Little Henry and His Bearer
WHEN I was a child I wept over a story — if I remember right, by Mrs. Sherwood — which bore this title. Years after I came to man’s estate, I felt inclined to weep over an incident in real life which this title seemed to fit.
Looking back on those first, tears, I judge them uncalled for, by what my maturer age condemns as false sentiment. Perhaps my later emotion is equally at fault. The reader had better judge for himself.
“ Speak on, oh Bisram bearer ! Wherefore dost not obey ? Speak on about Mai Kâli and the noose, — the noose that is so soft, that never slips. Wherefore dost not speak, son of an owl ? ”
The voice was childish, fretful. So was the listless little figure in a flannel dressing-gown, which lay, half upon the reed mat spread on the veranda floor, half against the red and yellow livery coat of Bisram bearer. The latter remained silent, his dark eyes fixed deprecatingly on a taller figure within ear-shot. It was the child’s mother, standing for a glance at her darling.
“ Speak ! Why dost not speak, baseborn child of pigs ? Lo! I will smite thee I Speak of Mai Kâli and the noose ! Lo ! Bisram bearer, be not unkind. Remember I am sick. Show me the noose. Ai ! Bisra ! Show it to Sonny Baha.”
The liquid sounds fell from the child’s lips with quaint, precision, and ended in the coaxing wail of one who knows his power.
That was unmistakable. The man’s high-bred, sensitive face, which had not quivered under the parentage assigned to him by the thin, domineering voice, melted at the appeal, and the red and yellow arms seemed to close round their charge at the very suggestion of sickness.
Bisram gave another deprecating glance at the tall white figure at the door, and then from the folds of his waistcloth took out a silk handkerchief crumpled into a ball; but a dexterous flutter left it in uncreased folds across the child’s knees.
“ Lo ! Protector of the Poor ! such is the noose of Kâli,” said Bisram deferentially.
Seen thus, the handkerchief looked larger than one would have expected; or perhaps it is more correct to say longer, for the texture being loose like canvas, even the slight drag across the child’s knees stretched the stuff lengthwise. It was of that curious Indian color called oodah, which is not purple or crimson, but which looks as if it had been the latter and might become the former; the color, briefly, of recently spilt blood. It looked well, however, in the soft, lustrous folds lying upon the child’s white dressing-gown. He smiled down at it joyfully, yet not content, since there was more to come.
“ Twist it for Mai Kâli, — twist it, Bisram bearer ! Ai ! base-born, twist it, or I will smite.”
“ It is time for the Shelter of the World to take his medicine,” began Bisram, interrupting the imperious little voice. “ Lo ! does his honor not see the mem waiting for him ? ”
Sonny gave a quick glance at his mother. He knew his power there, also. “ Ise not goin’ to take it, mum,” he called decisively, “ till he’s twisted a noose — I won’t — I want a stwangle somefin’ first. Tell him, mum — pleath. Then I 'll ’waller it like a good boy.”
“ Do what he wants, Bisram, and then bring him here,” said Sonny’s mother, her eyes soft. For the child had but lately chosen the path of Life instead of the Valley of the Shadow, so even wayward footsteps along it were welcome.
“ Now is it government orders,” boasted Sonny, reverting to the precisions and peremptoriness of Hindustani with a wave of his small hand. “ So twist and stwangle ; and if thou dost it not, my father will cause hanging to come to thee.”
“ Huzoor ! ” assented Bisram cheerfully, as he shifted his burden slightly so as to free his left hand. The next instant a purple-crimson rope of a thing circled on itself settled down upon the neck of a big painted mud tiger, bright yellow with black stripes and fiery red eyes, which one of the native visitors had brought that morning for the magistrate’s little son.
“ Now the Protector of the Poor can pull,” said Bisram bearer ; “ it will not slip.”
But Sonny’s wan little face had perplexity and doubt in it. “ But, Bisra, Mai Kâli rides a tiger. She would n’t stwangle it; would she, mum ? I would n’t stwangle my pony. I ’d wather stwangle the gwoom, would n’t you, mum ? I would. I’d wather like to stwangle Gamoo.”
“ My dear Sonny ! ” exclaimed his mother, looking with amused horror at the still helpless little figure which Bisram had brought to her. " You would n’t murder poor Gamoo, surely ! ”
Sonny made faces over his quinine, as if that were a matter of much more importance.
“ Ees I would,” he said, with his mouth full of sweet biscuits. “ I ’d stwangle him, and then Mai Kâli would be pleathed for a fousand years ; and then I ’d stwangle Dittoo an’ Reroo too ; so she ’d be pleathed for a fousand, fousand years, would n’t she, Bisra ? ”
“ Huzoor ! ” assented Bisram bearer.
“ My dear,” said Sonny’s mother, going back with a somewhat disturbed look to the room where the magistrate, Sonny’s father, was busy over crabbed Sanskrit texts and bright-colored tale pictures; (for in his leisure hours he was compiling a Hindoo Pantheon for the use of students), “ I almost wish Bisram would not tell Sonny so many stories about the gods and goddesses. They do such horrid things.”
The scholar, who in his heart nourished a hope that his son might in due time follow in his footsteps, and perhaps gain reputation where his father only found amusement, looked up from his books mildly.
“ Gods and goddesses always do, my dear. Their morality seldom conforms to that which obtains among their worshipers. I intend to draw special attention to this anomaly. Besides, Sonny will have to learn these things anyhow when he begins Greek and Latin ; he will in fact find this previous knowledge of great use. Kâli, for instance, is the terrific form of Durga, who of course corresponds to the Juno of the Greeks and Romans, and the Isis of Egypt. She is also the crescent-crowned Diana and the Rarbutto Earth Mother Ceres. Under the name of Atma again she is ‘ goddess of souls governing the three worlds,’ and so equivalent to Hecate Triformis.”
“ Yes, my dear,” interrupted his wife meekly. “ But for all that, I don’t want Sonny to talk of strangling the grooms ; it really does n’t sound nice. However, as Bisram is eager, now Sonny is really recovering, to get away at once for his usual leave, I won’t say anything to the child. He will forget while Bisram is away, and I will give orders that the latter is not to mention the subject on his return.”
Bisram himself, receiving his pay and his orders ere starting on the yearly visit to his own country, which was the only portion of his life by day or night not absolutely—without any reservation whatever — at the disposal of his employers, fully acquiesced in the mem sahib’s dictum. The noose of Kâli was scarcely a nice game for the little master; indeed, his slave would never have introduced it under ordinary circumstances. But the mem must remember that dreadful day, when the Heart’s Eye lay so still, caring for nothing, and the doctor sahib had said there was nothing to be done save to coax him into looking into the restless Face of Life instead of into the restful Face of Death. That was when he, Bisram, who knew, had spoken of the noose ; and at least it had done the little Shelter of the World no harm.
“ Harm ? ” echoed Sonny’s mother gently. " You have never done him harm, Bisra. Why, the doctor sahib himself said your hand was fortunate with the child. If you had not been with him, I think — I think, Bisram — he might have died. And now I am even wondering if I am wise to let you go.”
Bisram looked up eagerly. “ I must go, Huzoor. I must go without fail tonight, — the year is over.” He paused abruptly, then added quietly, “ The Huzoor need have no fear. The little master will do well. The Mighty One, who cares for children, will protect this one.”
He spoke with such faith in voice and face that Sonny’s mother, going back to the study, and finding her husband busy as usual over his Pantheon, lingered to look doubtfully at the tale pictures, and finally remarked that, after all, the people really had a good deal of religious feeling, and really seemed to believe in a God. Bisram, for instance, had said that Sonny was in the guardianship of One who suffered the little children — Here her eyes filled with tears and her voice sank.
“ He meant Mata deai, I suppose, my dear,” replied the scholar without looking up. " She is another form of Kâli or Durga, and corresponds to Cybele or the Mater Montana.”
“ He was very eager to get away, however,” went on Sonny’s mother, almost aggrievedly. “ I really think he might have stayed a few days longer, till the boy was quite himself. But, devoted as he is, he is just like the rest of them, — selfishly set on what they are accustomed to.”
“ He put off goingnearly a month, though, and you know, my dear, that when he took service as Sonny’s bearer he stipulated for a fortnight’s leave every spring about a certain time, in order to perform some religious ceremonial,” protested justice.
“Well, and he has had it, — every year for five years; so he might have given it up for once. But he would n’t — I don’t believe he would, not even to save Sonny’s life. However, I think the child is all right; and even if I had kept Bisram he would n’t have been much good, for he has been frightfully restless and hurried the last few days.”
He did not seem so, however, as he stood quietly in the growing dusk at the gateless gate of the compound, to look back at the house where he had left the little Shelter of the World asleep. His scarlet and yellow coat was gone, replaced by the faint coral-colored garment of the pilgrim; he carried a network-covered pot for holy water slung on his left wrist, and the yellow trident of Siva showed like a frown on his forehead. The thickets of flowering shrubs, the tangle of white petunias bordering the path, sent their perfume into the air ; but above it rose the heavy dead-sweet scent from the wild dhatura plant which, taking advantage of an unweeded nook by the gate, thrust its long white flowers across the plaster; one of them indeed reaching past it, and so seen, fine pointed against the dusk beyond, looking like a slim white hand pointing the way thither.
Bisram stooped deliberately to pick it, tore it into its five segments, and placed the pieces in his bosom, muttering softly, “ With heart, and brain, and feet, and hands, and eyes, Deni, I am thy servant.” Then for a second he raised himself to his full height, and stretched both his thin, fine hands — such delicately supple, strong hands — toward the house. “ Sleep sound, Life of my Life,” he murmured again. “ Sleep sound, and have no fear. The offering will be complete, though the time is short indeed.”
So, turning on his heel, he passed into the dusk beyond the gate whither the flower had pointed. A fortnight later he came out of it again, passed into his hut in the gloaming dressed as a pilgrim, and emerged therefrom, ten minutes afterward, in the red and yellow coat, with a huge white turban with a bend, as the heralds call it, across it bearing his master’s crest. So attired he slipped back into his place, as if he had never left it, and setting aside the reed screen at the door of Sonny’s nursery stood within. Sonny, in his white flannel dressing-gown, was convalescent enough to be saying his prayers kneeling on his mother’s knee.
“ Go on, dear,” she said gently. “ You can speak to Bisram afterwards.”
Sonny, whose feet were less wayward now, shut his eyes again, and assumed a prayerful expression.
“ — an’ all kine friends, an’ make me a velly good boy — yamen — Oh, Bisram ! where’s the noose ? ”
The mother might smile, unable to pretend ignorance. Not so Bisram bearer, who had his orders. “ What noose, Shelter of the World ? ” he asked gravely. “ The servant remembers none ; but he hath brought the Protector of the Poor a toy.”
It was only one of the many which you can buy in any Indian town for the fraction of a farthing, made of mud, straw, and cane. A bit of tinsel, perhaps, or tuft of cotton, their sole value over and above the ingenuity and time spent in making them ; but Sonny had never seen this kind before, and laughed as the snakes made out of curled shavings leaped and twisted, — leaped so like fife that his mother drew back hastily, telling herself that the bearer had certainly a fine taste in horrors. And no doubt there would be some tale to match these. Sonny, however, seemed to know it vaguely, for a puzzled look replaced the laugh. “ Yes, Bisra,” he said, in imperious argument, " Mai Kâli had snakes and skulls too, but I like the noose best. Why didst thou not bring it back, son of an owl? ”
The man never moved a muscle. “ The little master mistakes,” he replied calmly. “ It was some other who tied the noose ; not this dust-like one. He is but the Protector of the Poor’s bearer Bisram.”
A year is an eternity to the memory of a child. Indeed, before one twelfth of one was over, Sonny had ceased from suddenly asking irrelevantly, “ Oh, Bisra, where is the noose ? Why didst not bring it back, son of an owl ? ” The thought seemed to have passed from his life altogether. From Bisram’s also, as he tended the child night and day, day and night, unremittingly, contentedly.
So the spring of the year returned, and with it, by one of those mysterious coincidences beyond classification, came the old desire. It came suddenly — irrelevantly it seemed to Sonny’s parents
— during a brief attack of fever which the changing season brought to the boy. But Bisram bearer, hearing the little fretful wail, “ Oh, Bisra, where is the noose? I want the noose,” stood silent for a moment with a scared look in his eyes, then turned them in quick appeal to his mistress, as if to ask leave for something. But she was silent, also, so the old formula came gently, “ What noose, Shelter of the World?”
That evening, however, when Harry — as his mother vainly strove to call him, now that, as she used to tell her boy fondly, he was a man, and had had his curls cut — had fallen into the heavy sleep which brings so little relief, the bearer came into the study and asked for his usual yearly leave. A week might do, but leave he must have at once. True, the year was not up, but the master would doubtless remember that his slave had deferred going at the proper season last time, because of Harry sahib’s illness. (Bisram, punctilious to the least order, never forgot the child’s new dignity.) He did not want to lose the right season again, so if he went now at once, even for a week, he would be back in time, even if Harry sahib were to be ill, as he was last year, which Heaven forefend!
He was quite calm, but there was an almost pathetic entreaty in his dark eyes, — so soft, so dark, that, looking into them, one seemed to see nothing save soft darkness.
“Go!" commented Sonny’s mother, when, moved by a vague feeling that Bisram meant well, his master handed on his request to the real authority. “ Certainly not. I wonder he has the face to ask for leave when Sonny—I mean Harry — is down with fever. Not that it is anything, the doctor says, but a passings attack. Still, I am not going to run any risks with a strange servant. Go ! Indeed, it shows what his pretended devotion is worth.”
“ Surely, my dear, he is devoted ” — “ Oh, very, in his way. But really you spoil Bisra, Edward, — just because he can tell you things about those horrid gods and goddesses. Do you know, I really think of getting an English nurse for the child, until I have — until I have to take him home,” interrupted his wife, her initial sharpness of tone softening over the inevitable certainty of separation which clouds Indian motherhood. “ It cannot be right to let him live in such an atmosphere of superstition and ignorance.”
The magistrate, who was leaving the room, had paused at her remark about the nurse, as he might have paused before a painful scene. “By Jove!” he murmured, as if to himself, “ I believe it would break the man’s heart. I often wonder what on earth he 'll do when the child has — to go home.”
The inevitable lent a tremor to the father’s voice, also. But Bisram, despite the former’s belief, spoke of the same separation quite calmly, when, the verynext morning, the doctor, coming early, found his little patient on the veranda in Bisra’s arms getting the advantage of the fresh, bright air; when he asked calmly, but with that slow, pathetic anxiety in his eyes, was Harry sahib going across the black waters ?
“ You think he ought to go,” said the doctor. “ Why ? ”
“ This slave does not think ; he knows the little master must go, — go at once,” replied the man, still calmly, though he held the child to him with a visibly closer strain. “ The Huzoor himself knows how bad Hindustan is for the little ones. He must go, Huzoor, before he gets worse.”
“ But he is not going to get worse,” said the doctor kindly. “ He is better already, and if he has another bout of fever his mother has promised to take him to the hills ; so don’t distress yourself.”
Bisram’s dark eyes looked unrestfully into the doctor’s. “ The hills ? That would be worse. That would be nearer the evil. He must go far from Hindustan at once, Huzoor ; and if you tell the mem this she will go, — she will not mind.”
“ And you, Bisra ? ” asked the doctor curiously.
The man’s eyes flinched, but he never stirred a muscle under the blow.
“ I am only the little master’s bearer, Huzoor. He will not need one much longer; he grows big.”
“ It is only because he is in a hurry to get away himself, I verily believe,” said Sonny’s mother, when the doctor, also vaguely impressed with something in the man’s appeal, told her of it. “ You can’t fathom these people. Ah ! I know he would n’t abate one atom of his care, and it is simply wonderful. All the same, I believe that just now he would be glad to be rid of the necessity for it, since it clashes with some of his religious notions. That’s it, depend upon it. And I mean to let him go, as soon as Sonny — I mean Harry — is better ; and he really is better to-day, is n’t he? ”
“ Much better ; and you may be right, only it’s always impossible to lay down the law for men like Bisra. Those highcaste hill Brahmins are a law unto themselves. However, I expect to find the boy quite cool to-morrow.”
He was not, however, and more than once, as he lay in Bisra’s arms, the little fretful wail rose between sleeping and waking. “ Where’s the noose, Bisra ? I want the noose.”And Bisra would pause as if waiting for a promise of wayward life in threat or abuse, and when neither came would turn a wistful appeal to authority, and when it was silent say, “ What noose, Shelter of the World ? ”
But in the dead of the night, a day or two later, when even maternal authority slept for a brief spell, Bisra’s answer to the request which came almost incoherently from the child’s dry lips was different. Then he stood bent over the boy’s cot in the attitude of a suppliant, and his joined petitioning hands trembled.
“Why dost ask it, Kâli Ma?” he whispered rapidly. “ Lo ! have I not served thee ? Would I not serve thee now if I could ? But I have promised this, and they will not let me go for the other. Lo ! Kâli Ma ! be merciful, and ask no more, and when the child has gone away I will serve thee all the years, — yea, every day of all the years.”
There was no passion, no excitement, in his face or voice; only that pathetic appeal which passed into a murmured lullaby as the restless little sleeper turned on his pillow with a sigh of greater content.
“ Better again this morning,” was the doctor’s verdict, with the rider that Bisram himself stood in need of a little rest. The man smiled faintly when his mistress replied that it would be her turn that night, though, to say sooth, Harry certainly did seem to improve when she slept.
“ Perhaps Bisram works charms,” remarked the doctor thoughtlessly; whereat she frowned.
Charms or no charms, the boy was evidently worse next morning, and that despite the fact that Bisram, who had steadily refused to go further than the veranda, had spent the night huddled up outside the threshold, within which his mistress refused to allow him to come. He needed rest, she said, and though she could not compel him to take it, he should at least not work.
“ You had better let him have his own way to-night,” said the doctor at his evening visit. “ The child gets on better, and you are fresher for the day’s nursing. Those thin, delicate-looking natives are very wiry, and if the man won’t rest he won’t, and that ’s an end of it.”
He spoke cheerfully, but as he was getting into his dogcart he saw Bisram at his elbow. “ The doctor sahib thinks the little master very ill to-night ? ” he asked quietly.
“ So ill that you must do your very best for him to-night. If any one can pull him through, you can, — remember that.”
“ Huzoor,” said Bisram submissively.
It was a dark night, so dark that the rushlight in Sonny’s room seemed almost brilliant from the veranda. Looking thence you could see the child’s cot, one of its side rails removed, and in its place as it were the protection of Bisram’s crouching figure. He did not touch the cot; he crouched beside it, with clasped hands hanging over his knees and dark eyes staring hard into the darkness, as if waiting and listening.
So he sat, his clasped hands loosening, his eyes growing softer, as the hours passed, bringing nothing but half-conscious sleep, half-conscious wakening, to the child ; until suddenly, irrelevantly, just on the borderland of night and day, the fretful wail rose upon the silence loudly, insistently.
“ Where is the noose, Bisra ? I want it. Oh, Bisra bearer, bring the noose and strangle something.”
The slackness, the dreaminess, left the man’s hands and eyes. He stood up blindly, desperately, to face these last words, the words for which he had been listening. Yet there was still the same pathetic self-control as he stretched his hands and out over the sleeping child.
Lo ! Kâli Ma!” he muttered. “ Have I not served thee as ever despite the child ? Have I set him before Thee ? Nay ! thou knowest I have risked life itself to have Thy tale of offering complete when I was hindered. Thou didst not suffer. Wilt not wait for once? Wilt not wait one little while ? ”
His voice sinking in its entreaty ended in silence ; but only for a second. Then the fretful wail began again. “ The noose, Bisra ! Be not unkind ; remember I am ill. Oh, Bisra, I want you to strangle something for me ” —
Bisra gave a faint sob, then joined his outstretched hands. “ Huzoor ! so be it! the noose shall find a victim. Yea, Shelter of the World, Bisra will strangle something. Sleep in peace ! ”
There was no sound in the room after that save the little contented sigh in which restlessness finds rest.
Outside the shiver of the cicalas seemed to count the seconds, but inside the darkness hours seemed to pass unnoticed as Bisra sat beside the cot, his hands listless, his eyes dreamy. There was nothing to wait for now, nothing to fear. That which had to come had come.
So with the first glint of light a stealthy step glided in and an anxious voice whispered, “ How is it with the child, Bisra? ”
“ It is well,” he whispered back, rising rather stiffly. “ He hath slept since the darkest hour. He will sleep on.” The mother, peering carefully for a glimpse of the child’s face, smiled at what she saw.
“ He sleeps indeed. Thou hast done well, Bisra.” He made no answer. But ere he left the room, his night-watch being over, he paused to touch the foot-rail of the cot with both hands and so salaam as those do who leave the presence.
Sonny was still sleeping when his father, entering his study with a lighter heart, found a stranger, as he thought, awaiting him there. It was a man naked save for a waistcloth, lean, sinewy, lithe ; the head was clean-shaven save for the Brahminical tuft, and the face was disfigured by the weird caste marks of extreme fanaticism.
“ Who ” — he began, shrinking involuntarily from one who might well be dangerous.
“ It is Bisra, Huzoor,” said the familiar voice gently. “ Bisra the child’s bearer, Bisra the servant of Kâli also. Lo ! here is her noose.” As he spoke he held out the crimson - scarlet handkerchief twisted to a rope and coiled in his curved palms like a snake. “ The master, being learned, will know the noose and its meaning. It hath brought Her many a blood offering. Huzoor, — many and many every year without fail, and it will not fail this year, either. It will bring Her the blood of Her servant, the blood of Bisram the Strangler.”
“ Bisram the Strangler ? ” echoed the magistrate stupidly, as the even, monotonous voice ceased. Then he sat down helplessly in his chair. In truth he knew too much of the mystery of India to be quite incredulous.
Yet two hours after, when with the help of the police officer he had been cross-questioning Bisra upon his confession, he told himself as helplessly that it was incredible, — the man must be mad. He had been born to strangle, he said, and had strangled to keep Kâli Ma content. That was necessary when you were born Her servant, especially when you had children. Perhaps he had let the little Shelter of the World creep too close to his heart, though he had striven to be just. At any rate, Kâli Ma had become jealous. He had not known this at first, or he would never have given the mistress that promise about the noose ; for if it had been in Harry sahib’s hands Dovi would never have sought his life. She always protected those with the noose — they never came to harm — unless — He had paused there, and then asked quickly if he had not said enough. Did they want him to tell any more ? He could not give them the names of the victims, of course, not knowing them, but they were many, very many.
“ There is nothing against him but his own story,” said the magistrate, fighting against his growing conviction that the man spoke truth. “ I can’t commit him to the sessions on that.”
“ There is something more, I think,” replied the police officer reluctantly. “ Don’t you remember that man who was found dead in a, railway carriage, about this time last year? He had an upcountry ticket on him, and as this was out of the beat of Stranglers no inquiry was made here. It was just about this time, and — and Bisram says he was in a hurry because the year was nearly up. He had been nursing the boy.”
The boy’s father, leaning with his head on his hands, groaned.
But Bisra was quite cheerful. He looked a little anxious, however, when two days after he was brought up formally to be committed for trial. There was still nothing definite against him save his own confession and the coincidence of the strangled man in the railway carriage. But opinion was dead against him amongst his countrymen. Of course he was one of Kâli’s Stranglers. Did he not look one ? Was he not now one? So how could he help being one ? The argument brought no consolation to Sonny’s father. But Bisram again was charged. He stood patiently between two yellow-legged policemen and told his tale at length, as if anxious to incriminate himself as much as possible, anxious that there should be no mistake. And when all the mysterious intricacies of charges and papers were over, and the two policemen nudged him to make place for other criminals with a friendly “ Come along, brother,” he paused a moment with handcuffed, petitioning hands to ask how soon he was to be hanged.
The magistrate made no answer; he knew what the question meant, and could not. The thought of his little son came between him and the truth ; namely, that Bisra’s sacrifice must await the law’s pleasure.
The doctor in charge of the jail where Bisra awaited trial had not the heart to tell the truth. Every day when on his rounds he looked into the cell, like a wild beast’s cage, where Bisra, being a Strangler and therefore dangerous to life, was confined alone, he answered the question which the tall naked figure stood up at his entrance to ask in the same words. Harry sahib was better; and as for the hanging, that would come soon enough, never fear. Yet every day the pathetic self-controlled eagerness on the man’s face struck him with a sense of physical pain, and left him helpless before his own pity.
Until a day came — after not many days—when, with a face red from the sight of bitter grief that he could understand, the sense of his absolute helplessness before the mystery of this man’s nature made the doctor feel inclined to throw pity to the winds and fall back on sheer common sense. After all, the man was a murderer; and if he had been fond of the child, what then? Such criminals were often men of strong affections.
Yet once again the sight of the submissive salaaming figure, the sound of the wistful yet calm voice, made his answer as usual. The child was better. The hanging would doubtless come erelong.
For once, however, Bisram did not accept the reply as final.
“ The Huzoor means that it will not come to-day ? ” he asked quietly.
The doctor raised his eyebrows. “ Today ? What made you think of to-day ? Certainly not. There’s no chance of it.”
But he was wrong. Two hours afterward the jail overseer sent for him in a hurry, because Bisram had completed his sacrifice by strangling himself in his cell with bis waistcloth. What else could he do, seeing that it was the last day of the year during which the propitiation of a sacrifice kept Kâli Ma from revenge ?
Poor devil! ” said the doctor as he stood up after his examination. “ I ’m glad now I did n’t tell him the child was dead.”
Flora Annie Steel.