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5

"At this point, I must tell you of a small matter. I had in the meanwhile entered the doctor's dispensary and obtained some powder. Without the doctor's knowledge I mixed some of the powder in his drink. I had learned from him which powder was poisonous and caused death.

"The doctor drained his glass and throwing a despondent glance at me said in a somewhat choked voice, 'Okay, I am leaving.'

"The music played on. I draped myself in an expensive sari; removed all my jewellery from the chest and wore them; I applied 'sindoor (vermilion)' along the parting of my hair, and then went to the garden and spread the bed cover.

"It was a very beautiful night, made more splendorous by the streaming moonlight. A gentle breeze blew as if carrying away with it all the weariness of the world. The whole garden reveled in the fragrance of jasmine flowers.

"The sound of music gradually faded and seemed to be coming from very far away; the moon disappeared and it grew dark; the world, with all its plants and trees, the sky, and the everlasting houses seemed to melt away before my eyes like some illusion. I, then, closed my closed my eyes and smiled.

"I wished that when people found me, this intoxicating smile would continue to remain on my lips. I wished that when I slowly entered my eternal bridal chamber, I would carry this smile along with me. But, where is the bedecked room! Where is my wedding dress! I woke up to a rattling sound coming from within me and saw three boys using me to study osteology! I saw a tutor indicating with his pointing stick to the spot where my heart used to be - the heart which held my sorrows and happiness and where every petal of my youth blossomed - and telling the students the names of the bones. And that last intoxicating smile, which had bloomed on my lips, did you see any sign of it?

"How was the story?"

I said, "Delightful."

Just then I heard the cawing of the first crow. I asked, "Are you still there?" But I did not receive any answer. The first rays of the sun entered the room.

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