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sumed character, became individuals mate enough part of their environment. with a purpose in life; and behind them They contributed a perfect foreground the smooth beach, crescent-shaped, for that Eastern picture with its smooth took on the semblance of a port. Some sparkling sea and its outrigger canoes tall figures came out of the thatched floating their patched sails. And these houses and moved down slowly toward canoes were not only harmonious in the the surf. There was something leisure general scheme, which was their sole ly and unhurried about these people, a purpose when viewed from the deck of certain natural poise which was singu- the Lady McCallum, but they were exlarly impressive in the midst of such amples of a very superior craftsmansimple surroundings. This might have ship. They were nothing more than the been due to many things; it might have hollow trunk of a tree with a mast been something instinctive, or the re- wherever convenient, and they trailed sult of countless subtle influences; but, a short log at one side for balance; but whatever its source and its significance, they were water-tight, built for immorit was something shared in common tality, and possessed not so much as with the young Cinghalese who had one nail in their whole ingenious struccome down from Colombo on the Lady ture. They were put together with McCallum and who stood guard over pitch, and at certain critical points one his baggage where it was heaped against part would be sewed to its affinity. To the rail, stood guard over his mean man them and to hustle them about assortment of parcels with that same from point to point with the aid of a gentle, almost melancholy air of de- short paddle was a feat demanding tachment and fine dignity.
both adroitness and agility; but to have The fishermen, too, who in due time sewed one of them together must have came alongside in their canoes, showed been a task brought to fulfillment by this racial kinship. They lent an aristo- nothing short of pure inspiration. cratic flavor to the humble job of trans- They were not, however, comfortporting baggage. They were barefoot- able. At best they were no more than ed, and wore no clothing beyond a very eight inches wide, with slithery bamlarge hat and a calico skirt which was boo poles for seats. Any baggage of gathered up tightly around the waist reputable dimensions extended on eithand fell in straight folds to the knees. er side, minus support, with an endless But their faces were sensitive and high- succession of waves curling up in a bred, at certain angles almost effemi- greedy, familiar fashion directly undernate - a curious effect which was neath. They created also an almost strengthened when, in the stress of man- fatalistic impression of insecurity: a oeuvring a sail or hoisting heavy cargo, box of scientific instruments in comthey threw off their clumsy hats and pany with some photographic plates showed their black hair done up, wo- was continually moving about underman-fashion, at the back of the head foot, and a small leather handbag rode and topped by a tall shell-comb. These from one end of the boat to the other at combs were semi-circular in shape, pol- every intimation of a breaker. It was ished, and a very pure bright yellow in like some sort of endless nautical game color; so that in the sunshine they in which the luggage strove to outguess looked like the half of a gold crown kept the sea. But like any good game it was upright by magic as a symbol of some dangerous, and a gathering of youthful obscure royalty.
Cinghalese who had come out from But these Cinghalese were a legiti- land for the dubious pleasure of swim
ming in again alongside, only emphasized the general uncertainty. They had the air of adolescent ghouls wait- I went on down the beach toward the ing to snatch up every scrap of flotsam dâk, and long before I was aware of it and jetsam before it could sink unduly the conventional Caucasian influences to some haven in the inaccessible depths were losing their potency. The natives of the sea.
were no longer aliens wearing strange But the outrigger made a safe land- clothing, but familiar, acceptable figing, being beached by a great wave that ures; each one remarkably individual. flung it far up on the sand like a chip. Some naked chocolate boys were runThe young ghouls came up dripping, ning up and down the sand in the elaband I believe were subsequently hired orate manœuvres of a sham battle; this to carry baggage and various scientific appeared a natural and a more or less items to the dâk bungalow which faced amiable proceeding, — which it was. the harbor from the verdant summit of As a matter of fact, it was just as well a little slope. It was my intention to go that the civilized habits of thought I straight to the bungalow, interview the had brought from my own country let chowkidar, and set things in order for go their hold so easily. For I had not the day. But I was waylaid. I saw, far only come into one new world which out across a stretch of emerald water, demanded a new viewpoint, but into the Lady McCallum heading for the two. The first and foremost of these open sea. I stood and watched her, was scientific and had to do with pheaswatched her moving slowly under the ants and every other bird and creature gray
cloud of her own smoke. And such near by; the second was made up of the is the working of the human mind, I people, and what they were making or was sorry to see her
I had been un- were endeavoring to make out of their deniably anxious to leave, had been the lives. A third world, even a phantom first lowered to the outrigger below; but world built out of memories, would I did not like to see her being swallowed have been a handicap. up by that pitiless expanse of water. Up at the dâk, I found things well
And at the same time I was glad, be- under way. The chowkidar, an old man cause that unprepossessing little coast and uncommonly benignant, had opensteamer was the last link in the long ed up his musty rooms and disposed chain which bound Hambantotta to the baggage around the veranda to his that other distant world from which I fancy. Inside the low front room it was had come. And for a time I would have cool and clean, and a gray lizard, a foot no need of the very highly civilized long, was stretched out comfortably in codes and standards which governed the middle of a canvas cot. I discovthat world; they would be of little value ered later that he lived in the roof in to me in the jungle where life moves up- company with some others much larger, on so much more broad and simple lines. who could stir up a lively commotion Therefore as the Lady McCallum be- overhead whenever the spirit moved came smaller and smaller against the them. This was usually at night, below clouds that lay close to the surface cause they spent most of the day runof the sea, the horizon line of the work ning up and down the pillars of the I had to do became correspondingly porch. They did this in an anxious, large. And yet at the same time there hurried fashion, but since there was no was that sense of irreparable loss, that profit in it, it must have been sport. mysterious regret.
The big lizard took himself off at a
leisurely gait, and I went on through to buying, although the Tamils argued the back of the bungalow. Half way loudly among themselves and seemed across the yard the chowkidar had to be insisting upon the especial merit built a fire, and with three of his friends of each particular offering. At any was squatting on the ground before it. rate, every Tamil manifested a robust A black cooking-pot rested on the coals disregard for the claims of his competiand sent up little puffs of steam, which, tors, whatever they were. The crowd with the blue wood-smoke, formed a looking on was a nondescript collection, light motionless cloud directly over the entirely absorbed by what was afoot. heads of the four men, Beyond them a If the exhibition was a business entercactus-covered plain was spread out prise, it was also a small fête, a drama. like a big carpet before the distant hills. There was unmistakably comedy, tragThe men by the fire neither moved nor edy, incident, and situation to be found talked, and the wind had died down in the undertaking, and beyond quessomewhere in the spaces of that wide tion there was an appreciative audience. plain; it was all so silent, so peaceful, The possibility of selling the beetles that for a moment life seemed to be was, after all, the least of the affair. It divested of all its ugly qualities. It may have been that the traders were seemed incredible that the struggle to rehearsing their arguments, arranging live could assume such vast proportions, them in some hypnotic sequence which that so much pain and so much sorrow
would stand them in stead some mowere allotted a legitimate place in the mentous day; or it may have been that world. Then, somewhere above my the little rickshaws were only a lodehead, two unneighborly young crows stone, unimportant in themselves, but began quarreling; their grievance was like afternoon tea, a means of bringing obscure, but they were singularly vin- people together that each might set out dictive about it. After all, it was only his individual views for the edification an illusion that the big struggle had of his neighbor. been suspended.
As an outsider I was, of course, totalAnd down in the village proper, ly unequal to a real appreciation of this where I went in search of a servant, the critical transaction. There is something people were having their quarrels, were elusive and eternally baffling about hufacing down their own personal prob- man nature at all times, and when lems with just the same spirit which it speaks an alien tongue and conducts the young crows had shown on the roof itself according to alien standards, the of the dâk. The only difference was two highroads to understanding are that the problems were a little more closed. There is no way to reach the complex, and not so frankly exposed to inner secrets; no way to disclose the inthe light of public opinion. At one end ner motives. At best, there are no clues of the narrow street which was, in real- beyond a few illuminating gestures and ity, the entire village of Hambantotta, the chance expressions that show in cersome Tamil traders were gathered to- tain faces in unguarded moments. So gether around their wares, which were in the last analysis I could do no more spread out on a square of dark calico. than hazard a guess at the true import I do not know why this array of gold of what was taking place around me, a beetles, done in filigree, and these pro- guess supported by various scraps of cessions of tiny rickshaws, delicately information and a little theoretical carved, were grouped so harmoniously knowledge of conditions. I saw that on their blue background. Nobody was the Tamils were short, solid, awkward men, wholly unlike the Cinghalese; and unaltered for generations; and each I deduced some tentative estimates of Tamil speaks two or three Cinghalese their character.
dialects, while each Cinghalese, withSometimes these haphazard opinions out sacrificing his own tongue, underabout daily affairs were verified. It stands perfectly the jargon of his neighhappened that, after all, I had seen a bor. Which proves, I think, that it is true view of the Tamil personality at easier to deduce general facts about the beetle market. For they are a pro- pheasants than about human nature. gressive, sturdy, diligent people, traders As a matter of fact, although I had by instinct. They adapt themselves set out to find a servant somewhere in quickly to a new environment and are that main thoroughfare of Hambantotquick to seize every chance, no matter ta, I took no direct action in the matter how humble or servile, for advance- at all. Instead, I made a few observament. Unlike the Cinghalese, they are tions on some scavenger birds, since neither proud nor sensitive. They work they were present in large numbers and on the roads, dig ditches, and even in every degree of efficiency; and I de make brief excursions into adjoining cided that the hundreds and hundreds territory as laborers or trackers, if they of crows I had seen along the beach, as are assured of its profit to them. Their well as those crowded together on the clothes are a savage array of crude col- yards and ratlines of the outriggers, ors and their headdress is a turban of were protected perhaps by some religbright cloth. A Cinghalese, with his ious scruple. This provided a secure flowing white skirt and white coat, though uneventful existence for the with his oiled black hair surmounted by crows. Their safety was insured be the tortoise-shell comb, has an aristo- yond question, and each day they might cratic and distinguished bearing when dine magnificently upon such of the placed beside them.
catch as the fishermen found useless for Not that the Cinghalese do not adapt market. It was not surprising that they themselves quickly to new conditions. had become an opulent, sleek, greedy They are too gentle by nature to offer lot of individuals, given to thieving and any serious resistance to any advance. all manner of impertinences. But they are not grasping like the Tam- As for the servant question, I turned ils; they are acquiescent. They give it over bodily to the English governway quickly to authority and are re- ment agent,
a young official who spectful and courteous. It seems in the had been sent out by his government nature of a miracle that the Tamils have to superintend the welfare of the Hamnot completely overcome them, domi- bantotta section of Ceylon. It was a nated them, and assumed control. Per difficult job, which he carried through haps it was the imagination of the Cin- with great understanding and a certain ghalese which stood in the way of this; supreme patience. There was no other they foresaw that their only strength white man for miles in that isolated lay in their holding close together. But jungle country, and the work itself was whatever the underlying causes, they not easy. He was unofficially a judge, have given no ground; their supersti- a lawyer, a court of appeals, as well as tions, their religion, their language have all the lesser legal dignitaries upon ocall remained uncolored by this strong, casion. I think that England must be opposing influence. And yet the two very proud of such men. peoples live side by side in a perfectly I explained my difficulties to him and friendly association which has remained he took them over straightway. The
servant matter was the least of the secure some novel effects. At the govproblems he shouldered, and he dis- ernment bungalow there was a large patched all of them with amazing speed picture placed at the left of the window and thoroughness. When I had been overlooking the porch. So the light upin Hambantotta but twenty-four hours on it was indirect, but I saw that it was I found myself indebted to him for handsomely framed in dark wood, one Cinghalese manservant, one Tamil a Japanese frame presumably, since at tracker, three bullock-carts, six oxen, the upper right-hand corner was an exthree drivers, a game license, one boar's cellently done, very decorative lizard. skull, one junglefowl egg, five peacock The Japanese handle such motifs with feathers, and two dozen bottles of soda great delicacy. And even in the dim pop. He would also have given me his light it was apparent that this was an house, I believe, if it would not have exceptional example. I could not help seriously disarranged the governmental but feel offended when it gathered itself machinery for him to move out on such together and went scampering headvery short notice.
long down the wall. However, there As it happened, his house was an ex- was one compensating feature to the ceptionally fine one for the tropics, with incident. It happened that the gecko its wide, screened veranda and cool had given me warning of his intentions rooms. And I found it particularly an instant before his flight, although I pleasing because of the geckos who lived had failed to interpret it. I had heard a there. I saw any number of these little low, sweet tinkling sound, as if a tiny indefatigable gray lizards, and I liked bell were ringing in some distant part of them better than the ones at the dâk, the house. Certainly I had not associnot only because they were smaller but ated it with a carved lizard on a picbecause they were more industrious ture frame. But afterward I realized and more inclined to be friendly. The its source and its import. It was a sinlong clumsy creatures at the bungalow gularly beautiful call, a little like a trill; were so big and heavy that they gave and more than anything else it sounded an impression of fixed stupidity, and as if a marble had been dropped on a they were not hospitable. Whereas the silver platter and were settling slowly geckos were intensely interested in all to rest. that was happening, and I am sure that When I went back to the dâk, early nothing but politeness kept them from that afternoon, I felt that my first day walking all over the guests of the gov- in the country had been pretty well ernment as a sign of appreciation. Cer- filled up, that I had pretty well estimattainly they walked over everything else ed the possibilities of the village. But I within range, except an alcohol lamp found that, on the contrary, the one which happened to be burning. Their great event in the daily life of Hambanfeet are peculiarly fitted for these ex- totta had not yet appeared above the cursions, having padded toes which can horizon of affairs. I had failed to consecure a foothold upon anything, in- sider that momentous hour which cluding mirrors and the ceiling. They marks the home-coming of the fleet. I have also a quaint habit of striking an had passed judgment on the play withattitude and remaining absolutely mo- out waiting for the climax; because the tionless. This may be fear, or it may be arrival of the boats at sunset was the a method they employ when stalking very pivotal point upon which that their prey — a moth, or even a bread native community revolved. I do not crumb upon occasion. At any rate they believe that a more complex people, a VOL. 117 - NO. 3