The First Bag

Baa Baa, Black Sheep

Baa Baa, Black Sheep,
Have you any wool?
Yes, Sir, yes, Sir, three bags full.
One for the Master, one for the Dame—
None for the Little Boy that cries down the lane.
      —Nursery Rhyme.

When I was in my father’s house, I was in a better place

They were putting Punch to bed—the ayah and the hamal and Meeta, the big Surti boy, with the red and gold turban. Judy, already tucked inside her mosquito-curtains, was nearly asleep. Punch had been allowed to stay up for dinner. Many privileges had been accorded to Punch within the last ten days, and a greater kindness from the people of his world had encompassed his ways and works, which were mostly obstreperous. He sat on the edge of his bed and swung his bare legs defiantly.

‘Punch-baba going to bye-lo?’ said the ayah suggestively.

‘No,’ said Punch. ‘Punch - baba wants the story about the Ranee that was turned into a tiger. Meeta must tell it, and the hamal shall hide behind the door and make tiger-noises at the proper time.’

‘But Judy-baba will wake up,’ said the ayah.

‘Judy-baba is waked,’ piped a small voice from the mosquito-curtains. ‘There was a Ranee that lived at Delhi. Go on, Meeta,’ and she fell fast asleep again while Meeta began the story.

Never had Punch secured the telling of that tale with so little opposition. He reflected for a long time. The hamal made the tiger-noises in twenty different keys.

‘’Top!’ said Punch authoritatively. ‘Why doesn’t Papa come in and say he is going to give me put-put?

‘Punch-baba is going away,’ said the ayah. ‘In another week there will be no Punch-baba to pull my hair any more.’ She sighed softly, for the boy of the household was very dear to her heart.

‘Up the Ghauts in a train?’ said Punch, standing on his bed. ‘All the way to Nassick where the Ranee- Tiger lives?’

‘Not to Nassick this year, little Sahib,’ said Meeta, lifting him on his shoulder. ‘Down to the sea where the cocoa-nuts are thrown, and across the sea in a big ship. Will you take Meeta with you to Belait?

‘You shall all come,’ said Punch, from the height of Meeta’s strong arms. ‘Meeta and the ayah and the hamal and Bhini-in-the-Garden, and the salaam-Captain-Sahib-snake-man.’

There was no mockery in Meeta’s voice when he replied—‘Great is the Sahib’s favour,’ and laid the little man down in the bed, while the ayah, sitting in the moonlight at the doorway, lulled him to sleep with an interminable canticle such as they sing in the Roman Catholic Church at Parel. Punch curled himself into a ball and slept.

Next morning Judy shouted that there was a rat in the nursery, and thus he forgot to tell her the wonderful news. It did not much matter, for Judy was only three and she would not have understood. But Punch was five; and he knew that going to England would be much nicer than a trip to Nassick.

. . . . .

Papa and Mamma sold the brougham and the piano, and stripped the house, and curtailed the allowance of crockery for the daily meals, and took long counsel together over a bundle of letters bearing the Rocklington postmark.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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