Part 3 out of 4
They began the steep climb a little after noon, but it was near
sunset ere they reached the stone platform clinging to the side
of a rifted, jungle-covered hill, where Jan Chinn the First was
laid, as he had desired, that he might overlook his people. All
India is full of neglected graves that date from the beginning of
the eighteenth century - tombs of forgotten colonels of corps
long since disbanded; mates of East India men who went on
shooting expeditions and never came back; factors, agents,
writers, and ensigns of the Honourable the East India Company by
hundreds and thousands and tens of thousands. English folk
forget quickly, but natives have long memories, and if a man has
done good in his life it is remembered after his death. The
weathered marble four-square tomb of Jan Chinn was hung about
with wild flowers and nuts, packets of wax and honey, bottles of
native spirits, and infamous cigars, with buffalo horns and
plumes of dried grass. At one end was a rude clay image of a
white man, in the old-fashioned top-hat, riding on a bloated
Bukta salamed reverently as they approached. Chinn bared his head
and began to pick out the blurred inscription. So far as he
could read it ran thus - word for word, and letter for letter:
To the Memory of JOHN CHINN, Esq. Late Collector
of................ithout Bloodshed or...error of Authority
Employ.only..cans of Conciliat...and Confiden. Accomplished
the...tire Subjection... a Lawless and Predatory
Peop......taching them to...ish Government by a Conquest
over....Minds The most perma...and rational Mode of
Domini....Governor General and Counc...engal have ordered
lhi.....erected...arted this Life Aug. 19, 184..Ag...
On the other side of the grave were ancient verses, also very
worn. As much as Chinn could decipher said:
..the savage band. Forsook their Haunts and b.....is
Comman..mended..rals check a.st for spoil. And.. a..ing Hamlets
prove his gene....toil. Humanit...survey......ights restor.. A
Nation..ield..subdued without a Sword.Forsook their Haunts and b
. . . . is Command mended . . rals check a . . . st for spoil And
. s . ing Hamlets prove his gene . . . . toil Humanit . . .
ights restore A Nation . . ield. . subdued without a Sword.
For some little time he leaned on the tomb thinking of this dead
man of his own blood, and of the house in Devonshire; then,
nodding to the plains: "Yes; it's a big work all of it even my
little share. He must have been worth knowing. . . . Bukta,
where are my people?"
"Not here, Sahib. No man comes here except in full sun. They
wait above. Let us climb and see."
But Chinn, remembering the first law of Oriental diplomacy, in an
even voice answered: "I have come this far only because the
Satpura folk are foolish, and dared not visit our lines. Now
bid them wait on me here. I am not a servant, but the master of
"I go -- I go," clucked the old man. Night was falling, and at
any moment Jan Chinn might whistle up his dreaded steed from the
Now for the first time in a long life Bukta disobeyed a lawful
command and deserted his leader; for he did not come back, but
pressed to the flat table-top of the hill, and called softly.
Men stirred all about him - little trembling men with bows and
arrows who had watched the two since noon.
"Where is he?" whispered one.
"At his own place. He bids you come," said Bukta.
"Rather let him loose the Clouded Tiger upon us. We do not go."
"Nor I, though I bore him in my arms when he was a child in this
his life. Wait here till the day."
"But surely he will be angry."
"He will be very angry, for he has nothing to eat. But he has
said to me many times that the Bhils are his children. By
sunlight I believe this, but - by moonlight I am not so sure.
What folly have ye Satpura pigs compassed that ye should need
him at all?"
"One came to us in the name of the Government with little
ghost-knives and a magic calf, meaning to turn us into cattle by
the cutting off of our arms. We were greatly afraid, but we did
not kill the man. He is here, bound - a black man; and we think
he comes from the west. He said it was an order to cut us all
with knives - especially the women and the children. We did not
hear that it was an order, so we were afraid, and kept to our
hills. Some of our men have taken ponies and bullocks from the
plains, and others pots and cloths and ear-rings."
"Are any slain?"
"By our men? Not yet. But the young men are blown to and fro by
many rumours like flames upon a hill. I sent runners asking for
Jan Chinn lest worse should come to us. It was this fear that he
foretold by the sign of the Clouded Tiger.
He says it is otherwise," said Bukta; and he repeated, with
amplifications, all that young Chinn had told him at the
conference of the wicker chair.
"Think you," said the questioner, at last, "that the Government
will lay hands on us?"
"Not I," Bukta rejoined. "Jan Chinn will give an order, and ye
will obey. The rest is between the Government and Jan Chinn. I
myself know something of the ghost-knives and the scratching. It
is a charm against the Small-pox. But how it is done I cannot
tell. Nor need that concern you."
"If he stands by us and before the anger of the Government we
will most strictly obey Jan Chinn, except - except we do not go
down to that place to-night."
They could hear young Chinn below them shouting for Bukta; but
they cowered and sat still, expecting the Clouded Tiger. The
tomb had been holy ground for nearly half a century. If Jan
Chinn chose to sleep there, who had better right? But they would
not come within eyeshot of the place till broad day.
At first Chinn was exceedingly angry, till it occurred to him
that Bukta most probably had a reason (which, indeed, he had),
and his own dignity might suffer if he yelled without answer.
He propped himself against the foot of the grave, and,
alternately dozing and smoking, came through the warm night proud
that he was a lawful, legitimate, fever-proof Chinn.
He prepared his plan of action much as his grandfather would have
done; and when Bukta appeared in the morning with a most liberal
supply of food, said nothing of the overnight desertion. Bukta
would have been relieved by an outburst of human anger; but Chinn
finished his victual leisurely, and a cheroot, ere he made any
They are very much afraid," said Bukta, who was not too bold
himself "It remains only to give orders. They said they will
obey if thou wilt only stand between them and the Government."
"That I know," said Chinn, strolling slowly to the table-land. A
few of the elder men stood in an irregular semicircle in an open
glade; but the ruck of people - women and children were hidden
in the thicket. They had no desire to face the first anger of Jan
Chinn the First.
Seating himself on a fragment of split rock, he smoked his
cheroot to the butt, hearing men breathe hard all about him.
Then he cried, so suddenly that they jumped:
"Bring the man that was bound!"
A scuffle and a cry were followed by the appearance of a Hindoo
vaccinator, quaking with fear, bound hand and foot, as the Bhils
of old were accustomed to bind their human sacrifices. He was
pushed cautiously before the presence; but young Chinn did not
look at him.
"I said - the man that was bound. Is it a jest to bring me one
tied like a buffalo? Since when could the Bhil bind folk at his
Half a dozen hasty knives cut away the thongs, and the man
crawled to Chinn, who pocketed his case of lancets and tubes of
lymph. Then, sweeping the semicircle with one comprehensive
forefinger, and in the voice of compliment, he said, clearly and
distinctly: " Pigs!
"Ai!" whispered Bukta. "Now he speaks. Woe to foolish people!"
"I have come on foot from my house" (the assembly shuddered) "to
make clear a matter which any other Satpura Bhil would have seen
with both eyes from a distance. Ye know the Small-pox who pits
and scars your children so that like wasp-combs. It is an order
of the Government that whoso is scratched on the arm with these
little knives which I hold up is charmed against her. All Sahibs
are thus charmed, and very many Hindoos. This is the mark of the
He rolled back his sleeve to the armpit and showed the white
scars of the vaccination-mark on his white skin. "Come, all, and
A few daring spirits came up, and nodded their heads wisely.
There was certainly a mark, and they knew well what other dread
marks were hidden by the shirt. Merciful was Jan Chinn, that
then and there proclaimed his godhead!
"Now all these things the man whom ye bound told you."
I did - a hundred times; but they answered with blows," groaned
the operator, chafing his wrists and ankles.
"But, being pigs, ye did not believe; and so came I here to save
you, first from Small-pox, next from a great folly of fear, and
lastly, it may be,from the rope and the jail. It is no gain to
me; it is no pleasure to me: but for the sake of that one who is
yonder, who made the Bhil a man" - he pointed down the hill --"
I, who am of his blood, the son of his son, come to turn your
people. And I speak the truth, as did Jan Chinn."
The crowd murmured reverently, and men stole out of the thicket
by twos and threes to join it. There was no anger in their god's
"These are my orders. (Heaven send they'll take 'em, but I seem
to have impressed 'em so far!) I myself will stay among you
while this man scratches your arms with the knives, after the
order of the Government. In three, or it may be five or seven,
days, your arms will swell and itch and burn. That is the power
of Small-pox fighting in your base blood against the orders of
the Government I will therefore stay among you till I see that
Small-pox is conquered, and I will not go away till the men and
the women and the little children show me upon their arms such
marks as I have even now showed you. I bring with me two very
good guns, and a man whose name is known among beasts and men.
We will hunt together, I and he and your young men, and the
others shall eat and lie still. This is my order."
There was a long pause while victory hung in the balance. A
white-haired old sinner, standing on one uneasy leg, piped up:
"There are ponies and some few bullocks and other things for
which we need a kowl [protection]. They were not taken in the
way of trade."
The battle was won, and John Chinn drew a breath of relief. The
young Bhils had been raiding, but if taken swiftly all could be
"I will write a kowl so soon as the ponies, the bullocks, and the
other things are counted before me and sent back whence they
came. But first we will put the Government mark on such as have
not been visited by Small-pox." In an undertone, to the
vaccinator: "If you show you are afraid you'll never see Poona
again, my friend."
"There is not sufficient ample supply of vaccination for all this
population," said the man. "They destroyed the offeecial calf."
They won't know the difference. Scrape 'em and give me a couple
of lancets; I'll attend to the elders."
The aged diplomat who had demanded protection was the first
victim. He fell to Chinn's hand and dared not cry out. As soon
as he was freed he dragged up a companion, and held him fast,
and the crisis became, as it were, a child's sport; for the
vaccinated chased the unvaccinated to treatment, vowing that all
the tribe must suffer equally. The women shrieked, and the
children ran howling; but Chinn laughed, and waved the
"It is an honour," he cried. "Tell them, Bukta, how great an
honour it is that I myself mark them. Nay, I cannot mark every
one - the Hindoo must also do his work - but I will touch all
marks that he makes, so there will be an equal virtue in them.
Thus do the Rajputs stick pigs. Ho, brother with one eye! Catch
that girl and bring her to me. She need not run away yet, for
she is not married, and I do not seek her in marriage. She will
not come? Then she shall be shamed by her little brother, a fat
boy, a bold boy. He puts out his arm like a soldier. Look! He
does not flinch at the blood. Some day he shall be in my
regiment. And now, mother of many, we will lightly touch thee,
for Smallpox has been before us here. It is a true thing,
indeed, that this charm breaks the power of Mata. There will be
no more pitted faces among the Satpuras, and so ye can ask many
cows for each maid to be wed."
And so on and so on - quick-poured showman's patter, sauced in
the Bhil hunting-proverbs and tales of their own brand of coarse
humour till the lancets were blunted and both operators worn out.
But, nature being the same the world over, the unvaccinated grew
jealous of their marked comrades, and came near to blows about
it. Then Chinn declared himself a court of justice, no longer a
medical board, and made formal inquiry into the late robberies.
"We are the thieves of Mahadeo," said the Bhils, simply. "It is
our fate, and we were frightened. When we are frightened we
Simply and directly as children, they gave in the tale of the
plunder, all but two bullocks and some spirits that had gone
amissing (these Chinn promised to make good out of his own
pocket), and ten ringleaders were despatched to the lowlands
with a wonderful document, written on the leaf of a note-book,
and addressed to an Assistant District Superintendent of Police.
There was warm calamity in that note, as Jan Chinn warned them,
but anything was better than loss of liberty.
Armed with this protection, the repentant raiders went down-hill.
They had no desire whatever to meet Mr. Dundas Fawne of the
Police, aged twenty-two, and of a cheerful countenance, nor did
they wish to revisit the scene of their robberies. Steering a
middle course, they ran into the camp of the one Government
chaplain allowed to the various irregular corps through a
district of some fifteen thousand square miles, and stood before
him in a cloud of dust. He was by way of being a priest, they
knew, and, what was more to the point, a good sportsman who paid
his beaters generously.
When he read Chinn's note he laughed, which they deemed a lucky
omen, till he called up policemen, who tethered the ponies and
the bullocks by the piled house-gear, and laid stern hands upon
three of that smiling band of the thieves of Mahadeo. The
chaplain himself addressed them magisterially with a
riding-whip. That was painful, but Jan Chinn had prophesied it.
They submitted, but would not give up the written protection,
fearing the jail. On their way back they met Mr. D. Fawne, who
had heard about the robberies, and was not pleased.
"Certainly," said the eldest of the gang, when the second
interview was at an end, "certainly Jan Chinn's protection has
saved us our liberty, but it is as though there were many
beatings in one small piece of paper. Put it away."
One climbed into a tree, and stuck the letter into a cleft forty
feet from the ground, where it could do no harm. Warmed, sore,
but happy, the ten returned to Jan Chinn next day, where he sat
among uneasy Bhils, all looking at their right arms, and all
bound under terror of their god's disfavour not to scratch.
"It was a good kowl," said the leader. "First the chaplain, who
laughed, took away our plunder, and beat three of us, as was
promised. Next, we meet Fawne Sahib, who frowned, and asked for
the plunder. We spoke the truth, and so he beat us all, one
after another, and called us chosen names. He then gave us these
two bundles "-they set down a bottle of whisky and a box of
cheroots--" and we came away. The kowl is left in a tree,
because its virtue is that so soon as we show it to a Sahib we
"But for that kowl" said Jan Chinn, sternly, "ye would all have
been marching to jail with a policeman on either side. Ye come
now to serve as beaters for me. These people are unhappy, and
we will go hunting till they are well. To-night we will make a
It is written in the chronicles of the Satpura Bhils, together
with many other matters not fit for print, that through five
days, after the day that he had put his mark upon them, Jan
Chinn the First hunted for his people; and on the five nights of
those days the tribe was gloriously and entirely drunk. Jan
Chinn bought country spirits of an awful strength, and slew wild
pig and deer beyond counting, so that if any fell sick they might
have two good reasons.
Between head- and stomach-aches they found no time to think of
their arms, but followed Jan Chinn obediently through the
jungles, and with each day's returning confidence men, women,
and children stole away to their villages as the little army
passed by. They carried news that it was good and right to be
scratched with ghost-knives; that Jan Chinn was indeed
reincarnated as a god of free food and drink, and that of all
nations the Satpura Bhils stood first in his favour, if they
would only refrain from scratching. Henceforward that kindly
demi-god would be connected in their minds with great gorgings
and the vaccine and lancets of a paternal Government.
"And to-morrow I go back to my home," said Jan Chinn to his
faithful few, whom neither spirits, overeating, nor swollen
glands could conquer. It is hard for children and savages to
behave reverently at all times to the idols of their
make-belief; and they had frolicked excessively with Jan Chinn.
But the reference to his home cast a gloom on the people.
"And the Sahib will not come again?" said he who had been
"That is to be seen," answered Chinn, warily.
"Nay, but come as a white man -- come as a young man whom we know
and love; for, as thou alone knowest, we are a weak people. If
we again saw thy -- thy horse -" They were picking up their
"I have no horse. I came on foot with Bukta, yonder. What is
this?""Thou knowest - the thing that thou hast chosen for a
night-horse." The little men squirmed in fear and awe.
"Night-horses? Bukta, what is this last tale of children?"
Bukta had been a silent leader in Chinn's presence since the
night of his desertion, and was grateful for a chance-flung
They know, Sahib," he whispered. "It is the Clouded Tiger. That
that comes from the place where thou didst once sleep. It is thy
horse - as it has been these three generations."
"My horse! That was a dream of the Bhils."
"It is no dream. Do dreams leave the tracks of broad pugs on
earth? Why make two faces before thy people? They know of the
night-ridings, and they - and they - "
"Are afraid, and would have them cease."
Bukta nodded. "If thou hast no further need of him. He is thy
"The thing leaves a trail, then?" said Chinn.
"We have seen it. It is like a village road under the tomb."
"Can ye find and follow it for me?"
"By daylight - if one comes with us, and, above all, stands near
"I will stand close, and we will see to it that Jan Chinn does
not ride any more."
The Bhils shouted the last words again and again.
>From Chinn's point of view the stalk was nothing more than an
ordinary one - down-hill, through split and crannied rocks,
unsafe, perhaps, if a man did not keep his wits by him, but no
worse than twenty others he had undertaken. Yet his men - they
refused absolutely to beat, and would only trail - dripped sweat
at every move. They showed the marks of enormous pugs that ran,
always down-hill, to a few hundred feet below Jan Chinn's tomb,
and disappeared in a narrow-mouthed cave. It was an insolently
open road, a domestic highway, beaten without thought of
"The beggar might be paying rent and taxes," Chinn muttered ere
he asked whether his friend's taste ran to cattle or man.
"Cattle," was the answer. "Two heifers a week. We drive them for
him at the foot of the hill. It is his custom. If we did not, he
might seek us."
"Blackmail and piracy," said Chinn. "I can't say I fancy going
into the cave after him. What's to be done?"
The Bhils fell back as Chinn lodged himself behind a rock with
his rifle ready. Tigers, he knew, were shy beasts, but one who
had been long cattle-fed in this sumptuous style might prove
"He speaks!" some one whispered from the rear. "He knows, too."
"Well, of all the infernal cheek!" said Chinn. There was an angry
growl from the cave - a direct challenge.
"Come out, then," Chinn shouted. "Come out of that. Let's have a
look at you."The brute knew well enough that there was some
connection between brown nude Bhils and his weekly allowance;
but the white helmet in the sunlight annoyed him, and he did not
approve of the voice that broke his rest. Lazily as a gorged
snake, he dragged himself out of the cave, and stood yawning and
blinking at the entrance. The sunlight fell upon his flat right
side, and Chinn wondered. Never had he seen a tiger marked
after this fashion. Except for his head, which was staringly
barred, he was dappled - not striped, but dappled like a child's
rocking-horse in rich shades of smoky black on red gold. That
portion of his belly and throat which should have been white was
orange, and his tail and paws were black.
He looked leisurely for some ten seconds, and then deliberately
lowered his head, his chin dropped and drawn in, staring
intently at the man. The effect of this was to throw forward the
round arch of his skull, with two broad bands across it, while
below the bands glared the unwinking eyes; so that, head on, as
he stood, he showed something like a diabolically scowling
pantomime-mask. It was a piece of natural mesmerism that he had
practised many times on his quarry, and though Chinn was by no
means a terrified heifer, he stood for a while, held by the
extraordinary oddity of the attack. The head - the body seemed to
have been packed away behind it - the ferocious, skull-like head,
crept nearer to the switching of an angry tail-tip in the grass.
Left and right the Bhils had scattered to let John Chinn subdue
his own horse."My word!" he thought. "He's trying to frighten
me!" and fired between the saucer-like eyes, leaping aside upon
A big coughing mass, reeking of carrion, bounded past him up the
hill, and he followed discreetly. The tiger made no attempt to
turn into the jungle; he was hunting for sight and breath - nose
up, mouth open, the tremendous fore-legs scattering the gravel in
Scuppered!" said John Chinn, watching the flight. "Now if he was
a partridge he'd tower. Lungs must be full of blood."
The brute had jerked himself over a boulder and fallen out of
sight the other side. John Chinn looked over with a ready
barrel. But the red trail led straight as an arrow even to his
grandfather's tomb, and there, among the smashed spirit-bottles
and the fragments of the mud image, the life left, with a flurry
and a grunt.
"If my worthy ancestor could see that," said John Chinn, "he'd
have been proud of me. Eyes, lower jaw, and lungs. A very nice
shot." He whistled for Bukta as he drew the tape over the
"Ten - six - eight - by Jove! It's nearly eleven - call it
eleven. Fore-arm, twenty-four -five - seven and a half. A short
tail, too: three feet one. But what a skin! Oh, Bukta! Bukta! The
men with the knives swiftly."
"Is he beyond question dead?" said an awe-stricken voice behind a
"That was not the way I killed my first tiger," said Chinn. "I
did not think that Bukta would run. I had no second gun."
"It - it is the Clouded Tiger," said Bukta, un-heeding the taunt.
"He is dead."
Whether all the Bhils, vaccinated and unvaccinated, of the
Satpuras had lain by to see the kill, Chinn could not say; but
the whole hill's flank rustled with little men, shouting,
singing, and stamping. And yet, till he had made the first cut
in the splendid skin, not a man would take a knife; and, when the
shadows fell, they ran from the red-stained tomb, and no
persuasion would bring them back till dawn. So Chinn spent a
second night in the open, guarding the carcass from jackals, and
thinking about his ancestor.
He returned to the lowlands to the triumphal chant of an
escorting army three hundred strong, the Mahratta vaccinator
close at his elbow, and the rudely dried skin a trophy before
him. When that army suddenly and noiselessly disappeared, as
quail in high corn, he argued he was near civilisation, and a
turn in the road brought him upon the camp of a wing of his own
corps. He left the skin on a cart-tail for the world to see, and
sought the Colonel.
"They're perfectly right," he explained earnestly. "There isn't
an ounce of vice in 'em. They were only frightened. I've
vaccinated the whole boiling, and they like it awfully. What are
- what are we doing here, sir?"
"That's what I'm trying to find out," said the Colonel. "I don't
know yet whether we're a piece of a brigade or a police force.
However, I think we'll call ourselves a police force. How did
you manage to get a Bhil vaccinated?"
"Well, sir," said Chinn, " I've been thinking it over, and, as
far as I can make out, I've got a sort of hereditary influence
"So I know, or I wouldn't have sent you; but what, exactly?"
"It's rather rummy. It seems, from what I can make out, that I'm
my own grandfather reincarnated, and I've been disturbing the
peace of the country by riding a pad-tiger of nights. If I
hadn't done that, I don't think they'd have objected to the
vaccination; but the two together were more than they could
stand. And so, sir, I've vaccinated 'em, and shot my tiger-horse
as a sort o' proof of good faith. You never saw such a skin in
The Colonel tugged his moustache thought-fully. "Now, how the
deuce," said he, "am I to include that in my report?"
Indeed, the official version of the Bhils' anti-vaccination
stampede said nothing about Lieutenant John Chinn, his godship.
But Bukta knew, and the corps knew, and every Bhil in the
Satpura hills knew.
And now Bukta is zealous that John Chinn shall swiftly be wedded
and impart his powers to a son; for if the Chinn succession
fails, and the little Bhils are left to their own imaginings,
there will be fresh trouble in the Satpuras.
End of, "THE TOMB OF HIS ANCESTORS"
THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP SEA
All supplies very bad and dear, and there are no facilities for
even the smallest repairs. - Sailing Directions.
Her nationality was British, but you will not find her house-flag
in the list of our mercantile marine. She was a
nine-hundred-ton, iron, schooner-rigged, screw cargo-boat,
differing externally in no way from any other tramp of the sea.
But it is with steamers as it is with men. There are those who
will for a consideration sail extremely close to the wind; and,
in the present state of a fallen world, such people and such
steamers have their use. From the hour that the Aglaia first
entered the Clyde -- new, shiny, and innocent, with a quart of
cheap champagne trickling down her cut-water -- Fate and her
owner, who was also her captain, decreed that she should deal
with embarrassed crowned heads, fleeing Presidents, financiers
of over-extended ability, women to whom change of air was
imperative, and the lesser law-breaking Powers. Her career led
her sometimes into the Admiralty Courts, where the sworn
statements of her skipper filled his brethren with envy. The
mariner cannot tell or act a lie in the face of the sea, or
mis-lead a tempest; but, as lawyers have discovered, he makes up
for chances withheld when he returns to shore, an affidavit in
The Aglaia figured with distinction in the great Mackinaw
salvage-case. It was her first slip from virtue, and she learned
how to change her name, but not her heart, and to run across the
sea. As the Guiding Light she was very badly wanted in a South
American port for the little matter of entering harbour at full
speed, colliding with a coal-hulk and the State's only
man-of-war, just as that man-of-war was going to coal. She put
to sea without explanations, though three forts fired at her for
half an hour. As the Julia M'Gregor she had been concerned in
picking up from a raft certain gentlemen who should have stayed
in Noumea, but who preferred making themselves vastly unpleasant
to authority in quite another quarter of the world; and as the
Shah-in-Shah she had been overtaken on the high seas, indecently
full of munitions of war, by the cruiser of an agitated Power at
issue with its neighbour. That time she was very nearly sunk, and
her riddled hull gave eminent lawyers of two countries great
profit. After a season she reappeared as the Martin Hunt painted
a dull slate-colour, with pure saffron funnel, and boats of
robin's-egg blue, engaging in the Odessa trade till she was
invited (and the invitation could not well be disregarded) to
keep away from Black Sea ports altogether.
She had ridden through many waves of depression. Freights might
drop out of sight, Seamen's Unions throw spanners and nuts at
certificated masters, or stevedores combine till cargo perished
on the dock-head; but the boat of many names came and went,
busy, alert, and inconspicuous always. Her skipper made no
complaint of hard times, and port officers observed that her
crew signed and signed again with the regularity of Atlantic
liner boatswains. Her name she changed as occasion called; her
well-paid crew never; and a large percentage of the profits of
her voyages was spent with an open hand on her engine-room. She
never troubled the underwriters, and very seldom stopped to talk
with a signal-station, for her business was urgent and private.
But an end came to her tradings, and she perished in this manner.
Deep peace brooded over Europe, Asia, Africa, America,
Australasia, and Polynesia. The Powers dealt together more or
less honestly; banks paid their depositors to the hour; diamonds
of price came safely to the hands of their owners; Republics
rested content with their Dictators; diplomats found no one whose
presence in the least incommoded them; monarchs lived openly with
their lawfully wedded wives. It was as though the whole earth
had put on its best Sunday bib and tucker; and business was very
bad for the Martin Hunt. The great, virtuous calm engulfed her,
slate sides, yellow funnel, and all, but cast up in another
hemisphere the steam whaler Haliotis, black and rusty, with a
manure-coloured funnel, a litter of dingy white boats, and an
enormous stove, or furnace, for boiling blubber on her forward
well-deck. There could be no doubt that her trip was successful,
for she lay at several ports not too well known, and the smoke of
her trying-out insulted the beaches.
Anon she departed, at the speed of the average London
four-wheeler, and entered a semi-inland sea, warm, still, and
blue, which is, perhaps, the most strictly preserved water in
the world. There she stayed for a certain time, and the great
stars of those mild skies beheld her playing puss-in-the-corner
among islands where whales are never found. All that while she
smelt abominably, and the smell, though fishy, was not
whalesome. One evening calamity descended upon her from the
island of Pygang-Watai, and she fled, while her crew jeered at a
fat black-and-brown gunboat puffing far behind. They knew to the
last revolution the capacity of every boat, on those seas, that
they were anxious to avoid. A British ship with a good
conscience does not, as a rule, flee from the man-of-war of a
foreign Power, and it is also considered a breach of etiquette
to stop and search British ships at sea. These things the
skipper of the Haliotis did not pause to prove, but held on at an
inspiriting eleven knots an hour till nightfall. One thing only
The Power that kept an expensive steam-patrol moving up and down
those waters (they had dodged the two regular ships of the
station with an ease that bred contempt) had newly brought up a
third and a fourteen-knot boat with a clean bottom to help the
work; and that was why the Haliotis, driving hard from the east
to the west, found herself at daylight in such a position that
she could not help seeing an arrangement of four flags, a mile
and a half behind, which read: "Heave to, or take the
She had her choice, and she took it. The end came when,
presuming on her lighter draught, she tried to draw away
northward over a friendly shoal. The shell that arrived by way
of the Chief Engineer's cabin was some five inches in diameter,
with a practice, not a bursting, charge. It had been intended to
cross her bows, and that was why it knocked the framed portrait
of the Chief Engineer's wife - and she was a very pretty girl -
on to the floor, splintered his wash-hand stand, crossed the
alleyway into the engine-room, and striking on a grating, dropped
directly in front of the forward engine, where it burst, neatly
fracturing both the bolts that held the connecting-rod to the
What follows is worth consideration. The forward engine had no
more work to do. Its released piston-rod, therefore, drove up
fiercely, with nothing to check it, and started most of the nuts
of the cylinder-cover. It came down again, the full weight of
the steam behind it, and the foot of the disconnected
connecting-rod, useless as the leg of a man with a sprained
ankle, flung out to the right and struck the starboard, or
right-hand, cast-iron supporting-column of the forward engine,
cracking it clean through about six inches above the base, and
wedging the upper portion outwards three inches towards the
ship's side. There the connecting-rod jammed. Meantime, the
after-engine, being as yet unembarrassed, went on with its work,
and in so doing brought round at its next revolution the crank of
the forward engine, which smote the already jammed
connecting-rod, bending it and therewith the piston-rod
cross-head- the big cross-piece that slides up and down so
The cross-head jammed sideways in the guides, and, in addition to
putting further pressure on the already broken starboard
supporting-column, cracked the port, or left-hand,
supporting-column in two or three places. There being nothing
more that could be made to move, the engines brought up, all
standing, with a hiccup that seemed to lift the Haliotis a foot
out of the water; and the engine-room staff, opening every steam
outlet that they could find in the confusion, arrived on deck
somewhat scalded, but calm. There was a sound below of things
happening - a rushing, clicking, purring, grunting, rattling
noise that did not last for more than a minute. It was the
machinery adjusting itself, on the spur of the moment, to a
hundred altered conditions. Mr. Wardrop, one foot on the upper
grating, inclined his ear sideways, and groaned. You cannot
stop engines working at twelve knots an hour in three seconds
without disorganising them. The Haliotis slid forward in a
cloud of steam, shrieking like a wounded horse. There was
nothing more to do. The five-inch shell with a reduced charge
had settled the situation. And when you are full, all three
holds, of strictly preserved pearls; when you have cleaned out
the Tanna Bank, the Sea-Horse Bank, and four other banks from
one end to the other of the Amanala Sea -when you have ripped
out the very heart of a rich Government monopoly so that five
years will not repair your wrong-doings - you must smile and
take what is in store. But the skipper reflected, as a launch
put out from the man-of-war, that he had been bombarded on the
high seas, with the British flag - several of them -
picturesquely disposed above him, and tried to find comfort from
Where," said the stolid naval lieutenant hoisting himself aboard,
"where are those dam' pearls?"
They were there beyond evasion. No affidavit could do away with
the fearful smell of decayed oysters, the diving-dresses, and
the shell-littered hatches. They were there to the value of
seventy thousand pounds, more or less; and every pound poached.
The man-of-war was annoyed; for she had used up many tons of
coal, she had strained her tubes, and, worse than all, her
officers and crew had been hurried. Every one on the Haliotis
was arrested and rearrested several times, as each officer came
aboard; then they were told by what they esteemed to be the
equivalent of a midshipman that they were to consider themselves
prisoners, and finally were put under arrest.
It's not the least good," said the skipper, suavely. "You'd much
better send us a tow - "
"Be still - you are arrest!" was the reply.
"Where the devil do you expect we are going to escape to?" We're
helpless. You've got to tow us into somewhere, and explain why
you fired on us. Mr. Wardrop, we're helpless, aren't we?"
"Ruined from end to end," said the man of machinery. "If she
rolls, the forward cylinder will come down and go through her
bottom. Both columns are clean cut through. There's nothing to
hold anything up."
The council of war clanked off to see if Mr. Wardrop's words were
true. He warned them that it was as much as a man's life was
worth to enter the engine-room, and they contented themselves
with a distant inspection through the thinning steam. The
Haliotis lifted to the long, easy swell, and the starboard
supporting-column ground a trifle, as a man grits his teeth
under the knife. The forward cylinder was depending on that
unknown force men call the pertinacity of materials, which now
and then balances that other heartbreaking power, the perversity
of inanimate things.
"You see!" said Mr. Wardrop, hurrying them away. "The engines
aren't worth their price as old iron."
"We tow," was the answer. "Afterwards we shall confiscate."
The man-of-war was short-handed, and did not see the necessity
for putting a prize-crew aboard the Haliotis. So she sent one
sublieutenant, whom the skipper kept very drunk, for he did not
wish to make the tow too easy, and, moreover, he had an
inconspicuous little rope hanging from the stem of his ship.
Then they began to tow at an average speed of four knots an hour.
The Haliotis was very hard to move, and the gunnery-lieutenant,
who had fired the five-inch shell, had leisure to think upon
consequences. Mr. Wardrop was the busy man. He borrowed all the
crew to shore up the cylinders with spars and blocks from the
bottom and sides of the ship. It was a day's risky work; but
anything was better than drowning at the end of a tow-rope; and
if the forward cylinder had fallen,it would have made its way to
the sea-bed, and taken the Haliotis after.
"Where are we going to, and how long will they tow us?" he asked
of the skipper.
"God knows! and this prize-lieutenant's drunk. What do you think
you can do?"
"There's just the bare chance," Mr. Wardrop whispered, though no
one was within hearing -"there's just the bare chance o'
repairin' her, if a man knew how. They've twisted the very guts
out of her, bringing her up with that jerk; but I'm saying that,
with time and patience, there's just the chance o' making steam
yet. We could do it."
The skipper's eye brightened. "Do you mean," he began, "that she
is any good?"
"Oh, no," said Mr. Wardrop. "She'll need three thousand pounds in
repairs, at the lowest, if she's to take the sea again, an' that
apart from any injury to her structure. She's like a man fallen
down five pair o' stairs. We can't tell for months what has
happened; but we know she'll never be good again without a new
inside. Ye should see the condenser-tubes an' the steam
connections to the donkey, for two things only. I'm not afraid
of them repairin' her. I'm afraid of them stealin' things."
"They've fired on us. They'll have to explain that."
"Our reputation's not good enough to ask for explanations. Let's
take what we have and be thankful. Ye would not have consuls
remembern' the Guidin' Light, an' the Shah-in-Shah, an' the
Aglaia, at this most alarmin' crisis. We've been no better than
pirates these ten years. Under Providence we're no worse than
thieves now. We've much to be thankful for - if we e'er get back
"Make it your own way, then," said the skipper. "If there's the
least chance - "
"I'll leave none," said Mr. Wardrop - "none that they'll dare to
take. Keep her heavy on the tow, for we need time."
The skipper never interfered with the affairs of the engine-room,
and Mr. Wardrop - an artist in his profession - turned to and
composed a work terrible and forbidding. His background was the
dark-grained sides of the engine-room; his material the metals
of power and strength, helped out with spars, baulks, and ropes.
The man-of-war towed sullenly and viciously. The Haliotis behind
her hummed like a hive before swarming. With extra and totally
unneeded spars her crew blocked up the space round the forward
engine till it resembled a statue in its scaffolding, and the
butts of the shores interfered with every view that a
dispassionate eye might wish to take. And that the dispassionate
mind might be swiftly shaken out of its calm, the well-sunk
bolts of the shores were wrapped round untidily with loose ends
of ropes, giving a studied effect of most dangerous insecurity.
Next, Mr. Wardrop took up a collection from the after-engine,
which, as you will remember, had not been affected in the general
wreck. The cylinder escape-valve he abolished with a
flogging-hammer. It is difficult in far-off ports to come by
such valves, unless, like Mr. Wardrop, you keep duplicates in
store. At the same time men took off the nuts of two of the
great holding-down bolts that serve to keep the engines in place
on their solid bed. An engine violently arrested in mid-career
may easily jerk off the nut of a holding-down bolt, and this
accident looked very natural.
Passing along the tunnel, he removed several shaft coupling-bolts
and -nuts, scattering other and ancient pieces of iron
underfoot. Cylinder-bolts he cut off to the number of six from
the after-engine cylinder, so that it might match its neighbour,
and stuffed the bilge - and feed-pumps with cotton-waste. Then
he made up a neat bundle of the various odds and ends that he had
gathered from the engines - little things like nuts and
valve-spindles, all carefully tallowed - and retired with them
under the floor of the engine-room, where he sighed, being fat,
as he passed from manhole to manhole of the double bottom, and in
a fairly dry submarine compartment hid them. Any engineer,
particularly in an unfriendly port, has a right to keep his spare
stores where he chooses; and the foot of one of the cylinder
shores blocked all entrance into the regular store-room, even if
that had not been already closed with steel wedges. In
conclusion, he disconnected the after-engine, laid piston and
connecting-rod, carefully tallowed, where it would be most
inconvenient to the casual visitor, took out three of the eight
collars of the thrust-block, hid them where only he could find
them again, filled the boilers by hand, wedged the sliding doors
of the coal-bunkers, and rested from his labours. The
engine-room was a cemetery, and it did not need the contents of
the ash-lift through the skylight to make it any worse.
He invited the skipper to look at the completed work.
Saw ye ever such a forsaken wreck as that ?" said he, proudly.
"It almost frights me to go under those shores. Now, what d' you
think they'll do to us?"
"Wait till we see," said the skipper. " It'll be bad enough when
He was not wrong. The pleasant days of towing ended all too soon,
though the Haliotis trailed behind her a heavily weighted jib
stayed out into the shape of a pocket; and Mr. Wardrop was no
longer an artist of imagination, but one of seven-and-twenty
prisoners in a prison full of insects. The man-of-war had towed
them to the nearest port, not to the headquarters of the colony,
and when Mr. Wardrop saw the dismal little harbour, with its
ragged line of Chinese junks, its one crazy tug, and the
boat-building shed that, under the charge of a philosophical
Malay, represented a dockyard, he sighed and shook his head.
"I did well," he said. "This is the habitation o' wreckers an'
thieves. We're at the uttermost ends of the earth. Think you
they'll ever know in England?"
"Doesn't look like it," said the skipper.
They were marched ashore with what they stood up in, under a
generous escort, and were judged according to the customs of the
country, which, though excellent, are a little out of date.
There were the pearls; there were the poachers; and there sat a
small but hot Governor. He consulted for a while, and then
things began to move with speed, for he did not wish to keep a
hungry crew at large on the beach, and the man-of-war had gone
up the coast. With a wave of his hand - a stroke of the pen was
not necessary - he consigned them to the black gang-tana, the
back-country, and the hand of the Law removed them from his
sight and the knowledge of men. They were marched into the
palms, and the back-country swallowed them up - all the crew of
Deep peace continued to brood over Europe, Asia, Africa, America,
Australasia, and Polynesia.
It was the firing that did it. They should have kept their
counsel; but when a few thousand foreigners are bursting with
joy over the fact that a ship under the British flag has been
fired at on the high seas, news travels quickly; and when it
came out that the pearl-stealing crew had not been allowed access
to their consul (there was no consul within a few hundred miles
of that lonely port) even the friendliest of Powers has a right
to ask questions. The great heart of the British public was
beating furiously on account of the performance of a notorious
race-horse, and had not a throb to waste on distant accidents;
but somewhere deep in the hull of the ship of State there is
machinery which more or less accurately takes charge of foreign
affairs. That machinery began to revolve, and who so shocked and
surprised as the Power that had captured the Haliotis? It
explained that colonial governors and far-away men-of-war were
difficult to control, and promised that it would most certainly
make an example both of the Governor and the vessel. As for the
crew reported to be pressed into military service in tropical
climes, it would produce them as soon as possible, and it would
apologise, if necessary. Now, no apologies were needed. When
one nation apologises to an-other, millions of amateurs who have
no earthly concern with the difficulty hurl themselves into the
strife and embarrass the trained specialist. It was requested
that the crew be found, if they were still alive - they had been
eight months beyond knowledge - and it was promised that all
would be forgotten.
The little Governor of the little port was pleased with himself.
Seven-and-twenty white men made a very compact force to throw
away on a war that had neither beginning nor end - a jungle and
stockade fight that flickered and smouldered through the wet hot
years in the hills a hundred miles away, and was the heritage of
every wearied official. He had, he thought, deserved well of his
country; and if only some one would buy the unhappy Haliotis,
moored in the harbour below his verandah, his cup would be full.
He looked at the neatly silvered lamps that he had taken from her
cabins, and thought of much that might be turned to account. But
his countrymen in that moist climate had no spirit. They would
peep into the silent engine-room, and shake their heads. Even
the men-of-war would not tow her further up the coast, where the
Governor believed that she could be repaired. She was a bad
bargain; but her cabin carpets were undeniably beautiful, and his
wife approved of her mirrors.
Three hours later cables were bursting round him like shells,
for, though he knew it not, he was being offered as a sacrifice
by the nether to the upper millstone, and his superiors had no
regard for his feelings. He had, said the cables, grossly
exceeded his power, and failed to report on events. He would,
therefore - at this he cast himself back in his hammock -
produce the crew of the Haliotis. He would send for them, and,
if that failed, he would put his dignity on a pony and fetch
them himself. He had no conceivable right to make pearl-poachers
serve in any war. He would be held responsible.
Next morning the cables wished to know whether he had found the
crew of the Haliotis. They were to be found, freed and fed - he
was to feed them - till such time as they could be sent to the
nearest English port in a man-of-war. If you abuse a man long
enough in great words flashed over the sea-beds, things happen.
The Governor sent inland swiftly for his prisoners, who were
also soldiers; and never was a militia regiment more anxious to
reduce its strength. No power short of death could make these
mad men wear the uniform of their service. They would not
fight, except with their fellows, and it was for that reason the
regiment had not gone to war, but stayed in a stockade,
reasoning with the new troops. The autumn campaign had been a
fiasco, but here were the Englishmen. All the regiment marched
back to guard them, and the hairy enemy, armed with blow-pipes,
rejoiced in the forest. Five of the crew had died, but there
lined up on the Governor's verandah two-and-twenty men marked
about the legs with the scars of leech-bites. A few of them
wore fringes that had once been trousers; the others used
loin-cloths of gay patterns; and they existed beautifully but
simply in the Governor's verandah, and when he came out they
sang at him. When you have lost seventy thousand pounds' worth
of pearls, your pay, your ship, and all your clothes, and have
lived in bondage for five months beyond the faintest pretences
of civilisation, you know what true independence means, for you
become the happiest of created things - natural man.
The Governor told the crew that they were evil, and they asked
for food. When he saw how they ate, and when he remembered that
none of the pearl patrol-boats were expected for two months, he
sighed. But the crew of the Haliotis lay down in the verandah,
and said that they were pensioners of the Governor's bounty. A
grey-bearded man, fat and bald-headed, his one garment a
green-and-yellow loin-cloth, saw the Haliotis in the harbour,
and bellowed for joy. The men crowded to the verandah-rail,
kicking aside the long cane chairs. They pointed, gesticulated,
and argued freely, without shame. The militia regiment sat down
in the Governor's garden. The Governor retired to his hammock -
it was as easy to be killed lying as standing-and his women
squeaked from the shuttered rooms.
"She sold?" said the grey~bearded man, pointing to the Haliotis.
He was Mr. Wardrop.
"No good," said the Governor, shaking his head. "No one come
"He's taken my lamps, though," said the skipper. He wore one leg
of a pair of trousers, and his eye wandered along the verandah.
The Governor quailed. There were cuddy camp-stools and the
skipper's writing-table in plain sight.
"They've cleaned her out, o' course," said Mr. Wardrop. "They
would. We'll go aboard and take an inventory. See!" He waved his
hands over the harbour. "We - live - there - now. Sorry?"
The Governor smiled a smile of relief.
"He's glad of that," said one of the crew, reflectively. "I
They flocked down to the harbour-front, the militia regiment
clattering behind, and embarked themselves in what they found -
it happened to be the Governor's boat. Then they disappeared
over the bulwarks of the Haliotis, and the Governor prayed that
they might find occupation inside.
Mr. Wardrop's first bound took him to the engine-room; and when
the others were patting the well-remembered decks, they heard
him giving God thanks that things were as he had left them. The
wrecked engines stood over his head untouched; no inexpert hand
had meddled with his shores; the steel wedges of the store-room
were rusted home; and, best of all, the hundred and sixty tons of
good Australian coal in the bunkers had not diminished.
"I don't understand it," said Mr. Wardrop. "Any Malay knows the
use o' copper. They ought to have cut away the pipes. And with
Chinese junks coming here, too. It's a special interposition o'
"You think so," said the skipper, from above. "There's only been
one thief here, and he's cleaned her out of all my things,
Here the skipper spoke less than the truth, for under the
planking of his cabin, only to be reached by a chisel, lay a
little money which never drew any interest - his sheet-anchor to
windward. It was all in clean sovereigns that pass current the
world over, and might have amounted to more than a hundred
"He's left me alone. Let's thank God," repeated Mr. Wardrop.
"He's taken everything else; look!"
The Haliotis, except as to her engine-room, had been
systematically and scientifically gutted from one end to the
other, and there was strong evidence that an unclean guard had
camped in the skipper's cabin to regulate that plunder. She
lacked glass, plate, crockery, cutlery, mattresses, cuddy carpets
and chairs, all boats, and her copper ventilators. These things
had been removed, with her sails and as much of the wire rigging
as would not imperil the safety of the masts.
"He must have sold those," said the skipper. "The other things
are in his house, I suppose."
Every fitting that could be pried or screwed out was gone. Port,
starboard, and masthead lights; teak gratings; sliding sashes of
the deckhouse; the captain's chest of drawers, with charts and
chart-table; photographs, brackets, and looking-glasses; cabin
doors; rubber cuddy mats; hatch-irons; half the funnel-stays;
cork fenders; carpenter's grindstone and tool-chest; holystones,
swabs, squeegees; all cabin and pantry lamps; galley-fittings en
bloc; flags and flag-locker; clocks, chronometers; the forward
compass and the ship's bell and belfry, were among the missing.
There were great scarred marks on the deck-planking over which
the cargo-derricks had been hauled. One must have fallen by the
way, for the bulwark-rails were smashed and bent and the
"It's the Governor," said the skipper "He's been selling her on
the instalment plan."
"Let's go up with spanners and shovels, and kill 'em all,"
shouted the crew. "Let's drown him, and keep the woman!"
"Then we'll be shot by that black-and-tan regiment - our
regiment. What's the trouble ashore ~ They've camped our
regiment on the beach."
"We're cut off; that's all. Go and see what they want," said Mr.
Wardrop. "You've the trousers."
In his simple way the Governor was a strategist. He did not
desire that the crew of the Haliotis should come ashore again,
either singly or in detachments, and he proposed to turn their
steamer into a convict-hulk. They would wait - he explained this
from the quay to the skipper in the barge - and they would
continue to wait till the man-of-war came along, exactly where
they were. If one of them set foot ashore, the entire regiment
would open fire, and he would not scruple to use the two cannon
of the town. Meantime food would be sent daily in a boat under
an armed escort. The skipper, bare to the waist, and rowing,
could only grind his teeth; and the Governor improved the
occasion, and revenged himself for the bitter words in the
cables, by saying what he thought of the morals and manners of
the crew. The barge returned to the Haliotis in silence, and the
skipper climbed aboard, white on the cheek-bones and blue about
"I knew it," said Mr. Wardrop; "and they won't give us good food,
either. We shall have bananas morning, noon, and night, an' a man
can't work on fruit. We know that."
Then the skipper cursed Mr. Wardrop for importing frivolous
side-issues into the conversation; and the crew cursed one
another, and the Haliotis, the voyage, and all that they knew or
could bring to mind. They sat down in silence on the empty
decks, and their eyes burned in their heads. The green harbour
water chuckled at them overside. They looked at the palm-fringed
hills inland, at the white houses above the harbour road, at the
single tier of native craft by the quay, at the stolid soldiery
sitting round the two cannon, and, last of all, at the blue bar
of the horizon. Mr. War-drop was buried in thought, and scratched
imaginary lines with his untrimmed finger-nails on the planking.
"I make no promise," he said, at last, "for I can't say what may
or may not have happened to them. But here's the ship, and
There was a little scornful laughter at this, and Mr. Wardrop
knitted his brows. He recalled that in the days when be wore
trousers he had been Chief Engineer of the Haliotis.
"Harland, Mackesy, Noble, Hay, Naughton, Fink, O'Hara, Trumbull."
"Here, sir!" The instinct of obedience waked to answer the
roll-call of the engine-room.
They rose and went.
"Captain, I'll trouble you for the rest of the men as I want
them. We'll get my stores out, and clear away the shores we
don't need, and then we'll patch her up. My men will remember
that they're in the Haliotis, - under me."
He went into the engine-room, and the others stared. They were
used to the accidents of the sea, but this was beyond their
experience. None who had seen the engine-room believed that
anything short of new engines from end to end could stir the
Haliotis from her moorings.
The engine-room stores were unearthed, and Mr. Wardrop's face,
red with the filth of the bilges and the exertion of travelling
on his stomach, lit with joy. The spare gear of the Haliotis had
been unusually complete, and two-and-twenty men, armed with
screw-jacks, differential blocks, tackle, vices, and a forge or
so, can look Kismet between the eyes without winking. The crew
were ordered to replace the holding-down and shaft-bearing
bolts, and return the collars of the thrust-block. When they had
finished, Mr. Wardrop delivered a lecture on repairing compound
engines without the aid of the shops, and the men sat about on
the cold machinery. The cross-head jammed in the guides leered
at them drunkenly, but offered no help. They ran their fingers
hopelessly into the cracks of the starboard supporting-column,
and picked at the ends of the ropes round the shores, while Mr.
Wardrop's voice rose and fell echoing, till the quick tropic
night closed down over the engine-room skylight.
Next morning the work of reconstruction began. It has been
explained that the foot of the connecting-rod was forced against
the foot of the starboard supporting-column, which it had cracked
through and driven outward towards the ship's skin. To all
appearance the job was more than hopeless, for rod and column
seemed to have been welded into one. But herein Providence
smiled on them for one moment to hearten them through the weary
weeks ahead. The second engineer -more reckless than resourceful
- struck at random with a cold chisel into the cast-iron of the
column, and a greasy, grey flake of metal flew from under the
imprisoned foot of the connecting-rod, while the rod itself fell
away slowly, and brought up with a thunderous clang somewhere in
the dark of the crank-pit. The guides-plates above were still
jammed fast in the guides, but the first blow had been struck.
They spent the rest of the day grooming the donkey-engine, which
stood immediately forward of the engine-room hatch. Its
tarpaulin, of course, had been stolen, and eight warm months had
not improved the working parts. Further, the last dying hiccup of
the Haliotis seemed - or it might have been the Malay from the
boat-house - to have lifted the thing bodily on its bolts, and
set it down inaccurately as regarded its steam connections.
"If we only had one single cargo-derrick!" Mr. Wardrop sighed.
"We can take the cylinder-cover off by hand, if we sweat; but to
get the rod out o' the piston's not possible unless we use
steam. Well, there'll be steam the morn, if there's nothing
else. She'll fizzle!"
Next morning men from the shore saw the Haliotis through a cloud,
for it was as though the deck smoked. Her crew were chasing
steam through the shaken and leaky pipes to its work in the
forward donkey-engine; and where oakum failed to plug a crack,
they stripped off their loin-cloths for lapping, and swore,
half-boiled and mother-naked. The donkey-engine worked - at a
price - the price of constant attention and furious stoking-
worked long enough to allow a wire-rope (it was made up of a
funnel and a foremast-stay) to be led into the engine-room and
made fast on the cylinder-cover of the forward engine. That rose
easily enough, and was hauled through the skylight and on to the
deck, many hands assisting the doubtful steam. Then came the tug
of war, for it was necessary to get to the piston and the jammed
piston-rod. They removed two of the piston junk-ring studs,
screwed in two strong iron eye-bolts by way of handles, doubled
the wire-rope, and set half a dozen men to smite with an
extemporised battering-ram at the end of the piston-rod, where it
peered through the piston, while the donkey-engine hauled upwards
on the piston itself. After four hours of this furious work, the
piston-rod suddenly slipped, and the piston rose with a jerk,
knocking one or two men over into the engine-room. But when Mr.
Wardrop declared that the piston had not split, they cheered, and
thought nothing of their wounds; and the donkey-engine was
hastily stopped; its boiler was nothing to tamper with.
And day by day their supplies reached them by boat. The skipper
humbled himself once more before the Governor, and as a
concession had leave to get drinking-water from the Malay
boat-builder on the quay. It was not good drinking-water, but
the Malay was anxious to supply anything in his power, if he were
paid for it.
Now when the jaws of the forward engine stood, as it were,
stripped and empty, they began to wedge up the shores of the
cylinder itself. That work alone filled the better part of three
days - warm and sticky days, when the hands slipped and sweat ran
into the eyes. When the last wedge was hammered home there was
no longer an ounce of weight on the supporting-columns; and Mr.
Wardrop rummaged the ship for boiler-plate three-quarters of an
inch thick, where he could find it. There was not much available,
but what there was was more than beaten gold to him. In one
desperate forenoon the entire crew, naked and lean, haled back,
more or less into place, the starboard supporting-column, which,
as you remember, was cracked clean through. Mr. Wardrop found
them asleep where they had finished the work, and gave them a
day's rest, smiling upon them as a father while he drew
chalk-marks about the cracks. They woke to new and more trying
labour; for over each one of those cracks a plate of
three-quarter-inch boiler-iron was to be worked hot, the
rivet-holes being drilled by hand. All that time they were fed on
fruits, chiefly bananas, with some sago.
Those were the days when men swooned over the ratchet-drill and
the hand-forge, and where they fell they had leave to lie unless
their bodies were in the way of their fellows' feet. And so,
patch upon patch, and a patch over all, the starboard
supporting-column was clouted; but when they thought all was
secure, Mr. Wardrop decreed that the noble patchwork would never
support working engines; at the best, it could only hold the
guide-bars approximately true. The deadweight of the cylinders
must be borne by vertical struts; and, therefore, a gang would
repair to the bows, and take out, with files, the big bow-anchor
davits, each of which was some three inches in diameter. They
threw hot coals at Wardrop, and threatened to kill him, those who
did not weep (they were ready to weep on the least provocation);
but he hit them with iron bars heated at the end, and they limped
forward, and the davits came with them when they returned. They
slept sixteen hours on the strength of it, and in three days two
struts were in place, bolted from the foot of the starboard
supporting-column to the under side of the cylinder. There
remained now the port, or condenser-column, which, though not so
badly cracked as its fellow, had also been strengthened in four
places with boiler-plate patches, but needed struts. They took
away the main stanchions of the bridge for that work, and, crazy
with toil, did not see till all was in place that the rounded
bars of iron must be flattened from top to bottom to allow the
air-pump levers to clear them. It was Wardrop's oversight, and he
wept bitterly before the men as he gave the order to unbolt the
struts and flatten them with hammer and the flame. Now the broken
engine was underpinned firmly, and they took away the wooden
shores from under the cylinders, and gave them to the robbed
bridge, thanking God for even half a day's work on gentle, kindly
wood instead of the iron that had entered into their souls. Eight
months in the back-country among the leeches, at a temperature of
84 degrees moist, is very bad for the nerves.
They had kept the hardest work to the last, as boys save Latin
prose, and, worn though they were, Mr. Wardrop did not dare to
give them rest. The piston-rod and connecting-rod were to be
straightened, and this was a job for a regular dockyard with
every appliance. They fell to it, cheered by a little chalk
showing of work done and time consumed which Mr. Wardrop wrote
up on the engine-room bulkhead. Fifteen days had gone -fifteen
days of killing labour - and there was hope before them.
It is curious that no man knows how the rods were straightened.
The crew of the Haliotis remember that week very dimly, as a
fever patient remembers the delirium of a long night. There were
fires everywhere, they say; the whole ship was one consuming
furnace, and the hammers were never still. Now, there could not
have been more than one fire at the most, for Mr. Wardrop
distinctly recalls that no straightening was done except under
his own eye. They remember, too, that for many years voices gave
orders which they obeyed with their bodies, but their minds were
abroad on all the seas. It seems to them that they stood through
days and nights slowly sliding a bar backwards and forwards
through a white glow that was part of the ship. They remember an
intolerable noise in their burning heads from the walls of the
stoke-hole, and they remember being savagely beaten by men whose
eyes seemed asleep. When their shift was over they would draw
straight lines in the air, anxiously and repeatedly, and would
question one another in their sleep, crying, "Is she straight?"
At last - they do not remember whether this was by day or by
night - Mr. Wardrop began to dance clumsily, and wept the while;
and they too danced and wept, and went to sleep twitching all
over; and when they woke, men said that the rods were
straightened, and no one did any work for two days, but lay on
the decks and ate fruit. Mr. Wardrop would go below from time to
time, and pat the two rods where they lay, and they heard him
Then his trouble of mind went from him, and at the end of the
third day's idleness he made a drawing in chalk upon the deck,
with letters of the alphabet at the angles. He pointed out that,
though the piston-rod was more or less straight, the piston-rod
cross-head - the thing that had been jammed sideways in the
guides - had been badly strained, and had cracked the lower end
of the piston-rod. He was going to forge and shrink a
wrought-iron collar on the neck of the piston-rod where it joined
the cross-head, and from the collar he would bolt a Y-shaped
piece of iron whose lower arms should be bolted into the
cross-head. If anything more were needed, they could use up the
last of the boiler-plate.
So the forges were lit again, and men burned their bodies, but
hardly felt the pain. The finished connection was not beautiful,
but it seemed strong enough - at least, as strong as the rest of
the machinery; and with that job their labours came to an end.
All that remained was to connect up the engines, and to get food
and water. The skipper and four men dealt with the Malay
boat-builder by night chiefly; it was no time to haggle over the
price of sago and dried fish. The others stayed aboard and
replaced piston, piston-rod, cylinder-cover, cross-head, and
bolts, with the aid of the faithful donkey-engine. The
cylinder-cover was hardly steam-proof, and the eye of science
might have seen in the connecting-rod a flexure something like
that of a Christmas-tree candle which has melted and been
straightened by hand over a stove, but, as Mr. Wardrop said,
"She didn't hit anything."
As soon as the last bolt was in place, men tumbled over one
another in their anxiety to get to the hand starting-gear, the
wheel and worm, by which some engines can be moved when there is
no steam aboard. They nearly wrenched off the wheel, but it was
evident to the blindest eye that the engines stirred. They did
not revolve in their orbits with any enthusiasm, as good
machines should; indeed, they groaned not a little; but they
moved over and came to rest in a way which proved that they
still recognised man's hand. Then Mr. Wardrop sent his slaves
into the darker bowels of the engine-room and the stoke-hole, and
followed them with a flare-lamp. The boilers were sound, but
would take no harm from a little scaling and cleaning. Mr.
Wardrop would not have any one over-zealous, for he feared what
the next stroke of the tool might show. "The less we know about
her now," said he, "the better for us all, I'm thinkin'. Ye'll
understand me when I say that this is in no sense regular
As his raiment, when he spoke, was his grey beard and uncut hair,
they believed him. They did not ask too much of what they met,
but polished and tallowed and scraped it to a false brilliancy.
"A lick of paint would make me easier in my mind," said Mr.
Wardrop, plaintively. "I know half the condenser-tubes are
started; and the propeller-shaftin' 's God knows how far out of
the true, and we'll need a new air-pump, an' the main-steam
leaks like a sieve, and there's worse each way I look; but -
paint's like clothes to a man, 'an ours is near all gone."
The skipper unearthed some stale ropy paint of the loathsome
green that they used for the galleys of sailing-ships, and Mr.
Wardrop spread it abroad lavishly to give the engines
His own was returning day by day, for he wore his loin-cloth
continuously; but the crew, having worked under orders, did not
feel as he did. The completed work satisfied Mr. Wardrop. He
would at the last have made shift to run to Singapore, and gone
home without vengeance taken to show his engines to his brethren
in the craft; but the others and the captain forbade him. They
had not yet recovered their self-respect.
"It would be safer to make what ye might call a trial trip, but
beggars mustn't be choosers; an if the engines will go over to
the hand-gear, the probability - I'm only saying it's a
probability the chance is that they'll hold up when we put steam
"How long will you take to get steam?" said the skipper.
God knows! Four hours - a day - half a week. If I can raise
sixty pound I'll not complain."
"Be sure of her first; we can't afford to go out half a mile, and
"My soul and body, man, we're one continuous breakdown, fore an'
aft! We might fetch Singapore, though."
"We'll break down at Pygang-Watai, where we can do good," was the
answer, in a voice that did not allow argument. "She's my boat,
and - I've had eight months to think in."
No man saw the Haliotis depart, though many heard her. She left
at two in the morning, having cut her moorings, and it was none
of her crew's pleasure that the engines should strike up a
thundering half-seas-over chanty that echoed among the hills.
Mr. Wardrop wiped away a tear as he listened to the new song.
"She's gibberin' - she's just gibberin'," he whimpered. "Yon's
the voice of a maniac.
And if engines have any soul, as their masters believe, he was
quite right. There were outcries and clamours, sobs and bursts
of chattering laughter, silences where the trained ear yearned
for the clear note, and torturing reduplications where there
should have been one deep voice. Down the screw-shaft ran
murmurs and warnings, while a heart-diseased flutter without
told that the propeller needed re-keying.
"How does she make it?" said the skipper.
"She moves, but - but she's breakin' my heart. The sooner we're
at Pygang-Watai, the better. She's mad, and we're waking the
"Is she at all near safe?"
"What do I care how safe she is? She's mad. Hear that, now! To
be sure, nothing's hittin' anything, and the bearin's are fairly
cool, but - can ye not hear?"
"If she goes," said the skipper, "I don't care a curse. And she's
my boat, too."
She went, trailing a fathom of weed behind her. From a slow two
knots an hour she crawled up to a triumphant four. Anything
beyond that made the struts quiver dangerously, and filled the
engine-room with steam. Morning showed her out of sight of land,
and there was a visible ripple under her bows; but she
complained bitterly in her bowels, and, as though the noise had
called it, there shot along across the purple sea a swift, dark
proa, hawk-like and curious, which presently ranged alongside
and wished to know if the Haliotis were helpless. Ships, even
the steamers of the white men, had been known to break down in
those waters, and the honest Malay and Javanese traders would
sometimes aid them in their own peculiar way. But this ship was
not full of lady passengers and well-dressed officers. Men,
white, naked and savage, swarmed down her sides -- some
withred-hot iron bars, and others with large hammers - threw
themselves upon those innocent inquiring strangers, and, before
any man could say what had happened, were in full possession of
the proa, while the lawful owners bobbed in the water overside.
Half an hour later the proa's cargo of sago and trepang, as well
as a doubtful-minded compass, was in the Haliotis. The two huge
triangular mat sails, with their seventy-foot yards and booms,
had followed the cargo, and were being fitted to the stripped
masts of the steamer.
They rose, they swelled, they filled, and the empty steamer
visibly laid over as the wind took them. They gave her nearly
three knots an hour, and what better could men ask? But if she
had been forlorn before, this new purchase made her horrible to
see. Imagine a respectable charwoman in the tights of a
ballet-dancer rolling drunk along the streets, and you will come
to some faint notion of the appearance of that nine-hundred-ton,
well-decked, once schooner-rigged cargo-boat as she staggered
under her new help, shouting and raving across the deep. With
steam and sail that marvellous voyage continued; and the
bright-eyed crew looked over the rail, desolate, unkempt,
unshorn, shamelessly clothed beyond the decencies.
At the end of the third week she sighted the island of
Pygang-Watai, whose harbour is the turning-point of a pearl
sea-patrol. Here the gun-boats stay for a week ere they retrace
their line. There is no village at Pygang-Watai; only a stream
of water, some palms, and a harbour safe to rest in till the
first violence of the southeast monsoon has blown itself out.
They opened up the low coral beach, with its mound of
whitewashed coal ready for supply, the deserted huts for the
sailors, and the flagless flagstaff.
Next day there was no Haliotis - only a little proa rocking in
the warm rain at the mouth of the harbour, whose crew watched
with hungry eyes the smoke of a gunboat on the horizon.
Months afterwards there were a few lines in an English newspaper
to the effect that some gunboat of some foreign Power had broken
her back at the mouth of some far-away harbour by running at full
speed into a sunken wreck.
End of the, "DEVIL and THE DEEP SEA
WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR
I have done one braver thing
Than all the worthies did;
And yet a braver thence doth spring,
Which is to keep that hid.
"Is it officially declared yet?"
They've gone as far as to admit 'extreme local scarcity,' and
they've started relief-works in one or two districts, the paper
"That means it will be declared as soon as they can make sure of
the men and the rolling-stock. 'Shouldn't wonder if it were as
bad as the '78 Famine."
"'Can't be," said Scott, turning a little in the long cane chair.
"We've had fifteen-anna crops in the north, and Bombay and
Bengal report more than they know what to do with. They'll be
able to check it before it gets out of hand. It will only be
Martyn picked the "Pioneer" from the table, read through the
telegrams once more, and put up his feet on the chair-rests. It
was a hot, dark, breathless evening, heavy with the smell of the
newly watered Mall. The flowers in the Club gardens were dead and
black on their stalks, the little lotus-pond was a circle of
caked mud, and the tamarisk-trees were white with the dust of
weeks. Most of the men were at the band-stand in the public
gardens - from the Club verandah you could hear the native Police
band hammering stale waltzes - or on the polo-ground, or in the
high-walled fives-court, hotter than a Dutch oven. Half a dozen
grooms, squatted at the heads of their ponies, waited their
masters' return. From time to time a man would ride at a
foot-pace into the Club compound, and listlessly loaf over to the
whitewashed barracks beside the main building. These were
supposed to be chambers. Men lived in them, meeting the same
white faces night after night at dinner, and drawing out their
office-work till the latest possible hour, that they might escape
that doleful company.
"What are you going to do?." said Martyn, with a yawn. "Let's
have a swim before dinner."
"'Water's hot. I was at the bath to-day."
"Play you game o' billiards - fifty up."
"It's a hundred and five in the hall now. Sit still and don't be
so abominably energetic."
A grunting camel swung up to the porch, his badged and belted
rider fumbling a leather pouch.
"Kubber-kargaz-ki-yektraaa," the man whined, handing down the
newspaper extra - a slip printed on one side only, and damp from
the press. It was pinned up on the green-baize board, between
notices of ponies for sale and fox-terriers missing.
Martyn rose lazily, read it, and whistled. "It's declared!" he
cried. "One, two, three - eight districts go under the
operations of the Famine Code ek dum. They've put Jimmy Hawkins
"Good business!" said Scott, with the first sign of interest he
had shown. "When in doubt hire a Punjabi. I worked under Jimmy
when I first came out and he belonged to the Punjab. He has more
bundobust than most men."
"Jimmy's a Jubilee Knight now," said Martyn."He's a good chap,
even though he is a thrice-born civilian and went to the
Benighted Presidency. What unholy names these Madras districts
rejoice in - all ungas or rungas or pillays or polliums!"
A dog-cart drove up in the dusk, and a man entered, mopping his
head. He was editor of the one daily paper at the capital of a
Province of twenty-five million natives and a few hundred white
men: as his staff was limited to himself and one assistant, his
office-hours ran variously from ten to twenty a day.
"Hi, Raines; you're supposed to know everything," said Martyn,
stopping him. "How's this Madras 'scarcity' going to turn out?"
"No one knows as yet. There's a message as long as your arm
coming in on the telephone. I've left my cub to fill it out.
Madras has owned she can't manage it alone, and Jimmy seems to
have a free hand in getting all the men he needs. Arbuthnot's
warned to hold himself in readiness."
"The Peshawur chap. Yes: and the Pi wires that Ellis and Clay
have been moved from the Northwest already, and they've taken
half a dozen Bombay men, too. It's pukka famine, by the looks
"They're nearer the scene of action than we are; but if it comes
to indenting on the Punjab this early, there's more in this than
meets the eye," said Martyn.
"Here to-day and gone to-morrow. 'Didn't come to stay for ever,"
said Scott, dropping one of Marryat's novels, and rising to his
feet. "Martyn, your sister's waiting for you."
A rough grey horse was backing and shifting at the edge of the
verandah, where the light of a kerosene lamp fell on a
brown-calico habit and a white face under a grey-felt hat.
"Right, O!" said Martyn. "I'm ready. Better come and dine with
us, if you've nothing to do, Scott. William, is there any
dinner in the house?"
"I'll go home and see," was the rider's answer. "You can drive
him over - at eight, remember."
Scott moved leisurely to his room, and changed into the
evening-dress of the season and the country: spotless white
linen from head to foot, with a broad silk cummerbund. Dinner
at the Martyns' was a decided improvement on the goat-mutton,
twiney-tough fowl, and tinned entrees of the Club. But it was a
great pity that Martyn could not afford to send his sister to
the hills for the hot weather. As an Acting District
Superintendent of Police, Martyn drew the magnificent pay of six
hundred depreciated silver rupees a month, and his little
four-roomed bungalow said just as much. There were the usual
blue-and-white-striped jail-made rugs on the uneven floor; the
usual glass-studded Amritsar phulkaris draped on nails driven
into the flaking whitewash of the walls; the usual half-dozen
chairs that did not match, picked up at sales of dead men's
effects; and the usual streaks of black grease where the leather
punka-thong ran through the wall. It was as though everything
had been unpacked the night before to be repacked next morning.
Not a door in the house was true on its hinges. The little
windows, fifteen feet up, were darkened with wasp-nests, and
lizards hunted flies between the beams of the wood-ceiled roof.
But all this was part of Scott's life. Thus did people live who
had such an income; and in a land where each man's pay, age, and
position are printed in a book, that all may read, it is hardly
worth while to play at pretence in word or deed. Scott counted
eight years' service in the Irrigation Department, and drew eight
hundred rupees a month, on the understanding that if he served
the State faithfully for another twenty-two years he could retire
on a pension of some four hundred rupees a month. His
working-life, which had been spent chiefly under canvas or in
temporary shelters where a man could sleep, eat, and write
letters, was bound up with the opening and guarding of irrigation
canals, the handling of two or three thousand workmen of all
castes and creeds, and the payment of vast sums of coined silver.
He had finished that spring, not without credit, the last section
of the great Mosuhl Canal, and - much against his will, for he
hated office-work - had been sent in to serve during the hot
weather on the accounts and supply side of the Department, with
sole charge of the sweltering sub-office at the capital of the
Province. Martyn knew this; William, his sister, knew it; and
everybody knew it. Scott knew, too, as well as the rest of the
world, that Miss Martyn had come out to India four years ago to
keep house for her brother, who, as every one knew, had borrowed
the money to pay for her passage, and that she ought, as all the
world said, to have married at once. In stead of this, she had
refused some half a dozen subalterns, a Civilian twenty years her
senior, one Major, and a man in the Indian Medical Department.
This, too, was common property. She had "stayed down three hot
weathers," as the saying is, because her brother was in debt and
could not afford the expense of her keep at even a cheap
hill-station. Therefore her face was white as bone, and in the
centre of her forehead was a big silvery scar about the size of a
shilling - the mark of a Delhi sore, which is the same as a
"Bagdad date." This comes from drinking bad water, and slowly
eats into the flesh till it is ripe enough to be burned out.
None the less William had enjoyed herself hugely in her four
years. Twice she had been nearly drowned while fording a river;
once she had been run away with on a camel; had witnessed a
midnight attack of thieves on her brother's camp; had seen
justice administered, with long sticks, in the open under trees;
could speak Urdu and even rough Punjabi with a fluency that was
envied by her seniors; had entirely fallen out of the habit of
writing to her aunts in England, or cutting the pages of the
English magazines; had been through a very bad cholera year,
seeing sights unfit to be told; and had wound up her experiences
by six weeks of typhoid fever, during which her head had been
shaved and hoped to keep her twenty-third birthday that
September. It is conceivable that the aunts would not have
approved of a girl who never set foot on the ground if a horse
were within hail; who rode to dances with a shawl thrown over her
skirt; who wore her hair cropped and curling all over her head;
who answered indifferently to the name of William or Bill; whose
speech was heavy with the flowers of the vernacular; who could
act in amateur theatricals, play on the banjo, rule eight
servants and two horses, their accounts and their diseases, and
look men slowly and deliberately between the eyes - even after
they had proposed to her and been rejected.
"I like men who do things," she had confided to a man in the
Educational Department, who was teaching the sons of
cloth-merchants and dyers the beauty of Wordsworth's "Excursion
in annotated cram-books; and when he grew poetical, William
explained that she "didn't understand poetry very much; it made
her head ache," and another broken heart took refuge at the
Club. But it was all William's fault. She delighted in hearing
men talk of their own work, and that is the most fatal way of
bringing a man to your feet.
Scott had known her for some three years, meeting her, as a rule,
under canvass, when his camp and her brother's joined for a day
on the edge of the Indian Desert. He had danced with her several
times at the big Christmas gatherings, when as many as five
hundred white people came in to the station; and had always a
great respect for her housekeeping and her dinners.
She looked more like a boy than ever when, the meal ended, she
sat, rolling cigarettes, her low forehead puckered beneath the
dark curls as she twiddled the papers and stuck out her rounded
chin when the tobacco stayed in place, or, with a gesture as
true as a school-boy's throwing a stone, tossed the finished
article across the room to Martyn, who caught it with one hand,
and continued his talk with Scott. It was all "shop," - canals
and the policing of canals; the sins of villagers who stole more
water than they had paid for, and the grosser sin of native
constables who connived at the thefts; of the transplanting
bodily of villages to newly irrigated ground, and of the coming
fight with the desert in the south when the Provincial funds
should warrant the opening of the long-surveyed Luni Protective
Canal System. And Scott spoke openly of his great desire to be
put on one particular section of the work where he knew the land
and the people; and Martyn sighed for a billet in the Himalayan
foot-hills, and said his mind of his superiors, and William
rolled cigarettes and said nothing, but smiled gravely on her
brother because he was happy.
At ten Scott's horse came to the door, and the evening was ended.
The lights of the two low bungalows in which the daily paper was
printed showed bright across the road. It was too early to try
to find sleep, and Scott drifted over to the editor. Raines,
stripped to the waist like a sailor at a gun, lay half asleep in
a long chair, waiting for night telegrams. He had a theory that
if a man did not stay by his work all day and most of the night
he laid himself open to fever: so he ate and slept among his
"Can you do it?" be said drowsily. "I didn't mean to bring you
"About what ~ I've been dining at the Martyns'."
"The Madras famine, of course. Martyn's warned, too. They're
taking men where they can find 'em. I sent a note to you at the
Club just now, asking if you could do us a letter once a week
from the south - between two and three columns, say. Nothing
sensational, of course, but just plain facts about who is doing
what, and so forth. Our regular rates - ten rupees a column."
"'Sorry, but it's out of my line," Scott answered, staring
absently at the map of India on the wall. "It's rough on Martyn
- very. 'Wonder what he'lldo with his sister? 'Wonder what the
deuce they'll do with me? I've no famine experience. This is the
first I've heard of it. Am I ordered?"
"Oh, yes. Here's the wire. They'll put you on to relief-works,"
Raines said, "with a horde of Madrassis dying like flies; one
native apothecary and half a pint of cholera-mixture among the
ten thousand of you. It comes of your being idle for the moment.
Every man who isn't doing two men's work seems to have been
called upon. Hawkins evidently believes in Punjabis. It's going
to be quite as bad as anything they have had in the last ten
"It's all in the day's work, worse luck. I suppose I shall get my
orders officially some time to-morrow. I'm awfully glad I
happened to drop in. 'Better go and pack my kit now. Who
relieves me here - do you know?"
Raines turned over a sheaf of telegrams. "McEuan," said he, "from
Scott chuckled. "He thought he was going to be cool all summer.
He'll be very sick about this. Well, no good talking. 'Night."
Two hours later, Scott, with a clear conscience, laid himself
down to rest on a string cot in a bare room. Two worn bullock
trunks, a leather water-bottle, a tin ice-box, and his pet
saddle sewed up in sacking were piled at the door, and the Club
secretary's receipt for last month's bill was under his pillow.
His orders came next morning, and with them an unofficial
telegram from Sir James Hawkins; who was not in the habit of
forgetting good men when he had once met them, bidding him
report himself with all speed at some unpronounceable place
fifteen hundred miles to the south, for the famine was sore in
the land, and white men were needed.
A pink and fattish youth arrived in the red-hot noonday,
whimpering a little at fate and famines, which never allowed any
one three months' peace. He was Scott's successor - another cog
in the machinery, moved forward behind his fellow whose
services, as the official announcement ran, "were placed at the
disposal of the Madras Government for famine duty until further
orders." Scott handed over the funds in his charge, showed him
the coolest corner in the office, warned him against excess of
zeal, and, as twilight fell, departed from the Club in a hired
carriage, with his faithful body-servant, Faiz Ullah, and a
mound of disordered baggage atop, to catch the southern mail at
the loopholed and bastioned railway-station. The heat from the
thick brick walls struck him across the face as if it had been a
hot towel; and he reflected that there were at least five nights
and four days of this travel before him. Faiz Ullah, used to the
chances of service, plunged into the crowd on the stone
platform, while Scott, a black cheroot between his teeth, waited
till his compartment should be set away. A dozen native
policemen, with their rifles and bundles, shouldered into the
press of Punjabi farmers, Sikh craftsmen, and greasy-locked
Afreedee pedlars, escorting with all pomp Martyn's uniform-case,
water-bottles, ice-box, and bedding-roll. They saw Faiz Ullah's
lifted hand, and steered for it.
"My Sahib and your Sahib," said Faiz Ullah to Martyn's man, "will
travel together. Thou and I, O brother, will thus secure the
servants' places close by; and because of our masters' authority
none will dare to disturb us."
When Faiz Ullah reported all things ready, Scott settled down at
full length, coatless and bootless, on the broad leather-covered
bunk. The heat under the iron-arched roof of the station might
have been anything over a hundred degrees. At the last moment
Martyn entered, dripping.
"Don't swear," said Scott, lazily; "it's too late to change your
carriage; and we'll divide the ice."
"What are you doing here?" said the police-man.
"I'm lent to the Madras Government, same as you. By Jove, it's a
bender of a night! Are you taking any of your men down?"
"A dozen. I suppose I shall have to superintend relief
distributions. 'Didn't know you were under orders too."
"I didn't till after I left you last night. Raines had the news
first. My orders came this morning. McEuan relieved me at four,
and I got off at once. 'Shouldn't wonder if it wouldn't be a
good thing -this famine - if we come through it alive."
"Jimmy ought to put you and me to work together," said Martyn;
and then, after a pause: "My sister's here."
"Good business," said Scott, heartily. "Going to get off at
Umballa, I suppose, and go up to Simla. Who'll she stay with
"No-o; that's just the trouble of it. She's going down with me."
Scott sat bolt upright under the oil-lamps as the train jolted
past Tarn-Taran. "What! You don't mean you couldn't afford -"
"'Tain't that. I'd have scraped up the money somehow."
"You might have come to me, to begin with," said Scott, stiffly;
"we aren't altogether strangers."
"Well, you needn't be stuffy about it. I might, but - you don't
know my sister. I've been explaining and exhorting and all the
rest of it all day - lost my temper since seven this morning,
and haven't got it back yet-but she wouldn't hear of any
compromise. A woman's entitled to travel with her husband if she
wants to; and William says she's on the same footing. You see,
we've been together all our lives, more or less, since my people
died. It isn't as if she were an ordinary sister."
"All the sisters I've ever heard of would have stayed where they
were well off."
She's as clever as a man, confound - Martyn went on. "She broke
up the bungalow over my head while I was talking at her.
'Settled the whole thing in three hours - servants, horses, and
all. I didn't get my orders till nine."
"Jimmy Hawkins won't be pleased," said Scott "A famine's no place
for a woman."
"Mrs. Jim - I mean Lady Jim's in camp with him. At any rate, she
says she will look after my sister. William wired down to her on
her own responsibility, asking if she could come, and knocked the
ground from under me by showing me her answer."
Scott laughed aloud. "If she can do that she can take care of
herself, and Mrs. Jim won't let her run into any mischief There
aren't many women, sisters or wives, who would walk into a
famine with their eyes open. It isn't as if she didn't know
what these things mean. She was through the Jalo cholera last
The train stopped at Amritsar, and Scott went back to the ladies'
compartment, immediately behind their carriage. William, with a
cloth riding-cap on her curls, nodded affably.
"Come in and have some tea," she said. "'Best thing in the world
"Do I look as if I were going to have heat-apoplexy?"
"'Never can tell," said William, wisely. "It's always best to be
She had arranged her compartment with the knowledge of an old
campaigner. A felt-covered water-bottle hung in the draught of
one of the shuttered windows; a tea-set of Russian china, packed
in a wadded basket, stood on the seat; and a travelling
spirit-lamp was clamped against the woodwork above it.
William served them generously, in large cups, hot tea, which
saves the veins of the neck from swelling inopportunely on a hot
night. It was characteristic of the girl that, her plan of
action once settled, she asked for no comments on it. Life among
men who had a great deal of work to do, and very little time to
do it in, had taught her the wisdom of effacing, as well as of
fending for, herself. She did not by word or deed suggest that
she would be useful, comforting, or beautiful in their travels,
but continued about her business serenely: put the cups back
without clatter when tea was ended, and made cigarettes for her
"This time last night," said Scott, "we didn't expect - er - this
kind of thing, did we?"
"I've learned to expect anything," said William. "You know, in
our service, we live at the end of the telegraph; but, of
course, this ought to be a good thing for us all, departmentally
- if we live."
"It knocks us out of the running in our own Province," Scott
replied, with equal gravity. "I hoped to be put on the Luni
Protective Works this cold weather, but there's no saying how
long the famine may keep us."
"Hardly beyond October, I should think," said Martyn. "It will be
ended, one way or the other, then."
"And we've nearly a week of this," said William. "Sha'n't we be
dusty when it's over?"
For a night and a day they knew their surroundings, and for a
night and a day, skirting the edge of the great Indian Desert on
a narrow-gauge railway, they remembered how in the days of their
apprenticeship they had come by that road from Bombay. Then the
languages in which the names of the stations were written
changed, and they launched south into a foreign land, where the
very smells were new. Many long and heavily laden grain-trains