Read Books Online, for Free
|The Bridge-Builders||Mark Twain|
|Page 4 of 21||
Finlinson Sahib had that day given orders to clear the scaffolding from the guard-tower on the right bank, and Peroo with his mates was casting loose and lowering down the bamboo poles and planks as swiftly as ever they had whipped the cargo out of a coaster.
From his trolley he could hear the whistle of the serang's silver pipe and the creek and clatter of the pulleys. Peroo was standing on the top-most coping of the tower, clad in the blue dungaree of his abandoned service, and as Findlayson motioned to him to be careful, for his was no life to throw away, he gripped the last pole, and, shading his eyes ship-fashion, answered with the long-drawn wail of the fo'c'sle lookout: "Ham dekhta hai" ("I am looking out").
Findlayson laughed and then sighed. It was years since he had seen a steamer, and he was sick for home. As his trolley passed under the tower, Peroo descended by a rope, ape-fashion, and cried: "It looks well now, Sahib. Our bridge is all but done. What think you Mother Gunga will say when the rail runs over?"
"She has said little so far. It was never Mother Gunga that delayed us."
"There is always time for her; and none the less there has been delay. Has the Sahib forgotten last autumn's flood, when the stone-boats were sunk without warning - or only a half-day's warning?"
"Yes, but nothing save a big flood could hurt us now. The spurs are holding well on the West Bank."
"Mother Gunga eats great allowances. There is always room for more stone on the revetments. I tell this to the Chota Sahib" - he meant Hitchcock - "and he laughs."
"No matter, Peroo. Another year thou wilt be able to build a bridge in thine own fashion."
The Lascar grinned. "Then it will not be in this way - with stonework sunk under water, as the Qyetta was sunk. I like sus-sus-pen-sheen bridges that fly from bank to bank. with one big step, like a gang-plank. Then no water can hurt. When does the Lord Sahib come to open the bridge?"
"In three months, when the weather is cooler."
"Ho! ho! He is like the Burra Malum. He sleeps below while the work is being done. Then he comes upon the quarter-deck and touches with his finger, and says: 'This is not clean! Dam jibboonwallah!'"
"But the Lord Sahib does not call me a dam jibboonwallah, Peroo."
"No, Sahib; but he does not come on deck till the work is all finished. Even the Burra Malum of the Nerbudda said once at Tuticorin -"
"Bah! Go! I am busy."
"I, also!" said Peroo, with an unshaken countenance. "May I take the light dinghy now and row along the spurs?"
"To hold them with thy hands? They are, I think, sufficiently heavy."
"Nay, Sahib. It is thus. At sea, on the Black Water, we have room to be blown up and down without care. Here we have no room at all. Look you, we have put the river into a dock, and run her between stone sills."
|Who's On Your Reading List?
Read Classic Books Online for Free at
Page by Page Books.TM
Home | More Books | About Us | Copyright 2004