1950s Archive

South American Journey


continued (page 4 of 4)

“Don't you worry about your own safety carrying all those valuable stones?”

“Oh, they don't belong to me. I get them on consignment and they're insured. If I were murdered for them, my family would get ten thousand pounds.”

“That's an impressive sum.”

“I'm a Zulu, you know. My great grandfather was the famous Lobengula, the last of the Zulu kings. My great grandmother was an Arab slave girl. I have the blood of Islam and of kings in me. I am very drunk.”

“You seem fine to me,” I said.

“I am an exile, a black Matabele man who used to weigh three hundred and ten pounds, but I've lost two stone six in the last year. Business is poorly. I take jobs as a valet or a dog breeder. Or have I told you that?” He fell asleep, blowing and snoring.

A storm broke, and the car had no top amd we rode in the great rain, heads up, breathing in the thunder and watching the livid chalk marks of lightning cross each other far off. I felt the fresh wildness of this world, this great pampas, and I remembered Gramp reading to me when I was a child a book called The Purple Land by a writer named Hudson, and it was all about the wild life in Argentina a hundred years ago, with much knife-throwing and maté-drinking and the killing of wild cattle. For a moment, as we rushed through the night, the fantasy became reality, and reality was a book held by an old man, some of whose features I was now carrying in v far place by the side of a descendant of a Bechuanaland Zulu king, and I could not figure our, with the Wind playing music in my head, the what and where of it all. All I could be sure of was that I had a new sense of the odd play of nature, and I saw the dark face of the bride, with her sharp little teeth, preparing like the lady spider to devour and to replenish the race.

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