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ingly. "I have suffered no hurt. The water was cold. See, I am unharmed. Look at my fing


His voice faltered, then his speech broke off, trailing away into inarticulate sounds, while he sat staring stupidly in mingled astonishment and fear at his scalded hands. The little hut was reeking with the odour sent up by that peeling skin and flesh.

"What thing is this, Mînah?" he asked presently in an awed whisper. "What thing is this, for in truth I felt no pain, and even now, though for certain the water is boiling, since my fingers are all a-frizzle, no pang hath come to me? What is it, Minah?"

Mînah looked at the ugly hand her husband held out for her inspection, and she was as bewildered as he. "Perchance 'tis some magic that thou hast learned that maketh the fire powerless to harm thee," she said simply. Magic is too common and everyday a thing in the Malay peninsula for either Mînah or Mâmat to see anything extravagant in the idea. Mâmat, indeed, felt rather flattered by the suggestion; but none the less he denied having had any dealings with the spirits, and for some weeks he thought little more about the discovery of his strange insensibility to pain. The sores on his hands, however, did not heal, and at length matters began to look serious, since he could no longer do his proper share of work in the fields. By Mînah's advice the aid of a local medicine man of some repute

was had recourse to, and for days the little house was noisy with the sound of old-world incantations, and redolent of heavy odours arising from the strange spices burning in the wizard's brazier. Mâmat, too, went abroad with his hands stained all manner of unnatural hues, and was deprived of most of the few things which render his rice palatable to an upcountry Malay.

For some weeks, as is the manner of his kind both in Europe and Asia, the medicine man struggled with the disease he half recognised, but lacked the courage to name; and when at length disguise was no longer possible, it was to Mînah that he told the truth-told it with the crude and brutal bluntness which natives, and country-folk all over the world, keep for the breaking of ill tidings. He lay in wait for her by the little bathing-hut on the river-bank, where Mînah was wont to fill the gourds with water for her house, and he began his tale at once, without preface or preparation.

"Sister, it is the evil sickness," he said. "Without doubt it is the sickness that is not good. For me, I can do nought to aid this man of thine; wherefore give me the money that is due to me, and suffer me to depart, for I also greatly fear to contract the evil. And, sister, it were well for thee to make shift to seek a divorce from Mâmat speedily, as is permitted in such cases by the law, lest thou in like manner shouldst become afflicted with the sickness; for this evil is

one that
can in nowise be
medicined, even if Pětěra Gûru
himself were to take a hand
in the charming away of the
bad humours."

being, entreating it, if indeed it must have a victim, to take her and to spare her husband. She had not been taught, as Christian women are, to turn to God in the hour of her despair; and though she breathed out prayer and plaint as she lay upon the damp earth and tore at the lush grass, her thoughts were never for a moment directed heavenwards. She was a woman of the Muhammadans, unskilled in letters, ignorant utterly of the teachings of her faith, and, like all her people, she was a Malay first, and a follower of the Prophet accidentally, and as it were by an afterthought. Therefore her cry was raised to the Demon of Leprosy, to the Spirits of Wind and Air, and to all manner of Unclean Creatures who should find no place in the mythology of a true believer. The old-world superstitions, the natural religion of the Malays before ever the Arab missionaries came to tamper with their simple paganism, always come uppermost in the native mind in time of stress or trouble, just as it is the natural man-the savage-that rises to the surface, through no matter what superimposed strata of conventionalism, in moments of strong emotion. But these emotions. Then a realisation things had power to help

No one in Asia ever names leprosy. It is spoken of but rarely, and then by all manner of euphemisms, lest hearing its name pronounced, it should seek out the speaker and abide with him for ever. But when the words "the evil sickness" sounded in her ears, Mînah understood, with а violent shock of most complete comprehension; and, alas for frail human nature, her first thought was for herself, and it sent a throb of relief, almost of joy, pulsing through her. Her man was a leper! No woman would now be found to wed with him; no co-wife would come into her life to separate her from her husband; barren and childless though she be, the man she loved would be hers for all his days, and no one would arise to dispute her right, her sole right, to love and tend and cherish him. The medicine man turned away, and walked slowly up the path by the river - bank counting the coppers in his hand, and she stood where he had left her gazing after him, a prey to a number of conflicting

of the pity of it overwhelmed her, a yearning, aching pity for the man she loved, and in an agony of self-reproach she threw herself face downward on the ground, among the warm, damp grasses, and prayed passionately and inarticulately, prayed to the Leprosy itself, as though it were a sentient

Mînah but little, to comfort her not at all, and any strength that she gained during that hour which she spent prone, in agony and alone, came to her from her own brave and tender

heart,-that fountain of willing self-sacrifice and unutterable tenderness, the heart of a good and a pure woman.

The evening sun was sinking redly when at last Mînah gathered herself together, rearranged her tumbled hair and crumpled garments with deft feminine fingers, and turned her face towards her home. The moon had risen, and was pouring down its floods of pure light, softening and etherealising all upon which it shone, and penetrating the chinks of the wattled walls in little jets and splashes of brightness, when Mînah, tenderly caressing the head of her husband, which lay pillowed on her breast, whispered in his ears the words which revealed to him the full measure of his calamity.

No more awful message can come to any man than that which makes known to him that he had been stricken by leprosy, that foulest, most repulsive, and least merciful of all incurable diseases; and Mâmat, as he listened to his wife's whispered speech, cowered and trembled in the semi-darkness of the hut, and now and again, as he rocked his body to and fro, to and fro restlessly, he gave vent to a low sob of concentrated pain very pitiful to hear. Leprosy has a strange power to blight a man utterly, to rob him alike of the health and the cleanliness of his body, and of the love which has made life sweet to him; for when the terror falls upon any one, even those who loved him best in the days when he was whole too often turn from him in loathing and fear. As slowly and with pain Mâmat began


understand clearly, and understanding to realise the

full meaning of the words that fell from his wife's lips, he drew hurriedly away from her, despite her restraining hands, and sat huddled up in a corner of the hut weeping the hard, deep-drawn tears that come to a grown man in the hour of his trial, bringing no relief, but merely adding one pang more to the intensity of his suffering. Vaguely he told himself that since Mînah must be filled with horror at his lightest touch, since she would now most surely leave him, as she had a right to do, he owed it to himself, and to what little remnant of self-respect remained to him, that the first signal for withdrawal should be made by him. It would help to ease the path which she must tread, the path that was to lead her away from him for ever, if from the beginning he showed her plainly that he expected nothing but desertion, that she was free to go, to leave him, that he was fully prepared for the words that should tell him of her intention, though for the moment they still remained unspoken. Therefore, though Minah drew near to him, he repulsed her gently, and retired yet farther into the depth of the shadows, saying warningly

"Have a care, lest thou also becomest infected with the evil."

Again Mînah moved towards him, with arms outstretched as though to embrace him, and again he evaded her. A little moonbeam, struggling through the interstices of the wattled walls, fell full upon her face, and revealed to him her eyes

dewy with tears and yearning upon him with a great love. The sight was so unexpected that it came to him with the violence of a blow, sending a strange thrill through all his ruined body, and tightening something that seemed to grip his heart, so that he panted for breath like one distressed with running.

"Have a care !" he cried again, but Mînah took no heed of his warning.

little child that having come by some hurt runs to its mother to be petted into forgetfulness of the pain-proved too strong for him, and he sank down, sobbing unrestrainedly, with his head in Mînah's lap, and her soft hands fondling and caressing him.

"What care I?" she cried. "What care I? Thinkest thou that my love is so slight a thing that it will cleave to thee only in the days of thy prosperity? Am I like unto a woman of the town, one who loveth only when all be well, and the silver dollars be many and bright? Am I such a one, who hath no care save only for herself? O Mâmat, my man of mine! After these years that we have lived together in love dost thou know me so little, me thy wife, that thou thinkest that I will willingly leave thee because, forsooth, the evil spirits have caused this trouble to befall thee? Weh, I love thee, I love thee, I love thee, and in truth I cannot live without thee! Come to me, Weh, come to me." And again she held out her arms towards him, entreating tenderly.

For long Mâmat resisted, fighting against the temptation sturdily for the sake of the love that he bore her, but at length the longing for human sympathy and for comfort in his great affliction—a desire which, in time of trouble, a man feels as instinctively as does the

And thus it came about that Mînah made the great sacrifice, which in a manner was to her no sacrifice, and her husband brought himself to accept what to him was more precious than anything upon earth.

Two or three years slid by after this, and as Mînah watched her husband she marked the subtle changes of the disease to which he was a prey working their cruel will upon him. He had been far gone in the disease even before the medicine man had mustered courage to name it, and for many months after the discovery little change was noticeable. Then, as is its wont, the leprosy, as though ashamed of such prolonged inactivity, took a stride forward, then halted again, then advanced once more, but this time with more lagging feet, then came to a standstill for a space, then moved onward yet again. Thus, though the alterations wrought by the ravages of the disease were cruel and terrible, to Mînah, who marked each change take place gradually, step by step, beneath her eyes, underlying the grey featureless face, in the blind eyesockets, the aimless swaying limbs that were now mere

stumps, she saw as clearly as of old the face, the glance, the gestures that had been those of her husband, and seeing this she loved this formless thing with the old passion of devotion and tenderness. He was utterly dependent on her now. Twice daily she bore him on her back down to the river's edge, and bathed him with infinite care. To her there seemed nothing remarkable in the in act. She had done it for the first time one day long ago when his feet were peculiarly sore and uncomfortable, had done it laughingly half in jest, and he had laughed too, joining in her merriment. But now it was the only means of conveying him riverwards, and she carried him on her back unthinkingly, as a matter of course. In the same way she had come to dress and feed him, first half laughingly, before there was any real necessity for such help, but latterly his limbs had grown to be so useless that without her aid he would have gone naked and have died of starvation. Allah or the Spirits-Mînah was never sure which of the twain had the larger share in the arrangements of her world-had not seen fit to send her a child in answer to her prayer, but she never lamented the fact now. Was not Mâmat husband and child in one? And did she not empty all the stores of her love, both wifely and motherly, upon him, who needed her more sorely than a baby could have done, and loved her with

the strength of a man and with the simplicity of a child? She never knew fatigue when Mâmat needed tending; she never knew sorrow when he was free from pain; she asked for no joy save that of being near him. All the womanliness in her nature, purified and intensified by her sad experience, rose up in the heart of this daughter of the Muhammadans, fortifying her in trial, blinding her to the nobility of her own self-sacrifice, obliterating utterly all thought of her own comfort, her own feelings and desires, filling her with a great content, and making the squalor of her life a thing most beautiful. Her only sorrow was that she was often forced to absent herself from the house in order to take the share in the field - work which, under happier circumstances, should have been performed by her husband; but the kindly villagers, who pitied her in their hearts, though they could not repress an occasional jeer at her eccentric devotion to a leper, lightened her tasks for her as much as was possible, so that she found her fields tilled, the crop weeded, and the precious rice grain stored, with so little labour on her part that the whole operation appeared to have been done, as it were, automatically. And thus Mînah and her man spent many years of the life which even the Demon of Leprosy had been powerless to rob of all its sweetness.

It was some years after the

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