The boy folded his
hands and bowed his head. Then he smiled almost mischievously, and
an irrepressible, contagious laughter poured from his eyes and
entered her heart.
Mother, he said. Then casually, as though he would see her again
shortly, he turned and walked off down the lane, singing the same
carefree, liquid song.
Prema carried the
basket of food into the house and then sat beneath the tree in the
yard, no longer wanting to spin. The joy in her heart seemed like a
fountain overflowing through her whole being. She felt that she had
been at some spring festival where she and the boy had laughed and
talked together; now she would dwell on every second of it. And yet,
there were those ugly red welts inflicted by her own husband! She
tried not to think about them until her husband returned.
It was not long
before she heard his step in the lane. She lowered her eyes and
watched for his shadow to fall across the courtyard. In a moment it
did, black against the glaring earth.
wants to save his grain against drought, he said. He
had very little to spare, scarcely half a bowlful. It will have to
do us for tonight.
He was indeed mad.
Slowly she raised her eyes. No, it was the same Niranjan the same
piercing and yet kind eyes, the same slightly turned down mouth.
True, his hair was mussed, but more like that of a child than of a
madman. She knew that whenever he was disappointed he had a habit of
running his hand over his hair the wrong way. Despite herself, she
smiled, for indeed, with all his learning, he was as guileless and
vulnerable as a child. Yet he had done this impossible thing! She
made herself frown.