Книга Half of a Yellow Sun. Содержание - 27
"Yes, yes," Master said, and walked on briskly.
It was inadequate to Ugwu, their exchange; he felt as if Mama's death required more words, more gestures, more shared time between them. But Master had barely glanced at him. And when Special Julius came by later to say ndo, Master was just as brisk and brief.
"Certainly one must expect casualties. Death is the price of our liberty," he said, and abruptly got up and went back into the bedroom, leaving Olanna to shake her head at Special Julius, her eyes tear-filled.
Ugwu thought Master would stay home from work the next day, but he took a bath earlier than he usually did. He did not drink his tea or touch the yam slices Ugwu had warmed up from the night before. He did not tuck in his shirt.
"You just can't cross to Biafra-Two, Odenigbo," Olanna said, as she followed him out to the car. Master pushed down the palm fronds piled on top of it. Olanna kept saying something that Ugwu could not hear while Master silently bent over the open bonnet. He climbed in and drove off with a slight wave. Olanna ran off down the road. Ugwu thought, for one absurd moment, that she was chasing after Master's car but she came back to say that she had asked Special Julius to follow him and bring him back.
"He said he has to go and bury her. But the roads are occupied. The roads are occupied," she said. Her eyes were focused on the compound entrance. With each sound she heard-a lorry rumbling past, a chirping bird, a child's cry-she ran from the veranda bench to peer down the road. A group of people armed with machetes walked past, singing. Their leader had one arm.
"Teacher! Well done!" one of them called, when they saw Olanna. "We are going combing! We are going to root out the infiltrators!"
They had almost passed when Olanna jerked up and shouted, "Please look out for my husband in a blue Opel."
One of them turned and waved with a slightly puzzled look.
Ugwu could feel the heat of the bright afternoon sun even under the thatch awning. Baby was playing barefoot in the front yard. Special Julius's long American car drove in and Olanna leaped up.
"He's not back?" Special Julius asked from the car.
"You didn't see him," Olanna said.
Special Julius looked worried. "But who told Odenigbo that he can make it past occupied roads? Who told him?"
Ugwu wanted the man to shut up. He had no right to criticize Master, and rather than sitting there in his ugly tunic he might turn around and go search properly for Master.
After Special Julius left, Olanna sat down and leaned forward and placed her head in her hands.
"Do you want some water, mah?" Ugwu asked.
She shook her head. Ugwu watched the sun fall. Darkness came swiftly, brutally; there was no gradual change from light to dark.
"What am I going to do?" Olanna asked. "What am I going to do?"
"Master will come back, mah."
But Master did not come back. Olanna sat on the veranda until past midnight, resting her head against the wall.
Richard was at the dining table when the doorbell rang. He reduced the volume of the radio and rearranged the sheets of writing paper before he opened the door. Harrison stood there, his forehead, his neck, his arms, and his legs beneath his khaki shorts all wrapped in bloody bandages.
The red wetness made Richard feel faint. " Harrison! Good God. What happened to you?"
"Good afternoon, master."
"Were you attacked?" Richard asked.
Harrison came inside and placed his tattered bag down and began to laugh. Richard stared at him. When Harrison raised his hands to untie the bloody bandage on his head, Richard said, "No, no, there's no need to do that. No need at all. I'll call the driver right away. We'll take you to the hospital."
Harrison yanked the bandage off. His head was smooth; there was no gash, no mark to show where the blood had come from.
"It is beets, sah," Harrison said, and laughed again.
"It isn't blood then, you mean?"
"No, sah." Harrison moved farther into the living room and made to stand at the corner, but Richard asked him to sit. He perched on the edge of the chair. The smile left his face as he began to speak.
"I am coming from my hometown, sah. I am not telling anybody that our hometown is falling soon so that they are not saying I am saboteur. But everybody is knowing that the vandals are close. Even two days ago we are hearing shelling, but the town council say it is our troops practicing. So I'm taking my family and our goats to the inside-inside farm. Then I begin coming Port Harcourt because I am not knowing what happened to Master. Even I am sending message with the driver of Professor Blyden since many weeks ago."
"I didn't get any message."
"Foolish man," Harrison muttered, before he continued. "I am soaking cloth in fresh beet water and tying them in bandage and I am saying I am survivor of air raid. It is only how the militia people are allowing me to enter lorry. Only men with wounds is following the women and children."
"So what happened in Nsukka? How did you leave?"
"It is many months now, sah. When I am hearing shelling I am packing your things and I am burying the manscrit inside box in the garden, near that small flower Jomo is planting the last time."
"You buried the manuscript?"
"Yes, sah, because if not they are taking it from me on the road."
"Yes, of course," Richard said. It was unreasonable to hope that Harrison had brought In the Time of Roped Pots with him. "So how have you been getting on?"
Harrison shook his head. "Hunger is bad, sah. My people are watching the goats."
"Watching the goats?"
"To see what they are eating, and after seeing they are boiling the same leaves and giving their children to drink. It is stopping kwashiorkor."
"I see," Richard said. "Now go to the Boys' Quarters and have a wash."
"Yes, sah." Harrison stood up.
'And what are your plans now?"
"Do you plan to go back to your hometown?"
Harrison fiddled with the arm bandage, thick with false blood. "No, sah. I am waiting until the war is ending so I am cooking for master."
"Of course," Richard said. It was a good thing two of Kainene's stewards had gone off to join the army and only Ikejide was left.
"But, sah, they are saying that Port Harcourt is falling soon. The vandals are coming with many ships from Britain. They are shelling outside Port Harcourt now."
"Go on and have a bath, Harrison."
After Harrison left, Richard turned up the volume of the radio. He liked the cadence of the Arabic-inflected voice on Radio Kaduna, but he did not like the gleeful certitude with which it said " Port Harcourt is liberated! Port Harcourt is liberated!" They had been talking about the fall of Port Harcourt for the past two days. So had Lagos radio, although with a little less glee. The BBC, too, had announced that the imminent fall of Port Harcourt was the fall of Biafra; Biafra would lose its viable seaport, its airport, its control of oil.
Richard pulled the bamboo stopper from the bottle on the table and poured himself a drink. The pink liquid spread a pleasant warmth through his body. Emotions swirled in his head-relief that Harrison was alive, disappointment that his manuscript was buried in Nsukka, anxiety about the fate of Port Harcourt. Before he poured a second drink, he read the label on the bottle: republic of biafra, RESEARCH AND PRODUCTION DIRECTORATE, NENE SHERRY, 45%. He sipped slowly. Madu had brought two cartons the last time he visited, joking that locally made liquor in old beer bottles was part of the win-the-war effort.
"The RAP people claim that Ojukwu drinks this, though I doubt it," he said. "I drink only the clear ones myself because I don't trust that coloring."