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The Claw   By: (1883-1936)

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The Claw By Cynthia Stockley Published by A.L. Burt Company, New York. This edition dated 1911.

The Claw, by Sylvia Stockley.




"It works in me like madness, dear, To bid me say good bye, For the seas call and the stars call, And oh! the call of the sky."

Hour after hour Zeederberg's post cart and all that therein was straggled deviously across the landscape, bumping along the rutty road, creaking and craking, swaggling from side to side behind the blocky hoofs of eight mules.

At five o'clock in the afternoon the heat was intense, but the sun lay in the west at last, and tiny flecks of cloud in the turquoise sky were transforming themselves into torn strips of golden fleece. The bare bleak kops of Bechuanaland were softened by amethystine tints, and the gaunt bush took feathery outlines against the horizon.

The driver of the post cart, a big yellow Cape boy with oystery eyes, took a long swig from a black bottle which he was ready to affirm contained cold tea, though the storekeepers who filled it at every stopping place referred to its contents variously as dop , Cape smoke, and greased lightning. Afterwards he lovingly bestowed the bottle under his seat, cracked his whip, and shouted in a ferocious voice:

Hirrrrie yoh doppers !

I sat behind the driver, on the floor of the cart crammed amongst cushions and rugs and parcels and mail bags and luggage, aching passionately in every bone, deadly weary, and very cross. For when you are extremely tall it is not all rapture to sit for hour after hour with your length hunched beneath you like an idol of Buddha. And when you are thin, not bonily thin but temperamentally slender, you don't care for parcels bumping into your curves as if you were made of wood, and mail bags apparently stuffed with flints and jagged rocks piercing through the thickest cushions into your very marrow.

Hirrrrie yoh doppers!... Slaagte... Verdommeder skepsels !...

Heaven knows what terrible significance was contained in these cabalistic words, but the eight mules immediately broke into a shambling run, the post cart swaggled from side to side, the mail bags hit me and stabbed me, and clouds of fine dust arose, wrapping us round in a smothering fog. Five minutes later the mules resumed their usual slouch, the fog subsided into a feathery mist, and all was as before. Slowly and deviously we straggled across the landscape. I tried for the hundredth time to arrange my rugs into the semblance of a nest, and for the hundredth time failed to do anything of the kind. There was no rest or comfort anywhere in that post cart. In spite of my chiffon veil I could feel the fine road dust powdering thickly on to my charming face. Mosquitoes sped down silently from strongholds in the hooped tent of the cart and without even a warning serenade took long draughts of my nice young blood through the linen sleeves of my blouse. A hundred grass ticks having at various times of outspan made convenient entry through open work brown silk stockings, chewed at my ankles causing exquisite irritation not to be assuaged by a violent application of finger nails.

The breeze, if heavy turgid masses of air displaced by the movement of the cart might be so called, conveyed to my face the steam arising from the mules and the extraordinarily pungent odour of native that emanated from the driver. It was something to be thankful for that the latter was so busy with the mules and his black bottle that he did not often turn his big cafe au lait coloured countenance to me, for when he did there was something so revolting in the spirituous odour of his breath and the expression of his oystery eyes that I could feel my scalp stirring as though my hair had suddenly been brushed the wrong way... Continue reading book >>

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