Book Excerpt: The Heart of the Matter

They stood on the verandah at the D.C.’s bungalow at Pende and watched the torches move on the other side of the wide passive river. “So that’s France” Druce said, using the native term for it.

Mrs. Perrot said, “Before the war we used to picnic in France.”

Perrot joined them from the bungalow, a drink in either hand: bandy-legged, he wore his mosquito boots outside his trousers like riding boots, and gave the impression of
having only just got off a horse. “Here’s yours, Scobie.” He said, “Of course ye know I find it hard to think of the French as enemies. My family came over with the Huguenots. It makes a difference, ye know” His lean long yellow face cut in two by a nose like a wound was all the time arrogantly on the defensive: the importance of Perrot was an article of faith with Perrot doubters would be repelled, persecuted if he had the chance ‘ . . the faith would never cease to be proclaimed.

Scobie said, “If they ever joined the Germans, I suppose this is one of the points where they’d attack”

“Don’t I know it,” Perrot said, “I was moved here in 1939. The Government had a shrewd idea of what was coming. Everything’s prepared, ye know. Where’s the

“I think he’s taking a last look at the beds,” Mrs. Perrot said. “You must be thankful your wife’s arrived safely, Major Scobie. Those poor people over there. Forty days in
the boats. It shakes one up to think of it.”

“It’s the damned narrow channel between Dakar and Brazil that does it every time,” Perrot said.

The doctor came gloomily out onto the verandah.

Everything over the river was still and blank again: the torches were all out. The light burning on the small jetty below the bungalow showed a few feet of dark water sliding by. A piece of wood came out of the dark and floated so slowly through the patch of light that Scobie counted twenty before it went into darkness again.

“The Froggies haven’t behaved too badly this time” Druce said gloomily, picking a mosquito out of his glass.

“They’ve only brought the women, the old men, and the dying,” the doctor said, pulling at his beard. “They could hardly have done less.”

Suddenly like an invasion of insects the voices whined and burred upon the farther bank. Groups of torches moved like fire-flies here and there: Scobie lifting his binoculars caught a black face momentarily illuminated: a hammock pole: a white arm: an officer’s back. “I think they’ve arrived,” he said. A long line of lights was dancing along the water’s edge. “Well,” Mrs. Perrot said, “we may as well go in now.” The mosquitoes whirred steadily around them like sewing-machines: Druce exclaimed and struck his hand.

“Come in,” Mrs. Perrot said. “The mosquitoes here are all malarial.” The windows of the living-room were netted to keep them out: the stale air was heavy with the coming rains.

“The stretchers will be across at six A.M.,” the doctor said. “I think we are all set, Perrot. There’s one case of black water, and a few cases of fever, but most are just exhaustion the worst disease of all. It’s what most of us die of in the end”

“Scobie and I will see the walking cases,” Druce said. “You’ll have to tell us how much interrogation they can stand, Doctor. Your police will look after the carriers, Perrot, I suppose see that they all go back the way they came.”

“Of course,” Perrot said. “We’re stripped for action here. Have another drink?” Mrs. Perrot turned the nob of the radio and the organ of the Orpheum Cinema, Clapham, sailed to them over three thousand miles. From across the river the excited voices of the carriers rose and fell. Somebody knocked on the verandah door. Scobie shifted uncomfortably in his chair: the music of the Wurlitzer organ moaned and boomed. It seemed to him outrageously immodest. The verandah door opened and Wilson came in.

“Hello, Wilson,” Druce said. “I didn’t know you were here.”

“Mr. Wilson’s up to inspect the U.A.C. store,” Mrs. Perrot explained. “I hope the resthouse at the store is all right. It’s not often used.”

“Oh, yes, it’s very comfortable,” Wilson said. “Why, Major Scobie, I didn’t expect to see you.”

“I don’t know why you didn’t,” Perrot said. “I told you he’d be here. Sit down and have a drink.” Scobie remembered what Louise once had said to him about Wilson
phony, she had called him. He looked across at Wilson and saw the blush at Perrot’s betrayal fading from the boyish face, and the little wrinkles that gathered round the
eyes and gave the lie to his youth.

“Have you heard from Mrs. Scobie, sir?”

“She arrived safely last week”

“I’m glad. I’m so glad.”

“Well,” Perrot said, “what are the scandals from the big city?” The words “big city” came out with a sneer Perrot couldn’t bear the thought that there was a place where
people considered themselves important and where he was not regarded. Like a Huguenot imagining Rome, he built up a picture of frivolity, viciousness, and corruption. “We bush-folk,” Perrot went heavily on, “live very quietly.” Scobie felt sorry for Mrs. Perrot: she had heard these phrases so often: she must have forgotten long ago the time of courtship when she had believed in them. Now
she sat close up against the radio with the music turned low, listening or pretending to listen to the old Viennese melodies, while her mouth stiffened in the effort to ignore her husband in his familiar part. “Well, Scobie, what are our superiors doing in the city?”

“Oh,” said Scobie vaguely, watching Mrs. Perrot with pity, “nothing very much has been happening. People are too busy with the war …”

“Oh, yes,” Perrot said, “so many files to turn over in the Secretariat. I’d like to see them growing rice down here. They’d know what work was.”

“I suppose the greatest excitement recently” Wilson said, “would be the parrot, sir, wouldn’t it?”

“Tallit’s parrot?” Scobie asked.

“Or Yusef’s, according to Tallit,” Wilson said. “Isn’t that right, sir, or have I got the story wrong?”

“I don’t think we’ll ever know what’s right” Scobie said.

“But what is the story? We’re out of touch with the great world of affairs here. We have only the French to think about.”

“Well, about three weeks ago Tallit’s cousin was leaving for Lisbon on one of the Portuguese ships. We searched his baggage and found nothing, but I’d heard rumours that sometimes diamonds had been smuggled in a bird’s crop, so I kept the parrot back, and sure enough there were about a hundred pounds’ worth of industrial diamonds inside. The ship hadn’t sailed, so we fetched Tallit’s cousin back on shore. It seemed a perfect case.”

“But it wasn’t?”

“You can’t beat a Syrian,” the doctor said.

“Tallit’s cousin’s boy swore that it wasn’t Tallit’s cousin’s parrot and so of course did Tallit’s cousin. Their story was that the small boy had substituted another bird to frame Tallit.”

“On behalf of Yusef, I suppose,” the doctor said.

“Of course. The trouble was the small boy disappeared. Of course there are two explanations of that perhaps Yusef had given him his money and he’d cleared off, or
just as possibly Tallit had given him money to throw the blame on Yusef.”

“Down here,” Perrot said, “I’d have had ’em both in jail.”

“Up in town,” Scobie said, “we have to think about the law.”

Mrs. Perrot turned the nob of the radio and a voice shouted with unexpected vigour, “Kick him in the pants.”

“I’m for bed,” the doctor said. “Tomorrow’s going to be a hard day.”

Sitting up in bed under his mosquito net Scobie opened his diary. Night after night for more years than he could remember he had kept a record the barest possible record of his days. If anyone argued a date with him he could check up; if he wanted to know which day the rains had begun in any particular year, when the last-but-one Director of Public Works had been transferred to East Africa, the facts were all there, in one of the volumes stored in the tin box under his bed at home. Otherwise he never opened a volume particularly that volume where the barest fact of all was contained: C. died. He couldn’t have told himself why he stored up this record it was certainly not for posterity. Even if posterity were to be interested in the life
of an obscure policeman in an unfashionable colony, it would have learned nothing from these cryptic entries. Perhaps the reason was that forty years ago at a preparatory school he had been given a prize a copy of Allan Quatermain for keeping a diary throughout one summer holiday, and the habit had simply stayed. Even the form the diary took had altered very little. Had sausages for breakfast. Fine day. Walk in morning. Riding lesson in afternoon. Chicken for lunch. Treacle roll. Almost imperceptibly this record had changed into Louise left. Y. called in the evening. First typhoon 2 a.m. His pen was powerless to convey the importance of any entry: only he himself, if he had cared to read back, could have seen in the last phrase but one the enormous breach pity had blasted through his integrity. Y., not Yusef.

Scobie wrote: May 5. Arrived Pende to meet survivors of s.s. 43. He used the code number for security. Druce with me. He hesitated for a moment and then added, Wilson here. He closed the diary and lying flat on his back under the net he began to pray. This also was a habit. He said the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and then, as sleep began to clog his lids, he added an Act of Contrition. It was a formality not because he felt himself free from serious sin but because it had never occurred to him that his life was important enough one way or another. He didn’t drink, he didn’t fornicate, he didn’t even lie, but he never regarded this absence of sin as virtue. When he thought about it at all, he regarded himself as a man in the ranks, the member of an awkward squad, who had no opportunity to break the more serious military rules. “I missed Mass yesterday for insufficient reason. I neglected my evening prayers.” This was no more than admitting what every soldier did that he had avoided a fatigue when the occasion offered. “O God, bless ” but before he could mention names he was asleep.

They stood on the jetty next morning: the first light lay in cold strips along the eastern sky. The huts in the village were still shuttered with silver. At two that morning there had been a typhoon a wheeling pillar of black cloud driving up from the coast, and the air was cold yet with the rain. They stood with coat collars turned up watching the French shore, and the carriers squatted on the ground behind them. Mrs. Perrot came down the path from the bungalow wiping the white sleep from her eyes, and from across the water very faintly came the bleating of a goat. “Are they late?” Mrs. Perrot asked.

“No, we are early.” Scobie kept his glasses focussed on the opposite shore. He said, “They are stirring/ 1

“Those poor souls,” Mrs. Perrot said, and shivered with the morning chill.

“They are alive,” the doctor said.


“In my profession we have to consider that important.”

“Does one ever get over a shock like that? Forty days in open boats.”

“If you survive at all,” the doctor said, “you get over it. It’s failure people don’t get over, and this, you see, is a kind of success.”

“They are fetching them out o the huts” Scobie said. “I think I can count six stretchers. The boats are being brought in.”

“We were told to prepare for nine stretcher cases, and four walking ones,” the doctor said. “I suppose there’ve been some more deaths.”

“I may have counted wrong. They are carrying them down now. I think there are seven stretchers. I can’t distinguish the walking cases.”

The flat cold light, too feeble to clear the morning haze, made the distance across the river longer than it would seem at noon. A native dugout canoe bearing, one supposed, the walking cases came blackly out of the haze: it was suddenly very close to them. On the other shore they were having trouble with the motor of a launch: they could hear the irregular putter, like an animal out of breath.

First of the walking cases to come on shore was an elderly man with an arm in a sling. He wore a dirty white topee, and a native cloth was draped over his shoulders: his free hand tugged and scratched at the white stubble on his face. He said in an unmistakably Scotch accent, “Ah’m Loder, chief engineer.”

“Welcome home, Mr. Loder,” Scobie said. “Will you step up to the bungalow and the doctor will be with you in a few minutes?”

“Ah have no need of doctors.”

“Sit down and rest. I’ll be with you soon”

“Ah want to make ma report to a proper official”

“Would you take him up to the house, Perrot?”

“I’m the District Commissioner” Perrot said. “You can make your report to me.”

“What are we waitin’ for then?” the engineer said. “It’s nearly two months since the sinkin’. There’s an awful lot of responsibility on me, for the captain’s dead.” As they
moved up the hill to the bungalow, the persistent Scotch voice, as regular as the pulse of a dynamo, came back to them. “Ah’m responsible to the owners.”

The other three had come on shore, and across the river the tinkering in the launch went on: the sharp crack of a chisel, the clank of metal, and then again the spasmodic putter. Two of the new arrivals were the cannon fodder of all such occasions: elderly men with the appearance of plumbers who might have been brothers if they had not been called Forbes and Newall, uncomplaining men without authority, to whom things simply happened: one had a crushed foot and walked with a crutch; the other had his hand bound up with shabby strips of tropical shirt. They
stood on the jetty with as natural a lack of interest as they would have stood at a Liverpool street corner waiting for the local to open. A stalwart grey-headed woman in mosquito boots followed them out of the canoe.

“Your name, madam?” Druce asked, consulting a list.

“Are you Mrs. Rolt?”

“I am not Mrs. Rolt. I am Miss Malcott.”

“Will you go up to the house? The doctor . . .”

“The doctor has far more serious cases than me to attend to.”

Mrs. Perrot said, “You’d like to lie down”

“It’s the last thing I want to do,” Miss Malcott said. “I am not in the least tired.” She shut her mouth between every sentence. “I am not hungry. I am not nervous. I want to get on.”

“Where to?”

“To Lagos. To the Educational Department.”

“I’m afraid there will be a good many delays.”

“I’ve been delayed two months. I can’t stand delay. Work won’t wait.” Suddenly she lifted her face towards the sky and howled like a dog.

The doctor took her gently by the arm and said, “Well do what we can to get you there right away. Come up to the house and do some telephoning.”

“Certainly” Miss Malcott said, “there’s nothing that can’t be straightened on a telephone.”

The doctor said to Scobie, “Send those other two chaps up after us. They are all right. If you want to do some questioning, question them.”

Druce said, “I’ll take them along. You stay here, Scobie, in case the launch arrives. French isn’t my language.”

Scobie sat down on the rail of the jetty and looked across the water. Now that the haze was lifting, the other bank came closer: he could make out now with the naked eye the details of the scene: the white warehouse, the mud huts, the brasswork of the launch glittering in the sun: he could see the red fezzes of the native troops. He thought: Just such a scene as this and I might have been waiting for Louise to appear on a stretcher or perhaps not waiting. Somebody settled himself on the rail beside him, but Scobie didn’t turn his head.

“A penny for your thoughts, sir.”

“I was just thinking that Louise is safe, Wilson.”

“I was thinking that too, sir”

“Why do you always call me sir, Wilson? You are not in the police force. It makes me feel very old,”

“I’m sorry, Major Scobie.”

“What did Louise call you?”

“Wilson. I don’t think she liked my Christian name.”

“I believe they’ve got that launch to start at last, Wilson. Be a good chap and warn the doctor.”

A French officer in a stained white uniform stood in the bow: a soldier flung a rope and Scobie caught and fixed it. “Bon jour” he said, and saluted.

The French officer returned his salute & drained-out figure with a twitch in the left eyelid. He said in English, “Good morning. I have seven stretcher cases for you here”

“My signal says nine.”

“One died on the way and one last night. One from blackwater and one from from, my English is bad, do you say fatigue?”


“That is it.”

“If you will let my labourers come on board they will get the stretchers off.” Scobie said to the carriers, “Very softly. Go very softly.” It was an unnecessary command: no white hospital attendants could lift and carry more gently. “Won’t you stretch your legs on shore?” Scobie asked, “or come up to the house and have some coffee?”

“No. No coffee, thank you. I will just see that all is right here.” He was courteous and unapproachable, but all the time his left eyelid flickered a message of doubt and distress.

“I have some English papers if you would like to see them.”

“No, no thank you. I read English with difficulty.”‘

“You speak it very well.”

“That is a different thing.”

“Have a cigarette?”

“Thank you, no. I do not like American tobacco.”

The first stretcher came on shore the sheets were drawn up to the man’s chin and it was impossible to tell from the stiff vacant face what his age might be. The doctor came down the hill to meet the stretcher and led the carriers away to the Government rest-house where the beds had been prepared.

“I used to come over to your side,” Scobie said, “to shoot with your police chief. A nice fellow called Durand a Norman.”

“He is not here any longer,” the officer said.

“Gone home?”

“He’s in prison at Dakar,” the French officer replied, standing like a figure-head in the bows, but the eye twitching and twitching. The stretchers slowly passed Scobie and turned up the hill: a boy who couldn’t have been more than ten, with a feverish face and a twiglike arm thrown out from his blanket: an old lady with grey hair falling every way who twisted and turned and whispered: a man with a bottle nose a nob of scarlet and blue on a yellow face. One by one they turned up the hill, the carriers’ feet moving with the certainty of mules. “And Pre Brule?” Scobie said. “He was a good man.”

“He died last year of blackwater.”

“He was out here twenty years without leave, wasn’t he? He’ll be hard to replace.”

“He has not been replaced,” the officer said. He turned and gave a short savage order to one of his men. Scobie looked at the next stretcher load and looked away again. A small girl she couldn’t have been more than six lay on it. She was deeply and unhealthily asleep; her fair hair was tangled and wet with sweat; her open mouth was dry and cracked, and she shuddered regularly and spasmodically. “It’s terrible,” Scobie said.

“What is terrible?”

“A child like that.”

“Yes. Both parents were lost. But it is all right. She will die.”

Scobie watched the bearers go slowly up the hill, their bare feet very gently flapping the ground. He thought: It would need all Father Brule’s ingenuity to explain that. Not that the child would die: that needed no explanation. Even the pagans realized that the love of God might mean an early death, though the reason they ascribed was different; but that the child should have been allowed to survive the forty days and nights in the open boat that was the mystery, to reconcile that with the love of God.

And yet he could believe in no God who was not human enough to love what he had created. “How on earth did she survive till now?” he wondered aloud.

The officer said gloomily, “Of course they looked after her on the boat’ They gave up their own share of the water often. It was foolish, of course, but one cannot always be logical. And it gave them something to think about.” It was like the hint of an explanation too faint to be grasped. He said, “Here is another who makes one angry.”

The face was ugly with exhaustion: the skin looked as though it were ?bout to crack over the cheekbones: only the absence of lines showed that it was a young face. The French officer said, “She was just married before she sailed. Her husband was lost. Her passport says she is nineteen. She may live. You see, she still has some strength.” Her arms as thin as a child’s lay outside the blanket, and her fingers clasped a book firmly. Scobie could see the wedding-ring loose on her dried-up finger.

“What is it?”

“Timbres,” the French officer said. He added bitterly, “When this damned war started, she must have been still at school.”

Scobie always remembered how she was carried into his life on a stretcher, grasping a stamp-album, with her eyes fast shut.

In the evening they gathered together again for drinks, but they were subdued; even Perrot was no longer trying to impress them. Druce said, “Well, tomorrow I’m off. You coming, Scobie?”

“I suppose so.”

Mrs. Perrot said, “You got all you wanted?”

“All I needed. That chief engineer was a good fellow. He had it ready in his head. I could hardly write fast enough. When he stopped he went flat out. That was what was keeping him together ‘ma responsibility.’ You know, they’d walked the ones that could walk five days to get here.”

Wilson said, “Were they sailing without an escort?”

“They started out in convoy, but they had some engine trouble and you know the rule of the road nowadays: no waiting for lame ducks. They were twelve hours behind the convoy and were trying to pick up, when they were sniped. The submarine commander surfaced and gave them direction. He said he would have given them a tow, but there was a naval patrol out looking for him. You see, you can really blame nobody for this sort of thing,” and this sort of thing came at once to Scobie’s mind’s eye the child with the open mouth, the thin hands holding the stamp-album. He said, “I suppose the doctor will look in when he gets a chance?”

He went restlessly out onto the verandah, closing the netted door carefully behind him, and a mosquito immediately droned towards his ear. The skirring went on all the time, but when they drove to the attack they had the deeper tone of dive-bombers. The lights were showing in the temporary hospital, and the weight of all that misery lay on his shoulders. It was as if he had shed one responsibility only to take on another. This was a responsibility he shared with all human beings, but there was no comfort in that, for it sometimes seemed to him that he was the only one who recognized it. In the Cities of the Plain a single soul might have changed the mind of God.

The doctor came up the steps onto the verandah. “Hallo, Scobie,” he said in a voice as bowed as his shoulders, “taking the night air? It’s not healthy in this place.”

“How are they?” Scobie asked.

“There’ll be only two more deaths, I think. Perhaps only one.”

“The child?”

“She’ll be dead by morning,” the doctor said abruptly.

“Is she conscious?”

“Never completely. She asks for her father sometimes: she probably thinks she’s in the boat still. They’d kept it from her there said her parents were in one of the other boats. But of course they’d signalled to check up.”

“Won’t she take you for her father?”

“No, she won’t accept the beard.”

Scobie said, ” How’s the schoolteacher?”

“Miss Malcott? She’ll be all right. I’ve given her enough bromide to put her out of action till morning. That’s all she needs and the sense of getting somewhere. You haven’t got room for her in your police van, have you? She’d be better out of here.”

“There’s only just room for Druce and me with our boys and kit. We’ll be sending proper transport as soon as we get back. The walking cases all right?”

“Yes, they’ll manage.”

“The boy and the old lady?”

“They’ll pull through.”

“Who is the boy?”

“He was at a prep school in England. His parents in South Africa thought he’d be safer there.”

Scobie said reluctantly, “That young woman with the stamp-album?” It was the stamp-album and not the face that haunted his memory, for no reason that he could understand, and the wedding-ring loose on the finger, as though a child had dressed up.

“I don’t know,” the doctor said. “If she gets through tonight . . . perhaps . . .”

“You’re dead tired, aren’t you? Go in and have a drink.”

“Yes. I don’t want to be eaten by mosquitoes.” The doctor opened the verandah door, and a mosquito struck at Scobie’s neck. He didn’t bother to guard himself. Slowly, hesitatingly, he retraced the route the doctor had taken, down the steps onto the tough rocky ground. The loose stones turned under his boots. He thought of Pemberton. What an absurd thing it was to expect happiness in a world so full of misery. He had cut down his own needs to a minimum, photographs were put away in drawers, the dead were put out of mind: a razor strop, a pair of rusty handcuffs for decoration: but one still has one’s eyes, he thought, one’s ears. Point me out the happy man and I will point you out either egotism, selfishness, evil or else an absolute ignorance.

Outside the rest-house he stopped again. The lights inside would have given an extraordinary impression of peace if one hadn’t known, just as the stars on this clear night gave also an impression of remoteness, security, freedom. If one knew, he wondered, the facts, would one have to feel pity even for the planets? if one reached what they called the heart of the matter?

“Well, Major Scobie?” It was the wife of the local missionary speaking to him. She was dressed in white like a nurse, and her flint-grey hair lay back from her forehead in ridges like wind erosion. “Have you come to look on?” she asked forbiddingly.

“Yes,” he said. He had no other idea of what to say: he couldn’t describe to Mrs. Bowles the restlessness, the haunting images, the terrible impotent feeling of responsibility and pity.

“Come inside” Mrs. Bowles said, and he followed her obediently like a boy. There were three rooms in the resthouse. In the first the walking cases had been put: heavily dosed, they slept peacefully, as though they had been taking healthy exercise. In the second room were the stretcher cases for whom there was reasonable hope: the third room was a small one and contained only two beds divided by a screen: the six-year-old girl with the dry mouth, the young woman lying unconscious on her back, still grasping the stamp-album. A night-light burned in a saucer and cast thin shadows between the beds. “If you want to be useful,” Mrs. Bowles said, “stay here a moment. I want to go to the dispensary”

“The dispensary?”

“The cook-house. One has to make the best of things.”

Scobie felt cold and strange. A shiver moved his shoulders. He said, “Can’t I go for you?”

Mrs. Bowles said, “Don’t be absurd. Are you qualified to dispense? I’ll only be away a few minutes. If the child shows signs of going, call me.” If she had given him time,
he would have thought of some excuse, but she was already out of the room and he sat heavily down in the only chair. When he looked at the child, he saw a white communion veil over her head: it was a trick of the light on the pillow and a trick of his own mind. He put his head in his hands and wouldn’t look. He had been in Africa when his own child died. He had always thanked God that he had missed
that. It seemed after all that one never really missed a thing. To be a human being one had to drink the cup. If one were lucky on one day, or cowardly on another, it was presented on a third occasion. He prayed silently into his hands, “O God, don’t let anything happen before Mrs. Bowles comes back.” He could hear the heavy uneven breathing of the child. It was as if she were carrying a weight with great effort up a long hill: it was an inhuman situation not to be able to carry it for her. He thought: This is what parents feel year in and year out, and I am shrinking from a few minutes of it. They see their children dying slowly every hour they live. He prayed again, “Father, look after her. Give her peace.” The breathing broke, choked, began again with terrible effort. Looking between his fingers he could see the six-year-old face convulsed like a navvy’s with labour. “Father,” he prayed, “give her peace. Take away my peace for ever, but give her peace.” The sweat broke out on his hands. “Father . . .” He heard a small scraping voice repeat, “Father,” and looking up he saw the blue and bloodshot eyes watching him. He thought with horror: this is what I thought I’d missed. He would have called Mrs. Bowles, only he hadn’t the voice to call with. He could see the breast of the child struggling for breath to repeat the heavy word; he came over to the bed and said, “Yes, dear. Don’t speak, I’m here.” The nightlight cast the shadow of his clenched fist on the sheet and it caught the child’s eye. An effort to laugh convulsed her, and he moved his hand away. “Sleep, dear,” he said, “you are sleepy. Sleep.” A memory that he had carefully buried returned, and taking out his handkerchief he made the shadow of a rabbit’s head fall on the pillow beside her. “There’s your rabbit,” he said, “to go to sleep with. It will stay until you sleep. Sleep.” The sweat poured down his face and tasted in his mouth as salt as tears. “Sleep.” He moved the rabbit’s ears up and down, up and down. Then he heard Mrs. Bowies’ voice, speaking low just behind him. “Stop that,” she said harshly, “the child’s dead.”

– The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene

The Heart of the Matter
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