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No. 16 (October 1956)
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Death in the Mill

(John Hannah's Address- to Dudley)
I have an ache in my chest for you
Is it wrong to love someone so much
That when he dies a part of you dies too?
Yet in years I had not seen you
But the knowing that you were here
And that some day it should come
To pass we should meet
But in death, then full well I know
That never again will I see you
That is what hurts in death.

To the boy it was a beautiful day with the wind and the showers, and the showers and the wind. So he could sit by the fire with the front of the stove down and read through the heap of comics that lay on the floor at his feet.

He was vaguely aware of his mother in the room. She had a woman's magazine spread open on the table and was reading it leaning on her elbows. Now and then, she would look up and stare off out the misted window.

The wind seemed to blow in spasms. Unleasing in gusts that rang with laughter. The soft leaves of the hedge brushed against the window and the wall boards to the tiny pantry. All this was music to the boy. The singing of the kettle as it neared the boil; the light ticking on the roof as the showers of rain fell upon it; the moaning of the wind as it caught beneath the eaves of the house. A lazy drowsiness had settled over him and all the noises seemed to come as though from a great distance.

He heard his mother as she stirred from her reading and came over to the stove. Her dress brushed his legs and he became aware of her standing close to him. The smell of the kitchen was strongly about her. She shifted the lid of a pot and a wonderful flavour of stewing meat and onions rushed out into the room with the warm wet steam. Then she brushed past him and went through the open door into the pantry. The boy heard a cupboard open and the crackling of paper as she went about her work in there.

His sisters were still at school for it was only two o'clock in the afternoon, and his father had only come in once from the shop. It was to have lunch. So the room had been in quietness most of the day. Left alone to him and his mother. She had kept him home from school because of the cold outside.

That morning she had found him twisted in the blankets, his body wet with sweat, and, his eyes swollen from his crying. He had often become sick in the cold weather so she dare not let him outside in all the wind and rain.

THIRD IN A SERIES
OF SHORT STORIES BY
MAORI AUTHORS

The clock ticked unheard on the mantle piece.

Presently the boy's father came hurrying down the passage. Running in his light footed way A cold draught lifted the fine hairs on the boy's legs, as the man opened the door. Then he heard him say to his mother, “Hurry Annie, Dudley's been hurt in the mill. Hurry now girl.” And he turned from the door. The boy heard him fumbling about in the dark passage-way for his coat. His mother had turned from her work and the colour left her face. A flickering of annoyance past her eyes, then she was out the door and hurrying down the passage.

The boy got up from the stool and stood for a while staring at the glowing embers that were pressed against the front of the stove.

The music of the wind and rain were gone now. The noises and smells that were in that warm kitchen were no longer about him. All feeling for anything else was dead. And he knew only a great emptiness within him. Even then he realized that this emptiness was a feeling of despair. And that it was despair towards his mother. Strange he thought that his feelings should be towards her and not for Dudley.

He went slowly down the passage and stood by the centre door. His mother had a large coloured handkerchief covering her hair and tied beneath her chin. She was shaking her arms into the sleeves of her overcoat when she saw the boy. She stood for awhile looking down at him, then she said, “You wait here Curram, that's a good boy. If I'm not back before the girls get home, tell Edith to go and get your auntie Harriet.” She turned towards the door. “Look after the pots now will you?” And she went down the steps, hurrying to catch up to her husband and one of the men who had brought the news from the mill.

The boy stood for a long while in the quiet gloom of the passageway, his hand resting on

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the frame of the centre door. His stomach was burning with anxiety, not only for his mother now, but for himself and for his brother Dudley and for the whole of their family.

The corners of his mouth were pulling down involuntarily as he tried to fight back the sobs that were rising within his chest. He was alone in the house now, and he was frightened.

In the mill Dudley lay dying. His chest had been crushed when a jack he was using slipped and a log had rolled back onto him. Blood came into his mouth with every gasp, and it forced him to cough. It was when he coughed that he really felt the pain. Otherwise there was only a numb heavy feeling about his chest. Like a great weight was upon it. He wasn't sure whether they had gotten the log off him or not. But with returning consciousness he became aware of a man holding him. His grip tightened on the sleeve of the man's coat, pleading him to release the weight upon his chest.

The log had been removed somewhile back and he was lying in the arms of his cousin Jimmy. The man had been holding him for some time, waiting for the life to leave his body, knowing there was nothing he could do. He was watching Dudley's face with a strained hurt look, for he loved Dudley.

The wind swept across the damp slippery skids and lifted bits of bark and twigs as Mrs Hannah and her husband came hurrying in under the shelter.

“Here's his mother now,” one of the men said and they all made way while the little ageing woman stepped down to where her son was lying. Jimmy was still holding him in his arms. He looked up when the mother came beside him, and lay Dudley back on the ground.

A low moan left the woman's body as she saw her son lying there. Blood was covering his mouth and the front of his shirt. She fell on her knees beside him in the damp sawdust and took his head in her arms.

“Oh kure, kure” she cried and she began to make strange noises in her throat as though she were undergoing some physical exertion.

Hannah knelt down beside her and the tears were running slowly down his hard-lined face. It was the first time the men had seen him crying. Then suddenly his face became taut and the tears seemed to soak up into the hot flesh. His mouth shook and it looked as though he were about to say something. But all he could do was shake his head.

Dudley died not knowing that he lay in his mother's arms.

The woman took her handkerchief from her head and wiped the blood from his mouth and hands. One of the men brought a stretcher in from the office and they lifted Dudley onto it.

“Will you please bring him home,” the mother said speaking in her tongue to her nephew Jimmy.

The man nodded and they lifted the stretcher from the ground.

It began to shower again when the group left the shelter of the mill. The rain made music on the bare irons of the roof. The wind cut in under the huge painted rafter and moaned long and low.

It was then that the woman saw her youngest son standing by one of the great beams that held up the mill. He was unsheltered from the rain and cold. He watched his mother, frightened to the very roots of his being. And as the group passed him, he looked away not wanting to see the face of a dead man.

“Come on Curram,” the mother said. “You shouldn't have come out without your coat.”

The boy went to her and buried his face in her wet clothes. His warm breath smothered his face and he forgot time as he walked home with his mother's arm on his shoulder.

The woman stared out ahead of her with her chin jutting defiantly into the air. She patted the boy gently, making a rhythm on his back with her fingers. She was thinking back to the time when Dudley was a boy and had nearly died with the ‘flu. How she had spent many nights by his bed and how she had neglected the others just to give life to him, thinking that one day she would be rewarded, when he went on to achieve something in the world. But now she realised she had only nursed him back to life so that he could die a few years later, not having achieved anything, and just beginning to realise the fullness of life.

She shook the despair from her head and uttered to herself, “Oh forgive me Lord, please forgive me.”

The soft falling rain touched upon her hot face and cooled it. She looked down at Curram who still had his face buried in her coat. “We'll have to write to John and tell him,” she said, speaking past the boy's head. “Poor John, I hate to get him home just to see this.”

“STUDY ABROAD”

More than 50,000 fellowships and scholarships offered to foreign students by institutions in over 100 countries and territories are listed in the 1955–1956 edition of Study Abroad published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. In 1954, 125,000 students were studying in foreign countries.

The world's leading host country for foreign students is the United States with 33,833 students, Study Abroad reports. France ranks second with 9,329 students, and the United Kingdom third with 8,619 students. In Latin America, Mexico heads the list with 2,039 foreign students, while in Asia Japan leads with 3,768 students.

—(UNESCO.)