The Bisara of
Pooree by Rudyard Kipling
Little Blind Fish, thou art marvellous wise,
Little Blind Fish, who put out thy eyes?
Open thine ears while I whisper my wish--
Bring me a lover, thou little Blind Fish.
The Charm of the Bisara.
Some natives say that it came from the other side of Kulu, where
the eleven-inch Temple Sapphire is. Others that it was made at the
Devil-Shrine of Ao-Chung in Thibet, was stolen by a Kafir, from him
by a Gurkha, from him again by a Lahouli, from him by a khitmatgar,
and by this latter sold to an Englishman, so all its virtue was lost:
because, to work properly, the Bisara of Pooree must be stolen--with
bloodshed if possible, but, at any rate, stolen.
These stories of the coming into India are all false. It was made
at Pooree ages since--the manner of its making would fill a small
book--was stolen by one of the Temple dancing-girls there, for her
own purposes, and then passed on from hand to hand, steadily
northward, till it reached Hanla: always bearing the same name--the
Bisara of Pooree. In shape it is a tiny, square box of silver,
studded outside with eight small balas-rubies. Inside the box, which
opens with a spring, is a little eyeless fish, carved from some sort
of dark, shiny nut and wrapped in a shred of faded gold- cloth. That
is the Bisara of Pooree, and it were better for a man to take a king
cobra in his hand than to touch the Bisara of Pooree.
All kinds of magic are out of date and done away with except in
India where nothing changes in spite of the shiny, toy-scum stuff
that people call "civilization." Any man who knows about the Bisara
of Pooree will tell you what its powers are--always supposing that it
has been honestly stolen. It is the only regularly working,
trustworthy love-charm in the country, with one exception.
[The other charm is in the hands of a trooper of the Nizam's Horse,
at a place called Tuprani, due north of Hyderabad.] This can be
depended upon for a fact. Some one else may explain it.
If the Bisara be not stolen, but given or bought or found, it turns
against its owner in three years, and leads to ruin or death. This
is another fact which you may explain when you have time. Meanwhile,
you can laugh at it. At present, the Bisara is safe on an ekka-pony's
neck, inside the blue bead-necklace that keeps off the Evil-eye. If
the ekka-driver ever finds it, and wears it, or gives it to his wife,
I am sorry for him.
A very dirty hill-cooly woman, with goitre, owned it at Theog in
1884. It came into Simla from the north before Churton's khitmatgar
bought it, and sold it, for three times its silver-value, to Churton,
who collected curiosities. The servant knew no more what he had
bought than the master; but a man looking over Churton's collection of
curiosities--Churton was an Assistant Commissioner by the way--saw and
held his tongue. He was an Englishman; but knew how to believe.
Which shows that he was different from most Englishmen. He knew that
it was dangerous to have any share in the little box when working or
dormant; for unsought Love is a terrible gift.
Pack--"Grubby" Pack, as we used to call him--was, in every way, a
nasty little man who must have crawled into the Army by mistake. He
was three inches taller than his sword, but not half so strong. And
the sword was a fifty-shilling, tailor-made one. Nobody liked him,
and, I suppose, it was his wizenedness and worthlessness that made
him fall so hopelessly in love with Miss Hollis, who was good and
sweet, and five foot seven in her tennis shoes. He was not content
with falling in love quietly, but brought all the strength of his
miserable little nature into the business. If he had not been so
objectionable, one might have pitied him. He vapored, and fretted,
and fumed, and trotted up and down, and tried to make himself
pleasing in Miss Hollis's big, quiet, gray eyes, and failed. It was
one of the cases that you sometimes meet, even in this country where
we marry by Code, of a really blind attachment all on one side,
without the faintest possibility of return. Miss Hollis looked on
Pack as some sort of vermin running about the road. He had no
prospects beyond Captain's pay, and no wits to help that out by one
anna. In a large-sized man, love like his would have been touching.
In a good man it would have been grand. He being what he was, it was
only a nuisance.
You will believe this much. What you will not believe, is what
follows: Churton, and The Man who Knew that the Bisara was, were
lunching at the Simla Club together. Churton was complaining of life
in general. His best mare had rolled out of stable down the hill and
had broken her back; his decisions were being reversed by the upper
Courts, more than an Assistant Commissioner of eight years' standing
has a right to expect; he knew liver and fever, and, for weeks past,
had felt out of sorts. Altogether, he was disgusted and disheartened.
Simla Club dining-room is built, as all the world knows, in two
sections, with an arch-arrangement dividing them. Come in, turn to
your own left, take the table under the window, and you cannot see
any one who has come in, turning to the right, and taken a table on
the right side of the arch. Curiously enough, every word that you
say can be heard, not only by the other diner, but by the servants
beyond the screen through which they bring dinner. This is worth
knowing: an echoing-room is a trap to be forewarned against.
Half in fun, and half hoping to be believed, The Man who Knew told
Churton the story of the Bisara of Pooree at rather greater length
than I have told it to you in this place; winding up with the
suggestion that Churton might as well throw the little box down the
hill and see whether all his troubles would go with it. In ordinary
ears, English ears, the tale was only an interesting bit of folk-
lore. Churton laughed, said that he felt better for his tiffin, and
went out. Pack had been tiffining by himself to the right of the
arch, and had heard everything. He was nearly mad with his absurd
infatuation for Miss Hollis that all Simla had been laughing about.
It is a curious thing that, when a man hates or loves beyond
reason, he is ready to go beyond reason to gratify his feelings.
Which he would not do for money or power merely. Depend upon it,
Solomon would never have built altars to Ashtaroth and all those
ladies with queer names, if there had not been trouble of some kind in
his zenana, and nowhere else. But this is beside the story. The
facts of the case are these: Pack called on Churton next day when
Churton was out, left his card, and STOLE the Bisara of Pooree from
its place under the clock on the mantelpiece! Stole it like the thief
he was by nature. Three days later, all Simla was electrified by the
news that Miss Hollis had accepted Pack--the shrivelled rat, Pack! Do
you desire clearer evidence than this? The Bisara of Pooree had been
stolen, and it worked as it had always done when won by foul means.
There are three or four times in a man's life-when he is justified
in meddling with other people's affairs to play Providence.
The Man who Knew felt that he WAS justified; but believing and
acting on a belief are quite different things. The insolent
satisfaction of Pack as he ambled by the side of Miss Hollis, and
Churton's striking release from liver, as soon as the Bisara of
Pooree had gone, decided the Man. He explained to Churton and
Churton laughed, because he was not brought up to believe that men on
the Government House List steal--at least little things. But the
miraculous acceptance by Miss Hollis of that tailor, Pack, decided
him to take steps on suspicion. He vowed that he only wanted to find
out where his ruby-studded silver box had vanished to. You cannot
accuse a man on the Government House List of stealing. And if you
rifle his room you are a thief yourself. Churton, prompted by The Man
who Knew, decided on burglary. If he found nothing in Pack's room . .
. . but it is not nice to think of what would have happened in that
Pack went to a dance at Benmore--Benmore WAS Benmore in those days,
and not an office--and danced fifteen waltzes out of twenty-two with
Miss Hollis. Churton and The Man took all the keys that they could
lay hands on, and went to Pack's room in the hotel, certain that his
servants would be away. Pack was a cheap soul. He had not purchased
a decent cash-box to keep his papers in, but one of those native
imitations that you buy for ten rupees. It opened to any sort of key,
and there at the bottom, under Pack's Insurance Policy, lay the Bisara
Churton called Pack names, put the Bisara of Pooree in his pocket,
and went to the dance with The Man. At least, he came in time for
supper, and saw the beginning of the end in Miss Hollis's eyes. She
was hysterical after supper, and was taken away by her Mamma.
At the dance, with the abominable Bisara in his pocket, Churton
twisted his foot on one of the steps leading down to the old Rink,
and had to be sent home in a rickshaw, grumbling. He did not believe
in the Bisara of Pooree any the more for this manifestation, but he
sought out Pack and called him some ugly names; and "thief" was the
mildest of them. Pack took the names with the nervous smile of a
little man who wants both soul and body to resent an insult, and went
his way. There was no public scandal.
A week later, Pack got his definite dismissal from Miss Hollis.
There had been a mistake in the placing of her affections, she said.
So he went away to Madras, where he can do no great harm even if he
lives to be a Colonel.
Churton insisted upon The Man who Knew taking the Bisara of Pooree
as a gift. The Man took it, went down to the Cart Road at once,
found an ekka pony with a blue head-necklace, fastened the Bisara of
Pooree inside the necklace with a piece of shoe-string and thanked
Heaven that he was rid of a danger. Remember, in case you ever find
it, that you must not destroy the Bisara of Pooree. I have not time
to explain why just now, but the power lies in the little wooden
fish. Mister Gubernatis or Max Muller could tell you more about it
You will say that all this story is made up. Very well. If ever
you come across a little silver, ruby-studded box, seven-eighths of
an inch long by three-quarters wide, with a dark-brown wooden fish,
wrapped in gold cloth, inside it, keep it. Keep it for three years,
and then you will discover for yourself whether my story is true or
Better still, steal it as Pack did, and you will be sorry that you
had not killed yourself in the beginning.