Anxiety, unhappiness, gloom on every side, my sister was grave and silent; my brother-in-law was fretful and vented his ire on the poor servants, who were terrified like hunted hares. It seemed as if even the trees and the flowers, the very doors and windows were bereft of their natural appearance. The whole atmosphere was surcharged with a frigid cheerlessness, and I was the cause of it all. The thought of it hung over me like a leaden weight. And on this day of all days my father's sister came to visit us, accompanied by her daughter, Promada. We put on as cheerful faces as we could, but try as hard as ever we might we could not wholly conceal the gloom. They evidently noticed it, and Promada bothered me with question after question. "What is the matter? What has happened? Why are you all so sad? Just because he has gone away for a few days? He will come back soon and then there will be a wedding. Can't you live without him for a day?"
Times are not what once they were, the customs of our people are undergoing a marked change. Time was when each sorrow was carried to friends or relatives of one's own age and solace found by opening the heart to its very depths, but this is becoming a thing of the past. The young woman of to-day must learn to bear her sorrow alone, especially when an affair of the heart is involved. I therefore concealed my feeling before Promada and laughed her anxiety down.
The day wore on, and the tennis players came. A party of ten of us assembled in the garden. Although there was only one court, no inconvenience was felt, because the number of the players was not a large one. My aunt did not play, and I excused myself on the ground that I was not well. The doctor was there, and when not playing came and sat by me, speaking to me in his usual gentle way.
"You still appear weak," he said. "Your sister tells me you pay no attention to your health, you forget your meals when interested in your books."
"No," I assured him, "I have almost given up my studies."
Promada was by my side, and she took the opportunity to observe—
"I do not know whether she has left off her studies, but I can testify to it that she has left off her meals. Doctor, kindly give her a tonic."
"Gladly I will prescribe one this very day, but will she take it?"
While I was engaged in conversation, my eyes were on the play. When he asked this last question, however, I turned my head and smiled. He looked at me so gently, so tenderly, my whole being responded to the glance and the heaviness of my heart melted away in a happy sigh. The question involuntarily came to my lips:
"Have you a herb that will remove this weight upon my heart?" but it remained unspoken; I only suppressed the tears that mounted to my eyes and drooped my lashes. I heard my brother-in-law calling out:
"I say, doctor, come on, you are wanted to make up a new set."
He did not heed, but addressing me questioned:
"Has the tonic I gave you done you any good? How many days——"
"I say, come on," shouted my brother-in-law.
Chanchal came and said,
"Are you not coming? We are all waiting for you."
He started like one taken by surprise, hesitated a moment, and then replied, "Am I really making you all wait? It is too bad of me."
He joined the players. Promada remarked, "The doctor is a good man, is he not?"
I did not reply. I was in that happy, melancholy, dreamy state that all convalescents know, when body and mind alike have been wearied by illness and are once more being invigorated by returning health and cheered by the tender care of those who love them.