Puslapio vaizdai

Some little time after, a party composed of half a dozen Hindoos, of low caste, went out of Pondicherry by a country path. The evening breeze was rising to refresh exhausted nature; the tufts of the bamboos waved in the air, and the birds ventured out of the shade in which they had been concealed, and began their warblings. Everything seemed joyous, excepting the little party who crossed the plain, and whose appearance was sad and depressed. At its head walked two Pariahs, with white turbans, carrying between their shoulders a bamboo cane, to which was attached a piece of linen, disposed like a hammock, in which was the body of the sickly child substituted by the old Kouravar for that of the Sepoy, and which they were going to bury. Three times the bearers stopped, and the Sepoy who followed them put into the child's mouth a few grains of rice and drops of water, a touching and useless ceremony to prove that life had forever abandoned the poor little creature.

The grave was soon dug, in which they laid the body, and the Pariahs covered it with the soil; then the Sepoy laid on the tomb a broken cocoa-nut, the milk of which served for a libation, and threw on it also a flower, as a symbol of this frail existence, this budding stem mown down from its birth. This little scene passed under the shadow of a wood of palm-trees; and when the convoy had departed the old Kouravar came out of the brushwood, where she was gathering firewood for her tribe, encamped about a mile off. The wicked woman had recognized the Sepoy, | and was now convinced that the secret of her theft remained concealed forever in her own breast. By one word she might have changed to joy the tears of this poor man, whose happiness she had destroyed, and whose hope she had broken; but, insensible to every sentiment of pity, she applauded the success of her scheme, and shrugged her shoulders as she watched him depart with his hands before his eyes.

During the whole evening Padmavati remained at home, the Hindoo law not permitting women to assist at funeral ceremonies. Her neighbors did not fail to pay her visits of condolence, and her screams had resounded through the air according to custom; for she wept for the child who had been stolen, and not for the

one whom she had been constrained to attend to. When her husband entered he threw on her a glance full of anguish, and wept for half an hour in sad silence; then his tumultuous feelings mastered him, and he burst forth :

"You never loved the child; you took no care of him. A spell was thrown on him in your arms, and you knew nothing of it! No more joy for me, in this world or the next. The man who dies without posterity has no one to offer the sacrifices necessary to give him an entrance into the abodes of eternal happiness!"

To these reproaches Padmavati replied not. She bent her head with resignation ; for she knew the text of the Hindoo law: "There is no god on earth for a woman, but her husband." One hope still remained, to which she trusted in spite of herself; it was, to find the old Kouravar. if she saw a troop of jugglers, jesters, or vagabonds, she would dart out of her dwelling, and rush into the crowd at the risk of losing her character for modesty. One day she fancied she saw the old woman pass the door of the cabin. She ran into the square; when one of her friends stopped her suddenly, asking where she was going so fast. Padmavati was confused; the neighbors said she had become mad; and her husband knew not what to think of his wife, who seemed each day more absorbed in a single idea.

This project was one which she could confide to none, least of all to her hus band. It was, to leave her home, and set off in search of the Kouravar who had carried off her child. To seek her through all the country which extends from the Gulf of Bengal to Ceylon was a mad undertaking; but it was at least less foolish than to expect her on her own threshold. When her plan was formed, Padmavati put on a widow's costume, (a single piece of white cloth,) and set out, carrying with her a few pieces of silver and the little image fashioned by the domben. A widow in India is utterly contemned for not having the courage to die on the funeral pyre with her husband; everywhere repulsed, she could travel without fear of outrage; the aversion she inspired would prove her safeguard.

One evening, then, the Sepoy Perumal found his cabin empty. He did not inquire for his wife among the neighbors, but kept his sorrow to himself, and replied

to the inquisitive that she was gone on a pilgrimage to Juggernaut. For some weeks he preserved the hope of seeing her again; for absence revived in him the feelings of tenderness and affection which had been slumbering.

"Alas!" said he, sadly, "I had rather have seen her as she was, mute as a statne, withered by suffering, than live alone! Perhaps I was harsh and unjust to her. She wanders in the forest alone, without support, pursued by which has made her mad, because I let the whole weight of it fall on her!"

a sorrow

For six months Padmavati traveled, by slow degrees, down the coast; begging on her way, yet often suffering hunger, sleeping under the trees, or in a ruined pagoda, and always sustained by hope. She was at every fair, and wherever there was a concourse of people; but hitherto without success. One evening, half dead with weariness, she reached an old abandoned temple surrounded by large and thick trees. On the threshold of this she lay down, and was sleeping on her stony bed; while the moon, like a silver disc, mounted high in the heavens, and shone upon the portico. About midnight she was awakened by a slight noise, and looking up, with some fear, watched a tall man come out of a dark vault. He went into the moonlight, opened a basket, from which he took out a snake, and began to teach it to dance. Before many minutes had expired Padmavati had recognized the juggler from whom she had received the mysterious amulet by which she was to find her enemy.

"Domben!" cried she, advancing toward him, "do you recognize me? There is your work," holding out the image. "You know, now, who I am ?"

"Let us see," said the domben, oracularly; "your husband is dead. The little one you carried in your arms is dead also; is it not? The poor creature was condemned; no magic, no remedy, could restore it to health. And the other-"

"The other," cried Padmavati, "where is he?"

"Ah, that is the mystery," replied the juggler. "He has traversed many countries since he was stolen; and he has been nearer to you than he is now."

"Here is a rupee; the last that remains to me," said Padmavati; "tell me, have you seen any Kouravars in this country?"

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"Yes, I have seen a fine horde of them; children who dance, women who sell baskets and steal, and men who are mountebanks. Is it the right or the left leg that we pierced?"

"The left," replied Padmavati, quickly. "Look there!"

"In that case go back about thirty miles; you will find a little village which the Kouravars will have reached. They will not stay long; but walking quickly you may overtake them."

At these words Padmavati shot off like an arrow. When the sun rose she was far on her way, and, full of impatience and anxiety, she scarcely allowed herself a halt during the day, not resting until the last rays of the setting sun shone on the tents of the Kouravars, pitched at some distance from the village.

At an early hour in the morning the whole population was alive; the mountebanks marched through the bazaar, in all their gaudy tinsel, to the evident satisfaction of the rustics, so little accustomed to so marvelous a spectacle. No one in the crowd gazed upon them so anxiously as Padmavati. To get near was impossible; so raising herself above the heads that surrounded her, she saw a long stem of bamboo rise, with a child pirouetting at the end; the lower point rested on the forehead of a Kouravar, who preserved its equilibrium, and walked about in triumph. At a given signal the child ceased to turn, kissed its hands to the crowd, and with a shaking of the bamboo fell across the shoulders of the Kouravar. The little mountebank was loudly applauded; every one drew nearer to see him. As for Padmavati, she fixed her eyes upon him; he had not the features of this cursed race of Kouravars; his skin was less black, his hair finer. Carried away by an irresistible conviction, she threw herself into the crowd; an old woman selling baskets stopped her way. She dragged after her a lame leg, wrapped up in rags.

"I have her, I have her!" cried Pad mavati, seizing her; "give him to me, give me back my child!"

And her hand held the arm of the Kou

ravar as in a vice. This unexpected scene moved the spectators.

"Good people," said the old woman, "pity a poor basket-seller, who has done no harm to any one. This woman is mad; I do not know what she wants."

"She has stolen my child to make him a tumbler, a Kouravar," cried the poor mother; “it is he who is dancing like a puppet at the end of the bamboo. Let her restore my child, and I will release her. Stop! there is her image! See if this clay doll has not a leg pierced with a thousand pricks of a thorn. . . .”

"Ah, the wicked widow!" returned the old woman; 66 what a shame for a woman to survive her husband, in order to drag on a few miserable years despised by everybody!"

But the clay figure had produced a deep impression on the crowd. In the eyes of this credulous people it was strong testimony in favor of the widow, and an unexceptionable proof of the guilt of the basket-woman. During this deDuring this debate the Kouravars, fearing some misadventure, sent the little tumbler on a reconnoissance; he passed under the legs of the spectators, and reached the scene of action. Padmavati, releasing the old woman, seized him in her arms, pressed him to her heart, and burst into tears. The people who surrounded her instinctively drew back, that they might not interfere with this expression of feeling.

"Fear nothing," said Padmavati, raising her head triumphantly: "I am not what you think; I put on this costume to preserve me from the outrages to which I might be exposed in traveling through the country alone; I have no further need of them. Who would not respect a mother traveling with a child in her arms?"

And she gazed through her tears with ecstasy at this son, so deeply mourned, and was astonished to find him so sprightly and robust. He, in his turn, found the caresses of his real mother most sweet; for it was not without blows and rough words that he had been taught to pirouette. As for the old woman, had she been in the company's territory, her punishment would have been severe; as it was, the chief of the village put her in the pillory for a day, exposed to the raillery of the populace and the burning heat of the sun.

A fortnight after, Padmavati entered Pondicherry; she did not go directly to her husband, for she wished, after so many humiliations, to enjoy a complete triumph. One of her friends lent her a holiday suit for her child and herself; and

she then repaired to the esplanade, where the Sepoys were going through their drill. Recognizing her husband, she said to her child: "You see that tall soldier, who has two bars of red on his arm? Go straight up to him, call him your father so loudly that all his comrades may hear."

The child obeyed; he ran on in spite of the officer, who cried, "Back! back !" and with a quick movement jumped across the shoulders of the Sepoy.

"Corporal," said the officer, "what is the meaning of this jest?"

"On my honor, captain, I know nothing of it. This child has taken me by assault before I have had time to recognize him." He put the child down, but it persisted in calling him father, and would not depart. "Captain," said the corporal, visibly moved, "I had but one child; I buried him with my own hands; my wife became mad, and I know not where she is. I cannot understand it."

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He was silent. Padmavati stood before him. 'Perunal," said she, "remember my words; I will confess everything, and you will forgive me, because I shall bring him back to you! Embrace him, then ; he is our child! I have suffered much, but I have never been mad."

"Go out of the ranks, my brave fellow," said the officer; "your gun falls from your hand, and your legs tremble. You shall explain this mystery another day."

Perunal went home, holding his child by the hand; his wife respectfully followed. They looked at each other with tenderness and surprise, but also with entire confidence.

The child had passed two years in the worst of company, so that there were some little tricks which had to be cured; but when I knew him he was a fine young fellow, who spoke French, Tamul, and Telinga fluently, and a little English. The Sepoy, too, could count half a dozen other charming children, very black, happy, and well-disposed.

POWER OF CONSISTENCY. A young man, when about to be ordained as a Christian minister, stated that at one period of his life he had been nearly betrayed into infidelity; “but," he added, "there was one argument in favor of Christianity which I could never refute— the consistent conduct of my own father!"


E had been an unkind husband, way

life had been far from happy from the hour when she abandoned her maiden name and became Mrs. Dempster. But she loved him, and this is the greatest mystery of woman's love, that when it has nothing lovely to feed upon it will feed upon itself, and in this sense the poet's verse hath truth in it when the poet sings,

"They err who tell us love can die." A dreadful accident befell him. He was thrown from a gig, his right leg was broken, and a concussion of the brain was feared. Restless, in pain, and at times delirious, he tossed upon his bed, and there, day after day, with only short intervals of rest, Janet kept her place in that sad chamber. No wonder the sick-room and the lazaretto have so often been a refuge from the tossings of intellectual doubt-a place of repose for the worn and wounded spirit. Here is a duty about which all creeds and all philosophies are at one: here, at least, the conscience will not be dogged by doubt -the benign impulse will not be checked by adverse theory; here you may begin to act without settling one preliminary question. To moisten the sufferer's parched lips through the long nightwatches, to bear up the drooping head, to lift the helpless limbs, to divine the want that can find no utterance beyond the feeble motion of the hand or beseeching glance of the eye; these are offices that demand no self-questionings, no casuistry, no assent to propositions, no weighing of consequences. Within the four walls where the stir and glare of the world are shut out, and every voice is subdued-where a human being lies prostrate, thrown on the tender mercies of his fellow, the moral relation of man to man is reduced to its utmost clearness and simplicity: bigotry cannot confuse it, theory cannot pervert it, passion, awed into quiescence, can neither pollute nor perturb it. As we bend over the sick-bed, all the forces of our nature rush toward the channels of pity, of patience, and of love, and sweep down the miserable choking drift of our quarrels, our debates, our would-be wisdom, and our clamorous selfish desires. This blessing of serene freedom from the importunities of opinion lies in all simple

direct acts of mercy, and is one source of that sweet calm which is often felt by the watcher in the sick-room, even when the

Something of that benign result was felt by Janet during her tendance in her husband's chamber. When the first heartpiercing hours were over, when her horror at his delirium was no longer fresh, she began to be conscious of her relief from the burden of decision as to her future course. This illness, after all, might be the herald of another blessing. Robert would get better; this illness might alter him; he would be a long time feeble, needing help, walking with a crutch, perhaps. She would wait on him with such tenderness, such all-forgiving love, that the old harshness and cruelty must melt away forever under the heart-sunshine she would pour around him. Her bosom heaved at the thought, and delicious tears fell. Janet's was a nature in which hatred and revenge could find no place; the long bitter years drew half their bitterness from her ever-living remembrance of the too short years of love that went before; and the thought that her husband would ever put her hand to his lips again, and recall the days when they sat on the grass together, and he laid scarlet poppies on her black hair, and called her his gipsy queen, seemed to send a tide of loving oblivion over all the harsh and stony space they had traversed since. The Divine love that had already shone upon her would be with her; she would lift up her soul continually for help.

These were the thoughts passing through Janet's mind as she hovered about her husband's bed, and these were the hopes she poured out to Mr. Tryan when he called to see her. It was so evident that they were strengthening her in her new struggle-they shed such a glow of calm enthusiasm over her face as she spoke of them, that Mr. Tryan could not bear to throw on them the chill of premonitory doubts, though a previous conversation he had had with Mr. Pilgrim had convinced him that there was not the faintest probability of Dempster's recovery. Poor Janet did not know the significance of the changing symptoms, and when, after the lapse of a week, the delirium began to lose some of its violence, and to be interrupted by longer and longer intervals of stupor, she tried to think that these might be steps on

the way to recovery, and she shrank from questioning Mr. Pilgrim, lest he should confirm the fears that began to get predominance in her mind. But before many days were past, he thought it right not to allow her to blind herself any longer. One day-it was just about noon, when bad news always seems most sickening-he led her from her husband's chamber into the opposite drawing-room, where Mrs. Raynor was sitting, and said to her, in that low tone of sympathetic feeling which sometimes gave a sudden air of gentleness to this rough man:

"My dear Mrs. Dempster, it is right in these cases, you know, to be prepared for the worst. I think I shall be saving you pain by preventing you from entertaining any false hopes, and Mr. Dempster's state is now such that I fear we must consider

recovery impossible. The affection of the brain might not have been hopeless, but, you see, there is a terrible complication; and I am grieved to say the broken limb is mortifying."

Janet listened with a sinking heart. That future of love and forgiveness would never come, then he was going out of sight forever, where her pity could never reach him. She turned cold and trembled.

"But do you think he will die," she said, "without ever coming to himself? without ever knowing me?"

"One cannot say that with certainty. It is not impossible that the cerebral oppression may subside, and that he may become conscious. If there is anything you would wish to be said or done in that case, it would be well to be prepared. I should think," Mr. Pilgrim continued, turning to Mrs. Raynor, "Mr. Dempster's affairs are likely to be in order—his will is-"

"O, I wouldn't have him troubled about those things," interrupted Janet; he has no relations but quite distant ones-no one but me. I wouldn't take up the time with that. I only want to-"

She was unable to finish; she felt her sobs rising, and left the room. "O God!" she said inwardly, "is not thy love greater than mine? Have mercy on him! have mercy on him!"

This happened on Wednesday, ten days after the fatal accident. By the following Sunday, Dempster was in a state of rapidly increasing prostration; and when Mr. Pilgrim, who, in turn with his assistant, had

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slept in the house from the beginning, came in, about half past ten, as usual, he scarcely believed that the feebly struggling life would last out till morning. For the last few days he had been administering stimulants to relieve the exhaustion which had succeeded the alternations of delirium and stupor. This slight office was all that now remained to be done to the patient; so at eleven o'clock, Mr. Pilgrim went to bed, having given directions to the nurse, and desired her to call him if any change took place, or if Mrs. Dempster required his presence.

Janet could not be persuaded to leave the room. She was yearning and watching for a moment in which her husband's eyes would rest consciously upon her, and he would know that she had forgiven him.

How changed he was since that terrible Monday, nearly a fortnight ago! He lay motionless, but for the irregular breathing that stirred his broad chest and thick, muscular neck. His features were no longer purple and swollen; they were pale, sunken, and haggard. A cold perspiration stood in beads on the protuberant forehead, and on the wasted hands stretched motionless on the bed-clothes. It was better to see the hands so, than convulsively picking the air, as they had been a week ago.

Janet sat on the edge of the bed through the long hours of candle-light, watching the unconscious, half-closed eyes, wiping the perspiration from the brow and cheeks, and keeping her left hand on the cold, unanswering right hand that lay beside her on the bed-clothes. She was almost as pale as her dying husband, and there were dark lines under her eyes, for this was the | third night since she had taken off her clothes; but the eager, straining gaze of her dark eyes, and the acute sensibility that lay in every line about her mouth, made a strange contrast with the blank unconsciousness and emaciated animalism of the face she was watching.

There was profound stillness in the house. She heard no sound but her husband's breathing and the ticking of the watch on the mantlepiece. The candle, placed high up, shed a soft light down on the one object she cared to see. There was a smell of brandy in the room; it was given to her husband from time to time; but this smell, which at first had produced in her a faint, shuddering sensation, was

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