Part 9 out of 18
the eldest Miss Copleigh; and, beside his affair, there was another which
might possibly come to happiness.
The social atmosphere was heavily charged and wanted clearing.
We met at the parade-ground at ten: the night was fearfully hot.
The horses sweated even at walking-pace, but anything was better than sitting
still in our own dark houses. When we moved off under the full moon we were
four couples, one triplet, and Mr. Saumarez rode with the Copleigh girls, and
I loitered at the tail of the procession, wondering with whom Saumarez would
ride home. Every one was happy and contented; but we all felt that things were
going to happen. We rode slowly: and it was nearly midnight before we reached
the old tomb, facing the ruined tank, in the decayed gardens where we were
going to eat and drink. I was late in coming up; and before I went into the
garden, I saw that the horizon to the north carried a faint, dun-colored
feather. But no one would have thanked me for spoiling so well-managed an
entertainment as this picnic--and a dust-storm, more or less, does no great
We gathered by the tank. Some one had brought out a banjo--which is a most
sentimental instrument--and three or four of us sang.
You must not laugh at this. Our amusements in out-of-the-way Stations are very
few indeed. Then we talked in groups or together, lying under the trees, with
the sun-baked roses dropping their petals on our feet, until supper was ready.
It was a beautiful supper, as cold and as iced as you could wish; and we
stayed long over it.
I had felt that the air was growing hotter and hotter; but nobody seemed to
notice it until the moon went out and a burning hot wind began lashing the
orange-trees with a sound like the noise of the sea. Before we knew where we
were, the dust-storm was on us, and everything was roaring, whirling darkness.
The supper-table was blown bodily into the tank. We were afraid of staying
anywhere near the old tomb for fear it might be blown down. So we felt our way
to the orange-trees where the horses were picketed and waited for the storm to
blow over. Then the little light that was left vanished, and you could not see
your hand before your face. The air was heavy with dust and sand from the bed
of the river, that filled boots and pockets and drifted down necks and coated
eyebrows and moustaches. It was one of the worst dust-storms of the year.
We were all huddled together close to the trembling horses, with the thunder
clattering overhead, and the lightning spurting like water from a sluice, all
ways at once. There was no danger, of course, unless the horses broke loose. I
was standing with my head downward and my hands over my mouth, hearing the
trees thrashing each other. I could not see who was next me till the flashes
Then I found that I was packed near Saumarez and the eldest Miss Copleigh,
with my own horse just in front of me. I recognized the eldest Miss Copleigh,
because she had a pagri round her helmet, and the younger had not. All the
electricity in the air had gone into my body and I was quivering and tingling
from head to foot--exactly as a corn shoots and tingles before rain. It was a
The wind seemed to be picking up the earth and pitching it to leeward in great
heaps; and the heat beat up from the ground like the heat of the Day of
The storm lulled slightly after the first half-hour, and I heard a despairing
little voice close to my ear, saying to itself, quietly and softly, as if some
lost soul were flying about with the wind: "O my God!" Then the younger Miss
Copleigh stumbled into my arms, saying: "Where is my horse? Get my horse. I
want to go home. I WANT to go home. Take me home."
I thought that the lightning and the black darkness had frightened her; so I
said there was no danger, but she must wait till the storm blew over. She
answered: "It is not THAT! It is not THAT! I want to go home! O take me away
I said that she could not go till the light came; but I felt her brush past me
and go away. It was too dark to see where. Then the whole sky was split open
with one tremendous flash, as if the end of the world were coming, and all the
Almost directly after this, I felt a man's hand on my shoulder and heard
Saumarez bellowing in my ear. Through the rattling of the trees and howling of
the wind, I did not catch his words at once, but at last I heard him say:
"I've proposed to the wrong one! What shall I do?" Saumarez had no occasion to
make this confidence to me. I was never a friend of his, nor am I now; but I
fancy neither of us were ourselves just then. He was shaking as he stood with
excitement, and I was feeling queer all over with the electricity.
I could not think of anything to say except:--"More fool you for proposing in
a dust-storm." But I did not see how that would improve the mistake.
Then he shouted: "Where's Edith--Edith Copleigh?" Edith was the youngest
sister. I answered out of my astonishment:--"What do you want with HER?" Would
you believe it, for the next two minutes, he and I were shouting at each other
like maniacs--he vowing that it was the youngest sister he had meant to
propose to all along, and I telling him till my throat was hoarse that he must
have made a mistake! I can't account for this except, again, by the fact that
we were neither of us ourselves. Everything seemed to me like a bad dream--
from the stamping of the horses in the darkness to Saumarez telling me the
story of his loving Edith Copleigh since the first. He was still clawing my
shoulder and begging me to tell him where Edith Copleigh was, when another
lull came and brought light with it, and we saw the dust-cloud forming on the
plain in front of us. So we knew the worst was over. The moon was low down,
and there was just the glimmer of the false dawn that comes about an hour
before the real one. But the light was very faint, and the dun cloud roared
like a bull. I wondered where Edith Copleigh had gone; and as I was wondering
I saw three things together: First Maud Copleigh's face come smiling out of
the darkness and move towards Saumarez, who was standing by me. I heard the
girl whisper, "George," and slide her arm through the arm that was not clawing
my shoulder, and I saw that look on her face which only comes once or twice in
a lifetime--when a woman is perfectly happy and the air is full of trumpets
and gorgeous-colored fire and the Earth turns into cloud because she loves and
is loved. At the same time, I saw Saumarez's face as he heard Maud Copleigh's
voice, and fifty yards away from the clump of orange-trees I saw a brown
holland habit getting upon a horse.
It must have been my state of over-excitement that made me so quick to meddle
with what did not concern me. Saumarez was moving off to the habit; but I
pushed him back and said:--"Stop here and explain. I'll fetch her back!" and I
ran out to get at my own horse. I had a perfectly unnecessary notion that
everything must be done decently and in order, and that Saumarez's first care
was to wipe the happy look out of Maud Copleigh's face. All the time I was
linking up the curb-chain I wondered how he would do it.
I cantered after Edith Copleigh, thinking to bring her back slowly on some
pretence or another. But she galloped away as soon as she saw me, and I was
forced to ride after her in earnest. She called back over her shoulder--"Go
away! I'm going home. Oh, go away!" two or three times; but my business was to
catch her first, and argue later. The ride just fitted in with the rest of the
evil dream. The ground was very bad, and now and again we rushed through the
whirling, choking "dust-devils" in the skirts of the flying storm. There was a
burning hot wind blowing that brought up a stench of stale brick-kilns with
it; and through the half light and through the dust-devils, across that
desolate plain, flickered the brown holland habit on the gray horse. She
headed for the Station at first. Then she wheeled round and set off for the
river through beds of burnt down jungle-grass, bad even to ride a pig over. In
cold blood I should never have dreamed of going over such a country at night,
but it seemed quite right and natural with the lightning crackling overhead,
and a reek like the smell of the Pit in my nostrils. I rode and shouted, and
she bent forward and lashed her horse, and the aftermath of the dust-storm
came up and caught us both, and drove us downwind like pieces of paper.
I don't know how far we rode; but the drumming of the horse-hoofs and the roar
of the wind and the race of the faint blood-red moon through the yellow mist
seemed to have gone on for years and years, and I was literally drenched with
sweat from my helmet to my gaiters when the gray stumbled, recovered himself,
and pulled up dead lame. My brute was used up altogether. Edith Copleigh was
in a sad state, plastered with dust, her helmet off, and crying bitterly. "Why
can't you let me alone?" she said. "I only wanted to get away and go home. Oh,
PLEASE let me go!"
"You have got to come back with me, Miss Copleigh. Saumarez has something to
say to you."
It was a foolish way of putting it; but I hardly knew Miss Copleigh; and,
though I was playing Providence at the cost of my horse, I could not tell her
in as many words what Saumarez had told me. I thought he could do that better
himself. All her pretence about being tired and wanting to go home broke down,
and she rocked herself to and fro in the saddle as she sobbed, and the hot
wind blew her black hair to leeward. I am not going to repeat what she said,
because she was utterly unstrung.
This, if you please, was the cynical Miss Copleigh. Here was I, almost an
utter stranger to her, trying to tell her that Saumarez loved her and she was
to come back to hear him say so! I believe I made myself understood, for she
gathered the gray together and made him hobble somehow, and we set off for the
tomb, while the storm went thundering down to Umballa and a few big drops of
warm rain fell. I found out that she had been standing close to Saumarez when
he proposed to her sister and had wanted to go home and cry in peace, as an
English girl should. She dabbled her eyes with her pocket-handkerchief as we
went along, and babbled to me out of sheer lightness of heart and hysteria.
That was perfectly unnatural; and yet, it seemed all right at the time and in
the place. All the world was only the two Copleigh girls, Saumarez and I,
ringed in with the lightning and the dark; and the guidance of this misguided
world seemed to lie in my hands.
When we returned to the tomb in the deep, dead stillness that followed the
storm, the dawn was just breaking and nobody had gone away. They were waiting
for our return. Saumarez most of all.
His face was white and drawn. As Miss Copleigh and I limped up, he came
forward to meet us, and, when he helped her down from her saddle, he kissed
her before all the picnic. It was like a scene in a theatre, and the likeness
was heightened by all the dust-white, ghostly-looking men and women under the
orange-trees, clapping their hands, as if they were watching a play--at
Saumarez's choice. I never knew anything so un-English in my life.
Lastly, Saumarez said we must all go home or the Station would come out to
look for us, and WOULD I be good enough to ride home with Maud Copleigh?
Nothing would give me greater pleasure, I said.
So, we formed up, six couples in all, and went back two by two; Saumarez
walking at the side of Edith Copleigh, who was riding his horse.
The air was cleared; and little by little, as the sun rose, I felt we were all
dropping back again into ordinary men and women and that the "Great Pop
Picnic" was a thing altogether apart and out of the world--never to happen
again. It had gone with the dust-storm and the tingle in the hot air.
I felt tired and limp, and a good deal ashamed of myself as I went in for a
bath and some sleep.
There is a woman's version of this story, but it will never be written . . . .
unless Maud Copleigh cares to try.
THE RESCUE OF PLUFFLES.
Thus, for a season, they fought it fair--
She and his cousin May--
Tactful, talented, debonnaire,
Decorous foes were they;
But never can battle of man compare
With merciless feminine fray.
--Two and One.
Mrs. Hauksbee was sometimes nice to her own sex. Here is a story to prove
this; and you can believe just as much as ever you please.
Pluffles was a subaltern in the "Unmentionables." He was callow, even for a
subaltern. He was callow all over--like a canary that had not finished
fledging itself. The worst of it was he had three times as much money as was
good for him; Pluffles' Papa being a rich man and Pluffles being the only son.
Pluffles' Mamma adored him. She was only a little less callow than Pluffles
and she believed everything he said.
Pluffles' weakness was not believing what people said. He preferred what he
called "trusting to his own judgment." He had as much judgment as he had seat
or hands; and this preference tumbled him into trouble once or twice. But the
biggest trouble Pluffles ever manufactured came about at Simla--some years
ago, when he was four-and-twenty.
He began by trusting to his own judgment, as usual, and the result was that,
after a time, he was bound hand and foot to Mrs. Reiver's 'rickshaw wheels.
There was nothing good about Mrs. Reiver, unless it was her dress.
She was bad from her hair--which started life on a Brittany's girl's head--to
her boot-heels, which were two and three-eighth inches high. She was not
honestly mischievous like Mrs. Hauksbee; she was wicked in a business-like
There was never any scandal--she had not generous impulses enough for that.
She was the exception which proved the rule that Anglo-Indian ladies are in
every way as nice as their sisters at Home.
She spent her life in proving that rule.
Mrs. Hauksbee and she hated each other fervently. They heard far too much to
clash; but the things they said of each other were startling--not to say
original. Mrs. Hauksbee was honest--honest as her own front teeth--and, but
for her love of mischief, would have been a woman's woman. There was no
honesty about Mrs. Reiver; nothing but selfishness. And at the beginning of
the season, poor little Pluffles fell a prey to her. She laid herself out to
that end, and who was Pluffles, to resist? He went on trusting to his
judgment, and he got judged.
I have seen Hayes argue with a tough horse--I have seen a tonga-driver coerce
a stubborn pony--I have seen a riotous setter broken to gun by a hard keeper--
but the breaking-in of Pluffles of the "Unmentionables" was beyond all these.
He learned to fetch and carry like a dog, and to wait like one, too, for a
word from Mrs. Reiver. He learned to keep appointments which Mrs. Reiver had
no intention of keeping. He learned to take thankfully dances which Mrs.
Reiver had no intention of giving him. He learned to shiver for an hour and a
quarter on the windward side of Elysium while Mrs. Reiver was making up her
mind to come for a ride. He learned to hunt for a 'rickshaw, in a light dress-
suit under a pelting rain, and to walk by the side of that 'rickshaw when he
had found it. He learned what it was to be spoken to like a coolie and ordered
about like a cook. He learned all this and many other things besides. And he
paid for his schooling.
Perhaps, in some hazy way, he fancied that it was fine and impressive, that it
gave him a status among men, and was altogether the thing to do. It was
nobody's business to warn Pluffles that he was unwise. The pace that season
was too good to inquire; and meddling with another man's folly is always
Pluffles' Colonel should have ordered him back to his regiment when he heard
how things were going. But Pluffles had got himself engaged to a girl in
England the last time he went home; and if there was one thing more than
another which the Colonel detested, it was a married subaltern. He chuckled
when he heard of the education of Pluffles, and said it was "good training for
the boy." But it was not good training in the least. It led him into spending
money beyond his means, which were good: above that, the education spoilt an
average boy and made it a tenth-rate man of an objectionable kind. He wandered
into a bad set, and his little bill at Hamilton's was a thing to wonder at.
Then Mrs. Hauksbee rose to the occasion. She played her game alone, knowing
what people would say of her; and she played it for the sake of a girl she had
never seen. Pluffles' fiancee was to come out, under the chaperonage of an
aunt, in October, to be married to Pluffles.
At the beginning of August, Mrs. Hauksbee discovered that it was time to
interfere. A man who rides much knows exactly what a horse is going to do next
before he does it. In the same way, a woman of Mrs. Hauksbee's experience
knows accurately how a boy will behave under certain circumstances--notably
when he is infatuated with one of Mrs. Reiver's stamp. She said that, sooner
or later, little Pluffles would break off that engagement for nothing at all--
simply to gratify Mrs. Reiver, who, in return, would keep him at her feet and
in her service just so long as she found it worth her while.
She said she knew the signs of these things. If she did not, no one else
Then she went forth to capture Pluffles under the guns of the enemy; just as
Mrs. Cusack-Bremmil carried away Bremmil under Mrs. Hauksbee's eyes.
This particular engagement lasted seven weeks--we called it the Seven Weeks'
War--and was fought out inch by inch on both sides. A detailed account would
fill a book, and would be incomplete then.
Any one who knows about these things can fit in the details for himself. It
was a superb fight--there will never be another like it as long as Jakko
stands--and Pluffles was the prize of victory.
People said shameful things about Mrs. Hauksbee. They did not know what she
was playing for. Mrs. Reiver fought, partly because Pluffles was useful to
her, but mainly because she hated Mrs. Hauksbee, and the matter was a trial of
strength between them. No one knows what Pluffles thought. He had not many
ideas at the best of times, and the few he possessed made him conceited. Mrs.
Hauksbee said:--"The boy must be caught; and the only way of catching him is
by treating him well."
So she treated him as a man of the world and of experience so long as the
issue was doubtful. Little by little, Pluffles fell away from his old
allegiance and came over to the enemy, by whom he was made much of. He was
never sent on out-post duty after 'rickshaws any more, nor was he given dances
which never came off, nor were the drains on his purse continued. Mrs.
Hauksbee held him on the snaffle; and after his treatment at Mrs. Reiver's
hands, he appreciated the change.
Mrs. Reiver had broken him of talking about himself, and made him talk about
her own merits. Mrs. Hauksbee acted otherwise, and won his confidence, till he
mentioned his engagement to the girl at Home, speaking of it in a high and
mighty way as a "piece of boyish folly." This was when he was taking tea with
her one afternoon, and discoursing in what he considered a gay and fascinating
Mrs. Hauksbee had seen an earlier generation of his stamp bud and blossom, and
decay into fat Captains and tubby Majors.
At a moderate estimate there were about three and twenty sides to that lady's
character. Some men say more. She began to talk to Pluffles after the manner
of a mother, and as if there had been three hundred years, instead of fifteen,
between them. She spoke with a sort of throaty quaver in her voice which had a
soothing effect, though what she said was anything but soothing. She pointed
out the exceeding folly, not to say meanness, of Pluffles' conduct, and the
smallness of his views. Then he stammered something about "trusting to his own
judgment as a man of the world;" and this paved the way for what she wanted to
say next. It would have withered up Pluffles had it come from any other woman;
but in the soft cooing style in which Mrs. Hauksbee put it, it only made him
feel limp and repentant--as if he had been in some superior kind of church.
Little by little, very softly and pleasantly, she began taking the conceit out
of Pluffles, as you take the ribs out of an umbrella before re-covering it.
She told him what she thought of him and his judgment and his knowledge of the
world; and how his performances had made him ridiculous to other people; and
how it was his intention to make love to herself if she gave him the chance.
Then she said that marriage would be the making of him; and drew a pretty
little picture--all rose and opal--of the Mrs. Pluffles of the future going
through life relying on the "judgment" and "knowledge of the world" of a
husband who had nothing to reproach himself with. How she reconciled these two
statements she alone knew. But they did not strike Pluffles as conflicting.
Hers was a perfect little homily--much better than any clergyman could have
given--and it ended with touching allusions to Pluffles' Mamma and Papa, and
the wisdom of taking his bride Home.
Then she sent Pluffles out for a walk, to think over what she had said.
Pluffles left, blowing his nose very hard and holding himself very straight.
Mrs. Hauksbee laughed.
What Pluffles had intended to do in the matter of the engagement only Mrs.
Reiver knew, and she kept her own counsel to her death. She would have liked
it spoiled as a compliment, I fancy.
Pluffles enjoyed many talks with Mrs. Hauksbee during the next few days. They
were all to the same end, and they helped Pluffles in the path of Virtue.
Mrs. Hauksbee wanted to keep him under her wing to the last.
Therefore she discountenanced his going down to Bombay to get married.
"Goodness only knows what might happen by the way!" she said. "Pluffles is
cursed with the curse of Reuben, and India is no fit place for him!"
In the end, the fiancee arrived with her aunt; and Pluffles, having reduced
his affairs to some sort of order--here again Mrs. Hauksbee helped him--was
Mrs. Hauksbee gave a sigh of relief when both the "I wills" had been said, and
went her way.
Pluffles took her advice about going Home. He left the Service, and is now
raising speckled cattle inside green painted fences somewhere at Home. I
believe he does this very judiciously. He would have come to extreme grief out
For these reasons if any one says anything more than usually nasty about Mrs.
Hauksbee, tell him the story of the Rescue of Pluffles.
Pit where the buffalo cooled his hide,
By the hot sun emptied, and blistered and dried;
Log in the reh-grass, hidden and alone;
Bund where the earth-rat's mounds are strown;
Cave in the bank where the sly stream steals;
Aloe that stabs at the belly and heels,
Jump if you dare on a steed untried--
Safer it is to go wide--go wide!
Hark, from in front where the best men ride:--
"Pull to the off, boys! Wide! Go wide!"
--The Peora Hunt.
Once upon a time there lived at Simla a very pretty girl, the daughter of a
poor but honest District and Sessions Judge. She was a good girl, but could
not help knowing her power and using it.
Her Mamma was very anxious about her daughter's future, as all good Mammas
When a man is a Commissioner and a bachelor and has the right of wearing open-
work jam-tart jewels in gold and enamel on his clothes, and of going through a
door before every one except a Member of Council, a Lieutenant-Governor, or a
Viceroy, he is worth marrying. At least, that is what ladies say. There was a
Commissioner in Simla, in those days, who was, and wore, and did, all I have
said. He was a plain man--an ugly man--the ugliest man in Asia, with two
exceptions. His was a face to dream about and try to carve on a pipe-head
afterwards. His name was Saggott--Barr-Saggott--Anthony Barr-Saggott and six
letters to follow.
Departmentally, he was one of the best men the Government of India owned.
Socially, he was like a blandishing gorilla.
When he turned his attentions to Miss Beighton, I believe that Mrs.
Beighton wept with delight at the reward Providence had sent her in her old
Mr. Beighton held his tongue. He was an easy-going man.
Now a Commissioner is very rich. His pay is beyond the dreams of avarice--is
so enormous that he can afford to save and scrape in a way that would almost
discredit a Member of Council. Most Commissioners are mean; but Barr-Saggott
was an exception. He entertained royally; he horsed himself well; he gave
dances; he was a power in the land; and he behaved as such.
Consider that everything I am writing of took place in an almost pre-historic
era in the history of British India. Some folk may remember the years before
lawn-tennis was born when we all played croquet. There were seasons before
that, if you will believe me, when even croquet had not been invented, and
archery--which was revived in England in 1844--was as great a pest as lawn-
tennis is now. People talked learnedly about "holding" and "loosing,"
"steles," "reflexed bows," "56-pound bows," "backed" or "self-yew bows," as we
talk about "rallies," "volleys," "smashes," "returns," and "16-ounce rackets."
Miss Beighton shot divinely over ladies' distance--60 yards, that is--and was
acknowledged the best lady archer in Simla. Men called her "Diana of Tara-
Barr-Saggott paid her great attention; and, as I have said, the heart of her
mother was uplifted in consequence. Kitty Beighton took matters more calmly.
It was pleasant to be singled out by a Commissioner with letters after his
name, and to fill the hearts of other girls with bad feelings. But there was
no denying the fact that Barr-Saggott was phenomenally ugly; and all his
attempts to adorn himself only made him more grotesque. He was not christened
"The Langur"--which means gray ape--for nothing. It was pleasant, Kitty
thought, to have him at her feet, but it was better to escape from him and
ride with the graceless Cubbon--the man in a Dragoon Regiment at Umballa--the
boy with a handsome face, and no prospects. Kitty liked Cubbon more than a
little. He never pretended for a moment the he was anything less than head
over heels in love with her; for he was an honest boy. So Kitty fled, now and
again, from the stately wooings of Barr-Saggott to the company of young
Cubbon, and was scolded by her Mamma in consequence. "But, Mother," she said,
"Mr. Saggott is such--such a--is so FEARFULLY ugly, you know!"
"My dear," said Mrs. Beighton, piously, "we cannot be other than an all-ruling
Providence has made us. Besides, you will take precedence of your own Mother,
you know! Think of that and be reasonable."
Then Kitty put up her little chin and said irreverent things about precedence,
and Commissioners, and matrimony. Mr. Beighton rubbed the top of his head; for
he was an easy-going man.
Late in the season, when he judged that the time was ripe, Barr-Saggott
developed a plan which did great credit to his administrative powers. He
arranged an archery tournament for ladies, with a most sumptuous diamond-
studded bracelet as prize.
He drew up his terms skilfully, and every one saw that the bracelet was a gift
to Miss Beighton; the acceptance carrying with it the hand and the heart of
Commissioner Barr-Saggott. The terms were a St. Leonard's Round--thirty-six
shots at sixty yards--under the rules of the Simla Toxophilite Society.
All Simla was invited. There were beautifully arranged tea-tables under the
deodars at Annandale, where the Grand Stand is now; and, alone in its glory,
winking in the sun, sat the diamond bracelet in a blue velvet case. Miss
Beighton was anxious--almost too anxious to compete. On the appointed
afternoon, all Simla rode down to Annandale to witness the Judgment of Paris
turned upside down.
Kitty rode with young Cubbon, and it was easy to see that the boy was troubled
in his mind. He must be held innocent of everything that followed. Kitty was
pale and nervous, and looked long at the bracelet. Barr-Saggott was gorgeously
dressed, even more nervous than Kitty, and more hideous than ever.
Mrs. Beighton smiled condescendingly, as befitted the mother of a potential
Commissioneress, and the shooting began; all the world standing in a
semicircle as the ladies came out one after the other.
Nothing is so tedious as an archery competition. They shot, and they shot, and
they kept on shooting, till the sun left the valley, and little breezes got up
in the deodars, and people waited for Miss Beighton to shoot and win. Cubbon
was at one horn of the semicircle round the shooters, and Barr-Saggott at the
other. Miss Beighton was last on the list. The scoring had been weak, and the
bracelet, PLUS Commissioner Barr-Saggott, was hers to a certainty.
The Commissioner strung her bow with his own sacred hands. She stepped
forward, looked at the bracelet, and her first arrow went true to a hair--full
into the heart of the "gold"--counting nine points.
Young Cubbon on the left turned white, and his Devil prompted Barr-Saggott to
smile. Now horses used to shy when Barr-Saggott smiled.
Kitty saw that smile. She looked to her left-front, gave an almost
imperceptible nod to Cubbon, and went on shooting.
I wish I could describe the scene that followed. It was out of the ordinary
and most improper. Miss Kitty fitted her arrows with immense deliberation, so
that every one might see what she was doing. She was a perfect shot; and her
46-pound bow suited her to a nicety. She pinned the wooden legs of the target
with great care four successive times. She pinned the wooden top of the target
once, and all the ladies looked at each other. Then she began some fancy
shooting at the white, which, if you hit it, counts exactly one point. She put
five arrows into the white. It was wonderful archery; but, seeing that her
business was to make "golds" and win the bracelet, Barr-Saggott turned a
delicate green like young water-grass. Next, she shot over the target twice,
then wide to the left twice--always with the same deliberation--while a chilly
hush fell over the company, and Mrs. Beighton took out her handkerchief. Then
Kitty shot at the ground in front of the target, and split several arrows.
Then she made a red--or seven points--just to show what she could do if she
liked, and finished up her amazing performance with some more fancy shooting
at the target-supports. Here is her score as it was picked off:--
Gold. Red. Blue. Black. White. Total Hits. Total Score Miss Beighton
1 1 0 0 5 7 21
Barr-Saggott looked as if the last few arrowheads had been driven into his
legs instead of the target's, and the deep stillness was broken by a little
snubby, mottled, half-grown girl saying in a shrill voice of triumph: "Then
Mrs. Beighton did her best to bear up; but she wept in the presence of the
people. No training could help her through such a disappointment. Kitty
unstrung her bow with a vicious jerk, and went back to her place, while Barr-
Saggott was trying to pretend that he enjoyed snapping the bracelet on the
snubby girl's raw, red wrist. It was an awkward scene--most awkward. Every one
tried to depart in a body and leave Kitty to the mercy of her Mamma.
But Cubbon took her away instead, and--the rest isn't worth printing.
HIS CHANCE IN LIFE.
Then a pile of heads be laid--
Thirty thousand heaped on high--
All to please the Kafir maid,
Where the Oxus ripples by.
Grimly spake Atulla Khan:--
"Love hath made this thing a Man."
If you go straight away from Levees and Government House Lists, past Trades'
Balls--far beyond everything and everybody you ever knew in your respectable
life--you cross, in time, the Border line where the last drop of White blood
ends and the full tide of Black sets in. It would be easier to talk to a new-
made Duchess on the spur of the moment than to the Borderline folk without
violating some of their conventions or hurting their feelings. The Black and
the White mix very quaintly in their ways. Sometimes the White shows in spurts
of fierce, childish pride--which is Pride of Race run crooked--and sometimes
the Black in still fiercer abasement and humility, half heathenish customs and
strange, unaccountable impulses to crime. One of these days, this people--
understand they are far lower than the class whence Derozio, the man who
imitated Byron, sprung--will turn out a writer or a poet; and then we shall
know how they live and what they feel. In the meantime, any stories about them
cannot be absolutely correct in fact or inference.
Miss Vezzis came from across the Borderline to look after some children who
belonged to a lady until a regularly ordained nurse could come out. The lady
said Miss Vezzis was a bad, dirty nurse and inattentive. It never struck her
that Miss Vezzis had her own life to lead and her own affairs to worry over,
and that these affairs were the most important things in the world to Miss
Very few mistresses admit this sort of reasoning. Miss Vezzis was as black as
a boot, and to our standard of taste, hideously ugly.
She wore cotton-print gowns and bulged shoes; and when she lost her temper
with the children, she abused them in the language of the Borderline--which is
part English, part Portuguese, and part Native. She was not attractive; but
she had her pride, and she preferred being called "Miss Vezzis."
Every Sunday she dressed herself wonderfully and went to see her Mamma, who
lived, for the most part, on an old cane chair in a greasy tussur-silk
dressing-gown and a big rabbit-warren of a house full of Vezzises, Pereiras,
Ribieras, Lisboas and Gansalveses, and a floating population of loafers;
besides fragments of the day's bazar, garlic, stale incense, clothes thrown on
the floor, petticoats hung on strings for screens, old bottles, pewter
crucifixes, dried immortelles, pariah puppies, plaster images of the Virgin,
and hats without crowns. Miss Vezzis drew twenty rupees a month for acting as
nurse, and she squabbled weekly with her Mamma as to the percentage to be
given towards housekeeping.
When the quarrel was over, Michele D'Cruze used to shamble across the low mud
wall of the compound and make love to Miss Vezzis after the fashion of the
Borderline, which is hedged about with much ceremony. Michele was a poor,
sickly weed and very black; but he had his pride. He would not be seen smoking
a huqa for anything; and he looked down on natives as only a man with seven-
eighths native blood in his veins can. The Vezzis Family had their pride too.
They traced their descent from a mythical plate-layer who had worked on the
Sone Bridge when railways were new in India, and they valued their English
origin. Michele was a Telegraph Signaller on Rs. 35 a month. The fact that he
was in Government employ made Mrs. Vezzis lenient to the shortcomings of his
There was a compromising legend--Dom Anna the tailor brought it from Poonani--
that a black Jew of Cochin had once married into the D'Cruze family; while it
was an open secret that an uncle of Mrs. D'Cruze was at that very time doing
menial work, connected with cooking, for a Club in Southern India! He sent Mrs
D'Cruze seven rupees eight annas a month; but she felt the disgrace to the
family very keenly all the same.
However, in the course of a few Sundays, Mrs. Vezzis brought herself to
overlook these blemishes and gave her consent to the marriage of her daughter
with Michele, on condition that Michele should have at least fifty rupees a
month to start married life upon. This wonderful prudence must have been a
lingering touch of the mythical plate-layer's Yorkshire blood; for across the
Borderline people take a pride in marrying when they please--not when they
Having regard to his departmental prospects, Miss Vezzis might as well have
asked Michele to go away and come back with the Moon in his pocket. But
Michele was deeply in love with Miss Vezzis, and that helped him to endure. He
accompanied Miss Vezzis to Mass one Sunday, and after Mass, walking home
through the hot stale dust with her hand in his, he swore by several Saints,
whose names would not interest you, never to forget Miss Vezzis; and she swore
by her Honor and the Saints--the oath runs rather curiously; "In nomine
Sanctissimae--" (whatever the name of the she-Saint is) and so forth, ending
with a kiss on the forehead, a kiss on the left cheek, and a kiss on the
mouth--never to forget Michele.
Next week Michele was transferred, and Miss Vezzis dropped tears upon the
window-sash of the "Intermediate" compartment as he left the Station.
If you look at the telegraph-map of India you will see a long line skirting
the coast from Backergunge to Madras. Michele was ordered to Tibasu, a little
Sub-office one-third down this line, to send messages on from Berhampur to
Chicacola, and to think of Miss Vezzis and his chances of getting fifty rupees
a month out of office hours. He had the noise of the Bay of Bengal and a
Bengali Babu for company; nothing more. He sent foolish letters, with crosses
tucked inside the flaps of the envelopes, to Miss Vezzis.
When he had been at Tibasu for nearly three weeks his chance came.
Never forget that unless the outward and visible signs of Our Authority are
always before a native he is as incapable as a child of understanding what
authority means, or where is the danger of disobeying it. Tibasu was a
forgotten little place with a few Orissa Mohamedans in it. These, hearing
nothing of the Collector-Sahib for some time, and heartily despising the Hindu
Sub-Judge, arranged to start a little Mohurrum riot of their own. But the
Hindus turned out and broke their heads; when, finding lawlessness pleasant,
Hindus and Mahomedans together raised an aimless sort of Donnybrook just to
see how far they could go. They looted each other's shops, and paid off
private grudges in the regular way. It was a nasty little riot, but not worth
putting in the newspapers.
Michele was working in his office when he heard the sound that a man never
forgets all his life--the "ah-yah" of an angry crowd.
[When that sound drops about three tones, and changes to a thick, droning ut,
the man who hears it had better go away if he is alone.] The Native Police
Inspector ran in and told Michele that the town was in an uproar and coming to
wreck the Telegraph Office.
The Babu put on his cap and quietly dropped out of the window; while the
Police Inspector, afraid, but obeying the old race-instinct which recognizes a
drop of White blood as far as it can be diluted, said:--"What orders does the
The "Sahib" decided Michele. Though horribly frightened, he felt that, for the
hour, he, the man with the Cochin Jew and the menial uncle in his pedigree,
was the only representative of English authority in the place. Then he thought
of Miss Vezzis and the fifty rupees, and took the situation on himself. There
were seven native policemen in Tibasu, and four crazy smooth-bore muskets
among them. All the men were gray with fear, but not beyond leading. Michele
dropped the key of the telegraph instrument, and went out, at the head of his
army, to meet the mob. As the shouting crew came round a corner of the road,
he dropped and fired; the men behind him loosing instinctively at the same
The whole crowd--curs to the backbone--yelled and ran; leaving one man dead,
and another dying in the road. Michele was sweating with fear, but he kept his
weakness under, and went down into the town, past the house where the Sub-
Judge had barricaded himself. The streets were empty. Tibasu was more
frightened than Michele, for the mob had been taken at the right time.
Michele returned to the Telegraph-Office, and sent a message to Chicacola
asking for help. Before an answer came, he received a deputation of the elders
of Tibasu, telling him that the Sub-Judge said his actions generally were
"unconstitional," and trying to bully him. But the heart of Michele D'Cruze
was big and white in his breast, because of his love for Miss Vezzis, the
nurse-girl, and because he had tasted for the first time Responsibility and
Success. Those two make an intoxicating drink, and have ruined more men than
ever has Whiskey. Michele answered that the Sub-Judge might say what he
pleased, but, until the Assistant Collector came, the Telegraph Signaller was
the Government of India in Tibasu, and the elders of the town would be held
accountable for further rioting. Then they bowed their heads and said: "Show
mercy!" or words to that effect, and went back in great fear; each accusing
the other of having begun the rioting.
Early in the dawn, after a night's patrol with his seven policemen, Michele
went down the road, musket in hand, to meet the Assistant Collector, who had
ridden in to quell Tibasu. But, in the presence of this young Englishman,
Michele felt himself slipping back more and more into the native, and the tale
of the Tibasu Riots ended, with the strain on the teller, in an hysterical
outburst of tears, bred by sorrow that he had killed a man, shame that he
could not feel as uplifted as he had felt through the night, and childish
anger that his tongue could not do justice to his great deeds. It was the
White drop in Michele's veins dying out, though he did not know it.
But the Englishman understood; and, after he had schooled those men of Tibasu,
and had conferred with the Sub-Judge till that excellent official turned
green, he found time to draught an official letter describing the conduct of
Michele. Which letter filtered through the Proper Channels, and ended in the
transfer of Michele up-country once more, on the Imperial salary of sixty-six
rupees a month.
So he and Miss Vezzis were married with great state and ancientry; and now
there are several little D'Cruzes sprawling about the verandahs of the Central
But, if the whole revenue of the Department he serves were to be his reward
Michele could never, never repeat what he did at Tibasu for the sake of Miss
Vezzis the nurse-girl.
Which proves that, when a man does good work out of all proportion to his pay,
in seven cases out of nine there is a woman at the back of the virtue.
The two exceptions must have suffered from sunstroke.
WATCHES OF THE NIGHT.
What is in the Brahmin's books that is in the Brahmin's heart.
Neither you nor I knew there was so much evil in the world.
This began in a practical joke; but it has gone far enough now, and is getting
Platte, the Subaltern, being poor, had a Waterbury watch and a plain leather
The Colonel had a Waterbury watch also, and for guard, the lip-strap of a
curb-chain. Lip-straps make the best watch guards.
They are strong and short. Between a lip-strap and an ordinary leather guard
there is no great difference; between one Waterbury watch and another there is
none at all. Every one in the station knew the Colonel's lip-strap. He was not
a horsey man, but he liked people to believe he had been one once; and he wove
fantastic stories of the hunting-bridle to which this particular lip-strap had
belonged. Otherwise he was painfully religious.
Platte and the Colonel were dressing at the Club--both late for their
engagements, and both in a hurry. That was Kismet. The two watches were on a
shelf below the looking-glass--guards hanging down. That was carelessness.
Platte changed first, snatched a watch, looked in the glass, settled his tie,
and ran. Forty seconds later, the Colonel did exactly the same thing; each man
taking the other's watch.
You may have noticed that many religious people are deeply suspicious. They
seem--for purely religious purposes, of course--to know more about iniquity
than the Unregenerate. Perhaps they were specially bad before they became
converted! At any rate, in the imputation of things evil, and in putting the
worst construction on things innocent, a certain type of good people may be
trusted to surpass all others. The Colonel and his Wife were of that type. But
the Colonel's Wife was the worst. She manufactured the Station scandal, and--
TALKED TO HER AYAH! Nothing more need be said. The Colonel's Wife broke up the
Laplaces's home. The Colonel's Wife stopped the Ferris-Haughtrey engagement.
The Colonel's Wife induced young Buxton to keep his wife down in the Plains
through the first year of the marriage. Whereby little Mrs.
Buxton died, and the baby with her. These things will be remembered against
the Colonel's Wife so long as there is a regiment in the country.
But to come back to the Colonel and Platte. They went their several ways from
the dressing-room. The Colonel dined with two Chaplains, while Platte went to
a bachelor-party, and whist to follow.
Mark how things happen! If Platte's sais had put the new saddle-pad on the
mare, the butts of the terrets would not have worked through the worn leather,
and the old pad into the mare's withers, when she was coming home at two
o'clock in the morning. She would not have reared, bolted, fallen into a
ditch, upset the cart, and sent Platte flying over an aloe-hedge on to Mrs.
Larkyn's well-kept lawn; and this tale would never have been written. But the
mare did all these things, and while Platte was rolling over and over on the
turf, like a shot rabbit, the watch and guard flew from his waistcoat--as an
Infantry Major's sword hops out of the scabbard when they are firing a feu de
joie--and rolled and rolled in the moonlight, till it stopped under a window.
Platte stuffed his handkerchief under the pad, put the cart straight, and went
Mark again how Kismet works! This would not happen once in a hundred years.
Towards the end of his dinner with the two Chaplains, the Colonel let out his
waistcoat and leaned over the table to look at some Mission Reports. The bar
of the watch-guard worked through the buttonhole, and the watch--Platte's
watch--slid quietly on to the carpet. Where the bearer found it next morning
and kept it.
Then the Colonel went home to the wife of his bosom; but the driver of the
carriage was drunk and lost his way. So the Colonel returned at an unseemly
hour and his excuses were not accepted. If the Colonel's Wife had been an
ordinary "vessel of wrath appointed for destruction," she would have known
that when a man stays away on purpose, his excuse is always sound and
original. The very baldness of the Colonel's explanation proved its truth.
See once more the workings of Kismet! The Colonel's watch which came with
Platte hurriedly on to Mrs. Larkyn's lawn, chose to stop just under Mrs.
Larkyn's window, where she saw it early in the morning, recognized it, and
picked it up. She had heard the crash of Platte's cart at two o'clock that
morning, and his voice calling the mare names. She knew Platte and liked him.
That day she showed him the watch and heard his story. He put his head on one
side, winked and said:--"How disgusting! Shocking old man! with his religious
training, too! I should send the watch to the Colonel's Wife and ask for
Mrs. Larkyn thought for a minute of the Laplaces--whom she had known when
Laplace and his wife believed in each other--and answered:--"I will send it. I
think it will do her good. But remember, we must NEVER tell her the truth."
Platte guessed that his own watch was in the Colonel's possession, and thought
that the return of the lip-strapped Waterbury with a soothing note from Mrs.
Larkyn, would merely create a small trouble for a few minutes. Mrs. Larkyn
knew better. She knew that any poison dropped would find good holding-ground
in the heart of the Colonel's Wife.
The packet, and a note containing a few remarks on the Colonel's calling-
hours, were sent over to the Colonel's Wife, who wept in her own room and took
counsel with herself.
If there was one woman under Heaven whom the Colonel's Wife hated with holy
fervor, it was Mrs. Larkyn. Mrs. Larkyn was a frivolous lady, and called the
Colonel's Wife "old cat." The Colonel's Wife said that somebody in Revelations
was remarkably like Mrs. Larkyn.
She mentioned other Scripture people as well. From the Old Testament. [But the
Colonel's Wife was the only person who cared or dared to say anything against
Mrs. Larkyn. Every one else accepted her as an amusing, honest little body.]
Wherefore, to believe that her husband had been shedding watches under that
"Thing's" window at ungodly hours, coupled with the fact of his late arrival
on the previous night, was . . . . .
At this point she rose up and sought her husband. He denied everything except
the ownership of the watch. She besought him, for his Soul's sake, to speak
the truth. He denied afresh, with two bad words. Then a stony silence held the
Colonel's Wife, while a man could draw his breath five times.
The speech that followed is no affair of mine or yours. It was made up of
wifely and womanly jealousy; knowledge of old age and sunken cheeks; deep
mistrust born of the text that says even little babies' hearts are as bad as
they make them; rancorous hatred of Mrs. Larkyn, and the tenets of the creed
of the Colonel's Wife's upbringing.
Over and above all, was the damning lip-strapped Waterbury, ticking away in
the palm of her shaking, withered hand. At that hour, I think, the Colonel's
Wife realized a little of the restless suspicions she had injected into old
Laplace's mind, a little of poor Miss Haughtrey's misery, and some of the
canker that ate into Buxton's heart as he watched his wife dying before his
eyes. The Colonel stammered and tried to explain. Then he remembered that his
watch had disappeared; and the mystery grew greater. The Colonel's Wife talked
and prayed by turns till she was tired, and went away to devise means for
"chastening the stubborn heart of her husband." Which translated, means, in
our slang, "tail-twisting."
You see, being deeply impressed with the doctrine of Original Sin, she could
not believe in the face of appearances. She knew too much, and jumped to the
But it was good for her. It spoilt her life, as she had spoilt the life of the
Laplaces. She had lost her faith in the Colonel, and--here the creed suspicion
came in--he might, she argued, have erred many times, before a merciful
Providence, at the hands of so unworthy an instrument as Mrs. Larkyn, had
established his guilt.
He was a bad, wicked, gray-haired profligate. This may sound too sudden a
revulsion for a long-wedded wife; but it is a venerable fact that, if a man or
woman makes a practice of, and takes a delight in, believing and spreading
evil of people indifferent to him or her, he or she will end in believing evil
of folk very near and dear. You may think, also, that the mere incident of the
watch was too small and trivial to raise this misunderstanding. It is another
aged fact that, in life as well as racing, all the worst accidents happen at
little ditches and cut-down fences. In the same way, you sometimes see a woman
who would have made a Joan of Arc in another century and climate, threshing
herself to pieces over all the mean worry of housekeeping. But that is another
Her belief only made the Colonel's Wife more wretched, because it insisted so
strongly on the villainy of men. Remembering what she had done, it was
pleasant to watch her unhappiness, and the penny-farthing attempts she made to
hide it from the Station. But the Station knew and laughed heartlessly; for
they had heard the story of the watch, with much dramatic gesture, from Mrs.
Once or twice Platte said to Mrs. Larkyn, seeing that the Colonel had not
cleared himself:--"This thing has gone far enough. I move we tell the
Colonel's Wife how it happened." Mrs. Larkyn shut her lips and shook her head,
and vowed that the Colonel's Wife must bear her punishment as best she could.
Now Mrs. Larkyn was a frivolous woman, in whom none would have suspected deep
hate. So Platte took no action, and came to believe gradually, from the
Colonel's silence, that the Colonel must have "run off the line" somewhere
that night, and, therefore, preferred to stand sentence on the lesser count of
rambling into other people's compounds out of calling hours. Platte forgot
about the watch business after a while, and moved down-country with his
regiment. Mrs. Larkyn went home when her husband's tour of Indian service
expired. She never forgot.
But Platte was quite right when he said that the joke had gone too far. The
mistrust and the tragedy of it--which we outsiders cannot see and do not
believe in--are killing the Colonel's Wife, and are making the Colonel
wretched. If either of them read this story, they can depend upon its being a
fairly true account of the case, and can "kiss and make friends."
Shakespeare alludes to the pleasure of watching an Engineer being shelled by
his own Battery. Now this shows that poets should not write about what they do
not understand. Any one could have told him that Sappers and Gunners are
perfectly different branches of the Service. But, if you correct the sentence,
and substitute Gunner for Sapper, the moral comes just the same.
THE OTHER MAN.
When the earth was sick and the skies were gray,
And the woods were rotted with rain,
The Dead Man rode through the autumn day
To visit his love again.
Far back in the "seventies," before they had built any Public Offices at
Simla, and the broad road round Jakko lived in a pigeon-hole in the P. W. D.
hovels, her parents made Miss Gaurey marry Colonel Schreiderling. He could not
have been MUCH more than thirty-five years her senior; and, as he lived on two
hundred rupees a month and had money of his own, he was well off. He belonged
to good people, and suffered in the cold weather from lung complaints. In the
hot weather he dangled on the brink of heat-apoplexy; but it never quite
Understand, I do not blame Schreiderling. He was a good husband according to
his lights, and his temper only failed him when he was being nursed. Which was
some seventeen days in each month. He was almost generous to his wife about
money matters, and that, for him, was a concession. Still Mrs. Schreiderling
was not happy. They married her when she was this side of twenty and had given
all her poor little heart to another man. I have forgotten his name, but we
will call him the Other Man. He had no money and no prospects.
He was not even good-looking; and I think he was in the Commissariat or
Transport. But, in spite of all these things, she loved him very madly; and
there was some sort of an engagement between the two when Schreiderling
appeared and told Mrs. Gaurey that he wished to marry her daughter. Then the
other engagement was broken off--washed away by Mrs. Gaurey's tears, for that
lady governed her house by weeping over disobedience to her authority and the
lack of reverence she received in her old age. The daughter did not take after
her mother. She never cried. Not even at the wedding.
The Other Man bore his loss quietly, and was transferred to as bad a station
as he could find. Perhaps the climate consoled him. He suffered from
intermittent fever, and that may have distracted him from his other trouble.
He was weak about the heart also. Both ways. One of the valves was affected,
and the fever made it worse.
This showed itself later on.
Then many months passed, and Mrs. Schreiderling took to being ill.
She did not pine away like people in story books, but she seemed to pick up
every form of illness that went about a station, from simple fever upwards.
She was never more than ordinarily pretty at the best of times; and the
illness made her ugly. Schreiderling said so. He prided himself on speaking
When she ceased being pretty, he left her to her own devices, and went back to
the lairs of his bachelordom. She used to trot up and down Simla Mall in a
forlorn sort of way, with a gray Terai hat well on the back of her head, and a
shocking bad saddle under her.
Schreiderling's generosity stopped at the horse. He said that any saddle would
do for a woman as nervous as Mrs. Schreiderling. She never was asked to dance,
because she did not dance well; and she was so dull and uninteresting, that
her box very seldom had any cards in it. Schreiderling said that if he had
known that she was going to be such a scare-crow after her marriage, he would
never have married her. He always prided himself on speaking his mind, did
He left her at Simla one August, and went down to his regiment.
Then she revived a little, but she never recovered her looks. I found out at
the Club that the Other Man is coming up sick--very sick--on an off chance of
recovery. The fever and the heart-valves had nearly killed him. She knew that,
too, and she knew--what I had no interest in knowing--when he was coming up. I
suppose he wrote to tell her. They had not seen each other since a month
before the wedding. And here comes the unpleasant part of the story.
A late call kept me down at the Dovedell Hotel till dusk one evening. Mrs.
Schreidlerling had been flitting up and down the Mall all the afternoon in the
rain. Coming up along the Cart-road, a tonga passed me, and my pony, tired
with standing so long, set off at a canter. Just by the road down to the Tonga
Office Mrs. Schreiderling, dripping from head to foot, was waiting for the
tonga. I turned up-hill, as the tonga was no affair of mine; and just then she
began to shriek. I went back at once and saw, under the Tonga Office lamps,
Mrs. Schreiderling kneeling in the wet road by the back seat of the newly-
arrived tonga, screaming hideously.
Then she fell face down in the dirt as I came up.
Sitting in the back seat, very square and firm, with one hand on the awning-
stanchion and the wet pouring off his hat and moustache, was the Other Man--
dead. The sixty-mile up-hill jolt had been too much for his valve, I suppose.
The tonga-driver said:--"The Sahib died two stages out of Solon. Therefore, I
tied him with a rope, lest he should fall out by the way, and so came to
Simla. Will the Sahib give me bukshish? IT," pointing to the Other Man,
"should have given one rupee."
The Other Man sat with a grin on his face, as if he enjoyed the joke of his
arrival; and Mrs. Schreiderling, in the mud, began to groan. There was no one
except us four in the office and it was raining heavily. The first thing was
to take Mrs. Schreiderling home, and the second was to prevent her name from
being mixed up with the affair. The tonga-driver received five rupees to find
a bazar 'rickshaw for Mrs. Schreiderling. He was to tell the tonga Babu
afterwards of the Other Man, and the Babu was to make such arrangements as
Mrs. Schreiderling was carried into the shed out of the rain, and for three-
quarters of an hour we two waited for the 'rickshaw. The Other Man was left
exactly as he had arrived. Mrs. Schreiderling would do everything but cry,
which might have helped her. She tried to scream as soon as her senses came
back, and then she began praying for the Other Man's soul. Had she not been as
honest as the day, she would have prayed for her own soul too. I waited to
hear her do this, but she did not. Then I tried to get some of the mud off her
habit. Lastly, the 'rickshaw came, and I got her away--partly by force. It was
a terrible business from beginning to end; but most of all when the 'rickshaw
had to squeeze between the wall and the tonga, and she saw by the lamp-light
that thin, yellow hand grasping the awning-stanchion.
She was taken home just as every one was going to a dance at Viceregal Lodge--
"Peterhoff" it was then--and the doctor found that she had fallen from her
horse, that I had picked her up at the back of Jakko, and really deserved
great credit for the prompt manner in which I had secured medical aid. She did
not die--men of Schreiderling's stamp marry women who don't die easily. They
live and grow ugly.
She never told of her one meeting, since her marriage, with the Other Man;
and, when the chill and cough following the exposure of that evening, allowed
her abroad, she never by word or sign alluded to having met me by the Tonga
Office. Perhaps she never knew.
She used to trot up and down the Mall, on that shocking bad saddle, looking as
if she expected to meet some one round the corner every minute. Two years
afterward, she went Home, and died--at Bournemouth, I think.
Schreiderling, when he grew maudlin at Mess, used to talk about "my poor dear
wife." He always set great store on speaking his mind, did Schreiderling!
In the Orient had rise;
Ye may find their teachers still
Under Jacatala's Hill.
Seek ye Bombast Paracelsus,
Read what Flood the Seeker tells us
Of the Dominant that runs
Through the cycles of the Suns--
Read my story last and see
Luna at her apogee.
There are yearly appointments, and two-yearly appointments, and five-yearly
appointments at Simla, and there are, or used to be, permanent appointments,
whereon you stayed up for the term of your natural life and secured red cheeks
and a nice income. Of course, you could descend in the cold weather; for Simla
is rather dull then.
Tarrion came from goodness knows where--all away and away in some forsaken
part of Central India, where they call Pachmari a "Sanitarium," and drive
behind trotting bullocks, I believe. He belonged to a regiment; but what he
really wanted to do was to escape from his regiment and live in Simla forever
and ever. He had no preference for anything in particular, beyond a good horse
and a nice partner. He thought he could do everything well; which is a
beautiful belief when you hold it with all your heart. He was clever in many
ways, and good to look at, and always made people round him comfortable--even
in Central India.
So he went up to Simla, and, because he was clever and amusing, he gravitated
naturally to Mrs. Hauksbee, who could forgive everything but stupidity. Once
he did her great service by changing the date on an invitation-card for a big
dance which Mrs. Hauksbee wished to attend, but couldn't because she had
quarrelled with the A.-D.-C., who took care, being a mean man, to invite her
to a small dance on the 6th instead of the big Ball of the 26th. It was a very
clever piece of forgery; and when Mrs. Hauksbee showed the A.-D.-C. her
invitation-card, and chaffed him mildly for not better managing his vendettas,
he really thought he had made a mistake; and--which was wise--realized that it
was no use to fight with Mrs. Hauksbee. She was grateful to Tarrion and asked
what she could do for him. He said simply: "I'm a Freelance up here on leave,
and on the lookout for what I can loot. I haven't a square inch of interest in
all Simla. My name isn't known to any man with an appointment in his gift, and
I want an appointment--a good, sound, pukka one. I believe you can do anything
you turn yourself to do. Will you help me?" Mrs. Hauksbee thought for a
minute, and passed the last of her riding-whip through her lips, as was her
custom when thinking.
Then her eyes sparkled, and she said:--"I will;" and she shook hands on it.
Tarrion, having perfect confidence in this great woman, took no further
thought of the business at all. Except to wonder what sort of an appointment
he would win.
Mrs. Hauksbee began calculating the prices of all the Heads of Departments and
Members of Council she knew, and the more she thought the more she laughed,
because her heart was in the game and it amused her. Then she took a Civil
List and ran over a few of the appointments. There are some beautiful
appointments in the Civil List. Eventually, she decided that, though Tarrion
was too good for the Political Department, she had better begin by trying to
get him in there. What were her own plans to this end, does not matter in the
least, for Luck or Fate played into her hands, and she had nothing to do but
to watch the course of events and take the credit of them.
All Viceroys, when they first come out, pass through the "Diplomatic Secrecy"
craze. It wears off in time; but they all catch it in the beginning, because
they are new to the country.
The particular Viceroy who was suffering from the complaint just then--this
was a long time ago, before Lord Dufferin ever came from Canada, or Lord Ripon
from the bosom of the English Church--had it very badly; and the result was
that men who were new to keeping official secrets went about looking unhappy;
and the Viceroy plumed himself on the way in which he had instilled notions of
reticence into his Staff.
Now, the Supreme Government have a careless custom of committing what they do
to printed papers. These papers deal with all sorts of things--from the
payment of Rs. 200 to a "secret service" native, up to rebukes administered to
Vakils and Motamids of Native States, and rather brusque letters to Native
Princes, telling them to put their houses in order, to refrain from kidnapping
women, or filling offenders with pounded red pepper, and eccentricities of
that kind. Of course, these things could never be made public, because Native
Princes never err officially, and their States are, officially, as well
administered as Our territories. Also, the private allowances to various queer
people are not exactly matters to put into newspapers, though they give quaint
When the Supreme Government is at Simla, these papers are prepared there, and
go round to the people who ought to see them in office-boxes or by post. The
principle of secrecy was to that Viceroy quite as important as the practice,
and he held that a benevolent despotism like Ours should never allow even
little things, such as appointments of subordinate clerks, to leak out till
the proper time. He was always remarkable for his principles.
There was a very important batch of papers in preparation at that time. It had
to travel from one end of Simla to the other by hand.
It was not put into an official envelope, but a large, square, pale-pink one;
the matter being in MS. on soft crinkly paper. It was addressed to "The Head
Clerk, etc., etc." Now, between "The Head Clerk, etc., etc.," and "Mrs.
Hauksbee" and a flourish, is no very great difference if the address be
written in a very bad hand, as this was. The chaprassi who took the envelope
was not more of an idiot than most chaprassis. He merely forgot where this
most unofficial cover was to be delivered, and so asked the first Englishman
he met, who happened to be a man riding down to Annandale in a great hurry.
The Englishman hardly looked, said: "Hauksbee Sahib ki Mem," and went on. So
did the chaprassi, because that letter was the last in stock and he wanted to
get his work over. There was no book to sign; he thrust the letter into Mrs.
Hauksbee's bearer's hands and went off to smoke with a friend.
Mrs. Hauksbee was expecting some cut-out pattern things in flimsy paper from a
friend. As soon as she got the big square packet, therefore, she said, "Oh,
the DEAR creature!" and tore it open with a paper-knife, and all the MS.
enclosures tumbled out on the floor.
Mrs. Hauksbee began reading. I have said the batch was rather important. That
is quite enough for you to know. It referred to some correspondence, two
measures, a peremptory order to a native chief and two dozen other things.
Mrs. Hauksbee gasped as she read, for the first glimpse of the naked machinery
of the Great Indian Government, stripped of its casings, and lacquer, and
paint, and guard-rails, impresses even the most stupid man. And Mrs. Hauksbee
was a clever woman. She was a little afraid at first, and felt as if she had
laid hold of a lightning-flash by the tail, and did not quite know what to do
with it. There were remarks and initials at the side of the papers; and some
of the remarks were rather more severe than the papers. The initials belonged
to men who are all dead or gone now; but they were great in their day.
Mrs. Hauksbee read on and thought calmly as she read. Then the value of her
trove struck her, and she cast about for the best method of using it. Then
Tarrion dropped in, and they read through all the papers together, and
Tarrion, not knowing how she had come by them, vowed that Mrs. Hauksbee was
the greatest woman on earth.
Which I believe was true, or nearly so.
"The honest course is always the best," said Tarrion after an hour and a half
of study and conversation. "All things considered, the Intelligence Branch is
about my form. Either that or the Foreign Office. I go to lay siege to the
High Gods in their Temples."
He did not seek a little man, or a little big man, or a weak Head of a strong
Department, but he called on the biggest and strongest man that the Government
owned, and explained that he wanted an appointment at Simla on a good salary.
The compound insolence of this amused the Strong Man, and, as he had nothing
to do for the moment, he listened to the proposals of the audacious Tarrion.
"You have, I presume, some special qualifications, besides the gift of self-
assertion, for the claims you put forwards?" said the Strong Man. "That, Sir,"
said Tarrion, "is for you to judge." Then he began, for he had a good memory,
quoting a few of the more important notes in the papers--slowly and one by one
as a man drops chlorodyne into a glass. When he had reached the peremptory
order--and it WAS a peremptory order--the Strong Man was troubled.
Tarrion wound up:--"And I fancy that special knowledge of this kind is at
least as valuable for, let us say, a berth in the Foreign Office, as the fact
of being the nephew of a distinguished officer's wife." That hit the Strong
Man hard, for the last appointment to the Foreign Office had been by black
favor, and he knew it. "I'll see what I can do for you," said the Strong Man.
"Many thanks," said Tarrion. Then he left, and the Strong Man departed to see
how the appointment was to be blocked.
. . . . . . . . .
Followed a pause of eleven days; with thunders and lightnings and much
telegraphing. The appointment was not a very important one, carrying only
between Rs. 500 and Rs. 700 a month; but, as the Viceroy said, it was the
principle of diplomatic secrecy that had to be maintained, and it was more
than likely that a boy so well supplied with special information would be
worth translating. So they translated him. They must have suspected him,
though he protested that his information was due to singular talents of his
own. Now, much of this story, including the after-history of the missing
envelope, you must fill in for yourself, because there are reasons why it
cannot be written. If you do not know about things Up Above, you won't
understand how to fill it in, and you will say it is impossible.
What the Viceroy said when Tarrion was introduced to him was:--"So, this is
the boy who 'rusked' the Government of India, is it? Recollect, Sir, that is
not done TWICE." So he must have known something.
What Tarrion said when he saw his appointment gazetted was:--"If Mrs. Hauksbee
were twenty years younger, and I her husband, I should be Viceroy of India in
What Mrs. Hauksbee said, when Tarrion thanked her, almost with tears in his
eyes, was first:--"I told you so!" and next, to herself:--"What fools men
THE CONVERSION OF AURELIAN McGOGGIN.
Ride with an idle whip, ride with an unused heel.
But, once in a way, there will come a day
When the colt must be taught to feel
The lash that falls, and the curb that galls,
And the sting of the rowelled steel.
This is not a tale exactly. It is a Tract; and I am immensely proud of it.
Making a Tract is a Feat.
Every man is entitled to his own religious opinions; but no man--least of all
a junior--has a right to thrust these down other men's throats. The Government
sends out weird Civilians now and again; but McGoggin was the queerest
exported for a long time. He was clever--brilliantly clever--but his
cleverness worked the wrong way. Instead of keeping to the study of the
vernaculars, he had read some books written by a man called Comte, I think,
and a man called Spencer, and a Professor Clifford. [You will find these books
in the Library.] They deal with people's insides from the point of view of men
who have no stomachs. There was no order against his reading them; but his
Mamma should have smacked him.
They fermented in his head, and he came out to India with a rarefied religion
over and above his work. It was not much of a creed. It only proved that men
had no souls, and there was no God and no hereafter, and that you must worry
along somehow for the good of Humanity.
One of its minor tenets seemed to be that the one thing more sinful than
giving an order was obeying it. At least, that was what McGoggin said; but I
suspect he had misread his primers.
I do not say a word against this creed. It was made up in Town, where there is
nothing but machinery and asphalt and building--all shut in by the fog.
Naturally, a man grows to think that there is no one higher than himself, and
that the Metropolitan Board of Works made everything. But in this country,
where you really see humanity--raw, brown, naked humanity--with nothing
between it and the blazing sky, and only the used-up, over-handled earth
underfoot, the notion somehow dies away, and most folk come back to simpler
theories. Life, in India, is not long enough to waste in proving that there is
no one in particular at the head of affairs.
For this reason. The Deputy is above the Assistant, the Commissioner above the
Deputy, the Lieutenant-Governor above the Commissioner, and the Viceroy above
all four, under the orders of the Secretary of State, who is responsible to
the Empress. If the Empress be not responsible to her Maker--if there is no
Maker for her to be responsible to--the entire system of Our administration
must be wrong. Which is manifestly impossible. At Home men are to be excused.
They are stalled up a good deal and get intellectually "beany." When you take
a gross, 'beany" horse to exercise, he slavers and slobbers over the bit till
you can't see the horns.
But the bit is there just the same. Men do not get "beany" in India. The
climate and the work are against playing bricks with words.
If McGoggin had kept his creed, with the capital letters and the endings in
"isms," to himself, no one would have cared; but his grandfathers on both
sides had been Wesleyan preachers, and the preaching strain came out in his
mind. He wanted every one at the Club to see that they had no souls too, and
to help him to eliminate his Creator. As a good many men told him, HE
undoubtedly had no soul, because he was so young, but it did not follow that
his seniors were equally undeveloped; and, whether there was another world or
not, a man still wanted to read his papers in this. "But that is not the
point--that is not the point!" Aurelian used to say. Then men threw sofa-
cushions at him and told him to go to any particular place he might believe
in. They christened him the "Blastoderm"--he said he came from a family of
that name somewhere, in the pre-historic ages--and, by insult and laughter,
strove to choke him dumb, for he was an unmitigated nuisance at the Club;
besides being an offence to the older men. His Deputy Commissioner, who was
working on the Frontier when Aurelian was rolling on a bed-quilt, told him
that, for a clever boy, Aurelian was a very big idiot. And, you know, if he
had gone on with his work, he would have been caught up to the Secretariat in
a few years. He was just the type that goes there--all head, no physique and a
hundred theories. Not a soul was interested in McGoggin's soul. He might have
had two, or none, or somebody's else's. His business was to obey orders and
keep abreast of his files instead of devastating the Club with "isms."
He worked brilliantly; but he could not accept any order without trying to
better it. That was the fault of his creed. It made men too responsible and
left too much to their honor. You can sometimes ride an old horse in a halter;
but never a colt.
McGoggin took more trouble over his cases than any of the men of his year. He
may have fancied that thirty-page judgments on fifty-rupee cases--both sides
perjured to the gullet--advanced the cause of Humanity. At any rate, he worked
too much, and worried and fretted over the rebukes he received, and lectured
away on his ridiculous creed out of office, till the Doctor had to warn him
that he was overdoing it. No man can toil eighteen annas in the rupee in June
without suffering. But McGoggin was still intellectually "beany" and proud of
himself and his powers, and he would take no hint. He worked nine hours a day
"Very well," said the doctor, "you'll break down because you are over-engined
for your beam." McGoggin was a little chap.
One day, the collapse came--as dramatically as if it had been meant to
embellish a Tract.
It was just before the Rains. We were sitting in the verandah in the dead,
hot, close air, gasping and praying that the black-blue clouds would let down
and bring the cool. Very, very far away, there was a faint whisper, which was
the roar of the Rains breaking over the river. One of the men heard it, got
out of his chair, listened, and said, naturally enough:--"Thank God!"
Then the Blastoderm turned in his place and said:--"Why? I assure you it's
only the result of perfectly natural causes--atmospheric phenomena of the
simplest kind. Why you should, therefore, return thanks to a Being who never
did exist--who is only a figment--"
"Blastoderm," grunted the man in the next chair, "dry up, and throw me over
the Pioneer. We know all about your figments." The Blastoderm reached out to
the table, took up one paper, and jumped as if something had stung him. Then
he handed the paper over.
"As I was saying," he went on slowly and with an effort--"due to perfectly
natural causes--perfectly natural causes. I mean--"
"Hi! Blastoderm, you've given me the Calcutta Mercantile Advertiser."
The dust got up in little whorls, while the treetops rocked and the kites
whistled. But no one was looking at the coming of the Rains.
We were all staring at the Blastoderm, who had risen from his chair and was
fighting with his speech. Then he said, still more slowly:--
"Perfectly conceivable--dictionary--red oak--amenable--cause--retaining--
"Blastoderm's drunk," said one man. But the Blastoderm was not drunk. He
looked at us in a dazed sort of way, and began motioning with his hands in the
half light as the clouds closed overhead.
Then--with a scream:--
"What is it?--Can't--reserve--attainable--market--obscure--"
But his speech seemed to freeze in him, and--just as the lightning shot two
tongues that cut the whole sky into three pieces and the rain fell in
quivering sheets--the Blastoderm was struck dumb. He stood pawing and champing
like a hard-held horse, and his eyes were full of terror.
The Doctor came over in three minutes, and heard the story. "It's aphasia," he
said. "Take him to his room. I KNEW the smash would come." We carried the
Blastoderm across, in the pouring rain, to his quarters, and the Doctor gave
him bromide of potassium to make him sleep.
Then the Doctor came back to us and told us that aphasia was like all the
arrears of "Punjab Head" falling in a lump; and that only once before--in the
case of a sepoy--had he met with so complete a case. I myself have seen mild
aphasia in an overworked man, but this sudden dumbness was uncanny--though, as
the Blastoderm himself might have said, due to "perfectly natural causes."
"He'll have to take leave after this," said the Doctor. "He won't be fit for
work for another three months. No; it isn't insanity or anything like it. It's
only complete loss of control over the speech and memory. I fancy it will keep
the Blastoderm quiet, though."
Two days later, the Blastoderm found his tongue again. The first question he
asked was: "What was it?" The Doctor enlightened him.
"But I can't understand it!" said the Blastoderm; "I'm quite sane; but I can't
be sure of my mind, it seems--my OWN memory--can I?"
"Go up into the Hills for three months, and don't think about it," said the
"But I can't understand it," repeated the Blastoderm. "It was my OWN mind and
"I can't help it," said the Doctor; "there are a good many things you can't
understand; and, by the time you have put in my length of service, you'll know
exactly how much a man dare call his own in this world."
The stroke cowed the Blastoderm. He could not understand it. He went into the
Hills in fear and trembling, wondering whether he would be permitted to reach
the end of any sentence he began.
This gave him a wholesome feeling of mistrust. The legitimate explanation,
that he had been overworking himself, failed to satisfy him. Something had
wiped his lips of speech, as a mother wipes the milky lips of her child, and
he was afraid--horribly afraid.
So the Club had rest when he returned; and if ever you come across Aurelian
McGoggin laying down the law on things Human--he doesn't seem to know as much
as he used to about things Divine--put your forefinger on your lip for a
moment, and see what happens.
Don't blame me if he throws a glass at your head!
A GERM DESTROYER.
Pleasant it is for the Little Tin Gods,
When great Jove nods;
But Little Tin Gods make their little mistakes
In missing the hour when great Jove wakes.
As a general rule, it is inexpedient to meddle with questions of State in a
land where men are highly paid to work them out for you.
This tale is a justifiable exception.
Once in every five years, as you know, we indent for a new Viceroy; and each
Viceroy imports, with the rest of his baggage, a Private Secretary, who may or
may not be the real Viceroy, just as Fate ordains. Fate looks after the Indian
Empire because it is so big and so helpless.
There was a Viceroy once, who brought out with him a turbulent Private
Secretary--a hard man with a soft manner and a morbid passion for work. This
Secretary was called Wonder--John Fennil Wonder. The Viceroy possessed no
name--nothing but a string of counties and two-thirds of the alphabet after
them. He said, in confidence, that he was the electro-plated figurehead of a
golden administration, and he watched in a dreamy, amused way Wonder's
attempts to draw matters which were entirely outside his province into his own
hands. "When we are all cherubims together," said His Excellency once, "my
dear, good friend Wonder will head the conspiracy for plucking out Gabriel's
tail-feathers or stealing Peter's keys. THEN I shall report him."
But, though the Viceroy did nothing to check Wonder's officiousness, other
people said unpleasant things. Maybe the Members of Council began it; but,
finally, all Simla agreed that there was "too much Wonder, and too little
Viceroy," in that regime. Wonder was always quoting "His Excellency." It was
"His Excellency this," "His Excellency that," "In the opinion of His
Excellency," and so on. The Viceroy smiled; but he did not heed.
He said that, so long as his old men squabbled with his "dear, good Wonder,"
they might be induced to leave the "Immemorial East" in peace.
"No wise man has a policy," said the Viceroy. "A Policy is the blackmail
levied on the Fool by the Unforeseen. I am not the former, and I do not
believe in the latter."
I do not quite see what this means, unless it refers to an Insurance Policy.
Perhaps it was the Viceroy's way of saying:--"Lie low."
That season, came up to Simla one of these crazy people with only a single
idea. These are the men who make things move; but they are not nice to talk
to. This man's name was Mellish, and he had lived for fifteen years on land of
his own, in Lower Bengal, studying cholera. He held that cholera was a germ
that propagated itself as it flew through a muggy atmosphere; and stuck in the
branches of trees like a wool-flake. The germ could be rendered sterile, he
said, by "Mellish's Own Invincible Fumigatory"--a heavy violet-black powder--
"the result of fifteen years' scientific investigation, Sir!"
Inventors seem very much alike as a caste. They talk loudly, especially about
"conspiracies of monopolists;" they beat upon the table with their fists; and
they secrete fragments of their inventions about their persons.
Mellish said that there was a Medical "Ring" at Simla, headed by the Surgeon-
General, who was in league, apparently, with all the Hospital Assistants in
the Empire. I forget exactly how he proved it, but it had something to do with
"skulking up to the Hills;" and what Mellish wanted was the independent
evidence of the Viceroy--"Steward of our Most Gracious Majesty the Queen,
Sir." So Mellish went up to Simla, with eighty-four pounds of Fumigatory in
his trunk, to speak to the Viceroy and to show him the merits of the
But it is easier to see a Viceroy than to talk to him, unless you chance to be
as important as Mellishe of Madras. He was a six-thousand-rupee man, so great
that his daughters never "married." They "contracted alliances." He himself
was not paid. He "received emoluments," and his journeys about the country
were "tours of observation." His business was to stir up the people in Madras
with a long pole--as you stir up stench in a pond--and the people had to come
up out of their comfortable old ways and gasp:--"This is Enlightenment and
progress. Isn't it fine!" Then they gave Mellishe statues and jasmine
garlands, in the hope of getting rid of him.
Mellishe came up to Simla "to confer with the Viceroy." That was one of his
perquisites. The Viceroy knew nothing of Mellishe except that he was "one of
those middle-class deities who seem necessary to the spiritual comfort of this
Paradise of the Middle-classes," and that, in all probability, he had
"suggested, designed, founded, and endowed all the public institutions in
Madras." Which proves that His Excellency, though dreamy, had experience of
the ways of six-thousand-rupee men.
Mellishe's name was E. Mellishe and Mellish's was E. S. Mellish, and they were
both staying at the same hotel, and the Fate that looks after the Indian
Empire ordained that Wonder should blunder and drop the final "e;" that the
Chaprassi should help him, and that the note which ran: "Dear Mr. Mellish.--
Can you set aside your other engagements and lunch with us at two tomorrow?
His Excellency has an hour at your disposal then," should be given to Mellish
with the Fumigatory. He nearly wept with pride and delight, and at the
appointed hour cantered off to Peterhoff, a big paper-bag full of the
Fumigatory in his coat-tail pockets. He had his chance, and he meant to make
the most of it. Mellishe of Madras had been so portentously solemn about his
"conference," that Wonder had arranged for a private tiffin--no A.-D.-C.'s, no
Wonder, no one but the Viceroy, who said plaintively that he feared being left
alone with unmuzzled autocrats like the great Mellishe of Madras.
But his guest did not bore the Viceroy. On the contrary, he amused him.
Mellish was nervously anxious to go straight to his Fumigatory, and talked at
random until tiffin was over and His Excellency asked him to smoke. The
Viceroy was pleased with Mellish because he did not talk "shop."
As soon as the cheroots were lit, Mellish spoke like a man; beginning with his
cholera-theory, reviewing his fifteen years' "scientific labors," the
machinations of the "Simla Ring," and the excellence of his Fumigatory, while
the Viceroy watched him between half-shut eyes and thought: "Evidently, this
is the wrong tiger; but it is an original animal." Mellish's hair was standing
on end with excitement, and he stammered. He began groping in his coat-tails
and, before the Viceroy knew what was about to happen, he had tipped a bagful
of his powder into the big silver ash-tray.
"J-j-judge for yourself, Sir," said Mellish. "Y' Excellency shall judge for
yourself! Absolutely infallible, on my honor."
He plunged the lighted end of his cigar into the powder, which began to smoke
like a volcano, and send up fat, greasy wreaths of copper-colored smoke. In
five seconds the room was filled with a most pungent and sickening stench--a
reek that took fierce hold of the trap of your windpipe and shut it. The
powder then hissed and fizzed, and sent out blue and green sparks, and the
smoke rose till you could neither see, nor breathe, nor gasp. Mellish,
however, was used to it.
"Nitrate of strontia," he shouted; "baryta, bone-meal, etcetera! Thousand
cubic feet smoke per cubic inch. Not a germ could live--not a germ, Y'
But His Excellency had fled, and was coughing at the foot of the stairs, while
all Peterhoff hummed like a hive. Red Lancers came in, and the Head Chaprassi,
who speaks English, came in, and mace-bearers came in, and ladies ran
downstairs screaming "fire;" for the smoke was drifting through the house and
oozing out of the windows, and bellying along the verandahs, and wreathing and
writhing across the gardens. No one could enter the room where Mellish was
lecturing on his Fumigatory, till that unspeakable powder had burned itself
Then an Aide-de-Camp, who desired the V. C., rushed through the rolling clouds
and hauled Mellish into the hall. The Viceroy was prostrate with laughter, and
could only waggle his hands feebly at Mellish, who was shaking a fresh bagful
of powder at him.
"Glorious! Glorious!" sobbed his Excellency. "Not a germ, as you justly
observe, could exist! I can swear it. A magnificent success!"
Then he laughed till the tears came, and Wonder, who had caught the real
Mellishe snorting on the Mall, entered and was deeply shocked at the scene.
But the Viceroy was delighted, because he saw that Wonder would presently
depart. Mellish with the Fumigatory was also pleased, for he felt that he had
smashed the Simla Medical "Ring."
. . . . . . . . .
Few men could tell a story like His Excellency when he took the trouble, and
the account of "my dear, good Wonder's friend with the powder" went the round
of Simla, and flippant folk made Wonder unhappy by their remarks.
But His Excellency told the tale once too often--for Wonder. As he meant to
do. It was at a Seepee Picnic. Wonder was sitting just behind the Viceroy.
"And I really thought for a moment," wound up His Excellency, "that my dear,
good Wonder had hired an assassin to clear his way to the throne!"
Every one laughed; but there was a delicate subtinkle in the Viceroy's tone
which Wonder understood. He found that his health was giving way; and the
Viceroy allowed him to go, and presented him with a flaming "character" for
use at Home among big people.
"My fault entirely," said His Excellency, in after seasons, with a twinkling
in his eye. "My inconsistency must always have been distasteful to such a
There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken any way you please, is bad,
And strands them in forsaken guts and creeks
No decent soul would think of visiting.
You cannot stop the tide; but now and then,
You may arrest some rash adventurer
Who--h'm--will hardly thank you for your pains.
We are a high-caste and enlightened race, and infant-marriage is very shocking
and the consequences are sometimes peculiar; but, nevertheless, the Hindu
notion--which is the Continental notion--which is the aboriginal notion--of
arranging marriages irrespective of the personal inclinations of the married,
is sound. Think for a minute, and you will see that it must be so; unless, of
course, you believe in "affinities." In which case you had better not read
this tale. How can a man who has never married; who cannot be trusted to pick
up at sight a moderately sound horse; whose head is hot and upset with visions
of domestic felicity, go about the choosing of a wife? He cannot see straight
or think straight if he tries; and the same disadvantages exist in the case of
a girl's fancies. But when mature, married and discreet people arrange a match
between a boy and a girl, they do it sensibly, with a view to the future, and
the young couple live happily ever afterwards. As everybody knows.
Properly speaking, Government should establish a Matrimonial Department,
efficiently officered, with a Jury of Matrons, a Judge of the Chief Court, a
Senior Chaplain, and an Awful Warning, in the shape of a love-match that has
gone wrong, chained to the trees in the courtyard. All marriages should be
made through the Department, which might be subordinate to the Educational
Department, under the same penalty as that attaching to the transfer of land
without a stamped document. But Government won't take suggestions. It pretends
that it is too busy. However, I will put my notion on record, and explain the
example that illustrates the theory.
Once upon a time there was a good young man--a first-class officer in his own
Department--a man with a career before him and, possibly, a K. C. G. E. at the
end of it. All his superiors spoke well of him, because he knew how to hold
his tongue and his pen at the proper times. There are today only eleven men in
India who possess this secret; and they have all, with one exception, attained
great honor and enormous incomes.
This good young man was quiet and self-contained--too old for his years by
far. Which always carries its own punishment. Had a Subaltern, or a Tea-
Planter's Assistant, or anybody who enjoys life and has no care for tomorrow,
done what he tried to do not a soul would have cared. But when Peythroppe--the
estimable, virtuous, economical, quiet, hard-working, young Peythroppe--fell,
there was a flutter through five Departments.
The manner of his fall was in this way. He met a Miss Castries--d'Castries it
was originally, but the family dropped the d' for administrative reasons--and
he fell in love with her even more energetically than he worked. Understand
clearly that there was not a breath of a word to be said against Miss
Castries--not a shadow of a breath. She was good and very lovely--possessed
what innocent people at home call a "Spanish" complexion, with thick blue-
black hair growing low down on her forehead, into a "widow's peak," and big
violet eyes under eyebrows as black and as straight as the borders of a
Gazette Extraordinary when a big man dies. But--but--but--. Well, she was a
VERY sweet girl and very pious, but for many reasons she was "impossible."
Quite so. All good Mammas know what "impossible" means. It was obviously
absurd that Peythroppe should marry her. The little opal-tinted onyx at the
base of her finger-nails said this as plainly as print. Further, marriage with
Miss Castries meant marriage with several other Castries--Honorary Lieutenant
Castries, her Papa, Mrs. Eulalie Castries, her Mamma, and all the
ramifications of the Castries family, on incomes ranging from Rs. 175 to Rs.
470 a month, and THEIR wives and connections again.
It would have been cheaper for Peythroppe to have assaulted a Commissioner
with a dog-whip, or to have burned the records of a Deputy Commissioner's
Office, than to have contracted an alliance with the Castries. It would have
weighted his after-career less--even under a Government which never forgets
and NEVER forgives.
Everybody saw this but Peythroppe. He was going to marry Miss Castries, he
was--being of age and drawing a good income--and woe betide the house that
would not afterwards receive Mrs. Virginie Saulez Peythroppe with the
deference due to her husband's rank.
That was Peythroppe's ultimatum, and any remonstrance drove him frantic.
These sudden madnesses most afflict the sanest men. There was a case once--but
I will tell you of that later on. You cannot account for the mania, except
under a theory directly contradicting the one about the Place wherein
marriages are made. Peythroppe was burningly anxious to put a millstone round
his neck at the outset of his career and argument had not the least effect on
him. He was going to marry Miss Castries, and the business was his own
He would thank you to keep your advice to yourself. With a man in this
condition, mere words only fix him in his purpose. Of course he cannot see
that marriage out here does not concern the individual but the Government he
Do you remember Mrs. Hauksbee--the most wonderful woman in India? She saved
Pluffles from Mrs. Reiver, won Tarrion his appointment in the Foreign Office,
and was defeated in open field by Mrs. Cusack-Bremmil. She heard of the
lamentable condition of Peythroppe, and her brain struck out the plan that
saved him. She had the wisdom of the Serpent, the logical coherence of the
Man, the fearlessness of the Child, and the triple intuition of the Woman.
Never--no, never--as long as a tonga buckets down the Solon dip, or the
couples go a-riding at the back of Summer Hill, will there be such a genius as
Mrs. Hauksbee. She attended the consultation of Three Men on Peythroppe's
case; and she stood up with the lash of her riding-whip between her lips and
. . . . . . . . .
Three weeks later, Peythroppe dined with the Three Men, and the Gazette of
India came in. Peythroppe found to his surprise that he had been gazetted a
month's leave. Don't ask me how this was managed. I believe firmly that if
Mrs. Hauksbee gave the order, the whole Great Indian Administration would
stand on its head.
The Three Men had also a month's leave each. Peythroppe put the Gazette down
and said bad words. Then there came from the compound the soft "pad-pad" of
camels--"thieves' camels," the bikaneer breed that don't bubble and howl when
they sit down and get up.
After that I don't know what happened. This much is certain.
Peythroppe disappeared--vanished like smoke--and the long foot-rest chair in
the house of the Three Men was broken to splinters. Also a bedstead departed
from one of the bedrooms.
Mrs. Hauksbee said that Mr. Peythroppe was shooting in Rajputana with the
Three Men; so we were compelled to believe her.
At the end of the month, Peythroppe was gazetted twenty days' extension of
leave; but there was wrath and lamentation in the house of Castries. The
marriage-day had been fixed, but the bridegroom never came; and the D'Silvas,
Pereiras, and Ducketts lifted their voices and mocked Honorary Lieutenant
Castries as one who had been basely imposed upon. Mrs. Hauksbee went to the
wedding, and was much astonished when Peythroppe did not appear. After seven
weeks, Peythroppe and the Three Men returned from Rajputana. Peythroppe was in
hard, tough condition, rather white, and more self-contained than ever.
One of the Three Men had a cut on his nose, cause by the kick of a gun.
Twelve-bores kick rather curiously.
Then came Honorary Lieutenant Castries, seeking for the blood of his
perfidious son-in-law to be. He said things--vulgar and "impossible" things
which showed the raw rough "ranker" below the "Honorary," and I fancy
Peythroppe's eyes were opened. Anyhow, he held his peace till the end; when he
spoke briefly. Honorary Lieutenant Castries asked for a "peg" before he went
away to die or bring a suit for breach of promise.
Miss Castries was a very good girl. She said that she would have no breach of
promise suits. She said that, if she was not a lady, she was refined enough to
know that ladies kept their broken hearts to themselves; and, as she ruled her
parents, nothing happened. Later on, she married a most respectable and
gentlemanly person. He travelled for an enterprising firm in Calcutta, and was
all that a good husband should be.
So Peythroppe came to his right mind again, and did much good work, and was
honored by all who knew him. One of these days he will marry; but he will
marry a sweet pink-and-white maiden, on the Government House List, with a
little money and some influential connections, as every wise man should. And
he will never, all his life, tell her what happened during the seven weeks of
his shooting-tour in Rajputana.
But just think how much trouble and expense--for camel hire is not cheap, and
those Bikaneer brutes had to be fed like humans--might have been saved by a
properly conducted Matrimonial Department, under the control of the Director
General of Education, but corresponding direct with the Viceroy.
THE ARREST OF LIEUTENANT GOLIGHTLY.
"'I've forgotten the countersign,' sez 'e.
'Oh! You 'ave, 'ave you?' sez I.
'But I'm the Colonel,' sez 'e.
'Oh! You are, are you?' sez I. 'Colonel nor no Colonel, you waits 'ere till
I'm relieved, an' the Sarjint reports on your ugly old mug. Coop!' sez I.
. . . . . . . . .
An' s'help me soul, 'twas the Colonel after all! But I was a recruity then."
The Unedited Autobiography of Private Ortheris.
IF there was one thing on which Golightly prided himself more than another, it
was looking like "an Officer and a gentleman." He said it was for the honor of
the Service that he attired himself so elaborately; but those who knew him
best said that it was just personal vanity. There was no harm about Golightly-
-not an ounce.
He recognized a horse when he saw one, and could do more than fill a cantle.
He played a very fair game at billiards, and was a sound man at the whist-
table. Everyone liked him; and nobody ever dreamed of seeing him handcuffed on
a station platform as a deserter. But this sad thing happened.
He was going down from Dalhousie, at the end of his leave--riding down. He had
cut his leave as fine as he dared, and wanted to come down in a hurry.
It was fairly warm at Dalhousie, and knowing what to expect below, he
descended in a new khaki suit--tight fitting--of a delicate olive-green; a
peacock-blue tie, white collar, and a snowy white solah helmet. He prided
himself on looking neat even when he was riding post. He did look neat, and he
was so deeply concerned about his appearance before he started that he quite
forgot to take anything but some small change with him. He left all his notes
at the hotel. His servants had gone down the road before him, to be ready in
waiting at Pathankote with a change of gear. That was what he called
travelling in "light marching-order." He was proud of his faculty of
organization--what we call bundobust.
Twenty-two miles out of Dalhousie it began to rain--not a mere hill-shower,
but a good, tepid monsoonish downpour. Golightly bustled on, wishing that he
had brought an umbrella. The dust on the roads turned into mud, and the pony
mired a good deal. So did Golightly's khaki gaiters. But he kept on steadily
and tried to think how pleasant the coolth was.
His next pony was rather a brute at starting, and Golightly's hands being
slippery with the rain, contrived to get rid of Golightly at a corner. He
chased the animal, caught it, and went ahead briskly.
The spill had not improved his clothes or his temper, and he had lost one
spur. He kept the other one employed. By the time that stage was ended, the
pony had had as much exercise as he wanted, and, in spite of the rain,
Golightly was sweating freely. At the end of another miserable half-hour,
Golightly found the world disappear before his eyes in clammy pulp. The rain
had turned the pith of his huge and snowy solah-topee into an evil-smelling
dough, and it had closed on his head like a half-opened mushroom. Also the
green lining was beginning to run.
Golightly did not say anything worth recording here. He tore off and squeezed
up as much of the brim as was in his eyes and ploughed on. The back of the
helmet was flapping on his neck and the sides stuck to his ears, but the
leather band and green lining kept things roughly together, so that the hat
did not actually melt away where it flapped.
Presently, the pulp and the green stuff made a sort of slimy mildew which ran
over Golightly in several directions--down his back and bosom for choice. The
khaki color ran too--it was really shockingly bad dye--and sections of
Golightly were brown, and patches were violet, and contours were ochre, and
streaks were ruddy red, and blotches were nearly white, according to the
nature and peculiarities of the dye. When he took out his handkerchief to wipe
his face and the green of the hat-lining and the purple stuff that had soaked
through on to his neck from the tie became thoroughly mixed, the effect was
Near Dhar the rain stopped and the evening sun came out and dried him up
slightly. It fixed the colors, too. Three miles from Pathankote the last pony
fell dead lame, and Golightly was forced to walk. He pushed on into Pathankote
to find his servants. He did not know then that his khitmatgar had stopped by
the roadside to get drunk, and would come on the next day saying that he had
sprained his ankle. When he got into Pathankote, he couldn't find his
servants, his boots were stiff and ropy with mud, and there were large
quantities of dirt about his body. The blue tie had run as much as the khaki.
So he took it off with the collar and threw it away. Then he said something
about servants generally and tried to get a peg. He paid eight annas for the
drink, and this revealed to him that he had only six annas more in his pocket-
-or in the world as he stood at that hour.
He went to the Station-Master to negotiate for a first-class ticket to Khasa,
where he was stationed. The booking-clerk said something to the Station-
Master, the Station-Master said something to the Telegraph Clerk, and the
three looked at him with curiosity. They asked him to wait for half-an-hour,
while they telegraphed to Umritsar for authority. So he waited, and four
constables came and grouped themselves picturesquely round him. Just as he was
preparing to ask them to go away, the Station-Master said that he would give
the Sahib a ticket to Umritsar, if the Sahib would kindly come inside the
booking-office. Golightly stepped inside, and the next thing he knew was that
a constable was attached to each of his legs and arms, while the Station-
Master was trying to cram a mailbag over his head.
There was a very fair scuffle all round the booking-office, and Golightly
received a nasty cut over his eye through falling against a table. But the
constables were too much for him, and they and the Station-Master handcuffed
him securely. As soon as the mail-bag was slipped, he began expressing his
opinions, and the head-constable said:--"Without doubt this is the soldier-
Englishman we required. Listen to the abuse!" Then Golightly asked the
Station-Master what the this and the that the proceedings meant. The Station-
Master told him he was "Private John Binkle of the----Regiment, 5 ft. 9 in.,
fair hair, gray eyes, and a dissipated appearance, no marks on the body," who
had deserted a fortnight ago. Golightly began explaining at great length; and
the more he explained the less the Station-Master believed him. He said that
no Lieutenant could look such a ruffian as did Golightly, and that his
instructions were to send his capture under proper escort to Umritsar.
Golightly was feeling very damp and uncomfortable, and the language he used
was not fit for publication, even in an expurgated form. The four constables
saw him safe to Umritsar in an "intermediate" compartment, and he spent the
four-hour journey in abusing them as fluently as his knowledge of the
At Umritsar he was bundled out on the platform into the arms of a Corporal and
two men of the----Regiment. Golightly drew himself up and tried to carry off
matters jauntily. He did not feel too jaunty in handcuffs, with four
constables behind him, and the blood from the cut on his forehead stiffening
on his left cheek. The Corporal was not jocular either. Golightly got as far
as--"This is a very absurd mistake, my men," when the Corporal told him to
"stow his lip" and come along. Golightly did not want to come along. He
desired to stop and explain. He explained very well indeed, until the Corporal
cut in with:--"YOU a orficer! It's the like o' YOU as brings disgrace on the
likes of US. Bloom-in' fine orficer you are! I know your regiment. The Rogue's
March is the quickstep where you come from. You're a black shame to the
Golightly kept his temper, and began explaining all over again from the
beginning. Then he was marched out of the rain into the refreshment-room and
told not to make a qualified fool of himself.
The men were going to run him up to Fort Govindghar. And "running up" is a
performance almost as undignified as the Frog March.
Golightly was nearly hysterical with rage and the chill and the mistake and
the handcuffs and the headache that the cut on his forehead had given him. He
really laid himself out to express what was in his mind. When he had quite
finished and his throat was feeling dry, one of the men said:--"I've 'eard a
few beggars in the click blind, stiff and crack on a bit; but I've never 'eard
any one to touch this 'ere 'orficer.'" They were not angry with him. They
rather admired him. They had some beer at the refreshment-room, and offered
Golightly some too, because he had "swore won'erful." They asked him to tell
them all about the adventures of Private John Binkle while he was loose on the
countryside; and that made Golightly wilder than ever. If he had kept his wits
about him he would have kept quiet until an officer came; but he attempted to
Now the butt of a Martini in the small of your back hurts a great deal, and
rotten, rain-soaked khaki tears easily when two men are jerking at your
Golightly rose from the floor feeling very sick and giddy, with his shirt
ripped open all down his breast and nearly all down his back.
He yielded to his luck, and at that point the down-train from Lahore came in
carrying one of Golightly's Majors.
This is the Major's evidence in full:--
"There was the sound of a scuffle in the second-class refreshment-room, so I
went in and saw the most villainous loafer that I ever set eyes on. His boots
and breeches were plastered with mud and beer-stains. He wore a muddy-white
dunghill sort of thing on his head, and it hung down in slips on his
shoulders, which were a good deal scratched. He was half in and half out of a
shirt as nearly in two pieces as it could be, and he was begging the guard to
look at the name on the tail of it. As he had rucked the shirt all over his
head, I couldn't at first see who he was, but I fancied that he was a man in
the first stage of D. T. from the way he swore while he wrestled with his
rags. When he turned round, and I had made allowance for a lump as big as a
pork-pie over one eye, and some green war-paint on the face, and some violet
stripes round the neck, I saw that it was Golightly. He was very glad to see
me," said the Major, "and he hoped I would not tell the Mess about it. I
didn't, but you can if you like, now that Golightly has gone Home."
Golightly spent the greater part of that summer in trying to get the Corporal
and the two soldiers tried by Court-Martial for arresting an "officer and a
gentleman." They were, of course, very sorry for their error. But the tale
leaked into the regimental canteen, and thence ran about the Province.
THE HOUSE OF SUDDHOO
A stone's throw out on either hand
From that well-ordered road we tread,
And all the world is wild and strange;
Churel and ghoul and Djinn and sprite
Shall bear us company tonight,
For we have reached the Oldest Land
Wherein the Powers of Darkness range.
--From the Dusk to the Dawn.
The house of Suddhoo, near the Taksali Gate, is two-storied, with four carved
windows of old brown wood, and a flat roof. You may recognize it by five red
hand-prints arranged like the Five of Diamonds on the whitewash between the
upper windows. Bhagwan Dass, the bunnia, and a man who says he gets his living
by seal-cutting, live in the lower story with a troop of wives, servants,
friends, and retainers. The two upper rooms used to be occupied by Janoo and
Azizun and a little black-and-tan terrier that was stolen from an Englishman's
house and given to Janoo by a soldier. Today, only Janoo lives in the upper
rooms. Suddhoo sleeps on the roof generally, except when he sleeps in the