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AN INDIAN ROAD-TALE.

    Inland they tell the tale of the coast-road, and on the coast
they tell it of Pipavao, how the Kir kept the road by force for
many years, feared by all, and how he was killed easily.
    Morning had not yet come, and the rumble of the mills
and low sighing song of the women as they ground the corn
fresh for the early meal, was the only sound heard.
    Two men left a village and approached by way of the road
the tank, on whose banks dwelt the Kir, at a point whence
the road could be seen stretching on either hand far along the
low coast. All the trade and travellers of the coast paid toll
to him, and these men, too, at dusk the day before, on their way
to a distant town and a marriage, with many carts and women,
had paid their toll, and now came, before journeying on to
hear the talk and gain the good-will of one they feared.
    They stood before the low house and unfastened the
girdle that held their swords. Each sword was pulled till the
peace-twine that held the sword to the scabbard was taut and
a finger’s breadth of metal showed; then they laid scabbard
and sword and girdle on the beaten red earth before the door,
where unarmed stood the Kir.

                                                                                            133

    They gave greeting, naming Gods and high titles of
men; and then, as travellers over long roads, they told of
towns and kings, and of what they had seen and heard.
    The village where they had rested for the night was
temple land, a free gift many generations back to the Temple
and its Priests. The Kir spoke of the present holder, asking
of the hospitality they had received and whether they had been
branded with the holy Temple sign. They bared their arms
and showed the brand burned red and white on the flesh.
Other brands were there of famous Temples showing the
journeys and pilgrimages they had made.
    They had found a welcome; it had pleased the Priest
to be merry in their company. But in the village and on the
lands under him, he ruled hard; and along the coast men
jeered at the temple-land villagers, who for the honour of the
Temple, kept life sacred and might not hunt or fish. The
beauties of the village offered at the Temple, so nets there
were indeed—hung near the road Kir’s house where none
dared rob—left there by those who used them, seeing that they
might not bring them to the village. But the Kir spoke
not to those women, nor to the brothers and husbands
who fished.
    One of the travellers said with a laugh that there
would soon be another net left for safety outside the village,
for the Priest was merry and would not be over vigilant on
those who gave good value.
    The Kir rose as the laugh sounded; his tongue clicked

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to end the talk, and he passed behind the house. The early
day was breaking, and he stood there, his eyes seeking the
light and the road.
    The travellers girdled their swords to return to the
village, and passing behind the house they saw him. Hands
beat on breast and a sob was heard.
    The scabbard-twines were broken before they reached the
Kir, and she turned and saw; but her eyes sought the road
again; and she had sobbed but once, for the sex she
belonged to.
    And so they cut her down; and a stone marks the place
on the old tank.
    There when the cattle stray at dusk, homeward from the
fields, the women turn them to the village and the men keep
the road.

                                             SHADWELL BOULDERSON.

                                                                                            135

MLA citation:

Boulderson, Shadwell. “An Indian Road-Tale.” The Venture: an Annual of Art and Literature, vol. 1, 1903, pp. 133-135. Venture Digital Edition, edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2018-2020. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2019. https://beta.1890s.ca/venturev1-boulderson-road-tale/.