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Mr. Isaacs
by F. Marion Crawford
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I rubbed my feet on the soft carpet, and summoning all my strength, began to make the prescribed passes over my friend's head and body. Very gradually the look of life returned to his face, the generous blood welled up under the clear olive skin, the lips parted, and he sighed softly. Animation, as always happens in such cases, began at the precise point at which it had been suspended, and his first movement was to continue his examination of the mouthpiece in his hand. Then he looked up suddenly, and seeing me standing over him, gave a little shake, half turning his shoulders forward and back, and speaking once more in his natural voice, said—

"I must have been asleep! Have I? What has happened? Why are you standing there looking at me in that way?" Then, after a short interrogatory silence, his face changed and a look of annoyance shaded his features as he added in a low tone, "Oh! I see. It has happened to me once before. Sit down. I am all right now." He sipped a little sherbet and leaned back in his old position. I begged him to go to bed, and prepared to withdraw, but he would not let me, and he seemed so anxious that I should stay, that I resumed my place. The whole incident had passed in ten minutes.

"Stay with me a little longer," he repeated. "I need your company, perhaps your advice. I have had a vision, and you must hear about it."

"I thought as I sat here that my spirit left my body and passed out through the night air and hovered over Simla. I could see into every bungalow, and was conscious of what passed in each, but there was only one where my gaze rested, for I saw upon a couch in a spacious chamber the sleeping form of one I knew. The masses of fair hair were heaped as they fell upon the pillow, as if she had lain down weary of bearing the burden of such wealth of gold. The long dark lashes threw little shadows on her cheeks, and the parted lips seemed to smile at the sweetness of the gently heaving breath that fanned them as it came and went. And while I looked, the breath of her body became condensed, as it were, and took shape and form and colour, so that the image of herself floated up between her body and my watching spirit. Nearer and nearer to me came the exquisite vision of beauty, till we were face to face, my soul and hers, high up in the night. And there came from her eyes, as the long lids lifted, a look of perfect trust, and of love, and of infinite joy. Then she turned her face southward and pointed to my life star burning bright among his lesser fellows; and with a long sweet glance that bid me follow where she led, her maiden soul floated away, half lingering at first, as I watched her; then, with dizzy speed, vanishing in the firmament as a falling star, and leaving no trace behind, save an infinitely sad regret, and a longing to enter with her into that boundless empire of peace. But I could not, for my spirit was called back to this body. And I bless Allah that he has given me to see her once so, and to know that she has a soul, even as I have, for I have looked upon her spirit and I know it."

Isaacs rose slowly to his feet and moved towards the open door. I followed him, and for a few moments we stood looking out at the scene below us. It was near midnight, and the ever-decreasing moon was dragging herself up, as if ashamed of her waning beauty and tearful look.

"Griggs," said my friend, dropping the formal prefix for the first time, "all this is very strange. I believe I am in love!"

"I have not a doubt of it," I replied. "Peace be with you!"

"And with you peace."

So we parted.

* * * * *



CHAPTER IV.

In Simla people make morning calls in the morning instead of after dark, as in more civilised countries. Soon after dawn I received a note from Isaacs, saying that he had business with the Maharajah of Baithopoor about some precious stones, but that he would be ready to go with me to call on Mr. Currie Ghyrkins at ten o'clock, or soon after. I had been thinking a great deal about the events of the previous evening, and I was looking forward to my next meeting with Isaacs with intense interest. After what had passed, nothing could be such a test of his true feelings as the visit to Miss Westonhaugh, which we proposed to make together, and I promised myself to lose no gesture, no word, no expression, which might throw light on the question that interested me—whether such a union were practical, possible, and wise.

At the appointed time, therefore, I was ready, and we mounted and sallied forth into the bright autumn day. All visits are made on horseback in Simla, as the distances are often considerable. You ride quietly along, and the saice follows you, walking or keeping pace with your gentle trot, as the case may be. We rode along the bustling mall, crowded with men and women on horseback, with numbers of gorgeously arrayed native servants and chuprassies of the Government offices hurrying on their respective errands, or dawdling for a chat with some shabby-looking acquaintance in private life; we passed by the crowded little shops on the hill below the church, and glanced at the conglomeration of grain-sellers, jewellers, confectioners, and dealers in metal or earthen vessels, every man sitting knee-deep in his wares, smoking the eternal "hubble-bubble;" we noted the keen eyes of the buyers and the hawk's glance of the sellers, the long snake-like fingers eagerly grasping the passing coin, and seemingly convulsed into serpentine contortion when they relinquished their clutch on a single "pi;" we marked this busy scene, set down, like a Punch and Judy show, in the midst of the trackless waste of the Himalayas, as if for the delectation and pastime of some merry genius loci weary of the solemn silence in his awful mountains, and we chatted carelessly of the sights animate and inanimate before us, laughing at the asseverations of the salesmen, and at the hardened scepticism of the customer, at the portentous dignity of the superb old messenger, white-bearded and clad in scarlet and gold, as he bombastically described to the knot of poor relations and admirers that elbowed him the splendours of the last entertainment at "Peterhof," where Lord Lytton still reigned. I smiled, and Isaacs frowned at the ancient and hairy ascetic believer, who suddenly rose from his lair in a corner, and bustled through the crowd of Hindoos, shouting at the top of his voice the confession of his faith—"Beside God there is no God, and Muhammad is his apostle!" The universality of the Oriental spirit is something amazing. Customs, dress, thought, and language, are wonderfully alike among all Asiatics west of Thibet and south of Turkistan. The greatest difference is in language, and yet no one unacquainted with the dialects could distinguish by the ear between Hindustani, Persian, Arabic, and Turkish.

So we moved along, and presently found ourselves on the road we had traversed the previous evening, leading round Jako. On the slope of the hill, hidden by a dense growth of rhododendrons, lay the bungalow of Mr. Currie Ghyrkins, and a board at the entrance of the ride—drive there was none—informed us that the estate bore the high-sounding title of "Carisbrooke Castle," in accordance with the Simla custom of calling little things by big names.

Having reached the lawn near the house, we left our horses in charge of the saice and strolled up the short walk to the verandah. A charming picture it was, prepared as if on purpose for our especial delectation. The bungalow was a large one for Simla, and the verandah was deep and shady; many chairs of all sorts and conditions stood about in natural positions, as if they had just been sat in, instead of being ranged in stiff rows against the wall, and across one angle hung a capacious hammock. Therein, swinging her feet to the ground, and holding on by the edge rope, sat the beautiful Miss Westonhaugh, clad in one of those close-fitting unadorned costumes of plain dark-blue serge, which only suit one woman in ten thousand, though, when they clothe a really beautiful young figure, I know of no garment better calculated to display grace of form and motion. She was kicking a ball of worsted with her dainty toes, for the amusement and instruction of a small tame jackal—the only one I ever saw thoroughly domesticated. A charming little beast it was, with long gray fur and bright twinkling eyes, mischievous and merry as a gnome's. From a broad blue ribbon round its neck was suspended a small silver bell that tinkled spasmodically, as the lively little thing sprang from side to side in pursuit of the ball, alighting with apparent indifference on its head or its heels.

So busy was the girl with her live plaything that she had not seen us dismount and approach her, and it was not till our feet sounded on the boards of the verandah that she looked up with a little start, and tried to rise to her feet. Now any one who has sat sideways in a netted hammock, with feet swinging to the ground, and all the weight in the middle of the thing, knows how difficult it is to get out with grace, or indeed in any way short of rolling out and running for luck. You may break all your bones in the feat, and you both look and feel as if you were going to. Though we both sprang forward to her assistance, Miss Westonhaugh had recognised the inexpediency of moving after the first essay, and, with a smile of greeting, and the faintest tinge of embarrassment on her fair cheek, abandoned the attempt; the quaint little jackal sat up, backing against the side of the house, and, eyeing us critically, growled a little.

"I'm so glad to see you, Mr. Isaacs. How do you do, Mr.——"

"Griggs," murmured Isaacs, as he straightened a rope of the hammock by her side.

"Mr. Griggs?" she continued. "We met last night, briefly, but to the point, or at least you and my uncle did. I am alone; my uncle is gone down towards Kalka to meet my brother, who is coming up for a fortnight at the end of the season to get rid of the Bombay mould. Bring up some of those chairs and sit down. I cannot tell what has become of the 'bearer' and the 'boy,' and the rest of the servants, and I could not make them understand me if they were here. So you must wait on yourselves."

I was the first to lay hands on a chair, and as I turned to bring it I noticed she was following Isaacs with the same expression I had seen on her face the previous evening; but I could see it better now. A pleasant friendly look, not tender so much as kind, while the slightest possible contraction of the eyes showed a feeling of curiosity. She was evidently going to speak to him as soon as he turned his face.

"You see I have been giving him lessons," she said, as he brought back the seat he had chosen.

Isaacs looked at the queer small beast sitting up against the boards under the window, his brush tail curled round him, and his head turned inquiringly on one side.

"He seems to be learning manners, at all events," said my friend.

"Yes; I think I may say now, with safety, that his bark is worse than his bite."

"I am sure you could not have said so the last time I came. Do you remember what fearful havoc he made among my nether garments? And yet he is my god-child, so to speak, for I gave him into your care, and named him into the bargain."

"Don't suppose I am ungrateful for the gift," answered Miss Westonhaugh. "Snap! Snap! here! come here, darling, to your mistress, and be petted!" In spite of this eloquent appeal Snap, the baby jackal, only growled pleasantly and whisked his brush right and left. "You see," she went on, "your sponsorship has had no very good results. He will not obey any more than you yourself." Her glance, turning towards Isaacs, did not reach him, and, in fact, she could not have seen anything beyond the side of his chair. Isaacs, on the contrary, seemed to be counting her eyelashes, and taking a mental photograph of her brows.

"Snap!" said he. The jackal instantly rose and trotted to him, fawning on his outstretched hand.

"You malign me, Miss Westonhaugh. Snap is no less obedient than I."

"Then why did you insist on playing tennis left-handed the other day, though you know very well how it puzzles me?"

"My dear Miss Westonhaugh," he answered, "I am not a tennis-player at all, to begin with, and as I do not understand the finesse of the game, to use a word I do not understand either, you must pardon my clumsiness in employing the hand most convenient and ready."

"Some people," I began, "are what is called ambidexter, and can use either hand with equal ease. Now the ancient Persians, who invented the game of polo——"

"I do not quarrel so much with you, Mr. Isaacs—" as she said this, she looked at me, though entirely disregarding and interrupting my instructive sentence—"I don't quarrel with you so much for using your left hand at tennis as for employing left-handed weapons when you speak of other things, or beings, for you are never so left-handed and so adroit as when you are indulging in some elaborate abuse of our sex."

"How can you say that?" protested Isaacs. "You know with what respectful and almost devotional reverence I look upon all women, and," his eyes brightening perceptibly, "upon you in particular."

English women, especially in their youth, are not used to pretty speeches. They are so much accustomed to the men of their own nationality that they regard the least approach to a compliment as the inevitable introduction to the worst kind of insult. Miss Westonhaugh was no exception to this rule, and she drew herself up proudly.

There was a moment's pause, during which Isaacs seemed penitent, and she appeared to be revolving the bearings of the affront conveyed in his last words. She looked along the floor, slowly, till she might have seen his toes; then her eyes opened a moment and met his, falling again instantly with a change of colour.

"And pray, Mr. Isaacs, would you mind giving us a list of the ladies you look upon with 'respectful and devotional reverence?'" One of the horses held by the saice at the corner of the lawn neighed lowly, and gave Isaacs an opportunity of looking away.

"Miss Westonhaugh," he said quietly, "you know I am a Mussulman, and that I am married. It may be that I have borrowed a phrase from your language which expresses more than I would convey, though it would ill become me to withdraw my last words, since they are true."

It was my turn to be curious now. I wondered where his boldness would carry him. Among his other accomplishments, this man was capable of speaking the truth even to a woman, not as a luxury and a bonne bouche, but as a matter of habit. As I looked, the hot blood mantled up to his brows. She was watching him, and womanlike, seeing he was in earnest and embarrassed, she regained her perfect natural composure.

"Oh, I had forgotten!" she said. "I forgot about your wife in Delhi." She half turned in the hammock, and after some searching, during which we were silent, succeeded in finding a truant piece of worsted work behind her. The wool was pulled out of the needle, and she held the steel instrument up against the light, as she doubled the worsted round the eye and pushed it back through the little slit. I observed that Isaacs was apparently in a line with the light, and that the threading took some time.

"Mr. Griggs," she said slowly, and by the very slowness of the address I knew she was going to talk to me, and at my friend, as women will; "Mr. Griggs, do you know anything about Mohammedans?"

"That is a very broad question," I answered; "almost as broad as the Mussulman creed." She began making stitches in the work she held, and with a little side shake settled herself to listen, anticipating a discourse. The little jackal sidled up and fawned on her feet. I had no intention, however, of delivering a lecture on the faith of the prophet. I saw my friend was embarrassed in the conversation, and I resolved, if possible, to interest her.

"Among primitive people and very young persons," I continued, "marriage is an article of faith, a moral precept, and a social law."

"I suppose you are married, Mr. Griggs," she said, with an air of childlike simplicity.

"Pardon me, Miss Westonhaugh, I neither condescend to call myself primitive, nor aspire to call myself young."

She laughed. I had put a wedge into my end of the conversation.

"I thought," said she, "from the way in which you spoke of 'primitive and young persons' that you considered their opinion in regard to—to this question, as being the natural and proper opinion of the original and civilised young man."

"I repeat that I do not claim to be very civilised, or very young—certainly not to be very original, and my renunciation of all these qualifications is my excuse for the confirmed bachelorhood to which I adhere. Many Mohammedans are young and original; some of them are civilised, as you see, and all of them are married. 'There, is no God but God, Muhammad is his prophet, and if you refuse to marry you are not respectable,' is their full creed."

Isaacs frowned at my profanity, but I continued—"I do not mean to say anything disrespectful to a creed so noble and social. I think you have small chance of converting Mr. Isaacs."

"I would not attempt it," she said, laying down her work in her lap, and looking at me for a moment. "But since you speak of creeds, to what confession do you yourself belong, if I may ask?"

"I am a Roman Catholic," I answered; adding presently—"Really, though, I do not see how my belief in the papal infallibility affects my opinion of Mohammedan marriages."

"And what do you think of them?" she inquired, resuming her work and applying herself thereto with great attention.

"I think that, though justified in principle by the ordinary circumstances of Eastern life, there are cases in which the system acts very badly. I think that young men are often led by sheer force of example into marrying several wives before they have sufficiently reflected on the importance of what they are doing. I think that both marriage and divorce are too easily managed in consideration of their importance to a man's life, and I am convinced that no civilised man of Western education, if he were to adopt Islam, would take advantage of his change of faith to marry four wives. It is a case of theory versus practice, which I will not attempt to explain. It may often be good in logic, but it seems to me it is very often bad in real life."

"Yes," said Isaacs; "there are cases——" He stopped, and Miss Westonhaugh, who had been very busy over her work, looked quietly up, only to find that he was profoundly interested in the horses cropping the short grass, as far as the saice would let them stretch their necks, on the other side of the lawn.

"I confess," said Miss Westonhaugh, "that my ideas about Mohammedans are chiefly the result of reading the Arabian Nights, ever so long ago. It seems to me that they treat women as if they had no souls and no minds, and were incapable of doing anything rational if left to themselves. It is a man's religion. My uncle says so too, and he ought to know."

The conversation was meandering in a kind of vicious circle. Both Isaacs and I were far too deeply interested in the question to care for such idle discussion. How could this beautiful but not very intellectual English girl, with her prejudices and her clumsiness at repartee or argument, ever comprehend or handle delicately so difficult a subject? I was disappointed in her. Perhaps this was natural enough, considering that with two such men as we she must be entirely out of her element. She was of the type of brilliant, healthy, northern girls, who depend more on their animal spirits and enjoyment of living for their happiness than upon any natural or acquired mental powers. With a horse, or a tennis court, or even a ball to amuse her, she would appear at her very best; would be at ease and do the right thing. But when called upon to sustain a conversation, such as that into which her curiosity about Isaacs had plunged her, she did not know what to do. She was constrained, and even some of her native grace of manner forsook her. Why did she avoid his eyes and resort to such a petty little trick as threading a needle in order to get a look at him? An American girl, or a French woman, would have seen that her strength lay in perfect frankness; that Isaacs' straightforward nature would make him tell her unhesitatingly anything she wanted to know about himself, and that her position was strong enough for her to look him in the face and ask him what she pleased. But she allowed herself to be embarrassed, and though she had been really glad to see him, and liked him and thought him handsome, she was beginning to wish he would go, merely because she did not know what to talk about, and would not give him a chance to choose his own subject. As neither of us were inclined to carry the analysis of matrimony any farther, nor to dispute the opinions of Mr. Currie Ghyrkins as quoted by his niece, there was a pause. I struck in and boldly changed the subject.

"Are you going to see the polo this afternoon, Miss Westonhaugh? I heard at the hotel that there was to be a match to-day of some interest."

"Oh yes, of course. I would not miss it for anything. Lord Steepleton is coming to tiffin, and we shall ride down together to Annandale. Of course you are going too; it will be a splendid thing. Do you play polo, Mr. Griggs? Mr. Isaacs is a great player, when he can be induced to take the trouble. He knows more about it than he does about tennis."

"I am very fond of the game," I answered, "but I have no horses here, and with my weight it is not easy to get a mount for such rough work."

"Do not disturb yourself on that score," said Isaacs; "you know my stable is always at your disposal, and I have a couple of ponies that would carry you well enough. Let us have a game one of those days, whenever we can get the ground. We will play on opposite sides and match the far west against the far east."

"What fun!" cried Miss Westonhaugh, her face brightening at the idea, "and I will hold the stakes and bestow the crown on the victor."

"What is to be the prize?" asked Isaacs, with a smile of pleasure. He was very literal and boyish sometimes.

"That depends on which is the winner," she answered.

There was a noise among the trees of horses' hoofs on the hard path, and presently we heard a voice calling loudly for a saice who seemed to be lagging far behind. It was a clear strong voice, and the speaker abused the groom's female relations to the fourth and fifth generations with considerable command of the Hindustani language. Miss Westonhaugh, who had not been in the country long, did not understand a word of the very free swearing that was going on in the woods, but Isaacs looked annoyed, and I registered a black mark against the name of the new-comer, whoever he might be.

"Oh! it is Lord Steepleton," said the young girl. "He seems to be always having a row with his servants. Don't go," she went on as I took up my hat; "he is such a good fellow, you ought to know him."

Lord Steepleton Kildare now appeared at the corner of the lawn, hotly pursued by his breathless groom, who had been loitering on the way, and had thus roused his master's indignation. He was, as I have said, a fine specimen of a young Englishman, though being Irish by descent he would have indignantly denied any such nationality. I saw when he had dismounted that he was tall and straight, though not a very heavily built man. He carried his head high, and looked every inch a soldier as he strode across the grass, carefully avoiding the pegs of the tennis net. He wore a large gray felt hat, like every one else, and he shook hands all round before he took it off, and settled himself in an easy chair as near as he could get to Miss Westonhaugh's hammock.

"How are ye? Ah—yes, Mr. Isaacs, Mr. Griggs of Allahabad. Jolly day, isn't it?" and he looked vaguely at the grass. "Really, Miss Westonhaugh, I got in such a rage with my rascal of a saice that I did not remember I was so near the house. I am really very sorry I talked like that. I hope you did not think I was murdering him?"

Isaacs looked annoyed.

"Yes," said he, "we thought Mahmoud was going to have a bad time of it. I believe Miss Westonhaugh does not understand Hindustani."

A look of genuine distress came into the Englishman's face.

"Really," said he, very simply. "You don't know how sorry I am that any one should have heard me. I am so hasty. But let me apologise to you all most sincerely for disturbing you with my brutal temper."

His misdeed had not been, a very serious crime after all, and there was something so frank and honest about his awkward little apology that I was charmed. The man was a gentleman. Isaacs bowed in silence, and Miss Westonhaugh had evidently never thought much about it.

"We were talking about polo when you came, Lord Steepleton; Mr. Isaacs and Mr. Griggs are going to play a match, and I am to hold the stakes. Do you not want to make one in the game?"

"May I?" said the young man, grateful to her for having helped him out. "May I? I should like it awfully. I so rarely get a chance of playing with any except the regular set here." And he looked inquiringly at us.

"We should be delighted, of course," said Isaacs. "By the way, can you help us to make up the number? And when shall it be?" He seemed suddenly very much interested in this projected contest.

"Oh yes," said Kildare, "I will manage to fill up the game, and we can play next Monday. I know the ground is free then."

"Very good; on Monday. We are at Laurie's on the hill."

"I am staying with Jack Tygerbeigh, near Peterhof. Come and see us. I will let you know before Monday. Oh, Mr. Griggs, I saw such a nice thing about me in the Howler the other day—so many thanks. No, really, greatly obliged, you know; people say horrid things about me sometimes. Good-bye, good-bye, delighted to have seen you."

"Good morning, Miss Westonhaugh."

"Good morning; so good of you to take pity on my solitude." She smiled kindly at Isaacs and civilly at me. And we went our way. As we looked back after mounting to lift our hats once more, I saw that Miss Westonhaugh had succeeded in getting out of the hammock and was tying on a pith hat, while Lord Steepleton had armed himself with balls and rackets from a box on the verandah. As we bowed they came down the steps, looking the very incarnation of animal life and spirits in the anticipation of the game they loved best. The bright autumn sun threw their figures into bold relief against the dark shadow of the verandah, and I thought to myself they made a very pretty picture. I seemed to be always seeing pictures, and my imagination was roused in a new direction.

We rode away under the trees. My impression of the whole visit was unsatisfactory. I had thought Mr. Currie Ghyrkins would be there, and that I would be able to engage him in a political discussion. We could have talked income-tax, and cotton duties, and Kabul by the hour, and Miss Westonhaugh and Isaacs would have had a pleasant tete-a-tete. Instead of this I had been decidedly the unlucky third who destroys the balance of so much pleasure in life, for I felt that Isaacs was not a man to be embarrassed if left alone with a woman, or to embarrass her. He was too full of tact, and his sensibilities were so fine that, with his easy command of language, he must be agreeable quand meme; and such an opportunity would have given him an easy lead away from the athletic Kildare, whom I suspected strongly of being a rival for Miss Westonhaugh's favour. There is an easy air of familiar proprietorship about an Englishman in love that is not to be mistaken. It is a subtle thing, and expresses itself neither in word nor deed in its earlier stages of development; but it is there all the same, and the combination of this possessive mood, with a certain shyness which often goes with it, is amusing.

"Griggs," said Isaacs, "have you ever seen the Rajah of Baithopoor?"

"No; you had some business with him this morning, had you not?"

"Yes—some—business—if you call it so. If you would like to see him I can take you there, and I think you would be interested in the—the business. It is not often such gems are bought and sold in such a way, and besides, he is very amusing. He is at least two thousand years old, and will go to Saturn when he dies. His fingers are long and crooked, and that which he putteth into his pockets, verily he shall not take it out."

"A pleasing picture; a good contrast to the one we have left behind us. I like contrasts, and I should like to see him."

"You shall." And we lit our cheroots.

* * * * *



CHAPTER V.

"We will go there at four," said Isaacs, coming into my rooms after tiffin, a meal of which I found he rarely partook. "I said three, this morning, but it is not a bad plan to keep natives waiting. It makes them impatient, and then they commit themselves."

"You are Machiavellian. It is pretty clear which of you is asking the favour."

"Yes, it is pretty clear." He sat down and took up the last number of the Howler which lay on the table. Presently he looked up. "Griggs, why do you not come to Delhi? We might start a newspaper there, you know, in the Conservative interest."

"In the interest of Mr. Algernon Currie Ghyrkins?" I inquired.

"Precisely. You anticipate my thoughts with a true sympathy. I suppose you have no conscience?"

"Political conscience? No, certainly not, out of my own country, which is the only one where that sort of thing commands a high salary. No, I have no conscience."

"You would really write as willingly for the Conservatives as you do for the Liberals?"

"Oh yes. I could not write so well on the Conservative side just now, because they are 'in,' and it is more blessed to abuse than to be abused, and ever so much easier. But as far as any prejudice on the subject is concerned, I have none. I had as lief defend a party that robs India 'for her own good,' as support those who would rob her with a more cynical frankness and unblushingly transfer the proceeds to their own pockets. I do not care a rush whether they rob Peter to pay Paul, or fraudulently deprive Paul of his goods for the benefit of Peter."

"That is the way to look at it. I could tell you some very pretty stories about that kind of thing. As for the journalistic enterprise, it is only a possible card to be played if the old gentleman is obdurate."

"Isaacs," said I, "I have only known you three days, but you have taken me into your confidence to some extent; probably because I am not English. I may be of use to you, and I am sure I sincerely hope so. Meanwhile I want to ask you a question, if you will allow me to." I paused for an answer. We were standing by the open door, and Isaacs leaned back against the door-post, his eyes fixed on me, half closed, as he threw his head back. He looked at me somewhat curiously, and I thought a smile flickered round his mouth, as if he anticipated what the question would be.

"Certainly," he said slowly. "Ask me anything you like. I have nothing to conceal."

"Do you seriously think of marrying, or proposing to marry, Miss Katharine Westonhaugh?"

"I do seriously think of proposing to marry, and of marrying, Miss Westonhaugh." He looked very determined as he thus categorically affirmed his intention. I knew he meant it, and I knew enough of Oriental character to understand that a man like Abdul Hafizben-Isak, of strong passions, infinite wit, and immense wealth, was not likely to fail in anything he undertook to do. When Asiatic indifference gives way under the strong pressure of some master passion, there is no length to which the hot and impetuous temper beneath may not carry the man. Isaacs had evidently made up his mind. I did not think he could know much about the usual methods of wooing English girls, but as I glanced at his graceful figure, his matchless eyes, and noted for the hundredth time the commanding, high-bred air that was the breath of his character, I felt that his rival would have but a poor chance of success. He guessed my thoughts.

"What do you think of me?" he asked, smiling. "Will you back me for a place? I have advantages, you must allow—and worldly advantages too. They are not rich people at all."

"My dear Isaacs, I will back you to win. But as far as 'worldly advantages' are concerned, do not trust to wealth for a moment. Do not flatter yourself that there will be any kind of a bargain, as if you were marrying a Persian girl. There is nothing venal in that young lady's veins, I am sure."

"Allah forbid! But there is something very venal in the veins of Mr. Currie Ghyrkins. I propose to carry the outworks one by one. He is her uncle, her guardian, her only relation, save her brother. I do not think either of those men would be sorry to see her married to a man of stainless name and considerable fortune."

"You forget your three incumbrances, as you called them last night."

"No—I do not forget them. It is allowed me by my religion to marry a fourth, and I need not tell you that she would be thenceforth my only wife."

"But would her guardian and brother ever think of allowing her to take such a position?"

"Why not? You know very well that the English in general hardly consider our marriages to be marriages at all—knowing the looseness of the bond. That is the prevailing impression."

"Yes, I know. But then they would consider your marriage with Miss Westonhaugh in the same light, which would not make matters any easier, as far as I can see."

"Pardon me. I should marry Miss Westonhaugh by the English marriage service and under English law. I should be as much bound to her, and to her alone, as if I were an Englishman myself."

"Well, you have evidently thought it out and taken legal advice; and really, as far as the technical part of it goes, I suppose you have as good a chance as Lord Steepleton Kildare."

Isaacs frowned, and his eyes flashed. I saw at once that he considered the Irish officer a rival, and a dangerous one. I did not think that if Isaacs had fair play and the same opportunities Kildare had much chance. Besides there was a difficulty in the way.

"As far as religion is concerned, Lord Steepleton is not much better off than you, if he wants to marry Miss Westonhaugh. The Kildares have been Roman Catholics since the memory of man, and they are very proud of it. Theoretically, it is as hard for a Roman Catholic man to marry a Protestant woman, as for a Mussulman to wed a Christian of any denomination. Harder, in fact, for your marriage depends upon the consent of the lady, and his upon the consent of the Church. He has all sorts of difficulties to surmount, while you have only to get your personality accepted—which, when I look at you, I think might be done," I added, laughing.

"Jo hoga, so hoga—what will be, will be," he said; "but religion or no religion, I mean to do it." Then he lighted a cigarette and said, "Come, it is time to go and see his Saturnine majesty, the Maharajah of Baithopoor."

I called for my hat and gloves.

"By-the-bye, Griggs, you may as well put on a black coat. You know the old fellow is a king, after all, and you had better produce a favourable impression." I retired to comply with his request, and as I came back he turned quickly and came towards me, holding out both hands, with a very earnest look in his face.

"Griggs, I care for that lady more than I can tell you," he said, taking my hands in his.

"My dear fellow, I am sure you do. People do not go suddenly into trances at a name that is indifferent to them. I am sure you love her very honestly and dearly."

"You and she have come into my life almost together, for it was not until I talked with you last night that I made up my mind. Will you help me? I have not a friend in the world." The simple, boyish look was in his eyes, and he stood holding my hands and waiting for my answer. I was so fascinated that I would have then and there gone through fire and water for him, as I would now.

"Yes. I will help you. I will be a friend to you."

"Thank you. I believe you." He dropped my hands, and we turned and went out, silent.

In all my wanderings I had never promised any man my friendship and unconditional support before. There was something about Isaacs that overcame and utterly swept away preconceived ideas, rules, and prejudices. It was but the third day of our acquaintance, and here was I swearing eternal friendship like a school-girl; promising to help a man, of whose very existence I knew nothing three days ago, to marry a woman whom I had seen for the first time yesterday. But I resolved that, having pledged myself, I would do my part with my might, whatever that part might be. Meanwhile we rode along, and Isaacs began to talk about the visit we were going to make.

"I think," he said, "that you had better know something about this matter beforehand. The way is long, and we cannot ride fast over the steep roads, so there is plenty of time. Do not imagine that I have idly asked you to go with me because I supposed it would amuse you. Dismiss also from your mind the impression that it is a question of buying and selling jewels. It is a very serious matter, and if you would prefer to have nothing to do with it, do not hesitate to say so. I promised the maharajah this morning that I would bring, this afternoon, a reliable person of experience, who could give advice, and who might be induced to give his assistance as well as his counsel. I have not known you long, but I know you by reputation, and I decided to bring you, if you would come. From the very nature of the case I can tell you nothing more, unless you consent to go with me."

"I will go," I said.

"In that case I will try and explain the situation in as few words as possible. The maharajah is in a tight place. You will readily understand that the present difficulties in Kabul cause him endless anxiety, considering the position of his dominions. The unexpected turn of events, following now so rapidly on each other since the English wantonly sacrificed Cavagnari and his friends to a vainglorious love of bravado, has shaken the confidence of the native princes in the stability of English rule. They are frightened out of their senses, having the fear of the tribes before them if the English should be worsted; and they dread, on the other hand, lest the English, finding themselves in great straits, should levy heavy contributions on them—the native princes—for the consolidation of what they term the 'Empire.' They have not much sense, these poor old kings and boy princes, or they would see that the English do not dare to try any of those old-fashioned Clive tactics now. But old Baithopoor has heard all about the King of Oude, and thinks he may share the same fate."

"I think he may make his mind easy on that score. The kingdom of Baithopoor is too inconveniently situated and too full of mosquitoes to attract the English. Besides, there are more roses than rubies there just now."

"True, and that question interests me closely, for the old man owes me a great deal of money. It was I who pulled him through the last famine."

"Not a very profitable investment, I should think. Shall you ever see a rupee of that money again?"

"Yes; he will pay me; though I did not think so a week ago, or indeed yesterday. I lent him the means of feeding his people and saving many of them from actual death by starvation, because there are so many Mussulmans among them, though the maharajah is a Hindoo. As for him, he might starve to-morrow, the infidel hound; I would not give him a chowpatti or a mouthful of dal to keep his wretched old body alive."

"Do I understand that this interview relates to the repayment of the moneys you have advanced?"

"Yes; though that is not the most interesting part of it. He wanted to pay me in flesh—human flesh, and he offered to make me a king into the bargain, if I would forgive him the debt. The latter part of the proposal was purely visionary. The promise to pay in so much humanity he is able to perform. I have not made up my mind."

I looked at Isaacs in utter astonishment. What in the world could he mean? Had the maharajah offered him some more wives—creatures of peerless beauty and immense value? No; I knew he would not hesitate now to refuse such a proposition.

"Will you please to explain what you mean by his paying you in man?" I asked.

"In two words. The Maharajah of Baithopoor has in his possession a man. Safely stowed away under a triple watch and carefully tended, this man awaits his fate as the maharajah may decide. The English Government would pay an enormous sum for this man, but Baithopoor fears that they would ask awkward questions, and perhaps not believe the answers he would give them. So, as he owes me a good deal, he thinks I might be induced to take his prisoner and realise him, so to speak; thus cancelling the debt, and saving him from the alternative of putting the man to death privately, or of going through dangerous negotiations with the Government. Now this thing is perfectly feasible, and it depends upon me to say 'yes' or 'no' to the proposition. Do you see now? It is a serious matter enough."

"But the man—who is he? Why do the English want him so much?"

Isaacs pressed his horse close to mine, and looking round to see that the saice was a long way behind, he put his hand on my shoulder, and, leaning out of the saddle till his mouth almost touched my ear, he whispered quickly—

"Shere Ali."

"The devil, you say!" I ejaculated, surprised out of grammar and decorum by the startling news. Persons who were in India in 1879 will not have forgotten the endless speculation caused by the disappearance of the Emir of Afghanistan, Shere Ali, in the spring of that year. Defeated by the English at Ali Musjid and Peiwar, and believing his cause lost, he fled, no one knew whither; though there is reason to think that he might have returned to power and popularity among the Afghan tribes if he had presented himself after the murder of Cavagnari.

"Yes," continued Isaacs, "he has been a prisoner in the palace of Baithopoor for six weeks, and not a soul save the maharajah and you and I know it. He came to Baithopoor, humbly disguised as a Yogi from the hills, though he is a Mussulman, and having obtained a private hearing, disclosed his real name, proposing to the sovereign a joint movement on Kabul, then just pacified by the British, and promising all manner of things for the assistance. Old Baitho, who is no fool, clapped him into prison under a guard of Punjabi soldiers who could not speak a word of Afghan, and after due consideration packed up his traps and betook himself to Simla by short stages, for the journey is not an easy one for a man of his years. He arrived the day before yesterday, and has ostensibly come to congratulate the Viceroy on the success of the British arms. He has had to modify the enthusiasm of his proposed address, in consequence of the bad news from Kabul. Of course, his first move was to send for me, and I had a long interview this morning, in which he explained everything. I told him that I would not move in the matter without a third person—necessary as a witness when dealing with such people—and I have brought you."

"But what was his proposal to invest you with a crown? Did he think you were a likely person for a new Emir of Kabul?"

"Exactly. My faith, and above all, my wealth, suggested to him that I, as a born Persian, might be the very man for the vacant throne. No doubt, the English would be delighted to have me there. But the whole thing is visionary and ridiculous. I think I shall accept the other proposition, and take the prisoner. It is a good bargain."

I was silent. The intimate way in which I had seen Isaacs hitherto had made me forget his immense wealth and his power. I had not realised that he could be so closely connected with intrigues of such importance as this, or that independant native princes were likely to look upon him as a possible Emir of Afghanistan. I had nothing to say, and I determined to keep to the part I was brought to perform, which was that of a witness, and nothing more. If my advice were asked, I would speak boldly for Shere Ali's liberation and protest against the poor man being bought and sold in this way. This train of thought reminded me of Isaacs' words when we left Miss Westonhaugh that morning. "It is not often," he had said, "that you see such jewels bought and sold." No, indeed!

"You see," said Isaacs, as we neared our destination, "Baithopoor is in my power, body and soul, for a word from me would expose him to the British Government as 'harbouring traitors,' as they would express it. On the other hand, the fact that you, the third party, are a journalist, and could at a moment's notice give publicity to the whole thing, will be an additional safeguard. I have him as in a vice. And now put on your most formal manners and look as if you were impenetrable as the rock and unbending as cast iron, for we have reached his bungalow."

I could not but admire the perfect calm and caution with which he was conducting an affair involving millions of money, a possible indictment for high treason, and the key-note of the Afghan question, while I knew that his whole soul was absorbed in the contemplation of a beautiful picture ever before him, sleeping or waking. Whatever I might think of his bargaining for the possession of Shere Ali, he had a great, even untiring, intellect. He had the elements of a leader of men, and I fondly hoped he might be a ruler some day.

The bungalow in which the Maharajah of Baithopoor had taken up his residence during his visit was very much like all the rest of the houses I saw in Simla. The verandah, however, was crowded with servants and sowars in gorgeous but rather tawdry liveries, not all of them as clean as they should have been. Horses with elaborate high saddles and embroidered trappings rather the worse for wear were being led up and down the walk. As we neared the door there was a strong smell of rosewater and native perfumes and hookah tobacco—the indescribable odour of Eastern high life. There was also a general air of wasteful and tawdry dowdiness, if I may coin such a word, which one constantly sees in the retinues of native princes and rich native merchants, ill contrasting with the great intrinsic value of some of the ornaments worn by the chief officers of the train.

Isaacs spoke a few words in a low voice to the jemadar at the door, and we were admitted into a small room in the side of the house, opening, as all rooms do in India, on to the verandah. There were low wooden charpoys around the walls, and we sat down, waiting till the maharajah should be advised of our arrival. Very soon a jemadar came in and informed us that "if the sahib log, who were the protectors of the poor, would deign to be led by him," we should be shown into the royal presence. So we rose and followed the obsequious official into another apartment.

The room where the maharajah awaited us was even smaller than the one into which we had been first shown. It was on the back of the house, and only half lighted by the few rays of afternoon sun that struggled through the dense foliage outside. I suppose this apartment had been chosen as the scene of the interview on account of its seclusion. Outside the window, which was closed, a sowar paced slowly up and down to keep away any curious listeners. A heavy curtain hung before the door through which we had entered. I thought that on the whole the place seemed pretty safe.

The old maharajah sat cross-legged upon a great pile of dark-red cushions, his slippers by his side, and a huge hookah before him. He wore a plain white pugree with a large jewel set on one side, and his body was swathed and wrapped in dark thick stuffs, as if he felt keenly the cold autumn air. His face was long, of an ashy yellowish colour, and an immense white moustache hung curling down over his sombre robe. One hand protruded from the folds and held the richly-jewelled mouthpiece of the pipe to his lips, and I noticed that the fingers were long and crooked, winding themselves curiously round the gold stem, as if revelling in the touch of the precious metal and the gems. As we came within his range of vision, his dark eyes shot a quick glance of scrutiny at me and then dropped again. Not a movement of the head or body betrayed a consciousness of our presence. Isaacs made a long salutation in Hindustani, and I followed his example, but he did not take off his shoes or make anything more than an ordinary bow. It was quite evident that he was master of the situation. The old man took the pipe from his mouth and replied in a deep hollow voice that he was glad to see us, and that, in consideration of our wealth, fame, and renowned wisdom, he would waive all ceremony and beg us to be seated. We sat down cross-legged on cushions before him, and as near as we could get, so that it seemed as if we three were performing some sacred rite of which the object was the tall hookah that stood in the centre of our triangle.

Being seated, Isaacs addressed the prince, still in Hindustani, and said that the splendour of his sublime majesty, which was like the sun dispelling the clouds, so overcame him with fear and trembling, that he humbly implored permission to make use of the Persian tongue, which, he was aware, the lord of boundless wisdom spoke with even greater ease than himself.

Without waiting for an answer, and with no perceptible manifestation of any such "fear and trembling" as he professed, Isaacs at once began to speak in his native tongue, and dropping all forms of ceremony or circumlocution plunged boldly into business. He did not hesitate to explain to the maharajah the strength of his position, dwelling on the fact that, by a word to the English of the whereabouts of Shere Ali, he could plunge Baithopoor into hopeless and endless entanglements, to which there could be but one issue—absorption into the British Raj. He dwelt on the large sums the maharajah owed him for assistance lent during the late famine, and he skilfully produced the impression that he wanted the money down, then and there.

"If your majesty should refuse to satisfy my just claims, I have ample weapons by which to satisfy them for myself, and no considerations of mercy or pity for your majesty will tempt me to abate one rupee in the account of your indebtedness, which, as you well know, is not swelled by any usurious interest. You could not have borrowed the money on such easy terms from any bank in India or England, and if I have been merciful hitherto, I will be so no longer. What saith the Apostle of Allah? 'Verily, life for life, and eye for eye, and nose for nose, and ear for ear, and tooth for tooth, and for wounding retaliation.' And the time of your promise is expired and you shall pay me. And is not the wise Frank, who sitteth at my right hand, the ready writer, who giveth to the public every day a new book to read, the paper of news, Khabar-i-Khagaz wherein are written the misdeeds of the wicked, and the dealings of the fraudulent and the unwary receive their just reward? And think you he will not make a great writing, several columns in length, and deliver it to the devils that perform his bidding, and shall they not multiply what he hath written, and sow it broadcast over the British Raj for the minor consideration of one anna a copy, that all shall see how the Maharajah of Baithopoor doth scandalously repudiate his debts, and harbour traitors to the Raj in his palace?"

Isaacs said all this in a solemn and impressive manner, calculated to inspire awe and terror in the soul of the unhappy debtor. As for the maharajah, the cold sweat stood on his face, and at the last words his anxiety was so great that the long fingers uncurled spasmodically and the jewelled mouthpiece fell back, as the head of a snake, among the silken coils of the tube at his feet. Instantly, on feeling the grasping hand empty, his majesty, with more alacrity than I would have expected, darted forward with outstretched claws, as a hawk on his prey, and seizing the glittering thing returned it to his lips with a look of evident relief. It was habit, of course, for we were not exactly the men to plunder him of his toy, but there was a fierceness about the whole action that spoke of the real miser. Then there was silence for a moment. The old man was evidently greatly impressed by the perils of his situation. Isaacs continued.

"Your majesty well perceives that you have surrounded yourself with dangers on all sides. No danger threatens me. I could buy you and Baithopoor to-morrow if I chose. But I am a just man. When the prophet, whose name be blessed, saith that we shall have eye for eye, and nose for nose, and for wounding retaliation, he saith also that 'he that remitteth the same as alms it shall be an atonement unto him.' Now your majesty is a hard man, and I well know that if I force you to pay me now you will cruelly tax and oppress your subjects to refill your coffers. And many of your subjects are true believers, following the prophet, upon whom be peace; and it is also written 'Thou shalt rob a stranger, but thou shalt not rob a brother,'—and if I cause you to rob my brethren is not the sin mine, and the atonement thereof? Now also has the lawful interest on your bond mounted up to several lakhs of rupees. But for the sake of my brethren who are in bondage to you, who are an unbeliever and shall broil everlastingly in raging flames, I will yet make a covenant with you, and the agreement thereof shall be this:

"You shall deliver into my hand, before the dark half of the next moon, the man"—Isaacs lowered his voice to a whisper, barely audible in the still room, where the only sound heard as he paused was the tread of the sowar on the verandah outside— "the man Shere Ali, formerly Emir of Afghanistan, now hidden in your palace of Baithopoor. Him you shall give to me safe and untouched at the place which I shall choose, northwards from here, in the pass towards Keitung. And there shall not be an hair of his head touched, and if it is good in my eyes I will give him up to the British; and if it is good in my eyes, I will slay him, and you shall ask no questions. And if you refuse to do this I will go to the great lord sahib and tell him of your doings, and you will be arrested before this night and shall not escape. But if you consent and put your hand to this agreement, I will speak no word, and you shall depart in peace; and moreover, for the sake of the true believers in your kingdom I will remit to you the whole of the interest on your debt; and the bond you shall pay at your convenience. I have spoken, do you answer me." Isaacs calmly took from his pocket two rolls covered with Persian writing, and lighting a cigarette, proceeded to peruse them carefully, to detect any flaw or error in their composition. The face of the old maharajah betrayed great emotion, but he bravely pulled away at his hookah and tried to think over the situation. In the hope of delivering himself from his whole debt he had rashly given himself into the hands of a man who hated him, though he had discovered that hatred too late. He had flattered himself that the loan had been made out of friendly feeling and a desire for his interest and support; he found that Isaacs had lent the money, for real or imaginary religious motives, in the interest of his co-religionists. I sat silently watching the varying passions as they swept over the repulsive face of the old man. The silence must have lasted a quarter of an hour.

"Give me the covenant," he said at last, "for I am in the tiger's clutches. I will sign it, since I must. But it shall be requited to you, Abdul Hafiz; and when your body has been eaten of jackals and wild pigs in the forest, your soul shall enter into the shape of a despised sweeper, and you and your off-spring shall scavenge the streets of the cities of my kingdom and of the kingdom of my son, and son's son, to ten thousand generations." A Hindoo cannot express scorn more deadly or hate more lasting than this. Isaacs smiled, but there was a concentrated look in his face, relentless and hard, as he answered the insult.

"I am not going to bandy words with you. But if you are not quick about signing that paper I may change my mind, and send for the Angrezi sowars from Peterhof. So you had better hurry yourself." Isaacs produced a small inkhorn and a reed pen from his pocket. "Sign," he said, rising to his feet "before that soldier outside passes the window three times, or I will deliver you to the British."

Trembling in every joint, and the perspiration standing on his face like beads, the old man seized the pen and traced his name and titles at the foot, first of one copy, and then of the other. Isaacs followed, writing his full name in the Persian character, and I signed my name last, "Paul Griggs," in large letters at the bottom of each roll, adding the word "witness," in case of the transaction becoming known.

"And now," said Isaacs to the maharajah, "despatch at once a messenger, and let the man here mentioned be brought under a strong guard and by circuitous roads to the pass of Keitung, and let them there encamp before the third week from to-day, when the moon is at the full. And I will be there and will receive the man. And woe to you if he come not; and woe to you if you oppress the true believers in your realm." He turned on his heel, and I followed him out of the room after making a brief salutation to the old man, cowering among his cushions, a ceremony which Isaacs omitted, whether intentionally or from forgetfulness, I could not say. We passed through the house out into the air, and mounting our horses rode away, leaving the double row of servants salaaming to the ground. The duration of our private interview with the maharajah had given them an immense idea of our importance. We had come at four and it was now nearly five. The long pauses and the Persian circumlocutions had occupied a good deal of time.

"You do not seem to have needed my counsel or assistance much," I said. "With such an armoury of weapons you could manage half-a-dozen maharajahs."

"Yes—perhaps so. But I have strong reasons for wishing this affair quickly over, and the editor of a daily paper is a thing of terror to a native prince; you must have seen that."

"What do you mean to do with your man when he is safely in your hands, if it is not an indiscreet question?"

"Do with him?" asked Isaacs with some astonishment. "Is it possible you have not guessed? He is a brave man, and a true believer. I will give him money and letters, that he may make his way to Baghdad, or wherever he will be safe. He shall depart in peace, and be as free as air."

I had half suspected my friend of some such generous intention, but he had played his part of unrelenting hardness so well in our late interview with the Hindoo prince that it seemed incomprehensible that a man should be so pitiless and so kind on the same day. There was not a trace of hardness on his beautiful features now, and as we rounded the hill and caught the last beams of the sun, now sinking behind the mountains, his face seemed transfigured as with a glory, and I could hardly bear to look at him. He held his hat in his hand and faced the west for an instant, as though thanking the declining day for its freshness and beauty; and I thought to myself that the sun was lucky to see such an exquisite picture before he bid Simla good-night, and that he should shine the brighter for it the next day, since he would look on nothing fairer in his twelve hours' wandering over the other half of creation.

"And now," said he, "it is late, but if we ride towards Annandale we may meet them coming back from the polo match we have missed." His eyes glowed at the thought. Shere Ali, the maharajah, bonds, principal, and interest, were all forgotten in the anticipation of a brief meeting with the woman he loved.

* * * * *



CHAPTER VI.

"Why did you not come and see the game? After all your enthusiasm about polo this morning, I did not think you would miss anything so good," were the first words of Miss Westonhaugh as we met her and Kildare in the narrow path that leads down to Annandale. Two men were riding behind them, who proved to be Mr. Currie Ghyrkins and Mr. John Westonhaugh. The latter was duly introduced to us; a quiet, spare man, with his sister's features, but without a trace of her superb colour and animal spirits. He had the real Bombay paleness, and had been steamed to the bone through the rains. As we were introduced, Isaacs started and said quickly that he believed he had met Mr. Westonhaugh before.

"It is possible, quite possible," said that gentleman affably, "especially if you ever go to Bombay."

"Yes—it was in Bombay—some twelve years ago. You have probably forgotten me."

"Ah, yes. I was young and green then. I wonder you remember me." He did not show any very lively interest in the matter, though he smiled pleasantly.

Miss Westonhaugh must have been teasing Lord Steepleton, for he looked flushed and annoyed, and she was in capital spirits. We turned to go back with the party, and by a turn of the wrist Isaacs wheeled his horse to the side of Miss Westonhaugh's, a position he did not again abandon. They were leading, and I resolved they should have a chance, as the path was not broad enough for more than two to ride abreast. So I furtively excited my horse by a touch of the heel and a quick strain on the curb, throwing him across the road, and thus producing a momentary delay, of which the two riders in front took advantage to increase their distance. Then we fell in, Mr. Ghyrkins and I in front, while the dejected Kildare rode behind with Mr. John Westonhaugh. Ghyrkins and I, being heavy men, heavily mounted, controlled the situation, and before long Isaacs and Miss Westonhaugh were a couple of hundred yards ahead, and we only caught occasional glimpses of them through the trees as they wound in and out along the path.

"What are those youngsters talking about, back there? Tigers, I'll be bound," said Mr. Ghyrkina to me. Sure enough, they were.

"What do you suppose I found when we got back this afternoon, Mr. Griggs? Why, this hair-brained young Kildare has been proposing to my niece——" his horse stumbled, but recovered himself in a moment.

"You don't mean it," said I, rather startled.

"Oh no, no, no. I don't mean that at all. Ha! ha! ha! very good, very good. No, no. Lord Steepleton wants us all to go on a tiger-hunt to amuse John, and he proposes—ha! ha!—really too funny of me—that Miss Westonhaugh should go with us."

"I suppose you have no objection, Mr. Ghyrkins? Ladies constantly go on such expeditions, and they do not appear to be the least in the way."

"Objections? Of course I have objections. Do you suppose I want to drag my niece to a premature grave? Think of the fever and the rough living and all, and she only just out from England."

"She looks as if she could stand anything," I said, as just then an open space in the trees gave us a glimpse of Miss Westonhaugh and Isaacs ambling along and apparently in earnest conversation. She certainly looked strong enough to go tiger-hunting that minute, as she sat erect but half turned to the off side, listening to what Isaacs seemed to be saying.

"I hope you will not go and tell her so," said Ghyrkins. "If she gets an idea that the thing is possible, there will be no holding her. You don't know her. I hardly know her myself. Never saw her since she was a baby till the other day. Now you are the sort of person to go after tigers. Why do you not go off with my nephew and Mr. Isaacs and Kildare, and kill as many of them as you like?"

"I have no objection, I am sure. I suppose the Howler could spare me for a fortnight, now that I have converted the Press Commissioner, your new deus ex machina for the obstruction of news. What a motley party we should be. Let me see.—a Bombay Civil Servant, an Irish nobleman, a Persian millionaire, and a Yankee newspaper man. By Jove! add to that a famous Revenue Commissioner and a reigning beauty, and the sextett is complete." Mr. Ghyrkins looked pleased at the gross flattery of himself. I recollected suddenly that, though he was far from famous as a revenue commissioner, I had read of some good shooting he had done in his younger days. Here was a chance.

"Besides, Mr. Ghyrkins, a tiger-hunting party would not be the thing without some seasoned Nimrod to advise and direct us. Who so fitted for the post as the man of many a chase, the companion of Maori, the slayer of the twelve foot tiger in the Nepaul hills in 1861?"

"You have a good memory, Mr. Griggs," said the old fellow, perfectly delighted, and now fairly launched on his favourite topic. "By Gad, sir, if I thought I should get such another chance I would go with you to-morrow!"

"Why not? there are lots of big man-eaters about," and I incontinently reeled off half a page of statistics, more or less accurate, about the number of persons destroyed by snakes and wild beasts in the last year. "Of course most of those deaths were from tigers, and it is a really good action to kill a few. Many people can see tigers but cannot shoot them, whereas your deeds of death amongst them ate a matter of history. You really ought to be philanthropic, Mr. Ghyrkins, and go with us. We might stand a chance of seeing some real sport then."

"Why, really, now that you make me think of it, I believe I should like it amazingly, and I could leave my niece with Lady—Lady—Stick-in-the-mud; what the deuce is her name? The wife of the Chief Justice, you know. You ought to know, really—I never remember names much;" he jerked out his sentences irately.

"Certainly, Lady Smith-Tompkins, you mean. Yes, you might do that—that is, if Miss Westonhaugh has had the measles, and is not afraid of them. I heard this morning that three of the little Smith-Tompkinses had them quite badly."

"You don't say so! Well, well, we shall find some one else, no doubt."

I was certain that at that very moment Isaacs and Miss Westonhaugh were planning the whole expedition, and so I returned to the question of sport and inquired where we should go. This led to considerable discussion, and before we arrived at Mr. Ghyrkins' bungalow—still in the same order—it was very clear that the old sportsman had made up his mind to kill one more tiger at all events; and that, rather than forego the enjoyment of the chase, he would be willing to take his niece with him. As for the direction of the expedition, that could be decided in a day or two. It was not the best season for tigers—the early spring is better—but they are always to be found in the forests of the Terai, the country along the base of the hills, north of Oude.

When we reached the house it was quite dark, for we had ridden slowly. The light from the open door, falling across the verandah, showed us Miss Westonhaugh seated in a huge chair, and Isaacs standing by her side slightly bending, and holding his hat in his hand. They were still talking, but as we rode up to the lawn and shouted for the saices, Isaacs stood up and looked across towards us, and their voices ceased. It was evident that he had succeeded in thoroughly interesting her, for I thought—though it was some distance, and the light on them was not strong—that as he straightened himself and stopped speaking, she looked up to his face as if regretting that he did not go on. I dismounted with the rest and walked up to bid Miss Westonhaugh good-night.

"You must come and dine to-morrow night," said Mr. Ghyrkins, "and we will arrange all about it. Sharp seven. To-morrow is Sunday, you know. Kildare, you must come too, if you mean business. Seven. We must look sharp and start, if we mean to come back here before the Viceroy goes."

"Oh in that case," said Kildare, turning to me, "we can settle all about the polo match for Monday, can't we?"

"Of course, very good of you to take the trouble."

"Not a bit of it. Good-night." We bowed and went back to find our horses in the gloom. After some fumbling, for it was intensely dark after facing the light in the doorway of the bungalow, we got into the saddle and turned homeward through the trees.

"Thank you, Griggs," said Isaacs. "May your feet never weary, and your shadow never be less."

"Don't mention it, and thanks about the shadow. Only it is never likely to be less than at the present moment. How dark it is, to be sure!" I knew well enough what he was thanking me for. I lit a cheroot.

"Isaacs," I said, "you are a pretty cool hand, upon my word."

"Why?"

"Why, indeed! Here you and Miss Westonhaugh have been calmly planning an extensive tiger-hunt, when you have promised to be in the neighbourhood of Keitung in three weeks, wherever that may be. I suppose it is in the opposite direction from here, for you will not find any tigers nearer than the Terai at this time of year."

"I do not see the difficulty," he answered. "We can be in Oude in two days from here; shoot tigers for ten days, and be here again in two days more. That is just a fortnight. It will not take me a week to reach Keitung. I am much mistaken if I do not get there in three days. I shall lay a dak by messengers before I go to Oude, and between a double set of coolies and lots of ponies wherever the roads are good enough, I shall be at the place of meeting soon enough, never fear."

"Oh, very well; but I hardly think Ghyrkins will want to return under three weeks; and—I did not think you would want to leave the party." He had evidently planned the whole three weeks' business carefully. I did not continue the conversation. He was naturally absorbed in the arrangement of his numerous schemes—no easy matter, when affairs of magnitude have to be ordered to suit the exigencies of a grande passion. I shrank from intruding on his reflections, and I had quite enough to do in keeping my horse on his feet in the thick darkness. Suddenly he reared violently, and then stood still, quivering in every limb. Isaacs' horse plunged and snorted by my side, and cannoned heavily against me. Then all was quiet. I could see nothing. Presently a voice, low and musical, broke on the darkness, and I thought I could distinguish a tall figure on foot at Isaacs' knee. Whoever the man was he must be on the other side of my companion, but I made out a head from which the voice proceeded.

"Peace, Abdul Hafiz!" it said.

"Aleikum Salaam, Ram Lal!" answered Isaacs. He must have recognised the man by his voice.

"Abdul," continued the stranger, speaking Persian. "I have business with thee this night; thou art going home. If it is thy pleasure I will be with thee in two hours in thy dwelling."

"Thy pleasure is my pleasure. Be it so." I thought the head disappeared.

"Be it so," the voice echoed, growing faint, as if moving rapidly away from us. The horses, momentarily startled by the unexpected pedestrian, regained their equanimity. I confess the incident gave me a curiously unpleasant sensation. It was so very odd that a man on foot—a Persian, I judged, by his accent—should know of my companion's whereabouts, and that they should recognise each other by their voices. I recollected that our coming to Mr. Ghyrkins' bungalow was wholly unpremeditated, and I was sure Isaacs had spoken to none but our party—not even to his saice—since our meeting with the Westonhaughs on the Annandale road an hour and a half before.

"I wonder what he wants," said my friend, apparently soliloquising.

"He seems to know where to find you, at all events," I answered. "He must have second sight to know you had been to Carisbrooke."

"He has. He is a very singular personage altogether. However, he has done me more than one service before now, and though I do not comprehend his method of arriving at conclusions, still less his mode of locomotion, I am always glad of his advice."

"But what is he? Is he a Persian?—you called him by an Indian name, but that may be a disguise—is he a wise man from Iran?"

"He is a very wise man, but not from Iran. No. He is a Brahmin by birth, a Buddhist by adopted religion, and he calls himself an 'adept' by profession, I suppose, if he can be said to have any. He comes and goes unexpectedly, with amazing rapidity. His visits are brief, but he always seems to be perfectly conversant with the matter in hand, whatever it be. He will come to-night and give me about twenty words of advice, which I may follow or may not, as my judgment dictates; and before I have answered or recovered from my surprise, he will have vanished, apparently into space; for if I ask my servants where he is gone they will stare at me as if I were crazy, until I show them that the room is empty, and accuse them of going to sleep instead of seeing who goes in and out of my apartment. He speaks more languages than I do, and better. He once told me he was educated in Edinburgh, and his perfect knowledge of European affairs and of European topics leads me to think he must have been there a long time. Have you ever looked into the higher phases of Buddhism? It is a very interesting study."

"Yes, I have read something about it. Indeed I have read a good deal, and have thought more. The subject is full of interest, as you say. If I had been an Asiatic by birth, I am sure I should have sought to attain moksha, even if it required a lifetime to pass through all the degrees of initiation. There is something so rational about their theories, disclaiming, as they do, all supernatural power; and, at the same time, there is something so pure and high in their conception of life, in their ideas about the ideal, if you will allow me the expression, that I do not wonder Edwin Arnold has set our American transcendentalists and Unitarians and freethinkers speculating about it all, and wondering whether the East may not have had men as great as Emerson and Channing among its teachers." I paused. My greatest fault is that if any one starts me upon a subject I know anything about, I immediately become didactic. So I paused and reflected that Isaacs, being, as he himself declared, frequently in the society of an "adept" of a high class, was sure to know a great deal more than I.

"I too," he said, "have been greatly struck, and sometimes almost converted, by the beauty of the higher Buddhist thoughts. As for their apparently supernatural powers and what they do with them, I care nothing about phenomena of that description. We live in a land where marvels are common enough. Who has ever explained the mango trick, or the basket trick, or the man who throws a rope up into the air and then climbs up it and takes the rope after him, disappearing into blue space? And yet you have seen those things—I have seen them, every one has seen them,—and the performers claim no supernatural agency or assistance. It is merely a difference of degree, whether you make a mango grow from the seed to the tree in half an hour, or whether you transport yourself ten thousand miles in as many seconds, passing through walls of brick and stone on your way, and astonishing some ordinary mortal by showing that you know all about his affairs. I see no essential difference between the two 'phenomena,' as the newspapers call them, since Madame Blavatsky has set them all by the ears in this country. It is just the difference in the amount of power brought to bear on the action. That is all. I have seen, in a workshop in Calcutta, a hammer that would crack an eggshell without crushing it, or bruise a lump of iron as big as your head into a flat cake. 'Phenomena' may amuse women and children, but the real beauty of the system lies in the promised attainment of happiness. Whether that state of supreme freedom from earthly care gives the fortunate initiate the power of projecting himself to the antipodes by a mere act of volition, or of condensing the astral fluid into articles of daily use, or of stimulating the vital forces of nature to an abnormal activity, is to me a matter of supreme indifference. I am tolerably happy in my own way as things are. I should not be a whit happier if I were able to go off after dinner and take a part in American politics for a few hours, returning to business here to-morrow morning."

"That is an extreme case," I said. "No man in his senses ever connects the idea of happiness with American politics."

"Of one thing I am sure, though." He paused as if choosing his words. "I am sure of this. If any unforeseen event, whether an act of folly of my own, or the hand of Allah, who is wise, should destroy the peace of mind I have enjoyed for ten years, with very trifling interruption,—if anything should occur to make me permanently unhappy, beyond the possibility of ordinary consolation,—I should seek comfort in the study of the pure doctrines of the higher Buddhists. The pursuit of a happiness, so immeasurably beyond all earthly considerations of bodily comfort or of physical enjoyment, can surely not be inconsistent with my religion—or with yours."

"No indeed," said I. "But, considering that you are the strictest of Mohammedans, it seems to me you are wonderfully liberal. So you have seriously contemplated the possibility of your becoming one of the 'brethren'—as they style themselves?"

"It never struck me until to-day that anything might occur by which my life could be permanently disturbed. Something to-day has whispered to me that such an existence could not be permanent. I am sure that it cannot be. The issue must be either to an infinite happiness or to a still more infinite misery. I cannot tell which." His clear, evenly modulated voice trembled a little. We were in sight of the lights from the hotel.

"I shall not dine with you to-night, Griggs. I will have something in my own rooms. Come in as soon as you have done—that is if you are free. There is no reason why you should not see Ram Lal the adept, since we think alike about his religion, or school, or philosophy—find a name for it while you are dining." And we separated for a time.

It had been a long and exciting day to me. I felt no more inclined than he did for the din and racket and lights of the public dining-room. So I followed his example and had something in my own apartment. Then I settled myself to a hookah, resolved not to take advantage of Isaacs' invitation until near the time when he expected Ram Lal. I felt the need of an hour's solitude to collect my thoughts and to think over the events of the last twenty-four hours. I recognised that I was fast becoming very intimate with Isaacs, and I wanted to think about him and excogitate the problem of his life; but when I tried to revolve the situation logically, and deliver to myself a verdict, I found myself carried off at a tangent by the wonderful pictures that passed before my eyes. I could not detach the events from the individual. His face was ever before me, whether I thought of Miss Westonhaugh, or of the wretched old maharajah, or of Ram Lal the Buddhist. Isaacs was the central figure in every picture, always in the front, always calm and beautiful, always controlling the events around him. Then I entered on a series of trite reflections to soothe my baffled reason, as a man will who is used to understanding what goes on before him and suddenly finds himself at a loss. Of course, I said to myself, it is no wonder he controls things, or appears to. The circumstances in which I find this three days' acquaintance are emphatically those of his own making. He has always been a successful man, and he would not raise spirits that he could not keep well in hand. He knows perfectly well what he is about in making love to that beautiful creature, and is no doubt at this moment laughing in his sleeve at my simplicity in believing that he was really asking my advice. Pshaw! as if any advice could influence a man like that! Absurd.

I sipped my coffee in disgust with myself. All the time, while trying to persuade myself that Isaacs was only a very successful schemer, neither better nor worse than other men, I was conscious of the face that would not be banished from my sight. I saw the beautiful boyish look in his deep dark eyes, the gentle curve of the mouth, the grand smooth architrave of the brows. No—I was a fool! I had never met a man like him, nor should again. How could Miss Westonhaugh save herself from loving such a perfect creature? I thought, too, of his generosity. He would surely keep his promise and deliver poor Shere Ali, hunted to death by English and Afghan foes, from all his troubles. Had he not the Maharajah of Baithopoor in his power? He might have exacted the full payment of the debt, principal and interest, and saved the Afghan chief into the bargain. But he feared lest the poor Mohammedans should suffer from the prince's extortion, and he forgave freely the interest, amounting now to a huge sum, and put off the payment of the bond itself to the maharajah's convenience. Did ever an Oriental forgive a debt before even to his own brother? Not in my experience.

I rose and went down to Isaacs. I found him as on the previous evening, among his cushions with a manuscript book. He looked up smiling and motioned me to be seated, keeping his place on the page with one finger. He finished the verse before he spoke, and then laid the book down and leaned back.

"So you have made up your mind that you would like to see Ram Lal. He will be here in a minute, unless he changes his mind and does not come after all."

There was a sound of voices outside. Some one asked if Isaacs were in, and the servant answered. A tall figure in a gray caftan and a plain white turban stood in the door.

"I never change my mind," said the stranger, in excellent English, though with an accent peculiar to the Hindoo tongue when struggling with European languages. His voice was musical and high in pitch, though soft and sweet in tone. The quality of voice that can be heard at a great distance, with no apparent effort to the speaker. "I never change my mind. I am here. Is it well with you?"

"It is well, Ram Lal. I thank you. Be seated, if you will stay with us a while. This is my friend Mr. Griggs, of whom you probably know. He thinks as I do on many points, and I was anxious that you should meet."

While Isaacs was speaking, Ram Lal advanced into the room and stood a moment under the soft light, a gray figure, very tall, but not otherwise remarkable. He was all gray. The long caftan wrapped round him, the turban which I had first thought white, the skin of his face, the pointed beard and long moustache, the heavy eyebrows—a study of grays against the barbaric splendour of the richly hung wall—a soft outline on which the yellow light dwelt lovingly, as if weary of being cast back and reflected from the glory of gold and the thousand facets of the priceless gems. Ram Lal looked toward me, and as I gazed into his eyes I saw that they too were gray—a very singular thing in the East—and that they were very far apart, giving his face a look of great dignity and fearless frankness. To judge by his features he seemed to be very thin, and his high shoulders were angular, though the long loose garment concealed the rest of his frame from view. I had plenty of time to note these details, for he stood a full minute in the middle of the room, as if deciding whether to remain or to go. Then he moved quietly to a divan and sat down cross-legged.

"Abdul, you have done a good deed to-day, and I trust you will not change your mind before you have carried out your present intentions."

"I never change my mind, Bam Lai," said Isaacs, smiling as he quoted his visitor's own words. I was startled at first. What good deed was the Buddhist referring to if not to the intended liberation of Shere Ali? How could he know of it? Then I reflected that this man was, according to Isaacs' declaration, an adept of the higher grades, a seer and a knower of men's hearts. I resolved not to be astonished at anything that occurred, only marvelling that it should have pleased this extraordinary man to make his entrance like an ordinary mortal, instead of through the floor or the ceiling.

"Pardon me," answered Ram Lal, "if I venture to contradict you. You do change your mind sometimes. Who was it who lately scoffed at women, their immortality, their virtue, and their intellect? Will you tell me now, friend Abdul, that you have not changed your mind? Do you think of anything, sleeping or waking, but the one woman for whom you have changed your mind? Is not her picture ever before you, and the breath of her beauty upon your soul? Have you not met her in the spirit as well as in the flesh? Surely we shall hear no more of your doubts about women for some time to come. I congratulate you, as far as that goes, on your conversion. You have made a step towards a higher understanding of the world you live in."

Isaacs did not seem in the least surprised at his visitor's intimate acquaintance with his affairs. He bowed his head in silence, acquiescing to what Bam Lai had said, and waited for him to proceed.

"I have come," continued the Buddhist, "to give you some good advice—the best I have for you. You will probably not take it, for you are the most self-reliant man I know, though you have changed a little since you have been in love, witness your sudden intimacy with Mr. Griggs." He looked at me, and there was a faint approach to a smile in his gray eyes. "My advice to you is, do not let this projected tiger-hunt take place if you can prevent it. No good can come of it, and harm may. Now I have spoken because my mind would not be at rest if I did not warn you. Of course you will do as you please, only never forget that I pointed out to you the right course in time."

"Thank you, Ram Lal, for your friendly concern in my behalf. I do not think I shall act as you suggest, but I am nevertheless grateful to you. There is one thing I want to ask you, and consult you about, however."

"My friend, what is the use of my giving you advice that you will not follow? If I lived with you, and were your constant companion, you would ask me to advise you twenty times a day, and then you would go and do the diametric opposite of what I suggested. If I did not see in you something that I see in few other men, I would not be here. There are plenty of fools who have wit enough to take counsel of a wise man. There are few men of wit wise enough to be guided by their betters, as if they were only fools for the time. Yet because you are so wayward I will help you once or twice more, and then I will leave you to your own course—which you, in your blindness, will call your kismet, not seeing that your fate is continually in your own hands—more so at this moment than ever before. Ask, and I will answer."

"Thanks, Ram Lal. It is this I would know. You are aware that I have undertaken a novel kind of bargain. The man you wot of is to be delivered to me near Keitung. I am anxious for the man's safety afterwards, and I would be glad of some hint about disposing of him. I must go alone, for I do not want any witness of what I am going to do, and as a mere matter of personal safety for myself and the man I am going to set free, I must decide on some plan of action when I meet the band of sowars who will escort him. They are capable of murdering us both if the maharajah instructs them to. As long as I am alive to bring the old man into disgrace with the British, the captive is safe; but it would be an easy matter for those fellows to dispose of us together, and there would be an end of the business."

"Of course they could," replied Ram Lal, adding in an ironical tone "and if you insist upon putting your head down the tiger's throat, how do you expect me to prevent the brute from snapping it off? That would be a 'phenomenon,' would it not? And only this evening you were saying that you despised 'phenomena.'"

"I said that such things were indifferent to me. I did not say I despised them. But I think that this thing may be done without performing any miracles."

"If it were not such a good action on your part I would have nothing to do with it. But since you mean to risk your neck for your own peculiar views of what is right, I will endeavour that you shall not break it. I will meet you a day's journey before you reach Keitung, somewhere on the road, and we will go together and do the business. But if I am to help you I will not promise not to perform some miracles, as you call them, though you know very well they are no such thing. Meanwhile, do as you please about the tiger-hunt; I shall say no more about it." He paused, and then, withdrawing one delicate hand from the folds of his caftan, he pointed to the wall behind Isaacs and me, and said, "What a very singular piece of workmanship is that yataghan!"

We both naturally turned half round to look at the weapon he spoke of, which was the central piece in a trophy of jewelled sabres and Afghan knives.

"Yes," said Isaacs, turning back to answer his guest, "it is a ——" He stopped, and I, who had not seen the weapon before, lost among so many, and was admiring its singular beauty, turned too; to my astonishment I saw that Isaacs was gazing into empty space. The divan where Ram Lal had been sitting an instant before, was vacant. He was gone.

"That is rather sudden," I said.

"More so than usual," was the reply. "Did you see him go? Did he go out by the door?"

"Not I," I answered, "when I looked round at the wall he was placidly sitting on that divan pointing with one hand at the yataghan. Does he generally go so quickly?"

"Yes, more or less. Now I will show you some pretty sport." He rose to his feet and went to the door. "Narain!" he cried. Narain, the bearer, who was squatting against the door-post outside, sprang up and stood before his master. "Narain, why did you not show that pundit the way downstairs? What do you mean? have you no manners?"

Narain stood open mouthed. "What pundit, sahib?" he asked.

"Why, the pundit who came a quarter of an hour ago, you donkey! He has just gone out, and you did not even get up and make a salaam, you impertinent vagabond!" Narain protested that no pundit, or sahib, or any one else, had passed the threshold since Ram Lal had entered. "Ha! you budmash. You lazy dog of a Hindoo! you have been asleep again, you swine, you son of a pig, you father of piglings! Is that the way you do your work in my service?" Isaacs was enjoying the joke in a quiet way immensely.

"Sahib," said the trembling Narain, apparently forgetting the genealogy his master had thrust upon him, "Sahib, you are protector of the poor, you are my father and my mother, and my brother, and all my relations," the common form of Hindoo supplication, "but, Sri Krishnaji! by the blessed Krishna, I have not slept a wink."

"Then I suppose you mean me to believe that the pundit went through the ceiling, or is hidden under the cushions. Swear not by your false idols, slave; I shall not believe you for that, you dog of an unbeliever, you soor-be-iman, you swine without faith!"

"Han, sahib, han!" cried Narain, seizing at the idea that the pundit had disappeared mysteriously through the walls. "Yes, sahib, the pundit is a great yogi, and has made the winds carry him off." The fellow thought this was a bright idea, not by any means beneath consideration. Isaacs appeared somewhat pacified.

"What makes you think he is a yogi, dog?" he inquired in a milder tone. Narain had no answer ready, but stood looking rather stupidly through the door at the room whence the unearthly visitor had so suddenly disappeared. "Well," continued Isaacs, "you are more nearly right than you imagine. The pundit is a bigger yogi than any your idiotic religion can produce. Never mind, there is an eight anna bit for you, because I said you were asleep when you were not." Narain bent to the ground in thanks, as his master turned on his heel. "Not that he minds being told that he is a pig, in the least," said Isaacs. "I would not call a Mussulman so, but you can insult these Hindoos so much worse in other ways that I think the porcine simile is quite merciful by comparison." He sat down again among the cushions, and putting off his slippers, curled himself comfortably together for a chat.

"What do you think of Ram Lal?" he asked, when Narain had brought hookahs and sherbet.

"My dear fellow, I have hardly made up my mind what to think. I have not altogether recovered from my astonishment. I confess that there was nothing startling about his manner or his person. He behaved and talked like a well educated native, in utter contrast to the amazing things he said, and to his unprecedented mode of leave-taking. It would have seemed more natural—I would say, more fitting—if he had appeared in the classic dress of an astrologer, surrounded with zodiacs, and blue lights, and black cats. Why do you suppose he wants you to abandon the tiger-hunt?"

"I cannot tell. Perhaps he thinks something may happen to me to prevent my keeping the other engagement. Perhaps he does not approve——" he stopped, as if not wanting to approach the subject of Ram Lal's disapprobation. "I intend, nevertheless, that the expedition come off, and I mean, moreover, to have a very good time, and to kill a tiger if I see one."

"I thought he seemed immensely pleased at your conversion, as he calls it. He said that your newly acquired belief in woman was a step towards a better understanding of life."

"Of the world, he said," answered-Isaacs, correcting me. "There is a great difference between the 'world' and 'life.' The one is a finite, the other an infinite expression. I believe, from what I have learned of Ram Lal, that the ultimate object of the adepts is happiness, only to be attained by wisdom, and I apprehend that by wisdom they mean a knowledge of the world in the broadest sense of the word. The world to them is a great repository of facts, physical and social, of which they propose to acquire a specific knowledge by transcendental methods. If that seems to you a contradiction of terms, I will try and express myself better. If you understand me, I am satisfied. Of course I use transcendental in the sense in which it is applied by Western mathematicians to a mode of reasoning which I very imperfectly comprehend, save that it consists in reaching finite results by an adroit use of the infinite."

"Not a bad definition of transcendental analysis for a man who professes to know nothing about it," said I. "I would not accuse you of a contradiction of terms, either. I have often thought that what some people call the 'philosophy of the nineteenth century,' is nothing after all but the unconscious application of transcendental analysis to the everyday affairs of life. Consider the theories of Darwin, for instance. What are they but an elaborate application of the higher calculus? He differentiates men into protoplasms, and integrates protoplasms into monkeys, and shows the caudal appendage to be the independent variable, a small factor in man, a large factor in monkey. And has not the idea of successive development supplanted the early conception of spontaneous perfection? Take an illustration from India—the new system of competition, which the natives can never understand. Formerly the members of the Civil Service received their warrants by divine authority, so to speak. They were born perfect, as Aphrodite from the foam of the sea; they sprang armed and ready from the head of old John Company as Pallas Athene from the head of Zeus. Now all that is changed; they are selected from a great herd of candidates by methods of extreme exactness, and when they are chosen they represent the final result of infinite probabilities for and against their election. They are all exactly alike; they are a formula for taxation and the administration of justice, and so long as you do not attempt to use the formula for any other purpose, such, for instance, as political negotiation or the censorship of the public press, the equation will probably be amenable to solution."

"As I told you," said Isaacs, "I know nothing, or next to nothing, of Western mathematics, but I have a general idea of the comparison you make. In Asia and in Asiatic minds, there prevails an idea that knowledge can be assimilated once and for all. That if you can obtain it, you immediately possess the knowledge of everything—the pass-key that shall unlock every door. That is the reason of the prolonged fasting and solitary meditation of the ascetics. They believe that by attenuating the bond between soul and body, the soul can be liberated and can temporarily identify itself with other objects, animate and inanimate, besides the especial body to which it belongs, acquiring thus a direct knowledge of those objects, and they believe that this direct knowledge remains. Western philosophers argue that the only acquaintance a man can have with bodies external to his mind is that which he acquires by the medium of his bodily sensea—though thesa, are themselves external to his mind, in the truest sanse. The senses not being absolutely reliable, knowledge acquired by means of them is not absolutely reliable either. So the ultimate difference between the Asiatic saint and the European man of science is, that while the former believes all knowledge to be directly within the grasp of the soul, under certain conditions, the latter, on the other hand, denies that any knowledge can be absolute, being all obtained indirectly through a medium not absolutely reliable. The reasoning, by which the Western mind allows itself to act fearlessly on information which is not (according to its own verdict) necessarily accurate, depends on a clever use of the infinite in unconsciously calculating the probabilities of that accuracy—and this entirely falls in with what you said about the application of transcendental analysis to the affairs of everyday life."

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