The River Between

The River Between by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o Read Free Book Online

Book: The River Between by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
to wet their bodies here on the morning of circumcision. It had long been discovered that very cold water numbed the skin, making it less painful during the operation. Nyambura thought of this and felt slightly guilty. She looked apprehensively at her sister, who was still drawing water. Nyambura wondered whether such thoughts ever came to Muthoni. She thought not and envied her. For Nyambura had learned and knew that circumcision was sinful. It was a pagan rite from which she and her sister had been saved. A daughter of God should never let even a thought of circumcision come to her mind. Girls of their age would be initiated this season. Had her father, Joshua, not been a man of God, he, no doubt, would have presented them both as candidates.
    â€œNyambura, sister—”
    Nyambura woke up from her wicked reverie. Her sister had spoken to her. Nyambura looked at her and wondered. What was worrying Muthoni? What was gnawing at the young girl’s spirit? Nyambura was in no doubt that something was the matter with Muthoni. All through the week and in fact all through the last two months she had noticed something moody and restless in the young girl. This had pained Nyambura. She loved her sister.
    Indeed, the two were inseparable. They played and worked together. Nyambura was older, but it was not easy to tell this. Both were fairly tall and well formed; about the same height and looks, though Muthoni’s skin was darker. They had the same sharp but strangely restless eyes. Their hair was thick and shiny black. It was tough but to the eyes it looked soft and beautiful to touch.
    Nyambura’s features seemed hard, restrained. Where she was quiet, Muthoni was vivacious.
    So it was not surprising that Nyambura should have noticed this sudden change of spirits. Coming to the river that morning Muthoni had been more withdrawn than ever before. Nyambura was deeply disturbed because her earlier attempts to coax her to reveal her troubles had failed. Now she waited for her to continue. Muthoni was sitting on her own water-barrel.
    â€œI want to tell you something,” she said.
    â€œOh, please do,” Nyambura responded eagerly, her curiosity sharpened.
    â€œBut promise me that you will keep what I tell you to yourself.” This was an appeal, an appeal almost of fear. Nyambura would have laughed but for the earnestness in the voice and look of her sister.
    â€œWell, first tell me about that something,” Nyambura said carelessly. She wanted to make her sister relax and soften the tense look on her face. Muthoni raised her face to Nyambura. This time the appeal was quite unmistakable.
    â€œI have thought and thought again about it. I have not been able to eat or sleep properly. My thoughts terrify me. But I think now I have come to a decision.” She stopped; gazing past Nyambura, she said, slowly and quietly:
    â€œNyambura, I want to be circumcised.”
    For a second Nyambura sat as if her thoughts, her feelings, her very being had been paralyzed. She could not speak. The announcement was too sudden and too stupefying. How could she believe what she had heard came from Muthoni’s mouth? She looked at the river, at the slightly swaying bulrushes lining the banks, and then beyond. Nothing moved on the huge cattle road that wound through the forest toward Kameno. The yellowish streaks of morning light diffused through the forest, producing long shadows on the cattle path. The insects in the forest kept up an incessant sound which mingled with the noise of falling water farther down the valley. They helped to intensify the silence, created by Muthoni’s statement.
    â€œCircumcised?” At last Nyambura found her voice.
    â€œYes.”
    â€œBut Father will not allow it. He will be very cross with you. And how can you think of it?” Nyambura could visualize Joshua’s fury if he heard of this. “Besides,” she continued, “you are a Christian. You and I are now wise

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