Part 7 out of 9
He trotted over to spend an afternoon with Patsie, and the Commissioner's
wife would have kissed him. "No, not vere," said His Majesty the King,
with superb insolence, fencing one corner of his mouth with his hand,
"Vat's my Mamma's place--vere _she_ kisses me,"
"Oh!" said the Commissioner's wife, briefly. Then to herself: "Well, I
suppose I ought to be glad for his sake. Children are selfish little grubs
and--I've got my Patsie."
THE STRANGE RIDE OF MORROWBIE JUKES
Alive or dead--there is no other way.--_Native Proverb_.
There is, as the conjurers say, no deception about this tale. Jukes by
accident stumbled upon a village that is well known to exist, though he is
the only Englishman who has been there. A somewhat similar institution
used to flourish on the outskirts of Calcutta, and there is a story that
if you go into the heart of Bikanir, which is in the heart of the Great
Indian Desert, you shall come across not a village but a town where the
Dead who did not die but may not live have established their headquarters.
And, since it is perfectly true that in the same Desert is a wonderful
city where all the rich moneylenders retreat after they have made their
fortunes (fortunes so vast that the owners cannot trust even the strong
hand of the Government to protect them, but take refuge in the waterless
sands), and drive sumptuous C-spring barouches, and buy beautiful girls
and decorate their palaces with gold and ivory and Minton tiles and
mother-o'-pearl, I do not see why Jukes's tale should not be true. He is a
Civil Engineer, with a head for plans and distances and things of that
kind, and he certainly would not take the trouble to invent imaginary
traps. He could earn more by doing his legitimate work. He never varies
the tale in the telling, and grows very hot and indignant when he thinks
of the disrespectful treatment he received. He wrote this quite
straightforwardly at first, but he has since touched it up in places and
introduced Moral Reflections, thus:
In the beginning it all arose from a slight attack of fever. My work
necessitated my being in camp for some months between Pakpattan and
Mubarakpur--a desolate sandy stretch of country as every one who has had
the misfortune to go there may know. My coolies were neither more nor less
exasperating than other gangs, and my work demanded sufficient attention
to keep me from moping, had I been inclined to so unmanly a weakness.
On the 23d December, 1884, I felt a little feverish. There was a full moon
at the time, and, in consequence, every dog near my tent was baying it.
The brutes assembled in twos and threes and drove me frantic. A few days
previously I had shot one loud-mouthed singer and suspended his carcass
_in terrorem_ about fifty yards from my tent-door. But his friends fell
upon, fought for, and ultimately devoured the body: and, as it seemed to
me, sang their hymns of thanksgiving afterward with renewed energy.
The light-headedness which accompanies fever acts differently on different
men. My irritation gave way, after a short time, to a fixed determination
to slaughter one huge black and white beast who had been foremost in song
and first in flight throughout the evening. Thanks to a shaking hand and a
giddy head I had already missed him twice with both barrels of my shotgun,
when it struck me that my best plan would be to ride him down in the open
and finish him off with a hog-spear. This, of course, was merely the
semi-delirious notion of a fever patient; but I remember that it struck me
at the time as being eminently practical and feasible.
I therefore ordered my groom to saddle Pornic and bring him round quietly
to the rear of my tent. When the pony was ready, I stood at his head
prepared to mount and dash out as soon as the dog should again lift up his
voice. Pornic, by the way, had not been out of his pickets for a couple of
days; the night air was crisp and chilly; and I was armed with a specially
long and sharp pair of persuaders with which I had been rousing a sluggish
cob that afternoon. You will easily believe, then, that when he was let go
he went quickly. In one moment, for the brute bolted as straight as a die,
the tent was left far behind, and we were flying over the smooth sandy
soil at racing speed. In another we had passed the wretched dog, and I had
almost forgotten why it was that I had taken horse and hog-spear.
The delirium of fever and the excitement of rapid motion through the air
must have taken away the remnant of my senses. I have a faint recollection
of standing upright in my stirrups, and of brandishing my hog-spear at the
great white Moon that looked down so calmly on my mad gallop; and of
shouting challenges to the camel-thorn bushes as they whizzed past. Once
or twice, I believe, I swayed forward on Pornic's neck, and literally hung
on by my spurs--as the marks next morning showed.
The wretched beast went forward like a thing possessed, over what seemed
to be a limitless expanse of moonlit sand. Next, I remember, the ground
rose suddenly in front of us, and as we topped the ascent I saw the waters
of the Sutlej shining like a silver bar below. Then Pornic blundered
heavily on his nose, and we rolled together down some unseen slope.
I must have lost consciousness, for when I recovered I was lying on my
stomach in a heap of soft white sand, and the dawn was beginning to break
dimly over the edge of the slope down which I had fallen. As the light
grew stronger I saw that I was at the bottom of a horseshoe-shaped crater
of sand, opening on one side directly on to the shoals of the Sutlej. My
fever had altogether left me, and, with the exception of a slight
dizziness in the head, I felt no bad effects from the fall over night.
Pornic, who was standing a few yards away, was naturally a good deal
exhausted, but had not hurt himself in the least. His saddle, a favorite
polo one, was much knocked about, and had been twisted under his belly. It
took me some time to put him to rights, and in the meantime I had ample
opportunities of observing the spot into which I had so foolishly dropped.
At the risk of being considered tedious, I must describe it at length;
inasmuch as an accurate mental picture of its peculiarities will be of
material assistance in enabling the reader to understand what follows.
Imagine then, as I have said before, a horseshoe-shaped crater of sand
with steeply graded sand walls about thirty-five feet high. (The slope, I
fancy, must have been about 65 .) This crater enclosed a level piece of
ground about fifty yards long by thirty at its broadest part, with a rude
well in the centre. Round the bottom of the crater, about three feet from
the level of the ground proper, ran a series of eighty-three
semi-circular, ovoid, square, and multilateral holes, all about three feet
at the mouth. Each hole on inspection showed that it was carefully shored
internally with driftwood and bamboos, and over the mouth a wooden
drip-board projected, like the peak of a jockey's cap, for two feet. No
sign of life was visible in these tunnels, but a most sickening stench
pervaded the entire amphitheatre--a stench fouler than any which my
wanderings in Indian villages have introduced me to.
Having remounted Pornic, who was as anxious as I to get back to camp, I
rode round the base of the horseshoe to find some place whence an exit
would be practicable. The inhabitants, whoever they might be, had not
thought fit to put in an appearance, so I was left to my own devices. My
first attempt to "rush" Pornic up the steep sand-banks showed me that I
had fallen into a trap exactly on the same model as that which the
ant-lion sets for its prey. At each step the shifting sand poured down
from above in tons, and rattled on the drip-boards of the holes like small
shot. A couple of ineffectual charges sent us both rolling down to the
bottom, half choked with the torrents of sand; and I was constrained to
turn my attention to the river-bank.
Here everything seemed easy enough. The sand hills ran down to the river
edge, it is true, but there were plenty of shoals and shallows across
which I could gallop Pornic, and find my way back to _terra firma_ by
turning sharply to the right or the left. As I led Pornic over the sands I
was startled by the faint pop of a rifle across the river; and at the same
moment a bullet dropped with a sharp "_whit_" close to Pornic's head.
There was no mistaking the nature of the missile--a regulation
Martini-Henry "picket." About five hundred yards away a country-boat was
anchored in midstream; and a jet of smoke drifting away from its bows in
the still morning air showed me whence the delicate attention had come.
Was ever a respectable gentleman in such an _impasse?_ The treacherous
sand slope allowed no escape from a spot which I had visited most
involuntarily, and a promenade on the river frontage was the signal for a
bombardment from some insane native in a boat. I'm afraid that I lost my
temper very much indeed.
Another bullet reminded me that I had better save my breath to cool my
porridge; and I retreated hastily up the sands and back to the horseshoe,
where I saw that the noise of the rifle had drawn sixty-five human beings
from the badger-holes which I had up till that point supposed to be
untenanted. I found myself in the midst of a crowd of spectators--about
forty men, twenty women, and one child who could not have been more than
five years old. They were all scantily clothed in that salmon-colored
cloth which one associates with Hindu mendicants, and, at first sight,
gave me the impression of a band of loathsome _fakirs_. The filth and
repulsiveness of the assembly were beyond all description, and I shuddered
to think what their life in the badger-holes must be.
Even in these days, when local self-government has destroyed the greater
part of a native's respect for a Sahib, I have been accustomed to a
certain amount of civility from my inferiors, and on approaching the crowd
naturally expected that there would be some recognition of my presence. As
a matter of fact there was; but it was by no means what I had looked for.
The ragged crew actually laughed at me--such laughter I hope I may never
hear again. They cackled, yelled, whistled, and howled as I walked into
their midst: some of them literally throwing themselves down on the ground
in convulsions of unholy mirth. In a moment I had let go Pornic's head,
and, irritated beyond expression at the morning's adventure, commenced
cuffing those nearest to me with all the force I could. The wretches
dropped under my blows like nine-pins, and the laughter gave place to
wails for mercy; while those yet untouched clasped me round the knees,
imploring me in all sorts of uncouth tongues to spare them.
In the tumult, and just when I was feeling very much ashamed of myself for
having thus easily given way to my temper, a thin, high voice murmured in
English from behind my shoulder:--"Sahib! Sahib! Do you not know me?
Sahib, it is Gunga Dass, the telegraph-master."
I spun round quickly and faced the speaker.
Gunga Dass (I have, of course, no hesitation in mentioning the man's real
name) I had known four years before as a Deccanee Brahmin loaned by the
Punjab Government to one of the Khalsia States. He was in charge of a
branch telegraph-office there, and when I had last met him was a jovial,
full-stomached, portly Government servant with a marvelous capacity for
making bad puns in English--a peculiarity which made me remember him long
after I had forgotten his services to me in his official capacity. It is
seldom that a Hindu makes English puns.
Now, however, the man was changed beyond all recognition. Caste-mark,
stomach, slate-colored continuations, and unctuous speech were all gone. I
looked at a withered skeleton, turbanless and almost naked, with long
matted hair and deep-set codfish-eyes. But for a crescent-shaped scar on
the left cheek--the result of an accident for which I was responsible--I
should never have known him. But it was indubitably Gunga Dass, and--for
this I was thankful--an English-speaking native who might at least tell me
the meaning of all that I had gone through that day.
The crowd retreated to some distance as I turned toward the miserable
figure, and ordered him to show me some method of escaping from the
crater. He held a freshly plucked crow in his hand, and in reply to my
question climbed slowly on a platform of sand which ran in front of the
holes, and commenced lighting a fire there in silence. Dried bents,
sand-poppies, and driftwood burn quickly; and I derived much consolation
from the fact that he lit them with an ordinary sulphur-match. When they
were in a bright glow, and the crow was neatly spitted in front thereof,
Gunga Dass began without a word of preamble:
"There are only two kinds of men, Sar. The alive and the dead. When you
are dead, you are dead, but when you are alive you live." (Here the crow
demanded his attention for an instant as it twirled before the fire in
danger of being burned to a cinder.) "If you die at home and do not die
when you come to the ghat to be burned you come here."
The nature of the reeking village was made plain now, and all that I had
known or read of the grotesque and the horrible paled before the fact just
communicated by the ex-Brahmin. Sixteen years ago, when I first landed in
Bombay, I had been told by a wandering Armenian of the existence,
somewhere in India, of a place to which such Hindus as had the misfortune
to recover from trance or catalepsy were conveyed and kept, and I
recollect laughing heartily at what I was then pleased to consider a
traveler's tale. Sitting at the bottom of the sand-trap, the memory of
Watson's Hotel, with its swinging punkahs, white-robed attendants, and the
sallow-faced Armenian, rose up in my mind as vividly as a photograph, and
I burst into a loud fit of laughter. The contrast was too absurd!
Gunga Dass, as he bent over the unclean bird, watched me curiously. Hindus
seldom laugh, and his surroundings were not such as to move Gunga Dass to
any undue excess of hilarity. He removed the crow solemnly from the wooden
spit and as solemnly devoured it. Then he continued his story, which I
give in his own words:
"In epidemics of the cholera you are carried to be burned almost before
you are dead. When you come to the riverside the cold air, perhaps, makes
you alive, and then, if you are only little alive, mud is put on your nose
and mouth and you die conclusively. If you are rather more alive, more mud
is put; but if you are too lively they let you go and take you away. I was
too lively, and made protestation with anger against the indignities that
they endeavored to press upon me. In those days I was Brahmin and proud
man. Now I am dead man and eat"--here he eyed the well-gnawed breast bone
with the first sign of emotion that I had seen in him since we
met--"crows, and other things. They took me from my sheets when they saw
that I was too lively and gave me medicines for one week, and I survived
successfully. Then they sent me by rail from my place to Okara Station,
with a man to take care of me; and at Okara Station we met two other men,
and they conducted we three on camels, in the night, from Okara Station to
this place, and they propelled me from the top to the bottom, and the
other two succeeded, and I have been here ever since two and a half years.
Once I was Brahmin and proud man, and now I eat crows."
"There is no way of getting out?"
"None of what kind at all. When I first came I made experiments frequently
and all the others also, but we have always succumbed to the sand which is
precipitated upon our heads."
"But surely," I broke in at this point, "the river-front is open, and it
is worth while dodging the bullets; while at night"--
I had already matured a rough plan of escape which a natural instinct of
selfishness forbade me sharing with Gunga Dass. He, however, divined my
unspoken thought almost as soon as it was formed; and, to my intense
astonishment, gave vent to a long low chuckle of derision--the laughter,
be it understood, of a superior or at least of an equal.
"You will not"--he had dropped the Sir completely after his opening
sentence--"make any escape that way. But you can try. I have tried. Once
The sensation of nameless terror and abject fear which I had in vain
attempted to strive against overmastered me completely. My long fast--it
was now close upon ten o'clock, and I had eaten nothing since tiffin on
the previous day--combined with the violent and unnatural agitation of the
ride had exhausted me, and I verily believe that, for a few minutes, I
acted as one mad. I hurled myself against the pitiless sand-slope. I ran
round the base of the crater, blaspheming and praying by turns. I crawled
out among the sedges of the river-front, only to be driven back each time
in an agony of nervous dread by the rifle-bullets which cut up the sand
round me--for I dared not face the death of a mad dog among that hideous
crowd--and finally fell, spent and raving, at the curb of the well. No one
had taken the slightest notice of an exhibition which makes me blush hotly
even when I think of it now.
Two or three men trod on my panting body as they drew water, but they were
evidently used to this sort of thing, and had no time to waste upon me.
The situation was humiliating, Gunga Dass, indeed, when he had banked the
embers of his fire with sand, was at some pains to throw half a cupful of
fetid water over my head, an attention for which I could have fallen on my
knees and thanked him, but he was laughing all the while in the same
mirthless, wheezy key that greeted me on my first attempt to force the
shoals. And so, in a semi-comatose condition, I lay till noon. Then, being
only a man after all, I felt hungry, and intimated as much to Gunga Dass,
whom I had begun to regard as my natural protector. Following the impulse
of the outer world when dealing with natives, I put my hand into my pocket
and drew out four annas. The absurdity of the gift struck me at once, and
I was about to replace the money.
Gunga Dass, however, was of a different opinion, "Give me the money," said
he; "all you have, or I will get help, and we will kill you!" All this as
if it were the most natural thing in the world!
A Briton's first impulse, I believe, is to guard the contents of his
pockets; but a moment's reflection convinced me of the futility of
differing with the one man who had it in his power to make me comfortable;
and with whose help it was possible that I might eventually escape from
the crater. I gave him all the money in my possession, Rs. 9-8-5--nine
rupees eight annas and five pie--for I always keep small change as
_bakshish_ when I am in camp. Gunga Dass clutched the coins, and hid them
at once in his ragged loin-cloth, his expression changing to something
diabolical as he looked round to assure himself that no one had observed
"_Now_ I will give you something to eat," said he.
What pleasure the possession of my money could have afforded him I am
unable to say; but inasmuch as it did give him evident delight I was not
sorry that I had parted with it so readily, for I had no doubt that he
would have had me killed if I had refused. One does not protest against
the vagaries of a den of wild beasts; and my companions were lower than
any beasts. While I devoured what Gunga Dass had provided, a coarse
_chapatti_ and a cupful of the foul well-water, the people showed not the
faintest sign of curiosity--that curiosity which is so rampant, as a rule,
in an Indian village.
I could even fancy that they despised me. At all events they treated me
with the most chilling indifference, and Gunga Dass was nearly as bad. I
plied him with questions about the terrible village, and received
extremely unsatisfactory answers. So far as I could gather, it had been in
existence from time immemorial--whence I concluded that it was at least a
century old--and during that time no one had ever been known to escape
from it. [I had to control myself here with both hands, lest the blind
terror should lay hold of me a second time and drive me raving round the
crater.] Gunga Dass took a malicious pleasure in emphasizing this point
and in watching me wince. Nothing that I could do would induce him to tell
me who the mysterious "They" were.
"It is so ordered," he would reply, "and I do not yet know any one who has
disobeyed the orders."
"Only wait till my servants find that I am missing," I retorted, "and I
promise you that this place shall be cleared off the face of the earth,
and I'll give you a lesson in civility, too, my friend."
"Your servants would be torn in pieces before they came near this place;
and, besides, you are dead, my dear friend. It is not your fault, of
course, but none the less you are dead _and_ buried."
At irregular intervals supplies of food, I was told, were dropped down
from the land side into the amphitheatre, and the inhabitants fought for
them like wild beasts. When a man felt his death coming on he retreated to
his lair and died there. The body was sometimes dragged out of the hole
and thrown on to the sand, or allowed to rot where it lay.
The phrase "thrown on to the sand" caught my attention, and I asked Gunga
Dass whether this sort of thing was not likely to breed a pestilence.
"That," said he, with another of his wheezy chuckles, "you may see for
yourself subsequently. You will have much time to make observations."
Whereat, to his great delight, I winced once more and hastily continued
the conversation:--"And how do you live here from day to day? What do you
do?" The question elicited exactly the same answer as before--coupled with
the information that "this place is like your European heaven; there is
neither marrying nor giving in marriage."
Gunga Dass has been educated at a Mission School, and, as he himself
admitted, had he only changed his religion "like a wise man," might have
avoided the living grave which was now his portion. But as long as I was
with him I fancy he was happy.
Here was a Sahib, a representative of the dominant race, helpless as a
child and completely at the mercy of his native neighbors, In a deliberate
lazy way he set himself to torture me as a schoolboy would devote a
rapturous half-hour to watching the agonies of an impaled beetle, or as a
ferret in a blind burrow might glue himself comfortably to the neck of a
rabbit. The burden of his conversation was that there was no escape "of no
kind whatever," and that I should stay here till I died and was "thrown on
to the sand." If it were possible to forejudge the conversation of the
Damned on the advent of a new soul in their abode, I should say that they
would speak as Gunga Dass did to me throughout that long afternoon. I was
powerless to protest or answer; all my energies being devoted to a
struggle against the inexplicable terror that threatened to overwhelm me
again and again. I can compare the feeling to nothing except the struggles
of a man against the overpowering nausea of the Channel passage--only my
agony was of the spirit and infinitely more terrible.
As the day wore on, the inhabitants began to appear in full strength to
catch the rays or the afternoon sun, which were now sloping in at the
mouth of the crater. They assembled in little knots, and talked among
themselves without even throwing a glance in my direction. About four
o'clock, as far as I could judge, Gunga Dass rose and dived into his lair
for a moment, emerging with a live crow in his hands. The wretched bird
was in a most draggled and deplorable condition, but seemed to be in no
way afraid of its master. Advancing cautiously to the river front, Gunga
Dass stepped from tussock to tussock until he had reached a smooth patch
of sand directly in the line of the boat's fire. The occupants of the boat
took no notice. Here he stopped, and, with a couple of dexterous turns of
the wrist, pegged the bird on its back with outstretched wings. As was
only natural, the crow began to shriek at once and beat the air with its
claws. In a few seconds the clamor had attracted the attention of a bevy
of wild crows on a shoal a few hundred yards away, where they were
discussing something that looked like a corpse. Half a dozen crows flew
over at once to see what was going on, and also, as it proved, to attack
the pinioned bird. Gunga Dass, who had lain down on a tussock, motioned to
me to be quiet, though I fancy this was a needless precaution. In a
moment, and before I could see how it happened, a wild crow, who had
grappled with the shrieking and helpless bird, was entangled in the
latter's claws, swiftly disengaged by Gunga Dass, and pegged down beside
its companion in adversity. Curiosity, it seemed, overpowered the rest of
the flock, and almost before Gunga Dass and I had time to withdraw to the
tussock, two more captives were struggling in the upturned claws of the
decoys. So the chase--if I can give it so dignified a name--continued
until Gunga Dass had captured seven crows. Five of them he throttled at
once, reserving two for further operations another day. I was a good deal
impressed by this, to me, novel method of securing food, and complimented
Gunga Dass on his skill.
"It is nothing to do," said he. "To-morrow you must do it for me. You are
stronger than I am."
This calm assumption of superiority upset me not a little, and I answered
peremptorily;--"Indeed, you old ruffian! What do you think I have given
you money for?"
"Very well," was the unmoved reply. "Perhaps not to-morrow, nor the day
after, nor subsequently; but in the end, and for many years, you will
catch crows and eat crows, and you will thank your European God that you
have crows to catch and eat."
I could have cheerfully strangled him for this; but judged it best under
the circumstances to smother my resentment. An hour later I was eating one
of the crows; and, as Gunga Dass had said, thanking my God that I had a
crow to eat. Never as long as I live shall I forget that evening meal. The
whole population were squatting on the hard sand platform opposite their
dens, huddled over tiny fires of refuse and dried rushes. Death, having
once laid his hand upon these men and forborne to strike, seemed to stand
aloof from them now; for most of our company were old men, bent and worn
and twisted with years, and women aged to all appearance as the Fates
themselves. They sat together in knots and talked--God only knows what
they found to discuss--in low equable tones, curiously in contrast to the
strident babble with which natives are accustomed to make day hideous. Now
and then an access of that sudden fury which had possessed me in the
morning would lay hold on a man or woman; and with yells and imprecations
the sufferer would attack the steep slope until, baffled and bleeding, he
fell back on the platform incapable of moving a limb. The others would
never even raise their eyes when this happened, as men too well aware of
the futility of their fellows' attempts and wearied with their useless
repetition. I saw four such outbursts in the course of that evening.
Gunga Dass took an eminently business-like view of my situation, and while
we were dining--I can afford to laugh at the recollection now, but it was
painful enough at the time--propounded the terms on which he would consent
to "do" for me. My nine rupees eight annas, he argued, at the rate of
three annas a day, would provide me with food for fifty-one days, or about
seven weeks; that is to say, he would be willing to cater for me for that
length of time. At the end of it I was to look after myself. For a further
consideration--_videlicet_ my boots--he would be willing to allow me to
occupy the den next to his own, and would supply me with as much dried
grass for bedding as he could spare.
"Very well, Gunga Dass," I replied; "to the first terms I cheerfully
agree, but, as there is nothing on earth to prevent my killing you as you
sit here and taking everything that you have" (I thought of the two
invaluable crows at the time), "I flatly refuse to give you my boots and
shall take whichever den I please."
The stroke was a bold one, and I was glad when I saw that it had
succeeded, Gunga Dass changed his tone immediately, and disavowed all
intention of asking for my boots. At the time it did not strike me as at
all strange that I, a Civil Engineer, a man of thirteen years' standing in
the Service, and, I trust, an average Englishman, should thus calmly
threaten murder and violence against the man who had, for a consideration
it is true, taken me under his wing. I had left the world, it seemed, for
centuries. I was as certain then as I am now of my own existence, that in
the accursed settlement there was no law save that of the strongest; that
the living dead men had thrown behind them every canon of the world which
had cast them out; and that I had to depend for my own life on my strength
and vigilance alone. The crew of the ill-fated Mignonette are the only men
who would understand my frame of mind. "At present," I argued to myself,
"I am strong and a match for six of these wretches. It is imperatively
necessary that I should, for my own sake, keep both health and strength
until the hour of my release comes--if it ever does."
Fortified with these resolutions, I ate and drank as much as I could, and
made Gunga Dass understand that I intended to be his master, and that the
least sign of insubordination on his part would be visited with the only
punishment I had it in my power to inflict--sudden and violent death.
Shortly after this I went to bed. That is to say, Gunga Dass gave me a
double armful of dried bents which I thrust down the mouth of the lair to
the right of his, and followed myself, feet foremost; the hole running
about nine feet into the sand with a slight downward inclination, and
being neatly shored with timbers. From my den, which faced the
river-front, I was able to watch the waters of the Sutlej flowing past
under the light of a young moon and compose myself to sleep as best I
The horrors of that night I shall never forget. My den was nearly as
narrow as a coffin, and the sides had been worn smooth and greasy by the
contact of Innumerable naked bodies, added to which it smelled abominably.
Sleep was altogether out of question to one in my excited frame of mind.
As the night wore on, it seemed that the entire amphitheatre was filled
with legions of unclean devils that, trooping up from the shoals below,
mocked the unfortunates in their lairs.
Personally I am not of an imaginative temperament,--very few Engineers
are,--but on that occasion I was as completely prostrated with nervous
terror as any woman. After half an hour or so, however, I was able once
more to calmly review my chances of escape. Any exit by the steep sand
walls was, of course, impracticable. I had been thoroughly convinced of
this some time before. It was possible, just possible, that I might, in
the uncertain moonlight, safely run the gauntlet of the rifle shots. The
place was so full of terror for me that I was prepared to undergo any risk
in leaving it. Imagine my delight, then, when after creeping stealthily to
the river-front I found that the infernal boat was not there. My freedom
lay before me in the next few steps!
By walking out to the first shallow pool that lay at the foot of the
projecting left horn of the horseshoe, I could wade across, turn the flank
of the crater, and make my way inland. Without a moment's hesitation I
marched briskly past the tussocks where Gunga Dass had snared the crows,
and out in the direction of the smooth white sand beyond. My first step
from the tufts of dried grass showed me how utterly futile was any hope of
escape; for, as I put my foot down, I felt an indescribable drawing,
sucking motion of the sand below. Another moment and my leg was swallowed
up nearly to the knee. In the moonlight the whole surface of the sand
seemed to be shaken with devilish delight at my disappointment. I
struggled clear, sweating with terror and exertion, back to the tussocks
behind me and fell on my face.
My only means of escape from the semicircle was protected with a
How long I lay I have not the faintest idea; but I was roused at last by
the malevolent chuckle of Gunga Dass at my ear. "I would advise you,
Protector of the Poor" (the ruffian was speaking English) "to return to
your house. It is unhealthy to lie down here. Moreover, when the boat
returns, you will most certainly be rifled at." He stood over me in the
dim light, of the dawn, chuckling and laughing to himself.
Suppressing my first impulse to catch the man by the neck and throw him on
to the quicksand, I rose sullenly and followed him to the platform below
Suddenly, and futilely as I thought while I spoke, I asked:--"Gunga Dass,
what is the good of the boat if I can't get out _anyhow?_" I recollect
that even in my deepest trouble I had been speculating vaguely on the
waste of ammunition in guarding an already well protected foreshore.
Gunga Dass laughed again and made answer:--"They have the boat only in
daytime. It is for the reason that _there is a way_. I hope we shall have
the pleasure of your company for much longer time. It is a pleasant spot
when you have been here some years and eaten roast crow long enough."
I staggered, numbed and helpless, toward the fetid burrow allotted to me,
and fell asleep. An hour or so later I was awakened by a piercing
scream--the shrill, high-pitched scream of a horse in pain. Those who have
once heard that will never forget the sound. I found some little
difficulty in scrambling out of the burrow. When I was in the open, I saw
Pornic, my poor old Pornic, lying dead on the sandy soil. How they had
killed him I cannot guess. Gunga Dass explained that horse was better than
crow, and "greatest good of greatest number is political maxim. We are now
Republic, Mister Jukes, and you are entitled to a fair share of the beast.
If you like, we will pass a vote of thanks. Shall I propose?"
Yes, we were a Republic indeed! A Republic of wild beasts penned at the
bottom of a pit, to eat and fight and sleep till we died. I attempted no
protest of any kind, but sat down and stared at the hideous sight in front
of me. In less time almost than it takes me to write this, Pornic's body
was divided, in some unclean way or other; the men and women had dragged
the fragments on to the platform and were preparing their morning meal.
Gunga Dass cooked mine. The almost irresistible impulse to fly at the sand
walls until I was wearied laid hold of me afresh, and I had to struggle
against it with all my might. Gunga Dass was offensively jocular till I
told him that if he addressed another remark of any kind whatever to me I
should strangle him where he sat. This silenced him till silence became
insupportable, and I bade him say something.
"You will live here till you die like the other Feringhi," he said,
coolly, watching me over the fragment of gristle that he was gnawing.
"What other Sahib, you swine? Speak at once, and don't stop to tell me a
"He is over there," answered Gunga Dass, pointing to a burrow-mouth about
four doors to the left of my own. "You can see for yourself. He died in
the burrow as you will die, and I will die, and as all these men and women
and the one child will also die."
"For pity's sake tell me all you know about him. Who was he? When did he
come, and when did he die?"
This appeal was a weak step on my part. Gunga Dass only leered and
replied:--"I will not--unless you give me something first."
Then I recollected where I was, and struck the man between the eyes,
partially stunning him. He stepped down from the platform at once, and,
cringing and fawning and weeping and attempting to embrace my feet, led me
round to the burrow which he had indicated.
"I know nothing whatever about the gentleman, Your God be my witness that
I do not He was as anxious to escape as you were, and he was shot from the
boat, though we all did all things to prevent him from attempting. He was
shot here." Gunga Dass laid his hand on his lean stomach and bowed, to the
"Well, and what then? Go on!"
"And then--and then, Your Honor, we carried him into his house and gave
him water, and put wet cloths on the wound, and he laid down in his house
and gave up the ghost."
"In how long? In how long?"
"About half an hour, after he received his wound. I call Vishnu to
witness," yelled the wretched man, "that I did everything for him.
Everything which was possible, that I did!"
He threw himself down on the ground and clasped my ankles. But I had my
doubts about Gunga Dass's benevolence, and kicked him off as he lay
"I believe you robbed him of everything he had. But I can find out in a
minute or two. How long was the Sahib here?"
"Nearly a year and a half. I think he must have gone mad. But hear me
swear, Protector of the Poor! Won't Your Honor hear me swear that I never
touched an article that belonged to him? What is Your Worship going to
I had taken Gunga Dass by the waist and had hauled him on to the platform
opposite the deserted burrow. As I did so I thought of my wretched
fellow-prisoner's unspeakable misery among all these horrors for eighteen
months, and the final agony of dying like a rat in a hole, with a
bullet-wound in the stomach. Gunga Dass fancied I was going to kill him
and howled pitifully. The rest of the population, in the plethora that
follows a full flesh meal, watched us without stirring.
"Go inside, Gunga Dass," said I, "and fetch it out."
I was feeling sick and faint with horror now. Gunga Dass nearly rolled off
the platform and howled aloud.
"But I am Brahmin, Sahib--a high-caste Brahmin. By your soul, by your
father's soul, do not make me do this thing!"
"Brahmin or no Brahmin, by my soul and my father's soul, in you go!" I
said, and, seizing him by the shoulders, I crammed his head into the mouth
of the burrow, kicked the rest of him in, and, sitting down, covered my
face with my hands.
At the end of a few minutes I heard a rustle and a creak; then Gunga Dass
in a sobbing, choking whisper speaking to himself; then a soft thud--and I
uncovered my eyes.
The dry sand had turned the corpse entrusted to its keeping into a
yellow-brown mummy. I told Gunga Dass to stand off while I examined it.
The body--clad in an olive-green hunting-suit much stained and worn, with
leather pads on the shoulders--was that of a man between thirty and forty,
above middle height, with light, sandy hair, long mustache, and a rough
unkempt beard. The left canine of the upper jaw was missing, and a portion
of the lobe of the right ear was gone. On the second finger of the left
hand was a ring--a shield-shaped bloodstone set in gold, with a monogram
that might have been either "B.K." or "B.L." On the third finger of the
right hand was a silver ring in the shape of a coiled cobra, much worn and
tarnished. Gunga Dass deposited a handful of trifles he had picked out of
the burrow at my feet, and, covering the face of the body with my
handkerchief, I turned to examine these. I give the full list in the hope
that it may lead to the identification of the unfortunate man:
1. Bowl of a briarwood pipe, serrated at the edge; much worn and
blackened; bound with string at the screw.
2. Two patent-lever keys; wards of both broken.
3. Tortoise-shell-handled penknife, silver or nickel, name-plate, marked
with monogram "B.K."
4. Envelope, postmark undecipherable, bearing a Victorian stamp, addressed
to "Miss Mon----" (rest illegible)--"ham"--"nt."
5. Imitation crocodile-skin notebook with pencil. First forty-five pages
blank; four and a half illegible; fifteen others filled with private
memoranda relating chiefly to three persons--a Mrs. L. Singleton,
abbreviated several times to "Lot Single," "Mrs. S. May," and "Garmison,"
referred to in places as "Jerry" or "Jack."
6. Handle of small-sized hunting-knife. Blade snapped short. Buck's horn,
diamond cut, with swivel and ring on the butt; fragment of cotton cord
It must not be supposed that I inventoried all these things on the spot as
fully as I have here written them down. The notebook first attracted my
attention, and I put it in my pocket with a view to studying it later on.
The rest of the articles I conveyed to my burrow for safety's sake, and
there, being a methodical man, I inventoried them. I then returned to the
corpse and ordered Gunga Dass to help me to carry it out to the
river-front. While we were engaged in this, the exploded shell of an old
brown cartridge dropped out of one of the pockets and rolled at my feet.
Gunga Dass had not seen it; and I fell to thinking that a man does not
carry exploded cartridge-cases, especially "browns," which will not bear
loading twice, about with him when shooting. In other words, that
cartridge-case has been fired inside the crater. Consequently there must
be a gun somewhere. I was on the verge of asking Gunga Dass, but checked
myself, knowing that he would lie. We laid the body down on the edge of
the quicksand by the tussocks. It was my intention to push it out and let
it be swallowed up--the only possible mode of burial that I could think
of. I ordered Gunga Dass to go away.
Then I gingerly put the corpse out on the quicksand. In doing so, it was
lying face downward, I tore the frail and rotten khaki shooting-coat open,
disclosing a hideous cavity in the back. I have already told you that the
dry sand had, as it were, mummified the body. A moment's glance showed
that the gaping hole had been caused by a gun-shot wound; the gun must
have been fired with the muzzle almost touching the back. The
shooting-coat, being intact, had been drawn over the body after death,
which must have been instantaneous. The secret of the poor wretch's death
was plain to me in a flash. Some one of the crater, presumably Gunga Dass,
must have shot him with his own gun--the gun that fitted the brown
cartridges. He had never attempted to escape in the face of the rifle-fire
from the boat.
I pushed the corpse out hastily, and saw it sink from sight literally in a
few seconds. I shuddered as I watched. In a dazed, half-conscious way I
turned to peruse the notebook. A stained and discolored slip of paper had
been inserted between the binding and the back, and dropped out as I
opened the pages. This is what it contained:--_"Four out from crow-clump:
three left; nine out; two right; three back; two left; fourteen out; two
left; seven out; one left; nine back; two right; six back; four right;
seven back_." The paper had been burned and charred at the edges. What it
meant I could not understand. I sat down on the dried bents turning it
over and over between my fingers, until I was aware of Gunga Dass standing
immediately behind me with glowing eyes and outstretched hands.
"Have you got it?" he panted. "Will you not let me look at it also? I
swear that I will return it."
"Got what? Return what?" I asked.
"That which you have in your hands. It will help us both." He stretched
out his long, bird-like talons, trembling with eagerness,
"I could never find it," he continued. "He had secreted it about his
person. Therefore I shot him, but nevertheless I was unable to obtain it."
Gunga Dass had quite forgotten his little fiction about the rifle-bullet.
I received the information perfectly calmly. Morality is blunted by
consorting with the Dead who are alive.
"What on earth are you raving about? What is it you want me to give you?"
"The piece of paper in the notebook. It will help us both. Oh, you fool!
You fool! Can you not see what it will do for us? We shall escape!"
His voice rose almost to a scream, and he danced with excitement before
me. I own I was moved at the chance of getting away.
"Don't skip! Explain yourself. Do you mean to say that this slip of paper
will help us? What does it mean?"
"Read it aloud! Read it aloud! I beg and I pray you to read it aloud."
I did so. Gunga Dass listened delightedly, and drew an irregular line in
the sand with his fingers.
"See now! It was the length of his gun-barrels without the stock. I have
those barrels. Four gun-barrels out from the place where I caught crows.
Straight out; do you follow me? Then three left--Ah! how well I remember
when that man worked it out night after night. Then nine out, and so on.
Out is always straight before you across the quicksand. He told me so
before I killed him."
"But if you knew all this why didn't you get out before?"
"I did _not_ know it. He told me that he was working it out a year and a
half ago, and how he was working it out night after night when the boat
had gone away, and he could get out near the quicksand safely. Then he
said that we would get away together. But I was afraid that he would leave
me behind one night when he had worked it all out, and so I shot him.
Besides, it is not advisable that the men who once get in here should
escape. Only I, and _I_ am a Brahmin."
The prospect of escape had brought Gunga Dass's caste back to him. He
stood up, walked about and gesticulated violently. Eventually I managed to
make him talk soberly, and he told me how this Englishman had spent six
months night after night in exploring, inch by inch, the passage across
the quicksand; how he had declared it to be simplicity itself up to within
about twenty yards of the river bank after turning the flank of the left
horn of the horseshoe. This much he had evidently not completed when Gunga
Dass shot him with his own gun,
In my frenzy of delight at the possibilities of escape I recollect shaking
hands effusively with Gunga Dass, after we had decided that we were to
make an attempt to get away that very night. It was weary work waiting
throughout the afternoon.
About ten o'clock, as far as I could judge, when the Moon had just risen
above the lip of the crater, Gunga Dass made a move for his burrow to
bring out the gun-barrels whereby to measure our path. All the other
wretched inhabitants had retired to their lairs long ago. The guardian
boat drifted down-stream some hours before, and we were utterly alone by
the crow-clump. Gunga Dass, while carrying the gun-barrels, let slip the
piece of paper which was to be our guide. I stooped down hastily to
recover it, and, as I did so, I was aware that the diabolical Brahmin was
aiming a violent blow at the back of my head with the gun-barrels. It was
too late to turn round. I must have received the blow somewhere on the
nape of my neck. A hundred thousand fiery stars danced before my eyes, and
I fell forward senseless at the edge of the quicksand.
When I recovered consciousness, the Moon was going down, and I was
sensible of intolerable pain in the back of my head. Gunga Dass had
disappeared and my mouth was full of blood. I lay down again and prayed
that I might die without more ado. Then the unreasoning fury which I have
before mentioned laid hold upon me, and I staggered inland toward the
walls of the crater. It seemed that some one was calling to me in a
whisper--"Sahib! Sahib! Sahib!" exactly as my bearer used to call me in
the mornings. I fancied that I was delirious until a handful of sand fell
at my feet, Then I looked up and saw a head peering down into the
amphitheatre--the head of Dunnoo, my dog-boy, who attended to my collies.
As soon as he had attracted my attention, he held up his hand and showed a
rope. I motioned, staggering to and fro the while, that he should throw it
down. It was a couple of leather punkah-ropes knotted together, with a
loop at one end. I slipped the loop over my head and under my arms; heard
Dunnoo urge something forward; was conscious that I was being dragged,
face downward, up the steep sand slope, and the next instant found myself
choked and half fainting on the sand hills overlooking the crater. Dunnoo,
with his face ashy grey in the moonlight, implored me not to stay but to
get back to my tent at once.
It seems that he had tracked Pornic's footprints fourteen miles across the
sands to the crater; had returned and told my servants, who flatly refused
to meddle with any one, white or black, once fallen into the hideous
Village of the Dead; whereupon Dunnoo had taken one of my ponies and a
couple of punkah-ropes, returned to the crater, and hauled me out as I
To cut a long story short, Dunnoo is now my personal servant on a gold
mohur a month--a sum which I still think far too little for the services
he has rendered. Nothing on earth will induce me to go near that devilish
spot again, or to reveal its whereabouts more clearly than I have done. Of
Gunga Dass I have never found a trace, nor do I wish to do. My sole motive
in giving this to be published is the hope that some one may possibly
identify, from the details and the inventory which I have given above, the
corpse of the man in the olive-green hunting-suit.
IN THE HOUSE OF SUDDHOO
A stone's throw out on either hand
From that well-ordered road we tread,
And all the world is wild and strange;
_Churel_ and ghoul and _Djinn_ and sprite
Shall bear us company to-night,
For we have reached the Oldest Land
Wherein the Powers of Darkness range.
--_From the Dusk to the Dawn_.
The house of Suddhoo, near the Taksali Gate, is two-storied, with four
carved windows of old brown wood, and a flat roof. You may recognize it by
five red hand-prints arranged like the Five of Diamonds on the whitewash
between the upper windows. Bhagwan Dass the grocer and a man who says he
gets his living by seal-cutting live in the lower story with a troop of
wives, servants, friends, and retainers. The two upper rooms used to be
occupied by Janoo and Azizun and a little black-and-tan terrier that was
stolen from an Englishman's house and given to Janoo by a soldier. To-day,
only Janoo lives in the upper rooms. Suddhoo sleeps on the roof generally,
except when he sleeps in the street. He used to go to Peshawar in the
cold, weather to visit his son who sells curiosities near the Edwardes'
Gate, and then he slept under a real mud roof. Suddhoo is a great friend
of mine, because his cousin had a son who secured, thanks to my
recommendation, the post of head-messenger to a big firm in the Station.
Suddhoo says that God will make me a Lieutenant-Governor one of these
days. I dare say his prophecy will come true. He is very, very old, with
white hair and no teeth worth showing, and he has outlived his
wits--outlived nearly everything except his fondness for his son at
Peshawar. Janoo and Azizun are Kashmiris, Ladies of the City, and theirs
was an ancient and more or less honorable profession; but Azizun has since
married a medical student from the Northwest and has settled down to a
most respectable life somewhere near Bareilly. Bhagwan Dass is an
extortionate and an adulterator. He is very rich. The man who is supposed
to get his living by seal-cutting pretends to be very poor. This lets you
know as much as is necessary of the four principal tenants in the house of
Suddhoo. Then there is Me of course; but I am only the chorus that comes
in at the end to explain things. So I do not count.
Suddhoo was not clever. The man who pretended to cut seals was the
cleverest of them all--Bhagwan Dass only knew how to lie--except Janoo.
She was also beautiful, but that was her own affair.
Suddhoo's son at Peshawar was attacked by pleurisy, and old Suddhoo was
troubled. The seal-cutter man heard of Suddhoo's anxiety and made capital
out of it. He was abreast of the times. He got a friend in Peshawar to
telegraph daily accounts of the son's health. And here the story begins.
Suddhoo's cousin's son told me, one evening, that Suddhoo wanted to see
me; that he was too old and feeble to come personally, and that I should
be conferring an everlasting honor on the House of Suddhoo if I went to
him. I went; but I think, seeing how well off Suddhoo was then, that he
might have sent something better than an _ekka_, which jolted fearfully,
to haul out a future Lieutenant-Governor to the City on a muggy April
evening. The _ekka_ did not run quickly. It was full dark when we pulled
up opposite the door of Ranjit Singh's Tomb near the main gate of the
Fort. Here was Suddhoo, and he said that, by reason of my condescension,
it was absolutely certain that I should become a Lieutenant-Governor while
my hair was yet black. Then we talked about the weather and the state of
my health, and the wheat crops, for fifteen minutes in the Huzuri Bagh,
under the stars.
Suddhoo came to the point at last. He said that Janoo had told him that
there was an order of the _Sirkar_ against magic, because it was feared
that magic might one day kill the Empress of India. I didn't know anything
about the state of the law; but I fancied that something interesting was
going to happen. I said that so far from magic being discouraged by the
Government it was highly commended. The greatest officials of the State
practiced it themselves. (If the Financial Statement isn't magic, I don't
know what is.) Then, to encourage him further, I said that, if there was
any _jadoo_ afoot, I had not the least objection to giving it my
countenance and sanction, and to seeing that it was clean _jadoo_--white
magic, as distinguished from the unclean _jadoo_ which kills folk. It took
a long time before Suddhoo admitted that this was just what he had asked
me to come for. Then he told me, in jerks and quavers, that the man who
said he cut seals was a sorcerer of the cleanest kind; that every day he
gave Suddhoo news of the sick son in Peshawar more quickly than the
lightning could fly, and that this news was always corroborated by the
letters. Further, that he had told Suddhoo how a great danger was
threatening his son, which could be removed by clean _jadoo_; and, of
course, heavy payment. I began to see exactly how the land lay, and told
Suddhoo that I also understood a little _jadoo_ in the Western line, and
would go to his house to see that everything was done decently and in
order. We set off together; and on the way Suddhoo told me that he had
paid the seal-cutter between one hundred and two hundred rupees already;
and the _jadoo_ of that night would cost two hundred more. Which was
cheap, he said, considering the greatness of his son's danger; but I do
not think he meant it.
The lights were all cloaked in the front of the house when we arrived. I
could hear awful noises from behind the seal-cutter's shop-front, as if
some one were groaning his soul out. Suddhoo shook all over, and while we
groped our way upstairs told me that the _jadoo_ had begun, Janoo and
Azizun met us at the stair-head, and told us that the _jadoo_-work was
coming off in their rooms, because there was more space there. Janoo is a
lady of a freethinking turn of mind. She whispered that the _jadoo_ was an
invention to get money out of Suddhoo, and that the seal-cutter would go
to a hot place when he died. Suddhoo was nearly crying with fear and old
age. He kept walking up and down the room in the half-light, repeating his
son's name over and over again, and asking Azizun if the seal-cutter ought
not to make a reduction in the case of his own landlord. Janoo pulled me
over to the shadow in the recess of the carved bow-windows. The boards
were up, and the rooms were only lit by one tiny oil-lamp. There was no
chance of my being seen if I stayed still.
Presently, the groans below ceased, and we heard steps on the staircase.
That was the seal-cutter. He stopped outside the door as the terrier
barked and Azizun fumbled at the chain, and he told Suddhoo to blow out
the lamp. This left the place in jet darkness, except for the red glow
from the two _huqas_ that belonged to Janoo and Azizun. The seal-cutter
came in, and I heard Suddhoo throw himself down on the floor and groan.
Azizun caught her breath, and Janoo backed on to one of the beds with a
shudder. There was a clink of something metallic, and then shot up a pale
blue-green flame near the ground. The light was just enough to show
Azizun, pressed against one corner of the room with the terrier between
her knees; Janoo, with her hands clasped, leaning forward as she sat on
the bed; Suddhoo, face down, quivering, and the seal-cutter.
I hope I may never see another man like that seal-cutter. He was stripped
to the waist, with a wreath of white jasmine as thick as my wrist round
his forehead, a salmon colored loin-cloth round his middle, and a steel
bangle on each ankle. This was not awe-inspiring. It was the face of the
man that turned me cold. It was blue-grey in the first place. In the
second, the eyes were rolled back till you could only see the whites of
them; and, in the third, the face was the face of a demon--a
ghoul--anything you please except of the sleek, oily old ruffian who sat
in the daytime over his turning-lathe downstairs. He was lying on his
stomach with his arms turned and crossed behind him, as if he had been
thrown down pinioned. His head and neck were the only parts of him off the
floor. They were nearly at right angles to the body, like the head of a
cobra at spring. It was ghastly. In the centre of the room, on the bare
earth floor, stood a big, deep, brass basin, with a pale blue-green light
floating in the centre like a night-light. Round that basin the man on the
floor wriggled himself three times. How he did it I do not know. I could
see the muscles ripple along his spine and fall smooth again; but I could
not see any other motion. The head seemed the only thing alive about him,
except that slow curl and uncurl of the laboring back-muscles, Janoo from
the bed was breathing seventy to the minute; Azizun held her hands before
her eyes; and old Suddhoo, fingering at the dirt that had got into his
white beard, was crying to himself. The horror of it was that the
creeping, crawly thing made no sound--only crawled! And, remember, this
lasted for ten minutes, while the terrier whined, and Azizun shuddered,
and Janoo gasped, and Suddhoo cried.
I felt the hair lift at the back of my head, and my heart thump like a
thermantidote paddle. Luckily, the seal-cutter betrayed himself by his
most impressive trick and made me calm again. After he had finished that
unspeakable triple crawl, he stretched his head away from the floor as
high as he could, and sent out a jet of fire from his nostrils. Now I knew
how fire-spouting is done--I can do it myself--so I felt at ease. The
business was a fraud. If he had only kept to that crawl without trying to
raise the effect, goodness knows what I might not have thought. Both the
girls shrieked at the jet of fire and the head dropped, chin-down on the
floor, with a thud; the whole body lying then like a corpse with its arms
trussed. There was a pause of five full minutes after this, and the
blue-green flame died down. Janoo stooped to settle one of her anklets,
while Azizun turned her face to the wall and took the terrier in her arms.
Suddhoo put out an arm mechanically to Janoo's _huqa_, and she slid it
across the floor with her foot. Directly above the body and on the wall,
were a couple of flaming portraits, in stamped-paper frames, of the Queen
and the Prince of Wales. They looked down on the performance, and to my
thinking, seemed to heighten the grotesqueness of it all.
Just when the silence was getting unendurable, the body turned over and
rolled away from the basin to the side of the room, where it lay
stomach-up. There was a faint "plop" from the basin--exactly like the
noise a fish makes when it takes a fly--and the green light in the centre
I looked at the basin, and saw, bobbing in the water, the dried,
shrivelled, black head of a native baby--open eyes, open mouth, and shaved
scalp. It was worse, being so very sudden, than the crawling exhibition.
We had no time to say anything before it began to speak.
Read Poe's account of the voice that came from the mesmerized dying man,
and you will realize less than one half of the horror of that head's
There was an interval of a second or two between each word, and a sort of
"ring, ring, ring," in the note of the voice, like the timbre of a bell.
It pealed slowly, as if talking to itself, for several minutes before I
got rid of my cold sweat. Then the blessed solution struck me. I looked at
the body lying near the doorway, and saw, just where the hollow of the
throat joins on the shoulders, a muscle that had nothing to do with any
man's regular breathing twitching away steadily. The whole thing was a
careful reproduction of the Egyptian teraphin that one reads about
sometimes; and the voice was as clever and as appalling a piece of
ventriloquism as one could wish to hear. All this time the head was
"lip-lip-lapping" against the side of the basin, and speaking. It told
Suddhoo, on his face again whining, of his son's illness and of the state
of the illness up to the evening of that very night. I always shall
respect the seal-cutter for keeping so faithfully to the time of the
Peshawar telegrams. It went on to say that skilled doctors were night and
day watching over the man's life; and that he would eventually recover if
the fee to the potent sorcerer, whose servant was the head in the basin,
Here the mistake from the artistic point of view came in. To ask for twice
your stipulated fee in a voice that Lazarus might have used when he rose
from the dead, is absurd. Janoo, who is really a woman of masculine
intellect, saw this as quickly as I did. I heard her say "_Asli nahin!
Fareib!_" scornfully under her breath; and just as she said so, the light
in the basin died out, the head stopped talking, and we heard the room
door creak on its hinges. Then Janoo struck a match, lit the lamp, and we
saw that head, basin, and seal-cutter were gone. Suddhoo was wringing his
hands and explaining to any one who cared to listen, that, if his chances
of eternal salvation depended on it, he could not raise another two
hundred rupees. Azizun was nearly in hysterics in the corner; while Janoo
sat down composedly on one of the beds to discuss the probabilities of the
whole thing being a _bunao_, or "make-up."
I explained as much as I knew of the seal-cutter's way of _jadoo_; but her
argument was much more simple--"The magic that is always demanding gifts
is no true magic," said she. "My mother told me that the only potent
love-spells are those which are told you for love. This seal-cutter man is
a liar and a devil. I dare not tell, do anything, or get anything done,
because I am in debt to Bhagwan Dass the bunnia for two gold rings and a
heavy anklet. I must get my food from his shop. The seal-cutter is the
friend of Bhagwan Dass, and he would poison my food. A fool's _jadoo_ has
been going on for ten days, and has cost Suddhoo many rupees each night.
The seal-cutter used black hens and lemons and _mantras_ before. He never
showed us anything like this till to-night. Azizun is a fool, and will be
a _purdahnashin_ soon. Suddhoo has lost his strength and his wits. See
now! I had hoped to get from Suddhoo many rupees while he lived, and many
more after his death; and behold, he is spending everything on that
offspring of a devil and a she-ass, the seal-cutter!"
Here I said, "But what induced Suddhoo to drag me into the business? Of
course I can speak to the seal-cutter, and he shall refund. The whole
thing is child's talk--shame--and senseless."
"Suddhoo _is_ an old child," said Janoo. "He has lived on the roofs these
seventy years and is as senseless as a milch-goat. He brought you here to
assure himself that he was not breaking any law of the _Sirkar_, whose
salt he ate many years ago. He worships the dust off the feet of the
seal-cutter, and that cow-devourer has forbidden him to go and see his
son. What does Suddhoo know of your laws or the lightning-post? I have to
watch his money going day by day to that lying beast below."
Janoo stamped her foot on the floor and nearly cried with vexation; while
Suddhoo was whimpering under a blanket in the corner, and Azizun was
trying to guide the pipe-stem to his foolish old mouth.
Now, the case stands thus. Unthinkingly, I have laid myself open to the
charge of aiding and abetting the seal-cutter in obtaining money under
false pretences, which is forbidden by Section 420 of the Indian Penal
Code. I am helpless in the matter for these reasons. I cannot inform the
Police. What witnesses would support my statements? Janoo refuses flatly,
and Azizun is a veiled woman somewhere near Bareilly--lost in this big
India of ours. I dare not again take the law into my own hands, and speak
to the seal-cutter; for certain am I that, not only would Suddhoo
disbelieve me, but this step would end in the poisoning of Janoo, who is
bound hand and foot by her debt to the _bunnia_. Suddhoo is an old dotard;
and whenever we meet mumbles my idiotic joke that the _Sirkar_ rather
patronizes the Black Art than otherwise. His son is well now; but Suddhoo
is completely under the influence of the seal-cutter, by whose advice he
regulates the affairs of his life. Janoo watches daily the money that she
hoped to wheedle out of Suddhoo taken by the seal-cutter, and becomes
daily more furious and sullen.
She will never tell, because she dare not; but, unless something happens
to prevent her, I am afraid that the seal-cutter will die of cholera--the
white arsenic kind--about the middle of May. And thus I shall be privy to
a murder in the House of Suddhoo.
To the wake av Tim O'Hara
All St. Patrick's Alley
Was there to see.
As the Three Musketeers share their silver, tobacco, and liquor together,
as they protect each other in barracks or camp, and as they rejoice
together over the joy of one, so do they divide their sorrows. When
Ortheris's irrepressible tongue has brought him into cells for a season,
or Learoyd has run amok through his kit and accoutrements, or Mulvaney has
indulged in strong waters, and under their influence reproved his
Commanding Officer, you can see the trouble in the faces of the untouched
two. And the rest of the regiment know that comment or jest is unsafe.
Generally the three avoid Orderly Room and the Corner Shop that follows,
leaving both to the young bloods who have not sown their wild oats; but
there are occasions--
For instance, Ortheris was sitting on the drawbridge of the main gate of
Fort Amara, with his hands in his pockets and his pipe, bowl down, in his
mouth. Learoyd was lying at full length on the turf of the glacis, kicking
his heels in the air, and I came round the corner and asked for Mulvaney.
Ortheris spat into the ditch and shook his head. "No good seein' 'im now,"
said Ortheris; "'e's a bloomin' camel. Listen."
I heard on the flags of the veranda opposite to the cells, which are close
to the Guard-Room, a measured step that I could have identified in the
tramp of an army. There were twenty paces _crescendo_, a pause, and then
"That's 'im," said Ortheris; "my Gawd, that's 'im! All for a bloomin'
button you could see your face in an' a bit o' lip that a bloomin'
Hark-angel would 'a' guv back."
Mulvaney was doing pack-drill--was compelled, that is to say, to walk up
and down for certain hours in full marching order, with rifle, bayonet,
ammunition, knapsack, and overcoat. And his offence was being dirty on
parade! I nearly fell into the Fort Ditch with astonishment and wrath, for
Mulvaney is the smartest man that ever mounted guard, and would as soon
think of turning out uncleanly as of dispensing with his trousers.
"Who was the Sergeant that checked him?" I asked.
"Mullins, o' course," said Ortheris. "There ain't no other man would whip
'im on the peg so. But Mullins ain't a man. 'E's a dirty little
pigscraper, that's wot 'e is."
"What did Mulvaney say? He's not the make of man to take that quietly."
"Said! Bin better for 'im if 'e'd shut 'is mouth. Lord, 'ow we laughed!
'Sargint,' 'e sez, 'ye say I'm dirty. Well,' sez 'e, 'when your wife lets
you blow your own nose for yourself, perhaps you'll know wot dirt is.
You're himperfectly eddicated, Sargint,' sez 'e, an' then we fell in. But
after p'rade, 'e was up an' Mullins was swearin' 'imself black in the face
at Ord'ly Room that Mulvaney 'ad called 'im a swine an' Lord knows wot
all. You know Mullins. 'E'll 'ave 'is 'ead broke in one o' these days.
'E's too big a bloomin' liar for ord'nary consumption. 'Three hours' can
an' kit,' sez the Colonel; 'not for bein' dirty on p'rade, but for 'avin'
said somthin' to Mullins, tho' I do not believe,' sez 'e, 'you said wot 'e
said you said.' An' Mulvaney fell away sayin' nothin'. You know 'e never
speaks to the Colonel for fear o' gettin' 'imself fresh copped."
Mullins, a very young and very much married Sergeant, whose manners were
partly the result of innate depravity and partly of imperfectly digested
Board School, came over the bridge, and most rudely asked Ortheris what he
"Me?" said Ortheris, "Ow! I'm waiting for my C'mission. 'Seed it comin'
Mullins turned purple and passed on. There was the sound of a gentle
chuckle from the glacis where Learoyd lay.
"'E expects to get 'is C'mission some day," explained Orth'ris; "Gawd 'elp
the Mess that 'ave to put their 'ands into the same kiddy as 'im! Wot time
d'you make it, sir? Fower! Mulvaney 'll be out in 'arf an hour. You don't
want to buy a dorg, sir, do you? A pup you can trust--'arf Rampore by the
"Ortheris," I answered, sternly, for I knew what was in his mind, "do you
mean to say that"--
"I didn't mean to arx money o' you, any'ow," said Ortheris; "I'd 'a' sold
you the dorg good an' cheap, but--but--I know Mulvaney 'll want somethin'
after we've walked 'im orf, an' I ain't got nothin', nor 'e 'asn't
neither, I'd sooner sell you the dorg, sir. 'S'trewth! I would!"
A shadow fell on the drawbridge, and Ortheris began to rise into the air,
lifted by a huge hand upon his collar.
"Onything but t' braass," said Learoyd, quietly, as he held the Londoner
over the ditch. "Onything but t' braass, Orth'ris, ma son! Ah've got one
rupee eight annas of ma own." He showed two coins, and replaced Ortheris
on the drawbridge rail.
"Very good," I said; "where are you going to?"
"Goin' to walk 'im orf wen 'e comes out--two miles or three or fower,"
The footsteps within ceased. I heard the dull thud of a knapsack falling
on a bedstead, followed by the rattle of arms. Ten minutes later,
Mulvaney, faultlessly dressed, his lips tight and his face as black as a
thunderstorm, stalked into the sunshine on the drawbridge. Learoyd and
Ortheris sprang from my side and closed in upon him, both leaning toward
as horses lean upon the pole. In an instant they had disappeared down the
sunken road to the cantonments, and I was left alone. Mulvaney had not
seen fit to recognize me; so I knew that his trouble must be heavy upon
I climbed one of the bastions and watched the figures of the Three
Musketeers grow smaller and smaller across the plain. They were walking as
fast as they could put foot to the ground, and their heads were bowed.
They fetched a great compass round the parade-ground, skirted the Cavalry
lines, and vanished in the belt of trees that fringes the low land by the
I followed slowly, and sighted them--dusty, sweating, but still keeping up
their long, swinging tramp--on the river bank. They crashed through the
Forest Reserve, headed toward the Bridge of Boats, and presently
established themselves on the bow of one of the pontoons. I rode
cautiously till I saw three puffs of white smoke rise and die out in the
clear evening air, and knew that peace had come again. At the bridge-head
they waved me forward with gestures of welcome.
"Tie up your 'orse," shouted Ortheris, "an' come on, sir. We're all goin'
'ome in this 'ere bloomin' boat."
From the bridge-head to the Forest Officer's bungalow is but a step. The
mess-man was there, and would see that a man held my horse. Did the Sahib
require aught else--a peg, or beer? Ritchie Sahib had left half a dozen
bottles of the latter, but since the Sahib was a friend of Ritchie Sahib,
and he, the mess-man, was a poor man--
I gave my order quietly, and returned to the bridge. Mulvaney had taken
off his boots, and was dabbling his toes in the water; Learoyd was lying
on his back on the pontoon; and Ortheris was pretending to row with a big
"I'm an ould fool," said Mulvaney, reflectively, "dhraggin' you two out
here bekaze I was undher the Black Dog--sulkin' like a child. Me that was
soldierin' when Mullins, an' be damned to him, was shquealin' on a
counterpin for five shillin' a week--an' that not paid! Bhoys, I've took
you five miles out av natural pervarsity. Phew!"
"Wot's the odds so long as you're 'appy?" said Ortheris, applying himself
afresh to the bamboo. "As well 'ere as anywhere else."
Learoyd held up a rupee and an eight-anna bit, and shook his head
sorrowfully. "Five mile from t'Canteen, all along o' Mulvaney's blasted
"I know ut," said Mulvaney, penitently. "Why will ye come wid me? An' yet
I wud be mortial sorry if ye did not--any time--though I am ould enough to
know betther. But I will do penance. I will take a dhrink av wather."
Ortheris squeaked shrilly. The butler of the Forest bungalow was standing
near the railings with a basket, uncertain how to clamber down to the
pontoon. "Might 'a' know'd you'd 'a' got liquor out o' bloomin' desert,
sir," said Ortheris, gracefully, to me. Then to the mess-man: "Easy with
them there bottles. They're worth their weight in gold. Jock, ye
long-armed beggar, get out o' that an' hike 'em down."
Learoyd had the basket on the pontoon in an instant, and the Three
Musketeers gathered round it with dry lips. They drank my health in due
and ancient form, and thereafter tobacco tasted sweeter than ever. They
absorbed all the beer, and disposed themselves in picturesque attitudes to
admire the setting sun--no man speaking for a while.
Mulvaney's head dropped upon his chest, and we thought that he was asleep.
"What on earth did you come so far for?" I whispered to Ortheris.
"To walk 'im orf, o' course. When 'e's been checked we allus walks 'im
orf, 'E ain't fit to be spoke to those times--nor 'e ain't fit to leave
alone neither. So we takes 'im till 'e is."
Mulvaney raised his head, and stared straight into the sunset. "I had my
rifle," said he, dreamily, "an' I had my bay'nit, an' Mullins came round
the corner, an' he looked in my face an' grinned dishpiteful. '_You_ can't
blow your own nose,' sez he. Now, I cannot tell fwhat Mullins's
expayrience may ha' been, but, Mother av God, he was nearer to his death
that minut' than I have iver been to mine--and that's less than the
thicknuss av a hair!"
"Yes," said Ortheris, calmly, "you'd look fine with all your buttons took
orf, an' the Band in front o' you, walkin' roun' slow time. We're both
front-rank men, me an' Jock, when the rig'ment's in 'ollow square,
Bloomin' fine you'd look. 'The Lord giveth an' the Lord taketh
awai,--Heasy with that there drop!--Blessed be the naime o' the Lord,'" he
gulped in a quaint and suggestive fashion.
"Mullins! Wot's Mullins?" said Learoyd, slowly. "Ah'd take a coomp'ny o'
Mullinses--ma hand behind me. Sitha, Mulvaney, don't be a fool."
"_You_ were not checked for fwhat you did not do, an' made a mock av
afther. 'Twas for less than that the Tyrone wud ha' sent O'Hara to hell,
instid av lettin' him go by his own choosin', whin Rafferty shot him,"
"And who stopped the Tyrone from doing it?" I asked.
"That ould fool who's sorry he didn't stick the pig Mullins." His head
dropped again. When he raised it he shivered and put his hands on the
shoulders of his two companions.
"Ye've walked the Divil out av me, bhoys," said he.
Ortheris shot out the red-hot dottel of his pipe on the back of the hairy
fist. "They say 'Ell's 'otter than that," said he, as Mulvaney swore
aloud. "You be warned so. Look yonder!"--he pointed across the river to a
ruined temple--"Me an' you an' _'im_"-he indicated me by a jerk of his
head--"was there one day when Hi made a bloomin' show o' myself. You an'
'im stopped me doin' such--an' Hi was on'y wishful for to desert. You are
makin' a bigger bloomin' show o' yourself now."
"Don't mind him, Mulvaney," I said; "Dinah Shadd won't let you hang
yourself yet awhile, and you don't intend to try it either. Let's hear
about the Tyrone and O'Hara. Rafferty shot him for fooling with his wife.
What happened before that?"
"There's no fool like an ould fool. You know you can do anythin' wid me
whin I'm talkin'. Did I say I wud like to cut Mullins's liver out? I deny
the imputashin, for fear that Orth'ris here wud report me--Ah! You wud tip
me into the river, wud you? Sit quiet, little man. Anyways, Mullins is not
worth the trouble av an extry p'rade, an' I will trate him wid outrajis
contimpt. The Tyrone an' O'Hara! O'Hara an' the Tyrone, begad! Ould days
are hard to bring back into the mouth, but they're always inside the
Followed a long pause.
"O'Hara was a Divil. Though I saved him, for the honor av the rig'mint,
from his death that time, I say it now. He was a Divil--a long, bould,
"Which way?" asked Ortheris,
"Then I know another."
"Not more than in reason, if you mane me, ye warped walkin'-shtick. I have
been young, an' for why should I not have tuk what I cud? Did I iver, whin
I was Corp'ril, use the rise av my rank--wan step an' that taken away,
more's the sorrow an' the fault av me!--to prosecute a nefarious
inthrigue, as O'Hara did? Did I, whin I was Corp'ril, lay my spite upon a
man an' make his life a dog's life from day to day? Did I lie, as O'Hara
lied, till the young wans in the Tyrone turned white wid the fear av the
Judgment av God killin' thim all in a lump, as ut killed the woman at
Devizes? I did not! I have sinned my sins an' I have made my confesshin,
an' Father Victor knows the worst av me. O'Hara was tuk, before he cud
spake, on Rafferty's doorstep, an' no man knows the worst av him. But this
much I know!
"The Tyrone was recruited any fashion in the ould days. A draf from
Connemara--a draf from Portsmouth--a draf from Kerry, an' that was a
blazin' bad draf--here, there and iverywhere--but the large av thim was
Oirish--Black Oirish. Now there are Oirish an' Oirish. The good are good
as the best, but the bad are wurrst than the wurrst. 'Tis this way. They
clog together in pieces as fast as thieves, an' no wan knows fwhat they
will do till wan turns informer an' the gang is bruk. But ut begins again,
a day later, meetin' in holes an' corners an' swearin' bloody oaths an'
shtickin' a man in the back an' runnin' away, an' thin waitin' for the
blood-money on the reward papers--to see if ut's worth enough. Those are
the Black Oirish, an' 'tis they that bring dishgrace upon the name av
Oireland, an' thim I wud kill--as I nearly killed wan wanst.
"But to reshume. My room--'twas before I was married--was wid twelve av
the scum av the earth--the pickin's av the gutter--mane men that wud
neither laugh nor talk nor yet get dhrunk as a man shud. They thried some
av their dog's thricks on me, but I dhrew a line round my cot, an' the man
that thransgressed ut wint into hospital for three days good.
"O'Hara had put his spite on the room--he was my Color Sargint--an'
nothin' cud we do to plaze him. I was younger than I am now, an' I tuk
what I got in the way av dressing down and punishmint-dhrill wid my tongue
in my cheek. But it was diff'rint wid the others, an' why I cannot say,
excipt that some men are borrun mane an' go to dhirty murdher where a fist
is more than enough. Afther a whoile, they changed their chune to me an'
was desp'rit frien'ly--all twelve av thim cursin' O'Hara in chorus.
"'Eyah,' sez I, 'O'Hara's a divil an' I'm not for denyin' ut, but is he
the only man in the wurruld? Let him go. He'll get tired av findin' our
kit foul an' our 'coutrements onproperly kep'.'
"'We will _not_ let him go,' sez they.
"'Thin take him,' sez I, 'an' a dashed poor yield you will get for your
"'Is he not misconductin' himself wid Slimmy's wife?' sez another.
"'She's common to the rig'mint,' sez I. 'Fwhat has made ye this partic'lar
on a suddint?'
"'Has he not put his spite on the roomful av us? Can we do anythin' that
he will not check us for?' sez another.
"'That's thrue,' sez I.
"'Will ye not help us to do aught,' sez another--'a big bould man like
"'I will break his head upon his shoulthers av he puts hand on me,' sez I.
'I will give him the lie av he says that I'm dhirty, an' I wud not mind
duckin' him in the Artillery troughs if ut was not that I'm thryin' for my
"'Is that all ye will do?' sez another. 'Have ye no more spunk than that,
ye blood-dhrawn calf?'
"'Blood-dhrawn I may be,' sez I, gettin' back to my cot an' makin' my line
round ut; 'but ye know that the man who comes acrost this mark will be
more blood-dhrawn than me. No man gives me the name in my mouth,' I sez.
'Ondersthand, I will have no part wid you in anythin' ye do, nor will I
raise my fist to my shuperior. Is any wan comin' on?' sez I.
"They made no move, tho' I gave them full time, but stud growlin' an'
snarlin' together at wan ind av the room. I tuk up my cap and wint out to
Canteen, thinkin' no little av mesilf, and there I grew most ondacintly
dhrunk in my legs. My head was all reasonable.
"'Houligan,' I sez to a man in E Comp'ny that was by way av bein' a frind
av mine; 'I'm overtuk from the belt down. Do you give me the touch av your
shoulther to presarve my formation an' march me acrost the ground into the
high grass. I'll sleep ut off there,' sez I; an' Houligan--he's dead now,
but good he was while he lasted--walked wid me, givin' me the touch whin I
wint wide, ontil we came to the high grass, an', my faith, the sky an' the
earth was fair rowlin' undher me. I made for where the grass was thickust,
an' there I slep' off my liquor wid an easy conscience. I did not desire
to come on books too frequent; my characther havin' been shpotless for the
good half av a year.
"Whin I roused, the dhrink was dyin' out in me, an' I felt as though a
she-cat had littered in my mouth. I had not learned to hould my liquor wid
comfort in thim days. 'Tis little betther I am now. 'I will get Houligan
to pour a bucket over my head,' thinks I, an' I wud ha' risen, but I heard
some wan say: 'Mulvaney can take the blame av ut for the backslidin' hound
"'Oho!' sez I, an' my head rang like a guard-room gong: 'fwhat is the
blame that this young man must take to oblige Tim Vulmea?' For 'twas Tim
Vulmea that shpoke.
"I turned on my belly an' crawled through the grass, a bit at a time, to
where the spache came from. There was the twelve av my room sittin' down
in a little patch, the dhry grass wavin' above their heads an' the sin av
black murdher in their hearts. I put the stuff aside to get a clear view.
"'Fwhat's that?' sez wan man, jumpin' up.
"'A dog,' says Vulmea. 'You're a nice hand to this job! As I said,
Mulvaney will take the blame--av ut comes to a pinch.'
"''Tis harrd to swear a man's life away,' sez a young wan.
"'Thank ye for that,' thinks I. 'Now, fwhat the divil are you paragins
conthrivin' against me?'
"''Tis as easy as dhrinkin' your quart,' sez Vulmea. 'At seven or thereon,
O'Hara will come acrost to the Married Quarters, goin' to call on Slimmy's
wife, the swine! Wan av us'll pass the wurrd to the room an' we shtart the
divil an' all av a shine--laughin' an' crackin' on an' t'rowin' our boots
about. Thin O'Hara will come to give us the ordher to be quiet, the more
by token bekaze the room-lamp will be knocked over in the larkin'. He will
take the straight road to the ind door where there's the lamp in the
veranda, an' that'll bring him clear against the light as he shtands. He
will not be able to look into the dhark. Wan av us will loose off, an' a
close shot ut will be, an' shame to the man that misses. 'Twill be
Mulvaney's rifle, she that that is at the head av the rack--there's no
mistakin' long-shtocked, cross-eyed bitch even in the dhark.'
"The thief misnamed my ould firin'-piece out av jealousy--I was pershuaded
av that--an' ut made me more angry than all.
"But Vulmea goes on: 'O'Hara will dhrop, an' by the time the light's lit
again, there'll be some six av us on the chest av Mulvaney, cryin' murdher
an' rape. Mulvaney's cot is near the ind door, an' the shmokin' rifle will
be lyin' undher him whin we've knocked him over. We know, an' all the
rig'mint knows, that Mulvaney has given O'Hara more lip than any man av
us. Will there be any doubt at the Coort-martial? Wud twelve honust
sodger-bhoys swear away the life av a dear, quiet, swate-timpered man such
as is Mulvaney--wid his line av pipe-clay roun' his cot, threatenin' us
wid murdher av we overshtepped ut, as we can truthful testify?'
"'Mary, Mother av Mercy!' thinks I to mesilf; 'it is this to have an
unruly number an' fistes fit to use! Oh the sneakin' hounds!'
"The big dhrops ran down my face, for I was wake wid the liquor an' had
not the full av my wits about me. I laid shtill an' heard thim workin'
themselves up to swear my life by tellin' tales av ivry time I had put my
mark on wan or another; an' my faith, they was few that was not so
dishtinguished. 'Twas all in the way av fair fight, though, for niver did
I raise my hand excipt whin they had provoked me to ut.
"'Tis all well,' sez wan av thim, 'but who's to do this shootin'?'
"'Fwhat matther?' sez Vulmea. 'Tis Mulvaney will do that--at the
"'He will so,' sez the man, 'but whose hand is put to the trigger--_in the
"'Who'll do ut?' sez Vulmea, lookin' round, but divil a man answeared.
They began to dishpute till Kiss, that was always playin' Shpoil Five,
sez: 'Thry the kyards!' Wid that he opined his tunic an' tuk out the
greasy palammers, an' they all fell in wid the notion.
"'Deal on!' sez Vulmea, wid a big rattlin' oath, 'an' the Black Curse av
Shielygh come to the man that will not do his duty as the kyards say.
"'Black Jack is the masther,' sez Kiss, dealin'. 'Black Jack, sorr, I shud
expaytiate to you, is the Ace av Shpades which from time immimorial has
been intimately connect wid battle, murdher an' suddin death.
"_Wanst_ Kiss dealt an' there was no sign, but the men was whoite wid the
workin's av their sowls. _Twice_ Kiss dealt, an' there was a grey shine on
their cheeks like the mess av an egg. _Three_ times Kiss dealt an' they
was blue. 'Have ye not lost him?' sez Vulmea, wipin' the sweat on him;
'Let's ha' done quick!' 'Quick ut is,' sez Kiss t'rowin' him the kyard;
an' ut fell face up on his knee--Black Jack!
"Thin they all cackled wid laughin'. 'Duty thrippence,' sez wan av thim,
'an' damned cheap at that price!' But I cud see they all dhrew a little
away from Vulmea an' lef' him sittin' playin' wid the kyard. Vulmea sez no
word for a whoile but licked his lips--cat-ways. Thin he threw up his head
an' made the men swear by ivry oath known to stand by him not alone in the
room but at the Coort-martial that was to set on _me!_ He tould off five
av the biggest to stretch me on my cot whin the shot was fired, an'
another man he tould off to put out the light, an' yet another to load my
rifle. He wud not do that himself; an' that was quare, for 'twas but a
little thing considerin'.
"Thin they swore over again that they wud not bethray wan another, an'
crep' out av the grass in diff'rint ways, two by two. A mercy ut was that
they did not come on me. I was sick wid fear in the pit av my
stummick--sick, sick, sick! Afther they was all gone, I wint back to
Canteen an' called for a quart to put a thought in me. Vulmea was there,
dhrinkin' heavy, an' politeful to me beyond reason. 'Fwhat will I
do--fwhat will I do?' thinks I to mesilf whin Vulmea wint away.
"Presintly the Arm'rer Sargint comes in stiffin' an' crackin' on, not
pleased wid any wan, bekaze the Martini-Henry bein' new to the rig'mint in
those days we used to play the mischief wid her arrangemints. 'Twas a long
time before I cud get out av the way av thryin' to pull back the
back-sight an' turnin' her over afther firin'--as if she was a Snider.
"'Fwhat tailor-men do they give me to work wid?' sez the Arm'rer Sargint.
'Here's Hogan, his nose flat as a table, laid by for a week, an' ivry
Comp'ny sendin' their arrums in knocked to small shivreens.'
"'Fwhat's wrong wid Hogan, Sargint?' sez I.
"'Wrong!' sez the Arm'rer Sargint; 'I showed him, as though I had been his
mother, the way av shtrippin' a 'Tini, an' he shtrup her clane an' easy. I
tould him to put her to again an' fire a blank into the blow-pit to show
how the dirt hung on the groovin'. He did that, but he did not put in the
pin av the fallin'-block, an' av coorse whin he fired he was strook by the
block jumpin' clear. Well for him 'twas but a blank--a full charge wud ha'
cut his oi out,"
"I looked a thrifle wiser than a boiled sheep's head. 'How's that,
Sargint?' sez I.
"'This way, ye blundherin' man, an' don't you be doin' ut,' sez he. Wid
that he shows me a Waster action--the breech av her all cut away to show
the inside--an' so plazed he was to grumble that he dimonstrated fwhat
Hogan had done twice over. 'An' that comes av not knowin' the wepping
you're purvided wid,' sez he.
"'Thank ye, Sargint,' sez I; 'I will come to you again for further
"'Ye will not,' sez he, 'Kape your clanin'-rod away from the breech-pin or
you will get into throuble.'
"I wint outside an' I could ha' danced wid delight for the grandeur av ut.
'They will load my rifle, good luck to thim, whoile I'm away,' thinks I,
and back I wint to the Canteen to give them their clear chanst.
"The Canteen was fillin' wid men at the ind av the day. I made feign to be
far gone in dhrink, an', wan by wan, all my roomful came in wid Vulmea. I
wint away, walkin' thick an' heavy, but not so thick an' heavy that any
wan cud ha' tuk me. Sure and thrue, there was a kyartridge gone from my
pouch an' lyin' snug in my rifle. I was hot wid rage against thim all, an'
I worried the bullet out wid my teeth as fast as I cud, the room bein'
empty. Then I tuk my boot an' the clanin'-rod and knocked out the pin av
the fallin'-block. Oh, 'twas music when that pin rowled on the flure! I
put ut into my pouch an' stuck a dab av dirt on the holes in the plate,
puttin' the fallin'-block back. 'That'll do your business, Vulmea,' sez I,
lyin' easy on the cot. 'Come an' sit on my chest the whole room av you,
an' I will take you to my bosom for the biggest divils that iver cheated
halter.' I would have no mercy on Vulmea. His oi or his life--little I
"At dusk they came back, the twelve av thim, an' they had all been
dhrinkin'. I was shammin' sleep on the cot. Wan man wint outside in the
veranda. Whin he whishtled they began to rage roun' the room an' carry on
tremenjus. But I niver want to hear men laugh as they did--sky-larkin'
too! 'Twas like mad jackals.
"'Shtop that blasted noise!' sez O'Hara in the dark, an' pop goes the room
lamp. I cud hear O'Hara runnin' up an' the rattlin' av my rifle in the
rack an' the men breathin' heavy as they stud roun' my cot. I cud see
O'Hara in the light av the veranda lamp, an' thin I heard the crack av my
rifle. She cried loud, poor darlint, bein' mishandled. Next minut' five
men were houldin' me down. 'Go easy,' I sez; 'fwhat's ut all about?'
"Thin Vulmea, on the flure, raised a howl you cud hear from wan ind av
cantonmints to the other. 'I'm dead, I'm butchered, I'm blind!' sez he.
'Saints have mercy on my sinful sowl! Sind for Father Constant! Oh sind
for Father Constant an' let me go clean!' By that I knew he was not so
dead as I cud ha' wished.
"O'Hara picks up the lamp in the veranda wid a hand as stiddy as a rest.
'Fwhat damned dog's thrick is this av yours?' sez he, and turns the light
on Tim Vulmea that was shwimmin' in blood from top to toe. The
fallin'-block had sprung free behin' a full charge av powther--good care I
tuk to bite down the brass afther takin' out the bullet that there might
be somethin' to give ut full worth--an' had cut Tim from the lip to the
corner av the right eye, lavin' the eyelid in tatthers, an' so up an'
along by the forehead to the hair. 'Twas more av a rakin' plough, if you
will ondherstand, than a clean cut; an' niver did I see a man bleed as
Vulmea did, The dhrink an' the stew that he was in pumped the blood
strong. The minut' the men sittin' on my chest heard O'Hara spakin' they
scatthered each wan to his cot, an' cried out very politeful: 'Fwhat is
"'Fwhat is ut!' sez O'Hara. shakin' Tim. 'Well an' good do you know fwhat
ut is, ye skulkin' ditch-lurkin' dogs! Get a _doolie_, an' take this
whimperin' scutt away. There will be more heard av ut than any av you will
"Vulmea sat up rockin' his head in his hand an' moanin' for Father
"'Be done!' sez O'Hara, dhraggin' him up by the hair. 'You're none so dead
that you cannot go fifteen years for thryin' to shoot me.'
"'I did not,' sez Vulmea; 'I was shootin' mesilf.'
"'That's quare,' sez O'Hara, 'for the front av my jackut is black wid your
powther.' He tuk up the rifle that was still warm an' began to laugh.
'I'll make your life Hell to you,' sez he, 'for attempted murdher an'
kapin' your rifle onproperly. You'll be hanged first an' thin put undher
stoppages for four fifteen. The rifle's done for,' sez he.
"'Why, 'tis my rifle!' sez I, comin' up to look; 'Vulmea, ye divil, fwhat
were you doin' wid her--answer me that?'
"'Lave me alone,' sez Vulmea; 'I'm dyin'!'
"'I'll wait till you're betther,' sez I, 'an' thin we two will talk ut out
"O'Hara pitched Tim into the _doolie_, none too tinder, but all the bhoys
kep' by their cots, which was not the sign av innocint men. I was huntin'
ivrywhere for my fallin'-block, but not findin' ut at all. I niver found
"'_Now_ fwhat will I do?' sez O'Hara, swinging the veranda light in his
hand an' lookin' down the room. I had hate and contimpt av O'Hara an' I
have now, dead tho' he is, but, for all that, will I say he was a brave
man. He is baskin' in Purgathory this tide, but I wish he cud hear that,
whin he stud lookin' down the room an' the bhoys shivered before the oi av
him, I knew him for a brave man an' I liked him _so_.
"'Fwhat will I do?' sez O'Hara agin, an' we heard the voice av a woman low
an' sof' in the veranda. 'Twas Slimmy's wife, come over at the shot,
sittin' on wan av the benches an' scarce able to walk.
"'O Denny!--Denny, dear,' sez she, 'have they kilt you?'
"O'Hara looked down the room again an' showed his teeth to the gum. Then
he spat on the flare.
"'You're not worth ut,' sez he. 'Light that lamp, ye dogs,' an' wid that
he turned away, an' I saw him walkin' off wid Slimmy's wife; she thryin'
to wipe off the powther-black on the front av his jackut wid her
handkerchief. 'A brave man you are,' thinks I--'a brave man an' a bad
"No wan said a word for a time. They was all ashamed, past spache,
"'Fwhat d'you think he will do?' sez wan av thim at last. 'He knows we're
all in ut.'
"'Are we so?' sez I from my cot. 'The man that sez that to me will be
hurt. I do not know,' sez I, 'fwhat onderhand divilmint you have
conthrived, but by what I've seen I know that you cannot commit murdher
wid another man's rifle--such shakin' cowards you are. I'm goin' to
slape,' I sez, 'an' you can blow my head off whoile I lay.' I did not
slape, though, for a long time. Can ye wonder?
"Next morn the news was through all the rig'mint, an' there was nothin'
that the men did not tell. O'Hara reports, fair an' easy, that Vulmea was
come to grief through tamperin' wid his rifle in barricks, all for to show
the mechanism. An' by my sowl, he had the impart'nince to say that he was
on the sphot at the time an' cud certify that ut was an accidint! You
might ha' knocked my roomful down wid a straw whin they heard that. 'Twas
lucky for thim that the bhoys were always thryin' to find out how the new
rifle was made, an' a lot av thim had come up for easin' the pull by
shtickin' bits av grass an' such in the part av the lock that showed near
the thrigger. The first issues of the 'Tinis was not covered in, an' I
mesilf have eased the pull av mine time an' agin. A light pull is ten
points on the range to me.
"'I will not have this foolishness!' sez the Colonel, 'I will twist the
tail off Vulmea!' sez he; but whin he saw him, all tied up an' groanin' in
hospital, he changed his will. 'Make him an early convalescint' sez he to
the Doctor, an' Vulmea was made so for a warnin'. His big bloody bandages
an' face puckered up to wan side did more to kape the bhoys from messin'
wid the insides av their rifles than any punishmint.
"O'Hara gave no reason for fwhat he'd said, an' all my roomful were too
glad to inquire, tho' he put his spite upon thim more wearin' than before.
Wan day, howiver, he tuk me apart very polite, for he cud be that at the
"'You're a good sodger, tho' you're a damned insolint man,' sez he.
"'Fair words, Sargint,' sez I, 'or I may be insolint again,'
"'Tis not like you,' sez he, 'to lave your rifle in the rack widout the
breech-pin, for widout the breech-pin she was whin Vulmea fired. I should
ha' found the break av ut in the eyes av the holes, else,' he sez.
"'Sargint,' sez I, 'fwhat wud your life ha' been worth av the breech-pin
had been in place, for, on my sowl, my life wud be worth just as much to
me av I tould you whether ut was or was not. Be thankful the bullet was
not there,' I sez.
"'That's thrue,' sez he, pulling his moustache; 'but I do not believe that
you, for all your lip, was in that business.'
"'Sargint,' sez I, 'I cud hammer the life out av a man in ten minuts wid
my fistes if that man dishpleased me; for I am a good sodger, an' I will
be threated as such, an' whoile my fistes are my own they're strong enough
for all work I have to do. They do not fly back toward me!' sez I, lookin'
him betune the eyes.
"'You're a good man,' sez he, lookin' me betune the eyes--an' oh he was a
gran'-built man to see!--'you're a good man,' he sez, 'an' I cud wish, for
the pure frolic av ut, that I was not a Sargint, or that you were not a
Privit; an' you will think me no coward whin I say this thing.'
"'I do not,' sez I. 'I saw you whin Vulmea mishandled the rifle. But,
Sargint,' I sez, 'take the wurrd from me now, spakin' as man to man wid
the shtripes off, tho' 'tis little right I have to talk, me being fwhat I
am by natur'. This time ye tuk no harm, an' next time ye may not, but, in
the ind, so sure as Slimmy's wife came into the veranda, so sure will ye
take harm--an' bad harm. Have thought, Sargint,' sez I. 'Is ut worth ut?'
"'Ye're a bould man,' sez he, breathin' harrd. 'A very bould man. But I am
a bould man tu. Do you go your way, Privit Mulvaney, an' I will go mine.'
"We had no further spache thin or afther, but, wan by another, he drafted
the twelve av my room out into other rooms an' got thim spread among the
Comp'nies, for they was not a good breed to live together, an' the Comp'ny
orf'cers saw ut. They wud ha' shot me in the night av they had known fwhat
I knew; but that they did not.
"An', in the ind, as I said, O'Hara met his death from Rafferty for
foolin' wid his wife. He wint his own way too well--Eyah, too well!
Shtraight to that affair, widout turnin' to the right or to the lef', he
wint, an' may the Lord have mercy on his sowl. Amin!"
"'Ear! 'Ear!" said Ortheris, pointing the moral with a wave of his pipe,
"An' this is 'im 'oo would be a bloomin' Vulmea all for the sake of
Mullins an' a bloomin' button! Mullins never went after a woman in his
life. Mrs. Mullins, she saw 'im one day"--
"Ortheris," I said, hastily, for the romances of Private Ortheris are all
too daring for publication, "look at the sun. It's quarter past six!"
"O Lord! Three quarters of an hour for five an' a 'arf miles! We'll 'ave
to run like Jimmy-O."
The Three Musketeers clambered on to the bridge, and departed hastily in
the direction of the cantonment road. When I overtook them I offered them
two stirrups and a tail, which they accepted enthusiastically. Ortheris
held the tail, and in this manner we trotted steadily through the shadows
by an unfrequented road.
At the turn into the cantonments we heard carriage wheels. It was the
Colonel's barouche, and in it sat the Colonel's wife and daughter. I
caught a suppressed chuckle, and my beast sprang forward with a lighter
The Three Musketeers had vanished into the night.
THE TAKING OF LUNGTUNGPEN
So we loosed a bloomin' volley,
An' we made the beggars cut,
An' when our pouch was emptied out.
We used the bloomin' butt,
Don't yer come anigh,
When Tommy is a playin' with the baynit an' the butt.
_--Barrack Room Ballad_.
My friend Private Mulvaney told me this, sitting on the parapet of the
road to Dagshai, when we were hunting butterflies together. He had
theories about the Army, and colored clay pipes perfectly. He said that
the young soldier is the best to work with, "on account av the surpassing
innocinse av the child."
"Now, listen!" said Mulvaney, throwing himself full length on the wall in
the sun. "I'm a born scutt av the barrick-room! The Army's mate an' dhrink
to me, bekaze I'm wan av the few that can't quit ut. I've put in sivinteen
years, an' the pipeclay's in the marrow av me. Av I cud have kept out av
wan big dhrink a month, I wud have been a Hon'ry Lift'nint by this time--a
nuisince to my betthers, a laughin'-shtock to my equils, an' a curse to
meself. Bein' fwhat I am, I'm Privit Mulvaney, wid no good-conduc' pay an'
a devourin' thirst. Always barrin' me little frind Bobs Bahadur, I know as
much about the Army as most men."
I said something here.
"Wolseley be shot! Betune you an' me an' that butterfly net, he's a
ramblin', incoherint sort av a divil, wid wan oi on the Quane an' the
Coort, an' the other on his blessed silf--everlastin'ly playing Saysar an'
Alexandrier rowled into a lump. Now Bobs is a sinsible little man. Wid
Bobs an' a few three-year-olds, I'd swape any army av the earth into a
towel, an' throw it away aftherward. Faith, I'm not jokin'! Tis the
bhoys--the raw bhoys--that don't know fwhat a bullut manes, an' wudn't
care av they did--that dhu the work. They're crammed wid bull-mate till
they fairly _ramps_ wid good livin'; and thin, av they don't fight, they
blow each other's hids off. 'Tis the trut' I'm tellin' you. They shud be
kept on water an' rice in the hot weather; but there'd be a mut'ny av
"Did ye iver hear how Privit Mulvaney tuk the town av Lungtungpen? I
thought not! 'Twas the Lift'nint got the credit; but 'twas me planned the
schame. A little before I was inviladed from Burma, me an' four-an'-twenty
young wans undher a Lift'nint Brazenose, was ruinin' our dijeshins thryin'
to catch dacoits. An' such double-ended divils I niver knew! Tis only a
_dah_ an' a Snider that makes a dacoit, Widout thim, he's a paceful
cultivator, an' felony for to shoot. We hunted, an' we hunted, an' tuk
fever an' elephints now an' again; but no dacoits, Evenshually, we
_puckarowed_ wan man, 'Trate him tinderly,' sez the Lift'nint. So I tuk
him away into the jungle, wid the Burmese Interprut'r an' my clanin'-rod.
Sez I to the man, 'My paceful squireen,' sez I, 'you shquot on your
hunkers an' dimonstrate to _my_ frind here, where _your_ frinds are whin
they're at home?' Wid that I introjuced him to the clanin'-rod, an' he
comminst to jabber; the Interprut'r interprutin' in betweens, an' me
helpin' the Intilligince Departmint wid my clanin'-rod whin the man
"Prisintly, I learn that, acrost the river, about nine miles away, was a
town just dhrippin' wid dahs, an' bohs an' arrows, an' dacoits, and
elephints, an' _jingles_. 'Good!' sez I; 'this office will now close!'
"That night, I went to the Lift'nint an' communicates my information. I
never thought much of Lift'nint Brazenose till that night. He was shtiff
wid books an' theouries, an' all manner av thrimmin's no manner av use.
'Town did ye say?' sez he. 'Accordin' to the theouries av War, we shud
wait for reinforcemints.'--'Faith!' thinks I, 'we'd betther dig our graves
thin;' for the nearest throops was up to their shtocks in the marshes out
Mimbu way. 'But,' says the Lift'nint, 'since 'tis a speshil case, I'll
make an excepshin. We'll visit this Lungtungpen to-night.'
"The bhoys was fairly woild wid deloight whin I tould 'em; an', by this
an' that, they wint through the jungle like buck-rabbits. About midnight
we come to the shtrame which I had clane forgot to minshin to my orficer.
I was on, ahead, wid four bhoys, an' I thought that the Lift'nint might
want to theourise. 'Shtrip boys!' sez I. 'Shtrip to the buff, an' shwim in
where glory waits!'--'But I _can't_ shwim!' sez two av thim. 'To think I
should live to hear that from a bhoy wid a board-school edukashin!' sez I.
'Take a lump av timber, an' me an' Conolly here will ferry ye over, ye
"We got an ould tree-trunk, an' pushed off wid the kits an' the rifles on
it. The night was chokin' dhark, an' just as we was fairly embarked, I
heard the Lift'nint behind av me callin' out. 'There's a bit av a _nullah_
here, sorr,' sez I, 'but I can feel the bottom already.' So I cud, for I
was not a yard from the bank.
"'Bit av a _nullah!_ Bit av an eshtuary!' sez the Lift'nint. 'Go on, ye
mad Irishman! Shtrip bhoys!' I heard him laugh; an' the bhoys begun
shtrippin' an' rollin' a log into the wather to put their kits on. So me
an' Conolly shtruck out through the warm wather wid our log, an' the rest
come on behind.
"That shtrame was miles woide! Orth'ris, on the rear-rank log, whispers we
had got into the Thames below Sheerness by mistake. 'Kape on shwimmin', ye
little blayguard,' sez I, 'an' don't go pokin' your dirty jokes at the
Irriwaddy,'--'Silince, men!' sings out the Lift'nint. So we shwum on into
the black dhark, wid our chests on the logs, trustin' in the Saints an'
the luck av the British Army.
"Evenshually, we hit ground--a bit av sand--an' a man. I put my heel on
the back av him. He skreeched an' ran.
"'_Now_ we've done it!' sez Lift'nint Brazenose. 'Where the Divil _is_
Lungtungpen?' There was about a minute and a half to wait. The bhoys laid
a hould av their rifles an' some thried to put their belts on; we was
marchin' wid fixed baynits av coorse. Thin we knew where Lungtungpen was;
for we had hit the river-wall av it in the dhark, an' the whole town
blazed wid thim messin' _jingles_ an' Sniders like a cat's back on a
frosty night. They was firin' all ways at wanst, but over our hids into
"'Have you got your rifles?' sez Brazenose. 'Got 'em!' sez Orth'ris. 'I've
got that thief Mulvaney's for all my back-pay, an' she'll kick my heart
sick wid that blunderin' long shtock av hers.'--'Go on!' yells Brazenose,
whippin' his sword out. 'Go on an' take the town! An' the Lord have mercy
on our sowls!'
"Thin the bhoys gave wan divastatin' howl, an' pranced into the dhark,
feelin' for the town, an' blindin' an' stiffin' like Cavalry Ridin'
Masters whin the grass pricked their bare legs. I hammered wid the butt at
some bamboo-thing that felt wake, an' the rest come an' hammered
contagious, while the _jingles_ was jingling, an' feroshus yells from
inside was shplittin' our ears. We was too close under the wall for thim
to hurt us.
"Evenshually, the thing, whatever ut was, bruk; an' the six-and-twinty av
us tumbled, wan after the other, naked as we was borrun, into the town of
Lungtungpen. There was a _melly_ av a sumpshus kind for a whoile; but
whether they tuk us, all white an' wet, for a new breed av divil, or a new
kind av dacoit, I don't know. They ran as though we was both, an' we wint
into thim, baynit an' butt, shriekin' wid laughin'. There was torches in
the shtreets, an' I saw little Orth'ris rubbin' his showlther ivry time he
loosed my long-shtock Martini; an' Brazenose walkin' into the gang wid his
sword, like Diarmid av the Gowlden Collar--barring he hadn't a stitch av
clothin' on him. We diskivered elephints wid dacoits under their bellies,
an', what wid wan thing an' another, we was busy till mornin' takin'
possession av the town of Lungtungpen.
"Thin we halted an' formed up, the wimmen howlin' in the houses an'
Lift'nint Brazenose blushin' pink in the light av the mornin' sun. 'Twas
the most ondasint p'rade I iver tuk a hand in. Foive-and-twenty privits
an' a orficer av the Line in review ordher, an' not as much as wud dust a
fife betune 'em all in the way of clothin'! Eight av us had their belts
an' pouches on; but the rest had gone in wid a handful av cartridges an'
the skin God gave thim. _They_ was as nakid as Vanus.
"'Number off from the right!' sez the Lift'nint. 'Odd numbers fall out to
dress; even numbers pathrol the town till relieved by the dressing party.'
Let me tell you, pathrollin' a town wid nothing on is an ex_pay_rience. I
pathrolled for tin minutes, an' begad, before 'twas over, I blushed. The
women laughed so. I niver blushed before or since; but I blushed all over
my carkiss thin. Orth'ris didn't pathrol. He sez only, 'Portsmith Barricks
an' the 'Ard av a Sunday! Thin he lay down an' rowled any ways wid
"Whin we was all dhressed, we counted the dead--sivinty-foive dacoits
besides wounded. We tuk five elephints, a hunder' an' sivinty Sniders, two
hunder' dahs, and a lot av other burglarious thruck. Not a man av us was
hurt--excep' maybe the Lift'nint, an' he from the shock to his dasincy.
"The Headman av Lungtungpen, who surrinder'd himself, asked the
Interprut'r--''Av the English fight like that wid their clo'es off, what
in the wurruld do they do wid their clo'es on?' Orth'ris began rowlin' his
eyes an' crackin' his fingers an' dancin' a step-dance for to impress the
Headman. He ran to his house; an' we spint the rest av the day carryin'
the Lift'nint on our showlthers round the town, an' playin' wid the
Burmese babies--fat, little, brown little divils, as pretty as picturs.
"Whin I was inviladed for the dysent'ry to India, I sez to the Lift'nint,