22    


THE HOUSE, lingering on after its wealth has vanished, stands by the wayside like a madman with a patched rag over his back.

        Day after day scars it with spiteful scratches, and rainy months leave their fantastic signatures on its bared bricks.

        In a deserted upper room one of a pair of doors has fallen from rusty hinges; and the other, widowed, bangs day and night to the fitful gusts.

        One night the sound of women wailing came from that house. They mourned the death of the last son of the family, a boy of eighteen, who earned his living by playing the part of the heroine in a travelling theatre.

        A few days moreand the house became silent, and all the doors were locked.

        Only on the north side in the upper room that desolate door would neither drop off to its rest nor be shut, but swung to and fro in the wind like a self-torturing soul.

 

After a time children's voices echo once more through that house. Over the balcony-rail women's clothes are hung in the sun, a bird whistles from a covered cage, and a boy plays with his kite on the terrace.

        A tenant has come to occupy a few rooms. He earns little and has many children. The tired mother beats them and they rollon thefloor and shriek.

        A maid-servant of forty drudges through the day, quarrels with her mistress, threatens to, but never leaves.

        Every day some small repairs are done. Paper is pasted in place of missing panes; gaps in the railings are made good with split bamboo; an empty box keeps the boltless gate shut; old stains vaguely show through new whitewash on the walls.

        The magnificence of wealth had found a fitting memorial in gaunt desolation; but, lacking sufficient means, they try to hide this with dubious devices, and its dignity is outraged.

        They have overlooked the deserted room on the north side. And its forlorn door still bangs in the wind, like Despair beating her breast.