The Sound of the Shell

Theboywithfairhairloweredhimselfdownthelastfewfeetofrockandbegantopickhiswaytowardthelagoon.Thoughhehadtakenoffhisschoolsweaterandtraileditnowfromonehand,hisgreyshirtstucktohimandhishairwasplasteredtohisforehead.Allroundhimthelongscarsmashedintothejunglewasabathofheat.Hewasclamberingheavilyamongthecreepersandbrokentrunkswhenabird,avisionofredandyellow,flashedupwardswithawitch-likecry;andthiscrywasechoedbyanother.

“Hi!”itsaid.“Waitaminute!”Theundergrowthatthesideofthescarwasshakenandamultitudeofraindropsfellpattering.

“Waitaminute,”thevoicesaid.“Igotcaughtup.”

ThefairboystoppedandjerkedhisstockingswithanautomaticgesturethatmadethejungleseemforamomentliketheHomeCounties.

Thevoicespokeagain.

“Ican’thardlymovewithallthesecreeperthings.”

Theownerofthevoicecamebackingoutoftheundergrowthsothattwigsscratchedonagreasywind-breaker.Thenakedcrooksofhiskneeswereplump,caughtandscratchedbythorns.Hebentdown,removedthethornscarefully,andturnedaround.Hewasshorterthanthefairboyandveryfat.Hecameforward,searchingoutsafelodgmentsforhisfeet,andthenlookedupthroughthickspectacles.

“Where’sthemanwiththemegaphone?”

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