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1888

THE BISARA OF POOREE

by Rudyard Kipling

THE BISARA OF POOREE -

Little Blind Fishthou art marvellous wise

Little Blind Fishwho put out thy eyes?

Open thy ears while I whisper my wish-

Bring me a loverthou Little Blind Fish.

-The Charm of the Bisara. -

SOME natives say that it came from the other side of Kuluwhere theeleven-inch Temple Sapphire is. Others that it was made at the Devil-Shrine ofAo-Chung in Thibetwas stolen by a Kafirfrom him by a Gurkhafrom him againby a Lahoulifrom him by a khitmatgar* and by this latter sold to anEnglishmanso all its virtue was lost; becauseto work properlythe Bisara ofPooree must be stolen- with bloodshed if possiblebutat any ratestolen. -

* In DOS versions italicized text is enclosed in chevrons . -

These stories of the coming into India are all false. It was made at Pooreeages since- the manner of its making would fill a small book- was stolen by oneof the Temple dancing-girls therefor her own purposesand then passed on fromhand to handsteadily northwardtill it reached Hanle; always bearing the samename- the Bisara of Pooree. In shape it is a tiny square box of silverstuddedoutside with eight small balas-rubies. Inside the boxwhich opens with a springis a little eyeless fishcarved from some sort of dark shiny nut and wrapped ina shred of faded gold-cloth. That is the Bisara of Pooreeand it were betterfor a man to take a king-cobra in his hand than to touch the Bisara of Pooree.

All kinds of magic are out of dateand done away with except in Indiawherenothing changes in spite of the shinytop-scum stuff that people call 'civilisation.'Any man who knows about the Bisara of Pooree will tell you what its powers are-always supposing that it has been honestly stolen. It is the only regularlyworkingtrustworthy love-charm in the countrywith one exception. [The othercharm is in the hands of a trooper of the Nizam's Horseat a place calledTupranidue north of Hyderabad.] This can be depended upon for a fact. Some oneelse may explain it.

If the Bisara be not stolenbut given or bought or foundit turns againstits owner in three yearsand leads to ruin or death. This is another fact whichyou may explain when you have time. Meanwhileyou can laugh at it. At presentthe Bisara is safe on a hack-pony's neckinside the blue bead-necklace thatkeeps off the Evil-Eye. If the pony-driver ever finds itand wears itor givesit to his wifeI am sorry for him.

A very dirty hill-cooly womanwith goitreowned it at Theog in 1884. Itcame into Simla from the north before Churton's khitmatgar bought itand solditfor three times its silver-valueto Churtonwho collected curiosities. Theservant knew no more what he had bought than the master; but a man looking overChurton's collection of curiosities- Churton was an Assistant Commissionerbythe way- saw and held his tongue. He was an Englishman; but knew how to believe.Which shows that he was different from most Englishmen. He knew that it wasdangerous to have any share in the little box when working or dormant; for Loveunsought is a terrible gift.

Pack- 'Grubby' Packas we used to call him- wasin every waya nastylittle man who must have crawled into the Army by mistake. He was three inchestaller than his swordbut not half so strong. And the sword was afifty-shillingtailor-made one. Nobody liked himandI supposeit was hiswizenedness and worthlessness that made him fall so hopelessly in love with MissHolliswho was good and sweetand five-foot-seven in her tennis-shoes. He wasnot content with falling in love quietlybut brought all the strength of hismiserable little nature into the business. If he had not been so objectionableone might have pitied him. He vapouredand frettedand fumedand trotted upand downand tried to make himself pleasing in Miss Hollis' bigquietgrayeyesand failed. It was one of the cases that you sometimes meeteven in ourcountry where we marry by Codeof a really blind attachment all on one sidewithout the faintest possibility of return. Miss Hollis looked on Pack as somesort of vermin running about the road. He had no prospects beyond Captain's payand no wits to help that out by one penny. In a large-sized manlove like hiswould have been touching. In a good manit would have been grand. He being whathe wasit was only a nuisance.

You will believe this much. What you will not believe is what follows:Churtonand The Man who Knew what the Bisara waswere lunching at the SimlaClub together. Churton was complaining of life in general. His best mare hadrolled out of stable down the cliff and had broken her back; his decisions werebeing reversed by the upper Courts more than an Assistant Commissioner of eightyears' standing has a right to expect; he knew liver and feverandfor weekspasthad felt out of sorts. Altogetherhe was disgusted and disheartened.

Simla Club dining-room is builtas all the world knowsin two sectionswith an arch-arrangement dividing them. Come inturn to your own lefttake thetable under the windowand you cannot see any one who has come inturned tothe rightand taken a table on the right side of the arch. Curiously enoughevery word that you say can be heardnot only by the other dinerbut by theservants beyond the screen through which they bring dinner. This is worthknowing; an echoing-room is a trap to be forewarned against.

Half in funand half hoping to be believedThe Man who Knew told Churtonthe story of the Bisara of Pooree at rather greater length than I have told itto you in this place; winding up with a suggestion that Churton might as wellthrow the little box down the hill and see whether all his troubles would gowith it. In ordinary earsEnglish earsthe tale was only an interesting bit offolklore. Churton laughedsaid that he felt better for his tiffinand wentout. Pack had been tiffining by himself to the right of the archand had heardeverything. He was nearly mad with his absurd infatuation for Miss Hollisthatall Simla had been laughing about.

It is a curious thing thatwhen a man hates or loves beyond reasonhe isready to go beyond reason to gratify his feelings. Which he would not do formoney or power merely. Depend upon itSolomon would never have built altars toAshtaroth and all those ladies with queer namesif there had not been troubleof some kind in his zenanaand nowhere else. But this is beside the story. Thefacts of the case are these: Pack called on Churton next day when Churton wasoutleft his cardand stole the Bisara of Pooree from its place under theclock on the mantelpiece! Stole it like the thief he was by nature. Three dayslater all Simla was electrified by the news that Miss Hollis had accepted Pack-the shrivelled ratPack! Do you desire clearer evidence than this? The Bisaraof Pooree had been stolenand it worked as it had always done when won by foulmeans.

There are three or four times in a man's life when he is justified inmeddling with other people's affairs to play Providence.

The Man Who Knew felt that he was justified; but believing and acting on abelief are quite different things. The insolent satisfaction of Pack as heambled by the side of Miss Hollisand Churton's striking release from liverassoon as the Bisara of Pooree had gonedecided The Man. He explained to Churtonand Churton laughedbecause he was not brought up to believe that men on theGovernment House List steal- at least little things. But the miraculousacceptance by Miss Hollis of that tailorPackdecided him to take steps onsuspicion. He vowed that he only wanted to find out where his ruby-studdedsilver box had vanished to. You cannot accuse a man on the Government House Listof stealing. And if you rifle his roomyou are a thief yourself. Churtonprompted by The Man who Knewdecided on burglary. If he found nothing in Pack'sroom... but it is not nice to think of what would have happened in that case.

Pack went to a dance at Benmore- Benmore was Benmore in those daysand notan office- and danced fifteen waltzes out of twenty-two with Miss Hollis.Churton and The Man took all the keys that they could lay hands onand went toPack's room in the hotelcertain that his servants would be away. Pack was acheap soul. He had not purchased a decent cash-box to keep his papers inbutone of those native imitations that you buy for ten rupees. It opened to anysort of keyand there at the bottomunder Pack's Insurance Policylay theBisara of Pooree!

Churton called Pack namesput the Bisara of Pooree in his pocketand wentto the dance with The Man. At leasthe came in time for supperand saw thebeginning of the end in Miss Hollis' eyes. She was hysterical after supperandwas taken away by her Mamma.

At the dancewith the abominable Bisara in his pocketChurton twisted hisfoot on one of the steps leading down to the old Rinkand had to be sent homein a 'rickshawgrumbling. He did not believe in the Bisara of Pooree any themore for this manifestationbut he sought out Pack and called him some uglynames; and 'thief' was the mildest of them. Pack took the names with the nervoussmile of a little man who wants both soul and body to resent an insultand wenthis way. There was no public scandal.

A week laterPack got his definite dismissal from Miss Hollis. There hadbeen a mistake in the placing of her affectionsshe said. So he went away toMadraswhere he can do no great harm even if he lives to be a Colonel.

Churton insisted upon The Man who Knew taking the Bisara of Pooree as a gift.The man took itwent down to the Cart-Road at oncefound a cart-pony with ablue-bead-necklacefastened the Bisara of Pooree inside the necklace with apiece of shoe-stringand thanked Heaven that he was rid of a danger. Rememberin case you ever find itthat you must not destroy the Bisara of Pooree. I havenot time to explain why just nowbut the power lies in the little wooden fish.Mister Gubernatis or Max Muller could tell you more about it than I.

You will say that all this story is made up. Very well. If ever you comeacross a littlesilverruby-studded boxseven-eighths of an inch long bythree-quarters widewith a dark brown wooden fish wrapped in gold clothinsideitkeep it. Keep it for three yearsand then you will discover for yourselfwhether my story is true or false.

Better stillsteal it as Pack didand you will be sorry that you had notkilled yourself in the beginning. - -

THE END