Part 4 out of 4
helped us to know that the evidence against Biel would be entirely
circumstantial and native. There were no letters; but Bronckhorst
said openly that he would rack Heaven and Earth until he saw Biel
superintending the manufacture of carpets in the Central Jail. Mrs.
Bronckhorst kept entirely to her house, and let charitable folks say
what they pleased. Opinions were divided. Some two-thirds of the
Station jumped at once to the conclusion that Biel was guilty; but a
dozen men who knew and liked him held by him. Biel was furious and
surprised. He denied the whole thing, and vowed that he would
thrash Bronckhorst within an inch of his life. No jury, we knew,
could convict a man on the criminal count on native evidence in a
land where you can buy a murder-charge, including the corpse, all
complete for fifty-four rupees; but Biel did not care to scrape
through by the benefit of a doubt. He wanted the whole thing
cleared: but as he said one night:--"He can prove anything with
servants' evidence, and I've only my bare word." This was about a
month before the case came on; and beyond agreeing with Biel, we
could do little. All that we could be sure of was that the native
evidence would be bad enough to blast Biel's character for the rest
of his service; for when a native begins perjury he perjures himself
thoroughly. He does not boggle over details.
Some genius at the end of the table whereat the affair was being
talked over, said:--"Look here! I don't believe lawyers are any
good. Get a man to wire to Strickland, and beg him to come down and
pull us through."
Strickland was about a hundred and eighty miles up the line. He had
not long been married to Miss Youghal, but he scented in the
telegram a chance of return to the old detective work that his soul
lusted after, and next night he came in and heard our story. He
finished his pipe and said oracularly:--we must get at the evidence.
Oorya bearer, Mussalman khit and methraniayah, I suppose, are the
pillars of the charge. I am on in this piece; but I'm afraid I'm
getting rusty in my talk."
He rose and went into Biel's bedroom where his trunk had been put,
and shut the door. An hour later, we heard him say:--"I hadn't the
heart to part with my old makeups when I married. Will this do?"
There was a lothely faquir salaaming in the doorway.
"Now lend me fifty rupees," said Strickland, "and give me your Words
of Honor that you won't tell my Wife."
He got all that he asked for, and left the house while the table
drank his health. What he did only he himself knows. A faquir hung
about Bronckhorst's compound for twelve days. Then a mehter
appeared, and when Biel heard of HIM, he said that Strickland was an
angel full-fledged. Whether the mehter made love to Janki, Mrs.
Bronckhorst's ayah, is a question which concerns Strickland
He came back at the end of three weeks, and said quietly:--"You
spoke the truth, Biel. The whole business is put up from beginning
to end. Jove! It almost astonishes ME! That Bronckhorst-beast
isn't fit to live."
There was uproar and shouting, and Biel said:--"How are you going to
prove it? You can't say that you've been trespassing on
Bronckhorst's compound in disguise!"
"No," said Strickland. "Tell your lawyer-fool, whoever he is, to
get up something strong about 'inherent improbabilities' and
'discrepancies of evidence.' He won't have to speak, but it will
make him happy. I'M going to run this business."
Biel held his tongue, and the other men waited to see what would
happen. They trusted Strickland as men trust quiet men. When the
case came off the Court was crowded. Strickland hung about in the
verandah of the Court, till he met the Mohammedan khitmatgar. Then
he murmured a faquir's blessing in his ear, and asked him how his
second wife did. The man spun round, and, as he looked into the
eyes of "Estreeken Sahib," his jaw dropped. You must remember that
before Strickland was married, he was, as I have told you already, a
power among natives. Strickland whispered a rather coarse
vernacular proverb to the effect that he was abreast of all that was
going on, and went into the Court armed with a gut trainer's-whip.
The Mohammedan was the first witness and Strickland beamed upon him
from the back of the Court. The man moistened his lips with his
tongue and, in his abject fear of "Estreeken Sahib" the faquir, went
back on every detail of his evidence--said he was a poor man and God
was his witness that he had forgotten every thing that Bronckhorst
Sahib had told him to say. Between his terror of Strickland, the
Judge, and Bronckhorst he collapsed, weeping.
Then began the panic among the witnesses. Janki, the ayah, leering
chastely behind her veil, turned gray, and the bearer left the
Court. He said that his Mamma was dying and that it was not
wholesome for any man to lie unthriftily in the presence of
Biel said politely to Bronckhorst:--"Your witnesses don't seem to
work. Haven't you any forged letters to produce?" But Bronckhorst
was swaying to and fro in his chair, and there was a dead pause
after Biel had been called to order.
Bronckhorst's Counsel saw the look on his client's face, and without
more ado, pitched his papers on the little green baize table, and
mumbled something about having been misinformed. The whole Court
applauded wildly, like soldiers at a theatre, and the Judge began to
say what he thought.
. . . . . . . . .
Biel came out of the place, and Strickland dropped a gut trainer's-
whip in the verandah. Ten minutes later, Biel was cutting
Bronckhorst into ribbons behind the old Court cells, quietly and
without scandal. What was left of Bronckhorst was sent home in a
carriage; and his wife wept over it and nursed it into a man again.
Later on, after Biel had managed to hush up the counter-charge
against Bronckhorst of fabricating false evidence, Mrs. Bronckhorst,
with her faint watery smile, said that there had been a mistake, but
it wasn't her Teddy's fault altogether. She would wait till her
Teddy came back to her. Perhaps he had grown tired of her, or she
had tried his patience, and perhaps we wouldn't cut her any more,
and perhaps the mothers would let their children play with "little
Teddy" again. He was so lonely. Then the Station invited Mrs.
Bronckhorst everywhere, until Bronckhorst was fit to appear in
public, when he went Home and took his wife with him. According to
the latest advices, her Teddy did "come back to her," and they are
moderately happy. Though, of course, he can never forgive her the
thrashing that she was the indirect means of getting for him.
. . . . . . . . .
What Biel wants to know is:--"Why didn't I press home the charge
against the Bronckhorst-brute, and have him run in?"
What Mrs. Strickland wants to know is:--"How DID my husband bring
such a lovely, lovely Waler from your Station? I know ALL his
money-affairs; and I'm CERTAIN he didn't BUY it."
What I want to know is:--How do women like Mrs. Bronckhorst come to
marry men like Bronckhorst?"
And my conundrum is the most unanswerable of the three.
And the years went on as the years must do;
But our great Diana was always new--
Fresh, and blooming, and blonde, and fair,
With azure eyes and with aureate hair;
And all the folk, as they came or went,
Offered her praise to her heart's content.
Diana of Ephesus.
She had nothing to do with Number Eighteen in the Braccio Nuovo of
the Vatican, between Visconti's Ceres and the God of the Nile. She
was purely an Indian deity--an Anglo-Indian deity, that is to say--
and we called her THE Venus Annodomini, to distinguish her from
other Annodominis of the same everlasting order. There was a legend
among the Hills that she had once been young; but no living man was
prepared to come forward and say boldly that the legend was true.
Men rode up to Simla, and stayed, and went away and made their name
and did their life's work, and returned again to find the Venus
Annodomini exactly as they had left her. She was as immutable as
the Hills. But not quite so green. All that a girl of eighteen
could do in the way of riding, walking, dancing, picnicking and
over-exertion generally, the Venus Annodomini did, and showed no
sign of fatigue or trace of weariness. Besides perpetual youth, she
had discovered, men said, the secret of perpetual health; and her
fame spread about the land. From a mere woman, she grew to be an
Institution, insomuch that no young man could be said to be properly
formed, who had not, at some time or another, worshipped at the
shrine of the Venus Annodomini. There was no one like her, though
there were many imitations. Six years in her eyes were no more than
six months to ordinary women; and ten made less visible impression
on her than does a week's fever on an ordinary woman. Every one
adored her, and in return she was pleasant and courteous to nearly
every one. Youth had been a habit of hers for so long, that she
could not part with it--never realized, in fact, the necessity of
parting with it--and took for her more chosen associates young
Among the worshippers of the Venus Annodomini was young Gayerson.
"Very Young" Gayerson, he was called to distinguish him from his
father "Young" Gayerson, a Bengal Civilian, who affected the
customs--as he had the heart--of youth. "Very Young" Gayerson was
not content to worship placidly and for form's sake, as the other
young men did, or to accept a ride or a dance, or a talk from the
Venus Annodomini in a properly humble and thankful spirit. He was
exacting, and, therefore, the Venus Annodomini repressed him. He
worried himself nearly sick in a futile sort of way over her; and
his devotion and earnestness made him appear either shy or
boisterous or rude, as his mood might vary, by the side of the older
men who, with him, bowed before the Venus Annodomini. She was sorry
for him. He reminded her of a lad who, three-and-twenty years ago,
had professed a boundless devotion for her, and for whom in return
she had felt something more than a week's weakness. But that lad
had fallen away and married another woman less than a year after he
had worshipped her; and the Venus Annodomini had almost--not quite--
forgotten his name. "Very Young" Gayerson had the same big blue
eyes and the same way of pouting his underlip when he was excited or
troubled. But the Venus Annodomini checked him sternly none the
less. Too much zeal was a thing that she did not approve of;
preferring instead, a tempered and sober tenderness.
"Very Young" Gayerson was miserable, and took no trouble to conceal
his wretchedness. He was in the Army--a Line regiment I think, but
am not certain--and, since his face was a looking-glass and his
forehead an open book, by reason of his innocence, his brothers in
arms made his life a burden to him and embittered his naturally
sweet disposition. No one except "Very Young" Gayerson, and he
never told his views, knew how old "Very Young" Gayerson believed
the Venus Annodomini to be. Perhaps he thought her five and twenty,
or perhaps she told him that she was this age. "Very Young"
Gayerson would have forded the Gugger in flood to carry her lightest
word, and had implicit faith in her. Every one liked him, and every
one was sorry when they saw him so bound a slave of the Venus
Annodomini. Every one, too, admitted that it was not her fault; for
the Venus Annodomini differed from Mrs. Hauksbee and Mrs. Reiver in
this particular--she never moved a finger to attract any one; but,
like Ninon de l'Enclos, all men were attracted to her. One could
admire and respect Mrs. Hauksbee, despise and avoid Mrs. Reiver, but
one was forced to adore the Venus Annodomini.
"Very Young" Gayerson's papa held a Division or a Collectorate or
something administrative in a particularly unpleasant part of
Bengal--full of Babus who edited newspapers proving that "Young"
Gayerson was a "Nero" and a "Scylla" and a "Charybdis"; and, in
addition to the Babus, there was a good deal of dysentery and
cholera abroad for nine months of the year. "Young" Gayerson--he
was about five and forty--rather liked Babus, they amused him, but
he objects to dysentery, and when he could get away, went to
Darjilling for the most part. This particular season he fancied
that he would come up to Simla, and see his boy. The boy was not
altogether pleased. He told the Venus Annodomini that his father
was coming up, and she flushed a little and said that she should be
delighted to make his acquaintance. Then she looked long and
thoughtfully at "Very Young" Gayerson; because she was very, very
sorry for him, and he was a very, very big idiot.
"My daughter is coming out in a fortnight, Mr. Gayerson," she said.
"Your WHAT?" said he.
"Daughter," said the Venus Annodomini. "She's been out for a year
at Home already, and I want her to see a little of India. She is
nineteen and a very sensible, nice girl I believe."
"Very Young" Gayerson, who was a short twenty-two years old, nearly
fell out of his chair with astonishment; for he had persisted in
believing, against all belief, in the youth of the Venus Annodomini.
She, with her back to the curtained window, watched the effect of
her sentences and smiled.
"Very Young" Gayerson's papa came up twelve days later, and had not
been in Simla four and twenty hours, before two men, old
acquaintances of his, had told him how "Very Young" Gayerson had
been conducting himself.
"Young" Gayerson laughed a good deal, and inquired who the Venus
Annodomini might be. Which proves that he had been living in Bengal
where nobody knows anything except the rate of Exchange. Then he
said "boys will be boys," and spoke to his son about the matter.
"Very Young" Gayerson said that he felt wretched and unhappy; and
"Young" Gayerson said that he repented of having helped to bring a
fool into the world. He suggested that his son had better cut his
leave short and go down to his duties. This led to an unfilial
answer, and relations were strained, until "Young" Gayerson
denmanded that they should call on the Venus Annodomini. "Very
Young" Gayerson went with his papa, feeling, somehow, uncomfortable
The Venus Annodomini received them graciously and "Young" Gayerson
said:--"By Jove! It's Kitty!" "Very Young" Gayerson would have
listened for an explanation, if his time had not been taken up with
trying to talk to a large, handsome, quiet, well-dressed girl--
introduced to him by the Venus Annodomini as her daughter. She was
far older in manners, style and repose than "Very Young" Gayerson;
and, as he realized this thing, he felt sick.
Presently, he heard the Venus Annodomini saying:--"Do you know that
your son is one of my most devoted admirers?"
"I don't wonder," said "Young" Gayerson. Here he raised his voice:--
"He follows his father's footsteps. Didn't I worship the ground
you trod on, ever so long ago, Kitty--and you haven't changed since
then. How strange it all seems!"
"Very Young" Gayerson said nothing. His conversation with the
daughter of the Venus Annodomini was, through the rest of the call,
fragmentary and disjointed.
. . . . . . . . .
"At five, to-morrow then," said the Venus Annodomini. "And mind you
"At five punctual," said "Young" Gayerson. "You can lend your old
father a horse I dare say, youngster, can't you? I'm going for a
ride tomorrow afternoon."
"Certainly," said "Very Young" Gayerson. "I am going down to-morrow
morning. My ponies are at your service, Sir."
The Venus Annodomini looked at him across the half-light of the
room, and her big gray eyes filled with moisture. She rose and
shook hands with him.
"Good-bye, Tom," whispered the Venus Annodomini.
THE BISARA OF POOREE.
Little Blind Fish, thou art marvellous wise,
Little Blind Fish, who put out thy eyes?
Open thine ears while I whisper my wish--
Bring me a lover, thou little Blind Fish.
The Charm of the Bisara.
Some natives say that it came from the other side of Kulu, where the
eleven-inch Temple Sapphire is. Others that it was made at the
Devil-Shrine of Ao-Chung in Thibet, was stolen by a Kafir, from him
by a Gurkha, from him again by a Lahouli, from him by a khitmatgar,
and by this latter sold to an Englishman, so all its virtue was
lost: because, to work properly, the Bisara of Pooree must be
stolen--with bloodshed if possible, but, at any rate, stolen.
These stories of the coming into India are all false. It was made
at Pooree ages since--the manner of its making would fill a small
book--was stolen by one of the Temple dancing-girls there, for her
own purposes, and then passed on from hand to hand, steadily
northward, till it reached Hanla: always bearing the same name--the
Bisara of Pooree. In shape it is a tiny, square box of silver,
studded outside with eight small balas-rubies. Inside the box,
which opens with a spring, is a little eyeless fish, carved from
some sort of dark, shiny nut and wrapped in a shred of faded gold-
cloth. That is the Bisara of Pooree, and it were better for a man
to take a king cobra in his hand than to touch the Bisara of Pooree.
All kinds of magic are out of date and done away with except in
India where nothing changes in spite of the shiny, toy-scum stuff
that people call "civilization." Any man who knows about the Bisara
of Pooree will tell you what its powers are--always supposing that
it has been honestly stolen. It is the only regularly working,
trustworthy love-charm in the country, with one exception.
[The other charm is in the hands of a trooper of the Nizam's Horse,
at a place called Tuprani, due north of Hyderabad.] This can be
depended upon for a fact. Some one else may explain it.
If the Bisara be not stolen, but given or bought or found, it turns
against its owner in three years, and leads to ruin or death. This
is another fact which you may explain when you have time.
Meanwhile, you can laugh at it. At present, the Bisara is safe on
an ekka-pony's neck, inside the blue bead-necklace that keeps off
the Evil-eye. If the ekka-driver ever finds it, and wears it, or
gives it to his wife, I am sorry for him.
A very dirty hill-cooly woman, with goitre, owned it at Theog in
1884. It came into Simla from the north before Churton's khitmatgar
bought it, and sold it, for three times its silver-value, to
Churton, who collected curiosities. The servant knew no more what
he had bought than the master; but a man looking over Churton's
collection of curiosities--Churton was an Assistant Commissioner by
the way--saw and held his tongue. He was an Englishman; but knew
how to believe. Which shows that he was different from most
Englishmen. He knew that it was dangerous to have any share in the
little box when working or dormant; for unsought Love is a terrible
Pack--"Grubby" Pack, as we used to call him--was, in every way, a
nasty little man who must have crawled into the Army by mistake. He
was three inches taller than his sword, but not half so strong. And
the sword was a fifty-shilling, tailor-made one. Nobody liked him,
and, I suppose, it was his wizenedness and worthlessness that made
him fall so hopelessly in love with Miss Hollis, who was good and
sweet, and five foot seven in her tennis shoes. He was not content
with falling in love quietly, but brought all the strength of his
miserable little nature into the business. If he had not been so
objectionable, one might have pitied him. He vapored, and fretted,
and fumed, and trotted up and down, and tried to make himself
pleasing in Miss Hollis's big, quiet, gray eyes, and failed. It was
one of the cases that you sometimes meet, even in this country where
we marry by Code, of a really blind attachment all on one side,
without the faintest possibility of return. Miss Hollis looked on
Pack as some sort of vermin running about the road. He had no
prospects beyond Captain's pay, and no wits to help that out by one
anna. In a large-sized man, love like his would have been touching.
In a good man it would have been grand. He being what he was, it
was only a nuisance.
You will believe this much. What you will not believe, is what
follows: Churton, and The Man who Knew that the Bisara was, were
lunching at the Simla Club together. Churton was complaining of
life in general. His best mare had rolled out of stable down the
hill and had broken her back; his decisions were being reversed by
the upper Courts, more than an Assistant Commissioner of eight
years' standing has a right to expect; he knew liver and fever, and,
for weeks past, had felt out of sorts. Altogether, he was disgusted
Simla Club dining-room is built, as all the world knows, in two
sections, with an arch-arrangement dividing them. Come in, turn to
your own left, take the table under the window, and you cannot see
any one who has come in, turning to the right, and taken a table on
the right side of the arch. Curiously enough, every word that you
say can be heard, not only by the other diner, but by the servants
beyond the screen through which they bring dinner. This is worth
knowing: an echoing-room is a trap to be forewarned against.
Half in fun, and half hoping to be believed, The Man who Knew told
Churton the story of the Bisara of Pooree at rather greater length
than I have told it to you in this place; winding up with the
suggestion that Churton might as well throw the little box down the
hill and see whether all his troubles would go with it. In ordinary
ears, English ears, the tale was only an interesting bit of folk-
lore. Churton laughed, said that he felt better for his tiffin, and
went out. Pack had been tiffining by himself to the right of the
arch, and had heard everything. He was nearly mad with his absurd
infatuation for Miss Hollis that all Simla had been laughing about.
It is a curious thing that, when a man hates or loves beyond reason,
he is ready to go beyond reason to gratify his feelings. Which he
would not do for money or power merely. Depend upon it, Solomon
would never have built altars to Ashtaroth and all those ladies with
queer names, if there had not been trouble of some kind in his
zenana, and nowhere else. But this is beside the story. The facts
of the case are these: Pack called on Churton next day when Churton
was out, left his card, and STOLE the Bisara of Pooree from its
place under the clock on the mantelpiece! Stole it like the thief
he was by nature. Three days later, all Simla was electrified by
the news that Miss Hollis had accepted Pack--the shrivelled rat,
Pack! Do you desire clearer evidence than this? The Bisara of
Pooree had been stolen, and it worked as it had always done when won
by foul means.
There are three or four times in a man's life-when he is justified
in meddling with other people's affairs to play Providence.
The Man who Knew felt that he WAS justified; but believing and
acting on a belief are quite different things. The insolent
satisfaction of Pack as he ambled by the side of Miss Hollis, and
Churton's striking release from liver, as soon as the Bisara of
Pooree had gone, decided the Man. He explained to Churton and
Churton laughed, because he was not brought up to believe that men
on the Government House List steal--at least little things. But the
miraculous acceptance by Miss Hollis of that tailor, Pack, decided
him to take steps on suspicion. He vowed that he only wanted to
find out where his ruby-studded silver box had vanished to. You
cannot accuse a man on the Government House List of stealing. And
if you rifle his room you are a thief yourself. Churton, prompted
by The Man who Knew, decided on burglary. If he found nothing in
Pack's room . . . . but it is not nice to think of what would have
happened in that case.
Pack went to a dance at Benmore--Benmore WAS Benmore in those days,
and not an office--and danced fifteen waltzes out of twenty-two with
Miss Hollis. Churton and The Man took all the keys that they could
lay hands on, and went to Pack's room in the hotel, certain that his
servants would be away. Pack was a cheap soul. He had not
purchased a decent cash-box to keep his papers in, but one of those
native imitations that you buy for ten rupees. It opened to any
sort of key, and there at the bottom, under Pack's Insurance Policy,
lay the Bisara of Pooree!
Churton called Pack names, put the Bisara of Pooree in his pocket,
and went to the dance with The Man. At least, he came in time for
supper, and saw the beginning of the end in Miss Hollis's eyes. She
was hysterical after supper, and was taken away by her Mamma.
At the dance, with the abominable Bisara in his pocket, Churton
twisted his foot on one of the steps leading down to the old Rink,
and had to be sent home in a rickshaw, grumbling. He did not
believe in the Bisara of Pooree any the more for this manifestation,
but he sought out Pack and called him some ugly names; and "thief"
was the mildest of them. Pack took the names with the nervous smile
of a little man who wants both soul and body to resent an insult,
and went his way. There was no public scandal.
A week later, Pack got his definite dismissal from Miss Hollis.
There had been a mistake in the placing of her affections, she said.
So he went away to Madras, where he can do no great harm even if he
lives to be a Colonel.
Churton insisted upon The Man who Knew taking the Bisara of Pooree
as a gift. The Man took it, went down to the Cart Road at once,
found an ekka pony with a blue head-necklace, fastened the Bisara of
Pooree inside the necklace with a piece of shoe-string and thanked
Heaven that he was rid of a danger. Remember, in case you ever find
it, that you must not destroy the Bisara of Pooree. I have not time
to explain why just now, but the power lies in the little wooden
fish. Mister Gubernatis or Max Muller could tell you more about it
You will say that all this story is made up. Very well. If ever
you come across a little silver, ruby-studded box, seven-eighths of
an inch long by three-quarters wide, with a dark-brown wooden fish,
wrapped in gold cloth, inside it, keep it. Keep it for three years,
and then you will discover for yourself whether my story is true or
Better still, steal it as Pack did, and you will be sorry that you
had not killed yourself in the beginning.
THE GATE OF A HUNDRED SORROWS.
"If I can attain Heaven for a pice, why should you be envious?"
Opium Smoker's Proverb.
This is no work of mine. My friend, Gabral Misquitta, the half-
caste, spoke it all, between moonset and morning, six weeks before
he died; and I took it down from his mouth as he answered my
It lies between the Copper-smith's Gully and the pipe-stem sellers'
quarter, within a hundred yards, too, as the crow flies, of the
Mosque of Wazir Khan. I don't mind telling any one this much, but I
defy him to find the Gate, however well he may think he knows the
City. You might even go through the very gully it stands in a
hundred times, and be none the wiser. We used to call the gully,
"the Gully of the Black Smoke," but its native name is altogether
different of course. A loaded donkey couldn't pass between the
walls; and, at one point, just before you reach the Gate, a bulged
house-front makes people go along all sideways.
It isn't really a gate though. It's a house. Old Fung-Tching had
it first five years ago. He was a boot-maker in Calcutta. They say
that he murdered his wife there when he was drunk. That was why he
dropped bazar-rum and took to the Black Smoke instead. Later on, he
came up north and opened the Gate as a house where you could get
your smoke in peace and quiet. Mind you, it was a pukka,
respectable opium-house, and not one of those stifling, sweltering
chandoo-khanas, that you can find all over the City. No; the old
man knew his business thoroughly, and he was most clean for a
Chinaman. He was a one-eyed little chap, not much more than five
feet high, and both his middle fingers were gone. All the same, he
was the handiest man at rolling black pills I have ever seen. Never
seemed to be touched by the Smoke, either; and what he took day and
night, night and day, was a caution. I've been at it five years,
and I can do my fair share of the Smoke with any one; but I was a
child to Fung-Tching that way. All the same, the old man was keen
on his money, very keen; and that's what I can't understand. I
heard he saved a good deal before he died, but his nephew has got
all that now; and the old man's gone back to China to be buried.
He kept the big upper room, where his best customers gathered, as
neat as a new pin. In one corner used to stand Fung-Tching's Joss--
almost as ugly as Fung-Tching--and there were always sticks burning
under his nose; but you never smelt 'em when the pipes were going
thick. Opposite the Joss was Fung-Tching's coffin. He had spent a
good deal of his savings on that, and whenever a new man came to the
Gate he was always introduced to it. It was lacquered black, with
red and gold writings on it, and I've heard that Fung-Tching brought
it out all the way from China. I don't know whether that's true or
not, but I know that, if I came first in the evening, I used to
spread my mat just at the foot of it. It was a quiet corner you
see, and a sort of breeze from the gully came in at the window now
and then. Besides the mats, there was no other furniture in the
room--only the coffin, and the old Joss all green and blue and
purple with age and polish.
Fung-Tching never told us why he called the place "The Gate of a
Hundred Sorrows." (He was the only Chinaman I know who used bad-
sounding fancy names. Most of them are flowery. As you'll see in
Calcutta.) We used to find that out for ourselves. Nothing grows
on you so much, if you're white, as the Black Smoke. A yellow man
is made different. Opium doesn't tell on him scarcely at all; but
white and black suffer a good deal. Of course, there are some
people that the Smoke doesn't touch any more than tobacco would at
first. They just doze a bit, as one would fall asleep naturally,
and next morning they are almost fit for work. Now, I was one of
that sort when I began, but I've been at it for five years pretty
steadily, and its different now. There was an old aunt of mine,
down Agra way, and she left me a little at her death. About sixty
rupees a month secured. Sixty isn't much. I can recollect a time,
seems hundreds and hundreds of years ago, that I was getting my
three hundred a month, and pickings, when I was working on a big
timber contract in Calcutta.
I didn't stick to that work for long. The Black Smoke does not
allow of much other business; and even though I am very little
affected by it, as men go, I couldn't do a day's work now to save my
life. After all, sixty rupees is what I want. When old Fung-Tching
was alive he used to draw the money for me, give me about half of it
to live on (I eat very little), and the rest he kept himself. I was
free of the Gate at any time of the day and night, and could smoke
and sleep there when I liked, so I didn't care. I know the old man
made a good thing out of it; but that's no matter. Nothing matters,
much to me; and, besides, the money always came fresh and fresh each
There was ten of us met at the Gate when the place was first opened.
Me, and two Baboos from a Government Office somewhere in Anarkulli,
but they got the sack and couldn't pay (no man who has to work in
the daylight can do the Black Smoke for any length of time straight
on); a Chinaman that was Fung-Tching's nephew; a bazar-woman that
had got a lot of money somehow; an English loafer--Mac-Somebody I
think, but I have forgotten--that smoked heaps, but never seemed to
pay anything (they said he had saved Fung-Tching's life at some
trial in Calcutta when he was a barrister): another Eurasian, like
myself, from Madras; a half-caste woman, and a couple of men who
said they had come from the North. I think they must have been
Persians or Afghans or something. There are not more than five of
us living now, but we come regular. I don't know what happened to
the Baboos; but the bazar-woman she died after six months of the
Gate, and I think Fung-Tching took her bangles and nose-ring for
himself. But I'm not certain. The Englishman, he drank as well as
smoked, and he dropped off. One of the Persians got killed in a row
at night by the big well near the mosque a long time ago, and the
Police shut up the well, because they said it was full of foul air.
They found him dead at the bottom of it. So, you see, there is only
me, the Chinaman, the half-caste woman that we call the Memsahib
(she used to live with Fung-Tching), the other Eurasian, and one of
the Persians. The Memsahib looks very old now. I think she was a
young woman when the Gate was opened; but we are all old for the
matter of that. Hundreds and hundreds of years old. It is very
hard to keep count of time in the Gate, and besides, time doesn't
matter to me. I draw my sixty rupees fresh and fresh every month.
A very, very long while ago, when I used to be getting three hundred
and fifty rupees a month, and pickings, on a big timber-contract at
Calcutta, I had a wife of sorts. But she's dead now. People said
that I killed her by taking to the Black Smoke. Perhaps I did, but
it's so long since it doesn't matter. Sometimes when I first came
to the Gate, I used to feel sorry for it; but that's all over and
done with long ago, and I draw my sixty rupees fresh and fresh every
month, and am quite happy. Not DRUNK happy, you know, but always
quiet and soothed and contented.
How did I take to it? It began at Calcutta. I used to try it in my
own house, just to see what it was like. I never went very far, but
I think my wife must have died then. Anyhow, I found myself here,
and got to know Fung-Tching. I don't remember rightly how that came
about; but he told me of the Gate and I used to go there, and,
somehow, I have never got away from it since. Mind you, though, the
Gate was a respectable place in Fung-Tching's time where you could
be comfortable, and not at all like the chandoo-khanas where the
niggers go. No; it was clean and quiet, and not crowded. Of
course, there were others beside us ten and the man; but we always
had a mat apiece with a wadded woollen head-piece, all covered with
black and red dragons and things; just like a coffin in the corner.
At the end of one's third pipe the dragons used to move about and
fight. I've watched 'em, many and many a night through. I used to
regulate my Smoke that way, and now it takes a dozen pipes to make
'em stir. Besides, they are all torn and dirty, like the mats, and
old Fung-Tching is dead. He died a couple of years ago, and gave me
the pipe I always use now--a silver one, with queer beasts crawling
up and down the receiver-bottle below the cup. Before that, I
think, I used a big bamboo stem with a copper cup, a very small one,
and a green jade mouthpiece. It was a little thicker than a
walking-stick stem, and smoked sweet, very sweet. The bamboo seemed
to suck up the smoke. Silver doesn't, and I've got to clean it out
now and then, that's a great deal of trouble, but I smoke it for the
old man's sake. He must have made a good thing out of me, but he
always gave me clean mats and pillows, and the best stuff you could
When he died, his nephew Tsin-ling took up the Gate, and he called
it the "Temple of the Three Possessions;" but we old ones speak of
it as the "Hundred Sorrows," all the same. The nephew does things
very shabbily, and I think the Memsahib must help him. She lives
with him; same as she used to do with the old man. The two let in
all sorts of low people, niggers and all, and the Black Smoke isn't
as good as it used to be. I've found burnt bran in my pipe over and
over again. The old man would have died if that had happened in his
time. Besides, the room is never cleaned, and all the mats are torn
and cut at the edges. The coffin has gone--gone to China again--
with the old man and two ounces of smoke inside it, in case he
should want 'em on the way.
The Joss doesn't get so many sticks burnt under his nose as he used
to; that's a sign of ill-luck, as sure as Death. He's all brown,
too, and no one ever attends to him. That's the Memsahib's work, I
know; because, when Tsin-ling tried to burn gilt paper before him,
she said it was a waste of money, and, if he kept a stick burning
very slowly, the Joss wouldn't know the difference. So now we've
got the sticks mixed with a lot of glue, and they take half-an-hour
longer to burn, and smell stinky. Let alone the smell of the room
by itself. No business can get on if they try that sort of thing.
The Joss doesn't like it. I can see that. Late at night,
sometimes, he turns all sorts of queer colors--blue and green and
red--just as he used to do when old Fung-Tching was alive; and he
rolls his eyes and stamps his feet like a devil.
I don't know why I don't leave the place and smoke quietly in a
little room of my own in the bazar. Most like, Tsin-ling would kill
me if I went away--he draws my sixty rupees now--and besides, it's
so much trouble, and I've grown to be very fond of the Gate. It's
not much to look at. Not what it was in the old man's time, but I
couldn't leave it. I've seen so many come in and out. And I've
seen so many die here on the mats that I should be afraid of dying
in the open now. I've seen some things that people would call
strange enough; but nothing is strange when you're on the Black
Smoke, except the Black Smoke. And if it was, it wouldn't matter.
Fung-Tching used to be very particular about his people, and never
got in any one who'd give trouble by dying messy and such. But the
nephew isn't half so careful. He tells everywhere that he keeps a
"first-chop" house. Never tries to get men in quietly, and make
them comfortable like Fung-Tching did. That's why the Gate is
getting a little bit more known than it used to be. Among the
niggers of course. The nephew daren't get a white, or, for matter
of that, a mixed skin into the place. He has to keep us three of
course--me and the Memsahib and the other Eurasian. We're fixtures.
But he wouldn't give us credit for a pipeful--not for anything.
One of these days, I hope, I shall die in the Gate. The Persian and
the Madras man are terrible shaky now. They've got a boy to light
their pipes for them. I always do that myself. Most like, I shall
see them carried out before me. I don't think I shall ever outlive
the Memsahib or Tsin-ling. Women last longer than men at the Black-
Smoke, and Tsin-ling has a deal of the old man's blood in him,
though he DOES smoke cheap stuff. The bazar-woman knew when she was
going two days before her time; and SHE died on a clean mat with a
nicely wadded pillow, and the old man hung up her pipe just above
the Joss. He was always fond of her, I fancy. But he took her
bangles just the same.
I should like to die like the bazar-woman--on a clean, cool mat with
a pipe of good stuff between my lips. When I feel I'm going, I
shall ask Tsin-ling for them, and he can draw my sixty rupees a
month, fresh and fresh, as long as he pleases, and watch the black
and red dragons have their last big fight together; and then . . . .
Well, it doesn't matter. Nothing matters much to me--only I wished
Tsin-ling wouldn't put bran into the Black Smoke.
THE STORY OF MUHAMMAD DIN.
"Who is the happy man? He that sees in his own house at home little
children crowned with dust, leaping and falling and crying."
Munichandra, translated by Professor Peterson.
The polo-ball was an old one, scarred, chipped, and dinted. It
stood on the mantelpiece among the pipe-stems which Imam Din,
khitmatgar, was cleaning for me.
"Does the Heaven-born want this ball?" said Imam Din, deferentially.
The Heaven-born set no particular store by it; but of what use was a
polo-ball to a khitmatgar?
"By Your Honor's favor, I have a little son. He has seen this ball,
and desires it to play with. I do not want it for myself."
No one would for an instant accuse portly old Imam Din of wanting to
play with polo-balls. He carried out the battered thing into the
verandah; and there followed a hurricane of joyful squeaks, a patter
of small feet, and the thud-thud-thud of the ball rolling along the
ground. Evidently the little son had been waiting outside the door
to secure his treasure. But how had he managed to see that polo-
Next day, coming back from office half an hour earlier than usual, I
was aware of a small figure in the dining-room--a tiny, plump figure
in a ridiculously inadequate shirt which came, perhaps, half-way
down the tubby stomach. It wandered round the room, thumb in mouth,
crooning to itself as it took stock of the pictures. Undoubtedly
this was the "little son."
He had no business in my room, of course; but was so deeply absorbed
in his discoveries that he never noticed me in the doorway. I
stepped into the room and startled him nearly into a fit. He sat
down on the ground with a gasp. His eyes opened, and his mouth
followed suit. I knew what was coming, and fled, followed by a
long, dry howl which reached the servants' quarters far more quickly
than any command of mine had ever done. In ten seconds Imam Din was
in the dining-room. Then despairing sobs arose, and I returned to
find Imam Din admonishing the small sinner who was using most of his
shirt as a handkerchief.
"This boy," said Imam Din, judicially, "is a budmash, a big budmash.
He will, without doubt, go to the jail-khana for his behavior."
Renewed yells from the penitent, and an elaborate apology to myself
from Imam Din.
"Tell the baby," said I, "that the Sahib is not angry, and take him
away." Imam Din conveyed my forgiveness to the offender, who had
now gathered all his shirt round his neck, string-wise, and the yell
subsided into a sob. The two set off for the door. "His name,"
said Imam Din, as though the name were part of the crime, "is
Muhammad Din, and he is a budmash." Freed from present danger,
Muhammad Din turned round, in his father's arms, and said gravely:--
"It is true that my name is Muhammad Din, Tahib, but I am not a
budmash. I am a MAN!"
From that day dated my acquaintance with Muhammad Din. Never again
did he come into my dining-room, but on the neutral ground of the
compound, we greeted each other with much state, though our
conversation was confined to "Talaam, Tahib" from his side and
"Salaam Muhammad Din" from mine. Daily on my return from office,
the little white shirt, and the fat little body used to rise from
the shade of the creeper-covered trellis where they had been hid;
and daily I checked my horse here, that my salutation might not be
slurred over or given unseemly.
Muhammad Din never had any companions. He used to trot about the
compound, in and out of the castor-oil bushes, on mysterious errands
of his own. One day I stumbled upon some of his handiwork far down
the ground. He had half buried the polo-ball in dust, and stuck six
shrivelled old marigold flowers in a circle round it. Outside that
circle again, was a rude square, traced out in bits of red brick
alternating with fragments of broken china; the whole bounded by a
little bank of dust. The bhistie from the well-curb put in a plea
for the small architect, saying that it was only the play of a baby
and did not much disfigure my garden.
Heaven knows that I had no intention of touching the child's work
then or later; but, that evening, a stroll through the garden
brought me unawares full on it; so that I trampled, before I knew,
marigold-heads, dust-bank, and fragments of broken soap-dish into
confusion past all hope of mending. Next morning I came upon
Muhammad Din crying softly to himself over the ruin I had wrought.
Some one had cruelly told him that the Sahib was very angry with him
for spoiling the garden, and had scattered his rubbish using bad
language the while. Muhammad Din labored for an hour at effacing
every trace of the dust-bank and pottery fragments, and it was with
a tearful apologetic face that he said, "Talaam Tahib," when I came
home from the office. A hasty inquiry resulted in Imam Din
informing Muhammad Din that by my singular favor he was permitted to
disport himself as he pleased. Whereat the child took heart and
fell to tracing the ground-plan of an edifice which was to eclipse
the marigold-polo-ball creation.
For some months, the chubby little eccentricity revolved in his
humble orbit among the castor-oil bushes and in the dust; always
fashioning magnificent palaces from stale flowers thrown away by the
bearer, smooth water-worn pebbles, bits of broken glass, and
feathers pulled, I fancy, from my fowls--always alone and always
crooning to himself.
A gayly-spotted sea-shell was dropped one day close to the last of
his little buildings; and I looked that Muhammad Din should build
something more than ordinarily splendid on the strength of it. Nor
was I disappointed. He meditated for the better part of an hour,
and his crooning rose to a jubilant song. Then he began tracing in
dust. It would certainly be a wondrous palace, this one, for it was
two yards long and a yard broad in ground-plan. But the palace was
Next day there was no Muhammad Din at the head of the carriage-
drive, and no "Talaam Tahib" to welcome my return. I had grown
accustomed to the greeting, and its omission troubled me. Next day,
Imam Din told me that the child was suffering slightly from fever
and needed quinine. He got the medicine, and an English Doctor.
"They have no stamina, these brats," said the Doctor, as he left
Imam Din's quarters.
A week later, though I would have given much to have avoided it, I
met on the road to the Mussulman burying-ground Imam Din,
accompanied by one other friend, carrying in his arms, wrapped in a
white cloth, all that was left of little Muhammad Din.
ON THE STRENGTH OF A LIKENESS.
If your mirror be broken, look into still water; but have a care
that you do not fall in.
Next to a requited attachment, one of the most convenient things
that a young man can carry about with him at the beginning of his
career, is an unrequited attachment. It makes him feel important
and business-like, and blase, and cynical; and whenever he has a
touch of liver, or suffers from want of exercise, he can mourn over
his lost love, and be very happy in a tender, twilight fashion.
Hannasyde's affair of the heart had been a Godsend to him. It was
four years old, and the girl had long since given up thinking of it.
She had married and had many cares of her own. In the beginning,
she had told Hannasyde that, "while she could never be anything more
than a sister to him, she would always take the deepest interest in
his welfare." This startlingly new and original remark gave
Hannasyde something to think over for two years; and his own vanity
filled in the other twenty-four months. Hannasyde was quite
different from Phil Garron, but, none the less, had several points
in common with that far too lucky man.
He kept his unrequited attachment by him as men keep a well-smoked
pipe--for comfort's sake, and because it had grown dear in the
using. It brought him happily through the Simla season. Hannasyde
was not lovely. There was a crudity in his manners, and a roughness
in the way in which he helped a lady on to her horse, that did not
attract the other sex to him. Even if he had cast about for their
favor, which he did not. He kept his wounded heart all to himself
for a while.
Then trouble came to him. All who go to Simla, know the slope from
the Telegraph to the Public Works Office. Hannasyde was loafing up
the hill, one September morning between calling hours, when a
'rickshaw came down in a hurry, and in the 'rickshaw sat the living,
breathing image of the girl who had made him so happily unhappy.
Hannasyde leaned against the railing and gasped. He wanted to run
downhill after the 'rickshaw, but that was impossible; so he went
forward with most of his blood in his temples. It was impossible,
for many reasons, that the woman in the 'rickshaw could be the girl
he had known. She was, he discovered later, the wife of a man from
Dindigul, or Coimbatore, or some out-of-the-way place, and she had
come up to Simla early in the season for the good of her health.
She was going back to Dindigul, or wherever it was, at the end of
the season; and in all likelihood would never return to Simla again,
her proper Hill-station being Ootacamund. That night, Hannasyde,
raw and savage from the raking up of all old feelings, took counsel
with himself for one measured hour. What he decided upon was this;
and you must decide for yourself how much genuine affection for the
old love, and how much a very natural inclination to go abroad and
enjoy himself, affected the decision. Mrs. Landys-Haggert would
never in all human likelihood cross his path again. So whatever he
did didn't much matter. She was marvellously like the girl who
"took a deep interest" and the rest of the formula. All things
considered, it would be pleasant to make the acquaintance of Mrs.
Landys-Haggert, and for a little time--only a very little time--to
make believe that he was with Alice Chisane again. Every one is
more or less mad on one point. Hannasyde's particular monomania was
his old love, Alice Chisane.
He made it his business to get introduced to Mrs. Haggert, and the
introduction prospered. He also made it his business to see as much
as he could of that lady. When a man is in earnest as to
interviews, the facilities which Simla offers are startling. There
are garden-parties, and tennis-parties, and picnics, and luncheons
at Annandale, and rifle-matches, and dinners and balls; besides
rides and walks, which are matters of private arrangement.
Hannasyde had started with the intention of seeing a likeness, and
he ended by doing much more. He wanted to be deceived, he meant to
be deceived, and he deceived himself very thoroughly. Not only were
the face and figure, the face and figure of Alice Chisane, but the
voice and lower tones were exactly the same, and so were the turns
of speech; and the little mannerisms, that every woman has, of gait
and gesticulation, were absolutely and identically the same. The
turn of the head was the same; the tired look in the eyes at the end
of a long walk was the same; the sloop and wrench over the saddle to
hold in a pulling horse was the same; and once, most marvellous of
all, Mrs. Landys-Haggert singing to herself in the next room, while
Hannasyde was waiting to take her for a ride, hummed, note for note,
with a throaty quiver of the voice in the second line:--"Poor
Wandering One!" exactly as Alice Chisane had hummed it for Hannasyde
in the dusk of an English drawing-room. In the actual woman
herself--in the soul of her--there was not the least likeness; she
and Alice Chisane being cast in different moulds. But all that
Hannasyde wanted to know and see and think about, was this maddening
and perplexing likeness of face and voice and manner. He was bent
on making a fool of himself that way; and he was in no sort
Open and obvious devotion from any sort of man is always pleasant to
any sort of woman; but Mrs. Landys-Haggert, being a woman of the
world, could make nothing of Hannasyde's admiration.
He would take any amount of trouble--he was a selfish man
habitually--to meet and forestall, if possible, her wishes.
Anything she told him to do was law; and he was, there could be no
doubting it, fond of her company so long as she talked to him, and
kept on talking about trivialities. But when she launched into
expression of her personal views and her wrongs, those small social
differences that make the spice of Simla life, Hannasyde was neither
pleased nor interested. He didn't want to know anything about Mrs.
Landys-Haggert, or her experiences in the past--she had travelled
nearly all over the world, and could talk cleverly--he wanted the
likeness of Alice Chisane before his eyes and her voice in his ears.
Anything outside that, reminding him of another personality jarred,
and he showed that it did.
Under the new Post Office, one evening, Mrs. Landys-Haggert turned
on him, and spoke her mind shortly and without warning. "Mr.
Hannasyde," said she, "will you be good enough to explain why you
have appointed yourself my special cavalier servente? I don't
understand it. But I am perfectly certain, somehow or other, that
you don't care the least little bit in the world for ME." This
seems to support, by the way, the theory that no man can act or tell
lies to a woman without being found out. Hannasyde was taken off
his guard. His defence never was a strong one, because he was
always thinking of himself, and he blurted out, before he knew what
he was saying, this inexpedient answer:--"No more I do."
The queerness of the situation and the reply, made Mrs. Landys-
Haggert laugh. Then it all came out; and at the end of Hannasyde's
lucid explanation, Mrs. Haggert said, with the least little touch of
scorn in her voice:--"So I'm to act as the lay-figure for you to
hang the rags of your tattered affections on, am I?"
Hannasyde didn't see what answer was required, and he devoted
himself generally and vaguely to the praise of Alice Chisane, which
was unsatisfactory. Now it is to be thoroughly made clear that Mrs.
Haggert had not the shadow of a ghost of an interest in Hannasyde.
Only . . . . only no woman likes being made love through instead of
to--specially on behalf of a musty divinity of four years' standing.
Hannasyde did not see that he had made any very particular
exhibition of himself. He was glad to find a sympathetic soul in
the arid wastes of Simla.
When the season ended, Hannasyde went down to his own place and Mrs.
Haggert to hers. "It was like making love to a ghost," said
Hannasyde to himself, "and it doesn't matter; and now I'll get to my
work." But he found himself thinking steadily of the Haggert-
Chisane ghost; and he could not be certain whether it was Haggert or
Chisane that made up the greater part of the pretty phantom.
. . . . . . . . .
He got understanding a month later.
A peculiar point of this peculiar country is the way in which a
heartless Government transfers men from one end of the Empire to the
other. You can never be sure of getting rid of a friend or an enemy
till he or she dies. There was a case once--but that's another
Haggert's Department ordered him up from Dindigul to the Frontier at
two days' notice, and he went through, losing money at every step,
from Dindigul to his station. He dropped Mrs. Haggert at Lucknow,
to stay with some friends there, to take part in a big ball at the
Chutter Munzil, and to come on when he had made the new home a
little comfortable. Lucknow was Hannasyde's station, and Mrs.
Haggert stayed a week there. Hannasyde went to meet her. And the
train came in, he discovered which he had been thinking of for the
past month. The unwisdom of his conduct also struck him. The
Lucknow week, with two dances, and an unlimited quantity of rides
together, clinched matters; and Hannasyde found himself pacing this
circle of thought:--He adored Alice Chisane--at least he HAD adored
her. AND he admired Mrs. Landys-Haggert because she was like Alice
Chisane. BUT Mrs. Landys-Haggert was not in the least like Alice
Chisane, being a thousand times more adorable. NOW Alice Chisane
was "the bride of another," and so was Mrs. Landys-Haggert, and a
good and honest wife too. THEREFORE, he, Hannasyde, was . . . .
here he called himself several hard names, and wished that he had
been wise in the beginning.
Whether Mrs. Landys-Haggert saw what was going on in his mind, she
alone knows. He seemed to take an unqualified interest in
everything connected with herself, as distinguished from the Alice-
Chisane likeness, and he said one or two things which, if Alice
Chisane had been still betrothed to him, could scarcely have been
excused, even on the grounds of the likeness. But Mrs. Haggert
turned the remarks aside, and spent a long time in making Hannasyde
see what a comfort and a pleasure she had been to him because of her
strange resemblance to his old love. Hannasyde groaned in his
saddle and said, "Yes, indeed," and busied himself with preparations
for her departure to the Frontier, feeling very small and miserable.
The last day of her stay at Lucknow came, and Hannasyde saw her off
at the Railway Station. She was very grateful for his kindness and
the trouble he had taken, and smiled pleasantly and sympathetically
as one who knew the Alice-Chisane reason of that kindness. And
Hannasyde abused the coolies with the luggage, and hustled the
people on the platform, and prayed that the roof might fall in and
As the train went out slowly, Mrs. Landys-Haggert leaned out of the
window to say goodbye:--"On second thoughts au revoir, Mr.
Hannasyde. I go Home in the Spring, and perhaps I may meet you in
Hannasyde shook hands, and said very earnestly and adoringly:--"I
hope to Heaven I shall never see your face again!"
And Mrs. Haggert understood.
WRESSLEY OF THE FOREIGN OFFICE.
I closed and drew for my love's sake,
That now is false to me,
And I slew the Riever of Tarrant Moss,
And set Dumeny free.
And ever they give me praise and gold,
And ever I moan my loss,
For I struck the blow for my false love's sake,
And not for the men at the Moss.
One of the many curses of our life out here is the want of
atmosphere in the painter's sense. There are no half-tints worth
noticing. Men stand out all crude and raw, with nothing to tone
them down, and nothing to scale them against. They do their work,
and grow to think that there is nothing but their work, and nothing
like their work, and that they are the real pivots on which the
administration turns. Here is an instance of this feeling. A half-
caste clerk was ruling forms in a Pay Office. He said to me:--"Do
you know what would happen if I added or took away one single line
on this sheet?" Then, with the air of a conspirator:--"It would
disorganize the whole of the Treasury payments throughout the whole
of the Presidency Circle! Think of that?"
If men had not this delusion as to the ultra-importance of their own
particular employments, I suppose that they would sit down and kill
themselves. But their weakness is wearisome, particularly when the
listener knows that he himself commits exactly the same sin.
Even the Secretariat believes that it does good when it asks an
over-driven Executive Officer to take census of wheat-weevils
through a district of five thousand square miles.
There was a man once in the Foreign Office--a man who had grown
middle-aged in the department, and was commonly said, by irreverent
juniors, to be able to repeat Aitchison's "Treaties and Sunnuds"
backwards, in his sleep. What he did with his stored knowledge only
the Secretary knew; and he, naturally, would not publish the news
abroad. This man's name was Wressley, and it was the Shibboleth, in
those days, to say:--"Wressley knows more about the Central Indian
States than any living man." If you did not say this, you were
considered one of mean undertanding.
Now-a-days, the man who says that he knows the ravel of the inter-
tribal complications across the Border is of more use; but in
Wressley's time, much attention was paid to the Central Indian
States. They were called "foci" and "factors," and all manner of
And here the curse of Anglo-Indian life fell heavily. When Wressley
lifted up his voice, and spoke about such-and-such a succession to
such-and-such a throne, the Foreign Office were silent, and Heads of
Departments repeated the last two or three words of Wressley's
sentences, and tacked "yes, yes," on them, and knew that they were
"assisting the Empire to grapple with serious political
contingencies." In most big undertakings, one or two men do the
work while the rest sit near and talk till the ripe decorations
begin to fall.
Wressley was the working-member of the Foreign Office firm, and, to
keep him up to his duties when he showed signs of flagging, he was
made much of by his superiors and told what a fine fellow he was.
He did not require coaxing, because he was of tough build, but what
he received confirmed him in the belief that there was no one quite
so absolutely and imperatively necessary to the stability of India
as Wressley of the Foreign Office. There might be other good men,
but the known, honored and trusted man among men was Wressley of the
Foreign Office. We had a Viceroy in those days who knew exactly
when to "gentle" a fractious big man and to hearten up a collar-
galled little one, and so keep all his team level. He conveyed to
Wressley the impression which I have just set down; and even tough
men are apt to be disorganized by a Viceroy's praise. There was a
case once--but that is another story.
All India knew Wressley's name and office--it was in Thacker and
Spink's Directory--but who he was personally, or what he did, or
what his special merits were, not fifty men knew or cared. His work
filled all his time, and he found no leisure to cultivate
acquaintances beyond those of dead Rajput chiefs with Ahir blots in
their 'scutcheons. Wressley would have made a very good Clerk in
the Herald's College had he not been a Bengal Civilian.
Upon a day, between office and office, great trouble came to
Wressley--overwhelmed him, knocked him down, and left him gasping as
though he had been a little school-boy. Without reason, against
prudence, and at a moment's notice, he fell in love with a
frivolous, golden-haired girl who used to tear about Simla Mall on a
high, rough waler, with a blue velvet jockey-cap crammed over her
eyes. Her name was Venner--Tillie Venner--and she was delightful.
She took Wressley's heart at a hand-gallop, and Wressley found that
it was not good for man to live alone; even with half the Foreign
Office Records in his presses.
Then Simla laughed, for Wressley in love was slightly ridiculous.
He did his best to interest the girl in himself--that is to say, his
work--and she, after the manner of women, did her best to appear
interested in what, behind his back, she called "Mr. Wressley's
Wajahs"; for she lisped very prettily. She did not understand one
little thing about them, but she acted as if she did. Men have
married on that sort of error before now.
Providence, however, had care of Wressley. He was immensely struck
with Miss Venner's intelligence. He would have been more impressed
had he heard her private and confidential accounts of his calls. He
held peculiar notions as to the wooing of girls. He said that the
best work of a man's career should be laid reverently at their feet.
Ruskin writes something like this somewhere, I think; but in
ordinary life a few kisses are better and save time.
About a month after he had lost his heart to Miss Venner, and had
been doing his work vilely in consequence, the first idea of his
"Native Rule in Central India" struck Wressley and filled him with
joy. It was, as he sketched it, a great thing--the work of his
life--a really comprehensive survey of a most fascinating subject--
to be written with all the special and laboriously acquired
knowledge of Wressley of the Foreign Office--a gift fit for an
He told Miss Venner that he was going to take leave, and hoped, on
his return, to bring her a present worthy of her acceptance. Would
she wait? Certainly she would. Wressley drew seventeen hundred
rupees a month. She would wait a year for that. Her mamma would
help her to wait.
So Wressley took one year's leave and all the available documents,
about a truck-load, that he could lay hands on, and went down to
Central India with his notion hot in his head. He began his book in
the land he was writing of. Too much official correspondence had
made him a frigid workman, and he must have guessed that he needed
the white light of local color on his palette. This is a dangerous
paint for amateurs to play with.
Heavens, how that man worked! He caught his Rajahs, analyzed his
Rajahs, and traced them up into the mists of Time and beyond, with
their queens and their concubines. He dated and cross-dated,
pedigreed and triple-pedigreed, compared, noted, connoted, wove,
strung, sorted, selected, inferred, calendared and counter-
calendared for ten hours a day. And, because this sudden and new
light of Love was upon him, he turned those dry bones of history and
dirty records of misdeeds into things to weep or to laugh over as he
pleased. His heart and soul were at the end of his pen, and they
got into the link. He was dowered with sympathy, insight, humor and
style for two hundred and thirty days and nights; and his book was a
Book. He had his vast special knowledge with him, so to speak; but
the spirit, the woven-in human Touch, the poetry and the power of
the output, were beyond all special knowledge. But I doubt whether
he knew the gift that was in him then, and thus he may have lost
some happiness. He was toiling for Tillie Venner, not for himself.
Men often do their best work blind, for some one else's sake.
Also, though this has nothing to do with the story, in India where
every one knows every one else, you can watch men being driven, by
the women who govern them, out of the rank-and-file and sent to take
up points alone. A good man once started, goes forward; but an
average man, so soon as the woman loses interest in his success as a
tribute to her power, comes back to the battalion and is no more
Wressley bore the first copy of his book to Simla and, blushing and
stammering, presented it to Miss Venner. She read a little of it.
I give her review verbatim:--"Oh, your book? It's all about those
how-wid Wajahs. I didn't understand it."
. . . . . . . . .
Wressley of the Foreign Office was broken, smashed,--I am not
exaggerating--by this one frivolous little girl. All that he could
say feebly was:--"But, but it's my magnum opus! The work of my
life." Miss Venner did not know what magnum opus meant; but she
knew that Captain Kerrington had won three races at the last
Gymkhana. Wressley didn't press her to wait for him any longer. He
had sense enough for that.
Then came the reaction after the year's strain, and Wressley went
back to the Foreign Office and his "Wajahs," a compiling,
gazetteering, report-writing hack, who would have been dear at three
hundred rupees a month. He abided by Miss Venner's review. Which
proves that the inspiration in the book was purely temporary and
unconnected with himself. Nevertheless, he had no right to sink, in
a hill-tarn, five packing-cases, brought up at enormous expense from
Bombay, of the best book of Indian history ever written.
When he sold off before retiring, some years later, I was turning
over his shelves, and came across the only existing copy of "Native
Rule in Central India"--the copy that Miss Venner could not
understand. I read it, sitting on his mule-trucks, as long as the
light lasted, and offered him his own price for it. He looked over
my shoulder for a few pages and said to himself drearily:--"Now, how
in the world did I come to write such damned good stuff as that?"
Then to me:--"Take it and keep it. Write one of your penny-farthing
yarns about its birth. Perhaps--perhaps--the whole business may
have been ordained to that end."
Which, knowing what Wressley of the Foreign Office was once, struck
me as about the bitterest thing that I had ever heard a man say of
his own work.
BY WORD OF MOUTH.
Not though you die to-night, O Sweet, and wail,
A spectre at my door,
Shall mortal Fear make Love immortal fail--
I shall but love you more,
Who from Death's house returning, give me still
One moment's comfort in my matchless ill.
This tale may be explained by those who know how souls are made, and
where the bounds of the Possible are put down. I have lived long
enough in this country to know that it is best to know nothing, and
can only write the story as it happened.
Dumoise was our Civil Surgeon at Meridki, and we called him
"Dormouse," because he was a round little, sleepy little man. He
was a good Doctor and never quarrelled with any one, not even with
our Deputy Commissioner, who had the manners of a bargee and the
tact of a horse. He married a girl as round and as sleepy-looking
as himself. She was a Miss Hillardyce, daughter of "Squash"
Hillardyce of the Berars, who married his Chief's daughter by
mistake. But that is another story.
A honeymoon in India is seldom more than a week long; but there is
nothing to hinder a couple from extending it over two or three
years. This is a delightful country for married folk who are
wrapped up in one another. They can live absolutely alone and
without interruption--just as the Dormice did. These two little
people retired from the world after their marriage, and were very
happy. They were forced, of course, to give occasional dinners, but
they made no friends hereby, and the Station went its own way and
forgot them; only saying, occasionally, that Dormouse was the best
of good fellows, though dull. A Civil Surgeon who never quarrels is
a rarity, appreciated as such.
Few people can afford to play Robinson Crusoe anywhere--least of all
in India, where we are few in the land, and very much dependent on
each other's kind offices. Dumoise was wrong in shutting himself
from the world for a year, and he discovered his mistake when an
epidemic of typhoid broke out in the Station in the heart of the
cold weather, and his wife went down. He was a shy little man, and
five days were wasted before he realized that Mrs. Dumoise was
burning with something worse than simple fever, and three days more
passed before he ventured to call on Mrs. Shute, the Engineer's
wife, and timidly speak about his trouble. Nearly every household
in India knows that Doctors are very helpless in typhoid. The
battle must be fought out between Death and the Nurses, minute by
minute and degree by degree. Mrs. Shute almost boxed Dumoise's ears
for what she called his "criminal delay," and went off at once to
look after the poor girl. We had seven cases of typhoid in the
Station that winter and, as the average of death is about one in
every five cases, we felt certain that we should have to lose
somebody. But all did their best. The women sat up nursing the
women, and the men turned to and tended the bachelors who were down,
and we wrestled with those typhoid cases for fifty-six days, and
brought them through the Valley of the Shadow in triumph. But, just
when we thought all was over, and were going to give a dance to
celebrate the victory, little Mrs. Dumoise got a relapse and died in
a week and the Station went to the funeral. Dumoise broke down
utterly at the brink of the grave, and had to be taken away.
After the death, Dumoise crept into his own house and refused to be
comforted. He did his duties perfectly, but we all felt that he
should go on leave, and the other men of his own Service told him
so. Dumoise was very thankful for the suggestion--he was thankful
for anything in those days--and went to Chini on a walking-tour.
Chini is some twenty marches from Simla, in the heart of the Hills,
and the scenery is good if you are in trouble. You pass through
big, still deodar-forests, and under big, still cliffs, and over
big, still grass-downs swelling like a woman's breasts; and the wind
across the grass, and the rain among the deodars says:--"Hush--hush--
hush." So little Dumoise was packed off to Chini, to wear down his
grief with a full-plate camera, and a rifle. He took also a useless
bearer, because the man had been his wife's favorite servant. He
was idle and a thief, but Dumoise trusted everything to him.
On his way back from Chini, Dumoise turned aside to Bagi, through
the Forest Reserve which is on the spur of Mount Huttoo. Some men
who have travelled more than a little say that the march from
Kotegarh to Bagi is one of the finest in creation. It runs through
dark wet forest, and ends suddenly in bleak, nipped hill-side and
black rocks. Bagi dak-bungalow is open to all the winds and is
bitterly cold. Few people go to Bagi. Perhaps that was the reason
why Dumoise went there. He halted at seven in the evening, and his
bearer went down the hill-side to the village to engage coolies for
the next day's march. The sun had set, and the night-winds were
beginning to croon among the rocks. Dumoise leaned on the railing
of the verandah, waiting for his bearer to return. The man came
back almost immediately after he had disappeared, and at such a rate
that Dumoise fancied he must have crossed a bear. He was running as
hard as he could up the face of the hill.
But there was no bear to account for his terror. He raced to the
verandah and fell down, the blood spurting from his nose and his
face iron-gray. Then he gurgled:--"I have seen the Memsahib! I
have seen the Memsahib!"
"Where?" said Dumoise.
"Down there, walking on the road to the village. She was in a blue
dress, and she lifted the veil of her bonnet and said:--'Ram Dass,
give my salaams to the Sahib, and tell him that I shall meet him
next month at Nuddea.' Then I ran away, because I was afraid."
What Dumoise said or did I do not know. Ram Dass declares that he
said nothing, but walked up and down the verandah all the cold
night, waiting for the Memsahib to come up the hill and stretching
out his arms into the dark like a madman. But no Memsahib came,
and, next day, he went on to Simla cross-questioning the bearer
Ram Dass could only say that he had met Mrs. Dumoise and that she
had lifted up her veil and given him the message which he had
faithfully repeated to Dumoise. To this statement Ram Dass adhered.
He did not know where Nuddea was, had no friends at Nuddea, and
would most certainly never go to Nuddea; even though his pay were
Nuddea is in Bengal, and has nothing whatever to do with a doctor
serving in the Punjab. It must be more than twelve hundred miles
Dumoise went through Simla without halting, and returned to Meridki
there to take over charge from the man who had been officiating for
him during his tour. There were some Dispensary accounts to be
explained, and some recent orders of the Surgeon-General to be
noted, and, altogether, the taking-over was a full day's work. In
the evening, Dumoise told his locum tenens, who was an old friend of
his bachelor days, what had happened at Bagi; and the man said that
Ram Dass might as well have chosen Tuticorin while he was about it.
At that moment a telegraph-peon came in with a telegram from Simla,
ordering Dumoise not to take over charge at Meridki, but to go at
once to Nuddea on special duty. There was a nasty outbreak of
cholera at Nuddea, and the Bengal Government, being shorthanded, as
usual, had borrowed a Surgeon from the Punjab.
Dumoise threw the telegram across the table and said:--"Well?"
The other Doctor said nothing. It was all that he could say.
Then he remembered that Dumoise had passed through Simla on his way
from Bagi; and thus might, possibly, have heard the first news of
the impending transfer.
He tried to put the question, and the implied suspicion into words,
but Dumoise stopped him with:--"If I had desired THAT, I should
never have come back from Chini. I was shooting there. I wish to
live, for I have things to do . . . . but I shall not be sorry."
The other man bowed his head, and helped, in the twilight, to pack
up Dumoise's just opened trunks. Ram Dass entered with the lamps.
"Where is the Sahib going?" he asked.
"To Nuddea," said Dumoise, softly.
Ram Dass clawed Dumoise's knees and boots and begged him not to go.
Ram Dass wept and howled till he was turned out of the room. Then
he wrapped up all his belongings and came back to ask for a
character. He was not going to Nuddea to see his Sahib die, and,
perhaps to die himself.
So Dumoise gave the man his wages and went down to Nuddea alone; the
other Doctor bidding him good-bye as one under sentence of death.
Eleven days later, he had joined his Memsahib; and the Bengal
Government had to borrow a fresh Doctor to cope with that epidemic
at Nuddea. The first importation lay dead in Chooadanga Dak-
TO BE HELD FOR REFERENCE.
By the hoof of the Wild Goat up-tossed
From the Cliff where She lay in the Sun,
Fell the Stone
To the Tarn where the daylight is lost;
So She fell from the light of the Sun,
Now the fall was ordained from the first,
With the Goat and the Cliff and the Tarn,
But the Stone
Knows only Her life is accursed,
As She sinks in the depths of the Tarn,
Oh, Thou who has builded the world
Oh, Thou who hast lighted the Sun!
Oh, Thou who hast darkened the Tarn!
The Sin of the Stone that was hurled
By the Goat from the light of the Sun,
As She sinks in the mire of the Tarn,
Even now--even now--even now!
From the Unpublished Papers of McIntosh Jellaludin.
"Say, is it dawn, is it dusk in thy Bower,
Thou whom I long for, who longest for me?
Oh be it night--be it--"
Here he fell over a little camel-colt that was sleeping in the Serai
where the horse-traders and the best of the blackguards from Central
Asia live; and, because he was very drunk indeed and the night was
dark, he could not rise again till I helped him. That was the
beginning of my acquaintance with McIntosh Jellaludin. When a
loafer, and drunk, sings The Song of the Bower, he must be worth
cultivating. He got off the camel's back and said, rather thickly:--
"I--I--I'm a bit screwed, but a dip in Loggerhead will put me right
again; and I say, have you spoken to Symonds about the mare's
Now Loggerhead was six thousand weary miles away from us, close to
Mesopotamia, where you mustn't fish and poaching is impossible, and
Charley Symonds' stable a half mile further across the paddocks. It
was strange to hear all the old names, on a May night, among the
horses and camels of the Sultan Caravanserai. Then the man seemed
to remember himself and sober down at the same time. He leaned
against the camel and pointed to a corner of the Serai where a lamp
"I live there," said he, "and I should be extremely obliged if you
would be good enough to help my mutinous feet thither; for I am more
than usually drunk--most--most phenomenally tight. But not in
respect to my head. 'My brain cries out against'--how does it go?
But my head rides on the--rolls on the dung-hill I should have said,
and controls the qualm."
I helped him through the gangs of tethered horses and he collapsed
on the edge of the verandah in front of the line of native quarters.
"Thanks--a thousand thanks! O Moon and little, little Stars! To
think that a man should so shamelessly . . . . Infamous liquor,
too. Ovid in exile drank no worse. Better. It was frozen. Alas!
I had no ice. Good-night. I would introduce you to my wife were I
sober--or she civilized."
A native woman came out of the darkness of the room, and began
calling the man names; so I went away. He was the most interesting
loafer that I had the pleasure of knowing for a long time; and later
on, he became a friend of mine. He was a tall, well-built, fair man
fearfully shaken with drink, and he looked nearer fifty than the
thirty-five which, he said, was his real age. When a man begins to
sink in India, and is not sent Home by his friends as soon as may
be, he falls very low from a respectable point of view. By the time
that he changes his creed, as did McIntosh, he is past redemption.
In most big cities, natives will tell you of two or three Sahibs,
generally low-caste, who have turned Hindu or Mussulman, and who
live more or less as such. But it is not often that you can get to
know them. As McIntosh himself used to say:--"If I change my
religion for my stomach's sake, I do not seek to become a martyr to
missionaries, nor am I anxious for notoriety."
At the outset of acquaintance McIntosh warned me. "Remember this.
I am not an object for charity. I require neither your money, your
food, nor your cast-off raiment. I am that rare animal, a self-
supporting drunkard. If you choose, I will smoke with you, for the
tobacco of the bazars does not, I admit, suit my palate; and I will
borrow any books which you may not specially value. It is more than
likely that I shall sell them for bottles of excessively filthy
country-liquors. In return, you shall share such hospitality as my
house affords. Here is a charpoy on which two can sit, and it is
possible that there may, from time to time, be food in that platter.
Drink, unfortunately, you will find on the premises at any hour: and
thus I make you welcome to all my poor establishments."
I was admitted to the McIntosh household--I and my good tobacco.
But nothing else. Unluckily, one cannot visit a loafer in the Serai
by day. Friends buying horses would not understand it.
Consequently, I was obliged to see McIntosh after dark. He laughed
at this, and said simply:--"You are perfectly right. When I enjoyed
a position in society, rather higher than yours, I should have done
exactly the same thing, Good Heavens! I was once"--he spoke as
though he had fallen from the Command of a Regiment--"an Oxford
Man!" This accounted for the reference to Charley Symonds' stable.
"You," said McIntosh, slowly, "have not had that advantage; but, to
outward appearance, you do not seem possessed of a craving for
strong drinks. On the whole, I fancy that you are the luckier of
the two. Yet I am not certain. You are--forgive my saying so even
while I am smoking your excellent tobacco--painfully ignorant of
We were sitting together on the edge of his bedstead, for he owned
no chairs, watching the horses being watered for the night, while
the native woman was preparing dinner. I did not like being
patronized by a loafer, but I was his guest for the time being,
though he owned only one very torn alpaca-coat and a pair of
trousers made out of gunny-bags. He took the pipe out of his mouth,
and went on judicially:--"All things considered, I doubt whether you
are the luckier. I do not refer to your extremely limited classical
attainments, or your excruciating quantities, but to your gross
ignorance of matters more immediately under your notice. That for
instance."--He pointed to a woman cleaning a samovar near the well
in the centre of the Serai. She was flicking the water out of the
spout in regular cadenced jerks.
"There are ways and ways of cleaning samovars. If you knew why she
was doing her work in that particular fashion, you would know what
the Spanish Monk meant when he said--
'I the Trinity illustrate,
Drinking watered orange-pulp--
In three sips the Aryan frustrate,
While he drains his at one gulp.--'
and many other things which now are hidden from your eyes. However,
Mrs. McIntosh has prepared dinner. Let us come and eat after the
fashion of the people of the country--of whom, by the way, you know
The native woman dipped her hand in the dish with us. This was
wrong. The wife should always wait until the husband has eaten.
McIntosh Jellaludin apologized, saying:--
"It is an English prejudice which I have not been able to overcome;
and she loves me. Why, I have never been able to understand. I
fore-gathered with her at Jullundur, three years ago, and she has
remained with me ever since. I believe her to be moral, and know
her to be skilled in cookery."
He patted the woman's head as he spoke, and she cooed softly. She
was not pretty to look at.
McIntosh never told me what position he had held before his fall.
He was, when sober, a scholar and a gentleman. When drunk, he was
rather more of the first than the second. He used to get drunk
about once a week for two days. On those occasions the native woman
tended him while he raved in all tongues except his own. One day,
indeed, he began reciting Atalanta in Calydon, and went through it
to the end, beating time to the swing of the verse with a bedstead-
leg. But he did most of his ravings in Greek or German. The man's
mind was a perfect rag-bag of useless things. Once, when he was
beginning to get sober, he told me that I was the only rational
being in the Inferno into which he had descended--a Virgil in the
Shades, he said--and that, in return for my tobacco, he would,
before he died, give me the materials of a new Inferno that should
make me greater than Dante. Then he fell asleep on a horse-blanket
and woke up quite calm.
"Man," said he, "when you have reached the uttermost depths of
degradation, little incidents which would vex a higher life, are to
you of no consequence. Last night, my soul was among the gods; but
I make no doubt that my bestial body was writhing down here in the
"You were abominably drunk if that's what you mean," I said.
"I WAS drunk--filthy drunk. I who am the son of a man with whom you
have no concern--I who was once Fellow of a College whose buttery-
hatch you have not seen. I was loathsomely drunk. But consider how
lightly I am touched. It is nothing to me. Less than nothing; for
I do not even feel the headache which should be my portion. Now, in
a higher life, how ghastly would have been my punishment, how bitter
my repentance! Believe me, my friend with the neglected education,
the highest is as the lowest--always supposing each degree extreme."
He turned round on the blanket, put his head between his fists and
"On the Soul which I have lost and on the Conscience which I have
killed, I tell you that I CANNOT feel! I am as the gods, knowing
good and evil, but untouched by either. Is this enviable or is it
When a man has lost the warning of "next morning's head," he must be
in a bad state, I answered, looking at McIntosh on the blanket, with
his hair over his eyes and his lips blue-white, that I did not think
the insensibility good enough.
"For pity's sake, don't say that! I tell you, it IS good and most
enviable. Think of my consolations!"
"Have you so many, then, McIntosh?"
"Certainly; your attempts at sarcasm which is essentially the weapon
of a cultured man, are crude. First, my attainments, my classical
and literary knowledge, blurred, perhaps, by immoderate drinking--
which reminds me that before my soul went to the Gods last night, I
sold the Pickering Horace you so kindly lent me. Ditta Mull the
Clothesman has it. It fetched ten annas, and may be redeemed for a
rupee--but still infinitely superior to yours. Secondly, the
abiding affection of Mrs. McIntosh, best of wives. Thirdly, a
monument, more enduring than brass, which I have built up in the
seven years of my degradation."
He stopped here, and crawled across the room for a drink of water.
He was very shaky and sick.
He referred several times to his "treasure"--some great possession
that he owned--but I held this to be the raving of drink. He was as
poor and as proud as he could be. His manner was not pleasant, but
he knew enough about the natives, among whom seven years of his life
had been spent, to make his acquaintance worth having. He used
actually to laugh at Strickland as an ignorant man--"ignorant West
and East"--he said. His boast was, first, that he was an Oxford Man
of rare and shining parts, which may or may not have been true--I
did not know enough to check his statements--and, secondly, that he
"had his hand on the pulse of native life"--which was a fact. As an
Oxford man, he struck me as a prig: he was always throwing his
education about. As a Mahommedan faquir--as McIntosh Jellaludin--he
was all that I wanted for my own ends. He smoked several pounds of
my tobacco, and taught me several ounces of things worth knowing;
but he would never accept any gifts, not even when the cold weather
came, and gripped the poor thin chest under the poor thin alpaca-
coat. He grew very angry, and said that I had insulted him, and
that he was not going into hospital. He had lived like a beast and
he would die rationally, like a man.
As a matter of fact, he died of pneumonia; and on the night of his
death sent over a grubby note asking me to come and help him to die.
The native woman was weeping by the side of the bed. McIntosh,
wrapped in a cotton cloth, was too weak to resent a fur coat being
thrown over him. He was very active as far as his mind was
concerned, and his eyes were blazing. When he had abused the Doctor
who came with me so foully that the indignant old fellow left, he
cursed me for a few minutes and calmed down.
Then he told his wife to fetch out "The Book" from a hole in the
wall. She brought out a big bundle, wrapped in the tail of a
petticoat, of old sheets of miscellaneous note-paper, all numbered
and covered with fine cramped writing. McIntosh ploughed his hand
through the rubbish and stirred it up lovingly.
"This," he said, "is my work--the Book of McIntosh Jellaludin,
showing what he saw and how he lived, and what befell him and
others; being also an account of the life and sins and death of
Mother Maturin. What Mirza Murad Ali Beg's book is to all other
books on native life, will my work be to Mirza Murad Ali Beg's!"
This, as will be conceded by any one who knows Mirza Ali Beg's book,
was a sweeping statement. The papers did not look specially
valuable; but McIntosh handled them as if they were currency-notes.
Then he said slowly:--"In despite the many weaknesses of your
education, you have been good to me. I will speak of your tobacco
when I reach the Gods. I owe you much thanks for many kindnesses.
But I abominate indebtedness. For this reason I bequeath to you now
the monument more enduring than brass--my one book--rude and
imperfect in parts, but oh, how rare in others! I wonder if you
will understand it. It is a gift more honorable than . . . Bah!
where is my brain rambling to? You will mutilate it horribly. You
will knock out the gems you call 'Latin quotations,' you Philistine,
and you will butcher the style to carve into your own jerky jargon;
but you cannot destroy the whole of it. I bequeath it to you.
Ethel . . . My brain again! . . Mrs. McIntosh, bear witness that I
give the sahib all these papers. They would be of no use to you,
Heart of my heart; and I lay it upon you," he turned to me here,
"that you do not let my book die in its present form. It is yours
unconditionally--the story of McIntosh Jellaludin, which is NOT the
story of McIntosh Jellaludin, but of a greater man than he, and of a
far greater woman. Listen now! I am neither mad nor drunk! That
book will make you famous."
I said, "thank you," as the native woman put the bundle into my
"My only baby!" said McIntosh with a smile. He was sinking fast,
but he continued to talk as long as breath remained. I waited for
the end: knowing that, in six cases out of ten the dying man calls
for his mother. He turned on his side and said:--
"Say how it came into your possession. No one will believe you, but
my name, at least, will live. You will treat it brutally, I know
you will. Some of it must go; the public are fools and prudish
fools. I was their servant once. But do your mangling gently--very
gently. It is a great work, and I have paid for it in seven years'
His voice stopped for ten or twelve breaths, and then he began
mumbling a prayer of some kind in Greek. The native woman cried
very bitterly. Lastly, he rose in bed and said, as loudly as
slowly:--"Not guilty, my Lord!"
Then he fell back, and the stupor held him till he died. The native
woman ran into the Serai among the horses and screamed and beat her
breasts; for she had loved him.
Perhaps his last sentence in life told what McIntosh had once gone
through; but, saving the big bundle of old sheets in the cloth,
there was nothing in his room to say who or what he had been.
The papers were in a hopeless muddle.
Strickland helped me to sort them, and he said that the writer was
either an extreme liar or a most wonderful person. He thought the
former. One of these days, you may be able to judge for yourself.
The bundle needed much expurgation and was full of Greek nonsense,
at the head of the chapters, which has all been cut out.
If the things are ever published some one may perhaps remember this
story, now printed as a safeguard to prove that McIntosh Jellaludin
and not I myself wrote the Book of Mother Maturin.
I don't want the Giant's Robe to come true in my case.