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Round the Bend: Pages 191 through 193

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  • Round the Bend: Pages 191 through 193

    ROUND the BEND
    Nevil Shute, 1951

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



    thing my white competitors were likely to quote for the whole journey from Bahrein to the East Alligator, and I went to bed moderately happy about the job.

    I was over at the office bright and early next morning, and when Nadezna came in I had the new quotation ready for her to type out. She ran through it in half an hour and I rang up Mr. Johnson, and by nine o'clock I was in his office showing him the new figures and telling him all about it. He had already had a cable from Fletcher at East Alligator River telling him about the difficulties, and he wasn't at all happy about changing airlines at Bali; he was afraid, quite reasonably, that one or other of the aircraft wouldn't be there on time and so his men and loads would get hung up at Bali.

    "There's worse places to be stranded at than Bali," I remarked.

    He glanced at me. "I've never been there. I've heard that it's a very lovely island."

    "It is," I said. "It breaks my heart to think you won't see much of it—not travelling this way." I turned more serious. "You're absolutely right," I said. "There is a danger of a hold-up there. What I propose doing, if you go on with this, is to go to Australia and either form a new white company to do this last leg, or take a financial interest in Maclean's show—if I can. I'll have to get control of that last leg."

    He grunted. "It's just possible that we might operate it ourselves from the East Alligator River. . . ."

    He wouldn't say yes or no to the new scheme at that meeting; he said that he wanted to talk it over with his colleagues and he'd telephone me later in the day. I went back to the aerodrome worried and anxious, wondering if my £120,000 contract had gone down the drain. I roamed about restless and irritable in and out of the office and the hangar, unable to settle to anything or attend to anything. I had a miserable day. So did everybody else in the party.

    At about four o'clock in the afternoon Johnson came on the phone. He said they had decided to try the service in the way that I suggested, in co-operation with Maclean Airways. He said that I must have escape clauses to the contract enabling us to get rid of Maclean if he was late at Bali, and he wanted to see me about


    that. He wanted to talk to me again about the possibility. that they should operate a Dakota themselves for the last "white" leg of the journey. He suggested I should come and see them next morning, and he said they wanted to start the service on a six months' basis with a flight leaving upon Thursday week, in nine days' time.

    I put down the telephone, and I was so relieved I could have wept. It was all right, after all.

    Nadezna had been standing by my desk. She had come in while I was talking, and was waiting to say something to me.

    "Major Hereward is here, waiting to see you," she said. "Shall I bring him in?"

    Even the Liaison Officer couldn't worry me at the moment. "Show him in," I said. "Look—slip over to the hangar then and find your brother and Gujar. Tell them it's all okay—Johnson has accepted the Bali scheme and Maclean Airways. I'll be over there as soon as I've found out what this chap wants."

    She smiled at me, radiant; perhaps it was my own relief that made her look like that. "I'm just terribly glad it's all come out all right," she said.

    "My God," I remarked with feeling. "So am I."

    She brought in Major Hereward, and I got up to greet him. "Good afternoon," I said. "I'm sorry to have kept you waiting, but I had someone on the phone." I offered him a cigarette, but he refused it.

    "I'm afraid that what I've come to tell you may be rather unwelcome, Mr. Cutter," he said. "It's about your man, Shak Lin. We feel up at the Residency that the influence that he is 'building up here is quite undesirable, and could even be dangerous."

    "I see," I said. The sun seemed suddenly to have gone in.

    "It's very unwise to play about with religious matters in this country," he said seriously. "I've been here twenty-five years, and I know. A new sect makes a schism, and in this country schisms may break out into an open riot, any time. I'm afraid we cannot tolerate a British subject who gains influence in this country by starting a new sect."

    "There doesn't seem to be much harm in it," I said dully.

    "Well, that's for us to judge, Mr. Cutter. Shak Lin is a British


    subject, and you're a British subject, have to do what we decide."

    I was silent.

    "You'll have to get rid of him, Cutter," he said, not unkindly. "I'm very sorry about it, and so is the Resident. But Shak Lin's got to go."