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of the anohorite's natural prey, the simple pious pilgrims who were flocking to Pandharpur. The anchorite pointed to a comfortable little mound and said "Apan basa" (be seated), and then, lighting my cheroot and enjoying its fumes, began his story.

"Until a little more than a year ago, Sahib, I was, as I have said, one of the Guravs of Atibaleshwar. It is our duty, as you know, to sweep the temple floor and courtyard; and until the monsoon before last, that was my life's work, But often in those terrible four months, when the neverending rain pours down, I had often wished that I could leave Atibaleshwar and go and see the wide world outside. But I feared that if I did I should be excluded from the temple on my return. One day, however, a oultivator of Jor unearthed a pot full of gold coins and ornaments that had belonged, so men said, to the More family of King Shivaji's time. This led to a great deal of trouble. We Guravs of Atibaleshwar had come to Jor because of the heavy rain, and we demanded and received a share of the treasure. Then the sub-inspector of police heard of it, and, pretending to act on behalf of the Sarkar, came to Jor and made the villagers give their shares to him. The Guravs all entrusted me with their shares, and I hid in the woods. Then the Assistant Collector came and had the sub-inspector arrested, But I feared that I should also be arrested, so I went vid

Satara to Poona, and then to Bombay. When I had spent the money, I would have returned to Atibaleshwar, for I was tired of sight-seeing. But I had spent the shares of the other Guravs as well as my own, so, instead of returning home, I went northwards from Poona to Khed. There is a temple at Khed, and a sacred pool where the villagers round about go and bathe, and I had the thought that I would make Khed as holy as Dnyandev made Alandi. The Sahib knows the story?"

"Yes," I said, "I know it well. The great saint buried himself alive at Alandi in the very spot which the Lord Krishna pointed out to him."

"Hoy, Sahib," went on the anchorite, "and I, too, gave out that I would bury myself alive at Khed. I told this to the Brahmans, but at first they only laughed at me. But when I told them that they would profit much, in that pilgrims from Junnar and Nasik would go to Khed on the road to Pandharpur before they had given away all their money, they entered into my scheme. They went through the town saying that a very holy man had come and was about to bury himself alive to do honour to the Lord Krishna. I went into an open space in the town and sat motionless as if in a trance. When men asked me why I had come, I said that the Lord Krishna had bidden me bury myself at Khed, just 88 Dnyandev had buried himself at Alandi; and I added that

the Lord Krishna had promised me that pilgrims who visited my grave on the thirteenth of the dark half of Kartik would gain as much merit as if they had that day visited the shrine of Dnyandev at Alandi.

"The news that I was going to bury myself like Dnyandev, and that Khed would thereafter become as holy as Alandi, spread through the town. All the youth of the place readily came forward to dig me a grave, and all the the townspeople came to supply me with rich food in their gratitude that so great a saint should have deigned to sanctify their township."

Just then a band of well-todo pilgrims started to cross the river in a ferry-boat. My friend the Gurav sprang to his feet and said, "Sahib, you must excuse me; I must enable those pilgrims to acquire merit by giving me alms." With these words he would have left me, but I slipped a ten-rupee note into his begging bowl and said, "Nay, Bhatji, you must finish your story." The Gurav's eyes glittered when he saw the note, and blessing me, he said, "May you be rich and happy always, O incarnation of Yudhishtira!" Then he continued his story. "It was then, Sahib, only the month of Bhadarpad (August). So all through Bhadarpad and Ashwin (September) the good people of Khed brought me milk and fruits, and women came and gave me money for

love philtres for their husbands and for charms and amulets for their children. In this way I collected nearly fifty rupees, and I wished to leave Khed and start a similar business in some other township. But when, one night, I thought of going, I found that the villagers had posted sentries all round the open space where I had camped, for it seems that some doubted my good faith, and all were determined that they would get their money's worth, and that, whether I liked it or not, I should take samadhi1 in the grave that they had dug for me. Now it so chanced that the sub-inspector of police, a Brahman, had recently married a young wife. At first she came to me to buy a love philtre for her husband, who was chilled with age. with age. But afterwards she came because she grew to love me. The night following that of my attempted flight-for she used to slip out of her house after her evening meal

she noticed that I was more thoughtful than usual, and she asked the cause. I told her about the cruelty of the villagers, and I confessed to her that I had never meant to bury myself. I feared that on hearing this she would have turned and left me. But to my surprise, she threw her arms round my neck and wept with joy. 'Beloved,' she oried, this is indeed good news. I feared 80 that I should lose you in a few days'

1 Samadhi ghenen (to take samadhi) is the phrase used when a saint buries himself alive.

time; and now I know that we shall live together and be happy always!' Then we talked and plotted together; and at last she hit upon this plan. She would steal me a sepoy's uniform from her husband's lines and, dressed in it, I would safely slip through the cordon which the villagers had drawn round me. This plan seemed to me excellent; but it was easier to make than to carry through. Evening after evening she came to me to say that she had failed to secure the sepoy's uniform, so strictly were strangers kept out of the lines. The bright half of Kartik came and went; then the first week of the dark half; then followed the 8th, 9th, 10th, and still the sub-inspector's wife had not brought me the sepoy's clothes. On the 11th the villagers fasted to purify themselves for my samadhi. On the 12th they broke their fast, and feasted in my honour; and I, too, had to join in their feast, although my tongue clove to my palate with fear; for, unless I escaped that night, the next day would be my last. My grave had been dug eight feet deep, a black-buck's skin had been spread over the bottom of it, and a stack of wood, the smoke of which was to stupefy me when the mouth of the grave was being closed, was piled up in a corner. Happily, the villagers did not expect gaiety from an anchorite, so after they had feasted they left me, confident that next day I should make their town holy for ever. Bat the sentries posted round

me never relaxed their watch, and were as wakeful as ever. I could not sleep, such was my fear; always, too, I hoped against hope that the Brahman woman would come and save me. Nor did my hope prove false. Two hours after midnight I heard a voice whisper, not far from me, 'Maharaj! I have come.' I could see nothing, because, as you know, Sahib, the nights are moonless on the thirteenth of the dark half of the month. But I knew from the voice that it was the sub-inspector's wife. She had not been able to steal a sepoy's dress, so she had actually brought me her own husband's uniform covered with silver braid. I tore off my anchorite's robe, I slipped on the subinspector's uniform, and with a bold step I marched through the ring of sentries. The Brahman girl followed me, carrying my anchorite's gown tied up in a bundle. The villagers, thinking me to be the sub-inspector on his rounds, let us pass by them and out of the town. We walked as fast as we could for the rest of the night towards Bhimashankar, for I knew that the sub-inspector and the villagers would join in hunting us down. When the sun rose, I took off the uniform and, hiding it in a cavity in a dry torrent-bed, put on again my anchorite's gown. Then we hid in a little wood and rested there throughout the day. When darkness fell we set out again, and before morning we had reached the hills, and I knew that we were fairly safe. The Brahman girl

had brought some food with her, and she bought some more from the hillmen's huts. Thus we had strength to make our way to one of the peaks of Bhimashankar, from which one can look down many hundred feet into the Konkan. There we made ourselves a little hut and lived together as happily as ever Rama and Sita did on the banks of the Godavari. One day, however, the Brahman girl, on going to a neighbouring village, heard that the subinspector was still searching for us, and that in a day or two he and his sepoys would beat all the jungles on Bhimashankar. I knew then that if we stayed we should be taken, and I also knew that that rakshas (devil) of a sub-inspector would surely hand me over to the villagers of Khed to bury alive. Istormed and cursed myself for ever having left Atibaleshwar; and at last I told the Brahman girl that she must leave me and return to her husband. But truly, Sahib, I had no inkling of what was to follow. I, indeed, thought only how to save myself. She threw herself at my feet and cried and implored me not to leave her, promising me that she would save me, as she had saved me before. But when fear has hold of a man, he will not listen to reason. Losing all patience, I pushed her violently from me and went to perform my evening sandhyas (prayers); for at all times, Sahib, I have strictly observed the rites of our religion. Seeing that I would not yield, she rose to her feet and, salaaming, said bitterly, 'Farewell, then,

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though he bathe in the Ganges.' Then pulling her sari (mantle) forward over her head, she ran to the edge of the cliff and sprang off it into space. For some minutes I was too shocked to do anything, then I crept to the mountain's edge and looked over. At first I saw nothing; then I made out ever so far below me a red spot, which I knew to be the Brahman woman's clothes. I would have fled from the place at once, but it was growing dark and I had heard of a maneating panther in the forest. So I stayed the night in my hut, covering my head carefully with my sheet; for I feared that the bodiless spirit of the Brahman girl might enter my mouth as I slept, and possessing me, bring me to ruin. Next morning I rose and, after performing my sandhyas, crept again to the edge of the oliff and saw the red spot untouched. The jackals had not found her in the night. But as I looked, I became aware of a black speck in the sky, and then another and then another. I knew then that the vultures had seen her body, and that before evening they would have eaten it. I went back to my hut, and, picking up my small belongings, ran as fast as I could from the accursed place. By great good fortune I escaped the toils laid for me by the sub-inspector, and I made my way northwards to Nasik. There I met a Brahman priest, who fed and eared

for me like a father; and when he died of cholera, as he did two or three months later, he left me all his small savings. After mourning for him and burning his body and throwing his bones into the Godavari, I came here to worship the Lord Krishna,"

"You were fortunate," I said, “in finding so kindly a priest. But I was at Nasik at the time, and I heard evil men say-for there are evil men even in so holy a place as Nasik-that the old priest did not die of cholera, but because he ate arsenic by mistake."

In sheer malice I had drawn a bow at a venture. It oertainly seemed as if my random shaft hit the mark. All the good humour left the anchorite's face. He sprang to his

feet, seized his iron-shod staff, and for a moment I thought he would have struck me with it. "Nay, Bhatji," I spoke soothingly to him, "be not angry. I did but jest." But he was not to be eajoled. The pleasant garrulity had gone not to return. Just then he spied another likely boatload of pilgrims crossing the Bhima. He picked up his begging bowl, threw away his cigar-end, and growling under his breath, "Aanakhi gappa marayala mala kahi vel nahi" (I have no more time to waste gossiping here), he strode off towards his predestined prey. A minute or two later I heard his voice raised as before, half threatening, half whining

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Alms, alms! of God, give me alms!”

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