Gandhi Quiz


Sid And The Pirates 1

The warning came on a small scrap of paper, enclosed tightly in a banana leaf, and it was delivered the same day that Mr. Doyle asked Sid to accompany him for an important journey.
"The Prince of Ava has decided to visit Calcutta," he had told Sid in the morning between bouts of coughing, "and the governor would like us to escort him. He arrives by ship from Mandalay and we pick him up from Cox's Bazaar along the coast."
Sid knew about Cox's bazaar, a port town that lay to the east of Calcutta, and Dhaka and even beyond the Sunderbans delta. It was where ships from all over the east and the south halted. But he had never been there. It lay too far out and right on the storm path. And he knew too that soon the season of immensely hot torpid days, and the fierce storms that wreaked immense destruction on boats and villages that would be among them.
Sid had sailed up north and even eastwards along the river Ganga on the boats owned by his friend Ali and his father, but he longed for more adventure, and so when Mr. Doyle invited him along, he could feel his heart racing. Still he couldn't help but ask Mr. Doyle.
'But you are unwell, Mr. Doyle, do you want to take the risk?'
Sid had lived with Mr. Doyle for as long as he could remember. He was a missionary, and taught all the poor children who lived in the area, taking classes morning till evening. After that he studied the languages, all the various dialects spoken in the area and along the coast, for that was something Mr. Doyle enjoyed doing. Sometimes the East India Company and now the Crown asked him for help., like it was doing now.
'Oh no,' Mr. Doyle now laughed away Sid's fears and went on to explain, 'Many parts of Burma have recently been occupied by the British but there is always the chance of a rebellion, so the British want the prince kept in good humour. And so...,' he broke off again as a convulsive fit of coughing overcame him and Sid insisted he speak no more. And it was as Mr. Doyle rested in the enclosed verandah with the bamboo curtains, that Sid heard the knocking on the door. When he went to answer it, though there was no one, except something left on the porch, wrapped in a banana leaf
Stay away from Ava. Or Else.
He saw someone slipping away into the shadows of the old mosque, and there was the way he dragged his leg after him that told Sid it was Rahim chacha. Other days, he had seen Rahim Chacha barge his way into Mr. Doyle's rooms. He was a commercial agent of some sort but there was always a heated discussion the few occasions he had been with Mr. Doyle. Sid never knew what though. The one evening he had chanced upon them, when Rahim chacha's face was contorted into an ugly snarl, that showed up even more the scar on his face, they had fallen automatically silent once aware of Sid's presence.
Sid did not show the note to Mr. Doyle. It was written in an ungainly hand, with every letter very clear. He could tell it was someone unlettered, who had copied out the letters painstakingly. But why would Rahim chacha warn him away from the Prince? He was a small time ship agent, and worked with depots in the north. Sid thought no more about it for he soon found that Mr. Doyle was running a temperature, and he shivered a bit as he lay wrapped up in a shawl. He had let his evening students go early but now he still insisted on sitting on the verandah. He liked the gentle balmy wind that came from the river every evening.
Mr. Doyle, should you come along? You must take care. I could really act as interpreter - haven't you taught me all that I know?'
'Don't worry, my boy. It won't take long. We just pick him up from the island and pass on the governor's message that the British mean him no harm.'
Then he looked thoughtfully at the boy and said, 'I needed somewhere quiet to tell you something. Unexpectedly he smiled, 'Some place where I will have your full attention.
The early morning mist lay over the river as they set out, first in a horse carriage to the pier where they would board one of the boats owned by Syed, Ali's father. To Sid's surprise, there was Inspector Kelly waiting for them. He kept twirling his thick red moustache, taking off his hat to scratch the stands of hair remaining. It was clear he was very impatient and very worried.
'Oh Mr. Doyle, fine time you got here.'
' And young Sid too,' he added as an afterthought.
'We came as fast as we could, sir,' replied Sid. He wanted to tell him that Mr. Doyle was really quite sick.
But the inspector took no notice, and Sid was left smarting behind his ears. Instead, he took Mr. Doyle aside and soon Sid heard them confabulating.
Did you know the prince would arrive in his own special ship, and meet...
But he couldn't hear the rest, for they spoke in low whispers but then Mr. Doyle began coughing again.
The boats Syed owned, sailed over wide areas of the sea, in search of fish. There were rumours that Syed also spied for the British, giving them information about the activities of the French and the Dutch, who were active in southeast Asia.

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