Part 4 out of 5
"You poor, serious, pagan man," I retorted, "if you take 'em that
way, you'll wreck your Great Idea."
"Will you take him to Lord Lundie's to-morrow?" said the
"I suppose I must," I said, "if you won't."
"Not me! I'm going home," said the Agent-General, and departed. I
am glad that I am no colony's Agent-General.
Penfentenyou continued to argue about naval contributions till
1.15 A.M., though I was victor from the first.
At ten o'clock I got him and his correspondence into the motor,
and he had the decency to ask whether he had been unpolished
over-night. I replied that I waited an apology. This he made
excuse for renewed arguments, and used wayside shows as
illustrations of the decadence of England.
For example we burst a tyre within a mile of Credence Green, and,
to save time, walked into the beautifully kept little village.
His eye was caught by a building of pale-blue tin, stencilled
"Calvinist Chapel," before whose shuttered windows an Italian
organ-grinder .with a petticoated monkey was playing "Dolly
"Yes. That's it!" snapped the egoist. "That's a parable of the
general situation in England. And look at those brutes!" A huge
household removals van was halted at a public-house. The men in
charge were drinking beer from blue and white mugs. It seemed to
me a pretty sight, but Penfentenyou said it represented Our
Lord Lundie's summer resting-place we learned was a farm, a
little out of the village, up a hill round which curled a high
hedged road. Only an initiated few spend their holidays at
Credence Green, and they have trained the householders to keep
the place select. Penfentenyou made a grievance of this as we
walked up the lane, followed at a distance by the organ-grinder.
"Suppose he is having a house-party," he said: "Anything's
possible in this insane land."
Just at that minute we found ourselves opposite an empty villa.
Its roof was of black slate, with bright unweathered
ridge-tiling; its walls were of blood-coloured brick, cornered
and banded with vermiculated stucco work, and there was cobalt,
magenta, and purest apple-green window-glass on either side of
the front door. The whole was fenced from the road by a low,
brick-pillared, flint wall, topped with a cast-iron Gothic rail,
picked out in blue and gold.
Tight beds of geranium, calceolaria, and lobelia speckled the
glass-plat, from whose centre rose one of the finest araucarias
(its other name by the way is "monkey-puzzler"), that it has ever
been my lot to see. It must have been full thirty feet high, and
its foliage exquisitely answered the iron railings. Such bijou ne
plus ultras, replete with all the amenities, do not, as I pointed
out to Penfentenyou, transpire outside of England.
A hedge, swinging sharp right, flanked the garden, and above it
on a slope of daisy-dotted meadows we could see Lord Lundie's
tiled and half-timbered summer farmhouse. Of a sudden we heard
voices behind the tree--the fine full tones of the unembarrassed
English, speaking to their equals--that tore through the hedge
like sleet through rafters.
"That it is not called 'monkey-puzzler' for nothing, I willingly
concede"--this was a rich and rolling note--"but on the other
"I submit, me lud, that the name implies that it might, could,
would, or should be ascended by a monkey, and not that the ascent
is a physical impossibility. I believe one of our South American
spider monkeys wouldn't hesitate . . . By Jove, it might be worth
This was a crisper voice than the first. A third, higher-pitched,
and full of pleasant affectations, broke in.
"Oh, practical men, there is no ape here. Why do you waste one of
God's own days on unprofitable discussion? Give me a match!"
"I've a good mind to make you demonstrate in your own person.
Come on, Bubbles! We'll make Jimmy climb!"
There was a sound of scuffling, broken by squeaks from Jimmy of
the high voice. I turned back and drew Penfentenyou into the side
of the flanking hedge. I remembered to have read in a society
paper that Lord Lundie's lesser name was "Bubbles."
"What are they doing?" Penfentenyou said sharply. "Drunk?"
"Just playing! Superabundant vitality of the Race, you know.
We'll watch 'em," I answered. The noise ceased.
"My deliver," Jimmy gasped. "The ram caught in the thicket,
and--I'm the only one who can talk Neapolitan! Leggo my collar!"
He cried aloud in a foreign tongue, and was answered from the
"It's the Calvinistic organ-grinder," I whispered. I had already
found a practicable break at the bottom of the hedge. "They're
going to try to make the monkey climb, I believe."
"Here--let me look!" Penfentenyou flung himself down, and rooted
till he too broke a peep-hole. We lay side by side commanding the
entire garden at ten yards' range.
"You know 'em?" said Penfentenyou, as I made some noise or other.
"By sight only. The big fellow in flannels is Lord Lundie; the
light-built one with the yellow beard painted his picture at the
last Academy: He's a swell R.A., James Loman."
"And the brown chap with the hands?"
"Tomling, Sir Christopher Tomling, the South American engineer
who built the--"
"San Juan Viaduct. I know," said Penfentenyou. "We ought to have
had him with us . . . . Do you think a monkey would climb the
The organ-grinder at the gate fenced his beast with one arm as
"Don't show off your futile accomplishments," said Lord Lundie.
"Tell him it's an experiment. Interest him!"
"Shut up, Bubbles. You aren't in court," Jimmy',replied. "This
needs delicacy. Giuseppe says--"
"Interest the monkey," the brown engineer interrupted. "He won't
climb for love. Cut up to the house and get some biscuits,
Bubbles--sugar ones and an orange or two. No need to tell our
The huge white figure lobbed off at a trot which would not have
disgraced a boy of seventeen. I gathered from something Jimmy let
fall that the three had been at Harrow together.
"That Tomling has a head on his Shoulders," muttered
Penfentenyou. "Pity we didn't get him for the Colony. But the
question is, will the monkey climb?"
"Be quick, Jimmy. Tell the man we'll give him five bob for the
loan of the beast. Now run the organ under the tree, and we'll
dress it when Bubbles comes back," Sir Christopher cried.
"I've often wondered," said Penfentenyou, "whether it would
puzzle a monkey?" He had forgotten the needs of his Growing
Nation, and was earnestly parting the white-thorn stems with his
* * * * * * * * * *
Giuseppe and Jimmy did as they were told, the monkey following
them with a wary and malignant eye.
"Here's a discovery," said Jimmy. "The singing part of this organ
comes off the wheels." He spoke volubly to the proprietor. "Oh,
it's so as Giuseppe can take it to his room o' nights. And play
it. D'you hear that? The organ-grinder, after his day's crime,
plays his accursed machine for love. For love, Chris! And Michael
Angelo was one of 'em!"
"Don't jaw! Tell him to take the beast's petticoat off," said Sir
Lord Lundie returned, very little winded, through a gap higher up
"They're all out, thank goodness!" he cried, "but I've raided
what I could. Macrons glaces, candied fruit, and a bag of
"Excellent!" said the world-renowned contractor.
"Jimmy, you're the light-weight; jump up on the organ and impale
these things on the leaves as I hand 'em!"
"I see," said Jimmy, capering like a springbuck. "Upward and
onward, eh? First, he'll reach out for--how infernal prickly
these leaves are!--this biscuit. Next we'll lure him on--(that's
about the reach of his arm)--with the marron glare, and then
he'll open out this orange. How human! How like your ignoble
With care and elaboration they ornamented that tree's lower
branches with sugar-topped biscuits, oranges, bits of banana, and
marrons glares till it looked very ape's path to Paradise.
"Unchain the Gyascutis!" said Sir Christopher commandingly.
Giuseppe placed the monkey atop of the organ, where the beast,
misunderstanding, stood on his head.
"He's throwing himself on the mercy of the Court, me lud," said
Jimmy. "No--now he's interested. Now he's reaching after higher
things. What wouldn't I give to have here" (he mentioned a name
not unhonoured in British Art). "Ambition plucking apples of
Sodom!" (the monkey had pricked himself and was swearing).
"Genius hampered by Convention? Oh, there's a whole bushelful of
allegories in it!"
"Give him time. He's balancing the probabilities," said Lord
The three closed round the monkey,--hanging on his every motion
with an earnestness almost equal to ours. The great judge's
head--seamed and vertical forehead, iron mouth, and pike-like
under-jaw, all set on that thick neck rising out of the white
flannelled collar--was thrown against the puckered green silk of
the organ-front as it might have been a cameo of Titus. Jimmy,
with raised eyes and parted lips, fingered his grizzled chestnut
beard, and I was near enough to-note, the capable beauty of his
hands. Sir Christopher stood a little apart, his arms folded
behind his back, one heavy brown boot thrust forward, chin in as
curbed, and black eyebrows lowered to shade the keen eyes.
Giuseppe's dark face between flashing earrings, a twisted rag of
red and yellow silk round his throat, turned from the reaching
yearning monkey to the pink and white biscuits spiked on the
bronzed leafage. And upon them all fell the serious and
workmanlike sun of an English summer forenoon.
"Fils de Saint Louis, montez au ciel!" said Lord Lundie suddenly
in a voice that made me think of Black Caps. I do not know what
the monkey thought, because at that instant he leaped off the
organ and disappeared.
There was a clash of broken glass behind the tree.
The monkey's face, distorted with passion, appeared at an upper
window of the house, and a starred hole in the stained-glass
window to the left of 'the front door showed the first steps of
his upward path.
"We've got to catch him," cried Sir Christopher. "Come along!"
They pushed at the door, which was unlocked.
"Yes. But consider the ethics of the case," said Jimmy. "Isn't
this burglary or something, Bubbles?"
"Settle that when he's caught," said Sir Christopher. We're
responsible for the beast."
A furious clanging of bells broke out of the empty house,
followed by muffed gurglings and trumpetings.
"What the deuce is that?" I asked, half aloud.
"The plumbing, of course," said Penfentenyou. "What a pity! I
believe he'd have climbed if Lord Lundie hadn't put him off!"
"Wait a moment, Chris," said Jimmy the interpreter; " Guiseppe
says he may answer to the music of his infancy. Giuseppe,
therefore, will go in with the "organ. Orpheus with his lute, you
know. Avante, Orpheus! There's no Neapolitan for bathroom, but I
fancy your friend is there."
"I'm not going into another man's house with a, hurdy-gurdy,"
said Lord Lundie, recoiling, as Giuseppe unshipped the working
mechanism of the organ (it developed a hang-down leg) from its
wheels, slipped a strap round his shoulders, and gave the handle
"Don't be a cad, Bubbles," was Jimmy's answer. "You couldn't
leave us now if you were on the Woolsack. Play, Orpheus! The Cadi
* * * * * * * * *
With a whoop, a buzz, and a crash, the organ sprang to life under
the hand of Giuseppe, and the procession passed through the
rained-to-imitate-walnut front door. A moment later we saw the
monkey ramping on the roof.
"He'll be all over the township in a minute if we don't head
him," said Penfentenyou, leaping to his feet, and crashing into
the garden. We headed him with pebbles till he retired through a
window to the tuneful reminder that he had left a lot of little
things behind him. As we passed the front door it swung open, and
showed Jimmy the artist sitting at the bottom of a newly-cleaned
staircase. He waggled his hands at us, and when we entered we saw
that the man was stricken speechless. His eyes grew red--red like
a ferret's--and what little breath he had whistled shrilly. At
first we thought it was a fit, and then we saw that it was
mirth--the inopportune mirth of the Artistic Temperament.
The house palpitated to an infamous melody punctuated by the
stump of the barrel-organ's one leg, as Giuseppe, above, moved
from room to room after his rebel slave. Now and again a floor
shook a little under the combined rushes of Lord Lundie and Sir
Christopher Tomling, who gave many and contradictory orders. But
when they could they cursed Jimmy with splendid thoroughness.
"Have you anything to do with the house?" panted Jimmy at last.
"Because we're using it just now." He gulped. "And I'm
"All right," said Penfentenyou, and shut the hall door.
"Jimmy, you unspeakable blackguard) Jimmy, you cur! You coward!"
(Lord Lundie's voice overbore the flood of melody.) "Come up
here! Giussieppe's saying something we don't understand."
Jimmy listened and interpreted between hiccups.
"He says you'd better play the organ, Bubbles, and let him do the
stalking. The monkey knows him."
"By Jove, he's quite right," said Sir Christopher ,from the
landing. "Take it, Bubbles, at once."
"My God!" said Lord Lundie in horror.
The chase reverberated over our heads, from the attics to the
first floor and back again. Bodies and Voices met in collision
and argument, and once or twice the organ hit walls and doors.
Then it broke forth in a new manner.
"He's playing it," said Jimmy. "I know his acute Justinian ear.
Are you fond of music?"
"I think Lord Lundie plays very well for a beginner," I ventured.
"Ah! That's the trained legal intellect. Like mastering a brief.
I haven't got it." He wiped his eyes and shook.
"Hi!" said Penfentenyou, looking through the stained glass window
down the garden. "What's that!"
* * * * * * * * *
A household removals van, in charge of four men, had halted at
the gate. A husband and his wife householders beyond
question--quavered irresolutely up the path. He looked tired. She
was certainly cross. In all this haphazard world the last couple
to understand a scientific experiment.
I laid hands on Jimmy--the clamour above drowning speech and with
Penfentenyou's aid, propped him against the window, that he
He saw, nodded, fell as an umbrella can fall, and kneeling, beat
his forehead on the shut door. Penfentenyou slid the bolt.
The furniture men reinforced the two figures on the path, and
advanced, spreading generously.
"Hadn't we better warn them up-stairs?" I suggested:
"No. I'll die first!" said Jimmy. "I'm pretty near it now.
Besides, they called me names."
I turned from the Artist to the Administrator.
"Coeteris paribus, I think we'd better be going," said
Penfentenyou, dealer in crises.
"Ta--take me with you," said Jimmy. "I've no reputation to lose,
but I'd like to watch 'em from--er--outside the picture."
"There's always a modus viviendi," Penfentenyou murmured, and
tiptoed along the hall to a back door, which he opened quite
silently. We passed into a tangle of gooseberry bushes where, at
his statesmanlike example, we crawled on all fours, and regained
Here we lay up, secure in our alibi.
"But your firm,"--the woman was wailing to the furniture removals
men--"your firm promised me everything should be in yesterday.
And it's to-day! You should have been here yesterday!"
"The last tenants ain't out yet, lydy," said one of them.
Lord Lundie was rapidly improving in technique, though
organ-grinding, unlike the Law, is more of a calling than a
trade, and he hung occasionally on a dead centre. Giuseppe, I
think, was singing, but I could not understand the drift of Sir
Christopher's remarks. They were Spanish.
The woman said something we did not catch.
"You might 'ave sub-let it," the man insisted. "Or your gentleman
"But I didn't. Send for the Police at once."
"I wouldn't do that, lydy. They're only fruit pickers on a beano.
They aren't particular where they sleep."
"D'you mean they've been sleeping there? I only had it cleaned
last week. Get them out."
"Oh, if you say so, we'll 'ave 'em out of it in two twos. Alf,
fetch me the spare swingle-bar."
"Don't! You'll knock the paint off the door. Get them out!"
"What the 'ell else am I trying to do for you, lydy?" the man
answered with pathos; but the woman wheeled on her mate.
"Edward! They're all drunk here, and they're all mad there. Do
something!" she said.
Edward took one short step forward, and sighed "Hullo!" in the
direction of the turbulent house. The woman walked up and down,
the very figure of Domestic Tragedy. The furniture men swayed a
little on their heels, and -
"Got him!" The shout rang through all the windows at once. It was
followed by a blood-hound-like bay from Sir Christopher, a
maniacal prestissimo on the organ, and loud cries, for Jimmy. But
Jimmy, at my side, rolled his congested eyeballs, owl-wise.
"I never knew them," he said. "I'm an orphan."
* * * * * * * * *
The front, door opened, and the three came forth to short-lived
triumph. I had never before seen a Law Lord dressed as for
tennis, with a stump-leg barrel-organ strapped to his shoulder.
But it is a shy bird in this plumage. Lord Lundie strove to
disembarrass himself of his accoutrements much as an ill-trained
Punch and Judy dog tries to escape backwards through his frilled
collar. Sir Christopher, covered with limewash, cherished a
bleeding thumb, and the almost crazy monkey tore at Giuseppe's
The men on both sides reeled, but the woman stood her ground.
"Idiots!" she said, and once more, "Idiots!"
I could have gladdened a few convicts of my acquaintance with a
photograph of Lord Lundie at that instant.
"Madam," he began, wonderfully preserving the roll in his voice,
"it was a monkey."
Sir Christopher sucked his thumb and nodded.
"Take it away and go," she replied. "Go away!"
I would have gone, and gladly, on this permission, but these
still strong men must ever be justifying themselves. Lord Lundie
turned to the husband, who for the first time spoke.
"I have rented this house. I am moving in," he said.
"We ought to have been in yesterday," the woman interrupted.
"Yes. We ought to have been in yesterday. Have you slept there
overnight?" said the man peevishly.
"No; I assure you we haven't," said Lord Lundie.
"Then go away. Go quite away," cried the woman.
They went--in single file down the path. They went silently,
restrapping the organ on its wheels, and rechaining the monkey to
"Damn it all!" said Penfentenyou. "They do face the music, and
they do stick by each other in private life!"
"Ties of Common Funk," I answered. Giuseppe ran to the gate and
fled back to the possible world. Lord Lundie and Sir Christopher,
constrained by tradition, paced slowly.
Then it came to pass that the woman, who walked behind them,
lifted up her eyes, and beheld the tree which they had dressed.
"Stop!" she called; and they stopped. "Who did that?"
There was no answer. The Eternal Bad Boy in every man hung its
head before the Eternal Mother in every woman.
"Who put these disgusting things there?" she repeated.
Suddenly Penfentenyou, Premier of his Colony in all but name,
left Jimmy and me, and appeared at the gate. (If he is not turned
out of office, that is how he will appear on the Day of
"Well done you!" he cried zealously, and doffed his hat to the
woman. "Have you any children, madam?" he demanded.
"Yes, two. They should have been here to-day. The firm promised
"Then we're not a minute too soon. That monkey escaped. It was a
very dangerous beast. 'Might have frightened your children into
fits. All the organ-grinder's fault! A most lucky thing these
gentlemen caught it when they did. I hope you aren't badly
mauled, Sir Christopher?" Shaken as I was (I wanted to get away
and laugh) I could not but admire the scoundrel's consummate tact
in leading his second highest trump. An ass would have introduced
Lord Lundie and they would not have believed him.
It took the trick. The couple smiled, and gave respectful thanks
for their deliverance by such hands from such perils.
"Not in the least," said Lord Lundie. "Anybody--any father would
have done as much, and pray don't apologize your mistake was
quite natural." A furniture man sniggered here, and Lord Lundie
rolled an Eye of Doom on their ranks. "By the way, if you have
trouble with these persons--they seem to have taken as much as is
good for them--please let me know. Er--Good morning!"
They turned into the lane.
"Heavens!" said Jimmy, brushing himself down. "Who's that real
man with the real head?" and we hurried after them, for they were
running unsteadily, squeaking like rabbits as they ran. We
overtook them in a little nut wood half a mile up the road, where
they had turned aside, and were rolling. So we rolled with them,
and ceased not till we had arrived at the extremity of
"You--you saw it all, then?" said Lord Lundie, rebuttoning his
"I saw it was a vital question from the first," responded
Penfentenyou, and blew his nose.
"It was. By the way, d'you mind telling me your name?"
Summa. Penfentenyou's Great Idea has gone through, a little
chipped at the edges, but in fine and far-reaching shape. His
Opposite Number worked at it like a mule--a bewildered mule,
beaten from behind, coaxed from in front, and propped on either
soft side by Lord Lundie of the compressed mouth and the searing
Sir Christopher Tomling has been ravished from the Argentine,
where, after all, he was but preparing trade-routes for hostile
peoples, and now adorns the forefront of Penfentenyou's Advisory
Board. This was an unforeseen extra, as was Jimmy's gratis
full-length--(it will be in this year's Academy) of Penfentenyou,
who has returned to his own place.
Now and again, from afar off, between the slam and bump of his
shifting scenery, the glare of his manipulated limelight, and the
controlled rolling of his thunder-drums, I catch his voice,
lifted in encouragement and advice to his fellow-countrymen. He
is quite sound on Ties of Sentiment, and--alone of Colonial
Statesmen ventures to talk of the Ties of Common Funk.
Herein I have my reward.
The Celt in all his variants from Builth to Ballyhoo,
His mental processes are plain--one knows what he will do,
And can logically predicate his finish by his start:
But the English--ah, the English!--they are quite a race apart.
Their psychology is bovine, their outlook crude and rare;
They abandon vital matters to be tickled with a straw;
But the straw that they were tickled with--the chaff that
they were fed with--
They convert into a weaver's beam to break their foeman's head
For undemocratic reasons and for motives not of State,
They arrive at their conclusions--largely inarticulate.
Being void of self-expression they confide their views to none;
But sometimes, in a smoking-room, one learns why things were
In telegraphic sentences, half swallowed at the ends,
They hint a matter's inwardness--and there the matter ends.
And while the Celt is talking from Valencia to Kirkwall,
The English--ah, the English!--don't say anything at all!
A TALE OF THE GIHON HUNT
A fox came out of his earth on the banks of the Great River
Gihon, which waters Ethiopia. He saw a white man riding through
the dry dhurra-stalks, and, that his destiny might be fulfilled,
barked at him.
The rider drew rein among the villagers round his stirrup.
"What," said he, "is that?"
"That," said the Sheikh of the village, "is a fox, O Excellency
"It is not, then, a jackal?"
"No jackal, but Abu Hussein the father of cunning."
"Also," the white man spoke half aloud, "I am Mudir of this
"It is true," they cried. "Ya, Saart el Mudir" (O Excellency Our
The Great River Gihon, well used to the moods of kings, slid
between his mile-wide banks toward the sea, while the Governor
praised God in a loud and searching cry never before heard by the
When he had lowered his right forefinger from behind his right
ear, the villagers talked to him of their crops--barley, dhurrah,
millet, onions, and the like. The Governor stood in his stirrups.
North he looked up a strip of green cultivation a few hundred
yards wide that lay like a carpet between the river and the tawny
line of the desert. Sixty miles that strip stretched before him,
and as many behind. At every half-mile a groaning water-wheel
lifted the soft water from the river to the crops by way of a
mud-built aqueduct. A foot or so wide was the water-channel; five
foot or more high was the bank on which it ran, and its base was
broad in proportion. Abu Hussein, misnamed the Father of Cunning,
drank from the river below his earth, and his shadow was long in
the low sun. He could not understand the loud cry which the
Governor had cried.
The Sheikh of the village spoke of the crops from which the
rulers of all lands draw revenue; but the Governor's eyes were
fixed, between his horse's ears, on the nearest water-channel.
"Very like a ditch in Ireland," he murmured, and smiled, dreaming
of a razor-topped bank in distant Kildare.
Encouraged by that smile, the Sheikh continued. "When crops fail
it is necessary to remit taxation. Then it is a good thing, O
Excellency Our Governor, that you come and see the crops which
have failed, and discover that we have not lied."
"Assuredly." The Governor shortened his reins. The horse cantered
on, rose at the embankment of the water-channel, changed leg
cleverly on top, and hopped down in a cloud of golden dust.
Abu Hussein from his earth watched with interest. He had never
before seen such things.
"Assuredly," the Governor repeated, and came back by the way he
had gone. "It is always best to see for one's self."
An ancient and still bullet-speckled stern-wheel steamer, with a
barge lashed to her side, came round the river bend. She whistled
to tell the Governor his dinner was ready, and the horse, seeing
his fodder piled on the barge, whinnied back.
"Moreover," the Sheikh added, "in the days of the Oppression the
Emirs and their creatures dispossessed many people of their
lands. All up and down the river our people are waiting to return
to their lawful fields."
"Judges have been appointed to settle that matter," said the
Governor. "They will presently come in steamers and hear the
"Wherefore? Did the Judges kill the Emirs? We would rather be
judged by the men who executed God's judgment on the Emirs. We
would rather abide by your decision, O Excellency Our Governor."
The Governor nodded. It was a year since he had seen the Emirs
stretched close and still round the reddened sheepskin where lay
El Mahdi, the Prophet of God. Now there remained no trace of
their dominion except the old steamer, once part of a Dervish
flotilla, which was his house and office. She sidled into the
shore, lowered a plank, and the Governor followed his horse
Lights burned on her till late, dully reflected in the river that
tugged at her mooring-ropes. The Governor read, not for the first
time, the administration reports of one John Jorrocks, M.F.H.
"We shall need," he said suddenly to his Inspector, "about ten
couple. I'll get 'em when I go home. You'll be Whip, Baker?"
The Inspector, who was not yet twenty-five, signified his assent
in the usual manner, while Abu Hussein barked at the vast desert
"Ha!" said the Governor, coming out in his pyjamas, "we'll be
giving you capivi in another three months, my friend."
* * * * *
It was four, as a matter of fact, ere a steamer with a melodious
bargeful of hounds anchored at that landing. The Inspector leaped
down among them, and the homesick wanderers received him as a
"Everybody fed 'em everything on board ship, but they're real
dainty hounds at bottom," the Governor explained. "That's Royal
you've got hold of--the pick of the bunch--and the bitch that's
got, hold of you--she's a little excited--is May Queen. Merriman,
out of Cottesmore Maudlin, you know."
"I know. 'Grand old betch with the tan eyebrows,"' the Inspector
cooed. "Oh, Ben! I shall take an interest in life now. Hark to
'em! O hark!"
Abu Hussein, under the high bank, went about his night's work. An
eddy carried his scent to the barge, and three villages heard the
crash of music that followed. Even then Abu Hussein did not know
better than to bark in reply.
"Well, what about my Province?" the Governor asked.
"Not so bad," the Inspector answered, with Royal's head between
his knees. "Of course, all the villages want remission of taxes,
but, as far as I can see, the whole country's stinkin' with
foxes. Our trouble will be choppin' 'em in cover. I've got a list
of the only villages entitled to any remission. What d'you call
this flat-sided, blue-mottled beast with the jowl?"
"Beagle-boy. I have my doubts about him. Do you think we can get
two days a week?"
"Easy; and as many byes as you please. The Sheikh of this village
here tells me that his barley has failed, and he wants a fifty
per cent remission."
"We'll begin with him to-morrow, and look at his crops as we go.
Nothing like personal supervision," said the Governor.
They began at sunrise. The pack flew off the barge in every
direction, and, after gambols, dug like terriers at Abu Hussein's
many earths. Then they drank themselves pot-bellied on Gihon
water while the Governor and the Inspector chastised them with
whips. Scorpions were added; for May Queen nosed one, and was
removed to the barge lamenting. Mystery (a puppy, alas!) met a
snake, and the blue-mottled Beagle-boy (never a dainty hound) ate
that which he should have passed by. Only Royal, of the Belvoir
tan head and the sad, discerning eyes, made any attempt to uphold
the honour of England before the watching village.
"You can't expect everything," said the Governor after breakfast.
"We got it, though--everything except foxes. Have you seen May
Queen's nose?" said the Inspector.
"And Mystery's dead. We'll keep 'em coupled next time till we get
well in among the crops. I say, what a babbling body-snatcher
that Beagle-boy is! Ought to be drowned!"
"They bury people so damn casual hereabouts. Give him another
chance," the Inspector pleaded, not knowing that he should live
to repent most bitterly.
"Talkin' of chances," said the Governor, "this Sheikh lies about
his barley bein' a failure. If it's high enough to hide a hound
at this time of year, it's all right. And he wants a fifty per
cent remission, you said?"
"You didn't go on past the melon patch where I tried to turn
Wanderer. It's all burned up from there on to the desert. His
other water-wheel has broken down, too," the Inspector replied.
"Very good. We'll split the difference and allow him twenty-five
per cent off. Where'll we meet to-morrow?"
"There's some trouble among the villages down the river about
their land-titles. It's good goin' ground there, too," the
The next meet, then, was some twenty miles down the river, and
the pack were not enlarged till they were fairly among the
fields. Abu Hussein was there in force--four of him. Four
delirious hunts of four minutes each--four hounds per fox--ended
in four earths just above the river. All the village looked on.
"We forgot about the earths. The banks are riddled with 'em.
This'll defeat us," said the Inspector.
"Wait a moment!" The Governor drew forth a sneezing hound. "I've
just remembered I'm Governor of these parts."
"Then turn out a black battalion to stop for us. We'll need 'em,
The Governor straightened his back. "Give ear, O people!" he
cried. "I make a new Law!"
The villagers closed in. He called:--
"Henceforward I will give one dollar to the man on whose land Abu
Hussein is found. And another dollar"--he held up the coin--"to
the man on whose land these dogs shall kill him. But to the man
on whose land Abu Hussein shall run into a hole such as is this
hole, I will give not dollars, but a most unmeasurable beating.
Is it understood?"
"Our Excellency," a man stepped forth, "on my land Abu Hussein
was found this morning. Is it not so, brothers?"
None denied. The Governor tossed him over four dollars without a
"On my land they all went into their holes," cried another.
"Therefore I must be beaten."
"Not so. The land is mine, and mine are the beatings."
This second speaker thrust forward his shoulders already bared,
and the villagers shouted.
"Hullo! Two men anxious to be licked? There must be some swindle
about the land," said the Governor. Then in the local vernacular:
"What are your rights to the beating?"
As a river-reach changes beneath a slant of the sun, that which
had been a scattered mob changed to a court of most ancient
justice. The hounds tore and sobbed at Abu Hussein's hearthstone,
all unnoticed among the legs of the witnesses, and Gihon, also
accustomed to laws, purred approval.
"You will not wait till the Judges come up the river to settle
the dispute?" said the Governor at last.
"No!" shouted all the village save the man who had first asked to
be beaten. "We will abide by Our Excellency's decision. Let Our
Excellency turn out the creatures of the Emirs who stole our land
in the days of the Oppression."
"And thou sayest?" the Governor turned to the man who had first
asked to be beaten.
"I say 1 will wait till the wise Judges come down in the steamer.
Then I will bring my many witnesses," he replied.
"He is rich. He will bring many witnesses," the village Sheikh
"No need. Thy own mouth condemns thee!" the Governor cried. "No
man lawfully entitled to his land would wait one hour before
entering upon it. Stand aside!" The man, fell back, and the
village jeered him.
The second claimant stooped quickly beneath the lifted
hunting-crop. The village rejoiced.
"Oh, Such an one; Son of such an one," said the Governor,
prompted by the Sheikh, "learn, from the day when I send the
order, to block up all the holes where Abu Hussein may hide
The light flicks ended. The man stood up triumphant. By that
accolade had the Supreme Government acknowledged his title before
While the village praised the perspicacity of the Governor, a
naked, pock-marked child strode forward to the earth, and stood
on one leg, unconcerned as a young stork.
"Hal" he said, hands behind his back. "This should be blocked up
with bundles of dhurra stalks--or, better, bundles of thorns."
"Better thorns," said the Governor. "Thick ends innermost."
The child nodded gravely and squatted on the sand.
"An evil day for thee, Abu Hussein," he shrilled into the mouth
of the earth. "A day of obstacles to thy flagitious returns in
"Who is it?" the Governor asked the Sheikh. "It thinks."
"Farag the Fatherless. His people were slain in the days of the
Oppression. The man to whom Our Excellency has awarded the land
is, as it were, his maternal uncle."
"Will it come with me and feed the big dogs?" said the Governor.
The other peering children drew back. "Run!" they cried. "Our
Excellency will feed Farag to the big dogs."
"I will come," said Farag. "And I will never go." He threw his
arm round Royal's neck, and the wise beast licked his face.
"Binjamin, by Jove!" the Inspector cried.
"No!" said the Governor. "I believe he has the makings of a James
Farag waved his hand to his uncle, and led Royal on to the barge.
The rest of the pack followed.
* * * * *
Gihon, that had seen many sports, learned to know the Hunt barge
well. He met her rounding his bends on grey December dawns to
music wild and lamentable as the almost forgotten throb of
Dervish drums, when, high above Royal's tenor bell, sharper even
than lying Beagle-boy's falsetto break, Farag chanted deathless
war against Abu Hussein and all his seed. At sunrise the river
would shoulder her carefully into her place, and listen to the
rush and scutter of the pack fleeing up the gang-plank, and the
tramp of the Governor's Arab behind them. They would pass over
the brow into the dewless crops where Gihon, low and shrunken,
could only guess what they were about when Abu Hussein flew down
the bank to scratch at a stopped earth, and flew back into the
barley again. As Farag had foretold, it was evil days for Abu
Hussein ere he learned to take the necessary steps and to get
away crisply. Sometimes Gihon saw the whole procession of the
Hunt silhouetted against the morning-blue, bearing him company
for many merry miles. At every half mile the horses and the
donkeys jumped the water-channels--up, on, change your leg, and
off again like figures in a zoetrope, till they grew small along
the line of waterwheels. Then Gibon waited their rustling return
through the crops, and took them to rest on his bosom at ten
o'clock. While the horses ate, and Farag slept with his head on
Royal's flank, the Governor and his Inspector worked for the good
of the Hunt and his Province.
After a little time there was no need to beat any man for
neglecting his earths. The steamer's destination was telegraphed
from waterwheel to waterwheel, and the villagers stopped out and
put to according. If an earth were overlooked, it meant some
dispute as to the ownership of the land, and then and there the
Hunt checked and settled it in this wise: The Governor and the
Inspector side by side, but the latter half a horse's length to
the rear; both bare-shouldered claimants well in front; the
villagers half-mooned behind them, and Farag with the pack, who
quite understood the performance, sitting down on the left.
Twenty minutes were enough to settle the most complicated case,
for, as the Governor said to a judge on the steamer, "One gets at
the truth in a hunting-field a heap quicker than in your
"But when the evidence is conflicting?" the Judge suggested.
"Watch the field. They'll throw tongue fast enough if you're
running a wrong scent. You've never had an appeal from one of my
The Sheikhs on horseback--the lesser folk on clever donkeys--the
children so despised by Farag soon understood that villages which
repaired their waterwheels and channels stood highest in the
Governor's favour. He bought their barley, for his horses.
"Channels," he said, "are necessary that we may all jump them.
They are necessary, moreover, for the crops. Let there be many
wheels and sound channels--and much good barley."
"Without money," replied an aged Sheikh, "there are no
"I will lend the money," said the Governor.
"At what interest, O Our Excellency?"
"Take you two of May Queen's puppies to bring up in your village
in such a manner that they do not eat filth, nor lose their hair,
nor catch fever from lying in the sun, but become wise hounds."
"Like Ray-yal--not like Bigglebai?" (Already it was an insult
along the River to compare a man to the shifty anthropophagous
"Certainly, like Ray-yal--not in the least like Bigglebai. That
shall be the interest on the loan. Let the puppies thrive and the
waterwheel be built, and I shall be content," said the Governor.
"The wheel shall be built, but, O Our Excellency, if by God's
favour the pups grow to be well-smelters, not filth-eaters, not
unaccustomed to their names, not lawless, who will do them and me
justice at the time of judging the young dogs?"
"Hounds, man, hounds! Ha-wands, O Sheikh, we call them in their
"The ha-wands when they are judged at the Sha-ho. I have
unfriends down the river to whom Our Excellency has also
entrusted ha-wands to bring up."
"Puppies, man! Pah-peaz we call them, O Sheikh, in their
"Pah-peat. My enemies may judge my pah-peaz unjustly at the
Sha-ho. This must be thought of."
"I see the obstacle. Hear now! If the new waterwheel is built in
a month without oppression, thou, O Sheikh, shalt be named one of
the judges to judge the pah-peaz at the Sha-ho. Is it
"Understood. We will build the wheel. I and my seed are
responsible for the repayment of the loan. Where are my pah-peaz?
If they eat fowls, must they on any account eat the feathers?"
"On no account must they eat the feathers. Farag in the barge
will tell thee how they are to live."
There is no instance of any default on the Governor's personal
and unauthorized loans, for which they called him the Father of
Waterwheels. But the first puppyshow at the capital needed
enormous tact and the presence of a black battalion
ostentatiously drilling in the barrack square to prevent trouble
after the prize-giving.
But who can chronicle the glories of the Gihon Hunt--or their
shames? Who remembers the kill in the market-place, when the
Governor bade the assembled sheikhs and warriors observe how the
hounds would instantly devour the body of Abu Hussein; but how,
when he had scientifically broken it up, the weary pack turned
from it in loathing, and Farag wept because he said the world's
face had been blackened? What men who have not yet ridden beyond
the sound of any horn recall the midnight run which
ended--Beagleboy leading--among tombs; the hasty whip-off, and
the oath, taken Abo e bones, to forget the worry? The desert run,
when Abu Hussein forsook the cultivation, and made a six-mile
point to earth in a desolate khor--when strange armed riders on
camels swooped out of a ravine, and instead of giving battle,
offered to take the tired hounds home on their beasts. Which they
did, and vanished.
Above all, who remembers the death of Royal, when a certain
Sheikh wept above the body of the stainless hound as it might
have been his son's--and that day the Hunt rode no more? The
badly-kept log-book says little of this, but at the end of their
second season (forty-nine brace) appears the dark entry: "New
blood badly wanted. They are beginning to listen to beagle-boy."
* * * * *
The Inspector attended to the matter when his leave fell due.
"Remember," said the Governor, "you must get us the best blood in
England--real, dainty hounds--expense no object, but don't trust
your own judgment. Present my letters of introduction, and take
what they give you.
The Inspector presented his letters in a society where they make
much of horses, more of hounds, and are tolerably civil to men
who can ride. They passed him from house to house, mounted him
according to his merits, and fed him, after five years of goat
chop and Worcester sauce, perhaps a thought too richly.
The seat or castle where he made his great coup does not much
matter. Four Masters of Foxhounds were at table, and in a mellow
hour the Inspector told them stories of the Gihon Hunt. He ended:
"Ben said I wasn't to trust my own judgment about hounds, but I
think there ought to be a special tariff for Empire-makers."
As soon as his hosts could speak, they reassured him on this
"And now tell us about your first puppy-show all over again,"
"And about the earth-stoppin'. Was that all Ben's own invention?"
"Wait a moment," said a large, clean-shaven man--not an
M.F.H.--at the end of the table. "Are your villagers habitually
beaten by your Governor when they fail to stop foxes' holes?"
The tone and the phrase were enough even if, as the Inspector
confessed afterwards, the big, blue double-chinned man had not
looked so like Beagle-boy. He took him on for the honour of
"We only hunt twice a week--sometimes three times. I've never
known a man chastised more than four times a week unless there's
The large loose-lipped man flung his napkin down, came round the
table, cast himself into the chair next the Inspector, and leaned
forward earnestly, so that he breathed in the Inspector's face.
"Chastised with what?" he said.
"With the kourbash--on the feet. A kourbash is a strip of old
hippo-hide with a sort of keel on it, like the cutting edge of a
boar's tusk. But we use the rounded side for a first offender."
"And do any consequences follow this sort of thing? For the
victim, I mean--not for you?"
Ve-ry rarely. Let me be fair. I've never seen a man die under the
lash, but gangrene may set up if the kourbash has been pickled."
"Pickled in what?" All the table was still and interested.
"In copperas, of course. Didn't you know that" said the
"Thank God I didn't." The large man sputtered visibly.
The Inspector wiped his face and grew bolder.
"You mustn't think we're careless about our earthstoppers. We've
a Hunt fund for hot tar. Tar's a splendid dressing if the
toe-nails aren't beaten off. But huntin' as large a country as we
do, we mayn't be back at that village for a month, and if the
dressings ain't renewed, and gangrene sets in, often as not you
find your man pegging about on his stumps. We've a well-known
local name for 'em down the river. We call 'em the Mudir's
Cranes. You see, I persuaded the Governor only to bastinado on
"On one foot? The Mudir's Cranes!" The large man turned purple to
the top of his bald head. " Would you mind giving me the local
word for Mudir's Cranes?"
From a too well-stocked memory the Inspector drew one short
adhesive word which surprises by itself even unblushing Ethiopia.
He spelt it out, saw the large man write it down on his cuff and
withdraw. Then the Inspector translated a few of its
significations and implications to the four Masters of Foxhounds.
He left three days later with eight couple of the best hounds in
England--a free and a friendly and an ample gift from four packs
to the Gihon Hunt. He had honestly meant to undeceive the large
blue mottled man, but somehow forgot about it.
The new draft marks a new chapter in the Hunt's history. From an
isolated phenomenon in a barge it became a permanent institution
with brick-built kennels ashore, and an influence social,
political, and administrative, co-terminous with the boundaries
of the province. Ben, the Governor, departed to England, where he
kept a pack of real dainty hounds, but never ceased to long for
the old lawless lot. His successors were ex-officio Masters of
the Gihon Hunt, as all Inspectors were Whips. For one reason;
Farag, the kennel huntsman, in khaki and puttees, would obey
nothing under the rank of an Excellency, and the hounds would
obey no one but Farag; for another, the best way of estimating
crop returns and revenue was by riding straight to hounds; for a
third, though Judges down the river issued signed and sealed
land-titles to all lawful owners, yet public opinion along the
river never held any such title valid till it had been confirmed,
according to precedent, by the Governor's hunting crop in the
hunting field, above the wilfully neglected earth. True, the
ceremony had been cut down to three mere taps on the shoulder,
but Governors who tried to evade that much found themselves and
their office compassed about with a great cloud of witnesses who
took up their time with lawsuits and, worse still, neglected the
puppies. The older sheikhs, indeed, stood out for the
unmeasurable beatings of the old days--the sharper the
punishment, they argued, the surer the title; but here the hand
of modern progress was against them, and they contented
themselves with telling tales of Ben the first Governor, whom
they called the Father of Waterwheels, and of that heroic age
when men, horses, and hounds were worth following.
This same Modern Progress which brought dog biscuit and brass
water-taps to the kennels was at work all over the world. Forces,
Activities, and Movements sprang into being, agitated themselves,
coalesced, and, in one political avalanche, overwhelmed a
bewildered, and not in the least intending it, England. The
echoes of the New Era were borne into the Province on the wings
of inexplicable cables. The Gihon Hunt read speeches and
sentiments, and policies which amazed them, and they thanked God,
prematurely, that their Province was too far off, too hot, and
too hard worked to be reached by those speakers or their
policies. But they, with others, under-estimated the scope and
purpose of the New Era.
One by one, the Provinces of the Empire were hauled up and
baited, hit and held, lashed under the belly, and forced back on
their haunches for the amusement of their new masters in the
parish of Westminster. One by one they fell away, sore and angry,
to compare stripes with each other at the ends of the uneasy
earth. Even so the Gihon Hunt, like Abu Hussein in the old days,
did not understand. Then it reached them through the Press that
they habitually flogged to death good revenue-paying cultivators
who neglected to stop earths; but that the few, the very few who
did not die under hippohide whips soaked in copperas, walked
about on their gangrenous ankle-bones, and were known in derision
as the Mudir's Cranes. The charges were vouched for in the House
of Commons by a Mr. Lethabie Groombride, who had formed a
Committee, and was disseminating literature: The Province
groaned; the Inspector--now an Inspector of Inspectors--whistled.
He had forgotten the gentleman who sputtered in people's faces.
"He shouldn't have looked so like Beagle-boy!" was his sole
defence when he met the Governor at breakfast on the steamer
after a meet.
"You shouldn't have joked with an animal of that class," said
Peter the Governor. "Look what Farag has brought me!"
It was a pamphlet, signed on behalf of a Committee by a lady
secretary, but composed by some person who thoroughly understood
the language of the Province. After telling the tale of the
beatings, it recommended all the beaten to institute criminal
proceedings against their Governor, and, as soon as might be, to
rise against English oppression and tyranny. Such documents were
new in Ethiopia in those days.
The Inspector read the last half page. "But--but," he stammered,
"this is impossible. White men don't write this sort of stuff."
"Don't they, just?" said the Governor. "They get made Cabinet
Ministers for doing it too. I went home last year. I know."
"It'll blow over," said the Inspector weakly.
"Not it. Groombride is coming down here to investigate the matter
in a few days."
"The Imperial Government's behind him. Perhaps you'd like to look
t my orders." The Governor laid down an uncoded cable. The
whiplash to it ran: "You will afford Mr. Groombride every
facility for his inquiry, and will be held responsible that no
obstacles are put in his way to the fullest possible examination
of any witnesses which he may consider necessary. He will be
accompanied by his own interpreter, who must not be tampered
"That's to me--Governor of the Province!" said Peter the
"It seems about enough," the Inspector answered.
Farag, kennel-huntsman, entered the saloon, as was his privilege.
"My uncle, who was beaten by the Father of Waterwheels, would
approach, O Excellency," he said, "and there are others on the
"Admit," said the Governor.
There tramped aboard sheikhs and villagers to the number of
seventeen. In each man's hand was a copy of the pamphlet; in each
man's eye terror and uneasiness of the sort that Governors spend
and are spent to clear away. Farag's uncle, now Sheikh of the
village, spoke: "It is written in this book, Excellency, that the
beatings whereby we hold our lands are all valueless. It is
written that every man who received such a beating from the
Father of Waterwheels who slow the Emirs, should instantly begin
a lawsuit, because the title to his land is not valid."
"It is so written. We do not wish lawsuits. We wish to hold the
land as it was given to us after the days of the Oppression,"
The Governor glanced at the Inspector. This was serious. To cast
doubt on the ownership of land means, in Ethiopia, the letting in
of waters, and the getting out of troops.
"Your titles are good," said the Governor. The Inspector
confirmed with a nod.
"Then what is the meaning of these writings which came from down
the river where the Judges are?" Farag's uncle waved his copy.
"By whose order are we ordered to slay you, O Excellency Our
"It is not written that you are to slay me."
"Not in those very words, but if we leave an earth unstopped, it
is the same as though we wished to save Abu Hussein from the
hounds. These writings say: 'Abolish your rulers.' How can we
abolish except we kill? We hear rumours of one who comes from
down the river soon to lead us to kill."
"Fools!" said the Governor. "Your titles are good. This is
"It is so written," they answered like a pack.
"Listen," said the Inspector smoothly. "I know who caused the
writings to be written and sent. He is a man of a blue-mottled
jowl, in aspect like Bigglebai who ate unclean matters. He will
come up the river and will give tongue about the beatings."
"Will he impeach our land-titles? An evil day for him!"
"Go slow, Baker," the Governor whispered. "They'll kill him if
they get scared about their land."
"I tell a parable." The Inspector lit a cigarette. "Declare which
of you took to walk the children of Milkmaid?"
"Melik-meid First or Second?" said Farag quickly.
"The second--the one which was lamed by the thorn."
"No--no. Melik-meid the Second strained her shoulder leaping my
water-channel," a sheikh cried. "Melik-meid the First was lamed
by the thorns on the day when Our Excellency fell thrice."
"True--true. The second Melik-meid's mate was Malvolio, the pied
hound," said the Inspector.
"I had two of the second Melik-meid's pups," said Farag's uncle.
"They died of the madness in their ninth month."
"And how did they do before they died?" said the Inspector.
"They ran about in the sun, and slavered at the mouth till they
"God knows. He sent the madness. It was no fault of mine."
"Thy own mouth hath answered thee." The Inspector laughed. "It is
with men as it is with dogs. God afflicts some with a madness. It
is no fault of ours if such men run about in the sun and froth at
the mouth. The man who is coming will emit spray from his mouth
in speaking, and will always edge and push in towards his
hearers. When ye see and hear him ye will understand that he is
afflicted of God: being mad. He is in God's hands."
"But our titles--are our titles to our lands good?" the crowd
"Your titles are in my hands--they are good," said the Governor.
"And he who wrote the writings is an afflicted of God?" said
"The Inspector hath said it," cried the Governor. "Ye will see
when the man comes. O sheikhs and men, have we ridden together
and walked puppies together, and bought and sold barley for the
horses that after these years we should run riot on the scent of
a madman--an afflicted of God?"
"But the Hunt pays us to kill mad jackals," said Farag's uncle.
"And he who questions my titles to my land "
"Aahh! 'Ware riot!" The Governor's hunting-crop cracked like a
three-pounder. "By Allah," he thundered, "if the afflicted of God
come to any harm at your hands, I myself will shoot every hound
and every puppy, and the Hunt shall ride no more. On your heads
be it. Go in peace, and tell the others."
"The Hunt shall ride no more," said Farag's uncle. "Then how can
the land be governed? No--no, O Excellency Our Governor, we will
not harm a hair on the head of the afflicted of God. He shall be
to us as is Abu Hussein's wife in the breeding season."
When they were gone the Governor mopped his forehead.
"We must put a few soldiers in every village this Groombride
visits, Baker. Tell 'em to keep out of sight, and have an eye on
the villagers. He's trying 'em rather high."
"O Excellency," said the smooth voice of Farag, laying the Field
and Country Life square on the table, "is the afflicted of God
who resembles Bigglebai one with the man whom the Inspector met
in the great house in England, and to whom he told the tale of
the Mudir's Cranes?"
"The same man, Farag," said the Inspector.
"I have often heard the Inspector tell the tale to ,Our
Excellency at feeding-time in the kennels; but since I am in the
Government service I have never told it to my people. May I loose
that tale among the villages?"
* * * * *
The Governor nodded. " No harm," said he.
The details of Mr. Groombride's arrival, with his interpreter,
whom he proposed should eat with him at the Governor's table, his
allocution to the Governor on the New Movement, and the sins of
Imperialism, I purposely omit. At three in the afternoon Mr.
Groombride said: "I will go out now and address your victims in
"Won't you find it rather hot?" said the Governor. "They
generally take 'a nap till sunset at this time of year."
Mr. Groombride's large, loose lips set. "That," he replied
pointedly, "would be enough to decide me. I fear you have not
quite mastered your instructions. May I ask you to send for my
interpreter? I hope he has not been tampered with by your
He was a yellowish boy called Abdul, who had well eaten and drunk
with Farag. The Inspector, by the way, was not present at the
"At whatever risk, I shall go unattended," said Mr. Groombride.
"Your presence would cow them -from giving evidence. Abdul, my
good friend, would you very kindly open the umbrella?"
He passed up the gang-plank to the village, and with no more
prelude than a Salvation Army picket in a Portsmouth slum, cried:
"Oh, my brothers!"
He did not guess how his path had been prepared. The village was
widely awake. Farag, in loose, flowing garments, quite unlike a
kennel huntsman's khaki and puttees, leaned against the wall of
his uncle's house. "Come and see the afflicted of God,." he cried
musically, "whose face, indeed, resembles that of Bigglebai."
The village came, and decided that on the whole Farag was right.
"I can't quite catch what they are saying," said Mr. Groombride.
"They saying they very much pleased to see you, Sar," Adbul
"Then I do think they might have sent a deputation to the
steamer; but I suppose they were frightened of the officials.
Tell them not to be frightened, Abdul."
"He says you are not to be frightened," Abdul explained. A child
here sputtered with laughter. "Refrain from mirth," Farag cried.
"The afflicted of God is the guest of The Excellency Our
Governor. We are responsible for every hair of his head."
"He has none," a voice spoke. "He has the white and the shining
"Now tell them what I have come for, Abdul, and please keep the
umbrella well up. I think I shall reserve myself for my little
vernacular speech at the end."
"Approach! Look! Listen!" Abdul chanted. "The afflicted of God
will now make sport. Presently he will speak in your tongue, and
will consume you with mirth. I have been his servant for three
weeks. I will tell you about his undergarments and his perfumes
for his head."
He told them at length.
"And didst thou take any of his perfume bottles?" said Farag at
"I am his servant. I took two," Abdul replied.
"Ask him," said Farag's uncle, "what he knows about our
land-titles. Ye young men are all alike." He waved a pamphlet.
Mr. Groombride smiled to see how the seed sown in London had
borne fruit by Gihon. Lo! All the seniors held copies of the
"He knows less than a buffalo. He told me on the steamer that he
was driven out of his own land by Demah-Kerazi which is a devil
inhabiting crowds and assemblies," said Abdul.
"Allah between us and evil!" a woman cackled from the darkness of
a hut. "Come in, children, he may have the Evil Eye."
"No, my aunt," said Farag. "No afflicted of God has an evil eye.
Wait till ye hear his mirth-provoking speech which he will
deliver. I have heard it twice from Abdul."
"They seem very quick to grasp the point. How far have you got,
"All about the beatings, sar. They are highly interested."
"Don't forget about the local self-government, and please hold
the umbrella over me. It is hopeless to destroy unless one first
"He may not have the Evil Eye," Farag's uncle grunted, "but his
devil led him too certainly to question my land-title. Ask him
whether he still doubts my land-title?"
"Or mine, or mine?" cried the elders.
"What odds? He is an afflicted of God," Farag called. "Remember
the tale I told you."
"Yes, but he is an Englishman, and doubtless of influence, or Our
Excellency would not entertain him. Bid the down-country jackass
"Sar," said Abdul, "these people, much fearing they may be turned
out of their land in consequence of your remarks. Therefore they
ask you to make promise no bad consequences following your
Mr. Groombride held his breath and turned purple. Then he stamped
"Tell them," he cried, "that if a hair of any one of their heads
is touched by any official on any account whatever, all England
shall ring with it. Good God! What callous oppression! The dark
places of the earth are full of cruelty." He wiped his face, and
throwing out his arms cried: "Tell them, oh! tell the poor, serfs
not to be afraid of me. Tell them I come to redress their
wrongs--not, heaven knows, to add to their burden."
The long-drawn gurgle of the practised public speaker pleased
"That is how the new water-tap runs out in the kennel," said
Farag. "The Excellency Our Governor entertains him that he may
make sport. Make him say the mirth-moving speech."
"What did he say about my land-titles?" Farag's uncle was not to
"He says," Farag interpreted, "that he desires, nothing better
than that you should live on your lands in peace. He talks as
though he believed himself to be Governor."
"Well. We here are all witnesses to what he has said. Now go
forward with the sport." Farag's uncle smoothed his garments.
"How diversely hath Allah made His creatures! On one He bestows
strength to slay Emirs; another He causes to go mad and wander in
the sun, like the afflicted sons of Melik-meid."
"Yes, and to emit spray from the mouth, as the Inspector told us.
All will happen as the Inspector foretold," said Farag. " I have
never yet seen the Inspector thrown out during any run."
"I think," Abdul plucked at Mr. Groombride's sleeves, "I think
perhaps it is better now, Sar, if you give your fine little
native speech. They not understanding English, but much pleased
at your condescensions."
"Condescensions?" Mr. Groombride spun round. "If they only knew
how I felt towards them in my heart! If I could express a tithe
of my feelings! I must stay here and learn the language. Hold up
the umbrella, Abdull I think my little speech will show them I
know something of their vie intime."
It was a short, simple; carefully learned address, and the
accent, supervised by Abdul on the steamer, allowed the hearers
to guess its meaning, which was a request to see one of the
Mudir's Cranes; since the desire of the speaker's life, the
object to which he would consecrate his days, was to improve the
condition of the Mudir's Cranes. But first he must behold them
with his own eyes. Would, then, his brethren, whom he loved, show
him a Mudir's Crane whom he desired to love?
Once, twice, and again in his peroration he repeated his demand,
using always--that they might see he was acquainted with their
local argot--using always, I say, the word which the Inspector
had given him in England long ago--the short, adhesive word
which, by itself, surprises even unblushing Ethiopia.
There are limits to the sublime politeness of an ancient people.
A bulky, blue-chinned man in white clothes, his name red-lettered
across his lower shirtfront, spluttering from under a green-lined
umbrella almost tearful appeals to be introduced to the
Unintroducible; naming loudly the Unnameable; dancing, as it
seemed, in perverse joy at mere mention of the
Unmentionable--found those limits. There was a moment's hush, and
then such mirth as Gihon through his centuries had never heard--a
roar like to the roar of his own cataracts in flood. Children
cast themselves on the ground, and rolled back and forth cheering
and whooping; strong men, their faces hidden in their clothes,
swayed in silence, till the agony became insupportable, and they
threw up their heads and bayed at the sun; women, mothers and
virgins, shrilled shriek upon mounting shriek, and slapped their
thighs as it might have been the roll of musketry. When they
tried to draw breath, some half-strangled voice would quack out
the word, and the riot began afresh. Last to fall was the
city-trained Abdul. He held on to the edge of apoplexy, then
collapsed, throwing the umbrella from him.
Mr. Groombride should not be judged too harshly. Exercise and
strong emotion under a hot sun, the shock of public ingratitude,
for the moment rued his spirit. He furled the umbrella, and with
t beat the prostrate Abdul, crying that he had been betrayed. In
which posture the Inspector, on horseback, followed by the
Governor, suddenly found him.
* * * * *
"That's all very well," said the Inspector, when he had taken
Abdul's dramatically dying depositions on the steamer, "but you
can't hammer a native merely because he laughs at you. I see
nothing for it but the law to take its course."
"You might reduce the charge to--er--tampering with an
interpreter," said the Governor. Mr. Groombride was too far gone
to be comforted.
"It's the publicity that I fear," he wailed. "Is there no
possible means of hushing up the affair? You don't know what a
question--a single question in the House means to a man of my
position--the ruin of my political career, I assure you."
"I shouldn't have imagined it," said the Governor thoughtfully.
"And, though perhaps I ought not to say it, I am not without
honour in my own country--or influence. A word in season, as you
know, Your Excellency. It might carry an official far."
The Governor shuddered.
"Yes, that had to come too," he said to himself. "Well, look
here. If I tell this man of yours to withdraw the charge against
you, you can go to Gehenna for aught I care. The only condition I
make is that if you write--I suppose that's part of your business
about your travels, you don't praise me!"
So far Mr. Groombride has loyally adhered to this understanding.
All day long to the judgment-seat
The crazed Provincials drew--
All day long at their ruler's feet
Howled for the blood of the Jew.
Insurrection with one accord
Banded itself and woke:
And Paul was about to open his mouth
When Achaia's Deputy spoke
"Whether the God descend from above
Or the man ascend upon high,
Whether this maker of tents be Jove
Or a younger deity--
I will be no judge between your gods
And your godless bickerings,
Lictor, drive them hence with rods--
I care for none of these things!
"Were it a question of lawful due
Or a labourer's hire denied,
Reason would I should bear with you
And order it well to be tried
But this is a question of words and names
And I know the strife it brings,
I will not pass upon any your claims.
I care for none of these things.
"One thing only I see most clear,
As I pray you also see.
Claudius Caesar hath set me here
Rome's Deputy to be.
It is Her peace that ye go to break
Not mine, nor any king's,
But, touching your clamour of 'conscience sake,'
I care for none of these things!"
THE HOUSE SURGEON
On an evening after Easter Day, I sat at a table in a homeward
bound steamer's smoking-room, where half a dozen of us told ghost
stories. As our party broke up a man, playing Patience in the
next alcove, said to me: "I didn't quite catch the end of that
last story about the Curse on the family's first-born."
"It turned out to be drains," I explained. "As soon as new ones
were put into the house the Curse was lifted, I believe. I never
knew the people myself."
"Ah! I've had my drains up twice; I'm on gravel too."
"You don't mean to say you've a ghost in your house? Why didn't
you join our party?"
"Any more orders, gentlemen, before the bar closes?" the steward
"Sit down again, and have one with me," said the Patience player.
"No, it isn't a ghost. Our trouble is more depression than
"How interesting? Then it's nothing any one can see?"
"It's--it's nothing worse than a little depression. And the odd
part is that there hasn't been a death in the house since it was
built--in 1863. The lawyer said so. That decided me--my good
lady, rather and he made me pay an extra thousand for it."
"How curious. Unusual, too!" I said.
"Yes; ain't it? It was built for three sisters--Moultrie was the
name--three old maids. They all lived together; the eldest owned
it. I bought it from her lawyer a few years ago, and if I've
spent a pound on the place first and last, I must have spent five
thousand. Electric light, new servants' wing, garden--all that
sort of thing. A man and his family ought to be happy after so
much expense, ain't it?" He looked at me through the bottom of
"Does it affect your family much?"
"My good lady--she's a Greek, by the way--and myself are
middle-aged. We can bear up against depression; but it's hard on
my little girl. I say little; but she's twenty. We send her
visiting to escape it. She almost lived at hotels and hydros,
last year, but that isn't pleasant for her. She used to be a
canary--a perfect canary--always singing. You ought to hear her.
She doesn't sing now. That sort of thing's unwholesome for the
young, ain't it?"
"Can't you get rid of the place?" I suggested.
"Not except at a sacrifice, and we are fond of it. Just suits us
three. We'd love it if we were allowed."
"What do you mean by not being allowed?"
"I mean because of the depression. It spoils everything."
"What's it like exactly?"
"I couldn't very well explain. It must be seen to be appreciated,
as the auctioneers say. Now, I was much impressed by the story
you were telling just now."
"It wasn't true," I said.
"My tale is true. If you would do me the pleasure to come down
and spend a night at my little place, you'd learn more than you
would if I talked till morning. Very likely 'twouldn't touch your
good self at all. You might be--immune, ain't it? On the other
hand, if this influenza,--influence does happen to affect you,
why, I think it will be an experience."
While he talked he gave me his card, and I read his name was L.
Maxwell M'Leod, Esq., of Holmescroft. A City address was tucked
away in a corner.
"My business," he added, "used to be furs. If you are interested
in furs--I've given thirty years of my life to 'em."
"You're very kind," I murmured.
"Far from it, I assure you. I can meet you next Saturday
afternoon anywhere in London you choose to name, and I'll be only
too happy to motor you down. It ought to be a delightful run at
this time of year the rhododendrons will be out. I mean it. You
don't know how truly I mean it. Very probably--it won't affect
you at all. And--I think I may say I have the finest collection
of narwhal tusks in the world. All the best skins and horns have
to go through London, and L. Maxwell M'Leod, he knows where they
come from, and where they go to. That's his business."
For the rest of the voyage up-channel Mr. M'Leod talked to me of
the assembling, preparation, and sale of the rarer furs; and told
me things about the manufacture of fur-lined coats which quite
shocked me. Somehow or other, when we landed on Wednesday, I
found myself pledged to spend that week-end with him at
On Saturday he met me with a well-groomed motor, and ran me out,
in an hour and a half, to an exclusive residential district of
dustless roads and elegantly designed country villas, each
standing in from three to five acres of perfectly appointed land.
He told me land was selling at eight hundred pounds the acre, and
the new golf links, whose Queen Anne pavilion we passed, had cost
nearly twenty-four thousand pounds to create.
Holmescroft was a large, two-storied, low, creeper-covered
residence. A verandah at the south side gave on to a garden and
two tennis courts, separated by a tasteful iron fence from a most
park-like meadow of five or six acres, where two Jersey cows
grazed. Tea was ready in the shade of a promising copper beech,
and I could see groups on the lawn of young men and maidens
appropriately clothed, playing lawn tennis in the sunshine.
"A pretty scene, ain't it?" said Mr. M'Leod. "My good lady's
sitting under the tree, and that's my little girl in pink on the
far court. But I'll take you to your room, and you can see 'em
He led me through a wide parquet-floored hall furnished in pale
lemon, with huge Cloisonnee vases, an ebonized and gold grand
piano, and banks of pot flowers in Benares brass bowls, up a pale
oak staircase to a spacious landing, where there was a green
velvet settee trimmed with silver. The blinds were down, and the
light lay in parallel lines on the floors.
He showed me my room, saying cheerfully: "You may be a little
tired. One often is without knowing it after a run through
traffic. Don't come down till you feel quite restored. We shall
all be in the garden."
My room was rather warm, and smelt of perfumed soap. I threw up
the window at once, but it opened so close to the floor and
worked so clumsily that I came within an ace of pitching out,
where I should certainly have ruined a rather lop-sided laburnum
below. As I set about washing off the journey's dust, I began to
feel a little tired. But, I reflected, I had not come down here
in this weather and among these new surroundings to be depressed;
so I began to whistle.
And it was just then that I was aware of a little grey shadow, as
it might have been a snowflake seen against the light, floating
at an immense distance in the background of my brain. It annoyed
me, and I shook my head to get rid of it. Then my brain
telegraphed that it was the forerunner of a swift-striding gloom
which there was yet time to escape if I would force my thoughts
away from it, as a man leaping for life forces his body forward
and away from the fall of a wall. But the gloom overtook me
before I could take in the meaning of the message. I moved toward
the bed, every nerve already aching with the foreknowledge of the
pain that was to be dealt it, and sat down, while my amazed and
angry soul dropped, gulf by gulf, into that horror of great
darkness which is spoken of in the Bible, and which, as
auctioneers say, must be experienced to be appreciated.
Despair upon despair, misery upon misery, fear after fear, each
causing their distinct and separate woe, packed in upon me for an
unrecorded length of time, until at last they blurred together,
and I heard a click in my brain like the click in the ear when
one descends in a diving bell, and I knew that the pressures were
equalised within and without, and that, for the moment, the worst
was at an end. But I knew also that at any moment the darkness
might come down anew; and while, I dwelt on this speculation
precisely as a man torments a raging tooth with his tongue, it
ebbed away into the little grey shadow on the brain of its first
coming, and once more I heard my brain, which knew what would
recur, telegraph to every quarter fox help, release or diversion.
The door opened, and M'Leod reappeared. I thanked him politely,
saying I was charmed with my room, anxious to meet Mrs. M'Leod,
much refreshed with my wash, and so on and so forth. Beyond a
little stickiness at the corners of my mouth, it seemed to me
that I was managing my words admirably; the while that I myself
cowered at the bottom of unclimbable pits. M'Leod laid his hand
on my shoulder, and said "You've got it now already, ain't it?"
"Yes," I answered. "It's making me sick!"
"It will pass off when you come outside. I give you my word it
will then pass off. Come!"
I shambled out behind him, and wiped my forehead in the hall.
"You musn't mind," he said. "I expect the run tired you. My good
lady is sitting there under the copper beech."
She was a fat woman in an apricot-coloured gown, with a heavily
powdered face, against which her black long-lashed eyes showed
like currants in dough. I was introduced to many fine ladies and
gentlemen of those parts. Magnificently appointed landaus and
covered motors swept in and out of the drive, and the air was gay
with the merry outcries of the tennis players.
As twilight drew on they all went away, and I was left alone with
Mr. and Mrs. M'Leod, while tall menservants and maidservants took
away the tennis and tea things. Miss M'Leod had walked a little
down the drive with a light-haired young man, who apparently knew
everything about every South American railway stock. He had told
me at tea that these were the days of financial specialisation.
"I think it went off beautifully, my dear," said Mr. M'Leod to
his wife; and to me: "You feel all right now, ain't it? Of course
Mrs. M'Leod surged across the gravel. Her husband skipped nimbly
before her into the south verandah, turned a switch, and all
Holmescroft was flooded with light.
"You can do that from your room also," he said as they went in.
"There is something in money, ain't it?"
Miss M'Leod came up behind me in the dusk. "We have not yet been
introduced," she said, "but I suppose you are staying the night?"
"Your father was kind enough to ask me," I replied.
She nodded. "Yes, I know; and you know too, don't you? I saw your
face when you came to shake hands with mamma. You felt the
depression very soon. It is simply frightful in that bedroom
sometimes. What do you think it is--bewitchment? In Greece, where
I was a little girl, it might have been; but not in England, do
you think? Or do you?"
"Cheer up, Thea. It will all come right," he insisted.
"No, papa." She shook her dark head. "Nothing is right while it
"It is nothing that we ourselves have ever done in our lives that
I will swear to you," said Mrs. M'Leod suddenly. "And we have
changed our servants several times. So we know it is not them."
"Never mind. Let us enjoy ourselves while we can," said Mr.
M'Leod, opening the champagne.
But we did not enjoy ourselves. The talk failed. There were long
"I beg your pardon," I said, for I thought some one at my elbow
was about to speak.
"Ah! That is the other thing!" said Miss M'Leod. Her mother
We were silent again, and, in a few seconds it must have been, a
live grief beyond words--not ghostly dread or horror, but aching,
helpless grief--overwhelmed us, each, I felt, according to his or
her nature, and held steady like the beam of a burning glass.
Behind that pain I was conscious there was a desire on somebody's
part to explain something on which some tremendously important
Meantime I rolled bread pills and remembered my sins; M'Leod
considered his own reflection in a spoon; his wife seemed to be
praying, and the girl fidgetted desperately with hands and feet,
till the darkness passed on--as though the malignant rays of a
burning-glass had been shifted from us."
"There," said Miss M'Leod, half rising. "Now you see what makes a
happy home. Oh, sell it--sell it, father mine, and let us go
"But I've spent thousands on it. You shall go to Harrogate next
week, Thea dear."
"I'm only just back from hotels. I am so tired of packing."
"Cheer up, Thea. It is over. You know it does not often come here
twice in the same night. I think we shall dare now to be
He lifted a dish-cover, and helped his wife and daughter. His
face was lined and fallen like an old man's after debauch, but
his hand did not shake, and his voice was clear. As he worked to
restore us by speech and action, he reminded me of a grey-muzzled
collie herding demoralised sheep.
After dinner we sat round the dining-room fire the drawing-room
might have been under the Shadow for aught we knew talking with
the intimacy of gipsies by the wayside, or of wounded comparing
notes after a skirmish. By eleven o'clock the three between them
had given me every name and detail they could recall that in any
way bore on the house, and what they knew of its history.
We went to bed in a fortifying blaze of electric light. My one
fear was that the blasting gust of depression would return--the
surest way, of course, to bring it. I lay awake till dawn,
breathing quickly and sweating lightly, beneath what De Quincey
inadequately describes as "the oppression of inexpiable guilt."
Now as soon as the lovely day was broken, I fell into the most
terrible of all dreams--that joyous one in which all past evil
has not only been wiped out of our lives, but has never been
committed; and in the very bliss of our assured innocence, before
our loves shriek and change countenance, we wake to the day we
It was a coolish morning, but we preferred to breakfast in the
south verandah. The forenoon we spent in the garden, pretending
to play games that come out of boxes, such as croquet and clock
golf. But most of the time we drew together and talked. The young
man who knew all about South American railways took Miss M'Leod
for a walk in the afternoon, and at five M'Leod thoughtfully
whirled us all up to dine in town.
"Now, don't say you will tell the Psychological Society, and that
you will come again," said Miss M'Leod, as we parted. "Because I
know you will not."
"You should not say that," said her mother. "You should say,
'Goodbye, Mr. Perseus. Come again.'"
"Not him!" the girl cried. "He has seen the Medusa's head!"
Looking at myself in the restaurant's mirrors, it seemed to me
that I had not much benefited by my week-end. Next morning I
wrote out all my Holmescroft notes at fullest length, in the hope
that by so doing I could put it all behind me. But the experience
worked on my mind, as they say certain imperfectly understood
rays work on the body.
I am less calculated to make a Sherlock Holmes than any man I
know, for I lack both method and patience, yet the idea of
following up the trouble to its source fascinated me. I had no
theory to go on, except a vague idea that I had come between two
poles of a discharge, and had taken a shock meant for some one
else. This was followed by a feeling of intense irritation. I
waited cautiously on myself, expecting to be overtaken by horror
of the supernatural, but my self persisted in being humanly
indignant, exactly as though it had been the victim of a
practical joke. It was in great pains and upheavals--that I felt
in every fibre but its dominant idea, to put it coarsely, was to
get back a bit of its own. By this I knew that I might go forward
if I could find the way.
After a few days it occurred to me to go to the office of Mr.
J.M.M. Baxter--the solicitor who had sold Holmescroft to M'Leod.
I explained I had some notion of buying the place. Would he act
for me in the matter ?
Mr. Baxter, a large, greyish, throaty-voiced man, showed no
enthusiasm. "I sold it to Mr. M'Leod," he said. "It 'ud scarcely
do for me to start on the running-down tack now. But I can
"I know he's asking an awful price," I interrupted, "and atop of
it he wants an extra thousand for what he calls your clean bill
Mr. Baxter sat up in his chair. I had all his attention.