It was the end of empire,and the last remnants of the former colonies were just islands dotted around the globe,a handful of places with a handful of people. The empire had been gone for a long time, truth be told.It was better that those places were independent now,that they could make their own mistakes.The history books are already full enough of the mistakes made by those running empires,those abuses of power and acts of violence carried out to ensure the continuity of the status quo. The establishment were good at hiding the horrors,but not so good that the public weren’t aware of the worst abuses.Eventually.Turning machine guns on crowds of spectators seemed so despotic now, but less than a generation ago,politicians and generals,made speeches about making omelettes by breaking eggs.
It had taken me a long time to track down the servant’s family.They had been employed by my grandmother,who had hidden behind the facts.She always said that she loved these people,but really what she loved was having servants and being served.The servants had, off course, become dependent on her wealth, and work was hard to find in these far flung parts, far away from towns and cities.She would walk into the local villages, looking for people, or sometimes they would go to the house she had built. Gardeners,cooks,maids,she employed a staff, from various families at the beginning, then from one family,girls, boys,adults, all working for her.Once they had dipped into the pool, it became difficult to get out.
I had searched for the family using the internet at first, then I went to that faraway place, train boat, plain, and finally jeep, way off the tarmac roads, until we got into the district where the house was. I asked at the inn if it was possible to stay, and from there,I wandered around the district, stopping at what remained of the empires administrative outposts. A mayor’s office here, a bigger town hall over there, and even walking up the marbled steps into the columned building that was the viceroy’s palace.Of course, I’d had to pass through these steps, it was like visiting your family; With my status and wealth, the etiquette meant showering the local infrastructure with raise and bribes, even if it made me bloat;But the slow drip of information came, and I found the family.the servants family.
Of course, the story was that I had come back to try to rebuild the house,renovating the place that nature had probably reclaimed.How like an Empire builder I had become, showering people with what for them seemed like riches, but for me were trinkets.I bought peoples opinions, freedom,.If we blame people for that, we need to blame them for accepting the trinkets, and for giving them. How easy it is to say this with a full stomach,with good health, with no fear.
I had persuaded the old woman and her son to come with me to show me the way to the old house.She was thin,grey,her worried eyes dark, wrinkled; her face showed life’s struggle,and her son was tall, dark and handsome, as the fortune teller would say. We bought some provisions, and I ,paid the boy and his mother what I thought would be a months wages locally.Their eyes, of course, lit up. They asked some questions, of course, about what would happen once at the house, and I explained that if they didn’t want to stay,then I would bring them back to their village, and they could keep the money.
It took days to get to the house.The jeep took us to the local river, then we transferred the equipment onto three small boats,and carried on into the wilderness.We camped under the stars, after having found a place to tie up the boats. I made a fire, and cooked a supper from the provisions I had bought ; I and the boy set up the tents. The woman cooked, and we set a perimeter around the camp of thorns. There were wild animals around, we could hear the noses of savagery echoing through the canopy. But nature is cruel, and kind. Perhaps we could organize a watch; I sat next to the fire, my hand on the rifle, and took first watch. 4 hours each, it seemed fair, the boy and I would take turns standing watch. Tomorrow we could catch up the sleep on the boats.
We survived the first night, blinking into the sunlight, and waded into the cool water, pushing out the boats.The scenery was spectacular greens, browns,flashes of colour as wild birds and insects darted in an out of the luxurious vegetation.Winding down stream. We slept on the boat, feeling the sun on our faces, the shadows flitting over us.