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Peter Pinney


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Dust on my Shoes

Extract from Dust on my Shoes, p 311 - 312

"Four days had passed, the floods had begun to subside. The owner of the canoe was recompensed, the rescuers were rewarded, and the police notified Rangoon by radio. Such trifles we had possessed - packs, clothes, rubber sheet and kindred items- were disposed of.

Dawn was not yet in the sky when I stood upon the headland, under the stars and amid the dew-wet grass. Behind me the westering moon was setting, diffusing its pallid glow on the cotton-wool mists which shrouded the three knolls and hid the monastery from view. The stars were bright, the river before me was profoundly black. One could hear the hiss and gurgle of the turning waters, the restless Chindwin, the seeker of death who sighed for human victims.

Marchand was dead. The debonair, the cynical, the light-hearted, proud and resolute Marchand; the budding philosopher, the youthful sage, the peerless companion. The Chindwin had claimed him, and rendered no return.

I stood alone by the shore, and the moon slid behind the shoulder of a distant hill; Khayyam's moon, falling into India. For a time there was abysmal darkness, and then the early dawn climbed in the sky, shedding a cold, pale aura over the jungled hills in the east, over Yu-e, and the road to Mandalay.

The river became a belt of shimmering steel, an endless moving belt slipping darkly down past the mouth of the Kale, and the flooded rice-mill, round the great sweeping bend to the pass between the hills; stealing south with muffled sounds, secret, sullen, slinking down through jungle wastes and the silver mists of dawn, to the sea...."

Peter wrote to Marchand's family, telling them of his death and later went to visit them in Europe.

Robert Marchand was the only man Peter Pinney had yet met "who did something which I dare not "

Extract of Pinney's letter to Marchand's family...