The Magic Island

By B. Seabrook; Alexander King | Go to book overview

Chapter VIII
PORTRAIT OF A SCIENTIST

DR. PARSONS and I were at Jacmel, Haiti's southernmost seaport, on the Caribbean. We were in the gardens of the big new American hospital. Parsons had helped build it. It was his baby. He had come back to see how it had grown.

In charge now was a newcomer, Dr. Saundus, overefficient, with an unflattering opinion of tropical natives and a passion for regulating things.

He came across the garden to us and said, "Look here, Parsons, is it a function of this hospital to harbor beachcombers? I went out on the back terrace a while ago and found a bum there calmly asleep as if he owned the place. I can't make out whether he's German or American. If he's ill, I suppose we ought to take him in, but if he's a plain down-and-outer it seems to me we'd better chuck him out."

Bob said, "All right, we'll go and see."

Curled up in a corner in the shade, sleeping halfway on his belly like a dog, was a lean, unshaven, sandy-haired nondescript fellow with Haitian rope-soled shoes, no socks, clothes stained and shabby; tossed beside him was a bundle that seemed to contain old newspapers, a greasy cap, an old machete. The man was turning bald, had a little ragged, bristling mustache, and a week or ten days' growth of scraggly yellow-gray beard.

Parsons winked at me solemnly and said, "He does look all in, doesn't he? I hate to wake him up."

"Well, I'll wake him up," said Dr. Saundus and prodded him with his foot. The man grunted and turned over. He finally opened his eyes, observed Dr. Saundus and me with

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