The letters from Captain Carreras had become more frequent in late years; in fact, there was almost always a letter en route either from Preshbend or Equatoria.... The Captain wanted him to come; stronger and stronger became the call. So far as money was concerned, he had done extraordinarily well. He always wrote of this half-humorously.... At last when Bedient was beginning his seventh year in the Punjab, there came a letter which held a plaint not to be put aside.
Bedient was in his thirty-second year; and just at this time old Gobind left his body for a last time beneath the camphor-tree. The young man had sat before him the night before, and the holy man had told him in symbolism—that the poor murky river of his life had made its last bend through the forests, and was swiftly flowing into the sea of time and space. Though he sat long after silence had settled down, Bedient did not know (so softly and sweetly did the old saint depart) that the Sannyasin was tranced in death instead of meditation. It was not until the next morning, when he heard the Sikh women of the village weeping—one above all—that he understood. It was not a shock of grief to these women, for such is their depth that the little matters which concern all flesh and which are inevitable, cannot be made much ado of. Still it was feminine and beautiful to him, their weeping; and possibly the one who wept loudest had mothered old Gobind in her heart, and there was emptiness in the thought that she could not fill his begging-bowl again. Bedient, as well as others of the village, knew that to Gobind, death was a long-awaited consummation; that he was gone only from the physical eye of the village. That missed him—as did Bedient, who had loved to sit at the fleshly feet of the holy man.... But he loved all Preshbend, too.
And at length, he set out on foot for Lahore—often looking back.
THAT ISLAND SOMEWHERE
ALL these impressive years, from seventeen to thirty-two, had brought Andrew Bedient nothing in the civilized sense of success. It is quickly granted that he was a failure according to such standards. He had never been in want nor debt, nor so poor that he could not cover another’s immediate human need if presented; yet the reserve energy of all these years, in fact, of his whole life, as represented in gold, amounted to less than three hundred dollars. Probably, outside of Asia, there was not a white man who had accumulated three hundred dollars with less thought; certainly in Asia there was none, white or black, who carried this amount with less vital concern. Up the years, he had given no thought to the oft-expressed eagerness of Captain Carreras to help him in a substantial way. He had always felt that he would go to his friend—at times had hungered for him—and now he answered the call.