Though, in Europe, this insidious appeal might lack force, it is otherwise in India: whose millions doubt their former birth no more than they doubt their own existence. It is not long since a woman in Cutch burned herself with her own dead son, because, she averred, he had been her husband in her former birth.
And Aja looked at her again, and felt abashed, and half ashamed, he knew not why. And he murmured to himself: She does not lie: for beautiful she is indeed, and need not fear comparison with any woman in the world. And it may be, she is partly right, and if I had met her yesterday, before my heart was full, she would have had little difficulty in entering in and capturing it, almost without resistance. And he stood looking at her silently, uncertain what to say or do, and half inclined to pity her, and half afraid of her and of himself, admiring her against his will, and as it were confessing by his very silence the power of her appeal. For notwithstanding the preoccupation of his heart, his youth and his sex became as it were allies with her against his resolution, compelling him to acknowledge the supremacy of the cunning god, and the spell of feminine attraction incarnate in her form.
And she stood there before him, for a little, with beauty as it were heightened by resentful reproach of the slighting of itself, and the disregard of its tried affection. And then all at once she sank down upon the ground, as if she were tired, and remained sitting among the poppies, with her chin resting on her left knee, which she embraced with her arms, watching him, and as it were, waiting with humility and patience for a decision in her case. And every now and then, she closed her eyes, and opened them again, as if to make sure that he was there.
And Aja looked round in the silence, at the poppies and the lotuses, and the great owls that seemed to watch him, and back again at her. And his head began to whirl, and he muttered to himself: Is this a dream, and what does it all mean? And is she returning to the condition of an image, disgusted by my coldness and disdain? And what is to be done? And he looked at her face, deprived, by the closing of their lids, of the moon of her eyes, and resting like a mask upon its chin. And he said within himself: Her eyebrows move, as if they were alive. And he felt as it were unable to look away from them: and at last, annoyed with himself, he closed his eyes also as though to escape their persecution.
And then, he said to himself: This is cowardice, and after all, no refuge; for I seem to see her still, through the shutters of my lids. And he opened his eyes once more. And instantly, he leaped from the ground like a wounded stag, with a cry. For the wood, with all its lotuses and poppies, was gone. And in its place, he saw before him a forest with its great green trees all lit by the shining of the