Change for the Better
Monayem Khan Nizam
..............Far from the city of Dhaka there lived an aristocratic family in a small village at the edge of Savar. They lived here not because they could not afford a city life but because they liked to enjoy their life close to the nature, enjoying the fresh beauty of it. But they had business ties with the city, hence the master of the family, and sometimes all of them, used to go to the city and stay there for some days, yet they were fond of the pleasure from nature itself.
Mr. Chowdhury was, the head of the family, a successor of the Jamindar dynasty there who had ruled the whole city once upon a time. With the passage of time Jamindar system declined, Mr. Chowdhury’s ancestors passed away one after another and he now just kept a control over the property along with the homestead his forefathers willed to him. He had much riches and vast land property. He also had a business now in the city. Having a small family of wife and two young children Mr. Chowdhury had been passing his days very happily. Shuvo, his only son, was nine years old and Mim, his only daughter, was eight.
The family lived in a good house, and wore fine clothes, and had a great many things to enjoy and pass their time with. Nurses, attendants and servants seemed to be on their toes to serve the family. Shuvo had a lot of pretty toys to play with; yet he was seldom happy or pleased; for he was never good. He did not mind what his mother said to him, and would not learn to read, though he was now nine years old.
He called the servants names, pinched and beat his little sister, and took away her playthings, and was not kind and good to her, as a brother should be. 'Oh, what a sad boy Shuvo is!' was his mother's daily bitter exclamation. Mr. Chowdhury nowadays had to stay in the city and abroad for his business and therefore he could not stay with his family for many days at a stretch.
Mr. Chowdhury was a good business man and earned a lot already but he was more careless about the money he earned and about his family’s future. He was a proud man who let Shuvo have his own way, because he was his only son, and he thought him handsome. But how could anyone be handsome that was so naughty? I am sure that when he was forward, and put out his lip, and frowned, he looked quite ugly. Mrs. Chowdhury told him so, and said that no one was pretty that was not good; but Shuvo did not mind his mother, and was so vain he would stand before the looking-glass half the day, instead of learning his lessons; and was so silly he would say, 'What a pretty little boy I am! I am glad I am not a shabby boy, like Salam, our cowboy.' At such times his mother would say to him: 'I wish, Shuvo, you were only half as good as Salam; he is not much older than you, yet he can read in the Quran quite well; he works hard for his poor mother, and never vexes her, as you do me; and when he comes home in the evening, he nurses the baby, and is kind to all his sisters. I dare say he never pinched nor beat any of them in his life.'
'Oh!' said that wicked Shuvo, 'I hate him for all that, for he wears ragged clothes, and has no toys to play with.'
'Oh fie, Shuvo!' said his mother; 'you are a wicked boy: have not I often told you that Allah made the poor as well as the rich, and He will hate those who despise them? Now, Shuvo, if Allah, to punish you for your pride, were to take away your father and me, and you had no money to buy food, and your clothes became old and ragged, you would then be a poor, shabby boy, and worse off than Salam; for you could not earn your own living, as he does; and you would consequently be starved to death if Allah did not take care of you. And if, while you were rich, you hated the poor, how could you expect Allah to care for you when you grew poor, like those you had scorned?'
But Shuvo, however, was so naughty he would not stay to hear what his mother said, but ran away into the fields.
Then Shuvo's mother was so vexed that she could not help crying at his being such a wicked, proud boy; and she could not sleep all that night for the grief his conduct had occasioned her. The next day she was forced to take a long journey, to visit a friend who was very ill, and who lived in Comilla. She was very sorry to leave her children, for she knew if Shuvo behaved naughty when she was with him, he would be a sad boy indeed when he was left to himself, and had none to correct him and tell him of his faults.
When the car that was to take Mrs. Chowdhury to Comilla drove to the door, she kissed her children a great many times, and begged that they would be very good while she was away from them.
'You, my dear Mim, I know, will mind what nurse says to you, and will try to be good while I am gone; for you know that Allah will see everything you do amiss, if I do not; and I hope you will never forget to say your prayers to Him five times.'
Mim kissed her dear mother, and promised that she would attend to all she said; and her mother was satisfied, for she knew that Mim never told stories, though she was but a little girl.
Then Mrs. Chowdhury turned to Shuvo, and said: 'As for you, Shuvo, I cannot help feeling great pain at leaving you; for you are such a bad, wilful boy that I shall not have a happy moment whilst I am away from you, lest you should do anything amiss. But if you love me, you will try to be good; and whenever you are about to do anything wrong, say to yourself, "How much this would grieve my poor mother if she knew it! And how much it will offend Allah, who does see, and knows, not only everything I do, but even my most secret thoughts! And He will one day bring me to an account for all I do or say against His will and my kind parents' commands."
Shuvo, who knew he was a bad boy, hung down his head, for he did not like to be told of his faults.
Then his mother said: 'My dear Shuvo, do try and be good, and I will love you dearly.'
'But what will you bring me from Comilla,' said Shuvo, 'if I am a good boy? For I never will behave well for nothing.'
'Do you call the love of Allah and of dear mother nothing?' said Mim; 'I will behave well, even if mother forgets to bring me the great wax doll, and the chest of drawers to keep her clothes in, which she told me about yesterday.'
Mrs. Chowdhury smiled fondly on her little girl, but made no reply to Shuvo; and soon the car drove away from the door.
Shuvo was very glad when his mother was gone, and he said: 'Now mother is gone to Comilla, I will do just as I please: I will learn no ugly lessons, but play all day long. How happy I shall be! I hope mother may not come for a whole month.'
But Shuvo soon found he was not so happy as he thought he should have been; he did not know the reason, but I will tell you why he was not happy. No one can be happy who is not good, and Shuvo was so naughty as to resolve not to obey his kind mother, who loved him so much.
Shuvo brought out all his toys to play with, but he soon grew weary of them, and he kicked them under the table, saying, 'Nasty dull toys, I hate you, for you do not amuse me or make me happy. I will go to father, and ask him to give me something to please me that I am not used to.'
Mr. Chowdhury was at home but was very busy with some friends in the study, and could not attend to his son’s wants. Shuvo was a rude, tiresome boy; so he stood by his father, and shook his chair, and pulled his sleeve, and teased him so much that his father at last grew angry, and turned him out of the room.
Then Shuvo stood and kicked at the door, and screamed with all his might, when one of the gentlemen said to him: 'If you were my little boy, I would give you something to cry for.' So Shuvo's father told him if he did not go away, he would come out of the study and beat him.
When Shuvo heard this, he ran away, for he was afraid of being beaten; but, instead of playing quietly with his toys, he went and laid under the great table in the drawing room and sulked and fretted till dinner-time.
When nurse came to call him to dinner, he said: 'I won't come. Go away, ugly nurse!'
Then the nurse said, 'Shuvo, if you like to punish yourself by going without your dinner, no one will prevent you, I am sure.'
Then Shuvo began to cry aloud, and tried to tear nurse's apron; but nurse told him he was a bad boy, and left him.
Now, when Mim sat down to dinner, she said to nurse: 'Where is brother Shuvo? Why is he not here?'
'Dear Mim, he is a naughty child,' said nurse, 'and chooses to go without his dinner, thinking to vex us; but he hurts no one but himself with his perverse temper.'
'Then,' said Mim, 'I do not like to dine while he goes without; so I will try and persuade him to come and eat some thing.'
'Well, Miss Mim,' said nurse, 'you may go, if you please; but I would leave the bad boy to himself.'
When little Mim came to Shuvo, and asked him if he would come and eat his dinner, he poked out his head, and made such an ugly face that she was quite frightened at him, and ran away.
Nurse did not take the trouble of calling him to dinner; and, though he was very hungry, he was too sulky to come without being asked; so he lay under the table, and cried aloud till bedtime. But when it grew dark, he was afraid to stay by himself, for bad children are always fearful; so he came upstairs and said in a cross, rude tone of voice, 'Nurse, give me something to eat.'
Nurse said, 'Shuvo, if you had been good, you would have had biriyani, chicken and many other dishes for your dinner, and milk before you go to bed but as you were such a bad boy, and would not come to your meals, I shall only give you a piece of dry bread and a cup of milk, and you do not deserve even that.'
Then Shuvo made one of his very worst faces, and threw the bread on the ground, and spilt the milk.
Nurse told him that there were many poor children in the world who would be glad of the smallest morsel of what he so much despised, and that the time would come when he might want the very worst bit of it; and she bade him kneel down and say his prayers, and ask Allah to forgive him for having been such a wicked boy all day.
But Shuvo did not mind what she said, and went crying to bed. Thus ended the first day of Shuvo Chowdhury's happiness.
He awoke very early the next morning, and told nurse to get him his breakfast, for he was very hungry. But nurse said he must wait till eight o'clock, which was the breakfast hour.
He now found it was of no use sulking, as no one seemed to care for his tempers; so he looked about for something to eat, but found nothing but the piece of bread he had thrown on the ground the night before; and he was glad to eat that, and only wished there had been more of it.
As soon as breakfast was over, Mim brought her books, and began to learn her lessons, and nurse asked Shuvo if he would do the same. But Shuvo said, 'No, indeed! I do not mean to learn any lessons while mother is away, for I mean to please myself and be happy.'
'You did as you pleased yesterday, Shuvo,' said nurse; 'yet I do not think you were so very happy, unless happiness consists in lying under a table and crying all day, and going without dinner and milk, merely to indulge a sullen, forward temper.'
Now, Shuvo hated to be told of his faults, so he left nurse, and went into the garden to try and amuse himself. When there, instead of keeping in the walks, as he ought to have done, he ran on the beds, trampled down the flowers, and pulled the blossoms from the fruit-trees.
The gardener's boy earnestly requested Shuvo not to do so much mischief; but Shuvo told him he was a gentleman's son, and would do as he pleased. So he again ran over the new-raked borders, and pulled up the flowers; and the poor boy was sadly vexed to see his nice work all spoiled.
Shuvo did not care for that, and would have behaved still worse, had not the gardener, who then came up, taken him in his arms, and carried him into the house, in spite of his kicking and screaming. He cried for a long time, and made a sad noise; but, finding that no one paid any regard to him, he became quiet, and went into the nursery, and asked Mim to come and play with him.
'I cannot come just now, brother Shuvo,' said she; 'for I want to finish this frock that I am making for Salam's little sister.'
'I am sure,' said Shuvo, 'if I were you, I would much rather play than sit still and sew.'
'Not if you knew what pleasure there is in doing good,' said Mim; 'but if you will wait till I have finished it, you shall go with me and give it to the poor woman, and then you will see how pleased she will be, and how nicely the baby will look when she is dressed in this pretty frock, instead of her old faded, ragged one.'
Shuvo did not know how to amuse himself, so he sat down on his little stool, and watched his sister while she worked.
When Mim had finished making the frock, she said: 'Thank you, dear nurse, for cutting out and fixing the frock for me.' So she threw her arms round nurse's neck, and kissed her cheek; and nurse put on Mim's tippet and her new bonnet, and walked with Shuvo and her to Salam's cottage.
Salam’s mother Rahela was a good woman saw them. She bade them in, took the baby out of the cradle, and laid it on Mim's lap, and Mim had the pleasure of dressing it herself in the nice new frock; and the baby looked so neat and pretty, and the poor mother was so pleased, that Mim was much happier than if she had spent her time in playing or working for her doll.
While Mim was nursing and caressing the baby, Shuvo went into the little garden, where he found Salam, who had just returned from working in the fields, with a beautiful milk-white rabbit in his arms, which he had taken out of the hutch, and was nursing with much affection. Salam called her Shadababu for he considered a little white baby.
'Oh, what a pretty rabbit!' said Shuvo. 'Salam, will you sell it to me?'
'No, Shuvo,' said Salam, 'I cannot sell my pretty rabbit.'
'And why not?' asked Shuvo in a fretful tone.
'Because, Brother Shuvo, the old doe, its mother, died when this pretty one was only a week old, and I reared it by feeding it with warm milk and bread; and it is now so fond of me that I would not part with it for a great deal.'
So saying, he stroked his pretty favourite, who licked his hand all over, and rubbed her soft white head against his fingers.
Then Salam said, 'My dear Shadababu, I would not sell you for the world.'
'But you shall sell Shadababu to me,' said Shuvo, making one of his ugly faces. 'I will give you one hundred taka for her; and if you do not let me carry her home this very day, I will tell father of you, and he will turn you out of the cottage.'
When Salam's mother heard Shuvo say so, she came out of the house, and said to Salam, 'My dear son, let Shuvo have the rabbit.'
'Dear mother,' said Salam, 'Shuvo has some deer in their family zoo and a white cat in his house, and a great many fine toys to play with, and I have only my pretty rabbit Shadababu; and it will break my heart to part with her.'
'Then,' said his mother, 'would you rather see your mother and sisters turned out of doors than part with your rabbit? You know, Salam, that I had so many expenses with your poor father's illness and death that I have not paid the rent due last quarter-day; and you know it is in our landlord's power to turn us into the streets tomorrow.
'Well, mother,' cried Salam, bursting into tears, 'Shuvo must have the rabbit. But oh!' continued he, 'he does not love you as I do, my pretty Shadababu; he will not feed and take care of you as I have done, and you will soon die, and I shall never see you again.' And his tears fell fast on the white head of his little pet as he spoke.
Mim was quite grieved, and begged her naughty brother not to deprive poor Salam of his rabbit; but Shuvo was a wicked and covetous boy; he therefore took Shadababu from Salam, and carried her home in his arms, and put her in a box. He went into the fields and gathered some green herbs for her to eat, and said, 'I am glad I have got Shadababu; now I shall be quite happy.'
But how could Shuvo be happy when he had broken the holy instruction, which says, 'To covet is sin, so we must not covet'? Nurse and Mim told him so, and begged him to give the rabbit back again to Salam. But Shuvo said he would not, for he meant to keep her all his life; but the next morning, when he went into the stable to look at her, he found her stretched at the bottom of the box. He called her, but Shadababu did not stir; he then took her out of the box to see what ailed her; but she was quite cold and dead.
Oh dear! how Shuvo did cry! But it was of no use. He had better not have taken her away from Salam, for he did not know what to feed her with, and had given her a herb which was poisonous and it had killed poor Shadababu.
One of their drivers told Shuvo so when he saw how swollen she was, and Shuvo cried the more. Salam cried too when he heard what a sad death poor Shadababu had died; but he had been a good dutiful boy in parting with her when his mother wished it, though it had cost him much pain and many tears.
Well, Shuvo's mother was gone a long time, more than a month, and it would quite shock you to be told how naughty Shuvo was all that time; at last a letter came to say she was very ill, and then another to tell them she was dead.
What would Shuvo then have given if he had not grieved her so often with his perverse temper and wicked conduct? He now said when he saw her again, he would beg her to forgive him; but when Shuvo did see his poor mother again she was in her coffin and could not hear him; and he cried exceedingly, and wished he had been good. Mim, though she cried as much as Shuvo for her dear mother, was glad she had obeyed her, and been so good while she was away.
'And I will always be as good as if dear mother could see me, and love me for it too,' said she to nurse the day after her mother was buried.
'My dear young lady,' said nurse, 'your mother will see it, and love you for doing your duty.'
'How can dear mother see me? Her eyes are closed, and she is in the dark grave,' said Mim.
'But she will see you from heaven, Miss Mim, where she is gone to receive the reward of her good conduct in this world; for though her body is in the earth, her spirit is in heaven.'
'And shall I never see my own dear mother again?' said Mim.
'Yes, Mim; if you are good, you will go to heaven when you die, and become an angel like her.'
'Then,' said Mim, 'I will pray to Allah to make me good, and when I am going to do anything wrong I will say to myself, "If I do this, I shall never go to heaven, and see my dear mother when I die."'
'I wish,' said nurse, 'that Shuvo was like you, and would try to be good.'
But though Shuvo was sometimes sorry for his bad behaviour, he did not try to change himself, because he thought it was too much trouble to be good, and said he did not care, because he was the son of a gentleman.
Shuvo did not know that at this very time his father had spent all his money, and owed a great many debts to different people; and at last he ran away that he might not be put in prison; and the people to whom he owed so much money came and seized his fine house and gardens, and the cars, and all the furniture, and sold them by auction, to raise money to pay the debts; so Shuvo found that, instead of being rich, he was now very, very poor.
When the auction was over and all the things were sold, and it was getting quite dark (for it was in the month of December), Shuvo and Mim stood in one of the empty verandas, and wondered what they should do for supper, and where they should sleep that night; for all the beds were sold, and they saw the servants go away one after another.
At last nurse came in with her bonnet and cloak, and said: 'Mim, I am going away to my own cottage, and as you have always been a kind, good child, you shall go with me, and I will take care of you.'
Then Mim said, 'Thank you; but will you not take Brother also?'
'No,' said nurse; 'he has always been such a proud, bad boy that I will not take him. I have very little to spare, for I am a poor woman, and what I have is not more than will keep my own children and you.'
Saying this, she took Mim on her lap, got into the car sent from his new master’s house and drove away from the door.
Shuvo stood on the step of the door, and looked after them till they were out of sight; and then he began to cry as if his heart would break. The servant of the gentleman who had purchased the house came and locked the door, so Shuvo could not get in any more, and he sat down on the stone steps, and covered his face with his hands, and cried bitterly.
'Unhappy child that I am,' sobbed he; 'what will become of me? Oh, if I had but been good like my sister, I should have found a friend, as she has; but no one cares what becomes of me, because I have been so wicked. I used to despise the poor, and God, to punish me, has made me poor indeed.'
It was very cold, and the snow began to fall fast, and it grew quite dark. Shuvo rested his head on his knees, and was afraid to look round; his clothes were almost wet through, and his limbs were benumbed with cold; he had no place where he could ask shelter, for no one loved him; and he thought he should be obliged to stay there all night, and perhaps be frozen to death.
Just then someone softly touched his hand, and said: 'Shuvo, I have been looking for you for more than an hour.'
Shuvo looked up; but when he saw it was Salam who had come to seek him in his distress, he remembered how ill he had behaved to him, so he hid his face, and began to weep afresh.
Then Salam sat down by him on the steps, and said: 'Dear Shuvo, you must not stay here. See how severely it fogs. You will catch your death of cold.'
'Yes, I am very cold and hungry,' sobbed Shuvo, 'but I have no home now; I have nowhere else to go, and must stay here all night.'
'No, Shuvo,' said Salam, 'you shall come home with me, and shall share my supper and my bed, though it is not such as you have been used to; notwithstanding we are very poor, we will do our best to make you comfortable.'
'Oh, Salam!' said Shuvo, throwing his arms round Salam's neck, 'I do not deserve this kindness; I have been such a proud, wicked boy, and have treated you so ill. I am sure you can never forgive me for having taken your pretty Shadababu; and if you forgive me, I can never forgive myself.'
'Please, Shuvo do not think of that now,' said Salam, taking both Shuvo's cold hands in his. 'Indeed, Shuvo, I should never dare say my prayers if I was so wicked as to bear malice; and, now you are in distress, I would do anything in my power to serve you. So pray come home with me, and warm yourself, and get some supper.'
But Shuvo hid his face on Salam's bosom, and cried the more. At last he said, 'Salam, I am so ashamed of having behaved so cruelly to you, that I can never go to your home, and eat the food that you are obliged to labour so hard for.'
'Shuvo,' said Salam, 'that is because you are so proud.'
'Oh no, no!' sobbed Shuvo, 'I am not proud now, and I think I shall never be proud again.' So he kissed Salam, and they both went home to Salam's cottage together.
When Salam's mother saw Shuvo, she said, 'Why did you bring this proud, cross young gentleman here, Salam?'
Shuvo, when he heard her say so, thought he should be turned out again into the cold, and began to cry afresh; but Salam said, 'Dear mother, Shuvo has no home to go to now; he is cold and hungry; I am sure you will let him stay here, and share my bed and my supper.'
'He can stay here if he likes,' said Rahela; 'but you know, Shuvo, we are forced to work hard for what food we have, and I am sure we cannot afford to maintain Shuvo. He is the son of a gentleman, you know.'
'Then,' said Salam, 'he shall have my supper tonight; he wants it more than I do, for he has had no food all day.'
'You may please yourself about that, Salam; but remember, if you give your food to Shuvo, you must go without yourself.'
'Well, Ma' said Salam, 'I shall feel more pleasure in giving my supper to Shuvo than in eating it myself.'
So he brought a stool, and, placing it in the warmest corner by the fire that Rahela had already kept burning for it was cold inside too, made Shuvo sit down, and chafed his cold frozen hands, and tried to comfort him; for Shuvo was greatly afflicted when he saw that everyone hated him; but he knew that it was his own fault, and a just punishment for his pride and bad conduct.
When Salam brought his plate of rice and some curry for his supper, he could not thank him for crying; and he was ashamed to eat it while Salam himself went without; but he was so hungry, and that simple dinner looked so nice, that he did not know how to refuse it; and Salam begged him so earnestly to eat that at last he did so, and once more felt warm and comfortable.
Then Salam said to him: 'Now, Shuvo, will you go to bed? Mine is but a coarse, hard bed, but it is very clean.' So he took the lamp to show Shuvo the way to the chamber in which he was to sleep.
Shuvo was surprised at seeing no staircase, but only a ladder. Salam laughed when he saw how Shuvo stared, and he said, 'You have been used to live in a grand house, Shuvo, and know nothing of the shifts the poor are forced to make.'
Then Shuvo climbed up the ladder, and Salam showed him a little room, not much larger than a closet, with no furniture in it, but a stump bed without any hangings, and covered with a coarse, woollen rug. Shuvo Chowdhury had never even seen such a bed before, but he was thankful that he could get any place to sleep in, out of the cold and fog.
Salam helped Shuvo to change his, for Shuvo was so helpless he did not know how to change his dress himself. When he was going to step into bed, Salam exclaimed, 'Will you not say your prayer before you go to bed, Shuvo?'
Shuvo blushed and hung down his head, for he had been so naughty that he had not said his prayers for a long time past, and had almost forgotten what his dear mother had taught him; and he told Salam so at last.
'Dear, dear!' said Salam, 'I never dare go to bed without saying mine.'
Then Shuvo said, 'I am sorry I have been so naughty as to forget my prayers; will you teach me yours, and I will never forget them again?'
Then they both knelt down by the side of the little bed, and Salam taught Shuvo such prayers as he knew, and Shuvo went to bed much happier than he had been for a long time. Salam also told him about the prayer times.
Though the bed was hard, and the sheets brown and coarse, Shuvo was so weary that he soon fell asleep, and slept so soundly that he did not awake till it was broad day, and Salam was up early and after saying his morning prayer he went to work in the fields.
When Shuvo looked round he thought he had never seen such a shabby room in his life. There was not so much as a chair or table or carpet in it; he could see all the thatch and the rafters in the roof, for the chamber was not even ceiled, but showed the thatch and rafters, and, as I said before, there was not a single article of furniture in the room, except the bed. How different from the pretty little chamber in which Shuvo used to sleep, with the nice white dimity window-curtains and hangings and mahogany tent-bed, with such comfortable bedding and handsome white counterpane! However, he now thought himself very fortunate that he had any roof to shelter him, or any bed, however homely it might be, on which he could sleep.
He thought he should like to get up and go downstairs, but he had always been used to have a servant to help him change his dress, and he did not know how to dress himself, so while he was considering what he should do Salam came into the chamber. He had returned to get his breakfast, and not seeing Shuvo downstairs he concluded the cause of his absence, and came to assist him to dress. Shuvo observed how this matter was arranged, and resolved to do it for himself the next morning.
When he was dressed they both knelt down by the bedside and said their prayers, for though Salam had said his at the dawn of day, yet he never omitted an opportunity of repeating his thanksgivings and praises to the Almighty for the mercies and blessings which he enjoyed through His grace, for Salam possessed a grateful and contented heart, which made him look upon that state of life unto which it had pleased Allah to call him, as that which was meet and fit for him, so he worked hard, and ate the bread of labour with cheerfulness and satisfaction.
When Shuvo and Salam joined the family below Rahela set a cup of milk and a piece of brown bread for everyone but Shuvo, who looked ready to cry, but Salam put his cup before him, and gave him another spoon, and said, 'Shuvo, we will eat together, for there will be enough for both of us.' The tears came into Shuvo's eyes, and he whispered, 'Dear Salam, you are very good.' So these boys eat together the amount for Salam only; that they did not eat to their hearts’ content but to their pleasure.
After breakfast Salam went out to work again, and Shuvo thought it very dull till he returned to dinner. When Rahela gave her children their dinners there was a plate of meal for everyone but Shuvo; then Salam took a separate plate and divided his meal into two plates, and gave a half of his plate to Shuvo, and ate the other half himself. Now this was very good of Salam, for he was very hungry himself, but he could not bear to see Shuvo sad and hungry while he was eating, and Salam liked to do good because he knew it was pleasing to Allah.
As soon as dinner was over Salam went out to work again, and Shuvo was as dull as he had been in the morning, for all the family were at work in some way or other, and could not spare time to amuse or talk to him, and he did nothing but sigh and fret to himself till evening, when Salam came home from work.
Salam's eldest sister made a bright fire, and they all sat round it and talked and told stories, and Salam nursed the baby, and played with the other little ones, and seemed quite happy, and so he was, for he had done his duty, and everyone loved him for being so good.
After supper Shuvo taught those of his sisters who were old enough to read and write, and when they had finished learning their tasks Shuvo took up the book, and said, ‘Salam, will you teach me to read?' and Salam said, 'Certainly, dear Shuvo, I will, but I am sure you must know how to read a great deal better than such a poor boy as I am.'
'I might have done so,' said Shuvo, 'but, Salam, I was a sad, naughty, perverse boy, and hated to learn any thing that was good; but I hope I know better now, and if you will only take the trouble of teaching me I will try and make up for my lost time.'
So Salam gave Shuvo a lesson that very night, and every evening after supper he heard him read and spell what he had learned during the day, and Shuvo took such pains that he soon began to read so well that he used to amuse himself by reading pretty stories, and by teaching little Keya, one of Salam's youngest sisters, to read.
Still Shuvo used to be exceedingly hungry, for he had not more than half the quantity of food he was used to eat, and Salam was hungry too, and grew pale and thin.
Then Shuvo said to himself: ‘It is not right for me to eat the bread which poor Salam works so hard to earn; I will try and get my own living, for why should I not do so, as well as Salam?’ So one morning, when he and Salam rose, as usual, at five o'clock and got ready for the morning prayer, and after prayer when Salam was getting ready to leave for work, Shuvo said, ‘I am going out to work with you, Salam, if you will permit me.’ ‘Oh, Shuvo, such work as I do is not fit for a young gentleman like you,' said Salam.
'You must not call me a young gentleman now, for I am only a poor boy, and poorer than other poor boys, for they can earn their own living, while I should have been starved to death had not you given me half of the bread you work so hard for. But I will not be a burden to you any longer, but learn to work and get my own living as you do.'
Shuvo now meant to keep his word, and they both went out into the fields, and worked together at picking weeds off the young crops of wheat and rice, and before breakfast Salam had picked up two basket of weeds and Shuvo one, and the farmer gave them ten taka per basket for gathering them up.
Then they made haste back to the cottage, and Salam gave his mother the money he had earned, and Shuvo did the same, and when Rahela prepared the supper for the family Shuvo saw that she prepared a separate plate for him also, and they had all a good breakfast in the following morning, and Shuvo felt quite happy because he had not eaten the bread of idleness. So he went out to work with Salam again, and earned twenty taka before dinner that day.
When Rahela took up the food, Shuvo saw there was one for him, and he felt happy that poor Salam had not to deprive himself of half his food that he might eat.
Shuvo went out to work every day with Salam, and in the evening he learned to read and write. He became quite good and gentle, and enjoyed more happiness than he had experienced in his life before. And why was Shuvo happy? I will tell you, my dear children. Because he was no longer a proud, forward boy as he had been, but was kind and sweet-tempered to everyone, and did his duty both to Allah and himself.
The winter passed swiftly away, and the spring came, and the birds began to sing, and the trees looked green and gay, and the pretty flowers bloomed in the gardens and covered the meadows all over, and scented the air with their fragrance, and Shuvo thought it very pleasant to work in the fields, and hear the birds sing as they tended their young, or built their nests among the green boughs or in the hedges.
One day Salam said to Shuvo, 'Dear Shuvo, we cannot work together in the fields any more; I have got a new employment.'
'But why cannot I work with you?' asked Shuvo.
'Because, sir, you will not like to work where I am going,' answered Salam. Shuvo asked where that was. 'In the garden of the great house, Mr. Chowdhury, where you used to live,' said Salam.
Shuvo looked very sorrowful, and remained silent for some minutes; at last he said, 'Well, Salam, I will go with you; my clothes are grown shabby now, and nobody will know me, and if they did I hope I am too wise to be ashamed of doing my duty, so let us go directly.'
Then Salam took Shuvo into the garden, and the gardener gave them each a hoe and a rake, and told them to hoe up the weeds on the flower borders, and then rake them neatly over, and promised if they worked well he would give them fifty taka per day.
Now this was much pleasanter than picking weeds in the field, but Shuvo was very sad, and could not refrain from shedding tears when he thought of the time when he used to play in that very garden, and he thought, too, of his dear mother who was dead, and of his sister Mim, whom he had not seen for so many months, but he worked as hard as he could, and the gardener praised them both, and he gave them a basket to put the weeds in, and showed them how to rake the borders smooth.
Just as they had finished the job, and Shuvo was saying to Salam, 'How neat our work looks!' a little boy, dressed very fine, came into the garden, and, as he passed them, said, 'I am glad I am a gentleman's son, and not obliged to work like these dirty boys.'
When Shuvo thought the little boy was out of hearing, he said to Salam, 'That little boy is as wicked as I used to be, and I doubt not but that Allah will punish him in the same way if he does not mend his manners.'
The little boy, who had overheard what Shuvo said, was very angry, and made ugly faces, and ran into the newly-raked beds, and covered them with footmarks. Then Shuvo said, 'I am sorry for you, young gentleman, for I see you are not good.'
'How dare you say I am not good?' said this naughty child. 'I am a great deal better than you, for I am a gentleman, and you are only a poor boy.'
'Yes,' said Shuvo, his eyes filling with tears as he spoke, 'I am, indeed, only a poor boy now, but I was once rich like you, and lived in this very house, and wore fine clothes, and had plenty of toys and money, and was just as proud and naughty as you are, but Allah, to punish me, took away my parents and all those things that I had been so proud of, and that I had made such a bad use of, and reduced me to a poor boy, as you see.'
When the little boy heard this he looked very serious, and said, 'I have been very naughty, but I will do so no more,' and he went into the house, and never teased Shuvo or Salam again.
A few months after this, when Shuvo and Salam were working as usual in the garden, they saw a gentleman come down one of the walks, leading by the hand a little girl dressed in a black silk frock and bonnet trimmed with crape.
'Ah, Salam,' said Shuvo, 'how like that young lady is to my sister Mim. I wonder whether I shall ever see my dear sister Mim again.'
'Brother Shuvo, dear brother Shuvo, you have not then quite forgotten your sister Mim,' said the little girl, throwing her arms round his neck as she spoke.
When Shuvo saw that it was, indeed, his own dear sister Mim, he kissed her and cried with joy.
Then he told Mim all that had happened to him since the day they had parted, and how sorry he had been for all his past conduct, and he asked her who the gentleman was that had brought her into the garden.
'It is our uncle, dear brother. You know our dear mother had a brother who lived in India that she used frequently to talk about. Well, when he came home, and heard that mother was dead, and we were in distress, he came to nurse's cottage, and took me home to his house, and has now come to find you, for he is very good and kind, and loves us both for our dear mother's sake.'
'And will he take me home too?' said Shuvo.
'Yes, my boy,' said Shuvo's uncle, taking him by the hand, 'because you are good and kind, and are no longer cross and proud, as I heard you used to be. You shall come home with me this very day, if you please, and I will teach you everything that a young gentleman should know, and you and Mim shall be my children so long as you continue to be deserving of my love, and are not unkind, nor despise those who are beneath you in situation.'
'Indeed, uncle,' said Shuvo, 'I can now feel for the poor, and I would rather remain as I am than be rich if I thought I should ever behave as I used to do.'
'My dear child,' said his uncle, kissing him with great affection, 'continue to think so, and you will never act amiss. The first and greatest step toward amendment is acknowledging our faults. What is passed shall be remembered no more, and I doubt not but that we shall all be happy for the time to come.'
'But, uncle,' said Shuvo, laying his hand on his uncle's arm, 'I have something to ask of you.'
'Well, Shuvo, and what would you have of me?' said his uncle.
Then Shuvo led Salam to his uncle, and related all he had done for him; how he had taken him to his own home, and given him half of his food and his bed, and taught him to read and to work; he, likewise, told his uncle how ill he had behaved to Salam in depriving him of his pretty Shadababu, and he said, 'Dear uncle, will you allow Salam to share my good fortune, for I cannot be happy while he is in want, and he is better than me, for he returned good for evil.'
Then his uncle said, 'Shuvo, I should not have loved you had you forgotten your kind friend.' And he asked Salam if he would like to go to his house and live with him, and spend his time in learning to read and write, and in improving his mind, instead of hard labour.
'I should like it very much indeed, sir,' said Salam, 'but I cannot accept your kind offer.'
'And why not, my good little friend?'
'Because, sir,' said Salam, bursting into tears, 'my poor mother and sisters must go to the workhouse or starve if I did not stay and work for them, and I could not be happy if I lived in a fine house, and knew they were in want of a bit of food to eat.'
'Then,' said the gentleman smiling, 'for your sake they shall never want anything, for I will put them into a cottage of my own, and will take care of them, and you shall live with me, and I will love you as if you were my own child, and remember, Salam, I do this as a reward for your kindness to Shuvo when he was unhappy and in great distress.'
Shuvo's uncle was as good as his word, and Salam received the blessings of a good education, while his mother and sisters were maintained by the benevolence of his benefactor.
Shuvo was so careful not to relapse into his former errors that he became as remarkable for his gentleness and the goodness of his heart as he had formerly been for his pride and unkindness, and in the diligent performance of his duty, both to Allah and man, he proved to his uncle the sincerity of his change.