In the evening Baby will go out for an airing with the Bearer and Ayah people, and while they dawdle along the dusty road, or sit on kerb-stones and on culvert parapets, he will listen to the extensile tale of their simple sorrows. He will hear, with a sigh, that the profits of petty larceny are declining; he will be taught to regret the increasing infirmities of his Papa’s temper; and portraits in sepia of his Mamma will be observed by him to excite laughter mingled with dark impulsive words. Thus there will pass into Baby’s eyes glances of suspicious questionings, “the blank misgivings of a creature moving about in worlds not realised.”
In the long summer days Baby will patter listlessly about the darkened rooms accompanied by his suite, who will carry a feeding bottle—Maw’s Patent Feeding Bottle—just as the Sergeant-at-Arms carries the mace; and, from time to time, little Mister Speaker will squat down on his dear little hams and take a refreshing pull or two. At breakfast and luncheon time little Mister Speaker will straggle into the dining-room, and fond parents will give him a tidbit of many soft dainties, to be washed down with brandy and water, beer, sherry, or other alcoholic draught. On such broken meals Baby is raised.
The little drawn face, etiolated and weary-looking, recommends sleep; but Baby is a bad sleeper. The Bearer-in-waiting carries about a small pillow all day long, and from time to time Baby is applied to it. He frets and cries, and they brood over him humming some old Indian song, ["Keli Blai,” or “Hillu Milli Pania"]. Still he turns restlessly and whimpers, though they pat him and shampoo him, and call him fond names and tell him soothing stories of bulbuls and flowers and woolly sheep. But Baby does not sleep, and even Indian patience is exhausted. Both Ayah and Bearer would like to slip away to their mud houses at the other end of the compound and have a pull at the fragrant huqqa and a gossip with the saices;[Q] but while Sunny Baba is at large, and might at any moment make a raid on Mamma, who is dozing over a novel on a spider-chair near the mouth of the thermantidote, the Ayah and Bearer dare not leave their charge. So Sunny Baba must sleep, and the Bearer has in the folds of his waist-cloth a little black fragment of the awful sleep-compeller, and Baby is drugged into a deep uneasy sleep of delirious, racking dreams.
Day by day Baby grows paler, day by day thinner, day by day a stranger light burns in his bonny eyes. Weird thoughts sweep through Baby’s brain, weird questions startle Mamma out of the golden languors in which she is steeped, weird words frighten the gentle Ayah as she fondles her darling. The current of babble and laughter has almost ceased to flow. Baby lies silent in the Ayah’s lap staring at the ceiling. He clasps a broken toy with wasted fingers. His Bearer comes with some old watchword of fun; Baby smiles faintly, but makes no response. The old man takes him tenderly in his arms and carries him to the verandah; Baby’s head falls heavily on his shoulder.