Puslapio vaizdai

I did n't know where to go. I said, "My brother will return and kill me if I stay, and they will all say he does well to. And if I go out into the street, thieves will kill me for the fortune of jewelry I wear." I came to you.'

'But Farkhanda,' I cried, 'why did that unspeakable man do it?'

'Oh, once in Lahore I was with a judge. I heard cases. Both sides came to me with gifts and I listened. And as I decided, the verdict was given. I got much money -I am rich rich.

But I have no brother!

'When my brother went away, I was standing there dying, and that man called out, "You remember that watered garden of mine you gave to my cousin? I swore I would have revenge for that, and the Most High has filled my cup to overflowing-in wonderful ways, in ways beyond prayer. You have forgotten the garden? You'll remember me!"'

Once she said, 'You'll hear terrible stories about me now. True ones, too. I tell you I loved that city when I first saw it. Crowds and people and much to do. I knew it all. I learned it. I saw all the palaces of its kings, and their gardens and tombs, as men go to see them. I ruled the city. After a while there was nothing new to do. Last week, one night, I looked out over the miles and miles of roofs, and I knew there was not a man in one of those houses of whom I could not make a fool. And not a woman who did not pray against me. I was tired of it all.', After a long pause she cried, 'How well God arranges his little jokes! That fate should bring me here! That I should have danced before my brother! I hated it all. That's why I came here when that man asked me. I wanted something new to do. But now I know. There is nothing new but pain.' She was right about pain.

At dawn I brought her some strong

tea, and she trembled as she drank it.

'I'm going home by the early train,' she announced. 'My party won't go till noon. I'm not afraid now. I want a thick veil.'

It was too early for the shops to be opened, and we searched through the dispensary without finding anything that would serve as a veil.

'I can't go unveiled,' she moaned. 'I must have a thick veil to wear in his city to hide me.'

She was looking out toward my cot in the courtyard. I brought her my two sheets. One she tied around her waist, in place of her billowy silk skirt. The other one had coarse lace set in across the top, in which were crocheted the cryptic words, 'God is love.' A nurse had given it to me at Christmas. This Farkhanda draped over her head, and pulled down over her face. God is love' hung down behind about her knees. She started to go out.

'You'd better wait here a while,' I said. 'It's early yet, and you had better not get to the station too early. There might be trouble.'

"That's true,' she agreed wearily, sitting down.

The assistant and I had our tea near her on the verandah, and set about dusting the bottles and the cupboards. I was wrapping cotton round little sticks, making swabs for throats and eyes, when our sweeper-woman came in for her morning duties. She was talking eagerly to another woman, and paused outside the verandah so that the necessity of salaaming to me would not interrupt her.

'Yes, and his face is all black,' she was saying excitedly, 'and his throat - and his eyes bulge out-open oh -'

'Whose eyes bulge out?' I asked, thinking that they were bringing a patient.

'Salaam, Miss Sahib,' she cried.

"Ah, the young maulvie's. He hanged himself last night. You should see the way his eyes

From Farkhanda there came a little stricken moan.

'Keep still,' I commanded the woman, feeling suddenly very tired.

There was a most awful silence. Farkhanda's shriek broke it.

"It is my brother!' she cried, rising, stretching her arms straight up above her.

'No, it is n't,' I said to her helplessly; 'it is n't your brother.'

'It was Maulvie Alim Shah,' said the woman importantly. 'You never heard anything like it. They say he did it for shame. Last night, they say, at the wedding-'

Farkhanda's outburst of death-wailing I shall never forget. Till noon that day it kept chills running up and down my back, so that I thought I was get ting fever. She stumbled out through the courtyard, seeing nothing, her arms stretched up toward heaven.

'Where are you going?' I cried to her. 'Sit down. You don't know where you're going.'

'I go to see my brother,' she wailed. 'I've always wanted to see him.'

She would not come back. I sent the dumfounded sweeper-woman after her to show her the way to the house.

"They'll never receive her,' I said. 'Bring her back if they turn her out.'

The clinic had scarcely opened when she came back at the head of a dusty crowd of small boys, curious loafers, and a few low-caste women. The men who lingered around our courtyard door after she had come in, I dispersed with militant efficiency, hating all men on the face of the earth just then. If that man had to die, I was thinking angrily, why could n't he die for his own sins, or for the sins of the men about him? Had not Farkhanda already her weight of shame?

VOL. 121 - NO.5

The sweeper-woman was telling me, weeping, what had happened at the house where the man lay dead.

"There was a great crowd around the door. She wanted to go in. But his father-in-law on the threshold cursed her away. And as she stood there weeping, when some one called to him from inside, he threw at her the rope they had cut from his neck. "Take that! It's yours," he said to her. And she picked it up and kissed it. She's brought it with her.'

We went and sat down in the dust where she was rocking back and forth. The women were weeping, even my protégée, and I sat awkwardly dumb and tearless. Farkhanda had begun wailing out that terrible death-songthat instinctive expression of the sorrows of the women of the East; a variation, according to the occasion, of words they know too well. They sing it to the air they call 'the stricken air,' which may be the oldest in the world.

'Did light shine on the earth? My sun is stiff and cold.

O wailing walls, be still. O earth, contain my grief.

Hope came with morning light. There is no morning light.

Do young men hate their life? My brother hated life.

Do strong men die of shame? My brother died of shame.

Do princes hang in ropes? My prince hung in a rope.'

As she sobbed the words on and on, the three girls she had brought from Lahore with her came in and sat down with her. Through the morning they sat there, 'pulling out their sorrow from their soul as a wire is drawn through a too small hole in iron,' while the crowd of women around eyed them, some condemningly, some awe-stricken, some sighing. Once a few, led by a simple-hearted woman, sat down with them, only to be scolded away when a friend of the newly widowed woman

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One evening, two or three months ago, when the winter rains were driving through the verandahs, I came into our great cellar of a drawing-room and found the doctor sitting in front of the glowing fire, with her feet dangerously far into the fireplace.

"Tired?' I asked as I sat down beside her. I noticed that her arms were lying limply along the chair-arms.

'I've had a day of it,' she answered. 'You never know what's coming next. I've had to resort to discipline.'

'How terrible!' I exclaimed.
"That new watchman,


he's an

able financier. He's been admitting a perfect stream of visitors into the hospital all afternoon, for a small fee. There's a holy woman in the left ward upstairs. She's so desperately holy that she's turned the hospital into a mosque.'

'What did she come for?' I asked. 'Who is she?'

'She's got half a dozen well-developed diseases,' the doctor went on. 'We cleaned out an awful green sore on her knee day before yesterday. She has tuberculosis nose and throat. She's starved, really, from fasting. We'd hardly got her into bed and our backs turned, till she crawled out and lay on the cement floor - imagine! on a day like this. And she insisted on lying there, till I threatened to put her out. She got out five times in the night to say her prayers. Wish I were as zealous about mine, I must say. We had such a time getting her to eat. She suffers terribly.'

The next morning, in the hospital, I suddenly remembered the saint, and being as much interested in holiness as other women, I went up to the little bare room which her presence hallowed. I found a very old woman, tucked under a coarse brown blanket, lying on the iron cọt. A white veil was pulled tightly across her forehead just above her eyes. Her thin lips were muttering something continually. Her servant, who had salaamed to me condescendingly, saw me watching with surprise the labored moving of the muscles of her throat.

'She always breathes that way,' she volunteered, 'just in her throat. For ten years she has not taken a full breath. She strives only to know the will of God.'

'But why?' I asked, ignominiously. 'Her vow.' Then, bethinking herself, she grew friendly. "The peace of heaven descend upon you!' she began.

'God give you seven sons' a rather inconsistent prayer, I thought. 'Do you happen to be the head of this hospital? My mistress's rank is but little appreciated in this place. Could you not give your slaves orders to let her lie on the floor? She is not used to beds. Truly the floor does her no harm. Saints don't mind cold and hardness. So much medicine and care is not what she wants. Can't you see? Night and day she waits upon God. She seeks Him in prayer.'

'I see what you mean,' I assured her. 'But I am not the head here. Our ways are new to you, and you have misunderstood. Have you not read that lying on cement floors in hospitals in the winter annoys the Most High greatly? It's as bad as eating the unclean beast. In hospitals He desires neither prayers nor fasts, but only obedience to the doctor. And his wrath rests on the stubborn so that their recovery is delayed. You look around, and you'll see.'

And because she seemed very ill, I left her, naturally wanting to know her story.

It was the mother of the 'Gift of God' who enlightened me, a few hours later.

'Miss Sahib,' she began, her face shining with the delight of those who startle, 'do you know who that is, upstairsstairs that holy woman?'

'She's from Rassiwali, or some place, I hear,' I said.

'She's Farkhanda!' announced my informant importantly. 'Don't you remember, that conjuri whose brother hung himself?'

She brought the story all back to me. 'She's as good as she was bad,' she said. 'She's better. They go for miles to see her. I never went, but my aunts did. They say her shrine is like a big cage, all made of openwork brick, and away out alone in a cemetery, where her father is buried. A maulvie from Lahore built it for her when she was in Mecca. And when she came back, the

The woman was listening with the maulvie went out with her, and a big simplicity of a small child.

Suddenly I noticed that the saint had opened her eyes and was keenly watching me. They were piercing eyes, trying to look through me, with anything but childlike simplicity. I hurriedly improvised chapter and verse. She closed her eyes and continued praying. I was ashamed of my non


The servant, greatly reassured by my wisdom, gave a sigh of relief.

"Every fifteen breaths, the name of God. That name of God's ninety-nine names whose turn it is. Day and night, every fifteen breaths, for eleven years. And besides the fast of Ramazan, a forty-days' fast every year.'

The saint silenced the servant by a weak gesture.

'Mother, may the Lord give you strength and healing in this place!'

crowd, and they put her in and locked the door, and took the key away. And when you looked in, there was nothing to see but her and the rope.'

I suppose that I have never gone up those stairs as quickly as I went up that day. In the hallowed room I found a nurse dressing the sore, and when I exclaimed over the thinness of the uncovered leg, the nurse raised the kurta and showed me the protruding ribs of the emaciated body, and the joints which seemed too large. How could I believe that this skeleton, this withered death's head, was really little Miss Betsey? This was what the years in Lahore, the years in the shrine, had left of the girl who would study a thousand years; of our giggling, glowing, jubilant Pharaoh; of the victim of God's little joke.

I stood looking at her, not daring to

speak, not knowing what to say. Her eyes were still closed and her lips moving when I crept away. In the courtyard below I cross-questioned every woman who volunteered any information about the shrine, and wonderful tales I heard from them. And I only partly believed, what I afterward verified: that so many worshipers went to pray at her shrine that now mail trains stop at the little station near it, where formerly only locals stopped.

To this day I can't understand why I never heard before of Farkhanda's sanctification. I told the mother of the 'Gift of God' that it was because she was so much more eager to tell bad news than good.

But she answered, laughing, 'Oh, you always think you know all about this city. But you don't. I could tell you a few things now. You never see anything but these hospital walls.'

For days Farkhanda lay just as I left her that morning. But the doctor has had a sad amount of experience in the diseases of people who starve, not from choice but from necessity, and the skill and care which she poured out on Farkhanda slowly worked a most gratifying change in her condition. I never saw the doctor more pleased with her success. Certainly she had never before had a patient who unconsciously overturned so thoroughly that oriental way of managing which it pleases us to call hospital routine. The saint's presence turned our orthodox missionary institution into a mosque for women. We had no patients left, but she had many fervent worshipers. The first month she was with us, there was a record attendance of village women in the dispensary, who came in groups from many places miles away, carrying their babies with them to receive her blessing.

When she got strong enough to say her early afternoon prayers in the sun

on the verandah, the clinic would suddenly empty with a rush in her direction when she appeared. Instead of women clamoring for immediate attention in the clinic, we had to insist upon their coming in for their turns.

She was with us ten weeks, and though she often talked with the doctor, during all that time, when I saw her often, she never spoke to me except in benedictions, until a day or two before she left us. She felt, I suppose, that I would try to dissuade her from spending the rest of her life in the shrine, as she proposed doing. One afternoon, with my arms full of disinfected blankets, I passed through the verandah where by some chance she sat alone. Smiling up at me as if I were a dear and naughty child, she motioned me to sit down beside her.

'Let's talk a while,' she said. 'It's sweet to make words together.'

I had never felt more honored in my life.

'You've missed making words?' I asked.

'Have I missed it! God knows whether or not I have.'

The light of so great an earnestness shone in her eyes as she answered me, that I knew that, though her face was worn with battles, her spirit was still unsubdued. She had become again, very slightly, like the girl Farkhanda.

'You don't suppose, because I did n't talk to you, that I don't remember how good you were to me that night,' she began.

'I knew you had your vow. I'm sorry I never knew where you were. I would have gone to see you.'

'You would have asked me to come away,' she said, 'would n't you?' 'Indeed I would have,' I answered. 'I had plenty who tried that,' she said.

'Who?' I asked, wondering.
'Oh, people used to come at first-

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