For several days
thereafter the boys approached Sri Nag in the same cautious way. He
made no move, not even to enter the temple, and after a time they
began hurting rocks directly at him. Their aim was good and their
strong young arms were like catapults. They could hear a rhythmic
murmuring sound come from him, but still he lay quiet. The boys
decided that the cobra was sick and saw their chance for more
thrilling deviltry. Their leader, Sri Nag's longtime and boldest
enemy, took him by his tail, whirled him round and round, and dashed
him to the ground. Each boy, five in all, had his turn at this,
until finally, hearing a loud humming-hissing from the cobra, which
they took to be the final breath escaping from his broken and inert
body, they left him for dead, laughing as they went. Only their
leader felt a pang of regret, for now his favorite sport was over.
Sri Nag lay unmoving for some time, then slowly he dragged himself
into the darkness of the temple.
my dear husband!' Uma exclaimed on seeing him. 'What
have they done to you? Why did you not chase them off? Why did you
not strike them? I myself could have done so!'
Sri Nag painfully
shook his head. He ached from the tip of his nose to the tip of his
tail; some of his ribs were broken, and here and there his skin was
badly torn. He silently repeated his mantra.
Uma nursed him as
best she could. He had forbidden her to bring mice or frogs to him.
He would take only a vegetarian diet, and although he encouraged her
to hunt for herself and the children, she declined. Her husband's
life was her life, and the children must follow the ways of their
father. She totally erased from her mind the unthinkable thought
that her husband might have lost his wits, or, worse, his