Five years went by this way, and still his teacher did not send for
him. This did not seem strange to Buckshee, for it had become doubtful in
his mind that even fifty two lifetimes of virtue could nullify his sins
and gain freedom for him. Yet he went on,. remembering that his teacher
had said a million years was a small price to pay for Eternity.
Five more years passed. Buckshee had grown thin; and, although his body
was still strong, for he walked many miles every day, he was no longer
the proud young bandit who had flaunted his knife in the face of law and
dharma; he was humble now and soft spoken to all. Were he to meet his companions
of the old days, it was certain they would not have known him. But he cared
not at all; he had lost all longing for their company or their esteem.
He yearned now only to hear the voice of his teacher and to see with his
own eyes the God whom he continuously called upon.
One day Buckshee was walking down a forest road that led from a village
where he had taken his noonday meal. The air was heavy with heat; the forest
seemed to be asleep, breathing in a long rhythm. Only now and then did
the brilliant wings of a bird flash through the branches and a monkey chatter
petulantly. Banshee's mind returned to the day ten years back when on this
same road, at this same spot, he had met his teacher; his heart ached with
longing. I will send for you,
his teacher had told him, when you are ready for
initiation. How much longer would it be? Years? Lifetimes? There
must still be in him, he thought, something of his old self, a shadow of
the past like an ugly blot on his soul. And to be sure, he sometimes felt
the dark pit of guilt inside himself and wondered in his heart if he had
changed at all, if he were not the same old dacoit as capable of sin as
ever. As he walked now along the road time seemed not to move but only
to bear down upon the earth like a hot, inert hand an incredibly heavy
hand, pressing against his chest excruciatingly. That was the only warning Buckshee had before he lost consciousness and fell crumpled in the road.
His bowl rolled from his bag into the dust.