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The whistle blew for eleven o'clock. Throats parched, grim, sun-crazed blacks cutting stone on the white burning hillside dropped with a clang the hot, dust-powdered drills and flew up over the rugged edges of the horizon to descent into a dry, waterless gut. Hunger--pricks at stomachs inured to brackish coffee and cassava pone--pressed on folk, joyful as rabbits in a grassy ravine, wrenching themselves free of the lure of the white earth. Helter-skelter dark, brilliant, black faces of West Indian peasants moved along, in pain--the stiff tails of blue denim coats, the hobble of chigger-cracked heels, the rhythm of a stride ... dissipating into the sun-stuffed void the radiant forces of the incline.
The broad road--a boon to constables moping through the dusk or on hot, bright mornings plowing up the thick, adhesive marl on some seasonal chore, was distinguished by a black, animate dot upon it.
Passing by them Coggins' bare feet kicked up a cloud of the white marl dust and the girl shouted, "Mistah Rum, you gwine play de guitah tee nite, no?" Visions of Coggins--the sky a vivid crimson or blackly star-gemmed--on the stone step picking the guitar, picking it "with all his hand...."
Promptly Coggins answered, "Come down and dance de fango fo' Coggins Rum and he are play for you."
Bajan gal don't wash 'ar skin Till de rain come down....
Grumblings. Pitch-black, to the "washed-out" buckra she was more than a bringer of victuals. The buckra's girl. It wasn't Sepia, Georgia, but a backwoods village in Barbadoes. "Didn't you bring me no molasses to pour in the rainwater?" the buckra asked, and the girl, sucking in her mouth, brought an ungovernable eye back to him.
Upon which Coggins, swallowing a hint, kept on his journey--noon-day pilgrimage--through the hot creeping marl.
Scorching--yet Coggins gayly sang:
O! you come with yo' cakes Wit' yo' cakes an' yo' drinks Ev'y collection boy ovah deah!--
An' we go to wah-- We shall carry de name, Bajan boys for--evah!
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