Plain Tales from the Hills
THREE AND AN EXTRA
MISS YOUGHAL'S SAIS
YOKED WITH AN UNBELIEVER
THE RESCUE OF PLUFFLES
HIS CHANCE IN LIFE
WATCHES OF THE NIGHT
THE OTHER MAN
THE CONVERSION OF AURELIAN MCGOGGIN
A GERM DESTROYER
THE ARREST OF LIEUTENANT GOLIGHTLY
THE HOUSE OF SUDDHOO
HIS WEDDED WIFE
THE BROKEN LINK HANDICAPPED.
BEYOND THE PALE
A BANK FRAUD
IN THE PRIDE OF HIS YOUTH
THE ROUT OF THE WHITE HUSSARS
THE BRONCKHORST DIVORCE-CASE
THE BISARA OF POORER
THE GATE OF A HUNDRED SORROWS
THE STORY OF MUHAMMID DIN
ON THE STRENGTH OF A LIKENESS
WRESSLEY OF THE FOREIGN OFFICE
BY WORD OF MOUTH
TO BE HELD FOR REFERENCE
PLAIN TALES FROM THE HILLS
Look, you have cast out Love! What Gods are these
You bid me please?
The Three in One, the One in Three? Not so!
To my own Gods I go.
It may be they shall give me greater ease
Than your cold Christ and tangled Trinities.
She was the daughter of Sonoo, a Hill-man, and Jadeh his wife. One
year their maize failed, and two bears spent the night in their only
poppy-field just above the Sutlej Valley on the Kotgarth side; so, next
season, they turned Christian, and brought their baby to the Mission
to be baptized. The Kotgarth Chaplain christened her Elizabeth, and
"Lispeth" is the Hill or pahari pronunciation.
Later, cholera came into the Kotgarth Valley and carried off Sonoo and
Jadeh, and Lispeth became half-servant, half-companion to the wife of
the then Chaplain of Kotgarth. This was after the reign of the Moravian
missionaries, but before Kotgarth had quite forgotten her title of
"Mistress of the Northern Hills."
Whether Christianity improved Lispeth, or whether the gods of her own
people would have done as much for her under any circumstances, I do not
know; but she grew very lovely. When a Hill girl grows lovely, she is
worth traveling fifty miles over bad ground to look upon. Lispeth had a
Greek face--one of those faces people paint so often, and see so seldom.
She was of a pale, ivory color and, for her race, extremely tall. Also,
she possessed eyes that were wonderful; and, had she not been dressed in
the abominable print-cloths affected by Missions, you would, meeting her
on the hill-side unexpectedly, have thought her the original Diana of
the Romans going out to slay.
Lispeth took to Christianity readily, and did not abandon it when she
reached womanhood, as do some Hill girls. Her own people hated her
because she had, they said, become a memsahib and washed herself daily;
and the Chaplain's wife did not know what to do with her. Somehow,
one cannot ask a stately goddess, five foot ten in her shoes, to clean
plates and dishes. So she played with the Chaplain's children and took
classes in the Sunday School, and read all the books in the house, and
grew more and more beautiful, like the Princesses in fairy tales. The
Chaplain's wife said that the girl ought to take service in Simla as a
nurse or something "genteel." But Lispeth did not want to take service.
She was very happy where she was.
When travellers--there were not many in those years--came to Kotgarth,
Lispeth used to lock herself into her own room for fear they might take
her away to Simla, or somewhere out into the unknown world.
One day, a few months after she was seventeen years old, Lispeth went
out for a walk. She did not walk in the manner of English ladies--a mile
and a half out, and a ride back again. She covered between twenty and
thirty miles in her little constitutionals, all about and about, between
Kotgarth and Narkunda. This time she came back at full dusk, stepping
down the breakneck descent into Kotgarth with something heavy in her
arms. The Chaplain's wife was dozing in the drawing-room when Lispeth
came in breathing hard and very exhausted with her burden. Lispeth put
it down on the sofa, and said simply:
"This is my husband. I found him on the Bagi Road. He has hurt himself.
We will nurse him, and when he is well, your husband shall marry him to
This was the first mention Lispeth had ever made of her matrimonial
views, and the Chaplain's wife shrieked with horror. However, the man on
the sofa needed attention first. He was a young Englishman, and his head
had been cut to the bone by something jagged. Lispeth said she had found
him down the khud, so she had brought him in. He was breathing queerly
and was unconscious.
He was put to bed and tended by the Chaplain, who knew something of
medicine; and Lispeth waited outside the door in case she could be
useful. She explained to the Chaplain that this was the man she meant
to marry; and the Chaplain and his wife lectured her severely on the
impropriety of her conduct. Lispeth listened quietly, and repeated her
first proposition. It takes a great deal of Christianity to wipe out
uncivilized Eastern instincts, such as falling in love at first sight.
Lispeth, having found the man she worshipped, did not see why she should
keep silent as to her choice. She had no intention of being sent away,
either. She was going to nurse that Englishman until he was well enough
to marry her. This was her little programme.
After a fortnight of slight fever and inflammation, the Englishman
recovered coherence and thanked the Chaplain and his wife, and
Lispeth--especially Lispeth--for their kindness. He was a traveller in
the East, he said--they never talked about "globe-trotters" in those
days, when the P. & O. fleet was young and small--and had come from
Dehra Dun to hunt for plants and butterflies among the Simla hills. No
one at Simla, therefore, knew anything about him. He fancied he must
have fallen over the cliff while stalking a fern on a rotten tree-trunk,
and that his coolies must have stolen his baggage and fled. He thought
he would go back to Simla when he was a little stronger. He desired no
He made small haste to go away, and recovered his strength slowly.
Lispeth objected to being advised either by the Chaplain or his wife;
so the latter spoke to the Englishman, and told him how matters stood in
Lispeth's heart. He laughed a good deal, and said it was very pretty and
romantic, a perfect idyl of the Himalayas; but, as he was engaged to a
girl at Home, he fancied that nothing would happen. Certainly he would
behave with discretion. He did that. Still he found it very pleasant to
talk to Lispeth, and walk with Lispeth, and say nice things to her, and
call her pet names while he was getting strong enough to go away. It
meant nothing at all to him, and everything in the world to Lispeth. She
was very happy while the fortnight lasted, because she had found a man
Being a savage by birth, she took no trouble to hide her feelings, and
the Englishman was amused. When he went away, Lispeth walked with him,
up the Hill as far as Narkunda, very troubled and very miserable. The
Chaplain's wife, being a good Christian and disliking anything in
the shape of fuss or scandal--Lispeth was beyond her management
entirely--had told the Englishman to tell Lispeth that he was coming
back to marry her. "She is but a child, you know, and, I fear, at heart
a heathen," said the Chaplain's wife. So all the twelve miles up the
hill the Englishman, with his arm around Lispeth's waist, was assuring
the girl that he would come back and marry her; and Lispeth made him
promise over and over again. She wept on the Narkunda Ridge till he had
passed out of sight along the Muttiani path.
Then she dried her tears and went in to Kotgarth again, and said to the
Chaplain's wife: "He will come back and marry me. He has gone to his
own people to tell them so." And the Chaplain's wife soothed Lispeth
and said: "He will come back." At the end of two months, Lispeth grew
impatient, and was told that the Englishman had gone over the seas
to England. She knew where England was, because she had read little
geography primers; but, of course, she had no conception of the nature
of the sea, being a Hill girl. There was an old puzzle-map of the World
in the House. Lispeth had played with it when she was a child. She
unearthed it again, and put it together of evenings, and cried to
herself, and tried to imagine where her Englishman was. As she had no
ideas of distance or steamboats, her notions were somewhat erroneous. It
would not have made the least difference had she been perfectly correct;
for the Englishman had no intention of coming back to marry a Hill girl.
He forgot all about her by the time he was butterfly-hunting in Assam.
He wrote a book on the East afterwards. Lispeth's name did not appear.
At the end of three months, Lispeth made daily pilgrimage to Narkunda
to see if her Englishman was coming along the road. It gave her comfort,
and the Chaplain's wife, finding her happier, thought that she was
getting over her "barbarous and most indelicate folly." A little later
the walks ceased to help Lispeth and her temper grew very bad. The
Chaplain's wife thought this a profitable time to let her know the real
state of affairs--that the Englishman had only promised his love to keep
her quiet--that he had never meant anything, and that it was "wrong and
improper" of Lispeth to think of marriage with an Englishman, who was of
a superior clay, besides being promised in marriage to a girl of his own
people. Lispeth said that all this was clearly impossible, because he
had said he loved her, and the Chaplain's wife had, with her own lips,
asserted that the Englishman was coming back.
"How can what he and you said be untrue?" asked Lispeth.
"We said it as an excuse to keep you quiet, child," said the Chaplain's
"Then you have lied to me," said Lispeth, "you and he?"
The Chaplain's wife bowed her head, and said nothing. Lispeth was
silent, too for a little time; then she went out down the valley, and
returned in the dress of a Hill girl--infamously dirty, but without the
nose and ear rings. She had her hair braided into the long pig-tail,
helped out with black thread, that Hill women wear.
"I am going back to my own people," said she. "You have killed Lispeth.
There is only left old Jadeh's daughter--the daughter of a pahari and
the servant of Tarka Devi. You are all liars, you English."
By the time that the Chaplain's wife had recovered from the shock of the
announcement that Lispeth had 'verted to her mother's gods, the girl had
gone; and she never came back.
She took to her own unclean people savagely, as if to make up the
arrears of the life she had stepped out of; and, in a little time, she
married a wood-cutter who beat her, after the manner of paharis, and her
beauty faded soon.
"There is no law whereby you can account for the vagaries of the
heathen," said the Chaplain's wife, "and I believe that Lispeth was
always at heart an infidel." Seeing she had been taken into the Church
of England at the mature age of five weeks, this statement does not do
credit to the Chaplain's wife.
Lispeth was a very old woman when she died. She always had a perfect
command of English, and when she was sufficiently drunk, could sometimes
be induced to tell the story of her first love-affair.
It was hard then to realize that the bleared, wrinkled creature, so like
a wisp of charred rag, could ever have been "Lispeth of the Kotgarth
THREE AND--AN EXTRA.
"When halter and heel ropes are slipped, do not give chase with
sticks but with gram."
After marriage arrives a reaction, sometimes a big, sometimes a little
one; but it comes sooner or later, and must be tided over by both
parties if they desire the rest of their lives to go with the current.
In the case of the Cusack-Bremmils this reaction did not set in till the
third year after the wedding. Bremmil was hard to hold at the best
of times; but he was a beautiful husband until the baby died and Mrs.
Bremmil wore black, and grew thin, and mourned as if the bottom of the
universe had fallen out. Perhaps Bremmil ought to have comforted her. He
tried to do so, I think; but the more he comforted the more Mrs. Bremmil
grieved, and, consequently, the more uncomfortable Bremmil grew. The
fact was that they both needed a tonic. And they got it. Mrs. Bremmil
can afford to laugh now, but it was no laughing matter to her at the
You see, Mrs. Hauksbee appeared on the horizon; and where she existed
was fair chance of trouble. At Simla her bye-name was the "Stormy
Petrel." She had won that title five times to my own certain knowledge.
She was a little, brown, thin, almost skinny, woman, with big, rolling,
violet-blue eyes, and the sweetest manners in the world. You had only to
mention her name at afternoon teas for every woman in the room to rise
up, and call her--well--NOT blessed. She was clever, witty, brilliant,
and sparkling beyond most of her kind; but possessed of many devils of
malice and mischievousness. She could be nice, though, even to her own
sex. But that is another story.
Bremmil went off at score after the baby's death and the general
discomfort that followed, and Mrs. Hauksbee annexed him. She took no
pleasure in hiding her captives. She annexed him publicly, and saw that
the public saw it. He rode with her, and walked with her, and talked
with her, and picnicked with her, and tiffined at Peliti's with her,
till people put up their eyebrows and said: "Shocking!" Mrs. Bremmil
stayed at home turning over the dead baby's frocks and crying into the
empty cradle. She did not care to do anything else. But some eight dear,
affectionate lady-friends explained the situation at length to her in
case she should miss the cream of it. Mrs. Bremmil listened quietly,
and thanked them for their good offices. She was not as clever as Mrs.
Hauksbee, but she was no fool. She kept her own counsel, and did not
speak to Bremmil of what she had heard. This is worth remembering.
Speaking to, or crying over, a husband never did any good yet.
When Bremmil was at home, which was not often, he was more affectionate
than usual; and that showed his hand. The affection was forced partly to
soothe his own conscience and partly to soothe Mrs. Bremmil. It failed
in both regards.
Then "the A.-D.-C. in Waiting was commanded by Their Excellencies, Lord
and Lady Lytton, to invite Mr. and Mrs. Cusack-Bremmil to Peterhoff on
July 26th at 9.30 P. M."--"Dancing" in the bottom-left-hand corner.
"I can't go," said Mrs. Bremmil, "it is too soon after poor little
Florrie... but it need not stop you, Tom."
She meant what she said then, and Bremmil said that he would go just to
put in an appearance. Here he spoke the thing which was not; and Mrs.
Bremmil knew it. She guessed--a woman's guess is much more accurate
a man's certainty--that he had meant to go from the first, and with Mrs.
Hauksbee. She sat down to think, and the outcome of her thoughts was
that the memory of a dead child was worth considerably less than the
affections of a living husband. She made her plan and staked her
all upon it. In that hour she discovered that she knew Tom Bremmil
thoroughly, and this knowledge she acted on.
"Tom," said she, "I shall be dining out at the Longmores' on the evening
of the 26th. You'd better dine at the club."
This saved Bremmil from making an excuse to get away and dine with
Mrs. Hauksbee, so he was grateful, and felt small and mean at the same
time--which was wholesome. Bremmil left the house at five for a ride.
About half-past five in the evening a large leather-covered basket came
in from Phelps' for Mrs. Bremmil. She was a woman who knew how to dress;
and she had not spent a week on designing that dress and having it
gored, and hemmed, and herring-boned, and tucked and rucked (or
the terms are) for nothing. It was a gorgeous dress--slight mourning. I
can't describe it, but it was what The Queen calls "a creation"--a thing
that hit you straight between the eyes and made you gasp. She had not
much heart for what she was going to do; but as she glanced at the long
mirror she had the satisfaction of knowing that she had never looked so
well in her life. She was a large blonde and, when she chose, carried
After the dinner at the Longmores, she went on to the dance--a little
late--and encountered Bremmil with Mrs. Hauksbee on his arm. That
made her flush, and as the men crowded round her for dances she looked
magnificent. She filled up all her dances except three, and those she
left blank. Mrs. Hauksbee caught her eye once; and she knew it was
war--real war--between them. She started handicapped in the struggle,
for she had ordered Bremmil about just the least little bit in the world
too much; and he was beginning to resent it. Moreover, he had never seen
his wife look so lovely. He stared at her from doorways, and glared at
her from passages as she went about with her partners; and the more he
stared, the more taken was he. He could scarcely believe that this was
the woman with the red eyes and the black stuff gown who used to weep
over the eggs at breakfast.
Mrs. Hauksbee did her best to hold him in play, but, after two dances,
he crossed over to his wife and asked for a dance.
"I'm afraid you've come too late, MISTER Bremmil," she said, with her
Then he begged her to give him a dance, and, as a great favor, she
allowed him the fifth waltz. Luckily 5 stood vacant on his programme.
They danced it together, and there was a little flutter round the room.
Bremmil had a sort of notion that his wife could dance, but he never
knew she danced so divinely. At the end of that waltz he asked for
another--as a favor, not as a right; and Mrs. Bremmil said: "Show me
your programme, dear!" He showed it as a naughty little schoolboy hands
up contraband sweets to a master. There was a fair sprinkling of "H"
on it besides "H" at supper. Mrs. Bremmil said nothing, but she smiled
contemptuously, ran her pencil through 7 and 9--two "H's"--and returned
the card with her own name written above--a pet name that only she and
her husband used. Then she shook her finger at him, and said, laughing:
"Oh, you silly, SILLY boy!"
Mrs. Hauksbee heard that, and--she owned as much--felt that she had the
worst of it. Bremmil accepted 7 and 9 gratefully. They danced 7, and
sat out 9 in one of the little tents. What Bremmil said and what Mrs.
Bremmil said is no concern of any one's.
When the band struck up "The Roast Beef of Old England," the two went
out into the verandah, and Bremmil began looking for his wife's dandy
(this was before 'rickshaw days) while she went into the cloak-room.
Mrs. Hauksbee came up and said: "You take me in to supper, I think, Mr.
Bremmil." Bremmil turned red and looked foolish. "Ah--h'm! I'm going
home with my wife, Mrs. Hauksbee. I think there has been a little
mistake." Being a man, he spoke as though Mrs. Hauksbee were entirely
Mrs. Bremmil came out of the cloak-room in a swansdown cloak with a
white "cloud" round her head. She looked radiant; and she had a right
The couple went off in the darkness together, Bremmil riding very close
to the dandy.
Then says Mrs. Hauksbee to me--she looked a trifle faded and jaded in
the lamplight: "Take my word for it, the silliest woman can manage a
clever man; but it needs a very clever woman to manage a fool."
Then we went in to supper.
"And some are sulky, while some will plunge
[So ho! Steady! Stand still, you!]
Some you must gentle, and some you must lunge.
[There! There! Who wants to kill you?]
Some--there are losses in every trade--
Will break their hearts ere bitted and made,
Will fight like fiends as the rope cuts hard,
And die dumb-mad in the breaking-yard."
Toolungala Stockyard Chorus.
To rear a boy under what parents call the "sheltered life system" is, if
the boy must go into the world and fend for himself, not wise. Unless he
be one in a thousand he has certainly to pass through many unnecessary
troubles; and may, possibly, come to extreme grief simply from ignorance
of the proper proportions of things.
Let a puppy eat the soap in the bath-room or chew a newly-blacked boot.
He chews and chuckles until, by and by, he finds out that blacking and
Old Brown Windsor make him very sick; so he argues that soap and boots
are not wholesome. Any old dog about the house will soon show him the
unwisdom of biting big dogs' ears. Being young, he remembers and goes
abroad, at six months, a well-mannered little beast with a chastened
appetite. If he had been kept away from boots, and soap, and big dogs
till he came to the trinity full-grown and with developed teeth, just
consider how fearfully sick and thrashed he would be! Apply that motion
to the "sheltered life," and see how it works. It does not sound pretty,
but it is the better of two evils.
There was a Boy once who had been brought up under the "sheltered life"
theory; and the theory killed him dead. He stayed with his people all
his days, from the hour he was born till the hour he went into Sandhurst
nearly at the top of the list. He was beautifully taught in all that
wins marks by a private tutor, and carried the extra weight of "never
having given his parents an hour's anxiety in his life." What he learnt
at Sandhurst beyond the regular routine is of no great consequence.
He looked about him, and he found soap and blacking, so to speak, very
good. He ate a little, and came out of Sandhurst not so high as he went
in. Them there was an interval and a scene with his people, who expected
much from him. Next a year of living "unspotted from the world" in a
third-rate depot battalion where all the juniors were children, and all
the seniors old women; and lastly he came out to India, where he was cut
off from the support of his parents, and had no one to fall back on in
time of trouble except himself.
Now India is a place beyond all others where one must not take things
too seriously--the midday sun always excepted. Too much work and too
much energy kill a man just as effectively as too much assorted vice or
too much drink. Flirtation does not matter because every one is being
transferred and either you or she leave the Station, and never return.
Good work does not matter, because a man is judged by his worst output
and another man takes all the credit of his best as a rule. Bad work
does not matter, because other men do worse, and incompetents hang on
longer in India than anywhere else. Amusements do not matter, because
you must repeat them as soon as you have accomplished them once, and
most amusements only mean trying to win another person's money.
Sickness does not matter, because it's all in the day's work, and if you die
another man takes over your place and your office in the eight hours
between death and burial. Nothing matters except Home furlough and
acting allowances, and these only because they are scarce. This is a
slack, kutcha country where all men work with imperfect instruments; and
the wisest thing is to take no one and nothing in earnest, but to escape
as soon as ever you can to some place where amusement is amusement and
a reputation worth the having.
But this Boy--the tale is as old as the Hills--came out, and took all
things seriously. He was pretty and was petted. He took the pettings
seriously, and fretted over women not worth saddling a pony to call
upon. He found his new free life in India very good. It DOES look
attractive in the beginning, from a Subaltern's point of view--all
ponies, partners, dancing, and so on. He tasted it as the puppy tastes
the soap. Only he came late to the eating, with a growing set of
teeth. He had no sense of balance--just like the puppy--and could not
understand why he was not treated with the consideration he received
under his father's roof. This hurt his feelings.
He quarrelled with other boys, and, being sensitive to the marrow,
remembered these quarrels, and they excited him. He found whist, and
gymkhanas, and things of that kind (meant to amuse one after office)
good; but he took them seriously too, just as he took the "head" that
followed after drink. He lost his money over whist and gymkhanas because
they were new to him.
He took his losses seriously, and wasted as much energy and interest
over a two-goldmohur race for maiden ekka-ponies with their manes
hogged, as if it had been the Derby. One-half of this came from
inexperience--much as the puppy squabbles with the corner of the
hearth-rug--and the other half from the dizziness bred by stumbling out
of his quiet life into the glare and excitement of a livelier one. No
one told him about the soap and the blacking because an average man
takes it for granted that an average man is ordinarily careful in regard
to them. It was pitiful to watch The Boy knocking himself to pieces, as
an over-handled colt falls down and cuts himself when he gets away from
This unbridled license in amusements not worth the trouble of breaking
line for, much less rioting over, endured for six months--all through
one cold weather--and then we thought that the heat and the knowledge
of having lost his money and health and lamed his horses would sober
The Boy down, and he would stand steady. In ninety-nine cases out of a
hundred this would have happened. You can see the principle working in
any Indian Station. But this particular case fell through because The
Boy was sensitive and took things seriously--as I may have said some
seven times before. Of course, we couldn't tell how his excesses struck
him personally. They were nothing very heart-breaking or above the
average. He might be crippled for life financially, and want a little
nursing. Still the memory of his performances would wither away in
one hot weather, and the shroff would help him to tide over the money
troubles. But he must have taken another view altogether and have
believed himself ruined beyond redemption. His Colonel talked to him
severely when the cold weather ended. That made him more wretched than
ever; and it was only an ordinary "Colonel's wigging!"
What follows is a curious instance of the fashion in which we are all
linked together and made responsible for one another. THE thing that
kicked the beam in The Boy's mind was a remark that a woman made when
was talking to her. There is no use in repeating it, for it was only a
cruel little sentence, rapped out before thinking, that made him flush
to the roots of his hair. He kept himself to himself for three days, and
then put in for two days' leave to go shooting near a Canal Engineer's
Rest House about thirty miles out. He got his leave, and that night
at Mess was noisier and more offensive than ever. He said that he was
"going to shoot big game", and left at half-past ten o'clock in an
ekka. Partridge--which was the only thing a man could get near the Rest
House--is not big game; so every one laughed.
Next morning one of the Majors came in from short leave, and heard
that The Boy had gone out to shoot "big game." The Major had taken an
interest in The Boy, and had, more than once, tried to check him in
the cold weather. The Major put up his eyebrows when he heard of the
expedition and went to The Boy's room, where he rummaged.
Presently he came out and found me leaving cards on the Mess. There was
no one else in the ante-room.
He said: "The Boy has gone out shooting. DOES a man shoot tetur with a
revolver and a writing-case?"
I said: "Nonsense, Major!" for I saw what was in his mind.
He said: "Nonsense or nonsense, I'm going to the Canal now--at once. I
don't feel easy."
Then he thought for a minute, and said: "Can you lie?"
"You know best," I answered. "It's my profession."
"Very well," said the Major; "you must come out with me now--at
once--in an ekka to the Canal to shoot black-buck. Go and put on
shikar-kit--quick--and drive here with a gun."
The Major was a masterful man; and I knew that he would not give orders
for nothing. So I obeyed, and on return found the Major packed up in an
ekka--gun-cases and food slung below--all ready for a shooting-trip.
He dismissed the driver and drove himself. We jogged along quietly
while in the station; but as soon as we got to the dusty road across the
plains, he made that pony fly. A country-bred can do nearly anything at
a pinch. We covered the thirty miles in under three hours, but the poor
brute was nearly dead.
Once I said: "What's the blazing hurry, Major?"
He said, quietly: "The Boy has been alone, by himself, for--one, two,
five--fourteen hours now! I tell you, I don't feel easy."
This uneasiness spread itself to me, and I helped to beat the pony.
When we came to the Canal Engineer's Rest House the Major called for The
Boy's servant; but there was no answer. Then we went up to the house,
calling for The Boy by name; but there was no answer.
"Oh, he's out shooting," said I.
Just then I saw through one of the windows a little hurricane-lamp
burning. This was at four in the afternoon. We both stopped dead in the
verandah, holding our breath to catch every sound; and we heard, inside
the room, the "brr--brr--brr" of a multitude of flies. The Major said
nothing, but he took off his helmet and we entered very softly.
The Boy was dead on the charpoy in the centre of the bare, lime-washed
room. He had shot his head nearly to pieces with his revolver. The
gun-cases were still strapped, so was the bedding, and on the table lay
The Boy's writing-case with photographs. He had gone away to die like a
The Major said to himself softly: "Poor Boy! Poor, POOR devil!" Then he
turned away from the bed and said: "I want your help in this business."
Knowing The Boy was dead by his own hand, I saw exactly what that help
would be, so I passed over to the table, took a chair, lit a cheroot,
and began to go through the writing-case; the Major looking over my
shoulder and repeating to himself: "We came too late!--Like a rat in a
hole!--Poor, POOR devil!"
The Boy must have spent half the night in writing to his people, and to
his Colonel, and to a girl at Home; and as soon as he had finished, must
have shot himself, for he had been dead a long time when we came in.
I read all that he had written, and passed over each sheet to the Major
as I finished it.
We saw from his accounts how very seriously he had taken everything.
He wrote about "disgrace which he was unable to bear"--"indelible
shame"--"criminal folly"--"wasted life," and so on; besides a lot of
private things to his Father and Mother too much too sacred to put into
print. The letter to the girl at Home was the most pitiful of all; and
I choked as I read it. The Major made no attempt to keep dry-eyed.
I respected him for that. He read and rocked himself to and fro, and
simply cried like a woman without caring to hide it. The letters were so
dreary and hopeless and touching. We forgot all about The Boy's follies,
and only thought of the poor Thing on the charpoy and the scrawled
sheets in our hands. It was utterly impossible to let the letters go
Home. They would have broken his Father's heart and killed his Mother
after killing her belief in her son.
At last the Major dried his eyes openly, and said: "Nice sort of thing
to spring on an English family! What shall we do?"
I said, knowing what the Major had brought me but for: "The Boy died
of cholera. We were with him at the time. We can't commit ourselves to
half-measures. Come along."
Then began one of the most grimy comic scenes I have ever taken part
in--the concoction of a big, written lie, bolstered with evidence, to
soothe The Boy's people at Home. I began the rough draft of a letter,
the Major throwing in hints here and there while he gathered up all the
stuff that The Boy had written and burnt it in the fireplace. It was a
hot, still evening when we began, and the lamp burned very badly. In due
course I got the draft to my satisfaction, setting forth how The Boy was
the pattern of all virtues, beloved by his regiment, with every promise
of a great career before him, and so on; how we had helped him through
the sickness--it was no time for little lies, you will understand--and
how he had died without pain. I choked while I was putting down these
things and thinking of the poor people who would read them. Then I
laughed at the grotesqueness of the affair, and the laughter mixed
itself up with the choke--and the Major said that we both wanted drinks.
I am afraid to say how much whiskey we drank before the letter was
finished. It had not the least effect on us. Then we took off The Boy's
watch, locket, and rings.
Lastly, the Major said: "We must send a lock of hair too. A woman values
But there were reasons why we could not find a lock fit to send. The Boy
was black-haired, and so was the Major, luckily. I cut off a piece of
the Major's hair above the temple with a knife, and put it into the
packet we were making. The laughing-fit and the chokes got hold of me
again, and I had to stop. The Major was nearly as bad; and we both knew
that the worst part of the work was to come.
We sealed up the packet, photographs, locket, seals, ring, letter, and
lock of hair with The Boy's sealing-wax and The Boy's seal.
Then the Major said: "For God's sake let's get outside--away from the
We went outside, and walked on the banks of the Canal for an hour,
eating and drinking what we had with us, until the moon rose. I know now
exactly how a murderer feels. Finally, we forced ourselves back to the
room with the lamp and the Other Thing in it, and began to take up
the next piece of work. I am not going to write about this. It was too
horrible. We burned the bedstead and dropped the ashes into the Canal;
we took up the matting of the room and treated that in the same way.
I went off to a village and borrowed two big hoes--I did not want the
villagers to help--while the Major arranged--the other matters. It took
us four hours' hard work to make the grave. As we worked, we argued out
whether it was right to say as much as we remembered of the Burial
of the Dead. We compromised things by saying the Lord's Prayer with a
private unofficial prayer for the peace of the soul of The Boy. Then we
filled in the grave and went into the verandah--not the house--to lie
down to sleep. We were dead-tired.
When we woke the Major said, wearily: "We can't go back till to-morrow.
We must give him a decent time to die in. He died early THIS morning,
remember. That seems more natural." So the Major must have been lying
awake all the time, thinking.
I said: "Then why didn't we bring the body back to the cantonments?"
The Major thought for a minute:--"Because the people bolted when they
heard of the cholera. And the ekka has gone!"
That was strictly true. We had forgotten all about the ekka-pony, and he
had gone home.
So, we were left there alone, all that stifling day, in the Canal Rest
House, testing and re-testing our story of The Boy's death to see if it
was weak at any point. A native turned up in the afternoon, but we said
that a Sahib was dead of cholera, and he ran away. As the dusk gathered,
the Major told me all his fears about The Boy, and awful stories of
suicide or nearly-carried-out suicide--tales that made one's hair crisp.
He said that he himself had once gone into the same Valley of the Shadow
as the Boy, when he was young and new to the country; so he understood
how things fought together in The Boy's poor jumbled head. He also said
that youngsters, in their repentant moments, consider their sins much
more serious and ineffaceable than they really are. We talked together
all through the evening, and rehearsed the story of the death of The
Boy. As soon as the moon was up, and The Boy, theoretically, just
buried, we struck across country for the Station. We walked from eight
till six o'clock in the morning; but though we were dead-tired, we did
not forget to go to The Boy's room and put away his revolver with the
proper amount of cartridges in the pouch. Also to set his writing-case
on the table. We found the Colonel and reported the death, feeling more
like murderers than ever. Then we went to bed and slept the clock round;
for there was no more in us.
The tale had credence as long as was necessary, for every one forgot
about The Boy before a fortnight was over. Many people, however, found
time to say that the Major had behaved scandalously in not bringing in
the body for a regimental funeral. The saddest thing of all was a letter
from The Boy's mother to the Major and me--with big inky blisters all
over the sheet. She wrote the sweetest possible things about our great
kindness, and the obligation she would be under to us as long as she
All things considered, she WAS under an obligation; but not exactly as
MISS YOUGHAL'S SAIS.
When Man and Woman are agreed, what can the Kazi do?
Some people say that there is no romance in India. Those people are
wrong. Our lives hold quite as much romance as is good for us. Sometimes
Strickland was in the Police, and people did not understand him; so
they said he was a doubtful sort of man and passed by on the other side.
Strickland had himself to thank for this. He held the extraordinary
theory that a Policeman in India should try to know as much about the
natives as the natives themselves. Now, in the whole of Upper India,
there is only ONE man who can pass for Hindu or Mohammedan, chamar or
faquir, as he pleases. He is feared and respected by the natives from
the Ghor Kathri to the Jamma Musjid; and he is supposed to have the gift
of invisibility and executive control over many Devils. But what good
has this done him with the Government? None in the world. He has never
got Simla for his charge; and his name is almost unknown to Englishmen.
Strickland was foolish enough to take that man for his model; and,
following out his absurd theory, dabbled in unsavory places no
respectable man would think of exploring--all among the native
riff-raff. He educated himself in this peculiar way for seven years, and
people could not appreciate it. He was perpetually "going Fantee" among
the natives, which, of course, no man with any sense believes in. He was
initiated into the Sat Bhai at Allahabad once, when he was on leave; he
knew the Lizard-Song of the Sansis, and the Halli-Hukk dance, which is
a religious can-can of a startling kind. When a man knows who dances the
Halli-Hukk, and how, and when, and where, he knows something to be
of. He has gone deeper than the skin. But Strickland was not proud,
though he had helped once, at Jagadhri, at the Painting of the Death
Bull, which no Englishman must even look upon; had mastered the
thieves'-patter of the changars; had taken a Eusufzai horse-thief alone
near Attock; and had stood under the mimbar-board of a Border mosque
conducted service in the manner of a Sunni Mollah.
His crowning achievement was spending eleven days as a faquir in the
gardens of Baba Atal at Amritsar, and there picking up the threads of
the great Nasiban Murder Case. But people said, justly enough: "Why on
earth can't Strickland sit in his office and write up his diary, and
recruit, and keep quiet, instead of showing up the incapacity of his
seniors?" So the Nasiban Murder Case did him no good departmentally;
but, after his first feeling of wrath, he returned to his outlandish
custom of prying into native life. By the way, when a man once acquires
a taste for this particular amusement, it abides with him all his days.
It is the most fascinating thing in the world; Love not excepted. Where
other men took ten days to the Hills, Strickland took leave for what
he called shikar, put on the disguise that appealed to him at the time,
stepped down into the brown crowd, and was swallowed up for a while. He
was a quiet, dark young fellow--spare, black-eyes--and, when he was not
thinking of something else, a very interesting companion. Strickland
on Native Progress as he had seen it was worth hearing. Natives hated
Strickland; but they were afraid of him. He knew too much.
When the Youghals came into the station, Strickland--very gravely, as he
did everything--fell in love with Miss Youghal; and she, after a
while, fell in love with him because she could not understand him. Then
Strickland told the parents; but Mrs. Youghal said she was not going to
throw her daughter into the worst paid Department in the Empire, and old
Youghal said, in so many words, that he mistrusted Strickland's ways
and works, and would thank him not to speak or write to his daughter
any more. "Very well," said Strickland, for he did not wish to make
his lady-love's life a burden. After one long talk with Miss Youghal he
dropped the business entirely.
The Youghals went up to Simla in April.
In July, Strickland secured three months' leave on "urgent private
affairs." He locked up his house--though not a native in the Providence
would wittingly have touched "Estreekin Sahib's" gear for the world--and
went down to see a friend of his, an old dyer, at Tarn Taran.
Here all trace of him was lost, until a sais met me on the Simla Mall
with this extraordinary note:
"Dear old man,
"Please give bearer a box of cheroots--Supers, No. I, for preference.
They are freshest at the Club. I'll repay when I reappear; but at
present I'm out of Society.
I ordered two boxes, and handed them over to the sais with my love. That
sais was Strickland, and he was in old Youghal's employ, attached to
Miss Youghal's Arab. The poor fellow was suffering for an English
smoke, and knew that whatever happened I should hold my tongue till the
business was over.
Later on, Mrs. Youghal, who was wrapped up in her servants, began
talking at houses where she called of her paragon among saises--the man
who was never too busy to get up in the morning and pick flowers for
the breakfast-table, and who blacked--actually BLACKED--the hoofs of his
horse like a London coachman! The turnout of Miss Youghal's Arab was a
wonder and a delight. Strickland--Dulloo, I mean--found his reward
in the pretty things that Miss Youghal said to him when she went out
riding. Her parents were pleased to find she had forgotten all her
foolishness for young Strickland and said she was a good girl.
Strickland vows that the two months of his service were the most rigid
mental discipline he has ever gone through. Quite apart from the little
fact that the wife of one of his fellow-saises fell in love with him and
then tried to poison him with arsenic because he would have nothing
to do with her, he had to school himself into keeping quiet when Miss
Youghal went out riding with some man who tried to flirt with her, and
he was forced to trot behind carrying the blanket and hearing every
word! Also, he had to keep his temper when he was slanged in "Benmore"
porch by a policeman--especially once when he was abused by a Naik he
had himself recruited from Isser Jang village--or, worse still, when a
young subaltern called him a pig for not making way quickly enough.
But the life had its compensations. He obtained great insight into the
ways and thefts of saises--enough, he says, to have summarily convicted
half the chamar population of the Punjab if he had been on business. He
became one of the leading players at knuckle-bones, which all jhampanis
and many saises play while they are waiting outside the Government House
or the Gaiety Theatre of nights; he learned to smoke tobacco that was
three-fourths cowdung; and he heard the wisdom of the grizzled Jemadar
of the Government House saises, whose words are valuable. He saw many
things which amused him; and he states, on honor, that no man can
appreciate Simla properly, till he has seen it from the sais's point of
view. He also says that, if he chose to write all he saw, his head would
be broken in several places.
Strickland's account of the agony he endured on wet nights, hearing the
music and seeing the lights in "Benmore," with his toes tingling for a
waltz and his head in a horse-blanket, is rather amusing. One of these
days, Strickland is going to write a little book on his experiences.
That book will be worth buying; and even more, worth suppressing.
Thus, he served faithfully as Jacob served for Rachel; and his leave was
nearly at an end when the explosion came. He had really done his best to
keep his temper in the hearing of the flirtations I have mentioned; but
he broke down at last. An old and very distinguished General took
Miss Youghal for a ride, and began that specially offensive
"you're-only-a-little-girl" sort of flirtation--most difficult for
a woman to turn aside deftly, and most maddening to listen to. Miss
Youghal was shaking with fear at the things he said in the hearing of
her sais. Dulloo--Strickland--stood it as long as he could. Then he
caught hold of the General's bridle, and, in most fluent English,
invited him to step off and be heaved over the cliff. Next minute Miss
Youghal began crying; and Strickland saw that he had hopelessly given
himself away, and everything was over.
The General nearly had a fit, while Miss Youghal was sobbing out the
story of the disguise and the engagement that wasn't recognized by the
parents. Strickland was furiously angry with himself and more angry
with the General for forcing his hand; so he said nothing, but held
the horse's head and prepared to thrash the General as some sort of
satisfaction, but when the General had thoroughly grasped the story, and
knew who Strickland was, he began to puff and blow in the saddle, and
nearly rolled off with laughing. He said Strickland deserved a V. C.,
if it were only for putting on a sais's blanket. Then he called himself
names, and vowed that he deserved a thrashing, but he was too old to
take it from Strickland. Then he complimented Miss Youghal on her lover.
The scandal of the business never struck him; for he was a nice old man,
with a weakness for flirtations. Then he laughed again, and said
that old Youghal was a fool. Strickland let go of the cob's head,
and suggested that the General had better help them, if that was his
opinion. Strickland knew Youghal's weakness for men with titles and
letters after their names and high official position. "It's rather like
a forty-minute farce," said the General, "but begad, I WILL help, if
it's only to escape that tremendous thrashing I deserved. Go along
to your home, my sais-Policeman, and change into decent kit, and I'll
attack Mr. Youghal. Miss Youghal, may I ask you to canter home and wait?"
. . . . . . . . .
About seven minutes later, there was a wild hurroosh at the Club. A
sais, with a blanket and head-rope, was asking all the men he knew: "For
Heaven's sake lend me decent clothes!" As the men did not recognize him,
there were some peculiar scenes before Strickland could get a hot bath,
with soda in it, in one room, a shirt here, a collar there, a pair
of trousers elsewhere, and so on. He galloped off, with half the Club
wardrobe on his back, and an utter stranger's pony under him, to the
house of old Youghal. The General, arrayed in purple and fine linen, was
before him. What the General had said Strickland never knew, but Youghal
received Strickland with moderate civility; and Mrs. Youghal, touched
by the devotion of the transformed Dulloo, was almost kind. The General
beamed, and chuckled, and Miss Youghal came in, and almost before old
Youghal knew where he was, the parental consent had been wrenched out
and Strickland had departed with Miss Youghal to the Telegraph Office
to wire for his kit. The final embarrassment was when an utter stranger
attacked him on the Mall and asked for the stolen pony.
So, in the end, Strickland and Miss Youghal were married, on the strict
understanding that Strickland should drop his old ways, and stick to
Departmental routine, which pays best and leads to Simla. Strickland
was far too fond of his wife, just then, to break his word, but it was
a sore trial to him; for the streets and the bazars, and the sounds in
them, were full of meaning to Strickland, and these called to him to
come back and take up his wanderings and his discoveries. Some day, I
will tell you how he broke his promise to help a friend. That was long
since, and he has, by this time, been nearly spoilt for what he would
call shikar. He is forgetting the slang, and the beggar's cant, and the
marks, and the signs, and the drift of the undercurrents, which, if a
man would master, he must always continue to learn.
But he fills in his Departmental returns beautifully.
YOKED WITH AN UNBELIEVER.
I am dying for you, and you are dying for another.
When the Gravesend tender left the P. & O. steamer for Bombay and went
back to catch the train to Town, there were many people in it crying.
But the one who wept most, and most openly was Miss Agnes Laiter. She
had reason to cry, because the only man she ever loved--or ever could
love, so she said--was going out to India; and India, as every one
knows, is divided equally between jungle, tigers, cobras, cholera, and
Phil Garron, leaning over the side of the steamer in the rain, felt very
unhappy too; but he did not cry. He was sent out to "tea." What "tea"
meant he had not the vaguest idea, but fancied that he would have to
ride on a prancing horse over hills covered with tea-vines, and draw a
sumptuous salary for doing so; and he was very grateful to his uncle
for getting him the berth. He was really going to reform all his slack,
shiftless ways, save a large proportion of his magnificent salary
yearly, and, in a very short time, return to marry Agnes Laiter. Phil
Garron had been lying loose on his friends' hands for three years, and,
as he had nothing to do, he naturally fell in love. He was very nice;
but he was not strong in his views and opinions and principles, and
though he never came to actual grief his friends were thankful when
he said good-bye, and went out to this mysterious "tea" business near
Darjiling. They said:--"God bless you, dear boy! Let us never see your
face again,"--or at least that was what Phil was given to understand.
When he sailed, he was very full of a great plan to prove himself
several hundred times better than any one had given him credit for--to
work like a horse, and triumphantly marry Agnes Laiter. He had many good
points besides his good looks; his only fault being that he was weak,
the least little bit in the world weak. He had as much notion of economy
as the Morning Sun; and yet you could not lay your hand on any one item,
and say: "Herein Phil Garron is extravagant or reckless." Nor could
you point out any particular vice in his character; but he was
"unsatisfactory" and as workable as putty.
Agnes Laiter went about her duties at home--her family objected to the
engagement--with red eyes, while Phil was sailing to Darjiling--"a port
on the Bengal Ocean," as his mother used to tell her friends. He was
popular enough on board ship, made many acquaintances and a moderately
large liquor bill, and sent off huge letters to Agnes Laiter at each
port. Then he fell to work on this plantation, somewhere between
Darjiling and Kangra, and, though the salary and the horse and the work
were not quite all he had fancied, he succeeded fairly well, and gave
himself much unnecessary credit for his perseverance.
In the course of time, as he settled more into collar, and his work grew
fixed before him, the face of Agnes Laiter went out of his mind and only
came when he was at leisure, which was not often. He would forget
all about her for a fortnight, and remember her with a start, like a
school-boy who has forgotten to learn his lesson. She did not forget
Phil, because she was of the kind that never forgets. Only, another
man--a really desirable young man--presented himself before Mrs. Laiter;
and the chance of a marriage with Phil was as far off as ever; and
his letters were so unsatisfactory; and there was a certain amount of
domestic pressure brought to bear on the girl; and the young man really
was an eligible person as incomes go; and the end of all things was that
Agnes married him, and wrote a tempestuous whirlwind of a letter to Phil
in the wilds of Darjiling, and said she should never know a happy moment
all the rest of her life. Which was a true prophecy.
Phil got that letter, and held himself ill-treated. This was two years
after he had come out; but by dint of thinking fixedly of Agnes Laiter,
and looking at her photograph, and patting himself on the back for being
one of the most constant lovers in history, and warming to the work as
he went on, he really fancied that he had been very hardly used. He sat
down and wrote one final letter--a really pathetic "world without end,
amen," epistle; explaining how he would be true to Eternity, and that
all women were very much alike, and he would hide his broken heart,
etc., etc.; but if, at any future time, etc., etc., he could afford to
wait, etc., etc., unchanged affections, etc., etc., return to her old
love, etc., etc., for eight closely-written pages. From an artistic
point of view, it was very neat work, but an ordinary Philistine, who
knew the state of Phil's real feelings--not the ones he rose to as he
went on writing--would have called it the thoroughly mean and selfish
work of a thoroughly mean and selfish, weak man. But this verdict would
have been incorrect. Phil paid for the postage, and felt every word he
had written for at least two days and a half. It was the last flicker
before the light went out.
That letter made Agnes Laiter very unhappy, and she cried and put it
away in her desk, and became Mrs. Somebody Else for the good of her
family. Which is the first duty of every Christian maid.
Phil went his ways, and thought no more of his letter, except as an
artist thinks of a neatly touched-in sketch. His ways were not bad, but
they were not altogether good until they brought him across Dunmaya, the
daughter of a Rajput ex-Subadar-Major of our Native Army. The girl had a
strain of Hill blood in her, and, like the Hill women, was not a purdah
nashin. Where Phil met her, or how he heard of her, does not matter. She
was a good girl and handsome, and, in her way, very clever and shrewd;
though, of course, a little hard. It is to be remembered that Phil was
living very comfortably, denying himself no small luxury, never putting
by an anna, very satisfied with himself and his good intentions, was
dropping all his English correspondents one by one, and beginning more
and more to look upon this land as his home. Some men fall this way; and
they are of no use afterwards. The climate where he was stationed was
good, and it really did not seem to him that there was anything to go
He did what many planters have done before him--that is to say, he
made up his mind to marry a Hill girl and settle down. He was seven and
twenty then, with a long life before him, but no spirit to go through
with it. So he married Dunmaya by the forms of the English Church, and
some fellow-planters said he was a fool, and some said he was a
wise man. Dunmaya was a thoroughly honest girl, and, in spite of her
reverence for an Englishman, had a reasonable estimate of her husband's
weaknesses. She managed him tenderly, and became, in less than a year, a
very passable imitation of an English lady in dress and carriage. [It
is curious to think that a Hill man, after a lifetime's education, is
a Hill man still; but a Hill woman can in six months master most of the
ways of her English sisters. There was a coolie woman once. But that is
another story.] Dunmaya dressed by preference in black and yellow, and
Meantime the letter lay in Agnes's desk, and now and again she would
think of poor resolute hard-working Phil among the cobras and tigers of
Darjiling, toiling in the vain hope that she might come back to him. Her
husband was worth ten Phils, except that he had rheumatism of the
heart. Three years after he was married--and after he had tried Nice
and Algeria for his complaint--he went to Bombay, where he died, and set
Agnes free. Being a devout woman, she looked on his death and the
place of it, as a direct interposition of Providence, and when she had
recovered from the shock, she took out and reread Phil's letter with the
"etc., etc.," and the big dashes, and the little dashes, and kissed it
several times. No one knew her in Bombay; she had her husband's income,
which was a large one, and Phil was close at hand. It was wrong and
improper, of course, but she decided, as heroines do in novels, to find
her old lover, to offer him her hand and her gold, and with him spend
the rest of her life in some spot far from unsympathetic souls. She sat
for two months, alone in Watson's Hotel, elaborating this decision, and
the picture was a pretty one. Then she set out in search of Phil Garron,
Assistant on a tea plantation with a more than usually unpronounceable
. . . . . . . . .
She found him. She spent a month over it,, for his plantation was not in
the Darjiling district at all, but nearer Kangra. Phil was very little
altered, and Dunmaya was very nice to her.
Now the particular sin and shame of the whole business is that Phil, who
really is not worth thinking of twice, was and is loved by Dunmaya,
and more than loved by Agnes, the whole of whose life he seems to have
Worst of all, Dunmaya is making a decent man of him; and he will be
ultimately saved from perdition through her training.
Which is manifestly unfair.
To-night God knows what thing shall tide,
The Earth is racked and faint--
Expectant, sleepless, open-eyed;
And we, who from the Earth were made,
Thrill with our Mother's pain.
No man will ever know the exact truth of this story; though women may
sometimes whisper it to one another after a dance, when they are putting
up their hair for the night and comparing lists of victims. A man, of
course, cannot assist at these functions. So the tale must be told from
the outside--in the dark--all wrong.
Never praise a sister to a sister, in the hope of your compliments
reaching the proper ears, and so preparing the way for you later on.
Sisters are women first, and sisters afterwards; and you will find that
you do yourself harm.
Saumarez knew this when he made up his mind to propose to the elder Miss
Copleigh. Saumarez was a strange man, with few merits, so far as men
could see, though he was popular with women, and carried enough
conceit to stock a Viceroy's Council and leave a little over for the
Commander-in-Chief's Staff. He was a Civilian. Very many women took an
interest in Saumarez, perhaps, because his manner to them was offensive.
If you hit a pony over the nose at the outset of your acquaintance, he
may not love you, but he will take a deep interest in your movements
ever afterwards. The elder Miss Copleigh was nice, plump, winning and
pretty. The younger was not so pretty, and, from men disregarding the
hint set forth above, her style was repellant and unattractive. Both
girls had, practically, the same figure, and there was a strong likeness
between them in look and voice; though no one could doubt for an instant
which was the nicer of the two.
Saumarez made up his mind, as soon as they came into the station from
Behar, to marry the elder one. At least, we all made sure that he
would, which comes to the same thing. She was two and twenty, and he was
thirty-three, with pay and allowances of nearly fourteen hundred rupees
a month. So the match, as we arranged it, was in every way a good one.
Saumarez was his name, and summary was his nature, as a man once said.
Having drafted his Resolution, he formed a Select Committee of One to
sit upon it, and resolved to take his time. In our unpleasant slang, the
Copleigh girls "hunted in couples." That is to say, you could do nothing
with one without the other. They were very loving sisters; but
their mutual affection was sometimes inconvenient. Saumarez held the
balance-hair true between them, and none but himself could have said to
which side his heart inclined; though every one guessed. He rode
with them a good deal and danced with them, but he never succeeded in
detaching them from each other for any length of time.
Women said that the two girls kept together through deep mistrust, each
fearing that the other would steal a march on her. But that has
nothing to do with a man. Saumarez was silent for good or bad, and as
business-likely attentive as he could be, having due regard to his work
and his polo. Beyond doubt both girls were fond of him.
As the hot weather drew nearer, and Saumarez made no sign, women said
that you could see their trouble in the eyes of the girls--that they
were looking strained, anxious, and irritable. Men are quite blind in
these matters unless they have more of the woman than the man in their
composition, in which case it does not matter what they say or think.
I maintain it was the hot April days that took the color out of the
Copleigh girls' cheeks. They should have been sent to the Hills
early. No one--man or woman--feels an angel when the hot weather is
approaching. The younger sister grew more cynical--not to say acid--in
her ways; and the winningness of the elder wore thin. There was more
effort in it.
Now the Station wherein all these things happened was, though not
a little one, off the line of rail, and suffered through want of
attention. There were no gardens or bands or amusements worth speaking
of, and it was nearly a day's journey to come into Lahore for a dance.
People were grateful for small things to interest them.
About the beginning of May, and just before the final exodus of
Hill-goers, when the weather was very hot and there were not more than
twenty people in the Station, Saumarez gave a moonlight riding-picnic at
an old tomb, six miles away, near the bed of the river. It was a "Noah's
Ark" picnic; and there was to be the usual arrangement of quarter-mile
intervals between each couple, on account of the dust. Six couples came
altogether, including chaperons. Moonlight picnics are useful just at
the very end of the season, before all the girls go away to the Hills.
They lead to understandings, and should be encouraged by chaperones;
especially those whose girls look sweetish in riding habits. I knew a
case once. But that is another story. That picnic was called the "Great
Pop Picnic," because every one knew Saumarez would propose then to the
eldest Miss Copleigh; and, beside his affair, there was another which
might possibly come to happiness. The social atmosphere was heavily
charged and wanted clearing.
We met at the parade-ground at ten: the night was fearfully hot. The
horses sweated even at walking-pace, but anything was better than
sitting still in our own dark houses. When we moved off under the full
moon we were four couples, one triplet, and Mr. Saumarez rode with the
Copleigh girls, and I loitered at the tail of the procession, wondering
with whom Saumarez would ride home. Every one was happy and
contented; but we all felt that things were going to happen. We rode slowly:
and it was nearly midnight before we reached the old tomb, facing the
ruined tank, in the decayed gardens where we were going to eat and drink. I
was late in coming up; and before I went into the garden, I saw that the
horizon to the north carried a faint, dun-colored feather. But no one
would have thanked me for spoiling so well-managed an entertainment as
this picnic--and a dust-storm, more or less, does no great harm.
We gathered by the tank. Some one had brought out a banjo--which is a
most sentimental instrument--and three or four of us sang. You must not
laugh at this. Our amusements in out-of-the-way Stations are very few
indeed. Then we talked in groups or together, lying under the trees,
with the sun-baked roses dropping their petals on our feet, until supper
was ready. It was a beautiful supper, as cold and as iced as you could
wish; and we stayed long over it.
I had felt that the air was growing hotter and hotter; but nobody
seemed to notice it until the moon went out and a burning hot wind began
lashing the orange-trees with a sound like the noise of the sea. Before
we knew where we were, the dust-storm was on us, and everything was
roaring, whirling darkness. The supper-table was blown bodily into the
tank. We were afraid of staying anywhere near the old tomb for fear it
might be blown down. So we felt our way to the orange-trees where the
horses were picketed and waited for the storm to blow over. Then the
little light that was left vanished, and you could not see your hand
before your face. The air was heavy with dust and sand from the bed
of the river, that filled boots and pockets and drifted down necks and
coated eyebrows and moustaches. It was one of the worst dust-storms of
the year. We were all huddled together close to the trembling horses,
with the thunder clattering overhead, and the lightning spurting like
water from a sluice, all ways at once. There was no danger, of course,
unless the horses broke loose. I was standing with my head downward and
my hands over my mouth, hearing the trees thrashing each other. I could
not see who was next me till the flashes came. Then I found that I was
packed near Saumarez and the eldest Miss Copleigh, with my own horse
just in front of me. I recognized the eldest Miss Copleigh, because
she had a pagri round her helmet, and the younger had not. All the
electricity in the air had gone into my body and I was quivering and
tingling from head to foot--exactly as a corn shoots and tingles before
rain. It was a grand storm. The wind seemed to be picking up the earth
and pitching it to leeward in great heaps; and the heat beat up from the
ground like the heat of the Day of Judgment.
The storm lulled slightly after the first half-hour, and I heard a
despairing little voice close to my ear, saying to itself, quietly and
softly, as if some lost soul were flying about with the wind: "O my
God!" Then the younger Miss Copleigh stumbled into my arms, saying:
"Where is my horse? Get my horse. I want to go home. I WANT to go home.
Take me home."
I thought that the lightning and the black darkness had frightened her;
so I said there was no danger, but she must wait till the storm blew
over. She answered: "It is not THAT! It is not THAT! I want to go home!
O take me away from here!"
I said that she could not go till the light came; but I felt her brush
past me and go away. It was too dark to see where. Then the whole sky
was split open with one tremendous flash, as if the end of the world
were coming, and all the women shrieked.
Almost directly after this, I felt a man's hand on my shoulder and heard
Saumarez bellowing in my ear. Through the rattling of the trees and
howling of the wind, I did not catch his words at once, but at last
I heard him say: "I've proposed to the wrong one! What shall I do?"
Saumarez had no occasion to make this confidence to me. I was never a
friend of his, nor am I now; but I fancy neither of us were ourselves
just then. He was shaking as he stood with excitement, and I was feeling
queer all over with the electricity. I could not think of anything to
say except:--"More fool you for proposing in a dust-storm." But I did
not see how that would improve the mistake.
Then he shouted: "Where's Edith--Edith Copleigh?" Edith was the youngest
sister. I answered out of my astonishment:--"What do you want with HER?"
Would you believe it, for the next two minutes, he and I were shouting
at each other like maniacs--he vowing that it was the youngest sister he
had meant to propose to all along, and I telling him till my throat
was hoarse that he must have made a mistake! I can't account for
this except, again, by the fact that we were neither of us ourselves.
Everything seemed to me like a bad dream--from the stamping of the
horses in the darkness to Saumarez telling me the story of his loving
Edith Copleigh since the first. He was still clawing my shoulder and
begging me to tell him where Edith Copleigh was, when another lull came
and brought light with it, and we saw the dust-cloud forming on the
plain in front of us. So we knew the worst was over. The moon was low
down, and there was just the glimmer of the false dawn that comes about
an hour before the real one. But the light was very faint, and the dun
cloud roared like a bull. I wondered where Edith Copleigh had gone; and
as I was wondering I saw three things together: First Maud Copleigh's
face come smiling out of the darkness and move towards Saumarez, who
was standing by me. I heard the girl whisper, "George," and slide her arm
through the arm that was not clawing my shoulder, and I saw that look
on her face which only comes once or twice in a lifetime-when a woman
is perfectly happy and the air is full of trumpets and gorgeous-colored
fire and the Earth turns into cloud because she loves and is loved. At
the same time, I saw Saumarez's face as he heard Maud Copleigh's voice,
and fifty yards away from the clump of orange-trees I saw a brown
holland habit getting upon a horse.
It must have been my state of over-excitement that made me so quick
to meddle with what did not concern me. Saumarez was moving off to the
habit; but I pushed him back and said:--"Stop here and explain. I'll
fetch her back!" and I ran out to get at my own horse. I had a perfectly
unnecessary notion that everything must be done decently and in order,
and that Saumarez's first care was to wipe the happy look out of Maud
Copleigh's face. All the time I was linking up the curb-chain I wondered
how he would do it.
I cantered after Edith Copleigh, thinking to bring her back slowly on
some pretence or another. But she galloped away as soon as she saw me,
and I was forced to ride after her in earnest. She called back over her
shoulder--"Go away! I'm going home. Oh, go away!" two or three times;
but my business was to catch her first, and argue later. The ride just
fitted in with the rest of the evil dream. The ground was very bad, and
now and again we rushed through the whirling, choking "dust-devils" in
the skirts of the flying storm. There was a burning hot wind blowing
that brought up a stench of stale brick-kilns with it; and through the
half light and through the dust-devils, across that desolate plain,
flickered the brown holland habit on the gray horse. She headed for
the Station at first. Then she wheeled round and set off for the river
through beds of burnt down jungle-grass, bad even to ride a pig over. In
cold blood I should never have dreamed of going over such a country
at night, but it seemed quite right and natural with the lightning
crackling overhead, and a reek like the smell of the Pit in my nostrils.
I rode and shouted, and she bent forward and lashed her horse, and the
aftermath of the dust-storm came up and caught us both, and drove us
downwind like pieces of paper.
I don't know how far we rode; but the drumming of the horse-hoofs and
the roar of the wind and the race of the faint blood-red moon through
the yellow mist seemed to have gone on for years and years, and I was
literally drenched with sweat from my helmet to my gaiters when the gray
stumbled, recovered himself, and pulled up dead lame. My brute was used
up altogether. Edith Copleigh was in a sad state, plastered with dust,
her helmet off, and crying bitterly. "Why can't you let me alone?" she
said. "I only wanted to get away and go home. Oh, PLEASE let me go!"
"You have got to come back with me, Miss Copleigh. Saumarez has
something to say to you."
It was a foolish way of putting it; but I hardly knew Miss Copleigh;
and, though I was playing Providence at the cost of my horse, I could
not tell her in as many words what Saumarez had told me. I thought he
could do that better himself. All her pretence about being tired and
wanting to go home broke down, and she rocked herself to and fro in the
saddle as she sobbed, and the hot wind blew her black hair to leeward. I
am not going to repeat what she said, because she was utterly unstrung.
This, if you please, was the cynical Miss Copleigh. Here was I, almost
an utter stranger to her, trying to tell her that Saumarez loved her
and she was to come back to hear him say so! I believe I made myself
understood, for she gathered the gray together and made him hobble
somehow, and we set off for the tomb, while the storm went thundering
down to Umballa and a few big drops of warm rain fell. I found out that
she had been standing close to Saumarez when he proposed to her sister
and had wanted to go home and cry in peace, as an English girl should.
She dabbled her eyes with her pocket-handkerchief as we went along, and
babbled to me out of sheer lightness of heart and hysteria. That was
perfectly unnatural; and yet, it seemed all right at the time and in the
place. All the world was only the two Copleigh girls, Saumarez and I,
ringed in with the lightning and the dark; and the guidance of this
misguided world seemed to lie in my hands.
When we returned to the tomb in the deep, dead stillness that followed
the storm, the dawn was just breaking and nobody had gone away. They
were waiting for our return. Saumarez most of all. His face was white
and drawn. As Miss Copleigh and I limped up, he came forward to meet us,
and, when he helped her down from her saddle, he kissed her before
all the picnic. It was like a scene in a theatre, and the likeness was
heightened by all the dust-white, ghostly-looking men and women under
the orange-trees, clapping their hands, as if they were watching a
play--at Saumarez's choice. I never knew anything so un-English in my
Lastly, Saumarez said we must all go home or the Station would come
out to look for us, and WOULD I be good enough to ride home with Maud
Copleigh? Nothing would give me greater pleasure, I said.
So, we formed up, six couples in all, and went back two by two; Saumarez
walking at the side of Edith Copleigh, who was riding his horse.
The air was cleared; and little by little, as the sun rose, I felt we
were all dropping back again into ordinary men and women and that
the "Great Pop Picnic" was a thing altogether apart and out of the
world--never to happen again. It had gone with the dust-storm and the
tingle in the hot air.
I felt tired and limp, and a good deal ashamed of myself as I went in
for a bath and some sleep.
There is a woman's version of this story, but it will never be
written.... unless Maud Copleigh cares to try.
THE RESCUE OF PLUFFLES.
Thus, for a season, they fought it fair--
She and his cousin May--
Tactful, talented, debonnaire,
Decorous foes were they;
But never can battle of man compare
With merciless feminine fray.
Two and One.
Mrs. Hauksbee was sometimes nice to her own sex. Here is a story to
prove this; and you can believe just as much as ever you please.
Pluffles was a subaltern in the "Unmentionables." He was callow, even
for a subaltern. He was callow all over--like a canary that had not
finished fledging itself. The worst of it was he had three times as much
money as was good for him; Pluffles' Papa being a rich man and Pluffles
being the only son. Pluffles' Mamma adored him. She was only a little
less callow than Pluffles and she believed everything he said.
Pluffles' weakness was not believing what people said. He preferred what
he called "trusting to his own judgment." He had as much judgment as he
had seat or hands; and this preference tumbled him into trouble once or
twice. But the biggest trouble Pluffles ever manufactured came about at
Simla--some years ago, when he was four-and-twenty.
He began by trusting to his own judgment, as usual, and the result
was that, after a time, he was bound hand and foot to Mrs. Reiver's
There was nothing good about Mrs. Reiver, unless it was her dress.
She was bad from her hair--which started life on a Brittany's girl's
head--to her boot-heels, which were two and three-eighth inches high.
She was not honestly mischievous like Mrs. Hauksbee; she was wicked in a
There was never any scandal--she had not generous impulses enough for
that. She was the exception which proved the rule that Anglo-Indian
ladies are in every way as nice as their sisters at Home. She spent her
life in proving that rule.
Mrs. Hauksbee and she hated each other fervently. They heard far
too much to clash; but the things they said of each other were
startling--not to say original. Mrs. Hauksbee was honest--honest as her
own front teeth--and, but for her love of mischief, would have been
a woman's woman. There was no honesty about Mrs. Reiver; nothing but
selfishness. And at the beginning of the season, poor little Pluffles
fell a prey to her. She laid herself out to that end, and who was
Pluffles, to resist? He went on trusting to his judgment, and he got
I have seen Hayes argue with a tough horse--I have seen a tonga-driver
coerce a stubborn pony--I have seen a riotous setter broken to gun by a
hard keeper--but the breaking-in of Pluffles of the "Unmentionables" was
beyond all these. He learned to fetch and carry like a dog, and to
wait like one, too, for a word from Mrs. Reiver. He learned to keep
appointments which Mrs. Reiver had no intention of keeping. He learned
to take thankfully dances which Mrs. Reiver had no intention of giving
him. He learned to shiver for an hour and a quarter on the windward side
of Elysium while Mrs. Reiver was making up her mind to come for a
ride. He learned to hunt for a 'rickshaw, in a light dress-suit under
a pelting rain, and to walk by the side of that 'rickshaw when he had
found it. He learned what it was to be spoken to like a coolie and
ordered about like a cook. He learned all this and many other things
besides. And he paid for his schooling.
Perhaps, in some hazy way, he fancied that it was fine and impressive,
that it gave him a status among men, and was altogether the thing to do.
It was nobody's business to warn Pluffles that he was unwise. The pace
that season was too good to inquire; and meddling with another man's
folly is always thankless work. Pluffles' Colonel should have ordered
him back to his regiment when he heard how things were going. But
Pluffles had got himself engaged to a girl in England the last time
he went home; and if there was one thing more than another which the
Colonel detested, it was a married subaltern. He chuckled when he heard
of the education of Pluffles, and said it was "good training for
the boy." But it was not good training in the least. It led him into
spending money beyond his means, which were good: above that, the
education spoilt an average boy and made it a tenth-rate man of an
objectionable kind. He wandered into a bad set, and his little bill at
Hamilton's was a thing to wonder at.
Then Mrs. Hauksbee rose to the occasion. She played her game alone,
knowing what people would say of her; and she played it for the sake of
a girl she had never seen. Pluffles' fiancee was to come out, under the
chaperonage of an aunt, in October, to be married to Pluffles.
At the beginning of August, Mrs. Hauksbee discovered that it was time to
interfere. A man who rides much knows exactly what a horse is going to
do next before he does it. In the same way, a woman of Mrs. Hauksbee's
experience knows accurately how a boy will behave under certain
circumstances--notably when he is infatuated with one of Mrs. Reiver's
stamp. She said that, sooner or later, little Pluffles would break off
that engagement for nothing at all--simply to gratify Mrs. Reiver, who,
in return, would keep him at her feet and in her service just so long
as she found it worth her while. She said she knew the signs of these
things. If she did not, no one else could.
Then she went forth to capture Pluffles under the guns of the enemy;
just as Mrs. Cusack-Bremmil carried away Bremmil under Mrs. Hauksbee's
This particular engagement lasted seven weeks--we called it the Seven
Weeks' War--and was fought out inch by inch on both sides. A detailed
account would fill a book, and would be incomplete then. Any one who
knows about these things can fit in the details for himself. It was
a superb fight--there will never be another like it as long as Jakko
stands--and Pluffles was the prize of victory. People said shameful
things about Mrs. Hauksbee. They did not know what she was playing
for. Mrs. Reiver fought, partly because Pluffles was useful to her, but
mainly because she hated Mrs. Hauksbee, and the matter was a trial of
strength between them. No one knows what Pluffles thought. He had not
many ideas at the best of times, and the few he possessed made him
conceited. Mrs. Hauksbee said:--"The boy must be caught; and the only
way of catching him is by treating him well."
So she treated him as a man of the world and of experience so long as
the issue was doubtful. Little by little, Pluffles fell away from his
old allegiance and came over to the enemy, by whom he was made much of.
He was never sent on out-post duty after 'rickshaws any more, nor was
he given dances which never came off, nor were the drains on his
purse continued. Mrs. Hauksbee held him on the snaffle; and after his
treatment at Mrs. Reiver's hands, he appreciated the change.
Mrs. Reiver had broken him of talking about himself, and made him
talk about her own merits. Mrs. Hauksbee acted otherwise, and won
his confidence, till he mentioned his engagement to the girl at Home,
speaking of it in a high and mighty way as a "piece of boyish folly."
This was when he was taking tea with her one afternoon, and discoursing
in what he considered a gay and fascinating style. Mrs. Hauksbee had
seen an earlier generation of his stamp bud and blossom, and decay into
fat Captains and tubby Majors.
At a moderate estimate there were about three and twenty sides to that
lady's character. Some men say more. She began to talk to Pluffles after
the manner of a mother, and as if there had been three hundred years,
instead of fifteen, between them. She spoke with a sort of throaty
quaver in her voice which had a soothing effect, though what she said
was anything but soothing. She pointed out the exceeding folly, not to
say meanness, of Pluffles' conduct, and the smallness of his views. Then
he stammered something about "trusting to his own judgment as a man of
the world;" and this paved the way for what she wanted to say next. It
would have withered up Pluffles had it come from any other woman; but
in the soft cooing style in which Mrs. Hauksbee put it, it only made
him feel limp and repentant--as if he had been in some superior kind of
church. Little by little, very softly and pleasantly, she began taking
the conceit out of Pluffles, as you take the ribs out of an umbrella
before re-covering it. She told him what she thought of him and his
judgment and his knowledge of the world; and how his performances had
made him ridiculous to other people; and how it was his intention make
love to herself if she gave him the chance. Then she said that marriage
would be the making of him; and drew a pretty little picture--all rose
and opal--of the Mrs. Pluffles of the future going through life relying
on the "judgment" and "knowledge of the world" of a husband who
had nothing to reproach himself with. How she reconciled these
two statements she alone knew. But they did not strike Pluffles as
Hers was a perfect little homily--much better than any clergyman could
have given--and it ended with touching allusions to Pluffles' Mamma and
Papa, and the wisdom of taking his bride Home.
Then she sent Pluffles out for a walk, to think over what she had said.
Pluffles left, blowing his nose very hard and holding himself very
straight. Mrs. Hauksbee laughed.
What Pluffles had intended to do in the matter of the engagement only
Mrs. Reiver knew, and she kept her own counsel to her death. She would
have liked it spoiled as a compliment, I fancy.
Pluffles enjoyed many talks with Mrs. Hauksbee during the next few days.
They were all to the same end, and they helped Pluffles in the path of
Mrs. Hauksbee wanted to keep him under her wing to the last. Therefore
she discountenanced his going down to Bombay to get married. "Goodness
only knows what might happen by the way!" she said. "Pluffles is cursed
with the curse of Reuben, and India is no fit place for him!"
In the end, the fiancee arrived with her aunt; and Pluffles, having
reduced his affairs to some sort of order--here again Mrs. Hauksbee
helped him--was married.
Mrs. Hauksbee gave a sigh of relief when both the "I wills" had been
said, and went her way.
Pluffies took her advice about going Home. He left the Service, and is
now raising speckled cattle inside green painted fences somewhere at
Home. I believe he does this very judiciously. He would have come to
extreme grief out here.
For these reasons if any one says anything more than usually nasty about
Mrs. Hauksbee, tell him the story of the Rescue of Pluffles.
Pit where the buffalo cooled his hide,
By the hot sun emptied, and blistered and dried;
Log in the reh-grass, hidden and alone;
Bund where the earth-rat's mounds are strown:
Cave in the bank where the sly stream steals;
Aloe that stabs at the belly and heels,
Jump if you dare on a steed untried--
Safer it is to go wide--go wide!
Hark, from in front where the best men ride:--
"Pull to the off, boys! Wide! Go wide!"
The Peora Hunt.
Once upon a time there lived at Simla a very pretty girl, the daughter
of a poor but honest District and Sessions Judge. She was a good girl,
but could not help knowing her power and using it. Her Mamma was very
anxious about her daughter's future, as all good Mammas should be.
When a man is a Commissioner and a bachelor and has the right of wearing
open-work jam-tart jewels in gold and enamel on his clothes, and of
going through a door before every one except a Member of Council, a
Lieutenant-Governor, or a Viceroy, he is worth marrying. At least, that
is what ladies say. There was a Commissioner in Simla, in those days,
who was, and wore, and did, all I have said. He was a plain man--an ugly
man--the ugliest man in Asia, with two exceptions. His was a face to
dream about and try to carve on a pipe-head afterwards. His name was
Saggott--Barr-Saggott--Anthony Barr-Saggott and six letters to follow.
Departmentally, he was one of the best men the Government of India
owned. Socially, he was like a blandishing gorilla.
When he turned his attentions to Miss Beighton, I believe that Mrs.
Beighton wept with delight at the reward Providence had sent her in her
Mr. Beighton held his tongue. He was an easy-going man.
Now a Commissioner is very rich. His pay is beyond the dreams of
avarice--is so enormous that he can afford to save and scrape in a way
that would almost discredit a Member of Council. Most Commissioners
are mean; but Barr-Saggott was an exception. He entertained royally; he
horsed himself well; he gave dances; he was a power in the land; and he
behaved as such.
Consider that everything I am writing of took place in an almost
pre-historic era in the history of British India. Some folk may remember
the years before lawn-tennis was born when we all played croquet. There
were seasons before that, if you will believe me, when even croquet
had not been invented, and archery--which was revived in England in
1844--was as great a pest as lawn-tennis is now. People talked learnedly
about "holding" and "loosing," "steles," "reflexed bows," "56-pound
bows," "backed" or "self-yew bows," as we talk about "rallies,"
"volleys," "smashes," "returns," and "16-ounce rackets."
Miss Beighton shot divinely over ladies' distance--60 yards, that
is--and was acknowledged the best lady archer in Simla. Men called her
"Diana of Tara-Devi."
Barr-Saggott paid her great attention; and, as I have said, the heart of
her mother was uplifted in consequence. Kitty Beighton took matters more
calmly. It was pleasant to be singled out by a Commissioner with letters
after his name, and to fill the hearts of other girls with bad feelings.
But there was no denying the fact that Barr-Saggott was phenomenally
ugly; and all his attempts to adorn himself only made him more
grotesque. He was not christened "The Langur"--which means gray ape--for
nothing. It was pleasant, Kitty thought, to have him at her feet, but
it was better to escape from him and ride with the graceless Cubbon--the
man in a Dragoon Regiment at Umballa--the boy with a handsome face, and
no prospects. Kitty liked Cubbon more than a little. He never pretended
for a moment the he was anything less than head over heels in love with
her; for he was an honest boy. So Kitty fled, now and again, from the
stately wooings of Barr-Saggott to the company of young Cubbon, and
was scolded by her Mamma in consequence. "But, Mother," she said, "Mr.
Saggot is such--such a--is so FEARFULLY ugly, you know!"
"My dear," said Mrs. Beighton, piously, "we cannot be other than an
all-ruling Providence has made us. Besides, you will take precedence of
your own Mother, you know! Think of that and be reasonable."
Then Kitty put up her little chin and said irreverent things about
precedence, and Commissioners, and matrimony. Mr. Beighton rubbed the
top of his head; for he was an easy-going man.
Late in the season, when he judged that the time was ripe, Barr-Saggott
developed a plan which did great credit to his administrative powers.
He arranged an archery tournament for ladies, with a most sumptuous
diamond-studded bracelet as prize. He drew up his terms skilfully,
and every one saw that the bracelet was a gift to Miss Beighton; the
acceptance carrying with it the hand and the heart of Commissioner
Barr-Saggott. The terms were a St. Leonard's Round--thirty-six shots at
sixty yards--under the rules of the Simla Toxophilite Society.
All Simla was invited. There were beautifully arranged tea-tables under
the deodars at Annandale, where the Grand Stand is now; and, alone in
its glory, winking in the sun, sat the diamond bracelet in a blue velvet
case. Miss Beighton was anxious--almost too anxious to compete. On the
appointed afternoon, all Simla rode down to Annandale to witness the
Judgment of Paris turned upside down. Kitty rode with young Cubbon, and
it was easy to see that the boy was troubled in his mind. He must be
held innocent of everything that followed. Kitty was pale and nervous,
and looked long at the bracelet. Barr-Saggott was gorgeously dressed,
even more nervous than Kitty, and more hideous than ever.
Mrs. Beighton smiled condescendingly, as befitted the mother of a
potential Commissioneress, and the shooting began; all the world
standing in a semicircle as the ladies came out one after the other.
Nothing is so tedious as an archery competition. They shot, and they
shot, and they kept on shooting, till the sun left the valley, and
little breezes got up in the deodars, and people waited for Miss
Beighton to shoot and win. Cubbon was at one horn of the semicircle
round the shooters, and Barr-Saggott at the other. Miss Beighton was
last on the list. The scoring had been weak, and the bracelet, PLUS
Commissioner Barr-Saggott, was hers to a certainty.
The Commissioner strung her bow with his own sacred hands. She stepped
forward, looked at the bracelet, and her first arrow went true to a
hair--full into the heart of the "gold"--counting nine points.
Young Cubbon on the left turned white, and his Devil prompted
Barr-Saggott to smile. Now horses used to shy when Barr-Saggott smiled.
Kitty saw that smile. She looked to her left-front, gave an almost
imperceptible nod to Cubbon, and went on shooting.
I wish I could describe the scene that followed. It was out of the
ordinary and most improper. Miss Kitty fitted her arrows with immense
deliberation, so that every one might see what she was doing. She was
a perfect shot; and her 46-pound bow suited her to a nicety. She pinned
the wooden legs of the target with great care four successive times. She
pinned the wooden top of the target once, and all the ladies looked at
each other. Then she began some fancy shooting at the white, which,
if you hit it, counts exactly one point. She put five arrows into the
white. It was wonderful archery; but, seeing that her business was to
make "golds" and win the bracelet, Barr-Saggott turned a delicate green
like young water-grass. Next, she shot over the target twice, then wide
to the left twice--always with the same deliberation--while a chilly
hush fell over the company, and Mrs. Beighton took out her handkerchief.
Then Kitty shot at the ground in front of the target, and split several
arrows. Then she made a red--or seven points--just to show what she
could do if she liked, and finished up her amazing performance with some
more fancy shooting at the target-supports. Here is her score as it was
Gold. Red. Blue. Black. White. Total Hits. Total
Miss Beighton 1 1 0 0 5 7 21
Barr-Saggott looked as if the last few arrowheads had been driven into
his legs instead of the target's, and the deep stillness was broken by
a little snubby, mottled, half-grown girl saying in a shrill voice of
triumph: "Then I'VE won!"
Mrs. Beighton did her best to bear up; but she wept in the presence of
the people. No training could help her through such a disappointment.
Kitty unstrung her bow with a vicious jerk, and went back to her place,
while Barr-Saggott was trying to pretend that he enjoyed snapping
the bracelet on the snubby girl's raw, red wrist. It was an awkward
scene--most awkward. Every one tried to depart in a body and leave Kitty
to the mercy of her Mamma.
But Cubbon took her away instead, and--the rest isn't worth printing.
HIS CHANCE IN LIFE.
Then a pile of heads be laid--
Thirty thousand heaped on high--
All to please the Kafir maid,
Where the Oxus ripples by.
Grimly spake Atulla Khan:--
"Love hath made this thing a Man."
If you go straight away from Levees and Government House Lists, past
Trades' Balls--far beyond everything and everybody you ever knew in your
respectable life--you cross, in time, the Border line where the last
drop of White blood ends and the full tide of Black sets in. It would be
easier to talk to a new made Duchess on the spur of the moment than
to the Borderline folk without violating some of their conventions or
hurting their feelings. The Black and the White mix very quaintly in
their ways. Sometimes the White shows in spurts of fierce, childish
pride--which is Pride of Race run crooked--and sometimes the Black
in still fiercer abasement and humility, half heathenish customs and
strange, unaccountable impulses to crime. One of these days, this
people--understand they are far lower than the class whence Derozio, the
man who imitated Byron, sprung--will turn out a writer or a poet; and
then we shall know how they live and what they feel. In the meantime,
any stories about them cannot be absolutely correct in fact or
Miss Vezzis came from across the Borderline to look after some children
who belonged to a lady until a regularly ordained nurse could come out.
The lady said Miss Vezzis was a bad, dirty nurse and inattentive. It
never struck her that Miss Vezzis had her own life to lead and her own
affairs to worry over, and that these affairs were the most important
things in the world to Miss Vezzis. Very few mistresses admit this sort
of reasoning. Miss Vezzis was as black as a boot, and to our standard of
taste, hideously ugly. She wore cotton-print gowns and bulged shoes;
and when she lost her temper with the children, she abused them in the
language of the Borderline--which is part English, part Portuguese,
and part Native. She was not attractive; but she had her pride, and she
preferred being called "Miss Vezzis."
Every Sunday she dressed herself wonderfully and went to see her
Mamma, who lived, for the most part, on an old cane chair in a greasy
tussur-silk dressing-gown and a big rabbit-warren of a house full of
Vezzises, Pereiras, Ribieras, Lisboas and Gansalveses, and a floating
population of loafers; besides fragments of the day's bazar, garlic,
stale incense, clothes thrown on the floor, petticoats hung on strings
for screens, old bottles, pewter crucifixes, dried immortelles, pariah
puppies, plaster images of the Virgin, and hats without crowns. Miss
Vezzis drew twenty rupees a month for acting as nurse, and she
squabbled weekly with her Mamma as to the percentage to be given towards
housekeeping. When the quarrel was over, Michele D'Cruze used to shamble
across the low mud wall of the compound and make love to Miss Vezzis
after the fashion of the Borderline, which is hedged about with much
ceremony. Michele was a poor, sickly weed and very black; but he had his
pride. He would not be seen smoking a huqa for anything; and he looked
down on natives as only a man with seven-eighths native blood in his
veins can. The Vezzis Family had their pride too. They traced their
descent from a mythical plate-layer who had worked on the Sone Bridge
when railways were new in India, and they valued their English origin.
Michele was a Telegraph Signaller on Rs. 35 a month. The fact that he
was in Government employ made Mrs. Vezzis lenient to the shortcomings of
There was a compromising legend--Dom Anna the tailor brought it from
Poonani--that a black Jew of Cochin had once married into the D'Cruze
family; while it was an open secret that an uncle of Mrs. D'Cruze was at
that very time doing menial work, connected with cooking, for a Club in
Southern India! He sent Mrs D'Cruze seven rupees eight annas a month;
but she felt the disgrace to the family very keenly all the same.
However, in the course of a few Sundays, Mrs. Vezzis brought herself
to overlook these blemishes and gave her consent to the marriage of her
daughter with Michele, on condition that Michele should have at least
fifty rupees a month to start married life upon. This wonderful prudence
must have been a lingering touch of the mythical plate-layer's Yorkshire
blood; for across the Borderline people take a pride in marrying when
they please--not when they can.
Having regard to his departmental prospects, Miss Vezzis might as well
have asked Michele to go away and come back with the Moon in his pocket.
But Michele was deeply in love with Miss Vezzis, and that helped him to
endure. He accompanied Miss Vezzis to Mass one Sunday, and after Mass,
walking home through the hot stale dust with her hand in his, he swore
by several Saints, whose names would not interest you, never to forget
Miss Vezzis; and she swore by her Honor and the Saints--the oath runs
rather curiously; "In nomine Sanctissimae--" (whatever the name of the
she-Saint is) and so forth, ending with a kiss on the forehead, a kiss
on the left cheek, and a kiss on the mouth--never to forget Michele.
Next week Michele was transferred, and Miss Vezzis dropped tears
upon the window-sash of the "Intermediate" compartment as he left the
If you look at the telegraph-map of India you will see a long line
skirting the coast from Backergunge to Madras. Michele was ordered to
Tibasu, a little Sub-office one-third down this line, to send messages
on from Berhampur to Chicacola, and to think of Miss Vezzis and his
chances of getting fifty rupees a month out of office hours. He had the
noise of the Bay of Bengal and a Bengali Babu for company; nothing more.
He sent foolish letters, with crosses tucked inside the flaps of the
envelopes, to Miss Vezzis.
When he had been at Tibasu for nearly three weeks his chance came.
Never forget that unless the outward and visible signs of Our
Authority are always before a native he is as incapable as a child of
understanding what authority means, or where is the danger of disobeying
it. Tibasu was a forgotten little place with a few Orissa Mohamedans
in it. These, hearing nothing of the Collector-Sahib for some time,
and heartily despising the Hindu Sub-Judge, arranged to start a little
Mohurrum riot of their own. But the Hindus turned out and broke their
heads; when, finding lawlessness pleasant, Hindus and Mahomedans
together raised an aimless sort of Donnybrook just to see how far they
could go. They looted each other's shops, and paid off private grudges
in the regular way. It was a nasty little riot, but not worth putting in
Michele was working in his office when he heard the sound that a man
never forgets all his life--the "ah-yah" of an angry crowd. [When that
sound drops about three tones, and changes to a thick, droning ut, the
man who hears it had better go away if he is alone.] The Native Police
Inspector ran in and told Michele that the town was in an uproar and
coming to wreck the Telegraph Office. The Babu put on his cap and
quietly dropped out of the window; while the Police Inspector, afraid,
but obeying the old race-instinct which recognizes a drop of White blood
as far as it can be diluted, said:--"What orders does the Sahib give?"
The "Sahib" decided Michele. Though horribly frightened, he felt that,
for the hour, he, the man with the Cochin Jew and the menial uncle in
his pedigree, was the only representative of English authority in the
place. Then he thought of Miss Vezzis and the fifty rupees, and took the
situation on himself. There were seven native policemen in Tibasu, and
four crazy smooth-bore muskets among them. All the men were gray with
fear, but not beyond leading. Michele dropped the key of the telegraph
instrument, and went out, at the head of his army, to meet the mob. As
the shouting crew came round a corner of the road, he dropped and fired;
the men behind him loosing instinctively at the same time.
The whole crowd--curs to the backbone--yelled and ran; leaving one man
dead, and another dying in the road. Michele was sweating with fear, but
he kept his weakness under, and went down into the town, past the house
where the Sub-Judge had barricaded himself. The streets were empty.
Tibasu was more frightened than Michele, for the mob had been taken at
the right time.
Michele returned to the Telegraph-Office, and sent a message to
Chicacola asking for help. Before an answer came, he received a
deputation of the elders of Tibasu, telling him that the Sub-Judge said
his actions generally were "unconstitional," and trying to bully him.
But the heart of Michele D'Cruze was big and white in his breast,
because of his love for Miss Vezzis, the nurse-girl, and because he had
tasted for the first time Responsibility and Success. Those two make
an intoxicating drink, and have ruined more men than ever has Whiskey.
Michele answered that the Sub-Judge might say what he pleased, but,
until the Assistant Collector came, the Telegraph Signaller was the
Government of India in Tibasu, and the elders of the town would be held
accountable for further rioting. Then they bowed their heads and said:
"Show mercy!" or words to that effect, and went back in great fear; each
accusing the other of having begun the rioting.
Early in the dawn, after a night's patrol with his seven policemen,
Michele went down the road, musket in hand, to meet the Assistant
Collector, who had ridden in to quell Tibasu. But, in the presence of
this young Englishman, Michele felt himself slipping back more and more
into the native, and the tale of the Tibasu Riots ended, with the strain
on the teller, in an hysterical outburst of tears, bred by sorrow that
he had killed a man, shame that he could not feel as uplifted as he had
felt through the night, and childish anger that his tongue could not
do justice to his great deeds. It was the White drop in Michele's veins
dying out, though he did not know it.
But the Englishman understood; and, after he had schooled those men
of Tibasu, and had conferred with the Sub-Judge till that excellent
official turned green, he found time to draught an official letter
describing the conduct of Michele. Which letter filtered through the
Proper Channels, and ended in the transfer of Michele up-country once
more, on the Imperial salary of sixty-six rupees a month.
So he and Miss Vezzis were married with great state and ancientry; and
now there are several little D'Cruzes sprawling about the verandahs of
the Central Telegraph Office.
But, if the whole revenue of the Department he serves were to be his
reward Michele could never, never repeat what he did at Tibasu for the
sake of Miss Vezzis the nurse-girl.
Which proves that, when a man does good work out of all proportion to
his pay, in seven cases out of nine there is a woman at the back of the
The two exceptions must have suffered from sunstroke.
WATCHES OF THE NIGHT.
What is in the Brahmin's books that is in the Brahmin's heart.
Neither you nor I knew there was so much evil in the world.
This began in a practical joke; but it has gone far enough now, and is
Platte, the Subaltern, being poor, had a Waterbury watch and a plain
The Colonel had a Waterbury watch also, and for guard, the lip-strap of
a curb-chain. Lip-straps make the best watch guards. They are strong
and short. Between a lip-strap and an ordinary leather guard there is no
great difference; between one Waterbury watch and another there is none
at all. Every one in the station knew the Colonel's lip-strap. He was
not a horsey man, but he liked people to believe he had been on once;
and he wove fantastic stories of the hunting-bridle to which this
particular lip-strap had belonged. Otherwise he was painfully religious.
Platte and the Colonel were dressing at the Club--both late for their
engagements, and both in a hurry. That was Kismet. The two watches
were on a shelf below the looking-glass--guards hanging down. That was
carelessness. Platte changed first, snatched a watch, looked in the
glass, settled his tie, and ran. Forty seconds later, the Colonel did
exactly the same thing; each man taking the other's watch.
You may have noticed that many religious people are deeply suspicious.
They seem--for purely religious purposes, of course--to know more about
iniquity than the Unregenerate. Perhaps they were specially bad before
they became converted! At any rate, in the imputation of things evil,
and in putting the worst construction on things innocent, a certain type
of good people may be trusted to surpass all others. The Colonel and
his Wife were of that type. But the Colonel's Wife was the worst. She
manufactured the Station scandal, and--TALKED TO HER AYAH! Nothing
more need be said. The Colonel's Wife broke up the Laplace's home. The
Colonel's Wife stopped the Ferris-Haughtrey engagement. The Colonel's
Wife induced young Buxton to keep his wife down in the Plains through
the first year of the marriage. Whereby little Mrs. Buxton died, and
the baby with her. These things will be remembered against the Colonel's
Wife so long as there is a regiment in the country.
But to come back to the Colonel and Platte. They went their several
ways from the dressing-room. The Colonel dined with two Chaplains, while
Platte went to a bachelor-party, and whist to follow.
Mark how things happen! If Platte's sais had put the new saddle-pad on
the mare, the butts of the territs would not have worked through the
worn leather, and the old pad into the mare's withers, when she was
coming home at two o'clock in the morning. She would not have reared,
bolted, fallen into a ditch, upset the cart, and sent Platte flying over
an aloe-hedge on to Mrs. Larkyn's well-kept lawn; and this tale would
never have been written. But the mare did all these things, and while
Platte was rolling over and over on the turf, like a shot rabbit, the
watch and guard flew from his waistcoat--as an Infantry Major's sword
hops out of the scabbard when they are firing a feu de joie--and rolled
and rolled in the moonlight, till it stopped under a window.
Platte stuffed his handkerchief under the pad, put the cart straight,
and went home.
Mark again how Kismet works! This would not happen once in a hundred
years. Towards the end of his dinner with the two Chaplains, the Colonel
let out his waistcoat and leaned over the table to look at some Mission
Reports. The bar of the watch-guard worked through the buttonhole, and
the watch--Platte's watch--slid quietly on to the carpet. Where the
bearer found it next morning and kept it.
Then the Colonel went home to the wife of his bosom; but the driver of
the carriage was drunk and lost his way. So the Colonel returned at an
unseemly hour and his excuses were not accepted. If the Colonel's Wife
had been an ordinary "vessel of wrath appointed for destruction," she
would have known that when a man stays away on purpose, his excuse
is always sound and original. The very baldness of the Colonel's
explanation proved its truth.
See once more the workings of Kismet! The Colonel's watch which came
with Platte hurriedly on to Mrs. Larkyn's lawn, chose to stop just under
Mrs. Larkyn's window, where she saw it early in the morning, recognized
it, and picked it up. She had heard the crash of Platte's cart at two
o'clock that morning, and his voice calling the mare names. She knew
Platte and liked him. That day she showed him the watch and heard his
story. He put his head on one side, winked and said:--"How disgusting!
Shocking old man! with his religious training, too! I should send the
watch to the Colonel's Wife and ask for explanations."
Mrs. Larkyn thought for a minute of the Laplaces--whom she had known
when Laplace and his wife believed in each other--and answered:--"I will
send it. I think it will do her good. But remember, we must NEVER tell
her the truth."
Platte guessed that his own watch was in the Colonel's possession, and
thought that the return of the lip-strapped Waterbury with a soothing
note from Mrs. Larkyn, would merely create a small trouble for a few
minutes. Mrs. Larkyn knew better. She knew that any poison dropped would
find good holding-ground in the heart of the Colonel's Wife.
The packet, and a note containing a few remarks on the Colonel's
calling-hours, were sent over to the Colonel's Wife, who wept in her own
room and took counsel with herself.
If there was one woman under Heaven whom the Colonel's Wife hated with
holy fervor, it was Mrs. Larkyn. Mrs. Larkyn was a frivolous lady,
and called the Colonel's Wife "old cat." The Colonel's Wife said that
somebody in Revelations was remarkably like Mrs. Larkyn. She mentioned
other Scripture people as well. From the Old Testament. [But the
Colonel's Wife was the only person who cared or dared to say anything
against Mrs. Larkyn. Every one else accepted her as an amusing, honest
little body.] Wherefore, to believe that her husband had been shedding
watches under that "Thing's" window at ungodly hours, coupled with the
fact of his late arrival on the previous night, was.....
At this point she rose up and sought her husband. He denied everything
except the ownership of the watch. She besought him, for his Soul's
sake, to speak the truth. He denied afresh, with two bad words. Then a
stony silence held the Colonel's Wife, while a man could draw his breath
The speech that followed is no affair of mine or yours. It was made up
of wifely and womanly jealousy; knowledge of old age and sunken cheeks;
deep mistrust born of the text that says even little babies' hearts
are as bad as they make them; rancorous hatred of Mrs. Larkyn, and the
tenets of the creed of the Colonel's Wife's upbringing.
Over and above all, was the damning lip-strapped Waterbury, ticking away
in the palm of her shaking, withered hand. At that hour, I think, the
Colonel's Wife realized a little of the restless suspicions she had
injected into old Laplace's mind, a little of poor Miss Haughtrey's
misery, and some of the canker that ate into Buxton's heart as he
watched his wife dying before his eyes. The Colonel stammered and tried
to explain. Then he remembered that his watch had disappeared; and the
mystery grew greater. The Colonel's Wife talked and prayed by turns
till she was tired, and went away to devise means for "chastening the
stubborn heart of her husband." Which translated, means, in our slang,
You see, being deeply impressed with the doctrine of Original Sin, she
could not believe in the face of appearances. She knew too much, and
jumped to the wildest conclusions.
But it was good for her. It spoilt her life, as she had spoilt the life
of the Laplaces. She had lost her faith in the Colonel, and--here the
creed-suspicion came in--he might, she argued, have erred many times,
before a merciful Providence, at the hands of so unworthy an instrument
as Mrs. Larkyn, had established his guilt. He was a bad, wicked,
gray-haired profligate. This may sound too sudden a revulsion for a
long-wedded wife; but it is a venerable fact that, if a man or woman
makes a practice of, and takes a delight in, believing and spreading
evil of people indifferent to him or her, he or she will end in
believing evil of folk very near and dear. You may think, also, that
the mere incident of the watch was too small and trivial to raise this
misunderstanding. It is another aged fact that, in life as well as
racing, all the worst accidents happen at little ditches and cut-down
fences. In the same way, you sometimes see a woman who would have made
Joan of Arc in another century and climate, threshing herself to pieces
over all the mean worry of housekeeping. But that is another story.
Her belief only made the Colonel's Wife more wretched, because it
insisted so strongly on the villainy of men. Remembering what she had
done, it was pleasant to watch her unhappiness, and the penny-farthing
attempts she made to hide it from the Station. But the Station knew and
laughed heartlessly; for they had heard the story of the watch, with
much dramatic gesture, from Mrs. Larkyn's lips.
Once or twice Platte said to Mrs. Larkyn, seeing that the Colonel had
not cleared himself:--"This thing has gone far enough. I move we tell
the Colonel's Wife how it happened." Mrs. Larkyn shut her lips and shook
her head, and vowed that the Colonel's Wife must bear her punishment
as best she could. Now Mrs. Larkyn was a frivolous woman, in whom none
would have suspected deep hate. So Platte took no action, and came to
believe gradually, from the Colonel's silence, that the Colonel must
have "run off the line" somewhere that night, and, therefore, preferred
to stand sentence on the lesser count of rambling into other people's
compounds out of calling hours. Platte forgot about the watch business
after a while, and moved down-country with his regiment. Mrs. Larkyn
went home when her husband's tour of Indian service expired. She never
But Platte was quite right when he said that the joke had gone too far.
The mistrust and the tragedy of it--which we outsiders cannot see and
do not believe in--are killing the Colonel's Wife, and are making the
Colonel wretched. If either of them read this story, they can depend
upon its being a fairly true account of the case, and can "kiss and make
Shakespeare alludes to the pleasure of watching an Engineer being
shelled by his own Battery. Now this shows that poets should not write
about what they do not understand. Any one could have told him that
Sappers and Gunners are perfectly different branches of the Service.
But, if you correct the sentence, and substitute Gunner for Sapper, the
moral comes just the same.
THE OTHER MAN.
When the earth was sick and the skies were gray,
And the woods were rotted with rain,
The Dead Man rode through the autumn day
To visit his love again.
Far back in the "seventies," before they had built any Public Offices at
Simla, and the broad road round Jakko lived in a pigeon-hole in the P.
W. D. hovels, her parents made Miss Gaurey marry Colonel Schriederling.
He could not have been MUCH more than thirty-five years her senior; and,
as he lived on two hundred rupees a month and had money of his own,
he was well off. He belonged to good people, and suffered in the cold
weather from lung complaints. In the hot weather he dangled on the brink
of heat-apoplexy; but it never quite killed him.
Understand, I do not blame Schriederling. He was a good husband
according to his lights, and his temper only failed him when he was
being nursed. Which was some seventeen days in each month. He was
generous to his wife about money matters, and that, for him, was a
concession. Still Mrs. Schreiderling was not happy. They married her
when she was this side of twenty and had given all her poor little heart
to another man. I have forgotten his name, but we will call him
the Other Man. He had no money and no prospects. He was not even
good-looking; and I think he was in the Commissariat or Transport. But,
in spite of all these things, she loved him very madly; and there was
some sort of an engagement between the two when Schreiderling appeared
and told Mrs. Gaurey that he wished to marry her daughter. Then the
other engagement was broken off--washed away by Mrs. Gaurey's tears,
for that lady governed her house by weeping over disobedience to her
authority and the lack of reverence she received in her old age. The
daughter did not take after her mother. She never cried. Not even at the
The Other Man bore his loss quietly, and was transferred to as bad a
station as he could find. Perhaps the climate consoled him. He suffered
from intermittent fever, and that may have distracted him from his other
trouble. He was weak about the heart also. Both ways. One of the valves
was affected, and the fever made it worse. This showed itself later on.
Then many months passed, and Mrs. Schreiderling took to being ill. She
did not pine away like people in story books, but she seemed to pick
up every form of illness that went about a station, from simple fever
upwards. She was never more than ordinarily pretty at the best of times;
and the illness made her ugly. Schreiderling said so. He prided himself
on speaking his mind.
When she ceased being pretty, he left her to her own devices, and went
back to the lairs of his bachelordom. She used to trot up and down Simla
Mall in a forlorn sort of way, with a gray Terai hat well on the back
of her head, and a shocking bad saddle under her. Schreiderling's
generosity stopped at the horse. He said that any saddle would do for
a woman as nervous as Mrs. Schreiderling. She never was asked to dance,
because she did not dance well; and she was so dull and uninteresting,
that her box very seldom had any cards in it. Schreiderling said that
if he had known that she was going to be such a scare-crow after her
marriage, he would never have married her. He always prided himself on
speaking his mind, did Schreiderling!
He left her at Simla one August, and went down to his regiment. Then she
revived a little, but she never recovered her looks. I found out at the
Club that the Other Man is coming up sick--very sick--on an off chance
of recovery. The fever and the heart-valves had nearly killed him. She
knew that, too, and she knew--what I had no interest in knowing--when
he was coming up. I suppose he wrote to tell her. They had not seen each
other since a month before the wedding. And here comes the unpleasant
part of the story.
A late call kept me down at the Dovedell Hotel till dusk one evening.
Mrs. Schreidlerling had been flitting up and down the Mall all the
afternoon in the rain. Coming up along the Cart-road, a tonga passed me,
and my pony, tired with standing so long, set off at a canter. Just by
the road down to the Tonga Office Mrs. Schreiderling, dripping from head
to foot, was waiting for the tonga. I turned up-hill, as the tonga was
no affair of mine; and just then she began to shriek. I went back at
once and saw, under the Tonga Office lamps, Mrs. Schreiderling kneeling
in the wet road by the back seat of the newly-arrived tonga, screaming
hideously. Then she fell face down in the dirt as I came up.
Sitting in the back seat, very square and firm, with one hand on the
awning-stanchion and the wet pouring off his hat and moustache, was the
Other Man--dead. The sixty-mile up-hill jolt had been too much for his
valve, I suppose. The tonga-driver said:--"The Sahib died two stages out
of Solon. Therefore, I tied him with a rope, lest he should fall out
by the way, and so came to Simla. Will the Sahib give me bukshish? IT,"
pointing to the Other Man, "should have given one rupee."
The Other Man sat with a grin on his face, as if he enjoyed the joke of
his arrival; and Mrs. Schreiderling, in the mud, began to groan. There
was no one except us four in the office and it was raining heavily. The
first thing was to take Mrs. Schreiderling home, and the second was to
prevent her name from being mixed up with the affair. The tonga-driver
received five rupees to find a bazar 'rickshaw for Mrs. Schreiderling.
He was to tell the tonga Babu afterwards of the Other Man, and the Babu
was to make such arrangements as seemed best.
Mrs. Schreiderling was carried into the shed out of the rain, and for
three-quarters of an hour we two waited for the 'rickshaw. The Other
Man was left exactly as he had arrived. Mrs. Schreiderling would do
everything but cry, which might have helped her. She tried to scream as
soon as her senses came back, and then she began praying for the Other
Man's soul. Had she not been as honest as the day, she would have prayed
for her own soul too. I waited to hear her do this, but she did not.
Then I tried to get some of the mud off her habit. Lastly, the 'rickshaw
came, and I got her away--partly by force. It was a terrible business
from beginning to end; but most of all when the 'rickshaw had to squeeze
between the wall and the tonga, and she saw by the lamp-light that thin,
yellow hand grasping the awning-stanchion.
She was taken home just as every one was going to a dance at Viceregal
Lodge--"Peterhoff" it was then--and the doctor found that she had fallen
from her horse, that I had picked her up at the back of Jakko, and
really deserved great credit for the prompt manner in which I had
secured medical aid. She did not die--men of Schreiderling's stamp marry
women who don't die easily. They live and grow ugly.
She never told of her one meeting, since her marriage, with the Other
Man; and, when the chill and cough following the exposure of that
evening, allowed her abroad, she never by word or sign alluded to having
met me by the Tonga Office. Perhaps she never knew.
She used to trot up and down the Mall, on that shocking bad saddle,
looking as if she expected to meet some one round the corner every
minute. Two years afterward, she went Home, and died--at Bournemouth, I
Schreiderling, when he grew maudlin at Mess, used to talk about "my
poor dear wife." He always set great store on speaking his mind, did
In the Orient had rise;
Ye may find their teachers still
Under Jacatala's Hill.
Seek ye Bombast Paracelsus,
Read what Flood the Seeker tells us
Of the Dominant that runs
Through the cycles of the Suns--
Read my story last and see
Luna at her apogee.
There are yearly appointments, and two-yearly appointments, and
five-yearly appointments at Simla, and there are, or used to be,
permanent appointments, whereon you stayed up for the term of your
natural life and secured red cheeks and a nice income. Of course, you
could descend in the cold weather; for Simla is rather dull then.
Tarrion came from goodness knows where--all away and away in some
forsaken part of Central India, where they call Pachmari a "Sanitarium,"
and drive behind trotting bullocks, I believe. He belonged to a
regiment; but what he really wanted to do was to escape from his
regiment and live in Simla forever and ever. He had no preference for
anything in particular, beyond a good horse and a nice partner. He
thought he could do everything well; which is a beautiful belief when
you hold it with all your heart. He was clever in many ways, and good to
look at, and always made people round him comfortable--even in Central
So he went up to Simla, and, because he was clever and amusing, he
gravitated naturally to Mrs. Hauksbee, who could forgive everything
but stupidity. Once he did her great service by changing the date on an
invitation-card for a big dance which Mrs. Hauksbee wished to attend,
but couldn't because she had quarrelled with the A.-D.-C., who took
care, being a mean man, to invite her to a small dance on the 6th
instead of the big Ball of the 26th. It was a very clever piece of
forgery; and when Mrs. Hauksbee showed the A.-D.-C. her invitation-card,
and chaffed him mildly for not better managing his vendettas, he really
thought he had made a mistake; and--which was wise--realized that it
was no use to fight with Mrs. Hauksbee. She was grateful to Tarrion and
asked what she could do for him. He said simply: "I'm a Freelance up
here on leave, and on the lookout for what I can loot. I haven't a
square inch of interest in all Simla. My name isn't known to any man
with an appointment in his gift, and I want an appointment--a good,
sound, pukka one. I believe you can do anything you turn yourself to do.
Will you help me?" Mrs. Hauksbee thought for a minute, and passed
the last of her riding-whip through her lips, as was her custom when
thinking. Then her eyes sparkled, and she said:--"I will;" and she shook
hands on it. Tarrion, having perfect confidence in this great woman,
took no further thought of the business at all. Except to wonder what
sort of an appointment he would win.
Mrs. Hauksbee began calculating the prices of all the Heads of
Departments and Members of Council she knew, and the more she thought
the more she laughed, because her heart was in the game and it amused
her. Then she took a Civil List and ran over a few of the appointments.
There are some beautiful appointments in the Civil List. Eventually, she
decided that, though Tarrion was too good for the Political Department,
she had better begin by trying to get him in there. What were her own
plans to this end, does not matter in the least, for Luck or Fate played
into her hands, and she had nothing to do but to watch the course of
events and take the credit of them.
All Viceroys, when they first come out, pass through the "Diplomatic
Secrecy" craze. It wears off in time; but they all catch it in the
beginning, because they are new to the country. The particular Viceroy
who was suffering from the complaint just then--this was a long time
ago, before Lord Dufferin ever came from Canada, or Lord Ripon from the
bosom of the English Church--had it very badly; and the result was that
men who were new to keeping official secrets went about looking unhappy;
and the Viceroy plumed himself on the way in which he had instilled
notions of reticence into his Staff.
Now, the Supreme Government have a careless custom of committing
what they do to printed papers. These papers deal with all sorts of
things--from the payment of Rs. 200 to a "secret service" native, up to
rebukes administered to Vakils and Motamids of Native States, and rather
brusque letters to Native Princes, telling them to put their houses
in order, to refrain from kidnapping women, or filling offenders with
pounded red pepper, and eccentricities of that kind. Of course, these
things could never be made public, because Native Princes never err
officially, and their States are, officially, as well administered as
Our territories. Also, the private allowances to various queer people
are not exactly matters to put into newspapers, though they give quaint
reading sometimes. When the Supreme Government is at Simla, these
are prepared there, and go round to the people who ought to see them in
office-boxes or by post. The principle of secrecy was to that Viceroy
quite as important as the practice, and he held that a benevolent
despotism like Ours should never allow even little things, such as
appointments of subordinate clerks, to leak out till the proper time. He
was always remarkable for his principles.
There was a very important batch of papers in preparation at that time.
It had to travel from one end of Simla to the other by hand. It was not
put into an official envelope, but a large, square, pale-pink one; the
matter being in MS. on soft crinkley paper. It was addressed to "The
Head Clerk, etc., etc." Now, between "The Head Clerk, etc., etc.,"
and "Mrs. Hauksbee" and a flourish, is no very great difference if the
address be written in a very bad hand, as this was. The chaprassi who
took the envelope was not more of an idiot than most chaprassis. He
merely forgot where this most unofficial cover was to be delivered, and
so asked the first Englishman he met, who happened to be a man riding
down to Annandale in a great hurry. The Englishman hardly looked, said:
"Hauksbee Sahib ki Mem," and went on. So did the chaprasss, because that
letter was the last in stock and he wanted to get his work over. There
was no book to sign; he thrust the letter into Mrs. Hauksbee's bearer's
hands and went off to smoke with a friend. Mrs. Hauksbee was expecting
some cut-out pattern things in flimsy paper from a friend. As soon
as she got the big square packet, therefore, she said, "Oh, the
DEAR creature!" and tore it open with a paper-knife, and all the MS.
enclosures tumbled out on the floor.
Mrs. Hauksbee began reading. I have said the batch was rather
important. That is quite enough for you to know. It referred to some
correspondence, two measures, a peremptory order to a native chief and
two dozen other things. Mrs. Hauksbee gasped as she read, for the first
glimpse of the naked machinery of the Great Indian Government, stripped
of its casings, and lacquer, and paint, and guard-rails, impresses even
the most stupid man. And Mrs. Hauksbee was a clever woman. She was
a little afraid at first, and felt as if she had laid hold of a
lightning-flash by the tail, and did not quite know what to do with it.
There were remarks and initials at the side of the papers; and some
of the remarks were rather more severe than the papers. The initials
belonged to men who are all dead or gone now; but they were great in
their day. Mrs. Hauksbee read on and thought calmly as she read. Then
the value of her trove struck her, and she cast about for the best
method of using it. Then Tarrion dropped in, and they read through all
the papers together, and Tarrion, not knowing how she had come by
them, vowed that Mrs. Hauksbee was the greatest woman on earth. Which I
believe was true, or nearly so.
"The honest course is always the best," said Tarrion after an hour and a
half of study and conversation. "All things considered, the Intelligence
Branch is about my form. Either that or the Foreign Office. I go to lay
siege to the High Gods in their Temples."
He did not seek a little man, or a little big man, or a weak Head of a
strong Department, but he called on the biggest and strongest man that
the Government owned, and explained that he wanted an appointment at
Simla on a good salary. The compound insolence of this amused the Strong
Man, and, as he had nothing to do for the moment, he listened to the
proposals of the audacious Tarrion. "You have, I presume, some special
qualifications, besides the gift of self-assertion, for the claims you
put forwards?" said the Strong Man. "That, Sir," said Tarrion, "is for
you to judge." Then he began, for he had a good memory, quoting a few of
the more important notes in the papers--slowly and one by one as a
man drops chlorodyne into a glass. When he had reached the peremptory
order--and it WAS a peremptory order--the Strong Man was troubled.
Tarrion wound up:--"And I fancy that special knowledge of this kind is
at least as valuable for, let us say, a berth in the Foreign Office, as
the fact of being the nephew of a distinguished officer's wife." That hit
the Strong Man hard, for the last appointment to the Foreign Office had
been by black favor, and he knew it. "I'll see what I can do for you,"
said the Strong Man. "Many thanks," said Tarrion. Then he left, and the
Strong Man departed to see how the appointment was to be blocked.
. . . . . . . . .
Followed a pause of eleven days; with thunders and lightnings and much
telegraphing. The appointment was not a very important one, carrying
only between Rs. 500 and Rs. 700 a month; but, as the Viceroy said, it
was the principle of diplomatic secrecy that had to be maintained,
and it was more than likely that a boy so well supplied with special
information would be worth translating. So they translated him. They
must have suspected him, though he protested that his information was
due to singular talents of his own. Now, much of this story, including
the after-history of the missing envelope, you must fill in for
yourself, because there are reasons why it cannot be written. If you do
not know about things Up Above, you won't understand how to fill it in,
and you will say it is impossible.
What the Viceroy said when Tarrion was introduced to him was:--"So, this
is the boy who 'rusked' the Government of India, is it? Recollect, Sir,
that is not done TWICE." So he must have known something.
What Tarrion said when he saw his appointment gazetted was:--"If Mrs.
Hauksbee were twenty years younger, and I her husband, I should be
Viceroy of India in twenty years."
What Mrs. Hauksbee said, when Tarrion thanked her, almost with tears
in his eyes, was first:--"I told you so!" and next, to herself:--"What
fools men are!"
THE CONVERSION OF AURELIAN McGOGGIN.
Ride with an idle whip, ride with an unused heel.
But, once in a way, there will come a day
When the colt must be taught to feel
The lash that falls, and the curb that galls,
and the sting of the rowelled steel.
This is not a tale exactly. It is a Tract; and I am immensely proud of
it. Making a Tract is a Feat.
Every man is entitled to his own religious opinions; but no man--least
of all a junior--has a right to thrust these down other men's throats.
The Government sends out weird Civilians now and again; but McGoggin
was the queerest exported for a long time. He was clever--brilliantly
clever--but his cleverness worked the wrong way. Instead of keeping to
the study of the vernaculars, he had read some books written by a
man called Comte, I think, and a man called Spencer, and a Professor
Clifford. [You will find these books in the Library.] They deal with
people's insides from the point of view of men who have no stomachs.
There was no order against his reading them; but his Mamma should have
smacked him. They fermented in his head, and he came out to India with
a rarefied religion over and above his work. It was not much of a
creed. It only proved that men had no souls, and there was no God and
no hereafter, and that you must worry along somehow for the good of
One of its minor tenets seemed to be that the one thing more sinful than
giving an order was obeying it. At least, that was what McGoggin said;
but I suspect he had misread his primers.
I do not say a word against this creed. It was made up in Town, where
there is nothing but machinery and asphalt and building--all shut in
by the fog. Naturally, a man grows to think that there is no one higher
than himself, and that the Metropolitan Board of Works made everything.
But in this country, where you really see humanity--raw, brown, naked
humanity--with nothing between it and the blazing sky, and only the
used-up, over-handled earth underfoot, the notion somehow dies away,
and most folk come back to simpler theories. Life, in India, is not long
enough to waste in proving that there is no one in particular at the
head of affairs. For this reason. The Deputy is above the Assistant,
the Commissioner above the Deputy, the Lieutenant-Governor above the
Commissioner, and the Viceroy above all four, under the orders of the
Secretary of State, who is responsible to the Empress. If the Empress
be not responsible to her Maker--if there is no Maker for her to be
responsible to--the entire system of Our administration must be wrong.
Which is manifestly impossible. At Home men are to be excused. They are
stalled up a good deal and get intellectually "beany." When you take a
gross, "beany" horse to exercise, he slavers and slobbers over the bit
till you can't see the horns. But the bit is there just the same. Men do
not get "beany" in India. The climate and the work are against playing
bricks with words.
If McGoggin had kept his creed, with the capital letters and the endings
in "isms," to himself, no one would have cared; but his grandfathers on
both sides had been Wesleyan preachers, and the preaching strain came
out in his mind. He wanted every one at the Club to see that they had no
souls too, and to help him to eliminate his Creator. As a good many men
told him, HE undoubtedly had no soul, because he was so young, but it
did not follow that his seniors were equally undeveloped; and, whether
there was another world or not, a man still wanted to read his papers in
this. "But that is not the point--that is not the point!" Aurelian used
to say. Then men threw sofa-cushions at him and told him to go to
any particular place he might believe in. They christened him the
"Blastoderm"--he said he came from a family of that name somewhere, in
the pre-historic ages--and, by insult and laughter, strove to choke him
dumb, for he was an unmitigated nuisance at the Club; besides being an
offence to the older men. His Deputy Commissioner, who was working on
the Frontier when Aurelian was rolling on a bed-quilt, told him that,
for a clever boy, Aurelian was a very big idiot. And, you know, if
he had gone on with his work, he would have been caught up to the
Secretariat in a few years. He was just the type that goes there--all
head, no physique and a hundred theories. Not a soul was interested in
McGoggin's soul. He might have had two, or none, or somebody's else's.
His business was to obey orders and keep abreast of his files instead of
devastating the Club with "isms."
He worked brilliantly; but he could not accept any order without
trying to better it. That was the fault of his creed. It made men too
responsible and left too much to their honor. You can sometimes ride an
old horse in a halter; but never a colt. McGoggin took more trouble
over his cases than any of the men of his year. He may have fancied that
thirty-page judgments on fifty-rupee cases--both sides perjured to the
gullet--advanced the cause of Humanity. At any rate, he worked too much,
and worried and fretted over the rebukes he received, and lectured away
on his ridiculous creed out of office, till the Doctor had to warn him
that he was overdoing it. No man can toil eighteen annas in the rupee
in June without suffering. But McGoggin was still intellectually "beany"
and proud of himself and his powers, and he would take no hint. He
worked nine hours a day steadily.
"Very well," said the doctor, "you'll break down because you are
over-engined for your beam." McGoggin was a little chap.
One day, the collapse came--as dramatically as if it had been meant to
embellish a Tract.
It was just before the Rains. We were sitting in the verandah in the
dead, hot, close air, gasping and praying that the black-blue clouds
would let down and bring the cool. Very, very far away, there was a
faint whisper, which was the roar of the Rains breaking over the river.
One of the men heard it, got out of his chair, listened, and said,
naturally enough:--"Thank God!"
Then the Blastoderm turned in his place and said:--"Why? I assure you
it's only the result of perfectly natural causes--atmospheric phenomena
of the simplest kind. Why you should, therefore, return thanks to a
Being who never did exist--who is only a figment--"
"Blastoderm," grunted the man in the next chair, "dry up, and throw
me over the Pioneer. We know all about your figments." The Blastoderm
reached out to the table, took up one paper, and jumped as if something
had stung him. Then he handed the paper over.
"As I was saying," he went on slowly and with an effort--"due to
perfectly natural causes--perfectly natural causes. I mean--"
"Hi! Blastoderm, you've given me the Calcutta Mercantile Advertiser."
The dust got up in little whorls, while the treetops rocked and the
kites whistled. But no one was looking at the coming of the Rains. We
were all staring at the Blastoderm, who had risen from his chair and was
fighting with his speech. Then he said, still more slowly:--
"Blastoderm's drunk," said one man. But the Blastoderm was not drunk. He
looked at us in a dazed sort of way, and began motioning with his hands
in the half light as the clouds closed overhead. Then--with a scream:--
"What is it?--Can't--reserve--attainable--market--obscure--"
But his speech seemed to freeze in him, and--just as the lightning shot
two tongues that cut the whole sky into three pieces and the rain fell
in quivering sheets--the Blastoderm was struck dumb. He stood pawing and
champing like a hard-held horse, and his eyes were full of terror.
The Doctor came over in three minutes, and heard the story. "It's
aphasia," he said. "Take him to his room. I KNEW the smash would come."
We carried the Blastoderm across, in the pouring rain, to his quarters,
and the Doctor gave him bromide of potassium to make him sleep.
Then the Doctor came back to us and told us that aphasia was like all
the arrears of "Punjab Head" falling in a lump; and that only once
before--in the case of a sepoy--had he met with so complete a case.
I myself have seen mild aphasia in an overworked man, but this sudden
dumbness was uncanny--though, as the Blastoderm himself might have
said, due to "perfectly natural causes."
"He'll have to take leave after this," said the Doctor. "He won't be
fit for work for another three months. No; it isn't insanity or anything
like it. It's only complete loss of control over the speech and memory.
I fancy it will keep the Blastoderm quiet, though."
Two days later, the Blastoderm found his tongue again. The first
question he asked was: "What was it?" The Doctor enlightened him. "But I
can't understand it!" said the Blastoderm; "I'm quite sane; but I can't
be sure of my mind, it seems--my OWN memory--can I?"
"Go up into the Hills for three months, and don't think about it," said
"But I can't understand it," repeated the Blastoderm. "It was my OWN
mind and memory."
"I can't help it," said the Doctor; "there are a good many things you
can't understand; and, by the time you have put in my length of service,
you'll know exactly how much a man dare call his own in this world."
The stroke cowed the Blastoderm. He could not understand it. He went
into the Hills in fear and trembling, wondering whether he would be
permitted to reach the end of any sentence he began.
This gave him a wholesome feeling of mistrust. The legitimate
explanation, that he had been overworking himself, failed to satisfy
him. Something had wiped his lips of speech, as a mother wipes the milky
lips of her child, and he was afraid--horribly afraid.
So the Club had rest when he returned; and if ever you come across
Aurelian McGoggin laying down the law on things Human--he doesn't seem
to know as much as he used to about things Divine--put your forefinger
on your lip for a moment, and see what happens.
Don't blame me if he throws a glass at your head!
A GERM DESTROYER.
Pleasant it is for the Little Tin Gods,
When great Jove nods;
But Little Tin Gods make their little mistakes
In missing the hour when great Jove wakes.
As a general rule, it is inexpedient to meddle with questions of State
in a land where men are highly paid to work them out for you. This tale
is a justifiable exception.
Once in every five years, as you know, we indent for a new Viceroy; and
each Viceroy imports, with the rest of his baggage, a Private Secretary,
who may or may not be the real Viceroy, just as Fate ordains. Fate looks
after the Indian Empire because it is so big and so helpless.
There was a Viceroy once, who brought out with him a turbulent Private
Secretary--a hard man with a soft manner and a morbid passion for
work. This Secretary was called Wonder--John Fennil Wonder. The Viceroy
possessed no name--nothing but a string of counties and two-thirds
of the alphabet after them. He said, in confidence, that he was the
electro-plated figurehead of a golden administration, and he watched
in a dreamy, amused way Wonder's attempts to draw matters which were
entirely outside his province into his own hands. "When we are all
cherubims together," said His Excellency once, "my dear, good friend
Wonder will head the conspiracy for plucking out Gabriel's tail-feathers
or stealing Peter's keys. THEN I shall report him."
But, though the Viceroy did nothing to check Wonder's officiousness,
other people said unpleasant things. Maybe the Members of Council began
it; but, finally, all Simla agreed that there was "too much Wonder,
and too little Viceroy," in that regime. Wonder was always quoting "His
Excellency." It was "His Excellency this," "His Excellency that," "In
the opinion of His Excellency," and so on. The Viceroy smiled; but he
did not heed. He said that, so long as his old men squabbled with his
"dear, good Wonder," they might be induced to leave the "Immemorial
East" in peace.
"No wise man has a policy," said the Viceroy. "A Policy is the blackmail
levied on the Fool by the Unforeseen. I am not the former, and I do not
believe in the latter."
I do not quite see what this means, unless it refers to an Insurance
Policy. Perhaps it was the Viceroy's way of saying:--"Lie low."
That season, came up to Simla one of these crazy people with only a
single idea. These are the men who make things move; but they are not
nice to talk to. This man's name was Mellish, and he had lived for
fifteen years on land of his own, in Lower Bengal, studying cholera. He
held that cholera was a germ that propagated itself as it flew through a
muggy atmosphere; and stuck in the branches of trees like a wool-flake.
The germ could be rendered sterile, he said, by "Mellish's Own
Invincible Fumigatory"--a heavy violet-black powder--"the result of
fifteen years' scientific investigation, Sir!"
Inventors seem very much alike as a caste. They talk loudly, especially
about "conspiracies of monopolists;" they beat upon the table with
their fists; and they secrete fragments of their inventions about their
Mellish said that there was a Medical "Ring" at Simla, headed by the
Surgeon-General, who was in league, apparently, with all the Hospital
Assistants in the Empire. I forget exactly how he proved it, but it had
something to do with "skulking up to the Hills;" and what Mellish
wanted was the independent evidence of the Viceroy--"Steward of our
Most Gracious Majesty the Queen, Sir." So Mellish went up to Simla, with
eighty-four pounds of Fumigatory in his trunk, to speak to the Viceroy
and to show him the merits of the invention.
But it is easier to see a Viceroy than to talk to him, unless you chance
to be as important as Mellishe of Madras. He was a six-thousand-rupee
man, so great that his daughters never "married." They "contracted
alliances." He himself was not paid. He "received emoluments," and his
journeys about the country were "tours of observation." His business was
to stir up the people in Madras with a long pole--as you stir up stench
in a pond--and the people had to come up out of their comfortable old
ways and gasp:--"This is Enlightenment and progress. Isn't it fine!"
Then they gave Mellishe statues and jasmine garlands, in the hope of
getting rid of him.
Mellishe came up to Simla "to confer with the Viceroy." That was one of
his perquisites. The Viceroy knew nothing of Mellishe except that he was
"one of those middle-class deities who seem necessary to the spiritual
comfort of this Paradise of the Middle-classes," and that, in all
probability, he had "suggested, designed, founded, and endowed all the
public institutions in Madras." Which proves that His Excellency, though
dreamy, had experience of the ways of six-thousand-rupee men.
Mellishe's name was E. Mellishe and Mellish's was E. S. Mellish, and
they were both staying at the same hotel, and the Fate that looks after
the Indian Empire ordained that Wonder should blunder and drop the final
"e;" that the Chaprassi should help him, and that the note which ran:
"Dear Mr. Mellish.--Can you set aside your other engagements and lunch
with us at two to-morrow? His Excellency has an hour at your disposal
then," should be given to Mellish with the Fumigatory. He nearly wept
with pride and delight, and at the appointed hour cantered off to
Peterhoff, a big paper-bag full of the Fumigatory in his coat-tail
pockets. He had his chance, and he meant to make the most of
it. Mellishe of Madras had been so portentously solemn about his
"conference," that Wonder had arranged for a private tiffin--no A.-D.
C.'s, no Wonder, no one but the Viceroy, who said plaintively that he
feared being left alone with unmuzzled autocrats like the great Mellishe
But his guest did not bore the Viceroy. On the contrary, he amused him.
Mellish was nervously anxious to go straight to his Fumigatory, and
talked at random until tiffin was over and His Excellency asked him
to smoke. The Viceroy was pleased with Mellish because he did not talk
As soon as the cheroots were lit, Mellish spoke like a man; beginning
with his cholera-theory, reviewing his fifteen years' "scientific
labors," the machinations of the "Simla Ring," and the excellence of
his Fumigatory, while the Viceroy watched him between half-shut eyes
and thought: "Evidently, this is the wrong tiger; but it is an original
animal." Mellish's hair was standing on end with excitement, and he
stammered. He began groping in his coat-tails and, before the Viceroy
knew what was about to happen, he had tipped a bagful of his powder into
the big silver ash-tray.
"J-j-judge for yourself, Sir," said Mellish. "Y' Excellency shall judge
for yourself! Absolutely infallible, on my honor."
He plunged the lighted end of his cigar into the powder, which began to
smoke like a volcano, and send up fat, greasy wreaths of copper-colored
smoke. In five seconds the room was filled with a most pungent and
sickening stench--a reek that took fierce hold of the trap of your
windpipe and shut it. The powder then hissed and fizzed, and sent out
blue and green sparks, and the smoke rose till you could neither see,
nor breathe, nor gasp. Mellish, however, was used to it.
"Nitrate of strontia," he shouted; "baryta, bone-meal, etcetera!
Thousand cubic feet smoke per cubic inch. Not a germ could live--not a
germ, Y' Excellency!"
But His Excellency had fled, and was coughing at the foot of the stairs,
while all Peterhoff hummed like a hive. Red Lancers came in, and the
Head Chaprassi, who speaks English, came in, and mace-bearers came in,
and ladies ran downstairs screaming "fire;" for the smoke was drifting
through the house and oozing out of the windows, and bellying along the
verandahs, and wreathing and writhing across the gardens. No one could
enter the room where Mellish was lecturing on his Fumigatory, till that
unspeakable powder had burned itself out.
Then an Aide-de-Camp, who desired the V. C., rushed through the rolling
clouds and hauled Mellish into the hall. The Viceroy was prostrate with
laughter, and could only waggle his hands feebly at Mellish, who was
shaking a fresh bagful of powder at him.
"Glorious! Glorious!" sobbed his Excellency. "Not a germ, as you justly
observe, could exist! I can swear it. A magnificent success!"
Then he laughed till the tears came, and Wonder, who had caught the real
Mellishe snorting on the Mall, entered and was deeply shocked at the
scene. But the Viceroy was delighted, because he saw that Wonder would
presently depart. Mellish with the Fumigatory was also pleased, for he
felt that he had smashed the Simla Medical "Ring."
. . . . . . . . .
Few men could tell a story like His Excellency when he took the trouble,
and the account of "my dear, good Wonder's friend with the powder"
went the round of Simla, and flippant folk made Wonder unhappy by their
But His Excellency told the tale once too often--for Wonder. As he meant
to do. It was at a Seepee Picnic. Wonder was sitting just behind the
"And I really thought for a moment," wound up His Excellency, "that my
dear, good Wonder had hired an assassin to clear his way to the throne!"
Every one laughed; but there was a delicate subtinkle in the Viceroy's
tone which Wonder understood. He found that his health was giving way;
and the Viceroy allowed him to go, and presented him with a flaming
"character" for use at Home among big people.
"My fault entirely," said His Excellency, in after seasons, with
a twinkling in his eye. "My inconsistency must always have been
distasteful to such a masterly man."
There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken any way you please, is bad,
And strands them in forsaken guts and creeks
No decent soul would think of visiting.
You cannot stop the tide; but now and then,
You may arrest some rash adventurer
Who--h'm--will hardly thank you for your pains.
We are a high-caste and enlightened race, and infant-marriage is very
shocking and the consequences are sometimes peculiar; but, nevertheless,
the Hindu notion--which is the Continental notion--which is the
aboriginal notion--of arranging marriages irrespective of the personal
inclinations of the married, is sound. Think for a minute, and you will
see that it must be so; unless, of course, you believe in "affinities."
In which case you had better not read this tale. How can a man who has
never married; who cannot be trusted to pick up at sight a moderately
sound horse; whose head is hot and upset with visions of domestic
felicity, go about the choosing of a wife? He cannot see straight or
think straight if he tries; and the same disadvantages exist in the
case of a girl's fancies. But when mature, married and discreet people
arrange a match between a boy and a girl, they do it sensibly, with a
view to the future, and the young couple live happily ever afterwards.
As everybody knows.
Properly speaking, Government should establish a Matrimonial Department,
efficiently officered, with a Jury of Matrons, a Judge of the Chief
Court, a Senior Chaplain, and an Awful Warning, in the shape of a
love-match that has gone wrong, chained to the trees in the courtyard.
All marriages should be made through the Department, which might be
subordinate to the Educational Department, under the same penalty as
that attaching to the transfer of land without a stamped document. But
Government won't take suggestions. It pretends that it is too busy.
However, I will put my notion on record, and explain the example that
illustrates the theory.
Once upon a time there was a good young man--a first-class officer in
his own Department--a man with a career before him and, possibly, a K.
C. G. E. at the end of it. All his superiors spoke well of him, because
he knew how to hold his tongue and his pen at the proper times. There
are to-day only eleven men in India who possess this secret; and they
have all, with one exception, attained great honor and enormous incomes.
This good young man was quiet and self-contained--too old for his years
by far. Which always carries its own punishment. Had a Subaltern, or a
Tea-Planter's Assistant, or anybody who enjoys life and has no care for
to-morrow, done what he tried to do not a soul would have cared.
But when Peythroppe--the estimable, virtuous, economical, quiet,
hard-working, young Peythroppe--fell, there was a flutter through five
The manner of his fall was in this way. He met a Miss
Castries--d'Castries it was originally, but the family dropped the
d' for administrative reasons--and he fell in love with her even more
energetically that he worked. Understand clearly that there was not a
breath of a word to be said against Miss Castries--not a shadow of a
breath. She was good and very lovely--possessed what innocent people at
home call a "Spanish" complexion, with thick blue-black hair growing low
down on her forehead, into a "widow's peak," and big violet eyes
under eyebrows as black and as straight as the borders of a Gazette
Extraordinary when a big man dies. But--but--but--. Well, she was a VERY
sweet girl and very pious, but for many reasons she was "impossible."
Quite so. All good Mammas know what "impossible" means. It was obviously
absurd that Peythroppe should marry her. The little opal-tinted onyx
at the base of her finger-nails said this as plainly as print.
Further, marriage with Miss Castries meant marriage with several other
Castries--Honorary Lieutenant Castries, her Papa, Mrs. Eulalie Castries,
her Mamma, and all the ramifications of the Castries family, on incomes
ranging from Rs. 175 to Rs. 470 a month, and THEIR wives and connections
It would have been cheaper for Peythroppe to have assaulted a
Commissioner with a dog-whip, or to have burned the records of a Deputy
Commissioner's Office, than to have contracted an alliance with the
Castries. It would have weighted his after-career less--even under a
Government which never forgets and NEVER forgives. Everybody saw this
but Peythroppe. He was going to marry Miss Castries, he was--being of
age and drawing a good income--and woe betide the house that would not
afterwards receive Mrs. Virginie Saulez Peythroppe with the deference
due to her husband's rank. That was Peythroppe's ultimatum, and any
remonstrance drove him frantic.
These sudden madnesses most afflict the sanest men. There was a case
once--but I will tell you of that later on. You cannot account for the
mania, except under a theory directly contradicting the one about the
Place wherein marriages are made. Peythroppe was burningly anxious to
put a millstone round his neck at the outset of his career and argument
had not the least effect on him. He was going to marry Miss Castries,
and the business was his own business. He would thank you to keep your
advice to yourself. With a man in this condition, mere words only fix
him in his purpose. Of course he cannot see that marriage out here does
not concern the individual but the Government he serves.
Do you remember Mrs. Hauksbee--the most wonderful woman in India? She
saved Pluffles from Mrs. Reiver, won Tarrion his appointment in the
Foreign Office, and was defeated in open field by Mrs. Cusack-Bremmil.
She heard of the lamentable condition of Peythroppe, and her brain
struck out the plan that saved him. She had the wisdom of the Serpent,
the logical coherence of the Man, the fearlessness of the Child, and
the triple intuition of the Woman. Never--no, never--as long as a tonga
buckets down the Solon dip, or the couples go a-riding at the back of
Summer Hill, will there be such a genius as Mrs. Hauksbee. She attended
the consultation of Three Men on Peythroppe's case; and she stood up
with the lash of her riding-whip between her lips and spake.
. . . . . . . . .
Three weeks later, Peythroppe dined with the Three Men, and the Gazette
of India came in. Peythroppe found to his surprise that he had been
gazetted a month's leave. Don't ask me how this was managed. I believe
firmly that if Mrs. Hauksbee gave the order, the whole Great Indian
Administration would stand on its head.
The Three Men had also a month's leave each. Peythroppe put the Gazette
down and said bad words. Then there came from the compound the soft
"pad-pad" of camels--"thieves' camels," the bikaneer breed that don't
bubble and howl when they sit down and get up.
After that I don't know what happened. This much is certain. Peythroppe
disappeared--vanished like smoke--and the long foot-rest chair in the
house of the Three Men was broken to splinters. Also a bedstead departed
from one of the bedrooms.
Mrs. Hauksbee said that Mr. Peythroppe was shooting in Rajputana with
the Three Men; so we were compelled to believe her.
At the end of the month, Peythroppe was gazetted twenty days' extension
of leave; but there was wrath and lamentation in the house of Castries.
The marriage-day had been fixed, but the bridegroom never came; and the
D'Silvas, Pereiras, and Ducketts lifted their voices and mocked Honorary
Lieutenant Castries as one who had been basely imposed upon. Mrs.
Hauksbee went to the wedding, and was much astonished when Peythroppe
did not appear. After seven weeks, Peythroppe and the Three Men returned
from Rajputana. Peythroppe was in hard, tough condition, rather white,
and more self-contained than ever.
One of the Three Men had a cut on his nose, cause by the kick of a gun.
Twelve-bores kick rather curiously.
Then came Honorary Lieutenant Castries, seeking for the blood of his
perfidious son-in-law to be. He said things--vulgar and "impossible"
things which showed the raw rough "ranker" below the "Honorary," and I
fancy Peythroppe's eyes were opened. Anyhow, he held his peace till the
end; when he spoke briefly. Honorary Lieutenant Castries asked for a
"peg" before he went away to die or bring a suit for breach of promise.
Miss Castries was a very good girl. She said that she would have no
breach of promise suits. She said that, if she was not a lady, she
was refined enough to know that ladies kept their broken hearts to
themselves; and, as she ruled her parents, nothing happened. Later on,
she married a most respectable and gentlemanly person. He travelled for
an enterprising firm in Calcutta, and was all that a good husband should
So Peythroppe came to his right mind again, and did much good work, and
was honored by all who knew him. One of these days he will marry; but he
will marry a sweet pink-and-white maiden, on the Government House List,
with a little money and some influential connections, as every wise man
should. And he will never, all his life, tell her what happened during
the seven weeks of his shooting-tour in Rajputana.
But just think how much trouble and expense--for camel hire is not
cheap, and those Bikaneer brutes had to be fed like humans--might have
been saved by a properly conducted Matrimonial Department, under the
control of the Director General of Education, but corresponding direct
with the Viceroy.
THE ARREST OF LIEUTENANT GOLIGHTLY.
"'I've forgotten the countersign,' sez 'e.
'Oh! You 'aye, 'ave you?' sez I.
'But I'm the Colonel,' sez 'e.
'Oh! You are, are you?' sez I. 'Colonel nor no Colonel, you waits
'ere till I'm relieved, an' the Sarjint reports on your ugly old
mug. Coop!' sez I.
. . . . . . . . .
An' s'help me soul, 'twas the Colonel after all! But I was a
The Unedited Autobiography of Private Ortheris.
IF there was one thing on which Golightly prided himself more than
another, it was looking like "an Officer and a gentleman." He said it
was for the honor of the Service that he attired himself so elaborately;
but those who knew him best said that it was just personal vanity. There
was no harm about Golightly--not an ounce. He recognized a horse when
he saw one, and could do more than fill a cantle. He played a very fair
game at billiards, and was a sound man at the whist-table. Everyone
liked him; and nobody ever dreamed of seeing him handcuffed on a station
platform as a deserter. But this sad thing happened.
He was going down from Dalhousie, at the end of his leave--riding down.
He had cut his leave as fine as he dared, and wanted to come down in a
It was fairly warm at Dalhousie, and knowing what to expect below, he
descended in a new khaki suit--tight fitting--of a delicate olive-green;
a peacock-blue tie, white collar, and a snowy white solah helmet. He
prided himself on looking neat even when he was riding post. He did
look neat, and he was so deeply concerned about his appearance before he
started that he quite forgot to take anything but some small change with
him. He left all his notes at the hotel. His servants had gone down the
road before him, to be ready in waiting at Pathankote with a change of
gear. That was what he called travelling in "light marching-order." He
was proud of his faculty of organization--what we call bundobust.
Twenty-two miles out of Dalhousie it began to rain--not a mere
hill-shower, but a good, tepid monsoonish downpour. Golightly bustled
on, wishing that he had brought an umbrella. The dust on the roads
turned into mud, and the pony mired a good deal. So did Golightly's
khaki gaiters. But he kept on steadily and tried to think how pleasant
the coolth was.
His next pony was rather a brute at starting, and Golightly's hands
being slippery with the rain, contrived to get rid of Golightly at a
corner. He chased the animal, caught it, and went ahead briskly. The
spill had not improved his clothes or his temper, and he had lost one
spur. He kept the other one employed. By the time that stage was ended,
the pony had had as much exercise as he wanted, and, in spite of the
rain, Golightly was sweating freely. At the end of another miserable
half-hour, Golightly found the world disappear before his eyes in clammy
pulp. The rain had turned the pith of his huge and snowy solah-topee
into an evil-smelling dough, and it had closed on his head like a
half-opened mushroom. Also the green lining was beginning to run.
Golightly did not say anything worth recording here. He tore off and
squeezed up as much of the brim as was in his eyes and ploughed on. The
back of the helmet was flapping on his neck and the sides stuck to
his ears, but the leather band and green lining kept things roughly
together, so that the hat did not actually melt away where it flapped.
Presently, the pulp and the green stuff made a sort of slimy mildew
which ran over Golightly in several directions--down his back and
bosom for choice. The khaki color ran too--it was really shockingly bad
dye--and sections of Golightly were brown, and patches were violet,
and contours were ochre, and streaks were ruddy red, and blotches were
nearly white, according to the nature and peculiarities of the dye.
When he took out his handkerchief to wipe his face and the green of the
hat-lining and the purple stuff that had soaked through on to his neck
from the tie became thoroughly mixed, the effect was amazing.
Near Dhar the rain stopped and the evening sun came out and dried him up
slightly. It fixed the colors, too. Three miles from Pathankote the last
pony fell dead lame, and Golightly was forced to walk. He pushed on
into Pathankote to find his servants. He did not know then that his
khitmatgar had stopped by the roadside to get drunk, and would come on
the next day saying that he had sprained his ankle. When he got into
Pathankote, he couldn't find his servants, his boots were stiff and ropy
with mud, and there were large quantities of dirt about his body. The
blue tie had run as much as the khaki. So he took it off with the collar
and threw it away. Then he said something about servants generally and
tried to get a peg. He paid eight annas for the drink, and this revealed
to him that he had only six annas more in his pocket--or in the world as
he stood at that hour.
He went to the Station-Master to negotiate for a first-class ticket to
Khasa, where he was stationed. The booking-clerk said something to
the Station-Master, the Station-Master said something to the Telegraph
Clerk, and the three looked at him with curiosity. They asked him to
wait for half-an-hour, while they telegraphed to Umritsar for
authority. So he waited, and four constables came and grouped themselves
picturesquely round him. Just as he was preparing to ask them to go
away, the Station-Master said that he would give the Sahib a ticket
to Umritsar, if the Sahib would kindly come inside the booking-office.
Golightly stepped inside, and the next thing he knew was that a
constable was attached to each of his legs and arms, while the
Station-Master was trying to cram a mailbag over his head.
There was a very fair scuffle all round the booking-office, and
Golightly received a nasty cut over his eye through falling against
a table. But the constables were too much for him, and they and the
Station-Master handcuffed him securely. As soon as the mail-bag was
slipped, he began expressing his opinions, and the head-constable
said:--"Without doubt this is the soldier-Englishman we required. Listen
to the abuse!" Then Golightly asked the Station-Master what the this
and the that the proceedings meant. The Station-Master told him he was
"Private John Binkle of the ---- Regiment, 5 ft. 9 in., fair hair,
gray eyes, and a dissipated appearance, no marks on the body," who had
deserted a fortnight ago. Golightly began explaining at great length;
and the more he explained the less the Station-Master believed him. He
said that no Lieutenant could look such a ruffian as did Golightly, and
that his instructions were to send his capture under proper escort to
Umritsar. Golightly was feeling very damp and uncomfortable, and the
language he used was not fit for publication, even in an expurgated
form. The four constables saw him safe to Umritsar in an "intermediate"
compartment, and he spent the four-hour journey in abusing them as
fluently as his knowledge of the vernaculars allowed.
At Umritsar he was bundled out on the platform into the arms of a
Corporal and two men of the ---- Regiment. Golightly drew himself up
and tried to carry off matters jauntily. He did not feel too jaunty in
handcuffs, with four constables behind him, and the blood from the
cut on his forehead stiffening on his left cheek. The Corporal was not
jocular either. Golightly got as far as--"This is a very absurd mistake,
my men," when the Corporal told him to "stow his lip" and come along.
Golightly did not want to come along. He desired to stop and explain.
He explained very well indeed, until the Corporal cut in with:--"YOU
a orficer! It's the like o' YOU as brings disgrace on the likes of US.
Bloom-in' fine orficer you are! I know your regiment. The Rogue's
March is the quickstep where you come from. You're a black shame to the
Golightly kept his temper, and began explaining all over again from the
beginning. Then he was marched out of the rain into the refreshment-room
and told not to make a qualified fool of himself. The men were going to
run him up to Fort Govindghar. And "running up" is a performance almost
as undignified as the Frog March.
Golightly was nearly hysterical with rage and the chill and the mistake
and the handcuffs and the headache that the cut on his forehead had
given him. He really laid himself out to express what was in his mind.
When he had quite finished and his throat was feeling dry, one of the
men said:--"I've 'eard a few beggars in the click blind, stiff and crack
on a bit; but I've never 'eard any one to touch this 'ere 'orficer.'"
They were not angry with him. They rather admired him. They had some
beer at the refreshment-room, and offered Golightly some too, because
he had "swore won'erful." They asked him to tell them all about the
adventures of Private John Binkle while he was loose on the countryside;
and that made Golightly wilder than ever. If he had kept his wits about
him he would have kept quiet until an officer came; but he attempted to
Now the butt of a Martini in the small of your back hurts a great deal,
and rotten, rain-soaked khaki tears easily when two men are jerking at
Golightly rose from the floor feeling very sick and giddy, with his
shirt ripped open all down his breast and nearly all down his back. He
yielded to his luck, and at that point the down-train from Lahore came
in carrying one of Golightly's Majors.
This is the Major's evidence in full:--
"There was the sound of a scuffle in the second-class refreshment-room,
so I went in and saw the most villainous loafer that I ever set eyes on.
His boots and breeches were plastered with mud and beer-stains. He wore
a muddy-white dunghill sort of thing on his head, and it hung down in
slips on his shoulders, which were a good deal scratched. He was half in
and half out of a shirt as nearly in two pieces as it could be, and he
was begging the guard to look at the name on the tail of it. As he had
rucked the shirt all over his head, I couldn't at first see who he was,
but I fancied that he was a man in the first stage of D. T. from the way
he swore while he wrestled with his rags. When he turned round, and I
had made allowance for a lump as big as a pork-pie over one eye, and
some green war-paint on the face, and some violet stripes round the
neck, I saw that it was Golightly. He was very glad to see me," said the
Major, "and he hoped I would not tell the Mess about it. I didn't, but
you can if you like, now that Golightly has gone Home."
Golightly spent the greater part of that summer in trying to get the
Corporal and the two soldiers tried by Court-Martial for arresting an
"officer and a gentleman." They were, of course, very sorry for their
error. But the tale leaked into the regimental canteen, and thence ran
about the Province.
THE HOUSE OF SUDDHOO
A stone's throw out on either hand
From that well-ordered road we tread,
And all the world is wild and strange;
Churel and ghoul and Djinn and sprite
Shall bear us company to-night,
For we have reached the Oldest Land
Wherein the Powers of Darkness range.
From the Dusk to the Dawn.
The house of Suddhoo, near the Taksali Gate, is two-storied, with four
carved windows of old brown wood, and a flat roof. You may recognize
it by five red hand-prints arranged like the Five of Diamonds on the
whitewash between the upper windows. Bhagwan Dass, the bunnia, and a
man who says he gets his living by seal-cutting, live in the lower story
with a troop of wives, servants, friends, and retainers. The two upper
rooms used to be occupied by Janoo and Azizun and a little black-and-tan
terrier that was stolen from an Englishman's house and given to Janoo by
a soldier. To-day, only Janoo lives in the upper rooms. Suddhoo sleeps
on the roof generally, except when he sleeps in the street. He used
to go to Peshawar in the cold weather to visit his son, who sells
curiosities near the Edwardes' Gate, and then he slept under a real mud
roof. Suddhoo is a great friend of mine, because his cousin had a son
who secured, thanks to my recommendation, the post of head-messenger
to a big firm in the Station. Suddhoo says that God will make me a
Lieutenant-Governor one of these days. I daresay his prophecy will come
true. He is very, very old, with white hair and no teeth worth showing,
and he has outlived his wits--outlived nearly everything except his
fondness for his son at Peshawar. Janoo and Azizun are Kashmiris,
Ladies of the City, and theirs was an ancient and more or less honorable
profession; but Azizun has since married a medical student from the
North-West and has settled down to a most respectable life somewhere
near Bareilly. Bhagwan Dass is an extortionate and an adulterator. He
is very rich. The man who is supposed to get his living by seal-cutting
pretends to be very poor. This lets you know as much as is necessary of
the four principal tenants in the house of Suddhoo. Then there is Me,
of course; but I am only the chorus that comes in at the end to explain
things. So I do not count.
Suddhoo was not clever. The man who pretended to cut seals was the
cleverest of them all--Bhagwan Dass only knew how to lie--except Janoo.
She was also beautiful, but that was her own affair.
Suddhoo's son at Peshawar was attacked by pleurisy, and old Suddhoo
was troubled. The seal-cutter man heard of Suddhoo's anxiety and made
capital out of it. He was abreast of the times. He got a friend in
Peshawar to telegraph daily accounts of the son's health. And here the
Suddhoo's cousin's son told me, one evening, that Suddhoo wanted to see
me; that he was too old and feeble to come personally, and that I should
be conferring an everlasting honor on the House of Suddhoo if I went to
him. I went; but I think, seeing how well-off Suddhoo was then, that he
might have sent something better than an ekka, which jolted fearfully,
to haul out a future Lieutenant-Governor to the City on a muggy April
evening. The ekka did not run quickly. It was full dark when we pulled
up opposite the door of Ranjit Singh's Tomb near the main gate of the
Fort. Here was Suddhoo and he said that, by reason of my condescension,
it was absolutely certain that I should become a Lieutenant-Governor
while my hair was yet black. Then we talked about the weather and the
state of my health, and the wheat crops, for fifteen minutes, in the
Huzuri Bagh, under the stars.
Suddhoo came to the point at last. He said that Janoo had told him that
there was an order of the Sirkar against magic, because it was feared
that magic might one day kill the Empress of India. I didn't know
anything about the state of the law; but I fancied that something
interesting was going to happen. I said that so far from magic being
discouraged by the Government it was highly commended. The greatest
officials of the State practiced it themselves. (If the Financial
Statement isn't magic, I don't know what is.) Then, to encourage him
further, I said that, if there was any jadoo afoot, I had not the least
objection to giving it my countenance and sanction, and to seeing that
it was clean jadoo--white magic, as distinguished from the unclean jadoo
which kills folk. It took a long time before Suddhoo admitted that this
was just what he had asked me to come for. Then he told me, in jerks
and quavers, that the man who said he cut seals was a sorcerer of the
cleanest kind; that every day he gave Suddhoo news of the sick son in
Peshawar more quickly than the lightning could fly, and that this
news was always corroborated by the letters. Further, that he had told
Suddhoo how a great danger was threatening his son, which could be
removed by clean jadoo; and, of course, heavy payment. I began to see
how the land lay, and told Suddhoo that I also understood a little jadoo
in the Western line, and would go to his house to see that everything
was done decently and in order. We set off together; and on the way
Suddhoo told me he had paid the seal-cutter between one hundred and
two hundred rupees already; and the jadoo of that night would cost two
hundred more. Which was cheap, he said, considering the greatness of his
son's danger; but I do not think he meant it.
The lights were all cloaked in the front of the house when we arrived. I
could hear awful noises from behind the seal-cutter's shop-front, as if
some one were groaning his soul out. Suddhoo shook all over, and while
we groped our way upstairs told me that the jadoo had begun. Janoo and
Azizun met us at the stair-head, and told us that the jadoo-work was
coming off in their rooms, because there was more space there. Janoo is
a lady of a freethinking turn of mind. She whispered that the jadoo was
an invention to get money out of Suddhoo, and that the seal-cutter would
go to a hot place when he died. Suddhoo was nearly crying with fear
and old age. He kept walking up and down the room in the half light,
repeating his son's name over and over again, and asking Azizun if
the seal-cutter ought not to make a reduction in the case of his own
landlord. Janoo pulled me over to the shadow in the recess of the carved
bow-windows. The boards were up, and the rooms were only lit by one tiny
lamp. There was no chance of my being seen if I stayed still.
Presently, the groans below ceased, and we heard steps on the staircase.
That was the seal-cutter. He stopped outside the door as the terrier
barked and Azizun fumbled at the chain, and he told Suddhoo to blow out
the lamp. This left the place in jet darkness, except for the red glow
from the two huqas that belonged to Janoo and Azizun. The seal-cutter
came in, and I heard Suddhoo throw himself down on the floor and groan.
Azizun caught her breath, and Janoo backed to one of the beds with a
shudder. There was a clink of something metallic, and then shot up a
pale blue-green flame near the ground. The light was just enough to show
Azizun, pressed against one corner of the room with the terrier between
her knees; Janoo, with her hands clasped, leaning forward as she sat on
the bed; Suddhoo, face down, quivering, and the seal-cutter.
I hope I may never see another man like that seal-cutter. He was
stripped to the waist, with a wreath of white jasmine as thick as my
wrist round his forehead, a salmon-colored loin-cloth round his middle,
and a steel bangle on each ankle. This was not awe-inspiring. It was
the face of the man that turned me cold. It was blue-gray in the first
place. In the second, the eyes were rolled back till you could only
see the whites of them; and, in the third, the face was the face of
a demon--a ghoul--anything you please except of the sleek, oily old
ruffian who sat in the day-time over his turning-lathe downstairs. He
was lying on his stomach, with his arms turned and crossed behind him,
as if he had been thrown down pinioned. His head and neck were the only
parts of him off the floor. They were nearly at right angles to the
body, like the head of a cobra at spring. It was ghastly. In the centre
of the room, on the bare earth floor, stood a big, deep, brass basin,
with a pale blue-green light floating in the centre like a night-light.
Round that basin the man on the floor wriggled himself three times. How
he did it I do not know. I could see the muscles ripple along his spine
and fall smooth again; but I could not see any other motion. The head
seemed the only thing alive about him, except that slow curl and uncurl
of the laboring back-muscles. Janoo from the bed was breathing seventy
to the minute; Azizun held her hands before her eyes; and old Suddhoo,
fingering at the dirt that had got into his white beard, was crying to
himself. The horror of it was that the creeping, crawly thing made no
sound--only crawled! And, remember, this lasted for ten minutes, while
the terrier whined, and Azizun shuddered, and Janoo gasped, and Suddhoo
I felt the hair lift at the back of my head, and my heart thump like a
thermantidote paddle. Luckily, the seal-cutter betrayed himself by his
most impressive trick and made me calm again. After he had finished that
unspeakable triple crawl, he stretched his head away from the floor as
high as he could, and sent out a jet of fire from his nostrils. Now, I
knew how fire-spouting is done--I can do it myself--so I felt at ease.
The business was a fraud. If he had only kept to that crawl without
trying to raise the effect, goodness knows what I might not have
thought. Both the girls shrieked at the jet of fire and the head
dropped, chin down, on the floor with a thud; the whole body lying then
like a corpse with its arms trussed. There was a pause of five full
minutes after this, and the blue-green flame died down. Janoo stooped to
settle one of her anklets, while Azizun turned her face to the wall and
took the terrier in her arms. Suddhoo put out an arm mechanically to
Janoo's huqa, and she slid it across the floor with her foot. Directly
above the body and on the wall, were a couple of flaming portraits, in
stamped paper frames, of the Queen and the Prince of Wales. They looked
down on the performance, and, to my thinking, seemed to heighten the
grotesqueness of it all.
Just when the silence was getting unendurable, the body turned over and
rolled away from the basin to the side of the room, where it lay stomach
up. There was a faint "plop" from the basin--exactly like the noise
a fish makes when it takes a fly--and the green light in the centre
I looked at the basin, and saw, bobbing in the water, the dried,
shrivelled, black head of a native baby--open eyes, open mouth and
shaved scalp. It was worse, being so very sudden, than the crawling
exhibition. We had no time to say anything before it began to speak.
Read Poe's account of the voice that came from the mesmerized dying man,
and you will realize less than one-half of the horror of that head's
There was an interval of a second or two between each word, and a sort
of "ring, ring, ring," in the note of the voice, like the timbre of a
bell. It pealed slowly, as if talking to itself, for several minutes
before I got rid of my cold sweat. Then the blessed solution struck me.
I looked at the body lying near the doorway, and saw, just where the
hollow of the throat joins on the shoulders, a muscle that had nothing
to do with any man's regular breathing, twitching away steadily. The
whole thing was a careful reproduction of the Egyptian teraphin that
one read about sometimes and the voice was as clever and as appalling a
piece of ventriloquism as one could wish to hear. All this time the head
was "lip-lip-lapping" against the side of the basin, and speaking. It
told Suddhoo, on his face again whining, of his son's illness and of
the state of the illness up to the evening of that very night. I always
shall respect the seal-cutter for keeping so faithfully to the time
of the Peshawar telegrams. It went on to say that skilled doctors were
night and day watching over the man's life; and that he would eventually
recover if the fee to the potent sorcerer, whose servant was the head in
the basin, were doubled.
Here the mistake from the artistic point of view came in. To ask for
twice your stipulated fee in a voice that Lazarus might have used
when he rose from the dead, is absurd. Janoo, who is really a woman of
masculine intellect, saw this as quickly as I did. I heard her say "Asli
nahin! Fareib!" scornfully under her breath; and just as she said so,
the light in the basin died out, the head stopped talking, and we heard
the room door creak on its hinges. Then Janoo struck a match, lit the
lamp, and we saw that head, basin, and seal-cutter were gone. Suddhoo
was wringing his hands and explaining to any one who cared to listen,
that, if his chances of eternal salvation depended on it, he could not
raise another two hundred rupees. Azizun was nearly in hysterics in the
corner; while Janoo sat down composedly on one of the beds to discuss
the probabilities of the whole thing being a bunao, or "make-up."
I explained as much as I knew of the seal-cutter's way of jadoo; but
her argument was much more simple:--"The magic that is always
gifts is no true magic," said she. "My mother told me that the
only potent love-spells are those which are told you for love. This
seal-cutter man is a liar and a devil. I dare not tell, do anything, or
get anything done, because I am in debt to Bhagwan Dass the bunnia for
two gold rings and a heavy anklet. I must get my food from his shop. The
seal-cutter is the friend of Bhagwan Dass, and he would poison my food.
A fool's jadoo has been going on for ten days, and has cost Suddhoo
many rupees each night. The seal-cutter used black hens and lemons and
mantras before. He never showed us anything like this till to-night.
Azizun is a fool, and will be a pur dahnashin soon. Suddhoo has lost
his strength and his wits. See now! I had hoped to get from Suddhoo many
rupees while he lived, and many more after his death; and behold, he
is spending everything on that offspring of a devil and a she-ass, the
Here I said:--"But what induced Suddhoo to drag me into the business?
Of course I can speak to the seal-cutter, and he shall refund. The whole
thing is child's talk--shame--and senseless."
"Suddhoo IS an old child," said Janoo. "He has lived on the roofs these
seventy years and is as senseless as a milch-goat. He brought you here
to assure himself that he was not breaking any law of the Sirkar, whose
salt he ate many years ago. He worships the dust off the feet of the
seal-cutter, and that cow-devourer has forbidden him to go and see his
son. What does Suddhoo know of your laws or the lightning-post? I have
to watch his money going day by day to that lying beast below."
Janoo stamped her foot on the floor and nearly cried with vexation;
while Suddhoo was whimpering under a blanket in the corner, and Azizun
was trying to guide the pipe-stem to his foolish old mouth.
. . . . . . . . .
Now the case stands thus. Unthinkingly, I have laid myself open to the
charge of aiding and abetting the seal-cutter in obtaining money under
false pretences, which is forbidden by Section 420 of the Indian Penal
Code. I am helpless in the matter for these reasons, I cannot inform
the Police. What witnesses would support my statements? Janoo refuses
flatly, Azizun is a veiled woman somewhere near Bareilly--lost in this
big India of ours. I cannot again take the law into my own hands, and
speak to the seal-cutter; for certain am I that, not only would Suddhoo
disbelieve me, but this step would end in the poisoning of Janoo, who is
bound hand and foot by her debt to the bunnia. Suddhoo is an old dotard;
and whenever we meet mumbles my idiotic joke that the Sirkar rather
patronizes the Black Art than otherwise. His son is well now; but
Suddhoo is completely under the influence of the seal-cutter, by whose
advice he regulates the affairs of his life. Janoo watches daily the
money that she hoped to wheedle out of Suddhoo taken by the seal-cutter,
and becomes daily more furious and sullen.
She will never tell, because she dare not; but, unless something
happens to prevent her, I am afraid that the seal-cutter will die of
cholera--the white arsenic kind--about the middle of May. And thus I
shall have to be privy to a murder in the House of Suddhoo.
HIS WEDDED WIFE.
Cry "Murder!" in the market-place, and each
Will turn upon his neighbor anxious eyes
That ask:--"Art thou the man?" We hunted Cain,
Some centuries ago, across the world,
That bred the fear our own misdeeds maintain
Shakespeare says something about worms, or it may be giants or beetles,
turning if you tread on them too severely. The safest plan is never to
tread on a worm--not even on the last new subaltern from Home, with his
buttons hardly out of their tissue paper, and the red of sappy English
beef in his cheeks. This is the story of the worm that turned. For
the sake of brevity, we will call Henry Augustus Ramsay Faizanne, "The
Worm," although he really was an exceedingly pretty boy, without a hair
on his face, and with a waist like a girl's when he came out to the
Second "Shikarris" and was made unhappy in several ways. The "Shikarris"
are a high-caste regiment, and you must be able to do things well--play
a banjo or ride more than a little, or sing, or act--to get on with
The Worm did nothing except fall off his pony, and knock chips out of
gate-posts with his trap. Even that became monotonous after a time. He
objected to whist, cut the cloth at billiards, sang out of tune, kept
very much to himself, and wrote to his Mamma and sisters at Home. Four
of these five things were vices which the "Shikarris" objected to and
set themselves to eradicate. Every one knows how subalterns are, by
brother subalterns, softened and not permitted to be ferocious. It is
good and wholesome, and does no one any harm, unless tempers are lost;
and then there is trouble. There was a man once--but that is another
The "Shikarris" shikarred The Worm very much, and he bore everything
without winking. He was so good and so anxious to learn, and flushed
so pink, that his education was cut short, and he was left to his own
devices by every one except the Senior Subaltern, who continued to make
life a burden to The Worm. The Senior Subaltern meant no harm; but his
chaff was coarse, and he didn't quite understand where to stop. He had
been waiting too long for his company; and that always sours a man. Also
he was in love, which made him worse.
One day, after he had borrowed The Worm's trap for a lady who never
existed, had used it himself all the afternoon, had sent a note to The
Worm purporting to come from the lady, and was telling the Mess all
about it, The Worm rose in his place and said, in his quiet, ladylike
voice: "That was a very pretty sell; but I'll lay you a month's pay to
a month's pay when you get your step, that I work a sell on you that
you'll remember for the rest of your days, and the Regiment after you
when you're dead or broke." The Worm wasn't angry in the least, and the
rest of the Mess shouted. Then the Senior Subaltern looked at The Worm
from the boots upwards, and down again, and said, "Done, Baby." The
took the rest of the Mess to witness that the bet had been taken, and
retired into a book with a sweet smile.
Two months passed, and the Senior Subaltern still educated The Worm,
who began to move about a little more as the hot weather came on. I have
said that the Senior Subaltern was in love. The curious thing is that
a girl was in love with the Senior Subaltern. Though the Colonel said
awful things, and the Majors snorted, and married Captains looked
unutterable wisdom, and the juniors scoffed, those two were engaged.
The Senior Subaltern was so pleased with getting his Company and his
acceptance at the same time that he forgot to bother The Worm. The girl
was a pretty girl, and had money of her own. She does not come into this
story at all.
One night, at the beginning of the hot weather, all the Mess, except The
Worm, who had gone to his own room to write Home letters, were sitting
on the platform outside the Mess House. The Band had finished playing,
but no one wanted to go in. And the Captains' wives were there also.
The folly of a man in love is unlimited. The Senior Subaltern had been
holding forth on the merits of the girl he was engaged to, and the
ladies were purring approval, while the men yawned, when there was a
rustle of skirts in the dark, and a tired, faint voice lifted itself:
"Where's my husband?"
I do not wish in the least to reflect on the morality of the
"Shikarris;" but it is on record that four men jumped up as if they had
been shot. Three of them were married men. Perhaps they were afraid that
their wives had come from Home unbeknownst. The fourth said that he had
acted on the impulse of the moment. He explained this afterwards.
Then the voice cried:--"Oh, Lionel!" Lionel was the Senior Subaltern's
name. A woman came into the little circle of light by the candles on
the peg-tables, stretching out her hands to the dark where the Senior
Subaltern was, and sobbing. We rose to our feet, feeling that things
were going to happen and ready to believe the worst. In this bad, small
world of ours, one knows so little of the life of the next man--which,
after all, is entirely his own concern--that one is not surprised when
a crash comes. Anything might turn up any day for any one. Perhaps the
Senior Subaltern had been trapped in his youth. Men are crippled that
way occasionally. We didn't know; we wanted to hear; and the Captains'
wives were as anxious as we. If he HAD been trapped, he was to be
excused; for the woman from nowhere, in the dusty shoes, and gray
travelling dress, was very lovely, with black hair and great eyes full
of tears. She was tall, with a fine figure, and her voice had a running
sob in it pitiful to hear. As soon as the Senior Subaltern stood up, she
threw her arms round his neck, and called him "my darling," and said she
could not bear waiting alone in England, and his letters were so short
and cold, and she was his to the end of the world, and would he forgive
her. This did not sound quite like a lady's way of speaking. It was too
Things seemed black indeed, and the Captains' wives peered under their
eyebrows at the Senior Subaltern, and the Colonel's face set like the
Day of Judgment framed in gray bristles, and no one spoke for a while.
Next the Colonel said, very shortly:--"Well, Sir?" and the woman sobbed
afresh. The Senior Subaltern was half choked with the arms round his
neck, but he gasped out:--"It's a d----d lie! I never had a wife in my
life!" "Don't swear," said the Colonel. "Come into the Mess. We must
sift this clear somehow," and he sighed to himself, for he believed in
his "Shikarris," did the Colonel.
We trooped into the ante-room, under the full lights, and there we
saw how beautiful the woman was. She stood up in the middle of us all,
sometimes choking with crying, then hard and proud, and then holding
out her arms to the Senior Subaltern. It was like the fourth act of a
tragedy. She told us how the Senior Subaltern had married her when he
was Home on leave eighteen months before; and she seemed to know all
that we knew, and more too, of his people and his past life. He was
white and ashy gray, trying now and again to break into the torrent
of her words; and we, noting how lovely she was and what a criminal he
looked, esteemed him a beast of the worst kind. We felt sorry for him,
I shall never forget the indictment of the Senior Subaltern by his wife.
Nor will he. It was so sudden, rushing out of the dark, unannounced,
into our dull lives. The Captains' wives stood back; but their eyes were
alight, and you could see that they had already convicted and sentenced
the Senior Subaltern. The Colonel seemed five years older. One Major was
shading his eyes with his hand and watching the woman from underneath
it. Another was chewing his moustache and smiling quietly as if he
were witnessing a play. Full in the open space in the centre, by the
whist-tables, the Senior Subaltern's terrier was hunting for fleas. I
remember all this as clearly as though a photograph were in my hand.
I remember the look of horror on the Senior Subaltern's face. It was
rather like seeing a man hanged; but much more interesting. Finally, the
woman wound up by saying that the Senior Subaltern carried a double F.
M. in tattoo on his left shoulder. We all knew that, and to our innocent
minds it seemed to clinch the matter. But one of the Bachelor Majors
said very politely:--"I presume that your marriage certificate would be
more to the purpose?"
That roused the woman. She stood up and sneered at the Senior Subaltern
for a cur, and abused the Major and the Colonel and all the rest.
Then she wept, and then she pulled a paper from her breast, saying
imperially:--"Take that! And let my husband--my lawfully wedded
husband--read it aloud--if he dare!"
There was a hush, and the men looked into each other's eyes as the
Senior Subaltern came forward in a dazed and dizzy way, and took the
paper. We were wondering as we stared, whether there was anything
against any one of us that might turn up later on. The Senior
Subaltern's throat was dry; but, as he ran his eye over the paper, he
broke out into a hoarse cackle of relief, and said to the woman:--"You
But the woman had fled through a door, and on the paper was
written:--"This is to certify that I, The Worm, have paid in full my
debts to the Senior Subaltern, and, further, that the Senior Subaltern
is my debtor, by agreement on the 23d of February, as by the Mess
attested, to the extent of one month's Captain's pay, in the lawful
currency of the India Empire."
Then a deputation set off for The Worm's quarters and found him, betwixt
and between, unlacing his stays, with the hat, wig, serge dress, etc.,
on the bed. He came over as he was, and the "Shikarris" shouted till the
Gunners' Mess sent over to know if they might have a share of the fun. I
think we were all, except the Colonel and the Senior Subaltern, a little
disappointed that the scandal had come to nothing. But that is human
nature. There could be no two words about The Worm's acting. It leaned
as near to a nasty tragedy as anything this side of a joke can. When
most of the Subalterns sat upon him with sofa-cushions to find out
why he had not said that acting was his strong point, he answered very
quietly:--"I don't think you ever asked me. I used to act at Home with
my sisters." But no acting with girls could account for The Worm's
display that night. Personally, I think it was in bad taste. Besides
being dangerous. There is no sort of use in playing with fire, even for
The "Shikarris" made him President of the Regimental Dramatic Club; and,
when the Senior Subaltern paid up his debt, which he did at once, The
Worm sank the money in scenery and dresses. He was a good Worm; and
the "Shikarris" are proud of him. The only drawback is that he has been
christened "Mrs. Senior Subaltern;" and as there are now two Mrs. Senior
Subalterns in the Station, this is sometimes confusing to strangers.
Later on, I will tell you of a case something like, this, but with all
the jest left out and nothing in it but real trouble.
THE BROKEN LINK HANDICAPPED.
While the snaffle holds, or the "long-neck" stings,
While the big beam tilts, or the last bell rings,
While horses are horses to train and to race,
Then women and wine take a second place
For me--for me--
While a short "ten-three"
Has a field to squander or fence to face!
Song of the G. R.
There are more ways of running a horse to suit your book than pulling
his head off in the straight. Some men forget this. Understand clearly
that all racing is rotten--as everything connected with losing money
must be. Out here, in addition to its inherent rottenness, it has the
merit of being two-thirds sham; looking pretty on paper only. Every one
knows every one else far too well for business purposes. How on earth
can you rack and harry and post a man for his losings, when you are fond
of his wife, and live in the same Station with him? He says, "on the
Monday following, I can't settle just yet." You say, "All right, old
man," and think your self lucky if you pull off nine hundred out of
a two-thousand rupee debt. Any way you look at it, Indian racing is
immoral, and expensively immoral. Which is much worse. If a man wants
your money, he ought to ask for it, or send round a subscription-list,
instead of juggling about the country, with an Australian larrikin;
a "brumby," with as much breed as the boy; a brace of chumars in
gold-laced caps; three or four ekka-ponies with hogged manes, and a
switch-tailed demirep of a mare called Arab because she has a kink in
her flag. Racing leads to the shroff quicker than anything else. But
if you have no conscience and no sentiments, and good hands, and some
knowledge of pace, and ten years' experience of horses, and several
thousand rupees a month, I believe that you can occasionally contrive to
pay your shoeing-bills.
Did you ever know Shackles--b. w. g., 15.13.8--coarse, loose, mule-like
ears--barrel as long as a gate-post--tough as a telegraph-wire--and the
queerest brute that ever looked through a bridle? He was of no brand,
being one of an ear-nicked mob taken into the Bucephalus at 4l.-10s. a
head to make up freight, and sold raw and out of condition at Calcutta
for Rs. 275. People who lost money on him called him a "brumby;" but if
ever any horse had Harpoon's shoulders and The Gin's temper, Shackles
was that horse. Two miles was his own particular distance. He trained
himself, ran himself, and rode himself; and, if his jockey insulted
him by giving him hints, he shut up at once and bucked the boy off. He
objected to dictation. Two or three of his owners did not understand
this, and lost money in consequence. At last he was bought by a man who
discovered that, if a race was to be won, Shackles, and Shackles only,
would win it in his own way, so long as his jockey sat still. This man
had a riding-boy called Brunt--a lad from Perth, West Australia--and
he taught Brunt, with a trainer's whip, the hardest thing a jock can
learn--to sit still, to sit still, and to keep on sitting still. When
Brunt fairly grasped this truth, Shackles devastated the country. No
weight could stop him at his own distance; and The fame of Shackles
spread from Ajmir in the South, to Chedputter in the North. There was no
horse like Shackles, so long as he was allowed to do his work in his own
way. But he was beaten in the end; and the story of his fall is enough
to make angels weep.
At the lower end of the Chedputter racecourse, just before the turn into
the straight, the track passes close to a couple of old brick-mounds
enclosing a funnel-shaped hollow. The big end of the funnel is not six
feet from the railings on the off-side. The astounding peculiarity of
the course is that, if you stand at one particular place, about half a
mile away, inside the course, and speak at an ordinary pitch, your voice
just hits the funnel of the brick-mounds and makes a curious whining
echo there. A man discovered this one morning by accident while out
training with a friend. He marked the place to stand and speak from
with a couple of bricks, and he kept his knowledge to himself. EVERY
peculiarity of a course is worth remembering in a country where rats
play the mischief with the elephant-litter, and Stewards build jumps
to suit their own stables. This man ran a very fairish country-bred, a
long, racking high mare with the temper of a fiend, and the paces of
an airy wandering seraph--a drifty, glidy stretch. The mare was, as a
delicate tribute to Mrs. Reiver, called "The Lady Regula Baddun"--or for
short, Regula Baddun.
Shackles' jockey, Brunt, was a quiet, well-behaved boy, but his nerves
had been shaken. He began his career by riding jump-races in Melbourne,
where a few Stewards want lynching, and was one of the jockeys who
came through the awful butchery--perhaps you will recollect it--of the
Maribyrnong Plate. The walls were colonial ramparts--logs of jarrak
spiked into masonry--with wings as strong as Church buttresses. Once
in his stride, a horse had to jump or fall. He couldn't run out. In the
Maribyrnong Plate, twelve horses were jammed at the second wall. Red
Hat, leading, fell this side, and threw out The Glen, and the ruck
came up behind and the space between wing and wing was one struggling,
screaming, kicking shambles. Four jockeys were taken out dead; three
were very badly hurt, and Brunt was among the three. He told the story
of the Maribyrnong Plate sometimes; and when he described how Whalley
on Red Hat, said, as the mare fell under him:--"God ha' mercy, I'm done
for!" and how, next instant, Sithee There and White Otter had crushed
the life out of poor Whalley, and the dust hid a small hell of men and
horses, no one marvelled that Brunt had dropped jump-races and Australia
together. Regula Baddun's owner knew that story by heart. Brunt never
varied it in the telling. He had no education.
Shackles came to the Chedputter Autumn races one year, and his owner
walked about insulting the sportsmen of Chedputter generally, till
they went to the Honorary Secretary in a body and said:--"Appoint
Handicappers, and arrange a race which shall break Shackles and humble
the pride of his owner." The Districts rose against Shackles and sent
up of their best; Ousel, who was supposed to be able to do his mile in
1-53; Petard, the stud-bred, trained by a cavalry regiment who knew how
to train; Gringalet, the ewe-lamb of the 75th; Bobolink, the pride of
Peshawar; and many others.
They called that race The Broken-Link Handicap, because it was to smash
Shackles; and the Handicappers piled on the weights, and the Fund gave
eight hundred rupees, and the distance was "round the course for all
horses." Shackles' owner said:--"You can arrange the race with regard
to Shackles only. So long as you don't bury him under weight-cloths,
I don't mind." Regula Baddun's owner said:--"I throw in my mare to fret
Ousel. Six furlongs is Regula's distance, and she will then lie down
and die. So also will Ousel, for his jockey doesn't understand a waiting
race." Now, this was a lie, for Regula had been in work for two months
at Dehra, and her chances were good, always supposing that Shackles
broke a blood-vessel--OR BRUNT MOVED ON HIM.
The plunging in the lotteries was fine. They filled eight thousand-rupee
lotteries on the Broken Link Handicap, and the account in the Pioneer
said that "favoritism was divided." In plain English, the various
contingents were wild on their respective horses; for the Handicappers
had done their work well. The Honorary Secretary shouted himself hoarse
through the din; and the smoke of the cheroots was like the smoke, and
the rattling of the dice-boxes like the rattle of small-arm fire.
Ten horses started--very level--and Regula Baddun's owner cantered out
on his back to a place inside the circle of the course, where two bricks
had been thrown. He faced towards the brick-mounds at the lower end of
the course and waited.
The story of the running is in the Pioneer. At the end of the first
mile, Shackles crept out of the ruck, well on the outside, ready to get
round the turn, lay hold of the bit and spin up the straight before the
others knew he had got away. Brunt was sitting still, perfectly happy,
listening to the "drum, drum, drum" of the hoofs behind, and knowing
that, in about twenty strides, Shackles would draw one deep breath and
go up the last half-mile like the "Flying Dutchman." As Shackles went
short to take the turn and came abreast of the brick-mound, Brunt heard,
above the noise of the wind in his ears, a whining, wailing voice on the
offside, saying:--"God ha' mercy, I'm done for!" In one stride, Brunt
saw the whole seething smash of the Maribyrnong Plate before him,
started in his saddle and gave a yell of terror. The start brought the
heels into Shackles' side, and the scream hurt Shackles' feelings. He
couldn't stop dead; but he put out his feet and slid along for fifty
yards, and then, very gravely and judicially, bucked off Brunt--a
shaking, terror-stricken lump, while Regula Baddun made a neck-and-neck
race with Bobolink up the straight, and won by a short head--Petard
a bad third. Shackles' owner, in the Stand, tried to think that his
field-glasses had gone wrong. Regula Baddun's owner, waiting by the two
bricks, gave one deep sigh of relief, and cantered back to the stand. He
had won, in lotteries and bets, about fifteen thousand.
It was a broken-link Handicap with a vengeance. It broke nearly all the
men concerned, and nearly broke the heart of Shackles' owner. He went
down to interview Brunt. The boy lay, livid and gasping with fright,
where he had tumbled off. The sin of losing the race never seemed to
strike him. All he knew was that Whalley had "called" him, that the
"call" was a warning; and, were he cut in two for it, he would never get
up again. His nerve had gone altogether, and he only asked his master
to give him a good thrashing, and let him go. He was fit for nothing, he
said. He got his dismissal, and crept up to the paddock, white as chalk,
with blue lips, his knees giving way under him. People said nasty things
in the paddock; but Brunt never heeded. He changed into tweeds, took his
stick and went down the road, still shaking with fright, and muttering
over and over again:--"God ha' mercy, I'm done for!" To the best of my
knowledge and belief he spoke the truth.
So now you know how the Broken-Link Handicap was run and won. Of
you don't believe it. You would credit anything about Russia's designs
on India, or the recommendations of the Currency Commission; but a
little bit of sober fact is more than you can stand!
BEYOND THE PALE.
"Love heeds not caste nor sleep a broken bed. I went in search of
love and lost myself."
A man should, whatever happens, keep to his own caste, race and breed.
Let the White go to the White and the Black to the Black. Then, whatever
trouble falls is in the ordinary course of things--neither sudden,
alien, nor unexpected.
This is the story of a man who wilfully stepped beyond the safe limits
of decent every-day society, and paid for it heavily.
He knew too much in the first instance; and he saw too much in the
second. He took too deep an interest in native life; but he will never
do so again.
Deep away in the heart of the City, behind Jitha Megji's bustee, lies
Amir Nath's Gully, which ends in a dead-wall pierced by one grated
window. At the head of the Gully is a big cow-byre, and the walls on
either side of the Gully are without windows. Neither Suchet Singh nor
Gaur Chand approved of their women-folk looking into the world. If
Durga Charan had been of their opinion, he would have been a happier man
to-day, and little Biessa would have been able to knead her own bread.
Her room looked out through the grated window into the narrow dark Gully
where the sun never came and where the buffaloes wallowed in the blue
slime. She was a widow, about fifteen years old, and she prayed the
Gods, day and night, to send her a lover; for she did not approve of
One day the man--Trejago his name was--came into Amir Nath's Gully on an
aimless wandering; and, after he had passed the buffaloes, stumbled over
a big heap of cattle food.
Then he saw that the Gully ended in a trap, and heard a little laugh
from behind the grated window. It was a pretty little laugh, and
Trejago, knowing that, for all practical purposes, the old Arabian
Nights are good guides, went forward to the window, and whispered that
verse of "The Love Song of Har Dyal" which begins:
Can a man stand upright in the face of the naked Sun;
or a Lover in the Presence of his Beloved?
If my feet fail me, O Heart of my Heart, am I to blame,
being blinded by the glimpse of your beauty?
There came the faint tchinks of a woman's bracelets from behind the
grating, and a little voice went on with the song at the fifth verse:
Alas! alas! Can the Moon tell the Lotus of her love when the
Gate of Heaven is shut and the clouds gather for the rains?
They have taken my Beloved, and driven her with the pack-horses
to the North.
There are iron chains on the feet that were set on my heart.
Call to the bowman to make ready--
The voice stopped suddenly, and Trejago walked out of Amir Nath's Gully,
wondering who in the world could have capped "The Love Song of Har Dyal"
Next morning, as he was driving to the office, an old woman threw a
packet into his dog-cart. In the packet was the half of a broken
glass bangle, one flower of the blood red dhak, a pinch of bhusa or
cattle-food, and eleven cardamoms. That packet was a letter--not a
clumsy compromising letter, but an innocent, unintelligible lover's
Trejago knew far too much about these things, as I have said. No
Englishman should be able to translate object-letters. But Trejago
spread all the trifles on the lid of his office-box and began to puzzle
A broken glass-bangle stands for a Hindu widow all India over; because,
when her husband dies a woman's bracelets are broken on her wrists.
Trejago saw the meaning of the little bit of the glass. The flower
of the dhak means diversely "desire," "come," "write," or "danger,"
according to the other things with it. One cardamom means "jealousy;"
but when any article is duplicated in an object-letter, it loses its
symbolic meaning and stands merely for one of a number indicating time,
or, if incense, curds, or saffron be sent also, place. The message ran
then:--"A widow dhak flower and bhusa--at eleven o'clock." The pinch of
bhusa enlightened Trejago. He saw--this kind of letter leaves much
to instinctive knowledge--that the bhusa referred to the big heap of
cattle-food over which he had fallen in Amir Nath's Gully, and that the
message must come from the person behind the grating; she being a widow.
So the message ran then:--"A widow, in the Gully in which is the heap of
bhusa, desires you to come at eleven o'clock."
Trejago threw all the rubbish into the fireplace and laughed. He knew
that men in the East do not make love under windows at eleven in the
forenoon, nor do women fix appointments a week in advance. So he went,
that very night at eleven, into Amir Nath's Gully, clad in a boorka,
which cloaks a man as well as a woman. Directly the gongs in the City
made the hour, the little voice behind the grating took up "The Love
Song of Har Dyal" at the verse where the Panthan girl calls upon Har
Dyal to return. The song is really pretty in the Vernacular. In English
you miss the wail of it. It runs something like this:--
Alone upon the housetops, to the North
I turn and watch the lightning in the sky,--
The glamour of thy footsteps in the North,
Come back to me, Beloved, or I die!
Below my feet the still bazar is laid
Far, far below the weary camels lie,--
The camels and the captives of thy raid,
Come back to me, Beloved, or I die!
My father's wife is old and harsh with years,
And drudge of all my father's house am I.--
My bread is sorrow and my drink is tears,
Come back to me, Beloved, or I die!
As the song stopped, Trejago stepped up under the grating and
whispered:--"I am here."
Bisesa was good to look upon.
That night was the beginning of many strange things, and of a double
life so wild that Trejago to-day sometimes wonders if it were not all a
dream. Bisesa or her old handmaiden who had thrown the object-letter had
detached the heavy grating from the brick-work of the wall; so that the
window slid inside, leaving only a square of raw masonry, into which an
active man might climb.
In the day-time, Trejago drove through his routine of office-work, or
put on his calling-clothes and called on the ladies of the Station;
wondering how long they would know him if they knew of poor little
Bisesa. At night, when all the City was still, came the walk under the
evil-smelling boorka, the patrol through Jitha Megji's bustee, the quick
turn into Amir Nath's Gully between the sleeping cattle and the dead
walls, and then, last of all, Bisesa, and the deep, even breathing of
the old woman who slept outside the door of the bare little room that
Durga Charan allotted to his sister's daughter. Who or what Durga Charan
was, Trejago never inquired; and why in the world he was not discovered
and knifed never occurred to him till his madness was over, and
Bisesa... But this comes later.
Bisesa was an endless delight to Trejago. She was as ignorant as a bird;
and her distorted versions of the rumors from the outside world that had
reached her in her room, amused Trejago almost as much as her lisping
attempts to pronounce his name--"Christopher." The first syllable was
always more than she could manage, and she made funny little gestures
with her rose-leaf hands, as one throwing the name away, and then,
kneeling before Trejago, asked him, exactly as an Englishwoman would do,
if he were sure he loved her. Trejago swore that he loved her more than
any one else in the world. Which was true.
After a month of this folly, the exigencies of his other life compelled
Trejago to be especially attentive to a lady of his acquaintance. You
may take it for a fact that anything of this kind is not only noticed
and discussed by a man's own race, but by some hundred and fifty natives
as well. Trejago had to walk with this lady and talk to her at the
Band-stand, and once or twice to drive with her; never for an instant
dreaming that this would affect his dearer out-of-the-way life. But the
news flew, in the usual mysterious fashion, from mouth to mouth, till
Bisesa's duenna heard of it and told Bisesa. The child was so troubled
that she did the household work evilly, and was beaten by Durga Charan's
wife in consequence.
A week later, Bisesa taxed Trejago with the flirtation. She understood
no gradations and spoke openly. Trejago laughed and Bisesa stamped her
little feet--little feet, light as marigold flowers, that could lie in
the palm of a man's one hand.
Much that is written about "Oriental passion and impulsiveness" is
exaggerated and compiled at second-hand, but a little of it is true; and
when an Englishman finds that little, it is quite as startling as any
passion in his own proper life. Bisesa raged and stormed, and finally
threatened to kill herself if Trejago did not at once drop the alien
Memsahib who had come between them. Trejago tried to explain, and
to show her that she did not understand these things from a Western
standpoint. Bisesa drew herself up, and said simply:
"I do not. I know only this--it is not good that I should have made you
dearer than my own heart to me, Sahib. You are an Englishman. I am only
a black girl"--she was fairer than bar-gold in the Mint--"and the widow
of a black man."
Then she sobbed and said: "But on my soul and my Mother's soul, I love
you. There shall no harm come to you, whatever happens to me."
Trejago argued with the child, and tried to soothe her, but she seemed
quite unreasonably disturbed. Nothing would satisfy her save that all
relations between them should end. He was to go away at once. And he
went. As he dropped out at the window, she kissed his forehead twice,
and he walked away wondering.
A week, and then three weeks, passed without a sign from Bisesa.
Trejago, thinking that the rupture had lasted quite long enough, went
down to Amir Nath's Gully for the fifth time in the three weeks, hoping
that his rap at the sill of the shifting grating would be answered. He
was not disappointed.
There was a young moon, and one stream of light fell down into Amir
Nath's Gully, and struck the grating, which was drawn away as he
knocked. From the black dark, Bisesa held out her arms into the
moonlight. Both hands had been cut off at the wrists, and the stumps
were nearly healed.
Then, as Bisesa bowed her head between her arms and sobbed, some one in
the room grunted like a wild beast, and something sharp--knife, sword or
spear--thrust at Trejago in his boorka. The stroke missed his body, but
cut into one of the muscles of the groin, and he limped slightly from
the wound for the rest of his days.
The grating went into its place. There was no sign whatever from inside
the house--nothing but the moonlight strip on the high wall, and the
blackness of Amir Nath's Gully behind.
The next thing Trejago remembers, after raging and shouting like a
madman between those pitiless walls, is that he found himself near the
river as the dawn was breaking, threw away his boorka and went home
What the tragedy was--whether Bisesa had, in a fit of causeless despair,
told everything, or the intrigue had been discovered and she tortured
to tell, whether Durga Charan knew his name, and what became of
Bisesa--Trejago does not know to this day. Something horrible had
happened, and the thought of what it must have been comes upon Trejago
in the night now and again, and keeps him company till the morning.
One special feature of the case is that he does not know where lies the
front of Durga Charan's house. It may open on to a courtyard common to
two or more houses, or it may lie behind any one of the gates of Jitha
Megji's bustee. Trejago cannot tell. He cannot get Bisesa--poor little
Bisesa--back again. He has lost her in the City, where each man's house
is as guarded and as unknowable as the grave; and the grating that opens
into Amir Nath's Gully has been walled up.
But Trejago pays his calls regularly, and is reckoned a very decent sort
There is nothing peculiar about him, except a slight stiffness, caused
by a riding-strain, in the right leg.
They burnt a corpse upon the sand--
The light shone out afar;
It guided home the plunging boats
That beat from Zanzibar.
Spirit of Fire, where'er Thy altars rise.
Thou art Light of Guidance to our eyes!
There is hope for a man who gets publicly and riotously drunk more
often that he ought to do; but there is no hope for the man who drinks
secretly and alone in his own house--the man who is never seen to drink.
This is a rule; so there must be an exception to prove it. Moriarty's
case was that exception.
He was a Civil Engineer, and the Government, very kindly, put him quite
by himself in an out-district, with nobody but natives to talk to and a
great deal of work to do. He did his work well in the four years he
was utterly alone; but he picked up the vice of secret and solitary
drinking, and came up out of the wilderness more old and worn and
haggard than the dead-alive life had any right to make him. You know the
saying that a man who has been alone in the jungle for more than a
year is never quite sane all his life after. People credited Moriarty's
queerness of manner and moody ways to the solitude, and said it showed
how Government spoilt the futures of its best men. Moriarty had built
himself the plinth of a very god reputation in the bridge-dam-girder
line. But he knew, every night of the week, that he was taking steps
to undermine that reputation with L. L. L. and "Christopher" and little
nips of liqueurs, and filth of that kind. He had a sound constitution
and a great brain, or else he would have broken down and died like a
sick camel in the district, as better men have done before him.
Government ordered him to Simla after he had come out of the desert;
and he went up meaning to try for a post then vacant. That season, Mrs.
Reiver--perhaps you will remember her--was in the height of her power,
and many men lay under her yoke. Everything bad that could be said
has already been said about Mrs. Reiver, in another tale. Moriarty was
heavily-built and handsome, very quiet and nervously anxious to please
his neighbors when he wasn't sunk in a brown study. He started a good
deal at sudden noises or if spoken to without warning; and, when you
watched him drinking his glass of water at dinner, you could see the
hand shake a little. But all this was put down to nervousness, and the
quiet, steady, "sip-sip-sip, fill and sip-sip-sip, again," that went
on in his own room when he was by himself, was never known. Which was
miraculous, seeing how everything in a man's private life is public
property out here.
Moriarty was drawn, not into Mrs. Reiver's set, because they were not
his sort, but into the power of Mrs. Reiver, and he fell down in front
of her and made a goddess of her. This was due to his coming fresh out
of the jungle to a big town. He could not scale things properly or see
who was what.
Because Mrs. Reiver was cold and hard, he said she was stately and
dignified. Because she had no brains, and could not talk cleverly, he
said she was reserved and shy. Mrs. Reiver shy! Because she was unworthy
of honor or reverence from any one, he reverenced her from a distance
and dowered her with all the virtues in the Bible and most of those in
This big, dark, abstracted man who was so nervous when a pony cantered
behind him, used to moon in the train of Mrs. Reiver, blushing with
pleasure when she threw a word or two his way. His admiration was
strictly platonic: even other women saw and admitted this. He did not
move out in Simla, so he heard nothing against his idol: which was
satisfactory. Mrs. Reiver took no special notice of him, beyond seeing
that he was added to her list of admirers, and going for a walk with him
now and then, just to show that he was her property, claimable as such.
Moriarty must have done most of the talking, for Mrs. Reiver couldn't
talk much to a man of his stamp; and the little she said could not have
been profitable. What Moriarty believed in, as he had good reason to,
was Mrs. Reiver's influence over him, and, in that belief, set himself
seriously to try to do away with the vice that only he himself knew of.
His experiences while he was fighting with it must have been peculiar,
but he never described them. Sometimes he would hold off from everything
except water for a week. Then, on a rainy night, when no one had asked
him out to dinner, and there was a big fire in his room, and everything
comfortable, he would sit down and make a big night of it by adding
little nip to little nip, planning big schemes of reformation meanwhile,
until he threw himself on his bed hopelessly drunk. He suffered next
One night, the big crash came. He was troubled in his own mind over his
attempts to make himself "worthy of the friendship" of Mrs. Reiver. The
past ten days had been very bad ones, and the end of it all was that he
received the arrears of two and three-quarter years of sipping in one
attack of delirium tremens of the subdued kind; beginning with suicidal
depression, going on to fits and starts and hysteria, and ending with
downright raving. As he sat in a chair in front of the fire, or walked
up and down the room picking a handkerchief to pieces, you heard what
poor Moriarty really thought of Mrs. Reiver, for he raved about her
and his own fall for the most part; though he ravelled some P. W. D.
accounts into the same skein of thought. He talked, and talked, and
talked in a low dry whisper to himself, and there was no stopping him.
He seemed to know that there was something wrong, and twice tried to
pull himself together and confer rationally with the Doctor; but his
mind ran out of control at once, and he fell back to a whisper and the
story of his troubles. It is terrible to hear a big man babbling like a
child of all that a man usually locks up, and puts away in the deep of
his heart. Moriarty read out his very soul for the benefit of any one
who was in the room between ten-thirty that night and two-forty-five
From what he said, one gathered how immense an influence Mrs. Reiver
held over him, and how thoroughly he felt for his own lapse. His
whisperings cannot, of course, be put down here; but they were very
instructive as showing the errors of his estimates.
. . . . . . . . .
When the trouble was over, and his few acquaintances were pitying him
for the bad attack of jungle-fever that had so pulled him down, Moriarty
swore a big oath to himself and went abroad again with Mrs. Reiver till
the end of the season, adoring her in a quiet and deferential way as an
angel from heaven. Later on he took to riding--not hacking, but honest
riding--which was good proof that he was improving, and you could slam
doors behind him without his jumping to his feet with a gasp. That,
again, was hopeful.
How he kept his oath, and what it cost him in the beginning, nobody
knows. He certainly managed to compass the hardest thing that a man who
has drank heavily can do. He took his peg and wine at dinner, but he
never drank alone, and never let what he drank have the least hold on
Once he told a bosom-friend the story of his great trouble, and how the
"influence of a pure honest woman, and an angel as well" had saved him.
When the man--startled at anything good being laid to Mrs. Reiver's
door--laughed, it cost him Moriarty's friendship. Moriarty, who is
married now to a woman ten thousand times better than Mrs. Reiver--a
woman who believes that there is no man on earth as good and clever as
her husband--will go down to his grave vowing and protesting that Mrs.
Reiver saved him from ruin in both worlds.
That she knew anything of Moriarty's weakness nobody believed for
a moment. That she would have cut him dead, thrown him over, and
acquainted all her friends with her discovery, if she had known of it,
nobody who knew her doubted for an instant.
Moriarty thought her something she never was, and in that belief saved
himself. Which was just as good as though she had been everything that
he had imagined.
But the question is, what claim will Mrs. Reiver have to the credit of
Moriarty's salvation, when her day of reckoning comes?
A BANK FRAUD.
He drank strong waters and his speech was coarse;
He purchased raiment and forebore to pay;
He struck a trusting junior with a horse,
And won Gymkhanas in a doubtful way.
Then, 'twixt a vice and folly, turned aside
To do good deeds and straight to cloak them, lied.
The Mess Room.
If Reggie Burke were in India now, he would resent this tale being told;
but as he is in Hong-Kong and won't see it, the telling is safe. He was
the man who worked the big fraud on the Sind and Sialkote Bank. He was
manager of an up-country Branch, and a sound practical man with a large
experience of native loan and insurance work. He could combine the
frivolities of ordinary life with his work, and yet do well. Reggie
Burke rode anything that would let him get up, danced as neatly as he
rode, and was wanted for every sort of amusement in the Station.
As he said himself, and as many men found out rather to their surprise,
there were two Burkes, both very much at your service. "Reggie Burke,"
between four and ten, ready for anything from a hot-weather gymkhana to
a riding-picnic; and, between ten and four, "Mr. Reginald Burke, Manager
of the Sind and Sialkote Branch Bank." You might play polo with him one
afternoon and hear him express his opinions when a man crossed; and you
might call on him next morning to raise a two-thousand rupee loan on a
five hundred pound insurance-policy, eighty pounds paid in premiums. He
would recognize you, but you would have some trouble in recognizing him.
The Directors of the Bank--it had its headquarters in Calcutta and its
General Manager's word carried weight with the Government--picked their
men well. They had tested Reggie up to a fairly severe breaking-strain.
They trusted him just as much as Directors ever trust Managers. You must
see for yourself whether their trust was misplaced.
Reggie's Branch was in a big Station, and worked with the usual
staff--one Manager, one Accountant, both English, a Cashier, and a horde
of native clerks; besides the Police patrol at nights outside. The
bulk of its work, for it was in a thriving district, was hoondi and
accommodation of all kinds. A fool has no grip of this sort of business;
and a clever man who does not go about among his clients, and know
more than a little of their affairs, is worse than a fool. Reggie was
young-looking, clean-shaved, with a twinkle in his eye, and a head
that nothing short of a gallon of the Gunners' Madeira could make any
One day, at a big dinner, he announced casually that the Directors had
shifted on to him a Natural Curiosity, from England, in the Accountant
line. He was perfectly correct. Mr. Silas Riley, Accountant, was a MOST
curious animal--a long, gawky, rawboned Yorkshireman, full of the
savage self-conceit that blossom's only in the best county in England.
Arrogance was a mild word for the mental attitude of Mr. S. Riley. He
had worked himself up, after seven years, to a Cashier's position in a
Huddersfield Bank; and all his experience lay among the factories of the
North. Perhaps he would have done better on the Bombay side, where they
are happy with one-half per cent. profits, and money is cheap. He was
useless for Upper India and a wheat Province, where a man wants a large
head and a touch of imagination if he is to turn out a satisfactory
He was wonderfully narrow-minded in business, and, being new to the
country, had no notion that Indian banking is totally distinct from
Home work. Like most clever self-made men, he had much simplicity in his
nature; and, somehow or other, had construed the ordinarily polite terms
of his letter of engagement into a belief that the Directors had chosen
him on account of his special and brilliant talents, and that they set
great store by him. This notion grew and crystallized; thus adding to
his natural North-country conceit. Further, he was delicate, suffered
from some trouble in his chest, and was short in his temper.
You will admit that Reggie had reason to call his new Accountant a
Natural Curiosity. The two men failed to hit it off at all. Riley
considered Reggie a wild, feather-headed idiot, given to Heaven only
knew what dissipation in low places called "Messes," and totally unfit
for the serious and solemn vocation of banking. He could never get
over Reggie's look of youth and "you-be-damned" air; and he couldn't
understand Reggie's friends--clean-built, careless men in the Army--who
rode over to big Sunday breakfasts at the Bank, and told sultry stories
till Riley got up and left the room. Riley was always showing Reggie
how the business ought to be conducted, and Reggie had more than once to
remind him that seven years' limited experience between Huddersfield and
Beverly did not qualify a man to steer a big up-country business. Then
Riley sulked and referred to himself as a pillar of the Bank and a
cherished friend of the Directors, and Reggie tore his hair. If a man's
English subordinates fail him in this country, he comes to a hard time
indeed, for native help has strict limitations. In the winter Riley went
sick for weeks at a time with his lung complaint, and this threw more
work on Reggie. But he preferred it to the everlasting friction when
Riley was well.
One of the Travelling Inspectors of the Bank discovered these collapses
and reported them to the Directors. Now Riley had been foisted on the
Bank by an M. P., who wanted the support of Riley's father, who, again,
was anxious to get his son out to a warmer climate because of those
lungs. The M. P. had an interest in the Bank; but one of the Directors
wanted to advance a nominee of his own; and, after Riley's father had
died, he made the rest of the Board see that an Accountant who was sick
for half the year, had better give place to a healthy man. If Riley had
known the real story of his appointment, he might have behaved better;
but knowing nothing, his stretches of sickness alternated with restless,
persistent, meddling irritation of Reggie, and all the hundred ways in
which conceit in a subordinate situation can find play. Reggie used to
call him striking and hair-curling names behind his back as a relief to
his own feelings; but he never abused him to his face, because he said:
"Riley is such a frail beast that half of his loathsome conceit is due
to pains in the chest."
Late one April, Riley went very sick indeed. The doctor punched him
and thumped him, and told him he would be better before long. Then the
doctor went to Reggie and said:--"Do you know how sick your Accountant
is?" "No!" said Reggie--"The worse the better, confound him! He's a
clacking nuisance when he's well. I'll let you take away the Bank Safe
if you can drug him silent for this hot-weather."
But the doctor did not laugh--"Man, I'm not joking," he said. "I'll give
him another three months in his bed and a week or so more to die in.
On my honor and reputation that's all the grace he has in this world.
Consumption has hold of him to the marrow."
Reggie's face changed at once into the face of "Mr. Reginald Burke," and
he answered:--"What can I do?"
"Nothing," said the doctor. "For all practical purposes the man is dead
already. Keep him quiet and cheerful and tell him he's going to recover.
That's all. I'll look after him to the end, of course."
The doctor went away, and Reggie sat down to open the evening mail. His
first letter was one from the Directors, intimating for his information
that Mr. Riley was to resign, under a month's notice, by the terms of
his agreement, telling Reggie that their letter to Riley would follow
and advising Reggie of the coming of a new Accountant, a man whom Reggie
knew and liked.
Reggie lit a cheroot, and, before he had finished smoking, he had
sketched the outline of a fraud. He put away--"burked"--the Directors
letter, and went in to talk to Riley, who was as ungracious as usual,
and fretting himself over the way the bank would run during his illness.
He never thought of the extra work on Reggie's shoulders, but solely of
the damage to his own prospects of advancement. Then Reggie assured him
that everything would be well, and that he, Reggie, would confer with
Riley daily on the management of the Bank. Riley was a little soothed,
but he hinted in as many words that he did not think much of Reggie's
business capacity. Reggie was humble. And he had letters in his desk
from the Directors that a Gilbarte or a Hardie might have been proud of!
The days passed in the big darkened house, and the Directors' letter of
dismissal to Riley came and was put away by Reggie, who, every evening,
brought the books to Riley's room, and showed him what had been going
forward, while Riley snarled. Reggie did his best to make statements
pleasing to Riley, but the Accountant was sure that the Bank was going
to rack and ruin without him. In June, as the lying in bed told on his
spirit, he asked whether his absence had been noted by the Directors,
and Reggie said that they had written most sympathetic letters, hoping
that he would be able to resume his valuable services before long. He
showed Riley the letters: and Riley said that the Directors ought to
have written to him direct. A few days later, Reggie opened Riley's
mail in the half-light of the room, and gave him the sheet--not the
envelope--of a letter to Riley from the Directors. Riley said he would
thank Reggie not to interfere with his private papers, specially as
Reggie knew he was too weak to open his own letters. Reggie apologized.
Then Riley's mood changed, and he lectured Reggie on his evil ways:
his horses and his bad friends. "Of course, lying here on my back, Mr.
Burke, I can't keep you straight; but when I'm well, I DO hope you'll
pay some heed to my words." Reggie, who had dropped polo, and dinners,
and tennis, and all to attend to Riley, said that he was penitent and
settled Riley's head on the pillow and heard him fret and contradict in
hard, dry, hacking whispers, without a sign of impatience. This at the
end of a heavy day's office work, doing double duty, in the latter half
When the new Accountant came, Reggie told him the facts of the case, and
announced to Riley that he had a guest staying with him. Riley said that
he might have had more consideration than to entertain his "doubtful
friends" at such a time. Reggie made Carron, the new Accountant, sleep
at the Club in consequence. Carron's arrival took some of the heavy work
off his shoulders, and he had time to attend to Riley's exactions--to
explain, soothe, invent, and settle and resettle the poor wretch in
bed, and to forge complimentary letters from Calcutta. At the end of the
first month, Riley wished to send some money home to his mother. Reggie
sent the draft. At the end of the second month, Riley's salary came in
just the same. Reggie paid it out of his own pocket; and, with it, wrote
Riley a beautiful letter from the Directors.
Riley was very ill indeed, but the flame of his life burnt unsteadily.
Now and then he would be cheerful and confident about the future,
sketching plans for going Home and seeing his mother. Reggie listened
patiently when the office work was over, and encouraged him.
At other times Riley insisted on Reggie's reading the Bible and grim
"Methody" tracts to him. Out of these tracts he pointed morals directed
at his Manager. But he always found time to worry Reggie about the
working of the Bank, and to show him where the weak points lay.
This in-door, sick-room life and constant strains wore Reggie down a
good deal, and shook his nerves, and lowered his billiard-play by forty
points. But the business of the Bank, and the business of the sick-room,
had to go on, though the glass was 116 degrees in the shade.
At the end of the third month, Riley was sinking fast, and had begun
to realize that he was very sick. But the conceit that made him worry
Reggie, kept him from believing the worst. "He wants some sort of mental
stimulant if he is to drag on," said the doctor. "Keep him interested in
life if you care about his living." So Riley, contrary to all the laws
of business and the finance, received a 25-per-cent, rise of salary from
the Directors. The "mental stimulant" succeeded beautifully. Riley was
happy and cheerful, and, as is often the case in consumption, healthiest
in mind when the body was weakest. He lingered for a full month,
snarling and fretting about the Bank, talking of the future, hearing the
Bible read, lecturing Reggie on sin, and wondering when he would be able
to move abroad.
But at the end of September, one mercilessly hot evening, he rose up in
his bed with a little gasp, and said quickly to Reggie:--"Mr. Burke, I
am going to die. I know it in myself. My chest is all hollow inside, and
there's nothing to breathe with. To the best of my knowledge I have done
nowt"--he was returning to the talk of his boyhood--"to lie heavy on my
conscience. God be thanked, I have been preserved from the grosser forms
of sin; and I counsel YOU, Mr. Burke...."
Here his voice died down, and Reggie stooped over him.
"Send my salary for September to my mother.... done great things with
the Bank if I had been spared.... mistaken policy.... no fault of mine."
Then he turned his face to the wall and died.
Reggie drew the sheet over Its face, and went out into the verandah,
with his last "mental stimulant"--a letter of condolence and sympathy
from the Directors--unused in his pocket.
"If I'd been only ten minutes earlier," thought Reggie, "I might have
heartened him up to pull through another day."
The World hath set its heavy yoke
Upon the old white-bearded folk
Who strive to please the King.
God's mercy is upon the young,
God's wisdom in the baby tongue
That fears not anything.
The Parable of Chajju Bhagat.
Now Tods' Mamma was a singularly charming woman, and every one in
knew Tods. Most men had saved him from death on occasions. He was
his ayah's control altogether, and perilled his life daily to find out
what would happen if you pulled a Mountain Battery mule's tail. He was
an utterly fearless young Pagan, about six years old, and the only baby
who ever broke the holy calm of the supreme Legislative Council.
It happened this way: Tods' pet kid got loose, and fled up the hill, off
the Boileaugunge Road, Tods after it, until it burst into the Viceregal
Lodge lawn, then attached to "Peterhoff." The Council were sitting at
the time, and the windows were open because it was warm. The Red Lancer
in the porch told Tods to go away; but Tods knew the Red Lancer and most
of the Members of Council personally. Moreover, he had firm hold of the
kid's collar, and was being dragged all across the flower-beds. "Give
my salaam to the long Councillor Sahib, and ask him to help me take
Moti back!" gasped Tods. The Council heard the noise through the open
windows; and, after an interval, was seen the shocking spectacle of
a Legal Member and a Lieutenant-Governor helping, under the direct
patronage of a Commander-in-Chief and a Viceroy, one small and very
dirty boy in a sailor's suit and a tangle of brown hair, to coerce a
lively and rebellious kid. They headed it off down the path to the Mall,
and Tods went home in triumph and told his Mamma that ALL the
Sahibs had been helping him to catch Moti. Whereat his Mamma smacked
Tods for interfering with the administration of the Empire; but Tods met
the Legal Member the next day, and told him in confidence that if the
Legal Member ever wanted to catch a goat, he, Tods, would give him all
the help in his power. "Thank you, Tods," said the Legal Member.
Tods was the idol of some eighty jhampanis, and half as many saises.
He saluted them all as "O Brother." It never entered his head that
any living human being could disobey his orders; and he was the
buffer between the servants and his Mamma's wrath. The working of that
household turned on Tods, who was adored by every one from the dhoby
to the dog-boy. Even Futteh Khan, the villainous loafer khit from
Mussoorie, shirked risking Tods' displeasure for fear his co-mates
should look down on him.
So Tods had honor in the land from Boileaugunge to Chota Simla, and
ruled justly according to his lights. Of course, he spoke Urdu, but he
had also mastered many queer side-speeches like the chotee bolee of the
women, and held grave converse with shopkeepers and Hill-coolies alike.
He was precocious for his age, and his mixing with natives had taught
him some of the more bitter truths of life; the meanness and the
sordidness of it. He used, over his bread and milk, to deliver solemn
and serious aphorisms, translated from the vernacular into the English,
that made his Mamma jump and vow that Tods MUST go home next hot
Just when Tods was in the bloom of his power, the Supreme Legislature
were hacking out a Bill, for the Sub-Montane Tracts, a revision of the
then Act, smaller than the Punjab Land Bill, but affecting a few
hundred thousand people none the less. The Legal Member had built,
and bolstered, and embroidered, and amended that Bill, till it looked
beautiful on paper. Then the Council began to settle what they called
the "minor details." As if any Englishman legislating for natives knows
enough to know which are the minor and which are the major points, from
the native point of view, of any measure! That Bill was a triumph of
"safe guarding the interests of the tenant." One clause provided that
land should not be leased on longer terms than five years at a stretch;
because, if the landlord had a tenant bound down for, say, twenty years,
he would squeeze the very life out of him. The notion was to keep up
a stream of independent cultivators in the Sub-Montane Tracts; and
ethnologically and politically the notion was correct. The only drawback
was that it was altogether wrong. A native's life in India implies the
life of his son. Wherefore, you cannot legislate for one generation at
a time. You must consider the next from the native point of view.
Curiously enough, the native now and then, and in Northern India more
particularly, hates being over-protected against himself. There was
a Naga village once, where they lived on dead AND buried Commissariat
mules.... But that is another story.
For many reasons, to be explained later, the people concerned objected
to the Bill. The Native Member in Council knew as much about Punjabis as
he knew about Charing Cross. He had said in Calcutta that "the Bill was
entirely in accord with the desires of that large and important class,
the cultivators;" and so on, and so on. The Legal Member's knowledge
of natives was limited to English-speaking Durbaris, and his own red
chaprassis, the Sub-Montane Tracts concerned no one in particular,
the Deputy Commissioners were a good deal too driven to make
representations, and the measure was one which dealt with small
landholders only. Nevertheless, the Legal Member prayed that it might be
correct, for he was a nervously conscientious man. He did not know that
no man can tell what natives think unless he mixes with them with the
varnish off. And not always then. But he did the best he knew. And the
measure came up to the Supreme Council for the final touches, while Tods
patrolled the Burra Simla Bazar in his morning rides, and played with
the monkey belonging to Ditta Mull, the bunnia, and listened, as a child
listens to all the stray talk about this new freak of the Lat Sahib's.
One day there was a dinner-party, at the house of Tods' Mamma, and the
Legal Member came. Tods was in bed, but he kept awake till he heard the
bursts of laughter from the men over the coffee. Then he paddled out in
his little red flannel dressing-gown and his night-suit, and took refuge
by the side of his father, knowing that he would not be sent back. "See
the miseries of having a family!" said Tods' father, giving Tods three
prunes, some water in a glass that had been used for claret, and telling
him to sit still. Tods sucked the prunes slowly, knowing that he would
have to go when they were finished, and sipped the pink water like a man
of the world, as he listened to the conversation. Presently, the Legal
Member, talking "shop," to the Head of a Department, mentioned his Bill
by its full name--"The Sub-Montane Tracts Ryotwari Revised Enactment."
Tods caught the one native word, and lifting up his small voice
said:--"Oh, I know ALL about that! Has it been murramutted yet,
"How much?" said the Legal Member.
"Murramutted--mended.--Put theek, you know--made nice to please Ditta
The Legal Member left his place and moved up next to Tods.
"What do you know about Ryotwari, little man?" he said.
"I'm not a little man, I'm Tods, and I know ALL about it. Ditta Mull,
and Choga Lall, and Amir Nath, and--oh, lakhs of my friends tell me
about it in the bazars when I talk to them."
"Oh, they do--do they? What do they say, Tods?"
Tods tucked his feet under his red flannel dressing-gown and said:--"I
The Legal Member waited patiently. Then Tods, with infinite compassion:
"You don't speak my talk, do you, Councillor Sahib?"
"No; I am sorry to say I do not," said the Legal' Member.
"Very well," said Tods. "I must fink in English."
He spent a minute putting his ideas in order, and began very slowly,
translating in his mind from the vernacular to English, as many
Anglo-Indian children do. You must remember that the Legal Member
helped him on by questions when he halted, for Tods was not equal to the
sustained flight of oratory that follows.
"Ditta Mull says:--'This thing is the talk of a child, and was made up
by fools.' But I don't think you are a fool, Councillor Sahib," said
Todds, hastily. "You caught my goat. This is what Ditta Mull says:--'I
am not a fool, and why should the Sirkar say I am a child? I can see if
the land is good and if the landlord is good. If I am a fool, the sin is
upon my own head. For five years I take my ground for which I have saved
money, and a wife I take too, and a little son is born.' Ditta Mull has
one daughter now, but he SAYS he will have a son, soon. And he says: 'At
the end of five years, by this new bundobust, I must go. If I do not go,
I must get fresh seals and takkus-stamps on the papers, perhaps in the
middle of the harvest, and to go to the law-courts once is wisdom, but
to go twice is Jehannum.' That is QUITE true," explained Tods, gravely.
"All my friends say so. And Ditta Mull says:--'Always fresh takkus and
paying money to vakils and chaprassis and law-courts every five years or
else the landlord makes me go. Why do I want to go? Am I fool? If I am a
fool and do not know, after forty years, good land when I see it, let
me die! But if the new bundobust says for FIFTEEN years, then it is
good and wise. My little son is a man, and I am burnt, and he takes the
ground or another ground, paying only once for the takkus-stamps on the
papers, and his little son is born, and at the end of fifteen years is
a man too. But what profit is there in five years and fresh papers?
Nothing but dikh, trouble, dikh. We are not young men who take these
lands, but old ones--not jais, but tradesmen with a little money--and
for fifteen years we shall have peace. Nor are we children that the
Sirkar should treat us so."
Here Tods stopped short, for the whole table were listening. The Legal
Member said to Tods: "Is that all?"
"All I can remember," said Tods. "But you should see Ditta Mull's big
monkey. It's just like a Councillor Sahib."
"Tods! Go to bed," said his father.
Tods gathered up his dressing-gown tail and departed.
The Legal Member brought his hand down on the table with a crash--"By
Jove!" said the Legal Member, "I believe the boy is right. The short
tenure IS the weak point."
He left early, thinking over what Tods had said. Now, it was obviously
impossible for the Legal Member to play with a bunnia's monkey, by way
of getting understanding; but he did better. He made inquiries,
always bearing in mind the fact that the real native--not the hybrid,
University-trained mule--is as timid as a colt, and, little by little,
he coaxed some of the men whom the measure concerned most intimately to
give in their views, which squared very closely with Tods' evidence.
So the Bill was amended in that clause; and the Legal Member was filled
with an uneasy suspicion that Native Members represent very little
except the Orders they carry on their bosoms. But he put the thought
from him as illiberal. He was a most Liberal Man.
After a time the news spread through the bazars that Tods had got the
Bill recast in the tenure clause, and if Tods' Mamma had not interfered,
Tods would have made himself sick on the baskets of fruit and pistachio
nuts and Cabuli grapes and almonds that crowded the verandah. Till he
went Home, Tods ranked some few degrees before the Viceroy in popular
estimation. But for the little life of him Tods could not understand
In the Legal Member's private-paper-box still lies the rough draft of
the Sub-Montane Tracts Ryotwari Revised Enactment; and, opposite the
twenty-second clause, pencilled in blue chalk, and signed by the Legal
Member, are the words "Tods' Amendment."
IN THE PRIDE OF HIS YOUTH.
"Stopped in the straight when the race was his own!
Look at him cutting it--cur to the bone!"
"Ask ere the youngster be rated and chidden,
What did he carry and how was he ridden?
Maybe they used him too much at the start;
Maybe Fate's weight-cloths are breaking his heart."
When I was telling you of the joke that The Worm played off on the
Senior Subaltern, I promised a somewhat similar tale, but with all the
jest left out. This is that tale:
Dicky Hatt was kidnapped in his early, early youth--neither by
landlady's daughter, housemaid, barmaid, nor cook, but by a girl so
nearly of his own caste that only a woman could have said she was just
the least little bit in the world below it. This happened a month
before he came out to India, and five days after his one-and-twentieth
birthday. The girl was nineteen--six years older than Dicky in the
things of this world, that is to say--and, for the time, twice as
foolish as he.
Excepting, always, falling off a horse there is nothing more fatally
easy than marriage before the Registrar. The ceremony costs less than
fifty shillings, and is remarkably like walking into a pawn-shop. After
the declarations of residence have been put in, four minutes will
cover the rest of the proceedings--fees, attestation, and all. Then the
Registrar slides the blotting-pad over the names, and says grimly, with
his pen between his teeth:--"Now you're man and wife;" and the couple
walk out into the street, feeling as if something were horribly illegal
But that ceremony holds and can drag a man to his undoing just
as thoroughly as the "long as ye both shall live" curse from the
altar-rails, with the bridesmaids giggling behind, and "The Voice that
breathed o'er Eden" lifting the roof off. In this manner was Dicky Hatt
kidnapped, and he considered it vastly fine, for he had received an
appointment in India which carried a magnificent salary from the Home
point of view. The marriage was to be kept secret for a year. Then Mrs.
Dicky Hatt was to come out and the rest of life was to be a glorious
golden mist. That was how they sketched it under the Addison Road
Station lamps; and, after one short month, came Gravesend and Dicky
steaming out to his new life, and the girl crying in a thirty-shillings
a week bed-and-living room, in a back street off Montpelier Square near
the Knightsbridge Barracks.
But the country that Dicky came to was a hard land, where "men" of
twenty-one were reckoned very small boys indeed, and life was expensive.
The salary that loomed so large six thousand miles away did not go far.
Particularly when Dicky divided it by two, and remitted more than the
fair half, at 1-6, to Montpelier Square. One hundred and thirty-five
rupees out of three hundred and thirty is not much to live on; but
it was absurd to suppose that Mrs. Hatt could exist forever on the 20
pounds held back by Dicky, from his outfit allowance. Dicky saw this,
and remitted at once; always remembering that Rs. 700 were to be paid,
twelve months later, for a first-class passage out for a lady. When you
add to these trifling details the natural instincts of a boy beginning a
new life in a new country and longing to go about and enjoy himself, and
the necessity for grappling with strange work--which, properly speaking,
should take up a boy's undivided attention--you will see that Dicky
started handicapped. He saw it himself for a breath or two; but he did
not guess the full beauty of his future.
As the hot weather began, the shackles settled on him and ate into his
flesh. First would come letters--big, crossed, seven sheet letters--from
his wife, telling him how she longed to see him, and what a Heaven
upon earth would be their property when they met. Then some boy of the
chummery wherein Dicky lodged would pound on the door of his bare little
room, and tell him to come out and look at a pony--the very thing to
suit him. Dicky could not afford ponies. He had to explain this. Dicky
could not afford living in the chummery, modest as it was. He had to
explain this before he moved to a single room next the office where
he worked all day. He kept house on a green oil-cloth table-cover, one
chair, one charpoy, one photograph, one tooth-glass, very strong and
thick, a seven-rupee eight-anna filter, and messing by contract at
thirty-seven rupees a month. Which last item was extortion. He had no
punkah, for a punkah costs fifteen rupees a month; but he slept on the
roof of the office with all his wife's letters under his pillow. Now and
again he was asked out to dinner where he got both a punkah and an iced
drink. But this was seldom, for people objected to recognizing a boy who
had evidently the instincts of a Scotch tallow-chandler, and who lived
in such a nasty fashion. Dicky could not subscribe to any amusement, so
he found no amusement except the pleasure of turning over his Bank-book
and reading what it said about "loans on approved security." That cost
nothing. He remitted through a Bombay Bank, by the way, and the Station
knew nothing of his private affairs.
Every month he sent Home all he could possibly spare for his wife--and
for another reason which was expected to explain itself shortly and
would require more money.
About this time, Dicky was overtaken with the nervous, haunting fear
that besets married men when they are out of sorts. He had no pension to
look to. What if he should die suddenly, and leave his wife unprovided
for? The thought used to lay hold of him in the still, hot nights on the
roof, till the shaking of his heart made him think that he was going to
die then and there of heart-disease. Now this is a frame of mind which
no boy has a right to know. It is a strong man's trouble; but, coming
when it did, it nearly drove poor punkah-less, perspiring Dicky Hatt
mad. He could tell no one about it.
A certain amount of "screw" is as necessary for a man as for a
billiard-ball. It makes them both do wonderful things. Dicky needed
money badly, and he worked for it like a horse. But, naturally, the men
who owned him knew that a boy can live very comfortably on a certain
income--pay in India is a matter of age, not merit, you see, and if
their particular boy wished to work like two boys, Business forbid that
they should stop him! But Business forbid that they should give him an
increase of pay at his present ridiculously immature age! So Dicky won
certain rises of salary--ample for a boy--not enough for a wife and
child--certainly too little for the seven-hundred-rupee passage that he
and Mrs. Hatt had discussed so lightly once upon a time. And with this
he was forced to be content.
Somehow, all his money seemed to fade away in Home drafts and the
crushing Exchange, and the tone of the Home letters changed and grew
querulous. "Why wouldn't Dicky have his wife and the baby out? Surely he
had a salary--a fine salary--and it was too bad of him to enjoy himself
in India. But would he--could he--make the next draft a little more
elastic?" Here followed a list of baby's kit, as long as a Parsee's
bill. Then Dicky, whose heart yearned to his wife and the little son
he had never seen--which, again, is a feeling no boy is entitled
to--enlarged the draft and wrote queer half-boy, half-man letters,
saying that life was not so enjoyable after all and would the little
wife wait yet a little longer? But the little wife, however much she
approved of money, objected to waiting, and there was a strange, hard
sort of ring in her letters that Dicky didn't understand. How could he,
Later on still--just as Dicky had been told--apropos of another
youngster who had "made a fool of himself," as the saying is--that
matrimony would not only ruin his further chances of advancement, but
would lose him his present appointment--came the news that the baby, his
own little, little son, had died, and, behind this, forty lines of
an angry woman's scrawl, saying that death might have been averted if
certain things, all costing money, had been done, or if the mother and
the baby had been with Dicky. The letter struck at Dicky's naked heart;
but, not being officially entitled to a baby, he could show no sign of
How Dicky won through the next four months, and what hope he kept
alight to force him into his work, no one dare say. He pounded on, the
seven-hundred-rupee passage as far away as ever, and his style of living
unchanged, except when he launched into a new filter. There was the
strain of his office-work, and the strain of his remittances, and the
knowledge of his boy's death, which touched the boy more, perhaps, than
it would have touched a man; and, beyond all, the enduring strain of
his daily life. Gray-headed seniors, who approved of his thrift and his
fashion of denying himself everything pleasant, reminded him of the old
saw that says:
"If a youth would be distinguished in his art, art, art,
He must keep the girls away from his heart, heart, heart."
And Dicky, who fancied he had been through every trouble that a man is
permitted to know, had to laugh and agree; with the last line of his
balanced Bank-book jingling in his head day and night.
But he had one more sorrow to digest before the end. There arrived a
letter from the little wife--the natural sequence of the others if
Dicky had only known it--and the burden of that letter was "gone with
a handsomer man than you." It was a rather curious production, without
stops, something like this:--"She was not going to wait forever and the
baby was dead and Dicky was only a boy and he would never set eyes on
her again and why hadn't he waved his handkerchief to her when he left
Gravesend and God was her judge she was a wicked woman but Dicky was
worse enjoying himself in India and this other man loved the ground she
trod on and would Dicky ever forgive her for she would never forgive
Dicky; and there was no address to write to."
Instead of thanking his lucky stars that he was free, Dicky discovered
exactly how an injured husband feels--again, not at all the knowledge
to which a boy is entitled--for his mind went back to his wife as he
remembered her in the thirty-shilling "suite" in Montpelier Square, when
the dawn of his last morning in England was breaking, and she was crying
in the bed. Whereat he rolled about on his bed and bit his fingers. He
never stopped to think whether, if he had met Mrs. Hatt after those
two years, he would have discovered that he and she had grown quite
different and new persons. This, theoretically, he ought to have done.
He spent the night after the English Mail came in rather severe pain.
Next morning, Dicky Hatt felt disinclined to work. He argued that he had
missed the pleasure of youth. He was tired, and he had tasted all the
sorrow in life before three-and-twenty. His Honor was gone--that was the
man; and now he, too, would go to the Devil--that was the boy in him. So
he put his head down on the green oil-cloth table-cover, and wept before
resigning his post, and all it offered.
But the reward of his services came. He was given three days to
reconsider himself, and the Head of the establishment, after some
telegraphings, said that it was a most unusual step, but, in view of the
ability that Mr. Hatt had displayed at such and such a time, at such and
such junctures, he was in a position to offer him an infinitely superior
post--first on probation, and later, in the natural course of things,
on confirmation. "And how much does the post carry?" said Dicky. "Six
hundred and fifty rupees," said the Head slowly, expecting to see the
young man sink with gratitude and joy.
And it came then! The seven hundred rupee passage, and enough to have
saved the wife, and the little son, and to have allowed of assured and
open marriage, came then. Dicky burst into a roar of laughter--laughter
he could not check--nasty, jangling merriment that seemed as if it
would go on forever. When he had recovered himself he said, quite
seriously:--"I'm tired of work. I'm an old man now. It's about time I
retired. And I will."
"The boy's mad!" said the Head.
I think he was right; but Dicky Hatt never reappeared to settle the
Go, stalk the red deer o'er the heather
Ride, follow the fox if you can!
But, for pleasure and profit together,
Allow me the hunting of Man,--
The chase of the Human, the search for the Soul
To its ruin,--the hunting of Man.
The Old Shikarri.
I believe the difference began in the matter of a horse, with a twist in
his temper, whom Pinecoffin sold to Nafferton and by whom Nafferton was
nearly slain. There may have been other causes of offence; the horse was
the official stalking-horse. Nafferton was very angry; but Pinecoffin
laughed and said that he had never guaranteed the beast's manners.
Nafferton laughed, too, though he vowed that he would write off his fall
against Pinecoffin if he waited five years. Now, a Dalesman from beyond
Skipton will forgive an injury when the Strid lets a man live; but a
South Devon man is as soft as a Dartmoor bog. You can see from their
names that Nafferton had the race-advantage of Pinecoffin. He was a
peculiar man, and his notions of humor were cruel. He taught me a new
and fascinating form of shikar. He hounded Pinecoffin from Mithankot
to Jagadri, and from Gurgaon to Abbottabad up and across the Punjab,
a large province and in places remarkably dry. He said that he had no
intention of allowing Assistant Commissioners to "sell him pups," in the
shape of ramping, screaming countrybreds, without making their lives a
burden to them.
Most Assistant Commissioners develop a bent for some special work after
their first hot weather in the country. The boys with digestions hope to
write their names large on the Frontier and struggle for dreary places
like Bannu and Kohat. The bilious ones climb into the Secretariat. Which
is very bad for the liver. Others are bitten with a mania for District
work, Ghuznivide coins or Persian poetry; while some, who come of
farmers' stock, find that the smell of the Earth after the Rains gets
into their blood, and calls them to "develop the resources of the
Province." These men are enthusiasts. Pinecoffin belonged to their
class. He knew a great many facts bearing on the cost of bullocks and
temporary wells, and opium-scrapers, and what happens if you burn too
much rubbish on a field, in the hope of enriching used-up soil. All the
Pinecoffins come of a landholding breed, and so the land only took back
her own again. Unfortunately--most unfortunately for Pinecoffin--he
was a Civilian, as well as a farmer. Nafferton watched him, and thought
about the horse. Nafferton said:--"See me chase that boy till he drops!"
I said:--"You can't get your knife into an Assistant Commissioner."
Nafferton told me that I did not understand the administration of the
Our Government is rather peculiar. It gushes on the agricultural and
general information side, and will supply a moderately respectable man
with all sorts of "economic statistics," if he speaks to it prettily.
For instance, you are interested in gold-washing in the sands of the
Sutlej. You pull the string, and find that it wakes up half a dozen
Departments, and finally communicates, say, with a friend of yours
in the Telegraph, who once wrote some notes on the customs of the
gold-washers when he was on construction-work in their part of the
Empire. He may or may not be pleased at being ordered to write out
everything he knows for your benefit. This depends on his temperament.
The bigger man you are, the more information and the greater trouble can
Nafferton was not a big man; but he had the reputation of being very
earnest. An "earnest" man can do much with a Government. There was an
earnest man who once nearly wrecked... but all India knows THAT story.
I am not sure what real "earnestness" is. A very fair imitation can
be manufactured by neglecting to dress decently, by mooning about in a
dreamy, misty sort of way, by taking office-work home after staying
in office till seven, and by receiving crowds of native gentlemen on
Sundays. That is one sort of "earnestness."
Nafferton cast about for a peg whereon to hang his earnestness, and for
a string that would communicate with Pinecoffin. He found both. They
were Pig. Nafferton became an earnest inquirer after Pig. He informed
the Government that he had a scheme whereby a very large percentage of
the British Army in India could be fed, at a very large saving, on
Pig. Then he hinted that Pinecoffin might supply him with the "varied
information necessary to the proper inception of the scheme." So the
Government wrote on the back of the letter:--"Instruct Mr. Pinecoffin to
furnish Mr. Nafferton with any information in his power." Government is
very prone to writing things on the backs of letters which, later, lead
to trouble and confusion.
Nafferton had not the faintest interest in Pig, but he knew that
Pinecoffin would flounce into the trap. Pinecoffin was delighted at
being consulted about Pig. The Indian Pig is not exactly an important
factor in agricultural life; but Nafferton explained to Pinecoffin that
there was room for improvement, and corresponded direct with that young
You may think that there is not much to be evolved from Pig. It all
depends how you set to work. Pinecoffin being a Civilian and wishing
to do things thoroughly, began with an essay on the Primitive Pig,
the Mythology of the Pig, and the Dravidian Pig. Nafferton filed that
information--twenty-seven foolscap sheets--and wanted to know about the
distribution of the Pig in the Punjab, and how it stood the Plains in
the hot weather. From this point onwards, remember that I am giving you
only the barest outlines of the affair--the guy-ropes, as it were, of
the web that Nafferton spun round Pinecoffin.
Pinecoffin made a colored Pig-population map, and collected observations
on the comparative longevity of the Pig (a) in the sub-montane tracts
of the Himalayas, and (b) in the Rechna Doab. Nafferton filed that, and
asked what sort of people looked after Pig. This started an ethnological
excursus on swineherds, and drew from Pinecoffin long tables showing
the proportion per thousand of the caste in the Derajat. Nafferton filed
that bundle, and explained that the figures which he wanted referred to
the Cis-Sutlej states, where he understood that Pigs were very fine
and large, and where he proposed to start a Piggery. By this time,
Government had quite forgotten their instructions to Mr. Pinecoffin.
They were like the gentlemen, in Keats' poem, who turned well-oiled
wheels to skin other people. But Pinecoffin was just entering into the
spirit of the Pig-hunt, as Nafferton well knew he would do. He had a
fair amount of work of his own to clear away; but he sat up of nights
reducing Pig to five places of decimals for the honor of his Service. He
was not going to appear ignorant of so easy a subject as Pig.
Then Government sent him on special duty to Kohat, to "inquire into"
the big-seven-foot, iron-shod spades of that District. People had been
killing each other with those peaceful tools; and Government wished
to know "whether a modified form of agricultural implement could
not, tentatively and as a temporary measure, be introduced among the
agricultural population without needlessly or unduly exasperating the
existing religious sentiments of the peasantry."
Between those spades and Nafferton's Pig, Pinecoffin was rather heavily
Nafferton now began to take up "(a) The food-supply of the indigenous
Pig, with a view to the improvement of its capacities as a flesh-former.
(b) The acclimatization of the exotic Pig, maintaining its distinctive
peculiarities." Pinecoffin replied exhaustively that the exotic Pig
would become merged in the indigenous type; and quoted horse-breeding
statistics to prove this. The side-issue was debated, at great length on
Pinecoffin's side, till Nafferton owned that he had been in the wrong,
and moved the previous question. When Pinecoffin had quite written
himself out about flesh-formers, and fibrins, and glucose and the
nitrogenous constituents of maize and lucerne, Nafferton raised the
question of expense. By this time Pinecoffin, who had been transferred
from Kohat, had developed a Pig theory of his own, which he stated in
thirty-three folio pages--all carefully filed by Nafferton. Who asked
These things took ten months, and Pinecoffin's interest in the potential
Piggery seemed to die down after he had stated his own views. But
Nafferton bombarded him with letters on "the Imperial aspect of
the scheme, as tending to officialize the sale of pork, and thereby
calculated to give offence to the Mahomedan population of Upper India."
He guessed that Pinecoffin would want some broad, free-hand work after
his niggling, stippling, decimal details. Pinecoffin handled the latest
development of the case in masterly style, and proved that no "popular
ebullition of excitement was to be apprehended." Nafferton said that
there was nothing like Civilian insight in matters of this kind,
and lured him up a bye-path--"the possible profits to accrue to the
Government from the sale of hog-bristles." There is an extensive
literature of hog-bristles, and the shoe, brush, and colorman's trades
recognize more varieties of bristles than you would think possible.
After Pinecoffin had wondered a little at Nafferton's rage for
information, he sent back a monograph, fifty-one pages, on "Products of
the Pig." This led him, under Nafferton's tender handling, straight to
the Cawnpore factories, the trade in hog-skin for saddles--and thence
to the tanners. Pinecoffin wrote that pomegranate-seed was the best cure
for hog-skin, and suggested--for the past fourteen months had wearied
him--that Nafferton should "raise his pigs before he tanned them."
Nafferton went back to the second section of his fifth question. How
could the exotic Pig be brought to give as much pork as it did in the
West and yet "assume the essentially hirsute characteristics of its
oriental congener?" Pinecoffin felt dazed, for he had forgotten what
he had written sixteen month's before, and fancied that he was about
to reopen the entire question. He was too far involved in the hideous
tangle to retreat, and, in a weak moment, he wrote:--"Consult my first
letter." Which related to the Dravidian Pig. As a matter of fact,
Pinecoffin had still to reach the acclimatization stage; having gone off
on a side-issue on the merging of types.
THEN Nafferton really unmasked his batteries! He complained to the
Government, in stately language, of "the paucity of help accorded to me
in my earnest attempts to start a potentially remunerative industry, and
the flippancy with which my requests for information are treated by a
gentleman whose pseudo-scholarly attainments should at lest have taught
him the primary differences between the Dravidian and the Berkshire
variety of the genus Sus. If I am to understand that the letter to which
he refers me contains his serious views on the acclimatization of a
valuable, though possibly uncleanly, animal, I am reluctantly compelled
to believe," etc., etc.
There was a new man at the head of the Department of Castigation. The
wretched Pinecoffin was told that the Service was made for the Country,
and not the Country for the Service, and that he had better begin to
supply information about Pigs.
Pinecoffin answered insanely that he had written everything that could
be written about Pig, and that some furlough was due to him.
Nafferton got a copy of that letter, and sent it, with the essay on the
Dravidian Pig, to a down-country paper, which printed both in full. The
essay was rather highflown; but if the Editor had seen the stacks of
paper, in Pinecoffin's handwriting, on Nafferton's table, he would not
have been so sarcastic about the "nebulous discursiveness and blatant
self-sufficiency of the modern Competition-wallah, and his utter
inability to grasp the practical issues of a practical question." Many
friends cut out these remarks and sent them to Pinecoffin.
I have already stated that Pinecoffin came of a soft stock. This last
stroke frightened and shook him. He could not understand it; but he felt
he had been, somehow, shamelessly betrayed by Nafferton. He realized
that he had wrapped himself up in the Pigskin without need, and that
he could not well set himself right with his Government. All his
acquaintances asked after his "nebulous discursiveness" or his "blatant
self-sufficiency," and this made him miserable.
He took a train and went to Nafferton, whom he had not seen since
the Pig business began. He also took the cutting from the paper, and
blustered feebly and called Nafferton names, and then died down to a
watery, weak protest of the "I-say-it's-too-bad-you-know" order.
Nafferton was very sympathetic.
"I'm afraid I've given you a good deal of trouble, haven't I?" said he.
"Trouble!" whimpered Pinecoffin; "I don't mind the trouble so much,
though that was bad enough; but what I resent is this showing up in
print. It will stick to me like a burr all through my service. And I DID
do my best for your interminable swine. It's too bad of you, on my soul
"I don't know," said Nafferton; "have you ever been stuck with a horse?
It isn't the money I mind, though that is bad enough; but what I resent
is the chaff that follows, especially from the boy who stuck me. But I
think we'll cry quite now."
Pinecoffin found nothing to say save bad words; and Nafferton smiled
ever so sweetly, and asked him to dinner.
THE ROUT OF THE WHITE HUSSARS.
It was not in the open fight
We threw away the sword,
But in the lonely watching
In the darkness by the ford.
The waters lapped, the night-wind blew,
Full-armed the Fear was born and grew,
And we were flying ere we knew
From panic in the night.
Some people hold that an English Cavalry regiment cannot run. This is
a mistake. I have seen four hundred and thirty-seven sabres flying over
the face of the country in abject terror--have seen the best Regiment
that ever drew bridle, wiped off the Army List for the space of two
hours. If you repeat this tale to the White Hussars they will, in all
probability, treat you severely. They are not proud of the incident.
You may know the White Hussars by their "side," which is greater than
that of all the Cavalry Regiments on the roster. If this is not a
sufficient mark, you may know them by their old brandy. It has been
sixty years in the Mess and is worth going far to taste. Ask for the
"McGaire" old brandy, and see that you get it. If the Mess Sergeant
thinks that you are uneducated, and that the genuine article will be
lost on you, he will treat you accordingly. He is a good man. But, when
you are at Mess, you must never talk to your hosts about forced marches
or long-distance rides. The Mess are very sensitive; and, if they think
that you are laughing at them, will tell you so.
As the White Hussars say, it was all the Colonel's fault. He was a new
man, and he ought never to have taken the Command. He said that the
Regiment was not smart enough. This to the White Hussars, who knew they
could walk round any Horse and through any Guns, and over any Foot on
the face of the earth! That insult was the first cause of offence.
Then the Colonel cast the Drum-Horse--the Drum-Horse of the White
Hussars! Perhaps you do not see what an unspeakable crime he had
committed. I will try to make it clear. The soul of the Regiment lives
in the Drum-Horse, who carries the silver kettle-drums. He is nearly
always a big piebald Waler. That is a point of honor; and a Regiment
will spend anything you please on a piebald. He is beyond the ordinary
laws of casting. His work is very light, and he only manoeuvres at a
foot-pace. Wherefore, so long as he can step out and look handsome,
his well-being is assured. He knows more about the Regiment than the
Adjutant, and could not make a mistake if he tried.
The Drum-Horse of the White Hussars was only eighteen years old, and
perfectly equal to his duties. He had at least six years' more work in
him, and carried himself with all the pomp and dignity of a Drum-Major
of the Guards. The Regiment had paid Rs. 1,200 for him.
But the Colonel said that he must go, and he was cast in due form and
replaced by a washy, bay beast as ugly as a mule, with a ewe-neck,
rat-tail, and cow-hocks. The Drummer detested that animal, and the best
of the Band-horses put back their ears and showed the whites of their
eyes at the very sight of him. They knew him for an upstart and no
gentleman. I fancy that the Colonel's ideas of smartness extended to
the Band, and that he wanted to make it take part in the regular parade
movements. A Cavalry Band is a sacred thing. It only turns out for
Commanding Officers' parades, and the Band Master is one degree more
important than the Colonel. He is a High Priest and the "Keel Row" is
his holy song. The "Keel Row" is the Cavalry Trot; and the man who has
never heard that tune rising, high and shrill, above the rattle of the
Regiment going past the saluting-base, has something yet to hear and
When the Colonel cast the Drum-horse of the White Hussars, there was
nearly a mutiny.
The officers were angry, the Regiment were furious, and the Bandsman
swore--like troopers. The Drum-Horse was going to be put up to
auction--public auction--to be bought, perhaps, by a Parsee and put into
a cart! It was worse than exposing the inner life of the Regiment to the
whole world, or selling the Mess Plate to a Jew--a black Jew.
The Colonel was a mean man and a bully. He knew what the Regiment
thought about his action; and, when the troopers offered to buy the
Drum-Horse, he said that their offer was mutinous and forbidden by the
But one of the Subalterns--Hogan-Yale, an Irishman--bought the
Drum-Horse for Rs. 160 at the sale; and the Colonel was wroth. Yale
professed repentance--he was unnaturally submissive--and said that,
as he had only made the purchase to save the horse from possible
ill-treatment and starvation, he would now shoot him and end the
business. This appeared to soothe the Colonel, for he wanted the
Drum-Horse disposed of. He felt that he had made a mistake, and could
not of course acknowledge it. Meantime, the presence of the Drum-Horse
was an annoyance to him.
Yale took to himself a glass of the old brandy, three cheroots, and his
friend, Martyn; and they all left the Mess together. Yale and Martyn
conferred for two hours in Yale's quarters; but only the bull-terrier
who keeps watch over Yale's boot-trees knows what they said. A horse,
hooded and sheeted to his ears, left Yale's stables and was taken, very
unwillingly, into the Civil Lines. Yale's groom went with him. Two men
broke into the Regimental Theatre and took several paint-pots and some
large scenery brushes. Then night fell over the Cantonments, and there
was a noise as of a horse kicking his loose-box to pieces in Yale's
stables. Yale had a big, old, white Waler trap-horse.
The next day was a Thursday, and the men, hearing that Yale was going
to shoot the Drum-Horse in the evening, determined to give the beast a
regular regimental funeral--a finer one than they would have given the
Colonel had he died just then. They got a bullock-cart and some sacking,
and mounds and mounds of roses, and the body, under sacking, was
out to the place where the anthrax cases were cremated; two-thirds of
the Regiment followed. There was no Band, but they all sang "The Place
where the old Horse died" as something respectful and appropriate to the
occasion. When the corpse was dumped into the grave and the men began
throwing down armfuls of roses to cover it, the Farrier-Sergeant ripped
out an oath and said aloud:--"Why, it ain't the Drum-Horse any more than
it's me!" The Troop-Sergeant-Majors asked him whether he had left
his head in the Canteen. The Farrier-Sergeant said that he knew the
Drum-Horse's feet as well as he knew his own; but he was silenced
when he saw the regimental number burnt in on the poor stiff, upturned
Thus was the Drum-Horse of the White Hussars buried; the
Farrier-Sergeant grumbling. The sacking that covered the corpse was
smeared in places with black paint; and the Farrier-Sergeant drew
attention to this fact. But the Troop-Sergeant-Major of E Troop kicked
him severely on the shin, and told him that he was undoubtedly drunk.
On the Monday following the burial, the Colonel sought revenge on the
White Hussars. Unfortunately, being at that time temporarily in Command
of the Station, he ordered a Brigade field-day. He said that he wished
to make the regiment "sweat for their damned insolence," and he carried
out his notion thoroughly. That Monday was one of the hardest days
in the memory of the White Hussars. They were thrown against a
skeleton-enemy, and pushed forward, and withdrawn, and dismounted, and
"scientifically handled" in every possible fashion over dusty country,
till they sweated profusely. Their only amusement came late in the day,
when they fell upon the battery of Horse Artillery and chased it for two
mile's. This was a personal question, and most of the troopers had money
on the event; the Gunners saying openly that they had the legs of the
White Hussars. They were wrong. A march-past concluded the campaign,
when the Regiment got back to their Lines, the men were coated with dirt
from spur to chin-strap.
The White Hussars have one great and peculiar privilege. They won it at
Fontenoy, I think.
Many Regiments possess special rights, such as wearing collars with
undress uniform, or a bow of ribbon between the shoulders, or red and
white roses in their helmets on certain days of the year. Some
rights are connected with regimental saints, and some with regimental
successes. All are valued highly; but none so highly as the right of
the White Hussars to have the Band playing when their horses are being
watered in the Lines. Only one tune is played, and that tune never
varies. I don't know its real name, but the White Hussars call
it:--"Take me to London again." It sound's very pretty. The Regiment
would sooner be struck off the roster than forego their distinction.
After the "dismiss" was sounded, the officers rode off home to prepare
for stables; and the men filed into the lines, riding easy. That is to
say, they opened their tight buttons, shifted their helmets, and began
to joke or to swear as the humor took them; the more careful slipping
off and easing girths and curbs. A good trooper values his mount exactly
as much as he values himself, and believes, or should believe, that the
two together are irresistible where women or men, girl's or gun's, are
Then the Orderly-Officer gave the order:--"Water horses," and the
Regiment loafed off to the squadron-troughs, which were in rear of
the stables and between these and the barracks. There were four huge
troughs, one for each squadron, arranged en echelon, so that the whole
Regiment could water in ten minutes if it liked. But it lingered for
seventeen, as a rule, while the Band played.
The band struck up as the squadrons filed off the troughs and the men
slipped their feet out of the stirrups and chaffed each other. The sun
was just setting in a big, hot bed of red cloud, and the road to the
Civil Lines seemed to run straight into the sun's eye. There was a
little dot on the road. It grew and grew till it showed as a horse, with
a sort of gridiron thing on his back. The red cloud glared through the
bars of the gridiron. Some of the troopers shaded their eyes with their
hands and said:--"What the mischief as that there 'orse got on 'im!"
In another minute they heard a neigh that every soul--horse and man--in
the Regiment knew, and saw, heading straight towards the Band, the dead
Drum-Horse of the White Hussars!
On his withers banged and bumped the kettle-drums draped in crape, and
on his back, very stiff and soldierly, sat a bare-headed skeleton.
The band stopped playing, and, for a moment, there was a hush.
Then some one in E troop--men said it was the
Troop-Sergeant-Major--swung his horse round and yelled. No one can
account exactly for what happened afterwards; but it seems that, at
least, one man in each troop set an example of panic, and the rest
followed like sheep. The horses that had barely put their muzzles into
the trough's reared and capered; but, as soon as the Band broke, which
it did when the ghost of the Drum-Horse was about a furlong distant, all
hooves followed suit, and the clatter of the stampede--quite different
from the orderly throb and roar of a movement on parade, or the rough
horse-play of watering in camp--made them only more terrified. They felt
that the men on their backs were afraid of something. When horses once
know THAT, all is over except the butchery.
Troop after troop turned from the troughs and ran--anywhere, and
everywhere--like spit quicksilver. It was a most extraordinary
spectacle, for men and horses were in all stages of easiness, and the
carbine-buckets flopping against their sides urged the horses on. Men
were shouting and cursing, and trying to pull clear of the Band which
was being chased by the Drum-Horse whose rider had fallen forward and
seemed to be spurring for a wager.
The Colonel had gone over to the Mess for a drink. Most of the officers
were with him, and the Subaltern of the Day was preparing to go down
to the lines, and receive the watering reports from the Troop-Sergeant
Majors. When "Take me to London again" stopped, after twenty bars, every
one in the Mess said:--"What on earth has happened?" A minute later,
they heard unmilitary noises, and saw, far across the plain, the White
Hussars scattered, and broken, and flying.
The Colonel was speechless with rage, for he thought that the Regiment
had risen against him or was unanimously drunk. The Band, a disorganized
mob, tore past, and at it's heels labored the Drum-Horse--the dead and
buried Drum-Horse--with the jolting, clattering skeleton. Hogan-Yale
whispered softly to Martyn:--"No wire will stand that treatment," and
the Band, which had doubled like a hare, came back again. But the rest
of the Regiment was gone, was rioting all over the Province, for the
dusk had shut in and each man was howling to his neighbor that the
Drum-Horse was on his flank. Troop-Horses are far too tenderly treated
as a rule. They can, on emergencies, do a great deal, even with
seventeen stone on their backs. As the troopers found out.
How long this panic lasted I cannot say. I believe that when the moon
rose the men saw they had nothing to fear, and, by twos and threes
and half-troops, crept back into Cantonments very much ashamed of
themselves. Meantime, the Drum-Horse, disgusted at his treatment by
old friends, pulled up, wheeled round, and trotted up to the Mess
verandah-steps for bread. No one liked to run; but no one cared to go
forward till the Colonel made a movement and laid hold of the skeleton's
foot. The Band had halted some distance away, and now came back slowly.
The Colonel called it, individually and collectively, every evil name
that occurred to him at the time; for he had set his hand on the
bosom of the Drum-Horse and found flesh and blood. Then he beat the
kettle-drums with his clenched fist, and discovered that they were but
made of silvered paper and bamboo. Next, still swearing, he tried to
drag the skeleton out of the saddle, but found that it had been wired
into the cantle. The sight of the Colonel, with his arms round the
skeleton's pelvis and his knee in the old Drum-Horse's stomach, was
striking. Not to say amusing. He worried the thing off in a minute or
two, and threw it down on the ground, saying to the Band:--"Here, you
curs, that's what you're afraid of." The skeleton did not look pretty in
the twilight. The Band-Sergeant seemed to recognize it, for he began to
chuckle and choke. "Shall I take it away, sir?" said the Band-Sergeant.
"Yes," said the Colonel, "take it to Hell, and ride there yourselves!"
The Band-Sergeant saluted, hoisted the skeleton across his saddle-bow,
and led off to the stables. Then the Colonel began to make inquiries
for the rest of the Regiment, and the language he used was wonderful. He
would disband the Regiment--he would court-martial every soul in it--he
would not command such a set of rabble, and so on, and so on. As the
men dropped in, his language grew wilder, until at last it exceeded the
utmost limits of free speech allowed even to a Colonel of Horse.
Martyn took Hogan-Yale aside and suggested compulsory retirement from
the service as a necessity when all was discovered. Martyn was the
weaker man of the two, Hogan-Yale put up his eyebrows and remarked,
firstly, that he was the son of a Lord, and secondly, that he was
as innocent as the babe unborn of the theatrical resurrection of the
"My instructions," said Yale, with a singularly sweet smile, "were that
the Drum-Horse should be sent back as impressively as possible. I ask
you, AM I responsible if a mule-headed friend sends him back in such a
manner as to disturb the peace of mind of a regiment of Her Majesty's
Martyn said:--"you are a great man and will in time become a General;
but I'd give my chance of a troop to be safe out of this affair."
Providence saved Martyn and Hogan-Yale. The Second-in-Command led the
Colonel away to the little curtained alcove wherein the subalterns of
the white Hussars were accustomed to play poker of nights; and there,
after many oaths on the Colonel's part, they talked together in low
tones. I fancy that the Second-in-Command must have represented the
scare as the work of some trooper whom it would be hopeless to detect;
and I know that he dwelt upon the sin and the shame of making a public
laughingstock of the scare.
"They will call us," said the Second-in-Command, who had really a fine
imagination, "they will call us the 'Fly-by-Nights'; they will call us
the 'Ghost Hunters'; they will nickname us from one end of the Army list
to the other. All the explanations in the world won't make outsiders
understand that the officers were away when the panic began. For the
honor of the Regiment and for your own sake keep this thing quiet."
The Colonel was so exhausted with anger that soothing him down was not
so difficult as might be imagined. He was made to see, gently and by
degrees, that it was obviously impossible to court-martial the whole
Regiment, and equally impossible to proceed against any subaltern who,
in his belief, had any concern in the hoax.
"But the beast's alive! He's never been shot at all!" shouted the
Colonel. "It's flat, flagrant disobedience! I've known a man broke for
less, d----d sight less. They're mocking me, I tell you, Mutman! They're
Once more, the Second-in-Command set himself to sooth the Colonel,
and wrestled with him for half-an-hour. At the end of that time, the
Regimental Sergeant-Major reported himself. The situation was rather
novel tell to him; but he was not a man to be put out by circumstances.
He saluted and said: "Regiment all come back, Sir." Then, to propitiate
the Colonel:--"An' none of the horses any the worse, Sir."
The Colonel only snorted and answered:--"You'd better tuck the men into
their cots, then, and see that they don't wake up and cry in the night."
The Sergeant withdrew.
His little stroke of humor pleased the Colonel, and, further, he
felt slightly ashamed of the language he had been using. The
Second-in-Command worried him again, and the two sat talking far into
Next day but one, there was a Commanding Officer's parade, and the
Colonel harangued the White Hussars vigorously. The pith of his speech
was that, since the Drum-Horse in his old age had proved himself capable
of cutting up the Whole Regiment, he should return to his post of pride
at the head of the band, BUT the Regiment were a set of ruffians with
The White Hussars shouted, and threw everything movable about them into
the air, and when the parade was over, they cheered the Colonel till
they couldn't speak. No cheers were put up for Lieutenant Hogan-Yale,
who smiled very sweetly in the background.
Said the Second-in-Command to the Colonel, unofficially:--"These little
things ensure popularity, and do not the least affect discipline."
"But I went back on my word," said the Colonel.
"Never mind," said the Second-in-Command. "The White Hussars will follow
you anywhere from to-day. Regiment's are just like women. They will do
anything for trinketry."
A week later, Hogan-Yale received an extraordinary letter from some one
who signed himself "Secretary Charity and Zeal, 3709, E. C.," and asked
for "the return of our skeleton which we have reason to believe is in
"Who the deuce is this lunatic who trades in bones?" said Hogan-Yale.
"Beg your pardon, Sir," said the Band-Sergeant, "but the skeleton is
with me, an' I'll return it if you'll pay the carriage into the Civil
Lines. There's a coffin with it, Sir."
Hogan-Yale smiled and handed two rupees to the Band-Sergeant,
saying:--"Write the date on the skull, will you?"
If you doubt this story, and know where to go, you can see the date on
the skeleton. But don't mention the matter to the White Hussars.
I happen to know something about it, because I prepared the Drum-Horse
for his resurrection. He did not take kindly to the skeleton at all.
THE BRONCKHORST DIVORCE-CASE.
In the daytime, when she moved about me,
In the night, when she was sleeping at my side,--
I was wearied, I was wearied of her presence.
Day by day and night by night I grew to hate her--
Would to God that she or I had died!
There was a man called Bronckhorst--a three-cornered, middle-aged man
in the Army--gray as a badger, and, some people said, with a touch of
country-blood in him. That, however, cannot be proved. Mrs. Bronckhorst
was not exactly young, though fifteen years younger than her husband.
She was a large, pale, quiet woman, with heavy eyelids, over weak eyes,
and hair that turned red or yellow as the lights fell on it.
Bronckhorst was not nice in any way. He had no respect for the pretty
public and private lies that make life a little less nasty than it is.
His manner towards his wife was coarse. There are many things--including
actual assault with the clenched fist--that a wife will endure; but
seldom a wife can bear--as Mrs. Bronckhorst bore--with a long course of
brutal, hard chaff, making light of her weaknesses, her headaches, her
small fits of gayety, her dresses, her queer little attempts to make
herself attractive to her husband when she knows that she is not
what she has been, and--worst of all--the love that she spends on her
children. That particular sort of heavy-handed jest was specially dear
to Bronckhorst. I suppose that he had first slipped into it, meaning
no harm, in the honeymoon, when folk find their ordinary stock of
endearments run short, and so go to the other extreme to express their
feelings. A similar impulse make's a man say:--"Hutt, you old beast!"
when a favorite horse nuzzles his coat-front. Unluckily, when the
reaction of marriage sets in, the form of speech remains, and, the
tenderness having died out, hurts the wife more than she cares to say.
But Mrs. Bronckhorst was devoted to her "teddy," as she called him.
Perhaps that was why he objected to her. Perhaps--this is only a theory
to account for his infamous behavior later on--he gave way to the queer
savage feeling that sometimes takes by the throat a husband twenty
years' married, when he sees, across the table, the same face of
his wedded wife, and knows that, as he has sat facing it, so must he
continue to sit until day of its death or his own. Most men and all
women know the spasm. It only lasts for three breaths as a rule, must be
a "throw-back" to times when men and women were rather worse than they
are now, and is too unpleasant to be discussed.
Dinner at the Bronckhorst's was an infliction few men cared to undergo.
Bronckhorst took a pleasure in saying things that made his wife wince.
When their little boy came in at dessert, Bronckhorst used to give him
half a glass of wine, and naturally enough, the poor little mite got
first riotous, next miserable, and was removed screaming. Bronckhorst
asked if that was the way Teddy usually behaved, and whether Mrs.
Bronckhorst could not spare some of her time to teach the "little beggar
decency." Mrs. Bronckhorst, who loved the boy more than her own life,
tried not to cry--her spirit seemed to have been broken by her marriage.
Lastly, Bronckhorst used to say:--"There! That'll do, that'll do.
For God's sake try to behave like a rational woman. Go into the
drawing-room." Mrs. Bronckhorst would go, trying to carry it all
off with a smile; and the guest of the evening would feel angry and
After three years of this cheerful life--for Mrs. Bronckhorst had no
woman-friends to talk to--the Station was startled by the news that
Bronckhorst had instituted proceedings ON THE CRIMINAL COUNT, against
a man called Biel, who certainly had been rather attentive to Mrs.
Bronckhorst whenever she had appeared in public. The utter want of
reserve with which Bronckhorst treated his own dishonor helped us to
know that the evidence against Biel would be entirely circumstantial and
native. There were no letters; but Bronckhorst said openly that he would
rack Heaven and Earth until he saw Biel superintending the manufacture
of carpets in the Central Jail. Mrs. Bronckhorst kept entirely to her
house, and let charitable folks say what they pleased. Opinions were
divided. Some two-thirds of the Station jumped at once to the conclusion
that Biel was guilty; but a dozen men who knew and liked him held by
him. Biel was furious and surprised. He denied the whole thing, and
vowed that he would thrash Bronckhorst within an inch of his life.
No jury, we knew, could convict a man on the criminal count on native
evidence in a land where you can buy a murder-charge, including the
corpse, all complete for fifty-four rupees; but Biel did not care to
scrape through by the benefit of a doubt. He wanted the whole thing
cleared: but as he said one night:--"He can prove anything with
servants' evidence, and I've only my bare word." This was about a month
before the case came on; and beyond agreeing with Biel, we could do
little. All that we could be sure of was that the native evidence would
be bad enough to blast Biel's character for the rest of his service; for
when a native begins perjury he perjures himself thoroughly. He does not
boggle over details.
Some genius at the end of the table whereat the affair was being talked
over, said:--"Look here! I don't believe lawyers are any good. Get a man
to wire to Strickland, and beg him to come down and pull us through."
Strickland was about a hundred and eighty miles up the line. He had
not long been married to Miss Youghal, but he scented in the telegram a
chance of return to the old detective work that his soul lusted after,
and next night he came in and heard our story. He finished his pipe and
said oracularly:--"we must get at the evidence. Oorya bearer, Mussalman
khit and methraniayah, I suppose, are the pillars of the charge. I am on
in this piece; but I'm afraid I'm getting rusty in my talk."
He rose and went into Biel's bedroom where his trunk had been put, and
shut the door. An hour later, we heard him say:--"I hadn't the heart
to part with my old makeups when I married. Will this do?" There was a
lothely faquir salaaming in the doorway.
"Now lend me fifty rupees," said Strickland, "and give me your Words of
Honor that you won't tell my Wife."
He got all that he asked for, and left the house while the table drank
his health. What he did only he himself knows. A faquir hung about
Bronckhorst's compound for twelve days. Then a mehter appeared, and
Biel heard of HIM, he said that Strickland was an angel full-fledged.
Whether the mehter made love to Janki, Mrs. Bronckhorst's ayah, is a
question which concerns Strickland exclusively.
He came back at the end of three weeks, and said quietly:--"You spoke
the truth, Biel. The whole business is put up from beginning to end.
Jove! It almost astonishes ME! That Bronckhorst-beast isn't fit to
There was uproar and shouting, and Biel said:--"How are you going to
prove it? You can't say that you've been trespassing on Bronckhorst's
compound in disguise!"
"No," said Strickland. "Tell your lawyer-fool, whoever he is, to get up
something strong about 'inherent improbabilities' and 'discrepancies of
evidence.' He won't have to speak, but it will make him happy. I'M going
to run this business."
Biel held his tongue, and the other men waited to see what would happen.
They trusted Strickland as men trust quiet men. When the case came off
the Court was crowded. Strickland hung about in the verandah of the
Court, till he met the Mohammedan khitmatgar. Then he murmured a
faquir's blessing in his ear, and asked him how his second wife did. The
man spun round, and, as he looked into the eyes of "Estreeken Sahib,"
his jaw dropped. You must remember that before Strickland was married,
he was, as I have told you already, a power among natives. Strickland
whispered a rather coarse vernacular proverb to the effect that he was
abreast of all that was going on, and went into the Court armed with a
The Mohammedan was the first witness and Strickland beamed upon him
the back of the Court. The man moistened his lips with his tongue and,
in his abject fear of "Estreeken Sahib" the faquir, went back on every
detail of his evidence--said he was a poor man and God was his witness
that he had forgotten every thing that Bronckhorst Sahib had told him
to say. Between his terror of Strickland, the Judge, and Bronckhorst he
Then began the panic among the witnesses. Janki, the ayah, leering
chastely behind her veil, turned gray, and the bearer left the Court. He
said that his Mamma was dying and that it was not wholesome for any man
to lie unthriftily in the presence of "Estreeken Sahib."
Biel said politely to Bronckhorst:--"Your witnesses don't seem to work.
Haven't you any forged letters to produce?" But Bronckhorst was swaying
to and fro in his chair, and there was a dead pause after Biel had been
called to order.
Bronckhorst's Counsel saw the look on his client's face, and without
more ado, pitched his papers on the little green baize table, and
mumbled something about having been misinformed. The whole Court
applauded wildly, like soldiers at a theatre, and the Judge began to say
what he thought.
. . . . . . . . .
Biel came out of the place, and Strickland dropped a gut trainer's-whip
in the verandah. Ten minutes later, Biel was cutting Bronckhorst into
ribbons behind the old Court cells, quietly and without scandal. What
was left of Bronckhorst was sent home in a carriage; and his wife wept
over it and nursed it into a man again.
Later on, after Biel had managed to hush up the counter-charge against
Bronckhorst of fabricating false evidence, Mrs. Bronckhorst, with her
faint watery smile, said that there had been a mistake, but it wasn't
her Teddy's fault altogether. She would wait till her Teddy came back to
her. Perhaps he had grown tired of her, or she had tried his patience,
and perhaps we wouldn't cut her any more, and perhaps the mothers would
let their children play with "little Teddy" again. He was so lonely.
Then the Station invited Mrs. Bronckhorst everywhere, until Bronckhorst
was fit to appear in public, when he went Home and took his wife with
him. According to the latest advices, her Teddy did "come back to her,"
and they are moderately happy. Though, of course, he can never forgive
her the thrashing that she was the indirect means of getting for him.
. . . . . . . . .
What Biel wants to know is:--"Why didn't I press home the charge against
the Bronckhorst-brute, and have him run in?"
What Mrs. Strickland wants to know is:--"How DID my husband bring such
a lovely, lovely Waler from your Station? I know ALL his money-affairs;
and I'm CERTAIN he didn't BUY it."
What I want to know is:--"How do women like Mrs. Bronckhorst come to
marry men like Bronckhorst?"
And my conundrum is the most unanswerable of the three.
And the years went on as the years must do;
But our great Diana was always new--
Fresh, and blooming, and blonde, and fair,
With azure eyes and with aureate hair;
And all the folk, as they came or went,
Offered her praise to her heart's content.
Diana of Ephesus.
She had nothing to do with Number Eighteen in the Braccio Nuovo of
the Vatican, between Visconti's Ceres and the God of the Nile. She was
purely an Indian deity--an Anglo-Indian deity, that is to say--and
we called her THE Venus Annodomini, to distinguish her from other
Annodominis of the same everlasting order. There was a legend among the
Hills that she had once been young; but no living man was prepared to
come forward and say boldly that the legend was true. Men rode up to
Simla, and stayed, and went away and made their name and did their
life's work, and returned again to find the Venus Annodomini exactly as
they had left her. She was as immutable as the Hills. But not quite
so green. All that a girl of eighteen could do in the way of riding,
walking, dancing, picnicking and over-exertion generally, the Venus
Annodomini did, and showed no sign of fatigue or trace of weariness.
Besides perpetual youth, she had discovered, men said, the secret of
perpetual health; and her fame spread about the land. From a mere woman,
she grew to be an Institution, insomuch that no young man could be said
to be properly formed, who had not, at some time or another, worshipped
at the shrine of the Venus Annodomini. There was no one like her, though
there were many imitations. Six years in her eyes were no more than six
months to ordinary women; and ten made less visible impression on her
than does a week's fever on an ordinary woman. Every one adored her, and
in return she was pleasant and courteous to nearly every one. Youth had
been a habit of hers for so long, that she could not part with it--never
realized, in fact, the necessity of parting with it--and took for her
more chosen associates young people.
Among the worshippers of the Venus Annodomini was young Gayerson.
"Very Young" Gayerson, he was called to distinguish him from his father
"Young" Gayerson, a Bengal Civilian, who affected the customs--as he had
the heart--of youth. "Very Young" Gayerson was not content to worship
placidly and for form's sake, as the other young men did, or to accept
a ride or a dance, or a talk from the Venus Annodomini in a properly
humble and thankful spirit. He was exacting, and, therefore, the Venus
Annodomini repressed him. He worried himself nearly sick in a futile
sort of way over her; and his devotion and earnestness made him appear
either shy or boisterous or rude, as his mood might vary, by the side of
the older men who, with him, bowed before the Venus Annodomini. She was
sorry for him. He reminded her of a lad who, three-and-twenty years ago,
had professed a boundless devotion for her, and for whom in return she
had felt something more than a week's weakness. But that lad had fallen
away and married another woman less than a year after he had worshipped
her; and the Venus Annodomini had almost--not quite--forgotten his name.
"Very Young" Gayerson had the same big blue eyes and the same way of
pouting his underlip when he was excited or troubled. But the Venus
Annodomini checked him sternly none the less. Too much zeal was a thing
that she did not approve of; preferring instead, a tempered and sober
"Very Young" Gayerson was miserable, and took no trouble to conceal his
wretchedness. He was in the Army--a Line regiment I think, but am not
certain--and, since his face was a looking-glass and his forehead an
open book, by reason of his innocence, his brothers in arms made his
life a burden to him and embittered his naturally sweet disposition. No
one except "Very Young" Gayerson, and he never told his views, knew how
old "Very Young" Gayerson believed the Venus Annodomini to be. Perhaps
he thought her five and twenty, or perhaps she told him that she was
this age. "Very Young" Gayerson would have forded the Gugger in flood to
carry her lightest word, and had implicit faith in her. Every one liked
him, and every one was sorry when they saw him so bound a slave of the
Venus Annodomini. Every one, too, admitted that it was not her fault;
for the Venus Annodomini differed from Mrs. Hauksbee and Mrs. Reiver in
this particular--she never moved a finger to attract any one; but, like
Ninon de l'Enclos, all men were attracted to her. One could admire and
respect Mrs. Hauksbee, despise and avoid Mrs. Reiver, but one was forced
to adore the Venus Annodomini.
"Very Young" Gayerson's papa held a Division or a Collectorate
or something administrative in a particularly unpleasant part of
Bengal--full of Babus who edited newspapers proving that "Young"
Gayerson was a "Nero" and a "Scylla" and a "Charybdis"; and, in addition
to the Babus, there was a good deal of dysentery and cholera abroad
for nine months of the year. "Young" Gayerson--he was about five and
forty--rather liked Babus, they amused him, but he objects to dysentery,
and when he could get away, went to Darjilling for the most part. This
particular season he fancied that he would come up to Simla, and see his
boy. The boy was not altogether pleased. He told the Venus Annodomini
that his father was coming up, and she flushed a little and said that
she should be delighted to make his acquaintance. Then she looked long
and thoughtfully at "Very Young" Gayerson; because she was very, very
sorry for him, and he was a very, very big idiot.
"My daughter is coming out in a fortnight, Mr. Gayerson," she said.
"Your WHAT?" said he.
"Daughter," said the Venus Annodomini. "She's been out for a year at
Home already, and I want her to see a little of India. She is nineteen
and a very sensible, nice girl I believe."
"Very Young" Gayerson, who was a short twenty-two years old, nearly fell
out of his chair with astonishment; for he had persisted in believing,
against all belief, in the youth of the Venus Annodomini. She, with her
back to the curtained window, watched the effect of her sentences and
"Very Young" Gayerson's papa came up twelve days later, and had not been
in Simla four and twenty hours, before two men, old acquaintances of
his, had told him how "Very Young" Gayerson had been conducting himself.
"Young" Gayerson laughed a good deal, and inquired who the Venus
Annodomini might be. Which proves that he had been living in Bengal
where nobody knows anything except the rate of Exchange. Then he said
"boys will be boys," and spoke to his son about the matter. "Very Young"
Gayerson said that he felt wretched and unhappy; and "Young" Gayerson
said that he repented of having helped to bring a fool into the world.
He suggested that his son had better cut his leave short and go down to
his duties. This led to an unfilial answer, and relations were strained,
until "Young" Gayerson demmanded that they should call on the Venus
Annodomini. "Very Young" Gayerson went with his papa, feeling, somehow,
uncomfortable and small.
The Venus Annodomini received them graciously and "Young" Gayerson
said:--"By Jove! It's Kitty!" "Very Young" Gayerson would have listened
for an explanation, if his time had not been taken up with trying to
talk to a large, handsome, quiet, well-dressed girl--introduced to him
by the Venus Annodomini as her daughter. She was far older in manners,
style and repose than "Very Young" Gayerson; and, as he realized this
thing, he felt sick.
Presently, he heard the Venus Annodomini saying:--"Do you know that your
son is one of my most devoted admirers?"
"I don't wonder," said "Young" Gayerson. Here he raised his voice:--"He
follows his father's footsteps. Didn't I worship the ground you trod on,
ever so long ago, Kitty--and you haven't changed since then. How strange
it all seems!"
"Very Young" Gayerson said nothing. His conversation with the daughter
of the Venus Annodomini was, through the rest of the call, fragmentary
. . . . . . . . .
"At five, to-morrow then," said the Venus Annodomini. "And mind you are
"At five punctual," said "Young" Gayerson. "You can lend your old father
a horse I dare say, youngster, can't you? I'm going for a ride tomorrow
"Certainly," said "Very Young" Gayerson. "I am going down to-morrow
morning. My ponies are at your service, Sir."
The Venus Annodomini looked at him across the half-light of the room,
and her big gray eyes filled with moisture. She rose and shook hands
"Good-bye, Tom," whispered the Venus Annodomini.
THE BISARA OF POOREE.
Little Blind Fish, thou art marvellous wise,
Little Blind Fish, who put out thy eyes?
Open thine ears while I whisper my wish--
Bring me a lover, thou little Blind Fish.
The Charm of the Bisara.
Some natives say that it came from the other side of Kulu, where
the eleven-inch Temple Sapphire is. Others that it was made at the
Devil-Shrine of Ao-Chung in Thibet, was stolen by a Kafir, from him by
a Gurkha, from him again by a Lahouli, from him by a khitmatgar, and by
this latter sold to an Englishman, so all its virtue was lost: because,
to work properly, the Bisara of Pooree must be stolen--with bloodshed if
possible, but, at any rate, stolen.
These stories of the coming into India are all false. It was made at
Pooree ages since--the manner of its making would fill a small book--was
stolen by one of the Temple dancing-girls there, for her own purposes,
and then passed on from hand to hand, steadily northward, till it
reached Hanla: always bearing the same name--the Bisara of Pooree. In
shape it is a tiny, square box of silver, studded outside with eight
small balas-rubies. Inside the box, which opens with a spring, is
a little eyeless fish, carved from some sort of dark, shiny nut and
wrapped in a shred of faded gold-cloth. That is the Bisara of Pooree,
and it were better for a man to take a king cobra in his hand than to
touch the Bisara of Pooree.
All kinds of magic are out of date and done away with except in India
where nothing changes in spite of the shiny, toy-scum stuff that people
call "civilization." Any man who knows about the Bisara of Pooree will
tell you what its powers are--always supposing that it has been honestly
stolen. It is the only regularly working, trustworthy love-charm in the
country, with one exception.
[The other charm is in the hands of a trooper of the Nizam's Horse, at a
place called Tuprani, due north of Hyderabad.] This can be depended upon
for a fact. Some one else may explain it.
If the Bisara be not stolen, but given or bought or found, it turns
against its owner in three years, and leads to ruin or death. This is
another fact which you may explain when you have time. Meanwhile, you
can laugh at it. At present, the Bisara is safe on an ekka-pony's
neck, inside the blue bead-necklace that keeps off the Evil-eye. If the
ekka-driver ever finds it, and wears it, or gives it to his wife, I am
sorry for him.
A very dirty hill-cooly woman, with goitre, owned it at Theog in 1884.
It came into Simla from the north before Churton's khitmatgar bought it,
and sold it, for three times its silver-value, to Churton, who collected
curiosities. The servant knew no more what he had bought than
the master; but a man looking over Churton's collection of
curiosities--Churton was an Assistant Commissioner by the way--saw and
held his tongue. He was an Englishman; but knew how to believe. Which
shows that he was different from most Englishmen. He knew that it was
dangerous to have any share in the little box when working or dormant;
for unsought Love is a terrible gift.
Pack--"Grubby" Pack, as we used to call him--was, in every way, a nasty
little man who must have crawled into the Army by mistake. He was three
inches taller than his sword, but not half so strong. And the sword was
a fifty-shilling, tailor-made one. Nobody liked him, and, I suppose, it
was his wizenedness and worthlessness that made him fall so hopelessly
in love with Miss Hollis, who was good and sweet, and five foot seven in
her tennis shoes. He was not content with falling in love quietly,
but brought all the strength of his miserable little nature into the
business. If he had not been so objectionable, one might have pitied
him. He vapored, and fretted, and fumed, and trotted up and down, and
tried to make himself pleasing in Miss Hollis's big, quiet, gray eyes,
and failed. It was one of the cases that you sometimes meet, even in
this country where we marry by Code, of a really blind attachment all on
one side, without the faintest possibility of return. Miss Hollis
looked on Pack as some sort of vermin running about the road. He had
no prospects beyond Captain's pay, and no wits to help that out by one
anna. In a large-sized man, love like his would have been touching. In
a good man it would have been grand. He being what he was, it was only a
You will believe this much. What you will not believe, is what follows:
Churton, and The Man who Knew that the Bisara was, were lunching at the
Simla Club together. Churton was complaining of life in general. His
best mare had rolled out of stable down the hill and had broken her
back; his decisions were being reversed by the upper Courts, more
than an Assistant Commissioner of eight years' standing has a right to
expect; he knew liver and fever, and, for weeks past, had felt out of
sorts. Altogether, he was disgusted and disheartened.
Simla Club dining-room is built, as all the world knows, in two
sections, with an arch-arrangement dividing them. Come in, turn to your
own left, take the table under the window, and you cannot see any one
who has come in, turning to the right, and taken a table on the right
side of the arch. Curiously enough, every word that you say can be
heard, not only by the other diner, but by the servants beyond the
screen through which they bring dinner. This is worth knowing: an
echoing-room is a trap to be forewarned against.
Half in fun, and half hoping to be believed, The Man who Knew told
Churton the story of the Bisara of Pooree at rather greater length than
I have told it to you in this place; winding up with the suggestion that
Churton might as well throw the little box down the hill and see whether
all his troubles would go with it. In ordinary ears, English ears, the
tale was only an interesting bit of folk-lore. Churton laughed,
said that he felt better for his tiffin, and went out. Pack had been
tiffining by himself to the right of the arch, and had heard everything.
He was nearly mad with his absurd infatuation for Miss Hollis that all
Simla had been laughing about.
It is a curious thing that, when a man hates or loves beyond reason, he
is ready to go beyond reason to gratify his feelings. Which he would not
do for money or power merely. Depend upon it, Solomon would never have
built altars to Ashtaroth and all those ladies with queer names, if
there had not been trouble of some kind in his zenana, and nowhere else.
But this is beside the story. The facts of the case are these: Pack
called on Churton next day when Churton was out, left his card, and
STOLE the Bisara of Pooree from its place under the clock on the
mantelpiece! Stole it like the thief he was by nature. Three days later,
all Simla was electrified by the news that Miss Hollis had accepted
Pack--the shrivelled rat, Pack! Do you desire clearer evidence than
this? The Bisara of Pooree had been stolen, and it worked as it had
always done when won by foul means.
There are three or four times in a man's life-when he is justified in
meddling with other people's affairs to play Providence.
The Man who Knew felt that he WAS justified; but believing and acting on
a belief are quite different things. The insolent satisfaction of Pack
as he ambled by the side of Miss Hollis, and Churton's striking release
from liver, as soon as the Bisara of Pooree had gone, decided the Man.
He explained to Churton and Churton laughed, because he was not brought
up to believe that men on the Government House List steal--at least
little things. But the miraculous acceptance by Miss Hollis of that
tailor, Pack, decided him to take steps on suspicion. He vowed that he
only wanted to find out where his ruby-studded silver box had vanished
to. You cannot accuse a man on the Government House List of stealing.
And if you rifle his room you are a thief yourself. Churton, prompted
by The Man who Knew, decided on burglary. If he found nothing in Pack's
room.... but it is not nice to think of what would have happened in that
Pack went to a dance at Benmore--Benmore WAS Benmore in those days,
not an office--and danced fifteen waltzes out of twenty-two with Miss
Hollis. Churton and The Man took all the keys that they could lay hands
on, and went to Pack's room in the hotel, certain that his servants
would be away. Pack was a cheap soul. He had not purchased a decent
cash-box to keep his papers in, but one of those native imitations that
you buy for ten rupees. It opened to any sort of key, and there at the
bottom, under Pack's Insurance Policy, lay the Bisara of Pooree!
Churton called Pack names, put the Bisara of Pooree in his pocket, and
went to the dance with The Man. At least, he came in time for supper,
and saw the beginning of the end in Miss Hollis's eyes. She was
hysterical after supper, and was taken away by her Mamma.
At the dance, with the abominable Bisara in his pocket, Churton twisted
his foot on one of the steps leading down to the old Rink, and had to be
sent home in a rickshaw, grumbling. He did not believe in the Bisara of
Pooree any the more for this manifestation, but he sought out Pack and
called him some ugly names; and "thief" was the mildest of them. Pack
took the names with the nervous smile of a little man who wants both
soul and body to resent an insult, and went his way. There was no public
A week later, Pack got his definite dismissal from Miss Hollis. There
had been a mistake in the placing of her affections, she said. So he
went away to Madras, where he can do no great harm even if he lives to
be a Colonel.
Churton insisted upon The Man who Knew taking the Bisara of Pooree as a
gift. The Man took it, went down to the Cart Road at once, found an ekka
pony with a blue head-necklace, fastened the Bisara of Pooree inside the
necklace with a piece of shoe-string and thanked Heaven that he was
rid of a danger. Remember, in case you ever find it, that you must not
destroy the Bisara of Pooree. I have not time to explain why just now,
but the power lies in the little wooden fish. Mister Gubernatis or Max
Muller could tell you more about it than I.
You will say that all this story is made up. Very well. If ever you come
across a little silver, ruby-studded box, seven-eighths of an inch long
by three-quarters wide, with a dark-brown wooden fish, wrapped in gold
cloth, inside it, keep it. Keep it for three years, and then you will
discover for yourself whether my story is true or false.
Better still, steal it as Pack did, and you will be sorry that you had
not killed yourself in the beginning.
THE GATE OF A HUNDRED SORROWS.
"If I can attain Heaven for a pice, why should you be envious?"
Opium Smoker's Proverb.
This is no work of mine. My friend, Gabral Misquitta, the half-caste,
spoke it all, between moonset and morning, six weeks before he died; and
I took it down from his mouth as he answered my questions so:--
It lies between the Copper-smith's Gully and the pipe-stem sellers'
quarter, within a hundred yards, too, as the crow flies, of the Mosque
of Wazir Khan. I don't mind telling any one this much, but I defy him
to find the Gate, however well he may think he knows the City. You might
even go through the very gully it stands in a hundred times, and be none
the wiser. We used to call the gully, "the Gully of the Black Smoke,"
but its native name is altogether different of course. A loaded donkey
couldn't pass between the walls; and, at one point, just before you
reach the Gate, a bulged house-front makes people go along all sideways.
It isn't really a gate though. It's a house. Old Fung-Tching had it
first five years ago. He was a boot-maker in Calcutta. They say that
he murdered his wife there when he was drunk. That was why he dropped
bazar-rum and took to the Black Smoke instead. Later on, he came up
north and opened the Gate as a house where you could get your smoke in
peace and quiet. Mind you, it was a pukka, respectable opium-house, and
not one of those stifling, sweltering chandoo-khanas, that you can find
all over the City. No; the old man knew his business thoroughly, and he
was most clean for a Chinaman. He was a one-eyed little chap, not much
more than five feet high, and both his middle fingers were gone. All the
same, he was the handiest man at rolling black pills I have ever seen.
Never seemed to be touched by the Smoke, either; and what he took day
and night, night and day, was a caution. I've been at it five years, and
I can do my fair share of the Smoke with any one; but I was a child to
Fung-Tching that way. All the same, the old man was keen on his money,
very keen; and that's what I can't understand. I heard he saved a good
deal before he died, but his nephew has got all that now; and the old
man's gone back to China to be buried.
He kept the big upper room, where his best customers gathered, as neat
as a new pin. In one corner used to stand Fung-Tching's Joss--almost
as ugly as Fung-Tching--and there were always sticks burning under his
nose; but you never smelt 'em when the pipes were going thick. Opposite
the Joss was Fung-Tching's coffin. He had spent a good deal of his
savings on that, and whenever a new man came to the Gate he was always
introduced to it. It was lacquered black, with red and gold writings
on it, and I've heard that Fung-Tching brought it out all the way from
China. I don't know whether that's true or not, but I know that, if I
came first in the evening, I used to spread my mat just at the foot of
it. It was a quiet corner you see, and a sort of breeze from the gully
came in at the window now and then. Besides the mats, there was no other
furniture in the room--only the coffin, and the old Joss all green and
blue and purple with age and polish.
Fung-Tching never told us why he called the place "The Gate of a Hundred
Sorrows." (He was the only Chinaman I know who used bad-sounding fancy
names. Most of them are flowery. As you'll see in Calcutta.) We used
to find that out for ourselves. Nothing grows on you so much, if you're
white, as the Black Smoke. A yellow man is made different. Opium doesn't
tell on him scarcely at all; but white and black suffer a good deal. Of
course, there are some people that the Smoke doesn't touch any more than
tobacco would at first. They just doze a bit, as one would fall asleep
naturally, and next morning they are almost fit for work. Now, I was
one of that sort when I began, but I've been at it for five years pretty
steadily, and its different now. There was an old aunt of mine, down
Agra way, and she left me a little at her death. About sixty rupees a
month secured. Sixty isn't much. I can recollect a time, seems hundreds
and hundreds of years ago, that I was getting my three hundred a month,
and pickings, when I was working on a big timber contract in Calcutta.
I didn't stick to that work for long. The Black Smoke does not allow of
much other business; and even though I am very little affected by it, as
men go, I couldn't do a day's work now to save my life. After all, sixty
rupees is what I want. When old Fung-Tching was alive he used to draw
the money for me, give me about half of it to live on (I eat very
little), and the rest he kept himself. I was free of the Gate at any
time of the day and night, and could smoke and sleep there when I liked,
so I didn't care. I know the old man made a good thing out of it; but
that's no matter. Nothing matters, much to me; and, besides, the money
always came fresh and fresh each month.
There was ten of us met at the Gate when the place was first opened. Me,
and two Baboos from a Government Office somewhere in Anarkulli, but they
got the sack and couldn't pay (no man who has to work in the daylight
can do the Black Smoke for any length of time straight on); a Chinaman
that was Fung-Tching's nephew; a bazar-woman that had got a lot of
money somehow; an English loafer--Mac-Somebody I think, but I have
forgotten--that smoked heaps, but never seemed to pay anything (they
said he had saved Fung-Tching's life at some trial in Calcutta when
he was a barrister): another Eurasian, like myself, from Madras; a
half-caste woman, and a couple of men who said they had come from the
North. I think they must have been Persians or Afghans or something.
There are not more than five of us living now, but we come regular. I
don't know what happened to the Baboos; but the bazar-woman she died
after six months of the Gate, and I think Fung-Tching took her bangles
and nose-ring for himself. But I'm not certain. The Englishman, he drank
as well as smoked, and he dropped off. One of the Persians got killed in
a row at night by the big well near the mosque a long time ago, and the
Police shut up the well, because they said it was full of foul air. They
found him dead at the bottom of it. So, you see, there is only me, the
Chinaman, the half-caste woman that we call the Memsahib (she used to
live with Fung-Tching), the other Eurasian, and one of the Persians. The
Memsahib looks very old now. I think she was a young woman when the
Gate was opened; but we are all old for the matter of that. Hundreds
and hundreds of years old. It is very hard to keep count of time in the
Gate, and besides, time doesn't matter to me. I draw my sixty rupees
fresh and fresh every month. A very, very long while ago, when I used
to be getting three hundred and fifty rupees a month, and pickings, on
a big timber-contract at Calcutta, I had a wife of sorts. But she's dead
now. People said that I killed her by taking to the Black Smoke. Perhaps
I did, but it's so long since it doesn't matter. Sometimes when I first
came to the Gate, I used to feel sorry for it; but that's all over and
done with long ago, and I draw my sixty rupees fresh and fresh every
month, and am quite happy. Not DRUNK happy, you know, but always quiet
and soothed and contented.
How did I take to it? It began at Calcutta. I used to try it in my own
house, just to see what it was like. I never went very far, but I think
my wife must have died then. Anyhow, I found myself here, and got to
know Fung-Tching. I don't remember rightly how that came about; but he
told me of the Gate and I used to go there, and, somehow, I have never
got away from it since. Mind you, though, the Gate was a respectable
place in Fung-Tching's time where you could be comfortable, and not at
all like the chandoo-khanas where the niggers go. No; it was clean and
quiet, and not crowded. Of course, there were others beside us ten
and the man; but we always had a mat apiece with a wadded woollen
head-piece, all covered with black and red dragons and things; just like
a coffin in the corner.
At the end of one's third pipe the dragons used to move about and fight.
I've watched 'em, many and many a night through. I used to regulate
my Smoke that way, and now it takes a dozen pipes to make 'em stir.
Besides, they are all torn and dirty, like the mats, and old Fung-Tching
is dead. He died a couple of years ago, and gave me the pipe I always
use now--a silver one, with queer beasts crawling up and down the
receiver-bottle below the cup. Before that, I think, I used a big bamboo
stem with a copper cup, a very small one, and a green jade mouthpiece.
It was a little thicker than a walking-stick stem, and smoked sweet,
very sweet. The bamboo seemed to suck up the smoke. Silver doesn't, and
I've got to clean it out now and then, that's a great deal of trouble,
but I smoke it for the old man's sake. He must have made a good thing
out of me, but he always gave me clean mats and pillows, and the best
stuff you could get anywhere.
When he died, his nephew Tsin-ling took up the Gate, and he called it
the "Temple of the Three Possessions;" but we old ones speak of it
as the "Hundred Sorrows," all the same. The nephew does things very
shabbily, and I think the Memsahib must help him. She lives with him;
same as she used to do with the old man. The two let in all sorts of low
people, niggers and all, and the Black Smoke isn't as good as it used
to be. I've found burnt bran in my pipe over and over again. The old man
would have died if that had happened in his time. Besides, the room
is never cleaned, and all the mats are torn and cut at the edges. The
coffin has gone--gone to China again--with the old man and two ounces of
smoke inside it, in case he should want 'em on the way.
The Joss doesn't get so many sticks burnt under his nose as he used to;
that's a sign of ill-luck, as sure as Death. He's all brown, too, and
no one ever attends to him. That's the Memsahib's work, I know; because,
when Tsin-ling tried to burn gilt paper before him, she said it was a
waste of money, and, if he kept a stick burning very slowly, the Joss
wouldn't know the difference. So now we've got the sticks mixed with
a lot of glue, and they take half-an-hour longer to burn, and smell
stinky. Let alone the smell of the room by itself. No business can get
on if they try that sort of thing. The Joss doesn't like it. I can see
that. Late at night, sometimes, he turns all sorts of queer colors--blue
and green and red--just as he used to do when old Fung-Tching was alive;
and he rolls his eyes and stamps his feet like a devil.
I don't know why I don't leave the place and smoke quietly in a little
room of my own in the bazar. Most like, Tsin-ling would kill me if
I went away--he draws my sixty rupees now--and besides, it's so much
trouble, and I've grown to be very fond of the Gate. It's not much to
look at. Not what it was in the old man's time, but I couldn't leave it.
I've seen so many come in and out. And I've seen so many die here on the
mats that I should be afraid of dying in the open now. I've seen some
things that people would call strange enough; but nothing is strange
when you're on the Black Smoke, except the Black Smoke. And if it was,
it wouldn't matter. Fung-Tching used to be very particular about his
people, and never got in any one who'd give trouble by dying messy and
such. But the nephew isn't half so careful. He tells everywhere that he
keeps a "first-chop" house. Never tries to get men in quietly, and make
them comfortable like Fung-Tching did. That's why the Gate is getting a
little bit more known than it used to be. Among the niggers of course.
The nephew daren't get a white, or, for matter of that, a mixed skin
into the place. He has to keep us three of course--me and the Memsahib
and the other Eurasian. We're fixtures. But he wouldn't give us credit
for a pipeful--not for anything.
One of these days, I hope, I shall die in the Gate. The Persian and
the Madras man are terrible shaky now. They've got a boy to light their
pipes for them. I always do that myself. Most like, I shall see them
carried out before me. I don't think I shall ever outlive the Memsahib
or Tsin-ling. Women last longer than men at the Black-Smoke, and
Tsin-ling has a deal of the old man's blood in him, though he DOES smoke
cheap stuff. The bazar-woman knew when she was going two days before
time; and SHE died on a clean mat with a nicely wadded pillow, and the
old man hung up her pipe just above the Joss. He was always fond of her,
I fancy. But he took her bangles just the same.
I should like to die like the bazar-woman--on a clean, cool mat with a
pipe of good stuff between my lips. When I feel I'm going, I shall ask
Tsin-ling for them, and he can draw my sixty rupees a month, fresh and
fresh, as long as he pleases, and watch the black and red dragons have
their last big fight together; and then....
Well, it doesn't matter. Nothing matters much to me--only I wished
Tsin-ling wouldn't put bran into the Black Smoke.
THE STORY OF MUHAMMAD DIN.
"Who is the happy man? He that sees in his own house at home little
children crowned with dust, leaping and falling and crying."
Munichandra, translated by Professor Peterson.
The polo-ball was an old one, scarred, chipped, and dinted. It stood
on the mantelpiece among the pipe-stems which Imam Din, khitmatgar, was
cleaning for me.
"Does the Heaven-born want this ball?" said Imam Din, deferentially.
The Heaven-born set no particular store by it; but of what use was a
polo-ball to a khitmatgar?
"By Your Honor's favor, I have a little son. He has seen this ball, and
desires it to play with. I do not want it for myself."
No one would for an instant accuse portly old Imam Din of wanting
to play with polo-balls. He carried out the battered thing into the
verandah; and there followed a hurricane of joyful squeaks, a patter of
small feet, and the thud-thud-thud of the ball rolling along the ground.
Evidently the little son had been waiting outside the door to secure his
treasure. But how had he managed to see that polo-ball?
Next day, coming back from office half an hour earlier than usual, I was
aware of a small figure in the dining-room--a tiny, plump figure in a
ridiculously inadequate shirt which came, perhaps, half-way down the
tubby stomach. It wandered round the room, thumb in mouth, crooning
to itself as it took stock of the pictures. Undoubtedly this was the
He had no business in my room, of course; but was so deeply absorbed in
his discoveries that he never noticed me in the doorway. I stepped into
the room and startled him nearly into a fit. He sat down on the ground
with a gasp. His eyes opened, and his mouth followed suit. I knew what
was coming, and fled, followed by a long, dry howl which reached the
servants' quarters far more quickly than any command of mine had ever
done. In ten seconds Imam Din was in the dining-room. Then despairing
sobs arose, and I returned to find Imam Din admonishing the small sinner
who was using most of his shirt as a handkerchief.
"This boy," said Imam Din, judicially, "is a budmash, a big budmash.
He will, without doubt, go to the jail-khana for his behavior." Renewed
yells from the penitent, and an elaborate apology to myself from Imam
"Tell the baby," said I, "that the Sahib is not angry, and take him
away." Imam Din conveyed my forgiveness to the offender, who had
now gathered all his shirt round his neck, string-wise, and the yell
subsided into a sob. The two set off for the door. "His name," said Imam
Din, as though the name were part of the crime, "is Muhammad Din, and he
is a budmash." Freed from present danger, Muhammad Din turned round,
in his father's arms, and said gravely:--"It is true that my name is
Muhammad Din, Tahib, but I am not a budmash. I am a MAN!"
From that day dated my acquaintance with Muhammad Din. Never again
he come into my dining-room, but on the neutral ground of the compound,
we greeted each other with much state, though our conversation was
confined to "Talaam, Tahib" from his side and "Salaam Muhammad Din"
mine. Daily on my return from office, the little white shirt, and the
fat little body used to rise from the shade of the creeper-covered
trellis where they had been hid; and daily I checked my horse here, that
my salutation might not be slurred over or given unseemly.
Muhammad Din never had any companions. He used to trot about the
compound, in and out of the castor-oil bushes, on mysterious errands
of his own. One day I stumbled upon some of his handiwork far down
the ground. He had half buried the polo-ball in dust, and stuck six
shrivelled old marigold flowers in a circle round it. Outside that
circle again, was a rude square, traced out in bits of red brick
alternating with fragments of broken china; the whole bounded by a
little bank of dust. The bhistie from the well-curb put in a plea for
the small architect, saying that it was only the play of a baby and did
not much disfigure my garden.
Heaven knows that I had no intention of touching the child's work then
or later; but, that evening, a stroll through the garden brought me
unawares full on it; so that I trampled, before I knew, marigold-heads,
dust-bank, and fragments of broken soap-dish into confusion past all
hope of mending. Next morning I came upon Muhammad Din crying softly to
himself over the ruin I had wrought. Some one had cruelly told him
that the Sahib was very angry with him for spoiling the garden, and had
scattered his rubbish using bad language the while. Muhammad Din
labored for an hour at effacing every trace of the dust-bank and pottery
fragments, and it was with a tearful apologetic face that he said,
"Talaam Tahib," when I came home from the office. A hasty inquiry
resulted in Imam Din informing Muhammad Din that by my singular favor
was permitted to disport himself as he pleased. Whereat the child took
heart and fell to tracing the ground-plan of an edifice which was to
eclipse the marigold-polo-ball creation.
For some months, the chubby little eccentricity revolved in his humble
orbit among the castor-oil bushes and in the dust; always fashioning
magnificent palaces from stale flowers thrown away by the bearer, smooth
water-worn pebbles, bits of broken glass, and feathers pulled, I fancy,
from my fowls--always alone and always crooning to himself.
A gayly-spotted sea-shell was dropped one day close to the last of his
little buildings; and I looked that Muhammad Din should build something
more than ordinarily splendid on the strength of it. Nor was I
disappointed. He meditated for the better part of an hour, and his
crooning rose to a jubilant song. Then he began tracing in dust. It
would certainly be a wondrous palace, this one, for it was two
yards long and a yard broad in ground-plan. But the palace was never
Next day there was no Muhammad Din at the head of the carriage-drive,
and no "Talaam Tahib" to welcome my return. I had grown accustomed to
the greeting, and its omission troubled me. Next day, Imam Din told me
that the child was suffering slightly from fever and needed quinine. He
got the medicine, and an English Doctor.
"They have no stamina, these brats," said the Doctor, as he left Imam
A week later, though I would have given much to have avoided it, I met
on the road to the Mussulman burying-ground Imam Din, accompanied by
other friend, carrying in his arms, wrapped in a white cloth, all that
was left of little Muhammad Din.
ON THE STRENGTH OF A LIKENESS.
If your mirror be broken, look into still water; but have a care
that you do not fall in.
Next to a requited attachment, one of the most convenient things that a
young man can carry about with him at the beginning of his career, is
an unrequited attachment. It makes him feel important and business-like,
and blase, and cynical; and whenever he has a touch of liver, or suffers
from want of exercise, he can mourn over his lost love, and be very
happy in a tender, twilight fashion.
Hannasyde's affair of the heart had been a Godsend to him. It was four
years old, and the girl had long since given up thinking of it. She had
married and had many cares of her own. In the beginning, she had told
Hannasyde that, "while she could never be anything more than a sister
to him, she would always take the deepest interest in his welfare." This
startlingly new and original remark gave Hannasyde something to think
over for two years; and his own vanity filled in the other twenty-four
months. Hannasyde was quite different from Phil Garron, but, none the
less, had several points in common with that far too lucky man.
He kept his unrequited attachment by him as men keep a well-smoked
pipe--for comfort's sake, and because it had grown dear in the using. It
brought him happily through the Simla season. Hannasyde was not lovely.
There was a crudity in his manners, and a roughness in the way in which
he helped a lady on to her horse, that did not attract the other sex
to him. Even if he had cast about for their favor, which he did not. He
kept his wounded heart all to himself for a while.
Then trouble came to him. All who go to Simla, know the slope from the
Telegraph to the Public Works Office. Hannasyde was loafing up the hill,
one September morning between calling hours, when a 'rickshaw came
in a hurry, and in the 'rickshaw sat the living, breathing image of the
girl who had made him so happily unhappy. Hannasyde leaned against the
railing and gasped. He wanted to run downhill after the 'rickshaw, but
that was impossible; so he went forward with most of his blood in his
temples. It was impossible, for many reasons, that the woman in the
'rickshaw could be the girl he had known. She was, he discovered later,
the wife of a man from Dindigul, or Coimbatore, or some out-of-the-way
place, and she had come up to Simla early in the season for the good of
her health. She was going back to Dindigul, or wherever it was, at the
end of the season; and in all likelihood would never return to Simla
again, her proper Hill-station being Ootacamund. That night, Hannasyde,
raw and savage from the raking up of all old feelings, took counsel with
himself for one measured hour. What he decided upon was this; and you
must decide for yourself how much genuine affection for the old love,
and how much a very natural inclination to go abroad and enjoy himself,
affected the decision. Mrs. Landys-Haggert would never in all human
likelihood cross his path again. So whatever he did didn't much matter.
She was marvellously like the girl who "took a deep interest" and the
rest of the formula. All things considered, it would be pleasant to make
the acquaintance of Mrs. Landys-Haggert, and for a little time--only a
very little time--to make believe that he was with Alice Chisane again.
Every one is more or less mad on one point. Hannasyde's particular
monomania was his old love, Alice Chisane.
He made it his business to get introduced to Mrs. Haggert, and the
introduction prospered. He also made it his business to see as much as
he could of that lady. When a man is in earnest as to interviews, the
facilities which Simla offers are startling. There are garden-parties,
and tennis-parties, and picnics, and luncheons at Annandale, and
rifle-matches, and dinners and balls; besides rides and walks, which are
matters of private arrangement. Hannasyde had started with the intention
of seeing a likeness, and he ended by doing much more. He wanted to
be deceived, he meant to be deceived, and he deceived himself very
thoroughly. Not only were the face and figure, the face and figure of
Alice Chisane, but the voice and lower tones were exactly the same, and
so were the turns of speech; and the little mannerisms, that every woman
has, of gait and gesticulation, were absolutely and identically the
same. The turn of the head was the same; the tired look in the eyes
at the end of a long walk was the same; the sloop and wrench over
the saddle to hold in a pulling horse was the same; and once, most
marvellous of all, Mrs. Landys-Haggert singing to herself in the next
room, while Hannasyde was waiting to take her for a ride, hummed, note
for note, with a throaty quiver of the voice in the second line:--"Poor
Wandering One!" exactly as Alice Chisane had hummed it for Hannasyde in
the dusk of an English drawing-room. In the actual woman herself--in
the soul of her--there was not the least likeness; she and Alice Chisane
being cast in different moulds. But all that Hannasyde wanted to know
and see and think about, was this maddening and perplexing likeness of
face and voice and manner. He was bent on making a fool of himself that
way; and he was in no sort disappointed.
Open and obvious devotion from any sort of man is always pleasant to
any sort of woman; but Mrs. Landys-Haggert, being a woman of the world,
could make nothing of Hannasyde's admiration.
He would take any amount of trouble--he was a selfish man habitually--to
meet and forestall, if possible, her wishes. Anything she told him to do
was law; and he was, there could be no doubting it, fond of her company
so long as she talked to him, and kept on talking about trivialities.
But when she launched into expression of her personal views and her
wrongs, those small social differences that make the spice of Simla
life, Hannasyde was neither pleased nor interested. He didn't want
to know anything about Mrs. Landys-Haggert, or her experiences in
the past--she had travelled nearly all over the world, and could talk
cleverly--he wanted the likeness of Alice Chisane before his eyes and
her voice in his ears. Anything outside that, reminding him of another
personality jarred, and he showed that it did.
Under the new Post Office, one evening, Mrs. Landys-Haggert turned on
him, and spoke her mind shortly and without warning. "Mr. Hannasyde,"
said she, "will you be good enough to explain why you have appointed
yourself my special cavalier servente? I don't understand it. But I
am perfectly certain, somehow or other, that you don't care the least
little bit in the world for ME." This seems to support, by the way, the
theory that no man can act or tell lies to a woman without being found
out. Hannasyde was taken off his guard. His defence never was a strong
one, because he was always thinking of himself, and he blurted out,
before he knew what he was saying, this inexpedient answer:--"No more I
The queerness of the situation and the reply, made Mrs. Landys-Haggert
laugh. Then it all came out; and at the end of Hannasyde's lucid
explanation, Mrs. Haggert said, with the least little touch of scorn in
her voice:--"So I'm to act as the lay-figure for you to hang the rags of
your tattered affections on, am I?"
Hannasyde didn't see what answer was required, and he devoted himself
generally and vaguely to the praise of Alice Chisane, which was
unsatisfactory. Now it is to be thoroughly made clear that Mrs. Haggert
had not the shadow of a ghost of an interest in Hannasyde. Only....
only no woman likes being made love through instead of to--specially on
behalf of a musty divinity of four years' standing.
Hannasyde did not see that he had made any very particular exhibition
of himself. He was glad to find a sympathetic soul in the arid wastes of
When the season ended, Hannasyde went down to his own place and Mrs.
Haggert to hers. "It was like making love to a ghost," said Hannasyde
to himself, "and it doesn't matter; and now I'll get to my work." But
he found himself thinking steadily of the Haggert-Chisane ghost; and he
could not be certain whether it was Haggert or Chisane that made up the
greater part of the pretty phantom.
. . . . . . . . .
He got understanding a month later.
A peculiar point of this peculiar country is the way in which a
heartless Government transfers men from one end of the Empire to the
other. You can never be sure of getting rid of a friend or an enemy till
he or she dies. There was a case once--but that's another story.
Haggert's Department ordered him up from Dindigul to the Frontier at
two days' notice, and he went through, losing money at every step, from
Dindigul to his station. He dropped Mrs. Haggert at Lucknow, to stay
with some friends there, to take part in a big ball at the Chutter
Munzil, and to come on when he had made the new home a little
comfortable. Lucknow was Hannasyde's station, and Mrs. Haggert stayed
a week there. Hannasyde went to meet her. And the train came in,
he discovered which he had been thinking of for the past month. The
unwisdom of his conduct also struck him. The Lucknow week, with two
dances, and an unlimited quantity of rides together, clinched matters;
and Hannasyde found himself pacing this circle of thought:--He
adored Alice Chisane--at least he HAD adored her. AND he admired
Mrs. Landys-Haggert because she was like Alice Chisane. BUT Mrs.
Landys-Haggert was not in the least like Alice Chisane, being a thousand
times more adorable. NOW Alice Chisane was "the bride of another," and
so was Mrs. Landys-Haggert, and a good and honest wife too. THEREFORE,
he, Hannasyde, was.... here he called himself several hard names, and
wished that he had been wise in the beginning.
Whether Mrs. Landys-Haggert saw what was going on in his mind, she alone
knows. He seemed to take an unqualified interest in everything connected
with herself, as distinguished from the Alice-Chisane likeness, and he
said one or two things which, if Alice Chisane had been still betrothed
to him, could scarcely have been excused, even on the grounds of the
likeness. But Mrs. Haggert turned the remarks aside, and spent a long
time in making Hannasyde see what a comfort and a pleasure she had been
to him because of her strange resemblance to his old love. Hannasyde
groaned in his saddle and said, "Yes, indeed," and busied himself with
preparations for her departure to the Frontier, feeling very small and
The last day of her stay at Lucknow came, and Hannasyde saw her off
at the Railway Station. She was very grateful for his kindness and the
trouble he had taken, and smiled pleasantly and sympathetically as one
who knew the Alice-Chisane reason of that kindness. And Hannasyde
the coolies with the luggage, and hustled the people on the platform,
and prayed that the roof might fall in and slay him.
As the train went out slowly, Mrs. Landys-Haggert leaned out of the
window to say goodbye:--"On second thoughts au revoir, Mr. Hannasyde. I
go Home in the Spring, and perhaps I may meet you in Town."
Hannasyde shook hands, and said very earnestly and adoringly:--"I hope
to Heaven I shall never see your face again!"
And Mrs. Haggert understood.
WRESSLEY OF THE FOREIGN OFFICE.
I closed and drew for my love's sake,
That now is false to me,
And I slew the Riever of Tarrant Moss,
And set Dumeny free.
And ever they give me praise and gold,
And ever I moan my loss,
For I struck the blow for my false love's sake,
And not for the men at the Moss.
One of the many curses of our life out here is the want of atmosphere in
the painter's sense. There are no half-tints worth noticing. Men stand
out all crude and raw, with nothing to tone them down, and nothing to
scale them against. They do their work, and grow to think that there is
nothing but their work, and nothing like their work, and that they are
the real pivots on which the administration turns. Here is an instance
of this feeling. A half-caste clerk was ruling forms in a Pay Office. He
said to me:--"Do you know what would happen if I added or took away one
single line on this sheet?" Then, with the air of a conspirator:--"It
would disorganize the whole of the Treasury payments throughout the
whole of the Presidency Circle! Think of that?"
If men had not this delusion as to the ultra-importance of their own
particular employments, I suppose that they would sit down and kill
themselves. But their weakness is wearisome, particularly when the
listener knows that he himself commits exactly the same sin.
Even the Secretariat believes that it does good when it asks an
over-driven Executive Officer to take census of wheat-weevils through a
district of five thousand square miles.
There was a man once in the Foreign Office--a man who had grown
middle-aged in the department, and was commonly said, by irreverent
juniors, to be able to repeat Aitchison's "Treaties and Sunnuds"
backwards, in his sleep. What he did with his stored knowledge only the
Secretary knew; and he, naturally, would not publish the news abroad.
This man's name was Wressley, and it was the Shibboleth, in those days,
to say:--"Wressley knows more about the Central Indian States than any
living man." If you did not say this, you were considered one of mean
Now-a-days, the man who says that he knows the ravel of the inter-tribal
complications across the Border is of more use; but in Wressley's time,
much attention was paid to the Central Indian States. They were called
"foci" and "factors," and all manner of imposing names.
And here the curse of Anglo-Indian life fell heavily. When Wressley
lifted up his voice, and spoke about such-and-such a succession to
such-and-such a throne, the Foreign Office were silent, and Heads
of Departments repeated the last two or three words of Wressley's
sentences, and tacked "yes, yes," on them, and knew that they were
"assisting the Empire to grapple with serious political contingencies."
In most big undertakings, one or two men do the work while the rest sit
near and talk till the ripe decorations begin to fall.
Wressley was the working-member of the Foreign Office firm, and, to keep
him up to his duties when he showed signs of flagging, he was made
much of by his superiors and told what a fine fellow he was. He did not
require coaxing, because he was of tough build, but what he received
confirmed him in the belief that there was no one quite so absolutely
and imperatively necessary to the stability of India as Wressley of the
Foreign Office. There might be other good men, but the known, honored
and trusted man among men was Wressley of the Foreign Office. We had a
Viceroy in those days who knew exactly when to "gentle" a fractious big
man and to hearten up a collar-galled little one, and so keep all his
team level. He conveyed to Wressley the impression which I have just
set down; and even tough men are apt to be disorganized by a Viceroy's
praise. There was a case once--but that is another story.
All India knew Wressley's name and office--it was in Thacker and Spink's
Directory--but who he was personally, or what he did, or what his
special merits were, not fifty men knew or cared. His work filled all
his time, and he found no leisure to cultivate acquaintances beyond
those of dead Rajput chiefs with Ahir blots in their 'scutcheons.
Wressley would have made a very good Clerk in the Herald's College had
he not been a Bengal Civilian.
Upon a day, between office and office, great trouble came to
Wressley--overwhelmed him, knocked him down, and left him gasping
as though he had been a little school-boy. Without reason, against
prudence, and at a moment's notice, he fell in love with a frivolous,
golden-haired girl who used to tear about Simla Mall on a high, rough
waler, with a blue velvet jockey-cap crammed over her eyes. Her name was
Venner--Tillie Venner--and she was delightful. She took Wressley's heart
at a hand-gallop, and Wressley found that it was not good for man to
live alone; even with half the Foreign Office Records in his presses.
Then Simla laughed, for Wressley in love was slightly ridiculous. He did
his best to interest the girl in himself--that is to say, his work--and
she, after the manner of women, did her best to appear interested in
what, behind his back, she called "Mr. Wressley's Wajahs"; for she
lisped very prettily. She did not understand one little thing about
them, but she acted as if she did. Men have married on that sort of
error before now.
Providence, however, had care of Wressley. He was immensely struck with
Miss Venner's intelligence. He would have been more impressed had
he heard her private and confidential accounts of his calls. He held
peculiar notions as to the wooing of girls. He said that the best work
of a man's career should be laid reverently at their feet. Ruskin writes
something like this somewhere, I think; but in ordinary life a few
kisses are better and save time.
About a month after he had lost his heart to Miss Venner, and had been
doing his work vilely in consequence, the first idea of his "Native Rule
in Central India" struck Wressley and filled him with joy. It was, as he
sketched it, a great thing--the work of his life--a really comprehensive
survey of a most fascinating subject--to be written with all the special
and laboriously acquired knowledge of Wressley of the Foreign Office--a
gift fit for an Empress.
He told Miss Venner that he was going to take leave, and hoped, on his
return, to bring her a present worthy of her acceptance. Would she wait?
Certainly she would. Wressley drew seventeen hundred rupees a month. She
would wait a year for that. Her mamma would help her to wait.
So Wressley took one year's leave and all the available documents, about
a truck-load, that he could lay hands on, and went down to Central India
with his notion hot in his head. He began his book in the land he was
writing of. Too much official correspondence had made him a frigid
workman, and he must have guessed that he needed the white light of
local color on his palette. This is a dangerous paint for amateurs to
Heavens, how that man worked! He caught his Rajahs, analyzed his Rajahs,
and traced them up into the mists of Time and beyond, with their
queens and their concubines. He dated and cross-dated, pedigreed and
triple-pedigreed, compared, noted, connoted, wove, strung, sorted,
selected, inferred, calendared and counter-calendared for ten hours a
day. And, because this sudden and new light of Love was upon him, he
turned those dry bones of history and dirty records of misdeeds into
things to weep or to laugh over as he pleased. His heart and soul were
at the end of his pen, and they got into the link. He was dowered with
sympathy, insight, humor and style for two hundred and thirty days and
nights; and his book was a Book. He had his vast special knowledge with
him, so to speak; but the spirit, the woven-in human Touch, the poetry
and the power of the output, were beyond all special knowledge. But I
doubt whether he knew the gift that was in him then, and thus he may
have lost some happiness. He was toiling for Tillie Venner, not for
himself. Men often do their best work blind, for some one else's sake.
Also, though this has nothing to do with the story, in India where every
one knows every one else, you can watch men being driven, by the women
who govern them, out of the rank-and-file and sent to take up points
alone. A good man once started, goes forward; but an average man, so
soon as the woman loses interest in his success as a tribute to her
power, comes back to the battalion and is no more heard of.
Wressley bore the first copy of his book to Simla and, blushing and
stammering, presented it to Miss Venner. She read a little of it. I
give her review verbatim:--"Oh, your book? It's all about those how-wid
Wajahs. I didn't understand it."
. . . . . . . . .
Wressley of the Foreign Office was broken, smashed,--I am not
exaggerating--by this one frivolous little girl. All that he could say
feebly was:--"But, but it's my magnum opus! The work of my life." Miss
Venner did not know what magnum opus meant; but she knew that Captain
Kerrington had won three races at the last Gymkhana. Wressley didn't
press her to wait for him any longer. He had sense enough for that.
Then came the reaction after the year's strain, and Wressley went back
to the Foreign Office and his "Wajahs," a compiling, gazetteering,
report-writing hack, who would have been dear at three hundred rupees
a month. He abided by Miss Venner's review. Which proves that the
inspiration in the book was purely temporary and unconnected with
himself. Nevertheless, he had no right to sink, in a hill-tarn, five
packing-cases, brought up at enormous expense from Bombay, of the best
book of Indian history ever written.
When he sold off before retiring, some years later, I was turning over
his shelves, and came across the only existing copy of "Native Rule in
Central India"--the copy that Miss Venner could not understand. I read
it, sitting on his mule-trucks, as long as the light lasted, and offered
him his own price for it. He looked over my shoulder for a few pages and
said to himself drearily:--"Now, how in the world did I come to write
such damned good stuff as that?" Then to me:--"Take it and keep
it. Write one of your penny-farthing yarns about its birth.
Perhaps--perhaps--the whole business may have been ordained to that
Which, knowing what Wressley of the Foreign Office was once, struck me
as about the bitterest thing that I had ever heard a man say of his own
BY WORD OF MOUTH.
Not though you die to-night, O Sweet, and wail,
A spectre at my door,
Shall mortal Fear make Love immortal fail--
I shall but love you more,
Who from Death's house returning, give me still
One moment's comfort in my matchless ill.
This tale may be explained by those who know how souls are made, and
where the bounds of the Possible are put down. I have lived long enough
in this country to know that it is best to know nothing, and can only
write the story as it happened.
Dumoise was our Civil Surgeon at Meridki, and we called him "Dormouse,"
because he was a round little, sleepy little man. He was a good
Doctor and never quarrelled with any one, not even with our Deputy
Commissioner, who had the manners of a bargee and the tact of a horse.
He married a girl as round and as sleepy-looking as himself. She was
a Miss Hillardyce, daughter of "Squash" Hillardyce of the Berars, who
married his Chief's daughter by mistake. But that is another story.
A honeymoon in India is seldom more than a week long; but there is
nothing to hinder a couple from extending it over two or three years.
This is a delightful country for married folk who are wrapped up in one
another. They can live absolutely alone and without interruption--just
as the Dormice did. These two little people retired from the world after
their marriage, and were very happy. They were forced, of course,
to give occasional dinners, but they made no friends hereby, and the
Station went its own way and forgot them; only saying, occasionally,
that Dormouse was the best of good fellows, though dull. A Civil Surgeon
who never quarrels is a rarity, appreciated as such.
Few people can afford to play Robinson Crusoe anywhere--least of all
in India, where we are few in the land, and very much dependent on each
other's kind offices. Dumoise was wrong in shutting himself from the
world for a year, and he discovered his mistake when an epidemic of
typhoid broke out in the Station in the heart of the cold weather, and
his wife went down. He was a shy little man, and five days were wasted
before he realized that Mrs. Dumoise was burning with something worse
than simple fever, and three days more passed before he ventured to call
on Mrs. Shute, the Engineer's wife, and timidly speak about his trouble.
Nearly every household in India knows that Doctors are very helpless
in typhoid. The battle must be fought out between Death and the Nurses,
minute by minute and degree by degree. Mrs. Shute almost boxed
ears for what she called his "criminal delay," and went off at once to
look after the poor girl. We had seven cases of typhoid in the Station
that winter and, as the average of death is about one in every five
cases, we felt certain that we should have to lose somebody. But all did
their best. The women sat up nursing the women, and the men turned
to and tended the bachelors who were down, and we wrestled with those
typhoid cases for fifty-six days, and brought them through the Valley of
the Shadow in triumph. But, just when we thought all was over, and were
going to give a dance to celebrate the victory, little Mrs. Dumoise
got a relapse and died in a week and the Station went to the funeral.
Dumoise broke down utterly at the brink of the grave, and had to be
After the death, Dumoise crept into his own house and refused to be
comforted. He did his duties perfectly, but we all felt that he should
go on leave, and the other men of his own Service told him so. Dumoise
was very thankful for the suggestion--he was thankful for anything in
those days--and went to Chini on a walking-tour. Chini is some twenty
marches from Simla, in the heart of the Hills, and the scenery is good
if you are in trouble. You pass through big, still deodar-forests, and
under big, still cliffs, and over big, still grass-downs swelling like
a woman's breasts; and the wind across the grass, and the rain among the
deodars says:--"Hush--hush--hush." So little Dumoise was packed off to
Chini, to wear down his grief with a full-plate camera, and a rifle. He
took also a useless bearer, because the man had been his wife's favorite
servant. He was idle and a thief, but Dumoise trusted everything to him.
On his way back from Chini, Dumoise turned aside to Bagi, through the
Forest Reserve which is on the spur of Mount Huttoo. Some men who have
travelled more than a little say that the march from Kotegarh to Bagi is
one of the finest in creation. It runs through dark wet forest, and ends
suddenly in bleak, nipped hill-side and black rocks. Bagi dak-bungalow
is open to all the winds and is bitterly cold. Few people go to Bagi.
Perhaps that was the reason why Dumoise went there. He halted at seven
in the evening, and his bearer went down the hill-side to the village
to engage coolies for the next day's march. The sun had set, and the
night-winds were beginning to croon among the rocks. Dumoise leaned on
the railing of the verandah, waiting for his bearer to return. The man
came back almost immediately after he had disappeared, and at such a
rate that Dumoise fancied he must have crossed a bear. He was running as
hard as he could up the face of the hill.
But there was no bear to account for his terror. He raced to the
verandah and fell down, the blood spurting from his nose and his face
iron-gray. Then he gurgled:--"I have seen the Memsahib! I have seen the
"Where?" said Dumoise.
"Down there, walking on the road to the village. She was in a blue
dress, and she lifted the veil of her bonnet and said:--'Ram Dass, give
my salaams to the Sahib, and tell him that I shall meet him next month
at Nuddea.' Then I ran away, because I was afraid."
What Dumoise said or did I do not know. Ram Dass declares that he said
nothing, but walked up and down the verandah all the cold night, waiting
for the Memsahib to come up the hill and stretching out his arms into
the dark like a madman. But no Memsahib came, and, next day, he went on
to Simla cross-questioning the bearer every hour.
Ram Dass could only say that he had met Mrs. Dumoise and that she had
lifted up her veil and given him the message which he had faithfully
repeated to Dumoise. To this statement Ram Dass adhered. He did not know
where Nuddea was, had no friends at Nuddea, and would most certainly
never go to Nuddea; even though his pay were doubled.
Nuddea is in Bengal, and has nothing whatever to do with a doctor
serving in the Punjab. It must be more than twelve hundred miles from
Dumoise went through Simla without halting, and returned to Meridki
there to take over charge from the man who had been officiating for him
during his tour. There were some Dispensary accounts to be explained,
and some recent orders of the Surgeon-General to be noted, and,
altogether, the taking-over was a full day's work. In the evening,
Dumoise told his locum tenens, who was an old friend of his bachelor
days, what had happened at Bagi; and the man said that Ram Dass might
well have chosen Tuticorin while he was about it.
At that moment a telegraph-peon came in with a telegram from Simla,
ordering Dumoise not to take over charge at Meridki, but to go at once
to Nuddea on special duty. There was a nasty outbreak of cholera at
Nuddea, and the Bengal Government, being shorthanded, as usual, had
borrowed a Surgeon from the Punjab.
Dumoise threw the telegram across the table and said:--"Well?"
The other Doctor said nothing. It was all that he could say.
Then he remembered that Dumoise had passed through Simla on his way
from Bagi; and thus might, possibly, have heard the first news of the
He tried to put the question, and the implied suspicion into words, but
Dumoise stopped him with:--"If I had desired THAT, I should never have
come back from Chini. I was shooting there. I wish to live, for I have
things to do.... but I shall not be sorry."
The other man bowed his head, and helped, in the twilight, to pack up
Dumoise's just opened trunks. Ram Dass entered with the lamps.
"Where is the Sahib going?" he asked.
"To Nuddea," said Dumoise, softly.
Ram Dass clawed Dumoise's knees and boots and begged him not to go.
Dass wept and howled till he was turned out of the room. Then he wrapped
up all his belongings and came back to ask for a character. He was not
going to Nuddea to see his Sahib die, and, perhaps to die himself.
So Dumoise gave the man his wages and went down to Nuddea alone; the
other Doctor bidding him good-bye as one under sentence of death.
Eleven days later, he had joined his Memsahib; and the Bengal Government
had to borrow a fresh Doctor to cope with that epidemic at Nuddea. The
first importation lay dead in Chooadanga Dak-Bungalow.
TO BE HELD FOR REFERENCE.
By the hoof of the Wild Goat up-tossed
From the Cliff where She lay in the Sun,
Fell the Stone
To the Tarn where the daylight is lost;
So She fell from the light of the Sun,
Now the fall was ordained from the first,
With the Goat and the Cliff and the Tarn,
But the Stone
Knows only Her life is accursed,
As She sinks in the depths of the Tarn,
Oh, Thou who has builded the world
Oh, Thou who hast lighted the Sun!
Oh, Thou who hast darkened the Tarn!
The Sin of the Stone that was hurled
By the Goat from the light of the Sun,
As She sinks in the mire of the Tarn,
Even now--even now--even now!
From the Unpublished Papers of McIntosh Jellaludin.
"Say, is it dawn, is it dusk in thy Bower,
Thou whom I long for, who longest for me?
Oh be it night--be it--"
Here he fell over a little camel-colt that was sleeping in the Serai
where the horse-traders and the best of the blackguards from Central
Asia live; and, because he was very drunk indeed and the night was dark,
he could not rise again till I helped him. That was the beginning of my
acquaintance with McIntosh Jellaludin. When a loafer, and drunk, sings
The Song of the Bower, he must be worth cultivating. He got off the
camel's back and said, rather thickly:--"I--I--I'm a bit screwed, but a
dip in Loggerhead will put me right again; and I say, have you spoken to
Symonds about the mare's knees?"
Now Loggerhead was six thousand weary miles away from us, close to
Mesopotamia, where you mustn't fish and poaching is impossible, and
Charley Symonds' stable a half mile further across the paddocks. It was
strange to hear all the old names, on a May night, among the horses
and camels of the Sultan Caravanserai. Then the man seemed to remember
himself and sober down at the same time. He leaned against the camel and
pointed to a corner of the Serai where a lamp was burning:--
"I live there," said he, "and I should be extremely obliged if you would
be good enough to help my mutinous feet thither; for I am more than
usually drunk--most--most phenomenally tight. But not in respect to my
head. 'My brain cries out against'--how does it go? But my head rides on
the--rolls on the dung-hill I should have said, and controls the qualm."
I helped him through the gangs of tethered horses and he collapsed on
the edge of the verandah in front of the line of native quarters.
"Thanks--a thousand thanks! O Moon and little, little Stars! To think
that a man should so shamelessly.... Infamous liquor, too. Ovid in exile
drank no worse. Better. It was frozen. Alas! I had no ice. Good-night. I
would introduce you to my wife were I sober--or she civilized."
A native woman came out of the darkness of the room, and began calling
the man names; so I went away. He was the most interesting loafer that
I had the pleasure of knowing for a long time; and later on, he became
a friend of mine. He was a tall, well-built, fair man fearfully shaken
with drink, and he looked nearer fifty than the thirty-five which, he
said, was his real age. When a man begins to sink in India, and is not
sent Home by his friends as soon as may be, he falls very low from a
respectable point of view. By the time that he changes his creed, as did
McIntosh, he is past redemption.
In most big cities, natives will tell you of two or three Sahibs,
generally low-caste, who have turned Hindu or Mussulman, and who live
more or less as such. But it is not often that you can get to know
them. As McIntosh himself used to say:--"If I change my religion for my
stomach's sake, I do not seek to become a martyr to missionaries, nor am
I anxious for notoriety."
At the outset of acquaintance McIntosh warned me. "Remember this. I am
not an object for charity. I require neither your money, your food,
nor your cast-off raiment. I am that rare animal, a self-supporting
drunkard. If you choose, I will smoke with you, for the tobacco of the
bazars does not, I admit, suit my palate; and I will borrow any books
which you may not specially value. It is more than likely that I shall
sell them for bottles of excessively filthy country-liquors. In return,
you shall share such hospitality as my house affords. Here is a charpoy
on which two can sit, and it is possible that there may, from time to
time, be food in that platter. Drink, unfortunately, you will find on
the premises at any hour: and thus I make you welcome to all my poor
I was admitted to the McIntosh household--I and my good tobacco. But
nothing else. Unluckily, one cannot visit a loafer in the Serai by
day. Friends buying horses would not understand it. Consequently, I
was obliged to see McIntosh after dark. He laughed at this, and said
simply:--"You are perfectly right. When I enjoyed a position in society,
rather higher than yours, I should have done exactly the same thing,
Good Heavens! I was once"--he spoke as though he had fallen from the
Command of a Regiment--"an Oxford Man!" This accounted for the reference
to Charley Symonds' stable.
"You," said McIntosh, slowly, "have not had that advantage; but, to
outward appearance, you do not seem possessed of a craving for strong
drinks. On the whole, I fancy that you are the luckier of the two. Yet
I am not certain. You are--forgive my saying so even while I am smoking
your excellent tobacco--painfully ignorant of many things."
We were sitting together on the edge of his bedstead, for he owned
no chairs, watching the horses being watered for the night, while the
native woman was preparing dinner. I did not like being patronized by a
loafer, but I was his guest for the time being, though he owned only one
very torn alpaca-coat and a pair of trousers made out of gunny-bags.
He took the pipe out of his mouth, and went on judicially:--"All things
considered, I doubt whether you are the luckier. I do not refer to
your extremely limited classical attainments, or your excruciating
quantities, but to your gross ignorance of matters more immediately
under your notice. That for instance."--He pointed to a woman cleaning
a samovar near the well in the centre of the Serai. She was flicking the
water out of the spout in regular cadenced jerks.
"There are ways and ways of cleaning samovars. If you knew why she
was doing her work in that particular fashion, you would know what the
Spanish Monk meant when he said--
'I the Trinity illustrate,
Drinking watered orange-pulp--
In three sips the Aryan frustrate,
While he drains his at one gulp.--'
and many other things which now are hidden from your eyes. However, Mrs.
McIntosh has prepared dinner. Let us come and eat after the fashion of
the people of the country--of whom, by the way, you know nothing."
The native woman dipped her hand in the dish with us. This was wrong.
The wife should always wait until the husband has eaten. McIntosh
Jellaludin apologized, saying:--
"It is an English prejudice which I have not been able to overcome; and
she loves me. Why, I have never been able to understand. I fore-gathered
with her at Jullundur, three years ago, and she has remained with me
ever since. I believe her to be moral, and know her to be skilled in
He patted the woman's head as he spoke, and she cooed softly. She was
not pretty to look at.
McIntosh never told me what position he had held before his fall. He
was, when sober, a scholar and a gentleman. When drunk, he was rather
more of the first than the second. He used to get drunk about once a
week for two days. On those occasions the native woman tended him
while he raved in all tongues except his own. One day, indeed, he began
reciting Atalanta in Calydon, and went through it to the end, beating
time to the swing of the verse with a bedstead-leg. But he did most of
his ravings in Greek or German. The man's mind was a perfect rag-bag
of useless things. Once, when he was beginning to get sober, he told
me that I was the only rational being in the Inferno into which he had
descended--a Virgil in the Shades, he said--and that, in return for
my tobacco, he would, before he died, give me the materials of a new
Inferno that should make me greater than Dante. Then he fell asleep on a
horse-blanket and woke up quite calm.
"Man," said he, "when you have reached the uttermost depths of
degradation, little incidents which would vex a higher life, are to you
of no consequence. Last night, my soul was among the gods; but I make no
doubt that my bestial body was writhing down here in the garbage."
"You were abominably drunk if that's what you mean," I said.
"I WAS drunk--filthy drunk. I who am the son of a man with whom you have
no concern--I who was once Fellow of a College whose buttery-hatch you
have not seen. I was loathsomely drunk. But consider how lightly I am
touched. It is nothing to me. Less than nothing; for I do not even feel
the headache which should be my portion. Now, in a higher life, how
ghastly would have been my punishment, how bitter my repentance! Believe
me, my friend with the neglected education, the highest is as the
lowest--always supposing each degree extreme."
He turned round on the blanket, put his head between his fists and
"On the Soul which I have lost and on the Conscience which I have
killed, I tell you that I CANNOT feel! I am as the gods, knowing good
and evil, but untouched by either. Is this enviable or is it not?"
When a man has lost the warning of "next morning's head," he must be in
a bad state, I answered, looking at McIntosh on the blanket, with his
hair over his eyes and his lips blue-white, that I did not think the
insensibility good enough.
"For pity's sake, don't say that! I tell you, it IS good and most
enviable. Think of my consolations!"
"Have you so many, then, McIntosh?"
"Certainly; your attempts at sarcasm which is essentially the weapon
of a cultured man, are crude. First, my attainments, my classical and
literary knowledge, blurred, perhaps, by immoderate drinking--which
reminds me that before my soul went to the Gods last night, I sold the
Pickering Horace you so kindly lent me. Ditta Mull the Clothesman has
it. It fetched ten annas, and may be redeemed for a rupee--but still
infinitely superior to yours. Secondly, the abiding affection of Mrs.
McIntosh, best of wives. Thirdly, a monument, more enduring than brass,
which I have built up in the seven years of my degradation."
He stopped here, and crawled across the room for a drink of water. He
was very shaky and sick.
He referred several times to his "treasure"--some great possession that
he owned--but I held this to be the raving of drink. He was as poor and
as proud as he could be. His manner was not pleasant, but he knew enough
about the natives, among whom seven years of his life had been spent,
to make his acquaintance worth having. He used actually to laugh at
Strickland as an ignorant man--"ignorant West and East"--he said. His
boast was, first, that he was an Oxford Man of rare and shining parts,
which may or may not have been true--I did not know enough to check his
statements--and, secondly, that he "had his hand on the pulse of native
life"--which was a fact. As an Oxford man, he struck me as a prig: he
was always throwing his education about. As a Mahommedan faquir--as
McIntosh Jellaludin--he was all that I wanted for my own ends. He smoked
several pounds of my tobacco, and taught me several ounces of things
worth knowing; but he would never accept any gifts, not even when the
cold weather came, and gripped the poor thin chest under the poor thin
alpaca-coat. He grew very angry, and said that I had insulted him, and
that he was not going into hospital. He had lived like a beast and he
would die rationally, like a man.
As a matter of fact, he died of pneumonia; and on the night of his death
sent over a grubby note asking me to come and help him to die.
The native woman was weeping by the side of the bed. McIntosh, wrapped
in a cotton cloth, was too weak to resent a fur coat being thrown over
him. He was very active as far as his mind was concerned, and his eyes
were blazing. When he had abused the Doctor who came with me so foully
that the indignant old fellow left, he cursed me for a few minutes and
Then he told his wife to fetch out "The Book" from a hole in the wall.
She brought out a big bundle, wrapped in the tail of a petticoat, of old
sheets of miscellaneous note-paper, all numbered and covered with fine
cramped writing. McIntosh ploughed his hand through the rubbish and
stirred it up lovingly.
"This," he said, "is my work--the Book of McIntosh Jellaludin, showing
what he saw and how he lived, and what befell him and others; being also
an account of the life and sins and death of Mother Maturin. What Mirza
Murad Ali Beg's book is to all other books on native life, will my work
be to Mirza Murad Ali Beg's!"
This, as will be conceded by any one who knows Mirza Ali Beg's book, was
a sweeping statement. The papers did not look specially valuable; but
McIntosh handled them as if they were currency-notes. Then he said
slowly:--"In despite the many weaknesses of your education, you have
been good to me. I will speak of your tobacco when I reach the Gods. I
owe you much thanks for many kindnesses. But I abominate indebtedness.
For this reason I bequeath to you now the monument more enduring than
brass--my one book--rude and imperfect in parts, but oh, how rare in
others! I wonder if you will understand it. It is a gift more honorable
than... Bah! where is my brain rambling to? You will mutilate it
horribly. You will knock out the gems you call 'Latin quotations,' you
Philistine, and you will butcher the style to carve into your own jerky
jargon; but you cannot destroy the whole of it. I bequeath it to you.
Ethel... My brain again!... Mrs. McIntosh, bear witness that I give the
sahib all these papers. They would be of no use to you, Heart of my
heart; and I lay it upon you," he turned to me here, "that you do not
let my book die in its present form. It is yours unconditionally--the
story of McIntosh Jellaludin, which is NOT the story of McIntosh
Jellaludin, but of a greater man than he, and of a far greater woman.
Listen now! I am neither mad nor drunk! That book will make you famous."
I said, "thank you," as the native woman put the bundle into my arms.
"My only baby!" said McIntosh with a smile. He was sinking fast, but
he continued to talk as long as breath remained. I waited for the
end: knowing that, in six cases out of ten the dying man calls for his
mother. He turned on his side and said:--
"Say how it came into your possession. No one will believe you, but my
name, at least, will live. You will treat it brutally, I know you will.
Some of it must go; the public are fools and prudish fools. I was their
servant once. But do your mangling gently--very gently. It is a great
work, and I have paid for it in seven years' damnation."
His voice stopped for ten or twelve breaths, and then he began mumbling
a prayer of some kind in Greek. The native woman cried very bitterly.
Lastly, he rose in bed and said, as loudly as slowly:--"Not guilty, my
Then he fell back, and the stupor held him till he died. The native
woman ran into the Serai among the horses and screamed and beat her
breasts; for she had loved him.
Perhaps his last sentence in life told what McIntosh had once gone
through; but, saving the big bundle of old sheets in the cloth, there
was nothing in his room to say who or what he had been.
The papers were in a hopeless muddle.
Strickland helped me to sort them, and he said that the writer was
either an extreme liar or a most wonderful person. He thought the
former. One of these days, you may be able to judge for yourself. The
bundle needed much expurgation and was full of Greek nonsense, at the
head of the chapters, which has all been cut out.
If the things are ever published some one may perhaps remember this
story, now printed as a safeguard to prove that McIntosh Jellaludin and
not I myself wrote the Book of Mother Maturin.
I don't want the Giant's Robe to come true in my case.