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