THE GOD FROM THE MACHINE
OF THOSE CALLED
PRIVATE LEAROYD'S STORY
THE BIG DRUNK DRAF'
THE WRECK OF THE VISIGOTH
THE SOLID MULDOON
WITH THE MAIN GUARD
IN THE MATTER OF A PRIVATE
POOR DEAR MAMMA
THE WORLD WITHOUT
THE TENTS OF KEDAR
WITH ANY AMAZEMENT
THE GARDEN OF EDEN
THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW
THE SWELLING OF JORDAN
DRAY WARA YOW DEE
THE JUDGMENT OF DUNGARA
AT HOWLI THANA
IN FLOOD TIME
THE SENDING OF DANA DA
ON THE CITY WALL
THE STORY OF THE GADSBYS
IN BLACK AND WHITE
THE GOD FROM THE MACHINE
Hit a man an' help a woman, an' ye can't be far wrong anyways.--
Maxims of Private Mulvaney.
The Inexpressibles gave a ball. They borrowed a seven-pounder from the
Gunners, and wreathed it with laurels, and made the dancing-floor
plate-glass, and provided a supper, the like of which had never been
eaten before, and set two sentries at the door of the room to hold the
trays of programme-cards. My friend, Private Mulvaney, was one of the
sentries, because he was the tallest man in the regiment. When the
dance was fairly started the sentries were released, and Private
Mulvaney went to curry favour with the Mess Sergeant in charge of the
supper. Whether the Mess Sergeant gave or Mulvaney took, I cannot say.
All that I am certain of is that, at supper-time, I found Mulvaney
with Private Ortheris, two-thirds of a ham, a loaf of bread, half a
pate-de-foie-gras, and two magnums of champagne, sitting on the roof
of my carriage. As I came up I heard him saying--
'Praise be a danst doesn't come as often as Ord'ly-room, or, by this
an' that, Orth'ris, me son, I wud be the dishgrace av the rig'mint
instid av the brightest jool in uts crown.'
'Hand the Colonel's pet noosance,' said Ortheris. 'But wot makes you
curse your rations? This 'ere fizzy stuff's good enough.'
'Stuff, ye oncivilised pagin! 'Tis champagne we're dhrinkin' now.
'Tisn't that I am set ag'in. 'Tis this quare stuff wid the little bits
av black leather in it. I misdoubt I will be distressin'ly sick wid
it in the mornin'. Fwhat is ut?'
'Goose liver,' I said, climbing on the top of the carriage, for I knew
that it was better to sit out with Mulvaney than to dance many dances.
'Goose liver is ut?' said Mulvaney. 'Faith, I'm thinkin' thim that
makes it wud do betther to cut up the Colonel. He carries a power av
liver undher his right arrum whin the days are warm an' the nights
chill. He wud give thim tons an' tons av liver. 'Tis he sez so. "I'm
all liver to-day," sez he; an' wid that he ordhers me ten days C. B.
for as moild a dhrink as iver a good sodger tuk betune his teeth.'
'That was when 'e wanted for to wash 'isself in the Fort Ditch,'
Ortheris explained. 'Said there was too much beer in the Barrack
water-butts for a God-fearing man. You was lucky in gettin' orf with
wot you did, Mulvaney.'
'Say you so? Now I'm pershuaded I was cruel hard trated, seein' fwhat
I've done for the likes av him in the days whin my eyes were wider
opin than they are now. Man alive, for the Colonel to whip me on the
peg in that way! Me that have saved the repitation av a ten times
better man than him! 'Twas ne-farious--an' that manes a power av
'Never mind the nefariousness,' I said. 'Whose reputation did you
'More's the pity, 'twasn't my own, but I tuk more trouble wid ut than
av ut was. 'Twas just my way, messin' wid fwhat was no business av
mine. Hear now!' He settled himself at ease on the top of the carriage.
'I'll tell you all about ut. Av coorse I will name no names, for there's
wan that's an orf'cer's lady now, that was in ut, and no more will I
name places, for a man is thracked by a place.'
'Eyah!' said Ortheris lazily, 'but this is a mixed story wot's comin'.'
'Wanst upon a time, as the childer-books say, I was a recruity.'
'Was you though?' said Ortheris; 'now that's extry-ordinary!'
'Orth'ris,' said Mulvaney, 'av you opin thim lips av yours again, I
will, savin' your presince, Sorr, take you by the slack av your trousers
an' heave you.'
'I'm mum,' said Ortheris. 'Wot 'appened when you was a recruity?'
'I was a betther recruity than you iver was or will be, but that's
neither here nor there. Thin I became a man, an' the divil of a man
I was fifteen years ago. They called me Buck Mulvaney in thim days,
an', begad, I tuk a woman's eye. I did that! Ortheris, ye scrub, fwhat
are ye sniggerin' at? Do you misdoubt me?'
'Devil a doubt!' said Ortheris; 'but I've 'eard summat like that
Mulvaney dismissed the impertinence with a lofty wave of his hand and
'An' the orf'cers av the rig'mint I was in in thim days was
orf'cers--gran' men, wid a manner on 'em, an' a way wid 'em such as
is not made these days--all but wan--wan o' the capt'ns. A bad dhrill,
a wake voice, an' a limp leg--thim three things are the signs av a bad
man. You bear that in your mind, Orth'ris, me son.
'An' the Colonel av the rig'mint had a daughter--wan av thim lamblike,
bleatin', pick-me-up-an'-carry-me-or-I'll-die gurls such as was made
for the natural prey av men like the Capt'n, who was iverlastin' payin'
coort to her, though the Colonel he said time an' over, "Kape out av
the brute's way, my dear." But he niver had the heart for to send her
away from the throuble, bein' as he was a widower, an' she their wan
'Stop a minute, Mulvaney,' said I; 'how in the world did you come to
know these things?'
'How did I come?' said Mulvaney, with a scornful grunt; 'bekase I'm
turned durin' the Quane's pleasure to a lump av wood, lookin' out
straight forninst me, wid a--a--candelabbrum in my hand, for you to
pick your cards out av, must I not see nor feel? Av coorse I du! Up
my back, an' in my boots, an' in the short hair av the neck--that's
where I kape my eyes whin I'm on duty an' the reg'lar wans are fixed.
Know! Take my word for it, Sorr, ivrything an' a great dale more is
known in a rig'mint; or fwhat wud be the use av a Mess Sargint, or a
Sargint's wife doin' wet-nurse to the Major's baby? To reshume. He was
a bad dhrill was this Capt'n--a rotten bad dhrill--an' whin first I
ran me eye over him, I sez to myself: "My Militia bantam!" I sez, "My
cock av a Gosport dunghill"--'twas from Portsmouth he came to
us--"there's combs to be cut," sez I, "an' by the grace av God,'tis
Terence Mulvaney will cut thim."
'So he wint menowderin', and minanderin', an' blandandherin' roun' an'
about the Colonel's daughter, an' she, poor innocint, lookin' at him
like a Comm'ssariat bullock looks at the Comp'ny cook. He'd a dhirty
little scrub av a black moustache, an' he twisted an' turned ivry wurrd
he used as av he found ut too sweet for to spit out. Eyah! He was a
tricky man an' a liar by natur'. Some are born so. He was wan. I knew
he was over his belt in money borrowed from natives; besides a lot av
other matthers which, in regard for your presince, Sorr, I will
oblitherate. A little av fwhat I knew, the Colonel knew, for he wud
have none av him, an' that, I'm thinkin', by fwhat happened aftherwards,
the Capt'n knew.
'Wan day, bein' mortial idle, or they wud never ha' thried ut, the
rig'mint gave amshure theatricals--orf'cers an' orf'cers' ladies.
You've seen the likes time an' agin, Sorr, an' poor fun 'tis for them
that sit in the back row an' stamp wid their boots for the honour av
the rig'mint. I was told off for to shif' the scenes, haulin' up this
an' draggin' down that. Light work ut was, wid lashins av beer and the
gurl that dhressed the orf'cers' ladies--but she died in Aggra twelve
years gone, an' my tongue's gettin' the betther av me. They was actin'
a play thing called Sweethearts, which you may ha' heard av, an' the
Colonel's daughter she was a lady's maid. The Capt'n was a boy called
Broom--Spread Broom was his name in the play. Thin I saw --ut come
out in the actin'--fwhat I niver saw before, an' that was that he was
no gentleman. They was too much together, thim two, a-whishperin'
behind the scenes I shifted, an' some av what they said I heard; for
I was death--blue death an' ivy--on the comb-cuttin'. He was
iverlastin'ly oppressing her to fall in wid some sneakin' schame av
his, an' she was thryin' to stand out against him, but not as though
she was set in her will. I wonder now in thim days that my ears did
not grow a yard on me head wid list'nin'. But I looked straight forninst
me an' hauled up this an' dragged down that, such as was my duty, an'
the orf'cers' ladies sez one to another, thinkin' I was out av
listen-reach: "Fwhat an obligin' young man is this Corp'ril Mulvaney!"
I was a Corp'ril then. I was rejuced aftherwards, but, no matther, I
was a Corp'ril wanst.
'Well, this Sweethearts' business wint on like most amshure
theatricals, an' barrin' fwhat I suspicioned, 'twasn't till the
dhress-rehearsal that I saw for certain that thim two--he the
blackguard, an' she no wiser than she should ha' been--had put up an
'A what?' said I.
'E-vasion! Fwhat you call an elopemint. E-vasion I calls it, bekaze,
exceptin' whin 'tis right an' natural an' proper, 'tis wrong an' dhirty
to steal a man's wan child she not knowin' her own mind. There was a
Sargint in the Comm'ssariat who set my face upon e-vasions. I'll tell
you about that--'
'Stick to the bloomin' Captains, Mulvaney,' said Ortheris; 'Comm'ssariat
Sargints is low.'
Mulvaney accepted the amendment and went on:--
'Now I knew that the Colonel was no fool, any more than me, for I was
hild the smartest man in the rig'mint, an' the Colonel was the best
orf'cer commandin' in Asia; so fwhat he said an' I said was a mortial
truth. We knew that the Capt'n was bad, but, for reasons which I have
already oblitherated, I knew more than me Colonel. I wud ha' rolled
out his face wid the butt av my gun before permittin' av him to steal
the gurl. Saints knew av he wud ha' married her, and av he didn't she
wud be in great tormint, an' the divil av a "scandal." But I niver
sthruck, niver raised me hand on my shuperior orf'cer; an' that was
a merricle now I come to considher it.'
'Mulvaney, the dawn's risin',' said Ortheris, 'an' we're no nearer
'ome than we was at the beginnin'. Lend me your pouch. Mine's all
Mulvaney pitched his pouch over, and filled his pipe afresh.
'So the dhress-rehearsal came to an end, an', bekaze I was curious,
I stayed behind whin the scene-shiftin' was ended, an' I shud ha' been
in barricks, lyin' as flat as a toad under a painted cottage thing.
They was talkin' in whispers, an' she was shiverin' an' gaspin' like
a fresh-hukked fish. "Are you sure you've got the hang av the
manewvers?" sez he, or wurrds to that effec', as the coort-martial
sez. "Sure as death," sez she, "but I misdoubt 'tis cruel hard on my
father." "Damn your father," sez he, or anyways 'twas fwhat he thought,
"the arrangement is as clear as mud. Jungi will drive the carr'ge
afther all's over, an' you come to the station, cool an' aisy, in time
for the two o'clock thrain, where I'll be wid your kit." "Faith,"
thinks I to myself, "thin there's a ayah in the business tu!"
'A powerful bad thing is a ayah. Don't you niver have any thruck wid
wan. Thin he began sootherin' her, an' all the orf'cers an' orf'cers'
ladies left, an' they put out the lights. To explain the theory av the
flight, as they say at Muskthry, you must understand that afther this
Sweethearts' nonsinse was ended, there was another little bit av a
play called Couples--some kind av couple or another. The gurl was
actin' in this, but not the man. I suspicioned he'd go to the station
wid the gurl's kit at the end av the first piece. 'Twas the kit that
flusthered me, for I knew for a Capt'n to go trapesing about the impire
wid the Lord knew what av a truso on his arrum was nefarious, an'
wud be worse than easin' the flag, so far as the talk aftherwards
''Old on, Mulvaney. Wot's truso?' said Ortheris.
'You're an oncivilised man, me son. Whin a gurl's married, all her kit
an' 'coutrements are truso, which manes weddin'-portion. An' 'tis
the same whin she's runnin' away, even wid the biggest blackguard on
the Arrmy List.
'So I made my plan av campaign. The Colonel's house was a good two
miles away. "Dennis," sez I to my colour-sargint, "av you love me lend
me your kyart, for me heart is bruk an' me feet is sore wid trampin'
to and from this foolishness at the Gaff." An' Dennis lent ut, wid a
rampin', stampin' red stallion in the shafts. Whin they was all settled
down to their Sweethearts for the first scene, which was a long wan,
I slips outside and into the kyart. Mother av Hivin! but I made that
horse walk, an' we came into the Colonel's compound as the divil wint
through Athlone--in standin' leps. There was no one there excipt the
servints, an' I wint round to the back an' found the girl's ayah.
'"Ye black brazen Jezebel," sez I, "sellin' your masther's honour for
five rupees--pack up all the Miss Sahib's kit an' look slippy! Capt'n
Sahib's order," sez I. "Going to the station we are," I sez, an' wid
that I laid my finger to my nose an' looked the schamin' sinner I was.
'"Bote acchy," says she; so I knew she was in the business, an' I
piled up all the sweet talk I'd iver learnt in the bazars on to this
she-bullock, an' prayed av her to put all the quick she knew into the
thing. While she packed, I stud outside an' sweated, for I was wanted
for to shif the second scene. I tell you, a young gurl's e-vasion manes
as much baggage as a rig'mint on the line av march! "Saints help
Dennis's springs," thinks I, as I bundled the stuff into the thrap,
"for I'll have no mercy!"
'"I'm comin' too," says the ayah.
'"No, you don't," sez I, "later--pechy! You baito where you are.
I'll pechy come an' bring you sart, along with me, you
maraudin'"-niver mind fwhat I called her.
'Thin I wint for the Gaff, an' by the special ordher av Providence,
for I was doin' a good work you will ondersthand, Dennis's springs
hild toight. "Now, whin the Capt'n goes for that kit," thinks I, "he'll
be throubled." At the end av Sweethearts off the Capt'n runs in his
kyart to the Colonel's house, an' I sits down on the steps and laughs.
Wanst an' again I slipped in to see how the little piece was goin',
an' whin ut was near endin' I stepped out all among the carr'ges an'
sings out very softly, "Jungi!" Wid that a carr'ge began to move, an'
I waved to the dhriver. "Hitherao!" sez I, an' he hitheraoed till
I judged he was at proper distance, an' thin I tuk him, fair an' square
betune the eyes, all I knew for good or bad, an' he dhropped wid a
guggle like the canteen beer-engine whin ut's runnin' low. Thin I ran
to the kyart an' tuk out all the kit an' piled it into the carr'ge,
the sweat runnin' down my face in dhrops. "Go home," sez I, to the
sais; "you'll find a man close here. Very sick he is. Take him away,
an' av you iver say wan wurrd about fwhat you've dekkoed, I'll
marrow you till your own wife won't sumjao who you are!" Thin I
heard the stampin' av feet at the ind av the play, an' I ran in to let
down the curtain. Whin they all came out the gurl thried to hide herself
behind wan av the pillars, an' sez "Jungi" in a voice that wouldn't
ha' scared a hare. I run over to Jungi's carr'ge an' tuk up the lousy
old horse-blanket on the box, wrapped my head an' the rest av me in
ut, an' dhrove up to where she was.
'"Miss Sahib," sez I; "going to the station? Captain Sahib's order!"
an' widout a sign she jumped in all among her own kit.
'I laid to an' dhruv like steam to the Colonel's house before the
Colonel was there, an' she screamed an' I thought she was goin' off.
Out comes the ayah, saying all sorts av things about the Capt'n havin'
come for the kit an' gone to the station.
'"Take out the luggage, you divil," sez I, "or I'll murther you!"
'The lights av the thraps people comin' from the Gaff was showin'
across the parade ground, an', by this an' that, the way thim two women
worked at the bundles an' thrunks was a caution! I was dyin' to help,
but, seein' I didn't want to be known, I sat wid the blanket roun' me
an' coughed an' thanked the Saints there was no moon that night.
'Whin all was in the house again, I niver asked for bukshish but
dhruv tremenjus in the opp'site way from the other carr'ge an' put out
my lights. Presintly, I saw a naygur man wallowin' in the road. I
slipped down before I got to him, for I suspicioned Providence was wid
me all through that night. 'Twas Jungi, his nose smashed in flat, all
dumb sick as you please. Dennis's man must have tilted him out av the
thrap. Whin he came to, "Hutt!" sez I, but he began to howl.
'"You black lump av dirt," I sez, "is this the way you dhrive your
gharri? That tikka has been owin' an' fere-owin' all over the
bloomin' country this whole bloomin' night, an' you as mut-walla as
Davey's sow. Get up, you hog!" sez I, louder, for I heard the wheels
av a thrap in the dark; "get up an' light your lamps, or you'll be run
into!" This was on the road to the Railway Station.
'"Fwhat the divil's this?" sez the Capt'n's voice in the dhark, an'
I could judge he was in a lather av rage.
'"Gharri dhriver here, dhrunk, Sorr," sez I; "I've found his gharri
sthrayin' about cantonmints, an' now I've found him."
'"Oh!" sez the Capt'n; "fwhat's his name?" I stooped down an' pretended
'"He sez his name's Jungi, Sorr," sez I.
'"Hould my harse," sez the Capt'n to his man, an' wid that he gets
down wid the whip an' lays into Jungi, just mad wid rage an' swearin'
like the scutt he was.
'I thought, afther a while, he wud kill the man, so I sez:--"Stop,
Sorr, or you'll, murdher him!" That dhrew all his fire on me, an' he
cursed me into Blazes, an' out again. I stud to attenshin an' saluted:--
"Sorr," sez I, "av ivry man in this wurruld had his rights, I'm thinkin'
that more than wan wud be beaten to a jelly for this night's work--that
niver came off at all, Sorr, as you see?" "Now," thinks I to myself,
"Terence Mulvaney, you've cut your own throat, for he'll sthrike, an'
you'll knock him down for the good av his sowl an' your own iverlastin'
'But the Capt'n niver said a single wurrd. He choked where he stud,
an' thin he went into his thrap widout sayin' good-night, an' I wint
back to barricks.'
'And then?' said Ortheris and I together.
'That was all,' said Mulvaney; 'niver another word did I hear av the
whole thing. All I know was that there was no e-vasion, an' that was
fwhat I wanted. Now, I put ut to you, Sorr, is ten days' C. B. a fit
an' a proper tratement for a man who has behaved as me?'
'Well, any'ow,' said Ortheris,'tweren't this 'ere Colonel's daughter,
an' you was blazin' copped when you tried to wash in the Fort Ditch.'
'That,' said Mulvaney, finishing the champagne, 'is a shuparfluous an'
OF THOSE CALLED
We were wallowing through the China Seas in a dense fog, the horn
blowing every two minutes for the benefit of the fishery craft that
crowded the waterways. From the bridge the fo'c'sle was invisible;
from the hand-wheel at the stern the captain's cabin. The fog held
possession of everything--the pearly white fog. Once or twice when it
tried to lift, we saw a glimpse of the oily sea, the flitting vision
of a junk's sail spread in the vain hope of catching the breeze, or
the buoys of a line of nets. Somewhere close to us lay the land, but
it might have been the Kurile Islands for aught we knew. Very early
in the morning there passed us, not a cable's-length away, but as
unseen as the spirits of the dead, a steamer of the same line as ours.
She howled melodiously in answer to our bellowing, and passed on.
'Suppose she had hit us,' said a man from Saigon. 'Then we should have
gone down,' answered the chief officer sweetly. 'Beastly thing to
go down in a fog,' said a young gentleman who was travelling for
pleasure. 'Chokes a man both ways, y' know.' We were comfortably
gathered in the smoking-room, the weather being too cold to venture
on the deck. Conversation naturally turned upon accidents of fog, the
horn tooting significantly in the pauses between the tales. I heard
of the wreck of the Eric, the cutting down of the Strathnairn
within half a mile of harbour, and the carrying away of the bow plates
of the Sigismund outside Sandy Hook.
'It is astonishing,' said the man from Saigon, 'how many true stories
are put down as sea yarns. It makes a man almost shrink from telling
'Oh, please don't shrink on our account,' said the smoking-room with
'It's not my own story,' said the man from Saigon. 'A fellow on a
Massageries boat told it me. He had been third officer of a sort on
a Geordie tramp--one of those lumbering, dish-bottomed coal-barges
where the machinery is tied up with a string and the plates are rivetted
with putty. The way he told his tale was this. The tramp had been
creeping along some sea or other with a chart ten years old and the
haziest sort of chronometers when she got into a fog--just such a fog
as we have now.'
Here the smoking-room turned round as one man, and looked through the
'In the man's own words, "just when the fog was thickest, the engines
broke down. They had been doing this for some weeks, and we were too
weary to care. I went forward of the bridge, and leaned over the side,
wondering where I should ever get something that I could call a ship,
and whether the old hulk would fall to pieces as she lay. The fog was
as thick as any London one, but as white as steam. While they were
tinkering at the engines below, I heard a voice in the fog about twenty
yards from the ship's side, calling out, 'Can you climb on board if
we throw you a rope?' That startled me, because I fancied we were going
to be run down the next minute by a ship engaged in rescuing a man
overboard. I shouted for the engine-room whistle; and it whistled about
five minutes, but never the sound of a ship could we hear. The ship's
boy came forward with some biscuit for me. As he put it into my hand,
I heard the voice in the fog, crying out about throwing us a rope.
This time it was the boy that yelled, 'Ship on us!' and off went the
whistle again, while the men in the engine-room--it generally took the
ship's crew to repair the Hespa's engines--tumbled upon deck to
know what we were doing. I told them about the hail, and we listened
in the smother of the fog for the sound of a screw. We listened for
ten minutes, then we blew the whistle for another ten. Then the crew
began to call the ship's boy a fool, meaning that the third mate was
no better. When they were going down below, I heard the hail the third
time, so did the ship's boy. 'There you are,' I said, 'it is not twenty
yards from us.' The engineer sings out, 'I heard it too! Are you all
asleep?' Then the crew began to swear at the engineer; and what with
discussion, argument, and a little swearing,--for there is not much
discipline on board a tramp,--we raised such a row that our skipper
came aft to enquire. I, the engineer, and the ship's boy stuck to our
tale. 'Voices or no voices,' said the captain, 'you'd better patch the
old engines up, and see if you've got enough steam to whistle with.
I've a notion that we've got into rather too crowded ways.'
'"The engineer stayed on deck while the men went down below. The skipper
hadn't got back to the chart-room before I saw thirty feet of bowsprit
hanging over the break of the fo'c'sle. Thirty feet of bowsprit, sir,
doesn't belong to anything that sails the seas except a sailing-ship
or a man-of-war. I speculated quite a long time, with my hands on the
bulwarks, as to whether our friend was soft wood or steel plated. It
would not have made much difference to us, anyway; but I felt there
was more honour in being rammed, you know. Then I knew all about it.
It was a ram. We opened out. I am not exaggerating--we opened out,
sir, like a cardboard box. The other ship cut us two-thirds through,
a little behind the break of the fo'c'sle. Our decks split up
lengthways. The mizzen-mast bounded out of its place, and we heeled
over. Then the other ship blew a fog-horn. I remember thinking, as I
took water from the port bulwark, that this was rather ostentatious
after she had done all the mischief. After that, I was a mile and a
half under sea, trying to go to sleep as hard as I could. Some one
caught hold of my hair, and waked me up. I was hanging to what was
left of one of our boats under the lee of a large English ironclad.
There were two men with me; the three of us began to yell. A man on
the ship sings out, 'Can you climb on board if we throw you a rope?'
They weren't going to let down a fine new man-of-war's boat to pick
up three half-drowned rats. We accepted the invitation. We climbed--I,
the engineer, and the ship's boy. About half an hour later the fog
cleared entirely; except for the half of the boat away in the offing,
there was neither stick nor string on the sea to show that the Hespa
had been cut down."
'And what do you think of that now?' said the man from Saigon.
PRIVATE LEAROYD'S STORY
And he told a tale.
--Chronicles of Gautama Buddha.
FAR from the haunts of Company Officers who insist upon kit-inspections,
far from keen-nosed Sergeants who sniff the pipe stuffed into the
bedding-roll, two miles from the tumult of the barracks, lies the Trap.
It is an old dry well, shadowed by a twisted pipal tree and fenced
with high grass. Here, in the years gone by, did Private Ortheris
establish his depot and menagerie for such possessions, dead and living,
as could not safely be introduced to the barrack-room. Here were
gathered Houdin pullets, and fox-terriers of undoubted pedigree and
more than doubtful ownership, for Ortheris was an inveterate poacher
and pre-eminent among a regiment of neat-handed dog-stealers.
Never again will the long lazy evenings return wherein Ortheris,
whistling softly, moved surgeon-wise among the captives of his craft
at the bottom of the well; when Learoyd sat in the niche, giving sage
counsel on the management of 'tykes,' and Mulvaney, from the crook of
the overhanging pipal, waved his enormous boots in benediction above
our heads, delighting us with tales of Love and War, and strange
experiences of cities and men.
Ortheris--landed at last in the 'little stuff bird-shop' for which
your soul longed; Learoyd--back again in the smoky, stone-ribbed North,
amid the clang of the Bradford looms; Mulvaney--grizzled, tender, and
very wise Ulysses, sweltering on the earthwork of a Central India
line--judge if I have forgotten old days in the Trap!
Orth'ris, as allus thinks he knaws more than other foaks, said she
wasn't a real laady, but nobbut a Hewrasian. I don't gainsay as her
culler was a bit doosky like. But she was a laady. Why, she rode iv
a carriage, an' good 'osses, too, an' her 'air was that oiled as you
could see your faice in it, an' she wore dimond rings an' a goold
chain, an' silk an' satin dresses as mun 'a' cost a deal, for it isn't
a cheap shop as keeps enough o' one pattern to fit a figure like hers.
Her name was Mrs. DeSussa, an't' waay I coom to be acquainted wi' her
was along of our Colonel's Laady's dog Rip.
I've seen a vast o' dogs, but Rip was t' prettiest picter of a cliver
fox-tarrier 'at iver I set eyes on. He could do owt you like but speeak,
an' t' Colonel's Laady set more store by him than if he hed been a
Christian. She hed bairns of her awn, but they was i' England, and Rip
seemed to get all t' coodlin' and pettin' as belonged to a bairn by
But Rip were a bit on a rover, an' hed a habit o' breakin' out o'
barricks like, and trottin' round t' plaice as if he were t' Cantonment
Magistrate coom round inspectin'. The Colonel leathers him once or
twice, but Rip didn't care an' kept on gooin' his rounds, wi' his taail
a-waggin' as if he were flag-signallin' to t' world at large 'at he
was 'gettin' on nicely, thank yo', and how's yo'sen?' An' then t'
Colonel, as was noa sort of a hand wi' a dog, tees him oop. A real
clipper of a dog, an' it's noa wonder yon laady. Mrs. DeSussa, should
tek a fancy tiv him. Theer's one o' t' Ten Commandments says yo' maun't
cuwet your neebor's ox nor his jackass, but it doesn't say nowt about
his tarrier dogs, an' happen thot's t' reason why Mrs. DeSussa cuvveted
Rip, tho' she went to church reg'lar along wi' her husband who was so
mich darker 'at if he hedn't such a good coaat tiv his back yo' might
ha' called him a black man and nut tell a lee nawther. They said he
addled his brass i' jute, an' he'd a rare lot on it.
Well, you seen, when they teed Rip up, t' poor awd lad didn't enjoy
very good 'elth. So t' Colonel's Laady sends for me as 'ad a naame for
bein' knowledgeable about a dog, an' axes what's ailin' wi' him.
'Why,' says I, 'he's getten t' mopes, an' what he wants is his libbaty
an' coompany like t' rest on us, wal happen a rat or two 'ud liven him
oop. It's low, mum,' says I,'is rats, but it's t' nature of a dog; an'
soa's cuttin' round an' meetin' another dog or two an' passin' t' time
o' day. an' hevvin' a bit of a turn-up wi' him like a Christian.'
So she says her dog maunt niver fight an' noa Christians iver fought.
'Then what's a soldier for?' says I; an' I explains to her t' contrairy
qualities of a dog, 'at, when yo' coom to think on't, is one o't'
curusest things as is. For they larn to behave theirsens like gentlemen
born, fit for t' fost o' coompany--they tell me t' Widdy herself is
fond of a good dog and knaws one when she sees it as well as onny body:
then on t' other hand a-tewin' round after cats an' gettin' mixed oop
i' all manners o' blackguardly street-rows, an' killin' rats, an'
fightin' like divils.
T' Colonel's Laady says:--'Well, Learoyd, I doan't agree wi' you, but
you're right in a way o' speeakin', an' I should like yo' to tek Rip
out a-walkin' wi' you sometimes; but yo' maun't let him fight, nor
chase cats, nor do nowt 'orrid': an them was her very wods.
Soa Rip an' me goes out a-walkin' o' evenin's, he bein' a dog as did
credit tiv a man, an' I catches a lot o' rats an we hed a bit of a
match on in an awd dry swimmin'-bath at back o't' cantonments, an' it
was none so long afore he was as bright as a button again. He hed a
way o' flyin' at them big yaller pariah dogs as if he was a harrow
offan a bow, an' though his weight were nowt, he tuk 'em so suddint-like
they rolled over like skittles in a halley, an' when they coot he
stretched after 'em as if he were rabbit-runnin'. Saame with cats when
he cud get t' cat agaate o' runnin'.
One evenin', him an' me was trespassin' ovver a compound wall after
one of them mongooses 'at he'd started, an' we was busy grubbin' round
a prickle-bush, an' when we looks up there was Mrs. DeSussa wi' a
parasel ovver her shoulder, a-watchin' us. 'Oh my!' she sings out;
'there's that lovelee dog! Would he let me stroke him, Mister Soldier?'
'Ay, he would, mum,' sez I, 'for he's fond o' laady's coompany. Coom
here, Rip, an' speeak to this kind laady.' An'Rip, seein' 'at t'mongoose
hed getten clean awaay, cooms up like t' gentleman he was, nivver a
hauporth shy or okkord.
'Oh, you beautiful--you prettee dog!' she says, clippin' an' chantin'
her speech in a way them sooart has o' their awn; 'I would like a dog
like you. You are so verree lovelee--so awfullee prettee,' an' all
thot sort o' talk, 'at a dog o' sense mebbe thinks nowt on, tho' he
bides it by reason o' his breedin'.
An' then I meks him joomp ovver my swagger-cane, an' shek hands, an'
beg, an' lie dead, an' a lot o' them tricks as laadies teeaches dogs,
though I doan't haud with it mysen, for it's makin' a fool o' a good
dog to do such like.
An' at lung length it cooms out 'at she'd been thrawin' sheep's eyes,
as t' sayin' is, at Rip for many a day. Yo' see, her childer was grown
up, an' she'd nowt mich to do, an' were allus fond of a dog. Soa she
axes me if I'd tek somethin' to dhrink. An' we goes into t' drawn-room
wheer her husband was a-settin'. They meks a gurt fuss ower t' dog an'
I has a bottle o' aale, an' he gave me a handful o' cigars.
Soa I coomed away, but t' awd lass sings out--'Oh, Mister Soldier,
please coom again and bring that prettee dog.'
I didn't let on to t' Colonel's Laady about Mrs. DeSussa, and Rip, he
says nowt nawther; an' I gooes again, an' ivry time there was a good
dhrink an' a handful o' good smooaks. An' I telled t' awd lass a heeap
more about Rip than I'd ever heeared; how he tuk t' fost prize at
Lunnon dog-show and cost thotty-three pounds fower shillin' from t'
man as bred him; 'at his own brother was t' propputty o' t' Prince o'
Wailes, an' 'at he had a pedigree as long as a Dook's. An' she lapped
it all oop an' were niver tired o' admirin' him. But when t' awed lass
took to givin' me money an' I seed 'at she were gettin' fair fond about
t' dog, I began to suspicion summat. Onny body may give a soldier t'
price of a pint in a friendly way an' theer's no 'arm done, but when
it cooms to five rupees slipt into your hand, sly like, why, it's what
t' 'lectioneerin' fellows calls bribery an' corruption. Specially when
Mrs. DeSussa threwed hints how t' cold weather would soon be ower an'
she was goin' to Munsooree Pahar an' we was goin' to Rawalpindi, an'
she would niver see Rip any more onless somebody she knowed on would
be kind tiv her.
Soa I tells Mulvaney an' Ortheris all t' taale thro', beginnin' to end.
''Tis larceny that wicked ould laady manes,' says t' Irishman, ' 'tis
felony she is sejuicin' ye into, my frind Learoyd, but I'll purtect
your innocince. I'll save ye from the wicked wiles av that wealthy
ould woman, an' I'll go wid ye this evenin' and spake to her the wurrds
av truth an' honesty. But Jock,' says he, waggin' his heead, ''twas
not like ye to kape all that good dhrink an' thim fine cigars to
yerself, while Orth'ris here an' me have been prowlin' round wid throats
as dry as lime-kilns, and nothin' to smoke but Canteen plug. 'Twas a
dhirty thrick to play on a comrade, for why should you, Learoyd, be
balancin' yourself on the butt av a satin chair, as if Terence Mulvaney
was not the aquil av anybody who thrades in jute!'
'Let alone me/ sticks in Orth'ris, 'but that's like life. Them wot's
really fitted to decorate society get no show while a blunderin'
Yorkshireman like you--'
'Nay,' says I, 'it's none o' t' blunderin' Yorkshireman she wants;
it's Rip. He's the gentleman this journey.'
Soa t' next day, Mulvaney an' Rip an' me goes to Mrs. DeSussa's, an'
t' Irishman bein' a strainger she wor a bit shy at fost. But you've
heeard Mulvaney talk, an' yo' may believe as he fairly bewitched t'
awd lass wal she let out 'at she wanted to tek Rip away wi' her to
Munsooree Pahar. Then Mulvaney changes his tune an' axes her solemn-like
if she'd thought o' t' consequences o' gettin' two poor but honest
soldiers sent t' Andamning Islands. Mrs. DeSussa began to cry, so
Mulvaney turns round oppen t' other tack and smooths her down, allowin'
'at Rip ud be a vast better off in t' Hills than down i' Bengal, and
'twas a pity he shouldn't go wheer he was so well beliked. And soa he
went on, backin' an' fillin' an' workin' up t' awd lass wal she felt
as if her life warn't worth nowt if she didn't hev t' dog.
Then all of a suddint he says:--'But ye shall have him, marm, for
I've a feelin' heart, not like this could-blooded Yorkshireman; but
'twill cost ye not a penny less than three hundher rupees.'
'Don't yo' believe him, mum,' says I; 't' Colonel's Laady wouldn't
tek five hundred for him.'
'Who said she would?' says Mulvaney; 'it's not buyin' him I mane, but
for the sake o' this kind, good laady, I'll do what I never dreamt to
do in my life. I'll stale him!'
'Don't say steal,' says Mrs. DeSussa; 'he shall have the happiest home.
Dogs often get lost, you know, and then they stray, an' he likes me
and I like him as I niver liked a dog yet, an' I must hev him. If
I got him at t' last minute I could carry him off to Munsooree Pahar
and nobody would niver knaw.'
Now an' again Mulvaney looked acrost at me, an' though I could mak
nowt o' what he was after, I concluded to take his leead.
'Well, mum,' I says, 'I never thowt to coom down to dog-steealin', but
if my comrade sees how it could be done to oblige a laady like yo'sen,
I'm nut t' man to hod back, tho' it's a bad business I'm thinkin', an'
three hundred rupees is a poor set-off again t' chance of them Damning
Islands as Mulvaney talks on.'
'I'll mek it three fifty,' says Mrs. DeSussa; 'only let me hev t'dog!'
So we let her persuade us, an' she teks Rip's measure theer an' then,
an' sent to Hamilton's to order a silver collar again t' time when he
was to be her awn, which was to be t' day she set off for Munsooree
'Sitha, Mulvaney,' says I, when we was outside, 'you're niver goin'
to let her hev Rip!'
'An' would ye disappoint a poor old woman?' says he; 'she shall have
'An' wheer's he to come through?' says I.
'Learoyd, my man,' he sings out, 'you're a pretty man av your inches
an' a good comrade, but your head is made av duff. Isn't our friend
Orth'ris a Taxidermist, an' a rale artist wid his nimble white fingers?
An' what's a Taxidermist but a man who can thrate shkins? Do ye mind
the white dog that belongs to the Canteen Sargint, bad cess to him--he
that's lost half his time an' snarlin' the rest? He shall be lost for
good now; an' do ye mind that he's the very spit in shape an' size
av the Colonel's, barrin' that his tail is an inch too long, an' he
has none av the colour that divarsifies the rale Rip, an' his timper
is that av his masther an' worse. But fwhat is an inch on a dog's tail?
An' fwhat to a professional like Orth'ris is a few ringstraked shpots
av black, brown, an' white? Nothin' at all, at all.'
Then we meets Orth'ris, an' that little man, bein' sharp as a needle,
seed his way through t' business in a minute. An' he went to work
a-practisin' 'air-dyes the very next day, beginnin' on some white
rabbits he had, an' then he drored all Rip's markin's on t' back of
a white Commissariat bullock, so as to get his 'and in an' be sure of
his colours; shadin' off brown into black as nateral as life. If Rip
hed a fault it was too mich markin', but it was straingely reg'lar
an' Orth'ris settled himself to make a fost-rate job on it when he got
haud o' t' Canteen Sargint's dog. Theer niver was sich a dog as thot
for bad timper, an' it did nut get no better when his tail hed to be
fettled an inch an' a half shorter. But they may talk o' theer Royal
Academies as they like. I niver seed a bit o' animal paintin' to
beat t' copy as Orth'ris made of Rip's marks, wal t' picter itself was
snarlin' all t' time an' tryin' to get at Rip standin' theer to be
copied as good as goold.
Orth'ris allus hed as mich conceit on himsen as would lift a balloon,
an' he wor so pleeased wi' his sham Rip he wor for tekking him to Mrs.
DeSussa before she went away. But Mulvaney an' me stopped thot, knowin'
Orth'ris's work, though niver so cliver, was nobut skin-deep.
An' at last Mrs. DeSussa fixed t' day for startin' to Munsooree Pahar.
We was to tek Rip to t' stayshun i' a basket an' hand him ovver just
when they was ready to start, an' then she'd give us t' brass--as was
An' my wod! It were high time she were off, for them 'air-dyes upon
t' cur's back took a vast of paintin' to keep t' reet culler, tho'
Orth'ris spent a matter o' seven rupees six annas i' t' best drooggist
shops i' Calcutta.
An' t' Canteen Sargint was lookin' for 'is dog everywheer; an', wi'
bein' tied up, t' beast's timper got waur nor ever.
It wor i' t' evenin' when t' train started thro' Howrah, an' we 'elped
Mrs. DeSussa wi' about sixty boxes, an' then we gave her t' basket.
Orth'ris, for pride av his work, axed us to let him coom along wi' us,
an' he couldn't help liftin' t' lid an' showin' t' cur as he lay coiled
'Oh!' says t' awd lass; 'the beautee! How sweet he looks!' An' just
then t' beauty snarled an' showed his teeth, so Mulvaney shuts down
t' lid and says: 'Ye'll be careful, marm, whin ye tek him out. He's
disaccustomed to travelling by t' railway, an' he'll be sure to want
his rale mistress an' his friend Learoyd, so ye'll make allowance for
his feelings at fost.'
She would do all thot an' more for the dear, good Rip, an' she would
nut oppen t' basket till they were miles away, for fear anybody should
recognise him, an' we were real good and kind soldier-men, we were,
an' she bonds me a bundle o' notes, an' then cooms up a few of her
relations an' friends to say good-by--not more than seventy-five there
wasn't--an' we cuts away.
What coom to t' three hundred and fifty rupees? Thot's what I can
scarcelins tell yo', but we melted it--we melted it. It was share an'
share alike, for Mulvaney said: 'If Learoyd got hold of Mrs. DeSussa
first, sure 'twas I that renumbered the Sargint's dog just in the nick
av time, an' Orth'ris was the artist av janius that made a work av art
out av that ugly piece av ill-nature. Yet, by way av a thank-offerin'
that I was not led into felony by that wicked ould woman, I'll send
a thrifle to Father Victor for the poor people he's always beggin'
But me an' Orth'ris, he bein' Cockney an' I bein' pretty far north,
did nut see it i' t' saame way. We'd getten t' brass, an' we meaned
to keep it. An' soa we did--for a short time.
Noa, noa, we niver heered a wod more o' t' awd lass. Our rig'mint went
to Pindi, an' t' Canteen Sargint he got himself another tyke insteead
o' t' one 'at got lost so reg'lar, an' was lost for good at last.
THE BIG DRUNK DRAF'
We're goin' 'ome, we're goin' 'ome--
Our ship is at the shore,
An' you mus' pack your 'aversack,
For we won't come back no more.
Ho, don't you grieve for me,
My lovely Mary Ann,
For I'll many you yet on a fourp'ny bit,
As a time expired ma-a-an!
An awful thing has happened! My friend, Private Mulvaney, who went
home in the Serapis, time-expired, not very long ago, has come back
to India as a civilian! It was all Dinah Shadd's fault. She could not
stand the poky little lodgings, and she missed her servant Abdullah
more than words could tell. The fact was that the Mulvaneys had been
out here too long, and had lost touch of England.
Mulvaney knew a contractor on one of the new Central India lines, and
wrote to him for some sort of work. The contractor said that if Mulvaney
could pay the passage he would give him command of a gang of coolies
for old sake's sake. The pay was eighty-five rupees a month, and Dinah
Shadd said that if Terence did not accept she would make his life a
'basted purgathory.' Therefore the Mulvaneys came out as 'civilians,'
which was a great and terrible fall; though Mulvaney tried to disguise
it, by saying that he was 'Ker'nel on the railway line, an' a
He wrote me an invitation, on a tool-indent form, to visit him; and
I came down to the funny little 'construction' bungalow at the side
of the line. Dinah Shadd had planted peas about and about, and nature
had spread all manner of green stuff round the place. There was no
change in Mulvaney except the change of clothing, which was deplorable,
but could not be helped. He was standing upon his trolly, haranguing
a gangman, and his shoulders were as well drilled, and his big, thick
chin was as clean-shaven as ever.
'I'm a civilian now,' said Mulvaney. 'Cud you tell that I was iver a
martial man? Don't answer, Sorr, av you're strainin' betune a compliment
an' a lie. There's no houldin' Dinah Shadd now she's got a house av
her own. Go inside, an' dhrink tay out av chiny in the drrrrawin'-room,
an' thin we'll dhrink like Christians undher the tree here. Scutt, ye
naygur-folk! There's a Sahib come to call on me, an' that's more than
he'll iver do for you onless you run! Get out, an' go on pilin' up the
earth, quick, till sundown.'
When we three were comfortably settled under the big sisham in front
of the bungalow, and the first rush of questions and answers about
Privates Ortheris and Learoyd and old times and places had died away,
Mulvaney said, reflectively--'Glory be there's no p'rade to-morrow,
an' no bun-headed Corp'ril-bhoy to give you his lip. An' yit I don't
know. 'Tis harrd to be something ye niver were an' niver meant to be,
an' all the ould days shut up along wid your papers. Eyah! I'm growin'
rusty, an' 'tis the will av God that a man mustn't serve his Quane for
time an' all.'
He helped himself to a fresh peg, and sighed furiously.
'Let your beard grow, Mulvaney,' said I, 'and then you won't be troubled
with those notions. You'll be a real civilian.'
Dinah Shadd had told me in the drawing-room of her desire to coax
Mulvaney into letting his beard grow. 'Twas so civilian-like,' said
poor Dinah, who hated her husband's hankering for his old life.
'Dinah Shadd, you're a dishgrace to an honust, clanescraped man!' said
Mulvaney, without replying to me. 'Grow a beard on your own chin,
darlint, and lave my razors alone. They're all that stand betune me
and dis-ris-pect-ability. Av I didn't shave, I wud be torminted wid
an outrajis thurrst; for there's nothin' so dhryin' to the throat as
a big billy-goat beard waggin' undher the chin. Ye wudn't have me
dhrink ALWAYS, Dinah Shadd? By the same token, you're kapin' me crool
dhry now. Let me look at that whiskey.'
The whiskey was lent and returned, but Dinah Shadd, who had been just
as eager as her husband in asking after old friends, rent me with--
'I take shame for you, Sorr, coming down here--though the Saints know
you're as welkim as the daylight whin you DO come--an' upsettin'
Terence's head wid your nonsense about--about fwhat's much better
forgotten. He bein' a civilian now, an' you niver was aught else. Can
you not let the Arrmy rest? 'Tis not good for Terence.'
I took refuge by Mulvaney, for Dinah Shadd has a temper of her own.
'Let be--let be,' said Mulvaney. 'Tis only wanst in a way I can talk
about the ould days.' Then to me:--'Ye say Dhrumshticks is well, an'
his lady tu? I niver knew how I liked the gray garron till I was shut
av him an' Asia.'--'Dhrumshticks' was the nickname of the Colonel
commanding Mulvaney's old regiment.--'Will you be seein' him again?
You will. Thin tell him'--Mulvaney's eyes began to twinkle--'tell him
'MISTER, Terence,' interrupted Dinah Shadd.
'Now the Divil an' all his angils an' the Firmament av Hiven fly away
wid the "Mister," an' the sin av making me swear be on your confession,
Dinah Shadd! Privit, I tell ye. Wid Privit Mulvaney's best
obedience, that but for me the last time-expired wud be still pullin'
hair on their way to the sea.'
He threw himself back in the chair, chuckled, and was silent.
'Mrs. Mulvaney,' I said, 'please take up the whiskey, and don't let
him have it until he has told the story.'
Dinah Shadd dexterously whipped the bottle away, saying at the same
time, 'Tis nothing to be proud av,' and thus captured by the enemy,
'Twas on Chuseday week. I was behaderin' round wid the gangs on the
'bankmint--I've taught the hoppers how to kape step an' stop
screechin'--whin a head-gangman comes up to me, wid two inches av
shirt-tail hanging round his neck an' a disthressful light in his oi.
"Sahib," sez he, "there's a rig'mint an' a half av soldiers up at the
junction, knockin' red cinders out av ivrything an' ivrybody! They
thried to hang me in my cloth," he sez, "an' there will be murder an'
ruin an' rape in the place before nightfall! They say they're comin'
down here to wake us up. What will we do wid our women-folk?"
'"Fetch my throlly!" sez I; "my heart's sick in my ribs for a wink at
anything wid the Quane's uniform on ut. Fetch my throlly, an' six av
the jildiest men, and run me up in shtyle.'"
'He tuk his best coat,' said Dinah Shadd reproachfully.
''Twas to do honour to the Widdy. I cud ha' done no less, Dinah Shadd.
You and your digresshins interfere wid the coorse av the narrative.
Have you iver considhered fwhat I wud look like wid me head shaved
as well as my chin? You bear that in your mind, Dinah darlin'.
'I was throllied up six miles, all to get a shquint at that draf'. I
knew 'twas a spring draf' goin' home, for there's no rig'mint
hereabouts, more's the pity.'
'Praise the Virgin!' murmured Dinah Shadd. But Mulvaney did not hear.
'Whin I was about three-quarters av a mile off the rest-camp, powtherin'
along fit to burrst, I heard the noise av the men an', on my sowl,
Sorr, I cud catch the voice av Peg Barney bellowin' like a bison wid
the belly-ache. You remimber Peg Barney that was in D Comp'ny--a red,
hairy scraun, wid a scar on his jaw? Peg Barney that cleared out the
Blue Lights' Jubilee meeting wid the cook-room mop last year?
'Thin I knew ut was a draf of the ould rig'mint, an' I was conshumed
wid sorrow for the bhoy that was in charge. We was harrd scrapin's at
any time. Did I iver tell you how Horker Kelley went into clink nakid
as Phoebus Apollonius, wid the shirts av the Corp'ril an' file undher
his arrum? An' he was a moild man! But I'm digreshin'. 'Tis a shame
both to the rig'mints and the Arrmy sendin' down little orf'cer bhoys
wid a draf av strong men mad wid liquor an' the chanst av gettin' shut
av India, an' niver a punishment that's fit to be given right down
an' away from cantonmints to the dock! 'Tis this nonsince. Whin I am
servin' my time, I'm undher the Articles av War, an' can be whipped
on the peg for thim. But whin I've served my time, I'm a Reserve
man, an' the Articles av War haven't any hould on me. An orf'cer can't
do anythin' to a time-expired savin' confinin' him to barricks. 'Tis
a wise rig'lation bekaze a time-expired does not have any barricks;
bein' on the move all the time. 'Tis a Solomon av a rig'lation, is
that. I wud like to be inthroduced to the man that made ut. 'Tis easier
to get colts from a Kibbereen horse-fair into Galway than to take a
bad draf' over ten miles av country. Consiquintly that rig'lation--for
fear that the men wud be hurt by the little orf'cer bhoy. No matther.
The nearer my throlly came to the rest-camp, the woilder was the shine,
an' the louder was the voice av Peg Barney. "'Tis good I am here,"
thinks I to myself, "for Peg alone is employmint for two or three."
He bein', I well knew, as copped as a dhrover.
'Faith, that rest-camp was a sight! The tent-ropes was all skew-nosed,
an' the pegs looked as dhrunk as the men--fifty av thim--the scourin's,
an' rinsin's, an' Divil's lavin's av the Ould Rig'mint. I tell you,
Sorr, they were dhrunker than any men you've ever seen in your mortial
life. How does a draf' get dhrunk? How does a frog get fat? They suk
ut in through their shkins.
'There was Peg Barney sittin' on the groun' in his shirt--wan shoe
off an' wan shoe on--whackin' a tent-peg over the head wid his boot,
an singin' fit to wake the dead. 'Twas no clane song that he sung,
though. 'Twas the Divil's Mass.'
'What's that?'I asked.
'Whin a bad egg is shut av the Arrmy, he sings the Divil's Mass for
a good riddance; an' that manes swearin' at ivrything from the
Commandher-in-Chief down to the Room-Corp'ril, such as you niver in
your days heard. Some men can swear so as to make green turf crack!
Have you iver heard the Curse in an Orange Lodge? The Divil's Mass is
ten times worse, an' Peg Barney was singin' ut, whackin' the tent-peg
on the head wid his boot for each man that he cursed. A powerful big
voice had Peg Barney, an' a hard swearer he was whin sober. I stood
forninst him, an' 'twas not me oi alone that cud tell Peg was dhrunk
as a coot.
'"Good mornin' Peg," I sez, whin he dhrew breath afther cursin' the
Adj'tint Gen'ral; "I've put on my best coat to see you, Peg Barney,"
'"Thin take ut off again," sez Peg Barney, latherin' away wid the boot;
"take ut off an' dance, ye lousy civilian!"
'Wid that he begins cursin' ould Dhrumshticks, being so full he clean
disremimbers the Brigade-Major an' the Judge Advokit Gen'ral.
'"Do you know me, Peg?" sez I, though me blood was hot in me wid being
called a civilian.'
'An' him a decent married man!' wailed Dinah Shadd.
'"I do not," sez Peg, "but dhrunk or sober I'll tear the hide off your
back wid a shovel whin I've stopped singin'."
'"Say you so, Peg Barney?" sez I. "'Tis clear as mud you've forgotten
me. I'll assist your autobiography." Wid that I stretched Peg Barney,
boot an' all, an' wint into the camp. An awful sight ut was!
'"Where's the orf'cer in charge av the detachment?" sez I to Scrub
Greene--the manest little worm that ever walked.
'"There's no orf'cer, ye ould cook," sez Scrub; "we're a bloomin'
'"Are you that?" sez I; "thin I'm O'Connell the Dictator, an' by this
you will larn to kape a civil tongue in your rag-box."
'Wid that I stretched Scrub Greene an' wint to the orf'cer's tent.
'Twas a new little bhoy--not wan I'd iver seen before. He was sittin'
in his tent, purtendin' not to 'ave ear av the racket.
'I saluted--but for the life av me I mint to shake hands whin I went
in. 'Twas the sword hangin' on the tentpole changed my will.
'"Can't I help, Sorr?" sez I; "'tis a strong man's job they've given
you, an' you'll be wantin' help by sundown." He was a bhoy wid bowils,
that child, an' a rale gintleman.
'"Sit down," sez he.
'"Not before my orf'cer," sez I; an' I tould him fwhat my service was.
'"I've heard av you," sez he. "You tuk the town av Lungtungpen nakid."
'"Faith," thinks I, "that's Honour an' Glory"; for 'twas Lift'nint
Brazenose did that job. "I'm wid ye, Sorr," sez I, "if I'm av use.
They shud niver ha' sent you down wid the draf'. Savin' your presince,
Sorr," I sez, "'tis only Lift'nint Hackerston in the Ould Rig'mint can
manage a Home draf'."
'"I've niver had charge of men like this before," sez he, playin' wid
the pens on the table; "an' I see by the Rig'lations--"
'"Shut your oi to the Rig'lations, Sorr," I sez, "till the throoper's
into blue wather. By the Rig'lations you've got to tuck thim up for
the night, or they'll be runnin' foul av my coolies an' makin' a
shiverarium half through the country. Can you trust your non-coms,
'"Yes," sez he.
'"Good," sez I; "there'll be throuble before the night. Are you
'"To the next station," sez he.
'"Better still," sez I; "there'll be big throuble."
'"Can't be too hard on a Home draf'," sez he; "the great thing is to
get thim in-ship."
'"Faith you've larnt the half av your lesson, Sorr," sez I, "but av
you shtick to the Rig'lations you'll niver get thim in-ship at all,
at all. Or there won't be a rag av kit betune thim whin you do."
''Twas a dear little orf'cer bhoy, an' by way av kapin' his heart up,
I tould him fwhat I saw wanst in a draf' in Egypt.'
'What was that, Mulvaney?' said I.
'Sivin an' fifty men sittin' on the bank av a canal, laughin' at a
poor little squidgereen av an orf'cer that they'd made wade into the
slush an' pitch the things out av the boats for their Lord High
Mightinesses. That made me orf'cer bhoy woild with indignation.
'"Soft an' aisy, Sorr," sez I; "you've niver had your draf' in hand
since you left cantonmints. Wait till the night, an' your work will
be ready to you. Wid your permission, Sorr, I will investigate the
camp, an' talk to my ould frinds. 'Tis no manner av use thryin' to
shtop the divilment now."
'Wid that I wint out into the camp an' inthrojuced mysilf to ivry man
sober enough to remimber me. I was some wan in the ould days, an' the
bhoys was glad to see me--all excipt Peg Barney wid a eye like a tomata
five days in the bazar, an' a nose to match. They come round me an'
shuk me, an' I tould thim I was in privit employ wid an income av me
own, an' a drrrawin'-room fit to bate the Quane's; an' wid me lies an'
me shtories an' nonsinse gin'rally, I kept 'em quiet in wan way an'
another, knockin' roun' the camp. 'Twas bad even thin whin I was the
Angil av Peace.
'I talked to me ould non-coms--they was sober--an' betune me an'
thim we wore the draf' over into their tents at the proper time. The
little orf'cer bhoy he comes round, decint an' civil-spoken as might
'"Rough quarters, men," sez he, "but you can't look to be as comfortable
as in barricks. We must make the best av things. I've shut my eyes to
a dale av dog's tricks today, an' now there must be no more av ut."
'"No more we will. Come an' have a dhrink, me son," sez Peg Barney,
staggerin' where he stud. Me little orf'cer bhoy kep' his timper.
'"You're a sulky swine, you are," sez Peg Barney, an' at that the men
in the tent began to laugh.
'I tould you me orf'cer bhoy had bowils. He cut Peg Barney as near as
might be on the oi that I'd squshed whin we first met. Peg wint spinnin'
acrost the tent.
'"Peg him out, Sorr," sez I, in a whishper.
'"Peg him out!" sez me orf'cer bhoy, up loud, just as if 'twas
battalion-p'rade an' he pickin' his wurrds from the Sargint.
'The non-coms tuk Peg Barney--a howlin' handful he was--an' in three
minutes he was pegged out--chin down, tight-dhrawn--on his stummick,
a tent-peg to each arm an' leg, swearin' fit to turn a naygur white.
'I tuk a peg an' jammed ut into his ugly jaw.--"Bite on that, Peg
Barney," I sez; "the night is settin' frosty, an' you'll be wantin'
divarsion before the mornin'. But for the Rig'lations you'd be bitin'
on a bullet now at the thriangles, Peg Barney," sez I.
'All the draf' was out av their tents watchin' Barney bein' pegged.
'"'Tis agin the Rig'lations! He strook him!" screeches out Scrub Greene,
who was always a lawyer; an' some of the men tuk up the shoutin'.
'"Peg out that man!" sez my orf'cer bhoy, niver losin' his timper; an'
the non-coms wint in and pegged out Scrub Greene by the side av Peg
'I cud see that the draf' was comin' roun'. The men stud not knowin'
fwhat to do.
'"Get to your tents!" sez me orf'cer bhoy. "Sargint, put a sintry over
these two men."
'The men wint back into the tents like jackals, an' the rest av the
night there was no noise at all excipt the stip av the sintry over the
two, an' Scrub Greene blubberin' like a child. 'Twas a chilly night,
an' faith, ut sobered Peg Barney.
'Just before Revelly, my orf'cer bhoy comes out an' sez: "Loose those
men an' send thim to their tents!" Scrub Greene wint away widout a
word, but Peg Barney, stiff wid the cowld, stud like a sheep, thryin'
to make his orf'cer understhand he was sorry for playin' the goat.
'There was no tucker in the draf' whin ut fell in for the march, an'
divil a wurrd about "illegality" cud I hear.
'I wint to the ould Colour Sargint and I sez:--"Let me die in glory,"
sez I. "I've seen a man this day!"
'"A man he is," sez ould Hother; "the draf's as sick as a herrin'.
They'll all go down to the sea like lambs. That bhoy has the bowils
av a cantonmint av Gin'rals."
'"Amin," sez I, "an' good luck go wid him, wheriver he be, by land or
by sea. Let me know how the draf gets clear."
'An' do you know how they did? That bhoy, so I was tould by letter
from Bombay, bullydamned 'em down to the dock, till they cudn't call
their sowls their own. From the time they left me oi till they was
'tween decks, not wan av thim was more than dacintly dhrunk. An', by
the Holy Articles av War, whin they wint aboard they cheered him till
they cudn't spake, an' that, mark you, has not come about wid a draf
in the mim'ry av livin' man! You look to that little orf'cer bhoy. He
has bowils. 'Tis not ivry child that wud chuck the Rig'lations to
Flanders an' stretch Peg Barney on a wink from a brokin an' dilapidated
ould carkiss like mesilf. I'd be proud to serve--'
'Terence, you're a civilian,' said Dinah Shadd warningly.
'So I am--so I am. Is ut likely I wud forget ut? But he was a gran'
bhoy all the same, an' I'm only a mud-tipper wid a hod on my shoulthers.
The whiskey's in the heel av your hand, Sorr. Wid your good lave we'll
dhrink to the Ould Rig'mint--three fingers--standin' up!'
And we drank.
THE WRECK OF THE VISIGOTH
'Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidst the mighty ocean keep
Its own appointed limits deep.'
The lady passengers were trying the wheezy old harmonium in front of
the cuddy, because it was Sunday night. In the patch of darkness near
the wheel-grating sat the Captain, and the end of his cheroot burned
like a head-lamp. There was neither breath nor motion upon the waters
through which the screw was thudding. They spread, dull silver, under
the haze of the moonlight till they joined the low coast of Malacca
away to the eastward. The voices of the singers at the harmonium were
held down by the awnings, and came to us with force.
'Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea.'
It was as though the little congregation were afraid of the vastness
of the sea. But a laugh followed, and some one said, 'Shall we take
it through again a little quicker?' Then the Captain told the story
of just such a night, lowering his voice for fear of disturbing the
music and the minds of the passengers.
'She was the Visigoth,--five hundred tons, or it may have been
six,--in the coasting trade; one of the best steamers and best found
on the Kutch-Kasauli line. She wasn't six years old when the thing
happened: on just such a night as this, with an oily smooth sea, under
brilliant starlight, about a hundred miles from land. To this day no
one knows really what the matter was. She was so small that she could
not have struck even a log in the water without every soul on board
feeling the jar; and even if she had struck something, it wouldn't
have made her go down as she did. I was fourth officer then; we had
about seven saloon passengers, including the Captain's wife and another
woman, and perhaps five hundred deck-passengers going up the coast to
a shrine, on just such a night as this, when she was ripping through
the level sea at a level nine knots an hour. The man on the bridge,
whoever it was, saw that she was sinking at the head. Sinking by the
head as she went along. That was the only warning we got. She began
to sink as she went along. Of course the Captain was told, and he sent
me to wake up the saloon passengers and tell them to come on deck.
'Sounds a curious sort of message that to deliver on a dead still
night. The people tumbled up in their dressing-gowns and pyjamas,
and wouldn't believe me. We were just sinking as fast as we could, and
I had to tell 'em that. Then the deck-passengers got wind of it, and
all Hell woke up along the decks.
'The rule in these little affairs is to get your saloon passengers off
first, then to fill the boats with the balance, and afterwards--God
help the extras, that's all. I was getting the starboard stern boat--the
mail-boat--away. It hung as it might be over yonder, and as I came
along from the cuddy, the deck-passengers hung round me, shoving their
money-belts into my hand, taking off their nose-rings and earrings,
and thrusting 'em upon me to buy just one chance for life. If I hadn't
been so desperately busy, I should have thought it horrible. I put
biscuits and water into the boat, and got the two ladies in. One of
'em was the Captain's wife. She had to be put in by main force. You've
no notion how women can struggle. The other woman was the wife of an
officer going to meet her husband; and there were a couple of passengers
beside the lascars. The Captain said he was going to stay with the
ship. You see the rule in these affairs, I believe, is that the Captain
has to bow gracefully from the bridge and go down. I haven't had a
ship under my charge wrecked yet. When that comes, I'll have to do
like the others. After the boats were away, and I saw that there was
nothing to be got by waiting, I jumped overboard exactly as I might
have vaulted over into a flat green field, and struck out for the
mail-boat. Another officer did the same thing, but he went for a boat
full of natives, and they whacked him on the chest with oars, so he
had some difficulty in climbing in.
'It was as well that I reached the mail-boat. There was a compass in
it, but the idiots had managed to fill the boat half full of water
somehow or another, and none of the crew seemed to know what was
required of them. Then the Visigoth went down and took every one
with her--ships generally do that; the corpses don't cumber the sea
for some time.
'What did I do? I kept all the boats together, and headed into the
track of the coasting steamers. The aggravating thing was the thought
that we were close to land as far as a big steamer was concerned, and
in the middle of eternity as far as regarded a little boat. The sea
looks hugeous big from a boat at night.'
'Oh, Christ, whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their ravings at Thy word,
Who walkedst on the foaming deep
And calm amidst its rage did keep,--
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!'
sang the passengers cheerily.
'That harmonium is disgracefully out of tune,' said the Captain. 'The
sea air affects their insides. Well, as I was saying, we settled down
in the boat. The Captain's wife was unconscious; she lay in the bottom
of the boat and moaned. I was glad she wasn't threshing about the boat:
but what I did think was wrong, was the way the two men passengers
behaved. They were useless with funk--out and out fear. They lay in
the boat and did nothing. Fetched a groan now and again to show they
were alive; but that was all. But the other woman was a jewel. Damn
it, it was worth being shipwrecked to have that woman in the boat; she
was awfully handsome, and as brave as she was lovely. She helped me
bail out the boat, and she worked like a man.
'So we kicked about the sea from midnight till seven the next evening,
and then we saw a steamer. "I'll--I'll give you anything I'm wearing
to hoist as a signal of distress," said the woman; but I had no need
to ask her, for the steamer picked us up and took us back to Bombay.
I forgot to tell you that, when the day broke, I couldn't recognise
the Captain's wife--widow, I mean. She had changed in the night as if
fire had gone over her. I met her a long time afterwards, and even
then she hadn't forgiven me for putting her into the boat and obeying
the Captain's orders. But the husband of the other woman--he's in the
Army--wrote me no end of a letter of thanks. I don't suppose he
considered that the way his wife behaved was enough to make any decent
man do all he could. The other fellows, who lay in the bottom of the
boat and groaned, I've never met. Don't want to. Shouldn't be civil
to 'em if I did. And that's how the Visigoth went down, for no
assignable reason, with eighty bags of mail, five hundred souls, and
not a single packet insured, on just such a night as this.'
'Oh, Trinity of love and power,
Our brethren shield in that dread hour,
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them whereso'er they go.
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise by land and sea.'
'Strikes me they'll go on singing that hymn all night. Imperfect sort
of doctrine in the last lines, don't you think? They might have run
in an extra verse specifying sudden collapse--like the Visigoth's.
I'm going on to the bridge, now. Good-night,' said the Captain.
And I was left alone with the steady thud, thud, of the screw and the
gentle creaking of the boats at the davits.
That made me shudder.
THE SOLID MULDOON
Did ye see John Malone, wid his shinin', brand-new hat?
Did ye see how he walked like a grand aristocrat?
There was flags an' banners wavin' high, an' dhress and shtyle were
But the best av all the company was Misther John Malone.
There had been a royal dog-fight in the ravine at the back of the
rifle-butts, between Learoyd's Jock and Ortheris's Blue Rot--both
mongrel Rampur hounds, chiefly ribs and teeth. It lasted for twenty
happy, howling minutes, and then Blue Rot collapsed and Ortheris
paid Learoyd three rupees, and we were all very thirsty. A dog-fight
is a most heating entertainment, quite apart from the shouting, because
Rampurs fight over a couple of acres of ground. Later, when the sound
of belt-badges clicking against the necks of beer-bottles had died
away, conversation drifted from dog to man-fights of all kinds. Humans
resemble red-deer in some respects. Any talk of fighting seems to wake
up a sort of imp in their breasts, and they bell one to the other,
exactly like challenging bucks. This is noticeable even in men who
consider themselves superior to Privates of the Line: it shows the
Refining Influence of Civilisation and the March of Progress.
Tale provoked tale, and each tale more beer. Even dreamy Learoyd's
eyes began to brighten, and he unburdened himself of a long history
in which a trip to Malham Cove, a girl at Pateley Brigg, a ganger,
himself and a pair of clogs were mixed in drawling tangle.
'An' so Ah coot's yead oppen from t' chin to t' hair, an' he was abed
for t' matter o' a month,' concluded Learoyd pensively.
Mulvaney came out of a reverie--he was lying down--and flourished his
heels in the air. 'You're a man, Learoyd,' said he critically, 'but
you've only fought wid men, an' that's an ivry-day expayrience; but
I've stud up to a ghost, an' that was not an ivry-day expayrience.'
'No?' said Ortheris, throwing a cork at him. 'You git up an' address
the 'ouse--you an' yer expayriences. Is it a bigger one nor usual?'
''Twas the livin' trut'!' answered Mulvaney, stretching out a huge arm
and catching Ortheris by the collar. 'Now where are ye, me son? Will
ye take the wurrud av the Lorrd out av my mouth another time?' He shook
him to emphasise the question.
'No, somethin' else, though,' said Ortheris, making a dash at Mulvaney's
pipe, capturing it and holding it at arm's length; 'I'll chuck it
acrost the ditch if you don't let me go!'
'You maraudin' hathen! 'Tis the only cutty I iver loved. Handle her
tinder, or I'll chuck you acrost the nullah. If that poipe was
bruk--Ah! Give her back to me, Sorr!'
Ortheris had passed the treasure to my hand. It was an absolutely
perfect clay, as shiny as the black ball at Pool. I took it reverently,
but I was firm.
'Will you tell us about the ghost-fight if I do?' I said.
'Is ut the shtory that's troublin' you? Av course I will. I mint to
all along. I was only gettin' at ut my own way, as Popp Doggle said
whin they found him thrying to ram a cartridge down the muzzle.
Orth'ris, fall away!'
He released the little Londoner, took back his pipe, filled it, and
his eyes twinkled. He has the most eloquent eyes of any one that I
'Did I iver tell you,' he began, 'that I was wanst the divil av a man?'
'You did,' said Learoyd with a childish gravity that made Ortheris
yell with laughter, for Mulvaney was always impressing upon us his
great merits in the old days.
'Did I iver tell you,' Mulvaney continued calmly, 'that I was
wanst more av a divil than I am now?'
'Mer--ria! You don't mean it?' said Ortheris.
'Whin I was Corp'ril--I was rejuced aftherwards--but, as I say, whin
I was Corp'ril, I was a divil of a man.'
He was silent for nearly a minute, while his mind rummaged among old
memories and his eye glowed. He bit upon the pipe-stem and charged
into his tale.
'Eyah! They was great times. I'm ould now; me hide's wore off in
patches; sinthrygo has disconceited me, an' I'm a married man tu. But
I've had my day--I've had my day, an' nothin' can take away the taste
av that! Oh my time past, whin I put me fut through ivry livin' wan
av the Tin Commandmints between Revelly and Lights Out, blew the froth
off a pewter, wiped me moustache wid the back av me hand, an' slept
on ut all as quiet as a little child! But ut's over--ut's over, an'
'twill niver come back to me; not though I prayed for a week av Sundays.
Was there any wan in the Ould Rig'mint to touch Corp'ril Terence
Mulvaney whin that same was turned out for sedukshin? I niver met him.
Ivry woman that was not a witch was worth the runnin' afther in those
days, an' ivry man was my dearest frind or--I had stripped to him an'
we knew which was the betther av the tu.
'Whin I was Corp'ril I wud not ha' changed wid the Colonel--no, nor
yet the Commandher-in-Chief. I wud be a Sargint. There was nothin' I
wud not be! Mother av Hivin, look at me! Fwhat am I now?
'We was quartered in a big cantonmint--'tis no manner av use namin'
names, for ut might give the barricks disrepitation--an' I was the
Imperor av the Earth to my own mind, an' wan or tu women thought the
same. Small blame to thim. Afther we had lain there a year, Bragin,
the Colour Sargint av E Comp'ny, wint an' took a wife that was lady's
maid to some big lady in the Station. She's dead now is Annie
Bragin--died in child-bed at Kirpa Tal, or ut may ha' been
Almorah--seven--nine years gone, an' Bragin he married agin. But she
was a pretty woman whin Bragin inthrojuced her to cantonmint society.
She had eyes like the brown av a buttherfly's wing whin the sun catches
ut, an' a waist no thicker than my arm, an' a little sof' button av
a mouth I would ha' gone through all Asia bristlin' wid bay'nits to
get the kiss av. An' her hair was as long as the tail av the Colonel's
charger--forgive me mentionin' that blunderin' baste in the same
mouthful with Annie Bragin--but'twas all shpun gold, an' time was when
a lock av ut was more than di'monds to me. There was niver pretty woman
yet, an' I've had thruck wid a few, cud open the door to Annie Bragin.
''Twas in the Cath'lic Chapel I saw her first, me oi rolling round as
usual to see fwhat was to be seen.
"You're too good for Bragin, my love," thinks I to mesilf, "but that's
a mistake I can put straight, or my name is not Terence Mulvaney."
'Now take my wurrd for ut, you Orth'ris there an' Learoyd, an' kape
out av the Married Quarters--as I did not. No good iver comes av ut,
an' there's always the chance av your bein' found wid your face in the
dirt, a long picket in the back av your head, an' your hands playing
the fifes on the tread av another man's doorstep. 'Twas so we found
O'Hara, he that Rafferty killed six years gone, when he wint to his
death wid his hair oiled, whistlin' Larry O'Rourke betune his teeth.
Kape out av the Married Quarters, I say, as I did not. 'Tis onwholesim,
'tis dangerous, an' 'tis ivrything else that's bad, but--O my sowl,
'tis swate while ut lasts!
'I was always hangin' about there whin I was off duty an' Bragin wasn't,
but niver a sweet word beyon' ordinar' did I get from Annie Bragin.
"'Tis the pervarsity av the sect," sez I to mesilf, an' gave my cap
another cock on my head an' straightened my back--'twas the back av
a Dhrum Major in those days--an' wint off as tho' I did not care, wid
all the women in the Married Quarters laughin', I was pershuaded--most
bhoys are I'm thinkin'--that no woman born av woman cud stand against
me av I hild up my little finger. I had reason fer thinkin' that
way--till I met Annie Bragin.
'Time an' agin whin I was blandandherin' in the dusk a man wud go past
me as quiet as a cat. "That's quare," thinks I, "for I am, or I should
be, the only man in these parts. Now what divilment can Annie be up
to?" Thin I called myself a blayguard for thinkin' such things; but
I thought thim all the same. An' that, mark you, is the way av a man.
'Wan evenin' I said:--"Mrs. Bragin, manin' no disrespect to you, who
is that Corp'ril man"--I had seen the stripes though I cud niver get
sight av his face--"who is that Corp'ril man that comes in always
whin I'm goin' away?"
'"Mother av God!" sez she, turnin' as white as my belt, "have you
seen him too?"
'"Seen him!" sez I; "av coorse I have. Did ye want me not to see him,
for"--we were standin' talkin' in the dhark, outside the veranda av
Bragin's quarters--"you'd betther tell me to shut me eyes. Onless I'm
mistaken, he's come now."
'An', sure enough, the Corp'ril was walkin' to us, hangin' his head
down as though he was ashamed av himsilf.
'"Good-night, Mrs. Bragin," sez I, very cool; "'tis not for me to
interfere wid your a-moors; but you might manage things wid more
dacincy. I'm off to canteen," I sez.
'I turned on my heel an' wint away, swearin' I wud give that man a
dhressin' that wud shtop him messin' about the Married Quarters for
a month an' a week. I had not tuk ten paces before Annie Bragin was
hangin' on to my arm, an' I cud feel that she was shakin' all over.
'"Stay wid me, Mister Mulvaney," sez she; "you're flesh an' blood, at
the least--are ye not?"
'"I'm all that," sez I, an' my anger wint away in a flash. "Will I
want to be asked twice, Annie?"
'Wid that I slipped my arm round her waist, for, begad, I fancied she
had surrindered at discretion, an' the honours av war were mine.
'"Fwhat nonsinse is this?" sez she, dhrawin' hersilf up on the tips
av her dear little toes. "Wid the mother's milk not dhry on your
impident mouth? Let go!" she sez.
'"Did ye not say just now that I was flesh an' blood?" sez I. "I have
not changed since," I sez; an' I kep' my arm where ut was.
'"Your arms to yoursilf!" sez she, an' her eyes sparkild.
'"Sure, 'tis only human nature," sez I, an' I kep' my arm where ut was.
'"Nature or no nature," sez she, "you take your arm away or I'll tell
Bragin, an' he'll alter the nature av your head. Fwhat d'you take me
for?" she sez.
'"A woman," sez I; "the prettiest in barricks."
'"A wife," sez she; "the straightest in cantonmints!"
'Wid that I dropped my arm, fell back tu paces, an' saluted, for I saw
that she mint fwhat she said.'
'Then you know something that some men would give a good deal to be
certain of. How could you tell?' I demanded in the interests of Science.
'"Watch the hand," said Mulvaney; "av she shuts her hand tight, thumb
down over the knuckle, take up your hat an' go. You'll only make a
fool av yoursilf av you shtay. But av the hand lies opin on the lap,
or av you see her thryin' to shut ut, an' she can't,--go on! She's not
past reasonin' wid."
'Well, as I was sayin', I fell back, saluted, an' was goin' away.
'"Shtay wid me," she sez. "Look! He's comin' again."
'She pointed to the veranda, an' by the Hoight av Impart'nince, the
Corp'ril man was comin' out av Bragin's quarters.
'"He's done that these five evenin's past," sez Annie Bragin. "Oh,
fwhat will I do!"
"He'll not do ut again," sez I, for I was fightin' mad.
'Kape away from a man that has been a thrifle crossed in love till the
fever's died down. He rages like a brute beast.
'I wint up to the man in the veranda, manin', as sure as I sit, to
knock the life out av him. He slipped into the open. "Fwhat are you
doin' philanderin' about here, ye scum av the gutter?" sez I polite,
to give him his warnin', for I wanted him ready.
'He niver lifted his head, but sez, all mournful an' melancolius, as
if he thought I wud be sorry for him: "I can't find her," sez he.
'"My troth," sez I, "you've lived too long--you an' your seekin's an'
findin's in a dacint married woman's quarters! Hould up your head, ye
frozen thief av Genesis," sez I, "an' you'll find all you want an'
'But he niver hild up, an' I let go from the shoulther to where the
hair is short over the eyebrows.
'"That'll do your business," sez I, but it nearly did mine instid. I
put my bodyweight behind the blow, but I hit nothing at all, an' near
put my shoulther out. The Corp'ril man was not there, an' Annie Bragin,
who had been watchin' from the veranda, throws up her heels, an' carries
on like a cock whin his neck's wrung by the dhrummer-bhoy. I wint back
to her, for a livin' woman, an' a woman like Annie Bragin, is more
than a p'rade-groun' full av ghosts. I'd niver seen a woman faint
before, an' I stud like a shtuck calf, askin' her whether she was dead,
an' prayin' her for the love av me, an' the love av her husband, an'
the love av the Virgin, to opin her blessed eyes again, an' callin'
mesilf all the names undher the canopy av Hivin for plaguin' her wid
my miserable a-moors whin I ought to ha' stud betune her an' this
Corp'ril man that had lost the number av his mess.
'I misremimber fwhat nonsinse I said, but I was not so far gone that
I cud not hear a fut on the dirt outside. 'Twas Bragin comin' in, an'
by the same token Annie was comin' to. I jumped to the far end av the
veranda an' looked as if butter wudn't melt in my mouth. But Mrs.
Quinn, the Quarter-Master's wife that was, had tould Bragin about my
hangin' round Annie.
'"I'm not pleased wid you, Mulvaney," sez Bragin, unbucklin' his sword,
for he had been on duty.
'"That's bad hearin'," I sez, an' I knew that the pickets were dhriven
in. "What for, Sargint?" sez I.
'"Come outside," sez he, "an' I'll show you why."
'"I'm willin'," I sez; "but my stripes are none so ould that I can
afford to loses him. Tell me now, who do I go out wid?" sez I.
'He was a quick man an' a just, an' saw fwhat I wud be afther. "Wid
Mrs. Bragin's husband," sez he. He might ha' known by me askin' that
favour that I had done him no wrong.
'We wint to the back av the arsenal an' I stripped to him, an' for ten
minutes 'twas all I cud do to prevent him killin' himself against my
fistes. He was mad as a dumb dog--just frothing wid rage; but he had
no chanst wid me in reach, or learnin', or anything else.
'"Will ye hear reason?" sez I, whin his first wind was run out.
'"Not whoile I can see," sez he. Wid that I gave him both, one after
the other, smash through the low gyard that he'd been taught whin he
was a boy, an' the eyebrow shut down on the cheek-bone like the wing
av a sick crow.
'"Will ye hear reason now, ye brave man?" sez I.
'"Not whoile I can speak," sez he, staggerin' up blind as a stump. I
was loath to do ut, but I wint round an' swung into the jaw side-on
an' shifted ut a half pace to the lef'.
'"Will ye hear reason now?" sez I; "I can't keep my timper much longer,
an' 'tis like I will hurt you."
'"Not whoile I can stand," he mumbles out av one corner av his mouth.
So I closed an' threw him--blind, dumb, an' sick, an' jammed the jaw
'"You're an ould fool, Mister Bragin," sez I.
'"You're a young thief," sez he, "an' you've bruk my heart, you an'
Annie betune you!"
'Thin he began cryin' like a child as he lay. I was sorry as I had
niver been before. 'Tis an awful thing to see a strong man cry.
'"I'll swear on the Cross!" sez I.
'"I care for none av your oaths," sez he.
'"Come back to your quarters," sez I, "an' if you don't believe the
livin', begad, you shall listen to the dead," I sez.
'I hoisted him an' tuk him back to his quarters. "Mrs. Bragin," sez
I, "here's a man that you can cure quicker than me."
'"You've shamed me before my wife," he whimpers.
'"Have I so?" sez I. "By the look on Mrs. Bragin's face I think I'm
for a dhressin'-down worse than I gave you."
'An' I was! Annie Bragin was woild wid indignation. There was not a
name that a dacint woman cud use that was not given my way. I've had
my Colonel walk roun' me like a cooper roun' a cask for fifteen minutes
in Ord'ly Room, bekaze I wint into the Corner Shop an' unstrapped
lewnatic; but all I iver tuk from his rasp av a tongue was ginger-pop
to fwhat Annie tould me. An' that, mark you, is the way av a woman.
'Whin ut was done for want av breath, an' Annie was bendin' over her
husband, I sez: "'Tis all thrue, an' I'm a blayguard an' you're an
honest woman; but will you tell him of wan service that I did you?"
'As I finished speakin' the Corp'ril man came up to the veranda, an'
Annie Bragin shquealed. The moon was up, an' we cud see his face.
'"I can't find her," sez the Corp'ril man, an' wint out like the puff
av a candle.
'"Saints stand betune us an' evil!" sez Bragin, crossin' himself;
"that's Flahy av the Tyrone."
'"Who was he?" I sez, "for he has given me a dale av fightin' this
'Bragin tould us that Flahy was a Corp'ril who lost his wife av cholera
in those quarters three years gone, an' wint mad, an' walked afther
they buried him, huntin' for her.
'"Well," sez I to Bragin, "he's been hookin' out av Purgathory to kape
company wid Mrs. Bragin ivry evenin' for the last fortnight. You may
tell Mrs. Quinn, wid my love, for I know that she's been talkin' to
you, an' you've been listenin', that she ought to ondherstand the
differ 'twixt a man an' a ghost. She's had three husbands," sez I,
"an' you've got a wife too good for you. Instid av which you lave
her to be boddered by ghosts an'--an' all manner av evil spirruts.
I'll niver go talkin' in the way av politeness to a man's wife again.
Good-night to you both," sez I; an' wid that I wint away, havin' fought
wid woman, man and Divil all in the heart av an hour. By the same token
I gave Father Victor wan rupee to say a mass for Flahy's soul, me
havin' discommoded him by shticking my fist into his systim.'
'Your ideas of politeness seem rather large, Mulvaney,' I said.
'That's as you look at ut,' said Mulvaney calmly; 'Annie Bragin niver
cared for me. For all that, I did not want to leave anything behin'
me that Bragin could take hould av to be angry wid her about--whin an
honust wurrd cud ha' cleared all up. There's nothing like opin-speakin'.
Orth'ris, ye scutt, let me put me oi to that bottle, for my throat's
as dhry as whin I thought I wud get a kiss from Annie Bragin. An'
that's fourteen years gone! Eyah! Cork's own city an' the blue sky
above ut--an' the times that was--the times that was!'
WITH THE MAIN GUARD
Der jungere Uhlanen
Sit round mit open mouth
While Breitmann tell dem stdories
Of fightin' in the South;
Und gif dem moral lessons,
How before der battle pops,
Take a little prayer to Himmel
Und a goot long drink of Schnapps.
Hans Breitmann's Ballads.
'Mary, Mother av Mercy, fwhat the divil possist us to take an' kape
this melancolious counthry? Answer me that, Sorr.'
It was Mulvaney who was speaking. The time was one o'clock of a stifling
June night, and the place was the main gate of Fort Amara, most desolate
and least desirable of all fortresses in India. What I was doing there
at that hour is a question which only concerns M'Grath, the Sergeant
of the Guard, and the men on the gate.
'Slape,' said Mulvaney, 'is a shuparfluous necessity. This gyard'll
shtay lively till relieved.' He himself was stripped to the waist;
Learoyd on the next bedstead was dripping from the skinful of water
which Ortheris, clad only in white trousers, had just sluiced over his
shoulders; and a fourth private was muttering uneasily as he dozed
open-mouthed in the glare of the great guard-lantern. The heat under
the bricked archway was terrifying.
'The worrst night that iver I remimber. Eyah! Is all Hell loose this
tide?' said Mulvaney. A puff of burning wind lashed through the
wicket-gate like a wave of the sea, and Ortheris swore.
'Are ye more heasy, Jock?' he said to Learoyd. 'Put yer 'ead between
your legs. It'll go orf in a minute.'
'Ah don't care. Ah would not care, but ma heart is plaayin' tivvy-tivvy
on ma ribs. Let me die! Oh, leave me die!' groaned the huge
Yorkshireman, who was feeling the heat acutely, being of fleshly build.
The sleeper under the lantern roused for a moment and raised himself
on his elbow.--'Die and be damned then!' he said. 'I'm damned and
I can't die!'
'Who's that?' I whispered, for the voice was new to me.
'Gentleman born,' said Mulvaney; 'Corp'ril wan year, Sargint nex'.
Red-hot on his C'mission, but dhrinks like a fish. He'll be gone before
the cowld weather's here. So!'
He slipped his boot, and with the naked toe just touched the trigger
of his Martini. Ortheris misunderstood the movement, and the next
instant the Irishman's rifle was dashed aside, while Ortheris stood
before him, his eyes blazing with reproof.
'You!' said Ortheris. 'My Gawd, you! If it was you wot would we
'Kape quiet, little man,' said Mulvaney, putting him aside, but very
gently; 'tis not me, nor will ut be me whoile Dinah Shadd's here. I
was but showin' something.'
Learoyd, bowed on his bedstead, groaned, and the gentleman-ranker
sighed in his sleep. Ortheris took Mulvaney's tendered pouch and we
three smoked gravely for a space while the dust-devils danced on the
glacis and scoured the red-hot plain.
'Pop?' said Ortheris, wiping his forehead.
'Don't tantalise wid talkin' av dhrink, or I'll shtuff you into your
own breech-block an'--fire you off!' grunted Mulvaney.
Ortheris chuckled, and from a niche in the veranda produced six bottles
'Where did ye get ut, ye Machiavel?' said Mulvaney. ''Tis no bazar
''Ow do Hi know wot the Orf'cers drink?' answered Ortheris. 'Arst
'Ye'll have a Disthrict Coort-martial settin' on ye yet, me son,' said
Mulvaney, 'but'--he opened a bottle--'I will not report ye this time.
Fwhat's in the mess-kid is mint for the belly, as they say, 'specially
whin that mate is dhrink. Here's luck! A bloody war or a--no, we've
got the sickly season. War, thin!'--he waved the innocent 'pop' to the
four quarters of Heaven. 'Bloody war! North, East, South, an' West!
Jock, ye quakin' hayrick, come an' dhrink.'
But Learoyd, half mad with the fear of death presaged in the swelling
veins in his neck, was begging his Maker to strike him dead, and
fighting for more air between his prayers. A second time Ortheris
drenched the quivering body with water, and the giant revived.
'An' Ah divn't see thot a mon is i' fettle for gooin' on to live; an'
Ah divn't see thot there is owt for t' livin' for. Hear now, lads!
Ah'm tired--tired. There's nobbut watter i' ma bones. Let me die!'
The hollow of the arch gave back Learoyd's broken whisper in a bass
boom. Mulvaney looked at me hopelessly, but I remembered how the
of despair had once fallen upon Ortheris, that weary, weary afternoon
on the banks of the Khemi River, and how it had been exorcised by the
skilful magician Mulvaney.
'Talk, Terence!' I said, 'or we shall have Learoyd slinging loose, and
he'll be worse than Ortheris was. Talk! He'll answer to your voice.'
Almost before Ortheris had deftly thrown all the rifles of the Guard
on Mulvaney's bedstead, the Irishman's voice was uplifted as that of
one in the middle of a story, and, turning to me, he said--
'In barricks or out of it, as you say, Sorr, an Oirish rig'mint is
the divil an' more. 'Tis only fit for a young man wid eddicated
fisteses. Oh the crame av disruption is an Oirish rig'mint, an' rippin',
tearin', ragin' scattherers in the field av war! My first rig'mint was
Oirish--Faynians an' rebils to the heart av their marrow was they, an'
so they fought for the Widdy betther than most, bein'
contrairy--Oirish. They was the Black Tyrone. You've heard av thim,
Heard of them! I knew the Black Tyrone for the choicest collection of
unmitigated blackguards, dog-stealers, robbers of hen-roosts, assaulters
of innocent citizens, and recklessly daring heroes in the Army List.
Half Europe and half Asia has had cause to know the Black Tyrone--good
luck be with their tattered Colours as Glory has ever been!
'They was hot pickils an' ginger! I cut a man's head tu deep wid my
belt in the days av my youth, an', afther some circumstances which I
will oblitherate, I came to the Ould Rig'mint, bearin' the character
av a man wid hands an' feet. But, as I was goin' to tell you, I fell
acrost the Black Tyrone agin wan day whin we wanted thim powerful bad.
Orth'ris, me son, fwhat was the name av that place where they sint wan
comp'ny av us an' wan av the Tyrone roun' a hill an' down again, all
for to tache the Paythans something they'd niver learned before? Afther
'Don't know what the bloomin' Paythans called it. We called it Silver's
Theayter. You know that, sure!'
'Silver's Theatre--so 'twas. A gut betune two hills, as black as a
bucket, an' as thin as a girl's waist. There was over-many Paythans
for our convaynience in the gut, an' begad they called thimselves a
Reserve--bein' impident by nature! Our Scotchies an' lashins av Gurkeys
was poundin' into some Paythan rig'mints, I think 'twas. Scotchies an'
Gurkeys are twins bekaze they're so onlike an' they get dhrunk together
whin God plazes. As I was sayin', they sint wan comp'ny av the Ould
an' wan of the Tyrone to double up the hill an' clane out the Paythan
Reserve. Orf'cers was scarce in thim days, fwhat with dysintry an' not
takin' care av thimselves, an' we was sint out wid only wan orf'cer
for the comp'ny; but he was a Man that had his feet beneath him, an'
all his teeth in their sockuts.'
'Who was he?' I asked.
'Captain O'Neil--Old Crook--Cruikna-bulleen--him that I tould ye that
tale av whin he was in Burma.
Now first of the foemen of Boh Da Thone
Was Captain O'Neil of the Black Tyrone.
The Ballad of Boh Da Thone.] Hah!
He was a Man! The Tyrone tuk a little orf'cer bhoy, but divil a bit
was he in command, as I'll dimonstrate presintly. We an' they came
over the brow av the hill, wan on each side av the gut, an' there was
that ondacint Reserve waitin' down below like rats in a pit.
'"Howld on, men," sez Crook, who tuk a mother's care av us always.
"Rowl some rocks on thim by way av visitin' kyards." We hadn't rowled
more than twinty bowlders, an' the Paythans was beginnin' to swear
tremenjus, whin the little orf'cer bhoy av the Tyrone shqueaks out
acrost the valley:--"Fwhat the devil an' all are you doin', shpoilin'
the fun for my men? Do ye not see they'll stand?"
'"Faith, that's a rare pluckt wan!" sez Crook. "Niver mind the rocks,
men. Come along down an' take tay wid thim!"
'"There's damned little sugar in ut!" sez my rear-rank man; but Crook
'"Have ye not all got spoons?" he sez, laughin', an' down we wint as
fast as we cud. Learoyd bein' sick at the Base, he, av coorse, was not
'Thot's a lie!' said Learoyd, dragging his bedstead nearer. 'Ah gotten
thot theer, an' you knaw it, Mulvaney.' He threw up his arms, and
from the right armpit ran, diagonally through the fell of his chest,
a thin white line terminating near the fourth left rib.
'My mind's goin',' said Mulvaney, the unabashed. 'Ye were there. Fwhat
I was thinkin' of! 'Twas another man, av coorse. Will, you'll remember
thin, Jack, how we an' the Tyrone met wid a bang at the bottom an' got
jammed past all movin' among the Paythans.'
'Ow! It was a tight 'ole. I was squeezed till I thought I'd bloomin'
well bust,' said Ortheris, rubbing his stomach meditatively.
''Twas no place for a little man, but wan little man'--Mulvaney put
his hand on Ortheris's shoulder--'saved the life av me. There we shtuck,
for divil a bit did the Paythans flinch, an' divil a bit dare we; our
business bein' to clear 'em out. An' the most exthryordinar' thing av
all was that we an' they just rushed into each other's arrums, an'
there was no firing for a long time. Nothin' but knife an' bay'nit
when we cud get our hands free: an' that was not often. We was breast-on
to thim, an' the Tyrone was yelpin' behind av us in a way I didn't see
the lean av at first. But I knew later, an' so did the Paythans.
'"Knee to knee!" sings out Crook, wid a laugh whin the rush av our
comin' into the gut shtopped, an' he was huggin' a hairy great Paythan,
neither bein' able to do anything to the other, tho' both was wishful.
'"Breast to breast!" he sez, as the Tyrone was pushin' us forward
closer an' closer.
'"An' hand over back!" sez a Sargint that was behin'. I saw a sword
lick out past Crook's ear, an' the Paythan was tuk in the apple av his
throat like a pig at Dromeen fair.
'"Thank ye, Brother Inner Guard," sez Crook, cool as a cucumber widout
salt. "I wanted that room." An' he wint forward by the thickness av
a man's body, havin' turned the Paythan undher him. The man bit the
heel off Crook's boot in his death-bite.
'"Push, men!" sez Crook. "Push, ye paper-backed beggars!" he sez. "Am
I to pull ye through?" So we pushed, an' we kicked, an' we swung, an'
we swore, an' the grass bein' slippery, our heels wouldn't bite, an'
God help the front-rank man that wint down that day!'
''Ave you ever bin in the Pit hentrance o' the Vic, on a thick night?'
interrupted Ortheris. 'It was worse nor that, for they was goin' one
way an' we wouldn't 'ave it. Leastways, I 'adn't much to say.'
'Faith, me son, ye said ut, thin. I kep' the little man betune my knees
as long as I cud, but he was pokin' roun' wid his bay'nit, blindin'
an' stiffin' feroshus. The devil of a man is Orth'ris in a
ruction--aren't ye?' said Mulvaney.
'Don't make game!' said the Cockney. 'I knowed I wasn't no good then,
but I guv 'em compot from the lef' flank when we opened out. No!' he
said, bringing down his hand with a thump on the bedstead, 'a bay'nit
ain't no good to a little man--might as well 'ave a bloomin'
fishin'-rod! I 'ate a clawin', maulin' mess, but gimme a breech that's
wore out a bit, an' hamminition one year in store, to let the powder
kiss the bullet, an' put me somewheres where I ain't trod on by 'ulkin
swine like you, an' s'elp me Gawd, I could bowl you over five times
outer seven at height 'undred. Would yer try, you lumberin' Hirishman.'
'No, ye wasp. I've seen ye do ut. I say there's nothin' better than
the bay'nit, wid a long reach, a double twist av ye can, an' a slow
'Dom the bay'nit,' said Learoyd, who had been listening intently. 'Look
a-here!' He picked up a rifle an inch below the foresight with an
underhand action, and used it exactly as a man would use a dagger.
'Sitha,' said he softly, 'thot's better than owt, for a mon can bash
t' faace wi' thot, an', if he divn't, he can breeak t' forearm o' t'
gaard.' Tis not i' t' books, though. Gie me t' butt.'
'Each does ut his own way, like makin' love,' said Mulvaney quietly;
'the butt or the bay'nit or the bullet accordin' to the natur' av the
man. Well, as I was sayin', we shtuck there breathin' in each other's
faces and swearin' powerful; Orth'ris cursin' the mother that bore him
bekaze he was not three inches taller.
'Prisintly he sez:--"Duck, ye lump, an' I can get at a man over your
'"You'll blow me head off," I sez, throwin' my arm clear; "go through
under my arm-pit, ye bloodthirsty little scutt," sez I, "but don't
shtick me or I'll wring your ears round."
'Fwhat was ut ye gave the Paythan man forninst me, him that cut at me
whin I cudn't move hand or foot? Hot or cowld was ut?'
'Cold,' said Ortheris, 'up an' under the rib-jint. 'E come down flat.
Best for you 'e did.'
'Thrue, my son! This jam thing that I'm talkin' about lasted for five
minutes good, an' thin we got our arms clear an' wint in. I misremimber
exactly fwhat I did, but I didn't want Dinah to be a widdy at the
Depot. Thin, after some promishkuous hackin' we shtuck again, an' the
Tyrone behin' was callin' us dogs an' cowards an' all manner av names;
we barrin' their way.
'"Fwhat ails the Tyrone?" thinks I; "they've the makin's av a most
convanient fight here."
'A man behind me sez beseechful an' in a whisper:--"Let me get at thim!
For the Love av Mary give me room beside ye, ye tall man!"
'"An' who are you that's so anxious to be kilt?" sez I, widout turnin'
my head, for the long knives was dancin' in front like the sun on
Donegal Bay whin ut's rough.
'"We've seen our dead," he sez, squeezin' into me; "our dead that was
men two days gone! An' me that was his cousin by blood could not bring
Tim Coulan off! Let me get on," he sez, "let me get to thim or I'll
run ye through the back!"
'"My troth," thinks I, "if the Tyrone have seen their dead, God help
the Paythans this day!" An' thin I knew why the Oirish was ragin'
behind us as they was.
'I gave room to the man, an' he ran forward wid the Haymaker's Lift
on his bay'nit an' swung a Paythan clear off his feet by the belly-band
av the brute, an' the iron bruk at the lockin'-ring.
'"Tim Coulan'll slape easy to-night," sez he wid a grin; an' the next
minut his head was in two halves and he wint down grinnin' by sections.
'The Tyrone was pushin' an' pushin' in, an' our men was swearin' at
thim, an' Crook was workin' away in front av us all, his sword-arm
swingin' like a pump-handle an' his revolver spittin' like a cat. But
the strange thing av ut was the quiet that lay upon. 'Twas like a fight
in a drame--except for thim that was dead.
'Whin I gave room to the Oirishman I was expinded an' forlorn in my
inside. 'Tis a way I have, savin' your presince, Sorr, in action. "Let
me out, bhoys," sez I, backin' in among thim. "I'm going to be onwell!"
Faith they gave me room at the wurrud, though they would not ha' givin
room for all Hell wid the chill off. When I got clear, I was, savin'
your presince, Sorr, outragis sick bekaze I had dhrunk heavy that day.
'Well an' far out av harm was a Sargint av the Tyrone sittin' on the
little orf'cer bhoy who had stopped Crook from rowlin' the rocks. Oh,
he was a beautiful bhoy, an' the long black curses was slidin' out av
his innocint mouth like mornin'-jew from a rose!
'"Fwhat have you got there?" sez I to the Sargint.
'"Wan av Her Majesty's bantams wid his spurs up," sez he. "He's goin'
to Coort-martial me."
'"Let me go!" sez the little orf'cer bhoy. "Let me go and command my
men!" manin' thereby the Black Tyrone which was beyond any command--
even av they had made the Divil a Field-orf'cer.
'"His father howlds my mother's cow-feed in Clonmel," sez the man that
was sittin' on him. "Will I go back to his mother an' tell her that
I've let him throw himself away? Lie still, ye little pinch av dynamite,
an' Coort-martial me aftherwards."
"Good," sez I; "'tis the likes av him makes the likes av the
Commandher-in-Chief, but we must presarve thim. Fwhat d'you want to
do, Sorr?" sez I, very politeful.
'"Kill the beggars--kill the beggars!" he shqueaks; his big blue eyes
brimmin' wid tears.
'"An' how'll ye do that?" sez I. "You've shquibbed off your revolver
like a child wid a cracker; you can make no play wid that fine large
sword av yours; an' your hand's shakin' like an asp on a leaf. Lie
still an' grow," sez I.
'"Get back to your comp'ny," sez he; "you're insolint!"
'"All in good time," sez I, "but I'll have a dhrink first."
'Just thin Crook comes up, blue an' white all over where he wasn't red.
'"Wather!" sez he; "I'm dead wid drouth! Oh, but it's a gran' day!"
'He dhrank half a skinful, and the rest he tilts into his chest, an'
it fair hissed on the hairy hide av him. He sees the little orf'cer
bhoy undher the Sargint.
'"Fwhat's yonder?" sez he.
'"Mutiny, Sorr," sez the Sargint, an' the orf'cer bhoy begins pleadin'
pitiful to Crook to be let go: but divil a bit wud Crook budge.
'"Kape him there," he sez, "'tis no child's work this day. By the same
token," sez he, "I'll confishcate that iligant nickel-plated
scent-sprinkler av yours, for my own has been vomitin' dishgraceful!"
'The fork av his hand was black wid the backspit av the machine. So
he tuk the orf'cer bhoy's revolver. Ye may look, Sorr, by my faith,
there's a dale more done in the field than iver gets into Field
'"Come on, Mulvaney," sez Crook; "is this a Coort-martial?" The two
av us wint back together into the mess an' the Paythans were still
standin' up. They was not too impart'nint though, for the Tyrone was
callin' wan to another to remimber Tim Coulan.
'Crook stopped outside av the strife an' looked anxious, his eyes
'"Fwhat is ut, Sorr?" sez I; "can I get ye anything?"
'"Where's a bugler?" sez he.
'I wint into the crowd--our men was dhrawin' breath behin' the Tyrone
who was fightin' like sowls in tormint--an' prisintly I came acrost
little Frehan, our bugler bhoy, pokin' roun' among the best wid a rifle
'"Is amusin' yoursilf fwhat you're paid for, ye limb?" sez I, catchin'
him by the scruff. "Come out av that an' attind to your duty," I sez;
but the bhoy was not pleased.
'"I've got wan," sez he, grinnin', "big as you, Mulvaney, an' fair
half as ugly. Let me go get another."
'I was dishplease dat the personability av that remark, so I tucks him
under my arm an' carries him to Crook who was watchin' how the fight
wint. Crook cuffs him till the bhoy cries, an' thin sez nothin' for
'The Paythans began to flicker onaisy, an' our men roared. "Opin ordher!
Double!" sez Crook. "Blow, child, blow for the honour of the British
'That bhoy blew like a typhoon, an' the Tyrone an' we opined out as
the Paythans broke, an' I saw that fwhat had gone before wud be kissin'
an' huggin' to fwhat was to come. We'd dhruv thim into a broad part
av the gut whin they gave, an' thin we opined out an' fair danced down
the valley, dhrivin' thim before us. Oh, 'twas lovely, an' stiddy,
too! There was the Sargints on the flanks av what was left av us,
kapin' touch, an' the fire was runnin' from flank to flank, an' the
Paythans was dhroppin'. We opined out wid the widenin' av the valley,
an' whin the valley narrowed we closed again like the shticks on a
lady's fan, an' at the far ind av the gut where they thried to stand,
we fair blew them off their feet, for we had expinded very little
ammunition by reason av the knife work.'
'Hi used thirty rounds goin' down that valley,' said Ortheris, 'an'
it was gentleman's work. Might 'a' done it in a white 'andkerchief an'
pink silk stockin's, that part. Hi was on in that piece.'
'You could ha' heard the Tyrone yellin' a mile away,' said Mulvaney,
'an' 'twas all their Sargints cud do to get thim off. They was
mad--mad--mad! Crook sits down in the quiet that fell whin we had gone
down the valley, an' covers his face wid his hands. Prisintly we all
came back again accordin' to our natures and disposishins, for they,
mark you, show through the hide av a man in that hour.
'"Bhoys! bhoys!" sez Crook to himself. "I misdoubt we could ha' engaged
at long range an' saved betther men than me." He looked at our dead
an' said no more.
'"Captain dear," sez a man av the Tyrone, comin' up wid his mouth
bigger than iver his mother kissed ut, spittin' blood like a whale;
"Captain dear," sez he, "if wan or two in the shtalls have been
discommoded, the gallery enjoyed the performinces av a Roshus."
'Thin I knew that man for the Dublin dock-rat he was--wan av the bhoys
that made the lessee av Silver's Theatre gray before his time wid
tearin' out the bowils av the benches an' t'rowin' thim into the pit.
So I passed the wurrud that I knew when I was in the Tyrone an' we lay
in Dublin. "I don't know who 'twas," I whispers, "an' I don't care,
but anyways I'll knock the face av you, Tim Kelly."
'"Eyah!" sez the man, "was you there too? We'll call ut Silver's
Theatre." Half the Tyrone, knowin' the ould place, tuk it up: so we
called ut Silver's Theatre.
'The little orf'cer bhoy av the Tyrone was thremblin' an' cryin'. He
had no heart for the Coort-martials that he talked so big upon. "Ye'll
do well later," sez Crook, very quiet, "for not bein' allowed to kill
yourself for amusemint."
'"I'm a dishgraced man!" sez the little orf'cer bhoy.
'"Put me undher arrest, Sorr, if you will, but, by my sowl, I'd do ut
again sooner than face your mother wid you dead," sez the Sargint that
had sat on his head, standin' to attention an' salutin'. But the young
wan only cried as tho' his little heart was breakin'.
'Thin another man av the Tyrone came up, wid the fog av fightin' on
'The what, Mulvaney?'
'Fog av fightin'. You know, Sorr, that, like makin' love, ut takes
each man diff'rint. Now I can't help bein' powerful sick whin I'm in
action. Orth'ris, here, niver stops swearin' from ind to ind, an' the
only time that Learoyd opins his mouth to sing is whin he is messin'
wid other people's heads; for he's a dhirty fighter is Jock. Recruities
sometime cry, an' sometime they don't know fwhat they do, an' sometime
they are all for cuttin' throats an' such like dirtiness; but some men
get heavy-dead-dhrunk on the fightin'. This man was. He was staggerin',
an' his eyes were half shut, an' we cud hear him dhraw breath twinty
yards away. He sees the little orf'cer bhoy, an' comes up, talkin'
thick an' drowsy to himsilf. "Blood the young whelp!" he sez; "blood
the young whelp"; an' wid that he threw up his arms, shpun roun', an'
dropped at our feet, dead as a Paythan, an' there was niver sign or
scratch on him. They said 'twas his heart was rotten, but oh, 'twas
a quare thing to see!
'Thin we wint to bury our dead, for we wud not lave thim to the
Paythans, an' in movin' among the haythen we nearly lost that little
orf'cer bhoy. He was for givin' wan divil wather and layin' him aisy
against a rock. "Be careful, Sorr," sez I; "a wounded Paythan's worse
than a live wan." My troth, before the words was out of my mouth, the
man on the ground fires at the orf'cer bhoy lanin' over him, an' I saw
the helmit fly. I dropped the butt on the face av the man an' tuk his
pistol. The little orf'cer bhoy turned very white, for the hair av
half his head was singed away.
'"I tould you so, Sorr!" sez I; an', afther that, whin he wanted to
help a Paythan I stud wid the muzzle contagious to the ear. They dare
not do anythin' but curse. The Tyrone was growlin' like dogs over a
bone that had been taken away too soon, for they had seen their dead
an' they wanted to kill ivry sowl on the ground. Crook tould thim that
he'd blow the hide off any man that misconducted himself; but, seeing
that ut was the first time the Tyrone had iver seen their dead, I do
not wondher they were on the sharp. 'Tis a shameful sight! Whin I first
saw ut I wud niver ha' given quarter to any man north of the
Khaibar--no, nor woman either, for the women used to come out afther
'Well, evenshually we buried our dead an' tuk away our wounded, an'
come over the brow av the hills to see the Scotchies an' the Gurkeys
taking tay with the Paythans in bucketsfuls. We were a gang av dissolute
ruffians, for the blood had caked the dust, an' the sweat had cut the
cake, an' our bay'nits was hangin' like butchers' steels betune ur
legs, an' most av us were marked one way or another.
'A Staff Orf'cer man, clean as a new rifle, rides up an' sez: "What
damned scarecrows are you?"
'"A comp'ny av Her Majesty's Black Tyrone an' wan av the Ould Rig'mint,"
sez Crook very quiet, givin' our visitors the flure as 'twas.
'"Oh!" sez the Staff Orf'cer; "did you dislodge that Reserve?"
'"No!" sez Crook, an' the Tyrone laughed.
'"Thin fwhat the divil have ye done?"
'"Disthroyed ut," sez Crook, an' he took us on, but not before Toomey
that was in the Tyrone sez aloud, his voice somewhere in his stummick:
"Fwhat in the name av misfortune does this parrit widout a tail mane
by shtoppin' the road av his betthers?"
'The Staff Orf'cer wint blue, an' Toomey makes him pink by changin'
to the voice av a minowderin' woman an' sayin': "Come an' kiss me,
Major dear, for me husband's at the wars an' I'm all alone at the
'The Staff Orf'cer wint away, an' I cud see Crook's shoulthers shakin'.
'His Corp'ril checks Toomey. "Lave me alone," sez Toomey, widout a
wink. "I was his batman before he was married an' he knows fwhat I
mane, av you don't. There's nothin' like livin' in the hoight av
society." D'you remimber that, Orth'ris!'
'Hi do. Toomey, 'e died in 'orspital, next week it was, 'cause I bought
'arf his kit; an' I remember after that--'
'GUARRD, TURN OUT!'
The Relief had come; it was four o'clock. 'I'll catch a kyart for you,
Sorr,' said Mulvaney, diving hastily into his accoutrements. 'Come up
to the top av the Fort an' we'll pershue our invistigations into
M'Grath's shtable.' The relieved Guard strolled round the main bastion
on its way to the swimming-bath, and Learoyd grew almost talkative.
Ortheris looked into the Fort ditch and across the plain. 'Ho! it's
weary waitin' for Ma-ary!' he hummed; 'but I'd like to kill some more
bloomin' Paythans before my time's up. War! Bloody war! North, East,
South, and West.'
'Amen,' said Learoyd slowly.
'Fwhat's here?' said Mulvaney, checking at a blur of white by the foot
of the old sentry-box. He stooped and touched it. 'It's Norah--Norah
M'Taggart! Why, Nonie darlin', fwhat are ye doin' out av your mother's
bed at this time?'
The two-year-old child of Sergeant M'Taggart must have wandered for
a breath of cool air to the very verge of the parapet of the Fort
ditch. Her tiny night-shift was gathered into a wisp round her neck
and she moaned in her sleep. 'See there!' said Mulvaney; 'poor lamb!
Look at the heat-rash on the innocint skin av her. 'Tis hard--crool
hard even for us. Fwhat must it be for these? Wake up, Nonie, your
mother will be woild about you. Begad, the child might ha' fallen into
He picked her up in the growing light, and set her on his shoulder,
and her fair curls touched the grizzled stubble of his temples. Ortheris
and Learoyd followed snapping their fingers, while Norah smiled at
them a sleepy smile. Then carolled Mulvaney, clear as a lark, dancing
the baby on his arm--
'If any young man should marry you,
Say nothin' about the joke;
That iver ye slep' in a sinthry-box,
Wrapped up in a soldier's cloak.'
'Though, on my sowl, Nonie,' he said gravely, 'there was not much cloak
about you. Niver mind, you won't dhress like this ten years to come.
Kiss your friends an' run along to your mother.'
Nonie, set down close to the Married Quarters, nodded with the quiet
obedience of the soldier's child, but, ere she pattered off over the
flagged path, held up her lips to be kissed by the Three Musketeers.
Ortheris wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and swore
sentimentally; Learoyd turned pink; and the two walked away together.
The Yorkshireman lifted up his voice and gave in thunder the chorus
of The Sentry-Box, while Ortheris piped at his side.
''Bin to a bloomin' sing-song, you two?' said the Artilleryman, who
was taking his cartridge down to the Morning Gun. 'You're over merry
for these dashed days.'
'I bid ye take care o' the brat, said he,
For it comes of a noble race,'
Learoyd bellowed. The voices died out in the swimming-bath.
'Oh, Terence!' I said, dropping into Mulvaney's speech, when we were
alone, 'it's you that have the Tongue!'
He looked at me wearily; his eyes were sunk in his head, and his face
was drawn and white. 'Eyah!' said he; 'I've blandandhered thim through
the night somehow, but can thim that helps others help thimselves?
Answer me that, Sorr!'
And over the bastions of Fort Amara broke the pitiless day.
IN THE MATTER OF A PRIVATE
Hurrah! hurrah! a soldier's life for me!
Shout, boys, shout! for it makes you jolly and free.
The Ramrod Corps.
People who have seen, say that one of the quaintest spectacles of human
frailty is an outbreak of hysterics in a girls' school. It starts
without warning, generally on a hot afternoon, among the elder pupils.
A girl giggles till the giggle gets beyond control. Then she throws
up her head, and cries, 'Honk, honk, honk,' like a wild goose, and
tears mix with the laughter. If the mistress be wise, she will rap out
something severe at this point to check matters. If she be
tender-hearted, and send for a drink of water, the chances are largely
in favour of another girl laughing at the afflicted one and herself
collapsing. Thus the trouble spreads, and may end in half of what
answers to the Lower Sixth of a boys' school rocking and whooping
together. Given a week of warm weather, two stately promenades per
diem, a heavy mutton and rice meal in the middle of the day, a certain
amount of nagging from the teachers, and a few other things, some
amazing effects develop. At least, this is what folk say who have had
Now, the Mother Superior of a Convent and the Colonel of a British
Infantry Regiment would be justly shocked at any comparison being made
between their respective charges. But it is a fact that, under certain
circumstances, Thomas in bulk can be worked up into ditthering, rippling
hysteria. He does not weep, but he shows his trouble unmistakably, and
the consequences get into the newspapers, and all the good people who
hardly know a Martini from a Snider say: 'Take away the brute's
Thomas isn't a brute, and his business, which is to look after the
virtuous people, demands that he shall have his ammunition to his hand.
He doesn't wear silk stockings, and he really ought to be supplied
with a new Adjective to help him to express his opinions: but, for all
that, he is a great man. If you call him 'the heroic defender of the
national honour' one day, and a 'brutal and licentious soldiery' the
next, you naturally bewilder him, and he looks upon you with suspicion.
There is nobody to speak for Thomas except people who have theories
to work off on him; and nobody understands Thomas except Thomas, and
he does not always know what is the matter with himself.
That is the prologue. This is the story:--
Corporal Slane was engaged to be married to Miss Jhansi M'Kenna, whose
history is well known in the regiment and elsewhere. He had his
Colonel's permission, and, being popular with the men, every arrangement
had been made to give the wedding what Private Ortheris called 'eeklar.'
It fell in the heart of the hot weather, and, after the wedding, Slane
was going up to the Hills with the bride. None the less, Slane's
grievance was that the affair would be only a hired-carriage wedding,
and he felt that the 'eeklar' of that was meagre. Miss M'Kenna did not
care so much. The Sergeant's wife was helping her to make her
wedding-dress, and she was very busy. Slane was, just then, the only
moderately contented man in barracks. All the rest were more or less
And they had so much to make them happy, too. All their work was over
at eight in the morning, and for the rest of the day they could lie
on their backs and smoke Canteen-plug and swear at the punkah-coolies.
They enjoyed a fine, full flesh meal in the middle of the day, and
then threw themselves down on their cots and sweated and slept till
it was cool enough to go out with their 'towny,' whose vocabulary
contained less than six hundred words, and the Adjective, and whose
views on every conceivable question they had heard many times before.
There was the Canteen, of course, and there was the Temperance Room
with the second-hand papers in it; but a man of any profession cannot
read for eight hours a day in a temperature of 96 degrees or 98 degrees
in the shade, running up sometimes to 103 degrees at midnight. Very
few men, even though they get a pannikin of flat, stale, muddy beer
and hide it under their cots, can continue drinking for six hours a
day. One man tried, but he died, and nearly the whole regiment went
to his funeral because it gave them something to do. It was too early
for the excitement of fever or cholera. The men could only wait and
wait and wait, and watch the shadow of the barrack creeping across the
blinding white dust. That was a gay life.
They lounged about cantonments--it was too hot for any sort of game,
and almost too hot for vice--and fuddled themselves in the evening,
and filled themselves to distension with the healthy nitrogenous food
provided for them, and the more they stoked the less exercise they
took and more explosive they grew. Then tempers began to wear away,
and men fell a-brooding over insults real or imaginary, for they had
nothing else to think of. The tone of the repartees changed and
instead of saying light-heartedly: 'I'll knock your silly face in.'
men grew laboriously polite and hinted that the cantonments were not
big enough for themselves and their enemy, and that there would be
more space for one of the two in another Place.
It may have been the Devil who arranged the thing, but the fact of the
case is that Losson had for a long time been worrying Simmons in an
aimless way. It gave him occupation. The two had their cots side by
side, and would sometimes spend a long afternoon swearing at each
other; but Simmons was afraid of Losson and dared not challenge him
to a fight. He thought over the words in the hot still nights, and
half the hate he felt towards Losson he vented on the wretched
Losson bought a parrot in the bazar, and put it into a little cage,
and lowered the cage into the cool darkness of a well, and sat on the
well-curb, shouting bad language down to the parrot. He taught it to
say: 'Simmons, ye so-oor,' which means swine, and several other
things entirely unfit for publication. He was a big gross man, and he
shook like a jelly when the parrot had the sentence correctly. Simmons,
however, shook with rage, for all the room were laughing at him--the
parrot was such a disreputable puff of green feathers and it looked
so human when it chattered. Losson used to sit, swinging his fat legs,
on the side of the cot, and ask the parrot what it thought of Simmons.
The parrot would answer: 'Simmons, ye so-oor.' 'Good boy,' Losson
used to say, scratching the parrot's head; 'ye 'ear that, Sim?' And
Simmons used to turn over on his stomach and make answer: 'I 'ear.
Take 'eed you don't 'ear something one of these days.'
In the restless nights, after he had been asleep all day, fits of blind
rage came upon Simmons and held him till he trembled all over, while
he thought in how many different ways he would slay Losson. Sometimes
he would picture himself trampling the life out of the man, with heavy
ammunition-boots, and at others smashing in his face with the butt,
and at others jumping on his shoulders and dragging the head back till
the neckbone cracked. Then his mouth would feel hot and fevered, and
he would reach out for another sup of the beer in the pannikin.
But the fancy that came to him most frequently and stayed with him
longest was one connected with the great roll of fat under Lesson's
right ear. He noticed it first on a moonlight night, and thereafter
it was always before his eyes. It was a fascinating roll of fat. A man
could get his hand upon it and tear away one side of the neck; or he
could place the muzzle of a rifle on it and blow away all the head in
a flash. Losson had no right to be sleek and contented and well-to-do,
when he, Simmons, was the butt of the room. Some day, perhaps, he would
show those who laughed at the 'Simmons, ye so-oor' joke, that he was
as good as the rest, and held a man's life in the crook of his
forefinger. When Losson snored, Simmons hated him more bitterly than
ever. Why should Losson be able to sleep when Simmons had to stay awake
hour after hour, tossing and turning on the tapes, with the dull liver
pain gnawing into his right side and his head throbbing and aching
after Canteen? He thought over this for many many nights, and the world
became unprofitable to him. He even blunted his naturally fine appetite
with beer and tobacco; and all the while the parrot talked at and made
a mock of him.
The heat continued and the tempers wore away more quickly than before.
A Sergeant's wife died of heat-apoplexy in the night, and the rumour
ran abroad that it was cholera. Men rejoiced openly, hoping that it
would spread and send them into camp. But that was a false alarm.
It was late on a Tuesday evening, and the men were waiting in the deep
double verandas for 'Last Posts,' when Simmons went to the box at the
foot of his bed, took out his pipe, and slammed the lid down with a
bang that echoed through the deserted barrack like the crack of a
rifle. Ordinarily speaking, the men would have taken no notice; but
their nerves were fretted to fiddle-strings. They jumped up, and three
or four clattered into the barrack-room only to find Simmons kneeling
by his box.
'Ow! It's you, is it?' they said and laughed foolishly. 'We thought
Simmons rose slowly. If the accident had so shaken his fellows, what
would not the reality do?
'You thought it was--did you? And what makes you think?' he said,
lashing himself into madness as he went on; 'to Hell with your thinking,
ye dirty spies.'
'Simmons, ye so-oor,' chuckled the parrot in the veranda sleepily,
recognising a well-known voice. Now that was absolutely all.
The tension snapped. Simmons fell back on the arm-rack
deliberately,--the men were at the far end of the room,--and took out
his rifle and packet of ammunition. 'Don't go playing the goat, Sim!'
said Losson. 'Put it down,' but there was a quaver in his voice. Another
man stooped, slipped his boot and hurled it at Simmons's head. The
prompt answer was a shot which, fired at random, found its billet in
Losson's throat. Losson fell forward without a word, and the others
'You thought it was!' yelled Simmons. 'You're drivin' me to it! I tell
you you're drivin' me to it! Get up, Losson, an' don't lie shammin'
there--you an' your blasted parrit that druv me to it!'
But there was an unaffected reality about Losson's pose that showed
Simmons what he had done. The men were still clamouring in the veranda.
Simmons appropriated two more packets of ammunition and ran into the
moonlight, muttering: 'I'll make a night of it. Thirty roun's, an' the
last for myself. Take you that, you dogs!'
He dropped on one knee and fired into the brown of the men on the
veranda, but the bullet flew high, and landed in the brickwork with
a vicious phwit that made some of the younger ones turn pale. It is,
as musketry theorists observe, one thing to fire and another to be
Then the instinct of the chase flared up. The news spread from barrack
to barrack, and the men doubled out intent on the capture of Simmons,
the wild beast, who was heading for the Cavalry parade-ground, stopping
now and again to send back a shot and a curse in the direction of his
'I'll learn you to spy on me!' he shouted; 'I'll learn you to give me
dorg's names! Come on, the 'ole lot o' you! Colonel John Anthony Deever,
C. B.!'--he turned towards the Infantry Mess and shook his rifle--'you
think yourself the devil of a man--but I tell you that if you put your
ugly old carcass outside o' that door, I'll make you the poorest-lookin'
man in the army. Come out, Colonel John Anthony Deever, C. B.! Come
out and see me practiss on the rainge. I'm the crack shot of the 'ole
bloomin' battalion.' In proof of which statement Simmons fired at the
lighted windows of the mess-house.
'Private Simmons, E Comp'ny, on the Cavalry p'rade-ground, Sir, with
thirty rounds,' said a Sergeant breathlessly to the Colonel. 'Shootin'
right and lef', Sir. Shot Private Losson. What's to be done, Sir?'
Colonel John Anthony Deever, C. B., sallied out, only to be saluted
by a spurt of dust at his feet.
'Pull up!' said the Second in Command; 'I don't want my step in that
way, Colonel. He's as dangerous as a mad dog.'
'Shoot him like one, then,' said the Colonel bitterly, 'if he won't
take his chance. My regiment, too! If it had been the Towheads I
could have understood.'
Private Simmons had occupied a strong position near a well on the edge
of the parade-ground, and was defying the regiment to come on. The
regiment was not anxious to comply, for there is small honour in being
shot by a fellow-private. Only Corporal Slane, rifle in hand, threw
himself down on the ground, and wormed his way towards the well.
'Don't shoot,' said he to the men round him; 'like as not you'll 'it
me. I'll catch the beggar, livin'.'
Simmons ceased shouting for a while, and the noise of trap-wheels could
be heard across the plain. Major Oldyne, Commanding the Horse Battery,
was coming back from a dinner in the Civil Lines; was driving after
his usual custom--that is to say, as fast as the horse could go.
'A orf'cer! A blooming spangled orf'cer!' shrieked Simmons; 'I'll make
a scarecrow of that orf'cer!' The trap stopped.
'What's this?' demanded the Major of Gunners. 'You there, drop your
'Why, it's Jerry Blazes! I ain't got no quarrel with you, Jerry Blazes.
Pass frien', an' all's well!'
But Jerry Blazes had not the faintest intention of passing a dangerous
murderer. He was, as his adoring Battery swore long and fervently,
without knowledge of fear, and they were surely the best judges, for
Jerry Blazes, it was notorious, had done his possible to kill a man
each time the Battery went out.
He walked towards Simmons, with the intention of rushing him, and
knocking him down.
'Don't make me do it, Sir,' said Simmons; 'I ain't got nothing agin
you. Ah! you would?'--the Major broke into a run--'Take that then!'
The Major dropped with a bullet through his shoulder, and Simmons stood
over him. He had lost the satisfaction of killing Losson in the desired
way: but here was a helpless body to his hand. Should he slip in another
cartridge, and blow off the head, or with the butt smash in the white
face? He stopped to consider, and a cry went up from the far side of
the parade-ground: 'He's killed Jerry Blazes!' But in the shelter of
the well-pillars Simmons was safe, except when he stepped out to fire.
'I'll blow yer 'andsome 'ead off, Jerry Blazes,' said Simmons
reflectively. 'Six an' three is nine an' one is ten, an' that leaves
me another nineteen, an' one for myself.' He tugged at the string of
the second packet of ammunition. Corporal Slane crawled out of the
shadow of a bank into the moonlight.
'I see you!' said Simmons. 'Come a bit furder on an' I'll do for you.'
'I'm comin',' said Corporal Slane briefly; 'you've done a bad day's
work, Sim. Come out 'ere an' come back with me.'
'Come to--,' laughed Simmons, sending a cartridge home with his thumb.
'Not before I've settled you an' Jerry Blazes.'
The Corporal was lying at full length in the dust of the parade-ground,
a rifle under him. Some of the less-cautious men in the distance
shouted: 'Shoot 'im! Shoot 'im, Slane!'
'You move 'and or foot, Slane,' said Simmons, 'an' I'll kick Jerry
Blazes' 'ead in, and shoot you after.'
'I ain't movin',' said the Corporal, raising his head; 'you daren't
'it a man on 'is legs. Let go o' Jerry Blazes an' come out o' that
with your fistes. Come an' 'it me. You daren't, you bloomin'
'You lie, you man-sticker. You sneakin' Sheeny butcher, you lie. See
there!' Slane kicked the rifle away, and stood up in the peril of his
life. 'Come on, now!'
The temptation was more than Simmons could resist, for the Corporal
in his white clothes offered a perfect mark.
'Don't misname me,' shouted Simmons, firing as he spoke. The shot
missed, and the shooter, blind with rage, threw his rifle down and
rushed at Slane from the protection of the well. Within striking
distance, he kicked savagely at Slane's stomach, but the weedy Corporal
knew something of Simmons's weakness, and knew, too, the deadly guard
for that kick. Bowing forward and drawing up his right leg till the
heel of the right foot was set some three inches above the inside of
the left knee-cap, he met the blow standing on one leg--exactly as
Gonds stand when they meditate--and ready for the fall that would
follow. There was an oath, the Corporal fell over to his own left as
shinbone met shinbone, and the Private collapsed, his right leg broken
an inch above the ankle.
''Pity you don't know that guard, Sim,' said Slane, spitting out the
dust as he rose. Then raising his voice--'Come an' take him orf. I've
bruk 'is leg.' This was not strictly true, for the Private had
accomplished his own downfall, since it is the special merit of that
leg-guard that the harder the kick the greater the kicker's
Slane walked to Jerry Blazes and hung over him with ostentatious
anxiety, while Simmons, weeping with pain, was carried away. ''Ope you
ain't 'urt badly, Sir,' said Slane. The Major had fainted, and there
was an ugly, ragged hole through the top of his arm. Slane knelt down
and murmured: 'S'elp me, I believe 'e's dead. Well, if that ain't my
blooming luck all over!'
But the Major was destined to lead his Battery afield for many a long
day with unshaken nerve. He was removed, and nursed and petted into
convalescence, while the Battery discussed the wisdom of capturing
Simmons, and blowing him from a gun. They idolised their Major, and
his reappearance on parade brought about a scene nowhere provided for
in the Army Regulations.
Great, too, was the glory that fell to Slane's share. The Gunners would
have made him drunk thrice a day for at least a fortnight. Even the
Colonel of his own regiment complimented him upon his coolness, and
the local paper called him a hero. These things did not puff him up.
When the Major offered him money and thanks, the virtuous Corporal
took the one and put aside the other. But he had a request to make and
prefaced it with many a 'Beg y' pardon, Sir.' Could the Major see his
way to letting the Slane-M'Kenna wedding be adorned by the presence
of four Battery horses to pull a hired barouche? The Major could, and
so could the Battery. Excessively so. It was a gorgeous wedding.
* * * * *
'Wot did I do it for?' said Corporal Slane. 'For the 'orses o' course.
Jhansi ain't a beauty to look at, but I wasn't goin' to 'ave a hired
turn-out. Jerry Blazes? If I 'adn't 'a' wanted something, Sim might
ha' blowed Jerry Blazes' blooming 'ead into Hirish stew for aught I'd
And they hanged Private Simmons--hanged him as high as Haman in hollow
square of the regiment; and the Colonel said it was Drink; and the
Chaplain was sure it was the Devil; and Simmons fancied it was both,
but he didn't know, and only hoped his fate would be a warning to his
companions; and half a dozen 'intelligent publicists' wrote six
beautiful leading articles on 'The Prevalence of Crime in the Army.'
But not a soul thought of comparing the 'bloody-minded Simmons' to the
squawking, gaping schoolgirl with which this story opens.
To the wake av Tim O'Hara
All St. Patrick's Alley
Was there to see.
As the Three Musketeers share their silver, tobacco, and liquor
together, as they protect each other in barracks or camp, and as they
rejoice together over the joy of one, so do they divide their sorrows.
When Ortheris's irrepressible tongue has brought him into cells for
a season, or Learoyd has run amok through his kit and accoutrements,
or Mulvaney has indulged in strong waters, and under their influence
reproved his Commanding Officer, you can see the trouble in the faces
of the untouched two. And the rest of the regiment know that comment
or jest is unsafe. Generally the three avoid Orderly Room and the
Corner Shop that follows, leaving both to the young bloods who have
not sown their wild oats; but there are occasions--
For instance, Ortheris was sitting on the drawbridge of the main gate
of Fort Amara, with his hands in his pockets and his pipe, bowl down,
in his mouth. Learoyd was lying at full length on the turf of the
glacis, kicking his heels in the air, and I came round the corner and
asked for Mulvaney.
Ortheris spat into the ditch and shook his head. 'No good seein' 'im
now,' said Ortheris; ''e's a bloomin' camel. Listen.'
I heard on the flags of the veranda opposite to the cells, which are
close to the Guard-Room, a measured step that I could have identified
in the tramp of an army. There were twenty paces crescendo, a pause,
and then twenty diminuendo.
'That's 'im,' said Ortheris; 'my Gawd, that's 'im! All for a bloomin'
button you could see your face in an' a bit o' lip that a bloomin'
Harkangel would 'a' guv back.'
Mulvaney was doing pack-drill--was compelled, that is to say, to walk
up and down for certain hours in full marching order, with rifle,
bayonet, ammunition, knapsack, and overcoat. And his offence was being
dirty on parade! I nearly fell into the Fort Ditch with astonishment
and wrath, for Mulvaney is the smartest man that ever mounted guard,
and would as soon think of turning out uncleanly as of dispensing with
'Who was the Sergeant that checked him?' I asked.
'Mullins, o' course,' said Ortheris. 'There ain't no other man would
whip 'im on the peg so. But Mullins ain't a man.' E's a dirty little
pigscraper, that's wot 'e is.'
'What did Mulvaney say? He's not the make of man to take that quietly.'
'Said! Bin better for 'im if 'e'd shut 'is mouth. Lord, ow we laughed!
"Sargint," 'e sez, "ye say I'm dirty. Well," sez 'e, "when your wife
lets you blow your own nose for yourself, perhaps you'll know wot dirt
is. You're himperfectly eddicated, Sargint," sez 'e, an' then we fell
in. But after p'rade, 'e was up an' Mullins was swearin' 'imself black
in the face at Ord'ly Room that Mulvaney 'ad called 'im a swine an'
Lord knows wot all. You know Mullins. 'E'll 'ave 'is 'ead broke in one
o' these days. 'E's too big a bloomin' liar for ord'nary consumption.
"Three hours' can an' kit," sez the Colonel; "not for bein' dirty on
p'rade, but for 'avin' said somethin' to Mullins, tho' I do not believe,
"sez 'e, "you said wot 'e said you said. "An' Mulvaney fell away sayin'
nothin'. You know 'e never speaks to the Colonel for fear o' gettin'
'imself fresh copped.'
Mullins, a very young and very much married Sergeant, whose manners
were partly the result of innate depravity and partly of imperfectly
digested Board School, came over the bridge, and most rudely asked
Ortheris what he was doing.
'Me?' said Ortheris. 'Ow! I'm waiting for my C'mission. 'Seed it
comin' along yit?'
Mullins turned purple and passed on. There was the sound of a gentle
chuckle from the glacis where Learoyd lay.
''E expects to get 'is C'mission some day,' explained Ortheris;' Gawd
'elp the Mess that 'ave to put their 'ands into the same kiddy as 'im!
Wot time d'you make it, Sir? Fower! Mulvaney'll be out in 'arf an hour.
You don't want to buy a dorg, Sir, do you? A pup you can trust--'arf
Rampore by the Colonel's grey-'ound.'
'Ortheris,' I answered sternly, for I knew what was in his mind,'do
you mean to say that--'
'I didn't mean to arx money o' you, any'ow,' said Ortheris; 'I'd 'a'
sold you the dorg good an' cheap, but--but--I know Mulvaney'll want
somethin' after we've walked 'im orf, an' I ain't got nothin', nor 'e
'asn't neither. I'd sooner sell you the dorg, Sir. 'S trewth I would!'
A shadow fell on the drawbridge, and Ortheris began to rise into the
air, lifted by a huge hand upon his collar.
'Onything but t' braass,' said Learoyd quietly, as he held the Londoner
over the ditch. 'Onything but t' braass, Orth'ris, ma son! Ah've got
one rupee eight annas of ma own.' He showed two coins, and replaced
Ortheris on the drawbridge rail.
'Very good,' I said;' where are you going to?'
'Goin' to walk 'im orf wen 'e comes out--two miles or three or fower,'
The footsteps within ceased. I heard the dull thud of a knapsack falling
on a bedstead, followed by the rattle of arms. Ten minutes later,
Mulvaney, faultlessly dressed, his lips tight and his face as black
as a thunderstorm, stalked into the sunshine on the drawbridge. Learoyd
and Ortheris sprang from my side and closed in upon him, both leaning
towards as horses lean upon the pole. In an instant they had disappeared
down the sunken road to the cantonments, and I was left alone. Mulvaney
had not seen fit to recognise me; so I knew that his trouble must be
heavy upon him.
I climbed one of the bastions and watched the figures of the Three
Musketeers grow smaller and smaller across the plain. They were walking
as fast as they could put foot to the ground, and their heads were
bowed. They fetched a great compass round the parade-ground, skirted
the Cavalry lines, and vanished in the belt of trees that fringes the
low land by the river.
I followed slowly, and sighted them--dusty, sweating, but still keeping
up their long, swinging tramp--on the river bank. They crashed through
the Forest Reserve, headed towards the Bridge of Boats, and presently
established themselves on the bow of one of the pontoons. I rode
cautiously till I saw three puffs of white smoke rise and die out in
the clear evening air, and knew that peace had come again. At the
bridge-head they waved me forward with gestures of welcome.
'Tie up your 'orse,' shouted Ortheris, 'an' come on, Sir. We're all
goin' 'home in this 'ere bloomin' boat.
From the bridge-head to the Forest Officer's bungalow is but a step.
The mess-man was there, and would see that a man held my horse. Did
the Sahib require aught else--a peg, or beer? Ritchie Sahib had left
half a dozen bottles of the latter, but since the Sahib was a friend
of Ritchie Sahib, and he, the mess-man, was a poor man--
I gave my order quietly, and returned to the bridge. Mulvaney had taken
off his boots, and was dabbling his toes in the water; Learoyd was
lying on his back on the pontoon; and Ortheris was pretending to row
with a big bamboo.
'I'm an ould fool,' said Mulvaney, reflectively,'dhrag-gin' you two
out here bekaze I was undher the Black Dog--sulkin' like a child. Me
that was soldierin' when Mullins, an' be damned to him, was shquealin'
on a counterpin for five shillin' a week--an' that not paid! Bhoys,
I've took you five miles out av natural pevarsity. Phew!'
'Wot's the odds so long as you're 'appy?' said Ortheris, applying
himself afresh to the bamboo. 'As well 'ere as anywhere else.'
Learoyd held up a rupee and an eight-anna bit, and shook his head
sorrowfully. 'Five mile from t' Canteen, all along o' Mulvaney's
'I know ut,' said Mulvaney penitently. 'Why will ye come wid me? An'
yet I wud be mortial sorry if ye did not--any time--though I am ould
enough to know betther. But I will do penance. I will take a dhrink
Ortheris squeaked shrilly. The butler of the Forest bungalow was
standing near the railings with a basket, uncertain how to clamber
down to the pontoon. 'Might 'a' know'd you'd 'a' got liquor out o'
bloomin' desert, Sir,' said Ortheris, gracefully, to me. Then to the
mess-man: 'Easy with them there bottles. They're worth their weight
in gold. Jock, ye long-armed beggar, get out o' that an' hike 'em
Learoyd had the basket on the pontoon in an instant, and the Three
Musketeers gathered round it with dry lips. They drank my health in
due and ancient form, and thereafter tobacco tasted sweeter than ever.
They absorbed all the beer, and disposed themselves in picturesque
attitudes to admire the setting sun--no man speaking for a while.
Mulvaney's head dropped upon his chest, and we thought that he was
'What on earth did you come so far for?' I whispered to Ortheris.
'To walk 'im orf, o' course. When 'e's been checked we allus walks 'im
orf. 'E ain't fit to be spoke to those times--nor 'e ain't fit to
leave alone neither. So we takes 'im till 'e is.'
Mulvaney raised his head, and stared straight into the sunset. 'I had
my rifle,' said he dreamily,'an' I had my bay'nit, an' Mullins came
round the corner, an' he looked in my face an' grinned dishpiteful.
"You can't blow your own nose," sez he. Now, I cannot tell fwhat
Mullins's expayrience may ha' been, but, Mother av God, he was nearer
to his death that minut' than I have iver been to mine--and that's
less than the thicknuss av a hair!'
'Yes,' said Ortheris calmly, 'you'd look fine with all your buttons
took orf, an' the Band in front o' you, walkin' roun' slow time. We're
both front-rank men, me an' Jock, when the rig'mint's in 'ollow square.
Bloomin' fine you'd look. "The Lord giveth an' the Lord taketh
awai,--Heasy with that there drop!--Blessed be the naime o' the Lord,"'
he gulped in a quaint and suggestive fashion.
'Mullins! Wot's Mullins?' said Learoyd slowly. 'Ah'd take a coomp'ny
o' Mullinses-ma hand behind me. Sitha, Mulvaney, don't be a fool.'
'You were not checked for fwhat you did not do, an' made a mock av
afther. 'Twas for less than that the Tyrone wud ha' sent O'Hara to
hell, instid av lettin' him go by his own choosin', whin Rafferty shot
him,' retorted Mulvaney.
'And who stopped the Tyrone from doing it?' I asked.
'That ould fool who's sorry he didn't stick the pig Mullins.' His head
dropped again. When he raised it he shivered and put his hands on the
shoulders of his two companions.
'Ye've walked the Divil out av me, bhoys,' said he.
Ortheris shot out the red-hot dottel of his pipe on the back of the
hairy fist. 'They say 'Ell's 'otter than that,' said he, as Mulvaney
swore aloud. 'You be warned so. Look yonder!'--he pointed across the
river to a ruined temple--'Me an' you an' 'im'--he indicated me by
a jerk of his head--'was there one day when Hi made a bloomin' show
o' myself. You an' 'im stopped me doin' such--an' Hi was on'y wishful
for to desert. You are makin' a bigger bloomin' show o' yourself now.'
'Don't mind him, Mulvaney,' I said; 'Dinah Shadd won't let you hang
yourself yet awhile, and you don't intend to try it either. Let's hear
about the Tyrone and O'Hara. Rafferty shot him for fooling with his
wife. What happened before that?'
'There's no fool like an ould fool. You know you can do anythin' wid
me whin I'm talkin'. Did I say I wud like to cut Mullins's liver out?
I deny the imputashin, for fear that Orth'ris here wud report me--Ah!
You wud tip me into the river, wud you? Sit quiet, little man. Anyways,
Mullins is not worth the trouble av an extry p'rade, an' I will trate
him wid outrajis contimpt. The Tyrone an' O'Hara! O'Hara an' the Tyrone,
begad! Ould days are hard to bring back into the mouth, but they're
always inside the head.'
Followed a long pause.
'O'Hara was a Divil. Though I saved him, for the honour av the rig'mint,
from his death that time, I say it now. He was a Divil--a long, bould,
'Which way?' asked Ortheris.
'Thin I know another.'
'Not more than in reason, if you mane me, ye warped walkin '-shtick.
I have been young, an' for why should I not have tuk what I cud? Did
I iver, whin I was Corp'ril, use the rise av my rank--wan step an'
that taken away, more's the sorrow an' the fault av me!--to prosecute
a nefarious inthrigue, as O'Hara did? Did I, whin I was Corp'ril, lay
my spite upon a man an' make his life a dog's life from day to day?
Did I lie, as O'Hara lied, till the young wans in the Tyrone turned
white wid the fear av the Judgment av God killin' thim all in a lump,
as ut killed the woman at Devizes? I did not! I have sinned my sins
an' I have made my confesshin, an' Father Victor knows the worst av
me. O'Hara was tuk, before he cud spake, on Rafferty's doorstep, an'
no man knows the worst av him. But this much I know!
'The Tyrone was recruited any fashion in the ould days. A draf from
Connemara--a draf' from Portsmouth--a draf' from Kerry, an' that was
a blazin' bad draf'--here, there and iverywhere--but the large av thim
was Oirish--Black Oirish. Now there are Oirish an' Oirish. The good
are good as the best, but the bad are wurrst than the wurrst. 'Tis
this way. They clog together in pieces as fast as thieves, an' no wan
knows fwhat they will do till wan turns informer an' the gang is bruk.
But ut begins again, a day later, meetin' in holes an' corners an'
swearin' bloody oaths an' shtickin' a man in the back an' runnin' away,
an' thin waitin' for the blood-money on the reward papers--to see if
ut's worth enough. Those are the Black Oirish, an' 'tis they that bring
dishgrace upon the name av Oireland, an' thim I wud kill--as I nearly
killed wan wanst.
'But to reshume. My room--'twas before I was married--was wid twelve
av the scum av the earth--the pickin's av the gutter--mane men that
wud neither laugh nor talk nor yet get dhrunk as a man shud. They
thried some av their dog's thricks on me, but I dhrew a line round my
cot, an' the man that thransgressed ut wint into hospital for three
'O'Hara had put his spite on the room--he was my Colour Sargint--an'
nothin' cud we do to plaze him. I was younger than I am now, an' I tuk
what I got in the way av dressing down and punishment-dhrill wid my
tongue in my cheek. But it was diff'rint wid the others, an' why I
cannot say, excipt that some men are borrun mane an' go to dhirty
murdher where a fist is more than enough. Afther a whoile, they changed
their chune to me an' was desp'rit frien'ly--all twelve av thim cursin'
O'Hara in chorus.
'"Eyah," sez I, "O'Hara's a divil an' I'm not for denyin' ut, but is
he the only man in the wurruld? Let him go. He'll get tired av findin'
our kit foul an' our 'coutrements onproperly kep'."
'"We will not let him go," sez they.
'"Thin take him," sez I, "an' a dashed poor yield you will get for
'"Is he not misconductin' himself wid Slimmy's wife?" sez another.
'"She's common to the rig'mint," sez I. "Fwhat has made ye this
partic'lar on a suddint?"
'"Has he not put his spite on the roomful av us? Can we do anythin'
that he will not check us for?" sez another.
'"That's thrue," sez I.
'"Will ye not help us to do aught," sez another--"a big bould man like
'"I will break his head upon his shoulthers av he puts hand on me,"
sez I. "I will give him the lie av he says that I'm dhirty, an' I wud
not mind duckin' him in the Artillery troughs if ut was not that I'm
thryin' for my shtripes."
'"Is that all ye will do?" sez another. "Have ye no more spunk than
that, ye blood-dhrawn calf?"
'"Blood-dhrawn I may be," sez I, gettin' back to my cot an' makin' my
line round ut; "but ye know that the man who comes acrost this mark
will be more blood-dhrawn than me. No man gives me the name in my
mouth," I sez. "Ondersthand, I will have no part wid you in anythin'
ye do, nor will I raise my fist to my shuperior. Is any wan comin'
on?" sez I.
'They made no move, tho' I gave them full time, but stud growlin' an'
snarlin' together at wan ind av the room. I tuk up my cap and wint out
to Canteen, thinkin' no little av mesilf, and there I grew most
ondacintly dhrunk in my legs. My head was all reasonable.
'"Houligan," I sez to a man in E Comp'ny that was by way av bein' a
frind av mine; "I'm overtuk from the belt down. Do you give me the
touch av your shoulther to presarve my formation an' march me acrost
the ground into the high grass. I'll sleep ut off there," sez I; an'
Houligan--he's dead now, but good he was while he lasted--walked wid
me, givin' me the touch whin I wint wide, ontil we came to the high
grass, an', my faith, the sky an' the earth was fair rowlin' undher
me. I made for where the grass was thickust, an' there I slep' off my
liquor wid an easy conscience. I did not desire to come on books too
frequent; my characther havin' been shpotless for the good half av a
'Whin I roused, the dhrink was dyin' out in me, an' I felt as though
a she-cat had littered in my mouth. I had not learned to hould my
liquor wid comfort in thim days. 'Tis little betther I am now. "I will
get Houligan to pour a bucket over my head," thinks I, an' I wud ha'
risen, but I heard some wan say: "Mulvaney can take the blame av ut
for the backslidin' hound he is."
'"Oho!" sez I, an' my head rang like a guard-room gong: "fwhat is the
blame that this young man must take to oblige Tim Vulmea?" For 'twas
Tim Vulmea that shpoke.
'I turned on my belly an' crawled through the grass, a bit at a time,
to where the spache came from. There was the twelve av my room sittin'
down in a little patch, the dhry grass wavin' above their heads an'
the sin av black murdher in their hearts. I put the stuff aside to get
a clear view.
'"Fwhat's that?" sez wan man, jumpin' up.
'"A dog," says Vulmea. "You're a nice hand to this job! As I said,
Mulvaney will take the blame--av ut comes to a pinch."
'"'Tis harrd to swear a man's life away," sez a young wan.
'"Thank ye for that," thinks I. "Now, fwhat the divil are you paragins
conthrivin' against me?"
'"'Tis as easy as dhrinkin' your quart," sez Vulmea. "At seven or
thereon, O'Hara will come acrost to the Married Quarters, goin' to
call on Slimmy's wife, the swine! Wan av us'll pass the wurrd to the
room an' we shtart the divil an' all av a shine--laughin' an' crackin'
on an' t'rowin' our boots about. Thin O'Hara will come to give us the
ordher to be quiet, the more by token bekaze the room-lamp will be
knocked over in the larkin'. He will take the straight road to the ind
door where there's the lamp in the veranda, an' that'll bring him clear
against the light as he shtands. He will not be able to look into the
dhark. Wan av us will loose off, an' a close shot ut will be, an' shame
to the man that misses. 'Twill be Mulvaney's rifle, she that is at the
head av the rack--there's no mistakin' that long-shtocked, cross-eyed
bitch even in the dhark."
'The thief misnamed my ould firin'-piece out av jealousy--I was
pershuaded av that--an' ut made me more angry than all.
'But Vulmea goes on: "O'Hara will dhrop, an' by the time the light's
lit again, there'll be some six av us on the chest av Mulvaney, cryin'
murdher an' rape. Mulvaney's cot is near the ind door, an' the shmokin'
rifle will be lyin' undher him whin we've knocked him over. We know,
an' all the rig'mint knows, that Mulvaney has given O'Hara more lip
than any man av us. Will there be any doubt at the Coort-Martial? Wud
twelve honust sodger-bhoys swear away the life av a dear, quiet,
swate-timpered man such as is Mulvaney--wid his line av pipe-clay roun'
his cot, threatenin' us wid murdher av we overshtepped ut, as we can
'"Mary, Mother av Mercy!" thinks I to mesilf; "it is this to have an
unruly mimber an' fistes fit to use! Oh the sneakin' hounds!"
'The big dhrops ran down my face, for I was wake wid the liquor an'
had not the full av my wits about me. I laid shtill an' heard thim
workin' themselves up to swear my life by tellin' tales av ivry time
I had put my mark on wan or another; an' my faith, they was few that
was not so dishtinguished. 'Twas all in the way av fair fight, though,
for niver did I raise my hand excipt whin they had provoked me to ut.
'"'Tis all well," sez wan av thim, "but who's to do this shootin'?"
'"Fwhat matther?" sez Vulmea. "'Tis Mulvaney will do that--at the
'"He will so," sez the man, "but whose hand is put to the trigger--in
'"Who'll do ut?" sez Vulmea, lookin' round, but divil a man answeared.
They began to dishpute till Kiss, that was always playin' Shpoil Five,
sez: "Thry the kyards!" Wid that he opined his tunic an' tuk out the
greasy palammers, an' they all fell in wid the notion.
'"Deal on!" sez Vulmea, wid a big rattlin' oath, "an' the Black Curse
av Shielygh come to the man that will not do his duty as the kyards
'"Black Jack is the masther," sez Kiss, dealin'. Black Jack, Sorr, I
shud expaytiate to you, is the Ace av Shpades which from time immimorial
has been intimately connect wid battle, murdher an' suddin death.
'Wanst Kiss dealt an' there was no sign, but the men was whoite wid
the workin's av their sowls. Twice Kiss dealt an' there was a gray
shine on their cheeks like the mess av an egg. Three times Kiss dealt
an' they was blue. "Have ye not lost him?" sez Vulmea, wipin' the sweat
on him; "Let's ha' done quick!" "Quick ut is," sez Kiss, t'rowin' him
the kyard; an' ut fell face up on his knee--Black Jack!
'Thin they all cackled wid laughin'. "Duty thrippence," sez wan av
thim, "an' damned cheap at that price!" But I cud see they all dhrew
a little away from Vulmea an' lef' him sittin' playin' wid the kyard.
Vulmea sez no word for a whoile but licked his lips--cat-ways. Thin
he threw up his head an' made the men swear by ivry oath known to stand
by him not alone in the room but at the Coort-Martial that was to set
on me! He tould off five av the biggest to stretch me on my cot whin
the shot was fired, an' another man he tould off to put out the light,
an' yet another to load my rifle. He wud not do that himself; an' that
was quare, for 'twas but a little thing considerin'.
'Thin they swore over again that they wud not bethray wan another, an'
crep' out av the grass in diff'rint ways, two by two. A mercy ut was
that they did not come on me. I was sick wid fear in the pit av my
stummick--sick, sick, sick! Afther they was all gone, I wint back to
Canteen an' called for a quart to put a thought in me. Vulmea was
there, dhrinkin' heavy, an' politeful to me beyond reason. "Fwhat will
I do--fwhat will I do?" thinks I to mesilf whin Vulmea wint away.
'Presintly the Arm'rer Sargint comes in stiffin' an' crackin' on, not
pleased wid any wan, bekaze the Martini Henri bein' new to the rig'mint
in those days we used to play the mischief wid her arrangements. 'Twas
a long time before I cud get out av the way av thryin' to pull back
the back-sight an' turnin' her over afther firin'--as if she was a
'"Fwhat tailor-men do they give me to work wid?" sez the Arm'rer
Sargint. "Here's Hogan, his nose flat as a table, laid by for a week,
an' ivry Comp'ny sendin' their arrums in knocked to small shivreens."
'"Fwhat's wrong wid Hogan, Sargint?" sez I.
'"Wrong!" sez the Arm'rer Sargint; "I showed him, as though I had been
his mother, the way av shtrippin' a 'Tini, an' he shtrup her clane an'
easy. I tould him to put her to again an' fire a blank into the blow-pit
to show how the dirt hung on the groovin'. He did that, but he did not
put in the pin av the fallin'-block, an' av coorse whin he fired he
was strook by the block jumpin' clear. Well for him 'twas but a blank--a
full charge wud ha' cut his oi out."
'I looked a thrifle wiser than a boiled sheep's head. "How's that,
Sargint?" sez I.
'"This way, ye blundherin' man, an' don't you be doin' ut," sez he.
Wid that he shows me a Waster action--the breech av her all cut away
to show the inside--an' so plazed he was to grumble that he dimonstrated
fwhat Hogan had done twice over. "An' that comes av not knowin' the
wepping you're purvided wid," sez he.
'"Thank ye, Sargint," sez I; "I will come to you again for further
'"Ye will not," sez he. "Kape your clanin'-rod away from the breech-pin
or you will get into throuble."
'I wint outside an' I could ha' danced wid delight for the grandeur
av ut. "They will load my rifle, good luck to thim, whoile I'm away,"
thinks I, and back I wint to the Canteen to give them their clear
'The Canteen was fillin' wid men at the ind av the day. I made feign
to be far gone in dhrink, an', wan by wan, all my roomful came in wid
Vulmea. I wint away, walkin' thick an' heavy, but not so thick an'
heavy that any wan cud ha' tuk me. Sure and thrue, there was a
kyartridge gone from my pouch an' lyin' snug in my rifle. I was hot
wid rage against thim all, an' I worried the bullet out wid my teeth
as fast as I cud, the room bein' empty. Then I tuk my boot an' the
clanin'-rod and knocked out the pin av the fallin'-block. Oh, 'twas
music when that pin rowled on the flure! I put ut into my pouch an'
stuck a dab av dirt on the holes in the plate, puttin' the fallin'-block
back. "That'll do your business, Vulmea," sez I, lyin' easy on the
cot. "Come an' sit on my chest the whole room av you, an' I will take
you to my bosom for the biggest divils that iver cheated halter." I
wud have no mercy on Vulmea. His oi or his life--little I cared!
'At dusk they came back, the twelve av thim, an' they had all been
dhrinkin'. I was shammin' sleep on the cot. Wan man wint outside in
the veranda. Whin he whishtled they began to rage roun' the room an'
carry on tremenjus. But I niver want to hear men laugh as they
did--skylarkin' too! 'Twas like mad jackals.
'"Shtop that blasted noise!" sez O'Hara in the dark, an' pop goes the
room-lamp. I cud hear O'Hara runnin' up an' the rattlin' av my rifle
in the rack an' the men breathin' heavy as they stud roun' my cot. I
cud see O'Hara in the light av the veranda lamp, an' thin I heard the
crack av my rifle. She cried loud, poor darlint, bein' mishandled.
Next minut' five men were houldin' me down. "Go easy," I sez; "fwhat's
ut all about?"
'Thin Vulmea, on the flure, raised a howl you cud hear from wan ind
av cantonmints to the other. "I'm dead, I'm butchered, I'm blind!" sez
he. "Saints have mercy on my sinful sowl! Sind for Father Constant!
Oh sind for Father Constant an' let me go clean!" By that I knew he
was not so dead as I cud ha' wished.
'O'Hara picks up the lamp in the veranda wid a hand as stiddy as a
rest. "Fwhat damned dog's thrick is this av yours?" sez he, an turns
the light on Tim Vulmea that was shwimmin' in blood from top to toe.
The fallin'-block had sprung free behin' a full charge av powther--
good care I tuk to bite down the brass af ther takin' out the bullet
that there might be somethin' to give ut full worth--an' had cut Tim
from the lip to the corner av the right eye, lavin' the eyelid in
tatthers, an' so up an' along by the forehead to the hair. 'Twas more
av a rakin' plough, if you will ondherstand, than a clean cut; an'
niver did I see a man bleed as Vulmea did. The dhrink an' the stew
that he was in pumped the blood strong. The minut' the men sittin' on
my chest heard O'Hara spakin' they scatthered each wan to his cot, an'
cried out very politeful: "Fwhat is ut, Sargint?"
'"Fwhat is ut!" sez O'Hara, shakin' Tim. "Well an' good do you know
fwhat ut is, ye skulkin' ditch-lurkin' dogs! Get a doolie, an' take
this whimperin' scutt away. There will be more heard av ut than any
av you will care for."
'Vulmea sat up rockin' his head in his hand an' moanin' for Father
'"Be done!" sez O'Hara, dhraggin' him up by the hair. "You're none so
dead that you cannot go fifteen years for thryin' to shoot me."
'"I did not," sez Vulmea; "I was shootin' mesilf."
'"That's quare," sez O'Hara, "for the front av my jackut is black wid
your powther." He tuk up the rifle that was still warm an' began to
laugh. "I'll make your life Hell to you," sez he, "for attempted murdher
an' kapin' your rifle onproperly. You'll be hanged first an' thin put
undher stoppages for four fifteen. The rifle's done for," sez he.
'"Why, 'tis my rifle!" sez I, comin' up to look; "Vulmea, ye divil,
fwhat were you doin' wid her--answer me that?"
'"Lave me alone," sez Vulmea; "I'm dyin'!"
'"I'll wait till you're betther," sez I, "an' thin we two will talk
ut out umbrageous."
'O'Hara pitched Tim into the doolie, none too tinder, but all the
bhoys kep' by their cots, which was not the sign av innocint men. I
was huntin' ivrywhere for my fallin'-block, but not findin' ut at all.
I niver found ut.
'"Now fwhat will I do?" sez O'Hara, swinging the veranda light in
his hand an' lookin' down the room. I had hate and contimpt av O'Hara
an' I have now, dead tho' he is, but, for all that, will I say he was
a brave man. He is baskin' in Purgathory this tide, but I wish he cud
hear that, whin he stud lookin' down the room an' the bhoys shivered
before the oi av him, I knew him for a brave man an' I liked him so.
'"Fwhat will I do?" sez O'Hara agin, an' we heard the voice av a woman
low an' sof' in the veranda. 'Twas Slimmy's wife, come over at the
shot, sittin' on wan av the benches an' scarce able to walk.
'"O Denny!--Denny, dear," sez she, "have they kilt you?"
'O'Hara looked down the room again an' showed his teeth to the gum.
Then he spat on the flure.
'"You're not worth ut," sez he. "Light that lamp, ye dogs," an' wid
that he turned away, an' I saw him walkin' off wid Slimmy's wife; she
thryin' to wipe off the powther-black on the front av his jackut wid
her handkerchief. "A brave man you are," thinks I--"a brave man an'
a bad woman."
'No wan said a word for a time. They was all ashamed, past spache.
'"Fwhat d'you think he will do?" sez wan av thim at last. "He knows
we're all in ut."
'"Are we so?" sez I from my cot. "The man that sez that to me will be
hurt. I do not know," sez I, "fwhat onderhand divilmint you have
conthrived, but by what I've seen I know that you cannot commit murdher
wid another man's rifle--such shakin' cowards you are. I'm goin' to
slape," I sez, "an' you can blow my head off whoile I lay." I did not
slape, though, for a long time. Can ye wonder?
'Next morn the news was through all the rig'mint, an' there was nothin'
that the men did not tell. O'Hara reports, fair an' easy, that Vulmea
was come to grief through tamperin' wid his rifle in barricks, all for
to show the mechanism. An' by my sowl, he had the impart'nince to say
that he was on the shpot at the time an' cud certify that ut was an
accidint! You might ha' knocked my roomful down wid a straw whin they
heard that. 'Twas lucky for thim that the bhoys were always thryin'
to find out how the new rifle was made, an' a lot av thim had come up
for easin' the pull by shtickin' bits av grass an' such in the part
av the lock that showed near the thrigger. The first issues of the
'Tinis was not covered in, an' I mesilf have eased the pull av mine
time an' agin. A light pull is ten points on the range to me.
'"I will not have this foolishness!" sez the Colonel. "I will twist
the tail off Vulmea!" sez he; but whin he saw him, all tied up an'
groanin' in hospital, he changed his will. "Make him an early
convalescint," sez he to the Doctor, an' Vulmea was made so for a
warnin'. His big bloody bandages an' face puckered up to wan side did
more to kape the bhoys from messin' wid the insides av their rifles
than any punishmint.
'O'Hara gave no reason for fwhat he'd said, an' all my roomful were
too glad to inquire, tho' he put his spite upon thim more wearin' than
before. Wan day, howiver, he tuk me apart very polite, for he cud be
that at the choosin'.
'"You're a good sodger, tho' you're a damned insolint man," sez he.
'"Fair words, Sargint," sez I, "or I may be insolint again."
'"'Tis not like you," sez he, "to lave your rifle in the rack widout
the breech-pin, for widout the breech-pin she was whin Vulmea fired.
I should ha' found the break av ut in the eyes av the holes, else,"
'"Sargint," sez I, "fwhat wud your life ha' been worth av the breech-pin
had been in place, for, on my sowl, my life wud be worth just as much
to me av I tould you whether ut was or was not. Be thankful the bullet
was not there," I sez.
'"That's thrue," sez he, pulling his moustache; "but I do not believe
that you, for all your lip, was in that business."
'"Sargint," I sez, "I cud hammer the life out av a man in ten minuts
wid my fistes if that man dishpleased me; for I am a good sodger, an'
I will be threated as such, an' whoile my fistes are my own they're
strong enough for all work I have to do. They do not fly back towards
me!" sez I, lookin' him betune the eyes.
'"You're a good man," sez he, lookin' me betune the eyes--an' oh he
was a gran'-built man to see!--"you're a good man," he sez, "an' I cud
wish, for the pure frolic av ut, that I was not a Sargint, or that you
were not a Privit; an' you will think me no coward whin I say this
'"I do not," sez I. "I saw you whin Vulmea mishandled the rifle. But,
Sargint," I sez, "take the wurrd from me now, spakin' as man to man
wid the shtripes off, tho' 'tis little right I have to talk, me being
fwhat I am by natur'. This time ye tuk no harm, an' next time ye may
not, but, in the ind, so sure as Slimmy's wife came into the veranda,
so sure will ye take harm--an' bad harm. Have thought, Sargint," sez
I. "Is ut worth ut?"
'"Ye're a bould man," sez he, breathin' harrd. "A very bould man. But
I am a bould man tu. Do you go your way, Privit Mulvaney, an' I will
'We had no further spache thin or afther, but, wan by another, he
drafted the twelve av my room out into other rooms an' got thim spread
among the Comp'nies, for they was not a good breed to live together,
an' the Comp 'ny orf'cers saw ut. They wud ha' shot me in the night
av they had known fwhat I knew; but that they did not.
'An', in the ind, as I said, O'Hara met his death from Rafferty for
foolin' wid his wife. He wint his own way too well--Eyah, too well!
Shtraight to that affair, widout turnin' to the right or to the lef',
he wint, an' may the Lord have mercy on his sowl. Amin!'
''Ear! 'Ear!' said Ortheris, pointing the moral with a wave of his
pipe. 'An' this is 'im 'oo would be a bloomin' Vulmea all for the sake
of Mullins an' a bloomin' button! Mullins never went after a woman in
his life. Mrs. Mullins, she saw 'im one day--'
'Ortheris,' I said, hastily, for the romances of Private Ortheris are
all too daring for publication, 'look at the sun. It's a quarter past
'O Lord! Three quarters of an hour for five an' a 'arf miles! We'll
'ave to run like Jimmy O.'
The Three Musketeers clambered on to the bridge, and departed hastily
in the direction of the cantonment road. When I overtook them I offered
them two stirrups and a tail, which they accepted enthusiastically.
Ortheris held the tail, and in this manner we trotted steadily through
the shadows by an unfrequented road.
At the turn into the cantonments we heard carriage wheels. It was the
Colonel's barouche, and in it sat the Colonel's wife and daughter. I
caught a suppressed chuckle, and my beast sprang forward with a lighter
The Three Musketeers had vanished into the night.
And they were stronger hands than mine
That digged the Ruby from the earth--
More cunning brains that made it worth
The large desire of a King;
And bolder hearts that through the brine
Went down the Perfect Pearl to bring.
Lo, I have made in common clay
Rude figures of a rough-hewn race;
For Pearls strew not the market-place
In this my town of banishment,
Where with the shifting dust I play
And eat the bread of Discontent.
Yet is there life in that I make,--
Oh Thou who knowest, turn and see,
As Thou hast power over me,
So I have power over these,
Because I wrought them for Thy sake,
And breathed in them mine agonies.
Small mirth was in the making. Now
I lift the cloth that clokes the clay,
And, wearied, at Thy feet I lay
My wares ere I go forth to sell.
The long bazar will praise--but Thou--
Heart of my heart, have I done well?
POOR DEAR MAMMA
The wild hawk to the wind-swept sky,
The deer to the wholesome wold,
And the heart of a man to the heart of a maid,
As it was in the days of old.
SCENE.--Interior of MISS MINNIE THREEGAN'S bedroom at Simla. MISS
THREEGAN, in window-seat, turning over a drawerful of things. MISS
EMMA DEERCOURT, bosom-friend, who has come to spend the day, sitting
on the bed, manipulating the bodice of a ballroom frock and a bunch
of artificial lilies of the valley. Time, 5.30 P. M. on a hot May
MISS DEERCOURT. And he said: 'I shall never forget this dance,'
and, of course, I said: 'Oh! how can you be so silly!' Do you think
he meant anything, dear?
MISS THREEGAN. (Extracting long lavender silk stocking from the
rubbish.) You know him better than I do.
MISS D. Oh, do be sympathetic, Minnie! I'm sure he does. At least
I would be sure if he wasn't always riding with that odious Mrs.
MISS T. I suppose so. How does one manage to dance through one's
heels first? Look at this--isn't it shameful? (Spreads stocking-heel
on open hand for inspection)
MISS D. Never mind that! You can't mend it. Help me with this hateful
bodice, I've run the string so, and I've run the string so, and
I can't make the fulness come right. Where would you put this? (Waves
lilies of the valley.)
MISS T. As high up on the shoulder as possible.
MISS D. Am I quite tall enough? I know it makes May Olger look
MISS T. Yes, but May hasn't your shoulders. Hers are like a hock-bottle.
BEARER. (Rapping at door.) Captain Sahib aya.
MISS D. (Jumping up wildly, and hunting for body, which she has
discarded owing to the heat of the day.) Captain Sahib! What Captain
Sahib? Oh, good gracious, and I'm only half dressed! Well, I shan't
MISS T. (Calmly.) You needn't. It isn't for us. That's Captain Gadsby.
He is going for a ride with Mamma. He generally comes five days out of
AGONISED VOICE. (From an inner apartment.) Minnie, run out and give
Captain Gadsby some tea, and tell him I shall be ready in ten minutes;
and, O Minnie, come to me an instant, there's a dear girl!
MISS T. Oh, bother! (Aloud.) Very well, Mamma.
Exit, and reappears, after five minutes, flushed, and rubbing her
MISS D. You look pink. What has happened?
MISS T. (In a stage whisper.) A twenty-four-inch waist, and she won't
let it out. Where are my bangles? (Rummages on the toilet-table,
and dabs at her hair with a brush in the interval.)
MISS D. Who is this Captain Gadsby? I don't think I've met him.
MISS T. You must have. He belongs to the Harrar set. I've danced
with him, but I've never talked to him. He's a big yellow man, just
like a newly-hatched chicken, with an e-normous moustache. He walks
like this (imitates Cavalry swagger), and he goes 'Ha-Hmmm!' deep
down in his throat when he can't think of anything to say. Mamma likes
him. I don't.
MISS D. (Abstractedly.) Does he wax his moustache?
MISS T. (Busy with powder-puff.} Yes, I think so. Why?
MISS D. (Bending oner the bodice and sewing furiously.) Oh,
MISS T. (Sternly.) Only what? Out with it, Emma.
MISS D. Well, May Olger--she's engaged to Mr. Charteris, you
know--said--Promise you won't repeat this?
MISS T. Yes, I promise. What did she say?
MISS D. That--that being kissed (with a rush) by a man who didn't
wax his moustache was--like eating an egg without salt.
MISS T. (At her full height, with crushing scorn.) May Olger is a
horrid, nasty Thing, and you can tell her I said so. I'm glad she
doesn't belong to my set--I must go and feed this man! Do I look
MISS D. Yes, perfectly. Be quick and hand him over to your Mother, and
then we can talk. I shall listen at the door to hear what you say
MISS T. 'Sure I don't care. I'm not afraid of Captain Gadsby.
In proof of this swings into drawing-room with a mannish stride
followed by two short steps, which produces the effect of a restive
horse entering. Misses CAPTAIN GADSBY, who is sitting in the shadow
of the window-curtain, and gazes round helplessly.
CAPTAIN GADSBY. (Aside.) The filly, by Jove! 'Must ha' picked up
that action from the sire. (Aloud, rising.) Good evening, Miss
MISS T. (Conscious that she is flushing.) Good evening, Captain
Gadsby. Mamma told me to say that she will be ready in a few minutes.
Won't you have some tea? (Aside.) I hope Mamma will be quick. What
am I to say to the creature? (Aloud and abruptly.) Milk and sugar?
CAPT. G. No sugar, tha-anks, and very little milk. Ha-Hmmm.
MISS T. (Aside.) If he's going to do that, I'm lost. I shall laugh.
I know I shall!
CAPT. G. (Pulling at his moustache and watching it sideways down his
nose.) Ha-Hmmm. (Aside.) 'Wonder what the little beast can talk
about. 'Must make a shot at it.
MISS T. (Aside.) Oh, this is agonising. I must say something.
BOTH TOGETHER. Have you been---
CAPT. G. I beg your pardon. You were going to say---
MISS T. (Who has been watching the moustache with awed fascination.)
Won't you have some eggs?
CAPT. G. (Looking bewilderedly at the tea-table.) Eggs! (A side.)
O Hades! She must have a nursery-tea at this hour. S'pose they've wiped
her mouth and sent her to me while the Mother is getting on her duds.
(Aloud.) No, thanks.
MISS T. (Crimson with confusion.) Oh! I didn't mean that. I wasn't
thinking of mou--eggs for an instant. I mean salt. Won't you have
some sa--- sweets? (Aside.) He'll think me a raving lunatic. I wish
Mamma would come.
CAPT. G. (Aside.) It was a nursery-tea and she's ashamed of it.
By Jove! She doesn't look half bad when she colours up like that.
(Aloud, helping himself from the dish.) Have you seen those new
chocolates at Peliti's?
MISS T. No, I made these myself. What are they like?
CAPT. G. These! De-licious. (Aside.) And that's a fact.
MISS T. (Aside.) Oh, bother! he'll think I'm fishing for compliments.
(Aloud.) No, Peliti's of course.
CAPT. G. (Enthusiastically.) Not to compare with these. How d'you
make them? I can't get my khansamah to understand the simplest thing
beyond mutton and fowl.
MISS T. Yes? I'm not a khansamah, you know. Perhaps you frighten
him. You should never frighten a servant. He loses his head. It's very
CAPT. G. He's so awf'ly stupid.
MISS T. (Folding her hands in her lap.) You should call him quietly
and say: 'O khansamah jee!'
CAPT. G. (Getting interested.) Yes? (Aside.) Fancy that little
featherweight saying, 'O khansamah jee' to my bloodthirsty Mir Khan!
MISS T. Then you should explain the dinner, dish by dish.
CAPT. G. But I can't speak the vernacular.
MISS T. (Patronizingly.) You should pass the Higher Standard and try.
CAPT. G. I have, but I don't seem to be any the wiser. Are you?
MISS T. I never passed the Higher Standard. But the khansamah is
very patient with me. He doesn't get angry when I talk about sheep's
topees, or order maunds of grain when I mean seers.
CAPT. G. (Aside, with intense indignation.) I'd like to see Mir Khan
being rude to that girl! Hullo! Steady the Buffs! (Aloud.) And do
you understand about horses, too?
MISS T. A little--not very much. I can't doctor them, but I know what
they ought to eat, and I am in charge of our stable.
CAPT. G. Indeed! You might help me then. What ought a man to give his
sais in the Hills? My ruffian says eight rupees, because everything
is so dear.
MISS T. Six rupees a month, and one rupee Simla allowance--neither
more nor less. And a grass-cut gets six rupees. That's better than
buying grass in the bazar.
CAPT. G. (Admiringly.) How do you know?
MISS T. I have tried both ways.
CAPT. G. Do you ride much, then? I've never seen you on the Mall.
MISS T. (Aside.) I haven't passed him more than fifty times.
(Aloud.) Nearly every day.
CAPT. G. By Jove! I didn't know that. Ha-Hmmm!
(Pulls at his moustache and is silent for forty seconds.)
MISS T. (Desperately, and wondering what will happen next.) It looks
beautiful. I shouldn't touch it if I were you. (Aside.) It's all
Mamma's fault for not coming before. I will be rude!
CAPT. G. (Bronzing under the tan and bringing down his hand very
quickly.) Eh! Wha-at! Oh, yes! Ha! Ha! (Laughs uneasily.) (Aside.)
Well, of all the dashed cheek! I never had a woman say that to me
yet. She must be a cool hand or else--Ah! that nursery-tea!
VOICE FROM THE UNKNOWN. Tchk! Tchk! Tchk!
CAPT. G. Good Gracious! What's that?
MISS T. The dog, I think. (Aside.) Emma has been listening, and
I'll never forgive her!
CAPT. G. (Aside.) They don't keep dogs here. (Aloud.) Didn't
sound like a dog, did it?
MISS T. Then it must have been the cat. Let's go into the veranda.
What a lovely evening it is!
Steps into veranda and looks out across the hills into sunset. The
CAPT. G. (Aside.) Superb eyes! I wonder that I never noticed them
before! (Aloud.) There's going to be a dance at Viceregal Lodge on
Wednesday. Can you spare me one?
MISS T. (Shortly.) No! I don't want any of your charity-dances. You
only ask me because Mamma told you to. I hop and I bump. You know
CAPT. G. (Aside.) That's true, but little girls shouldn't understand
these things. (Aloud.) No, on my word, I don't. You dance
MISS T. Then why do you always stand out after half a dozen turns? I
thought officers in the Army didn't tell fibs.
CAPT. G. It wasn't a fib, believe me. I really do want the pleasure
of a dance with you.
MISS T. (Wickedly.) Why? Won't Mamma dance with you any more?
CAPT. G. (More earnestly than the necessity demands.) I wasn't
thinking of your Mother. (Aside.) You little vixen!
MISS T. (Still looking out of the window.) Eh? Oh, I beg your pardon.
I was thinking of something else.
CAPT. G. (Aside.) Well! I wonder what she'll say next. I've never
known a woman treat me like this before. I might be--Dash it, I might
be an Infantry subaltern! (Aloud.) Oh, please don't trouble. I'm
not worth thinking about. Isn't your Mother ready yet?
MISS T. I should think so; but promise me, Captain Gadsby, you won't
take poor dear Mamma twice round Jakko any more. It tires her so.
CAPT. G. She says that no exercise tires her.
MISS T. Yes, but she suffers afterwards. You don't know what
rheumatism is, and you oughtn't to keep her out so late, when it gets
chill in the evenings.
CAPT. G. (Aside.) Rheumatism! I thought she came off her horse
rather in a bunch. Whew! One lives and learns. (Aloud.) I'm sorry
to hear that. She hasn't mentioned it to me.
MISS T. (Flurried.) Of course not! Poor dear Mamma never would. And
you mustn't say that I told you either. Promise me that you won't. Oh,
Captain Gadsby, promise me you won't!
CAPT. G. I am dumb, or--I shall be as soon as you've given me that
dance, and another--if you can trouble yourself to think about me for
MISS T. But you won't like it one little bit. You'll be awfully sorry
CAPT. G. I shall like it above all things, and I shall only be sorry
that I didn't get more. (Aside.) Now what in the world am I saying?
MISS T. Very well. You will have only yourself to thank if your toes
are trodden on. Shall we say Seven?
CAPT. G. And Eleven. (Aside.) She can't be more than eight stone,
but, even then, it's an absurdly small foot. (Looks at his own riding
MISS T. They're beautifully shiny. I can almost see my face in them.
CAPT. G. I was thinking whether I should have to go on crutches for
the rest of my life if you trod on my toes.
MISS T. Very likely. Why not change Eleven for a square?
CAPT. G. No, please! I want them both waltzes. Won't you write them
MISS T. I don't get so many dances that I shall confuse them. You
will be the offender.
CAPT. G. Wait and see! (Aside.) She doesn't dance perfectly, perhaps,
MISS T. Your tea must have got cold by this time. Won't you have another
CAPT. G. No, thanks. Don't you think it's pleasanter out in the veranda?
(Aside.) I never saw hair take that colour in the sunshine before.
(Aloud.) It's like one of Dicksee's pictures.
MISS T. Yes! It's a wonderful sunset, isn't it? (Bluntly.) But what
do you know about Dicksee's pictures?
CAPT. G. I go Home occasionally. And I used to know the Galleries.
(Nervously.) You mustn't think me only a Philistine with--a moustache.
MISS T. Don't! Please don't! I'm so sorry for what I said then.
I was horribly rude. It slipped out before I thought. Don't you know
the temptation to say frightful and shocking things just for the mere
sake of saying them? I'm afraid I gave way to it.
CAPT. G. (Watching the girl as she flushes.) I think I know the
feeling. It would be terrible if we all yielded to it, wouldn't it?
For instance, I might say--
POOR DEAR MAMMA. (Entering, habited, hatted, and booted.) Ah, Captain
Gadsby! 'Sorry to keep you waiting. 'Hope you haven't been bored. 'My
little girl been talking to you?
MISS T. (Aside.) I'm not sorry I spoke about the rheumatism. I'm
not! I'm NOT! I only wish I'd mentioned the corns too.
CAPT. G. (Aside.) What a shame! I wonder how old she is. It never
occurred to me before. (Aloud.) We've been discussing 'Shakespeare
and the musical glasses' in the veranda.
MISS T. (Aside.) Nice man! He knows that quotation. He isn't a
Philistine with a moustache. (Aloud.) Good-bye, Captain Gadsby.
(Aside.) What a huge hand and what a squeeze! I don't suppose he
meant it, but he has driven the rings into my fingers.
POOR DEAR MAMMA. Has Vermillion come round yet? Oh, yes! Captain
don't you think that the saddle is too far forward? (They pass into
the front veranda.)
CAPT. G. (Aside.) How the dickens should I know what she prefers?
She told me that she doted on horses. (Aloud.) I think it is.
MISS T. (Coming out into front veranda.) Oh! Bad Buldoo! I must speak
to him for this. He has taken up the curb two links, and Vermillion
hates that. (Passes out and to horse's head.)
CAPT. G. Let me do it.
MISS T. No, Vermillion understands me. Don't you, old man? (Looses
curb-chain skilfully, and pats horse on nose and throttle.) Poor
Vermillion! Did they want to cut his chin off? There!
CAPTAIN GADSBY watches the interlude with undisguised admiration.
POOR DEAR MAMMA. (Tartly to MISS T.) You've forgotten your guest,
I think, dear.
MISS T. Good gracious! So I have! Good-bye. (Retreats indoors
POOR DEAR MAMMA. (Bunching reins in fingers hampered by too tight
gauntlets) Captain Gadsby!
CAPTAIN GADSBY stoops and makes the foot-rest.
POOR DEAR MAMMA blunders, halts too long, and breaks through it.
CAPT. G. (Aside.) Can't hold up eleven stone for ever. It's all your
rheumatism. (Aloud.) Can't imagine why I was so clumsy. (Aside.)
Now Little Featherweight would have gone up like a bird.
They ride out of the garden. The Captain falls back.
CAPT. G. (Aside.) How that habit catches her under the arms! Ugh!
POOR DEAR MAMMA. (With the worn smile of sixteen seasons, the worse
for exchange.) You're dull this afternoon, Captain Gadsby.
CAPT. G. (Spurring up wearily.) Why did you keep me waiting so long?
Et caetera, et caetera, et caetera.
(AN INTERVAL OF THREE WEEKS.)
GILDED YOUTH. (Sitting on railings opposite Town Hall.) Hullo,
Gaddy! 'Been trotting out the Gorgonzola! We all thought it was the
Gorgon you're mashing.
CAPT. G. (With withering emphasis.) You young cub! What the ----
does it matter to you?
Proceeds to read GILDED YOUTH a lecture on discretion and deportment,
which crumbles latter like a Chinese Lantern. Departs fuming.
(FURTHER INTERVAL OF FIVE WEEKS.)
SCENE.--Exterior of New Simla Library on a foggy evening. MISS
THREEGAN and MISS DEERCOURT meet among the 'rickshaws. MISS T. is
carrying a bundle of books under her left arm.
MISS D. (Level intonation.) Well?
MISS T. (Ascending intonation.) Well?
MISS D. (Capturing her friend's left arm, taking away all the books,
placing books in 'rickshaw, returning to arm, securing hand by the
third finger and investigating.) Well! You bad girl! And you never
MISS T. (Demurely.) He--he--he only spoke yesterday afternoon.
MISS D. Bless you, dear! And I'm to be bridesmaid, aren't I? You know
you promised ever so long ago.
MISS T. Of course. I'll tell you all about it to-morrow. (Gets
into'rickshaw.) O Emma!
MISS D. (With intense interest.) Yes, dear?
MISS T. (Piano.) It's quite true--about--the--egg.
MISS D. What egg?
MISS T. (Pianissimo prestissimo.) The egg without the salt. (Forte.)
Chalo ghar ko jaldi, jhampani! (Go home, jhampani.)
THE WORLD WITHOUT
Certain people of importance.
SCENE.--Smoking-room of the Deychi Club. Time, 10.30 P. M. of a
stuffy night in the Rains. Four men dispersed in picturesque attitudes
and easy-chairs. To these enter BLAYNE of the Irregular Moguls, in
BLAYNE. Phew! The Judge ought to be hanged in his own store-godown.
Hi, khitmatgar! Poora whiskey-peg, to take the taste out of my mouth.
CURTISS. (Royal Artillery.) That's it, is it? What the deuce made
you dine at the Judge's? You know his bandobust.
BLAYNE. 'Thought it couldn't be worse than the Club; but I'll swear
he buys ullaged liquor and doctors it with gin and ink (looking round
the room). Is this all of you tonight?
DOONE. (P. W. D.) Anthony was called out at dinner. Mingle had a
pain in his tummy.
CURTISS. Miggy dies of cholera once a week in the Rains, and gets drunk
on chlorodyne in between. 'Good little chap, though. Any one at the
BLAYNE. Cockley and his memsahib looking awfully white and fagged.
'Female girl--couldn't catch the name--on her way to the Hills, under
the Cockleys' charge--the Judge, and Markyn fresh from Simla--
CURTISS. Good Lord, how truly magnificent! Was there enough ice? When
I mangled garbage there I got one whole lump--nearly as big as a walnut.
What had Markyn to say for himself?
BLAYNE. 'Seems that every one is having a fairly good time up there
in spite of the rain. By Jove, that reminds me! I know I hadn't come
across just for the pleasure of your society. News! Great news! Markyn
DOONE. Who's dead now?
BLAYNE. No one that I know of; but Gaddy's hooked at last!
DROPPING CHORUS. How much? The Devil! Markyn was pulling your leg.
BLAYNE. (Humming.) 'Yea, verily, verily, verily! Verily, verily, I
say unto thee.' Theodore, the gift o' God! Our Phillup! It's been
given out up above.
MACKESY. (Barrister-at-Law.) Huh! Women will give out anything. What
does accused say?
BLAYNE. Markyn told me that he congratulated him warily--one hand held
out, t'other ready to guard. Gaddy turned pink and said it was so.
CURTISS. Poor old Gaddy! They all do it. Who's she? Let's hear the
BLAYNE. She's a girl--daughter of a Colonel Somebody.
DOONE. Simla's stiff with Colonels' daughters. Be more explicit.
BLAYNE. Wait a shake. What was her name? Three--something. Three--
CURTISS. Stars, perhaps. Gaddy knows that brand.
BLAYNE. Threegan--Minnie Threegan.
MACKESY. Threegan! Isn't she a little bit of a girl with red hair?
BLAYNE. 'Bout that--from what Markyn said.
MACKESY. Then I've met her. She was at Lucknow last season. 'Owned a
permanently juvenile Mamma, and danced damnably. I say, Jervoise, you
knew the Threegans, didn't you?
JERVOISE. (Civilian of twenty-five years' service, waking up from his
doze.) Eh? What's that? Knew who? How? I thought I was at Home,
MACKESY. The Threegan girl's engaged, so Blayne says.
JERVOISE. (Slowly.) Engaged--engaged! Bless my soul! I'm getting an
old man! Little Minnie Threegan engaged. It was only the other day I
went home with them in the Surat--no, the Massilia--and she was
crawling about on her hands and knees among the ayahs. 'Used to call
me the 'Tick Tack Sahib' because I showed her my watch. And that was
in Sixty-seven--no, Seventy. Good God, how time flies! I'm an old man.
I remember when Threegan married Miss Derwent--daughter of old Hooky
Derwent--but that was before your time. And so the little baby's engaged
to have a little baby of her own! Who's the other fool?
MACKESY. Gadsby of the Pink Hussars.
JERVOISE. 'Never met him. Threegan lived in debt, married in debt,
and'll die in debt. 'Must be glad to get the girl off his hands.
BLAYNE. Gaddy has money--lucky devil. Place at Home, too.
DOONE. He comes of first-class stock. 'Can't quite understand his being
caught by a Colonel's daughter, and (looking cautiously round room)
Black Infantry at that! No offence to you, Blayne.
BLAYNE. (Stiffly.) Not much, tha-anks.
CURTISS. (Quoting motto of Irregular Moguls.) 'We are what we are,'
eh, old man? But Gaddy was such a superior animal as a rule. Why didn't
he go Home and pick his wife there?
MACKESY. They are all alike when they come to the turn into the
straight. About thirty a man begins to get sick of living alone--
CURTISS. And of the eternal muttony-chop in the morning.
DOONE. It's dead goat as a rule, but go on, Mackesy.
MACKESY. If a man's once taken that way nothing will hold him. Do you
remember Benoit of your service, Doone? They transferred him to Tharanda
when his time came, and he married a platelayer's daughter, or something
of that kind. She was the only female about the place.
DOONE. Yes, poor brute. That smashed Benoit's chances of promotion
altogether. Mrs. Benoit used to ask: 'Was you goin' to the dance this
CURTISS. Hang it all! Gaddy hasn't married beneath him. There's no
tar-brush in the family, I suppose.
JERVOISE. Tar-brush! Not an anna. You young fellows talk as though the
man was doing the girl an honour in marrying her. You're all too
conceited--nothing's good enough for you.
BLAYNE. Not even an empty Club, a dam' bad dinner at the Judge's, and
a Station as sickly as a hospital. You're quite right. We're a set of
DOONE. Luxurious dogs, wallowing in---
CURTISS. Prickly heat between the shoulders. I'm covered with it. Let's
hope Beora will be cooler.
BLAYNE. Whew! Are you ordered into camp, too? I thought the Gunners
had a clean sheet.
CURTISS. No, worse luck. Two cases yesterday--one died--and if we have
a third, out we go. Is there any shooting at Beora, Doone?
DOONE. The country's under water, except the patch by the Grand Trunk
Road. I was there yesterday, looking at a bund, and came across four
poor devils in their last stage. It's rather bad from here to Kuchara.
CURTISS. Then we're pretty certain to have a heavy go of it. Heigho!
I shouldn't mind changing places with Gaddy for a while. 'Sport with
Amaryllis in the shade of the Town Hall, and all that. Oh, why doesn't
somebody come and marry me, instead of letting me go into cholera camp?
MACKESY. Ask the Committee.
CURTISS. You ruffian! You'll stand me another peg for that. Blayne,
what will you take? Mackesy is fine on moral grounds. Doone, have you
DOONE. Small glass Kummel, please. Excellent carminative, these days.
Anthony told me so.
MACKESY. (Signing votucher for four drinks.) Most unfair punishment.
I only thought of Curtiss as Actaeon being chivied round the billiard
tables by the nymphs of Diana.
BLAYNE. Curtiss would have to import his nymphs by train. Mrs. Cockley's
the only woman in the Station. She won't leave Cockley, and he's doing
his best to get her to go.
CURTISS. Good, indeed! Here's Mrs. Cockley's health. To the only wife
in the Station and a damned brave woman!
OMNES. (Drinking.) A damned brave woman!
BLAYNE. I suppose Gaddy will bring his wife here at the end of the
cold weather. They are going to be married almost immediately, I
CURTISS. Gaddy may thank his luck that the Pink Hussars are all
detachment and no headquarters this hot weather, or he'd be torn from
the arms of his love as sure as death. Have you ever noticed the
thorough-minded way British Cavalry take to cholera? It's because they
are so expensive. If the Pinks had stood fast here, they would have
been out in camp a month ago. Yes, I should decidedly like to be Gaddy.
MACKESY. He'll go Home after he's married, and send in his papers--see
if he doesn't.
BLAYNE. Why shouldn't he? Hasn't he money? Would any one of us be here
if we weren't paupers?
DOONE. Poor old pauper! What has became of the six hundred you rooked
from our table last month?
BLAYNE. It took unto itself wings. I think an enterprising tradesman
got some of it, and a shroff gobbled the rest--or else I spent it.
CURTISS. Gaddy never had dealings with a shroff in his life.
DOONE. Virtuous Gaddy! If I had three thousand a month, paid from
England, I don't think I'd deal with a shroff either.
MACKESY. (Yawning.) Oh, it's a sweet life! I wonder whether matrimony
would make it sweeter.
CURTISS. Ask Cockley--with his wife dying by inches!
BLAYNE. Go home and get a fool of a girl to come out to--what is it
Thackeray says?--'the splendid palace of an Indian pro-consul.'
DOONE. Which reminds me. My quarters leak like a sieve. I had fever
last night from sleeping in a swamp. And the worst of it is, one can't
do anything to a roof till the Rains are over.
CURTISS. What's wrong with you? You haven't eighty rotting Tommies
to take into a running stream.
DOONE. No: but I'm mixed boils and bad language. I'm a regular Job all
over my body. It's sheer poverty of blood, and I don't see any chance
of getting richer--either way.
BLAYNE. Can't you take leave?
DOONE. That's the pull you Army men have over us. Ten days are nothing
in your sight. I'm so important that Government can't find a
substitute if I go away. Ye-es, I'd like to be Gaddy, whoever his wife
CURTISS. You've passed the turn of life that Mackesy was speaking of.
DOONE. Indeed I have, but I never yet had the brutality to ask a woman
to share my life out here.
BLAYNE. On my soul I believe you're right. I'm thinking of Mrs. Cockley.
The woman's an absolute wreck.
DOONE. Exactly. Because she stays down here. The only way to keep her
fit would be to send her to the Hills for eight months--and the same
with any woman. I fancy I see myself taking a wife on those terms.
MACKESY. With the rupee at one and sixpence. The little Doones would
be little Dehra Doones, with a fine Mussoorie chi-chi anent to bring
home for the holidays.
CURTISS. And a pair of be-ewtiful sambhur-horns for Doone to wear,
free of expense, presented by---
DOONE. Yes, it's an enchanting prospect. By the way, the rupee hasn't
done falling yet. The time will come when we shall think ourselves
lucky if we only lose half our pay.
CURTISS. Surely a third's loss enough. Who gains by the arrangement?
That's what I want to know.
BLAYNE. The Silver Question! I'm going to bed if you begin squabbling.
Thank Goodness, here's Anthony--looking like a ghost.
Enter ANTHONY, Indian Medical Staff, very white and tired.
ANTHONY. 'Evening, Blayne. It's raining in sheets. Whiskey-peg, lao,
Khitmatgar. The roads are something ghastly.
CURTISS. How's Mingle?
ANTHONY. Very bad, and more frightened. I handed him over to Fewton.
Mingle might just as well have called him in the first place, instead
of bothering me.
BLAYNE. He's a nervous little chap. What has he got, this time?
ANTHONY. 'Can't quite say. A very bad tummy and a blue funk so far.
He asked me at once if it was cholera, and I told him not to be a fool.
That soothed him.
CURTISS. Poor devil! The funk does half the business in a man of that
ANTHONY. (Lighting a cheroot.) I firmly believe the funk will kill
him if he stays down. You know the amount of trouble he's been giving
Fewton for the last three weeks. He's doing his very best to frighten
himself into the grave.
GENERAL CHORUS. Poor little devil! Why doesn't he get away?
ANTHONY. 'Can't. He has his leave all right, but he's so dipped he
can't take it, and I don't think his name on paper would raise four
annas. That's in confidence, though.
MACKESY. All the Station knows it.
ANTHONY. 'I suppose I shall have to die here,' he said, squirming all
across the bed. He's quite made up his mind to Kingdom Come. And I
know he has nothing more than a wet-weather tummy if he could only
keep a hand on himself.
BLAYNE. That's bad. That's very bad. Poor little Miggy. Good little
chap, too. I say--
ANTHONY. What do you say?
BLAYNE. Well, look here--anyhow. If it's like that--as you say--I say
CURTISS. I say fifty.
MACKESY. I go twenty better.
DOONE. Bloated Croesus of the Bar! I say fifty. Jervoise, what do
you say? Hi! Wake up!
JERVOISE. Eh? What's that? What's that?
CURTISS. We want a hundred rupees from you. You're a bachelor drawing
a gigantic income, and there's a man in a hole.
JERVOISE. What man? Any one dead?
BLAYNE. No, but he'll die if you don't give the hundred. Here! Here's
a peg-voucher. You can see what we've signed for, and Anthony's man
will come round to-morrow to collect it. So there will be no trouble.
JERVOISE. (Signing.) One hundred, E. M. J. There you are (feebly). It
isn't one of your jokes, is it?
BLAYNE. No, it really is wanted. Anthony, you were the biggest
poker-winner last week, and you've defrauded the tax-collector too
ANTHONY. Let's see. Three fifties and a seventy--two twenty--three
twenty--say four hundred and twenty. That'll give him a month clear
at the Hills. Many thanks, you men. I'll send round the chaprassi
CURTISS. You must engineer his taking the stuff, and of course you
ANTHONY. Of course. It would never do. He'd weep with gratitude over
his evening drink.
BLAYNE. That's just what he would do, damn him. Oh! I say, Anthony,
you pretend to know everything. Have you heard about Gaddy?
ANTHONY. No. Divorce Court at last?
BLAYNE. Worse. He's engaged!
ANTHONY. How much? He can't be!
BLAYNE. He is. He's going to be married in a few weeks. Markyn told
me at the Judge's this evening. It's pukka.
ANTHONY. You don't say so? Holy Moses! There'll be a shine in the tents
CURTISS. 'Regiment cut up rough, think you?
ANTHONY. 'Don't know anything about the Regiment.
MACKESY. It is bigamy, then?
ANTHONY. Maybe. Do you mean to say that you men have forgotten, or is
there more charity in the world than I thought?
DOONE. You don't look pretty when you are trying to keep a secret. You
ANTHONY. Mrs. Herriott!
BLAYNE. (After a long pause, to the room generally.) It's my notion
that we are a set of fools.
MACKESY. Nonsense. That business was knocked on the head last season.
Why, young Mallard--
ANTHONY. Mallard was a candlestick, paraded as such. Think awhile.
Recollect last season and the talk then. Mallard or no Mallard, did
Gaddy ever talk to any other woman?
CURTISS. There's something in that. It was slightly noticeable now
you come to mention it. But she's at Naini Tal and he's at Simla.
ANTHONY. He had to go to Simla to look after a globetrotter relative
of his--a person with a title. Uncle or aunt.
BLAYNE. And there he got engaged. No law prevents a man growing tired
of a woman.
ANTHONY. Except that he mustn't do it till the woman is tired of him.
And the Herriott woman was not that.
CURTISS. She may be now. Two months of Naini Tal work wonders.
DOONE. Curious thing how some women carry a Fate with them. There was
a Mrs. Deegie in the Central Provinces whose men invariably fell away
and got married. It became a regular proverb with us when I was down
there. I remember three men desperately devoted to her, and they all,
one after another, took wives.
CURTISS. That's odd. Now I should have thought that Mrs. Deegie's
influence would have led them to take other men's wives. It ought to
have made them afraid of the judgment of Providence.
ANTHONY. Mrs. Herriott will make Gaddy afraid of something more than
the judgment of Providence, I fancy.
BLAYNE. Supposing things are as you say, he'll be a fool to face her.
He'll sit tight at Simla.
ANTHONY. 'Shouldn't be a bit surprised if he went off to Naini to
explain. He's an unaccountable sort of man, and she's likely to be a
more than unaccountable woman.
DOONE. What makes you take her character away so confidently?
ANTHONY. Primum tempus. Gaddy was her first, and a woman doesn't
allow her first man to drop away without expostulation. She justifies
the first transfer of affection to herself by swearing that it is for
ever and ever. Consequently--
BLAYNE. Consequently, we are sitting here till past one o'clock, talking
scandal like a set of Station cats. Anthony, it's all your fault. We
were perfectly respectable till you came in. Go to bed. I'm off.
CURTISS. Past one! It's past two, by Jove, and here's the khit coming
for the late charge. Just Heavens! One, two, three, four, five rupees
to pay for the pleasure of saying that a poor little beast of a woman
is no better than she should be. I'm ashamed of myself. Go to bed, you
slanderous villains, and if I'm sent to Beora to-morrow, be prepared
to hear I'm dead before paying my card account!
THE TENTS OF KEDAR
Only why should it be with pain at all,
Why must I 'twixt the leaves of coronal
Put any kiss of pardon on thy brow?
Why should the other women know so much,
And talk together:--Such the look and such
The smile he used to love with, then as now.
Any Wife to any Husband.
SCENE.-A Naini Tal dinner for thirty-four. Plate, wines, crockery,
and khitmatgars carefully calculated to scale of Rs. 6000 per mensem,
less Exchange. Table split lengthways by bank of flowers.
MRS. HERRIOTT. (After conversation has risen to proper pitch.) Ah!
'Didn't see you in the crush in the drawing-room. (Sotto voce.) Where
have you been all this while, Pip?
CAPTAIN GADSBY. (Turning from regularly ordained dinner partner and
settling hock glasses.) Good evening. (Sotto voce.) Not quite so
loud another time. You've no notion how your voice carries. (Aside.)
So much for shirking the written explanation. It'll have to be a verbal
one now. Sweet prospect! How on earth am I to tell her that I am a
respectable, engaged member of society and it's all over between us?
MRS. H. I've a heavy score against you. Where were you at the Monday
Pop? Where were you on Tuesday? Where were you at the Lamonts' tennis?
I was looking everywhere.
CAPT. G. For me! Oh, I was alive somewhere, I suppose. (Aside.) It's
for Minnie's sake, but it's going to be dashed unpleasant.
MRS. H. Have I done anything to offend you? I never meant it if I have.
I couldn't help going for a ride with the Vaynor man. It was promised
a week before you came up.
CAPT. G. I didn't know--
MRS. H. It really was.
CAPT. G. Anything about it, I mean.
MRS. H. What has upset you to-day? All these days? You haven't been
near me for four whole days--nearly one hundred hours. Was it kind
of you, Pip? And I've been looking forward so much to your coming.
CAPT. G. Have you?
MRS. H. You know I have! I've been as foolish as a schoolgirl about
it. I made a little calendar and put it in my card-case, and every
time the twelve o'clock gun went off I scratched out a square and said:
'That brings me nearer to Pip. My Pip!'
CAPT. G. (With an uneasy laugh.) What will Mackler think if you
neglect him so?
MRS. H. And it hasn't brought you nearer. You seem farther away than
ever. Are you sulking about something? I know your temper.
CAPT. G. No.
MRS. H. Have I grown old in the last few months, then? (Reaches forward
to bank of flowers for menu-card.)
MRS. H. (To partner.) Oh, thanks. I didn't see.
MRS. H. Keeps her arm at full stretch for three seconds.
PARTNER ON LEFT. Allow me. (Hands menu-card.) (Turns right again.)
Is anything in me changed at all?
CAPT. G. For Goodness' sake go on with your dinner! You must eat
something. Try one of those cutlet arrangements. (Aside.) And I
fancied she had good shoulders, once upon a time! What an ass a man
can make of himself!
MRS. H. (Helping herself to a paper frill, seven peas, some stamped
carrots and a spoonful of gravy.) That isn't an answer. Tell me whether
I have done anything.
CAPT. G. (Aside.) If it isn't ended here there will be a ghastly
scene somewhere else. If only I'd written to her and stood the
racket--at long range! (To Khitmatgar.) Han! Simpkin do. (Aloud.)
I'll tell you later on.
MRS. H. Tell me now. It must be some foolish misunderstanding, and
you know that there was to be nothing of that sort between us. We,
of all people in the world, can't afford it. Is it the Vaynor man, and
don't you like to say so? On my honour--
CAPT. G. I haven't given the Vaynor man a thought.
MRS. H. But how d'you know that I haven't?
CAPT. G. (Aside.) Here's my chance and may the Devil help me through
with it. (Aloud and measuredly.) Believe me, I do not care how often
or how tenderly you think of the Vaynor man.
MRS. H. I wonder if you mean that.--Oh, what is the good of squabbling
and pretending to misunderstand when you are only up for so short a
time? Pip, don't be a stupid!
Follows a pause, during which he crosses his left leg over his right
and continues his dinner.
CAPT. G. (In answer to the thunderstorm in her eyes.) Corns--my
MRS. H. Upon my word, you are the very rudest man in the world! I'll
never do it again.
CAPT. G. (Aside.) No, I don't think you will; but I wonder what you
will do before it's all over. (To Khitmatgar.) Thorah ur Simpkin
MRS. H. Well! Haven't you the grace to apologise, bad man?
CAPT. G. (Aside.) I mustn't let it drift back now. Trust a woman
for being as blind as a bat when she won't see.
MRS. H. I'm waiting: or would you like me to dictate a form of apology?
CAPT. G. (Desperately.) By all means dictate.
MRS. H. (Lightly.) Very well. Rehearse your several Christian names
after me and go on: 'Profess my sincere repentance.'
CAPT. G. 'Sincere repentance.'
MRS. H. 'For having behaved--'
CAPT. G. (Aside.) At last! I wish to Goodness she'd look away. 'For
having behaved'--as I have behaved, and declare that I am thoroughly
and heartily sick of the whole business, and take this opportunity of
making clear my intention of ending it, now, henceforward, and for
ever. (Aside.) If any one had told me I should be such a blackguard--!
MRS. H. (Shaking a spoonful of potato chips into her plate.) That's
not a pretty joke.
CAPT. G. No. It's a reality. (Aside.) I wonder if smashes of this
kind are always so raw.
MRS. H. Really, Pip, you're getting more absurd every day.
CAPT. G. I don't think you quite understand me. Shall I repeat it?
MRS. H. No! For pity's sake don't do that. It's too terrible, even in
CAPT. G. I'll let her think it over for a while. But I ought to be
MRS. H. I want to know what you meant by what you said just now.
CAPT. G. Exactly what I said. No less.
MRS. H. But what have I done to deserve it? What have I done?
CAPT. G. (Aside.) If she only wouldn't look at me. (Aloud and very
slowly, his eyes on his plate.) D'you remember that evening in July,
before the Rains broke, when you said that the end would have to come
sooner or later--and you wondered for which of us it would come first?
MRS. H. Yes! I was only joking. And you swore that, as long as there
was breath in your body, it should never come. And I believed you.
CAPT. G. (Fingering menu-card) Well, it has. That's all.
A long pause, during which MRS. H. bows her head and rolls the
bread-twist into little pellets: G. stares at the oleanders.
MRS. H. (Throwing back her head and laughing naturally.) They train
us women well, don't they, Pip?
CAPT. G. (Brutally, touching shirt-stud.) So far as the expression
goes. (Aside.) It isn't in her nature to take things quietly. There'll
be an explosion yet.
MRS. H. (With a shudder.) Thank you. B-but even Red Indians allow
people to wriggle when they're being tortured, I believe. (Slips fan
from girdle and fans slowly: rim of fan level with chin.)
PARTNER ON LEFT. Very close to-night, isn't it? 'You find it too much
MRS. H. Oh, no, not in the least. But they really ought to have punkahs,
even in your cool Naini Tal, oughtn't they? (Turns, dropping fan and
CAPT. G. It's all right. (Aside.) Here comes the storm!
MRS. H. (Her eyes on the tablecloth: fan ready in right hand.) It
was very cleverly managed, Pip, and I congratulate you. You swore--you
never contented yourself with merely saying a thing--you swore that,
as far as lay in your power, you'd make my wretched life pleasant for
me. And you've denied me the consolation of breaking down. I should
have done it--indeed I should. A woman would hardly have thought of
this refinement, my kind, considerate friend. (Fan-guard as before.)
You have explained things so tenderly and truthfully, too! You haven't
spoken or written a word of warning, and you have let me believe in
you till the last minute. You haven't condescended to give me your
reason yet. No! A woman could not have managed it half so well. Are
there many men like you in the world?
CAPT. G. I'm sure I don't know. (To Khitmatgar.) Ohe! Simpkin do.
MRS. H. You call yourself a man of the world, don't you? Do men of the
world behave like Devils when they do a woman the honour to get tired
CAPT. G. I'm sure I don't know. Don't speak so loud!
MRS. H. Keep us respectable, O Lord, whatever happens! Don't be afraid
of my compromising you. You've chosen your ground far too well, and
I've been properly brought up. (Lowering fan.) Haven't you any
pity, Pip, except for yourself?
CAPT. G. Wouldn't it be rather impertinent of me to say that I'm sorry
MRS. H. I think you have said it once or twice before. You're growing
very careful of my feelings. My God, Pip, I was a good woman once! You
said I was. You've made me what I am. What are you going to do with
me? What are you going to do with me? Won't you say that you are
sorry? (Helps herself to iced asparagus.)
CAPT. G. I am sorry for you, if you want the pity of such a brute as
I am. I'm awf'ly sorry for you.
MRS. H. Rather tame for a man of the world. Do you think that that
admission clears you?
CAPT. G. What can I do? I can only tell you what I think of myself.
You can't think worse than that?
MRS. H. Oh, yes, I can! And now, will you tell me the reason of all
this? Remorse? Has Bayard been suddenly conscience-stricken?
CAPT. G. (Angrily, his eyes still lowered.) No! The thing has come
to an end on my side. That's all. Mafisch!
MRS. H. 'That's all. Mafisch!' As though I were a Cairene Dragoman.
You used to make prettier speeches. D'you remember when you said---?
CAPT. G. For Heaven's sake don't bring that back! Call me anything
you like and I'll admit it--
MRS. H. But you don't care to be reminded of old lies? If I could hope
to hurt you one-tenth as much as you have hurt me to-night--No, I
wouldn't--I couldn't do it--liar though you are.
CAPT. G. I've spoken the truth.
MRS. H. My dear Sir, you flatter yourself. You have lied over the
reason. Pip, remember that I know you as you don't know yourself. You
have been everything to me, though you are--(Fan-guard.) Oh, what
a contemptible Thing it is! And so you are merely tired of me?
CAPT. G. Since you insist upon my repeating it--Yes.
MRS. H. Lie the first. I wish I knew a coarser word. Lie seems so
ineffectual in your case. The fire has just died out and there is no
fresh one? Think for a minute, Pip, if you care whether I despise you
more than I do. Simply Mafisch, is it?
CAPT. G. Yes. (Aside.) I think I deserve this.
MRS. H. Lie number two. Before the next glass chokes you, tell me her
CAPT. G. (Aside.). I'll make her pay for dragging Minnie into the
business! (Aloud.) Is it likely?
MRS. H. Very likely if you thought that it would flatter your vanity.
You'd cry my name on the house-tops to make people turn round.
CAPT. G. I wish I had. There would have been an end of this business.
MRS. H. Oh, no, there would not--And so you were going to be virtuous
and blase, were you? To come to me and say: 'I've done with you. The
incident is clo-osed.' I ought to be proud of having kept such a man
CAPT. G. (Aside.) It only remains to pray for the end of the dinner.
(Aloud.) You know what I think of myself.
MRS. H. As it's the only person in the world you ever do think of,
and as I know your mind thoroughly, I do. You want to get it all over
and-- Oh, I can't keep you back! And you're going--think of it, Pip--to
throw me over for another woman. And you swore that all other women
were-- Pip, my Pip! She can't care for you as I do. Believe me, she
can't! Is it any one that I know?
CAPT. G. Thank Goodness it isn't. (Aside.) I expected a cyclone, but
not an earthquake.
MRS. H. She can't! Is there anything that I wouldn't do for you--or
haven't done? And to think that I should take this trouble over you,
knowing what you are! Do you despise me for it?
CAPT. G. (Wiping his mouth to hide a smile.) Again? It's entirely
a work of charity on your part.
MRS. H. Ahhh! But I have no right to resent it.--Is she better-looking
than I? Who was it said--?
CAPT G. No--not that!
MRS. H. I'll be more merciful than you were. Don't you know that all
women are alike?
CAPT. G. (Aside.) Then this is the exception that proves the rule.
MRS. H. All of them! I'll tell you anything you like. I will, upon
my word! They only want the admiration--from anybody--no matter
who--anybody! But there is always one man that they care for more
than any one else in the world, and would sacrifice all the others to.
Oh, do listen! I've kept the Vaynor man trotting after me like a
poodle, and he believes that he is the only man I am interested in.
I'll tell you what he said to me.
CAPT. G. Spare him. (Aside.) I wonder what his version is.
MRS. H. He's been waiting for me to look at him all through dinner.
Shall I do it, and you can see what an idiot he looks?
CAPT. G. 'But what imports the nomination of this gentleman?'
MRS. H. Watch! (Sends a glance to the Vaynor man, who tries vainly
to combine a mouthful of ice pudding, a smirk of self-satisfaction,
a glare of intense devotion, and the stolidity of a British dining
CAPT. G. (Critically.) He doesn't look pretty. Why didn't you wait
till the spoon was out of his mouth?
MRS. H. To amuse you. She'll make an exhibition of you as I've made
of him; and people will laugh at you. Oh, Pip, can't you see that?
It's as plain as the noonday sun. You'll be trotted about and told
lies, and made a fool of like the others. I never made a fool of
you, did I?
CAPT. G. (Aside.) What a clever little woman it is!
MRS. H. Well, what have you to say?
CAPT. G. I feel better.
MRS. H. Yes, I suppose so, after I have come down to your level. I
couldn't have done it if I hadn't cared for you so much. I have spoken
CAPT. G. It doesn't alter the situation.
MRS. H. (Passionately.) Then she has said that she cares for you!
Don't believe her, Pip. It's a lie--as bad as yours to me!
CAPT. G. Ssssteady! I've a notion that a friend of yours is looking
MRS. H. He! I hate him. He introduced you to me.
CAPT. G. (Aside.) And some people would like women to assist in
making the laws. Introduction to imply condonement. (Aloud.) Well,
you see, if you can remember so far back as that, I couldn't, in common
politeness, refuse the offer.
MRS. H. In common politeness! We have got beyond that!
CAPT. G. (Aside.) Old ground means fresh trouble, (Aloud.) On my
MRS. H. Your what? Ha, ha!
CAPT. G. Dishonour, then. She's not what you imagine. I meant to--
MRS. H. Don't tell me anything about her! She won't care for you,
and when you come back, after having made an exhibition of yourself,
you'll fine me occupied with--
CAPT. G. (Insolently.) You couldn't while I am alive. (Aside.) If
that doesn't bring her pride to her rescue, nothing will.
MRS. H. (Drawing herself up). Couldn't do it? I? (Softening.)
You're right. I don't believe I could--though you are what you are--a
coward and a liar in grain.
CAPT. G. It doesn't hurt so much after your little lecture--with
MRS. H. One mass of vanity! Will nothing ever touch you in this life?
There must be a Hereafter if it's only for the benefit of---But you
will have it all to yourself.
CAPT. G. (Under his eyebrows.) Are you so certain of that?
MRS. H. I shall have had mine in this life; and it will serve me right.
CAPT. G. But the admiration that you insisted on so strongly a moment
ago? (Aside.) Oh, I am a brute!
MRS. H. (Fiercely.) Will that console me for knowing that you will
go to her with the same words, the same arguments, and the--the same
pet names you used to me? And if she cares for you, you two will laugh
over my story. Won't that be punishment heavy enough even for me--
even for me?--And it's all useless. That's another punishment.
CAPT. G. (Feebly.) Oh, come! I'm not so low as you think.
MRS. H. Not now, perhaps, but you will be. Oh, Pip, if a woman flatters
your vanity, there's nothing on earth that you would not tell her; and
no meanness that you would not do. Have I known you so long without
CAPT. G. If you can trust me in nothing else--and I don't see why I
should be trusted--you can count upon my holding my tongue.
MRS. H. If you denied everything you've said this evening and declared
it was all in fun (a long pause), I'd trust you. Not otherwise. All
I ask is, don't tell her my name. Please don't. A man might forget:
a woman never would. (Looks up table and sees hostess beginning to
collect eyes.) So it's all ended, through no fault of mine-- Haven't
I behaved beautifully? I've accepted your dismissal, and you managed
it as cruelly as you could, and I have made you respect my sex, haven't
I? (Arranging gloves and fan.) I only pray that she'll know you some
day as I know you now. I wouldn't be you then, for I think even your
conceit will be hurt. I hope she'll pay you back the humiliation you've
brought on me. I hope-- No. I don't. I can't give you up! I must
have something to look forward to or I shall go crazy. When it's all
over, come back to me, come back to me, and you'll find that you're
my Pip still!
CAPT. G. (Very clearly.) 'False move, and you pay for it. It's a
MRS. H. (Rising.) Then it was true! They said--but I wouldn't
insult you by asking. A girl! I was a girl not very long ago. Be
good to her, Pip. I daresay she believes in you.
Goes out with an uncertain smile. He watches her through the door,
and settles into a chair as the men redistribute themselves.
CAPT. G. Now, if there is any Power who looks after this world, will
He kindly tell me what I have done? (Reaching out for the claret, and
half aloud.) What have I done?
WITH ANY AMAZEMENT
And are not afraid with any amazement.
SCENE.-A bachelor's bedroom--toilet-table arranged with unnatural
neatness. CAPTAIN GADSBY asleep and snoring heavily. Time, 10.30
A. M.--a glorious autumn day at Simla. Enter delicately CAPTAIN
MAFFLIM of GADSBY'S regiment. Looks at sleeper, and shakes his head
murmuring 'Poor Gaddy.' Performs violent fantasia with hair-brushes
CAPT. M. Wake up, my sleeping beauty! (Roars.)
'Uprouse ye, then, my merry merry men!
It is our opening day!
It is our opening da-ay!'
Gaddy, the little dicky-birds have been billing and cooing for ever
so long; and I'm here!
CAPT. G. (Sitting up and yawning.) 'Mornin'. This is awf'ly good of
you, old fellow. Most awf'ly good of you. 'Don't know what I should
do without you. On my soul, I don't. 'Haven't slept a wink all night.
CAPT. M. I didn't get in till half-past eleven. 'Had a look at you
then, and you seemed to be sleeping as soundly as a condemned criminal.
CAPT. G. Jack, if you want to make those disgustingly worn-out jokes,
you'd better go away. (With portentous gravity.) It's the happiest
day in my life.
CAPT. M. (Chuckling grimly.) Not by a very long chalk, my son. You're
going through some of the most refined torture you've ever known. But
be calm. I am with you. 'Shun! Dress!
CAPT. G. Eh! Wha-at?
CAPT. M. DO you suppose that you are your own master for the next
twelve hours? If you do, of course--- (Makes for the door.)
CAPT. G. No! For Goodness' sake, old man, don't do that! You'll see
me through, won't you? I've been mugging up that beastly drill, and
can't remember a line of it.
CAPT. M. (Overhauling G's uniform.) Go and tub. Don't bother me.
I'll give you ten minutes to dress in.
Interval, filled by the noise as of one splashing in the bath-room.
CAPT. G. (Emerging from dressing-room.) What time is it?
CAPT. M. Nearly eleven.
CAPT. G. Five hours more. O Lord!
CAPT. M. (Aside.) 'First sign of funk, that. 'Wonder if it's going
to spread. (Aloud.) Come along to breakfast.
CAPT. G. I can't eat anything. I don't want any breakfast.
CAPT. M. (Aside.) So early! (Aloud.) Captain Gadsby, I order you
to eat breakfast, and a dashed good breakfast, too. None of your bridal
airs and graces with me!
Leads G. downstairs, and stands over him while he eats two chops.
CAPT. G. (Who has looked at his watch thrice in the last five
minutes.) What time is it?
CAPT. M. Time to come for a walk. Light up.
CAPT. G. I haven't smoked for ten days, and I won't now. (Takes
cheroot which M. has cut for him, and blows smoke through his nose
luxuriously.) We aren't going down the Mall, are we?
CAPT. M. (Aside.) They're all alike in these stages. (Aloud.) No,
my Vestal. We're going along the quietest road we can find.
CAPT. G. Any chance of seeing Her?
CAPT. M. Innocent! No! Come along, and, if you want me for the final
obsequies, don't cut my eye out with your stick.
CAPT. G. (Spinning round.) I say, isn't She the dearest creature
that ever walked? What's the time? What comes after 'wilt thou take
CAPT. M, You go for the ring. R'clect it'll be on the top of my
right-hand little ringer, and just be careful how you draw it off,
because I shall have the Verger's fees somewhere in my glove.
CAPT. G. (Walking forward hastily.) D---the Verger! Come along! It's
past twelve and I haven't seen Her since yesterday evening. (Spinning
round again.) She's an absolute angel, Jack, and She's a dashed deal
too good for me. Look here, does She come up the aisle on my arm, or
CAPT. M. If I thought that there was the least chance of your
remembering anything for two consecutive minutes, I'd tell you. Stop
passaging about like that!
CAPT. G. (Halting in the middle of the road.) I say, Jack.
CAPT. M. Keep quiet for another ten minutes if you can, you lunatic;
The two tramp at five miles an hour for fifteen minutes.
CAPT. G. What's the time? How about that cursed wedding-cake and the
slippers? They don't throw 'em about in church, do they?
CAPT. M. In-variably. The Padre leads off with his boots.
CAPT. G. Confound your silly soul! Don't make fun of me. I can't stand
it, and I won't!
CAPT. M. (Untroubled.) So-ooo, old horse! You'll have to sleep for
a couple of hours this afternoon.
CAPT. G. (Spinning round) I'm not going to be treated like a dashed
child. Understand that!
CAPT. M. (Aside) Nerves gone to fiddle-strings. What a day we're
having! (Tenderly putting his hand on G's. shoulder) My David, how
long have you known this Jonathan? Would I come up here to make a fool
of you-after all these years?
CAPT. G. (Penitently.) I know, I know, Jack--but I'm as upset as I
can be. Don't mind what I say. Just hear me run through the drill and
see if I've got it all right:---
'To have and to hold for better or worse, as it was in the beginning,
is now, and ever shall be, world without end, so help me God. Amen.'
CAPT. M. (Suffocating with suppressed laughter) Yes. That's about
the gist of it. I'll prompt if you get into a hat.
CAPT. G. (Earnestly) Yes, you'll stick by me, Jack, won't you? I'm
awf'ly happy, but I don't mind telling YOU that I'm in a blue funk!
CAPT. M. (Gravely) Are you? I should never have noticed it. You don't
LOOK like it.
CAPT. G. Don't I? That's all right. (Spinning round.) On my soul and
honour, Jack, She's the sweetest little angel that ever came down from
the sky. There isn't a woman on earth fit to speak to Her.
CAPT. M. (Aside.) And this is old Gaddy! (Aloud.) Go on if it
CAPT. G. You can laugh! That's all you wild asses of bachelors are fit
CAPT. M. (Drawling.) You never WOULD wait for the troop to come up.
You aren't quite married yet, y' know.
CAPT. G. Ugh! That reminds me. I don't believe I shall be able to get
into my boots. Let's go home and try 'em on! (Hurries forward.)
CAPT. M. 'Wouldn't be in your shoes for anything that Asia has to
CAPT. G. (Spinning round.) That just shows your hideous blackness
of soul-your dense stupidity-your brutal narrow-mindedness. There's
only one fault about you. You're the best of good fellows, and I don't
know what I should have done without you, but-you aren't married.
(Wags his head gravely.) Take a wife, Jack.
CAPT. M. (With a face like a wall.) Ya-as. Whose for choice?
CAPT. G. If you're going to be a blackguard, I'm going on--What's the
CAPT. M. (Hums.)---
'An' since 'twas very clear we drank only ginger-beer,
Faith, there must ha'been some stingo in the ginger.'
Come back, you maniac. I'm going to take you home, and you're going
to lie down.
CAPT. G. What on earth do I want to lie down for?
CAPT. M. Give me a light from your cheroot and see.
CAPT. G. (Watching cheroot-butt quiver like a tuning-fork.) Sweet
state I'm in!
CAPT. M. You are. I'll get you a peg and you'll go to sleep.
They return and M. compounds a four-finger peg.
CAPT. G. O bus! bus! It'll make me as drunk as an owl.
CAPT. M. Curious thing, 'twon't have the slightest effect on you. Drink
it off, chuck yourself down there, and go to bye-bye.
CAPT. G. It's absurd. I shan't sleep. I know I shan't!
Falls into heavy doze at end of seven minutes. CAPT. M.
watches him tenderly.
CAPT. M. Poor old Gaddy! I've seen a few turned off before, but never
one who went to the gallows in this condition. 'Can't tell how it
affects 'em, though. It's the thoroughbreds that sweat when they're
backed into double-harness.-And that's the man who went through the
guns at Amdheran like a devil possessed of devils. (Leans over G.)
But this is worse than the guns, old pal--worse than the guns, isn't
it? (G. turns in his sleep, and M. touches him clumsily on the
forehead.) Poor, dear old Gaddy! Going like the rest of 'em-going
like the rest of 'em---Friend that sticketh closer than a brother---
eight years. Dashed bit of a slip of a girl-eight weeks! And-where's
your friend? (Smokes disconsolately till church clock strikes three.)
CAPT. M. Up with you! Get into your kit.
CAPT. G. Already? Isn't it too soon? Hadn't I better have a shave?
CAPT. M. NO! You're all right. (Aside.) He'd chip his chin to pieces.
CAPT. G. What's the hurry?
CAPT. M. You've got to be there first.
CAPT. G. To be stared at?
CAPT. M. Exactly. You're part of the show. Where's the burnisher? Your
spurs are in a shameful state.
CAPT. G. (Gruffly) Jack, I be damned if you shall do that for me.
CAPT. M. (More gruffly.) Dry up and get dressed! If I choose to
clean your spurs, you're under my orders.
CAPT. G. dresses. M. follows suit.
CAPT. M. (Critically, walking round.) M'yes, you'll do. Only don't
look so like a criminal. Ring, gloves, fees--that's all right for me.
Let your moustache alone. Now, if the ponies are ready, we'll go.
CAPT. G. (Nervously.) It's much too soon. Let's light up! Let's have
a peg! Let's--
CAPT. M. Let's make bally asses of ourselves!
To prayers--we call."
CAPT. M. There go the bells! Come on--unless you'd rather not. (They
'We honour the King
And Brides joy do bring--
Good tidings we tell,
And ring the Dead's knell.'
CAPT. G. (Dismounting at the door of the Church.) I say, aren't we
much too soon? There are no end of people inside. I say, aren't we
much too late? Stick by me, Jack! What the devil do I do?
CAPT. M. Strike an attitude at the head of the aisle and wait for Her.
(G. groans as M. wheels him into position before three hundred
CAPT. M. (Imploringly.) Gaddy, if you love me, for pity's sake, for
the Honour of the Regiment, stand up! Chuck yourself into your uniform!
Look like a man! I've got to speak to the Padre a minute. (G. breaks
into a gentle perspiration.) If you wipe your face I'll never be
your best man again. Stand up! (G. trembles visibly.)
CAPT. M. (Returning.) She's coming now. Look out when the music
starts. There's the organ beginning to clack.
Bride steps out of 'rickshaw at Church door. G. catches a glimpse
of her and takes heart.
'The Voice that breathed o'er Eden,
That earliest marriage day,
The primal marriage-blessing,
It hath not passed away.'
CAPT. M. (Watching G.) By Jove! He is looking well. 'Didn't think
he had it in him.
CAPT. G. How long does this hymn go on for?
CAPT. M. It will be over directly. (Anxiously.) Beginning to bleach
and gulp? Hold on, Gaddy, and think o' the Regiment.
CAPT. G. (Measuredly.) I say, there's a big brown lizard crawling
up that wall.
CAPT. M. My Sainted Mother! The last stage of collapse!
Bride comes up to left of altar, lifts her eyes once to G. who is
suddenly smitten mad.
CAPT. G. (To himself again and again.) Little Featherweight's a
woman--a woman! And I thought she was a little girl.
CAPT. M. (In a whisper.) Form the halt--inward wheel.
CAPT. G. obeys mechanically and the ceremony proceeds.
PADRE. . . . only unto her as long as ye both shall live?
CAPT. G. (His throat useless.) Ha-hmmm!
CAPT. M. Say you will or you won't. There's no second deal here.
Bride gives response with perfect coolness, and is given away by the
CAPT. G. (Thinking to show his learning.) Jack, give me away now,
CAPT. M. You're given yourself away quite enough. Her right hand,
man! Repeat! Repeat! 'Theodore Philip.' Have you forgotten your own
CAPT. G. stumbles through Affirmation, which Bride repeats without a
CAPT. M. Now the ring! Follow the Padre! Don't pull off my glove! Here
it is! Great Cupid, he's found his voice!
G. repeats Troth in a voice to be heard to the end of the Church and
turns on his heel.
CAPT. M. (Desperately.) Rein back! Back to your troop! 'Tisn't half
PADRE. . . . joined together let no man put asunder.
CAPT. G. paralysed with fear jibs after Blessing.
CAPT. M. (Quickly.) On your own front--one length. Take her with
you. I don't come. You've nothing to say. (CAPT. G. jingles up to
CAPT. M. (In a piercing rattle meant to be a whisper.)
Kneel, you stiff-necked ruffian! Kneel!
PADRE. . . . whose daughters are ye so long as ye do well and are not
afraid with any amazement.
CAPT. M. Dismiss! Break off! Left wheel!
All troop to vestry. They sign.
CAPT. M. Kiss Her, Gaddy.
CAPT. G. (Rubbing the ink into his glove.) Eh! Wha--at?
CAPT. M. (Taking one pace to Bride.) If you don't, I shall.
CAPT. G. (Interposing an arm.) Not this journey!
General kissing, in which CAPT. G. is pursued by
CAPT. G. (Faintly to M.) This is Hades! Can I wipe my face now?
CAPT. M. My responsibility has ended. Better ask Missis Gadsby.
CAPT. G. winces as though shot and procession is
Mendelssohned out of Church to house, where usual
tortures take place over the wedding-cake.
CAPT. M. (At table.) Up with you, Gaddy. They expect a speech.
CAPT. G. (After three minutes' agony.) Ha-hmmm. (Thunders of
CAPT. M. Doocid good, for a first attempt. Now go and change your kit
while Mamma is weeping over--'the Missus.' (CAPT. G. disappears.
CAPT. M. starts up tearing his hair.) It's not half legal. Where
are the shoes? Get an ayah.
AYAH. Missie Captain Sahib done gone band karo all the jutis.
CAPT. M. (Brandishing scabbarded sword.) Woman, produce those shoes!
Some one lend me a bread-knife. We mustn't crack Gaddy's head more
than it is. (Slices heel off white satin slipper and puts slipper up
his sleeve.) Where is the Bride? (To the company at large.) Be
tender with that rice. It's a heathen custom. Give me the big bag.
Bride slips out quietly into 'rickshaw and departs
towards the sunset.
CAPT. M. (In the open.) Stole away, by Jove! So much, the worse for
Gaddy! Here he is. Now Gaddy, this'll be livelier than Amdheran! Where's
CAPT. G. (Furiously, seeing that the women are out of earshot.) Where
the ---- is my Wife?
CAPT. M. Half-way to Mahasu by this time. You'll have to ride like
Horse comes round on his hind legs; refuses to let G. handle him.
CAPT. G. Oh you will, will you? Get round, you brute-you hog-you beast!
Wrenches horse's head over, nearly breaking lower jaw; swings himself
into saddle, and sends home both spurs in the midst of a spattering
gale of Best Patna.
CAPT. M. For your life and your love--ride, Gaddy!--And God bless you!
Throws half a pound of rice at G., who disappears, bowed forward on
the saddle, in a cloud of sunlit dust.
CAPT. M. I've lost old Gaddy. (Lights cigarette and strolls off,
'You may carve it on his tombstone, you may cut it on his card,
That a young man married is a young man marred!'
MISS DEERCOURT. (From her horse.) Really, Captain Mafflin! You are
more plain spoken than polite!
CAPT. M. (Aside.) They say marriage is like cholera. 'Wonder who'll
be the next victim.
White satin slipper slides from his sleeve and falls at his feet.
THE GARDEN OF EDEN
And ye shall be as--Gods!
SCENE.--Thymy grass-plot at back of the Mahasu dak-bungalow,
overlooking little wooded valley. On the left, glimpse of the Dead
Forest of Fagoo; on the right, Simla Hills. In background, line of the
Snows. CAPTAIN GADSBY, now three weeks a husband, is smoking the
pipe of peace on a rug in the sunshine. Banjo and tobacco-pouch on
rug. Overhead the Fagoo eagles. MRS. G. comes out of bungalow.
MRS. G. My husband!
CAPT. G. (Lazily, with intense enjoyment.) Eh, wha-at? Say that
MRS. G. I've written to Mamma and told her that we shall be back on
CAPT. G. Did you give her my love?
MRS. G. No, I kept all that for myself. (Sitting down by his side.)
I thought you wouldn't mind.
CAPT. G. (With mock sternness.) I object awf'ly. How did you know
that it was yours to keep?
MRS. G. I guessed, Phil.
CAPT. G. (Rapturously.) Lit-tle Featherweight!
MRS. G. I won't be called those sporting pet names, bad boy.
CAPT. G. You'll be called anything I choose. Has it ever occurred to
you, Madam, that you are my Wife?
MRS. G. It has. I haven't ceased wondering at it yet.
CAPT. G. Nor I. It seems so strange; and yet, somehow, it doesn't.
(Confidently.) You see, it could have been no one else.
MRS. G. (Softly.) No. No one else--for me or for you. It must have
been all arranged from the beginning. Phil, tell me again what made
you care for me.
CAPT. G. How could I help it? You were you, you know.
MRS. G. Did you ever want to help it? Speak the truth!
CAPT. G. (A twinkle in his eye.) I did, darling, just at the first.
But only at the very first. (Chuckles.) I called you--stoop low and
I'll whisper--'a little beast.' Ho! Ho! Ho!
MRS. G. (Taking him by the moustache and making him sit up.)
'A--little--beast!' Stop laughing over your crime! And yet you had
the--the--awful cheek to propose to me!
CAPT. G. I'd changed my mind then. And you weren't a little beast any
MRS. G. Thank you, Sir! And when was I ever?
CAPT. G. Never! But that first day, when you gave me tea in that
peach-coloured muslin gown thing, you looked--you did indeed, dear--such
an absurd little mite. And I didn't know what to say to you.
MRS. G. (Twisting moustache.) So you said 'little beast.' Upon my
word, Sir! I called you a 'Crrrreature,' but I wish now I had
called you something worse.
CAPT. G. (Very meekly.) I apologise, but you're hurting me awf'ly.
(Interlude.) You're welcome to torture me again on those terms.
MRS. G. Oh, why did you let me do it?
CAPT. G. (Looking across valley.) No reason in particular, but--if
it amused you or did you any good--you might--wipe those dear little
boots of yours on me.
MRS. G. (Stretching out her hands.) Don't! Oh, don't! Philip, my
King, please don't talk like that. It's how I feel. You're so much
too good for me. So much too good!
CAPT. G. Me! I'm not fit to put my arm round you. (Puts it round.)
MRS. G. Yes, you are. But I--what have I ever done?
CAPT. G. Given me a wee bit of your heart, haven't you, my Queen?
MRS. G. That's nothing. Any one would do that. They cou--couldn't
CAPT. G. Pussy, you'll make me horribly conceited. Just when I was
beginning to feel so humble, too.
MRS. G. Humble! I don't believe it's in your character.
CAPT. G. What do you know of my character, Impertinence?
MRS. G. Ah, but I shall, shan't I, Phil? I shall have time in all the
years and years to come, to know everything about you; and there will
be no secrets between us.
CAPT. G. Little witch! I believe you know me thoroughly already.
MRS. G. I think I can guess. You're selfish?
CAPT. G. Yes.
MRS. G. Foolish?
CAPT. G. Very.
MRS. G. And a dear?
CAPT. G. That is as my lady pleases.
MRS. G. Then your lady is pleased. (A pause.) D'you know that we're
two solemn, serious, grown-up people--
CAPT. G. (Tilting her straw hat over her eyes.) You grown-up! Pooh!
You're a baby.
MRS. G. And we're talking nonsense.
CAPT. G. Then let's go on talking nonsense. I rather like it. Pussy,
I'll tell you a secret. Promise not to repeat?
MRS. G. Ye--es. Only to you.
CAPT. G. I love you.
MRS. G. Re-ally! For how long?
CAPT. G. For ever and ever.
MRS. G. That's a long time.
CAPT. G. 'Think so? It's the shortest I can do with.
MRS. G. You're getting quite clever.
CAPT. G. I'm talking to you.
MRS. G. Prettily turned. Hold up your stupid old head and I'll pay you
CAPT. G. (Affecting supreme contempt.) Take it yourself if you want
MRS. G. I've a great mind to--and I will! (Takes it and is repaid
CAPT. G. Little Featherweight, it's my opinion that we are a couple
MRS. G. We're the only two sensible people in the world! Ask the eagle.
He's coming by.
CAPT. G. Ah! I dare say he's seen a good many sensible people at Mahasu.
They say that those birds live for ever so long.
MRS. G. How long?
CAPT. G. A hundred and twenty years.
MRS. G. A hundred and twenty years! O-oh! And in a hundred and twenty
years where will these two sensible people be?
CAPT. G. What does it matter so long as we are together now?
MRS. G. (Looking round the horizon.) Yes. Only you and I--I and
you--in the whole wide, wide world until the end. (Sees the line of
the Snows.) How big and quiet the hills look! D'you think they care
CAPT. G. 'Can't say I've consulted 'em particularly. I care, and
that's enough for me.
MRS. G. (Drawing nearer to him.) Yes, now--but afterwards. What's
that little black blur on the Snows?
CAPT. G. A snowstorm, forty miles away. You'll see it move, as the
wind carries it across the face of that spur, and then it will be all
MRS. G. And then it will be all gone. (Shivers.)
CAPT. G. (Anxiously.) 'Not chilled, pet, are you? 'Better let me get
MRS. G. No. Don't leave me, Phil. Stay here. I believe I am afraid.
Oh, why are the hills so horrid! Phil, promise me, promise me that
you'll always love me.
CAPT. G. What's the trouble, darling? I can't promise any more than
I have; but I'll promise that again and again if you like.
MRS. G. (Her head on his shoulder.) Say it, then--say it!
N-no--don't! The--the--eagles would laugh. (Recovering.) My husband,
you've married a little goose.
CAPT. G. (Very tenderly.) Have I? I am content whatever she is, so
long as she is mine.
MRS. G. (Quickly.) Because she is yours or because she is me mineself?
CAPT. G. Because she is both. (Piteously.) I'm not clever, dear, and
I don't think I can make myself understood properly.
MRS. G. I understand. Pip, will you tell me something?
CAPT. G. Anything you like. (Aside.) I wonder what's coming now.
MRS. G. (Haltingly, her eyes lowered.) You told me once in the old
days--centuries and centuries ago--that you had been engaged before.
I didn't say anything--then.
CAPT. G. (Innocently.) Why not?
MRS. G. (Raising her eyes to his.) Because--because I was afraid of
losing you, my heart. But now--tell about it--please.
CAPT. G. There's nothing to tell. I was awf'ly old then--nearly two
and twenty--and she was quite that.
MRS. G. That means she was older than you. I shouldn't like her to
have been younger. Well?
CAPT. G. Well, I fancied myself in love and raved about a bit, and--oh,
yes, by Jove! I made up poetry. Ha! Ha!
MRS. G. You never wrote any for me! What happened?
CAPT. G. I came out here, and the whole thing went phut. She wrote
to say that there had been a mistake, and then she married.
MRS. G. Did she care for you much?
CAPT. G. No. At least she didn't show it as far as I remember.
MRS. G. As far as you remember! Do you remember her name? (Hears it
and bows her head.) Thank you, my husband.
CAPT. G. Who but you had the right? Now, Little Featherweight, have
you ever been mixed up in any dark and dismal tragedy?
MRS. G. If you call me Mrs. Gadsby, p'raps I'll tell.
CAPT. G. (Throwing Parade rasp into his voice.) Mrs. Gadsby, confess!
MRS. G. Good Heavens, Phil! I never knew that you could speak in that
CAPT. G. You don't know half my accomplishments yet. Wait till we are
settled in the Plains, and I'll show you how I bark at my troop. You
were going to say, darling?
MRS. G. I--I don't like to, after that voice. (Tremulously.) Phil,
never you dare to speak to me in that tone, whatever I may do!
CAPT. G. My poor little love! Why, you're shaking all over. I am so
sorry. Of course I never meant to upset you. Don't tell me anything.
I'm a brute.
MRS. G. No, you aren't, and I will tell--There was a man.
CAPT. G. (Lightly.) Was there? Lucky man!
MRS. G. (In a whisper.) And I thought I cared for him.
CAPT. G. Still luckier man! Well?
MRS. G. And I thought I cared for him--and I didn't--and then you
came--and I cared for you very, very much indeed. That's all. (Face
hidden.) You aren't angry, are you?
CAPT. G. Angry? Not in the least. (Aside.) Good Lord, what have I
done to deserve this angel?
MRS. G. (Aside.) And he never asked for the name! How funny men
are! But perhaps it's as well.
CAPT. G. That man will go to heaven because you once thought you cared
for him. 'Wonder if you'll ever drag me up there?
MRS. G. (Firmly.) 'Shan't go if you don't.
CAPT. G. Thanks. I say, Pussy, I don't know much about your religious
beliefs. You were brought up to believe in a heaven and all that,
MRS. G. Yes. But it was a pincushion heaven, with hymn-books in all
CAPT. G. (Wagging his head with intense conviction.) Never
mind. There is a pukka heaven.
MRS. G. Where do you bring that message from, my prophet?
CAPT. G. Here! Because we care for each other. So it's all right.
MRS. G. (As a troop of langurs crash through the branches.) So it's
all right. But Darwin says that we came from those!
CAPT. G. (Placidly.) Ah! Darwin was never in love with an angel.
That settles it. Sstt, you brutes! Monkeys, indeed! You shouldn't read
MRS. G. (Folding her hands.) If it pleases my Lord the King to issue
CAPT. G. Don't, dear one. There are no orders between us. Only I'd
rather you didn't. They lead to nothing, and bother people's heads.
MRS. G. Like your first engagement.
CAPT.G. (With an immense calm.) That was a necessary evil and led
to you. Are you nothing?
MRS. G. Not so very much, am I?
CAPT. G. All this world and the next to me.
MRS. G. (Very softly.) My boy of boys! Shall I tell you something?
CAPT. G. Yes, if it's not dreadful--about other men.
MRS. G. It's about my own bad little self.
CAPT. G. Then it must be good. Go on, dear.
MRS. G. (Slowly.) I don't know why I'm telling you, Pip; but if ever
you marry again--(Interlude.) Take your hand from my mouth or I'll
bite! In the future, then remember-- I don't know quite how to put it!
CAPT. G. (Snorting indignantly.) Don't try. 'Marry again,' indeed!
MRS. G. I must. Listen, my husband. Never, never, never tell your
wife anything that you do not wish her to remember and think over all
her life. Because a woman--yes, I am a woman--can't forget.
CAPT. G. By Jove, how do you know that?
MRS. G. (Confusedly.) I don't. I'm only guessing. I am--I was--a
silly little girl; but I feel that I know so much, oh, so very much
more than you, dearest. To begin with, I'm your wife.
CAPT. G. So I have been led to believe.
MRS. G. And I shall want to know every one of your secrets--to share
everything you know with you. (Stares round desperately.)
CAPT. G. So you shall, dear, so you shall--but don't look like that.
MRS. G. For your own sake don't stop me, Phil. I shall never talk to
you in this way again. You must not tell me! At least, not now. Later
on, when I'm an old matron it won't matter, but if you love me, be
very good to me now; for this part of my life I shall never forget!
Have I made you understand?
CAPT. G. I think so, child. Have I said anything yet that you
MRS. G. Will you be very angry? That--that voice, and what you said
about the engagement--
CAPT. G. But you asked to be told that, darling.
MRS. G. And that's why you shouldn't have told me! You must be the
judge, and, oh, Pip, dearly as I love you, I shan't be able to help
you! I shall hinder you, and you must judge in spite of me!
CAPT. G. (Meditatively.) We have a great many things to find out
together, God help us both--say so, Pussy--but we shall understand
each other better every day; and I think I'm beginning to see now. How
in the world did you come to know just the importance of giving me
just that lead?
MRS. G. I've told you that I don't know. Only somehow it seemed that,
in all this new life, I was being guided for your sake as well as my
CAPT. G. (Aside.) Then Mafflin was right! They know, and we--we're
blind--all of us. (Lightly.) 'Getting a little beyond our depth,
dear, aren't we? I'll remember, and, if I fail, let me be punished as
MRS. G. There shall be no punishment. We'll start into life together
from here--you and I--and no one else.
CAPT. G. And no one else. (A pause.) Your eyelashes are all wet,
Sweet? Was there ever such a quaint little Absurdity?
MRS. G. Was there ever such nonsense talked before?
CAPT. G. (Knocking the ashes out of his pipe.) 'Tisn't what we say,
it's what we don't say, that helps. And it's all the profoundest
philosophy. But no one would understand--even if it were put into a
MRS. G. The idea! No--only we ourselves, or people like ourselves--if
there are any people like us.
CAPT. G. (Magisterially.) All people, not like ourselves, are blind
MRS. G. (Wiping her eyes.) Do you think, then, that there are any
people as happy as we are?
CAPT. G. 'Must be--unless we've appropriated all the happiness in the
MRS. G. (Looking towards Simla.) Poor dears! Just fancy if we have!
CAPT. G. Then we'll hang on to the whole show, for it's a great deal
too jolly to lose--eh, wife o' mine?
MRS. G. O Pip! Pip! How much of you is a solemn, married man and how
much a horrid, slangy schoolboy?
CAPT. G. When you tell me how much of you was eighteen last birthday
and how much is as old as the Sphinx and twice as mysterious, perhaps
I'll attend to you. Lend me that banjo. The spirit moveth me to yowl
at the sunset.
MRS. G. Mind! It's not tuned. Ah! How that jars.
CAPT. G. (Turning pegs.) It's amazingly difficult to keep a banjo
to proper pitch.
MRS. G. It's the same with all musical instruments. What shall it be?
CAPT. G. 'Vanity,' and let the hills hear. (Sings through the first
and half of the second verse. Turning to MRS. G.) Now, chorus! Sing,
BOTH TOGETHER. (Con brio, to the horror of the monkeys who are
settling for the night.)--
'Vanity, all is Vanity,' said Wisdom, scorning me--
I clasped my true Love's tender hand and answered
frank and free--ee:--
'If this be Vanity who'd be wise?
If this be Vanity who'd be wise?
If this be Vanity who'd be wi--ise?
(Crescendo.) Vanity let it be!'
MRS. G. (Defiantly to the gray of the evening sky.) 'Vanity let
ECHO. (From the Fagoo spur.) Let it be!
And you may go into every room of the house and see everything that
is there, but into the Blue Room you must not go.
--The Story of Blue Beard.
SCENE.--The GADSBYS' bungalow in the Plains. Time, 11 A. M. on
a Sunday morning. CAPTAIN GADSBY, in his shirt-sleeves, is bending
over a complete set of Hussar's equipment, from saddle to
picketing-rope, which is neatly spread over the floor of his study.
He is smoking an unclean briar, and his forehead is puckered with
CAPT. G. (To himself, fingering a headstall.) Jack's an ass. There's
enough brass on this to load a mule--and, if the Americans know anything
about anything, it can be cut down to a bit only. 'Don't want the
watering-bridle, either. Humbug!--Half a dozen sets of chains and
pulleys for one horse! Rot! (Scratching his head.) Now, let's consider
it all over from the beginning. By Jove, I've forgotten the scale of
weights! Ne'er mind. 'Keep the bit only, and eliminate every boss from
the crupper to breastplate. No breastplate at all. Simple leather strap
across the breast--like the Russians. Hi! Jack never thought of that!
MRS. G. (Entering hastily, her hand bound in a cloth.) Oh, Pip,
I've scalded my hand over that horrid, horrid Tiparee jam!
CAPT. G. (Absently.) Eh! Wha-at?
MRS. G. (With round-eyed reproach.) I've scalded it aw-fully!
Aren't you sorry? And I did so want that jam to jam properly.
CAPT. G. Poor little woman! Let me kiss the place and make it well.
(Unrolling bandage.) You small sinner! Where's that scald? I can't
MRS. G. On the top of the little finger. There!--It's a most 'normous
CAPT. G. (Kissing little finger.) Baby! Let Hyder look after the
jam. You know I don't care for sweets.
MRS. G. In-deed?--Pip!
CAPT. G. Not of that kind, anyhow. And now run along, Minnie, and leave
me to my own base devices. I'm busy.
MRS. G. (Calmly settling herself in long chair.) So I see. What a
mess you're making! Why have you brought all that smelly leather stuff
into the house?
CAPT. G. To play with. Do you mind, dear?
MRS. G. Let me play too. I'd like it.
CAPT. G. I'm afraid you wouldn't, Pussy--Don't you think that jam will
burn, or whatever it is that jam does when it's not looked after by
a clever little housekeeper?
MRS. G. I thought you said Hyder could attend to it. I left him in the
veranda, stirring--when I hurt myself so.
CAPT. G. (His eye returning to the equipment.) Po-oor little
woman!--Three pounds four and seven is three eleven, and that can be
cut down to two eight, with just a lee-tle care, without weakening
anything. Farriery is all rot in incompetent hands. What's the use of
a shoe-case when a man's scouting? He can't stick it on with a
lick--like a stamp--the shoe! Skittles!
MRS. G. What's skittles? Pah! What is this leather cleaned with?
CAPT. G. Cream and champagne and-- Look here, dear, do you really want
to talk to me about anything important?
MRS. G. No. I've done my accounts, and I thought I'd like to see what
CAPT. G. Well, love, now you've seen and--Would you mind?--That is
to say--Minnie, I really am busy.
MRS. G. You want me to go?
CAPT. G. Yes, dear, for a little while. This tobacco will hang in your
dress, and saddlery doesn't interest you.
MRS. G. Everything you do interests me, Pip.
CAPT. G. Yes, I know, I know, dear. I'll tell you all about it some
day when I've put a head on this thing. In the meantime--
MRS. G. I'm to be turned out of the room like a troublesome child?
CAPT. G. No-o. I don't mean that exactly. But, you see, I shall be
tramping up and down, shifting these things to and fro, and I shall
be in your way. Don't you think so?
MRS. G. Can't I lift them about? Let me try. (Reaches forward to
CAPT. G. Good gracious, child, don't touch it. You'll hurt yourself.
(Picking up saddle.) Little girls aren't expected to handle numdahs.
Now, where would you like it put? (Holds saddle above his head.)
MRS. G. (A break in her voice.) Nowhere. Pip, how good you are--and
how strong! Oh, what's that ugly red streak inside your arm?
CAPT. G. (Lowering saddle quickly.) Nothing. It's a mark of sorts.
(Aside.) And Jack's coming to tiffin with his notions all cut and
MRS. G. I know it's a mark, but I've never seen it before. It runs all
up the arm. What is it?
CAPT. G. A cut--if you want to know.
MRS. G. Want to know! Of course I do! I can't have my husband cut to
pieces in this way. How did it come? Was it an accident? Tell me, Pip.
CAPT. G. (Grimly.) No. 'Twasn't an accident. I got it--from a man--in
MRS. G. In action? Oh, Pip, and you never told me!
CAPT. G. I'd forgotten all about it.
MRS. G. Hold up your arm! What a horrid, ugly scar! Are you sure it
doesn't hurt now? How did the man give it you?
CAPT. G. (Desperately looking at his watch.) With a knife. I came
down--old Van Loo did, that's to say--and fell on my leg, so I couldn't
run. And then this man came up and began chopping at me as I sprawled.
MRS. G. Oh, don't, don't! That's enough!--Well, what happened?
CAPT. G. I couldn't get to my holster, and Mafflin came round the
corner and stopped the performance.
MRS. G. How? He's such a lazy man, I don't believe he did.
CAPT. G. Don't you? I don't think the man had much doubt about it.
Jack cut his head off.
MRS. G. Cut--his--head--off! 'With one blow,' as they say in the books?
CAPT. G. I'm not sure. I was too interested in myself to know much
about it. Anyhow, the head was off, and Jack was punching old Van Loo
in the ribs to make him get up. Now you know all about it, dear, and
MRS. G. You want me to go, of course. You never told me about this,
though I've been married to you for ever so long; and you never
would have told me if I hadn't found out; and you never do tell
me anything about yourself, or what you do, or what you take an interest
CAPT. G. Darling, I'm always with you, aren't I?
MRS. G. Always in my pocket, you were going to say. I know you are;
but you are always thinking away from me.
CAPT. G. (Trying to hide a smile.) Am I? I wasn't aware of it. I'm
MRS. G. (Piteously.) Oh, don't make fun of me! Pip, you know what
I mean. When you are reading one of those things about Cavalry, by
that idiotic Prince--why doesn't he be a Prince instead of a
CAPT. G. Prince Kraft a stable-boy--Oh, my Aunt! Never mind, dear.
You were going to say?
MRS. G. It doesn't matter; you don't care for what I say. Only--only
you get up and walk about the room, staring in front of you, and then
Mafflin comes in to dinner, and after I'm in the drawing-room I can
hear you and him talking, and talking, and talking, about things I
can't understand, and--oh, I get so tired and feel so lonely!--I
don't want to complain and be a trouble, Pip; but I do--indeed I do!
CAPT. G. My poor darling! I never thought of that. Why don't you ask
some nice people in to dinner?
MRS. G. Nice people! Where am I to find them? Horrid frumps! And if I
did, I shouldn't be amused. You know I only want you.
CAPT. G. And you have me surely, Sweetheart?
MRS. G. I have not! Pip, why don't you take me into your life?
CAPT. G. More than I do? That would be difficult, dear.
MRS. G. Yes, I suppose it would--to you. I'm no help to you--no
companion to you; and you like to have it so.
CAPT. G. Aren't you a little unreasonable, Pussy?
MRS. G. (Stamping her foot.) I'm the most reasonable woman in the
world--when I'm treated properly.
CAPT. G. And since when have I been treating you improperly?
MRS. G. Always--and since the beginning. You know you have.
CAPT. G. I don't; but I'm willing to be convinced.
MRS. G. (Pointing to saddlery.) There!
CAPT. G. How do you mean?
MRS. G. What does all that mean? Why am I not to be told? Is it so
CAPT. G. I forget its exact Government value just at present. It means
that it is a great deal too heavy.
MRS. G. Then why do you touch it?
CAPT. G. To make it lighter. See here, little love, I've one notion
and Jack has another, but we are both agreed that all this equipment
is about thirty pounds too heavy. The thing is how to cut it down
without weakening any part of it, and, at the same time, allowing the
trooper to carry everything he wants for his own comfort--socks and
shirts and things of that kind.
MRS. G. Why doesn't he pack them in a little trunk?
CAPT. G. (Kissing her.) Oh, you darling! Pack them in a little trunk,
indeed! Hussars don't carry trunks, and it's a most important thing
to make the horse do all the carrying.
MRS. G. But why need you bother about it? You're not a trooper.
CAPT. G. No; but I command a few score of him; and equipment is nearly
everything in these days.
MRS. G. More than me?
CAPT. G. Stupid! Of course not; but it's a matter that I'm tremendously
interested in, because if I or Jack, or I and Jack, work out some sort
of lighter saddlery and all that, it's possible that we may get it
MRS. G. How?
CAPT. G. Sanctioned at Home, where they will make a sealed pattern--a
pattern that all the saddlers must copy--and so it will be used by all
MRS. G. And that interests you?
CAPT. G. It's part of my profession, y'know, and my profession is a
good deal to me. Everything in a soldier's equipment is important, and
if we can improve that equipment, so much the better for the soldiers
and for us.
MRS.G. Who's 'us'?
CAPT. G. Jack and I; only Jack's notions are too radical. What's that
big sigh for, Minnie?
MRS. G. Oh, nothing--and you've kept all this a secret from me! Why?
CAPT. G. Not a secret, exactly, dear. I didn't say anything about it
to you because I didn't think it would amuse you.
MRS. G. And am I only made to be amused?
CAPT. G. No, of course. I merely mean that it couldn't interest you.
MRS. G. It's your work and--and if you'd let me, I'd count all these
things up. If they are too heavy, you know by how much they are too
heavy, and you must have a list of things made out to your scale of
CAPT. G. I have got both scales somewhere in my head; but it's hard
to tell how light you can make a headstall, for instance, until you've
actually had a model made.
MRS. G. But if you read out the list, I could copy it down, and pin
it up there just above your table. Wouldn't that do?
CAPT. G. It would be awf'ly nice, dear, but it would be giving you
trouble for nothing. I can't work that way. I go by rule of thumb. I
know the present scale of weights, and the other one--the one that I'm
trying to work to--will shift and vary so much that I couldn't be
certain, even if I wrote it down.
MRS. G. I'm so sorry. I thought I might help. Is there anything else
that I could be of use in?
CAPT. G. (Looking round the room.) I can't think of anything. You're
always helping me, you know.
MRS. G. Am I? How?
CAPT. G. You are you of course, and as long as you're near me--I can't
explain exactly, but it's in the air.
MRS. G. And that's why you wanted to send me away?
CAPT. G. That's only when I'm trying to do work--grubby work like this.
MRS. G. Mafflin's better, then, isn't he?
CAPT. G. (Rashly.) Of course he is. Jack and I have been thinking
along the same groove for two or three years about this equipment.
It's our hobby, and it may really be useful some day.
MRS. G. (After a pause.) And that's all that you have away from me?
CAPT. G. It isn't very far away from you now. Take care the oil on
that bit doesn't come off on your dress.
MRS. G. I wish--I wish so much that I could really help you. I believe
I could--if I left the room. But that's not what I mean.
CAPT. G. (Aside.) Give me patience! I wish she would go. (Aloud.)
I assure you you can't do anything for me, Minnie, and I must really
settle down to this. Where's my pouch?
MRS. G. (Crossing to writing-table.) Here you are, Bear. What a mess
you keep your table in!
CAPT. G. Don't touch it. There's a method in my madness, though you
mightn't think of it.
MRS. G. (At table.) I want to look-- Do you keep accounts, Pip?
CAPT. G. (Bending over saddlery.) Of a sort. Are you rummaging among
the Troop papers? Be careful.
MRS. G. Why? I shan't disturb anything. Good gracious! I had no idea
that you had anything to do with so many sick horses.
CAPT. G. 'Wish I hadn't, but they insist on falling sick. Minnie, if
I were you I really should not investigate those papers. You may come
across something that you won't like.
MRS. G. Why will you always treat me like a child? I know I'm not
displacing the horrid things.
CAPT. G. (Resignedly.) Very well, then. Don't blame me if anything
happens. Play with the table and let me go on with the saddlery.
(Slipping hand into trousers-pocket.) Oh, the deuce!
MRS. G. (Her back to G.) What's that for?
CAPT. G. Nothing. (Aside.) There's not much in it, but I wish I'd
torn it up.
MRS. G. (Turning over contents of table.) I know you'll hate me for
this; but I do want to see what your work is like. (A pause.) Pip,
what are 'farcy-buds'?
CAPT. G. Hah! Would you really like to know? They aren't pretty things.
MRS. G. This Journal of Veterinary Science says they are of 'absorbing
interest.' Tell me.
CAPT. G. (Aside.) It may turn her attention.
Gives a long and designedly loathsome account of
glanders and farcy
MRS. G. Oh, that's enough. Don't go on!
CAPT. G. But you wanted to know--Then these things suppurate and
matterate and spread--
MRS. G. Pip, you're making me sick! You're a horrid, disgusting
CAPT. G. (On his knees among the bridles.) You asked to be told.
It's not my fault if you worry me into talking about horrors.
MRS. G. Why didn't you say--No?
CAPT. G. Good Heavens, child! Have you come in here simply to bully me?
MRS. G. I bully you? How could I! You're so strong. (Hysterically.)
Strong enough to pick me up and put me outside the door and leave me
there to cry. Aren't you?
CAPT. G. It seems to me that you're an irrational little baby. Are you
MRS. G. Do I look ill? (Returning to table.) Who is your lady friend
with the big gray envelope and the fat monogram outside?
CAPT. G. (Aside.) Then it wasn't locked up, confound it. (Aloud.)
'God made her, therefore let her pass for a woman.' You remember what
farcy-buds are like?
MRS. G. (Showing envelope.) This has nothing to do with them. I'm
going to open it. May I?
CAPT. G. Certainly, if you want to. I'd sooner you didn't, though. I
don't ask to look at your letters to the Deercourt girl.
MRS. G. You'd better not, Sir! (Takes letter from envelope.) Now,
may I look? If you say no, I shall cry.
CAPT. G. You've never cried in my knowledge of you, and I don't believe
MRS. G. I feel very like it to-day, Pip. Don't be hard on me. (Reads
letter.) It begins in the middle, without any 'Dear Captain Gadsby,'
or anything. How funny!
CAPT. G. (Aside.) No, it's not Dear Captain Gadsby, or anything,
now. How funny!
MRS. G. What a strange letter! (Reads.) 'And so the moth has come
too near the candle at last, and has been singed into--shall I say
Respectability? I congratulate him, and hope he will be as happy as
he deserves to be.' What does that mean? Is she congratulating you
about our marriage?
CAPT. G. Yes, I suppose so.
MRS. G. (Still reading letter.) She seems to be a particular friend
CAPT. G. Yes. She was an excellent matron of sorts--a Mrs.
Herriott--wife of a Colonel Herriott. I used to know some of her people
at Home long ago--before I came out.
MRS. G. Some Colonels' wives are young--as young as me. I knew one who
CAPT. G. Then it couldn't have been Mrs. Herriott. She was old enough
to have been your mother, dear.
MRS. G. I remember now. Mrs. Scargill was talking about her at the
Duffins' tennis, before you came for me, on Tuesday. Captain Mafflin
said she was a 'dear old woman.' Do you know, I think Mafflin is a
very clumsy man with his feet.
CAPT. G. (Aside.) Good old Jack! (Aloud.) Why, dear?
MRS. G. He had put his cup down on the ground then, and he literally
stepped into it. Some of the tea spirted over my dress--the gray one.
I meant to tell you about it before.
CAPT. G. (Aside.) There are the makings of a strategist about Jack,
though his methods are coarse. (Aloud.) You'd better get a new dress,
then. (Aside.) Let us pray that that will turn her.
MRS. G. Oh, it isn't stained in the least. I only thought that I'd
tell you. (Returning to letter.) What an extraordinary person!
(Reads.) 'But need I remind you that you have taken upon yourself
a charge of wardship'--what in the world is a charge of
wardship?--'which, as you yourself know, may end in Consequences--'
CAPT. G. (Aside.) It's safest to let 'em see everything as they come
across it; but 'seems to me that there are exceptions to the rule.
(Aloud.) I told you that there was nothing to be gained from
rearranging my table.
MRS. G. (Absently.) What does the woman mean? She goes on talking
about Consequences--'almost inevitable Consequences' with a capital
C--for half a page. (Flushing scarlet.) Oh, good gracious! How
CAPT. G. (Promptly.) Do you think so? Doesn't it show a sort of
motherly interest in us? (Aside.) Thank Heaven, Harry always wrapped
her meaning up safely! (Aloud.) Is it absolutely necessary to go on
with the letter, darling?
MRS. G. It's impertinent--it's simply horrid. What right has this
woman to write in this way to you? She oughtn't to.
CAPT. G. When you write to the Deercourt girl, I notice that you
generally fill three or four sheets. Can't you let an old woman babble
on paper once in a way? She means well.
MRS. G. I don't care. She shouldn't write, and if she did, you ought
to have shown me her letter.
CAPT. G. Can't you understand why I kept it to myself, or must I explain
at length--as I explained the farcy-buds?
MRS. G. (Furiously.) Pip, I hate you! This is as bad as those
idiotic saddle-bags on the floor. Never mind whether it would please
me or not, you ought to have given it to me to read.
CAPT. G. It comes to the same thing. You took it yourself.
MRS. G. Yes, but if I hadn't taken it, you wouldn't have said a word.
I think this Harriet Herriott--it's like a name in a book--is an
interfering old Thing.
CAPT. G. (Aside.) So long as you thoroughly understand that she is
old, I don't much care what you think. (Aloud.) Very good, dear.
Would you like to write and tell her so? She's seven thousand miles
MRS. G. I don't want to have anything to do with her, but you ought
to have told me. (Turning to last page of letter.) And she patronises
me, too. I've never seen her! (Reads.) 'I do not know how the
world stands with you; in all human probability I shall never know;
but whatever I may have said before, I pray for her sake more than
for yours that all may be well. I have learnt what misery means, and
I dare not wish that any one dear to you should share my knowledge.'
CAPT. G. Good God! Can't you leave that letter alone, or, at least,
can't you refrain from reading it aloud? I've been through it once.
Put it back on the desk. Do you hear me?
MRS. G. (Irresolutely.) I sh--shan't! (Looks at G'.s eyes.) Oh,
Pip, please! I didn't mean to make you angry--'Deed, I didn't. Pip,
I'm so sorry. I know I've wasted your time----
CAPT. G. (Grimly.) You have. Now, will you be good enough to go--if
there is nothing more in my room that you are anxious to pry into?
MRS. G. (Putting out her hands.) Oh, Pip, don't look at me like that!
I've never seen you look like that before and it hu-urts me! I'm sorry.
I oughtn't to have been here at all, and--and--and--(sobbing). Oh,
be good to me! Be good to me! There's only you--anywhere!
Breaks down in long chair, hiding face in cushions.
CAPT. G. (Aside.) She doesn't know how she flicked me on the raw.
(Aloud, bending over chair.) I didn't mean to be harsh, dear--I
didn't really. You can stay here as long as you please, and do what
you please. Don't cry like that. You'll make yourself sick. (Aside.)
What on earth has come over her? (Aloud.) Darling, what's the matter
MRS. G. (Her face still hidden.) Let me go--let me go to my own room.
Only--only say you aren't angry with me.
CAPT. G. Angry with you, love! Of course not. I was angry with myself.
I'd lost my temper over the saddlery--Don't hide your face, Pussy. I
want to kiss it.
Bends lower, MRS. G. slides right arm round his
neck. Several interludes and much sobbing.
MRS. G. (In a whisper.) I didn't mean about the jam when I came in
to tell you----
CAPT. G. Bother the jam and the equipment! (Interlude.)
MRS. G. (Still more faintly.) My finger wasn't scalded at all.
I--I wanted to speak to you about--about--something else, and--I didn't
CAPT. G. Speak away, then. (Looking into her eyes.) Eh! Wha--at?
Minnie! Here, don't go away! You don't mean?
MRS. G. (Hysterically, backing to portiere and hiding her face in its
folds.) The--the Almost Inevitable Consequences! (Flits though
portiere as G. attempts to catch her, and bolts herself in her own
CAPT. G. (His arms full of portiere.) Oh! (Sitting down heavily in
chair.) I'm a brute--a pig--a bully, and a blackguard. My poor, poor
little darling! 'Made to be amused only--?
THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW
Knowing Good and Evil.
SCENE.--The GADSBYS' bungalow in the Plains, in June. Punkah-coolies
asleep in veranda where CAPTAIN GADSBY is walking up and down.
DOCTOR'S trap in porch. JUNIOR CHAPLAIN drifting generally and
uneasily through the house. Time, 3.40 A. M. Heat 94 degrees in
DOCTOR. (Coming into veranda and touching G. on the shoulder.) You
had better go in and see her now.
CAPT. G. (The colour of good cigar-ash.) Eh, wha-at? Oh, yes, of
course. What did you say?
DOCTOR. (Syllable by syllable.)
Go--in--to--the--room--and--see--her. She wants to speak to you.
(Aside, testily.) I shall have him on my hands next.
JUNIOR CHAPLAIN. (In half-lighted dining-room.) Isn't there any--?
DOCTOR. (Savagely.) Hsh, you little fool!
JUNIOR CHAPLAIN. Let me do my work. Gadsby, stop a minute! (Edges
DOCTOR. Wait till she sends for you at least--at least. Man alive,
he'll kill you if you go in there! What are you bothering him for?
JUNIOR CHAPLAIN. (Coming into veranda.) I've given him a stiff
brandy-peg. He wants it. You've forgotten him for the last ten hours
and--forgotten yourself too.
G. enters bedroom, which is lit by one night-lamp.
Ayah on the floor pretending to be asleep.
VOICE. (From the bed.) All down the street--such bonfires! Ayah,
go and put them out! (Appealingly.) How can I sleep with an
installation of the C.I.E. in my room? No--not C.I.E. Something else.
What was it?
CAPT. G. (Trying to control his voice.) Minnie, I'm here. (Bending
over bed.) Don't you know me, Minnie? It's me--it's Phil--it's your
VOICE. (Mechanically.) It's me--it's Phil--it's your husband.
CAPT. G. She doesn't know me!--It's your own husband, darling,
VOICE. Your own husband, darling.
AYAH. (With an inspiration.) Memsahib understanding all I saying.
CAPT. G. Make her understand me then--quick!
AYAH. (Hand on MRS. G's forehead.) Memsahib! Captain Sahib here.
VOICE. Salma do. (Fretfully.) I know I'm not fit to be seen.
AYAH. (Aside to G.) Say 'marneen' same as breakfash.
CAPT. G. Good-morning, little woman. How are we to-day?
VOICE. That's Phil. Poor old Phil. (Viciously.)
Phil, you fool, I can't see you. Come nearer.
CAPT. G. Minnie! Minnie! It's me--you know me?
VOICE. (Mockingly.) Of course I do. Who does not know the man who
was so cruel to his wife--almost the only one he ever had?
CAPT. G. Yes, dear. Yes--of course, of course. But won't you speak to
him? He wants to speak to you so much.
VOICE. They'd never let him in. The Doctor would give darwaza bund
even if he were in the house. He'll never come. (Despairingly.) O
Judas! Judas! Judas!
CAPT. G. (Putting out his arms.) They have let him in, and he always
was in the house. Oh, my love--don't you know me?
VOICE. (In a half chant.) 'And it came to pass at the eleventh hour
that this poor soul repented.' It knocked at the gates, but they were
shut--tight as a plaster--a great, burning plaster. They had pasted
our marriage certificate all across the door, and it was made of red-hot
iron--people really ought to be more careful, you know.
CAPT. G. What am I to do? (Takes her in his arms.) Minnie! speak
to me--to Phil.
VOICE. What shall I say? Oh, tell me what to say before it's too late!
They are all going away and I can't say anything.
CAPT. G. Say you know me! Only say you know me!
DOCTOR. (Who has entered quietly.) For pity's sake don't take it too
much to heart, Gadsby. It's this way sometimes. They won't recognise.
They say all sorts of queer things--don't you see?
CAPT. G. All right! All right! Go away now, she'll recognise me; you're
bothering her. She must--mustn't she?
DOCTOR. She will before-- Have I your leave to try--?
CAPT. G. Anything you please, so long as she'll know me. It's only a
question of--hours, isn't it?
DOCTOR. (Professionally.) While there's life there's hope, y'know.
But don't build on it.
CAPT. G. I don't. Pull her together if it's possible. (Aside.) What
have I done to deserve this?
DOCTOR. (Bending over bed.) Now, Mrs. Gadsby! We shall be all right
to-morrow. You must take it, or I shan't let Phil see you. It isn't
nasty, is it?
VOICE. Medicines! Always more medicines! Can't you leave me alone?
CAPT. G. Oh, leave her in peace, Doc!
DOCTOR. (Stepping back,--aside.) May I be forgiven if I've done
wrong. (Aloud.) In a few minutes she ought to be sensible; but I
daren't tell you to look for anything. It's only--
CAPT. G. What? Go on, man.
DOCTOR. (In a whisper.) Forcing the last rally.
CAPT. G. Then leave us alone.
DOCTOR. Don't mind what she says at first, if you can. They--they--they
turn against those they love most sometimes in this.--It's hard, but--
CAPT. G. Am I her husband or are you? Leave us alone for what time we
VOICE. (Confidentially.) And we were engaged quite suddenly, Emma.
I assure you that I never thought of it for a moment; but, oh, my
little Me!--I don't know what I should have done if he hadn't
CAPT. G. She thinks of that Deercourt girl before she thinks of me.
VOICE. Not from the shops, Mummy dear. You can get the real leaves
from Kaintu, and (laughing weakly) never mind about the blossoms--Dead
white silk is only fit for widows, and I won't wear it. It's as bad
as a winding sheet. (A long pause.)
CAPT. G. I never asked a favour yet. If there is anybody to listen to
me, let her know me--even if I die too!
VOICE. (Very faintly.) Pip, Pip dear.
CAPT. G. I'm here, darling.
VOICE. What has happened? They've been bothering me so with medicines
and things, and they wouldn't let you come and see me. I was never ill
before. Am I ill now?
CAPT. G. You--you aren't quite well.
VOICE. How funny! Have I been ill long?
CAPT. G. Some days; but you'll be all right in a little time.
VOICE. Do you think so, Pip? I don't feel well and--Oh! what have
they done to my hair?
CAPT. G. I d-d-don't know.
VOICE. They've cut it off. What a shame!
CAPT. G. It must have been to make your head cooler.
VOICE. 'Just like a boy's wig. Don't I look horrid?
CAPT. G. Never looked prettier in your life, dear. (Aside.) How
am I to ask her to say good-bye?
VOICE. I don't feel pretty. I feel very ill. My heart won't work.
It's nearly dead inside me, and there's a funny feeling in my eyes.
Everything seems the same distance--you and the almirah and the
table--inside my eyes or miles away. What does it mean, Pip?
CAPT. G. You're a little feverish, Sweetheart--very feverish. (Breaking
down.) My love! my love! How can I let you go?
VOICE. I thought so. Why didn't you tell me that at first?
CAPT. G. What?
VOICE. That I am going to--die.
CAPT. G. But you aren't! You shan't.
AYAH to punkah-coolie. (Stepping into veranda after a glance at the
bed.) Punkah chor do! (Stop pulling the punkah.)
VOICE. It's hard, Pip. So very, very hard after one year--just one
year. (Wailing.) And I'm only twenty. Most girls aren't even married
at twenty. Can't they do anything to help me? I don't want to die.
CAPT. G. Hush, dear. You won't.
VOICE. What's the use of talking? Help me! You've never failed me
yet. Oh, Phil, help me to keep alive. (Feverishly.) I don't believe
you wish me to live. You weren't a bit sorry when that horrid Baby
thing died. I wish I'd killed it!
CAPT. G. (Drawing his hand across his forehead.) It's more than a
man's meant to bear--it's not right. (Aloud.) Minnie, love, I'd die
for you if it would help.
VOICE. No more death. There's enough already. Pip, don't you die too.
CAPT. G. I wish I dared.
VOICE. It says: 'Till Death do us part.' Nothing after that--and so
it would be no use. It stops at the dying. Why does it stop there?
Only such a very short life, too. Pip, I'm sorry we married.
CAPT. G. No! Anything but that, Min!
VOICE. Because you'll forget and I'll forget. Oh, Pip, don't forget!
I always loved you, though I was cross sometimes. If I ever did anything
that you didn't like, say you forgive me now.
CAPT. G. You never did, darling. On my soul and honour you never did.
I haven't a thing to forgive you.
VOICE. I sulked for a whole week about those petunias. (With a laugh.)
What a little wretch I was, and how grieved you were! Forgive me that,
CAPT. G. There's nothing to forgive. It was my fault. They were too
near the drive. For God's sake don't talk so, Minnie! There's such
a lot to say and so little time to say it in.
VOICE. Say that you'll always love me--until the end.
CAPT. G. Until the end. (Carried away.) It's a lie. It must be,
because we've loved each other. This isn't the end.
VOICE. (Relapsing into semi-delirium.) My Church-service has an
ivory-cross on the back, and it says so, so it must be true. 'Till
Death do us part.'--But that's a lie. (With a parody of G.'s
manner.) A damned lie! (Recklessly.) Yes, I can swear as well as
Trooper Pip. I can't make my head think, though. That's because they
cut off my hair. How can one think with one's head all fuzzy?
(Pleadingly.) Hold me, Pip! Keep me with you always and always.
(Relapsing.) But if you marry the Thorniss girl when I'm dead, I'll
come back and howl under our bedroom window all night. Oh, bother!
You'll think I'm a jackal. Pip, what time is it?
CAPT. G. I--I--I can't help it, dear.
VOICE. How funny! I couldn't cry now to save my life. (G. shivers.)
I want to sing.
CAPT. G. Won't it tire you? Better not, perhaps.
VOICE. Why? I won't be bothered about. (Begins in a hoarse
'Minnie bakes oaten cake, Minnie brews ale,
All because her Johnnie's coming home from the sea.
(That's parade, Pip.)
And she grows red as rose, who was so pale;
And "Are you sure the church-clock goes?" says she.'
(Pettishly.) I knew I couldn't take the last note. How do the bass
chords run? (Puts out her hands and begins playing piano on the
CAPT. G. (Catching up hands.) Ahh! Don't do that, Pussy, if you love
VOICE. Love you? Of course I do. Who else should it be? (A pause.)
VOICE. (Very clearly.) Pip, I'm going now. Something's choking me
cruelly. (Indistinctly.) Into the dark--without you, my heart.--But
it's a lie, dear--we mustn't believe it.--For ever and ever, living
or dead. Don't let me go, my husband--hold me tight.--They
can't--whatever happens. (A cough.) Pip--my Pip! Not for
always--and--so--soon! (Voice ceases.)
Pause of ten minutes. G. buries his face in the side
of the bed while ayah bends over bed from opposite
side and feels MRS. G.'s breast and forehead.
CAPT. G. (Rising.) Doctor Sahib ko salaam do.
AYAH. (Still by bedside, with a shriek.) Ai! Ai! Tuta---phuta! My
Memsahib! Not getting--not have got!--Pusseena agya! (The sweat
has come.) (Fiercely to G.) TUM jao Doctor Sahib ko jaldi! (You
go to the doctor.) Oh, my Memsahib!
DOCTOR. (Entering hastily.) Come away, Gadsby. (Bends over bed.)
Eh! The Dev--What inspired you to stop the punkah? Get out, man--go
away--wait outside! Go! Here, Ayah! (Over his shoulder to G.) Mind,
I promise nothing.
The dawn breaks as G. stumbles into the garden.
CAPT. M. (Reining up at the gate on his way to parade and very
soberly.) Old man, how goes?
CAPT. G. (Dazed.) I don't quite know. Stay a bit. Have a drink or
something. Don't run away. You're just getting amusing. Ha! Ha!
CAPT. M. (Aside.) What am I let in for? Gaddy has aged ten years
in the night.
CAPT. G. (Slowly, fingering charger's headstall.) Your curb's too
CAPT. M. So it is. Put it straight, will you? (Aside.) I shall be
late for parade. Poor Gaddy.
CAPT. G. links and unlinks curb-chain aimlessly,
and finally stands staring towards the veranda.
The day brightens.
DOCTOR. (Knocked out of professional gravity, tramping across
flower-beds and shaking G.'s hands.) It's--it's--it's!--Gadsby,
there's a fair chance--a dashed fair chance! The flicker, y'know.
The sweat, y'know! I saw how it would be. The punkah, y'know. Deuced
clever woman that Ayah of yours. Stopped the punkah just at the right
time. A dashed good chance! No--you don't go in. We'll pull her
through yet I promise on my reputation--under Providence. Send a man
with this note to Bingle. Two heads better than one. 'Specially the
Ayah! We'll pull her round. (Retreats hastily to house.)
CAPT. G. (His head on neck of M.'s charger.) Jack! I
bub--bub--believe, I'm going to make a bub--bub--bloody exhibitiod of
CAPT. M. (Sniffing openly and feeling in his left cuff.) I
b-b--believe, I'b doing it already. Old bad, what cad I say? I'b as
pleased as--Cod dab you, Gaddy! You're one big idiot and I'b adother.
(Pulling himself together.) Sit tight! Here comes the Devil-dodger.
JUNIOR CHAPLAIN. (Who is not in the Doctor's confidence.) We--we
are only men in these things, Gadsby. I know that I can say nothing
now to help--
CAPT. M. (Jealously.) Then don't say it! Leave him alone. It's not
bad enough to croak over. Here, Gaddy, take the chit to Bingle and
ride hell-for-leather. It'll do you good. I can't go.
JUNIOR CHAPLAIN. Do him good! (Smiling.) Give me the chit and I'll
drive. Let him lie down. Your horse is blocking my cart--please!
CAPT. M. (Slowly without reining back.) I beg your pardon--I'll
apologise. On paper if you like.
JUNIOR CHAPLAIN. (Flicking M.'s charger.) That'll do, thanks. Turn
in, Gadsby, and I'll bring Bingle back--ahem--'hell-for-leather.'
CAPT. M. (Solus.) It would have served me right if he'd cut me across
the face. He can drive too. I shouldn't care to go that pace in a
bamboo cart. What a faith he must have in his Maker--of harness! Come
hup, you brute! (Gallops off to parade, blowing his nose, as the
(INTERVAL OF FIVE WEEKS.)
MRS. G. (Very white and pinched, in morning wrapper at breakfast
table.) How big and strange the room looks, and oh how glad I am to
see it again! What dust, though! I must talk to the servants. Sugar,
Pip? I've almost forgotten. (Seriously.) Wasn't I very ill?
CAPT. G. Iller than I liked. (Tenderly.) Oh, you bad little Pussy,
what a start you gave me!
MRS. G. I'll never do it again.
CAPT. G. You'd better not. And now get those poor pale cheeks pink
again, or I shall be angry. Don't try to lift the urn. You'll upset
it. Wait. (Comes round to head of table and lifts urn.)
MRS. G. (Quickly.) Khitmatgar, bowarchi-khana see kettly lao.
Butler, get a kettle from the cook-house. (Drawing down G.'s face
to her own.) Pip dear, I remember.
CAPT. G. What?
MRS. G. That last terrible night.
CAPT. G. Then just you forget all about it.
MRS. G. (Softly, her eyes filling.) Never. It has brought us very
close together, my husband. There! (Interlude.) I'm going to give
Junda a saree.
CAPT. G. I gave her fifty dibs.
MRS. G. So she told me. It was a 'normous reward. Was I worth it?
(Several interludes.) Don't! Here's the khitmatgar.--Two lumps or
THE SWELLING OF JORDAN
If thou hast run with the footmen and they have wearied thee, then how
canst thou contend with horses? And if in the land of peace wherein
thou trustedst they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling
SCENE.--The GADSEYS' bungalow in the Plains, on a January morning.
MRS. G. arguing with bearer in back veranda.
CAPT. M. rides up.
CAPT. M. 'Mornin', Mrs. Gadsby. How's the Infant Phenomenon and the
MRS. G. You'll find them in the front veranda; go through the house.
I'm Martha just now.
CAPT. M. 'Cumbered about with cares of khitmatgars? I fly.
Passes into front veranda, where GADSBY is watching
GADSBY JUNIOR, aged ten months, crawling about the
CAPT. M. What's the trouble, Gaddy--spoiling an honest man's Europe
morning this way? (Seeing G. JUNIOR.) By Jove, that yearling's comin'
on amazingly! Any amount of bone below the knee there.
CAPT. G. Yes, he's a healthy little scoundrel. Don't you think his
M. Let's have a look. Hi! Hst! Come here, General Luck, and we'll
report on you.
MRS. G. (Within.) What absurd name will you give him next? Why do
you call him that?
M. Isn't he our Inspector-General of Cavalry? Doesn't he come down in
his seventy-two perambulator every morning the Pink Hussars parade?
Don't wriggle, Brigadier. Give us your private opinion on the way the
third squadron went past. 'Trifle ragged, weren't they?
G. A bigger set of tailors than the new draft I don't wish to see.
They've given me more than my fair share--knocking the squadron out
of shape. It's sickening!
M. When you're in command, you'll do better, young 'un. Can't you walk
yet? Get my finger and try. (To G.) 'Twon't hurt his hocks, will it?
G. Oh, no. Don't let him flop, though, or he'll lick all the blacking
off your boots.
MRS. G. (Within.) Who's destroying my son's character?
M. And my Godson's. I'm ashamed of you, Gaddy. Punch your father in
the eye, Jack! Don't you stand it! Hit him again!
G. (Sotto voce.) Put The Butcha down and come to the end of the
veranda. I'd rather the Wife didn't hear--just now.
M. You look awf'ly serious. Anything wrong?
G. 'Depends on your view entirely. I say, Jack, you won't think more
hardly of me than you can help, will you? Come further this way.--The
fact of the matter is, that I've made up my mind--at least I'm thinking
seriously of--cutting the Service.
G. Don't shout. I'm going to send in my papers.
M. You! Are you mad?
G. No--only married.
M. Look here! What's the meaning of it all? You never intend to leave
us. You can't. Isn't the best squadron of the best regiment of the
best cavalry in all the world good enough for you?
G. (Jerking his head over his shoulder.) She doesn't seem to thrive
in this God-forsaken country, and there's The Butcha to be considered
and all that, you know.
M. Does she say that she doesn't like India?
G. That's the worst of it. She won't for fear of leaving me.
M. What are the Hills made for?
G. Not for my wife at any rate.
M. You know too much, Gaddy, and--I don't like you any the better for
G. Never mind that. She wants England, and The Butcha would be all
the better for it. I'm going to chuck. You don't understand.
M. (Hotly.) I understand this. One hundred and thirty-seven new
horses to be licked into shape somehow before Luck comes round again;
a hairy-heeled draft who'll give more trouble than the horses; a camp
next cold weather for a certainty; ourselves the first on the roster;
the Russian shindy ready to come to a head at five minutes' notice,
and you, the best of us all, backing out of it all! Think a little,
Gaddy. You won't do it.
G. Hang it, a man has some duties towards his family, I suppose.
M. I remember a man, though, who told me, the night after Amdheran,
when we were picketed under Jagai, and he'd left his sword--by the
way, did you ever pay Ranken for that sword?--in an Utmanzai's
head--that man told me that he'd stick by me and the Pinks as long as
he lived. I don't blame him for not sticking by me--I'm not much of
a man--but I do blame him for not sticking by the Pink Hussars.
G. (Uneasily.) We were little more than boys then. Can't you see,
Jack, how things stand? 'Tisn't as if we were serving for our bread.
We've all of us, more or less, got the filthy lucre. I'm luckier than
some, perhaps. There's no call for me to serve on.
M. None in the world for you or for us, except the Regimental. If you
don't choose to answer to that, of course--
G. Don't be too hard on a man. You know that a lot of us only take up
the thing for a few years and then go back to Town and catch on with
M. Not lots, and they aren't some of Us.
G. And then there are one's affairs at Home to be considered--my place
and the rents, and all that. I don't suppose my father can last much
longer, and that means the title, and so on.
M. 'Fraid you won't be entered in the Stud Book correctly unless you
go Home? Take six months, then, and come out in October. If I could
slay off a brother or two, I s'pose I should be a Marquis of sorts.
Any fool can be that; but it needs men, Gaddy--men like you--to lead
flanking squadrons properly. Don't you delude yourself into the belief
that you're going Home to take your place and prance about among
pink-nosed Kabuli dowagers. You aren't built that way. I know better.
G. A man has a right to live his life as happily as he can. You
M. No--praise be to Providence and the one or two women who have had
the good sense to jawab me.
G. Then you don't know what it is to go into your own room and see
your wife's head on the pillow, and when everything else is safe and
the house shut up for the night, to wonder whether the roof-beams won't
give and kill her.
M. (Aside.) Revelations first and second! (Aloud.) So-o! I knew
a man who got squiffy at our Mess once and confided to me that he never
helped his wife on to her horse without praying that she'd break her
neck before she came back. All husbands aren't alike, you see.
G. What on earth has that to do with my case? The man must ha' been
mad, or his wife as bad as they make 'em.
M. (Aside.) 'No fault of yours if either weren't all you say. You've
forgotten the tune when you were insane about the Herriott woman. You
always were a good hand at forgetting. (Aloud.) Not more mad than
men who go to the other extreme. Be reasonable, Gaddy. Your roof-beams
are sound enough.
G. That was only a way of speaking. I've been uneasy and worried about
the Wife ever since that awful business three years ago--when--I nearly
lost her. Can you wonder?
M. Oh, a shell never falls twice in the same place. You've paid your
toll to misfortune--why should your wife be picked out more than
G. I can talk just as reasonably as you can, but you don't
understand--you don't understand. And then there's The Butcha. Deuce
knows where the Ayah takes him to sit in the evening! He has a bit of
a cough. Haven't you noticed it?
M. Bosh! The Brigadier's jumping out of his skin with pure condition.
He's got a muzzle like a rose-leaf and the chest of a two-year-old.
What's demoralised you?
G. Funk. That's the long and the short of it. Funk!
M. But what is there to funk?
G. Everything. It's ghastly.
M. Ah! I see.
You don't want to fight,
And by Jingo when we do,
You've got the kid, you've got the Wife,
You've got the money, too.
That's about the case, eh?
G. I suppose that's it. But it's not for myself. It's because of them.
At least I think it is.
M. Are you sure? Looking at the matter in a cold-blooded light, the
Wife is provided for even if you were wiped out to-night. She has an
ancestral home to go to, money, and the Brigadier to carry on the
G. Then it is for myself or because they are part of me. You don't see
it. My life's so good, so pleasant, as it is, that I want to make it
quite safe. Can't you understand?
M. Perfectly. 'Shelter-pit for the Orf'cer's charger,' as they say in
G. And I have everything to my hand to make it so. I'm sick of the
strain and the worry for their sakes out here; and there isn't a single
real difficulty to prevent my dropping it altogether. It'll only cost
me--Jack, I hope you'll never know the shame that I've been going
through for the past six months.
M. Hold on there! I don't wish to be told. Every man has his moods and
G. (Laughing bitterly.) Has he? What do you call craning over to see
where your near-fore lands?
M. In my case it means that I have been on the Considerable Bend, and
have come to parade with a Head and a Hand. It passes in three strides.
G. (Lowering voice.) It never passes with me, Jack. I'm always
thinking about it. Phil Gadsby funking a fall on parade! Sweet picture,
isn't it! Draw it for me.
M. (Gravely.) Heaven forbid! A man like you can't be as bad as that.
A fall is no nice thing, but one never gives it a thought.
G. Doesn't one? Wait till you've got a wife and a youngster of your
own, and then you'll know how the roar of the squadron behind you turns
you cold all up the back.
M. (Aside.) And this man led at Amdheran after Bagal-Deasin went
under, and we were all mixed up together, and he came out of the show
dripping like a butcher. (Aloud.) Skittles! The men can always open
out, and you can always pick your way more or less. We haven't the
dust to bother us, as the men have, and whoever heard of a horse
stepping on a man?
G. Never--as long as he can see. But did they open out for poor
M. Oh, this is childish!
G. I know it is, worse than that. I don't care. You've ridden Van Loo.
Is he the sort of brute to pick his way--'specially when we're coming
up in column of troop with any pace on?
M. Once in a Blue Moon do we gallop in column of troop, and then only
to save time. Aren't three lengths enough for you?
G. Yes--quite enough. They just allow for the full development of the
smash. I'm talking like a cur, I know: but I tell you that, for the
past three months, I've felt every hoof of the squadron in the small
of my back every time that I've led.
M. But, Gaddy, this is awful!
G. Isn't it lovely? Isn't it royal? A Captain of the Pink Hussars
watering up his charger before parade like the blasted boozing Colonel
of a Black Regiment!
M. You never did!
G. Once only. He squelched like a mussuck, and the
Troop-Sergeant-Major cocked his eye at me. You know old Haffy's eye.
I was afraid to do it again.
M. I should think so. That was the best way to rupture old Van Loo's
tummy, and make him crumple you up. You knew that.
G. I didn't care. It took the edge off him.
M. 'Took the edge off him'? Gaddy, you--you--you mustn't, you know!
Think of the men.
G. That's another thing I am afraid of. D'you s'pose they know?
M. Let's hope not; but they're deadly quick to spot skrim--little
things of that kind. See here, old man, send the Wife Home for the hot
weather and come to Kashmir with me. We'll start a boat on the Dal or
cross the Rhotang--shoot ibex or loaf--which you please. Only come!
You're a bit off your oats and you're talking nonsense. Look at the
Colonel--swag-bellied rascal that he is. He has a wife and no end of
a bow-window of his own. Can any one of us ride round him--chalk-stones
and all? I can't, and I think I can shove a crock along a bit.
G. Some men are different. I haven't the nerve. Lord help me, I haven't
the nerve! I've taken up a hole and a half to get my knees well under
the wallets. I can't help it. I'm so afraid of anything happening to
me. On my soul, I ought to be broke in front of the squadron, for
M. Ugly word, that. I should never have the courage to own up.
G. I meant to lie about my reasons when I began, but--I've got out of
the habit of lying to you, old man. Jack, you won't?--But I know you
M. Of course not. (Half aloud.) The Pinks are paying dearly for their
G. Eh! Wha-at?
M. Don't you know? The men have called Mrs. Gadsby the Pride of the
Pink Hussars ever since she came to us.
G. 'Tisn't her fault. Don't think that. It's all mine.
M. What does she say?
G. I haven't exactly put it before her. She's the best little woman
in the world, Jack, and all that--but she wouldn't counsel a man to
stick to his calling if it came between him and her. At least, I think--
M. Never mind. Don't tell her what you told me. Go on the Peerage and
G. She'd see through it. She's five times cleverer than I am.
M. (Aside.) Then she'll accept the sacrifice and think a little bit
worse of him for the rest of her days.
G. (Absently.) I say, do you despise me?
M. 'Queer way of putting it. Have you ever been asked that question?
Think a minute. What answer used you to give?
G. So bad as that? I'm not entitled to expect anything more, but
it's a bit hard when one's best friend turns round and--
M. So I have found. But you will have consolations--Bailiffs and
Drains and Liquid Manure and the Primrose League, and, perhaps, if
you're lucky, the Colonelcy of a Yeomanry Cav-al-ry Regiment--all
uniform and no riding, I believe. How old are you?
G. Thirty-three. I know it's--
M. At forty you'll be a fool of a J.P. landlord. At fifty you'll own
a bath-chair, and The Brigadier, if he takes after you, will be
fluttering the dovecotes of--what's the particular dunghill you're
going to? Also, Mrs. Gadsby will be fat.
G. (Limply.) This is rather more than a joke.
M. D'you think so? Isn't cutting the Service a joke? It generally takes
a man fifty years to arrive at it. You're quite right, though. It is
more than a joke. You've managed it in thirty-three.
G. Don't make me feel worse than I do. Will it satisfy you if I own
that I am a shirker, a skrim-shanker, and a coward?
M. It will not, because I'm the only man in the world who can talk
to you like this without being knocked down. You mustn't take all that
I've said to heart in this way. I only spoke--a lot of it at least--out
of pure selfishness, because, because--Oh, damn it all, old man,--I
don't know what I shall do without you. Of course, you've got the
money and the place and all that--and there are two very good reasons
why you should take care of yourself.
G. 'Doesn't make it any the sweeter. I'm backing out--I know I am. I
always had a soft drop in me somewhere--and I daren't risk any danger
M. Why in the world should you? You're bound to think of your
family--bound to think. Er-hmm. If I wasn't a younger son I'd go too--be
shot if I wouldn't!
G. Thank you, Jack. It's a kind lie, but it's the blackest you've told
for some time. I know what I'm doing, and I'm going into it with my
eyes open. Old man, I can't help it. What would you do if you were
in my place?
M. (Aside.) 'Couldn't conceive any woman getting permanently between
me and the Regiment. (Aloud.) 'Can't say. 'Very likely I should do
no better. I'm sorry for you--awf'ly sorry--but 'if them's your
sentiments,' I believe, I really do, that you are acting wisely.
G. Do you? I hope you do. (In a whisper.) Jack, be very sure of
yourself before you marry. I'm an ungrateful ruffian to say this, but
marriage--even as good a marriage as mine has been--hampers a man's
work, it cripples his sword-arm, and oh, it plays Hell with his notions
of duty! Sometimes--good and sweet as she is--sometimes I could wish
that I had kept my freedom--No, I don't mean that exactly.
MRS. G. (Coming down the veranda.) What are you wagging your head
M. (Turning quickly.) Me, as usual. The old sermon. Your husband is
recommending me to get married. 'Never saw such a one-ideaed man!
MRS. G. Well, why don't you? I daresay you would make some woman very
G. There's the Law and the Prophets, Jack. Never mind the Regiment.
Make a woman happy. (Aside.) O Lord!
M. We'll see. I must be off to make a Troop Cook desperately unhappy.
I won't have the wily Hussar fed on Government Bullock Train
shinbones--(Hastily.) Surely black ants can't be good for The
Brigadier. He's picking 'em off the matting and eating 'em. Here, Senor
Commandante Don Grubbynose, come and talk to me. (Lifts G. JUNIOR
in his arms.) 'Want my watch? You won't be able to put it into your
mouth, but you can try. (G. JUNIOR drops watch, breaking dial and
MRS. G. Oh, Captain Mafflin, I am so sorry! Jack, you bad, bad little
M. It's not the least consequence, I assure you. He'd treat the world
in the same way if he could get it into his hands. Everything's made
to be played with and broken, isn't it, young 'un?
* * * * *
MRS. G. Mafflin didn't at all like his watch being broken, though he
was too polite to say so. It was entirely his fault for giving it to
the child. Dem little puds are werry, werry feeble, aren't dey, my
Jack-in-de-box? (To G.) What did he want to see you for?
G. Regimental shop as usual.
MRS. G. The Regiment! Always the Regiment. On my word, I sometimes
feel jealous of Mafflin.
G. (Wearily.) Poor old Jack? I don't think you need. Isn't it time
for The Butcha to have his nap? Bring a chair out here, dear. I've
got something to talk over with you.
AND THIS IS THE END OF THE STORY OF THE
What is the moral? Who rides may read.
When the night is thick and the tracks are blind.
A friend at a pinch is a friend indeed;
But a fool to wait for the laggard behind:
Down to Gehenna or up to the Throne
He travels the fastest who travels alone.
White hands cling to the tightened rein,
Slipping the spur from the booted heel,
Tenderest voices cry, 'Turn again,'
Red lips tarnish the scabbarded steel,
High hopes faint on a warm hearth-stone--
He travels the fastest who travels alone.
One may fall but he falls by himself--
Falls by himself with himself to blame;
One may attain and to him is the pelf,
Loot of the city in Gold of Fame;
Plunder of earth shall be all his own
Who travels the fastest and travels alone.
Wherefore the more ye be holpen and stayed--
Stayed by a friend in the hour of toil,
Sing the heretical song I have made--
His be the labour and yours be the spoil.
Win by his aid and the aid of disown--
He travels the fastest who travels alone.
DRAY WARA YOW DEE
For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the
day of vengeance.
--Prov. vi. 34.
Almonds and raisins, Sahib? Grapes from Kabul? Or a pony of the rarest
if the Sahib will only come with me. He is thirteen three, Sahib, plays
polo, goes in a cart, carries a lady and--Holy Kurshed and the Blessed
Imams, it is the Sahib himself! My heart is made fat and my eye glad.
May you never be tired! As is cold water in the Tirah, so is the sight
of a friend in a far place. And what do you in this accursed land?
South of Delhi, Sahib, you know the saying--'Rats are the men and
trulls the women.' It was an order? Ahoo! An order is an order till
one is strong enough to disobey. O my brother, O my friend, we have
met in an auspicious hour! Is all well in the heart and the body and
the house? In a lucky day have we two come together again.
I am to go with you? Your favour is great. Will there be picket-room
in the compound? I have three horses and the bundles and the horse-boy.
Moreover, remember that the police here hold me a horse-thief. What
do these Lowland bastards know of horse-thieves? Do you remember that
time in Peshawur when Kamal hammered on the gates of Jumrud--
that he was--and lifted the Colonel's horses all in one night? Kamal
is dead now, but his nephew has taken up the matter, and there will
be more horses amissing if the Khaiber Levies do not look to it.
The Peace of God and the favour of His Prophet be upon this house and
all that is in it! Shafizullah, rope the mottled mare under the tree
and draw water. The horses can stand in the sun, but double the felts
over the loins. Nay, my friend, do not trouble to look them over. They
are to sell to the Officer fools who know so many tilings of the horse.
The mare is heavy in foal; the gray is a devil unlicked; and the
dun--but you know the trick of the peg. When they are sold I go back
to Pubbi, or, it may be, the Valley of Peshawur.
O friend of my heart, it is good to see you again. I have been bowing
and lying all day to the Officer-Sahibs in respect to those horses;
and my mouth is dry for straight talk. Auggrh! Before a meal tobacco
is good. Do not join me, for we are not in our own country. Sit in the
veranda and I will spread my cloth here. But first I will drink. In
the name of God returning thanks, thrice! This is sweet water,
indeed--sweet as the water of Sheoran when it comes from the snows.
They are all well and pleased in the North--Khoda Baksh and the others.
Yar Khan has come down with the horses from Kurdistan--six and thirty
head only, and a full half pack-ponies--and has said openly in the
Kashmir Serai that you English should send guns and blow the Amir into
Hell. There are fifteen rolls now on the Kabul road; and at Dakka,
when he thought he was clear, Yar Khan was stripped of all his Balkh
stallions by the Governor! This is a great injustice, and Yar Khan is
hot with rage. And of the others: Mahbub Ali is still at Pubbi, writing
God knows what. Tugluq Khan is in jail for the business of the Kohat
Police Post. Faiz Beg came down from Ismail-ki-Dhera with a Bokhariot
belt for thee, my brother, at the closing of the year, but none knew
whither thou hadst gone: there was no news left behind. The Cousins
have taken a new run near Pakpattan to breed mules for the Government
carts, and there is a story in Bazar of a priest. Oho! Such a salt
Sahib, why do you ask that? My clothes are fouled because of the dust
on the road. My eyes are sad because of the glare of the sun. My feet
are swollen because I have washed them in bitter water, and my cheeks
are hollow because the food here is bad. Fire burn your money! What
do I want with it? I am rich and I thought you were my friend; but you
are like the others--a Sahib. Is a man sad? Give him money, say the
Sahibs. Is he dishonoured? Give him money, say the Sahibs. Hath he a
wrong upon his head? Give him money, say the Sahibs. Such are the
Sahibs, and such art thou--even thou.
Nay, do not look at the feet of the dun. Pity it is that I ever taught
you to know the legs of a horse. Footsore? Be it so. What of that? The
roads are hard. And the mare footsore? She bears a double burden,
And now I pray you, give me permission to depart. Great favour and
honour has the Sahib done me, and graciously has he shown his belief
that the horses are stolen. Will it please him to send me to the Thana?
To call a sweeper and have me led away by one of these lizard-men? I
am the Sahib's friend. I have drunk water in the shadow of his house,
and he has blackened my face. Remains there anything more to do? Will
the Sahib give me eight annas to make smooth the injury and--complete
Forgive me, my brother. I knew not--I know not now--what I say. Yes,
I lied to you! I will put dust on my head--and I am an Afridi! The
horses have been marched footsore from the Valley to this place, and
my eyes are dim, and my body aches for the want of sleep, and my heart
is dried up with sorrow and shame. But as it was my shame, so by God
the Dispenser of Justice--by Allah-al-Mumit--it shall be my own revenge!
We have spoken together with naked hearts before this, and our hands
have dipped into the same dish and thou hast been to me as a brother.
Therefore I pay thee back with lies and ingratitude--as a Pathan.
Listen now! When the grief of the soul is too heavy for endurance it
may be a little eased by speech, and, moreover, the mind of a true man
is as a well, and the pebble of confession dropped therein sinks and
is no more seen. From the Valley have I come on foot, league by league,
with a fire in my chest like the fire of the Pit. And why? Hast thou,
then, so quickly forgotten our customs, among this folk who sell their
wives and their daughters for silver? Come back with me to the North
and be among men once more. Come back, when this matter is
and I call for thee! The bloom of the peach-orchards is upon all the
Valley, and here is only dust and a great stink. There is a pleasant
wind among the mulberry trees, and the streams are bright with
snow-water, and the caravans go up and the caravans go down, and a
hundred fires sparkle in the gut of the Pass, and tent-peg answers
hammer-nose, and pack-horse squeals to pack-horse across the drift
smoke of the evening. It is good in the North now. Come back with me.
Let us return to our own people! Come!
* * * * *
Whence is my sorrow? Does a man tear out his heart and make fritters
thereof over a slow fire for aught other than a woman? Do not laugh,
friend of mine, for your time will also be. A woman of the Abazai was
she, and I took her to wife to staunch the feud between our village
and the men of Ghor. I am no longer young? The lime has touched my
beard? True. I had no need of the wedding? Nay, but I loved her. What
saith Rahman: 'Into whose heart Love enters, there is Folly and naught
else. By a glance of the eye she hath blinded thee; and by the eyelids
and the fringe of the eyelids taken thee into the captivity without
ransom, and naught else.' Dost thou remember that song at the
sheep-roasting in the Pindi camp among the Uzbegs of the Amir?
The Abazai are dogs and their women the servants of sin. There was a
lover of her own people, but of that her father told me naught. My
friend, curse for me in your prayers, as I curse at each praying from
the Fakr to the Isha, the name of Daoud Shah, Abazai, whose head is
still upon his neck, whose hands are still upon his wrists, who has
done me dishonour, who has made my name a laughing-stock among the
women of Little Malikand.
I went into Hindustan at the end of two months--to Cherat. I was gone
twelve days only; but I had said that I would be fifteen days absent.
This I did to try her, for it is written: 'Trust not the incapable.'
Coming up the gorge alone in the falling of the light, I heard the
voice of a man singing at the door of my house; and it was the voice
of Daoud Shah, and the song that he sang was 'Dray wara yow dee'--'All
three are one.' It was as though a heelrope had been slipped round my
heart and all the Devils were drawing it tight past endurance. I crept
silently up the hill-road, but the fuse of my matchlock was wetted
with the rain, and I could not slay Daoud Shah from afar. Moreover,
it was in my mind to kill the woman also. Thus he sang, sitting outside
my house, and, anon, the woman opened the door, and I came nearer,
crawling on my belly among the rocks. I had only my knife to my hand.
But a stone slipped under my foot, and the two looked down the hillside,
and he, leaving his matchlock, fled from my anger, because he was
afraid for the life that was in him. But the woman moved not till I
stood in front of her, crying: 'O woman, what is this that thou hast
done?' And she, void of fear, though she knew my thought, laughed,
saying: 'It is a little thing. I loved him, and thou art a dog and
cattle-thief coming by night. Strike!' And I, being still blinded by
her beauty, for, O my friend, the women of the Abazai are very fair,
said: 'Hast thou no fear?' And she answered: 'None--but only the fear
that I do not die.' Then said I: 'Have no fear.' And she bowed her
head, and I smote it off at the neck-bone so that it leaped between
my feet. Thereafter the rage of our people came upon me, and I hacked
off the breasts, that the men of Little Malikand might know the crime,
and cast the body into the water-course that flows to the Kabul river.
Dray wara yow dee! Dray wara yow dee! The body without the head, the
soul without light, and my own darkling heart--all three are one--all
three are one!
That night, making no halt, I went to Ghor and demanded news of Daoud
Shah. Men said: 'He is gone to Pubbi for horses. What wouldst thou of
him? There is peace between the villages.' I made answer: 'Aye! The
peace of treachery and the love that the Devil Atala bore to Gurel.'
So I fired thrice into the gate and laughed and went my way.
In those hours, brother and friend of my heart's heart, the moon and
the stars were as blood above me, and in my mouth was the taste of dry
earth. Also, I broke no bread, and my drink was the rain of the Valley
of Ghor upon my face.
At Pubbi I found Mahbub Ali, the writer, sitting upon his charpoy and
gave up my arms according to your Law. But I was not grieved, for it
was in my heart that I should kill Daoud Shah with my bare hands
thus--as a man strips a bunch of raisins. Mahbub Ali said: 'Daoud Shah
has even now gone hot-foot to Peshawur, and he will pick up his horses
upon the road to Delhi, for it is said that the Bombay Tramway Company
are buying horses there by the truck-load; eight horses to the truck.'
And that was a true saying.
Then I saw that the hunting would be no little thing, for the man was
gone into your borders to save himself against my wrath. And shall he
save himself so? Am I not alive? Though he run northward to the Dora
and the snow, or southerly to the Black Water, I will follow him, as
a lover follows the footsteps of his mistress, and coming upon him I
will take him tenderly--Aho! so tenderly!--in my arms, saying: 'Well
hast thou done and well shalt thou be repaid.' And out of that embrace
Daoud Shah shall not go forth with the breath in his nostrils. Auggrh!
Where is the pitcher? I am as thirsty as a mother-mare in the first
Your Law! What is your Law to me? When the horses fight on the runs
do they regard the boundary pillars; or do the kites of Ali Musjid
forbear because the carrion lies under the shadow of Ghor Kuttri? The
matter began across the Border. It shall finish where God pleases.
Here, in my own country, or in Hell. All three are one.
Listen now, sharer of the sorrow of my heart, and I will tell of the
hunting. I followed to Peshawur from Pubbi, and I went to and fro about
the streets of Peshawur like a houseless dog, seeking for my enemy.
Once I thought I saw him washing his mouth in the conduit in the big
square, but when I came up he was gone. It may be that it was he, and,
seeing my face, he had fled.
A girl of the bazar said that he would go to Nowshera. I said: 'O
heart's heart, does Daoud Shah visit thee?' And she said: 'Even so.'
I said: 'I would fain see him, for we be friends parted for two years.
Hide me, I pray, here in the shadow of the window shutter, and I will
wait for his coming.' And the girl said: 'O Pathan, look into my eyes!'
And I turned, leaning upon her breast, and looked into her eyes,
swearing that I spoke the very Truth of God. But she answered: 'Never
friend waited friend with such eyes. Lie to God and the Prophet, but
to a woman ye cannot lie. Get hence! There shall be no harm befall
Daoud Shah by cause of me.'
I would have strangled that girl but for the fear of your Police; and
thus the hunting would have come to naught. Therefore I only laughed
and departed, and she leaned over the window-bar in the night and
mocked me down the street. Her name is Jamun. When I have made my
account with the man I will return to Peshawur and--her lovers shall
desire her no more for her beauty's sake. She shall not be Jamun but
Ak, the cripple among trees. Ho! Ho! Ak shall she be!
At Peshawur I bought the horses and grapes, and the almonds and dried
fruits, that the reason of my wanderings might be open to the
Government, and that there might be no hindrance upon the road. But
when I came to Nowshera he was gone, and I knew not where to go. I
stayed one day at Nowshera, and in the night a Voice spoke in my ears
as I slept among the horses. All night it flew round my head and would
not cease from whispering. I was upon my belly, sleeping as the Devils
sleep, and it may have been that the Voice was the voice of a Devil.
It said: 'Go south, and thou shalt come upon Daoud Shah.' Listen, my
brother and chiefest among friends--listen! Is the tale a long one?
Think how it was long to me. I have trodden every league of the road
from Pubbi to this place; and from Nowshera my guide was only the Voice
and the lust of vengeance.
To the Uttock I went, but that was no hindrance to me. Ho! Ho! A man
may turn the word twice, even in his trouble. The Uttock was no uttock
(obstacle) to me; and I heard the Voice above the noise of the waters
beating on the big rock, saying: 'Go to the right.' So I went to
Pindigheb, and in those days my sleep was taken from me utterly, and
the head of the woman of the Abazai was before me night and day, even
as it had fallen between my feet. Dray wara yow dee! Dray wara yow
dee! Fire, ashes, and my couch, all three are one--all three are one!
Now I was far from the winter path of the dealers who had gone to
Sialkot and so south by the rail and the Big Road to the line of
cantonments; but there was a Sahib in camp at Pindigheb who bought
from me a white mare at a good price, and told me that one Daoud Shah
had passed to Shahpur with horses. Then I saw that the warning of the
Voice was true, and made swift to come to the Salt Hills. The Jhelum
was in flood, but I could not wait, and, in the crossing, a bay stallion
was washed down and drowned. Herein was God hard to me--not in respect
of the beast, of that I had no care--but in this snatching. While I
was upon the right bank urging the horses into the water, Daoud Shah
was upon the left; for--Alghias! Alghias!--the hoofs of my mare
scattered the hot ashes of his fires when we came up the hither bank
in the light of morning. But he had fled. His feet were made swift by
the terror of Death. And I went south from Shahpur as the kite flies.
I dared not turn aside, lest I should miss my vengeance--which is my
right. From Shahpur I skirted by the Jhelum, for I thought that he
would avoid the Desert of the Rechna. But, presently, at Sahiwal, I
turned away upon the road to Jhang, Samundri, and Gugera, till, upon
a night, the mottled mare breasted the fence of the rail that turns
to Montgomery. And that place was Okara, and the head of the woman of
the Abazai lay upon the sand between my feet.
Thence I went to Fazilka, and they said that I was mad to bring starved
horses there. The Voice was with me, and I was not mad, but only
wearied, because I could not find Daoud Shah. It was written that I
should not find him at Rania nor Bahadurgarh, and I came into Delhi
from the west, and there also I found him not. My friend, I have seen
many strange things in my wanderings. I have seen Devils rioting across
the Rechna as the stallions riot in spring. I have heard the Djinns
calling to each other from holes in the sand, and I have seen them
pass before my face. There are no Devils, say the Sahibs? They are
very wise, but they do not know all things about devils or--horses.
Ho! Ho! I say to you who are laughing at my misery, that I have seen
the Devils at high noon whooping and leaping on the shoals of the
Chenab. And was I afraid? My brother, when the desire of a man is set
upon one thing alone, he fears neither God nor Man nor Devil. If my
vengeance failed, I would splinter the Gates of Paradise with the butt
of my gun, or I would cut my way into Hell with my knife, and I would
call upon Those who Govern there for the body of Daoud Shah. What love
so deep as hate?
Do not speak. I know the thought in your heart. Is the white of this
eye clouded? How does the blood beat at the wrist? There is no madness
in my flesh, but only the vehemence of the desire that has eaten me
South of Delhi I knew not the country at all. Therefore I cannot say
where I went, but I passed through many cities. I knew only that it
was laid upon me to go south. When the horses could march no more, I
threw myself upon the earth, and waited till the day. There was no
sleep with me in that journeying; and that was a heavy burden. Dost
thou know, brother of mine, the evil of wakefulness that cannot
break--when the bones are sore for lack of sleep, and the skin of the
temples twitches with weariness, and yet--there is no sleep--there is
no sleep? Dray wara yow dee! Dray wara yow dee! The eye of the Sun,
the eye of the Moon, and my own unrestful eyes--all three are one--all
three are one!
There was a city the name whereof I have forgotten, and there the Voice
called all night. That was ten days ago. It has cheated me afresh.
I have come hither from a place called Hamirpur, and, behold, it is
my Fate that I should meet with thee to my comfort, and the increase
of friendship. This is a good omen. By the joy of looking upon thy
face the weariness has gone from my feet, and the sorrow of my so long
travel is forgotten. Also my heart is peaceful; for I know that the
end is near.
It may be that I shall find Daoud Shah in this city going northward,
since a Hillman will ever head back to his Hills when the spring warns.
And shall he see those hills of our country? Surely I shall overtake
him! Surely my vengeance is safe! Surely God hath him in the hollow
of His hand against my claiming. There shall no harm befall Daoud Shah
till I come; for I would fain kill him quick and whole with the life
sticking firm in his body. A pomegranate is sweetest when the cloves
break away unwilling from the rind. Let it be in the daytime, that I
may see his face, and my delight may be crowned.
And when I have accomplished the matter and my Honour is made clean,
I shall return thanks unto God, the Holder of the Scale of the Law,
and I shall sleep. From the night, through the day, and into the night
again I shall sleep; and no dream shall trouble me.
And now, O my brother, the tale is all told. AHI! AHI! ALGHIAS! AHI!
THE JUDGMENT OF DUNGARA
See the pale martyr with his shirt on fire.--PRINTER'S ERROR.
THEY tell the tale even now among the groves of the Berbulda Hill, and
for corroboration point to the roofless and windowless Mission-house.
The great God Dungara, the God of Things as They Are, Most Terrible,
One-eyed, Bearing the Red Elephant Tusk, did it all; and he who refuses
to believe in Dungara will assuredly be smitten by the Madness of
Yat--the madness that fell upon the sons and the daughters of the Buria
Kol when they turned aside from Dungara and put on clothes. So says
Athon Daze*, who is High Priest of the shrine and Warden of the Red
Elephant Tusk. But if you ask the Assistant Collector and Agent in
Charge of the Buria Kol, he will laugh--not because he bears any malice
against missions, but because he himself saw the vengeance of Dungara
executed upon the spiritual children of the Reverend Justus Krenk,
Pastor of the Tubingen Mission, and upon Lotta, his virtuous wife.
[*Transcriber's Note: The "e" in Athon Daze has an acute accent.]
Yet if ever a man merited good treatment of the Gods it was the Reverend
Justus, one time of Heidelberg, who, on the faith of a call, went into
the wilderness and took the blonde, blue-eyed Lotta with him. 'We will
these Heathen now by idolatrous practices so darkened better make,'
said Justus in the early days of his career. 'Yes,' he added with
conviction, 'they shall be good and shall with their hands to work
learn. For all good Christians must work.' And upon a stipend more
modest even than that of an English lay-reader, Justus Krenk kept house
beyond Kamala and the gorge of Malair, beyond the Berbulda River close
to the foot of the blue hill of Panth on whose summit stands the Temple
of Dungara--in the heart of the country of the Buria Kol--the naked,
good-tempered, timid, shameless, lazy Buria Kol.
Do you know what life at a Mission outpost means? Try to imagine a
loneliness exceeding that of the smallest station to which Government
has ever sent you--isolation that weighs upon the waking eyelids and
drives you by force headlong into the labours of the day. There is no
post, there is no one of your own colour to speak to, there are no
roads: there is, indeed, food to keep you alive, but it is not pleasant
to eat; and whatever of good or beauty or interest there is in your
life, must come from yourself and the grace that may be planted in you.
In the morning, with a patter of soft feet, the converts, the doubtful,
and the open scoffers, troop up to the veranda. You must be infinitely
kind and patient, and, above all, clear-sighted, for you deal with the
simplicity of childhood, the experience of man, and the subtlety of
the savage. Your congregation have a hundred material wants to be
considered; and it is for you, as you believe in your personal
responsibility to your Maker, to pick out of the clamouring crowd any
grain of spirituality that may lie therein. If to the cure of souls
you add that of bodies, your task will be all the more difficult, for
the sick and the maimed will profess any and every creed for the sake
of healing, and will laugh at you because you are simple enough to
As the day wears and the impetus of the morning dies away, there will
come upon you an overwhelming sense of the uselessness of your toil.
This must be striven against, and the only spur in your side will be
the belief that you are playing against the Devil for the living soul.
It is a great, a joyous belief; but he who can hold it unwavering for
four and twenty consecutive hours, must be blessed with an abundantly
strong physique and equable nerve.
Ask the gray heads of the Bannockburn Medical Crusade what manner of
life their preachers lead; speak to the Racine Gospel Agency, those
lean Americans whose boast is that they go where no Englishman dare
follow; get a Pastor of the Tubingen Mission to talk of his
experiences--if you can. You will be referred to the printed reports,
but these contain no mention of the men who have lost youth and health,
all that a man may lose except faith, in the wilds; of English maidens
who have gone forth and died in the fever-stricken jungle of the Panth
Hills, knowing from the first that death was almost a certainty. Few
Pastors will tell you of these things any more than they will speak
of that young David of St. Bees, who, set apart for the Lord's work,
broke down in utter desolation, and returned half distraught to the
Head Mission, crying: 'There is no God, but I have walked with the
The reports are silent here, because heroism, failure, doubt, despair,
and self-abnegation on the part of a mere cultured white man are things
of no weight as compared to the saving of one half-human soul from a
fantastic faith in wood-spirits, goblins of the rock, and river-fiends.
And Gallio, the Assistant Collector of the country side, 'cared for
none of these things.' He had been long in the district, and the Buria
Kol loved him and brought him offerings of speared fish, orchids from
the dim moist heart of the forests, and as much game as he could eat.
In return, he gave them quinine, and with Athon Daze, the High Priest,
controlled their simple policies.
'When you have been some years in the country,' said Gallio at the
Krenks' table, 'you grow to find one creed as good as another. I'll
give you all the assistance in my power, of course, but don't hurt my
Buria Kol. They are a good people and they trust me.'
'I will them the Word of the Lord teach,' said Justus, his round face
beaming with enthusiasm, 'and I will assuredly to their prejudices no
wrong hastily without thinking make. But, O my friend, this in the
mind impartiality-of-creed-judgment-be-looking is very bad.'
'Heigh-ho!' said Gallio, 'I have their bodies and the district to see
to, but you can try what you can do for their souls. Only don't behave
as your predecessor did, or I'm afraid that I can't guarantee your
'And that?' said Lotta sturdily, handing him a cup of tea.
'He went up to the Temple of Dungara--to be sure he was new to the
country--and began hammering old Dungara over the head with an
so the Buria Kol turned out and hammered HIM rather savagely. I was
in the district, and he sent a runner to me with a note saying:
"Persecuted for the Lord's sake. Send wing of regiment." The nearest
troops were about two hundred miles off, but I guessed what he had
been doing. I rode to Panth and talked to old Athon Daze like a
father, telling him that a man of his wisdom ought to have known that
the Sahib had sunstroke and was mad. You never saw a people more
sorry in your life. Athon Daze apologised, sent wood and milk and
fowls and all sorts of things; and I gave five rupees to the shrine
and told Macnamara that he had been injudicious. He said that I had
bowed down in the House of Rimmon; but if he had only just gone over
the brow of the hill and insulted Palin Deo, the idol of the Suria
Kol, he would have been impaled on a charred bamboo long before I
could have done anything, and then I should have had to have hanged
some of the poor brutes. Be gentle with them, Padri--but I don't
think you'll do much.'
'Not I,' said Justus, 'but my Master. We will with the little children
begin. Many of them will be sick--that is so. After the children the
mothers; and then the men. But I would greatly that you were in internal
sympathies with us prefer.'
Gallio departed to risk his life in mending the rotten bamboo bridges
of his people, in killing a too persistent tiger here or there, in
sleeping out in the reeking jungle, or in tracking the Suria Kol raiders
who had taken a few heads from their brethren of the Buria clan. He
was a knock-kneed, shambling young man, naturally devoid of creed or
reverence, with a longing for absolute power which his undesirable
'No one wants my post,' he used to say grimly, 'and my Collector only
pokes his nose in when he's quite certain that there is no fever. I'm
monarch of all I survey, and Athon Daze is my viceroy.'
Because Gallio prided himself on his supreme disregard of human
life--though he never extended the theory beyond his own--he naturally
rode forty miles to the Mission with a tiny brown girl-baby on his
'Here is something for you, Padri,' said he. 'The Kols leave their
surplus children to die. 'Don't see why they shouldn't, but you may
rear this one. I picked it up beyond the Berbulda fork. I've a notion
that the mother has been following me through the woods ever since.'
'It is the first of the fold,' said Justus, and Lotta caught up the
screaming morsel to her bosom and hushed it craftily; while, as a wolf
hangs in the field, Matui, who had borne it and in accordance with the
law of her tribe had exposed it to die, panted weary and footsore in
the bamboo-brake, watching the house with hungry mother-eyes. What
would the omnipotent Assistant Collector do? Would the little man in
the black coat eat her daughter alive as Athon Daze said was the
custom of all men in black coats?
Matui waited among the bamboos through the long night; and, in the
morning, there came forth a fair white woman, the like of whom Matui
had never seen, and in her arms was Matui's daughter clad in spotless
raiment. Lotta knew little of the tongue of the Buria Kol, but when
mother calls to mother, speech is easy to follow. By the hands stretched
timidly to the hem of her gown, by the passionate gutturals and the
longing eyes, Lotta understood with whom she had to deal. So Matui
took her child again--would be a servant, even a slave, to this
wonderful white woman, for her own tribe would recognise her no more.
And Lotta wept with her exhaustively, after the German fashion, which
includes much blowing of the nose.
'First the child, then the mother, and last the man, and to the Glory
of God all,' said Justus the Hopeful. And the man came, with a bow and
arrows, very angry indeed, for there was no one to cook for him.
But the tale of the Mission is a long one, and I have no space to show
how Justus, forgetful of his injudicious predecessor, grievously smote
Moto, the husband of Matui, for his brutality; how Moto was startled,
but being released from the fear of instant death, took heart and
became the faithful ally and first convert of Justus; how the little
gathering grew, to the huge disgust of Athon Daze; how the Priest of
the God of Things as They Are argued subtilely with the Priest of the
God of Things as They Should Be, and was worsted; how the dues of the
Temple of Dungara fell away in fowls and fish and honeycomb; how
Lotta lightened the Curse of Eve among the women, and how Justus did
his best to introduce the Curse of Adam; how the Buria Kol rebelled
at this, saying that their God was an idle God, and how Justus
partially overcame their scruples against work, and taught them that
the black earth was rich in other produce than pig-nuts only.
All these things belong to the history of many months, and throughout
those months the white-haired Athon Daze meditated revenge for the
tribal neglect of Dungara. With savage cunning he feigned friendship
towards Justus, even hinting at his own conversion; but to the
congregation of Dungara he said darkly: 'They of the Padri's flock
have put on clothes and worship a busy God. Therefore Dungara will
afflict them grieviously till they throw themselves, howling, into
the waters of the Berbulda.' At night the Red Elephant Tusk boomed
and groaned among the hills, and the faithful waked and said: 'The
God of Things as They Are matures revenge against the backsliders. Be
merciful, Dungara, to us Thy children, and give us all their crops!'
Late in the cold weather, the Collector and his wife came into the
Buria Kol country. 'Go and look at Krenk's Mission' said Gallio. 'He
is doing good work in his own way, and I think he'd be pleased if you
opened the bamboo chapel that he, has managed to run up. At any rate
you'll see a civilised Buria Kol.'
Great was the stir in the Mission. 'Now he and the gracious lady will
that we have done good work with their own eyes see, and--yes--we will
him our converts in all their new clothes by their own hands constructed
exhibit. It will a great day be--for the Lord always,' said Justus;
and Lotta said 'Amen.'
Justus had, in his quiet way, felt jealous of the Basel Weaving Mission,
his own converts being unhandy; but Athon Daze had latterly induced
some of them to hackle the glossy silky fibres of a plant that grew
plenteously on the Panth Hills. It yielded a cloth white and smooth
almost as the TAPPA of the South Seas, and that day the converts were
to wear for the first time clothes made therefrom. Justus was proud
of his work.
'They shall in white clothes clothed to meet the Collector and his
well-born lady come down, singing "NOW THANK WE ALL OUR GOD." Then
will the Chapel open, and--yes--even Gallio to believe will begin.
Stand so, my children, two by two, and--Lotta, why do they thus
themselves bescratch? It is not seemly to wriggle, Nala, my child. The
Collector will be here and be pained.'
The Collector, his wife, and Gallio climbed the hill to the
Mission-station. The converts were drawn up in two lines, a shining
band nearly forty strong. 'Hah!' said the Collector, whose acquisitive
bent of mind led him to believe that he had fostered the institution
from the first. 'Advancing, I see, by leaps and bounds.'
Never was truer word spoken! The Mission was advancing exactly as
he had said--at first by little hops and shuffles of shamefaced
uneasiness, but soon by the leaps of fly-stung horses and the bounds
of maddened kangaroos. From the hill of Panth the Red Elephant Tusk
delivered a dry and anguished blare. The ranks of the converts wavered,
broke and scattered with yells and shrieks of pain, while Justus and
Lotta stood horror-stricken.
'It is the Judgment of Dungara!' shouted a voice. 'I burn! I burn! To
the river or we die!'
The mob wheeled and headed for the rocks that over-hung the Berbulda,
writhing, stamping, twisting and shedding its garments as it ran,
pursued by the thunder of the trumpet of Dungara. Justus and Lotta
fled to the Collector almost in tears.
'I cannot understand! Yesterday,' panted Justus, 'they had the Ten
Commandments.--What is this? Praise the Lord all good spirits by land
and by sea. Nala! Oh, shame!'
With a bound and a scream there alighted on the rocks above their
heads, Nala, once the pride of the Mission, a maiden of fourteen
summers, good, docile, and virtuous--now naked as the dawn and spitting
like a wild-cat.
'Was it for this!' she raved, hurling her petticoat at Justus; 'was
it for this I left my people and Dungara--for the fires of your Bad
Place? Blind ape, little earthworm, dried fish that you are, you said
that I should never burn! O Dungara, I burn now! I burn now! Have
mercy, God of Things as They Are!'
She turned and flung herself into the Berbulda, and the trumpet of
Dungara bellowed jubilantly. The last of the converts of the Tubingen
Mission had put a quarter of a mile of rapid river between herself and
'Yesterday,' gulped Justus, 'she taught in the school A,B,C,D.--Oh!
It is the work of Satan!'
But Gallio was curiously regarding the maiden's petticoat where it had
fallen at his feet. He felt its texture, drew back his shirt-sleeve
beyond the deep tan of his wrist and pressed a fold of the cloth against
the flesh. A blotch of angry red rose on the white skin.
'Ah!' said Gallio calmly, 'I thought so.'
'What is it?' said Justus.
'I should call it the Shirt of Nessus, but--Where did you get the fibre
of this cloth from?'
'Athon Daze,' said Justus. 'He showed the boys how it should
'The old fox! Do you know that he has given you the Nilgiri
Nettle--scorpion--Girardenia heterophylla--to work up? No wonder
they squirmed! Why, it stings even when they make bridge-ropes of it,
unless it's soaked for six weeks. The cunning brute! It would take
about half an hour to burn through their thick hides, and then--!'
Gallio burst into laughter, but Lotta was weeping in the arms of the
Collector's wife, and Justus had covered his face with his hands.
'Girardenia heterophylla!' repeated Gallio. 'Krenk, why didn't
you tell me? I could have saved you this. Woven fire! Anybody but a
naked Kol would have known it, and, if I'm a judge of their ways,
you'll never get them back.'
He looked across the river to where the converts were still wallowing
and wailing in the shallows, and the laughter died out of his eyes,
for he saw that the Tubingen Mission to the Buria Kol was dead.
Never again, though they hung mournfully round the deserted school for
three months, could Lotta or Justus coax back even the most promising
of their flock. No! The end of conversion was the fire of the Bad
Place--fire that ran through the limbs and gnawed into the bones. Who
dare a second time tempt the anger of Dungara? Let the little man and
his wife go elsewhere. The Buria Kol would have none of them. An
unofficial message to Athon Daze that if a hair of their heads were
touched, Athon Daze and the priests of Dungara would be hanged by
Gallio at the temple shrine, protected Justus and Lotta from the stumpy
poisoned arrows of the Buria Kol, but neither fish nor fowl, honeycomb,
salt nor young pig were brought to their doors any more. And, alas!
man cannot live by grace alone if meat be wanting.
'Let us go, mine wife,' said Justus; 'there is no good here, and the
Lord has willed that some other man shall the work take--in good
time--in His own good time. We will go away, and I will--yes--some
If any one is anxious to convert the Buria Kol afresh, there lies at
least the core of a mission-house under the hill of Panth. But the
chapel and school have long since fallen back into jungle.
AT HOWLI THANA
His own shoe, his own head.--Native Proverb.
As a messenger, if the heart of the Presence be moved to so great
favour. And on six rupees. Yes, Sahib, for I have three little children
whose stomachs are always empty, and corn is now but forty pounds to
the rupee. I will make so clever a messenger that you shall all day
long be pleased with me, and, at the end of the year, bestow a turban.
I know all the roads of the Station and many other things. Aha, Sahib!
I am clever. Give me service. I was aforetime in the Police. A bad
character? Now without doubt an enemy has told this tale. Never was
I a scamp. I am a man of clean heart, and all my words are true. They
knew this when I was in the Police. They said: 'Afzal Khan is a true
speaker in whose words men may trust.' I am a Delhi Pathan, Sahib--all
Delhi Pathans are good men. You have seen Delhi? Yes, it is true that
there be many scamps among the Delhi Pathans. How wise is the Sahib!
Nothing is hid from his eyes, and he will make me his messenger, and
I will take all his notes secretly and without ostentation. Nay, Sahib,
God is my witness that I meant no evil. I have long desired to serve
under a true Sahib--a virtuous Sahib. Many young Sahibs are as devils
unchained. With these Sahibs I would take no service--not though all
the stomachs of my little children were crying for bread.
Why am I not still in the Police? I will speak true talk. An evil came
to the Thana--to Ram Baksh, the Havildar, and Maula Baksh, and Juggut
Ram and Bhim Singh and Suruj Bul. Ram Baksh is in the jail for a space,
and so also is Maula Baksh.
It was at the Thana of Howli, on the road that leads to Gokral-Seetarun
wherein are many dacoits. We were all brave men--Rustums. Wherefore
we were sent to that Thana which was eight miles from the next Thana.
All day and all night we watched for dacoits. Why does the Sahib laugh?
Nay, I will make a confession. The dacoits were too clever, and, seeing
this, we made no further trouble. It was in the hot weather. What can
a man do in the hot days? Is the Sahib who is so strong--is he, even,
vigorous in that hour? We made an arrangement with the dacoits for the
sake of peace. That was the work of the Havildar who was fat. Ho! Ho!
Sahib, he is now getting thin in the jail among the carpets. The
Havildar said:' Give us no trouble, and we will give you no trouble.
At the end of the reaping send us a man to lead before the judge, a
man of infirm mind against whom the trumped-up case will break down,
Thus we shall save our honour.' To this talk the dacoits agreed, and
we had no trouble at the Thana, and could eat melons in peace, sitting
upon our charpoys all day long. Sweet as sugar-cane are the melons of
Now there was an assistant commissioner--a Stunt Sahib, in that
district, called Yunkum Sahib. Aha! He was hard-hard even as is the
Sahib who, without doubt, will give me the shadow of his protection.
Many eyes had Yunkum Sahib, and moved quickly through his district.
Men called him The Tiger of Gokral-Seetarun, because he would arrive
unannounced and make his kill, and, before sunset, would be giving
trouble to the Tehsildars thirty miles away. No one knew the comings
or the goings of Yunkum Sahib. He had no camp, and when his horse was
weary he rode upon a devil-carriage. I do not know its name, but the
Sahib sat in the midst of three silver wheels that made no creaking,
and drave them with his legs, prancing like a bean-fed horse--thus.
A shadow of a hawk upon the fields was not more without noise than the
devil-carriage of Yunkum Sahib. It was here: it was there: it was gone:
and the rapport was made, and there was trouble. Ask the Tehsildar of
Rohestri how the hen-stealing came to be known, Sahib.
It fell upon a night that we of the Thana slept according to custom
upon our charpoys, having eaten the evening meal and drunk tobacco.
When we awoke in the morning, behold, of our six rifles not one
remained! Also, the big Police-book that was in the Havildar's charge
was gone. Seeing these things, we were very much afraid, thinking on
our parts that the dacoits, regardless of honour, had come by night,
and put us to shame. Then said Ram Baksh, the Havildar:' Be silent!
The business is an evil business, but it may yet go well. Let us make
the case complete. Bring a kid and my tulwar. See you not now, O fools?
A kick for a horse, but a word is enough for a man.'
We of the Thana, perceiving quickly what was in the mind of the
Havildar, and greatly fearing that the service would be lost, made
haste to take the kid into the inner room, and attended to the words
of the Havildar. 'Twenty dacoits came,' said the Havildar, and we,
taking his words, repeated after him according to custom. 'There was
a great fight,' said the Havildar, 'and of us no man escaped unhurt.
The bars of the window were broken. Suruj Bul, see thou to that; and,
O men, put speed into your work, for a runner must go with the news
to The Tiger of Gokral-Seetarun.' Thereon, Suruj Bul, leaning with his
shoulder, brake in the bars of the window, and I, beating her with a
whip, made the Havildar's mare skip among the melon-beds till they
were much trodden with hoof-prints.
These things being made, I returned to the Thana, and the goat was
slain, and certain portions of the walls were blackened with fire, and
each man dipped his clothes a little into the blood of the goat. Know,
O Sahib, that a wound made by man upon his own body can, by those
skilled, be easily discerned from a wound wrought by another man.
Therefore, the Havildar, taking his tulwar, smote one of us lightly
on the forearm in the fat, and another on the leg, and a third on the
back of the hand. Thus dealt he with all of us till the blood came;
and Suruj Bul, more eager than the others, took out much hair. O Sahib,
never was so perfect an arrangement. Yea, even I would have sworn that
the Thana had been treated as we said. There was smoke and breaking
and blood and trampled earth.
'Ride now, Maula Baksh,' said the Havildar,'to the house of the Stunt
Sahib, and carry the news of the dacoity. Do you also, O Afzal Khan,
run there, and take heed that you are mired with sweat and dust on
your incoming. The blood will be dry on the clothes. I will stay and
send a straight report to the Dipty Sahib, and we will catch certain
that ye know of, villagers, so that all may be ready against the Dipty
Thus Maula Baksh rode and I ran hanging on the stirrup, and together
we came in an evil plight before The Tiger of Gokral-Seetarun in the
Rohestri tehsil. Our tale was long and correct, Sahib, for we gave
even the names of the dacoits and the issue of the fight and besought
him to come. But The Tiger made no sign, and only smiled after the
manner of Sahibs when they have a wickedness in their hearts. 'Swear
ye to the rapport?' said he, and we said: 'Thy servants swear. The
blood of the fight is but newly dry upon us. Judge thou if it be the
blood of the servants of the Presence, or not.' And he said: 'I see.
Ye have done well.' But he did not call for his horse or his
devil-carriage, and scour the land as was his custom. He said: 'Rest
now and eat bread, for ye be wearied men. I will wait the coming of
the Dipty Sahib.'
Now it is the order that the Havildar of the Thana should send a
straight report of all dacoities to the Dipty Sahib. At noon came he,
a fat man and an old, and overbearing withal, but we of the Thana had
no fear of his anger; dreading more the silences of The Tiger of
Gokral-Seetarun. With him came Ram Baksh, the Havildar, and the others,
guarding ten men of the village of Howli--all men evil affected towards
the Police of the Sirkar. As prisoners they came, the irons upon their
hands, crying for mercy--Imam Baksh, the farmer, who had denied his
wife to the Havildar, and others, ill-conditioned rascals against whom
we of the Thane bore spite. It was well done, and the Havildar was
proud. But the Dipty Sahib was angry with the Stunt for lack of zeal,
and said 'Dam-Dam' after the custom of the English people, and extolled
the Havildar. Yunkum Sahib lay still in his long chair. 'Have the men
sworn?' said Yunkum Sahib. 'Aye, and captured ten evildoers,' said the
Dipty Sahib. 'There be more abroad in your charge. Take horse--ride,
and go in the name of the Sirkar!' 'Truly there be more evil-doers
abroad,' said Yunkum Sahib, 'but there is no need of a horse. Come all
men with me.'
I saw the mark of a string on the temples of Imam Baksh. Does the
Presence know the torture of the Cold Draw? I saw also the face of The
Tiger of Gokral-Seeta-run, the evil smile was upon it, and I stood
back ready for what might befall. Well it was, Sahib, that I did this
thing. Yunkum Sahib unlocked the door of his bath-room, and smiled
anew. Within lay the six rifles and the big Police-book of the Thana
of Howli! He had come by night in the devil-carriage that is noiseless
as a ghoul, and moving among us asleep, had taken away both the guns
and the book! Twice had he come to the Thana, taking each time three
rifles. The liver of the Havildar was turned to water, and he fell
scrabbling in the dirt about the boots of Yunkum Sahib, crying--'Have
And I? Sahib, I am a Delhi Pathan, and a young man with little children.
The Havildar's mare was in the compound. I ran to her and rode: the
black wrath of the Sirkar was behind me, and I knew not whither to go.
Till she dropped and died I rode the red mare; and by the blessing of
God, who is without doubt on the side of all just men, I escaped. But
the Havildar and the rest are now in jail.
I am a scamp? It is as the Presence pleases. God will make the Presence
a Lord, and give him a rich Mem-sahib as fair as a Peri to wife, and
many strong sons, if he makes me his orderly. The Mercy of Heaven be
upon the Sahib! Yes, I will only go to the bazar and bring my children
to these so-palace-like quarters, and then--the Presence is my Father
and my Mother, and I, Afzal Khan, am his slave.
Ohe, Sirdar-ji! I also am of the household of the Sahib.
Great is the justice of the White Man--greater the power of a lie.
This is your English Justice, Protector of the Poor. Look at my back
and loins which are beaten with sticks--heavy sticks! I am a poor
man, and there is no justice in Courts.
There were two of us, and we were born of one birth, but I swear to
you that I was born the first, and Ram Dass is the younger by three
full breaths. The astrologer said so, and it is written in my
horoscope--the horoscope of Durga Dass.
But we were alike--I and my brother who is a beast without honour--so
alike that none knew, together or apart, which was Durga Dass. I am
a Mahajun of Pali in Marwar, and an honest man. This is true talk.
When we were men, we left our father's house in Pali, and went to the
Punjab, where all the people are mud-heads and sons of asses. We took
shop together in Isser Jang--I and my brother--near the big well where
the Governor's camp draws water. But Ram Dass, who is without truth,
made quarrel with me, and we were divided. He took his books, and his
pots, and his Mark, and became a bunnia--a money-lender--in the
long street of Isser Jang, near the gateway of the road that goes to
Montgomery. It was not my fault that we pulled each other's turbans.
I am a Mahajun of Pali, and I always speak true talk. Ram Dass was
the thief and the liar.
Now no man, not even the little children, could at one glance see which
was Ram Dass and which was Durga Dass. But all the people of Isser
Jang--may they die without sons!--said that we were thieves. They used
much bad talk, but I took money on their bedsteads and their
cooking-pots and the standing crop and the calf unborn, from the well
in the big square to the gate of the Montgomery road. They were fools,
these people--unfit to cut the toe-nails of a Marwari from Pali. I
lent money to them all. A little, very little only--here a pice and
there a pice. God is my witness that I am a poor man! The money is all
with Ram Dass--may his sons turn Christian, and his daughter be a
burning fire and a shame in the house from generation to generation!
May she die unwed, and be the mother of a multitude of bastards! Let
the light go out in the house of Ram Dass, my brother. This I pray
daily twice--with offerings and charms.
Thus the trouble began. We divided the town of Isser Jang between us--I
and my brother. There was a landholder beyond the gates, living but
one short mile out, on the road that leads to Montgomery, and his name
was Muhammad Shah, son of a Nawab. He was a great devil and drank
So long as there were women in his house, and wine and money for the
marriage-feasts, he was merry and wiped his mouth. Ram Dass lent him
the money, a lakh or half a lakh--how do I know?--and so long as the
money was lent, the landholder cared not what he signed.
The People of Isser Jang were my portion, and the landholder and the
out-town was the portion of Ram Dass; for so we had arranged. I was
the poor man, for the people of Isser Jang were without wealth. I did
what I could, but Ram Dass had only to wait without the door of the
landholder's garden-court, and to lend him the money; taking the bonds
from the hand of the steward.
In the autumn of the year after the lending, Ram Dass said to the
landholder: 'Pay me my money,' but the landholder gave him abuse. But
Ram Dass went into the Courts with the papers and the bonds--all
correct--and took out decrees against the landholder; and the name of
the Government was across the stamps of the decrees. Ram Dass took
field by field, and mango-tree by mango-tree, and well by well; putting
in his own men--debtors of the out-town of Isser Jang--to cultivate
the crops. So he crept up across the land, for he had the papers, and
the name of the Government was across the stamps, till his men held
the crops for him on all sides of the big white house of the landholder.
It was well done; but when the landholder saw these things he was very
angry and cursed Ram Dass after the manner of the Muhammadans.
And thus the landholder was angry, but Ram Dass laughed and claimed
more fields, as was written upon the bonds. This was in the month of
Phagun. I took my horse and went out to speak to the man who makes
lac-bangles upon the road that leads to Montgomery, because he owed
me a debt. There was in front of me, upon his horse, my brother Ram
Dass. And when he saw me, he turned aside into the high crops, because
there was hatred between us. And I went forward till I came to the
orange-bushes by the landholder's house. The bats were flying, and the
evening smoke was low down upon the land. Here met me four
men--swashbucklers and Muhammadans--with their faces bound up, laying
hold of my horse's bridle and crying out: 'This is Ram Dass! Beat!'
Me they beat with their staves--heavy staves bound about with wire at
the end, such weapons as those swine of Punjabis use--till, having
cried for mercy, I fell down senseless. But these shameless ones still
beat me, saying: 'O Ram Dass, this is your interest--well weighed and
counted into your hand, Ram Dass.' I cried aloud that I was not Ram
Dass but Durga Dass, his brother, yet they only beat me the more, and
when I could make no more outcry they left me. But I saw their faces.
There was Elahi Baksh who runs by the side of the landholder's white
horse, and Nur Ali the keeper of the door, and Wajib Ali the very
strong cook, and Abdul Latif the messenger--all of the household of
the landholder. These things I can swear on the Cow's Tail if need be,
but--Ahi! Ahi!--it has been already sworn, and I am a poor man whose
honour is lost.
When these four had gone away laughing, my brother Ram Dass came out
of the crops and mourned over me as one dead. But I opened my eyes,
and prayed him to get me water. When I had drunk, he carried me on his
back, and by byways brought me into the town of Isser Jang. My heart
was turned to Ram Dass, my brother, in that hour, because of his
kindness, and I lost my enmity.
But a snake is a snake till it is dead; and a liar is a liar till the
Judgment of the Gods takes hold of his heel. I was wrong in that I
trusted my brother--the son of my mother.
When we had come to his house and I was a little restored, I told him
my tale, and he said: 'Without doubt it is me whom they would have
beaten. But the Law Courts are open, and there is the Justice of the
Sirkar above all; and to the Law Courts do thou go when this sickness
Now when we two had left Pali in the old years, there fell a famine
that ran from Jeysulmir to Gurgaon and touched Gogunda in the south.
At that time the sister of my father came away and lived with us in
Isser Jang; for a man must above all see that his folk do not die of
want. When the quarrel between us twain came about, the sister of my
father--a lean she-dog without teeth--said that Ram Dass had the
right, and went with him. Into her hands--because she knew medicines
and many cures--Ram Dass, my brother, put me faint with the beating,
and much bruised even to the pouring of blood from the mouth. When I
had two days' sickness the fever came upon me; and I set aside the
fever to the account written in my mind against the landholder.
The Punjabis of Isser Jang are all the sons of Belial and a she-ass,
but they are very good witnesses, bearing testimony unshakingly whatever
the pleaders may say. I would purchase witnesses by the score, and
each man should give evidence, not only against Nur Ali, Wajib Ali,
Abdul Latif and Elahi Baksh, but against the landholder, saying that
he upon his white horse had called his men to beat me; and, further,
that they had robbed me of two hundred rupees. For the latter testimony,
I would remit a little of the debt of the man who sold the lac-bangles,
and he should say that he had put the money into my hands, and had
seen the robbery from afar, but, being afraid, had run away. This plan
I told to my brother Ram Dass; and he said that the arrangement was
good, and bade me take comfort and make swift work to be abroad again.
My heart was opened to my brother in my sickness, and I told him the
names of those whom I would call as witnesses--all men in my debt, but
of that the Magistrate Sahib could have no knowledge, nor the
landholder. The fever stayed with me, and after the fever, I was taken
with colic, and gripings very terrible. In that day I thought that my
end was at hand, but I know now that she who gave me the medicines,
the sister of my father--a widow with a widow's heart--had brought
about my second sickness. Ram Dass, my brother, said that my house was
shut and locked, and brought me the big door-key and my books, together
with all the moneys that were in my house--even the money that was
buried under the floor; for I was in great fear lest thieves should
break in and dig. I speak true talk; there was but very little money
in the house. Perhaps ten rupees--perhaps twenty. How can I tell? God
is my witness that I am a poor man.
One night, when I had told Ram Dass all that was in my heart of the
lawsuit that I would bring against the landholder, and Ram Dass had
said that he had made the arrangements with the witnesses, giving me
their names written, I was taken with a new great sickness, and they
put me on the bed. When I was a little recovered--I cannot tell how
many days afterwards--I made enquiry for Ram Dass, and the sister of
my father said that he had gone to Montgomery upon a lawsuit. I took
medicine and slept very heavily without waking. When my eyes were
opened, there was a great stillness in the house of Ram Dass, and none
answered when I called--not even the sister of my father. This filled
me with fear, for I knew not what had happened.
Taking a stick in my hand, I went out slowly, till I came to the great
square by the well, and my heart was hot in me against the landholder
because of the pain of every step I took.
I called for Jowar Singh, the carpenter, whose name was first upon the
list of those who should bear evidence against the landholder, saying:
'Are all things ready, and do you know what should be said?'
Jowar Singh answered: 'What is this, and whence do you come, Durga
I said: 'From my bed, where I have so long lain sick because of the
landholder. Where is Ram Dass, my brother, who was to have made the
arrangement for the witnesses? Surely you and yours know these things!'
Then Jowar Singh said: 'What has this to do with us, O Liar? I have
borne witness and I have been paid, and the landholder has, by the
order of the Court, paid both the five hundred rupees that he robbed
from Ram Dass and yet other five hundred because of the great injury
he did to your brother.'
The well and the jujube-tree above it and the square of Isser Jang
became dark in my eyes, but I leaned on my stick and said: 'Nay! This
is child's talk and senseless. It was I who suffered at the hands of
the landholder, and I am come to make ready the case. Where is my
brother Ram Dass?'
But Jowar Singh shook his head, and a woman cried: 'What lie is here?
What quarrel had the landholder with you, bunnia? It is only a
shameless one and one without faith who profits by his brother's smarts.
Have these bunnias no bowels?'
I cried again, saying: 'By the Cow--by the Oath of the Cow, by the
Temple of the Blue-throated Mahadeo, I and I only was beaten--beaten
to the death! Let your talk be straight, O people of Isser Jang, and
I will pay for the witnesses.' And I tottered where I stood, for the
sickness and the pain of the beating were heavy upon me.
Then Ram Narain, who has his carpet spread under the jujube-tree by
the well, and writes all letters for the men of the town, came up and
said: 'To-day is the one and fortieth day since the beating, and since
these six days the case has been judged in the Court, and the Assistant
Commissioner Sahib has given it for your brother Ram Dass, allowing
the robbery, to which, too, I bore witness, and all things else as the
witnesses said. There were many witnesses, and twice Ram Dass became
senseless in the Court because of his wounds, and the Stunt Sahib--the
baba Stunt Sahib--gave him a chair before all the pleaders. Why do
you howl, Durga Dass? These things fell as I have said. Was it not so?'
And Jowar Singh said: 'That is truth. I was there, and there was a red
cushion in the chair.'
And Ram Narain said: 'Great shame has come upon the landholder because
of this judgment, and fearing his anger, Ram Dass and all his house
have gone back to Pali. Ram Dass told us that you also had gone first,
the enmity being healed between you, to open a shop in Pali. Indeed,
it were well for you that you go even now, for the landholder has sworn
that if he catch any one of your house, he will hang him by the heels
from the well-beam, and, swinging him to and fro, will beat him with
staves till the blood runs from his ears. What I have said in respect
to the case is true, as these men here can testify--even to the five
I said: 'Was it five hundred?' And Kirpa Ram, the jat, said: 'Five
hundred; for I bore witness also.'
And I groaned, for it had been in my heart to have said two hundred
Then a new fear came upon me and my bowels turned to water, and,
swiftly to the house of Ram Dass, I sought for my books and my money
in the great wooden chest under my bedstead. There remained nothing:
not even a cowrie's value. All had been taken by the devil who said
he was my brother. I went to my own house also and opened the boards
of the shutters; but there also was nothing save the rats among the
grain-baskets. In that hour my senses left me, and, tearing my clothes,
I ran to the well-place, crying out for the Justice of the English on
my brother Ram Dass, and, in my madness, telling all that the books
were lost. When men saw that I would have jumped down the well, they
believed the truth of my talk; more especially because upon my back
and bosom were still the marks of the staves of the landholder.
Jowar Singh the carpenter withstood me, and turning me in his hands--for
he is a very strong man--showed the scars upon my body, and bowed down
with laughter upon the well-curb. He cried aloud so that all heard
him, from the well-square to the Caravanserai of the Pilgrims: 'Oho!
The jackals have quarrelled, and the gray one has been caught in the
trap. In truth, this man has been grievously beaten, and his brother
has taken the money which the Court decreed! Oh, bunnia, this shall
be told for years against you! The jackals have quarrelled, and,
moreover, the books are burned. O people indebted to Durga Dass--and
I know that ye be many--the books are burned!'
Then all Isser Jang took up the cry that the books were burned--Ahi!
Ahi! that in my folly I had let that escape my mouth--and they laughed
throughout the city. They gave me the abuse of the Punjabi, which is
a terrible abuse and very hot; pelting me also with sticks and cow-dung
till I fell down and cried for mercy.
Ram Narain, the letter-writer, bade the people cease, for fear that
the news should get into Montgomery, and the Policemen might come down
to enquire. He said, using many bad words: 'This much mercy will I do
to you Durga Dass, though there was no mercy in your dealings with my
sister's son over the matter of the dun heifer. Has any man a pony on
which he sets no store, that this fellow may escape? If the landholder
hears that one of the twain (and God knows whether he beat one or both,
but this man is certainly beaten) be in the city, there will be a
murder done, and then will come the Police, making inquisition into
each man's house and eating the sweet-seller's stuff all day long.'
Kirpa Ram, the jat, said: 'I have a pony very sick. But with
beating he can be made to walk for two miles. If he dies, the
hide-sellers will have the body.'
Then Chumbo, the hide-seller, said: 'I will pay three annas for the
body, and will walk by this man's side till such time as the pony dies.
If it be more than two miles, I will pay two annas only.'
Kirpa Ram said: 'Be it so.' Men brought out the pony, and I asked leave
to draw a little water from the well, because I was dried up with fear.
Then Ram Narain said: 'Here be four annas. God has brought you very
low, Durga Dass, and I would not send you away empty, even though the
matter of my sister's son's dun heifer be an open sore between us. It
is a long way to your own country. Go, and if it be so willed, live;
but, above all, do not take the pony's bridle, for that is mine.'
And I went out of Isser Jang, amid the laughing of the huge-thighed
Jats, and the hide-seller walked by my side waiting for the pony to
fall dead. In one mile it died, and being full of fear of the
landholder, I ran till I could run no more and came to this place.
But I swear by the Cow, I swear by all things whereon Hindus and
Musalmans, and even the Sahibs swear, that I, and not my brother, was
beaten by the landholder. But the case is shut and the doors of the
Law Courts are shut, and God knows where the baba Stunt Sahib--the
mother's milk is not yet dry upon his hairless lip--is gone. Ahi!
Ahi! I I have no witnesses, and the scars will heal, and I am a poor
man. But, on my Father's Soul, on the oath of a Mahajun from Pali, I,
and not my brother, I was beaten by the landholder!
What can I do? The Justice of the English is as a great river. Having
gone forward, it does not return. Howbeit, do you, Sahib, take a pen
and write clearly what I have said, that the Dipty Sahib may see, and
reprove the Stunt Sahib, who is a colt yet unlicked by the mare, so
young is he. I, and not my brother, was beaten, and he is gone to the
west--I do not know where.
But, above all things, write--so that Sahibs may read, and his disgrace
be accomplished--that Ram Dass, my brother, son of Purun Dass, Mahajun
of Pali, is a swine and a night-thief, a taker of life, an eater of
flesh, a jackal-spawn without beauty, or faith, or cleanliness, or
Narrow as the womb, deep as the Pit, and dark as the heart of a man.
--Sonthal Miner's Proverb.
'A weaver went out to reap but stayed to unravel the corn-stalks. Ha!
Ha! Ha! Is there any sense in a weaver?'
Janki Meah glared at Kundoo, but, as Janki Meah was blind, Kundoo was
not impressed. He had come to argue with Janki Meah, and, if chance
favoured, to make love to the old man's pretty young wife.
This was Kundoo's grievance, and he spoke in the name of all the five
men who, with Janki Meah, composed the gang in Number Seven gallery
of Twenty-Two. Janki Meah had been blind for the thirty years during
which he had served the Jimahari Collieries with pick and crowbar. All
through those thirty years he had regularly, every morning before going
down, drawn from the overseer his allowance of lamp-oil--just as if
he had been an eyed miner. What Kundoo's gang resented, as hundreds
of gangs had resented before, was Janki Meah's selfishness. He would
not add the oil to the common stock of his gang, but would save and
'I knew these workings before you were born,' Janki Meah used to reply:
'I don't want the light to get my coal out by, and I am not going to
help you. The oil is mine, and I intend to keep it.'
A strange man in many ways was Janki Meah, the white-haired,
hot-tempered, sightless weaver who had turned pitman. All day
long--except on Sundays and Mondays when he was usually drunk--he
worked in the Twenty-Two shaft of the Jimahari Colliery as cleverly
as a man with all the senses. At evening he went up in the great
steam-hauled cage to the pit-bank, and there called for his pony--a
rusty, coal-dusty beast, nearly as old as Janki Meah. The pony would
come to his side, and Janki Meah would clamber on to its back and be
taken at once to the plot of land which he, like the other miners,
received from the Jimahari Company. The pony knew that place, and when,
after six years, the Company changed all the allotments to prevent the
miners from acquiring proprietary rights, Janki Meah represented, with
tears in his eyes, that were his holding shifted, he would never be
able to find his way to the new one. 'My horse only knows that place,'
pleaded Janki Meah, and so he was allowed to keep his land.
On the strength of this concession and his accumulated oil-savings,
Janki Meah took a second wife--a girl of the Jolaha main stock of the
Meahs, and singularly beautiful. Janki Meah could not see her beauty;
wherefore he took her on trust, and forbade her to go down the pit.
He had not worked for thirty years in the dark without knowing that
the pit was no place for pretty women. He loaded her with ornaments--not
brass or pewter, but real silver ones--and she rewarded him by flirting
outrageously with Kundoo of Number Seven gallery gang. Kundoo was
really the gang-head, but Janki Meah insisted upon all the work being
entered in his own name, and chose the men that he worked with.
Custom--stronger even than the Jimahari Company--dictated that Janki,
by right of his years, should manage these things, and should, also,
work despite his blindness. In Indian mines where they cut into the
solid coal with the pick and clear it out from floor to ceiling, he
could come to no great harm. At Home, where they undercut the coal and
bring it down in crashing avalanches from the roof, he would never
have been allowed to set foot in a pit. He was not a popular man,
because of his oil-savings; but all the gangs admitted that Janki knew
all the khads, or workings, that had ever been sunk or worked since
the Jimahari Company first started operations on the Tarachunda fields.
Pretty little Unda only knew that her old husband was a fool who could
be managed. She took no interest in the collieries except in so far
as they swallowed up Kundoo five days out of the seven, and covered
him with coal-dust. Kundoo was a great workman, and did his best not
to get drunk, because, when he had saved forty rupees, Unda was to
steal everything that she could find in Janki's house and run with
Kundoo to a land where there were no mines, and every one kept three
fat bullocks and a milch-buffalo. While this scheme ripened it was his
custom to drop in upon Janki and worry him about the oil-savings. Unda
sat in a corner and nodded approval. On the night when Kundoo had
quoted that objectionable proverb about weavers, Janki grew angry.
'Listen, you pig,' said he, 'blind I am, and old I am, but, before
ever you were born, I was gray among the coal. Even in the days when
the Twenty-Two khad was unsunk and there were not two thousand men
here, I was known to have all knowledge of the pits. What khad is
there that I do not know, from the bottom of the shaft to the end of
the last drive? Is it the Baromba khad, the oldest, or the Twenty-Two
where Tibu's gallery runs up to Number Five?'
'Hear the old fool talk!' said Kundoo, nodding to Unda. 'No gallery
of Twenty-Two will cut into Five before the end of the Rains. We have
a month's solid coal before us. The Babuji says so.'
'Babuji! Pigji! Dogji! What do these fat slugs from Calcutta know? He
draws and draws and draws, and talks and talks and talks, and his maps
are all wrong. I, Janki, know that this is so. When a man has been
shut up in the dark for thirty years, God gives him knowledge. The old
gallery that Tibu's gang made is not six feet from Number Five.'
'Without doubt God gives the blind knowledge,' said Kundoo, with a
look at Unda. 'Let it be as you say. I, for my part, do not know where
lies the gallery of Tibu's gang, but I am not a withered monkey who
needs oil to grease his joints with.'
Kundoo swung out of the hut laughing, and Unda giggled. Janki turned
his sightless eyes towards his wife and swore. 'I have land, and I
have sold a great deal of lamp-oil,' mused Janki; 'but I was a fool
to marry this child.'
A week later the Rains set in with a vengeance, and the gangs paddled
about in coal-slush at the pit-banks. Then the big mine-pumps were
made ready, and the Manager of the Colliery ploughed through the wet
towards the Tarachunda River swelling between its soppy banks. 'Lord
send that this beastly beck doesn't misbehave,' said the Manager
piously, and he went to take counsel with his Assistant about the
But the Tarachunda misbehaved very much indeed. After a fall of three
inches of rain in an hour it was obliged to do something. It topped
its bank and joined the flood-water that was hemmed between two low
hills just where the embankment of the Colliery main line crossed.
When a large part of a rain-fed river, and a few acres of flood-water,
make a dead set for a nine-foot culvert, the culvert may spout its
finest, but the water cannot all get out. The Manager pranced upon
one leg with excitement, and his language was improper.
He had reason to swear, because he knew that one inch of water on land
meant a pressure of one hundred tons to the acre; and here were about
five feet of water forming, behind the railway embankment, over the
shallower workings of Twenty-Two. You must understand that, in a
coal-mine, the coal nearest the surface is worked first from the central
shaft. That is to say, the miners may clear out the stuff to within
ten, twenty, or thirty feet of the surface, and, when all is worked
out, leave only a skin of earth upheld by some few pillars of coal.
In a deep mine where they know that they have any amount of material
at hand, men prefer to get all their mineral out at one shaft, rather
than make a number of little holes to tap the comparatively unimportant
And the Manager watched the flood.
The culvert spouted a nine-foot gush; but the water still formed, and
word was sent to clear the men out of Twenty-Two. The cages came up
crammed and crammed again with the men nearest the pit-eye, as they
call the place where you can see daylight from the bottom of the main
shaft. All away and away up the long black galleries the flare-lamps
were winking and dancing like so many fireflies, and the men and the
women waited for the clanking, rattling, thundering cages to come down
and fly up again. But the out-workings were very far off, and word
could not be passed quickly, though the heads of the gangs and the
Assistant shouted and swore and tramped and stumbled. The Manager kept
one eye on the great troubled pool behind the embankment, and prayed
that the culvert would give way and let the water through in time.
With the other eye he watched the cages come up and saw the headmen
counting the roll of the gangs. With all his heart and soul he swore
at the winder who controlled the iron drum that wound up the wire rope
on which hung the cages.
In a little time there was a down-draw in the water behind the
embankment--a sucking whirlpool, all yellow and yeasty. The water had
smashed through the skin of the earth and was pouring into the old
shallow workings of Twenty-Two.
Deep down below, a rush of black water caught the last gang waiting
for the cage, and as they clambered in, the whirl was about their
waists. The cage reached the pit-bank, and the Manager called the roll.
The gangs were all safe except Gang Janki, Gang Mogul, and Gang Rahim,
eighteen men, with perhaps ten basket-women who loaded the coal into
the little iron carriages that ran on the tramways of the main
galleries. These gangs were in the out-workings, three-quarters of a
mile away, on the extreme fringe of the mine. Once more the cage went
down, but with only two Englishmen in it, and dropped into a swirling,
roaring current that had almost touched the roof of some of the lower
side-galleries. One of the wooden balks with which they had propped
the old workings shot past on the current, just missing the cage.
'If we don't want our ribs knocked out, we'd better go,' said the
Manager. 'We can't even save the Company's props.'
The cage drew out of the water with a splash, and a few minutes later,
it was officially reported that there were at least ten feet of water
in the pit's eye. Now ten feet of water there meant that all other
places in the mine were flooded except such galleries as were more
than ten feet above the level of the bottom of the shaft. The deep
workings would be full, the main galleries would be full, but in the
high workings reached by inclines from the main roads, there would be
a certain amount of air cut off, so to speak, by the water and squeezed
up by it. The little science-primers explain how water behaves when
you pour it down test-tubes. The flooding of Twenty-Two was an
illustration on a large scale.
'By the Holy Grove, what has happened to the air!' It was a Sonthal
gangman of Gang Mogul in Number Nine gallery, and he was driving a
six-foot way through the coal. Then there was a rush from the other
galleries, and Gang Janki and Gang Rahim stumbled up with their
'Water has come in the mine,' they said, 'and there is no way of getting
'I went down,' said Janki--'down the slope of my gallery, and I felt
'There has been no water in the cutting in our time,' clamoured the
women. 'Why cannot we go away?'
'Be silent!' said Janki. 'Long ago, when my father was here, water
came to Ten--no, Eleven--cutting, and there was great trouble. Let us
get away to where the air is better.'
The three gangs and the basket-women left Number Nine gallery and went
further up Number Sixteen. At one turn of the road they could see the
pitchy black water lapping on the coal. It had touched the roof of a
gallery that they knew well--a gallery where they used to smoke their
huqas and manage their flirtations. Seeing this, they called aloud
upon their Gods, and the Meahs, who are thrice bastered Muhammadans,
strove to recollect the name of the Prophet. They came to a great open
square whence nearly all the coal had been extracted. It was the end
of the out-workings, and the end of the mine.
Far away down the gallery a small pumping-engine, used for keeping dry
a deep working and fed with steam from above, was throbbing faithfully.
They heard it cease.
'They have cut off the steam,' said Kundoo hopefully. 'They have given
the order to use all the steam for the pit-bank pumps. They will clear
out the water.'
'If the water has reached the smoking-gallery,' said Janki, 'all the
Company's pumps can do nothing for three days.'
'It is very hot,' moaned Jasoda, the Meah basket-woman. 'There is a
very bad air here because of the lamps.'
'Put them out,' said Janki; 'why do you want lamps?' The lamps were
put out and the company sat still in the utter dark. Somebody rose
quietly and began walking over the coals. It was Janki, who was touching
the walls with his hands. 'Where is the ledge?' he murmured to himself.
'Sit, sit!' said Kundoo. 'If we die, we die. The air is very bad.'
But Janki still stumbled and crept and tapped with his pick upon the
walls. The women rose to their feet.
'Stay all where you are. Without the lamps you cannot see, and I--I
am always seeing,' said Janki. Then he paused, and called out: 'Oh,
you who have been in the cutting more than ten years, what is the name
of this open place? I am an old man and I have forgotten.'
'Bullia's Room,' answered the Sonthal who had complained of the vileness
of the air.
'Again,' said Janki.
'Then I have found it,' said Janki. 'The name only had slipped my
memory. Tibu's gang's gallery is here.'
'A lie,' said Kundoo. 'There have been no galleries in this place since
'Three paces was the depth of the ledge,' muttered Janki without
heeding--'and--oh, my poor bones!--I have found it! It is here, up
this ledge. Come all you, one by one, to the place of my voice, and
I will count you.'
There was a rush in the dark, and Janki felt the first man's face hit
his knees as the Sonthal scrambled up the ledge.
'Who?' cried Janki.
'I, Sunua Manji.'
'Sit you down,' said Janki. 'Who next?'
One by one the women and the men crawled up the ledge which ran along
one side of 'Bullia's Room.' Degraded Muhammadan, pig-eating Musahr
and wild Sonthal, Janki ran his hand over them all.
'Now follow after,' said he, 'catching hold of my heel, and the women
catching the men's clothes.' He did not ask whether the men had brought
their picks with them. A miner, black or white, does not drop his pick.
One by one, Janki leading, they crept into the old gallery--a six-foot
way with a scant four feet from hill to roof.
'The air is better here,' said Jasoda. They could hear her heart beating
in thick, sick bumps.
'Slowly, slowly,' said Janki. 'I am an old man, and I forget many
things. This is Tibu's gallery, but where are the four bricks where
they used to put their huqa fire on when the Sahibs never saw? Slowly,
slowly, O you people behind.'
They heard his hands disturbing the small coal on the floor of the
gallery and then a dull sound. 'This is one unbaked brick, and this
is another and another. Kundoo is a young man--let him come forward.
Put a knee upon this brick and strike here. When Tibu's gang were at
dinner on the last day before the good coal ended, they heard the men
of Five on the other side, and Five worked their gallery two Sundays
later--or it may have been one. Strike there, Kundoo, but give me room
to go back.'
Kundoo, doubting, drove the pick, but the first soft crush of the coal
was a call to him. He was fighting for his life and for Unda--pretty
little Unda with rings on all her toes--for Unda and the forty rupees.
The women sang the Song of the Pick--the terrible, slow, swinging
melody with the muttered chorus that repeats the sliding of the loosened
coal, and, to each cadence, Kundoo smote in the black dark. When he
could do no more, Sunua Manji took the pick, and struck for his life
and his wife, and his village beyond the blue hills over the Tarachunda
River. An hour the men worked, and then the women cleared away the
'It is farther than I thought,' said Janki. 'The air is very bad; but
strike, Kundoo, strike hard.'
For the fifth time Kundoo took up the pick as the Sonthal crawled back.
The song had scarcely recommenced when it was broken by a yell from
Kundoo that echoed down the gallery: 'Par hua! Par hua! We are
through, we are through!' The imprisoned air in the mine shot through
the opening, and the women at the far end of the gallery heard the
water rush through the pillars of 'Bullia's Room' and roar against the
ledge. Having fulfilled the law under which it worked, it rose no
farther. The women screamed and pressed forward. 'The water has come--we
shall be killed! Let us go.'
Kundoo crawled through the gap and found himself in a propped gallery
by the simple process of hitting his head against a beam.
'Do I know the pits or do I not?' chuckled Janki. 'This is the Number
Five; go you out slowly, giving me your names. Ho! Rahim, count your
gang! Now let us go forward, each catching hold of the other as before.'
They formed a line in the darkness and Janki led them--for a pit-man
in a strange pit is only one degree less liable to err than an ordinary
mortal underground for the first time. At last they saw a flare-lamp,
and Gangs Janki, Mogul, and Rahim of Twenty-Two stumbled dazed into
the glare of the draught-furnace at the bottom of Five: Janki feeling
his way and the rest behind.
'Water has come into Twenty-Two. God knows where are the others. I
have brought these men from Tibu's gallery in our cutting; making
connection through the north side of the gallery. Take us to the cage,'
said Janki Meah.
At the pit-bank of Twenty-Two, some thousand people clamoured and wept
and shouted. One hundred men--one thousand men--had been drowned in
the cutting. They would all go to their homes to-morrow. Where were
their men? Little Unda, her cloth drenched with the rain, stood at the
pit-mouth calling down the shaft for Kundoo. They had swung the cages
clear of the mouth, and her only answer was the murmur of the flood
in the pit's eye two hundred and sixty feet below.
'Look after that woman! She'll chuck herself down the shaft in a
minute,' shouted the Manager.
But he need not have troubled; Unda was afraid of Death. She wanted
Kundoo. The Assistant was watching the flood and seeing how far he
could wade into it. There was a lull in the water, and the whirlpool
had slackened. The mine was full, and the people at the pit-bank howled.
'My faith, we shall be lucky if we have five hundred hands on the place
to-morrow!' said the Manager.
'There's some chance yet of running a temporary dam across that water.
Shove in anything--tubs and bullock-carts if you haven't enough bricks.
Make them work now if they never worked before. Hi! you gangers, make
Little by little the crowd was broken into detachments, and pushed
towards the water with promises of overtime. The dam-making began, and
when it was fairly under way, the Manager thought that the hour had
come for the pumps. There was no fresh inrush into the mine. The tall,
red, iron-clamped pump-beam rose and fell, and the pumps snored and
guttered and shrieked as the first water poured out of the pipe.
'We must run her all to-night,' said the Manager wearily, 'but there's
no hope for the poor devils down below. Look here, Gur Sahai, if you
are proud of your engines, show me what they can do now.'
Gur Sahai grinned and nodded, with his right hand upon the lever and
an oil-can in his left. He could do no more than he was doing, but he
could keep that up till the dawn. Were the Company's pumps to be beaten
by the vagaries of that troublesome Tarachunda River? Never, never!
And the pumps sobbed and panted: 'Never, never!' The Manager sat in
the shelter of the pit-bank roofing, trying to dry himself by the
pump-boiler fire, and, in the dreary dusk, he saw the crowds on the
dam scatter and fly.
'That's the end,' he groaned.' 'Twill take us six weeks to persuade
'em that we haven't tried to drown their mates on purpose. Oh, for a
decent, rational Geordie!'
But the flight had no panic in it. Men had run over from Five with
astounding news, and the foremen could not hold their gangs together.
Presently, surrounded by a clamorous crew, Gangs Rahim, Mogul, and
Janki, and ten basket-women, walked up to report themselves, and pretty
little Unda stole away to Janki's hut to prepare his evening meal.
'Alone I found the way,' explained Janki Meah, 'and now will the Company
give me pension?'
The simple pit-folk shouted and leaped and went back to the dam,
reassured in their old belief that, whatever happened, so great was
the power of the Company whose salt they ate, none of them could be
killed. But Gur Sahai only bared his white teeth and kept his hand
upon the lever and proved his pumps to the uttermost.
'I say,' said the Assistant to the Manager, a week later, 'do you
'Yes. 'Queer thing. I thought of it in the cage when that balk went
'Oh, this business seems to be Germinal upside down. Janki was in
my veranda all this morning, telling me that Kundoo had eloped with
his wife--Unda or Anda, I think her name was.'
'Hillo! And those were the cattle that you risked your life to clear
out of Twenty-Two!'
'No--I was thinking of the Company's props, not the Company's men.'
'Sounds better to say so now; but I don't believe you, old fellow.'
IN FLOOD TIME
Tweed said tae Till:
'What gars ye rin sae still?'
Till said tae Tweed:
'Though ye rin wi' speed
An' I rin slaw--
Yet where ye droon ae man
I droon twa.'
There is no getting over the river to-night, Sahib. They say that a
bullock-cart has been washed down already, and the ekka that went
over a half hour before you came has not yet reached the far side. Is
the Sahib in haste? I will drive the ford-elephant in to show him.
Ohe, mahout there in the shed! Bring out Ram Pershad, and if he will
face the current, good. An elephant never lies, Sahib, and Ram Pershad
is separated from his friend Kala Nag. He, too, wishes to cross to the
far side. Well done! Well done! my King! Go half way across, mahoutji,
and see what the river says. Well done, Ram Pershad! Pearl among
elephants, go into the river! Hit him on the head, fool! Was the goad
made only to scratch thy own fat back with, bastard? Strike! Strike!
What are the boulders to thee, Ram Pershad, my Rustum, my mountain of
strength? Go in! Go in!
No, Sahib! It is useless. You can hear him trumpet. He is telling Kala
Nag that he cannot come over. See! He has swung round and is shaking
his head. He is no fool. He knows what the Barhwi means when it is
angry. Aha! Indeed, thou art no fool, my child! Salaam, Ram Pershad,
Bahadur! Take him under the trees, mahout, and see that he gets his
spices. Well done, thou chiefest among tuskers. Salaam to the Sirkar
and go to sleep.
What is to be done? The Sahib must wait till the river goes down. It
will shrink to-morrow morning, if God pleases, or the day after at the
latest. Now why does the Sahib get so angry? I am his servant. Before
God, I did not create this stream! What can I do? My hut and all
that is therein is at the service of the Sahib, and it is beginning
to rain. Come away, my Lord. How will the river go down for your
throwing abuse at it? In the old days the English people were not thus.
The fire-carriage has made them soft. In the old days, when they drave
behind horses by day or by night, they said naught if a river barred
the way, or a carriage sat down in the mud. It was the will of God--not
like a fire-carriage which goes and goes and goes, and would go though
all the devils in the land hung on to its tail. The fire-carriage hath
spoiled the English people. After all, what is a day lost, or, for
that matter, what are two days? Is the Sahib going to his own wedding,
that he is so mad with haste? Ho! Ho! Ho! I am an old man and see few
Sahibs. Forgive me if I have forgotten the respect that is due to them.
The Sahib is not angry?
His own wedding! Ho! Ho! Ho! The mind of an old man is like the
numah-tree. Fruit, bud, blossom, and the dead leaves of all the years
of the past flourish together. Old and new and that which is gone out
of remembrance, all three are there! Sit on the bedstead, Sahib, and
drink milk. Or--would the Sahib in truth care to drink my tobacco? It
is good. It is the tobacco of Nuklao. My son, who is in service there,
sent it to me. Drink, then, Sahib, if you know how to handle the tube.
The Sahib takes it like a Musalman. Wah! Wah! Where did he learn that?
His own wedding! Ho! Ho! Ho! The Sahib says that there is no wedding
in the matter at all? Now is it likely that the Sahib would speak
true talk to me who am only a black man? Small wonder, then, that he
is in haste. Thirty years have I beaten the gong at this ford, but
never have I seen a Sahib in such haste. Thirty years, Sahib! That is
a very long time. Thirty years ago this ford was on the track of the
bunjaras, and I have seen two thousand pack-bullocks cross in one
night. Now the rail has come, and the fire-carriage says buz-buz-buz,
and a hundred lakhs of maunds slide across that big bridge. It is very
wonderful; but the ford is lonely now that there are no bunjaras
to camp under the trees.
Nay, do not trouble to look at the sky without. It will rain till the
dawn. Listen! The boulders are talking tonight in the bed of the river.
Hear them! They would be husking your bones, Sahib, had you tried to
cross. See, I will shut the door and no rain can enter. Wahi! Ahi!
Ugh! Thirty years on the banks of the ford! An old man am I and--where
is the oil for the lamp?
Your pardon, but, because of my years, I sleep no sounder than a dog;
and you moved to the door. Look, then, Sahib. Look and listen. A full
half kos from bank to bank is the stream now--you can see it under
the stars--and there are ten feet of water therein. It will not shrink
because of the anger in your eyes, and it will not be quiet on account
of your curses. Which is louder, Sahib--your voice or the voice of
the river? Call to it--perhaps it will be ashamed. Lie down and sleep
afresh, Sahib. I know the anger of the Barhwi when there has fallen
rain in the foot-hills. I swam the flood, once, on a night ten-fold
worse than this, and by the Favour of God I was released from Death
when I had come to the very gates thereof.
May I tell the tale? Very good talk. I will fill the pipe anew.
Thirty years ago it was, when I was a young man and had but newly come
to the ford. I was strong then, and the bunjaras had no doubt when
I said 'this ford is clear.' I have toiled all night up to my
shoulder-blades in running water amid a hundred bullocks mad with fear,
and have brought them across losing not a hoof. When all was done I
fetched the shivering men, and they gave me for reward the pick of
their cattle--the bell-bullock of the drove. So great was the honour
in which I was held! But, to-day when the rain falls and the river
rises, I creep into my hut and whimper like a dog. My strength is gone
from me. I am an old man and the fire-carriage has made the ford
desolate. They were wont to call me the Strong One of the Barhwi.
Behold my face, Sahib--it is the face of a monkey. And my arm--it is
the arm of an old woman. I swear to you, Sahib, that a woman has loved
this face and has rested in the hollow of this arm. Twenty years ago,
Sahib. Believe me, this was true talk--twenty years ago.
Come to the door and look across. Can you see a thin fire very far
away down the stream? That is the temple-fire, in the shrine of Hanuman,
of the village of Pateera. North, under the big star, is the village
itself, but it is hidden by a bend of the river. Is that far to swim,
Sahib? Would you take off your clothes and adventure? Yet I swam to
Pateera--not once but many times; and there are muggers in the river
Love knows no caste; else why should I, a Musalman and the son of a
Musalman, have sought a Hindu woman--a widow of the Hindus--the sister
of the headman of Pateera? But it was even so. They of the headman's
household came on a pilgrimage to Muttra when She was but newly a
bride. Silver tires were upon the wheels of the bullock-cart, and
silken curtains hid the woman. Sahib, I made no haste in their
conveyance, for the wind parted the curtains and I saw Her. When they
returned from pilgrimage the boy that was Her husband had died, and
I saw Her again in the bullock-cart. By God, these Hindus are fools!
What was it to me whether She was Hindu or Jain--scavenger, leper, or
whole? I would have married Her and made Her a home by the ford. The
Seventh of the Nine Bars says that a man may not marry one of the
idolaters? Is that truth? Both Shiahs and Sunnis say that a Musalman
may not marry one of the idolaters? Is the Sahib a priest, then, that
he knows so much? I will tell him something that he does not know.
There is neither Shiah nor Sunni, forbidden nor idolater, in Love; and
the Nine Bars are but nine little fagots that the flame of Love utterly
burns away. In truth, I would have taken Her; but what could I do? The
headman would have sent his men to break my head with staves. I am
not--I was not--afraid of any five men; but against half a village who
Therefore it was my custom, these things having been arranged between
us twain, to go by night to the village of Pateera, and there we met
among the crops; no man knowing aught of the matter. Behold, now! I
was wont to cross here, skirting the jungle to the river bend where
the railway bridge is, and thence across the elbow of land to Pateera.
The light of the shrine was my guide when the nights were dark. That
jungle near the river is very full of snakes--little karaits that
sleep on the sand--and moreover, Her brothers would have slain me had
they found me in the crops. But none knew--none knew save She and I;
and the blown sand of the river-bed covered the track of my feet. In
the hot months it was an easy thing to pass from the ford to Pateera,
and in the first Rains, when the river rose slowly, it was an easy
thing also. I set the strength of my body against the strength of the
stream, and nightly I ate in my hut here and drank at Pateera yonder.
She had said that one Hirnam Singh, a thief, had sought Her, and he
was of a village up the river but on the same bank. All Sikhs are dogs,
and they have refused in their folly that good gift of God--tobacco.
I was ready to destroy Hirnam Singh that ever he had come nigh Her;
and the more because he had sworn to Her that She had a lover, and
that he would lie in wait and give the name to the headman unless She
went away with him. What curs are these Sikhs!
After that news, I swam always with a little sharp knife in my belt,
and evil would it have been for a man had he stayed me. I knew not the
face of Hirnam Singh, but I would have killed any who came between me
Upon a night in the beginning of the Rains, I was minded to go across
to Pateera, albeit the river was angry. Now the nature of the Barhwi
is this, Sahib. In twenty breaths it comes down from the Hills, a wall
three feet high, and I have seen it, between the lighting of a fire
and the cooking of a chupatty, grow from a runnel to a sister of the
When I left this bank there was a shoal a half mile down, and I made
shift to fetch it and draw breath there ere going forward; for I felt
the hands of the river heavy upon my heels. Yet what will a young man
not do for Love's sake? There was but little light from the stars, and
midway to the shoal a branch of the stinking deodar tree brushed my
mouth as I swam. That was a sign of heavy rain In the foot-hills and
beyond, for the deodar is a strong tree, not easily shaken from the
hillsides. I made haste, the river aiding me, but ere I touched the
shoal, the pulse of the stream beat, as it were, within me and around,
and, behold, the shoal was gone and I rode high on the crest of a wave
that ran from bank to bank. Has the Sahib ever been cast into much
water that fights and will not let a man use his limbs? To me, my head
upon the water, it seemed as though there were naught but water to the
world's end, and the river drave me with its driftwood. A man is a
very little thing in the belly of a flood. And this flood, though
I knew it not, was the Great Flood about which men talk still. My liver
was dissolved and I lay like a log upon my back in the fear of Death.
There were living things in the water, crying and howling
grievously--beasts of the forest and cattle, and once the voice of a
man asking for help. But the rain came and lashed the water white, and
I heard no more save the roar of the boulders below and the roar of
the rain above. Thus I was whirled down-stream, wrestling for the
breath in me. It is very hard to die when one is young. Can the Sahib,
standing here, see the railway bridge? Look, there are the lights of
the mail-train going to Peshawur! The bridge is now twenty feet above
the river, but upon that night the water was roaring against the
lattice-work and against the lattice came I feet first. But much
driftwood was piled there and upon the piers, and I took no great hurt.
Only the river pressed me as a strong man presses a weaker. Scarcely
could I take hold of the lattice-work and crawl to the upper boom.
Sahib, the water was foaming across the rails a foot deep! Judge
therefore what manner of flood it must have been. I could not hear.
I could not see. I could but lie on the boom and pant for breath.
After a while the rain ceased and there came out in the sky certain
new washed stars, and by their light I saw that there was no end to
the black water as far as the eye could travel, and the water had risen
upon the rails. There were dead beasts in the driftwood on the piers,
and others caught by the neck in the lattice-work, and others not yet
drowned who strove to find a foothold on the lattice-work--buffaloes
and kine, and wild pig, and deer one or two, and snakes and jackals
past all counting. Their bodies were black upon the left side of the
bridge, but the smaller of them were forced through the lattice-work
and whirled down-stream.
Thereafter the stars died and the rain came down afresh and the river
rose yet more, and I felt the bridge begin to stir under me as a man
stirs in his sleep ere he wakes. But I was not afraid, Sahib. I swear
to you that I was not afraid, though I had no power in my limbs. I
knew that I should not die till I had seen Her once more. But I was
very cold, and I felt that the bridge must go.
There was a trembling in the water, such a trembling as goes before
the coming of a great wave, and the bridge lifted its flank to the
rush of that coming so that the right lattice dipped under water and
the left rose clear. On my beard, Sahib, I am speaking God's truth!
As a Mirzapore stone-boat careens to the wind, so the Barhwi Bridge
turned. Thus and in no other manner.
I slid from the boom into deep water, and behind me came the wave of
the wrath of the river. I heard its voice and the scream of the middle
part of the bridge as it moved from the piers and sank, and I knew no
more till I rose in the middle of the great flood. I put forth my hand
to swim, and lo! it fell upon the knotted hair of the head of a man.
He was dead, for no one but I, the Strong One of Barhwi, could have
lived in that race. He had been dead full two days, for he rode high,
wallowing, and was an aid to me. I laughed then, knowing for a surety
that I should yet see Her and take no harm; and I twisted my fingers
in the hair of the man, for I was far spent, and together we went down
the stream--he the dead and I the living. Lacking that help I should
have sunk: the cold was in my marrow, and my flesh was ribbed and
sodden on my bones. But he had no fear who had known the uttermost
of the power of the river; and I let him go where he chose. At last
we came into the power of a side-current that set to the right bank,
and I strove with my feet to draw with it. But the dead man swung
heavily in the whirl, and I feared that some branch had struck him and
that he would sink. The tops of the tamarisk brushed my knees, so I
knew we were come into flood-water above the crops, and, after I let
down my legs and felt bottom--the ridge of a field--and, after, the
dead man stayed upon a knoll under a fig-tree, and I drew my body from
the water rejoicing.
Does the Sahib know whither the backwash of the flood had borne me?
To the knoll which is the eastern boundary-mark of the village of
Pateera! No other place. I drew the dead man up on the grass for the
service that he had done me, and also because I knew not whether I
should need him again. Then I went, crying thrice like a jackal, to
the appointed place which was near the byre of the headman's house.
But my Love was already there, weeping. She feared that the flood had
swept my hut at the Barhwi Ford. When I came softly through the
ankle-deep water, She thought it was a ghost and would have fled, but
I put my arms round Her, and--I was no ghost in those days, though
I am an old man now.
Ho! Ho! Dried corn, in truth. Maize without juice. Ho! Ho! [Footnote:
I grieve to say that the Warden of Barhwi Ford is responsible here for
two very bad puns in the vernacular.--R. K.]
I told Her the story of the breaking of the Barhwi Bridge, and She
said that I was greater than mortal man, for none may cross the Barhwi
in full flood, and I had seen what never man had seen before. Hand in
hand we went to the knoll where the dead lay, and I showed Her by what
help I had made the ford. She looked also upon the body under the
stars, for the latter end of the night was clear, and hid Her face in
Her hands, crying: 'It is the body of Hirnam Singh!' I said: 'The swine
is of more use dead than living, my Beloved,' and She said: 'Surely,
for he has saved the dearest life in the world to my love. None the
less, he cannot stay here, for that would bring shame upon me.' The
body was not a gunshot from Her door.
Then said I, rolling the body with my hands: 'God hath judged between
us, Hirnam Singh, that thy blood might not be upon my head. Now, whether
I have done thee a wrong in keeping thee from the burning-ghat, do
thou and the crows settle together.' So I cast him adrift into the
flood-water, and he was drawn out to the open, ever wagging his thick
black beard like a priest under the pulpit-board. And I saw no more
of Himam Singh.
Before the breaking of the day we two parted, and I moved towards such
of the jungle as was not flooded. With the full light I saw what I had
done in the darkness, and the bones of my body were loosened in my
flesh, for there ran two kos of raging water between the village
of Pateera and the trees of the far bank, and, in the middle, the piers
of the Barhwi Bridge showed like broken teeth in the jaw of an old
man. Nor was there any life upon the waters--neither birds nor boats,
but only an army of drowned things--bullocks and horses and men--and
the river was redder than blood from the clay of the foot-hills. Never
had I seen such a flood--never since that year have I seen the
like--and, O Sahib, no man living had done what I had done. There was
no return for me that day. Not for all the lands of the headman would
I venture a second time without the shield of darkness that cloaks
danger. I went a kos up the river to the house of a blacksmith,
saying that the flood had swept me from my hut, and they gave me food.
Seven days I stayed with the blacksmith, till a boat came and I returned
to my house. There was no trace of wall, or roof, or floor--naught but
a patch of slimy mud. Judge, therefore, Sahib, how far the river must
It was written that I should not die either in my house, or in the
heart of the Barhwi, or under the wreck of the Barhwi Bridge, for God
sent down Hirnam Singh two days dead, though I know not how the man
died, to be my buoy and support. Hirnam Singh has been in Hell these
twenty years, and the thought of that night must be the flower of his
Listen, Sahib! The river has changed its voice. It is going to sleep
before the dawn, to which there is yet one hour. With the light it
will come down afresh. How do I know? Have I been here thirty years
without knowing the voice of the river as a father knows the voice of
his son? Every moment it is talking less angrily. I swear that there
will be no danger for one hour or, perhaps, two. I cannot answer for
the morning. Be quick, Sahib! I will call Ram Pershad, and he will not
turn back this time. Is the paulin tightly corded upon all the baggage?
Ohe, mahout with a mud head, the elephant for the Sahib, and tell
them on the far side that there will be no crossing after daylight.
Money? Nay, Sahib. I am not of that kind. No, not even to give
sweetmeats to the baby-folk. My house, look you, is empty, and I am
an old man.
Dutt, Ram Pershad! Dutt! Dutt! Dutt! Good luck go with you, Sahib.
THE SENDING OF DANA DA
When the Devil rides on your chest remember the chamar.
Once upon a time, some people in India made a new Heaven and a new
Earth out of broken tea-cups, a missing brooch or two, and a hair-brush.
These were hidden under bushes, or stuffed into holes in the hillside,
and an entire Civil Service of subordinate Gods used to find or mend
them again; and every one said: 'There are more things in Heaven and
Earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy.' Several other things
happened also, but the Religion never seemed to get much beyond its
first manifestations; though it added an air-line postal service, and
orchestral effects in order to keep abreast of the tunes, and choke
This Religion was too elastic for ordinary use. It stretched itself
and embraced pieces of everything that the medicine-men of all ages
have manufactured. It approved of and stole from Freemasonry; looted
the Latter-day Rosicrucians of half their pet words; took any fragments
of Egyptian philosophy that it found in the Encyclopaedia Britannica;
annexed as many of the Vedas as had been translated into French or
English, and talked of all the rest; built in the German versions of
what is left of the Zend Avesta; encouraged White, Gray and Black
Magic, including spiritualism, palmistry, fortune-telling by cards,
hot chestnuts, double-kernelled nuts and tallow droppings; would have
adopted Voodoo and Oboe had it known anything about them, and showed
itself, in every way, one of the most accommodating arrangements that
had ever been invented since the birth of the Sea.
When it was in thorough working order, with all the machinery, down
to the subscriptions, complete, Dana Da came from nowhere, with nothing
in his hands, and wrote a chapter in its history which has hitherto
been unpublished. He said that his first name was Dana, and his second
was Da. Now, setting aside Dana of the New York Sun, Dana is a Bhil
name, and Da fits no native of India unless you except the Bengali De
as the original spelling. Da is Lap or Finnish; and Dana Da was neither
Finn, Chin, Bhil, Bengali, Lap, Nair, Gond, Romaney, Magh, Bokhariot,
Kurd, Armenian, Levantine, Jew, Persian, Punjabi, Madrasi, Parsee, nor
anything else known to ethnologists. He was simply Dana Da, and declined
to give further information. For the sake of brevity and as roughly
indicating his origin, he was called 'The Native.' He might have been
the original Old Man of the Mountains, who is said to be the only
authorised head of the Tea-cup Creed. Some people said that he was;
but Dana Da used to smile and deny any connection with the cult;
explaining that he was an 'Independent Experimenter.'
As I have said, he came from nowhere, with his hands behind his back,
and studied the Creed for three weeks; sitting at the feet of those
best competent to explain its mysteries. Then he laughed aloud and
went away, but the laugh might have been either of devotion or derision.
When he returned he was without money, but his pride was unabated. He
declared that he knew more about the Things in Heaven and Earth than
those who taught him, and for this contumacy was abandoned altogether.
His next appearance in public life was at a big cantonment in Upper
India, and he was then telling fortunes with the help of three leaden
dice, a very dirty old cloth, and a little tin box of opium pills. He
told better fortunes when he was allowed half a bottle of whiskey; but
the things which he invented on the opium were quite worth the money.
He was in reduced circumstances. Among other people's he told the
fortune of an Englishman who had once been interested in the Simla
Creed, but who, later on, had married and forgotten all his old
knowledge in the study of babies and things. The Englishman allowed
Dana Da to tell a fortune for charity's sake, and gave him five rupees,
a dinner, and some old clothes. When he had eaten, Dana Da professed
gratitude, and asked if there were anything he could do for his host--in
the esoteric line.
'Is there any one that you love?' said Dana Da. The Englishman loved
his wife, but had no desire to drag her name into the conversation.
He therefore shook his head.
'Is there any one that you hate?' said Dana Da. The Englishman said
that there were several men whom he hated deeply.
'Very good,' said Dana Da, upon whom the whiskey and the opium were
beginning to tell. 'Only give me their names, and I will despatch a
Sending to them and kill them.'
Now a Sending is a horrible arrangement, first invented, they say, in
Iceland. It is a Thing sent by a wizard, and may take any form, but,
most generally, wanders about the land in the shape of a little purple
cloud till it finds the Sendee, and him it kills by changing into the
form of a horse, or a cat, or a man without a face. It is not strictly
a native patent, though chamars of the skin and hide castes can, if
irritated, despatch a Sending which sits on the breast of their enemy
by night and nearly kills him. Very few natives care to irritate
chamars for this reason.
'Let me despatch a Sending,' said Dana Da; 'I am nearly dead now with
want, and drink, and opium, but I should like to kill a man before I
die. I can send a Sending anywhere you choose, and in any form except
in the shape of a man.'
The Englishman had no friends that he wished to kill, but partly to
soothe Dana Da, whose eyes were rolling, and partly to see what would
be done, he asked whether a modified Sending could not be arranged for
--such a Sending as should make a man's life a burden to him, and yet
do him no harm. If this were possible, he notified his willingness to
give Dana Da ten rupees for the job.
'I am not what I was once,' said Dana Da, 'and I must take the money
because I am poor. To what Englishman shall I send it?'
'Send a Sending to Lone Sahib,' said the Englishman, naming a man who
had been most bitter in rebuking him for his apostasy from the Tea-cup
Creed. Dana Da laughed and nodded.
'I could have chosen no better man myself,' said he. 'I will see that
he finds the Sending about his path and about his bed.'
He lay down on the hearth-rug, turned up the whites of his eyes,
shivered all over and began to snort. This was Magic, or Opium, or the
Sending, or all three. When he opened his eyes he vowed that the Sending
had started upon the war-path, and was at that moment flying up to the
town where Lone Sahib lives.
'Give me my ten rupees,' said Dana Da wearily, 'and write a letter to
Lone Sahib, telling him, and all who believe with him, that you and
a friend are using a power greater than theirs. They will see that you
are speaking the truth.'
He departed unsteadily, with the promise of some more rupees if anything
came of the Sending.
The Englishman sent a letter to Lone Sahib, couched in what he
remembered of the terminology of the Creed. He wrote: 'I also, in the
days of what you held to be my backsliding, have obtained Enlightenment,
and with Enlightenment has come Power.' Then he grew so deeply
mysterious that the recipient of the letter could make neither head
nor tail of it, and was proportionately impressed; for he fancied that
his friend had become a 'fifth-rounder.' When a man is a 'fifth-rounder'
he can do more than Slade and Houdin combined.
Lone Sahib read the letter in five different fashions, and was beginning
a sixth interpretation when his bearer dashed in with the news that
there was a cat on the bed. Now if there was one thing that Lone Sahib
hated more than another, it was a cat. He scolded the bearer for not
turning it out of the house. The bearer said that he was afraid. All
the doors of the bedroom had been shut throughout the morning, and no
real cat could possibly have entered the room. He would prefer not
to meddle with the creature.
Lone Sahib entered the room gingerly, and there, on the pillow of his
bed, sprawled and whimpered a wee white kitten; not a jumpsome, frisky
little beast, but a slug-like crawler with its eyes barely opened and
its paws lacking strength or direction--a kitten that ought to have
been in a basket with its mamma. Lone Sahib caught it by the scruff
of its neck, handed it over to the sweeper to be drowned, and fined
the bearer four annas.
That evening, as he was reading in his room, he fancied that he saw
something moving about on the hearth-rug, outside the circle of light
from his reading-lamp. When the thing began to myowl, he realised that
it was a kitten--a wee white kitten, nearly blind and very miserable.
He was seriously angry, and spoke bitterly to his bearer, who said
that there was no kitten in the room when he brought in the lamp, and
real kittens of tender age generally had mother-cats in attendance.
'If the Presence will go out into the veranda and listen,' said the
bearer, 'he will hear no cats. How, therefore, can the kitten on the
bed and the kitten on the hearth-rug be real kittens?'
Lone Sahib went out to listen, and the bearer followed him, but there
was no sound of any one mewing for her children. He returned to his
room, having hurled the kitten down the hillside, and wrote out the
incidents of the day for the benefit of his co-religionists. Those
people were so absolutely free from superstition that they ascribed
anything a little out of the common to Agencies. As it was their
business to know all about the Agencies, they were on terms of almost
indecent familiarity with Manifestations of every kind. Their letters
dropped from the ceiling--unstamped--and Spirits used to squatter up
and down their staircases all night; but they had never come into
contact with kittens. Lone Sahib wrote out the facts, noting the hour
and the minute, as every Psychical Observer is bound to do, and
appending the Englishman's letter because it was the most mysterious
document and might have had a bearing upon anything in this world or
the next. An outsider would have translated all the tangle thus: 'Look
out! You laughed at me once, and now I am going to make you sit up.'
Lone Sahib's co-religionists found that meaning in it; but their
translation was refined and full of four-syllable words. They held a
sederunt, and were filled with tremulous joy, for, in spite of their
familiarity with all the other worlds and cycles, they had a very human
awe of things sent from Ghost-land. They met in Lone Sahib's room in
shrouded and sepulchral gloom, and their conclave was broken up by a
clinking among the photo-frames on the mantelpiece. A wee white kitten,
nearly blind, was looping and writhing itself between the clock and
the candlesticks. That stopped all investigations or doublings. Here
was the Manifestation in the flesh. It was, so far as could be seen,
devoid of purpose, but it was a Manifestation of undoubted authenticity.
They drafted a Round Robin to the Englishman, the backslider of old
days, adjuring him in the interests of the Creed to explain whether
there was any connection between the embodiment of some Egyptian God
or other [I have forgotten the name] and his communication. They called
the kitten Ra, or Toth, or Tum, or something; and when Lone Sahib
confessed that the first one had, at his most misguided instance, been
drowned by the sweeper, they said consolingly that in his next life
he would be a 'bounder,' and not even a 'rounder' of the lowest grade.
These words may not be quite correct, but they accurately express the
sense of the house.
When the Englishman received the Round Robin--it came by post--he was
startled and bewildered. He sent into the bazar for Dana Da, who read
the letter and laughed. 'That is my Sending,' said he. 'I told you I
would work well. Now give me another ten rupees.'
'But what in the world is this gibberish about Egyptian Gods?' asked
'Cats,' said Dana Da with a hiccough, for he had discovered the
Englishman's whiskey bottle. 'Cats, and cats, and cats! Never was such
a Sending. A hundred of cats. Now give me ten more rupees and write
as I dictate.'
Dana Da's letter was a curiosity. It bore the Englishman's signature,
and hinted at cats--at a Sending of Cats. The mere words on paper were
creepy and uncanny to behold.
'What have you done, though?' said the Englishman; 'I am as much in
the dark as ever. Do you mean to say that you can actually send this
absurd Sending you talk about?'
'Judge for yourself,' said Dana Da. 'What does that letter mean? In
a little time they will all be at my feet and yours, and I--O
Glory!--will be drugged or drunk all daylong.'
Dana Da knew his people.
When a man who hates cats wakes up in the morning and finds a little
squirming kitten on his breast, or puts his hand into his ulster-pocket
and finds a little half-dead kitten where his gloves should be, or
opens his trunk and finds a vile kitten among his dress-shirts, or
goes for a long ride with his mackintosh strapped on his saddle-bow
and shakes a little squawling kitten from its folds when he opens it,
or goes out to dinner and finds a little blind kitten under his chair,
or stays at home and finds a writhing kitten under the quilt, or
wriggling among his boots, or hanging, head downwards, in his
tobacco-jar, or being mangled by his terrier in the veranda,--when
such a man finds one kitten, neither more nor less, once a day in a
place where no kitten rightly could or should be, he is naturally
upset. When he dare not murder his daily trove because he believes it
to be a Manifestation, an Emissary, an Embodiment, and half a dozen
other things all out of the regular course of nature, he is more than
upset. He is actually distressed. Some of Lone Sahib's co-religionists
thought that he was a highly favoured individual; but many said that
if he had treated the first kitten with proper respect--as suited a
oth-Ra-Tum-Sennacherib Embodiment--all this trouble would have been
averted. They compared him to the Ancient Mariner, but none the less
they were proud of him and proud of the Englishman who had sent the
Manifestation. They did not call it a Sending because Icelandic magic
was not in their programme.
After sixteen kittens, that is to say after one fortnight, for there
were three kittens on the first day to impress the fact of the Sending,
the whole camp was uplifted by a letter--it came flying through a
window-from the Old Man of the Mountains--the Head of all the
Creed--explaining the Manifestation in the most beautiful language and
soaking up all the credit of it for himself. The Englishman, said the
letter, was not there at all. He was a backslider without Power or
Asceticism, who couldn't even raise a table by force of volition, much
less project an army of kittens through space. The entire arrangement,
said the letter, was strictly orthodox, worked and sanctioned by the
highest Authorities within the pale of the Creed. There was great joy
at this, for some of the weaker brethren seeing that an outsider who
had been working on independent lines could create kittens, whereas
their own rulers had never gone beyond crockery--and broken at
best--were showing a desire to break line on their own trail. In fact,
there was the promise of a schism. A second Round Robin was drafted
to the Englishman, beginning: 'O Scoffer,' and ending with a selection
of curses from the Rites of Mizraim and Memphis and the Commination
of Jugana, who was a 'fifth-rounder,' upon whose name an upstart
'third-rounder' once traded. A papal excommunication is a billet-doux
compared to the Commination of Jugana. The Englishman had been proved,
under the hand and seal of the Old Man of the Mountains, to have
appropriated Virtue and pretended to have Power which, in reality,
belonged only to the Supreme Head. Naturally the Round Robin did not
He handed the letter to Dana Da to translate into decent English. The
effect on Dana Da was curious. At first he was furiously angry, and
then he laughed for five minutes.
'I had thought,' he said,'that they would have come to me. In another
week I would have shown that I sent the Sending, and they would have
discrowned the Old Man of the Mountains who has sent this Sending of
mine. Do you do nothing. The time has come for me to act. Write as I
dictate, and I will put them to shame. But give me ten more rupees.'
At Dana Da's dictation the Englishman wrote nothing less than a formal
challenge to the Old Man of the Mountains. It wound up: 'And if this
Manifestation be from your hand, then let it go forward; but if it be
from my hand, I will that the Sending shall cease in two days' time.
In that day there shall be twelve kittens and thenceforward none at
all. The people shall judge between us.' This was signed by Dana Da,
who added pentacles and pentagrams, and a crux ansata, and half a
dozen swastikas, and a Triple Tau to his name, just to show that he
was all he laid claim to be.
The challenge was read out to the gentlemen and ladies, and they
remembered then that Dana Da had laughed at them some years ago. It
was officially announced that the Old Man of the Mountains would treat
the matter with contempt; Dana Da being an Independent Investigator
without a single 'round' at the back of him. But this did not soothe
his people. They wanted to see a fight. They were very human for all
their spirituality. Lone Sahib, who was really being worn out with
kittens, submitted meekly to his fate. He felt that he was being
'kittened to prove the power of Dana Da,' as the poet says.
When the stated day dawned, the shower of kittens began. Some were
white and some were tabby, and all were about the same loathsome age.
Three were on his hearth-rug, three in his bath-room, and the other
six turned up at intervals among the visitors who came to see the
prophecy break down. Never was a more satisfactory Sending. On the
next day there were no kittens, and the next day and all the other
days were kittenless and quiet. The people murmured and looked to the
Old Man of the Mountains for an explanation. A letter, written on a
palm-leaf, dropped from the ceiling, but every one except Lone Sahib
felt that letters were not what the occasion demanded. There should
have been cats, there should have been cats,--full-grown ones. The
letter proved conclusively that there had been a hitch in the Psychic
Current which, colliding with a Dual Identity, had interfered with the
Percipient Activity all along the main line. The kittens were still
going on, but owing to some failure in the Developing Fluid, they were
not materialised. The air was thick with letters for a few days
afterwards. Unseen hands played Gluck and Beethoven on finger-bowls
and clock-shades; but all men felt that Psychic Life was a mockery
without materialised Kittens. Even Lone Sahib shouted with the majority
on this head. Dana Da's letters were very insulting, and if he had
then offered to lead a new departure, there is no knowing what might
not have happened.
But Dana Da was dying of whiskey and opium in the Englishman's
godown, and had small heart for honours.
'They have been put to shame,' said he. 'Never was such a Sending. It
has killed me.'
'Nonsense,' said the Englishman, 'you are going to die, Dana Da, and
that sort of stuff must be left behind. I'll admit that you have made
some queer things come about. Tell me honestly, now, how was it done?'
'Give me ten more rupees,' said Dana Da faintly, 'and if I die before
I spend them, bury them with me.' The silver was counted out while
Dana Da was fighting with Death. His hand closed upon the money and
he smiled a grim smile.
'Bend low,' he whispered. The Englishman bent.
pearl-merchant--all mine English education--out-casted, and made up
name Dana Da--England with American thought-reading man and--and--
gave me ten rupees several times--I gave the Sahib's bearer two-eight
a month for cats--little, little cats. I wrote, and he put them
about--very clever man. Very few kittens now in the bazar. Ask Lone
Sahib's sweeper's wife.'
So saying, Dana Da gasped and passed away into a land where, if all
be true, there are no materialisations and the making of new creeds
But consider the gorgeous simplicity of it all!
ON THE CITY WALL
Then she let them down by a cord through the window; for her house was
upon the town-wall, and she dwelt upon the wall.
--Joshua ii. 15.
Lalun is a member of the most ancient profession in the world. Lilith
was her very-great-grandmamma, and that was before the days of Eve as
every one knows. In the West, people say rude things about Lalun's
profession, and write lectures about it, and distribute the lectures
to young persons in order that Morality may be preserved. In the East
where the profession is hereditary, descending from mother to daughter,
nobody writes lectures or takes any notice; and that is a distinct
proof of the inability of the East to manage its own affairs.
Lalun's real husband, for even ladies of Lalun's profession in the
East must have husbands, was a big jujube-tree. Her Mamma, who had
married a fig-tree, spent ten thousand rupees on Lalun's wedding, which
was blessed by forty-seven clergymen of Mamma's church, and distributed
five thousand rupees in charity to the poor. And that was the custom
of the land. The advantages of having a jujube-tree for a husband are
obvious. You cannot hurt his feelings, and he looks imposing.
Lalun's husband stood on the plain outside the City walls, and Lalun's
house was upon the east wall facing the river. If you fell from the
broad window-seat you dropped thirty feet sheer into the City Ditch.
But if you stayed where you should and looked forth, you saw all the
cattle of the City being driven down to water, the students of the
Government College playing cricket, the high grass and trees that
fringed the river-bank, the great sand bars that ribbed the river, the
red tombs of dead Emperors beyond the river, and very far away through
the blue heat-haze, a glint of the snows of the Himalayas.
Wali Dad used to lie in the window-seat for hours at a time watching
this view. He was a young Muhammadan who was suffering acutely from
education of the English variety and knew it. His father had sent him
to a Mission-school to get wisdom, and Wali Dad had absorbed more than
ever his father or the Missionaries intended he should. When his father
died, Wali Dad was independent and spent two years experimenting with
the creeds of the Earth and reading books that are of no use to anybody.
After he had made an unsuccessful attempt to enter the Roman Catholic
Church and the Presbyterian fold at the same time (the Missionaries
found him out and called him names, but they did not understand his
trouble), he discovered Lalun on the City wall and became the most
constant of her few admirers. He possessed a head that English artists
at home would rave over and paint amid impossible surroundings--a
face that female novelists would use with delight through nine hundred
pages. In reality he was only a clean-bred young Muhammadan, with
pencilled eye-brows, small-cut nostrils, little feet and hands, and
a very tired look in his eyes. By virtue of his twenty-two years he
had grown a neat black beard which he stroked with pride and kept
delicately scented. His life seemed to be divided between borrowing
books from me and making love to Lalun in the window-seat. He composed
songs about her, and some of the songs are sting to this day in the
City from the Street of the Mutton-Butchers to the Copper-Smiths' ward.
One song, the prettiest of all, says that the beauty of Lalun was so
great that it troubled the hearts of the British Government and caused
them to lose their peace of mind. That is the way the song is sung in
the streets; but, if you examine it carefully and know the key to the
explanation, you will find that there are three puns in it--on 'beauty,'
'heart,' and 'peace of mind,'--so that it runs: 'By the subtlety of
Lalun the administration of the Government was troubled and it lost
such and such a man.' When Wali Dad sings that song his eyes glow like
hot coals, and Lalun leans back among the cushions and throws bunches
of jasmine-buds at Wali Dad.
But first it is necessary to explain something about the Supreme
Government which is above all and below all and behind all. Gentlemen
come from England, spend a few weeks in India, walk round this great
Sphinx of the Plains, and write books upon its ways and its works,
denouncing or praising it as their own ignorance prompts. Consequently
all the world knows how the Supreme Government conducts itself. But
no one, not even the Supreme Government, knows everything about the
administration of the Empire. Year by year England sends out fresh
drafts for the first fighting-line, which is officially called the
Indian Civil Service. These die, or kill themselves by overwork, or
are worried to death or broken in health and hope in order that the
land may be protected from death and sickness, famine and war, and may
eventually become capable of standing alone. It will never stand alone,
but the idea is a pretty one, and men are willing to die for it, and
yearly the work of pushing and coaxing and scolding and petting the
country into good living goes forward. If an advance be made all credit
is given to the native, while the Englishmen stand back and wipe their
foreheads. If a failure occurs the Englishmen step forward and take
the blame. Overmuch tenderness of this kind has bred a strong belief
among many natives that the native is capable of administering the
country, and many devout Englishmen believe this also, because the
theory is stated in beautiful English with all the latest political
There be other men who, though uneducated, see visions and dream
and they, too, hope to administer the country in their own way--that
is to say, with a garnish of Red Sauce. Such men must exist among two
hundred million people, and, if they are not attended to, may cause
trouble and even break the great idol called Pax Britannic, which,
as the newspapers say, lives between Peshawur and Cape Comorin. Were
the Day of Doom to dawn to-morrow, you would find the Supreme
'taking measures to allay popular excitement' and putting guards upon
the graveyards that the Dead might troop forth orderly. The youngest
Civilian would arrest Gabriel on his own responsibility if the Archangel
could not produce a Deputy Commissioner's permission to 'make music
or other noises' as the license says.
Whence it is easy to see that mere men of the flesh who would create
a tumult must fare badly at the hands of the Supreme Government. And
they do. There is no outward sign of excitement; there is no
confusion; there is no knowledge. When due and sufficient reasons
have been given, weighed and approved, the machinery moves forward,
and the dreamer of dreams and the seer of visions is gone from his
friends and following. He enjoys the hospitality of Government; there
is no restriction upon his movements within certain limits; but he
must not confer any more with his brother dreamers. Once in every six
months the Supreme Government assures itself that he is well and
takes formal acknowledgment of his existence. No one protests against
this detention, because the few people who know about it are in
deadly fear of seeming to know him; and never a single newspaper
'takes up his case' or organises demonstrations on his behalf,
because the newspapers of India have got behind that lying proverb
which says the Pen is mightier than the Sword, and can walk
So now you know as much as you ought about Wali Dad, the educational
mixture, and the Supreme Government.
Lalun has not yet been described. She would need, so Wali Dad says,
a thousand pens of gold and ink scented with musk. She has been
variously compared to the Moon, the Dil Sagar Lake, a spotted quail,
a gazelle, the Sun on the Desert of Kutch, the Dawn, the Stars, and
the young bamboo. These comparisons imply that she is beautiful
exceedingly according to the native standards, which are practically
the same as those of the West. Her eyes are black and her hair is
black, and her eyebrows are black as leeches; her mouth is tiny and
says witty things; her hands are tiny and have saved much money; her
feet are tiny and have trodden on the naked hearts of many men. But,
as Wali Dad sings: 'Lalun is Lalun, and when you have said that you
have only come to the Beginnings of Knowledge.'
The little house on the City wall was just big enough to hold Lalun,
and her maid, and a pussy-cat with a silver collar. A big pink and
blue cut-glass chandelier hung from the ceiling of the reception room.
A petty Nawab had given Lalun the horror, and she kept it for
politeness' sake. The floor of the room was of polished chunam, white
as curds. A latticed window of carved wood was set in one wall; there
was a profusion of squabby pluffy cushions and fat carpets everywhere,
and Lalun's silver huqa, studded with turquoises, had a special
little carpet all to its shining self. Wali Dad was nearly as permanent
a fixture as the chandelier. As I have said, he lay in the window-seat
and meditated on Life and Death and Lalun--specially Lalun. The feet
of the young men of the City tended to her doorways and then--retired,
for Lalun was a particular maiden, slow of speech, reserved of mind,
and not in the least inclined to orgies which were nearly certain to
end in strife. 'If I am of no value, I am unworthy of this honour,'
said Lalun. 'If I am of value, they are unworthy of Me.' And that was
a crooked sentence.
In the long hot nights of latter April and May all the City seemed to
assemble in Lalun's little white room to smoke and to talk. Shiahs of
the grimmest and most uncompromising persuasion; Sufis who had lost
all belief in the Prophet and retained but little in God; wandering
Hindu priests passing southward on their way to the Central India fairs
and other affairs; Pundits in black gowns, with spectacles on their
noses and undigested wisdom in their insides; bearded headmen of the
wards; Sikhs with all the details of the latest ecclesiastical scandal
in the Golden Temple; red-eyed priests from beyond the Border, looking
like trapped wolves and talking like ravens; M. A.'s of the University,
very superior and very voluble--all these people and more also you
might find in the white room. Wali Dad lay in the window-seat and
listened to the talk.
'It is Lalun's salon' said Wali Dad to me, 'and it is electic--is
not that the word? Outside of a Freemason's Lodge I have never seen
such gatherings. There I dined once with a Jew-a Yahoudi!' He spat
into the City Ditch with apologies for allowing national feelings to
overcome him. 'Though I have lost every belief in the world,' said he,
'and try to be proud of my losing, I cannot help hating a Jew. Lalun
admits no Jews here.'
'But what in the world do all these men do?' I asked.
'The curse of our country,' said Wali Dad. 'They talk. It is like the
Athenians--always hearing and telling some new thing. Ask the Pearl
and she will show you how much she knows of the news of the City and
the Province. Lalun knows everything.'
'Lalun,' I said at random--she was talking to a gentleman of the Kurd
persuasion who had come in from God-knows-where--'when does the 175th
Regiment go to Agra?'
'It does not go at all,' said Lalun, without turning her head. 'They
have ordered the 118th to go in its stead. That Regiment goes to Lucknow
in three months, unless they give a fresh order.'
'That is so,' said Wali Dad without a shade of doubt. 'Can you, with
your telegrams and your newspapers, do better? Always hearing and
telling some new thing,' he went on. 'My friend, has your God ever
smitten a European nation for gossiping in the bazars? India has
gossiped for centuries--always standing in the bazars until the soldiers
go by. Therefore--you are here today instead of starving in your own
country, and I am not a Muhammadan--I am a Product--a Demnition
That also I owe to you and yours: that I cannot make an end to my
sentence without quoting from your authors.' He pulled at the huqa
and mourned, half feelingly, half in earnest, for the shattered hopes
of his youth. Wali Dad was always mourning over something or other--the
country of which he despaired, or the creed in which he had lost faith,
or the life of the English which he could by no means understand.
Lalun never mourned. She played little songs on the sitar, and to
hear her sing, 'O Peacock, cry again,' was always a fresh pleasure.
She knew all the songs that have ever been sung, from the war-songs
of the South that make the old men angry with the young men and the
young men angry with the State, to the love-songs of the North where
the swords whinny-whicker like angry kites in the pauses between the
kisses, and the Passes fill with armed men, and the Lover is torn from
his Beloved and cries, Ai, Ai, Ai! evermore. She knew how to make
up tobacco for the huqa so that it smelt like the Gates of Paradise
and wafted you gently through them. She could embroider strange things
in gold and silver, and dance softly with the moonlight when it came
in at the window. Also she knew the hearts of men, and the heart of
the City, and whose wives were faithful and whose untrue, and more of
the secrets of the Government Offices than are good to be set down in
this place. Nasiban, her maid, said that her jewellery was worth ten
thousand pounds, and that, some night, a thief would enter and murder
her for its possession; but Lalun said that all the City would tear
that thief limb from limb, and that he, whoever he was, knew it.
So she took her sitar and sat in the window-seat and sang a song of
old days that had been sung by a girl of her profession in an armed
camp on the eve of a great battle--the day before the Fords of the
Jumna ran red and Sivaji fled fifty miles to Delhi with a Toorkh
stallion at his horse's tail and another Lalun on his saddle-bow. It
was what men call a Mahratta laonee, and it said:---
Their warrior forces Chimajee
Before the Peishwa led,
The Children of the Sun and Fire
Behind him turned and fled.
And the chorus said:--
With them there fought who rides so free
With a sword and turban red,
The warrior-youth who earns his fee
At peril of his head.
'At peril of his head,' said Wali Dad in English to me. 'Thanks to
your Government, all our heads are protected, and with the educational
facilities at my command'--his eyes twinkled wickedly--'I might be a
distinguished member of the local administration. Perhaps, in time,
I might even be a member of a Legislative Council.'
'Don't speak English,' said Lalun, bending over her sitar afresh.
The chorus went out from the City wall to the blackened wall of Fort
Amara which dominates the City. No man knows the precise extent of
Fort Amara. Three kings built it hundreds of years ago, and they say
that there are miles of underground rooms beneath its walls. It is
peopled with many ghosts, a detachment of Garrison Artillery and a
Company of Infantry. In its prime it held ten thousand men and filled
its ditches with corpses.
'At peril of his head,' sang Lalun again and again.
A head moved on one of the Ramparts--the gray head of an old man--and
a voice, rough as shark-skin on a sword-hilt, sent back the last line
of the chorus and broke into a song that I could not understand, though
Lalun and Wali Dad listened intently.
'What is it?' I asked. 'Who is it?'
'A consistent man,' said Wali Dad. 'He fought you in '46, when he was
a warrior-youth; refought you in '57, and he tried to fight you in
'71, but you had learned the trick of blowing men from guns too well.
Now he is old; but he would still fight if he could.'
'Is he a Wahabi, then? Why should he answer to a Mahratta laonee if
he be Wahabi--or Sikh?' said I.
'I do not know,' said Wali Dad. 'He has lost, perhaps, his religion.
Perhaps he wishes to be a King. Perhaps he is a King. I do not know
'That is a lie, Wali Dad. If you know his career you must know his
'That is quite true. I belong to a nation of liars. I would rather not
tell you his name. Think for yourself.'
Lalun finished her song, pointed to the Fort, and said simply: 'Khem
'Hm,' said Wali Dad. 'If the Pearl chooses to tell you the Pearl is
I translated to Lalun, who laughed. 'I choose to tell what I choose
to tell. They kept Khem Singh in Burma,' said she. 'They kept him there
for many years until his mind was changed in him. So great was the
kindness of the Government. Finding this, they sent him back to his
own country that he might look upon it before he died. He is an old
man, but when he looks upon this country his memory will come. Moreover,
there be many who remember him.'
'He is an Interesting Survival,' said Wali Dad, pulling at the huqa.
'He returns to a country now full of educational and political reform,
but, as the Pearl says, there are many who remember him. He was once
a great man. There will never be any more great men in India. They
will all, when they are boys, go whoring after strange gods, and they
will become citizens--"fellow-citizens"--"illustrious fellow-citizens."
What is it that the native papers call them?'
Wali Dad seemed to be in a very bad temper. Lalun looked out of the
window and smiled into the dust-haze. I went away thinking about Khem
Singh who had once made history with a thousand followers, and would
have been a princeling but for the power of the Supreme Government
The Senior Captain Commanding Fort Amara was away on leave, but the
Subaltern, his Deputy, had drifted down to the Club, where I found him
and enquired of him whether it was really true that a political prisoner
had been added to the attractions of the Fort. The Sub-altern explained
at great length, for this was the first time that he had held Command
of the Fort, and his glory lay heavy upon him.
'Yes,' said he, 'a man was sent in to me about a week ago from down
the line--a thorough gentleman whoever he is. Of course I did all I
could for him. He had his two servants and some silver cooking-pots,
and he looked for all the world like a native officer. I called him
Subadar Sahib; just as well to be on the safe side, y'know. "Look here,
Subadar Sahib," I said, "you're handed over to my authority, and I'm
supposed to guard you. Now I don't want to make your life hard, but
you must make things easy for me. All the Fort is at your disposal,
from the flagstaff to the dry ditch, and I shall be happy to entertain
you in any way I can, but you mustn't take advantage of it. Give me
your word that you won't try to escape, Subadar Sahib, and I'll give
you my word that you shall have no heavy guard put over you." I
thought the best way of getting at him was by going at him straight,
y'know; and it was, by Jove! The old man gave me his word, and moved
about the Fort as contented as a sick crow. He's a rummy chap--always
asking to be told where he is and what the buildings about him are. I
had to sign a slip of blue paper when he turned up, acknowledging
receipt of his body and all that, and I'm responsible, y'know, that
he doesn't get away. Queer thing, though, looking after a Johnnie old
enough to be your grandfather isn't it? Come to the Fort one of these
days and see him?'
For reasons which will appear, I never went to the Fort while Khem
Singh was then within its walls. I knew him only as a gray head seen
from Lalun's window--a gray head and a harsh voice. But natives told
me that, day by day, as he looked upon the fair lands round Amara, his
memory came back to him and, with it, the old hatred against the
Government that had been nearly effaced in far-off Burma. So he raged
up and down the West face of the Fort from morning till noon and from
evening till the night, devising vain things in his heart, and croaking
war-songs when Lalun sang on the City wall. As he grew more acquainted
with the Subaltern he unburdened his old heart of some of the passions
that had withered it. 'Sahib,' he used to say, tapping his stick against
the parapet, 'when I was a young man I was one of twenty thousand
horsemen who came out of the City and rode round the plain here. Sahib,
I was the leader of a hundred, then of a thousand, then of five
thousand, and now!'--he pointed to his two servants. 'But from the
beginning to to-day I would cut the throats of all the Sahibs in the
land if I could. Hold me fast, Sahib, lest I get away and return to
those who would follow me. I forgot them when I was in Burma, but now
that I am in my own country again, I remember everything.'
'Do you remember that you have given me your Honour not to make your
tendance a hard matter?' said the Subaltern.
'Yes, to you, only to you, Sahib,' said Khem Singh. 'To you because
you are of a pleasant countenance. If my turn comes again, Sahib, I
will not hang you nor cut your throat.'
'Thank you,' said the Subaltern gravely, as he looked along the line
of guns that could pound the City to powder in half an hour. 'Let us
go into our own quarters, Khem Singh. Come and talk with me after
Khem Singh would sit on his own cushion at the Subaltern's feet,
drinking heavy, scented anise-seed brandy in great gulps, and telling
strange stories of Fort Amara, which had been a palace in the old days,
of Begums and Ranees tortured to death--aye, in the very vaulted chamber
that now served as a Mess-room; would tell stories of Sobraon that
made the Subaltern's cheeks flush and tingle with pride of race, and
of the Kuka rising from which so much was expected and the foreknowledge
of which was shared by a hundred thousand souls. But he never told
tales of '57 because, as he said, he was the Subaltern's guest, and
'57 is a year that no man, Black or White, cares to speak of. Once
only, when the anise-seed brandy had slightly affected his head, he
said: 'Sahib, speaking now of a matter which lay between Sobraon and
the affair of the Kukas, it was ever a wonder to us that you stayed
your hand at all, and that, having stayed it, you did not make the
land one prison. Now I hear from without that you do great honour to
all men of our country and by your own hands are destroying the Terror
of your Name which is your strong rock and defence. This is a foolish
thing. Will oil and water mix? Now in '57--'
'I was not born then, Subadar Sahib,' said the Subaltern, and Khem
Singh reeled to his quarters.
The Subaltern would tell me of these conversations at the Club, and
my desire to see Khem Singh increased. But Wali Dad, sitting in the
window-seat of the house on the City wall, said that it would be a
cruel thing to do, and Lalun pretended that I preferred the society
of a grizzled old Sikh to hers.
'Here is tobacco, here is talk, here are many friends and all the news
of the City, and, above all, here is myself. I will tell you stories
and sing you songs, and Wali Dad will talk his English nonsense in
your ears. Is that worse than watching the caged animal yonder? Go
to-morrow, then, if you must, but to-day such and such an one will be
here, and he will speak of wonderful things.'
It happened that To-morrow never came, and the warm heat of the latter
Rains gave place to the chill of early October almost before I was
aware of the flight of the year. The Captain commanding the Fort
returned from leave and took over charge of Khem Singh according to
the laws of seniority. The Captain was not a nice man. He called all
natives 'niggers,' which, besides being extreme bad form, shows gross
'What's the use of telling off two Tommies to watch that old nigger?'
'I fancy it soothes his vanity,' said the Subaltern. 'The men are
ordered to keep well out of his way, but he takes them as a tribute
to his importance, poor old wretch.'
'I won't have Line men taken off regular guards in this way. Put on
a couple of Native Infantry.'
'Sikhs?' said the Subaltern, lifting his eyebrows.
'Sikhs, Pathans, Dogras--they're all alike, these black vermin,' and
the Captain talked to Khem Singh in a manner which hurt that old
gentleman's feelings. Fifteen years before, when he had been caught
for the second time, every one looked upon him as a sort of tiger. He
liked being regarded in this light. But he forgot that the world goes
forward in fifteen years, and many Subalterns are promoted to
'The Captain-pig is in charge of the Fort?' said Khem Singh to his
native guard every morning. And the native guard said: 'Yes, Subadar
Sahib,' in deference to his age and his air of distinction; but they
did not know who he was.
In those days the gathering in Lalun's little white room was always
large and talked more than before.
'The Greeks,' said Wali Dad who had been borrowing my books, 'the
inhabitants of the city of Athens, where they were always hearing and
telling some new thing, rigorously secluded their women--who were
fools. Hence the glorious institution of the heterodox women--is it
not?--who were amusing and not fools. All the Greek philosophers
delighted in their company. Tell me, my friend, how it goes now in
Greece and the other places upon the Continent of Europe. Are your
women-folk also fools?'
'Wali Dad,' I said, 'you never speak to us about your women-folk and
we never speak about ours to you. That is the bar between us.'
'Yes,' said Wali Dad, 'it is curious to think that our common
meeting-place should be here, in the house of a common--how do you
call her?' He pointed with the pipe-mouth to Lalun.
'Lalun is nothing but Lalun,' I said, and that was perfectly true.
'But if you took your place in the world, Wali Dad, and gave up dreaming
'I might wear an English coat and trouser. I might be a leading
Muhammadan pleader. I might be received even at the Commissioner's
tennis-parties where the English stand on one side and the natives on
the other, in order to promote social intercourse throughout the Empire.
Heart's Heart,' said he to Lalun quickly,'the Sahib says that I ought
to quit you.'
'The Sahib is always talking stupid talk,' returned Lalun with a laugh.
'In this house I am a Queen and thou art a King. The Sahib'--she put
her arms above her head and thought for a moment--'the Sahib shall be
our Vizier--thine and mine, Wali Dad--because he has said that thou
shouldst leave me.'
Wali Dad laughed immoderately, and I laughed too. 'Be it so,' said he.
'My friend, are you willing to take this lucrative Government
appointment? Lalun, what shall his pay be?'
But Lalun began to sing, and for the rest of the time there was no
hope of getting a sensible answer from her or Wali Dad. When the one
stopped, the other began to quote Persian poetry with a triple pun in
every other line. Some of it was not strictly proper, but it was all
very funny, and it only came to an end when a fat person in black,
with gold pince-nez, sent up his name to Lalun, and Wali Dad dragged
me into the twinkling night to walk in a big rose-garden and talk
heresies about Religion and Governments and a man's career in life.
The Mohurrum, the great mourning-festival of the Muhammadans, was
at hand, and the things that Wali Dad said about religious fanaticism
would have secured his expulsion from the loosest-thinking Muslim sect.
There were the rose-bushes round us, the stars above us, and from every
quarter of the City came the boom of the big Mohurrum drums. You must
know that the City is divided in fairly equal proportions between the
Hindus and the Musalmans, and where both creeds belong to the fighting
races, a big religious festival gives ample chance for trouble. When
they can--that is to say when the authorities are weak enough to allow
it--the Hindus do their best to arrange some minor feast-day of their
own in time to clash with the period of general mourning for the martyrs
Hasan and Hussain, the heroes of the Mohurrum. Gilt and painted paper
presentations of their tombs are borne with shouting and wailing,
music, torches, and yells, through the principal thoroughfares of the
City, which fakements are called tazias. Their passage is rigorously
laid down beforehand by the Police, and detachments of Police accompany
each tazia, lest the Hindus should throw bricks at it and the peace
of the Queen and the heads of Her loyal subjects should thereby be
broken. Mohurrum time in a 'fighting' town means anxiety to all the
officials, because, if a riot breaks out, the officials and not the
rioters are held responsible. The former must foresee everything, and
while not making their precautions ridiculously elaborate, must see
that they are at least adequate.
'Listen to the drums!' said Wali Dad. 'That is the heart of the
people--empty and making much noise. How, think you, will the Mohurrum
go this year? I think that there will be trouble.'
He turned down a side-street and left me alone with the stars and a
sleepy Police patrol. Then I went to bed and dreamed that Wali Dad had
sacked the City and I was made Vizier, with Lalun's silver huqa for
mark of office.
All day the Mohurrum drums beat in the City, and all day deputations
of tearful Hindu gentlemen besieged the Deputy Commissioner with
assurances that they would be murdered ere next dawning by the
Muhammadans. 'Which,' said the Deputy Commissioner, in confidence to
the Head of Police, 'is a pretty fair indication that the Hindus are
going to make 'emselves unpleasant. I think we can arrange a little
surprise for them. I have given the heads of both Creeds fair warning.
If they choose to disregard it, so much the worse for them.'
There was a large gathering in Lalun's house that night, but of men
that I had never seen before, if I except the fat gentleman in black
with the gold pince-nez. Wali Dad lay in the window-seat, more
bitterly scornful of his Faith and its manifestations than I had ever
known him. Lalun's maid was very busy cutting up and mixing tobacco
for the guests. We could hear the thunder of the drums as the
processions accompanying each tazia marched to the central
gathering-place in the plain outside the City, preparatory to their
triumphant re-entry and circuit within the walls. All the streets
seemed ablaze with torches, and only Fort Amara was black and silent.
When the noise of the drums ceased, no one in the white room spoke for
a time. 'The first tazia has moved off,' said Wali Dad, looking to
'That is very early,' said the man with the pince-nez.
'It is only half-past eight.' The company rose and departed.
'Some of them were men from Ladakh,' said Lalun, when the last had
gone. 'They brought me brick-tea such as the Russians sell, and a
tea-urn from Peshawur. Show me, now, how the English Memsahibs make
The brick-tea was abominable. When it was finished Wali Dad suggested
going into the streets. 'I am nearly sure that there will be trouble
to-night,' he said. 'All the City thinks so, and Vox Populi is Vox
Dei, as the Babus say. Now I tell you that at the corner of the
Padshahi Gate you will find my horse all this night if you want to go
about and to see things. It is a most disgraceful exhibition. Where
is the pleasure of saying "Ya Hasan, Ya Hussain," twenty thousand
times in a night?'
All the processions--there were two and twenty of them--were now well
within the City walls. The drums were beating afresh, the crowd were
howling 'Ya Hasan! Ya Hussain!' and beating their breasts, the brass
bands were playing their loudest, and at every corner where space
allowed, Muhammadan preachers were telling the lamentable story of the
death of the Martyrs. It was impossible to move except with the crowd,
for the streets were not more than twenty feet wide. In the Hindu
quarters the shutters of all the shops were up and cross-barred. As
the first tazia, a gorgeous erection ten feet high, was borne aloft
on the shoulders of a score of stout men into the semi-darkness of the
Gully of the Horsemen, a brickbat crashed through its talc and tinsel
'Into thy hands, O Lord?' murmured Wali Dad profanely, as a yell went
up from behind, and a native officer of Police jammed his horse through
the crowd. Another brickbat followed, and the tazia staggered and
swayed where it had stopped.
'Go on! In the name of the Sirkar, go forward!' shouted the Policeman;
but there was an ugly cracking and splintering of shutters, and the
crowd halted, with oaths and growlings, before the house whence the
brickbat had been thrown.
Then, without any warning, broke the storm--not only in the Gully of
the Horsemen, but in half a dozen other places. The tazias rocked
like ships at sea, the long pole-torches dipped and rose round them
while the men shouted: 'The Hindus are dishonouring the tazias!
Strike! Strike! Into their temples for the faith!' The six or eight
Policemen with each tazia drew their batons, and struck as long as
they could in the hope of forcing the mob forward, but they were
overpowered, and as contingents of Hindus poured into the streets, the
fight became general. Half a mile away where the tazias were yet
untouched the drums and the shrieks of 'Ya Hasanl Ya Hussain!'
continued, but not for long. The priests at the corners of the streets
knocked the legs from the bedsteads that supported their pulpits and
smote for the Faith, while stones fell from the silent houses upon
friend and foe, and the packed streets bellowed: 'Din! Din! Din!'
A tazia caught fire, and was dropped for a flaming barrier between
Hindu and Musalman at the corner of the Gully. Then the crowd surged
forward, and Wali Dad drew me close to the stone pillar of a well.
'It was intended from the beginning!' he shouted in my ear, with more
heat than blank unbelief should be guilty of. 'The bricks were carried
up to the houses beforehand. These swine of Hindus! We shall be gutting
kine in their temples to-night!'
Tazia after tazia, some burning, others torn to pieces, hurried
past us and the mob with them, howling, shrieking, and striking at the
house doors in their flight. At last we saw the reason of the rush.
Hugonin, the Assistant District Superintendent of Police, a boy of
twenty, had got together thirty constables and was forcing the crowd
through the streets. His old gray Police-horse showed no sign of
uneasiness as it was spurred breast-on into the crowd, and the long
dog-whip with which he had armed himself was never still.
'They know we haven't enough Police to hold 'em,' he cried as he passed
me, mopping a cut on his face. 'They know we haven't! Aren't any of
the men from the Club coming down to help? Get on, you sons of burnt
fathers!' The dog-whip cracked across the writhing backs, and the
constables smote afresh with baton and gun-butt. With these passed the
lights and the shouting, and Wali Dad began to swear under his breath.
From Fort Amara shot up a single rocket; then two side by side. It was
the signal for troops.
Petitt, the Deputy Commissioner, covered with dust and sweat, but calm
and gently smiling, cantered up the clean-swept street in rear of the
main body of the rioters. 'No one killed yet,' he shouted. 'I'll keep
'em on the run till dawn! Don't let 'em halt, Hugonin! Trot 'em about
till the troops come.'
The science of the defence lay solely in keeping the mob on the move.
If they had breathing-space they would halt and fire a house, and then
the work of restoring order would be more difficult, to say the least
of it. Flames have the same effect on a crowd as blood has on a wild
Word had reached the Club and men in evening-dress were beginning to
show themselves and lend a hand in heading off and breaking up the
shouting masses with stirrup-leathers, whips, or chance-found staves.
They were not very often attacked, for the rioters had sense enough
to know that the death of a European would not mean one hanging but
many, and possibly the appearance of the thrice-dreaded Artillery. The
clamour in the City redoubled. The Hindus had descended into the streets
in real earnest and ere long the mob returned. It was a strange sight.
There were no tazias--only their riven platforms--and there were
no Police. Here and there a City dignitary, Hindu or Muhammadan, was
vainly imploring his co-religionists to keep quiet and behave
themselves--advice for which his white beard was pulled. Then a native
officer of Police, unhorsed but still using his spurs with effect,
would be borne along, warning all the crowd of the danger of insulting
the Government. Everywhere men struck aimlessly with sticks, grasping
each other by the throat, howling and foaming with rage, or beat with
their bare hands on the doors of the houses.
'It is a lucky thing that they are fighting with natural weapons,' I
said to Wali Dad, 'else we should have half the City killed.'
I turned as I spoke and looked at his face. His nostrils were distended,
his eyes were fixed, and he was smiting himself softly on the breast.
The crowd poured by with renewed riot--a gang of Musalmans hard-pressed
by some hundred Hindu fanatics. Wali Dad left my side with an oath,
and shouting: 'Ya Hasan! Ya Hussain!' plunged into the thick of the
fight where I lost sight of him.
I fled by a side alley to the Padshahi Gate where I found Wali Dad's
house, and thence rode to the Fort. Once outside the City wall, the
tumult sank to a dull roar, very impressive under the stars and
reflecting great credit on the fifty thousand angry able-bodied men
who were making it. The troops who, at the Deputy Commissioner's
instance, had been ordered to rendezvous quietly near the fort, showed
no signs of being impressed. Two companies of Native Infantry, a
squadron of Native Cavalry and a company of British Infantry were
kicking their heels in the shadow of the East face, waiting for orders
to march in. I am sorry to say that they were all pleased, unholily
pleased, at the chance of what they called 'a little fun.' The senior
officers, to be sure, grumbled at having been kept out of bed, and the
English troops pretended to be sulky, but there was joy in the hearts
of all the subalterns, and whispers ran up and down the line: 'No
ball-cartridge--what a beastly shame!' 'D'you think the beggars will
really stand up to us?' ''Hope I shall meet my money-lender there. I
owe him more than I can afford.' 'Oh, they won't let us even unsheathe
swords.' 'Hurrah! Up goes the fourth rocket. Fall in, there!'
The Garrison Artillery, who to the last cherished a wild hope that
they might be allowed to bombard the City at a hundred yards' range,
lined the parapet above the East gateway and cheered themselves hoarse
as the British Infantry doubled along the road to the Main Gate of the
City. The Cavalry cantered on to the Padshahi Gate, and the Native
Infantry marched slowly to the Gate of the Butchers. The surprise was
intended to be of a distinctly unpleasant nature, and to come on top
of the defeat of the Police who had been just able to keep the
Muhammadans from firing the houses of a few leading Hindus. The bulk
of the riot lay in the north and north-west wards. The east and
south-east were by this time dark and silent, and I rode hastily to
Lalun's house for I wished to tell her to send some one in search of
Wali Dad. The house was unlighted, but the door was open, and I climbed
upstairs in the darkness. One small lamp in the white room showed Lalun
and her maid leaning half out of the window, breathing heavily and
evidently pulling at something that refused to come.
'Thou art late--very late,' gasped Lalun without turning her head.
'Help us now, O Fool, if thou hast not spent thy strength howling among
the tazias. Pull! Nasiban and I can do no more! O Sahib, is it you?
The Hindus have been hunting an old Muhammadan round the Ditch with
clubs. If they find him again they will kill him. Help us to pull him
I put my hands to the long red silk waist-cloth that was hanging out
of the window, and we three pulled and pulled with all the strength
at our command. There was something very heavy at the end, and it swore
in an unknown tongue as it kicked against the City wall.
'Pull, oh, pull!' said Lalun at the last. A pair of brown hands grasped
the window-sill and a venerable Muhammadan tumbled upon the floor,
very much out of breath. His jaws were tied up, his turban had fallen
over one eye, and he was dusty and angry.
Lalun hid her face in her hands for an instant and said something about
Wali Dad that I could not catch.
Then, to my extreme gratification, she threw her arms round my neck
and murmured pretty things. I was in no haste to stop her; and Nasiban,
being a handmaiden of tact, turned to the big jewel-chest that stands
in the corner of the white room and rummaged among the contents. The
Muhammadan sat on the floor and glared.
'One service more, Sahib, since thou hast come so opportunely,' said
Lalun. 'Wilt thou'--it is very nice to be thou-ed by Lalun--'take
this old man across the City--the troops are everywhere, and they
might hurt him for he is old--to the Kumharsen Gate? There I think he
may find a carriage to take him to his house. He is a friend of mine,
and thou art--more than a friend--therefore I ask this.'
Nasiban bent over the old man, tucked something into his belt, and I
raised him up, and led him into the streets.
In crossing from the east to the west of the City there was no chance
of avoiding the troops and the crowd. Long before I reached the Gully
of the Horsemen I heard the shouts of the British Infantry crying
cheeringly: 'Hutt, ye beggars! Hutt, ye devils! Get along! Go forward,
there!' Then followed the ringing of rifle-butts and shrieks of pain.
The troops were banging the bare toes of the mob with their
gun-butts--for not a bayonet had been fixed. My companion mumbled and
jabbered as we walked on until we were carried back by the crowd and
had to force our way to the troops. I caught him by the wrist and felt
a bangle there--the iron bangle of the Sikhs--but I had no suspicions,
for Lalun had only ten minutes before put her arms round me. Thrice
we were carried back by the crowd, and when we made our way past the
British Infantry it was to meet the Sikh Cavalry driving another mob
before them with the butts of their lances.
'What are these dogs?' said the old man.
'Sikhs of the Cavalry, Father,' I said, and we edged our way up the
line of horses two abreast and found the Deputy Commissioner, his
helmet smashed on his head, surrounded by a knot of men who had come
down from the Club as amateur constables and had helped the Police
'We'll keep 'em on the run till dawn,' said Petitt. 'Who's your
I had only time to say:' The Protection of the Sirkar!' when a fresh
crowd flying before the Native Infantry carried us a hundred yards
nearer to the Kumharsen Gate, and Petitt was swept away like a shadow.
'I do not know--I cannot see--this is all new to me!' moaned my
companion. 'How many troops are there in the City?'
'Perhaps five hundred,' I said.
'A lakh of men beaten by five hundred--and Sikhs among them! Surely,
surely, I am an old man, but--the Kumharsen Gate is new. Who pulled
down the stone lions? Where is the conduit? Sahib, I am a very old
man, and, alas, I--I cannot stand.' He dropped in the shadow of the
Kumharsen Gate where there was no disturbance. A fat gentleman wearing
gold pince-nez came out of the darkness.
'You are most kind to my old friend,' he said suavely. 'He is a
landholder of Akala. He should not be in a big City when there is
religious excitement. But I have a carriage here. You are quite truly
kind. Will you help me to put him into the carriage? It is very late.'
We bundled the old man into a hired victoria that stood close to the
gate, and I turned back to the house on the City wall. The troops were
driving the people to and fro, while the Police shouted, 'To your
houses! Get to your houses!' and the dog-whip of the Assistant District
Superintendent cracked remorselessly. Terror-stricken bunnias clung
to the stirrups of the cavalry, crying that their houses had been
robbed (which was a lie), and the burly Sikh horsemen patted them on
the shoulder, and bade them return to those houses lest a worse thing
should happen. Parties of five or six British soldiers, joining arms,
swept down the side-gullies, their rifles on their backs, stamping,
with shouting and song, upon the toes of Hindu and Musalman. Never was
religious enthusiasm more systematically squashed; and never were poor
breakers of the peace more utterly weary and footsore. They were routed
out of holes and corners, from behind well-pillars and byres, and
bidden to go to their houses. If they had no houses to go to, so much
the worse for their toes.
On returning to Lalun's door I stumbled over a man at the threshold.
He was sobbing hysterically and his arms flapped like the wings of a
goose. It was Wali Dad, Agnostic and Unbeliever, shoeless, turbanless,
and frothing at the mouth, the flesh on his chest bruised and bleeding
from the vehemence with which he had smitten himself. A broken
torch-handle lay by his side, and his quivering lips murmured, 'Ya
Hasan! Ya Hussain!' as I stooped over him. I pushed him a few steps
up the staircase, threw a pebble at Lalun's City window and hurried
Most of the streets were very still, and the cold wind that comes
before the dawn whistled down them. In the centre of the Square of the
Mosque a man was bending over a corpse. The skull had been smashed in
by gun-butt or bamboo-stave.
'It is expedient that one man should die for the people,' said Petitt
grimly, raising the shapeless head. 'These brutes were beginning to
show their teeth too much.'
And from afar we could hear the soldiers singing 'Two Lovely Black
Eyes,' as they drove the remnant of the rioters within doors.
Of course you can guess what happened? I was not so clever. When the
news went abroad that Khem Singh had escaped from the Fort, I did not,
since I was then living this story, not writing it, connect myself,
or Lalun, or the fat gentleman with the gold pince-nez, with his
disappearance. Nor did it strike me that Wali Dad was the man who
should have convoyed him across the City, or that Lalun's arms round
my neck were put there to hide the money that Nasiban gave to Khem
Singh, and that Lalun had used me and my white face as even a better
safeguard than Wali Dad who proved himself so untrustworthy. All that
I knew at the time was that, when Fort Amara was taken up with the
riots, Khem Singh profited by the confusion to get away, and that his
two Sikh guards also escaped.
But later on I received full enlightenment; and so did Khem Singh. He
fled to those who knew him in the old days, but many of them were dead
and more were changed, and all knew something of the Wrath of the
Government. He went to the young men, but the glamour of his name had
passed away, and they were entering native regiments of Government
offices, and Khem Singh could give them neither pension, decorations,
nor influence--nothing but a glorious death with their backs to the
mouth of a gun. He wrote letters and made promises, and the letters
fell into bad hands, and a wholly insignificant subordinate officer
of Police tracked them down and gained promotion thereby. Moreover,
Khem Singh was old, and anise-seed brandy was scarce, and he had left
his silver cooking-pots in Fort Amara with his nice warm bedding, and
the gentleman with the gold pince-nez was told by those who had
employed him that Khem Singh as a popular leader was not worth the
'Great is the mercy of these fools of English!' said Khem Singh when
the situation was put before him. 'I will go back to Fort Amara of my
own free will and gain honour. Give me good clothes to return in.'
So, at his own time, Khem Singh knocked at the wicket-gate of the Fort
and walked to the Captain and the Subaltern, who were nearly gray-headed
on account of correspondence that daily arrived from Simla marked
'I have come back, Captain Sahib,' said Khem Singh.
'Put no more guards over me. It is no good out yonder.'
A week later I saw him for the first time to my knowledge, and he made
as though there were an understanding between us.
'It was well done, Sahib,' said he, 'and greatly I admired your
astuteness in thus boldly facing the troops when I, whom they would
have doubtless torn to pieces, was with you. Now there is a man in
Fort Ooltagarh whom a bold man could with ease help to escape. This
is the position of the Fort as I draw it on the sand--'
But I was thinking how I had become Lalun's Vizier after all.