II III IV
V VI VII
The end of the plain where the
Great Forest begins. The foreground is
sandy, level ground dotted by a few stones and clumps of stunted bushes
cowering close against the earth to escape the buffeting of the
trade wind. In the rear the forest is a wall of darkness dividing
the world. Only when the eye becomes
accustomed to the gloom can the outlines
of separate trunks of the nearest trees be made out, enormous pillars
of deeper blackness. A somber monotone of wind lost in the leaves
moans in the air. Yet this sound serves but to intensify the impression
of the forest's relentless immobility, to form a background throwing
into relief its brooding, implacable silence.
from the left, walking rapidly. He stops as he nears the edge of
the forest, looks around him quickly, peering into the dark as if
searching for some familiar
landmark. Then, apparently satisfied that he is where he
ought to be, he throws himself on the ground, dog-tired.
Well, heah I is. In de nick o'
time, too! Little mo' an' it'd be blacker'n de ace of spades heah-abouts.
(He pulls a bandana handkerchief from his hip pocket and mops off his
perspiring face.) Sho'! Gimme air! I'se tuckered out sho' 'nuff. Dat
soft Emperor job ain't no trainin' for' a long hike ovah dat plain in de
brilin' sun. (then with a chuckle) Cheah up, nigger, de worst is
yet to come. (He lifts his head and stares at the forest. His chuckle
peters out abruptly. In a tone of awe) My goodness, look at dem
woods, will you? Dat no-count Smithers said dey'd be black an' he sho'
called de turn. (Turning away from them quickly and looking down at
his feet, he snatches at a chance to change the subject—solicitously.)
Feet, you is holdin' up yo' end fine an' I sutinly hopes you ain't
blisterin' none. It's time you git a rest. (He takes off his shoes,
his eyes studiously avoiding the forest. He feels of the soles of his
feet gingerly.) You is still in de pink—on'y a little mite
feverish. Cool yo'selfs. Remember you done got a long journey yit befo'
you. (He sits in a weary attitude, listening to the rhythmic beating
of the tom-tom. He grumbles in a loud tone to cover up a growing
uneasiness.) Bush niggers! Wonder dey wouldn' git sick o' beatin'
dat drum. Sound louder, seem like. I wonder
if dey's startin' after me? (He
scrambles to his feet, looking back across the plain.) Couldn't
see dem now, nohow, if dey was hundred feet away. (then
shaking himself like a wet dog to
get rid of these depressing thoughts) Sho',
dey's miles an' miles behind. What you gittin' fidgetty about? (But
he sits down and begins to lace up his shoes in great haste,
all the time muttering reassuringly.)
You know what? Yo' belly is empty,
dat's what's de matter wid you. Come time to eat! Wid nothin' but
wind on yo' stumach, o' course you feels jiggedy. Well, we eats right
heah an' now soon's I gits dese pesky shoes laced up. (He
finishes lacing up his shoes.)
Dere! Now le's see! (gets on his
hands and knees and searches the ground around him with his eyes)
White stone, white stone, where is you? (He
sees the first white stone
and crawls to it—with satisfaction.) Heah you is! I knowed dis
was de right place. Box of grub, come to me. (He turns over
the stone and feels in under it—in
a tone of dismay.) Ain't heah!
Gorry, is I in de right place or isn't I? Dere's 'nother stone. Guess
dat's it. (He scrambles to the next stone and turns it over.)
Ain't heah, neither! Grub, whar is you?
Ain't heah. Gorry, has I got to go
hungry into dem woods—all de night? (While he is talking
he scrambles from one stone to another,
turning them over in frantic haste.
Finally, he jumps to his feet excitedly.) Is I lost de place?
Must have! But how dat happen when I was
followin' de trail across de plain
in broad daylight? (almost plaintively) I'se hungry, I
is! I gotta git my feed. Whar's my strength gonna come from if I doesn't?
Gorry, I gotta find dat grub high an' low somehow! Why it come
dark so quick like dat? Can't see nothin'. (He scratches
a match on his trousers and peers about
him. The rate of the beat of the
far-off tom-tom increases perceptibly as he does so. He mutters in
a bewildered voice.) How come all dese white stones come heah
when I only remembers one? (Suddenly,
with a frightened gasp, he
flings the match on the ground and stamps on it.) Nigger, is you
gone crazy mad? Is you lightin' matches to show dem whar you is? Fo'
Lawd's sake, use yo' haid. Gorry, I'se got to be careful! (He
stares at the plain behind him
apprehensively, his hand on his revolver.) But
how come all dese white stones? And whar's dat tin box o' grub I
hid all wrapped up in oil cloth?
(While his back is turned, the
Little Formless Fears creep
out from the deeper blackness of the forest. They
are black, shapeless, only their glittering little eyes can be seen.
If they have any describable form at all it is that of a grubworm
about the size of a creeping child. They
move noiselessly, but with deliberate,
painful effort, striving to raise themselves on end, failing and
sinking prone again. Jones turns about to face the forest.
He stares up at the tops of the trees, seeking vainly to discover
his whereabouts by their
Can't tell nothin' from dem trees!
Gorry, nothin' 'round heah look like
I evah seed it befo'. I'se done lost de place sho'
'nuff! (with mournful foreboding) It's mighty queer! It's mighty
queer! (with sudden forced defiance—in an angry tone) Woods,
is you tryin' to put somethin' ovah on me?
(From the formless creatures on
the ground in front of him comes a
tiny gale of low mocking laughter like a rustling of leaves. They
squirm upward toward him in twisted
attitudes. Jones looks down, leaps
backward with a yell of terror, yanking out his revolver
as he does join a quavering voice.) What's dat? who's dar? What is
you? Git away from me befo' I shoots
you up! You don't?—
(He fires. There is a flash, a
loud report, then silence broken only
by the far-off, quickened throb of the tom-tom. The formless creatures
have scurried back into the forest. Jones remains
fixed in his position, listening intently. The sound of the shot,
the reassuring feel of the revolver in his hand, have somewhat restored
his shaken nerve. He addresses himself with renewed confidence.)
Dey're gone. Dat shot fix 'em. Dey
was only little animals—little
wild pigs, I reckon. Dey've maybe rooted out yo' grub
an' eat it. Sho', you fool nigger, what you think dey is—ha'nts?
(excitedly) Gorry, you give de game
away when you fire dat shot. Dem
niggers heah dat fo' su'tin! Time you beat it in de woods widout
no long waits. (He starts for the forest—hesitates before
the plunge—then urging himself in with manful resolution.) Git
in, nigger! What you skeered at? Ain't nothin' dere but de trees!
in! (He plunges boldly into the forest.)