is the matter? Niranjan asked. What
are you looking at? He passed his hand over his face as
if to wipe away any dirt that might be there.
My dear, she
began evenly, you sent a boy here with food in a large basket. It
is there inside the door. How could you have beaten that beautiful
boy? How could you! Who is he? Where did all that food come from? it
could not be for us. He had two whip marks on his back. He said you
had given them to him! Such a beautiful boy! She began to weep,
scarcely knowing whether her tears were of joy at the face of the
boy, or of pain at the lash marks. He was like a god, she
sobbed. How could you have?
Niranjan stared at
her with alarm. It is the heat, he
said to himself, or lack of food.
Quickly he went inside the hut to see if there were not some
medicine he could give to his poor wife. He fumbled about among the
shelves where the herbs were kept, finding only empty jars and
bowls. He looked vaguely about the room thinking that by some
miracle his eyes might light upon the proper remedy some herb or
potion. Then, as his eyes grew accustomed to the darkness, they fell
upon the large basket of grain and fruit by the doorway. For some
time he stared at it dully, uncomprehendingly. Then going close to
it, he touched a fresh, cool, impossible mango. It was real. A
beautiful boy ... he said wonderingly, he
was like a ... As though lightning had struck into his
brain, Niranjan understood.
Truly now like a
madman, he tore from the hut into the courtyard, and there with
shaking hands and breath coming hard he turned the leaves of his
manuscript to the verse he had been studying that morning. He gave a
cry. Whether it was a cry of anguish or of rapture, Prema could not