The Return of Imray, Part 4

By Rudyard Kipling

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Bahadur Khan stood up ashen gray in the light of the one lamp. The need for justification came upon him very swiftly.  

Bahadur Khan
I am trapped, but the offence was by the wizard, Imray. He cast an evil eye upon my child, thus I killed and hid that devil. Only such as are served by devils, only such, could know what I did.  
Strickland
It was clever. But thou shouldst have lashed him to the beam with a rope. Now, thou thyself wilt hang by a rope. Orderly!  
Drowsy Policeman
Yes, sir?
Second Drowsy Policeman
Yes, Sahib?
Strickland
Take him to the police station. There is a case toward.  
Bahadur Khan
Do I hang, then?
Strickland
I note that you are making no attempt to escape, and keeping your eyes downcast contritely, but I must tell you that you will hang if the sun shines or the water runs.   
Bahadur Khan
I shall make no attempt to escape, but I need to step back one long pace because a snake is near me. Ouch! 
</strong>strickland
Go with the police officers! 
Bahadur Khan
  Nay; but I go very swiftly. See!  I am even now a dead man. Look! Clinging to my little toe is a half-killed snake. He has firmly affixed to me, like Imray.
Me
You’ve done that deliberately!
Bahadur Khan
I come of land-holding stock. It were a disgrace to me to go to the public scaffold: therefore I take this way. 
Me
Bahadur Khan, I can respect that.
Bahadur Khan
Remember that I have correctly enumerated the Sahib’s shirts, and placed an extra soap in his washbasin. Imray certainly bewitched my child and so I slew the wizard. Why should you slay me with the rope? I saved my honour, and—and—I die.   

At the end of an hour he died, as they die who are bitten by the little brown karait, and the policemen bore him and the thing under the tablecloth to their appointed places. All were needed to make clear the disappearance of Imray.

Strickland
This is the nineteenth century. Did you hear what the man said?   
Me
I heard. Imray made a fatal mistake. The cause arose simply and solely through not knowing the nature of the Asian, and the coincidence of a little seasonal fever. Bahadur Khan had been with him for four years.  
Me
I shuddered. Above all, my own servant had been with me for exactly that length of time. When I went over to my own room I found my man waiting. 
Ali
Shall I pull off your boots?
Me
What has befallen Bahadur Khan?  
Ali
A snake bit him, and it killed him. The rest the Sahib knows.
Me
And how much of this matter hast thou known?  
Ali
As much as might be gathered from One coming in in the twilight to seek satisfaction. Gently, Sahib. Let me pull off those boots.  

*************

I had just settled to the sleep of exhaustion when I heard Strickland shouting from his side of the house—

Strickland
Tietjens has come back to her place!  

And so she had. The great hound couched statelily on her own bedstead on her own blanket, while, in the next room, the idle, empty, ceiling-cloth waggled as it trailed on the table.

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