the blue head

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Topics: Glass
The Blue Bead
N O R A H B U R K E

From deep water came the crocodile.

Out of black water, curved with whirlpools, and into the frill of gold shallows by the stepping-stones.

He was twice the length of a tall man; and inside him, among the stones which he had swallowed to aid digestion, rolled a silver bracelet.

Timber was being floated down this great Indian river from forests further up, and there were sleepers lying stuck around the stones until someone came to dislodge them and send them on their way, or until floods lifted them and jostled them along. The crocodile had no need to hide himself. He came to rest in the glassy shallows, among logs, and balanced there on tiptoe on the rippled sand, with only his raised eyes out of the water, and raised nostrils breathing the clean sunny air.

Around him broad sparkling water travelled between cliffs and grass and forested hills. A jungle track came out of scrub each side and down to the sun-whitened stepping-stones on which a little flycatcher was flirting and trilling along. The mugger crocodile, blackish brown above and yellowy white under, lay motionless, able to wait for ever till food came. This antediluvian saurian—this prehistoric juggernaut, ferocious and formidable, a vast force in the water, propelled by the unimaginable and irresistible power of the huge tail, lay lapped by ripples, a throb in his throat. His mouth, running almost the whole length of his head, was closed and fixed in that evil bony smile, and where the yellow underside came up to it, it was tinged with green.

From the day, perhaps a hundred years ago, when the sun had hatched him in a sandbank, and he had broken his shell, and got his head out and looked around, ready to snap at anything before he was even fully hatched—from that day, when he had at once made for the water, ready to fend for himself immediately, he had lived by his brainless craft and ferocity. Escaping the birds of prey and the great carnivorous fishes

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