Part 2 out of 4
"Precisely. You anticipate my thoughts with a true sympathy. I suppose
you have no conscience?"
"Political conscience? No, certainly not, out of my own country, which
is the only one where that sort of thing commands a high salary. No, I
have no conscience."
"You would really write as willingly for the Conservatives as you do for
"Oh yes. I could not write so well on the Conservative side just now,
because they are 'in,' and it is more blessed to abuse than to be
abused, and ever so much easier. But as far as any prejudice on the
subject is concerned, I have none. I had as lief defend a party that
robs India 'for her own good,' as support those who would rob her with a
more cynical frankness and unblushingly transfer the proceeds to their
own pockets. I do not care a rush whether they rob Peter to pay Paul, or
fraudulently deprive Paul of his goods for the benefit of Peter."
"That is the way to look at it. I could tell you some very pretty
stories about that kind of thing. As for the journalistic enterprise, it
is only a possible card to be played if the old gentleman is obdurate."
"Isaacs," said I, "I have only known you three days, but you have taken
me into your confidence to some extent; probably because I am not
English. I may be of use to you, and I am sure I sincerely hope so.
Meanwhile I want to ask you a question, if you will allow me to." I
paused for an answer. We were standing by the open door, and Isaacs
leaned back against the door-post, his eyes fixed on me, half closed, as
he threw his head back. He looked at me somewhat curiously, and I
thought a smile flickered round his mouth, as if he anticipated what the
question would be.
"Certainly," he said slowly. "Ask me anything you like. I have nothing
"Do you seriously think of marrying, or proposing to marry, Miss
"I do seriously think of proposing to marry, and of marrying, Miss
Westonhaugh." He looked very determined as he thus categorically
affirmed his intention. I knew he meant it, and I knew enough of
Oriental character to understand that a man like Abdul Hafizben-Isak, of
strong passions, infinite wit, and immense wealth, was not likely to
fail in anything he undertook to do. When Asiatic indifference gives way
under the strong pressure of some master passion, there is no length to
which the hot and impetuous temper beneath may not carry the man. Isaacs
had evidently made up his mind. I did not think he could know much about
the usual methods of wooing English girls, but as I glanced at his
graceful figure, his matchless eyes, and noted for the hundredth time
the commanding, high-bred air that was the breath of his character, I
felt that his rival would have but a poor chance of success. He guessed
"What do you think of me?" he asked, smiling. "Will you back me for a
place? I have advantages, you must allow--and worldly advantages too.
They are not rich people at all."
"My dear Isaacs, I will back you to win. But as far as 'worldly
advantages' are concerned, do not trust to wealth for a moment. Do not
flatter yourself that there will be any kind of a bargain, as if you
were marrying a Persian girl. There is nothing venal in that young
lady's veins, I am sure."
"Allah forbid! But there is something very venal in the veins of Mr.
Currie Ghyrkins. I propose to carry the outworks one by one. He is her
uncle, her guardian, her only relation, save her brother. I do not think
either of those men would be sorry to see her married to a man of
stainless name and considerable fortune."
"You forget your three incumbrances, as you called them last night."
"No--I do not forget them. It is allowed me by my religion to marry a
fourth, and I need not tell you that she would be thenceforth my only
"But would her guardian and brother ever think of allowing her to take
such a position?"
"Why not? You know very well that the English in general hardly consider
our marriages to be marriages at all--knowing the looseness of the bond.
That is the prevailing impression."
"Yes, I know. But then they would consider your marriage with Miss
Westonhaugh in the same light, which would not make matters any easier,
as far as I can see."
"Pardon me. I should marry Miss Westonhaugh by the English marriage
service and under English law. I should be as much bound to her, and to
her alone, as if I were an Englishman myself."
"Well, you have evidently thought it out and taken legal advice; and
really, as far as the technical part of it goes, I suppose you have as
good a chance as Lord Steepleton Kildare."
Isaacs frowned, and his eyes flashed. I saw at once that he considered
the Irish officer a rival, and a dangerous one. I did not think that if
Isaacs had fair play and the same opportunities Kildare had much chance.
Besides there was a difficulty in the way.
"As far as religion is concerned, Lord Steepleton is not much better off
than you, if he wants to marry Miss Westonhaugh. The Kildares have been
Roman Catholics since the memory of man, and they are very proud of it.
Theoretically, it is as hard for a Roman Catholic man to marry a
Protestant woman, as for a Mussulman to wed a Christian of any
denomination. Harder, in fact, for your marriage depends upon the
consent of the lady, and his upon the consent of the Church. He has all
sorts of difficulties to surmount, while you have only to get your
personality accepted--which, when I look at you, I think might be done,"
I added, laughing.
"_Jo hoga, so hoga_--what will be, will be," he said; "but religion or
no religion, I mean to do it." Then he lighted a cigarette and said,
"Come, it is time to go and see his Saturnine majesty, the Maharajah of
I called for my hat and gloves.
"By-the-bye, Griggs, you may as well put on a black coat. You know the
old fellow is a king, after all, and you had better produce a favourable
impression." I retired to comply with his request, and as I came back he
turned quickly and came towards me, holding out both hands, with a very
earnest look in his face.
"Griggs, I care for that lady more than I can tell you," he said, taking
my hands in his.
"My dear fellow, I am sure you do. People do not go suddenly into
trances at a name that is indifferent to them. I am sure you love her
very honestly and dearly."
"You and she have come into my life almost together, for it was not
until I talked with you last night that I made up my mind. Will you help
me? I have not a friend in the world." The simple, boyish look was in
his eyes, and he stood holding my hands and waiting for my answer. I was
so fascinated that I would have then and there gone through fire and
water for him, as I would now.
"Yes. I will help you. I will be a friend to you."
"Thank you. I believe you." He dropped my hands, and we turned and went
In all my wanderings I had never promised any man my friendship and
unconditional support before. There was something about Isaacs that
overcame and utterly swept away preconceived ideas, rules, and
prejudices. It was but the third day of our acquaintance, and here was I
swearing eternal friendship like a school-girl; promising to help a man,
of whose very existence I knew nothing three days ago, to marry a woman
whom I had seen for the first time yesterday. But I resolved that,
having pledged myself, I would do my part with my might, whatever that
part might be. Meanwhile we rode along, and Isaacs began to talk about
the visit we were going to make.
"I think," he said, "that you had better know something about this
matter beforehand. The way is long, and we cannot ride fast over the
steep roads, so there is plenty of time. Do not imagine that I have idly
asked you to go with me because I supposed it would amuse you. Dismiss
also from your mind the impression that it is a question of buying and
selling jewels. It is a very serious matter, and if you would prefer to
have nothing to do with it, do not hesitate to say so. I promised the
maharajah this morning that I would bring, this afternoon, a reliable
person of experience, who could give advice, and who might be induced to
give his assistance as well as his counsel. I have not known you long,
but I know you by reputation, and I decided to bring you, if you would
come. From the very nature of the case I can tell you nothing more,
unless you consent to go with me."
"I will go," I said.
"In that case I will try and explain the situation in as few words as
possible. The maharajah is in a tight place. You will readily understand
that the present difficulties in Kabul cause him endless anxiety,
considering the position of his dominions. The unexpected turn of
events, following now so rapidly on each other since the English
wantonly sacrificed Cavagnari and his friends to a vainglorious love of
bravado, has shaken the confidence of the native princes in the
stability of English rule. They are frightened out of their senses,
having the fear of the tribes before them if the English should be
worsted; and they dread, on the other hand, lest the English, finding
themselves in great straits, should levy heavy contributions on
them--the native princes--for the consolidation of what they term the
'Empire.' They have not much sense, these poor old kings and boy
princes, or they would see that the English do not dare to try any of
those old-fashioned Clive tactics now. But old Baithopoor has heard all
about the King of Oude, and thinks he may share the same fate."
"I think he may make his mind easy on that score. The kingdom of
Baithopoor is too inconveniently situated and too full of mosquitoes to
attract the English. Besides, there are more roses than rubies there
"True, and that question interests me closely, for the old man owes me a
great deal of money. It was I who pulled him through the last famine."
"Not a very profitable investment, I should think. Shall you ever see a
rupee of that money again?"
"Yes; he will pay me; though I did not think so a week ago, or indeed
yesterday. I lent him the means of feeding his people and saving many of
them from actual death by starvation, because there are so many
Mussulmans among them, though the maharajah is a Hindoo. As for him, he
might starve to-morrow, the infidel hound; I would not give him a
_chowpatti_ or a mouthful of _dal_ to keep his wretched old body alive."
"Do I understand that this interview relates to the repayment of the
moneys you have advanced?"
"Yes; though that is not the most interesting part of it. He wanted to
pay me in flesh--human flesh, and he offered to make me a king into the
bargain, if I would forgive him the debt. The latter part of the
proposal was purely visionary. The promise to pay in so much humanity he
is able to perform. I have not made up my mind."
I looked at Isaacs in utter astonishment. What in the world could he
mean? Had the maharajah offered him some more wives--creatures of
peerless beauty and immense value? No; I knew he would not hesitate now
to refuse such a proposition.
"Will you please to explain what you mean by his paying you in man?" I
"In two words. The Maharajah of Baithopoor has in his possession a man.
Safely stowed away under a triple watch and carefully tended, this man
awaits his fate as the maharajah may decide. The English Government
would pay an enormous sum for this man, but Baithopoor fears that they
would ask awkward questions, and perhaps not believe the answers he
would give them. So, as he owes me a good deal, he thinks I might be
induced to take his prisoner and realise him, so to speak; thus
cancelling the debt, and saving him from the alternative of putting the
man to death privately, or of going through dangerous negotiations with
the Government. Now this thing is perfectly feasible, and it depends
upon me to say 'yes' or 'no' to the proposition. Do you see now? It is a
serious matter enough."
"But the man--who is he? Why do the English want him so much?"
Isaacs pressed his horse close to mine, and looking round to see that
the saice was a long way behind, he put his hand on my shoulder, and,
leaning out of the saddle till his mouth almost touched my ear, he
"The devil, you say!" I ejaculated, surprised out of grammar and decorum
by the startling news. Persons who were in India in 1879 will not have
forgotten the endless speculation caused by the disappearance of the
Emir of Afghanistan, Shere Ali, in the spring of that year. Defeated by
the English at Ali Musjid and Peiwar, and believing his cause lost, he
fled, no one knew whither; though there is reason to think that he might
have returned to power and popularity among the Afghan tribes if he had
presented himself after the murder of Cavagnari.
"Yes," continued Isaacs, "he has been a prisoner in the palace of
Baithopoor for six weeks, and not a soul save the maharajah and you and
I know it. He came to Baithopoor, humbly disguised as a Yogi from the
hills, though he is a Mussulman, and having obtained a private hearing,
disclosed his real name, proposing to the sovereign a joint movement on
Kabul, then just pacified by the British, and promising all manner of
things for the assistance. Old Baitho, who is no fool, clapped him into
prison under a guard of Punjabi soldiers who could not speak a word of
Afghan, and after due consideration packed up his traps and betook
himself to Simla by short stages, for the journey is not an easy one for
a man of his years. He arrived the day before yesterday, and has
ostensibly come to congratulate the Viceroy on the success of the
British arms. He has had to modify the enthusiasm of his proposed
address, in consequence of the bad news from Kabul. Of course, his first
move was to send for me, and I had a long interview this morning, in
which he explained everything. I told him that I would not move in the
matter without a third person--necessary as a witness when dealing with
such people--and I have brought you."
"But what was his proposal to invest you with a crown? Did he think you
were a likely person for a new Emir of Kabul?"
"Exactly. My faith, and above all, my wealth, suggested to him that I,
as a born Persian, might be the very man for the vacant throne. No
doubt, the English would be delighted to have me there. But the whole
thing is visionary and ridiculous. I think I shall accept the other
proposition, and take the prisoner. It is a good bargain."
I was silent. The intimate way in which I had seen Isaacs hitherto had
made me forget his immense wealth and his power. I had not realised that
he could be so closely connected with intrigues of such importance as
this, or that independant native princes were likely to look upon him as
a possible Emir of Afghanistan. I had nothing to say, and I determined
to keep to the part I was brought to perform, which was that of a
witness, and nothing more. If my advice were asked, I would speak boldly
for Shere Ali's liberation and protest against the poor man being bought
and sold in this way. This train of thought reminded me of Isaacs' words
when we left Miss Westonhaugh that morning. "It is not often," he had
said, "that you see such jewels bought and sold." No, indeed!
"You see," said Isaacs, as we neared our destination, "Baithopoor is in
my power, body and soul, for a word from me would expose him to the
British Government as 'harbouring traitors,' as they would express it.
On the other hand, the fact that you, the third party, are a journalist,
and could at a moment's notice give publicity to the whole thing, will
be an additional safeguard. I have him as in a vice. And now put on your
most formal manners and look as if you were impenetrable as the rock and
unbending as cast iron, for we have reached his bungalow."
I could not but admire the perfect calm and caution with which he was
conducting an affair involving millions of money, a possible indictment
for high treason, and the key-note of the Afghan question, while I knew
that his whole soul was absorbed in the contemplation of a beautiful
picture ever before him, sleeping or waking. Whatever I might think of
his bargaining for the possession of Shere Ali, he had a great, even
untiring, intellect. He had the elements of a leader of men, and I
fondly hoped he might be a ruler some day.
The bungalow in which the Maharajah of Baithopoor had taken up his
residence during his visit was very much like all the rest of the houses
I saw in Simla. The verandah, however, was crowded with servants and
sowars in gorgeous but rather tawdry liveries, not all of them as clean
as they should have been. Horses with elaborate high saddles and
embroidered trappings rather the worse for wear were being led up and
down the walk. As we neared the door there was a strong smell of
rosewater and native perfumes and hookah tobacco--the indescribable
odour of Eastern high life. There was also a general air of wasteful and
tawdry dowdiness, if I may coin such a word, which one constantly sees
in the retinues of native princes and rich native merchants, ill
contrasting with the great intrinsic value of some of the ornaments worn
by the chief officers of the train.
Isaacs spoke a few words in a low voice to the jemadar at the door, and
we were admitted into a small room in the side of the house, opening, as
all rooms do in India, on to the verandah. There were low wooden
charpoys around the walls, and we sat down, waiting till the maharajah
should be advised of our arrival. Very soon a jemadar came in and
informed us that "if the _sahib log_, who were the protectors of the
poor, would deign to be led by him," we should be shown into the royal
presence. So we rose and followed the obsequious official into another
The room where the maharajah awaited us was even smaller than the one
into which we had been first shown. It was on the back of the house, and
only half lighted by the few rays of afternoon sun that struggled
through the dense foliage outside. I suppose this apartment had been
chosen as the scene of the interview on account of its seclusion.
Outside the window, which was closed, a sowar paced slowly up and down
to keep away any curious listeners. A heavy curtain hung before the door
through which we had entered. I thought that on the whole the place
seemed pretty safe.
The old maharajah sat cross-legged upon a great pile of dark-red
cushions, his slippers by his side, and a huge hookah before him. He
wore a plain white pugree with a large jewel set on one side, and his
body was swathed and wrapped in dark thick stuffs, as if he felt keenly
the cold autumn air. His face was long, of an ashy yellowish colour, and
an immense white moustache hung curling down over his sombre robe. One
hand protruded from the folds and held the richly-jewelled mouthpiece of
the pipe to his lips, and I noticed that the fingers were long and
crooked, winding themselves curiously round the gold stem, as if
revelling in the touch of the precious metal and the gems. As we came
within his range of vision, his dark eyes shot a quick glance of
scrutiny at me and then dropped again. Not a movement of the head or
body betrayed a consciousness of our presence. Isaacs made a long
salutation in Hindustani, and I followed his example, but he did not
take off his shoes or make anything more than an ordinary bow. It was
quite evident that he was master of the situation. The old man took the
pipe from his mouth and replied in a deep hollow voice that he was glad
to see us, and that, in consideration of our wealth, fame, and renowned
wisdom, he would waive all ceremony and beg us to be seated. We sat down
cross-legged on cushions before him, and as near as we could get, so
that it seemed as if we three were performing some sacred rite of which
the object was the tall hookah that stood in the centre of our triangle.
Being seated, Isaacs addressed the prince, still in Hindustani, and said
that the splendour of his sublime majesty, which was like the sun
dispelling the clouds, so overcame him with fear and trembling, that he
humbly implored permission to make use of the Persian tongue, which, he
was aware, the lord of boundless wisdom spoke with even greater ease
Without waiting for an answer, and with no perceptible manifestation of
any such "fear and trembling" as he professed, Isaacs at once began to
speak in his native tongue, and dropping all forms of ceremony or
circumlocution plunged boldly into business. He did not hesitate to
explain to the maharajah the strength of his position, dwelling on the
fact that, by a word to the English of the whereabouts of Shere Ali, he
could plunge Baithopoor into hopeless and endless entanglements, to
which there could be but one issue--absorption into the British Raj. He
dwelt on the large sums the maharajah owed him for assistance lent
during the late famine, and he skilfully produced the impression that he
wanted the money down, then and there.
"If your majesty should refuse to satisfy my just claims, I have ample
weapons by which to satisfy them for myself, and no considerations of
mercy or pity for your majesty will tempt me to abate one rupee in the
account of your indebtedness, which, as you well know, is not swelled by
any usurious interest. You could not have borrowed the money on such
easy terms from any bank in India or England, and if I have been
merciful hitherto, I will be so no longer. What saith the Apostle of
Allah? 'Verily, life for life, and eye for eye, and nose for nose, and
ear for ear, and tooth for tooth, and for wounding retaliation.' And the
time of your promise is expired and you shall pay me. And is not the
wise Frank, who sitteth at my right hand, the ready writer, who giveth
to the public every day a new book to read, the paper of news,
_Khabar-i-Khagaz_ wherein are written the misdeeds of the wicked, and
the dealings of the fraudulent and the unwary receive their just reward?
And think you he will not make a great writing, several columns in
length, and deliver it to the devils that perform his bidding, and shall
they not multiply what he hath written, and sow it broadcast over the
British Raj for the minor consideration of one anna a copy, that all
shall see how the Maharajah of Baithopoor doth scandalously repudiate
his debts, and harbour traitors to the Raj in his palace?"
Isaacs said all this in a solemn and impressive manner, calculated to
inspire awe and terror in the soul of the unhappy debtor. As for the
maharajah, the cold sweat stood on his face, and at the last words his
anxiety was so great that the long fingers uncurled spasmodically and
the jewelled mouthpiece fell back, as the head of a snake, among the
silken coils of the tube at his feet. Instantly, on feeling the grasping
hand empty, his majesty, with more alacrity than I would have expected,
darted forward with outstretched claws, as a hawk on his prey, and
seizing the glittering thing returned it to his lips with a look of
evident relief. It was habit, of course, for we were not exactly the men
to plunder him of his toy, but there was a fierceness about the whole
action that spoke of the real miser. Then there was silence for a
moment. The old man was evidently greatly impressed by the perils of his
situation. Isaacs continued.
"Your majesty well perceives that you have surrounded yourself with
dangers on all sides. No danger threatens me. I could buy you and
Baithopoor to-morrow if I chose. But I am a just man. When the prophet,
whose name be blessed, saith that we shall have eye for eye, and nose
for nose, and for wounding retaliation, he saith also that 'he that
remitteth the same as alms it shall be an atonement unto him.' Now your
majesty is a hard man, and I well know that if I force you to pay me now
you will cruelly tax and oppress your subjects to refill your coffers.
And many of your subjects are true believers, following the prophet,
upon whom be peace; and it is also written 'Thou shalt rob a stranger,
but thou shalt not rob a brother,'--and if I cause you to rob my
brethren is not the sin mine, and the atonement thereof? Now also has
the lawful interest on your bond mounted up to several lakhs of rupees.
But for the sake of my brethren who are in bondage to you, who are an
unbeliever and shall broil everlastingly in raging flames, I will yet
make a covenant with you, and the agreement thereof shall be this:
"You shall deliver into my hand, before the dark half of the next moon,
the man"--Isaacs lowered his voice to a whisper, barely audible in the
still room, where the only sound heard as he paused was the tread of the
sowar on the verandah outside-- "the man Shere Ali, formerly Emir of
Afghanistan, now hidden in your palace of Baithopoor. Him you shall give
to me safe and untouched at the place which I shall choose, northwards
from here, in the pass towards Keitung. And there shall not be an hair
of his head touched, and if it is good in my eyes I will give him up to
the British; and if it is good in my eyes, I will slay him, and you
shall ask no questions. And if you refuse to do this I will go to the
great lord sahib and tell him of your doings, and you will be arrested
before this night and shall not escape. But if you consent and put your
hand to this agreement, I will speak no word, and you shall depart in
peace; and moreover, for the sake of the true believers in your kingdom
I will remit to you the whole of the interest on your debt; and the bond
you shall pay at your convenience. I have spoken, do you answer me."
Isaacs calmly took from his pocket two rolls covered with Persian
writing, and lighting a cigarette, proceeded to peruse them carefully,
to detect any flaw or error in their composition. The face of the old
maharajah betrayed great emotion, but he bravely pulled away at his
hookah and tried to think over the situation. In the hope of delivering
himself from his whole debt he had rashly given himself into the hands
of a man who hated him, though he had discovered that hatred too late.
He had flattered himself that the loan had been made out of friendly
feeling and a desire for his interest and support; he found that Isaacs
had lent the money, for real or imaginary religious motives, in the
interest of his co-religionists. I sat silently watching the varying
passions as they swept over the repulsive face of the old man. The
silence must have lasted a quarter of an hour.
"Give me the covenant," he said at last, "for I am in the tiger's
clutches. I will sign it, since I must. But it shall be requited to you,
Abdul Hafiz; and when your body has been eaten of jackals and wild pigs
in the forest, your soul shall enter into the shape of a despised
sweeper, and you and your off-spring shall scavenge the streets of the
cities of my kingdom and of the kingdom of my son, and son's son, to ten
thousand generations." A Hindoo cannot express scorn more deadly or hate
more lasting than this. Isaacs smiled, but there was a concentrated look
in his face, relentless and hard, as he answered the insult.
"I am not going to bandy words with you. But if you are not quick about
signing that paper I may change my mind, and send for the Angrezi sowars
from Peterhof. So you had better hurry yourself." Isaacs produced a
small inkhorn and a reed pen from his pocket. "Sign," he said, rising to
his feet "before that soldier outside passes the window three times, or
I will deliver you to the British."
Trembling in every joint, and the perspiration standing on his face like
beads, the old man seized the pen and traced his name and titles at the
foot, first of one copy, and then of the other. Isaacs followed, writing
his full name in the Persian character, and I signed my name last, "Paul
Griggs," in large letters at the bottom of each roll, adding the word
"witness," in case of the transaction becoming known.
"And now," said Isaacs to the maharajah, "despatch at once a messenger,
and let the man here mentioned be brought under a strong guard and by
circuitous roads to the pass of Keitung, and let them there encamp
before the third week from to-day, when the moon is at the full. And I
will be there and will receive the man. And woe to you if he come not;
and woe to you if you oppress the true believers in your realm." He
turned on his heel, and I followed him out of the room after making a
brief salutation to the old man, cowering among his cushions, a ceremony
which Isaacs omitted, whether intentionally or from forgetfulness, I
could not say. We passed through the house out into the air, and
mounting our horses rode away, leaving the double row of servants
salaaming to the ground. The duration of our private interview with the
maharajah had given them an immense idea of our importance. We had come
at four and it was now nearly five. The long pauses and the Persian
circumlocutions had occupied a good deal of time.
"You do not seem to have needed my counsel or assistance much," I said.
"With such an armoury of weapons you could manage half-a-dozen
"Yes--perhaps so. But I have strong reasons for wishing this affair
quickly over, and the editor of a daily paper is a thing of terror to a
native prince; you must have seen that."
"What do you mean to do with your man when he is safely in your hands,
if it is not an indiscreet question?"
"Do with him?" asked Isaacs with some astonishment. "Is it possible you
have not guessed? He is a brave man, and a true believer. I will give
him money and letters, that he may make his way to Baghdad, or wherever
he will be safe. He shall depart in peace, and be as free as air."
I had half suspected my friend of some such generous intention, but he
had played his part of unrelenting hardness so well in our late
interview with the Hindoo prince that it seemed incomprehensible that a
man should be so pitiless and so kind on the same day. There was not a
trace of hardness on his beautiful features now, and as we rounded the
hill and caught the last beams of the sun, now sinking behind the
mountains, his face seemed transfigured as with a glory, and I could
hardly bear to look at him. He held his hat in his hand and faced the
west for an instant, as though thanking the declining day for its
freshness and beauty; and I thought to myself that the sun was lucky to
see such an exquisite picture before he bid Simla good-night, and that
he should shine the brighter for it the next day, since he would look on
nothing fairer in his twelve hours' wandering over the other half of
"And now," said he, "it is late, but if we ride towards Annandale we may
meet them coming back from the polo match we have missed." His eyes
glowed at the thought. Shere Ali, the maharajah, bonds, principal, and
interest, were all forgotten in the anticipation of a brief meeting with
the woman he loved.
* * * * *
"Why did you not come and see the game? After all your enthusiasm about
polo this morning, I did not think you would miss anything so good,"
were the first words of Miss Westonhaugh as we met her and Kildare in
the narrow path that leads down to Annandale. Two men were riding behind
them, who proved to be Mr. Currie Ghyrkins and Mr. John Westonhaugh. The
latter was duly introduced to us; a quiet, spare man, with his sister's
features, but without a trace of her superb colour and animal spirits.
He had the real Bombay paleness, and had been steamed to the bone
through the rains. As we were introduced, Isaacs started and said
quickly that he believed he had met Mr. Westonhaugh before.
"It is possible, quite possible," said that gentleman affably,
"especially if you ever go to Bombay."
"Yes--it was in Bombay--some twelve years ago. You have probably
"Ah, yes. I was young and green then. I wonder you remember me." He did
not show any very lively interest in the matter, though he smiled
Miss Westonhaugh must have been teasing Lord Steepleton, for he looked
flushed and annoyed, and she was in capital spirits. We turned to go
back with the party, and by a turn of the wrist Isaacs wheeled his horse
to the side of Miss Westonhaugh's, a position he did not again abandon.
They were leading, and I resolved they should have a chance, as the path
was not broad enough for more than two to ride abreast. So I furtively
excited my horse by a touch of the heel and a quick strain on the curb,
throwing him across the road, and thus producing a momentary delay, of
which the two riders in front took advantage to increase their distance.
Then we fell in, Mr. Ghyrkins and I in front, while the dejected Kildare
rode behind with Mr. John Westonhaugh. Ghyrkins and I, being heavy men,
heavily mounted, controlled the situation, and before long Isaacs and
Miss Westonhaugh were a couple of hundred yards ahead, and we only
caught occasional glimpses of them through the trees as they wound in
and out along the path.
"What are those youngsters talking about, back there? Tigers, I'll be
bound," said Mr. Ghyrkina to me. Sure enough, they were.
"What do you suppose I found when we got back this afternoon, Mr.
Griggs? Why, this hair-brained young Kildare has been proposing to my
niece----" his horse stumbled, but recovered himself in a moment.
"You don't mean it," said I, rather startled.
"Oh no, no, no. I don't mean that at all. Ha! ha! ha! very good, very
good. No, no. Lord Steepleton wants us all to go on a tiger-hunt to
amuse John, and he proposes--ha! ha!--really too funny of me--that Miss
Westonhaugh should go with us."
"I suppose you have no objection, Mr. Ghyrkins? Ladies constantly go on
such expeditions, and they do not appear to be the least in the way."
"Objections? Of course I have objections. Do you suppose I want to drag
my niece to a premature grave? Think of the fever and the rough living
and all, and she only just out from England."
"She looks as if she could stand anything," I said, as just then an open
space in the trees gave us a glimpse of Miss Westonhaugh and Isaacs
ambling along and apparently in earnest conversation. She certainly
looked strong enough to go tiger-hunting that minute, as she sat erect
but half turned to the off side, listening to what Isaacs seemed to be
"I hope you will not go and tell her so," said Ghyrkins. "If she gets an
idea that the thing is possible, there will be no holding her. You don't
know her. I hardly know her myself. Never saw her since she was a baby
till the other day. Now you are the sort of person to go after tigers.
Why do you not go off with my nephew and Mr. Isaacs and Kildare, and
kill as many of them as you like?"
"I have no objection, I am sure. I suppose the _Howler_ could spare me
for a fortnight, now that I have converted the Press Commissioner, your
new _deus ex machina_ for the obstruction of news. What a motley party
we should be. Let me see.--a Bombay Civil Servant, an Irish nobleman, a
Persian millionaire, and a Yankee newspaper man. By Jove! add to that a
famous Revenue Commissioner and a reigning beauty, and the sextett is
complete." Mr. Ghyrkins looked pleased at the gross flattery of himself.
I recollected suddenly that, though he was far from famous as a revenue
commissioner, I had read of some good shooting he had done in his
younger days. Here was a chance.
"Besides, Mr. Ghyrkins, a tiger-hunting party would not be the thing
without some seasoned Nimrod to advise and direct us. Who so fitted for
the post as the man of many a chase, the companion of Maori, the slayer
of the twelve foot tiger in the Nepaul hills in 1861?"
"You have a good memory, Mr. Griggs," said the old fellow, perfectly
delighted, and now fairly launched on his favourite topic. "By Gad, sir,
if I thought I should get such another chance I would go with you
"Why not? there are lots of big man-eaters about," and I incontinently
reeled off half a page of statistics, more or less accurate, about the
number of persons destroyed by snakes and wild beasts in the last year.
"Of course most of those deaths were from tigers, and it is a really
good action to kill a few. Many people can see tigers but cannot shoot
them, whereas your deeds of death amongst them ate a matter of history.
You really ought to be philanthropic, Mr. Ghyrkins, and go with us. We
might stand a chance of seeing some real sport then."
"Why, really, now that you make me think of it, I believe I should like
it amazingly, and I could leave my niece with
Lady--Lady--Stick-in-the-mud; what the deuce is her name? The wife of
the Chief Justice, you know. You ought to know, really--I never remember
names much;" he jerked out his sentences irately.
"Certainly, Lady Smith-Tompkins, you mean. Yes, you might do that--that
is, if Miss Westonhaugh has had the measles, and is not afraid of them.
I heard this morning that three of the little Smith-Tompkinses had them
"You don't say so! Well, well, we shall find some one else, no doubt."
I was certain that at that very moment Isaacs and Miss Westonhaugh were
planning the whole expedition, and so I returned to the question of
sport and inquired where we should go. This led to considerable
discussion, and before we arrived at Mr. Ghyrkins' bungalow--still in
the same order--it was very clear that the old sportsman had made up his
mind to kill one more tiger at all events; and that, rather than forego
the enjoyment of the chase, he would be willing to take his niece with
him. As for the direction of the expedition, that could be decided in a
day or two. It was not the best season for tigers--the early spring is
better--but they are always to be found in the forests of the Terai, the
country along the base of the hills, north of Oude.
When we reached the house it was quite dark, for we had ridden slowly.
The light from the open door, falling across the verandah, showed us
Miss Westonhaugh seated in a huge chair, and Isaacs standing by her side
slightly bending, and holding his hat in his hand. They were still
talking, but as we rode up to the lawn and shouted for the saices,
Isaacs stood up and looked across towards us, and their voices ceased.
It was evident that he had succeeded in thoroughly interesting her, for
I thought--though it was some distance, and the light on them was not
strong--that as he straightened himself and stopped speaking, she looked
up to his face as if regretting that he did not go on. I dismounted with
the rest and walked up to bid Miss Westonhaugh good-night.
"You must come and dine to-morrow night," said Mr. Ghyrkins, "and we
will arrange all about it. Sharp seven. To-morrow is Sunday, you know.
Kildare, you must come too, if you mean business. Seven. We must look
sharp and start, if we mean to come back here before the Viceroy goes."
"Oh in that case," said Kildare, turning to me, "we can settle all about
the polo match for Monday, can't we?"
"Of course, very good of you to take the trouble."
"Not a bit of it. Good-night." We bowed and went back to find our horses
in the gloom. After some fumbling, for it was intensely dark after
facing the light in the doorway of the bungalow, we got into the saddle
and turned homeward through the trees.
"Thank you, Griggs," said Isaacs. "May your feet never weary, and your
shadow never be less."
"Don't mention it, and thanks about the shadow. Only it is never likely
to be less than at the present moment. How dark it is, to be sure!" I
knew well enough what he was thanking me for. I lit a cheroot.
"Isaacs," I said, "you are a pretty cool hand, upon my word."
"Why, indeed! Here you and Miss Westonhaugh have been calmly planning an
extensive tiger-hunt, when you have promised to be in the neighbourhood
of Keitung in three weeks, wherever that may be. I suppose it is in the
opposite direction from here, for you will not find any tigers nearer
than the Terai at this time of year."
"I do not see the difficulty," he answered. "We can be in Oude in two
days from here; shoot tigers for ten days, and be here again in two days
more. That is just a fortnight. It will not take me a week to reach
Keitung. I am much mistaken if I do not get there in three days. I shall
lay a _dak_ by messengers before I go to Oude, and between a double set
of coolies and lots of ponies wherever the roads are good enough, I
shall be at the place of meeting soon enough, never fear."
"Oh, very well; but I hardly think Ghyrkins will want to return under
three weeks; and--I did not think you would want to leave the party." He
had evidently planned the whole three weeks' business carefully. I did
not continue the conversation. He was naturally absorbed in the
arrangement of his numerous schemes--no easy matter, when affairs of
magnitude have to be ordered to suit the exigencies of a _grande
passion_. I shrank from intruding on his reflections, and I had quite
enough to do in keeping my horse on his feet in the thick darkness.
Suddenly he reared violently, and then stood still, quivering in every
limb. Isaacs' horse plunged and snorted by my side, and cannoned heavily
against me. Then all was quiet. I could see nothing. Presently a voice,
low and musical, broke on the darkness, and I thought I could
distinguish a tall figure on foot at Isaacs' knee. Whoever the man was
he must be on the other side of my companion, but I made out a head from
which the voice proceeded.
"Peace, Abdul Hafiz!" it said.
"Aleikum Salaam, Ram Lal!" answered Isaacs. He must have recognised the
man by his voice.
"Abdul," continued the stranger, speaking Persian. "I have business with
thee this night; thou art going home. If it is thy pleasure I will be
with thee in two hours in thy dwelling."
"Thy pleasure is my pleasure. Be it so." I thought the head disappeared.
"Be it so," the voice echoed, growing faint, as if moving rapidly away
from us. The horses, momentarily startled by the unexpected pedestrian,
regained their equanimity. I confess the incident gave me a curiously
unpleasant sensation. It was so very odd that a man on foot--a Persian,
I judged, by his accent--should know of my companion's whereabouts, and
that they should recognise each other by their voices. I recollected
that our coming to Mr. Ghyrkins' bungalow was wholly unpremeditated, and
I was sure Isaacs had spoken to none but our party--not even to his
saice--since our meeting with the Westonhaughs on the Annandale road an
hour and a half before.
"I wonder what he wants," said my friend, apparently soliloquising.
"He seems to know where to find you, at all events," I answered. "He
must have second sight to know you had been to Carisbrooke."
"He has. He is a very singular personage altogether. However, he has
done me more than one service before now, and though I do not comprehend
his method of arriving at conclusions, still less his mode of
locomotion, I am always glad of his advice."
"But what is he? Is he a Persian?--you called him by an Indian name, but
that may be a disguise--is he a wise man from Iran?"
"He is a very wise man, but not from Iran. No. He is a Brahmin by birth,
a Buddhist by adopted religion, and he calls himself an 'adept' by
profession, I suppose, if he can be said to have any. He comes and goes
unexpectedly, with amazing rapidity. His visits are brief, but he always
seems to be perfectly conversant with the matter in hand, whatever it
be. He will come to-night and give me about twenty words of advice,
which I may follow or may not, as my judgment dictates; and before I
have answered or recovered from my surprise, he will have vanished,
apparently into space; for if I ask my servants where he is gone they
will stare at me as if I were crazy, until I show them that the room is
empty, and accuse them of going to sleep instead of seeing who goes in
and out of my apartment. He speaks more languages than I do, and better.
He once told me he was educated in Edinburgh, and his perfect knowledge
of European affairs and of European topics leads me to think he must
have been there a long time. Have you ever looked into the higher phases
of Buddhism? It is a very interesting study."
"Yes, I have read something about it. Indeed I have read a good deal,
and have thought more. The subject is full of interest, as you say. If I
had been an Asiatic by birth, I am sure I should have sought to attain
_moksha_, even if it required a lifetime to pass through all the degrees
of initiation. There is something so rational about their theories,
disclaiming, as they do, all supernatural power; and, at the same time,
there is something so pure and high in their conception of life, in
their ideas about the ideal, if you will allow me the expression, that I
do not wonder Edwin Arnold has set our American transcendentalists and
Unitarians and freethinkers speculating about it all, and wondering
whether the East may not have had men as great as Emerson and Channing
among its teachers." I paused. My greatest fault is that if any one
starts me upon a subject I know anything about, I immediately become
didactic. So I paused and reflected that Isaacs, being, as he himself
declared, frequently in the society of an "adept" of a high class, was
sure to know a great deal more than I.
"I too," he said, "have been greatly struck, and sometimes almost
converted, by the beauty of the higher Buddhist thoughts. As for their
apparently supernatural powers and what they do with them, I care
nothing about phenomena of that description. We live in a land where
marvels are common enough. Who has ever explained the mango trick, or
the basket trick, or the man who throws a rope up into the air and then
climbs up it and takes the rope after him, disappearing into blue space?
And yet you have seen those things--I have seen them, every one has seen
them,--and the performers claim no supernatural agency or assistance. It
is merely a difference of degree, whether you make a mango grow from the
seed to the tree in half an hour, or whether you transport yourself ten
thousand miles in as many seconds, passing through walls of brick and
stone on your way, and astonishing some ordinary mortal by showing that
you know all about his affairs. I see no essential difference between
the two 'phenomena,' as the newspapers call them, since Madame Blavatsky
has set them all by the ears in this country. It is just the difference
in the amount of power brought to bear on the action. That is all. I
have seen, in a workshop in Calcutta, a hammer that would crack an
eggshell without crushing it, or bruise a lump of iron as big as your
head into a flat cake. 'Phenomena' may amuse women and children, but the
real beauty of the system lies in the promised attainment of happiness.
Whether that state of supreme freedom from earthly care gives the
fortunate initiate the power of projecting himself to the antipodes by a
mere act of volition, or of condensing the astral fluid into articles of
daily use, or of stimulating the vital forces of nature to an abnormal
activity, is to me a matter of supreme indifference. I am tolerably
happy in my own way as things are. I should not be a whit happier if I
were able to go off after dinner and take a part in American politics
for a few hours, returning to business here to-morrow morning."
"That is an extreme case," I said. "No man in his senses ever connects
the idea of happiness with American politics."
"Of one thing I am sure, though." He paused as if choosing his words. "I
am sure of this. If any unforeseen event, whether an act of folly of my
own, or the hand of Allah, who is wise, should destroy the peace of mind
I have enjoyed for ten years, with very trifling interruption,--if
anything should occur to make me permanently unhappy, beyond the
possibility of ordinary consolation,--I should seek comfort in the study
of the pure doctrines of the higher Buddhists. The pursuit of a
happiness, so immeasurably beyond all earthly considerations of bodily
comfort or of physical enjoyment, can surely not be inconsistent with my
religion--or with yours."
"No indeed," said I. "But, considering that you are the strictest of
Mohammedans, it seems to me you are wonderfully liberal. So you have
seriously contemplated the possibility of your becoming one of the
'brethren'--as they style themselves?"
"It never struck me until to-day that anything might occur by which my
life could be permanently disturbed. Something to-day has whispered to
me that such an existence could not be permanent. I am sure that it
cannot be. The issue must be either to an infinite happiness or to a
still more infinite misery. I cannot tell which." His clear, evenly
modulated voice trembled a little. We were in sight of the lights from
"I shall not dine with you to-night, Griggs. I will have something in my
own rooms. Come in as soon as you have done--that is if you are free.
There is no reason why you should not see Ram Lal the adept, since we
think alike about his religion, or school, or philosophy--find a name
for it while you are dining." And we separated for a time.
It had been a long and exciting day to me. I felt no more inclined than
he did for the din and racket and lights of the public dining-room. So I
followed his example and had something in my own apartment. Then I
settled myself to a hookah, resolved not to take advantage of Isaacs'
invitation until near the time when he expected Ram Lal. I felt the need
of an hour's solitude to collect my thoughts and to think over the
events of the last twenty-four hours. I recognised that I was fast
becoming very intimate with Isaacs, and I wanted to think about him and
excogitate the problem of his life; but when I tried to revolve the
situation logically, and deliver to myself a verdict, I found myself
carried off at a tangent by the wonderful pictures that passed before my
eyes. I could not detach the events from the individual. His face was
ever before me, whether I thought of Miss Westonhaugh, or of the
wretched old maharajah, or of Ram Lal the Buddhist. Isaacs was the
central figure in every picture, always in the front, always calm and
beautiful, always controlling the events around him. Then I entered on a
series of trite reflections to soothe my baffled reason, as a man will
who is used to understanding what goes on before him and suddenly finds
himself at a loss. Of course, I said to myself, it is no wonder he
controls things, or appears to. The circumstances in which I find this
three days' acquaintance are emphatically those of his own making. He
has always been a successful man, and he would not raise spirits that he
could not keep well in hand. He knows perfectly well what he is about in
making love to that beautiful creature, and is no doubt at this moment
laughing in his sleeve at my simplicity in believing that he was really
asking my advice. Pshaw! as if any advice could influence a man like
I sipped my coffee in disgust with myself. All the time, while trying to
persuade myself that Isaacs was only a very successful schemer, neither
better nor worse than other men, I was conscious of the face that would
not be banished from my sight. I saw the beautiful boyish look in his
deep dark eyes, the gentle curve of the mouth, the grand smooth
architrave of the brows. No--I was a fool! I had never met a man like
him, nor should again. How could Miss Westonhaugh save herself from
loving such a perfect creature? I thought, too, of his generosity. He
would surely keep his promise and deliver poor Shere Ali, hunted to
death by English and Afghan foes, from all his troubles. Had he not the
Maharajah of Baithopoor in his power? He might have exacted the full
payment of the debt, principal and interest, and saved the Afghan chief
into the bargain. But he feared lest the poor Mohammedans should suffer
from the prince's extortion, and he forgave freely the interest,
amounting now to a huge sum, and put off the payment of the bond itself
to the maharajah's convenience. Did ever an Oriental forgive a debt
before even to his own brother? Not in my experience.
I rose and went down to Isaacs. I found him as on the previous evening,
among his cushions with a manuscript book. He looked up smiling and
motioned me to be seated, keeping his place on the page with one finger.
He finished the verse before he spoke, and then laid the book down and
"So you have made up your mind that you would like to see Ram Lal. He
will be here in a minute, unless he changes his mind and does not come
There was a sound of voices outside. Some one asked if Isaacs were in,
and the servant answered. A tall figure in a gray _caftan_ and a plain
white turban stood in the door.
"I never change my mind," said the stranger, in excellent English,
though with an accent peculiar to the Hindoo tongue when struggling with
European languages. His voice was musical and high in pitch, though soft
and sweet in tone. The quality of voice that can be heard at a great
distance, with no apparent effort to the speaker. "I never change my
mind. I am here. Is it well with you?"
"It is well, Ram Lal. I thank you. Be seated, if you will stay with us a
while. This is my friend Mr. Griggs, of whom you probably know. He
thinks as I do on many points, and I was anxious that you should meet."
While Isaacs was speaking, Ram Lal advanced into the room and stood a
moment under the soft light, a gray figure, very tall, but not otherwise
remarkable. He was all gray. The long _caftan_ wrapped round him, the
turban which I had first thought white, the skin of his face, the
pointed beard and long moustache, the heavy eyebrows--a study of grays
against the barbaric splendour of the richly hung wall--a soft outline
on which the yellow light dwelt lovingly, as if weary of being cast back
and reflected from the glory of gold and the thousand facets of the
priceless gems. Ram Lal looked toward me, and as I gazed into his eyes I
saw that they too were gray--a very singular thing in the East--and that
they were very far apart, giving his face a look of great dignity and
fearless frankness. To judge by his features he seemed to be very thin,
and his high shoulders were angular, though the long loose garment
concealed the rest of his frame from view. I had plenty of time to note
these details, for he stood a full minute in the middle of the room, as
if deciding whether to remain or to go. Then he moved quietly to a divan
and sat down cross-legged.
"Abdul, you have done a good deed to-day, and I trust you will not
change your mind before you have carried out your present intentions."
"I never change my mind, Bam Lai," said Isaacs, smiling as he quoted his
visitor's own words. I was startled at first. What good deed was the
Buddhist referring to if not to the intended liberation of Shere Ali?
How could he know of it? Then I reflected that this man was, according
to Isaacs' declaration, an adept of the higher grades, a seer and a
knower of men's hearts. I resolved not to be astonished at anything that
occurred, only marvelling that it should have pleased this extraordinary
man to make his entrance like an ordinary mortal, instead of through the
floor or the ceiling.
"Pardon me," answered Ram Lal, "if I venture to contradict you. You do
change your mind sometimes. Who was it who lately scoffed at women,
their immortality, their virtue, and their intellect? Will you tell me
now, friend Abdul, that you have not changed your mind? Do you think of
anything, sleeping or waking, but the one woman for whom you _have_
changed your mind? Is not her picture ever before you, and the breath of
her beauty upon your soul? Have you not met her in the spirit as well as
in the flesh? Surely we shall hear no more of your doubts about women
for some time to come. I congratulate you, as far as that goes, on your
conversion. You have made a step towards a higher understanding of the
world you live in."
Isaacs did not seem in the least surprised at his visitor's intimate
acquaintance with his affairs. He bowed his head in silence, acquiescing
to what Bam Lai had said, and waited for him to proceed.
"I have come," continued the Buddhist, "to give you some good
advice--the best I have for you. You will probably not take it, for you
are the most self-reliant man I know, though you have changed a little
since you have been in love, witness your sudden intimacy with Mr.
Griggs." He looked at me, and there was a faint approach to a smile in
his gray eyes. "My advice to you is, do not let this projected
tiger-hunt take place if you can prevent it. No good can come of it, and
harm may. Now I have spoken because my mind would not be at rest if I
did not warn you. Of course you will do as you please, only never forget
that I pointed out to you the right course in time."
"Thank you, Ram Lal, for your friendly concern in my behalf. I do not
think I shall act as you suggest, but I am nevertheless grateful to you.
There is one thing I want to ask you, and consult you about, however."
"My friend, what is the use of my giving you advice that you will not
follow? If I lived with you, and were your constant companion, you would
ask me to advise you twenty times a day, and then you would go and do
the diametric opposite of what I suggested. If I did not see in you
something that I see in few other men, I would not be here. There are
plenty of fools who have wit enough to take counsel of a wise man. There
are few men of wit wise enough to be guided by their betters, as if they
were only fools for the time. Yet because you are so wayward I will help
you once or twice more, and then I will leave you to your own
course--which you, in your blindness, will call your kismet, not seeing
that your fate is continually in your own hands--more so at this moment
than ever before. Ask, and I will answer."
"Thanks, Ram Lal. It is this I would know. You are aware that I have
undertaken a novel kind of bargain. The man you wot of is to be
delivered to me near Keitung. I am anxious for the man's safety
afterwards, and I would be glad of some hint about disposing of him. I
must go alone, for I do not want any witness of what I am going to do,
and as a mere matter of personal safety for myself and the man I am
going to set free, I must decide on some plan of action when I meet the
band of sowars who will escort him. They are capable of murdering us
both if the maharajah instructs them to. As long as I am alive to bring
the old man into disgrace with the British, the captive is safe; but it
would be an easy matter for those fellows to dispose of us together, and
there would be an end of the business."
"Of course they could," replied Ram Lal, adding in an ironical tone "and
if you insist upon putting your head down the tiger's throat, how do you
expect me to prevent the brute from snapping it off? That would be a
'phenomenon,' would it not? And only this evening you were saying that
you despised 'phenomena.'"
"I said that such things were indifferent to me. I did not say I
despised them. But I think that this thing may be done without
performing any miracles."
"If it were not such a good action on your part I would have nothing to
do with it. But since you mean to risk your neck for your own peculiar
views of what is right, I will endeavour that you shall not break it. I
will meet you a day's journey before you reach Keitung, somewhere on the
road, and we will go together and do the business. But if I am to help
you I will not promise not to perform some miracles, as you call them,
though you know very well they are no such thing. Meanwhile, do as you
please about the tiger-hunt; I shall say no more about it." He paused,
and then, withdrawing one delicate hand from the folds of his _caftan_,
he pointed to the wall behind Isaacs and me, and said, "What a very
singular piece of workmanship is that yataghan!"
We both naturally turned half round to look at the weapon he spoke of,
which was the central piece in a trophy of jewelled sabres and Afghan
"Yes," said Isaacs, turning back to answer his guest, "it is a ----" He
stopped, and I, who had not seen the weapon before, lost among so many,
and was admiring its singular beauty, turned too; to my astonishment I
saw that Isaacs was gazing into empty space. The divan where Ram Lal had
been sitting an instant before, was vacant. He was gone.
"That is rather sudden," I said.
"More so than usual," was the reply. "Did you see him go? Did he go out
by the door?"
"Not I," I answered, "when I looked round at the wall he was placidly
sitting on that divan pointing with one hand at the yataghan. Does he
generally go so quickly?"
"Yes, more or less. Now I will show you some pretty sport." He rose to
his feet and went to the door. "Narain!" he cried. Narain, the bearer,
who was squatting against the door-post outside, sprang up and stood
before his master. "Narain, why did you not show that pundit the way
downstairs? What do you mean? have you no manners?"
Narain stood open mouthed. "What pundit, sahib?" he asked.
"Why, the pundit who came a quarter of an hour ago, you donkey! He has
just gone out, and you did not even get up and make a salaam, you
impertinent vagabond!" Narain protested that no pundit, or sahib, or any
one else, had passed the threshold since Ram Lal had entered. "Ha! you
_budmash_. You lazy dog of a Hindoo! you have been asleep again, you
swine, you son of a pig, you father of piglings! Is that the way you do
your work in my service?" Isaacs was enjoying the joke in a quiet way
"Sahib," said the trembling Narain, apparently forgetting the genealogy
his master had thrust upon him, "Sahib, you are protector of the poor,
you are my father and my mother, and my brother, and all my relations,"
the common form of Hindoo supplication, "but, Sri Krishnaji! by the
blessed Krishna, I have not slept a wink."
"Then I suppose you mean me to believe that the pundit went through the
ceiling, or is hidden under the cushions. Swear not by your false idols,
slave; I shall not believe you for that, you dog of an unbeliever, you
soor-be-iman, you swine without faith!"
"Han, sahib, han!" cried Narain, seizing at the idea that the pundit had
disappeared mysteriously through the walls. "Yes, sahib, the pundit is a
great yogi, and has made the winds carry him off." The fellow thought
this was a bright idea, not by any means beneath consideration. Isaacs
appeared somewhat pacified.
"What makes you think he is a yogi, dog?" he inquired in a milder tone.
Narain had no answer ready, but stood looking rather stupidly through
the door at the room whence the unearthly visitor had so suddenly
disappeared. "Well," continued Isaacs, "you are more nearly right than
you imagine. The pundit is a bigger yogi than any your idiotic religion
can produce. Never mind, there is an eight anna bit for you, because I
said you were asleep when you were not." Narain bent to the ground in
thanks, as his master turned on his heel. "Not that he minds being told
that he is a pig, in the least," said Isaacs. "I would not call a
Mussulman so, but you can insult these Hindoos so much worse in other
ways that I think the porcine simile is quite merciful by comparison."
He sat down again among the cushions, and putting off his slippers,
curled himself comfortably together for a chat.
"What do you think of Ram Lal?" he asked, when Narain had brought
hookahs and sherbet.
"My dear fellow, I have hardly made up my mind what to think. I have not
altogether recovered from my astonishment. I confess that there was
nothing startling about his manner or his person. He behaved and talked
like a well educated native, in utter contrast to the amazing things he
said, and to his unprecedented mode of leave-taking. It would have
seemed more natural--I would say, more fitting--if he had appeared in
the classic dress of an astrologer, surrounded with zodiacs, and blue
lights, and black cats. Why do you suppose he wants you to abandon the
"I cannot tell. Perhaps he thinks something may happen to me to prevent
my keeping the other engagement. Perhaps he does not approve----" he
stopped, as if not wanting to approach the subject of Ram Lal's
disapprobation. "I intend, nevertheless, that the expedition come off,
and I mean, moreover, to have a very good time, and to kill a tiger if I
"I thought he seemed immensely pleased at your conversion, as he calls
it. He said that your newly acquired belief in woman was a step towards
a better understanding of life."
"Of the world, he said," answered-Isaacs, correcting me. "There is a
great difference between the 'world' and 'life.' The one is a finite,
the other an infinite expression. I believe, from what I have learned of
Ram Lal, that the ultimate object of the adepts is happiness, only to be
attained by wisdom, and I apprehend that by wisdom they mean a knowledge
of the world in the broadest sense of the word. The world to them is a
great repository of facts, physical and social, of which they propose to
acquire a specific knowledge by transcendental methods. If that seems to
you a contradiction of terms, I will try and express myself better. If
you understand me, I am satisfied. Of course I use transcendental in the
sense in which it is applied by Western mathematicians to a mode of
reasoning which I very imperfectly comprehend, save that it consists in
reaching finite results by an adroit use of the infinite."
"Not a bad definition of transcendental analysis for a man who professes
to know nothing about it," said I. "I would not accuse you of a
contradiction of terms, either. I have often thought that what some
people call the 'philosophy of the nineteenth century,' is nothing after
all but the unconscious application of transcendental analysis to the
everyday affairs of life. Consider the theories of Darwin, for instance.
What are they but an elaborate application of the higher calculus? He
differentiates men into protoplasms, and integrates protoplasms into
monkeys, and shows the caudal appendage to be the independent variable,
a small factor in man, a large factor in monkey. And has not the idea of
successive development supplanted the early conception of spontaneous
perfection? Take an illustration from India--the new system of
competition, which the natives can never understand. Formerly the
members of the Civil Service received their warrants by divine
authority, so to speak. They were born perfect, as Aphrodite from the
foam of the sea; they sprang armed and ready from the head of old John
Company as Pallas Athene from the head of Zeus. Now all that is changed;
they are selected from a great herd of candidates by methods of extreme
exactness, and when they are chosen they represent the final result of
infinite probabilities for and against their election. They are all
exactly alike; they are a formula for taxation and the administration of
justice, and so long as you do not attempt to use the formula for any
other purpose, such, for instance, as political negotiation or the
censorship of the public press, the equation will probably be amenable
"As I told you," said Isaacs, "I know nothing, or next to nothing, of
Western mathematics, but I have a general idea of the comparison you
make. In Asia and in Asiatic minds, there prevails an idea that
knowledge can be assimilated once and for all. That if you can obtain
it, you immediately possess the knowledge of everything--the pass-key
that shall unlock every door. That is the reason of the prolonged
fasting and solitary meditation of the ascetics. They believe that by
attenuating the bond between soul and body, the soul can be liberated
and can temporarily identify itself with other objects, animate and
inanimate, besides the especial body to which it belongs, acquiring thus
a direct knowledge of those objects, and they believe that this direct
knowledge remains. Western philosophers argue that the only acquaintance
a man can have with bodies external to his mind is that which he
acquires by the medium of his bodily sensea--though thesa, are
themselves external to his mind, in the truest sanse. The senses not
being absolutely reliable, knowledge acquired by means of them is not
absolutely reliable either. So the ultimate difference between the
Asiatic saint and the European man of science is, that while the former
believes all knowledge to be directly within the grasp of the soul,
under certain conditions, the latter, on the other hand, denies that any
knowledge can be absolute, being all obtained indirectly through a
medium not absolutely reliable. The reasoning, by which the Western mind
allows itself to act fearlessly on information which is not (according
to its own verdict) necessarily accurate, depends on a clever use of the
infinite in unconsciously calculating the probabilities of that
accuracy--and this entirely falls in with what you said about the
application of transcendental analysis to the affairs of everyday life."
"I see you have entirely comprehended me," I said. "But as for the
Asiatic mind--you seem to deny to it the use of the ealculus of thought,
and yet you denned adepts as attempting to acquire specific knowledge by
general and transcendental methods. Here is a real contradiction."
"No; I see no confusion, for I do not include the higher adepts in
either class, sinoe they have the wisdom to make use of the learning and
of the methods of both. They seem to me to be endeavouring, roughly
speaking, to combine the two. They believe absolute knowledge
attainable, and they devote much time to the study of nature, in which
pursuit they make use of highly analytical methods. They subdivide
phenomena to an extent that would surprise and probably amuse a Western
thinker. They count fourteen distinct colours in the rainbow, and
invariably connect sound, even to the finest degrees, with shades of
colour. I could name many other peculiarities of their mode of studying
natural phenomena, which displays a much more minute subdivision and
classification of results than you are accustomed to. But beside all
this they consider that the senses of the normal man are susceptible of
infinite refinement, and that upon a greater or less degree of acquired
acuteness of perception the value of his results must depend. To attain
this high degree of sensitiveness, necessary to the perception of very
subtle phenomena, the adepts find it necessary to train their faculties,
bodily and mental, by a life of rigid abstention from all pleasures or
indulgences not indispensable in maintaining the relation between the
physical and intellectual powers."
"The common _fakir_ aims at the same thing," I remarked.
"But he does not attain it. The common _fakir_ is an idiot. He may, by
fasting and self-torture, of a kind no adept would approve, sharpen his
senses till he can hear and see some sounds and sights inaudible and
invisible to you and me. But his whole system lacks any intellectual
basis: he regards knowledge as something instantaneously attainable when
it comes at last; he believes he will have a vision, and that everything
will be revealed to him. His devotion to his object is admirable, when
he is a genuine ascetic and not, as is generally the case, a
good-for-nothing who makes his piety pay for his subsistence; but it is
devotion of a very low intellectual order. The true adept thinks the
training of the mind in intellectual pursuits no less necessary than the
moderate and reasonable mortification of the flesh, and higher Buddhism
pays as much attention to the one as to the other."
"Excuse me," said I, "if I make a digression. I think there are two
classes of minds commonly to be found among thinkers all over the world.
The one seek to attain to knowledge, the others strive to acquire it.
There is a class of commonplace intellects who regard knowledge of all
kinds in the light of a ladder; one ladder for each science, and the
rungs of the ladders are the successive facts mastered by an effort and
remembered in the order they have been passed. These persons think it is
possible to attain to high eminence on one particular ladder, that is,
in one particular science, without having been up any of the other
ladders, that is, without a knowledge of other branches of seience. This
is the mind of the plodder, the patient man who climbs, step by step, in
his own unvarying round of thought; not seeing that it is but the wheel
of a treadmill over which he is labouring, and that though every step
may pass, and repass, beneath his toiling feet, he can never obtain a
birdseye view of what he is doing, because his eyes are continually
fixed on the step in front."
"But," I continued, as Isaacs assented to my simile by a nod, "there is
another class of minds also. There are persons who regard the whole
imaginable and unimaginable knowledge of mankind, past, present, and
future, as a boundless plain over which they hang suspended and can look
down. Immediately beneath them there is a map spread out which
represents, in the midst of the immense desert, the things they
themselves know. It is a puzzle map, like those they make for children,
where each piece fits into its appointed place, and will fit nowhere
else; every piece of knowledge acquired fits into the space allotted to
it, and when there is a piece, that is, a fact, wanting, it is still
possible to define its extent and shape by the surrounding portions,
though all the details of colour and design are lacking. These are the
people who regard knowledge as a whole, harmonious, when every science
and fragment of a science has its appointed station and is necessary to
completeness of perfect knowledge. I hope I have made clear to you what
I mean, though I am conscious of only sketching the outlines of a
distinction which I believe to be fundamental."
"Of course it is fundamental. Broadly, it is the difference between
analytic and synthetic thought; between the subjective and the objective
views; between the finite conception of a limited world and the infinite
ideal of perfect wisdom. I understand you perfectly."
"You puzzle me continually, Isaacs. Where did you learn to talk about
'analytic' and 'synthetic,' and 'subjective' and 'objective,' and
transcendental analysis, and so forth?" It seemed so consistent with his
mind that he should understand the use of philosophical terms, that I
had noi realised how odd it was that a man of his purely Oriental
education should know anything about the subject. His very broad
application of the words 'analytic' and 'synthetic' to my pair of
illustrations attracted my attention and prompted the question I had
"I read a good deal," he said simply. Then he added in a reflective
tone, "I rather think I have a philosophical mind. The old man who
taught me theology in Istamboul when I was a boy used to talk philosophy
to me by the hour, though I do not believe he knew much about it. He was
a plodder, and went up ladders in search of information, like the man
you describe. But he was very patient and good to me; the peace of Allah
be with him."
It was late, and soon afterwards we parted for the night. The next day
was Sunday, and I had a heap of unanswered letters to attend to, so we
agreed to meet after tiffin and ride together before dining with Mr.
Ghyrkins and the Westonhaughs.
I went to my room and sat a while over a volume of Kant, which I always
travel with--a sort of philosopher's stone on which to whet the mind's
tools when they are dulled with boring into the geological strata of
other people's ideas. I was too much occupied with the personality of
the man I had been talking with to read long, and so I abandoned myself
to a reverie, passing in review the events of the long day.
* * * * *
The Sabbatarian tendency of the English mind at home and abroad is
proverbial, and if they are well-behaved on Sunday in London they are
models of virtue in Simla on the same day. Whether they labour and are
well-fed and gouty in their island home, or suffer themselves to be
boiled for gain in the tropical kettles of Ceylon and Singapore; whether
they risk their lives in hunting for the north pole or the northwest
passage, or endanger their safety in the pursuit of tigers in the Terai,
they will have their Sunday, come rain, come shine. On the deck of the
steamer in the Red Sea, in the cabin of the inbound Arctic explorer, in
the crowded Swiss hotel, or the straggling Indian hill station, there is
always a parson of some description, in a surplice of no description at
all, who produces a Bible and a couple of well-thumbed sermons from the
recesses of his trunk or his lunch basket, or his gun-case, and goes at
the work of weekly redemption with a will. And, what is more, he is
listened to, and for the time being--though on week days he is styled a
bore by the old and a prig by the young--he becomes temporarily invested
with a dignity not his own, with an authority he could not claim on any
other day. It is the dignity of a people who with all their faults have
the courage of their opinions, and it is the authority that they have
been taught from their childhood to reverence, whenever their traditions
give it the right to assert itself. Not otherwise. It is a fine trait of
national character, though it is one which has brought upon the English
much unmerited ridicule. One may differ from them in faith and in one's
estimate of the real value of these services, which are often only saved
from being irreverent in their performance by the perfect sincerity of
parson and congregation. But no one who dispassionately judges them can
deny that the custom inspires respect for English consistency and
admiration for their supreme contempt of surroundings.
I presume that the periodical manifestations of religious belief to
which I refer are intimately and indissolubly connected with the staid
and funereal solemnity which marks an Englishman's dress, conversation,
and conduct on Sunday. He is a different being for the nonce, and must
sustain the entire character of his dual existence, or it will fall to
the ground and forsake him altogether. He cannot take his religion in
the morning and enjoy himself the rest of the day. He must abstain from
everything that could remind him that he has a mind at all, besides a
soul. No amusement will he tolerate, no reading of even the most
harmless fiction can he suffer, while he is in the weekly devotional
I cannot explain these things; they are race questions, problems for the
ethnologist. Certain it is, however, that the partial decay of strict
Sabbatarianism which seems to have set in during the last quarter of a
century has not been attended by any notable development of power in
English thought of that class. The first Republic tried the experiment
of the decimal week, and it was a failure. The English who attempt to
put off even a little of the quaint armour of righteousness, which they
have been accustomed to buckle on every seventh day for so many
generations, are not so successful in the attempt as to attract many to
follow them. They are not graceful in their holiday gambols.
Meditating somewhat on this wise I lay in my long chair by the open door
that Sunday morning in September. It was a little warmer again and the
sun shone pleasantly across the lawn on the great branches and bright
leaves of the rhododendron. The house was very quiet. All the inmates
were gone to the church on the mall, and the servants were basking in
the last few days of warmth they would enjoy before their masters
returned to the plains. The Hindoo servant hates the cold. He fears it
as he fears cobras, fever, and freemasons. His ideal life is nothing to
do, nothing to wear, and plenty to eat, with the thermometer at 135
degrees in the verandah and 110 inside. Then he is happy. His body
swells with much good rice and _dal_, and his heart with pride; he will
wear as little as you will let him, and whether you will let him or not,
he will do less work in a given time than any living description of
servant. So they basked in rows in the sunshine, and did not even
quarrel or tell yarns among themselves; it was quiet and warm and
sleepy. I dozed lazily, dropped my book in my lap, struggled once, and
then fairly fell asleep.
I was roused by Kiramat Ali pulling at my foot, as natives will when
they are afraid of the consequences of waking their master. When I
opened my eyes he presented a card on a salver, and explained that the
gentleman wanted to see me. I looked, and was rather surprised to see it
was Kildare's card. "Lord Steepleton Kildare, 33d Lancers "--there was
no word in pencil, or any message. I told Kiramat to show the sahib in,
wondering why he should call on me. By Indian etiquette, if there was to
be any calling, it was my duty to make the first visit. Before I had
time to think more I heard the clanking of spurs and sabre on the
verandah, and the young man walked in, clad in the full uniform of his
regiment. I rose to greet him, and was struck by his soldierly bearing
and straight figure, as I had been at our first meeting. He took off his
bearskin --for he was in the fullest of full dress--and sat down.
"I am so glad to find you at home," he said: "I feared you might have
gone to church, like everybody else in this place."
"No. I went early this morning. I belong to a different persuasion. I
suppose you are on your way to Peterhof?"
"Yes. There is some sort of official reception to somebody,--I forget
who,--and we had notice to turn out. It is a detestable nuisance."
"I should think so."
"Mr. Griggs, I came to ask you about something. You heard of my proposal
to get up a tiger-hunt? Mr. Ghyrkins was speaking of it."
"Yes. He wanted us to go,--Mr. Isaacs and me,--and suggested leaving his
niece, Miss Westonhaugh, with Lady Smith-Tompkins."
"It would be so dull without a lady in the party. Nothing but tigers and
shikarries and other native abominations to talk to. Do you not think
"Why, yes. I told Mr. Ghyrkins that all the little Smith-Tompkins
children had the measles, and the house was not safe. If they have not
had them, they will, I have no doubt. Heaven is just, and will not leave
you to the conversational mercies of the entertaining tiger and the
"By Jove, Mr. Griggs, that was a brilliant idea: and, as you say, they
may all get the measles yet. The fact is, I have set my heart on this
thing. Miss Westonhaugh said she had never seen a tiger, except in cages
and that kind of thing, and so I made up my mind she should. Besides, it
will be no end of a lark; just when nobody is thinking about tigers, you
go off and kill a tremendous fellow, fifteen or sixteen feet long, and
come back covered with glory and mosquito bites, and tell everybody that
Miss Westonhaugh shot him herself with a pocket pistol. That will be
"I should like it very much too; and I really see no reason why it
should not be done. Mr. Ghyrkins seemed in a very cheerful humour about
tigers last night, and I have no doubt a little persuasion from you will
bring him to a proper view of his obligations to Miss Westonhaugh." He
looked pleased and bright and hopeful, thoroughly enthusiastic, as
became his Irish blood. He evidently intended to have quite as "good" a
"time" as Isaacs proposed to enjoy. I thought the spectacle of those
rivals for the beautiful girl's favour would be extremely interesting.
Lord Steepleton was doubtless a good shot and a brave man, and would
risk anything to secure Miss Westonhaugh's approval; Isaacs, on the
other hand, was the sort of man who is very much the same in danger as
"That is what I came to ask you about. We shall all meet there at dinner
this evening, and I wanted to secure as many allies as possible."
"You may count on me, Lord Steepleton, at all events. There is nothing I
should enjoy better than such a fortnight's holiday, in such good
"All right," said Lord Steepleton, rising, "I must be off now to
Peterhof. It is an organised movement on Mr. Ghyrkins this evening,
then. Is it understood?" He took his bearskin from the table, and
prepared to go, pulling his straps and belts into place, and dusting a
particle of ash from his sleeve.
"Perfectly," I answered. "We will drag him forth into the arena before
three days are past." We shook hands, and he went out.
I was glad he had come, though I had been waked from a pleasant nap to
reeeive him. He was so perfectly gay, and natural, and healthy, that one
could not help liking him. You felt at once that he was honest and would
do the right thing in spite of any one, according to his light; that he
would stand by a friend in danger, and face any odds in fight, with as
much honest determination to play fair and win, as he would bring to a
cricket match or a steeple-chase. His Irish blood gave him a somewhat
less formal manner than belongs to the Englishman; more enthusiasm and
less regard for "form," while his good heart and natural courtesy would
lead him right in the long-run. He seemed all sunshine, with his bright
blue eyes and great fair moustache and brown face; the closely fitting
uniform showed off his erect figure and; elastic gait, and the whole
impression was fresh and exhilarating in the extreme. I was sorry he had
gone. I would have liked to talk with him about boating and fishing and
shooting; about athletics and horses and tandem-driving, and many things
I used, to like years ago at college, before I began my wandering life;
I watched him as he swung himself: into the military saddle, and he
threw up his hand in a parting salute as he rode away. Poor fellow! was
he, too, going to be food for powder and Afghan knives in the avenging
army on its way to Kabul? I went back to my books and remained reading
until the afternoon sun slanted in through the open door, and falling
across my book warned me it was time to keep my appointment with Isaacs.
As we passed the church the people were coming out from the evening
service, and I saw Kildare, once more in the garb of a civilian,
standing near the door, apparently watching for some one to appear. I
knew that, with his strict observance of Catholic rules--often depending
more on pride of family than on religious conviction, in the house of
Kildare--he would not have entered the English Church at such a time,
and I was sure he was lying in wait for Miss Westonhaugh, probably
intending to surprise her and join her on her homeward ride. The road
winds down below the Church, so that for some minutes after passing the
building you may get a glimpse of the mall above and of the people upon
it--or at least of their heads--if they are moving near the edge of the
path. I was unaccountably curious this evening, and I dropped a little
behind Isaacs, craning my neck and turning back in the saddle as I
watched the stream of heads and shoulders, strongly foreshortened
against the blue sky above, moving ceaselessly along the parapet over my
head. Before long I was rewarded; Miss Westonhaugh's fair hair and broad
hat entered the field of my vision, and a moment later Lord Steepleton,
who must have pushed through the crowd from the other side, appeared
struggling after her. She turned quickly, and I saw no more, but I did
not think she had changed colour.
I began to be deeply interested in ascertaining whether she had any
preference for one or the other of the two young men. Kildare's visit in
the morning--though he had said very little--had given me a new
impression of the man, and I felt that he was no contemptible rival. I
saw from the little incident I had just witnessed that he neglected no
opportunity of being with Miss Westonhaugh, and that he had the patience
to wait and the boldness to find her in a crowd. I had seen very little
of her myself; but I had been amply satisfied that Isaacs was capable of
interesting her in a _tete-a-tete_ conversation. "The talker has the
best chance, if he is bold enough," I said to myself; but I was not
satisfied, and I resolved that if I could manage it Isaacs should have
another chance that very evening after the dinner. Meanwhile I would
involve Isaacs in a conversation on some one of those subjects that
seemed to interest him most. He had not seen the couple on the mall, and
was carelessly ambling along with his head in the air and one hand in
the pocket of his short coat, the picture of unconcern.
I was trying to make up my mind whether I would open fire upon the
immortality of the soul, matrimony, or the differential calculus, when,
as we passed from the narrow street into the road leading sound Jako,
"Look here, Griggs," said he, "there is something I want to impress upon
"Well, what is it?"
"It is all very well for Ram Lal to give advice about things he
understands. I have a very sincere regard for him, but I do not believe
he was ever in my position. I have set my heart on this tiger-hunt. Miss
Westonhaugh said the other day that she had never seen a tiger, and I
then and there made up my mind that she should."
I laughed. There seemed to be no essential difference of opinion between
the Irishman and the Persian in regard to the pleasures of the chase.
Miss Westonhaugh was evidently anxious to see tigers, and meant to do
it, since she had expressed her wish to the two men most likely to
procure her that innocent recreation. Lord Steepleton Kildare by his
position, and Isaacs by his wealth, could, if they chose, get up such a
tiger-hunt for her benefit as had never been seen. I thought she might
have waited till the spring--but I had learned that she intended to
return to England in April, and was to spend the early months of the
year with her brother in Bombay.
"You want to see Miss Westonhaugh, and Miss Westonhaugh wants to see
tigers! My dear fellow, go in and win; I will back you."
"Why do you laugh, Griggs?" asked Isaacs, who saw nothing particularly
amusing in what he had said.
"Oh, I laughed because another young gentleman expressed the same
opinions to me, in identically the same words, this morning."
"No. You know very well that Mr. Westonhaugh cares nothing about it, one
way or the other. The little plan for 'amusing brother John' is a hoax.
The thing cannot be done. You might as well try to amuse an undertaker
as to make a man from Bombay laugh. The hollowness of life is ever upon
them. No. It was Kildare; he called and said that Miss Westonhaugh had
never seen a tiger, and he seemed anxious to impress upon me his
determination that she should. Pshaw! what does Kildare care about
"Brother John, as you call him, is a better fellow than he looks. I owe
a great deal to brother John." Isaacs' olive skin flushed a little, and
he emphasised the epithet by which I had designated Mr. John Westonhaugh
as if he were offended by it.
"I mean nothing against Mr. Westonhaugh," said I half apologetically. "I
remember when you met yesterday afternoon you said you had seen him in
Bombay a long time ago."
"Do you remember the story I told you of myself the other night?"
"Westonhaugh was the young civil servant who paid my fine and gave me a
rupee, when I was a ragged sailor from a Mocha craft, and could not
speak a word of English. To that rupee I ultimately owe my entire
fortune. I never forget a face, and I am sure it is he--do you
understand me now? I owe to his kindness everything I possess in the
"The unpardonable sin is ingratitude," I answered, "of which you will
certainly not be accused. That is a very curious coincidence."
"I think it is something more. A man has always at least one opportunity
of repaying a debt, and, besm Illah! I will repay what I can of it. By
the beard of the apostle, whose name is blessed, I am not ungrateful!"
Isaacs was excited as he said this. He was no longer the calm Mr.
Isaacs, he was Abdul Hafiz the Persian, fiery and enthusiastic.
"You say well, my friend," he continued earnestly, "that the
unpardonable sin is ingratitude. Doubtless, had the blessed prophet of
Allah lived in our day, he would have spoken of the doom that hangs over
the ungrateful. It is the curse of this age; for he who forgets or
refuses to remember the kindness done to him by others sets himself
apart, and worships his miserable self, and he makes an idol of himself,
saying, 'I am of more importance than my fellows in the world, and it is
meet and right that they should give and that I should receive.'
Ingratitude is selfishness, and selfishness is the worship of oneself,
the setting of oneself higher than man and goodness and God. And when
man perishes and the angel Al Sijil, the recorder, rolls up his scroll,
what is written therein is written; and Israfil shall call men to
judgment, and the scrolls shall be unfolded, and he that has taken of
others and not given in return, but has ungratefully forgotten and put
away the remembrance of the kindness received, shall be counted among
the unbelievers and the extortioners and the unjust, and shall broil in
raging flames. By the hairs of the prophet's beard, whose name is
I had not seen Isaacs so thoroughly roused before upon any subject. The
flush had left his face and given place to a perfect paleness, and his
eyes shone like coals of fire as he looked upward in pronouncing the
last words. I said to myself that there was a strong element of
religious exaltation in all Asiatics, and put his excitement down to
this cause. His religion was a very beautiful and real thing to him,
ever present in his life, and I mused on the future of the man, with his
great endowments, his exquisite sensitiveness, and his high view of his
obligations to his fellows. I am not a worshipper of heroes, but I felt
that, for the first time in my life, I was intimate with a man who was
ready to stand in the breach and to die for what he thought and believed
to be right. After a pause of some minutes, during which we had ridden
beyond the last straggling bungalows of the town, he spoke again,
quietly, his temporary excitement having subsided.
"I feel very strongly about these things," he said, and then stopped
"I can see you do, and I honour you for it. I think you are the first
grateful person I have ever met; a rare and unique bird in the earth."
"Do not say that."
"I do say it. There is very little of the philosophy of the nineteenth
century about you, Isaacs. Your belief in the obligations of gratitude
and in the general capacity of the human race for redemption, savours
little of 'transcendental analysis.'"
"You have too much of it," he answered seriously. "I do not think you
see how much your cynicism involves. You would very likely, if you are
the man I take you for, be very much offended if I accused you of not
believing any particular dogma of your religion. And yet, with all your
faith, you do not believe in God."
"I cannot see how you get at that conclusion," I replied. "I must deny
your hypothesis, at the risk of engaging you in an argument." I could
not see what he was driving at.
"How can you believe in God, and yet condemn the noblest of His works as
altogether bad? You are not consistent."
"What makes you think I am so cynical?" I inquired, harking back to gain
"A little cloud, a little sultriness in the air, is all that betrays the
coming _khemsin_, that by and by shall overwhelm and destroy man and
beast in its sandy darkness. You have made one or two remarks lately
that show little faith in human nature, and if you do not believe in
human nature what is there left for you to believe in? You said a moment
ago that I was the first grateful person you had ever met. Then the rest
of humanity are all selfish, and worshippers of themselves, and
altogether vile, since you yourself say, as I do, that ingratitude is
the unpardonable sin; and God has made a world full of unpardonable
sinners, and unless you include yourself in the exception you graciously
make in my favour, no one but I shall be saved. And yet you say also
with me that God is good. Do you deny that you are utterly
"I may make you some concession in a few minutes, but I am not going to
yield to such logic. You have committed the fallacy of the undistributed
middle term, if you care to know the proper name for it. I did not say
that all men, saving you, were ungrateful. I said that, saving you, the
persons I have met in my life have been ungrateful. You ought to
"All I can say is, then, that you have had a very unfortunate experience
of life," retorted Isaacs warmly.
"I have," said I, "but since you yield the technical point of logic, I
will confess that I made the assertion hastily and overshot the mark. I
do not remember, however, to have met any one who felt so strongly on
the point as you do."
"Now you speak like a rational being," said Isaacs, quite pacified.
"Extraordinary feelings are the result of unusual circumstances. I was
in such distress as rarely falls to the lot of an innocent man of fine
temperament and good abilities. I am now in a position of such wealth
and prosperity as still more seldom are given to a man of my age and
antecedents. I remember that I obtained the first step on my road to
fortune through the kindness of John Westonhaugh, though I could never
learn his name, and I met him at last, as you saw, by an accident. I
call that accident a favour, and an opportunity bestowed on me by Allah,
and the meeting has roused in me those feelings of thankfulness which,
for want of an object upon which to show them, have been put away out of
sight as a thing sacred for many years. I am willing you should say
that, were my present fortune less, my gratitude would be
proportionately less felt--it is very likely--though the original gift
remain the same, one rupee and no more. You are entitled to think of any
man as grateful in proportion to the gift, so long as you allow the
gratitude at all." He made this speech in a perfectly natural and
unconcerned way, as if he were contemplating the case of another person.
"Seriously, Isaacs, I would not do so for the world. I believe you were
as grateful twelve years ago, when you were poor, as you are now that
you are rich." Isaacs was silent, but a look of great gentleness crossed
his face. There was at times something almost angelic in the perfect
kindness of his eyes.
"To return," I said at last, "to the subject from which we started, the
tigers. If we are really going, we must leave here the day after
to-morrow morning--indeed, why not to-morrow?"
"No; to-morrow we are to play that game of polo, which I am looking
forward to with pleasure. Besides, it will take the men three days to
get the elephants together, and I only telegraphed this morning to the
collector of the district to make the arrangements."
"So you have already taken steps? Does Kildare know you have sent
"Certainly. He came to me this morning at daybreak, and we determined to
arrange everything and take uncle Ghyrkins for granted. You need not
look astonished; Kildare and I are allies, and very good friends." What
a true Oriental! How wise and far-sighted was the Persian, how bold and
reckless the Irishman! It was odd, I thought, that Kildare had not
mentioned the interview with Isaacs. Yet there was a certain rough
delicacy--contradictory and impulsive--in his silence about this
coalition with his rival. We rode along and discussed the plans for the
expedition. All the men in the party, except Lord Steepleton, who had
not been long in India, had killed tigers before. There would be enough
of us, without asking any one else to join. The collector to whom Isaacs
had telegraphed was an old acquaintance of his, and would probably go
out for a few days with us. It all seemed easy enough and plain sailing.
In the course of time we returned to our hotel, dressed, and made our
way through the winding roads to Mr. Currie Ghyrkins' bungalow.
We were met on the verandah by the old commissioner, who welcomed us
warmly and praised our punctuality, for the clock was striking seven in
the drawing-room, as we divested ourselves of our light top-coats. In
the vestibule, Miss Westonhaugh and her brother came forward to greet
"John," said the young lady, "you know I told you there was some one
here whom you got out of trouble ever so many years ago in Bombay. Here
he is. This is a new introduction. Mr. John Westonhaugh, Mr. Abdul
Hafiz-ben-Isak, commonly known to his friends as Mr. Isaacs." Her face
beamed with pleasure, and I thought with pride, as she led her brother
to Isaacs, and her eyes rested long on the Persian with a look that, to
me, argued something more than a mere interest. The two men clasped
hands and stood for some seconds looking at each other in silence, but
with very different expressions. Westonhaugh wore a look of utter
amazement, though he certainly seemed pleased. The good heart that had
prompted the good action twelve years before was still in the right
place, above any petty considerations about nationality. His
astonishment gradually changed to a smile of real greeting and pleasure,
as he began to shake the hand he still held. I thought that even the
faintest tinge of blood coloured his pale cheek.
"God bless my soul," said he, "I remember you perfectly well now. But it
is so unexpected; my sister reminded me of the story, which I had not
forgotten, and now I look at you I remember you perfectly. I am so
As Isaacs answered, his voice trembled, and his face was very pale.
There was a moisture in the brilliant eyes that told of genuine emotion.
"Mr. Westonhaugh, I consider that I owe to you everything I have in the
world. This is a greater pleasure than I thought was in store for me.
Indeed I thank you again."
His voice would not serve him. He stopped short and turned away to look
for something in his coat.
"Indeed," said Westonhaugh, "it was a very little thing I did for you."
And presently the two men went together into the drawing-room,
Wostonhaugh asking all manner of questions, which Isaacs, who was
himself again, began to answer. The rest of us remained in the vestibule
to meet Lord Steepleton, who at that moment came up the steps. There
were more greetings, and then the head _khitmatgar_ appeared and
informed the "_Sahib log_, protectors of the poor, that their meat was
ready." So we filed into the dining-room.
Isaacs was placed at Miss Westonhaugh's right, and her brother sat on
his other side. Ghyrkins was opposite his niece at the other end, and
Kildare and I were together, facing Westonhaugh and Isaacs, a party of
six. Of course Kildare sat beside the lady.
The dinner opened very pleasantly. _I_ could see that Isaacs'
undisguised gratitude and delight in having at last met the man who had
helped him had strongly predisposed John Westonhaugh in his favour. Who
is it that is not pleased at finding that some deed of kindness, done
long ago with hardly a thought, has borne fruit and been remembered and
treasured up by the receiver as the turning-point in his life? Is there
any pleasure greater than that we enjoy through the happiness of
others--in those rare cases where kindness is not misplaced? I had had
time to reflect that Isaacs had most likely told a part of his story to
Miss Westonhaugh on the previous afternoon as soon as he had recognised
her brother. He might have told her before; I did not know how long he
had known her, but it must have been some time. Presently she turned to
"Mr. Isaacs," said she, "some of us know something of your history. Why
will you not tell us the rest now? My uncle has heard nothing of it, and
I know Lord Steepleton is fond of novels."
Isaacs hesitated long, but as every one pressed him in turn, he yielded
at last. And he told it well. It was exactly the narrative he had given
me, in every detail of fact, but the whole effect was different. I saw
how true a mastery he had of the English language, for he knew his
audience thoroughly, and by a little colour here and an altered
expression there he made it graphic and striking, not without humour,
and altogether free of a certain mystical tinge he had imparted to it
when we were alone. He talked easily, with no more constraint than on
other occasions, and his narrative was a small social success. I had not
seen him in evening dress before, and I could not help thinking how much
more thoroughly he looked the polished man of the world than the other
men. Kildare never appeared to greater advantage than in the uniform and
trappings of his profession. In a black coat and a white tie he looked
like any other handsome young Englishman, utterly without individuality.
But Isaacs, with his pale complexion and delicate high-bred features,
bore himself like a noble of the old school. Westonhaugh beside him
looked washed-out and deathly, Kildare was too coarsely healthy, and
Ghyrkins and I, representing different types of extreme plainness,
served as foils to all three.
I watched Miss Westonhaugh while Isaacs was speaking. She had evidently
heard the whole story, for her expression showed beforehand the emotion
she expected to feel at each point. Her colour came and went softly, and
her eyes brightened with a warm light beneath the dark brows that
contrasted so strangely yet delightfully with the mass of flaxen-white
hair. She wore something dark and soft, cut square at the neck, and a
plain circlet of gold was her only ornament. She was a beautiful
creature, certainly; one of those striking-looking women of whom
something is always expected, until they drop quietly out of youth into
middle age, and the world finds out that they are, after all, not
heroines of romance, but merely plain, honest, good women; good wives
and good mothers who love their homes and husbands well, though it has
pleased nature in some strange freak to give them the form and feature
of a Semiramis, a Cleopatra, or a Jeanne d'Arc.
"Dear me, how very interesting!" exclaimed Mr. Ghyrkins, looking up from
his hill mutton as Isaacs finished, and a little murmur of sympathetic
applause went round the table.
"I would give a great deal to have been through all that," said Lord
Steepleton, slowly proceeding to sip a glass of claret.
"Just think!" ejaculated John Westonhaugh. "And I was entertaining such
a Sinbad unawares!" and he took another green pepper from the dish his
servant handed him.
"Upon my word, Isaacs," I said, "some one ought to make a novel of that
story; it would sell like wildfire."
"Why don't you do it yourself, Griggs?" he asked. "You are a pressman,
and I am sure you are welcome to the whole thing."
"I will," I answered.
"Oh do, Mr. Griggs," said the young lady, "and make it wind up with a
tiger-hunt. You could lay the scene in Australia or the Barbadoes, or
some of those places, and put us all in--and kill us all off, if you
like, you know. It would be such fun." Poor Miss Westonhaugh!
"It is easy to see what you are thinking about most, Miss Westonhaugh,"
said Lord Steepleton: "the tigers are uppermost in your mind; and
therefore in mine also," he added gallantly.
"Indeed, no--I was thinking about Mr. Isaacs." She blushed scarlet--the
first time I had ever seen her really embarrassed. It was very natural
that she should be thinking of Isaacs and the strange adventures he had
just recounted; and if she had not cared about him she would not have
changed colour. So I thought, at all events.
"My dear, drink some water immediately, this curry is very hot--deuced
hot, in fact," said Mr. Ghyrkins, in perfectly good faith.
John Westonhaugh, who was busy breaking up biscuits and green peppers
and "Bombay ducks" into his curry, looked up slowly at his sister and
"Why, you are quite a griffin, Katharine," said he, "how they will laugh
at you in Bombay!" I was amused; of course the remarks of her uncle and
brother did not make the blush subside--on the contrary. Kildare was
drinking more claret, to conceal his annoyance. Isaacs had a curious
expression. There was a short silence, and for one instant he turned his
eyes to Miss Westonhaugh. It was only a look, but it betrayed to me--who
knew what he felt--infinite surprise, joy, and sympathy. His quick
understanding had comprehended that he had scored his first victory over
As her eyes met those of Isaacs, the colour left her cheeks as suddenly
as it had come, leaving her face dead white. She drank a little water,
and presently seemed at ease again. I was beginning to think she cared
for him seriously.
"And pray, John," she asked, "what may a griffin be? It is not a very
pretty name to call a young lady, is it?"
"Why, a griffin," put in Mr. Ghyrkins, "is the 'Mr. Verdant Green' of
the Civil Service. A young civilian--or anybody else--who is just out
from home is called a griffin. John calls you a griffin because you
don't understand eating pepper. You don't find it as _chilly_ as he
does! Ha! ha! ha!" and the old fellow laughed heartily, till he was red
in the face, at his bleared old pun. Of course every one was amused or
professed to be, for it was a diversion welcomed by the three men of us
who had seen the young girl's embarrassment.
"A griffin," said I, "is a thing of joy. Mr. Westonhaugh was a griffin
when he gave Mr. Isaacs that historical rupee." I cast my little
bombshell into the conversation, and placidly went on manipulating my
Isaacs was in too gay a humour to be offended, and he only said, turning
to Miss Westonhaugh--
"Mr. Griggs is a cynyic, you know. You must not believe anything he
"If doing kind things makes one a griffin, I hope I may be one always,"
said Miss Westonhaugh quickly, "and I trust my brother is as much a
griffin as ever."
"I am, I assure you," said he. "But Mr. Griggs is quite right, and shows
a profound knowledge of Indian life. No one but a griffin of the
greenest ever gave anybody a rupee in Bombay--or ever will now, I should
"Oh, John, are you going to be cynical too?"
"No, Katharine, I am not cynical at all. I do not think you are quite
sure what a 'cynic' is."
"Oh yes, I know quite well. Diogenes was a cynic, and Saint Jerome, and
other people of that class."
"A man who lives in a tub, and abuses Alexander the Great, and that sort
of thing," remarked Kildare, who had not spoken for some time.
"Mr. Griggs," said John Westonhaugh, "since you are the accused, pray
define what you mean by a cynic, and then Mr. Isaacs, as the accuser,
can have a chance too."
"Very well, I will. A man is a cynic if he will do no good to any one
because he believes every one past improvement. Most men who do good
actions are also cynics, because they well know that they are doing more
harm than good by their charity. Mr. Westonhaugh has the discrimination
to appreciate this, and therefore he is not a cynic."
"It is well you introduced the saving clause, Griggs," said Isaacs to me
from across the table. "I am going to define you now; for I strongly
suspect that you are the very ideal of a philosopher of that class. You
are a man who believes in all that is good and beautiful in theory, but
by too much indifference to good in small measures--for you want a thing
perfect, or you want it not at all---you have abstracted yourself from
perceiving it anywhere, except in the most brilliant examples of heroism
that history affords. You set up in your imagination an ideal which you
call the good man, and you are utterly dissatisfied with anything less
perfect than perfection. The result is that, though you might do a good
action from your philosophical longing to approach the ideal in your own
person, you will not suffer yourself to believe that others are
consciously or unconsciously striving to make themselves better also.