03 - 07کتاب: واشینگتون سیاه / فصل 26
03 - 07
- زمان مطالعه 7 دقیقه
- سطح سخت
دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»
این فصل را میتوانید به بهترین شکل و با امکانات عالی در اپلیکیشن «زیبوک» بخوانید
متن انگلیسی فصل
ONE BRIGHT MORNING I was leaving my rooming house to go out to work when she came to me.
Medwin was sitting out on the porch, his shirt half-unbuttoned in the tender morning heat. His skin was light brown, the hair on his chest fine black spirals. He glanced up when I opened the door, looking at me with calm, empty eyes. Slowly he turned and gestured across the way with his chin.
There she stood, at the edge of the thorny blackberry brambles, nearly in the clearing. I knew her at once: her tanned skin, her smallness, the judgment of her eyes, so that one felt their gaze even at a great distance, like a knife of sunlight.
I heard a tsk, and looked down to find Medwin shaking his head. He gathered up his rattling teacup and newspaper and stood, sighing.
“This will end in blood, you mark me,” he muttered, brushing past me into the house.
Moistening my lips, I began towards her, surprised, nervous. I reached her with a feeling of dread almost, breathless.
“How did you discover where I live?” I said, trying to smile. If she could so easily find me, then it seemed even more probable that the man who’d come the other week had indeed been Willard. This small rooming house was proving no sanctuary at all.
Tanna frowned. “I am happy to see you, too.”
“I am glad you are come, I am. I just did not realize I was so easily found.”
“And are you lost?”
“Are we not all lost?”
“You should speak from a pulpit,” she said dryly. She raised suddenly her left wrist. It was thin and quite a bit paler than the rest of her arm, the bone very pronounced.
“You have removed your bandage,” said I.
“It is ghastly. Father says my wrist resembles a sea salp.” She wrapped both hands around the waist of her grey dress. “I am ever so glad to have done with it. Though it still gives me some discomfort.”
“Let me see.” And as I took her small, thin wrist in my hands, a flash of heat went through me. I raised my face to find her embarrassed also. “Well,” I said with as little expression as I could, “at least you have been spared the rigours of an amputation.”
“How lovingly said.” She gave a dry smile. “You know just how to speak to a lady.”
“It must be all the practice.”
“Mm. And where is it we are going this morning?”
I hesitated, staring a long while at her. We both knew the danger in this, in being seen alone together, a black boy and a tanned-skinned girl who might possibly be taken for a white woman. I scanned both the dead-ended road and the open one leading to the rooming house. All was silence. But the risk was foolhardy and I would not undertake it.
She seemed to understand and, lowering her face, took a step away from me. Above us, a clot of finches flickered by. The yellow light pooled on the surrounding trees, the air stirring with warmth.
The possibility of John Willard coming upon us was remote, but it existed still. What would I do then, with her at my side? Staring at her quiet, freckled face, I was filled with desire and the terrifying knowledge that I could do nothing at all to protect her.
With nervous fingers she pulled from the depth of her skirts a tattered paper. “I have written you a note.” She raised her face, hesitated. “Sometimes when I am with you I have the feeling of not quite saying what I mean.”
I stared at the paper she held out, feeling shame flood my face.
She studied me, lowering her hand. “You cannot read,” she said quietly.
“I can read,” I snapped. For I could, I had—only poorly.
She looked at her hands. “I will teach you, if you like.”
I did not outwardly let on that I was bothered. It had not been her intention, but in her suggestion there seemed to be a belittlement, a setting herself above, as if my being unlettered defined my agency and character. I was flooded suddenly with memories of long, sultry evenings beneath a bleached sky, the birds crying above, Titch sounding out words and urging me to repeat them.
“Father said you were a slave,” Tanna said softly. “I told him Washington Black would never be a slave, even if he was born in chains.”
Again I said nothing, and the silence widened between us.
“I have offended you,” she said.
“What is it?” she said.
“You will teach me?” I shook my head irritably. “And you speak of slavery as though it is a choice. Or rather, as though it were a question of temperament. Of mettle. As if there are those who are naturally slaves, and those who are not. As if it is not a senseless outrage. A savagery.”
“But you cannot have taken that as my meaning.” She flushed. “What I am saying is that you are strong. You are standing on your own two feet. You are embracing your self-sufficiency. Look at you. Look at what you have made of your life after such hardship.”
I puffed air bitterly through my lips. “Yes, look.”
We were again silent, the sound of the surf reaching us from the side streets.
“I shall be leaving in some weeks,” she said. “Father is already turning an eye to arranging our passage.”
I did not know why this should surprise me—they had said many times their stay here was temporary—and yet I was shaken. I looked closely at her. “The research is finished, then?”
“There are a few specimens of which we are still in need. But Father is of course too old for a dive, and I cannot do it this time.” She did not meet my eye, still chastened by her earlier offence. “My wrist is only just mended, after months and months. I cannot risk another fracture. And the water’s pressure—I fear it would prove too much.”
And then I understood. “You came to ask me to dive in your stead. That is why you sought me out at my rooming house.”
Her face darkened. “I came to give you my note. And because I wanted to see you, and because I thought you wanted to see me. I was apparently wrong.” Before I could speak, she turned in the road and began walking away.
I stood in the street with my empty hands hanging by my sides, and I understood then there was an ever-shifting world evolving inside her, and that I would forever be shut out from it.
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