Tales of Unrest HTML version

The Idiots
We were driving along the road from Treguier to Kervanda. We passed at a
smart trot between the hedges topping an earth wall on each side of the road;
then at the foot of the steep ascent before Ploumar the horse dropped into a
walk, and the driver jumped down heavily from the box. He flicked his whip and
climbed the incline, stepping clumsily uphill by the side of the carriage, one hand
on the footboard, his eyes on the ground. After a while he lifted his head, pointed
up the road with the end of the whip, and said--
"The idiot!"
The sun was shining violently upon the undulating surface of the land. The rises
were topped by clumps of meagre trees, with their branches showing high on the
sky as if they had been perched upon stilts. The small fields, cut up by hedges
and stone walls that zig-zagged over the slopes, lay in rectangular patches of
vivid greens and yellows, resembling the unskilful daubs of a naive picture. And
the landscape was divided in two by the white streak of a road stretching in long
loops far away, like a river of dust crawling out of the hills on its way to the sea.
"Here he is," said the driver, again.
In the long grass bordering the road a face glided past the carriage at the level of
the wheels as we drove slowly by. The imbecile face was red, and the bullet
head with close-cropped hair seemed to lie alone, its chin in the dust. The body
was lost in the bushes growing thick along the bottom of the deep ditch.
It was a boy's face. He might have been sixteen, judging from the size--perhaps
less, perhaps more. Such creatures are forgotten by time, and live untouched by
years till death gathers them up into its compassionate bosom; the faithful death
that never forgets in the press of work the most insignificant of its children.
"Ah! there's another," said the man, with a certain satisfaction in his tone, as if he
had caught sight of something expected.
There was another. That one stood nearly in the middle of the road in the blaze
of sunshine at the end of his own short shadow. And he stood with hands pushed
into the opposite sleeves of his long coat, his head sunk between the shoulders,
all hunched up in the flood of heat. From a distance he had the aspect of one
suffering from intense cold.
"Those are twins," explained the driver.
The idiot shuffled two paces out of the way and looked at us over his shoulder
when we brushed past him. The glance was unseeing and staring, a fascinated
glance; but he did not turn to look after us. Probably the image passed before the
eyes without leaving any trace on the misshapen brain of the creature. When we
had topped the ascent I looked over the hood. He stood in the road just where
we had left him.
The driver clambered into his seat, clicked his tongue, and we went downhill. The
brake squeaked horribly from time to time. At the foot he eased off the noisy
mechanism and said, turning half round on his box--
"We shall see some more of them by-and-by."
"More idiots? How many of them are there, then?" I asked.