|Back||1 2 3 4 5 6 7||Next|
How I got through that day I hardly know. Alone I buried Bransome and his wife, and alone I returned from the hurried task to watch by Jackson's bedside. None of the natives would stay near him. For two days he lay unconscious. At the end of that time he seemed to have some idea of the outside world, for his eyes met mine with intelligence in their look, and on bending over him I heard him whisper, "Forgive me!" Then he relapsed into unconsciousness again. Through the long hours his eyes remained ever open and restless; he could not eat, nor did he sleep, and I was afraid he would pass away through weakness without a sign, being an old man. On the third day he became delirious, and commenced chattering and talking to himself, and imagining that all kinds of horrid shapes and creatures were around and near him. I had to watch him narrowly in order to prevent him stealing out of his bed, which he was ready to do at any moment to avoid the tortures which he fearfully imagined awaited him. By these signs I knew that he was in the middle of an attack of delirium tremens, and I tried to quiet him by means of laudanum, but it had no effect upon him. I got him, however, to swallow a little soup, which sustained him. My own boy was the only negro I had been able to induce to stay in the room, and he would only remain in it while I was there.
I had sent a messenger to the nearest station, where I remembered there was a Portuguese doctor; but he had not returned by the evening of the fourth day. That night, worn out with watching, I had dozed off to sleep on a chair placed by the sick man's bed, when all at once I was awakened by a loud report, and I jumped up to find the room filled with smoke. As it cleared away I saw that Jackson was standing in the middle of the room with a revolver in his hand. As I confronted him he laughed a devilish laugh and cocked the weapon, crying as he did so, "It was you who tempted me with your smooth face and unsuspicious way, and you shall die, though I suffer doubly in hell for it. Hist!" and he stopped suddenly and listened. "Don't you hear the breakers? Hark, how they roar! They say they are ready, always ready," and staring in front of him, he advanced, as if following the sign of an invisible hand, to the door, unconsciously placing, to my infinite relief, the revolver on the top of a chest of drawers as he passed by it. I did not dare to move, and he opened the door and walked into the front room. Then I followed him. For a little he remained in the room, glaring vacantly about him, and muttering to himself; but seeing the outer door open he made a rush toward it, and disappeared into the darkness of the night. Calling to the boy, I ran after him, and easily came up to him, when he turned, and picking up a heavier stone than I thought he could have lifted, threw it at me. I dodged it and closed with him. Once in my arms I found I could hold him, and my servant and I carried him back into the factory. We placed him on the floor of the dining-room, and he was too exhausted to move for a while. By degrees, however, he recovered sufficiently to stand; and as soon as he could do so by himself, with devilish cunning he made for the lamp, which he struck, quick as lightning, with a stick that had been lying on the table. In an instant the great round globe fell to pieces, but luckily the chimney was not broken, and the lamp remained alight, and before he could strike another blow at it I had grappled with him again. This time he struggled violently for a few moments, and seemed to think that he was dealing with Bransome, for he shrieked, "What! have you come back from the sea? You are wet! you are wet!" and shuddering, he tried to free himself from my hold; and I, not liking to hurt him, let him go, taking care to keep myself between him and the lamp.
"Back from me, you villain of hell!" he cried, as soon as he was free. "What have you done with her? what have you done with her?" And then, in a tone of weird and pathetic sorrow, "Where is my little one that I loved? I have sought her many a year; oh, why did she forsake me? Aha, Sooka! we were right to send him to the hell whence he came--the lying, false-hearted scoundrel, to steal away my white dove!"
After which he drew from his finger a solid gold ring which he always wore, and threw it from him, saying, with a wild laugh, "There! that's for any one that likes it; I'm a dead man." He then staggered toward his own room, and I, remembering the loaded revolver which still lay on the chest of drawers, tried to intercept him. In his rage, for I verily believe that he also remembered that the weapon was there, he spat in my face, and struck me with all his force between the eyes; but I stuck to him, and with the help of the boy, who had been all this time in hiding, but who came forward at my call, I laid him for the last time upon his bed. There he lay exhausted for the remainder of the night; but there was no rest for me; I felt that I had to watch him now for my own safety.
Toward morning, however, his breathing became, all at once, very heavy and slow, and I bent over him in alarm. As I did so, I heard him sigh faintly, "Lucy!" and at that moment the native boy softly placed something upon the bed. I took it up. It was the ring the sick man had thrown away in the night, and as I looked at it I saw "James, from Lucy" engraved on its inside surface, and I knew that the dead woman was his wife.
As the first faint streaks of dawn stole into the room, the slow-drawn breathing of the dying man ceased. I listened--it came again--once-- twice--and then all was silence. He was dead, and I realised in the sudden stillness that had come upon the room that I was alone. Yet he had passed away so quietly after his fitful fever that I could not bring myself to believe that he was really gone, and I stood looking at the body, fearing to convince myself of the truth by touching it.
So entranced was I by that feeling of awe which comes to almost every one in the presence of death, that I did not hear the shouting of the hammock-boy outside, or the footsteps of a white man coming into the room; and not until he touched me on the shoulder did I turn and recognise the sallow face of the Portuguese doctor whom I had sent for, and who had thus arrived too late. However, he served to help me to bury the mortal part of Jackson in the little graveyard beside the body of his wife and that of the man who had come between them when alive. And such was without doubt the fact; for when the doctor had gone, and I was alone again, I collected and made an inventory of the dead men's effects, and in Jackson's desk I found his diary, or, as he himself would have called it, his log; and in that log was noted, on the very day that Bransome had arrived on the Point, his suspicion of the man, and later on his conviction that Bransome was indeed he who had injured him.
Sooka was never found; but when the mail-steamer returned from the south coast, I discovered that the younger patrao had made his crew row away suddenly from the steamer's side, while Mr. Bransome had been engaged below, and was out of sight. So it was evident that the pair had been in league together to insure Sooka his revenge. What share Jackson had had in the murder of his enemy I did not care to think of, but feared the worst.
For myself, I had to remain on the Point for many months, until the factory was finally closed--for no purchaser was ever found for it; and doubtless, by this time, the buildings are in ruins, and long grass hides the graves of those who sleep upon King Bemba's Point.
|Back||1 2 3 4 5 6 7||Next|
Stories by English Authors in Africa -by- VariousBottom Content goes here. Wikipedia content requires these links..... Wikipedia content is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.