Lucy and Connor were children of the most kind and warm disposition. Their aunt, a kindly, portly, red-cheeked, matronly woman named Aunt Josephine, was also of the most wonderful disposition—it was, after all, the thing that made their family so happy and lovely. They lived together in a small cot-tage by the sea, in a town named Imperialism-Upon-The-Heath, and spent their days doing nothing more than searching for small creatures and other such things upon the rocky shores. On one of these days, a particularly sunny and joyous and happy one, Lucy cried out in wonder.
“Aunt Josephine,” said Lucy, her voice as bouncy and bright as the golden curls piled upon her head, “look what I’ve found!”
Aunt Josephine, heaving her massive bulk across the rocks, came, panting, to a stop in front of Lucy. In wonder, she gazed down at the girl’s hands and what lay within.
“What is it? I can’t see!” pouted Connor, blocked by Aunt Josephine.
“Well, I do say,” said Aunt Josephine, “it’s something I haven’t seen since I was a very small girl.”
“Can I keep it?” asked Lucy, in the most tender and loving tone imaginable. So tender and loving was her tone that the sun itself seemed to beam in response. Connor, halfway around Aunt Josephine at this point, hurried his pace.
“Keep what?” he wailed, and stopped short as he came into sight of Lucy’s cupped hands, gasping in amazement. “Oh, we must, we must, we must keep it!” he crowed. For held ever so tenderly and sweetly in the hands of our Lucy was the oldest Indian man that he’d ever seen.
It reminded him of the stories he’d heard, of deserts that grew lush at night, of princesses and silks and tigers, of Maharajahs and ministers and everything else that made up everything East, as far as Connor was concerned, of his small cot-tage upon the shore.
“I don’t know, children,” fretted Aunt Josephine, “It’s an awful lot of work to take care of an old Indian man. What shall he occupy his time with?”
“With me, of course,” said Lucy, so sweetly that the wind swelled with each word, carrying the scent of lilacs to the noses of the other two. “I shall make him my butler, and he shall attend to my every whim, and play with me, and Connor as-well!”
“Yes,” said Connor, eagerly. What fun it would be to have a butler! What joy! he thought to himself. “What fun it would be to have a butler! What joy!” he said out loud.
“Gosh, Aunt Josephine, do let us keep him,” begged Lucy again.
The old man said nothing.
After much hemming and hawing, Aunt Josphine reluctantly agreed, and so it was that Chatterjee, as he would come to be known, became a member of the family in that cot-tage by the sea.
Months passed, and little by little, the once-silent old man began to speak more and more to the children and their kindly, portly, matronly aunt. Chatterjee was the most humble servant. He would always look down when speaking to the children, as if his eyes were made of the most curious magnets that were strongly attracted to the Earth, and he never spoke of his past or how he came to be washed up on the shore by the cot-tage by the sea. Each day, Lucy would demand that he complete some new, fantastic task, and by the end of the day, he would have it done. Ever the picture of obsequiousness, Chatterjee soon became as beloved a member of the family as Aunt Josephine, and certainly more beloved than Connor.
“Hallo, Chatterjee,” said Lucy one morning in the kitchen. “What shall we do today?”
“Hallo, Miss Lucy,” said Chatterjee, serving her a glass of spiced tea that she gulped greedily. “Per-haps we shall go searching for shells by the sea, or I could read to you, or sing you a song from my youth.”
Connor entered the room as Chatterjee spoke. “A song from your youth? Why, Chatterjee, it’s almost impossible to imagine you as anything but old and frail and our butler.”
“Don’t listen to him, Chatterjee,” said Aunt Josephine, poking her head through the doorframe. “I remember what it was like to be young, as-well.”
“Do sing the song, Chatterjee, do!” cried Lucy, “Oh, I shan’t be able to contain my excitement to hear your song much longer, Chatterjee, dear.”
Chatterjee closed his eyes and began making the most peculiar noise from his mouth. It sounded almost as if he’d found some secret, ancient, scroll, written in a long-forgotten tongue. The words sounded nothing like English. They carried with them the hint of jasmine on a hot wind, and the screeching of langur monkeys beneath an Indian moon. They carried with them the noble lion, the wise elephant, and the cunning leopard. In Chatterjee’s keening wail, Connor heard the proud hard work of the noble Indian laborer, Lucy gleaned a glimpse of trips in the palanquin to a summer palace, and Aunt Josephine saw bundles of dried spices being shipped off to far off ports in Singapore, New York, and Hong Kong. As Chatterjee’s song faded away, the children curiously found themselves with tears in their eyes.
“That was quite good, Chatterjee,” said Connor, wiping his nose.
“Thank you, Master Connor,” said Chatterjee, humbly.
“What did it mean, Chatterjee?” inquired Lucy.
“There’s no word for it in English, Miss Lucy,” stated Chatterjee apologetically. “The best I can say is that it’s about the feeling of being unhappy and wanting to cry.”
“You mean like being sad?” said Aunt Josephine, dabbing her eyes.
“Ah, yes. I suppose there is a word for it,” said Chatterjee.
“Darling Chatterjee, whatever would we do without you?” sighed Lucy, contentedly.
“And you without us!” stated Connor, firmly.
“Yes,” said Chatterjee, dreamily, “I can-not picture going back to my old life.”
“Your old life?” said Lucy.
“Yes. You see—” began Chatterjee, before being interrupted.
“Oh, Chatterjee, before I forget, could you run to the market for me and buy some Sausage-Upon-The-Mash?” asked Aunt Josephine.
“And some crisps for me, please,” said Connor, getting up from the table and leaving the room.
Chatterjee looked at Lucy sadly. “Right away, marm,” he said, standing up.
As he left, Lucy called his name. “Chatterjee! Oh, dearest Chatterjee.”
“Yes, Miss Lucy?” said Chatterjee, a tinge of hope in his voice.
“I’d like some biscuits, Chatterjee,” said Lucy, absentmindedly.
“Yes, Miss Lucy.”
Lady Chatterjee’s Lover…that’s gotta be something…