H the Shadow, Chapter VIII


It was past noon, and a drove of
sheep lay waiting.

H’s passage was sore. He could do
without more for now.

The river was quiet, and
the air, empty.


H strained his ears. Something was
in the twilight.

Maug made
a nervous cry. “I never believed
in the beheadings.”


H gave him a deliberate glance and
tried to laugh.

“They’ll be out seeking me,” Maug said.


“What are you going on about?” H said.

Maug answered, “Don’t
laugh at me.”


Standing under the elms, H heard
the door open in his head, as if
he had something to say
but did not know how to begin.


“Father?” H said.

“I don’t know your father,” said Maug.

“Will you promise me?” H said.

Father and son in silence pulled close.


The crab that lies
in its hole is never fat.

H felt
as if he were bleeding.

Was his dazed mind
under the influence of some curse?


He had the eye
of a sailor
accustomed to the darkness of the sea.

But out at sea,
what black thing was there?
A cloud? A storm?

A schooner
tacking against wind
and tide?


It was night.

And H’s destiny hung on it.

Maug’s hand dropped back

like a man who has been dealt a blow.

He said, “Your father’s head

was torn off.”


“Yes, the men
down on him,” said Maug.

“The dark
vessel possessed us

and had to be taken.”


Continue to Book I, Chapter IX

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