Part 11 out of 18
coated with dirt from spur to chin-strap.
The White Hussars have one great and peculiar privilege. They won it at
Fontenoy, I think.
Many Regiments possess special rights, such as wearing collars with undress
uniform, or a bow of ribbon between the shoulders, or red and white roses in
their helmets on certain days of the year. Some rights are connected with
regimental saints, and some with regimental successes. All are valued highly;
but none so highly as the right of the White Hussars to have the Band playing
when their horses are being watered in the Lines. Only one tune is played, and
that tune never varies. I don't know its real name, but the White Hussars call
it:--"Take me to London again." It sounds very pretty. The Regiment would
sooner be struck off the roster than forego their distinction.
After the "dismiss" was sounded, the officers rode off home to prepare for
stables; and the men filed into the lines, riding easy.
That is to say, they opened their tight buttons, shifted their helmets, and
began to joke or to swear as the humor took them; the more careful slipping off
and easing girths and curbs. A good trooper values his mount exactly as much as
he values himself, and believes, or should believe, that the two together are
irresistible where women or men, girls or guns, are concerned.
Then the Orderly-Officer gave the order:--"Water horses," and the Regiment
loafed off to the squadron-troughs, which were in rear of the stables and
between these and the barracks. There were four huge troughs, one for each
squadron, arranged en echelon, so that the whole Regiment could water in ten
minutes if it liked. But it lingered for seventeen, as a rule, while the Band
The band struck up as the squadrons filed off the troughs and the men slipped
their feet out of the stirrups and chaffed each other.
The sun was just setting in a big, hot bed of red cloud, and the road to the
Civil Lines seemed to run straight into the sun's eye.
There was a little dot on the road. It grew and grew till it showed as a horse,
with a sort of gridiron thing on his back. The red cloud glared through the
bars of the gridiron. Some of the troopers shaded their eyes with their hands
and said:--"What the mischief as that there 'orse got on 'im!"
In another minute they heard a neigh that every soul--horse and man--in the
Regiment knew, and saw, heading straight towards the Band, the dead Drum-Horse
of the White Hussars!
On his withers banged and bumped the kettle-drums draped in crape, and on his
back, very stiff and soldierly, sat a bare-headed skeleton.
The band stopped playing, and, for a moment, there was a hush.
Then some one in E troop--men said it was the Troop-Sergeant-Major--swung his
horse round and yelled. No one can account exactly for what happened
afterwards; but it seems that, at least, one man in each troop set an example
of panic, and the rest followed like sheep. The horses that had barely put
their muzzles into the trough's reared and capered; but, as soon as the Band
broke, which it did when the ghost of the Drum-Horse was about a furlong
distant, all hooves followed suit, and the clatter of the stampede--quite
different from the orderly throb and roar of a movement on parade, or the rough
horse-play of watering in camp--made them only more terrified. They felt that
the men on their backs were afraid of something. When horses once know THAT,
all is over except the butchery.
Troop after troop turned from the troughs and ran--anywhere, and everywhere--
like spilt quicksilver. It was a most extraordinary spectacle, for men and
horses were in all stages of easiness, and the carbine-buckets flopping against
their sides urged the horses on. Men were shouting and cursing, and trying to
pull clear of the Band which was being chased by the Drum-Horse whose rider had
fallen forward and seemed to be spurring for a wager.
The Colonel had gone over to the Mess for a drink. Most of the officers were
with him, and the Subaltern of the Day was preparing to go down to the lines,
and receive the watering reports from the Troop-Sergeant Majors. When "Take me
to London again" stopped, after twenty bars, every one in the Mess said:--"What
on earth has happened?" A minute later, they heard unmilitary noises, and saw,
far across the plain, the White Hussars scattered, and broken, and flying.
The Colonel was speechless with rage, for he thought that the Regiment had
risen against him or was unanimously drunk. The Band, a disorganized mob, tore
past, and at its heels labored the Drum-Horse--the dead and buried Drum-Horse--
with the jolting, clattering skeleton. Hogan-Yale whispered softly to Martyn:--
"No wire will stand that treatment," and the Band, which had doubled like a
hare, came back again. But the rest of the Regiment was gone, was rioting all
over the Province, for the dusk had shut in and each man was howling to his
neighbor that the Drum-Horse was on his flank.
Troop-Horses are far too tenderly treated as a rule. They can, on emergencies,
do a great deal, even with seventeen stone on their backs. As the troopers
How long this panic lasted I cannot say. I believe that when the moon rose the
men saw they had nothing to fear, and, by twos and threes and half-troops,
crept back into Cantonments very much ashamed of themselves. Meantime, the
Drum-Horse, disgusted at his treatment by old friends, pulled up, wheeled
round, and trotted up to the Mess verandah-steps for bread. No one liked to
run; but no one cared to go forward till the Colonel made a movement and laid
hold of the skeleton's foot. The Band had halted some distance away, and now
came back slowly. The Colonel called it, individually and collectively, every
evil name that occurred to him at the time; for he had set his hand on the
bosom of the Drum-Horse and found flesh and blood. Then he beat the kettle-
drums with his clenched fist, and discovered that they were but made of
silvered paper and bamboo. Next, still swearing, he tried to drag the skeleton
out of the saddle, but found that it had been wired into the cantle. The sight
of the Colonel, with his arms round the skeleton's pelvis and his knee in the
old Drum-Horse's stomach, was striking. Not to say amusing. He worried the
thing off in a minute or two, and threw it down on the ground, saying to the
Band:--"Here, you curs, that's what you're afraid of." The skeleton did not
look pretty in the twilight. The Band-Sergeant seemed to recognize it, for he
began to chuckle and choke. "Shall I take it away, sir?" said the Band-
Sergeant. "Yes," said the Colonel, "take it to Hell, and ride there
The Band-Sergeant saluted, hoisted the skeleton across his saddle-bow, and led
off to the stables. Then the Colonel began to make inquiries for the rest of
the Regiment, and the language he used was wonderful. He would disband the
Regiment--he would court-martial every soul in it--he would not command such a
set of rabble, and so on, and so on. As the men dropped in, his language grew
wilder, until at last it exceeded the utmost limits of free speech allowed even
to a Colonel of Horse.
Martyn took Hogan-Yale aside and suggested compulsory retirement from the
service as a necessity when all was discovered. Martyn was the weaker man of
the two, Hogan-Yale put up his eyebrows and remarked, firstly, that he was the
son of a Lord, and secondly, that he was as innocent as the babe unborn of the
theatrical resurrection of the Drum-Horse.
"My instructions," said Yale, with a singularly sweet smile, "were that the
Drum-Horse should be sent back as impressively as possible.
I ask you, AM I responsible if a mule-headed friend sends him back in such a
manner as to disturb the peace of mind of a regiment of Her Majesty's Cavalry?"
Martyn said:--"you are a great man and will in time become a General; but I'd
give my chance of a troop to be safe out of this affair."
Providence saved Martyn and Hogan-Yale. The Second-in-Command led the Colonel
away to the little curtained alcove wherein the subalterns of the white Hussars
were accustomed to play poker of nights; and there, after many oaths on the
Colonel's part, they talked together in low tones. I fancy that the Second-in-
Command must have represented the scare as the work of some trooper whom it
would be hopeless to detect; and I know that he dwelt upon the sin and the
shame of making a public laughingstock of the scare.
"They will call us," said the Second-in-Command, who had really a fine
imagination, "they will call us the 'Fly-by-Nights'; they will call us the
'Ghost Hunters'; they will nickname us from one end of the Army list to the
other. All the explanations in the world won't make outsiders understand that
the officers were away when the panic began. For the honor of the Regiment and
for your own sake keep this thing quiet."
The Colonel was so exhausted with anger that soothing him down was not so
difficult as might be imagined. He was made to see, gently and by degrees, that
it was obviously impossible to court-martial the whole Regiment, and equally
impossible to proceed against any subaltern who, in his belief, had any concern
in the hoax.
"But the beast's alive! He's never been shot at all!" shouted the Colonel.
"It's flat, flagrant disobedience! I've known a man broke for less, d----d
sight less. They're mocking me, I tell you, Mutman! They're mocking me!"
Once more, the Second-in-Command set himself to sooth the Colonel, and wrestled
with him for half-an-hour. At the end of that time, the Regimental Sergeant-
Major reported himself. The situation was rather novel tell to him; but he was
not a man to be put out by circumstances. He saluted and said: "Regiment all
come back, Sir." Then, to propitiate the Colonel:--"An' none of the horses any
the worse, Sir."
The Colonel only snorted and answered:--"You'd better tuck the men into their
cots, then, and see that they don't wake up and cry in the night." The Sergeant
His little stroke of humor pleased the Colonel, and, further, he felt slightly
ashamed of the language he had been using. The Second-in-Command worried him
again, and the two sat talking far into the night.
Next day but one, there was a Commanding Officer's parade, and the Colonel
harangued the White Hussars vigorously. The pith of his speech was that, since
the Drum-Horse in his old age had proved himself capable of cutting up the
Whole Regiment, he should return to his post of pride at the head of the band,
BUT the Regiment were a set of ruffians with bad consciences.
The White Hussars shouted, and threw everything movable about them into the
air, and when the parade was over, they cheered the Colonel till they couldn't
speak. No cheers were put up for Lieutenant Hogan-Yale, who smiled very sweetly
in the background.
Said the Second-in-Command to the Colonel, unofficially:--"These little things
ensure popularity, and do not the least affect discipline."
"But I went back on my word," said the Colonel.
"Never mind," said the Second-in-Command. "The White Hussars will follow you
anywhere from today. Regiments are just like women. They will do anything for
A week later, Hogan-Yale received an extraordinary letter from some one who
signed himself "Secretary Charity and Zeal, 3709, E. C.," and asked for "the
return of our skeleton which we have reason to believe is in your possession."
"Who the deuce is this lunatic who trades in bones?" said Hogan-Yale.
"Beg your pardon, Sir," said the Band-Sergeant, "but the skeleton is with me,
an' I'll return it if you'll pay the carriage into the Civil Lines. There's a
coffin with it, Sir."
Hogan-Yale smiled and handed two rupees to the Band-Sergeant, saying:--"Write
the date on the skull, will you?"
If you doubt this story, and know where to go, you can see the date on the
skeleton. But don't mention the matter to the White Hussars.
I happen to know something about it, because I prepared the Drum-Horse for his
resurrection. He did not take kindly to the skeleton at all.
THE BRONCKHORST DIVORCE-CASE.
In the daytime, when she moved about me,
In the night, when she was sleeping at my side,--
I was wearied, I was wearied of her presence.
Day by day and night by night I grew to hate her--
Would to God that she or I had died!
There was a man called Bronckhorst--a three-cornered, middle-aged man in the
Army--gray as a badger, and, some people said, with a touch of country-blood in
him. That, however, cannot be proved.
Mrs. Bronckhorst was not exactly young, though fifteen years younger than her
husband. She was a large, pale, quiet woman, with heavy eyelids, over weak
eyes, and hair that turned red or yellow as the lights fell on it.
Bronckhorst was not nice in any way. He had no respect for the pretty public
and private lies that make life a little less nasty than it is. His manner
towards his wife was coarse. There are many things--including actual assault
with the clenched fist--that a wife will endure; but seldom a wife can bear--as
Mrs. Bronckhorst bore--with a long course of brutal, hard chaff, making light
of her weaknesses, her headaches, her small fits of gaiety, her dresses, her
queer little attempts to make herself attractive to her husband when she knows
that she is not what she has been, and--worst of all--the love that she spends
on her children. That particular sort of heavy-handed jest was specially dear
to Bronckhorst. I suppose that he had first slipped into it, meaning no harm,
in the honeymoon, when folk find their ordinary stock of endearments run short,
and so go to the other extreme to express their feelings. A similar impulse
makes a man say:--"Hutt, you old beast!" when a favorite horse nuzzles his
coat-front. Unluckily, when the reaction of marriage sets in, the form of
speech remains, and, the tenderness having died out, hurts the wife more than
she cares to say. But Mrs. Bronckhorst was devoted to her "Teddy," as she
Perhaps that was why he objected to her. Perhaps--this is only a theory to
account for his infamous behavior later on--he gave way to the queer savage
feeling that sometimes takes by the throat a husband twenty years' married,
when he sees, across the table, the same face of his wedded wife, and knows
that, as he has sat facing it, so must he continue to sit until day of its
death or his own.
Most men and all women know the spasm. It only lasts for three breaths as a
rule, must be a "throw-back" to times when men and women were rather worse than
they are now, and is too unpleasant to be discussed.
Dinner at the Bronckhorst's was an infliction few men cared to undergo.
Bronckhorst took a pleasure in saying things that made his wife wince. When
their little boy came in at dessert, Bronckhorst used to give him half a glass
of wine, and naturally enough, the poor little mite got first riotous, next
miserable, and was removed screaming. Bronckhorst asked if that was the way
Teddy usually behaved, and whether Mrs. Bronckhorst could not spare some of her
time to teach the "little beggar decency." Mrs. Bronckhorst, who loved the boy
more than her own life, tried not to cry--her spirit seemed to have been broken
by her marriage. Lastly, Bronckhorst used to say:--"There! That'll do, that'll
do. For God's sake try to behave like a rational woman. Go into the drawing-
room." Mrs. Bronckhorst would go, trying to carry it all off with a smile; and
the guest of the evening would feel angry and uncomfortable.
After three years of this cheerful life--for Mrs. Bronckhorst had no woman-
friends to talk to--the Station was startled by the news that Bronckhorst had
instituted proceedings ON THE CRIMINAL COUNT, against a man called Biel, who
certainly had been rather attentive to Mrs. Bronckhorst whenever she had
appeared in public. The utter want of reserve with which Bronckhorst treated
his own dishonor helped us to know that the evidence against Biel would be
entirely circumstantial and native. There were no letters; but Bronckhorst said
openly that he would rack Heaven and Earth until he saw Biel superintending the
manufacture of carpets in the Central Jail. Mrs. Bronckhorst kept entirely to
her house, and let charitable folks say what they pleased. Opinions were
divided. Some two-thirds of the Station jumped at once to the conclusion that
Biel was guilty; but a dozen men who knew and liked him held by him. Biel was
furious and surprised. He denied the whole thing, and vowed that he would
thrash Bronckhorst within an inch of his life. No jury, we knew, could convict
a man on the criminal count on native evidence in a land where you can buy a
murder-charge, including the corpse, all complete for fifty-four rupees; but
Biel did not care to scrape through by the benefit of a doubt. He wanted the
whole thing cleared: but as he said one night:--"He can prove anything with
servants' evidence, and I've only my bare word." This was about a month before
the case came on; and beyond agreeing with Biel, we could do little. All that
we could be sure of was that the native evidence would be bad enough to blast
Biel's character for the rest of his service; for when a native begins perjury
he perjures himself thoroughly. He does not boggle over details.
Some genius at the end of the table whereat the affair was being talked over,
said:--"Look here! I don't believe lawyers are any good. Get a man to wire to
Strickland, and beg him to come down and pull us through."
Strickland was about a hundred and eighty miles up the line. He had not long
been married to Miss Youghal, but he scented in the telegram a chance of return
to the old detective work that his soul lusted after, and next night he came in
and heard our story. He finished his pipe and said oracularly:--"We must get at
the evidence. Oorya bearer, Mussalman khit and methraniayah, I suppose, are the
pillars of the charge. I am on in this piece; but I'm afraid I'm getting rusty
in my talk."
He rose and went into Biel's bedroom where his trunk had been put, and shut the
door. An hour later, we heard him say:--"I hadn't the heart to part with my old
makeups when I married. Will this do?" There was a lothely faquir salaaming in
"Now lend me fifty rupees," said Strickland, "and give me your Words of Honor
that you won't tell my Wife."
He got all that he asked for, and left the house while the table drank his
health. What he did only he himself knows. A faquir hung about Bronckhorst's
compound for twelve days. Then a mehter appeared, and when Biel heard of HIM,
he said that Strickland was an angel full-fledged. Whether the mehter made love
to Janki, Mrs. Bronckhorst's ayah, is a question which concerns Strickland
He came back at the end of three weeks, and said quietly:--"You spoke the
truth, Biel. The whole business is put up from beginning to end. Jove! It
almost astonishes ME! That Bronckhorst-beast isn't fit to live."
There was uproar and shouting, and Biel said:--"How are you going to prove it?
You can't say that you've been trespassing on Bronckhorst's compound in
"No," said Strickland. "Tell your lawyer-fool, whoever he is, to get up
something strong about 'inherent improbabilities' and 'discrepancies of
evidence.' He won't have to speak, but it will make him happy. I'M going to run
Biel held his tongue, and the other men waited to see what would happen. They
trusted Strickland as men trust quiet men. When the case came off the Court was
crowded. Strickland hung about in the verandah of the Court, till he met the
Mohammedan khitmatgar. Then he murmured a faquir's blessing in his ear, and
asked him how his second wife did. The man spun round, and, as he looked into
the eyes of "Estreeken Sahib," his jaw dropped. You must remember that before
Strickland was married, he was, as I have told you already, a power among
natives. Strickland whispered a rather coarse vernacular proverb to the effect
that he was abreast of all that was going on, and went into the Court armed
with a gut trainer's-whip.
The Mohammedan was the first witness and Strickland beamed upon him from the
back of the Court. The man moistened his lips with his tongue and, in his
abject fear of "Estreeken Sahib" the faquir, went back on every detail of his
evidence--said he was a poor man and God was his witness that he had forgotten
every thing that Bronckhorst Sahib had told him to say. Between his terror of
Strickland, the Judge, and Bronckhorst he collapsed, weeping.
Then began the panic among the witnesses. Janki, the ayah, leering chastely
behind her veil, turned gray, and the bearer left the Court. He said that his
Mamma was dying and that it was not wholesome for any man to lie unthriftily in
the presence of "Estreeken Sahib."
Biel said politely to Bronckhorst:--"Your witnesses don't seem to work. Haven't
you any forged letters to produce?" But Bronckhorst was swaying to and fro in
his chair, and there was a dead pause after Biel had been called to order.
Bronckhorst's Counsel saw the look on his client's face, and without more ado,
pitched his papers on the little green baize table, and mumbled something about
having been misinformed. The whole Court applauded wildly, like soldiers at a
theatre, and the Judge began to say what he thought.
. . . . . . . . .
Biel came out of the place, and Strickland dropped a gut trainer's-whip in the
verandah. Ten minutes later, Biel was cutting Bronckhorst into ribbons behind
the old Court cells, quietly and without scandal. What was left of Bronckhorst
was sent home in a carriage; and his wife wept over it and nursed it into a man
Later on, after Biel had managed to hush up the counter-charge against
Bronckhorst of fabricating false evidence, Mrs. Bronckhorst, with her faint
watery smile, said that there had been a mistake, but it wasn't her Teddy's
fault altogether. She would wait till her Teddy came back to her. Perhaps he
had grown tired of her, or she had tried his patience, and perhaps we wouldn't
cut her any more, and perhaps the mothers would let their children play with
"little Teddy" again. He was so lonely. Then the Station invited Mrs.
Bronckhorst everywhere, until Bronckhorst was fit to appear in public, when he
went Home and took his wife with him. According to the latest advices, her
Teddy did "come back to her," and they are moderately happy. Though, of course,
he can never forgive her the thrashing that she was the indirect means of
getting for him.
. . . . . . . . .
What Biel wants to know is:--"Why didn't I press home the charge against the
Bronckhorst-brute, and have him run in?"
What Mrs. Strickland wants to know is:--"How DID my husband bring such a
lovely, lovely Waler from your Station? I know ALL his money-affairs; and I'm
CERTAIN he didn't BUY it."
What I want to know is:--How do women like Mrs. Bronckhorst come to marry men
And my conundrum is the most unanswerable of the three.
And the years went on as the years must do;
But our great Diana was always new--
Fresh, and blooming, and blonde, and fair,
With azure eyes and with aureate hair;
And all the folk, as they came or went,
Offered her praise to her heart's content.
--Diana of Ephesus.
She had nothing to do with Number Eighteen in the Braccio Nuovo of the Vatican,
between Visconti's Ceres and the God of the Nile. She was purely an Indian
deity--an Anglo-Indian deity, that is to say--and we called her THE Venus
Annodomini, to distinguish her from other Annodominis of the same everlasting
order. There was a legend among the Hills that she had once been young; but no
living man was prepared to come forward and say boldly that the legend was
Men rode up to Simla, and stayed, and went away and made their name and did
their life's work, and returned again to find the Venus Annodomini exactly as
they had left her. She was as immutable as the Hills. But not quite so green.
All that a girl of eighteen could do in the way of riding, walking, dancing,
picnicking and over-exertion generally, the Venus Annodomini did, and showed no
sign of fatigue or trace of weariness. Besides perpetual youth, she had
discovered, men said, the secret of perpetual health; and her fame spread about
the land. From a mere woman, she grew to be an Institution, insomuch that no
young man could be said to be properly formed, who had not, at some time or
another, worshipped at the shrine of the Venus Annodomini. There was no one
like her, though there were many imitations. Six years in her eyes were no more
than six months to ordinary women; and ten made less visible impression on her
than does a week's fever on an ordinary woman. Every one adored her, and in
return she was pleasant and courteous to nearly every one. Youth had been a
habit of hers for so long, that she could not part with it--never realized, in
fact, the necessity of parting with it--and took for her more chosen associates
Among the worshippers of the Venus Annodomini was young Gayerson.
"Very Young" Gayerson, he was called to distinguish him from his father "Young"
Gayerson, a Bengal Civilian, who affected the customs--as he had the heart--of
youth. "Very Young" Gayerson was not content to worship placidly and for form's
sake, as the other young men did, or to accept a ride or a dance, or a talk
from the Venus Annodomini in a properly humble and thankful spirit. He was
exacting, and, therefore, the Venus Annodomini repressed him. He worried
himself nearly sick in a futile sort of way over her; and his devotion and
earnestness made him appear either shy or boisterous or rude, as his mood might
vary, by the side of the older men who, with him, bowed before the Venus
Annodomini. She was sorry for him. He reminded her of a lad who, three-and-
twenty years ago, had professed a boundless devotion for her, and for whom in
return she had felt something more than a week's weakness. But that lad had
fallen away and married another woman less than a year after he had worshipped
her; and the Venus Annodomini had almost--not quite--forgotten his name. "Very
Young" Gayerson had the same big blue eyes and the same way of pouting his
underlip when he was excited or troubled. But the Venus Annodomini checked him
sternly none the less. Too much zeal was a thing that she did not approve of;
preferring instead, a tempered and sober tenderness.
"Very Young" Gayerson was miserable, and took no trouble to conceal his
wretchedness. He was in the Army--a Line regiment I think, but am not certain--
and, since his face was a looking-glass and his forehead an open book, by
reason of his innocence, his brothers in arms made his life a burden to him and
embittered his naturally sweet disposition. No one except "Very Young"
Gayerson, and he never told his views, knew how old "Very Young" Gayerson
believed the Venus Annodomini to be. Perhaps he thought her five and twenty, or
perhaps she told him that she was this age. "Very Young" Gayerson would have
forded the Gugger in flood to carry her lightest word, and had implicit faith
in her. Every one liked him, and every one was sorry when they saw him so bound
a slave of the Venus Annodomini. Every one, too, admitted that it was not her
fault; for the Venus Annodomini differed from Mrs. Hauksbee and Mrs. Reiver in
this particular--she never moved a finger to attract any one; but, like Ninon
de l'Enclos, all men were attracted to her. One could admire and respect Mrs.
Hauksbee, despise and avoid Mrs. Reiver, but one was forced to adore the Venus
"Very Young" Gayerson's papa held a Division or a Collectorate or something
administrative in a particularly unpleasant part of Bengal--full of Babus who
edited newspapers proving that "Young" Gayerson was a "Nero" and a "Scylla" and
a "Charybdis"; and, in addition to the Babus, there was a good deal of
dysentery and cholera abroad for nine months of the year. "Young" Gayerson--he
was about five and forty--rather liked Babus, they amused him, but he objects
to dysentery, and when he could get away, went to Darjiling for the most part.
This particular season he fancied that he would come up to Simla, and see his
boy. The boy was not altogether pleased. He told the Venus Annodomini that his
father was coming up, and she flushed a little and said that she should be
delighted to make his acquaintance. Then she looked long and thoughtfully at
"Very Young" Gayerson; because she was very, very sorry for him, and he was a
very, very big idiot.
"My daughter is coming out in a fortnight, Mr. Gayerson," she said.
"Your WHAT?" said he.
"Daughter," said the Venus Annodomini. "She's been out for a year at Home
already, and I want her to see a little of India. She is nineteen and a very
sensible, nice girl I believe."
"Very Young" Gayerson, who was a short twenty-two years old, nearly fell out of
his chair with astonishment; for he had persisted in believing, against all
belief, in the youth of the Venus Annodomini.
She, with her back to the curtained window, watched the effect of her
sentences and smiled.
"Very Young" Gayerson's papa came up twelve days later, and had not been in
Simla four and twenty hours, before two men, old acquaintances of his, had told
him how "Very Young" Gayerson had been conducting himself.
"Young" Gayerson laughed a good deal, and inquired who the Venus Annodomini
might be. Which proves that he had been living in Bengal where nobody knows
anything except the rate of Exchange. Then he said "boys will be boys," and
spoke to his son about the matter.
"Very Young" Gayerson said that he felt wretched and unhappy; and "Young"
Gayerson said that he repented of having helped to bring a fool into the world.
He suggested that his son had better cut his leave short and go down to his
duties. This led to an unfilial answer, and relations were strained, until
"Young" Gayerson demanded that they should call on the Venus Annodomini. "Very
Young" Gayerson went with his papa, feeling, somehow, uncomfortable and small.
The Venus Annodomini received them graciously and "Young" Gayerson said:--"By
Jove! It's Kitty!" "Very Young" Gayerson would have listened for an
explanation, if his time had not been taken up with trying to talk to a large,
handsome, quiet, well-dressed girl--introduced to him by the Venus Annodomini
as her daughter. She was far older in manners, style and repose than "Very
Young" Gayerson; and, as he realized this thing, he felt sick.
Presently, he heard the Venus Annodomini saying:--"Do you know that your son is
one of my most devoted admirers?"
"I don't wonder," said "Young" Gayerson. Here he raised his voice:--"He follows
his father's footsteps. Didn't I worship the ground you trod on, ever so long
ago, Kitty--and you haven't changed since then. How strange it all seems!"
"Very Young" Gayerson said nothing. His conversation with the daughter of the
Venus Annodomini was, through the rest of the call, fragmentary and disjointed.
. . . . . . . . .
"At five, tomorrow then," said the Venus Annodomini. "And mind you are
"At five punctual," said "Young" Gayerson. "You can lend your old father a
horse I dare say, youngster, can't you? I'm going for a ride tomorrow
"Certainly," said "Very Young" Gayerson. "I am going down tomorrow morning. My
ponies are at your service, Sir."
The Venus Annodomini looked at him across the half-light of the room, and her
big gray eyes filled with moisture. She rose and shook hands with him.
"Goodbye, Tom," whispered the Venus Annodomini.
THE BISARA OF POOREE.
Little Blind Fish, thou art marvellous wise,
Little Blind Fish, who put out thy eyes?
Open thine ears while I whisper my wish--
Bring me a lover, thou little Blind Fish.
--The Charm of the Bisara.
Some natives say that it came from the other side of Kulu, where the eleven-
inch Temple Sapphire is. Others that it was made at the Devil-Shrine of Ao-
Chung in Thibet, was stolen by a Kafir, from him by a Gurkha, from him again by
a Lahouli, from him by a khitmatgar, and by this latter sold to an Englishman,
so all its virtue was lost: because, to work properly, the Bisara of Pooree
must be stolen--with bloodshed if possible, but, at any rate, stolen.
These stories of the coming into India are all false. It was made at Pooree
ages since--the manner of its making would fill a small book--was stolen by one
of the Temple dancing-girls there, for her own purposes, and then passed on
from hand to hand, steadily northward, till it reached Hanla: always bearing
the same name--the Bisara of Pooree. In shape it is a tiny, square box of
silver, studded outside with eight small balas-rubies. Inside the box, which
opens with a spring, is a little eyeless fish, carved from some sort of dark,
shiny nut and wrapped in a shred of faded gold-cloth. That is the Bisara of
Pooree, and it were better for a man to take a king cobra in his hand than to
touch the Bisara of Pooree.
All kinds of magic are out of date and done away with except in India where
nothing changes in spite of the shiny, toy-scum stuff that people call
"civilization." Any man who knows about the Bisara of Pooree will tell you what
its powers are--always supposing that it has been honestly stolen. It is the
only regularly working, trustworthy love-charm in the country, with one
[The other charm is in the hands of a trooper of the Nizam's Horse, at a place
called Tuprani, due north of Hyderabad.] This can be depended upon for a fact.
Some one else may explain it.
If the Bisara be not stolen, but given or bought or found, it turns against its
owner in three years, and leads to ruin or death. This is another fact which
you may explain when you have time.
Meanwhile, you can laugh at it. At present, the Bisara is safe on an ekka-
pony's neck, inside the blue bead-necklace that keeps off the Evil-eye. If the
ekka-driver ever finds it, and wears it, or gives it to his wife, I am sorry
A very dirty hill-cooly woman, with goitre, owned it at Theog in 1884. It came
into Simla from the north before Churton's khitmatgar bought it, and sold it,
for three times its silver-value, to Churton, who collected curiosities. The
servant knew no more what he had bought than the master; but a man looking over
Churton's collection of curiosities--Churton was an Assistant Commissioner by
the way--saw and held his tongue. He was an Englishman; but knew how to
believe. Which shows that he was different from most Englishmen. He knew that
it was dangerous to have any share in the little box when working or dormant;
for unsought Love is a terrible gift.
Pack--"Grubby" Pack, as we used to call him--was, in every way, a nasty little
man who must have crawled into the Army by mistake. He was three inches taller
than his sword, but not half so strong. And the sword was a fifty-shilling,
tailor-made one. Nobody liked him, and, I suppose, it was his wizenedness and
worthlessness that made him fall so hopelessly in love with Miss Hollis, who
was good and sweet, and five foot seven in her tennis shoes. He was not content
with falling in love quietly, but brought all the strength of his miserable
little nature into the business. If he had not been so objectionable, one might
have pitied him. He vapored, and fretted, and fumed, and trotted up and down,
and tried to make himself pleasing in Miss Hollis's big, quiet, gray eyes, and
failed. It was one of the cases that you sometimes meet, even in this country
where we marry by Code, of a really blind attachment all on one side, without
the faintest possibility of return. Miss Hollis looked on Pack as some sort of
vermin running about the road. He had no prospects beyond Captain's pay, and no
wits to help that out by one anna. In a large-sized man, love like his would
have been touching.
In a good man it would have been grand. He being what he was, it was only a
You will believe this much. What you will not believe, is what follows:
Churton, and The Man who Knew that the Bisara was, were lunching at the Simla
Club together. Churton was complaining of life in general. His best mare had
rolled out of stable down the hill and had broken her back; his decisions were
being reversed by the upper Courts, more than an Assistant Commissioner of
eight years' standing has a right to expect; he knew liver and fever, and, for
weeks past, had felt out of sorts. Altogether, he was disgusted and
Simla Club dining-room is built, as all the world knows, in two sections, with
an arch-arrangement dividing them. Come in, turn to your own left, take the
table under the window, and you cannot see any one who has come in, turning to
the right, and taken a table on the right side of the arch. Curiously enough,
every word that you say can be heard, not only by the other diner, but by the
servants beyond the screen through which they bring dinner. This is worth
knowing: an echoing-room is a trap to be forewarned against.
Half in fun, and half hoping to be believed, The Man who Knew told Churton the
story of the Bisara of Pooree at rather greater length than I have told it to
you in this place; winding up with the suggestion that Churton might as well
throw the little box down the hill and see whether all his troubles would go
with it. In ordinary ears, English ears, the tale was only an interesting bit
of folk-lore. Churton laughed, said that he felt better for his tiffin, and
went out. Pack had been tiffining by himself to the right of the arch, and had
heard everything. He was nearly mad with his absurd infatuation for Miss Hollis
that all Simla had been laughing about.
It is a curious thing that, when a man hates or loves beyond reason, he is
ready to go beyond reason to gratify his feelings. Which he would not do for
money or power merely. Depend upon it, Solomon would never have built altars to
Ashtaroth and all those ladies with queer names, if there had not been trouble
of some kind in his zenana, and nowhere else. But this is beside the story. The
facts of the case are these: Pack called on Churton next day when Churton was
out, left his card, and STOLE the Bisara of Pooree from its place under the
clock on the mantelpiece! Stole it like the thief he was by nature. Three days
later, all Simla was electrified by the news that Miss Hollis had accepted
Pack--the shrivelled rat, Pack! Do you desire clearer evidence than this? The
Bisara of Pooree had been stolen, and it worked as it had always done when won
by foul means.
There are three or four times in a man's life when he is justified in meddling
with other people's affairs to play Providence.
The Man who Knew felt that he WAS justified; but believing and acting on a
belief are quite different things. The insolent satisfaction of Pack as he
ambled by the side of Miss Hollis, and Churton's striking release from liver,
as soon as the Bisara of Pooree had gone, decided the Man. He explained to
Churton and Churton laughed, because he was not brought up to believe that men
on the Government House List steal--at least little things. But the miraculous
acceptance by Miss Hollis of that tailor, Pack, decided him to take steps on
suspicion. He vowed that he only wanted to find out where his ruby-studded
silver box had vanished to. You cannot accuse a man on the Government House
List of stealing. And if you rifle his room you are a thief yourself. Churton,
prompted by The Man who Knew, decided on burglary. If he found nothing in
Pack's room . . . . but it is not nice to think of what would have happened in
Pack went to a dance at Benmore--Benmore WAS Benmore in those days, and not an
office--and danced fifteen waltzes out of twenty-two with Miss Hollis. Churton
and The Man took all the keys that they could lay hands on, and went to Pack's
room in the hotel, certain that his servants would be away. Pack was a cheap
soul. He had not purchased a decent cash-box to keep his papers in, but one of
those native imitations that you buy for ten rupees. It opened to any sort of
key, and there at the bottom, under Pack's Insurance Policy, lay the Bisara of
Churton called Pack names, put the Bisara of Pooree in his pocket, and went to
the dance with The Man. At least, he came in time for supper, and saw the
beginning of the end in Miss Hollis's eyes. She was hysterical after supper,
and was taken away by her Mamma.
At the dance, with the abominable Bisara in his pocket, Churton twisted his
foot on one of the steps leading down to the old Rink, and had to be sent home
in a rickshaw, grumbling. He did not believe in the Bisara of Pooree any the
more for this manifestation, but he sought out Pack and called him some ugly
names; and "thief" was the mildest of them. Pack took the names with the
nervous smile of a little man who wants both soul and body to resent an insult,
and went his way. There was no public scandal.
A week later, Pack got his definite dismissal from Miss Hollis.
There had been a mistake in the placing of her affections, she said.
So he went away to Madras, where he can do no great harm even if he lives to be
Churton insisted upon The Man who Knew taking the Bisara of Pooree as a gift.
The Man took it, went down to the Cart Road at once, found an ekka pony with a
blue head-necklace, fastened the Bisara of Pooree inside the necklace with a
piece of shoe-string and thanked Heaven that he was rid of a danger. Remember,
in case you ever find it, that you must not destroy the Bisara of Pooree. I
have not time to explain why just now, but the power lies in the little wooden
fish. Mister Gubernatis or Max Muller could tell you more about it than I.
You will say that all this story is made up. Very well. If ever you come across
a little silver, ruby-studded box, seven-eighths of an inch long by three-
quarters wide, with a dark-brown wooden fish, wrapped in gold cloth, inside it,
keep it. Keep it for three years, and then you will discover for yourself
whether my story is true or false.
Better still, steal it as Pack did, and you will be sorry that you had not
killed yourself in the beginning.
THE GATE OF A HUNDRED SORROWS.
"If I can attain Heaven for a pice, why should you be envious?"
--Opium Smoker's Proverb.
This is no work of mine. My friend, Gabral Misquitta, the half-caste, spoke it
all, between moonset and morning, six weeks before he died; and I took it down
from his mouth as he answered my questions so:--
It lies between the Copper-smith's Gully and the pipe-stem sellers' quarter,
within a hundred yards, too, as the crow flies, of the Mosque of Wazir Khan. I
don't mind telling any one this much, but I defy him to find the Gate, however
well he may think he knows the City. You might even go through the very gully
it stands in a hundred times, and be none the wiser. We used to call the gully,
"the Gully of the Black Smoke," but its native name is altogether different of
course. A loaded donkey couldn't pass between the walls; and, at one point,
just before you reach the Gate, a bulged house-front makes people go along all
It isn't really a gate though. It's a house. Old Fung-Tching had it first five
years ago. He was a boot-maker in Calcutta. They say that he murdered his wife
there when he was drunk. That was why he dropped bazar-rum and took to the
Black Smoke instead. Later on, he came up north and opened the Gate as a house
where you could get your smoke in peace and quiet. Mind you, it was a pukka,
respectable opium-house, and not one of those stifling, sweltering chandoo-
khanas, that you can find all over the City. No; the old man knew his business
thoroughly, and he was most clean for a Chinaman. He was a one-eyed little
chap, not much more than five feet high, and both his middle fingers were gone.
All the same, he was the handiest man at rolling black pills I have ever seen.
Never seemed to be touched by the Smoke, either; and what he took day and
night, night and day, was a caution. I've been at it five years, and I can do
my fair share of the Smoke with any one; but I was a child to Fung-Tching that
way. All the same, the old man was keen on his money, very keen; and that's
what I can't understand. I heard he saved a good deal before he died, but his
nephew has got all that now; and the old man's gone back to China to be buried.
He kept the big upper room, where his best customers gathered, as neat as a new
pin. In one corner used to stand Fung-Tching's Joss--almost as ugly as Fung-
Tching--and there were always sticks burning under his nose; but you never
smelt 'em when the pipes were going thick. Opposite the Joss was Fung-Tching's
coffin. He had spent a good deal of his savings on that, and whenever a new man
came to the Gate he was always introduced to it. It was lacquered black, with
red and gold writings on it, and I've heard that Fung-Tching brought it out all
the way from China. I don't know whether that's true or not, but I know that,
if I came first in the evening, I used to spread my mat just at the foot of it.
It was a quiet corner you see, and a sort of breeze from the gully came in at
the window now and then. Besides the mats, there was no other furniture in the
room--only the coffin, and the old Joss all green and blue and purple with age
Fung-Tching never told us why he called the place "The Gate of a Hundred
Sorrows." (He was the only Chinaman I know who used bad-sounding fancy names.
Most of them are flowery. As you'll see in Calcutta.) We used to find that out
for ourselves. Nothing grows on you so much, if you're white, as the Black
Smoke. A yellow man is made different. Opium doesn't tell on him scarcely at
all; but white and black suffer a good deal. Of course, there are some people
that the Smoke doesn't touch any more than tobacco would at first. They just
doze a bit, as one would fall asleep naturally, and next morning they are
almost fit for work. Now, I was one of that sort when I began, but I've been at
it for five years pretty steadily, and its different now. There was an old aunt
of mine, down Agra way, and she left me a little at her death. About sixty
rupees a month secured. Sixty isn't much. I can recollect a time, seems
hundreds and hundreds of years ago, that I was getting my three hundred a
month, and pickings, when I was working on a big timber contract in Calcutta.
I didn't stick to that work for long. The Black Smoke does not allow of much
other business; and even though I am very little affected by it, as men go, I
couldn't do a day's work now to save my life. After all, sixty rupees is what I
want. When old Fung-Tching was alive he used to draw the money for me, give me
about half of it to live on (I eat very little), and the rest he kept himself.
I was free of the Gate at any time of the day and night, and could smoke and
sleep there when I liked, so I didn't care. I know the old man made a good
thing out of it; but that's no matter. Nothing matters, much to me; and,
besides, the money always came fresh and fresh each month.
There was ten of us met at the Gate when the place was first opened. Me, and
two Baboos from a Government Office somewhere in Anarkulli, but they got the
sack and couldn't pay (no man who has to work in the daylight can do the Black
Smoke for any length of time straight on); a Chinaman that was Fung-Tching's
nephew; a bazar-woman that had got a lot of money somehow; an English loafer--
Mac-Somebody I think, but I have forgotten--that smoked heaps, but never seemed
to pay anything (they said he had saved Fung-Tching's life at some trial in
Calcutta when he was a barrister): another Eurasian, like myself, from Madras;
a half-caste woman, and a couple of men who said they had come from the North.
I think they must have been Persians or Afghans or something. There are not
more than five of us living now, but we come regular. I don't know what
happened to the Baboos; but the bazar-woman she died after six months of the
Gate, and I think Fung-Tching took her bangles and nose-ring for himself. But
I'm not certain. The Englishman, he drank as well as smoked, and he dropped
off. One of the Persians got killed in a row at night by the big well near the
mosque a long time ago, and the Police shut up the well, because they said it
was full of foul air.
They found him dead at the bottom of it. So, you see, there is only me, the
Chinaman, the half-caste woman that we call the Memsahib (she used to live with
Fung-Tching), the other Eurasian, and one of the Persians. The Memsahib looks
very old now. I think she was a young woman when the Gate was opened; but we
are all old for the matter of that. Hundreds and hundreds of years old. It is
very hard to keep count of time in the Gate, and besides, time doesn't matter
to me. I draw my sixty rupees fresh and fresh every month.
A very, very long while ago, when I used to be getting three hundred and fifty
rupees a month, and pickings, on a big timber-contract at Calcutta, I had a
wife of sorts. But she's dead now. People said that I killed her by taking to
the Black Smoke. Perhaps I did, but it's so long since it doesn't matter.
Sometimes when I first came to the Gate, I used to feel sorry for it; but
that's all over and done with long ago, and I draw my sixty rupees fresh and
fresh every month, and am quite happy. Not DRUNK happy, you know, but always
quiet and soothed and contented.
How did I take to it? It began at Calcutta. I used to try it in my own house,
just to see what it was like. I never went very far, but I think my wife must
have died then. Anyhow, I found myself here, and got to know Fung-Tching. I
don't remember rightly how that came about; but he told me of the Gate and I
used to go there, and, somehow, I have never got away from it since. Mind you,
though, the Gate was a respectable place in Fung-Tching's time where you could
be comfortable, and not at all like the chandoo-khanas where the niggers go.
No; it was clean and quiet, and not crowded. Of course, there were others
beside us ten and the man; but we always had a mat apiece with a wadded woollen
head-piece, all covered with black and red dragons and things; just like a
coffin in the corner.
At the end of one's third pipe the dragons used to move about and fight. I've
watched 'em, many and many a night through. I used to regulate my Smoke that
way, and now it takes a dozen pipes to make 'em stir. Besides, they are all
torn and dirty, like the mats, and old Fung-Tching is dead. He died a couple of
years ago, and gave me the pipe I always use now--a silver one, with queer
beasts crawling up and down the receiver-bottle below the cup. Before that, I
think, I used a big bamboo stem with a copper cup, a very small one, and a
green jade mouthpiece. It was a little thicker than a walking-stick stem, and
smoked sweet, very sweet. The bamboo seemed to suck up the smoke. Silver
doesn't, and I've got to clean it out now and then, that's a great deal of
trouble, but I smoke it for the old man's sake. He must have made a good thing
out of me, but he always gave me clean mats and pillows, and the best stuff you
could get anywhere.
When he died, his nephew Tsin-ling took up the Gate, and he called it the
"Temple of the Three Possessions;" but we old ones speak of it as the "Hundred
Sorrows," all the same. The nephew does things very shabbily, and I think the
Memsahib must help him. She lives with him; same as she used to do with the old
man. The two let in all sorts of low people, niggers and all, and the Black
Smoke isn't as good as it used to be. I've found burnt bran in my pipe over and
over again. The old man would have died if that had happened in his time.
Besides, the room is never cleaned, and all the mats are torn and cut at the
edges. The coffin has gone--gone to China again--with the old man and two
ounces of smoke inside it, in case he should want 'em on the way.
The Joss doesn't get so many sticks burnt under his nose as he used to; that's
a sign of ill-luck, as sure as Death. He's all brown, too, and no one ever
attends to him. That's the Memsahib's work, I know; because, when Tsin-ling
tried to burn gilt paper before him, she said it was a waste of money, and, if
he kept a stick burning very slowly, the Joss wouldn't know the difference. So
now we've got the sticks mixed with a lot of glue, and they take half-an-hour
longer to burn, and smell stinky. Let alone the smell of the room by itself. No
business can get on if they try that sort of thing.
The Joss doesn't like it. I can see that. Late at night, sometimes, he turns
all sorts of queer colors--blue and green and red--just as he used to do when
old Fung-Tching was alive; and he rolls his eyes and stamps his feet like a
I don't know why I don't leave the place and smoke quietly in a little room of
my own in the bazar. Most like, Tsin-ling would kill me if I went away--he
draws my sixty rupees now--and besides, it's so much trouble, and I've grown to
be very fond of the Gate. It's not much to look at. Not what it was in the old
man's time, but I couldn't leave it. I've seen so many come in and out. And
I've seen so many die here on the mats that I should be afraid of dying in the
open now. I've seen some things that people would call strange enough; but
nothing is strange when you're on the Black Smoke, except the Black Smoke. And
if it was, it wouldn't matter.
Fung-Tching used to be very particular about his people, and never got in any
one who'd give trouble by dying messy and such. But the nephew isn't half so
careful. He tells everywhere that he keeps a "first-chop" house. Never tries to
get men in quietly, and make them comfortable like Fung-Tching did. That's why
the Gate is getting a little bit more known than it used to be. Among the
niggers of course. The nephew daren't get a white, or, for matter of that, a
mixed skin into the place. He has to keep us three of course--me and the
Memsahib and the other Eurasian. We're fixtures.
But he wouldn't give us credit for a pipeful--not for anything.
One of these days, I hope, I shall die in the Gate. The Persian and the Madras
man are terrible shaky now. They've got a boy to light their pipes for them. I
always do that myself. Most like, I shall see them carried out before me. I
don't think I shall ever outlive the Memsahib or Tsin-ling. Women last longer
than men at the Black-Smoke, and Tsin-ling has a deal of the old man's blood in
him, though he DOES smoke cheap stuff. The bazar-woman knew when she was going
two days before her time; and SHE died on a clean mat with a nicely wadded
pillow, and the old man hung up her pipe just above the Joss. He was always
fond of her, I fancy. But he took her bangles just the same.
I should like to die like the bazar-woman--on a clean, cool mat with a pipe of
good stuff between my lips. When I feel I'm going, I shall ask Tsin-ling for
them, and he can draw my sixty rupees a month, fresh and fresh, as long as he
pleases, and watch the black and red dragons have their last big fight
together; and then . . . .
Well, it doesn't matter. Nothing matters much to me--only I wished Tsin-ling
wouldn't put bran into the Black Smoke.
THE STORY OF MUHAMMAD DIN.
"Who is the happy man? He that sees in his own house at home little children
crowned with dust, leaping and falling and crying."
--Munichandra, translated by Professor Peterson.
The polo-ball was an old one, scarred, chipped, and dinted. It stood on the
mantelpiece among the pipe-stems which Imam Din, khitmatgar, was cleaning for
"Does the Heaven-born want this ball?" said Imam Din, deferentially.
The Heaven-born set no particular store by it; but of what use was a polo-ball
to a khitmatgar?
"By Your Honor's favor, I have a little son. He has seen this ball, and desires
it to play with. I do not want it for myself."
No one would for an instant accuse portly old Imam Din of wanting to play with
polo-balls. He carried out the battered thing into the verandah; and there
followed a hurricane of joyful squeaks, a patter of small feet, and the thud-
thud-thud of the ball rolling along the ground. Evidently the little son had
been waiting outside the door to secure his treasure. But how had he managed to
see that polo-ball?
Next day, coming back from office half an hour earlier than usual, I was aware
of a small figure in the dining-room--a tiny, plump figure in a ridiculously
inadequate shirt which came, perhaps, half-way down the tubby stomach. It
wandered round the room, thumb in mouth, crooning to itself as it took stock of
the pictures. Undoubtedly this was the "little son."
He had no business in my room, of course; but was so deeply absorbed in his
discoveries that he never noticed me in the doorway. I stepped into the room
and startled him nearly into a fit. He sat down on the ground with a gasp. His
eyes opened, and his mouth followed suit. I knew what was coming, and fled,
followed by a long, dry howl which reached the servants' quarters far more
quickly than any command of mine had ever done. In ten seconds Imam Din was in
the dining-room. Then despairing sobs arose, and I returned to find Imam Din
admonishing the small sinner who was using most of his shirt as a handkerchief.
"This boy," said Imam Din, judicially, "is a budmash, a big budmash. He will,
without doubt, go to the jail-khana for his behavior." Renewed yells from the
penitent, and an elaborate apology to myself from Imam Din.
"Tell the baby," said I, "that the Sahib is not angry, and take him away." Imam
Din conveyed my forgiveness to the offender, who had now gathered all his shirt
round his neck, string-wise, and the yell subsided into a sob. The two set off
for the door. "His name," said Imam Din, as though the name were part of the
crime, "is Muhammad Din, and he is a budmash." Freed from present danger,
Muhammad Din turned round, in his father's arms, and said gravely:--"It is true
that my name is Muhammad Din, Tahib, but I am not a budmash. I am a MAN!"
From that day dated my acquaintance with Muhammad Din. Never again did he come
into my dining-room, but on the neutral ground of the compound, we greeted each
other with much state, though our conversation was confined to "Talaam, Tahib"
from his side and "Salaam Muhammad Din" from mine. Daily on my return from
office, the little white shirt, and the fat little body used to rise from the
shade of the creeper-covered trellis where they had been hid; and daily I
checked my horse here, that my salutation might not be slurred over or given
Muhammad Din never had any companions. He used to trot about the compound, in
and out of the castor-oil bushes, on mysterious errands of his own. One day I
stumbled upon some of his handiwork far down the ground. He had half buried the
polo-ball in dust, and stuck six shrivelled old marigold flowers in a circle
round it. Outside that circle again, was a rude square, traced out in bits of
red brick alternating with fragments of broken china; the whole bounded by a
little bank of dust. The bhistie from the well-curb put in a plea for the small
architect, saying that it was only the play of a baby and did not much
disfigure my garden.
Heaven knows that I had no intention of touching the child's work then or
later; but, that evening, a stroll through the garden brought me unawares full
on it; so that I trampled, before I knew, marigold-heads, dust-bank, and
fragments of broken soap-dish into confusion past all hope of mending. Next
morning I came upon Muhammad Din crying softly to himself over the ruin I had
Some one had cruelly told him that the Sahib was very angry with him for
spoiling the garden, and had scattered his rubbish using bad language the
while. Muhammad Din labored for an hour at effacing every trace of the dust-
bank and pottery fragments, and it was with a tearful apologetic face that he
said, "Talaam Tahib," when I came home from the office. A hasty inquiry
resulted in Imam Din informing Muhammad Din that by my singular favor he was
permitted to disport himself as he pleased. Whereat the child took heart and
fell to tracing the ground-plan of an edifice which was to eclipse the
For some months, the chubby little eccentricity revolved in his humble orbit
among the castor-oil bushes and in the dust; always fashioning magnificent
palaces from stale flowers thrown away by the bearer, smooth water-worn
pebbles, bits of broken glass, and feathers pulled, I fancy, from my fowls--
always alone and always crooning to himself.
A gayly-spotted sea-shell was dropped one day close to the last of his little
buildings; and I looked that Muhammad Din should build something more than
ordinarily splendid on the strength of it. Nor was I disappointed. He meditated
for the better part of an hour, and his crooning rose to a jubilant song. Then
he began tracing in dust. It would certainly be a wondrous palace, this one,
for it was two yards long and a yard broad in ground-plan. But the palace was
Next day there was no Muhammad Din at the head of the carriage- drive, and no
"Talaam Tahib" to welcome my return. I had grown accustomed to the greeting,
and its omission troubled me. Next day, Imam Din told me that the child was
suffering slightly from fever and needed quinine. He got the medicine, and an
"They have no stamina, these brats," said the Doctor, as he left Imam Din's
A week later, though I would have given much to have avoided it, I met on the
road to the Mussulman burying-ground Imam Din, accompanied by one other friend,
carrying in his arms, wrapped in a white cloth, all that was left of little
ON THE STRENGTH OF A LIKENESS.
If your mirror be broken, look into still water; but have a care that you do
not fall in.
Next to a requited attachment, one of the most convenient things that a young
man can carry about with him at the beginning of his career, is an unrequited
attachment. It makes him feel important and business-like, and blase, and
cynical; and whenever he has a touch of liver, or suffers from want of
exercise, he can mourn over his lost love, and be very happy in a tender,
Hannasyde's affair of the heart had been a Godsend to him. It was four years
old, and the girl had long since given up thinking of it.
She had married and had many cares of her own. In the beginning, she had told
Hannasyde that, "while she could never be anything more than a sister to him,
she would always take the deepest interest in his welfare." This startlingly
new and original remark gave Hannasyde something to think over for two years;
and his own vanity filled in the other twenty-four months. Hannasyde was quite
different from Phil Garron, but, none the less, had several points in common
with that far too lucky man.
He kept his unrequited attachment by him as men keep a well-smoked pipe--for
comfort's sake, and because it had grown dear in the using. It brought him
happily through the Simla season. Hannasyde was not lovely. There was a crudity
in his manners, and a roughness in the way in which he helped a lady on to her
horse, that did not attract the other sex to him. Even if he had cast about for
their favor, which he did not. He kept his wounded heart all to himself for a
Then trouble came to him. All who go to Simla, know the slope from the
Telegraph to the Public Works Office. Hannasyde was loafing up the hill, one
September morning between calling hours, when a 'rickshaw came down in a hurry,
and in the 'rickshaw sat the living, breathing image of the girl who had made
him so happily unhappy.
Hannasyde leaned against the railing and gasped. He wanted to run downhill
after the 'rickshaw, but that was impossible; so he went forward with most of
his blood in his temples. It was impossible, for many reasons, that the woman
in the 'rickshaw could be the girl he had known. She was, he discovered later,
the wife of a man from Dindigul, or Coimbatore, or some out-of-the-way place,
and she had come up to Simla early in the season for the good of her health.
She was going back to Dindigul, or wherever it was, at the end of the season;
and in all likelihood would never return to Simla again, her proper Hill-
station being Ootacamund. That night, Hannasyde, raw and savage from the raking
up of all old feelings, took counsel with himself for one measured hour. What
he decided upon was this; and you must decide for yourself how much genuine
affection for the old love, and how much a very natural inclination to go
abroad and enjoy himself, affected the decision. Mrs. Landys-Haggert would
never in all human likelihood cross his path again. So whatever he did didn't
much matter. She was marvellously like the girl who "took a deep interest" and
the rest of the formula. All things considered, it would be pleasant to make
the acquaintance of Mrs. Landys-Haggert, and for a little time--only a very
little time--to make believe that he was with Alice Chisane again. Every one is
more or less mad on one point. Hannasyde's particular monomania was his old
love, Alice Chisane.
He made it his business to get introduced to Mrs. Haggert, and the introduction
prospered. He also made it his business to see as much as he could of that
lady. When a man is in earnest as to interviews, the facilities which Simla
offers are startling. There are garden-parties, and tennis-parties, and
picnics, and luncheons at Annandale, and rifle-matches, and dinners and balls;
besides rides and walks, which are matters of private arrangement.
Hannasyde had started with the intention of seeing a likeness, and he ended by
doing much more. He wanted to be deceived, he meant to be deceived, and he
deceived himself very thoroughly. Not only were the face and figure, the face
and figure of Alice Chisane, but the voice and lower tones were exactly the
same, and so were the turns of speech; and the little mannerisms, that every
woman has, of gait and gesticulation, were absolutely and identically the same.
The turn of the head was the same; the tired look in the eyes at the end of a
long walk was the same; the sloop and wrench over the saddle to hold in a
pulling horse was the same; and once, most marvellous of all, Mrs. Landys-
Haggert singing to herself in the next room, while Hannasyde was waiting to
take her for a ride, hummed, note for note, with a throaty quiver of the voice
in the second line:--"Poor Wandering One!" exactly as Alice Chisane had hummed
it for Hannasyde in the dusk of an English drawing-room. In the actual woman
herself--in the soul of her--there was not the least likeness; she and Alice
Chisane being cast in different moulds. But all that Hannasyde wanted to know
and see and think about, was this maddening and perplexing likeness of face and
voice and manner. He was bent on making a fool of himself that way; and he was
in no sort disappointed.
Open and obvious devotion from any sort of man is always pleasant to any sort
of woman; but Mrs. Landys-Haggert, being a woman of the world, could make
nothing of Hannasyde's admiration.
He would take any amount of trouble--he was a selfish man habitually--to meet
and forestall, if possible, her wishes.
Anything she told him to do was law; and he was, there could be no doubting it,
fond of her company so long as she talked to him, and kept on talking about
trivialities. But when she launched into expression of her personal views and
her wrongs, those small social differences that make the spice of Simla life,
Hannasyde was neither pleased nor interested. He didn't want to know anything
about Mrs. Landys-Haggert, or her experiences in the past--she had travelled
nearly all over the world, and could talk cleverly--he wanted the likeness of
Alice Chisane before his eyes and her voice in his ears.
Anything outside that, reminding him of another personality jarred, and he
showed that it did.
Under the new Post Office, one evening, Mrs. Landys-Haggert turned on him, and
spoke her mind shortly and without warning. "Mr. Hannasyde," said she, "will
you be good enough to explain why you have appointed yourself my special
cavalier servente? I don't understand it. But I am perfectly certain, somehow
or other, that you don't care the least little bit in the world for ME." This
seems to support, by the way, the theory that no man can act or tell lies to a
woman without being found out. Hannasyde was taken off his guard. His defence
never was a strong one, because he was always thinking of himself, and he
blurted out, before he knew what he was saying, this inexpedient answer:--"No
more I do."
The queerness of the situation and the reply, made Mrs. Haggert laugh. Then it
all came out; and at the end of Hannasyde's lucid explanation, Mrs. Haggert
said, with the least little touch of scorn in her voice:--"So I'm to act as the
lay-figure for you to hang the rags of your tattered affections on, am I?"
Hannasyde didn't see what answer was required, and he devoted himself generally
and vaguely to the praise of Alice Chisane, which was unsatisfactory. Now it is
to be thoroughly made clear that Mrs. Haggert had not the shadow of a ghost of
an interest in Hannasyde.
Only--only no woman likes being made love through instead of to--specially on
behalf of a musty divinity of four years' standing.
Hannasyde did not see that he had made any very particular exhibition of
himself. He was glad to find a sympathetic soul in the arid wastes of Simla.
When the season ended, Hannasyde went down to his own place and Mrs. Haggert to
hers. "It was like making love to a ghost," said Hannasyde to himself, "and it
doesn't matter; and now I'll get to my work." But he found himself thinking
steadily of the Haggert-Chisane ghost; and he could not be certain whether it
was Haggert or Chisane that made up the greater part of the pretty phantom.
. . . . . . . . .
He got understanding a month later.
A peculiar point of this peculiar country is the way in which a heartless
Government transfers men from one end of the Empire to the other. You can never
be sure of getting rid of a friend or an enemy till he or she dies. There was a
case once--but that's another story.
Haggert's Department ordered him up from Dindigul to the Frontier at two days'
notice, and he went through, losing money at every step, from Dindigul to his
station. He dropped Mrs. Haggert at Lucknow, to stay with some friends there,
to take part in a big ball at the Chutter Munzil, and to come on when he had
made the new home a little comfortable. Lucknow was Hannasyde's station, and
Mrs. Haggert stayed a week there. Hannasyde went to meet her. And the train
came in, he discovered which he had been thinking of for the past month. The
unwisdom of his conduct also struck him. The Lucknow week, with two dances, and
an unlimited quantity of rides together, clinched matters; and Hannasyde found
himself pacing this circle of thought:--He adored Alice Chisane--at least he
HAD adored her. AND he admired Mrs. Landys-Haggert because she was like Alice
Chisane. BUT Mrs. Landys-Haggert was not in the least like Alice Chisane, being
a thousand times more adorable. NOW Alice Chisane was "the bride of another,"
and so was Mrs. Landys-Haggert, and a good and honest wife too. THEREFORE, he,
Hannasyde, was . . . . here he called himself several hard names, and wished
that he had been wise in the beginning.
Whether Mrs. Landys-Haggert saw what was going on in his mind, she alone knows.
He seemed to take an unqualified interest in everything connected with herself,
as distinguished from the Alice-Chisane likeness, and he said one or two things
which, if Alice Chisane had been still betrothed to him, could scarcely have
been excused, even on the grounds of the likeness. But Mrs. Haggert turned the
remarks aside, and spent a long time in making Hannasyde see what a comfort and
a pleasure she had been to him because of her strange resemblance to his old
love. Hannasyde groaned in his saddle and said, "Yes, indeed," and busied
himself with preparations for her departure to the Frontier, feeling very small
The last day of her stay at Lucknow came, and Hannasyde saw her off at the
Railway Station. She was very grateful for his kindness and the trouble he had
taken, and smiled pleasantly and sympathetically as one who knew the Alice-
Chisane reason of that kindness. And Hannasyde abused the coolies with the
luggage, and hustled the people on the platform, and prayed that the roof might
fall in and slay him.
As the train went out slowly, Mrs. Landys-Haggert leaned out of the window to
say goodbye:--"On second thoughts au revoir, Mr. Hannasyde. I go Home in the
Spring, and perhaps I may meet you in Town."
Hannasyde shook hands, and said very earnestly and adoringly:--"I hope to
Heaven I shall never see your face again!"
nd Mrs. Haggert understood.
WRESSLEY OF THE FOREIGN OFFICE.
I closed and drew for my love's sake,
That now is false to me,
And I slew the Riever of Tarrant Moss,
And set Dumeny free.
And ever they give me praise and gold,
And ever I moan my loss,
For I struck the blow for my false love's sake,
And not for the men at the Moss.
One of the many curses of our life out here is the want of atmosphere in the
painter's sense. There are no half-tints worth noticing. Men stand out all
crude and raw, with nothing to tone them down, and nothing to scale them
against. They do their work, and grow to think that there is nothing but their
work, and nothing like their work, and that they are the real pivots on which
the administration turns. Here is an instance of this feeling. A half-caste
clerk was ruling forms in a Pay Office. He said to me:--"Do you know what would
happen if I added or took away one single line on this sheet?" Then, with the
air of a conspirator:--"It would disorganize the whole of the Treasury payments
throughout the whole of the Presidency Circle! Think of that?"
If men had not this delusion as to the ultra-importance of their own particular
employments, I suppose that they would sit down and kill themselves. But their
weakness is wearisome, particularly when the listener knows that he himself
commits exactly the same sin.
Even the Secretariat believes that it does good when it asks an over-driven
Executive Officer to take census of wheat-weevils through a district of five
thousand square miles.
There was a man once in the Foreign Office--a man who had grown middle-aged in
the department, and was commonly said, by irreverent juniors, to be able to
repeat Aitchison's "Treaties and Sunnuds" backwards, in his sleep. What he did
with his stored knowledge only the Secretary knew; and he, naturally, would not
publish the news abroad. This man's name was Wressley, and it was the
Shibboleth, in those days, to say:--"Wressley knows more about the Central
Indian States than any living man." If you did not say this, you were
considered one of mean understanding.
Now-a-days, the man who says that he knows the ravel of the inter-tribal
complications across the Border is of more use; but in Wressley's time, much
attention was paid to the Central Indian States. They were called "foci" and
"factors," and all manner of imposing names.
And here the curse of Anglo-Indian life fell heavily. When Wressley lifted up
his voice, and spoke about such-and-such a succession to such-and-such a
throne, the Foreign Office were silent, and Heads of Departments repeated the
last two or three words of Wressley's sentences, and tacked "yes, yes," on
them, and knew that they were "assisting the Empire to grapple with
seriouspolitical contingencies." In most big undertakings, one or two men do
the work while the rest sit near and talk till the ripe decorations begin to
Wressley was the working-member of the Foreign Office firm, and, to keep him up
to his duties when he showed signs of flagging, he was made much of by his
superiors and told what a fine fellow he was.
He did not require coaxing, because he was of tough build, but what he received
confirmed him in the belief that there was no one quite so absolutely and
imperatively necessary to the stability of India as Wressley of the Foreign
Office. There might be other good men, but the known, honored and trusted man
among men was Wressley of the Foreign Office. We had a Viceroy in those days
who knew exactly when to "gentle" a fractious big man and to hearten up a
collar-galled little one, and so keep all his team level. He conveyed to
Wressley the impression which I have just set down; and even tough men are apt
to be disorganized by a Viceroy's praise. There was a case once--but that is
All India knew Wressley's name and office--it was in Thacker and Spink's
Directory--but who he was personally, or what he did, or what his special
merits were, not fifty men knew or cared. His work filled all his time, and he
found no leisure to cultivate acquaintances beyond those of dead Rajput chiefs
with Ahir blots in their 'scutcheons. Wressley would have made a very good
Clerk in the Herald's College had he not been a Bengal Civilian.
Upon a day, between office and office, great trouble came to Wressley--
overwhelmed him, knocked him down, and left him gasping as though he had been a
little school-boy. Without reason, against prudence, and at a moment's notice,
he fell in love with a frivolous, golden-haired girl who used to tear about
Simla Mall on a high, rough waler, with a blue velvet jockey-cap crammed over
her eyes. Her name was Venner--Tillie Venner--and she was delightful.
She took Wressley's heart at a hand-gallop, and Wressley found that it was not
good for man to live alone; even with half the Foreign Office Records in his
Then Simla laughed, for Wressley in love was slightly ridiculous.
He did his best to interest the girl in himself--that is to say, his work--and
she, after the manner of women, did her best to appear interested in what,
behind his back, she called "Mr. Wressley's Wajahs"; for she lisped very
prettily. She did not understand one little thing about them, but she acted as
if she did. Men have married on that sort of error before now.
Providence, however, had care of Wressley. He was immensely struck with Miss
Venner's intelligence. He would have been more impressed had he heard her
private and confidential accounts of his calls. He held peculiar notions as to
the wooing of girls. He said that the best work of a man's career should be
laid reverently at their feet.
Ruskin writes something like this somewhere, I think; but in ordinary life a
few kisses are better and save time.
About a month after he had lost his heart to Miss Venner, and had been doing
his work vilely in consequence, the first idea of his "Native Rule in Central
India" struck Wressley and filled him with joy. It was, as he sketched it, a
great thing--the work of his life--a really comprehensive survey of a most
fascinating subject--to be written with all the special and laboriously
acquired knowledge of Wressley of the Foreign Office--a gift fit for an
He told Miss Venner that he was going to take leave, and hoped, on his return,
to bring her a present worthy of her acceptance. Would she wait? Certainly she
would. Wressley drew seventeen hundred rupees a month. She would wait a year
for that. Her mamma would help her to wait.
So Wressley took one year's leave and all the available documents, about a
truck-load, that he could lay hands on, and went down to Central India with his
notion hot in his head. He began his book in the land he was writing of. Too
much official correspondence had made him a frigid workman, and he must have
guessed that he needed the white light of local color on his palette. This is a
dangerous paint for amateurs to play with.
Heavens, how that man worked! He caught his Rajahs, analyzed his Rajahs, and
traced them up into the mists of Time and beyond, with their queens and their
concubines. He dated and cross-dated, pedigreed and triple-pedigreed, compared,
noted, connoted, wove, strung, sorted, selected, inferred, calendared and
counter-calendared for ten hours a day. And, because this sudden and new light
of Love was upon him, he turned those dry bones of history and dirty records of
misdeeds into things to weep or to laugh over as he pleased. His heart and soul
were at the end of his pen, and they got into the ink. He was dowered with
sympathy, insight, humor and style for two hundred and thirty days and nights;
and his book was a Book. He had his vast special knowledge with him, so to
speak; but the spirit, the woven-in human Touch, the poetry and the power of
the output, were beyond all special knowledge. But I doubt whether he knew the
gift that was in him then, and thus he may have lost some happiness. He was
toiling for Tillie Venner, not for himself.
Men often do their best work blind, for some one else's sake.
Also, though this has nothing to do with the story, in India where every one
knows every one else, you can watch men being driven, by the women who govern
them, out of the rank-and-file and sent to take up points alone. A good man
once started, goes forward; but an average man, so soon as the woman loses
interest in his success as a tribute to her power, comes back to the battalion
and is no more heard of.
Wressley bore the first copy of his book to Simla and, blushing and stammering,
presented it to Miss Venner. She read a little of it.
I give her review verbatim:--"Oh, your book? It's all about those how-wid
Wajahs. I didn't understand it."
. . . . . . . . .
Wressley of the Foreign Office was broken, smashed,--I am not exaggerating--by
this one frivolous little girl. All that he could say feebly was:--"But, but
it's my magnum opus! The work of my life." Miss Venner did not know what magnum
opus meant; but she knew that Captain Kerrington had won three races at the
last Gymkhana. Wressley didn't press her to wait for him any longer. He had
sense enough for that.
Then came the reaction after the year's strain, and Wressley went back to the
Foreign Office and his "Wajahs," a compiling, gazetteering, report-writing
hack, who would have been dear at three hundred rupees a month. He abided by
Miss Venner's review. Which proves that the inspiration in the book was purely
temporary and unconnected with himself. Nevertheless, he had no right to sink,
in a hill-tarn, five packing-cases, brought up at enormous expense from Bombay,
of the best book of Indian history ever written.
When he sold off before retiring, some years later, I was turning over his
shelves, and came across the only existing copy of "Native Rule in Central
India"--the copy that Miss Venner could not understand. I read it, sitting on
his mule-trucks, as long as the light lasted, and offered him his own price for
it. He looked over my shoulder for a few pages and said to himself drearily:--
"Now, how in the world did I come to write such damned good stuff as that?"
Then to me:--"Take it and keep it. Write one of your penny-farthing yarns about
its birth. Perhaps--perhaps--the whole business may have been ordained to that
Which, knowing what Wressley of the Foreign Office was once, struck me as about
the bitterest thing that I had ever heard a man say of his own work.
BY WORD OF MOUTH.
Not though you die tonight, O Sweet, and wail,
A spectre at my door,
Shall mortal Fear make Love immortal fail--
I shall but love you more,
Who from Death's house returning, give me still
One moment's comfort in my matchless ill.
This tale may be explained by those who know how souls are made, and where the
bounds of the Possible are put down. I have lived long enough in this country
to know that it is best to know nothing, and can only write the story as it
Dumoise was our Civil Surgeon at Meridki, and we called him "Dormouse," because
he was a round little, sleepy little man. He was a good Doctor and never
quarrelled with any one, not even with our Deputy Commissioner, who had the
manners of a bargee and the tact of a horse. He married a girl as round and as
sleepy-looking as himself. She was a Miss Hillardyce, daughter of "Squash"
Hillardyce of the Berars, who married his Chief's daughter by mistake. But that
is another story.
A honeymoon in India is seldom more than a week long; but there is nothing to
hinder a couple from extending it over two or three years. This is a delightful
country for married folk who are wrapped up in one another. They can live
absolutely alone and without interruption--just as the Dormice did. These two
little people retired from the world after their marriage, and were very happy.
They were forced, of course, to give occasional dinners, but they made no
friends hereby, and the Station went its own way and forgot them; only saying,
occasionally, that Dormouse was the best of good fellows, though dull. A Civil
Surgeon who never quarrels is a rarity, appreciated as such.
Few people can afford to play Robinson Crusoe anywhere--least of all in India,
where we are few in the land, and very much dependent on each other's kind
offices. Dumoise was wrong in shutting himself from the world for a year, and
he discovered his mistake when an epidemic of typhoid broke out in the Station
in the heart of the cold weather, and his wife went down. He was a shy little
man, and five days were wasted before he realized that Mrs. Dumoise was burning
with something worse than simple fever, and three days more passed before he
ventured to call on Mrs. Shute, the Engineer's wife, and timidly speak about
his trouble. Nearly every household in India knows that Doctors are very
helpless in typhoid. The battle must be fought out between Death and the
Nurses, minute by minute and degree by degree. Mrs. Shute almost boxed
Dumoise's ears for what she called his "criminal delay," and went off at once
to look after the poor girl. We had seven cases of typhoid in the Station that
winter and, as the average of death is about one in every five cases, we felt
certain that we should have to lose somebody. But all did their best. The women
sat up nursing the women, and the men turned to and tended the bachelors who
were down, and we wrestled with those typhoid cases for fifty-six days, and
brought them through the Valley of the Shadow in triumph. But, just when we
thought all was over, and were going to give a dance to celebrate the victory,
little Mrs. Dumoise got a relapse and died in a week and the Station went to
the funeral. Dumoise broke down utterly at the brink of the grave, and had to
be taken away.
After the death, Dumoise crept into his own house and refused to be comforted.
He did his duties perfectly, but we all felt that he should go on leave, and
the other men of his own Service told him so. Dumoise was very thankful for the
suggestion--he was thankful for anything in those days--and went to Chini on a
Chini is some twenty marches from Simla, in the heart of the Hills, and the
scenery is good if you are in trouble. You pass through big, still deodar-
forests, and under big, still cliffs, and over big, still grass-downs swelling
like a woman's breasts; and the wind across the grass, and the rain among the
deodars says:--"Hush--hush--hush." So little Dumoise was packed off to Chini,
to wear down his grief with a full-plate camera, and a rifle. He took also a
useless bearer, because the man had been his wife's favorite servant. He was
idle and a thief, but Dumoise trusted everything to him.
On his way back from Chini, Dumoise turned aside to Bagi, through the Forest
Reserve which is on the spur of Mount Huttoo. Some men who have travelled more
than a little say that the march from Kotegarh to Bagi is one of the finest in
creation. It runs through dark wet forest, and ends suddenly in bleak, nipped
hill-side and black rocks. Bagi dak-bungalow is open to all the winds and is
bitterly cold. Few people go to Bagi. Perhaps that was the reason why Dumoise
went there. He halted at seven in the evening, and his bearer went down the
hill-side to the village to engage coolies for the next day's march. The sun
had set, and the night-winds were beginning to croon among the rocks. Dumoise
leaned on the railing of the verandah, waiting for his bearer to return. The
man came back almost immediately after he had disappeared, and at such a rate
that Dumoise fancied he must have crossed a bear. He was running as hard as he
could up the face of the hill.
But there was no bear to account for his terror. He raced to the verandah and
fell down, the blood spurting from his nose and his face iron-gray. Then he
gurgled:--"I have seen the Memsahib! I have seen the Memsahib!"
"Where?" said Dumoise.
"Down there, walking on the road to the village. She was in a blue dress, and
she lifted the veil of her bonnet and said:--'Ram Dass, give my salaams to the
Sahib, and tell him that I shall meet him next month at Nuddea.' Then I ran
away, because I was afraid."
What Dumoise said or did I do not know. Ram Dass declares that he said nothing,
but walked up and down the verandah all the cold night, waiting for the
Memsahib to come up the hill and stretching out his arms into the dark like a
madman. But no Memsahib came, and, next day, he went on to Simla cross-
questioning the bearer every hour.
Ram Dass could only say that he had met Mrs. Dumoise and that she had lifted up
her veil and given him the message which he had faithfully repeated to Dumoise.
To this statement Ram Dass adhered.
He did not know where Nuddea was, had no friends at Nuddea, and would most
certainly never go to Nuddea; even though his pay were doubled.
Nuddea is in Bengal, and has nothing whatever to do with a doctor serving in
the Punjab. It must be more than twelve hundred miles from Meridki.
Dumoise went through Simla without halting, and returned to Meridki there to
take over charge from the man who had been officiating for him during his tour.
There were some Dispensary accounts to be explained, and some recent orders of
the Surgeon-General to be noted, and, altogether, the taking-over was a full
day's work. In the evening, Dumoise told his locum tenens, who was an old
friend of his bachelor days, what had happened at Bagi; and the man said that
Ram Dass might as well have chosen Tuticorin while he was about it.
At that moment a telegraph-peon came in with a telegram from Simla, ordering
Dumoise not to take over charge at Meridki, but to go at once to Nuddea on
special duty. There was a nasty outbreak of cholera at Nuddea, and the Bengal
Government, being shorthanded, as usual, had borrowed a Surgeon from the
Dumoise threw the telegram across the table and said:--"Well?"
The other Doctor said nothing. It was all that he could say.
Then he remembered that Dumoise had passed through Simla on his way from Bagi;
and thus might, possibly, have heard the first news of the impending transfer.
He tried to put the question, and the implied suspicion into words, but Dumoise
stopped him with:--"If I had desired THAT, I should never have come back from
Chini. I was shooting there. I wish to live, for I have things to do . . . .
but I shall not be sorry."
The other man bowed his head, and helped, in the twilight, to pack up Dumoise's
just opened trunks. Ram Dass entered with the lamps.
"Where is the Sahib going?" he asked.
"To Nuddea," said Dumoise, softly.
Ram Dass clawed Dumoise's knees and boots and begged him not to go.
Ram Dass wept and howled till he was turned out of the room. Then he wrapped up
all his belongings and came back to ask for a character. He was not going to
Nuddea to see his Sahib die, and, perhaps to die himself.
So Dumoise gave the man his wages and went down to Nuddea alone; the other
Doctor bidding him goodbye as one under sentence of death.
Eleven days later, he had joined his Memsahib; and the Bengal Government had to
borrow a fresh Doctor to cope with that epidemic at Nuddea. The first
importation lay dead in Chooadanga Dak-Bungalow.
TO BE HELD FOR REFERENCE.
By the hoof of the Wild Goat up-tossed
From the Cliff where She lay in the Sun,
Fell the Stone To the Tarn where the daylight is lost;
So She fell from the light of the Sun,
Now the fall was ordained from the first,
With the Goat and the Cliff and the Tarn,
But the Stone Knows only Her life is accursed,
As She sinks in the depths of the Tarn,
Oh, Thou who has builded the world,
Oh, Thou who hast lighted the Sun!
Oh, Thou who hast darkened the Tarn!
Judge Thou The Sin of the Stone that was hurled
By the Goat from the light of the Sun,
As She sinks in the mire of the Tarn,
Even now--even now--even now!
--From the Unpublished Papers of McIntosh Jellaludin.
"Say, is it dawn, is it dusk in thy Bower,
Thou whom I long for, who longest for me?
Oh be it night--be it--"
Here he fell over a little camel-colt that was sleeping in the Serai where the
horse-traders and the best of the blackguards from Central Asia live; and,
because he was very drunk indeed and the night was dark, he could not rise
again till I helped him. That was the beginning of my acquaintance with
McIntosh Jellaludin. When a loafer, and drunk, sings The Song of the Bower, he
must be worth cultivating. He got off the camel's back and said, rather
thickly:--"I--I--I'm a bit screwed, but a dip in Loggerhead will put me right
again; and I say, have you spoken to Symonds about the mare's knees?"
Now Loggerhead was six thousand weary miles away from us, close to Mesopotamia,
where you mustn't fish and poaching is impossible, and Charley Symonds' stable
a half mile further across the paddocks. It was strange to hear all the old
names, on a May night, among the horses and camels of the Sultan Caravanserai.
Then the man seemed to remember himself and sober down at the same time. He
leaned against the camel and pointed to a corner of the Serai where a lamp was
"I live there," said he, "and I should be extremely obliged if you would be
good enough to help my mutinous feet thither; for I am more than usually drunk-
-most--most phenomenally tight. But not in respect to my head. 'My brain cries
out against'--how does it go? But my head rides on the--rolls on the dung-hill
I should have said, and controls the qualm."
I helped him through the gangs of tethered horses and he collapsed on the edge
of the verandah in front of the line of native quarters.
"Thanks--a thousand thanks! O Moon and little, little Stars! To think that a
man should so shamelessly . . . . Infamous liquor, too. Ovid in exile drank no
worse. Better. It was frozen. Alas! I had no ice. Good night. I would introduce
you to my wife were I sober--or she civilized."
A native woman came out of the darkness of the room, and began calling the man
names; so I went away. He was the most interesting loafer that I had the
pleasure of knowing for a long time; and later on, he became a friend of mine.
He was a tall, well-built, fair man fearfully shaken with drink, and he looked
nearer fifty than the thirty-five which, he said, was his real age. When a man
begins to sink in India, and is not sent Home by his friends as soon as may be,
he falls very low from a respectable point of view. By the time that he changes
his creed, as did McIntosh, he is past redemption.
In most big cities, natives will tell you of two or three Sahibs, generally
low-caste, who have turned Hindu or Mussulman, and who live more or less as
such. But it is not often that you can get to know them. As McIntosh himself
used to say:--"If I change my religion for my stomach's sake, I do not seek to
become a martyr to missionaries, nor am I anxious for notoriety."
At the outset of acquaintance McIntosh warned me. "Remember this. I am not an
object for charity. I require neither your money, your food, nor your cast-off
raiment. I am that rare animal, a self-supporting drunkard. If you choose, I
will smoke with you, for the tobacco of the bazars does not, I admit, suit my
palate; and I will borrow any books which you may not specially value. It is
more than likely that I shall sell them for bottles of excessively filthy
country-liquors. In return, you shall share such hospitality as my house
affords. Here is a charpoy on which two can sit, and it is possible that there
may, from time to time, be food in that platter. Drink, unfortunately, you will
find on the premises at any hour: and thus I make you welcome to all my poor
I was admitted to the McIntosh household--I and my good tobacco.
But nothing else. Unluckily, one cannot visit a loafer in the Serai by day.
Friends buying horses would not understand it.
Consequently, I was obliged to see McIntosh after dark. He laughed at this, and
said simply:--"You are perfectly right. When I enjoyed a position in society,
rather higher than yours, I should have done exactly the same thing, Good
Heavens! I was once"--he spoke as though he had fallen from the Command of a
Regiment--"an Oxford Man!" This accounted for the reference to Charley Symonds'
"You," said McIntosh, slowly, "have not had that advantage; but, to outward
appearance, you do not seem possessed of a craving for strong drinks. On the
whole, I fancy that you are the luckier of the two. Yet I am not certain. You
are--forgive my saying so even while I am smoking your excellent tobacco--
painfully ignorant of many things."
We were sitting together on the edge of his bedstead, for he owned no chairs,
watching the horses being watered for the night, while the native woman was
preparing dinner. I did not like being patronized by a loafer, but I was his
guest for the time being, though he owned only one very torn alpaca-coat and a
pair of trousers made out of gunny-bags. He took the pipe out of his mouth, and
went on judicially:--"All things considered, I doubt whether you are the
luckier. I do not refer to your extremely limited classical attainments, or
your excruciating quantities, but to your gross ignorance of matters more
immediately under your notice. That for instance."--He pointed to a woman
cleaning a samovar near the well in the centre of the Serai. She was flicking
the water out of the spout in regular cadenced jerks.
"There are ways and ways of cleaning samovars. If you knew why she was doing
her work in that particular fashion, you would know what the Spanish Monk meant
when he said--
'I the Trinity illustrate,
Drinking watered orange-pulp--
In three sips the Aryan frustrate,
While he drains his at one gulp.--'
and many other things which now are hidden from your eyes. However, Mrs.
McIntosh has prepared dinner. Let us come and eat after the fashion of the
people of the country--of whom, by the way, you know nothing."
The native woman dipped her hand in the dish with us. This was wrong. The wife
should always wait until the husband has eaten.
McIntosh Jellaludin apologized, saying:--
"It is an English prejudice which I have not been able to overcome; and she
loves me. Why, I have never been able to understand. I fore-gathered with her
at Jullundur, three years ago, and she has remained with me ever since. I
believe her to be moral, and know her to be skilled in cookery."
He patted the woman's head as he spoke, and she cooed softly. She was not
pretty to look at.
McIntosh never told me what position he had held before his fall.
He was, when sober, a scholar and a gentleman. When drunk, he was rather more
of the first than the second. He used to get drunk about once a week for two
days. On those occasions the native woman tended him while he raved in all
tongues except his own. One day, indeed, he began reciting Atalanta in Calydon,
and went through it to the end, beating time to the swing of the verse with a
bedstead-leg. But he did most of his ravings in Greek or German. The man's mind
was a perfect rag-bag of useless things. Once, when he was beginning to get
sober, he told me that I was the only rational being in the Inferno into which
he had descended--a Virgil in the Shades, he said--and that, in return for my
tobacco, he would, before he died, give me the materials of a new Inferno that
should make me greater than Dante. Then he fell asleep on a horse-blanket and
woke up quite calm.
"Man," said he, "when you have reached the uttermost depths of degradation,
little incidents which would vex a higher life, are to you of no consequence.
Last night, my soul was among the gods; but I make no doubt that my bestial
body was writhing down here in the garbage."
"You were abominably drunk if that's what you mean," I said.
"I WAS drunk--filthy drunk. I who am the son of a man with whom you have no
concern--I who was once Fellow of a College whose buttery- hatch you have not
seen. I was loathsomely drunk. But consider how lightly I am touched. It is
nothing to me. Less than nothing; for I do not even feel the headache which
should be my portion. Now, in a higher life, how ghastly would have been my
punishment, how bitter my repentance! Believe me, my friend with the neglected
education, the highest is as the lowest--always supposing each degree extreme."
He turned round on the blanket, put his head between his fists and continued:--
"On the Soul which I have lost and on the Conscience which I have killed, I
tell you that I CANNOT feel! I am as the gods, knowing good and evil, but
untouched by either. Is this enviable or is it not?"
When a man has lost the warning of "next morning's head," he must be in a bad
state, I answered, looking at McIntosh on the blanket, with his hair over his
eyes and his lips blue-white, that I did not think the insensibility good
"For pity's sake, don't say that! I tell you, it IS good and most enviable.
Think of my consolations!"
"Have you so many, then, McIntosh?"
"Certainly; your attempts at sarcasm which is essentially the weapon of a
cultured man, are crude. First, my attainments, my classical and literary
knowledge, blurred, perhaps, by immoderate drinking--which reminds me that
before my soul went to the Gods last night, I sold the Pickering Horace you so
kindly lent me. Ditta Mull the Clothesman has it. It fetched ten annas, and may
be redeemed for a rupee--but still infinitely superior to yours. Secondly, the
abiding affection of Mrs. McIntosh, best of wives. Thirdly, a monument, more
enduring than brass, which I have built up in the seven years of my
He stopped here, and crawled across the room for a drink of water.
He was very shaky and sick.
He referred several times to his "treasure"--some great possession that he
owned--but I held this to be the raving of drink. He was as poor and as proud
as he could be. His manner was not pleasant, but he knew enough about the
natives, among whom seven years of his life had been spent, to make his
acquaintance worth having. He used actually to laugh at Strickland as an
ignorant man--"ignorant West and East"--he said. His boast was, first, that he
was an Oxford Man of rare and shining parts, which may or may not have been
true--I did not know enough to check his statements--and, secondly, that he
"had his hand on the pulse of native life"--which was a fact. As an Oxford man,
he struck me as a prig: he was always throwing his education about. As a
Mahommedan faquir--as McIntosh Jellaludin--he was all that I wanted for my own
ends. He smoked several pounds of my tobacco, and taught me several ounces of
things worth knowing; but he would never accept any gifts, not even when the
cold weather came, and gripped the poor thin chest under the poor thin alpaca-
coat. He grew very angry, and said that I had insulted him, and that he was not
going into hospital. He had lived like a beast and he would die rationally,
like a man.
As a matter of fact, he died of pneumonia; and on the night of his death sent
over a grubby note asking me to come and help him to die.
The native woman was weeping by the side of the bed. McIntosh, wrapped in a
cotton cloth, was too weak to resent a fur coat being thrown over him. He was
very active as far as his mind was concerned, and his eyes were blazing. When
he had abused the Doctor who came with me so foully that the indignant old
fellow left, he cursed me for a few minutes and calmed down.
Then he told his wife to fetch out "The Book" from a hole in the wall. She
brought out a big bundle, wrapped in the tail of a petticoat, of old sheets of
miscellaneous note-paper, all numbered and covered with fine cramped writing.
McIntosh ploughed his hand through the rubbish and stirred it up lovingly.
"This," he said, "is my work--the Book of McIntosh Jellaludin, showing what he
saw and how he lived, and what befell him and others; being also an account of
the life and sins and death of Mother Maturin. What Mirza Murad Ali Beg's book
is to all other books on native life, will my work be to Mirza Murad Ali
This, as will be conceded by any one who knows Mirza Ali Beg's book, was a
sweeping statement. The papers did not look specially valuable; but McIntosh
handled them as if they were currency-notes.
Then he said slowly:--"In despite the many weaknesses of your education, you
have been good to me. I will speak of your tobacco when I reach the Gods. I owe
you much thanks for many kindnesses.
"But I abominate indebtedness. For this reason I bequeath to you now the
monument more enduring than brass--my one book--rude and imperfect in parts,
but oh, how rare in others! I wonder if you will understand it. It is a gift
more honorable than . . . Bah! where is my brain rambling to? You will mutilate
it horribly. You will knock out the gems you call 'Latin quotations,' you
Philistine, and you will butcher the style to carve into your own jerky jargon;
but you cannot destroy the whole of it. I bequeath it to you.
Ethel . . . My brain again! . . Mrs. McIntosh, bear witness that I give the
sahib all these papers. They would be of no use to you, Heart of my heart; and
I lay it upon you," he turned to me here, "that you do not let my book die in
its present form. It is yours unconditionally--the story of McIntosh
Jellaludin, which is NOT the story of McIntosh Jellaludin, but of a greater man
than he, and of a far greater woman. Listen now! I am neither mad nor drunk!
That book will make you famous."
I said, "thank you," as the native woman put the bundle into my arms.
"My only baby!" said McIntosh with a smile. He was sinking fast, but he
continued to talk as long as breath remained. I waited for the end: knowing
that, in six cases out of ten the dying man calls for his mother. He turned on
his side and said:--
"Say how it came into your possession. No one will believe you, but my name, at
least, will live. You will treat it brutally, I know you will. Some of it must
go; the public are fools and prudish fools. I was their servant once. But do
your mangling gently--very gently. It is a great work, and I have paid for it
in seven years' damnation."
His voice stopped for ten or twelve breaths, and then he began mumbling a
prayer of some kind in Greek. The native woman cried very bitterly. Lastly, he
rose in bed and said, as loudly as slowly:--"Not guilty, my Lord!"
Then he fell back, and the stupor held him till he died. The native woman ran
into the Serai among the horses and screamed and beat her breasts; for she had
Perhaps his last sentence in life told what McIntosh had once gone through;
but, saving the big bundle of old sheets in the cloth, there was nothing in his
room to say who or what he had been.
The papers were in a hopeless muddle.
Strickland helped me to sort them, and he said that the writer was either an
extreme liar or a most wonderful person. He thought the former. One of these
days, you may be able to judge for yourself.
The bundle needed much expurgation and was full of Greek nonsense, at the head
of the chapters, which has all been cut out.
If the things are ever published some one may perhaps remember this story, now
printed as a safeguard to prove that McIntosh Jellaludin and not I myself wrote
the Book of Mother Maturin.
I don't want the Giant's Robe to come true in my case.
VOLUME VI THE LIGHT THAT FAILED
THE LIGHT THAT FAILED
So we settled it all when the storm was done
As comf'y as comf'y could be;
And I was to wait in the barn, my dears, Because I was only three;
And Teddy would run to the rainbow's foot,
Because he was five and a man;
And that's how it all began, my dears,
And that's how it all began.
--Big Barn Stories.
"WHAT do you think she'd do if she caught us? We oughtn't to have it, you
know," said Maisie.
"Beat me, and lock you up in your bedroom," Dick answered, without hesitation.
"Have you got the cartridges?"
"Yes; they"re in my pocket, but they are joggling horribly. Do pin-fire
cartridges go off of their own accord?"
"Don't know. Take the revolver, if you are afraid, and let me carry them."
"I'm not afraid." Maisie strode forward swiftly, a hand in her pocket and her
chin in the air. Dick followed with a small pin-fire revolver.
The children had discovered that their lives would be unendurable without
pistol-practice. After much forethought and self-denial, Dick had saved seven
shillings and sixpence, the price of a badly constructed Belgian revolver.
Maisie could only contribute half a crown to the syndicate for the purchase of
a hundred cartridges. "You can save better than I can, Dick," she explained; "I
like nice things to eat, and it doesn't matter to you. Besides, boys ought to
do these things."
Dick grumbled a little at the arrangement, but went out and made the purchase,
which the children were then on their way to test. Revolvers did not lie in the
scheme of their daily life as decreed for them by the guardian who was
incorrectly supposed to stand in the place of a mother to these two orphans.
Dick had been under her care for six years, during which time she had made her
profit of the allowances supposed to be expended on his clothes, and, partly
through thoughtlessness, partly through a natural desire to pain,--she was a
widow of some years anxious to marry again,--had made his days burdensome on
his young shoulders.
Where he had looked for love, she gave him first aversion and then hate.
Where he growing older had sought a little sympathy, she gave him ridicule. The
many hours that she could spare from the ordering of her small house she
devoted to what she called the home-training of Dick Heldar. Her religion,
manufactured in the main by her own intelligence and a keen study of the
Scriptures, was an aid to her in this matter. At such times as she herself was
not personally displeased with Dick, she left him to understand that he had a
heavy account to settle with his Creator; wherefore Dick learned to loathe his
God as intensely as he loathed Mrs. Jennett; and this is not a wholesome frame
of mind for the young. Since she chose to regard him as a hopeless liar, when
dread of pain drove him to his first untruth he naturally developed into a
liar, but an economical and self-contained one, never throwing away the least
unnecessary fib, and never hesitating at the blackest, were it only plausible,
that might make his life a little easier. The treatment taught him at least the
power of living alone,--a power that was of service to him when he went to a
public school and the boys laughed at his clothes, which were poor in quality
and much mended. In the holidays he returned to the teachings of Mrs. Jennett,
and, that the chain of discipline might not be weakened by association with the
world, was generally beaten, on one account or another, before he had been
twelve hours under her roof.
The autumn of one year brought him a companion in bondage, a long-haired, gray-
eyed little atom, as self-contained as himself, who moved about the house
silently and for the first few weeks spoke only to the goat that was her
chiefest friend on earth and lived in the back-garden. Mrs. Jennett objected to
the goat on the grounds that he was un-Christian,--which he certainly was.
"Then," said the atom, choosing her words very deliberately, "I shall write to
my lawyer-peoples and tell them that you are a very bad woman. Amomma is mine,
mine, mine!" Mrs. Jennett made a movement to the hall, where certain umbrellas
and canes stood in a rack. The atom understood as clearly as Dick what this
meant. "I have been beaten before," she said, still in the same passionless
voice; "I have been beaten worse than you can ever beat me. If you beat me I
shall write to my lawyer-peoples and tell them that you do not give me enough
to eat. I am not afraid of you." Mrs. Jennett did not go into the hall, and the
atom, after a pause to assure herself that all danger of war was past, went
out, to weep bitterly on Amomma"s neck.
Dick learned to know her as Maisie, and at first mistrusted her profoundly, for
he feared that she might interfere with the small liberty of action left to
him. She did not, however; and she volunteered no friendliness until Dick had
taken the first steps. Long before the holidays were over, the stress of
punishment shared in common drove the children together, if it were only to
play into each other's hands as they prepared lies for Mrs. Jennett"s use. When
Dick returned to school, Maisie whispered, "Now I shall be all alone to take
care of myself; but," and she nodded her head bravely, "I can do it. You
promised to send Amomma a grass collar. Send it soon." A week later she asked