The plane – a shabby old Dakota – bumped twice in thenoonday heat, then settled down on its steady course.
Windhoek was left behind, a dusty town set in arid scrubdesert: presently the plane crossed the South-West Africancoastline, and headed out over a pale blue, hazy sea – duewest for Pharamaul.
The pilot checked his instruments, held up a thumb to the navigator behind him, set the automatic pilot on 270degrees, and then relaxed, leaning back in his worn leatherseat out of reach of the overhead sun. Windhoek Airport tothe Island of Pharamaul – it was a trip he had made thirty-seven times in this year alone. Course due west, distancesix hundred miles, flying time three hours and ten minutes,ETA 1530 hours – he could have done it in his sleep.
Perhaps one day he would do it like that, and see if anybodynoticed.
Behind him, the four passengers relaxed also, stretching their legs, occasionally glancing out of the side windows.
After the glaring heat and dust of their short inter-planestop at Windhoek, the shadowless Atlantic below themlooked gratefully cool.
Four people in the passenger compartment was less than one-fifth of the Dakota’s available complement. It meant privacy and a sense of well-being, as well as comfortableelbow-room. For a variety of reasons, the four passengerswere all glad of these things.
Tulbach Browne of the Daily Thresh – seasoned traveller ofa thousand flights, some epoch-making, very few entirelywasted – went through his usual short-flight, take-offroutine. He pressed his ear-drums, and swallowed until histhroat was comfortable; popped two dramamine tablets inhis mouth, and washed them down with a swig from a tiny,palm-sized flask of whisky; exchanged his scuffed shoes forworn carpet slippers with his monogram upon the toecaps;unbuckled his belt; and patted his bulging breast pocket,which held passport, m o n e y, t i c k e t s, press card, a n dnotebook, all clipped into one untidy bundle.
Lastly, he looked at his watch, to check the take-off time.
If this were early, HAPHAZARD TIMING OF LOCAL AIRLINEwould be the phrase; if late, PILOT’S TAKE-IT-OR-LEAVE-ITATTITUDE might suffice. Once, when exact adherent to thetimetable had made Tulbach Browne miss his plane, it hadbeen CIVIL SERVICE MENTALITY MAKES BOAC LAUGHINGSTOCK. His world had ammunition to suit every mood.
On this occasion, the plane was eleven minutes behind schedule. WINDHOEK AIR SCANDAL seemed indicated. Oreven TULBACH BROWNE IN NEVER-NEVER LAND – THEFACTS. For just now, his mood was one of irritation.
Tulbach Browne of the Daily Thresh was a small wizened man with sandy hair and a look of permanent disdain. Nophysical distinction marked him out from the nexthundred men to be passed in the street: his face wasordinary, rather ugly, his body spare and average, hismanner unimpressive. He had known all these things for avery long time: since the age of twenty-two, in fact, whena girl he was busy mauling in a taxi suddenly snapped: ‘If Ihave to be pawed like this, I’d rather it was done by someone attractive.’ He had never forgotten that moment:but, in fact, it had served him well.
For now, a quarter of a century later, he was forty-seven – and he had got back at that girl,and at everyone else whohad ever overlooked or snubbed him:an impressive total ofhuman beings. As Tulbach Browne of the Daily Thresh hewas a ‘by-line’ correspondent most of the way round thew o r l d . As Tulbach Browne, he had made a globalreputation, and made it in three ways: first by followingNorthcliffe’s advice and giving himself a ‘memorable’name: secondly, by learning every detail of his trade; andlast and most important, by supplying, copiously, the sortof comment that the Daily Thresh lived on.
There had been other things – plenty of luck, and one spectacular piece of bad faith, were among them – butbasically, consistent ill nature had been the touchstone.
Competition on the Daily Thresh, in this respect, was very high: the paper had at least two staff writers, one ofthem a woman, who in normal circumstances would havecarried off any palm. But Tulbach Browne was in a class byhimself. No one could so adroitly ‘interpret’ the news, noone else could touch him at invective, innuendo, spite, andmaking plain truth into cloudy lies. Above all, no one couldso triumphantly have it both ways at once.
If a politician talked pleasantly, he was ingratiating. If he tried to preserve a serious manner, he was pompous orsulky. A popular author had mere mob-appeal, a ‘literary’one was unreadable. A rich man was ostentatious, a poorone seedy; a woman of any elegance at all became ‘mink-draped’, ‘dripping with diamonds’, a ‘hot-house product’… As with people, so with affairs. A well-organized eventwas ‘slick presentation’ – but there was very little thatearned even this qualified praise. With few exceptions,Tulbach Browne reported disaster, inefficiency, bad faith.
His verdict on the Everest triumph was ‘a Boy’s Own Paper exploit’. His record of the Royal Tour of Canada had beena positive cataract of mistakes and embarrassments whichhad given universal offence from coast to coast – and amatchless boost to the Daily Thresh.
The Daily Thresh knew exactly what people liked to read. They preferred things going wrong, Authority with ared face, awkward pauses. Tulbach Browne served up allthese things, from all four corners of the world.
Now he was going to Pharamaul, and he was irritated because it was probably a waste of time. (There was alsothe fact that no one in Windhoek seemed to have heard hisname before.) The trip was really a fill-in after his SouthAfrican tour: he had just ‘done’ South Africa – seven days,three thousand miles, three stories. The story about thepriest who was the ‘conscience of South Africa’ – whateverthat meant. Tulbach Browne had made him sound like ashoddy Messiah on the make. The story about the richwomen in furs, giggling as the champagne corks popped,spending enough on a single meal to keep a negro familyalive for a month. That had been a natural. And the storyabout the fascist government heading for a blood bath.
That had been easy too.
Now he was going to Pharamaul – for a couple of days, anyway. His office had cabled him something about thelocal chief coming back from Oxford to take over the tribalc h i e f t a i n s h i p.
PHARAMAUL EXOXFORD’ had been the actual text.) Theremight be a story there, particularly if something wentwrong and he could flay the Civil Service, B r i t i s hadministration, the snob colour bar … Otherwise the timewas likely to be wasted.
But what a god-forsaken part of the world this was, anyway. Tulbach Browne stretched, yawned, glanced roundhim. This beaten-up old plane was symptomatic of thewhole thing. There were twenty-one seats, and only three other people besides himself: an old guy who looked like aColonial civil servant, a young one who might have beenanything, and a nigger in the back row.
The Dakota’s pilot looked sideways and downwa r d s,craning his neck to watch the sea. There was a ship farbelow them, heading westwards like the plane: a ship nobigger than a toy, with twin arcs of tiny ripples spreadingout on either side of it, and a white wake like a thread ofwool astern. It looked at peace and at ease, lazily traversingthe vast mill-pool of the South Atlantic.
That was the life, the pilot thought enviously, leaning back in his seat again: plodding along at ten knots, notworrying, dropping the anchor when you got there – noscrewed-up navigation, no crosswind on a sodden airfield,no thousands of feet to fall,no trouble at all … Those horn-pipe types had it easy.
He took a paper bag from his side pocket and began, Two seats behind Tulbach Browne, the old guy who lookedlike a Colonial civil servant reached out a hand and drewtowards him a shabby briefcase. It was of black leather,monogrammed with the Royal arms and the Royal cypher,and battered from twenty years’ careless handling in hotclimates. It was a Civil Service briefcase, and (as TulbachBrowne had surmised) its owner was a civil servant.
Andrew Macmillan, C M G, Resident Commissioner atGamate, native capital of the Principality of Pharamaul,was returning to duty after twelve weeks’ leave in England.
Twelve weeks’ leave sounded a long time, though not if one had saved up for it, a day here and a week there, forseven years. In that case, and particularly at the start ofsuch a holiday, twelve weeks’ leave seemed no more thana swift, grateful respite after a dusty servitude. But twelve weeks’ leave was a long time, Andrew Macmillan haddiscovered, when, after a fortnight in Oxfordshire withsome distant relatives, and a week in London on his own,he realized that he was longing for nothing but to get backto Pharamaul … Such nostalgia was fantastic, when London had so much to offer, when he had looked forward to the trip so eagerly.
The Residency at Gamate was hot, damp, ant-infested, ill-appointed; the servants were lazy, the work repetitive andoften dull. His hunger for these things was ridiculous, yetit was a fact. Pharamaul, where he had spent nearly all hisworking life, Pharamaul which he knew to its last dried-upwater-course, its last muddy dam – Pharamaul was hishome, and only there could he be happy.
Perhaps this had always been true, perhaps it had grown as any other easeful habit grows. Macmillan was fifty-seven, solid, greying, severe. He had soldiered for a while,in the old days: then he had gone to Pharamaul as a young,energetic Assistant District Officer; and in Pharamaul hehad stayed, for the next thirty-five years – first as DistrictOfficer at Gamate, the native capital, then transferring toShebiya, a hundred miles to the north,then completing therequisite term as secretary to the Governor down at PortVictoria, and finally, back in Gamate, assuming the top jobof Resident Commissioner.
He knew the whole country – knew it, loathed it, and loved it. He knew the chief tribe, the Maulas, and if he didnot loathe them or love them either, he felt for them as abenevolent father feels whose backward sons will neverquite grow up, never really leave the nursery. He knewmore about the Maulas than the Maulas did themselves: hehad known their chiefs, and the men who wanted to bechiefs, and the sly men, and the contented ones, and theirrelatives, and their quarrels, and their exiles, and theirt r e a c h e r i e s. He was wedded to the Principality – ‘Macmillan of Pharamaul’ could have been his title, likeClive of India, Rhodes of Southern Africa. He belonged toit, and to nowhere else.
It had been a hard, dedicated life, a life of endeavour, patience, and little reward. Now he was fifty-seven: he hadthree modest letters after his name, three more years ofservice to go, and, when these were run, a pension ofthirty-eight eightieths of his salary of £1,750 a year, to liveon.When he retired, he would still remain in Pharamaul –a week of playing the awkward, forlorn tourist in Londonhad been enough to decide that. He had no children: hiswife had died a decade earlier; he had only one home, andonly one family – a hundred and twenty thousand of them.
Perhaps the proof of that lay between his hands, in thepapers he had drawn out of his briefcase.
It was the manuscript of his book, the book that had occupied all his few spare moments for the last fifteenyears, and was still a long way from completion. ‘ThePrincipality of Pharamaul’, he read on page one, as he hadread a thousand times before. ‘The Principality ofPharamaul …’ Was it, after all, an adequate title? In the oldd a y s, he knew, it would certainly have been morecomprehensive. ‘The Principality of Pharamaul,’ it wouldthen have read, ‘Its Flora and Fauna, with some account ofthe Principal Tribes (Maulas and U-Maulas), T h e i rCustoms and Genealogy, as Seen and Described byAndrew Macmillan, C M G, sometime Her Majesty’sResident Commissioner at Gamate, Native Capital of thePrincipality …’ That might cover it, though it still left outthe small, embryo fishing industry near Shebiya … But how he cherished them, how he had worked for them, how ridiculously he was bound to the whole lazy,d i r t y, s h i f t l e s s, stupid collection, and the dry, d u s t y,straggling mud village where most of them lived. ‘ThePrincipality of Pharamaul’ – he read again, for the thousandth time, his first ground-out, l a b o u r e d - o v e rparagraph, – ‘came into official existence on the fifteenthday of April 1842, by Royal Decree’ – (and, in a footnoteunderneath, ‘6 Victoria, Cap 107.’) ‘A company of HerMajesty’s Footguards having been brought in to quell aninsurrection which threatened British trading interests,both at Port Victoria and in the interior, they stayed toensure public order;and thereafter a Lieutenant-Governor,Sir Hugo Fortescue-Hambleton, was appointed (in thewords of the proclamation) “to re-establish the rule of law,inculcate the principles of good administration, and workt o wards such degree of self-determination as theinhabitants’ best endeav o u r s, Government, may from time to time decide.” From thatmoment, Pharamaul was a British Protectorate under theCrown.
‘Pharamaul (latitude 5° East, longitude 22°50' South) is an island some three hundred miles long …’ Macmillan satback, contented at last. He was going home, and this wasthe home he was going to. He would arrive in time towelcome a new chief, a youngster who had been fifteenyears old the last time they had met; but a new chief wasnothing to Pharamaul, and nothing to Macmillan either. Hehad seen them come, and seen them go.
Life went on – not good, not bad, but sufficient; and his own life with it. One day the Maulas would be able to lookafter themselves; but that day was a long way ahead, and inthe meantime it was his appointed job to take care ofthem.
The navigator, a tall, pale young man with a look ofstudious detachment, tapped the pilot on the shoulder, andhanded him a slip of paper. On it was written a singles e n t e n c e : ‘ H a l f way there.’ Pharamaul Airlines wa s t e dneither time nor money on refinements. No flight information sheet, listing everything from the presentground-speed to the weather awaiting them on arrival, wasever passed aft. No hostess handed round barley sugar, orbent to adjust a safety belt, or discussed life with the eagerexecutive in the rear seat. No stewards servedcomplimentary bottles of Pol Roger ’47. A pilot flew theplane, a navigator worked out the position, and tended theradio; at the appropriate moment, he wrote ‘Halfwaythere’ on a page torn from his notebook, and passed it upto his chief.
Reading the message now, the Dakota’s pilot nodded, raised a thumb, relaxed in his seat again. He knew alreadythat they were halfway there, because the cockpit clockshowed one-thirty-five, and on this trip things worked ontime, and on nothing else. They were thus at the centralpoint of their journey, the point of no return.
The point of no return … It had a fine, heroic sound, recalling a score of rotten films, a hundred radio dramas.
From this moment, there could be no turning back. Fromthis moment, if anything went wrong, they must press onregardless of danger. The pilot (usually Errol Flynn) mustset his teeth, clench his moustache, and endure to the end.
Suspended in mortal peril, five thousand feet above ahungry ocean, with three hundred miles behind them,three hundred ahead, they could only mutter ‘Roger …Out …’ and prepare to dice with death. The WrightBrothers gazed down on them from heaven, CharlesLindbergh sat by their side. God the Co-pilot looked overtheir shoulder, blinking at the unaccustomed dials.
The Dakota’s pilot yawned widely, glanced once more at the empty sea, and began to trim his nails.
Across the aisle from Andrew Macmillan – and sometimeseyeing him speculatively, like a lonely stranger in a bar – satthe young man who might have been anything. Tulbach Browne’s estimate was accurate, as it usually was. DavidBracken, recent recruit to the Scheduled Territories Office,newly appointed to the Governor’s staff at Pharamaul, hadnot so far settled in any recognizable mould. This was hisfirst overseas job in government service, and he was not yetacclimatized to any of it.
His cards, freshly minted by Smythson’s of Bond Street in accordance with standing instructions for officersproceeding overseas, read: ‘Mr David Bracken, Secretary,Government Secretariat, P h a ra m a u l ’ ; without suchidentification, he could have passed for any other kind ofyoung man – journalist, embryo businessman, soldier goingon leave, junior barrister on circuit. He was young, fair-haired, pleasant-looking, strongly built: his grey flannel suitbecame him, his blue tie was negligent and yet appropriate,his brown suede ankle-boots – an affectation on manyother men – seemed in his case the right thing to wear.
The ankle-boots were indeed the real clue: if Tulbach Browne had seen them, he would have said ‘Brothel-creepers’, and classed the young man as an ex-Army type,with a bit of time spent in the Western Desert or in Italy.
He would, once more, have been right.
From the career point of view, David Bracken had been caught out by the war, though he wasn’t complainingabout it and did not really mind. In 1943, when he shouldhave been going to Oxford, he was landing at Salerno: onhis twentieth birthday he was in the turret of a tank on theoutskirts of Rome: on his twenty-first, in 1945, he wascelebrating peace in Paris.
Now, ten years later, he found it hard to say how that decade of peace had really been spent, and if well or ill. Hehad idled for two years in the Army of Occupation inBerlin: then he had gone up to Oxford after all, to take upnormal life where he had left it off. But Oxford at the ageof twenty-three, with four years of soldiering and a captaincy in the Royal Armoured Corps behind him, wasnot the same as Oxford at eighteen, alongside a host ofother young men fresh from school. The other young menhad been there, of course; but, though he played out hisfull three years, he had found it impossible to mix withthem on anything but the most superficial terms – theyalways made him feel about a hundred years old, and attimes he could not help showing it … There had followedtwo years in London, reading for the Bar – but that hadn’tworked out either: an excursion into the publishing world,which had left him with a diminished regard for literature,as well as several hundred pounds the poorer; and nowthis.
‘This’ was a product of many things: u n c e r t a i n t y, b o r e d o m , incipient dedication, a wish to work forsomething more than a set sum of money every month. Ifhe had been told, a few years earlier, that he would end upas a civil servant, he would have scoffed at the idea – a drabcocoon of cups of tea and pale buff forms could never behis world. But he had discovered the reality to be verydifferent, and now he was committed to it, and he wasundeniably glad that this was so.
He had found, as a new recruit in London, that civil s e r vants worked long and thankless hours in dingysurroundings; and that most of them did their particularjob, not because it was the best job they could get in acompetitive world, but because they believed in it. Hefound, as far as the Scheduled Territories Office wasconcerned, that a few people, grossly overworked, dealtwith a fantastic number of different human beings, and ahuge area of the world’s surface – and dealt with themfaithfully, carefully, and incorruptibly. He found that hewanted to be part of this service – that it assuagedsomething within himself that only war in a good causehad hitherto satisfied. He found that he could take all the public derision that seemed to go with the label ‘civilservant’, if the truth were as rewarding and fulfilling as ithad turned out to be.
Now, on his way to Pharamaul, he was hesitant, a little nervous, and happy. His first posting overseas posed a lot ofproblems, not least the problem of quitting himself well.
He had a lot of ideas on colonialism, a lot of ideas on thecolour question, a lot of views on British administration, alot of prejudices, a lot of political preconceptions. Whetherthey would work out in the field, within the framework hehad accepted, was problematical. It would all be very new.
He took out of his pocket a small white booklet, l a b e l l e d : ‘Scheduled Territories Office: S u b - E q u a t o r i a lTerritories’, and turned once more to a page he hadscanned many times before. It was headed ‘Principality ofPharamaul’, and it read: ‘Governor and Commander-in-Chief: Sir Elliott Aide-de-Camp: Captain H G Simpson, OBE, RNSecretary (Political):A Purves-Brownrigg, CMGSecretary: L M StevensSecretary (designate): D Bracken, MCAssistant Secretary: Miss N SteuartResident Commissioner (Gamate): A Macmillan, CMGDistrict Commissioner (Gamate): G L T ForsdickAgricultural and Livestock Officer (Gamate): H JLlewellynDistrict Officer (Shebiya): T V RonaldSecurity: Captain K Crump, MC, Royal PharamaulPolice.’ He liked, especially, ‘Secretary (designate): D Bracken,MC’ … But the total list was a lot of people to get to know– though not a lot of people to administer an island of thirty thousand square miles, and the lives of a hundredand twenty thousand people.
The pilot handed over to the navigator – ‘Take it, Joe’ wasthe executive word of command – and, opening the doorat the rear of the cockpit, walked aft through the gentlyswaying aircraft towards the toilet. Usually there were a lotof passengers, and he spoke to none of them; on thisoccasion there were only four, and he felt safe inacknowledging their presence without fear of getting tiedup for half an hour. He nodded cheerfully to the first two:to the third, a youngish chap, he grinned and called out:‘OK?’ ‘Fine,’ said the young man. He leant forward, raising his voice against the engine noises and the vibration.‘When dowe get in?’ ‘About an hour more … We’re pretty well on time.’David Bracken looked up at the pilot’s medal ribbons, and said, ‘I see you were Battle of the Atlantic.’ ‘Coastal Command,’ said the pilot.
‘Ever get to Italy?’The pilot shook his head. ‘No. The sun never shone on us. Based on Londonderry, nearly all the war. Convoys.’ Bracken nodded. It was a different war, and he knew nothing about it. He said, ‘It’s been a nice quiet trip,’ andthe pilot smiled, straightened up, and started to move aftagain.
To the last passenger, a young negro in a blue serge suit, he was prepared to nod also. But the last passenger waslooking out of the window, with an unhappy black facethat discouraged any approach. The pilot, s h r u g g i n g ,passed on.
The last passenger, seeing out of the corner of his eye thepilot moving away, turned from the window again. He had been looking away on purpose, because he did not knowwhether the pilot would nod to him or not, and he did notwant to put it to the test. Dinamaula, son of Simaula,grandson of Maula, Hereditary Chieftain of Pharamaul,Prince of Gamate, Son of the Fish, Keeper of the GoldenNail, Urn of the Royal Seed, Ruler and Kingbreaker, Lordof the Known World – Dinamaula had been afraid of beingcut.
Such a thought, such an action, would have been inconceivable for him thirty-two hours earlier; becausethirty-two hours earlier he had been five thousand milesaway, in England, where the air was casually kinder, thefeeling vaguely benign, the colour spectrum blurred. But inthe intervening time Dinamaula had crossed manyfrontiers, and a blue sea, and the whole brooding length ofAfrica. The journey had been an education in the delicateshading of man’s regard for man, such as nothing else in hislife had so far given him.
Thirty-two hours earlier, and five thousand miles away, he had been a young chief-designate – Chief Dinamaula,head of some tribe in Africa (‘or somewhere – be nice tohim, anyway’), a free man in a fine city, free to walk into aconsiderable number of selected hotels in London, free tosit down and order a meal costing as much as a pound, inany restaurant that had no particular table-reservationplan. Free to traverse any street, and hardly be stared at atall: free to book a room at any seaside hotel, and to claimit (in lots of places all round the coast) with scarcely anyembarrassment; free to be interviewed (‘Chief Dinamaulaon the Threat of Communism’), free to broadcast (‘ChiefDinamaula on Hookworm in Tanganyika’), free to revisitOxford (‘Six Hundred Overseas Students in RecordRally’). In England he had been a Chief.
Two thousand miles further south, in Kano, Nigeria, he had also been a Chief – a Chief of a foreign state, in a country where such chiefs had recently been allowed totake the reins: a black Chief in a black man’s playground.
A Deputation of Honour had met him on the airfield, andborne him off for an hour’s talk, an hour’s slow coffeedrinking, an hour’s elaborate courtesy. His hosts, rulers oftheir own free land, had been far too polite even to hintthat Dinamaula, Chief of a British Protectorate, was stillfirmly under tutelage, and of lesser account than they. Theyhad talked instead of land reform, taxes, cattle-culling, rain… In Kano it had been wonderful.
Another two thousand miles further on, at Livingstone, in the Rhodesias, he had been a chief – a black man in acountry where an uncertain black–white partnership wasgroping for the outlines of the future. No deputation here,no recognition – but instead, the modest fellowship of anormal transit-stop. He had drunk his coffee side by sidewith the next two people off the plane – a white lawyer enroute for Cape Town, a white American destined for a jobin the Copper Belt.There had been no special ease, and nounease either. Each thought his own thoughts, each lit hisown cigarette.
In Windhoek – last town in Southern Africa, before taking off for Pharamaul – he had been a chief. ‘Non-European Lounge’, said the notice, with an accompanyingarrow; and when, feeling thirsty, he had turned away, andlined up at the fly-blown counter with the rest of thepassengers, and asked for a cup of coffee, the girl’sindicative hand had looked like the arrow – pointing off-stage, pointing always somewhere else. Presently, ashamed,he had reached the end of that arrow, and had found thesort of room he had expected – small, dusty, labelled ‘Non-Europeans – Nie Blankes’ in forbidding Gothic script. Partof him thought that perhaps this clear label was betterthan England’s dubious bonhomie, part of him revolted, atso concise a discrimination.
He had wished that someone would interview him at that moment: ‘Chief Dinamaula on Colour Bar’ … Thenhe had strayed into the wrong lavatory. ‘Slegs Vir Blankes’said the label this time: ‘Whites Only’ – and he hadn’tnoticed it in time, and the station janitor had pointed it outto him, in choice phrases drawn from a long history ofTeutonic superiority; and then, at the word of command,he had got into the aircraft, and sat in the rear seat withoutbeing told to, and looked steadfastly out of the window. Inthis part of the world, he was an African chief.
It was the first time in seven years that he had been conscious, not that he was black – for the point was drivenhome a hundred times a day, even in so flattering a climateas London – but that he was inferior.
Examining his inward thoughts, he found that he had been completely knocked off his balance – which, at theage of twenty-two, was mortifying and ridiculous. Butperhaps twenty-two was no very advanced age, if thepreceding seven years had been spent far away from one’sown country, in the kindly air of England … Dinamaulahad left his home at Gamate when he was fifteen years old,in pursuit of a plan, proposed by the Administration andbacked by his father, for educating him completely inEngland. He had been to a great public school – almost thefirst, and certainly the strictest discipline he had everknown; he had been to Oxford, and had graduated with apassable Law degree; now his father was dead, and he wasreturning to Pharamaul to claim his inheritance.
He was by now somewhat uncertain of the latter, too … Pharamaul he remembered as a rough, featureless country,cultivated haphazardly on principles as old as the ploughitself, devoted for the most part to stringy scrub cattle andenormous flocks of goats. Gamate, when he was born, hadbeen (and doubtless still was) an untidy straggle of mudhuts, sprawling like dusty beehives across two valleys and sheltering over a hundred thousand people – and manymore goats; and the people themselves he knew to belargely backward, unenterprising folk, degenerating in thenorthern parts to a simple, uncontrollable savagery.
They were like children – Dinamaula had no illusions about the fact: smart, flip children in the south, round theslums of Port Victoria: dull, cloddish children at Gamate:cruel, magic-ridden children in the wild north. None ofthem in the least resembled an Oxford graduate with adegree in Law; at a London party, among the tea cups andthe glasses and the clipped political talk and the strangelyadoring women, they would have stood out as ragged,brutish, undeniably dirty.
When his Chelsea friends argued about immediate self- representation, a second, consultative chamber, a loadedballot in the rural areas) they were thinking of Dinamaulahimself, not of the backward, peasant Maulas at Gamate(who did not know what a vote was) or the jungle U-Maulas up country (who could not have told a loadedballot from a poisoned arrow).
His London friends did not understand about these people, or they shut their eyes to them, or they wanted towave a wand and turn them all, in the course of a singleweekend, into completely emancipated, skilled mechanicsearning time-and-a-half on Saturdays. Dinamaula did knowabout them; his eyes were fully, sometimes fearfully open,and he wanted to do something about it – something abouteverything.
He was their chief, their father; he had journeyed into far lands, seen buildings as tall as ten trees, heard magicvoices coming from a box on a table. A table was a thing ofwood, square, like so … He was their chief, their father. Lethim then play the man.
Dinamaula became aware that someone was standing above him; and he looked up, to find that one of his threefellow passengers – an oldish, smallish, nondescript man ina rumpled seersucker suit – had paused by his seat. As heraised his eyebrows inquiringly: ‘Hallo!’ said Tu l b a c hBrowne. ‘Just stretching my legs … Is this your first trip?’ Dinamaula smiled, recognizing in the stra n g e r ’s look and tone the basic English just to demonstrate broadmindedness.
This man would really have preferred to talk to one of thetwo other white passengers aboard the plane: therefore hehad chosen the only negro.
‘No,’ he answered. ‘I’ve flown before … Won’t you sit down?’ Tulbach Browne eased himself into the vacantchair, and extended his hand. ‘I’m Tulbach Browne of theDaily Thresh.’ Dinamaula usually read the Daily Telegraph, but he had heard of Tulbach Browne. ‘I’m happy to meet you,’ he saidformally. ‘Of course I know your name well. Mine isDinamaula.’ Tulbach Browne nodded, not really hearing. ‘Going ‘Yes. Pharamaul is my home. At Gamate, the capital.Are you coming to write about’ – he was on the point of saying‘them’, but he changed it to – ‘us?’ Tulbach Browne grinned. ‘If there’s anything interesting to write. I’ve just been in South Africa.’ ‘A troubled country,’ said Dinamaula correctly.
‘It’s a screwed-up mess … Ever spent any time there?’‘No.’‘Lucky for you. They don’t like nig – negroes in South ‘Pharamaul is different,’ said Dinamaula.
‘I wonder.’ ‘I know.’ Dinamaula was suddenly annoyed: he could never decide which was the worst – the man who said‘nigger’ and meant it, or the man who didn’t say ‘nigger’,but felt it, and covered up that feeling by a spuriouscomradeship. This man was another barbarian … ‘I know,’he repeated. ‘I am Chief Dinamaula.’ ‘Chief …’ Tulbach Browne looked at him, instantly wary, instantly working. ‘You must be – you’ve been at Oxford.’ Dinamaula inclined his head.‘Yes.’ Normal words would not come. He said stiltedly, almost biblically: ‘I am thatman.’ Tulbach Browne looked sideways at Dinamaula again.
He saw now a tall, slim, good-looking negro: with neatclothes, a lightish skin, an air of courage and breeding. Itcould be real material … He said, briskly: ‘This is a verylucky meeting,’ and set himself to stir, to probe, and to laybare.
Far ahead of them, a smudge of purple rose up out of thesea, topped by a wavering cloudline at its nearer edge. TheIsland of Pharamaul was now their new horizon.
The Dakota’s pilot nodded to himself, recognizing for the hundredth time the shape of Pharamaul from nearly ahundred miles away – vague, undefined, only a little darkerthan the sea itself. It began slowly to fill the whole westernedge of their world,attaining birth as a new land, where forhours before there had been nothing but empty ocean. Hewondered, as he had wondered scores of times sincereading a magazine article during the wa r, w h e t h e rPharamaul could be the lost Atlantis that so many ancientshad sworn to. It was only a little bit to the south.
He disengaged the automatic pilot, throttled back slightly, and leaning forward started the aircraft on a veryslow, very gentle descent to sea level. Behind him then avigator began talking, m o n o t o n o u s l y, into a hand microphone. His lips formed a continuous muttering chainof the words ‘ Port Victoria Tower … Port Vi c t o r i aTower …’ But as yet, only a faint crackling answered him.
Awaiting them, prone in the afternoon heat, Pharamaulstill slept.
The plane had suddenly tilted and jerked, and two of thepassengers, who had been reading, looked up, and thencaught each other’s eye; and now, after four or five quickquestions at the end of a two-hour silence, they weresuddenly in tune. Spanning a quarter of a century, both ex-soldiers, both civil servants, both bound to the same task,Andrew Macmillan and David Bracken now shared anidentical world.
‘You’re replacing Morrison.’ Macmillan grinned. ‘He ‘Why not?’‘Usual Government House disease. Nothing to do, too ‘You’re up at Gamate?’‘Yes. The Residency has always been there. That’s where ‘What’s it like?’‘Hot. Dusty. Half asleep, except after the harvest – then they’re drunk all the time. There’s a lot of routine stuff –poll tax, inspection of cattle, soil conservation, inoculation,trying to knock some sense into their thick heads.’ ‘What are the Maulas like, as a tribe?’‘Backward. Some of them just down from the trees. But ‘Are they – ’ David Bracken searched for the right word, – ‘are they capable of managing their own affairs? Is thereany sort of political advancement?’ Andrew Macmillan stared, then shook his head. ‘You’ve got to forget all that stuff. They’re just simple, backwardchildren. We look after them.’ ‘But what are we doing about it?’‘About what?’‘About their being backward. About teaching them to ‘They could never run their own country.’‘But in the future?’‘The future is a long way ahead. It may come: there are one or two bright sparks already. But not now. Now, weteach them not to over-graze their lands, not to keep toomany goats, not to doctor themselves with dried toadskinand manure, not to kill a man because he takes someoneelse’s wife, not to let rainwater run to waste, not to doanything drastic about twins … I can’t think of much else.
It’s a slow process. It’s mostly “not”. But we look afterthem.’ ‘And schools?’‘There’s a school. Damned good one. New. Cost us three thousand pounds. And a mission – Father Schwemmer.
And a town band. And a hotel of sorts. And a native taxoffice. And a tribal management committee. And a littlehospital … Gamate is all right.’ ‘How many people there?’‘A hundred thousand. It’s the native capital. And about three men and a boy to run the whole show. I’ve beenthere for over thirty years.’ ‘I’m looking forward to seeing it, anyway.’ At about the same time, five seats behind them in the rearof the plane, Tulbach Browne was saying to Dinamaula: ‘That’s an interesting idea of yours. I’ve always thoughtthat modern methods of farming, and – er – waterconservation, could transform a backward economy almostovernight. The trouble is, of course, to get the officialsmoving … Do you anticipate a lot of obstruction?’ ‘That I do not know.’ Dinamaula smiled hesitantly. ‘You must remember that I’ve been away for seven years. I’mnot in touch with what Government has been doing. Andthen, of course, my own people – not all of them canunderstand these things, not all of them are ready for suchchanges.’ ‘You mean, there’s a conservative element who would resist anything that might threaten their own position inthe tribe.’ ‘Conservative, yes. Backward, perhaps.’‘Reactionary?’Dinamaula sighed. Already he was tired of this man, who clung and sucked like a blue-grass tick, and, whenquestioning, slid the answering words upon one’s owntongue. He said,‘There are many things to be taken care of.
We shall see.’ The warning sign: ‘ Fasten your seat belts’, g l o w e d suddenly from up ahead.Tulbach Browne sat up, preparingto go back to his seat.
‘I’d like to come up to Gamate and see you, as soon as ‘You will be welcome,’ answered Dinamaula politely.
‘ We live simply, of course. I hope you won’t bedisappointed.’ The Dakota turned northwards on a slow banking curve,preparing for its run-in.The whole lower half of Pharamaulnow lay before them, framed by sparkling sea, emerginginto detail – the rim of surf round the coastline, the smoke over the waterfront at Port Victoria, the dark rollingcountry that swept northwards till it vanished into haze.
The island was shaped like a huge black tear, pendulous, swelling, ready – centuries ahead – to drop from theEquator.


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