An hour passed, and a melancholy, earth-coloured Indian loitered up the drive, dressed in a loin-cloth and a salmon-pink pagri on which a washing-basket was balanced. He laid down his basket and salaamed to Flory.
‘Who are you?’
The book-wallah was an itinerant peddler of books who wandered from station to station throughout Upper Burma. His system of exchange was that for any book in his bundle you gave him four annas, and any other book. Not quite any book, however, for the book-wallah, though analphabetic, had learned to recognize and refuse a Bible.
‘No, sahib,’ he would say plaintively, ‘no. This book (he would turn it over disapprovingly in his flat brown hands) this book with a black cover and gold letters—this one I cannot take. I know not how it is, but all sahibs are offering me this book, and none are taking it. What can it be that is in this black book? Some evil, undoubtedly.’