Aṛbi, bî Jemz Jôs

Norʈ Rićmnd Strīt, biyñ blînd, wz a qayt strīt xpt at ɖ aur ẃn ɖ Crisćn Bruɖrz’ Scūl set ɖ bôz fri. An uninhaḅtd hǎs v tū stōriz std at ɖ blînd end, dtaćt fṛm its nebrz in a sqer grǎnd. Ɖ uɖr hǎzz v ɖ strīt, conśs v dīsnt lîvz wɖn ɖm, gezd at wn anɖr wɖ brǎn imṗtrbbl fesz.

Ɖ formr tennt v ǎr hǎs, a prīst, hd daid in ɖ bac drw̃rūm. Er, musti fṛm hvñ bn loñ inclozd, huñ in ol ɖ rūmz, n ɖ westrūm bhnd ɖ cićn wz litrd wɖ old yslis peprz. Amñ ɖz I faund a fy pepr-cuvrd bcs, ɖ pejz v ẃć wr crld n damp: Ɖ Ábt, bî Wōltr Scot, Ɖ Dvǎt Cḿnicnt n Ɖ Memwarz v Vidoc. I lîct ɖ last bst bcz its līvz wr yelo. Ɖ wîld gardn bhnd ɖ hǎs cntend a sntṛl apltrī n a fy straġlñ bśz undr wn v ẃć I faund ɖ lêt tennt’s rusti bîsiclpump. H hd bn a vri ćaritbl prīst; in hiz wil h hd left ol hiz muni t insttyśnz n ɖ frnićr v hiz hǎs t hiz sistr.

Ẃn ɖ śort dez v wintr cem dusc fél bfr w hd wel ītn ǎr dinrz. Ẃn w met in ɖ strīt ɖ hǎzz hd groun sombr. Ɖ spes v scî abv s wz ɖ culr v evr-ćenjñ vayḷt n twdz it ɖ lamps v ɖ strīt liftd ɖer fībl lantnz. Ɖ cold er stuñ s n w pleid tl ǎr bodiz gloud. Ǎr śǎts ecoud in ɖ sîḷnt strīt. Ɖ c’rir v ǎr ple bròt s ʈru ɖ darc mudi lenz bhnd ɖ hǎzz ẃr w ran ɖ gōntlit v ɖ ruf trîbz fṛm ɖ coṭjz, t ɖ bac dorz v ɖ darc dripñ gardnz ẃr ǒdrz arouz fṛm ɖ aśpits, t ɖ darc odṛs steblz ẃr a coćmn smuɖd n comd ɖ hors or śc ḿzic fṛm ɖ bucld harnis. Ẃn w rtrnd t ɖ strīt, lît fṛm ɖ cićnwindoz hd fild ɖ eriaz. F mî uncl wz sìn trnñ ɖ cornr w hid in ɖ śado untl w hd sìn him sefli hǎzd. Or f Mangn’z sistr cem ǎt on ɖ dorstep t cōl hr bruɖr in t hiz ti w woćt hr fṛm ǎr śado pir p n dǎn ɖ strīt. W wêtd t si ẃɖr ś wd rmen or g in n, f ś rmend, w left ǎr śado n wōct p t Mangn’z steps rzînidli. Ś wz wêtñ fr s, hr figr dfînd bî ɖ lît fṛm ɖ haf-opnd dor. Hr bruɖr olwz tizd hr bfr h obeid n I std bî ɖ relñz lcñ at hr. Hr dres swuñ az ś muvd hr bodi n ɖ soft rop v hr her tóst fṛm sîd t sîd.

Evri mornñ I lei on ɖ flor in ɖ frunt parlr woćñ hr dor. Ɖ blînd wz pld dǎn t wɖn an inć v ɖ saś so ɖt I cd nt b sìn. Ẃn ś cem ǎt on ɖ dorstep mî hart lept. I ran t ɖ hōl, sizd mî bcs n foloud hr. I cept hr brǎn figr olwz in mî î n, ẃn w cem nir ɖ pônt at ẃć ǎr wez dvrjd, I qcnd mî pes n pást hr. Ɖs hapnd mornñ aftr mornñ. I hd nvr spocn t hr, xpt fr a fy caźl wrdz, n yt hr nem wz lîc a sumnz t ol mî fūliś blud.

Hr imij acumṗnid m īvn in plesz ɖ most hostîl t romans. On Saṭde īvnñz ẃn mî ānt wnt marc̣tñ I hd t g t cari sm v ɖ parslz. W wōct ʈru ɖ flẹrñ strīts, josld bî druncn men n barġnñ wimin, amd ɖ crsz v lebrrz, ɖ śril liṭniz v śopbôz hu std on gard bî ɖ baṛlz v pigz’ ćīcs, ɖ nezl ćantñ v strītsñrz, hu sañ a cm-ol-yu abt O’Duṇvn Rosa, or a baḷd abt ɖ trublz in ǎr netiv land. Ɖz nôzz cnvrjd in a sngl snseśn v lîf fr m: I imajind ɖt I bòr mî ćalis sefli ʈru a ʈroñ v foz. Hr nem sprañ t mî lips at momnts in strenj prerz n prezz ẃć I mslf dd nt unḍstand. Mî îz wr ofn fl v tirz (I cd nt tel ẃ) n at tîmz a flud fṛm mî hart sīmd t por itslf ǎt intu mî bŭzm. I ʈt litl v ɖ fyćr. I dd nt nǒ ẃɖr I wd evr spīc t hr or nt or, f I spouc t hr, hǎ I cd tel hr v mî cnfyzd aḍreśn. Bt mî bodi wz lîc a harp n hr wrdz n jsćrz wr lîc fngrz runñ upn ɖ wîrz.

Wn īvnñ I wnt intu ɖ bac drw̃rūm in ẃć ɖ prīst hd daid. It wz a darc reni īvnñ n ɖr wz no sǎnd in ɖ hǎs. Ʈru wn v ɖ brocn peinz I hŕd ɖ ren impinj upn ɖ rʈ, ɖ fîn insesnt nīdlz v wōtr pleyñ in ɖ sodn bedz. Sm distnt lamp or lîtd windo glīmd b’lo m. I wz ʈancfl ɖt I cd si so litl. Ol mî snsz sīmd t dzîr t veil ɖmslvz n, fīlñ ɖt I wz abt t slip fṛm ɖm, I prest ɖ pāmz v mî handz tgɖr untl ɖe trembld, mrṃrñ: “O luv! O luv!” mni tîmz.

At last ś spouc t m. Ẃn ś adrest ɖ frst wrdz t m I wz so cnfyzd ɖt I dd nt nǒ ẃt t ansr. Ś asct m wz I gwñ t Aṛbi. I fgot ẃɖr I ansrd yes or no. It wd b a splendid bzar, ś sd; ś wd luv t g.

“N ẃ c’nt y?” I asct.

Ẃl ś spouc ś trnd a silvr breslit rnd n rnd hr rist. Ś cd nt g, ś sd, bcz ɖr wd b a rtrit ɖt wīc in hr convnt. Hr bruɖr n tū uɖr bôz wr fîtñ fr ɖer caps n I wz alon at ɖ relñz. Ś hld wn v ɖ spîcs, bawñ hr hed twdz m. Ɖ lît fṛm ɖ lamp oṗzit ǎr dor còt ɖ ẃît crv v hr nec, lit p hr her ɖt restd ɖr n, fōlñ, lit p ɖ hand upn ɖ relñ. It fél ovr wn sîd v hr dres n còt ɖ ẃît bordr v a peticot, jst viẓbl az ś std at īz.

“It’s wel fr y,” ś sd.

“F I g,” I sd, “I wl brñ y smʈñ.”

Ẃt ińmṛbl foliz leid west mî wecñ n slīpñ ʈts aftr ɖt īvnñ! I wśt t anaylet ɖ tīdịs inṭvinñ dez. I ćeft agnst ɖ wrc v scūl. At nît in mî bedrūm n bî de in ɖ clasrūm hr imij cem btwn m n ɖ pej I strov t rīd. Ɖ siḷblz v ɖ wrd Aṛbi wr cōld t m ʈru ɖ sîḷns in ẃć mî soul l’x́urietd n cast an Īstn inćantmnt ovr m. I asct fr līv t g t ɖ bzar on Saṭde nît. Mî ānt wz s’prîzd n hopt it wz nt sm Frīmesn afer. I ansrd fy qsćnz in clas. I woćt mî mastr’z fes pas fṛm emịbiḷti t strņis; h hopt I wz nt bginñ t îdl. I cd nt cōl mî wonḍrñ ʈts tgɖr. I hd hardli eni peśns wɖ ɖ sirịs wrc v lîf ẃć, nǎ ɖt it std btwn m n mî dzîr, sīmd t m ćîld’z ple, ugli mnotṇs ćîld’z ple.

On Saṭde mornñ I rmîndd mî uncl ɖt I wśt t g t ɖ bzar in ɖ īvnñ. H wz fusñ at ɖ hōlstand, lcñ fr ɖ hatbruś, n ansrd m crtli:

“Yes, bô, I nǒ.”

Az h wz in ɖ hōl I cd nt g intu ɖ frunt parlr n lî at ɖ windo. I left ɖ hǎs in bad hymr n wōct slǒli twdz ɖ scūl. Ɖ er wz pitilisli rw n olrdi mî hart msgev m.

Ẃn I cem hom t dinr mî uncl hd nt yt bn hom. Stl it wz rli. I sat stẹrñ at ɖ cloc fr sm tîm n, ẃn its ticñ bgan t iṛtet m, I left ɖ rūm. I mǎntd ɖ sterces n gend ɖ upr part v ɖ hǎs. Ɖ hî cold emti glūmi rūmz liḅretd m n I wnt fṛm rūm t rūm sññ. Fṛm ɖ frunt windo I sw mî cmpańnz pleyñ b’lo in ɖ strīt. Ɖer crîz rīćt m wìcnd n indistñt n, līnñ mî fōrhed agnst ɖ cūl glas, I lct ovr at ɖ darc hǎs ẃr ś livd. I me hv std ɖr fr an aur, siyñ nʈñ bt ɖ brǎn-clad figr cast bî mî imaɉneśn, tućt dscritli bî ɖ lamplît at ɖ crvd nec, at ɖ hand upn ɖ relñz n at ɖ bordr b’lo ɖ dres.

Ẃn I cem dǎnsterz agn I faund Msz Mrsr sitñ at ɖ fîr. Ś wz an old garyḷs wmn, a pònbrocr’z wido, hu c’lectd yzd stamps fr sm pays prṗs. I hd t indyr ɖ gosip v ɖ tītebl. Ɖ mīl wz pṛloñd bynd an aur n stl mî uncl dd nt cm. Msz Mrsr std p t g: ś wz sori ś cd’nt wêt eni longr, bt it wz aftr et o’cloc n ś dd nt lîc t b ǎt lêt az ɖ nîter wz bad fr hr. Ẃn ś hd gn I bgan t wōc p n dǎn ɖ rūm, clenćñ mî fists. Mî ānt sd:

“I’m afred y me pt of yr bzar fr ɖs nît v Ǎr Lord.”

At nîn o’cloc I hŕd mî uncl’z laćcī in ɖ hōldor. I hŕd him tōcñ t himslf n hŕd ɖ hōlstand rocñ ẃn it hd rsivd ɖ weit v hiz oṿcot. I cd intrprit ɖz sînz. Ẃn h wz midwe ʈru hiz dinr I asct him t gv m ɖ muni t g t ɖ bzar. H hd fgotn.

“Ɖ ppl r in bed n aftr ɖer frst slīp nǎ,” h sd.

I dd nt smîl. Mî ānt sd t him eṇjeticli:

“C’nt y gv him ɖ muni n let him g? Y’v cept him lêt inuf az it z.”

Mî uncl sd h wz vri sori h hd fgotn. H sd h b’livd in ɖ old seyñ: “Ol wrc n no ple mcs Jac a dul bô.” H asct m ẃr I wz gwñ n, ẃn I hd tld him a secnd tîm h asct m dd I nǒ Ɖ Aṛb’z Férwel t hiz Stīd. Ẃn I left ɖ cićn h wz abt t rsît ɖ oṗnñ lînz v ɖ pìs t mî ānt.

I hld a florin tîtli in mî hand az I stroud dǎn Bucñm Strīt twdz ɖ steśn. Ɖ sît v ɖ strīts ʈroñd wɖ bayrz n glẹrñ wɖ gas rcōld t m ɖ prṗs v mî jrni. I tc mî sīt in a ʈrd-clas carij v a dzrtd tren. Aftr an intolṛbl dle ɖ tren muvd ǎt v ɖ steśn slǒli. It crept onẉd amñ ruiṇs hǎzz n ovr ɖ twnc̣lñ rivr. At Wstḷnd Ro Steśn a crǎd v ppl prest t ɖ carijdorz; bt ɖ portrz muvd ɖm bac, seyñ ɖt it wz a speśl tren fr ɖ bzar. I rmend alon in ɖ bér carij. In a fy minits ɖ tren drù p bsd an impṛvîzd wŭdn platform. I pást ǎt on t ɖ rod n sw bî ɖ lîtd dîl v a cloc ɖt it wz ten minits t ten. In frunt v m wz a larj bildñ ẃć dspleid ɖ majicl nem.

I cd nt fînd eni sixṗni-entṛns n, firñ ɖt ɖ bzar wd b clozd, I pást in qcli ʈru a trnstail, handñ a śilñ t a wiri-lcñ man. I faund mslf in a big hōl grdld at haf its hît bî a gaḷri. Nirli ol ɖ stōlz wr clozd n ɖ gretr part v ɖ hōl wz in darcnis. I rec̣gnîzd a sîḷns lîc ɖt ẃć pvedz a ćrć aftr a srvis. I wōct intu ɖ sntr v ɖ bzar timidli. A fy ppl wr gaɖrd abt ɖ stōlz ẃć wr stl opn. Bfr a crtn, ovr ẃć ɖ wrdz Café Chantant wr ritn in culrd lamps, tū men wr cǎntñ muni on a salvr. I lisnd t ɖ fōl v ɖ cônz.

Rmemḅrñ wɖ dificlti ẃ I hd cm I wnt ovr t wn v ɖ stōlz n xamind porṣlin vāzz n flǎrd tīsets. At ɖ dor v ɖ stōl a yuñ ledi wz tōcñ n lafñ wɖ tū yuñ jntlṃn. I rmarct ɖer Ñgliś axnts n lisnd vegli t ɖer convseśn.

“O, I nvr sd sć a ʈñ!”

“O, bt y dd!”

“O, bt I dd’nt!”

“Dd’nt ś se ɖt?”

“Yes. I hŕd hr.”

“O, ɖr’z a … fib!”

Obzrvñ m ɖ yuñ ledi cem ovr n asct m dd I wś t bai enʈñ. Ɖ ton v hr vôs wz nt incuṛjñ; ś sīmd t hv spocn t m ǎt v a sns v dyti. I lct humbli at ɖ gret jarz ɖt std lîc īstn gardz at îɖr sîd v ɖ darc entṛns t ɖ stōl n mrmrd:

“No, ʈanc y.”

Ɖ yuñ ledi ćenjd ɖ pziśn v wn v ɖ vāzz n wnt bac t ɖ tū yuñ men. Ɖe bgan t tōc v ɖ sem subjict. Wns or twîs ɖ yuñ ledi glanst at m ovr hr śoldr.

I lingrd bfr hr stōl, ɖo I ń mî ste wz yslis, t mc mî inṭrest in hr wérz sīm ɖ mor riyl. Ɖen I trnd awe slǒli n wōct dǎn ɖ midl v ɖ bzar. I alaud ɖ tū peniz t fōl agnst ɖ sixpns in mî pocit. I hŕd a vôs cōl fṛm wn end v ɖ gaḷri ɖt ɖ lît wz ǎt. Ɖ upr part v ɖ hōl wz nǎ cmplitli darc.

Gezñ p intu ɖ darcnis I sw mslf az a crīćr drivn n d’rîdd bî vaṇti; n mî îz brnd wɖ anḡś n angr.

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