Part 4 out of 7
seriously, the death-rate of that famine would have been much higher
than it was.
At the end of a few days' crawling Scott learned something of the
size of the India which he served, and it astonished him. His
carts, as you know, were loaded with wheat, millet, and barley,
good food-grains needing only a little grinding. But the people
to whom he brought the life-giving stuffs were rice-eaters. They
could hull rice in their mortars, but they knew nothing of the
heavy stone querns of the North, and less of the material that
the white man convoyed so laboriously. They clamoured for rice -
unhusked paddy, such as they were accustomed to - and, when they
found that there was none, broke away weeping from the sides of
the cart. What was the use of these strange hard grains that
choked their throats? They would die. And then and there very
many of them kept their word. Others took their allowance, and
bartered enough millet to feed a man through a week for a few
handfuls of rotten rice saved by some less unfortunate. A few put
their share into the rice-mortars, pounded it, and made a paste
with foul water; but they were very few. Scott understood dimly
that many people in the India of the South ate rice, as a rule,
but he had spent his service in a grain Province, had seldom seen
rice in the blade or ear, and least of all would have believed
that in time of deadly need men could die at arm's length of
plenty, sooner than touch food they did not know. In vain the
interpreters interpreted; in vain his two policemen showed in
vigorous pantomime what should be done. The starving crept away
to their bark and weeds, grubs, leaves, and clay, and left the
open sacks untouched. But sometimes the women laid their phantoms
of children at Scott's feet, looking back as they staggered away.
Faiz Ullah opined it was the will of God that these foreigners
should die, and it remained only to give orders to burn the dead.
None the less there was no reason why the Sahib should lack his
comforts, and Faiz Ullah, a campaigner of experience, had picked
up a few lean goats and had added them to the procession. That
they might give milk for the morning meal, he was feeding them on
the good grain that these imbeciles rejected. "Yes," said Faiz
Ullah; "if the Sahib thought fit, a little milk might be given to
some of the babies"; but, as the Sahib well knew, babies were cheap,
and, for his own part, Faiz Ullah held that there was no Government
order as to babies. Scott spoke forcefully to Faiz Ullah and the
two policemen, and bade them capture goats where they could find
them. This they most joyfully did, for it was a recreation, and
many ownerless goats were driven in. Once fed, the poor brutes
were willing enough to follow the carts, and a few days' good food
- food such as human beings died for lack of - set them in milk
"But I am no goatherd," said Faiz Ullah. "It is against my izzat
"When we cross the Bias River again we will talk of izzat," Scott
replied. "Till that day thou and the policemen shall be sweepers
to the camp, if I give the order."
"Thus, then, it is done," grunted Faiz Ullah, "if the Sahib will
have it so"; and he showed how a goat should be milked, while
Scott stood over him.
"Now we will feed them," said Scott; "twice a day we will feed
them"; and he bowed his back to the milking, and took a horrible
When you have to keep connection unbroken between a restless
mother of kids and a baby who is at the point of death, you
suffer in all your system. But the babies were fed. Each morning
and evening Scott would solemnly lift them out one by one from
their nest of gunny-bags under the cart-tilts. There were always
many who could do no more than breathe, and the milk was dropped
into their toothless mouths drop by drop, with due pauses when
they choked. Each morning, too, the goats were fed; and since
they would straggle without a leader, and since the natives were
hirelings, Scott was forced to give up riding, and pace slowly at
the head of his flocks, accommodating his step to their weaknesses.
All this was sufficiently absurd, and he felt the absurdity keenly;
but at least he was saving life, and when the women saw that their
children did not die, they made shift to eat a little of the
strange foods, and crawled after the carts, blessing the master
of the goats.
"Give the women something to live for," said Scott to himself, as
he sneezed in the dust of a hundred little feet, "and they'll
hang on somehow. This beats William's condensed-milk trick all to
pieces. I shall never live it down, though."
He reached his destination very slowly, found that a rice-ship
had come in from Burmah, and that stores of paddy were available;
found also an overworked Englishman in charge of the shed, and,
loading the carts, set back to cover the ground he had already
passed. He left some of the children and half his goats at the
famine-shed. For this he was not thanked by the Englishman, who
had already more stray babies than he knew what to do with.
Scott's back was suppled to stooping now, and he went on with his
wayside ministrations in addition to distributing the paddy. More
babies and more goats were added unto him; but now some of the
babies wore rags, and beads round their wrists or necks. "That"
said the interpreter, as though Scott did not know, "signifies
that their mothers hope in eventual contingency to resume them
The sooner, the better," said Scott; but at the same time he
marked, with the pride of ownership, how this or that little
Ramasawmy was putting on flesh like a bantam. As the paddy-carts
were emptied he headed for Hawkins's camp by the railway, timing
his arrival to fit in with the dinner-hour, for it was long since
he had eaten at a cloth. He had no desire to make any dramatic
entry, but an accident of the sunset ordered it that when he had
taken off his helmet to get the evening breeze, the low light
should fall across his forehead, and he could not see what was
before him; while one waiting at the tent door beheld with new
eyes a young man, beautiful as Paris, a god in a halo of golden
dust, walking slowly at the head of his flocks, while at his knee
ran small naked Cupids. But she laughed - William, in a
slate-coloured blouse, laughed consumedly till Scott, putting the
best face he could upon the matter, halted his armies and bade her
admire the kindergarten. It was an unseemly sight, but the
proprieties had been left ages ago, with the tea-party at Amritsar
Station, fifteen hundred miles to the north.
"They are coming on nicely," said William. "We've only
five-and-twenty here now. The women are beginning to take them
"Are you in charge of the babies, then?"
"Yes - Mrs. Jim and I. We didn't think of goats, though. We've
been trying condensed-milk and water."
More than I care to think of;" said William, with a shudder.
Scott said nothing. There had been many little burials along his
route - one cannot burn a dead baby - many mothers who had wept
when they did not find again the children they had trusted to the
care of the Government.
Then Hawkins came out carrying a razor, at which Scott looked
hungrily, for he had a beard that he did not love. And when they
sat down to dinner in the tent he told his tale in few words, as
it might have been an official report. Mrs. Jim snuffled from
time to time, and Jim bowed his head judicially; but William's
grey eyes were on the clean-shaven face, and it was to her that
Scott seemed to appeal.
"Good for the Pauper Province!" said William, her chin on her hand,
as she leaned forward among the wine~glasses. Her cheeks had
fallen in, and the scar on her forehead was more prominent than
ever, but the well-turned neck rose roundly as a column from the
ruffle of the blouse which was the accepted evening-dress in camp.
"It was awfully absurd at times," said Scott. "You see, I didn't
know much about milking or babies. They'll chaff my head off, if
the tale goes up North."
"Let 'em," said William, haughtily. "We've all done coolie-work
since we came. I know Jack has." This was to Hawkins's address,
and the big man smiled blandly.
"Your brother's a highly efficient officer, William," said he,
"and I've done him the honour of treating him as he deserves.
Remember, I write the confidential reports."
"Then you must say that William's worth her weight in gold," said
Mrs. Jim. "I don't know what we should have done without her. She
has been everything to us." She dropped her hand upon William's,
which was rough with much handling of reins, and William patted
it softly. Jim beamed on the company. Things were going well with
his world. Three of his more grossly incompetent men had died,
and their places had been filled by their betters. Every day
brought the Rains nearer. They had put out the famine in five of
the Eight Districts, and, after all, the death-rate had not been
too heavy - things considered. He looked Scott over carefully, as
an ogre looks over a man, and rejoiced in his thews and iron-hard
"He's just the least bit in the world tucked up," said Jim to
himself, "but he can do two men's work yet." Then he was aware
that Mrs. Jim was telegraphing to him, and according to the
domestic code the message ran: "A clear case. Look at them!"
He looked and listened. All that William was saying was: "What
can you expect of a country where they call a bhistee [a
water-carrier] a tunni-cutch?" and all that Scott answered was:
"I shall be glad to get back to the Club. Save me a dance at the
Christmas Ball, won't you?"
"It's a far cry from here to the Lawrence Hall," said Jim. "Better
turn in early, Scott. It's paddy-carts to-morrow; you'll begin
loading at five."
"Aren't you going to give Mr. Scott a single day's rest?"
"'Wish I could, Lizzie, but I'm afraid I can't. As long as he can
stand up we must use him."
"Well, I've had one Europe evening, at least. By Jove, I'd nearly
forgotten! What do I do about those babies of mine?"
"Leave them here," said William -" we are in charge of that - and
as many goats as you can spare. I must learn how to milk now."
"If you care to get up early enough to-morrow I'll show you. I
have to milk, you see. Half of 'em have beads and things round
their necks. You must be careful not to take 'em off; in case the
mothers turn up."
"You forget I've had some experience here."
"I hope to goodness you won't overdo." Scott's voice was
"I'll take care of her," said Mrs. Jim, telegraphing hundred-word
messages as she carried William off; while Jim gave Scott his
orders for the coming campaign. It was very late - nearly nine
"Jim, you're a brute," said his wife, that night; and the Head of
the Famine chuckled.
"Not a bit of it, dear. I remember doing the first Jandiala
Settlement for the sake of a girl in a crinoline, and she was
slender, Lizzie. I've never done as good a piece of work since.
He'll work like a demon."
"But you might have given him one day."
"And let things come to a head now? No, dear; it's their happiest
"I don't believe either of the darlings know what's the matter with
them. Isn't it beautiful? Isn't it lovely?"
"Getting up at three to learn to milk, bless her heart! Oh, ye
Gods, why must we grow old and fat?"
"She's a darling. She has done more work under me -"
"Under you? The day after she came she was in charge and you were
her subordinate. You've stayed there ever since; she manages you
almost as well as you manage me."
"She doesn't, and that's why I love her. She's as direct as a
man - as her brother."
"Her brother's weaker than she is. He's always to me for orders;
but he's honest, and a glutton for work. I confess I'm rather
fond of William, and if I had a daughter -"
The talk ended. Far away in the Derajat was a child's grave more
than twenty years old, and neither Jim nor his wife spoke of it
All the same, you're responsible," Jim added, a moment's silence.
"Bless 'em!" said Mrs. Jim, sleepily.
Before the stars paled, Scott, who slept in an empty cart, waked
and went about his work in silence; it seemed at that hour unkind
to rouse Faiz Ullah and the interpreter. His head being close to
the ground, he did not hear William till she stood over him in the
dingy old riding-habit, her eyes still heavy with sleep, a cup of
tea and a piece of toast in her hands. There was a baby on the
ground, squirming on a piece of blanket, and a six-year-old child
peered over Scott's shoulder.
"Hai, you little rip," said Scott, "how the deuce do you expect to
get your rations if you aren't quiet?"
A cool white hand steadied the brat, who forthwith choked as the
milk gurgled into his mouth.
"'Mornin'," said the milker. "You've no notion how these little
fellows can wriggle."
"Oh, yes, I have." She whispered, because the world was asleep.
"Only I feed them with a spoon or a rag. Yours are fatter than
mine. And you've been doing this day after day?" The voice was
"Yes; it was absurd. Now you try," he said, giving place to the
girl. "Look out! A goat's not a cow."
The goat protested against the amateur, and there was a scuffle,
in which Scott snatched up the baby. Then it was all to do over
again, and William laughed softly and merrily. She managed,
however, to feed two babies, and a third.
"Don't the little beggars take it well?" said Scott. "I trained
They were very busy and interested, when lo! it was broad daylight,
and before they knew, the camp was awake, and they kneeled among
the goats, surprised by the day, both flushed to the temples. Yet
all the round world rolling up out of the darkness might have heard
and seen all that had passed between them.
"Oh," said William, unsteadily, snatching up the tea and toast, "I
had this made for you. It's stone-cold now. I thought you mightn't
have anything ready so early. 'Better not drink it. It's - it's
"That's awfully kind of you. It's just right. It's awfully good
of you, really. I'll leave my kids and goats with you and Mrs.
Jim, and, of course, any one in camp can show you about the
"Of course," said William; and she grew pinker and pinker and
statelier and more stately, as she strode back to her tent,
fanning herself with the saucer.
There were shrill lamentations through the camp when the elder
children saw their nurse move off without them. Faiz Ullah unbent
so far as to jest with the policemen, and Scott turned purple with
shame because Hawkins, already in the saddle, roared.
A child escaped from the care of Mrs. Jim, and, running like a
rabbit, clung to Scott's boot, William pursuing with long, easy
"I will not go - I will not go!" shrieked the child, twining his
feet round Scott's ankle. They will kill me here. I do not know
"I say," said Scott, in broken Tamil, "I say, she will do you no
harm. Go with her and be well fed."
"Come!" said William, panting, with a wrathful glance at Scott,
who stood helpless and, as it were, hamstrung.
"Go back," said Scott quickly to William. I'll send the little
chap over in a minute."
The tone of authority had its effect, but in a way Scott did not
exactly intend. The boy loosened his grasp, and said with
gravity: "I did not know the woman was thine. I will go." Then
he cried to his companions, a mob of three-, four-, and
five-year-olds waiting on the success of his venture ere they
stampeded: "Go back and eat. It is our man's woman. She will
obey his orders."
Jim collapsed where he sat; Faiz Ullah and the two policemen
grinned; and Scott's orders to the cartmen flew like hail.
"That is the custom of the Sahibs when truth is told in their
presence," said Faiz Ullah. "The time comes that I must seek new
service. Young wives, especially such as speak our language and
have knowledge of the ways of the Police, make great trouble for
honest butlers in the matter of weekly accounts."
What William thought of it all she did not say, but when her
brother, ten days later, came to camp for orders, and heard of
Scott's performances, he said, laughing: "Well, that settles it.
He'll be Bakri Scott to the end of his days." (Bakri in the
Northern vernacular, means a goat.) "What a lark! I'd have given
a month's pay to have seen him nursing famine babies. I fed some
with conjee [rice-water], but that was all right."
"It's perfectly disgusting," said his sister, with blazing eyes.
"A man does something like - like that - and all you other men
think of is to give him an absurd nickname, and then you laugh
and think it's funny."
"Ah," said Mrs. Jim, sympathetically.
"Well, you can't talk, William. You christened little Miss Demby
the Button-quail, last cold weather; you know you did. India's
the land of nicknames."
"That's different," William replied. "She was only a girl, and
she hadn't done anything except walk like a quail, and she does.
But it isn't fair to make fun of a man."
"Scott won't care," said Martyn. "You can't get a rise out of old
Scotty. I've been trying for eight years, and you've only known
him for three. How does he look?"
"He looks very well," said William, and went away with a flushed
cheek. "Bakri Scott, indeed!" Then she laughed to herself, for
she knew her country. "But it will he Bakri all the same"; and
she repeated it under her breath several times slowly,
whispering it into favour.
When he returned to his duties on the railway, Martyn spread the
name far and wide among his associates, so that Scott met it as
he led his paddy-carts to war. The natives believed it to be
some English title of honour, and the cart-drivers used it in
all simplicity till Faiz Ullah, who did not approve of foreign
japes, broke their heads. There was very little time for milking
now, except at the big camps, where Jim had extended Scott's
idea and was feeding large flocks on the useless northern grains.
Sufficient paddy had come now into the Eight Districts to hold
the people safe, if it were only distributed quickly, and for that
purpose no one was better than the big Canal officer, who never
lost his temper, never gave an unnecessary order, and never
questioned an order given. Scott pressed on, saving his cattle,
washing their galled necks daily, so that no time should be lost
on the road; reported himself with his rice at the minor
famine-sheds, unloaded, and went back light by forced night-march
to the next distributing centre, to find Hawkins's unvarying
telegram: "Do it again." And he did it again and again, and yet
again, while Jim Hawkins, fifty miles away, marked off on a big
map the tracks of his wheels gridironing the stricken lands.
Others did well - Hawkins reported at the end they all did well
- but Scott was the most excellent, for he kept good coined
rupees by him, settled for his own cart-repairs on the spot, and
ran to meet all sorts of unconsidered extras, trusting to be
recouped later on. Theoretically, the Government should have
paid for every shoe and linchpin, for every hand employed in the
loading; but Government vouchers cash themselves slowly, and
intelligent and efficient clerks write at great length, contesting
unauthorised expenditures of eight annas. The man who wants to
make his work a success must draw on his own bank-account of money
or other things as he goes.
"I told you he'd work," said Jimmy to his wife, at the end of six
weeks. "He's been in sole charge of a couple of thousand men up
north, on the Mosuhl Canal, for a year; but he gives less trouble
than young Martyn with his ten constables; and I'm morally certain
- only Government doesn't recognise moral obligations - he's spent
about half his pay to grease his wheels. Look at this, Lizzie, for
one week's work! Forty miles in two days with twelve carts; two
days' halt building a famine-shed for young Rogers. (Rogers ought
to have built it himself, the idiot!) Then forty miles back again,
loading six carts on the way, and distributing all Sunday. Then in
the evening he pitches in a twenty-page Demi-Official to me, saying
the people where he is might be 'advantageously employed on
relief-work,' and suggesting that he put 'em to work on some
broken-down old reservoir he's discovered, so as to have a good
water-supply when the Rains break. 'Thinks he can cauk the dam
in a fortnight. Look at his marginal sketches - aren't they
clear and good? I knew he was pukka, but I didn't know he was
as pukka as this."
"I must show these to William," said Mrs. Jim. "The child's
wearing herself out among the babies."
"Not more than you are, dear. Well, another two months ought to
see us out of the wood. I'm sorry it's not in my power to
recommend you for a V. C."
William sat late in her tent that night, reading through page
after page of the square handwriting, patting the sketches of
proposed repairs to the reservoir, and wrinkling her eyebrows
over the columns of figures of estimated water-supply. "And he
finds time to do all this," she cried to herself, "and - well, I
also was present. I've saved one or two babies.
She dreamed for the twentieth time of the god in the golden dust,
and woke refreshed to feed loathsome black children, scores of them,
wastrels picked up by the wayside, their bones almost breaking their
skin, terrible and covered with sores.
Scott was not allowed to leave his cart-work, but his letter was
duly forwarded to the Government, and he had the consolation,
not rare in India, of knowing that another man was reaping where
he had sown. That also was discipline profitable to the soul.
"He's much too good to waste on canals," said Jimmy. "Any one can
oversee coolies. You needn't be angry, William; he can - but I
need my pearl among bullock-drivers, and I've transferred him to
the Khanda district, where he'll have it all to do over again. He
should be marching now.
"He's not a coolie," said William, furiously. "He ought to be
doing his regulation work."
"He's the best man in his service, and that's saying a good deal;
but if you must use razors to cut grindstones, why, I prefer the
"Isn't it almost time we saw him again?" said Mrs. Jim. "I'm sure
the poor boy hasn't had a respectable meal for a month. He probably
sits on a cart and eats sardines with his fingers."
"All in good time, dear. Duty before decency - wasn't it Mr.
Chucks said that?"
"No; it was Midshipman Easy," William laughed. "I sometimes
wonder how it will feel to dance or listen to a band again, or
sit under a roof. I can't believe I ever wore a ball-frock in my
"One minute," said Mrs. Jim, who was thinking. "If he goes to
Khanda, he passes within five miles of us. Of course he'll ride
"Oh, no, he won't," said William.
"How do you know, dear?"
"It will take him off his work. He won't have time."
"He'll make it," said Mrs. Jim, with a twinkle.
"It depends on his own judgment. There's absolutely no reason
why he shouldn't, if he thinks fit," said Jim.
"He won't see fit," William replied, without sorrow or emotion.
"It wouldn't be him if he did."
"One certainly gets to know people rather well in times like these,"
said Jim, drily; but William's face was serene as ever, and even
as she prophesied, Scott did not appear.
The Rains fell at last, late, but heavily; and the dry, gashed
earth was red mud, and servants killed snakes in the camp, where
every one was weather-bound for a fortnight - all except Hawkins,
who took horse and plashed about in the wet, rejoicing. Now the
Government decreed that seed-grain should be distributed to the
people, as well as advances of money for the purchase of new oxen;
and the white men were doubly worked for this new duty, while
William skipped from brick to brick laid down on the trampled mud,
and dosed her charges with warming medicines that made them rub
their little round stomachs; and the milch goats throve on the
rank grass. There was never a word from Scott in the Khanda
district, away to the southeast, except the regular telegraphic
report to Hawkins. The rude country roads had disappeared; his
drivers were half mutinous; one of Martyn's loaned policemen had
died of cholera; and Scott was taking thirty grains of quinine a
day to fight the fever that comes with the rain: but those were
things Scott did not consider necessary to report. He was, as
usual, working from a base of supplies on a railway line, to cover
a circle of fifteen miles radius, and since full loads were
impossible, he took quarter-loads, and toiled four times as hard
by consequence; for he did not choose to risk an epidemic which
might have grown uncontrollable by assembling villagers in
thousands at the relief-sheds. It was cheaper to take Government
bullocks, work them to death, and leave them to the crows in the
That was the time when eight years of clean living and hard condition
told, though a man's head were ringing like a bell from the cinchona,
and the earth swayed under his feet when he stood and under his bed
when he slept. If Hawkins had seen fit to make him a bullock-driver,
that, he thought, was entirely Hawkins's own affair. There were men
in the North who would know what he had done; men of thirty years'
service in his own department who would say that it was "not half
bad"; and above, immeasurably above, all men of all grades, there
was William in the thick of the fight, who would approve because she
understood. He had so trained his mind that it would hold fast to
the mechanical routine of the day, though his own voice sounded
strange in his own ears, and his hands, when he wrote, grew large
as pillows or small as peas at the end of his wrists. That
steadfastness bore his body to the telegraph-office at the
railway-station, and dictated a telegram to Hawkins saying that
the Khanda district was, in his judgment, now safe, and he "waited
The Madrassee telegraph-clerk did not approve of a large, gaunt
man falling over him in a dead faint, not so much because of the
weight as because of the names and blows that Faiz Ullah dealt
him when he found the body rolled under a bench. Then Faiz Ullah
took blankets, quilts, and coverlets where he found them, and lay
down under them at his master's side, and bound his arms with a
tent-rope, and filled him with a horrible stew of herbs, and set
the policeman to fight him when he wished to escape from the
intolerable heat of his coverings, and shut the door of the
telegraph-office to keep out the curious for two nights and one
day; and when a light engine came down the line, and Hawkins
kicked in the door, Scott hailed him weakly but in a natural
voice, and Faiz Ullah stood back and took all the credit.
"For two nights, Heaven-born, he was pagal" said Faiz Ullah. "Look
at my nose, and consider the eye of the policeman. He beat us with
his bound hands; but we sat upon him, Heaven-born, and though his
words were tez, we sweated him. Heaven-born, never has been such
a sweat! He is weaker now than a child; but the fever has gone out
of him, by the grace of God. There remains only my nose and the eye
of the constabeel. Sahib, shall I ask for my dismissal because my
Sahib has beaten me?" And Faiz Ullah laid his long thin hand
carefully on Scott's chest to be sure that the fever was all gone,
ere he went out to open tinned soups and discourage such as laughed
at his swelled nose.
"The district's all right," Scott whispered. "It doesn't make any
difference. You got my wire?" I shall be fit in a week. 'Can't
understand how it happened. I shall be fit in a few days."
"You're coming into camp with us," said Hawkins.
"But look here - but -"
"It's all over except the shouting. We sha'n't need you Punjabis
any more. On my honour, we sha'n't. Martyn goes back in a few
weeks; Arbuthnot's returned already; Ellis and Clay are putting
the last touches to a new feeder-line the Government's built as
relief-work. Morten's dead - he was a Bengal man, though; you
wouldn't know him. 'Pon my word, you and Will - Miss Martyn -
seem to have come through it as well as anybody."
"Oh, how is she, by-the-way"." The voice went up and down as he
"Going strong when I left her. The Roman Catholic Missions are
adopting the unclaimed babies to turn them into little priests;
the Basil Mission is taking some, and the mothers are taking the
rest. You should hear the little beggars howl when they're sent
away from William. She's pulled down a bit, but so are we all.
Now, when do you suppose you'll be able to move?"
"I can't come into camp in this state. I won't," he replied
"Well, you are rather a sight, but from what I gathered there it
seemed to me they'd be glad to see you under any conditions. I'll
look over your work here, if you like, for a couple of days, and
you can pull yourself together while Faiz Ullah feeds you up."
Scott could walk dizzily by the time Hawkins's inspection was
ended, and he flushed all over when Jim said of his work that it
was "not half bad," and volunteered, further, that he had considered
Scott his right-hand man through the famine, and would feel it his
duty to say as much officially.
So they came back by rail to the old camp; but there were no crowds
near it; the long fires in the trenches were dead and black, and
the famine-sheds were almost empty.
"You see!" said Jim. "There isn't much more to do. 'Better ride
up and see the wife. They've pitched a tent for you. Dinner's at
seven. I've some work here."
Riding at a foot-pace, Faiz Ullah by his stirrup, Scott came to
William in the brown-calico riding-habit, sitting at the
dining-tent door, her hands in her lap, white as ashes, thin and
worn, with no lustre in her hair. There did not seem to be any
Mrs. Jim on the horizon, and all that William could say was: "My
word, how pulled down you look!"
"I've had a touch of fever. You don't look very well yourself."
"Oh, I'm fit enough. We've stamped it out. I suppose you know?"
Scott nodded. "We shall all be returned in a few weeks. Hawkins
"Before Christmas, Mrs. Jim says. Sha'n't you be glad to go back?
I can smell the wood-smoke already"; William sniffed. "We shall
be in time for all the Christmas doings. I don't suppose even the
Punjab Government would be base enough to transfer Jack till the
"It seems hundreds of years ago - the Punjab and all that - doesn't
it? Are you glad you came?"
"Now it's all over, yes. It has been ghastly here, though. You
know we had to sit still and do nothing, and Sir Jim was away so
"Do nothing! How did you get on with the milking?"
"I managed it somehow - after you taught me. 'Remember?"
Then the talk stopped with an almost audible jar. Still no Mrs.
"That reminds me, I owe you fifty rupees for the condensed-milk.
I thought perhaps you'd be coming here when you were transferred
to the Khanda district, and I could pay you then; but you
"I passed within five miles of the camp, but it was in the middle
of a march, you see, and the carts were breaking down every few
minutes, and I couldn't get 'em over the ground till ten o'clock
that night. I wanted to come awfully. You knew I did, didn't you?"
"I - believe - I - did," said William, facing him with level eyes.
She was no longer white."
"Did you understand?"
"Why you didn't ride in? Of course I did."
"Because you couldn't, of course. I knew that."
"Did you care?"
"If you had come in - but I knew you wouldn't - but if you had, I
should have cared a great deal. You know I should."
"Thank God I didn't! Oh, but I wanted to! I couldn't trust myself
to ride in front of the carts, because I kept edging 'em over
here, don't you know?"
"I knew you wouldn't," said William, contentedly. "Here's your
Scott bent forward and kissed the hand that held the greasy
notes. Its fellow patted him awkwardly but very tenderly on the
"And you knew, too, didn't you?" said William, in a new voice.
"No, on my honour, I didn't. I hadn't the - the cheek to expect
anything of the kind, except ... I say, were you out riding
anywhere the day I passed by to Khanda?"
William nodded, and smiled after the manner of an angel surprised
in a good deed.
"Then it was just a speck I saw of your habit in the -"
"Palm-grove on the Southern cart-road. I saw your helmet when you
came up from the mullah by the temple - just enough to be sure
that you were all right. D' you care?"
This time Scott did not kiss her hand, for they were in the dusk
of the dining-tent, and, because William's knees were trembling
under her, she had to sit down in the nearest chair, where she wept
long and happily, her head on her arms; and when Scott imagined
that it would be well to comfort her, she needing nothing of the
kind, she ran to her own tent; and Scott went out into the world,
and smiled upon it largely and idiotically. But when Faiz Ullah
brought him a drink, he found it necessary to support one hand
with the other, or the good whisky and soda would have been spilled
abroad. There are fevers and fevers.
But it was worse - much worse - the strained, eye-shirking talk at
dinner till the servants had withdrawn, and worst of all when Mrs.
Jim, who had been on the edge of weeping from the soup down, kissed
Scott and William, and they drank one whole bottle of champagne,
hot, because there was no ice, and Scott and William sat outside the
tent in the starlight till Mrs. Jim drove them in for fear of more
Apropos of these things and some others William said: "Being engaged
is abominable, because, you see, one has no official position. We
must be thankful we've lots of things to do."
"Things to do!" said Jim, when that was reported to him. "They're
neither of them any good any more. I can't get five hours' work a
day out of Scott. He's in the clouds half the time."
"Oh, but they're so beautiful to watch, Jimmy. It will break my
heart when they go. Can't you do anything for him?"
"I've given the Government the impression - at least, I hope I have
- that he personally conducted the entire famine. But all he wants
is to get on to the Luni Canal Works, and William's just as bad.
Have you ever heard 'em talking of barrage and aprons and
waste-water? It's their style of spooning, I suppose."
Mrs. Jim smiled tenderly. "Ah, that's in the intervals - bless
And so Love ran about the camp unrebuked in broad daylight, while
men picked up the pieces and put them neatly away of the Famine in
the Eight Districts.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Morning brought the penetrating chill of the Northern December, the
layers of wood-smoke, the dusty grey-blue of the tamarisks, the
domes of ruined tombs, and all the smell of the white Northern
plains, as the mail-train ran on to the mile-long Sutlej Bridge.
William, wrapped in a poshteen - a silk-embroidered sheepskin jacket
trimmed with rough astrakhan - looked out with moist eyes and
nostrils that dilated joyously. The South of pagodas and palm-trees,
the overpopulated Hindu South, was done with. Here was the land she
knew and loved, and before her lay the good life she understood,
among folk of her own caste and mind.
They were picking them up at almost every station now - men and
women coming in for the Christmas Week, with racquets, with bundles
of polo-sticks, with dear and bruised cricket-bats, with fox-terriers
and saddles. The greater part of them wore jackets like William's,
for the Northern cold is as little to be trifled with as the Northern
heat. And William was among them and of them, her hands deep in her
pockets, her collar turned up over her ears, stamping her feet on
the platforms as she walked up and down to get warm, visiting from
carriage to carriage and everywhere being congratulated. Scott was
with the bachelors at the far end of the train, where they chaffed
him mercilessly about feeding babies and milking goats; but from
time to time he would stroll up to William's window, and murmur:
"Good enough, isn't it?" and William would answer with sighs of pure
delight: "Good enough, indeed." The large open names of the home
towns were good to listen to. Umballa, Ludianah, Phillour, Jullundur,
they rang like the coming marriage-bells in her ears, and William
felt deeply and truly sorry for all strangers and outsiders -
visitors, tourists, and those fresh-caught for the service of the
It was a glorious return, and when the bachelors gave the Christmas
Ball, William was, unofficially, you might say, the chief and
honoured guest among the Stewards, who could make things very
pleasant for their friends. She and Scott danced nearly all the
dances together, and sat out the rest in the big dark gallery
overlooking the superb teak floor, where the uniforms blazed, and
the spurs clinked, and the new frocks and four hundred dancers went
round and round till the draped flags on the pillars flapped and
bellied to the whirl of it.
About midnight half a dozen men who did not care for dancing came
over from the Club to play "Waits," and that was a surprise the
Stewards had arranged - before any one knew what had happened,
the band stopped, and hidden voices broke into "Good King
Wenceslaus," and William in the gallery hummed and beat time with
"Mark my footsteps well, my page,
Tread thou in them boldly.
Thou shalt feel the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly!"
"Oh, I hope they are going to give us another! Isn't it pretty,
coming out of the dark in that way? Look - look down. There's
Mrs. Gregory wiping her eyes!"
"It's like Home, rather," said Scott. "I remember -"
"Hsh! Listen! - dear." And it began again:
"When shepherds watched their flocks by night -"
"A-h-h!" said William, drawing closer to Scott.
"All seated on the ground,
The Angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around.
'Fear not,' said he (for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled mind);
'Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind.'"
This time it was William that wiped her eyes.
A locomotive is, next to a marine engine, the most sensitive thing
man ever made; and No. .007, besides being sensitive, was new. The
red paint was hardly dry on his spotless bumper-bar, his headlight
shone like a fireman's helmet, and his cab might have been a
hard-wood-finish parlour. They had run him into the round-house
after his trial - he had said good-bye to his best friend in the
shops, the overhead travelling-crane - the big world was just
outside; and the other locos were taking stock of him. He looked
at the semicircle of bold, unwinking headlights, heard the low purr
and mutter of the steam mounting in the gauges - scornful hisses of
contempt as a slack valve lifted a little - and would have given a
month's oil for leave to crawl through his own driving-wheels into
the brick ash-pit beneath him. .007 was an eight-wheeled "American"
loco, slightly different from others of his type, and as he stood
he was worth ten thousand dollars on the Company's books. But if
you had bought him at his own valuation, after half an hour's waiting
in the darkish, echoing round-house, you would have saved exactly
nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine dollars and ninety-eight
A heavy Mogul freight, with a short cow-catcher and a fire-box that
came down within three inches of the rail, began the impolite game,
speaking to a Pittsburgh Consolidation, who was visiting.
"Where did this thing blow in from?" he asked, with a dreamy puff
of light steam.
"it's all I can do to keep track of our makes," was the answer,
"without lookin' after your back-numbers. Guess it's something Peter
Cooper left over when he died."
.007 quivered; his steam was getting up, but he held his tongue.
Even a hand-car knows what sort of locomotive it was that Peter
Cooper experimented upon in the far-away Thirties. It carried its
coal and water in two apple-barrels, and was not much bigger than
Then up and spoke a small, newish switching-engine, with a little
step in front of his bumper-timber, and his wheels so close together
that he looked like a broncho getting ready to buck.
"Something's wrong with the road when a Pennsylvania gravelpusher
tells us anything about our stock, I think. That kid's all right.
Eustis designed him, and Eustis designed me. Ain't that good enough?"
.007 could have carried the switching-loco round the yard in his
tender, but he felt grateful for even this little word of consolation.
"We don't use hand-cars on the Pennsylvania," said the Consolidation.
"That - er - peanut-stand is old enough and ugly enough to speak for
"He hasn't bin spoken to yet. He's bin spoke at. Hain't ye any
manners on the Pennsylvania?" said the switching-loco.
"You ought to be in the yard, Poney," said the Mogul, severely.
"We're all long-haulers here."
"That's what you think," the little fellow replied. "You'll know
more 'fore the night's out. I've bin down to Track 17, and the
freight there - oh, Christmas!"
"I've trouble enough in my own division," said a lean, light suburban
loco with very shiny brake-shoes. "My commuters wouldn't rest till
they got a parlourcar. They've hitched it back of all, and it hauls
worsen a snow-plough. I'll snap her off someday sure, and then
they'll blame every one except their foolselves. They'll be askin'
me to haul a vestibuled next!"
"They made you in New Jersey, didn't they?" said Poney. "Thought so.
Commuters and truck-wagons ain't any sweet haulin', but I tell you
they're a heap better 'n cuttin' out refrigerator-cars or oil-tanks.
Why, I've hauled -"
"Haul! You?" said the Mogul, contemptuously. "It's all you can do
to bunt a cold-storage car up the yard. Now, I - " he paused a
little to let the words sink in - "I handle the Flying Freight
- e-leven cars worth just anything you please to mention. On the
stroke of eleven I pull out; and I'm timed for thirty-five an hour.
Costly-perishable-fragile-immediate - that's me! Suburban traffic's
only but one degree better than switching. Express freight's what
"Well, I ain't given to blowing, as a rule," began the Pittsburgh
"No? You was sent in here because you grunted on the grade," Poney
"Where I grunt, you'd lie down, Poney: but, as I was saying, I don't
blow much. Notwithstandin', if you want to see freight that is
freight moved lively, you should see me warbling through the
Alleghanies with thirty-seven ore-cars behind me, and my brakemen
fightin' tramps so's they can't attend to my tooter. I have to do
all the holdin' back then, and, though I say it, I've never had a
load get away from me yet. No, sir. Haulin's's one thing, but
judgment and discretion's another. You want judgment in my
"Ah! But - but are you not paralysed by a sense of your overwhelming
responsibilities?" said a curious, husky voice from a corner.
"Who's that?" .007 whispered to the Jersey commuter.
"Compound-experiment-N.G. She's bin switchin' in the B. & A. yards
for six months, when she wasn't in the shops. She's economical (I
call it mean) in her coal, but she takes it out in repairs. Ahem!
I presume you found Boston somewhat isolated, madam, after your New
"I am never so well occupied as when I am alone." The Compound
seemed to be talking from half-way up her smoke-stack.
"Sure," said the irreverent Poney, under his breath. "They don't
hanker after her any in the yard."
"But, with my constitution and temperament - my work lies in Boston
- I find your outrecuidance - "
"Outer which?" said the Mogul freight. "Simple cylinders are good
enough for me."
"Perhaps I should have said faroucherie," hissed the Compound.
"I don't hold with any make of papier-mache wheel," the Mogul
The Compound sighed pityingly, and said no more.
"Git 'em all shapes in this world, don't ye?" said Poney. "that's
Mass'chusetts all over. They half start, an' then they stick on a
dead-centre, an' blame it all on other folk's ways o' treatin' them.
Talkin' o' Boston, Comanche told me, last night, he had a hot-box
just beyond the Newtons, Friday. That was why, he says, the
Accommodation was held up. Made out no end of a tale, Comanche did."
"If I'd heard that in the shops, with my boiler out for repairs, I'd
know 't was one o' Comanche's lies," the New Jersey commuter snapped.
"Hot-box! Him! What happened was they'd put an extra car on, and
he just lay down on the grade and squealed. They had to send 127 to
help him through. Made it out a hotbox, did he? Time before that
he said he was ditched! Looked me square in the headlight and told
me that as cool as - as a water-tank in a cold wave. Hot-box! You
ask 127 about Comanche's hot-box. Why, Comanche he was side-tracked,
and 127 (he was just about as mad as they make 'em on account o'
being called out at ten o'clock at night) took hold and snapped her
into Boston in seventeen minutes. Hot-box! Hot fraud! that's what
Then .007 put both drivers and his pilot into it, as the saying is,
for he asked what sort of thing a hot-box might be?
"Paint my bell sky-blue!" said Poney, the switcher. "Make me a
surface-railroad loco with a hard-wood skirtin'-board round my wheels.
Break me up and cast me into five-cent sidewalk-fakirs' mechanical
toys! Here's an eight-wheel coupled 'American' don't know what a
hot-box is! Never heard of an emergency-stop either, did ye? Don't
know what ye carry jack-screws for? You're too innocent to be left
alone with your own tender. Oh, you - you flatcar!"
There was a roar of escaping steam before any one could answer, and
.007 nearly blistered his paint off with pure mortification.
"A hot-box," began the Compound, picking and choosing her words as
though they were coal, "a hotbox is the penalty exacted from
inexperience by haste. Ahem!"
"Hot-box!" said the Jersey Suburban. "It's the price you pay for
going on the tear. It's years since I've had one. It's a disease
that don't attack shorthaulers, as a rule."
"We never have hot-boxes on the Pennsylvania," said the Consolidation.
"They get 'em in New York - same as nervous prostration."
"Ah, go home on a ferry-boat," said the Mogul. "You think because
you use worse grades than our road 'u'd allow, you're a kind of
Alleghany angel. Now, I'll tell you what you ... Here's my folk.
Well, I can't stop. See you later, perhaps."
He rolled forward majestically to the turn-table, and swung like
a man-of-war in a tideway, till he picked up his track. "But as
for you, you pea-green swiveling' coffee-pot (this to .007'), you
go out and learn something before you associate with those who've
made more mileage in a week than you'll roll up in a year.
Costly-perishable-fragile-immediate-that's me! S' long."
"Split my tubes if that's actin' polite to a new member o' the
Brotherhood," said Poney. "There wasn't any call to trample on ye
like that. But manners was left out when Moguls was made. Keep
up your fire, kid, an' burn your own smoke. 'Guess we'll all be
wanted in a minute."
Men were talking rather excitedly in the roundhouse. One man, in
a dingy jersey, said that he hadn't any locomotives to waste on the
yard. Another man, with a piece of crumpled paper in his hand, said
that the yard-master said that he was to say that if the other man
said anything, he (the other man) was to shut his head. Then the
other man waved his arms, and wanted to know if he was expected to
keep locomotives in his hip-pocket. Then a man in a black Prince
Albert, without a collar, came up dripping, for it was a hot August
night, and said that what he said went; and between the three of
them the locomotives began to go, too - first the Compound; then
the Consolidation; then .007.
Now, deep down in his fire-box, .007 had cherished a hope that as
soon as his trial was done, he would be led forth with songs and
shoutings, and attached to a green-and-chocolate vestibuled flyer,
under charge of a bold and noble engineer, who would pat him on his
back, and weep over him, and call him his Arab steed. (The boys in
the shops where he was built used to read wonderful stories of
railroad life, and .007 expected things to happen as he had heard.)
But there did not seem to be many vestibuled fliers in the roaring,
rumbling, electric-lighted yards, and his engineer only said:
"Now, what sort of a fool-sort of an injector has Eustis loaded on
to this rig this time?" And he put the lever over with an angry
snap, crying: "Am I supposed to switch with this thing, hey?"
The collarless man mopped his head, and replied that, in the present
state of the yard and freight and a few other things, the engineer
would switch and keep on switching till the cows came home. .007
pushed out gingerly, his heart in his headlight, so nervous that the
clang of his own bell almost made him jump the track. Lanterns
waved, or danced up and down, before and behind him; and on every
side, six tracks deep, sliding backward and forward, with clashings
of couplers and squeals of hand-brakes, were cars - more cars than
.007 had dreamed of. There were oil-cars, and hay-cars, and
stock-cars full of lowing beasts, and ore-cars, and potato-cars with
stovepipe-ends sticking out in the middle; cold-storage and
refrigerator cars dripping ice water on the tracks; ventilated
fruit- and milk-cars; flatcars with truck-wagons full of market-stuff;
flat-cars loaded with reapers and binders, all red and green and
gilt under the sizzling electric lights; flat-cars piled high with
strong-scented hides, pleasant hemlock-plank, or bundles of shingles;
flat-cars creaking to the weight of thirty-ton castings, angle-irons,
and rivet-boxes for some new bridge; and hundreds and hundreds and
hundreds of box-cars loaded, locked, and chalked. Men - hot and
angry - crawled among and between and under the thousand wheels; men
took flying jumps through his cab, when he halted for a moment; men
sat on his pilot as he went forward, and on his tender as he
returned; and regiments of men ran along the tops of the box-cars
beside him, screwing down brakes, waving their arms, and crying
He was pushed forward a foot at a time; whirled backward, his rear
drivers clinking and clanking, a quarter of a mile; jerked into a
switch (yard-switches are very stubby and unaccommodating), bunted
into a Red D, or Merchant's Transport car, and, with no hint or
knowledge of the weight behind him, started up anew. When his load
was fairly on the move, three or four cars would be cut off, and
.007 would bound forward, only to be held hiccupping on the brake.
Then he would wait a few minutes, watching the whirled lanterns,
deafened with the clang of the bells, giddy with the vision of the
sliding cars, his brake-pump panting forty to the minute, his front
coupler lying sideways on his cow-catcher, like a tired dog's tongue
in his mouth, and the whole of him covered with half-burnt coal-dust.
"'Tisn't so easy switching with a straight-backed tender," said his
little friend of the round-house, bustling by at a trot. "But
you're comin' on pretty fair. 'Ever seen a flyin' switch? No?
Then watch me."
Poney was in charge of a dozen heavy flat-cars. Suddenly he shot
away from them with a sharp "Whutt !" A switch opened in the shadows
ahead; he turned up it like a rabbit as it snapped behind him, and
the long line of twelve-foot-high lumber jolted on into the arms of
a full-sized road-loco, who acknowledged receipt with a dry howl.
"My man's reckoned the smartest in the yard at that trick," he said,
returning. "Gives me cold shivers when another fool tries it,
though. That's where my short wheel-base comes in. Like as not
you'd have your tender scraped off if you tried it."
.007 had no ambitions that way, and said so.
"No? Of course this ain't your regular business, but say, don't you
think it's interestin'? Have you seen the yard-master? Well, he's
the greatest man on earth, an' don't you forget it. When are we
through? Why, kid, it's always like this, day an' night - Sundays
an' week-days. See that thirty-car freight slidin' in four, no,
five tracks off? She's all mixed freight, sent here to be sorted out
into straight trains. That's why we're cuttin' out the cars one by
one." He gave a vigorous push to a west-bound car as he spoke, and
started back with a little snort of surprise, for the car was an old
friend - an M. T. K. box-car.
"Jack my drivers, but it's Homeless Kate! Why, Kate, ain't there
no gettin' you back to your friends? There's forty chasers out for
you from your road, if there's one. Who's holdin' you now?"
"Wish I knew," whimpered Homeless Kate. "I belong in Topeka, but
I've bin to Cedar Rapids; I've bin to Winnipeg; I've bin to Newport
News; I've bin all down the old Atlanta and West Point; an' I've bin
to Buffalo. Maybe I'll fetch up at Haverstraw. I've only bin out
ten months, but I'm homesick - I'm just achin' homesick."
"Try Chicago, Katie," said the switching-loco; and the battered old
car lumbered down the track, jolting: "I want to be in Kansas when
the sunflowers bloom."
"'Yard's full o' Homeless Kates an' Wanderin' Willies," he explained
to .007. "I knew an old Fitchburg flat-car out seventeen months; an'
one of ours was gone fifteen 'fore ever we got track of her. Dunno
quite how our men fix it. 'Swap around, I guess. Anyway, I've done
my duty. She's on her way to Kansas, via Chicago; but I'll lay my
next boilerful she'll be held there to wait consignee's convenience,
and sent back to us with wheat in the fall."
Just then the Pittsburgh Consolidation passed, at the head of a
"I'm goin' home," he said proudly.
"Can't get all them twelve on to the flat. Break 'em in half,
Dutchy!" cried Poney. But it was .007 who was backed down to the
last six cars, and he nearly blew up with surprise when he found
himself pushing them on to a huge ferry-boat. He had never seen
deep water before, and shivered as the flat drew away and left his
bogies within six inches of the black, shiny tide.
After this he was hurried to the freight-house, where he saw the
yard-master, a smallish, white-faced man in shirt, trousers, and
slippers, looking down upon a sea of trucks, a mob of bawling
truckmen, and squadrons of backing, turning, sweating,
"That's shippers' carts loadin' on to the receivin' trucks," said
the small engine, reverently. "But he don't care. He lets 'em cuss.
He's the Czar-King-Boss! He says 'Please,' and then they kneel down
an' pray. There's three or four strings o' today's freight to be
pulled before he can attend to them. When he waves his hand that
way, things happen."
A string of loaded cars slid out down the track, and a string of
empties took their place. Bales, crates, boxes, jars, carboys,
frails, cases, and packages flew into them from the freight-house
as though the cars had been magnets and they iron filings.
"Ki-yah!" shrieked little Poney. "Ain't it great?"
A purple-faced truckman shouldered his way to the yard-master, and
shook his fist under his nose. The yard-master never looked up
from his bundle of freight receipts. He crooked his forefinger
slightly, and a tall young man in a red shirt, lounging carelessly
beside him, hit the truckman under the left ear, so that he dropped,
quivering and clucking, on a hay-bale.
"Eleven, seven, ninety-seven, L. Y. S.; fourteen ought ought three;
nineteen thirteen; one one four; seventeen ought twenty-one M. B.;
and the ten westbound. All straight except the two last. Cut 'em
off at the junction. An' that's all right. Pull that string."
The yard-master, with mild blue eyes, looked out over the howling
truckmen at the waters in the moonlight beyond, and hummed:
"All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lawd Gawd He made all!"
.007 moved out the cars and delivered them to the regular
road-engine. He had never felt quite so limp in his life before.
"Curious, ain't it?" said Poney, puffing, on the next track. "You
an' me, if we got that man under our bumpers, we'd work him into
red waste an' not know what we'd done; but-up there - with the steam
hummin' in his boiler that awful quiet way ... "
"I know," said .007. "Makes me feel as if I'd dropped my Fire an'
was getting cold. He is the greatest man on earth."
They were at the far north end of the yard now, under a switchtower,
looking down on the four-track way of the main traffic. The Boston
Compound was to haul .007's string to some far-away northern
junction over an indifferent road-bed, and she mourned aloud for the
ninety-six pound rails of the B. & A.
"You're young; you're young," she coughed. "You don't realise your
"Yes, he does," said Poney, sharply; "but he don't lie down under
'em." Then, with aside-spurt of steam, exactly like a tough
spitting: "There ain't more than fifteen thousand dollars' worth o'
freight behind her anyway, and she goes on as if 't were a hundred
thousand - same as the Mogul's. Excuse me, madam, but you've the
track .... She's stuck on a dead-centre again - bein' specially
designed not to."
The Compound crawled across the tracks on a long slant, groaning
horribly at each switch, and moving like a cow in a snow-drift.
There was a little pause along the yard after her tail-lights had
disappeared; switches locked crisply, and every one seemed to be
"Now I'll show you something worth," said Poney. "When the Purple
Emperor ain't on time, it's about time to amend the Constitution.
The first stroke of twelve is - "
"Boom!" went the clock in the big yard-tower, and far away .007 heard
a full, vibrating " Yah! Yah! Yah!" A headlight twinkled on the
horizon like a star, grew an overpowering blaze, and whooped up the
humming track to the roaring music of a happy giant's song:
"With a michnai - ghignai - shtingal! Yah! Yah! Yah!
Ein - zwei - drei - Mutter! Yah! Yah! Yah!
She climb upon der shteeple,
Und she frighten all der people.
Singin' michnai - ghignai - shtingal! Yah! Yah!"
The last defiant "yah! yah!" was delivered a mile and a half beyond
the passenger-depot; but .007 had caught one glimpse of the superb
six-wheel-coupled racing-locomotive, who hauled the pride and glory
of the road - the gilt-edged Purple Emperor, the millionaires'
south-bound express, laying the miles over his shoulder as a man
peels a shaving from a soft board. The rest was a blur of maroon
enamel, a bar of white light from the electrics in the cars, and
a flicker of nickel-plated hand-rail on the rear platform.
"Ooh!" said .007.
"Seventy-five miles an hour these five miles. Baths, I've heard;
barber's shop; ticker; and a library and the, rest to match. Yes,
sir; seventy-five an hour! But he'll talk to you in the round-house
just as democratic as I would. And I - cuss my wheel-base! - I'd
kick clean off the track at half his gait. He's the Master of our
Lodge. Cleans up at our house. I'll introdooce you some day. He's
worth knowin'! There ain't many can sing that song, either."
.007 was too full of emotions to answer. He did not hear a raging
of telephone-bells in the switch-tower, nor the man, as he leaned
out and called to .007's engineer: "Got any steam?"
"'Nough to run her a hundred mile out o' this, if I could," said
the engineer, who belonged to the open road and hated switching.
"Then get. The Flying Freight's ditched forty mile out, with fifty
rod o' track ploughed up. No; no one's hurt, but both tracks are
blocked. Lucky the wreckin'-car an' derrick are this end of the
yard. Crew 'll be along in a minute. Hurry! You've the track."
" Well, I could jest kick my little sawed-off self," said Poney, as
.007 was backed, with a bang, on to a grim and grimy car like a
caboose, but full of tools - a flatcar and a derrick behind it.
"Some folks are one thing, and some are another; but you're in luck,
kid. They push a wrecking-car. Now, don't get rattled. Your
wheel-base will keep you on the track, and there ain't any curves
worth mentionin'. Oh, say! Comanche told me there's one section
o' sawedged track that's liable to jounce ye a little. Fifteen an'
a half out, after the grade at Jackson's crossin'. You'll know it
by a farmhouse an' a windmill an' five maples in the dooryard.
Windmill's west o' the maples. An' there's an eighty-foot iron
bridge in the middle o' that section with no guard-rails. See you
later. Luck! "
Before he knew well what had happened, .007 was flying up the track
into the dumb, dark world. Then fears of the night beset him. He
remembered all he had ever heard of landslides, rain-piled boulders,
blown trees, and strayed cattle, all that the Boston Compound had
ever said of responsibility, and a great deal more that came out of
his own head. With a very quavering voice he whistled for his first
grade-crossing (an event in the life of a locomotive), and his
nerves were in no way restored by the sight of a frantic horse and
a white-faced man in a buggy less than a yard from his right
shoulder. Then he was sure he would jump the track; felt his
flanges mounting the rail at every curve; knew that his first grade
would make him lie down even as Comanche had done at the Newtons.
He whirled down the grade to Jackson's crossing, saw the windmill
west of the maples, felt the badly laid rails spring under him, and
sweated big drops all over his boiler. At each jarring bump he
believed an axle had smashed, and he took the eighty-foot bridge
without the guard-rail like a hunted cat on the top of a fence.
Then a wet leaf stuck against the glass of his headlight and threw
a flying shadow on the track, so that he thought it was some little
dancing animal that would feel soft if he ran over it; and anything
soft underfoot frightens a locomotive as it does an elephant. But
the men behind seemed quite calm. The wrecking-crew were climbing
carelessly from the caboose to the tender - even jesting with the
engineer, for he heard a shuffling of feet among the coal, and the
snatch of a song, something like this:
"Oh, the Empire State must learn to wait,
And the Cannon-ball go hang!
When the West-bound's ditched, and the tool-car's hitched,
And it's 'way for the Breakdown Gang (Tare-ra!)
'Way for the Breakdown Gang!"
"Say! Eustis knew what he was doin' when he designed this rig.
She's a hummer. New, too."
"Snff! Phew! She is new. That ain't paint. that's - "
A burning pain shot through .007's right rear driver - a crippling,
"This," said .007, as he flew, "is a hot-box. Now I know what it
means. I shall go to pieces, I guess. My first road-run, too!"
"Het a bit, ain't she?" the fireman ventured to suggest to the
"She'll hold for all we want of her. We're 'most there. Guess you
chaps back had better climb into your car," said the engineer, his
hand on the brake lever. "I've seen men snapped off -"
But the crew fled back with laughter. They had no wish to be jerked
on to the track. The engineer half turned his wrist, and .007 found
his drivers pinned firm.
"Now it's come!" said .007, as he yelled aloud, and slid like a
sleigh. For the moment he fancied that he would jerk bodily from
off his underpinning.
"That must be the emergency-stop that Poney guyed me about," he
gasped, as soon as he could think. "Hot-box-emergency-stop. They
both hurt; but now I can talk back in the round-house."
He was halted, all hissing hot, a few feet in the rear of what
doctors would call a compound-comminuted car. His engineer was
kneeling down among his drivers, but he did not call .007 his "Arab
steed," nor cry over him, as the engineers did in the newspapers.
He just bad worded .007, and pulled yards of charred cotton-waste
from about the axles, and hoped he might some day catch the idiot
who had packed it. Nobody else attended to him, for Evans, the
Mogul's engineer, a little cut about the head, but very angry, was
exhibiting, by lantern-light, the mangled corpse of a slim blue pig.
"T were n't even a decent-sized hog," he said. "'T were a shote."
"Dangerousest beasts they are," said one of the crew. "Get under
the pilot an' sort o' twiddle ye off the track, don't they? "
"Don't they?" roared Evans, who was a red-headed Welshman. "You
talk as if I was ditched by a hog every fool-day o' the week. I
ain't friends with all the cussed half-fed shotes in the State o'
New York. No, indeed! Yes, this is him - an' look what he's done!"
It was not a bad night's work for one stray piglet. The Flying
Freight seemed to have flown in every direction, for the Mogul had
mounted the rails and run diagonally a few hundred feet from right
to left, taking with him such cars as cared to follow. Some did
not. They broke their couplers and lay down, while rear cars
frolicked over them. In that game, they had ploughed up and removed
and twisted a good deal of the left-hand track. The Mogul himself
had waddled into a corn-field, and there he knelt - fantastic wreaths
of green twisted round his crankpins; his pilot covered with solid
clods of field, on which corn nodded drunkenly; his fire put out
with dirt (Evans had done that as soon as he recovered his senses);
and his broken headlight half full of half-burnt moths. His tender
had thrown coal all over him, and he looked like a disreputable
buffalo who had tried to wallow in a general store. For there lay
scattered over the landscape, from the burst cars, type-writers,
sewing-machines, bicycles in crates, a consignment of silver-plated
imported harness, French dresses and gloves, a dozen finely moulded
hard-wood mantels, a fifteen-foot naphtha-launch, with a solid brass
bedstead crumpled around her bows, a case of telescopes and
microscopes, two coffins, a case of very best candies, some
gilt-edged dairy produce, butter and eggs in an omelette, a broken
box of expensive toys, and a few hundred other luxuries. A camp of
tramps hurried up from nowhere, and generously volunteered to help
the crew. So the brakemen, armed with coupler-pins, walked up and
down on one side, and the freight-conductor and the fireman patrolled
the other with their hands in their hip-pockets. A long-bearded man
came out of a house beyond the corn-field, and told Evans that if
the accident had happened a little later in the year, all his corn
would have been burned, and accused Evans of carelessness. Then he
ran away, for Evans was at his heels shrieking: "'T was his hog done
it - his hog done it! Let me kill him! Let me kill him!" Then
the wrecking-crew laughed; and the farmer put his head out of a
window and said that Evans was no gentleman.
But .007 was very sober. He had never seen a wreck before, and it
frightened him. The crew still laughed, but they worked at the same
time; and .007 forgot horror in amazement at the way they handled
the Mogul freight. They dug round him with spades; they put ties
in front of his wheels, and jack-screws under him; they embraced
him with the derrick-chain and tickled him with crowbars; while
.007 was hitched on to wrecked cars and backed away till the knot
broke or the cars rolled clear of the track. By dawn thirty or
forty men were at work, replacing and ramming down the ties,
gauging the rails and spiking them. By daylight all cars who could
move had gone on in charge of another loco; the track was freed for
traffic; and .007 had hauled the old Mogul over a small pavement of
ties, inch by inch, till his flanges bit the rail once more, and he
settled down with a clank. But his spirit was broken, and his nerve
"'T weren't even a hog," he repeated dolefully; "'t were a shote;
and you - you of all of 'em - had to help me on."
"But how in the whole long road did it happen?" asked .007, sizzling
"Happen! It didn't happen! It just come! I sailed right on top of
him around that last curve - thought he was a skunk. Yes; he was
all as little as that. He hadn't more 'n squealed once 'fore I felt
my bogies lift (he'd rolled right under the pilot), and I couldn't
catch the track again to save me. Swivelled clean off, I was. Then
I felt him sling himself along, all greasy, under my left leadin'
driver, and, oh, Boilers! that mounted the rail. I heard my flanges
zippin' along the ties, an' the next I knew I was playin' 'Sally,
Sally Waters' in the corn, my tender shuckin' coal through my cab,
an' old man Evans lyin' still an' bleedin' in front o' me. Shook?
There ain't a stay or a bolt or a rivet in me that ain't sprung to
"Umm!" said .007. "What d' you reckon you weigh?"
"Without these lumps o' dirt I'm all of a hundred thousand pound."
"And the shote?"
"Eighty. Call him a hundred pound at the outside. He's worth about
four 'n' a half dollars. Ain't it awful? Ain't it enough to give
you nervous prostration? Ain't it paralysin'? Why, I come just
around that curve - " and the Mogul told the tale again, for he was
very badly shaken.
"Well, it's all in the day's run, I guess," said .007, soothingly;
"an' - an' a corn-field's pretty soft fallin'."
"If it had bin a sixty-foot bridge, an' I could ha' slid off into
deep water an' blown up an' killed both men, same as others have
done, I wouldn't ha' cared; but to be ditched by a shote - an' you
to help me out - in a corn-field - an' an old hayseed in his
nightgown cussin' me like as if I was a sick truck-horse! ... Oh,
it's awful! Don't call me Mogul! I'm a sewin'-machine. they'll
guy my sand-box off in the yard."
And .007, his hot-box cooled and his experience vastly enlarged,
hauled the Mogul freight slowly to the roundhouse.
"Hello, old man! Bin out all night, hain't ye?" said the
irrepressible Poney, who had just come off duty. "Well, I must say
you look it. Costly-perishable-fragile-immediate - that's you! Go
to the shops, take them vine-leaves out o' your hair, an' git 'em
to play the hose on you."
"Leave him alone, Poney, " said .007 severely, as he was swung on
the turn-table, "or I'll - "
"'Didn't know the old granger was any special friend o' yours, kid.
He wasn't over-civil to you last time I saw him."
"I know it; but I've seen a wreck since then, and it has about scared
the paint off me. I'm not going to guy anyone as long as I steam -
not when they're new to the business an' anxious to learn. And I'm
not goin' to guy the old Mogul either, though I did find him wreathed
around with roastin'-ears. 'T was a little bit of a shote - not a
hog - just a shote, Poney - no bigger'n a lump of anthracite - I saw
it - that made all the mess. Anybody can be ditched, I guess."
"Found that out already, have you? Well, that's a good beginnin'."
It was the Purple Emperor, with his high, tight, plate-glass cab and
green velvet cushion, waiting to be cleaned for his next day's fly.
"Let me make you two gen'lemen acquainted," said Poney. "This is
our Purple Emperor, kid, whom you were admirin' and, I may say,
envyin' last night. This is a new brother, worshipful sir, with
most of his mileage ahead of him, but, so far as a serving-brother
can, I'll answer for him.'
"'Happy to meet you," said the Purple Emperor, with a glance round
the crowded round-house. "I guess there are enough of us here to
form a full meetin'. Ahem! By virtue of the authority vested in
me as Head of the Road, I hereby declare and pronounce No. .007 a
full and accepted Brother of the Amalgamated Brotherhood of
Locomotives, and as such entitled to all shop, switch, track, tank,
and round-house privileges throughout my jurisdiction, in the Degree
of Superior Flier, it bein' well known and credibly reported to me
that our Brother has covered forty-one miles in thirty-nine minutes
and a half on an errand of mercy to the afflicted. At a convenient
time, I myself will communicate to you the Song and Signal of this
Degree whereby you may be recognised in the darkest night. Take
your stall, newly entered Brother among Locomotives! "
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Now, in the darkest night, even as the Purple Emperor said, if you
will stand on the bridge across the freightyard, looking down upon
the four-track way, at 2:30 A. M., neither before nor after, when
the White Moth, that takes the overflow from the Purple Emperor,
tears south with her seven vestibuled cream-white cars, you will
hear, as the yard-clock makes the half-hour, a far-away sound like
the bass of a violoncello, and then, a hundred feet to each word
"With a michnai - ghignai - shtingal! Yah! Yah! Yah!
Ein - zwei - drei - Mutter! Yah! Yah! Yah!
She climb upon der shteeple,
Und she frighten all der people,
Singin' michnai - ghignai - shtingal! Yah! Yah!"
That is .007 covering his one hundred and fifty-six miles in two
hundred and twenty-one minutes.
THE MALTESE CAT
They had good reason to be proud, and better reason to be afraid,
all twelve of them; for though they had fought their way, game by
game, up the teams entered for the polo tournament, they were
meeting theArchangels that afternoon in the final match; and the
Archangels men were playing with half a dozen ponies apiece. As
the game was divided into six quarters of eight minutes each, that
meant a fresh pony after every halt. The Skidars' team, even
supposing there were no accidents, could only supply one pony for
every other change; and two to one is heavy odds. Again, as Shiraz,
the grey Syrian, pointed out, they were meeting the pink and pick
of the polo-ponies of Upper India, ponies that had cost from a
thousand rupees each, while they themselves were a cheap lot
gathered, often from country-carts, by their masters, who belonged
to a poor but honest native infantry regiment.
"Money means pace and weight," said Shiraz, rubbing his black-silk
nose dolefully along his neat-fitting boot, "and by the maxims of
the game as I know it - "
"Ah, but we aren't playing the maxims," said The Maltese Cat. "We're
playing the game; and we've the great advantage of knowing the game.
Just think a stride, Shiraz! We've pulled up from bottom to second
place in two weeks against all those fellows on the ground here.
That's because we play with our heads as well as our feet."
"It makes me feel undersized and unhappy all the same," said Kittiwynk,
a mouse-coloured mare with a red brow-band and the cleanest pair of
legs that ever an aged pony owned. "They've twice our style, these
Kittiwynk looked at the gathering and sighed. The hard, dusty
polo-ground was lined with thousands of soldiers, black and white,
not counting hundreds and hundreds of carriages and drags and
dogcarts, and ladies with brilliant-coloured parasols, and officers
in uniform and out of it, and crowds of natives behind them; and
orderlies on camels, who had halted to watch the game, instead of
carrying letters up and down the station; and native horse-dealers
running about on thin-eared Biluchi mares, looking for a chance to
sell a few first-class polo-ponies. Then there were the ponies of
thirty teams that had entered for the Upper India Free-for-All Cup
- nearly every pony of worth and dignity, from Mhow to Peshawar,
from Allahabad to Multan; prize ponies, Arabs, Syrian, Barb,
country-bred, Deccanee, Waziri, and Kabul ponies of every colour
and shape and temper that you could imagine. Some of them were in
mat-roofed stables, close to the polo-ground, but most were under
saddle, while their masters, who had been defeated in the earlier
games, trotted in and out and told the world exactly how the game
should be played.
It was a glorious sight, and the come and go of the little, quick
hooves, and the incessant salutations of ponies that had met before
on other polo-grounds or race-courses were enough to drive a
four-footed thing wild.
But the Skidars' team were careful not to know their neighbours,
though half the ponies on the ground were anxious to scrape
acquaintance with the little fellows that had come from the North,
and, so far, had swept the board.
"Let's see," said a soft gold-coloured Arab, who had been playing
very badly the day before, to The Maltese Cat; "didn't we meet in
Abdul Rahman's stable in Bombay, four seasons ago? I won the
Paikpattan Cup next season, you may remember?"
"Not me," said The Maltese Cat, politely. "I was at Malta then,
pulling a vegetable-cart. I don't race. I play the game."
"Oh! " said the Arab, cocking his tail and swaggering off.
"Keep yourselves to yourselves," said The Maltese Cat to his
companions. "We don't want to rub noses with all those goose-rumped
half-breeds of Upper India. When we've won this Cup they'll give
their shoes to know us."
"We sha'n't win the Cup," said Shiraz. "How do you feel?"
"Stale as last night's feed when a muskrat has run over it," said
Polaris, a rather heavy-shouldered grey; and the rest of the team
agreed with him.
"The sooner you forget that the better," said The Maltese Cat,
cheerfully. "They've finished tiffin in the big tent. We shall be
wanted now. If your saddles are not comfy, kick. If your bits
aren't easy, rear, and let the saises know whether your boots are
Each pony had his sais, his groom, who lived and ate and slept with
the animal, and had betted a good deal more than he could afford on
the result of the game. There was no chance of anything going wrong,
but to make sure, each sais was shampooing the legs of his pony to
the last minute. Behind the saises sat as many of the Skidars'
regiment as had leave to attend the match - about half the native
officers, and a hundred or two dark, black-bearded men with the
regimental pipers nervously fingering the big, beribboned bagpipes.
The Skidars were what they call a Pioneer regiment, and the bagpipes
made the national music of half their men. The native officers held
bundles of polo-sticks, long cane-handled mallets, and as the grand
stand filled after lunch they arranged themselves by ones and twos
at different points round the ground, so that if a stick were broken
the player would not have far to ride for a new one. An impatient
British Cavalry Band struck up "If you want to know the time, ask a
p'leeceman!" and the two umpires in light dust-coats danced out on
two little excited ponies. The four players of the Archangels' team
followed, and the sight of their beautiful mounts made Shiraz groan
"Wait till we know," said The Maltese Cat. "Two of 'em are playing
in blinkers, and that means they can't see to get out of the way
of their own side, or they may shy at the umpires' ponies. They've
all got white web-reins that are sure to stretch or slip!"
"And," said Kittiwynk, dancing to take the stiffness out of her,
"they carry their whips in their hands instead of on their wrists.
"True enough. No man can manage his stick and his reins and his
whip that way," said The Maltese Cat. "I've fallen over every
square yard of the Malta ground, and I ought to know."
He quivered his little, flea-bitten withers just to show how
satisfied he felt; but his heart was not so light. Ever since he
had drifted into India on a troop-ship, taken, with an old rifle,
as part payment for a racing debt, The Maltese Cat had played and
preached polo to the Skidars' team on the Skidars' stony pologround.
Now a polo-pony is like a poet. If he is born with a love for the
game, he can be made. The Maltese Cat knew that bamboos grew
solely in order that poloballs might be turned from their roots,
that grain was given to ponies to keep them in hard condition, and
that ponies were shod to prevent them slipping on a turn. But,
besides all these things, he knew every trick and device of the
finest game in the world, and for two seasons had been teaching
the others all he knew or guessed.
"Remember," he said for the hundredth time, as the riders came up,
"you must play together, and you must play with your heads. Whatever
happens, follow the ball. Who goes out first?"
Kittiwynk, Shiraz, Polaris, and a short high little bay fellow with
tremendous hocks and no withers worth speaking of (he was called
Corks) were being girthed up, and the soldiers in the background
stared with all their eyes.
"I want you men to keep quiet," said Lutyens, the captain of the
team, "and especially not to blow your pipes."
"Not if we win, Captain Sahib?" asked the piper.
"If we win you can do what you please," said Lutyens, with a smile,
as he slipped the loop of his stick over his wrist, and wheeled to
canter to his place. The Archangels' ponies were a little bit above
themselves on account of the many-coloured crowd so close to the
ground. Their riders were excellent players, but they were a team
of crack players instead of a crack team; and that made all the
difference in the world. They honestly meant to play together, but
it is very hard for four men, each the best of the team he is picked
from, to remember that in polo no brilliancy in hitting or riding
makes up for playing alone. Their captain shouted his orders to
them by name, and it is a curious thing that if you call his name
aloud in public after an Englishman you make him hot and fretty.
Lutyens said nothing to his men, because it had all been said before.
He pulled up Shiraz, for he was playing "back," to guard the goal.
Powell on Polaris was half-back, and Macnamara and Hughes on Corks
and Kittiwynk were forwards. The tough, bamboo ball was set in the
middle of the ground, one hundred and fifty yards from the ends,
and Hughes crossed sticks, heads up, with the Captain of the
Archangels, who saw fit to play forward; that is a place from which
you cannot easily control your team. The little click as the
cane-shafts met was heard all over the ground, and then Hughes made
some sort of quick wrist-stroke that just dribbled the ball a
few yards. Kittiwynk knew that stroke of old, and followed as a
cat follows a mouse. While the Captain of the Archangels was
wrenching his pony round, Hughes struck with all his strength, and
next instant Kittiwynk was away, Corks following close behind her,
their little feet pattering like raindrops on glass.
" Pull out to the left," said Kittiwynk between her teeth; "it's
coming your way, Corks!"
The back and half-back of the Archangels were tearing down on her
just as she was within reach of the ball. Hughes leaned forward
with a loose rein, and cut it away to the left almost under
Kittiwynk's foot, and it hopped and skipped off to Corks, who saw
that, if he was not quick it would run beyond the boundaries. That
long bouncing drive gave the Archangels time to wheel and send
three men across the ground to head off Corks. Kittiwynk stayed
where she was; for she knew the game. Corks was on the ball half
a fraction of a second before the others came up, and Macnamara,
with a backhanded stroke, sent it back across the ground to Hughes,
who saw the way clear to the Archangels' goal, and smacked the
ball in before any one quite knew what had happened.
"That's luck," said Corks, as they changed ends. "A goal in three
minutes for three hits, and no riding to speak of."
"'Don't know," said Polaris. "We've made 'em angry too soon.
Shouldn't wonder if they tried to rush us off our feet next time."
"Keep the ball hanging, then," said Shiraz. "That wears out every
pony that is not used to it."
Next time there was no easy galloping across the ground. All the
Archangels closed up as one man, but there they stayed, for Corks,
Kittiwynk, and Polaris were somewhere on the top of the ball,
marking time among the rattling sticks, while Shiraz circled about
outside, waiting for a chance.
"We can do this all day," said Polaris, ramming his quarters into
the side of another pony. "Where do you think you're shoving to?"
"I'll - I'll be driven in an ekka if I know," was the gasping reply,
"and I'd give a week's feed to get my blinkers off. I can't see
"The dust is rather bad. Whew! That was one for my off-hock.
Where's the ball, Corks?"
"Under my tail. At least, the man's looking for it there! This is
beautiful. They can't use their sticks, and it's driving 'em wild.
Give old Blinkers a push and then he'll go over."
"Here, don't touch me! I can't see. I'll - I'll back out, I think,"
said the pony in blinkers, who knew that if you can't see all round
your head, you cannot prop yourself against the shock.
Corks was watching the ball where it lay in the dust, close to his
near fore-leg, with Macnamara's shortened stick tap-tapping it from
time to time. Kittiwynk was edging her way out of the scrimmage,
whisking her stump of a tail with nervous excitement.
"Ho! They've got it," she snorted. "Let me out!" and she galloped
like a rifle-bullet just behind a tall lanky pony of the Archangels,
whose rider was swinging up his stick for a stroke.
"Not to-day, thank you," said Hughes, as the blow slid off his
raised stick, and Kittiwynk laid her shoulder to the tall pony's
quarters, and shoved him aside just as Lutyens on Shiraz sent the
ball where it had come from, and the tall pony went skating and
slipping away to the left. Kittiwynk, seeing that Polaris had
joined Corks in the chase for the ball up the ground, dropped into
Polaris' place, and then "time" was called.
The Skidars' ponies wasted no time in kicking or fuming. They knew
that each minute's rest meant so much gain, and trotted off to the
rails, and their saises began to scrape and blanket and rub them at
"Whew!" said Corks, stiffening up to get all the tickle of the big
vulcanite scraper. "If we were playing pony for pony, we would bend
those Archangels double in half an hour. But they'll bring up fresh
ones and fresh ones and fresh ones after that - you see."
"Who cares?" said Polaris. "We've drawn first blood. Is my hock
"Looks puffy," said Corks. "You must have had rather a wipe. Don't
let it stiffen. You 'll be wanted again in half an hour."
What's the game like?" said The Maltese Cat.
"'Ground's like your shoe, except where they put too much water on
it," said Kittiwynk. "Then it's slippery. Don't play in the centre.
There's a bog there. I don't know how their next four are going to
behave, but we kept the ball hanging, and made 'em lather for
nothing. Who goes out? Two Arabs and a couple of country-breds!
That's bad. What a comfort it is to wash your mouth out!"
Kitty was talking with a neck of a lather-covered soda-water bottle
between her teeth, and trying to look over her withers at the same
time. This gave her a very coquettish air.
"What's bad?" said Grey Dawn, giving to the girth and admiring his
"You Arabs can't gallop fast enough to keep yourselves warm - that's
what Kitty means," said Polaris, limping to show that his hock
needed attention. "Are you playing back, Grey Dawn?"
"'Looks like it," said Grey Dawn, as Lutyens swung himself up.
Powell mounted The Rabbit, a plain bay country-bred much like Corks,
but with mulish ears. Macnamara took Faiz-Ullah, a handy,
short-backed little red Arab with a long tail, and Hughes mounted
Benami, an old and sullen brown beast, who stood over in front more
than a polo-pony should.
"Benami looks like business," said Shiraz. "How's your temper, Ben?"
The old campaigner hobbled off without answering, and The Maltese
Cat looked at the new Archangel ponies prancing about on the ground.
They were four beautiful blacks, and they saddled big enough and
strong enough to eat the Skidars' team and gallop away with the meal
"Blinkers again," said The Maltese Cat. "Good enough!"
"They're chargers-cavalry chargers!" said Kittiwynk, indignantly.
"They'll never see thirteen-three again."
"They've all been fairly measured, and they've all got their
certificates," said The Maltese Cat, " or they wouldn't be here.
We must take things as they come along, and keep your eyes on the
The game began, but this time the Skidars were penned to their own
end of the ground, and the watching ponies did not approve of that.
"Faiz-Ullah is shirking - as usual," said Polaris, with a scornful
"Faiz-Ullah is eating whip," said Corks. They could hear the
leather-thonged polo-quirt lacing the little fellow's well-rounded
barrel. Then The Rabbit's shrill neigh came across the ground.
"I can't do all the work," he cried, desperately.
"Play the game - don't talk," The Maltese Cat whickered; and all
the ponies wriggled with excitement, and the soldiers and the grooms
gripped the railings and shouted. A black pony with blinkers had
singled out old Benami, and was interfering with him in every
possible way. They could see Benami shaking his head up and down,
and flapping his under lip.
"There'll be a fall in a minute, " said Polaris. "Benami is getting
The game flickered up and down between goal-post and goal-post, and
the black ponies were getting more confident as they felt they had
the legs of the others. The ball was hit out of a little scrimmage,
and Benami and The Rabbit followed it, Faiz-Ullah only too glad to
be quiet for an instant.
The blinkered black pony came up like a hawk, with two of his own
side behind him, and Benami's eye glittered as he raced. The
question was which pony should make way for the other, for each
rider was perfectly willing to risk a fall in a good cause. The
black, who had been driven nearly crazy by his blinkers, trusted
to his weight and his temper; but Benami knew how to apply his
weight and how to keep his temper. They met, and there was a cloud
of dust. The black was lying on his side, all the breath knocked
out of his body. The Rabbit was a hundred yards up the ground with
the ball, and Benami was sitting down. He had slid nearly ten yards
on his tail, but he had had his revenge, and sat cracking his
nostrils till the black pony rose.
"That's what you get for interfering. Do you want any more?" said
Benami, and he plunged into the game. Nothing was done that quarter,
because Faiz-Ullah would not gallop, though Macnamara beat him
whenever he could spare a second. The fall of the black pony had
impressed his companions tremendously, and so the Archangels could
not profit by Faiz-Ullah's bad behaviour.
But as The Maltese Cat said when "time" was called, and the four
came back blowing and dripping, Faiz-Ullah ought to have been kicked
all round Umballa. If he did not behave better next time The
Maltese Cat promised to pull out his Arab tail by the roots and
- eat it.
There was no time to talk, for the third four were ordered out.
The third quarter of a game is generally the hottest, for each side
thinks that the others must be pumped; and most of the winning play
in a game is made about that time.
Lutyens took over The Maltese Cat with a pat and a hug, for Lutyens
valued him more than anything else in the world; Powell had Shikast,
a little grey rat with no pedigree and no manners outside polo;
Macnamara mounted Bamboo, the largest of the team; and Hughes
Who's Who, alias The Animal. He was supposed to have Australian
blood in his veins, but he looked like a clothes-horse, and you
could whack his legs with an iron crow-bar without hurting him.
They went out to meet the very flower of the Archangels' team; and
when Who's Who saw their elegantly booted legs and their beautiful
satin skins, he grinned a grin through his light, well-worn bridle.
"My word!" said Who's Who. "We must give 'em a little football.
These gentlemen need a rubbing down."
"No biting," said The Maltese Cat, warningly; for once or twice in
his career Who's Who had been known to forget himself in that way.
"Who said anything about biting? I'm not playing tiddly-winks.
I'm playing the game."
The Archangels came down like a wolf on the fold, for they were
tired of football, and they wanted polo. They got it more and more.
Just after the game began, Lutyens hit a ball that was coming towards
him rapidly, and it rolled in the air, as a ball sometimes will, with
the whirl of a frightened partridge. Shikast heard, but could not
see it for the minute, though he looked everywhere and up into the
air as The Maltese Cat had taught him. When he saw it ahead and
overhead he went forward with Powell as fast as he could put foot to
ground. It was then that Powell, a quiet and level-headed man, as
a rule, became inspired, and played a stroke that sometimes comes
off successfully after long practice. He took his stick in both
hands, and, standing up in his stirrups, swiped at the ball in the
air, Munipore fashion. There was one second of paralysed
astonishment, and then all four sides of the ground went up in a
yell of applause and delight as the ball flew true (you could see
the amazed Archangels ducking in their saddles to dodge the line of
flight, and looking at it with open mouths), and the regimental pipes
of the Skidars squealed from the railings as long as the pipers had
breath. Shikast heard the stroke; but he heard the head of the
stick fly off at the same time. Nine hundred and ninety-nine ponies
out of a thousand would have gone tearing on after the ball with a
useless player pulling at their heads; but Powell knew him, and he
knew Powell; and the instant he felt Powell's right leg shift a
trifle on the saddle-flap, he headed to the boundary, where a
native officer was frantically waving a new stick. Before the
shouts had ended, Powell was armed again.
Once before in his life The Maltese Cat had heard that very same
stroke played off his own back, and had profited by the confusion
it wrought. This time he acted on experience, and leaving Bamboo
to guard the goal in case of accidents, came through the others like
a flash, head and tail low - Lutyens standing up to ease him - swept
on and on before the other side knew what was the matter, and nearly
pitched on his head between the Archangels' goal-post as Lutyens
kicked the ball in after a straight scurry of a hundred and fifty
yards. If there was one thing more than another upon which The
Maltese Cat prided himself, it was on this quick, streaking kind of
run half across the ground. He did not believe in taking balls
round the field unless you were clearly overmatched. After this
they gave the Archangels five-minuted football; and an expensive
fast pony hates football because it rumples his temper. Who's Who
showed himself even better than Polaris in this game. He did not
permit any wriggling away, but bored joyfully into the scrimmage as
if he had his nose in a feed-box and was looking for something nice.
Little Shikast jumped on the ball the minute it got clear, and
every time an Archangel pony followed it, he found Shikast standing
over it, asking what was the matter.
"If we can live through this quarter," said The Maltese Cat, "I
sha'n't care. Don't take it out of yourselves. Let them do the
So the ponies, as their riders explained afterwards, "shut-up."
The Archangels kept them tied fast in front of their goal, but it
cost the Archangels' ponies all that was left of their tempers; and
ponies began to kick, and men began to repeat compliments, and they
chopped at the legs of Who's Who, and he set his teeth and stayed
where he was, and the dust stood up like a tree over the scrimmage
until that hot quarter ended.
They found the ponies very excited and confident when they went to
their saises; and The Maltese Cat had to warn them that the worst
of the game was coming.
"Now we are all going in for the second time," said he, "and they
are trotting out fresh ponies. You think you can gallop, but you'll
find you can't; and then you'll be sorry."
"But two goals to nothing is a halter-long lead," said Kittiwynk,
"How long does it take to get a goal?" The Maltese Cat answered.
"For pity's sake, don't run away with a notion that the game is
half-won just because we happen to be in luck now! They'll ride
you into the grand stand, if they can; you must not give 'em a
chance. Follow the ball."
"Football, as usual?" said Polaris. "My hock's half as big as a
"Don't let them have a look at the ball, if you can help it. Now
leave me alone. I must get all the rest I can before the last