Part 2 out of 4
when they can.
Having regard to his departmental prospects, Miss Vezzis might as
well have asked Michele to go away and come back with the Moon in
his pocket. But Michele was deeply in love with Miss Vezzis, and
that helped him to endure. He accompanied Miss Vezzis to Mass one
Sunday, and after Mass, walking home through the hot stale dust
with her hand in his, he swore by several Saints, whose names would
not interest you, never to forget Miss Vezzis; and she swore by her
Honor and the Saints--the oath runs rather curiously; "In nomine
Sanctissimae--" (whatever the name of the she-Saint is) and so
forth, ending with a kiss on the forehead, a kiss on the left
cheek, and a kiss on the mouth--never to forget Michele.
Next week Michele was transferred, and Miss Vezzis dropped tears
upon the window-sash of the "Intermediate" compartment as he left
If you look at the telegraph-map of India you will see a long line
skirting the coast from Backergunge to Madras. Michele was ordered
to Tibasu, a little Sub-office one-third down this line, to send
messages on from Berhampur to Chicacola, and to think of Miss
Vezzis and his chances of getting fifty rupees a month out of
office hours. He had the noise of the Bay of Bengal and a Bengali
Babu for company; nothing more. He sent foolish letters, with
crosses tucked inside the flaps of the envelopes, to Miss Vezzis.
When he had been at Tibasu for nearly three weeks his chance came.
Never forget that unless the outward and visible signs of Our
Authority are always before a native he is as incapable as a child
of understanding what authority means, or where is the danger of
disobeying it. Tibasu was a forgotten little place with a few
Orissa Mohamedans in it. These, hearing nothing of the Collector-
Sahib for some time, and heartily despising the Hindu Sub-Judge,
arranged to start a little Mohurrum riot of their own. But the
Hindus turned out and broke their heads; when, finding lawlessness
pleasant, Hindus and Mahomedans together raised an aimless sort of
Donnybrook just to see how far they could go. They looted each
other's shops, and paid off private grudges in the regular way. It
was a nasty little riot, but not worth putting in the newspapers.
Michele was working in his office when he heard the sound that a
man never forgets all his life--the "ah-yah" of an angry crowd.
[When that sound drops about three tones, and changes to a thick,
droning ut, the man who hears it had better go away if he is
alone.] The Native Police Inspector ran in and told Michele that
the town was in an uproar and coming to wreck the Telegraph Office.
The Babu put on his cap and quietly dropped out of the window;
while the Police Inspector, afraid, but obeying the old race-
instinct which recognizes a drop of White blood as far as it can be
diluted, said:--"What orders does the Sahib give?"
The "Sahib" decided Michele. Though horribly frightened, he felt
that, for the hour, he, the man with the Cochin Jew and the menial
uncle in his pedigree, was the only representative of English
authority in the place. Then he thought of Miss Vezzis and the
fifty rupees, and took the situation on himself. There were seven
native policemen in Tibasu, and four crazy smooth-bore muskets
among them. All the men were gray with fear, but not beyond
leading. Michele dropped the key of the telegraph instrument, and
went out, at the head of his army, to meet the mob. As the
shouting crew came round a corner of the road, he dropped and
fired; the men behind him loosing instinctively at the same time.
The whole crowd--curs to the backbone--yelled and ran; leaving one
man dead, and another dying in the road. Michele was sweating with
fear, but he kept his weakness under, and went down into the town,
past the house where the Sub-Judge had barricaded himself. The
streets were empty. Tibasu was more frightened than Michele, for
the mob had been taken at the right time.
Michele returned to the Telegraph-Office, and sent a message to
Chicacola asking for help. Before an answer came, he received a
deputation of the elders of Tibasu, telling him that the Sub-Judge
said his actions generally were "unconstitional," and trying to
bully him. But the heart of Michele D'Cruze was big and white in
his breast, because of his love for Miss Vezzis, the nurse-girl,
and because he had tasted for the first time Responsibility and
Success. Those two make an intoxicating drink, and have ruined
more men than ever has Whiskey. Michele answered that the Sub-
Judge might say what he pleased, but, until the Assistant Collector
came, the Telegraph Signaller was the Government of India in
Tibasu, and the elders of the town would be held accountable for
further rioting. Then they bowed their heads and said: "Show
mercy!" or words to that effect, and went back in great fear; each
accusing the other of having begun the rioting.
Early in the dawn, after a night's patrol with his seven policemen,
Michele went down the road, musket in hand, to meet the Assistant
Collector, who had ridden in to quell Tibasu. But, in the presence
of this young Englishman, Michele felt himself slipping back more
and more into the native, and the tale of the Tibasu Riots ended,
with the strain on the teller, in an hysterical outburst of tears,
bred by sorrow that he had killed a man, shame that he could not
feel as uplifted as he had felt through the night, and childish
anger that his tongue could not do justice to his great deeds. It
was the White drop in Michele's veins dying out, though he did not
But the Englishman understood; and, after he had schooled those men
of Tibasu, and had conferred with the Sub-Judge till that excellent
official turned green, he found time to draught an official letter
describing the conduct of Michele. Which letter filtered through
the Proper Channels, and ended in the transfer of Michele up-
country once more, on the Imperial salary of sixty-six rupees a
So he and Miss Vezzis were married with great state and ancientry;
and now there are several little D'Cruzes sprawling about the
verandahs of the Central Telegraph Office.
But, if the whole revenue of the Department he serves were to be
his reward Michele could never, never repeat what he did at Tibasu
for the sake of Miss Vezzis the nurse-girl.
Which proves that, when a man does good work out of all proportion
to his pay, in seven cases out of nine there is a woman at the back
of the virtue.
The two exceptions must have suffered from sunstroke.
WATCHES OF THE NIGHT.
What is in the Brahmin's books that is in the Brahmin's heart.
Neither you nor I knew there was so much evil in the world.
This began in a practical joke; but it has gone far enough now, and
is getting serious.
Platte, the Subaltern, being poor, had a Waterbury watch and a
plain leather guard.
The Colonel had a Waterbury watch also, and for guard, the lip-
strap of a curb-chain. Lip-straps make the best watch guards.
They are strong and short. Between a lip-strap and an ordinary
leather guard there is no great difference; between one Waterbury
watch and another there is none at all. Every one in the station
knew the Colonel's lip-strap. He was not a horsey man, but he
liked people to believe he had been on once; and he wove fantastic
stories of the hunting-bridle to which this particular lip-strap
had belonged. Otherwise he was painfully religious.
Platte and the Colonel were dressing at the Club--both late for
their engagements, and both in a hurry. That was Kismet. The two
watches were on a shelf below the looking-glass--guards hanging
down. That was carelessness. Platte changed first, snatched a
watch, looked in the glass, settled his tie, and ran. Forty
seconds later, the Colonel did exactly the same thing; each man
taking the other's watch.
You may have noticed that many religious people are deeply
suspicious. They seem--for purely religious purposes, of course--
to know more about iniquity than the Unregenerate. Perhaps they
were specially bad before they became converted! At any rate, in
the imputation of things evil, and in putting the worst
construction on things innocent, a certain type of good people may
be trusted to surpass all others. The Colonel and his Wife were of
that type. But the Colonel's Wife was the worst. She manufactured
the Station scandal, and--TALKED TO HER AYAH! Nothing more need be
said. The Colonel's Wife broke up the Laplace's home. The
Colonel's Wife stopped the Ferris-Haughtrey engagement. The
Colonel's Wife induced young Buxton to keep his wife down in the
Plains through the first year of the marriage. Whereby little Mrs.
Buxton died, and the baby with her. These things will be
remembered against the Colonel's Wife so long as there is a
regiment in the country.
But to come back to the Colonel and Platte. They went their
several ways from the dressing-room. The Colonel dined with two
Chaplains, while Platte went to a bachelor-party, and whist to
Mark how things happen! If Platte's sais had put the new saddle-
pad on the mare, the butts of the territs would not have worked
through the worn leather, and the old pad into the mare's withers,
when she was coming home at two o'clock in the morning. She would
not have reared, bolted, fallen into a ditch, upset the cart, and
sent Platte flying over an aloe-hedge on to Mrs. Larkyn's well-kept
lawn; and this tale would never have been written. But the mare
did all these things, and while Platte was rolling over and over on
the turf, like a shot rabbit, the watch and guard flew from his
waistcoat--as an Infantry Major's sword hops out of the scabbard
when they are firing a feu de joie--and rolled and rolled in the
moonlight, till it stopped under a window.
Platte stuffed his handkerchief under the pad, put the cart
straight, and went home.
Mark again how Kismet works! This would not happen once in a
hundred years. Towards the end of his dinner with the two
Chaplains, the Colonel let out his waistcoat and leaned over the
table to look at some Mission Reports. The bar of the watch-guard
worked through the buttonhole, and the watch--Platte's watch--slid
quietly on to the carpet. Where the bearer found it next morning
and kept it.
Then the Colonel went home to the wife of his bosom; but the driver
of the carriage was drunk and lost his way. So the Colonel
returned at an unseemly hour and his excuses were not accepted. If
the Colonel's Wife had been an ordinary "vessel of wrath appointed
for destruction," she would have known that when a man stays away
on purpose, his excuse is always sound and original. The very
baldness of the Colonel's explanation proved its truth.
See once more the workings of Kismet! The Colonel's watch which
came with Platte hurriedly on to Mrs. Larkyn's lawn, chose to stop
just under Mrs. Larkyn's window, where she saw it early in the
morning, recognized it, and picked it up. She had heard the crash
of Platte's cart at two o'clock that morning, and his voice calling
the mare names. She knew Platte and liked him. That day she
showed him the watch and heard his story. He put his head on one
side, winked and said:--"How disgusting! Shocking old man! with
his religious training, too! I should send the watch to the
Colonel's Wife and ask for explanations."
Mrs. Larkyn thought for a minute of the Laplaces--whom she had
known when Laplace and his wife believed in each other--and
answered:--"I will send it. I think it will do her good. But
remember, we must NEVER tell her the truth."
Platte guessed that his own watch was in the Colonel's possession,
and thought that the return of the lip-strapped Waterbury with a
soothing note from Mrs. Larkyn, would merely create a small trouble
for a few minutes. Mrs. Larkyn knew better. She knew that any
poison dropped would find good holding-ground in the heart of the
The packet, and a note containing a few remarks on the Colonel's
calling-hours, were sent over to the Colonel's Wife, who wept in
her own room and took counsel with herself.
If there was one woman under Heaven whom the Colonel's Wife hated
with holy fervor, it was Mrs. Larkyn. Mrs. Larkyn was a frivolous
lady, and called the Colonel's Wife "old cat." The Colonel's Wife
said that somebody in Revelations was remarkably like Mrs. Larkyn.
She mentioned other Scripture people as well. From the Old
Testament. [But the Colonel's Wife was the only person who cared
or dared to say anything against Mrs. Larkyn. Every one else
accepted her as an amusing, honest little body.] Wherefore, to
believe that her husband had been shedding watches under that
"Thing's" window at ungodly hours, coupled with the fact of his
late arrival on the previous night, was . . . . .
At this point she rose up and sought her husband. He denied
everything except the ownership of the watch. She besought him,
for his Soul's sake, to speak the truth. He denied afresh, with
two bad words. Then a stony silence held the Colonel's Wife, while
a man could draw his breath five times.
The speech that followed is no affair of mine or yours. It was
made up of wifely and womanly jealousy; knowledge of old age and
sunken cheeks; deep mistrust born of the text that says even little
babies' hearts are as bad as they make them; rancorous hatred of
Mrs. Larkyn, and the tenets of the creed of the Colonel's Wife's
Over and above all, was the damning lip-strapped Waterbury, ticking
away in the palm of her shaking, withered hand. At that hour, I
think, the Colonel's Wife realized a little of the restless
suspicions she had injected into old Laplace's mind, a little of
poor Miss Haughtrey's misery, and some of the canker that ate into
Buxton's heart as he watched his wife dying before his eyes. The
Colonel stammered and tried to explain. Then he remembered that
his watch had disappeared; and the mystery grew greater. The
Colonel's Wife talked and prayed by turns till she was tired, and
went away to devise means for "chastening the stubborn heart of her
husband." Which translated, means, in our slang, "tail-twisting."
You see, being deeply impressed with the doctrine of Original Sin,
she could not believe in the face of appearances. She knew too
much, and jumped to the wildest conclusions.
But it was good for her. It spoilt her life, as she had spoilt the
life of the Laplaces. She had lost her faith in the Colonel, and--
here the creed-suspicion came in--he might, she argued, have erred
many times, before a merciful Providence, at the hands of so
unworthy an instrument as Mrs. Larkyn, had established his guilt.
He was a bad, wicked, gray-haired profligate. This may sound too
sudden a revulsion for a long-wedded wife; but it is a venerable
fact that, if a man or woman makes a practice of, and takes a
delight in, believing and spreading evil of people indifferent to
him or her, he or she will end in believing evil of folk very near
and dear. You may think, also, that the mere incident of the watch
was too small and trivial to raise this misunderstanding. It is
another aged fact that, in life as well as racing, all the worst
accidents happen at little ditches and cut-down fences. In the
same way, you sometimes see a woman who would have made a Joan of
Arc in another century and climate, threshing herself to pieces
over all the mean worry of housekeeping. But that is another
Her belief only made the Colonel's Wife more wretched, because it
insisted so strongly on the villainy of men. Remembering what she
had done, it was pleasant to watch her unhappiness, and the penny-
farthing attempts she made to hide it from the Station. But the
Station knew and laughed heartlessly; for they had heard the story
of the watch, with much dramatic gesture, from Mrs. Larkyn's lips.
Once or twice Platte said to Mrs. Larkyn, seeing that the Colonel
had not cleared himself:--"This thing has gone far enough. I move
we tell the Colonel's Wife how it happened." Mrs. Larkyn shut her
lips and shook her head, and vowed that the Colonel's Wife must
bear her punishment as best she could. Now Mrs. Larkyn was a
frivolous woman, in whom none would have suspected deep hate. So
Platte took no action, and came to believe gradually, from the
Colonel's silence, that the Colonel must have "run off the line"
somewhere that night, and, therefore, preferred to stand sentence
on the lesser count of rambling into other people's compounds out
of calling hours. Platte forgot about the watch business after a
while, and moved down-country with his regiment. Mrs. Larkyn went
home when her husband's tour of Indian service expired. She never
But Platte was quite right when he said that the joke had gone too
far. The mistrust and the tragedy of it--which we outsiders cannot
see and do not believe in--are killing the Colonel's Wife, and are
making the Colonel wretched. If either of them read this story,
they can depend upon its being a fairly true account of the case,
and can "kiss and make friends."
Shakespeare alludes to the pleasure of watching an Engineer being
shelled by his own Battery. Now this shows that poets should not
write about what they do not understand. Any one could have told
him that Sappers and Gunners are perfectly different branches of
the Service. But, if you correct the sentence, and substitute
Gunner for Sapper, the moral comes just the same.
THE OTHER MAN.
When the earth was sick and the skies were gray,
And the woods were rotted with rain,
The Dead Man rode through the autumn day
To visit his love again.
Far back in the "seventies," before they had built any Public
Offices at Simla, and the broad road round Jakko lived in a pigeon-
hole in the P. W. D. hovels, her parents made Miss Gaurey marry
Colonel Schriederling. He could not have been MUCH more than
thirty-five years her senior; and, as he lived on two hundred
rupees a month and had money of his own, he was well off. He
belonged to good people, and suffered in the cold weather from lung
complaints. In the hot weather he dangled on the brink of heat-
apoplexy; but it never quite killed him.
Understand, I do not blame Schriederling. He was a good husband
according to his lights, and his temper only failed him when he was
being nursed. Which was some seventeen days in each month. He was
almost generous to his wife about money matters, and that, for him,
was a concession. Still Mrs. Schreiderling was not happy. They
married her when she was this side of twenty and had given all her
poor little heart to another man. I have forgotten his name, but
we will call him the Other Man. He had no money and no prospects.
He was not even good-looking; and I think he was in the
Commissariat or Transport. But, in spite of all these things, she
loved him very madly; and there was some sort of an engagement
between the two when Schreiderling appeared and told Mrs. Gaurey
that he wished to marry her daughter. Then the other engagement
was broken off--washed away by Mrs. Gaurey's tears, for that lady
governed her house by weeping over disobedience to her authority
and the lack of reverence she received in her old age. The
daughter did not take after her mother. She never cried. Not even
at the wedding.
The Other Man bore his loss quietly, and was transferred to as bad
a station as he could find. Perhaps the climate consoled him. He
suffered from intermittent fever, and that may have distracted him
from his other trouble. He was weak about the heart also. Both
ways. One of the valves was affected, and the fever made it worse.
This showed itself later on.
Then many months passed, and Mrs. Schreiderling took to being ill.
She did not pine away like people in story books, but she seemed to
pick up every form of illness that went about a station, from
simple fever upwards. She was never more than ordinarily pretty at
the best of times; and the illness made her ugly. Schreiderling
said so. He prided himself on speaking his mind.
When she ceased being pretty, he left her to her own devices, and
went back to the lairs of his bachelordom. She used to trot up and
down Simla Mall in a forlorn sort of way, with a gray Terai hat
well on the back of her head, and a shocking bad saddle under her.
Schreiderling's generosity stopped at the horse. He said that any
saddle would do for a woman as nervous as Mrs. Schreiderling. She
never was asked to dance, because she did not dance well; and she
was so dull and uninteresting, that her box very seldom had any
cards in it. Schreiderling said that if he had known that she was
going to be such a scare-crow after her marriage, he would never
have married her. He always prided himself on speaking his mind,
He left her at Simla one August, and went down to his regiment.
Then she revived a little, but she never recovered her looks. I
found out at the Club that the Other Man is coming up sick--very
sick--on an off chance of recovery. The fever and the heart-valves
had nearly killed him. She knew that, too, and she knew--what I
had no interest in knowing--when he was coming up. I suppose he
wrote to tell her. They had not seen each other since a month
before the wedding. And here comes the unpleasant part of the
A late call kept me down at the Dovedell Hotel till dusk one
evening. Mrs. Schreidlerling had been flitting up and down the
Mall all the afternoon in the rain. Coming up along the Cart-road,
a tonga passed me, and my pony, tired with standing so long, set
off at a canter. Just by the road down to the Tonga Office Mrs.
Schreiderling, dripping from head to foot, was waiting for the
tonga. I turned up-hill, as the tonga was no affair of mine; and
just then she began to shriek. I went back at once and saw, under
the Tonga Office lamps, Mrs. Schreiderling kneeling in the wet road
by the back seat of the newly-arrived tonga, screaming hideously.
Then she fell face down in the dirt as I came up.
Sitting in the back seat, very square and firm, with one hand on
the awning-stanchion and the wet pouring off his hat and moustache,
was the Other Man--dead. The sixty-mile up-hill jolt had been too
much for his valve, I suppose. The tonga-driver said:--"The Sahib
died two stages out of Solon. Therefore, I tied him with a rope,
lest he should fall out by the way, and so came to Simla. Will the
Sahib give me bukshish? IT," pointing to the Other Man, "should
have given one rupee."
The Other Man sat with a grin on his face, as if he enjoyed the
joke of his arrival; and Mrs. Schreiderling, in the mud, began to
groan. There was no one except us four in the office and it was
raining heavily. The first thing was to take Mrs. Schreiderling
home, and the second was to prevent her name from being mixed up
with the affair. The tonga-driver received five rupees to find a
bazar 'rickshaw for Mrs. Schreiderling. He was to tell the tonga
Babu afterwards of the Other Man, and the Babu was to make such
arrangements as seemed best.
Mrs. Schreiderling was carried into the shed out of the rain, and
for three-quarters of an hour we two waited for the 'rickshaw. The
Other Man was left exactly as he had arrived. Mrs. Schreiderling
would do everything but cry, which might have helped her. She
tried to scream as soon as her senses came back, and then she began
praying for the Other Man's soul. Had she not been as honest as
the day, she would have prayed for her own soul too. I waited to
hear her do this, but she did not. Then I tried to get some of the
mud off her habit. Lastly, the 'rickshaw came, and I got her away--
parrtly by force. It was a terrible business from beginning to
end; but most of all when the 'rickshaw had to squeeze between the
wall and the tonga, and she saw by the lamp-light that thin, yellow
hand grasping the awning-stanchion.
She was taken home just as every one was going to a dance at
Viceregal Lodge--"Peterhoff" it was then--and the doctor found that
she had fallen from her horse, that I had picked her up at the back
of Jakko, and really deserved great credit for the prompt manner in
which I had secured medical aid. She did not die--men of
Schreiderling's stamp marry women who don't die easily. They live
and grow ugly.
She never told of her one meeting, since her marriage, with the
Other Man; and, when the chill and cough following the exposure of
that evening, allowed her abroad, she never by word or sign alluded
to having met me by the Tonga Office. Perhaps she never knew.
She used to trot up and down the Mall, on that shocking bad saddle,
looking as if she expected to meet some one round the corner every
minute. Two years afterward, she went Home, and died--at
Bournemouth, I think.
Schreiderling, when he grew maudlin at Mess, used to talk about "my
poor dear wife." He always set great store on speaking his mind,
In the Orient had rise;
Ye may find their teachers still
Under Jacatala's Hill.
Seek ye Bombast Paracelsus,
Read what Flood the Seeker tells us
Of the Dominant that runs
Through the cycles of the Suns--
Read my story last and see
Luna at her apogee.
There are yearly appointments, and two-yearly appointments, and
five-yearly appointments at Simla, and there are, or used to be,
permanent appointments, whereon you stayed up for the term of your
natural life and secured red cheeks and a nice income. Of course,
you could descend in the cold weather; for Simla is rather dull
Tarrion came from goodness knows where--all away and away in some
forsaken part of Central India, where they call Pachmari a
"Sanitarium," and drive behind trotting bullocks, I believe. He
belonged to a regiment; but what he really wanted to do was to
escape from his regiment and live in Simla forever and ever. He
had no preference for anything in particular, beyond a good horse
and a nice partner. He thought he could do everything well; which
is a beautiful belief when you hold it with all your heart. He was
clever in many ways, and good to look at, and always made people
round him comfortable--even in Central India.
So he went up to Simla, and, because he was clever and amusing, he
gravitated naturally to Mrs. Hauksbee, who could forgive everything
but stupidity. Once he did her great service by changing the date
on an invitation-card for a big dance which Mrs. Hauksbee wished to
attend, but couldn't because she had quarrelled with the A.-D.-C.,
who took care, being a mean man, to invite her to a small dance on
the 6th instead of the big Ball of the 26th. It was a very clever
piece of forgery; and when Mrs. Hauksbee showed the A.-D.-C. her
invitation-card, and chaffed him mildly for not better managing his
vendettas, he really thought he had made a mistake; and--which was
wise--realized that it was no use to fight with Mrs. Hauksbee. She
was grateful to Tarrion and asked what she could do for him. He
said simply: "I'm a Freelance up here on leave, and on the lookout
for what I can loot. I haven't a square inch of interest in all
Simla. My name isn't known to any man with an appointment in his
gift, and I want an appointment--a good, sound, pukka one. I
believe you can do anything you turn yourself to do. Will you help
me?" Mrs. Hauksbee thought for a minute, and passed the last of
her riding-whip through her lips, as was her custom when thinking.
Then her eyes sparkled, and she said:--"I will;" and she shook
hands on it. Tarrion, having perfect confidence in this great
woman, took no further thought of the business at all. Except to
wonder what sort of an appointment he would win.
Mrs. Hauksbee began calculating the prices of all the Heads of
Departments and Members of Council she knew, and the more she
thought the more she laughed, because her heart was in the game and
it amused her. Then she took a Civil List and ran over a few of
the appointments. There are some beautiful appointments in the
Civil List. Eventually, she decided that, though Tarrion was too
good for the Political Department, she had better begin by trying
to get him in there. What were her own plans to this end, does not
matter in the least, for Luck or Fate played into her hands, and
she had nothing to do but to watch the course of events and take
the credit of them.
All Viceroys, when they first come out, pass through the
"Diplomatic Secrecy" craze. It wears off in time; but they all
catch it in the beginning, because they are new to the country.
The particular Viceroy who was suffering from the complaint just
then--this was a long time ago, before Lord Dufferin ever came from
Canada, or Lord Ripon from the bosom of the English Church--had it
very badly; and the result was that men who were new to keeping
official secrets went about looking unhappy; and the Viceroy plumed
himself on the way in which he had instilled notions of reticence
into his Staff.
Now, the Supreme Government have a careless custom of committing
what they do to printed papers. These papers deal with all sorts
of things--from the payment of Rs. 200 to a "secret service"
native, up to rebukes administered to Vakils and Motamids of Native
States, and rather brusque letters to Native Princes, telling them
to put their houses in order, to refrain from kidnapping women, or
filling offenders with pounded red pepper, and eccentricities of
that kind. Of course, these things could never be made public,
because Native Princes never err officially, and their States are,
officially, as well administered as Our territories. Also, the
private allowances to various queer people are not exactly matters
to put into newspapers, though they give quaint reading sometimes.
When the Supreme Government is at Simla, these papers are prepared
there, and go round to the people who ought to see them in office-
boxes or by post. The principle of secrecy was to that Viceroy
quite as important as the practice, and he held that a benevolent
despotism like Ours should never allow even little things, such as
appointments of subordinate clerks, to leak out till the proper
time. He was always remarkable for his principles.
There was a very important batch of papers in preparation at that
time. It had to travel from one end of Simla to the other by hand.
It was not put into an official envelope, but a large, square,
pale-pink one; the matter being in MS. on soft crinkley paper. It
was addressed to "The Head Clerk, etc., etc." Now, between "The
Head Clerk, etc., etc.," and "Mrs. Hauksbee" and a flourish, is no
very great difference if the address be written in a very bad hand,
as this was. The chaprassi who took the envelope was not more of
an idiot than most chaprassis. He merely forgot where this most
unofficial cover was to be delivered, and so asked the first
Englishman he met, who happened to be a man riding down to
Annandale in a great hurry. The Englishman hardly looked, said:
"Hauksbee Sahib ki Mem," and went on. So did the chaprasss,
because that letter was the last in stock and he wanted to get his
work over. There was no book to sign; he thrust the letter into
Mrs. Hauksbee's bearer's hands and went off to smoke with a friend.
Mrs. Hauksbee was expecting some cut-out pattern things in flimsy
paper from a friend. As soon as she got the big square packet,
therefore, she said, "Oh, the DEAR creature!" and tore it open with
a paper-knife, and all the MS. enclosures tumbled out on the floor.
Mrs. Hauksbee began reading. I have said the batch was rather
important. That is quite enough for you to know. It referred to
some correspondence, two measures, a peremptory order to a native
chief and two dozen other things. Mrs. Hauksbee gasped as she
read, for the first glimpse of the naked machinery of the Great
Indian Government, stripped of its casings, and lacquer, and paint,
and guard-rails, impresses even the most stupid man. And Mrs.
Hauksbee was a clever woman. She was a little afraid at first, and
felt as if she had laid hold of a lightning-flash by the tail, and
did not quite know what to do with it. There were remarks and
initials at the side of the papers; and some of the remarks were
rather more severe than the papers. The initials belonged to men
who are all dead or gone now; but they were great in their day.
Mrs. Hauksbee read on and thought calmly as she read. Then the
value of her trove struck her, and she cast about for the best
method of using it. Then Tarrion dropped in, and they read through
all the papers together, and Tarrion, not knowing how she had come
by them, vowed that Mrs. Hauksbee was the greatest woman on earth.
Which I believe was true, or nearly so.
"The honest course is always the best," said Tarrion after an hour
and a half of study and conversation. "All things considered, the
Intelligence Branch is about my form. Either that or the Foreign
Office. I go to lay siege to the High Gods in their Temples."
He did not seek a little man, or a little big man, or a weak Head
of a strong Department, but he called on the biggest and strongest
man that the Government owned, and explained that he wanted an
appointment at Simla on a good salary. The compound insolence of
this amused the Strong Man, and, as he had nothing to do for the
moment, he listened to the proposals of the audacious Tarrion.
"You have, I presume, some special qualifications, besides the gift
of self-assertion, for the claims you put forwards?" said the
Strong Man. "That, Sir," said Tarrion, "is for you to judge."
Then he began, for he had a good memory, quoting a few of the more
important notes in the papers--slowly and one by one as a man drops
chlorodyne into a glass. When he had reached the peremptory order--
and it WAS a peremptory order--the Strong Man was troubled.
Tarrion wound up:--"And I fancy that special knowledge of this kind
is at least as valuable for, let us say, a berth in the Foreign
Office, as the fact of being the nephew of a distingushed officer's
wife." That hit the Strong Man hard, for the last appointment to
the Foreign Office had been by black favor, and he knew it. "I'll
see what I can do for you," said the Strong Man. "Many thanks,"
said Tarrion. Then he left, and the Strong Man departed to see how
the appointment was to be blocked.
. . . . . . . . .
Followed a pause of eleven days; with thunders and lightnings and
much telegraphing. The appointment was not a very important one,
carrying only between Rs. 500 and Rs. 700 a month; but, as the
Viceroy said, it was the principle of diplomatic secrecy that had
to be maintained, and it was more than likely that a boy so well
supplied with special information would be worth translating. So
they translated him. They must have suspected him, though he
protested that his information was due to singular talents of his
own. Now, much of this story, including the after-history of the
missing envelope, you must fill in for yourself, because there are
reasons why it cannot be written. If you do not know about things
Up Above, you won't understand how to fill it in, and you will say
it is impossible.
What the Viceroy said when Tarrion was introduced to him was:--"So,
this is the boy who 'rusked' the Government of India, is it?
Recollect, Sir, that is not done TWICE." So he must have known
What Tarrion said when he saw his appointment gazetted was:--"If
Mrs. Hauksbee were twenty years younger, and I her husband, I
should be Viceroy of India in twenty years."
What Mrs. Hauksbee said, when Tarrion thanked her, almost with
tears in his eyes, was first:--"I told you so!" and next, to
herself:--"What fools men are!"
THE CONVERSION OF AURELIAN McGOGGIN.
Ride with an idle whip, ride with an unused heel.
But, once in a way, there will come a day
When the colt must be taught to feel
The lash that falls, and the curb that galls,
and the sting of the rowelled steel.
This is not a tale exactly. It is a Tract; and I am immensely
proud of it. Making a Tract is a Feat.
Every man is entitled to his own religious opinions; but no man--
least of all a junior--has a right to thrust these down other men's
throats. The Government sends out weird Civilians now and again;
but McGoggin was the queerest exported for a long time. He was
clever--brilliantly clever--but his clevereness worked the wrong
way. Instead of keeping to the study of the vernaculars, he had
read some books written by a man called Comte, I think, and a man
called Spencer, and a Professor Clifford. [You will find these
books in the Library.] They deal with people's insides from the
point of view of men who have no stomachs. There was no order
against his reading them; but his Mamma should have smacked him.
They fermented in his head, and he came out to India with a
rarefied religion over and above his work. It was not much of a
creed. It only proved that men had no souls, and there was no God
and no hereafter, and that you must worry along somehow for the
good of Humanity.
One of its minor tenets seemed to be that the one thing more sinful
than giving an order was obeying it. At least, that was what
McGoggin said; but I suspect he had misread his primers.
I do not say a word against this creed. It was made up in Town,
where there is nothing but machinery and asphalt and building--all
shut in by the fog. Naturally, a man grows to think that there is
no one higher than himself, and that the Metropolitan Board of
Works made everything. But in this country, where you really see
humanity--raw, brown, naked humanity--with nothing between it and
the blazing sky, and only the used-up, over-handled earth
underfoot, the notion somehow dies away, and most folk come back to
simpler theories. Life, in India, is not long enough to waste in
proving that there is no one in particular at the head of affairs.
For this reason. The Deputy is above the Assistant, the
Commissioner above the Deputy, the Lieutenant-Governor above the
Commissioner, and the Viceroy above all four, under the orders of
the Secretary of State, who is responsible to the Empress. If the
Empress be not responsible to her Maker--if there is no Maker for
her to be responsible to--the entire system of Our administration
must be wrong. Which is manifestly impossible. At Home men are to
be excused. They are stalled up a good deal and get intellectually
"beany." When you take a gross, 'beany" horse to exercise, he
slavers and slobbers over the bit till you can't see the horns.
But the bit is there just the same. Men do not get "beany" in
India. The climate and the work are against playing bricks with
If McGoggin had kept his creed, with the capital letters and the
endings in "isms," to himself, no one would have cared; but his
grandfathers on both sides had been Wesleyan preachers, and the
preaching strain came out in his mind. He wanted every one at the
Club to see that they had no souls too, and to help him to
eliminate his Creator. As a good many men told him, HE undoubtedly
had no soul, because he was so young, but it did not follow that
his seniors were equally undeveloped; and, whether there was
another world or not, a man still wanted to read his papers in
this. "But that is not the point--that is not the point!" Aurelian
used to say. Then men threw sofa-cushions at him and told him to
go to any particular place he might believe in. They christened
him the "Blastoderm"--he said he came from a family of that name
somewhere, in the pre-historic ages--and, by insult and laughter,
strove to choke him dumb, for he was an unmitigated nuisance at the
Club; besides being an offence to the older men. His Deputy
Commissioner, who was working on the Frontier when Aurelian was
rolling on a bed-quilt, told him that, for a clever boy, Aurelian
was a very big idiot. And, you know, if he had gone on with his
work, he would have been caught up to the Secretariat in a few
years. He was just the type that goes there--all head, no physique
and a hundred theories. Not a soul was interested in McGoggin's
soul. He might have had two, or none, or somebody's else's. His
business was to obey orders and keep abreast of his files instead
of devastating the Club with "isms."
He worked brilliantly; but he could not accept any order without
trying to better it. That was the fault of his creed. It made men
too responsible and left too much to their honor. You can
sometimes ride an old horse in a halter; but never a colt.
McGoggin took more trouble over his cases than any of the men of
his year. He may have fancied that thirty-page judgments on fifty-
rupee cases--both sides perjured to the gullet--advanced the cause
of Humanity. At any rate, he worked too much, and worried and
fretted over the rebukes he received, and lectured away on his
ridiculous creed out of office, till the Doctor had to warn him
that he was overdoing it. No man can toil eighteen annas in the
rupee in June without suffering. But McGoggin was still
intellectually "beany" and proud of himself and his powers, and he
would take no hint. He worked nine hours a day steadily.
"Very well," said the doctor, "you'll break down because you are
over-engined for your beam." McGoggin was a little chap.
One day, the collapse came--as dramatically as if it had been meant
to embellish a Tract.
It was just before the Rains. We were sitting in the verandah in
the dead, hot, close air, gasping and praying that the black-blue
clouds would let down and bring the cool. Very, very far away,
there was a faint whisper, which was the roar of the Rains breaking
over the river. One of the men heard it, got out of his chair,
listened, and said, naturally enough:--"Thank God!"
Then the Blastoderm turned in his place and said:--"Why? I assure
you it's only the result of perfectly natural causes--atmospheric
phenomena of the simplest kind. Why you should, therefore, return
thanks to a Being who never did exist--who is only a figment--"
"Blastoderm," grunted the man in the next chair, "dry up, and throw
me over the Pioneer. We know all about your figments." The
Blastoderm reached out to the table, took up one paper, and jumped
as if something had stung him. Then he handed the paper over.
"As I was saying," he went on slowly and with an effort--"due to
perfectly natural causes--perfectly natural causes. I mean--"
"Hi! Blastoderm, you've given me the Calcutta Mercantile
The dust got up in little whorls, while the treetops rocked and the
kites whistled. But no one was looking at the coming of the Rains.
We were all staring at the Blastoderm, who had risen from his chair
and was fighting with his speech. Then he said, still more
"Perfectly conceivable--dictionary--red oak--amenable--cause--
"Blastoderm's drunk," said one man. But the Blastoderm was not
drunk. He looked at us in a dazed sort of way, and began motioning
with his hands in the half light as the clouds closed overhead.
Then--with a scream:--
"What is it?--Can't--reserve--attainable--market--obscure--"
But his speech seemed to freeze in him, and--just as the lightning
shot two tongues that cut the whole sky into three pieces and the
rain fell in quivering sheets--the Blastoderm was struck dumb. He
stood pawing and champing like a hard-held horse, and his eyes were
full of terror.
The Doctor came over in three minutes, and heard the story. "It's
aphasia," he said. "Take him to his room. I KNEW the smash would
come." We carried the Blastoderm across, in the pouring rain, to
his quarters, and the Doctor gave him bromide of potassium to make
Then the Doctor came back to us and told us that aphasia was like
all the arrears of "Punjab Head" falling in a lump; and that only
once before--in the case of a sepoy--had he met with so complete a
case. I myself have seen mild aphasia in an overworked man, but
this sudden dumbness was uncanny--though, as the Blastoderm himself
might have said, due to "perfectly natural causes."
"He'll have to take leave after this," said the Doctor. "He won't
be fit for work for another three months. No; it isn't insanity or
anything like it. It's only complete loss of control over the
speech and memory. I fancy it will keep the Blastoderm quiet,
Two days later, the Blastoderm found his tongue again. The first
question he asked was: "What was it?" The Doctor enlightened him.
"But I can't understand it!" said the Blastoderm; "I'm quite sane;
but I can't be sure of my mind, it seems--my OWN memory--can I?"
"Go up into the Hills for three months, and don't think about it,"
said the Doctor.
"But I can't understand it," repeated the Blastoderm. "It was my
OWN mind and memory."
"I can't help it," said the Doctor; "there are a good many things
you can't understand; and, by the time you have put in my length of
service, you'll know exactly how much a man dare call his own in
The stroke cowed the Blastoderm. He could not understand it. He
went into the Hills in fear and trembling, wondering whether he
would be permitted to reach the end of any sentence he began.
This gave him a wholesome feeling of mistrust. The legitimate
explanation, that he had been overworking himself, failed to
satisfy him. Something had wiped his lips of speech, as a mother
wipes the milky lips of her child, and he was afraid--horribly
So the Club had rest when he returned; and if ever you come across
Aurelian McGoggin laying down the law on things Human--he doesn't
seem to know as much as he used to about things Divine--put your
forefinger on your lip for a moment, and see what happens.
Don't blame me if he throws a glass at your head!
A GERM DESTROYER.
Pleasant it is for the Little Tin Gods,
When great Jove nods;
But Little Tin Gods make their little mistakes
In missing the hour when great Jove wakes.
As a general rule, it is inexpedient to meddle with questions of
State in a land where men are highly paid to work them out for you.
This tale is a justifiable exception.
Once in every five years, as you know, we indent for a new Viceroy;
and each Viceroy imports, with the rest of his baggage, a Private
Secretary, who may or may not be the real Viceroy, just as Fate
ordains. Fate looks after the Indian Empire because it is so big
and so helpless.
There was a Viceroy once, who brought out with him a turbulent
Private Secretary--a hard man with a soft manner and a morbid
passion for work. This Secretary was called Wonder--John Fennil
Wonder. The Viceroy possessed no name--nothing but a string of
counties and two-thirds of the alphabet after them. He said, in
confidence, that he was the electro-plated figurehead of a golden
administration, and he watched in a dreamy, amused way Wonder's
attempts to draw matters which were entirely outside his province
into his own hands. "When we are all cherubims together," said His
Excellency once, my dear, good friend Wonder will head the
conspiracy for plucking out Gabriel's tail-feathers or stealing
Peter's keys. THEN I shall report him."
But, though the Viceroy did nothing to check Wonder's
officiousness, other people said unpleasant things. Maybe the
Members of Council began it; but, finally, all Simla agreed that
there was "too much Wonder, and too little Viceroy," in that
regime. Wonder was always quoting "His Excellency." It was "His
Excellency this," "His Excellency that," "In the opinion of His
Excellency," and so on. The Viceroy smiled; but he did not heed.
He said that, so long as his old men squabbled with his "dear, good
Wonder," they might be induced to leave the "Immemorial East" in
"No wise man has a policy," said the Viceroy. "A Policy is the
blackmail levied on the Fool by the Unforeseen. I am not the
former, and I do not believe in the latter."
I do not quite see what this means, unless it refers to an
Insurance Policy. Perhaps it was the Viceroy's way of saying:--
That season, came up to Simla one of these crazy people with only a
single idea. These are the men who make things move; but they are
not nice to talk to. This man's name was Mellish, and he had lived
for fifteen years on land of his own, in Lower Bengal, studying
cholera. He held that cholera was a germ that propagated itself as
it flew through a muggy atmosphere; and stuck in the branches of
trees like a wool-flake. The germ could be rendered sterile, he
said, by "Mellish's Own Invincible Fumigatory"--a heavy violet-
black powder--"the result of fifteen years' scientific
Inventors seem very much alike as a caste. They talk loudly,
especially about "conspiracies of monopolists;" they beat upon the
table with their fists; and they secrete fragments of their
inventions about their persons.
Mellish said that there was a Medical "Ring" at Simla, headed by
the Surgeon-General, who was in league, apparently, with all the
Hospital Assistants in the Empire. I forget exactly how he proved
it, but it had something to do with "skulking up to the Hills;" and
what Mellish wanted was the independent evidence of the Viceroy--
"Steward of our Most Gracious Majesty the Queen, Sir." So Mellish
went up to Simla, with eighty-four pounds of Fumigatory in his
trunk, to speak to the Viceroy and to show him the merits of the
But it is easier to see a Viceroy than to talk to him, unless you
chance to be as important as Mellishe of Madras. He was a six-
thousand-rupee man, so great that his daughters never "married."
They "contracted alliances." He himself was not paid. He
"received emoluments," and his journeys about the country were
"tours of observation." His business was to stir up the people in
Madras with a long pole--as you stir up stench in a pond--and the
people had to come up out of their comfortable old ways and gasp:--
"This is Enlightenment and progress. Isn't it fine!" Then they
gave Mellishe statues and jasmine garlands, in the hope of getting
rid of him.
Mellishe came up to Simla "to confer with the Viceroy." That was
one of his perquisites. The Viceroy knew nothing of Mellishe
except that he was "one of those middle-class deities who seem
necessary to the spiritual comfort of this Paradise of the Middle-
classes," and that, in all probability, he had "suggested,
designed, founded, and endowed all the public institutions in
Madras." Which proves that His Excellency, though dreamy, had
experience of the ways of six-thousand-rupee men.
Mellishe's name was E. Mellishe and Mellish's was E. S. Mellish,
and they were both staying at the same hotel, and the Fate that
looks after the Indian Empire ordained that Wonder should blunder
and drop the final "e;" that the Chaprassi should help him, and
that the note which ran: "Dear Mr. Mellish.--Can you set aside your
other engagements and lunch with us at two to-morrow? His
Excellency has an hour at your disposal then," should be given to
Mellish with the Fumigatory. He nearly wept with pride and
delight, and at the appointed hour cantered off to Peterhoff, a big
paper-bag full of the Fumigatory in his coat-tail pockets. He had
his chance, and he meant to make the most of it. Mellishe of
Madras had been so portentously solemn about his "conference," that
Wonder had arranged for a private tiffin--no A.-D. C.'s, no Wonder,
no one but the Viceroy, who said plaintively that he feared being
left alone with unmuzzled autocrats like the great Mellishe of
But his guest did not bore the Viceroy. On the contrary, he amused
him. Mellish was nervously anxious to go straight to his
Fumigatory, and talked at random until tiffin was over and His
Excellency asked him to smoke. The Viceroy was pleased with Mellish
because he did not talk "shop."
As soon as the cheroots were lit, Mellish spoke like a man;
beginning with his cholera-theory, reviewing his fifteen years'
"scientific labors," the machinations of the "Simla Ring," and the
excellence of his Fumigatory, while the Viceroy watched him between
half-shut eyes and thought: "Evidently, this is the wrong tiger; but
it is an original animal." Mellish's hair was standing on end with
excitement, and he stammered. He began groping in his coat-tails
and, before the Viceroy knew what was about to happen, he had tipped
a bagful of his powder into the big silver ash-tray.
"J-j-judge for yourself, Sir," said Mellish. "Y' Excellency shall
judge for yourself! Absolutely infallible, on my honor."
He plunged the lighted end of his cigar into the powder, which began
to smoke like a volcano, and send up fat, greasy wreaths of copper-
colored smoke. In five seconds the room was filled with a most
pungent and sickening stench--a reek that took fierce hold of the
trap of your windpipe and shut it. The powder then hissed and
fizzed, and sent out blue and green sparks, and the smoke rose till
you could neither see, nor breathe, nor gasp. Mellish, however, was
used to it.
"Nitrate of strontia," he shouted; "baryta, bone-meal, etcetera!
Thousand cubic feet smoke per cubic inch. Not a germ could live--
not a germ, Y' Excellency!"
But His Excellency had fled, and was coughing at the foot of the
stairs, while all Peterhoff hummed like a hive. Red Lancers came
in, and the Head Chaprassi, who speaks English, came in, and mace-
bearers came in, and ladies ran downstairs screaming "fire;" for the
smoke was drifting through the house and oozing out of the windows,
and bellying along the verandahs, and wreathing and writhing across
the gardens. No one could enter the room where Mellish was
lecturing on his Fumigatory, till that unspeakable powder had burned
Then an Aide-de-Camp, who desired the V. C., rushed through the
rolling clouds and hauled Mellish into the hall. The Viceroy was
prostrate with laughter, and could only waggle his hands feebly at
Mellish, who was shaking a fresh bagful of powder at him.
"Glorious! Glorious!" sobbed his Excellency. "Not a germ, as you
justly observe, could exist! I can swear it. A magnificent
Then he laughed till the tears came, and Wonder, who had caught the
real Mellishe snorting on the Mall, entered and was deeply shocked
at the scene. But the Viceroy was delighted, because he saw that
Wonder would presently depart. Mellish with the Fumigatory was also
pleased, for he felt that he had smashed the Simla Medical "Ring."
. . . . . . . . .
Few men could tell a story like His Excellency when he took the
trouble, and the account of "my dear, good Wonder's friend with the
powder" went the round of Simla, and flippant folk made Wonder
unhappy by their remarks.
But His Excellency told the tale once too often--for Wonder. As he
meant to do. It was at a Seepee Picnic. Wonder was sitting just
behind the Viceroy.
"And I really thought for a moment," wound up His Excellency, "that
my dear, good Wonder had hired an assassin to clear his way to the
Every one laughed; but there was a delicate subtinkle in the
Viceroy's tone which Wonder understood. He found that his health
was giving way; and the Viceroy allowed him to go, and presented him
with a flaming "character" for use at Home among big people.
"My fault entirely," said His Excellency, in after seasons, with a
twinkling in his eye. "My inconsistency must always have been
distasteful to such a masterly man."
There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken any way you please, is bad,
And strands them in forsaken guts and creeks
No decent soul would think of visiting.
You cannot stop the tide; but now and then,
You may arrest some rash adventurer
Who--h'm--will hardly thank you for your pains.
We are a high-caste and enlightened race, and infant-marriage is
very shocking and the consequences are sometimes peculiar; but,
nevertheless, the Hindu notion--which is the Continental notion--
which is the aboriginal notion--of arranging marriages irrespective
of the personal inclinations of the married, is sound. Think for a
minute, and you will see that it must be so; unless, of course, you
believe in "affinities." In which case you had better not read this
tale. How can a man who has never married; who cannot be trusted to
pick up at sight a moderately sound horse; whose head is hot and
upset with visions of domestic felicity, go about the choosing of a
wife? He cannot see straight or think straight if he tries; and the
same disadvantages exist in the case of a girl's fancies. But when
mature, married and discreet people arrange a match between a boy
and a girl, they do it sensibly, with a view to the future, and the
young couple live happily ever afterwards. As everybody knows.
Properly speaking, Government should establish a Matrimonial
Department, efficiently officered, with a Jury of Matrons, a Judge
of the Chief Court, a Senior Chaplain, and an Awful Warning, in the
shape of a love-match that has gone wrong, chained to the trees in
the courtyard. All marriages should be made through the Department,
which might be subordinate to the Educational Department, under the
same penalty as that attaching to the transfer of land without a
stamped document. But Government won't take suggestions. It
pretends that it is too busy. However, I will put my notion on
record, and explain the example that illustrates the theory.
Once upon a time there was a good young man--a first-class officer
in his own Department--a man with a career before him and, possibly,
a K. C. G. E. at the end of it. All his superiors spoke well of
him, because he knew how to hold his tongue and his pen at the
proper times. There are to-day only eleven men in India who possess
this secret; and they have all, with one exception, attained great
honor and enormous incomes.
This good young man was quiet and self-contained--too old for his
years by far. Which always carries its own punishment. Had a
Subaltern, or a Tea-Planter's Assistant, or anybody who enjoys life
and has no care for to-morrow, done what he tried to do not a soul
would have cared. But when Peythroppe--the estimable, virtuous,
economical, quiet, hard-working, young Peythroppe--fell, there was a
flutter through five Departments.
The manner of his fall was in this way. He met a Miss Castries--
d'Castries it was originally, but the family dropped the d' for
administrative reasons--and he fell in love with her even more
energetically that he worked. Understand clearly that there was not
a breath of a word to be said against Miss Castries--not a shadow of
a breath. She was good and very lovely--possessed what innocent
people at home call a "Spanish" complexion, with thick blue-black
hair growing low down on her forehead, into a "widow's peak," and
big violet eyes under eyebrows as black and as straight as the
borders of a Gazette Extraordinary when a big man dies. But--but--
but--. Well, she was a VERY sweet girl and very pious, but for many
reasons she was "impossible." Quite so. All good Mammas know what
"impossible" means. It was obviously absurd that Peythroppe should
marry her. The little opal-tinted onyx at the base of her finger-
nails said this as plainly as print. Further, marriage with Miss
Castries meant marriage with several other Castries--Honorary
Lieutenant Castries, her Papa, Mrs. Eulalie Castries, her Mamma, and
all the ramifications of the Castries family, on incomes ranging
from Rs. 175 to Rs. 470 a month, and THEIR wives and connections
It would have been cheaper for Peythroppe to have assaulted a
Commissioner with a dog-whip, or to have burned the records of a
Deputy Commissioner's Office, than to have contracted an alliance
with the Castries. It would have weighted his after-career less--
even under a Government which never forgets and NEVER forgives.
Everybody saw this but Peythroppe. He was going to marry Miss
Castries, he was--being of age and drawing a good income--and woe
betide the house that would not afterwards receive Mrs. Virginie
Saulez Peythroppe with the deference due to her husband's rank.
That was Peythroppe's ultimatum, and any remonstrance drove him
These sudden madnesses most afflict the sanest men. There was a
case once--but I will tell you of that later on. You cannot account
for the mania, except under a theory directly contradicting the one
about the Place wherein marriages are made. Peythroppe was
burningly anxious to put a millstone round his neck at the outset of
his career and argument had not the least effect on him. He was
going to marry Miss Castries, and the business was his own business.
He would thank you to keep your advice to yourself. With a man in
this condition, mere words only fix him in his purpose. Of course
he cannot see that marriage out here does not concern the individual
but the Government he serves.
Do you remember Mrs. Hauksbee--the most wonderful woman in India?
She saved Pluffles from Mrs. Reiver, won Tarrion his appointment in
the Foreign Office, and was defeated in open field by Mrs. Cusack-
Bremmil. She heard of the lamentable condition of Peythroppe, and
her brain struck out the plan that saved him. She had the wisdom of
the Serpent, the logical coherence of the Man, the fearlessness of
the Child, and the triple intuition of the Woman. Never--no, never--
as long as a tonga buckets down the Solon dip, or the couples go a-
riding at the back of Summer Hill, will there be such a genius as
Mrs. Hauksbee. She attended the consultation of Three Men on
Peythroppe's case; and she stood up with the lash of her riding-whip
between her lips and spake.
. . . . . . . . .
Three weeks later, Peythroppe dined with the Three Men, and the
Gazette of India came in. Peythroppe found to his surprise that he
had been gazetted a month's leave. Don't ask me how this was
managed. I believe firmly that if Mrs. Hauksbee gave the order, the
whole Great Indian Administration would stand on its head.
The Three Men had also a month's leave each. Peythroppe put the
Gazette down and said bad words. Then there came from the compound
the soft "pad-pad" of camels--"thieves' camels," the bikaneer breed
that don't bubble and howl when they sit down and get up.
After that I don't know what happened. This much is certain.
Peythroppe disappeared--vanished like smoke--and the long foot-rest
chair in the house of the Three Men was broken to splinters. Also a
bedstead departed from one of the bedrooms.
Mrs. Hauksbee said that Mr. Peythroppe was shooting in Rajputana
with the Three Men; so we were compelled to believe her.
At the end of the month, Peythroppe was gazetted twenty days'
extension of leave; but there was wrath and lamentation in the house
of Castries. The marriage-day had been fixed, but the bridegroom
never came; and the D'Silvas, Pereiras, and Ducketts lifted their
voices and mocked Honorary Lieutenant Castries as one who had been
basely imposed upon. Mrs. Hauksbee went to the wedding, and was
much astonished when Peythroppe did not appear. After seven weeks,
Peythroppe and the Three Men returned from Rajputana. Peythroppe
was in hard, tough condition, rather white, and more self-contained
One of the Three Men had a cut on his nose, cause by the kick of a
gun. Twelve-bores kick rather curiously.
Then came Honorary Lieutenant Castries, seeking for the blood of his
perfidious son-in-law to be. He said things--vulgar and
"impossible" things which showed the raw rough "ranker" below the
"Honorary," and I fancy Peythroppe's eyes were opened. Anyhow, he
held his peace till the end; when he spoke briefly. Honorary
Lieutenant Castries asked for a "peg" before he went away to die or
bring a suit for breach of promise.
Miss Castries was a very good girl. She said that she would have no
breach of promise suits. She said that, if she was not a lady, she
was refined enough to know that ladies kept their broken hearts to
themselves; and, as she ruled her parents, nothing happened. Later
on, she married a most respectable and gentlemanly person. He
travelled for an enterprising firm in Calcutta, and was all that a
good husband should be.
So Peythroppe came to his right mind again, and did much good work,
and was honored by all who knew him. One of these days he will
marry; but he will marry a sweet pink-and-white maiden, on the
Government House List, with a little money and some influential
connections, as every wise man should. And he will never, all his
life, tell her what happened during the seven weeks of his shooting-
tour in Rajputana.
But just think how much trouble and expense--for camel hire is not
cheap, and those Bikaneer brutes had to be fed like humans--might
have been saved by a properly conducted Matrimonial Department,
under the control of the Director General of Education, but
corresponding direct with the Viceroy.
THE ARREST OF LIEUTENANT GOLIGHTLY.
"'I've forgotten the countersign,' sez 'e.
'Oh! You 'aye, 'ave you?' sez I.
'But I'm the Colonel,' sez 'e.
'Oh! You are, are you?' sez I. 'Colonel nor no Colonel, you waits
'ere till I'm relieved, an' the Sarjint reports on your ugly old
mug. Coop!' sez I.
. . . . . . . . .
An' s'help me soul, 'twas the Colonel after all! But I was a
The Unedited Autobiography of Private Ortheris.
IF there was one thing on which Golightly prided himself more than
another, it was looking like "an Officer and a gentleman." He said
it was for the honor of the Service that he attired himself so
elaborately; but those who knew him best said that it was just
personal vanity. There was no harm about Golightly--not an ounce.
He recognized a horse when he saw one, and could do more than fill a
cantle. He played a very fair game at billiards, and was a sound
man at the whist-table. Everyone liked him; and nobody ever dreamed
of seeing him handcuffed on a station platform as a deserter. But
this sad thing happened.
He was going down from Dalhousie, at the end of his leave--riding
down. He had cut his leave as fine as he dared, and wanted to come
down in a hurry.
It was fairly warm at Dalhousie, and knowing what to expect below,
he descended in a new khaki suit--tight fitting--of a delicate
olive-green; a peacock-blue tie, white collar, and a snowy white
solah helmet. He prided himself on looking neat even when he was
riding post. He did look neat, and he was so deeply concerned about
his appearance before he started that he quite forgot to take
anything but some small change with him. He left all his notes at
the hotel. His servants had gone down the road before him, to be
ready in waiting at Pathankote with a change of gear. That was what
he called travelling in "light marching-order." He was proud of his
faculty of organization--what we call bundobust.
Twenty-two miles out of Dalhousie it began to rain--not a mere hill-
shower, but a good, tepid monsoonish downpour. Golightly bustled
on, wishing that he had brought an umbrella. The dust on the roads
turned into mud, and the pony mired a good deal. So did Golightly's
khaki gaiters. But he kept on steadily and tried to think how
pleasant the coolth was.
His next pony was rather a brute at starting, and Golightly's hands
being slippery with the rain, contrived to get rid of Golightly at a
corner. He chased the animal, caught it, and went ahead briskly.
The spill had not improved his clothes or his temper, and he had
lost one spur. He kept the other one employed. By the time that
stage was ended, the pony had had as much exercise as he wanted,
and, in spite of the rain, Golightly was sweating freely. At the
end of another miserable half-hour, Golightly found the world
disappear before his eyes in clammy pulp. The rain had turned the
pith of his huge and snowy solah-topee into an evil-smelling dough,
and it had closed on his head like a half-opened mushroom. Also the
green lining was beginning to run.
Golightly did not say anything worth recording here. He tore off
and squeezed up as much of the brim as was in his eyes and ploughed
on. The back of the helmet was flapping on his neck and the sides
stuck to his ears, but the leather band and green lining kept things
roughly together, so that the hat did not actually melt away where
Presently, the pulp and the green stuff made a sort of slimy mildew
which ran over Golightly in several directions--down his back and
bosom for choice. The khaki color ran too--it was really shockingly
bad dye--and sections of Golightly were brown, and patches were
violet, and contours were ochre, and streaks were ruddy red, and
blotches were nearly white, according to the nature and
peculiarities of the dye. When he took out his handkerchief to wipe
his face and the green of the hat-lining and the purple stuff that
had soaked through on to his neck from the tie became thoroughly
mixed, the effect was amazing.
Near Dhar the rain stopped and the evening sun came out and dried
him up slightly. It fixed the colors, too. Three miles from
Pathankote the last pony fell dead lame, and Golightly was forced to
walk. He pushed on into Pathankote to find his servants. He did
not know then that his khitmatgar had stopped by the roadside to get
drunk, and would come on the next day saying that he had sprained
his ankle. When he got into Pathankote, he couldn't find his
servants, his boots were stiff and ropy with mud, and there were
large quantities of dirt about his body. The blue tie had run as
much as the khaki. So he took it off with the collar and threw it
away. Then he said something about servants generally and tried to
get a peg. He paid eight annas for the drink, and this revealed to
him that he had only six annas more in his pocket--or in the world
as he stood at that hour.
He went to the Station-Master to negotiate for a first-class ticket
to Khasa, where he was stationed. The booking-clerk said something
to the Station-Master, the Station-Master said something to the
Telegraph Clerk, and the three looked at him with curiosity. They
asked him to wait for half-an-hour, while they telegraphed to
Umritsar for authority. So he waited, and four constables came and
grouped themselves picturesquely round him. Just as he was
preparing to ask them to go away, the Station-Master said that he
would give the Sahib a ticket to Umritsar, if the Sahib would kindly
come inside the booking-office. Golightly stepped inside, and the
next thing he knew was that a constable was attached to each of his
legs and arms, while the Station-Master was trying to cram a mailbag
over his head.
There was a very fair scuffle all round the booking-office, and
Golightly received a nasty cut over his eye through falling against
a table. But the constables were too much for him, and they and the
Station-Master handcuffed him securely. As soon as the mail-bag was
slipped, he began expressing his opinions, and the head-constable
said:--"Without doubt this is the soldier-Englishman we required.
Listen to the abuse!" Then Golightly asked the Station-Master what
the this and the that the proceedings meant. The Station-Master
told him he was "Private John Binkle of the ---- Regiment, 5 ft. 9
in., fair hair, gray eyes, and a dissipated appearance, no marks on
the body," who had deserted a fortnight ago. Golightly began
explaining at great length; and the more he explained the less the
Station-Master believed him. He said that no Lieutenant could look
such a ruffian as did Golightly, and that his instructions were to
send his capture under proper escort to Umritsar. Golightly was
feeling very damp and uncomfortable, and the language he used was
not fit for publication, even in an expurgated form. The four
constables saw him safe to Umritsar in an "intermediate"
compartment, and he spent the four-hour journey in abusing them as
fluently as his knowledge of the vernaculars allowed.
At Umritsar he was bundled out on the platform into the arms of a
Corporal and two men of the ---- Regiment. Golightly drew himself
up and tried to carry off matters jauntily. He did not feel too
jaunty in handcuffs, with four constables behind him, and the blood
from the cut on his forehead stiffening on his left cheek. The
Corporal was not jocular either. Golightly got as far as--"This is
a very absurd mistake, my men," when the Corporal told him to "stow
his lip" and come along. Golightly did not want to come along. He
desired to stop and explain. He explained very well indeed, until
the Corporal cut in with:--"YOU a orficer! It's the like o' YOU as
brings disgrace on the likes of US. Bloom-in' fine orficer you are!
I know your regiment. The Rogue's March is the quickstep where you
come from. You're a black shame to the Service."
Golightly kept his temper, and began explaining all over again from
the beginning. Then he was marched out of the rain into the
refreshment-room and told not to make a qualified fool of himself.
The men were going to run him up to Fort Govindghar. And "running
up" is a performance almost as undignified as the Frog March.
Golightly was nearly hysterical with rage and the chill and the
mistake and the handcuffs and the headache that the cut on his
forehead had given him. He really laid himself out to express what
was in his mind. When he had quite finished and his throat was
feeling dry, one of the men said:--"I've 'eard a few beggars in the
click blind, stiff and crack on a bit; but I've never 'eard any one
to touch this 'ere 'orficer.'" They were not angry with him. They
rather admired him. They had some beer at the refreshment-room, and
offered Golightly some too, because he had "swore won'erful." They
asked him to tell them all about the adventures of Private John
Binkle while he was loose on the countryside; and that made
Golightly wilder than ever. If he had kept his wits about him he
would have kept quiet until an officer came; but he attempted to
Now the butt of a Martini in the small of your back hurts a great
deal, and rotten, rain-soaked khaki tears easily when two men are
jerking at your collar.
Golightly rose from the floor feeling very sick and giddy, with his
shirt ripped open all down his breast and nearly all down his back.
He yielded to his luck, and at that point the down-train from Lahore
came in carrying one of Golightly's Majors.
This is the Major's evidence in full:--
"There was the sound of a scuffle in the second-class refreshment-
room, so I went in and saw the most villainous loafer that I ever
set eyes on. His boots and breeches were plastered with mud and
beer-stains. He wore a muddy-white dunghill sort of thing on his
head, and it hung down in slips on his shoulders, which were a good
deal scratched. He was half in and half out of a shirt as nearly in
two pieces as it could be, and he was begging the guard to look at
the name on the tail of it. As he had rucked the shirt all over his
head, I couldn't at first see who he was, but I fancied that he was
a man in the first stage of D. T. from the way he swore while he
wrestled with his rags. When he turned round, and I had made
allowance for a lump as big as a pork-pie over one eye, and some
green war-paint on the face, and some violet stripes round the neck,
I saw that it was Golightly. He was very glad to see me," said the
Major, "and he hoped I would not tell the Mess about it. I didn't,
but you can if you like, now that Golightly has gone Home."
Golightly spent the greater part of that summer in trying to get the
Corporal and the two soldiers tried by Court-Martial for arresting
an "officer and a gentleman." They were, of course, very sorry for
their error. But the tale leaked into the regimental canteen, and
thence ran about the Province.
THE HOUSE OF SUDDHOO
A stone's throw out on either hand
From that well-ordered road we tread,
And all the world is wild and strange;
Churel and ghoul and Djinn and sprite
Shall bear us company to-night,
For we have reached the Oldest Land
Wherein the Powers of Darkness range.
From the Dusk to the Dawn.
The house of Suddhoo, near the Taksali Gate, is two-storied, with
four carved windows of old brown wood, and a flat roof. You may
recognize it by five red hand-prints arranged like the Five of
Diamonds on the whitewash between the upper windows. Bhagwan Dass,
the bunnia, and a man who says he gets his living by seal-cutting,
live in the lower story with a troop of wives, servants, friends,
and retainers. The two upper rooms used to be occupied by Janoo and
Azizun and a little black-and-tan terrier that was stolen from an
Englishman's house and given to Janoo by a soldier. To-day, only
Janoo lives in the upper rooms. Suddhoo sleeps on the roof
generally, except when he sleeps in the street. He used to go to
Peshawar in the cold weather to visit his son, who sells curiosities
near the Edwardes' Gate, and then he slept under a real mud roof.
Suddhoo is a great friend of mine, because his cousin had a son who
secured, thanks to my recommendation, the post of head-messenger to
a big firm in the Station. Suddhoo says that God will make me a
Lieutenant-Governor one of these days. I daresay his prophecy will
come true. He is very, very old, with white hair and no teeth worth
showing, and he has outlived his wits--outlived nearly everything
except his fondness for his son at Peshawar. Janoo and Azizun are
Kashmiris, Ladies of the City, and theirs was an ancient and more or
less honorable profession; but Azizun has since married a medical
student from the North-West and has settled down to a most
respectable life somewhere near Bareilly. Bhagwan Dass is an
extortionate and an adulterator. He is very rich. The man who is
supposed to get his living by seal-cutting pretends to be very poor.
This lets you know as much as is necessary of the four principal
tenants in the house of Suddhoo. Then there is Me, of course; but I
am only the chorus that comes in at the end to explain things. So I
do not count.
Suddhoo was not clever. The man who pretended to cut seals was the
cleverest of them all--Bhagwan Dass only knew how to lie--except
Janoo. She was also beautiful, but that was her own affair.
Suddhoo's son at Peshawar was attacked by pleurisy, and old Suddhoo
was troubled. The seal-cutter man heard of Suddhoo's anxiety and
made capital out of it. He was abreast of the times. He got a
friend in Peshawar to telegraph daily accounts of the son's health.
And here the story begins.
Suddhoo's cousin's son told me, one evening, that Suddhoo wanted to
see me; that he was too old and feeble to come personally, and that
I should be conferring an everlasting honor on the House of Suddhoo
if I went to him. I went; but I think, seeing how well-off Suddhoo
was then, that he might have sent something better than an ekka,
which jolted fearfully, to haul out a future Lieutenant-Governor to
the City on a muggy April evening. The ekka did not run quickly.
It was full dark when we pulled up opposite the door of Ranjit
Singh's Tomb near the main gate of the Fort. Here was Suddhoo and
he said that, by reason of my condescension, it was absolutely
certain that I should become a Lieutenant-Governor while my hair was
yet black. Then we talked about the weather and the state of my
health, and the wheat crops, for fifteen minutes, in the Huzuri
Bagh, under the stars.
Suddhoo came to the point at last. He said that Janoo had told him
that there was an order of the Sirkar against magic, because it was
feared that magic might one day kill the Empress of India. I didn't
know anything about the state of the law; but I fancied that
something interesting was going to happen. I said that so far from
magic being discouraged by the Government it was highly commended.
The greatest officials of the State practiced it themselves. (If
the Financial Statement isn't magic, I don't know what is.) Then,
to encourage him further, I said that, if there was any jadoo afoot,
I had not the least objection to giving it my countenance and
sanction, and to seeing that it was clean jadoo--white magic, as
distinguished from the unclean jadoo which kills folk. It took a
long time before Suddhoo admitted that this was just what he had
asked me to come for. Then he told me, in jerks and quavers, that
the man who said he cut seals was a sorcerer of the cleanest kind;
that every day he gave Suddhoo news of the sick son in Peshawar more
quickly than the lightning could fly, and that this news was always
corroborated by the letters. Further, that he had told Suddhoo how
a great danger was threatening his son, which could be removed by
clean jadoo; and, of course, heavy payment. I began to see how the
land lay, and told Suddhoo that I also understood a little jadoo in
the Western line, and would go to his house to see that everything
was done decently and in order. We set off together; and on the way
Suddhoo told me he had paid the seal-cutter between one hundred and
two hundred rupees already; and the jadoo of that night would cost
two hundred more. Which was cheap, he said, considering the
greatness of his son's danger; but I do not think he meant it.
The lights were all cloaked in the front of the house when we
arrived. I could hear awful noises from behind the seal-cutter's
shop-front, as if some one were groaning his soul out. Suddhoo
shook all over, and while we groped our way upstairs told me that
the jadoo had begun. Janoo and Azizun met us at the stair-head, and
told us that the jadoo-work was coming off in their rooms, because
there was more space there. Janoo is a lady of a freethinking turn
of mind. She whispered that the jadoo was an invention to get money
out of Suddhoo, and that the seal-cutter would go to a hot place
when he died. Suddhoo was nearly crying with fear and old age. He
kept walking up and down the room in the half light, repeating his
son's name over and over again, and asking Azizun if the seal-cutter
ought not to make a reduction in the case of his own landlord.
Janoo pulled me over to the shadow in the recess of the carved bow-
windows. The boards were up, and the rooms were only lit by one
tiny lamp. There was no chance of my being seen if I stayed still.
Presently, the groans below ceased, and we heard steps on the
staircase. That was the seal-cutter. He stopped outside the door
as the terrier barked and Azizun fumbled at the chain, and he told
Suddhoo to blow out the lamp. This left the place in jet darkness,
except for the red glow from the two huqas that belonged to Janoo
and Azizun. The seal-cutter came in, and I heard Suddhoo throw
himself down on the floor and groan. Azizun caught her breath, and
Janoo backed to one of the beds with a shudder. There was a clink
of something metallic, and then shot up a pale blue-green flame near
the ground. The light was just enough to show Azizun, pressed
against one corner of the room with the terrier between her knees;
Janoo, with her hands clasped, leaning forward as she sat on the
bed; Suddhoo, face down, quivering, and the seal-cutter.
I hope I may never see another man like that seal-cutter. He was
stripped to the waist, with a wreath of white jasmine as thick as my
wrist round his forehead, a salmon-colored loin-cloth round his
middle, and a steel bangle on each ankle. This was not awe-
inspiring. It was the face of the man that turned me cold. It was
blue-gray in the first place. In the second, the eyes were rolled
back till you could only see the whites of them; and, in the third,
the face was the face of a demon--a ghoul--anything you please
except of the sleek, oily old ruffian who sat in the day-time over
his turning-lathe downstairs. He was lying on his stomach, with his
arms turned and crossed behind him, as if he had been thrown down
pinioned. His head and neck were the only parts of him off the
floor. They were nearly at right angles to the body, like the head
of a cobra at spring. It was ghastly. In the centre of the room,
on the bare earth floor, stood a big, deep, brass basin, with a pale
blue-green light floating in the centre like a night-light. Round
that basin the man on the floor wriggled himself three times. How
he did it I do not know. I could see the muscles ripple along his
spine and fall smooth again; but I could not see any other motion.
The head seemed the only thing alive about him, except that slow
curl and uncurl of the laboring back-muscles. Janoo from the bed
was breathing seventy to the minute; Azizun held her hands before
her eyes; and old Suddhoo, fingering at the dirt that had got into
his white beard, was crying to himself. The horror of it was that
the creeping, crawly thing made no sound--only crawled! And,
remember, this lasted for ten minutes, while the terrier whined, and
Azizun shuddered, and Janoo gasped, and Suddhoo cried.
I felt the hair lift at the back of my head, and my heart thump like
a thermantidote paddle. Luckily, the seal-cutter betrayed himself
by his most impressive trick and made me calm again. After he had
finished that unspeakable triple crawl, he stretched his head away
from the floor as high as he could, and sent out a jet of fire from
his nostrils. Now, I knew how fire-spouting is done--I can do it
myself--so I felt at ease. The business was a fraud. If he had
only kept to that crawl without trying to raise the effect, goodness
knows what I might not have thought. Both the girls shrieked at the
jet of fire and the head dropped, chin down, on the floor with a
thud; the whole body lying then like a corpse with its arms trussed.
There was a pause of five full minutes after this, and the blue-
green flame died down. Janoo stooped to settle one of her anklets,
while Azizun turned her face to the wall and took the terrier in her
arms. Suddhoo put out an arm mechanically to Janoo's huqa, and she
slid it across the floor with her foot. Directly above the body and
on the wall, were a couple of flaming portraits, in stamped paper
frames, of the Queen and the Prince of Wales. They looked down on
the performance, and, to my thinking, seemed to heighten the
grotesqueness of it all.
Just when the silence was getting unendurable, the body turned over
and rolled away from the basin to the side of the room, where it lay
stomach up. There was a faint "plop" from the basin--exactly like
the noise a fish makes when it takes a fly--and the green light in
the centre revived.
I looked at the basin, and saw, bobbing in the water, the dried,
shrivelled, black head of a native baby--open eyes, open mouth and
shaved scalp. It was worse, being so very sudden, than the crawling
exhibition. We had no time to say anything before it began to
Read Poe's account of the voice that came from the mesmerized dying
man, and you will realize less than one-half of the horror of that
There was an interval of a second or two between each word, and a
sort of "ring, ring, ring," in the note of the voice, like the
timbre of a bell. It pealed slowly, as if talking to itself, for
several minutes before I got rid of my cold sweat. Then the blessed
solution struck me. I looked at the body lying near the doorway,
and saw, just where the hollow of the throat joins on the shoulders,
a muscle that had nothing to do with any man's regular breathing,
twitching away steadily. The whole thing was a careful reproduction
of the Egyptian teraphin that one read about sometimes and the voice
was as clever and as appalling a piece of ventriloquism as one could
wish to hear. All this time the head was "lip-lip-lapping" against
the side of the basin, and speaking. It told Suddhoo, on his face
again whining, of his son's illness and of the state of the illness
up to the evening of that very night. I always shall respect the
seal-cutter for keeping so faithfully to the time of the Peshawar
telegrams. It went on to say that skilled doctors were night and
day watching over the man's life; and that he would eventually
recover if the fee to the potent sorcerer, whose servant was the
head in the basin, were doubled.
Here the mistake from the artistic point of view came in. To ask
for twice your stipulated fee in a voice that Lazarus might have
used when he rose from the dead, is absurd. Janoo, who is really a
woman of masculine intellect, saw this as quickly as I did. I heard
her say "Asli nahin! Fareib!" scornfully under her breath; and just
as she said so, the light in the basin died out, the head stopped
talking, and we heard the room door creak on its hinges. Then Janoo
struck a match, lit the lamp, and we saw that head, basin, and seal-
cutter were gone. Suddhoo was wringing his hands and explaining to
any one who cared to listen, that, if his chances of eternal
salvation depended on it, he could not raise another two hundred
rupees. Azizun was nearly in hysterics in the corner; while Janoo
sat down composedly on one of the beds to discuss the probabilities
of the whole thing being a bunao, or "make-up."
I explained as much as I knew of the seal-cutter's way of jadoo; but
her argument was much more simple:--"The magic that is always
demanding gifts is no true magic," said she. "My mother told me
that the only potent love-spells are those which are told you for
love. This seal-cutter man is a liar and a devil. I dare not tell,
do anything, or get anything done, because I am in debt to Bhagwan
Dass the bunnia for two gold rings and a heavy anklet. I must get
my food from his shop. The seal-cutter is the friend of Bhagwan
Dass, and he would poison my food. A fool's jadoo has been going on
for ten days, and has cost Suddhoo many rupees each night. The
seal-cutter used black hens and lemons and mantras before. He never
showed us anything like this till to-night. Azizun is a fool, and
will be a pur dahnashin soon. Suddhoo has lost his strength and his
wits. See now! I had hoped to get from Suddhoo many rupees while
he lived, and many more after his death; and behold, he is spending
everything on that offspring of a devil and a she-ass, the seal-
Here I said:--"But what induced Suddhoo to drag me into the
business? Of course I can speak to the seal-cutter, and he shall
refund. The whole thing is child's talk--shame--and senseless."
"Suddhoo IS an old child," said Janoo. "He has lived on the roofs
these seventy years and is as senseless as a milch-goat. He brought
you here to assure himself that he was not breaking any law of the
Sirkar, whose salt he ate many years ago. He worships the dust off
the feet of the seal-cutter, and that cow-devourer has forbidden him
to go and see his son. What does Suddhoo know of your laws or the
lightning-post? I have to watch his money going day by day to that
lying beast below."
Janoo stamped her foot on the floor and nearly cried with vexation;
while Suddhoo was whimpering under a blanket in the corner, and
Azizun was trying to guide the pipe-stem to his foolish old mouth.
. . . . . . . . .
Now the case stands thus. Unthinkingly, I have laid myself open to
the charge of aiding and abetting the seal-cutter in obtaining money
under false pretences, which is forbidden by Section 420 of the
Indian Penal Code. I am helpless in the matter for these reasons, I
cannot inform the Police. What witnesses would support my
statements? Janoo refuses flatly, Azizun is a veiled woman
somewhere near Bareilly--lost in this big India of ours. I cannot
again take the law into my own hands, and speak to the seal-cutter;
for certain am I that, not only would Suddhoo disbelieve me, but
this step would end in the poisoning of Janoo, who is bound hand and
foot by her debt to the bunnia. Suddhoo is an old dotard; and
whenever we meet mumbles my idiotic joke that the Sirkar rather
patronizes the Black Art than otherwise. His son is well now; but
Suddhoo is completely under the influence of the seal-cutter, by
whose advice he regulates the affairs of his life. Janoo watches
daily the money that she hoped to wheedle out of Suddhoo taken by
the seal-cutter, and becomes daily more furious and sullen.
She will never tell, because she dare not; but, unless something
happens to prevent her, I am afraid that the seal-cutter will die of
cholera--the white arsenic kind--about the middle of May. And thus
I shall have to be privy to a murder in the House of Suddhoo.
HIS WEDDED WIFE.
Cry "Murder!" in the market-place, and each
Will turn upon his neighbor anxious eyes
That ask:--"Art thou the man?" We hunted Cain,
Some centuries ago, across the world,
That bred the fear our own misdeeds maintain
Shakespeare says something about worms, or it may be giants or
beetles, turning if you tread on them too severely. The safest plan
is never to tread on a worm--not even on the last new subaltern from
Home, with his buttons hardly out of their tissue paper, and the red
of sappy English beef in his cheeks. This is the story of the worm
that turned. For the sake of brevity, we will call Henry Augustus
Ramsay Faizanne, "The Worm," although he really was an exceedingly
pretty boy, without a hair on his face, and with a waist like a
girl's when he came out to the Second "Shikarris" and was made
unhappy in several ways. The "Shikarris" are a high-caste regiment,
and you must be able to do things well--play a banjo or ride more
than a little, or sing, or act--to get on with them.
The Worm did nothing except fall off his pony, and knock chips out
of gate-posts with his trap. Even that became monotonous after a
time. He objected to whist, cut the cloth at billiards, sang out of
tune, kept very much to himself, and wrote to his Mamma and sisters
at Home. Four of these five things were vices which the "Shikarris"
objected to and set themselves to eradicate. Every one knows how
subalterns are, by brother subalterns, softened and not permitted to
be ferocious. It is good and wholesome, and does no one any harm,
unless tempers are lost; and then there is trouble. There was a man
once--but that is another story.
The "Shikarris" shikarred The Worm very much, and he bore everything
without winking. He was so good and so anxious to learn, and
flushed so pink, that his education was cut short, and he was left
to his own devices by every one except the Senior Subaltern, who
continued to make life a burden to The Worm. The Senior Subaltern
meant no harm; but his chaff was coarse, and he didn't quite
understand where to stop. He had been waiting too long for his
company; and that always sours a man. Also he was in love, which
made him worse.
One day, after he had borrowed The Worm's trap for a lady who never
existed, had used it himself all the afternoon, had sent a note to
The Worm purporting to come from the lady, and was telling the Mess
all about it, The Worm rose in his place and said, in his quiet,
ladylike voice: "That was a very pretty sell; but I'll lay you a
month's pay to a month's pay when you get your step, that I work a
sell on you that you'll remember for the rest of your days, and the
Regiment after you when you're dead or broke." The Worm wasn't
angry in the least, and the rest of the Mess shouted. Then the
Senior Subaltern looked at The Worm from the boots upwards, and down
again, and said, "Done, Baby." The Worm took the rest of the Mess
to witness that the bet had been taken, and retired into a book with
a sweet smile.
Two months passed, and the Senior Subaltern still educated The Worm,
who began to move about a little more as the hot weather came on. I
have said that the Senior Subaltern was in love. The curious thing
is that a girl was in love with the Senior Subaltern. Though the
Colonel said awful things, and the Majors snorted, and married
Captains looked unutterable wisdom, and the juniors scoffed, those
two were engaged.
The Senior Subaltern was so pleased with getting his Company and his
acceptance at the same time that he forgot to bother The Worm. The
girl was a pretty girl, and had money of her own. She does not come
into this story at all.
One night, at the beginning of the hot weather, all the Mess, except
The Worm, who had gone to his own room to write Home letters, were
sitting on the platform outside the Mess House. The Band had
finished playing, but no one wanted to go in. And the Captains'
wives were there also. The folly of a man in love is unlimited.
The Senior Subaltern had been holding forth on the merits of the
girl he was engaged to, and the ladies were purring approval, while
the men yawned, when there was a rustle of skirts in the dark, and a
tired, faint voice lifted itself:
"Where's my husband?"
I do not wish in the least to reflect on the morality of the
"Shikarris;" but it is on record that four men jumped up as if they
had been shot. Three of them were married men. Perhaps they were
afraid that their wives had come from Home unbeknownst. The fourth
said that he had acted on the impulse of the moment. He explained
Then the voice cried:--"Oh, Lionel!" Lionel was the Senior
Subaltern's name. A woman came into the little circle of light by
the candles on the peg-tables, stretching out her hands to the dark
where the Senior Subaltern was, and sobbing. We rose to our feet,
feeling that things were going to happen and ready to believe the
worst. In this bad, small world of ours, one knows so little of the
life of the next man--which, after all, is entirely his own concern--
that one is not surprised when a crash comes. Anything might turn
up any day for any one. Perhaps the Senior Subaltern had been
trapped in his youth. Men are crippled that way occasionally. We
didn't know; we wanted to hear; and the Captains' wives were as
anxious as we. If he HAD been trapped, he was to be excused; for
the woman from nowhere, in the dusty shoes, and gray travelling
dress, was very lovely, with black hair and great eyes full of
tears. She was tall, with a fine figure, and her voice had a
running sob in it pitiful to hear. As soon as the Senior Subaltern
stood up, she threw her arms round his neck, and called him "my
darling," and said she could not bear waiting alone in England, and
his letters were so short and cold, and she was his to the end of
the world, and would he forgive her. This did not sound quite like
a lady's way of speaking. It was too demonstrative.
Things seemed black indeed, and the Captains' wives peered under
their eyebrows at the Senior Subaltern, and the Colonel's face set
like the Day of Judgment framed in gray bristles, and no one spoke
for a while.
Next the Colonel said, very shortly:--"Well, Sir?" and the woman
sobbed afresh. The Senior Subaltern was half choked with the arms
round his neck, but he gasped out:--"It's a d----d lie! I never had a
wife in my life!" "Don't swear," said the Colonel. "Come into the
Mess. We must sift this clear somehow," and he sighed to himself,
for he believed in his "Shikarris," did the Colonel.
We trooped into the ante-room, under the full lights, and there we
saw how beautiful the woman was. She stood up in the middle of us
all, sometimes choking with crying, then hard and proud, and then
holding out her arms to the Senior Subaltern. It was like the
fourth act of a tragedy. She told us how the Senior Subaltern had
married her when he was Home on leave eighteen months before; and
she seemed to know all that we knew, and more too, of his people and
his past life. He was white and ashy gray, trying now and again to
break into the torrent of her words; and we, noting how lovely she
was and what a criminal he looked, esteemed him a beast of the worst
kind. We felt sorry for him, though.
I shall never forget the indictment of the Senior Subaltern by his
wife. Nor will he. It was so sudden, rushing out of the dark,
unannounced, into our dull lives. The Captains' wives stood back;
but their eyes were alight, and you could see that they had already
convicted and sentenced the Senior Subaltern. The Colonel seemed
five years older. One Major was shading his eyes with his hand and
watching the woman from underneath it. Another was chewing his
moustache and smiling quietly as if he were witnessing a play. Full
in the open space in the centre, by the whist-tables, the Senior
Subaltern's terrier was hunting for fleas. I remember all this as
clearly as though a photograph were in my hand. I remember the look
of horror on the Senior Subaltern's face. It was rather like seeing
a man hanged; but much more interesting. Finally, the woman wound
up by saying that the Senior Subaltern carried a double F. M. in
tattoo on his left shoulder. We all knew that, and to our innocent
minds it seemed to clinch the matter. But one of the Bachelor
Majors said very politely:--"I presume that your marriage
certificate would be more to the purpose?"
That roused the woman. She stood up and sneered at the Senior
Subaltern for a cur, and abused the Major and the Colonel and all
the rest. Then she wept, and then she pulled a paper from her
breast, saying imperially:--"Take that! And let my husband--my
lawfully wedded husband--read it aloud--if he dare!"
There was a hush, and the men looked into each other's eyes as the
Senior Subaltern came forward in a dazed and dizzy way, and took the
paper. We were wondering as we stared, whether there was anything
against any one of us that might turn up later on. The Senior
Subaltern's throat was dry; but, as he ran his eye over the paper,
he broke out into a hoarse cackle of relief, and said to the woman:--
"You young blackguard!"
But the woman had fled through a door, and on the paper was
written:--"This is to certify that I, The Worm, have paid in full my
debts to the Senior Subaltern, and, further, that the Senior
Subaltern is my debtor, by agreement on the 23d of February, as by
the Mess attested, to the extent of one month's Captain's pay, in
the lawful currency of the India Empire."
Then a deputation set off for The Worm's quarters and found him,
betwixt and between, unlacing his stays, with the hat, wig, serge
dress, etc., on the bed. He came over as he was, and the
"Shikarris" shouted till the Gunners' Mess sent over to know if they
might have a share of the fun. I think we were all, except the
Colonel and the Senior Subaltern, a little disappointed that the
scandal had come to nothing. But that is human nature. There could
be no two words about The Worm's acting. It leaned as near to a
nasty tragedy as anything this side of a joke can. When most of the
Subalterns sat upon him with sofa-cushions to find out why he had
not said that acting was his strong point, he answered very
quietly:--"I don't think you ever asked me. I used to act at Home
with my sisters." But no acting with girls could account for The
Worm's display that night. Personally, I think it was in bad taste.
Besides being dangerous. There is no sort of use in playing with
fire, even for fun.
The "Shikarris" made him President of the Regimental Dramatic Club;
and, when the Senior Subaltern paid up his debt, which he did at
once, The Worm sank the money in scenery and dresses. He was a good
Worm; and the "Shikarris" are proud of him. The only drawback is
that he has been christened "Mrs. Senior Subaltern;" and as there
are now two Mrs. Senior Subalterns in the Station, this is sometimes
confusing to strangers.
Later on, I will tell you of a case something like, this, but with
all the jest left out and nothing in it but real trouble.
THE BROKEN LINK HANDICAPPED.
While the snaffle holds, or the "long-neck" stings,
While the big beam tilts, or the last bell rings,
While horses are horses to train and to race,
Then women and wine take a second place
For me--for me--
While a short "ten-three"
Has a field to squander or fence to face!
Song of the G. R.
There are more ways of running a horse to suit your book than
pulling his head off in the straight. Some men forget this.
Understand clearly that all racing is rotten--as everything
connected with losing money must be. Out here, in addition to its
inherent rottenness, it has the merit of being two-thirds sham;
looking pretty on paper only. Every one knows every one else far
too well for business purposes. How on earth can you rack and harry
and post a man for his losings, when you are fond of his wife, and
live in the same Station with him? He says, "on the Monday
following," "I can't settle just yet." "You say, "All right, old
man," and think your self lucky if you pull off nine hundred out of
a two-thousand rupee debt. Any way you look at it, Indian racing is
immoral, and expensively immoral. Which is much worse. If a man
wants your money, he ought to ask for it, or send round a
subscription-list, instead of juggling about the country, with an