Notes on Re-reading from an unexpected source

Near the end of Evelyn Waugh’s  A Handful of Dust, one of the characters, on an expedition into parts of the Amazon, becomes sick and lost and gets rescued by a guy raising cattle.  The rescuer is part native and part English, and grew up with his father reading to him, but never learned to read himself.  By the time Waugh’s character arrives, the cattle farmer had had one long-term visitor read to him but no more.  The library his father left was a more-or-less complete Dickens, some later lost through rot and swamp conditions.  But what he wished was to have someone else come along and read to him, and the character on an expedition but lost and very sick arrives and the cattle farmer shows him the books:

He unwrapped the nearest parcel and handed down a calf bound book.  It was an early American edition of Bleak House.  

“It does not matter which we take first.”

“You are fond of Dickens?”

“Why, yes, of course.  More than fond, far more.  You see, they are the only books I have ever heard. My father used to read them and then later the black man… and now you.  I have heard them all several times by now but I never get tired; there is always more to be learned and noticed, so many characters, so many changes in scene, so many words… I have all Dickens books here except those the ants devoured. It takes a long time to read them all– more than two years.

The ellipses are in the original.

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