The Waif of Ruimveldt – A Folk Tale – By Peter Halder

THE WAIF OF RUIMVELDT … A FOLK TALE

By  Peter Halder                      

The Waif

            He appeared from nowhere and disappeared to nowhere.
He appeared to be a child, no taller than four feet and thin.

He appeared suddenly one morning on the wide path along the cane fields on the southern side of the trench separating the Laing Avenue apartments, from the sugar cane fields at Ruimveldt.         The Waif of Ruimveldt, as he came to be known, was dark skinned, had black curly hair and a round face with a perky nose and thin lips. He wore a green short-sleeve shirt and short green pants. They matched the color of the cane fields. He was bare feet.

            The Waif placed on the grassy ground several Monkey Apples which grew on a tree in the woods beyond the cane fields. He picked them up one by one, mashed each in his right hand and dropped the orange colored pulp and seeds on the ground forming a wide circle.

The curious-looking being jumped into the circle and began to sing:

Chick, chick, chick, chick conga tay
Me see fowl mama, conga tay
She send me to the shop, conga tay
To buy some cakes conga tay
Me put the cakes on the ground conga tay
And me gon party conga tay.

            The Waif took a paper bag filled with cakes, tore the bag in half and placed it on the ground, exposing a variety. He began to dance and continued singing the same words aloud, over and over again. With each sentence of the song, he jumped from the circle and jumped back in before the next. He had his hands on his hips as he danced.

 The Enchantment

            The singing awoke five-year-old Tim Sparrock. He got on his knees on his cot and peered through his bedroom glass-paned window. He saw the funny looking being near the cane fields singing and dancing. He was hypnotized. His parents only allowed him to play under their flat. They never permitted him to go on the narrow brick road that ran along the northern side of the range or to play on the narrow strip of land adjacent to the trench on the south.

As if by extra sensory perception (ESP), the Waif looked across the trench and through the window. He saw the little boy with a smile on his face enjoying the dancing and singing. He was pleased. Attracting little boys was the aim of his performance. He waved to the boy. Tim innocently waved back.

The Waif pointed to the ground where the cakes were. Little Tim saw white-eye, bun, aniseed biscuit and red colored collar filled with grated coconut. His mouth watered. The curious being, all smiles and still dancing and singing, beckoned to Tim to join him.

Tim desperately wanted to join the funny looking person to sing and dance and, of course, to eat the delicious looking cakes. Most afternoons, he and the Duncan and Joseph children sang Ring Around The Roses and danced under the flat, holding hands. Now and then they were joined by the Alleyne children, Jennifer and Ray, and the Young children, Muriel and Joe.

Iim’s dilemma was that his father had gone to work at Sproston’s Foundry on Lombard Street and his mother had gone to La Penitence Market to buy fresh fish or fresh meat. He was alone in the locked house. He knew however that while the heavy front door was locked with a key, the back door leading to the back stairway was bolted. He quickly changed from his pajamas and put on his pants, shirt, and canvas shoes.

The child walked to the kitchen and saw the bolt was above his head. He pushed a chair from the living room into the kitchen, climbed on it and opened the door. He quickly ran down the stairs, leaving the door open.

He walked first to the Duncan’s apartment and called out. He wanted to tell them what he was about to do and seek permission. No one was at home. He ran to the Joseph apartment, then the Alleyne home for the same purpose but the result was the same. He threw caution to the wind, ran to the back gate and opened it. He shouted and waved to the Waif on the opposite side of the trench. Now how to get across the trench was his immediate problem.

The Waif waved back and shouted, “Wait right there. I’ll come and get you.”

Tim did as he was told. He saw the funny being leave the circle and walk to the edge of the cane field. He pushed some cane stalks aside exposing a narrow canoe on the ground. The Waif pulled the canoe out and gently let it slide into the trench while holding the back. He entered it, picked up a wooden paddle from the bottom and began to paddle across the trench.

“Wow, wow, gosh oh gee, a boat ride, a boat ride. Just wait until Mommy gets home and I tell her what a great time I am having. It will be the greatest thing in my life,” he said aloud.

The canoe soon touched the land near where he was standing. The Waif stood up, walked to the front of the canoe and invited Tim in. The joyful little boy entered the boat with glee and excitement.

The Waif paddled back across the trench. He and Tim pulled the canoe on land and he replaced it in the field. They entered the circle and sang and danced. While he sang his Conga Tay song, Tim sang Humpty Dumpty. After while, Tim sat on the ground and ate all the cakes. He was hungry. He did not have breakfast.

As the little boy ate, he looked fixedly at the feet of the Waif. There were no toes on them. Also their insteps were cleft in the middle. They were cloven feet. Strange, he told himself, I never saw anything like it. He also noticed that the four fingers, not the thumbs, on each hand were joined together by a thick skin. The Waif’s eyes were black, empty and sad.

Tummy filled, Tim got up and asked, “What’s next?”

“Follow me and you will see.”

The Waif held Tim’s hand and led him into the cane field, pushing the long, thick, juicy stalks aside to clear the way.

Mrs Eileen Sparrock returned home, put her purchases on the kitchen counter. She noticed the back door was open. She ran to Tim’s bedroom. It was empty. She shouted, “Tim, Tim, where are you?” There was no reply. She searched the apartment from stem to stern. There was no Tim. She ran from the apartment and began calling out to neighbors and other tenants, “Please, please, good friends, have you seen my son Tim?” No one saw him. However one little girl, Pansy Delph, who was playing under her home, said she saw Tim and someone looking like a waif, paddle across the trench in a canoe, went into a circle on land and began singing and dancing. She last saw Tim and his companion enter the cane field. She did not think anything of it since she believed that Miss Eileen knew of Tim’s whereabouts, had given permission and that his companion was a relative.

The police and the neighborhood searched the cane fields for days and weeks. Tim was never found nor was his body. He just disappeared with the Waif from the face of the earth.

 The Pastor Explains 

            One day, Eileen was stopped outside the Church at Hunter Street and Punt Trench Dam by the Pastor.

“Please come with me inside my Church. I would like to speak to you about your lost son,” the cleric asked.

The sorrowful Eileen, who had never given up hope of ever finding her son, obliged.

Pastor Ezekiel Dasrall explained what happened to her son Tim. The being that took him away was called in certain parts of country a Waif, an unhappy, lonely and despised child, born with deformities, who never grew up. He was never baptized, was cast aside at childbirth, lived a lonely life and despised growing up. The Waif’s mother, who lived in Ruimveldt, was a prostitute who conducted her business at nights on High Street. One night, to save her fare, she did her business on the concrete platform outside the door of St. Phillip’s Church on Smyth Street, Charlestown. A son was born to her and because of her sacrilege to the Church of God, had no toes, cleft insteps and fingers joined. When she saw him at birth, she bitterly despised him, took him into the woods behind the sugar cane fields and left him under a tree wrapped in a flannel shirt. The baby did not die. He never grew up and because of his deformities, never ventured into a village, town or city. He lived in the forest. Because of his loneliness, he enticed children to join him and to sing and dance so they would be eternally happy.

“Your son Tim is not dead. He is with the Waif and other children living in a cave somewhere in the forest. They sing and dance every day in a children’s world of their own and entice other children to join them. One day, when he is up to it, Tim will return to you. Other children returned to their parents eventually.”

 End     

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  • JUNE ARCHER  On September 13, 2014 at 9:31 am

    I was really captivated by this story and thoroughly enjoyed it to the end, very good imagination. Perhaps its based on a true story, you never can tell.

  • Clyde Duncan  On September 18, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    Thanks for sharing Peter Halder, I never liked Jumbie stories and scary movies. Or I would imagine I am seeing this stuff when I am walking along a dark street, with the trees hanging over the fences. After my short 18-years in Georgetown; the distinction being that I never really saw much of Guyana – we moved to Canada and I quickly forgot all them Ananci Stories. At 65, I suppose I could tolerate this kind of entertainment.

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