Part 1 out of 4
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PLAIN TALES FROM THE HILLS
by Rudyard Kipling
THREE AND AN EXTRA
MISS YOUGHAL'S SAIS
YOKED WITH AN UNBELIEVER
THE RESCUE OF PLUFFLES
HIS CHANCE IN LIFE
WATCHES OF THE NIGHT
THE OTHER MAN
THE CONVERSION OF AURELIAN MCGOGGIN
A GERM DESTROYER
THE ARREST OF LIEUTENANT GOLIGHTLY
THE HOUSE OF SUDDHOO
HIS WEDDED WIFE
THE BROKEN LINK HANDICAPPED.
BEYOND THE PALE
A BANK FRAUD
IN THE PRIDE OF HIS YOUTH
THE ROUT OF THE WHITE HUSSARS
THE BRONCKHORST DIVORCE-CASE
THE BISARA OF POORER
THE GATE OF A HUNDRED SORROWS
THE STORY OF MUHAMMID DIN
ON THE STRENGTH OF A LIKENESS
WRESSLEY OF THE FOREIGN OFFICE
BY WORD OF MOUTH
TO BE HELD FOR REFERENCE
PLAIN TALES FROM THE HILLS
Look, you have cast out Love! What Gods are these
You bid me please?
The Three in One, the One in Three? Not so!
To my own Gods I go.
It may be they shall give me greater ease
Than your cold Christ and tangled Trinities.
She was the daughter of Sonoo, a Hill-man, and Jadeh his wife. One
year their maize failed, and two bears spent the night in their
only poppy-field just above the Sutlej Valley on the Kotgarth side;
so, next season, they turned Christian, and brought their baby to
the Mission to be baptized. The Kotgarth Chaplain christened her
Elizabeth, and "Lispeth" is the Hill or pahari pronunciation.
Later, cholera came into the Kotgarth Valley and carried off Sonoo
and Jadeh, and Lispeth became half-servant, half-companion to the
wife of the then Chaplain of Kotgarth. This was after the reign of
the Moravian missionaries, but before Kotgarth had quite forgotten
her title of "Mistress of the Northern Hills."
Whether Christianity improved Lispeth, or whether the gods of her
own people would have done as much for her under any circumstances,
I do not know; but she grew very lovely. When a Hill girl grows
lovely, she is worth traveling fifty miles over bad ground to look
upon. Lispeth had a Greek face--one of those faces people paint so
often, and see so seldom. She was of a pale, ivory color and, for
her race, extremely tall. Also, she possessed eyes that were
wonderful; and, had she not been dressed in the abominable print-
cloths affected by Missions, you would, meeting her on the hill-
side unexpectedly, have thought her the original Diana of the
Romans going out to slay.
Lispeth took to Christianity readily, and did not abandon it when
she reached womanhood, as do some Hill girls. Her own people hated
her because she had, they said, become a memsahib and washed
herself daily; and the Chaplain's wife did not know what to do with
her. Somehow, one cannot ask a stately goddess, five foot ten in
her shoes, to clean plates and dishes. So she played with the
Chaplain's children and took classes in the Sunday School, and read
all the books in the house, and grew more and more beautiful, like
the Princesses in fairy tales. The Chaplain's wife said that the
girl ought to take service in Simla as a nurse or something
"genteel." But Lispeth did not want to take service. She was very
happy where she was.
When travellers--there were not many in those years--came to
Kotgarth, Lispeth used to lock herself into her own room for fear
they might take her away to Simla, or somewhere out into the
One day, a few months after she was seventeen years old, Lispeth
went out for a walk. She did not walk in the manner of English
ladies--a mile and a half out, and a ride back again. She covered
between twenty and thirty miles in her little constitutionals, all
about and about, between Kotgarth and Narkunda. This time she came
back at full dusk, stepping down the breakneck descent into
Kotgarth with something heavy in her arms. The Chaplain's wife was
dozing in the drawing-room when Lispeth came in breathing hard and
very exhausted with her burden. Lispeth put it down on the sofa,
and said simply:
"This is my husband. I found him on the Bagi Road. He has hurt
himself. We will nurse him, and when he is well, your husband
shall marry him to 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
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
Being a savage by birth, she took no trouble to hide her feelings,
and the Englishman was amused. When he went away, Lispeth walked
with him, up the Hill as far as Narkunda, very troubled and very
miserable. The Chaplain' s wife, being a good Christian and
disliking anything in the shape of fuss or scandal--Lispeth was
beyond her management entirely--had told the Englishman to tell
Lispeth that he was coming back to marry her. "She is but a child,
you know, and, I fear, at heart a heathen," said the Chaplain's
wife. So all the twelve miles up the hill the Englishman, with his
arm around Lispeth's waist, was assuring the girl that he would
come back and marry her; and Lispeth made him promise over and over
again. She wept on the Narkunda Ridge till he had passed out of
sight along the Muttiani path.
Then she dried her tears and went in to Kotgarth again, and said to
the Chaplain's wife: "He will come back and marry me. He has gone
to his own people to tell them so." And the Chaplain's wife
soothed Lispeth and said: "He will come back." At the end of two
months, Lispeth grew impatient, and was told that the Englishman
had gone over the seas to England. She knew where England was,
because she had read little geography primers; but, of course, she
had no conception of the nature of the sea, being a Hill girl.
There was an old puzzle-map of the World in the House. Lispeth had
played with it when she was a child. She unearthed it again, and
put it together of evenings, and cried to herself, and tried to
imagine where her Englishman was. As she had no ideas of distance
or steamboats, her notions were somewhat erroneous. It would not
have made the least difference had she been perfectly correct; for
the Englishman had no intention of coming back to marry a Hill
girl. He forgot all about her by the time he was butterfly-hunting
in Assam. He wrote a book on the East afterwards. Lispeth's name
did not appear.
At the end of three months, Lispeth made daily pilgrimage to
Narkunda to see if her Englishman was coming along the road. It
gave her comfort, and the Chaplain's wife, finding her happier,
thought that she was getting over her "barbarous and most
indelicate folly." A little later the walks ceased to help Lispeth
and her temper grew very bad. The Chaplain's wife thought this a
profitable time to let her know the real state of affairs--that the
Englishman had only promised his love to keep her quiet--that he
had never meant anything, and that it was "wrong and improper" of
Lispeth to think of marriage with an Englishman, who was of a
superior clay, besides being promised in marriage to a girl of his
own people. Lispeth said that all this was clearly impossible,
because he had said he loved her, and the Chaplain's wife had, with
her own lips, asserted that the Englishman was coming back.
"How can what he and you said be untrue?" asked Lispeth.
"We said it as an excuse to keep you quiet, child," said the
"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
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
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
Let a puppy eat the soap in the bath-room or chew a newly-blacked
boot. He chews and chuckles until, by and by, he finds out that
blacking and Old Brown Windsor make him very sick; so he argues
that soap and boots are not wholesome. Any old dog about the house
will soon show him the unwisdom of biting big dogs' ears. Being
young, he remembers and goes abroad, at six months, a well-mannered
little beast with a chastened appetite. If he had been kept away
from boots, and soap, and big dogs till he came to the trinity
full-grown and with developed teeth, just consider how fearfully
sick and thrashed he would be! Apply that motion to the "sheltered
life," and see how it works. It does not sound pretty, but it is
the better of two evils.
There was a Boy once who had been brought up under the "sheltered
life" theory; and the theory killed him dead. He stayed with his
people all his days, from the hour he was born till the hour he
went into Sandhurst nearly at the top of the list. He was
beautifully taught in all that wins marks by a private tutor, and
carried the extra weight of "never having given his parents an
hour's anxiety in his life." What he learnt at Sandhurst beyond
the regular routine is of no great consequence. He looked about
him, and he found soap and blacking, so to speak, very good. He
ate a little, and came out of Sandhurst not so high as he went in.
Them there was an interval and a scene with his people, who
expected much from him. Next a year of living "unspotted from the
world" in a third-rate depot battalion where all the juniors were
children, and all the seniors old women; and lastly he came out to
India, where he was cut off from the support of his parents, and
had no one to fall back on in time of trouble except himself.
Now India is a place beyond all others where one must not take
things too seriously--the midday sun always excepted. Too much
work and too much energy kill a man just as effectively as too much
assorted vice or too much drink. Flirtation does not matter
because every one is being transferred and either you or she leave
the Station, and never return. Good work does not matter, because
a man is judged by his worst output and another man takes all the
credit of his best as a rule. Bad work does not matter, because
other men do worse, and incompetents hang on longer in India than
anywhere else. Amusements do not matter, because you must repeat
them as soon as you have accomplished them once, and most
amusements only mean trying to win another person's money.
Sickness does not matter, because it's all in the day's work, and
if you die another man takes over your place and your office in the
eight hours between death and burial. Nothing matters except Home
furlough and acting allowances, and these only because they are
scarce. This is a slack, kutcha country where all men work with
imperfect instruments; and the wisest thing is to take no one and
nothing in earnest, but to escape as soon as ever you can to some
place where amusement is amusement and a reputation worth the
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
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 laughed.
Next morning one of the Majors came in from short leave, and heard
that The Boy had gone out to shoot "big game." The Major had taken
an interest in The Boy, and had, more than once, tried to check him
in the cold weather. The Major put up his eyebrows when he heard
of the expedition and went to The Boy's room, where he rummaged.
Presently he came out and found me leaving cards on the Mess.
There was no one else in the ante-room.
He said: "The Boy has gone out shooting. DOES a man shoot tetur
with a revolver and a writing-case?"
I said: "Nonsense, Major!" for I saw what was in his mind.
He said: "Nonsense or nonsense, I'm going to the Canal now--at
once. I don't feel easy."
Then he thought for a minute, and said: "Can you lie?"
"You know best," I answered. "It's my profession."
"Very well," said the Major; "you must come out with me now--at
once--in an ekka to the Canal to shoot black-buck. Go and put on
shikar-kit--quick--and drive here with a gun."
The Major was a masterful man; and I knew that he would not give
orders for nothing. So I obeyed, and on return found the Major
packed up in an ekka--gun-cases and food slung below--all ready for
He dismissed the driver and drove himself. We jogged along quietly
while in the station; but as soon as we got to the dusty road
across the plains, he made that pony fly. A country-bred can do
nearly anything at a pinch. We covered the thirty miles in under
three hours, but the poor brute was nearly dead.
Once I said: "What's the blazing hurry, Major?"
He said, quietly: "The Boy has been alone, by himself, for--one,
two, five--fourteen hours now! I tell you, I don't feel easy."
This uneasiness spread itself to me, and I helped to beat the pony.
When we came to the Canal Engineer's Rest House the Major called
for The Boy's servant; but there was no answer. Then we went up to
the house, calling for The Boy by name; but there was no answer.
"Oh, he's out shooting," said I.
Just then I saw through one of the windows a little hurricane-lamp
burning. This was at four in the afternoon. We both stopped dead
in the verandah, holding our breath to catch every sound; and we
heard, inside the room, the "brr--brr--brr" of a multitude of
flies. The Major said nothing, but he took off his helmet and we
entered very softly.
The Boy was dead on the charpoy in the centre of the bare, lime-
washed room. He had shot his head nearly to pieces with his
revolver. The gun-cases were still strapped, so was the bedding,
and on the table lay The Boy's writing-case with photographs. He
had gone away to die like a 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
Knowing The Boy was dead by his own hand, I saw exactly what that
help would be, so I passed over to the table, took a chair, lit a
cheroot, and began to go through the writing-case; the Major
looking over my shoulder and repeating to himself: "We came too
late!--Like a rat in a hole!--Poor, POOR devil!"
The Boy must have spent half the night in writing to his people,
and to his Colonel, and to a girl at Home; and as soon as he had
finished, must have shot himself, for he had been dead a long time
when we came in.
I read all that he had written, and passed over each sheet to the
Major as I finished it.
We saw from his accounts how very seriously he had taken
everything. He wrote about "disgrace which he was unable to bear"--
"indelible shame"--"criminal folly"--"wasted life," and so on;
besides a lot of private things to his Father and Mother too much
too sacred to put into print. The letter to the girl at Home was
the most pitiful of all; and I choked as I read it. The Major made
no attempt to keep dry-eyed. I respected him for that. He read
and rocked himself to and fro, and simply cried like a woman
without caring to hide it. The letters were so dreary and hopeless
and touching. We forgot all about The Boy's follies, and only
thought of the poor Thing on the charpoy and the scrawled sheets in
our hands. It was utterly impossible to let the letters go Home.
They would have broken his Father's heart and killed his Mother
after killing her belief in her son.
At last the Major dried his eyes openly, and said: "Nice sort of
thing to spring on an English family! What shall we do?"
I said, knowing what the Major had brought me but for: "The Boy
died of cholera. We were with him at the time. We can't commit
ourselves to half-measures. Come along."
Then began one of the most grimy comic scenes I have ever taken
part in--the concoction of a big, written lie, bolstered with
evidence, to soothe The Boy's people at Home. I began the rough
draft of a letter, the Major throwing in hints here and there while
he gathered up all the stuff that The Boy had written and burnt it
in the fireplace. It was a hot, still evening when we began, and
the lamp burned very badly. In due course I got the draft to my
satisfaction, setting forth how The Boy was the pattern of all
virtues, beloved by his regiment, with every promise of a great
career before him, and so on; how we had helped him through the
sickness--it was no time for little lies, you will understand--and
how he had died without pain. I choked while I was putting down
these things and thinking of the poor people who would read them.
Then I laughed at the grotesqueness of the affair, and the laughter
mixed itself up with the choke--and the Major said that we both
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
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
The Youghals went up to Simla in April.
In July, Strickland secured three months' leave on "urgent private
affairs." He locked up his house--though not a native in the
Providence would wittingly have touched "Estreekin Sahib's" gear
for the world--and went down to see a friend of his, an old dyer,
at Tarn Taran.
Here all trace of him was lost, until a sais met me on the Simla
Mall with this extraordinary note:
"Dear old man,
Please give bearer a box of cheroots--Supers, No. I, for
preference. They are freshest at the Club. I'll repay when I
reappear; but at present I'm out of Society.
I ordered two boxes, and handed them over to the sais with my love.
That sais was Strickland, and he was in old Youghal's employ,
attached to Miss Youghal's Arab. The poor fellow was suffering for
an English smoke, and knew that whatever happened I should hold my
tongue till the business was over.
Later on, Mrs. Youghal, who was wrapped up in her servants, began
talking at houses where she called of her paragon among saises--the
man who was never too busy to get up in the morning and pick
flowers for the breakfast-table, and who blacked--actually BLACKED--
the hoofs of his horse like a London coachman! The turnout of
Miss Youghal's Arab was a wonder and a delight. Strickland--
Dulloo, I mean--found his reward in the pretty things that Miss
Youghal said to him when she went out riding. Her parents were
pleased to find she had forgotten all her foolishness for young
Strickland and said she was a good girl.
Strickland vows that the two months of his service were the most
rigid mental discipline he has ever gone through. Quite apart from
the little fact that the wife of one of his fellow-saises fell in
love with him and then tried to poison him with arsenic because he
would have nothing to do with her, he had to school himself into
keeping quiet when Miss Youghal went out riding with some man who
tried to flirt with her, and he was forced to trot behind carrying
the blanket and hearing every word! Also, he had to keep his
temper when he was slanged in "Benmore" porch by a policeman--
especially once when he was abused by a Naik he had himself
recruited from Isser Jang village--or, worse still, when a young
subaltern called him a pig for not making way quickly enough.
But the life had its compensations. He obtained great insight into
the ways and thefts of saises--enough, he says, to have summarily
convicted half the chamar population of the Punjab if he had been
on business. He became one of the leading players at knuckle-
bones, which all jhampanis and many saises play while they are
waiting outside the Government House or the Gaiety Theatre of
nights; he learned to smoke tobacco that was three-fourths cowdung;
and he heard the wisdom of the grizzled Jemadar of the Government
House saises, whose words are valuable. He saw many things which
amused him; and he states, on honor, that no man can appreciate
Simla properly, till he has seen it from the sais's point of view.
He also says that, if he chose to write all he saw, his head would
be broken in several places.
Strickland's account of the agony he endured on wet nights, hearing
the music and seeing the lights in "Benmore," with his toes
tingling for a waltz and his head in a horse-blanket, is rather
amusing. One of these days, Strickland is going to write a little
book on his experiences. That book will be worth buying; and even
more, worth suppressing.
Thus, he served faithfully as Jacob served for Rachel; and his
leave was nearly at an end when the explosion came. He had really
done his best to keep his temper in the hearing of the flirtations
I have mentioned; but he broke down at last. An old and very
distinguished General took Miss Youghal for a ride, and began that
specially offensive "you're-only-a-little-girl" sort of flirtation--
most difficult for a woman to turn aside deftly, and most
maddening to listen to. Miss Youghal was shaking with fear at the
things he said in the hearing of her sais. Dulloo--Strickland--
stood it as long as he could. Then he caught hold of the General's
bridle, and, in most fluent English, invited him to step off and be
heaved over the cliff. Next minute Miss Youghal began crying; and
Strickland saw that he had hopelessly given himself away, and
everything was over.
The General nearly had a fit, while Miss Youghal was sobbing out
the story of the disguise and the engagement that wasn't recognized
by the parents. Strickland was furiously angry with himself and
more angry with the General for forcing his hand; so he said
nothing, but held the horse's head and prepared to thrash the
General as some sort of satisfaction, but when the General had
thoroughly grasped the story, and knew who Strickland was, he began
to puff and blow in the saddle, and nearly rolled off with
laughing. He said Strickland deserved a V. C., if it were only for
putting on a sais's blanket. Then he called himself names, and
vowed that he deserved a thrashing, but he was too old to take it
from Strickland. Then he complimented Miss Youghal on her lover.
The scandal of the business never struck him; for he was a nice old
man, with a weakness for flirtations. Then he laughed again, and
said that old Youghal was a fool. Strickland let go of the cob's
head, and suggested that the General had better help them, if that
was his opinion. Strickland knew Youghal's weakness for men with
titles and letters after their names and high official position.
"It's rather like a forty-minute farce," said the General, "but
begad, I WILL help, if it's only to escape that tremendous
thrashing I deserved. Go along to your home, my sais-Policeman,
and change into decent kit, and I'll attack Mr. Youghal. Miss
Youghal, may I ask you to canter home and wait?
. . . . . . . . .
About seven minutes later, there was a wild hurroosh at the Club.
A sais, with a blanket and head-rope, was asking all the men he
knew: "For Heaven's sake lend me decent clothes!" As the men did
not recognize him, there were some peculiar scenes before
Strickland could get a hot bath, with soda in it, in one room, a
shirt here, a collar there, a pair of trousers elsewhere, and so
on. He galloped off, with half the Club wardrobe on his back, and
an utter stranger's pony under him, to the house of old Youghal.
The General, arrayed in purple and fine linen, was before him.
What the General had said Strickland never knew, but Youghal
received Strickland with moderate civility; and Mrs. Youghal,
touched by the devotion of the transformed Dulloo, was almost kind.
The General beamed, and chuckled, and Miss Youghal came in, and
almost before old Youghal knew where he was, the parental consent
had been wrenched out and Strickland had departed with Miss Youghal
to the Telegraph Office to wire for his kit. The final
embarrassment was when an utter stranger attacked him on the Mall
and asked for the stolen pony.
So, in the end, Strickland and Miss Youghal were married, on the
strict understanding that Strickland should drop his old ways, and
stick to Departmental routine, which pays best and leads to Simla.
Strickland was far too fond of his wife, just then, to break his
word, but it was a sore trial to him; for the streets and the
bazars, and the sounds in them, were full of meaning to Strickland,
and these called to him to come back and take up his wanderings and
his discoveries. Some day, I will tell you how he broke his
promise to help a friend. That was long since, and he has, by this
time, been nearly spoilt for what he would call shikar. He is
forgetting the slang, and the beggar's cant, and the marks, and the
signs, and the drift of the undercurrents, which, if a man would
master, he must always continue to learn.
But he fills in his Departmental returns beautifully.
YOKED WITH AN UNBELIEVER.
I am dying for you, and you are dying for another.
When the Gravesend tender left the P. & 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
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
Agnes Laiter went about her duties at home--her family objected to
the engagement--with red eyes, while Phil was sailing to Darjiling--
"a port on the Bengal Ocean," as his mother used to tell her
friends. He was popular enough on board ship, made many
acquaintances and a moderately large liquor bill, and sent off huge
letters to Agnes Laiter at each port. Then he fell to work on this
plantation, somewhere between Darjiling and Kangra, and, though the
salary and the horse and the work were not quite all he had
fancied, he succeeded fairly well, and gave himself much
unnecessary credit for his perseverance.
In the course of time, as he settled more into collar, and his work
grew fixed before him, the face of Agnes Laiter went out of his
mind and only came when he was at leisure, which was not often. He
would forget all about her for a fortnight, and remember her with a
start, like a school-boy who has forgotten to learn his lesson.
She did not forget Phil, because she was of the kind that never
forgets. Only, another man--a really desirable young man--
presented himself before Mrs. Laiter; and the chance of a marriage
with Phil was as far off as ever; and his letters were so
unsatisfactory; and there was a certain amount of domestic pressure
brought to bear on the girl; and the young man really was an
eligible person as incomes go; and the end of all things was that
Agnes married him, and wrote a tempestuous whirlwind of a letter to
Phil in the wilds of Darjiling, and said she should never know a
happy moment all the rest of her life. Which was a true prophecy.
Phil got that letter, and held himself ill-treated. This was two
years after he had come out; but by dint of thinking fixedly of
Agnes Laiter, and looking at her photograph, and patting himself on
the back for being one of the most constant lovers in history, and
warming to the work as he went on, he really fancied that he had
been very hardly used. He sat down and wrote one final letter--a
really pathetic "world without end, amen," epistle; explaining how
he would be true to Eternity, and that all women were very much
alike, and he would hide his broken heart, etc., etc.; but if, at
any future time, etc., etc., he could afford to wait, etc., etc.,
unchanged affections, etc., etc., return to her old love, etc.,
etc., for eight closely-written pages. From an artistic point of
view, it was very neat work, but an ordinary Philistine, who knew
the state of Phil's real feelings--not the ones he rose to as he
went on writing--would have called it the thoroughly mean and
selfish work of a thoroughly mean and selfish, weak man. But this
verdict would have been incorrect. Phil paid for the postage, and
felt every word he had written for at least two days and a half.
It was the last flicker before the light went out.
That letter made Agnes Laiter very unhappy, and she cried and put
it away in her desk, and became Mrs. Somebody Else for the good of
her family. Which is the first duty of every Christian maid.
Phil went his ways, and thought no more of his letter, except as an
artist thinks of a neatly touched-in sketch. His ways were not
bad, but they were not altogether good until they brought him
across Dunmaya, the daughter of a Rajput ex-Subadar-Major of our
Native Army. The girl had a strain of Hill blood in her, and, like
the Hill women, was not a purdah nashin. Where Phil met her, or
how he heard of her, does not matter. She was a good girl and
handsome, and, in her way, very clever and shrewd; though, of
course, a little hard. It is to be remembered that Phil was living
very comfortably, denying himself no small luxury, never putting by
an anna, very satisfied with himself and his good intentions, was
dropping all his English correspondents one by one, and beginning
more and more to look upon this land as his home. Some men fall
this way; and they are of no use afterwards. The climate where he
was stationed was good, and it really did not seem to him that
there was anything to go 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
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 the two.
Saumarez made up his mind, as soon as they came into the station
from Behar, to marry the elder one. At least, we all made sure
that he would, which comes to the same thing. She was two and
twenty, and he was thirty-three, with pay and allowances of nearly
fourteen hundred rupees a month. So the match, as we arranged it,
was in every way a good one. Saumarez was his name, and summary
was his nature, as a man once said. Having drafted his Resolution,
he formed a Select Committee of One to sit upon it, and resolved to
take his time. In our unpleasant slang, the Copleigh girls "hunted
in couples." That is to say, you could do nothing with one without
the other. They were very loving sisters; but their mutual
affection was sometimes inconvenient. Saumarez held the balance-
hair true between them, and none but himself could have said to
which side his heart inclined; though every one guessed. He rode
with them a good deal and danced with them, but he never succeeded
in detaching them from each other for any length of time.
Women said that the two girls kept together through deep mistrust,
each fearing that the other would steal a march on her. But that
has nothing to do with a man. Saumarez was silent for good or bad,
and as business-likely attentive as he could be, having due regard
to his work and his polo. Beyond doubt both girls were fond of
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
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 said.
Pluffles' weakness was not believing what people said. He
preferred what he called "trusting to his own judgment." He had as
much judgment as he had seat or hands; and this preference tumbled
him into trouble once or twice. But the biggest trouble Pluffles
ever manufactured came about at Simla--some years ago, when he was
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 Pluffles.
At the beginning of August, Mrs. Hauksbee discovered that it was
time to interfere. A man who rides much knows exactly what a horse
is going to do next before he does it. In the same way, a woman of
Mrs. Hauksbee's experience knows accurately how a boy will behave
under certain circumstances--notably when he is infatuated with one
of Mrs. Reiver's stamp. She said that, sooner or later, little
Pluffles would break off that engagement for nothing at all--simply
to gratify Mrs. Reiver, who, in return, would keep him at her feet
and in her service just so long as she found it worth her while.
She said she knew the signs of these things. If she did not, no
one else could.
Then she went forth to capture Pluffles under the guns of the
enemy; just as Mrs. Cusack-Bremmil carried away Bremmil under Mrs.
This particular engagement lasted seven weeks--we called it the
Seven Weeks' War--and was fought out inch by inch on both sides. A
detailed account would fill a book, and would be incomplete then.
Any one who knows about these things can fit in the details for
himself. It was a superb fight--there will never be another like
it as long as Jakko stands--and Pluffles was the prize of victory.
People said shameful things about Mrs. Hauksbee. They did not know
what she was playing for. Mrs. Reiver fought, partly because
Pluffles was useful to her, but mainly because she hated Mrs.
Hauksbee, and the matter was a trial of strength between them. No
one knows what Pluffles thought. He had not many ideas at the best
of times, and the few he possessed made him conceited. Mrs.
Hauksbee said:--"The boy must be caught; and the only way of
catching him is by treating him well."
So she treated him as a man of the world and of experience so long
as the issue was doubtful. Little by little, Pluffles fell away
from his old allegiance and came over to the enemy, by whom he was
made much of. He was never sent on out-post duty after 'rickshaws
any more, nor was he given dances which never came off, nor were
the drains on his purse continued. Mrs. Hauksbee held him on the
snaffle; and after his treatment at Mrs. Reiver's hands, he
appreciated the change.
Mrs. Reiver had broken him of talking about himself, and made him
talk about her own merits. Mrs. Hauksbee acted otherwise, and won
his confidence, till he mentioned his engagement to the girl at
Home, speaking of it in a high and mighty way as a "piece of boyish
folly." This was when he was taking tea with her one afternoon,
and discoursing in what he considered a gay and fascinating style.
Mrs. Hauksbee had seen an earlier generation of his stamp bud and
blossom, and decay into fat Captains and tubby Majors.
At a moderate estimate there were about three and twenty sides to
that lady's character. Some men say more. She began to talk to
Pluffles after the manner of a mother, and as if there had been
three hundred years, instead of fifteen, between them. She spoke
with a sort of throaty quaver in her voice which had a soothing
effect, though what she said was anything but soothing. She
pointed out the exceeding folly, not to say meanness, of Pluffles'
conduct, and the smallness of his views. Then he stammered
something about "trusting to his own judgment as a man of the
world;" and this paved the way for what she wanted to say next. It
would have withered up Pluffles had it come from any other woman;
but in the soft cooing style in which Mrs. Hauksbee put it, it only
made him feel limp and repentant--as if he had been in some
superior kind of church. Little by little, very softly and
pleasantly, she began taking the conceit out of Pluffles, as you
take the ribs out of an umbrella before re-covering it. She told
him what she thought of him and his judgment and his knowledge of
the world; and how his performances had made him ridiculous to
other people; and how it was his intention make love to herself if
she gave him the chance. Then she said that marriage would be the
making of him; and drew a pretty little picture--all rose and opal--
of the Mrs. Pluffles of the future going through life relying on
the "judgment" and "knowledge of the world" of a husband who had
nothing to reproach himself with. How she reconciled these two
statements she alone knew. But they did not strike Pluffles as
Hers was a perfect little homily--much better than any clergyman
could have given--and it ended with touching allusions to Pluffles'
Mamma and Papa, and the wisdom of taking his bride Home.
Then she sent Pluffles out for a walk, to think over what she had
said. Pluffles left, blowing his nose very hard and holding
himself very straight. Mrs. Hauksbee laughed.
What Pluffles had intended to do in the matter of the engagement
only Mrs. Reiver knew, and she kept her own counsel to her death.
She would have liked it spoiled as a compliment, I fancy.
Pluffles enjoyed many talks with Mrs. Hauksbee during the next few
days. They were all to the same end, and they helped Pluffles in
the path of 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 should be.
When a man is a Commissioner and a bachelor and has the right of
wearing open-work jam-tart jewels in gold and enamel on his
clothes, and of going through a door before every one except a
Member of Council, a Lieutenant-Governor, or a Viceroy, he is worth
marrying. At least, that is what ladies say. There was a
Commissioner in Simla, in those days, who was, and wore, and did,
all I have said. He was a plain man--an ugly man--the ugliest man
in Asia, with two exceptions. His was a face to dream about and
try to carve on a pipe-head afterwards. His name was Saggott--
Barr-Saggott--Anthony Barr-Saggott and six letters to follow.
Departmentally, he was one of the best men the Government of India
owned. Socially, he was like a blandishing gorilla.
When he turned his attentions to Miss Beighton, I believe that Mrs.
Beighton wept with delight at the reward Providence had sent her in
her 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
Then Kitty put up her little chin and said irreverent things about
precedence, and Commissioners, and matrimony. Mr. Beighton rubbed
the top of his head; for he was an easy-going man.
Late in the season, when he judged that the time was ripe, Barr-
Saggott developed a plan which did great credit to his
administrative powers. He arranged an archery tournament for
ladies, with a most sumptuous diamond-studded bracelet as prize.
He drew up his terms skilfully, and every one saw that the bracelet
was a gift to Miss Beighton; the acceptance carrying with it the
hand and the heart of Commissioner Barr-Saggott. The terms were a
St. Leonard's Round--thirty-six shots at sixty yards--under the
rules of the Simla Toxophilite Society.
All Simla was invited. There were beautifully arranged tea-tables
under the deodars at Annandale, where the Grand Stand is now; and,
alone in its glory, winking in the sun, sat the diamond bracelet in
a blue velvet case. Miss Beighton was anxious--almost too anxious
to compete. On the appointed afternoon, all Simla rode down to
Annandale to witness the Judgment of Paris turned upside down.
Kitty rode with young Cubbon, and it was easy to see that the boy
was troubled in his mind. He must be held innocent of everything
that followed. Kitty was pale and nervous, and looked long at the
bracelet. Barr-Saggott was gorgeously dressed, even more nervous
than Kitty, and more hideous than ever.
Mrs. Beighton smiled condescendingly, as befitted the mother of a
potential Commissioneress, and the shooting began; all the world
standing in a semicircle as the ladies came out one after the
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 off:--
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
Miss Vezzis came from across the Borderline to look after some
children who belonged to a lady until a regularly ordained nurse
could come out. The lady said Miss Vezzis was a bad, dirty nurse
and inattentive. It never struck her that Miss Vezzis had her own
life to lead and her own affairs to worry over, and that these
affairs were the most important things in the world to Miss Vezzis.
Very few mistresses admit this sort of reasoning. Miss Vezzis was
as black as a boot, and to our standard of taste, hideously ugly.
She wore cotton-print gowns and bulged shoes; and when she lost her
temper with the children, she abused them in the language of the
Borderline--which is part English, part Portuguese, and part
Native. She was not attractive; but she had her pride, and she
preferred being called "Miss Vezzis."
Every Sunday she dressed herself wonderfully and went to see her
Mamma, who lived, for the most part, on an old cane chair in a
greasy tussur-silk dressing-gown and a big rabbit-warren of a house
full of Vezzises, Pereiras, Ribieras, Lisboas and Gansalveses, and
a floating population of loafers; besides fragments of the day's
bazar, garlic, stale incense, clothes thrown on the floor,
petticoats hung on strings for screens, old bottles, pewter
crucifixes, dried immortelles, pariah puppies, plaster images of
the Virgin, and hats without crowns. Miss Vezzis drew twenty
rupees a month for acting as nurse, and she squabbled weekly with
her Mamma as to the percentage to be given towards housekeeping.
When the quarrel was over, Michele D'Cruze used to shamble across
the low mud wall of the compound and make love to Miss Vezzis after
the fashion of the Borderline, which is hedged about with much
ceremony. Michele was a poor, sickly weed and very black; but he
had his pride. He would not be seen smoking a huqa for anything;
and he looked down on natives as only a man with seven-eighths
native blood in his veins can. The Vezzis Family had their pride
too. They traced their descent from a mythical plate-layer who had
worked on the Sone Bridge when railways were new in India, and they
valued their English origin. Michele was a Telegraph Signaller on
Rs. 35 a month. The fact that he was in Government employ made
Mrs. Vezzis lenient to the shortcomings of his ancestors.
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