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p. 43

IV. Inspiration

But Umra-Singh lay in the street, more like a dead than a living man, covered with bruises and bereft of sense. And the people crowded round him, jeering and scouting and pointing at him, and giving him blows and kicks. And he looked in the midst of those base mockers like a black antelope smitten by the hunters with a mortal wound, and surrounded by a troop of chattering monkeys. Then by and by those scoffers left him lying, and went every man his way, for the sun was going down. And after a while, he came to himself, and rose up, though with difficulty, from the ground, and wandered away with stumbling feet, till he came to a tank in a deserted quarter, and lay down on its brink to rest. And sore though he was in all his limbs, he never felt the pain of his body: but his eyes were dazed with the blue glory of the bitter scorn of the eyes of Shrí, and the sound of her voice and her laughter rang in his ears, and in his heart was shame. So he lay long, gazing at the image of Shrí as it floated before him, and stung his soul like the teeth of a serpent, and yet soothed it like sandal, while the moon rose in the sky.

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And then suddenly he sat up, and looked round. And he saw the tank, and the trees, and the moon's image in the water, and remembered where he was, and all that had occurred. And he sighed deeply, and said to himself: Woe is me! I have, like a dishonest gambler, cast my die, and lost the game. And now, I have gained no kingdom and no King's daughter, but only blows and shame. Alas! no sooner had I found my dream than again I lost her, through the terrible operation of sins committed in a former birth. So now, nothing remains but to do as quickly as possible what I was about to do before I went to the palace, and put myself, in very truth, to death. For life seemed unendurable, before I had found the woman of my dream: but now it is worse by far, since I have found her only to become in her eyes a thing of scorn, more horrible than a hundred deaths.

And he took his sword, and felt the sharpness of its edge, and put it to his throat. And as it touched his skin, at that moment he heard in the silence of the night the voice of a warder, singing as he went his round upon the city wall: Whatsoever high-caste man has been to the Land of the Lotus of the Sun, let him come to the ling: he shall share the King's kingdom and marry the King's daughter.

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[paragraph continues] And the sword fell from his hand, and he sprang to his feet, and exclaimed: What! she is for the man who has seen the Land of the Lotus, and here am I, a Rajpoot of the Race of the Sun, dreaming of death by this moonlit tank, while the Land of the Lotus is yet unfound! Now will I find that Lotus Country, be it where it may, and then come back and claim her, not as I did before, in jest, but by the right of the seer and the seen.

And instantly he picked up his sword, and threw it into the air. And the sword turned like a wheel, flashing in the moonlight, and fell back to the ground. Then Umra-Singh took it up, and immediately went out of the city, making for the quarter pointed out like a finger by the blade of his sword.

Next: V. Nightwalker