04 - 14

کتاب: واشینگتون سیاه / فصل 45

04 - 14

توضیح مختصر

  • زمان مطالعه 9 دقیقه
  • سطح خیلی سخت

دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

این فصل را می‌توانید به بهترین شکل و با امکانات عالی در اپلیکیشن «زیبوک» بخوانید

دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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متن انگلیسی فصل


THE DOOR WAS made of four weathered planks hammered together with metal, and he led us through this inside, into the yellow candlelight of his front room. It was cool in here, though warmer than outside, the walls thick, the few windows tiny. The room was small and fastidiously clean, and among the local tapestries and baskets were chairs and tables very much in the European style, as though he’d sought to bring order to this world through the familiar.

We passed through this place to the smaller room in back, and it was this low-ceilinged space, with its doorway he had to dip his head to get through, that was evidently where he did his true living. There was a cot upon which the greyed sheets were strewn like a sleeping dog. Books had been stacked at the lone window; by the far wall, on a wooden block notched by scratches, sat a half-cut red pepper, spilling its seeds.

He paused at the room’s centre, and it was as if he did not want to—as if he wished to keep moving so as to avoid our eyes. He turned to us with a tired smile, and at this full glimpse of his body, this full sight of his face, tears rose to my eyes at the great familiarity and difference in him. He was as he had ever been, his green eyes bright and inquisitive, the white scar rising like a thread from either side of his mouth. His dress was casual, and English, wrinkled white linen shirttails and pale trousers, and though he did appear different in them, older, they were not what jarred. Rather, some indefinable thing had shifted in his features, his eyes especially—there was beneath his gaze such concentrated pain that for a moment I thought, It is not him, we have come to the wrong place. He was like someone only slowly becoming aware of a malady taking root inside him, confused by the first stirrings of tiredness. It was as though, in the four years of his absence, he had come closer to an understanding of darkness, closer to knowing what his cousin Philip had always accepted, that destruction was within us, and nothing we could hide from.

“Washington,” said he in his soft, low voice. “I dreamed you would come. How grown you are.”

So empty a comment, after what felt a lifetime of being lost to each other. The urge was strong in me to embrace him, and yet I held back, I could not do it, I could not close the warm, dim distance between us.

— WE SAT IN the flickering shadows of the front room—Titch, Tanna, our guide, the young boy and myself—cupping warm bowls of vegetable stew in our hands. For all my hunger I couldn’t eat, couldn’t take my eyes from the changed and familiar face. In the orange light his jaw appeared long, horselike, and he chewed every bite with great consideration. He seemed to be feeling out each vegetable with his tongue. When he caught sight of me watching him, he smiled pathetically.

“Toothache,” said he, abashed. “I have not the courage to pull it out.”

“There are no doctors here?” said Tanna.

Titch was chewing by one side of his mouth. “I fear their medicine.”

I listened to the others eat, searching his face. He seemed not to look at me, to speak generally to everyone, his eyes meeting mine rarely. And though it had been but four years, I found I could not read him; if he was astonished or saddened or irritated at our appearance here, I did not know. His manners were elegant, and it was as though they created a barrier around him.

“How serendipitous, then, that we arrived just in time to scare away your chicken,” Tanna smiled. “There are no bones to contend with in vegetables.”

“A very merciful act.”

His comment somehow brought to Tanna’s mind the scene of the bleeding camel, and she began to describe it.

“It was rabid, perhaps,” said Titch. “When one goes rabid it must be killed, or it will kill people.”

“Kill people?”

“They creep up on sleeping men and crouch on the chests of sleeping men, suffocating them.”

Tanna brought a hand to her mouth, but the gruesomeness of the story obviously interested her.

How strange all this was—that after months of speaking harshly of Titch, Tanna was as gentle and polite with him as I’d ever known her to be with anyone. I had watched the slow transformation taking place within her—the coldness with which she’d first given her name, then the growing interest in his formidable presence, as if she could not help herself; and finally her apparent pity at his outcast circumstances, as though he had not himself chosen them. Perhaps it was a question of his mental fortitude: she too saw the anguish in his eyes and did not wish to tax him further, knowing that our surprise arrival here would be strain enough. And she was right to be kind. But I did feel as though she’d left me standing alone, in a resentment I alone would carry. I stared at Titch’s face and a great sadness rose up in me, but I felt wounded too, angry, adrift.

Outside, the tarp thrummed in a sudden wind.

“Your arrival could not have been better timed,” said Titch. “We are awaiting a storm. You would not have wished to be caught out in it.”

“And yet there was so little wind earlier,” said Tanna.

“Change here is swift. It burns hot and then cold. Bright and then dark.”

“I’ve heard it said there is no weather like African weather.”

“The regions differ vastly. Though I suppose it could be said generally.”

I peered across at the boy, at his thin, intelligent face. The traces of dust in his hair gave him an air of age, but he was so very young, and hopelessly at sea in our English conversation. He had not been formally introduced to us and it began to seem he would not be. Titch looked at him rarely, and always with an instructive frown; I sensed a tenderness there, so that a pain rose in my throat and I looked swiftly away.

“What is that outside, under the tarp?” Tanna said. “We had such a fright.”

Titch was chewing thoughtfully. I sensed again his great effort not to look at me. “You called at Granbourne, you mentioned. My mother was well?”

“Extremely well,” said Tanna. “She had just returned from a ride.”

“So her bile was up. Was she perfectly horrid?”

Tanna paused. “I believe she was tired.”

“She is my mother, and you are therefore too polite to impugn her. But your good manners do not make her bad ones any less awful.” Titch sighed. “Did she feed you, at the very least? I do hope you got a good supper.”

Tanna shrugged helplessly. “It was for the best, I believe. We might have found ourselves on the menu.”

Titch smiled. “Well, I do apologize for anything she might have said to upset you.”

How eager he was to accept responsibility for a slight done by his mother; but where was the remorse towards me, the guilt?

“At the very least she let you know of my whereabouts, and so I am grateful to her,” said he.

Tanna paused, then explained how we had come to find him.

Titch laughed. “Well, all the same, you are here. I cannot believe you came all this way.” For the first time since our arrival he looked squarely at me. And to my surprise I thought I glimpsed, in the sheen of his eyes by the dim candlelight, an uneasiness nearing fear.

“You said you dreamed me,” I said abruptly. They were the first words I had spoken and I felt the others turn towards me in surprise. “What did you mean?”

“Dreamed you?” said Titch.

“When I arrived. That you had dreamed I would come.”

“Did I?” Titch shook his head, as if genuinely puzzled. “I cannot imagine my meaning.”

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