Part 1 out of 7
THE DAY'S WORK
by Rudyard Kipling
A WALKING DELEGATE
THE SHIP THAT FOUND HERSELF
THE TOMB OF HIS ANCESTORS
THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP SEA
WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR
THE MALTESE CAT
BREAD UPON THE WATERS"
AN ERROR IN THE FOURTH DIMENSION
MY SUNDAY AT HOME
THE BRUSHWOOD BOY
The least that Findlayson, of the Public Works Department, expected
was a C. I. E.; he dreamed of a C. S. I.: indeed, his friends told
him that he deserved more. For three years he had endured heat and
cold, disappointment, discomfort, danger, and disease, with
responsibility almost too heavy for one pair of shoulders; and day
by day, through that time, the great Kashi Bridge over the Ganges
had grown under his charge. Now, in less than three months, if all
went well, his Excellency the Viceroy would open the bridge in state,
an archbishop would bless it, and the first trainload of soldiers
would come over it, and there would be speeches.
Findlayson, C. E., sat in his trolley on a construction line that
ran along one of the main revetments - the huge stone-faced banks
that flared away north and south for three miles on either side of
the river - and permitted himself to think of the end. With its
approaches, his work was one mile and three-quarters fin length; a
lattice-girder bridge, trussed with the Findlayson truss, standing
on seven-and-twenty brick pies. Each one of those piers was
twenty-four feet in diameter, capped with red Agra stone and sunk
eighty feet below the shifting sand of the Ganges' bed. Above them
was a railway-line fifteen feet broad; above that, again, a cart-road
of eighteen feet, flanked with footpaths. At either end rose towers
of red brick, loopholed for musketry and pierced for big guns, and
the ramp of the road was being pushed forward to their haunches.
The raw earth-ends were crawling and alive with hundreds upon
hundreds of tiny asses climbing out of the yawning borrow-pit below
with sackfuls of stuff; and the hot afternoon air was filled with
the noise of hooves, the rattle of the drivers' sticks, and the
swish and roll-down of the dirt. The river was very low, and on the
dazzling white sand between the three centre piers stood squat cribs
of railway-sleepers, filled within and daubed without with mud, to
support the last of the girders as those were riveted up. In the
little deep water left by the drought, an overhead-crane travelled
to and fro along its spile-pier, jerking sections of iron into place,
snorting and backing and grunting as an elephant grunts in the
timber-yard. Riveters by the hundred swarmed about the lattice
side-work and the iron roof of the railway-line, hung from invisible
staging under the bellies of the girders, clustered round the throats
of the piers, and rode on the overhang of the footpath-stanchions;
their fire-pots and the spurts of flame that answered each
hammer-stroke showing no more than pale yellow in the sun's glare.
East and west and north and south the construction-trains rattled
and shrieked up and down the embankments, the piled trucks of brown
and white stone banging behind them till the side-boards were
unpinned, and with a roar and a grumble a few thousand tons more
material were flung out to hold the river in place.
Findlayson, C. E., turned on his trolley and looked over the face
of the country that he had changed for seven miles around. Looked
back on the humming village of five thousand workmen; up stream and
down, along the vista of spurs and sand; across the river to the far
piers, lessening in the haze; overhead to the guard-towers - and
only he knew how strong those were - and with a sigh of contentment
saw that his work was good. There stood his bridge before him in
the sunlight, lacking only a few weeks' work on the girders of the
three middle piers - his bridge, raw and ugly as original sin, but
pukka - permanent - to endure when all memory of the builder, yea,
even of the splendid Findlayson truss, had perished. Practically,
the thing was done.
Hitchcock, his assistant, cantered along the line on a little
switch-tailed Kabuli pony who through long practice could have
trotted securely over a trestle, and nodded to his chief.
"All but," said he, with a smile.
"I've been thinking about it," the senior answered. "Not half a
bad job for two men, is it?"
"One-and a half. Gad, what a Cooper's Hill cub I was when I came
on the works!" Hitchcock felt very old in the crowded experiences
of the past three years, that had taught him power and responsibility.
"You were rather a colt," said Findlayson. "I wonder how you'll
like going back to office-work when this job's over."
"I shall hate it!" said the young man, and as he went on his eye
followed Findlayson's, and he muttered, "Isn't it damned good?"
"I think we'll go up the service together," Findlayson said to
himself. "You're too good a youngster to waste on another man.
Cub thou wart; assistant thou art. Personal assistant, and at
Simla, thou shalt be, if any credit comes to me out of the
Indeed; the burden of the work had fallen altogether on Findlayson
and his assistant, the young man whom he had chosen because of his
rawness to break to his own needs. There were labour contractors
by the half-hundred - fitters and riveters, European, borrowed from
the railway workshops, with, perhaps, twenty white and half-caste
subordinates to direct, under direction, the bevies of workmen - but
none knew better than these two, who trusted each other, how the
underlings were not to be trusted. They had been tried many times
in sudden crises - by slipping of booms, by breaking of tackle,
failure of cranes, and the wrath of the river - but no stress had
brought to light any man among men whom Findlayson and Hitchcock
would have honoured by working as remorselessly as they worked
themselves. Findlayson thought it over from the beginning: the
months of office-work destroyed at a blow when the Government of
India, at the last moment, added two feet to the width of the
bridge, under the impression that bridges were cut out of paper,
and so brought to ruin at least half an acre of calculations - and
Hitchcock, new to disappointment, buried his head in his arms and
wept; the heart-breaking delays over the filling of the contracts
in England; the futile correspondences hinting at great wealth of
commissions if one, only one, rather doubtful consignment were
passed; the war that followed the refusal; the careful, polite
obstruction at the other end that followed the war, till young
Hitchcock, putting one month's leave to another month, and borrowing
ten days from Findlayson, spent his poor little savings of a year
in a wild dash to London, and there, as his own tongue asserted
and the later consignments proved, put the fear of God into a man
so great that he feared only Parliament and said so till Hitchcock
wrought with him across his own dinner-table, and - he feared the
Kashi Bridge and all who spoke in its name. Then there was the
cholera that came in the night to the village by the bridge works;
and after the cholera smote the Smallpox. The fever they had
always with them. Hitchcock had been appointed a magistrate of
the third class with whipping powers, for the better government of
the community, and Findlayson watched him wield his powers
temperately, learning what to overlook and what to look after. It
was a long, long reverie, and it covered storm, sudden freshets,
death in every manner and shape, violent and awful rage against red
tape half frenzying a mind that knows it should be busy on other
things; drought, sanitation, finance; birth, wedding, burial, and
riot in the village of twenty warring castes; argument, expostulation,
persuasion, and the blank despair that a man goes to bed upon,
thankful that his rifle is all in pieces in the gun-case. Behind
everything rose the black frame of the Kashi Bridge - plate by plate,
girder by girder, span by span-and each pier of it recalled
Hitchcock, the all-round man, who had stood by his chief without
failing from the very first to this last.
So the bridge was two men's work - unless one counted Peroo, as Peroo
certainly counted himself. He was a Lascar, a Kharva from Bulsar,
familiar with every port between Rockhampton and London, who had
risen to the rank of sarang on the British India boats, but wearying
of routine musters and clean clothes, had thrown up the service and
gone inland, where men of his calibre were sure of employment. For
his knowledge of tackle and the handling of heavy weights, Peroo was
worth almost any price he might have chosen to put upon his services;
but custom decreed the wage of the overhead men, and Peroo was not
within many silver pieces of his proper value. Neither running
water nor extreme heights made him afraid; and, as an ex-serang, he
knew how to hold authority. No piece of iron was so big or so badly
placed that Peroo could not devise a tackle to lift it - a
loose-ended, sagging arrangement, rigged with a scandalous amount
of talking, but perfectly equal to the work in hand. It was Peroo
who had saved the girder of Number Seven pier from destruction when
the new wire rope jammed in the eye of the crane, and the huge plate
tilted in its slings, threatening to slide out sideways. Then the
native workmen lost their heads with great shoutings, and Hitchcock's
right arm was broken by a falling T-plate, and he buttoned it up in
his coat and swooned, and came to and directed for four hours till
Peroo, from the top of the crane, reported "All's well," and the
plate swung home. There was no one like Peroo, serang, to lash, and
guy, and hold to control the donkey-engines, to hoist a fallen
locomotive craftily out of the borrow-pit into which it had tumbled;
to strip, and dive, if need be, to see how the concrete blocks round
the piers stood the scouring of Mother Gunga, or to adventure
up-stream on a monsoon night and report on the state of the
embankment-facings. He would interrupt the field-councils of
Findlayson and Hitchcock without fear, till his wonderful English,
or his still more wonderful lingua franca, half Portuguese and half
Malay, ran out and he was forced to take string and show the knots
that he would recommend. He controlled his own gang of tacklemen
- mysterious relatives from Kutch Mandvi gathered month by month
and tried to the uttermost. No consideration of family or kin
allowed Peroo to keep weak hands or a giddy head on the pay-roll.
"My honour is the honour of this bridge," he would say to the
about-to-bedismissed. "What do I care for your honour? Go and
work on a steamer. That is all you are fit for."
The little cluster of huts where he and his gang lived centred
round the tattered dwelling of a sea-priest - one who had never set
foot on black water, but had been chosen as ghostly counsellor by
two generations of sea-rovers all unaffected by port missions or
those creeds which are thrust upon sailors by agencies along Thames
bank. The priest of the Lascara had nothing to do with their caste,
or indeed with anything at all. He ate the offerings of his church,
and slept and smoked, and slept again "for," said Peroo, who had
haled him a thousand miles inland, "he is a very holy man. He never
cares what you eat so long as you do not eat beef, and that is
good, because on land we worship Shiva, we Kharvas; but at sea on
the Kumpani's boats we attend strictly to the orders of the Burra
Malum [the first mate], and on this bridge we observe what Finlinson
Finlinson Sahib had that day given orders to clear the scaffolding
from the guard-tower on the right bank, and Peroo with his mates was
casting loose and lowering down the bamboo poles and planks as
swiftly as ever they had whipped the cargo out of a coaster.
>From his trolley he could hear the whistle of the serang's silver
pipe and the creak and clatter of the pulleys. Peroo was standing
on the topmost coping of the tower, clad in the blue dungaree of
his abandoned service, and as Findlayson motioned to him to be
careful, for his was no life to throw away, he gripped the last
pole, and, shading his eyes ship-fashion, answered with the
long-drawn wail of the fo'c'sle lookout: "Ham dekhta hai " ("I am
looking out"). Findlayson laughed and then sighed. It was years
since he had seen a steamer, and he was sick for home. As his
trolley passed under the tower, Peroo descended by a rope,
ape-fashion, and cried: "It looks well now, Sahib. Our bridge is
all but done. What think you Mother Gunga will say when the rail
"She has said little so far. It was never Mother Gunga that delayed
"There is always time for her; and none the less there has been
delay. Has the Sahib forgotten last autumn's flood, when the
stoneboats were sunk without warning - or only a half-day's
"Yes, but nothing save a big flood could hurt us now. The spurs are
holding well on the west bank."
"Mother Gunga eats great allowances. There is always room for more
stone on the revetments. I tell this to the Chota Sahib" - he meant
Hitchcock-" and he laughs."
"No matter, Peroo. Another year thou wilt be able to build a bridge
in thine own fashion."
The Lascar grinned. "Then it will not be in this way - with
stonework sunk under water, as the Quetta was sunk. I like
sus-suspen-sheen bridges that fly from bank to bank, with one big
step, like a gang-plank. Then no water can hurt. When does the
Lord Sahib come to open the bridge?"
"In three months, when the weather is cooler."
"Ho! ho! He is like the Burra Malum. He sleeps below while the
work is being done. Then he comes upon the quarter-deck and touches
with his finger, and says: 'This is not clean! Dam jibboonwallah!'"
"But the Lord Sahib does not call me a dam jibboonwallah, Peroo."
"No, Sahib; but he does not come on deck till the work is all
finished. Even the Burra Malum of the Nerbudda said once at
"Bah! Go! I am busy."
"I, also!" said Peroo, with an unshaken countenance. "May I take
the light dinghy now and row along the spurs?"
"To hold them with thy hands? They are, I think, sufficiently
"Nay, Sahib. It is thus. At sea, on the Black Water, we have room
to be blown up and down without care. Here we have no room at all.
Look you, we have put the river into a dock, and run her between
Findlayson smiled at the " we."
"We have bitted and bridled her. She is not like the sea, that can
beat against a soft beach. She is Mother Gunga - in irons." His
voice fell a little.
"Peroo, thou hast been up and down the world more even than I. Speak
true talk, now. How much dolt thou in thy heart believe of Mother
"All that our priest says. London is London, Sahib. Sydney is
Sydney, and Port Darwin is Port Darwin. Also Mother Gunga is Mother
Gunga, and when I come back to her banks I know this and worship.
In London I did poojah to the big temple by the river for the sake
of the God within . . . . Yes, I will not take the cushions in
Findlayson mounted his horse and trotted to the shed of a bungalow
that he shared with his assistant. The place had become home to
him in the last three years. He had grilled in the heat, sweated
in the rains, and shivered with fever under the rude thatch roof;
the lime-wash beside the door was covered with rough drawings and
formulae, and the sentry-path trodden in the matting of the verandah
showed where he had walked alone. There is no eight-hour limit to
an engineer's work, and the evening meal with Hitchcock was eaten
booted and spurred: over their cigars they listened to the hum of
the village as the gangs came up from the river-bed and the lights
began to twinkle.
"Peroo has gone up the spurs in your dinghy. He's taken a couple
of nephews with him, and he's lolling in the stern like a
commodore," said Hitchcock.
"That's all right. He's got something on his mind. You'd think
that ten years in the British India boats would have knocked most
of his religion out of him."
"So it has," said Hitchcock, chuckling. "I overheard him the other
day in the middle of a most atheistical talk with that fat old guru
of theirs. Peroo denied the efficacy of prayer; and wanted the
guru to go to sea and watch a gale out with him, and see if he
could stop a monsoon."
"All the same, if you carried off his gurus he'd leave us like a
shot. He was yarning away to me about praying to the dome of St.
Paul's when he was in London."
"He told me that the first time he went into the engine-room of a
steamer, when he was a boy, he prayed to the low-pressure cylinder."
"Not half a bad thing to pray to, either. He's propitiating his own
Gods now, and he wants to know what Mother Gunga will think of a
bridge being run across her. Who's there?" A shadow darkened the
doorway, and a telegram was put into Hitchcock's hand.
"She ought to be pretty well used to it by this time. Only a tar.
It ought to be Ralli's answer about the new rivets . . . . Great
Heavens!" Hitchcock jumped to his feet.
"What is it?" said the senior, and took the form. "That's what
Mother Gunga thinks, is it," he said, reading. "Keep cool, young'un.
We've got all our work cut out for us. Let's see. Muir wired half
an hour ago: 'Floods on the Ramgunga. Look out.' Well, that gives
us - one, two - nine and a half for the flood to reach Melipur Ghaut
and seven's sixteen and a half to Lataoli - say fifteen hours before
it comes down to us."
"Curse that hill-fed sewer of a Ramgunga! Findlayson, this is two
months before anything could have been expected, and the left bank
is littered up with stuff still. Two full months before the time!"
" That's why it comes. I've only known Indian rivers for
five-and-twenty years, and I don't pretend to understand. Here comes
another tar." Findlayson opened the telegram. "Cockran, this time,
from the Ganges Canal: 'Heavy rains here. Bad.' He might have saved
the last word. Well, we don't want to know any more. We've got to
work the gangs all night and clean up the river-bed. You'll take the
east bank and work out to meet me in the middle. Get every thing that
floats below the bridge: we shall have quite enough rivercraft coming
down adrift anyhow, without letting the stone-boats ram the piers.
What have you got on the east bank that needs looking after "
"Pontoon - one big pontoon with the overhead crane on it. T'other
overhead crane on the mended pontoon, with the cart-road rivets from
Twenty to Twenty-three piers - two construction lines, and a
turning-spur. The pilework must take its chance," said Hitchcock.
All right. Roll up everything you can lay hands on. We'll give the
gang fifteen minutes more to eat their grub."
Close to the verandah stood a big night-gong, never used except for
flood, or fire in the village. Hitchcock had called for a fresh
horse, and was off to his side of the bridge when Findlayson took
the cloth-bound stick and smote with the rubbing stroke that brings
out the full thunder of the metal.
Long before the last rumble ceased every night-gong in the village
had taken up the warning. To these were added the hoarse screaming
of conches in the little temples; the throbbing of drums and tom-toms;
and, from the European quarters, where the riveters lived,
McCartney's bugle, a weapon of offence on Sundays and festivals,
brayed desperately, calling to "Stables." Engine after engine
toiling home along the spurs at the end of her day's work whistled
in answer till the whistles were answered from the far bank. Then
the big gong thundered thrice for a sign that it was flood and not
fire; conch, drum, and whistle echoed the call, and the village
quivered to the sound of bare feet running upon soft earth. The
order in all cases was to stand by the day's work and wait
instructions. The gangs poured by in the dusk; men stopping to knot
a loin-cloth or fasten a sandal; gang-foremen shouting to their
subordinates as they ran or paused by the tool-issue sheds for bars
and mattocks; locomotives creeping down their tracks wheel-deep in
the crowd; till the brown torrent disappeared into the dusk of the
river-bed, raced over the pilework, swarmed along the lattices,
clustered by the cranes, and stood still each man in his place.
Then the troubled beating of the gong carried the order to take up
everything and bear it beyond highwater mark, and the flare-lamps
broke out by the hundred between the webs of dull iron as the
riveters began a night's work, racing against the flood that was to
come. The girders of the three centre piers - those that stood on
the cribs - were all but in position. They needed just as many
rivets as could be driven into them, for the flood would assuredly
wash out their supports, and the ironwork would settle down on the
caps of stone if they were not blocked at the ends. A hundred
crowbars strained at the sleepers of the temporary line that fed
the unfinished piers. It was heaved up in lengths, loaded into
trucks, and backed up the bank beyond flood-level by the groaning
locomotives. The tool-sheds on the sands melted away before the
attack of shouting armies, and with them went the stacked ranks of
Government stores, iron-bound boxes of rivets, pliers, cutters,
duplicate parts of the riveting-machines, spare pumps and chains.
The big crane would be the last to be shifted, for she was hoisting
all the heavy stuff up to the main structure of the bridge. The
concrete blocks on the fleet of stone-boats were dropped overside,
where there was any depth of water, to guard the piers, and the
empty boats themselves were poled under the bridge down-stream. It
was here that Peroo's pipe shrilled loudest, for the first stroke
of the big gong had brought the dinghy back at racing speed, and
Peroo and his people were stripped to the waist, working for the
honour and credit which are better than life.
"I knew she would speak," he cried. "I knew, but the telegraph
gives us good warning. O sons of unthinkable begetting - children
of unspeakable shame - are we here for the look of the thing?" It
was two feet of wire-rope frayed at the ends, and it did wonders
as Peroo leaped from gunnel to gunnel, shouting the language of
Findlayson was more troubled for the stone-boats than anything else.
McCartney, with his gangs, was blocking up the ends of the three
doubtful spans, but boats adrift, if the flood chanced to be a high
one, might endanger the girders; and there was a very fleet in the
"Get them behind the swell of the guard-tower," he shouted down to
Peroo. "It will be dead-water there. Get them below the bridge."
"Accha! [Very good.] I know; we are mooring them with wire-rope,"
was the answer. " Heh! I Listen to the Chota Sahib. He is working
>From across the river came an almost continuous whistling of
locomotives, backed by the rumble of stone. Hitchcock at the last
minute was spending a few hundred more trucks of Tarakee stone in
reinforcing his spurs and embankments.
"The bridge challenges Mother Gunga," said Peroo, with a laugh.
"But when she talks I know whose voice will be the loudest."
For hours the naked men worked, screaming and shouting under the
lights. It was a hot, moonless night; the end of it was darkened by
clouds and a sudden squall that made Findlayson very grave.
"She moves! " said Peroo, just before the dawn. "Mother Gunga is
awake! Hear!" He dipped his hand over the side of a boat and the
current mumbled on it. A little wave hit the side of a pier with
a crisp slap.
"Six hours before her time," said Findlayson, mopping his forehead
savagely. "Now we can't depend on anything. We'd better clear
all hands out of the river-bed."
Again the big gong beat, and a second time there was the rushing
of naked feet on earth and ringing iron; the clatter of tools ceased.
In the silence, men heard the dry yawn of water crawling over
Foreman after foreman shouted to Findlayson, who had posted himself
by the guard-tower, that his section of the river-bed had been
cleaned out, and when the last voice dropped Findlayson hurried over
the bridge till the iron plating of the permanent way gave place to
the temporary plank-walk over the three centre piers, and there he
"All clear your side?" said Findlayson. The whisper rang in the box
"Yes, and the east channel's filling now. We're utterly out of our
reckoning. When is this thing down on us?"
"There's no saying. She's filling as fast as she can. Look!"
Findlayson pointed to the planks below his feet, where the sand,
burned and defiled by months of work, was beginning to whisper
"What orders?" said Hitchcock.
"Call the roll - count stores -sit on your hunkers - and pray for
the bridge. That's all I can think of. Good night. Don't risk your
life trying to fish out anything that may go down-stream."
"Oh, I'll be as prudent as you are! 'Night. Heavens, how she's
filling! Here's the rain in earnest!" Findlayson picked his way
back to his bank, sweeping the last of McCartney's riveters before
him. The gangs had spread themselves along the embankments,
regardless of the cold rain of the dawn, and there they waited
for the flood. Only Peroo kept his men together behind the swell
of the guard-tower, where the stone-boats lay tied fore and aft
with hawsers, wire-rope, and chains.
A shrill wail ran along the line, growing to a yell, half fear and
half wonder: the face of the river whitened from bank to bank
between the stone facings, and the faraway spurs went out in spouts
of foam. Mother Gunga had come bank-high in haste, and a wall of
chocolate-coloured water was her messenger. There was a shriek
above the roar of the water, the complaint of the spans coming down
on their blocks as the cribs were whirled out from under their
bellies. The stone-boats groaned and ground each other in the eddy
that swung round the abutment, and their clumsy masts rose higher
and higher against the dim sky-line.
"Before she was shut between these walls we knew what she would do.
Now she is thus cramped God only knows what she will do!" said Peroo,
watching the furious turmoil round the guard-tower. "Ohe! Fight,
then! Fight hard, for it is thus that a woman wears herself out."
But Mother Gunga would not fight as Peroo desired. After the first
down-stream plunge there came no more walls of water, but the river
lifted herself bodily, as a snake when she drinks in midsummer,
plucking and fingering along the revetments, and banking up behind
the piers till even Findlayson began to recalculate the strength of
When day came the village gasped. "Only last night," men said,
turning to each other," it was as a town in the river-bed! Look
And they looked and wondered afresh at the deep water, the racing
water that licked the throat of the piers. The farther bank was
veiled by rain, into which the bridge ran out and vanished; the
spurs up-stream were marked by no more than eddies and spoutings,
and down-stream the pent river, once freed of her guide-lines, had
spread like a sea to the horizon. Then hurried by, rolling in the
water, dead men and oxen together, with here and there a patch of
thatched roof that melted when it touched a pier.
"Big flood," said Peroo, and Findlayson nodded. It was as big a
flood as he had any wish to watch. His bridge would stand what was
upon her now, but not very much more, and if by any of a thousand
chances there happened to be a weakness in the embankments, Mother
Gunga would carry his honour to the sea with the other raffle.
Worst of all, there was nothing to do except to sit still; and
Findlayson sat still under his macintosh till his helmet became
pulp on his head, and his boots were over-ankle in mire. He took
no count of time, for the river was marking the hours, inch by
inch and foot by foot, along the embankment, and he listened, numb
and hungry, to the straining of the stone-boats, the hollow thunder
under the piers, and the hundred noises that make the full note of
a flood. Once a dripping servant brought him food, but he could
not eat; and once he thought that he heard a faint toot from a
locomotive across the river, and then he smiled. The bridge's
failure would hurt his assistant not a little, but Hitchcock was a
young man with his big work yet to do. For himself the crash meant
everything - everything that made a hard life worth the living.
They would say, the men of his own profession . . . he remembered
the half pitying things that he himself had said when Lockhart's
new waterworks burst and broke down in brickheaps and sludge, and
Lockhart's spirit broke in him and he died. He remembered what he
himself had said when the Sumao Bridge went out in the big cyclone
by the sea; and most he remembered poor Hartopp's face three weeks
later, when the shame had marked it. His bridge was twice the size
of Hartopp's, and it carried the Findlayson truss as well as the
new pier-shoe - the Findlayson bolted shoe. There were no excuses
in his service. Government might listen, perhaps, but his own kind
would judge him by his bridge, as that stood or fell. He went over
it in his head, plate by plate, span by span, brick by brick, pier
by pier, remembering, comparing, estimating, and recalculating,
lest there should be any mistake; and through the long hours and
through the flights of formulae that danced and wheeled before him
a cold fear would come to pinch his heart. His side of the sum
was beyond question; but what man knew Mother Gunga's arithmetic?
Even as he was making all sure by the multiplication-table, the
river might be scooping a pot-hole to the very bottom of any one of
those eighty-foot piers that carried his reputation. Again a servant
came to him with food, but his mouth was dry, and he could only
drink and return to the decimals in his brain. And the river was
still rising. Peroo, in a mat shelter-coat, crouched at his feet,
watching now his face and now the face of the river, but saying
At last the Lascar rose and floundered through the mud towards the
village, but he was careful to leave an ally to watch the boats.
Presently he returned, most irreverently driving before him the
priest of his creed - a fat old man, with a grey beard that
whipped the wind with the wet cloth that blew over his shoulder.
Never was seen so lamentable a guru.
"What good are offerings and little kerosene lamps and dry grain,"
shouted Peroo, " if squatting in the mud is all that thou canst
do? Thou hast dealt long with the Gods when they were contented
and well-wishing. Now they are angry. Speak to them!"
"What is a man against the wrath of Gods?" whined the priest,
cowering as the wind took him. "Let me go to the temple, and I
will pray there."
"Son of a pig, pray here! Is there no return for salt fish and
curry powder and dried onions? Call aloud! Tell Mother Gunga
we have had enough. Bid her be still for the night. I cannot
pray, but I have been serving in the Kumpani's boats, and when
men did not obey my orders I -" A flourish of the wire-rope
colt rounded the sentence, and the priest, breaking free from his
disciple, fled to the village.
"Fat pig!" said Peroo. "After all that we have done for him!
When the flood is down I will see to it that we get a new guru.
Finlinson Sahib, it darkens for night now, and since yesterday
nothing has been eaten. Be wise, Sahib. No man can endure
watching and great thinking on an empty belly. Lie down, Sahib.
The river will do what the river will do."
"The bridge is mine; I cannot leave it."
"Wilt thou hold it up with thy hands, then?" said Peroo, laughing.
"I was troubled for my boats and sheers before the flood came. Now
we are in the hands of the Gods. The Sahib will not eat and lie
down? Take these, then. They are meat and good toddy together,
and they kill all weariness, besides the fever that follows the
rain. I have eaten nothing else to-day at all."
He took a small tin tobacco-box from his sodden waistbelt and
thrust it into Findlayson's hand, saying " Nay, do not be afraid.
It is no more than opium - clean Malwa opium!"
Findlayson shook two or three of the dark-brown pellets into his
hand, and hardly knowing what he did, swallowed them. The stuff
was at least a good guard against fever - the fever that was
creeping upon him out of the wet mud - and he had seen what Peroo
could do in the stewing mists of autumn on the strength of a dose
from the tin box.
Peroo nodded with bright eyes. "In a little - in a little the
Sahib will find that he thinks well again. I too will -" He dived
into his treasure-box, resettled the rain-coat over his head, and
squatted down to watch the boats. It was too dark now to see beyond
the first pier, and the night seemed to have given the river new
strength. Findlayson stood with his chin on his chest, thinking.
There was one point about one of the piers - the seventh - that he
had not fully settled in his mind. The figures would not shape
themselves to the eye except one by one and at enormous intervals
of time. There was a sound rich and mellow in his ears like the
deepest note of a double-bass - an entrancing sound upon which he
pondered for several hours, as it seemed. Then Peroo was at his
elbow, shouting that a wire hawser had snapped and the stone-boats
were loose. Findlayson saw the fleet open and swing out fanwise
to a long-drawn shriek of wire straining across gunnels.
"A tree hit them. They will all go," cried Peroo. "The main
hawser has parted. What does the Sahib do? "
An immensely complex plan had suddenly flashed into Findlayson's
mind. He saw the ropes running from boat to boat in straight
lines and angles - each rope a line of white fire. But there was
one rope which was the master rope. He could see that rope. If
he could pull it once, it was absolutely and mathematically
certain that the disordered fleet would reassemble itself in the
backwater behind the guard-tower. But why, he wondered, was Peroo
clinging so desperately to his waist as he hastened down the bank?
It was necessary to put the Lascar aside, gently and slowly, because
it was necessary to save the boats, and, further, to demonstrate
the extreme ease of the problem that looked so difficult. And then
- but it was of no conceivable importance - a wirerope raced
through his hand, burning it, the high bank disappeared, and with
it all the slowly dispersing factors of the problem. He was sitting
in the rainy darkness - sitting in a boat that spun like a top,
and Peroo was standing over him.
"I had forgotten," said the Lascar, slowly, "that to those fasting
and unused, the opium is worse than any wine. Those who die in
Gunga go to the Gods. Still, I have no desire to present myself
before such great ones. Can the Sahib swim?"
"What need? He can fly - fly as swiftly as the wind," was the thick
"He is mad!" muttered Peroo, under his breath. "And he threw me
aside like a bundle of dung-cakes. Well, he will not know his death.
The boat cannot live an hour here even if she strike nothing. It
is not good to look at death with a clear eye."
He refreshed himself again from the tin box, squatted down in the
bows of the reeling, pegged, and stitched craft, staring through
the mist at the nothing that was there. A warm drowsiness crept
over Findlayson, the Chief Engineer, whose duty was with his bridge.
The heavy raindrops struck him with a thousand tingling little
thrills, and the weight of all time since time was made hung heavy
on his eyelids. He thought and perceived that he was perfectly
secure, for the water was so solid that a man could surely step out
upon it, and, standing still with his legs apart to keep his
balance - this was the most important point - would be borne with
great and easy speed to the shore. But yet a better plan came to
him. It needed only an exertion of will for the soul to hurl the
body ashore as wind drives paper, to waft it kite-fashion to the
bank. Thereafter - the boat spun dizzily - suppose the high wind
got under the freed body? Would it tower up like a kite and pitch
headlong on the far-away sands, or would it duck about, beyond
control, through all eternity? Findlayson gripped the gunnel to
anchor himself, for it seemed that he was on the edge of taking
the flight before he had settled all his plans. Opium has more
effect on the white man than the black. Peroo was only
comfortably indifferent to accidents. "She cannot live," he
grunted. "Her seams open already. If she were even a dinghy with
oars we could have ridden it out; but a box with holes is no good.
Finlinson Sahib, she fills."
"Accha! I am going away. Come thou also."
In his mind, Findlayson had already escaped from the boat, and was
circling high in air to find a rest for the sole of his foot. His
body - he was really sorry for its gross helplessness - lay in the
stern, the water rushing about its knees.
"How very ridiculous!" he said to himself, from his eyrie - "that
is Findlayson - chief of the Kashi Bridge. The poor beast is going
to be drowned, too. Drowned when it's close to shore. I'm - I'm
onshore already. Why doesn't it come along."
To his intense disgust, he found his soul back in his body again,
and that body spluttering and choking in deep water. The pain of
the reunion was atrocious, but it was necessary, also, to fight for
the body. He was conscious of grasping wildly at wet sand, and
striding prodigiously, as one strides in a dream, to keep foothold
in the swirling water, till at last he hauled himself clear of the
hold of the river, and dropped, panting, on wet earth.
"Not this night," said Peroo, in his ear. "The Gods have protected
us." The Lascar moved his feet cautiously, and they rustled among
dried stumps. "This is some island of last year's indigo-crop," he
went on. "We shall find no men here; but have great care, Sahib;
all the snakes of a hundred miles have been flooded out. Here comes
the lightning, on the heels of the wind. Now we shall be able to
look; but walk carefully."
Findlayson was far and far beyond any fear of snakes, or indeed any
merely human emotion. He saw, after he had rubbed the water from
his eyes, with an immense clearness, and trod, so it seemed to
himself, with world-encompassing strides. Somewhere in the night
of time he had built a bridge - a bridge that spanned illimitable
levels of shining seas; but the Deluge had swept it away, leaving
this one island under heaven for Findlayson and his companion,
sole survivors of the breed of Man.
An incessant lightning, forked and blue, showed all that there was
to be seen on the little patch in the flood - a clump of thorn, a
clump of swaying creaking bamboos, and a grey gnarled peepul
overshadowing a Hindoo shrine, from whose dome floated a tattered
red flag. The holy man whose summer resting-place it was had long
since abandoned it, and the weather had broken the red-daubed image
of his god. The two men stumbled, heavy limbed and heavy-eyed, over
the ashes of a brick-set cooking-place, and dropped down under the
shelter of the branches, while the rain and river roared together.
The stumps of the indigo crackled, and there was a smell of cattle,
as a huge and dripping Brahminee bull shouldered his way under the
tree. The flashes revealed the trident mark of Shiva on his flank,
the insolence of head and hump, the luminous stag-like eyes, the
brow crowned with a wreath of sodden marigold blooms, and the silky
dewlap that almost swept the ground. There was a noise behind him
of other beasts coming up from the floodline through the thicket,
a sound of heavy feet and deep breathing.
"Here be more beside ourselves," said Findlayson, his head against
the tree-pole, looking through half-shut eyes, wholly at ease.
" Truly," said Peroo, thickly, "and no small ones."
"What are they, then? I do not see clearly."
"The Gods. Who else? Look!"
"Ah, true! The Gods surely - the Gods." Findlayson smiled as his
head fell forward on his chest. Peroo was eminently right. After
the Flood, who should be alive in the land except the Gods that
made it - the Gods to whom his village prayed nightly - the Gods
who were in all men's mouths and about all men's ways. He could
not raise his head or stir a finger for the trance that held him,
and Peroo was smiling vacantly at the lightning.
The Bull paused by the shrine, his head lowered to the damp earth.
A green Parrot in the branches preened his wet wings and screamed
against the thunder as the circle under the tree filled with the
shifting shadows of beasts. There was a black Buck at the Bull's
heels - such a Buck as Findlayson in his far-away life upon earth
might have seen in dreams - a Buck with a royal head, ebon back,
silver belly, and gleaming straight horns. Beside him, her head
bowed to the ground, the green eyes burning under the heavy brows,
with restless tail switching the dead grass, paced a Tigress,
full-bellied and deep-jowled.
The Bull crouched beside the shrine, and there leaped from the
darkness a monstrous grey Ape, who seated himself man-wise in the
place of the fallen image, and the rain spilled like jewels from
the hair of his neck and shoulders.
Other shadows came and went behind the circle, among them a drunken
Man flourishing staff and drinking-bottle. Then a hoarse bellow
broke out from near the ground. "The flood lessens even now," it
cried. "Hour by hour the water falls, and their bridge still
"My bridge," said Findlayson to himself. "That must be very old
work now. What have the Gods to do with my bridge?"
His eyes rolled in the darkness following the roar. A Mugger - the
blunt-nosed, ford-haunting Mugger of the Ganges - draggled herself
before the beasts, lashing furiously to right and left with her tail.
"They have made it too strong for me. In all this night I have
only torn away a handful of planks. The walls stand. The towers
stand. They have chained my flood, and the river is not free any
more. Heavenly Ones, take this yoke away! Give me clear water
between bank and bank! It is I, Mother Gunga, that speak. The
Justice of the Gods! Deal me the Justice of the Gods!"
"What said I?" whispered Peroo. "This is in truth a Punchayet of
the Gods. Now we know that all the world is dead, save you and I,
The Parrot screamed and fluttered again, and the Tigress, her ears
flat to her head, snarled wickedly.
Somewhere in the shadow, a great trunk and gleaming tusks swayed to
and fro, and a low gurgle broke the silence that followed on the
"We be here," said a deep voice, " the Great Ones. One only and
very many. Shiv, my father, is here, with Indra. Kali has spoken
already. Hanuman listens also."
"Kashi is without her Kotwal tonight," shouted the Man with the
drinking-bottle, flinging his staff to the ground, while the island
rang to the baying of hounds. "Give her the Justice of the Gods."
"Ye were still when they polluted my waters," the great Crocodile
bellowed. "Ye made no sign when my river was trapped between the
walls. I had no help save my own strength, and that failed - the
strength of Mother Gunga failed - before their guard-towers. What
could I do? I have done everything. Finish now, Heavenly Ones!"
"I brought the death; I rode the spotted sickness from hut to hut
of their workmen, and yet they would not cease." A nose-slitten,
hide-worn Ass, lame, scissor-legged, and galled, limped forward.
"I cast the death at them out of my nostrils, but they would not
Peroo would have moved, but the opium lay heavy upon him.
"Bah!" he said, spitting. "Here is Sitala herself; Mata - the
smallpox. Has the Sahib a handkerchief to put over his face?"
"Little help! They fed me the corpses for a month, and I flung
them out on my sand-bars, but their work went forward. Demons they
are, and sons of demons! And ye left Mother Gunga alone for their
fire-carriage to make a mock of. The Justice of the Gods on the
The Bull turned the cud in his mouth and answered slowly: "If the
Justice of the Gods caught all who made a mock of holy things
there would be many dark altars in the land, mother."
"But this goes beyond a mock," said the Tigress, darting forward a
griping paw. "Thou knowest, Shiv, and ye, too, Heavenly Ones; ye
know that they have defiled Gunga. Surely they must come to the
Destroyer. Let Indra judge."
The Buck made no movement as he answered: " How long has this
"Three years, as men count years," said the Mugger, close pressed
to the earth.
"Does Mother Gunga die, then, in a year, that she is so anxious to
see vengeance now? The deep sea was where she runs but yesterday,
and tomorrow the sea shall cover her again as the Gods count that
which men call time. Can any say that this their bridge endures
till tomorrow?" said the Buck.
There was along hush, and in the clearing of the storm the full
moon stood up above the dripping trees.
"Judge ye, then," said the River, sullenly. "I have spoken my shame.
The flood falls still. I can do no more."
"For my own part" - it was the voice of the great Ape seated within
the shrine - "it pleases me well to watch these men, remembering
that I also builded no small bridge in the world's youth."
"They say, too," snarled the Tiger, "that these men came of the wreck
of thy armies, Hanuman, and therefore thou hast aided -"
"They toil as my armies toiled in Lanka, and they believe that their
toil endures. Indra is too high, but Shiv, thou knowest how the
land is threaded with their fire-carriages."
"Yea, I know," said the Bull. "Their Gods instructed them in the
A laugh ran round the circle.
"Their Gods! What should their Gods know? They were born
yesterday, and those that made them are scarcely yet cold," said
the Mugger. "tomorrow their Gods will die."
"Ho!" said Peroo. "Mother Gunga talks good talk. I told that to
the padre-sahib who preached on the Mombassa, and he asked the Burra
Malum to put me in irons for a great rudeness."
"Surely they make these things to please their Gods," said the Bull
"Not altogether," the Elephant rolled forth. "It is for the profit
of my mahajuns fat money-lenders that worship me at each new year,
when they draw my image at the head of the account-books. I,
looking over their shoulders by lamplight, see that the names in
the books are those of men in far places - for all the towns are
drawn together by the fire-carriage, and the money comes and goes
swiftly, and the account-books grow as fat as myself. And I, who
am Ganesh of Good Luck, I bless my peoples."
"They have changed the face of the land-which is my land. They have
killed and made new towns on my banks," said the Mugger.
"It is but the shifting of a little dirt. Let the dirt dig in the
dirt if it pleases the dirt," answered the Elephant.
"But afterwards? "said the Tiger. "Afterwards they will see that
Mother Gunga can avenge no insult, and they fall away from her
first, and later from us all, one by one. In the end, Ganesh, we
are left with naked altars."
The drunken Man staggered to his feet, and hiccupped vehemently.
"Kali lies. My sister lies. Also this my stick is the Kotwal of
Kashi, and he keeps tally of my pilgrims. When the time comes to
worship Bhairon - and it is always time - the fire-carriages move
one by one, and each hears a thousand pilgrims. They do not come
afoot any more, but rolling upon wheels, and my honour is increased."
"Gunga, I have seen thy bed at Pryag black with the pilgrims," said
the Ape, leaning forward, "and but for the fire-carriage they would
have come slowly and in fewer numbers. Remember."
"They come to me always," Bhairon went on thickly. "By day and
night they pray to me, all the Common People in the fields and the
roads. Who is like Bhairon today? What talk is this of changing
faiths? Is my staff Kotwal of Kashi for nothing? He keeps the
tally, and he says that never were so many altars as today, and
the fire carriage serves them well. Bhairon am I - Bhairon of the
Common People, and the chiefest of tithe Heavenly Ones today.
Also my staff says -"
"Peace, thou!" lowed the Bull. "The worship of the schools is mine,
and they talk very wisely, asking whether I be one or many, as is
the delight of my people, and ye know what I am. Kali, my wife,
thou knowest also."
"Yea, I know," said the Tigress, with lowered head.
"Greater am I than Gunga also. For ye know who moved the minds of
men that they should count Gunga holy among the rivers. Who die in
that water - ye know how men say - come to us without punishment,
and Gunga knows that the fire-carriage has borne to her scores upon
scores of such anxious ones; and Kali knows that she has held her
chiefest festivals among the pilgrimages that are fed by the
fire-carriage. Who smote at Pooree, under the Image there, her
thousands in a day and a night, and bound the sickness to the wheels
of the fire-carriages, so that it ran from one end of the land to
the other? Who but Kali? Before the fire-carriage came it was a
heavy toil. The fire-carriages have served thee well, Mother of
Death. But I speak for mine own altars, who am not Bhairon of the
Common Folk, but Shiv. Men go to and fro, making words and telling
talk of strange Gods, and I listen. Faith follows faith among my
people in the schools, and I have no anger; for when all words are
said, and the new talk is ended, to Shiv men return at the last."
"True. It is true," murmured Hanuman. "To Shiv and to the others,
mother, they return. I creep from temple to temple in the North,
where they worship one God and His Prophet; and presently my image
is alone within their shrines."
"Small thanks," said the Buck, turning his head slowly. "I am that
One and His Prophet also."
"Even so, father," said Hanuman. "And to the South I go who am the
oldest of the Gods as men know the Gods, and presently I touch the
shrines of the New 'Faith and the Woman whom we know is hewn
twelve-armed, and still they call her Mary."
Small thanks, brother," said the Tigress. "I am that Woman."
"Even so, sister; and I go West among the fire-carriages, and stand
before the bridge-builders in many shapes, and because of me they
change their faiths and are very wise. Ho! ho! I am the builder
of bridges, indeed - bridges between this and that, and each bridge
leads surely to Us in the end. Be content, Gunga.
"Neither these men nor those that follow them mock thee at all."
"Am I alone, then, Heavenly Ones? Shall I smooth out my flood lest
unhappily I bear away their walls? Will Indra dry my springs in
the hills and make me crawl humbly between their wharfs? Shall I
bury me in the sand ere I offend?"
"And all for the sake of a little iron bar with the fire-carriage
atop. Truly, Mother Gunga is always young!" said Ganesh the Elephant.
"A child had not spoken more foolishly. Let the dirt dig in the
dirt ere it return to the dirt. I know only that my people grow
rich and praise me. Shiv has said that the men of the schools do
not forget; Bhairon is content for his crowd of the Common People;
and Hanuman laughs."
"Surely I laugh," said the Ape. "My altars are few beside those of
Ganesh or Bhairon, but the fire-carriages bring me new worshippers
from beyond the Black Water - the men who believe that their God is
toil. I run before them beckoning, and they follow Hanuman."
"Give them the toil that they desire, then," said the River. "Make
a bar across my flood and throw the water back upon the bridge.
Once thou wast strong in Lanka, Hanuman. Stoop and lift my bed."
"Who gives life can take life." The Ape scratched in the mud with
a long forefinger. "And yet, who would profit by the killing? Very
many would die."
There came up from the water a snatch of a love-song such as the
boys sing when they watch their cattle in the noon heats of late
spring. The Parrot screamed joyously, sidling along his branch with
lowered head as the song grew louder, and in a patch of clear
moonlight stood revealed the young herd, the darling of the Gopis,
the idol of dreaming maids and of mothers ere their children are
born - Krishna the Well-beloved. He stooped to knot up his long wet
hair, and the parrot fluttered to his shoulder.
"Fleeting and singing, and singing and fleeting," hiccupped Bhairon.
"Those make thee late for the council, brother."
"And then?" said Krishna, with a laugh, throwing back his head. "Ye
can do little without me or Karma here." He fondled the Parrot's
plumage and laughed again. "What is this sitting and talking
together? I heard Mother Gunga roaring in the dark, and so came
quickly from a but where I lay warm. And what have ye done to Karma,
that he is so wet and silent? And what does Mother Gunga here? Are
the heavens full that ye must come paddling in the mud beast-wise?
Karma, what do they do?"
"Gunga has prayed for a vengeance on the bridgebuilders, and Kali is
with her. Now she bids Hanuman whelm the bridge, that her honour
may be made great," cried the Parrot. "I waited here, knowing that
thou wouldst come, O my master!"
"And the Heavenly Ones said nothing? Did Gunga and the Mother of
Sorrows out-talk them? Did none speak for my people?"
"Nay," said Ganesh, moving uneasily from foot to foot; "I said it
was but dirt at play, and why should we stamp it flat?"
"I was content to let them toil - well content," said Hanuman.
"What had I to do with Gunga's anger "said the Bull.
"I am Bhairon of the Common Folk, and this my staff is Kotwal of
all Kashi. I spoke for the Common People."
"Thou?" The young God's eyes sparkled.
"Am I not the first of the Gods in their mouths today?" returned
Bhairon, unabashed. "For the sake of the Common People I said very
many wise things which I have now forgotten, but this my staff -"
Krishna turned impatiently, saw the Mugger at his feet, and kneeling,
slipped an arm round the cold neck. "Mother," he said gently, "get
thee to thy flood again. This matter is not for thee. What harm
shall thy honour take of this live dirt? Thou hast given them their
fields new year after year, and by thy flood they are made strong.
They come all to thee at the last. What need to slay them now?
Have pity, mother, for a little and it is only for a little."
"If it be only for a little -" the slow beast began.
"Are they Gods, then?" Krishna, returned with a laugh, his eyes
looking into the dull eyes of the River. "Be certain that it is
only for a little. The Heavenly Ones have heard thee, and
presently justice will be done. Go now, mother, to the flood again.
Men and cattle are thick on the waters - the banks fall - the
villages melt because of thee."
"But the bridge-the bridge stands." The Mugger turned grunting
into the undergrowth as Krishna rose.
"It is ended," said the Tigress, viciously. "There is no more
justice from the Heavenly Ones. Ye have made shame and sport of
Gunga, who asked no more than a few score lives."
"Of my people - who lie under the leaf-roofs of the village yonder
- of the young girls, and the young men who sing to them in the
dark of the child that will be born next morn - of that which was
begotten tonight," said Krishna. "And when all is done, what
profit? Tomorrow sees them at work. Ay, if ye swept the bridge out
from end to end they would begin anew. Hear me! Bhairon is drunk
always. Hanuman mocks his people with new riddles."
"Nay, but they are very old ones," the Ape said, laughing.
"Shiv hears the talk of the schools and the dreams of the holy men;
Ganesh thinks only of his fat traders; but I - I live with these my
people, asking for no gifts, and so receiving them hourly."
"And very tender art thou of thy people," said the Tigress.
"They are my own. The old women dream of me turning in their sleep;
the maids look and listen for me when they go to fill their lotahs
by the river. I walk by the young men waiting without the gates at
dusk, and I call over my shoulder to the whitebeards. Ye know,
Heavenly Ones, that I alone of us all walk upon the earth continually,
and have no pleasure in our heavens so long ,as a green blade springs
here, or there are two voices at twilight in the standing crops.
Wise are ye, but ye live far off, forgetting whence ye came. So do
I not forget. And the fire-carriage feeds your shrines, ye say? And
the fire-carriages bring a thousand pilgrims where but ten came in
the old years? True. That is true, today."
But tomorrow they are dead, brother," said Ganesh.
"Peace!" said the Bull, as Hanuman leaned forward again. "And
tomorrow, beloved - what of tomorrow?"
"This only. A new word creeping from mouth to mouth among the
Common Folk - a word that neither man nor God can lay hold of - an
evil word - a little lazy word among the Common Folk, saying (and
none know who set that word afoot) that they weary of ye, Heavenly
The Gods laughed together softly. "And then, beloved?" they said.
"And to cover that weariness they, my people, will bring to thee,
Shiv, and to thee, Ganesh, at first greater offerings and a louder
noise of worship. But the word has gone abroad, and, after, they
will pay fewer dues to our fat Brahmins. Next they will forget your
altars, but so slowly that no man can say how his forgetfulness
"I knew - I knew! I spoke this also, but they would not hear," said
the Tigress. "We should have slain - we should have slain! "
"It is too late now. Ye should have slain at the beginning when the
men from across the water had taught our folk nothing. Now my
people see their work, and go away thinking. They do not think of
the Heavenly Ones altogether. They think of the fire-carriage and
the other things that the bridge-builders have done, and when your
priests thrust forward hands asking alms, they give a little
unwillingly. That is the beginning, among one or two, or five or
ten - for I, moving among my people, know what is in their hearts."
"And the end, Jester of the Gods? What shall the end be? " said
"The end shall be as it was in the beginning, O slothful son of
Shiv! The flame shall die upon the altars and the prayer upon the
tongue till ye become little Gods again - Gods of the jungle - names
that the hunters of rats and noosers of dogs whisper in the thicket
and among the caves - rag-Gods, pot Godlings of the tree, and the
villagemark, as ye were at the beginning. That is the end, Ganesh,
for thee, and for Bhairon - Bhairon of the Common People."
"It is very far away," grunted Bhairon. "Also, it is a lie."
"Many women have kissed Krishna. They told him this to cheer
their own hearts when the grey hairs came, and he has told us the
tale," said the Bull, below his breath.
"Their Gods came, and we changed them. I took the Woman and made
her twelve-armed. So shall we twist all their Gods," said Hanuman.
" Their Gods! This is no question of their Gods - one or three - man
or woman. The matter is with the people. They move, and not the
Gods of the bridgebuilders," said Krishna.
"So be it. I have made a man worship the fire-carriage as it stood
still breathing smoke, and he knew not that he worshipped me," said
Hanuman the Ape. "They will only change a little the names of their
Gods. I shall lead the builders of the bridges as of old; Shiv
shall be worshipped in the schools by such as doubt and despise
their fellows; Ganesh shall have his mahajuns, and Bhairon the
donkey-drivers, the pilgrims, and the sellers of toys. Beloved,
they will do no more than change the names, and that we have seen
a thousand times."
"Surely they will do no more than change the names," echoed Ganesh;
but there was an uneasy movement among the Gods.
"They will change more than the names. Me alone they cannot kill,
so long as a maiden and a man meet together or the spring follows
the winter rains. Heavenly Ones, not for nothing have I walked
upon the earth. My people know not now what they know; but I, who
live with them, I read their hearts. Great Kings, the beginning
of the end is born already. The fire-carriages shout the names of
new Gods that are not the old under new names. Drink now and eat
greatly! Bathe your faces in the smoke of the altars before they
grow cold! Take dues and listen to the cymbals and the drums,
Heavenly Ones, while yet there are flowers and songs. As men count
time the end is far off; but as we who know reckon it is today. I
The young God ceased, and his brethren looked at each other long
"This I have not heard before," Peroo whispered in his companion's
ear. "And yet sometimes, when I oiled the brasses in the
engine-room of the Goorkha, I have wondered if our priests were so
wise - so wise. The day is coming, Sahib. They will be gone by
A yellow light broadened in the sky, and the tone of the river
changed as the darkness withdrew.
Suddenly the Elephant trumpeted aloud as though man had goaded him.
"Let Indra judge. Father of all, speak thou! What of the things
we have heard? Has Krishna lied indeed? Or -"
"Ye know, " said the Buck, rising to his feet. "Ye know the Riddle
of the Gods. When Brahm ceases to dream, the Heavens and the Hells
and Earth disappear. Be content. Brahm dreams still. The dreams
come and go, and the nature of the dreams changes, but still Brahm
dreams. Krishna has walked too long upon earth, and yet I love him
the more for the tale he has told. The Gods change, beloved-all
"Ay, all save one that makes love in the hearts of men," said
Krishna, knotting his girdle. "It is but a little time to wait,
and ye shall know if I lie."
"Truly it is but a little time, as thou sayest, and we shall know.
Get thee to thy huts again, beloved, and make sport for the young
things, for still Brahm dreams. Go, my children! Brahm dreams
- and till he wakes the Gods die not."
"Whither went they?" said the Lascar, awe-struck, shivering a
little with the cold.
"God knows!" said Findlayson. The river and the island lay in
full daylight now, and there was never mark of hoof or pug on the
wet earth under the peepul. Only a parrot screamed in the branches,
bringing down showers of water-drops as he fluttered his wings.
"Up! We are cramped with cold! Has the opium died out? Canst
thou move, Sahib?"
Findlayson staggered to his feet and shook himself. His head swam
and ached, but the work of the opium was over, and, as he sluiced
his forehead in a pool, the Chief Engineer of the Kashi Bridge was
wondering how he had managed to fall upon the island, what chances
the day offered of return, and, above all, how his work stood.
"Peroo, I have forgotten much. I was under the guard-tower watching
the river; and then . . . . Did the flood sweep us away?"
"No. The boats broke loose, Sahib, and" (if the Sahib had forgotten
about the opium, decidedly Peroo would not remind him) "in striving
to retie them, so it seemed to me - but it was darka rope caught the
Sahib and threw him upon a boat. Considering that we two, with
Hitchcock Sahib, built, as it were, that bridge, I came also upon
the boat, which came riding on horseback, as it were, on the nose of
this island, and so, splitting, cast us ashore. I made a great cry
when the boat left the wharf, and without doubt Hitchcock Sahib will
come for us. As for the bridge, so many have died in the building
that it cannot fall."
A fierce sun, that drew out all the smell of the sodden land, had
followed the storm, and in that clear light there was no room for
a man to think of the dreams of the dark. Findlayson stared
up-stream, across the blaze of moving water, till his eyes ached.
There was no sign of any bank to the Ganges, much less of a
"We came down far," he said. "It was wonderful that we were not
drowned a hundred times."
"That was the least of the wonder, for no man dies before his time.
I have seen Sydney, I have seen London, and twenty great ports, but"
- Peroo looked at the damp, discoloured shrine under the "peopul -"
never man has seen that we saw here."
"Has the Sahib forgotten; or do we black men only see the Gods?"
"There was a fever upon me." Findlayson was still looking uneasily
across the water. "It seemed that the island was full of beasts
and men talking, but I do not remember. A boat could live in this
water now, I think."
"Oho! Then it is true. 'When Brahm ceases to dream, the Gods die.'
Now I know, indeed, what he meant. Once, too, the guru said as much
to me; but then I did not understand. Now I am wise."
"What?" said Findlayson, over his shoulder.
Peroo went on as if he were talking to himself. " Six-seven-ten
monsoons since, I was watch on the fo'c'sle of the ehwah - the
Kumpani's big boat-and there was a big tufan; green and black water
beating, and I held fast to the life-lines, choking under the waters.
Then I thought of the Gods - of Those whom we saw tonight" - he
stared curiously at Findlayson's back, but the white man was looking
across the flood. "Yes, I say of Those whom we saw this night past,
and I called upon Them to protect me. And while I prayed, still
keeping my lookout, a big wave came and threw me forward upon the
ring of the great black bowanchor, and the Rewah rose high and high,
leaning towards the lefthand side, and the water drew away from
beneath her nose, and I lay upon my belly, holding the ring, and
looking down into those great deeps. Then I thought, even in the
face of death: If I lose hold I die, and for me neither the Rewah nor
my place by the galley where the rice is cooked, nor Bombay, nor
Calcutta, nor even London, will be any more for me. 'How shall I be
sure,' I said, that the Gods to whom I pray will abide at all?' This
I thought, and the Rewah dropped her nose as a hammer falls, and all
the sea came in and slid me backwards along the fo'c'sle and over
the break of the fo'c'sle, and I very badly bruised my shin against
the donkey-engine: but I did not die, and I have seen the Gods.
They are good for live men, but for the dead . . . They have spoken
Themselves. Therefore, when I come to the village I will beat the
guru for talking riddles which are no riddles. When Brahm ceases to
dream the Gods go."
"Look up-stream. The light blinds. Is there smoke yonder?"
Peroo shaded his eyes with his hands. "He is a wise man and quick.
Hitchcock Sahib would not trust a rowboat. He has borrowed the
Rao Sahib's steam launch, and comes to look for us. I have always
said that there should have been a steam-launch on the bridge works
The territory of the Rao of Baraon lay within ten miles of the
bridge; and Findlayson and Hitchcock had spent a fair portion of
their scanty leisure in playing billiards and shooting black-buck
with the young man. He had been bear-led by an English tutor of
sporting tastes for some five or six years, and was now royally
wasting the revenues accumulated during his minority by the Indian
Government. His steam-launch, with its silverplated rails, striped
silk awning, and mahogany decks, was a new toy which Findlayson
had found horribly in the way when the Rao came to look at the
"It's great luck," murmured Findlayson, but he was none the less
afraid, wondering what news might be of the bridge.
The gaudy blue and white funnel came down-stream swiftly. They
could see Hitchcock in the bows, with a pair of opera-glasses, and
his face was unusually white. Then Peroo hailed, and the launch
made for the tail of the island. The Rao Sahib, in tweed
shooting-suit and a seven-hued turban, waved his royal hand, and
Hitchcock shouted. But he need have asked no questions, for
Findlayson's first demand was for his bridge.
"All serene! Gad, I never expected to see you again, Findlayson.
You're seven koss down-stream. Yes; there's not a stone shifted
anywhere; but how are you? I borrowed the Rao Sahib's launch, and
he was good enough to come along. Jump in."
"Ah, Finlinson, you are very well, eh? That was most unprecedented
calamity last night, eh? My royal palace, too, it leaks like the
devil, and the crops will also be short all about my country. Now
you shall back her out, Hitchcock. I - I do not understand
steam engines. You are wet? You are cold, Finlinson? I have some
things to eat here, and you will take a good drink."
"I'm immensely grateful, Rao Sahib. I believe you've saved my life.
How did Hitchcock -"
"Oho! His hair was upon end. He rode to me in the middle of the
night and woke me up in the arms of Morpheus. I was most truly
concerned, Finlinson, so I came too. My head-priest he is very
angry just now. We will go quick, Mister Hitchcock. I am due to
attend at twelve forty-five in the state temple, where we sanctify
some new idol. If not so I would have asked you to spend the day
with me. They are dam-bore, these religious ceremonies, Finlinson,
Peroo, well known to the crew, had possessed himself of the inlaid
wheel, and was taking the launch craftily up-stream. But while he
steered he was, in his mind, handling two feet of partially untwisted
wire-rope; and the back upon which he beat was the back of his guru.
A WALKING DELEGATE
According to the custom of Vermont, Sunday afternoon is salting-time
on the farm, and, unless something very important happens, we attend
to the salting ourselves. Dave and Pete, the red oxen, are treated
first; they stay in the home meadow ready for work on Monday. Then
come the cows, with Pan, the calf, who should have been turned into
veal long ago, but survived on account of his manners; and lastly
the horses, scattered through the seventy acres of the Back Pasture.
You must go down by the brook that feeds the clicking, bubbling
water-ram; up through the sugar-bush, where the young maple
undergrowth closes round you like a shallow sea; next follow the
faint line of an old county-road running past two green hollows
fringed with wild rose that mark the cellars of two ruined houses;
then by Lost Orchard, where nobody ever comes except in cider-time;
then across another brook, and so into the Back Pasture. Half of
it is pine and hemlock and Spruce, with sumach and little juniper
bushes, and the other half is grey rock and boulder and moss, with
green streaks of brake and swamp; but the horses like it well
enough - our own, and the others that are turned down there to
feed at fifty cents a week. Most people walk to the Back Pasture,
and find it very rough work; but one can get there in a buggy, if
the horse knows what is expected of him. The safest conveyance is
our coupe. This began life as a buckboard, and we bought it for
five dollars from a sorrowful man who had no other sort of
possessions; and the seat came off one night when we were turning a
corner in a hurry. After that alteration it made a beautiful
salting-machine, if you held tight, because there was nothing to
catch your feet when you fell out, and the slats rattled tunes.
One Sunday afternoon we went out with the salt as usual. It was
a broiling hot day, and we could not find the horses anywhere till
we let Tedda Gabler, the bobtailed mare who throws up the dirt with
her big hooves exactly as a tedder throws hay, have her head.
Clever as she is, she tipped the coupe over in a hidden brook before
she came out on a ledge of rock where all the horses had gathered,
and were switching flies. The Deacon was the first to call to her.
He is a very dark iron-grey four-year-old, son of Grandee. He has
been handled since he was two, was driven in a light cart before he
was three, and now ranks as an absolutely steady lady's horse -
proof against steam-rollers, grade-crossings, and street processions.
"Salt!" said the Deacon, joyfully. "You're dreffle late, Tedda."
"Any - any place to cramp the coupe?" Tedda panted. "It weighs
turr'ble this weather. I'd 'a' come sooner, but they didn't know
what they wanted - ner haow. Fell out twice, both of 'em. I don't
understand sech foolishness."
"You look consider'ble het up. 'Guess you'd better cramp her under
them pines, an' cool off a piece."
Tedda scrambled on the ledge, and cramped the coupe in the shade of
a tiny little wood of pines, while my companion and I lay down
among the brown, silky needles, and gasped. All the home horses
were gathered round us, enjoying their Sunday leisure.
There were Rod and Rick, the seniors on the farm. They were the
regular road-pair, bay with black points, full brothers, aged, sons
of a Hambletonian sire and a Morgan dam. There were Nip and Tuck,
seal-browns, rising six, brother and sister, Black Hawks by birth,
perfectly matched, just finishing their education, and as handsome
a pair as man could wish to find in a forty-mile drive. There was
Muldoon, our ex-car-horse, bought at a venture, and any colour you
choose that is not white; and Tweezy, who comes from Kentucky, with
an affliction of his left hip, which makes him a little uncertain
how his hind legs are moving. He and Muldoon had been hauling
gravel all the week for our new road. The Deacon you know already.
Last of all, and eating something, was our faithful Marcus Aurelius
Antoninus, the black buggy-horse, who had seen us through every
state of weather and road, the horse who was always standing in
harness before some door or other - a philosopher with the appetite
of a shark and the manners of an archbishop. Tedda Gabler was a
new "trade," with a reputation for vice which was really the result
of bad driving. She had one working gait, which she could hold
till further notice; a Roman nose; a large, prominent eye; a
shaving-brush of a tail; and an irritable temper. She took her
salt through her bridle; but the others trotted up nuzzling and
wickering for theirs, till we emptied it on the clean rocks. They
were all standing at ease, on three legs for the most part, talking
the ordinary gossip of the Back Pasture - about the scarcity of
water, and gaps in the fence, and how the early windfalls tasted
that season - when little Rick blew the last few grains of his
allowance into a crevice, and said:
"Hurry, boys! 'Might ha' knowed that livery plug would be around."
We heard a clatter of hooves, and there climbed up from the ravine
below a fifty-center transient - a wall-eyed, yellow frame-house of
a horse, sent up to board from a livery-stable in town, where they
called him "The Lamb," and never let him out except at night and to
strangers. My companion, who knew and had broken most of the horses,
looked at the ragged hammer-head as it rose, and said quietly:
"Ni-ice beast. Man-eater, if he gets the chance - see his eye.
Kicker, too - see his hocks. Western horse."
The animal lumbered up, snuffling and grunting. His feet showed
that he had not worked for weeks and weeks, and our creatures drew
"As usual," he said, with an underhung sneer - "bowin' your heads
before the Oppressor that comes to spend his leisure gloatin' over
"Mine's done," said the Deacon; he licked up the remnant of his
salt, dropped his nose in his master's hand, and sang a little
grace all to himself. The Deacon has the most enchanting manners
of any one I know.
"An' fawnin' on them for what is your inalienable right. It's
humiliatin'," said the yellow horse, sniffing to see if he could
find a few spare grains.
"Go daown hill, then, Boney," the Deacon replied. "Guess you'll
find somethin' to eat still, if yer hain't hogged it all. You've
ett more'n any three of us to-day - an' day 'fore that - an' the
last two months - sence you've been here."
"I am not addressin' myself to the young an' immature. I am
speakin' to those whose opinion an' experience commands respect."
I saw Rod raise his head as though he were about to make a remark;
then he dropped it again, and stood three-cornered, like a
plough-horse. Rod can cover his mile in a shade under three minutes
on an ordinary road to an ordinary buggy. He is tremendously
powerful behind, but, like most Hambletonians, he grows a trifle
sullen as he gets older. No one can love Rod very much; but no one
can help respecting him.
"I wish to wake those," the yellow horse went on, "to an abidin'
sense o' their wrongs an' their injuries an' their outrages."
"Haow's that?" said Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, dreamily. He
thought Boney was talking of some kind of feed.
"An' when I say outrages and injuries" - Boney waved his tail
furiously "I mean 'em, too. Great Oats! That's just what I do
mean, plain an' straight."
"The gentleman talks quite earnest," said Tuck, the mare, to Nip,
her brother. There's no doubt thinkin' broadens the horizons o' the
mind. His language is quite lofty."
"Hesh, sis," Nip answered.
"He hain't widened nothin' 'cep' the circle he's ett in pasture.
They feed words fer beddin' where he comes from."
"It's elegant talkin', though," Tuck returned, with an unconvinced
toss of her pretty, lean little head.
The yellow horse heard her, and struck an attitude which he meant
to be extremely impressive. It made him look as though he had
been badly stuffed.
"Now I ask you, I ask you without prejudice an' without favour, -
what has Man the Oppressor ever done for you? - Are you not
inalienably entitled to the free air o' heaven, blowin' acrost this
"Hev ye ever wintered here?" said the Deacon, merrily, while the
others snickered. "It's kinder cool."
"Not yet," said Boney. "I come from the boundless confines o'
Kansas, where the noblest of our kind have their abidin' place among
the sunflowers on the threshold o' the settin' sun in his glory."
"An' they sent you ahead as a sample?" said Rick, with an amused
quiver of his long, beautifully groomed tail, as thick and as fine
and as wavy as a quadroon's back hair.
"Kansas, sir, needs no advertisement. Her native sons rely on
themselves an' their native sires. Yes, sir."
Then Tweezy lifted up his wise and polite old head. His affliction
makes him bashful as a rule, but he is ever the most courteous of
"Excuse me, suh," he said slowly, "but, unless I have been
misinfohmed, most of your prominent siahs, suh, are impo'ted from
Kentucky; an' I'm from Paduky."
There was the least little touch of pride in the last words.
"Any horse dat knows beans," said Muldoon, suddenly (he had been
standing with his hairy chin on Tweezy's broad quarters), "gits
outer Kansas 'fore dey crip his shoes. I blew in dere from Ioway
in de days o' me youth an' innocence, an' I wuz grateful when dey
boxed me fer N' York. You can't tell me anything about Kansas I
don't wanter fergit. De Belt Line stables ain't no Hoffman House,
but dey're Vanderbilts 'longside o' Kansas."
"What the horses o' Kansas think to-day, the horses of America will
think to-morrow; an' I tell you that when the horses of America
rise in their might, the day o' the Oppressor is ended."
There was a pause, till Rick said, with a little grunt:
"Ef you put it that way, every one of us has riz in his might, 'cep'
Marcus, mebbe. Marky, 'j ever rise in yer might?"
"Nope," said Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, thoughtfully quidding over
a mouthful of grass. "I seen a heap o' fools try, though."
"You admit that you riz?" said the Kansas horse, excitedly. "Then
why - why in Kansas did you ever go under again?"
"Horse can't walk on his hind legs all the time," said the Deacon.
"Not when he's jerked over on his back 'fore he knows what fetched
him. We've all done it, Boney," said Rick. "Nip an' Tuck they
tried it, spite o' what the Deacon told 'em; an' the Deacon he tried
it, spite o' what me an' Rod told him; an' me an' Rod tried it,
spite o' what Grandee told us; an' I guess Grandee he tried it, spite
o' what his dam told him. It's the same old circus from generation
to generation. 'Colt can't see why he's called on to back. Same
old rearm' on end - straight up. Same old feelin' that you've bested
'em this time. Same old little yank at your mouth when you're up
good an' tall. Same old Pegasus-act, wonderin' where you'll 'light.
Same old wop when you hit the dirt with your head where your tail
should be, and your in'ards shook up like a bran-mash. Same old
voice in your ear: 'Waal, ye little fool, an' what did you reckon
to make by that?' We're through with risin in our might on this
farm. We go to pole er single, accordin' ez we're hitched."
"An' Man the Oppressor sets an' gloats over you, same as he's settin'
now. Hain't that been your experience, madam?"
This last remark was addressed to Tedda; and any one could see with
half an eye that poor, old anxious, fidgety Tedda, stamping at the
flies, must have left a wild and tumultuous youth behind her.
"'Pends on the man," she answered, shifting from one foot to the
other, and addressing herself to the home horses. "They abused me
dreffle when I was young. I guess I was sperrity an' nervous some,
but they didn't allow for that. 'Twas in Monroe County, Noo York,
an' sence then till I come here, I've run away with more men than
'u'd fill a boardin'-house. Why, the man that sold me here he says
to the boss, s' he: 'Mind, now, I've warned you. 'Twon't be none
of my fault if she sheds you daown the road. Don't you drive her
in a top-buggy, ner 'thout winkers,' s' he, 'ner 'thought this bit
ef you look to come home behind her.' 'N' the fust thing the boss
did was to git the top-buggy.
"Can't say as I like top-buggies," said Rick; "they don't balance
"Suit me to a ha'ar," said Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. "Top-buggy
means the baby's in behind, an' I kin stop while she gathers the
pretty flowers - yes, an' pick a maouthful, too. The women-folk
all say I hev to be humoured, an' I don't kerry things to the
"'Course I've no prejudice against a top-buggy s' long's I can
see it," Tedda went on quickly. "It's ha'f-seein' the pesky thing
bobbin' an' balancn' behind the winkers gits on my nerves. Then
the boss looked at the bit they'd sold with me, an' s' he: 'Jiminy
Christmas! This 'u'd make a clothes-horse Stan' 'n end!' Then he
gave me a plain bar bit, an' fitted it's if there was some feelin'
to my maouth."
"Hain't ye got any, Miss Tedda?" said Tuck, who has a mouth like
velvet, and knows it.
"Might 'a' had, Miss Tuck, but I've forgot. Then he give me an
open bridle,- my style's an open bridle - an' - I dunno as I ought
to tell this by rights -he - give - me - a kiss."
"My!" said Tuck, "I can't tell fer the shoes o' me what makes some
men so fresh."
"Pshaw, sis," said Nip, "what's the sense in actin' so? You git a
kiss reg'lar's hitchin'-up time."
"Well, you needn't tell, smarty," said Tuck, with a squeal and a
"I'd heard o' kisses, o' course," Tedda went on, "but they hadn't
come my way specially. I don't mind tellin' I was that took aback
at that man's doin's he might ha' lit fire-crackers on my saddle.
Then we went out jest's if a kiss was nothin', an' I wasn't three
strides into my gait 'fore I felt the boss knoo his business, an'
was trustin' me. So I studied to please him, an' he never took the
whip from the dash - a whip drives me plumb distracted - an' the
upshot was that - waal, I've come up the Back Pasture to-day, an'
the coupe's tipped clear over twice, an' I've waited till 'twuz
fixed each time. You kin judge for yourselves. I don't set up to
be no better than my neighbours, - specially with my tail snipped
off the way 'tis,- but I want you all to know Tedda's quit fightin'
in harness or out of it, 'cep' when there's a born fool in the
pasture, stuffin' his stummick with board that ain't rightly hisn,
'cause he hain't earned it."
"Meanin' me, madam?" said the yellow horse.
"Ef the shoe fits, clinch it," said Tedda, snorting. "I named no
names, though, to be sure, some folks are mean enough an' greedy
enough to do 'thout 'em."
"There's a deal to be forgiven to ignorance," said the yellow horse,
with an ugly look in his blue eye.
"Seemin'ly, yes; or some folks 'u'd ha' been kicked raound the
pasture 'bout onct a minute sence they came - board er no board."
"But what you do not understand, if you will excuse me, madam, is
that the whole principle o' servitood, which includes keep an' feed,
starts from a radically false basis; an' I am proud to say that me
an' the majority o' the horses o' Kansas think the entire concern
should be relegated to the limbo of exploded superstitions. I say
we're too progressive for that. I say we're too enlightened for
that. 'Twas good enough's long's we didn't think, but naow -
but naow - a new loominary has arisen on the horizon!"
"Meanin' you?" said the Deacon.
"The horses o' Kansas are behind me with their multitoodinous
thunderin' hooves, an' we say, simply but grandly, that we take
our stand with all four feet on the inalienable rights of the horse,
pure and simple,- the high-toned child o' nature, fed by the same
wavin' grass, cooled by the same ripplin' brook - yes, an' warmed
by the same gen'rous sun as falls impartially on the outside an'
the inside of the pampered machine o' the trottin'-track, or the
bloated coupe-horses o' these yere Eastern cities. Are we not the
same flesh an' blood?"
"Not by a bushel an' a half," said the Deacon, under his breath.
"Grandee never was in Kansas."
"My! Ain't that elegant, though, abaout the wavin' grass an' the
ripplin' brooks?" Tuck whispered in Nip's ear. "The gentleman's
real convincin' I think."
"I say we are the same flesh an' blood! Are we to be separated,
horse from horse, by the artificial barriers of a trottin'-record,
or are we to look down upon each other on the strength o' the gifts
o' nature - an extry inch below the knee, or slightly more powerful
quarters? What's the use o' them advantages to you? Man the
Oppressor comes along, an' sees you're likely an' good-lookin', an'
grinds you to the face o' the earth. What for? For his own
pleasure: for his own convenience! Young an' old, black an' bay,
white an' grey, there's no distinctions made between us. We're
ground up together under the remorseless teeth o' the engines of
"Guess his breechin' must ha' broke goin' daown-hill," said the
Deacon. "Slippery road, maybe, an' the buggy come onter him, an'
he didn't know 'nough to hold back. That don't feel like teeth,
though. Maybe he busted a shaft, an' it pricked him."
"An' I come to you from Kansas, wavin' the tail o' friendship to
all an' sundry, an' in the name of the uncounted millions o'
pure-minded, high-toned horses now strugglin' towards the light
o' freedom, I say to you, Rub noses with us in our sacred an' holy
cause. The power is yourn. Without you, I say, Man the Oppressor
cannot move himself from place to place. Without you he cannot
reap, he cannot sow, he cannot plough."
"Mighty odd place, Kansas!" said Marcus Aurelius Antoninus.
"Seemin'ly they reap in the spring an' plough in the fall. 'Guess
it's right fer them, but 'twould make me kinder giddy."
"The produc's of your untirin' industry would rot on the ground if
you did not weakly consent to help him. Let 'em rot, I say! Let
him call you to the stables in vain an' nevermore! Let him shake
his ensnarin' oats under your nose in vain! Let the Brahmas roost
in the buggy, an' the rats run riot round the reaper! Let him
walk on his two hind feet till they blame well drop off! Win no
more soul-destroyn' races for his pleasure! Then, an' not till
then, will Man the Oppressor know where he's at. Quit workin',
fellow-sufferers an' slaves! Kick! Rear! Plunge! Lie down on
the shafts, an' woller! Smash an' destroy! The conflict will be
but short, an' the victory is certain. After that we can press
our inalienable rights to eight quarts o' oats a day, two good
blankets, an' a fly-net an' the best o' stablin'."
The yellow horse shut his yellow teeth with a triumphant snap; and
Tuck said, with a sigh: 'Seems's if somethin' ought to be done.
Don't seem right, somehow, - oppressin' us an all, - to my way o'
Said Muldoon, in a far-away and sleepy voice:
"Who in Vermont's goin' to haul de inalienable oats? Dey weigh
like Sam Hill, an' sixty bushel at dat allowance ain't goin' to
last t'ree weeks here. An' dere's de winter hay for five mont's!"
"We can settle those minor details when the great cause is won,"
said the yellow horse. "Let us return simply but grandly to our
inalienable rights - the right o' freedom on these yere verdant
hills, an' no invijjus distinctions o' track an' pedigree:"
"What in stables 'jer call an invijjus distinction?" said the
"Fer one thing, bein' a bloated, pampered trotter jest because you
happen to be raised that way, an' couldn't no more help trottin'
"Do ye know anythin' about trotters?" said the Deacon.
"I've seen 'em trot. That was enough for me. I don't want to know
any more. Trottin''s immoral."
"Waal, I'll tell you this much. They don't bloat, an' they don't
pamp - much. I don't hold out to be no trotter myself, though I
am free to say I had hopes that way - onct. But I do say, fer I've
seen 'em trained, that a trotter don't trot with his feet: he trots
with his head; an' he does more work - ef you know what that is -
in a week than you er your sire ever done in all your lives. He's
everlastingly at it, a trotter is; an' when he isn't, he's studyin'
haow. You seen 'em trot? Much you hev! You was hitched to a rail,
back o' the stand, in a buckboard with a soap-box nailed on the
slats, an' a frowzy buff'lo atop, while your man peddled rum fer
lemonade to little boys as thought they was actin' manly, till you
was both run off the track an' jailed - you intoed, shufflin',
sway-backed, wind-suckin' skate, you!"
"Don't get het up, Deacon," said Tweezy, quietly. "Now, suh, would
you consider a fox-trot, an' single-foot, an' rack, an' pace, an'
amble, distinctions not worth distinguishin'? I assuah you,
gentlemen, there was a time befo' I was afflicted in my hip, if
you'll pardon me, Miss Tuck, when I was quite celebrated in Paduky
for all those gaits; an in my opinion the Deacon's co'rect when he
says that a ho'se of any position in society gets his gaits by his
haid, an' not by - his, ah, limbs, Miss Tuck. I reckon I'm very
little good now, but I'm rememberin' the things I used to do befo'
I took to transpo'tin' real estate with the help an' assistance of
this gentleman here." He looked at Muldoon.
"Invijjus arterficial hind legs!" said the ex-carhorse, with a grunt
of contempt. "On de Belt Line we don't reckon no horse wuth his
keep 'less he kin switch de car off de track, run her round on de
cobbles, an' dump her in ag'in ahead o' de truck what's blockin'
him. Dere is a way o' swingin' yer quarters when de driver says,
'Yank her out, boys!' dat takes a year to learn. Onct yer git onter
it, youse kin yank a cable-car outer a manhole. I don't advertise
myself for no circus-horse, but I knew dat trick better than most,
an' dey was good to me in de stables, fer I saved time on de Belt
- an' time's what dey hunt in N' York."
"But the simple child o' nature -" the yellow horse began.
"Oh, go an' unscrew yer splints! You're talkin' through yer
bandages," said Muldoon, with a horse-laugh. "Dere ain't no
loose-box for de simple child o' nature on de Belt Line, wid de
Paris comin' in an' de Teutonic goin' out, an' de trucks an' de
coupe's sayin' things, an' de heavy freight movin' down fer de
Boston boat 'bout t'ree o'clock of an August afternoon, in de
middle of a hot wave when de fat Kanucks an' Western horses drops
dead on de block. De simple child o' nature had better chase
himself inter de water. Every man at de end of his lines is mad
or loaded or silly, an' de cop's madder an' loadeder an' sillier
than de rest. Dey all take it outer de horses. Dere's no wavin'
brooks ner ripplin' grass on de Belt Line. Run her out on de
cobbles wid de sparks flyin', an' stop when de cop slugs you on
de bone o' yer nose. Dat's N'York; see?
"I was always told s'ciety in Noo York was dreffle refined an'
high-toned," said Tuck. "We're lookin' to go there one o' these
days, Nip an' me."
"Oh, you won't see no Belt business where you'll go, miss. De man
dat wants you'll want bad, an' he'll summer you on Long Island er
at Newport, wid a winky-pinky silver harness an' an English coachman.
You'll make a star-hitch, you an' yer brother, miss. But I guess
you won't have no nice smooth bar bit. Dey checks 'em, an' dey bangs
deir tails, an' dey bits 'em, de city folk, an' dey says it's
English, ye know, an' dey darsen't cut a horse loose 'ca'se o' de
cops. N' York's no place fer a horse, 'less he's on de Belt, an'
can go round wid de boys. Wisht I was in de Fire Department!"
"But did you never stop to consider the degradin' servitood of it
all?" said the yellow horse.
"You don't stop on de Belt, cully. You're stopped. An' we was all
in de servitood business, man an' horse, an' Jimmy dat sold de
papers. Guess de passengers weren't out to grass neither, by de
way dey acted. I done my turn, an' I'm none o' Barnum's crowd; but
any horse dat's worked on de Belt four years don't train wid no
simple child o' nature - not by de whole length o' N' York."
"But can it be possible that with your experience, and at your time
of life, you do not believe that all horses are free and equal?"
said the yellow horse.
"Not till they're dead," Muldoon answered quietly. "An' den it
depends on de gross total o' buttons an' mucilage dey gits outer
youse at Barren Island."
"They tell me you're a prominent philosopher." The yellow horse
turned to Marcus. "Can you deny a basic and pivotal statement such
"I don't deny anythin'," said Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, cautiously;
"but ef you ast me, I should say 'twuz more different sorts o'
clipped oats of a lie than anythin' I've had my teeth into sence I
"Are you a horse?" said the yellow horse.
"Them that knows me best 'low I am."
"Ain't I a horse?"
"Yep; one kind of."
"Then ain't you an' me equal?"
"How fer kin you go in a day to a loaded buggy, drawin' five hundred
pounds?" Marcus asked carelessly.
"That has nothing to do with the case," the yellow horse answered
"There's nothing I know hez more to do with the case," Marcus replied.
"Kin ye yank a full car outer de tracks ten times in de mornin'?"
"Kin ye go to Keene - forty-two mile in an afternoon - with a mate,"
said Rick; "an' turn out bright an' early next mornin'?"
"Was there evah any time in your careah, suh - I am not referrin'
to the present circumstances, but our mutual glorious past - when
you could carry a pretty girl to market hahnsome, an' let her knit
all the way on account o' the smoothness o' the motion?" said Tweezy.
"Kin you keep your feet through the West River Bridge, with the
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 knowledge.
"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,"
"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