of a tree and lay concealed in the gloom. Again they noticed with alarm, the man turn from his path and advance towards the sheltering trees. At this, both dived into deeper darkness.
The man came just to the very same spot. “Who are you here?” he asked. Immediately after, it seemed as if he muttered to himself in a low tone, “Who can this hapless creature be that wakes the night in the public streets like myself?”
The tall stature of the man had at first generated fear in the minds of the women, but the sound of his voice soon reassured them; it was very sweet—full of sadness and pity.
“We are women, who are you pray?” said Kulsam.
“We!” cried the man, “how many are you?”
“We are only two,” replied Kulsam.
“What are you doing here at this time of night?” asked the man.
“We are ill-fated women,” interposed Dalani. “What is the good of your hearing the tale of our sorrow?”
“Even a very insigniﬁcant person,” averred the stranger, “can sometimes render service; if you are in trouble, I can try to help you as far as it lies in my power.”
“To help us,” said Dalani, “is almost next to impossible Who are you?”
“I am an insigniﬁcant man,” replied the stranger “a poor Brahmin only——an ascetic.”
“Whoever you might be,” said Dalani, “your words invite our conﬁdence. A drowning man never discusses the strength of his support. If you want to hear the tale of our sorrow, then step aside a little; one cannot be sure who might be about in the night. We cannot guard our secret too carefully against chance auditors.”