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Indian Tales by Rudyard Kipling

Part 6 out of 9

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pretty straight. Even those cork-screwed, hand-made guns was a miracle to
them. Dravot talked big about powder-shops and factories, walking up and
down in the pine wood when the winter was coming on.

"'I won't make a Nation,' says he. 'I'll make an Empire! These men aren't
niggers; they're English! Look at their eyes--look at their mouths. Look
at the way they stand up. They sit on chairs in their own houses. They're
the Lost Tribes, or something like it, and they've grown to be English.
I'll take a census in the spring if the priests don't get frightened.
There must be a fair two million of 'em in these hills. The villages are
full o' little children. Two million people--two hundred and fifty
thousand fighting men--and all English! They only want the rifles and a
little drilling. Two hundred and fifty thousand men, ready to cut in on
Russia's right flank when she tries for India! Peachey, man,' he says,
chewing his beard in great hunks, 'we shall be Emperors--Emperors of the
Earth! Rajah Brooke will be a suckling to us. I'll treat with the Viceroy
on equal terms. I'll ask him to send me twelve picked English--twelve that
I know of--to help us govern a bit. There's Mackray, Sergeant-pensioner at
Segowli--many's the good dinner he's given me, and his wife a pair of
trousers. There's Donkin, the Warder of Tounghoo Jail; there's hundreds
that I could lay my hand on if I was in India. The Viceroy shall do it for
me. I'll send a man through in the spring for those men, and I'll write
for a dispensation from the Grand Lodge for what I've done as
Grand-Master. That--and all the Sniders that'll be thrown out when the
native troops in India take up the Martini. They'll be worn smooth, but
they'll do for fighting in these hills. Twelve English, a hundred thousand
Sniders run through the Amir's country in driblets--I'd be content with
twenty thousand in one year--and we'd be an Empire. When everything was
shipshape, I'd hand over the crown--this crown I'm wearing now--to Queen
Victoria on my knees, and she'd say: "Rise up, Sir Daniel Dravot." Oh,
it's big! It's big, I tell you! But there's so much to be done in every
place--Bashkai, Khawak, Shu, and everywhere else.'

"'What is it?' I says. 'There are no more men coming in to be drilled this
autumn. Look at those fat, black clouds. They're bringing the snow.'

"'It isn't that,' says Daniel, putting his hand very hard on my shoulder;
'and I don't wish to say anything that's against you, for no other living
man would have followed me and made me what I am as you have done. You're
a first-class Commander-in-Chief, and the people know you; but--it's a big
country, and somehow you can't help me, Peachey, in the way I want to be
helped.'

"'Go to your blasted priests, then!' I said, and I was sorry when I made
that remark, but it did hurt me sore to find Daniel talking so superior
when I'd drilled all the men, and done all he told me.

"'Don't let's quarrel, Peachey,' says Daniel, without cursing. 'You're a
King too, and the half of this Kingdom is yours; but can't you see,
Peachey, we want cleverer men than us now--three or four of 'em, that we
can scatter about for our Deputies. It's a hugeous great State, and I
can't always tell the right thing to do, and I haven't time for all I want
to do, and here's the winter coming on and all.' He put half his beard
into his mouth, and it was as red as the gold of his crown.

"'I'm sorry, Daniel,' says I, 'I've done all I could. I've drilled the men
and shown the people how to stack their oats better; and I've brought in
those tinware rifles from Ghorband--but I know what you're driving at. I
take it Kings always feel oppressed that way.'

"'There's another thing too,' says Dravot, walking up and down, 'The
winter's coming and these people won't be giving much trouble, and if they
do we can't move about. I want a wife.'

"'For Gord's sake leave the women alone!' I says. 'We've both got all the
work we can, though I _am_ a fool. Remember the Contrack, and keep clear
o' women.'

"'The Contrack only lasted till such time as we was Kings; and Kings we
have been these months past,' says Dravot, weighing his crown in his hand.
'You go get a wife too, Peachey--a nice, strappin', plump girl that'll
keep you warm in the winter. They're prettier than English girls, and we
can take the pick of 'em. Boil 'em once or twice in hot water, and they'll
come as fair as chicken and ham.'

"'Don't tempt me!' I says. 'I will not have any dealings with a woman not
till we are a dam' side more settled than we are now. I've been doing the
work o' two men, and you've been doing the work o' three. Let's lie off a
bit, and see if we can get some better tobacco from Afghan country and run
in some good liquor; but no women.'

"'Who's talking o' _women_?' says Dravot. 'I said _wife_--a Queen to breed
a King's son for the King. A Queen out of the strongest tribe, that'll
make them your blood-brothers, and that'll lie by your side and tell you
all the people thinks about you and their own affairs. That's what I
want.'

"'Do you remember that Bengali woman I kept at Mogul Serai when I was a
plate-layer?' says I. 'A fat lot o' good she was to me. She taught me the
lingo and one or two other things; but what happened? She ran away with
the Station Master's servant and half my month's pay. Then she turned up
at Dadur Junction in tow of a half-caste, and had the impidence to say I
was her husband--all among the drivers in the running-shed!'

"'We've done with that,' says Dravot. 'These women are whiter than you or
me, and a Queen I will have for the winter months.'

"'For the last time o' asking, Dan, do not,' I says. 'It'll only bring us
harm. The Bible says that Kings ain't to waste their strength on women,
'specially when they've got a new raw Kingdom to work over.'

"'For the last time of answering I will,' said Dravot, and he went away
through the pine-trees looking like a big red devil. The low sun hit his
crown and beard on one side and the two blazed like hot coals.

"But getting a wife was not as easy as Dan thought. He put it before the
Council, and there was no answer till Billy Fish said that he'd better ask
the girls. Dravot damned them all round. 'What's wrong with me?' he
shouts, standing by the idol Imbra. 'Am I a dog or am I not enough of a
man for your wenches? Haven't I put the shadow of my hand over this
country? Who stopped the last Afghan raid?' It was me really, but Dravot
was too angry to remember. 'Who brought your guns? Who repaired the
bridges? Who's the Grand-Master of the sign cut in the stone?' and he
thumped his hand on the block that he used to sit on in Lodge, and at
Council, which opened like Lodge always. Billy Fish said nothing and no
more did the others. 'Keep your hair on, Dan,' said I; 'and ask the girls.
That's how it's done at Home, and these people are quite English.'

"'The marriage of the King is a matter of State,' says Dan, in a white-hot
rage, for he could feel, I hope, that he was going against his better
mind. He walked out of the Council-room, and the others sat still, looking
at the ground.

"'Billy Fish,' says I to the Chief of Bashkai, 'what's the difficulty
here? A straight answer to a true friend.' 'You know,' says Billy Fish.
'How should a man tell you who know everything? How can daughters of men
marry Gods or Devils? It's not proper.'

"I remembered something like that in the Bible; but if, after seeing us as
long as they had, they still believed we were Gods, it wasn't for me to
undeceive them.

"'A God can do anything,' says I. 'If the King is fond of a girl he'll not
let her die.' 'She'll have to,' said Billy Fish. 'There are all sorts of
Gods and Devils in these mountains, and now and again a girl marries one
of them and isn't seen any more. Besides, you two know the Mark cut in the
stone. Only the Gods know that. We thought you were men till you showed
the sign of the Master.'

"I wished then that we had explained about the loss of the genuine secrets
of a Master-Mason at the first go-off; but I said nothing. All that night
there was a blowing of horns in a little dark temple half-way down the
hill, and I heard a girl crying fit to die. One of the priests told us
that she was being prepared to marry the King.

"'I'll have no nonsense of that kind,' says, Dan. 'I don't want to
interfere with your customs, but I'll take my own wife.' 'The girl's a
little bit afraid,' says the priest. 'She thinks she's going to die, and
they are a-heartening of her up down in the temple.'

"'Hearten her very tender, then,' says Dravot, 'or I'll hearten you with
the butt of a gun so that you'll never want to be heartened again.' He
licked his lips, did Dan, and stayed up walking about more than half the
night, thinking of the wife that he was going to get in the morning. I
wasn't any means comfortable, for I knew that dealings with a woman in
foreign parts, though you was a crowned King twenty times over, could not
but be risky. I got up very early in the morning while Dravot was asleep,
and I saw the priests talking together in whispers, and the Chiefs talking
together too, and they looked at me out of the corners of their eyes.

"'What is up, Fish?' I says to the Bashkai man, who was wrapped up in his
furs and looking splendid to behold.

"'I can't rightly say,' says he; 'but if you can induce the King to drop
all this nonsense about marriage, you'll be doing him and me and yourself
a great service.'

"'That I do believe,' says I. 'But sure, you know, Billy, as well as me,
having fought against and for us, that the King and me are nothing more
than two of the finest men that God Almighty ever made. Nothing more, I do
assure you.'

"'That may be,' says Billy Fish, 'and yet I should be sorry if it was.' He
sinks his head upon his great fur cloak for a minute and thinks. 'King,'
says he, 'be you man or God or Devil, I'll stick by you to-day. I have
twenty of my men with me, and they will follow me. We'll go to Bashkai
until the storm blows over.'

"A little snow had fallen in the night, and everything was white except
the greasy fat clouds that blew down and down from the north. Dravot came
out with his crown on his head, swinging his arms and stamping his feet,
and looking more pleased than Punch.

"'For the last time, drop it, Dan,' says I, in a whisper. 'Billy Fish here
says that there will be a row.'

"'A row among my people!' says Dravot. 'Not much. Peachey, you're a fool
not to get a wife too. Where's the girl?' says he, with a voice as loud as
the braying of a jackass. 'Call up all the Chiefs and priests, and let the
Emperor see if his wife suits him.'

"There was no need to call anyone. They were all there leaning on their
guns and spears round the clearing in the centre of the pine wood. A
deputation of priests went down to the little temple to bring up the girl,
and the horns blew up fit to wake the dead. Billy Fish saunters round and
gets as close to Daniel as he could, and behind him stood his twenty men
with matchlocks. Not a man of them under six feet. I was next to Dravot,
and behind me was twenty men of the regular Army. Up comes the girl, and a
strapping wench she was, covered with silver and turquoises but white as
death, and looking back every minute at the priests.

"'She'll do,' said Dan, looking her over. 'What's to be afraid of, lass?
Come and kiss me.' He puts his arm round her. She shuts her eyes, gives a
bit of a squeak, and down goes her face in the side of Dan's flaming red
beard.

"'The slut's bitten me!' says he, clapping his hand to his neck, and, sure
enough, his hand was red with blood. Billy Fish and two of his
matchlock-men catches hold of Dan by the shoulders and drags him into the
Bashkai lot, while the priests howls in their lingo,--'Neither God nor
Devil but a man!' I was all taken aback, for a priest cut at me in front,
and the Army behind began firing into the Bashkai men.

"'God A-mighty!' says Dan, 'What is the meaning o' this?'

"'Come back! Come away!' says Billy Fish. 'Ruin and Mutiny is the matter.
We'll break for Bashkai if we can.'

"I tried to give some sort of orders to my men--the men o' the regular
Army--but it was no use, so I fired into the brown of 'em with an English
Martini and drilled three beggars in a line. The valley was full of
shouting, howling creatures, and every soul was shrieking, 'Not a God nor
a Devil but only a man!' The Bashkai troops stuck to Billy Fish all they
were worth, but their matchlocks wasn't half as good as the Kabul
breech-loaders, and four of them dropped. Dan was bellowing like a bull,
for he was very wrathy; and Billy Fish had a hard job to prevent him
running out at the crowd.

"'We can't stand,' says Billy Fish. 'Make a run for it down the valley!
The whole place is against us.' The matchlock-men ran, and we went down
the valley in spite of Dravot's protestations. He was swearing horribly
and crying out that he was a King. The priests rolled great stones on us,
and the regular Army fired hard, and there wasn't more than six men, not
counting Dan, Billy Fish, and Me, that came down to the bottom of the
valley alive.

"Then they stopped firing and the horns in the temple blew again. 'Come
away--for Gord's sake come away!' says Billy Fish. 'They'll send runners
out to all the villages before ever we get to Bashkai. I can protect you
there, but I can't do anything now.'

"My own notion is that Dan began to go mad in his head from that hour. He
stared up and down like a stuck pig. Then he was all for walking back
alone and killing the priests with his bare hands; which he could have
done. 'An Emperor am I,' says Daniel, 'and next year I shall be a Knight
of the Queen.'

"'All right, Dan,' says I; 'but come along now while there's time.'

"'It's your fault,' says he, 'for not looking after your Army better.
There was mutiny in the midst, and you didn't know--you damned
engine-driving, plate-laying, missionary's-pass-hunting hound!' He sat
upon a rock and called me every foul name he could lay tongue to. I was
too heart-sick to care, though it was all his foolishness that brought the
smash.

"'I'm sorry, Dan,' says I, 'but there's no accounting for natives. This
business is our Fifty-Seven. Maybe we'll make something out of it yet,
when we've got to Bashkai.'

"'Let's get to Bashkai, then,' says Dan, 'and, by God, when I come back
here again I'll sweep the valley so there isn't a bug in a blanket left!'

"We walked all that day, and all that night Dan was stumping up and down
on the snow, chewing his beard and muttering to himself.

"'There's no hope o' getting clear,' said Billy Fish. 'The priests will
have sent runners to the villages to say that you are only men. Why didn't
you stick on as Gods till things was more settled? I'm a dead man,' says
Billy Fish, and he throws himself down on the snow and begins to pray to
his Gods.

"Next morning we was in a cruel bad country--all up and down, no level
ground at all, and no food either. The six Bashkai men looked at Billy
Fish hungry-wise as if they wanted to ask something, but they said never a
word. At noon we came to the top of a flat mountain all covered with snow,
and when we climbed up into it, behold, there was an Army in position
waiting in the middle!

"'The runners have been very quick,' says Billy Fish, with a little bit of
a laugh. 'They are waiting for us.'

"Three or four men began to fire from the enemy's side, and a chance shot
took Daniel in the calf of the leg. That brought him to his senses. He
looks across the snow at the Army, and sees the rifles that we had brought
into the country.

"'We're done for,' says he. 'They are Englishmen, these people,--and it's
my blasted nonsense that has brought you to this. Get back, Billy Fish,
and take your men away; you've done what you could, and now cut for it.
Carnehan,' says he, 'shake hands with me and go along with Billy. Maybe
they won't kill you. I'll go and meet 'em alone. It's me that did it. Me,
the King!'

"'Go!' says I. 'Go to Hell, Dan. I'm with you here. Billy Fish, you clear
out, and we two will meet those folk.'

"'I'm a Chief,' says Billy Fish, quite quiet. 'I stay with you. My men can
go.'

"The Bashkai fellows didn't wait for a second word but ran off, and Dan
and Me and Billy Fish walked across to where the drums were drumming and
the horns were horning, It was cold--awful cold. I've got that cold in the
back of my head now. There's a lump of it there."

The punkah-coolies had gone to sleep. Two kerosene lamps were blazing in
the office, and the perspiration poured down my face and splashed on the
blotter as I leaned forward. Carnehan was shivering, and I feared that his
mind might go. I wiped my face, took a fresh grip of the piteously mangled
hands, and said:--"What happened after that?"

The momentary shift of my eyes had broken the clear current.

"What was you pleased to say?" whined Carnehan. "They took them without
any sound. Not a little whisper all along the snow, not though the King
knocked down the first man that set hand on him--not though old Peachey
fired his last cartridge into the brown of 'em. Not a single solitary
sound did those swines make. They just closed up tight, and I tell you
their furs stunk. There was a man called Billy Fish, a good friend of us
all, and they cut his throat, Sir, then and there, like a pig; and the
King kicks up the bloody snow and says:--'We've had a dashed fine run for
our money. What's coming next?' But Peachey, Peachey Taliaferro, I tell
you, Sir, in confidence as betwixt two friends, he lost his head, Sir. No,
he didn't neither. The King lost his head, so he did, all along o' one of
those cunning rope-bridges. Kindly let me have the paper-cutter, Sir. It
tilted this way. They marched him a mile across that snow to a rope-bridge
over a ravine with a river at the bottom. You may have seen such. They
prodded him behind like an ox. 'Damn your eyes!' says the King. 'D'you
suppose I can't die like a gentleman?' He turns to Peachey--Peachey that
was crying like a child. 'I've brought you to this, Peachey,' says he.
'Brought you out of your happy life to be killed in Kafiristan, where you
was late Commander-in-Chief of the Emperor's forces. Say you forgive me,
Peachey.' 'I do,' says Peachey. 'Fully and freely do I forgive you, Dan.'
'Shake hands, Peachey,' says he. 'I'm going now.' Out he goes, looking
neither right nor left, and when he was plumb in the middle of those dizzy
dancing ropes, 'Cut, you beggars,' he shouts; and they cut, and old Dan
fell, turning round and round and round twenty thousand miles, for he took
half an hour to fall till he struck the water, and I could see his body
caught on a rock with the gold crown close beside.

"But do you know what they did to Peachey between two pine trees? They
crucified him, Sir, as Peachey's hand will show. They used wooden pegs for
his hands and his feet; and he didn't die. He hung there and screamed, and
they took him down next day, and said it was a miracle that he wasn't
dead. They took him down--poor old Peachey that hadn't done them any
harm--that hadn't done them any...."

He rocked to and fro and wept bitterly, wiping his eyes with the back of
his scarred hands and moaning like a child for some ten minutes.

"They was cruel enough to feed him up in the temple, because they said he
was more of a God than old Daniel that was a man. Then they turned him out
on the snow, and told him to go home, and Peachey came home in about a
year, begging along the roads quite safe: for Daniel Dravot he walked
before and said:--'Come along, Peachey. It's a big thing we're doing.' The
mountains they danced at night, and the mountains they tried to fall on
Peachey's head, but Dan he held up his hand, and Peachey came along bent
double. He never let go of Dan's hand, and he never let go of Dan's head.
They gave it to him as a present in the temple, to remind him not to come
again, and though the crown was pure gold, and Peachey was starving, never
would Peachey sell the same. You knew Dravot, Sir! You knew Right
Worshipful Brother Dravot! Look at him now!"

He fumbled in the mass of rags round his bent waist; brought out a black
horsehair bag embroidered with silver thread; and shook therefrom on to my
table--the dried, withered head of Daniel Dravot! The morning sun that had
long been paling the lamps struck the red beard and blind sunken eyes;
struck, too, a heavy circlet of gold studded with raw turquoises, that
Carnehan placed tenderly on the battered temples.

"You behold now," said Carnehan, "the Emperor in his habit as he
lived--the King of Kafiristan with his crown upon his head. Poor old
Daniel that was a monarch once!"

I shuddered, for, in spite of defacements manifold, I recognized the head
of the man of Marwar Junction. Carnehan rose to go. I attempted to stop
him. He was not fit to walk abroad. "Let me take away the whiskey, and
give me a little money," he gasped, "I was a King once. I'll go to the
Deputy Commissioner and ask to set in the Poorhouse till I get my health.
No, thank you, I can't wait till you get a carriage for me, I've urgent
private affairs--in the south--at Marwar."

He shambled out of the office and departed in the direction of the Deputy
Commissioner's house. That day at noon I had occasion to go down the
blinding hot Mall, and I saw a crooked man crawling along the white dust
of the roadside, his hat in his hand, quavering dolorously after the
fashion of street-singers at Home. There was not a soul in sight, and he
was out of all possible earshot of the houses. And he sang through his
nose, turning his head from right to left:

"The Son of Man goes forth to war,
A golden crown to gain;
His blood-red banner streams afar--
Who follows in his train?"

I waited to hear no more, but put the poor wretch into my carriage and
drove him off to the nearest missionary for eventual transfer to the
Asylum. He repeated the hymn twice while he was with me whom he did not in
the least recognize, and I left him singing it to the missionary.

Two days later I inquired after his welfare of the Superintendent of the
Asylum.

"He was admitted suffering from sunstroke. He died early yesterday
morning," said the Superintendent. "Is it true that he was half an hour
bareheaded in the sun at midday?"

"Yes," said I, "but do you happen to know if he had anything upon him by
any chance when he died?"

"Not to my knowledge," said the Superintendent.

And there the matter rests.

THE GATE OF THE HUNDRED SORROWS

If I can attain Heaven for a pice, why should you be envious?--_Opium
Smoker's Proverb_.

This is no work of mine. My friend, Gabral Misquitta, the half-caste,
spoke it all, between moonset and morning, six weeks before he died; and I
took it down from his mouth as he answered my questions. So:

It lies between the Coppersmith's Gully and the pipe-stem sellers'
quarter, within a hundred yards, too, as the crow flies, of the Mosque of
Wazir Khan. I don't mind telling any one this much, but I defy him to find
the Gate, however well he may think he knows the City. You might even go
through the very gully it stands in a hundred times, and be none the
wiser. We used to call the gully, "The Gully of the Black Smoke," but its
native name is altogether different of course. A loaded donkey couldn't
pass between the walls; and, at one point, just before you reach the Gate,
a bulged house-front makes people go along all sideways.

It isn't really a gate though. It's a house. Old Fung-Tching had it first
five years ago. He was a boot-maker in Calcutta. They say that he murdered
his wife there when he was drunk. That was why he dropped bazar-rum and
took to the Black Smoke instead. Later on, he came up north and opened the
Gate as a house where you could get your smoke in peace and quiet. Mind
you, it was a _pukka_, respectable opium-house, and not one of those
stifling, sweltering _chandoo-khanas_, that you can find all over the
City. No; the old man knew his business thoroughly, and he was most clean
for a Chinaman. He was a one-eyed little chap, not much more than five
feet high, and both his middle fingers were gone. All the same, he was the
handiest man at rolling black pills I have ever seen. Never seemed to be
touched by the Smoke, either; and what he took day and night, night and
day, was a caution. I've been at it five years, and I can do my fair share
of the Smoke with any one; but I was a child to Fung-Tching that way. All
the same, the old man was keen on his money: very keen; and that's what I
can't understand. I heard he saved a good deal before he died, but his
nephew has got all that now; and the old man's gone back to China to be
buried.

He kept the big upper room, where his best customers gathered, as neat as
a new pin. In one corner used to stand Fung-Tching's Joss--almost as ugly
as Fung-Tching--and there were always sticks burning under his nose; but
you never smelled 'em when the pipes were going thick. Opposite the joss
was Fung-Tching's coffin. He had spent a good deal of his savings on that,
and whenever a new man came to the Gate he was always introduced to it. It
was lacquered black, with red and gold writings on it, and I've heard that
Fung-Tching brought it out all the way from China. I don't know whether
that's true or not, but I know that, if I came first in the evening, I
used to spread my mat just at the foot of it. It was a quiet corner, you
see, and a sort of breeze from the gully came in at the window now and
then. Besides the mats, there was no other furniture in the room--only the
coffin, and the old joss all green and blue and purple with age and
polish.

Fung-Tching never told us why he called the place "The Gate of the Hundred
Sorrows." (He was the only Chinaman I know who used bad-sounding fancy
names. Most of them are flowery. As you'll see in Calcutta.) We used to
find that out for ourselves. Nothing grows on you so much, if you're
white, as the Black Smoke. A yellow man is made different. Opium doesn't
tell on him scarcely at all; but white and black suffer a good deal. Of
course, there are some people that the Smoke doesn't touch any more than
tobacco would at first. They just doze a bit, as one would fall asleep
naturally, and next morning they are almost fit for work. Now, I was one
of that sort when I began, but I've been at it for five years pretty
steadily, and it's different now. There was an old aunt of mine, down Agra
way, and she left me a little at her death. About sixty rupees a month
secured. Sixty isn't much. I can recollect a time, 'seems hundreds and
hundreds of years ago, that I was getting my three hundred a month, and
pickings, when I was working on a big timber-contract in Calcutta.

I didn't stick to that work for long. The Black Smoke does not allow of
much other business; and even though I am very little affected by it, as
men go I couldn't do a day's work now to save my life. After all, sixty
rupees is what I want. When old Fung-Tching was alive he used to draw the
money for me, give me about half of it to live on (I eat very little), and
the rest he kept himself. I was free of the Gate at any time of the day
and night, and could smoke and sleep there when I liked, so I didn't care.
I know the old man made a good thing out of it; but that's no matter.
Nothing matters much to me; and besides, the money always came fresh and
fresh each month.

There was ten of us met at the Gate when the place was first opened. Me,
and two Baboos from a Government Office somewhere in Anarkulli, but they
got the sack and couldn't pay (no man who has to work in the daylight can
do the Black Smoke for any length of time straight on); a Chinaman that
was Fung-Tching's nephew; a bazar-woman that had got a lot of money
somehow; an English loafer--Mac-Somebody I think, but I have
forgotten,--that smoked heaps, but never seemed to pay anything (they said
he had saved Fung-Tching's life at some trial in Calcutta when he was a
barrister); another Eurasian, like myself, from Madras; a half-caste
woman, and a couple of men who said they had come from the North. I think
they must have been Persians or Afghans or something. There are not more
than five of us living now, but we come regular. I don't know what
happened to the Baboos; but the bazar-woman she died after six months of
the Gate, and I think Fung-Tching took her bangles and nose-ring for
himself. But I'm not certain. The Englishman, he drank as well as smoked,
and he dropped off. One of the Persians got killed in a row at night by
the big well near the mosque a long time ago, and the Police shut up the
well, because they said it was full of foul air. They found him dead at
the bottom of it. So you see, there is only me, the Chinaman, the
half-caste woman that we call the _Memsahib_ (she used to live with
Fung-Tching), the other Eurasian, and one of the Persians. The _Memsahib_
looks very old now. I think she was a young woman when the Gate was
opened; but we are all old for the matter of that. Hundreds and hundreds
of years old. It is very hard to keep count of time in the Gate, and,
besides, time doesn't matter to me. I draw my sixty rupees fresh and fresh
every month. A very, very long while ago, when I used to be getting three
hundred and fifty rupees a month, and pickings, on a big timber-contract
at Calcutta, I had a wife of sorts. But she's dead now. People said that I
killed her by taking to the Black Smoke. Perhaps I did, but it's so long
since that it doesn't matter. Sometimes when I first came to the Gate, I
used to feel sorry for it; but that's all over and done with long ago, and
I draw my sixty rupees fresh and fresh every month, and am quite happy.
Not _drunk_ happy, you know, but always quiet and soothed and contented.

How did I take to it? It began at Calcutta. I used to try it in my own
house, just to see what it was like. I never went very far, but I think my
wife must have died then. Anyhow, I found myself here, and got to know
Fung-Tching. I don't remember rightly how that came about; but he told me
of the Gate and I used to go there, and, somehow, I have never got away
from it since. Mind you, though, the Gate was a respectable place in
Fung-Tching's time where you could be comfortable, and not at all like the
_chandoo-khanas_ where the niggers go. No; it was clean and quiet, and not
crowded. Of course, there were others beside us ten and the man; but we
always had a mat apiece, with a wadded woolen headpiece, all covered with
black and red dragons and things; just like the coffin in the corner.

At the end of one's third pipe the dragons used to move about and fight.
I've watched 'em many and many a night through. I used to regulate my
Smoke that way, and now it takes a dozen pipes to make 'em stir. Besides,
they are all torn and dirty, like the mats, and old Fung-Tching is dead.
He died a couple of years ago, and gave me the pipe I always use now--a
silver one, with queer beasts crawling up and down the receiver-bottle
below the cup. Before that, I think, I used a big bamboo stem with a
copper cup, a very small one, and a green jade mouthpiece. It was a little
thicker than a walking-stick stem, and smoked sweet, very sweet. The
bamboo seemed to suck up the smoke. Silver doesn't, and I've got to clean
it out now and then, that's a great deal of trouble, but I smoke it for
the old man's sake. He must have made a good thing out of me, but he
always gave me clean mats and pillows, and the best stuff you could get
anywhere.

When he died, his nephew Tsin-ling took up the Gate, and he called it the
"Temple of the Three Possessions"; but we old ones speak of it as the
"Hundred Sorrows," all the same. The nephew does things very shabbily, and
I think the _Memsahib_ must help him. She lives with him; same as she used
to do with the old man. The two let in all sorts of low people, niggers
and all, and the Black Smoke isn't as good as it used to be. I've found
burned bran in my pipe over and over again. The old man would have died if
that had happened in his time. Besides, the room is never cleaned, and all
the mats are torn and cut at the edges. The coffin is gone--gone to China
again--with the old man and two ounces of Smoke inside it, in case he
should want 'em on the way.

The Joss doesn't get so many sticks burned under his nose as he used to;
that's a sign of ill-luck, as sure as Death. He's all brown, too, and no
one ever attends to him. That's the _Memsahib's_ work, I know; because,
when Tsin-ling tried to burn gilt paper before him, she said it was a
waste of money, and, if he kept a stick burning very slowly, the Joss
wouldn't know the difference. So now we've got the sticks mixed with a lot
of glue, and they take half an hour longer to burn, and smell stinky. Let
alone the smell of the room by itself. No business can get on if they try
that sort of thing. The Joss doesn't like it. I can see that. Late at
night, sometimes, he turns all sorts of queer colors--blue and green and
red--just as he used to do when old Fung-Tching was alive; and he rolls
his eyes and stamps his feet like a devil.

I don't know why I don't leave the place and smoke quietly in a little
room of my own in the bazar. Most like, Tsin-ling would kill me if I went
away--he draws my sixty rupees now--and besides, it's so much trouble, and
I've grown to be very fond of the Gate. It's not much to look at. Not what
it was in the old man's time, but I couldn't leave it. I've seen so many
come in and out. And I've seen so many die here on the mats that I should
be afraid of dying in the open now. I've seen some things that people
would call strange enough; but nothing is strange when you're on the Black
Smoke, except the Black Smoke. And if it was, it wouldn't matter.
Fung-Tching used to be very particular about his people, and never got in
any one who'd give trouble by dying messy and such. But the nephew isn't
half so careful. He tells everywhere that he keeps a "first-chop" house.
Never tries to get men in quietly, and make them comfortable like
Fung-Tching did. That's why the Gate is getting a little bit more known
than it used to be. Among the niggers of course. The nephew daren't get a
white, or, for matter of that, a mixed skin into the place. He has to keep
us three of course--me and the _Memsahib_ and the other Eurasian. We're
fixtures. But he wouldn't give us credit for a pipeful--not for anything.

One of these days, I hope, I shall die in the Gate. The Persian and the
Madras man are terribly shaky now. They've got a boy to light their pipes
for them. I always do that myself. Most like, I shall see them carried out
before me. I don't think I shall ever outlive the _Memsahib_ or Tsin-ling.
Women last longer than men at the Black Smoke, and Tsin-ling has a deal of
the old man's blood in him, though he does smoke cheap stuff. The
bazar-woman knew when she was going two days before her time; and she died
on a clean mat with a nicely wadded pillow, and the old man hung up her
pipe just above the Joss. He was always fond of her, I fancy. But he took
her bangles just the same.

I should like to die like the bazar-woman--on a clean, cool mat with a
pipe of good stuff between my lips. When I feel I'm going, I shall ask
Tsin-ling for them, and he can draw my sixty rupees a month, fresh and
fresh, as long as he pleases. Then I shall lie back, quiet and
comfortable, and watch the black and red dragons have their last big fight
together; and then.... Well, it doesn't matter. Nothing matters much to
me--only I wish Tsin-ling wouldn't put bran into the Black Smoke.

THE INCARNATION OF KRISHNA MULVANEY

Wohl auf, my bully cavaliers,
We ride to church to-day,
The man that hasn't got a horse
Must steal one straight away.

* * * * *

Be reverent, men, remember
This is a Gottes haus.
Du, Conrad, cut along der aisle
And schenck der whiskey aus.

_Hans Breitmann's Ride to Church._

Once upon a time, very far from England, there lived three men who loved
each other so greatly that neither man nor woman could come between them.
They were in no sense refined, nor to be admitted to the outer-door mats
of decent folk, because they happened to be private soldiers in Her
Majesty's Army; and private soldiers of our service have small time for
self-culture. Their duty is to keep themselves and their accoutrements
specklessly clean, to refrain from getting drunk more often than is
necessary, to obey their superiors, and to pray for a war. All these
things my friends accomplished; and of their own motion threw in some
fighting-work for which the Army Regulations did not call. Their fate sent
them to serve in India, which is not a golden country, though poets have
sung otherwise. There men die with great swiftness, and those who live
suffer many and curious things. I do not think that my friends concerned
themselves much with the social or political aspects of the East. They
attended a not unimportant war on the northern frontier, another one on
our western boundary, and a third in Upper Burma. Then their regiment sat
still to recruit, and the boundless monotony of cantonment life was their
portion. They were drilled morning and evening on the same dusty
parade-ground. They wandered up and down the same stretch of dusty white
road, attended the same church and the same grog-shop, and slept in the
same lime-washed barn of a barrack for two long years. There was Mulvaney,
the father in the craft, who had served with various regiments from
Bermuda to Halifax, old in war, scarred, reckless, resourceful, and in his
pious hours an unequalled soldier. To him turned for help and comfort six
and a half feet of slow-moving, heavy-footed Yorkshireman, born on the
wolds, bred in the dales, and educated chiefly among the carriers' carts
at the back of York railway-station. His name was Learoyd, and his chief
virtue an unmitigated patience which helped him to win fights. How
Ortheris, a fox-terrier of a Cockney, ever came to be one of the trio, is
a mystery which even to-day I cannot explain. "There was always three av
us," Mulvaney used to say. "An' by the grace av God, so long as our
service lasts, three av us they'll always be. 'Tis betther so."

They desired no companionship beyond their own, and it was evil for any
man of the regiment who attempted dispute with them. Physical argument was
out of the question as regarded Mulvaney and the Yorkshireman; and assault
on Ortheris meant a combined attack from these twain--a business which no
five men were anxious to have on their hands. Therefore they flourished,
sharing their drinks, their tobacco, and their money; good luck and evil;
battle and the chances of death; life and the chances of happiness from
Calicut in southern, to Peshawur in northern India.

Through no merit of my own it was my good fortune to be in a measure
admitted to their friendship--frankly by Mulvaney from the beginning,
sullenly and with reluctance by Learoyd, and suspiciously by Ortheris, who
held to it that no man not in the Army could fraternize with a red-coat.
"Like to like," said he. "I'm a bloomin' sodger--he's a bloomin' civilian.
'Tain't natural--that's all."

But that was not all. They thawed progressively, and in the thawing told
me more of their lives and adventures than I am ever likely to write.

Omitting all else, this tale begins with the Lamentable Thirst that was at
the beginning of First Causes. Never was such a thirst--Mulvaney told me
so. They kicked against their compulsory virtue, but the attempt was only
successful in the case of Ortheris. He, whose talents were many, went
forth into the highways and stole a dog from a "civilian"--_videlicet_,
some one, he knew not who, not in the Army. Now that civilian was but
newly connected by marriage with the colonel of the regiment, and outcry
was made from quarters least anticipated by Ortheris, and, in the end, he
was forced, lest a worse thing should happen, to dispose at ridiculously
unremunerative rates of as promising a small terrier as ever graced one
end of a leading string. The purchase-money was barely sufficient for one
small outbreak which led him to the guard-room. He escaped, however, with
nothing worse than a severe reprimand, and a few hours of punishment
drill. Not for nothing had he acquired the reputation of being "the best
soldier of his inches" in the regiment. Mulvaney had taught personal
cleanliness and efficiency as the first articles of his companions' creed.
"A dhirty man," he was used to say, in the speech of his kind, "goes to
Clink for a weakness in the knees, an' is coort-martialled for a pair av
socks missin'; but a clane man, such as is an ornament to his service--a
man whose buttons are gold, whose coat is wax upon him, an' whose
'coutrements are widout a speck--that man may, spakin' in reason, do fwhat
he likes an' dhrink from day to divil. That's the pride av bein' dacint."

We sat together, upon a day, in the shade of a ravine far from the
barracks, where a watercourse used to run in rainy weather. Behind us was
the scrub jungle, in which jackals, peacocks, the grey wolves of the
Northwestern Provinces, and occasionally a tiger estrayed from Central
India, were supposed to dwell. In front lay the cantonment, glaring white
under a glaring sun; and on either side ran the broad road that led to
Delhi.

It was the scrub that suggested to my mind the wisdom of Mulvaney taking a
day's leave and going upon a shooting-tour. The peacock is a holy bird
throughout India, and he who slays one is in danger of being mobbed by the
nearest villagers; but on the last occasion that Mulvaney had gone forth,
he had contrived, without in the least offending local religious
susceptibilities, to return with six beautiful peacock skins which he sold
to profit. It seemed just possible then--

"But fwhat manner av use is ut to me goin' out widout a dhrink? The
ground's powdher-dhry underfoot, an' ut gets unto the throat fit to kill,"
wailed Mulvaney, looking at me reproachfully. "An' a peacock is not a bird
you can catch the tail av onless ye run. Can a man run on wather--an'
jungle-wather too?"

Ortheris had considered the question in all its bearings. He spoke,
chewing his pipe-stem meditatively the while:

"Go forth, return in glory,
To Clusium's royal 'ome:
An' round these bloomin' temples 'ang
The bloomin' shields o' Rome.

You better go. You ain't like to shoot yourself--not while there's a
chanst of liquor. Me an' Learoyd 'll stay at 'ome an' keep shop--'case o'
anythin' turnin' up. But you go out with a gas-pipe gun an' ketch the
little peacockses or somethin'. You kin get one day's leave easy as
winkin'. Go along an' get it, an' get peacockses or somethin'."

"Jock," said Mulvaney, turning to Learoyd, who was half asleep under the
shadow of the bank. He roused slowly.

"Sitha, Mulvaaney, go," said he.

And Mulvaney went; cursing his allies with Irish fluency and barrack-room
point.

"Take note," said he, when he had won his holiday, and appeared dressed in
his roughest clothes with the only other regimental fowling piece in his
hand. "Take note, Jock, an' you Orth'ris, I am goin' in the face av my own
will--all for to please you. I misdoubt anythin' will come av permiscuous
huntin' afther peacockses in a desolit lan'; an' I know that I will lie
down an' die wid thirrrst. Me catch peacockses for you, ye lazy
scutts--an' be sacrificed by the peasanthry--Ugh!"

He waved a huge paw and went away.

At twilight, long before the appointed hour, he returned empty-handed,
much begrimed with dirt.

"Peacockses?" queried Ortheris from the safe rest of a barrack-room table
whereon he was smoking cross-legged, Learoyd fast asleep on a bench.

"Jock," said Mulvaney, without answering, as he stirred up the sleeper.
"Jock, can ye fight? Will ye fight?"

Very slowly the meaning of the words communicated itself to the
half-roused man. He understood--and again--what might these things mean?
Mulvaney was shaking him savagely. Meantime the men in the room howled
with delight. There was war in the confederacy at last--war and the
breaking of bonds.

Barrack-room etiquette is stringent. On the direct challenge must follow
the direct reply. This is more binding than the ties of tried friendship.
Once again Mulvaney repeated the question. Learoyd answered by the only
means in his power, and so swiftly that the Irishman had barely time to
avoid the blow. The laughter around increased. Learoyd looked bewilderedly
at his friend--himself as greatly bewildered. Ortheris dropped from the
table because his world was falling.

"Come outside," said Mulvaney, and as the occupants of the barrack-room
prepared joyously to follow, he turned and said furiously, "There will be
no fight this night--onless any wan av you is wishful to assist. The man
that does, follows on."

No man moved. The three passed out into the moonlight, Learoyd fumbling
with the buttons of his coat. The parade-ground was deserted except for
the scurrying jackals. Mulvaney's impetuous rush carried his companions
far into the open ere Learoyd attempted to turn round and continue the
discussion.

"Be still now. 'Twas my fault for beginnin' things in the middle av an
end, Jock. I should ha' comminst wid an explanation; but Jock, dear, on
your sowl are ye fit, think you, for the finest fight that iver
was--betther than fightin' me? Considher before ye answer."

More than ever puzzled, Learoyd turned round two or three times, felt an
arm, kicked tentatively, and answered, "Ah'm fit." He was accustomed to
fight blindly at the bidding of the superior mind.

They sat them down, the men looking on from afar, and Mulvaney untangled
himself in mighty words.

"Followin' your fools' scheme I wint out into the thrackless desert beyond
the barricks. An' there I met a pious Hindu dhriving a bullock-kyart. I
tuk ut for granted he wud be delighted for to convoy me a piece, an' I
jumped in"--

"You long, lazy, black-haired swine," drawled Ortheris, who would have
done the same thing under similar circumstances.

"'Twas the height av policy. That naygur-man dhruv miles an' miles--as far
as the new railway line they're buildin' now back av the Tavi river. ''Tis
a kyart for dhirt only,' says he now an' again timoreously, to get me out
av ut. 'Dhirt I am,' sez I, 'an' the dhryest that you iver kyarted. Dhrive
on, me son, an' glory be wid you.' At that I wint to slape, an' took no
heed till he pulled up on the embankmmt av the line where the coolies were
pilin' mud. There was a matther av two thousand coolies on that line--you
remimber that. Prisintly a bell rang, an' they throops off to a big
pay-shed. 'Where's the white man in charge?' sez I to my kyart-dhriver.
'In the shed,' sez he, 'engaged on a riffle,'--'A fwhat?' sez I. 'Riffle,'
sez he, 'You take ticket. He take money. You get nothin'.--'Oho!' sez I,
'that's fwhat the shuperior an' cultivated man calls a raffle, me
misbeguided child av darkness an' sin. Lead on to that raffle, though
fwhat the mischief 'tis doin' so far away from uts home--which is the
charity-bazaar at Christmas, an' the colonel's wife grinnin' behind the
tea-table--is more than I know.' Wid that I wint to the shed an' found
'twas payday among the coolies. Their wages was on a table forninst a big,
fine, red buck av a man--sivun fut high, four fut wide, an' three fut
thick, wid a fist on him like a corn-sack. He was payin' the coolies fair
an' easy, but he wud ask each man If he wud raffle that month, an' each
man sez, 'Yes,' av course. Thin he wud deduct from their wages accordin'.
Whin all was paid, he filled an ould cigar-box full av gun-wads an'
scatthered ut among the coolies. They did not take much joy av that
performince, an' small wondher. A man close to me picks up a black gun-wad
an' sings out, 'I have ut,'--'Good may ut do you.' sez I. The coolie wint
forward to this big, fine, red man, who threw a cloth off av the most
sumpshus, jooled, enamelled an' variously bedivilled sedan-chair I iver
saw."

"Sedan-chair! Put your 'ead in a bag. That was a palanquin. Don't yer know
a palanquin when you see it?" said Ortheris with great scorn.

"I chuse to call ut sedan chair, an' chair ut shall be, little man,"
continued the Irishman. "Twas a most amazin' chair--all lined wid pink
silk an' fitted wid red silk curtains. 'Here ut is,' sez the red man.
'Here ut is,' sez the coolie, an' he grinned weakly-ways. 'Is ut any use
to you?' sez the red man. 'No,' sez the coolie; 'I'd like to make a
presint av ut to you.'--'I am graciously pleased to accept that same,' sez
the red man; an' at that all the coolies cried aloud in fwhat was mint for
cheerful notes, an' wint back to their diggin', lavin' me alone in the
shed. The red man saw me, an' his face grew blue on his big, fat neck.
'Fwhat d'you want here?' sez he. 'Standin'-room an' no more,' sez I,
'onless it may be fwhat ye niver had, an' that's manners, ye rafflin'
ruffian,' for I was not goin' to have the Service throd upon. 'Out of
this,' sez he. 'I'm in charge av this section av construction.'--'I'm in
charge av mesilf,' sez I, 'an' it's like I will stay a while. D'ye raffle
much in these parts?'--'Fwhat's that to you?' sez he. 'Nothin',' sez I,
'but a great dale to you, for begad I'm thinkin' you get the full half av
your revenue from that sedan-chair. Is ut always raffled so?' I sez, an'
wid that I wint to a coolie to ask questions. Bhoys, that man's name is
Dearsley, an' he's been rafflin' that ould sedan-chair monthly this
matther av nine months. Ivry coolie on the section takes a ticket--or he
gives 'em the go--wanst a month on pay-day. Ivry coolie that wins ut gives
ut back to him, for 'tis too big to carry away, an' he'd sack the man that
thried to sell ut. That Dearsley has been makin' the rowlin' wealth av
Roshus by nefarious rafflin'. Think av the burnin' shame to the sufferin'
coolie-man that the army in Injia are bound to protect an' nourish in
their bosoms! Two thousand coolies defrauded wanst a month!"

"Dom t' coolies. Has't gotten t' cheer, man?" said Learoyd.

"Hould on. Havin' onearthed this amazin' an' stupenjus fraud committed by
the man Dearsley, I hild a council av war; he thryin' all the time to
sejuce me into a fight wid opprobrious language. That sedan-chair niver
belonged by right to any foreman av coolies. 'Tis a king's chair or a
quane's. There's gold on ut an' silk an' all manner av trapesemints.
Bhoys, 'tis not for me to countenance any sort av wrong-doin'--me bein'
the ould man--but--anyway he has had ut nine months, an' he dare not make
throuble av ut was taken from him. Five miles away, or ut may be six"--

There was a long pause, and the jackals howled merrily. Learoyd bared one
arm, and contemplated it in the moonlight. Then he nodded partly to
himself and partly to his friends. Ortheris wriggled with suppressed
emotion.

"I thought ye wud see the reasonableness av ut," said Mulvaney. "I make
bould to say as much to the man before. He was for a direct front
attack--fut, horse, an' guns--an' all for nothin', seein' that I had no
thransport to convey the machine away. 'I will not argue wid you,' sez I,
'this day, but subsequintly, Mister Dearsley, me rafflin' jool, we talk ut
out lengthways. 'Tis no good policy to swindle the naygur av his
hard-earned emolumints, an' by presint informa-shin'--'twas the kyart man
that tould me--'ye've been perpethrating that same for nine months. But
I'm a just man,' sez I, 'an' over-lookin' the presumpshin that yondher
settee wid the gilt top was not come by honust'--at that he turned
sky-green, so I knew things was more thrue than tellable--'not come by
honust. I'm willin' to compound the felony for this month's winnin's.'"

"Ah! Ho!" from Learoyd and Ortheris.

"That man Dearsley's rushin' on his fate," continued Mulvaney, solemnly
wagging his head. "All Hell had no name bad enough for me that tide.
Faith, he called me a robber! Me! that was savin' him from continuin' in
his evil ways widout a remonstrince--an' to a man av conscience a
remonstrince may change the chune av his life. ''Tis not for me to argue,'
sez I, 'fwhatever ye are, Mister Dearsley, but, by my hand, I'll take away
the temptation for you that lies in that sedan-chair.'--'You will have to
fight me for ut,' sez he, 'for well I know you will never dare make report
to any one.'--'Fight I will,' sez I, 'but not this day, for I'm rejuced
for want av nourishment.'--'Ye're an ould bould hand,' sez he, sizin' me
up an' down; 'an' a jool av a fight we will have. Eat now an' dhrink, an'
go your way.' Wid that he gave me some hump an' whisky--good whisky--an'
we talked av this an' that the while. 'It goes hard on me now,' sez I,
wipin' my mouth, 'to confiscate that piece av furniture, but justice is
justice.'--'Ye've not got ut yet,' sez he; 'there's the fight
between.'--'There is,' sez I, 'an' a good fight. Ye shall have the pick av
the best quality in my rigimint for the dinner you have given this day.'
Thin I came hot-foot to you two. Hould your tongue, the both. 'Tis this
way. To-morrow we three will go there an' he shall have his pick betune me
an' Jock. Jock's a deceivin' fighter, for he is all fat to the eye, an' he
moves slow. Now I'm all beef to the look, an' I move quick. By my
reckonin' the Dearsley man won't take me; so me an' Orth'ris 'll see fair
play. Jock, I tell you, 'twill be big fightin'--whipped, wid the cream
above the jam. Afther the business 'twill take a good three av us--Jock
'll be very hurt--to haul away that sedan-chair."

"Palanquin." This from Ortheris.

"Fwhatever ut is, we must have ut. Tis the only sellin' piece av property
widin reach that we can get so cheap. An' fwhat's a fight afther all? He
has robbed the naygur-man, dishonust. We rob him honust for the sake av
the whisky he gave me."

"But wot'll we do with the bloomin' article when we've got it? Them
palanquins are as big as 'ouses, an' uncommon 'ard to sell, as McCleary
said when ye stole the sentry-box from the Curragh."

"Who's goin' to do t' fightin'?" said Learoyd, and Ortheris subsided. The
three returned to barracks without a word. Mulvaney's last argument
clinched the matter. This palanquin was property, vendible, and to be
attained in the simplest and least embarrassing fashion. It would
eventually become beer. Great was Mulvaney.

Next afternoon a procession of three formed itself and disappeared into
the scrub in the direction of the new railway line. Learoyd alone was
without care, for Mulvaney dived darkly into the future, and little
Ortheris feared the unknown, What befell at that interview in the lonely
pay-shed by the side of the half-built embankment, only a few hundred
coolies know, and their tale is a confusing one, running thus--

"We were at work. Three men in red coats came. They saw the
Sahib--Dearsley Sahib. They made oration; and noticeably the small man
among the red-coats. Dearsley Sahib also made oration, and used many very
strong words, Upon this talk they departed together to an open space, and
there the fat man in the red coat fought with Dearsley Sahib after the
custom of white men--with his hands, making no noise, and never at all
pulling Dearsley Sahib's hair. Such of us as were not afraid beheld these
things for just so long a time as a man needs to cook the midday meal. The
small man in the red coat had possessed himself of Dearsley Sahib's watch.
No, he did not steal that watch. He held it in his hand, and at certain
seasons made outcry, and the twain ceased their combat, which was like the
combat of young bulls in spring. Both men were soon all red, but Dearsley
Sahib was much more red than the other. Seeing this, and fearing for his
life--because we greatly loved him--some fifty of us made shift to rush
upon the red-coats. But a certain man--very black as to the hair, and in
no way to be confused with the small man, or the fat man who fought--that
man, we affirm, ran upon us, and of us he embraced some ten or fifty in
both arms, and beat our heads together, so that our livers turned to
water, and we ran away. It is not good to interfere in the fightings of
white men. After that Dearsley Sahib fell and did not rise, these men
jumped upon his stomach and despoiled him of all his money, and attempted
to fire the pay-shed, and departed. Is it true that Dearsley Sahib makes
no complaint of these latter things having been done? We were senseless
with fear, and do not at all remember. There was no palanquin near the
pay-shed. What do we know about palanquins? Is it true that Dearsley Sahib
does not return to this place, on account of his sickness, for ten days?
This is the fault of those bad men in the red coats, who should be
severely punished; for Dearsley Sahib is both our father and mother, and
we love him much. Yet, if Dearsley Sahib does not return to this place at
all, we will speak the truth. There was a palanquin, for the up-keep of
which we were forced to pay nine-tenths of our monthly wage. On such
mulctings Dearsley Sahib allowed us to make obeisance to him before the
palanquin. What could we do? We were poor men. He took a full half of our
wages. Will the Government repay us those moneys? Those three men in red
coats bore the palanquin upon their shoulders and departed. All the money
that Dearsley Sahib had taken from us was in the cushions of that
palanquin. Therefore they stole it. Thousands of rupees were there--all
our money. It was our bank-box, to fill which we cheerfully contributed to
Dearsley Sahib three-sevenths of our monthly wage. Why does the white man
look upon us with the eye of disfavor? Before God, there was a palanquin,
and now there is no palanquin; and if they send the police here to make
inquisition, we can only say that there never has been any palanquin. Why
should a palanquin be near these works? We are poor men, and we know
nothing."

Such is the simplest version of the simplest story connected with the
descent upon Dearsley. From the lips of the coolies I received it.
Dearsley himself was in no condition to say anything, and Mulvaney
preserved a massive silence, broken only by the occasional licking of the
lips. He had seen a fight so gorgeous that even his power of speech was
taken from him. I respected that reserve until, three days after the
affair, I discovered in a disused stable in my quarters a palanquin of
unchastened splendor--evidently in past days the litter of a queen. The
pole whereby it swung between the shoulders of the bearers was rich with
the painted _papier-mache_ of Cashmere. The shoulder-pads were of yellow
silk. The panels of the litter itself were ablaze with the loves of all
the gods and goddesses of the Hindu Pantheon--lacquer on cedar. The cedar
sliding doors were fitted with hasps of translucent Jaipur enamel and ran
in grooves shod with silver. The cushions were of brocaded Delhi silk, and
the curtains which once hid any glimpse of the beauty of the king's palace
were stiff with gold. Closer investigation showed that the entire fabric
was everywhere rubbed and discolored by time and wear; but even thus it
was sufficiently gorgeous to deserve housing on the threshold of a royal
zenana. I found no fault with it, except that it was in my stable. Then,
trying to lift it by the silver-shod shoulder-pole, I laughed. The road
from Dearsley's pay-shed to the cantonment was a narrow and uneven one,
and, traversed by three very inexperienced palanquin-bearers, one of whom
was sorely battered about the head, must have been a path of torment.
Still I did not quite recognize the right of the three musketeers to turn
me into a "fence" for stolen property.

"I'm askin' you to warehouse ut," said Mulvaney when he was brought to
consider the question. "There's no steal in ut. Dearsley tould us we cud
have ut if we fought. Jock fought--an', oh, sorr, when the throuble was at
uts finest an' Jock was bleedin' like a stuck pig, an' little Orth'ris was
shquealin' on one leg chewin' big bites out av Dearsley's watch, I wud ha'
given my place at the fight to have had you see wan round. He tuk Jock, as
I suspicioned he would, an' Jock was deceptive. Nine roun's they were even
matched, an' at the tenth--About that palanquin now, There's not the least
throuble in the world, or we wud not ha' brought ut here. You will
ondherstand that the Queen--God bless her!--does not reckon for a privit
soldier to kape elephints an' palanquins an' sich in barricks. Afther we
had dhragged ut down from Dearsley's through that cruel scrub that near
broke Orth'ris's heart, we set ut in the ravine for a night; an' a thief
av a porcupine an' a civet-cat av a jackal roosted in ut, as well we knew
in the mornin'. I put ut to you, sorr, is an elegint palanquin, fit for
the princess, the natural abidin' place av all the vermin in cantonmints?
We brought ut to you, afther dhark, and put ut in your shtable. Do not let
your conscience prick. Think av the rejoicin' men in the pay-shed
yonder--lookin' at Dearsley wid his head tied up in a towel--an' well
knowin' that they can dhraw their pay ivry month widout stoppages for
riffles. Indirectly, sorr, you have rescued from an onprincipled son av a
night-hawk the peasanthry av a numerous village. An' besides, will I let
that sedan-chair rot on our hands? Not I. Tis not every day a piece av
pure joolry comes into the market. There's not a king widin these forty
miles"--he waved his hand round the dusty horizon--"not a king wud not be
glad to buy ut. Some day meself, whin I have leisure, I'll take ut up
along the road an' dishpose av ut."

"How?" said I, for I knew the man was capable of anything.

"Get into ut, av coorse, and keep wan eye open through the curtains. Whin
I see a likely man av the native persuasion, I will descind blushin' from
my canopy and say, 'Buy a palanquin, ye black scutt?' I will have to hire
four men to carry me first, though; and that's impossible till next
pay-day."

Curiously enough, Learoyd, who had fought for the prize, and in the
winning secured the highest pleasure life had to offer him, was altogether
disposed to undervalue it, while Ortheris openly said it would be better
to break the thing up. Dearsley, he argued, might be a many-sided man,
capable, despite his magnificent fighting qualities, of setting in motion
the machinery of the civil law--a thing much abhorred by the soldier.
Under any circumstances their fun had come and passed; the next pay-day
was close at hand, when there would be beer for all. Wherefore longer
conserve the painted palanquin?

"A first-class rifle-shot an' a good little man av your inches you are,"
said Mulvaney. "But you niver had a head worth a soft-boiled egg. 'Tis me
has to lie awake av nights schamin' an' plottin' for the three av us.
Orth'ris, me son, 'tis no matther av a few gallons av beer--no, nor twenty
gallons--but tubs an' vats an' firkins in that sedan-chair. Who ut was,
an' what ut was, an' how ut got there, we do not know; but I know in my
bones that you an' me an' Jock wid his sprained thumb will get a fortune
thereby. Lave me alone, an' let me think."

Meantime the palanquin stayed in my stall, the key of which was in
Mulvaney's hands.

Pay-day came, and with it beer. It was not in experience to hope that
Mulvaney, dried by four weeks' drought, would avoid excess. Next morning
he and the palanquin had disappeared. He had taken the precaution of
getting three days' leave "to see a friend on the railway," and the
colonel, well knowing that the seasonal outburst was near, and hoping it
would spend its force beyond the limits of his jurisdiction, cheerfully
gave him all he demanded. At this point Mulvaney's history, as recorded in
the mess-room, stopped.

Ortheris carried it not much further. "No, 'e wasn't drunk," said the
little man loyally, "the liquor was no more than feelin' its way round
inside of 'im; but 'e went an' filled that 'ole bloomin' palanquin with
bottles 'fore 'e went off. 'E's gone an' 'ired six men to carry 'im, an' I
'ad to 'elp 'im into 'is nupshal couch, 'cause 'e wouldn't 'ear reason.
'E's gone off in 'is shirt an' trousies, swearin' tremenjus--gone down the
road in the palanquin, wavin' 'is legs out o' windy."

"Yes," said I, "but where?"

"Now you arx me a question. 'E said 'e was goin' to sell that palanquin,
but from observations what happened when I was stuffin' 'im through the
door, I fancy 'e's gone to the new embankment to mock at Dearsley. 'Soon
as Jock's off duty I'm goin' there to see if 'e's safe--not Mulvaney, but
t'other man. My saints, but I pity 'im as 'elps Terence out o' the
palanquin when 'e's once fair drunk!"

"He'll come back without harm," I said.

"'Corse 'e will. On'y question is, what 'll 'e be doin' on the road?
Killing Dearsley, like as not. 'E shouldn't 'a gone without Jock or me."

Reinforced by Learoyd, Ortheris sought the foreman of the coolie-gang.
Dearsley's head was still embellished with towels. Mulvaney, drunk or
sober, would have struck no man in that condition, and Dearsley
indignantly denied that he would have taken advantage of the intoxicated
brave.

"I had my pick o' you two," he explained to Learoyd, "and you got my
palanquin--not before I'd made my profit on it. Why'd I do harm when
everything's settled? Your man _did_ come here--drunk as Davy's sow on a
frosty night--came a-purpose to mock me--stuck his head out of the door
an' called me a crucified hodman. I made him drunker, an' sent him along.
But I never touched him."

To these things Learoyd, slow to perceive the evidences of sincerity,
answered only, "If owt comes to Mulvaaney 'long o' you, I'll gripple you,
clouts or no clouts on your ugly head, an' I'll draw t' throat twistyways,
man. See there now."

The embassy removed itself, and Dearsley, the battered, laughed alone over
his supper that evening.

Three days passed--a fourth and a fifth. The week drew to a close and
Mulvaney did not return. He, his royal palanquin, and his six attendants,
had vanished into air. A very large and very tipsy soldier, his feet
sticking out of the litter of a reigning princess, is not a thing to
travel along the ways without comment. Yet no man of all the country round
had seen any such wonder. He was, and he was not; and Learoyd suggested
the immediate smashment of Dearsley as a sacrifice to his ghost. Ortheris
insisted that all was well, and in the light of past experience his hopes
seemed reasonable.

"When Mulvaney goes up the road," said he, "'e's like to go a very long
ways up, specially when 'e's so blue drunk as 'e is now. But what gits me
is 'is not bein' 'eard of pullin' wool off the niggers somewheres about.
That don't look good. The drink must ha' died out in 'im by this, unless
e's broke a bank, an' then--Why don't 'e come back? 'E didn't ought to ha'
gone off without us."

Even Ortheris's heart sank at the end of the seventh day, for half the
regiment were out scouring the countryside, and Learoyd had been forced to
fight two men who hinted openly that Mulvaney had deserted. To do him
justice, the colonel laughed at the notion, even when it was put forward
by his much-trusted adjutant.

"Mulvaney would as soon think of deserting as you would," said he. "No;
he's either fallen into a mischief among the villagers--and yet that isn't
likely, for he'd blarney himself out of the Pit; or else he is engaged on
urgent private affairs--some stupendous devilment that we shall hear of at
mess after it has been the round of the barrack-rooms. The worst of it is
that I shall have to give him twenty-eight days' confinement at least for
being absent without leave, just when I most want him to lick the new
batch of recruits into shape. I never knew a man who could put a polish on
young soldiers as quickly as Mulvaney can. How does he do it?"

"With blarney and the buckle-end of a belt, sir," said the adjutant. "He
is worth a couple of non-commissioned officers when we are dealing with an
Irish draft, and the London lads seem to adore him. The worst of it is
that if he goes to the cells the other two are neither to hold nor to bind
till he comes out again. I believe Ortheris preaches mutiny on those
occasions, and I know that the mere presence of Learoyd mourning for
Mulvaney kills all the cheerfulness of his room, The sergeants tell me
that he allows no man to laugh when he feels unhappy. They are a queer
gang."

"For all that, I wish we had a few more of them. I like a well-conducted
regiment, but these pasty-faced, shifty-eyed, mealy-mouthed young
slouchers from the depot worry me sometimes with their offensive virtue.
They don't seem to have backbone enough to do anything but play cards and
prowl round the married quarters. I believe I'd forgive that old villain
on the spot if he turned up with any sort of explanation that I could in
decency accept."

"Not likely to be much difficulty about that, sir," said the adjutant.
"Mulvaney's explanations are only one degree less wonderful than his
performances. They say that when he was in the Black Tyrone, before he
came to us, he was discovered on the banks of the Liffey trying to sell
his colonel's charger to a Donegal dealer as a perfect lady's hack.
Shackbolt commanded the Tyrone then."

"Shackbolt must have had apoplexy at the thought of his ramping war-horses
answering to that description. He used to buy unbacked devils, and tame
them on some pet theory of starvation. What did Mulvaney say?"

"That he was a member of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to
Animals, anxious to 'sell the poor baste where he would get something to
fill out his dimples.' Shackbolt laughed, but I fancy that was why
Mulvaney exchanged to ours."

"I wish he were back," said the colonel; "for I like him and believe he
likes me."

That evening, to cheer our souls, Learoyd, Ortheris, and I went into the
waste to smoke out a porcupine. All the dogs attended, but even their
clamor--and they began to discuss the shortcomings of porcupines before
they left cantonments--could not take us out of ourselves. A large, low
moon turned the tops of the plume-grass to silver, and the stunted
camel-thorn bushes and sour tamarisks into the likenesses of trooping
devils. The smell of the sun had not left the earth, and little aimless
winds blowing across the rose-gardens to the southward brought the scent
of dried roses and water. Our fire once started, and the dogs craftily
disposed to wait the dash of the porcupine, we climbed to the top of a
rain-scarred hillock of earths and looked across the scrub seamed with
cattle paths, white with the long grass, and dotted with spots of level
pond-bottom, where the snipe would gather in winter.

"This," said Ortheris, with a sigh, as he took in the unkempt desolation
of it all, "this is sanguinary. This is unusually sanguinary. Sort o' mad
country. Like a grate when the fire's put out by the sun." He shaded his
eyes against the moonlight. "An' there's a loony dancin' in the middle of
it all. Quite right. I'd dance too if I wasn't so downheart."

There pranced a Portent in the face of the moon--a huge and ragged spirit
of the waste, that flapped its wings from afar. It had risen out of the
earth; it was coming toward us, and its outline was never twice the same.
The toga, table-cloth, or dressing-gown, whatever the creature wore, took
a hundred shapes. Once it stopped on a neighboring mound and flung all its
legs and arms to the winds.

"My, but that scarecrow 'as got 'em bad!" said Ortheris. "Seems like if 'e
comes any furder we'll 'ave to argify with 'im."

Learoyd raised himself from the dirt as a bull clears his flanks of the
wallow. And as a bull bellows, so he, after a short minute at gaze, gave
tongue to the stars.

"MULVAANEY! MULVAANEY! A-hoo!"

Oh then it was that we yelled, and the figure dipped into the hollow,
till, with a crash of rending grass, the lost one strode up to the light
of the fire, and disappeared to the waist in a wave of joyous dogs! Then
Learoyd and Ortheris gave greeting, bass and falsetto together, both
swallowing a lump in the throat.

"You damned fool!" said they, and severally pounded him with their fists.

"Go easy!" he answered; wrapping a huge arm around each. "I would have you
to know that I am a god, to be treated as such--tho', by my faith, I fancy
I've got to go to the guardroom just like a privit soldier."

The latter part of the sentence destroyed the suspicions raised by the
former. Any one would have been justified in regarding Mulvaney as mad. He
was hatless and shoeless, and his shirt and trousers were dropping off
him. But he wore one wondrous garment--a gigantic cloak that fell from
collar-bone to heel--of pale pink silk, wrought all over in cunningest
needlework of hands long since dead, with the loves of the Hindu gods. The
monstrous figures leaped in and out of the light of the fire as he settled
the folds round him.

Ortheris handled the stuff respectfully for a moment while I was trying to
remember where I had seen it before. Then he screamed, "What _'ave_ you
done with the palanquin? You're wearin' the linin'."

"I am," said the Irishman, "an' by the same token the 'broidery is
scrapin' my hide off. I've lived in this sumpshus counterpane for four
days. Me son, I begin to ondherstand why the naygur is no use, Widout me
boots, an' me trousies like an openwork stocking on a gyurl's leg at a
dance, I begin to feel like a naygur-man--all fearful an' timoreous. Give
me a pipe an' I'll tell on."

He lit a pipe, resumed his grip of his two friends, and rocked to and fro
in a gale of laughter.

"Mulvaney," said Ortheris sternly, "'tain't no time for laughin'. You've
given Jock an' me more trouble than you're worth. You 'ave been absent
without leave an' you'll go into cells for that; an' you 'ave come back
disgustin'ly dressed an' most improper in the linin' o' that bloomin'
palanquin, Instid of which you laugh. An' we thought you was dead all the
time."

"Bhoys," said the culprit, still shaking gently, "whin I've done my tale
you may cry if you like, an' little Orth'ris here can thrample my inside
out. Ha' done an' listen. My performinces have been stupenjus: my luck has
been the blessed luck av the British Army--an' there's no betther than
that. I went out dhrunk an' dhrinkin' in the palanquin, and I have come
back a pink god. Did any of you go to Dearsley afther my time was up? He
was at the bottom of ut all."

"Ah said so," murmured Learoyd. "Tomorrow ah'll smash t' face in upon his
heead."

"Ye will not. Dearsley's a jool av a man. Afther Ortheris had put me into
the palanquin an' the six bearer-men were gruntin' down the road, I tuk
thought to mock Dearsley for that fight. So I tould thim, 'Go to the
embankmint,' and there, bein' most amazin' full, I shtuck my head out av
the concern an' passed compliments wid Dearsley. I must ha' miscalled him
outrageous, for whin I am that way the power av the tongue comes on me. I
can bare remimber tellin' him that his mouth opened endways like the mouth
av a skate, which was thrue afther Learoyd had handled ut; an' I clear
remimber his takin' no manner nor matter av offence, but givin' me a big
dhrink of beer. Twas the beer did the thrick, for I crawled back into the
palanquin, steppin' on me right ear wid me left foot, an' thin slept like
the dead. Wanst I half-roused, an' begad the noise in my head was
tremenjus--roarin' and rattlin' an' poundin', such as was quite new to me.
'Mother av Mercy,' thinks I, 'phwat a concertina I will have on my
shoulders whin I wake!' An' wid that I curls mysilf up to sleep before ut
should get hould on me. Bhoys, that noise was not dhrink, 'twas the rattle
av a thrain!"

There followed an impressive pause.

"Yes, he had put me on a thrain--put me, palanquin an' all, an' six black
assassins av his own coolies that was in his nefarious confidence, on the
flat av a ballast-thruck, and we were rowlin' an' bowlin' along to
Benares. Glory be that I did not wake up thin an' introjuce mysilf to the
coolies. As I was sayin', I slept for the betther part av a day an' a
night. But remimber you, that that man Dearsley had packed me off on wan
av his material-thrains to Benares, all for to make me overstay my leave
an' get me into the cells."

The explanation was an eminently rational one. Benares lay at least ten
hours by rail from the cantonments, and nothing in the world could have
saved Mulvaney from arrest as a deserter had he appeared there in the
apparel of his orgies. Dearsley had not forgotten to take revenge.
Learoyd, drawing back a little, began to place soft blows over selected
portions of Mulvaney's body. His thoughts were away on the embankment, and
they meditated evil for Dearsley. Mulvaney continued--

"Whin I was full awake the palanquin was set down in a street, I
suspicioned, for I cud hear people passin' an' talkin'. But I knew well I
was far from home. There is a queer smell upon our cantonments--a smell av
dried earth and brick-kilns wid whiffs av cavalry stable-litter. This
place smelt marigold flowers an' bad water, an' wanst somethin' alive came
an' blew heavy with his muzzle at the chink av the shutter. 'It's in a
village I am,' thinks I to myself, 'an' the parochial buffalo is
investigatin' the palanquin.' But anyways I had no desire to move. Only
lie still whin you're in foreign parts an' the standin' luck av the
British Army will carry ye through. That is an epigram. I made ut.

"Thin a lot av whishperin' divils surrounded the palanquin. 'Take ut up,'
sez wan man. 'But who'll pay us?' sez another. 'The Maharanee's minister,
av coorse,' sez the man. 'Oho!' sez I to mysilf, 'I'm a quane in me own
right, wid a minister to pay me expenses. I'll be an emperor if I lie
still long enough; but this is no village I've found.' I lay quiet, but I
gummed me right eye to a crack av the shutters, an' I saw that the whole
street was crammed wid palanquins an' horses, an' a sprinklin' av naked
priests all yellow powder an' tigers' tails. But I may tell you, Orth'ris,
an' you, Learoyd, that av all the palanquins ours was the most imperial
an' magnificent Now a palanquin means a native lady all the world over,
except whin a soldier av the Quane happens to be takin' a ride. 'Women an'
priests!' sez I. 'Your father's son is in the right pew this time,
Terence. There will be proceedin's. Six black divils in pink muslin tuk up
the palanquin, an' oh! but the rowlin' an' the rockin' made me sick. Thin
we got fair jammed among the palanquins--not more than fifty av them--an'
we grated an' bumped like Queenstown potato-smacks in a runnin' tide. I
cud hear the women gigglin' and squirkin' in their palanquins, but mine
was the royal equipage. They made way for ut, an', begad, the pink muslin
men o' mine were howlin', 'Room for the Maharanee av Gokral-Seetarun.' Do
you know aught av the lady, sorr?"

"Yes," said I, "She is a very estimable old queen of the Central Indian
States, and they say she is fat. How on earth could she go to Benares
without all the city knowing her palanquin?"

"'Twas the eternal foolishness av the naygur-man. They saw the palanquin
lying loneful an' forlornsome, an' the beauty av ut, after Dearsley's men
had dhropped ut and gone away, an' they gave ut the best name that
occurred to thim. Quite right too. For aught we know the ould lady was
travelin' _incog_--like me. I'm glad to hear she's fat. I was no light
weight mysilf, an' my men were mortial anxious to dhrop me under a great
big archway promiscuously ornamented wid the most improper carvin's an'
cuttin's I iver saw. Begad! they made me blush--like a--like a Maharanee."

"The temple of Prithi-Devi," I murmured, remembering the monstrous horrors
of that sculptured archway at Benares.

"Pretty Devilskins, savin' your presence, sorr! There was nothin' pretty
about ut, except me. Twas all half dhark, an' whin the coolies left they
shut a big black gate behind av us, an' half a company av fat yellow
priests began pully-haulin' the palanquins into a dharker place yet--a big
stone hall full av pillars, an' gods, an' incense, an' all manner av
similar thruck. The gate disconcerted me, for I perceived I wud have to go
forward to get out, my retreat bein' cut off. By the same token a good
priest makes a bad palanquin-coolie. Begad! they nearly turned me inside
out draggin' the palanquin to the temple. Now the disposishin av the
forces inside was this way. The Maharanee av Gokral-Seetarun--that was
me--lay by the favor av Providence on the far left flank behind the dhark
av a pillar carved with elephints' heads, The remainder av the palanquins
was in a big half circle facing in to the biggest, fattest, an' most
amazin' she-god that iver I dreamed av. Her head ran up into the black
above us, an' her feet stuck out in the light av a little fire av melted
butter that a priest was feedin' out av a butter-dish. Thin a man began to
sing an' play on somethin' back in the dhark, an' 'twas a queer song. Ut
made my hair lift on the back av my neck, Thin the doors av all the
palanquins slid back, an' the women bundled out, I saw what I'll niver see
again. Twas more glorious than transformations at a pantomime, for they
was in pink an' blue an' silver an' red an' grass green, wid di'monds an'
im'ralds an' great red rubies all over thim. But that was the least part
av the glory. O bhoys, they were more lovely than the like av any
loveliness in hiven; ay, their little bare feet were better than the white
hands av a lord's lady, an' their mouths were like puckered roses, an'
their eyes were bigger an' dharker than the eyes av any livin' women I've
seen. Ye may laugh, but I'm speakin' truth. I niver saw the like, an'
niver I will again."

"Seeing that in all probability you were watching the wives and daughters
of most of the kings of India, the chances are that you won't," I said,
for it was dawning on me that Mulvaney had stumbled upon a big Queens'
Praying at Benares.

"I niver will," he said, mournfully. "That sight doesn't come twist to any
man. It made me ashamed to watch. A fat priest knocked at my door. I
didn't think he'd have the insolince to disturb the Maharanee av
Gokral-Seetarun, so I lay still. 'The old cow's asleep,' sez he to
another. 'Let her be,' sez that. ''Twill be long before she has a calf!' I
might ha' known before he spoke that all a woman prays for in Injia--an'
for matter o' that in England too--is childher. That made me more sorry
I'd come, me bein', as you well know, a childless man."

He was silent for a moment, thinking of his little son, dead many years
ago.

"They prayed, an' the butter-fires blazed up an' the incense turned
everything blue, an' between that an' the fires the women looked as tho'
they were all ablaze an' twinklin'. They took hold av the she-god's knees,
they cried out an' they threw themselves about, an' that
world-without-end-amen music was dhrivin' thim mad. Mother av Hiven! how
they cried, an' the ould she-god grinnin' above thim all so scornful! The
dhrink was dyin' out in me fast, an' I was thinkin' harder than the
thoughts wud go through my head-thinkin' how to get out, an' all manner of
nonsense as well. The women were rockin' in rows, their di'mond belts
clickin', an' the tears runnin' out betune their hands, an' the lights
were goin' lower an' dharker. Thin there was a blaze like lightnin' from
the roof, an' that showed me the inside av the palanquin, an' at the end
where my foot was, stood the livin' spit an' image o' mysilf worked on the
linin'. This man here, ut was."

He hunted in the folds of his pink cloak, ran a hand under one, and thrust
into the firelight a foot-long embroidered presentment of the great god
Krishna, playing on a flute. The heavy jowl, the staring eye, and the
blue-black moustache of the god made up a far-off resemblance to Mulvaney.

"The blaze was gone in a wink, but the whole schame came to me thin, I
believe I was mad too. I slid the off-shutter open an' rowled out into the
dhark behind the elephint-head pillar, tucked up my trousies to my knees,
slipped off my boots an' tuk a general hould av all the pink linin' av the
palanquin. Glory be, ut ripped out like a woman's dhriss whin you tread on
ut at a sergeants' ball, an' a bottle came with ut. I tuk the bottle an'
the next minut I was out av the dhark av the pillar, the pink linin'
wrapped round me most graceful, the music, thunderin' like kettledrums,
an' a could draft blowin' round my bare legs. By this hand that did ut, I
was Khrishna tootlin' on the flute--the god that the rig'mental chaplain
talks about. A sweet sight I must ha' looked. I knew my eyes were big, and
my face was wax-white, an' at the worst I must ha' looked like a ghost.
But they took me for the livin' god. The music stopped, and the women were
dead dumb an' I crooked my legs like a shepherd on a china basin, an' I
did the ghost-waggle with my feet as I had done ut at the rig'mental
theatre many times, an' I slid acrost the width av that temple in front av
the she-god tootlin' on the beer bottle."

"Wot did you toot?" demanded Ortheris the practical.

"Me? Oh!" Mulvaney sprang up, suiting the action to the word, and sliding
gravely in front of us, a dilapidated but imposing deity in the half
light. "I sang--

"Only say
You'll be Mrs. Brallaghan.
Don't say nay,
Charmin' Judy Callaghan."

I didn't know me own voice when I sang. An' oh! 'twas pitiful to see the
women. The darlin's were down on their faces. Whin I passed the last wan I
cud see her poor little fingers workin' one in another as if she wanted to
touch my feet. So I dhrew the tail av this pink overcoat over her head for
the greater honor, an' I slid into the dhark on the other side av the
temple, and fetched up in the arms av a big fat priest. All I wanted was
to get away clear. So I tak him by his greasy throat an' shut the speech
out av him, 'Out!' sez I. 'Which way, ye fat heathen?'--'Oh!' sez he.
'Man,' sez I. 'White man, soldier man, common soldier man. Where in the
name av confusion is the back door?' The women in the temple were still on
their faces, an' a young priest was holdin' out his arms above their
heads.

"'This way,' sez my fat friend, duckin' behind a big bull-god an' divin'
into a passage, Thin I remimbered that I must ha' made the miraculous
reputation av that temple for the next fifty years. 'Not so fast,' I sez,
an' I held out both my hands wid a wink. That ould thief smiled like a
father. I tuk him by the back av the neck in case he should be wishful to
put a knife into me unbeknownst, an' I ran him up an' down the passage
twice to collect his sensibilities! 'Be quiet,' sez he, in English. 'Now
you talk sense,' I sez. 'Fwhat'll you give me for the use av that most
iligant palanquin I have no time to take away?'--'Don't tell,' sez he, 'Is
ut like?' sez I, 'But ye might give me my railway fare. I'm far from my
home an' I've done you a service.' Bhoys, 'tis a good thing to be a
priest. The ould man niver throubled himself to dhraw from a bank. As I
will prove to you subsequint, he philandered all round the slack av his
clothes an' began dribblin' ten-rupee notes, old gold mohurs, and rupees
into my hand till I could hould no more."

"You lie!" said Ortheris. "You're mad or sunstrook. A native don't give
coin unless you cut it out o' 'im. 'Tain't nature."

"Then my lie an' my sunstroke is concealed under that lump av sod yonder,"
retorted Mulvaney, unruffled, nodding across the scrub. "An' there's a
dale more in nature than your squidgy little legs have iver taken you to,
Orth'ris, me son. Four hundred an' thirty-four rupees by my reckoning
_an'_ a big fat gold necklace that I took from him as a remimbrancer, was
our share in that business."

"An' 'e give it you for love?" said Ortheris.

"We were alone in that passage. Maybe I was a trifle too pressin', but
considher fwhat I had done for the good av the temple and the iverlastin'
joy av those women. Twas cheap at the price. I wud ha' taken more if I cud
ha' found ut. I turned the ould man upside down at the last, but he was
milked dhry. Thin he opened a door in another passage an' I found mysilf
up to my knees in Benares river-water, an' bad smellin' ut is. More by
token I had come out on the river-line close to the burnin' ghat and
contagious to a cracklin' corpse. This was in the heart av the night, for
I had been four hours in the temple. There was a crowd av boats tied up,
so I tuk wan an' wint across the river, Thin I came home acrost country,
lyin' up by day."

"How on earth did you manage?" I said.

"How did Sir Frederick Roberts get from Cabul to Candahar? He marched an'
he niver tould how near he was to breakin' down. That's why he is fwhat he
is. An' now"--Mulvaney yawned portentously, "Now I will go an' give myself
up for absince widout leave. It's eight an' twenty days an' the rough end
of the colonel's tongue in orderly room, any way you look at ut. But 'tis
cheap at the price."

"Mulvaney," said I, softly. "If there happens to be any sort of excuse
that the colonel can in any way accept, I have a notion that you'll get
nothing more than the dressing-down, The new recruits are in, and"--

"Not a word more, sorr. Is ut excuses the old man wants? Tis not my way,
but he shall have thim. I'll tell him I was engaged in financial
operations connected wid a church," and he flapped his way to cantonments
and the cells, singing lustily--

"So they sent a corp'ril's file,
And they put me in the gyard-room
For conduck unbecomin' of a soldier."

And when he was lost in the midst of the moonlight we could hear the
refrain--

"Bang upon the big drum, bash upon the cymbals,
As we go marchin' along, boys, oh!
For although in this campaign
There's no whisky nor champagne,
We'll keep our spirits goin' with a song, boys!"

Therewith he surrendered himself to the joyful and almost weeping guard,
and was made much of by his fellows. But to the colonel he said that he
had been smitten with sunstroke and had lain insensible on a villager's
cot for untold hours; and between laughter and good-will the affair was
smoothed over, so that he could, next day, teach the new recruits how to
"Fear God, Honor the Queen, Shoot Straight, and Keep Clean."

HIS MAJESTY THE KING

"Where the word of a King is, there is power: And who may say unto
him--What doest thou?"

"Yeth! And Chimo to sleep at ve foot of ve bed, and ve pink pikky-book,
and ve bwead--'cause I will be hungwy in ve night--and vat's all, Miss
Biddums. And now give me one kiss and I'll go to sleep.--So! Kite quiet.
Ow! Ve pink pikky-book has slidded under ve pillow and ve bwead is
cwumbling! Miss Biddums! Miss _Bid_dums! I'm _so_ uncomfy! Come and tuck
me up, Miss Biddums."

His Majesty the King was going to bed; and poor, patient Miss Biddums, who
had advertised herself humbly as a "young person, European, accustomed to
the care of little children," was forced to wait upon his royal caprices.
The going to bed was always a lengthy process, because His Majesty had a
convenient knack of forgetting which of his many friends, from the
_mehter's_ son to the Commissioner's daughter, he had prayed for, and,
lest the Deity should take offence, was used to toil through his little
prayers, in all reverence, five times in one evening. His Majesty the King
believed in the efficacy of prayer as devoutly as he believed in Chimo the
patient spaniel, or Miss Biddums, who could reach him down his gun--"with
cursuffun caps--_reel_ ones"--from the upper shelves of the big nursery
cupboard.

At the door of the nursery his authority stopped. Beyond lay the empire of
his father and mother--two very terrible people who had no time to waste
upon His Majesty the King. His voice was lowered when he passed the
frontier of his own dominions, his actions were fettered, and his soul was
filled with awe because of the grim man who lived among a wilderness of
pigeon-holes and the most fascinating pieces of red tape, and the
wonderful woman who was always getting into or stepping out of the big
carriage.

To the one belonged the mysteries of the "_duftar_-room"; to the other the
great, reflected wilderness of the "Memsahib's room" where the shiny,
scented dresses hung on pegs, miles and miles up in the air, and the
just-seen plateau of the toilet-table revealed an acreage of speckly
combs, broidered "hanafitch bags," and "white-headed" brushes.

There was no room for His Majesty the King either in official reserve or
mundane gorgeousness. He had discovered that, ages and ages ago--before
even Chimo came to the house, or Miss Biddums had ceased grizzling over a
packet of greasy letters which appeared to be her chief treasure on earth.
His Majesty the King, therefore, wisely confined himself to his own
territories, where only Miss Biddums, and she feebly, disputed his sway.

From Miss Biddums he had picked up his simple theology and welded it to
the legends of gods and devils that he had learned in the servants'
quarters.

To Miss Biddums he confided with equal trust his tattered garments and his
more serious griefs. She would make everything whole. She knew exactly how
the Earth had been born, and had reassured the trembling soul of His
Majesty the King that terrible time in July when it rained continuously
for seven days and seven nights, and--there was no Ark ready and all the
ravens had flown away! She was the most powerful person with whom he was
brought into contact--always excepting the two remote and silent people
beyond the nursery door.

How was His Majesty the King to know that, six years ago, in the summer of
his birth, Mrs. Austell, turning over her husband's papers, had come upon
the intemperate letter of a foolish woman who had been carried away by the
silent man's strength and personal beauty? How could he tell what evil the
overlooked slip of note-paper had wrought in the mind of a desperately
jealous wife? How could he, despite his wisdom, guess that his mother had
chosen to make of it excuse for a bar and a division between herself and
her husband, that strengthened and grew harder to break with each year;
that she, having unearthed this skeleton in the cupboard, had trained it
into a household God which should be about their path and about their bed,
and poison all their ways?

These things were beyond the province of His Majesty the King. He only
knew that his father was daily absorbed in some mysterious work for a
thing called the _Sirkar_ and that his mother was the victim alternately
of the _Nautch_ and the _Burrakhana_. To these entertainments she was
escorted by a Captain-Man for whom His Majesty the King had no regard.

"He _doesn't_ laugh," he argued with Miss Biddums, who would fain have
taught him charity. "He only makes faces wiv his mouf, and when he wants
to o-muse me I am _not_ o-mused." And His Majesty the King shook his head
as one who knew the deceitfulness of this world.

Morning and evening it was his duty to salute his father and mother--the
former with a grave shake of the hand, and the latter with an equally
grave kiss. Once, indeed, he had put his arms round his mother's neck, in
the fashion he used toward Miss Biddums. The openwork of his sleeve-edge
caught in an earring, and the last stage of His Majesty's little overture
was a suppressed scream and summary dismissal to the nursery.

"It's w'ong," thought His Majesty the King, "to hug Memsahibs wiv fings in
veir ears. I will amember." He never repeated the experiment.

Miss Biddums, it must be confessed, spoiled him as much as his nature
admitted, in some sort of recompense for what she called "the hard ways of
his Papa and Mamma." She, like her charge, knew nothing of the trouble
between man and wife--the savage contempt for a woman's stupidity on the
one side, or the dull, rankling anger on the other. Miss Biddums had
looked after many little children in her time, and served in many
establishments. Being a discreet woman, she observed little and said less,
and, when her pupils went over the sea to the Great Unknown which she,
with touching confidence in her hearers, called "Home," packed up her
slender belongings and sought for employment afresh, lavishing all her
love on each successive batch of ingrates. Only His Majesty the King had
repaid her affection with interest; and in his uncomprehending ears she
had told the tale of nearly all her hopes, her aspirations, the hopes that
were dead, and the dazzling glories of her ancestral home in "_Cal_cutta,
close to Wellington Square."

Everything above the average was in the eyes of His Majesty the King
"Calcutta good." When Miss Biddums had crossed his royal will, he reversed
the epithet to vex that estimable lady, and all things evil were, until
the tears of repentance swept away spite, "Calcutta bad."

Now and again Miss Biddums begged for him the rare pleasure of a day in
the society of the Commissioner's child--the wilful four-year-old Patsie,
who, to the intense amazement of His Majesty the King, was idolized by her
parents. On thinking the question out at length, by roads unknown to those
who have left childhood behind, he came to the conclusion that Patsie was
petted because she wore a big blue sash and yellow hair.

This precious discovery he kept to himself. The yellow hair was absolutely
beyond his power, his own tousled wig being potato-brown; but something
might be done toward the blue sash. He tied a large knot in his
mosquito-curtains in order to remember to consult Patsie on their next
meeting. She was the only child he had ever spoken to, and almost the only
one that he had ever seen. The little memory and the very large and ragged
knot held good.

"Patsie, lend me your blue wiband," said His Majesty the King.

"You'll bewy it," said Patsie, doubtfully, mindful of certain fearful
atrocities committed on her doll.

"No, I won't--twoofanhonor. It's for me to wear."

"Pooh!" said Patsie. "Boys don't wear sa-ashes. Zey's only for dirls."

"I didn't know." The face of His Majesty the King fell.

"Who wants ribands? Are you playing horses, chickabiddies?" said the
Commissioner's wife, stepping into the veranda.

"Toby wanted my sash," explained Patsie.

"I don't now," said His Majesty the King, hastily, feeling that with one
of these terrible "grown-ups" his poor little secret would be shamelessly
wrenched from him, and perhaps--most burning desecration of all--laughed
at.

"I'll give you a cracker-cap," said the Commissioner's wife. "Come along
with me, Toby, and we'll choose it."

The cracker-cap was a stiff, three-pointed vermilion-and-tinsel splendor.
His Majesty the King fitted it on his royal brow. The Commissioner's wife
had a face that children instinctively trusted, and her action, as she
adjusted the toppling middle spike, was tender.

"Will it do as well?" stammered His Majesty the King.

"As what, little one?"

"As ve wiban?"

"Oh, quite. Go and look at yourself in the glass."

The words were spoken in all sincerity and to help forward any absurd
"dressing-up" amusement that the children might take into their minds. But
the young savage has a keen sense of the ludicrous. His Majesty the King
swung the great cheval-glass down, and saw his head crowned with the
staring horror of a fool's cap--a thing which his father would rend to
pieces if it ever came into his office. He plucked it off, and burst into
tears.

"Toby," said the Commissioner's wife, gravely, "you shouldn't give way to
temper. I am very sorry to see it. It's wrong."

His Majesty the King sobbed inconsolably, and the heart of Patsie's mother
was touched. She drew the child on to her knee. Clearly it was not temper
alone.

"What is it, Toby? Won't you tell me? Aren't you well?"

The torrent of sobs and speech met, and fought for a time, with chokings
and gulpings and gasps. Then, in a sudden rush, His Majesty the King was
delivered of a few inarticulate sounds, followed by the words:--"Go a--way
you--dirty--little debbil!"

"Toby! What do you mean?"

"It's what he'd say. I _know_ it is! He said vat when vere was only a
little, little eggy mess, on my t-t-unic; and he'd say it again, and
laugh, if I went in wif vat on my head."

"Who would say that?"

"M-m-my Papa! And I fought if I had ve blue wiban, he'd let me play in ve
waste-paper basket under ve table."

"_What_ blue riband, childie?"

"Ve same vat Patsie had--ve big blue wiban w-w-wound my t-ttummy!"

"What is it, Toby? There's something on your mind. Tell me all about it,
and perhaps I can help."

"Isn't anyfing," sniffed His Majesty, mindful of his manhood, and raising
his head from the motherly bosom upon which it was resting. "I only fought
vat you--you petted Patsie 'cause she had ve blue wiban, and--and if I'd
had ve blue wiban too, m-my Papa w-would pet me."

The secret was out, and His Majesty the King sobbed bitterly in spite of
the arms round him, and the murmur of comfort on his heated little
forehead.

Enter Patsie tumultuously, embarrassed by several lengths of the
Commissioner's pet _mahseer_-rod. "Tum along, Toby! Zere's a _chu-chu_
lizard in _ze chick_, and I've told Chimo to watch him till we turn. If we
poke him wiz zis his tail will go _wiggle-wiggle_ and fall off. Tum along!
I can't weach."

"I'm comin'," said His Majesty the King, climbing down from the
Commissioner's wife's knee after a hasty kiss.

Two minutes later, the _chu-chu_ lizard's tail was wriggling on the
matting of the veranda, and the children were gravely poking it with
splinters from the _chick_, to urge its exhausted vitality into "just one
wiggle more, 'cause it doesn't hurt _chu-chu_."

The Commissioner's wife stood in the doorway and watched:--"Poor little
mite! A blue sash ... and my own precious Patsie! I wonder if the best of
us, or we who love them best, ever understand what goes on in their
topsy-turvy little heads."

A big tear splashed on the Commissioner's wife's wedding-ring, and she
went indoors to devise a tea for the benefit of His Majesty the King.

"Their souls aren't in their tummies at that age in this climate," said
the Commissioner's wife, "but they are not far off. I wonder if I could
make Mrs. Austell understand. Poor little fellow!"

With simple craft, the Commissioner's wife called on Mrs. Austell and
spoke long and lovingly about children; inquiring specially for His
Majesty the King.

"He's with his governess," said Mrs. Austell, and the tone intimated that
she was not interested.

The Commissioner's wife, unskilled in the art of war, continued her
questionings. "I don't know," said Mrs. Austell. "These things are left to
Miss Biddums, and, of course, she does not ill-treat the child."

The Commissioner's wife left hastily. The last sentence jarred upon her
nerves. "Doesn't _ill-treat_ the child! As if that were all! I wonder what
Tom would say if I only 'didn't ill-treat' Patsie!"

Thenceforward, His Majesty the King was an honored guest at the
Commissioner's house, and the chosen friend of Patsie, with whom he
blundered into as many scrapes as the compound and the servants' quarters
afforded. Patsie's Mamma was always ready to give counsel, help, and
sympathy, and, if need were and callers few, to enter into their games
with an _abandon_ that would have shocked the sleek-haired subalterns who
squirmed painfully in their chairs when they came to call on her whom they
profanely nicknamed "Mother Bunch."

Yet, in spite of Patsie and Patsie's Mamma, and the love that these two
lavished upon him, His Majesty the King fell grievously from grace, and
committed no less a sin than that of theft--unknown, it is true, but
burdensome.

There came a man to the door one day, when His Majesty was playing in the
hall and the bearer had gone to dinner, with a packet for his Majesty's
Mamma. And he put it upon the hall-table, said that there was no answer,
and departed.

Presently, the pattern of the dado ceased to interest His Majesty, while
the packet, a white, neatly wrapped one of fascinating shape, interested
him very much indeed. His Mamma was out, so was Miss Biddums, and there
was pink string round the packet. He greatly desired pink string. It would
help him in many of his little businesses--the haulage across the floor of
his small cane-chair, the torturing of Chimo, who could never understand
harness--and so forth. If he took the string it would be his own, and
nobody would be any the wiser. He certainly could not pluck up sufficient
courage to ask Mamma for it. Wherefore, mounting upon a chair, he
carefully untied the string and, behold, the stiff white paper spread out
in four directions, and revealed a beautiful little leather box with gold
lines upon it! He tried to replace the string, but that was a failure. So
he opened the box to get full satisfaction for his iniquity, and saw a
most beautiful Star that shone and winked, and was altogether lovely and
desirable.

"Vat," said His Majesty, meditatively, "is a 'parkle cwown, like what I
will wear when I go to heaven. I will wear it on my head--Miss Biddums
says so. I would like to wear it _now_. I would like to play wiv it. I
will take it away and play wiv it, very careful, until Mamma asks for it.
I fink it was bought for me to play wiv--same as my cart."

His Majesty the King was arguing against his conscience, and he knew it,
for he thought immediately after: "Never mind. I will keep it to play wiv
until Mamma says where is it, and then I will say:--'I tookt it and I am
sorry.' I will not hurt it because it is a 'parkle cwown. But Miss Biddums
will tell me to put it back. I will not show it to Miss Biddums."

If Mamma had come in at that moment all would have gone well. She did not,
and His Majesty the King stuffed paper, case, and jewel into the breast of
his blouse and marched to the nursery.

"When Mamma asks I will tell," was the salve that he laid upon his
conscience. But Mamma never asked, and for three whole days His Majesty
the King gloated over his treasure. It was of no earthly use to him, but
it was splendid, and, for aught he knew, something dropped from the
heavens themselves. Still Mamma made no inquiries, and it seemed to him,
in his furtive peeps, as though the shiny stones grew dim. What was the
use of a 'parkle cwown if it made a little boy feel all bad in his inside?
He had the pink string as well as the other treasure, but greatly he
wished that he had not gone beyond the string. It was his first experience
of iniquity, and it pained him after the flush of possession and secret
delight in the "'parkle cwown" had died away.

Each day that he delayed rendered confession to the people beyond the
nursery doors more impossible. Now and again he determined to put himself
in the path of the beautifully attired lady as she was going out, and
explain that he and no one else was the possessor of a "'parkle cwown,"
most beautiful and quite uninquired for. But she passed hurriedly to her
carriage, and the opportunity was gone before His Majesty the King could
draw the deep breath which clinches noble resolve. The dread secret cut
him off from Miss Biddums, Patsie, and the Commissioner's wife,
and--doubly hard fate--when he brooded over it Patsie said, and told her
mother, that he was cross.

The days were very long to His Majesty the King, and the nights longer
still. Miss Biddums had informed him, more than once, what was the
ultimate destiny of "fieves," and when he passed the interminable mud
flanks of the Central Jail, he shook in his little strapped shoes.

But release came after an afternoon spent in playing boats by the edge of
the tank at the bottom of the garden. His Majesty the King went to tea,
and, for the first time in his memory, the meal revolted him. His nose was
very cold, and his cheeks were burning hot. There was a weight about his
feet, and he pressed his head several times to make sure that it was not
swelling as he sat.

"I feel vevy funny," said His Majesty the King, rubbing his nose. "Vere's
a buzz-buzz in my head."

He went to bed quietly. Miss Biddums was out and the bearer undressed him.

The sin of the "'parkle cwown" was forgotten in the acuteness of the
discomfort to which he roused after a leaden sleep of some hours, He was
thirsty, and the bearer had forgotten to leave the drinking-water. "Miss
Biddums! Miss Biddums! I'm so kirsty!"

No answer, Miss Biddums had leave to attend the wedding of a Calcutta
schoolmate. His Majesty the King had forgotten that.

"I want a dwink of water!" he cried, but his voice was dried up in his
throat. "I want a dwink! Vere is ve glass?"

He sat up in bed and looked round. There was a murmur of voices from the
other side of the nursery door. It was better to face the terrible unknown
than to choke in the dark. He slipped out of bed, but his feet were
strangely wilful, and he reeled once or twice. Then he pushed the door
open and staggered--a puffed and purple-faced little figure--into the
brilliant light of the dining-room full of pretty ladies.

"I'm vevy hot! I'm vevy uncomfitivle," moaned His Majesty the King,
clinging to the portiere, "and vere's no water in ve glass, and I'm _so_
kirsty. Give me a dwink of water."

An apparition in black and white--His Majesty the King could hardly see
distinctly--lifted him up to the level of the table, and felt his wrists
and forehead. The water came, and he drank deeply, his teeth chattering
against the edge of the tumbler. Then every one seemed to go away--every
one except the huge man in black and white, who carried him back to his
bed; the mother and father following. And the sin of the "'parkle cwown"
rushed back and took possession of the terrified soul.

"I'm a fief!" he gasped. "I want to tell Miss Biddums vat I'm a fief. Vere
is Miss Biddums?"

Miss Biddums had come and was bending over him. "I'm a fief," he
whispered. "A fief--like ve men in the pwison. But I'll tell now, I tookt
... I tookt ve 'parkle cwown when the man that came left it in ve hall. I
bwoke ve paper and ve little bwown box, and it looked shiny, and I tookt
it to play wif, and I was afwaid. It's in ve dooly-box at ve bottom. No
one _never_ asked for it, but I was afwaid. Oh, go an' get ve dooly-box!"

Miss Biddums obediently stooped to the lowest shelf of the _almirah_ and
unearthed the big paper box in which His Majesty the King kept his dearest
possessions. Under the tin soldiers, and a layer of mud pellets for a
pellet-bow, winked and blazed a diamond star, wrapped roughly in a
half-sheet of note-paper whereon were a few words.

Somebody was crying at the head of the bed, and a man's hand touched the
forehead of His Majesty the King, who grasped the packet and spread it on
the bed.

"Vat is ve 'parkle cwown," he said, and wept bitterly; for now that he had
made restitution he would fain have kept the shining splendor with him.

"It concerns you too," said a voice at the head of the bed. "Read the
note. This is not the time to keep back anything."

The note was curt, very much to the point, and signed by a single initial.
"_If you wear this to-morrow night I shall know what to expect._" The date
was three weeks old.

A whisper followed, and the deeper voice returned: "And you drifted as far
apart as _that!_ I think it makes us quits now, doesn't it? Oh, can't we
drop this folly once and for all? Is it worth it, darling?"

"Kiss me too," said His Majesty the King, dreamily. "You isn't _vevy_
angwy, is you?"

The fever burned itself out, and His Majesty the King slept.

When he waked, it was in a new world--peopled by his father and mother as
well as Miss Biddums: and there was much love in that world and no morsel
of fear, and more petting than was good for several little boys. His
Majesty the King was too young to moralize on the uncertainty of things
human, or he would have been impressed with the singular advantages of
crime--ay, black sin. Behold, he had stolen the "'parkle cwown," and his
reward was Love, and the right to play in the waste-paper basket under the
table "for always".

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