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Title: Stories from Tagore
Author: Tagore, Rabindranath, 1861-1941
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Stories from Tagore" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

Transcriber's Note:

  Variations in spelling and hyphenation have been retained as in
    the original.

  A few typographical errors have been corrected. A complete list
    follows the text.

  Words italicized in the original are surrounded by _underscores_.

  Words with bold emphasis in the original are surrounded by =equals









              Stories from Tagore

                   New York
             The Macmillan Company

             _All rights reserved_

            Copyright 1916 and 1918

  Set up and electrotyped. Published, October, 1918


Every experienced teacher must have noticed the difficulty of
instructing Indian children out of books that are specially intended for
use in English schools. It is not merely that the subjects are
unfamiliar, but almost every phrase has English associations that are
strange to Indian ears. The environment in which they are written is
unknown to the Indian school boy and his mind becomes overburdened with
its details which he fails to understand. He cannot give his whole
attention to the language and thus master it quickly.

The present Indian story-book avoids some at least of these impediments.
The surroundings described in it are those of the students' everyday
life; the sentiments and characters are familiar. The stories are simply
told, and the notes at the end will be sufficient to explain obscure
passages. It should be possible for the Indian student to follow the
pages of the book easily and intelligently. Those students who have read
the stories in the original will have the further advantage of knowing
beforehand the whole trend of the narrative and thus they will be able
to concentrate their thoughts on the English language itself.

It is proposed to publish together in a single volume the original
stories whose English translations are given in this Reader. Versions of
the same stories in the different Indian vernaculars have already
appeared, and others are likely to follow.

Two of the longest stories in this book--"Master Mashai" and "The Son of
Rashmani"--are reproduced in English for the first time. The rest of the
stories have been taken, with slight revision, from two English volumes
entitled "The Hungry Stones" and "Mashi." A short paragraph has been
added from the original Bengali at the end of the story called "The
Postmaster." This was unfortunately omitted in the first English

The list of words to be studied has been chosen from each story in order
to bring to notice different types of English words. The lists are in no
sense exhaustive. The end in view has been to endeavour to create an
interest in Indian words and their history, which may lead on to further



  THE CABULIWALLAH                       3

  THE HOME-COMING                       21

  ONCE THERE WAS A KING                 35

  THE CHILD'S RETURN                    51

  MASTER MASHAI                         69

  SUBHA                                101

  THE POSTMASTER                       115

  THE CASTAWAY                         129

  THE SON OF RASHMANI                  151

  THE BABUS OF NAYANJORE               203

  NOTES                                223





My five years' old daughter Mini cannot live without chattering. I
really believe that in all her life she has not wasted a minute in
silence. Her mother is often vexed at this, and would stop her prattle,
but I would not. To see Mini quiet is unnatural, and I cannot bear it
long. And so my own talk with her is always lively.

One morning, for instance, when I was in the midst of the seventeenth
chapter of my new novel, my little Mini stole into the room, and putting
her hand into mine, said: "Father! Ramdayal the door-keeper calls a crow
a krow! He doesn't know anything, does he?"

Before I could explain to her the differences of language in this world,
she was embarked on the full tide of another subject. "What do you
think, Father? Bhola says there is an elephant in the clouds, blowing
water out of his trunk, and that is why it rains!"

And then, darting off anew, while I sat still making ready some reply to
this last saying: "Father! what relation is Mother to you?"

With a grave face I contrived to say: "Go and play with Bhola, Mini! I
am busy!"

The window of my room overlooks the road. The child had seated herself
at my feet near my table, and was playing softly, drumming on her knees.
I was hard at work on my seventeenth chapter, where Pratap Singh, the
hero, had just caught Kanchanlata, the heroine, in his arms, and was
about to escape with her by the third-story window of the castle, when
all of a sudden Mini left her play, and ran to the window, crying: "A
Cabuliwallah! a Cabuliwallah!" Sure enough in the street below was a
Cabuliwallah, passing slowly along. He wore the loose, soiled clothing
of his people, with a tall turban; there was a bag on his back, and he
carried boxes of grapes in his hand.

I cannot tell what were my daughter's feelings at the sight of this man,
but she began to call him loudly. "Ah!" I thought, "he will come in, and
my seventeenth chapter will never be finished!" At which exact moment
the Cabuliwallah turned, and looked up at the child. When she saw this,
overcome by terror, she fled to her mother's protection and
disappeared. She had a blind belief that inside the bag, which the big
man carried, there were perhaps two or three other children like
herself. The pedlar meanwhile entered my doorway and greeted me with a
smiling face.

So precarious was the position of my hero and my heroine, that my first
impulse was to stop and buy something, since the man had been called. I
made some small purchases, and a conversation began about Abdurrahman,
the Russians, the English, and the Frontier Policy.

As he was about to leave, he asked: "And where is the little girl, sir?"

And I, thinking that Mini must get rid of her false fear, had her
brought out.

She stood by my chair, and looked at the Cabuliwallah and his bag. He
offered her nuts and raisins, but she would not be tempted, and only
clung the closer to me, with all her doubts increased.

This was their first meeting.

One morning, however, not many days later, as I was leaving the house, I
was startled to find Mini, seated on a bench near the door, laughing and
talking, with the great Cabuliwallah at her feet. In all her life, it
appeared, my small daughter had never found so patient a listener, save
her father. And already the corner of her little _sari_ was stuffed
with almonds and raisins, the gift of her visitor. "Why did you give her
those?" I said, and taking out an eight-anna bit, I handed it to him.
The man accepted the money without demur, and slipped it into his

Alas, on my return an hour later, I found the unfortunate coin had made
twice its own worth of trouble! For the Cabuliwallah had given it to
Mini; and her mother, catching sight of the bright round object, had
pounced on the child with: "Where did you get that eight-anna bit?"

"The Cabuliwallah gave it me," said Mini cheerfully.

"The Cabuliwallah gave it you!" cried her mother much shocked. "O Mini!
how could you take it from him?"

I, entering at the moment, saved her from impending disaster, and
proceeded to make my own inquiries.

It was not the first or second time, I found, that the two had met. The
Cabuliwallah had overcome the child's first terror by a judicious
bribery of nuts and almonds, and the two were now great friends.

They had many quaint jokes, which afforded them much amusement. Seated
in front of him, looking down on his gigantic frame in all her tiny
dignity, Mini would ripple her face with laughter and begin: "O
Cabuliwallah! Cabuliwallah! what have you got in your bag?"

And he would reply, in the nasal accents of the mountaineer: "An
elephant!" Not much cause for merriment, perhaps; but how they both
enjoyed the fun! And for me, this child's talk with a grown-up man had
always in it something strangely fascinating.

Then the Cabuliwallah, not to be behindhand, would take his turn: "Well,
little one, and when are you going to the father-in-law's house?"

Now most small Bengali maidens have heard long ago about the
father-in-law's house; but we, being a little new-fangled, had kept
these things from our child, and Mini at this question must have been a
trifle bewildered. But she would not show it, and with ready tact
replied: "Are _you_ going there?"

Amongst men of the Cabuliwallah's class, however, it is well known that
the words _father-in-law's house_ have a double meaning. It is a
euphemism for _jail_, the place where we are well cared for, at no
expense to ourselves. In this sense would the sturdy pedlar take my
daughter's question. "Ah," he would say, shaking his fist at an
invisible policeman, "I will thrash my father-in-law!" Hearing this, and
picturing the poor discomfited relative, Mini would go off into peals
of laughter, in which her formidable friend would join.

These were autumn mornings, the very time of year when kings of old went
forth to conquest; and I, never stirring from my little corner in
Calcutta, would let my mind wander over the whole world. At the very
name of another country, my heart would go out to it, and at the sight
of a foreigner in the streets, I would fall to weaving a network of
dreams,--the mountains, the glens, and the forests of his distant home,
with his cottage in its setting, and the free and independent life of
far-away wilds. Perhaps the scenes of travel conjure themselves up
before me and pass and repass in my imagination all the more vividly,
because I lead such a vegetable existence that a call to travel would
fall upon me like a thunder-bolt. In the presence of this Cabuliwallah I
was immediately transported to the foot of arid mountain peaks, with
narrow little defiles twisting in and out amongst their towering
heights. I could see the string of camels bearing the merchandise, and
the company of turbanned merchants carrying some their queer old
firearms, and some their spears, journeying downward towards the plains.
I could see--. But at some such point Mini's mother would intervene,
imploring me to "beware of that man."

Mini's mother is unfortunately a very timid lady. Whenever she hears a
noise in the street, or sees people coming towards the house, she always
jumps to the conclusion that they are either thieves, or drunkards, or
snakes, or tigers, or malaria, or cockroaches, or caterpillars. Even
after all these years of experience, she is not able to overcome her
terror. So she was full of doubts about the Cabuliwallah, and used to
beg me to keep a watchful eye on him.

I tried to laugh her fear gently away, but then she would turn round on
me seriously, and ask me solemn questions:--

Were children never kidnapped?

Was it, then, not true that there was slavery in Cabul?

Was it so very absurd that this big man should be able to carry off a
tiny child?

I urged that, though not impossible, it was highly improbable. But this
was not enough, and her dread persisted. As it was indefinite, however,
it did not seem right to forbid the man the house, and the intimacy went
on unchecked.

Once a year in the middle of January Rahmun, the Cabuliwallah, was in
the habit of returning to his country, and as the time approached he
would be very busy, going from house to house collecting his debts. This
year, however, he could always find time to come and see Mini. It would
have seemed to an outsider that there was some conspiracy between the
two, for when he could not come in the morning, he would appear in the

Even to me it was a little startling now and then, in the corner of a
dark room, suddenly to surprise this tall, loose-garmented, much
bebagged man; but when Mini would run in smiling, with her "O
Cabuliwallah! Cabuliwallah!" and the two friends, so far apart in age,
would subside into their old laughter and their old jokes, I felt

One morning, a few days before he had made up his mind to go, I was
correcting my proof sheets in my study. It was chilly weather. Through
the window the rays of the sun touched my feet, and the slight warmth
was very welcome. It was almost eight o'clock, and the early pedestrians
were returning home with their heads covered. All at once I heard an
uproar in the street, and, looking out, saw Rahmun being led away bound
between two policemen, and behind them a crowd of curious boys. There
were blood-stains on the clothes of the Cabuliwallah, and one of the
policemen carried a knife. Hurrying out, I stopped them, and inquired
what it all meant. Partly from one, partly from another, I gathered that
a certain neighbour had owed the pedlar something for a Rampuri shawl,
but had falsely denied having bought it, and that in the course of the
quarrel Rahmun had struck him. Now, in the heat of his excitement, the
prisoner began calling his enemy all sorts of names, when suddenly in a
verandah of my house appeared my little Mini, with her usual
exclamation: "O Cabuliwallah! Cabuliwallah!" Rahmun's face lighted up as
he turned to her. He had no bag under his arm to-day, so she could not
discuss the elephant with him. She at once therefore proceeded to the
next question: "Are you going to the father-in-law's house?" Rahmun
laughed and said: "Just where I am going, little one!" Then, seeing that
the reply did not amuse the child, he held up his fettered hands. "Ah!"
he said, "I would have thrashed that old father-in-law, but my hands are

On a charge of murderous assault, Rahmun was sentenced to some years'

Time passed away and he was not remembered. The accustomed work in the
accustomed place was ours, and the thought of the once free mountaineer
spending his years in prison seldom or never occurred to us. Even my
light-hearted Mini, I am ashamed to say, forgot her old friend. New
companions filled her life. As she grew older, she spent more of her
time with girls. So much time indeed did she spend with them that she
came no more, as she used to do, to her father's room. I was scarcely on
speaking terms with her.

Years had passed away. It was once more autumn and we had made
arrangements for our Mini's marriage. It was to take place during the
Puja Holidays. With Durga returning to Kailas, the light of our home
also was to depart to her husband's house, and leave her father's in the

The morning was bright. After the rains, there was a sense of ablution
in the air, and the sun-rays looked like pure gold. So bright were they,
that they gave a beautiful radiance even to the sordid brick walls of
our Calcutta lanes. Since early dawn that day the wedding-pipes had been
sounding, and at each beat my own heart throbbed. The wail of the tune,
Bhairavi, seemed to intensify my pain at the approaching separation. My
Mini was to be married that night.

From early morning noise and bustle had pervaded the house. In the
courtyard the canopy had to be slung on its bamboo poles; the
chandeliers with their tinkling sound must be hung in each room and
verandah. There was no end of hurry and excitement. I was sitting in my
study, looking through the accounts, when some one entered, saluting
respectfully, and stood before me. It was Rahmun the Cabuliwallah. At
first I did not recognise him. He had no bag, nor the long hair, nor the
same vigour that he used to have. But he smiled, and I knew him again.

"When did you come, Rahmun?" I asked him.

"Last evening," he said, "I was released from jail."

The words struck harsh upon my ears. I had never before talked with one
who had wounded his fellow, and my heart shrank within itself when I
realised this; for I felt that the day would have been better-omened had
he not turned up.

"There are ceremonies going on," I said, "and I am busy. Could you
perhaps come another day?"

At once he turned to go; but as he reached the door he hesitated, and
said: "May I not see the little one, sir, for a moment?" It was his
belief that Mini was still the same. He had pictured her running to him
as she used, calling "O Cabuliwallah! Cabuliwallah!" He had imagined too
that they would laugh and talk together, just as of old. In fact, in
memory of former days he had brought, carefully wrapped up in paper, a
few almonds and raisins and grapes, obtained somehow from a countryman;
for his own little fund was dispersed.

I said again: "There is a ceremony in the house, and you will not be
able to see any one to-day."

The man's face fell. He looked wistfully at me for a moment, then said
"Good morning," and went out.

I felt a little sorry, and would have called him back, but I found he
was returning of his own accord. He came close up to me holding out his
offerings with the words: "I brought these few things, sir, for the
little one. Will you give them to her?"

I took them and was going to pay him, but he caught my hand and said:
"You are very kind, sir! Keep me in your recollection. Do not offer me
money!--You have a little girl: I too have one like her in my own home.
I think of her, and bring fruits to your child--not to make a profit for

Saying this, he put his hand inside his big loose robe, and brought out
a small and dirty piece of paper. With great care he unfolded this, and
smoothed it out with both hands on my table. It bore the impression of a
little hand. Not a photograph. Not a drawing. The impression of an
ink-smeared hand laid flat on the paper. This touch of his own little
daughter had been always on his heart, as he had come year after year to
Calcutta to sell his wares in the streets.

Tears came to my eyes. I forgot that he was a poor Cabuli fruit-seller,
while I was--. But no, what was I more than he? He also was a father.

That impression of the hand of his little _Pārbati_ in her distant
mountain home reminded me of my own little Mini.

I sent for Mini immediately from the inner apartment. Many difficulties
were raised, but I would not listen. Clad in the red silk of her
wedding-day, with the sandal paste on her forehead, and adorned as a
young bride, Mini came, and stood bashfully before me.

The Cabuliwallah looked a little staggered at the apparition. He could
not revive their old friendship. At last he smiled and said: "Little
one, are you going to your father-in-law's house?"

But Mini now understood the meaning of the word "father-in-law," and she
could not reply to him as of old. She flushed up at the question, and
stood before him with her bride-like face turned down.

I remembered the day when the Cabuliwallah and my Mini had first met,
and I felt sad. When she had gone, Rahmun heaved a deep sigh, and sat
down on the floor. The idea had suddenly come to him that his daughter
too must have grown in this long time, and that he would have to make
friends with her anew. Assuredly he would not find her as he used to
know her. And besides, what might not have happened to her in these
eight years?

The marriage-pipes sounded, and the mild autumn sun streamed round us.
But Rahmun sat in the little Calcutta lane, and saw before him the
barren mountains of Afghanistan.

I took out a bank-note and gave it to him, saying: "Go back to your own
daughter, Rahmun, in your own country, and may the happiness of your
meeting bring good fortune to my child!"

Having made this present, I had to curtail some of the festivities. I
could not have the electric lights I had intended, nor the military
band, and the ladies of the house were despondent at it. But to me the
wedding-feast was all the brighter for the thought that in a distant
land a long-lost father met again with his only child.


  =precarious.= From the root "prec," meaning prayer. Compare
      _deprecate_, _imprecation_; "precarious" means, therefore, held
      by entreaty, and thus insecure.

  =impending.= From the Latin "pendere," to hang. Compare _depend_,
      _expend_, _expensive_, _pendant_, _suspend_, _interdependent_,

  =judicious.= From the root "jus," "jud," meaning law, right. Compare
      _judge_, _judicial_, _judgment_, _just_, _prejudge_, _adjustment_,

  =euphemism.= A Greek root "phe," meaning speech. Compare _blasphemy_.

  =transported.= From the Latin "portare," to carry. Compare _porter_,
      _import_, _export_, _deport_, _support_, _deportation_.

  =intervene.= From the Latin "venire," to come. Compare _convenient_,
      _convene_, _supervene_, _prevent_.

  =conclusion.= From the Latin "claudere," to close, shut. Compare
      _include_, _preclude_, _exclude_, _exclusive_, _exclusion_.

  =exclamation.= From the Latin "clamare," to cry out. Compare
      _clamour_, _proclaim_, _proclamation_, _clamorous_, _disclaim_,

  =separation.= From the Latin "parare," to make ready. Compare
      _prepare_, _preparation_, _compare_, _comparison_, _comparative_.

  =recollect.= From the Latin "legere," to choose. Compare _collect_,
      _elect_, _election_, _college_, _eligible_.

  =impression.= From the Latin "premere," to press. Compare
      _impressive_, _depress_, _express_, _suppress_, _oppress_,

  =photograph.= From two Greek roots "phōt," meaning light and "graph,"
      meaning to write. Compare _epigraph_, _epigram_, _photographic_,
      _phosphorus_, _graph_, _diagram_.

  =intend.= From the Latin "tendere," meaning to stretch. Compare
      _extend_, _superintend_, _attend_, _attendant_, _extensive_,
      _tense_, _pretend_, _distend_, _contend_.




Phatik Chakravorti was ringleader among the boys of the village. A new
mischief got into his head. There was a heavy log lying on the mud-flat
of the river waiting to be shaped into a mast for a boat. He decided
that they should all work together to shift the log by main force from
its place and roll it away. The owner of the log would be angry and
surprised, and they would all enjoy the fun. Every one seconded the
proposal, and it was carried unanimously.

But just as the fun was about to begin, Mākhan, Phatik's younger
brother, sauntered up and sat down on the log in front of them all
without a word. The boys were puzzled for a moment. He was pushed,
rather timidly, by one of the boys and told to get up; but he remained
quite unconcerned. He appeared like a young philosopher meditating on
the futility of games. Phatik was furious. "Mākhan," he cried, "if you
don't get down this minute I'll thrash you!"

Mākhan only moved to a more comfortable position.

Now, if Phatik was to keep his regal dignity before the public, it was
clear he ought to carry out his threat. But his courage failed him at
the crisis. His fertile brain, however, rapidly seized upon a new
manœuvre which would discomfit his brother and afford his followers an
added amusement. He gave the word of command to roll the log and Mākhan
over together. Mākhan heard the order and made it a point of honour to
stick on. But he overlooked the fact, like those who attempt earthly
fame in other matters, that there was peril in it.

The boys began to heave at the log with all their might, calling out,
"One, two, three, go!" At the word "go" the log went; and with it went
Mākhan's philosophy, glory and all.

The other boys shouted themselves hoarse with delight. But Phatik was a
little frightened. He knew what was coming. And, sure enough, Mākhan
rose from Mother Earth blind as Fate and screaming like the Furies. He
rushed at Phatik and scratched his face and beat him and kicked him, and
then went crying home. The first act of the drama was over.

Phatik wiped his face, and sat down on the edge of a sunken barge by the
river bank, and began to chew a piece of grass. A boat came up to the
landing and a middle-aged man, with grey hair and dark moustache,
stepped on shore. He saw the boy sitting there doing nothing and asked
him where the Chakravortis lived. Phatik went on chewing the grass and
said: "Over there," but it was quite impossible to tell where he
pointed. The stranger asked him again. He swung his legs to and fro on
the side of the barge and said: "Go and find out," and continued to chew
the grass as before.

But now a servant came down from the house and told Phatik his mother
wanted him. Phatik refused to move. But the servant was the master on
this occasion. He took Phatik up roughly and carried him, kicking and
struggling in impotent rage.

When Phatik came into the house, his mother saw him. She called out
angrily: "So you have been hitting Mākhan again?"

Phatik answered indignantly: "No, I haven't! Who told you that?"

His mother shouted: "Don't tell lies! You have."

Phatik said sullenly: "I tell you, I haven't. You ask Mākhan!" But
Mākhan thought it best to stick to his previous statement. He said:
"Yes, mother. Phatik did hit me."

Phatik's patience was already exhausted. He could not bear this
injustice. He rushed at Mākhan and hammered him with blows: "Take
that," he cried, "and that, and that, for telling lies."

His mother took Mākhan's side in a moment, and pulled Phatik away,
beating him with her hands. When Phatik pushed her aside, she shouted
out: "What! you little villain! Would you hit your own mother?"

It was just at this critical juncture that the grey-haired stranger
arrived. He asked what was the matter. Phatik looked sheepish and

But when his mother stepped back and looked at the stranger, her anger
was changed to surprise. For she recognized her brother and cried: "Why,
Dada! Where have you come from?"

As she said these words, she bowed to the ground and touched his feet.
Her brother had gone away soon after she had married; and he had started
business in Bombay. His sister had lost her husband while he was there.
Bishamber had now come back to Calcutta and had at once made enquiries
about his sister. He had then hastened to see her as soon as he found
out where she was.

The next few days were full of rejoicing. The brother asked after the
education of the two boys. He was told by his sister that Phatik was a
perpetual nuisance. He was lazy, disobedient, and wild. But Mākhan was
as good as gold, as quiet as a lamb, and very fond of reading.
Bishamber kindly offered to take Phatik off his sister's hands and
educate him with his own children in Calcutta. The widowed mother
readily agreed. When his uncle asked Phatik if he would like to go to
Calcutta with him, his joy knew no bounds and he said: "Oh, yes, uncle!"
in a way that made it quite clear that he meant it.

It was an immense relief to the mother to get rid of Phatik. She had a
prejudice against the boy, and no love was lost between the two
brothers. She was in daily fear that he would either drown Mākhan some
day in the river, or break his head in a fight, or run him into some
danger. At the same time she was a little distressed to see Phatik's
extreme eagerness to get away.

Phatik, as soon as all was settled, kept asking his uncle every minute
when they were to start. He was on pins and needles all day long with
excitement and lay awake most of the night. He bequeathed to Mākhan, in
perpetuity, his fishing-rod, his big kite, and his marbles. Indeed, at
this time of departure, his generosity towards Mākhan was unbounded.

When they reached Calcutta, Phatik made the acquaintance of his aunt for
the first time. She was by no means pleased with this unnecessary
addition to her family. She found her own three boys quite enough to
manage without taking any one else. And to bring a village lad of
fourteen into their midst was terribly upsetting. Bishamber should
really have thought twice before committing such an indiscretion.

In this world of human affairs there is no worse nuisance than a boy at
the age of fourteen. He is neither ornamental nor useful. It is
impossible to shower affection on him as on a little boy; and he is
always getting in the way. If he talks with a childish lisp he is called
a baby, and if he answers in a grown-up way he is called impertinent. In
fact any talk at all from him is resented. Then he is at the
unattractive, growing age. He grows out of his clothes with indecent
haste; his voice grows hoarse and breaks and quavers; his face grows
suddenly angular and unsightly. It is easy to excuse the shortcomings of
early childhood, but it is hard to tolerate even unavoidable lapses in a
boy of fourteen. The lad himself becomes painfully self-conscious. When
he talks with elderly people he is either unduly forward, or else so
unduly shy that he appears ashamed of his very existence.

Yet it is at this very age when, in his heart of hearts, a young lad
most craves for recognition and love; and he becomes the devoted slave
of any one who shows him consideration. But none dare openly love him,
for that would be regarded as undue indulgence and therefore bad for
the boy. So, what with scolding and chiding, he becomes very much like a
stray dog that has lost his master.

For a boy of fourteen his own home is the only Paradise. To live in a
strange house with strange people is little short of torture, while the
height of bliss is to receive the kind looks of women and never to be
slighted by them.

It was anguish to Phatik to be the unwelcome guest in his aunt's house,
despised by this elderly woman and slighted on every occasion. If ever
she asked him to do anything for her, he would be so overjoyed that he
would overdo it; and then she would tell him not to be so stupid, but to
get on with his lessons.

The cramped atmosphere of neglect oppressed Phatik so much that he felt
that he could hardly breathe. He wanted to go out into the open country
and fill his lungs with fresh air. But there was no open country to go
to. Surrounded on all sides by Calcutta houses and walls, he would dream
night after night of his village home and long to be back there. He
remembered the glorious meadow where he used to fly his kite all day
long; the broad river-banks where he would wander about the live-long
day singing and shouting for joy; the narrow brook where he could go and
dive and swim at any time he liked. He thought of his band of boy
companions over whom he was despot; and, above all, the memory of that
tyrant mother of his, who had such a prejudice against him, occupied him
day and night. A kind of physical love like that of animals, a longing
to be in the presence of the one who is loved, an inexpressible
wistfulness during absence, a silent cry of the inmost heart for the
mother, like the lowing of a calf in the twilight,--this love, which was
almost an animal instinct, agitated the shy, nervous, lean, uncouth and
ugly boy. No one could understand it, but it preyed upon his mind

There was no more backward boy in the whole school than Phatik. He gaped
and remained silent when the teacher asked him a question, and like an
overladen ass patiently suffered all the blows that came down on his
back. When other boys were out at play, he stood wistfully by the window
and gazed at the roofs of the distant houses. And if by chance he espied
children playing on the open terrace of any roof, his heart would ache
with longing.

One day he summoned up all his courage and asked his uncle: "Uncle, when
can I go home?"

His uncle answered: "Wait till the holidays come."

But the holidays would not come till October and there was a long time
still to wait.

One day Phatik lost his lesson book. Even with the help of books he had
found it very difficult indeed to prepare his lesson. Now it was
impossible. Day after day the teacher would cane him unmercifully. His
condition became so abjectly miserable that even his cousins were
ashamed to own him. They began to jeer and insult him more than the
other boys. He went to his aunt at last and told her that he had lost
his book.

His aunt pursed her lips in contempt and said: "You great clumsy,
country lout! How can I afford, with all my family, to buy you new books
five times a month?"

That night, on his way back from school, Phatik had a bad headache with
a fit of shivering. He felt he was going to have an attack of malarial
fever. His one great fear was that he would be a nuisance to his aunt.

The next morning Phatik was nowhere to be seen. All searches in the
neighbourhood proved futile. The rain had been pouring in torrents all
night, and those who went out in search of the boy got drenched through
to the skin. At last Bishamber asked help from the police.

At the end of the day a police van stopped at the door before the house.
It was still raining and the streets were all flooded. Two constables
brought out Phatik in their arms and placed him before Bishamber. He
was wet through from head to foot, muddy all over, his face and eyes
flushed red with fever and his limbs trembling. Bishamber carried him in
his arms and took him into the inner apartments. When his wife saw him
she exclaimed: "What a heap of trouble this boy has given us! Hadn't you
better send him home?"

Phatik heard her words and sobbed out loud: "Uncle, I was just going
home; but they dragged me back again."

The fever rose very high, and all that night the boy was delirious.
Bishamber brought in a doctor. Phatik opened his eyes, flushed with
fever, and looked up to the ceiling and said vacantly: "Uncle, have the
holidays come yet?"

Bishamber wiped the tears from his own eyes and took Phatik's lean and
burning hands in his own and sat by him through the night. The boy began
again to mutter. At last his voice became excited: "Mother!" he cried,
"don't beat me like that.... Mother! I _am_ telling the truth!"

The next day Phatik became conscious for a short time. He turned his
eyes about the room, as if expecting some one to come. At last, with an
air of disappointment, his head sank back on the pillow. He turned his
face to the wall with a deep sigh.

Bishamber knew his thoughts and bending down his head whispered:
"Phatik, I have sent for your mother."

The day went by. The doctor said in a troubled voice that the boy's
condition was very critical.

Phatik began to cry out: "By the mark--three fathoms. By the mark--four
fathoms. By the mark----." He had heard the sailor on the river-steamer
calling out the mark on the plumb-line. Now he was himself plumbing an
unfathomable sea.

Later in the day Phatik's mother burst into the room, like a whirlwind,
and began to toss from side to side and moan and cry in a loud voice.

Bishamber tried to calm her agitation, but she flung herself on the bed,
and cried: "Phatik, my darling, my darling."

Phatik stopped his restless movements for a moment. His hands ceased
beating up and down. He said: "Eh?"

The mother cried again: "Phatik, my darling, my darling."

Phatik very slowly turned his head and without seeing anybody said:
"Mother, the holidays have come."


  =proposal.= From the Latin word "ponere," to place. Compare
      _position_, _post_, _depose_, _impose_, _component_,
      _composition_, _repose_.

  =unanimously.= From the Latin "unus," one, and "animus," mind. Compare
      _magnanimous_, _pusillanimous_.

  =philosopher.= From the Greek "philos," a friend, and "sophia,"
      wisdom. Compare _philology_, _philanthropy_, _theosophy_.

  =moustache.= A French word which has found its home in English. French
      is frequently giving to English new words. Compare, in this story,
      _manœuvre_, _discomfit_, _mischief_.

  =juncture.= From the Latin "jungere," to join. Compare _junction_,
      _conjunction_, _subjunctive_, _adjunct_.

  =unattractive.= From the negative "un," meaning "not," and the root
      "tract-," meaning to draw. Compare _traction_, _tractor_,
      _attract_, _extract_, _subtract_.

  =atmosphere.= From the Greek word "atmos," the air, and "sphaira," a
      "globe." Compare _sphere_, _hemisphere_, _photosphere_.

  =wistfulness.= Probably from the English word "wish," wishfulness.
      Several, however, regard it as coming from an old word "whist" or
      "wist," meaning silent. The vernacular word "udās" has the same

  =abjectly.= From the Latin word "jacere," to throw. Compare
      _ad-jec-tive_, _subject_, _object_, _project_, _inject_, _reject_.

  =neighbourhood.= From a Saxon word meaning near, nigh; "hood" or
      "head" is a common addition to Saxon words denoting the quality or
      character. Compare _knighthood_, _manhood_, _boyhood_,

  =holidays.= This word is made up of two words, "holy" and "days." The
      religious days of the Church were those on which no one worked and
      thus they got the meaning of holidays as opposed to working days.




"Once upon a time there was a king."

When we were children there was no need to know who the king in the
fairy story was. It didn't matter whether he was called Shiladitya or
Shaliban, whether he lived at Kashi or Kanauj. The thing that made a
seven-year-old boy's heart go thump, thump with delight was this one
sovereign truth, this reality of all realities: "Once there was a king."

But the readers of this modern age are far more exact and exacting. When
they hear such an opening to a story, they are at once critical and
suspicious. They apply the searchlight of science to its legendary haze
and ask: "Which king?"

The story-tellers have become more precise in their turn. They are no
longer content with the old indefinite, "There was a king," but assume
instead a look of profound learning and begin: "Once there was a king
named Ajatasatru."

The modern reader's curiosity, however, is not so easily satisfied. He
blinks at the author through his scientific spectacles and asks again:
"Which Ajatasatru?"

When we were young, we understood all sweet things; and we could detect
the sweets of a fairy story by an unerring science of our own. We never
cared for such useless things as knowledge. We only cared for truth. And
our unsophisticated little hearts knew well where the Crystal Palace of
Truth lay and how to reach it. But to-day we are expected to write pages
of facts, while the truth is simply this:

"There was a king."

I remember vividly that evening in Calcutta when the fairy story began.
The rain and the storm had been incessant. The whole of the city was
flooded. The water was knee-deep in our lane. I had a straining hope,
which was almost a certainty, that my tutor would be prevented from
coming that evening. I sat on the stool in the far corner of the
verandah looking down the lane, with a heart beating faster and faster.
Every minute I kept my eye on the rain, and when it began to diminish I
prayed with all my might: "Please, God, send some more rain till
half-past seven is over." For I was quite ready to believe that there
was no other need for rain except to protect one helpless boy one
evening in one corner of Calcutta from the deadly clutches of his

If not in answer to my prayer, at any rate according to some grosser law
of nature, the rain did not give up.

But, alas, nor did my teacher!

Exactly to the minute, in the bend of the lane, I saw his approaching
umbrella. The great bubble of hope burst in my breast, and my heart
collapsed. Truly, if there is a punishment to fit the crime after death,
then my tutor will be born again as me, and I shall be born as my tutor.

As soon as I saw his umbrella I ran as hard as I could to my mother's
room. My mother and my grandmother were sitting opposite one another
playing cards by the light of a lamp. I ran into the room, and flung
myself on the bed beside my mother, and said:

"Mother, the tutor has come, and I have such a bad headache; couldn't I
have no lessons to-day?"

I hope no child of immature age will be allowed to read this story, and
I sincerely trust it will not be used in text-books or primers for
junior classes. For what I did was dreadfully bad, and I received no
punishment whatever. On the contrary, my wickedness was crowned with

My mother said to me: "All right," and turning to the servant added:
"Tell the tutor that he can go back home."

It was perfectly plain that she didn't think my illness very serious, as
she went on with her game as before and took no further notice. And I
also, burying my head in the pillow, laughed to my heart's content. We
perfectly understood one another, my mother and I.

But every one must know how hard it is for a boy of seven years old to
keep up the illusion of illness for a long time. After about a minute I
got hold of Grandmother and said: "Grannie, do tell me a story."

I had to ask this many times. Grannie and Mother went on playing cards
and took no notice. At last Mother said to me: "Child, don't bother.
Wait till we've finished our game." But I persisted: "Grannie, do tell
me a story." I told Mother she could finish her game to-morrow, but she
must let Grannie tell me a story there and then.

At last Mother threw down the cards and said: "You had better do what he
wants. I can't manage him." Perhaps she had it in her mind that she
would have no tiresome tutor on the morrow, while I should be obliged to
be back at those stupid lessons.

As soon as ever Mother had given way, I rushed at Grannie. I got hold
of her hand, and, dancing with delight, dragged her inside my mosquito
curtain on to the bed. I clutched hold of the bolster with both hands in
my excitement, and jumped up and down with joy, and when I had got a
little quieter said: "Now, Grannie, let's have the story!"

Grannie went on: "And the king had a queen."

That was good to begin with. He had only one!

It is usual for kings in fairy stories to be extravagant in queens. And
whenever we hear that there are two queens our hearts begin to sink. One
is sure to be unhappy. But in Grannie's story that danger was past. He
had only one queen.

We next hear that the king had not got any son. At the age of seven I
didn't think there was any need to bother if a man had no son. He might
only have been in the way.

Nor are we greatly excited when we hear that the king has gone away into
the forest to practise austerities in order to get a son. There was only
one thing that would have made me go into the forest, and that was to
get away from my tutor!

But the king left behind with his queen a small girl, who grew up into a
beautiful princess.

Twelve years pass away, and the king goes on practising austerities, and
never thinks all this while of his beautiful daughter. The princess has
reached the full bloom of her youth. The age of marriage has passed,
but the king does not return. And the queen pines away with grief and
cries: "Is my golden daughter destined to die unmarried? Ah me, what a
fate is mine!"

Then the queen sent men to the king to entreat him earnestly to come
back for a single night and take one meal in the palace. And the king

The queen cooked with her own hand, and with the greatest care,
sixty-four dishes. She made a seat for him of sandal-wood and arranged
the food in plates of gold and cups of silver. The princess stood behind
with the peacock-tail fan in her hand. The king, after twelve years'
absence, came into the house, and the princess waved the fan, lighting
up all the room with her beauty. The king looked in his daughter's face
and forgot to take his food.

At last he asked his queen: "Pray, who is this girl whose beauty shines
as the gold image of the goddess? Whose daughter is she?"

The queen beat her forehead and cried: "Ah, how evil is my fate! Do you
not know your own daughter?"

The king was struck with amazement. He said at last: "My tiny daughter
has grown to be a woman."

"What else?" the queen said with a sigh. "Do you not know that twelve
years have passed by?"

"But why did you not give her in marriage?" asked the king.

"You were away," the queen said. "And how could I find her a suitable

The king became vehement with excitement. "The first man I see
to-morrow," he said, "when I come out of the palace shall marry her."

The princess went on waving her fan of peacock feathers, and the king
finished his meal.

The next morning, as the king came out of his palace, he saw the son of
a Brahman gathering sticks in the forest outside the palace gates. His
age was about seven or eight.

The King said: "I will marry my daughter to him."

Who can interfere with a king's command? At once the boy was called, and
the marriage garlands were exchanged between him and the princess.

At this point I came up close to my wise Grannie and asked her eagerly:
"When then?"

In the bottom of my heart there was a devout wish to substitute myself
for that fortunate wood-gatherer of seven years old. The night was
resonant with the patter of rain. The earthen lamp by my bedside was
burning low. My grandmother's voice droned on as she told the story.
And all these things served to create in a corner of my credulous heart
the belief that I had been gathering sticks in the dawn of some
indefinite time in the kingdom of some unknown king, and in a moment
garlands had been exchanged between me and the princess, beautiful as
the Goddess of Grace. She had a gold band on her hair and gold earrings
in her ears. She had a necklace and bracelets of gold, and a golden
waist-chain round her waist, and a pair of golden anklets tinkled above
her feet.

If my grandmother were an author, how many explanations she would have
to offer for this little story! First of all, every one would ask why
the king remained twelve years in the forest? Secondly, why should the
king's daughter remain unmarried all that while? This would be regarded
as absurd.

Even if she could have got so far without a quarrel, still there would
have been a great hue and cry about the marriage itself. First, it never
happened. Secondly, how could there be a marriage between a princess of
the Warrior Caste and a boy of the priestly Brahman Caste? Her readers
would have imagined at once that the writer was preaching against our
social customs in an underhand way. And they would write letters to the

So I pray with all my heart that my grandmother may be born a
grandmother again, and not through some cursed fate take birth as her
luckless grandson.

With a throb of joy and delight, I asked Grannie: "What then?"

Grannie went on: Then the princess took her little husband away in great
distress, and built a large palace with seven wings, and began to
cherish her husband with great care.

I jumped up and down in my bed and clutched at the bolster more tightly
than ever and said: "What then?"

Grannie continued: The little boy went to school and learnt many lessons
from his teachers, and as he grew up his class-fellows began to ask him:
"Who is that beautiful lady living with you in the palace with the seven

The Brahman's son was eager to know who she was. He could only remember
how one day he had been gathering sticks and a great disturbance arose.
But all that was so long ago that he had no clear recollection.

Four or five years passed in this way. His companions always asked him:
"Who is that beautiful lady in the palace with the seven wings?" And the
Brahman's son would come back from school and sadly tell the princess:
"My school companions always ask me who is that beautiful lady in the
palace with the seven wings, and I can give them no reply. Tell me, oh,
tell me, who you are!"

The princess said: "Let it pass to-day. I will tell you some other day."
And every day the Brahman's son would ask: "Who are you?" and the
princess would reply: "Let it pass to-day. I will tell you some other
day." In this manner four or five more years passed away.

At last the Brahman's son became very impatient and said: "If you do not
tell me to-day who you are, O beautiful lady, I will leave this palace
with the seven wings." Then the princess said: "I will certainly tell
you to-morrow."

Next day the Brahman's son, as soon as he came home from school, said:
"Now, tell me who you are." The princess said: "To-night I will tell you
after supper, when you are in bed."

The Brahman's son said: "Very well"; and he began to count the hours in
expectation of the night. And the princess, on her side, spread white
flowers over the golden bed, and lighted a gold lamp with fragrant oil,
and adorned her hair, and dressed herself in a beautiful robe of blue,
and began to count the hours in expectation of the night.

That evening when her husband, the Brahman's son, had finished his meal,
too excited almost to eat, and had gone to the golden bed in the
bedchamber strewn with flowers, he said to himself: "To-night I shall
surely know who this beautiful lady is in the palace with the seven

The princess took for her food that which was left over by her husband,
and slowly entered the bedchamber. She had to answer that night the
question, who was the beautiful lady that lived in the palace with the
seven wings. And as she went up to the bed to tell him she found a
serpent had crept out of the flowers and had bitten the Brahman's son.
Her boy-husband was lying on the bed of flowers, with face pale in

My heart suddenly ceased to throb, and I asked with choking voice: "What

Grannie said: "Then ..."

But what is the use of going on any further with the story? It would
only lead on to what was more and more impossible. The boy of seven did
not know that, if there were some "What then?" after death, no
grandmother of a grandmother could tell us all about it.

But the child's faith never admits defeat, and it would snatch at the
mantle of death itself to turn him back. It would be outrageous for him
to think that such a story of one teacherless evening could so suddenly
come to a stop. Therefore the grandmother had to call back her story
from the ever-shut chamber of the great End, but she does it so simply:
it is merely by floating the dead body on a banana stem on the river,
and having some incantations read by a magician. But in that rainy night
and in the dim light of a lamp death loses all its horror in the mind of
the boy, and seems nothing more than a deep slumber of a single night.
When the story ends the tired eyelids are weighed down with sleep. Thus
it is that we send the little body of the child floating on the back of
sleep over the still water of time, and then in the morning read a few
verses of incantation to restore him to the world of life and light.


  =sovereign.= This word is taken directly from the French language. It
      is connected with the Latin "supremus."

  =blinks.= Many English words are made up from the supposed sound or
      motion to be represented. Compare _to splash_, _to plump_, _to
      quack_, _to throb_, _to swish_.

  =suspicious.= From the Latin word "spicere," to look. Compare
      _auspicious_, _respect_, _inspect_, _aspect._

  =unsophisticated.= This word comes from the Greek "sophistes," meaning
      a sophist, that is to say, one who makes a pretence of being wise.
      Unsophisticated means one who makes no pretence to be learned.

  =umbrella.= This word has come into English from the Italian language.
      "Umbra" in Latin means "shade" and Ombrella in Italian means
      "little shade."

  =extravagant.= From the Latin root "vag," meaning to wander. The word
      means "wandering outside" and so "going beyond bounds." Compare
      _vagrant_, _vagabond_, _vague._

  =explanation.= From the Latin "planus," meaning plain. Compare
      _explanatory_, _explain_, _plain_, _plane._

  =incantation.= From the Latin "cantare," to chant, something chanted
      over a person.

  =magician.= From the Greek "magus," an astrologer. Compare _magic_,
      _the Magi_, _magical._





Raicharan was twelve years old when he came as a servant to his master's
house. He belonged to the same caste as his master and was given his
master's little son to nurse. As time went on the boy left Raicharan's
arms to go to school. From school he went on to college, and after
college he entered the judicial service. Always, until he married,
Raicharan was his sole attendant.

But when a mistress came into the house, Raicharan found two masters
instead of one. All his former influence passed to the new mistress.
This was compensated by a fresh arrival. Anukul had a son born to him
and Raicharan by his unsparing attentions soon got a complete hold over
the child. He used to toss him up in his arms, call to him in absurd
baby language, put his face close to the baby's and draw it away again
with a laugh.

Presently the child was able to crawl and cross the doorway. When
Raicharan went to catch him, he would scream with mischievous laughter
and make for safety. Raicharan was amazed at the profound skill and
exact judgment the baby showed when pursued. He would say to his
mistress with a look of awe and mystery: "Your son will be a judge some

New wonders came in their turn. When the baby began to toddle, that was
to Raicharan an epoch in human history. When he called his father Ba-ba
and his mother Ma-ma and Raicharan Chan-na, then Raicharan's ecstasy
knew no bounds. He went out to tell the news to all the world.

After a while Raicharan was asked to show his ingenuity in other ways.
He had, for instance, to play the part of a horse, holding the reins
between his teeth and prancing with his feet. He had also to wrestle
with his little charge; and if he could not, by a wrestler's trick, fall
on his back defeated at the end a great outcry was certain.

About this time Anukul was transferred to a district on the banks of the
Padma. On his way through Calcutta he bought his son a little go-cart.
He bought him also a yellow satin waistcoat, a gold-laced cap, and some
gold bracelets and anklets. Raicharan was wont to take these out and put
them on his little charge, with ceremonial pride, whenever they went for
a walk.

Then came the rainy season and day after day the rain poured down in
torrents. The hungry river, like an enormous serpent, swallowed down
terraces, villages, cornfields, and covered with its flood the tall
grasses and wild casuarinas on the sandbanks. From time to time there
was a deep thud as the river-banks crumbled. The unceasing roar of the
main current could be heard from far away. Masses of foam, carried
swiftly past, proved to the eye the swiftness of the stream.

One afternoon the rain cleared. It was cloudy, but cool and bright.
Raicharan's little despot did not want to stay in on such a fine
afternoon. His lordship climbed into the go-cart. Raicharan, between the
shafts, dragged him slowly along till he reached the rice-fields on the
banks of the river. There was no one in the fields and no boat on the
stream. Across the water, on the farther side, the clouds were rifted in
the west. The silent ceremonial of the setting sun was revealed in all
its glowing splendour. In the midst of that stillness the child, all of
a sudden, pointed with his finger in front of him and cried: "Chan-na!
Pitty fow."

Close by on a mud-flat stood a large _Kadamba_ tree in full flower. My
lord, the baby, looked at it with greedy eyes and Raicharan knew his
meaning. Only a short time before he had made, out of these very flower
balls, a small go-cart; and the child had been so entirely happy
dragging it about with a string, that for the whole day Raicharan was
not asked to put on the reins at all. He was promoted from a horse into
a groom.

But Raicharan had no wish that evening to go splashing knee-deep through
the mud to reach the flowers. So he quickly pointed his finger in the
opposite direction, calling out: "Look, baby, look! Look at the bird."
And with all sorts of curious noises he pushed the go-cart rapidly away
from the tree.

But a child, destined to be a judge, cannot be put off so easily. And
besides, there was at the time nothing to attract his eyes. And you
cannot keep up for ever the pretence of an imaginary bird.

The little Master's mind was made up, and Raicharan was at his wits'
end. "Very well, baby," he said at last, "you sit still in the cart, and
I'll go and get you the pretty flower. Only mind you don't go near the

As he said this, he made his legs bare to the knee, and waded through
the oozing mud towards the tree.

The moment Raicharan had gone, his little Master's thoughts went off at
racing speed to the forbidden water. The baby saw the river rushing by,
splashing and gurgling as it went. It seemed as though the disobedient
wavelets themselves were running away from some greater Raicharan with
the laughter of a thousand children. At the sight of their mischief, the
heart of the human child grew excited and restless. He got down
stealthily from the go-cart and toddled off towards the river. On his
way he picked up a small stick and leant over the bank of the stream
pretending to fish. The mischievous fairies of the river with their
mysterious voices seemed inviting him into their play-house.

Raicharan had plucked a handful of flowers from the tree and was
carrying them back in the end of his cloth, with his face wreathed in
smiles. But when he reached the go-cart there was no one there. He
looked on all sides and there was no one there. He looked back at the
cart and there was no one there.

In that first terrible moment his blood froze within him. Before his
eyes the whole universe swam round like a dark mist. From the depth of
his broken heart he gave one piercing cry: "Master, Master, little

But no voice answered "Chan-na." No child laughed mischievously back: no
scream of baby delight welcomed his return. Only the river ran on with
its splashing, gurgling noise as before,--as though it knew nothing at
all and had no time to attend to such a tiny human event as the death
of a child.

As the evening passed by Raicharan's mistress became very anxious. She
sent men out on all sides to search. They went with lanterns in their
hands and reached at last the banks of the Padma. There they found
Raicharan rushing up and down the fields, like a stormy wind, shouting
the cry of despair: "Master, Master, little Master!"

When they got Raicharan home at last, he fell prostrate at the feet of
his mistress. They shook him, and questioned him, and asked him
repeatedly where he had left the child; but all he could say was that he
knew nothing.

Though every one held the opinion that the Padma had swallowed the
child, there was a lurking doubt left in the mind. For a band of gipsies
had been noticed outside the village that afternoon, and some suspicion
rested on them. The mother went so far in her wild grief as to think it
possible that Raicharan himself had stolen the child. She called him
aside with piteous entreaty and said: "Raicharan, give me back my baby.
Give me back my child. Take from me any money you ask, but give me back
my child!"

Raicharan only beat his forehead in reply. His mistress ordered him out
of the house.

Anukul tried to reason his wife out of this wholly unjust suspicion:
"Why on earth," he said, "should he commit such a crime as that?"

The mother only replied: "The baby had gold ornaments on his body. Who

It was impossible to reason with her after that.


Raicharan went back to his own village. Up to this time he had had no
son, and there was no hope that any child would now be born to him. But
it came about before the end of a year that his wife gave birth to a son
and died.

An overwhelming resentment at first grew up in Raicharan's heart at the
sight of this new baby. At the back of his mind was resentful suspicion
that it had come as a usurper in place of the little Master. He also
thought it would be a grave offence to be happy with a son of his own
after what had happened to his master's little child. Indeed, if it had
not been for a widowed sister, who mothered the new baby, it would not
have lived long.

But a change gradually came over Raicharan's mind. A wonderful thing
happened. This new baby in turn began to crawl about, and cross the
doorway with mischief in its face. It also showed an amusing cleverness
in making its escape to safety. Its voice, its sounds of laughter and
tears, its gestures, were those of the little Master. On some days, when
Raicharan listened to its crying, his heart suddenly began thumping
wildly against his ribs, and it seemed to him that his former little
Master was crying somewhere in the unknown land of death because he had
lost his Chan-na.

Phailna (for that was the name Raicharan's sister gave to the new baby)
soon began to talk. It learnt to say Ba-ba and Ma-ma with a baby accent.
When Raicharan heard those familiar sounds the mystery suddenly became
clear. The little Master could not cast off the spell of his Chan-na and
therefore he had been reborn in his own house.

The three arguments in favour of this were, to Raicharan, altogether
beyond dispute:

The new baby was born soon after his little master's death.

His wife could never have accumulated such merit as to give birth to a
son in middle age.

The new baby walked with a toddle and called out Ba-ba and Ma-ma.--There
was no sign lacking which marked out the future judge.

Then suddenly Raicharan remembered that terrible accusation of the
mother. "Ah," he said to himself with amazement, "the mother's heart was
right. She knew I had stolen her child."

When once he had come to this conclusion, he was filled with remorse for
his past neglect. He now gave himself over, body and soul, to the new
baby and became its devoted attendant. He began to bring it up as if it
were the son of a rich man. He bought a go-cart, a yellow satin
waistcoat, and a gold-embroidered cap. He melted down the ornaments of
his dead wife and made gold bangles and anklets. He refused to let the
little child play with any one of the neighbourhood and became himself
its sole companion day and night. As the baby grew up to boyhood, he was
so petted and spoilt and clad in such finery that the village children
would call him "Your Lordship," and jeer at him; and older people
regarded Raicharan as unaccountably crazy about the child.

At last the time came for the boy to go to school. Raicharan sold his
small piece of land and went to Calcutta. There he got employment with
great difficulty as a servant and sent Phailna to school. He spared no
pains to give him the best education, the best clothes, the best food.
Meanwhile, he himself lived on a mere handful of rice and would say in
secret: "Ah, my little Master, my dear little Master, you loved me so
much that you came back to my house! You shall never suffer from any
neglect of mine."

Twelve years passed away in this manner. The boy was able to read and
write well. He was bright and healthy and good-looking. He paid a great
deal of attention to his personal appearance and was specially careful
in parting his hair. He was inclined to extravagance and finery and
spent money freely. He could never quite look on Raicharan as a father,
because, though fatherly in affection, he had the manner of a servant. A
further fault was this, that Raicharan kept secret from every one that
he himself was the father of the child.

The students of the hostel, where Phailna was a boarder, were greatly
amused by Raicharan's country manners, and I have to confess that behind
his father's back Phailna joined in their fun. But, in the bottom of
their hearts, all the students loved the innocent and tender-hearted old
man, and Phailna was very fond of him also. But, as I have said before,
he loved him with a kind of condescension.

Raicharan grew older and older, and his employer was continually finding
fault with him for his incompetent work. He had been starving himself
for the boy's sake, so he had grown physically weak and no longer up to
his daily task. He would forget things and his mind became dull and
stupid. But his employer expected a full servant's work out of him and
would not brook excuses. The money that Raicharan had brought with him
from the sale of his land was exhausted. The boy was continually
grumbling about his clothes and asking for more money.


Raicharan made up his mind. He gave up the situation where he was
working as a servant, and left some money with Phailna and said: "I have
some business to do at home in my village, and shall be back soon."

He went off at once to Baraset where Anukul was magistrate. Anukul's
wife was still broken down with grief. She had had no other child.

One day Anukul was resting after a long and weary day in court. His wife
was buying, at an exorbitant price, a herb from a mendicant quack, which
was said to ensure the birth of a child. A voice of greeting was heard
in the courtyard. Anukul went out to see who was there. It was
Raicharan. Anukul's heart was softened when he saw his old servant. He
asked him many questions and offered to take him back into service.

Raicharan smiled faintly and said in reply: "I want to make obeisance to
my mistress."

Anukul went with Raicharan into the house, where the mistress did not
receive him as warmly as his old master. Raicharan took no notice of
this, but folded his hands and said: "It was not the Padma that stole
your baby. It was I."

Anukul exclaimed: "Great God! Eh! What! Where is he?"

Raicharan replied: "He is with me. I will bring him the day after

It was Sunday. There was no magistrate's court sitting. Both husband and
wife were looking expectantly along the road, waiting from early morning
for Raicharan's appearance. At ten o'clock he came leading Phailna by
the hand.

Anukul's wife, without a question, took the boy into her lap and was
wild with excitement, sometimes laughing, sometimes weeping, touching
him, kissing his hair and his forehead, and gazing into his face with
hungry, eager eyes. The boy was very good-looking and dressed like a
gentleman's son. The heart of Anukul brimmed over with a sudden rush of

Nevertheless the magistrate in him asked: "Have you any proofs?"

Raicharan said: "How could there be any proof of such a deed? God alone
knows that I stole your boy, and no one else in the world."

When Anukul saw how eagerly his wife was clinging to the boy, he
realised the futility of asking for proofs. It would be wiser to
believe. And then,--where could an old man like Raicharan get such a boy
from? And why should his faithful servant deceive him for nothing?

"But," he added severely, "Raicharan, you must not stay here."

"Where shall I go, Master?" said Raicharan, in a choking voice, folding
his hands. "I am old. Who will take in an old man as a servant?"

The mistress said: "Let him stay. My child will be pleased. I forgive

But Anukul's magisterial conscience would not allow him. "No," he said,
"he cannot be forgiven for what he has done."

Raicharan bowed to the ground and clasped Anukul's feet. "Master," he
cried, "let me stay. It was not I who did it. It was God."

Anukul's conscience was more shocked than ever when Raicharan tried to
put the blame on God's shoulders.

"No," he said, "I could not allow it. I cannot trust you any more. You
have done an act of treachery."

Raicharan rose to his feet and said: "It was not I who did it."

"Who was it then?" asked Anukul.

Raicharan replied: "It was my fate."

But no educated man could take this for an excuse. Anukul remained

When Phailna saw that he was the wealthy magistrate's son, and not
Raicharan's, he was angry at first, thinking that he had been cheated
all this time of his birthright. But seeing Raicharan in distress, he
generously said to his father: "Father, forgive him. Even if you don't
let him live with us, let him have a small monthly pension."

After hearing this, Raicharan did not utter another word. He looked for
the last time on the face of his son. He made obeisance to his old
master and mistress. Then he went out and was mingled with the
numberless people of the world.

At the end of the month Anukul sent him some money to his village. But
the money came back. There was no one there of the name of Raicharan.


  =judicial.= From the Latin word "judex," a judge. Compare
      _judicious_, _judge_, _judgment_, _just_.

  =compensate.= From the Latin word "pensare," to weigh. Compare
      _dispense_, _dispensary_, _compensation_. (This must not be
      confused with the Latin word "pendere," to hang. Compare
      _suspend_, _expend_, _depend_.)

  =ecstasy.= From two Greek words "ex" and "stasis," meaning standing
      outside oneself.

  =transferred.= From the Latin word "ferre," to carry. Compare _offer_,
      _defer_, _confer_, _prefer_, _proffer_, _infer_, _conference_,

  =crumble.= To break into crumbs or little pieces.

  =promoted.= From the Latin word "movēre," to move. Compare _motive_,
      _motion_, _motor_, _promotion_, _commotion_.

  =excited.= From the Latin word "ciere," to set in motion. Compare
      _incite_, _excitement_, _exciting_, _cite_.

  =lantern.= A French word derived from the Greek "lampein," to shine.
      Compare, _magic-lantern_, _lamp_.

  =gipsy.= Also spelt gypsy, from "Egyptian"; because the gipsies were
      supposed to come from Egypt.

  =usurper.= From the Latin word "usurpare." This word is made up of
      "usus," use and "rapere," to snatch. Compare _use_, _usual_,
      _usufruct_, _rapid_, _rapt_, _rapture_.

  =magisterial.= From the Latin word "magister," a judge. Compare
      _magistrate_, _magistracy_.

  =obdurate.= From the Latin word "dūrus," hard. Compare _endure_,
      _endurance_, _obduracy_.





Adhar Babu lives upon the interest of the capital left him by his
father. Only the brokers, negotiating loans, come to his drawing room
and smoke the silver-chased hookah, and the clerks from the attorney's
office discuss the terms of some mortgage or the amount of the stamp
fees. He is so careful with his money that even the most dogged efforts
of the boys from the local football club fail to make any impression on
his pocket.

At the time this story opens a new guest came into his household. After
a long period of despair, his wife, Nanibala, bore him a son.

The child resembled his mother,--large eyes, well-formed nose, and fair
complexion. Ratikanta, Adharlal's protégé, gave verdict,--"He is worthy
of this noble house." They named him Venugopal.

Never before had Adharlal's wife expressed any opinion differing from
her husband's on household expenses. There had been a hot discussion now
and then about the propriety of some necessary item and up to this time
she had merely acknowledged defeat with silent contempt. But now
Adharlal could no longer maintain his supremacy. He had to give way
little by little when things for his son were in question.


As Venugopal grew up, his father gradually became accustomed to spending
money on him. He obtained an old teacher, who had a considerable repute
for his learning and also for his success in dragging impassable boys
through their examinations. But such a training does not lead to the
cultivation of amiability. This man tried his best to win the boy's
heart, but the little that was left in him of the natural milk of human
kindness had turned sour, and the child repulsed his advances from the
very beginning. The mother, in consequence, objected to him strongly,
and complained that the very sight of him made her boy ill. So the
teacher left.

Just then, Haralal made his appearance with a dirty dress and a torn
pair of old canvas shoes. Haralal's mother, who was a widow, had kept
him with great difficulty at a District school out of the scanty
earnings which she made by cooking in strange houses and husking rice.
He managed to pass the Matriculation and determined to go to College. As
a result of his half-starved condition, his pinched face tapered to a
point in an unnatural manner,--like Cape Comorin in the map of India;
and the only broad portion of it was his forehead, which resembled the
ranges of the Himalayas.

The servant asked Haralal what he wanted, and he answered timidly that
he wished to see the master.

The servant answered sharply: "You can't see him." Haralal was
hesitating, at a loss what to do next, when Venugopal, who had finished
his game in the garden, suddenly came to the door. The servant shouted
at Haralal: "Get away." Quite unaccountably Venugopal grew excited and
cried: "No, he shan't get away." And he dragged the stranger to his

Adharlal had just risen from his mid-day sleep and was sitting quietly
on the upper verandah in his cane chair, rocking his legs. Ratikanta was
enjoying his hookah, seated in a chair next to him. He asked Haralal how
far he had got in his reading. The young man bent his head and answered
that he had passed the Matriculation. Ratikanta looked stern and
expressed surprise that he should be so backward for his age. Haralal
kept silence. It was Ratikanta's special pleasure to torture his
patron's dependants, whether actual or potential.

Suddenly it struck Adharlal that he would be able to employ this youth
as a tutor for his son on next to nothing. He agreed, there and then, to
take him at a salary of five rupees a month with board and lodging free.


This time the post of tutor remained occupied longer than before. From
the very beginning of their acquaintance Haralal and his pupil became
great friends. Never before did Haralal have such an opportunity of
loving any young human creature. His mother had been so poor and
dependent, that he had never had the privilege of playing with the
children where she was employed at work. He had not hitherto suspected
the hidden stores of love which lay all the while accumulating in his
own heart.

Venu, also, was glad to find a companion in Haralal. He was the only boy
in the house. His two younger sisters were looked down upon, as unworthy
of being his playmates. So his new tutor became his only companion,
patiently bearing the undivided weight of the tyranny of his child


Venu was now eleven. Haralal had passed his Intermediate, winning a
scholarship. He was working hard for his B.A. degree. After College
lectures were over, he would take Venu out into the public park and tell
him stories about the heroes from Greek History and Victor Hugo's
romances. The child used to get quite impatient to run to Haralal, after
school hours, in spite of his mother's attempts to keep him by her side.

This displeased Nanibala. She thought that it was a deep-laid plot of
Haralal's to captivate her boy, in order to prolong his own appointment.
One day she talked to him from behind the purdah: "It is your duty to
teach my son only for an hour or two in the morning and evening. But why
are you always with him? The child has nearly forgotten his own parents.
You must understand that a man of your position is no fit companion for
a boy belonging to this house."

Haralal's voice choked a little as he answered that for the future he
would merely be Venu's teacher and would keep away from him at other

It was Haralal's usual practice to begin his College study early before
dawn. The child would come to him directly after he had washed himself.
There was a small pool in the garden and they used to feed the fish in
it with puffed rice. Venu was also engaged in building a miniature
garden-house, at the corner of the garden, with its liliputian gates and
hedges and gravel paths. When the sun became too hot they would go back
into the house, and Venu would have his morning lesson from Haralal.

On the day in question Venu had risen earlier than usual, because he
wished to hear the end of the story which Haralal had begun the evening
before. But he found his teacher absent. When asked about him, the
door-servant said that he had gone out. At lesson time Venu remained
unnaturally quiet. He never even asked Haralal why he had gone out, but
went on mechanically with his lessons. When the child was with his
mother taking his breakfast, she asked him what had happened to make him
so gloomy, and why he was not eating his food. Venu gave no answer.
After his meal his mother caressed him and questioned him repeatedly.
Venu burst out crying and said,--"Master Mashai." His mother asked
Venu,--"What about Master Mashai?" But Venu found it difficult to name
the offence which his teacher had committed.

His mother said to Venu: "Has your Master Mashai been saying anything to
you against _me_?"

Venu could not understand the question and went away.


There was a theft in Adhar Babu's house. The police were called in to
investigate. Even Haralal's trunks were searched. Ratikanta said with
meaning: "The man who steals anything, does not keep his thefts in his
own box."

Adharlal called his son's tutor and said to him: "It will not be
convenient for me to keep any of you in my own house. From to-day you
will have to take up your quarters outside, only coming in to teach my
son at the proper time."

Ratikanta said sagely, drawing at his hookah: "That is a good
proposal,--good for both parties."

Haralal did not utter a word, but he sent a letter saying that it would
be no longer possible for him to remain as tutor to Venu.

When Venu came back from school, he found his tutor's room empty. Even
that broken steel trunk of his was absent. The rope was stretched across
the corner, but there were no clothes or towel hanging on it. Only on
the table, which formerly was strewn with books and papers, stood a bowl
containing some gold-fish with a label on which was written the word
"Venu" in Haralal's hand-writing. The boy ran up at once to his father
and asked him what had happened. His father told him that Haralal had
resigned his post. Venu went to his room and flung himself down and
began to cry. Adharlal did not know what to do with him.

The next day, when Haralal was sitting on his wooden bedstead in the
Hostel, debating with himself whether he should attend his college
lectures, suddenly he saw Adhar Babu's servant coming into his room
followed by Venu. Venu at once ran up to him and threw his arms round
his neck asking him to come back to the house.

Haralal could not explain why it was absolutely impossible for him to go
back, but the memory of those clinging arms and that pathetic request
used to choke his breath with emotion long after.


Haralal found out, after this, that his mind was in an unsettled state,
and that he had but a small chance of winning the scholarship, even if
he could pass the examination. At the same time, he knew that, without
the scholarship, he could not continue his studies. So he tried to get
employment in some office.

Fortunately for him, an English Manager of a big merchant firm took a
fancy to him at first sight. After only a brief exchange of words the
Manager asked him if he had any experience, and could he bring any
testimonial. Haralal could only answer "No"; nevertheless a post was
offered him of twenty rupees a month and fifteen rupees were allowed him
in advance to help him to come properly dressed to the office.

The Manager made Haralal work extremely hard. He had to stay on after
office hours and sometimes go to his master's house late in the evening.
But, in this way, he learnt his work quicker than others, and his fellow
clerks became jealous of him and tried to injure him, but without
effect. He rented a small house in a narrow lane and brought his mother
to live with him as soon as his salary was raised to forty rupees a
month. Thus happiness came back to his mother after weary years of

Haralal's mother used to express a desire to see Venugopal, of whom she
had heard so much. She wished to prepare some dishes with her own hand
and to ask him to come just once to dine with her son. Haralal avoided
the subject by saying that his house was not big enough to invite him
for that purpose.


The news reached Haralal that Venu's mother had died. He could not wait
a moment, but went at once to Adharlal's house to see Venu. After that
they began to see each other frequently.

But times had changed. Venu, stroking his budding moustache, had grown
quite a young man of fashion. Friends, befitting his present condition,
were numerous. That old dilapidated study chair and ink-stained desk had
vanished, and the room now seemed to be bursting with pride at its new
acquisitions,--its looking-glasses, oleographs, and other furniture.
Venu had entered college, but showed no haste in crossing the boundary
of the Intermediate examination.

Haralal remembered his mother's request to invite Venu to dinner. After
great hesitation, he did so. Venugopal, with his handsome face, at once
won the mother's heart. But as soon as ever the meal was over he became
impatient to go, and looking at his gold watch he explained that he had
pressing engagements elsewhere. Then he jumped into his carriage, which
was waiting at the door, and drove away. Haralal with a sigh said to
himself that he would never invite him again.


One day, on returning from office, Haralal noticed the presence of a man
in the dark room on the ground floor of his house. Possibly he would
have passed him by, had not the heavy scent of some foreign perfume
attracted his attention. Haralal asked who was there, and the answer

"It is I, Master Mashai."

"What is the matter, Venu?" said Haralal. "When did you arrive?"

"I came hours ago," said Venu. "I did not know that you returned so

They went upstairs together and Haralal lighted the lamp and asked Venu
whether all was well. Venu replied that his college classes were
becoming a fearful bore, and his father did not realize how dreadfully
hard it was for him to go on in the same class, year after year, with
students much younger than himself. Haralal asked him what he wished to
do. Venu then told him that he wanted to go to England and become a
barrister. He gave an instance of a student, much less advanced than
himself, who was getting ready to go. Haralal asked him if he had
received his father's permission. Venu replied that his father would not
hear a word of it until he had passed the Intermediate, and that was an
impossibility in his present frame of mind. Haralal suggested that he
himself should go and try to talk over his father.

"No," said Venu, "I can never allow that!"

Haralal asked Venu to stay for dinner and while they were waiting he
gently placed his hand on Venu's shoulder and said:

"Venu, you should not quarrel with your father, or leave home."

Venu jumped up angrily and said that if he was not welcome, he could go
elsewhere. Haralal caught him by the hand and implored him not to go
away without taking his food. But Venu snatched away his hand and was
just leaving the room when Haralal's mother brought the food in on a
tray. On seeing Venu about to leave she pressed him to remain and he did
so with bad grace.

While he was eating the sound of a carriage stopping at the door was
heard. First a servant entered the room with creaking shoes and then
Adhar Babu himself. Venu's face became pale. The mother left the room as
soon as she saw strangers enter. Adhar Babu called out to Haralal in a
voice thick with anger:

"Ratikanta gave me full warning, but I could not believe that you had
such devilish cunning hidden in you. So, you think you're going to live
upon Venu? This is sheer kidnapping, and I shall prosecute you in the
Police Court."

Venu silently followed his father and went out of the house.


The firm to which Haralal belonged began to buy up large quantities of
rice and dhal from the country districts. To pay for this, Haralal had
to take the cash every Saturday morning by the early train and disburse
it. There were special centres where the brokers and middlemen would
come with their receipts and accounts for settlement. Some discussion
had taken place in the office about Haralal being entrusted with this
work, without any security, but the Manager undertook all the
responsibility and said that a security was not needed. This special
work used to go on from the middle of December to the middle of April.
Haralal would get back from it very late at night.

One day, after his return, he was told by his mother that Venu had
called and that she had persuaded him to take his dinner at their house.
This happened more than once. The mother said that it was because Venu
missed his own mother, and the tears came into her eyes as she spoke
about it.

One day Venu waited for Haralal to return and had a long talk with him.

"Master Mashai!" he said. "Father has become so cantankerous of late
that I cannot live with him any longer. And, besides, I know that he is
getting ready to marry again. Ratikanta is seeking a suitable match, and
they are always conspiring about it. There used to be a time when my
father would get anxious, if I were absent from home even for a few
hours. Now, if I am away for more than a week, he takes no
notice,--indeed he is greatly relieved. If this marriage takes place, I
feel that I cannot live in the house any longer. You must show me a way
out of this. I want to become independent."

Haralal felt deeply pained, but he did not know how to help his former
pupil. Venu said that he was determined to go to England and become a
barrister. Somehow or other he must get the passage money out of his
father: he could borrow it on a note of hand and his father would have
to pay when the creditors filed a suit. With this borrowed money he
would get away, and when he was in England his father was certain to
remit his expenses.

"But who is there," Haralal asked, "who would advance you the money?"

"You!" said Venu.

"I!" exclaimed Haralal in amazement.

"Yes," said Venu, "I've seen the servant bringing heaps of money here in

"The servant and the money belong to someone else."

Haralal explained why the money came to his house at night, like birds
to their nest, to be scattered next morning.

"But can't the Manager advance the sum?" Venu asked.

"He may do so," said Haralal, "if your father stands security."

The discussion ended at this point.


One Friday night a carriage and pair stopped before Haralal's lodging
house. When Venu was announced Haralal was counting money in his
bedroom, seated on the floor. Venu entered the room dressed in a strange
manner. He had discarded his Bengali dress and was wearing a Parsee coat
and trousers and had a cap on his head. Rings were prominent on almost
all the fingers of both hands, and a thick gold chain was hanging round
his neck: there was a gold-watch in his pocket, and diamond studs could
be seen peeping from his shirt sleeves. Haralal at once asked him what
was the matter and why he was wearing that dress.

"My father's marriage," said Venu, "comes off to-morrow. He tried hard
to keep it from me, but I found it out. I asked him to allow me to go to
our garden-house at Barrackpur for a few days, and he was only too glad
to get rid of me so easily. I am going there, and I wish to God I had
never to come back."

Haralal looked pointedly at the rings on his fingers. Venu explained
that they had belonged to his mother. Haralal then asked him if he had
already had his dinner. He answered, "Yes, haven't you had yours?"

"No," said Haralal, "I cannot leave this room until I have all the money
safely locked up in this iron chest."

"Go and take your dinner," said Venu, "while I keep guard here: your
mother will be waiting for you."

For a moment Haralal hesitated, and then he went out and had his dinner.
In a short time he came back with his mother and the three of them sat
among the bags of money talking together. When it was about midnight,
Venu took out his watch and looked at it and jumped up saying that he
would miss his train. Then he asked Haralal to keep all his rings and
his watch and chain until he asked for them again. Haralal put them all
together in a leather bag and laid it in the iron safe. Venu went out.

The canvas bags containing the currency notes had already been placed in
the safe: only the loose coins remained to be counted over and put away
with the rest.


Haralal lay down on the floor of the same room, with the key under his
pillow, and went to sleep. He dreamt that Venu's mother was loudly
reproaching him from behind the curtain. Her words were indistinct, but
rays of different colours from the jewels on her body kept piercing the
curtain like needles and violently vibrating. Haralal struggled to call
Venu, but his voice seemed to forsake him. At last, with a noise, the
curtain fell down. Haralal started up from his sleep and found darkness
piled up round about him. A sudden gust of wind had flung open the
window and put out the light. Haralal's whole body was wet with
perspiration. He relighted the lamp and saw, by the clock, that it was
four in the morning. There was no time to sleep again; for he had to get
ready to start.

After Haralal had washed his face and hands his mother called from her
own room,--"Baba, why are you up so soon?"

It was the habit of Haralal to see his mother's face the first thing in
the morning in order to bring a blessing upon the day. His mother said
to him: "I was dreaming that you were going out to bring back a bride
for yourself." Haralal went to his own bedroom and began to take out the
bags containing the silver and the currency notes.

Suddenly his heart stopped beating. Three of the bags appeared to be
empty. He knocked them against the iron safe, but this only proved his
fear to be true. He opened them and shook them with all his might. Two
letters from Venu dropped out from one of the bags. One was addressed to
his father and one to Haralal.

Haralal tore open his own letter and began reading. The words seemed to
run into one another. He trimmed the lamp, but felt as if he could not
understand what he read. Yet the purport of the letter was clear. Venu
had taken three thousand rupees, in currency notes, and had started for
England. The steamer was to sail before day-break that very morning. The
letter ended with the words: "I am explaining everything in a letter to
my father. He will pay off the debt; and then, again, my mother's
ornaments, which I have left in your care, will more than cover the
amount I have taken."

Haralal locked up his room and hired a carriage and went with all haste
to the jetty. But he did not know even the name of the steamer which
Venu had taken. He ran the whole length of the wharves from Prinsep's
Ghat to Metiaburuj. He found that two steamers had started on their
voyage to England early that morning. It was impossible for him to know
which of them carried Venu, or how to reach him.

When Haralal got home, the sun was strong and the whole of Calcutta was
awake. Everything before his eyes seemed blurred. He felt as if he were
pushing against a fearful obstacle which was bodiless and without pity.
His mother came on the verandah to ask him anxiously where he had gone.
With a dry laugh he said to her,--"To bring home a bride for myself,"
and then he fainted away.

On opening his eyes after a while, Haralal asked his mother to leave
him. Entering his room he shut the door from the inside while his mother
remained seated on the floor of the verandah in the fierce glare of the
sun. She kept calling to him fitfully, almost mechanically,--"Baba,

The servant came from the Manager's office and knocked at the door,
saying that they would miss the train if they did not start out at once.
Haralal called from inside, "It will not be possible for me to start
this morning."

"Then where are we to go, Sir?"

"I will tell you later on."

The servant went downstairs with a gesture of impatience.

Suddenly Haralal thought of the ornaments which Venu had left behind. Up
till now he had completely forgotten about them, but with the thought
came instant relief. He took the leather bag containing them, and also
Venu's letter to his father, and left the house.

Before he reached Adharlal's house he could hear the bands playing for
the wedding, yet on entering he could feel that there had been some
disturbance. Haralal was told that there had been a theft the night
before and one or two servants were suspected. Adhar Babu was sitting in
the upper verandah flushed with anger and Ratikanta was smoking his
hookah. Haralal said to Adhar Babu, "I have something private to tell
you." Adharlal flared up, "I have no time now!" He was afraid that
Haralal had come to borrow money or to ask his help. Ratikanta suggested
that if there was any delicacy in making the request in his presence he
would leave the place. Adharlal told him angrily to sit where he was.
Then Haralal handed over the bag which Venu had left behind. Adharlal
asked what was inside it and Haralal opened it and gave the contents
into his hands.

Then Adhar Babu said with a sneer: "It's a paying business that you two
have started--you and your former pupil! You were certain that the
stolen property would be traced, and so you come along with it to me to
claim a reward!"

Haralal presented the letter which Venu had written to his father. This
only made Adharlal all the more furious.

"What's all this?" he shouted, "I'll call for the police! My son has not
yet come of age,--and _you_ have smuggled him out of the country! I'll
bet my soul you've lent him a few hundred rupees, and then taken a note
of hand for three thousand! But I am not going to be bound by _this_!"

"I never advanced him any money at all," said Haralal.

"Then how did he find it?" said Adharlal, "Do you mean to tell me he
broke open your safe and stole it?"

Haralal stood silent.

Ratikanta sarcastically remarked: "I don't believe this fellow ever set
hands on as much as three thousand rupees in his life."

When Haralal left the house he seemed to have lost the power of dreading
anything, or even of being anxious. His mind seemed to refuse to work.
Directly he entered the lane he saw a carriage waiting before his own
lodging. For a moment he felt certain that it was Venu's. It was
impossible to believe that his calamity could be so hopelessly final.

Haralal went up quickly, but found an English assistant from the firm
sitting inside the carriage. The man came out when he saw Haralal and
took him by the hand and asked him: "Why didn't you go out by train this
morning?" The servant had told the Manager his suspicions and he had
sent this man to find out.

Haralal answered: "Notes to the amount of three thousand rupees are

The man asked how that could have happened.

Haralal remained silent.

The man said to Haralal: "Let us go upstairs together and see where you
keep your money." They went up to the room and counted the money and
made a thorough search of the house.

When the mother saw this she could not contain herself any longer. She
came out before the stranger and said: "Baba, what has happened?" He
answered in broken Hindustani that some money had been stolen.

"Stolen!" the mother cried, "Why! How could it be stolen? Who could do
such a dastardly thing?" Haralal said to her: "Mother, don't say a

The man collected the remainder of the money and told Haralal to come
with him to the Manager. The mother barred the way and said:

"Sir, where are you taking my son? I have brought him up, starving and
straining to do honest work. My son would never touch money belonging to

The Englishman, not knowing Bengali, said, "Achcha! Achcha!" Haralal
told his mother not to be anxious; he would explain it all to the
Manager and soon be back again. The mother entreated him, with a
distressed voice,

"Baba, you haven't taken a morsel of food all morning." Haralal stepped
into the carriage and drove away, and the mother sank to the ground in
the anguish of her heart.

The Manager said to Haralal: "Tell me the truth. What did happen?"

Haralal said to him, "I haven't taken any money."

"I fully believe it," said the Manager, "but surely you know who has
taken it."

Haralal looked on the ground and remained silent.

"Somebody," said the Manager, "must have taken it away with your

"Nobody," replied Haralal, "could take it away with my knowledge without
taking first my life."

"Look here, Haralal," said the Manager, "I trusted you completely. I
took no security. I employed you in a post of great responsibility.
Every one in the office was against me for doing so. The three thousand
rupees is a small matter, but the shame of all this to me is a great
matter. I will do one thing. I will give you the whole day to bring back
this money. If you do so, I shall say nothing about it and I will keep
you on in your post."

It was now eleven o'clock. Haralal with bent head went out of the
office. The clerks began to discuss the affair with exultation.

"What can I _do_? What can I _do_?" Haralal repeated to himself, as he
walked along like one dazed, the sun's heat pouring down upon him. At
last his mind ceased to think at all about what could be done, but the
mechanical walk went on without ceasing.

This city of Calcutta, which offered its shelter to thousands and
thousands of men had become like a steel trap. He could see no way out.
The whole body of people were conspiring to surround and hold him
captive--this most insignificant of men, whom no one knew. Nobody had
any special grudge against him, yet everybody was his enemy. The crowd
passed by, brushing against him: the clerks of the offices were eating
their lunch on the road side from their plates made of leaves: a tired
wayfarer on the Maidan, under the shade of a tree, was lying with one
hand beneath his head and one leg upraised over the other: The
up-country women, crowded into hackney carriages, were wending their way
to the temple: a chuprassie came up with a letter and asked him the
address on the envelope,--so the afternoon went by.

Then came the time when the offices were all about to close. Carriages
started off in all directions, carrying people back to their homes. The
clerks, packed tightly on the seats of the trams, looked at the theatre
advertisements as they returned to their lodgings. From to-day, Haralal
had neither his work in the office, nor release from work in the
evening. He had no need to hurry to catch the tram to take him to his
home. All the busy occupations of the city--the buildings--the horses
and carriages--the incessant traffic--seemed, now at one time, to swell
into dreadful reality, and at another time, to subside into the shadowy

Haralal had taken neither food, nor rest, nor shelter all that day.

The street lamps were lighted from one road to another and it seemed to
him that a watchful darkness, like some demon, was keeping its eyes wide
open to guard every movement of its victim. Haralal did not even have
the energy to enquire how late it was. The veins on his forehead
throbbed, and he felt as if his head would burst. Through the paroxysms
of pain, which alternated with the apathy of dejection, only one thought
came again and again to his mind; among the innumerable multitudes in
that vast city, only one name found its way through his dry

He said to himself, "At the deep of night, when no one is awake to
capture me--me, who am the least of all men,--I will silently creep to
my mother's arms and fall asleep, and may I never wake again!"

Haralal's one trouble was lest some police officer should molest him in
the presence of his mother, and this kept him back from going home. When
it became impossible for him at last to bear the weight of his own body,
he hailed a carriage. The driver asked him where he wanted to go. He
said: "Nowhere, I want to drive across the Maidan to get the fresh air."
The man at first did not believe him and was about to drive on, when
Haralal put a rupee into his hand as an advance payment. Thereupon the
driver crossed, and then re-crossed, the Maidan from one side to the
other, traversing the different roads.

Haralal laid his throbbing head on the side of the open window of the
carriage and closed his eyes. Slowly all the pain abated. His body
became cool. A deep and intense peace filled his heart and a supreme
deliverance seemed to embrace him on every side. It was _not_ true,--the
day's despair which threatened him with its grip of utter helplessness.
It was _not_ true, it was false. He knew now that it was only an empty
fear of the mind. Deliverance was in the infinite sky and there was no
end to peace. No king or emperor in the world had the power to keep
captive this nonentity, this Haralal. In the sky, surrounding his
emancipated heart on every side, he felt the presence of his mother,
that one poor woman. She seemed to grow and grow till she filled the
infinity of darkness. All the roads and buildings and shops of Calcutta
gradually became enveloped by her. In her presence vanished all the
aching pains and thoughts and consciousness of Haralal. It burst,--that
bubble filled with the hot vapour of pain. And now there was neither
darkness nor light, but only one tense fulness.

The Cathedral clock struck one. The driver called out impatiently:
"Babu, my horse can't go on any longer. Where do you want to go?"

There came no answer.

The driver came down and shook Haralal and asked him again where he
wanted to go.

There came no answer.

And the answer was never received from Haralal, where he wanted to go.


  =broker.= This word meant originally a "broacher," one who broached
      or made a hole in casks of wine to test their value for sale.
      Then it came to mean a middleman in a sale.

  =attorney.= This word comes from the Old French "tourner" meaning to
      turn. The original sense of the word is "one who turns or
      transfers (property)," and thus it comes to mean one who is
      appointed to do legal business in the name of another. Compare the
      phrase "_power of attorney_."

  =mortgage.= This comes from the two words "mort-" meaning "death" and
      "gage" meaning "pledge,"--a death pledge. It is used for the
      transfer of property as a pledge or guarantee that the debt will
      be paid. Compare _mortuary_, _mortal_, _mortify_, _mortmain_; also
      compare _engage_, _disengage_, _wage_, _wager_.

  =repulsed.= From the Latin "puls-" meaning "to drive." This Latin root
      has another form "pel," also meaning "to drive." We have thus two
      series of  words:--

          _repel_, _impel_, _compel_, _expel_, _dispel_, and
          _repulse_, _impulse_ (noun), _compulsion_, _expulsion_.

  =amiability.= This word comes from the Latin "amicus" friend and is
      the same in origin as "amicability." Compare _amicable_ and

  =salary.= This originally meant "_salt_-money" from the Latin "sal"
      meaning "salt." First, it meant the "salt-money" given to
      soldiers, then it meant a fixed pay. Compare the use of _namak_ in
      India,--_namak khānā_,--which is somewhat similar.

  =liliputian.= This word has come into the English language from a
      famous story book called "Gulliver's Travels." "Liliput" was a
      place where tiny people lived and "Brobdingnag" was a place where
      giants lived. These two words are therefore sometimes used, in an
      amusing manner, to represent respectively the land of dwarfs and
      the land of giants.

  =B.A. degree.= These titles were originally used in the old medieval
      universities of Europe. The word "bachelor" was taken from its use
      in chivalry, where it meant a young knight not yet fully qualified
      or equipped. Then came the "Master," or fully qualified person. A
      secondary meaning of bachelor, which is now the most common, is
      "an unmarried person,"--a man not being considered fully qualified
      or equipped till he is married.

  =romance.= This word has a very interesting history. The Latin
      language was the literary language of the South of Europe for many
      centuries and the vernacular languages were despised. The word for
      "vernacular" was "romanicus" as contrasted with "Latinus," i.e.
      Latin. The old folk stories of the Middle Ages were written in the
      vernacular or "romance" languages, and as these stories were
      strange and mysterious, the word romance became used for this kind
      of literature.

  =pathetic.= From the Greek word "pathos" meaning "suffering." Compare
      _pathos_, _sympathy_, _pathology_, _electropathy_, _allopathy_,

  =dilapidated.= From the Latin "lapis" meaning a "stone." It probably
      means to separate stone from stone. Compare _lapidary_,

  =intermediate.= From the Latin "medius" meaning "middle." Compare
      _mediate_, _immediate_, _medium_, _mediocrity_, _mediator._

  =police.= From the Greek "polis" meaning a "city." Compare _politics_,
      _policy_, _metropolis_, _politician_.

  =barrister.= From the word "bar." There was a bar in the law court,
      from which the lawyer pleaded his case. So the pleader was called
      a _bar_-ister. Compare the phrase _"called to the Bar."_

  =obstacle.= From the Latin root "sta-" meaning to stand. Compare
      _obstinate_, _station_, _status_, _statute_, _instant_,
      _distance_, _constant_.

  =dastardly.= A word of doubtful origin,--probably akin to the word

  =reality.= From the Latin word "res" meaning a "thing." Compare
      _real_, _unreal_, _realize_, _republic_, _really_, _realization_.

  =alternated.= From the Latin "alter" meaning "other." Compare
      _alteration_, _alternative_, _alter_, _altercate_.

  =infinity.= From the Latin "finis" meaning "end." Compare _finish_,
      _finite_, _definite_, _confine_.




When the girl was given the name of Subhashini, who could have guessed
that she would prove dumb? Her two elder sisters were Sukeshini and
Suhasini, and for the sake of uniformity her father named his youngest
girl Subhashini. She was called Subha for short.

Her two elder sisters had been married with the usual cost and
difficulty, and now the youngest daughter lay like a silent weight upon
the heart of her parents. All the world seemed to think that, because
she did not speak, therefore she did not feel; it discussed her future
and its own anxiety freely in her presence. She had understood from her
earliest childhood that God had sent her like a curse to her father's
house, so she withdrew herself from ordinary people and tried to live
apart. If only they would all forget her she felt she could endure it.
But who can forget pain? Night and day her parents' minds were aching on
her account. Especially her mother looked upon her as a deformity in
herself. To a mother a daughter is a more closely intimate part of
herself than a son can be; and a fault in her is a source of personal
shame. Banikantha, Subha's father, loved her rather better than his
other daughters; her mother regarded her with aversion as a stain upon
her own body.

If Subha lacked speech, she did not lack a pair of large dark eyes,
shaded with long lashes; and her lips trembled like a leaf in response
to any thought that rose in her mind.

When we express our thought in words, the medium is not found easily.
There must be a process of translation, which is often inexact, and then
we fall into error. But black eyes need no translating; the mind itself
throws a shadow upon them. In them thought opens or shuts, shines forth
or goes out in darkness, hangs steadfast like the setting moon or like
the swift and restless lightning illumines all quarters of the sky. They
who from birth have had no other speech than the trembling of their lips
learn a language of the eyes, endless in expression, deep as the sea,
clear as the heavens, wherein play dawn and sunset, light and shadow.
The dumb have a lonely grandeur like Nature's own. Wherefore the other
children almost dreaded Subha and never played with her. She was silent
and companionless as noontide.

The hamlet where she lived was Chandipur. Its river, small for a river
of Bengal, kept to its narrow bounds like a daughter of the middle
class. This busy streak of water never overflowed its banks, but went
about its duties as though it were a member of every family in the
villages beside it. On either side were houses and banks shaded with
trees. So stepping from her queenly throne, the river-goddess became a
garden deity of each home, and forgetful of herself performed her task
of endless benediction with swift and cheerful foot.

Banikantha's house looked out upon the stream. Every hut and stack in
the place could be seen by the passing boatmen. I know not if amid these
signs of worldly wealth any one noticed the little girl who, when her
work was done, stole away to the waterside and sat there. But here
Nature fulfilled her want of speech and spoke for her. The murmur of the
brook, the voice of the village folk, the songs of the boatmen, the
crying of the birds and rustle of trees mingled and were one with the
trembling of her heart. They became one vast wave of sound which beat
upon her restless soul. This murmur and movement of Nature were the dumb
girl's language; that speech of the dark eyes, which the long lashes
shaded, was the language of the world about her. From the trees, where
the cicalas chirped, to the quiet stars there was nothing but signs and
gestures, weeping and sighing. And in the deep mid-noon, when the
boatmen and fisher-folk had gone to their dinner, when the villagers
slept and birds were still, when the ferry-boats were idle, when the
great busy world paused in its toil and became suddenly a lonely, awful
giant, then beneath the vast impressive heavens there were only dumb
Nature and a dumb girl, sitting very silent,--one under the spreading
sunlight, the other where a small tree cast its shadow.

But Subha was not altogether without friends. In the stall were two
cows, Sarbbashi and Panguli. They had never heard their names from her
lips, but they knew her footfall. Though she had no words, she murmured
lovingly and they understood her gentle murmuring better than all
speech. When she fondled them or scolded or coaxed them, they understood
her better than men could do. Subha would come to the shed and throw her
arms round Sarbbashi's neck; she would rub her cheek against her
friend's, and Panguli would turn her great kind eyes and lick her face.
The girl paid them three regular visits every day and others that were
irregular. Whenever she heard any words that hurt her, she would come to
these dumb friends out of due time. It was as though they guessed her
anguish of spirit from her quiet look of sadness. Coming close to her,
they would rub their horns softly against her arms, and in dumb, puzzled
fashion try to comfort her. Besides these two, there were goats and a
kitten; but Subha had not the same equality of friendship with them,
though they showed the same attachment. Every time it got a chance,
night or day, the kitten would jump into her lap, and settle down to
slumber, and show its appreciation of an aid to sleep as Subha drew her
soft fingers over its neck and back.

Subha had a comrade also among the higher animals, and it is hard to say
what were the girl's relations with him; for he could speak, and his
gift of speech left them without any common language. He was the
youngest boy of the Gosains, Pratap by name, an idle fellow. After long
effort, his parents had abandoned the hope that he would ever make his
living. Now losels have this advantage, that, though their own folk
disapprove of them, they are generally popular with every one else.
Having no work to chain them, they become public property. Just as every
town needs an open space where all may breathe, so a village needs two
or three gentlemen of leisure, who can give time to all; then, if we are
lazy and want a companion, one is to hand.

Pratap's chief ambition was to catch fish. He managed to waste a lot of
time this way, and might be seen almost any afternoon so employed. It
was thus most often that he met Subha. Whatever he was about, he liked a
companion; and, when one is catching fish, a silent companion is best of
all. Pratap respected Subha for her taciturnity, and, as every one
called her Subha, he showed his affection by calling her Su. Subha used
to sit beneath a tamarind, and Pratap, a little distance off, would cast
his line. Pratap took with him a small allowance of betel, and Subha
prepared it for him. And I think that, sitting and gazing a long while,
she desired ardently to bring some great help to Pratap, to be of real
aid, to prove by any means that she was not a useless burden to the
world. But there was nothing to do. Then she turned to the Creator in
prayer for some rare power, that by an astonishing miracle she might
startle Pratap into exclaiming: "My! I never dreamt our Su could have
done this!"

Only think, if Subha had been a water nymph, she might have risen slowly
from the river, bringing the gem of a snake's crown to the
landing-place. Then Pratap, leaving his paltry fishing, might dive into
the lower world, and see there, on a golden bed in a palace of silver,
whom else but dumb little Su, Banikantha's child? Yes, our Su, the only
daughter of the king of that shining city of jewels! But that might not
be, it was impossible. Not that anything is really impossible, but Su
had been born, not into the royal house of Patalpur, but into
Banikantha's family, and she knew no means of astonishing the Gosains'

Gradually she grew up. Gradually she began to find herself. A new
inexpressible consciousness like a tide from the central places of the
sea, when the moon is full, swept through her. She saw herself,
questioned herself, but no answer came that she could understand.

Once upon a time, late on a night of full moon, she slowly opened her
door and peeped out timidly. Nature, herself at full moon, like lonely
Subha, was looking down on the sleeping earth. Her strong young life
beat within her; joy and sadness filled her being to its brim; she
reached the limits even of her own illimitable loneliness, nay, passed
beyond them. Her heart was heavy, and she could not speak. At the skirts
of this silent troubled Mother there stood a silent troubled girl.

The thought of her marriage filled her parents with an anxious care.
People blamed them, and even talked of making them outcasts. Banikantha
was well off; they had fish-curry twice daily; and consequently he did
not lack enemies. Then the women interfered, and Bani went away for a
few days. Presently he returned and said: "We must go to Calcutta."

They got ready to go to this strange country. Subha's heart was heavy
with tears, like a mist-wrapt dawn. With a vague fear that had been
gathering for days, she dogged her father and mother like a dumb animal.
With her large eyes wide open, she scanned their faces as though she
wished to learn something. But not a word did they vouchsafe. One
afternoon in the midst of all this, as Pratap was fishing, he laughed:
"So then, Su, they have caught your bridegroom, and you are going to be
married! Mind you don't forget me altogether!" Then he turned his mind
again to his fish. As a stricken doe looks in the hunter's face, asking
in silent agony: "What have I done to you?" so Subha looked at Pratap.
That day she sat no longer beneath her tree. Banikantha, having finished
his nap, was smoking in his bedroom when Subha dropped down at his feet
and burst out weeping as she gazed towards him. Banikantha tried to
comfort her, and his cheek grew wet with tears.

It was settled that on the morrow they should go to Calcutta. Subha went
to the cow-shed to bid farewell to her childhood's comrades. She fed
them with her hand; she clasped their necks; she looked into their
faces, and tears fell fast from the eyes which spoke for her. That night
was the tenth of the moon. Subha left her room, and flung herself down
on her grassy couch beside her dear river. It was as if she threw her
arms about Earth, her strong silent mother, and tried to say: "Do not
let me leave you, mother. Put your arms about me, as I have put mine
about you, and hold me fast."

One day in a house in Calcutta, Subha's mother dressed her up with great
care. She imprisoned her hair, knotting it up in laces, she hung her
about with ornaments, and did her best to kill her natural beauty.
Subha's eyes filled with tears. Her mother, fearing they would grow
swollen with weeping, scolded her harshly, but the tears disregarded the
scolding. The bridegroom came with a friend to inspect the bride. Her
parents were dizzy with anxiety and fear when they saw the god arrive to
select the beast for his sacrifice. Behind the stage, the mother called
her instructions aloud, and increased her daughter's weeping twofold,
before she sent her into the examiner's presence. The great man, after
scanning her a long time, observed: "Not so bad."

He took special note of her tears, and thought she must have a tender
heart. He put it to her credit in the account, arguing that the heart,
which to-day was distressed at leaving her parents, would presently
prove a useful possession. Like the oyster's pearls, the child's tears
only increased her value, and he made no other comment.

The almanac was consulted, and the marriage took place on an auspicious
day. Having delivered over their dumb girl into another's hands, Subha's
parents returned home. Thank God! Their caste in this and their safety
in the next world were assured! The bridegroom's work lay in the west,
and shortly after the marriage he took his wife thither.

In less than ten days every one knew that the bride was dumb! At least,
if any one did not, it was not her fault, for she deceived no one. Her
eyes told them everything, though no one understood her. She looked on
every hand, she found no speech, she missed the faces, familiar from
birth, of those who had understood a dumb girl's language. In her silent
heart there sounded an endless, voiceless weeping, which only the
Searcher of Hearts could hear.


  =uniformity.= From the Latin "unus," meaning "one" and "forma"
      meaning "form." Compare _universe_, _unison_, _unite_,
      _formalism_, _formation_, _reform_, _deformed_, _deformity_ (the
      last word occurs in the next paragraph of the story).

  =translation.= The Latin word meaning "to bring" has two roots, viz.
      "fer" and "lat." This word is taken from the second root. We have
      the two parallel series of words in English:

          transfer, refer, confer, differ, etc.
          translate, relate, collate, dilate, etc.

  =puzzled.= This is one of the few words in the English language whose
      origin is doubtful. It probably comes from the word to "pose"
      (which itself is a shortened form of "oppose") meaning to set
      forward a difficult problem.

  =losels.= An uncommon English word meaning a person who is good for
      nothing. The word is derived from the verb to "lose."

  =taciturnity.= The Latin word "tacitus," means "quiet" or "silent."
      Compare _tacit_, _tacitly_, _reticence_, _reticent_.

  =My!= This is used by common people in England. It is probably the
      short form of "My eye!"

  =dogged.= The word in this sense means to follow like a dog; to follow
      closely. From this we have the adjective "dogged" pronounced as
      two syllables dog-géd, meaning persevering, persistent, never
      giving in, e.g. doggéd courage.

  =disregarded.= From the French "garder" or "guarder," meaning "to
      keep." This French word appears in many English forms. Compare
      _reward_, _guard_, _guerdon_, _guardian_, _ward_, _warder_,

  =dizzy.= This word comes from an old Saxon root, which has left many
      words in modern English. Compare _daze_, _dazed_, _dazzle_,
      _doze_, _drowse_, _drowsy_.

  =deceived.= From the Latin word "capere," meaning to take. The English
      verbs such as "receive," "conceive," "perceive" have come into
      English from the French. The Latin root is more clearly seen in
      the nouns such as "deception," "reception," "perception," etc. It
      should be carefully noticed that these "French" forms are spelt
      _eive_ instead of _ieve_. A simple rule is this, that after _c_
      write _ei_ not _ie_, but after other consonants write _ie_.
      Compare the spelling of _believe_, _grieve_, _relieve_ with that
      of _receive_, _deceive_.




The postmaster first took up his duties in the village of Ulapur. Though
the village was a small one, there was an indigo factory near by, and
the proprietor, an Englishman, had managed to get a post office

Our postmaster belonged to Calcutta. He felt like a fish out of water in
this remote village. His office and living-room were in a dark thatched
shed, not far from a green, slimy pond, surrounded on all sides by a
dense growth.

The men employed in the indigo factory had no leisure; moreover, they
were hardly desirable companions for decent folk. Nor is a Calcutta boy
an adept in the art of associating with others. Among strangers he
appears either proud or ill at ease. At any rate, the postmaster had but
little company; nor had he much to do.

At times he tried his hand at writing a verse or two. That the movement
of the leaves and the clouds of the sky were enough to fill life with
joy--such were the sentiments to which he sought to give expression.
But God knows that the poor fellow would have felt it as the gift of a
new life, if some genie of the _Arabian Nights_ had in one night swept
away the trees, leaves and all, and replaced them with a macadamised
road, hiding the clouds from view with rows of tall houses.

The postmaster's salary was small. He had to cook his own meals, which
he used to share with Ratan, an orphan girl of the village, who did odd
jobs for him.

When in the evening the smoke began to curl up from the village
cowsheds, and the cicalas chirped in every bush; when the mendicants of
the Baül sect sang their shrill songs in their daily meeting-place, when
any poet, who had attempted to watch the movement of the leaves in the
dense bamboo thickets, would have felt a ghostly shiver run down his
back, the postmaster would light his little lamp, and call out "Ratan."

Ratan would sit outside waiting for this call, and, instead of coming in
at once, would reply, "Did you call me, sir?"

"What are you doing?" the postmaster would ask.

"I must be going to light the kitchen fire," would be the answer.

And the postmaster would say: "Oh, let the kitchen fire be for awhile;
light me my pipe first."

At last Ratan would enter, with puffed-out cheeks, vigorously blowing
into a flame a live coal to light the tobacco. This would give the
postmaster an opportunity of conversing. "Well, Ratan," perhaps he would
begin, "do you remember anything of your mother?" That was a fertile
subject. Ratan partly remembered, and partly didn't. Her father had been
fonder of her than her mother; him she recollected more vividly. He used
to come home in the evening after his work, and one or two evenings
stood out more clearly than others, like pictures in her memory. Ratan
would sit on the floor near the postmaster's feet, as memories crowded
in upon her. She called to mind a little brother that she had--and how
on some bygone cloudy day she had played at fishing with him on the edge
of the pond, with a twig for a make-believe fishing-rod. Such little
incidents would drive out greater events from her mind. Thus, as they
talked, it would often get very late, and the postmaster would feel too
lazy to do any cooking at all. Ratan would then hastily light the fire,
and toast some unleavened bread, which, with the cold remnants of the
morning meal, was enough for their supper.

On some evenings, seated at his desk in the corner of the big empty
shed, the postmaster too would call up memories of his own home, of his
mother and his sister, of those for whom in his exile his heart was
sad,--memories which were always haunting him, but which he could not
talk about with the men of the factory, though he found himself
naturally recalling them aloud in the presence of the simple little
girl. And so it came about that the girl would allude to his people as
mother, brother, and sister, as if she had known them all her life. In
fact, she had a complete picture of each one of them painted in her
little heart.

One noon, during a break in the rains, there was a cool soft breeze
blowing; the smell of the damp grass and leaves in the hot sun felt like
the warm breathing of the tired earth on one's body. A persistent bird
went on all the afternoon repeating the burden of its one complaint in
Nature's audience chamber.

The postmaster had nothing to do. The shimmer of the freshly washed
leaves, and the banked-up remnants of the retreating rain-clouds were
sights to see; and the postmaster was watching them and thinking to
himself: "Oh, if only some kindred soul were near--just one loving human
being whom I could hold near my heart!" This was exactly, he went on to
think, what that bird was trying to say, and it was the same feeling
which the murmuring leaves were striving to express. But no one knows,
or would believe, that such an idea might also take possession of an
ill-paid village postmaster in the deep, silent mid-day interval of his

The postmaster sighed, and called out "Ratan." Ratan was then sprawling
beneath the guava-tree, busily engaged in eating unripe guavas. At the
voice of her master, she ran up breathlessly, saying: "Were you calling
me, Dada?" "I was thinking," said the postmaster, "of teaching you to
read." And then for the rest of the afternoon he taught her the

Thus, in a very short time, Ratan had got as far as the double

It seemed as though the showers of the season would never end. Canals,
ditches, and hollows were all overflowing with water. Day and night the
patter of rain was heard, and the croaking of frogs. The village roads
became impassable, and marketing had to be done in punts.

One heavily clouded morning, the postmaster's little pupil had been long
waiting outside the door for her call, but, not hearing it as usual, she
took up her dog-eared book, and slowly entered the room. She found her
master stretched out on his bed, and, thinking that he was resting, she
was about to retire on tip-toe, when she suddenly heard her
name--"Ratan!" She turned at once and asked: "Were you sleeping, Dada?"
The postmaster in a plaintive voice said: "I am not well. Feel my head;
is it very hot?"

In the loneliness of his exile, and in the gloom of the rains, his
ailing body needed a little tender nursing. He longed to remember the
touch on the forehead of soft hands with tinkling bracelets, to imagine
the presence of loving womanhood, the nearness of mother and sister. And
the exile was not disappointed. Ratan ceased to be a little girl. She at
once stepped into the post of mother, called in the village doctor, gave
the patient his pills at the proper intervals, sat up all night by his
pillow, cooked his gruel for him, and every now and then asked: "Are you
feeling a little better, Dada?"

It was some time before the postmaster, with weakened body, was able to
leave his sick-bed. "No more of this," said he with decision. "I must
get a transfer." He at once wrote off to Calcutta an application for a
transfer, on the ground of the unhealthiness of the place.

Relieved from her duties as nurse, Ratan again took up her old place
outside the door. But she no longer heard the same old call. She would
sometimes peep inside furtively to find the postmaster sitting on his
chair, or stretched on his bed, and staring absent-mindedly into the
air. While Ratan was awaiting her call, the postmaster was awaiting a
reply to his application. The girl read her old lessons over and over
again,--her great fear was lest, when the call came, she might be found
wanting in the double consonants. At last, after a week, the call did
come one evening. With an overflowing heart Ratan rushed into the room
with her--"Were you calling me, Dada?"

The postmaster said: "I am going away to-morrow, Ratan."

"Where are you going, Dada?"

"I am going home."

"When will you come back?"

"I am not coming back."

Ratan asked no other question. The postmaster, of his own accord, went
on to tell her that his application for a transfer had been rejected, so
he had resigned his post and was going home.

For a long time neither of them spoke another word. The lamp went on
dimly burning, and from a leak in one corner of the thatch water dripped
steadily into an earthen vessel on the floor beneath it.

After a while Ratan rose, and went off to the kitchen to prepare the
meal; but she was not so quick about it as on other days. Many new
things to think of had entered her little brain. When the postmaster had
finished his supper, the girl suddenly asked him: "Dada, will you take
me to your home?"

The postmaster laughed. "What an idea!" said he; but he did not think it
necessary to explain to the girl wherein lay the absurdity.

That whole night, in her waking and in her dreams, the postmaster's
laughing reply haunted her--"What an idea!"

On getting up in the morning, the postmaster found his bath ready. He
had stuck to his Calcutta habit of bathing in water drawn and kept in
pitchers, instead of taking a plunge in the river as was the custom of
the village. For some reason or other, the girl could not ask him about
the time of his departure, so she had fetched the water from the river
long before sunrise, that it should be ready as early as he might want
it. After the bath came a call for Ratan. She entered noiselessly, and
looked silently into her master's face for orders. The master said: "You
need not be anxious about my going away, Ratan; I shall tell my
successor to look after you." These words were kindly meant, no doubt:
but inscrutable are the ways of a woman's heart!

Ratan had borne many a scolding from her master without complaint, but
these kind words she could not bear. She burst out weeping, and said:
"No, no, you need not tell anybody anything at all about me; I don't
want to stay on here."

The postmaster was dumbfounded. He had never seen Ratan like this

The new incumbent duly arrived, and the postmaster, having given over
charge, prepared to depart. Just before starting he called Ratan and
said: "Here is something for you; I hope it will keep you for some
little time." He brought out from his pocket the whole of his month's
salary, retaining only a trifle for his travelling expenses. Then Ratan
fell at his feet and cried: "Oh, Dada, I pray you, don't give me
anything, don't in any way trouble about me," and then she ran away out
of sight.

The postmaster heaved a sigh, took up his carpet bag, put his umbrella
over his shoulder, and, accompanied by a man carrying his many-coloured
tin trunk, he slowly made for the boat.

When he got in and the boat was under way, and the rain-swollen river,
like a stream of tears welling up from the earth, swirled and sobbed at
her bows, then he felt a pain at heart; the grief-stricken face of a
village girl seemed to represent for him the great unspoken pervading
grief of Mother Earth herself. At one time he had an impulse to go back,
and bring away along with him that lonesome waif, forsaken of the world.
But the wind had just filled the sails, the boat had got well into the
middle of the turbulent current, and already the village was left
behind, and its outlying burning-ground came in sight.

So the traveller, borne on the breast of the swift-flowing river,
consoled himself with philosophical reflections on the numberless
meetings and partings going on in the world--on death, the great
parting, from which none returns.

But Ratan had no philosophy. She was wandering about the post office in
a flood of tears. It may be that she had still a lurking hope in some
corner of her heart that her Dada would return, and that is why she
could not tear herself away. Alas for our foolish human nature! Its fond
mistakes are persistent. The dictates of reason take a long time to
assert their own sway. The surest proofs meanwhile are disbelieved.
False hope is clung to with all one's might and main, till a day comes
when it has sucked the heart dry and it forcibly breaks through its
bonds and departs. After that comes the misery of awakening, and then
once again the longing to get back into the maze of the same mistakes.


  =indigo.= This word has a very interesting history. It means
      "Indian." The celebrated dark-blue dye came from India. This dye
      was first known to the Greeks who called it "Indikon," then to
      the Latins who called it Indicum, then to the Italians and
      Spaniards who called it Indigo. It was introduced into England
      from Italy by artists and painters who kept the Italian word
      "indigo" without change.

  =genie.= There is a Latin word "genius," meaning originally a spirit
      inhabiting a special place. It is from this word that our English
      common noun "genius" is taken, meaning a specially gifted or
      inspired person, e.g. "a man of genius." But in the Arabian Nights
      a completely different Arabic word is found, viz. "jinn" with its
      feminine form "jinni." This was written in English "genie" and was
      confused with the word "genius." The plural of genie when used in
      this sense is genii, which is really the plural of the Latin word

  =macadamised.= This is quite a modern word in English. It comes from
      the name of the inventor of this kind of road-paving, who was Mr.
      J. L. Macadam. He discovered that different layers of small stone
      rolled in, one after the other, can stand the wear and tear of
      traffic. We have similar words from proper names. Compare,
      _boycott_, _burke_, _lynch_, etc.

  =allude.= From the Latin "ludere," to play. Compare _prelude_,
      _interlude_, _delude_, _collusion_, _elude_, _elusive_,

  =guava.= This word came into English from the Spanish. It is of great
      interest to trace the names of the fruits in English back to
      their sources, e.g. _currant_, comes from Corinth; _mango_ from
      the Portuguese _manga_ (from the Tamil "mankay" _fruit-tree_);
      _orange_ from the Arabic "narang" and Hindustani "narangi";
      _apricot_ from Arabic al-burquq; _date_ from the Greek "daktulos,"
      meaning "finger."

  =alphabet.= The two first letters in the Greek language are called
      "alpha" and "beta." Then the whole series of letters was named an
      alphabeta or alphabet.

  =consonants.= From the Latin "sonare," meaning to sound. Consonants
      are letters which "sound with" the vowels. Compare _dissonant_,
      _assonance_, _sonant_, _sonorous_, _sonata_.

  =canal.= This is one example of a word taken into English from the
      Latin, through the French, having a companion word in English. The
      companion word in this case is _channel_. Compare _cavalry_ and
      _chivalry_, _legal_ and _loyal_, _guard_ and _ward_.

  =dumbfounded.= This word has come into the English language from
      common speech. It is a mixture of the English word dumb, and the
      Latin "fundere," "to pour" which we find in _confound_,
      _profound_, _confusion_. It is not often that we get such hybrid
      words in earlier English, though to-day they are becoming common
      in the case of new words such as _motorcar_, _speedometer_,
      _airplane_, _waterplane_, _automobile_, etc. The old rule used to
      be that a compound word in English should have _both_ its parts
      from the same language (e.g. both parts Latin, or Greek, or Saxon,
      etc.). But this rule is rapidly breaking down in common practice
      as new words rush into the English language to express all the new
      discoveries of science. We have English and Greek roots mixed
      (such as _airplane_), and Latin and Greek roots mixed (such as




Towards evening the storm was at its height. From the terrific downpour
of rain, the crash of thunder, and the repeated flashes of lightning,
you might think that a battle of the gods and demons was raging in the
skies. Black clouds waved like the Flags of Doom. The Ganges was lashed
into a fury, and the trees of the gardens on either bank swayed from
side to side with sighs and groans.

In a closed room of one of the riverside houses at Chandernagore, a
husband and his wife were seated on a bed spread on the floor, intently
discussing. An earthen lamp burned beside them.

The husband, Sharat, was saying: "I wish you would stay on a few days
more; you would then be able to return home quite strong again."

The wife, Kiran, was saying: "I have quite recovered already. It will
not, cannot possibly, do me any harm to go home now."

Every married person will at once understand that the conversation was
not quite so brief as I have reported it. The matter was not difficult,
but the arguments for and against did not advance it towards a solution.
Like a rudderless boat, the discussion kept turning round and round the
same point; and at last threatened to be overwhelmed in a flood of

Sharat said: "The doctor thinks you should stop here a few days longer."

Kiran replied: "Your doctor knows everything!"

"Well," said Sharat, "you know that just now all sorts of illnesses are
abroad. You would do well to stop here a month or two more."

"And at this moment I suppose every one in this place is perfectly

What had happened was this: Kiran was a universal favourite with her
family and neighbours, so that, when she fell seriously ill, they were
all anxious. The village wiseacres thought it shameless for her husband
to make so much fuss about a mere wife and even to suggest a change of
air, and asked if Sharat supposed that no woman had ever been ill
before, or whether he had found out that the folk of the place to which
he meant to take her were immortal. Did he imagine that the writ of Fate
did not run there? But Sharat and his mother turned a deaf ear to them,
thinking that the little life of their darling was of greater
importance than the united wisdom of a village. People are wont to
reason thus when danger threatens their loved ones. So Sharat went to
Chandernagore, and Kiran recovered, though she was still very weak.
There was a pinched look on her face which filled the beholder with
pity, and made his heart tremble, as he thought how narrowly she had
escaped death.

Kiran was fond of society and amusement; the loneliness of her riverside
villa did not suit her at all. There was nothing to do, there were no
interesting neighbours, and she hated to be busy all day with medicine
and dieting. There was no fun in measuring doses and making
fomentations. Such was the subject discussed in their closed room on
this stormy evening.

So long as Kiran deigned to argue, there was a chance of a fair fight.
When she ceased to reply, and with a toss of her head disconsolately
looked the other way, the poor man was disarmed. He was on the point of
surrendering unconditionally when a servant shouted a message through
the shut door.

Sharat got up and on opening the door learnt that a boat had been upset
in the storm, and that one of the occupants, a young Brahmin boy, had
succeeded in swimming ashore at their garden.

Kiran was at once her own sweet self and set to work to get out some dry
clothes for the boy. She then warmed a cup of milk and invited him to
her room.

The boy had long curly hair, big expressive eyes, and no sign yet of
hair on the face. Kiran, after getting him to drink some milk asked him
all about himself.

He told her that his name was Nilkanta, and that he belonged to a
theatrical troupe. They were coming to play in a neighbouring villa when
the boat had suddenly foundered in the storm. He had no idea what had
become of his companions. He was a good swimmer and had just managed to
reach the shore.

The boy stayed with them. His narrow escape from a terrible death made
Kiran take a warm interest in him. Sharat thought the boy's appearance
at this moment rather a good thing, as his wife would now have something
to amuse her, and might be persuaded to stay on for some time longer.
Her mother-in-law, too, was pleased at the prospect of profiting their
Brahmin guest by her kindness. And Nilkanta himself was delighted at his
double escape from his master and from the other world, as well as at
finding a home in this wealthy family.

But in a short while Sharat and his mother changed their opinion, and
longed for his departure. The boy found a secret pleasure in smoking
Sharat's hookahs; he would calmly go off in pouring rain with Sharat's
best silk umbrella for a stroll through the village, and make friends
with all whom he met. Moreover, he had got hold of a mongrel village dog
which he petted so recklessly that it came indoors with muddy paws, and
left tokens of its visit on Sharat's spotless bed. Then he gathered
about him a devoted band of boys of all sorts and sizes, and the result
was that not a solitary mango in the neighbourhood had a chance of
ripening that season.

There is no doubt that Kiran had a hand in spoiling the boy. Sharat
often warned her about it, but she would not listen to him. She made a
dandy of him with Sharat's cast-off clothes, and gave him new ones also.
And because she felt drawn towards him, and had a curiosity to know more
about him, she was constantly calling him to her own room. After her
bath and midday meal Kiran would be seated on the bedstead with her
betel-leaf box by her side; and while her maid combed and dried her
hair, Nilkanta would stand in front and recite pieces out of his
repertory with appropriate gesture and song, his elf-locks waving
wildly. Thus the long afternoon hours passed merrily away. Kiran would
often try to persuade Sharat to sit with her as one of the audience,
but Sharat, who had taken a cordial dislike to the boy, refused; nor
could Nilkanta do his part half so well when Sharat was there. His
mother would sometimes be lured by the hope of hearing sacred names in
the recitation; but love of her mid-day sleep speedily overcame
devotion, and she lay lapped in dreams.

The boy often got his ears boxed and pulled by Sharat, but as this was
nothing to what he had been used to as a member of the troupe, he did
not mind it in the least. In his short experience of the world he had
come to the conclusion that, as the earth consisted of land and water,
so human life was made up of eatings and beatings, and that the beatings
largely predominated.

It was hard to tell Nilkanta's age. If it was about fourteen or fifteen,
then his face was too old for his years; if seventeen or eighteen, then
it was too young. He was either a man too early or a boy too late. The
fact was that, joining the theatrical band when very young, he had
played the parts of Radhika, Damayanti, and Sita, and a thoughtful
Providence so arranged things that he grew to the exact stature that his
manager required, and then growth ceased.

Since every one saw how small Nilkanta was, and he himself felt small,
he did not receive due respect for his years. Causes, natural and
artificial, combined to make him sometimes seem immature for seventeen
years, and at other times a mere lad of fourteen but far too knowing
even for seventeen. And as no sign of hair appeared on his face, the
confusion became greater. Either because he smoked or because he used
language beyond his years, his lips puckered into lines that showed him
to be old and hard; but innocence and youth shone in his large eyes. I
fancy that his heart remained young, but the hot glare of publicity had
been a forcing-house that ripened untimely his outward aspect.

In the quiet shelter of Sharat's house and garden at Chandernagore,
Nature had leisure to work her way unimpeded. Nilkanta had lingered in a
kind of unnatural youth, but now he silently and swiftly overpassed that
stage. His seventeen or eighteen years came to adequate revelation. No
one observed the change, and its first sign was this, that when Kiran
treated him like a boy, he felt ashamed. When the gay Kiran one day
proposed that he should play the part of lady's companion, the idea of
woman's dress hurt him, though he could not say why. So now, when she
called for him to act over again his old characters, he disappeared.

It never occurred to Nilkanta that he was even now not much more than a
lad-of-all-work in a strolling company. He even made up his mind to pick
up a little education from Sharat's factor. But, because he was the pet
of his master's wife, the factor could not endure the sight of him.
Also, his restless training made it impossible for him to keep his mind
long engaged; sooner or later, the alphabet did a misty dance before his
eyes. He would sit long enough with an open book on his lap, leaning
against a _champak_ bush beside the Ganges. The waves sighed below,
boats floated past, birds flitted and twittered restlessly above. What
thoughts passed through his mind as he looked down on that book he alone
knew, if indeed he did know. He never advanced from one word to another,
but the glorious thought, that he was actually reading a book, filled
his soul with exultation. Whenever a boat went by, he lifted his book,
and pretended to be reading hard, shouting at the top of his voice. But
his energy dropped as soon as the audience was gone.

Formerly he sang his songs automatically, but now their tunes stirred in
his mind. Their words were of little import and full of trifling
alliteration. Even the feeble meaning they had was beyond his
comprehension; yet when he sang--

    Twice-born bird, ah! wherefore stirred
      To wrong our royal lady?
    Goose, ah, say why wilt thou slay
      Her in forest shady?

then he felt as if transported to another world and to fear other folk.
This familiar earth and his own poor life became music, and he was
transformed. That tale of the goose and the king's daughter flung upon
the mirror of his mind a picture of surpassing beauty. It is impossible
to say what he imagined himself to be, but the destitute little slave of
the theatrical troupe faded from his memory.

When with evening the child of want lies down, dirty and hungry, in his
squalid home, and hears of prince and princess and fabled gold, then in
the dark hovel with its dim flickering candle, his mind springs free
from its bonds of poverty and misery and walks in fresh beauty and
glowing raiment, strong beyond all fear of hindrance, through that fairy
realm where all is possible.

Even so, this drudge of wandering players fashioned himself and his
world anew, as he moved in spirit amid his songs. The lapping water,
rustling leaves, and calling birds; the goddess who had given shelter to
him, the helpless, the God-forsaken; her gracious, lovely face, her
exquisite arms with their shining bangles, her rosy feet as soft as
flower-petals; all these by some magic became one with the music of his
song. When the singing ended, the mirage faded, and the Nilkanta of the
stage appeared again, with his wild elf-locks. Fresh from the complaints
of his neighbour, the owner of the despoiled mango-orchard, Sharat would
come and box his ears and cuff him. The boy Nilkanta, the misleader of
adoring youths, went forth once more, to make ever new mischief by land
and water and in the branches that are above the earth.

Shortly after the advent of Nilkanta, Sharat's younger brother, Satish,
came to spend his college vacation with them. Kiran was hugely pleased
at finding a fresh occupation. She and Satish were of the same age, and
the time passed pleasantly in games and quarrels and reconciliations and
laughter and even tears. Suddenly she would clasp him over the eyes from
behind with vermilion-stained hands, or she would write "monkey" on his
back, or else she would bolt the door on him from the outside amidst
peals of laughter. Satish in his turn did not take things lying down; he
would steal her keys and rings; he would put pepper among her betel, he
would tie her to the bed when she was not looking.

Meanwhile, heaven only knows what possessed poor Nilkanta. He was
suddenly filled with a bitterness which he must avenge on somebody or
something. He thrashed his devoted boy-followers for no fault, and sent
them away crying. He would kick his pet mongrel till it made the skies
resound with its whinings. When he went out for a walk, he would litter
his path with twigs and leaves beaten from the roadside shrubs with his

Kiran liked to see people enjoying good fare. Nilkanta had an immense
capacity for eating, and never refused a good thing however often it was
offered. So Kiran liked to send for him to have his meals in her
presence, and ply him with delicacies, happy in the bliss of seeing this
Brahmin boy eat to satiety. After Satish's arrival she had much less
spare time on her hands, and was seldom present when Nilkanta's meals
were served. Before, her absence made no difference to the boy's
appetite, and he would not rise till he had drained his cup of milk and
rinsed it thoroughly with water.

But now, if Kiran was not present to ask him to try this and that, he
was miserable, and nothing tasted right. He would get up, without eating
much, and say to the serving-maid in a choking voice: "I am not hungry."
He thought in imagination that the news of his repeated refusal, "I am
not hungry," would reach Kiran; he pictured her concern, and hoped that
she would send for him, and press him to eat. But nothing of the sort
happened. Kiran never knew and never sent for him; and the maid finished
whatever he left. He would then put out the lamp in his room, and throw
himself on his bed in the darkness, burying his head in the pillow in a
paroxysm of sobs. What was his grievance? Against whom? And from whom
did he expect redress? At last, when no one else came, Mother Sleep
soothed with her soft caresses the wounded heart of the motherless lad.

Nilkanta came to the unshakable conviction that Satish was poisoning
Kiran's mind against him. If Kiran was absent-minded, and had not her
usual smile, he would jump to the conclusion that some trick of Satish
had made her angry with him. He took to praying to the gods, with all
the fervour of his hate, to make him at the next rebirth Satish, and
Satish him. He had an idea that a Brahmin's wrath could never be in
vain; and the more he tried to consume Satish with the fire of his
curses, the more did his own heart burn within him. And upstairs he
would hear Satish laughing and joking with his sister-in-law.

Nilkanta never dared openly to show his enmity to Satish. But he would
contrive a hundred petty ways of causing him annoyance. When Satish
went for a swim in the river, and left his soap on the steps of the
bathing-place, on coming back for it he would find that it had
disappeared. Once he found his favourite striped tunic floating past him
on the water, and thought it had been blown away by the wind.

One day Kiran, desiring to entertain Satish, sent for Nilkanta to recite
as usual, but he stood there in gloomy silence. Quite surprised, Kiran
asked him what was the matter. But he remained silent. And when again
pressed by her to repeat some particular favourite piece of hers, he
answered: "I don't remember," and walked away.

At last the time came for their return home. Everybody was busy packing
up. Satish was going with them. But to Nilkanta nobody said a word. The
question whether he was to go or not seemed to have occurred to nobody.

The subject, as a matter of fact, had been raised by Kiran, who had
proposed to take him along with them. But her husband and his mother and
brother had all objected so strenuously that she let the matter drop. A
couple of days before they were to start, she sent for the boy, and with
kind words advised him to go back to his own home.

So many days had he felt neglected that this touch of kindness was too
much for him; he burst into tears. Kiran's eyes were also brimming
over. She was filled with remorse at the thought that she had created a
tie of affection, which could not be permanent.

But Satish was much annoyed at the blubbering of this overgrown boy.
"Why does the fool stand there howling instead of speaking?" said he.
When Kiran scolded him for an unfeeling creature, he replied: "My dear
sister, you do not understand. You are too good and trustful. This
fellow turns up from the Lord knows where, and is treated like a king.
Naturally the tiger has no wish to become a mouse again. And he has
evidently discovered that there is nothing like a tear or two to soften
your heart."

Nilkanta hurriedly left the spot. He felt he would like to be a knife to
cut Satish to pieces; a needle to pierce him through and through; a fire
to burn him to ashes. But Satish was not even scared. It was only his
own heart that bled and bled.

Satish had brought with him from Calcutta a grand inkstand. The inkpot
was set in a mother-of-pearl boat drawn by a German-silver goose
supporting a penholder. It was a great favourite of his, and he cleaned
it carefully every day with an old silk handkerchief. Kiran would laugh,
and tapping the silver bird's beak would say--

    Twice-born bird, ah! wherefore stirred
      To wrong our royal lady?

and the usual war of words would break out between her and her

The day before they were to start, the inkstand was missing and could
nowhere be found. Kiran smiled, and said: "Brother-in-law, your goose
has flown off to look for your Damayanti."

But Satish was in a great rage. He was certain that Nilkanta had stolen
it--for several people said they had seen him prowling about the room
the night before. He had the accused brought before him. Kiran also was
there. "You have stolen my inkstand, you thief!" he blurted out. "Bring
it back at once." Nilkanta had always taken punishment from Sharat,
deserved or undeserved, with perfect equanimity. But, when he was called
a thief in Kiran's presence, his eyes blazed with a fierce anger, his
breast swelled, and his throat choked. If Satish had said another word,
he would have flown at him like a wild cat and used his nails like

Kiran was greatly distressed at the scene, and taking the boy into
another room said in her sweet, kind way: "Nilu, if you really have
taken that inkstand give it to me quietly, and I shall see that no one
says another word to you about it." Big tears coursed down the boy's
cheeks, till at last he hid his face in his hands, and wept bitterly.
Kiran came back from the room and said: "I am sure Nilkanta has not
taken the inkstand." Sharat and Satish were equally positive that no
other than Nilkanta could have done it.

But Kiran said determinedly: "Never."

Sharat wanted to cross-examine the boy, but his wife refused to allow

Then Satish suggested that his room and box should be searched. And
Kiran said: "If you dare do such a thing I will never forgive you. You
shall not spy on the poor innocent boy." And as she spoke, her wonderful
eyes filled with tears. That settled the matter and effectually
prevented any further molestation of Nilkanta.

Kiran's heart overflowed with pity at this attempted outrage on a
homeless lad. She got two new suits of clothes and a pair of shoes, and
with these and a banknote in her hand she quietly went into Nilkanta's
room in the evening. She intended to put these parting presents into his
box as a surprise. The box itself had been her gift.

From her bunch of keys she selected one that fitted and noiselessly
opened the box. It was so jumbled up with odds and ends that the new
clothes would not go in. So she thought she had better take everything
out and pack the box for him. At first knives, tops, kite-flying reels,
bamboo twigs, polished shells for peeling green mangoes, bottoms of
broken tumblers and such like things dear to a boy's heart were
discovered. Then there came a layer of linen, clean and otherwise. And
from under the linen there emerged the missing inkstand, goose and all.

Kiran, with flushed face, sat down helplessly with the inkstand in her
hand, puzzled and wondering.

In the meantime, Nilkanta had come into the room from behind without
Kiran knowing it. He had seen the whole thing and thought that Kiran had
come like a thief to catch him in his thieving,--and that his deed was
out. How could he ever hope to convince her that he was not a thief, and
that only revenge had prompted him to take the inkstand, which he meant
to throw into the river at the first chance? In a weak moment he had put
it in the box instead. "He was not a thief," his heart cried out, "not a
thief!" Then what was he? What could he say? That he had stolen, and yet
he was not a thief? He could never explain to Kiran how grievously wrong
she was. And then, how could he bear the thought that she had tried to
spy on him?

At last Kiran with a deep sigh replaced the inkstand in the box, and, as
if she were the thief herself, covered it up with the linen and the
trinkets as they were before; and at the top she placed the presents,
together with the banknote which she had brought for him.

The next day the boy was nowhere to be found. The villagers had not seen
him; the police could discover no trace of him. Said Sharat: "Now, as a
matter of curiosity, let us have a look at his box." But Kiran was
obstinate in her refusal to allow that to be done.

She had the box brought up to her own room; and taking out the inkstand
alone, she threw it into the river.

The whole family went home. In a day the garden became desolate. And
only that starving mongrel of Nilkanta's remained prowling along the
river-bank, whining and whining as if its heart would break.


  =favourite.= A certain number of words such as _honour_, _colour_,
      _favour_, _ardour_, _fervour_ have come into English through the
      French from the Latin. There is a constant tendency to-day in
      modern English to leave out the letter "u" and spell _color_,
      _favor_, etc. But this movement has not yet gained much ground in

  =wiseacres.= This form originally comes from the Dutch. The ending
      "acres" is a corruption of the Dutch "seggen" which is the same as
      the English to say. The word is equivalent to "wise-sayers."

  =deign.= This is a word which comes through the French from the Latin
      "dignus," meaning worthy. Compare _indignant_, _dignitary_,
      _condign_, _indignity_.

  =troupe.= An example of two words, with slightly different meanings,
      coming from one and the same French word. The French word is
      "troupe," meaning a company. This form is used in English for a
      company of players or actors. But the form "troop" is used chiefly
      of soldiers.

  =automatically.= This is a modern English word from the Greek "autos,"
      meaning self. Compare _autobiography_, _autonomy_, _autocracy_.
      Modern English is drawing largely from the Greek language for its
      new words.

  =alliteration.= The Latin word for letter is "littera." From this we
      get many English words, e.g. _letter_, _literate_, _literal_,
      _literature_, _illiterate_, _obliterate_, _transliterate_, etc.

  =mirage.= From the Latin "mirari," to wonder. Compare _mirror_,
      _miracle_, _admire_. This is one of the words in English which
      keeps the old French accent on the last syllable--miráge. The
      tendency in English is always to throw the accent back as far as
      possible. Many words have changed their pronunciation in the
      course of time. Obdurate, in Milton's time, was pronounced
      obdúrate, but to-day it is pronounced óbdurate. Trafalgar was
      pronounced Trafalgár last century. Now we pronounce it Trafálgar.





Kalipada's mother was Rashmani, but she had to do the duty of the father
as well, because when both of the parents are "mother" then it is bad
for the child. Bhavani, her husband, was wholly incapable of keeping his
children under discipline. To know why he was bent on spoiling his son,
you must hear something of the former history of the family.

Bhavani was born in the famous house of Saniari. His father, Abhaya
Charan, had a son, Shyama Charan, by his first wife. When he married
again after her death he had himself passed the marriageable age, and
his new father-in-law took advantage of the weakness of his position to
have a special portion of his estate settled on his daughter. In this
way he was satisfied that proper provision had been made, if his
daughter should become a widow early in life. She would be independent
of the charity of Shyama Charan.

The first part of his anticipation came true. For very soon after the
birth of a son, whom she called Bhavani, Abhaya Charan died. It gave the
father-in-law great peace and consolation, as he looked forward to his
own death, to know that his daughter was properly looked after.

Shyama Charan was quite grown up. In fact his own eldest boy was a year
older than Bhavani. He brought up the latter with his own son. In doing
this he never took a farthing from the property allotted to his
step-mother, and every year he got a receipt from her after submitting
detailed accounts. His honesty in this affair surprised the
neighbourhood. In fact they thought that such honesty was another name
for foolishness. They did not like the idea of a division being made in
the undivided ancestral property. If Shyama Charan in some underhand
manner had been able to annul the dowry, his neighbours would have
admired his sagacity; and there were good advisers ready to hand who
could have rendered him material aid in the attainment of such an
object. But Shyama Charan, in spite of the risk of crippling his
patrimony, strictly set aside the dowry which came to the share of his
step-mother; and the widow, Vraja Sundari, being naturally affectionate
and trustful, had every confidence in Shyama Charan whom she trusted as
her own son. More than once she had chided him for being so particular
about her portion of the property. She would tell him that, as she was
not going to take her property with her when she died, and as it would
in any case revert to the family, it was not necessary to be so very
strict about rendering accounts. But he never listened to her.

Shyama Charan was a severe disciplinarian by habit and his children were
perfectly aware of the fact. But Bhavani had every possible freedom, and
this gave rise to the impression that he was more partial to his
step-brother than to his own sons. But Bhavani's education was sadly
neglected and he completely relied on Shyama Charan for the management
of his share of the property. He merely had to sign documents
occasionally without ever spending a thought on their contents. On the
other hand, Tarapada, the eldest son of Shyama Charan, was quite an
expert in the management of the estate, having to act as an assistant to
his father.

After the death of Shyama Charan, Tarapada said to Bhavani, "Uncle, we
must not live together as we have done for so long, because some
trifling misunderstanding may come at any moment and cause utter

Bhavani never imagined, even in his dream, that a day might come when he
would have to manage his own affairs. The world in which he had been
born and bred ever appeared to him complete and entire in itself. It was
an incomprehensible calamity to him that there could be a dividing line
somewhere and that this world of his could be split into two. When he
found that Tarapada was immovable and indifferent to the grief and
dishonour that such a step would bring to the family, he began to rack
his brain to find out how the property could be divided with the least
possible strain.

Tarapada showed surprise at his uncle's anxiety and said that there was
no need to trouble about this, because the division had already been
made in the life-time of his grandfather. Bhavani said in amazement,
"But I know nothing of this!" Tarapada said in answer, "Then you must be
the only one in the whole neighbourhood who does not. For, lest there
should be ruinous litigation after he had gone, my grandfather had
already given a portion of the property to your mother." Bhavani thought
this not unlikely and asked, "What about the house?" Tarapada said, "If
you wish, you can keep this house to yourself and we shall be contented
with the other house in the district town."

As Bhavani had never been to this town-house, he had neither knowledge
of it, nor affection for it. He was astounded at the magnanimity of
Tarapada for so easily relinquishing his right to the house in the
village where they had been brought up. But when Bhavani told everything
to his mother, she struck her forehead with her hand and said: "This is
preposterous! What I got from my husband was my own dowry and its income
is very small. I do not see why you should be deprived of your share in
your father's property."

Bhavani said, "Tarapada is quite positive that his grandfather never
gave us any thing except this land."

Vraja Sundari was astonished and informed her son that her husband had
made two copies of his will, one of which was still lying in her own
box. The box was opened and it was found that there was only the deed of
gift for the property belonging to the mother and nothing else. The copy
of the will had been taken out.

The help of advisers was sought. The man who came to their rescue was
Bagala, the son of their family _guru_. It was the profession of the
father to look after the spiritual needs of the village; the material
side was left to the son. The two of them had divided between themselves
the other world and this. Whatever might be the result for others, they
themselves had nothing to suffer from this division. Bagala said that,
even if the will was missing, the shares in the ancestral property must
be equal, as between the brothers.

Just at this time, a copy of a will made its appearance supporting the
claims of the other side. In this document there was no mention of
Bhavani and the whole property was given to the grandsons at the time
when no son was born to Bhavani. With Bagala as his captain Bhavani set
out on his voyage across the perilous sea of litigation. When his vessel
at last reached harbour his funds were nearly exhausted and the
ancestral property was in the hands of the other party. The land which
was given to his mother had dwindled to such an extent, that it could
barely give them shelter, or keep up the family dignity. Then Tarapada
went away to the district town and they never met again.


Shyama Charan's treachery pierced the heart of the widow like an
assassin's knife. To the end of her life, almost every day she would
heave a sigh and say that God would never suffer such an injustice to be
done. She was quite firm in her faith when she said to Bhavani, "I do
not know your law or your law courts, but I am certain that my husband's
true will and testament will someday be recovered. You will find it

Because Bhavani was helpless in worldly matters such assurances as these
gave him great consolation. He settled down in his inactivity, certain
in his own mind that his pious mother's prophecy could never remain
unfulfilled. After his mother's death his faith became all the stronger,
since the memory of her piety acquired greater radiance through death's
mystery. He felt quite unconcerned about the stress of their poverty
which became more and more formidable as the years went by. The
necessities of life and the maintenance of family traditions,--these
seemed to him like play acting on a temporary stage, not real things.
When his former expensive clothing was outworn and he had to buy cheap
materials in the shop, this amused him almost like a joke. He smiled and
said to himself,--"These people do not know that this is only a passing
phase of my fortune. Their surprise will be all the greater, when some
day I shall celebrate the Puja Festival with unwonted magnificence."

This certainty of future prodigality was so clear to his mind's eye that
present penury escaped his attention. His servant, Noto, was the
principal companion with whom he had discussions about these things.
They used to have animated conversations, in which sometimes his opinion
differed from his master's, as to the propriety of bringing down a
theatrical troupe from Calcutta for these future occasions. Noto used to
get reprimands from Bhavani for his natural miserliness in these items
of future expenditure.

While Bhavani's one anxiety was about the absence of an heir, who could
inherit his vast possible wealth, a son was born to him. The horoscope
plainly indicated that the lost property would come back to this boy.

From the time of the birth of his son, Bhavani's attitude was changed.
It became cruelly difficult for him now to bear his poverty with his old
amused equanimity, because he felt that he had a duty towards this new
representative of the illustrious house of Saniari, who had such a
glorious future before him. That the traditional extravagance could not
be maintained on the occasion of the birth of his child gave him the
keenest sorrow. He felt as if he were cheating his own son. So he
compensated his boy with an inordinate amount of spoiling.

Bhavani's wife, Rashmani, had a different temperament from her husband.
She never felt any anxiety about the family traditions of the Chowdhuris
of Saniari. Bhavani was quite aware of the fact and indulgently smiled
to himself, as though nothing better could be expected from a woman who
came from a Vaishnava family of very humble lineage. Rashmani frankly
acknowledged that she could not share the family sentiments: what
concerned her most was the welfare of her own child.

There was hardly an acquaintance in the neighbourhood with whom Bhavani
did not discuss the question of the lost will; but he never spoke a word
about it to his wife. Once or twice he had tried, but her perfect
unconcern had made him drop the subject. She neither paid attention to
the past greatness of the family, nor to its future glories,--she kept
her mind busy with the actual necessities of the present, and those
necessities were not small in number or quality.

When the Goddess of Fortune deserts a house, she usually leaves some of
her burdens behind, and this ancient family was still encumbered with
its host of dependents, though its own shelter was nearly crumbling to
dust. These parasites take it to be an insult if they are asked to do
any service. They get head-aches at the least touch of the kitchen
smoke. They are visited with sudden rheumatism the moment they are asked
to run errands. Therefore all the responsibilities of maintaining the
family were laid upon Rashmani herself. Women lose their delicacy of
refinement, when they are compelled night and day to haggle with their
destiny over things which are pitifully small, and for this they are
blamed by those for whom they toil.

Besides her household affairs Rashmani had to keep all the accounts of
the little landed property which remained and also to make arrangements
for collecting rents. Never before was the estate managed with such
strictness. Bhavani had been quite incapable of collecting his dues:
Rashmani never made any remission of the least fraction of rent. The
tenants, and even her own agents, reviled her behind her back for the
meanness of the family from which she came. Even her husband
occasionally used to enter his protest against the harsh economy which
went against the grain of the world-famed house of Saniari.

Rashmani quite ungrudgingly took the blame of all this upon herself and
openly confessed the poverty of her parents. Tying the end of her _sari_
tightly round her waist she went on with her household duties in her own
vigorous fashion and made herself thoroughly disagreeable both to the
inmates of the house and to her neighbours. But nobody ever had the
courage to interfere. Only one thing she carefully avoided. She never
asked her husband to help her in any work and she was nervously afraid
of his taking up any responsibilities. Indeed she was always furiously
engaged in keeping her husband idle; and because he had received the
best possible training in this direction she was wholly successful in
her mission.

Rashmani had attained middle age before her son came. Up to this time
all the pent-up tenderness of the mother in her and all the love of the
wife had their centre of devotion in this simple-hearted
good-for-nothing husband. Bhavani was a child grown up by mistake beyond
its natural age. This was the reason why, after the death of her
husband's mother, she had to assume the position of mother and mistress
in one.

In order to protect her husband from invasions of Bagala, the son of the
_guru_, and other calamities, Rashmani adopted such a stern demeanour,
that the companions of her husband used to be terribly afraid of her.
She never had the opportunity, which a woman usually has, of keeping
her fierceness hidden and of softening the keen edge of her
words,--maintaining a dignified reserve towards men such as is proper
for a woman.

Bhavani meekly accepted his wife's authority with regard to himself, but
it became extremely hard for him to obey her when it related to
Kalipada, his son. The reason was, that Rashmani never regarded
Bhavani's son from the point of view of Bhavani himself. In her heart
she pitied her husband and said, "Poor man, it was no fault of his, but
his misfortune, to be born into a rich family." That is why she never
could expect her husband to be deprived of any comfort to which he had
been accustomed. Whatever might be the condition of the household
finance, she tried hard to keep him in his habitual ease and luxury.
Under her régime all expense was strictly limited except in the case of
Bhavani. She would never allow him to notice if some inevitable gap
occurred in the preparation of his meals or his apparel. She would blame
some imaginary dog for spoiling dishes that were never made and would
blame herself for her carelessness. She would attack Noto for letting
some fictitious article of dress be stolen or lost. This had the usual
effect of rousing Bhavani's sympathy on behalf of his favourite servant
and he would take up his defence. Indeed it had often happened that
Bhavani had confessed with bare-faced shamelessness that he had used the
dress which had never been bought, and for whose loss Noto was blamed;
but what happened afterwards, he had not the power to invent and was
obliged to rely upon the fertile imagination of his wife who was also
the accuser!

Thus Rashmani treated her husband, but she never put her son in the same
category. For he was her own child and why should he be allowed to give
himself airs? Kalipada had to be content for his breakfast with a few
handfuls of puffed rice and some treacle. During the cold weather he had
to wrap his body as well as his head with a thick rough cotton
_chaddar_. She would call his teacher before her and warn him never to
spare her boy, if he was the least neglectful with his lessons. This
treatment of his own son was the hardest blow that Bhavani Charan
suffered since the days of his destitution. But as he had always
acknowledged defeat at the hands of the powerful, he had not the spirit
to stand up against his wife in her method of dealing with the boy.

The dress which Rashmani provided for her son, during the Puja
festivities, was made of such poor material that in former days the very
servants of the house would have rebelled if it had been offered to
them. But Rashmani more than once tried her best to explain to her
husband that Kalipada, being the most recent addition to the Chowdhuri
family, had never known their former splendour and so was quite glad to
get what was given to him. But this pathetic innocence of the boy about
his own destiny hurt Bhavani more than anything else, and he could not
forgive himself for deceiving the child. When Kalipada would dance for
joy and rush to him to show him some present from his mother, which was
ridiculously trivial, Bhavani's heart would suffer torture.

Bagala, the _guru's_ son, was now in an affluent condition owing to his
agency in the law suit which had brought about the ruin of Bhavani. With
the money which he had in hand he used to buy cheap tinsel wares from
Calcutta before the Puja holidays. Invisible ink,--absurd combinations
of stick, fishing-rod and umbrella,--letter-paper with pictures in the
corner,--silk fabrics bought at auctions, and other things of this kind,
attractive to the simple villagers,--these were his stock in trade. All
the forward young men of the village vied with one another in rising
above their rusticity by purchasing these sweepings of the Calcutta
market which, they were told, were absolutely necessary for the city

Once Bagala had bought a wonderful toy,--a doll in the form of a foreign
woman,--which, when wound up, would rise from her chair and begin to fan
herself with sudden alacrity. Kalipada was fascinated by it. He had a
very good reason to avoid asking his mother about the toy; so he went
straight to his father and begged him to purchase it for him. Bhavani
answered "yes" at once, but when he heard the price his face fell.
Rashmani kept all the money and he went to her as a timid beggar. He
began with all sorts of irrelevant remarks and then took a desperate
plunge into the subject with startling incoherence.

Rashmani briefly remarked: "Are you mad?" Bhavani Charan sat silent
revolving in his mind what to say next.

"Look here," he exclaimed, "I don't think I need milk pudding daily with
my dinner."

"Who told you?" said Rashmani sharply.

"The doctor says it's very bad for biliousness."

"The doctor's a fool!"

"But I'm sure that rice agrees with me better than your _luchis_. They
are too indigestible."

"I've never seen the least sign of indigestion in you. You have been
accustomed to them all your life!"

Bhavani Charan was ready enough to make sacrifices, but there his
passage was barred. Butter might rise in price, but the number of his
_luchis_ never diminished. Milk was quite enough for him at his midday
meal, but curds also had to be supplied because that was the family
tradition. Rashmani could not have borne seeing him sit down to his
meal, if curds were not supplied. Therefore all his attempts to make a
breach in his daily provisions, through which the fanning foreign woman
might enter, were an utter failure.

Then Bhavani paid a visit to Bagala for no reason whatever, and after a
great deal of round about talk asked concerning the foreign doll. Of
course his straightened circumstances had long been known to Bagala, yet
it was a perfect misery to Bhavani to have to hesitate to buy this doll
for his son owing to want of ready money. Swallowing his pride, he
brought out from under his arm an expensive old Kashmir shawl, and said
in a husky voice: "My circumstances are bad just at present and I
haven't got much cash. So I have determined to mortgage this shawl and
buy that doll for Kalipada."

If the object offered had been less expensive than this Kashmir shawl,
Bagala would at once have closed the bargain. But knowing that it would
not be possible for him to take possession of this shawl in face of the
village opinion, and still more in face of Rashmani's watchfulness, he
refused to accept it; and Bhavani had to go back home disappointed with
the Kashmir shawl hidden under his arm.

Kalipada asked every day for that foreign fanning toy, and Bhavani
smiled every day and said,--"Wait, a bit, my boy, till the seventh day
of the moon comes round." But every new day it became more and more
difficult to keep up that smile.

On the fourth day of the moon Bhavani made a sudden inroad upon his wife
and said:

"I've noticed that there's something wrong with Kalipada,--something the
matter with his health."

"Nonsense," said Rashmani, "he's in the best of health."

"Haven't you noticed him sitting silent for hours together?"

"I should be very greatly relieved if he could sit still for as many

When all his arrows had missed their mark, and no impression had been
made, Bhavani Charan heaved a deep sigh and passing his fingers through
his hair went away and sat down on the verandah and began to smoke with
fearful assiduity.

On the fifth day, at his morning meal, Bhavani passed by the curds and
the milk pudding without touching them. In the evening he simply took
one single piece of _sandesh_. The _luchis_ were left unheeded. He
complained of want of appetite. This time a considerable breach was made
in the fortifications.

On the sixth day, Rashmani took Kalipada into the room and sweetly
calling him by his pet name said, "Betu, you are old enough to know that
it is the halfway house to stealing to desire that which you can't

Kalipada whimpered and said, "What do I know about it? Father promised
to give me that doll."

Rashmani sat down to explain to him how much lay behind his father's
promise,--how much pain, how much affection, how much loss and
privation. Rashmani had never in her life before talked thus to
Kalipada, because it was her habit to give short and sharp commands. It
filled the boy with amazement when he found his mother coaxing him and
explaining things at such a length, and mere child though he was, he
could fathom something of the deep suffering of his mother's heart. Yet
at the same time it will be easily understood, that it was hard for this
boy to turn his mind away altogether from that captivating foreign
fanning woman. He pulled a long face and began to scratch the ground.

This made Rashmani's heart at once hard, and she said in her severe
tone: "Yes, you may weep and cry, or become angry, but you shall never
get that which is not for you to have." And she hastened away without
another word.

Kalipada went out. Bhavani Charan was still smoking his hookah. Noticing
Kalipada from a distance he got up and walked in the opposite direction
as if he had some urgent business. Kalipada ran to him and said,--"But
that doll?" Bhavani could not raise a smile that day. He put his arm
round Kalipada's neck and said:

"Baba, wait a little. I have some pressing business to get through. Let
me finish it first, and then we will talk about it." Saying this, he
went out of his house.

Kalipada saw him brush a tear from his eyes. He stood at the door and
watched his father, and it was quite evident, even to this boy, that he
was going nowhere in particular, and that he was dragging the weight of
a despair which could not be relieved.

Kalipada at once went back to his mother and said:

"Mother, I don't want that foreign doll."

That morning Bhavani Charan returned late. When he sat down to his meal,
after his bath, it was quite evident, by the look on his face, that the
curds and the milk pudding would fare no better with him than on the day
before, and that the best part of the fish would go to the cat.

Just at this critical juncture Rashmani brought in a card-board box,
bound round with twine, and set it before her husband. Her intention had
been to reveal the mystery of this packet to her husband when he went to
take his nap after his meal. But in order to remove the undeserved
neglect of the curds and the milk and the fish, she had to disclose its
contents before the time. So the foreign doll came out of the box and
without more ado began to fan itself vigorously.

After this, the cat had to go away disappointed. Bhavani remarked to his
wife that the cooking was the best he had ever tasted. The fish soup was
incomparable: the curds had set themselves with an exactness that was
rarely attained, and the milk pudding was superb.

On the seventh day of the moon, Kalipada got the toy for which he had
been pining. During the whole of that day he allowed the foreigner to go
on fanning herself and thereby made his boy companions jealous. In any
other case this performance would have seemed to him monotonously
tiresome, but knowing that on the following day he would have to give
the toy back, his constancy to it on that single occasion remained
unabated. At the rental of two rupees per diem Rashmani had hired it
from Bagala.

On the eighth day of the moon, Kalipada heaved a deep sigh and returned
the toy, along with the box and twine, to Bagala with his own hands.
From that day forward Kalipada began to share the confidences of his
mother, and it became so absurdly easy for Bhavani to give expensive
presents every year, that it surprised even himself.

When, with the help of his mother, Kalipada came to know that nothing
in this world could be gained without paying for it with the inevitable
price of suffering, he rapidly grew up in his mind and became a valued
assistant to his mother in her daily tasks. It come to be a natural rule
of life with him that no one should add to the burden of the world, but
that each should try to lighten it.

When Kalipada won a scholarship at the Vernacular examination, Bhavani
proposed that he should give up his studies and take in hand the
supervision of the estate. Kalipada went to his mother and said,--"I
shall never be a man, if I do not complete my education."

The mother said,--"You are right, Baba, you must go to Calcutta."

Kalipada explained to her that it would not be necessary to spend a
single pice on him; his scholarship would be sufficient, and he would
try to get some work to supplement it.

But it was necessary to convince Bhavani of the wisdom of the course.
Rashmani did not wish to employ the argument that there was very little
of the estate remaining to require supervision; for she knew how it
would hurt him. She said that Kalipada must become a man whom everyone
could respect. But all the members of the Chowdhuri family had attained
their respectability without ever going a step outside the limits of
Saniari. The outer world was as unknown to them as the world beyond the
grave. Bhavani, therefore, could not conceive how anybody could think of
a boy like Kalipada going to Calcutta. But the cleverest man in the
village, Bagala, fortunately agreed with Rashmani.

"It is perfectly clear," he said, "that, one day, Kalipada will become a
lawyer; and then he will set matters right concerning the property of
which the family has been deprived."

This was a great consolation to Bhavani Charan and he brought out the
file of records about the theft of the will and tried to explain the
whole thing to Kalipada by dint of daily discussion. But his son was
lacking in proper enthusiasm and merely echoed his father's sentiment
about this solemn wrong.

The day before Kalipada's departure for Calcutta Rashmani hung round his
neck an amulet containing some mantras to protect him from evils. She
gave him at the same time a fifty-rupee currency note, advising him to
keep it for any special emergency. This note, which was the symbol of
his mother's numberless daily acts of self-denial, was the truest amulet
of all for Kalipada. He determined to keep it by him and never to spend
it, whatever might happen.


From this time onward the old interminable discussions about the theft
of the will became less frequent on the part of Bhavani. His one topic
of conversation was the marvellous adventure of Kalipada in search of
his education. Kalipada was actually engaged in his studies in the city
of Calcutta! Kalipada knew Calcutta as well as the palm of his hand!
Kalipada had been the first to hear the great news that another bridge
was going to be built over the Ganges near Hughli! The day on which the
father received his son's letter, he would go to every house in the
village to read it to his neighbours and he would hardly find time even
to take his spectacles from his nose. On arriving at a fresh house he
would remove them from their case with the utmost deliberation; then he
would wipe them carefully with the end of his _dhoti_; then, word by
word, he would slowly read the letter through to one neighbour after
another, with something like the following comment:--

"Brother, just listen! What _is_ the world coming to? Even the dogs and
the jackals are to cross the holy Ganges without washing the dust from
their feet! Who could imagine such a sacrilege?"

No doubt it was very deplorable; but all the same it gave Bhavani
Charan a peculiar pleasure to communicate at first hand such important
news from his own son's letter, and this more than compensated for the
spiritual disaster which must surely overtake the numberless creatures
of this present age. To everyone he met he solemnly nodded his head and
prophesied that the days were soon coming when Mother Ganges would
disappear altogether; all the while cherishing the hope that the news of
such a momentous event would come to him by letter from his own son in
the proper time.

Kalipada, with very great difficulty, scraped together just enough money
to pay his expenses till he passed his Matriculation and again won a
scholarship. Bhavani at once made up his mind to invite all the village
to a feast, for he imagined that his son's good ship of fortune had now
reached its haven and there would be no more occasion for economy. But
he received no encouragement from Rashmani.

Kalipada was fortunate enough to secure a place of study in a students'
lodging house near his college. The proprietor allowed him to occupy a
small room on the ground floor which was absolutely useless for other
lodgers. In exchange for this and his board, he had to coach the son of
the owner of the house. The one great advantage was that there would be
no chance of any fellow lodger ever sharing his quarters. So, although
ventilation was lacking, his studies were uninterrupted.

Those of the students who paid their rent and lived in the upper story
had no concern with Kalipada; but soon it became painfully evident that
those who are up above have the power to hurl missiles at those below
with all the more deadly force because of their distance. The leader of
those above was Sailen.

Sailen was the scion of a rich family. It was unnecessary for him to
live in a students' mess, but he successfully convinced his guardians
that this would be best for his studies. The real reason was that Sailen
was naturally fond of company, and the students' lodging house was an
ideal place where he could have all the pleasure of companionship
without any of its responsibilities. It was the firm conviction of
Sailen that he was a good fellow and a man of feeling. The advantage of
harbouring such a conviction was that it needed no proof in practice.
Vanity is not like a horse or an elephant requiring expensive fodder.

Nevertheless, as Sailen had plenty of money he did not allow his vanity
merely to graze at large; he took special pride in keeping it stall-fed.
It must be said to his credit that he had a genuine desire to help
people in their need, but the desire in him was of such a character,
that if a man in difficulty refused to come to him for help, he would
turn round on him and do his best to add to his trouble. His mess mates
had their tickets for the theatre bought for them by Sailen, and it cost
them nothing to have occasional feasts. They could borrow money from him
without meaning to pay it back. When a newly married youth was in doubt
about the choice of some gift for his wife, he could fully rely on
Sailen's good taste in the matter. On these occasions the love-lorn
youth would take Sailen to the shop and pretend to select the cheapest
and least suitable presents: then Sailen, with a contemptuous laugh
would intervene and select the right thing. At the mention of the price
the young husband would pull a long face, but Sailen would always be
ready to abide by his own superior choice and to pay the cost.

In this manner Sailen became the acknowledged patron of the students
upstairs. It made him intolerant of the insolence of any one who refused
to accept his help. Indeed, to help others in this way had become his

Kalipada, in his tattered jersey, used to sit on a dirty mat in his damp
room below and recite his lessons, swinging himself from side to side to
the rhythm of the sentence. It was a sheer necessity for him to get
that scholarship next year.

Kalipada's mother had made him promise, before he left home for Calcutta
that he would avoid the company of rich young men. Therefore he bore the
burden of his indigence alone, strictly keeping himself from those who
had been more favoured by fortune. But to Sailen, it seemed a sheer
impertinence that a student as poor as Kalipada should yet have the
pride to keep away from his patronage. Besides this, in his food and
dress and everything, Kalipada's poverty was so blatantly exposed, it
hurt Sailen's sense of decency. Every time he looked down into
Kalipada's room, he was offended by the sight of the cheap clothing, the
dingy mosquito net and the tattered bedding. Whenever he passed on his
way to his own room in the upper story the sight of these things was
unavoidable. To crown it all there was that absurd amulet which Kalipada
always had hanging round his neck, and those daily rites of devotion
which were so ridiculously out of fashion!

One day Sailen and his followers condescended to invite Kalipada to a
feast, thinking that his gratitude would know no bounds. But Kalipada
sent an answer saying that his habits were different and it would not be
wholesome for him to accept the invitation. Sailen was unaccustomed to
such a refusal, and it roused up in him all the ferocity of his insulted
benevolence. For some days after this, the noise on the upper story
became so loudly insistent that it was impossible for Kalipada to go on
with his studies. He was compelled to spend the greater part of his days
studying in the Park, and to get up very early and sit down to his work
long before it was light.

Owing to his half-starved condition, his mental overwork, and
badly-ventilated room, Kalipada began to suffer from continual attacks
of headache. There were times when he was obliged to lie down on his bed
for three or four days together. But he made no mention of his illness
in his letters to his father. Bhavani himself was certain that, just as
vegetation grew rank in his village surroundings, so comforts of all
kinds sprang up of themselves from the soil of Calcutta. Kalipada never
for a moment disabused his mind of that misconception. He did not fail
to write to his father, even when suffering from one of these paroxysms
of pain. The deliberate rowdiness of the students in the upper story
added at such times to his distress.

Kalipada tried to make himself as scarce and small as possible, in order
to avoid notice; but this did not bring him relief. One day, he found
that a cheap shoe of his own had been taken away and replaced by an
expensive foreign one. It was impossible for him to go to college with
such an incongruous pair. He made no complaint, however, but bought some
old second-hand shoes from the cobbler. One day, a student from the
upper story came into his room and asked him:

"Have you, by any mistake, brought away my silver cigarette case with

Kalipada got annoyed and answered:

"I have never been inside your room in my life."

The student stooped down. "Hullo!" he said, "here it is!" And the
valuable cigarette case was picked up from the corner of the room.

Kalipada determined to leave this lodging house as soon as ever he had
passed his Intermediate Examination, provided only he could get a
scholarship to enable him to do so.

Every year the students of the house used to have their annual Saraswati
Puja. Though the greater part of the expenses fell to the share of
Sailen, every one else contributed according to his means. The year
before, they had contemptuously left out Kalipada from the list of
contributors; but this year, merely to tease him, they came with their
subscription book. Kalipada instantly paid five rupees to the fund,
though he had no intention of participating in the feast. His penury
had long brought on him the contempt of his fellow lodgers, but this
unexpected gift of five rupees became to them insufferable. The
Saraswati Puja was performed with great éclat and the five rupees could
easily have been spared. It had been hard indeed for Kalipada to part
with it. While he took the food given him in his landlord's house he had
no control over the time at which it was served. Besides this, since the
servants brought him the food, he did not like to criticise the dishes.
He preferred to provide himself with some extra things; and after the
forced extravagance of his five-rupee subscription he had to forgo all
this and suffered in consequence. His paroxysms of headache became more
frequent, and though he passed his examination, he failed to obtain the
scholarship that he desired.

The loss of the scholarship drove Kalipada to do extra work as a private
tutor and to stick to the same unhealthy room in the lodging house. The
students overhead had hoped that they would be relieved of his presence.
But punctually to the day the room was unlocked on the lower floor.
Kalipada entered, clad in the same old dirty check Parsee coat. A coolie
from Sealdah Station took down from his head a steel trunk and other
miscellaneous packages and laid them on the floor of the room; and a
long wrangle ensued as to the proper amount of pice that were due.

In the depths of those packages there were mango chutnies and other
condiments which his mother had specially prepared. Kalipada was aware
that, in his absence, the upper-story students, in search of a jest, did
not scruple to come into his room by stealth.

He was especially anxious to keep these home gifts from their cruel
scrutiny. As tokens of home affection they were supremely precious to
him; but to the town students, they denoted merely the boorishness of
poverty-stricken villagers. The vessels were crude and earthen, fastened
up by an earthen lid fixed on with paste of flour. They were neither
glass nor porcelain, and therefore sure to be regarded with insolent
disdain by rich town-bred people.

Formerly Kalipada used to keep these stores hidden under his bed,
covering them up with old newspapers. But this time he took the
precaution of always locking up his door, even if he went out for a few
minutes. This still further roused the spleen of Sailen and his party.
It seemed to them preposterous that the room which was poor enough to
draw tears from the eyes of the most hardened burglar should be as
carefully guarded as if it were a second Bank of Bengal.

"Does he actually believe," they said among themselves, "that the
temptation will be irresistible for us to steal that Parsee coat?"

Sailen had never visited this dark and mildewed room from which the
plaster was dropping. The glimpses that he had taken, while going
up-stairs,--especially when, in the evening, Kalipada, the upper part of
his body bare, would sit poring over his books with a smoky lamp beside
him,--were enough to give him a sense of suffocation. Sailen asked his
boon companions to explore the room below and find out the treasure
which Kalipada had hidden. Everybody felt intensely amused at the

The lock on Kalipada's door was a cheap one, which had the magnanimity
to lend itself to any key. One evening when Kalipada had gone out to his
private tuition, two or three of the students with an exuberant sense of
humour took a lantern and unlocked the room and entered. It did not need
a moment to discover the pots of chutney under the bed, but these hardly
seemed valuable enough to demand such watchful care on the part of
Kalipada. A further search disclosed a key on a ring under the pillow.
They opened the steel trunk with the key and found a few soiled clothes,
books and writing material. They were about to shut the box in disgust
when they saw, at the very bottom, a packet covered by a dirty
handkerchief. On uncovering three or four wrappers they found a currency
note of fifty rupees. This made them burst out into peals of laughter.
They felt certain that Kalipada was harbouring suspicion against the
whole world in his mind because of this fifty rupees!

The meanness of this suspicious precaution deepened the intensity of
their contempt for Kalipada. Just then, they heard a foot-step outside.
They hastily shut the box, locked the door, and ran upstairs with the
note in their possession.

Sailen was vastly amused. Though fifty rupees was a mere trifle, he
could never have believed that Kalipada had so much money in his trunk.
They all decided to watch the result of this loss upon that queer
creature downstairs.

When Kalipada came home that night after his tuition was over, he was
too tired to notice any disorder in his room. One of his worst attacks
of nervous headache was coming on and he went straight to bed.

The next day, when he brought out his trunk from under the bed and took
out his clothes, he found it open. He was naturally careful, but it was
not unlikely, he thought, that he had forgotten to lock it on the day
before. But when he lifted the lid he found all the contents
topsy-turvy, and his heart gave a great thud when he discovered that
the note, given to him by his mother, was missing. He searched the box
over and over again in the vain hope of finding it, and when his loss
was made certain, he flung himself upon his bed and lay like one dead.

Just then, he heard footsteps following one another on the stairs, and
every now and then an outburst of laughter from the upper room. It
struck him, all of a sudden, that this was not a theft: Sailen and his
party must have taken the note to amuse themselves and make laughter out
of it. It would have given him less pain if a thief had stolen it. It
seemed to him that these young men had laid their impious hands upon his
mother herself.

This was the first time that Kalipada had ascended those stairs. He ran
to the upper floor,--the old jersey on his shoulders,--his face flushed
with anger and the pain of his illness. As it was Sunday, Sailen and his
company were seated in the verandah, laughing and talking. Without any
warning, Kalipada burst upon them and shouted:

"Give me back my note!"

If he had begged it of them, they would have relented; but the sight of
his anger made them furious. They started up from their chairs and

"What do you mean, sir? What do you mean? What note?"

Kalipada shouted: "The note you have taken from my box!"

"How dare you?" they shouted back. "Do you take us to be thieves?"

If Kalipada had held any weapon in his hand at that moment he certainly
would have killed some one among them. But when he was about to spring,
they fell on him, and four or five of them dragged him down to his room
and thrust him inside.

Sailen said to his companions: "Here, take this hundred-rupee note, and
throw it to that _dog_!"

They all loudly exclaimed: "No! Let him climb down first and give us a
written apology. Then we shall consider it!"

Sailen's party all went to bed at the proper time and slept the sleep of
the innocent. In the morning they had almost forgotten Kalipada. But
some of them, while passing his room, heard the sound of talking and
they thought that possibly he was busy consulting some lawyer. The door
was shut from the inside. They tried to overhear, but what they heard
had nothing legal about it. It was quite incoherent.

They informed Sailen. He came down and stood with his ear close to the
door. The only thing that could be distinctly heard was the word
'Father.' This frightened Sailen. He thought that possibly Kalipada had
gone mad on account of the grief of losing that fifty-rupee note. Sailen
shouted "Kalipada Babu!" two or three times, but got no answer. Only
that muttering sound continued. Sailen called,--"Kalipada Babu,--please
open the door. Your note has been found." But still the door was not
opened and that muttering sound went on.

Sailen had never anticipated such a result as this. He did not express a
word of repentance to his followers, but he felt the sting of it all the
same. Some advised him to break open the door: others thought that the
police should be called in,--for Kalipada might be in a dangerous state
of lunacy. Sailen at once sent for a doctor who lived close at hand.
When they burst open the door they found the bedding hanging from the
bed and Kalipada lying on the floor unconscious. He was tossing about
and throwing up his arms and muttering, with his eyes red and open and
his face all flushed. The doctor examined him and asked if there were
any relative near at hand; for the case was serious.

Sailen answered that he knew nothing, but would make inquiries. The
doctor then advised the removal of the patient at once to an upstairs
room and proper nursing arrangements day and night. Sailen took him up
to his own room and dismissed his followers. He got some ice and put it
on Kalipada's head and began to fan him with his own hand.

Kalipada, fearing that mocking references would be made, had concealed
the names and address of his parents from these people with special
care. So Sailen had no alternative but to open his box. He found two
bundles of letters tied up with ribbon. One of them contained his
mother's letters, the other contained his father's. His mother's letters
were fewer in number than his father's. Sailen closed the door and began
to read the letters. He was startled when he saw the address,--Saniari,
the house of the Chowdhuries,--and then the name of the father, Bhavani.
He folded up the letters and sat still, gazing at Kalipada's face. Some
of his friends had casually mentioned, that there was a resemblance
between Kalipada and himself. But he was offended at the remark and did
not believe it. To-day he discovered the truth. He knew that his own
grandfather, Shyama Charan, had a step-brother named Bhavani; but the
later history to the family had remained a secret to him. He did not
even know that Bhavani had a son named Kalipada; and he never suspected
that Bhavani had come to such an abject state of poverty as this. He now
felt not only relieved, but proud of his own relative, Kalipada, that
he had refused to enter himself on the list of protégés.


Knowing that his party had insulted Kalipada almost every day, Sailen
felt reluctant to keep him in the lodging house with them. So he rented
another suitable house and kept him there. Bhavani came down in haste to
Calcutta the moment he received a letter from Sailen informing him of
his son's illness. Rashmani parted with all her savings giving
instructions to her husband to spare no expense upon her son. It was not
considered proper for the daughters of the great Chowdhuri family to
leave their home and go to Calcutta unless absolutely obliged, and
therefore she had to remain behind offering prayers to all the tutelary
gods. When Bhavani Charan arrived he found Kalipada still unconscious
and delirious. It nearly broke Bhavani's heart when he heard himself
called 'Master Mashai.' Kalipada often called him in his delirium and he
tried to make himself recognized by his son, but in vain.

The doctor came again and said the fever was getting less. He thought
the case was taking a more favourable turn. For Bhavani, it was an
impossibility to imagine that his son would not recover. He _must_
live: it was his destiny to live. Bhavani was much struck with the
behaviour of Sailen. It was difficult to believe that he was not of
their own kith and kin. He supposed all this kindness to be due to the
town training which Sailen had received. Bhavani spoke to Sailen
disparagingly of the country habits which village people like himself
got into.

Gradually the fever went down and Kalipada recovered consciousness. He
was astonished beyond measure when he saw his father sitting in the room
beside him. His first anxiety was lest he should discover the miserable
state in which he had been living. But what would be harder still to
bear was, if his father with his rustic manners became the butt of the
people upstairs. He looked round him, but could not recognize his own
room and wondered if he had been dreaming. But he found himself too weak
to think.

He supposed that it had been his father who had removed him to this
better lodging, but he had no power to calculate how he could possibly
bear the expense. The only thing that concerned him at that moment was
that he felt he must live, and for that he had a claim upon the world.

Once when his father was absent Sailen came in with a plate of grapes in
his hand. Kalipada could not understand this at all and wondered if
there was some practical joke behind it. He at once became excited and
wondered how he could save his father from annoyance. Sailen set the
plate down on the table and touched Kalipada's feet humbly and said: "My
offence has been great: pray forgive me."

Kalipada started and sat up on his bed. He could see that Sailen's
repentance was sincere and he was greatly moved.

When Kalipada had first come to the students' lodging house he had felt
strongly drawn towards this handsome youth. He never missed a chance of
looking at his face when Sailen passed by his room on his way upstairs.
He would have given all the world to be friends with him, but the
barrier was too great to overcome. Now to-day when Sailen brought him
the grapes and asked his forgiveness, he silently looked at his face and
silently accepted the grapes which spoke of his repentance.

It amused Kalipada greatly when he noticed the intimacy that had sprung
up between his father and Sailen. Sailen used to call Bhavani Charan
"grandfather" and exercised to the full the grandchild's privilege of
joking with him. The principal object of the jokes was the absent
"grandmother." Sailen made the confession that he had taken the
opportunity of Kalipada's illness to steal all the delicious chutnies
which his "grandmother" had made with her own hand. The news of his act
of "thieving" gave Kalipada very great joy. He found it easy to deprive
himself, if he could find any one who could appreciate the good things
made by his mother. Thus this time of his convalescence became the
happiest period in the whole of Kalipada's life.

There was only one flaw in this unalloyed happiness. Kalipada had a
fierce pride in his poverty which prevented him ever speaking about his
family's better days. Therefore when his father used to talk of his
former prosperity Kalipada winced. Bhavani could not keep to himself the
one great event of his life,--the theft of that will which he was
absolutely certain that he would some day recover. Kalipada had always
regarded this as a kind of mania of his father's, and in collusion with
his mother he had often humoured his father concerning this amiable
weakness. But he shrank in shame when his father talked about this to
Sailen. He noticed particularly that Sailen did not relish such
conversation and that he often tried to prove, with a certain amount of
feeling, its absurdity. But Bhavani, who was ready to give in to others
in matters much more serious, in this matter was adamant. Kalipada tried
to pacify him by saying that there was no great need to worry about it,
because those who were enjoying its benefit were almost the same as his
own children, since they were his nephews.

Such talk Sailen could not bear for long and he used to leave the room.
This pained Kalipada, because he thought that Sailen might get quite a
wrong conception of his father and imagine him to be a grasping worldly
old man. Sailen would have revealed his own relationship to Kalipada and
his father long before, but this discussion about the theft of the will
prevented him. It was hard for him to believe that his grandfather or
father had stolen the will; on the other hand he could not but think
that some cruel injustice had been done in depriving Bhavani of his
share of the ancestral property. Therefore he gave up arguing when the
subject was brought forward and took some occasion to leave as soon as

Though Kalipada still had headaches in the evening, with a slight rise
in temperature, he did not take it at all seriously. He became anxious
to resume his studies because he felt it would be a calamity to him if
he again missed his scholarship. He secretly began to read once more,
without taking any notice of the strict orders of the doctor. Kalipada
asked his father to return home, assuring him that he was in the best of
health. Bhavani had been all his life fed and nourished and cooked for
by his wife; he was pining to get back. He did not therefore wait to be

On the morning of his intended departure, when he went to say good-bye
to Kalipada, he found him very ill indeed, his face red with fever and
his whole body burning. He had been committing to memory page after page
of his text book of Logic half through the night, and for the remainder
he could not sleep at all. The doctor took Sailen aside. "This relapse,"
he said, "is fatal." Sailen came to Bhavani and said, "The patient
requires a mother's nursing: she must be brought to Calcutta."

It was evening when Rashmani came, and she only saw her son alive for a
few hours. Not knowing how her husband could survive such a terrible
shock she altogether suppressed her own sorrow. Her son was merged in
her husband again, and she took up this burden of the dead and the
living on her own aching heart. She said to her God,--"It is too much
for me to bear." But she did bear it.


It was midnight. With the very weariness of her sorrow Rashmani had
fallen asleep soon after reaching her own home in the village. But
Bhavani had no sleep that night. Tossing on his bed for hours he heaved
a deep sigh saying,--"Merciful God!" Then he got up from his bed and
went out. He entered the room where Kalipada had been wont to do his
lessons in his childhood. The lamp shook as he held it in his hand. On
the wooden settle there was still the torn, ink-stained quilt, made long
ago by Rashmani herself. On the wall were figures of Euclid and Algebra
drawn in charcoal. The remains of a Royal Reader No. III and a few
exercise books were lying about; and the one odd slipper of his infancy,
which had evaded notice so long, was keeping its place in the dusty
obscurity of the corner of the room. To-day it had become so important
that nothing in the world, however great, could keep it hidden any
longer. Bhavani put the lamp in the niche on the wall and silently sat
on the settle; his eyes were dry, but he felt choked as if with want of

Bhavani opened the shutters on the eastern side and stood still,
grasping the iron bars, gazing into the darkness. Through the drizzling
rain he could see the outline of the clump of trees at the end of the
outer wall. At this spot Kalipada had made his own garden. The passion
flowers which he had planted with his own hand had grown densely thick.
While he gazed at this Bhavani felt his heart come up into his throat
with choking pain. There was nobody now to wait for and expect daily.
The summer vacation had come, but no one would come back home to fill
the vacant room and use its old familiar furniture.

"O Baba mine!" he cried, "O Baba! O Baba mine!"

He sat down. The rain came faster. A sound of footsteps was heard among
the grass and withered leaves. Bhavani's heart stood still. He hoped it
was ... that which was beyond all hope. He thought it was Kalipada
himself come to see his own garden,--and in this downpour of rain how
wet he would be! Anxiety about this made him restless. Then somebody
stood for a moment in front of the iron window bars. The cloak round his
head made it impossible for Bhavani to see his face clearly, but his
height was the same as that of Kalipada.

"Darling!" cried Bhavani, "You have come!" and he rushed to open the

But when he came outside to the spot where the figure had stood, there
was no one to be seen. He walked up and down in the garden through the
drenching rain, but no one was there. He stood still for a moment
raising his voice and calling,--"Kalipada," but no answer came. The
servant, Noto, who was sleeping in the cowshed, heard his cry and came
out and coaxed him back to his room.

Next day, in the morning, Noto, while sweeping the room found a bundle
just underneath the grated window. He brought it to Bhavani who opened
it and found it was an old document. He put on his spectacles and after
reading a few lines came rushing in to Rashmani and gave the paper into
her hand.

Rashmani asked, "What is it?"

Bhavani replied, "It is the will!"

"Who gave it you?"

"He himself came last night to give it to me."

"What are you going to do with it?"

Bhavani said: "I have no need of it now." And he tore the will to

When the news reached the village Bagala proudly nodded his head and
said: "Didn't I prophesy that the will would be recovered through

But the grocer Ramcharan replied: "Last night when the ten o'clock train
reached the Station a handsome looking young man came to my shop and
asked the way to the Chowdhuri's house and I thought he had some kind of
bundle in his hand."

"Absurd," said Bagala.


  =detailed.= From the French "tailler," to cut. Compare _tailor_,
      _entail_, _retail_.

  =patrimony.= From the Latin "pater," a father. Compare _paternal_,
      _patriarch_, _patriot_. The ending -mony is from the Latin
      -monium. Compare _testimony_, _matrimony_, _sanctimony_.

  =revert.= From the Latin "vertere," to turn. Compare _convert_,
      _subvert_, _divert_, _invert_, _advert_, _version_, _conversion_,

  =amazement.= This word is of doubtful origin. We have the simpler form
      "maze" but do not know how it has come into English.

  =preposterous.= The Latin word "pre" means "before," and the Latin
      word "posterus" behind. The literal meaning, therefore, is
      "before-behind" and so "absurd," "outrageous."

  =treachery.= This comes from the Old French "treacher," to trick. It
      is to be distinguished from the word "traitor," which comes from
      the Latin "traditor," one who gives up another. Compare
      _intricate_, _trickery_, _trick_, _intrigue_.

  =parasites.= From the Greek word "sitos," food,--one who feeds on

  =property.= From the Latin "proprius," meaning "one's own." Compare
      _proper_, _appropriate_, _improper_.

  =haggle.= This is an Old Norwegian word which has come into English,
      meaning literally to chop.

  =good-for-nothing.= Such "phrase" words as these are not very common
      in English. They are more common in French. Compare the English
      _ne'er-do-well_, _lazybones_, _out-of-the-way_, and the French
      _coup-d'état_, _nom-de-plume_, _fin-de-siécle_. On the other hand,
      adjectives made up of two words are quite common in English.
      Compare _simple-hearted_, _middle-aged._

  =régime.= This word still retains its French form and accent and
      pronunciation. Little by little such French words become
      pronounced and spelt in an English form and take a permanent place
      in the language. For instance, the French word "morale" with
      accent on the last syllable is now becoming a common English word.
      In time it will probably be accented on the first syllable like
      ordinary English words and will drop its final "e."

  =gap.= This is another Old Norwegian word meaning a wide opening.
      Compare _gape_. These Norwegian words came into English somewhat
      plentifully at the time of the Danish Conquest.

  =sympathy.= From the Greek "syn" with, and "pathos" suffering. It
      should be noted that the word "compassion" from the Latin "cum"
      with, and "passio" suffering, has the same root meaning, viz.
      "suffering _with_ another."

  =law-suit.= The English word "suit" comes from the Latin "sequi," to
      follow, which in French becomes "suivre." We have two English
      forms, one form directly from the Latin, the other from the
      French. From the Latin _prosecute_, _persecute_, _consecutive_,
      _execute_. From the French _pursue_, _ensue_, _sue_.

        A "suit" in a game of cards means the cards that follow one
      another in a sequence.

        A "suit" of clothes means the trousers, coat, waistcoat,
      following the same pattern. Compare also the French word _suite_
      which has now been taken into English, e.g. a _suite_ of rooms, a
      _suite_ of furniture (pronounced like "sweet").

  =incoherence.= From the Latin "haerere," to stick. Compare _adhere_,
      _cohere_, _inherent_, _coherence_.

  =foreign.= From the Old French "forain," out of doors. The letter "g"
      has become wrongly inserted in this word as also in "sovereign."

  =bargain.= From the late Latin "barca," a boat, because trade was
      carried on by boats along the rivers. Compare _barque_, _barge_,

  =husky.= From the noun husk,--as dry as a husk.

  =shawl.= From the Persian word "shāl." A considerable number of words
      are coming into use in English now from the East. One of the most
      curious recent ones is Blighty which is a corruption of wilayati,
      bilaiti. For words introduced into English compare _karma_,
      _sanyasi_, _fakir_, _brahmin_, _ghat_, _puggaree_, _pyjama_,
      _pucca_, _curry_, _chutney_, _chintz_, _cummerbund_, _khaki_,
      _rupee_, _durrie_, _turban_, _sepoy_.

  =doll.= This is a shortened form of the English girl's name Dorothy,
      Dolly, Doll. Compare _poll-parrot_ from Polly or Poll.

  =soup.= This word still retains its French form, without the final "e"
      (French _soupe_), but the English words _sup_, _supper_ have
      dropped their French spelling altogether.

  =ticket.= From the Old French "estiquette," meaning something fixed
      like a bill on the wall. (Compare the English word to "stick"
      which comes from the same root.)

  We have here a case of a French word branching off into two quite
      distinct English words,--"etiquette" and "ticket," each having its
      own meaning.

  =jersey.= One of the islands in the English Channel called Jersey
      first made this special form of woollen vest. Many English words
      are thus taken from the names of places. Compare _currant_
      (Corinth), _argosy_ (Ragusa), _calico_ (Calicut), _bronze_
      (Brundusium), _gipsy_ (Egyptian), _cashmere_ (Kashmir).

  =impertinence.= Originally this word means that which is not
      "pertinent," and so something "out-of-place." Later on it got the
      present meaning of something insolent.

  =mosquito.= From the Spanish. The word is the diminutive of the Latin
      "musca," a fly.

  =scruple.= From the Latin "scrupulus," a small sharp stone. This word
      meant first in English a very small weight of twenty grains; then
      it came to mean a slight weight on the mind or conscience. In the
      Trial Scene of Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice we have the
      original sense used,--"the twentieth part of one poor scruple."

  =exuberant.= From the Latin "uber," udder. Thus it comes to mean
      "flowing from the udder" and so "overflowing."

  =handkerchief.= "Kerchief" came from two French words "couvre," to
      cover, and "chef," the head. It meant a head cloth. Then a smaller
      cloth was used in the hand and this was called a hand-kerchief.

  =lunacy.= From the Latin "luna," the moon. In former times Europeans
      used to think that madness was due to some influence of the moon.
      Compare the word _moonstruck_.

  =algebra.= This is one of the many words from Arabic beginning with
      "al," the. Compare _alkali_, _albatross_, _alcohol_, _alembic_,
      _alchemy_, _alcove_.

  =Euclid.= This word was originally the name of a great Greek
      mathematical writer. His writings were called "Books of Euclid."
      Now the subject is usually called Geometry.

  =absurd.= From the Latin "surdus," deaf. Deaf people generally appear
      stupid to those who can hear. So this word has come to mean
      foolish or ridiculous.

  =topsy-turvy.= This probably is a shortened form of
      topside-turvy,--"turvy" being a colloquial corruption for "turned"
      or "turned over."





Once upon a time the Babus at Nayanjore were famous landholders. They
were noted for their princely extravagance. They would tear off the
rough border of their Dacca muslin, because it rubbed against their
delicate skin. They could spend many thousands of rupees over the
wedding of a kitten. And on a certain grand occasion it is alleged that
in order to turn night into day they lighted numberless lamps and
showered silver threads from the sky to imitate sunlight.

Those were the days before the flood. The flood came. The line of
succession among these old-world Babus, with their lordly habits, could
not continue for long. Like a lamp with too many wicks burning, the oil
flared away quickly, and the light went out.

Kailas Babu, our neighbour, is the last relic of this extinct
magnificence. Before he grew up, his family had very nearly reached its
lowest ebb. When his father died, there was one dazzling outburst of
funeral extravagance, and then insolvency. The property was sold to
liquidate the debt. What little ready money was left over was altogether
insufficient to keep up the past ancestral splendours.

Kailas Babu left Nayanjore and came to Calcutta. His son did not remain
long in this world of faded glory. He died, leaving behind him an only

In Calcutta we are Kailas Babu's neighbours. Curiously enough our own
family history is just the opposite of his. My father got his money by
his own exertions, and prided himself on never spending a penny more
than was needed. His clothes were those of a working man, and his hands
also. He never had any inclination to earn the title of Babu by
extravagant display; and I myself, his only son, owe him gratitude for
that. He gave me the very best education, and I was able to make my way
in the world. I am not ashamed of the fact that I am a self-made man.
Crisp bank-notes in my safe are dearer to me than a long pedigree in an
empty family chest.

I believe this was why I disliked seeing Kailas Babu drawing his heavy
cheques on the public credit from the bankrupt bank of his ancient Babu
reputation. I used to fancy that he looked down on me, because my father
had earned money with his own hands.

I ought to have noticed that no one showed any vexation towards Kailas
Babu except myself. Indeed it would have been difficult to find an old
man who did less harm than he. He was always ready with his kindly
little acts of courtesy in times of sorrow and joy. He would join in all
the ceremonies and religious observances of his neighbours. His familiar
smile would greet young and old alike. His politeness in asking details
about domestic affairs was untiring. The friends who met him in the
street were perforce ready to be button-holed, while a long string of
questions of this kind followed one another from his lips:

"My dear friend, I am delighted to see you. Are you quite well? How is
Shashi? And Dada--is he all right? Do you know, I've only just heard
that Madhu's son has got fever. How is he? Have you heard? And Hari
Charan Babu--I have not seen him for a long time--I hope he is not ill.
What's the matter with Rakkhal? And er--er, how are the ladies of your

Kailas Babu was spotlessly neat in his dress on all occasions, though
his supply of clothes was sorely limited. Every day he used to air his
shirts and vests and coats and trousers carefully, and put them out in
the sun, along with his bed-quilt, his pillowcase, and the small carpet
on which he always sat. After airing them he would shake them, and
brush them, and put them carefully away. His little bits of furniture
made his small room decent, and hinted that there was more in reserve if
needed. Very often, for want of a servant, he would shut up his house
for a while. Then he would iron out his shirts and linen with his own
hands, and do other little menial tasks. After this he would open his
door and receive his friends again.

Though Kailas Babu, as I have said, had lost all his landed property, he
had still some family heirlooms left. There was a silver cruet for
sprinkling scented water, a filigree box for otto-of-roses, a small gold
salver, a costly ancient shawl, and the old-fashioned ceremonial dress
and ancestral turban. These he had rescued with the greatest difficulty
from the money-lenders' clutches. On every suitable occasion he would
bring them out in state, and thus try to save the world-famed dignity of
the Babus of Nayanjore. At heart the most modest of men, in his daily
speech he regarded it as a sacred duty, owed to his rank, to give free
play to his family pride. His friends would encourage this trait in his
character with kindly good-humour, and it gave them great amusement.

The neighbourhood soon learnt to call him their Thakur Dada. They would
flock to his house and sit with him for hours together. To prevent his
incurring any expense, one or other of his friends would bring him
tobacco and say: "Thakur Dada, this morning some tobacco was sent to me
from Gaya. Do take it and see how you like it."

Thakur Dada would take it and say it was excellent. He would then go on
to tell of a certain exquisite tobacco which they once smoked in the old
days of Nayanjore at the cost of a guinea an ounce.

"I wonder," he used to say, "if any one would like to try it now. I have
some left, and can get it at once."

Every one knew that, if they asked for it, then somehow or other the key
of the cupboard would be missing; or else Ganesh, his old family
servant, had put it away somewhere.

"You never can be sure," he would add, "where things go to when servants
are about. Now, this Ganesh of mine,--I can't tell you what a fool he
is, but I haven't the heart to dismiss him."

Ganesh, for the credit of the family, was quite ready to bear all the
blame without a word.

One of the company usually said at this point: "Never mind, Thakur Dada.
Please don't trouble to look for it. This tobacco we're smoking will do
quite well. The other would be too strong."

Then Thakur Dada would be relieved and settle down again, and the talk
would go on.

When his guests got up to go away, Thakur Dada would accompany them to
the door and say to them on the door-step: "Oh, by the way, when are you
all coming to dine with me?"

One or other of us would answer: "Not just yet, Thakur Dada, not just
yet. We'll fix a day later."

"Quite right," he would answer. "Quite right. We had much better wait
till the rains come. It's too hot now. And a grand rich dinner such as I
should want to give you would upset us in weather like this."

But when the rains did come, every one was very careful not to remind
him of his promise. If the subject was brought up, some friend would
suggest gently that it was very inconvenient to get about when the rains
were so severe, and therefore it would be much better to wait till they
were over. Thus the game went on.

Thakur Dada's poor lodging was much too small for his position, and we
used to condole with him about it. His friends would assure him they
quite understood his difficulties: it was next to impossible to get a
decent house in Calcutta. Indeed, they had all been looking out for
years for a house to suit him. But, I need hardly add, no friend had
been foolish enough to find one. Thakur Dada used to say, with a sigh of
resignation: "Well, well, I suppose I shall have to put up with this
house after all." Then he would add with a genial smile: "But, you know,
I could never bear to be away from my friends. I must be near you. That
really compensates for everything."

Somehow I felt all this very deeply indeed. I suppose the real reason
was, that when a man is young, stupidity appears to him the worst of
crimes. Kailas Babu was not really stupid. In ordinary business matters
every one was ready to consult him. But with regard to Nayanjore his
utterances were certainly void of common sense. Because, out of amused
affection for him, no one contradicted his impossible statements, he
refused to keep them in bounds. When people recounted in his hearing the
glorious history of Nayanjore with absurd exaggerations, he would accept
all they said with the utmost gravity, and never doubted, even in his
dreams, that any one could disbelieve it.


When I sit down and try to analyse the thoughts and feelings that I had
towards Kailas Babu, I see that there was a still deeper reason for my
dislike. I will now explain.

Though I am the son of a rich man, and might have wasted time at
college, my industry was such that I took my M.A. degree in Calcutta
University when quite young. My moral character was flawless. In
addition, my outward appearance was so handsome, that if I were to call
myself beautiful, it might be thought a mark of self-estimation, but
could not be considered an untruth.

There could be no question that among the young men of Bengal I was
regarded by parents generally as a very eligible match. I was myself
quite clear on the point and had determined to obtain my full value in
the marriage market. When I pictured my choice, I had before my mind's
eye a wealthy father's only daughter, extremely beautiful and highly
educated. Proposals came pouring in to me from far and near; large sums
in cash were offered. I weighed these offers with rigid impartiality in
the delicate scales of my own estimation. But there was no one fit to be
my partner. I became convinced, with the poet Bhabavuti, that,

    In this world's endless time and boundless space
    One _may_ be born at last to match my sovereign grace.

But in this puny modern age, and this contracted space of modern
Bengal, it was doubtful if the peerless creature existed as yet.

Meanwhile my praises were sung in many tunes, and in different metres,
by designing parents.

Whether I was pleased with their daughters or not, this worship which
they offered was never unpleasing. I used to regard it as my proper due,
because I was so good. We are told that when the gods withhold their
boons from mortals they still expect their worshippers to pay them
fervent honour and are angry if it is withheld. I had that divine
expectance strongly developed in myself.

I have already mentioned that Thakur Dada had an only grand-daughter. I
had seen her many times, but had never mistaken her for beautiful. No
thought had ever entered my mind that she would be a possible partner
for myself. All the same, it seemed quite certain to me that some day or
other Kailas Babu would offer her, with all due worship, as an oblation
at my shrine. Indeed--this was the inner secret of my dislike--I was
thoroughly annoyed that he had not done so already.

I heard that Thakur Dada had told his friends that the Babus of
Nayanjore never craved a boon. Even if the girl remained unmarried, he
would not break the family tradition. It was this arrogance of his that
made me angry. My indignation smouldered for some time. But I remained
perfectly silent and bore it with the utmost patience, because I was so

As lightning accompanies thunder, so in my character a flash of humour
was mingled with the mutterings of my wrath. It was, of course,
impossible for me to punish the old man merely to give vent to my rage;
and for a long time I did nothing at all. But suddenly one day such an
amusing plan came into my head, that I could not resist the temptation
of carrying it into effect.

I have already said that many of Kailas Babu's friends used to flatter
the old man's vanity to the full. One, who was a retired Government
servant, had told him that whenever he saw the Chota Lât Sahib he always
asked for the latest news about the Babus of Nayanjore, and the Chota
Lât had been heard to say that in all Bengal the only really respectable
families were those of the Maharaja of Cossipore and the Babus of
Nayanjore. When this monstrous falsehood was told to Kailas Babu he was
extremely gratified and often repeated the story. And wherever after
that he met this Government servant in company he would ask, along with
other questions:

"Oh! er--by the way, how is the Chota Lât Sahib? Quite well, did you
say? Ah, yes, I am so delighted to hear it! And the dear Mem Sahib, is
she quite well too? Ah, yes! and the little children--are they quite
well also? Ah, yes! that's very good news! Be sure and give them my
compliments when you see them."

Kailas Babu would constantly express his intention of going some day and
paying a visit to the Lord Sahib. But it may be taken for granted that
many Chota Lâts and Burra Lâts also would come and go, and much water
would pass down the Hoogly, before the family coach of Nayanjore would
be furbished up to pay a visit to Government House.

One day I took Kailas Babu aside and told him in a whisper: "Thakur
Dada, I was at the Levee yesterday, and the Chota Lât Sahib happened to
mention the Babus of Nayanjore. I told him that Kailas Babu had come to
town. Do you know, he was terribly hurt because you hadn't called. He
told me he was going to put etiquette on one side and pay you a private
visit himself this very afternoon."

Anybody else could have seen through this plot of mine in a moment. And,
if it had been directed against another person, Kailas Babu would have
understood the joke. But after all that he had heard from his friend the
Government servant, and after all his own exaggerations, a visit from
the Lieutenant-Governor seemed the most natural thing in the world. He
became highly nervous and excited at my news. Each detail of the coming
visit exercised him greatly,--most of all his own ignorance of English.
How on earth was that difficulty to be met? I told him there was no
difficulty at all: it was aristocratic not to know English: and,
besides, the Lieutenant-Governor always brought an interpreter with him,
and he had expressly mentioned that this visit was to be private.

About midday, when most of our neighbours are at work, and the rest are
asleep, a carriage and pair stopped before the lodging of Kailas Babu.
Two flunkeys in livery came up the stairs, and announced in a loud
voice, "The Chota Lât Sahib has arrived!" Kailas Babu was ready, waiting
for him, in his old-fashioned ceremonial robes and ancestral turban, and
Ganesh was by his side, dressed in his master's best suit of clothes for
the occasion.

When the Chota Lât Sahib was announced, Kailas Babu ran panting and
puffing and trembling to the door, and led in a friend of mine, in
disguise, with repeated salaams, bowing low at each step and walking
backward as best he could. He had his old family shawl spread over a
hard wooden chair and he asked the Lât Sahib to be seated. He then made
a high-flown speech in Urdu, the ancient Court language of the Sahibs,
and presented on the golden salver a string of gold _mohurs_, the last
relics of his broken fortune. The old family servant Ganesh, with an
expression of awe bordering on terror, stood behind with the
scent-sprinkler, drenching the Lât Sahib, and touched him gingerly from
time to time with the otto-of-roses from the filigree box.

Kailas Babu repeatedly expressed his regret at not being able to receive
His Honour Bahadur with all the ancestral magnificence of his own family
estate at Nayanjore. There he could have welcomed him properly with due
ceremonial. But in Calcutta he was a mere stranger and sojourner,--in
fact a fish out of water.

My friend, with his tall silk hat on, very gravely nodded. I need hardly
say that according to English custom the hat ought to have been removed
inside the room. But my friend did not dare to take it off for fear of
detection: and Kailas Babu and his old servant Ganesh were sublimely
unconscious of the breach of etiquette.

After a ten minutes' interview, which consisted chiefly of nodding the
head, my friend rose to his feet to depart. The two flunkeys in livery,
as had been planned beforehand, carried off in state the string of gold
_mohurs_, the gold salver, the old ancestral shawl, the silver
scent-sprinkler, and the otto-of-roses filigree box; they placed them
ceremoniously in the carriage. Kailas Babu regarded this as the usual
habit of Chota Lât Sahibs.

I was watching all the while from the next room. My sides were aching
with suppressed laughter. When I could hold myself in no longer, I
rushed into a further room, suddenly to discover, in a corner, a young
girl sobbing as if her heart would break. When she saw my uproarious
laughter she stood upright in passion, flashing the lightning of her big
dark eyes in mine, and said with a tear-choked voice: "Tell me! What
harm has my grandfather done to you? Why have you come to deceive him?
Why have you come here? Why----"

She could say no more. She covered her face with her hands and broke
into sobs.

My laughter vanished in a moment. It had never occurred to me that there
was anything but a supremely funny joke in this act of mine, and here I
discovered that I had given the cruellest pain to this tenderest little
heart. All the ugliness of my cruelty rose up to condemn me. I slunk out
of the room in silence, like a kicked dog.

Hitherto I had only looked upon Kusum, the grand-daughter of Kailas
Babu, as a somewhat worthless commodity in the marriage market, waiting
in vain to attract a husband. But now I found, with a shock of
surprise, that in the corner of that room a human heart was beating.

The whole night through I had very little sleep. My mind was in a
tumult. On the next day, very early in the morning, I took all those
stolen goods back to Kailas Babu's lodgings, wishing to hand them over
in secret to the servant Ganesh. I waited outside the door, and, not
finding any one, went upstairs to Kailas Babu's room. I heard from the
passage Kusum asking her grandfather in the most winning voice: "Dada,
dearest, do tell me all that the Chota Lât Sahib said to you yesterday.
Don't leave out a single word. I am dying to hear it all over again."

And Dada needed no encouragement. His face beamed over with pride as he
related all manner of praises which the Lât Sahib had been good enough
to utter concerning the ancient families of Nayanjore. The girl was
seated before him, looking up into his face, and listening with rapt
attention. She was determined, out of love for the old man, to play her
part to the full.

My heart was deeply touched, and tears came to my eyes. I stood there in
silence in the passage, while Thakur Dada finished all his
embellishments of the Chota Lât Sahib's wonderful visit. When he left
the room at last, I took the stolen goods and laid them at the feet of
the girl and came away without a word.

Later in the day I called again to see Kailas Babu himself. According to
our ugly modern custom, I had been in the habit of making no greeting at
all to this old man when I came into the room. But on this day I made a
low bow and touched his feet. I am convinced the old man thought that
the coming of the Chota Lât Sahib to his house was the cause of my new
politeness. He was highly gratified by it, and an air of benign serenity
shone from his eyes. His friends had looked in, and he had already begun
to tell again at full length the story of the Lieutenant-Governor's
visit with still further adornments of a most fantastic kind. The
interview was already becoming an epic, both in quality and in length.

When the other visitors had taken their leave, I made my proposal to the
old man in a humble manner. I told him that, "though I could never for a
moment hope to be worthy of marriage connection with such an illustrious
family, yet ... etc. etc."

When I made clear my proposal of marriage, the old man embraced me and
broke out in a tumult of joy: "I am a poor man, and could never have
expected such great good fortune."

That was the first and last time in his life that Kailas Babu confessed
to being poor. It was also the first and last time in his life that he
forgot, if only for a single moment, the ancestral dignity that belongs
to the Babus of Nayanjore.


  =landholder.= This method of forming compound words from two original
      English words should be studied. Compare the following words
      which have "land" for one of their parts: _landlord_,
      _landowner_, _landlady_, _landslip_, _landfall_. When the second
      word is not very closely attached to the first word, a hyphen is
      put between, thus _land-grabber_, _land-shark_.

  =extinct.= From the Latin "stinguere," to quench. Compare _distinct_,
      _instinct_, _extinguish_, _distinguish_.

  =cheque.= This word is the same as "check,"--only in this case the
      original French form has been kept. The verb to "check" came into
      English originally from the game of chess. In Eastern lands when
      the chess king was in danger the word "Shah!" was called out, and
      when the chess king could not move, "Shah mata!" These were
      corrupted into "Check!" and "Checkmate!"

  =bankrupt.= This word is a curious mixture of the old French "banque"
      (compare _bench_, _banquet_) and the Latin "rumpere," to break
      (compare _corrupt_, _disrupt_). It is thus a hybrid word in modern

  =filigree.= From two Latin words, "filum," a thread, and "granum," a

  =otto-of-roses.= A corruption of attar. The word is originally Arabic
      and Persian.

  =turban.= This word has now taken its place in most of the European
      languages. It has come to Europe from the Turkish "tulbend" and
      the Persian "dulband."

  =tobacco.= This word came originally from Central America. It was
      brought to Europe by the Spaniards, who pronounced it "tabaco." It
      has now travelled all round the world, and has gained a place in
      all the Indian vernaculars as well as in the Further East.

  =boon.= The Old English word "ben" meant a prayer, and this was the
      original meaning of "boon." But a new word appeared in English,
      viz. the adjective "boon" from the French "bon," meaning "good."
      (Compare _boon companion_). This influenced the earlier word,
      which thus gained its present meaning of a "blessing" or "gift."

  =smoulder.= "Smolder" is an Old English word meaning "smoke." Cognate
      words in English are _smother_ and _small_, which come from the
      same root.

  =gingerly.= The origin of this word is very doubtful. Some connect it
      with "ging" or "gang," meaning "to go." Others with "gent-"
      meaning "gentle" or "graceful." The word has no relation to
      "ginger" which is an Eastern word coming originally from the
      Sanskrit _çraga-vera_ and the Hindustani _zunjubil_.

  =fantastic.= From the Greek "phainō," to manifest. Compare _emphasis_,
      _emphatic_, _fantasy_, _fancy_, _phenomenon_.




"The Cabuliwallah" is one of the most famous of the Poet's "Short
Stories." It has been often translated. The present translation is by
the late Sister Nivedita, and her simple, vivid style should be noticed
by the Indian student reader. It is a good example of modern English,
with its short sentences, its careful choice of words, and its luminous
clearness of meaning.

  =Cabuliwallah.=] A man from Cabul or Kabul, the capital of

  =embarked.=] Like a ship putting out to sea on a new voyage.

  =Bhola.=] Mini's attendant.

  =Protap Singh.=] Rabindranath Tagore pictures himself as engaged in
      writing a novel, full of wild adventures. These names are made up
      to suit the story.

  =so precarious.=] The writer amusingly imagines the hero and heroine
      actually swinging by the rope until he can get back to his desk
      and finish writing about how they escaped.

  =Abdurrahman.=] The Amir of Kabul.

  =Frontier policy.=] The question about guarding the North-West of
      India against invasion.

  =without demur.=] Without making any objection, or asking for more

  =judicious bribery.=] He gave her little presents, _judging_ well what
      she would like best.

  =new fangled.=] The parents had not talked about such things, as
      old-fashioned people would have certainly done.

  =euphemism.=] This means, in Greek, "fair speech." Here it means a
      pleasant word used instead of the unpleasant word "jail."

  =kings went forth.=] During the hot weather the kings of ancient India
      used to stay at home: they would begin to fight again at the
      beginning of the cold weather.

  =my heart would go out.=] That is to say, he would long to see such

  =fall to weaving.=] This is an English idiom, like "set to": it means
      to begin.

  =conjure themselves.=] Just as the conjurer makes all kinds of things
      appear before the eyes.

  =vegetable existence.=] Vegetables are rooted to the ground. So
      Rabindranath is rooted to his desk and cannot make long journeys.

  =As it was indefinite.=] Because there was no actual reason for it.
      Indefinite here means vague.

  =forbid the man the house.=] This is a brief way of saying forbid the
      man to enter the house.

  =bebagged.=] This word is made up for the occasion, and means "laden
      with bags." Compare the words bedewed, besmeared.

  =just where.=] The word "just" has become very commonly used in modern
      English. It means "exactly," "merely" or "at the very moment."
      Compare "He had just gone out." "It was just a joke."

  =Scarcely on speaking terms.=] Rabindranath Tagore is here making a
      joke; "not to be on speaking terms" means usually "to be
      displeased with." Mini had become so eager to talk with her girl
      friends that she had almost neglected her father.

  =Durga.=] The Durga Festival in Bengal is supposed to represent the
      time when Parvati, or Durga, left her father's home in the
      Himalayas, called Kailas, and went to live with her husband,

  =Bhairavi.=] One of the musical tunes which denotes separation.

  =chandeliers.=] The glass ornamental hangings on which candles were
      lighted in great houses at weddings.

  =better-omened.=] It was not considered a good omen, or good fortune,
      to meet a criminal on a wedding day.

  =dispersed.=] Used up.

  =Parbati.=] Another allusion to the Goddess Durga and her home in the

  =apparition.=] This word comes from the same root as the word to
      "appear." It means a sudden or strange sight. It often means a
      ghost. Mini had so changed that when she appeared in her wedding
      dress she startled him, as if he had seen a ghost.

  =make friends with her anew.=] His own daughter would not know him at

  =Saw before him the barren mountains.=] His memory was so strong that
      it made him forget the crowded Calcutta street and think of his
      home in the mountains.


  =every one seconded the proposal.=] All were so eagerly in favour
      that they wanted to speak at once in support of it.

  =regal dignity.=] His position as a king of the other boys.

  =fertile brain.=] Full of inventions and plans.

  =manoeuvre.=] A French word meaning a plan of battle.

  =point of honour.=] He would feel himself disgraced if he gave way.

  =Mother Earth.=] Earth is here pictured as a person. There is a
      well-known story of a giant who gained fresh power every time his
      body touched the earth, which was his Mother.

  =Furies.=] These were supposed to be certain demons, who pursued
      guilty men with loud cries.

  =the servant was master.=] Notice the play of words here. The
      "servant" and "master" change places.

  =critical juncture.=] At this exact moment when things were so

  =Dada.=] The usual Bengal word for "Brother."

  =no love was lost.=] This is a mild way of saying that they disliked
      one another.

  =on pins and needles.=] Exceedingly restless; like some one standing
      on sharp points.

  =in perpetuity.=] The phrase is a mock legal one, meaning "for all

  =by no means pleased.=] She was very displeased, because she had
      already children of her own. In English a phrase is often put in a
      negative way to imply a very strong positive statement. Thus "by
      no means happy" may mean "very unhappy."

  =committing such an indiscretion.=] Doing such an unwise thing.

  =indecent haste.=] A mock humorous expression, meaning "very quickly."

  =craves for recognition.=] Wishes to be noticed and loved.

  =physical love.=] Just as a young animal clings to its mother for

  =animal instinct.=] The phrase repeats in another form what was said
      before, in the words "a kind of physical love."

  =pursed her lips.=] Drew her lips tight like the mouth of a purse
      which is tightened by pulling the string.

  =as if expecting some one.=] He was looking for his mother.

  =very critical.=] Very dangerous. The danger point of the illness
      might be reached at any moment and death might come.

  =By the mark.=] When a shallow place comes at sea, or on a great
      river, one of the sailors throws a piece of lead, with a string
      tied to it, into the water, and then looks at the _mark_ on the
      string. He calls out that the depth is "three" or "four" fathoms
      according to the mark.

  =plumb-line.=] The line with a lead weight.

  =plumbing.=] To plumb is to get to the bottom of a piece of water.
      Here Phatik is pictured as himself going deeper and deeper into
      the sea of death, which none can fathom.

  =the holidays.=] The Bengali word for "holiday" means also "release."
      It is as though he were saying, "My release has come." This cannot
      be represented in the English.


In this story Rabindranath Tagore begins with some amusing sentences
about the dull, matter of fact character of modern scientific people,
who cannot enjoy a fairy story without asking "Is it true?" The Poet
implies that there are deeper truths than modern science has yet
discovered. The ending of the present story will show this more clearly.

  =sovereign truth.=] There is a play upon the word "sovereign" which
      can mean "kingly" and also "supreme."

  =exacting.=] There is further play here with the words "exact" and
      "exacting." "Exact" means precise and "exacting" means making
      others precise.

  =legendary haze.=] The ancient legends are very obscure, just like an
      object seen through a mist.

  =knowledge.=] Mere book knowledge,--knowledge of outside things.

  =truth.=] Inner truth such as comes from the heart of man and cannot
      be reasoned or disputed.

  =half past seven.=] The time when his tutor was due.

  =no other need.=] As if God would continue the rain merely to keep his
      tutor away!

  =If not.=] Though it might not have been caused by his prayers, still
      for some reason the rain did continue.

  =nor did my teacher.=] Supply the words "give up."

  =punishment to fit the crime.=] An amusing reference to the doctrine
      of _karma_, which states that each deed will have its due reward
      or punishment.

  =as me.=] Strictly speaking it should be "I" not "me" but he is
      writing not too strictly.

  =I hope no child.=] The author here amusingly pretends that the
      child's way of getting out of his lessons was too shocking for
      young boys in the junior school to read about.

  =I will marry my daughter to him.=] The verb to "marry" in English can
      be used in two  senses:--

        (1) To wed some one: to take in marriage.

        (2) To get some one wedded: to give in marriage.

  The later sense is used here.

  =in the dawn of some indefinite time.=] In some past existence long

  =If my grandmother were an author.=] Here Rabindranath returns to his
      mocking humour. A modern author, he says, would be obliged to
      explain all sorts of details in the story.

  =hue and cry.=] This is a phrase used for the noise and bustle that is
      made when people are searching for a thief.

  =Her readers.=] Referring back to the Grandmother.

  =in an underhand way.=] Under the disguise of a fairy story.

  =grandmother again.=] That is, in the old conditions when people were
      not too exacting about accuracy.

  =luckless grandson.=] A humorous way of referring to himself. The
      author had the misfortune to be born in the modern age of science.

  =Seven wings.=] The word "wings" is here used, not for "wings" like
      those of birds, but for the sides of a large building, projecting
      out at an angle from the main building.

  =But what is the use....=] The author here breaks off the story, as
      though it were useless to go on any further in these modern days
      when every thing has to be scientifically proved.

  =Some "what then?"=] Some future existence about which explanations
      might be asked.

  =no grandmother of a grandmother.=] No one, however old.

  =never admits defeat.=] Refuses to believe in death.

  =teacherless evening=.] Evening on which the teacher did not come.

  =chamber of the great end.=] Death itself is referred to; it is the
      end of human life on earth and what is beyond death is shut out
      from us.

  =incantation.=] Sacred verses or _mantras_.


  =found two masters.=] The wife was his master now, as well as her

  =make for safety.=] Get to some place where he could not be caught.

  =will be a judge some day.=] The baby seemed so wise to Raicharan,
      that he thought he would certainly grow up to be a judge.

  =epoch in human history.=] It seemed to Raicharan as though some great
      event had happened which ought to be recorded.

  =wrestler's trick.=] The writer, in fun, makes Raicharan's skill
      depend on doing just what the wrestler tries to avoid, i.e. being
      thrown on his back.

  =swallowed down.=] Washed them away in a flood.

  =little despot.=] The baby, who was able to make Raicharan do exactly
      what he liked.

  =The silent ceremonial.=] The author pictures the sunset as like some
      splendid kingly ceremony, where every gorgeous colour can be seen.

  ="Pitty fow."=] "Pretty flower." The baby can only lisp the words.

  =He was promoted from a horse into a groom.=] He was no longer asked
      by the baby to be a "horse" in his games, but to look after this
      toy carriage, as a groom would.

  =with all sorts of curious noises.=] He began to imitate the sounds of

  =destined to be a judge.=] The baby could see through Raicharan's
      attempts to deceive, as a judge would see through false evidence.

  =wavelets.=] The little waves seemed like so many thousand little
      children running away in fun or mischief.

  =there was no one there.=] These words are repeated again and again to
      give the sense of utter loss and desolation.

  =overwhelming resentment.=] His own baby seemed to have been given to
      him in order to tempt him to forget his little Master. Raicharan
      was angry to think that any one could imagine such forgetfulness
      to be possible.

  =The little Master could not cast off the spell.=] Could not keep away
      from the servant who loved him so much. He fancies his little
      Master has come back to life again in this new little baby, drawn
      as it were by some enchantment of love.

  =accumulated.=] Gathered together: referring to the idea of _karma_.

  =personal appearance.=] He spent a long time in arranging his clothes
      and making himself look handsome.

  =country manners.=] Country people have habits and ways of speaking
      which seem absurd to town people.

  =a kind of condescension.=] As if he were superior and Raicharan were
      beneath him.

  =mendicant quack.=] A beggar dealing in herbs and medicines and

  =hungry, eager eyes.=] As if she could never gaze long enough upon

  =the magistrate in him.=] The magistrate's way of looking at things.

  =magisterial conscience.=] His instincts as a judge, who must condemn
      the guilty.


  =Ratikanta.=] He is represented throughout as a typical hanger-on of
      the rich family, selfish and flattering.

  =Victor Hugo.=] The most famous of Victor Hugo's stories is called
      "Les Miserables." Its opening scene of San Valjean and the saintly
      Bishop is very well known in literature.

  =deep-laid plot.=] Notice how throughout this story the different
      members of this wealthy house appear to be unable to take account
      of unselfish motives.

  =this is sheer kidnapping.=] Adhar Babu believes that Haralal has
      acquired some hypnotic influence over Venu and is trying to rob
      him of his money.

  =brokers and middlemen.=] Those who bought the grain from the peasants
      and sold it to the English firm.

  =any security.=] A money payment which would be forfeited if anything
      went wrong.

  =a note of hand.=] A paper signed by Venugopal saying that he owed so
      much money.

  =filed a suit.=] Brought an action in the law courts against the
      father to recover the money lent to the son.

  =Currency notes.=] Notes of twenty, fifty, a hundred rupees,--such as
      could be changed for money.

  =theft the night before.=] Adhar Babu had already missed the things
      that Venu had taken away.

  =it's a paying business.=] Adhar Babu imagines that Venu and Haralal
      have become partners in order to swindle other people.

  =with your connivance.=] With your secret knowledge and approval.

  =Deliverance was in the infinite sky.=] He felt that all the evils,
      which were pressing close around him, were broken through and
      that he had come out beyond them into the clear light of truth. It
      was like coming out of some narrow confined place into the open


  =Subhashini.=] Sweetly speaking.

  =Sukheshini.=] With lovely hair.

  =Suhashini.=] Sweetly smiling.

  =process of translation.=] To change the unspoken language of thought
      into the spoken language of words is like translating the mother
      tongue into a foreign language. Much of the beauty is lost.

  =that speech of the dark eyes.=] Nature was speaking in every part of
      her own great being, in the same silent way as those dark eyes of
      Subha were speaking.

  =without any common language.=] The cows had the common language of
      looks with which to talk to Subha. But Pratap, who could speak,
      had not learnt Subha's language of looks.

  =they become public property.=] Everyone can amuse himself by talking
      with them in idle moments.

  =water nymph.=] Referring to the legends, common in all countries, of
      water fairies or mermaids living at the bottom of a river or
      beneath the sea and dwelling in wonderful palaces.

  =tide from the central places of the sea.=] When the moon is full, the
      tide rises to its highest point: it seems to start from some
      central place far out at sea and to come rolling and surging in.

  =silent troubled Mother.=] Nature, with her full tide and full moon,
      seems troubled and longing to break out into speech, just as Subha
      longed to do.

  =they have caught your bridegroom.=] Pratap employs the word "caught"
      from his favourite pursuit of fishing. The bridegroom has been
      caught just like a fish.

  =did her best to kill her natural beauty.=] Her hair was much more
      beautiful when left in its natural way, instead of being all bound
      up in a net.

  =The God ... the great man.=] These words refer to the bridegroom
      himself, who wields such mighty powers of choice or refusal. They
      are ironical.


  =like a fish out of water.=] Completely out of place, because he was
      used to city life.

  =macadamised road.=] He would have infinitely preferred the streets
      and shops and crowded markets of Calcutta.

  =smoke ... from the village cowsheds.=] Such as is used to drive away
      the mosquitoes.

  =Baül.=] A religious sect in Bengal whose members sing songs and often
      go about begging.

  =No more of this.=] He was afraid he might become too deeply attached
      to Ratan if he stayed.

  =Its fond mistakes are persistent.=] We continually try to deceive
      ourselves that what we _wish_ to be true _is_ true. When at last
      we find out the truth, we could almost wish we had not done so.


  =Like a rudderless boat.=] Notice how the metaphor is kept up to the
      end of the sentence.

  =The writ of Fate.=] They said that if she was to die, she was to die,
      and nothing could prevent it.

  =profiting their Brahmin guest.=] She would believe this to be an act
      of merit for which she would be rewarded.

  =out of his repertory.=] Out of the stock of plays he recited when he
      belonged to the theatrical troupe.

  =hearing sacred names.=] This also, she believed, would bring her

  =forcing house.=] Like some glass conservatory used for exotic

  =exact stature.=] The manager wished him to take the parts of women
      who are smaller than men.

  =came to adequate revelation.=] Were now abundantly apparent.

  =twice-born bird.=] Once born in the egg and once after the breaking
      of the egg. The goose in the story was the messenger between Nala
      and Damayanti.

  =the tiger has no wish to become a mouse.=] A reference to a folk
      story of a saint who turned a pet mouse into a tiger.

  =German silver.=] A kind of cheap silver containing much alloy in it.

  =to look for your Damayanti.=] To find Satish a wife.


  =do the duty of the father.=] By disciplining and punishing the

  =crippling his patrimony.=] Injuring the estate.

  =this is preposterous.=] The natural thing would be for the property
      to be divided between the two brothers and their descendants, but
      by this will only one son was recognized and one set of grandsons.

  =given to the grandsons.=] To Shyama Charan's and Bhavani's sons.
      According to this preposterous will Bhavani was left out
      altogether, and also his son.

  =Shyama Charan's treachery.=] She fully believed that he had stolen
      the will and put this false one in its place.

  =Noto used to get reprimands.=] Used to be blamed for wishing to save
      this waste of money. Of course the whole thing was imaginary, but
      it gave Bhavani the pleased feeling of being generous.

  =traditional extravagance.=] Such as had always been displayed in
      former days when the family was prosperous.

  =Some imaginary dog.=] She would say that some dog had run off with
      the food which she had prepared.

  =Bhavani had confessed.=] Rashmani, Noto and Bhavani himself were all
      alike ready to keep up the illusion that the old magnificence was
      still there, if only this or that accident had not deprived them
      of its display.

  =invisible ink.=] Ink which is invisible when first written with, but
      when heated becomes visible.

  =Baba, wait a little.=] In Bengal daughters are often called Ma
      (mother) and sons Baba (father).

  =it became absurdly easy.=] Because, after this, both the mother and
      her son could join in the pretence together.

  =lacking in proper enthusiasm.=] Did not care much about the subject.

  =more than compensated.=] The pleasure of telling the news was greater
      than the pain of knowing that such a sacrilege was going to take

  =with all the more deadly force.=] The thrower being up above, the
      speed would increase all the more on the downward flight of the

  =requiring expensive fodder.=] Vanity can feed itself on the idea of
      self importance.

  =to graze at large.=] Merely to feed on what is before it. He gave it
      extra food by paying for a number of flatterers, just as a horse
      is stall-fed with extra supplies of food.

  =turned round on him.=] His vanity would be offended and he would be
      his enemy instead of his helper.

  =forced extravagance.=] Kalipada had been forced by the sneers of the
      students to give far more than he could afford.

  =draw tears from the eyes.=] An amusing way of saying that no burglar
      would ever dream of trying to rob such a room.

  =laid their impious hands.=] Had grossly insulted.

  =let him climb down first.=] An English metaphor meaning "let him be

  =he discovered the truth.=] The truth that he was a near relative of

  =grandchild's privilege.=] Especially in Bengal, a grandchild is
      allowed the liberty of making jokes with his grandfather.

  =he found it easy.=] He loved his mother so much that when he found
      anyone pleased with things which she had made he enjoyed seeing
      them use these things rather than himself.


  =the days before the flood.=] The word "antediluvian" meaning "before
      the flood," is used sometimes in English for things very ancient
      and out of date. There is a play upon this here.

  =dazzling outburst.=] Just as, at a firework display, pitch darkness
      follows the last firework.

  =drawing his heavy cheques.=] To "draw a cheque" is to take so much
      from a credit account in the bank. The words are humorously used
      here of taking something from the public belief about the
      greatness of the Babus of Nayanjore.

  =and er-er.=] He hesitates a little as he mentions the ladies.

  =Thakur Dada.=] Grandfather.

  =my moral character was flawless.=] Note how the author shows the
      conceit of this young man. Compare, lower down, the phrase
      "because I was so good."

  =poet Bhabavuti.=] The poet means that there must be some one in this
      vast universe of time and space who is the match for the hero of
      his poem.

  =Chota Lât Sahib.=] The story refers to the time when Calcutta was the
      Capital of India. The Burra Lât Sahib was the Viceroy, the Chota
      Lât Sahib was the Lieutenant-Governor.

  =walking backward.=] As a mark of respect. He was continually bowing
      and then stepping back. This kind of ceremonial bowing was
      commoner in earlier days than it is now.

  =tall silk hat.=] These were only worn in India at State functions
      and their use in this country by Englishmen is becoming more and
      more rare. But in earlier days they were not uncommon. They are
      black in colour and shining.

  =ugly modern custom.=] The author dislikes the passing away of an old
      beautiful custom of reverence towards old men.

  =becoming an epic.=] Becoming legendary by its additions. An epic poem
      often goes on describing an incident with all kinds of marvellous
      events added to it, till it becomes a very long story.


Transcriber's Note:

The following modifications have been made to the text.

  Page 57: Raichran has been replaced with Raicharan.

  Page 86: mornng has been replaced with morning.

  Page 119: teachnig has been replaced with teaching.

  Page 166: circumstance has been replaced with circumstances.

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About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.