do
it now, Auberi, or you will drown, and I shall never be free. Someone
else will find me on the beach, thousands of miles from here, someone
else will love me in the night, and I shall be forced to love him. Do it
now, Auberi, for the sake of the jasmine-scented night of our love."
Auberi raised his arm and plunged the silver dagger into the bosom
which had cradled his head a joyful night. As Arianne sank into the
waves, a change came over her. In the light of the full moon, the beauti-
ful girl shrivelled and shrank, her skin became wrinkled as a crocodile's
skin the eyes beady like those of an old bird, the nose like an eagle's;
beneath the skin on the brow could be clearly seen the shape and bones
of the skull.This was age such as no man had ever seen,for even the limbs
which a while ago were young and strong and perfect, were now
crooked and bent like the limbs of an old tree. And the waves did not
carry it away any further; they had lost their power. And while the
two men watched like men bewitched, the old skin continued to shrirjk
and to curl up, and at last to peel away, and like a snake shedding its
old skin, a fresh new Arianne emerged while the sea suddenly gathered
force and a gigantic wave heaved her and threw her heavily onto the
shore. Here Auberi's strength failed him and he fell down in a faint.
He woke in his own bed, in his own house, to find a woman leaning
over him. It was Arianne, as lovely as ever, but now dressed in his old
blue bathrobe. He grew limp with joy when she took him in her arms,
and he pressed his lips to her breast, he felt the mark he had made with
the dagger. He opened his eyes, bewildered, and he saw Richard leaning
against the door.
'Richie tell me that it has been a dream. But it could not have
been a dream, for there is the mark. He closed his eyes for the memory
gave him pain.
'Touch me, my Auberi, my dear love," said Arianne. Her voice
now had a new quality in it, it was a little husky, but still rich and
sweet. Auberi looked at her again. She was still lovely, but in a
different way. She no longer shone brilliantly like a diamond, the light
seemed to have been softened, there was a new vulnerability about her,
she was now like a rich ruby which asks not only to be enjoyed but also
to be cherished.
'Auberi,' she said in her soft husky voice, "now I shall grow old
along with you; now you will have to clothe me," and here she smiled
a little impishly,"for now there will be no more lavish and magnificent
gowns to set questions in your mind. I shall no longer remain young
and beautiful, as I have for centuries; for four centuries have I been
the lovely Arianne, because I once thought that to be young and
beautiful forever to be the the thing I wanted most.
"My father was an Egyptian merchant who had a shop in Florence
where we lived quite comfortably. He had a friend, a Netherlandish
composer of madrigals, who dined often at our house, and who taught
me to sing. It was all such a long time ago that I have forgotten his
name, but he gave me a lute one day as a gift, and promised me that
as long as I was young and lovely, I would be able to sing his madri-
gals in all their parts, the three-part ones as well as the six-part songs. I
loved music very much, especially his madrigals; I was also very much
in love with a young composer, a pupil of the Netherlander, who ad-
mired me because of my sweet voice. I wanted to win his love com-
pletely, to bind him to me, but he eluded me at every turn. Now if
I could contrive to remain young forever and to sing in as many voices
as I choose, one day he might fall in love with me. But how to do this,
I could not tell. My father was a scholar as well as a merchant, and I
set myself to studying all his books to find out if they could tell me
how to achieve my desire. After months of studying I came across
an old papyrus, which had written on it an ancient Egyptian ritual
for remaining young and beautiful. It said that if a young girl were
prodigal enough to unveil her beauty to the new moon, when it was
just a thin silver bow in the sky, and walk backwards three steps,
repeating at each step, "I want to be young forever, and I now re-
nounce forever those things that are most precious to me," If a young
girl did these things, she would have the secret of remaining beautiful
forever. I thought of all the things which were most precious to me,
my father, my home with the fountains in the marble hall, my books,
my horse, but never once did I think that the love of my young com-
poser was to be added to these things. So one morning, in the very
early dawn, I carried out the instructions. I stood naked facing the
very new moon, took the three steps backwards repeating the words,
and then walked back to my room. The years passed, I still sang
beautiful with my lute, my father grew old and died, the young man I
loved turned his heart away from me, my friends remarked that I kept
the secret of youth to myself and would not share it with them. A time
came when everyone I had known grew old and died, and my youth
began to cause me embarrassing moments. Everybody remarked about
it, some jealously, some suspiciously, until it began to be rumoured that
I was a witch. So I left Florence and went to France, where no one
knew me. I stayed there for some years, when the same whispers began
to reach my ears. My friends would grow old and die, while I remained
young, and people rumoured that I was a witch. When I had had this
experience three more times, in Spain, in Morocco, in Egypt, I tried to
commit suicide by jumping off a cliff into the sea, but the sea washed
me up on the beach of an island, a man found me, and the same thing
happened all over again. I longed for the power to love, which I had
thrown away, and I began to long for death, but through the centuries
I have been denied both. All this time I had not sang with my wonder-
ful voice, I had forgotten about my gift, I was in such despair. It was
only when I saw Auberi, sleeping so peacefully like a child that I sud-
denly remembered the words of the old Netherlander, and I longed to
hear the old melodies and harmonies. Whenever I sang for you I found
peace. Now one day I shall grow old, and I won't be able to sing in
many voices. And what is any gift, however wonderful, compared to
the gift of being able to love?"
Lulu an de Camoodi
By Florence Cavigholi
This story differs sharply from the others in this
collection. It is a Creolese story, iin that many minds
have taken part in the shaping and fashioning of the chain
of events, with small emphasis and details being made and
added here and there, and as a community and folk tale,
it has passed from tongue to ear, to inventive tongue to
ready ear in a stream of generations.
It belongs, of course, to the great family of West-
Indian proverbial sayings which fed the life of common
people in the Berbice River in the 1930's It is intended
to warn and advise girls to obey their mothers, and the
two non-human participants, the parrot and the camoodi
are sensible beings, can speak and even better, can sing songs
as in an opera.
The tale has elements of the miraculous in it, since
Lulu's head can be stitched back to her body (pasting
back her hair may not be a miracle in these modern times)
but the navel, the seat of life, can be pasted back with
glue, and Lulu is restored to life again.
Our author is the scribe in that she was the person
who wrote it down for the first time.
And they lived happily ever after.
Dis was a gurl, she live far in de faress wid she muddah, she faada
an a parrat dat deh use to call Lora.
Now dis-gurl did name Lulu, an she faada did love she so much, dat
he use to treat ee wife baad fu Lulu. If Lulu head hut she, e seh Lulu
muddah en tekkin good care a she, an wah evva Lulu tell e against she
muddah e use to believe she, an so sometime e would beat up de wife
baad baad, so Lulu poar muddah live in dread all de time.
Lora now, was a talking parrat an very sensible, she did like Lulu
muddah, an use to sarry fuh shee wen she getting baad treatment, and
Lulu muddah use to treat Lora good, causen sometimes she use to warn
Lulu muddah bout any a Lulu tricks dat she would play fuh get she in
trouble. But Lulu din like Lora atall an of course Lora retum de com-
By dis you know of course dat Lulu was a very wicked gurl, an she
eye did pass she muddah so much, she nat only use to tell lie pan she,
but she woan hear wen she muddah talk to she. She use to do all de
tings she muddah tell she she mussin do, an cause de poar ooman to get
beat up. Dis was fun fuh Lulu.
Wan dey now, de faadah go to work as usual cutting wood in de
faress, an lef Lulu an she muddah at home. So de muddah do she house
work, tidy up she bed an ting an set about fuh cook she husband food
fuh wen e come home in de nite, causen de faadah use to carry e
brekfus fuh eat during de day; but wen she open she safe she see nutten
en deh fuh cook. She seh to sheself, "Lawd is wah dis pan poar me
now, you mean me gah fuh guh till a village now fuh buy provision?
An is so far to de village? An she suck she teet, vex wid sheself fuh
lettin dis happen to she. Dis time she trying fuh figure out how de pro-
vision done suh soon, causen all a dem does go pan a Satiday to de
village, an like she does feel at ease, causen she husband wid she fuh
protect she, but she doan like to travel wid Lulu in de faress widout
she husband causen you nevah can tell wha Lulu will do nex. She had
dat experience wance an she pay de consequence, dear enough. Dis
time she en know dat Lulu tek she provision an play dally house and
feed up de burds and pigs wid it, an causen she muddah a big set of
Anyway de position still de same anyhow she put it to sheself,
so she decide she an Lulu will guh to de village, "at lease" she tink to
sheself "wah evah happen, me husband will get e food tinite."
So she turn to Lulu an seh, "Lulu gal awee na gat nutten fuh cook
fuh you faadah dinna tinite. Come leh awee guh ah village fuh buy
provision". Lulu seh "Mommah, nutten na deh a house fah eat?"
Mommah seh "No gal, put an you hat an you shoes an leh awee go
Lulu glad fuh de chance fuh gie she muddah worries now, right
away she gwine lie. She staat fuh groan an mek up she face an hole
ann to she foot. Hear she now, "0, Mommah, me foot a hut me, me
caan walk suh far". Lulu moomah see right away dat is mo worries dis
gurl gwine give she suh she seh to sheself, "If me wan guh a village me
guh come back mo quick dan if awee two guh. If me carry she, she guh
give me worries all de way an me nah guh reach back in time fuh cook
me husband food. An if me lef she home lack up in de house she gwine
too friken fuh come out side by is she alone, an no tigah or camoodi
can trouble she if she lack up in de house, so me betta try quick if me
wan fuh reach back in time fuh cook me husband food."
So she turn to Lulu an seh "Awright chile, you staan me guh run
guh quick an come back, but you do jus wah me tell you, or else you
might fine yourself in trouble, mo dan yuh able wid, you might get
kill?" and she add dis piece "an you know how you faddah love you"
Causen she know how Lulu wun want to grieve she faadah, an den she
tink again, "is no use tellin she me love she to, causen she doan kay.
Ah only pray to Gaad dat every ting guh right till a come back."
Dis time Lulu siddown in de chair, swinging she fat lil legs, an she
lil mine wukkin how much mischief she can do by de time she muddah
"Lulu, you gwine do wah a tell you?"
"Yes Moomah, me gwine do every ting wah you tell me."
"Do Lulu, doan get in no mischief."
"No Moomah, owl you self to."
"Awrite gal." Lulu moomah seh. She turn an tek up she basket
an she money and she lack up all dem windah an doh an bolt dem good
den she come back to weh Lulu did sitten. Dis time Lulu watching she,
an she seh, "Now Lulu, wen me guh tru de doh, you mus bolt it good
an turn de key in side. An you mussin open none a dem windah nor
de door, causen anything or anybody can come inside an harm yuh,
doan open de doh to nobody but me."
'Awrite Moomah guh quick an come back."
Lulu moomah seh "Hm, it look like she gwine behave she self,
causen de danjah is mo dan she."
Den Lulu tun an seh, "But Moomah how me gwine know is you
rappin at de doh, me caan see tru de wood?"
De muddah seh, "Gal you na known you own muddah vice?"
Lulu seh, 'Moomah anybody can imitate you vice."
"Awrite den Lulu, wen me come to de doh me gwine sing a song
dat nobody gwine taink bout singin to a doh."
"Dah is a good ideah" Lulu seh.
'Well awrite now lissen to de saang" de muddah seh, an she sing
Is me Lulu gal,
You muddah come home,
Looloo open de doh,
Yuh muddah come home.
She sing it ova and ova suh Lulu can know it good.
Dis time dey en know dat a Camoodi deh undah de house hearing
everting wah goin on upstairs, an dat e tekkin in dis saang good, good,
causen dis Camoodi is a smaat Camoodi, an e know fuh imitate anything
or anybody, an is suh e does get'e food. Wen e imitate de animals dey
does come to e an e does jus gobble dem up.
Anyway Lulu muddah gie she a las wamin, den she step outside on
de verandah an she hear Lulu bolt an lack de doh. She give it a good
shakin an pushin fuh see if it can budge, but de doh was fas.
So she turn to Lora an seh, "Lora gal, you is me only friend, watch
ovah Lulu wen a gaan an tell she if you see anything wrang; do fuh me
sake. Remembah a love you an does treat yuh good. Doan mine Lulu
baad, do it fuh me sake." Lora watch she good but sh en ansah Lulu
muddah, causen she did glad if anything happen to Lulu, dat will put
she out a de misery she does suffer at Lulu han. So she en mek no
pramis, but she jus cack she head wan side an lissen good.
Lulu muddah turn an guh down de steps and start pon she laang
journey to de village praying to Gaad in she hart dat everything be
awrite. She en tink bout peepin undah de battam house fuh see if any-
thing undah neet deh, an of course Lora din see de camoodi cause a
come fram de back a de house an crawl undahneet it.
Ehl Ehl Lulu Muddah gaan now, she hustlin down de road, dis
time de camoodi watching she, e wait till she reach a good distance, den
e crawl out an mek e way to de bush behind de house;e guh a good dis-
tance weh Lulu caan hear e, now Buddy is wah you tink e gwine do?
E gwine an practice fuh sing dis saang, causen e did lam de wods good
wen e been lissenin undah de battam house.
Wen e reach de spat now, e staat fuh practice fuh sing, man, fus
time e try e vice too case, suh e seh "mmm dis won do, Lulu mus
know is nat she muddah vice." E try again, dis time e vice too hoarse.
E seh "Gawdl is wah dis. A know is wah wrang wid mel de las time a
swalla a cow, it lef me troat too slack, is dat's wy ah caan sing like Lulu
muddah. But a must get dis gurl causen she fat an nice, ah ent want
she muddah an she faadah yet causen deh ent fat an juicy like Lulu. As
fuh Lora, she can even full me teet-hole".
De very taught a Lulu an how she fat an nice mek de Camoodi
decide e cyan water. So e put aan a frak just like Lulu muddah own an
a hat like she own to, fo comaflage de situation, den e staat prancing
down to de house.
Wen e meet now, e see Lora pan de verandah weh she cage hanging,
right in front de doh an e seh to self, she mus'n see me face, she will
tek me fuh Lulu muddah, causen a dress up jus like she.
But is betta de Camoodi did come widout a frak, cause e lang
lang tail did still lef outside e close. Lora done know is nat e mistress,
but e glad fuh anything to happen to Lulu causen e en like de gurl attal.
So e staan quiet. Dis time Camoodi suh hungry e impatient; e fuget to
sing, e put out e han an wrap at de doh.
Dis time Lulu inside, up to all saat a mischief, she hear de wrap, she
seh to sheself. Ehl Ehi, is who wrapping at dis time a de day, Poopah
doan come home suh soon an moomah kyan read de village suh suh
quick an come back, eh, eh, ah wandah is who?
Camoodi wrap mo haad now. Lulu get up from weh she been,
curious fuh know is who. "Is who wrapping deh?" De camoodi
answah, "Is me Lulu darlin open de doh, you muddah come home?"Dis
time e vice hoase hoase you know.
Lulu seh, "Eh, eh, Moomah, wah happen, who mek you vice suh
hoase." De camoodi mek ansa, "Ah ketch coal Lulu."
Lulu tinkin all de time, she seh to sheself, "Da en me muddah vice"
suh she seh, "sing de saang moomah."
De camoodi ketch eself den, an e rememba de saang an e stretch out
e neck an staat to sing:-
Is me Lulu gal,
You muddah come home'
Looloo open de doh,
Ydu muddah come home.
Dis time e vice still case but e hopin Lulu en gwine resist de incli-
nashun fuh open de doh an peep. Lora watching all dis time. An e was
Lulu cyan bear it no mo. She loose de bolt, tun de key and befo
she can peep tru de doh crease, Camoodi hurl eself pan de doh an knack
Lulu flat pan de floor. Den e punce pan she, an e wrap eself rung she,
Lulu hallah an fighting all de time but she en able wid de Camoodi.
Then she rememba wah she muddah did tell she. De wods come back
to she, "You might fine yourself in mo trouble dan you able wid." An
all de wrang tings wat she does do, she muddah words come back to
she, an she did sarry, she seh, "Ow, me muddah, if only a did hear
you.' "But was too late den. De Camoodi bite off she head, and trow
it undah de bed, and wen it did rollin to de bed de hair come off an
leff undah de chair, den e bite aff she navel ann spit it out undah de
table. Den e swalla de ress a she baddy, whole, whole.
Well, Lulu laan she lessen, but hear wah gwine happen to de
Lulu did suh fat, dat wen de Camoodi swalla she, e could'n budge
fram weh e bin, e leff right deh wid e belly swell out big, big.
Eh! Eh! de muddah coming home now, she run all de way tru de
faress till she meet de village, buy she goods an coming home now. She
run she walk, she run, she walk, till de sun did high in de sky an de
journey mo haad now, causen de midday sun mo hat an she weary al-
Wen she reach a good distance fram de house, she see de doh open,
she haat leap to she troat, an she staat run mo quick. Dis time she foot
cyan carry she fas enough. Wen she reach de doh, wah she gwine see
but de big fat ugly Camoodi wid e belly swell up big, lying down in de
middle ah she floor. De house in confusion, everything upside down,
an Lulu nowhere around. "0 Lawdl" Den she staat fuh bawl, WWaail
O me lawd is weh me Lulu deh? Wah me gwine tell me husband wen e
come home? O Gawd me, waan gall pickny gaan inside de Camoodi
belly,'an so she go an for a laang time.
Dis time Lora hearing she mistress how she hallerin and grievin ova
Lulu, Lora din bargain fuh dis paat atall; she glad fuh leh Lulu dead,
but she en glad fuh see she mistress grieve. She lissenin to all wah Lulu
muddah hallerin an sehin.
"Awl me pickny!" an she trow sheself in a chair holin she head an
rackin sheself backward and forward all de time de tears running down
she face like rain pourin fram de sky.
Lora feel sarry fuh de poor woman now, and decide fuh help she.
Suh e staat fuh sing fuh she, an dis is de saang wah Lora sing:-
Lulu, poar Lulu dead,
Undah de bed,
You see Lulu head,
Undah de chair,
You see Lulu hair,
Undah de table,
You see Lulu navel,
Lulu, poar Lulu dead.
Lulu muddah hear de singing an she stap cryin fuh lissen. She guh
to de doh an stan up. Dis time Lora sing it again.
Lulu, poar Lulu dead, etc.
De muddah lissen good an wen de saang done sing, she guh inside
de bedroom an look. Lulu head been undah de bed in trute, she surch
undah de chair an she fine Lulu hair, an wen she hice up de table claat,
Lulu navel had been deh to. So she coleck sheself an she tek all tree a
dese tings an she put dem in a caana, den she guh in de kitchen an bring
out ah axe, an she lif it high up in de air an bash in de Camoodi head.
All de Camoodi could do was groan suh, m m m m m den e dead. An
Lulu muddah tek a shap nife an cut open the Camoodi belly and tek
out Lulu baddy, den she tek lil pase an phase aan Lulu hair pan she head,
den she tek Lulu navel an stick it back in place wid lil glue, an wah you
tink happen? Lulu come alive again.
Den deh hole aan pan mattee an dem cry an dem laff wid joy. An
Lulu tell she muddah she sarry fuh all de bad tings, she use to do anall
de trouble she cause de muddah an promise nevah to be wicked again an
tell no lies, an be dissobedient. An wen she hear how Lora save she life,
she hug up Lora an kiss she too, and Lora an Lulu was de bes o' friends
afterwards an de live happy everafter.
Out, out the Fire
By Martin Carter
"Out, Out the Fire'enjoys the distinction of being the
only short story written by Martin Carter that was
published inKYKOVERAL, It is obviously an incomplete
story, part of a larger whole, setting out the beginnings
of a problem but no solution although it sketches in a
situation of community suspicion and possible police
The opening sentence identifies it as part of the world
of Martin Carter's poetry. This is the world of the nigger
yard poem and the sun "burns madly upstairs in the sky"
the houses on either side of the chalk line street "stand up
on stilts like angular insects reaching for something to
eat" and the fronts of the houses are like open mouths. It
is a day-mare world and we quickly reconcile the images
to those of the disordered and menacing world of the
Black Friday poem and the poems of the Conversations.
After day comes night and in the language of the first four
paragraphs, the yard becomes a "slab of darkness, like a
block of black ice," and a cartman carrying a bottle of fire
comes round the corner.
The strong imagery of the description is succeeded by
a Creolese conversation between two yard inmates, Miss
Agnes and Old Katie, on the bad smell coming from the
alleyway, and then the next morning reveals what has
been the real reason for their talk. The yard comes alive
with people as a policeman comes with his notebook and
sudden unpredictable shifts in the talk and the attitudes
of the women to the police remind the reader of episodes
in the pages of Roger Mais and the gallery of his Jamaica
(In this extract the description of the street in the city is followed by
the discovery in the alleyway of a decomposing foetus, obviously
thrown there by someone who had undergone an abortion).
Outside, in the city the sun bums madly upstairs in the sky. The
streets blaze white near green grass, and galvanised iron roofs shimmer
like vapour. When the sun is high the city lies rigid, tense and trembing
in the stark light. And the sky is far away like a foreign country, and
the clouds are like new sails on old ships sailing forever.
Every street is straight and white like a chalk line. On either side
houses stand up on stilts like angular insects, reaching for something to
eat. The fronts of the houses are separated from the green parapets by
fences made of wallaba paling staves. But some are broken and jagged
like splintered teeth, dirty and discoloured. The fronts of the houses
are like open mouth and the stumps of the paling staves are like the
stained stumps of broken teeth. And just as down a human mouth, the
food of life goes everyday, just so into this broken mouth of the house-
lot, life goes everyday, passing forward and backward as if some giant
face were eating with a morbid relish, spitting out the more tasteless
morsels and swallowing all the rest.
The street is wide and full of dust. In the white sunlight it lies
down passively. From the wide world come motor cars, lorries and
vans, making a lot of noise, shaking up the white dust and leaving the
air full of the smell of fume. Wooden donkey carts, creaking and
shaking, rattle over the pieces of white marl lying all about. Dogs fight
in the grass, snarling and snapping angry white teeth until they lock
into each other, twisting violent muscles. And little naked black
children, with rags for shirts, run about with discarded bicycle tyres,
jumping over the furious dogs, the grass and the stones. Sometimes,
but sometimes only, the whole street goes suddenly quiet, as though
everything has stopped for a moment to listen to itself. But then it
begins all over again, iron wheels turning, sun wheels turning, sky
wheels turning, hub and rim, centre and circumference, point and limit,
core and boundary.
And when the sun goes down the whole yard becomes a slab of
darkness, like a block of black ice. In the night-wrapped city, where
the streets intersect, the light from lantern posts falls into yellow pools
on dust and pebbles. Trees grow tall above the roof tops and some of
them look as if they were trying to go to sleep. Crapauds in the damp
grass begin to rattle and whistle like birds who can fly. And even the
dogs bark with a different meaning. The night is like a door that closes
in the afternoon locking everything into a black room. And as it comes
down, the sky seems to rise high up into space, only to come down
again. Below, in the streets, boys and girls on bicycles ride past men
and women walking. And a donkey cart would appear around the
corner moving slowly. The cartman droops over the donkey's rump,
half-asleep. In his fist he clutches a bottle from the narrow spout of
which protrudes a tongue of yellow fire. And as the donkey walks, the
cartman rolls forwards and backwards in rhythm with the hooves. And
in the yards, the women sit on their doorsteps looking out at the street,
spitting at the night, gossiping with their neighbours and laughing at
themselves, in strange and secret amusement.
Miss Agnes always sat out on her front steps watching the street
after dusk. She would sit down and look at the people passing for an
hour or two before going in to prepare for sleep. But as somebody
from the yard would come to look out too, she invariably had a com-
panion to talk to.
That night she was sitting on her front step in the dark as usual
when suddenly she heard a voice from the shadows behind her.
"Like you looking out", the voice said.
"Eh heh", Miss Agnes replied, turning her head to see who it was.
recognized Old Katie's voice and repeated, "Eh heh, ah looking out lI"
Old Katie came up and stood beside Miss Agnes.
'But wait! Was to ask you. Is wha' kind of shrimp shells you throw
away in the alley dis morning."
Miss Agnes started. The sudden question surprised her. She did
not reply at once but wondered why Old Katie had asked the question
at all. Before she could say anything else Old Katie continued:
'If you only smell the place now. It smell like some dead ramgoat
bury with rotten eggs. I never smell nothing so bad in all me life". As
she spoke she grimaced as though something was stuck up in her nose.
In the dark her flabby face twisted around her nose like a mask of soft
'But is wha you mean at all" Miss Agnes asked her after a
moment. "Is only today I throw way' dem strimp shells in de alley.
You never smell shrimp shells before? She demanded, turning fiercely
on Old Katie.
Old Katie sighed. She was not a quarrelsome old woman so she
said quietly, "I custom to smelling strimp shells yes, but I ain't custom
to smelling strimp shells like dem at all. I telling you, Miss Agnes, dem
strimp shells really smelling bad. But you must come with me and tek
a smell for yourself."
Miss Agnes did not reply. She was wondering how the few strimp
shells she had thrown away that morning could ever smell as bad as
Old Katie was making out.
"You sure is strimp shells you smelling in de alley", she asked
quietly, looking at Old Katie.
"Is wha' den the old woman replied. "Is only you use strimps
today and throw way de shells in de alley. It didn't smell so last night,
so it could only be you strimp shells that got de place smelling so
'Well", said Miss Agnes. "Well ah really don't feel like smelling no
nasty 'ting tonight. But if you sure is me strimp shells smelling so high
in de alley, I going to come down in de morning and tek a smell foh
Old Katie turned away, grumbling to herself. "Just fancy, she
don't feel like smelling no nasty thing tonight! But I who living in de
backhouse got to sleep with it, and bathe with it cook with it, ehi eh?"
As she walked back through the yard to her house at the back she
continued grumbling in her mouth.
'But look at me trial" she grumbled. "Dey come and dey throw
away dey nasty things all about the place and when you talk to dem
about it dey bex. People like them should live in de pasture where dey
could do what dey like".
She walked up her step and entered her little shaky house. Across
the alleyway she could see the lights in the other houses giving off a
sickly yellow glow as though the lights was weak and anaemic with
living in all the darkness,
And when midnight comes and every light is out except the street
lights, all is quiet as a grave yard. In the silence the beat of the wind on
the sea comes gently, floating over the sleeping roofs. In the grass near
the land crickets and candleflies exchange places on hidden leaves.
Dogs snarl and bark out suddenly. And somewhere in the world of
night, man lies on top of a woman closing his eyes and emptying him-
self into the invisible depths of her body. And then when he is quite
empty, he becomes light like a feather and floats through the black
silk cotton of sleep like a seed on wings. And far away to the North
of the city the sea surrounds the world, dark under the keen stars. Up
and down, forever and forever, the broken waves run from shore to
shore, from night to night and from man to man.
In the morning, bright and early, Miss Agnes went down to the
alleyway. The sun was lifting itself over the city and the sharp light
made clean shadows on the earth. The wind was fresh and moist and
the sky sparkling like wet glass.
'Ah come foh smell de ting you was telling me about last night",
she called out as she came up to Old Katie's house.
Old Katie looked through the window.
'Wha' happen" she asked, "you mean to say you ain't start
smelling yet." She looked at Miss Agnes suspiciously.
Miss Agnes took a noisy sniff, holding her nose to the air.
'You ain t got foh do all dat", Old Katie cried out, "just come
round by the back step and you gin know".
Miss Agnes walked around and took another loud sniff.
'Oh Jesus Christ!" she exclaimed suddenly, "Oh Jesus Christ, but
is true. But is wha got dis place smelling so bad!"
As she stood up there she could see the shrimp shells she had
thrown away lying on the ground. Surely those few shrimp shells could
not be giving off that smell. And yet, she reasoned, it had to be the
shrimp shells. There was nothing else lying about that could possibly
give off such a cloud of stink.
Miss Agnes stood up looking about her. She couldn't say any thing
to defend herself. And all she did was to cry out again and again about
Behind her at the window Old Katie was waiting to hear what she
"You believe now?" Old Katie asked, "you believe now about
what I was telling you last night. And you only smelling it now you
deh here standing up. But if you was like me living in dis house you
would dead long ago. Last night the smell was so bad that I dream I
was living in the latrine, not no clean big shot latrine, but dem brum
down nasty latrine some people got in the yard where dey say dey
living. And dis morning when ah wake up and smell the smell, ah
know de dream was not no dream at all. Because up to now ah got one
Miss Agnes turned around sympathetically.
"Ah know how you must be feeling wid dis nastiness so near you."
She walked away slowly wondering what she should do. As she turned
around she noticed a piece of cloth sticking out from under a pile of
old boards lying half in the yard and half in the alleyway. She walked
over and looked at it curiously. As she bent down to inspect it, the
smell rose in her face like a dense spray of water. She put her hand
over her mouth and bent lower.
"But is wha dis?" Miss Agnes asked again. She looked around on
the ground and picked up a short piece of stick and started to probe at
the half-hidden cloth.
As she poked at it a piece of pinkish fabric broke away.
"Eh Eh" she remarked aloud. "But this look like blood." The
smell was stronger than ever and Miss Agnes kept her mouth tightly
closed so as to prevent any of the bad smell going down her throat.
Suddenly she jumped back as though something had leaped from
the ground straight into her eyes.
"Oh Gawd" she screamed, "Oh Gawd". She spun around to face
Old Katie. "Is a dead baby, is a dead baby." She bawled, "come
"An was dat got the place smelling so bad an' got me blaming Miss
Agnes shrimp shells ', Old Katie told Policeman, Policeman was writing
in his notebook standing near the spot where the bundle showed under
the wood. Around his black uniform the women from the adjoining
houses were discussing the pitiful discovery. They had all come running
when Miss Agnes gave the alarm, leaving their pots cooking on the fires
in their kitchens.
"But why you all people don't go home and cook you husband
food," Policeman asked them nudging one of the women with his
elbow. They were all grouped around him listening as he spoke with
Old Katie, and from time to time they interrupted him.
The woman he nudged sucked her teeth loudly.
"But like you is a anti-man nuh?" she asked cutting her eyes at
Policeman. All the women laughed out boisterously, and Poiliceman
looked back into his book writing industriously so as to appear as busy
and official as possible. He knew he dared not attempt to exchange
remarks with the women and so he tried to ignore them.
The policeman was a young man with a dark brown skin and a very
serious expression on his face. The women knew that he was very
young in the police force and that he felt he had one of the most im-
portant jobs in the world and that he meant to live up to the dignity of
it. He had been sent out from the Station when Old Katie went and
gave a report. And now he was taking a statement from Miss Agnes,
who all the time had remained on the spot watching the bloody bundle
that showed under the wood.
"Is somebody living around her throw way dat thing", one of the
"But ah wonder is who", another asked, leaning forward as if to
inspect anew and discover some clue as to its origin.
"Is somebody living round here", the woman who had spoken
first repeated again, emphatically.
"Like you know is who", Policeman said suddenly, turning to look
directly at the woman.
"Oh me Jesus", the woman cried out in alarm, "What I know
about anything like dat. And to besides leh me go and see what
happening to me pot before it boil over."
She bustled away hurriedly, leaving Policeman looking behind her
He turned back to face the women.
"Now listen" he said "if anybody here got any information about
who throw away this ting in dis alley, dey bettah come forward right
away. Because if you know and you don't tell is an offence."
He spoke proudly aware of his authority. But nobody answered.
"Alright, alright", he warned. "You all people want to lie down
wid man when the night come and enjoy yourself. But when you get
ketch you don t want to mind pickney. You don't think about the
consequences. All you want is the sweetness. Ah know, ah know, but
we going to see what is going to happen. Somebody looking for trouble
and is one of you."
As he spoke he frowned. The women, who a few minutes before
were laughing at him, now watched at him with troubled eyes.
"And this is a serious offence" he continued. He saw that he had
them frightened and he was happy.
"Last year in the country", he said, "a woman get baby and when
the baby dead she wrap it up in an old newspaper and throw it away in
the alley. And you know what happened? Was only because the
Magistrate sorry foh she that she didn't get jail."
"Is true' one of the women said. Every eye fixed on Policeman.
Standing in his black uniform stiff and erect, he seemed to tower over
them. Suddenly Miss Agnes took a step forward.
"But boy', she.said, without warning "But boy, is wha' you
name? She had been listening to Policeman while he was speaking and
her sudden irrevelant question fell like a bucket of cold water over him.
'Constable Cecil Joe NO. 4914" Policeman almost shouted, almost
saluting. But quickly he caught himself and relaxed.
He glanced at Miss Agnes.
"Like you is a botheration woman", he said softly with cold anger
in his eyes. The question had really caught him and his immediate
parrot like recitation of rank, name and number made him feel ashamed
He realized how stupid he looked and he knew that the women who
only a few moments ago were looking at him with awe, were now more
or less normal again and ready to laugh at him.
Just then another policeman came up to the crowd with an old
toffee tin in his hand.
"You tek down the statement and everything" he asked Constable
"Yes ah got it".
Well alright then, leh we pick up dis thing and carry um down to
the station one time."
The second policeman picked up the bundtle and put it in the
'I am going to have to ask you some more questions", Constable
Joe told Miss Agnes as he started to leave, "This investigation only now
Miss Agnes stared at him for a moment, then she laughed out, with
a forced bitterness.
'Bur hear hel" she shouted at his back. "But hear hel You could
start anything like investigation!"
She turned to the women. But they had all begun to walk away
and so Miss Agnes went back alone through the yard to her room. And
on the grey ground beneath her feet as she walked, the hard little
brown ants journey through the dust leaving no trail. In the yard the
lean chickens scratch with impatient feet at mounds of dirt, searching
for a worm, a shrimp shell, a grain of rice. Green blades of grass
choking beneath weeds, lean back their clean points to the land in a
mute repudiation of light and sun. Only the 'winged marabuntas and
the slender tailed pond flies dance through the air, flitting from earth-
floor to roof-top and darting from cool shade like memories seeking a
place to rest. And high above, beyond the tall interruption of coconut
palm heads, the unsympathetic sun burns out its white insistence, con-
temptuous of ant or chicken, grass or weed, roof top or dust, memory
as it nourishes
as it satisfies
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