Part 10 out of 18
street. He used to go to Peshawar in the cold weather to visit his son, who
sells curiosities near the Edwardes' Gate, and then he slept under a real mud
Suddhoo is a great friend of mine, because his cousin had a son who secured,
thanks to my recommendation, the post of head-messenger to a big firm in the
Station. Suddhoo says that God will make me a Lieutenant-Governor one of these
days. I daresay his prophecy will come true. He is very, very old, with white
hair and no teeth worth showing, and he has outlived his wits--outlived nearly
everything except his fondness for his son at Peshawar. Janoo and Azizun are
Kashmiris, Ladies of the City, and theirs was an ancient and more or less
honorable profession; but Azizun has since married a medical student from the
North-West and has settled down to a most respectable life somewhere near
Bareilly. Bhagwan Dass is an extortionate and an adulterator. He is very rich.
The man who is supposed to get his living by seal-cutting pretends to be very
This lets you know as much as is necessary of the four principal tenants in
the house of Suddhoo. Then there is Me, of course; but I am only the chorus
that comes in at the end to explain things. So I do not count.
Suddhoo was not clever. The man who pretended to cut seals was the cleverest
of them all--Bhagwan Dass only knew how to lie--except Janoo. She was also
beautiful, but that was her own affair.
Suddhoo's son at Peshawar was attacked by pleurisy, and old Suddhoo was
troubled. The seal-cutter man heard of Suddhoo's anxiety and made capital out
of it. He was abreast of the times. He got a friend in Peshawar to telegraph
daily accounts of the son's health.
And here the story begins.
Suddhoo's cousin's son told me, one evening, that Suddhoo wanted to see me;
that he was too old and feeble to come personally, and that I should be
conferring an everlasting honor on the House of Suddhoo if I went to him. I
went; but I think, seeing how well-off Suddhoo was then, that he might have
sent something better than an ekka, which jolted fearfully, to haul out a
future Lieutenant-Governor to the City on a muggy April evening. The ekka did
not run quickly.
It was full dark when we pulled up opposite the door of Ranjit Singh's Tomb
near the main gate of the Fort. Here was Suddhoo and he said that, by reason
of my condescension, it was absolutely certain that I should become a
Lieutenant-Governor while my hair was yet black. Then we talked about the
weather and the state of my health, and the wheat crops, for fifteen minutes,
in the Huzuri Bagh, under the stars.
Suddhoo came to the point at last. He said that Janoo had told him that there
was an order of the Sirkar against magic, because it was feared that magic
might one day kill the Empress of India. I didn't know anything about the
state of the law; but I fancied that something interesting was going to
happen. I said that so far from magic being discouraged by the Government it
was highly commended.
The greatest officials of the State practiced it themselves. (If the Financial
Statement isn't magic, I don't know what is.) Then, to encourage him further,
I said that, if there was any jadoo afoot, I had not the least objection to
giving it my countenance and sanction, and to seeing that it was clean jadoo--
white magic, as distinguished from the unclean jadoo which kills folk. It took
a long time before Suddhoo admitted that this was just what he had asked me to
come for. Then he told me, in jerks and quavers, that the man who said he cut
seals was a sorcerer of the cleanest kind; that every day he gave Suddhoo news
of the sick son in Peshawar more quickly than the lightning could fly, and
that this news was always corroborated by the letters. Further, that he had
told Suddhoo how a great danger was threatening his son, which could be
removed by clean jadoo; and, of course, heavy payment. I began to see how the
land lay, and told Suddhoo that I also understood a little jadoo in the
Western line, and would go to his house to see that everything was done
decently and in order. We set off together; and on the way Suddhoo told me he
had paid the seal-cutter between one hundred and two hundred rupees already;
and the jadoo of that night would cost two hundred more. Which was cheap, he
said, considering the greatness of his son's danger; but I do not think he
The lights were all cloaked in the front of the house when we arrived. I could
hear awful noises from behind the seal-cutter's shop-front, as if some one
were groaning his soul out. Suddhoo shook all over, and while we groped our
way upstairs told me that the jadoo had begun. Janoo and Azizun met us at the
stair-head, and told us that the jadoo-work was coming off in their rooms,
because there was more space there. Janoo is a lady of a freethinking turn of
mind. She whispered that the jadoo was an invention to get money out of
Suddhoo, and that the seal-cutter would go to a hot place when he died.
Suddhoo was nearly crying with fear and old age. He kept walking up and down
the room in the half light, repeating his son's name over and over again, and
asking Azizun if the seal-cutter ought not to make a reduction in the case of
his own landlord.
Janoo pulled me over to the shadow in the recess of the carved bow-windows.
The boards were up, and the rooms were only lit by one tiny lamp. There was no
chance of my being seen if I stayed still.
Presently, the groans below ceased, and we heard steps on the staircase. That
was the seal-cutter. He stopped outside the door as the terrier barked and
Azizun fumbled at the chain, and he told Suddhoo to blow out the lamp. This
left the place in jet darkness, except for the red glow from the two huqas
that belonged to Janoo and Azizun. The seal-cutter came in, and I heard
Suddhoo throw himself down on the floor and groan. Azizun caught her breath,
and Janoo backed to one of the beds with a shudder. There was a clink of
something metallic, and then shot up a pale blue-green flame near the ground.
The light was just enough to show Azizun, pressed against one corner of the
room with the terrier between her knees; Janoo, with her hands clasped,
leaning forward as she sat on the bed; Suddhoo, face down, quivering, and the
I hope I may never see another man like that seal-cutter. He was stripped to
the waist, with a wreath of white jasmine as thick as my wrist round his
forehead, a salmon-colored loin-cloth round his middle, and a steel bangle on
each ankle. This was not awe-inspiring. It was the face of the man that turned
me cold. It was blue-gray in the first place. In the second, the eyes were
rolled back till you could only see the whites of them; and, in the third, the
face was the face of a demon--a ghoul--anything you please except of the
sleek, oily old ruffian who sat in the day-time over his turning-lathe
downstairs. He was lying on his stomach, with his arms turned and crossed
behind him, as if he had been thrown down pinioned. His head and neck were the
only parts of him off the floor. They were nearly at right angles to the body,
like the head of a cobra at spring. It was ghastly. In the centre of the room,
on the bare earth floor, stood a big, deep, brass basin, with a pale blue-
green light floating in the centre like a night-light. Round that basin the
man on the floor wriggled himself three times. How he did it I do not know. I
could see the muscles ripple along his spine and fall smooth again; but I
could not see any other motion.
The head seemed the only thing alive about him, except that slow curl and
uncurl of the laboring back-muscles. Janoo from the bed was breathing seventy
to the minute; Azizun held her hands before her eyes; and old Suddhoo,
fingering at the dirt that had got into his white beard, was crying to
himself. The horror of it was that the creeping, crawly thing made no sound--
only crawled! And, remember, this lasted for ten minutes, while the terrier
whined, and Azizun shuddered, and Janoo gasped, and Suddhoo cried.
I felt the hair lift at the back of my head, and my heart thump like a
thermantidote paddle. Luckily, the seal-cutter betrayed himself by his most
impressive trick and made me calm again. After he had finished that
unspeakable triple crawl, he stretched his head away from the floor as high as
he could, and sent out a jet of fire from his nostrils. Now, I knew how fire-
spouting is done--I can do it myself--so I felt at ease. The business was a
fraud. If he had only kept to that crawl without trying to raise the effect,
goodness knows what I might not have thought. Both the girls shrieked at the
jet of fire and the head dropped, chin down, on the floor with a thud; the
whole body lying then like a corpse with its arms trussed.
There was a pause of five full minutes after this, and the blue-green flame
died down. Janoo stooped to settle one of her anklets, while Azizun turned her
face to the wall and took the terrier in her arms. Suddhoo put out an arm
mechanically to Janoo's huqa, and she slid it across the floor with her foot.
Directly above the body and on the wall, were a couple of flaming portraits,
in stamped paper frames, of the Queen and the Prince of Wales. They looked
down on the performance, and, to my thinking, seemed to heighten the
grotesqueness of it all.
Just when the silence was getting unendurable, the body turned over and rolled
away from the basin to the side of the room, where it lay stomach up. There
was a faint "plop" from the basin--exactly like the noise a fish makes when it
takes a fly--and the green light in the centre revived.
I looked at the basin, and saw, bobbing in the water, the dried, shrivelled,
black head of a native baby--open eyes, open mouth and shaved scalp. It was
worse, being so very sudden, than the crawling exhibition. We had no time to
say anything before it began to speak.
Read Poe's account of the voice that came from the mesmerized dying man, and
you will realize less than one-half of the horror of that head's voice.
There was an interval of a second or two between each word, and a sort of
"ring, ring, ring," in the note of the voice, like the timbre of a bell. It
pealed slowly, as if talking to itself, for several minutes before I got rid
of my cold sweat. Then the blessed solution struck me. I looked at the body
lying near the doorway, and saw, just where the hollow of the throat joins on
the shoulders, a muscle that had nothing to do with any man's regular
breathing, twitching away steadily. The whole thing was a careful reproduction
of the Egyptian teraphin that one read about sometimes and the voice was as
clever and as appalling a piece of ventriloquism as one could wish to hear.
All this time the head was "lip-lip-lapping" against the side of the basin,
and speaking. It told Suddhoo, on his face again whining, of his son's illness
and of the state of the illness up to the evening of that very night. I always
shall respect the seal-cutter for keeping so faithfully to the time of the
Peshawar telegrams. It went on to say that skilled doctors were night and day
watching over the man's life; and that he would eventually recover if the fee
to the potent sorcerer, whose servant was the head in the basin, were doubled.
Here the mistake from the artistic point of view came in. To ask for twice
your stipulated fee in a voice that Lazarus might have used when he rose from
the dead, is absurd. Janoo, who is really a woman of masculine intellect, saw
this as quickly as I did. I heard her say "Asli nahin! Fareib!" scornfully
under her breath; and just as she said so, the light in the basin died out,
the head stopped talking, and we heard the room door creak on its hinges. Then
Janoo struck a match, lit the lamp, and we saw that head, basin, and seal-
cutter were gone. Suddhoo was wringing his hands and explaining to any one who
cared to listen, that, if his chances of eternal salvation depended on it, he
could not raise another two hundred rupees. Azizun was nearly in hysterics in
the corner; while Janoo sat down composedly on one of the beds to discuss the
probabilities of the whole thing being a bunao, or "make-up."
I explained as much as I knew of the seal-cutter's way of jadoo; but her
argument was much more simple:--"The magic that is always demanding gifts is
no true magic," said she. "My mother told me that the only potent love-spells
are those which are told you for love. This seal-cutter man is a liar and a
devil. I dare not tell, do anything, or get anything done, because I am in
debt to Bhagwan Dass the bunnia for two gold rings and a heavy anklet. I must
get my food from his shop. The seal-cutter is the friend of Bhagwan Dass, and
he would poison my food. A fool's jadoo has been going on for ten days, and
has cost Suddhoo many rupees each night. The seal-cutter used black hens and
lemons and mantras before. He never showed us anything like this till tonight.
Azizun is a fool, and will be a purdah nashin soon. Suddhoo has lost his
strength and his wits. See now! I had hoped to get from Suddhoo many rupees
while he lived, and many more after his death; and behold, he is spending
everything on that offspring of a devil and a she-ass, the seal- cutter!"
Here I said:--"But what induced Suddhoo to drag me into the business? Of
course I can speak to the seal-cutter, and he shall refund. The whole thing is
child's talk--shame--and senseless."
"Suddhoo IS an old child," said Janoo. "He has lived on the roofs these
seventy years and is as senseless as a milch-goat. He brought you here to
assure himself that he was not breaking any law of the Sirkar, whose salt he
ate many years ago. He worships the dust off the feet of the seal-cutter, and
that cow-devourer has forbidden him to go and see his son. What does Suddhoo
know of your laws or the lightning-post? I have to watch his money going day
by day to that lying beast below."
Janoo stamped her foot on the floor and nearly cried with vexation; while
Suddhoo was whimpering under a blanket in the corner, and Azizun was trying to
guide the pipe-stem to his foolish old mouth.
. . . . . . . . .
Now the case stands thus. Unthinkingly, I have laid myself open to the charge
of aiding and abetting the seal-cutter in obtaining money under false
pretences, which is forbidden by Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code. I am
helpless in the matter for these reasons, I cannot inform the Police. What
witnesses would support my statements? Janoo refuses flatly, Azizun is a
veiled woman somewhere near Bareilly--lost in this big India of ours. I cannot
again take the law into my own hands, and speak to the seal-cutter; for
certain am I that, not only would Suddhoo disbelieve me, but this step would
end in the poisoning of Janoo, who is bound hand and foot by her debt to the
bunnia. Suddhoo is an old dotard; and whenever we meet mumbles my idiotic joke
that the Sirkar rather patronizes the Black Art than otherwise. His son is
well now; but Suddhoo is completely under the influence of the seal-cutter, by
whose advice he regulates the affairs of his life. Janoo watches daily the
money that she hoped to wheedle out of Suddhoo taken by the seal-cutter, and
becomes daily more furious and sullen.
She will never tell, because she dare not; but, unless something happens to
prevent her, I am afraid that the seal-cutter will die of cholera--the white
arsenic kind--about the middle of May. And thus I shall have to be privy to a
murder in the House of Suddhoo.
HIS WEDDED WIFE.
Cry "Murder!" in the market-place, and each
Will turn upon his neighbor anxious eyes
That ask:--"Art thou the man?"
We hunted Cain,
Some centuries ago, across the world,
That bred the fear our own misdeeds maintain
Shakespeare says something about worms, or it may be giants or beetles,
turning if you tread on them too severely. The safest plan is never to tread
on a worm--not even on the last new subaltern from Home, with his buttons
hardly out of their tissue paper, and the red of sappy English beef in his
cheeks. This is the story of the worm that turned. For the sake of brevity, we
will call Henry Augustus Ramsay Faizanne, "The Worm," although he really was
an exceedingly pretty boy, without a hair on his face, and with a waist like a
girl's when he came out to the Second "Shikarris" and was made unhappy in
several ways. The "Shikarris" are a high-caste regiment, and you must be able
to do things well--play a banjo or ride more than a little, or sing, or act--
to get on with them.
The Worm did nothing except fall off his pony, and knock chips out of gate-
posts with his trap. Even that became monotonous after a time. He objected to
whist, cut the cloth at billiards, sang out of tune, kept very much to
himself, and wrote to his Mamma and sisters at Home. Four of these five things
were vices which the "Shikarris" objected to and set themselves to eradicate.
Every one knows how subalterns are, by brother subalterns, softened and not
permitted to be ferocious. It is good and wholesome, and does no one any harm,
unless tempers are lost; and then there is trouble. There was a man once--but
that is another story.
The "Shikarris" shikarred The Worm very much, and he bore everything without
winking. He was so good and so anxious to learn, and flushed so pink, that his
education was cut short, and he was left to his own devices by every one
except the Senior Subaltern, who continued to make life a burden to The Worm.
The Senior Subaltern meant no harm; but his chaff was coarse, and he didn't
quite understand where to stop. He had been waiting too long for his company;
and that always sours a man. Also he was in love, which made him worse.
One day, after he had borrowed The Worm's trap for a lady who never existed,
had used it himself all the afternoon, had sent a note to The Worm purporting
to come from the lady, and was telling the Mess all about it, The Worm rose in
his place and said, in his quiet, ladylike voice: "That was a very pretty
sell; but I'll lay you a month's pay to a month's pay when you get your step,
that I work a sell on you that you'll remember for the rest of your days, and
the Regiment after you when you're dead or broke." The Worm wasn't angry in
the least, and the rest of the Mess shouted. Then the Senior Subaltern looked
at The Worm from the boots upwards, and down again, and said, "Done, Baby."
The Worm took the rest of the Mess to witness that the bet had been taken, and
retired into a book with a sweet smile.
Two months passed, and the Senior Subaltern still educated The Worm, who began
to move about a little more as the hot weather came on. I have said that the
Senior Subaltern was in love. The curious thing is that a girl was in love
with the Senior Subaltern. Though the Colonel said awful things, and the
Majors snorted, and married Captains looked unutterable wisdom, and the
juniors scoffed, those two were engaged.
The Senior Subaltern was so pleased with getting his Company and his
acceptance at the same time that he forgot to bother The Worm. The girl was a
pretty girl, and had money of her own. She does not come into this story at
One night, at the beginning of the hot weather, all the Mess, except The Worm,
who had gone to his own room to write Home letters, were sitting on the
platform outside the Mess House. The Band had finished playing, but no one
wanted to go in. And the Captains' wives were there also. The folly of a man
in love is unlimited.
The Senior Subaltern had been holding forth on the merits of the girl he was
engaged to, and the ladies were purring approval, while the men yawned, when
there was a rustle of skirts in the dark, and a tired, faint voice lifted
"Where's my husband?"
I do not wish in the least to reflect on the morality of the "Shikarris;" but
it is on record that four men jumped up as if they had been shot. Three of
them were married men. Perhaps they were afraid that their wives had come from
Home unbeknownst. The fourth said that he had acted on the impulse of the
moment. He explained this afterwards.
Then the voice cried:--"Oh, Lionel!" Lionel was the Senior Subaltern's name. A
woman came into the little circle of light by the candles on the peg-tables,
stretching out her hands to the dark where the Senior Subaltern was, and
sobbing. We rose to our feet, feeling that things were going to happen and
ready to believe the worst. In this bad, small world of ours, one knows so
little of the life of the next man--which, after all, is entirely his own
concern--that one is not surprised when a crash comes. Anything might turn up
any day for any one. Perhaps the Senior Subaltern had been trapped in his
youth. Men are crippled that way occasionally. We didn't know; we wanted to
hear; and the Captains' wives were as anxious as we. If he HAD been trapped,
he was to be excused; for the woman from nowhere, in the dusty shoes, and gray
travelling dress, was very lovely, with black hair and great eyes full of
tears. She was tall, with a fine figure, and her voice had a running sob in it
pitiful to hear. As soon as the Senior Subaltern stood up, she threw her arms
round his neck, and called him "my darling," and said she could not bear
waiting alone in England, and his letters were so short and cold, and she was
his to the end of the world, and would he forgive her. This did not sound
quite like a lady's way of speaking. It was too demonstrative.
Things seemed black indeed, and the Captains' wives peered under their
eyebrows at the Senior Subaltern, and the Colonel's face set like the Day of
Judgment framed in gray bristles, and no one spoke for a while.
Next the Colonel said, very shortly:--"Well, Sir?" and the woman sobbed
afresh. The Senior Subaltern was half choked with the arms round his neck, but
he gasped out:--"It's a d----d lie! I never had a wife in my life!" "Don't
swear," said the Colonel. "Come into the Mess. We must sift this clear
somehow," and he sighed to himself, for he believed in his "Shikarris," did
We trooped into the ante-room, under the full lights, and there we saw how
beautiful the woman was. She stood up in the middle of us all, sometimes
choking with crying, then hard and proud, and then holding out her arms to the
Senior Subaltern. It was like the fourth act of a tragedy. She told us how the
Senior Subaltern had married her when he was Home on leave eighteen months
before; and she seemed to know all that we knew, and more too, of his people
and his past life. He was white and ashy gray, trying now and again to break
into the torrent of her words; and we, noting how lovely she was and what a
criminal he looked, esteemed him a beast of the worst kind. We felt sorry for
I shall never forget the indictment of the Senior Subaltern by his wife. Nor
will he. It was so sudden, rushing out of the dark, unannounced, into our dull
lives. The Captains' wives stood back; but their eyes were alight, and you
could see that they had already convicted and sentenced the Senior Subaltern.
The Colonel seemed five years older. One Major was shading his eyes with his
hand and watching the woman from underneath it. Another was chewing his
moustache and smiling quietly as if he were witnessing a play. Full in the
open space in the centre, by the whist-tables, the Senior Subaltern's terrier
was hunting for fleas. I remember all this as clearly as though a photograph
were in my hand. I remember the look of horror on the Senior Subaltern's face.
It was rather like seeing a man hanged; but much more interesting. Finally,
the woman wound up by saying that the Senior Subaltern carried a double F. M.
in tattoo on his left shoulder. We all knew that, and to our innocent minds it
seemed to clinch the matter. But one of the Bachelor Majors said very
politely:--"I presume that your marriage certificate would be more to the
That roused the woman. She stood up and sneered at the Senior Subaltern for a
cur, and abused the Major and the Colonel and all the rest. Then she wept, and
then she pulled a paper from her breast, saying imperially:--"Take that! And
let my husband--my lawfully wedded husband--read it aloud--if he dare!"
There was a hush, and the men looked into each other's eyes as the Senior
Subaltern came forward in a dazed and dizzy way, and took the paper. We were
wondering as we stared, whether there was anything against any one of us that
might turn up later on. The Senior Subaltern's throat was dry; but, as he ran
his eye over the paper, he broke out into a hoarse cackle of relief, and said
to the woman:--"You young blackguard!"
But the woman had fled through a door, and on the paper was written:--"This is
to certify that I, The Worm, have paid in full my debts to the Senior
Subaltern, and, further, that the Senior Subaltern is my debtor, by agreement
on the 23d of February, as by the Mess attested, to the extent of one month's
Captain's pay, in the lawful currency of the India Empire."
Then a deputation set off for The Worm's quarters and found him, betwixt and
between, unlacing his stays, with the hat, wig, serge dress, etc., on the bed.
He came over as he was, and the "Shikarris" shouted till the Gunners' Mess
sent over to know if they might have a share of the fun. I think we were all,
except the Colonel and the Senior Subaltern, a little disappointed that the
scandal had come to nothing. But that is human nature. There could be no two
words about The Worm's acting. It leaned as near to a nasty tragedy as
anything this side of a joke can. When most of the Subalterns sat upon him
with sofa-cushions to find out why he had not said that acting was his strong
point, he answered very quietly:--"I don't think you ever asked me. I used to
act at Home with my sisters." But no acting with girls could account for The
Worm's display that night. Personally, I think it was in bad taste.
Besides being dangerous. There is no sort of use in playing with fire, even
The "Shikarris" made him President of the Regimental Dramatic Club; and, when
the Senior Subaltern paid up his debt, which he did at once, The Worm sank the
money in scenery and dresses. He was a good Worm; and the "Shikarris" are
proud of him. The only drawback is that he has been christened "Mrs. Senior
Subaltern;" and as there are now two Mrs. Senior Subalterns in the Station,
this is sometimes confusing to strangers.
Later on, I will tell you of a case something like, this, but with all the
jest left out and nothing in it but real trouble.
THE BROKEN LINK HANDICAPPED.
While the snaffle holds, or the "long-neck" stings,
While the big beam tilts, or the last bell rings,
While horses are horses to train and to race,
Then women and wine take a second place
For me--for me--
While a short "ten-three"
Has a field to squander or fence to face!
----Song of the G. R.
There are more ways of running a horse to suit your book than pulling his head
off in the straight. Some men forget this.
Understand clearly that all racing is rotten--as everything connected with
losing money must be. Out here, in addition to its inherent rottenness, it has
the merit of being two-thirds sham; looking pretty on paper only. Every one
knows every one else far too well for business purposes. How on earth can you
rack and harry and post a man for his losings, when you are fond of his wife,
and live in the same Station with him? He says, "on the Monday following," "I
can't settle just yet." "You say, "All right, old man," and think your self
lucky if you pull off nine hundred out of a two-thousand rupee debt. Any way
you look at it, Indian racing is immoral, and expensively immoral. Which is
much worse. If a man wants your money, he ought to ask for it, or send round a
subscription-list, instead of juggling about the country, with an Australian
larrikin; a "brumby," with as much breed as the boy; a brace of chumars in
gold-laced caps; three or four ekka-ponies with hogged manes, and a switch-
tailed demirep of a mare called Arab because she has a kink in her flag.
Racing leads to the shroff quicker than anything else. But if you have no
conscience and no sentiments, and good hands, and some knowledge of pace, and
ten years' experience of horses, and several thousand rupees a month, I
believe that you can occasionally contrive to pay your shoeing- bills.
Did you ever know Shackles--b. w. g., 15.13.8--coarse, loose, mule-like ears--
barrel as long as a gate-post--tough as a telegraph-wire--and the queerest
brute that ever looked through a bridle? He was of no brand, being one of an
ear-nicked mob taken into the Bucephalus at 4l.-10s. a head to make up
freight, and sold raw and out of condition at Calcutta for Rs. 275. People who
lost money on him called him a "brumby;" but if ever any horse had Harpoon's
shoulders and The Gin's temper, Shackles was that horse. Two miles was his own
particular distance. He trained himself, ran himself, and rode himself; and,
if his jockey insulted him by giving him hints, he shut up at once and bucked
the boy off. He objected to dictation. Two or three of his owners did not
understand this, and lost money in consequence. At last he was bought by a man
who discovered that, if a race was to be won, Shackles, and Shackles only,
would win it in his own way, so long as his jockey sat still.
This man had a riding-boy called Brunt--a lad from Perth, West Australia--and
he taught Brunt, with a trainer's whip, the hardest thing a jock can learn--to
sit still, to sit still, and to keep on sitting still. When Brunt fairly
grasped this truth, Shackles devastated the country. No weight could stop him
at his own distance; and The fame of Shackles spread from Ajmir in the South,
to Chedputter in the North. There was no horse like Shackles, so long as he
was allowed to do his work in his own way. But he was beaten in the end; and
the story of his fall is enough to make angels weep.
At the lower end of the Chedputter racecourse, just before the turn into the
straight, the track passes close to a couple of old brick- mounds enclosing a
funnel-shaped hollow. The big end of the funnel is not six feet from the
railings on the off-side. The astounding peculiarity of the course is that, if
you stand at one particular place, about half a mile away, inside the course,
and speak at an ordinary pitch, your voice just hits the funnel of the brick-
mounds and makes a curious whining echo there. A man discovered this one
morning by accident while out training with a friend. He marked the place to
stand and speak from with a couple of bricks, and he kept his knowledge to
himself. EVERY peculiarity of a course is worth remembering in a country where
rats play the mischief with the elephant-litter, and Stewards build jumps to
suit their own stables.
This man ran a very fairish country-bred, a long, racking high mare with the
temper of a fiend, and the paces of an airy wandering seraph--a drifty, glidy
stretch. The mare was, as a delicate tribute to Mrs. Reiver, called "The Lady
Regula Baddun"--or for short, Regula Baddun.
Shackles' jockey, Brunt, was a quiet, well-behaved boy, but his nerves had
been shaken. He began his career by riding jump-races in Melbourne, where a
few Stewards want lynching, and was one of the jockeys who came through the
awful butchery--perhaps you will recollect it--of the Maribyrnong Plate. The
walls were colonial ramparts--logs of jarrak spiked into masonry--with wings
as strong as Church buttresses. Once in his stride, a horse had to jump or
fall. He couldn't run out. In the Maribyrnong Plate, twelve horses were jammed
at the second wall. Red Hat, leading, fell this side, and threw out The Glen,
and the ruck came up behind and the space between wing and wing was one
struggling, screaming, kicking shambles. Four jockeys were taken out dead;
three were very badly hurt, and Brunt was among the three. He told the story
of the Maribyrnong Plate sometimes; and when he described how Whalley on Red
Hat, said, as the mare fell under him:--"God ha' mercy, I'm done for!" and
how, next instant, Sithee There and White Otter had crushed the life out of
poor Whalley, and the dust hid a small hell of men and horses, no one
marvelled that Brunt had dropped jump-races and Australia together. Regula
Baddun's owner knew that story by heart. Brunt never varied it in the telling.
He had no education.
Shackles came to the Chedputter Autumn races one year, and his owner walked
about insulting the sportsmen of Chedputter generally, till they went to the
Honorary Secretary in a body and said:--"Appoint Handicappers, and arrange a
race which shall break Shackles and humble the pride of his owner." The
Districts rose against Shackles and sent up of their best; Ousel, who was
supposed to be able to do his mile in 1-53; Petard, the stud-bred, trained by
a cavalry regiment who knew how to train; Gringalet, the ewe-lamb of the 75th;
Bobolink, the pride of Peshawar; and many others.
They called that race The Broken-Link Handicap, because it was to smash
Shackles; and the Handicappers piled on the weights, and the Fund gave eight
hundred rupees, and the distance was "round the course for all horses."
Shackles' owner said:--"You can arrange the race with regard to Shackles only.
So long as you don't bury him under weight-cloths, I don't mind. Regula
Baddun's owner said:--"I throw in my mare to fret Ousel. Six furlongs is
Regula's distance, and she will then lie down and die. So also will Ousel, for
his jockey doesn't understand a waiting race." Now, this was a lie, for Regula
had been in work for two months at Dehra, and her chances were good, always
supposing that Shackles broke a blood-vessel--OR BRUNT MOVED ON HIM.
The plunging in the lotteries was fine. They filled eight thousand rupee
lotteries on the Broken Link Handicap, and the account in the Pioneer said
that "favoritism was divided." In plain English, the various contingents were
wild on their respective horses; for the Handicappers had done their work
well. The Honorary Secretary shouted himself hoarse through the din; and the
smoke of the cheroots was like the smoke, and the rattling of the dice-boxes
like the rattle of small-arm fire.
Ten horses started--very level--and Regula Baddun's owner cantered out on his
back to a place inside the circle of the course, where two bricks had been
thrown. He faced towards the brick-mounds at the lower end of the course and
The story of the running is in the Pioneer. At the end of the first mile,
Shackles crept out of the ruck, well on the outside, ready to get round the
turn, lay hold of the bit and spin up the straight before the others knew he
had got away. Brunt was sitting still, perfectly happy, listening to the
"drum, drum, drum" of the hoofs behind, and knowing that, in about twenty
strides, Shackles would draw one deep breath and go up the last half-mile like
the "Flying Dutchman." As Shackles went short to take the turn and came
abreast of the brick-mound, Brunt heard, above the noise of the wind in his
ears, a whining, wailing voice on the offside, saying:--"God ha' mercy, I'm
done for!" In one stride, Brunt saw the whole seething smash of the
Maribyrnong Plate before him, started in his saddle and gave a yell of terror.
The start brought the heels into Shackles' side, and the scream hurt Shackles'
feelings. He couldn't stop dead; but he put out his feet and slid along for
fifty yards, and then, very gravely and judicially, bucked off Brunt--a
shaking, terror-stricken lump, while Regula Baddun made a neck-and-neck race
with Bobolink up the straight, and won by a short head--Petard a bad third.
Shackles' owner, in the Stand, tried to think that his field-glasses had gone
wrong. Regula Baddun's owner, waiting by the two bricks, gave one deep sigh of
relief, and cantered back to the stand. He had won, in lotteries and bets,
about fifteen thousand.
It was a broken-link Handicap with a vengeance. It broke nearly all the men
concerned, and nearly broke the heart of Shackles' owner.
He went down to interview Brunt. The boy lay, livid and gasping with fright,
where he had tumbled off. The sin of losing the race never seemed to strike
him. All he knew was that Whalley had "called" him, that the "call" was a
warning; and, were he cut in two for it, he would never get up again. His
nerve had gone altogether, and he only asked his master to give him a good
thrashing, and let him go. He was fit for nothing, he said. He got his
dismissal, and crept up to the paddock, white as chalk, with blue lips, his
knees giving way under him. People said nasty things in the paddock; but Brunt
never heeded. He changed into tweeds, took his stick and went down the road,
still shaking with fright, and muttering over and over again:--"God ha' mercy,
I'm done for!" To the best of my knowledge and belief he spoke the truth.
So now you know how the Broken-Link Handicap was run and won. Of course you
don't believe it. You would credit anything about Russia's designs on India,
or the recommendations of the Currency Commission; but a little bit of sober
fact is more than you can stand!
BEYOND THE PALE.
"Love heeds not caste nor sleep a broken bed. I went in search of love and
lost myself." Hindu Proverb.
A man should, whatever happens, keep to his own caste, race and breed. Let the
White go to the White and the Black to the Black.
Then, whatever trouble falls is in the ordinary course of things--neither
sudden, alien, nor unexpected.
This is the story of a man who wilfully stepped beyond the safe limits of
decent every-day society, and paid for it heavily.
He knew too much in the first instance; and he saw too much in the second. He
took too deep an interest in native life; but he will never do so again.
Deep away in the heart of the City, behind Jitha Megji's bustee, lies Amir
Nath's Gully, which ends in a dead-wall pierced by one grated window. At the
head of the Gully is a big cow-byre, and the walls on either side of the Gully
are without windows. Neither Suchet Singh nor Gaur Chand approved of their
women-folk looking into the world. If Durga Charan had been of their opinion,
he would have been a happier man today, and little Bisesa would have been able
to knead her own bread. Her room looked out through the grated window into the
narrow dark Gully where the sun never came and where the buffaloes wallowed in
the blue slime. She was a widow, about fifteen years old, and she prayed the
Gods, day and night, to send her a lover; for she did not approve of living
One day the man--Trejago his name was--came into Amir Nath's Gully on an
aimless wandering; and, after he had passed the buffaloes, stumbled over a big
heap of cattle food.
Then he saw that the Gully ended in a trap, and heard a little laugh from
behind the grated window. It was a pretty little laugh, and Trejago, knowing
that, for all practical purposes, the old Arabian Nights are good guides, went
forward to the window, and whispered that verse of "The Love Song of Har Dyal"
Can a man stand upright in the face of the naked Sun;
or a Lover in the Presence of his Beloved?
If my feet fail me, O Heart of my Heart, am I to blame,
being blinded by the glimpse of your beauty?
There came the faint tchinks of a woman's bracelets from behind the grating,
and a little voice went on with the song at the fifth verse:
Alas! alas! Can the Moon tell the Lotus of her love when the
Gate of Heaven is shut and the clouds gather for the rains?
They have taken my Beloved, and driven her with the pack-horses
to the North.
There are iron chains on the feet that were set on my heart.
Call to the bowman to make ready--
The voice stopped suddenly, and Trejago walked out of Amir Nath's Gully,
wondering who in the world could have capped "The Love Song of Har Dyal" so
Next morning, as he was driving to the office, an old woman threw a packet
into his dog-cart. In the packet was the half of a broken glass bangle, one
flower of the blood red dhak, a pinch of bhusa or cattle-food, and eleven
cardamoms. That packet was a letter--not a clumsy compromising letter, but an
innocent, unintelligible lover's epistle.
Trejago knew far too much about these things, as I have said. No Englishman
should be able to translate object-letters. But Trejago spread all the trifles
on the lid of his office-box and began to puzzle them out.
A broken glass-bangle stands for a Hindu widow all India over; because, when
her husband dies a woman's bracelets are broken on her wrists. Trejago saw the
meaning of the little bit of the glass.
The flower of the dhak means diversely "desire," "come," "write," or "danger,"
according to the other things with it. One cardamom means "jealousy;" but when
any article is duplicated in an object-letter, it loses its symbolic meaning
and stands merely for one of a number indicating time, or, if incense, curds,
or saffron be sent also, place. The message ran then:--"A widow dhak flower
and bhusa--at eleven o'clock." The pinch of bhusa enlightened Trejago. He saw-
-this kind of letter leaves much to instinctive knowledge--that the bhusa
referred to the big heap of cattle-food over which he had fallen in Amir
Nath's Gully, and that the message must come from the person behind the
grating; she being a widow. So the message ran then:--"A widow, in the Gully
in which is the heap of bhusa, desires you to come at eleven o'clock."
Trejago threw all the rubbish into the fireplace and laughed. He knew that men
in the East do not make love under windows at eleven in the forenoon, nor do
women fix appointments a week in advance.
So he went, that very night at eleven, into Amir Nath's Gully, clad in a
boorka, which cloaks a man as well as a woman. Directly the gongs in the City
made the hour, the little voice behind the grating took up "The Love Song of
Har Dyal" at the verse where the Panthan girl calls upon Har Dyal to return.
The song is really pretty in the Vernacular. In English you miss the wail of
it. It runs something like this:--
Alone upon the housetops, to the North
I turn and watch the lightning in the sky,--
The glamour of thy footsteps in the North,
Come back to me, Beloved, or I die!
Below my feet the still bazar is laid
Far, far below the weary camels lie,--
The camels and the captives of thy raid,
Come back to me, Beloved, or I die!
My father's wife is old and harsh with years,
And drudge of all my father's house am I.--
My bread is sorrow and my drink is tears,
Come back to me, Beloved, or I die!
As the song stopped, Trejago stepped up under the grating and whispered:--"I
Bisesa was good to look upon.
That night was the beginning of many strange things, and of a double life so
wild that Trejago today sometimes wonders if it were not all a dream. Bisesa
or her old handmaiden who had thrown the object-letter had detached the heavy
grating from the brick-work of the wall; so that the window slid inside,
leaving only a square of raw masonry, into which an active man might climb.
In the day-time, Trejago drove through his routine of office-work, or put on
his calling-clothes and called on the ladies of the Station; wondering how
long they would know him if they knew of poor little Bisesa. At night, when
all the City was still, came the walk under the evil-smelling boorka, the
patrol through Jitha Megji's bustee, the quick turn into Amir Nath's Gully
between the sleeping cattle and the dead walls, and then, last of all, Bisesa,
and the deep, even breathing of the old woman who slept outside the door of
the bare little room that Durga Charan allotted to his sister's daughter. Who
or what Durga Charan was, Trejago never inquired; and why in the world he was
not discovered and knifed never occurred to him till his madness was over, and
Bisesa . . . But this comes later.
Bisesa was an endless delight to Trejago. She was as ignorant as a bird; and
her distorted versions of the rumors from the outside world that had reached
her in her room, amused Trejago almost as much as her lisping attempts to
pronounce his name--"Christopher." The first syllable was always more than she
could manage, and she made funny little gestures with her rose-leaf hands, as
one throwing the name away, and then, kneeling before Trejago, asked him,
exactly as an Englishwoman would do, if he were sure he loved her. Trejago
swore that he loved her more than any one else in the world. Which was true.
After a month of this folly, the exigencies of his other life compelled
Trejago to be especially attentive to a lady of his acquaintance. You may take
it for a fact that anything of this kind is not only noticed and discussed by
a man's own race, but by some hundred and fifty natives as well. Trejago had
to walk with this lady and talk to her at the Band-stand, and once or twice to
drive with her; never for an instant dreaming that this would affect his
dearer out-of-the-way life. But the news flew, in the usual mysterious
fashion, from mouth to mouth, till Bisesa's duenna heard of it and told
Bisesa. The child was so troubled that she did the household work evilly, and
was beaten by Durga Charan's wife in consequence.
A week later, Bisesa taxed Trejago with the flirtation. She understood no
gradations and spoke openly. Trejago laughed and Bisesa stamped her little
feet--little feet, light as marigold flowers, that could lie in the palm of a
man's one hand.
Much that is written about "Oriental passion and impulsiveness" is exaggerated
and compiled at second-hand, but a little of it is true; and when an
Englishman finds that little, it is quite as startling as any passion in his
own proper life. Bisesa raged and stormed, and finally threatened to kill
herself if Trejago did not at once drop the alien Memsahib who had come
between them. Trejago tried to explain, and to show her that she did not
understand these things from a Western standpoint. Bisesa drew herself up, and
"I do not. I know only this--it is not good that I should have made you dearer
than my own heart to me, Sahib. You are an Englishman.
I am only a black girl"--she was fairer than bar-gold in the Mint--"and the
widow of a black man."
Then she sobbed and said: "But on my soul and my Mother's soul, I love you.
There shall no harm come to you, whatever happens to me."
Trejago argued with the child, and tried to soothe her, but she seemed quite
unreasonably disturbed. Nothing would satisfy her save that all relations
between them should end. He was to go away at once. And he went. As he dropped
out at the window, she kissed his forehead twice, and he walked away
A week, and then three weeks, passed without a sign from Bisesa.
Trejago, thinking that the rupture had lasted quite long enough, went down to
Amir Nath's Gully for the fifth time in the three weeks, hoping that his rap
at the sill of the shifting grating would be answered. He was not
There was a young moon, and one stream of light fell down into Amir Nath's
Gully, and struck the grating, which was drawn away as he knocked. From the
black dark, Bisesa held out her arms into the moonlight. Both hands had been
cut off at the wrists, and the stumps were nearly healed.
Then, as Bisesa bowed her head between her arms and sobbed, some one in the
room grunted like a wild beast, and something sharp--knife, sword or spear--
thrust at Trejago in his boorka. The stroke missed his body, but cut into one
of the muscles of the groin, and he limped slightly from the wound for the
rest of his days.
The grating went into its place. There was no sign whatever from inside the
house--nothing but the moonlight strip on the high wall, and the blackness of
Amir Nath's Gully behind.
The next thing Trejago remembers, after raging and shouting like a madman
between those pitiless walls, is that he found himself near the river as the
dawn was breaking, threw away his boorka and went home bareheaded.
What the tragedy was--whether Bisesa had, in a fit of causeless despair, told
everything, or the intrigue had been discovered and she tortured to tell,
whether Durga Charan knew his name, and what became of Bisesa--Trejago does
not know to this day. Something horrible had happened, and the thought of what
it must have been comes upon Trejago in the night now and again, and keeps him
company till the morning. One special feature of the case is that he does not
know where lies the front of Durga Charan's house. It may open on to a
courtyard common to two or more houses, or it may lie behind any one of the
gates of Jitha Megji's bustee. Trejago cannot tell.
He cannot get Bisesa--poor little Bisesa--back again. He has lost her in the
City, where each man's house is as guarded and as unknowable as the grave; and
the grating that opens into Amir Nath's Gully has been walled up.
But Trejago pays his calls regularly, and is reckoned a very decent sort of
There is nothing peculiar about him, except a slight stiffness, caused by a
riding-strain, in the right leg.
They burnt a corpse upon the sand--
The light shone out afar;
It guided home the plunging boats
That beat from Zanzibar.
Spirit of Fire, where'er Thy altars rise.
Thou art Light of Guidance to our eyes!
There is hope for a man who gets publicly and riotously drunk more often that
he ought to do; but there is no hope for the man who drinks secretly and alone
in his own house--the man who is never seen to drink.
This is a rule; so there must be an exception to prove it.
Moriarty's case was that exception.
He was a Civil Engineer, and the Government, very kindly, put him quite by
himself in an out-district, with nobody but natives to talk to and a great
deal of work to do. He did his work well in the four years he was utterly
alone; but he picked up the vice of secret and solitary drinking, and came up
out of the wilderness more old and worn and haggard than the dead-alive life
had any right to make him.
You know the saying that a man who has been alone in the jungle for more than
a year is never quite sane all his life after. People credited Moriarty's
queerness of manner and moody ways to the solitude, and said it showed how
Government spoilt the futures of its best men. Moriarty had built himself the
plinth of a very god reputation in the bridge-dam-girder line. But he knew,
every night of the week, that he was taking steps to undermine that reputation
with L. L. L. and "Christopher" and little nips of liqueurs, and filth of that
kind. He had a sound constitution and a great brain, or else he would have
broken down and died like a sick camel in the district, as better men have
done before him.
Government ordered him to Simla after he had come out of the desert; and he
went up meaning to try for a post then vacant. That season, Mrs. Reiver--
perhaps you will remember her--was in the height of her power, and many men
lay under her yoke. Everything bad that could be said has already been said
about Mrs. Reiver, in another tale.
Moriarty was heavily-built and handsome, very quiet and nervously anxious to
please his neighbors when he wasn't sunk in a brown study. He started a good
deal at sudden noises or if spoken to without warning; and, when you watched
him drinking his glass of water at dinner, you could see the hand shake a
little. But all this was put down to nervousness, and the quiet, steady, "sip-
sip-sip, fill and sip-sip-sip, again," that went on in his own room when he
was by himself, was never known. Which was miraculous, seeing how everything
in a man's private life is public property out here.
Moriarty was drawn, not into Mrs. Reiver's set, because they were not his
sort, but into the power of Mrs. Reiver, and he fell down in front of her and
made a goddess of her. This was due to his coming fresh out of the jungle to a
big town. He could not scale things properly or see who was what.
Because Mrs. Reiver was cold and hard, he said she was stately and dignified.
Because she had no brains, and could not talk cleverly, he said she was
reserved and shy. Mrs. Reiver shy! Because she was unworthy of honor or
reverence from any one, he reverenced her from a distance and dowered her with
all the virtues in the Bible and most of those in Shakespeare.
This big, dark, abstracted man who was so nervous when a pony cantered behind
him, used to moon in the train of Mrs. Reiver, blushing with pleasure when she
threw a word or two his way. His admiration was strictly platonic: even other
women saw and admitted this. He did not move out in Simla, so he heard nothing
against his idol: which was satisfactory. Mrs. Reiver took no special notice
of him, beyond seeing that he was added to her list of admirers, and going for
a walk with him now and then, just to show that he was her property, claimable
as such. Moriarty must have done most of the talking, for Mrs. Reiver couldn't
talk much to a man of his stamp; and the little she said could not have been
profitable. What Moriarty believed in, as he had good reason to, was Mrs.
Reiver's influence over him, and, in that belief, set himself seriously to try
to do away with the vice that only he himself knew of.
His experiences while he was fighting with it must have been peculiar, but he
never described them. Sometimes he would hold off from everything except water
for a week. Then, on a rainy night, when no one had asked him out to dinner,
and there was a big fire in his room, and everything comfortable, he would sit
down and make a big night of it by adding little nip to little nip, planning
big schemes of reformation meanwhile, until he threw himself on his bed
hopelessly drunk. He suffered next morning.
One night, the big crash came. He was troubled in his own mind over his
attempts to make himself "worthy of the friendship" of Mrs. Reiver. The past
ten days had been very bad ones, and the end of it all was that he received
the arrears of two and three-quarter years of sipping in one attack of
delirium tremens of the subdued kind; beginning with suicidal depression,
going on to fits and starts and hysteria, and ending with downright raving. As
he sat in a chair in front of the fire, or walked up and down the room picking
a handkerchief to pieces, you heard what poor Moriarty really thought of Mrs.
Reiver, for he raved about her and his own fall for the most part; though he
ravelled some P. W. D. accounts into the same skein of thought. He talked, and
talked, and talked in a low dry whisper to himself, and there was no stopping
him. He seemed to know that there was something wrong, and twice tried to pull
himself together and confer rationally with the Doctor; but his mind ran out
of control at once, and he fell back to a whisper and the story of his
troubles. It is terrible to hear a big man babbling like a child of all that a
man usually locks up, and puts away in the deep of his heart. Moriarty read
out his very soul for the benefit of any one who was in the room between ten-
thirty that night and two-forty-five next morning.
From what he said, one gathered how immense an influence Mrs. Reiver held over
him, and how thoroughly he felt for his own lapse. His whisperings cannot, of
course, be put down here; but they were very instructive as showing the errors
of his estimates.
. . . . . . . . .
When the trouble was over, and his few acquaintances were pitying him for the
bad attack of jungle-fever that had so pulled him down, Moriarty swore a big
oath to himself and went abroad again with Mrs. Reiver till the end of the
season, adoring her in a quiet and deferential way as an angel from heaven.
Later on he took to riding--not hacking, but honest riding--which was good
proof that he was improving, and you could slam doors behind him without his
jumping to his feet with a gasp. That, again, was hopeful.
How he kept his oath, and what it cost him in the beginning, nobody knows. He
certainly managed to compass the hardest thing that a man who has drank
heavily can do. He took his peg and wine at dinner, but he never drank alone,
and never let what he drank have the least hold on him.
Once he told a bosom-friend the story of his great trouble, and how the
"influence of a pure honest woman, and an angel as well" had saved him. When
the man--startled at anything good being laid to Mrs. Reiver's door--laughed,
it cost him Moriarty's friendship.
Moriarty, who is married now to a woman ten thousand times better than Mrs.
Reiver--a woman who believes that there is no man on earth as good and clever
as her husband--will go down to his grave vowing and protesting that Mrs.
Reiver saved him from ruin in both worlds.
That she knew anything of Moriarty's weakness nobody believed for a moment.
That she would have cut him dead, thrown him over, and acquainted all her
friends with her discovery, if she had known of it, nobody who knew her
doubted for an instant.
Moriarty thought her something she never was, and in that belief saved
himself. Which was just as good as though she had been everything that he had
But the question is, what claim will Mrs. Reiver have to the credit of
Moriarty's salvation, when her day of reckoning comes?
A BANK FRAUD.
He drank strong waters and his speech was coarse;
He purchased raiment and forebore to pay;
He struck a trusting junior with a horse,
And won Gymkhanas in a doubtful way.
Then, 'twixt a vice and folly, turned aside
To do good deeds and straight to cloak them, lied.
--THE MESS ROOM.
If Reggie Burke were in India now, he would resent this tale being told; but
as he is in Hong-Kong and won't see it, the telling is safe. He was the man
who worked the big fraud on the Sind and Sialkote Bank. He was manager of an
up-country Branch, and a sound practical man with a large experience of native
loan and insurance work. He could combine the frivolities of ordinary life
with his work, and yet do well. Reggie Burke rode anything that would let him
get up, danced as neatly as he rode, and was wanted for every sort of
amusement in the Station.
As he said himself, and as many men found out rather to their surprise, there
were two Burkes, both very much at your service.
"Reggie Burke," between four and ten, ready for anything from a hot-weather
gymkhana to a riding-picnic; and, between ten and four, "Mr. Reginald Burke,
Manager of the Sind and Sialkote Branch Bank." You might play polo with him
one afternoon and hear him express his opinions when a man crossed; and you
might call on him next morning to raise a two-thousand rupee loan on a five
hundred pound insurance-policy, eighty pounds paid in premiums. He would
recognize you, but you would have some trouble in recognizing him.
The Directors of the Bank--it had its headquarters in Calcutta and its General
Manager's word carried weight with the Government--picked their men well. They
had tested Reggie up to a fairly severe breaking-strain. They trusted him just
as much as Directors ever trust Managers. You must see for yourself whether
their trust was misplaced.
Reggie's Branch was in a big Station, and worked with the usual staff--one
Manager, one Accountant, both English, a Cashier, and a horde of native
clerks; besides the Police patrol at nights outside.
The bulk of its work, for it was in a thriving district, was hoondi and
accommodation of all kinds. A fool has no grip of this sort of business; and a
clever man who does not go about among his clients, and know more than a
little of their affairs, is worse than a fool.
Reggie was young-looking, clean-shaved, with a twinkle in his eye, and a head
that nothing short of a gallon of the Gunners' Madeira could make any
One day, at a big dinner, he announced casually that the Directors had shifted
on to him a Natural Curiosity, from England, in the Accountant line. He was
perfectly correct. Mr. Silas Riley, Accountant, was a MOST curious animal--a
long, gawky, rawboned Yorkshireman, full of the savage self-conceit that
blossoms only in the best county in England. Arrogance was a mild word for the
mental attitude of Mr. S. Riley. He had worked himself up, after seven years,
to a Cashier's position in a Huddersfield Bank; and all his experience lay
among the factories of the North. Perhaps he would have done better on the
Bombay side, where they are happy with one-half per cent. profits, and money
is cheap. He was useless for Upper India and a wheat Province, where a man
wants a large head and a touch of imagination if he is to turn out a
He was wonderfully narrow-minded in business, and, being new to the country,
had no notion that Indian banking is totally distinct from Home work. Like
most clever self-made men, he had much simplicity in his nature; and, somehow
or other, had construed the ordinarily polite terms of his letter of
engagement into a belief that the Directors had chosen him on account of his
special and brilliant talents, and that they set great store by him. This
notion grew and crystallized; thus adding to his natural North-country
Further, he was delicate, suffered from some trouble in his chest, and was
short in his temper.
You will admit that Reggie had reason to call his new Accountant a Natural
Curiosity. The two men failed to hit it off at all. Riley considered Reggie a
wild, feather-headed idiot, given to Heaven only knew what dissipation in low
places called "Messes," and totally unfit for the serious and solemn vocation
of banking. He could never get over Reggie's look of youth and "you-be-damned"
air; and he couldn't understand Reggie's friends--clean-built, careless men in
the Army--who rode over to big Sunday breakfasts at the Bank, and told sultry
stories till Riley got up and left the room. Riley was always showing Reggie
how the business ought to be conducted, and Reggie had more than once to
remind him that seven years' limited experience between Huddersfield and
Beverly did not qualify a man to steer a big up-country business. Then Riley
sulked and referred to himself as a pillar of the Bank and a cherished friend
of the Directors, and Reggie tore his hair. If a man's English subordinates
fail him in this country, he comes to a hard time indeed, for native help has
strict limitations. In the winter Riley went sick for weeks at a time with his
lung complaint, and this threw more work on Reggie. But he preferred it to the
everlasting friction when Riley was well.
One of the Travelling Inspectors of the Bank discovered these collapses and
reported them to the Directors. Now Riley had been foisted on the Bank by an
M. P., who wanted the support of Riley's father, who, again, was anxious to
get his son out to a warmer climate because of those lungs. The M. P. had an
interest in the Bank; but one of the Directors wanted to advance a nominee of
his own; and, after Riley's father had died, he made the rest of the Board see
that an Accountant who was sick for half the year, had better give place to a
healthy man. If Riley had known the real story of his appointment, he might
have behaved better; but knowing nothing, his stretches of sickness alternated
with restless, persistent, meddling irritation of Reggie, and all the hundred
ways in which conceit in a subordinate situation can find play. Reggie used to
call him striking and hair-curling names behind his back as a relief to his
own feelings; but he never abused him to his face, because he said: "Riley is
such a frail beast that half of his loathsome conceit is due to pains in the
Late one April, Riley went very sick indeed. The doctor punched him and
thumped him, and told him he would be better before long. Then the doctor went
to Reggie and said:--"Do you know how sick your Accountant is?" "No!" said
Reggie--"The worse the better, confound him! He's a clacking nuisance when
he's well. I'll let you take away the Bank Safe if you can drug him silent for
But the doctor did not laugh--"Man, I'm not joking," he said. "I'll give him
another three months in his bed and a week or so more to die in. On my honor
and reputation that's all the grace he has in this world. Consumption has hold
of him to the marrow."
Reggie's face changed at once into the face of "Mr. Reginald Burke," and he
answered:--"What can I do?"
"Nothing," said the doctor. "For all practical purposes the man is dead
already. Keep him quiet and cheerful and tell him he's going to recover.
That's all. I'll look after him to the end, of course."
The doctor went away, and Reggie sat down to open the evening mail.
His first letter was one from the Directors, intimating for his information
that Mr. Riley was to resign, under a month's notice, by the terms of his
agreement, telling Reggie that their letter to Riley would follow and advising
Reggie of the coming of a new Accountant, a man whom Reggie knew and liked.
Reggie lit a cheroot, and, before he had finished smoking, he had sketched the
outline of a fraud. He put away--"burked"--the Directors letter, and went in
to talk to Riley, who was as ungracious as usual, and fretting himself over
the way the bank would run during his illness. He never thought of the extra
work on Reggie's shoulders, but solely of the damage to his own prospects of
advancement. Then Reggie assured him that everything would be well, and that
he, Reggie, would confer with Riley daily on the management of the Bank. Riley
was a little soothed, but he hinted in as many words that he did not think
much of Reggie's business capacity.
Reggie was humble. And he had letters in his desk from the Directors that a
Gilbarte or a Hardie might have been proud of!
The days passed in the big darkened house, and the Directors' letter of
dismissal to Riley came and was put away by Reggie, who, every evening,
brought the books to Riley's room, and showed him what had been going forward,
while Riley snarled. Reggie did his best to make statements pleasing to Riley,
but the Accountant was sure that the Bank was going to rack and ruin without
him. In June, as the lying in bed told on his spirit, he asked whether his
absence had been noted by the Directors, and Reggie said that they had written
most sympathetic letters, hoping that he would be able to resume his valuable
services before long. He showed Riley the letters: and Riley said that the
Directors ought to have written to him direct.
A few days later, Reggie opened Riley's mail in the half-light of the room,
and gave him the sheet--not the envelope--of a letter to Riley from the
Directors. Riley said he would thank Reggie not to interfere with his private
papers, specially as Reggie knew he was too weak to open his own letters.
Then Riley's mood changed, and he lectured Reggie on his evil ways: his horses
and his bad friends. "Of course, lying here on my back, Mr. Burke, I can't
keep you straight; but when I'm well, I DO hope you'll pay some heed to my
words." Reggie, who had dropped polo, and dinners, and tennis, and all to
attend to Riley, said that he was penitent and settled Riley's head on the
pillow and heard him fret and contradict in hard, dry, hacking whispers,
without a sign of impatience. This at the end of a heavy day's office work,
doing double duty, in the latter half of June.
When the new Accountant came, Reggie told him the facts of the case, and
announced to Riley that he had a guest staying with him. Riley said that he
might have had more consideration than to entertain his "doubtful friends" at
such a time. Reggie made Carron, the new Accountant, sleep at the Club in
consequence. Carron's arrival took some of the heavy work off his shoulders,
and he had time to attend to Riley's exactions--to explain, soothe, invent,
and settle and resettle the poor wretch in bed, and to forge complimentary
letters from Calcutta. At the end of the first month, Riley wished to send
some money home to his mother. Reggie sent the draft. At the end of the second
month, Riley's salary came in just the same. Reggie paid it out of his own
pocket; and, with it, wrote Riley a beautiful letter from the Directors.
Riley was very ill indeed, but the flame of his life burnt unsteadily. Now and
then he would be cheerful and confident about the future, sketching plans for
going Home and seeing his mother.
Reggie listened patiently when the office work was over, and encouraged him.
At other times Riley insisted on Reggie's reading the Bible and grim "Methody"
tracts to him. Out of these tracts he pointed morals directed at his Manager.
But he always found time to worry Reggie about the working of the Bank, and to
show him where the weak points lay.
This in-door, sick-room life and constant strains wore Reggie down a good
deal, and shook his nerves, and lowered his billiard-play by forty points. But
the business of the Bank, and the business of the sick-room, had to go on,
though the glass was 116 degrees in the shade.
At the end of the third month, Riley was sinking fast, and had begun to
realize that he was very sick. But the conceit that made him worry Reggie,
kept him from believing the worst. "He wants some sort of mental stimulant if
he is to drag on," said the doctor.
"Keep him interested in life if you care about his living." So Riley, contrary
to all the laws of business and the finance, received a 25-per-cent, rise of
salary from the Directors. The "mental stimulant" succeeded beautifully. Riley
was happy and cheerful, and, as is often the case in consumption, healthiest
in mind when the body was weakest. He lingered for a full month, snarling and
fretting about the Bank, talking of the future, hearing the Bible read,
lecturing Reggie on sin, and wondering when he would be able to move abroad.
But at the end of September, one mercilessly hot evening, he rose up in his
bed with a little gasp, and said quickly to Reggie:--"Mr. Burke, I am going to
die. I know it in myself. My chest is all hollow inside, and there's nothing
to breathe with. To the best of my knowledge I have done nowt"--he was
returning to the talk of his boyhood--"to lie heavy on my conscience. God be
thanked, I have been preserved from the grosser forms of sin; and I counsel
YOU, Mr. Burke . . . ."
Here his voice died down, and Reggie stooped over him.
"Send my salary for September to my mother. . . . done great things with the
Bank if I had been spared . . . . mistaken policy . . . . no fault of mine."
Then he turned his face to the wall and died.
Reggie drew the sheet over Its face, and went out into the verandah, with his
last "mental stimulant"--a letter of condolence and sympathy from the
Directors--unused in his pocket.
"If I'd been only ten minutes earlier," thought Reggie, "I might have
heartened him up to pull through another day."
The World hath set its heavy yoke
Upon the old white-bearded folk
Who strive to please the King.
God's mercy is upon the young,
God's wisdom in the baby tongue
That fears not anything.
--The Parable of Chajju Bhagat.
Now Tods' Mamma was a singularly charming woman, and every one in Simla knew
Tods. Most men had saved him from death on occasions.
He was beyond his ayah's control altogether, and perilled his life daily to
find out what would happen if you pulled a Mountain Battery mule's tail. He
was an utterly fearless young Pagan, about six years old, and the only baby
who ever broke the holy calm of the supreme Legislative Council.
It happened this way: Tods' pet kid got loose, and fled up the hill, off the
Boileaugunge Road, Tods after it, until it burst into the Viceregal Lodge
lawn, then attached to "Peterhoff." The Council were sitting at the time, and
the windows were open because it was warm. The Red Lancer in the porch told
Tods to go away; but Tods knew the Red Lancer and most of the Members of
Moreover, he had firm hold of the kid's collar, and was being dragged all
across the flower-beds. "Give my salaam to the long Councillor Sahib, and ask
him to help me take Moti back!" gasped Tods. The Council heard the noise
through the open windows; and, after an interval, was seen the shocking
spectacle of a Legal Member and a Lieutenant-Governor helping, under the
direct patronage of a Commander-in-Chief and a Viceroy, one small and very
dirty boy in a sailor's suit and a tangle of brown hair, to coerce a lively
and rebellious kid. They headed it off down the path to the Mall, and Tods
went home in triumph and told his Mamma that ALL the Councillor Sahibs had
been helping him to catch Moti. Whereat his Mamma smacked Tods for interfering
with the administration of the Empire; but Tods met the Legal Member the next
day, and told him in confidence that if the Legal Member ever wanted to catch
a goat, he, Tods, would give him all the help in his power. "Thank you, Tods,"
said the Legal Member.
Tods was the idol of some eighty jhampanis, and half as many saises.
He saluted them all as "O Brother." It never entered his head that any living
human being could disobey his orders; and he was the buffer between the
servants and his Mamma's wrath. The working of that household turned on Tods,
who was adored by every one from the dhoby to the dog-boy. Even Futteh Khan,
the villainous loafer khit from Mussoorie, shirked risking Tods' displeasure
for fear his co-mates should look down on him.
So Tods had honor in the land from Boileaugunge to Chota Simla, and ruled
justly according to his lights. Of course, he spoke Urdu, but he had also
mastered many queer side-speeches like the chotee bolee of the women, and held
grave converse with shopkeepers and Hill-coolies alike. He was precocious for
his age, and his mixing with natives had taught him some of the more bitter
truths of life; the meanness and the sordidness of it. He used, over his bread
and milk, to deliver solemn and serious aphorisms, translated from the
vernacular into the English, that made his Mamma jump and vow that Tods MUST
go home next hot weather.
Just when Tods was in the bloom of his power, the Supreme Legislature were
hacking out a Bill, for the Sub-Montane Tracts, a revision of the then Act,
smaller than the Punjab Land Bill, but affecting a few hundred thousand people
none the less. The Legal Member had built, and bolstered, and embroidered, and
amended that Bill, till it looked beautiful on paper. Then the Council began
to settle what they called the "minor details." As if any Englishman
legislating for natives knows enough to know which are the minor and which are
the major points, from the native point of view, of any measure! That Bill was
a triumph of "safe-guarding the interests of the tenant." One clause provided
that land should not be leased on longer terms than five years at a stretch;
because, if the landlord had a tenant bound down for, say, twenty years, he
would squeeze the very life out of him. The notion was to keep up a stream of
independent cultivators in the Sub-Montane Tracts; and ethnologically and
politically the notion was correct. The only drawback was that it was
altogether wrong. A native's life in India implies the life of his son.
Wherefore, you cannot legislate for one generation at a time. You must
consider the next from the native point of view. Curiously enough, the native
now and then, and in Northern India more particularly, hates being over-
protected against himself. There was a Naga village once, where they lived on
dead AND buried Commissariat mules . . . . But that is another story.
For many reasons, to be explained later, the people concerned objected to the
Bill. The Native Member in Council knew as much about Punjabis as he knew
about Charing Cross. He had said in Calcutta that "the Bill was entirely in
accord with the desires of that large and important class, the cultivators;"
and so on, and so on. The Legal Member's knowledge of natives was limited to
English-speaking Durbaris, and his own red chaprassis, the Sub-Montane Tracts
concerned no one in particular, the Deputy Commissioners were a good deal too
driven to make representations, and the measure was one which dealt with small
landholders only. Nevertheless, the Legal Member prayed that it might be
correct, for he was a nervously conscientious man. He did not know that no man
can tell what natives think unless he mixes with them with the varnish off.
And not always then. But he did the best he knew. And the measure came up to
the Supreme Council for the final touches, while Tods patrolled the Burra
Simla Bazar in his morning rides, and played with the monkey belonging to
Ditta Mull, the bunnia, and listened, as a child listens to all the stray talk
about this new freak of the Lat Sahib's.
One day there was a dinner-party, at the house of Tods' Mamma, and the Legal
Member came. Tods was in bed, but he kept awake till he heard the bursts of
laughter from the men over the coffee. Then he paddled out in his little red
flannel dressing-gown and his night-suit, and took refuge by the side of his
father, knowing that he would not be sent back. "See the miseries of having a
family!" said Tods' father, giving Tods three prunes, some water in a glass
that had been used for claret, and telling him to sit still. Tods sucked the
prunes slowly, knowing that he would have to go when they were finished, and
sipped the pink water like a man of the world, as he listened to the
conversation. Presently, the Legal Member, talking "shop," to the Head of a
Department, mentioned his Bill by its full name--"The Sub-Montane Tracts
Ryotwari Revised Enactment." Tods caught the one native word, and lifting up
his small voice said:--"Oh, I know ALL about that! Has it been murramutted
yet, Councillor Sahib?"
"How much?" said the Legal Member.
"Murramutted--mended.--Put theek, you know--made nice to please Ditta Mull!"
The Legal Member left his place and moved up next to Tods.
"What do you know about Ryotwari, little man?" he said.
"I'm not a little man, I'm Tods, and I know ALL about it. Ditta Mull, and
Choga Lall, and Amir Nath, and--oh, lakhs of my friends tell me about it in
the bazars when I talk to them."
"Oh, they do--do they? What do they say, Tods?"
Tods tucked his feet under his red flannel dressing-gown and said:--"I must
The Legal Member waited patiently. Then Tods, with infinite compassion:
"You don't speak my talk, do you, Councillor Sahib?"
"No; I am sorry to say I do not," said the Legal' Member.
"Very well," said Tods. "I must fink in English."
He spent a minute putting his ideas in order, and began very slowly,
translating in his mind from the vernacular to English, as many Anglo-Indian
children do. You must remember that the Legal Member helped him on by
questions when he halted, for Tods was not equal to the sustained flight of
oratory that follows.
"Ditta Mull says:--'This thing is the talk of a child, and was made up by
fools.' But I don't think you are a fool, Councillor Sahib," said Tods,
hastily. "You caught my goat. This is what Ditta Mull says:--'I am not a fool,
and why should the Sirkar say I am a child? I can see if the land is good and
if the landlord is good. If I am a fool, the sin is upon my own head. For five
years I take my ground for which I have saved money, and a wife I take too, and
a little son is born.' Ditta Mull has one daughter now, but he SAYS he will
have a son, soon. And he says: 'At the end of five years, by this new
bundobust, I must go. If I do not go, I must get fresh seals and takkus-stamps
on the papers, perhaps in the middle of the harvest, and to go to the law-
courts once is wisdom, but to go twice is Jehannum.' That is QUITE true,"
explained Tods, gravely. "All my friends say so. And Ditta Mull says:--'Always
fresh takkus and paying money to vakils and chaprassis and law-courts every
five years or else the landlord makes me go. Why do I want to go? Am I fool? If
I am a fool and do not know, after forty years, good land when I see it, let me
die! But if the new bundobust says for FIFTEEN years, then it is good and wise.
My little son is a man, and I am burnt, and he takes the ground or another
ground, paying only once for the takkus-stamps on the papers, and his little
son is born, and at the end of fifteen years is a man too. But what profit is
there in five years and fresh papers? Nothing but dikh, trouble, dikh. We are
not young men who take these lands, but old ones--not jais, but tradesmen with
a little money--and for fifteen years we shall have peace. Nor are we children
that the Sirkar should treat us so."
Here Tods stopped short, for the whole table were listening. The Legal Member
said to Tods: "Is that all?"
"All I can remember," said Tods. "But you should see Ditta Mull's big monkey.
It's just like a Councillor Sahib."
"Tods! Go to bed," said his father.
Tods gathered up his dressing-gown tail and departed.
The Legal Member brought his hand down on the table with a crash--"By Jove!"
said the Legal Member, "I believe the boy is right. The short tenure IS the
He left early, thinking over what Tods had said. Now, it was obviously
impossible for the Legal Member to play with a bunnia's monkey, by way of
getting understanding; but he did better. He made inquiries, always bearing in
mind the fact that the real native--not the hybrid, University-trained mule--is
as timid as a colt, and, little by little, he coaxed some of the men whom the
measure concerned most intimately to give in their views, which squared very
closely with Tods' evidence.
So the Bill was amended in that clause; and the Legal Member was filled with an
uneasy suspicion that Native Members represent very little except the Orders
they carry on their bosoms. But he put the thought from him as illiberal. He
was a most Liberal Man.
After a time the news spread through the bazars that Tods had got the Bill
recast in the tenure clause, and if Tods' Mamma had not interfered, Tods would
have made himself sick on the baskets of fruit and pistachio nuts and Cabuli
grapes and almonds that crowded the verandah. Till he went Home, Tods ranked
some few degrees before the Viceroy in popular estimation. But for the little
life of him Tods could not understand why.
In the Legal Member's private-paper-box still lies the rough draft of the Sub-
Montane Tracts Ryotwari Revised Enactment; and, opposite the twenty-second
clause, pencilled in blue chalk, and signed by the Legal Member, are the words
IN THE PRIDE OF HIS YOUTH.
"Stopped in the straight when the race was his own!
Look at him cutting it--cur to the bone!"
"Ask ere the youngster be rated and chidden,
What did he carry and how was he ridden?
Maybe they used him too much at the start;
Maybe Fate's weight-cloths are breaking his heart."
When I was telling you of the joke that The Worm played off on the Senior
Subaltern, I promised a somewhat similar tale, but with all the jest left out.
This is that tale:
Dicky Hatt was kidnapped in his early, early youth--neither by landlady's
daughter, housemaid, barmaid, nor cook, but by a girl so nearly of his own
caste that only a woman could have said she was just the least little bit in
the world below it. This happened a month before he came out to India, and five
days after his one-and-twentieth birthday. The girl was nineteen--six years
older than Dicky in the things of this world, that is to say--and, for the
time, twice as foolish as he.
Excepting, always, falling off a horse there is nothing more fatally easy than
marriage before the Registrar. The ceremony costs less than fifty shillings,
and is remarkably like walking into a pawn-shop. After the declarations of
residence have been put in, four minutes will cover the rest of the
proceedings--fees, attestation, and all. Then the Registrar slides the
blotting-pad over the names, and says grimly, with his pen between his teeth:--
"Now you're man and wife;" and the couple walk out into the street, feeling as
if something were horribly illegal somewhere.
But that ceremony holds and can drag a man to his undoing just as thoroughly as
the "long as ye both shall live" curse from the altar-rails, with the
bridesmaids giggling behind, and "The Voice that breathed o'er Eden" lifting
the roof off. In this manner was Dicky Hatt kidnapped, and he considered it
vastly fine, for he had received an appointment in India which carried a
magnificent salary from the Home point of view. The marriage was to be kept
secret for a year. Then Mrs. Dicky Hatt was to come out and the rest of life
was to be a glorious golden mist. That was how they sketched it under the
Addison Road Station lamps; and, after one short month, came Gravesend and
Dicky steaming out to his new life, and the girl crying in a thirty-shillings a
week bed-and-living room, in a back street off Montpelier Square near the
But the country that Dicky came to was a hard land, where "men" of twenty-one
were reckoned very small boys indeed, and life was expensive. The salary that
loomed so large six thousand miles away did not go far. Particularly when Dicky
divided it by two, and remitted more than the fair half, at 1-6, to Montpelier
Square. One hundred and thirty-five rupees out of three hundred and thirty is
not much to live on; but it was absurd to suppose that Mrs. Hatt could exist
forever on the 20 pounds held back by Dicky, from his outfit allowance. Dicky
saw this, and remitted at once; always remembering that Rs. 700 were to be
paid, twelve months later, for a first-class passage out for a lady. When you
add to these trifling details the natural instincts of a boy beginning a new
life in a new country and longing to go about and enjoy himself, and the
necessity for grappling with strange work--which, properly speaking, should
take up a boy's undivided attention--you will see that Dicky started
handicapped. He saw it himself for a breath or two; but he did not guess the
full beauty of his future.
As the hot weather began, the shackles settled on him and ate into his flesh.
First would come letters--big, crossed, seven sheet letters--from his wife,
telling him how she longed to see him, and what a Heaven upon earth would be
their property when they met.
Then some boy of the chummery wherein Dicky lodged would pound on the door of
his bare little room, and tell him to come out and look at a pony--the very
thing to suit him. Dicky could not afford ponies. He had to explain this. Dicky
could not afford living in the chummery, modest as it was. He had to explain
this before he moved to a single room next the office where he worked all day.
He kept house on a green oil-cloth table-cover, one chair, one charpoy, one
photograph, one tooth-glass, very strong and thick, a seven-rupee eight-anna
filter, and messing by contract at thirty-seven rupees a month. Which last item
was extortion. He had no punkah, for a punkah costs fifteen rupees a month; but
he slept on the roof of the office with all his wife's letters under his
pillow. Now and again he was asked out to dinner where he got both a punkah and
an iced drink. But this was seldom, for people objected to recognizing a boy
who had evidently the instincts of a Scotch tallow-chandler, and who lived in
such a nasty fashion. Dicky could not subscribe to any amusement, so he found
no amusement except the pleasure of turning over his Bank-book and reading what
it said about "loans on approved security." That cost nothing. He remitted
through a Bombay Bank, by the way, and the Station knew nothing of his private
Every month he sent Home all he could possibly spare for his wife--and for
another reason which was expected to explain itself shortly and would require
About this time, Dicky was overtaken with the nervous, haunting fear that
besets married men when they are out of sorts. He had no pension to look to.
What if he should die suddenly, and leave his wife unprovided for? The thought
used to lay hold of him in the still, hot nights on the roof, till the shaking
of his heart made him think that he was going to die then and there of heart-
Now this is a frame of mind which no boy has a right to know. It is a strong
man's trouble; but, coming when it did, it nearly drove poor punkah-less,
perspiring Dicky Hatt mad. He could tell no one about it.
A certain amount of "screw" is as necessary for a man as for a billiard-ball.
It makes them both do wonderful things. Dicky needed money badly, and he worked
for it like a horse. But, naturally, the men who owned him knew that a boy can
live very comfortably on a certain income--pay in India is a matter of age, not
merit, you see, and if their particular boy wished to work like two boys,
Business forbid that they should stop him! But Business forbid that they should
give him an increase of pay at his present ridiculously immature age! So Dicky
won certain rises of salary--ample for a boy--not enough for a wife and child--
certainly too little for the seven-hundred-rupee passage that he and Mrs. Hatt
had discussed so lightly once upon a time. And with this he was forced to be
Somehow, all his money seemed to fade away in Home drafts and the crushing
Exchange, and the tone of the Home letters changed and grew querulous. "Why
wouldn't Dicky have his wife and the baby out? Surely he had a salary--a fine
salary--and it was too bad of him to enjoy himself in India. But would he--
could he--make the next draft a little more elastic?" Here followed a list of
baby's kit, as long as a Parsee's bill. Then Dicky, whose heart yearned to his
wife and the little son he had never seen--which, again, is a feeling no boy is
entitled to--enlarged the draft and wrote queer half-boy, half- man letters,
saying that life was not so enjoyable after all and would the little wife wait
yet a little longer? But the little wife, however much she approved of money,
objected to waiting, and there was a strange, hard sort of ring in her letters
that Dicky didn't understand. How could he, poor boy?
Later on still--just as Dicky had been told--apropos of another youngster who
had "made a fool of himself," as the saying is--that matrimony would not only
ruin his further chances of advancement, but would lose him his present
appointment--came the news that the baby, his own little, little son, had died,
and, behind this, forty lines of an angry woman's scrawl, saying that death
might have been averted if certain things, all costing money, had been done, or
if the mother and the baby had been with Dicky. The letter struck at Dicky's
naked heart; but, not being officially entitled to a baby, he could show no
sign of trouble.
How Dicky won through the next four months, and what hope he kept alight to
force him into his work, no one dare say. He pounded on, the seven-hundred-
rupee passage as far away as ever, and his style of living unchanged, except
when he launched into a new filter.
There was the strain of his office-work, and the strain of his remittances, and
the knowledge of his boy's death, which touched the boy more, perhaps, than it
would have touched a man; and, beyond all, the enduring strain of his daily
life. Gray-headed seniors, who approved of his thrift and his fashion of
denying himself everything pleasant, reminded him of the old saw that says:
"If a youth would be distinguished in his art, art, art,
He must keep the girls away from his heart, heart, heart."
And Dicky, who fancied he had been through every trouble that a man is
permitted to know, had to laugh and agree; with the last line of his balanced
Bank-book jingling in his head day and night.
But he had one more sorrow to digest before the end. There arrived a letter
from the little wife--the natural sequence of the others if Dicky had only
known it--and the burden of that letter was "gone with a handsomer man than
you." It was a rather curious production, without stops, something like this:--
"She was not going to wait forever and the baby was dead and Dicky was only a
boy and he would never set eyes on her again and why hadn't he waved his
handkerchief to her when he left Gravesend and God was her judge she was a
wicked woman but Dicky was worse enjoying himself in India and this other man
loved the ground she trod on and would Dicky ever forgive her for she would
never forgive Dicky; and there was no address to write to."
Instead of thanking his lucky stars that he was free, Dicky discovered exactly
how an injured husband feels--again, not at all the knowledge to which a boy is
entitled--for his mind went back to his wife as he remembered her in the
thirty-shilling "suite" in Montpelier Square, when the dawn of his last morning
in England was breaking, and she was crying in the bed. Whereat he rolled about
on his bed and bit his fingers. He never stopped to think whether, if he had
met Mrs. Hatt after those two years, he would have discovered that he and she
had grown quite different and new persons. This, theoretically, he ought to
have done. He spent the night after the English Mail came in rather severe
Next morning, Dicky Hatt felt disinclined to work. He argued that he had missed
the pleasure of youth. He was tired, and he had tasted all the sorrow in life
before three-and-twenty. His Honor was gone--that was the man; and now he, too,
would go to the Devil--that was the boy in him. So he put his head down on the
green oil-cloth table-cover, and wept before resigning his post, and all it
But the reward of his services came. He was given three days to reconsider
himself, and the Head of the establishment, after some telegraphings, said that
it was a most unusual step, but, in view of the ability that Mr. Hatt had
displayed at such and such a time, at such and such junctures, he was in a
position to offer him an infinitely superior post--first on probation, and
later, in the natural course of things, on confirmation. "And how much does the
post carry?" said Dicky. "Six hundred and fifty rupees," said the Head slowly,
expecting to see the young man sink with gratitude and joy.
And it came then! The seven hundred rupee passage, and enough to have saved the
wife, and the little son, and to have allowed of assured and open marriage,
came then. Dicky burst into a roar of laughter--laughter he could not check--
nasty, jangling merriment that seemed as if it would go on forever. When he had
recovered himself he said, quite seriously:--"I'm tired of work. I'm an old man
now. It's about time I retired. And I will."
"The boy's mad!" said the Head.
I think he was right; but Dicky Hatt never reappeared to settle the question.
Go, stalk the red deer o'er the heather
Ride, follow the fox if you can!
But, for pleasure and profit together,
Allow me the hunting of Man,--
The chase of the Human, the search for the Soul
To its ruin,--the hunting of Man.
--The Old Shikarri.
I believe the difference began in the matter of a horse, with a twist in his
temper, whom Pinecoffin sold to Nafferton and by whom Nafferton was nearly
slain. There may have been other causes of offence; the horse was the official
stalking-horse. Nafferton was very angry; but Pinecoffin laughed and said that
he had never guaranteed the beast's manners. Nafferton laughed, too, though he
vowed that he would write off his fall against Pinecoffin if he waited five
years. Now, a Dalesman from beyond Skipton will forgive an injury when the
Strid lets a man live; but a South Devon man is as soft as a Dartmoor bog. You
can see from their names that Nafferton had the race-advantage of Pinecoffin.
He was a peculiar man, and his notions of humor were cruel. He taught me a new
and fascinating form of shikar. He hounded Pinecoffin from Mithankot to
Jagadri, and from Gurgaon to Abbottabad up and across the Punjab, a large
province and in places remarkably dry. He said that he had no intention of
allowing Assistant Commissioners to "sell him pups," in the shape of ramping,
screaming countrybreds, without making their lives a burden to them.
Most Assistant Commissioners develop a bent for some special work after their
first hot weather in the country. The boys with digestions hope to write their
names large on the Frontier and struggle for dreary places like Bannu and
Kohat. The bilious ones climb into the Secretariat. Which is very bad for the
Others are bitten with a mania for District work, Ghuznivide coins or Persian
poetry; while some, who come of farmers' stock, find that the smell of the
Earth after the Rains gets into their blood, and calls them to "develop the
resources of the Province." These men are enthusiasts. Pinecoffin belonged to
their class. He knew a great many facts bearing on the cost of bullocks and
temporary wells, and opium-scrapers, and what happens if you burn too much
rubbish on a field, in the hope of enriching used-up soil. All the Pinecoffins
come of a landholding breed, and so the land only took back her own again.
Unfortunately--most unfortunately for Pinecoffin--he was a Civilian, as well as
a farmer. Nafferton watched him, and thought about the horse. Nafferton said:--
"See me chase that boy till he drops!" I said:--"You can't get your knife into
an Assistant Commissioner." Nafferton told me that I did not understand the
administration of the Province.
Our Government is rather peculiar. It gushes on the agricultural and general
information side, and will supply a moderately respectable man with all sorts
of "economic statistics," if he speaks to it prettily. For instance, you are
interested in gold-washing in the sands of the Sutlej. You pull the string, and
find that it wakes up half a dozen Departments, and finally communicates, say,
with a friend of yours in the Telegraph, who once wrote some notes on the
customs of the gold-washers when he was on construction-work in their part of
the Empire. He may or may not be pleased at being ordered to write out
everything he knows for your benefit. This depends on his temperament. The
bigger man you are, the more information and the greater trouble can you raise.
Nafferton was not a big man; but he had the reputation of being very earnest."
An "earnest" man can do much with a Government. There was an earnest man who
once nearly wrecked . . . but all India knows THAT story. I am not sure what
real "earnestness" is. A very fair imitation can be manufactured by neglecting
to dress decently, by mooning about in a dreamy, misty sort of way, by taking
office-work home after staying in office till seven, and by receiving crowds of
native gentlemen on Sundays. That is one sort of "earnestness."
Nafferton cast about for a peg whereon to hang his earnestness, and for a
string that would communicate with Pinecoffin. He found both.
They were Pig. Nafferton became an earnest inquirer after Pig. He informed the
Government that he had a scheme whereby a very large percentage of the British
Army in India could be fed, at a very large saving, on Pig. Then he hinted that
Pinecoffin might supply him with the "varied information necessary to the
proper inception of the scheme." So the Government wrote on the back of the
letter:--"Instruct Mr. Pinecoffin to furnish Mr. Nafferton with any information
in his power." Government is very prone to writing things on the backs of
letters which, later, lead to trouble and confusion.
Nafferton had not the faintest interest in Pig, but he knew that Pinecoffin
would flounce into the trap. Pinecoffin was delighted at being consulted about
Pig. The Indian Pig is not exactly an important factor in agricultural life;
but Nafferton explained to Pinecoffin that there was room for improvement, and
corresponded direct with that young man.
You may think that there is not much to be evolved from Pig. It all depends how
you set to work. Pinecoffin being a Civilian and wishing to do things
thoroughly, began with an essay on the Primitive Pig, the Mythology of the Pig,
and the Dravidian Pig.
Nafferton filed that information--twenty-seven foolscap sheets--and wanted to
know about the distribution of the Pig in the Punjab, and how it stood the
Plains in the hot weather. From this point onwards, remember that I am giving
you only the barest outlines of the affair--the guy-ropes, as it were, of the
web that Nafferton spun round Pinecoffin.
Pinecoffin made a colored Pig-population map, and collected observations on the
comparative longevity of the Pig (a) in the sub-montane tracts of the
Himalayas, and (b) in the Rechna Doab.
Nafferton filed that, and asked what sort of people looked after Pig. This
started an ethnological excursus on swineherds, and drew from Pinecoffin long
tables showing the proportion per thousand of the caste in the Derajat.
Nafferton filed that bundle, and explained that the figures which he wanted
referred to the Cis-Sutlej states, where he understood that Pigs were very fine
and large, and where he proposed to start a Piggery. By this time, Government
had quite forgotten their instructions to Mr. Pinecoffin.
They were like the gentlemen, in Keats' poem, who turned well-oiled wheels to
skin other people. But Pinecoffin was just entering into the spirit of the Pig-
hunt, as Nafferton well knew he would do. He had a fair amount of work of his
own to clear away; but he sat up of nights reducing Pig to five places of
decimals for the honor of his Service. He was not going to appear ignorant of
so easy a subject as Pig.
Then Government sent him on special duty to Kohat, to "inquire into" the big-
seven-foot, iron-shod spades of that District. People had been killing each
other with those peaceful tools; and Government wished to know "whether a
modified form of agricultural implement could not, tentatively and as a
temporary measure, be introduced among the agricultural population without
needlessly or unduly exasperating the existing religious sentiments of the
Between those spades and Nafferton's Pig, Pinecoffin was rather heavily
Nafferton now began to take up "(a) The food-supply of the indigenous Pig,
with a view to the improvement of its capacities as a flesh-former. (b) The
acclimatization of the exotic Pig, maintaining its distinctive peculiarities."
Pinecoffin replied exhaustively that the exotic Pig would become merged in the
indigenous type; and quoted horse-breeding statistics to prove this.
The side-issue was debated, at great length on Pinecoffin's side, till
Nafferton owned that he had been in the wrong, and moved the previous question.
When Pinecoffin had quite written himself out about flesh-formers, and fibrins,
and glucose and the nitrogenous constituents of maize and lucerne, Nafferton
raised the question of expense. By this time Pinecoffin, who had been
transferred from Kohat, had developed a Pig theory of his own, which he stated
in thirty-three folio pages--all carefully filed by Nafferton. Who asked for
These things took ten months, and Pinecoffin's interest in the potential
Piggery seemed to die down after he had stated his own views. But Nafferton
bombarded him with letters on "the Imperial aspect of the scheme, as tending to
officialize the sale of pork, and thereby calculated to give offence to the
Mahomedan population of Upper India." He guessed that Pinecoffin would want
some broad, free-hand work after his niggling, stippling, decimal details.
Pinecoffin handled the latest development of the case in masterly style, and
proved that no "popular ebullition of excitement was to be apprehended."
Nafferton said that there was nothing like Civilian insight in matters of this
kind, and lured him up a bye-path--"the possible profits to accrue to the
Government from the sale of hog-bristles." There is an extensive literature of
hog-bristles, and the shoe, brush, and colorman's trades recognize more
varieties of bristles than you would think possible. After Pinecoffin had
wondered a little at Nafferton's rage for information, he sent back a
monograph, fifty-one pages, on "Products of the Pig." This led him, under
Nafferton's tender handling, straight to the Cawnpore factories, the trade in
hog-skin for saddles--and thence to the tanners. Pinecoffin wrote that
pomegranate-seed was the best cure for hog-skin, and suggested--for the past
fourteen months had wearied him--that Nafferton should "raise his pigs before
he tanned them."
Nafferton went back to the second section of his fifth question.
How could the exotic Pig be brought to give as much pork as it did in the West
and yet "assume the essentially hirsute characteristics of its oriental
congener?" Pinecoffin felt dazed, for he had forgotten what he had written
sixteen month's before, and fancied that he was about to reopen the entire
question. He was too far involved in the hideous tangle to retreat, and, in a
weak moment, he wrote:--"Consult my first letter." Which related to the
Dravidian Pig. As a matter of fact, Pinecoffin had still to reach the
acclimatization stage; having gone off on a side-issue on the merging of types.
THEN Nafferton really unmasked his batteries! He complained to the Government,
in stately language, of "the paucity of help accorded to me in my earnest
attempts to start a potentially remunerative industry, and the flippancy with
which my requests for information are treated by a gentleman whose pseudo-
scholarly attainments should at lest have taught him the primary differences
between the Dravidian and the Berkshire variety of the genus Sus. If I am to
understand that the letter to which he refers me contains his serious views on
the acclimatization of a valuable, though possibly uncleanly, animal, I am
reluctantly compelled to believe," etc., etc.
There was a new man at the head of the Department of Castigation.
The wretched Pinecoffin was told that the Service was made for the Country, and
not the Country for the Service, and that he had better begin to supply
information about Pigs.
Pinecoffin answered insanely that he had written everything that could be
written about Pig, and that some furlough was due to him.
Nafferton got a copy of that letter, and sent it, with the essay on the
Dravidian Pig, to a down-country paper, which printed both in full. The essay
was rather highflown; but if the Editor had seen the stacks of paper, in
Pinecoffin's handwriting, on Nafferton's table, he would not have been so
sarcastic about the "nebulous discursiveness and blatant self-sufficiency of
the modern Competition-wallah, and his utter inability to grasp the practical
issues of a practical question." Many friends cut out these remarks and sent
them to Pinecoffin.
I have already stated that Pinecoffin came of a soft stock. This last stroke
frightened and shook him. He could not understand it; but he felt he had been,
somehow, shamelessly betrayed by Nafferton.
He realized that he had wrapped himself up in the Pigskin without need, and
that he could not well set himself right with his Government. All his
acquaintances asked after his "nebulous discursiveness" or his "blatant self-
sufficiency," and this made him miserable.
He took a train and went to Nafferton, whom he had not seen since the Pig
business began. He also took the cutting from the paper, and blustered feebly
and called Nafferton names, and then died down to a watery, weak protest of the
Nafferton was very sympathetic.
"I'm afraid I've given you a good deal of trouble, haven't I?" said he.
"Trouble!" whimpered Pinecoffin; "I don't mind the trouble so much, though that
was bad enough; but what I resent is this showing up in print. It will stick to
me like a burr all through my service. And I DID do my best for your
interminable swine. It's too bad of you, on my soul it is!"
"I don't know," said Nafferton; "have you ever been stuck with a horse? It
isn't the money I mind, though that is bad enough; but what I resent is the
chaff that follows, especially from the boy who stuck me. But I think we'll cry
Pinecoffin found nothing to say save bad words; and Nafferton smiled ever so
sweetly, and asked him to dinner.
THE ROUT OF THE WHITE HUSSARS.
It was not in the open fight
We threw away the sword,
But in the lonely watching
In the darkness by the ford.
The waters lapped, the night-wind blew,
Full-armed the Fear was born and grew,
And we were flying ere we knew
From panic in the night.
Some people hold that an English Cavalry regiment cannot run. This is a
mistake. I have seen four hundred and thirty-seven sabres flying over the face
of the country in abject terror--have seen the best Regiment that ever drew
bridle, wiped off the Army List for the space of two hours. If you repeat this
tale to the White Hussars they will, in all probability, treat you severely.
They are not proud of the incident.
You may know the White Hussars by their "side," which is greater than that of
all the Cavalry Regiments on the roster. If this is not a sufficient mark, you
may know them by their old brandy. It has been sixty years in the Mess and is
worth going far to taste.
Ask for the "McGaire" old brandy, and see that you get it. If the Mess Sergeant
thinks that you are uneducated, and that the genuine article will be lost on
you, he will treat you accordingly. He is a good man. But, when you are at
Mess, you must never talk to your hosts about forced marches or long-distance
rides. The Mess are very sensitive; and, if they think that you are laughing at
them, will tell you so.
As the White Hussars say, it was all the Colonel's fault. He was a new man, and
he ought never to have taken the Command. He said that the Regiment was not
smart enough. This to the White Hussars, who knew they could walk round any
Horse and through any Guns, and over any Foot on the face of the earth! That
insult was the first cause of offence.
Then the Colonel cast the Drum-Horse--the Drum-Horse of the White Hussars!
Perhaps you do not see what an unspeakable crime he had committed. I will try
to make it clear. The soul of the Regiment lives in the Drum-Horse, who carries
the silver kettle-drums. He is nearly always a big piebald Waler. That is a
point of honor; and a Regiment will spend anything you please on a piebald. He
is beyond the ordinary laws of casting. His work is very light, and he only
manoeuvres at a foot-pace. Wherefore, so long as he can step out and look
handsome, his well-being is assured. He knows more about the Regiment than the
Adjutant, and could not make a mistake if he tried.
The Drum-Horse of the White Hussars was only eighteen years old, and perfectly
equal to his duties. He had at least six years' more work in him, and carried
himself with all the pomp and dignity of a Drum-Major of the Guards. The
Regiment had paid Rs. 1,200 for him.
But the Colonel said that he must go, and he was cast in due form and replaced
by a washy, bay beast as ugly as a mule, with a ewe-neck, rat-tail, and cow-
hocks. The Drummer detested that animal, and the best of the Band-horses put
back their ears and showed the whites of their eyes at the very sight of him.
They knew him for an upstart and no gentleman. I fancy that the Colonel's ideas
of smartness extended to the Band, and that he wanted to make it take part in
the regular parade movements. A Cavalry Band is a sacred thing. It only turns
out for Commanding Officers' parades, and the Band Master is one degree more
important than the Colonel. He is a High Priest and the "Keel Row" is his holy
song. The "Keel Row" is the Cavalry Trot; and the man who has never heard that
tune rising, high and shrill, above the rattle of the Regiment going past the
saluting-base, has something yet to hear and understand.
When the Colonel cast the Drum-horse of the White Hussars, there was nearly a
The officers were angry, the Regiment were furious, and the Bandsman swore--
like troopers. The Drum-Horse was going to be put up to auction--public
auction--to be bought, perhaps, by a Parsee and put into a cart! It was worse
than exposing the inner life of the Regiment to the whole world, or selling the
Mess Plate to a Jew--a black Jew.
The Colonel was a mean man and a bully. He knew what the Regiment thought about
his action; and, when the troopers offered to buy the Drum-Horse, he said that
their offer was mutinous and forbidden by the Regulations.
But one of the Subalterns--Hogan-Yale, an Irishman--bought the Drum-Horse for
Rs. 160 at the sale; and the Colonel was wroth. Yale professed repentance--he
was unnaturally submissive--and said that, as he had only made the purchase to
save the horse from possible ill-treatment and starvation, he would now shoot
him and end the business. This appeared to soothe the Colonel, for he wanted
the Drum-Horse disposed of. He felt that he had made a mistake, and could not
of course acknowledge it. Meantime, the presence of the Drum-Horse was an
annoyance to him.
Yale took to himself a glass of the old brandy, three cheroots, and his friend,
Martyn; and they all left the Mess together. Yale and Martyn conferred for two
hours in Yale's quarters; but only the bull-terrier who keeps watch over Yale's
boot-trees knows what they said. A horse, hooded and sheeted to his ears, left
Yale's stables and was taken, very unwillingly, into the Civil Lines. Yale's
groom went with him. Two men broke into the Regimental Theatre and took several
paint-pots and some large scenery brushes. Then night fell over the
Cantonments, and there was a noise as of a horse kicking his loose-box to
pieces in Yale's stables. Yale had a big, old, white Waler trap-horse.
The next day was a Thursday, and the men, hearing that Yale was going to shoot
the Drum-Horse in the evening, determined to give the beast a regular
regimental funeral--a finer one than they would have given the Colonel had he
died just then. They got a bullock-cart and some sacking, and mounds and mounds
of roses, and the body, under sacking, was carried out to the place where the
anthrax cases were cremated; two-thirds of the Regiment followed. There was no
Band, but they all sang "The Place where the old Horse died" as something
respectful and appropriate to the occasion. When the corpse was dumped into the
grave and the men began throwing down armfuls of roses to cover it, the
Farrier-Sergeant ripped out an oath and said aloud:--"Why, it ain't the Drum-
Horse any more than it's me!" The Troop-Sergeant-Majors asked him whether he
had left his head in the Canteen. The Farrier-Sergeant said that he knew the
Drum-Horse's feet as well as he knew his own; but he was silenced when he saw
the regimental number burnt in on the poor stiff, upturned near-fore.
Thus was the Drum-Horse of the White Hussars buried; the Farrier-Sergeant
grumbling. The sacking that covered the corpse was smeared in places with black
paint; and the Farrier-Sergeant drew attention to this fact. But the Troop-
Sergeant-Major of E Troop kicked him severely on the shin, and told him that he
was undoubtedly drunk.
On the Monday following the burial, the Colonel sought revenge on the White
Hussars. Unfortunately, being at that time temporarily in Command of the
Station, he ordered a Brigade field-day. He said that he wished to make the
regiment "sweat for their damned insolence," and he carried out his notion
thoroughly. That Monday was one of the hardest days in the memory of the White
They were thrown against a skeleton-enemy, and pushed forward, and withdrawn,
and dismounted, and "scientifically handled" in every possible fashion over
dusty country, till they sweated profusely.
Their only amusement came late in the day, when they fell upon the battery of
Horse Artillery and chased it for two mile's. This was a personal question, and
most of the troopers had money on the event; the Gunners saying openly that
they had the legs of the White Hussars. They were wrong. A march-past concluded
the campaign, and when the Regiment got back to their Lines, the men were