The Buried Giant

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro Read Free Book Online

Book: The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kazuo Ishiguro
Tags: Fiction, Literary, Historical, Fantasy, Action & Adventure
last the tall man turned to face them. “Friends,” he said, “I was surprised to see you enter earlier, but now I’m glad. For I see you’re good people, and I beg you, while you wait for this storm to pass, listen to my plight. I’m a humble boatman who ferries travellers acrosschoppy waters. I don’t mind the work though the hours are long and when there are many waiting to cross there’s little sleep and my limbs ache with each thrust of the oar. I work through rain and wind and under the parching sun. But I keep my spirits up looking forward to my rest days. For I’m but one of several boatmen and we’re each able to take our turn to rest, if only after long weeks of labour. On our rest days, we each have a special place to go, and this, friends, is mine. This house where I was once a carefree child. It’s not as it once was, but for me it’s filled with precious memories, and I come here asking only the quiet to enjoy them. Now consider this. Whenever I come here, within an hour of my arrival, this old woman will enter through that arch. She’ll sit herself down and taunt me hour by hour, night and day. She’ll make cruel and unjust accusations. Under cover of dark, she’ll curse me with the most horrible curses. She will not give me a moment’s respite. Sometimes, as you see, she’ll bring with her a rabbit, or some such small creature, so she can slay it and pollute this precious place with its blood. I’ve done all I can to persuade her to leave me, but what pity God placed in her soul, she has learnt to ignore. She will not go, nor will she cease to taunt. Even now it’s only your unexpected entrance that has caused her to pause in her persecution. And before long it will be time to begin my journey back, to more long weeks of toil on the water. Friends, I beg you, do what you can to make her leave. Persuade her that her behaviour is ungodly. You may have influence on her, being as you are from the outside.”
    There was a silence after the boatman stopped talking. Axl remembered later feeling a vague compulsion to reply, but at the same time a sense that the man had spoken to him in a dream and that there was no real obligation to do so. Beatrice too seemed to feel no urge to respond, for her eyes remained on the old woman, who had now taken the knife away from the rabbit’s throat, and was stroking its fur, almost affectionately, with the edge of the blade. Eventually Beatrice said:
    “Mistress, I beg you, allow my husband to assist with your rabbit. There’s no call to spill blood in a place such as this, and no basin to catch it. You’ll bring bad luck not only to this honest boatman but to yourself and all other travellers who stray in here seeking shelter. Put that knife away and slaughter the creature gently elsewhere. And what good can come of taunting this man as you do, a hard-working boatman?”
    “Let’s not be hasty to speak harshly to this lady, princess,” Axl said gently. “We don’t know what has occurred between these people. This boatman seems honest, but then again, this lady may have just cause to come here and spend her time as she does.”
    “You couldn’t have spoken more aptly, sir,” the old woman said. “Do I think this a charming way to spend my fading days? I’d rather be far from here, in the company of my own husband, and it’s because of this boatman I’m now parted from him. My husband was a wise and careful man, sir, and we planned our journey for a long time, talked of it and dreamt of it over many years. And when finally we were ready, and had all we needed, we set off on the road and after several days found the cove from where we could cross to the island. We waited for the ferryman, and in time, saw his boat coming towards us. But as luck would have it, it was this very man here who came to us. See how tall he is. Standing on his boat on the water, against the sky with his long oar, he looked as tall and thin as those players do when they

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