THE THANKSGIVING OF THE WAZIR 105
That night the rajah held a special council to consider what should be done to his rival who had thus given himself into his hands. All the Brahmans were sent for —fat priests who understood all about everything, and what days were lucky and what unlucky—and, whilst all the rest of the rajah's councillors were offering him different advice until he was nearly crazy with anger and indecision, the chief Brahman was squatting in a corner figuring out sums and signs to himself with an admiring group of lesser priests around him. At last he arose, and advanced towards the throne.
' Well,' said the rajah anxiously, ' what have you to advise ?'
'A very unlucky day !' exclaimed the chief Brahman. ' Oh, a very unlucky day ! The god Devi is full of wrath, and commands that to-morrow you must chop off this badshah's head and offer it in to him in sacrifice.'
' Ah, well,' said the rajah, ' let it be done. I leave it to you to carry out the sentence.' And he bowed to the priests and left the room.
Before dawn great preparations were being made for a grand festival in honour of the great idol Devi. Hundreds of banners waved, hundreds of drummers drummed, hundreds of singers chanted chants, hundreds of priests, well washed and anointed, performed their sacred rites, whilst the rajah sat, nervous and ill at ease, amongst hundreds of courtiers and servants, wishing it were all well over. At last the time came for the sacrifice to be offered, and the poor badshah was led out bound, to have his head chopped off.
The chief Brahman came along with a smile on his face, and a big sword in his hand, when, suddenly, he noticed that the badshah's finger was tied up in a bit of rag. Instantly he dropped the sword, and, with his eyes starting out of his head with excitement, pounced upon the rag and tore it off, and there he saw that the tip of his victim's finger was missing. At this he got