MRS. G. (Crossing to writing-table.) Here you are, Bear. What a mess you keep your table in!
CAPT. G. Don't touch it. There's a method in my madness, though you mightn't think of it.
MRS. G. (At table.) I want to look— Do you keep accounts, Pip?
CAPT. G. (Bending over saddlery.) Of a sort. Are you rummaging among the Troop papers? Be careful.
MRS. G. Why? I shan't disturb anything. Good gracious! I had no idea that you had anything to do with so many sick horses.
CAPT. G. 'Wish I hadn't, but they insist on falling sick. Minnie, if I were you I really should not investigate those papers. You may come across something that you won't like.
MRS. G. Why will you always treat me like a child? I know I'm not displacing the horrid things.
CAPT. G. (Resignedly.) Very well, then. Don't blame me if anything happens. Play with the table and let me go on with the saddlery. (Slipping hand into trousers-pocket.) Oh, the deuce!
MRS. G. (Her back to G.) What's that for?
CAPT. G. Nothing. (Aside.) There's not much in it, but I wish I'd torn it up.
MRS. G. (Turning over contents of table.) I know you'll hate me for this; but I do want to see what your work is like. (A pause.) Pip, what are 'farcy-buds'?
CAPT. G. Hah! Would you really like to know? They aren't pretty things.
MRS. G. This Journal of Veterinary Science says they are of 'absorbing interest.' Tell me.
CAPT. G. (Aside.) It may turn her attention.
Gives a long and designedly loathsome account of glanders and farcy
MRS. G. Oh, that's enough. Don't go on!
CAPT. G. But you wanted to know—Then these things suppurate and matterate and spread—
MRS. G. Pip, you're making me sick! You're a horrid, disgusting schoolboy.
CAPT. G. (On his knees among the bridles.) You asked to be told. It's not my fault if you worry me into talking about horrors.
MRS. G. Why didn't you say—No?
CAPT. G. Good Heavens, child! Have you come in here simply to bully me?
MRS. G. I bully you? How could I! You're so strong. (Hysterically.) Strong enough to pick me up and put me outside the door and leave me there to cry. Aren't you?
CAPT. G. It seems to me that you're an irrational little baby. Are you quite well?
MRS. G. Do I look ill? (Returning to table.) Who is your lady friend with the big gray envelope and the fat monogram outside?
CAPT. G. (Aside.) Then it wasn't locked up, confound it. (Aloud.) 'God made her, therefore let her pass for a woman.' You remember what farcy-buds are like?
MRS. G. (Showing envelope.) This has nothing to do with them. I'm going to open it. May I?
CAPT. G. Certainly, if you want to. I'd sooner you didn't, though. I don't ask to look at your letters to the Deercourt girl.
MRS. G. You'd better not, Sir! (Takes letter from envelope.) Now, may I look? If you say no, I shall cry.
CAPT. G. You've never cried in my knowledge of you, and I don't believe you could.
MRS. G. I feel very like it to-day, Pip. Don't be hard on me. (Reads letter.) It begins in the middle, without any 'Dear Captain Gadsby,' or anything. How funny!
CAPT. G. (Aside.) No, it's not Dear Captain Gadsby, or anything, now. How funny!
MRS. G. What a strange letter! (Reads.) 'And so the moth has come too near the candle at last, and has been singed into—shall I say Respectability? I congratulate him, and hope he will be as happy as he deserves to be.' What does that mean? Is she congratulating you about our marriage?
CAPT. G. Yes, I suppose so.
MRS. G. (Still reading letter.) She seems to be a particular friend of yours.
CAPT. G. Yes. She was an excellent matron of sorts—a Mrs. Herriott—wife of a Colonel Herriott. I used to know some of her people at Home long ago—before I came out.
MRS. G. Some Colonels' wives are young—as young as me. I knew one who was younger.
CAPT. G. Then it couldn't have been Mrs. Herriott. She was old enough to have been your mother, dear.
MRS. G. I remember now. Mrs. Scargill was talking about her at the Duffins' tennis, before you came for me, on Tuesday. Captain Mafflin said she was a 'dear old woman.' Do you know, I think Mafflin is a very clumsy man with his feet.
CAPT. G. (Aside.) Good old Jack! (Aloud.) Why, dear?
MRS. G. He had put his cup down on the ground then, and he literally stepped into it. Some of the tea spirted over my dress—the gray one. I meant to tell you about it before.
CAPT. G. (Aside.) There are the makings of a strategist about Jack, though his methods are coarse. (Aloud.) You'd better get a new dress, then. (Aside.) Let us pray that that will turn her.
MRS. G. Oh, it isn't stained in the least. I only thought that I'd tell you. (Returning to letter.) What an extraordinary person! (Reads.) 'But need I remind you that you have taken upon yourself a charge of wardship'—what in the world is a charge of wardship?—'which, as you yourself know, may end in Consequences—'
CAPT. G. (Aside.) It's safest to let 'em see everything as they come across it; but 'seems to me that there are exceptions to the rule. (Aloud.) I told you that there was nothing to be gained from rearranging my table.
MRS. G. (Absently.) What does the woman mean? She goes on talking about Consequences—'almost inevitable Consequences' with a capital C—for half a page. (Flushing scarlet.) Oh, good gracious! How abominable!
CAPT. G. (Promptly.) Do you think so? Doesn't it show a sort of motherly interest in us? (Aside.) Thank Heaven, Harry always wrapped her meaning up safely! (Aloud.) Is it absolutely necessary to go on with the letter, darling?
MRS. G. It's impertinent—it's simply horrid. What right has this woman to write in this way to you? She oughtn't to.
CAPT. G. When you write to the Deercourt girl, I notice that you generally fill three or four sheets. Can't you let an old woman babble on paper once in a way? She means well.
MRS. G. I don't care. She shouldn't write, and if she did, you ought to have shown me her letter.
CAPT. G. Can't you understand why I kept it to myself, or must I explain at length—as I explained the farcy-buds?
MRS. G. (Furiously.) Pip, I hate you! This is as bad as those idiotic saddle-bags on the floor. Never mind whether it would please me or not, you ought to have given it to me to read.
CAPT. G. It comes to the same thing. You took it yourself.
MRS. G. Yes, but if I hadn't taken it, you wouldn't have said a word. I think this Harriet Herriott—it's like a name in a book—is an interfering old Thing.
CAPT. G. (Aside.) So long as you thoroughly understand that she is old, I don't much care what you think. (Aloud.) Very good, dear. Would you like to write and tell her so? She's seven thousand miles away.
MRS. G. I don't want to have anything to do with her, but you ought to have told me. (Turning to last page of letter.) And she patronises me, too. I've never seen her! (Reads.) 'I do not know how the world stands with you; in all human probability I shall never know; but whatever I may have said before, I pray for her sake more than for yours that all may be well. I have learnt what misery means, and I dare not wish that any one dear to you should share my knowledge.'
CAPT. G. Good God! Can't you leave that letter alone, or, at least, can't you refrain from reading it aloud? I've been through it once. Put it back on the desk. Do you hear me?
MRS. G. (Irresolutely.) I sh—shan't! (Looks at G'.s eyes.) Oh, Pip, please! I didn't mean to make you angry—'Deed, I didn't. Pip, I'm so sorry. I know I've wasted your time——
CAPT. G. (Grimly.) You have. Now, will you be good enough to go—if there is nothing more in my room that you are anxious to pry into?
MRS. G. (Putting out her hands.) Oh, Pip, don't look at me like that! I've never seen you look like that before and it hu-urts me! I'm sorry. I oughtn't to have been here at all, and—and—and—(sobbing). Oh, be good to me! Be good to me! There's only you—anywhere!
Breaks down in long chair, hiding face in cushions.
CAPT. G. (Aside.) She doesn't know how she flicked me on the raw. (Aloud, bending over chair.) I didn't mean to be harsh, dear—I didn't really. You can stay here as long as you please, and do what you please. Don't cry like that. You'll make yourself sick. (Aside.) What on earth has come over her? (Aloud.) Darling, what's the matter with you?
MRS. G. (Her face still hidden.) Let me go—let me go to my own room. Only—only say you aren't angry with me.
CAPT. G. Angry with you, love! Of course not. I was angry with myself. I'd lost my temper over the saddlery—Don't hide your face, Pussy. I want to kiss it.
Bends lower, MRS. G. slides right arm round his neck. Several interludes and much sobbing.
MRS. G. (In a whisper.) I didn't mean about the jam when I came in to tell you——
CAPT. G. Bother the jam and the equipment! (Interlude.)
MRS. G. (Still more faintly.) My finger wasn't scalded at all. I—I wanted to speak to you about—about—something else, and—I didn't know how.
CAPT. G. Speak away, then. (Looking into her eyes.) Eh! Wha—at? Minnie! Here, don't go away! You don't mean?
MRS. G. (Hysterically, backing to portiere and hiding her face in its folds.) The—the Almost Inevitable Consequences! (Flits though portiere as G. attempts to catch her, and bolts herself in her own room.)
CAPT. G. (His arms full of portiere.) Oh! (Sitting down heavily in chair.) I'm a brute—a pig—a bully, and a blackguard. My poor, poor little darling! 'Made to be amused only—?
THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW
Knowing Good and Evil.
SCENE.—The GADSBYS' bungalow in the Plains, in June. Punkah-coolies asleep in veranda where CAPTAIN GADSBY is walking up and down. DOCTOR'S trap in porch. JUNIOR CHAPLAIN drifting generally and uneasily through the house. Time, 3.40 A. M. Heat 94 degrees in veranda.
DOCTOR. (Coming into veranda and touching G. on the shoulder.) You had better go in and see her now.
CAPT. G. (The colour of good cigar-ash.) Eh, wha-at? Oh, yes, of course. What did you say?
DOCTOR. (Syllable by syllable.) Go—in—to—the—room—and—see—her. She wants to speak to you. (Aside, testily.) I shall have him on my hands next.
JUNIOR CHAPLAIN. (In half-lighted dining-room.) Isn't there any—?
DOCTOR. (Savagely.) Hsh, you little fool!
JUNIOR CHAPLAIN. Let me do my work. Gadsby, stop a minute! (Edges after G.)
DOCTOR. Wait till she sends for you at least—at least. Man alive, he'll kill you if you go in there! What are you bothering him for?
JUNIOR CHAPLAIN. (Coming into veranda.) I've given him a stiff brandy-peg. He wants it. You've forgotten him for the last ten hours and—forgotten yourself too.
G. enters bedroom, which is lit by one night-lamp. Ayah on the floor pretending to be asleep.
VOICE. (_From the bed._) All down the street—such_ bonfires! _Ayah_, go and put them out! (_Appealingly._) How can I sleep with an installation of the C.I.E. in my room? No—not C.I.E. Something else. _What_ was it?
CAPT. G. (Trying to control his voice.) Minnie, I'm here. (Bending over bed.) Don't you know me, Minnie? It's me—it's Phil—it's your husband.
VOICE. (Mechanically.) It's me—it's Phil—it's your husband.
CAPT. G. She doesn't know me!—It's your own husband, darling,
VOICE. Your own husband, darling.
AYAH. (With an inspiration.) Memsahib understanding all I saying.
CAPT. G. Make her understand me then—quick!
AYAH. (Hand on MRS. G's forehead.) Memsahib! Captain Sahib here.
VOICE. Salma do. (Fretfully.) I know I'm not fit to be seen.
AYAH. (Aside to G.) Say 'marneen' same as breakfash.
CAPT. G. Good-morning, little woman. How are we to-day?
VOICE. That's Phil. Poor old Phil. (Viciously.) Phil, you fool, I can't see you. Come nearer.
CAPT. G. Minnie! Minnie! It's me—you know me?
VOICE. (Mockingly.) Of course I do. Who does not know the man who was so cruel to his wife—almost the only one he ever had?
CAPT. G. Yes, dear. Yes—of course, of course. But won't you speak to him? He wants to speak to you so much.
VOICE. They'd never let him in. The Doctor would give darwaza bund even if he were in the house. He'll never come. (Despairingly.) O Judas! Judas! Judas!
CAPT. G. (Putting out his arms.) They have let him in, and he always was in the house. Oh, my love—don't you know me?
VOICE. (In a half chant.) 'And it came to pass at the eleventh hour that this poor soul repented.' It knocked at the gates, but they were shut—tight as a plaster—a great, burning plaster. They had pasted our marriage certificate all across the door, and it was made of red-hot iron—people really ought to be more careful, you know.
CAPT. G. What am I to do? (Takes her in his arms.) Minnie! speak to me—to Phil.
VOICE. What shall I say? Oh, tell me what to say before it's too late! They are all going away and I can't say anything.
CAPT. G. Say you know me! Only say you know me!
DOCTOR. (Who has entered quietly.) For pity's sake don't take it too much to heart, Gadsby. It's this way sometimes. They won't recognise. They say all sorts of queer things—don't you see?
CAPT. G. All right! All right! Go away now, she'll recognise me; you're bothering her. She must—mustn't she?
DOCTOR. She will before— Have I your leave to try—?
CAPT. G. Anything you please, so long as she'll know me. It's only a question of—hours, isn't it?
DOCTOR. (Professionally.) While there's life there's hope, y'know. But don't build on it.
CAPT. G. I don't. Pull her together if it's possible. (Aside.) What have I done to deserve this?
DOCTOR. (Bending over bed.) Now, Mrs. Gadsby! We shall be all right to-morrow. You must take it, or I shan't let Phil see you. It isn't nasty, is it?
VOICE. Medicines! Always more medicines! Can't you leave me alone?
CAPT. G. Oh, leave her in peace, Doc!
DOCTOR. (Stepping back,—aside.) May I be forgiven if I've done wrong. (Aloud.) In a few minutes she ought to be sensible; but I daren't tell you to look for anything. It's only—
CAPT. G. What? Go on, man.
DOCTOR. (In a whisper.) Forcing the last rally.
CAPT. G. Then leave us alone.
DOCTOR. Don't mind what she says at first, if you can. They—they—they turn against those they love most sometimes in this.—It's hard, but—
CAPT. G. Am I her husband or are you? Leave us alone for what time we have together.
VOICE. (Confidentially.) And we were engaged quite suddenly, Emma. I assure you that I never thought of it for a moment; but, oh, my little Me!—I don't know what I should have done if he hadn't proposed.
CAPT. G. She thinks of that Deercourt girl before she thinks of me. (Aloud.) Minnie!
VOICE. Not from the shops, Mummy dear. You can get the real leaves from Kaintu, and (laughing weakly) never mind about the blossoms—Dead white silk is only fit for widows, and I won't wear it. It's as bad as a winding sheet. (A long pause.)
CAPT. G. I never asked a favour yet. If there is anybody to listen to me, let her know me—even if I die too!
VOICE. (Very faintly.) Pip, Pip dear.
CAPT. G. I'm here, darling.
VOICE. What has happened? They've been bothering me so with medicines and things, and they wouldn't let you come and see me. I was never ill before. Am I ill now?
CAPT. G. You—you aren't quite well.
VOICE. How funny! Have I been ill long?
CAPT. G. Some days; but you'll be all right in a little time.
VOICE. Do you think so, Pip? I don't feel well and—Oh! what have they done to my hair?
CAPT. G. I d-d-don't know.
VOICE. They've cut it off. What a shame!
CAPT. G. It must have been to make your head cooler.
VOICE. 'Just like a boy's wig. Don't I look horrid?
CAPT. G. Never looked prettier in your life, dear. (Aside.) How am I to ask her to say good-bye?
VOICE. I don't feel pretty. I feel very ill. My heart won't work. It's nearly dead inside me, and there's a funny feeling in my eyes. Everything seems the same distance—you and the almirah and the table—inside my eyes or miles away. What does it mean, Pip?
CAPT. G. You're a little feverish, Sweetheart—very feverish. (Breaking down.) My love! my love! How can I let you go?
VOICE. I thought so. Why didn't you tell me that at first?
CAPT. G. What?
VOICE. That I am going to—die.
CAPT. G. But you aren't! You shan't.
AYAH to punkah-coolie. (Stepping into veranda after a glance at the bed.) Punkah chor do! (Stop pulling the punkah.)
VOICE. It's hard, Pip. So very, very hard after one year—just one year. (Wailing.) And I'm only twenty. Most girls aren't even married at twenty. Can't they do anything to help me? I don't want to die.
CAPT. G. Hush, dear. You won't.
VOICE. What's the use of talking? Help me! You've never failed me yet. Oh, Phil, help me to keep alive. (Feverishly.) I don't believe you wish me to live. You weren't a bit sorry when that horrid Baby thing died. I wish I'd killed it!
CAPT. G. (Drawing his hand across his forehead.) It's more than a man's meant to bear—it's not right. (Aloud.) Minnie, love, I'd die for you if it would help.
VOICE. No more death. There's enough already. Pip, don't you die too.
CAPT. G. I wish I dared.
VOICE. It says: 'Till Death do us part.' Nothing after that—and so it would be no use. It stops at the dying. Why does it stop there? Only such a very short life, too. Pip, I'm sorry we married.
CAPT. G. No! Anything but that, Min!
VOICE. Because you'll forget and I'll forget. Oh, Pip, don't forget! I always loved you, though I was cross sometimes. If I ever did anything that you didn't like, say you forgive me now.
CAPT. G. You never did, darling. On my soul and honour you never did. I haven't a thing to forgive you.
VOICE. I sulked for a whole week about those petunias. (With a laugh.) What a little wretch I was, and how grieved you were! Forgive me that, Pip.
CAPT. G. There's nothing to forgive. It was my fault. They were too near the drive. For God's sake don't talk so, Minnie! There's such a lot to say and so little time to say it in.
VOICE. Say that you'll always love me—until the end.
CAPT. G. Until the end. (Carried away.) It's a lie. It must be, because we've loved each other. This isn't the end.
VOICE. (Relapsing into semi-delirium.) My Church-service has an ivory-cross on the back, and it says so, so it must be true. 'Till Death do us part.'—But that's a lie. (With a parody of G.'s manner.) A damned lie! (Recklessly.) Yes, I can swear as well as Trooper Pip. I can't make my head think, though. That's because they cut off my hair. How can one think with one's head all fuzzy? (Pleadingly.) Hold me, Pip! Keep me with you always and always. (Relapsing.) But if you marry the Thorniss girl when I'm dead, I'll come back and howl under our bedroom window all night. Oh, bother! You'll think I'm a jackal. Pip, what time is it?
CAPT. G. I—I—I can't help it, dear.
VOICE. How funny! I couldn't cry now to save my life. (G. shivers.) I want to sing.
CAPT. G. Won't it tire you? Better not, perhaps.
VOICE. Why? I won't be bothered about. (Begins in a hoarse quaver):—
'Minnie bakes oaten cake, Minnie brews ale, All because her Johnnie's coming home from the sea. (That's parade, Pip.) And she grows red as rose, who was so pale; And "Are you sure the church-clock goes?" says she.'
(Pettishly.) I knew I couldn't take the last note. How do the bass chords run? (Puts out her hands and begins playing piano on the sheet.)
CAPT. G. (Catching up hands.) Ahh! Don't do that, Pussy, if you love me.
VOICE. Love you? Of course I do. Who else should it be? (A pause.)
VOICE. (Very clearly.) Pip, I'm going now. Something's choking me cruelly. (Indistinctly.) Into the dark—without you, my heart.—But it's a lie, dear—we mustn't believe it.—For ever and ever, living or dead. Don't let me go, my husband—hold me tight.—They can't—whatever happens. (A cough.) Pip—my Pip! Not for always—and—so—soon! (Voice ceases.)
Pause of ten minutes. G. buries his face in the side of the bed while ayah bends over bed from opposite side and feels MRS. G.'s breast and forehead.
CAPT. G. (Rising.) Doctor Sahib ko salaam do.
AYAH. (Still by bedside, with a shriek.) Ai! Ai! Tuta—-phuta! My Memsahib! Not getting—not have got!—Pusseena agya! (The sweat has come.) (Fiercely to G.) TUM jao Doctor Sahib ko jaldi! (You go to the doctor.) Oh, my Memsahib!
DOCTOR. (Entering hastily.) Come away, Gadsby. (Bends over bed.) Eh! The Dev—What inspired you to stop the punkah? Get out, man—go away—wait outside! Go! Here, Ayah! (Over his shoulder to G.) Mind, I promise nothing.
The dawn breaks as G. stumbles into the garden.
CAPT. M. (Reining up at the gate on his way to parade and very soberly.) Old man, how goes?
CAPT. G. (Dazed.) I don't quite know. Stay a bit. Have a drink or something. Don't run away. You're just getting amusing. Ha! Ha!
CAPT. M. (Aside.) What am I let in for? Gaddy has aged ten years in the night.
CAPT. G. (Slowly, fingering charger's headstall.) Your curb's too loose.
CAPT. M. So it is. Put it straight, will you? (Aside.) I shall be late for parade. Poor Gaddy.
CAPT. G. links and unlinks curb-chain aimlessly, and finally stands staring towards the veranda. The day brightens.
DOCTOR. (Knocked out of professional gravity, tramping across flower-beds and shaking G.'s hands.) It's—it's—it's!—Gadsby, there's a fair chance—a dashed fair chance! The flicker, y'know. The sweat, y'know! I saw how it would be. The punkah, y'know. Deuced clever woman that Ayah of yours. Stopped the punkah just at the right time. A dashed good chance! No—you don't go in. We'll pull her through yet I promise on my reputation—under Providence. Send a man with this note to Bingle. Two heads better than one. 'Specially the Ayah! We'll pull her round. (Retreats hastily to house.)
CAPT. G. (His head on neck of M.'s charger.) Jack! I bub—bub—believe, I'm going to make a bub—bub—bloody exhibitiod of byself.
CAPT. M. (Sniffing openly and feeling in his left cuff.) I b-b—believe, I'b doing it already. Old bad, what cad I say? I'b as pleased as—Cod dab you, Gaddy! You're one big idiot and I'b adother. (Pulling himself together.) Sit tight! Here comes the Devil-dodger.
JUNIOR CHAPLAIN. (Who is not in the Doctor's confidence.) We—we are only men in these things, Gadsby. I know that I can say nothing now to help—
CAPT. M. (Jealously.) Then don't say it! Leave him alone. It's not bad enough to croak over. Here, Gaddy, take the chit to Bingle and ride hell-for-leather. It'll do you good. I can't go.
JUNIOR CHAPLAIN. Do him good! (Smiling.) Give me the chit and I'll drive. Let him lie down. Your horse is blocking my cart—please!
CAPT. M. (Slowly without reining back.) I beg your pardon—I'll apologise. On paper if you like.
JUNIOR CHAPLAIN. (Flicking M.'s charger.) That'll do, thanks. Turn in, Gadsby, and I'll bring Bingle back—ahem—'hell-for-leather.'
CAPT. M. (Solus.) It would have served me right if he'd cut me across the face. He can drive too. I shouldn't care to go that pace in a bamboo cart. What a faith he must have in his Maker—of harness! Come hup, you brute! (Gallops off to parade, blowing his nose, as the sun rises.)
(INTERVAL OF FIVE WEEKS.)
MRS. G. (Very white and pinched, in morning wrapper at breakfast table.) How big and strange the room looks, and oh how glad I am to see it again! What dust, though! I must talk to the servants. Sugar, Pip? I've almost forgotten. (Seriously.) Wasn't I very ill?
CAPT. G. Iller than I liked. (Tenderly.) Oh, you bad little Pussy, what a start you gave me!
MRS. G. I'll never do it again.
CAPT. G. You'd better not. And now get those poor pale cheeks pink again, or I shall be angry. Don't try to lift the urn. You'll upset it. Wait. (Comes round to head of table and lifts urn.)
MRS. G. (Quickly.) Khitmatgar, bowarchi-khana see kettly lao. Butler, get a kettle from the cook-house. (Drawing down G.'s face to her own.) Pip dear, I remember.
CAPT. G. What?
MRS. G. That last terrible night.
CAPT. G. Then just you forget all about it.
MRS. G. (Softly, her eyes filling.) Never. It has brought us very close together, my husband. There! (Interlude.) I'm going to give Junda a saree.
CAPT. G. I gave her fifty dibs.
MRS. G. So she told me. It was a 'normous reward. Was I worth it? (Several interludes.) Don't! Here's the khitmatgar.—Two lumps or one, Sir?
THE SWELLING OF JORDAN
If thou hast run with the footmen and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? And if in the land of peace wherein thou trustedst they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?
SCENE.—The GADSEYS' bungalow in the Plains, on a January morning. MRS. G. arguing with bearer in back veranda.
CAPT. M. rides up.
CAPT. M. 'Mornin', Mrs. Gadsby. How's the Infant Phenomenon and the Proud Proprietor?
MRS. G. You'll find them in the front veranda; go through the house. I'm Martha just now.
CAPT. M. 'Cumbered about with cares of khitmatgars? I fly.
Passes into front veranda, where GADSBY is watching GADSBY JUNIOR, aged ten months, crawling about the matting.
CAPT. M. What's the trouble, Gaddy—spoiling an honest man's Europe morning this way? (Seeing G. JUNIOR.) By Jove, that yearling's comin' on amazingly! Any amount of bone below the knee there.
CAPT. G. Yes, he's a healthy little scoundrel. Don't you think his hair's growing?
M. Let's have a look. Hi! Hst! Come here, General Luck, and we'll report on you.
MRS. G. (Within.) What absurd name will you give him next? Why do you call him that?
M. Isn't he our Inspector-General of Cavalry? Doesn't he come down in his seventy-two perambulator every morning the Pink Hussars parade? Don't wriggle, Brigadier. Give us your private opinion on the way the third squadron went past. 'Trifle ragged, weren't they?
G. A bigger set of tailors than the new draft I don't wish to see. They've given me more than my fair share—knocking the squadron out of shape. It's sickening!
M. When you're in command, you'll do better, young 'un. Can't you walk yet? Get my finger and try. (To G.) 'Twon't hurt his hocks, will it?
G. Oh, no. Don't let him flop, though, or he'll lick all the blacking off your boots.
MRS. G. (Within.) Who's destroying my son's character?
M. And my Godson's. I'm ashamed of you, Gaddy. Punch your father in the eye, Jack! Don't you stand it! Hit him again!
G. (Sotto voce.) Put The Butcha down and come to the end of the veranda. I'd rather the Wife didn't hear—just now.
M. You look awf'ly serious. Anything wrong?
G. 'Depends on your view entirely. I say, Jack, you won't think more hardly of me than you can help, will you? Come further this way.—The fact of the matter is, that I've made up my mind—at least I'm thinking seriously of—cutting the Service.
G. Don't shout. I'm going to send in my papers.
M. You! Are you mad?
G. No—only married.
M. Look here! What's the meaning of it all? You never intend to leave us. You can't. Isn't the best squadron of the best regiment of the best cavalry in all the world good enough for you?
G. (Jerking his head over his shoulder.) She doesn't seem to thrive in this God-forsaken country, and there's The Butcha to be considered and all that, you know.
M. Does she say that she doesn't like India?
G. That's the worst of it. She won't for fear of leaving me.
M. What are the Hills made for?
G. Not for my wife at any rate.
M. You know too much, Gaddy, and—I don't like you any the better for it!
G. Never mind that. She wants England, and The Butcha would be all the better for it. I'm going to chuck. You don't understand.
M. (Hotly.) I understand this. One hundred and thirty-seven new horses to be licked into shape somehow before Luck comes round again; a hairy-heeled draft who'll give more trouble than the horses; a camp next cold weather for a certainty; ourselves the first on the roster; the Russian shindy ready to come to a head at five minutes' notice, and you, the best of us all, backing out of it all! Think a little, Gaddy. You won't do it.
G. Hang it, a man has some duties towards his family, I suppose.
M. I remember a man, though, who told me, the night after Amdheran, when we were picketed under Jagai, and he'd left his sword—by the way, did you ever pay Ranken for that sword?—in an Utmanzai's head—that man told me that he'd stick by me and the Pinks as long as he lived. I don't blame him for not sticking by me—I'm not much of a man—but I do blame him for not sticking by the Pink Hussars.
G. (Uneasily.) We were little more than boys then. Can't you see, Jack, how things stand? 'Tisn't as if we were serving for our bread. We've all of us, more or less, got the filthy lucre. I'm luckier than some, perhaps. There's no call for me to serve on.
M. None in the world for you or for us, except the Regimental. If you don't choose to answer to that, of course—
G. Don't be too hard on a man. You know that a lot of us only take up the thing for a few years and then go back to Town and catch on with the rest.
M. Not lots, and they aren't some of Us.
G. And then there are one's affairs at Home to be considered—my place and the rents, and all that. I don't suppose my father can last much longer, and that means the title, and so on.
M. 'Fraid you won't be entered in the Stud Book correctly unless you go Home? Take six months, then, and come out in October. If I could slay off a brother or two, I s'pose I should be a Marquis of sorts. Any fool can be that; but it needs men, Gaddy—men like you—to lead flanking squadrons properly. Don't you delude yourself into the belief that you're going Home to take your place and prance about among pink-nosed Kabuli dowagers. You aren't built that way. I know better.
G. A man has a right to live his life as happily as he can. You aren't married.
M. No—praise be to Providence and the one or two women who have had the good sense to jawab me.
G. Then you don't know what it is to go into your own room and see your wife's head on the pillow, and when everything else is safe and the house shut up for the night, to wonder whether the roof-beams won't give and kill her.
M. (Aside.) Revelations first and second! (Aloud.) So-o! I knew a man who got squiffy at our Mess once and confided to me that he never helped his wife on to her horse without praying that she'd break her neck before she came back. All husbands aren't alike, you see.
G. What on earth has that to do with my case? The man must ha' been mad, or his wife as bad as they make 'em.
M. (Aside.) 'No fault of yours if either weren't all you say. You've forgotten the tune when you were insane about the Herriott woman. You always were a good hand at forgetting. (Aloud.) Not more mad than men who go to the other extreme. Be reasonable, Gaddy. Your roof-beams are sound enough.
G. That was only a way of speaking. I've been uneasy and worried about the Wife ever since that awful business three years ago—when—I nearly lost her. Can you wonder?
M. Oh, a shell never falls twice in the same place. You've paid your toll to misfortune—why should your wife be picked out more than anybody else's?
G. I can talk just as reasonably as you can, but you don't understand—you don't understand. And then there's The Butcha. Deuce knows where the Ayah takes him to sit in the evening! He has a bit of a cough. Haven't you noticed it?
M. Bosh! The Brigadier's jumping out of his skin with pure condition. He's got a muzzle like a rose-leaf and the chest of a two-year-old. What's demoralised you?
G. Funk. That's the long and the short of it. Funk!
M. But what is there to funk?
G. Everything. It's ghastly.
M. Ah! I see.
You don't want to fight, And by Jingo when we do, You've got the kid, you've got the Wife, You've got the money, too.
That's about the case, eh?
G. I suppose that's it. But it's not for myself. It's because of them. At least I think it is.
M. Are you sure? Looking at the matter in a cold-blooded light, the Wife is provided for even if you were wiped out to-night. She has an ancestral home to go to, money, and the Brigadier to carry on the illustrious name.
G. Then it is for myself or because they are part of me. You don't see it. My life's so good, so pleasant, as it is, that I want to make it quite safe. Can't you understand?
M. Perfectly. 'Shelter-pit for the Orf'cer's charger,' as they say in the Line.
G. And I have everything to my hand to make it so. I'm sick of the strain and the worry for their sakes out here; and there isn't a single real difficulty to prevent my dropping it altogether. It'll only cost me—Jack, I hope you'll never know the shame that I've been going through for the past six months.
M. Hold on there! I don't wish to be told. Every man has his moods and tenses sometimes.
G. (Laughing bitterly.) Has he? What do you call craning over to see where your near-fore lands?
M. In my case it means that I have been on the Considerable Bend, and have come to parade with a Head and a Hand. It passes in three strides.
G. (Lowering voice.) It never passes with me, Jack. I'm always thinking about it. Phil Gadsby funking a fall on parade! Sweet picture, isn't it! Draw it for me.
M. (Gravely.) Heaven forbid! A man like you can't be as bad as that. A fall is no nice thing, but one never gives it a thought.
G. Doesn't one? Wait till you've got a wife and a youngster of your own, and then you'll know how the roar of the squadron behind you turns you cold all up the back.
M. (Aside.) And this man led at Amdheran after Bagal-Deasin went under, and we were all mixed up together, and he came out of the show dripping like a butcher. (Aloud.) Skittles! The men can always open out, and you can always pick your way more or less. We haven't the dust to bother us, as the men have, and whoever heard of a horse stepping on a man?
G. Never—as long as he can see. But did they open out for poor Errington?
M. Oh, this is childish!
G. I know it is, worse than that. I don't care. You've ridden Van Loo. Is he the sort of brute to pick his way—'specially when we're coming up in column of troop with any pace on?
M. Once in a Blue Moon do we gallop in column of troop, and then only to save time. Aren't three lengths enough for you?
G. Yes—quite enough. They just allow for the full development of the smash. I'm talking like a cur, I know: but I tell you that, for the past three months, I've felt every hoof of the squadron in the small of my back every time that I've led.
M. But, Gaddy, this is awful!
G. Isn't it lovely? Isn't it royal? A Captain of the Pink Hussars watering up his charger before parade like the blasted boozing Colonel of a Black Regiment!
M. You never did!
G. Once only. He squelched like a mussuck, and the Troop-Sergeant-Major cocked his eye at me. You know old Haffy's eye. I was afraid to do it again.
M. I should think so. That was the best way to rupture old Van Loo's tummy, and make him crumple you up. You knew that.
G. I didn't care. It took the edge off him.
M. 'Took the edge off him'? Gaddy, you—you—you mustn't, you know! Think of the men.
G. That's another thing I am afraid of. D'you s'pose they know?
M. Let's hope not; but they're deadly quick to spot skrim—little things of that kind. See here, old man, send the Wife Home for the hot weather and come to Kashmir with me. We'll start a boat on the Dal or cross the Rhotang—shoot ibex or loaf—which you please. Only come! You're a bit off your oats and you're talking nonsense. Look at the Colonel—swag-bellied rascal that he is. He has a wife and no end of a bow-window of his own. Can any one of us ride round him—chalk-stones and all? I can't, and I think I can shove a crock along a bit.
G. Some men are different. I haven't the nerve. Lord help me, I haven't the nerve! I've taken up a hole and a half to get my knees well under the wallets. I can't help it. I'm so afraid of anything happening to me. On my soul, I ought to be broke in front of the squadron, for cowardice.
M. Ugly word, that. I should never have the courage to own up.
G. I meant to lie about my reasons when I began, but—I've got out of the habit of lying to you, old man. Jack, you won't?—But I know you won't.
M. Of course not. (Half aloud.) The Pinks are paying dearly for their Pride.
G. Eh! Wha-at?
M. Don't you know? The men have called Mrs. Gadsby the Pride of the Pink Hussars ever since she came to us.
G. 'Tisn't her fault. Don't think that. It's all mine.
M. What does she say?
G. I haven't exactly put it before her. She's the best little woman in the world, Jack, and all that—but she wouldn't counsel a man to stick to his calling if it came between him and her. At least, I think—
M. Never mind. Don't tell her what you told me. Go on the Peerage and Landed-Gentry tack.
G. She'd see through it. She's five times cleverer than I am.
M. (Aside.) Then she'll accept the sacrifice and think a little bit worse of him for the rest of her days.
G. (Absently.) I say, do you despise me?
M. 'Queer way of putting it. Have you ever been asked that question? Think a minute. What answer used you to give?
G. So bad as that? I'm not entitled to expect anything more, but it's a bit hard when one's best friend turns round and—
M. So I have found. But you will have consolations—Bailiffs and Drains and Liquid Manure and the Primrose League, and, perhaps, if you're lucky, the Colonelcy of a Yeomanry Cav-al-ry Regiment—all uniform and no riding, I believe. How old are you?
G. Thirty-three. I know it's—
M. At forty you'll be a fool of a J.P. landlord. At fifty you'll own a bath-chair, and The Brigadier, if he takes after you, will be fluttering the dovecotes of—what's the particular dunghill you're going to? Also, Mrs. Gadsby will be fat.
G. (Limply.) This is rather more than a joke.
M. D'you think so? Isn't cutting the Service a joke? It generally takes a man fifty years to arrive at it. You're quite right, though. It is more than a joke. You've managed it in thirty-three.
G. Don't make me feel worse than I do. Will it satisfy you if I own that I am a shirker, a skrim-shanker, and a coward?
M. It will not, because I'm the only man in the world who can talk to you like this without being knocked down. You mustn't take all that I've said to heart in this way. I only spoke—a lot of it at least—out of pure selfishness, because, because—Oh, damn it all, old man,—I don't know what I shall do without you. Of course, you've got the money and the place and all that—and there are two very good reasons why you should take care of yourself.
G. 'Doesn't make it any the sweeter. I'm backing out—I know I am. I always had a soft drop in me somewhere—and I daren't risk any danger to them.
M. Why in the world should you? You're bound to think of your family—bound to think. Er-hmm. If I wasn't a younger son I'd go too—be shot if I wouldn't!
G. Thank you, Jack. It's a kind lie, but it's the blackest you've told for some time. I know what I'm doing, and I'm going into it with my eyes open. Old man, I can't help it. What would you do if you were in my place?
M. (Aside.) 'Couldn't conceive any woman getting permanently between me and the Regiment. (Aloud.) 'Can't say. 'Very likely I should do no better. I'm sorry for you—awf'ly sorry—but 'if them's your sentiments,' I believe, I really do, that you are acting wisely.
G. Do you? I hope you do. (In a whisper.) Jack, be very sure of yourself before you marry. I'm an ungrateful ruffian to say this, but marriage—even as good a marriage as mine has been—hampers a man's work, it cripples his sword-arm, and oh, it plays Hell with his notions of duty! Sometimes—good and sweet as she is—sometimes I could wish that I had kept my freedom—No, I don't mean that exactly.
MRS. G. (Coming down the veranda.) What are you wagging your head over, Pip?
M. (Turning quickly.) Me, as usual. The old sermon. Your husband is recommending me to get married. 'Never saw such a one-ideaed man!
MRS. G. Well, why don't you? I daresay you would make some woman very happy.
G. There's the Law and the Prophets, Jack. Never mind the Regiment. Make a woman happy. (Aside.) O Lord!
M. We'll see. I must be off to make a Troop Cook desperately unhappy. I won't have the wily Hussar fed on Government Bullock Train shinbones—(Hastily.) Surely black ants can't be good for The Brigadier. He's picking 'em off the matting and eating 'em. Here, Senor Commandante Don Grubbynose, come and talk to me. (Lifts G. JUNIOR in his arms.) 'Want my watch? You won't be able to put it into your mouth, but you can try. (G. JUNIOR drops watch, breaking dial and hands.)
MRS. G. Oh, Captain Mafflin, I am so sorry! Jack, you bad, bad little villain. Ahhh!
M. It's not the least consequence, I assure you. He'd treat the world in the same way if he could get it into his hands. Everything's made to be played with and broken, isn't it, young 'un?
* * * * *
MRS. G. Mafflin didn't at all like his watch being broken, though he was too polite to say so. It was entirely his fault for giving it to the child. Dem little puds are werry, werry feeble, aren't dey, my Jack-in-de-box? (To G.) What did he want to see you for?
G. Regimental shop as usual.
MRS. G. The Regiment! Always the Regiment. On my word, I sometimes feel jealous of Mafflin.
G. (Wearily.) Poor old Jack? I don't think you need. Isn't it time for The Butcha to have his nap? Bring a chair out here, dear. I've got something to talk over with you.
AND THIS IS THE END OF THE STORY OF THE GADSBYS.
What is the moral? Who rides may read. When the night is thick and the tracks are blind. A friend at a pinch is a friend indeed; But a fool to wait for the laggard behind: Down to Gehenna or up to the Throne He travels the fastest who travels alone.
White hands cling to the tightened rein, Slipping the spur from the booted heel, Tenderest voices cry, 'Turn again,' Red lips tarnish the scabbarded steel, High hopes faint on a warm hearth-stone— He travels the fastest who travels alone.
One may fall but he falls by himself— Falls by himself with himself to blame; One may attain and to him is the pelf, Loot of the city in Gold of Fame; Plunder of earth shall be all his own Who travels the fastest and travels alone.
Wherefore the more ye be holpen and stayed— Stayed by a friend in the hour of toil, Sing the heretical song I have made— His be the labour and yours be the spoil. Win by his aid and the aid of disown— He travels the fastest who travels alone.
DRAY WARA YOW DEE
For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance. —Prov. vi. 34.
Almonds and raisins, Sahib? Grapes from Kabul? Or a pony of the rarest if the Sahib will only come with me. He is thirteen three, Sahib, plays polo, goes in a cart, carries a lady and—Holy Kurshed and the Blessed Imams, it is the Sahib himself! My heart is made fat and my eye glad. May you never be tired! As is cold water in the Tirah, so is the sight of a friend in a far place. And what do you in this accursed land? South of Delhi, Sahib, you know the saying—'Rats are the men and trulls the women.' It was an order? Ahoo! An order is an order till one is strong enough to disobey. O my brother, O my friend, we have met in an auspicious hour! Is all well in the heart and the body and the house? In a lucky day have we two come together again.
I am to go with you? Your favour is great. Will there be picket-room in the compound? I have three horses and the bundles and the horse-boy. Moreover, remember that the police here hold me a horse-thief. What do these Lowland bastards know of horse-thieves? Do you remember that time in Peshawur when Kamal hammered on the gates of Jumrud—mountebank that he was—and lifted the Colonel's horses all in one night? Kamal is dead now, but his nephew has taken up the matter, and there will be more horses amissing if the Khaiber Levies do not look to it.
The Peace of God and the favour of His Prophet be upon this house and all that is in it! Shafizullah, rope the mottled mare under the tree and draw water. The horses can stand in the sun, but double the felts over the loins. Nay, my friend, do not trouble to look them over. They are to sell to the Officer fools who know so many tilings of the horse. The mare is heavy in foal; the gray is a devil unlicked; and the dun—but you know the trick of the peg. When they are sold I go back to Pubbi, or, it may be, the Valley of Peshawur.
O friend of my heart, it is good to see you again. I have been bowing and lying all day to the Officer-Sahibs in respect to those horses; and my mouth is dry for straight talk. Auggrh! Before a meal tobacco is good. Do not join me, for we are not in our own country. Sit in the veranda and I will spread my cloth here. But first I will drink. In the name of God returning thanks, thrice! This is sweet water, indeed—sweet as the water of Sheoran when it comes from the snows.
They are all well and pleased in the North—Khoda Baksh and the others. Yar Khan has come down with the horses from Kurdistan—six and thirty head only, and a full half pack-ponies—and has said openly in the Kashmir Serai that you English should send guns and blow the Amir into Hell. There are fifteen rolls now on the Kabul road; and at Dakka, when he thought he was clear, Yar Khan was stripped of all his Balkh stallions by the Governor! This is a great injustice, and Yar Khan is hot with rage. And of the others: Mahbub Ali is still at Pubbi, writing God knows what. Tugluq Khan is in jail for the business of the Kohat Police Post. Faiz Beg came down from Ismail-ki-Dhera with a Bokhariot belt for thee, my brother, at the closing of the year, but none knew whither thou hadst gone: there was no news left behind. The Cousins have taken a new run near Pakpattan to breed mules for the Government carts, and there is a story in Bazar of a priest. Oho! Such a salt tale! Listen—
Sahib, why do you ask that? My clothes are fouled because of the dust on the road. My eyes are sad because of the glare of the sun. My feet are swollen because I have washed them in bitter water, and my cheeks are hollow because the food here is bad. Fire burn your money! What do I want with it? I am rich and I thought you were my friend; but you are like the others—a Sahib. Is a man sad? Give him money, say the Sahibs. Is he dishonoured? Give him money, say the Sahibs. Hath he a wrong upon his head? Give him money, say the Sahibs. Such are the Sahibs, and such art thou—even thou.
Nay, do not look at the feet of the dun. Pity it is that I ever taught you to know the legs of a horse. Footsore? Be it so. What of that? The roads are hard. And the mare footsore? She bears a double burden, Sahib.
And now I pray you, give me permission to depart. Great favour and honour has the Sahib done me, and graciously has he shown his belief that the horses are stolen. Will it please him to send me to the Thana? To call a sweeper and have me led away by one of these lizard-men? I am the Sahib's friend. I have drunk water in the shadow of his house, and he has blackened my face. Remains there anything more to do? Will the Sahib give me eight annas to make smooth the injury and—complete the insult—?
Forgive me, my brother. I knew not—I know not now—what I say. Yes, I lied to you! I will put dust on my head—and I am an Afridi! The horses have been marched footsore from the Valley to this place, and my eyes are dim, and my body aches for the want of sleep, and my heart is dried up with sorrow and shame. But as it was my shame, so by God the Dispenser of Justice—by Allah-al-Mumit—it shall be my own revenge!
We have spoken together with naked hearts before this, and our hands have dipped into the same dish and thou hast been to me as a brother. Therefore I pay thee back with lies and ingratitude—as a Pathan. Listen now! When the grief of the soul is too heavy for endurance it may be a little eased by speech, and, moreover, the mind of a true man is as a well, and the pebble of confession dropped therein sinks and is no more seen. From the Valley have I come on foot, league by league, with a fire in my chest like the fire of the Pit. And why? Hast thou, then, so quickly forgotten our customs, among this folk who sell their wives and their daughters for silver? Come back with me to the North and be among men once more. Come back, when this matter is accomplished and I call for thee! The bloom of the peach-orchards is upon all the Valley, and here is only dust and a great stink. There is a pleasant wind among the mulberry trees, and the streams are bright with snow-water, and the caravans go up and the caravans go down, and a hundred fires sparkle in the gut of the Pass, and tent-peg answers hammer-nose, and pack-horse squeals to pack-horse across the drift smoke of the evening. It is good in the North now. Come back with me. Let us return to our own people! Come!
* * * * *
Whence is my sorrow? Does a man tear out his heart and make fritters thereof over a slow fire for aught other than a woman? Do not laugh, friend of mine, for your time will also be. A woman of the Abazai was she, and I took her to wife to staunch the feud between our village and the men of Ghor. I am no longer young? The lime has touched my beard? True. I had no need of the wedding? Nay, but I loved her. What saith Rahman: 'Into whose heart Love enters, there is Folly and naught else. By a glance of the eye she hath blinded thee; and by the eyelids and the fringe of the eyelids taken thee into the captivity without ransom, and naught else.' Dost thou remember that song at the sheep-roasting in the Pindi camp among the Uzbegs of the Amir?
The Abazai are dogs and their women the servants of sin. There was a lover of her own people, but of that her father told me naught. My friend, curse for me in your prayers, as I curse at each praying from the Fakr to the Isha, the name of Daoud Shah, Abazai, whose head is still upon his neck, whose hands are still upon his wrists, who has done me dishonour, who has made my name a laughing-stock among the women of Little Malikand.
I went into Hindustan at the end of two months—to Cherat. I was gone twelve days only; but I had said that I would be fifteen days absent. This I did to try her, for it is written: 'Trust not the incapable.' Coming up the gorge alone in the falling of the light, I heard the voice of a man singing at the door of my house; and it was the voice of Daoud Shah, and the song that he sang was 'Dray wara yow dee'—'All three are one.' It was as though a heelrope had been slipped round my heart and all the Devils were drawing it tight past endurance. I crept silently up the hill-road, but the fuse of my matchlock was wetted with the rain, and I could not slay Daoud Shah from afar. Moreover, it was in my mind to kill the woman also. Thus he sang, sitting outside my house, and, anon, the woman opened the door, and I came nearer, crawling on my belly among the rocks. I had only my knife to my hand. But a stone slipped under my foot, and the two looked down the hillside, and he, leaving his matchlock, fled from my anger, because he was afraid for the life that was in him. But the woman moved not till I stood in front of her, crying: 'O woman, what is this that thou hast done?' And she, void of fear, though she knew my thought, laughed, saying: 'It is a little thing. I loved him, and thou art a dog and cattle-thief coming by night. Strike!' And I, being still blinded by her beauty, for, O my friend, the women of the Abazai are very fair, said: 'Hast thou no fear?' And she answered: 'None—but only the fear that I do not die.' Then said I: 'Have no fear.' And she bowed her head, and I smote it off at the neck-bone so that it leaped between my feet. Thereafter the rage of our people came upon me, and I hacked off the breasts, that the men of Little Malikand might know the crime, and cast the body into the water-course that flows to the Kabul river. Dray wara yow dee! Dray wara yow dee! The body without the head, the soul without light, and my own darkling heart—all three are one—all three are one!
That night, making no halt, I went to Ghor and demanded news of Daoud Shah. Men said: 'He is gone to Pubbi for horses. What wouldst thou of him? There is peace between the villages.' I made answer: 'Aye! The peace of treachery and the love that the Devil Atala bore to Gurel.' So I fired thrice into the gate and laughed and went my way.
In those hours, brother and friend of my heart's heart, the moon and the stars were as blood above me, and in my mouth was the taste of dry earth. Also, I broke no bread, and my drink was the rain of the Valley of Ghor upon my face.
At Pubbi I found Mahbub Ali, the writer, sitting upon his charpoy and gave up my arms according to your Law. But I was not grieved, for it was in my heart that I should kill Daoud Shah with my bare hands thus—as a man strips a bunch of raisins. Mahbub Ali said: 'Daoud Shah has even now gone hot-foot to Peshawur, and he will pick up his horses upon the road to Delhi, for it is said that the Bombay Tramway Company are buying horses there by the truck-load; eight horses to the truck.' And that was a true saying.
Then I saw that the hunting would be no little thing, for the man was gone into your borders to save himself against my wrath. And shall he save himself so? Am I not alive? Though he run northward to the Dora and the snow, or southerly to the Black Water, I will follow him, as a lover follows the footsteps of his mistress, and coming upon him I will take him tenderly—Aho! so tenderly!—in my arms, saying: 'Well hast thou done and well shalt thou be repaid.' And out of that embrace Daoud Shah shall not go forth with the breath in his nostrils. Auggrh! Where is the pitcher? I am as thirsty as a mother-mare in the first month.
Your Law! What is your Law to me? When the horses fight on the runs do they regard the boundary pillars; or do the kites of Ali Musjid forbear because the carrion lies under the shadow of Ghor Kuttri? The matter began across the Border. It shall finish where God pleases. Here, in my own country, or in Hell. All three are one.
Listen now, sharer of the sorrow of my heart, and I will tell of the hunting. I followed to Peshawur from Pubbi, and I went to and fro about the streets of Peshawur like a houseless dog, seeking for my enemy. Once I thought I saw him washing his mouth in the conduit in the big square, but when I came up he was gone. It may be that it was he, and, seeing my face, he had fled.
A girl of the bazar said that he would go to Nowshera. I said: 'O heart's heart, does Daoud Shah visit thee?' And she said: 'Even so.' I said: 'I would fain see him, for we be friends parted for two years. Hide me, I pray, here in the shadow of the window shutter, and I will wait for his coming.' And the girl said: 'O Pathan, look into my eyes!' And I turned, leaning upon her breast, and looked into her eyes, swearing that I spoke the very Truth of God. But she answered: 'Never friend waited friend with such eyes. Lie to God and the Prophet, but to a woman ye cannot lie. Get hence! There shall be no harm befall Daoud Shah by cause of me.'
I would have strangled that girl but for the fear of your Police; and thus the hunting would have come to naught. Therefore I only laughed and departed, and she leaned over the window-bar in the night and mocked me down the street. Her name is Jamun. When I have made my account with the man I will return to Peshawur and—her lovers shall desire her no more for her beauty's sake. She shall not be Jamun but Ak, the cripple among trees. Ho! Ho! Ak shall she be!
At Peshawur I bought the horses and grapes, and the almonds and dried fruits, that the reason of my wanderings might be open to the Government, and that there might be no hindrance upon the road. But when I came to Nowshera he was gone, and I knew not where to go. I stayed one day at Nowshera, and in the night a Voice spoke in my ears as I slept among the horses. All night it flew round my head and would not cease from whispering. I was upon my belly, sleeping as the Devils sleep, and it may have been that the Voice was the voice of a Devil. It said: 'Go south, and thou shalt come upon Daoud Shah.' Listen, my brother and chiefest among friends—listen! Is the tale a long one? Think how it was long to me. I have trodden every league of the road from Pubbi to this place; and from Nowshera my guide was only the Voice and the lust of vengeance.
To the Uttock I went, but that was no hindrance to me. Ho! Ho! A man may turn the word twice, even in his trouble. The Uttock was no uttock (obstacle) to me; and I heard the Voice above the noise of the waters beating on the big rock, saying: 'Go to the right.' So I went to Pindigheb, and in those days my sleep was taken from me utterly, and the head of the woman of the Abazai was before me night and day, even as it had fallen between my feet. Dray wara yow dee! Dray wara yow dee! Fire, ashes, and my couch, all three are one—all three are one!
Now I was far from the winter path of the dealers who had gone to Sialkot and so south by the rail and the Big Road to the line of cantonments; but there was a Sahib in camp at Pindigheb who bought from me a white mare at a good price, and told me that one Daoud Shah had passed to Shahpur with horses. Then I saw that the warning of the Voice was true, and made swift to come to the Salt Hills. The Jhelum was in flood, but I could not wait, and, in the crossing, a bay stallion was washed down and drowned. Herein was God hard to me—not in respect of the beast, of that I had no care—but in this snatching. While I was upon the right bank urging the horses into the water, Daoud Shah was upon the left; for—Alghias! Alghias!—the hoofs of my mare scattered the hot ashes of his fires when we came up the hither bank in the light of morning. But he had fled. His feet were made swift by the terror of Death. And I went south from Shahpur as the kite flies. I dared not turn aside, lest I should miss my vengeance—which is my right. From Shahpur I skirted by the Jhelum, for I thought that he would avoid the Desert of the Rechna. But, presently, at Sahiwal, I turned away upon the road to Jhang, Samundri, and Gugera, till, upon a night, the mottled mare breasted the fence of the rail that turns to Montgomery. And that place was Okara, and the head of the woman of the Abazai lay upon the sand between my feet.
Thence I went to Fazilka, and they said that I was mad to bring starved horses there. The Voice was with me, and I was not mad, but only wearied, because I could not find Daoud Shah. It was written that I should not find him at Rania nor Bahadurgarh, and I came into Delhi from the west, and there also I found him not. My friend, I have seen many strange things in my wanderings. I have seen Devils rioting across the Rechna as the stallions riot in spring. I have heard the Djinns calling to each other from holes in the sand, and I have seen them pass before my face. There are no Devils, say the Sahibs? They are very wise, but they do not know all things about devils or—horses. Ho! Ho! I say to you who are laughing at my misery, that I have seen the Devils at high noon whooping and leaping on the shoals of the Chenab. And was I afraid? My brother, when the desire of a man is set upon one thing alone, he fears neither God nor Man nor Devil. If my vengeance failed, I would splinter the Gates of Paradise with the butt of my gun, or I would cut my way into Hell with my knife, and I would call upon Those who Govern there for the body of Daoud Shah. What love so deep as hate?
Do not speak. I know the thought in your heart. Is the white of this eye clouded? How does the blood beat at the wrist? There is no madness in my flesh, but only the vehemence of the desire that has eaten me up. Listen!
South of Delhi I knew not the country at all. Therefore I cannot say where I went, but I passed through many cities. I knew only that it was laid upon me to go south. When the horses could march no more, I threw myself upon the earth, and waited till the day. There was no sleep with me in that journeying; and that was a heavy burden. Dost thou know, brother of mine, the evil of wakefulness that cannot break—when the bones are sore for lack of sleep, and the skin of the temples twitches with weariness, and yet—there is no sleep—there is no sleep? Dray wara yow dee! Dray wara yow dee! The eye of the Sun, the eye of the Moon, and my own unrestful eyes—all three are one—all three are one!
There was a city the name whereof I have forgotten, and there the Voice called all night. That was ten days ago. It has cheated me afresh.
I have come hither from a place called Hamirpur, and, behold, it is my Fate that I should meet with thee to my comfort, and the increase of friendship. This is a good omen. By the joy of looking upon thy face the weariness has gone from my feet, and the sorrow of my so long travel is forgotten. Also my heart is peaceful; for I know that the end is near.
It may be that I shall find Daoud Shah in this city going northward, since a Hillman will ever head back to his Hills when the spring warns. And shall he see those hills of our country? Surely I shall overtake him! Surely my vengeance is safe! Surely God hath him in the hollow of His hand against my claiming. There shall no harm befall Daoud Shah till I come; for I would fain kill him quick and whole with the life sticking firm in his body. A pomegranate is sweetest when the cloves break away unwilling from the rind. Let it be in the daytime, that I may see his face, and my delight may be crowned.
And when I have accomplished the matter and my Honour is made clean, I shall return thanks unto God, the Holder of the Scale of the Law, and I shall sleep. From the night, through the day, and into the night again I shall sleep; and no dream shall trouble me.
And now, O my brother, the tale is all told. AHI! AHI! ALGHIAS! AHI!
THE JUDGMENT OF DUNGARA
See the pale martyr with his shirt on fire.—PRINTER'S ERROR.
THEY tell the tale even now among the groves of the Berbulda Hill, and for corroboration point to the roofless and windowless Mission-house. The great God Dungara, the God of Things as They Are, Most Terrible, One-eyed, Bearing the Red Elephant Tusk, did it all; and he who refuses to believe in Dungara will assuredly be smitten by the Madness of Yat—the madness that fell upon the sons and the daughters of the Buria Kol when they turned aside from Dungara and put on clothes. So says Athon Daze*, who is High Priest of the shrine and Warden of the Red Elephant Tusk. But if you ask the Assistant Collector and Agent in Charge of the Buria Kol, he will laugh—not because he bears any malice against missions, but because he himself saw the vengeance of Dungara executed upon the spiritual children of the Reverend Justus Krenk, Pastor of the Tubingen Mission, and upon Lotta, his virtuous wife.
[*Transcriber's Note: The "e" in Athon Daze has an acute accent.]
Yet if ever a man merited good treatment of the Gods it was the Reverend Justus, one time of Heidelberg, who, on the faith of a call, went into the wilderness and took the blonde, blue-eyed Lotta with him. 'We will these Heathen now by idolatrous practices so darkened better make,' said Justus in the early days of his career. 'Yes,' he added with conviction, 'they shall be good and shall with their hands to work learn. For all good Christians must work.' And upon a stipend more modest even than that of an English lay-reader, Justus Krenk kept house beyond Kamala and the gorge of Malair, beyond the Berbulda River close to the foot of the blue hill of Panth on whose summit stands the Temple of Dungara—in the heart of the country of the Buria Kol—the naked, good-tempered, timid, shameless, lazy Buria Kol.
Do you know what life at a Mission outpost means? Try to imagine a loneliness exceeding that of the smallest station to which Government has ever sent you—isolation that weighs upon the waking eyelids and drives you by force headlong into the labours of the day. There is no post, there is no one of your own colour to speak to, there are no roads: there is, indeed, food to keep you alive, but it is not pleasant to eat; and whatever of good or beauty or interest there is in your life, must come from yourself and the grace that may be planted in you.
In the morning, with a patter of soft feet, the converts, the doubtful, and the open scoffers, troop up to the veranda. You must be infinitely kind and patient, and, above all, clear-sighted, for you deal with the simplicity of childhood, the experience of man, and the subtlety of the savage. Your congregation have a hundred material wants to be considered; and it is for you, as you believe in your personal responsibility to your Maker, to pick out of the clamouring crowd any grain of spirituality that may lie therein. If to the cure of souls you add that of bodies, your task will be all the more difficult, for the sick and the maimed will profess any and every creed for the sake of healing, and will laugh at you because you are simple enough to believe them.
As the day wears and the impetus of the morning dies away, there will come upon you an overwhelming sense of the uselessness of your toil. This must be striven against, and the only spur in your side will be the belief that you are playing against the Devil for the living soul. It is a great, a joyous belief; but he who can hold it unwavering for four and twenty consecutive hours, must be blessed with an abundantly strong physique and equable nerve.
Ask the gray heads of the Bannockburn Medical Crusade what manner of life their preachers lead; speak to the Racine Gospel Agency, those lean Americans whose boast is that they go where no Englishman dare follow; get a Pastor of the Tubingen Mission to talk of his experiences—if you can. You will be referred to the printed reports, but these contain no mention of the men who have lost youth and health, all that a man may lose except faith, in the wilds; of English maidens who have gone forth and died in the fever-stricken jungle of the Panth Hills, knowing from the first that death was almost a certainty. Few Pastors will tell you of these things any more than they will speak of that young David of St. Bees, who, set apart for the Lord's work, broke down in utter desolation, and returned half distraught to the Head Mission, crying: 'There is no God, but I have walked with the Devil!'
The reports are silent here, because heroism, failure, doubt, despair, and self-abnegation on the part of a mere cultured white man are things of no weight as compared to the saving of one half-human soul from a fantastic faith in wood-spirits, goblins of the rock, and river-fiends.
And Gallio, the Assistant Collector of the country side, 'cared for none of these things.' He had been long in the district, and the Buria Kol loved him and brought him offerings of speared fish, orchids from the dim moist heart of the forests, and as much game as he could eat. In return, he gave them quinine, and with Athon Daze, the High Priest, controlled their simple policies.
'When you have been some years in the country,' said Gallio at the Krenks' table, 'you grow to find one creed as good as another. I'll give you all the assistance in my power, of course, but don't hurt my Buria Kol. They are a good people and they trust me.'
'I will them the Word of the Lord teach,' said Justus, his round face beaming with enthusiasm, 'and I will assuredly to their prejudices no wrong hastily without thinking make. But, O my friend, this in the mind impartiality-of-creed-judgment-be-looking is very bad.'
'Heigh-ho!' said Gallio, 'I have their bodies and the district to see to, but you can try what you can do for their souls. Only don't behave as your predecessor did, or I'm afraid that I can't guarantee your life.'
'And that?' said Lotta sturdily, handing him a cup of tea.
'He went up to the Temple of Dungara—to be sure he was new to the country—and began hammering old Dungara over the head with an umbrella; so the Buria Kol turned out and hammered HIM rather savagely. I was in the district, and he sent a runner to me with a note saying: "Persecuted for the Lord's sake. Send wing of regiment." The nearest troops were about two hundred miles off, but I guessed what he had been doing. I rode to Panth and talked to old Athon Daze like a father, telling him that a man of his wisdom ought to have known that the Sahib had sunstroke and was mad. You never saw a people more sorry in your life. Athon Daze apologised, sent wood and milk and fowls and all sorts of things; and I gave five rupees to the shrine and told Macnamara that he had been injudicious. He said that I had bowed down in the House of Rimmon; but if he had only just gone over the brow of the hill and insulted Palin Deo, the idol of the Suria Kol, he would have been impaled on a charred bamboo long before I could have done anything, and then I should have had to have hanged some of the poor brutes. Be gentle with them, Padri—but I don't think you'll do much.'
'Not I,' said Justus, 'but my Master. We will with the little children begin. Many of them will be sick—that is so. After the children the mothers; and then the men. But I would greatly that you were in internal sympathies with us prefer.'
Gallio departed to risk his life in mending the rotten bamboo bridges of his people, in killing a too persistent tiger here or there, in sleeping out in the reeking jungle, or in tracking the Suria Kol raiders who had taken a few heads from their brethren of the Buria clan. He was a knock-kneed, shambling young man, naturally devoid of creed or reverence, with a longing for absolute power which his undesirable district gratified.
'No one wants my post,' he used to say grimly, 'and my Collector only pokes his nose in when he's quite certain that there is no fever. I'm monarch of all I survey, and Athon Daze is my viceroy.'
Because Gallio prided himself on his supreme disregard of human life—though he never extended the theory beyond his own—he naturally rode forty miles to the Mission with a tiny brown girl-baby on his saddle-bow.
'Here is something for you, Padri,' said he. 'The Kols leave their surplus children to die. 'Don't see why they shouldn't, but you may rear this one. I picked it up beyond the Berbulda fork. I've a notion that the mother has been following me through the woods ever since.'
'It is the first of the fold,' said Justus, and Lotta caught up the screaming morsel to her bosom and hushed it craftily; while, as a wolf hangs in the field, Matui, who had borne it and in accordance with the law of her tribe had exposed it to die, panted weary and footsore in the bamboo-brake, watching the house with hungry mother-eyes. What would the omnipotent Assistant Collector do? Would the little man in the black coat eat her daughter alive as Athon Daze said was the custom of all men in black coats?
Matui waited among the bamboos through the long night; and, in the morning, there came forth a fair white woman, the like of whom Matui had never seen, and in her arms was Matui's daughter clad in spotless raiment. Lotta knew little of the tongue of the Buria Kol, but when mother calls to mother, speech is easy to follow. By the hands stretched timidly to the hem of her gown, by the passionate gutturals and the longing eyes, Lotta understood with whom she had to deal. So Matui took her child again—would be a servant, even a slave, to this wonderful white woman, for her own tribe would recognise her no more. And Lotta wept with her exhaustively, after the German fashion, which includes much blowing of the nose.
'First the child, then the mother, and last the man, and to the Glory of God all,' said Justus the Hopeful. And the man came, with a bow and arrows, very angry indeed, for there was no one to cook for him.
But the tale of the Mission is a long one, and I have no space to show how Justus, forgetful of his injudicious predecessor, grievously smote Moto, the husband of Matui, for his brutality; how Moto was startled, but being released from the fear of instant death, took heart and became the faithful ally and first convert of Justus; how the little gathering grew, to the huge disgust of Athon Daze; how the Priest of the God of Things as They Are argued subtilely with the Priest of the God of Things as They Should Be, and was worsted; how the dues of the Temple of Dungara fell away in fowls and fish and honeycomb; how Lotta lightened the Curse of Eve among the women, and how Justus did his best to introduce the Curse of Adam; how the Buria Kol rebelled at this, saying that their God was an idle God, and how Justus partially overcame their scruples against work, and taught them that the black earth was rich in other produce than pig-nuts only.
All these things belong to the history of many months, and throughout those months the white-haired Athon Daze meditated revenge for the tribal neglect of Dungara. With savage cunning he feigned friendship towards Justus, even hinting at his own conversion; but to the congregation of Dungara he said darkly: 'They of the Padri's flock have put on clothes and worship a busy God. Therefore Dungara will afflict them grieviously till they throw themselves, howling, into the waters of the Berbulda.' At night the Red Elephant Tusk boomed and groaned among the hills, and the faithful waked and said: 'The God of Things as They Are matures revenge against the backsliders. Be merciful, Dungara, to us Thy children, and give us all their crops!'
Late in the cold weather, the Collector and his wife came into the Buria Kol country. 'Go and look at Krenk's Mission' said Gallio. 'He is doing good work in his own way, and I think he'd be pleased if you opened the bamboo chapel that he, has managed to run up. At any rate you'll see a civilised Buria Kol.'
Great was the stir in the Mission. 'Now he and the gracious lady will that we have done good work with their own eyes see, and—yes—we will him our converts in all their new clothes by their own hands constructed exhibit. It will a great day be—for the Lord always,' said Justus; and Lotta said 'Amen.'
Justus had, in his quiet way, felt jealous of the Basel Weaving Mission, his own converts being unhandy; but Athon Daze had latterly induced some of them to hackle the glossy silky fibres of a plant that grew plenteously on the Panth Hills. It yielded a cloth white and smooth almost as the TAPPA of the South Seas, and that day the converts were to wear for the first time clothes made therefrom. Justus was proud of his work.
'They shall in white clothes clothed to meet the Collector and his well-born lady come down, singing "NOW THANK WE ALL OUR GOD." Then he will the Chapel open, and—yes—even Gallio to believe will begin. Stand so, my children, two by two, and—Lotta, why do they thus themselves bescratch? It is not seemly to wriggle, Nala, my child. The Collector will be here and be pained.'
The Collector, his wife, and Gallio climbed the hill to the Mission-station. The converts were drawn up in two lines, a shining band nearly forty strong. 'Hah!' said the Collector, whose acquisitive bent of mind led him to believe that he had fostered the institution from the first. 'Advancing, I see, by leaps and bounds.'
Never was truer word spoken! The Mission was advancing exactly as he had said—at first by little hops and shuffles of shamefaced uneasiness, but soon by the leaps of fly-stung horses and the bounds of maddened kangaroos. From the hill of Panth the Red Elephant Tusk delivered a dry and anguished blare. The ranks of the converts wavered, broke and scattered with yells and shrieks of pain, while Justus and Lotta stood horror-stricken.
'It is the Judgment of Dungara!' shouted a voice. 'I burn! I burn! To the river or we die!'
The mob wheeled and headed for the rocks that over-hung the Berbulda, writhing, stamping, twisting and shedding its garments as it ran, pursued by the thunder of the trumpet of Dungara. Justus and Lotta fled to the Collector almost in tears.
'I cannot understand! Yesterday,' panted Justus, 'they had the Ten Commandments.—What is this? Praise the Lord all good spirits by land and by sea. Nala! Oh, shame!'
With a bound and a scream there alighted on the rocks above their heads, Nala, once the pride of the Mission, a maiden of fourteen summers, good, docile, and virtuous—now naked as the dawn and spitting like a wild-cat.
'Was it for this!' she raved, hurling her petticoat at Justus; 'was it for this I left my people and Dungara—for the fires of your Bad Place? Blind ape, little earthworm, dried fish that you are, you said that I should never burn! O Dungara, I burn now! I burn now! Have mercy, God of Things as They Are!'
She turned and flung herself into the Berbulda, and the trumpet of Dungara bellowed jubilantly. The last of the converts of the Tubingen Mission had put a quarter of a mile of rapid river between herself and her teachers.
'Yesterday,' gulped Justus, 'she taught in the school A,B,C,D.—Oh! It is the work of Satan!'
But Gallio was curiously regarding the maiden's petticoat where it had fallen at his feet. He felt its texture, drew back his shirt-sleeve beyond the deep tan of his wrist and pressed a fold of the cloth against the flesh. A blotch of angry red rose on the white skin.
'Ah!' said Gallio calmly, 'I thought so.'
'What is it?' said Justus.
'I should call it the Shirt of Nessus, but—Where did you get the fibre of this cloth from?'
'Athon Daze,' said Justus. 'He showed the boys how it should manufactured be.'
'The old fox! Do you know that he has given you the Nilgiri Nettle—scorpion—Girardenia heterophylla—to work up? No wonder they squirmed! Why, it stings even when they make bridge-ropes of it, unless it's soaked for six weeks. The cunning brute! It would take about half an hour to burn through their thick hides, and then—!'
Gallio burst into laughter, but Lotta was weeping in the arms of the Collector's wife, and Justus had covered his face with his hands.
'Girardenia heterophylla!' repeated Gallio. 'Krenk, why didn't you tell me? I could have saved you this. Woven fire! Anybody but a naked Kol would have known it, and, if I'm a judge of their ways, you'll never get them back.'
He looked across the river to where the converts were still wallowing and wailing in the shallows, and the laughter died out of his eyes, for he saw that the Tubingen Mission to the Buria Kol was dead.
Never again, though they hung mournfully round the deserted school for three months, could Lotta or Justus coax back even the most promising of their flock. No! The end of conversion was the fire of the Bad Place—fire that ran through the limbs and gnawed into the bones. Who dare a second time tempt the anger of Dungara? Let the little man and his wife go elsewhere. The Buria Kol would have none of them. An unofficial message to Athon Daze that if a hair of their heads were touched, Athon Daze and the priests of Dungara would be hanged by Gallio at the temple shrine, protected Justus and Lotta from the stumpy poisoned arrows of the Buria Kol, but neither fish nor fowl, honeycomb, salt nor young pig were brought to their doors any more. And, alas! man cannot live by grace alone if meat be wanting.
'Let us go, mine wife,' said Justus; 'there is no good here, and the Lord has willed that some other man shall the work take—in good time—in His own good time. We will go away, and I will—yes—some botany bestudy.'
If any one is anxious to convert the Buria Kol afresh, there lies at least the core of a mission-house under the hill of Panth. But the chapel and school have long since fallen back into jungle.
AT HOWLI THANA
His own shoe, his own head.—Native Proverb.
As a messenger, if the heart of the Presence be moved to so great favour. And on six rupees. Yes, Sahib, for I have three little children whose stomachs are always empty, and corn is now but forty pounds to the rupee. I will make so clever a messenger that you shall all day long be pleased with me, and, at the end of the year, bestow a turban. I know all the roads of the Station and many other things. Aha, Sahib! I am clever. Give me service. I was aforetime in the Police. A bad character? Now without doubt an enemy has told this tale. Never was I a scamp. I am a man of clean heart, and all my words are true. They knew this when I was in the Police. They said: 'Afzal Khan is a true speaker in whose words men may trust.' I am a Delhi Pathan, Sahib—all Delhi Pathans are good men. You have seen Delhi? Yes, it is true that there be many scamps among the Delhi Pathans. How wise is the Sahib! Nothing is hid from his eyes, and he will make me his messenger, and I will take all his notes secretly and without ostentation. Nay, Sahib, God is my witness that I meant no evil. I have long desired to serve under a true Sahib—a virtuous Sahib. Many young Sahibs are as devils unchained. With these Sahibs I would take no service—not though all the stomachs of my little children were crying for bread.
Why am I not still in the Police? I will speak true talk. An evil came to the Thana—to Ram Baksh, the Havildar, and Maula Baksh, and Juggut Ram and Bhim Singh and Suruj Bul. Ram Baksh is in the jail for a space, and so also is Maula Baksh.
It was at the Thana of Howli, on the road that leads to Gokral-Seetarun wherein are many dacoits. We were all brave men—Rustums. Wherefore we were sent to that Thana which was eight miles from the next Thana. All day and all night we watched for dacoits. Why does the Sahib laugh? Nay, I will make a confession. The dacoits were too clever, and, seeing this, we made no further trouble. It was in the hot weather. What can a man do in the hot days? Is the Sahib who is so strong—is he, even, vigorous in that hour? We made an arrangement with the dacoits for the sake of peace. That was the work of the Havildar who was fat. Ho! Ho! Sahib, he is now getting thin in the jail among the carpets. The Havildar said:' Give us no trouble, and we will give you no trouble. At the end of the reaping send us a man to lead before the judge, a man of infirm mind against whom the trumped-up case will break down, Thus we shall save our honour.' To this talk the dacoits agreed, and we had no trouble at the Thana, and could eat melons in peace, sitting upon our charpoys all day long. Sweet as sugar-cane are the melons of Howli.
Now there was an assistant commissioner—a Stunt Sahib, in that district, called Yunkum Sahib. Aha! He was hard-hard even as is the Sahib who, without doubt, will give me the shadow of his protection. Many eyes had Yunkum Sahib, and moved quickly through his district. Men called him The Tiger of Gokral-Seetarun, because he would arrive unannounced and make his kill, and, before sunset, would be giving trouble to the Tehsildars thirty miles away. No one knew the comings or the goings of Yunkum Sahib. He had no camp, and when his horse was weary he rode upon a devil-carriage. I do not know its name, but the Sahib sat in the midst of three silver wheels that made no creaking, and drave them with his legs, prancing like a bean-fed horse—thus. A shadow of a hawk upon the fields was not more without noise than the devil-carriage of Yunkum Sahib. It was here: it was there: it was gone: and the rapport was made, and there was trouble. Ask the Tehsildar of Rohestri how the hen-stealing came to be known, Sahib.