The Sound of the Shell

Theboywithfairhairloweredhimselfdownthelastfewfeetofrock andbegantopickhiswaytowardthelagoon. Thoughhehadtakenoffhisschoolsweater andtraileditnowfromonehand, hisgreyshirtstucktohim andhishairwasplasteredtohisforehead. Allroundhimthelongscarsmashedintothejunglewasabathofheat. Hewasclamberingheavilyamongthecreepersandbrokentrunks whenabird,avisionofredandyellow,flashedupwards withawitch-likecry; andthiscrywasechoedbyanother. 

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

“Waitaminute,”thevoicesaid. “Igotcaughtup.” 

Thefairboystopped andjerkedhisstockingswithanautomaticgesture thatmadethejungleseemforamomentliketheHomeCounties. 

Thevoicespokeagain. 

“Ican’thardlymovewithallthesecreeperthings.” 

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

“Where’sthemanwiththemegaphone?” 

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