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20

Back at the Battlefield


I am writing this in bed, in the little bedroom with a fireplace, and one brick wall, and one window, that I shared with Sfido. I have just spoken with Jahlee. Oreb is hopping about the little table they put beside my bed and eyeing the breakfast on my tray. I told him to take whatever he wanted, and he seems to be trying to decide. He would like a fish head better than any of it, I feel sure. Hide has gone to fish through the ice in the river, which is what everyone seems to be doing at present except for our prisoners and Inclito's coachman, who is guarding them.

And Jahlee, Oreb, and me. I must rest.

I have been ill. Perhaps I can begin there. A strange sort of sickness-no pain, just very tired. We brought the fourgoat back to camp, Hide going ahead to be sure no one fired. It was very welcome and was skinned and eaten at once. I ate some of the meat. Much less than the others, but they were not sick.

No matter. I was ill, I feel quite certain, before we reached the fire.

Jahlee came in again to chide me for not eating. "You can't live as we do, you know!"

I asked whether she had been feeding from my veins. She denied it, but conceded that another might have, and examined me for the punctures of fangs, finding none.

Or so she said.

"We don't bring all sickness. Besides, you have a fever. We don't do that."

I agreed, recalling Teasel. How cold her skin was!

I should have written down our earlier talk as well. I see that I did not. In summary:

She asked why I had not betrayed her. I tried to explain.

"But you hate us!"

As a group, I said, because you nearly killed my son and for the hideous conditions on Green where my son is.

She pointed out that I could have told my troopers, who would have shot and killed her, and burned her body.

I conceded that it was so.

"Would you rather see me the way I looked in Gaon?" She began to change as she spoke-taller, her face lengthening, and so on. I said it might be hazardous for her.

"Somebody might try to rape me, you mean. It's been tried before."

I was-am-surprised. That lean, wicked, famished, thin-lipped face would not have appealed to me even when I was Hide's age.

My head aches.



19 Say Father | In Green`s Jungles | * * *



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