[Illustration: From a drawing by Nandalall Bose]
Mother, let us imagine we are travelling, and passing through a strange and dangerous country.
You are riding in a palanquin and I am trotting by you on a red horse.
It is evening and the sun goes down. The waste of Joradighi lies wan and grey before us. The land is desolate and barren.
You are frightened and thinking--"I know not where we have come to."
I say to you, "Mother, do not be afraid."
The meadow is prickly with spiky grass, and through it runs a narrow broken path.
There are no cattle to be seen in the wide field; they have gone to their village stalls.
It grows dark and dim on the land and sky, and we cannot tell where we are going.
Suddenly you call me and ask me in a whisper, "What light is that near the bank?"
Just then there bursts out a fearful yell, and figures come running towards us.
You sit crouched in your palanquin and repeat the names of the gods in prayer.
The bearers, shaking in terror, hide themselves in the thorny bush.
I shout to you, "Don't be afraid, mother. I am here."
With long sticks in their hands and hair all wild about their heads, they come nearer and nearer.
I shout, "Have a care! you villains! One step more and you are dead men."
They give another terrible yell and rush forward.
You clutch my hand and say, "Dear boy, for heaven's sake, keep away from them."
I say, "Mother, just you watch me."
Then I spur my horse for a wild gallop, and my sword and buckler clash against each other.
The fight becomes so fearful, mother, that it would give you a cold shudder could you see it from your palanquin.
Many of them fly, and a great number are cut to pieces.
I know you are thinking, sitting all by yourself, that your boy must be dead by this time.
But I come to you all stained with blood, and say, "Mother, the fight is over now."
You come out and kiss me, pressing me to your heart, and you say to yourself,
"I don't know what I should do if I hadn't my boy to escort me."
A thousand useless things happen day after day, and why couldn't such a thing come true by chance?
It would be like a story in a book.
My brother would say, "Is it possible? I always thought he was so delicate!"
Our village people would all say in amazement, "Was it not lucky that the boy was with his mother?"