Part 2 out of 4
narrer-gage comin' in on one side, an' the Montreal flyer the
other, an' the old bridge teeterin' between?" said the Deacon.
"Kin you put your nose down on the cow-catcher of a locomotive
when you're waitin' at the depot an' let 'em play 'Curfew shall
not ring to-night' with the big brass bell?"
"Kin you hold back when the brichin' breaks? Kin you stop fer
orders when your nigh hind leg's over your trace an' ye feel
good of a frosty mornin'?" said Nip, who had only learned that
trick last winter, and thought it was the crown of horsely
"What's the use o' talk in'?" said Tedda Gabler, scornfully.
"What kin ye do?"
"I rely on my simple rights - the inalienable rights o' my
unfettered horsehood. An' I am proud to say I have never, since
my first shoes, lowered myself to obeyin' the will o' man."
"'Must ha' had a heap o' whips broke over yer yaller back," said
Tedda. "Hev ye found it paid any?"
"Sorrer has been my portion since the day I was foaled. Blows
an' boots an' whips an' insults - injury, outrage, an'
oppression. I would not endoor the degradin' badges o' servitood
that connect us with the buggy an' the farm-wagon."
"It's amazin' difficult to draw a buggy 'thout traces er collar
er breast-strap er somefin'," said Marcus. "A Power-machine for
sawin' wood is most the only thing there's no straps to. I've
helped saw 's much as three cord in an afternoon in a
Power-machine. Slep', too, most o' the time, I did; but 'tain't
half as interestin' ez goin' daown-taown in the Concord."
"Concord don't hender you goin' to sleep any," said Nip. "My
throat-lash! D'you remember when you lay down in the sharves
last week, waitin' at the piazza?
"Pshaw! That didn't hurt the sharves. They wuz good an' wide, an'
I lay down keerful. The folks kep' me hitched up nigh an hour
'fore they started; an' larfed - why, they all but lay down
themselves with larfin'. Say, Boney, if you've got to be hitched
to anything that goes on wheels, you've got to be hitched with
"Go an' jine a circus," said Muldoon, "an' walk on your hind
legs. All de horses dat knows too much to work [he pronounced it
"woik," New York fashion] jine de circus."
"I am not sayin' anythin' again' work," said the yellow horse;
"work is the finest thing in the world."
"'Seems too fine fer some of us," Tedda snorted.
"I only ask that each horse should work for himself, an' enjoy
the profit of his labours. Let him work intelligently, an' not
as a machine."
"There ain't no horse that works like a machine," Marcus began.
"There's no way o' workin' that doesn't mean goin' to pole er
single - they never put me in the Power-machine - er under
saddle," said Rick.
"Oh, shucks! We're talkin' same ez we graze," said Nip, "raound
an' raound in circles Rod, we hain't heard from you yet, an'
you've more know-how than any span here."
Rod, the off-horse of the pair, had been standing with one hip
lifted, like a tired cow; and you could only tell by the quick
flutter of the haw across his eye, from time to time, that he
was paying any attention to the argument. He thrust his jaw out
sidewise, as his habit is when he pulls, and changed his leg.
His voice was hard and heavy, and his ears were close to his
big, plain Hambletonian head.
"How old are you?" he said to the yellow horse.
"Nigh thirteen, I guess."
"Mean age; ugly age; I'm gettin' that way myself. How long hev ye
been pawin' this firefanged stable-litter?"
"If you mean my principles, I've held 'em sence I was three."
"Mean age; ugly age; teeth give heaps o' trouble then. 'Set a
colt to actin' crazy fer a while. You've kep' it up, seemin'ly.
D'ye talk much to your neighbours fer a steady thing?"
"I uphold the principles o' the Cause wherever I am pastured."
"'Done a heap o' good, I guess?"
"I am proud to say I have taught a few of my companions the
principles o' freedom an' liberty."
"Meanin' they ran away er kicked when they got the chanst?"
"I was talkin' in the abstrac', an' not in the concrete. My
teachin's educated them."
"What a horse, specially a young horse, hears in the abstrac',
he's liable to do in the Concord. You was handled late, I
Four, risin' five."
"That's where the trouble began. Driv' by a woman, like ez not -
"Not fer long," said the yellow horse, with a snap of his teeth.
"I heerd she never drove again."
"Buckboards full of 'em."
"I have shed conside'ble men in my time."
"Any way that come along. Fallin' back over the dash is as handy
"They must be turr'ble afraid o' you daowntaown?"
"They've sent me here to get rid o' me. I guess they spend their
time talkin' over my campaigns.""I wanter know!"
"Yes, sir. Now, all you gentlemen have asked me what I can do.
I'll just show you. See them two fellers lyin' down by the
"Yep; one of 'em owns me. T'other broke me," said Rod.
"Get 'em out here in the open, an' I'll show you something. Lemme
hide back o' you peoples, so 's they won't see what I'm at."
"Meanin' ter kill 'em?" Rod drawled. There was a shudder of
horror through the others; but the yellow horse never noticed.
"I'll catch 'em by the back o' the neck, an' pile-drive 'em a
piece. They can suit 'emselves about livin' when I'm through
"'Shouldn't wonder ef they did," said Rod. The yellow horse had
hidden himself very cleverly behind the others as they stood in
a group, and was swaying his head close to the ground with a
curious scythe-like motion, looking side-wise out of his wicked
eyes. You can never mistake a man-eater getting ready to knock
a man down. We had had one to pasture the year before.
"See that?" said my companion, turning over on the pine-needles.
"Nice for a woman walking 'cross lots, wouldn't it be?"
"Bring 'em out!" said the yellow horse, hunching his sharp back.
"There's no chance among them tall trees. Bring out the - oh!
It was a right-and-left kick from Muldoon. I had no idea that
the old car-horse could lift so quickly. Both blows caught the
yellow horse full and fair in the ribs, and knocked the breath
out of him.
"What's that for?" he said angrily, when he recovered himself;
but I noticed he did not draw any nearer to Muldoon than was
Muldoon never answered, but discoursed to himself in the whining
grunt that he uses when he is going down-hill in front of a
heavy load. We call it singing; but I think it's something much
worse, really. The yellow horse blustered and squealed a little,
and at last said that, if it was a horse-fly that had stung
Muldoon, he would accept an apology.
"You'll get it," said Muldoon, "in de sweet by-and-bye - all de
apology you've any use for. Excuse me interruptin' you, Mr. Rod,
but I'm like Tweezy - I've a Southern drawback in me hind legs."
"Naow, I want you all here to take notice, an' you'll learn
something," Rod went on. "This yaller-backed skate comes to our
"Not havin' paid his board," put in Tedda.
"Not havin' earned his board, an' talks smooth to us abaout
ripplin' brooks an' wavin' grass, an' his high-toned,
pure-souled horsehood, which don't hender him sheddin' women an'
childern, an' fallin' over the dash onter men. You heard his
talk, an' you thought it mighty fine, some o' you."
Tuck looked guilty here, but she did not say anything.
"Bit by bit he goes on ez you have heard."
"I was talkin' in the abstrac'," said the yellow horse, in an
"Abstrac' be switched! Ez I've said, it's this yer blamed
abstrac' business that makes the young uns cut up in the
Concord; an' abstrac' or no abstrac', he crep' on an' on till he
come to killin' plain an' straight - killin' them as never done
him no harm, jest beca'se they owned horses."
"An' knowed how to manage 'em," said Tedda. That makes it worse."
Waal, he didn't kill 'em, anyway," said Marcus. "He'd ha' been
half killed ef he had tried."
"'Makes no differ," Rod answered. "He meant to; an' ef he hadn't
- s'pose we want the Back Pasture turned into a biffin'-ground
on our only day er rest? 'S'pose we want our men walkin' round
with bits er lead pipe an' a twitch, an' their hands full o'
stones to throw at us, same 's if we wuz hogs er hooky keows?
More'n that, leavin' out Tedda here - an' I guess it's more her
maouth than her manners stands in her light -there ain't a horse
on this farm that ain't a woman's horse, an' proud of it. An'
this yer bogspavined Kansas sunflower goes up an' daown the
length o' the country, traded off an' traded on, boastin' as
he's shed women --an' childern. I don't say as a woman in a buggy
ain't a fool. I don't say as she ain't the lastin'est kind er
fool, ner I don't say a child ain't worse - spattin' the lines
an' standin' up an' hollerin' - but I do say, 'tain't none of
our business to shed 'em daown the road.""We don't," said the
Deacon. "The baby tried to git some o' my tail for a sooveneer
last fall when I was up to the haouse, an' I didn't kick. Boney's
talk ain't goin' to hurt us any. We ain't colts."
"Thet's what you think Bimeby you git into a tight corner,
'Lection day er Valley Fair, like 's not, daown-taown, when
you're all het an' lathery, an' pestered with flies, an'
thirsty, an' sick o' bein' worked in an aout 'tween buggies.
Then somethin' whispers inside o' your winkers, bringin' up all
that talk abaout servitood an' inalienable truck an' sech like,
an' jest then a Militia gun goes off; er your wheels hit, an' -
waal, you're only another horse ez can't be trusted. I've been
there time an' again. Boys - fer I've seen you all bought er
broke - on my solemn repitation fer a three-minute clip, I ain't
givin' you no bran-mash o' my own fixin'. I'm tellin' you my
experiences, an' I've had ez heavy a load an' ez high a check 's
any horse here. I wuz born with a splint on my near fore ez big
's a walnut, an' the cussed, three-cornered Hambletonian temper
that sours up an' curdles daown ez you git older. I've favoured
my splint; even little Rick he don't know what it's cost me to
keep my end up sometimes; an' I've fit my temper in stall an'
harness, hitched up an' at pasture, till the sweat trickled off
my hooves, an' they thought I wuz off condition, an' drenched
"When my affliction came," said Tweezy, gently, "I was very near
to losin' my manners. Allow me to extend to you my sympathy,
Rick said nothing, but he looked at Rod curiously. Rick is a
sunny-tempered child who never bears malice, and I don't think
he quite understood. He gets his temper from his mother, as a
"I've been there too, Rod," said Tedda. "Open confession's good
for the soul, an' all Monroe County knows I've had my
"But if you will excuse me, suh, that pusson"-Tweezy looked
unspeakable things aat the yellow horse - "that pusson who has
insulted our intelligences comes from Kansas. An' what a ho'se
of his position, an' Kansas at that, says cannot, by any stretch
of the halter, concern gentlemen of our position. There's no
shadow of equal'ty, suh, not even for one kick. He's beneath our
"Let him talk," said Marcus. "It's always interestin' to know
what another horse thinks. It don't tech us."
"An' he talks so, too," said Tuck. "I've never heard anythin' so
smart for a long time."
Again Rod stuck out his jaws sidewise, and went on slowly, as
though he were slugging on a plain bit at the end of a
"I want all you here ter understand thet ther ain't no Kansas,
ner no Kentucky, ner yet no Vermont, in our business. There's
jest two kind o' horse in the United States-them ez can an' will
do their work after bein' properly broke an' handled, an' them as
won't. I'm sick an' tired o' this everlastin' tail-switchin' an'
wickerin' abaout one State er another. A horse kin be proud o'
his State, an' swap lies abaout it in stall or when he's hitched
to a block, ef he keers to put in fly-time that way; but he
hain't no right to let that pride o' hisn interfere with his
work, ner to make it an excuse fer claimin' he's different.
That's colts' talk, an' don't you fergit it, Tweezy. An',
Marcus,you remember that hem' a philosopher, an' anxious to save
trouble,- fer you ate,- don't excuse you from jumpin' with all
your feet on a slack-jawed, crazy clay-bank like Boney here. It's
leavin' 'em alone that gives 'em their chance to ruin colts an'
kill folks. An', Tuck, waal, you're a mare anyways - but when a
horse comes along an' covers up all his talk o' killin' with
ripplin' brooks, an wavin grass, an' eight quarts of oats a day
free, after killn' his man, don't you be run away with by his
yap. You're too young an' too nervous."
"I'll - I'll have nervous prostration sure ef there's a fight
here," said Tuck, who saw what was in Rod's eye; "I'm - I'm that
sympathetic I'd run away clear to next caounty."
"Yep; I know that kind o' sympathy. Jest lasts long enough to
start a fuss, an' then lights aout to make new trouble. I hain't
been ten years in harness fer nuthin'. Naow, we're goin' to keep
school with Boney fer a spell."
"Say, look a-here, you ain't goin' to hurt me, are you?
Remember, I belong to a man in town," cried the yellow horse,
uneasily. Muldoon kept behind him so that he could not run away.
"I know it. There must be some pore delooded fool in this State
hez a right to the loose end o' your hitchin'-strap. I'm blame
sorry fer him, but he shall hev his rights when we're through
with you," said Rod.
If it's all the same, gentlemen, I'd ruther change pasture.
'Guess I'll do it now."
"'Can't always have your 'druthers. 'Guess you won't," said Rod.
"But look a-here. All of you ain't so blame unfriendly to a
stranger. S'pose we count noses."
"What in Vermont fer?" said Rod, putting up his eyebrows. The
idea of settling a question by counting noses is the very last
thing that ever enters the head of a well-broken horse.
"To see how many's on my side. Here's Miss Tuck, anyway; an'
Colonel Tweezy yonder's neutral; an' Judge Marcus, an' I guess
the Reverend [the yellow horse meant the Deacon] might see that
I had my rights. He's the likeliest-lookin' Trotter I've ever
set eyes on. Pshaw. Boys. You ain't goin' to pound me, be
youyou? Why, we've gone round in pasture, all colts together,
this month ' Sundays, hain't we, as friendly as could be. There
ain't a horse alive I don't care who he is - has a higher
opinion o' you, Mr. Rod, than I have. Let's do it fair an' true
an' above the exe. Let's count noses same 's they do in
Kansas." Here he dropped his voice a little and turned to
Marcus: "Say, Judge, there's some green food I know, back o' the
brook, no one hain't touched yet. After this little fracas is
fixed up, you an' me'll make up a party an' 'tend to it."Marcus
did not answer for a long time, then he said: "There's a pup up
to the haouse 'bout eight weeks old. He'll yap till he gits a
lickin', an' when he sees it comin' he lies on his back, an'
yowls. But he don't go through no cirkituous nose-countin' first.
I've seen a noo light sence Rod spoke. You'll better stand up to
what's served. I'm goin' to philosophise all over your carcass."
I'm goin' to do yer up in brown paper," said Muldoon. "I can fit
you on apologies."
"Hold on. Ef we all biffed you now, these same men you've been
so dead anxious to kill 'u'd call us off. 'Guess we'll wait till
they go back to the haouse, an' you'll have time to think cool
an' quiet," said Rod.
"Have you no respec' whatever fer the dignity o' our common
horsehood?" the yellow horse squealed.
"Nary respec' onless the horse kin do something. America's paved
with the kind er horse you are -jist plain yaller-dog horse -
waitin' ter be whipped inter shape. We call 'em yearlings an'
colts when they're young. When they're aged we pound 'em - in
this pastur'. Horse, sonny, is what you start from. We know all
about horse here, an' he ain't any high-toned, pure souled child
o' nature. Horse, plain horse, same ez you, is chock-full o'
tricks, an' meannesses, an' cussednesses, an' shirkin's, an'
monkey-shines, which he's took over from his sire an' his dam,
an' thickened up with his own special fancy in the way o' goin'
crooked. Thet's horse, an' thet's about his dignity an' the size
of his soul 'fore he's been broke an' rawhided a piece. Now we
ain't goin' to give ornery unswitched horse, that hain't done
nawthin' wuth a quart of oats sence he wuz foaled, pet names
that would be good enough fer Nancy Hanks, or Alix, or Directum,
who hev. Don't you try to back off acrost them rocks. Wait where
you are! Ef I let my Hambletonian temper git the better o' me I'd
frazzle you out finer than rye-straw inside o' three minutes, you
woman-scarin', kid-killin', dash-breakin', unbroke, unshod,
ungaited, pastur'-hoggin', saw-backed, shark-mouthed,
hair-trunk-thrown-in-in-trade son of a bronco an' a
" I think we'd better get home," I said to my companion, when Rod
had finished; and we climbed into the coupe, Tedda whinnying, as
we bumped over the ledges: "Well, I'm dreffle sorry I can't stay
fer the sociable; but I hope an' trust my friends'll take a
ticket fer me."
"Bet your natchul!" said Muldoon, cheerfully, and the horses
scattered before us, trotting into the ravine.
Next morning we sent back to the livery-stable what was left of
the yellow horse. It seemed tired, but anxious to go.
End of "A WALKING DELEGATE"
THE SHIP THAT FOUND HERSELF
It was her first voyage, and though she was but a cargo-steamer
of twenty-five hundred tons, she was the very best of her kind,
the outcome of forty years of experiments and improvements in
framework and machinery; and her designers and owner thought as
much of her as though she had been the Lucania. Any one can make
a floating hotel that will pay expenses, if he puts enough money
into the saloon, and charges for private baths, suites of rooms,
and such like; but in these days of competition and low freights
every square inch of a cargo-boat must be built for cheapness,
great hold-capacity, and a certain steady speed. This boat was,
perhaps, two hundred and forty feet long and thirty-two feet
wide, with arrangements that enabled her to carry cattle on her
main and sheep on her upper deck if she wanted to; but her great
glory was the amount of cargo that she could store away in her
holds. Her owners -they were a very well known Scotch firm came
round with her from the north, where she had been launched and
christened and fitted, to Liverpool, where she was to take cargo
for New York; and the owner's daughter, Miss Frazier, went to and
fro on the clean decks, admiring the new paint and the brass
work, and the patent winches, and particularly the strong,
straight bow, over which she had cracked a bottle of champagne
when she named the steamer the Dimbula. It was a beautiful
September afternoon, and the boat in all her newness she was
painted lead-colour with a red funnel - looked very fine indeed.
Her house-flag was flying, and her whistle from time to time
acknowledged the salutes of friendly boats, who saw that she was
new to the High and Narrow Seas and wished to make her welcome.
"And now," said Miss Frazier, delightedly, to the captain, "she's
a real ship, isn't she? It seems only the other day father gave
the order for her, and now - and now - isn't she a beauty!" The
girl was proud of the firm, and talked as though she were the
"Oh, she's no so bad," the skipper replied cautiously. "But I'm
sayin' that it takes more than christenin' to mak' a ship. In
the nature o' things, Miss Frazier, if ye follow me, she's just
irons and rivets and plates put into the form of a ship. She has
to find herself yet."
"I thought father said she was exceptionally well found.""So she
is, said the skipper, with a laugh. "But it's this way wi'
ships, Miss Frazier. She's all here, but the parrts of her have
not learned to work together yet. They've had no chance."
"The engines are working beautifully. I can hear them."
"Yes, indeed. But there's more than engines to a ship. Every
inch of her, ye'll understand, has to be livened up and made to
work wi' its neighbour - sweetenin' her, we call it,
"And how will you do it?" the girl asked.
"We can no more than drive and steer her and so forth; but if we
have rough weather this trip - it's likely - she'll learn the
rest by heart! For a ship, ye'll obsairve, Miss Frazier, is in
no sense a reegid body closed at both ends. She's a highly
complex structure o' various an' conflictin' strains, wi'
tissues that must give an' tak' accordin' to her personal
modulus of elasteecity." Mr. Buchanan, the chief engineer, was
coming towards them. "I'm sayin' to Miss Frazier, here, that our
little Dimbula has to be sweetened yet, and nothin' but a gale
will do it. How's all wi' your engines, Buck?"
"Well enough - true by plumb an' rule, o' course; but there's no
spontaneeity yet." He turned to the girl. "Take my word, Miss
Frazier, and maybe ye'll comprehend later; even after a pretty
girl's christened a ship it does not follow that there's such a
thing as a ship under the men that work her."
"I was sayin' the very same, Mr. Buchanan," the skipper
"That's more metaphysical than I can follow," said Miss Frazier,
"Why so? Ye're good Scotch, an'- I knew your mother's father, he
was fra' Dumfries - ye've a vested right in metapheesics, Miss
Frazier, just as ye have in the Dimbula," the engineer said.
"Eh, well, we must go down to the deep watters, an' earn Miss
Frazier her deevidends. Will you not come to my cabin for tea?"
said the skipper. "We'll be in dock the night, and when you're
goin' back to Glasgie ye can think of us loadin' her down an'
drivin' her forth - all for your sake."
In the next few days they stowed some four thousand tons
dead-weight into the Dimbula, and took her out from Liverpool.
As soon as she met the lift of the open water, she naturally
began to talk. If you lay your ear to the side of the cabin,
the next time you are in a steamer, you will hear hundreds of
little voices in every direction, thrilling and buzzing, and
whispering and popping, and gurgling and sobbing and squeaking
exactly like a telephone in a thunder-storm. Wooden ships
shriek and growl and grunt, but iron vessels throb and quiver
through all their hundreds of ribs and thousands of rivets. The
Dimbula was very strongly built, and every piece of her had a
letter or a number, or both, to describe it; and every piece had
been hammered, or forged, or rolled, or punched by man, and had
lived in the roar and rattle of the shipyard for months.
Therefore, every piece had its own separate voice, in exact
proportion to the amount of trouble spent upon it. Cast-iron, as
a rule, says very little; but mild steel plates and
wrought-iron, and ribs and beams that have been much bent and
welded and riveted, talk continuously. Their conversation, of
course, is not half as wise as our human talk, because they are
all, though they do not know it, bound down one to the other in
a black darkness, where they cannot tell what is happening near
them, nor what will overtake them next.
As soon as she had cleared the Irish coast, a sullen, grey-headed
old wave of the Atlantic climbed leisurely over her straight
bows, and sat down on the steam-capstan used for hauling up the
anchor. Now the capstan and the engine that drove it had been
newly painted red and green; besides which, nobody likes being
"Don't you do that again," the capstan sputtered through the
teeth of his cogs. "Hi! Where's the fellow gone?"
The wave had slouched overside with a plop and a chuckle; but
"Plenty more where he came from," said a brother-wave, and went
through and over the capstan, who was bolted firmly to an iron
plate on the iron deck-beams below.
"Can't you keep still up there?" said the deckbeams. "What's the
matter with you? One minute you weigh twice as much as you
ought to, and the next you don't!"
"It isn't my fault," said the capstan. "There's a green brute
outside that comes and hits me on the head."
"Tell that to the shipwrights. You've been in position for months
and you've never wriggled like this before. If you aren't
careful you'll strain us."
"Talking of strain," said a low, rasping, unpleasant voice, are
any of you fellows - you deck-beams, we mean - aware that those
exceedingly ugly knees of yours happen to be riveted into our
structure - ours?"
"Who might you be?" the deck-beams inquired.
"Oh, nobody in particular," was the answer. "We're only the port
and starboard upper-deck stringers; and if you persist in
heaving and hiking like this, we shall be reluctantly compelled
to take steps."
Now the stringers of the ship are long iron girders, so to speak,
that run lengthways from stern to bow. They keep the iron frames
(what are called ribs in a wooden ship) in place, and also help
to hold the ends of the deck-beams, which go from side to side of
the ship. Stringers always consider themselves most important,
because they are so long.
"You will take steps - will you?" This was a long echoing
rumble. It came from the frames - scores and scores of them,
each one about eighteen inches distant from the next, and each
riveted to the stringers in four places. "We think you will have
a certain amount of trouble in that"; and thousands and
thousands of the little rivets that held everything together
whispered: "You Will! You will! Stop quivering and be quiet.
Hold on, brethren! Hold on! Hot Punches! What's that?"
Rivets have no teeth, so they cannot chatter with fright; but
they did their best as a fluttering jar swept along the ship
from stern to bow, and she shook like a rat in a terrier's
An unusually severe pitch, for the sea was rising, had lifted the
big throbbing screw nearly to the surface, and it was spinning
round in a kind of soda-water - half sea and half air - going
much faster than was proper, because there was no deep water for
it to work in. As it sank again, the engines - and they were
triple expansion, three cylinders in a row - snorted through all
their three pistons. "Was that a joke, you fellow outside?It's an
uncommonly poor one. How are we to do our work if you fly off the
handle that way?"
"I didn't fly off the handle," said the screw, twirling huskily
at the end of the screw-shaft. "If I had, you'd have been
scrap-iron by this time. The sea dropped away from under me, and
I had nothing to catch on to. That's all."
That's all, d'you call it?" said the thrust-block, whose
business it is to take the push of the screw; for if a screw had
nothing to hold it back it would crawl right into the
engine-room. (It is the holding back of the screwing action
that gives the drive to a ship.) "I know I do my work deep down
and out of sight, but I warn you I expect justice. All I ask for
is bare justice. Why can't you push steadily and evenly, instead
of whizzing like a whirligig, and making me hot under all my
collars?" The thrust-block had six collars, each faced with
brass, and he did not wish to get them heated.
All the bearings that supported the fifty feet of screw-shaft as
it ran to the stern whispered: "Justice - give us justice."
"I can only give you what I can get," the screw answered. "Look
out! It's coming again!"
He rose with a roar as the Dimbula plunged, and "whack - flack -
whack - whack" went the engines, furiously, for they had little
to check them.
"I'm the noblest outcome of human ingenuity - Mr. Buchanan says
so," squealed the high-pressure cylinder. "This is simply
ridiculous!" The piston went up savagely, and choked, for half
the steam behind it was mixed with dirty water. "Help! Oiler!
Fitter! Stoker! Help I'm choking," it gasped."Never in the
history of maritime invention has such a calamity over-taken one
so young and strong. And if I go, who's to drive the ship?"
"Hush! oh, hush!" whispered the Steam, who, of course, had been
to sea many times before. He used to spend his leisure ashore in
a cloud, or a gutter, or a flower-pot, or a thunder-storm, or
anywhere else where water was needed. "That's only a little
priming, a little carrying-over, as they call it. It'll happen
all night, on and off. I don't say it's nice, but it's the best
we can do under the circumstances."
"What difference can circumstances make ~. I'm here to do my work
- on clean, dry steam. Blow circumstances!" the cylinder roared.
"The circumstances will attend to the blowing. I've worked on the
North Atlantic run a good many times - it's going to be rough
"It isn't distressingly calm now," said the extra strong frames -
they were called web-frames - in the engine-room. "There's an
upward thrust that we don't understand, and there's a twist that
is very bad for our brackets and diamond- plates, and there's a
sort of west-northwesterly pull, that follows the twist, which
seriously annoys us. We mention this because we happened to cost
a good deal of money, and we feel sure that the owner would not
approve of our being treated in this frivolous way."
I'm afraid the matter is out of owner's hands for the present,"
said the Steam, slipping into the condenser. "You're left to
your own devices till the weather betters."
"I wouldn't mind the weather," said a flat bass voice below;
"it's this confounded cargo that's breaking my heart. I'm the
garboard-strake, and I'm twice as thick as most of the others,
and I ought to know something."
The garboard-strake is the lowest plate in the bottom of a ship,
and the Dimbula's garboardstrake was nearly three-quarters of an
inch mild steel.
"The sea pushes me up in a way I should never have expected," the
strake grunted, "and the cargo pushes me down, and, between the
two, I don't know what I'm supposed to do."
"When in doubt, hold on," rumbled the Steam, making head in the
"Yes; but there's only dark, and cold, and hurry, down here; and
how do I know whether the other plates are doing their duty?
Those bulwark-plates up above, I've heard, ain't more than
five-sixteenths of an inch thick -scandalous, I call it."
"I agree with you," said a huge web-frame, by the main
cargo-hatch. He was deeper and thicker than all the others, and
curved half-way across the ship in the shape of half an arch, to
support the deck where deck-beams would have been in the way of
cargo coming up and down. "I work entirely unsupported, and I
observe that I am the sole strength of this vessel, so far as my
vision extends. The responsibility, I assure you, is enormous.
I believe the money-value of the cargo is over one hundred and
fifty thousand pounds. Think of that!"
"And every pound of it is dependent on my personal exertions."
Here spoke a sea-valve that communicated directly with the water
outside, and was seated not very far from the garboard-strake.
"I rejoice to think that I am a Prince-Hyde Valve, with best Para
rubber facings. Five patents cover me - I mention this without
pride - five separate and several patents, each one finer than
the other. At present I am screwed fast. Should I open, you
would immediately be swamped. This is incontrovertible!"
Patent things always use the longest words they can. It is a
trick that they pick up from their inventors.
"That's news," said a big centrifugal bilge-pump. "I had an idea
that you were employed to clean decks and things with. At
least, I've used you for that more than once. I forget the
precise number, in thousands, of gallons which I am guaranteed
to throw per hour; but I assure you, my complaining friends,
that there is not the least danger. I alone am capable of
clearing any water that may find its way here. By my Biggest
Deliveries, we pitched then!"
The sea was getting up in workmanlike style. It was a dead
westerly gale, blown from under a ragged opening of green sky,
narrowed on all sides by fat, grey clouds; and the wind bit like
pincers as it fretted the spray into lacework on the flanks of
"I tell you what it is," the foremast telephoned down its
wire-stays. "I'm up here, and I can take a dispassionate view
of things. There's an organised conspiracy against us. I'm
sure of it, because every single one of these waves is heading
directly for our bows. The whole sea is concerned in it - and
so's the wind. It's awful!"
"What's awful?" said a wave, drowning the capstan for the
"This organised conspiracy on your part," the capstan gurgled,
taking his cue from the mast."Organised bubbles and spindrift!
There has been a depression in the Gulf of Mexico. Excuse me!" He
leaped overside; but his friends took up the tale one after
"Which has advanced - "That wave hove green water over the
"As far as Cape Hatteras -" He drenched the bridge.
"And is now going out to sea - to sea - to sea!" The third went
out in three surges, making a clean sweep of a boat, which
turned bottom up and sank in the darkening troughs alongside,
while the broken falls whipped the davits.
"That's all there is to it," seethed the white water roaring
through the scuppers. " There's no animus in our proceedings.
We're only meteorological corollaries."
"Is it going to get any worse?" said the bow-anchor chained down
to the deck, where he could only breathe once in five minutes.
"'Not knowing, can't say. Wind may blow a bit by midnight.
Thanks awfully. Good-bye."
The wave that spoke so politely had travelled some distance aft,
and found itself all mixed up on the deck amidships, which was a
well-deck sunk between high bulwarks. One of the bulwark-plates,
which was hung on hinges to open outward, had swung out, and
passed the bulk of the water back to the sea again with a clean
"Evidently that's what I'm made for," said the plate, closing
again with a sputter of pride. "Oh, no, you don't, my friend!"
The top of a wave was trying to get in from the outside, but as
the plate did not open in that direction, the defeated water
"Not bad for five-sixteenths of an inch," said the bulwark-plate.
"My work, I see, is laid down for the night"; and it began
opening and shutting, as it was designed to do, with the motion
of the ship.
"We are not what you might call idle," groaned all the frames
together, as the Dimbula climbed a big wave, lay on her side at
the top, and shot into the next hollow, twisting in the descent.
A huge swell pushed up exactly under her middle, and her bow and
stern hung free with nothing to support them. Then one joking
wave caught her up at the bow, and another at the stern, while
the rest of the water slunk away from under her just to see how
she would like it; so she was held up at her two ends only, and
the weight of the cargo and the machinery fell on the groaning
iron keels and bilge-stringers.
"Ease off! Ease off; there!" roared the garboard-strake. "I want
one-eighth of an inch fair play. D' you hear me, you rivets!"
"Ease off! Ease off!" cried the bilge-stringers. "Don't hold us
so tight to the frames!"
"Ease off!" grunted the deck-beams, as the Dimbula rolled
fearfully. "You've cramped our knees into the stringers, and we
can't move. Ease off; you flat-headed little nuisances."
Then two converging seas hit the bows, one on each side, and fell
away in torrents of streaming thunder.
"Ease off!" shouted the forward collision-bulkhead. "I want to
crumple up, but I'm stiffened in every direction. Ease off; you
dirty little forge-filings. Let me breathe!"
All the hundreds of plates that are riveted to the frames, and
make the outside skin of every steamer, echoed the call, for
each plate wanted to shift and creep a little, and each plate,
according to its position, complained against the rivets.
"We can't help it! We can't help it!" they murmured in reply.
"We're put here to hold you, and we're going to do it; you never
pull us twice in the same direction. If you'd say what you were
going to do next, we'd try to meet your views.
"As far as I could feel," said the upper-deck planking, and that
was four inches thick, "every single iron near me was pushing or
pulling in opposite directions. Now, what's the sense of that? My
friends, let us all pull together."
"Pull any way you please," roared the funnel, "so long as you
don't try your experiments on me. I need fourteen wire-ropes,
all pulling in different directions, to hold me steady. Isn't
We believe you, my boy!" whistled the funnel-stays through their
clinched teeth, as they twanged in the wind from the top of the
funnel to the deck.
"Nonsense! We must all pull together," the decks repeated.
"Very good," said the stringers; "then stop pushing sideways when
you get wet. Be content to run gracefully fore and aft, and
curve in at the ends as we do."
"No - no curves at the end. A very slight workmanlike curve from
side to side, with a good grip at each knee, and little pieces
welded on," said the deck-beams.
"Fiddle!" cried the iron pillars of the deep, dark hold. "Who
ever heard of curves? Stand up straight; be a perfectly round
column, and carry tons of good solid weight - like that! There!"
A big sea smashed on the deck above, and the pillars stiffened
themselves to the load.
"Straight up and down is not bad," said the frames, who ran that
way in the sides of the ship, "but you must also expand
yourselves sideways. Expansion is the law of life, children.
Open out! open out!"
"Come back!" said the deck-beams, savagely, as the upward heave
of the sea made the frames try to open. "Come back to your
bearings, you slack-jawed irons!"
"Rigidity! Rigidity! Rigidity!" thumped the engines. "Absolute,
unvarying rigidity -rigidity!"
"You see!" whined the rivets, in chorus. "No two of you will ever
pull alike, and - and you blame it all on us. We only know how
to go through a plate and bite down on both sides so that it
can't, and mustn't, and sha'n't move."
"I've got one fraction of an inch play, at any rate," said the
garboard-strake, triumphantly. So he had, and all the bottom of
the ship felt the easier for it.
"Then we're no good," sobbed the bottom rivets. "We were ordered
- we were ordered -never to give; and we've given, and the sea
will come in, and we'll all go to the bottom together! First
we're blamed for everything unpleasant, and now we haven't the
consolation of having done our work."
"Don't say I told you," whispered the Steam, consolingly; "but,
between you and me and the last cloud I came from, it was bound
to happen sooner or later. You had to give a fraction, and
you've given without knowing it. Now, hold on, as before."
"What's the use?" a few hundred rivets chattered. "We've given -
we've given; and the sooner we confess that we can't keep the
ship together, and go off our little heads, the easier it will
be. No rivet forged can stand this strain."
"No one rivet was ever meant to. Share it among you," the Steam
answered."The others can have my share. I'm going to pull out,"
said a rivet in one of the forward plates.
"If you go, others will follow," hissed the Steam. "There's
nothing so contagious in a boat as rivets going. Why, I knew a
little chap like you - he was an eighth of an inch fatter,
though - on a steamer - to be sure, she was only twelve hundred
tons, now I come to think of it in exactly the same place as you
are. He pulled out in a bit of a bobble of a sea, not half as
bad as this, and he started all his friends on the same
butt-strap, and the plates opened like a furnace door, and I had
to climb into the nearest fog-bank, while the boat went down."
"Now that's peculiarly disgraceful," said the rivet. "Fatter than
me, was he, and in a steamer not half our tonnage? Reedy little
peg! I blush for the family, sir." He settled himself more
firmly than ever in his place, and the Steam chuckled.
"You see," he went on, quite gravely, " a rivet, and especially a
rivet in your position, is really the one indispensable part of
The Steam did not say that be had whispered the very same thing
to every single piece of iron aboard. There is no sense in
telling too much.
And all that while the little Dimbula pitched and chopped, and
swung and slewed, and lay down as though she were going to die,
and got up as though she had been stung, and threw her nose
round and round in circles half a dozen times as she dipped, for
the gale was at its worst. It was inky black, in spite of the
tearing white froth on the waves, and, to top everything, the
rain began to fall in sheets, so that you could not see your hand
before your face. This did not make much difference to the
ironwork below, but it troubled the foremast a good deal.
"Now it's all finished," he said dismally. "The conspiracy is too
strong for us. There is nothing left but to -"
"Hurraar! Brrrraaah! Brrrrrrp!" roared the Steam through the
fog-horn, till the decks quivered. "Don't be frightened, below.
It's only me, just throwing out a few words, in case any one
happens to be rolling round to-night."
"You don't mean to say there's any one except us on the sea in
such weather?" said the funnel, in a husky snuffle.
"Scores of 'em," said the Steam, clearing its throat. "Rrrrrraaa!
Brraaaaa! Prrrrp! It's a trifle windy up here; and, Great
Boilers! how it rains!"
"We're drowning," said the scuppers. They had been doing nothing
else all night, but this steady thrash of rain above them seemed
to be the end of the world.
"That's all right. We'll be easier in an hour or two. First the
wind and then the rain: Soon you may make sail again!
Grrraaaaaah! Drrrraaaa! Drrrp! I have a notion that the sea is
going down already. If it does you'll learn something about
rolling. We've only pitched till now. By the way, aren't you
chaps in the hold a little easier than you were?"
There was just as much groaning and straining as ever, but it was
not so loud or squeaky in tone; and when the ship quivered she
did not jar stiffly, like a poker hit on the floor, but gave
with a supple little waggle, like a perfectly balanced
"We have made a most amazing discovery," said the stringers, one
after another. "A discovery that entirely changes the situation.
We have found, for the first time in the history of
ship-building, that the inward pull of the deck-beams and the
outward thrust of the frames locks us, as it were, more closely
in our places, and enables us to endure a strain which is
entirely without parallel in the records of marine
The Steam turned a laugh quickly into a roar up the fog-horn.
"What massive intellects you great stringers have," he said
softly, when he had finished.
"We also," began the deck-beams, "are discoverers and geniuses.
We are of opinion that the support of the hold-pillars
materially helps us. We find that we lock up on them when we
are subjected to a heavy and singular weight of sea above."
Here the Dimbula shot down a hollow, lying almost on her side;
righting at the bottom with a wrench and a spasm.
"In these cases - are you aware of this, Steam? - the plating at
the bows, and particularly at the stern - we would also mention
the floors beneath us - help us to resist any tendency to
spring." The frames spoke, in the solemn awed voice which people
use when they have just come across something entirely new for
the very first time.
"I'm only a poor puffy little flutterer," said the Steam, "but I
have to stand a good deal of pressure in my business. It's all
tremendously interesting. Tell us some more. You fellows are so
"Watch us and you'll see," said the bow-plates, proudly. "Ready,
behind there! Here's the father and mother of waves coming! Sit
tight, rivets all!" A great sluicing comber thundered by, but
through the scuffle and confusion the Steam could hear the low,
quick cries of the ironwork as the various strains took them -
cries like these: "Easy, now - easy! Now push for all your
strength! Hold out! Give a fraction! Hold up! Pull in! Shove
crossways! Mind the strain at the ends! Grip, now! Bite tight!
Let the water get away from under - and there she goes!"
The wave raced off into the darkness, shouting, "Not bad, that,
if it's your first run!" and the drenched and ducked ship
throbbed to the beat of the engines inside her. All three
cylinders were white with the salt spray that had come down
through the engine-room hatch; there was white fur on the
canvas-bound steam-pipes, and even the bright-work deep below
was speckled and soiled; but the cylinders had learned to make
the most of steam that was half water, and were pounding along
"How's the noblest outcome of human ingenuity hitting it?" said
the Steam, as he whirled through the engine-room.
"Nothing for nothing in this world of woe," the cylinders
answered, as though they had been working for centuries, "and
precious little for seventy-five pounds head. We've made two
knots this last hour and a quarter! Rather humiliating for eight
hundred horse-power, isn't it?"
"Well, it's better than drifting astern, at any rate. You seem
rather less - how shall I put it - stiff in the back than you
"If you'd been hammered as we've been this night, you wouldn't be
stiff- iff- iff; either. Theoreti - retti - retti - cally, of
course, rigidity is the thing. Purrr - purr - practically, there
has to be a little give and take. We found that out by working on
our sides for five minutes at a stretch - chch - chh. How's the
"'Sea's going down fast," said the Steam.
"Good business," said the high-pressure cylinder. "Whack her up,
boys. They've given us five pounds more steam"; and he began
humming the first bars of "Said the young Obadiah to the old
Obadiah," which, as you may have noticed, is a pet tune among
engines not built for high speed. Racing-liners with twin-screws
sing "The Turkish Patrol" and the overture to the "Bronze
Horse," and "Madame Angot," till something goes wrong, and then
they render Gounod's "Funeral March of a Marionette," with
"You'll learn a song of your own some fine day," said the Steam,
as he flew up the fog-horn for one last bellow.
Next day the sky cleared and the sea dropped a little, and the
Dimbula began to roll from side to side till every inch of iron
in her was sick and giddy.But luckily they did not all feel ill
at the same time: otherwise she would have opened out like a wet
The Steam whistled warnings as he went about his business: it is
in this short, quick roll and tumble that follows a heavy sea
that most of the accidents happen, for then everything thinks
that the worst is over and goes off guard. So he orated and
chattered till the beams and frames and floors and stringers and
things had learned how to lock down and lock up on one another,
and endure this new kind of strain.
They found ample time to practise, for they were sixteen days at
sea, and it was foul weather till within a hundred miles of New
York. The Dimbula picked up her pilot, and came in covered with
salt and red rust. Her funnel was dirty-grey from top to
bottom; two boats had been carried away; three copper ventilators
looked like hats after a fight with the police; the bridge had a
dimple in the middle of it; the house that covered the steam
steering-gear was split as with hatchets; there was a bill for
small repairs in the engine-room almost as long as the
screw-shaft; the forward cargo-hatch fell into bucket-staves when
they raised the iron cross-bars; and the steam-capstan had been
badly wrenched on its bed. Altogether, as the skipper said, it
was "a pretty general average."
"But she's soupled," he said to Mr. Buchanan. "For all her
dead-weight she rode like a yacht. Ye mind that last blow off
the Banks - I am proud of her, Buck."
"It's vera good," said the chief engineer, looking along the
dishevelled decks. "Now, a man judgin' superfeecially would say
we were a wreck, but we know otherwise - by experience."
Naturally everything in the Dimbula fairly stiffened with pride,
and the foremast and the forward collision-bulkhead, who are
pushing creatures, begged the Steam to warn the Port of New York
of their arrival. "Tell those big boats all about us," they said.
"They seem to take us quite as a matter of course."
It was a glorious, clear, dead calm morning, and in single file,
with less than half a mile between each, their bands playing and
their tugboats shouting and waving handkerchiefs, were the
Majestic, the Paris, the Touraine, the Servia, the Kaiser
Wilhelm II, and the Werkendam, all statelily going out to sea. As
the Dimbula shifted her helm to give the great boats clear way,
the Steam (who knows far too much to mind making an exhibition
of himself now and then) shouted:Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! Princes,
Dukes, and Barons of the High Seas! Know ye by these presents,
we are the Dimbula, fifteen days nine hours from Liverpool,
having crossed the Atlantic with four thousand ton of cargo for
the first time in our career! We have not foundered. We are
here. 'Eer! 'Eer! We are not disabled. But we have had a time
wholly unparalieled in the annals of ship-building! Our decks
were swept! We pitched; we rolled! We thought we were going to
die! Hi! Hi? But we didn't. We wish to give notice that we have
come to New York all the way across the Atlantic, through the
worst weather in the world; and we are the Dimbula! We are - arr
- ha - ha - ha-r-r-r!"
The beautiful line of boats swept by as steadily as the
procession of the Seasons. The Dimbula heard the Majestic say,
"Hmph!" and the Paris grunted, "How!" and the Touraine said,
"Oui!" with a little coquettish flicker of steam; and the Servia
said, "Haw!" and the Kaiser and the Werkendam said, "Hoch!" Dutch
fashion - and that was absolutely all.
"I did my best," said the Steam, gravely, "but I don't think they
were much impressed with us, somehow. Do you?"
"It's simply disgusting," said the bow-plates. "They might have
seen what we've been through. There isn't a ship on the sea that
has suffered as we have - is there, now?"
"Well, I wouldn't go so far as that," said the Steam, "because
I've worked on some of those boats, and sent them through
weather quite as bad as the fortnight that we've had, in six
days; and some of them are a little over ten thousand tons, I
believe. Now I've seen the Majestic, for instance, ducked from
her bows to her funnel; and I've helped the Arizona, I think she
was, to back off an iceberg she met with one dark night; and I
had to run out of the Paris's engine-room, one day, because
there was thirty foot of water in it. Of course, I don't deny -"
The Steam shut off suddenly, as a tugboat, loaded with a
political club and a brass band, that had been to see a New York
Senator off to Europe, crossed their bows, going to Hoboken.
There was a long silence that reached, without a break, from the
cut-water to the propeller-blades of the Dimbula.
Then a new, big voice said slowly and thickly, as though the
owner had just waked up: "It's my conviction that I have made a
fool of myself"
The Steam knew what had happened at once; for when a ship finds
herself all the talking of the separate pieces ceases and melts
into one voice, which is the soul of the ship.
"Who are you?" he said, with a laugh.
"I am the Dimbula, of course. I've never been anything else
except that - and a fool!"
The tugboat, which was doing its very best to be run down, got
away just in time; its band playing clashily and brassily a
popular but impolite air:
In the days of old Rameses - are you on?In the days of old
Rameses - are you on?In the days of old Rameses,That story had
paresis,Are you on - are you on - are you on?
"Well, I'm glad you've found yourself," said the Steam. "To tell
the truth, I was a little tired of talking to all those ribs and
stringers. Here's Quarantine. After that we'll go to our wharf
and clean up a little, and - next month we'll do it all over
END OF THE "THE SHIP THAT FOUND HERSELF"
THE TOMB OF HIS ANCESTORS
Some people will tell you that if there were but a single loaf of
bread in all India it would be divided equally between the
Plowdens, the Trevors, the Beadons, and the Rivett-Carnacs. That
is only one way of saying that certain families serve India
generation after generation, as dolphins follow in line across
the open sea.
Let us take a small and obscure case. There has been at least one
representative of the Devonshire Chinns in or near Central India
since the days of Lieutenant-Fireworker Humphrey Chinn, of the
Bombay European Regiment, who assisted at the capture of
Seringapatam in 1799. Alfred Ellis Chinn, Humphrey's younger
brother, commanded a regiment of Bombay grenadiers from 1804 to
1813, when he saw some mixed fighting; and in 1834 John Chinn of
the same family - we will call him John Chinn the First - came to
light as a level-headed administrator in time of trouble at a
place called Mundesur. He died young, but left his mark on the
new country, and the Honourable the Board of Directors of the
Honourable the East India Company embodied his virtues in a
stately resolution, and paid for the expenses of his tomb among
the Satpura hills.
He was succeeded by his son, Lionel Chinn, who left the little
old Devonshire home just in time to be severely wounded in the
Mutiny. He spent his working life within a hundred and fifty
miles of John Chinn's grave, and rose to the command of a
regiment of small, wild hill-men, most of whom had known his
father. His son John was born in the small thatched-roofed,
mud-walled cantonment, which is even to-day eighty miles from
the nearest railway, in the heart of a scrubby, tigerish
country. Colonel Lionel Chinn served thirty years and retired.
In the Canal his steamer passed the outward-bound troop-ship,
carrying his son eastward to the family duty.
The Chinns are luckier than most folk, because they know exactly
what they must do. A clever Chinn passes for the Bombay Civil
Service, and gets away to Central India, where everybody is glad
to see him. A dull Chinn enters the Police Department or the
Woods and Forest, and sooner or later he, too, appears in
Central India, and that is what gave rise to the saying,
"Central India is inhabited by Bhils, Mairs, and Chinns, all
very much alike." The breed is small-boned, dark, and silent,
and the stupidest of them are good shots. John Chinn the Second
was rather clever, but as the eldest son he entered the army,
according to Chinn tradition. His duty was to abide in his
father's regiment for the term of his natural life, though the
corps was one which most men would have paid heavily to avoid.
They were irregulars, small, dark, and blackish, clothed in
rifle-green with black-leather trimmings; and friends called them
the "Wuddars," which means a race of low-caste people who dig up
rats to eat. But the Wuddars did not resent it. They were the
only Wuddars, and their points of pride were these:
Firstly, they had fewer English officers than any native
regiment. Secondly, their subalterns were not mounted on parade,
as is the general rule, but walked at the head of their men. A
man who can hold his own with the Wuddars at their quickstep must
be sound in wind and limb. Thirdly, they were the most pukka
shikarries (out-and-out hunters) in all India. Fourthly-up to
one-hundredthly - they were the Wuddars -Chinn's Irregular Bhil
Levies of the old days, but now, henceforward and for ever, the
No Englishman entered their mess except for love or through
family usage. The officers talked to their soldiers in a tongue
not two hundred white folk in India understood; and the men were
their children, all drawn from the Bhils, who are, perhaps, the
strangest of the many strange races in India. They were, and at
heart are, wild men, furtive, shy, full of untold superstitions.
The races whom we call natives of the country found the Bhil in
possession of the land when they first broke into that part of
the world thousands of years ago. The books call them Pre-Aryan,
Aboriginal, Dravidian, and so forth; and, in other words, that is
what the Bhils call themselves. When a Rajput chief whose bards
can sing his pedigree backwards for twelve hundred years is set
on the throne, his investiture is not complete till he has been
marked on the forehead with blood from the veins of a Bhil. The
Rajputs say the ceremony has no meaning, but the Bhil knows that
it is the last, last shadow of his old rights as the long-ago
owner of the soil.
Centuries of oppression and massacre made the Bhil a cruel and
half-crazy thief and cattle-stealer, and when the English came
he seemed to be almost as open to civilisation as the tigers of
his own jungles. But John Chinn the First, father of Lionel,
grandfather of our John, went into his country, lived with him,
learned his language, shot the deer that stole his poor crops,
and won his confidence, so that some Bhils learned to plough and
sow, while others were coaxed into the Company's service to
police their friends.
When they understood that standing in line did not mean instant
execution, they accepted soldiering as a cumbrous but amusing
kind of sport, and were zealous to keep the wild Bhils under
control. That was the thin edge of the wedge. John Chinn the
First gave them written promises that, if they were good from a
certain date, the Government would overlook previous offences;
and since John Chinn was never known to break his word - he
promised once to hang a Bhil locally esteemed invulnerable, and
hanged him in front of his tribe for seven proved murders - the
Bhils settled down as steadily as they knew how. It was slow,
unseen work, of the sort that is being done all over India
to-day; and though John Chinn's only reward came, as I have
said, in the shape of a grave at Government expense, the little
people of the hills never forgot him.
Colonel Lionel Chinn knew and loved them, too, and they were very
fairly civilised, for Bhils, before his service ended. Many of
them could hardly be distinguished from low-caste Hindoo
farmers; but in the south, where John Chinn the First was
buried, the wildest still clung to the Satpura ranges, cherishing
a legend that some day Jan Chinn, as they called him, would
return to his own. In the mean time they mistrusted the white
man and his ways. The least excitement would stampede them,
plundering, at random, and now and then killing; but if they
were handled discreetly they grieved like children, and promised
never to do it again.
The Bhils of the regiment - the uniformed men - were virtuous in
many ways, but they needed humouring. They felt bored and
homesick unless taken after tiger as beaters; and their
cold-blooded daring - all Wuddars shoot tigers on foot: it is
their caste-mark - made even the officers wonder. They would
follow up a wounded tiger as unconcernedly as though it were a
sparrow with a broken wing; and this through a country full of
caves and rifts and pits, where a wild beast could hold a dozen
men at his mercy. Now and then some little man was brought to
barracks with his head smashed in or his ribs torn away; but his
companions never learned caution; they contented themselves with
settling the tiger.
Young John Chinn was decanted at the verandah of the Wuddars'
lonely mess-house from the back seat of a two-wheeled cart, his
gun-cases cascading all round him. The slender little,
hookey-nosed boy looked forlorn as a strayed goat when he
slapped the white dust off his knees, and the cart jolted down
the glaring road. But in his heart he was contented. After
all, this was the place where he had been born, and things were
not much changed since he had been sent to England, a child,
fifteen years ago.
There were a few new buildings, but the air and the smell and the
sunshine were the same; and the little green men who crossed the
parade-ground looked very familiar. Three weeks ago John Chinn
would have said he did not remember a word of the Bhil tongue,
but at the mess door he found his lips moving in sentences that
he did not understand - bits of old nursery rhymes, and tail-ends
of such orders as his father used to give the men.
The Colonel watched him come up the steps, and laughed.
"Look!" he said to the Major. "No need to ask the young un's
breed. He's a pukka Chinn. 'Might be his father in the Fifties
"'Hope he'll shoot as straight," said the Major. "He's brought
enough ironmongery with him."
"'Wouldn't be a Chinn if he didn't. Watch him blowin' his nose.
'Regular Chinn beak. 'Flourishes his handkerchief like his
father. It's the second edition - line for line."
"'Fairy tale, by Jove!" said the Major, peering through the slats
of the jalousies. "If he's the lawful heir, he'll . . . . Now
old Chinn could no more pass that chick without fiddling with it
than . . . .
"His son!" said the Colonel, jumping up.
"Well, I be blowed!" said the Major. The boy's eye had been
caught by a split-,reed screen that hung on a slew between the
veranda pillars, and, mechanically, he had tweaked the edge to
set it level. Old Chinn had sworn three times a day at that
screen for many years; he could never get it to his satisfaction.
His son entered the anteroom in the middle of a fivefold
silence. They made him welcome for his father's sake and, as
they took stock of him, for his own. He was ridiculously like
the portrait of the Colonel on the wall, and when he had washed
a little of the dust from his throat he went to his quarters with
the old man's short, noiseless jungle-step.
"So much for heredity," said the Major. "That comes of four
generations among the Bhils."
"And the men know it," said a Wing officer. "They've been waiting
for this youth with their tongues hanging out. I am persuaded
that, unless he absolutely beats 'em over the head, they'll lie
down by companies and worship him."
"Nothin' like havin' a father before you," said the Major. "I'm
a parvenu with my chaps. I've only been twenty years in the
regiment, and my revered parent he was a simple squire. There's
no getting at the bottom of a Bhil's mind. Now, why is the
superior bearer that young Chinn brought with him fleeing across
country with his bundle?" He stepped into the verandah, and
shouted after the man - a typical new-joined subaltern's servant
who speaks English and cheats in proportion.
What is it?" he called.
Plenty bad man here. I going, sar," was the reply. "'Have taken
Sahib's keys, and say will shoot."
Doocid lucid - doocid convincin'. How those up-country thieves
can leg it! He has been badly frightened by some one." The
Major strolled to his quarters to dress for mess.
Young Chinn, walking like a man in a dream, had fetched a compass
round the entire cantonment before going to his own tiny
cottage. The captain's quarters, in which he had been born,
delayed him for a little; then he looked at the well on the
parade-ground, where he had sat of evenings with his nurse, and
at the ten-by-fourteen church, where the officers went to
service if a chaplain of any official creed happened to come
along. It seemed very small as compared with the gigantic
buildings he used to stare up at, but it was the same place.
>From time to time he passed a knot of silent soldiers, who
saluted. They might have been the very men who had carried him
on their backs when he was in his first knickerbockers. A faint
light burned in his room, and, as he entered, hands clasped his
feet, and a voice murmured from the floor.
"Who is it?" said young Chinn, not knowing he spoke in the Bhil
"I bore you in my arms, Sahib, when I was a strong man and you
were a small one - crying, crying, crying! I am your servant,
as I was your father's before you. We are all your servants."
Young Chinn could not trust himself to reply, and the voice went
"I have taken your keys from that fat foreigner, and sent him
away; and the studs are in the shirt for mess. Who should know,
if I do not know? And so the baby has become a man, and forgets
his nurse; but my nephew shall make a good servant, or I will
beat him twice a day."
Then there rose up, with a rattle, as straight as a Bhil arrow, a
little white-haired wizened ape of a man, with medals and orders
on his tunic, stammering, saluting, and trembling. Behind him a
young and wiry Bhil, in uniform, was taking the trees out of
Chinn's eyes were full of tears. The old man held out his keys.
"Foreigners are bad people. He will never come back again. We
are all servants of your father's son. Has the Sahib forgotten
who took him to see the trapped tiger in the village across the
river, when his mother was so frightened and he was so brave?"
The scene came back to Chinn in great magic-lantern flashes.
"Bukta!" he cried; and all in a breath: "You promised nothing
should hurt me. Is it Bukta?"
The man was at his feet a second time. "He has not forgotten. He
remembers his own people as his father remembered. Now can I
die. But first I will live and show the Sahib how to kill
tigers. That that yonder is my nephew. If he is not a good
servant, beat him and send him to me, and I will surely kill him,
for now the Sahib is with his own people. Ai, Jan haba - Jan
haba! My Jan haba! I will stay here and see that this does his
work well. Take off his boots, fool. Sit down upon the bed,
Sahib, and let me look. It is Jan haba."
He pushed forward the hilt of his sword as a sign of service,
which is an honour paid only to viceroys, governors, generals,
or to little children whom one loves dearly. Chinn touched the
hilt mechanically with three fingers, muttering he knew not
what. It happened to be the old answer of his childhood, when
Bukta in jest called him the little General Sahib.
The Major's quarters were opposite Chinn's, and when he heard his
servant gasp with surprise he looked across the room. Then the
Major sat on the bed and whistled; for the spectacle of the
senior native commissioned officer of the regiment, an "unmixed"
Bhil, a Companion of the Order of British India, with
thirty-five years' spotless service in the army, and a rank
among his own people superior to that of many Bengal
princelings, valeting the last-joined subaltern, was a little
too much for his nerves.
The throaty bugles blew the Mess-call that has a long legend
behind it. First a few piercing notes like the shrieks of
beaters in a far-away cover, and next, large, full, and smooth,
the refrain of the wild song: "And oh, and oh, the green pulse
of Mundore - Mundore!"
"All little children were in bed when the Sahib heard that call
last," said Bukta, passing Chinn a clean handkerchief. The call
brought back memories of his cot under the mosquito-netting, his
mother's kiss, and the sound of footsteps growing fainter as he
dropped asleep among his men. So he hooked the dark collar of
his new mess-jacket, and went to dinner like a prince who has
newly inherited his father's crown.
Old Bukta swaggered forth curling his whiskers. He knew his own
value, and no money and no rank within the gift of the
Government would have induced him to put studs in young
officers' shirts, or to hand them clean ties. Yet, when he took
off his uniform that night, and squatted among his fellows for a
quiet smoke, he told them what he had done, and they said that he
was entirely right. Thereat Bukta propounded a theory which to a
white mind would have seemed raving insanity; but the whispering,
level-headed little men of war considered it from every point of
view, and thought that there might be a great deal in it.
At mess under the oil-lamps the talk turned as usual to the
unfailing subject of shikar - big game-shooting of every kind
and under all sorts of conditions. Young Chinn opened his eyes
when he understood that each one of his companions had shot
several tigers in the Wuddar style - on foot, that is - making no
more of the business than if the brute had been a dog.
"In nine cases out of ten," said the Major, "a tiger is almost as
dangerous as a porcupine. But the tenth time you come home feet
That set all talking, and long before midnight Chinn's brain was
in a whirl with stories of tigers - man-eaters and
cattle-killers each pursuing his own business as methodically as
clerks in an office; new tigers that had lately come into
such-and-such a district; and old, friendly beasts of great
cunning, known by nicknames in the mess-such as "Puggy," who was
lazy, with huge paws, and "Mrs. Malaprop," who turned up when you
never expected her, and made female noises. Then they spoke of
Bhil superstitions, a wide and picturesque field, till young
Chinn hinted that they must be pulling his leg.
"'Deed, we aren't," said a man on his left. "We know all about
you. You're a Chinn and all that, and you've a sort of vested
right here; but if you don't believe what we're telling you,
what will you do when old Bukta begins his stories? He knows
about ghost-tigers, and tigers that go to a hell of their own;
and tigers that walk on their hind feet; and your grandpapa's
riding-tiger, as well. 'Odd he hasn't spoken of that yet."
"You know you've an ancestor buried down Satpura way, don't you?"
said the Major, as Chinn smiled irresolutely.
"Of course I do," said Chinn, who had the chronicle of the Book
of Chinn by heart. It lies in a worn old ledger on the Chinese
lacquer table behind the piano in the Devonshire home, and the
children are allowed to look at it on Sundays.
"Well, I wasn't sure. Your revered ancestor, my boy, according
to the Bhils, has a tiger of his own - a saddle-tiger that he
rides round the country whenever he feels inclined. I don't call
it decent in an ex-Collector's ghost; but that is what the
Southern Bhils believe. Even our men, who might be called
moderately cool, don't care to beat that country if they hear
that Jan Chinn is running about on his tiger. It is supposed to
be a clouded animal - not stripy, but blotchy, like a
tortoise-shell tom-cat. No end of a brute, it is, and a sure
sign of war or pestilence or - or something. There's a nice
family legend for you."
"What's the origin of it, d' you suppose?" said Chinn.
"Ask the Satpura Bhils. Old Jan Chinn was a mighty hunter before
the Lord. Perhaps it was the tiger's revenge, or perhaps he's
huntin' 'em still. You must go to his tomb one of these days and
inquire. Bukta will probably attend to that. He was asking me
before you came whether by any ill-luck you had already bagged
your tiger. If not, he is going to enter you under his own wing.
Of course, for you of all men it's imperative. You'll have a
first-class time with Bukta."
The Major was not wrong. Bukta kept an anxious eye on young
Chinn at drill, and it was noticeable that the first time the
new officer lifted up his voice in an order the whole line
quivered. Even the Colonel was taken aback, for it might have
been Lionel Chinn returned from Devonshire with a new lease of
life. Bukta had continued to develop his peculiar theory among
his intimates, and it was accepted as a matter of faith in the
lines, since every word and gesture on young Chinn's part so
The old man arranged early that his darling should wipe out the
reproach of not having shot a tiger; but he was not content to
take the first or any beast that happened to arrive. In his own
villages he dispensed the high, low, and middle justice, and when
his people-naked and fluttered - came to him with word of a
beast marked down, he bade them send spies to the kills and the
watering-places, that he might be sure the quarry was such an one
as suited the dignity of such a man.
Three or four times the reckless trackers returned, most
truthfully saying that the beast was mangy, undersized - a
tigress worn with nursing, or a broken-toothed old male - and
Bukta would curb young Chinn's impatience.
At last, a noble animal was marked down - a ten-foot
cattle-killer with a huge roll of loose skin along the belly,
glossy-hided, full-frilled about the neck, whiskered, frisky,
and young. He had slain a man in pure sport, they said.
"Let him be fed," quoth Bukta, and the villagers dutifully drove
out a cow to amuse him, that he might lie up near by.
Princes and potentates have taken ship to India and spent great
moneys for the mere glimpse of beasts one-half as fine as this
"It is not good," said he to the Colonel, when he asked for
shooting-leave, "that my Colonel's son who may be - that my
Colonel's son should lose his maidenhead on any small jungle
beast. That may come after. I have waited long for this which
is a tiger. He has come in from the Mair country. In seven days
we will return with the skin."
The mess gnashed their teeth enviously. Bukta, had he chosen,
might have invited them all. But he went out alone with Chinn,
two days in a shooting-cart and a day on foot, till they came to
a rocky, glary valley with a pool of good water in it. It was a
parching day, and the boy very naturally stripped and went in for
a bathe, leaving Bukta by the clothes. A white skin shows far
against brown jungle, and what Bukta beheld on Chinn's back and
right shoulder dragged him forward step by step with staring
"I'd forgotten it isn't decent to strip before a man of his
position," said Chinn, flouncing in the water. "How the little
devil stares! What is it, Bukta?" "The Mark!" was the whispered
"It is nothing. You know how it is with my people!" Chinn was
annoyed. The dull-red birth-mark on his shoulder, something like
a conventionalised Tartar cloud, had slipped his memory or he
would not have bathed. It occurred, so they said at home, in
alternate generations, appearing, curiously enough, eight or nine
years after birth, and, save that it was part of the Chinn
inheritance, would not be considered pretty. He hurried ashore,
dressed again, and went on till they met two or three Bhils, who
promptly fell on their faces. "My people," grunted Bukta, not
condescending to notice them. "And so your people, Sahib. When I
was a young man we were fewer, but not so weak. Now we are many,
but poor stock. As may be remembered. How will you shoot him,
Sahib? From a tree; from a shelter which my people shall build;
by day or by night?"
"On foot and in the daytime," said young Chinn.
"That was your custom, as I have heard," said Bukta to himself "I
will get news of him. Then you and I will go to him. I will
carry one gun. You have yours. There is no need of more. What
tiger shall stand against thee?"
He was marked down by a little water-hole at the head of a
ravine, full-gorged and half asleep in the May sunlight. He was
walked up like a partridge, and he turned to do battle for his
life. Bukta made no motion to raise his rifle, but kept his eyes
on Chinn, who met the shattering roar of the charge with a single
shot - it seemed to him hours as he sighted - which tore through
the throat, smashing the backbone below the neck and between the
shoulders. The brute couched, choked, and fell, and before Chinn
knew well what had happened Bukta bade him stay still while he
paced the distance between his feet and the ringing jaws.
"Fifteen," said Bukta. "Short paces. No need for a second shot,
Sahib. He bleeds cleanly where he lies, and we need not spoil
the skin. I said there would be no need of these, but they came
- in case."
Suddenly the sides of the ravine were crowned with the heads of
Bukta's people - a force that could have blown the ribs out of
the beast had Chinn's shot failed; but their guns were hidden,
and they appeared as interested beaters, some five or six waiting
the word to skin. Bukta watched the life fade from the wild eyes,
lifted one hand, and turned on his heel.
"No need to show that we care," said he. "Now, after this, we can
kill what we choose. Put out your hand, Sahib."
Chinn obeyed. It was entirely steady, and Bukta nodded. "That
also was your custom. My men skin quickly. They will carry the
skin to cantonments. Will the Sahib come to my poor village for
the night and, perhaps, forget that I am his officer?"
"But those men - the beaters. They have worked hard, and perhaps
"Oh, if they skin clumsily, we will skin them. They are my
people. In the lines I am one thing. Here I am another."
This was very true. When Bukta doffed uniform and reverted to the
fragmentary dress of his own people, he left his civilisation of
drill in the next world. That night, after a little talk with his
subjects, he devoted to an orgie; and a Bhil orgie is a thing not
to be safely written about. Chinn, flushed with triumph, was in
the thick of it, but the meaning of the mysteries was hidden.
Wild folk came and pressed about his knees with offerings. He
gave his flask to the elders of the village. They grew eloquent,
and wreathed him about with flowers. Gifts and loans, not all
seemly, were thrust upon him, and infernal music rolled and
maddened round red fires, while singers sang songs of the ancient
times, and danced peculiar dances. The aboriginal liquors are
very potent, and Chinn was compelled to taste them often, but,
unless the stuff had been drugged, how came he to fall asleep
suddenly, and to waken late the next day - half a march from the
"The Sahib was very tired. A little before dawn he went to
sleep," Bukta explained. "My people carried him here, and now
it is time we should go back to cantonments."
The voice, smooth and deferential, the step, steady and silent,
made it hard to believe that only a few hours before Bukta was
yelling and capering with naked fellow-devils of the scrub.
"My people were very pleased to see the Sahib. They will never
forget. When next the Sahib goes out recruiting, he will go to
my people, and they will give him as many men as we need."
Chinn kept his own counsel, except as to the shooting of the
tiger, and Bukta embroidered that tale with a shameless tongue.
The skin was certainly one of the finest ever hung up in the
mess, and the first of many. When Bukta could not accompany his
boy on shooting-trips, he took care to put him in good hands,
and Chinn learned more of the mind and desire of the wild Bhil
in his marches and campings, by talks at twilight or at wayside
pools, than an uninstructed man could have come at in a
Presently his men in the regiment grew bold to speak of their
relatives-mostly in trouble-and to lay cases of tribal custom
before him. They would say, squatting in his verandah at
twilight, after the easy, confidential style of the Wuddars,
that such-and-such a bachelor had run away with such-and-such a
wife at a far-off village. Now, how many cows would Chinn Sahib
consider a just fine? Or, again, if written order came from the
Government that a Bhil was to repair to a walled city of the
plains to give evidence in a law-court, would it be wise to
disregard that order? On the other hand, if it were obeyed, would
the rash voyager return alive?
"But what have I to do with these things?" Chinn demanded of
Bukta, impatiently. "I am a soldier. I do not know the law."
"Hoo! Law is for fools and white men. Give them a large and
loud order, and they will abide by it. Thou art their law."
Every trace of expression left Bukta's countenance. The idea
might have smitten him for the first time. "How can I say?" he
replied. "Perhaps it is on account of the name. A Bhil does not
love strange things. Give them orders, Sahib- two, three, four
words at a time such as they can carry away in their heads.
That is enough."
Chinn gave orders then, valiantly, not realising that a word
spoken in haste before mess became the dread unappealable law of
villages beyond the smoky hills was, in truth, no less than the
Law of Jan Chinn the First, who, so the whispered legend ran, had
come back to earth, to oversee the third generation, in the body
and bones of his grandson.
There could be no sort of doubt in this matter. All the Bhils
knew that Jan Chinn reincarnated had honoured Bukta's village
with his presence after slaying his first-in this life-tiger;
that he had eaten and drunk with the people, as he was used; and
- Bukta must have drugged Chinn's liquor very deeply-upon his
back and right shoulder all men had seen the same angry red
Flying Cloud that the high Gods had set on the flesh of Jan
Chinn the First when first he came to the Bhil. As concerned the
foolish white world which has no eyes, he was a slim and young
officer in the Wuddars; but his own people knew he was Jan Chinn,
who had made the Bhil a man; and, believing, they hastened to
carry his words, careful never to alter them on the way.
Because the savage and the child who plays lonely games have one
horror of being laughed at or questioned, the little folk kept
their convictions to themselves; and the Colonel, who thought he
knew his regiment, never guessed that each one of the six
hundred quick-footed, beady-eyed rank-and-file, to attention
beside their rifles, believed serenely and unshakenly that the
subaltern on the left flank of the line was a demi-god twice
born -tutelary deity of their land and people. The Earth-gods
themselves had stamped the incarnation, and who would dare to
doubt the handiwork of the Earth-gods?
Chinn, being practical above all things, saw that his family name
served him well in the lines and in camp. His men gave no
trouble-one does not commit regimental offences with a god in
the chair of justice-and he was sure of the best beaters in the
district when he needed them. They believed that the protection
of Jan Chinn the First cloaked them, and were bold in that belief
beyond the utmost daring of excited Bhils.
His quarters began to look like an amateur natural-history
museum, in spite of duplicate heads and horns and skulls that he
sent home to Devonshire. The people, very humanly, learned the
weak side of their god. It is true he was unbribable, but
bird-skins, butterflies, beetles, and, above all, news of big
game pleased him. In other respects, too, he lived up to the
Chinn tradition. He was fever-proof. A night's sitting out over
a tethered goat in a damp valley, that would have filled the
Major with a month's malaria, had no effect on him. He was, as
they said, "salted before he was born."
Now in the autumn of his second year's service an uneasy rumour
crept out of the earth and ran about among the Bhils. Chinn
heard nothing of it till a brother- Officer said across the
mess-table: "Your revered ancestor's on the rampage in the
Satpura country. You'd better look him up."
"I don't want to be disrespectful, but I'm a little sick of my
revered ancestor. Bukta talks of nothing else. What's the old
boy supposed to be doing now?"
"Riding cross-country by moonlight on his processional tiger.
That's the story. He's been seen by about two thousand Bhils,
skipping along the tops of the Satpuras, and scaring people to
death. They believe it devoutly, and all the Satpura chaps are
worshipping away at his shrine- tomb, I mean-like good uns. You
really ought to go down there. Must be a queer thing to see your
grandfather treated as a god."
"What makes you think there's any truth in the tale?" said
"Because all our men deny it. They say they've never heard of
Chinn's tiger. Now that's a manifest lie, because every Bhil
"There's only one thing you've overlooked," said the Colonel,
thoughtfully. "When a local god reappears on earth, it's always
an excuse for trouble of some kind; and those Satpura Bhils are
about as wild as your grandfather left them, young un. It means
"Meanin' they may go on the war-path?" said Chinn.
"'Can't say - as yet. 'Shouldn't be surprised a little bit."
"I haven't been told a syllable."
"'Proves it all the more. They are keeping something back."
"Bukta tells me everything, too, as a rule. Now, why didn't he
tell me that?"
Chinn put the question directly to the old man that night, and
the answer surprised him.
"Why should I tell what is well known? Yes, the Clouded Tiger is
out in the Satpura country."
"What do the wild Bhils think that it means?"
They do not know. They wait. Sahib, what is coming? Say only one
little word, and we will be content."
"We? What have tales from the south, where the jungly Bhils live,
to do with drilled men?" "When Jan Chinn wakes is no time for
any Bhil to be quiet."
"But he has not waked, Bukta."
"Sahib "-the old man's eyes were full of tender reproof-" if he
does not wish to be seen, why does he go abroad in the
moonlight? We know he is awake, but we do not know what he
desires. Is it a sign for all the Bhils, or one that concerns
the Satpura folk alone? Say one little word, Sahib, that I may
carry it to the lines, and send on to our villages. Why does Jan
Chinn ride out? Who has done wrong? Is it pestilence? Is it
murrain? Will our children die? Is it a sword? Remember, Sahib,
we are thy people and thy servants, and in this life I bore thee
in my arms-not knowing."
"Bukta has evidently looked on the cup this evening," Chinn
thought; "but if I can do anything to soothe the old chap I
must. It's like the Mutiny rumours on a small scale."
He dropped into a deep wicker chair, over which was thrown his
first tiger-skin, and his weight on the cushion flapped the
clawed paws over his shoulders. He laid hold of them
mechanically as he spoke, drawing the painted hide,
cloak-fashion, about him.
"Now will I tell the truth, Bukta," he said, leaning forward, the
dried muzzle on his shoulder, to invent a specious lie.
"I see that it is the truth," was the answer, in a shaking voice.
"Jan Chinn goes abroad among the Satpuras, riding on the Clouded
Tiger, ye say? Be it so. Therefore the sign of the wonder is for
the Satpura Bhils only, and does not touch the Bhils who plough
in the north and east, the Bhils of the Khandesh, or any
others, except the Satpura Bhils, who, as we know, are wild and
"It is, then, a sign for them. Good or bad?"
"Beyond doubt, good. For why should Jan Chinn make evil to those
whom he has made men? The nights over yonder are hot; it is ill
to lie in one bed over-long without turning, and Jan Chinn would
look again upon his people. So he rises, whistles his Clouded
Tiger, and goes abroad a little to breathe the cool air. If the
Satpura Bhils kept to their villages, and did not wander after
dark, they would not see him. Indeed, Bukta, it is no more than
that he would see the light again in his own country. Send this
news south, and say that it is my word."
Bukta bowed to the floor. "Good Heavens!" thought Chinn, "and
this blinking pagan is a first-class officer, and as straight as
a die! I may as well round it off neatly." He went on:
"If the Satpura Bhils ask the meaning of the sign, tell them that
Jan Chinn would see how they kept their old promises of good
living. Perhaps they have plundered; perhaps they mean to
disobey the orders of the Government; perhaps there is a dead
man in the jungle; and so Jan Chinn has come to see."
"Is he, then, angry?"
"Bah! Am I ever angry with my Bhils? I say angry words, and
threaten many things. Thou knowest, Bukta. I have seen thee
smile behind the hand. I know, and thou knowest. The Bhils are
my children. I have said it many times."
"Ay. We be thy children," said Bukta.
"And no otherwise is it with Jan Chinn, my father's father. He
would see the land he loved and the people once again. It is a
good ghost, Bukta. I say it. Go and tell them. And I do hope
devoutly," he added, "that it will calm 'em down." Flinging back
the tiger-skin, he rose with a long, unguarded yawn that showed
his well-kept teeth.
Bukta fled, to be received in the lines by a knot of panting
"It is true," said Bukta. "He wrapped him-self in the skin, and
spoke from it. He would see his own country again. The sign is
not for us; and, indeed, he is a young man. How should he lie
idle of nights? He says his bed is too hot and the air is bad.
He goes to and fro for the love of night-running. He has said
The grey-whiskered assembly shuddered.
"He says the Bhils are his children. Ye know he does not lie.
He has said it to me."
"But what of the Satpura Bhils? What means the sign for them?"
"Nothing. It is only night-running, as I have said. He rides to
see if they obey the Government, as he taught them to do in his
"And what if they do not?"
"He did not say."
The light went out in Chinn's quarters.
"Look," said Bukta. "Now he goes away. None the less it is a
good ghost, as he has said. How shall we fear Jan Chinn, who
made the Bhil a man? His protection is on us; and ye know Jan
Chinn never broke a protection spoken or written on paper.
When he is older and has found him a wife he will lie in his bed
A commanding officer is generally aware of the regimental state
of mind a little before the men; and this is why the Colonel
said, a few days later, that some one had been putting the Fear
of God into the Wuddars. As he was the only person officially
entitled to do this, it distressed him to see such unanimous
virtue. "It's too good to last," he said. "I only wish I could
find out what the little chaps mean."
The explanation, as it seemed to him, came at the change of the
moon, when he received orders to hold himself in readiness to
"allay any possible excitement" among the Satpura Bhils, who
were, to put it mildly, uneasy because a paternal Government had
sent up against them a Mahratta State-educated vaccinator, with
lancets, lymph, and an officially registered calf. In the
language of State, they had "manifested a strong objection to
all prophylactic measures," had "forcibly detained the
vaccinator," and "were on the point of neglecting or evading
their tribal obligations."
"That means they are in a blue funk - same as they were at
census-time," said the Colonel; "and if we stampede them into
the hills we'll never catch 'em, in the first place, and, in the
second, they'll whoop off plundering till further orders.
'Wonder who the God-forsaken idiot is who is trying to vaccinate
a Bhil. I knew trouble was coming. One good thing is that
they'll only use local corps, and we can knock up something
we'll call a campaign, and let them down easy. Fancy us potting
our best beaters because they don't want to be vaccinated!
They're only crazy with fear."
"Don't you think, sir," said Chinn, the next day, "that perhaps
you could give me a fortnight's shooting-leave?"
"Desertion in the face of the enemy, by Jove!" The Colonel
laughed. "I might, but I'd have to antedate it a little, because
we're warned for service, as you might say. However, we'll assume
that you applied for leave three days ago, and are now well on
your way south."
"I'd like to take Bukta with me."
"Of course, yes. I think that will be the best plan. You've some
kind of hereditary influence with the little chaps, and they may
listen to you when a glimpse of our uniforms would drive them
wild. You've never been in that part of the world before, have
you? Take care they don't send you to your family vault in your
youth and innocence. I believe you'll be all right if you can get
'em to listen to you."
"I think so, sir; but if -- if they should accidentally put an
-- make asses of 'emselves -- they might, you know -- I hope
you'll represent that they were only frightened. There isn't an
ounce of real vice in 'em, and I should never forgive myself if
any one of -- of my name got them into trouble."
The Colonel nodded, but said nothing.
Chinn and Bukta departed at once. Bukta did not say that, ever
since the official vaccinator had been dragged into the hills by
indignant Bhils, runner after runner had skulked up to the
lines, entreating, with forehead in the dust, that Jan Chinn
should come and explain this unknown horror that hung over his
The portent of the Clouded Tiger was now too clear. Let Jan
Chinn comfort his own, for vain was the help of mortal man.
Bukta toned down these beseechings to a simple request for
Chinn's presence. Nothing would have pleased the old man better
than a rough-and-tumble campaign against the Satpuras, whom he,
as an "unmixed" Bhil, despised; but he had a duty to all his
nation as Jan Chinn's interpreter; and he devoutly believed that
forty plagues would fall on his village if he tampered with that
obligation. Besides, Jan Chinn knew all things, and he rode the
They covered thirty miles a day on foot and pony, raising the
blue wall-like line of the Satpuras as swiftly as might be.
Bukta was very silent.