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Round the Bend: Pages 301 through 302

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  • Round the Bend: Pages 301 through 302

    ROUND the BEND
    Nevil Shute, 1951

    ```(annotated and with added blue highlights by al-Brunardot)



    bags. It was dark and shadowy when we got there, a friendly darkness with brown people moving about in it and welcoming us, in the light of a few coconut oil wicks and a hurricane lamp or two. Connie took Nadezna to his room and sent Madé Jasmi to organize an extra bed. I dropped my haversack down in the hut that I had occupied before and went to find Phinit to talk over the new organization with him.

    I sat with him on the steps of his house in the dim light, telling him what I wanted him to do; he knew Pak Sza San and said he would fit in all right in Bali. I had chosen Pak Sza San because he came from Singapore and so his home was geographically close to Indonesia, and he might be expected to know the customs and the ways of the Balinese by hearsay, anyway, better than, say, an Iraqui engineer from Basra. We sat there talking for about a quarter of an hour, and then a girl, bare to the waist, came up and spoke to him. I peered at her in the dim light, and it was Madé Jasmi.

    Phinit said in English, "She wants to ask you something, Mr. Cutter."

    "Of course," I said. "Ask her what I can do for her."
    There was an exchange in Balinese. "She says, is it true that Shak Lin has to go away to a hospital in a far country?"

    "Tell her, I'm afraid that's true enough."

    They spoke again. "She says, may she go with him to the hospital to cook his food and wash his clothes."

    I sat in silence for a minute. That's usual in rural hospitals in the East, of course. A man's wife always goes with him to hospital and sleeps on the floor beside him. They think it is a very cruel custom of the West to separate husband and wife when one is ill. They think that in the great distress of a bad illness husband and wife need each other most.

    "Tell her," I said gently, "that she can't do that. She's not his wife."

    They spoke. "She says that Shak Lin has no wife, and he will never have one. She says that he will be unhappy if he is alone, and that she knows what he likes to eat, and when, and she knows all his clothes and how he likes them washed. She says he cannot look after himself when he is tired and ill."


    I replied, "Tell her that he is going to a fine large hospital, larger than the Bali Hotel, a hospital such as Europeans go to when they are ill. Tell her that every person there has two or three servants that the hospital provides, and these are taught to do everything in the way the doctor says. Tell her that it is better that those servants should look after him, because he will get well more quickly, because they know everything about this illness."

    She said something a little scornfully.

    "She says, if they know everything about this illness, then they know that he is going to die."

    I didn't know what to say to that one. Presently she said something again, and all the scorn was gone out of her voice.

    "She says, Shak Lin will not stay in hospital for very long, because he is only going there to please you and his sister. She says that presently he will become too weak to travel, and he will go then to a quiet place beside an airstrip, and live there until he dies. She says, when he goes to that quiet place, may she get into your aeroplane to go to him, to be with him, to cook his food and wash his clothes."

    She had a simple faith, apparently, that my aircraft would always fly direct from Bali to Shak Lin, wherever he might be.

    "Yes," I said. "Tell her she may do that."