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By Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul

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From the nail on the wall she had taken down his shirt and two vests and was pressing them to her face. ‘Sister,’ he whispered. She heard and saw, and her sobs turned to screams. Mr Biswas didn’t know what to do. ‘It’s all right, it’s all right,’ he said, but the words were useless, and he went back to his father’s room. Just in time, for at that moment Sadhu, the very old man who lived two houses away, came and asked what was wrong, his words whistling through the gaps in his teeth. Dehuti continued to scream.

Then he would spit. Though he couldn’t spit as well as his brother Pratap who, with casual violence, could make his spit resound wherever it fell, it pleased Mr Biswas to see his spit circling slowly above the black fish before being carried away into the main stream. Fishing he sometimes tried, with a thin bamboo rod, a length of string, a bent pin and no bait. The fish didn’t bite; but if he wiggled the string violently they became frightened. When he had gazed at the fish long enough he dropped a stick into the water; it was good then to see the whole school instantly streaking away.

It came from Dhari. ‘Water, water. Oh, the unlucky boy. Not content with eating up his mother and father, he is eating me up as well. Water! ’ Raghu sounded puzzled. ‘The pond, the pond,’ Dhari wailed, and Mr Biswas heard him shouting to the neighbours, ‘Raghu’s son has drowned my calf in the pond. A nice calf. My first calf. ’ Quickly a chattering crowd gathered. Many of them had been to the pond that afternoon; quite a number had seen a calf wandering about, and one or two had even seen a boy.

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