Part 6 out of 18
"By Jove!" he said, at last, shaking his head. "I've been staring at the fire
till I'm dizzy. What was I going to say?"
"Something about the galley."
"I remember now. It's 25 per cent. of the profits, isn't it?"
"It's anything you like when I've done the tale."
"I wanted to be sure of that. I must go now. I've, I've an appointment." And
he left me.
Had my eyes not been held I might have known that that broken muttering over
the fire was the swan-song of Charlie Mears. But I thought it the prelude to
fuller revelation. At last and at last I should cheat the Lords of Life and
When next Charlie came to me I received him with rapture. He was nervous and
embarrassed, but his eyes were very full of light, and his lips a little
"I've done a poem," he said; and then quickly: "it's the best I've ever done.
Read it." He thrust it into my hand and retreated to the window.
I groaned inwardly. It would be the work of half an hour to criticise--that is
to say praise--the poem sufficiently to please Charlie. Then I had good reason
to groan, for Charlie, discarding his favorite centipede metres, had launched
into shorter and choppier verse, and verse with a motive at the back of it.
This is what I read:
"The day is most fair, the cheery wind
Halloos behind the hill,
Where bends the wood as seemeth good,
And the sapling to his will!
Riot O wind; there is that in my blood
That would not have thee still!
"She gave me herself, O Earth, O Sky:
Grey sea, she is mine alone--I
Let the sullen boulders hear my cry,
And rejoice tho' they be but stone!
'Mine! I have won her O good brown earth,
Make merry! 'Tis bard on Spring;
Make merry; my love is doubly worth
All worship your fields can bring!
Let the hind that tills you feel my mirth
At the early harrowing."
"Yes, it's the early harrowing, past a doubt," I said, with a dread at my
heart. Charlie smiled, but did not answer.
"Red cloud of the sunset, tell it abroad;
I am victor. Greet me O Sun,
Dominant master and absolute lord
Over the soul of one!"
"Well?" said Charlie, looking over my shoulder.
I thought it far from well, and very evil indeed, when he silently laid a
photograph on the paper--the photograph of a girl with a curly head, and a
foolish slack mouth.
"Isn't it--isn't it wonderful?" he whispered, pink to the tips of his ears,
wrapped in the rosy mystery of first love. "I didn't know; I didn't think--it
came like a thunderclap."
"Yes. It comes like a thunderclap. Are you very happy, Charlie?"
"My God--she--she loves me!" He sat down repeating the last words to himself.
I looked at the hairless face, the narrow shoulders already bowed by desk-
work, and wondered when, where, and bow he had loved in his past lives.
"What will your mother say?" I asked, cheerfully.
"I don't care a damn what she says."
At twenty the things for which one does not care a damn should, properly, be
many, but one must not include mothers in the list. I told him this gently;
and he described Her, even as Adam must have described to the newly named
beasts the glory and tenderness and beauty of Eve. Incidentally I learned that
She was a tobacconist's assistant with a weakness for pretty dress, and had
told him four or five times already that She had never been kissed by a man
Charlie spoke on, and on, and on; while I, separated from him by thousands of
years, was considering the beginnings of things. Now I understood why the
Lords of Life and Death shut the doors so carefully behind us. It is that we
may not remember our first wooings. Were it not so, our world would be without
inhabitants in a hundred years.
"Now, about that galley-story," I said, still more cheerfully, in a pause in
the rush of the speech.
Charlie looked up as though he had been hit. "The galley--what galley? Good
heavens, don't joke, man! This is serious! You don't know how serious it is!"
Grish Chunder was right. Charlie had tasted the love of woman that kills
remembrance, and the "finest story" in the world would never be written.
* * * * * *
VOLUME IV UNDER THE DEODARS
THE EDUCATION OF OTIS YEERE
In the pleasant orchard-closes
"God bless all our gains," say we;
But "May God bless all our losses,"
Better suits with our degree.
--The Lost Bower.
This is the history of a failure; but the woman who failed said that it might
be an instructive tale to put into print for the benefit of the younger
generation. The younger generation does not want instruction, being perfectly
willing to instruct if any one will listen to it. None the less, here begins
the story where every right-minded story should begin, that is to say at
Simla, where all things begin and many come to an evil end.
The mistake was due to a very clever woman making a blunder and not retrieving
it. Men are licensed to stumble, but a clever woman's mistake is outside the
regular course of Nature and Providence; since all good people know that a
woman is the only infallible thing in this world, except Government Paper of
the '70 issue, bearing interest at four and a half per cent. Yet, we have to
remember that six consecutive days of rehearsing the leading part of The
Fallen Age, at the New Gaiety Theatre where the plaster is not yet properly
dry, might have brought about an unhingement of spirits which, again, might
have led to eccentricities.
Mrs. Hauksbee came to "The Foundry" to tiffin with Mrs. Mallowe, her one bosom
friend, for she was in no sense "a woman's woman." And it was a woman's
tiffin, the door shut to all the world; and they both talked chiffons, which
is French for Mysteries.
"I've enjoyed an interval of sanity," Mrs. Hauksbee announced, after tiffin
was over and the two were comfortably settled in the little writing-room that
opened out of Mrs. Mallowe's bedroom.
"My dear girl, what has he done?" said Mrs. Mallowe, sweetly. It is noticeable
that ladies of a certain age call each other "dear girl," just as
commissioners of twenty-eight years' standing address their equals in the
Civil List as "my boy."
"There's no he in the case. Who am I that an imaginary man should be always
credited to me? Am I an Apache?"
"No, dear, but somebody's scalp is generally drying at your wigwam-door.
This was an allusion to the Hawley Boy, who was in the habit of riding all
across Simla in the Rains, to call on Mrs. Hauksbee. That lady laughed.
"For my sins, the Aide at Tyrconnel last night told me off to The Mussuck.
Hsh! Don't laugh. One of my most devoted admirers. When the duff came--some
one really ought to teach them to make pudding at Tyrconnel--The Mussuck was
at liberty to attend to me."
"Sweet soul! I know his appetite," said Mrs. Mallowe. "Did he, oh did he,
begin his wooing?"
"By a special mercy of Providence, no. He explained his importance as a Pillar
of the Empire. I didn't laugh."
"Lucy, I don't believe you."
"Ask Captain Sangar; he was on the other side. Well, as I was saying, The
"I think I can see him doing it," said Mrs. Mallowe, pensively, scratching her
"I was properly impressed. Most properly. I yawned openly. 'Strict
supervision, and play them off one against the other,' said The Mussuck,
shoveling down his ice by tureenfuls, I assure you. 'That, Mrs. Hauksbee, is
the secret of our Government.'"
Mrs. Mallowe laughed long and merrily. "And what did you say?"
"Did you ever know me at loss for an answer yet? I said: 'So I have observed
in my dealings with you.' The Mussuck swelled with pride. He is coming to call
on me tomorrow. The Hawley Boy is coming too."
"'Strict supervision and play them off one against the other. That, Mrs.
Hauksbee, is the secret of our Government.' And I dare say if we could get to
The Mussuck's heart, we should find that he considers himself a man of the
"As he is of the other two things. I like The Mussuck, and I won't have you
call him names. He amuses me."
"He has reformed you, too, by what appears. Explain the interval of sanity,
and hit Tim on the nose with the paper-cutter, please. That dog is too fond of
sugar. Do you take milk in yours?"
"No, thanks. Polly, I'm wearied of this life. It's hollow."
"Turn religious, then. I always said that Rome would be your fate."
"Only exchanging half a dozen attaches in red for one and in black, and if I
fasted, the wrinkles would come, and never, never go. Has it ever struck you,
dear, that I'm getting old?"
"Thanks for your courtesy. I'll return it. Ye-es we are both not exactly--how
shall I put it?"
"What we have been. 'I feel it in my bones,' as Mrs. Crossley says. Polly,
I've wasted my life."
"Never mind how. I feel it. I want to be a Power before I die."
"Be a Power then. You've wits enough for anything--and beauty?"
Mrs. Hauksbee pointed a teaspoon straight at her hostess. "Polly, if you heap
compliments on me like this, I shall cease to believe that you're a woman.
Tell me how I am to be a Power."
"Inform The Mussuck that he is the most fascinating and slimmest man in Asia,
and he'll tell you anything and everything you please."
"Bother The Mussuck! I mean an intellectual Power--not a gas-power. Polly, I'm
going to start a salon."
Mrs. Mallowe turned lazily on the sofa and rested her head on her hand. "Hear
the words of the Preacher, the son of Baruch," she said.
"Will you talk sensibly?"
"I will, dear, for I see that you are going to make a mistake."
"I never made a mistake in my life at least, never one that I couldn't explain
"Going to make a mistake," went on Mrs. Mallowe, composedly. "It is impossible
to start a salon in Simla. A bar would be much more to the point."
"Perhaps, but why? It seems so easy."
"Just what makes it so difficult. How many clever women are there in Simla?"
"Myself and yourself," said Mrs. Hauksbee, without a moment's hesitation.
"Modest woman! Mrs. Feardon would thank you for that. And how many clever
"Oh--er--hundreds," said Mrs. Hauksbee, vaguely.
"What a fatal blunder! Not one. They are all bespoke of the Government. Take
my husband, for instance. Jack was a clever man, though I say so who
shouldn't. Government has eaten him up. All his ideas and powers of
conversation--he really used to be a good talker, even to his wife, in the old
days--are taken from him by this--this kitchen-sink of a Government. That's
the case with every man up here who is at work. I don't suppose a Russian
convict under the knout is able to amuse the rest of his gang; and all our
men-folk here are gilded convicts."
"But there are scores--"
"I know what you're going to say. Scores of idle men up on leave. I admit it,
but they are all of two objectionable sets, The Civilian who'd be delightful
if he had the military man's knowledge of the world and style, and the
military man who'd be adorable if lie had the Civilian's culture."
"Detestable word! Have Civilians Culchaw? I never studied the breed deeply."
"Don't make fun of Jack's service. Yes. They're like the teapots in the Lakka
Bazar--good material but not polished. They can't help themselves, poor dears.
A Civilian only begins to be tolerable after he has knocked about the world
for fifteen years."
"And a military man?"
"When he has had the same amount of service. The young of both species are
horrible. You would have scores of them in your salon."
"I would not!" said Mrs. Hauksbee, fiercely. "I would tell the bearer to
darwaza band them. I'd put their own colonels and commissioners at the door to
turn them away. I'd give them to the Topsham girl to play with."
"The Topsham girl would be grateful for the gift. But to go back to the salon.
Allowing that you had gathered all your men and women together, what would you
do with them? Make them talk? They would all with one accord begin to flirt.
Your salon would become a glorified Peliti's--a 'Scandal Point' by lamplight."
"There's a certain amount of wisdom in that view."
"There's all the wisdom in the world in it. Surely, twelve Simla seasons ought
to have taught you that you can't focus anything in India; and a salon, to be
any good at all, must be permanent. In two seasons your roomful would be
scattered all over Asia. We are only little bits of dirt on the hillsides--
here one day and blown down the khud the next. We have lost the art of
talking--at least our men have. We have no cohesion"--
"George Eliot in the flesh," interpolated Mrs. Hauksbee, wickedly.
"And collectively, my dear scoffer, we, men and women alike, have no
"Come into the veranda and look at the Mall!"
The two looked down on the now rapidly filling road, for all Simla was abroad
to steal a stroll between a shower and a fog.
"How do you propose to fix that river? Look! There's The Mussuck--head of
goodness knows what. He is a power in the land, though he does eat like a
costermonger. There's Colonel Blone, and General Grucher, and Sir Dugald
Delane, and Sir Henry Haughton, and Mr. Jellalatty. All Heads of Departments,
and all powerful."
"And all my fervent admirers," said Mrs. Hauksbee, piously. "Sir Henry
Haughton raves about me. But go on."
"One by one, these men are worth something. Collectively, they're just a mob
of Anglo-Indians. Who cares for what Anglo-Indians say? Your salon won't weld
the Departments together and make you mistress of India, dear. And these
creatures won't talk administrative 'shop' in a crowd--your salon--because
they are so afraid of the men in the lower ranks overhearing it. They have
forgotten what of Literature and Art they ever knew, and the women"--
"Can't talk about anything except the last Gymkhana, or the sins of their last
nurse. I was calling on Mrs. Derwills this morning."
"You admit that? They can talk to the subalterns though, and the subalterns
can talk to them. Your salon would suit their views admirably, if you
respected the religious prejudices of the country and provided plenty of kala
"Plenty of kala juggahs. Oh my poor little idea! Kala juggahs in a salon! But
who made you so awfully clever?"
"Perhaps I've tried myself; or perhaps I know a woman who has. I have preached
and expounded the whole matter and the conclusion thereof"--
"You needn't go on. 'Is Vanity.' Polly, I thank you. These vermin--" Mrs.
Hauksbee waved her hand from the veranda to two men in the crowd below who had
raised their hats to her--"these vermin shall not rejoice in a new Scandal
Point or an extra Peliti's. I will abandon the notion of a salon. It did seem
so tempting, though. But what shall I do? I must do something."
"Why? Are not Abana and Pharphar"--
"Jack has made you nearly as bad as himself! I want to, of course. I'm tired
of everything and everybody, from a moonlight picnic at Seepee to the
blandishments of The Mussuck."
"Yes--that comes, too, sooner or later, Have you nerve enough to make your bow
Mrs. Hauksbee's mouth shut grimly. Then she laughed. "I think I see myself
doing it. Big pink placards on the Mall: 'Mrs. Hauksbee! Positively her last
appearance on any stage! This is to give notice!' No more dances; no more
rides; no more luncheons; no more theatricals with supper to follow; no more
sparring with one's dearest, dearest friend; no more fencing with an
inconvenient man who hasn't wit enough to clothe what he's pleased to call his
sentiments in passable speech; no more parading of The Mussuck while Mrs.
Tarkass calls all round Simla, spreading horrible stories about me? No more of
anything that is thoroughly wearying, abominable and detestable, but, all the
same, makes life worth the having. Yes! I see it all! Don't interrupt, Polly,
I'm inspired. A mauve and white striped 'cloud' round my excellent shoulders,
a seat in the fifth row of the Gaiety, and both horses sold. Delightful
vision! A comfortable armchair, situated in three different draughts, at every
ballroom; and nice, large, sensible shoes for all the couples to stumble over
as they go into the veranda! Then at supper. Can't you imagine the scene? The
greedy mob gone away. Reluctant subaltern, pink all over like a newly-powdered
baby--they really ought to tan subalterns before they are exported--Polly--
sent back by the hostess to do his duty. Slouches up to me across the room,
tugging at a glove two sizes too large for him--I hate a man who wears gloves
like overcoats--and trying to look as if he'd thought of it from the first.
'May I ah--have the pleasure 'f takin' you 'nt' supper?' Then I get up with a
hungry smile. Just like this."
"Lucy, how can you be so absurd?"
"And sweep out on his arm. So! After supper I shall go away early, you know,
because I shall be afraid of catching cold. No one will look for my 'rickshaw.
Mine, so please you! I shall stand, always with that mauve and white 'cloud'
over my head, while the wet soaks into my dear, old, venerable feet and Tom
swears and shouts for the mem-sahib's gharri. Then home to bed at half-past
eleven! Truly excellent life helped out by the visits of the Padri, just fresh
from burying somebody down below there." She pointed through the pines, toward
the Cemetery, and continued with vigorous dramatic gesture--"Listen! I see it
all down, down even to the stays! Such stays! Six-eight a pair, Polly, with
red flannel--or list is it?--that they put into the tops of those fearful
things. I can draw you a picture of them."
"Lucy, for Heaven's sake, don't go waving your arms about in that idiotic
manner! Recollect, every one can see you from the Mall."
"Let them see! They'll think I am rehearsing for The Fallen Angel. Look!
There's The Mussuck. How badly he rides. There!"
She blew a kiss to the venerable Indian administrator with infinite grace.
"Now," she continued, "he'll be chaffed about that at the Club in the delicate
manner those brutes of men affect, and the Hawley Boy will tell me all about
it--softening the details for fear of shocking me. That boy is too good to
live, Polly. I've serious thoughts of recommending him to throw up his
Commission and go into the Church. In his present frame of mind he would obey
me. Happy, happy child."
"Never again," said Mrs. Mallowe, with an affectation of indignation, "shall
you tiffin here! 'Lucindy, your behavior is scand'lus.'"
"All your fault," retorted Mrs. Hauksbee, "for suggesting such a thing as my
abdication. No! Jamais--nevaire! I will act, dance, ride, frivol, talk
scandal, dine out, and appropriate the legitimate captives of any woman I
choose until I d-r-r-rop or a better woman than I puts me to shame before all
Simla--and it's dust and ashes in my mouth while I'm doing it!"
She swept into the drawing-room, Mrs. Mallowe followed and put an arm round
"I'm not!" said Mrs. Hauksbee, defiantly, rummaging for her handkerchief.
"I've been dining out the last ten nights, and rehearsing in the afternoon.
You'd be tired yourself. It's only because I'm tired."
Mrs. Mallowe did not offer Mrs. Hauksbee any pity or ask her to lie down, but
gave her another cup of tea, and went on with the talk.
"I've been through that too, dear," she said.
"I remember," said Mrs. Hauksbee, a gleam of fun on her face. "In '84 wasn't
it? You went out a great deal less next season."
Mrs. Mallowe smiled in a superior and Sphinxlike fashion.
"I became an Influence," said she.
"Good gracious, child, you didn't join the Theosophists and kiss Buddha's big
toe, did you? I tried to get into their set once, but they cast me out for a
skeptic--without a chance of improving my poor little mind, too."
"No, I didn't Theosophilander. Jack says"--
"Never mind Jack. What a husband says is known before. What did you do?"
"I made a lasting impression."
"So have I--for four months. But that didn't console me in the least. I hated
the man. Will you stop smiling in that inscrutable way and tell me what you
Mrs. Mallowe told.
* * * * * *
"And--you--mean--to--say that it is absolutely Platonic on both sides?"
"Absolutely, or I should never have taken it up."
"And his last promotion was due to you?"
Mrs. Mallowe nodded.
"And you warned him against the Topsham girl?"
"And told him of Sir Dugald Delane's private memo about him?"
A third nod.
"What a question to ask a woman! Because it amused me at first. I am proud of
my property now. If I live he shall continue to be successful. Yes, I will put
him upon the straight road to Knighthood, and everything else that a man
values. The rest depends upon himself."
"Polly, you are a most extraordinary woman."
"Not in the least. I'm concentrated, that's all. You diffuse yourself, dear;
and though all Simla knows your skill in managing a team"--
"Can't you choose a prettier word?"
"Team, of half a dozen, from The Mussuck to the Hawley Boy, you gain nothing
by it. Not even amusement."
"Try my recipe. Take a man, not a boy, mind, but an almost mature, unattached
man, and be this guide, philosopher, and friend. You'll find it the most
interesting occupation that you ever embarked on. It can be done--you needn't
look like that--because I've done it."
"There's an element of risk about it that makes the notion attractive. I'll
get such a man and say to him, 'Now, understand that there must be no
flirtation. Do exactly what I tell you, profit by my instruction and counsels,
and all will yet be well,' as Toole says. Is that the idea?"
"More or less," said Mrs. Mallowe with an unfathomable smile. "But be sure he
understands that there must be no flirtation."
What a lot of raw dust!
My dollie's had an accident
And out came all the sawdust!
So Mrs. Hauksbee, in "The Foundry" which overlooks Simla Mall, sat at the feet
of Mrs. Mallowe and gathered wisdom. The end of the Conference was the Great
Idea upon which Mrs. Hauksbee so plumed herself.
"I warn you," said Mrs. Mallowe, beginning to repent of her suggestion, "that
the matter is not half so easy as it looks. Any woman--even the Topsham girl--
can catch a man, but very, very few know how to manage him when caught."
"My child," was the answer, "I've been a female St. Simon Stylites looking
down upon men for these--these years past. Ask The Mussuck whether I can
Mrs. Hauksbee departed humming, "I'll go to him and say to him in manner most
ironical." Mrs. Mallowe laughed to herself. Then she grew suddenly sober. "I
wonder whether I've done well in advising that amusement? Lucy's a clever
woman, but a thought too careless."
A week later, the two met at a Monday Pop. "Well?" said Mrs. Mallowe.
"I've caught him!" said Mrs. Hauksbee; her eyes were dancing with merriment.
"Who is it, mad woman? I'm sorry I ever spoke to you about it."
"Look between the pillars. In the third row; fourth from the end. You can see
his face now. Look!"
"Otis Yeere! Of all the improbable and impossible people! I don't believe
"Hsh! Wait till Mrs. Tarkass begins murdering Milton Wellings; and I'll tell
you all about it. S-s-ss! That woman's voice always reminds me of an
Underground train coming into Earl's Court with the brakes on. Now listen. It
is really Otis Yeere."
"So I see, but does it follow that he is your property?"
"He is! By right of trove. I found him, lonely and unbefriended, the very next
night after our talk, at the Dugald Delane's burra-khana. I liked his eyes,
and I talked to him. Next day he called. Next day we went for a ride together,
and today he's tied to my 'rickshaw-wheels hand and foot. You'll see when the
concert's over. He doesn't know I'm here yet."
"Thank goodness you haven't chosen a boy. What are you going to do with him,
assuming that you've got him?"
"Assuming, indeed! Does a woman--do I--ever make a mistake in that sort of
thing? First"--Mrs. Hauksbee ticked off the items ostentatiously on her little
gloved fingers--"First, my dear, I shall dress him properly. At present his
raiment is a disgrace, and he wears a dress shirt like a crumpled sheet of the
'Pioneer'. Secondly, after I have made him presentable, I shall form his
manners--his morals are above reproach."
"You seem to have discovered a great deal about him considering the shortness
of your acquaintance."
"Surely you ought to know that the first proof a man gives of his interest in
a woman is by talking to her about his own sweet self. If the woman listens
without yawning, he begins to like her. If she flatters the animal's vanity,
he ends by adoring her."
"In some cases."
"Never mind the exceptions. I know which one you are thinking of. Thirdly, and
lastly, after he is polished and made pretty, I shall, as you said, be his
guide, philosopher and friend, and he shall become a success--as great a
success as your friend. I always wondered how that man got on. Did The Mussuck
come to you with the Civil List and, dropping on one knee--no, two knees, a'
la Gibbon--hand it to you and say, 'Adorable angel, choose your friend's
"Lucy, your long experiences of the Military Department have demoralized you.
One doesn't do that sort of thing on the Civil Side."
"No disrespect meant to Jack's Service, my dear. I only asked for information.
Give me three months, and see what changes I shall work in my prey."
"Go your own way since you must. But I'm sorry that I was weak enough to
suggest the amusement."
"'I am all discretion, and may be trusted to an in-finite extent,'" quoted
Mrs. Hauksbee from The Fallen Angel; and the conversation ceased with Mrs.
Tarkass's last, long-drawn war-whoop.
Her bitterest enemies--and she had many--could hardly accuse Mrs. Hauksbee of
wasting her time. Otis Yeere was one of those wandering "dumb" characters,
foredoomed through life to be nobody's property. Ten years in Her Majesty's
Bengal Civil Service, spent, for the most part, in undesirable Districts, had
given him little to be proud of, and nothing to bring confidence. Old enough
to have lost the first fine careless rapture that showers on the immature
'Stunt imaginary Commissionerships and Stars, and sends him into the collar
with coltish earnestness and abandon; too young to be yet able to look back
upon the progress he had made, and thank Providence that under the conditions
of the day he had come even so far, he stood upon the "dead-centre" of his
career. And when a man stands still, he feels the slightest impulse from
without. Fortune had ruled that Otis Yeere should be, for the first part of
his service, one of the rank and file who are ground up in the wheels of the
Administration; losing heart and soul, and mind and strength, in the process.
Until steam replaces manual power in the working of the Empire, there must
always be this percentage--must always be the men who are used up, expended,
in the mere mechanical routine. For these promotion is far off and the mill-
grind of every day very near and instant. The Secretariats know them only by
name; they are not the picked men of the Districts with the Divisions and
Collectorates awaiting them. They are simply the rank and file--the food for
fever--sharing with the ryot and the plough-bullock the honor of being the
plinth on which the State rests. The older ones have lost their aspirations;
the younger are putting theirs aside with a sigh. Both learn to endure
patiently until the end of the day. Twelve years in the rank and file, men
say, will sap the hearts of the bravest and dull the wits of the most keen.
Out of this life Otis Yeere had fled for a few months, drifting, for the sake
of a little masculine society, into Simla. When his leave was over he would
return to his swampy, sour-green, undermanned district, the native Assistant,
the native Doctor, the native Magistrate, the steaming, sweltering Station,
the ill-kempt City, and the undisguised insolence of the Municipality that
babbled away the lives of men. Life was cheap, however. The soil spawned
humanity, as it bred frogs in the Rains, and the gap of the sickness of one
season was filled to overflowing by the fecundity of the next. Otis was
unfeignedly thankful to lay down his work for a little while and escape from
the seething, whining, weakly hive, impotent to help itself, but strong in its
power to cripple, thwart, and annoy the weary-eyed man who, by official irony,
was said to be "in charge" of it.
* * * * * *
"I knew there were women-dowdies in Bengal. They come up here sometimes. But I
didn't know that there were men-dowdies, too."
Then, for the first time, it occurred to Otis Yeere that his clothes were
rather ancestral in appearance. It will be seen from the above that his
friendship with Mrs Hauksbee had made great strides.
As that lady truthfully says, a man is never so happy as when he is talking
about himself. From Otis Yeere's lips Mrs Hauksbee, before long, learned
everything that she wished to know about the subject of her experiment;
learned what manner of life he had led in what she vaguely called "those awful
cholera districts"; learned too, but this knowledge came later, what manner of
life he had purposed to lead and what dreams he had dreamed in the year of
grace '77, before the reality had knocked the heart out of him. Very pleasant
are the shady bridle-paths round Prospect Hill for the telling of such
"Not yet," said Mrs. Hauksbee to Mrs. Mallowe. "Not yet. I must wait until the
man is properly dressed, at least. Great Heavens, is it possible that he
doesn't know what an honor it is to be taken up by Me!"
Mrs. Hauksbee did not reckon false modesty as one of her failings.
"Always with Mrs. Hauksbee!" murmured Mrs. Mallowe, with her sweetest smile,
to Otis. "Oh you men, you men! Here are our Punjabis growling because you've
monopolized the nicest woman in Simla. They'll tear you to pieces on the Mall,
some day, Mr. Yeere."
Mrs. Mallowe rattled down-hill, having satisfied herself, by a glance through
the fringe of her sunshade, of the effect of her words.
The shot went home. Of a surety Otis Yeere was somebody in this bewildering
whirl of Simla--had monopolized the nicest woman in it and the Punjabis were
growling. The notion justified a mild glow of vanity. He had never looked upon
his acquaintance with Mrs. Hauksbee as a matter for general interest.
The knowledge of envy was a pleasant feeling to the man of no account. It was
intensified later in the day when a luncher at the Club said, spitefully,
"Well, for a debilitated Ditcher, Yeere, you are going it. Hasn't any kind
friend told you that she's the most dangerous woman in Simla?"
Yeere chuckled and passed out. When, oh when, would his new clothes be ready?
He descended into the Mall to inquire; and Mrs. Hauksbee, coming over the
Church Ridge in her 'rickshaw, looked down upon him approvingly. "He's
learning to carry himself as if he were a man, instead of a piece of
furniture, and"--she screwed up her eyes to see the better through the
sunlight--"he is a man when he holds himself like that. Oh blessed Conceit,
what should we be without you?"
With the new clothes came a new stock of self-confidence. Otis Yeere
discovered that he could enter a room without breaking into a gentle
perspiration--could cross one, even to talk to Mrs. Hauksbee, as though rooms
were meant to be crossed. He was for the first time in nine years proud of
himself, and contented with his life, satisfied with his new clothes, and
rejoicing in the friendship of Mrs. Hauksbee.
"Conceit is what the poor fellow wants," she said in confidence to Mrs.
Mallowe. "I believe they must use Civilians to plough the fields with in Lower
Bengal. You see I have to begin from the very beginning--haven't I? But you'll
admit, won't you, dear, that he is immensely improved since I took him in
hand. Only give me a little more time and he won't know himself."
Indeed, Yeere was rapidly beginning to forget what he had been. One of his own
rank and file put the matter brutally when he asked Yeere, in reference to
nothing, "And who has been making you a Member of Council, lately? You carry
the side of half a dozen of 'em."
"I--I'm awf'ly sorry. I didn't mean it, you know," said Yeere, apologetically.
"There'll be no holding you," continued the old stager, grimly. "Climb down,
Otis--climb down, and get all that beastly affectation knocked out of you with
fever! Three thousand a month wouldn't support it."
Yeere repeated the incident to Mrs. Hauksbee. He had come to look upon her as
his Mother Confessor.
"And you apologized!" she said. "Oh, shame! I hate a man who apologizes. Never
apologize for what your friend called 'side.' Never! It's a man's business to
be insolent and overbearing until he meets with a stronger. Now, you bad boy,
listen to me."
Simply and straightforwardly, as the 'rickshaw loitered round Jakko, Mrs.
Hauksbee preached to Otis Yeere the Great Gospel of Conceit, illustrating it
with living pictures encountered during their Sunday afternoon stroll.
"Good gracious!" she ended, with the personal argument, "you'll apologize next
for being my attache?"
"Never!" said Otis Yeere. "That's another thing altogether. I shall always
"What's coming?" thought Mrs. Hauksbee.
"Proud of that," said Otis.
"Safe for the present," she said to herself.
"But I'm afraid I have grown conceited. Like Jeshurun, you know. When he waxed
fat, then he kicked. It's the having no worry on one's mind and the Hill air,
"Hill air, indeed!" said Mrs. Hauksbee to herself. "He'd have been hiding in
the Club till the last day of his leave, if I hadn't discovered him." And
aloud--"Why shouldn't you be? You have every right to."
"Oh, hundreds of things. I'm not going to waste this lovely afternoon by
explaining; but I know you have. What was that heap of manuscript you showed
me about the grammar of the aboriginal--what's their names?"
"Gullals. A piece of nonsense. I've far too much work to do to bother over
Gullals now. You should see my District. Come down with your husband some day
and I'll show you round. Such a lovely place in the Rains! A sheet of water
with the railway-embankment and the snakes sticking out, and, in the summer,
green flies and green squash. The people would die of fear if you shook a
dogwhip at 'em. But they know you're forbidden to do that, so they conspire to
make your life a burden to you. My District's worked by some man at Darjiling,
on the strength of u native pleader's false reports. Oh, it's a heavenly
Otis Yeere laughed bitterly.
"There's not the least necessity that you should stay in it. Why do you?"
"Because I must. How'm I to get out of it?"
"How! In a hundred and fifty ways. If there weren't so many people on the
road, I'd like to box your ears. Ask, my dear boy, ask! Look, There is young
Hexarly with six years' service and half your talents. He asked for what he
wanted, and he got it. See, down by the Convent! There's McArthurson who has
come to his present position by asking--sheer, downright asking--after he had
pushed himself out of the rank and file. One man is as good as another in your
service--believe me. I've seen Simla for more seasons than I care to think
about. Do you suppose men are chosen for appointments because of their special
fitness beforehand? You have all passed a high test--what do you call it?--in
the beginning, and, except for the few who have gone altogether to the bad,
you can all work hard. Asking does the rest. Call it cheek, call it insolence,
call it anything you like, but ask! Men argue--yes, I know what men say--that
a man, by the mere audacity of his request, must have some good in him. A weak
man doesn't say: 'Give me this and that.' He whines 'Why haven't I been given
this and that?' If you were in the Army, I should say learn to spin plates or
play a tambourine with your toes. As it is--ask! You belong to a Service that
ought to be able to command the Channel Fleet, or set a leg at twenty minutes'
notice, and yet you hesitate over asking to escape from a squashy green
district where you admit you are not master. Drop the Bengal Government
altogether. Even Darjiling is a little out-of-the-way hole. I was there once,
and the rents were extortionate. Assert yourself. Get the Government of India
to take you over. Try to get on the Frontier, where every man has a grand
chance if he can trust himself. Go somewhere! Do something! You have twice the
wits and three times the presence of the men up here, and, and"--
Mrs. Hauksbee paused for breath; then continued--"and in any way you look at
it, you ought to. You who could go so far!"
"I don't know," said Yeere, rather taken aback by the unexpected eloquence. "1
haven't such a good opinion of myself."
It was not strictly Platonic, hut it was Policy. Mrs. Hauksbee laid her hand
lightly upon the ungloved paw that rested on the turned-back 'rickshaw hood,
and, looking the man full in the face, said tenderly, almost too tenderly, 'I
believe in you if you mistrust yourself. Is that enough, my friend?"
"It is enough," answered Otis, very solemnly.
He was silent for a long time, redreaming the dreams that he had dreamed eight
years ago, but through them all ran, as sheet-lightning through golden cloud,
the light of Mrs. Hauksbee's violet eyes.
Curious and impenetrable are the mazes of Simla life--the only existence in
this desolate land worth the living. Gradually it went abroad among men and
women, in the pauses between dance, play and Gymkhana, that Otis Yeere, the
man with the newly-lit light of self-confidence in his eyes, had "done
something decent" in the wilds whence he came. He had brought an erring
Municipality to reason, appropriated the funds on his own responsibility, and
saved the lives of hundreds, He knew more about the Gullals than any living
man. Had a vast knowledge of the aboriginal tribes; was, in spite of his
juniority, the greatest authority on the aboriginal Gullals. No one quite knew
who or what the Gullals were till The Mussuck, who had been calling on Mrs.
Hauksbee, and prided himself upon picking people's brains, explained they were
a tribe of ferocious hillmen, somewhere near Sikkim, whose friendship even the
Great Indian Empire would find it worth her while to secure. Now we know that
Otis Yeere had showed Mrs. Hauksbee his MS notes of six years' standing on the
same Gullals. He had told her, too, how, sick and shaken with the fever their
negligence had bred, crippled by the loss of his pet clerk, and savagely angry
at the desolation in his charge, he had once damned the collective eyes of his
"intelligent local board" for a set of haramzadas. Which act of "brutal and
tyrannous oppression" won him a Reprimand Royal from the Bengal Government;
but in the anecdote as amended for Northern consumption we find no record of
this. Hence we are forced to conclude that Mrs. Hauksbee "edited" his
reminiscences before sowing them in idle ears, ready, as she well knew, to
exaggerate good or evil. And Otis Yeere bore himself as befitted the hero of
"You can talk to me when you don't fall into a brown study. Talk now, and talk
your brightest and best," said Mrs. Hauksbee.
Otis needed no spur. Look to a man who has the counsel of a woman of or above
the world to back him. So long as he keeps his head, he can meet both sexes on
equal ground--an advantage never intended by Providence, who fashioned Man on
one day and Woman on another, in sign that neither should know more than a
very little of the other's life. Such a man goes far, or, the counsel being
withdrawn, collapses suddenly while his world seeks the reason.
Generalled by Mrs. Hauksbee who, again, had all Mrs. Mallowe's wisdom at her
disposal, proud of himself and, in the end, believing in himself because he
was believed in, Otis Yeere stood ready for any fortune that might befall,
certain that it would be good. He would fight for his own hand, and intended
that this second struggle should lead to better issue than the first helpless
surrender of the bewildered 'Stunt.
What might have happened, it is impossible to say. This lamentable thing
befell, bred directly by a statement of Mrs. Hauksbee that she would spend the
next season in Darjiling.
"Are you certain of that?" said Otis Yeere.
"Quite. We're writing about a house now.
Otis Yeere "stopped dead," as Mrs. Hauksbee put it in discussing the relapse
with Mrs. Mallowe.
"He has behaved," she said, angrily, "just like Captain Kerrington's pony--
only Otis is a donkey--at the last Gymkhana. Planted his forefeet and refused
to go on another step. Polly, my man's going to disappoint me. What shall I
As a rule, Mrs. Mallowe does not approve of staring, but on this occasion she
opened her eyes to the utmost.
"You have managed cleverly so far," she said. "Speak to him, and ask him what
'I will--at tonight's dance."
"No-o, not at a dance," said Mrs. Mallowe, cautiously. "Men are never
themselves quite at dances. Better wait till tomorrow morning."
"Nonsense. If he's going to revert in this insane way, there isn't a day to
lose. Are you going? No? Then sit up for me, there's a dear. I shan't stay
longer than supper under any circumstances."
Mrs. Mallowe waited through the evening, looking long and earnestly into the
fire, and sometimes smiling to herself.
* * * *
"Oh! oh! oh! The man's an idiot! A raving, positive idiot! I'm sorry I ever
Mrs. Hauksbee burst into Mrs. Mallowe's house, at midnight, almost in tears.
"What in the world has happened?" said Mrs. Mallowe, but her eyes showed that
she had guessed an answer.
"Happened! Everything has happened! He was there. I went to him and said,
'Now, what does this nonsense mean?' Don't laugh, dear, I can't bear it. But
you know what I mean I said. Then it was a square, and I sat it out with him
and wanted an explanation, and he said--Oh! I haven't patience with such
idiots! You know what I said about going to Darjiling next year? It doesn't
matter to me where I go. I'd have changed the Station and lost the rent to
have saved this. He said, in so many words, that he wasn't going to try to
work up any more, because--because he would be shifted into a province away
from Darjiling, and his own District, where these creatures are, is within a
"Ah-hh!" said Mrs. Mallowe, in a tone of one who has successfully tracked an
obscure word through a large dictionary.
"Did you ever hear of anything so mad--so absurd? And he had the ball at his
feet. He had only to kick it! I would have made him anything! Anything in the
wide world. He could have gone to the world's end. I would have helped him. I
made him, didn't I, Polly? Didn't I create that man? Doesn't he owe everything
to me? And to reward me, just when everything was nicely arranged, by this
lunacy that spoiled everything!"
"Very few men understand your devotion thoroughly."
"Oh, Polly, don't laugh at me! I give men up from this hour. I could have
killed him then and there. What right had this man--this Thing I had picked
out of his filthy paddy-fields--to make love to me?"
"He did that, did he?"
"He did. I don't remember half he said, I was so angry. Oh, but such a funny
thing happened! I can't help laughing at it now, though I felt nearly ready to
cry with rage. He raved and I stormed--I'm afraid we must have made an awful
noise in our kala juggah. Protect my character, dear, if it's all over Simla
by tomorrow--and then he bobbed forward in the middle of this insanity--I
firmly believe the man's demented--and kissed me!"
"Morals above reproach," purred Mrs. Mallowe.
"So they were--so they are! It was the most absurd kiss. I don't believe he'd
ever kissed a woman in his life before. I threw my head back, and it was a
sort of slidy, pecking dab, just on the end of the chin--here." Mrs. Hauksbee
tapped her masculine little chin with her fan. "Then, of course, I was
furiously angry, and told him that he was no gentleman, and I was sorry I'd
ever met him, and so on. He was crushed so easily that I couldn't be very
angry. Then I came away straight to you."
"Was this before or after supper?"
"Oh! before--oceans before. Isn't it perfectly disgusting?"
"Let me think. I withhold judgment till tomorrow. Morning brings counsel."
But morning brought only a servant with a dainty bouquet of Annandale roses
for Mrs. Hauksbee to wear at the dance at Viceregal Lodge that night.
"He doesn't seem to be very penitent," said Mrs. Mallowe. "What's the billet-
doux in the centre?"
Mrs. Hauksbee opened the neatly folded note,--another accomplishment that she
had taught Otis,--read it, and groaned tragically.
"Last wreck of a feeble intellect! Poetry! Is it his own, do you think? Oh,
that I ever built my hopes on such a maudlin idiot!"
"No. It's a quotation from Mrs. Browning, and, in view of the facts of the
case, as Jack says, uncommonly well chosen. Listen:
"'Sweet thou has trod on a heart--
Pass! There's a world full of men
And women as fair as thou art,
Must do such things now and then.
"'Thou only hast stepped unaware--
Malice not one can impute;
And why should a heart have been there,
In the way of a fair woman's foot?'
"I didn't--I didn't--I didn't! " said Mrs. Hauksbee, angrily, her eyes filling
with tears; "there was no malice at all. Oh, it's too vexatious!"
"You've misunderstood the compliment," said Mrs. Mallowe. "He clears you
completely and--ahem--I should think by this, that he has cleared completely
too. My experience of men is that when they begin to quote poetry, they are
going to flit. Like swans singing before they die, you know."
'Polly, you take my sorrows in a most unfeeling way."
"Do I?" Is it so terrible? If he's hurt your vanity, I should say that you've
done a certain amount of damage to his heart."
"Oh, you never can tell about a man! said Mrs. Hauksbee, with deep scorn.
* * * * *
Reviewing the matter as an impartial outsider, it strikes me that I'm about
the only person who has profited by the education of Otis Yeere. It comes to
twenty-seven pages and bittock.
AT THE PIT'S MOUTH
Men say it was a stolen tide--
The Lord that sent it he knows all,
But in mine ear will aye abide
The message that the bells let fall,
And awesome bells they were to me,
That in the dark rang, "Enderby."
Once upon a time there was a man and his Wife and a Tertium Quid.
All three were unwise, but the Wife was the unwisest. The Man should have
looked after his Wife, who should have avoided the Tertium Quid, who, again,
should have married a wife of his own, after clean and open flirtations, to
which nobody can possibly object, round Jakko or Observatory Hill. When you
see a young man with his pony in a white lather, and his hat on the back of
his head flying down-hill at fifteen miles an hour to meet a girl who will be
properly surprised to meet him, you naturally approve of that young man, and
wish him Staff Appointments, and take an interest in his welfare, and, as the
proper time comes, give them sugar-tongs or side-saddles, according to your
means and generosity.
The Tertium Quid flew down-hill on horseback, but it was to meet the Man's
Wife; and when he flew up-hill it was for the same end. The Man was in the
Plains, earning money for his Wife to spend on dresses and four-hundred-rupee
bracelets, and inexpensive luxuries of that kind. He worked very hard, and
sent her a letter or a post-card daily. She also wrote to him daily, and said
that she was longing for him to come up to Simla. The Tertium Quid used to
lean over her shoulder and laugh as she wrote the notes. Then the two would
ride to the Post Office together.
Now, Simla is a strange place and its customs are peculiar; nor is any man who
has not spent at least ten seasons there qualified to pass judgment on
circumstantial evidence. which is the most untrustworthy in the Courts. For
these reasons, and for others which need not appear, I decline to state
positively whether there was anything irretrievably wrong in the relations
between the Man's Wife and the Tertium Quid. If there was, and hereon you must
form your own opinion, it was the Man's Wife's fault. She was kittenish in her
manners, wearing generally an air of soft and fluffy innocence. But she was
deadly learned and evil-instructed; and, now and again, when the mask dropped,
men saw this, shuddered and almost drew back. Men are occasionally particular,
and the least particular men are always the most exacting.
Simla is eccentric in its fashion of tearing friendships. Certain attachments
which have set and crystallized through half a dozen seasons acquire almost
the sanctity of the marriage bond, and are revered as such. Again, certain
attachments equally old, and, to all appearance, equally venerable, never seem
to win any recognized official status; while a chance-sprung acquaintance now
two months born, steps into the place which by right belongs to the senior.
There is no law reducible to print which regulates these affairs.
Some people have a gift which secures them infinite toleration, and others
have not. The Man's Wife had not. If she looked over the garden wall, for
instance, women taxed her with stealing their husbands. She complained
pathetically that she was not allowed to choose her own friends. When she put
up her big white muff to her lips, and gazed over it and under her eyebrows at
you as she said this thing, you felt that she had been infamously misjudged,
and that all the other women's instincts were all wrong; which was absurd. She
was not allowed to own the Tertium Quid in peace; and was so strangely
constructed that she would not have enjoyed peace had she been so permitted.
She preferred some semblance of intrigue to cloak even her most commonplace
After two months of riding, first round Jakko, then Elysium, then Summer Hill,
then Observatory Hill, then under Jutogh, and lastly up and down the Cart Road
as far as the Tara Devi gap in the dusk, she said to the Tertium Quid, "Frank,
people say we are too much together, and people are so horrid."
The Tertium Quid pulled his moustache, and replied that horrid people were
unworthy of the consideration of nice people.
"But they have done more than talk--they have written--written to my hubby--
I'm sure of it," said the Man's Wife, and she pulled a letter from her husband
out of her saddle-pocket and gave it to the Tertium Quid.
It was an honest letter, written by an honest man, then stewing in the Plains
on two hundred rupees a month (for he allowed his wife eight hundred and
fifty), and in a silk banian and cotton trousers. It is said that, perhaps,
she had no thought of the unwisdom of allowing her name to be so generally
coupled with the Tertium Quid's; that she was too much of a child to
understand the dangers of that sort of thing; that he, her husband, was the
last man in the world to interfere jealously with her little amusements and
interests, but that it would be better were she to drop the Tertium Quid
quietly and for her husband's sake. The letter was sweetened with many pretty
little pet names, and it amused the Tertium Quid considerably. He and She
laughed over it, so that you, fifty yards away, could see their shoulders
shaking while the horses slouched along side by side.
Their conversation was not worth reporting. The upshot of it was that, next
day, no one saw the Man's Wife and the Tertium Quid together. They had both
gone down to the Cemetery, which, as a rule, is only visited officially by the
inhabitants of Simla.
A Simla funeral with the clergyman riding, the mourners riding, and the coffin
creaking as it swings between the bearers, is one of the most depressing
things on this earth, particularly when the procession passes under the wet,
dank dip beneath the Rockcliffe Hotel, where the sun is shut out and all the
hill streams are wailing and weeping together as they go down the valleys
Occasionally folk tend the graves, but we in India shift and are transferred
so often that, at the end of the second year, the Dead have no friends--only
acquaintances who are far too busy amusing themselves up the hill to attend to
old partners. The idea of using a Cemetery as a rendezvous is distinctly a
feminine one. A man would have said simply "Let people talk. We'll go down the
Mall." A woman is made differently, especially if she be such a woman as the
Man's Wife. She and the Tertium Quid enjoyed each other's society among the
graves of men and women whom they had known and danced with aforetime.
They used to take a big horse-blanket and sit on the grass a little to the
left of the lower end, where there is a dip in the ground and where the
occupied graves stop short and the ready-made ones are not ready. Each well-
regulated India Cemetery keeps half a dozen graves permanently open for
contingencies and incidental wear and tear. In the Hills these are more
usually baby's size, because children who come up weakened and sick from the
Plains often succumb to the effects of the Rains in the Hills or get pneumonia
from their ayahs taking them through damp pine-woods after the sun has set. In
Cantonments, of course, the man's size is more in request; these arrangements
varying with the climate and population.
One day when the Man's Wife and the Tertium Quid had just arrived in the
Cemetery, they saw some coolies breaking ground. They had marked out a full-
size grave, and the Tertium Quid asked them whether any Sahib was sick. They
said that they did not know; but it was an order that they should dig a
"Work away," said the Tertium Quid, "and let's see how it's done."
The coolies worked away, and the Man's Wife and the Tertium Quid watched and
talked for a couple of hours while the grave was being deepened Then a coolie,
taking the earth in blankets as it was thrown up, jumped over the grave.
"That's queer," said the Tertium Quid. "Where's my ulster?"
"What's queer?" said the Man's Wife.
"I have got a chill down my back just as if a goose had walked over my grave."
"Why do you look at the thing, then?" said the Man's Wife. "Let us go."
The Tertium Quid stood at the head of the grave, and stared without answering
for a space. Then he said, dropping a pebble down, "It is nasty and cold;
horribly cold. I don't think I shall come to the Cemetery any more. I don't
think grave-digging is cheerful."
The two talked and agreed that the Cemetery was depressing. They also arranged
for a ride next day out from the Cemetery through the Mashobra Tunnel up to
Fagoo and back, because all the world was going to a garden-party at Viceregal
Lodge, and all the people of Mashobra would go too.
Coming up the Cemetery road, the Tertium Quid's horse tried to bolt up hill,
being tired with standing so long, and managed to strain a back sinew.
"I shall have to take the mare tomorrow," said the Tertium Quid, "and she will
stand nothing heavier than a snaffle."
They made their arrangements to meet in the Cemetery, after allowing all the
Mashobra people time to pass into Simla. That night it rained heavily, and
next day, when the Tertium Quid came to the trysting-place, he saw that the
new grave had a foot of water in it, the ground being a tough and sour clay.
"'Jove! That looks beastly," said the Tertium Quid. "Fancy being boarded up
and dropped into that well!"
They then started off to Fagoo, the mare playing with the snaffle and picking
her way as though she were shod with satin, and the sun shining divinely. The
road below Mashobra to Fagoo is officially styled the Himalayan-Thibet Road;
but in spite of its name it is not much more than six feet wide in most
places, and the drop into the valley below must be anything between one and
two thousand feet.
"Now we're going to Thibet," said the Man's Wife merrily, as the horses drew
near to Fagoo. She was riding on the cliff-side.
"Into Thibet," said the Tertium Quid, "ever so far from people who say horrid
things, and hubbies who write stupid letters. With you--to the end of the
A coolie carrying a log of wood came round a corner, and the mare went wide to
avoid him--forefeet in and haunches out, as a sensible mare should go.
"To the world's end," said the Man's Wife, and looked unspeakable things over
her near shoulder at the Tertium Quid.
He was smiling, but, while she looked, the smile froze stiff as it were on his
face, and changed to a nervous grin--the sort of grin men wear when they are
not quite easy in their saddles. The mare seemed to be sinking by the stem,
and her nostrils cracked while she was trying to realize what was happening.
The rain of the night before had rotted the drop-side of the Himalayan-Thibet
Road, and it was giving way under her. "What are you doing?" said the Man's
Wife. The Tertium Quid gave no answer. He grinned nervously and set his spurs
into the mare, who rapped with her forefeet on the road, and the struggle
began. The Man's Wife screamed, "Oh, Frank, get off!"
But the Tertium Quid was glued to the saddle--his face blue and white--and he
looked into the Man's Wife's eyes. Then the Man's Wife clutched at the mare's
head and caught her by the nose instead of the bridle. The brute threw up her
head and went down with a scream, the Tertium Quid upon her, and the nervous
grin still set on his face.
The Man's Wife heard the tinkle-tinkle of little stones and loose earth
falling off the roadway, and the sliding roar of the man and horse going down.
Then everything was quiet, and she called on Frank to leave his mare and walk
up. But Frank did not answer. He was underneath the mare, nine hundred feet
below, spoiling a patch of Indian corn.
As the revellers came hack from Viceregal Lodge in the mists of the evening,
they met a temporarily insane woman, on a temporarily mad horse, swinging
round the corners, with her eyes and her mouth open, and her head like the
head of the Medusa. She was stopped by a man at the risk of his life, and
taken out of the saddle, a limp heap, and put on the bank to explain herself.
This wasted twenty minutes, and then she was sent home in a lady's 'rickshaw,
still with her mouth open and her hands picking at her riding-gloves.
She was in bed through the following three days, which were rainy; so she
missed attending the funeral of the Tertium Quid, who was lowered into
eighteen inches of water, instead of the twelve to which he had first
A WAYSIDE COMEDY
Because to every purpose there is time and judgment, therefore the misery
of man is great upon him.
--Eccles. viii. 6.
Fate and the Government of India have turned the Station of Kashima into a
prison; and, because there is no help for the poor souls who are now lying
there in torment, I write this story, praying that the Government of India may
be moved to scatter the European population to the four winds.
Kashima is bound on all sides by the rock-tipped circle of the Dosehri hills.
In Spring, it is ablaze with roses; in Summer, the roses die and the hot winds
blow from the hills; in Autumn, the white mists from the hills cover the place
as with water; and in Winter the frosts nip everything young and tender to
earth-level. There is but one view in Kashima--a stretch of perfectly flat
pasture and plough-land, running up to the grey-blue scrub of the Dosehri
There are no amusements, except snipe and tiger shooting; but the tigers have
been long since hunted from their lairs in the rock-caves, and the snipe only
come once a year. Narkarra--one hundred and forty-three miles by road--is the
nearest station to Kashima. But Kashima never goes to Narkarra, where there
are at least twelve English people. It stays within the circle of the Dosehri
All Kashima acquits Mrs. Vansuythen of any intention to do harm; but all
Kashima knows that she, and she alone, brought about their pain.
Boulte, the Engineer, Mrs. Boulte, and Captain Kurrell know this. They are the
English population of Kashima, if we except Major Vansuythen, who is of no
importance whatever, and Mrs. Vansuythen, who is the most important of all.
You must remember, though you will not understand, that all laws weaken in a
small and hidden community where there is no public opinion. When a man is
absolutely alone in a Station he runs a certain risk of falling into evil
ways. The risk is multiplied by every addition to the population up to twelve-
-the Jury-number. After that, fear and consequent restraint begin, and human
action becomes less grotesquely jerky.
There was deep peace in Kashima till Mrs. Vansuythen arrived. She was a
charming woman, every one said so everywhere; and she charmed every one. In
spite of this, or, perhaps, because of this, since Fate is so perverse, she
cared only for one man, and he was Major Vansuythen. Had she been plain or
stupid, this matter would have been intelligible to Kashima. But she was a
fair woman, with very still grey eyes, the color of a lake just before the
light of the sun touches it. No man who had seen those eyes, could, later on,
explain what fashion of woman she was to look upon. The eyes dazzled him. Her
own sex said that she was "not bad looking, but spoiled by pretending to be so
grave." And yet her gravity was natural It was not her habit to smile. She
merely went through life, looking at those who passed; and the women objected
while the men fell down and worshipped.
She knows and is deeply sorry for the evil she has done to Kashima; but Major
Vansuythen cannot understand why Mrs. Boulte does not drop in to afternoon tea
at least three times a week. "When there are only two women in one Station,
they ought to see a great deal of each other," says Major Vansuythen.
Long and long before ever Mrs. Vansuythen came out of those far-away places
where there is society and amusement, Kurrell had discovered that Mrs. Boulte
was the one woman in the world for him and--you dare not blame them. Kashima
was as out of the world as Heaven or the Other Place, and the Dosehri hills
kept their secret well. Boulte had no concern in the matter. He was in camp
for a fortnight at a time. He was a hard, heavy man, and neither Mrs. Boulte
nor Kurrell pitied him. They had all Kashima and each other for their very,
very own; and Kashima was the Garden of Eden in those days. When Boulte
returned from his wanderings he would slap Kurrell between the shoulders and
call him "old fellow," and the three would dine together. Kashima was happy
then when the judgment of God seemed almost as distant as Narkarra or the
railway that ran down to the sea. But the Government sent Major Vansuythen to
Kashima, and with him came his wife.
The etiquette of Kashima is much the same as that of a desert island. When a
stranger is cast away there, all hands go down to the shore to make him
welcome. Kashima assembled at the masonry platform close to the Narkarra Road,
and spread tea for the Vansuythens. That ceremony was reckoned a formal call,
and made them free of the Station, its rights and privileges. When the
Vansuythens were settled down, they gave a tiny housewarming to all Kashima;
and that made Kashima free of their house, according to the immemorial usage
of the Station.
Then the Rains came, when no one could go into camp, and the Narkarra Road was
washed away by the Kasun River, and in the cup-like pastures of Kashima the
cattle waded knee-deep. The clouds dropped down from the Dosehri hills and
At the end of the Rains, Boulte's manner toward his wife changed and became
demonstratively affectionate. They had been married twelve years, and the
change startled Mrs. Boulte, who hated her husband with the hate of a woman
who has met with nothing but kindness from her mate, and, in the teeth of this
kindness, had done him a great wrong. Moreover, she had her own trouble to
fight with--her watch to keep over her own property, Kurrell. For two months
the Rains had hidden the Dosehri hills and many other things besides; but when
they lifted, they showed Mrs. Boulte that her man among men, her Ted--for she
called him Ted in the old days when Boulte was out of earshot--was slipping
the links of the allegiance.
"The Vansuythen Woman has taken him," Mrs. Boulte said to herself; and when
Boulte was away, wept over her belief, in the face of the over-vehement
blandishments of Ted. Sorrow in Kashima is as fortunate as Love, because there
is nothing to weaken it save the flight of Time. Mrs. Boulte had never
breathed her suspicion to Kurrell because she was not certain; and her nature
led her to be very certain before she took steps in any direction. That is why
she behaved as she did.
Boulte came into the house one evening, and leaned against the door-posts of
the drawing-room, chewing his moustache. Mrs. Boulte was putting some flowers
into a vase. There is a pretence of civilization even in Kashima.
"Little woman," said Boulte, quietly, "do you care for me?"
"Immensely," said she, with a laugh. "Can you ask it?"
"But I'm serious," said Boulte. "Do you care for me?"
Mrs. Boulte dropped the flowers, and turned round quickly. "Do you want an
"Ye-es, I've asked for it."
Mrs. Boulte spoke in a low, even voice for five minutes, very distinctly, that
there might be no misunderstanding her meaning. When Samson broke the pillars
of Gaza, he did a little thing, and one not to be compared to the deliberate
pulling down of a woman's homestead about her own ears. There was no wise
female friend to advise Mrs. Boulte, the singularly cautious wife, to hold her
hand. She struck at Boulte's heart, because her own was sick with suspicion of
Kurrell, and worn out with the long strain of watching alone through the
Rains. There was no plan or purpose in her speaking. The sentences made
themselves; and Boulte listened leaning against the door-post with his hands
in his pockets. When all was over, and Mrs. Boulte began to breathe through
her nose before breaking out into tears, he laughed and stared straight in
front of him at the Dosehri hills.
"Is that all?" be said. "Thanks, I only wanted to know, you know."
"What are you going to do?" said the woman, between her sobs.
"Do! Nothing. What should I do? Kill Kurrell or send you Home, or apply for
leave to get a divorce? It's two days' dak into Narkarra." He laughed again
and went on: "I'll tell you what you can do. You can ask Kurrell to dinner
tomorrow--no, on Thursday, that will allow you time to pack--and you can bolt
with him. I give you my word I won't follow."
He took up his helmet and went out of the room, and Mrs. Boulte sat till the
moonlight streaked the floor, thinking and thinking and thinking. She had done
her best upon the spur of the moment to pull the house down; but it would not
fall. Moreover, she could not understand her husband, and she was afraid. Then
the folly of her useless truthfulness struck her, and she was ashamed to write
to Kurrell, saying: "I have gone mad and told everything. My husband says that
I am free to elope with you. Get a dak for Thursday, and we will fly after
dinner." There was a cold-bloodedness about that procedure which did not
appeal to her. So she sat still in her own house and thought.
At dinner-time Boulte came back from his walk, white and worn and haggard, and
the woman was touched at his distress. As the evening wore on, she muttered
some expression of sorrow, something approaching to contrition. Boulte came
out of a brown study and said, "Oh, that! I wasn't thinking about that. By the
way, what does Kurrell say to the elopement?"
"I haven't seen him," said Mrs. Boulte. "Good God! is that all?"
But Boulte was not listening, and her sentence ended in a gulp.
The next day brought no comfort to Mrs. Boulte, for Kurrell did not appear,
and the new life that she, in the five minutes' madness of the previous
evening, had hoped to build out of the ruins of the old, seemed to be no
Boulte ate his breakfast, advised her to see her Arab pony fed in the veranda,
and went out. The morning wore through, and at midday the tension became
unendurable. Mrs. Boulte could not cry. She had finished her crying in the
night, and now she did not want to be left alone. Perhaps the Vansuythen woman
would talk to her; and, since talking opens the heart, perhaps there might be
some comfort to be found in her company. She was the only other woman in the
In Kashima there are no regular calling-hours. Every one can drop in upon
every one else at pleasure. Mrs. Boulte put on a big terai hat, and walked
across to the Vansuythens's house to borrow last week's Queen. The two
compounds touched, and instead of going up the drive, she crossed through the
gap in the cactus-hedge, entering the house from the back. As she passed
through the dining-room, she heard, behind the purdah that cloaked the
drawing-room door, her husband's voice, saying--"But on my Honor! On my Soul
and Honor, I tell you she doesn't care for me. She told me so last night. I
would have told you then if Vansuythen hadn't been with you. If it is for her
sake that you'll have nothing to say to me, you can make your mind easy. It's
"What?" said Mrs. Vansuythen, with an hysterical little laugh. "Kurrell! Oh,
it can't be. You two must have made some horrible mistake. Perhaps you--you
lost your temper, or misunderstood, or something. Things can't be as wrong as
Mrs. Vansuythen had shifted her defence to avoid the man's pleading, and was
desperately trying to keep him to a side-issue.
"There must be some mistake," she insisted, "and it can be all put right
Boulte laughed grimly.
"It can't be Captain Kurrell! He told me that he had never taken the least--
the least interest in your wife, Mr. Boulte. Oh, do listen! He said he had
not. He swore he had not," said Mrs. Vansuythen.
The purdah rustled, and the speech was cut short by the entry of a little,
thin woman with big rings round her eyes. Mrs. Vansuythen stood up with a
"What was that you said?" asked Mrs. Boulte. "Never mind that man. What did
Ted say to you? What did he say to you? What did he say to you?"
Mrs. Vansuythen sat down helplessly on the sofa, overborne by the trouble of
"He said--I can't remember exactly what he said--but I understood him to say--
that is--But, really, Mrs. Boulte, isn't it rather a strange question?"
"Will you tell me what he said?" repeated Mrs. Boulte.
Even a tiger will fly before a bear robbed of her whelps, and Mrs. Vansuythen
was only an ordinarily good woman. She began in a sort of desperation: "Well,
he said that he never cared for you at all, and, of course, there was not the
least reason why he should have, and--and--that was all."
"You said he swore he had not cared for me. Was that true?"
"Yes," said Mrs. Vansuythen, very softly.
Mrs. Boulte wavered for an instant where she stood, and then fell forward
"What did I tell you?" said Boulte, as though the conversation had been
unbroken. "You can see for yourself she cares for him." The light began to
break into his dull mind, and he went on--"And he--what was he saying to you?"
But Mrs. Vansuythen, with no heart for explanations or impassioned
protestations, was kneeling over Mrs. Boulte.
"Oh, you brute!" she cried. "Are all men like this? Help me to get her into my
room--and her face is cut against the table. Oh, will you be quiet, and help
me to carry her? I hate you, and I hate Captain Kurrell. Lift her up carefully
and now--go! Go away!"
Boulte carried his wife into Mrs. Vansuythen's bedroom and departed before the
storm of that lady's wrath and disgust, impenitent and burning with jealousy.
Kurrell had been making love to Mrs. Vansuythen--would do Vansuythen as great
a wrong as he had done Boulte, who caught himself considering whether Mrs.
Vansuythen would faint if she discovered that the man she loved had foresworn
In the middle of these meditations, Kurrell came cantering along the road and
pulled up with a cheery, "Good mornin'. 'Been mashing Mrs. Vansuythen as
usual, eh? Bad thing for a sober, married man, that. What will Mrs Boulte
Boulte raised his head and said, slowly, "Oh, you liar!"
Kurrell's face changed. "What's that?" he asked, quickly.
"Nothing much," said Boulte. "Has my wife told you that you two are free to go
off whenever you please? She has been good enough to explain the situation to
me. You've been a true friend to me, Kurrell--old man--haven't you?"
Kurrell groaned, and tried to frame some sort of idiotic sentence about being
willing to give "satisfaction." But his interest in the woman was dead, had
died out in the Rains, and, mentally, he was abusing her for her amazing
indiscretion. It would have been so easy to have broken off the thing gently
and by degrees, and now he was saddled with--Boulte's voice recalled him.
"I don't think I should get any satisfaction from killing you, and I'm pretty
sure you'd get none from killing me."
Then in a querulous tone, ludicrously disproportioned to his wrongs, Boulte
added--"'Seems rather a pity that you haven't the decency to keep to the
woman, now you've got her. You've been a true friend to her too, haven't you?"
Kurrell stared long and gravely. The situation was getting beyond him.
"What do you mean?" he said.
Boulte answered, more to himself than the questioner: 'My wife came over to
Mrs. Vansuythen's just now; and it seems you'd been telling Mrs. Vansuythen
that you'd never cared for Emma. I suppose you lied, as usual. What had Mrs.
Vansuythen to do with you, or you with her? Try to speak the truth for once in
Kurrell took the double insult without wincing, and replied by another
question: "Go on. What happened?"
"Emma fainted," said Boulte, simply. "But, look here, what had you been saying
to Mrs. Vansuythen?"
Kurrell laughed. Mrs. Boulte had, with unbridled tongue, made havoc of his
plans; and he could at least retaliate by hurting the man in whose eyes he was
humiliated and shown dishonorable.
"Said to her? What does a man tell a lie like that for? I suppose I said
pretty much what you've said, unless I'm a good deal mistaken."
"I spoke the truth," said Boulte, again more to himself than Kurrell. "Emma
told me she hated me. She has no right in me."
"No! I suppose not. You're only her husband, y'know. And what did Mrs.
Vansuythen say after you had laid your disengaged heart at her feet?"
Kurrell felt almost virtuous as he put the question.
"I don't think that matters," Boulte replied; "and it doesn't concern you."
"But it does! I tell you it does" began Kurrell, shamelessly.
The sentence was cut by a roar of laughter from Boulte's lips. Kurrell was
silent for an instant, and then he, too, laughed--laughed long and loudly,
rocking in his saddle. It was an unpleasant sound--the mirthless mirth of
these men on the long, white line of the Narkarra Road. There were no
strangers in Kashima, or they might have thought that captivity within the
Dosehri hills had driven half the European population mad. The laughter ended
abruptly, and Kurrell was the first to speak.
"Well, what are you going to do?"
Boulte looked up the road, and at the hills. "Nothing," said he, quietly;
"what's the use? It's too ghastly for anything. We must let the old life go
on. I can only call you a hound and a liar, and I can't go on calling you
names forever. Besides which, I don't feel that I'm much better. We can't get
out of this place. What is there to do?"
Kurrell looked round the rat-pit of Kashima and made no reply. The injured
husband took up the wondrous tale.
"Ride on, and speak to Emma if you want to. God knows I don't care what you
He walked forward and left Kurrell gazing blankly after him. Kurrell did not
ride on either to see Mrs. Boulte or Mrs. Vansuythen. He sat in his saddle and
thought, while his pony grazed by the roadside.
The whir of approaching wheels roused him. Mrs. Vansuythen was driving home
Mrs. Boulte, white and wan, with a cut on her forehead.
"Stop, please," said Mrs. Boulte "I want to speak to Ted."
Mrs. Vansuythen obeyed, but as Mrs. Boulte leaned forward, putting her hand
upon the splash-board of the dog-cart, Kurrell spoke.
"I've seen your husband, Mrs. Boulte.
There was no necessity for any further explanation. The man's eyes were fixed,
not upon Mrs. Boulte, but her companion. Mrs. Boulte saw the look.
"Speak to him!" she pleaded, turning to the woman at her side. "Oh, speak to
him! Tell him what you told me just now. Tell him you hate him. Tell him you
She bent forward and wept bitterly, while the sais, impassive, went forward to
hold the horse. Mrs. Vansuythen turned scarlet and dropped the reins. She
wished to be no party to such unholy explanations.
"I've nothing to do with it," she began, coldly; but Mrs. Boulte's sobs
overcame her, and she addressed herself to the man. "I don't know what I am to
say, Captain Kurrell. I don't know what I can call you. I think you've--you've
behaved abominably, and she has cut her forehead terribly against the table."
"It doesn't hurt. It isn't anything," said Mrs. Boulte feebly. "That doesn't
matter. Tell him what you told me. Say you don't care for him. Oh, Ted, won't
you believe her?"
"Mrs. Boulte has made me understand that you were--that you were fond of her
once upon a time," went on Mrs. Vansuythen.
"Well!" said Kurrell brutally. "It seems to me that Mrs. Boulte had better be
fond of her own husband first."
"Stop!" said Mrs. Vansuythen. "Hear me first. I don't care--I don't want to
know anything about you and Mrs. Boulte; but I want you to know that I hate
you, that I think you are a cur, and that I'll never, never speak to you
again. Oh, I don't dare to say what I think of you, you--man!
"I want to speak to Ted," moaned Mrs. Boulte, but the dog-cart rattled on, and
Kurrell was left on the road, shamed, and boiling with wrath against Mrs.
He waited till Mrs. Vansuythen was driving back to her own house, and, she
being freed from the embarrassment of Mrs. Boulte's presence, learned for the
second time her opinion of himself and his actions.
In the evenings, it was the wont of all Kashima to meet at the platform on the
Narkarra Road, to drink tea, and discuss the trivialities of the day. Major
Vansuythen and his wife found themselves alone at the gathering-place for
almost the first time in their remembrance; and the cheery Major, in the teeth
of his wife's remarkably reasonable suggestion that the rest of the Station
might be sick, insisted upon driving round to the two bungalows and unearthing
"Sitting in the twilight!" said he, with great indignation to the Boultes.
That'll never do! Hang it all, we're one family here! You must come out, and
so must Kurrell. I'll make him bring his banjo." So great is the power of
honest simplicity and a good digestion over guilty consciences that all
Kashima did turn out, even down to the banjo; and the Major embraced the
company in one expansive grin. As he grinned, Mrs. Vansuythen raised her eyes
for an instant and looked at all Kashima. Her meaning was clear. Major
Vansuythen would never know anything. He was to be the outsider in that happy
family whose cage was the Dosehri hills.
"You're singing villainously out of tune, Kurrell," said the Major,
truthfully. "Pass me that banjo."
And he sang in excruciating-wise till the stars came out and all Kashima went
* * * * *
That was the beginning of the New Life of Kashima--the life that Mrs. Boulte
made when her tongue was loosened in the twilight.
Mrs. Vansuythen has never told the Major; and since be insists upon keeping up
a burdensome geniality, she has been compelled to break her vow of not
speaking to Kurrell. This speech, which must of necessity preserve the
semblance of politeness and interest, serves admirably to keep alive the flame
of jealousy and dull hatred in Boulte's bosom, as it awakens the same passions
in his wife's heart. Mrs. Boulte hates Mrs. Vansuythen because she has taken
Ted from her, and, in some curious fashion, hates her because Mrs. Vansuythen-
-and here the wife's eyes see far more clearly than the husband's--detests
Ted. And Ted--that gallant captain and honorable man--knows now that it is
possible to hate a woman once loved, to the verge of wishing to silence her
forever with blows. Above all, is he shocked that Mrs. Boulte cannot see the
error of her ways.
Boulte and he go out tiger-shooting together in all friendship. Boulte has put
their relationship on a most satisfactory footing.
"You're a blackguard," he says to Kurrell, "and I've lost any self-respect I
may ever have had; but when you're with me, I can feel certain that you are
not with Mrs. Vansuythen, or making Emma miserable."
Kurrell endures anything that Boulte may say to him. Sometimes they are away
for three days together, and then the Major insists upon his wife going over
to sit with Mrs, Boulte; although Mrs. Vansuythen has repeatedly de. dared
that she prefers her husband's company to any in the world. From the way in
which she clings to him, she would certainly seem to be speaking the truth.
But of course, as the Major says, "in a little Station we must all be
THE HILL OF ILLUSION
What rendered vain their deep desire?
A God, a God their severance ruled,
And bade between their shores to be
The unplumbed, salt, estranging sea.
HE. Tell your jhampanis not to hurry so, dear. They forget I'm fresh from the
SHE. Sure proof that I have not been going out with any one. Yes, they are an
untrained crew. Where do we go?
HE. As usual--to the world's end. No, Jakko.
SHE. Have your pony led after you, then. It's a long round.
HE. And for the last time, thank Heaven!
SHE. Do you mean that still? I didn't dare to write to you about it...all
HE. Mean it! I've been shaping my affairs to that end since Autumn. What makes
you speak as though it had occurred to you for the first time?
SHE. I! Oh! I don't know. I've had long enough to think, too.
HE. And you've changed your mind?
SHE. No. You ought to know that I am a miracle of constancy. What are your--
HE. Ours, Sweetheart, please.
SHE. Ours, be it then. My poor boy, how the prickly heat has marked your
forehead! Have you ever tried sulphate of copper in water?
HE. It'll go away in a day or two up here. The arrangements are simple enough.
Tonga in the early morning--reach Kalka at twelve--Umballa at seven--down,
straight by night train, to Bombay, and then the steamer of the 21st for Rome.
That's my idea. The Continent and Sweden--a ten-week honeymoon.
SHE. Ssh! Don't talk of it in that way. It makes me afraid. Guy, how long have
we two been insane?
HE. Seven months and fourteen days; I forget the odd hours exactly, but I'll
SHE. I only wanted to see if you remembered. Who are those two on the
HE. Eabrey and the Penner woman. What do they matter to us? Tell me everything
that you've been doing and saying and thinking.
SHE. Doing little, saying less, and thinking a great deal. I've hardly been
out at all.
Ha. That was wrong of you. You haven't been moping?
SHE. Not very much. Can you wonder that I'm disinclined for amusement?
HE. Frankly, I do. Where was the difficulty?
SHE. In this only. The more people I know and the more I'm known here, the
wider spread will be the news of the crash when it comes. I don't like that.
HE. Nonsense. We shall be out of it.
SHE. You think so?
HE. I'm sure of it, if there is any power in steam or horse-flesh to carry us
away. Ha! ha!
SHE. And the fun of the situation comes in--where, my Lancelot?
HE. Nowhere, Guinevere. I was only thinking of something.
SHE. They say men have a keener sense of humor than women. Now _I_ was
thinking of the scandal.
HE. Don't think of anything so ugly. We shall be beyond it.
SHE. It will be there all the same in the mouths of Simla--telegraphed over
India, and talked of at the dinners--and when He goes out they will stare at
Him to see how He takes it. And we shall be dead, Guy dear--dead and cast into
the outer darkness where there is--
HE. Love at least. Isn't that enough?
SHE. I have said so.
HE. And you think so still?
SHE. What do you think?
Ha. What have I _done_? It means equal ruin to me, as the world reckons it--
outcasting, the loss of my appointment, the breaking of my life's work. I pay
SHE. And are you so much above the world that you can afford to pay it? Am I?
Ha. My Divinity--what else?
SHE. A very ordinary woman I'm afraid, but, so far, respectable. How'd you do,
Mrs. Middleditch? Your husband? I think he's riding down to Annandale with
Colonel Statters. Yes, isn't it divine after the rain?--Guy, how long am I to
be allowed to bow to Mrs. Middleditch? Till the 17th?
HE. Frowsy Scotchwoman? What is the use of bringing her into the discussion?
You were saying?
SHE. Nothing. Have you ever seen a man hanged?
HE. Yes. Once.
SHE. What was it for?
HE. Murder, of course.
SHE. Murder. Is that so great a sin after all? I wonder how he felt before the
HE. I don't think he felt much. What a gruesome little woman it is this
evening! You're shivering. Put on your cape, dear.
SHE. I think I will. Oh! Look at the mist coming over Sanjaoli; and I thought
we should have sunshine on the Ladies' Mile! Let's turn back.
HE. What's the good? There's a cloud on Elysium Hill, and that means it's
foggy all down the Mall. We'll go on. It'll blow away before we get to the
Convent, perhaps. 'Jove! It is chilly.
SHE. You feel it, fresh from below. Put on your ulster. What do you think of
HE. Never ask a man his opinion of a woman's dress when he is desperately and
abjectly in love with the wearer. Let me look. Like everything else of yours
it's perfect. Where did you get it from?
SHE. He gave it me, on Wednesday...our wedding-day, you know.
HE. The deuce He did! He's growing generous in his old age. D'you like all
that frilly, bunchy stuff at the throat? I don't.
SHE. Don't you?
"Kind Sir, 0' your courtesy,
As you go by the town, Sir,
Pray you 0' your love for me,
Buy me a russet gown, Sir."
HE. I won't say: "Keek into the draw-well, Janet, Janet." Only wait a little,
darling, and you shall be stocked with russet gowns and everything else.
SHE. And when the frocks wear out, you'll get me new ones--and everything
SHE. I wonder!
HE. Look here, Sweetheart, I didn't spend two days and two nights in the train
to hear you wonder. I thought we'd settled all that at Shaifazehat.
SHE (dreamily). At Shaifazehat? Does the Station go on still? That was ages
and ages ago. It must be crumbling to pieces. All except the Amirtollah kutcha
road. I don't believe that could crumble till the Day of Judgment.
Ha. You think so? What is the mood now?
SHE. I can't tell. How cold it is! Let us get on quickly.
Ha. Better walk a little. Stop your jhampanis and get out. What's the matter
with you this evening, dear?
SHE. Nothing. You must grow accustomed to my ways. If I'm boring you I can go
home. Here's Captain Congleton coming; I dare say he'll be willing to escort
Ha. Goose! Between us, too! Damn Captain Congleton. There!
SHE. Chivalrous Knight! Is it your habit to swear much in talking? It jars a
little, and you might swear at me.
HE. My angel! I didn't know what I was saying; and you changed so quickly that
I couldn't follow. I'll apologize in dust and ashes.
SHE. There'll be enough of those later on. Good night, Captain Congleton.
Going to the singing-quadrilles already? What dances am I giving you next
week? No! You must have written them down wrong. Five and Seven, I said. If
you've made a mistake, I certainly don't intend to suffer for it. You must
alter your programme.
HE. I thought you told me that you bad not been going out much this season?
SHE. Quite true, but when I do I dance with Captain Congleton. He dances very
HE. And sit out with him, I suppose?
SHE. Yes. Have you any objection? Shall I stand under the chandelier in
HE. What does he talk to you about?
SHE. What do men talk about when they sit out?
Ha. Ugh! Don't! Well now I'm up, you must dispense with the fascinating
Congleton for a while. I don't like him.
SHE. (after a pause). Do you know what you have said?
HE. 'Can't say that I do exactly. I'm not in the best of tempers.
SHE. So I see...and feel. My true and faithful lover, where is your "eternal
constancy," "unalterable trust," and "reverent devotion"? I remember those
phrases; you seem to have forgotten them. I mention a man's name--
HE. A good deal more than that.
SHE. Well, speak to him about a dance--perhaps the last dance that I shall
ever dance in my life before I...before I go away; and you at once distrust
and insult me.
HE. I never said a word.
SHE. How much did you imply? Guy, is this amount of confidence to be our stock
to start the new life on?
HE. No, of course not. I didn't mean that. On my word of honor, I didn't. Let
it pass, dear. Please let it pass.
SHE. This once--yes--and a second time, and again and again, all through the
years when I shall be unable to resent it. You want too much, my Lancelot,
and...you know too much.
Hp. How do you mean?
SHE. That is a part of the punishment. There cannot be perfect trust between
HE. In Heaven's name, why not?
SHE. Hush! The Other Place is quite enough. Ask yourself.
HE. I don't follow.
SHE. You trust me so implicitly that when I look at another man--Never mind,
Guy. Have you ever made love to a girl--a good girl?
HE. Something of the sort. Centuries ago--in the Dark Ages, before I ever met
SHE. Tell me what you said to her.
HE. What does a man say to a girl? I've forgotten.
SHE. I remember. He tells her that he trusts her and worships the ground she
walks on, and that he'll love and honor and protect her till her dying day;
and so she marries in that belief. At least, I speak of one girl who was not
HE. Well, and then?
SHE. And then, Guy, and then, that girl needs ten times the love and trust and
honor--yes, honor--that was enough when she was only a mere wife if--if--the
other life she chooses to lead is to be made even bearable. Do you understand?
HE. Even bearable! It'll he Paradise.
SHE. Ah! Can you give me all I've asked for--not now, nor a few months later,
but when you begin to think of what you might have done if you had kept your
own appointment and your caste here--when you begin to look upon me as a drag
and a burden? I shall want it most, then, Guy, for there will be no one in the
wide world but you.
HE. You're a little over-tired tonight, Sweetheart, and you're taking a stage
view of the situation. After the necessary business in the Courts, the road is
SHE. "The holy state of matrimony!" Ha! ha! ha!
HE. Ssh! Don't laugh in that horrible way!
SHE. I-I c-c-c-can't help it! Isn't it too absurd! Ah! Ha! ha! ha! Guy, stop
me quick or I shall--l-l-laugh till we get to the Church.
HE. For goodness' sake, stop! Don't make an exhibition of yourself. What is
the matter with you?
SHE. N-nothing. I'm better now.
HE. That's all right. One moment, dear. There's a little wisp of hair got
loose from behind your right ear and it's straggling over your cheek. So!
SHE. Thank'oo. I'm 'fraid my hat's on one side, too.
HE. What do you wear these huge dagger bonnet-skewers for? They're big enough
to kill a man with.
SHE. Oh! Don't kill me, though. You're sticking it into my head! Let me do it.
You men are so clumsy.
HE. Have you had many opportunities of comparing us--in this sort of work?
SHE. Guy, what is my name?
HE. Eh! I don't follow.
SHE. Here's my cardcase. Can you read?
HE. Yes. Well?
SHE. Well, that answers your question. You know the other man's name. Am I
sufficiently humbled, or would you like to ask me if there is any one else?
HE. I see now. My darling, I never meant that for an instant. I was only
joking. There! Lucky there's no one on the road. They'd be scandalized.
SHE. They'll be more scandalized before the end.
HE. Do-on't! I don't like you to talk in that way.
SHE. Unreasonable man! Who asked me to face the situation and accept it? Tell
me, do I look like Mrs. Penner? Do I look like a naughty woman? Swear I don't!
Give me your word of honor, my honorable friend, that I'm not like Mrs.
Buzgago. That's the way she stands, with her hands clasped at the back of her
head. D'you like that?
HE. Don't be affected.
SHE. I'm not. I'm Mrs. Buzgago. Listen!
Pendant une anne' toute entiere
Le regiment n'a pas r'paru.
Au Ministere de la Guerre
On le r'porta comme perdu.
On se r'noncait a r'trouver sa trace,
Quand un matin subitement,
On le vit r'paraitre sur la place
L'Colonel toujours en avant.
That's the way she rolls her r's. Am I like her?
HE. No, but I object when you go on like an actress and sing stuff of that
kind. Where in the world did you pick up the Chanson du Colonel? It isn't a
drawing-room song. It isn't proper.
SHE. Mrs. Buzgago taught it me. She is both drawing-room and proper, and in
another month she'll shut her drawing-room to me, and thank God she isn't as