For several days this feeling of exaltation, strength, and purity did
not leave him, and he set out upon his new life with eagerness. His sins
seemed to drop from him as old skin sloughs from a snake or dead leaves
fall from a tree, making place for a fresh and pristine growth. He worshipped
the Lord with devotion, begged for his food, and ate it as an offering
to the Lord within his heart; he looked upon all men and beasts as various
forms of God and upon himself as their servant. He avoided his old companions.
If a day of begging yielded no food, he went hungry rather than trap birds.
At night he slept soundly, knowing all to be his friends.
Remonstrating with himself thus, he pulled himself across the dry and
seemingly pointless days of his new life, and slowly, little by little,
he grew accustomed to his begging bowl and his solitude. Little by little,
his yearning for the solid feel of the knife hilt in his hand and the exhilarating
recklessness of his old ways left him. Still, however much he prayed, he
did not lose the burden of his guilt; nor did his good deeds seem to counterbalance
the weight of it even by a hair, nor his worship make the slightest dent
in it. Yet he went on, begging, worshipping, and praying and, at least,
he told himself, adding no further sin to his load.
In silence they left the road and walked single file into the forest,
the Brahmacharya leading, then the dacoit, and then Buckshee, who kept his
eyes glued to the dacoit's back, for he well knew his old friend's cunning
and treachery. Yet, though he remained alert, his mantra repeated itself
steadily in his heart, and from time to time waves of intense joy flooded
through him. At other times, gazing at the stained hands of the dacoit,
he smiled to think of the great event that might be in store for this desperate
thug the miracle of his transformation. He forgot his own revulsion and