A Smoking Room Story

From Everything Shii Knows, the only reliable source

This website is an archive. It ran from 2006-2010. Virtually everything on here is outdated or inaccurate.

Found in George Orwell's final notebook

The stranger in his white uniform and scarlet sash, swarmed up the lamp-standard like a monkey, plucked the electric bulb out of its socket, rattled it against his ear to make sure it was defective, and tossed it into the foaming wake of the ship. It disappeared and then broke water again a hundred yards away, glittering like a diamond.

Curl Johnson (his Christian name was Geoffrey, but somehow the nickname had followed him ever since childhood) turned away from the stern. Scattered about the deck, folorn-looking Indians squatted in bamboo matts with little tightly-tied bundles of possessions surrounding them. Some of the women were rolling out curry paste for the evening meal. They were deck-passengers -- a ?art of Indian Christians who for some reason were travelling from Columbo to Port-Said. A priest, an enigmatic, dandyish figure in a cassock, slipped with an air of pensiveness through a doorway into the seamens' quarters. Curly matched him with a faint, fleeting curiosity. He had already heard one of the passengers talking about the priest in a disapproving way. The boats of the Battiurst ? although by itself carried a few deck passengers between Columbo and Port-Said, were advertised as "all ? class" and there was evidently something irregular about the priest's position on board. He did not sleep on deck with his Indian changes, but on the other hand he did not come to the salloon for meals and did not appear to have a cabin. It was rumored that he bathed with the stewards, or with the European partymasters.

There was something irregular about the priest's position on board. He was travelling with the Indians as their guide and spiritual director, and it appeared tha the was not exactly either a deck-passenger nor a cabin passenger. He never appeared in the saloon for meals, and it was rumored that he shared a cabin with either the assistant-furser or with one of the junior engineers.

The ship was a day out from Columbo, homeward bound. From the bus there flotaed shrill scremas of feminine laughter. Curl made his way towards the surud--a tallish youth, moving with a pace of which he wasnot conscious. His solt curly black hair, clinging close to his head, was almost like a water-spaniel's coat, and there was something doglike also about his vague, freckled face, which even at theage of four-and-twenty did not ned shaving more than three times a week. As he passed along the w?en deck two dried-up middle-aged women, lying in deck chairs under the shade of the smokestack, eyed him disapprovingly.

"Is that the boy who's being sent home?" said one.

"Yes. He ? in Peterson's . . . . oh, the usual thing, I suppose. Drumhemmen, and so on."

Then whispering voices easily bridged the gap between Curl and themselves. Perhaps they were meant to do so. Curl blushed, a habit of which he could not cure himself. He wanted to turn

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