Without Benefit of Clergy
Out of her time my field was white with grain,
The year gave up her secrets to my woe.
Forced and deflowered each sick season lay,
In mystery of increase and decay;
I saw the sunset ere men saw the day,
Who am too wise in that I should not know.
But if it be a girl?
Lord of my life, it cannot be. I have prayed for so many nights, and sent gifts to Sheikh Badls shrine so often, that I know God will give us a sona man-child that shall grow into a man. Think of this and be glad. My mother shall be his mother till I can take him again, and the mullah of the Pattan mosque shall cast his nativityGod send he be born in an auspicious hour!and then, and then thou wilt never weary of me, thy slave.
Since when hast thou been a slave, my queen?
Since the beginningtill this mercy came to me. How could I be sure of thy love when I knew that I had been bought with silver?
Nay, that was the dowry. I paid it to thy mother.
And she has buried it, and sits upon it all day long like a hen. What talk is yours of dower! I was bought as though I had been a Lucknow dancing-girl instead of a child.
Art thou sorry for the sale?
I have sorrowed; but to-day I am glad. Thou wilt never cease to love me now?answer, my king.
Not even though the mem-logthe white women of thy own bloodlove thee? And remember, I have watched them driving in the evening; they are very fair.
I have seen fire-balloons by the hundred. I have seen the moon, andthen I saw no more fire-balloons.
Ameera clapped her hands and laughed. Very good talk, she said. Then with an assumption of great statelines, It is enough. Thou hast my permission to depart,if thou wilt.
The man did not move. He was sitting on a low red-lacquered couch in a room furnished only with a blue and white floor-cloth, some rugs, and a very complete collection of native cushions. At his feet sat a woman of sixteen, and she was all but all the world in his eyes. By every rule and law she should have been otherwise, for he was an Englishman, and she a Mussulmans daughter bought two years before from her mother, who, being left without money, would have sold Ameera shrieking to the Prince of Darkness if the price had been sufficient.
It was a contract entered into with a light heart; but even before the girl had reached her bloom she came to fill the greater portion of John Holdens life. For her, and the withered hag her mother, he had taken a little house overlooking the great red-walled city, and found,when the marigolds had sprung up by the well in the court-yard, and Ameera had established herself according to her own ideas of comfort, and her mother had ceased grumbling at the inadequacy of the cooking-places, the distance from the daily market, and at matters of house-keeping in general,that the house was to him his home. Any one could enter his bachelors bungalow by day or night, and the life that he led there was an unlovely one. In the house in the city his feet only could pass beyond the outer courtyard to the womens rooms; and when the big wooden gate was bolted behind him he was king in his own territory, with Ameera for queen. And there was going to be added to this kingdom a third person whose arrival Holden felt inclined to
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