His forehead was resplendent with sacred ash and vermillion, and his eyes sparkled with a sharp abnormal gleam which was really an outcome of a continual searching look for customers, but which his simple clients took to be a prophetic light and felt comforted. The power of his eyes was considerably enhanced by their position—placed as they were between the painted forehead and dark whiskers which streamed down his cheeks: even a half-wit’s eyes would sparkle in such a setting.
To crown the effect he wrapped a saffron-colored turban around his head. This color scheme never failed. People were attracted to him as bees are attracted to cosmos or dahlia stalks. He sat under the boughs of a spreading tamarind tree which flanked a path running through the Town Hall Park.
Half the enchantment of the place was due to the fact that it did not have the benefit of municipal lighting. The place was lit up by shop lights. One or two had hissing gaslights, some had naked flares stuck on poles, some were lit up by old cycle lamps, and one or two, like the astrologer’s, managed without lights of their own. It was a bewildering crisscross of light rays and moving shadows.
He had not in the least intended to be an astrologer when he began life; and he knew no more of what was going to happen to others than he knew of what was going to happen to himself next minute. He was as much a stranger to the stars as were his innocent customers. Yet he said things which pleased and astonished everyone: that was more a matter of study, practice, and shrewd guesswork. All the same, it was as much an honest man’s labor as any other, and he deserved the wages he carried home at the end of a day.
He had a working analysis of mankind’s troubles: marriage, money, and the tangle of human ties. Long practice had sharpened his perception. Within five minutes he understood what was wrong. He charged three pies per question, never opened his mouth till the other had spoken for at least ten minutes, which provided him enough stuff for a dozen answers and advices. When he told a person before him gazing at his palm, “In many ways you are not getting the fullest results of for your efforts,” nine out of ten were disposed to agree with him […] Or he gave an analysis of character: “Most of your troubles are due to your nature. How can you be otherwise with Saturn where he is? You have an impetuous nature and a rough exterior.” This endeared him to their hearts immediately, for even the mildest of us loves to think he has a forbidding exterior.
“Stop,” said the other. “I don’t want all that. Shall I succeed in my present search or not? Answer this and go. Otherwise I will not let you go till you disgorge all your coins.” The astrologer muttered a few incantations and replied: “All right. I will speak… You were left for dead. Am I right?”
“Ah, tell me more.”
“A knife passed through you once?” said the astrologer.
“Good fellow!” He bared his chest to show the scar. “What else?”
“And then you were pushed into a well nearby in the field. You were left for dead.”
“I should have been dead if some passer-by had not chanced to peep into the well,” exclaimed the other, overwhelmed by enthusiasm. “When shall I get at him?” he asked, clenching his fist.
“In the next world,” answered the astrologer. “He died four months ago in a far-off town. You will never see any more of him.”
After dinner, sitting on the pyol, he told her: “Do you know a great load is gone from me today? I thought I had the blood of a man on my hands all these years. That was the reason why I ran away from home, settled here, and married you. He is alive.”
She gasped. “You tried to kill!”
“Yes, in our village, when I was a silly youngster. We drank, gambled, and quarreled badly one day—why think of it now? Time to sleep,” he said, yawning, and stretched himself on the pyol.