The day passed somehow, but the dinner was dismal. Miss Westonhaugh was evidently far from well, and I could not conceive that the pain of a temporary parting should make so sudden a change in one so perfectly strong and healthy—even were her nature ever so sensitive. Kildare and the Pegnugger magistrate tried to keep up the spirits of the party, but John Westonhaugh was anxious about his sister, and even old Mr. Currie Ghyrkins was beginning to fancy there must be something wrong. We sat smoking outside, and the young girl refused to leave us, though John begged her to. As we sat, it may have been half an hour after dinner, a messenger came galloping up in hot haste, and leaping to the ground asked for "Gurregis Sahib," with the usual native pronunciation of my euphonious name. Being informed, he salaamed low and handed me a letter, which I took to the light. It was in shikast Persian, and signed "Abdul Hafiz-ben-Isak." "Ram Lal," he said, "has met me unexpectedly, and sends you this by his own means, which are swift as the flight of the eagle. It is indispensable that you meet us below Keitung, towards Sultanpoor, on the afternoon of the day when the moon is full. Travel by Julinder and Sultanpoor; you will easily overtake me, since I go by Simla. For friendship's sake, for love's sake, come. It is life and death. Give the money to the Irishman. Peace be with you."
I sighed a sigh of the most undetermined description. Was I glad to rejoin my friend? or was I pained to leave the woman he loved in her present condition? I hardly knew.
"I think we had all better go back to Simla," said John, when I explained that the most urgent business called me away at dawn.
"There will be none of us left soon," said Ghyrkins quite quietly and mournfully.
I found means to let Miss Westonhaugh understand where I was going. I gave Kildare the money in charge.
In the dark of the morning, as I cleared the tents, the same shadow I had seen before shot out and laid a hand on my rein. I halted on the same spot where Isaacs had drawn rein twenty-four hours before.
"Give him this from me. God be with you!" She was gone in a moment, leaving a small package in my right hand. I thrust it in my bosom and rode away.
"How she loves him," I thought, wondering greatly.
* * * * *
It was not an agreeable journey I had undertaken. In order to reach the inaccessible spot, chosen by Isaacs for the scene of Shere Ali's liberation, in time to be of any use, it was necessary that I should travel by a more direct and arduous route than that taken by my friend. He had returned to Simla, and by his carefully made arrangements would be able to reach Keitung, or the spot near it, where the transaction was to take place, by constant changes of horses where riding was possible, and by a strong body of dooly-bearers wherever the path should prove too steep for four-footed beasts of burden. I, on the other hand, must leave the road at Julinder, a place I had never visited, and must trust to my own unaided wits and a plentiful supply of rupees to carry me over at least two hundred miles of country I did not know—difficult certainly, and perhaps impracticable for riding. The prospect was not a pleasant one, but I was convinced that in a matter of this importance a man of Isaacs' wit and wealth would have made at least some preliminary arrangements for me, since he probably knew the country well enough himself. I had but six days at the outside to reach my destination.
I had resolved to take one servant, Kiramat Ali, with me as far as Julinder, whence I would send him back to Simla with what slender luggage we carried, for I meant to ride as light as possible, with no encumbrance to delay me when once I left the line of the railway. I might have ridden five miles with Kiramat Ali behind me on a sturdy tat, when I was surprised by the appearance of an unknown saice in plain white clothes, holding a pair of strong young ponies by the halter and salaaming low.
"Pundit Ram Lal sends your highness his peace, and bids you ride without sparing. The dak is laid to the fire-carriages."
The saddles were changed in a moment, Kiramat Ali and I assisting in the operation. It was clear that Ram Lal's messengers were swift, for even if he had met Isaacs when the latter reached the railroad, no ordinary horse could have returned with the message at the time I had received it. Still less would any ordinary Hindus be capable of laying a dak, or post route of relays, over a hundred miles long in twelve hours. Once prepared, it was a mere matter of physical endurance in the rider to cover the ground, for the relays were stationed every five or six miles. It was well known that Lord Steepleton Kildare had lately ridden from Simla to Umballa one night and back the next day, ninety-two miles each way, with constant change of cattle. What puzzled me was the rapidity with which the necessary dispositions had been made. On the whole, I was reassured. If Ram Lal had been able to prepare my way at such short notice here, with two more days at his disposal he would doubtless succeed in laying me a dak most of the way from Julinder to Keitung. I will not dwell upon the details of the journey. I reached the railroad and prepared for forty-eight hours of jolting and jostling and broken sleep. It is true that railway travelling is nowhere so luxurious as in India, where a carriage has but two compartments, each holding as a rule only two persons, though four can be accommodated by means of hanging berths. Each compartment has a spacious bathroom attached, where you may bathe as often as you please, and there are various contrivances for ventilating and cooling the air. Nevertheless the heat is sometimes unbearable, and a journey from Bombay to Calcutta direct during the warm months is a severe trial to the strongest constitution. On this occasion I had about forty-eight hours to travel, and I was resolved to get all the rest in that time that the jolting made possible; for I knew that once in the saddle again it might be days before I got a night's sleep. And so we rumbled along, through the vast fields of sugar-cane, now mostly tied in huge sheaves upright, through boundless stretches of richly-cultivated soil, intersected with the regularity of a chess-board by the rivulets and channels of a laborious irrigation. Here and there stood the high frames made by planting four bamboos in a square and wickering the top, whereon the ryots sit when the crops are ripening, to watch against thieves and cattle, and to drive away the birds of the air. On we spun, past Meerut and Mozuffernugger, past Umballa and Loodhiana, till we reached our station of Julinder at dawn. Descending from the train, I was about to begin making inquiries about my next move, when I was accosted by a tall and well-dressed Mussulman, in a plain cloth caftan and a white turban, but exquisitely clean and fresh looking, as it seemed to me, for my eyes were smarting with dust and wearied with the perpetual shaking of the train.
The courteous native soon explained that he was Isaacs' agent in Julinder, and that a tar ki khaber, a telegram in short, had warned him to be on the lookout for me. I was greatly relieved, for it was evident that every arrangement had been made for my comfort, so far as comfort was possible. Isaacs had asked my assistance, but he had taken every precaution against all superfluous bodily inconvenience to me, and I felt sure that from this point I should move quickly and easily through every difficulty. And so it proved. The Mussulman took me to his house, where there was a spacious apartment, occupied by Isaacs when he passed that way. Every luxury was prepared for the enjoyment of the bath, and a breakfast of no mean taste was served me in my own room. Then my host entered and explained that he had been directed to make certain arrangements for my journey. He had laid a dak nearly a hundred miles ahead, and had been ordered to tell me that similar steps had been taken beyond that point as far as my ultimate destination, of which, however, he was ignorant. My servant, he said, must stay with him and return to Simla with my traps.
So an hour later I mounted for my long ride, provided with a revolver and some rupees in a bag, in case of need. The country, my entertainer informed me, was considered perfectly safe, unless I feared the tap, the bad kind of fever which infests all the country at the base of the hills. I was not afraid of this. My experience is that some people are predisposed to fever, and will generally be attacked by it in their first year in India, whether they are much exposed to it or not, while others seem naturally proof against any amount of malaria, and though they sleep out of doors through the whole rainy season, and tramp about the jungles in the autumn, will never catch the least ague, though they may have all other kinds of ills to contend with.
On and on, galloping along the heavy roads, sometimes over no road at all, only a broad green track, where the fresh grass that had sprung up after the rains was not yet killed by the trampling of the bullocks and the grinding jolt of the heavy cart. At intervals of seven or eight miles I found a saice with a fresh pony picketed and grazing at the end of the long rope. The saice was generally squatting near by, with his bag of food and his three-sided kitchen of stones, blackened with the fire from his last meal, beside him; sometimes in the act of cooking his chowpatties, sometimes eating them, according to the time of day. Several times I stopped to drink some water where it seemed to be good, and I ate a little chocolate from my supply, well knowing the miraculous, sustaining powers of the simple little block of "Menier," which, with its six small tablets, will not only sustain life, but will supply vigour and energy, for as much as two days, with no other food. On and on, through the day and the night, past sleeping villages, where the jackals howled around the open doors of the huts; and across vast fields of late crops, over hills thickly grown with trees, past the broad bend of the Sutlej river, and over the plateau toward Sultanpoor, the cultivation growing scantier and the villages rarer all the while, as the vast masses of the Himalayas defined themselves more and more distinctly in the moonlight. Horses of all kinds under me, lean and fat, short and high, roman-nosed and goose-necked, broken and unbroken; away and away, shifting saddle and bridle and saddle-bag as I left each tired mount behind me. Once I passed a stream, and pulling off my boots to cool my feet, the temptation way too strong, so I hastily threw off my clothes and plunged in and had a short refreshing bath. Then on, with, the galloping even triplet of the house's hoofs beneath me, as they came down in quick succession, as if the earth were a muffled drum and we were beating an untiring rataplan on her breast.
I must have ridden a hundred and thirty miles before dawn, and the pace was beginning to tell, even on my strong frame. True, to a man used to the saddle, the effort of riding is reduced to a minimum when every hour or two gives him a fresh horse. There is then no heed for the welfare of the animal necessary; he has but his seven or eight miles to gallop, and then his work is done; there are none of those thousand little cares and sympathetic shiftings and adjustings of weight and seat to be thought of, which must constantly engage the attention of a man who means to ride the same horse a hundred miles, or even fifty or forty. Conscious that a fresh mount awaits him, he sits back lazily and never eases his weight for a moment; before he has gone thirty miles he will kick his feet out of the stirrups about once in twenty minutes, and if he has for the moment a quiet old stager who does not mind tricks, he will probably fetch one leg over and go a few miles sitting sideways. He will go to sleep once or twice, and wake up apparently in the very act to fall—though I believe that a man will sleep at a full gallop and never loosen his knees until the moment of waking startles him. Nevertheless, and notwithstanding Lord Steepleton Kildare and his ride to Umballa and back in twenty-four hours, when a man, be he ever so strong, has ridden over a hundred miles, he feels inclined for a rest, and a walk, and a little sleep.
Once more an emissary of Ram Lal strode to my side as I rolled off the saddle into the cool grass at sunrise in a very impracticable-looking country. The road had been steeper and less defined during the last two hours of the ride, and as I crossed one leg high over the other lying on my back in the grass, the morning light caught my spur, and there was blood on it, bright and red. I had certainly come as fast as I could; if I should be too late, it would not be my fault. The agent, whoever he might be, was a striking-looking fellow in a dirty brown cloth caftan and an enormous sash wound round his middle. A pointed cap with some tawdry gold lace on it covered his head, and greasy black love-locks writhed filthily over his high cheek bones and into his scanty tangled beard; a suspicious hilt bound with brass wire reared its snake-like head from the folds of his belt, and his legs, terminating in thick-soled native shoes, reminded one of a tarantula in boots. He salaamed awkwardly with a tortuous grin, and addressed me with the northern salutation, "May your feet never be weary with the march." Having been twenty-four hours in the saddle, my feet were not that portion of my body most wearied, but I replied to the effect that I trusted the shadow of the greasy gentleman might not diminish a hairsbreadth in the next ten thousand years. We then proceeded to business, and I observed that the man spoke a very broken and hardly intelligible Hindustani. I tried him in Persian, but it was of no avail. He spoke Persian, he said, but it was not of the kind that any human being could understand; so we returned to the first language, and I concluded that he was a wandering kabuli.
As an introduction of himself he mentioned Isaacs, calling him Abdul Hafiz Sahib, and he seemed to know him personally. Abdul, he said, was not far off as distances go in the Himalayas. He thought I should find him the day after to-morrow, mungkul. He said I should not be able to ride much farther, as the pass beyond Sultanpoor was utterly impracticable for horses; coolies, however, awaited me with a dooly, one of those low litters slung on a bamboo, in which you may travel swiftly and without effort, but to the destruction of the digestive organs. He said also that he would accompany me the next stage as far as the doolies, and I thought he showed some curiosity to know whither I was going; but he was a wise man in his generation, and knowing his orders, did not press me overmuch with questions. I remarked in a mild way that the saddle was the throne of the warrior, and that the air of the black mountains was the breath of freedom; but I added that the voice of the empty stomach was as the roar of the king of the forest. Whereupon the man replied that the forest was mine and the game therein, whereof I was lord, as I probably was of the rest of the world, since I was his father and mother and most of his relations; but that, perceiving that I was occupied with the cares of a mighty empire, he had ventured to slay with his own hand a kid and some birds, which, if I would condescend to partake of them, he would proceed to cook. I replied that the light of my countenance would shine upon my faithful servant to the extent of several coins, both rupees and pais, but that the peculiar customs of my caste forbid me to touch food cooked by any one but myself. I would, however, in consideration of his exertions and his guileless heart, invite the true follower of the prophet, whose name is blessed, to partake with me of the food which I should presently prepare. Whereat he was greatly delighted, and fetched the meat, which he had stowed away in a kind of horse-cloth, for safety against ants.
I am not a bad cook at a pinch, and so we sat down and made a cooking-place with stones, and built a fire, and let the flame die down into coals, and I dressed the meat as best I could, and flavoured it with gunpowder and pepper, and we were merry. The man was thenceforth mine, and I knew I could trust him; a bivouac in the Himalayas, when one is alone and far from any kind of assistance, is not the spot to indulge in any prejudice about colour. I did not think much about it as I hungrily gnawed the meat and divided the birds with my pocket-knife.
The lower Himalayas are at first extremely disappointing. The scenery is enormous but not grand, and at first hardly seems large. The lower parts are at first sight a series of gently undulating hills and wooded dells; in some places it looks as if one might almost hunt the country. It is long before you realise that it is all on a gigantic scale; that the quickset hedges are belts of rhododendrons of full growth, the water-jumps rivers, and the stone walls mountain-ridges; that to hunt a country like that you would have to ride a horse at least two hundred feet high. You cannot see at first, or even for some time, that the gentle-looking hill is a mountain of five or six thousand feet; in Simla you will not believe you are three thousand feet above the level of the Rhigi Kulm in Switzerland. Persons who are familiar with the aspect of the Rocky Mountains are aware of the singular lack of dignity in those enormous elevations. They are merely big, without any superior beauty, until you come to the favoured spots of nature's art, where some great contrast throws out into appalling relief the gulf between the high and the low. It is so in the Himalayas.
You may travel for hours and days amidst vast forests and hills without the slightest sensation of pleasure or sense of admiration for the scene, till suddenly your path leads you out on to the dizzy brink of an awful precipice—a sheer fall, so exaggerated in horror that your most stirring memories of Mont Blanc, the Jungfrau, and the hideous arete of the Pitz Bernina, sink into vague insignificance. The gulf that divides you from the distant mountain seems like a huge bite taken bodily out of the world by some voracious god; far away rise snow peaks such as were not dreamt of in your Swiss tour; the bottomless valley at your feet is misty and gloomy with blackness, streaked with mist, while the peaks above shoot gladly to the sun and catch his broadside rays like majestic white standards. Between you, as you stand leaning cautiously against the hill behind you, and the wonderful background far away in front, floats a strange vision, scarcely moving, but yet not still. A great golden shield sails steadily in vast circles, sending back the sunlight in every tint of burnished glow. The golden eagle of the Himalayas hangs in mid-air, a sheet of polished metal to the eye, pausing sometimes in the full blaze of reflection, as ages ago the sun and the moon stood still in the valley of Ajalon; too magnificent for description, as he is too dazzling to look at. The whole scene, if no greater name can be given to it, is on a scale so Titanic in its massive length and breadth and depth, that you stand utterly trembling and weak and foolish as you look for the first time. You have never seen such masses of the world before.
It was in such a spot as this that, nearly at noon on the appointed day, my dooly-bearers set me down and warned me I was at my journey's end. I stepped out and stood on the narrow way, pausing to look and to enjoy all that I saw. I had been in other parts of the lower Himalayas before, and the first sensations I had experienced had given way to those of a contemplative admiration. No longer awed or overpowered or oppressed by the sense of physical insignificance in my own person, I could endure to look on the stupendous panorama before me, and could even analyse what I felt. But before long my pardonable reverie was disturbed by a well-known voice. The clear tones rang like a trumpet along the mountain-side in a glad shout of welcome. I turned and saw Isaacs coming quickly towards me, bounding along the edge of the precipice as if his life had been passed in tending goats and robbing eagles' nests. I, too, moved on to meet him, and in a moment we clasped hands in unfeigned delight at being again together. What was Ghyrkins or his party to me? Here was the man I sought; the one man on earth who seemed worth having for a friend. And yet it was but three weeks since we first met, and I am not enthusiastic by temperament.
"What news, friend Griggs?"
"She greets you and sends you this," I said, taking from my bosom the parcel she had thrust into my hand as I left in the dark. His face fell suddenly. It was the silver box he had given her; was it possible she had taken so much trouble to return it? He turned it over mournfully.
"You had better open it. There is probably something in it."
I never saw a more complete change in a man's face during a single second than came over Isaacs' in that moment. He had not thought of opening it, in his first disappointment at finding it returned. He turned back the lid. Bound with a bit of narrow ribbon and pressed down carefully, he found a heavy lock of gold-white hair, so fair that it made everything around it seem dark—the grass, our clothes, and even the white streamer that hung down from Isaacs' turban. It seemed to shed a bright light, even in the broad noon-day, as it lay there in the curiously wrought box—just as the body of some martyred saint found jealously concealed in the dark corner of an ancient crypt, and broken in upon by unsuspecting masons delving a king's grave, might throw up in their dusky faces a dazzling halo of soft radiance—the glory of the saint hovering lovingly by the body wherein the soul's sufferings were perfected.
The moment Isaacs realised what it was, he turned away, his face all gladness, and moved on a few steps with bent head, evidently contemplating his new treasure. Then he snapped the spring, and putting the casket in his vest turned round to me.
"Thank you, Griggs; how are they all?"
"It was worth a two-hundred mile ride to see your face when you opened that box. They are pretty well. I left them swearing that the party was broken up, and that they would all go back to Simla."
"The sooner the better. We shall be there in three days from here, by the help of Ram Lal's wonderful post."
"Between you I managed to get here quite well. How did you do it? I never missed a relay all the way from Julinder."
"Oh, it is very easy," answered Isaacs. "You could have a dak to the moon from India if you would pay for it; or any other thing in heaven or earth or hell that you might fancy. Money, that is all. But, my dear fellow, you have lost flesh sensibly since we parted. You take your travelling hard."
"Where is Ram Lal?" I asked, curious to learn something of our movements for the night.
"Oh, I don't know. He is probably somewhere about the place charming cobras or arresting avalanches, or indulging in some of those playful freaks he says he learned in Edinburgh. We have had a great good time the last two days. He has not disappeared, or swallowed himself even once, or delivered himself of any fearful and mysterious prophecies. We have been talking transcendentalism. He knows as much about 'functional gamma' and 'All X is Y' and the rainbow, and so on, as you do yourself. I recommend him. I think he would be a charming companion for you. There he is now, with his pockets full of snakes and evil beasts. I wanted him to catch a golden eagle this morning, and tame it for Miss Westonhaugh, but he said it would eat the jackal and probably the servants, so I have given it up for the present." Isaacs was evidently in a capital humour. Ram Lal approached us.
I saw at a glance that Ram Lal the Buddhist, when on his beats in the civilisation of Simla, was one person. Ram Lal, the cultured votary of science, among the hills and the beasts and the specimens that he loved, was a very different man. He was as gray as ever, it is true, but better defined, the outlines sharper, the features more Dantesque and easier to discern in the broad light of the sun. He did not look now as if he could sit down and cross his legs and fade away into thin air, like the Cheshire cat. He looked more solid and fleshly, his voice was fuller, and sounded close to me as he spoke, without a shadow of the curious distant ring I had noticed before.
"Ah!" he said in English, "Mr. Griggs, at last! Well, you are in plenty of time. The gentleman who is not easily astonished. That is just as well, too. I like people with quiet nerves. I see by your appearance that you are hungry, Mr. Griggs. Abdul Hafiz, why should we not dine? It is much better to get that infliction of the flesh over before this evening."
"By all means. Come along. But first send those dooly-bearers about their business. They can wait till to-morrow over there on the other side. They always carry food, and there is any amount of fuel."
Just beyond the shoulder of the hill, sheltered from the north by the projecting boulders, was a small tent, carefully pitched and adjusted to stand the storms if any should come. Thither we all three bent our steps and sat down by the fire, for it was chilly, even cold, in the passes in September. Food was brought out by Isaacs, and we ate together as if no countless ages of different nationalities separated us. Ram Lal was perfectly natural and easy in his manners, and affable in what he said. Until the meal was finished no reference was made to the strange business that brought us from different points of the compass to the Himalayan heights. Then, at last, Ram Lal spoke; his meal had been the most frugal of the three, and he had soon eaten his fill, but he employed himself in rolling cigarettes, which he did with marvellous skill, until we two had satisfied our younger and healthier appetites.
"Abdul Hafiz," he said, his gray face bent over his colourless hands as he twisted the papers, "shall we not tell Mr. Griggs what is to be done? Afterward he can lie in the tent and sleep until evening, for he is weary and needs to recruit his strength."
"So be it, Ram Lal," answered Isaacs.
"Very well. The position is this, Mr. Griggs. Neither Mr. Isaacs nor I trust those men that we are to meet, and therefore, as we are afraid of being killed unawares, we thought we would send for you to protect us." He smiled pleasantly as he saw the blank expression in my face.
"Certainly, and you shall hear how it is to be done. The place is not far from here in the valley below. The band are already nearing the spot, and at midnight we will go down and meet them. The meeting will be, of course, like all formal rendezvous for the delivery of prisoners. The captain of the band will come forward accompanied by his charge, and perhaps by a sowar. We three will stand together, side by side, and await their coming. Now the plot is this. They have determined if possible to murder both Shere Ali and Isaacs then and there together. They have not counted on us, but they probably expect that our friend will arrive guarded by a troop of horse. The maharajah's men will try and sneak up close to where we stand, and at a signal, which the leader, in conversation with Isaacs, will give by laying his hand on his shoulder, the men will rush in and cut Shere Ali to pieces, and Isaacs too if the captain cannot do it alone. Now look here, Mr. Griggs. What we want you to do is this. Your friend—my friend—wants no miracles, so that you have got to do by strength what might be done by stratagem, though not so quickly. When you see the leader lay his hand on Isaacs' shoulder, seize him by the throat and mind his other arm, which will be armed. Prevent him from injuring Isaacs, and I will attend to the rest, who will doubtless require my whole attention."
"But," I objected, "supposing that this captain turned out to be stronger or more active than I. What then?"
"Never fear," said Isaacs, smiling. "There aren't any."
"No," continued Ram Lal, "never disturb yourself about that, but just knock your man down and be done with it. I will guarantee you can do it well enough, and if he gives you trouble I may be able to help you."
"All right; give me some cigarettes;" and before I had smoked one I was asleep.
When I awoke the sun was down, but there was a great light over everything. The full moon had just risen above the hills to eastward and bathed every object in silver sheen. The far peaks, covered with snow, caught the reflection and sent the beams floating across the deep dark valleys between. The big boulder, against which the tent was pitched, caught it too, and seemed changed from rough stone to precious metal; it was on the tent-pegs and the ropes, it was upon Isaacs' lithe figure, as he tightened his sash round his waist and looked to his pocket-book for the agreement. It made Ram Lal, the gray and colourless, look like a silver statue, and it made the smouldering flame of the watch-fire utterly dim and faint. It was a wonderful moon. I looked at my watch; it was eight o'clock.
"Yes," said Isaacs, "you were tired and have slept long. It is time to be off. There is some whiskey in that flask. I don't take those things, but Ram Lal says you had better have some, as you might get fever." So I did. Then we started, leaving everything in the tent, of which we pegged down the flap. There were no natives about, the dooly-bearers having retired to the other side of the valley, and the jackals would find nothing to attract them, as we had thrown the remainder of our meal over the edge. As for weapons, I had a good revolver and a thick stick; Isaacs had a revolver and a vicious-looking Turkish knife; and Ram Lal had nothing at all, as far as I could see, except a long light staff.
The effect of the moonlight was wild in the extreme, as we descended the side of the mountain by paths which were very far from smooth or easy. Every now and then, as we neared the valley, we turned the corner of some ridge and got a fair view of the plain. Then a step farther, and we were in the dark again, behind boulders and picking our way over loose stones, or struggling with the wretched foothold afforded by a surface of light gravel, inclined to the horizontal at an angle of forty-five degrees. Then, with a scramble, a jump, and a little swearing in a great many languages—I think we counted that we spoke twenty-seven between us—we were on firm soil again, and swinging along over the bit of easy level path. It would have been out of the question to go in doolies, and no pony could keep a foothold for five minutes on the uncertain ground.
At last, as we emerged into the bright moonlight on a little platform of rock at an angle of the path, we paused. Ram Lal, who seemed to know the way, was in front, and held up his hand to silence us; Isaacs and I kneeled down and looked over the brink. Some two hundred feet below, on a broad strip of green bordering the steep cliffs, was picketed a small body of horse. We could see the men squatting about in their small compact turbans and their shining accoutrements; the horses tethered at various distances on the sward, cropping so vigorously that even at that height we could hear the dull sound as they rhythmically munched the grass. We could see in the middle of the little camp a man seated on a rug and wrapped in a heavy garment of some kind, quietly smoking a common hubble-bubble. Beside him stood another who reflected more moonlight than the rest, and who was therefore, by his trappings, the captain of the band. The seated smoker could be no other than Shere Ali.
Cautiously we descended the remaining windings of the steep path, turning whenever we had a chance, to look down on the horsemen and their prisoner below, till at last we emerged in the valley a quarter of a mile or so beyond where they were stationed. Here on the level of the plain we stopped a moment, and Ram Lal renewed his instructions to me.
"If the captain," he said, "lays his hand on Isaacs' shoulder, seize him and throw him. If you cannot get him down kill him—any way you can—shoot him under the arm with your pistol. It is a matter of life and death."
"All right." And we walked boldly along the broad strip of sward. The moon was now almost immediately overhead, for it was midnight, or near it. I confess the scene awed me, the giant masses of the mountains above us, the vast distances of mysterious blue air, through which the snow-peaks shone out with a strange look that was not natural. The swish of the quickly flowing stream at the edge of the plot we were walking over sounded hollow and unearthly; the velvety whirr of the great mountain bats as they circled near us, stirred from the branches as we passed out, was disagreeable and heavy to hear. The moon shone brighter and brighter.
We were perhaps thirty yards from the little camp, in which there might be fifty men all told. Isaacs stood still and sung out a greeting.
"Peace to you, men of Baithopoor!" he shouted. It was the preconcerted form of address. Instantly the captain turned and looked toward us. Then he gave some orders in a low voice, and taking his prisoner by the hand assisted him to rise. There was a scurrying to and fro in the camp. The men seemed to be collecting, and moving to the edge of the bivouac. Some began to saddle the horses. The moon was so intensely bright that their movements were as plain to us as though it had been broad daylight.
Two figures came striding toward us—the captain and Shere Ali. As I looked at them, curiously enough, as may be imagined, I noticed that the captain was the taller man by two or three inches, but Shere Ali's broad chest and slightly-bowed legs produced an impression of enormous strength. He looked the fierce-hearted, hard-handed warrior, from head to heel; though in accordance with Isaacs' treaty he had been well taken care of and was dressed in the finest stuffs, his beard carefully clipped and his Indian turban rolled with great neatness round his dark and prominent brows.
The first thing for the captain was to satisfy himself as far as possible that we had no troops in ambush up there in the jungle on the base of the mountain. He had probably sent scouts out before, and was pretty sure there was no one there. To gain time, he made a great show of reading the agreement through from beginning to end, comparing it all the while with a copy he held. While this was going on, and I had put myself as near as possible to the captain, Isaacs and Shere Ali were in earnest conversation in the Persian tongue. Shere Ali told Abdul that the captain's perusal of the contract must be a mere empty show, since the man did not know a word of the language. Isaacs, on hearing that the captain could not understand, immediately warned Shere Ali of the intended attempt to murder them both, of which Ram Lal, his friend, had heard, and I could see the old soldier's eye flash and his hand feel for his weapon, where there was none, at the mere mention of a fight. The captain began to talk to Isaacs, and I edged as near as I could to be ready for my grip. Still it did not come. He talked on, very civilly, in intelligible Hindustani. What was the matter with the moon?
A few minutes before it had seemed as if there would be neither cloud nor mist in such a sky; and now a light filmy wreath was rising and darkening the splendour of the wonderful night. I looked across at Ram Lal. He was standing with one hand on his hip, and leaning with the other on his staff, and he was gazing up at the moon with as much interest as he ever displayed about anything. At that moment the captain handed Isaacs a prepared receipt for signature, to the effect that the prisoner had been duly delivered to his new owner. The light was growing dimmer, and Isaacs could hardly see to read the characters before he signed. He raised the scroll to his eyes and turned half round to see it better. At that moment the tall captain stretched forth his arm and laid his hand on Isaacs' shoulder, raising his other arm at the same time to his men, who had crept nearer and nearer to our group while the endless talking was going on. I was perfectly prepared, and the instant the soldier's hand touched Isaacs I had the man in my grip, catching his upraised arm in one hand and his throat with the other. The struggle did not last long, but it was furious in its agony. The tough Punjabi writhed and twisted like a cat in my grasp, his eyes gleaming like living coals, springing back and forward in his vain and furious efforts to reach my feet and trip me. But it was no use. I had his throat and one arm well in hand, and could hold him so that he could not reach me with the other. My fingers sank deeper and deeper in his neck as we swayed backwards and sideways tugging and hugging, breast to breast, till at last, with a fearful strain and wrench of every muscle in our two bodies, his arm went back with a jerk, broken like a pipe-stem, and his frame collapsing and bending backwards, fell heavily to the ground beneath me.
The whole strength of me was at work in the struggle, but I could get a glimpse of the others as we whirled and swayed about.
Like the heavy pall of virgin white that is laid on the body of a pure maiden; of velvet, soft and sweet but heavy and impenetrable as death, relentless, awful, appalling the soul, and freezing the marrow in the bones, it came near the earth. The figure of the gray old man grew mystically to gigantic and unearthly size, his vast old hands stretched forth their skinny palms to receive the great curtain as it descended between the moonlight and the sleeping earth. His eyes were as stars, his hoary head rose majestically to an incalculable height; still the thick, all-wrapping mist came down, falling on horse and rider and wrestler and robber and Amir; hiding all, covering all, folding all, in its soft samite arms, till not a man's own hand was visible to him a span's length from his face.
I could feel the heaving chest of the captain beneath my knee; I could feel the twitching of the broken arm tortured under the pressure of my left hand; but I could see neither face nor arm nor breast, nor even my own fingers. Only above me, as I stared up, seemed to tower the supernatural proportions of Ram Lal, a white apparition visible through the opaque whiteness that hid everything else from view. It was only a moment. A hand was on my shoulder, Isaacs' voice was in my ear, speaking to Shere Ali. Ram Lal drew me away.
"Be quick," he said; "take my hand, I will lead you to the light." We ran along the soft grass, following the sound of each other's feet, swiftly. A moment more and we were in the pass; the mist was lighter, and we could see our way. We rushed up the stony path fast and sure, till we reached the clear bright moonlight, blazing forth in silver splendour again. Far down below the velvet pall of mist lay thick and heavy, hiding the camp and its horses and men from our sight.
"Friend," said Isaacs, "you are as free as I. Praise Allah, and let us depart in peace."
The savage old warrior grasped the outstretched hand of the Persian and yelled aloud—
"Illallaho-ho-ho-ho!" His throat was as brass.
"La illah ill-allah!" repeated Isaacs in tones as of a hundred clarions, echoing by tree and mountain and river, down the valley.
"Thank God!" I said to Ram Lal.
"Call Him as you please, friend Griggs," answered the pundit.
It was daylight when we reached the tent at the top of the pass.
* * * * *
"Abdul Hafiz," said Ram Lal, as we sat round the fire we had made, preparing food, "if it is thy pleasure I will conduct thy friend to a place of safety and set his feet in the paths that lead to pleasant places. For thou art weary and wilt take thy rest until noon, but I am not weary and the limbs of the Afghan are as iron." He spoke in Persian, so that Shere Ali could understand what he said. The latter looked uneasy at first, but soon perceived that his best chance of safety lay in immediately leaving the neighbourhood, which was unpleasantly near Simla on the one side and the frontiers of Baithopoor on the other.
"I thank thee, Ram Lal," replied Isaacs, "and I gladly accept thy offer. Whither wilt thou conduct our friend the Amir?"
"I will lead him by a sure road into Thibet, and my brethren shall take care of him, and presently he shall journey safely northwards into the Tartar country, and thence to the Russ people, where the followers of your prophet are many, and if thou wilt give him the letters thou hast written, which he may present to the principal moolahs, he shall prosper. And as for money, if thou hast gold, give him of it, and if not, give him silver; and if thou hast none, take no thought, for the freedom of the spirit is better than the obesity of the body."
"Bishmillah! Thou speakest with the tongue of wisdom, old man," said Shere Ali; "nevertheless a few rupees—"
"Fear nothing," broke in Isaacs. "I have for thee a store of a few rupees in silver, and there are two hundred gold mohurs in this bag. They are scarce in Hind and pass not as money, but the value of them whither thou goest shall buy thee food many days. Take also this diamond, which if thou be in want thou shalt sell and be rich."
Shere Ali, who had been suspicious of treachery, or at least was afraid to believe himself really free, was convinced by this generosity. The great rough warrior, the brave patriot who had shut the gates of Kabul in the face of Sir Neville Chamberlain, and who had faced every danger and defeat, rather than tamely suffer the advance of the all-devouring English into his dominions, was proud and unbending still, through all his captivity and poverty and trouble, and weariness of soul and suffering of body; he could bear his calamities like a man, the unrelenting chief of an unrelenting race. But when Isaacs stretched forth his hand and freed him, and bestowed upon him, moreover, a goodly stock of cash, and bid him go in peace, his gratitude got the better of him, and he fairly broke down. The big tears coursed down over his rough cheeks, and his face sank between his hands, which trembled violently for a moment. Then his habitual calm of outward manner returned.
"Allah requite thee, my brother," he said, "I can never hope to."
"I have done nothing," said Isaacs. "Shall believers languish and perish in the hands of swine without faith? Verily it is Allah's doing, whose name is great and powerful. He will not suffer the followers of His prophet to be devoured of jackals and unclean beasts. Masallah! There is no God but God."
Therefore, when they had eaten some food, Ram Lal and Shere Ali departed, journeying north-east towards Thibet, and Isaacs and I remained sleeping in the tent until past noon. Then we arose and went our way, having packed up the little canvas house and the utensils and the pole into a neat bundle which we carried by turns along the steep rough paths, until we found the dooly-bearers squatting round the embers after their mid-day meal. As we journeyed we talked of the events of the night. It seemed to me that the whole thing might have been managed very much more simply. Isaacs did things in his own way, however, and, after all, he generally had a good reason for his actions.
"I think not," he said in reply to my question. "While you were throwing that ruffian, who would have overmatched me in an instant, Shere Ali and I disposed of the sowars who ran up at the captain's signal. Shere Ali says he killed one of them with his hands, and my little knife here seems to have done some damage." He produced the vicious-looking dagger, stained above the hilt with dark blood, which he began to scrape off with a bit of stick.
"My dear fellow," I objected, "I am delighted to have served you, and I see that since Shere Ali could not be warned of the signal, I was the only person there who could tackle that Punjabi man; yet I am completely at a loss to explain why, if Ram Lal can command the forces of nature to the extent of calling down a thick mist under the cover of which we might escape, he could not have calmly destroyed the whole band by lightning, or indigestion, or some simple and efficacious means, so that we need not have risked our lives in supplementing what he only half did."
"There are plenty of answers to that question," Isaacs answered. "In the first place, how do you know that Ram Lal could do anything more than discover the preconcerted signal and bring down that fog? He pretends to no supernatural power; he only asserts that he understands the workings of nature better than you do. How do you know that the fog was his doing at all? Your excited imagination, developed suddenly by the tussle with the captain, which undoubtedly sent the blood to your head, made you think you saw Ram Lal's figure magnified beyond human proportion. If there had been no mist at all, we should most likely have got away unhurt all the same. Those fellows would not fight after their leader was down. Again, I like to let Ram Lal feel that I am able to do something for myself, and that I have other friends as powerful. He aims at obtaining too much ascendency over me. I do not like it."
"Oh—if you look at it in that light, I have nothing to say. It has been a very pleasant and interesting excursion to me, and I am rather glad I only broke that fellow's arm instead of killing him, as you and Shere Ali did your sowars."
"I don't know whether I killed him. I suppose I did. Poor fellow. However, he would certainly have killed me."
"Of course. No use crying over spilt milk," I answered.
So we got into the doolies and swung away. As we neared Simla my friend's spirits rose, and he chanted wild Persian and Arabic love-songs, and kept up a fire of conversation all day and all night, singing and talking alternately.
"Griggs," he said, as we approached the end of our journey, "did you have occasion to tell Miss Westonhaugh where I had gone?"
"Yes. She asked me, and I answered that you had gone to save a man's life. She looked very much pleased, I thought, but just then somebody came up, and we did not talk any more about it. I got your message the evening of the day you left."
"She looked pleased?"
"Very much. I remember the colour came into her cheeks."
"Was she so pale, then?" he asked anxiously.
"Why, yes. You remember how she looked the night before you left? She was even paler the next day, but when I said you had gone to do a good deed, the light came into her face for a moment."
"Do you think she was ill, Griggs?"
"She did not look well, but of course she was anxious about you, and a good deal cut up about your going."
"No; but did you really think she was ill?" he insisted.
"Oh no, nothing but your going."
His spirits were gone again, and he said very little more that day. As we were ascending the last hills, some eight or nine hours from Simla, the moon rose majestically behind us. It must have been ten o'clock, for she could not have been seen above the notch in the mountains to eastward until she had been risen an hour at least.
"I wonder where they are now, those two," said Isaacs.
"Shere Ali and Ram Lal?"
"Yes. They are probably across the borders into Thibet, watching the moon rise from the door of some Buddhist monastery. I am glad I am not there."
"Isaacs," I said, "I would really like to know why you took so much trouble about Shere Ali. It seems to me you might have procured his liberation in some simpler way, if it was merely an act of charity that you contemplated."
"Call it anything you like. I had read about the poor man until my imagination was wrought up, and I could not bear to think of a man so brave and patriotic and at the same time a true believer, lying in the clutches of that old beast of a maharajah. And as for the method of my procedure, do you realise the complete secrecy of the whole affair? Do you see that no one but you and I and the Baithopoor people know anything of the transaction? Do you suppose that I should be tolerated a day in the country if the matter were known? Above all, what do you imagine Mr. Currie Ghyrkins would think of me if he knew I had been liberating and enriching the worst foe of his little god, Lord Beaconsfield?"
There was truth in what he said. By no arrangement could the liberation of Shere Ali have been effected with such secrecy and despatch as by the simple plan of going ourselves. And now we toiled up the last hills, vainly attempting to keep our horses in a canter; long before the relay was reached they had relapsed into a dogged jog-trot.
So we reached Simla at sunrise, and crawled wearily up the steps of the hotel to our rooms, tired with the cramp of dooly and saddle for so many days, and longing for the luxury of the bath, the civilised meal, and the arm-chair. Of course I did not suppose Isaacs would go to bed. He expected that the Westonhaughs would have returned by this time, and he would doubtless go to them as soon as he had breakfasted. So we separated to dress and be shaved—my beard was a week old at least—and to make ourselves as comfortable as we deserved to be after our manifold exertions. We had been three days and a half from Keitung to Simla.
At my door stood the faithful Kiramat Ali, salaaming and making a pretence of putting dust on his head according to his ideas of respectful greeting. On the table lay letters; one of these, a note, lay in a prominent position. I took it instinctively, though I did not know the hand. It was from Mr. Currie Ghyrkins.
MY DEAR MR. GRIGGS—If you have returned to Simla, I should be glad to see you for half an hour on a matter of urgent importance. I would come to you if I could. My niece, Miss Westonhaugh, is, I am sorry to say, dangerously ill.—Sincerely yours,
A. CURRIE GHYRKINS.
It was dated two days before, for to-day was Monday. I made every possible haste in my toilet and ordered a horse. I wondered whether Isaacs had received a similar missive. What could be the matter? What might not have happened in those two days since the note was written? I felt sure that the illness had begun before I left them in the Terai, hastened probably by the pain she had felt at Isaacs' departure; there is nothing like a little mental worry to hasten an illness, if it is to come at all. Poor Miss Westonhaugh! So, after all her gaiety and all the enjoyment she had from the tiger-hunt on which she had set her heart, she had come back to be ill in Simla. Well, the air was fresh enough now—almost cold, in fact. She would soon be well. Still, it was a great pity. We might have had such a gay week before breaking up.
I was dressed, and I went down the steps, passing Isaacs' open door. He was calmly reading a newspaper and having a morning smoke, until it should be time to go out. Clearly he had not heard anything of Miss Westonhaugh's illness. I resolved I would say nothing until I knew the worst, so I merely put my head in and said I should be back in an hour to breakfast with him, and passed on. Once on horseback, I galloped as hard as I could, scattering chuprassies and children and marketers to right and left in the bazaar. It was not long before I left my horse at the corner of Mr. Currie Ghyrkins' lawn, and walking to the verandah, which looked suspiciously neat and unused, inquired for the master of the house. I was shown into his bedroom, for it was still very early and he was dressing.
I noticed a considerable change in the old gentleman's manner and appearance in the last ten days. His bright red colour was nearly faded, his eyes had grown larger and less bright, he had lost flesh, and his tone was subdued in the extreme. He came from his dressing-glass to greet me with a ghost of the old smile on his face, and his hand stretched eagerly out.
"My dear Mr. Griggs, I am sincerely glad to see you."
"I have not been in Simla two hours," I answered, "and I found your note. How is Miss Westonhaugh? I am so sorry to——"
"Don't talk about her, Griggs. I am afraid she's g—g—goin' to die." He nearly broke down, but he struggled bravely. I was terribly shocked, though a moment's reflection told me that so strong and healthy a person would not die so easily. I expressed my sympathy as best I could.
"What is it? What is the illness?" I asked when he was quieter.
"Jungle fever, my dear fellow, jungle fever; caught in that beastly tiger-hunt. Oh! I wish I had never taken her. I wish we had never gone. Why wasn't I firm? Damn it all, sir, why wasn't I firm, eh?" In his anger at himself something of the former jerky energy of the man showed itself. Then it faded away into the jaded sorrowful look that was on his face when I came in. He sat down with his elbows on his knees and his hands in his scanty gray hair, his suspenders hanging down at his sides—the picture of misery. I tried to console him, but I confess I felt very much like breaking down myself. I did not see what I could do, except break the bad news to Isaacs.
"Mr. Griggs," he said at last, "she has been asking for you all the time, and the doctor thought if you came she had best see you, as it might quiet her. Understand?" I understood better than he thought.
People who are dangerously ill have no morning and no evening. Their hours are eternally the same, save for the alternation of suffering and rest. The nurse and the doctor are their sun and moon, relieving each other in the watches of day and night. As they are worse—as they draw nearer to eternity, they are less and less governed by ideas of time. A dying person will receive a visit at midnight or at mid-day with no thought but to see the face of friend—or foe—once more. So I was not surprised to find that Miss Westonhaugh would see me; in an interval of the fever she had been moved to a chair in her room, and her brother was with her. I might go in—indeed she sent a very urgent message imploring that I would go. I went.
The morning sun was beating brightly on the shutters, and the room looked cheerful as I entered. John Westonhaugh, paler than death, came quickly to the door and grasped my hand.
On a long cane-chair by the window, carefully covered from the possible danger of any insidious draught, with a mass of soft white wraps and shawls, lay Katharine Westonhaugh—the transparant phantasm of her brilliant self. The rich masses of pale hair were luxuriously nestled around her shoulders and the blazing eyes flamed, lambently, under the black brows—but that was all. Colour, beside the gold hair and the black eyes, there was hardly any. The strong clean-cut outline of the features was there, but absolutely startling in emaciation, so that there seemed to be no flesh at all; the pale lips scarcely closed over the straight white teeth. A wonderful and a fearful sight to see, that stately edifice of queenly strength and beauty thus laid low and pillaged and stript of all colour save purple and white—the hues of mourning—the purple lips and the white cheek. I have seen many people die, and the moment I looked at Katharine Westonhaugh I felt that the hand of death was already closed over her, gripped round, never to relax. John led me to her side, and a faint smile showed she was glad to see me. I knelt reverently down, as one would kneel beside one already dead. She spoke first, clearly and easily, as it seemed. People who are ill from fever seldom lose the faculty of speech.
"I am so glad you are come. There are many things I want you to do."
"Yes, Miss Westonhaugh. I will do everything."
"Is he come back?" she asked—then, as I looked at her brother, she added, "John knows, he is very glad."
"Yes, we came back this morning together; I came here at once."
"Thank you—it was kind. Did you give him the box?"
"Yes—he does not know you are ill. He means to come at eleven."
"Tell him to come now. Now—do you understand?" Then she added in a low tone, for my ear only, "I don't think they know it; I am dying. I shall be dead before to-night. Don't tell him that. Make him come now. John knows. Now go. I am tired. No—wait! Did he save the man's life?"
"Yes; the man is safe and free in Thibet."
"That was nobly done. Now go. You have always been kind to me, and you love him. When you see me again I shall be gone." Her voice was perceptibly weaker, though still clearly audible. "When I am gone, put some flowers on me for friendship's sake. You have always been so kind. Good-bye, dear Mr. Griggs. Good-bye. God keep you." I moved quickly to the door, fearing lest the piteous sight should make a coward of me. It was so ineffably pathetic—this lovely creature, just tasting of the cup of life and love and dying so.
"Bring him here at once, Griggs, please. I know all about it. It may save her." John Westonhaugh clasped my hand in his again, and pushed me out to speed me on my errand. I tore along the crooked paths and the winding road, up through the bazaar, past the church and the narrow causeway beyond to the hotel. I found him still smoking and reading the paper.
"Well?" said he cheerfully, for the morning sun had dispelled the doubts of the night.
"My dear friend," I said, "Miss Westonhaugh wants to see you immediately."
"How? What? Of course; I will go at once, but how did you know?"
"Wait a minute, Isaacs; she is not well at all—in fact, she is quite ill."
"What's the matter—for God's sake—Why, Griggs, man, how white you are—O my God, my God—she is dead!" I seized him quickly in my arms or he would have thrown himself on the ground.
"No," I said, "she is not dead. But, my dear boy, she is dying. I do not believe she will live till this evening. Therefore get to horse and ride there quickly, before it is too late."
Isaacs was a brave man, and of surpassing strength to endure. After the first passionate outburst, his manner never changed as he mechanically ordered his horse and pulled on his boots. He was pale naturally, and great purple rings seemed to come out beneath his eyes—as if he had received a blow—from the intensity of his suppressed emotion. Once only he spoke before he mounted.
"What is it?" he asked.
"Jungle fever," I answered. He groaned. "Shall I go with you?" asked I, thinking it might be as well. He shook his head, and was off in a moment.
I turned to my rooms and threw myself on my bed. Poor fellow; was there ever a more piteous case? Oh the cruel misery of feeling that nothing could save her! And he—he who would give life and wealth and fortune and power to give her back a shade of colour—as much as would tinge a rose-leaf, even a very little rose-leaf—and could not. Poor fellow! What would he do to-night—to-morrow. I could see him kneeling by her side and weeping hot tears over the wasted hands. I could almost hear his smothered sob—his last words of speeding to the parting soul—the picture grew intensely in my thoughts. How beautiful she would look when she was dead!
I started as the thought came into my mind. How superficial was my acquaintance with her, poor girl,—how little was she a part of my life, since I could really so heartlessly think of her beauty when her breath should be gone! Of course, though, it was natural enough, why should I feel any personal pang for her? It was odd that I should even expect to—I, who never felt a "personal pang" of regret for the death of any human creature, excepting poor dear old Lucia, who brought me up, and sent me to school, and gave me roast chestnuts when I knew my lessons, in the streets of Rome, thirty years ago. When she died, I was there; poor old soul, how fond she was of me! And I of her! I remember the tears I shed, though I was a bearded man even then. How long is that? Since she died, it must be ten years.
My thoughts wandered about among all sorts of bric-a-brac memories. Presently something brought me back to the present. Why must this fair girl from the north die miserably here in India? Ah yes! the eternal why. Why did we go at such a season into the forests of the Terai? it was madness; we knew it was, and Ram Lal knew it too. Hence his warning. O Ram Lal, you are a wise old man, with your gray beard and you mists of wet white velvet and your dark sayings! Ram Lal, will you riddle me, also, my weird that I must dree?
A cold draught passed over my head, and I turned on my couch to see whence it came. I started bolt upright, and my hair stood on end with sudden terror. I had uttered the name of Ram Lal aloud in my reverie, and there he sat on a chair by the door, as gray as ever, with his long staff leaning from his feet across his breast and shoulder. He looked at me quietly.
"I come opportunely, Mr. Griggs, it seems. Lupus in fabula. I hear my name pronounced as I enter the door. This is flattering to a man of my modest pretensions to social popularity. You would like me to tell you your fortune? Well, I am not a fortune-teller."
"Never mind my fortune. Will Miss Westonhaugh recover?"
"No. She will die at sundown."
"How do you know, since you say you are no prophet?"
"Because I am a doctor of medicine. M.D. of Edinburgh."
"Why can you not save her then? A man who is a Scotch doctor, and who possesses the power of performing such practical jokes on nature as you exhibited the other night, might do something. However, I suppose I am not talking to you at all. You are in Thibet with Shere Ali. This is your astral body, and if I were near enough, I could poke my fingers right through you, as you sit there, telling me you are an Edinburgh doctor, forsooth."
"Quite right, Mr. Griggs. At the present moment my body is quietly asleep in a lamastery in Thibet, and this is my astral shape, which, from force of habit, I begin to like almost as well. But to be serious——"
"I think it is very serious, your going about in this casual manner."
"To be serious. I warned Isaacs that he should not allow the tiger-hunt to come off. He would not heed my warning. It is too late now. I am not omnipotent."
"Of course not. Still, you might be of some use if you went there. While there is life there is hope."
"Proverbs," said Earn Lai scornfully, "are the wisdom of wise men prepared in portable doses for the foolish; and the saying you quote is one of them. There is life yet, but there is no hope."
"Well, I am afraid you are right. I saw her this morning—I suppose I shall never see her again, not alive, at least. She looked nearly dead then. Poor girl; poor Isaacs, left behind!"
"You may well say that, Mr. Griggs," said the adept. "On the whole, perhaps he is to be less pitied than she; who knows? Perhaps we should pity neither, but rather envy both."
"Why? Either you are talking the tritest of cant, or you are indulging in more of your dark sayings, to be interpreted, post facto, entirely to your own satisfaction, and to every one else's disgust." I was impatient with the man. If he had such extraordinary powers as were ascribed to him—I never heard him assert that he possessed any; if he could prophesy, he might as well do so to some purpose. Why could he not speak plainly? He could not impose on me, who was ready to give him credit for what he really could do, while finding fault with the way he did it.
"I understand what passes in your mind, friend Griggs," he said, not in the least disconcerted at my attack. "You want me to speak plainly to you, because you think you are a plain-spoken, clear-headed man of science yourself. Very well, I will. I think you might yourself become a brother some day, if you would. But you will not now, neither will in the future. Yet you understand some little distant inkling of the science. When you ask your scornful questions of me, you know perfectly well that you are putting an inquiry which you yourself can answer as well as I. I am not omnipotent. I have very little more power than you. Given certain conditions and I can produce certain results, palpable, visible, and appreciable to all; but my power, as you know, is itself merely the knowledge of the laws of nature, which Western scientists, in their wisdom, ignore. I can replenish the oil in the lamp, and while there is wick the lamp shall burn—ay, even for hundreds of years. But give me a lamp wherein the wick is consumed, and I shall waste my oil; for it will not burn unless there be the fibre to carry it. So also is the body of man. While there is the flame of vitality and the essence of life in his nerves and finer tissues, I will put blood in his veins, and if he meet with no accident he may live to see hundreds of generations pass by him. But where there is no vitality and no essence of life in a man, he must die; for though I fill his veins with blood, and cause his heart to beat for a time, there is no spark in him—no fire, no nervous strength. So is Miss Westonhaugh now—dead while yet breathing, and sighing her sweet farewells to her lover."
"I know. I understand you very well. But do not deny that you might have saved her. Why did you not?" Ram Lal smiled a strange smile, which I should have described as self-satisfied, had it not been so gentle and kind.
"Ah yes!" he said, with something like a sigh, though there was no sorrow or regret in it. "Yes, Griggs, I might have saved her life. I would certainly have saved her—well, if he had not persuaded her to go down into that steaming country at this time of year, since it was my advice to remain here. But it is no use talking about it."
"I think you might have conveyed your meaning to him a little more clearly. He had no idea that you meant danger to her."
"No, very likely not. It is not my business to mould men's destinies for them. If I give them advice that is good, it is quite enough. It is like a man playing cards: if he does not seize his chance it does not return. Besides, it is much better for him that she should die."
"Your moral reflections are insufferable. Can you not find some one else to whom you may confide your secret joy of my friend's misfortunes?"
"Calm yourself. I say it is better for her, better for him, better for both. Remember what you said to him yourself about the difference between pleasure and happiness. They shall be one yet, their happiness shall not be less eternal because their pleasure in this life has been brief. Can you not conceive of immortal peace and joy without the satisfaction of earthly lust?"
"I would not call such a beautiful union as theirs might have been by such a name. For myself, I confess to a very real desire for pleasure first and happiness afterwards."
"I know you better than you think, Mr. Griggs. You are merely argumentative, rarely sceptical. If I had begun by denying what I instead asserted, you would by this time have been arguing as strongly on my side as you now are on yours. You are often very near degenerating into a common sophist."
"Very likely, it was a charming profession. Meanwhile, by going to the very opposite extreme from sophistry, I mean by a more than Quixotic veneration for an abstract dogma you hold to be true, and by your determination to make people die for it, you are causing fearful misery of body, untold agony of soul, to a woman and a man whom you should have every reason to like. Go to, Ram Lal, adept, magician, enthusiast, and prophet, you are mistaken, like all your kind!"
"No, I am not mistaken, time will show. Moreover, I would have you remark that the lady in question is not suffering at all, and that the 'untold agony of soul' you attribute to Isaacs is a wholesome medicine for one with such a soul as his. And now I am going, for you are not the sort of person with whom I can enjoy talking very long. You are violent and argumentative, though you are sometimes amusing. I am rarely violent, and I never argue: life is too short. And yet I have more time for it than you, seeing my life will be indefinitely longer than yours. Good-bye, for the present; and believe me, those two will be happier far, and far more blessed, in a few short years hence, than ever you or I shall be in all the unreckonable cycles of this or any future world." Ram Lal sighed as he uttered the last words, and he was gone; yet the musical cadence of the deep-drawn breath of a profound sorrow, vibrated whisperingly through the room where I lay. Poor Ram Lal, he must have had some disappointment in his youth, which, with all his wisdom and superiority over the common earth, still left a sore place in his heart.
I was not inclined to move. I knew where Isaacs was, where he would remain to the bitter end, and I would not go out into the world that day, while he was kneeling in the chamber of death. He might come back at any time. How long would it last? God in his mercy grant it might be soon and quickly over, without suffering. Oh! but those strong people die so deathly hard. I have seen a man—No, I was sure of that. She would not suffer any more now.
I lay thinking. Would Isaacs send for me when he returned, or would he face his grief alone for a night before he spoke? The latter, I thought; I hoped so too. How little sympathy there must be for any one, even the dearest, in our souls and hearts, when it is so hard to look forward to speaking half-a-dozen words of comfort to some poor wretch of a friend who has lost everything in the wide world that is dear to him. We would rather give him all we possess outright than attempt to console him for the loss. And yet—what is there in life more sweet than to be consoled and comforted, and to have the true sympathy of some one, even a little near to us, when we ourselves are suffering. The people we do not want shower cards of condolence on us, and carriage-loads of flowers on the poor dead thing; the ones who could be of some help to the tortured soul are afraid to speak; the very delicacy of kind-heartedness in them, which makes us wish they would come, makes them stay away.
I hope Isaacs will not send for me, poor fellow.
If he does, what shall I say? God help me.
* * * * *
The hours came and went, and though worn out with the exertions of the past days, and with the emotions of the morning, I lay in my rooms, unable to sleep even for a moment. I went down once or twice to Isaacs' rooms to know whether he had returned, but he had not, nor had any one heard from him. At last the evening shadows crept stealthily up, darkening first one room, then another, until there was not light enough to read by. Then I dropped my book and went out to breathe the cold air on the verandah. Wearily the hours went by, and still there was no sign of my friend.
Towards eleven o'clock the moon, now waning, once more rose above the hills and shed her light across the lawn, splendid still, but with the first tinge of melancholy that clouds her departing glory. Exhausted nature asserted herself, and chilled to the bone I went to bed, and, at last, to sleep.
I slept peacefully at first, but soon the events that had come over my life began to weave themselves in wild disharmony through my restful visions, and the events that were to come cast their lengthening shadows before them. The world of past, present, and future thoughts, came into my soul, distorted, without perspective, nothing to help me to discern the good from the evil, the suffering gone and long-forgotten from the pain in store. The triumph of discrepancy over waking reason, the fancied victories of the sleep-dulled intellect over the outrageous discord of the wakeful imagination. I passed a most miserable night. It seemed rest to wake, until I was awake, and then it seemed rest to sleep again, until my eyes were closed. At last it came, no dream this time; Isaacs stood by my bed-side in the gray of the morning, himself grayer than the soft neutral-tinted dawn. It was a terrible moment to me, though I had expected it since yesterday. I felt like the condemned criminal in France, who does not know the day or hour of his death. The first intimation is when the executioner at daybreak enters his cell and bids him come forth to die, sometimes in less than sixty seconds from his waking.
How gray he looked, and how infinitely tried. I rose swiftly and took his hands, which were deadly cold, and led him to the outer room. I could not say anything, for I did not know how such a terribly sudden blow would affect him; he was so unlike any one else. Why is it so hard to comfort the afflicted? Why should the most charitable duty it is ever given us to perform be, without exception, the hardest of tasks?
I am sure most people feel as I do. It is far less painful to suffer wounds and sickness in one's own body than to stand by and see the cold clean knife go through skin and flesh and cartilage; it is surely easier to suffer disease than to smooth daily and hourly the bed and pillows of some poor tormented wretch, calling on God and man to end his misery. There is a hidden instinct—of a low and cowardly kind, but human nevertheless—which bids us turn away from spectacles of agony whether harrowing or repulsive, until the good angel comes and whispers that we must trample on such coarse impulse and do our duty. "Show pity," said the wise old Frenchman, "do anything to alleviate distress, but avoid actually feeling either compassion or sympathy. They can lead to no good." That was only his way of making to himself an excuse for doing a good action, for Larochefoucauld was a man who really possessed every virtue that he disclaimed for himself and denied in others.
I felt much of this as I led Isaacs to the outer room, not knowing what form his sorrow might take, but feeling in my own person a grief as poignant, perhaps, for the moment, as his own. I had known he would come, that was all, though I had hoped he would not, and I knew that I must do my best to send him away a little less sorrowful than he had come. I was not prepared for the extreme calm of voice and manner that marked his first words, coming with measured rhythm and even cadence from his pale lips.
"It is all over, my friend," he said.
"It has but begun," said the solemn tones of Ram Lal, the Buddhist, from the door. He entered and approached us.
"Friend Isaacs," he continued, "I am not here to mock at your grief or to weary your strained heartstrings with such petty condolence as well-nigh drove Ayoub of old to impatience. But I love you, my brother, and I have somewhat to say to you in your trouble, some advice to give you in your distress. You are suffering greatly, past the power of reason to alleviate, for you no longer know yourself, nor are aware what you really think. But I will show to you three pictures of yourself that shall rouse you to what you are, to what you were, and to what you shall be.
"I found you, not many years ago, a very young man, most exceptionally placed in regard to the world. You were even then rich, though not so rich as you now are. You were beautiful and full of vigour, but you have now upon you the glow of a higher beauty, the overflowing promise of a more glorious life. You were happy because you thought you were, but such happiness as you had proceeded from without rather than from within. You were a materially thinking man. Your thoughts were of the flesh, and your delights—harmless it is true—were in the things that were under your eyes—wealth, power, book knowledge, and perhaps woman, if you can call the creatures you believed in women.
"You gathered wealth in great heaps, and your precious stones in storehouses. You laid your hand upon the diamond of the river and upon the pearl of the sea, and they abode with you, as the light of the sun and the moon. And you said, 'Behold it is my star, which is the lord of the dog-heat in summer, and it is my kismet.' You also took to yourself wives of rare qualities, having both golden and raven black hair, whose skin was as fine silk, and their breath as the freshness of the dawning, and their eyes as jewels. Then said you, rejoicing in your heart, that you were happy; and so you dwelt in peace and plenty, and waxed glad.
"Therefore you accomplished your first destiny, and you drank of the cup that was filled to overflowing. And if it had been the law of nature that from pleasure man should derive permanent lasting peace, you had been happy so long as you lived. But, though you have the faultless life of the body to enjoy all things of the earth, even as other men, though in another degree, you have within you something more. There is in your breast a heart beating—an organ so wonderful in its sensitiveness, so perfect in its consciousness of good, that the least throb and thrill of pleasure that it feels is worth years and ages of mere sensual life enjoyment. The body having tasted of all happiness whereof it is capable, and having found that it is good, is saturated with its own ease and enjoys less keenly. But the heart is the border-land between body and soul. The heart can love and the body can love, but the body can only love itself; the heart is the wellspring of the lore that goes beyond self. Therefore your heart awoke.
"Shall I tell you of the first early stirrings of your love? Think you, because I am gray and loveless, that I have never known youth and gladness of heart? Ah, I know, better than you can think. It is not sudden, really, the blossoming out of the tree of life. The small leaves grow larger and stronger though still closely folded in the bud, until the bright warmth of the spring makes them burst into bloom. The little lark in the nest among the grass grows beneath the mother's wing and idly moves, now and then, unconscious of the cloud-cleaving gift of flight, until all at once, in the fair dawning, there wells up in his tiny breast the mighty sense of power to rise.
"The human heart is like the budded folded leaves, and like the untaught lark. The quiet sleep before the day of blooming is, while it lasts, a state of happiness. But it is not comparable with the breathing joy of the leaf that feels and sees the wonderful life around it, whispering divine answers to the wooing breeze. The humble nest where it has first seen light is for many days a happy home to the tender songster, soon left behind, when the first wing-strokes waft the small body upwards to the sky, and forgotten as the first glad trill and quaver of the new-found voice roll out the prelude to the glorious life-long hymn of praise. The heart of man—your heart, my dear friend—gave a great leap from earth to sky, when first it felt the magic of the other life. The grosser scales of material vision fell away from your inner sight on the day when you met, and knew you had met, the woman you were to love.
"I found you again, a different man, a far happier man, though you would hardly allow that. A sweet uncertainty of the future half-tinged your joy with a shadow of sadness, which you had not known before: but love sadness is only the shading and gentle pencilling in love's wondrous picture, whereby the whole light of the painting is made clearer and stronger. A new world opened out before you in endless vistas of untold and undreamed bliss. You looked back at your former self, so careless and sunny, so consciously happy in the strong sense of life and power, and you wondered how you could have been even contented through so many years. The good and evil deeds of your past life lost colour and perspective, and fell back into a dull, flat background, against which the ineffable vision of beautiful and immortal womanhood stood forth in transcendent glory. The eternal womanly element of the great universe beckoned you on, as it did Doctor Faustus of old. You had hitherto accepted woman and ignored womanhood, as so many of the followers of the prophet have always done. Henceforth there was to be a change, entire, complete, and enduring. No doubts now, or careless scepticism; no cant about women having no souls and no individual being; you had made a great step to a better understanding of the world you live in. Filled with a new life, you went on your way rejoicing and longing to do great deeds for her who had come into your destiny. From dawn to sunset, and from evening to dawn, one picture ever was before you leading you on. You were ready to run any risk for a smile and a blush of pleasure, you were willing to sacrifice anything and everything for her praise. And when, down there among the mango-trees in the Terai, your lips first touched hers and your arm pressed her to your side, the joy that was yours was as the joy of the immortals."
Ram Lal paused, and Isaacs, who had been sitting by the table, stony and dry-eyed, hid his face in his hands, clutching with his white fingers among his bright black hair—all that seemed left to him of life, so dead and ashy was his face. He remained thus without looking up, as the old man continued.
"Think not, dear friend and brother, that I have come here to dwell needlessly on your grief, to rouse again the keen agonies that have so lately burned through and through you to the quick. I love you well, and would but trace the past in order to paint the future. All that you felt and knew in those short days of perfect love on earth was good and true and noble, and shall not be forgotten hereafter. But last night closed the second of your three destinies—as true love always must close on earth—in bitter grief and sorrow because the one is gone before. Rather should you rejoice, Abdul Hafiz, that she is gone in virgin whiteness, whither ere long you shall follow and be with her till time shall chase the crumbling world out over the broad quicksands of eternity, and nought shall survive of all this but the pure and the constant and the faithful to death. There is before you a third, destiny, great and awful, but grand beyond power of telling. Body and heart have had their full cup of happiness, have enjoyed to the full what has been set in their way to enjoy. To the full you have enjoyed wealth and success and the sensuality of a refined and artistic luxury; to the full, as only a few rarely-gifted men can, you have enjoyed the purest and highest love that earth can give. Think not that all ends here. The greatest of destinies is but begun, and it is the destiny of the soul Two days ago if I had told you there was something higher in you than the loving heart, you would not have believed me; now you do. It is the ethereal portion of the heart, that which longs to be loosed from the body and floating upwards to rejoin its other half.
"Your love has been of the best kind that falls to the lot of man. Not a single shadow of doubting fell between you. It has been sweet if it has seemed short—but it has really lasted a long time, as long as some people's lives. You are many years older than you were when it began, for a month or two ago—or whenever it was that your heart first awoke—you were entirely immersed in the material view of things that belonged naturally enough to your position and mode of life. Now you have passed the critical border-land wherein love wanders, himself not knowing whither he shall lead his followers, whether back to the thick green pasture and heavy-scented groves of sensual existence or forward to free wind-swept heights of spiritual blessedness, where those who are true until they die walk forth into truth everlasting. Yours is the faith and the truth that abide always, yours henceforward shall be the perfect union of souls, yours the ethereal range of the outer firmament. Take my hand, brother, in yours, and seek with me the path to those heights—to that pinnacle of paradise where you shall meet once more the spirit elected to yours."
Ram Lal stood beside Isaacs, whose face was still hidden, and laid his hand with tender gentleness on the weary head. The old man looked kindly down as he touched the thick black hair, and then raised his eyes and looked out through the door at the brightening landscape over which the morning sun was shedding warmth and beauty once more.
"Brother," he continued, "come forth with me. You have suffered too much to mix again with the world, even if you wished it. Come forth, and your soul shall live for ever. Your grief shall be turned to joy, and the sinking heart shall be lifted to heights untried. As now the sun steadily rises in his unerring course, following the pale footsteps of the fleet dawning, and fulfilling her half spoken promises a million-fold in his goodness; as now the all-muffling heaviness of the sad dark night is forgotten in the gladness of day—so shall your brief time of darkness and dull distress perish and vanish swiftly at the first glimpses of the heavenly day on which follows no creeping night nor shadow of earthly care. I come not to bid you forget; I come to bid you remember. Remember all that is past, treasure it in the secret storehouse of the soul where the few flowers culled from life's abundant thorn are laid in their fragrance and garnered up. Remember also the future. Think that your time is short, and that the labour shall be sweet; so that in a few quick years you shall reap a harvest of unearthly blooming. Fear not to tread boldly in the tracks of those who have climbed before you, and who have attained and have conquered. What can anything earthly ever be to you? What can you ever care again for gold, or gem, or horse, or slave? Do with those things as it may seem good in your eyes, but leave them behind. The weight of the money-bags is a weariness and soreness to the feet that toil to overtake eternity. The flesh itself is weariness to the spirit, and soon leaves it to wing its flight untrammelled and untiring. Come, I will give you of my poor strength what shall carry your uncertain steps over the first great difficulties, or at least over so many as you have not yet surmounted. Be bold, aspiring, fearless, and firm of purpose. What guerdon can man or Heaven offer, higher than eternal communion with the bright spirit that waits and watches for your coming? With her—you said it while she lived—was your life, your light, and your love; it is true tenfold now, for with her is life eternal, light ethereal, and love spiritual. Come, brother, come with me!"
Slowly Isaacs raised his head from his hands and gazed long on the old man. And while he gazed it was as if his pale face were transparent and the whiteness of the burning spirit, dazzling to see, came and went quickly and came again as flashes in the northern sky. Slowly he rose to his feet, and laying his hand in the Buddhist's, spoke at last.
"Brother, I come," he said. "Show me the way."
"Right gladly will I be thy guide, Abdul," Ram Lal gave answer. "Right willingly will I go with thee whither thou wouldest. Never was teacher sought by more worthy pupil; never did man embrace the pure life of the brethren with more single heart or truer purpose. The way shall be short that leads thee upward, the stones that are therein shall be as wings to lift thy feet instead of stumbling-blocks for thy destruction. The hidden forces of nature shall lend thee strength, and her secrets wisdom; the deep sweet springs of the eternal water shall refresh thee and the food of the angels shall be thine. Thy sorrows shall turn from bitter into sweet, and from the stings of thy past agonies shall grow up the golden flowers of thy future crown. Thou shalt not tire in the way, nor crave rest by the wayside."
"Friend, tell me what I shall do that I may attain all this."
"Be faithful to her who has preceded you, and learn of us, who know it, wherein consists true happiness. You need but little help, dear friend. Banish only from your thoughts the human suggestion that what you love most is lost, gone irrevocably. Rejoice, and mourn not, that she has entered in already where all your striving is to follow. Be glad because she looks on those sights and hears those sounds which are too bright and strong yet for your eyes and ears. Some of these unspeakable things you shall perceive with your perishable body; but the more perfect and glorious remain hidden to our mortal senses, be they ever so keen and exquisite. Believe me, you shall reach that state before I do. My poor soul is still bound to earth by some slender bonds of pleasure and contemptible pain, fine indeed as threads of gossamer, and soon, I trust, to be shaken off for ever. Yet am I bound and not utterly free. You, my brother, have been wrenched suddenly from the life of the body to the life of the soul. In you the vile desire to live for living's sake will soon be dead, if it is not dead already. Your soul, drawn strongly upward to other spheres, is well nigh loosed from love of life and fear of death. If at this moment you could lie down and die, you would meet your end joyfully. Very subtle are the fast-vanishing links between you and the world; very thin and impalpable the faint shadows that mar to your vision those transcendent hues of heavenly glory you shall so soon behold. Look forward, look upward, look onward—never once look back, and your waiting shall not be long, nor her watching many days. She stands before you, beckoning and praying that you tarry not. See that you do her bidding faithfully, as being near the blessed end, and fearful of losing even one moment in the attainment of what you seek."
"Fear not, Ram Lal. My determination shall not fail me, nor my courage waver, until all is reached."
The light of another world was on the beautiful brow and features as he looked full at his future teacher. What strange powers these adept brethren have! What marvellous magnetism over the souls of lesser men—whereby they turn sorrow into gladness, and defeat into triumph by mere words. I myself, bound by thought and word and deed to the lesser life, was not unmoved by the glorious promises that flowed with glowing eloquence from the lips of that gray old man in the early morning. They moved toward the door. Ram Lal spoke as he turned away.
"We leave you, friend Griggs, but we will return this evening and bid you farewell." So I was left alone. Another comforter had taken my place; one knowing human nature better, and well versed in the learning of the spirit. One of that small band of high priests who in all ages and nations and religions and societies have been the mediators between time and eternity, to cheer and comfort the broken-hearted, to rebuke him who would lose his own soul, to speed the awakening spirit in its heavenward flight.
* * * * *
As I sat in my room that night the door opened and they were with me, standing hand in hand.
"My friend," said Isaacs, "I have come to bid you farewell. You will never see me again. I am here once more to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your friendship and kind offices, for the strength of your arm in the hour of need, and for the gold of your words in time of uncertainty."
"Isaacs," I said, "I know little of the journey you are undertaking, and I cannot go with you. This I know, that you are very near to a life I cannot hope for; and I pray God that you may speed quickly to the desired end, that you may attain that happiness which your brave soul and honest heart so well deserve. Once more, then, I offer you my fullest service, if there is anything that I still can do."
"There is nothing," he answered, "though if there were I know you would do it gladly and entirely. I have bestowed all my worldly possessions on the one man besides yourself to whom I owe a debt of gratitude—John Westonhaugh. Had I known you less well, I would have made you a sharer in my forsaken wealth. Only this I beg of you. Take this gem and keep it always for my sake. No—do not look at it in that way. Do not consider its value. It is to recall one who will often think of you, for you have been a great deal to me in this month."
"I would I might have been more," I said, and it was all I could say, for my voice failed me.
"Think of me," he continued, and the bright light shone through his face in the dusk, "think of me, not as you see me now, or as I was this morning, bowed beneath a great sorrow, but as looking forward to a happiness that transcends this mortal joy that I have lost, even as the glory of things celestial transcends the glory of the terrestrial. Think of me, not as mourning the departed day, but as watching longingly for the first faint dawn of the day eternal. Above all, think of me not as alone but as wedded for all ages to her who has gone before me."
Ram Lal laid his hand on my arm and looked long into my eyes.
"Farewell for the present, my chance acquaintance," he said, "and remember that in me you have a friend. The day may come when you too will be in dire distress, beyond the skill of mere solitude and books to soothe. Farewell, and may all good things be with you."
Isaacs laid his two hands on my shoulders, and once more I met the wondrous lustre of his eyes, now veiled but not darkened with the last look of his tender friendship.
"Good-bye, my dear Griggs. You have been the instructor and the genius of my love. Learn yourself the lessons you can teach others so well. Be yourself what you would have made me."
One last loving look—one more pressure of the reluctant fingers, and those two went out, hand in hand, under the clear stars, and I saw them no more.
Footnote 1: Sir Gore Ousely, Notices of the Persian Poets.
Footnote 2: A fact, as is well known.