Part 3 out of 7
"Think you," said the questioner, at last, "that the Government
will lay hands on us?"
"Not I," Bukta rejoined. "Jan Chinn will give an order, and ye
will obey. The rest is between the Government and Jan Chinn. I
myself know something of the ghost-knives and the scratching. It
is a charm against the Smallpox. But how it is done I cannot tell.
Nor need that concern you."
"If he stands by us and before the anger of the Government we will
most strictly obey Jan Chinn, except - except we do not go down to
that place to-night."
They could hear young Chinn below them shouting for Bukta; but they
cowered and sat still, expecting the Clouded Tiger. The tomb had
been holy ground for nearly half a century. If Jan Chinn chose to
sleep there, who had better right? But they would not come within
eyeshot of the place till broad day.
At first Chinn was exceedingly angry, till it occurred to him that
Bukta most probably had a reason (which, indeed, he had), and his
own dignity might suffer if he yelled without answer. He propped
himself against the foot of the grave, and, alternately dozing and
smoking, came through the warm night proud that he was a lawful,
legitimate, fever-proof Chinn.
He prepared his plan of action much as his grandfather would have
done; and when Bukta appeared in the morning with a most liberal
supply of food, said nothing of the overnight desertion. Bukta
would have been relieved by an outburst of human anger; but Chinn
finished his victual leisurely, and a cheroot, ere he made any
They are very much afraid," said Bukta, who was not too bold
himself. "It remains only to give orders. They said they will
obey if thou wilt only stand between them and the Government."
"That I know," said Chinn, strolling slowly to the table-land. A
few of the elder men stood in an irregular semicircle in an open
glade; but the ruck of people - women and children were hidden
in the thicket. They had no desire to face the first anger of Jan
Chinn the First.
Seating himself on a fragment of split rock, he smoked his cheroot
to the butt, hearing men breathe hard all about him. Then he
cried, so suddenly that they jumped:
"Bring the man that was bound!"
A scuffle and a cry were followed by the appearance of a Hindoo
vaccinator, quaking with fear, bound hand and foot, as the Bhils
of old were accustomed to bind their human sacrifices. He was
pushed cautiously before the presence; but young Chinn did not
look at him.
"I said - the man that was bound. Is it a jest to bring me one
tied like a buffalo? Since when could the Bhil bind folk at his
Half a dozen hasty knives cut away the thongs, and the man
crawled to Chinn, who pocketed his case of lancets and tubes of
lymph. Then, sweeping the semicircle with one comprehensive
forefinger, and in the voice of compliment, he said, clearly and
distinctly: " Pigs!
"Ai!" whispered Bukta. "Now he speaks. Woe to foolish people!"
"I have come on foot from my house" (the assembly shuddered) "to
make clear a matter which any other Satpura Bhil would have seen
with both eyes from a distance. Ye know the Smallpox who pits
and scars your children so that they look like wasp-combs. It is
an order of the Government that whoso is scratched on the arm with
these little knives which I hold up is charmed against her. All
Sahibs are thus charmed, and very many Hindoos. This is the mark
of the charm. Look!"
He rolled back his sleeve to the armpit and showed the white scars
of the vaccination-mark on his white skin. "Come, all, and look."
A few daring spirits came up, and nodded their heads wisely. There
was certainly a mark, and they knew well what other dread marks
were hidden by the shirt. Merciful was Jan Chinn, that then and
there proclaimed his godhead!
"Now all these things the man whom ye bound told you."
"I did - a hundred times; but they answered with blows," groaned
the operator, chafing his wrists and ankles.
"But, being pigs, ye did not believe; and so came I here to save
you, first from Smallpox, next from a great folly of fear, and
lastly, it may be, from the rope and the jail. It is no gain to
me; it is no pleasure to me: but for the sake of that one who is
yonder, who made the Bhil a man" - he pointed down the hill - "
I, who am of his blood, the son of his son, come to turn your
people. And I speak the truth, as did Jan Chinn."
The crowd murmured reverently, and men stole out of the thicket
by twos and threes to join it. There was no anger in their god's
"These are my orders. (Heaven send they'll take 'em, but I seem
to have impressed 'em so far!) I myself will stay among you while
this man scratches your arms with the knives, after the order of
the Government. In three, or it may be five or seven, days, your
arms will swell and itch and burn. That is the power of Smallpox
fighting in your base blood against the orders of the Government
I will therefore stay among you till I see that Smallpox is
conquered, and I will not go away till the men and the women and
the little children show me upon their arms such marks as I have
even now showed you. I bring with me two very good guns, and a
man whose name is known among beasts and men. We will hunt
together, I and he and your young men, and the others shall eat
and lie still. This is my order."
There was a long pause while victory hung in the balance. A
white-haired old sinner, standing on one uneasy leg, piped up:
"There are ponies and some few bullocks and other things for
which we need a kowl [protection]. They were not taken in the
way of trade."
The battle was won, and John Chinn drew a breath of relief. The
young Bhils had been raiding, but if taken swiftly all could be
"I will write a kowl so soon as the ponies, the bullocks, and the
other things are counted before me and sent back whence they came.
But first we will put the Government mark on such as have not been
visited by Smallpox." In an undertone, to the vaccinator: "If you
show you are afraid you'll never see Poona again, my friend."
"There is not sufficient ample supply of vaccination for all this
population," said the man. "They destroyed the offeecial calf."
They won't know the difference. Scrape 'em and give me a couple
of lancets; I'll attend to the elders."
The aged diplomat who had demanded protection was the first victim.
He fell to Chinn's hand and dared not cry out. As soon as he was
freed he dragged up a companion, and held him fast, and the crisis
became, as it were, a child's sport; for the vaccinated chased the
unvaccinated to treatment, vowing that all the tribe must suffer
equally. The women shrieked, and the children ran howling; but
Chinn laughed, and waved the pink-tipped lancet.
"It is an honour," he cried. "Tell them, Bukta, how great an honour
it is that I myself mark them. Nay, I cannot mark every one - the
Hindoo must also do his work - but I will touch all marks that he
makes, so there will be an equal virtue in them. Thus do the
Rajputs stick pigs. Ho, brother with one eye! Catch that girl and
bring her to me. She need not run away yet, for she is not married,
and I do not seek her in marriage. She will not come? Then she
shall be shamed by her little brother, a fat boy, a bold boy. He
puts out his arm like a soldier. Look! He does not flinch at the
blood. Some day he shall be in my regiment. And now, mother of
many, we will lightly touch thee, for Smallpox has been before us
here. It is a true thing, indeed, that this charm breaks the power
of Mata. There will be no more pitted faces among the Satpuras,
and so ye can ask many cows for each maid to be wed."
And so on and so on - quick-poured showman's patter, sauced in
the Bhil hunting-proverbs and tales of their own brand of coarse
humour till the lancets were blunted and both operators worn out.
But, nature being the same the world over, the unvaccinated grew
jealous of their marked comrades, and came near to blows about
it. Then Chinn declared himself a court of justice, no longer a
medical board, and made formal inquiry into the late robberies.
"We are the thieves of Mahadeo," said the Bhils, simply. "It is
our fate, and we were frightened. When we are frightened we always
Simply and directly as children, they gave in the tale of the
plunder, all but two bullocks and some spirits that had gone
amissing (these Chinn promised to make good out of his own pocket),
and ten ringleaders were despatched to the lowlands with a
wonderful document, written on the leaf of a note-book, and
addressed to an Assistant District Superintendent of Police. There
was warm calamity in that note, as Jan Chinn warned them, but
anything was better than loss of liberty.
Armed with this protection, the repentant raiders went down-hill.
They had no desire whatever to meet Mr. Dundas Fawne of the Police,
aged twenty-two, and of a cheerful countenance, nor did they wish
to revisit the scene of their robberies. Steering a middle course,
they ran into the camp of the one Government chaplain allowed to
the various irregular corps through a district of some fifteen
thousand square miles, and stood before him in a cloud of dust. He
was by way of being a priest, they knew, and, what was more to the
point, a good sportsman who paid his beaters generously.
When he read Chinn's note he laughed, which they deemed a lucky
omen, till he called up policemen, who tethered the ponies and the
bullocks by the piled house-gear, and laid stern hands upon three
of that smiling band of the thieves of Mahadeo. The chaplain
himself addressed them magisterially with a riding-whip. That was
painful, but Jan Chinn had prophesied it. They submitted, but
would not give up the written protection, fearing the jail. On
their way back they met Mr. D. Fawne, who had heard about the
robberies, and was not pleased.
"Certainly," said the eldest of the gang, when the second
interview was at an end, "certainly Jan Chinn's protection has
saved us our liberty, but it is as though there were many beatings
in one small piece of paper. Put it away."
One climbed into a tree, and stuck the letter into a cleft forty
feet from the ground, where it could do no harm. Warmed, sore,
but happy, the ten returned to Jan Chinn next day, where he sat
among uneasy Bhils, all looking at their right arms, and all
bound under terror of their god's disfavour not to scratch.
"It was a good kowl," said the leader. "First the chaplain, who
laughed, took away our plunder, and beat three of us, as was
promised. Next, we meet Fawne Sahib, who frowned, and asked for
the plunder. We spoke the truth, and so he beat us all, one
after another, and called us chosen names. He then gave us these
two bundles" - they set down a bottle of whisky and a box of
cheroots -" and we came away. The kowl is left in a tree, because
its virtue is that so soon as we show it to a Sahib we are beaten."
"But for that kowl" said Jan Chinn, sternly, "ye would all have
been marching to jail with a policeman on either side. Ye come
now to serve as beaters for me. These people are unhappy, and we
will go hunting till they are well. To-night we will make a feast."
It is written in the chronicles of the Satpura Bhils, together
with many other matters not fit for print, that through five days,
after the day that he had put his mark upon them, Jan Chinn the
First hunted for his people; and on the five nights of those days
the tribe was gloriously and entirely drunk. Jan Chinn bought
country spirits of an awful strength, and slew wild pig and deer
beyond counting, so that if any fell sick they might have two good
Between head- and stomach-aches they found no time to think of
their arms, but followed Jan Chinn obediently through the jungles,
and with each day's returning confidence men, women, and children
stole away to their villages as the little army passed by. They
carried news that it was good and right to be scratched with
ghost-knives; that Jan Chinn was indeed reincarnated as a god of
free food and drink, and that of all nations the Satpura Bhils
stood first in his favour, if they would only refrain from
scratching. Henceforward that kindly demi-god would be connected
in their minds with great gorgings and the vaccine and lancets of
a paternal Government.
"And to-morrow I go back to my home," said Jan Chinn to his
faithful few, whom neither spirits, overeating, nor swollen glands
could conquer. It is hard for children and savages to behave
reverently at all times to the idols of their make-belief; and
they had frolicked excessively with Jan Chinn. But the reference
to his home cast a gloom on the people.
"And the Sahib will not come again?" said he who had been vaccinated
"That is to be seen," answered Chinn, warily.
"Nay, but come as a white man - come as a young man whom we know
and love; for, as thou alone knowest, we are a weak people. If
we again saw thy - thy horse -" They were picking up their courage.
"I have no horse. I came on foot with Bukta, yonder. What is
"Thou knowest - the thing that thou hast chosen for a night-horse."
The little men squirmed in fear and awe.
"Night-horses? Bukta, what is this last tale of children?"
Bukta had been a silent leader in Chinn's presence since the night
of his desertion, and was grateful for a chance-flung question.
They know, Sahib," he whispered. "It is the Clouded Tiger. That
that comes from the place where thou didst once sleep. It is thy
horse - as it has been these three generations."
"My horse! That was a dream of the Bhils."
"It is no dream. Do dreams leave the tracks of broad pugs on
earth? Why make two faces before thy people? They know of the
night-ridings, and they - and they - "
"Are afraid, and would have them cease."
Bukta nodded. "If thou hast no further need of him. He is thy
"The thing leaves a trail, then?" said Chinn.
"We have seen it. It is like a village road under the tomb."
"Can ye find and follow it for me?"
"By daylight - if one comes with us, and, above all, stands near
"I will stand close, and we will see to it that Jan Chinn does
not ride any more."
The Bhils shouted the last words again and again.
>From Chinn's point of view the stalk was nothing more than an
ordinary one - down-hill, through split and crannied rocks, unsafe,
perhaps, if a man did not keep his wits by him, but no worse than
twenty others he had undertaken. Yet his men - they refused
absolutely to beat, and would only trail - dripped sweat at every
move. They showed the marks of enormous pugs that ran, always
down-hill, to a few hundred feet below Jan Chinn's tomb, and
disappeared in a narrow-mouthed cave. It was an insolently open
road, a domestic highway, beaten without thought of concealment.
"The beggar might be paying rent and taxes," Chinn muttered ere
he asked whether his friend's taste ran to cattle or man.
"Cattle," was the answer. "Two heifers a week. We drive them for
him at the foot of the hill. It is his custom. If we did not, he
might seek us."
"Blackmail and piracy," said Chinn. "I can't say I fancy going
into the cave after him. What's to be done?"
The Bhils fell back as Chinn lodged himself behind a rock with
his rifle ready. Tigers, he knew, were shy beasts, but one who
had been long cattle-fed in this sumptuous style might prove
"He speaks!" some one whispered from the rear. "He knows, too."
"Well, of all the infernal cheek!" said Chinn. There was an angry
growl from the cave - a direct challenge.
"Come out, then," Chinn shouted. "Come out of that. Let's have a
look at you." The brute knew well enough that there was some
connection between brown nude Bhils and his weekly allowance; but
the white helmet in the sunlight annoyed him, and he did not approve
of the voice that broke his rest. Lazily as a gorged snake, he
dragged himself out of the cave, and stood yawning and blinking at
the entrance. The sunlight fell upon his flat right side, and
Chinn wondered. Never had he seen a tiger marked after this fashion.
Except for his head, which was staringly barred, he was dappled -
not striped, but dappled like a child's rocking-horse in rich shades
of smoky black on red gold. That portion of his belly and throat
which should have been white was orange, and his tail and paws were
He looked leisurely for some ten seconds, and then deliberately
lowered his head, his chin dropped and drawn in, staring intently
at the man. The effect of this was to throw forward the round
arch of his skull, with two broad bands across it, while below the
bands glared the unwinking eyes; so that, head on, as he stood, he
showed something like a diabolically scowling pantomime-mask. It
was a piece of natural mesmerism that he had practised many times
on his quarry, and though Chinn was by no means a terrified heifer,
he stood for a while, held by the extraordinary oddity of the
attack. The head - the body seemed to have been packed away behind
it - the ferocious, skull-like head, crept nearer to the switching
of an angry tail-tip in the grass. Left and right the Bhils had
scattered to let John Chinn subdue his own horse.
"My word!" he thought. "He's trying to frighten me!" and fired
between the saucer-like eyes, leaping aside upon the shot.
A big coughing mass, reeking of carrion, bounded past him up the
hill, and he followed discreetly. The tiger made no attempt to
turn into the jungle; he was hunting for sight and breath - nose
up, mouth open, the tremendous fore-legs scattering the gravel in
Scuppered!" said John Chinn, watching the flight. "Now if he was
a partridge he'd tower. Lungs must be full of blood."
The brute had jerked himself over a boulder and fallen out of
sight the other side. John Chinn looked over with a ready barrel.
But the red trail led straight as an arrow even to his grandfather's
tomb, and there, among the smashed spirit-bottles and the fragments
of the mud image, the life left, with a flurry and a grunt.
"If my worthy ancestor could see that," said John Chinn, "he'd
have been proud of me. Eyes, lower jaw, and lungs. A very nice
shot." He whistled for Bukta as he drew the tape over the
"Ten - six - eight - by Jove! It's nearly eleven - call it eleven.
Fore-arm, twenty-four - five - seven and a half. A short tail, too:
three feet one. But what a skin! Oh, Bukta! Bukta! The men with
the knives swiftly."
"Is he beyond question dead?" said an awe-stricken voice behind a
"That was not the way I killed my first tiger," said Chinn. "I
did not think that Bukta would run. I had no second gun."
"It - it is the Clouded Tiger," said Bukta, un-heeding the taunt.
"He is dead."
Whether all the Bhils, vaccinated and unvaccinated, of the
Satpuras had lain by to see the kill, Chinn could not say; but
the whole hill's flank rustled with little men, shouting,
singing, and stamping. And yet, till he had made the first cut
in the splendid skin, not a man would take a knife; and, when the
shadows fell, they ran from the red-stained tomb, and no persuasion
would bring them back till dawn. So Chinn spent a second night in
the open, guarding the carcass from jackals, and thinking about his
He returned to the lowlands to the triumphal chant of an escorting
army three hundred strong, the Mahratta vaccinator close at his
elbow, and the rudely dried skin a trophy before him. When that
army suddenly and noiselessly disappeared, as quail in high corn,
he argued he was near civilisation, and a turn in the road brought
him upon the camp of a wing of his own corps. He left the skin on
a cart-tail for the world to see, and sought the Colonel.
"They're perfectly right," he explained earnestly. "There isn't
an ounce of vice in 'em. They were only frightened. I've
vaccinated the whole boiling, and they like it awfully. What are
- what are we doing here, sir?"
"That's what I'm trying to find out," said the Colonel. "I don't
know yet whether we're a piece of a brigade or a police force.
However, I think we'll call ourselves a police force. How did you
manage to get a Bhil vaccinated?"
"Well, sir," said Chinn, " I've been thinking it over, and, as far
as I can make out, I've got a sort of hereditary influence over 'em."
"So I know, or I wouldn't have sent you; but what, exactly?"
"It's rather rummy. It seems, from what I can make out, that I'm
my own grandfather reincarnated, and I've been disturbing the
peace of the country by riding a pad-tiger of nights. If I hadn't
done that, I don't think they'd have objected to the vaccination;
but the two together were more than they could stand. And so, sir,
I've vaccinated 'em, and shot my tiger-horse as a sort o' proof of
good faith. You never saw such a skin in your life."
The Colonel tugged his moustache thought-fully. "Now, how the
deuce," said he, "am I to include that in my report?"
Indeed, the official version of the Bhils' anti-vaccination
stampede said nothing about Lieutenant John Chinn, his godship.
But Bukta knew, and the corps knew, and every Bhil in the Satpura
And now Bukta is zealous that John Chinn shall swiftly be wedded
and impart his powers to a son; for if the Chinn succession fails,
and the little Bhils are left to their own imaginings, there will
be fresh trouble in the Satpuras.
THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP SEA
All supplies very bad and dear, and there are no facilities for
even the smallest repairs. - Sailing Directions.
Her nationality was British, but you will not find her house-flag
in the list of our mercantile marine. She was a nine-hundred-ton,
iron, schooner-rigged, screw cargo-boat, differing externally in
no way from any other tramp of the sea. But it is with steamers
as it is with men. There are those who will for a consideration
sail extremely close to the wind; and, in the present state of a
fallen world, such people and such steamers have their use. From
the hour that the Aglaia first entered the Clyde - new, shiny, and
innocent, with a quart of cheap champagne trickling down her
cut-water - Fate and her owner, who was also her captain, decreed
that she should deal with embarrassed crowned heads, fleeing
Presidents, financiers of over-extended ability, women to whom
change of air was imperative, and the lesser law-breaking Powers.
Her career led her sometimes into the Admiralty Courts, where the
sworn statements of her skipper filled his brethren with envy. The
mariner cannot tell or act a lie in the face of the sea, or
mis-lead a tempest; but, as lawyers have discovered, he makes up
for chances withheld when he returns to shore, an affidavit in
The Aglaia figured with distinction in the great Mackinaw
salvage-case. It was her first slip from virtue, and she learned
how to change her name, but not her heart, and to run across the
sea. As the Guiding Light she was very badly wanted in a South
American port for the little matter of entering harbour at full
speed, colliding with a coal-hulk and the State's only man-of-war,
just as that man-of-war was going to coal. She put to sea without
explanations, though three forts fired at her for half an hour.
As the Julia M'Gregor she had been concerned in picking up from a
raft certain gentlemen who should have stayed in Noumea, but who
preferred making themselves vastly unpleasant to authority in
quite another quarter of the world; and as the Shah-in-Shah she
had been overtaken on the high seas, indecently full of munitions
of war, by the cruiser of an agitated Power at issue with its
neighbour. That time she was very nearly sunk, and her riddled
hull gave eminent lawyers of two countries great profit. After a
season she reappeared as the Martin Hunt painted a dull slate-colour,
with pure saffron funnel, and boats of robin's-egg blue, engaging
in the Odessa trade till she was invited (and the invitation could
not well be disregarded) to keep away from Black Sea ports
She had ridden through many waves of depression. Freights might
drop out of sight, Seamen's Unions throw spanners and nuts at
certificated masters, or stevedores combine till cargo perished
on the dock-head; but the boat of many names came and went, busy,
alert, and inconspicuous always. Her skipper made no complaint of
hard times, and port officers observed that her crew signed and
signed again with the regularity of Atlantic liner boatswains. Her
name she changed as occasion called; her well-paid crew never; and
a large percentage of the profits of her voyages was spent with an
open hand on her engine-room. She never troubled the underwriters,
and very seldom stopped to talk with a signal-station, for her
business was urgent and private.
But an end came to her tradings, and she perished in this manner.
Deep peace brooded over Europe, Asia, Africa, America, Australasia,
and Polynesia. The Powers dealt together more or less honestly;
banks paid their depositors to the hour; diamonds of price came
safely to the hands of their owners; Republics rested content with
their Dictators; diplomats found no one whose presence in the least
incommoded them; monarchs lived openly with their lawfully wedded
wives. It was as though the whole earth had put on its best Sunday
bib and tucker; and business was very bad for the Martin Hunt. The
great, virtuous calm engulfed her, slate sides, yellow funnel, and
all, but cast up in another hemisphere the steam whaler Haliotis,
black and rusty, with a manure-coloured funnel, a litter of dingy
white boats, and an enormous stove, or furnace, for boiling blubber
on her forward well-deck. There could be no doubt that her trip
was successful, for she lay at several ports not too well known,
and the smoke of her trying-out insulted the beaches.
Anon she departed, at the speed of the average London four-wheeler,
and entered a semi-inland sea, warm, still, and blue, which is,
perhaps, the most strictly preserved water in the world. There she
stayed for a certain time, and the great stars of those mild skies
beheld her playing puss-in-the-corner among islands where whales
are never found. All that while she smelt abominably, and the
smell, though fishy, was not whalesome. One evening calamity
descended upon her from the island of Pygang-Watai, and she fled,
while her crew jeered at a fat black-and-brown gunboat puffing far
behind. They knew to the last revolution the capacity of every
boat, on those seas, that they were anxious to avoid. A British
ship with a good conscience does not, as a rule, flee from the
man-of-war of a foreign Power, and it is also considered a breach
of etiquette to stop and search British ships at sea. These things
the skipper of the Haliotis did not pause to prove, but held on at
an inspiriting eleven knots an hour till nightfall. One thing only
The Power that kept an expensive steam-patrol moving up and down
those waters (they had dodged the two regular ships of the station
with an ease that bred contempt) had newly brought up a third and
a fourteen-knot boat with a clean bottom to help the work; and that
was why the Haliotis, driving hard from the east to the west, found
herself at daylight in such a position that she could not help
seeing an arrangement of four flags, a mile and a half behind, which
read: "Heave to, or take the consequences!"
She had her choice, and she took it. The end came when, presuming
on her lighter draught, she tried to draw away northward over a
friendly shoal. The shell that arrived by way of the Chief
Engineer's cabin was some five inches in diameter, with a practice,
not a bursting, charge. It had been intended to cross her bows,
and that was why it knocked the framed portrait of the Chief
Engineer's wife - and she was a very pretty girl - on to the floor,
splintered his wash-hand stand, crossed the alleyway into the
engine-room, and striking on a grating, dropped directly in front
of the forward engine, where it burst, neatly fracturing both the
bolts that held the connecting-rod to the forward crank.
What follows is worth consideration. The forward engine had no more
work to do. Its released piston-rod, therefore, drove up fiercely,
with nothing to check it, and started most of the nuts of the
cylinder-cover. It came down again, the full weight of the steam
behind it, and the foot of the disconnected connecting-rod, useless
as the leg of a man with a sprained ankle, flung out to the right
and struck the starboard, or right-hand, cast-iron supporting-column
of the forward engine, cracking it clean through about six inches
above the base, and wedging the upper portion outwards three inches
towards the ship's side. There the connecting-rod jammed. Meantime,
the after-engine, being as yet unembarrassed, went on with its work,
and in so doing brought round at its next revolution the crank of
the forward engine, which smote the already jammed connecting-rod,
bending it and therewith the piston-rod cross-head - the big
cross-piece that slides up and down so smoothly.
The cross-head jammed sideways in the guides, and, in addition to
putting further pressure on the already broken starboard
supporting-column, cracked the port, or left-hand, supporting-column
in two or three places. There being nothing more that could be
made to move, the engines brought up, all standing, with a hiccup
that seemed to lift the Haliotis a foot out of the water; and the
engine-room staff, opening every steam outlet that they could find
in the confusion, arrived on deck somewhat scalded, but calm. There
was a sound below of things happening - a rushing, clicking, purring,
grunting, rattling noise that did not last for more than a minute.
It was the machinery adjusting itself, on the spur of the moment,
to a hundred altered conditions. Mr. Wardrop, one foot on the
upper grating, inclined his ear sideways, and groaned. You cannot
stop engines working at twelve knots an hour in three seconds
without disorganising them. The Haliotis slid forward in a cloud
of steam, shrieking like a wounded horse. There was nothing more
to do. The five-inch shell with a reduced charge had settled the
situation. And when you are full, all three holds, of strictly
preserved pearls; when you have cleaned out the Tanna Bank, the
Sea-Horse Bank, and four other banks from one end to the other
of the Amanala Sea - when you have ripped out the very heart of
a rich Government monopoly so that five years will not repair your
wrong-doings - you must smile and take what is in store. But the
skipper reflected, as a launch put out from the man-of-war, that
he had been bombarded on the high seas, with the British flag -
several of them - picturesquely disposed above him, and tried to
find comfort from the thought.
Where," said the stolid naval lieutenant hoisting himself aboard,
"where are those dam' pearls?"
They were there beyond evasion. No affidavit could do away with
the fearful smell of decayed oysters, the diving-dresses, and the
shell-littered hatches. They were there to the value of seventy
thousand pounds, more or less; and every pound poached.
The man-of-war was annoyed; for she had used up many tons of coal,
she had strained her tubes, and, worse than all, her officers and
crew had been hurried. Every one on the Haliotis was arrested and
rearrested several times, as each officer came aboard; then they
were told by what they esteemed to be the equivalent of a
midshipman that they were to consider themselves prisoners, and
finally were put under arrest.
It's not the least good," said the skipper, suavely. "You'd much
better send us a tow - "
"Be still - you are arrest!" was the reply.
"Where the devil do you expect we are going to escape to?" We're
helpless. You've got to tow us into somewhere, and explain why
you fired on us. Mr. Wardrop, we're helpless, aren't we?"
"Ruined from end to end," said the man of machinery. "If she rolls,
the forward cylinder will come down and go through her bottom. Both
columns are clean cut through. There's nothing to hold anything up."
The council of war clanked off to see if Mr. Wardrop's words were
true. He warned them that it was as much as a man's life was worth
to enter the engine-room, and they contented themselves with a
distant inspection through the thinning steam. The Haliotis lifted
to the long, easy swell, and the starboard supporting-column ground
a trifle, as a man grits his teeth under the knife. The forward
cylinder was depending on that unknown force men call the pertinacity
of materials, which now and then balances that other heartbreaking
power, the perversity of inanimate things.
"You see!" said Mr. Wardrop, hurrying them away. "The engines
aren't worth their price as old iron."
"We tow," was the answer. "Afterwards we shall confiscate."
The man-of-war was short-handed, and did not see the necessity
for putting a prize-crew aboard the Haliotis. So she sent one
sublieutenant, whom the skipper kept very drunk, for he did not
wish to make the tow too easy, and, moreover, he had an
inconspicuous little rope hanging from the stem of his ship.
Then they began to tow at an average speed of four knots an hour.
The Haliotis was very hard to move, and the gunnery-lieutenant,
who had fired the five-inch shell, had leisure to think upon
consequences. Mr. Wardrop was the busy man. He borrowed all the
crew to shore up the cylinders with spars and blocks from the
bottom and sides of the ship. It was a day's risky work; but
anything was better than drowning at the end of a tow-rope; and
if the forward cylinder had fallen, it would have made its way to
the sea-bed, and taken the Haliotis after.
"Where are we going to, and how long will they tow us?" he asked
of the skipper.
"God knows! and this prize-lieutenant's drunk. What do you think
you can do?"
"There's just the bare chance," Mr. Wardrop whispered, though no
one was within hearing -"there's just the bare chance o' repairin'
her, if a man knew how. They've twisted the very guts out of her,
bringing her up with that jerk; but I'm saying that, with time
and patience, there's just the chance o' making steam yet. We
could do it."
The skipper's eye brightened. "Do you mean," he began, "that she
is any good?"
"Oh, no," said Mr. Wardrop. "She'll need three thousand pounds in
repairs, at the lowest, if she's to take the sea again, an' that
apart from any injury to her structure. She's like a man fallen
down five pair o' stairs. We can't tell for months what has
happened; but we know she'll never be good again without a new
inside. Ye should see the condenser-tubes an' the steam connections
to the donkey, for two things only. I'm not afraid of them repairin'
her. I'm afraid of them stealin' things."
"They've fired on us. They'll have to explain that."
"Our reputation's not good enough to ask for explanations. Let's
take what we have and be thankful. Ye would not have consuls
remembern' the Guidin' Light, an' the Shah-in-Shah, an' the Aglaia,
at this most alarmin' crisis. We've been no better than pirates
these ten years. Under Providence we're no worse than thieves now.
We've much to be thankful for - if we e'er get back to her."
"Make it your own way, then," said the skipper. "If there's the
least chance - "
"I'll leave none," said Mr. Wardrop - "none that they'll dare to
take. Keep her heavy on the tow, for we need time."
The skipper never interfered with the affairs of the engine-room,
and Mr. Wardrop - an artist in his profession - turned to and
composed a work terrible and forbidding. His background was the
dark-grained sides of the engine-room; his material the metals
of power and strength, helped out with spars, baulks, and ropes.
The man-of-war towed sullenly and viciously. The Haliotis behind
her hummed like a hive before swarming. With extra and totally
unneeded spars her crew blocked up the space round the forward
engine till it resembled a statue in its scaffolding, and the
butts of the shores interfered with every view that a dispassionate
eye might wish to take. And that the dispassionate mind might be
swiftly shaken out of its calm, the well-sunk bolts of the shores
were wrapped round untidily with loose ends of ropes, giving a
studied effect of most dangerous insecurity. Next, Mr. Wardrop
took up a collection from the after-engine, which, as you will
remember, had not been affected in the general wreck. The cylinder
escape-valve he abolished with a flogging-hammer. It is difficult
in far-off ports to come by such valves, unless, like Mr. Wardrop,
you keep duplicates in store. At the same time men took off the
nuts of two of the great holding-down bolts that serve to keep the
engines in place on their solid bed. An engine violently arrested
in mid-career may easily jerk off the nut of a holding-down bolt,
and this accident looked very natural.
Passing along the tunnel, he removed several shaft coupling-bolts
and -nuts, scattering other and ancient pieces of iron underfoot.
Cylinder-bolts he cut off to the number of six from the after-engine
cylinder, so that it might match its neighbour, and stuffed the
bilge - and feed-pumps with cotton-waste. Then he made up a neat
bundle of the various odds and ends that he had gathered from the
engines - little things like nuts and valve-spindles, all carefully
tallowed - and retired with them under the floor of the engine-room,
where he sighed, being fat, as he passed from manhole to manhole of
the double bottom, and in a fairly dry submarine compartment hid
them. Any engineer, particularly in an unfriendly port, has a
right to keep his spare stores where he chooses; and the foot of
one of the cylinder shores blocked all entrance into the regular
store-room, even if that had not been already closed with steel
wedges. In conclusion, he disconnected the after-engine, laid
piston and connecting-rod, carefully tallowed, where it would be
most inconvenient to the casual visitor, took out three of the
eight collars of the thrust-block, hid them where only he could find
them again, filled the boilers by hand, wedged the sliding doors
of the coal-bunkers, and rested from his labours. The engine-room
was a cemetery, and it did not need the contents of the ash-lift
through the skylight to make it any worse.
He invited the skipper to look at the completed work.
Saw ye ever such a forsaken wreck as that?" said he, proudly.
"It almost frights me to go under those shores. Now, what d' you
think they'll do to us?"
"Wait till we see," said the skipper. "It'll be bad enough when
He was not wrong. The pleasant days of towing ended all too soon,
though the Haliotis trailed behind her a heavily weighted jib
stayed out into the shape of a pocket; and Mr. Wardrop was no
longer an artist of imagination, but one of seven-and-twenty
prisoners in a prison full of insects. The man-of-war had towed
them to the nearest port, not to the headquarters of the colony,
and when Mr. Wardrop saw the dismal little harbour, with its
ragged line of Chinese junks, its one crazy tug, and the
boat-building shed that, under the charge of a philosophical
Malay, represented a dockyard, he sighed and shook his head.
"I did well," he said. "This is the habitation o' wreckers an'
thieves. We're at the uttermost ends of the earth. Think you
they'll ever know in England?"
"Doesn't look like it," said the skipper.
They were marched ashore with what they stood up in, under a
generous escort, and were judged according to the customs of the
country, which, though excellent, are a little out of date.
There were the pearls; there were the poachers; and there sat a
small but hot Governor. He consulted for a while, and then
things began to move with speed, for he did not wish to keep a
hungry crew at large on the beach, and the man-of-war had gone
up the coast. With a wave of his hand - a stroke of the pen was
not necessary - he consigned them to the black gang-tana, the
back-country, and the hand of the Law removed them from his sight
and the knowledge of men. They were marched into the palms, and
the back-country swallowed them up - all the crew of the Haliotis.
Deep peace continued to brood over Europe, Asia, Africa, America,
Australasia, and Polynesia.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
It was the firing that did it. They should have kept their
counsel; but when a few thousand foreigners are bursting with joy
over the fact that a ship under the British flag has been fired at
on the high seas, news travels quickly; and when it came out that
the pearl-stealing crew had not been allowed access to their consul
(there was no consul within a few hundred miles of that lonely port)
even the friendliest of Powers has a right to ask questions. The
great heart of the British public was beating furiously on account
of the performance of a notorious race-horse, and had not a throb
to waste on distant accidents; but somewhere deep in the hull of
the ship of State there is machinery which more or less accurately
takes charge of foreign affairs. That machinery began to revolve,
and who so shocked and surprised as the Power that had captured the
Haliotis? It explained that colonial governors and far-away
men-of-war were difficult to control, and promised that it would
most certainly make an example both of the Governor and the vessel.
As for the crew reported to be pressed into military service in
tropical climes, it would produce them as soon as possible, and it
would apologise, if necessary. Now, no apologies were needed.
When one nation apologises to another, millions of amateurs who
have no earthly concern with the difficulty hurl themselves into
the strife and embarrass the trained specialist. It was requested
that the crew be found, if they were still alive - they had been
eight months beyond knowledge - and it was promised that all
would be forgotten.
The little Governor of the little port was pleased with himself.
Seven-and-twenty white men made a very compact force to throw
away on a war that had neither beginning nor end - a jungle and
stockade fight that flickered and smouldered through the wet hot
years in the hills a hundred miles away, and was the heritage of
every wearied official. He had, he thought, deserved well of his
country; and if only some one would buy the unhappy Haliotis,
moored in the harbour below his verandah, his cup would be full.
He looked at the neatly silvered lamps that he had taken from her
cabins, and thought of much that might be turned to account. But
his countrymen in that moist climate had no spirit. They would
peep into the silent engine-room, and shake their heads. Even
the men-of-war would not tow her further up the coast, where the
Governor believed that she could be repaired. She was a bad
bargain; but her cabin carpets were undeniably beautiful, and his
wife approved of her mirrors.
Three hours later cables were bursting round him like shells, for,
though he knew it not, he was being offered as a sacrifice by the
nether to the upper millstone, and his superiors had no regard for
his feelings. He had, said the cables, grossly exceeded his power,
and failed to report on events. He would, therefore - at this he
cast himself back in his hammock - produce the crew of the Haliotis.
He would send for them, and, if that failed, he would put his
dignity on a pony and fetch them himself. He had no conceivable
right to make pearl-poachers serve in any war. He would be held
Next morning the cables wished to know whether he had found the
crew of the Haliotis. They were to be found, freed and fed - he
was to feed them - till such time as they could be sent to the
nearest English port in a man-of-war. If you abuse a man long
enough in great words flashed over the sea-beds, things happen.
The Governor sent inland swiftly for his prisoners, who were also
soldiers; and never was a militia regiment more anxious to reduce
its strength. No power short of death could make these mad men
wear the uniform of their service. They would not fight, except
with their fellows, and it was for that reason the regiment had
not gone to war, but stayed in a stockade, reasoning with the new
troops. The autumn campaign had been a fiasco, but here were the
Englishmen. All the regiment marched back to guard them, and the
hairy enemy, armed with blow-pipes, rejoiced in the forest. Five
of the crew had died, but there lined up on the Governor's verandah
two-and-twenty men marked about the legs with the scars of
leech-bites. A few of them wore fringes that had once been trousers;
the others used loin-cloths of gay patterns; and they existed
beautifully but simply in the Governor's verandah, and when he came
out they sang at him. When you have lost seventy thousand pounds'
worth of pearls, your pay, your ship, and all your clothes, and have
lived in bondage for five months beyond the faintest pretences of
civilisation, you know what true independence means, for you become
the happiest of created things - natural man.
The Governor told the crew that they were evil, and they asked for
food. When he saw how they ate, and when he remembered that none of
the pearl patrol-boats were expected for two months, he sighed. But
the crew of the Haliotis lay down in the verandah, and said that
they were pensioners of the Governor's bounty. A grey-bearded man,
fat and bald-headed, his one garment a green-and-yellow loin-cloth,
saw the Haliotis in the harbour, and bellowed for joy. The men
crowded to the verandah-rail, kicking aside the long cane chairs.
They pointed, gesticulated, and argued freely, without shame. The
militia regiment sat down in the Governor's garden. The Governor
retired to his hammock - it was as easy to be killed lying as
standing - and his women squeaked from the shuttered rooms.
"She sold?" said the grey-bearded man, pointing to the Haliotis.
He was Mr. Wardrop.
"No good," said the Governor, shaking his head. "No one come buy."
"He's taken my lamps, though," said the skipper. He wore one leg
of a pair of trousers, and his eye wandered along the verandah.
The Governor quailed. There were cuddy camp-stools and the skipper's
writing-table in plain sight.
"They've cleaned her out, o' course," said Mr. Wardrop. "They
would. We'll go aboard and take an inventory. See!" He waved his
hands over the harbour. "We - live - there - now. Sorry?"
The Governor smiled a smile of relief.
"He's glad of that," said one of the crew, reflectively. "I
They flocked down to the harbour-front, the militia regiment
clattering behind, and embarked themselves in what they found -
it happened to be the Governor's boat. Then they disappeared over
the bulwarks of the Haliotis, and the Governor prayed that they
might find occupation inside.
Mr. Wardrop's first bound took him to the engine-room; and when
the others were patting the well-remembered decks, they heard him
giving God thanks that things were as he had left them. The
wrecked engines stood over his head untouched; no inexpert hand
had meddled with his shores; the steel wedges of the store-room
were rusted home; and, best of all, the hundred and sixty tons of
good Australian coal in the bunkers had not diminished.
"I don't understand it," said Mr. Wardrop. "Any Malay knows the
use o' copper. They ought to have cut away the pipes. And with
Chinese junks coming here, too. It's a special interposition o'
"You think so," said the skipper, from above. "There's only been
one thief here, and he's cleaned her out of all my things, anyhow."
Here the skipper spoke less than the truth, for under the planking
of his cabin, only to be reached by a chisel, lay a little money
which never drew any interest - his sheet-anchor to windward. It
was all in clean sovereigns that pass current the world over, and
might have amounted to more than a hundred pounds.
"He's left me alone. Let's thank God," repeated Mr. Wardrop.
"He's taken everything else; look!"
The Haliotis, except as to her engine-room, had been systematically
and scientifically gutted from one end to the other, and there was
strong evidence that an unclean guard had camped in the skipper's
cabin to regulate that plunder. She lacked glass, plate, crockery,
cutlery, mattresses, cuddy carpets and chairs, all boats, and her
copper ventilators. These things had been removed, with her sails
and as much of the wire rigging as would not imperil the safety of
"He must have sold those," said the skipper. "The other things are
in his house, I suppose."
Every fitting that could be pried or screwed out was gone. Port,
starboard, and masthead lights; teak gratings; sliding sashes of
the deckhouse; the captain's chest of drawers, with charts and
chart-table; photographs, brackets, and looking-glasses; cabin
doors; rubber cuddy mats; hatch-irons; half the funnel-stays;
cork fenders; carpenter's grindstone and tool-chest; holystones,
swabs, squeegees; all cabin and pantry lamps; galley-fittings en
bloc; flags and flag-locker; clocks, chronometers; the forward
compass and the ship's bell and belfry, were among the missing.
There were great scarred marks on the deck-planking over which
the cargo-derricks had been hauled. One must have fallen by the
way, for the bulwark-rails were smashed and bent and the
"It's the Governor," said the skipper "He's been selling her on
the instalment plan."
"Let's go up with spanners and shovels, and kill 'em all," shouted
the crew. "Let's drown him, and keep the woman!"
"Then we'll be shot by that black-and-tan regiment - our regiment.
What's the trouble ashore? They've camped our regiment on the beach."
"We're cut off; that's all. Go and see what they want," said Mr.
Wardrop. "You've the trousers."
In his simple way the Governor was a strategist. He did not desire
that the crew of the Haliotis should come ashore again, either
singly or in detachments, and he proposed to turn their steamer into
a convict-hulk. They would wait - he explained this from the quay
to the skipper in the barge - and they would continue to wait till
the man-of-war came along, exactly where they were. If one of them
set foot ashore, the entire regiment would open fire, and he would
not scruple to use the two cannon of the town. Meantime food would
be sent daily in a boat under an armed escort. The skipper, bare
to the waist, and rowing, could only grind his teeth; and the
Governor improved the occasion, and revenged himself for the bitter
words in the cables, by saying what he thought of the morals and
manners of the crew. The barge returned to the Haliotis in silence,
and the skipper climbed aboard, white on the cheek-bones and blue
about the nostrils.
"I knew it," said Mr. Wardrop; "and they won't give us good food,
either. We shall have bananas morning, noon, and night, an' a man
can't work on fruit. We know that."
Then the skipper cursed Mr. Wardrop for importing frivolous
side-issues into the conversation; and the crew cursed one another,
and the Haliotis, the voyage, and all that they knew or could bring
to mind. They sat down in silence on the empty decks, and their
eyes burned in their heads. The green harbour water chuckled at
them overside. They looked at the palm-fringed hills inland, at
the white houses above the harbour road, at the single tier of
native craft by the quay, at the stolid soldiery sitting round the
two cannon, and, last of all, at the blue bar of the horizon. Mr.
Wardrop was buried in thought, and scratched imaginary lines with
his untrimmed finger-nails on the planking.
"I make no promise," he said, at last, "for I can't say what may
or may not have happened to them. But here's the ship, and here's
There was a little scornful laughter at this, and Mr. Wardrop
knitted his brows. He recalled that in the days when be wore
trousers he had been Chief Engineer of the Haliotis.
"Harland, Mackesy, Noble, Hay, Naughton, Fink, O'Hara, Trumbull."
"Here, sir!" The instinct of obedience waked to answer the
roll-call of the engine-room.
They rose and went.
"Captain, I'll trouble you for the rest of the men as I want them.
We'll get my stores out, and clear away the shores we don't need,
and then we'll patch her up. My men will remember that they're in
the Haliotis, - under me."
He went into the engine-room, and the others stared. They were
used to the accidents of the sea, but this was beyond their
experience. None who had seen the engine-room believed that
anything short of new engines from end to end could stir the
Haliotis from her moorings.
The engine-room stores were unearthed, and Mr. Wardrop's face, red
with the filth of the bilges and the exertion of travelling on his
stomach, lit with joy. The spare gear of the Haliotis had been
unusually complete, and two-and-twenty men, armed with screw-jacks,
differential blocks, tackle, vices, and a forge or so, can look
Kismet between the eyes without winking. The crew were ordered to
replace the holding-down and shaft-bearing bolts, and return the
collars of the thrust-block. When they had finished, Mr. Wardrop
delivered a lecture on repairing compound engines without the aid
of the shops, and the men sat about on the cold machinery. The
cross-head jammed in the guides leered at them drunkenly, but
offered no help. They ran their fingers hopelessly into the cracks
of the starboard supporting-column, and picked at the ends of the
ropes round the shores, while Mr. Wardrop's voice rose and fell
echoing, till the quick tropic night closed down over the
Next morning the work of reconstruction began. It has been
explained that the foot of the connecting-rod was forced against
the foot of the starboard supporting-column, which it had cracked
through and driven outward towards the ship's skin. To all
appearance the job was more than hopeless, for rod and column
seemed to have been welded into one. But herein Providence
smiled on them for one moment to hearten them through the weary
weeks ahead. The second engineer - more reckless than resourceful
- struck at random with a cold chisel into the cast-iron of the
column, and a greasy, grey flake of metal flew from under the
imprisoned foot of the connecting-rod, while the rod itself fell
away slowly, and brought up with a thunderous clang somewhere in
the dark of the crank-pit. The guides-plates above were still
jammed fast in the guides, but the first blow had been struck.
They spent the rest of the day grooming the donkey-engine, which
stood immediately forward of the engine-room hatch. Its tarpaulin,
of course, had been stolen, and eight warm months had not improved
the working parts. Further, the last dying hiccup of the Haliotis
seemed - or it might have been the Malay from the boat-house - to
have lifted the thing bodily on its bolts, and set it down
inaccurately as regarded its steam connections.
"If we only had one single cargo-derrick!" Mr. Wardrop sighed. "We
can take the cylinder-cover off by hand, if we sweat; but to get
the rod out o' the piston's not possible unless we use steam. Well,
there'll be steam the morn, if there's nothing else. She'll fizzle!"
Next morning men from the shore saw the Haliotis through a cloud,
for it was as though the deck smoked. Her crew were chasing steam
through the shaken and leaky pipes to its work in the forward
donkey-engine; and where oakum failed to plug a crack, they stripped
off their loin-cloths for lapping, and swore, half-boiled and
mother-naked. The donkey-engine worked - at a price - the price of
constant attention and furious stoking - worked long enough to allow
a wire-rope (it was made up of a funnel and a foremast-stay) to be
led into the engine-room and made fast on the cylinder-cover of the
forward engine. That rose easily enough, and was hauled through the
skylight and on to the deck, many hands assisting the doubtful steam.
Then came the tug of war, for it was necessary to get to the piston
and the jammed piston-rod. They removed two of the piston junk-ring
studs, screwed in two strong iron eye-bolts by way of handles,
doubled the wire-rope, and set half a dozen men to smite with an
extemporised battering-ram at the end of the piston-rod, where it
peered through the piston, while the donkey-engine hauled upwards
on the piston itself. After four hours of this furious work, the
piston-rod suddenly slipped, and the piston rose with a jerk,
knocking one or two men over into the engine-room. But when Mr.
Wardrop declared that the piston had not split, they cheered, and
thought nothing of their wounds; and the donkey-engine was hastily
stopped; its boiler was nothing to tamper with.
And day by day their supplies reached them by boat. The skipper
humbled himself once more before the Governor, and as a concession
had leave to get drinking-water from the Malay boat-builder on the
quay. It was not good drinking-water, but the Malay was anxious
to supply anything in his power, if he were paid for it.
Now when the jaws of the forward engine stood, as it were, stripped
and empty, they began to wedge up the shores of the cylinder itself.
That work alone filled the better part of three days - warm and
sticky days, when the hands slipped and sweat ran into the eyes.
When the last wedge was hammered home there was no longer an ounce
of weight on the supporting-columns; and Mr. Wardrop rummaged the
ship for boiler-plate three-quarters of an inch thick, where he
could find it. There was not much available, but what there was
was more than beaten gold to him. In one desperate forenoon the
entire crew, naked and lean, haled back, more or less into place,
the starboard supporting-column, which, as you remember, was cracked
clean through. Mr. Wardrop found them asleep where they had
finished the work, and gave them a day's rest, smiling upon them
as a father while he drew chalk-marks about the cracks. They woke
to new and more trying labour; for over each one of those cracks a
plate of three-quarter-inch boiler-iron was to be worked hot, the
rivet-holes being drilled by hand. All that time they were fed on
fruits, chiefly bananas, with some sago.
Those were the days when men swooned over the ratchet-drill and the
hand-forge, and where they fell they had leave to lie unless their
bodies were in the way of their fellows' feet. And so, patch upon
patch, and a patch over all, the starboard supporting-column was
clouted; but when they thought all was secure, Mr. Wardrop decreed
that the noble patchwork would never support working engines; at
the best, it could only hold the guide-bars approximately true.
he deadweight of the cylinders must be borne by vertical struts;
and, therefore, a gang would repair to the bows, and take out, with
files, the big bow-anchor davits, each of which was some three
inches in diameter. They threw hot coals at Wardrop, and threatened
to kill him, those who did not weep (they were ready to weep on the
least provocation); but he hit them with iron bars heated at the
end, and they limped forward, and the davits came with them when
they returned. They slept sixteen hours on the strength of it, and
in three days two struts were in place, bolted from the foot of
the starboard supporting-column to the under side of the cylinder.
There remained now the port, or condenser-column, which, though not
so badly cracked as its fellow, had also been strengthened in four
places with boiler-plate patches, but needed struts. They took
away the main stanchions of the bridge for that work, and, crazy
with toil, did not see till all was in place that the rounded
bars of iron must be flattened from top to bottom to allow the
air-pump levers to clear them. It was Wardrop's oversight, and he
wept bitterly before the men as he gave the order to unbolt the
struts and flatten them with hammer and the flame. Now the broken
engine was underpinned firmly, and they took away the wooden
shores from under the cylinders, and gave them to the robbed
bridge, thanking God for even half a day's work on gentle, kindly
wood instead of the iron that had entered into their souls. Eight
months in the back-country among the leeches, at a temperature of
84 degrees moist, is very bad for the nerves.
They had kept the hardest work to the last, as boys save Latin
prose, and, worn though they were, Mr. Wardrop did not dare to
give them rest. The piston-rod and connecting-rod were to be
straightened, and this was a job for a regular dockyard with every
appliance. They fell to it, cheered by a little chalk showing of
work done and time consumed which Mr. Wardrop wrote up on the
engine-room bulkhead. Fifteen days had gone - fifteen days of
killing labour - and there was hope before them.
It is curious that no man knows how the rods were straightened.
The crew of the Haliotis remember that week very dimly, as a
fever patient remembers the delirium of a long night. There were
fires everywhere, they say; the whole ship was one consuming
furnace, and the hammers were never still. Now, there could not
have been more than one fire at the most, for Mr. Wardrop
distinctly recalls that no straightening was done except under
his own eye. They remember, too, that for many years voices gave
orders which they obeyed with their bodies, but their minds were
abroad on all the seas. It seems to them that they stood through
days and nights slowly sliding a bar backwards and forwards
through a white glow that was part of the ship. They remember an
intolerable noise in their burning heads from the walls of the
stoke-hole, and they remember being savagely beaten by men whose
eyes seemed asleep. When their shift was over they would draw
straight lines in the air, anxiously and repeatedly, and would
question one another in their sleep, crying, "Is she straight?"
At last - they do not remember whether this was by day or by
night - Mr. Wardrop began to dance clumsily, and wept the while;
and they too danced and wept, and went to sleep twitching all
over; and when they woke, men said that the rods were straightened,
and no one did any work for two days, but lay on the decks and ate
fruit. Mr. Wardrop would go below from time to time, and pat the
two rods where they lay, and they heard him singing hymns.
Then his trouble of mind went from him, and at the end of the third
day's idleness he made a drawing in chalk upon the deck, with
letters of the alphabet at the angles. He pointed out that, though
the piston-rod was more or less straight, the piston-rod cross-head
- the thing that had been jammed sideways in the guides - had been
badly strained, and had cracked the lower end of the piston-rod.
He was going to forge and shrink a wrought-iron collar on the neck
of the piston-rod where it joined the cross-head, and from the
collar he would bolt a Y-shaped piece of iron whose lower arms
should be bolted into the cross-head. If anything more were needed,
they could use up the last of the boiler-plate.
So the forges were lit again, and men burned their bodies, but
hardly felt the pain. The finished connection was not beautiful,
but it seemed strong enough - at least, as strong as the rest of
the machinery; and with that job their labours came to an end.
All that remained was to connect up the engines, and to get food
and water. The skipper and four men dealt with the Malay
boat-builder by night chiefly; it was no time to haggle over the
price of sago and dried fish. The others stayed aboard and
replaced piston, piston-rod, cylinder-cover, cross-head, and bolts,
with the aid of the faithful donkey-engine. The cylinder-cover
was hardly steam-proof, and the eye of science might have seen in
the connecting-rod a flexure something like that of a
Christmas-tree candle which has melted and been straightened by
hand over a stove, but, as Mr. Wardrop said, "She didn't hit
As soon as the last bolt was in place, men tumbled over one
another in their anxiety to get to the hand starting-gear, the
wheel and worm, by which some engines can be moved when there is
no steam aboard. They nearly wrenched off the wheel, but it was
evident to the blindest eye that the engines stirred. They did
not revolve in their orbits with any enthusiasm, as good machines
should; indeed, they groaned not a little; but they moved over
and came to rest in a way which proved that they still recognised
man's hand. Then Mr. Wardrop sent his slaves into the darker
bowels of the engine-room and the stoke-hole, and followed them
with a flare-lamp. The boilers were sound, but would take no harm
from a little scaling and cleaning. Mr. Wardrop would not have
any one over-zealous, for he feared what the next stroke of the
tool might show. "The less we know about her now," said he, "the
better for us all, I'm thinkin'. Ye'll understand me when I say
that this is in no sense regular engineerin'."
As his raiment, when he spoke, was his grey beard and uncut hair,
they believed him. They did not ask too much of what they met,
but polished and tallowed and scraped it to a false brilliancy.
"A lick of paint would make me easier in my mind," said Mr.
Wardrop, plaintively. "I know half the condenser-tubes are
started; and the propeller-shaftin''s God knows how far out of
the true, and we'll need a new air-pump, an' the main-steam
leaks like a sieve, and there's worse each way I look; but -
paint's like clothes to a man, 'an ours is near all gone."
The skipper unearthed some stale ropy paint of the loathsome
green that they used for the galleys of sailing-ships, and Mr.
Wardrop spread it abroad lavishly to give the engines
His own was returning day by day, for he wore his loin-cloth
continuously; but the crew, having worked under orders, did not
feel as he did. The completed work satisfied Mr. Wardrop. He
would at the last have made shift to run to Singapore, and gone
home without vengeance taken to show his engines to his brethren
in the craft; but the others and the captain forbade him. They
had not yet recovered their self-respect.
"It would be safer to make what ye might call a trial trip, but
beggars mustn't be choosers; an if the engines will go over to the
hand-gear, the probability - I'm only saying it's a probability -
the chance is that they'll hold up when we put steam on her."
"How long will you take to get steam?" said the skipper.
"God knows! Four hours - a day - half a week. If I can raise
sixty pound I'll not complain."
"Be sure of her first; we can't afford to go out half a mile, and
"My soul and body, man, we're one continuous breakdown, fore an'
aft! We might fetch Singapore, though."
"We'll break down at Pygang-Watai, where we can do good," was the
answer, in a voice that did not allow argument. "She's my boat,
and - I've had eight months to think in."
No man saw the Haliotis depart, though many heard her. She left
at two in the morning, having cut her moorings, and it was none
of her crew's pleasure that the engines should strike up a
thundering half-seas-over chanty that echoed among the hills.
Mr. Wardrop wiped away a tear as he listened to the new song.
"She's gibberin' - she's just gibberin'," he whimpered. "Yon's
the voice of a maniac.
And if engines have any soul, as their masters believe, he was
quite right. There were outcries and clamours, sobs and bursts of
chattering laughter, silences where the trained ear yearned for the
clear note, and torturing reduplications where there should have
been one deep voice. Down the screw-shaft ran murmurs and warnings,
while a heart-diseased flutter without told that the propeller
"How does she make it?" said the skipper.
"She moves, but - but she's breakin' my heart. The sooner we're
at Pygang-Watai, the better. She's mad, and we're waking the town."
"Is she at all near safe?"
"What do I care how safe she is? She's mad. Hear that, now! To
be sure, nothing's hittin' anything, and the bearin's are fairly
cool, but - can ye not hear?"
"If she goes," said the skipper, "I don't care a curse. And she's
my boat, too."
She went, trailing a fathom of weed behind her. From a slow two
knots an hour she crawled up to a triumphant four. Anything
beyond that made the struts quiver dangerously, and filled the
engine-room with steam. Morning showed her out of sight of land,
and there was a visible ripple under her bows; but she complained
bitterly in her bowels, and, as though the noise had called it,
there shot along across the purple sea a swift, dark proa,
hawk-like and curious, which presently ranged alongside and wished
to know if the Haliotis were helpless. Ships, even the steamers
of the white men, had been known to break down in those waters,
and the honest Malay and Javanese traders would sometimes aid them
in their own peculiar way. But this ship was not full of lady
passengers and well-dressed officers. Men, white, naked and savage,
swarmed down her sides - some with red-hot iron bars, and others
with large hammers - threw themselves upon those innocent inquiring
strangers, and, before any man could say what had happened, were
in full possession of the proa, while the lawful owners bobbed in
the water overside. Half an hour later the proa's cargo of sago
and trepang, as well as a doubtful-minded compass, was in the
Haliotis. The two huge triangular mat sails, with their
seventy-foot yards and booms, had followed the cargo, and were
being fitted to the stripped masts of the steamer.
They rose, they swelled, they filled, and the empty steamer visibly
laid over as the wind took them. They gave her nearly three knots
an hour, and what better could men ask? But if she had been forlorn
before, this new purchase made her horrible to see. Imagine a
respectable charwoman in the tights of a ballet-dancer rolling drunk
along the streets, and you will come to some faint notion of the
appearance of that nine-hundred-ton, well-decked, once schooner-rigged
cargo-boat as she staggered under her new help, shouting and raving
across the deep. With steam and sail that marvellous voyage
continued; and the bright-eyed crew looked over the rail, desolate,
unkempt, unshorn, shamelessly clothed beyond the decencies.
At the end of the third week she sighted the island of Pygang-Watai,
whose harbour is the turning-point of a pearl sea-patrol. Here the
gun-boats stay for a week ere they retrace their line. There is no
village at Pygang-Watai; only a stream of water, some palms, and a
harbour safe to rest in till the first violence of the southeast
monsoon has blown itself out.
They opened up the low coral beach, with its mound of whitewashed
coal ready for supply, the deserted huts for the sailors, and the
Next day there was no Haliotis - only a little proa rocking in
the warm rain at the mouth of the harbour, whose crew watched
with hungry eyes the smoke of a gunboat on the horizon.
Months afterwards there were a few lines in an English newspaper
to the effect that some gunboat of some foreign Power had broken
her back at the mouth of some far-away harbour by running at full
speed into a sunken wreck.
WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR
I have done one braver thing
Than all the worthies did;
And yet a braver thence doth spring,
Which is to keep that hid.
"Is it officially declared yet?"
They've gone as far as to admit 'extreme local scarcity,' and they've
started relief-works in one or two districts, the paper says."
"That means it will be declared as soon as they can make sure of the
men and the rolling-stock. 'Shouldn't wonder if it were as bad as
the '78 Famine."
"'Can't be," said Scott, turning a little in the long cane chair.
"We've had fifteen-anna crops in the north, and Bombay and Bengal
report more than they know what to do with. They'll be able to
check it before it gets out of hand. It will only be local."
Martyn picked the "Pioneer" from the table, read through the
telegrams once more, and put up his feet on the chair-rests. It
was a hot, dark, breathless evening, heavy with the smell of the
newly watered Mall. The flowers in the Club gardens were dead and
black on their stalks, the little lotus-pond was a circle of caked
mud, and the tamarisk-trees were white with the dust of weeks.
Most of the men were at the band-stand in the public gardens - from
the Club verandah you could hear the native Police band hammering
stale waltzes - or on the polo-ground, or in the high-walled
fives-court, hotter than a Dutch oven. Half a dozen grooms,
squatted at the heads of their ponies, waited their masters' return.
>From time to time a man would ride at a foot-pace into the Club
compound, and listlessly loaf over to the whitewashed barracks
beside the main building. These were supposed to be chambers. Men
lived in them, meeting the same white faces night after night at
dinner, and drawing out their office-work till the latest possible
hour, that they might escape that doleful company.
"What are you going to do?." said Martyn, with a yawn. "Let's
have a swim before dinner."
"'Water's hot. I was at the bath to-day."
"Play you game o' billiards - fifty up."
"It's a hundred and five in the hall now. Sit still and don't be
so abominably energetic."
A grunting camel swung up to the porch, his badged and belted
rider fumbling a leather pouch.
"Kubber-kargaz-ki-yektraaa," the man whined, handing down the
newspaper extra - a slip printed on one side only, and damp from
the press. It was pinned up on the green-baize board, between
notices of ponies for sale and fox-terriers missing.
Martyn rose lazily, read it, and whistled. "It's declared!" he
cried. "One, two, three - eight districts go under the operations
of the Famine Code ek dum. They've put Jimmy Hawkins in charge."
"Good business!" said Scott, with the first sign of interest he
had shown. "When in doubt hire a Punjabi. I worked under Jimmy
when I first came out and he belonged to the Punjab. He has more
bundobust than most men."
"Jimmy's a Jubilee Knight now," said Martyn. "He's a good chap,
even though he is a thrice-born civilian and went to the
Benighted Presidency. What unholy names these Madras districts
rejoice in - all ungas or rungas or pillays or polliums!"
A dog-cart drove up in the dusk, and a man entered, mopping his
head. He was editor of the one daily paper at the capital of a
Province of twenty-five million natives and a few hundred white
men: as his staff was limited to himself and one assistant, his
office-hours ran variously from ten to twenty a day.
"Hi, Raines; you're supposed to know everything," said Martyn,
stopping him. "How's this Madras 'scarcity' going to turn out?"
"No one knows as yet. There's a message as long as your arm coming
in on the telephone. I've left my cub to fill it out. Madras has
owned she can't manage it alone, and Jimmy seems to have a free
hand in getting all the men he needs. Arbuthnot's warned to hold
himself in readiness."
"The Peshawur chap. Yes: and the Pi wires that Ellis and Clay
have been moved from the Northwest already, and they've taken
half a dozen Bombay men, too. It's pukka famine, by the looks
"They're nearer the scene of action than we are; but if it comes
to indenting on the Punjab this early, there's more in this than
meets the eye," said Martyn.
"Here to-day and gone to-morrow. 'Didn't come to stay for ever,"
said Scott, dropping one of Marryat's novels, and rising to his
feet. "Martyn, your sister's waiting for you."
A rough grey horse was backing and shifting at the edge of the
verandah, where the light of a kerosene lamp fell on a brown-calico
habit and a white face under a grey-felt hat.
"Right, O!" said Martyn. "I'm ready. Better come and dine with
us, if you've nothing to do, Scott. William, is there any dinner
in the house?"
"I'll go home and see," was the rider's answer. "You can drive
him over - at eight, remember."
Scott moved leisurely to his room, and changed into the evening-dress
of the season and the country: spotless white linen from head to
foot, with a broad silk cummerbund. Dinner at the Martyns' was a
decided improvement on the goat-mutton, twiney-tough fowl, and
tinned entrees of the Club. But it was a great pity that Martyn
could not afford to send his sister to the hills for the hot weather.
As an Acting District Superintendent of Police, Martyn drew the
magnificent pay of six hundred depreciated silver rupees a month,
and his little four-roomed bungalow said just as much. There were
the usual blue-and-white-striped jail-made rugs on the uneven floor;
the usual glass-studded Amritsar phulkaris draped on nails driven
into the flaking whitewash of the walls; the usual half-dozen chairs
that did not match, picked up at sales of dead men's effects; and
the usual streaks of black grease where the leather punka-thong ran
through the wall. It was as though everything had been unpacked
the night before to be repacked next morning. Not a door in the
house was true on its hinges. The little windows, fifteen feet up,
were darkened with wasp-nests, and lizards hunted flies between the
beams of the wood-ceiled roof. But all this was part of Scott's
life. Thus did people live who had such an income; and in a land
where each man's pay, age, and position are printed in a book, that
all may read, it is hardly worth while to play at pretence in word
or deed. Scott counted eight years' service in the Irrigation
Department, and drew eight hundred rupees a month, on the
understanding that if he served the State faithfully for another
twenty-two years he could retire on a pension of some four hundred
rupees a month. His working-life, which had been spent chiefly
under canvas or in temporary shelters where a man could sleep, eat,
and write letters, was bound up with the opening and guarding of
irrigation canals, the handling of two or three thousand workmen of
all castes and creeds, and the payment of vast sums of coined silver.
He had finished that spring, not without credit, the last section
of the great Mosuhl Canal, and - much against his will, for he
hated office-work - had been sent in to serve during the hot
weather on the accounts and supply side of the Department, with
sole charge of the sweltering sub-office at the capital of the
Province. Martyn knew this; William, his sister, knew it; and
everybody knew it. Scott knew, too, as well as the rest of the
world, that Miss Martyn had come out to India four years ago to
keep house for her brother, who, as every one knew, had borrowed
the money to pay for her passage, and that she ought, as all the
world said, to have married at once. In stead of this, she had
refused some half a dozen subalterns, a Civilian twenty years her
senior, one Major, and a man in the Indian Medical Department.
This, too, was common property. She had "stayed down three hot
weathers," as the saying is, because her brother was in debt and
could not afford the expense of her keep at even a cheap
hill-station. Therefore her face was white as bone, and in the
centre of her forehead was a big silvery scar about the size of a
shilling - the mark of a Delhi sore, which is the same as a
"Bagdad date." This comes from drinking bad water, and slowly
eats into the flesh till it is ripe enough to be burned out.
None the less William had enjoyed herself hugely in her four years.
Twice she had been nearly drowned while fording a river; once she
had been run away with on a camel; had witnessed a midnight attack
of thieves on her brother's camp; had seen justice administered,
with long sticks, in the open under trees; could speak Urdu and
even rough Punjabi with a fluency that was envied by her seniors;
had entirely fallen out of the habit of writing to her aunts in
England, or cutting the pages of the English magazines; had been
through a very bad cholera year, seeing sights unfit to be told;
and had wound up her experiences by six weeks of typhoid fever,
during which her head had been shaved and hoped to keep her
twenty-third birthday that September. It is conceivable that the
aunts would not have approved of a girl who never set foot on the
ground if a horse were within hail; who rode to dances with a shawl
thrown over her skirt; who wore her hair cropped and curling all
over her head; who answered indifferently to the name of William
or Bill; whose speech was heavy with the flowers of the vernacular;
who could act in amateur theatricals, play on the banjo, rule eight
servants and two horses, their accounts and their diseases, and
look men slowly and deliberately between the eyes - even after they
had proposed to her and been rejected.
"I like men who do things," she had confided to a man in the
Educational Department, who was teaching the sons of cloth-merchants
and dyers the beauty of Wordsworth's "Excursion" in annotated
cram-books; and when he grew poetical, William explained that she
"didn't understand poetry very much; it made her head ache," and
another broken heart took refuge at the Club. But it was all
William's fault. She delighted in hearing men talk of their own
work, and that is the most fatal way of bringing a man to your feet.
Scott had known her for some three years, meeting her, as a rule,
under canvass, when his camp and her brother's joined for a day
on the edge of the Indian Desert. He had danced with her several
times at the big Christmas gatherings, when as many as five hundred
white people came in to the station; and had always a great respect
for her housekeeping and her dinners.
She looked more like a boy than ever when, the meal ended, she
sat, rolling cigarettes, her low forehead puckered beneath the
dark curls as she twiddled the papers and stuck out her rounded
chin when the tobacco stayed in place, or, with a gesture as
true as a school-boy's throwing a stone, tossed the finished
article across the room to Martyn, who caught it with one hand,
and continued his talk with Scott. It was all "shop," - canals
and the policing of canals; the sins of villagers who stole more
water than they had paid for, and the grosser sin of native
constables who connived at the thefts; of the transplanting
bodily of villages to newly irrigated ground, and of the coming
fight with the desert in the south when the Provincial funds
should warrant the opening of the long-surveyed Luni Protective
Canal System. And Scott spoke openly of his great desire to be
put on one particular section of the work where he knew the land
and the people; and Martyn sighed for a billet in the Himalayan
foot-hills, and said his mind of his superiors, and William
rolled cigarettes and said nothing, but smiled gravely on her
brother because he was happy.
At ten Scott's horse came to the door, and the evening was ended.
The lights of the two low bungalows in which the daily paper was
printed showed bright across the road. It was too early to try
to find sleep, and Scott drifted over to the editor. Raines,
stripped to the waist like a sailor at a gun, lay half asleep in
a long chair, waiting for night telegrams. He had a theory that
if a man did not stay by his work all day and most of the night he
laid himself open to fever: so he ate and slept among his files.
"Can you do it?" be said drowsily. "I didn't mean to bring you
"About what? I've been dining at the Martyns'."
"The Madras famine, of course. Martyn's warned, too. They're
taking men where they can find 'em. I sent a note to you at the
Club just now, asking if you could do us a letter once a week from
the south - between two and three columns, say. Nothing sensational,
of course, but just plain facts about who is doing what, and so
forth. Our regular rates - ten rupees a column."
"'Sorry, but it's out of my line," Scott answered, staring absently
at the map of India on the wall. "It's rough on Martyn - very.
'Wonder what he'll do with his sister? 'Wonder what the deuce
they'll do with me? I've no famine experience. This is the first
I've heard of it. Am I ordered?"
"Oh, yes. Here's the wire. They'll put you on to relief-works,"
Raines said, "with a horde of Madrassis dying like flies; one
native apothecary and half a pint of cholera-mixture among the
ten thousand of you. It comes of your being idle for the moment.
Every man who isn't doing two men's work seems to have been called
upon. Hawkins evidently believes in Punjabis. It's going to be
quite as bad as anything they have had in the last ten years."
"It's all in the day's work, worse luck. I suppose I shall get my
orders officially some time to-morrow. I'm awfully glad I happened
to drop in. Better go and pack my kit now. Who relieves me here
- do you know?"
Raines turned over a sheaf of telegrams. "McEuan," said he, "from
Scott chuckled. "He thought he was going to be cool all summer.
He'll be very sick about this. Well, no good talking. 'Night."
Two hours later, Scott, with a clear conscience, laid himself
down to rest on a string cot in a bare room. Two worn bullock
trunks, a leather water-bottle, a tin ice-box, and his pet saddle
sewed up in sacking were piled at the door, and the Club secretary's
receipt for last month's bill was under his pillow. His orders
came next morning, and with them an unofficial telegram from Sir
James Hawkins; who was not in the habit of forgetting good men when
he had once met them, bidding him report himself with all speed at
some unpronounceable place fifteen hundred miles to the south, for
the famine was sore in the land, and white men were needed.
A pink and fattish youth arrived in the red-hot noonday, whimpering
a little at fate and famines, which never allowed any one three
months' peace. He was Scott's successor - another cog in the
machinery, moved forward behind his fellow whose services, as the
official announcement ran, "were placed at the disposal of the
Madras Government for famine duty until further orders." Scott
handed over the funds in his charge, showed him the coolest corner
in the office, warned him against excess of zeal, and, as twilight
fell, departed from the Club in a hired carriage, with his faithful
body-servant, Faiz Ullah, and a mound of disordered baggage atop,
to catch the southern mail at the loopholed and bastioned
railway-station. The heat from the thick brick walls struck him
across the face as if it had been a hot towel; and he reflected that
there were at least five nights and four days of this travel before
him. Faiz Ullah, used to the chances of service, plunged into the
crowd on the stone platform, while Scott, a black cheroot between
his teeth, waited till his compartment should be set away. A dozen
native policemen, with their rifles and bundles, shouldered into
the press of Punjabi farmers, Sikh craftsmen, and greasy-locked
Afreedee pedlars, escorting with all pomp Martyn's uniform-case,
water-bottles, ice-box, and bedding-roll. They saw Faiz Ullah's
lifted hand, and steered for it.
"My Sahib and your Sahib," said Faiz Ullah to Martyn's man, "will
travel together. Thou and I, O brother, will thus secure the
servants' places close by; and because of our masters' authority
none will dare to disturb us."
When Faiz Ullah reported all things ready, Scott settled down at
full length, coatless and bootless, on the broad leather-covered
bunk. The heat under the iron-arched roof of the station might
have been anything over a hundred degrees. At the last moment
Martyn entered, dripping.
"Don't swear," said Scott, lazily; "it's too late to change your
carriage; and we'll divide the ice."
"What are you doing here?" said the police-man.
"I'm lent to the Madras Government, same as you. By Jove, it's a
bender of a night! Are you taking any of your men down?"
"A dozen. I suppose I shall have to superintend relief
distributions. 'Didn't know you were under orders too."
"I didn't till after I left you last night. Raines had the news
first. My orders came this morning. McEuan relieved me at four,
and I got off at once. 'Shouldn't wonder if it wouldn't be a
good thing - this famine - if we come through it alive."
"Jimmy ought to put you and me to work together," said Martyn;
and then, after a pause: "My sister's here."
"Good business," said Scott, heartily. "Going to get off at Umballa,
I suppose, and go up to Simla. Who'll she stay with there?"
"No-o; that's just the trouble of it. She's going down with me."
Scott sat bolt upright under the oil-lamps as the train jolted
past Tarn-Taran. "What! You don't mean you couldn't afford -"
"'Tain't that. I'd have scraped up the money somehow."
"You might have come to me, to begin with," said Scott, stiffly;
"we aren't altogether strangers."
"Well, you needn't be stuffy about it. I might, but - you don't
know my sister. I've been explaining and exhorting and all the
rest of it all day - lost my temper since seven this morning,
and haven't got it back yet - but she wouldn't hear of any
compromise. A woman's entitled to travel with her husband if she
wants to; and William says she's on the same footing. You see,
we've been together all our lives, more or less, since my people
died. It isn't as if she were an ordinary sister."
"All the sisters I've ever heard of would have stayed where they
were well off."
She's as clever as a man, confound - Martyn went on. "She broke
up the bungalow over my head while I was talking at her. 'Settled
the whole thing in three hours - servants, horses, and all. I
didn't get my orders till nine."
"Jimmy Hawkins won't be pleased," said Scott "A famine's no place
for a woman."
"Mrs. Jim - I mean Lady Jim's in camp with him. At any rate, she
says she will look after my sister. William wired down to her on
her own responsibility, asking if she could come, and knocked the
ground from under me by showing me her answer."
Scott laughed aloud. "If she can do that she can take care of
herself, and Mrs. Jim won't let her run into any mischief. There
aren't many women, sisters or wives, who would walk into a famine
with their eyes open. It isn't as if she didn't know what these
things mean. She was through the Jalo cholera last year."
The train stopped at Amritsar, and Scott went back to the ladies'
compartment, immediately behind their carriage. William, with a
cloth riding-cap on her curls, nodded affably.
"Come in and have some tea," she said. "'Best thing in the world
"Do I look as if I were going to have heat-apoplexy?"
"'Never can tell," said William, wisely. "It's always best to be
She had arranged her compartment with the knowledge of an old
campaigner. A felt-covered water-bottle hung in the draught of
one of the shuttered windows; a tea-set of Russian china, packed
in a wadded basket, stood on the seat; and a travelling
spirit-lamp was clamped against the woodwork above it.
William served them generously, in large cups, hot tea, which
saves the veins of the neck from swelling inopportunely on a hot
night. It was characteristic of the girl that, her plan of action
once settled, she asked for no comments on it. Life among men who
had a great deal of work to do, and very little time to do it in,
had taught her the wisdom of effacing, as well as of fending for,
herself. She did not by word or deed suggest that she would be
useful, comforting, or beautiful in their travels, but continued
about her business serenely: put the cups back without clatter when
tea was ended, and made cigarettes for her guests.
"This time last night," said Scott, "we didn't expect - er - this
kind of thing, did we?"
"I've learned to expect anything," said William. "You know, in
our service, we live at the end of the telegraph; but, of course,
this ought to be a good thing for us all, departmentally - if we
"It knocks us out of the running in our own Province," Scott
replied, with equal gravity. "I hoped to be put on the Luni
Protective Works this cold weather, but there's no saying how
long the famine may keep us."
"Hardly beyond October, I should think," said Martyn. "It will be
ended, one way or the other, then."
"And we've nearly a week of this," said William. "Sha'n't we be
dusty when it's over?"
For a night and a day they knew their surroundings, and for a
night and a day, skirting the edge of the great Indian Desert on
a narrow-gauge railway, they remembered how in the days of their
apprenticeship they had come by that road from Bombay. Then the
languages in which the names of the stations were written changed,
and they launched south into a foreign land, where the very smells
were new. Many long and heavily laden grain-trains were in front
of them, and they could feel the hand of Jimmy Hawkins from far off.
They waited in extemporised sidings while processions of empty
trucks returned to the north, and were coupled on to slow, crawling
trains, and dropped at midnight, Heaven knew where; but it was
furiously hot, and they walked to and fro among sacks, and dogs
howled. Then they came to an India more strange to them than to
the untravelled Englishman - the flat, red India of palm-tree,
palmyra-palm, and rice - the India of the picture-books, of "Little
Harry and His Bearer" - all dead and dry in the baking heat. They
had left the incessant passenger-traffic of the north and west far
and far behind them. Here the people crawled to the side of the
train, holding their little ones in their arms; and a loaded truck
would be left behind, the men and women clustering round it like
ants by spilled honey. Once in the twilight they saw on a dusty
plain a regiment of little brown men, each bearing a body over his
shoulder; and when the train stopped to leave yet another truck,
they perceived that the burdens were not corpses, but only
foodless folk picked up beside dead oxen by a corps of Irregular
troops. Now they met more white men, here one and there two, whose
tents stood close to the line, and who came armed with written
authorities and angry words to cut off a truck. They were too busy
to do more than nod at Scott and Martyn, and stare curiously at
William, who could do nothing except make tea, and watch how her
men staved off the rush of wailing, walking skeletons, putting them
down three at a time in heaps, with their own hands uncoupling the
marked trucks, or taking receipts from the hollow-eyed, weary white
men, who spoke another argot than theirs. They ran out of ice, out
of soda-water, and out of tea; for they were six days and seven
nights on the road, and it seemed to them like seven times seven
At last, in a dry, hot dawn, in a land of death, lit by long red
fires of railway-sleepers, where they were burning the dead, they
came to their destination, and were met by Jim Hawkins, the Head of
the Famine, unshaven, unwashed, but cheery, and entirely in command
Martyn, he decreed then and there, was to live on trains till
further orders; was to go back with empty trucks, filling them with
starving people as he found them, and dropping them at a famine-camp
on the edge of the Eight Districts. He would pick up supplies and
return, and his constables would guard the loaded grain-cars, also
picking up people, and would drop them at a camp a hundred miles
south. Scott - Hawkins was very glad to see Scott again - would
that same hour take charge of a convoy of bullock-carts, and would
go south, feeding as he went, to yet another famine-camp, where he
would leave his starving - there would he no lack of starving on the
route - and wait for orders by telegraph. Generally, Scott was in
all small things to act as he thought best.
William bit her under lip. There was no one in the wide world like
her one brother, but Martyn's orders gave him no discretion.
She came out on the platform, masked with dust from head to foot,
a horse-shoe wrinkle on her forehead, put here by much thinking
during the past week, but as self-possessed as ever. Mrs. Jim -
who should have been Lady Jim but that no one remembered the
title - took possession of her with a little gasp.
"Oh, I'm so glad you're here," she almost sobbed. "You oughtn't
to, of course, but there - there isn't another woman in the
place, and we must help each other, you know; and we've all the
wretched people and the little babies they are selling."
"I've seen some," said William.
"Isn't it ghastly? I've bought twenty; they're in our camp; but
won't you have something to eat first? We've more than ten people
can do here; and I've got a horse for you. Oh, I'm so glad you've
come, dear. You're a Punjabi, too, you know."
"Steady, Lizzie," said Hawkins, over his shoulder. "We'll look
after you, Miss Martyn. 'Sorry I can't ask you to breakfast,
Martyn. You'll have to eat as you go. Leave two of your men to
help Scott. These poor devils can't stand up to load carts.
Saunders" (this to the engine-driver, who was half asleep in the
cab), "back down and get those empties away. You've 'line clear'
to Anundrapillay; they'll give you orders north of that. Scott,
load up your carts from that B. P. P. truck, and be off as soon
as you can. The Eurasian in the pink shirt is your interpreter
and guide. You'll find an apothecary of sorts tied to the yoke of
the second wagon. He's been trying to bolt; you'll have to look
after him. Lizzie, drive Miss Martyn to camp, and tell them to
send the red horse down here for me."
Scott, with Faiz Ullah and two policemen, was already busied with
the carts, backing them up to the truck and unbolting the sideboards
quietly, while the others pitched in the bags of millet and wheat.
Hawkins watched him for as long as it took to fill one cart.
"That's a good man," he said. "If all goes well I shall work him
hard." This was Jim Hawkins's notion of the highest compliment one
human being could pay another.
An hour later Scott was under way; the apothecary threatening him
with the penalties of the law for that he, a member of the
Subordinate Medical Department, had been coerced and bound against
his will and all laws governing the liberty of the subject; the
pink-shirted Eurasian begging leave to see his mother, who happened
to be dying some three miles away: "Only verree, verree short leave
of absence, and will presently return, sar -"; the two constables,
armed with staves, bringing up the rear; and Faiz Ullah, a
Mohammedan's contempt for all Hindoos and foreigners in every line
of his face, explaining to the drivers that though Scott Sahib was
a man to be feared on all fours, he, Faiz Ullah, was Authority
The procession creaked past Hawkins's camp - three stained tents
under a clump of dead trees, behind them the famine-shed, where
a crowd of hopeless ones tossed their arms around the cooking-kettles.
"'Wish to Heaven William had kept out of it," said Scott to himself,
after a glance. "We'll have cholera, sure as a gun, when the Rains
But William seemed to have taken kindly to the operations of the
Famine Code, which, when famine is declared, supersede the workings
of the ordinary law. Scott saw her, the centre of a mob of weeping
women, in a calico riding-habit, and a blue-grey felt hat with a
"I want fifty rupees, please. I forgot to ask Jack before he went
away. Can you lend it me? It's for condensed-milk for the babies,"
Scott took the money from his belt, and handed it over without a
word. "For goodness sake, take care of yourself," he said.
"Oh, I shall be all right. We ought to get the milk in two days.
By the way, the orders are, I was to tell you, that you're to take
one of Sir Jim's horses. There's a grey Cabuli here that I thought
would be just your style, so I've said you'd take him. Was that
"That's awfully good of you. We can't either of us talk much about
style, I am afraid."
Scott was in a weather-stained drill shooting-kit, very white at
the seams and a little frayed at the wrists. William regarded him
thoughtfully, from his pith helmet to his greased ankle-boots.
"You look very nice, I think. Are you sure you've everything
you'll need - quinine, chlorodyne, and so on?"
"'Think so," said Scott, patting three or four of his
shooting-pockets as he mounted and rode alongside his convoy.
"Good-bye," he cried.
"Good-bye, and good luck," said William. "I'm awfully obliged for
the money." She turned on a spurred heel and disappeared into the
tent, while the carts pushed on past the famine-sheds, past the
roaring lines of the thick, fat fires, down to the baked Gehenna
of the South.
So let us melt and make no noise,
No tear-floods nor sigh-tempests move;
'Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the Laity our love.
It was punishing work, even though he travelled by night and camped
by day; but within the limits of his vision there was no man whom
Scott could call master. He was as free as Jimmy Hawkins - freer,
in fact, for the Government held the Head of the Famine tied neatly
to a telegraph-wire, and if Jimmy had ever regarded telegrams