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Title: Driftwood Spars - The Stories of a Man, a Boy, a Woman, and Certain Other People Who - Strangely Met Upon the Sea of Life
Author: Wren, Percival Christopher, 1885-1941
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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DRIFTWOOD SPARS

THE STORIES OF A MAN, A BOY, A WOMAN, AND CERTAIN OTHER PEOPLE WHO
STRANGELY MET UPON THE SEA OF LIFE

BY

CAPTAIN PERCIVAL CHRISTOPHER WREN, I.A.R.

AUTHOR OF "DEW AND MILDEW", "FATHER GREGORY", "SNAKE AND SWORD", ETC.

    "Like driftwood spars which meet and pass
      Upon the boundless ocean-plain,
    So on the sea of life, alas!
      Man nears man, meets, and leaves again"

--MATTHEW ARNOLD



TO THE MEMORY OF MY BELOVED WIFE



NOTE.--This book was written in the year 1912



CONTENTS.

I. THE MAN (Mainly concerning the early life of John, Robin
Ross-Ellison.)

II. THE BOY (Mainly concerning the life of Moussa Isa Somali.)

III. THE WOMAN (And Augustus Grabble; General Murger; Sergeant-Major
Lawrence-Smith; Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Gosling-Green; Mr. Horace Faggit;
as well as a reformed JOHN ROBIN ROSS-ELLISON.)

IV. "MEET AND LEAVE AGAIN"



CHAPTER I.

THE MAN.

(Mainly concerning the early life of John Robin Ross-Ellison.)


Truth is stranger than fiction, and many of the coincidences of real
life are truly stranger than the most daring imaginings of the
fictionist.

Now, I, Major Michael Malet-Marsac, happened at the moment to be
thinking of my dear and deeply lamented friend John Ross-Ellison, and to
be pondering, for the thousandth time, his extraordinary life and more
extraordinary death. Nor had I the very faintest notion that the
Subedar-Major had ever heard of such a person, much less that he was
actually his own brother, or, to be exact, his half-brother. You see I
had known Ross-Ellison intimately as one only can know the man with whom
one has worked, soldiered, suffered, and faced death. Not only had I
known, admired and respected him--I had loved him. There is no other
word for it; I loved him as a brother loves a brother, as a son loves
his father, as the fighting-man loves the born leader of fighting-men: I
loved him as Jonathan loved David. Indeed it was actually a case of
"passing the love of women" for although he killed Cleopatra Dearman,
the only woman for whom I ever cared, I fear I have forgiven him and
almost forgotten her.

But to return to the Subedar-Major. "Peace, fool! Art blind as Ibrahim
Mahmud the Weeper," growled that burly Native Officer as the zealous and
over-anxious young sentry cried out and pointed to where, in the
moonlight, the returning reconnoitring-patrol was to be seen as it
emerged from the lye-bushes of the dry river-bed.

A recumbent comrade of the outpost sentry group sniggered.

My own sympathies were decidedly with the sentry, for I had fever, and
"fever is another man". In any case, hours of peering, watching,
imagining and waiting, for the attack that will surely come--and never
comes--try even experienced nerves.

"And who was Ibrahim the Weeper, Subedar-Major Saheb?" I inquired of the
redoubtable warrior as he joined me.

"He was my brother's enemy, Sahib," replied Mir Daoud Khan Mir Hafiz
Ullah Khan, principal Native Officer of the 99th Baluch Light Infantry
and member of the ruling family of Mekran Kot in far Kubristan.

"And what made him so blind as to be for a proverb unto you?"

"Just some little drops of water, Sahib, nothing more," replied the big
man with a smile that lifted the curling moustache and showed the
dazzling perfect teeth.

It was bitter, bitter cold--cold as it only can be in hot countries (I
have never felt the cold in Russia as I have in India) and the khaki
flannel shirt, khaki tunic, shorts and putties that had seemed so hot
in the cruel heat of the day as we made our painful way across the
valley, seemed miserably inadequate at night, on the windy hill-top.
Moreover I was in the cold stage of a go of fever, and to have escaped
sunstroke in the natural oven of that awful valley at mid-day seemed but
the prelude to being frost-bitten on the mountain at midnight.
Subedar-Major Mir Daoud Khan Mir Hafiz Ullah Khan appeared wholly
unaffected by the 100° variation in temperature, but then he had a few
odd stone of comfortable fat and was bred to such climatic trifles. He,
moreover, knew not fever, and, unlike me, had not experienced dysentery,
malaria, enteric and pneumonia fairly recently.

"And had the hand of your brother anything to do with the little drops
of water that made Ibrahim the Weeper so blind?" I asked.

"Something, Sahib," replied Mir Daoud Khan with a laugh, "but the hand
of Allah had more than that of my brother. It is a strange story. True
stories are sometimes far stranger than those of the bazaar tale-tellers
whose trade it is to invent or remember wondrous tales and stories,
myths, and legends."

"We have a proverb to that effect, Mir Saheb. Let us sit in the shelter
of this rock and you shall tell me the story. Our eyes can work while
tongue and ear play--or would you sleep?"

"_Nahin_, Sahib! Am I a Sahib that I should regard night as the time
wholly sacred to sleep and day as the time when to sleep is sin? I will
tell the Sahib the tale of the Blindness of Ibrahim Mahmud the Weeper,
well knowing that he, a truth-speaker, will believe the truth spoken by
his servant. To no liar would it seem possible.

"Know then, Sahib, that this brother of mine was not my mother's son,
though the son of my father (Mir Hafiz Ullah Khan Mir Faquir Mahommed
Afzul Khan), who was the youngest son of His Highness the Jam Saheb of
Mekran Kot in Kubristan. And he, my father, was a great traveller, a
restless wanderer, and crossed the Black Water many times. To Englistan
he went, and without crossing water he also went to the capital of the
Amir of Russia to say certain things, quietly, from the King of Islam,
the Amir of Afghanistan. To where the big Waler horses come from he also
went, and to where they take the camels for use in the hot and sandy
northern parts."

"Yes, Australia" I remarked.

"Without doubt, if the Sahib be pleased to say it. And there, having
taken many camels in a ship that he might sell them at a profit, he
wedded a white woman--a woman of the race of the Highland soldiers of
Englistan, such as are in this very Brigade."

"Married a Scotchwoman?"

"Without doubt. Of a low caste--her father being a drunkard and landless
(though grandson of a Lord Sahib), living by horses and camels menially,
out-casted, a jail-bird. Formerly he had carried the mail through the
desert, a fine rider and brave man, but _sharab_[1] had loosened the
thigh in the saddle and palsied hand and eye. On hearing this news, the
Jam Saheb was exceeding wroth, for he had planned a good marriage for
his son, and he arranged that the woman should die if my father, on
whom be Peace, brought her to Mekran Kot. 'Tis but desert and mountain,
Sahib, with a few big _jagirs_[2] and some villages, a good fort, a
crumbling tower, and a town on the Caravan Road--but the Jam Saheb's
words are clearly heard and for many miles.

  [1] Wine.
  [2] Estates.

"Our father, however, was not so foolish as to bring the woman to his
home, for he knew that Pathan horse-dealers, camel-men, and traders
would have taken the truth, and more than the truth, concerning the
woman's social position to the gossips of Mekran Kot. And, apart from
the fact that her father was a drunkard, landless, a jail-bird,
out-casted by his caste-fellows, no father loves to see his son marry
with a woman of another community, nor with any woman but her with whose
father he has made his arrangements.

"So my father, bringing the fair woman, his wife, by ship to Karachi,
travelled by the _rêlwêy terain_ to Kot Ghazi and left her there in
India, where she would be safe. There he left her with her _butcha_,[3]
my half-brother, and journeyed toward the setting sun to look upon the
face of his father the Jam Saheb. And the Jam Saheb long turned his face
from him and would not look upon him nor give him his blessing--and only
relented when my father took to himself another wife, my mother, the
lady of noble birth whom the Jam Saheb had desired for him--and
sojourned for a season at Mekran Kot. But after I was born of this union
(I am of pure and noble descent) his heart wearied, being with the fair
woman at Kot Ghazi, for whom he yearned, and with her son, his own son,
yet so white of skin, so blue of eye, the fairest child who ever had a
Pathan father. Yea, my brother was even fairer than I, who, as the
Huzoor knoweth, have grey eyes, and hair and beard that are not darkly
brown.

  [3] Baby.

"So my father began to make journeys to Kot Ghazi to visit the woman his
first wife, and the boy his first-born. And she, who loved him much, and
whom he loved, prevailed upon him to name my brother after _her_ father
as well as after himself, the child's father (as is our custom) and so
my brother was rightly called Mir Jan Rah-bin-Ras el-Isan Ilderim Dost
Mahommed Mir Hafiz Ullah Khan."

"And what part of that is the name of his mother's father?" I asked, for
the Subedar-Major's rapid utterance of the name conveyed nothing of
familiar English or Scottish names to my mind.

"Jan Rah-bin-Ras el-Isan," replied Mir Daoud Khan; "that was her
father's name, Sahib."

"Say it again, slowly."

"Jan Rah-bin-Ras el-Isan."

"I have it! Yes, but _what_?--John Robin Ross-Ellison? Good God! But _I_
knew a John Robin Ross-Ellison when _I_ was a Captain. He was Colonel of
the Corps of which I was Adjutant, in fact--the Gungapur Volunteer
Rifles.... By Jove! That explains a lot. _John Robin Ross-Ellison_!"

I was too incredulous to be astounded. It _could_ not be.

"_Han_[4] Sahib, _bé shak_![5] Jan Rah-bin-Ras el-Isan Ilderim Dost
Mahommed Mir Hafiz Ullah Khan was his name. And his mother called him
Jan Rah-bin-Ras el-Isan and his father, Mir Hafiz Ullah Khan, called
him Ilderim Dost Mahommed."

  [4] Yes.
  [5] Without doubt.

"H'm! A Scotch Pathan, brought up by an Australian girl in India, would
be a rare bird--and of rare possibilities naturally," I murmured, while
my mind worked quickly backward.

"My brother was unlike us in some things, Sahib. He was fond of the
_sharab_ called '_Whisky_' and of dogs; he drank smoke from the cheroot
after the fashion of the Sahib-log and not from the hookah nor the
_bidi_;[6] he wore boots; he struck with the clenched fist when angered;
and never did he squat down upon his heels nor sit cross-legged upon the
ground. Yet he was true Pathan in many ways during his life, and he died
as a Pathan should, concerning his honour (and a woman). Yea--and in his
last fight, ere he was hanged, he killed more men with his long Khyber
knife, single-handed against a mob, than ever did lone man before with
cold steel in fair fight."

  [6] Native cigarette.

Then it was so. And the Subedar-Major was John Robin Ross-Ellison's
brother!

"He may have been foolishly kind to women, servants and dogs, and of a
foolish type of honour that taketh not every possible advantage of the
foe--but he was very brave, Huzoor, a strong enemy, and when he began he
made an end, and if that same honour were affronted he killed his man.
And yet he did not kill Ibrahim Mahmud the Weeper, who surely earned his
death twice, and who tried to kill him in a manner most terrible to
think of. No, he did not--but it shall be told.... And the white woman
prevailed upon our father to make her man-child a Sahib and to let him
go to the _maktab_[7] and _madressah-tul-Islam_[8] at Kot Ghazi, to
learn the clerkly lore that gives no grip to the hand on the sword-hilt
and lance-shaft nor to the thighs in the saddle, no skill to the fingers
on the reins, no length of sight to the eye, no steadiness to the rifle
and the lance, no understanding of the world and men and things. But our
father corrected all this, that the learning might do him no harm, for
oft-times he brought him to Mekran Kot (where my mother tried to poison
him), and he took him across the Black Water and to Kabul and Calcutta
and showed him the world. Also he taught him all he knew of the horse,
the rifle, the sword, and the lance--which was no small matter. Thus,
much of the time wasted at school was harmless, and what the boy lost
through the folly of his mother was redeemed by the wisdom of his
father. Truly are our mothers our best friends and worst enemies. Why,
when I was but a child my mother gave me money and bade me go prove--but
I digress. Well, thus my brother grew up not ignorant of the things a
man should know if he is to be a man and not a _babu_, but the woman,
his mother, wept sore whenever he was taken from her, and gave my father
trouble and annoyance as women ever do. And when, at last, she begged
that the boy might enter the service of the Sirkar as a wielder of the
pen in an office in Kot Ghazi, and strive to become a leading
_munshi_[9] and then a Deputy-Saheb, a _babu_ in very fact, my father
was wroth, and said the boy would be a warrior--yea, though he had to
die in his first skirmish and ere his beard were grown. Then the woman
wept and wearied my father until it seemed better to him that she should
die and, being at peace, bring peace. No quiet would he have at Mekran
Kot from my mother and his father, the Jam Saheb, while the woman lived,
nor would she herself allow him quiet at Kot Ghazi. And was she not
growing old and skinny moreover? And so he sent my brother to Mekran
Kot--and the woman died, without scandal. So my brother dwelt
thenceforward in Mekran Kot, knowing many things, for he had passed a
great _imtahan_[10] at Bombay and won a _sertifcut_[11] thereby, whereof
the Jam Saheb was very pleased, for the son of the Vizier had also gone
to a _madresseh_ and won a _sertifcut_, and it was time the pride of the
Vizier and his son were abated.

  [7] School.
  [8] Mohammedan High School.
  [9] Clerk.
  [10] Examination.
  [11] Certificate.

"Now the son of the Vizier, Mahmud Shahbaz, was Ibrahim--and a mean
mangy pariah cur this Ibrahim Mahmud was, having been educated, and he
hated my brother bitterly by reason of the _sertifcut_ and on account of
a matter concerning a dancing-girl, one of those beautiful fat Mekranis,
and, by reason of his hatred and envy and jealousy, my mother made
common cause with him, she also desiring my brother's death, in that her
husband loved this child of another woman, an alien, his first love,
better than he loved hers. But _I_ bore him no ill-will, Huzoor. I loved
him and admired his deeds.

"Many attempts they made, but though my mother was clever and Ibrahim
Mahmud and his father the Vizier were unscrupulous, my brother was in
the protection of the Prophet. Moreover he was much away from Mekran
Kot, being, like our father, a great traveller and soon irked by
whatever place he might be in. And, one time, he returned home, having
been to Germany on secret service (a thing he often did before he became
a Sahib) and to France and Africa on a little matter of rifles for
Afghanistan and the Border, and spoke to us of that very Somaliland to
which this very _pultan_, the 99th Baluch Light Infantry, went in 1908
(was it?), and how the English were losing prestige there and would have
to send troops or receive _boondah_[12] and the blackened face from him
they called the Mad Mullah. And yet another time he returned from India
bringing a Somali boy, a black-faced youth, but a good Mussulman, whom,
some time before, he had known and saved from death in Africa, and now
had most strangely encountered again. And this Somali lad--who was not a
_hubshi_, a Woolly One, not a Sidi[13] slave--saved my brother's life in
his turn. I said he was not a slave--but in a sense he was, for he asked
nothing better than to sit in the shadow of my brother throughout his
life; for he loved my brother as the Huzoors' dogs love their masters,
yea--he would rather have had blows from my brother than gold from
another. He it was who saved Mir Jan Rah-bin-Ras el-Isan from the
terrible death prepared for him by Ibrahim Mahmud. It was during this
visit to Mekran Kot that Mahmud Shahbaz, the Vizier, announced
that he was about to send his learned son, the dog Ibrahim, to
Englistan to become English-made first-class Pleader--what they
called--'_Barishtar-at-Lar_' is it not, Sahib?"

  [12] An insulting and contemptuous gesture.
  [13] A class of negroes, much employed as sailors and boatmen, and
       called Seedeeboys.

"That's it, Mir Saheb," replied I, sitting alert with chattering teeth
and shivering ague-stricken body. "Barrister-at Law.... Sit as close to
me as you can, for warmth.... Hark! Is that a signal?" as a long high
wavering note rose from the dry river-bed before us and wailed
lugubriously upon the night, rising and falling in mournful cadence.

"'Twas a genuine jackal-cry, Huzoor. One can always tell the imitation
if jackals have sung one's lullaby from birth--though most Pathans can
deceive white ears in the matter.... Well, this made things no
pleasanter, for Ibrahim crowed like the dung-hill cock he was, and
boasted loudly. Also my mother urged him to do a deed ere he left Mekran
Kot for so long a sojourn in Belait.[14] And to her incitements and his
own inclination and desires was added that which made revenge and my
brother's death the chiefest things in all the world to Ibrahim Mahmud,
and it happened thus.... But do I weary the Sahib with my babble?"

  [14] Europe.

"Nay--nay--far from it, Mir Saheb," replied I. "The sentry of talk
challenges the approaching skirmishers of sleep. The thong of narrative
drives off the dogs of tedium. Tell on." And in point of fact I was now
too credulous to be anything but astounded.... _John Robin
Ross-Ellison_!

"Well, one day, my brother and I went forth to shoot sand-grouse,
tuloor,[15] chikor,[16] chinkara[17] and perchance ibex, leaving behind
this black body-servant Moussa Isa, the Somali boy, because he was
sick. And it was supposed that we should not return for a week at the
least. But on the third day we returned, my brother's eyes being
inflamed and sore and he fearing blindness if he remained out in the
desert glare. This is a common thing, as the Sahib knoweth, when dust
and sun combine against the eyes of those who have read over-many books
and written over-much with the steel pen upon white paper, and my
brother was somewhat prone to this trouble in the desert if he exhausted
himself with excessive _shikar_ and--other matters. And this angered him
greatly. Yet it was all ordained by Allah for the undoing of that
unclean dog Ibrahim Mahmud--for, returning and riding on his white camel
(a far-famed pacer of speed and endurance) under the great gateway of
the Jam's fort--high enough for a camel-rider to pass unstooping and
long enough for a _rêlwêy_-tunnel--he came upon Mahmud Ibrahim and his
friends and followers (for he had many such, who thought he might
succeed his father as Vizier) doing a thing that enraged my brother very
greatly. Swinging at the end of a cord tied to his hands, which were
bound behind his back, was the boy Moussa Isa the Somali, apparently
dead, for his eyes were closed and he gave no sign of pain as Ibrahim's
gang of pimps, panders, bullies and _budmashes_[18] kept him swinging to
and fro by blows of _lathis_[19] and by kicks, while Ibrahim and his
friends, at a short distance, strove to hit the moving body with stones.
I suppose the agony of hanging forward from the arms, and the blows of
staff and stone, had stunned the lad--who had offended Ibrahim, it
appeared, by preventing him from entering my brother's house--probably
to poison his water-_lotah_[20] and _gurrah_[21]--at the door of which
he, Moussa Isa, lay sick. My brother, Mir Jan, sprang from his camel
without waiting for the driver to make it kneel, and going up to
Ibrahim, he struck him with his closed, but empty, hand. Not with the
slap that stings and angers, he struck him, but with the thud that stuns
and injures, upon the mouth, removing certain of his teeth,--such being
his anger and his strength. Rising from the ground and plucking forth
his knife, Ibrahim sprang at my brother who, unarmed, straightway smote
him senseless, and that is talked of in Mekran Kot to this day.
Yea--senseless. Placing the thumb upon the knuckles of the clenched
fingers, he smote at the chin of Ibrahim, and laid him, as one dead,
upon the earth. Straight to the front from the shoulder and not
downwards nor swinging sideways he struck, and it was as though Ibrahim
had been shot. The Sahib being English will believe this, but many
Baluchis and Pathans do not. They cannot believe it, though to me
Subedar-Major Mir Daoud Khan Mir Hafiz Ullah Khan of the 99th Baluch
Light Infantry of the Army of the King Emperor of India, they pretend
that they do, when I tell of that great deed.... Then my brother loosed
Moussa Isa with his own hand, saying that even as he had served Ibrahim
Mahmud so would he serve any man who injured a hair of the head of his
body-servant. And Moussa Isa clave to my brother yet the more, and when
a great Sidi slave entered the room of my brother by night, doubtless
hired by Ibrahim Mahmud to slay him, Moussa Isa, grappling with him,
tore out his throat with his teeth, though stabbed many times by the
Sidi, ere my brother could light torch or wick to tell friend from foe.
Whether he were thief or hired murderer, none could say--least of all
the Sidi when Moussa Isa, at my brother's bidding, loosed his teeth from
the man's throat. But all men held that it was the work of Ibrahim, for,
on recovering his senses that day of the blow, he had walked up to my
brother Mir Jan and said:--

  [15] Bustard.
  [16] A kind of partridge.
  [17] Gazelle.
  [18] Bad characters.
  [19] Long staves.
  [20] Brass cup or vase.
  [21] Basin or pot.

"'For that blow will I have a great revenge, O Jan Rah-bin-Ras el-Isan
Ilderim Dost Mahommed Mir Hafiz Ullah Khan, descendant of Mirs and of
_mlecca_ dogs, this year or next year, or ten years hence, or when thou
art old, or upon thy first-born. By the sacred names of God, by the
Beard of the Prophet, by the hilt and blade of this my knife, and by the
life of my oldest son, I swear to have a vengeance on thee that shall
turn men pale as they whisper it. _And may Allah smite me blind_ if I do
not unto thee a thing of which children yet unborn shall speak with
awe.'

"Thus spake Ibrahim, son of Mahmud, for though a dog, a mangy pariah
cur, he was still a Pathan.

"But my brother laughed in his face and said but 'It would seem that I
too have tortured a slave' whereat Ibrahim repeated again 'Yea--_may
Allah smite me blind!_'

"And something of this coming to the ears of our father, now heir to the
Jam of Mekran Kot, as his brothers were dead (in the big Border War they
died), he prayed the Jam Saheb to hasten the departure of the Vizier's
cub, and also told the Vizier that he would surely cut out his tongue
if aught befell Mir Jan. So the Vizier sent Ibrahim to Kot Ghazi on
business of investing moneys--wrung by knavery, doubtless, from litigant
suitors, candidates, criminals, and the poor of Mekran Kot. And shortly
after, the Jam Saheb heard of a new kind of gun that fires six of the
fat cartridges such as are used for the shooting of birds, without
reloading; and he bade Mir Jan who understood all things, and the ways
of the European gun-shop at Kot Ghazi, to hasten forthwith and procure
him a couple, and if none were in Kot Ghazi to send a _tar_[22] to
Bombay for them, or even, if necessary, to Englistan, though at a cost
of two rupees a word. With such a gun the Jam hoped to get better
_shikar_ when sitting on his camel and circling round the foolish
crouching grouse or _tuloor_, and firing at them as they sat. He thought
he might fire twice or thrice at them sitting, and again twice or thrice
at the remnant flying, and perchance hit some on the wing, after the
wonderful manner of the Sahibs. So he sent my brother, knowing him to be
both clever and honest and understanding the speech and ways of the
English most fully.

  [22] Telegram.

"Now it is many days' journey, Sahib, across the desert and the
mountains, from Mekran Kot in Kubristan to Kot Ghazi in India, but at
Kot Ghazi is a fine bungalow, the property of the Jam Saheb, and there
all travellers from his house may sojourn and rest after their long and
perilous travel.

"Taking me and Mir Abdul Haq and Mir Hussein Ali and many men and
servants, among whom was the body-servant, the boy Moussa Isa Somali, he
set forth, a little depressed that we heard not the cry of the
partridge in the fields of Mekran Kot as we started--not exactly a bad
omen, but lacking a good one. And sure enough, ere we won to Kot Ghazi,
his eyes became red and inflamed, very sore and painful to use. So, he
put the tail of his _puggri_[23] about his face and rode all day from
sun-rise to sun-set in darkness, his camel being driven by Abdulali
Gulamali Bokhari--the same who later rose to fame and honour as an
outlaw and was hanged at Peshawar after a brave and successful career.
And being arrived, in due course, at Kot Ghazi, before entering the
bungalow belonging to the Jam Saheb, he knelt his camel at the door of
the shop of a European _hakim_--in English a--er--"

  [23] Turban.

"Chemist, Mir Saheb," I suggested.

"Doubtless, since your honour says it--of a _kimmish_, and entering, to
the Eurasian dog therein said in English, of which he knew everything
(and taught me much, as your honour knows), 'Look you. I need lotion for
my eyes, eye medicine, and a bath for them' and the man mixed various
waters and poured them into a blue bottle with red labels, very
beautiful to see, and wrote upon it. Also he gave my brother a small cup
of glass, shaped like the mouth of the _pulla_ fish or the eye-socket of
a man. And my brother, knowing what to do, used the things then and
there, to the wonder of Abdul Haq and Hussein Ali, pouring the liquor
into the glass cup, and holding it to his eyes, and with back-thrown
head washing the eye and soothing it.

"'Shahbas!'[24] quoth he. 'It is good,' and anon we proceeded to the
gun-shop and then to the bungalow belonging to the Jam Saheb. And lo
and behold, here we discovered the dog Ibrahim Mahmud, and my brother
twisted the knife of memory in the wound of insult by ordering him to
quit the room he occupied and seek another, since Mir Jan intended the
room for his body-servant, Moussa Isa Somali--the servant of a Mir being
more deserving of the room than the son of a Vizier! This was unwise,
but my brother's heart was too great to fear (or to fathom) the guile of
such a serpent as Ibrahim.

  [24] Bravo! Excellent!

"And when he had bathed and prayed, eaten and drunk and rested, my
brother again anointed his eyes with the liquid--which though only like
water, was strong to soothe and heal. And our servants and people
watched him doing this with wonder and admiration, and the news of it
spread to the servants of Ibrahim Mahmud, who told their master of this
cleverness of Mir Jan,--and Ibrahim, after a while, sent a message and a
present to my brother, humbling himself, and asking that he too might
see this thing.

"And Mir Jan, perhaps a little proud of his English ways, sat upon his
_charpai_,[25] and bathed his eyes in the little bath, until, wearying
of the trouble of pouring back the liquid into the bottle, he would
press the bottle itself to his eye and throw back his head. So his eyes
were quickly eased of pain, and in the evening we all went forth to
enjoy.

  [25] Native cot or bed.

"On his return to the room, Mir Jan flung himself, weary, upon his
_charpai_ and Moussa Isa lay across the doorway.

"In the morning my brother awoke and sitting on the _charpai_, took up
the blue bottle, drew the cork, and raised the bottle towards his eyes.
As he did this, Moussa Isa entered, and knowing not why he did so,
sprang at his master and dashed the bottle from his hand. It fell to the
ground but broke not, the floor being _dhurrie_[26]-covered.

  [26] Carpet.

"In greatest amazement Mir Jan glanced from Moussa Isa to the bottle,
clenching his hand to strike the boy--when behold! the very floor
bubbled and smoked beneath the touch of the liquid as it ran from the
bottle. By the Beard of the Prophet, that stone floor bubbled and smoked
like water and the _dhurrie_ was burnt! Snatching up the bottle my
brother dropped drops from it upon the blade of his knife, upon the
leather of his boots, upon paint and brass and clothing--and behold it
was liquid fire, burning and corroding all that it touched! To me he
called, and, being shown these things, I could scarce believe--and then
I cried aloud 'Ibrahim Mahmud! Thine enemy!... Oh, my brother,--thine
eyes!' and I remembered the words of Ibrahim, '_a vengeance that shall
turn men pale as they whisper it--a thing of which children yet unborn
shall speak with awe_' and we rushed to his room,--to find it empty. He
and his best camel and its driver were gone, but all his people and
servants and _oont-wallahs_[27] were in the _serai_,[28] and said they
knew not where he was, but had received a _hookum_[29] over-night to set
out that day for Mekran Kot. And, catching up a pariah puppy, I
re-entered the house and dropped one drop from the blue bottle into its
eye. Sahib, even _I_ pitied the creature and slew it quickly with my
knife. And it was this that Ibrahim Mahmud had intended for the blue
eyes of my beautiful brother. This was the vengeance of which men should
speak in whispers. Those who saw and heard that puppy would speak of it
in whispers indeed--or not at all. I felt sick and my fingers itched to
madness for the throat of Ibrahim Mahmud. Had I seen him then, I would
have put out his eyes with my thumbs. Nay--I would have used the burning
liquid upon him as he had designed it should be used by my brother.

  [27] Camel-men.
  [28] Halting-enclosure, rest-house.
  [29] Order.

"Hearing Mir Jan's voice, I hurried forth, and found that his white
pacing-camel was already saddled and that he sat in the front seat,
prepared to drive. 'Up, Daoud Khan' he cried to me 'we go
a-hunting'--and I sprang to the rear saddle even as the camel rose.
'Lead on, Moussa Isa, and track as thou hast never tracked before, if
thou wouldst live,' said he to the Somali, a noted _paggi_,[30] even
among the Baluch and Sindhi _paggis_ of the police at Peshawar and Kot
Ghazi. 'I can track the path of yesterday's bird through the air and of
yesterday's fish through the water,' answered the black boy; 'and I
would find this Ibrahim by smell though he had blinded _me_,' and he led
on. Down the Sudder Bazaar he went unfaltering, though hundreds of feet
of camels, horses, bullocks and of men were treading its dust. As we
passed the shop of the European _hakim_, yes, the _kimmish_, my brother
leapt down and entering the shop asked questions. Returning and mounting
he said to me: ''Tis as I thought. Hither he came last night, and,
saying he was science-knowing failed B.Sc., demanded certain acids,
that, being mixed, will eat up even gold--which no other acid can
digest, nor even assail....'"

  [30] Tracker.

"_Aqua Regia_, or vitriol, I believe," I murmured, still marvelling ...
_Ross-Ellison!_

"Doubtless, if your honour is pleased to say so. 'He must have poured
these acids into the bottle while we were abroad last night,' continued
my brother. 'Oh, the dog! The treacherous dreadful dog!... 'Twas in a
good hour that I saved Moussa Isa,' and indeed I too blessed that
Somali, so mysteriously moved by Allah to dash the bottle from my
brother's hand.

"'Think you that Ibrahim Mahmud bribed Moussa and that he repented as he
saw you about to anoint your eyes with the acid?' I asked of my brother.

"'Nay--Moussa was with me until I returned,' replied he, 'and returning,
I put the bottle beneath my pillow. Besides, Ibrahim had fled ere we
returned to the bungalow. Moreover, Moussa would lose his tongue ere he
would tell me a lie, his eyes ere he would see me suffer, his hand ere
he would take a bribe against me. No--Allah moved his heart--rewarding
me for saving his life at the risk of mine own, when he lay beneath a
lion,--or else it is that the black dog hath the instincts of a dog and
knows when evil threatens what it loves.' And indeed it is a wonderful
thing and true; and Moussa Isa never knew how he knew, but said his arm
moved of itself and that he wondered at himself as he struck the bottle
from his master's hand. And, in time, we left the city and followed the
road and found that Ibrahim was fleeing to Mekran Kot, doubtless to be
far away when the thing happened, and also to get counsel and money from
his father and my mother, should suspicion fall on him and flight be
necessary. And anon even untrained eyes could see where he had left the
Caravan Road and taken the shorter route whereby camels bearing no heavy
load could come by steeper passes and dangerous tracks in shorter time
to Mekran Kot, provided the rider bore water sufficient--for there was
no oasis nor well. 'Enough, Moussa Isa, thou mayest return, I can track
the camel of Ibrahim now that he hath left the road,' quoth my brother,
breaking a long silence; but Moussa Isa, panting as he ran before,
replied: 'I come, Mir Saheb. I shall not fall until mine eyes have
beheld thy vengeance--in which perchance, _I_ may take a part. He called
me "_Hubshi_".'

"'He hath many hours' start, Moussa,' said my brother, 'and his camel is
a good one. He will not halt and sleep for many hours even though he
suppose me dead!'

"'I can run for a day; for a day and a night I can run,' replied the
Somali, 'and I can run until the hour of thy vengeance cometh. He called
_me_ "Hubshi"' ... and he ran on.

"Sahib, for the whole of that day he ran beside the fast camel, my
brother drawing rein for no single minute, and when, at dawn, I awoke
from broken slumber in the saddle, Moussa Isa was running yet! And then
we heard the cry of the partridge and knew that our luck was good.

"'He may have left the track,' quoth my brother soon after dawn, 'but I
think he is making for Mekran Kot, to get money and documents and to
escape again ere news of his deed--or the suspicion of him--reaches the
Jam Saheb. We may have missed him, but I could not halt and wait for
daylight. He cannot be far ahead of us now. This camel shall live on
milk and meal and wheaten bread, finest _bhoosa_[31] and chosen young
green shoots, and buds, and leaves--and he shall have a collar of gold
with golden bells, and reins of silk, and hanging silken tassels, and he
shall----" and then Moussa Isa gave a hoarse scream and pointed to the
sky-line above which rose a wisp of smoke.

  [31] Bran.

"'It is he,' said my brother, and within the hour we beheld the little
bush-tent of Ibrahim Mahmud (made with cloths thrown over a bent bush)
and his camel, near to which, his _oont-wallah_ Suleiman Abdulla had
kindled a fire and prepared food. (Later this liar swore that he made
the fire smoke with green twigs to guide the pursuit,--a foolish lie,
for he knew not what Ibrahim had done, nor anything but that his master
hastened.)

"Moussa Isa staggered to where Ibrahim Mahmud lay asleep, looked upon
his face, and fell, seeming to be about to die.

"Making a little _chukker_[32] round, my brother drove the camel between
Suleiman and the tent and made it kneel.

  [32] Circuit, course.

"'_Salaam aleikoum_,[33] Mir Saheb,' said Suleiman, and my brother
replied:--

  [33] A Mussulman greeting.

"'Salaam. Tend thou my camel and prepare food for me, and my brother,
and my servant. And if thou wouldst not hang in a pig's skin, be wise
and wary, and keep eyes, ears, and mouth closed.' And we drank water.

"Then, treading softly, we went to the tent where Ibrahim Mahmud slept
and sat us down where we could look upon his face. There he slept,
Sahib, peacefully, like a little child!--having left Mir Jan to die the
death 'whereof men should speak with awe,' as he had threatened.

"We sat beside him and watched. Saying nothing, we sat and watched. An
hour passed and an hour again. For another hour without moving or
speaking we sat and Moussa Isa joined us and watched.

"'Twas sweet, and I licked my lips and hoped he might not wake for
hours, although I hungered. The actual revenge is very, very sweet,
Sahib, but does it exceed the joy of watching the enemy as he lies
wholly at your mercy, lies in the hollow of your hand and is your poor
foolish plaything,--knave made fool at last? Like statues we sat, moving
not our eyes from his face, and we were very happy.

"Then, suddenly, he awoke and his eyes fell on my brother--and he
shrieked aloud, as the hare shrieks when hound or jackal seize her; as
the woman shrieks when the door goes down before the raiders and the
thatch goes up in flame.

"Thus he shrieked.

"We moved not.

"'Why cryest thou, dear brother?' asked Mir Jan in a soft, sweet voice.

"'I--I--thought thou wast a spirit, come to--' he faltered, and my
brother answered:--

"'And why should _I_ be a spirit, my brother? Am I not young and
strong?'

"'I dreamed,' quavered Ibrahim.

"'I too have had a dream,' said my brother.

"''Twas but a dream, Mir Jan. I will arise and prepare some--' replied
Ibrahim, affecting ease of manner but poorly, for he had no real nerve.

"'Thou wilt not arise yet, Ibrahim Mahmud,' murmured my brother gently.

"'Why?'

"'Because thine eyes are somewhat wearied and I purpose to wash them
with my magic water,' and as he held up the blue bottle with the red
label Ibrahim screamed like a girl and flung himself forward at my
brother's feet, shrieking and praying for mercy:--

"'_No, No!_' he howled; 'not _that!_ Mercy, O kingly son of Kings! I
will give thee--"

"'Nay, my brother,--what is this?' asked Mir Jan softly, with kind
caressing voice. 'What is all this? I do but propose to bathe thine eyes
with this same magic water wherewith I bathed mine own, the day before
yesterday. Thou didst see me do it--thou didst watch me do it.'

"'Mercy--most noble Mir! Have pity, 'twas not I. Mercy!' he screamed.

"'But, Ibrahim, dear brother' expostulated Mir Jan, 'why this objection
to my magic water? It gave me great relief and my eyes were quickly
healed. Thine own need care--for see--water gushes from them even now.'

"The dog howled--like a dog--and offered lakhs of rupees.

"'But surely, my brother, what gave me relief will give thee relief?
Thou knowest how my eyes were soothed and healed, and that it is a
potent charm, and surely _it is not changed_?' Mir Jan Rah-bin-Ras
el-Isan was all Pathan then, Sahib, whatever he may have been at other
times. I could not have played more skilfully with the dog myself.

"At last, turning to Moussa Isa he said:--

"'Our brother seemeth distraught, and perchance will do himself some
injury if he be not tended with care and watched over. Bind him, to make
sure that he hurt not himself in this strange madness that hath
o'ertaken him, making him fancy harm even in this healing balm. Bind him
tightly.' And at that, the treacherous, murderous dog found his manhood
for a moment and made to spring to his feet and fight, but as he tried
to rise, Moussa Isa kicked him in the face and fell upon him.

"'Shall I serve thee as I served thy _Hubshi_ hireling, thy Sidi slave?'
he grunted and showed his sharp strong teeth.

"'Perchance 'twould cure him of his madness if we bled the poor soul a
little,' cooed my brother, putting his hand to his cummerbund where was
his long Afghan knife, and Ibrahim Mahmud lay still. Picking up his big,
green turban from beside his rug, I bound his arms to his sides and
then, going forth, got baggage-cords from the _oont-wallah_ and likewise
his _puggri_, and Moussa Isa bound his feet and hands and knees.

"Then my brother called Suleiman Abdulla the _oont-wallah_, and bade
Moussa Isa sleep--which he did with his knife in his hand, having bound
his foot to that of Ibrahim.

"'Look, thou dog,' said Mir Jan to Suleiman, 'should this rat-flea
escape, thy soul and thy body shall pay, for I will put out thine eyes
with glowing charcoal and hang thee in the skin of a pig, if I have to
follow thee to Cabul to do it--yea, to Balkh or Bokhara. See to it.' And
Suleiman put his head upon my brother's feet, poured dust upon it and
said 'So be it, Mir Saheb. Do this and more if he escape,' and we slept
awhile.

"Anon we awoke, ate, drank and smoked, my brother smoking the cheroots
of the Sahib-log and I having to be content with the _bidis_ of Suleiman
as there was no hookah.

"And when we had rested we went and sat before the face of Ibrahim and
gazed upon him long, without words.

"And he wept. Like a woman he wept, and said 'Slay me, Mir Saheb, and
have done. Slay me with thy knife.'

"But my brother replied softly and sweetly:--

"'What wild words are these, Ibrahim? Why should I slay thee? Some
matter of a quarrel there was concerning thy torturing of my
servant--but I am not of them that bear grudges and nurse hatred. In no
anger slay thee with my knife? Why should I injure thee? I do most
solemnly swear, Ibrahim, that I will do thee no wilful hurt. I will but
anoint thine eyes with the contents of this bottle just as I did anoint
my own. Why should I slay thee or do thee hurt?'

"And I chuckled aloud. He was all Pathan then, Sahib, and handling his
enemy right subtly.

"And Ibrahim wept yet more loudly and said again:--

"'Slay me and have done.' Then my brother gave him the name by which he
was known ever after, saying:--

"'Why should I slay thee, _Ibrahim, the Weeper_?' and he produced the
bottle and held it above that villain's face.

"His screams were music to me, and in the joy of his black heart Moussa
Isa burst into some strange chant in his own Somali tongue.

"'Nay, our friends must hear thy eloquence and songs, Ibrahim,' said my
brother, after he had held the bottle tilted above the face of the
Weeper for some minutes. ''Twere greedy to keep this to ourselves.'

"Again and again that day my brother would say: 'Nay--I cannot wait
longer. Poor Ibrahim's weeping eyes must be relieved at once,' and he
would produce the bottle, uncork it, and hold it over Ibrahim's face as
he writhed and screamed and twisted in his bonds.

"'What ails thee, Ibrahim the Weeper?' he would coo. 'Thou knowest it is
a soothing lotion. Didst thou not see me use it on mine own eyes?' Yea,
he was true Pathan then, and I loved him the more.

"A hundred times that day he did thus and enjoyed the music of Ibrahim's
screams, and by night the dog was a little mad. So, lest we defeat
ourselves and lose something of the sport our souls loved, we left him
in peace that night, if 'peace' it is to know that the dreadful death
you have prepared for another now overhangs you. Moussa Isa kept watch
through the night. And in the morning came Abdul Haq and Hussein Ali
and the servants and _oont-wallahs_, save a few who had been sent with
laden camels by the Caravan Road. And, when all had eaten and rested, my
brother held _durbar_,[34] having placed Ibrahim Mahmud in the midst,
bound, and looking like one who has long lain upon a bed of sickness.

  [34] Meeting.

"This _durbar_ proceeded with the greatest solemnity and no man smiled
when my brother said: 'And now, touching the matter of my beloved and
respected Ibrahim Mahmud, son of our grandfather's Vizier,--the learned
Ibrahim, who shortly goeth (perhaps) across the black water to Englistan
to become a great and famous pleader,--can any suggest the cause of the
strange and distressing madness that hath come upon him so suddenly?
For, behold, I have to keep him bound lest he do himself an injury, and
constantly he crieth, "Kill me, Mir Saheb, kill me with thy knife and
make an end." And when I go to bathe his poor eyes, so sore and red with
weeping, behold he shrieketh like the _rêlwêy terain_ at Peshawar and
weepeth like a woman.'

"And Abdul Haq spoke and said: 'Is it so indeed, Mir Saheb?' And my
brother said: 'It is so;' and Hussein Ali said: 'Is it so indeed, Mir
Saheb?' And my brother said 'It is so;' and all men said the same thing
gravely and my brother made the same answer.

"Sahib, I shall never forget the joy of that _durbar_ with Ibrahim the
Weeper there, like a trapped rat, in the midst, looking from face to
face for mercy.

"'Yea--it is so. It is indeed so,' again said my brother when all had
asked. 'You shall see--and hear. Behold I will drop but one drop of my
soothing lotion into each of his eyes!' ... and he turned to Ibrahim the
Weeper, with the uncorked bottle in his hand--the bottle from which came
forth smoke, though it was cold. But Ibrahim rolled screaming, and
strove to thrust his face into the ground. 'It is strange indeed,' mused
Abdul Haq, stroking his beard, while none smiled. 'Strange, in every
truth. But thou hast not dropped the drops, Mir Saheb. Perchance he will
arise and thank thee and be cured of this madness when he feels the
healing anointment that so benefited thine own eyes. Oh, the cleverness
of these European _hakims_,' and he raised hands and eyes in wonder as
he sighed piously.

"'Yea--perchance he will,' agreed my brother and bade Moussa Isa hold
him by the ears with his face to the sky while the _oont-wallahs_ kept
him on his back. And Ibrahim's body heaved up those four strong men as
it bent like a bow and bucked like a horse, while my brother removed the
cork once again.

"His shrieks delighted my soul.

"''Tis a marvellous mystery to me,' sighed my brother. 'He knows how
innocent and healing are these waters and yet he refuses them. He saw me
use them on my own eyes--and surely the medicine is unchanged?' And he
balanced the bottle sideways above the face of his enemy and allowed the
devilish acid to well up and impend upon the very edge of the neck of
the bottle, as he murmured: 'But a single drop for each eye! More I
cannot spare--to-day. Perchance a drop for each ear to-morrow, and one
for his tongue on the next day--if his madness spare him to us for so
long.'

"Then, as Ibrahim, foaming, shrieked curses and cried aloud to Allah
and Mohammed his Prophet, he said: 'Nay, this is ingratitude. He shall
not have them to-day at all, but shall endure without them till sunrise
to-morrow. Take him yonder, and lay him on that flat rock, bareheaded in
the sun, that his tears may be dried for him.' ...

"Yea! I found no fault with my brother then, Sahib.

"He was a master in his revenge. And the _durbar_ murmured its applause,
and praised and thanked my brother. Not one of them but had suffered at
the hands of Mahmud Shahbaz, his father, the Vizier, or at the insolent
hands of this his own son.... Then Mir Jan called to Moussa Isa, his
body-servant, and said unto him:--

"'Hear, Moussa Isa, and make no tiny error if thou wouldst see
to-morrow's sun and go to Paradise anon. Feed that carrion well and
pretend to be filled with the pity that is the child of avarice. Ask
what he will give thee to help him to escape. Affect to haggle long, and
speak much of the difficulties and dangers of the deed. At length agree
to put him on my fast camel this night at moon-rise, if thou art left as
his guard and we are wrapt in slumber. Play thy part well, and show thy
remorse at cheating thy master--even for a lakh[35] of rupees--yea, and
show fear of what will happen to thee, and pretend distrust of him. At
length succumb again, and as the moon just shows above the mountains
untie his bonds and do thus and thus--' and he whispered instructions
while a light shone in the eyes of Moussa Isa, the Somali, and a smile
played about his mouth.

  [35] One hundred thousand.

"And Mir Jan told the matter that night to all and gave instructions.

"Moussa Isa meanwhile did everything as he was bid and, while we ate, he
carried his own food to the Weeper, as though secretly.

"Long and merrily we feasted, pretending to drink to excess of the
forbidden _sharab_, singing and behaving like toddy-laden coolies, and
in time we staggered to our carpets, put on our _poshteens_,[36] pulled
rugs over our heads and slept--not.

  [36] Warm sheep-skin coats.

"From under his rug my brother kept watch. Shortly after, Moussa Isa
arose from beside Ibrahim the Weeper and crawled like a snake to where
the camels knelt in a ring, and there he saddled the swift white camel
of Mir Jan, and I heard its bubbling snarl as he made it rise, and led
it over near to where Ibrahim lay. There he made it kneel again, and,
throwing the nose-rope over its head, he laid the loop thereof, with his
stick, on the front seat of the saddle. This done, he crept back to
Ibrahim Mahmud and feigned sleep awhile. Anon, none stirring, he began
to untie with his teeth and knife-point the cords that bound the
captive, and when, at length, the man was free, Moussa chafed his
stiffened arms and legs, his hands and feet.

"When, after a time, Ibrahim tried to rise, he fell again and
again, and the moon not yet having risen above the mountains, the
avaricious-seeming Moussa again massaged and chafed the limbs of the
villain Ibrahim, who earnestly prayed Moussa Isa to lay him on the
saddle as he was--and depart ere some sleeper awoke. But Moussa said
'twould be vain to start until Ibrahim could sit in the saddle and hold
on, and he continued to rub his arms and legs.

"But when the edge of the moon shone above the mountain, Moussa placed
the arm of Ibrahim around his neck, put his arm round Ibrahim's body,
and staggered with him to where the racing-camel knelt. After a few
steps the strength of Ibrahim seemed to return, and, by the time they
reached the camel, he could totter on his feet and stand without help.
With some difficulty Moussa hoisted him into the rear saddle. Having
done so, he thrust the stirrups upon his feet and commenced to unwind
his puggri.

"'Mount, mount!' whispered Ibrahim.

"'Nay, I must tie thee on,' replied Moussa Isa and, knotting one end of
the _puggri_ to the back of the saddle, he passed it twice round Ibrahim
and tied the other end near the first. This done, and Ibrahim being in a
frantic fever of haste and fear and hope, Moussa Isa commenced to
bargain, Ibrahim agreeing to every demand and promising even more.

"'Anything! anything!' he shrieked beneath his breath. 'Bargain as we
go. You cannot ask too much. I and my father will strip ourselves for
thee.' ... And having tortured him awhile, Moussa sprang into the saddle
and brought the camel to its feet--as my brother's voice said, softly
and sweetly:--

"'Wouldst thou leave us, O Ibrahim, my friend?' and my own chimed in:--

"'Could'st thou leave us, O Ibrahim, my brother's friend?' and the voice
of Abdul Haq followed with:--

"'Shouldst thou leave us, O Ibrahim, my cousin's friend?' and Hussein
Ali's voice added:--

"'Do not leave us, O Ibrahim, my friend's friend.' Like the wolf-pack,
every other voice in the camp in turn implored:--

"'Never leave us, O Ibrahim, our master's friend.'

"'Go! go!' shrieked Ibrahim, kicking with his heels at the camel's sides
and striking at Moussa Isa, as that obedient youth, raising his stick,
caused the camel to bound forward, and drove it, swiftly trotting--to
where my brother lay, and there made it kneel again....

"Dost thou sleep, Huzoor?"

"Nay, Mir Saheb," I replied, "nor would I till your tale be done and I
have seen the return of another reconnoitring-patrol. We might then take
turns.... Nay, I will not sleep at all. 'Tis too near dawn--when things
are wont to happen in time of war."

Little did the worthy Subedar-Major guess how, or why, his tale
enthralled me.

"I have nearly done, Sahib.... On the morrow my brother said: 'To-day I
will make an end. After the evening prayer let all assemble and behold
the anointing of the eyes of Ibrahim the Weeper with the same balm that
he intended to be applied to mine.' And during the day men drove strong
stakes deep into the ground, the distance between them being equal to
the width of Ibrahim's head, which they measured--telling him why. Also
pegs were driven into the ground convenient for the fastening of his
hands and feet, and stones were collected as large as men could carry.

"And, after evening prayer and prostration we took Ibrahim, and forcing
his head between the stakes so that he could not turn it, we tied his
hands and feet to the pegs and weighted his body with the stones, being
careful to do him no injury and to cause no such pain as might detract
from the real torture, and lessen his punishment.

"And then Mir Jan stood over him with the bottle and said, softly and
sweetly:--

"'Ibrahim, my friend, thou didst vow upon me a vengeance, the telling of
which should turn men pale, because I struck thee for torturing my
servant. And now I return good for thine evil, for I take pity on thy
weeping eyes and heal them. These several days thou hast refused this
benefaction with floods of tears, and sobs and screams. Now, behold, and
see how foolish thou hast been,' and he spilt a drop from the bottle, so
that it fell near the face of Ibrahim, but not on it.

"And I was amazed to see that the stone upon which the drop fell did not
bubble and boil. This prolongation and refinement of the torture I could
appreciate and enjoy--but why did not the acid affect the stone? 'Twas
as though mere cold water had fallen upon it. Nor was the bottle smoking
as always hitherto.

"And even as I wondered, my brother quickly stooped and dashed some of
the contents of the bottle in the eyes of Ibrahim the Weeper.

"With a shriek that pierced our ear-drums and must have been heard for
many kos,[37] Ibrahim writhed and jerked so that the stones were thrown
from his body and the pegs that held his feet and hands were torn from
the ground. The stakes holding his head firmly, he flung his body over
until his head was beneath it and then back again, and screamed like a
wounded horse. At last he wrenched his head free, and, holding his hands
to his face--which appeared to be in no way injured--leapt up and ran
round and round in circles, until he was seized, and, by my brother's
orders, his hands were torn from his face.

  [37] Kos = two miles.

"And behold, his eyes and face were unmarked and uninjured, and the
liquid that dripped upon his clothing made no mark and did no hurt.

"'_Blind_,' he shrieked,' I am _blind!_ O Merciful Allah, my eyes!' and
he fell, howling.

"'Now that is very strange,' said my brother, 'for I threw pure, plain,
cold water in his face. See me drink of the remainder!' and he drank
from the bottle, and so did I, in fear and wonder. Cold, pure, fair
water it was, and nothing else!

"But Ibrahim the Weeper was blind. Stone blind to his dying day and
never looked upon the sun again. Little drops of water had struck him
blind. Nay, the Hand of Allah had struck him blind--him who had cried:
'_May Allah strike me blind_ if I do not unto thee a thing of which
children yet unborn shall speak with awe". He had tried to do such a
thing and God had struck him blind--though my brother, who was very
learned, spoke of self-suggestion, and of imagination being sometimes
strong enough to make the imagined come to pass. (He told of a man who
died for no reason, on a certain day at a certain hour, because his
father had done so and he believed that _he_ would also. But more likely
it was witchcraft and he was under a curse.)

"Howbeit, little drops of pure water blinded Ibrahim the Weeper. And
there the foreign blood of my poor brother showed forth. He could not
escape the taint and was weak. At the last moment he had wavered and,
like a fool, had forgiven his enemy."

"Was he a Christian?" I asked (and had often wondered in the past).

"_Nahin_, Sahib! He was a Mussulman, my father having had him taught
with special care by a holy _moulvie_,[38] by reason of the fact that
his mother had had him sprinkled with holy water by her priests and had
taught him the tenets of the Christian faith--doubtless a high and noble
one since your honour is of it."

  [38] Priest.

"He had been taught the Christian doctrines, then?"

"Without doubt, Sahib. Throughout his childhood; in the absence of his
father. And doubtless this aided his foreign blood in making him act
thus foolishly."

"Doubtless," I agreed, with a smile.

"Yea, at the last moment he had put his vengeance from him and behaved
like a weak fool, throwing away the acid, cleaning the bottle and
filling it with pure water. He had intended to give Ibrahim a fright
(and also the opprobrious title of _the Weeper_), to teach him a lesson
and to let him go--provided he swore on the Q'ran never to return to
Mekran Kot when he left for England.... Such a man was my poor brother.
But the hand of Allah intervened and Ibrahim the Weeper lived and died
stone blind.... A strange man that poor brother of mine, strong save
when his foreign blood and foreign religion arose like poison within him
and made him weak.... There was the case of the English Sergeant
Larnce-Ishmeet whom he spared and sent into the English lines in the
little Border War."

"Lance-Sergeant Smith? What regiment?" I asked.

"I know not, Sahib, save that it was a British Infantry Regiment. (He
was not Lance-Sergeant Ishmeet but Sergeant Larnce-Ishmeet.) We ... I
mean ... they ... slew many of a Company that was doing rear-guard and
their officers being slain and many men also, a Sergeant took them off
with great skill. Section by section, from point to point he retired
them, and our ... their ... triumphant joy at the capture and slaughter
of the Company was changed to gnashing of teeth--for we lost many and
the Company retired safely on the main body. But we got the Sergeant,
badly wounded, and my brother would not have him slain. Rather he showed
him much honour and had him borne to Mekran Kot, and when he was healed
he took him to within sight of the outermost Khyber fort and set him
free.... Yet was he not an enemy, Sahib, taken in war? Strange
weaknesses had my poor brother...."

"I knew a Sergeant-Major Lawrence-Smith," I remarked, as light dawned on
me after pondering "Larnce-Ishmeet." "He shot himself at Duri some time
ago."

"He was a brave man," said Mir Daoud Khan. "Peace be upon him."

"And what became of your brother?" I asked, although I knew only too
well--alas!

"He left Mekran Kot when I did, Sahib, for our father died, the old Jam
Saheb was poisoned, and we had to flee or die. I never saw him again for
he made much money (out of rifles), travelled widely, and became a
Sahib (and I followed the _pultan_[39]). But he died as a Pathan
should--for his honour. In Gungapur jail they hanged him (after the
failure of the foolish attempt by some seditious Sikhs and Punjabis and
Bengalis at a second Great Killing) and I do not care to speak of that
thing even to--"

  [39] Infantry Regiment.

A sputter of musketry broke out in the thick vegetation of the
river-bed, crackled and spread, as Subedar-Major Mir Daoud Khan (once
against the civilized, brave and distinguished officer) and I sprang to
our feet and hurried to our posts--I, even at that moment, thinking how
small a World is this, and how long is the long arm of Coincidence. Here
was I, while waiting for what then seemed almost certain death, hearing
from the lips of his own brother, the early history of the remarkable,
secretive and mysterious man whom I had loved above all men, and whose
death had been the tragedy of my life.



CHAPTER II.

THE BOY.

(Mainly concerning the early life of Moussa Isa Somali.)


Moussa Isa Somali never stole, lied, seduced, cheated, drank, swore,
gambled, betrayed, slandered, blasphemed, nor behaved meanly nor
cowardly--but, alas! he had personal and racial Pride.

It is written that Pride is the sin of Devils and that by it, Lucifer,
Son of the Morning, fell.

If it be remembered that he fell for nine days, be realized that he must
have fallen with an acceleration of velocity of thirty-two feet per
second, each second, and be conceded that he weighed a good average
number of pounds, some idea will be formed of the violence of the
concussion with which he came to earth.

In spite of the terrible warning provided by so great a smash there yet
remain people who will argue that it is better to fall through Pride
than to remain unfallen through lack of it. By Pride, _Pride_ is meant
of course--not Conceit, Snobbishness and Bumptiousness, which are all
very damnable, and signs of a weak, base mind. One gathers that Lucifer,
Son of the Morning, was not conceited, snobbish, nor bumptious. Nor was
Moussa, son of Isa, Somali--but, like Lucifer, Son of the Morning,
Devil, he fell, through Pride, and came to a Bad End.

One has known people who have owned to a sneaking liking and unwilling
admiration for Lucifer, Son of the Morning--people of the same sort as
those who find it difficult wholly to revere the prideless Erect when
comparing them with the prideful Fallen--and, for the life of me, I
cannot help a sneaking liking and unwilling admiration for Moussa Isa
Somali, who fell through Pride.

There was something fine about him, even as there was about Lucifer, Son
of the Morning, and one cannot avoid feeling that if both did not get
more of hard luck and less of justice than some virtuous people one
knows, they certainly cut a better figure. Of course it is a mistake to
adopt any line of action that leads definitely to the position of
Under-Dog, and to fight when you cannot win. It is not Prudent, and
Prudence leads to Favour, Success, Decorations, and the Respect of
Others if not of yourself. It is also to be remembered that whether you
are a Wicked Rebel or a Noble True-Hearted Patriot depends very largely
on whether you succeed or fail.

All of which is mere specious and idle special pleading on behalf of
Moussa Isa, a sinful murderous Somali....

Most of the memories of Moussa Isa centred round scars. When I say
"memories of Moussa Isa" I mean Moussa Isa's own memories, for there are
no memories concerning him. The might, majesty, dominion and power of
the British Empire were arrayed against him, and the Empire's duly
appointed agents hanged him by the neck until he was dead--at an age
when some people are yet at school, albeit he had gathered in his few
years of life a quantity and quality of experience quite remarkable.

'Twas a sordid business, and yet Moussa Isa died, like many very
respectable and highly belauded folk, from the early Christians in Italy
to the late Christians in Armenia, for a principle and an idea.

He was black, he was filthy, he was savage, ignorant and ugly--but he
had his Pride, both personal and racial, for he was a Somali. A Somali,
mark you, not a mere _Hubshi_ or Woolly One, not a common Nigger, not a
low and despicable person--worshipping idols, eating human flesh, grubs,
roots and bark--the "black ivory" of Arabs.

If you called Moussa Isa a Hubshi, he either killed you or marked you
down for death, according to circumstances.

Had Moussa Isa lived a few centuries earlier, been of another colour,
and swanked around in painful iron garments and assorted cutlery, he
would have been highly praised for his fine and proper spirit. Poet,
bard, and troubadour would have noted and published his quickness on the
point of honour. Moussa would have been set to music and have become a
source of income to the gifted. He would have become a Pillar of the
Order of Knighthood and an Ornament of the Age of Chivalry. A wreath of
laurels would have encircled his brow--instead of a rope of hemp
encircling his neck.

For such fine, quick, self-respecting Pride, such resentment of insult,
men have become Splendid Figures of the Glorious Past.

_Autres jours autres moeurs_.

How many people called him _Hubshi_, we know not; but we know, from his
own lips, of the killing of some few. Of the killing of others he had
forgotten, for his memory was poor, save for insult and kindness. And,
having caught and convicted him in one or two cases the appointed
servants of the British Empire first "reformed" and then slew him in
their turn--thus descending to his level without his excuse of private
personal insult and injury....

The scars on Moussa Isa's face with the hole in his ear were connected
with one of his very earliest memories--or one of his very earliest
memories was connected with the scars on his face and the hole in his
ear--a memory of jolting along on a camel, swinging upside-down, while a
strong hand grasped his foot; of seeing his father rush at his captor
with a long, broad-bladed spear, of being whirled and flung at his
father's head; and of seeing his father's intimate internal economy
seriously and permanently disarranged by the two-handed sword of one of
the camel rider's colleagues (who flung aside a heavy gun which he had
just emptied into Moussa's mamma) as his father fell to the ground under
the impact and weight of the novel missile. Though Moussa was unaware,
in his abysmal ignorance, of the interesting fact, the great two-handed
sword so effectually wielded by the supporter of his captor, was exactly
like that of a Crusader of old. It was like that of a Crusader of old,
because it was a direct lineal descendant of the swords of the Crusaders
who had brought the first specimens to the country, quite a good many
years previously. Indeed some people said that a few of the swords
owned by these Dervishes were real, original, Crusaders' swords, the
very weapons whose hilts were once grasped by Norman hands, and whose
blades had cloven Paynim heads in the name of Christianity and the
interests of the Sepulchre. I do not know--but it is a wonderfully dry
climate, and swords are there kept, cherished, and bequeathed, even more
religiously than were the Stately Homes of England in that once
prosperous land, in the days before park, covert, pleasaunce, forest,
glade, dell, and garden became allotments, and the spoil of the
"Working"-man.

Picked up after the raid and pursuit with a faceful of gravel, sand,
dirt, and tetanus-germs, Moussa Isa, orphan, was flung on a pile of dead
Somali spearmen and swordsmen, of horses, asses, camels, negroes, (old)
women and other cattle--and, crawling off again, received kicks and
orders to clean and polish certain much ensanguined weapons sullied with
the blood of his near and distant relatives. Thereafter he was
recognized by the above-mentioned swordsman, and accorded the privilege
of removing his own father's blood from the great two-handed sword
before alluded to--a task of a kind that does not fall to many little
boys. So willingly and cheerfully did Moussa perform his arduous duty
(arduous because the blood had had time to dry, and dried blood takes a
lot of removing from steel by one unprovided with hot water) that the
Arab swordsman instead of blowing off the child's head with his long and
beautiful gun, damascened of barrel, gold-mounted of lock, and
pearl-inlaid of stock, allowed him to rim for his life that he might die
a sporting death in hot blood, doing his devilmost. (These were not
slavers but avengers of enmity to the Mad Mullah and punishers of
friendship to the English.)

"How much law will you give me, O Emir?" asked the child.

"Perhaps ten yards, dog, perhaps a hundred, perhaps more.... Run!"

"_You_ could hit me at a thousand yards, O Emir," was the reply. "Let me
die by a shot that men will talk about...."

"Run, yelping dog," growled the Arab with a sardonic smile.

And Moussa ran. He also bounded, shied, dodged, ducked, swerved,
dropped, crawled, zig-zagged and generally gave his best attention to
evading the shot of the common fighting-man whom he had propitiatorily
addressed as "_Emir_," though a mere wearer of a single fillet of
camel-hair cord around his _haik_. Like a naval gunner--the Arab laid
his gun and waited till the sights "came on," fired, and had the
satisfaction of seeing the child fling up his arms, leap into the air
and fall twitching to the ground. Good shot! The twitches and the last
convulsive spasm were highly artistic and creditable to the histrionic
powers of Moussa Isa, shot through the ear, and inwardly congratulating
himself that he had yet a chance. But then he had had wide opportunity
for observation, and plenty of good models, in the matter of
sudden-death spasms and twitches, so the credit is the less. Anyhow, it
deceived experienced Arab eyes at a hundred yards, and the performance
may therefore be classed as good. To the reflective person it will be
manifest that Moussa's reverence for the sanctity of human life
received but little encouragement or development from the very
beginning....

Returning refugees, a few days later, found Moussa very pleased-with
himself and very displeased with uncooked putrid flesh. Being
exceedingly poor and depressed as a result of the Mad Mullah's vengeful
_razzia_, they sold Moussa Isa, friendless, kinless orphan, and once
again cursed the false English who made them great promises in the
Mahdi's troublous day, and abandoned them to the Mad Mullah and his
Dervishes as soon as the Mahdi was happily dead.

The Mad Mullah they could understand; the English they could not. For
the Mad Mullah they had no blame whatsoever; for the English they had
the bitterest blame, the deepest hatred and the uttermost contempt. Who
blames the lion for seeking and slaying his prey? Who defends the
unspeakable creature that throws its friends and children to the
lion--in payment of its debts and in cancellation of its obligations to
those friends and children? In discussing the raid on their way to
market with Moussa Isa, they mentioned the name of the Mad Mullah with
respect and fear. When they mentioned the English they expectorated and
made a gesture too significant to be particularized. And the tom-toms
once again throbbed through the long nights, sending (by a code that was
before Morse) from village to village, from the sea to the Nile, from
the Nile to the Niger and the Zambesi, from the Mediterranean to the
Cape, the news that once more the Mad Mullah had flouted that failing
and treacherous race, the English, and slaughtered those who lived
within their gates, under the shadow of their flag and the promise of
their protection.

Ere Moussa Isa got his next prominent scar, the signal-drums throbbed
out the news that the gates were thrown open, the flag hauled down, and
the promises shamefully broken. That the representatives of the failing
treacherous race now stood huddled along the sea-shore in fear and
trembling, while those who had helped them in their trouble and had
believed their word were slaughtered by the thousand; that the country
was the home of fire and sword, the oasis-fields yielding nothing but
corpses, the wells choked with dead ... red slaughter, black pestilence,
starvation, misery and death, where had been green cultivation, fenced
villages, the sound of the quern and the well-wheel, the song of women
and the cry of the ploughman to his oxen. News and comments which did
nothing to lessen the pride and insolence of the Jubaland tribesmen, of
the Wak tribesmen, of the bold Zubhier sons of the desert, nor to strike
terror to the hearts of the murderers of Captain Aylmer and Mr. Jenner,
of slave-traders, game-poachers, raiders, wallowers in slaughter....

Another very noticeable and remarkable scar broke the fine lines and
smooth contours of Moussa's throat and another memory was as indelibly
established in his mind as was the said scar on his flesh.

At any time that he fingered the horrible ridged cicatrice, he could see
the boundless ocean and the boundless blue sky from a wretched cranky
canoe-shaped boat, in which certain Arab, Somali, Negro, and other
gentlemen were proceeding all the way from near Berbera to near Aden
with large trustfulness in Allah and with certain less creditable goods.
It was a long, unwieldy vessel which ten men could row, one could steer
with a broad oar, and a small three-cornered sail could keep before the
wind.

But the various-clad crew of this cranky craft were gentlemen all, who,
beyond running up the string-tied sail to the clothes-prop mast, or
taking a trick at the wheel--another clothes-prop with a large disc of
wood at the water-end, were far above work.

Trusting in Allah and Mohammed his Prophet is a lot easier than rowing a
lineless, blunt-nosed, unseaworthy boat beneath a tropical sun. So they
trusted in God, and permitted Moussa Isa, slave-boy, to do all that it
was humanly possible for him to do.

Moussa did all that was expected of him, but not so Allah and Mohammed
his Prophet.

The gentle breeze that (sometimes) carries you steadily over a glassy
sea straight up the forty-fifth meridian of east longitude from Berbera
to Aden in the month of October, failed these worthy trustful Argonauts,
and they were becalmed.

But Time is made for slaves, and the only slave upon the Argosy was
Moussa Isa, and so the becalming was neither here nor there. The cargo
would keep (if kept dry) for many a long day--and the greater the delay
in delivery, the greater the impatience of the consignees and their
willingness to pay even more than the stipulated price--its weight in
silver _per_ rifle. But food is made for men as well as slaves, and if
you, in your noble trustfulness, resolutely decline to reduce your daily
rations, there must, with mathematical certitude of date, arrive the
final period to any given and limited supply. Though banking wholly with
Heaven in the matter of their own salvation from hunger, the Argonauts
displayed mere worldly wisdom in the case of Moussa Isa and gave him the
minimum of food that might be calculated to keep within him strength
adequate to his duties of steering, swarming up the mast, baling,
cooking, massaging the liver of the Leading Gentleman, and so forth. And
in due course, the calm continuing, these pious and religious voyagers
came to the bitter end of their water, their rice, their _dhurra_, their
dates--and all (except the salt and coffee which formed part of the
ostensible, bogus cargo) that they had, as they too-slowly drifted into
the track of those vessels that enter and leave the strait of
Bab-el-Mandeb, the Gate of Tears, the tears of the starving, drowning,
ship-wrecked and castaway.

Salt _per se_ is a poor diet, and, for the making of potable coffee,
fresh water is very necessary.

Some of the Argonauts were, as has been said, Negro gentlemen. On the
third day of absolute starvation, one had an Idea and made a suggestion.

The Leading Gentleman entertained it with an open mind and without
enthusiasm.

The Tanga tout acclaimed it as a divine inspiration.

The one-eyed Moor literally smiled upon it. As his eye was single and
his body therefore full of light, he saw the beauty of the notion at
once. Had it been full of food instead, we may charitably suppose he
would not have remarked:--

"A pity we did not feed him up better".

For the suggestion concerned Moussa Isa and food--Moussa Isa as food,
in point of fact. The venerable gentle-looking Arab, whose face beamed
effulgent with benevolence and virtue, murmured:--

"He will have but little blood, the dog. None of it must
be--er--_wasted_ by the--ah--butcher."

The huge man with the neat geometrical pattern of little scars,
perpendicular on the forehead, horizontal on the cheeks and in
concentric circles on the chest (done with loving care and a knife, in
his infancy, by his papa) said only "_Ptwack_" as he chewed a mouthful
of coffee-beans and hide. It may have been a pious ejaculation or a
whole speech in his own peculiar vernacular. It was a tremendous
smacking of tremendous lips, and the expression which overspread his
speaking countenance was of gusto, appreciative, and such as accords
with lip-smacking.

But a very fair man (very fair beside the Negroes, Somalis, Arabs and
others our little black and brown brothers), a man with grey-blue eyes,
light brown hair and moustache, and olive complexion, said to the
originator of the Idea in faultless English, if not in faultless taste
"You damned swine".

A look of profoundest disgust overspread his handsome young face, a face
which undoubtedly lent itself to very clear expression of such feelings
as contempt, disgust and scorn, an unusual face, with the thin
high-bridged nose of an English aristocrat, the large eyes and pencilled
black brows of an Indian noble, the sallow yet cheek-flushed complexion
of an Italian peasant-girl, and the firm lips, square jaw, and prominent
chin of a fighting-man. It was essentially an English face in
expression, and essentially foreign in detail; a face of extraordinary
contradictions. The eyes were English in colour, Oriental in size and
shape; the mouth and chin English in mould and in repose, Oriental in
mobility and animation; the whole countenance English in shape, Oriental
in complexion and profile--a fine, high-bred, strong face, upon which
played shadows of cruelty, ferocity, diabolical cunning; a face admired
more quickly than liked, inspiring more speculation than trust.

The same duality and contradiction were proclaimed in the hands--strong,
tenacious, virile hands; small, fine, delicate hands; hands with the
powerful and purposeful thumb of the West; hands with the supple
artistic fingers and delicate finger-nails of the East.

And the man's name was in keeping with hands and face, with mind, body,
soul, and character, for, though he would not have done so, he could
have replied to the query "What is your name?" with "My name? Well, in
full, it is John Robin Ross-Ellison Ilderim Dost Mahommed Mir Hafiz
Ullah Khan, and its explanation is my descent from General Ross-Ellison,
Laird of Glencairn, and from Mir Faquir Mahommed Afzul Khan, Jam of
Mekran Kot".

In Piccadilly, wearing the garb of Piccadilly, he looked an Englishman
of the English.

In Abdul Rehman Bazaar, Cabul, wearing the garb of Abdul Rehman Bazaar,
he looked a Pathan of Pathans. In the former case, rather more sunburnt
than the average lounger in Piccadilly; in the latter, rather fairer
than the average Afghan and Pathan loafer in Abdul Rehman Bazaar.

"Walking down Unter den Linden in Berlin, with upturned moustache, he
looked a most Teutonic German.

"You observed, my friend?" queried the Leading Gentleman (whose father
was the son of a Negro-Arab who married, or should have married, a
Jewess captured near Fez, and whose mother was the daughter of a
Tunisian Turk by a half-bred Negress of Timbuctoo).

"I observed," replied the fair young man in the mongrel Arabic-Swahili
_lingua franca_ of the Red Sea and East African littorals "that it is
but natural for dogs to prey upon dogs."

"There are times when the lion is driven to prey upon dogs, my dear
son," interposed the mild-eyed, benevolent-looking Arab--a pensive smile
on his venerable face.

"Yes--when he is old, mangy, toothless and deserving of nothing better,
my dear father," replied the fair young man, and his glances at the
white beard, scanty locks and mumbling mouth of the ancient gentleman
had an unpleasantly personal quality. To the casual on-looker it would
have seemed that an impudent boy deliberately insulted a harmless
benevolent old gentleman. To the fair young man, however, it was well
known that the old gentleman's name was famous across Northern and
Eastern Africa for monstrous villainy and fiendish cruelty--the name of
the worst and wickedest of those traders in "black ivory," one of whose
side-lines is frequently gun-running. Also he knew that the
benevolent-looking old dear was desirous that the Leading Gentleman, his
partner, should join with him in a little scheme (a scheme revealed by
one Moussa Isa, eaves-dropper) to give the fair young man some inches
of steel instead of the pounds of Teutonic gold due for services (and
rifles) rendered, when they should reach the quiet spot on the northern
shore of the Persian Gulf where certain bold caravan-leaders would await
them and their precious cargo--a scheme condemned by the Leading
Gentleman on the grounds of the folly of killing the goose that laid the
golden eggs. But then the wealthy Arab patriarch was retiring from the
risky business (already nearly ruined and destroyed by English
gun-boats) after that trip, and the Leading Gentleman was not. Thus it
was that the attitude of the fair young man toward Sheikh Abou ben
Mustapha Muscati did not display that degree of respect that his grey
hairs and beautiful old face would appear to deserve.

The French-speaking Moslem Berber _ex_-Zouave, from Algiers, suggested
that Moussa Isa, a slave, was certainly not fitting food for gentlemen
who fight, hunt, travel, poach elephants, deal in "black ivory," run
guns, and generally lead a life too picturesque for an over-"educated,"
utilitarian and depressing age--but what would you? "One eats--but yes,
one eats, or one ceases to live, and one does not wish to cease to
live--and therefore one eats" and he cocked a yellow and appraising eye
at Moussa Isa. The sense of the meeting appeared to be that though one
would not have chosen this particular animal, necessity knows no
rule--and if the throat be cut while the animal be alive, one may eat of
the flesh and break the Law by so much the less. Moussa Isa must be
_halalled_.[40] But the fair young man drawing a Khyber knife with two
feet of blade, observed that it was now likely that there would be a
plethora of food, as he would most assuredly cut the throat of any
throat-cutter.

  [40] To _halal_ is to make lawful, here to cut the throat of a living
       animal in order that its flesh may be eatable by good Mussulmans.

Moussa Isa regarded him with the look often seen in the eye of an
intelligent dog.

The venerable Arab smiled meaningly at the Leading Gentleman, and the
Tanga tout asked if all were to hunger for the silly scruples of one.
"If the fair-faced Sheikh did not wish to eat of Moussa, none would urge
it. Live and let live. The gentlemen were hungry; ..." but the fair
young man unreasonably replied, "Then let them eat _thee_ since they can
stomach carrion," and for the moment the subject dropped--largely
because the fair young man was supposed always to carry a revolver,
which was not a habit of his good colleagues. It was another evidence of
his strange duality that revolver and knife were (rare phenomenon)
equally acceptable to him, though in certain environment the pistol
rather suggested itself to his left hand, while in others his right hand
went quite unconsciously to his long knife.

In the present company no thought of the fire-arm entered his head--this
was a knifing, back-stabbing outfit;--none here who stood up to shoot
and be shot at in fair fight....

The Leading Gentleman looked many times and hard at Moussa Isa during
the second day of his own starvation, which was the third of that of his
companions and the fourth of Moussa's. The Leading Gentleman, who was as
rich as he was ragged and dirty, wore a very beautiful knife, which
(though it reposed in a gaudy sheath of yellow, green and blue beads,
fringed with a dependent filigree, or lace work, of similar beads with
tassels of cowrie-shells) hailed from Damascus and had a handle of ivory
and gold, and an inlaid blade on which were inscribed verses from the
Q'ran.

Moussa Isa knew the pattern of it well by the close of day. The Leading
Gentleman took that evening to sharpening the already sharp blade of the
knife. As he sharpened it on his sandal and the side of the boat, and
tried its edge on his thumb, he regarded the thin body of Moussa Isa
very critically.

His look blended contempt, anticipation, and anxiety.

He broke a long brooding silence with the remark:--

"The little dog will be thinner still, to-morrow "--a remark which
evoked from the fair youth the reply: "And so will you".

Perhaps truth covered and excused a certain indelicacy and callousness
in the statement of the Leading Gentleman, albeit the fair young man
appeared annoyed at it. His British blood and instincts became
predominant when the killing and eating of a fellow-creature were on the
_tapis_--the said fellow-creature being on it at the same time.

A colleague from Dar-es-Salaam, who had an ear and a half, three teeth,
six fingers, innumerable pockmarks and a German accent, said, "He will
have little fat," and there was bitterness in his tone. As a business
man he realized a bad investment of capital. The food in which they had
wallowed should have gone to the fattening of Moussa Isa. Also a fear
struck him.

"He'll jump overboard in the night--the ungrateful dog. Tie him up," and
he reached for a coil of cord.

"He will not be tied up," observed the fair youth in a quiet, obstinate
voice.

"See, my friend," said the Leading Gentleman, "it is a case of one or
many. Better _that_ one," and he pointed to Moussa Isa, "than another,"
and he looked meaningly at the fair young man.

"And yet, I know not," murmured the venerable Arab, "I know not. We are
not in the debt of the slave. We _are_ in the debt of the Sheikh. It
would cancel all obligations if the Sheikh from the North preferred to
offer himself as--"

The young man's long knife flashed from its sheath as he sprang to his
feet. "Let us eat monkey, if eat we must," he cried, pointing to the
Arab--and, even as he spoke, the huge man with the scars, flinging his
great arms around the youth's ankles, partly rose and neatly tipped him
overboard. He had long hated the fair man.

Straightway, unseen by any, as all eyes were on the grey-eyed youth and
his assailant, Moussa Isa cast loose the _toni_[41] that nestled beneath
the stern of the larger boat. He was about to shout that he had done so
when he realised that this would defeat his purpose, and also that the
fair Sheikh was still under water.

  [41] Small dug-out canoe.

"Good," murmured the old Arab, "now brain him as he comes up--and secure
his body."

But the fair youth knew better than to rise in the immediate
neighbourhood of the boat. Swimming with the ease, grace and speed of a
seal, he emerged with bursting lungs a good hundred yards from where he
had disappeared. Having breathed deeply he again sank, to re-appear at
a point still more distant, and be lost in the gathering gloom.

"He is off to Cabul to lay his case before the Amir," observed the
elderly Arab with grim humour.

"Doubtless," agreed the Leading Gentleman, "he will swim the 2000 miles
to India, and then up the Indus to Attock." And added, "But, bear
witness all, if the young devil turn up again some day, that _I_ had no
quarrel with him.... A pity! A pity!... Where shall we find his like, a
Prank among the Franks, an Afghan among Afghans, a Frenchman in Algiers,
a nomad robber in Persia, a Bey in Cairo, a Sahib in Bombay--equally at
home as gentleman or tribesman? Where shall we find his like again as
gatherer of the yellow honey of Berlin and as negotiator in Marseilles
(where the discarded Gras breech-loaders of the army grow) and in
Muscat? Woe! Woe!"

"Or his like for impudence to his elders, harshness in a bargain,
cunning and greed?" added the benevolent-looking Arab, who had gained a
handsome sum by the murder.

"For courage," corrected the Leading Gentleman, and with a heavy sigh,
groaned. "We shall never see him more--and he was worth his weight to me
annually in gold."

"No, you won't see him again," agreed the Arab. "He'll hardly swim to
Aden--apart from the little matter of sharks.... A pity the sharks
should have so fair a body--and we starve!" and he turned a fatherly
benevolent eye on Moussa Isa--whom a tall slender black Arab, from the
hills about Port Sudan, of the true "fuzzy-wuzzy" type, had seized in
his thin but Herculean arms as the boy rose to spring into the _toni_
and paddle to the rescue of his benefactor.

The Dar-es-Salaam merchant threw Fuzzy Wuzzy a coil of cord and Moussa
Isa (who struggled, kicked, bit and finding resistance hopeless,
screamed, "Follow the boat, Master," as he lay on his back), was bound
to a cracked and salt-encrusted beam or seat that supported, or was
supported by, the cracked and salt-encrusted sides of the canoe-shaped
vessel.

Although very, very hungry, and perhaps as conscienceless and wicked a
gang as ever assembled together on the earth or went down to the sea in
ships, there was yet a certain reluctance on the part of some of the
members to revert to cannibalism, although all agreed that it was
necessary.

Among the reluctant-to-commence were those who had no negro blood. Among
the ready-to-commence, the full-blooded negroes were the most impatient.

Although very hungry and rather weak they were in different case from
that of European castaway sailors, in that all were inured to long
periods of fasting, all had crossed the Sahara or the Sus, lived for
days on a handful of dates, and had tightened the waist-string by way of
a meal. Few of them ever thought of eating between sunrise and sunset.
The lives of the negroes were alternations of gorging and starving,
incredible repletion and more incredible fasting; devouring vast masses
of hippopotamus-flesh to-day, and starving for a week thereafter; pounds
of prime meat to-day, gnawing hunger and the weakness of semi-starvation
for the next month.

"At sunrise," said the Leading Gentleman finality.

Good! That left the so-desirable element of chance. It left opportunity
for change of programme inasmuch as sunrise might disclose help in the
shape of a passing ship. The matter would rest with Heaven, and pious
men might lay them down to sleep with clear conscience, reflecting that,
should it be the Will of Allah that His servants should not eat of this
flesh, other would be provided; should other not be provided it was
clearly the Will of Allah that His servants should eat of this flesh!
Excellent--there would be a meal soon after sunrise.

And the Argonauts laid them down to sleep, hungry but gratefully
trustful, trustfully grateful. But Moussa Isa watched the wondrous
lustrous stars throughout the age-long, flash-short night and thought of
many things.

Had the splendid, noble Sheikh from the North heard his cry and had he
found the _toni_? How far had he swum ere his strength gave out or, with
sudden swirl, he was dragged under by the man-eating shark? Would he
remove his long cotton shirt, velvet waistcoat and baggy cotton
trousers? The latter would present difficulties, for the waist-string
would tangle and the water would swell the knot and prevent the drawing
of string over string.

Moreover, the garments, though very baggy, were tight round the ankles.
Would he cast off his beautiful yard-long Khyber knife? It would go to
his heart to do that, both for the sake of the weapon itself and because
he would have to go to his death unavenged, seized by a shark without
giving it its death-wound. Had he heard and would he follow the boat in
the moonlight, find the _toni_ and escape? Could he swim to Aden? They
had said not--even leaving sharks out of consideration, and indeed it
must be forty or fifty miles away. Judging by their progress they must
have done about one hundred and fifty miles since they embarked at the
lonely spot on the Berbera coast for the other lonely spot on the Aden
coast, where certain whisperings with certain mysterious camel-riders
would preface their provisioning for the voyage along the weary
Hadramant coast to the Ras el Had and Muscat--just a humble boat-load of
poor but honest toilers and tradesmen, interested in dried fish, dates,
the pearl-fishery and the pettiest trading. No, he would never reach
land, wonderful swimmer as he was. He would be lost in the sea as is the
Webi Shebeyli River in the sands of the South, unless he followed the
drifting boat and found the _toni_. Otherwise, he might be picked up,
but he would have to keep afloat all night to do that, unless he had the
extraordinary luck to be seen by dhow or ship before dark. That could
hardly be, unless the same ship or dhow were visible from their own
boat, and none had been seen.

No, he must be dead--and Moussa Isa would shortly follow him. How he
wished he could have given his life to save him. Had he known, he would
have cried out, "Let them eat me, O Master," and prevented him from
risking his life. If he should get the chance of striking one blow for
his life in the morning he would bestow it upon the scar-faced beast who
had tripped the fair Sheik overboard. If he could strike two he would
give the second to the old Arab who flogged women and children to death
with the _kourbash_,[42] as an amusement, and whose cruelties were
famous in a cruel land; the old Evil who hated, and plotted the death
of, the fair Sheikh, with the leader of the expedition in order that
they might divide his large share of the gun-running proceeds and German
subsidy. If he could strike a third blow it should be at the filthy
Hubshi of the Aruwimi, the low degraded Woolly One from the dark
Interior (of human sacrifice, cannibalism and ju-ju) who had proposed
eating him. Yes--if he could grab the leader's knife and deal three such
stabs as the Sheikh dealt the lion, at these three, he could die
content. But this was absurd! They would _halal_ him first, of course,
and unbind him afterwards.... They might unbind him first though, so as
to place him favourably with regard to--economy. They would use the
empty army-ration tin, shining there like silver in the moonlight, the
tin with which he had done so much weary baling. Doubtless the leader
and the Arab would share its contents. He grudged it them, and hoped a
quarrel and struggle might arise and cause it to be spilt.

  [42] Rhinoceros-hide whip.

An unpleasant death! Without cowardice one might dislike the thought of
having one's throat cut while one's hands were bound and one watched the
blood gushing into an old army-ration tin. Perhaps there would be none
to gush--and a good job too. Serve them right. Could he cut his wrists
on a nail or a splinter or with the cords, and cheat them, if there were
any blood in him now. He would try. Yes, an unpleasant death. No one,
no true Somali, that is, objected to a prod in the heart with a
shovel-headed spear, a thwack in the head with a hammered slug, a sweep
at the neck with a big sword--but to have a person sawing at your throat
with weak and shaking hands is rotten....

One quite appreciated that masters must eat and slaves must die, and the
religious necessity for cutting the throat while the animal is alive,
according to the Law--and there was great comfort in the fact that the
leader's knife was inscribed with verses of the Q'ran and would probably
be used for the job. (The leader liked jobs of that sort.) Countless it
would confer distinction in Paradise upon one already distinguished as
having died to provide food for a band of right-thinking,
religious-minded gentlemen, who, even in such terrible straits, forgot
not the Law nor omitted the ceremonies....

Where now was the fair-faced master who so resembled the English but was
so much braver, fiercer, so much more staunch? Though fair as they, and
knowing their speech, he could not be of a race that led whole tribes to
trust in them, called them "Friendlies" and then forsook them; came to
them in the day of trouble asking help, and then scuttled away and
deserted their allies, leaving them to face alone the Power whose wrath
and vengeance their help-giving had provoked. Yet there were good men
among them--there was Kafil[43] Bey for example. Kafil Bey whose last
noble fight he had witnessed. If the fair-faced Sheikh had any of the
weak English blood in his veins it must be of such a man as Kafil Bey.

  [43] Corfield?

Was he still swimming? Had he been picked up? Was he shark's food? To
think that _he_ should have come to his death over such a thing as a
slave boy (albeit a Somali and no Hubshi).

This was an Emir indeed.

An idea!... He called aloud: "Are you there, Master? The _toni_ is loose
and must be near," again and again, louder and louder. Perhaps he was
following and would hear. Again, louder still.

The one-eyed man, disturbed by the cry, stirred, threw his arms abroad,
stretched, and put his foot on the mouth of a neighbour lying
head-to-foot beside him. The neighbour snored loudly and turned his face
sideways under the foot. He had slept standing jammed against the wall
in the Idris of Omdurman, one of the most terrible jails of all time,
and a huge foot on his face was a matter of no moment.

The Tanga tout suddenly emitted a scream, a blood-curdling scream, and
immediately scratched his ribs like a monkey.... Moussa Isa held his
peace.

Anon the scar-faced man turned over, moving others.

Could it be near dawn already, and were his proprietors waking up? He
could see no change in the East, no paling of the lustrous stars. Was it
an hour ago or eight hours ago that the night had fallen? Had he an hour
to live or a night? Would he ever see Berbera again, steer a boat down
its deep inlet, gaze upon its two lighthouses, its fort, hospital,
barracks, piers, warehouses, bazaars; drive a camel along by its seven
miles of aqueduct, look down from the hills upon this wonderful and
mighty metropolis, greater and grander than Jibuti, Zeyla, Bulhar and
Karam, surely the greatest and most marvellous port and city of the
world, ere driving on through the thorn-bush and acacia-jungle into the
vast waterless Haud? Would he ever again see the sun rise in the desert,
smell the smoke of the camel-dung cooking-fires.... What was that? The
sky was paling in the East, growing grey, a rose-pink flush on the
horizon--dawn and death were at hand.

Before the heralds of the sun, the moon slowly veiled her face with
lightest gossamer while the weaker stars fled. The daily miracle and
common marvel proceeded before the tired eyes of the bound slave; the
rim of the sun appeared above the rim of the sea; the moon more deeply
veiled her face from the fierce red eye, and gracefully and gradually
retired before the advance of the usurping conqueror--and the slave
seemed to hear the fat croaking voice of the leader saying, "At
sunrise".

Broad day and all but he asleep. Well--it had come at last. When would
they awake? Was the toni anywhere near?

The man with the geometrical pattern of scars on his face and chest
suddenly sat bolt upright like a released spring, yawned, looked at the
sky and the limp sail, and then at Moussa Isa. As his eye fell upon the
boy he smiled copiously, protruded a very red tongue between very white
teeth, and licked huge blue-black lips. He leaned over and awakened the
Leading Gentleman. Then he pointed to the Victim. Both watched the
horizon where, beyond distant Bombay and China, the sun was appearing,
rising with the rapidity of the minute hand of a big clock. Neither
looked to the West.

The child knew that when the sun had risen clear of the sea, he might
look upon it for a minute or two--and no more. A puff of wind fanned his
cheek; the sail filled and drew. The boat moved through the water and
the one-eyed gentleman, arising and treading upon the out-lying tracts
of the sleepers, stumbled to the rudder, which was tied with
coconut-fibre to an upright stake. The breeze strengthened and there was
a ripple of water at the bows. Was he saved?

The one-eyed person looked more disappointed than pleased, and observed
to the Leading Gentleman: "We cannot live to Aden, though the wind hold.
We must eat," and he regarded the figure of Moussa Isa critically,
appraisingly, with mingled favour and disfavour. His expressive
countenance seemed to say, "He is food--but he is poor food".

Nevertheless an unmistakable look of relief overspread his face as the
Leading Gentleman replied with conviction, "We must eat...." and added,
"This is but a dawn-breeze and will not take us half a mile".

"Then let us eat forthwith," said the one-eyed man, and he fairly beamed
upon Moussa Isa, doubtless with the said light of which his body was
full, in consequence of his singleness of vision. The whole party was by
this time awake and Moussa Isa the cynosure of neighbouring eyes. The
Leading Gentleman drew his beautiful knife from its tawdry sheath and
gave it a last loving strop on his horny palm.

Willing hands dragged the head of Moussa Isa across the beam and willing
bodies sat upon him, that he might not waste time, and something more
precious, by thoughtless wriggling, delaying breakfast. The Leading
Gentleman crawled to an advantageous position, and having bowed in
prayer, sawed away industriously.

Moussa Isa wished to shriek to him that he was a fool and a bungler;
that throats were not to be cut in that fashion, with hackings and
sawing at the gullet. Knew the clumsy fumbler nothing of big
blood-vessels?... but he could not speak.

"_That_ is not the way," said the benevolent-looking old Arab. "Stab,
man, stab under the ear--don't cut ... not there, anyhow."

The Leading Gentleman tried the other side of the double-edged blade,
continuing obstinately, and Moussa Isa contrived a strange sound which
died away on a curious bubbling note and he grew faint.

Suddenly the one-eyed individual at the rudder screamed aloud, and
disturbed the Leading Gentleman's earnest endeavour to prevent waste.
Not from sensibility did the one-eyed scream, nor on account of his
growing conviction that the Leading Gentleman was getting more than his
share, but because, as all realized upon looking up, a great ship was
bearing down upon them from the West.

So intent had all been upon the preparation of breakfast that the
steamer was almost audible when seen.

Good! Here came water, rice, bread, sugar, flour, and perhaps meat, for
poor castaways, and probably money--from kindly lady-passengers, this
last, for the ship was obviously a liner. The wretched Moussa Isa's
carcase was now superfluous--nay dangerous, and must be disposed of at
once, for Europeans are most kittle cattle. They will exterminate your
tribe with machine-guns, gin, small-pox, and still nastier things, but
they are fearfully shocked at a bit of killing on the part of others.
They call it murder. And though they will well-nigh depopulate a country
themselves, they will wax highly indignant if any of the survivors do a
little slaying, even if they kill but a miserable slave, like this
Somali dog.

Heave him overboard.

No. Ships carry the "far-eye," the magic instrument that makes the
distant near, that brings things from miles away to within a few yards.
Doubtless telescopes were on them already. Keep in a close group round
the body, smuggle it under the palm-mats and make believe to have been
trying to kindle a fire in an old kerosine-oil tin.... Signals of
distress appeared and Moussa Isa disappeared. The great steamer
approached, slowed down, and came to a standstill beside the boat of the
starving castaways. From her cliff-like side the passengers, crowding
the rails of her many decks, looked down with interest upon a
prehistoric craft in which lay a number of poor emaciated blacks and
Arabs, clad for the most part in scanty cotton rags. These poor
creatures feebly extended skinny hands and feebly raised quavering
voices, as they begged for water and a little rice, only water and a
little rice in the name of Allah the Merciful, the Compassionate. Their
tins, lotahs and goat-skins were filled, bags of rice, bread and flour
were lowered to them; a box of sugar and a packet of biscuit were added;
and a gentle little rain of coins fell as though from Heaven.

Kodaks clicked, clergymen beamed, ladies said, "How sweetly
picturesque--poor dears"; the Captain murmured, "Damnedest scoundrels
unhung--but can't leave 'em to starve"; the "poor dears" smiled largely
and ate wolfishly; Moussa Isa bled, and the great steamer resumed her
way.

"Pat" Brighte (she was Cleopatra Diamond Brighte who married Colonel
Dearman of the Gungapur Volunteer Bines) found she had got a splendid
snap-shot when her films were developed at Gungapur. A little later she
got another when the look-out saw, and a boat picked up, a man who was
lying in a little dug-out or _toni_. When able to speak, he told the
_serang_[44] of the lascars that he was the sole survivor of a
bunder-boat which had turned turtle and sunk. He understood nothing but
Hindustani.... Miss Brighte pitied the poor wretch but thought he looked
rather horrid....

  [44] Native boatswain.

The hearts of the castaways were filled with contentment as their
stomachs were filled with food, and so busily did they devote themselves
to eating, drinking, and sleeping that they forgot all about Moussa Isa
beneath the palm-mats.

When they chanced upon him he was just alive, and his wound was closed.
The attitude in which he had been dumped down upon the cargo (the
ostensible and upper strata thereof, consisting of hides and salt, with
a hint of ostrich-feathers, coffee, frankincense and myrrh) had favoured
his chance of recovery, for, thanks to a friendly bundle, his head was
pressed forward to his chest and the lips of the gaping wound in his
throat were shut.

Moussa Isa was tougher than an Indian chicken.

Near Aden his proprietors were captured by an officious and
unsympathetic police (Moussa was sent to what he dreamed to be Heaven
and later perceived to be a hospital) and while they went to jail, a
number of bristly-haired Teutonic gentlemen at the Freidrichstrasse,
Arab gentlemen at Muscat, and Afghan gentlemen at Cabul, were made to
exercise the virtue of patience. So the would-be murderers of John Robin
Ross-Ellison Ilderim Dost Mahommed unintentionally saved him from jail,
but never received his acknowledgments....

Discharged from the hospital, Moussa became his own master, a gentleman
at large, and, for a time, prospered in the coal-trade.

He steered a coal-lighter that journeyed between the shore and the
ships.

One day he received a blow, a curse, and an insult, from the _maccudam_
or foreman of the gang that worked in the boat which he steered. Neither
blows nor curses were of any particular account to Moussa, but this man
Sulemani, a nondescript creature of no particular race, and only a man
in the sense that he was not a woman nor a quadruped, had called him
"_Hubshi_" Woolly One. Had called Moussa Isa of the Somal a _Hubshi_, as
though he had been a common black nigger. And, of course, it was
intentional, for even this eater of dogs and swine and lizards knew the
great noble, civilized and cultured Somal, Galla, Afar and Abyssinian
people from niggers. Even an English hide-and-head-buying tripper and
_soi-disant_ big-game hunter knew a Zulu from a Hottentot, a Masai from
a Wazarambo, and a Somali from a Nigger!

The only question was as to _how_ the scoundrel should be killed, for
he was large and strong, and never far from a shovel, crow-bar,
boat-hook or some weapon. Not much hope of being able to fasten on his
throat like a young leopard on a dibatag, kudu or impala buck.

As Moussa sat behind him at the tiller, he would regard the villain's
neck with interest, his fat neck, just below and behind the big ear.

If he only had a knife--such as the beauty that once cut his throat--or
even a scrap of iron or of really hard pointed wood, honour could be
satisfied and a stain removed from the scutcheon of Moussa Isa of the
Somal race, insulted.

One lucky night he got his next scar, the fine one that ornamented his
cheek-bone, and a really serviceable weapon of offence against the
offender Sulemani.

On this auspicious night, a festive English sailor flung a bottle at
him, in merry sport, as he passed beneath the verandah of the temple of
Venus and Bacchus in which the sailor sprawled. It struck him in the
face, broke against his cheek-bone, and provided him with a new scar and
a serviceable weapon, a dagger, convenient to handle and deadly to slay.
The bottle-neck was a perfect hilt and the long tapering needle-pointed
spire of glass projecting from it was a perfect blade--rightly used, of
course. Only a fool would attempt a heart-stab with such a dagger, as it
would shatter on the ribs, leaving the fool to pay for his folly. But
the neck-stab--for the big blood-vessels--oho! And Moussa Isa licked
his chops just as he had seen the black-maned lion do in his own
fatherland; just as did the lion from whom the fair Sheikh had saved
him.

Toward the sailor, Moussa felt no resentment for the assault that had
laid him bleeding in the gutter. Had he called him "_Hubshi_" it would
have been a different matter--perhaps very different for the sailor.
Moussa Isa regarded curses, cruelties, blows, wounds, attempts at
murder, as mere natural manifestations of the attitude of their
originators, and part of the inevitable scheme of things. Insults to his
personal and racial Pride were in another category altogether.

Yes--the bottle must have been thus usefully broken by the hand of the
Supreme Deity himself, prompted by Moussa's own particular and private
_kismet_, to provide Moussa with the means of doing his duty by himself
and his race, in the matter of the dog who had likened a long-haired,
ringletty-haired aquiline-nosed, thin-lipped son of the Somals to a
Woolly One--a black beast of the jungle!

Our young friend had never heard of the historical glass-bladed daggers
of the _bravos_ of Venice, but he saw at a glance, as he rose to his
feet and stared at the bottle, that he could do his business (and that
of the foreman) with the fortunately--shaped fragment, and eke leave the
point of the weapon in the wound for future complications if the blow
failed of immediate fatal effect.

He bided his time....

One black night Moussa Isa sat on the stern of his barge holding to a
rope beneath the high wall of the side of the P. & O. liner, _Persia_,
in shadow and darkness undispelled by the flickering flare of a brazier
of burning fuel, designed to illuminate the path of panting, sweating,
coal-laden coolies up and down narrow bending planks, laid from the
lighter to the gloomy hole in the ship's side.

The hot, still air was thick with coal-dust and the harmless necessary
howls of the hundreds of sons of Ham, toiling at high pressure.

In the centre of a vast, silent circle of mysterious lamp-spangled sea
and shore, and of star-spangled sky, this spot was Inferno, an offence
to the brooding still immensity.

And suddenly Moussa Isa was dimly conscious of his enemy, of him who had
insulted the great Somal race and Moussa Isa. On the broad edge of the
big barge Sulemani stood, before, and a foot below him, in the darkness,
yelling directions, threats, promises and encouragement to his gang. If
only there had been a moon or light by which he could see to strike!
Suddenly the edge of a beam of yellow light from a port-hole struck upon
Sulemani's neck, illuminating it below and behind his ear. Mrs. "Pat"
Dearman, homeward bound, had just entered her cabin and switched on the
electric light. (When last she passed Aden she had been Miss Cleopatra
Diamond Brighte, bound for Gungapur and the bungalow of her brother.)

It was Mrs. Pat Dearman's habit to read a portion of the Scriptures
nightly, ere retiring to rest, for she was a Good Woman and considered
the practice to be not only a mark of, but essential to, goodness.

Doubtless the Powers of Evil smiled sardonically when they noted that
the light which she evoked for her pious exercise lit the hand of Moussa
Isa to murder, providing opportunity. Moussa Isa weighed chances and
considered. He did not want to bungle it and lose his revenge and his
life too. Would he be seen if he struck now? The light fell on the very
spot for the true infallible death-stroke. Should he strike now, here,
in the midst of the yelling mob?

Rising silently, Moussa drew his dagger of glass from beneath his only
garment, aimed at the patch of light upon the fat neck, and struck.
Sulemani lurched, collapsed, and fell between the lighter and the ship
without an audible sound in that dim pandemonium.

Even as the "dagger" touched flesh, the light was quenched, Mrs. Pat
Dearman having realized that the stuffy, hot cabin was positively
uninhabitable until the port-hole could be opened, after coaling
operations were completed.

Moussa Isa reseated himself, grabbed the rope again, and with clear
conscience, duty done, calmly awaited that which might follow.

Nothing followed. None had seen the deed, consummated in unrelieved
gloom; the light had failed most timely....

The next person who mortally affronted Moussa Isa, committing the
unpardonable sin, was a grievously fat, foolish Indian Mohammedan youth
whose father supported four wives, five sons, six daughters and himself
in idleness and an Aden shop.

It was a remarkably idle and unobtrusive shop and yet money flowed into
it without stint, mysteriously and unostentatiously, the conduits of its
flow being certain modest and retiring Arab visitors in long brown or
white _haiks_, with check cotton head-dresses girt with ropes of
camel-hair, who collogued with the honest tradesman and departed as
silently and unobtrusively as they came....

One of them, strangely enough, ejaculated "_Himmel_" and
"_Donnerwetter_" as often as "_Bismillah_" and "_Inshallah_" when he
swore.

The very fat son of this secretive house in an evil hour one
inauspicious evening took it upon him to revile and abuse his father's
servant, one Moussa Isa, an African boy, as he performed divers domestic
duties in the exiguous "compound" of the dwelling-place and refused to
do the fat youth's behest ere completing them.

"Haste thee at once to the bazaar, thou dog," screamed the fat youth.

"Later on," replied Moussa Isa, using the words that express the general
attitude of the East.

"Now, dog. Now, Hubshi, or I will beat thee."

"I will kill _you_," replied Moussa Isa, and again bided his time.

"Hubshi, Hubshi, Hubshi," goaded the misguided fat one.

His Kismet led the youth, some weeks later, to lay him down and sleep in
the shade of the house upon some broad flagstones. Here Moussa found him
and regretted the loss of his glass-dagger,--last seen in the neck of a
foreman of coal-coolies toppling into the dark void between a barge and
a ship,--but remembered a big heavy stone used to facilitate the scaling
of the compound wall.

Staggering with it to the spot where the fat youth lay slumbering
peacefully, Moussa Isa, in the sight of all men (who happened to be
looking), dashed it upon his fez-adorned head, and established the
hitherto disputable fact that the fat youth had brains.

To the Magistrate, Moussa Isa offered neither excuse nor prayer.
Explanation he vouchsafed in the words:--

"He called _me_, Moussa Isa of the Somali, a _Hubshi!_"

Being of tender years and of insignificant stature he was condemned to
flogging and seven years in a Reformatory School. He was too juvenile
for the Aden Jail. The Reformatory School nearest to Aden is at Duri in
India, and thither, in spite of earnest prayers that he might go to hard
labour in Aden Jail like a man and a Somali, was Moussa Isa duly
transported and therein incarcerated.

At the Duri Reformatory School, Moussa Isa was profoundly miserable,
most unhappy, and deeply depressed by a sense of the very cruellest
injustice.

For here they simply did not know the difference between a Somal and a
woolly-haired dog of a negro. They honestly did not know that there was
a difference. To them, a clicking Bushman was as a Nubian, an
earth-eating Kattia as a Kabyle, a face-cicatrized, tooth-sharpened
cannibal of the Aruwimi as a Danakil,--a _Hubshi_ as a Somal. They
simply did not know. To them all Africans were _Hubshis_ (just as to an
English M.P. all the three or four hundred millions of Indians are
Bengali babus). They meant no insult; they knew no better. All Africans
were black niggers and every soul in the place, from Brahmin to
Untouchable, looked down upon the African, the Black Man, the Nigger,
the Cannibal, the _Hubshi_, sent from Africa to defile their Reformatory
and destroy their caste.

Here, the proud self-respecting Moussa, jealous champion of the honour
of his, to him, high and noble race, found himself a god-send to the
Out-castes, the Untouchables, the Depressed Classes, Mangs, Mahars, and
Sudras,--they whose touch, nay the touch of whose very shadow, is
defilement! For, at last, they, too, had some one to look down upon, to
despise, to insult. After being the recipients-of-contempt as naturally
and ordainedly as they were breathers-of-air, they at last could apply a
salve, and pass on to another the utter contempt and loathing which they
themselves received and accepted from the Brahmins and all those of
Caste. They had found one lower than themselves. _Moussa Isa of the
Somali_ was the out-cast of out-casts, the pariah of pariahs, prohibited
from touching the untouchables, one of a class depressed below the
depressed classes--in short a _Hubshi!_

Even a broad-nosed, foreheadless, blubber--lipped aborigine from the
hill-jungles objected to his presence!

In the small, self-contained, self-supporting world of the Reformatory,
it was Moussa Isa against the World. And against the World he stood up.

It had to learn the difference between a Somali and a _Hubshi_ at any
cost--the cost of Moussa's life included.

What added to the sorrow of the situation was the realization of how
charming and desirable a retreat the place was in itself,--apart from
its ignorant and stupid inhabitants.

Expecting a kind of torture-house wherein he would be starved, sweated,
thrashed by brutal _kourbash_-wielding overseers, he found the most
palatial and comfortable of clubs, a place of perfect peace, safety,
and ease, where one was kindly treated by those in authority,
sumptuously fed, luxuriously lodged, and provided with pleasant
occupation, attractive amusements and reasonable leisure.

He had always heard and believed that the English were mad, and now he
knew it.

As a punishment for murder he had got a birching that merely tickled
him, and a free ticket to seven years' board, lodging, clothing,
lighting, medical care, instruction and diversion!

_Wow_!

Were it not for the presence of the insolent, ignorant, untravelled,
inexperienced, soft-living, lily-livered dogs of inhabitants, the place
was the Earthly Paradise. They were the crocodile in the ointment.

A young Brahmin, son of a well-paid Government servant, and incarcerated
for forgery and theft, was his most annoying persecutor. He was at great
pains to expectorate and murmur "_Hubshi_" in accents of abhorrent
contempt, whenever Moussa Isa chanced between the wind and his nobility.

The first time, Moussa replied with pitying magnanimity and all
reasonableness:--

"I am not a _Hubshi_, but a Somali, which is quite different--even as a
lion is different from a jackal or a man from an ape".

To which the Brahmin replied but:--

"_Hubshi_," and pointed out that there was danger of Moussa Isa's shadow
touching him, if Moussa were not careful.

"I must kill you if you call me _Hubshi_, understanding that I am of the
Somals," said Moussa Isa.

"_Hubshi_," would the Brahmin reply and loudly bewail his evil Luck
which had put him in the power of the accursed Feringhi Government--a
Government that compelled a Brahmin to breathe the same air as a filthy
negro dog, a Woolly One of Africa, barely human and most untouchable, a
living Contamination ... and Moussa cast about for a weapon.

His first opportunity arose when he found the Brahmin, who was in the
book-binding and compositor department, working one day in the same
gardening-gang with himself.

He had but a watering-can by way of offensive weapon, but good play can
be made with a big iron watering-can wielded in the right spirit and the
right hand.

Master Brahmin was feebly tapping the earth with a kind of single-headed
pick, and watching him, Moussa Isa saw that, in a quarter of an hour or
so, he might plausibly and legitimately pass within a yard or two of
this his enemy, as he went to and fro between the water-tap and the
strip of flower-border that he was sprinkling.... Would they hang him if
he killed the Brahmin, or would they feebly flog him again and give him
a longer sentence (that he be supported, fed, lodged, clothed and cared
for) than the present seven years?

There was no foretelling what the mad English would do. Sometimes they
acquitted a criminal and gave him money and education, and sometimes
they sent him to far distant islands in the South and there housed and
fed him free, for life; and sometimes they killed him at the end of a
rope.

Doubtless Allah smote the English mad to prevent them from stealing the
whole world.... If they were not mad they would do so and enslave all
other races--except their conquerors, the Dervishes, of course.... It
was like the lying hypocrites to call the Great Mullah "the Mad Mullah"
knowing themselves to be mad, and being afraid of their victorious enemy
who had driven them out of Somaliland to the coast forts....

Oh, if they would only treat him, Moussa Isa, as an adult, and send him
to the Aden Jail to hard labour. There folk knew a Somali from a
_Hubshi_; a gentleman of Afar and Galla stock, of Arab blood, Moslem
tenets, and Caucasian descent, from a common nigger, a low black
Ethiopian, an eater of men and insects, a worshipper of idols and
_ju-ju_.

In Aden, men knew a Somali from a _Hubshi_ as surely as they knew an
Emir from a mere Englishman.

Here, in benighted, ignorant, savage India, the Dark Continent indeed,
men knew not what a Somali was, likened him to a Negro, ranked him lower
than a Hindu even--called him a _Hubshi_ in insolent ignorance. If only
the beautiful Reformatory were in Berbera, and tenanted by Africans.

Better Aden Jail a thousand times than Duri Reformatory.

What a splendid joke if the dog of a Brahmin who persistently insulted
him--even after he had been shown his error and ignorance--should be the
unwitting means of his return to Aden--where a Somali gentleman is
recognized. There is no harm about a Jail as such. Far from it. A jail
is a wise man's paradise provided by fools. You have excellent and
plentiful food, a roof against the sun, unfailing water supply,
clothing, interesting occupation, and safety--protection from your
enemies. No man harries you, you are not chained, you are not tortured;
you have all that heart can desire. Freedom?... What _is_ Freedom?
Freedom to die of thirst in the desert? Freedom to be disembowelled by
the Great Mullah? Freedom to be sold as a slave into Arabia or Persia?
Freedom to be the unfed, unpaid, well-beaten property of gun-runners in
the Gulf, or of Arab _safari_ ruffians and "black-ivory" men? Freedom to
be left to the hyaena when you broke down on the march? Freedom to die
of starvation when you fell sick and could not carry coal? Thanks.

If the mad English provided beautiful refuges, and made the commission
of certain crimes the requisite qualification for admission, let wise
men qualify.

Take this Reformatory--where else could a little Somali boy get such
safety, peace, food, and sumptuous luxury; everything the heart could
desire, in return for doing a little gardening? Even a house to himself
as though he were the honoured, favourite son of some chief.

To Moussa Isa, the dark and dingy cell with its bare stone walls, mud
floor, grated aperture and iron door was a fine safe house; its iron
bed-frame with cotton-rug-covered laths and stony pillow, a piece of
wanton luxury; its shelf, stool and utensils, prideful wealth. If only
the place were in Africa or Aden! Well, Aden Jail would do, and if the
Brahmin's death led to his being sent there as a serious and respectable
murderer, it would be a real case of two enemies on one spear--an insult
avenged and a most desired re-patriation achieved.

That would be subtilty,--at once washing out the insult in the
Brahmin's blood and getting sent whither his heart turned so constantly
and fondly. They had treated him as a juvenile offender because he was
so small and young, and because the killing of the fat Mussulman was his
first offence, as they supposed. Surely they would recognize that he was
a man when he had killed his second enemy--especially if he told them
about Sulemani. What in the name of Allah did they want, to constitute a
real sound criminal, fit for Aden Jail, if three murders were not
enough? Well, he would go on killing until they did have enough, and
were obliged to send him to Aden Jail. There he would behave beautifully
and kill nobody until they wanted to turn him out to starve. Then, since
murder was the requisite qualification, he would murder to admiration.
He knew they could not send him over the way to the Duri Jail, since he
belonged to Aden, had been convicted there, and only sent to the Duri
Reformatory because Aden boasted no such institution....

Yes. The Brahmin's corpse should be the stepping-stone to higher things
and the place where people knew a Somali from a Negro.

If only he were in the carpentry department with Master Brahmin, where
there were axes, hammers, chisels, knives, saws, and various pointed
instruments. Fancy teaching the young gentleman manners and ethnology
with an axe! However, after one or two more journeys between the tap and
the flower-bed, he would pass within striking-distance of the dog as he
worked his slow way along the tract of earth he was supposed to be
digging up with the silly short-handled pick.

Should he try and seize the pick and give him one on the temple with it?
No, the Brahmin would scream and struggle and the overseer would be on
Moussa Isa in a single bound. He must strike a sudden blow in the act of
passing.

A few more journeys to the water-tap....

_Now!_ "_Hubshi_," eh?

Halting beside the crouching Brahmin youth, Moussa Isa swung up the
heavy watering-can by the spout and aimed a blow with all his strength
at the side of his enemy's head. He designed to bring the sharp strong
rim of the base behind the ear with the first blow, on the temple with
the second, and just anywhere thereafter, if time permitted of a
thereafter.

But the aggravating creature tossed his head as Moussa, with a grunt of
energy, brought the vessel down, and the rim merely struck the top of
the shaven skull. Another--harder. Another--with frenzied strength and
the force of long-suppressed rage and sense of wrong.

And then Moussa was knocked head over heels and sat upon by the overseer
in charge of the garden-gang, while the Brahmin twitched convulsively on
the ground. He was by no means dead, however, and the sole immediate
results, to Moussa, were penal diet, solitary confinement in his
palatial cell, a severe sentence of corn-grinding with the heavy quern,
and most joyous recollections of the sound of the water-can on the pate
of the foe.

"I have still to kill you, of course," he whispered to his victim, the
next time they met, and the Brahmin went in terror of his life. He was
a very clever young person and had passed an astounding number of
examinations in the course of his brief career. But he was not
courageous, and his "education" had given him skill in nothing
practical, except in penmanship, which skill he had devoted to forgery.

"Why did you violently commit this dastardish deed, and assault the
harmless peaceful Brahmin?" asked the Superintendent, a worthy and
voluble babu, and then translated the question into debased Hindustani.

"He called me _Hubshi_, and I will kill him," replied Moussa.

"Oho! and you kill everyone who calls you _Hubshi_, do you, Master
African?"

"I do. I wish to go to Aden Jail for attempting murder. It will be
murder if I am kept here where none knows a man from a dog."

"Oho! And you would kill even _me_, I suppose, if I called you
_Hubshi_."

"Of course! I will kill you in any case if I am not sent to Aden Jail."

The babu decided that it was high time for some other institution to
shelter this touchy and truculent person, and that he would lay the case
before the next weekly Visitor and ask for it to be submitted to the
Committee at their ensuing monthly meeting.

The Visitor of the week happened to be the Educational Inspector. "Wants
to leave India, does he?" said the Inspector, looking Moussa over as he
heard the statement of the Superintendent. "I admire his taste. India is
a magnificent country to leave."

The Educational Inspector, a very keen, thoughtful and competent
educationist, was a disappointed man, like so many of his Service. He
felt that he had, for quarter of a century, strenuously woven ropes of
sand. When his liver was particularly sluggish he felt that for quarter
of a century he had worked industriously, not at a useless thing, but at
an evil thing--a terrible belief.

Moreover, after quarter of a century of faithful labour and strict
economy, he found himself with a load of debt, broken health, and a
cheaply educated family of boys and girls to whom he was a complete
stranger--merely the man who found the money and sent it Home, visiting
them from time to time at intervals of four or five years. India had
killed his wife, and broken him.

He had had what seemed to him to be bitter experience also. An
individual, notoriously slack and incompetent, ten years his junior, had
been promoted over his head, because he was somebody's cousin and the
kind of fatuous ass that only labours industriously in drawing-rooms and
at functions, recuperating by slacking idly in offices and at duties--a
paltry but paying game much practised by a very small class in India.

Another individual, by reason of his having come to India two boats
earlier than the Inspector, drew Rs. 500 a month more than he did, this
being the Senior Inspector's Allowance. That he was reported on as lazy,
eccentric, and irregular, made no difference to the fact that he was a
fortnight senior to, and therefore worth Rs. 500 a month more than, the
next man. The recipient regarded the extra trifle (£400 a year) as his
bare right and merest due. The Inspector regarded it as an infamous
piece of injustice and folly that for fifteen years the whole of this
sum should go to a lazy fool because he happened to set sail from
England on a certain date, and not a fortnight later. So he loathed and
detested India where he had had bad luck, bad health and what he
considered bad treatment, and sympathized with the desire of Moussa Isa.

"Why do you want to go back to Aden?" he inquired in the _lingua franca_
of the Indian Empire, of Moussa whose heart beat high with hope.

"Because here, where there are no lions, wolves think a lion is a dog;
here where there are no men, asses think a man is a monkey. I am a
Somal, and these ignorant camels think I am a negro--a filthy Hubshi."

"And you tried to kill another boy because he called you 'Hubshi,' eh?"

"I did, Sahib, and I will kill him yet if I be not sent to Aden. If that
fail I will kill myself also."

"Stout fella," commented the Inspector in his own vernacular, and added,
musing aloud:--

"You'll come to the gallows through possessing pride, self-respect and
determination, my lad. You're behind the times--or rather you maintain a
spirit for which Civilization has no use. You must return to the Wilds
of the Earth or else you must be content to become good, grubby, and
grey, dull and dejected, sober and sorrowful, respectable and
unenterprising--like me; and you must cultivate fat, propriety, smugness
and the Dead Level.... What, you young Devil! You'd have self-respect
and pride, would you; be quick upon the point of honour, eh? revive the
duello, what? Get thee to a--er--less civilized and respectable age or
place ... in other words, Mr. Toshiwalla, bring the case before the
Committee of Visitors. I'll put up a note to the effect that he had
better be sent back to Aden. This is a Reformatory, and there's nothing
very reformatory about keeping him to plan murder and suicide because he
has been (quite unjustifiably) transported as well as flogged and
imprisoned. Yes, we'll consider the case. Meanwhile, keep a sharp eye on
him--and give him all the corn-grinding he can do. Sweat the Original
Sin out of him ... and see he does not secrete any kind of weapon."

Accordingly was Moussa segregated, and to the base women's-work of
corn-grinding in the cook-house, wholly relegated. It was hard,
soul-breaking work, ignoble and degrading, but he drew two crumbs of
comfort from the bread of affliction. He was developing his arm-muscles
and he was literally watering the said bread of affliction with the
sweat of labour. As the heavy drops trickled from chin and nose into the
meal around the grindstone, it pleased Moussa Isa to reflect that his
enemy should eat of it. Since the shadow of Moussa was pollution to
these travesties of men and warriors, let them have a little concrete
pollution also. But in the cook-house, while arm and soul wearied
together, one heavy day of copper sky and brazen earth, first eye and
then foot, fell upon a piece of tin, the lid of some empty milk-tin or
like vessel. The prehensile toes gathered in the trove, the foot gently
rose and the fingers of the pendant left hand secured the disc, while
the body swayed with the strenuous circlings of the right hand chat
revolved the heavy upper millstone.

That night, immediately after being locked in his cell, that there
might be the fullest time for bleeding to death, he slashed and slashed
while strength lasted at wrist and abdomen--but without succeeding in
penetrating the abdominal wall and reaching the viscera.

This effected his transfer to the Reformatory hospital and underlined
the remark of the Inspector in the Visitors' Book to the effect that one
Moussa Isa would commit suicide or murder, if kept at Duri, and would
certainly not be "reformed" in any way. In hospital, Major Jackson of
the Royal Army Medical Corps, a Visitor of the Duri Jail, paying his
periodical visits, grew interested in the sturdy bright boy and soon
came to like him for his directness, cheery courage, and refreshing
views. When the boy was convalescent he took him on the surrounding Duri
golf-links as his caddie in his endless games with his poor friend
Sergeant-Major Lawrence-Smith, _ex_-gentleman.

Moussa was grateful and, fingering the scar on his throat, likened Major
Jackson to his hero, the fair Sheikh who had saved him from the lion and
had lost his life through intervening on Moussa's behalf in the boat.
But _he_ was not mad like these English. He would not, with infinite
earnestness, seriousness and mingled joy at success and grief at
failure, have pursued a little white ball with a stick, mile after mile,
knocking it with infinite precautions, every now and then, into a little
hole, and taking it out again.

No, _his_ idea of sport across country with an iron-shod stick would
rather have been lion-hunting with an assegai (yet, curiously enough,
one, Robin Ross-Ellison, lived to play more than one game of golf with
Major Jackson on these same Duri Links). To see this adult white man
behaving so, _coram publico_, made Moussa bitterly ashamed for him.

And, as the sun set, Moussa Isa earned a sharp rebuke for inattentive
slacking, as he stood sighing his soul to where it sank in the West over
Aden and Somaliland.... Wait till his chance of escape arrived; he would
journey straight for the sunset, day after day, until he reached a
sea-shore. There he would steal a canoe and paddle and paddle straight
for the sunset, day after day, until he reached a sea-shore again. That
would be Africa or Arabia, and Moussa Isa would be where a Somal is
known from a _Hubshi_.... Should he make a bolt for it now? No, too
weak, and not fair to this kind Sahib who had healed him and sympathized
with him in the matter of the ignorance and impudence of those who
misnamed a son of the Somals.... In due course, the Committee of
Visitors met at the Reformatory one morning, and found on the agenda
paper _inter alia_ the case of Moussa Isa, a murderer from Aden, his
attempt at murder and suicide, and his prayer to be sent to Aden Jail.

On the Committee were the Director of Public Instruction, the Collector,
the Executive Engineer, the Superintendent of Duri Jail, the Educational
Inspector, the Cantonment Magistrate, Major Jackson of the Royal Army
Medical Corps, and a number of Indian gentlemen. To the Chairman's
inquiries Moussa Isa made the usual replies. He had been mortally
affronted and had endeavoured to avenge the insult. He had tried to do
his duty to himself--and to his enemy. He had been put to base
women's-work as a punishment for defending his honour and he had tried
to take his life in despair. Was there _no_ justice in British lands?
What would the Sahib himself do if his honour were assailed? If one rose
up and insulted him and his race? Called him baboon, born of baboons,
for example? Or had the Sahib no honour? Why should he have been
transported when he was not sentenced to transportation? What had he
done but defend his honour and avenge insults? Unless he were now tried
for murder and suicide, and sentenced to hard labour in Aden Jail, he
would go on murdering until they did send him there. If they said,
"Well, you shan't go there, whatever you do," he would kill himself. If
he could get no sort of weapon he would starve himself (he did not in
his ignorance quote the gentle and joyous Pankhurst family) or hold his
breath. So they had better send him, and that was all he had got to say
about it.

"Send him for trial before the City Magistrate and recommend that he go
to Aden Jail at once, before he hurts somebody else," said the native
members of the Committee. "Why should we be troubled with the
off-scourings of Aden?"

"Certainly not," opined the Collector of Duri. A pretty state of affairs
if every criminal were to be allowed to select his own place of
punishment, and to terrorize any penitentiary that had the misfortune to
lack favour in his sight. Let the boy be well flogged for the assault
and attempted suicide, and then let him rejoin the ordinary gangs and
classes. It was the Superintendent's duty to watch his charges and keep
discipline in what was, after all, a school.

"Sir, he is one violent and dangerous character and will assault the
peaceful and mild. Yea--he may even attack _me_," objected the babu.

"Are we to understand that you admit your inability to maintain order in
this Reformatory?" inquired the Director of Public Instruction from the
Chair.

Anything but that. They were to understand, on the contrary, that the
babu was respectfully a most unprecedented disciplinarian.

"You don't expect cock angels in a Reformatory, y' know," said the
engineer, suddenly awaking to light a fat black cheroot. "Got to use
the--ah--strong hand;--on their--ah--_you_ know," and he resumed his
slumbers, puffing mechanically and unconsciously at his cheroot.

So Moussa Isa was flogged and sent back to gardening, lessons and
drawing.

Yes--the Somali was taught drawing. Not mere utilitarian drawing-to-scale
and making plans and elevations, but "freehand"-drawing, the reproducing
of meaningless twirly curves and twiddly twists from symmetrical
conventional "copies". He copied copies and drew lines--but never copied
things, nor drew things. In time he could, with infinite labour, produce
a copy of a flat "copy" that a really observant eye could identify with
the original, but had you asked him to draw his foot or the door of the
room, his desk, his watering-can or book, he would probably have
replied, "_They_ are not drawing-copies," and would have laughed at your
absurd joke. No, he was not taught to draw _things_, nor to give
expression to impression.

And he had a special warder all to himself, who watched him as a cat
watches a mouse. However, warders cannot prevent looks and smiles, and
whenever Moussa Isa saw the Brahmin youth, he gave a peculiar look and a
meaning smile. It was borne in upon the clever young man that the Hubshi
looked at his neck, below his ear, when he smiled that dreadful smile.

Sometimes a significant gesture accompanied the meaning smile. For
Moussa Isa had decided, upon the rejection of his prayer by the
Committee, to wait until he was a little older and bigger, more like a
proper criminal and less of a wretched little "juvenile offender," and
then to qualify, by murder, for the Aden Jail--with the unoffered help
of the Brahmin boy.

Allah would vouchsafe opportunity, and when he did so, Moussa Isa, his
servant, would seize it. Doubtless it would come as soon as he was big
enough to receive the privileges of an adult and serious criminal.
Anyhow, the insult would be properly punished and the honour of the
Somal race avenged....

Came the day when certain of the sinful inhabitants of the Duri
Reformatory were to be conducted to a neighbouring Government High
School, a centre for the official Drawing Examinations for the district,
there to sit and be examined in the gentle art of Art.

To this end they had been trained in the copying of lines and in the
painting of areas of conventional shape, not that they might be made to
observe natural form, express themselves in reproduction, render the
inner outer, originate, articulate ... but that they might pass an
examination in copying unnatural things in impossible colours. Thus it
came to pass that, in the big hall of this school, divers of the
Reformed found themselves copying, and colouring the copy of, a curious
picture pinned to a blackboard--the picture of a floral wonder unknown
to Botany, possessed of delicate mauve leaves, blue-veined, shaped some
like the oak-leaf and some like the ivy; of long slender blades like
those of the iris, but of tenderest pink; of beautiful and profusely
chromatic blossoms, reminding one now of the orchid, now of the
sunflower and anon of the forget-me-not; and likewise of clustering
fulgent fruit.

And at the back of all these budding artists and blossoming jail-birds,
and in the same small desk sat the Brahmin youth and--Oh Merciful
Allah!--Moussa Isa, Somali.

The native gentleman in charge of the party from the Duri Reformatory
had duly escorted his charges into the hall, handed them over to Mr.
Edward Jones, the Head of the High School, and been requested to wait
outside with similar custodians of parties. (Mr. Edward Jones had known
very strange things to happen in Examination Halls to which the friends
and supporters of candidates had access during the examination.)

To Mr. Edward Jones the thus deserted Brahmin boy made frantic and
piteous appeal.

"Oh, Sir," prayed he, "let me sit somewhere else and not beside this
African."

"You'll stay where you are," replied Mr. Edward Jones, suspicious of the
appeal and the appellant. If the fat glib youth objected to the African
on principle, Mr. Edward Jones would be glad, metaphorically speaking,
to rub his Brahminical nose in it. If this were not his reason, it was,
doubtless, one even less creditable. Mr. Edward Jones had been in India
long enough to learn to look very carefully for the motive.

Moussa Isa licked his chops once again, and, as Mr. Jones turned away,
the unhappy Brahmin cried in his anguish of soul:--

"Oh, Sir! Watch this African carefully."

"All will be watched carefully," was the suspicious and cold reply.

Moussa smiled broadly upon his erstwhile contemptuous and insulting
enemy, and began to consider the possibilities of a long and
well-pointed lead-pencil as a means of vengeance. Pencils were intended
for marking fair surfaces--might one not be used on this occasion for
the cleaning of a sullied surface, that of a besmirched honour?

One insulter of the Somal race had died by the stab of a piece of broken
bottle. Might not another die by the stab of a lead-pencil?

Doubtful. Very risky. The stabbing and piercing potentialities of a lead
pencil are not yet properly investigated, tabulated, established and
known. It would be a pity to do small damage and incur a heavy
corn-grinding punishment. He might never get another chance of
vengeance either, if he bungled this one.

Well, there were three hours in which to decide ... and Moussa Isa
commenced to draw, pausing, from time to time, to smile meaningly at the
Brahmin, and to lick his chops suggestively. Anon he rested from his
highly uninteresting and valueless labours, laid his pencil on the desk,
and gazed around in search of inspiration in the matter of the best
method of dealing with his enemy.

His eye fell upon a picture of a lion that ornamented the wall of the
hall; he stiffened like a pointer and fingered some scars on his right
arm. He had never seen a picture of a lion before and, for a fraction of
a second, he was shocked and alarmed--and then, while his body sat in an
Indian High School hall, his spirit flew to an East African desert, and
there sojourned awhile.

Moussa Isa was again the slave of an ivory-poaching, hide-poaching,
specimen-poaching, slave-dealing gang of Arabs, Negroes, and Portuguese
half-castes, led by a white man of the Teutonic persuasion. He could
feel the smiting heat, see the scrub, jungle, and sand shimmering and
dancing in the heat haze. He could see the line of porters, bales on
heads, the Arabs on horseback, the white man in a litter swinging from a
long bamboo pole beneath which half a dozen Swahili loped along. He
could see the velvet star-gemmed night and the camp-fires, smell the
smoke and the savoury odours of the cooking, hear the sudden shrieks and
yells that followed the roar of the springing lion, feel the crushing
crunch of its great teeth in his arm as it seized him from beside the
nearest fire and stood over him.... Yes, that was the night when the
fair Sheikh from the North had showed the mettle of his pastures and
bound Moussa Isa to him for ever in the bonds of worshipping gratitude
and love. For, while others shrieked, yelled, fled, flung burning brands
and spears, or fired hasty, unaimed, ineffectual shots, the fair Sheikh
from the North had sprung at the lion as it stood over Moussa Isa and
driven his knife into its eye, and as it smote him to the earth, buried
its fangs in his shoulder and started to drag him away, had stabbed
upward between the ribs, giving it a second death-blow, transfixing its
heart. Thus it was he had earned the name by which he was known from
Zanzibar to Berbera, "He-who-slays-lions-with-the-knife," had earned the
envy and hatred of the fat white man and the Arabs, the boundless
admiration of the Swahili askaris, hunters and porters, and the deep
dog-like affection of Moussa Isa....

And then Moussa's spirit returned to his body and he saw but the picture
of a lion on a High School wall. He commenced to draw again and suddenly
had an inspiration. Deliberately he broke the point of his pencil and,
rising, marched up to the dais, whereon, at a table, sat Mr. Edward
Jones.

Mr. Edward Jones had been shot with bewildering suddenness from
Cambridge quadrangles into the Indian Educational Service. Of India he
knew nothing, of education he knew less, but boldly took it upon him to
combine the two unknowns for the earning of his living. If wise and
beneficent men offered him a modest wage for becoming a professor and
exponent of that which he did not know, he had no objection to accepting
it; but there were people who wondered why it should be that, out of
forty million English people, Mr. Edward Jones should be the chosen one
to represent England to the youth of Duri, and asked whether there were
no keen, strictly conscientious, sporting, strong Englishmen available;
no enthusiastic educational experts left in all the British Isles, that
Mr. Edward Jones of all people had come to Duri?

"What do you want?" he asked (how he hated these poverty-stricken,
smelly, ignoble creatures. Why was he not a master at Eton, instead of
at Duri High School. Why wouldn't somebody give him a handsome income
for looking handsome and standing around beautifully--like these
aide-de-camp Johnnies and "staff" people. Since there was nothing on
earth he could do well, he ought to have been provided with a job in
which he could look well).

"May I borrow the Sahib's knife?" asked Moussa Isa, "I have broken my
pencil and cannot draw." Mr. Edward Jones picked up the penknife that
lay on his desk, the cheap article of restricted utility supplied to
Government Offices by the Stationery Department, and handed it to Moussa
Isa. Even as he took it with respectful salaam, Moussa Isa summed up its
possibilities. Blade two inches long, sharp-pointed, handle six inches
long, wooden; not a clasp knife, blade immovable in handle. It would
do--and he turned to go to his seat and presumably to sharpen his
pencil.

Idly watching the boy and thinking of other things, Jones saw him try
the point of the knife on his thumb, walk up behind the other occupant
of his desk, his Brahmin neighbour, seize that neighbour by the hair,
push his head sharp over on to the shoulder, and plunge the knife into
his neck; seat himself, and commence to draw with the unfortunate
Brahmin's pencil.

Jones sprang to his feet and rushed to the spot, to find that he had not
been dreaming. No--on the back seat drooped a boy bleeding like a stuck
pig and another industriously drawing, his face illuminated by a smile
of contentment.

Jones pressed his thumbs into the neck of the sufferer, as he called to
an assistant-supervisor to run to the hospital for Dr. Almeida, hoping
to be able to close the severed jugular from which welled an appalling
stream of blood.

"It is quite useless, Sahib," observed Moussa, "nor can a doctor help.
When one has got it _there_, he may give his spear to his son and turn
his face to the wall. That dog will never say '_Hubshi_' to a Somal
again."

"Catch hold of that boy," said Mr. Edward Jones to another
assistant-supervisor who clucked around like a perturbed hen.

"Fear not, Sahib, I shall not escape. I go to Aden Jail," said Moussa
cheerfully--but he pondered the advisability of attempting escape from
the Reformatory should he be sentenced to be hanged. It had always
seemed an impossibility, but it would be better to attempt the
impossible than to await the rope. But doubtless they would say he was
too small and light to hang satisfactorily, and would send him to Aden.
Thanks, Master Brahmin, realize as you die that you have greatly obliged
your slayer....

       *       *       *       *       *

"Now you will most certainly be hanged to death by rope and I shall be
rid of troublesome fellow," said the Superintendent to Moussa Isa when
that murderous villain was temporarily handed over to him by the
police-sepoy to whom he had been committed by Mr. Jones.

"I have avenged my people and myself," replied Moussa Isa, "even as I
said, I go to Aden Jail--where there are _men_, and where a Somal is
known from a Hubshi"

"You go to hang--across the road there at Duri Gaol," replied the babu,
and earnestly hoped to find himself a true prophet. But though the wish
was father to the thought, the expression thereof was but the wicked
uncle, for it led to the undoing of the wish. So convinced and
convincing did the babu appear to Moussa Isa, that the latter decided to
try his luck in the matter of unauthorized departure from the
Reformatory precincts. If they were going to hang him (for defending and
purging his private and racial honour), and not send him to Aden after
all, he might as well endeavour to go there at his own expense and
independently. If he were caught they could not do more than hang him;
if he were not caught he would get out of this dark ignorant land, if he
had to walk for a year....

When he came to devote his mind to the matter of escape, Moussa Isa
found it surprisingly easy. A sudden dash from his cell as the door was
incautiously opened that evening, a bound and scramble into a tree, a
leap to an out-house roof, another scramble, and a drop which would
settle the matter. If something broke he was done, if nothing broke he
was within a few yards of six-foot-high crops which extended to the
confines of the jungle, wherein were neither police, telegraph offices,
railways, roads, nor other apparatus of the enemy. Nothing broke--Duri
Reformatory saw Moussa Isa no more. For a week he travelled only by
night, and thereafter boldly by day, getting lifts in _bylegharies_,[45]
doing odd jobs, living as the crows and jackals live when jobs were
unavailable, receiving many a kindness from other wayfarers, especially
those of the poorer sort, but always faring onward to the West, ever
onward to the setting sun, always to the sea and Africa, until the
wonderful and blessed day when he believed for a moment that he was mad
and that his eyes and brain were playing him tricks.... After months and
months of weary travel, always toward the setting sun, he had arrived
one terrible evening of June at a wide river and a marvellous bridge--a
great bridge hung by mighty chains upon mightier posts which stood up on
either distant bank. It was a _pukka_ road, a Grand Trunk Road suspended
in the air across a river well-nigh great as Father Nile himself.

  [45] Bullock carts.

On the banks of this river stood an ancient walled city of tall houses
separated by narrow streets, a city of smells and filth, wherein there
were no Sahibs, few Hindus and many Mussulmans. In a mud-floored
miserable _mussafarkhana_,[46] without its gates, Moussa Isa slept,
naked, hungry and very sad--for he somehow seemed to have missed the
sea. Surely if one kept on due westward always to the setting sun, one
reached the sea in time? The time was growing long, however, and he was
among a strange people, few of whom understood the Hindustani he had
learnt at Duri. Luckily they were largely Mussulmans. Should he abandon
the setting sun and take to the river, following it until it reached the
sea? He could take ship then for Africa by creeping aboard in the
darkness, and hiding himself until the ship had started.... There might
be no city at the mouth of the river when he got there. It might never
reach the sea. It might just vanish into some desert like the
Webi-Shebeyli in Somaliland. No, he would keep on toward the West,
crossing the great bridge in the morning. He did so, and turned aside
to admire the railway-station of the Cantonment on the other side of the
river, to get a drink, and to see a train come in, if happily such might
occur.

  [46] Poor travellers' rest-house.

Ere he had finished rinsing his mouth and bathing his feet at the public
water-standard on the platform, the whistle of a distant train charmed
his ears and he sat him down, delighted, to enjoy the sights and sounds,
the stir and bustle, of its arrival and departure. And so it came about
that certain passengers by this North West Frontier train were not a
little intrigued to notice a small and very black boy suddenly arise
from beside the drinking-fountain and, with a strange hoarse scream,
fling himself at the feet of a young Englishman (who in Norfolk jacket
and white flannel trousers strolled up and down outside the first-class
carriage in which he was travelling to Kot Ghazi from Karachi), and with
every sign of the wildest excitement and joy embrace and kiss his
boots....

Moussa Isa was convinced that he had gone mad and that his eyes and
brain were playing him tricks.

Mr. John Robin Ross-Ellison (also Mir Ilderim Dost Mahommed Mir Hafiz
Ullah Khan when in other dress and other places) was likewise more than
a little surprised--and certainly a little moved, at the sight of Moussa
Isa and his wild demonstrations of uncontrollable joy.

"Well, I'm damned!" said he in the _rôle_ of Mr. John Robin
Ross-Ellison. "Rum little devil. Fancy your turning up here." And in the
_rôle_ of Mir Ilderim Dost Mahommed Mir Hafiz Ullah Khan added in
debased Arabic: "Take this money, little dog, and buy thee a _tikkut_
to Kot Ghazi. Get into this train, and at Kot Ghazi follow me to a
house."

To the house Moussa Isa followed him and to the end of his life
likewise, visiting _en route_ Mekran Kot, among other places, and
encountering one, Ilderim the Weeper, among other people (as was told to
Major Michael Malet-Marsac by Ross-Ellison's half-brother, the
Subedar-Major.)



CHAPTER III.

THE WOMAN.

(And Augustus Grabble; General Murger; Sergeant-Major Lawrence-Smith;
Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Gosling-Green; Mr. Horace Faggit; as well as a
reformed JOHN ROBIN ROSS-ELLISON.)



§ 1. MR. GROBBLE.


There was something very maidenly about the appearance of Augustus
Clarence Percy Marmaduke Grobble. One could not imagine him doing
anything unfashionable, perspiry, rough or rude; nor could one possibly
imagine him doing anything ruthless, fine, terrible, strong or
difficult.

One expected his hose to be of the same tint as his shirt and
handkerchief, his dress-trousers to be braided, his tie to be delicate
and beautiful, his dainty shoes to be laced with black silk ribbon,--but
one would never expect him to go tiger-shooting, to ride a gay and giddy
young horse, to box, or to do his own cooking and washing in the desert
or jungle.

Augustus had been at College during that bright brief period of the
attempted apotheosis of the dirty-minded little Decadent whose stock in
trade was a few Aubrey Beardsley drawings, a widow's-cruse-like bottle
of Green Chartreuse, an Oscar Wilde book, some dubious blue china, some
floppy ties, an assortment of second-hand epigrams, scent and scented
tobacco, a _nil admirari_ attitude and long weird hair.

Augustus had become a Decadent--a silly harmless
conventionally-unconventional Decadent. But, as Carey, a contemporary
Rugger blood, coarsely remarked, he hadn't the innards to go far wrong.

It was part of his cheap and childish ritual as a Decadent to draw the
curtains after breakfast, light candles, place the flask of Green
Chartreuse and a liqueur-glass on the table, drop one drip of the liquid
into the glass, burn a stinking pastille of incense, place a Birmingham
"god" or an opening lily before him, ruffle his hair, and sprawl on the
sofa with a wicked French novel he could not read--hoping for visitors
and an audience.

If any fellow dropped in and, very naturally, exclaimed, "What the devil
_are_ you doing?" he would reply:--

"Wha'? Oh, sunligh'? Very vulgar thing sunligh'. Art is always superior
to Nature. You love the garish day being a gross Philistine, wha'? Now I
only live at night. Glorious wicked nigh'. So I make my own nigh'. Wha'?
Have some Green Chartreuse--only drink fit for a Hedonist. I drink its
colour and I taste its glorious greenness. Ichor and Nectar of Helicon
and the Pierian Spring. I loved a Wooman once, with eyes of just that
glowing glorious green and a soul of ruby red. I called her my
Emerald-eyed, Ruby-souled Devil, and we drank together deep draughts of
the red red Wine of Life----"

Sometimes the visitor would say: "Look here, Grobb, you ought to be in
the Zoo, you know. There's a lot there like you, all in one big cage,"
or similar words of disapproval.

Sometimes a young fresher would be impressed, especially if he had been
brought up by Aunts in a Vicarage, and would also become a Decadent.

During vac. the Decadents would sometimes meet in Town, and See Life--a
singularly uninteresting and unattractive side of Life (much more like
Death), and the better men among them--better because of a little
sincerity and pluck--would achieve a petty and rather sordid "adventure"
perhaps.

Augustus had no head for Mathematics and no gift for Languages, while
his Classics had always been a trifle more than shaky. History bored
him--so he read Moral Philosophy.

There is a somewhat dull market for second-hand and third-class Moral
Philosophy in England, so Augustus took his to India. In the first
college that he adorned his classes rapidly dwindled to nothing, and the
College Board dispensed with the services of Augustus, who passed on to
another College in another Province, leaving behind him an odour of
moral dirtiness, debt, and decadence. Quite genuine decadence this time,
with nothing picturesque about it, involving doctors' bills, alimony,
and other the fine crops of wild-oat sowing.

At Gungapur he determined to "settle down," to "turn over a new leaf,"
and laid a good space of paving-stone upon his road to reward.

He gave up the morning nip, docked the number of cocktails, went to bed
before two, took a little gentle exercise, met Mrs. Pat Dearman--and
(like Mr. Robin Ross-Ellison, General Miltiades Murger and many another)
succumbed at once.

Mrs. Pat Dearman had come to India (as Miss Cleopatra Diamond Brighte)
to see her brother, Dickie Honor Brighte, at Gungapur, and much
interested to see, also, a Mr. Dearman whom, in his letters to her,
Dickie had described as "a jolly old buster, simply full of money, and
fairly spoiling for a wife to help him blew it in." She had not only
seen him but had, as she wrote to acidulous Auntie Priscilla at the
Vicarage, "actually married him after a week's acquaintance--fancy!--the
last thing in the world she had ever supposed ... etc." (Auntie
Priscilla had smiled in her peculiarly unpleasant way as the artless
letter enlarged upon the strangeness of her ingenuous niece's marrying
the rich man about whom her innocent-minded brother had written so
much.)

Having thoroughly enjoyed a most expensive and lavish honeymoon, Mrs.
Pat Dearman had settled down to make her good husband happy, to have a
good time and to do any amount of Good to other people--especially to
young men--who have so many temptations, are so thoughtless, and who
easily become the prey of such dreadful people and such dreadful habits.

Now it is to be borne in mind that Mrs. Dearman's Good Time was marred
to some extent by her unreasoning dislike of all Indians, a dislike
which grew into a loathing hatred, born and bred of her ignorance of the
language, customs, beliefs and ideals of the people among whom she
lived, and from whom her husband's great wealth sprang.

To Augustus--fresh from very gilded gold, painted lilies and highly
perfumed violets--she seemed a vision of delight, a blessed damozel, a
living Salvation.

_"Incedit dea aperta,"_ he murmured to himself, and wondered whether he
had got the quotation right. Being a weak young gentleman, he
straightway yearned to lead a Beautiful Life so as to be worthy to live
in the same world with her, and did it--for a little while. He became a
teetotaller, he went to bed at ten and rose at five--going forth into
the innocent pure morning and hugging his new Goodness to his soul as he
composed odes and sonnets to Mrs. Pat Dearman. So far so excellent--but
in Augustus was no depth of earth, and speedily he withered away. And
his reformation was a house built upon sand, for, even at its pinnacle,
it was compatible with the practising of sweet and pure expressions
before the glass, the giving of much time to the discovery of the really
most successful location of the parting in his long hair, the
intentional entangling of his fingers with those of the plump and pretty
young lady (very brunette) in Rightaway & Mademore's, what time she
handed him "ties to match his eyes," as he requested.

It was really only a change of pose. The attitude now was: "I, young as
you behold me, am old and weary of sin. I have Passed through the Fires.
Give me beauty and give me peace. I have done with the World and its
Dead Sea Fruit. There is no God but Beauty, and Woman is its Prophet."
And he improved in appearance, grew thinner, shook off a veritable Old
Man of the Sea in the shape of a persistent pimple which went ill with
the Higher Aestheticism, and achieved great things in delicate socks,
sweet shirts, dream ties, a thumb ring and really pretty shoes.

In the presence of Mrs. Pat Dearman he looked sad, smouldering,
despairing and Fighting-against-his-Lower-Self, when not looking
Young-but-Hopelessly-Depraved-though-Yearning-for-Better-Things. And he
flung out quick epigrams, sighed heavily, talked brilliantly and wildly,
and then suppressed a groan. Sometimes the pose of, "Dear Lady, I could
kiss the hem of your garment for taking an interest in me and my
past--but it is too lurid for me to speak of it, or for you to
understand it if I did," would appear for a moment, and sometimes that
of, "Oh, help me--or my soul must drown. Ah, leave me not. If I have
sinned I have suffered, and in your hands lie my Heaven and my Hell."
Such shocking words were never uttered of course--but there are few
things more real than an atmosphere, and Augustus Clarence could always
get his atmosphere all right.

And Mrs. Pat Dearman (who had come almost straight from a vicarage, a
vicar papa and a vicarish aunt, to an elderly, uxorious husband and
untrammelled freedom, and knew as much of the World as a little bunny
rabbit whom its mother has not brought yet out into the warren for its
first season), was mightily intrigued.

She felt motherly to the poor boy at first, being only two years his
junior; then sisterly; and, later, very friendly indeed.

Let it be clearly understood that Mrs. Pat Dearman was a thoroughly
good, pure-minded woman, incapable of deceiving her husband, and both
innocent and ignorant to a remarkable degree. She was the product of an
unnatural, specialized atmosphere of moral supermanity, the secluded
life, and the careful suppression of healthy, natural instincts. In
justice to Augustus Clarence also it must be stated that the impulse to
decency, though transient, was genuine as far as it went, and that he
would as soon have thought of cutting his long beautiful hair as of
thinking evil in connection with Mrs. Pat Dearman.

Yes, Mrs. Pat Dearman was mightily intrigued--and quickly came to the
conclusion that it was her plain and bounden duty to "save" the poor,
dear boy--though from _what_ she was not quite clear. He was evidently
unhappy and obviously striving-to-be-Good--and he had such beautiful
eyes, dressed so tastefully, and looked at one with such a respectful
devotion and regard, that, really--well, it added a tremendous savour to
life. Also he should be protected from the horrid flirting Mrs. Bickker
who simply lived to collect scalps.

And so the friendship grew and ripened--quickly as is possible only in
India. The evil-minded talked evil and saw harm where none existed,
proclaiming themselves for what they were, and injuring none but
themselves. (Sad to say, these were women, with one or two exceptions in
favour of men--like the Hatter--who perhaps might be called "old women
of the male sex," save that the expression is a vile libel upon the sex
that still contains the best of us.) Decent people expressed the belief
that it would do Augustus a lot of good--much-needed good; and the
crystallized male opinion was that the poisonous little beast was
uncommon lucky, but Mrs. Pat Dearman would find him out sooner or later.

As for Mr. (or Colonel) Dearman, that lovable simple soul was grateful
to Augustus for existing--as long as his existence gave Mrs. Dearman any
pleasure. If the redemption of Augustus interested her, let Augustus be
redeemed. He believed that the world neither held, nor had held, his
wife's equal in character and nobility of mind. He worshipped an image
of his own creation in the shape of Cleopatra Dearman, and the image he
had conceived was a credit to the single-minded, simple-hearted
gentleman.

Naturally he did not admire Augustus Clarence Percy Marmaduke Grobble
(learned in millinery; competent, as modes varied, to discuss harem,
hobble, pannier, directoire, slit, or lamp-shade skirts, berthes,
butterfly-_motif_ embroideries, rucked ninon sleeves, chiffon tunics,
and similar mysteries of the latest fashion-plates, with a lady
undecided).

Long-haired men put Dearman off, and he could not connect the virile
virtues with large bows, velvet coats, scent, manicure, mannerisms and
meandering.

But if Augustus gave his wife any pleasure--why Augustus had not lived
wholly in vain. His attitude to Augustus was much that of his attitude
to his wife's chocolates, fondants, and crystallized violets--"Not
absolutely nourishing and beneficial for you, Dearest;--but harmless,
and I'll bring you a ton with pleasure".

Personally he'd as soon go about with his wife's fat French poodle as
with Augustus, but so long as either amused her--let the queer things
flourish.

Among the nasty-minded old women who "talked" was the Mad Hatter.

"Shameful thing the way that Dearman woman throws dust in her husband's
eyes!" said he, while sipping his third Elsie May at the club bar. "He
should divorce her. I would, to-morrow, if I were burdened with her."

A knee took him in the small of the back with unnecessary violence and
he spun round to demand instant apology from the clumsy....

He found himself face to face with one John Robin Ross-Ellison newly
come to Gungapur, a gentleman of independent means but supposed to be
connected with the Political Department or the Secret Service or
something, who stared him in the eyes without speaking while he poised a
long drink as though wondering whether it were worth while wasting good
liquor on the face of such a thing as the Hatter.

"You'll come with me and clear the dust from Dearman's eyes at once,"
said he at last. "Made your will all right?"

The Hatter publicly apologised, then and there, and explained that he
had, for once in his life, taken a third drink and didn't know what he
was saying.

"If your third drink brings out the real man, I should recommend you to
stick to two, Bonnett," said the young man, and went away to cogitate.

Should he speak to Dearman? No. He didn't want to see so good a chap
hanged for a thing like the Bonnett. Should he go and slap Augustus
Grobble hard and make him leave the station somehow? No. Sure to be a
scandal. You can no more stop a scandal than a locust-cloud or a fog.
The best way to increase it is to notice it. What a horrid thing is a
scandal-monger--exhaling poison. It publishes the fact that it is
poisonous, of course--but the gas is not enjoyable.

Well, God help anybody Dearman might happen to hear on the subject!
Happily Mr. (or Colonel) Dearman heard nothing, for he was a quiet,
slow, jolly, red-haired man, and the wrath of a slow, quiet, red-haired
man, once roused, is apt to be a rather dangerous thing. Also Mr.
Dearman was singularly elephantine in the blundering crushing directness
of his methods, and his idea of enough might well seem more than a feast
to some.

And Mr. Dearman suffered Augustus gladly, usually finding him present at
tea, frequently at dinner, and invariably in attendance at dances and
functions.

Augustus was happy and Good--for Augustus. He dallied, he adored, he
basked. For a time he felt how much better, finer, more enjoyable, more
beautiful, was this life of innocent communion with a pure soul--pure,
if just a little insipid, after the real spankers he had hitherto
affected.

He was being saved from himself, reformed, helped, and all the rest of
it. And when privileged to bring her pen, her fan, her book, her
cushion, he always kissed the object with an appearance of wishing to be
unseen in the act. It was a splendid change from the Lurid Life and the
mean adventure. Piquant.

Unstable as water he could not excel nor endure, however, even in
dalliance; nor persevere even when adopted as the _fidus Achates_ of a
good and beautiful woman--the poor little weather-cock. He was
essentially weak, and weakness is worse than wickedness. There is hope
for the strong bad man. He may become a strong good one. Your weak man
can never be that.

There came a lady to the Great Eastern Hotel where Augustus lived. Her
husband's name, curiously enough, was Harris, and wags referred to him
as _the_ Mr. Harris, because he had never been seen--and like Betsey
Prig, they "didn't believe there was no sich person". And beyond doubt
she was a spanker.

Augustus would sit and eye her at meals--and his face would grow a
little less attractive. He would think of her while he took tea with
Mrs. and Mr. Dearman, assuring himself that she was certainly a stepper,
a stunner, and, very probably,--thrilling thought--a wrong 'un.

Without the very slightest difficulty he obtained an introduction and,
shortly afterwards, decided that he was a man of the world, a Decadent,
a wise Hedonist who took the sweets of every day and hoped for more
to-morrow.

Who but a fool or a silly greenhorn lets slip the chances of enjoyment,
and loses opportunities of experiences? There was nothing in the world,
they said, to compare with War and Love. Those who wanted it were
welcome to the fighting part, he would be content with the loving rôle.
He would be a Dog and go on breaking hearts and collecting trophies.
What a milk-and-water young ass he had been, hanging about round good,
silly, little Mrs. Dearman, denying himself champagne at dinner-parties,
earning opprobrium as a teetotaller, going to bed early like a
bread-and-butter flapper, and generally losing all the joys of Life!
Been behaving like a _backfisch_. He read his Swinburne again, and
unearthed from the bottom of a trunk some books that dealt with the
decadent's joys,--poets of the Flesh, and prosers of the Devil, in his
many weary forms.

Also he redoubled his protestations (of undying, hopeless, respectful
devotion and regard) to Mrs. Dearman, until she, being a woman,
therefore suspected something and became uneasy.

One afternoon he failed to put in an appearance at tea-time, though
expected. He wrote that he had had a headache. Perhaps it was true, but,
if so, it had been borne in the boudoir of the fair spanker whose
husband may or may not have been named Harris.

As his absences from the society of Mrs. Dearman increased in frequency,
his protestations of undying gratitude and regard for her increased in
fervour.

Mrs. Dearman grew more uneasy and a little unhappy.

Could she be losing her influence for Good over the poor weak boy? Could
it be--horrible thought--that he was falling into the hands of some
nasty woman who would flirt with him, let him smoke too many cigarettes,
drink cocktails, and sit up late? Was he going to relapse and slip back
into that state of wickedness of some kind, that she vaguely understood
him to have been guilty of in the unhappy past when he had possessed no
guardian angel to keep his life pure, happy and sweet, as he now
declared it to be?

"Where's your young friend got to lately?" inquired her husband one day.

"I don't know, John," she replied, "he's always missing appointments
nowadays," and there was a pathetic droop about the childish mouth.

"Haven't quarrelled with him, or anything, have you, Pat?"

"No, John dear. It would break his heart if I were unkind to him--or it
would have used to. I mean it used to have would. Oh, you know what I
mean. Once it would have. No, I have not been unkind to him--it's rather
the other way about, I think!"

_Rather the other way about_! The little affected pimp unkind to Mrs.
Dearman! Mr. (or Colonel) Dearman made no remark--aloud.

Augustus came to tea next day and his hostess made much of him. His host
eyed him queerly. Very.

Augustus felt uncomfortable. Good Heavens! Was Dearman jealous? The man
was not going to cut up jealous at this time of day, surely! Not after
giving him the run of the house for months, and allowing him to take his
wife everywhere--nay, encouraging him in every way. Absurd idea!

Beastly disturbing idea though--Dearman jealous, and on your track! A
rather direct and uncompromising person, red-haired too. But the man was
absolutely fair and just, and he'd never do such a thing as to let a
fellow be his wife's great pal, treat him as one of the family for ages,
and then suddenly round on him as though he were up to something. No.
Especially when he was, if anything, cooling off a bit.

"He was always most cordial--such a kind chap,--when I was living in his
wife's pocket almost," reflected Augustus, "and he wouldn't go and turn
jealous just when the thing was slacking off a bit."

But there was no doubt that Dearman was eyeing him queerly....

"Shall we go on the river to-morrow night, Gussie?" said Mrs. Dearman,
"or have a round of golf, or what?"

"Let's see how we feel to-morrow," replied Augustus, who had other
schemes in view. "Sufficient unto the day is the joy thereof," and he
escorted Mrs. Dearman to the Gymkhana, found her some nice, ladies'
pictorials, said, "I'll be back in a minute or two,"--and went in search
of Mrs. "Harris".

"Well," said that lady, "been a good little boy and eaten your bread and
butter nicely? Have a Lyddite cocktail to take the taste away. So will
I." ...

"Don't forget to book the big punt," said the Siren an hour or so later.
"I'll be ready for you about five."

Augustus wrote one of his charming little notes on his charming little
note-paper that evening.

"KIND AND GRACIOUS LADYE,

"Pity me. Pity and love me. To-morrow the sun will not shine for your
slave, for he will not see it. I am unable to come over in the evening.
I stand 'twixt love and duty, and know you would counsel duty. Would the
College and all its works were beneath the ocean wave! Think of me just
once and I shall survive till the day after. Oh, that I could think your
disappointment were but one thousandth part of mine. I live but for
Thursday.

"Ever your most devoted loving slave,

"GUSSIE."

Mrs. Dearman wept one small tear, for she had doubted his manner when he
had evaded making the appointment, and was suspicious. Mr. Dearman
entered and noted the one small tear ere it trickled off her dainty
little nose.

She showed him the note.

Mr. (or Colonel) Dearman thought much. What he said was "Hm!"

"I suppose he has got to invigilate at some horrid examination or
something," she said, but she did not really suppose anything of the
kind. Even to her husband she could not admit the growing dreadful fear
that the brand she had plucked from the burning was slipping from her
hand--falling back into the flames.

At a dinner-party that night a woman whom she hated, and wrote down an
evil-minded scandal-monger and inventor and disseminator of lies,
suddenly said to her, "Who _is_ this Mrs. Harris, my dear?"

"How should I know?" replied Mrs. Dearman.

"Oh, I thought your young friend Mr. Grobble might have told you--he
seems to know her very well," answered the woman sweetly.

That night Mr. Dearman heard his wife sobbing in bed. Going to her he
asked what was the matter, and produced eau-de-Cologne, phenacetin,
smelling-salts and sympathy.

She said that nothing at all was the matter and he went away and
pondered. Next day he asked her if he could row her on the river as he
wanted some exercise, and Augustus was not available to take her for a
drive or anything.

"I should love it, John dear," she said. "You row like an ox," and John,
who had been reckoned an uncommon useful stroke, felt that a compliment
was intended if not quite materialized.

Mrs. Pat Dearman enjoyed the upstream trip, and, watching her husband
drive the heavy boat against wind and current with graceful ease,
contrasted him with the puny, if charming, Augustus--to the latter's
detriment. He was so safe, so sound, so strong, reliable and true. But
then he never needed any protection, care and help. It was impossible to
"mother" John. He loved her devotedly and beautifully but one couldn't
pretend he leaned on her for moral help. Now Augustus did need her or he
had done so--and she did so love to be needed. _Had_ done so? No--she
would put the thought away. He needed her as much as ever and loved her
as devotedly and honourably.... The boat was turned back at the weir
and, half an hour later, reached the Club wharf.

"I want to go straight home without changing, Pat; do you mind? I'll
drop you at the Gymkhana if you don't want to get home so early," said
Dearman, as he helped his wife out.

"Won't you change and have a drink first, John?" she replied. "You must
be thirsty."

"No. I want to go along now, if you don't mind."

He did want to--badly. For, rowing up, he had seen something which his
wife, facing the other way, could not see.

Under an over-hanging bush was a punt, and in the punt were Augustus and
the lady known as Mrs. Harris.

The bush met the bank at the side toward his wife, but at the other
side, facing Dearman, there was an open space and so he had seen and she
had not. Returning, he had drawn her attention to something on the
opposite bank. This had been unnecessary, however, as Augustus had
effected a change of venue without delay. And now he did not want his
wife to witness the return of the couple and learn of the duplicity of
her snatched Brand.

(He'd "brand" him anon!)

       *       *       *       *       *

Augustus Clarence Percy Marmaduke Grobble sat in the long cane chair in
his sitting-room, a glass beside him, a cigarette between his lips, a
fleshly poet in his hand, and a reminiscent smile upon his flushed face.

She undoubtedly was a spanker. Knew precisely how many beans make five.
A woman of the world, that. Been about. Knew things. Sort of woman one
could tell a good story to--and get one back. Life! Life! Knew it up and
down, in and out. Damn reformation, teetotality, the earnest, and the
strenuous. Good women were unmitigated bores, and he.... A sharp knock
at the door.

"_Kon hai_?"[47] he called. "_Under ao_."[48]

  [47] Who's there.
  [48] Come in.

The door opened and large Mr. Dearman walked in. He bore a nasty-looking
malacca cane in his hand--somewhat ostentatiously.

"Hullo, Dearman!" said Augustus after a decidedly startled and anxious
look. "What is it? Sit down. I'm just back from College. Have a drink?"

Large Mr. Dearman considered these things _seriatim_.

"I will sit down as I want a talk with you. You are a liar in the matter
of just being back from College. I will not have a drink." He then
lapsed into silence and looked at Augustus very straight and very
queerly, while bending the nasty malacca suggestively. The knees of
Augustus smote together.

Good God! It had come at last! The thrashing he had so often earned was
at hand. What should he do? What _should_ he do!

Dearman thought the young man was about to faint.

"Fine malacca that, isn't it?" he asked.

"Ye-yes!"

"Swishy, supple, tough."

"Ye-yes!" (How could the brute be such a fool as to be jealous now--now
when it was all cooling off and coming to an end?)

"Grand stick to thrash a naughty boy with, what?"

"Ye-yes!--Dearman, I swear before God that there is nothing between me
and----"

"Shut up, you infernal God-forsaken cub, or I shall have to whip you.
I----"

"Dearman, if you are jealous of me----"

"Better be quiet and listen, or _I_ shall get cross, and _you'll_ get
hurt.... You have given us the pleasure of a great deal of your company
this year, and I have come to ask you----"

"Dearman, I have not been so much lately, and I--"

"That's what I complain of, my young friend."

"What?"

"That's what I complain of! I have come to protest against your making
yourself almost necessary to me, in a sense, and then--er--deserting me,
in a sense."

"You are mocking me, Dearman. If you wish to take advantage of my being
half your size and strength to assault me, you----"

"Not a bit of it, my dear Augustus. I am in most deadly earnest, as
you'll find if you are contumacious when I make my little proposition.
What I say is this. _I_ have grown to take an interest in you, Augustus.
_I_ have been very kind to you and tried to make a better man of you.
_I_ have been a sort of mother to you, and you have sworn devotion and
gratitude to me. _I_ have reformed you somewhat, and you have admitted
to me that I have made another man of you, Augustus, and that you love
me for it, you love _me_ with a deep Platonic love, my Augustus,
and--don't you forget it."

"I admit that your wife----"

"Don't you mention my wife, Augustus, or you and I and that malacca will
have a period of great activity. I was saying that _I_ am disappointed
in you, Augustus, and truly grieved to find you so shallow and false. I
asked you to take me on the river to-night and you lied to me and took a
very different type of--er--person. Such meanness and ingratitude fairly
get me, Augustus. Now I never _asked_ you to run after me and come and
swear I had saved your dirty little soul alive, but since you did it,
Augustus, and _I_ have come to take a deep interest in saving the
thing--why, you've got to stick it, Augustus--and if you don't--why,
then I'll make you, my dear."

"Dearman, your wife has been the noblest friend----"

"_Will_ you come off it, Augustus? I don't want to be cruel. Now look
here. _I_ have got accustomed to having you about the house and
employing you in those funny little ways in which you are a useful
little animal. I am under no delusion as to the value of that Soul of
yours--but, such as it is, _I_ am determined to save it. So just you
bring it round to tea to-morrow, as usual; and don't you ever be absent
again without my permission. You began the game and I'll end it--when I
think fit. Grand malacca that."

"Dearman, I will always----"

"'Course you will. See you at tea to-morrow, Gussie. If ever my wife
hears of this I'll kill you painfully. Bye-Bye."

Augustus was present at tea next day, and, thenceforth, so regular was
he that Mrs. Dearman found, first, that she had been very foolish in
thinking that her Brand was slipping back into the fire and, later, that
Gussie was a bore and a nuisance.

One day he said in the presence of John:--

"I can't keep that golf engagement on Saturday, dear lady, I have to
attend a meeting of the Professors, Principal and College Board".

"Have you seen my malacca cane, Pat," said Dearman. "I want it."

"But I really have!" said Augustus, springing up.

"Of course you have," replied Dearman. "What _do_ you mean?"

       *       *       *       *       *

"John dear," remarked Mrs. Dearman one day, "I wish you could give
Gussie a hint not to come quite so often. I have given him some very
broad ones during the last few months, but he won't take them. He would
from you, I expect."

"Tired of the little bounder, Pat?"

"Oh, sick and tired. He bores me to tears. I wish he were in Government
Service and could be transferred. A Government man's always transferred
as soon as he has settled to his job. I can't forbid him the house, very
well, but I _wish_ he'd realize how weary I am of his poses and new
socks."

       *       *       *       *       *

Augustus Clarence Percy Marmaduke Grobble sat in the long cane chair in
his sitting-room, a look of rebellious discontent upon his face. What
could he do? Better chuck his job and clear out! The strain was getting
awful. What a relentless, watchful brute Dearman was! To him entered
that gentleman after gently tapping at the chamber door.

"Gussie," said he, "I have come to say that I think you weary me. I
don't want you to come and play with me any more. _But_ be a nice good
boy and do me credit. I have brought you this malacca as a present and a
memento. I have another, Gussie, and am going to watch you, so be a real
credit to me."

And Gussie was.

So once again a good woman redeemed a bad man--but a trifle indirectly
perhaps.

Then came General Miltiades Murger and Mr. John Robin Ross-Ellison to be
saved.

During intervals in the salvation process, Mr. John Robin Ross-Ellison
vainly endeavoured to induce Mr. Augustus Clarence Percy Marmaduke
Grobble to lend his countenance, as well as the rest of his person, to
the European Company of the Gungapur Fusilier Volunteer Corps which it
was the earnest ambition of Ross-Ellison to raise and train and
consolidate into a real and genuine defence organization, with a
maxim-gun, a motor-cycle and car section, and a mounted troop, and with,
above all, a living and sturdy _esprit-de-corps_. Such a Company
appeared to him to be the one and only hope of regeneration for the
ludicrous corps which Colonel Dearman commanded, and to change the
metaphor, the sole possible means of leavening the lump by its example
of high standards and high achievement.

To Augustus, however, as to many other Englishmen, the idea was merely
ridiculous and its parent simply absurd.

The day dawned when Augustus, like the said many other Englishmen,
changed his mind. In his, and their defence, it may be urged that they
knew nothing of the activities of a very retiring but persevering
gentleman, known to his familiars as Ilderim the Weeper, and that they
had grown up in the belief that all England's fighting and defence can
be done by a few underpaid, unconsidered, and very vulgar hirelings.

Perish the thought that Augustus and his like should ever be expected to
do the dirty work of defending themselves, their wives, children, homes
and honour.



§ 2. GENERAL MURGER.


In a temporary Grand Stand of matchboarding and canvas _tout Gungapur_
greeted Mrs. Pat Dearman, who was quite At Home, ranged itself, and
critically inspected the horses, or the frocks, of its friends,
according to its sex.

Around the great ring on to which the Grand Stand looked, Arab, Pathan,
and other heathen raged furiously together and imagined many vain
things. Among them unobtrusively moved a Somali who listened carefully
to conversations, noted speakers, and appeared to be collecting
impressions as to the state of public opinion--and of private opinion.
Particularly he sought opportunities of hearing reference to the
whereabouts and doings of one Ilderim the Weeper. In the ring were a
course of stiff jumps, lesser rings, the judges' office, a kind of
watch-tower from which a strenuous fiend with a megaphone bawled things
that no living soul could understand, and a number of most
horsily-arrayed gentlemen, whose individual status varied from General
and cavalry-colonel to rough rider, troop sergeant-major and stud groom.

I regret to add that there was also a Lady, that she was garbed for
riding in the style affected by mere man, and that she swaggered
loud-voiced, horsey, slapping a boot.

Let men thank the good God for womanly women while such be--and
appreciate them.

Behind the Grand Stand were massed the motor-cars and carriages of
Society, as well as the Steward of the Gungapur Club, who there spent a
busy afternoon in eating ices and drinking Cup while his myrmidons
hurried around, washed glasses, squeezed lemons, boiled water and
dropped things. Anon he drank ices and ate Cup (with a spoon) and was
taken deviously back to his little bungalow behind the Club by the Head
Bootlaire Saheb (or butler) who loved and admired him.

Beyond the big ring ran the river, full with the summer rains, giving a
false appearance of doing much to cool the air and render the afternoon
suitable to the stiff collars and "Europe" garments of the once sterner
sex.

A glorious sea-breeze did what the river pretended to do. Beneath the
shade of a clump of palms, scores of more and less valuable horses
stamped, tossed heads, whisked tails and possibly wondered why God made
flies, while an equal number of _syces_ squatted, smoked pungent
_bidis_, and told lies.

Outside a tent, near by, sat a pimply youth at a table bearing boxes of
be-ribboned labels, number-inscribed, official, levelling.

These numbers corresponded with those attached to the names of the
horses in the programme of events, and riders must tie one round each
arm ere bringing a horse up for judgment when called on.

Certain wretched carping critics alleged that this arrangement was to
prevent the possibility of error on the part of the Judges, who,
otherwise, would never know whether a horse belonged to a General or a
Subaltern, to a Member of Council or an Assistant Collector, to a Head
of a Department or a wretched underling--in short to a personage or a
person.

You find this type of doubter everywhere--and especially in India where
official rank is but the guinea stamp and gold is brass without it.

Great, in the Grand Stand, was General Miltiades Murger. Beside Mrs.
Dearman, most charming of hostesses, he sate, in the stage of avuncular
affection, and told her that if the Judges knew their business his
hunter would win the Hunter-Class first prize and be "Best Horse in the
Show" too.

As to his charger, his hack, his trapper, his suitable-for-polo ponies,
his carriage-horses he did not worry; they might or might not "do
something," but his big and beautiful hunter--well, he hoped the Judges
knew their business, that was all.

"Are you going to show him in the ring yourself, General?" asked Mrs.
Dearman.

"And leave your side?" replied the great man in manner most avuncular
and with little reassuring pats upon the lady's hand. "No, indeed. I am
going to remain with you and watch Rissaldar-Major Shere Singh ride him
for me. Finest horseman in India. Good as myself. Yes, I _hope_ the
Judges for Class XIX know their business. I imported that horse from
Home and he cost me over six thousand rupees."

Meanwhile, it may be mentioned, evil passions surged in the soul of Mr.
John Robin Ross-Ellison as he watched the General, and witnessed his
avuncular pattings and confidential whisperings. Mr. Ross-Ellison had
lunched with the Dearmans, had brought Mrs. Dearman to the Horse Show,
and was settling down, after she had welcomed her guests, to a
delightful, entrancing, and thrillful afternoon with her--to be broken
but while he showed his horse--when he had been early and utterly routed
by the General. The heart of Mr. Ross-Ellison was sore within him, for
he loved Mrs. Dearman very devotedly and respectfully.

He was always devotedly in love with some one, and she was always a nice
good woman.

When she, or he, left the station, his heart died within him, life was
hollow, and his mouth filled with Dead Sea fruit. The world he loved so
much would turn to dust and ashes at his touch. After a week or so his
heart would resurrect, life would become solid, and his mouth filled
with merry song. He would fall in love afresh and the world went very
well then.

At present he loved Mrs. Dearman--and hated General Miltiades Murger,
who had sent him for a programme and taken his seat beside Mrs. Dearman.
There was none on the other side of her--Mr. Ross-Ellison had seen to
that--and his prudent foresight had turned and rent him, for he could
not plant a chair in the narrow gangway.

He wandered disconsolately away and instinctively sought the object of
the one permanent and unwavering love of his life--his mare "Zuleika,"
late of Balkh.

Zuleika was more remarkable for excellences of physique than for those
of mind and character. To one who knew her not, she was a wild beast,
fitter for a cage in a Zoo than for human use, a wild-eyed, screaming
man-eating she-devil; and none knew her save Mr. John Robin
Ross-Ellison, who had bought her unborn. (He knew her parents.)

"If you see an ugly old cove with no hair and a blue nose come over here
for his number, just kick his foremost button, _hard_," said Mr.
Ross-Ellison to her as he gathered up the reins and, dodging a kick,
prepared to mount. This was wrong of him, for Zuleika had never suffered
any harm at the hands of General Miltiades Murger, "'eavy-sterned
amateur old men" he quoted in a vicious grumble.

A wild gallop round the race-course did something to soothe the ruffled
spirit of Mr. Ross-Ellison and nothing to improve Zuleika's
appearance--just before she entered the show-ring.

On returning, Mr. Ross-Ellison met the Notable Nut (Lieutenant Nottinger
Nutt, an ornament of the Royal Horse Artillery), and they talked evil of
Dignitaries and Institutions amounting to high treason if not blasphemy,
while watching the class in progress, with young but gloomy eyes.

"I don't care what _any_body says," observed the Notable Nut. "You read
the lists of prize-winners of all the bally horse-shows ever held here
and you'll find 'em all in strict and decorous order of owner's rank.
'Chargers. First Prize--_Lieutenant-General_ White's "Pink Eye". Second
Prize--_Brigadier-General_ Black's "Red Neck". Third Prize--_Colonel_
Brown's "Ham Bone". Highly commended--_Major_ Green's "Prairie Oyster".
Nowhere at all--_Second-Lieutenant_ Blue's "Cocktail,"'--and worth all
the rest put together. I tell you I've seen horse after horse change
hands after winning a First Prize as a General's property and then win
nothing at all as a common Officer's or junior civilian's, until bought
again by a Big Pot. Then it sweeps the board. I don't for one second
dream of accusing Judges of favouritism or impropriety any kind, but I'm
convinced that the glory of a brass-bound owner casts a halo about his
horse that dazzles and blinds the average rough-rider, stud-groom and
cavalry-sergeant, and don't improve the eyesight of some of their
betters, when judging."

"You're right, Nutty," agreed Mr. Ross-Ellison. "Look at that horse
'Runaway'. Last year it won the First Prize as a light-weight hunter,
First Prize as a hack, and Highly Commended as a charger--disqualified
from a prize on account of having no mane. It then belonged to a Colonel
of Dragoons. This year, with a mane and in, if possible, better
condition, against practically the same horses, it wins nothing at all.
This year it belongs to a junior in the P.W.D. one notices."

"Just what I say," acquiesced the aggrieved Nut, whose rejected horse
had been beaten by another which it had itself beaten (under different
ownership) the previous year. "Fact is, the judges should be absolutely
ignorant as to who owns the horses. They mean well enough, but to them
it stands to reason that the most exalted Pots own the most exalted
horses. Besides, is it fair to ask a troop sergeant-major to order his
own Colonel's horse out of the ring, or the General's either? They ought
not to get subordinates in at all. Army Veterinary Colonels from other
Divisions are the sort of chaps you want, and some really knowledgeable
unofficial civilians--and, as I say, to be in complete ignorance as to
ownership. No man to ride his own horse--and none of these bally numbers
to prevent the Judges from thinking a General's horse belongs to a
common man, and from getting the notion that a subaltern's horse belongs
to a General."

"Yes" mused Mr. Ross-Ellison, "and another thing. If you want to get a
horse a win or a place in the Ladies' Hack class--get a pretty girl to
ride it. They go by the riders' faces and figures entirely.... Hullo!
Class XIX wanted. That's me and Zuleika. Come and tie the labels on my
arms like a good dog."

"Right O. But you haven't the ghost of a little look in," opined the
Nut. "Old Murger has got a real corking English hunter in. A General
will win as usual--but he'll win with by far the best horse, for once in
the history of horse-shows."

Dismounting and handing their reins to the syces, the two young
gentlemen strolled over to the table where presided he of the pimples
and number-labels.

A burly Sikh was pointing to the name of General Miltiades Murger and
asking for the number printed thereagainst.

The youth handed Rissaldar-Major Shere Singh two labels each bearing the
number 99. These, the gallant Native Officer proceeded to tie upon his
arms--putting them upside down, as is the custom of the native of India
when dealing with anything in any wise reversible.

Mr. Ross-Ellison approached the table, showed his name on the programme
and asked for his number--66.

"Tie these on," said he returning to his friend. "By Jove--there's old
Murger's horse," he added--"what a magnificent animal!"

Looking up, the Nut saw Rissaldar-Major Shere Singh mounting the
beautiful English hunter--and also saw that he bore the number 66.
Therefore the labels handed to him were obviously 99, and as 99 he tied
on the 66 of Mr. Ross-Ellison--who observed the fact.

"I am afraid I'm all Pathan at this moment," silently remarked he unto
his soul, and smiled an ugly smile.

"Not much good my entering Zuleika against _that_ mare," he said aloud.
"It must have cost just about ten times what I paid for her. Never mind
though! We'll show up--for the credit of civilians," and he rode into
the ring--where a score of horses solemnly walked round and round the
Judges and in front of the Grand Stand....

General Murger brought Mrs. Dearman a cup of tea, and, having placed his
_topi_[49] in his chair, went, for a brandy-and-soda and cheroot, to the
bar behind the rows of seats.

  [49] Sun-helmet.

On his return he beheld his superb and expensive hunter behaving
superbly and expensively in the expert hands of Rissaldar-Major Shere
Singh.

He feasted his eyes upon it.

Suddenly a voice, a voice he disliked intensely, the voice of Mr.
Dearman croaked fiendishly in his ear: "Why, General, they've got your
horse numbered wrongly!"

General Miltiades Murger looked again. Upon the arm of Rissaldar-Major
Shere Singh was the number 66.

Opening his programme with trembling fingers he found his name, his
horse's name, and number 99!

He rose to his feet, stammering and gesticulating. As he did so the
words:--

"Take out number 66," were distinctly borne to the ears of the serried
ranks of the fashionable in the Grand Stand. Certain military-looking
persons at the back abandoned all dignity and fell upon each other's
necks, poured great libations, danced, called upon their gods, or fell
prostrate upon settees.

Others, seated among the ladies, looked into their bats as though in
church.

"Has Ross-Ellison faked it?" ran from mouth to mouth, and, "He'll be
hung for this".

A minute or so later the Secretary approached the Grand Stand and
announced in stentorian tones:

"First Prize--General Murger's _Darling_, Number 99".

While behind him upon Zuleika, chosen of the Judges, sat and smiled Mr.
John Robin Ross-Ellison, who lifted his voice and said:
"Thanks--No!--This horse is _mine_ and is named _Zuleika_." He looked
rather un-English, rather cunning, cruel and unpleasant--quite different
somehow, from his ordinary cheery, bright English self.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Old" Brigadier General Miltiades Murger was unique among British
Generals in that he sometimes resorted to alcoholic stimulants beyond
reasonable necessity and had a roving and a lifting eye for a pretty
woman. In one sense the General had never taken a wife--and, in another,
he had taken several. Indeed it was said of him by jealous colleagues
that the hottest actions in which he had ever been engaged were actions
for divorce or breach of promise, and that this type of imminent deadly
breach was the kind with which he was best acquainted. Also that he was
better at storming the citadel of a woman's heart than at storming
anything else.

No eminent man is without jealous detractors.

As to the stimulants, make no mistake and jump to no hasty conclusions.
General Murger had never been seen drunk in the whole of his
distinguished and famous (or as the aforesaid colleagues called it,
egregious and notorious) career.

On the other hand, the voice of jealousy said he had never been seen
sober either. In the words of envy, hatred, malice and all
uncharitableness it declared that he had been born fuddled, had lived
fuddled, and would die fuddled. And there were ugly stories.

Also some funny ones--one of which concerns the, Gungapur Fusilier
Volunteer Corps and Colonel Dearman, their beloved but shortly retiring
(and, as some said, their worthy) Commandant.

Mr. Dearman was a very wealthy (and therefore popular), very red haired
and very patriotic mill-owner who tried very hard to be proud of his
Corps, and, without trying, was immensely proud of his wife.

As to the Corps--well, it may at least be said that it would have
followed its beloved Commandant anywhere (that was neither far nor
dangerous), for every one of its Officers, except Captain John Robin
Ross-Ellison, and the bulk of its men, were his employees.

They loved him for his wealth and they trusted him absolutely--trusted
him not to march them far nor work them much. And they were justified of
their faith.

Several of the Officers were almost English--though Greeks and
Goa-Portuguese predominated, and there was undeniably a drop or two of
English blood in the ranks, well diffused of course. Some folk said that
even Captain John Robin Ross-Ellison was not as Scotch as his name.

On guest-nights in the Annual Camp of Exercise (when the Officers' Mess
did itself as well as any Mess in India--and only took a few hundred
rupees of the Government Grant for the purpose) Colonel Dearman would
look upon the wine when it was bubbly, see his Corps through its golden
haze, and wax so optimistic, so enthusiastic, so rash, as roundly to
state that if he had five hundred of the Gungapur Fusiliers, with
magazines charged and bayonets fixed, behind a stout entrenchment or in
a fortified building, he would stake his life on their facing any
unarmed city mob you could bring against them. But these were but
post-prandial vapourings, and Colonel Dearman never talked nor thought
any such folly when the Corps was present to the eye of flesh.

On parade he saw it for what it was--a mob of knock-kneed, sniffling
lads with just enough strength to suck a cigarette; anaemic clerks, fat
cooks, and loafers with just enough wind to last a furlong march; huge
beery old mechanics and ex-"Tommies," forced into this coloured galley
as a condition of their "job at the works "; and the non-native scum of
the city of Gungapur--which joined for the sake of the ammunition-boots
and khaki suit.

There was not one Englishman who was a genuine volunteer and not half a
dozen Parsis. Englishmen prefer to join a corps which consists of
Englishmen or at least has an English Company. When they have no
opportunity of so doing, it is a little unfair to class them with the
lazy, unpatriotic, degenerate young gentlemen who have the opportunity
and do not seize it. Captain Ross-Ellison was doing his utmost to
provide the opportunity--with disheartening results.

However--Colonel Dearman tried very hard to be proud of his Corps and
never forgave anyone who spoke slightingly of it.

As to his wife, there was, as stated, no necessity for any "trying". He
was immensely and justly proud of her as one of the prettiest, most
accomplished, and most attractive women in the Bendras Presidency.

Mrs. "Pat" Dearman, _née_ Cleopatra Diamond Brighte, was, as has been
said, consciously and most obviously a Good Woman. Brought up by a
country rector and his vilely virtuous sister, her girlhood had been a
struggle to combine her two ambitions, that of being a Good Woman with
that of having a Good Time. In the village of Bishop's Overley the
former had been easier; in India the latter. But even in India, where
the Good Time was of the very best, she forgot not the other ambition,
went to church with unfailing regularity, read a portion of the
Scriptures daily; headed subscription lists for the myriad hospitals,
schools, widows'-homes, work-houses, Christian associations, churches,
charitable societies, shelters, orphanages, rescue-homes and other
deserving causes that appeal to the European in India; did her duty by
Colonel Dearman, and showed him daily by a hundred little bright
kindnesses that she had not married him for his great wealth but for
his--er--his--er--not exactly his beauty or cleverness or youthful
gaiety or learning or ability--no, for his Goodness, of course, and
because she loved him--loved him for the said Goodness, no doubt. No,
she never forgot the lessons of the Rectory, that it is the Whole Duty
of Man to Save his or her Soul, but remembered to be a Good Woman while
having the Good Time. Perhaps the most industriously pursued of all her
goodnesses was her unflagging zealous labour in Saving the Souls of
Others as well as her own Soul--the "Others" being the young,
presentable, gay, and well-placed men of Gungapur Society.

Yes, Mrs. Pat Dearman went beyond the Rectory teachings and was not
content with personal salvation. A Good Woman of broad altruistic
charity, there was not a young Civilian, not a Subaltern, not a
handsome, interesting, smart, well-to-do, well-in-society, young
bachelor in whose spiritual welfare she did not take the deepest
personal interest. And, perhaps, of all such eligible souls in Gungapur,
the one whose Salvation she most deeply desired to work out (after she
wearied of the posings and posturings of Augustus Grobble) was that of
Captain John Robin Ross-Ellison of her husband's corps--an exceedingly
handsome, interesting, smart, well-to-do, well-in-society young
bachelor. The owner of this eligible Soul forebore to tell Mrs. Pat
Dearman that it was bespoke for Mohammed the Prophet of Allah--inasmuch
as _almost_ the most entrancing, thrilling and delightful pursuit of his
life was the pursuit of soul-treatment at the hands, the beautiful tiny
white hands, of Mrs. Pat Dearman. Had her large soulful eyes penetrated
this subterfuge, he would have jettisoned Mohammed forthwith, since, to
him, the soul-treatment was of infinitely more interest and value than
the soul, and, moreover, strange as it may seem, this Mussulman English
gentleman had received real and true Christian teaching at his mother's
knee. When Mrs. Pat Dearman took him to Church, as she frequently did,
on Sunday evenings, he was filled with great longings--and with a
conviction of the eternal Truth and Beauty of Christianity and the
essential nobility of its gentle, unselfish, lofty teachings. He would
think of his mother, of some splendid men and women he had known,
especially missionaries, medical and other, at Bannu and Poona and
elsewhere, and feel that he was really a Christian at heart; and then
again in Khost and Mekran Kot, when carrying his life in his hand,
across the border, in equal danger from the bullet of the Border Police,
Guides, or Frontier Force cavalry-outposts and from the bullet of
criminal tribesmen, when a devil in his soul surged up screaming for
blood and fire and slaughter; during the long stealthy crawl as he
stalked the stalker; during the wild, yelling, knife-brandishing rush;
as he pressed the steady trigger or guided the slashing, stabbing Khyber
knife, or as he instinctively _hallaled_ the victim of his _shikar_, he
knew he was a Pathan and a Mussulman as were his fathers.

But whether circumstances brought his English blood to the surface or
his Pathan blood, whether the day were one of his most English days or
one of his most Pathan days, whether it were a day of mingled and
quickly alternating Englishry and Pathanity he now loved and supported
Britain and the British Empire for Mrs. Dearman's sake. Often as he
(like most other non-officials) had occasion to detest and desire to
kick the Imperial Englishman, championship of England and her Empire
was now his creed. And as there was probably not another England-lover
in all India who had his knowledge of under-currents, and forces within
and without, he was perhaps the most anxiously loving of all her lovers,
and the most appalled at the criminal carelessness, blind ignorance,
fatuous conceit, and folly of a proportion of her sons in India.

Knowing what he knew of Teutonic intrigue and influence in India,
Ceylon, Afghanistan, Aden, Persia, Egypt, East Africa, the Straits
Settlements, and China, he was reminded of the men and women of Pompeii
who ate, drank, and were merry, danced and sang, pursued pleasure and
the nimble denarius, while Vesuvius rumbled.

Constantly the comparison entered his mind.

He had sojourned with Indian "students" in India, England, Germany,
Geneva, America and Japan, and had belonged to the most secret of
societies. He had himself been a well-paid agent of Germany in both Asia
and Africa; and he had been instrumental in supplying thousands of
rifles to Border raiders, Persian bandits, and other potential troublers
of the _pax Britannica_. He now lived half his double life in Indian
dress and moved on many planes; and to many places where even he could
not penetrate unsuspected, his staunch and devoted slave, Moussa Isa,
went observant. And all that he learnt and knew, within and without the
confines of Ind, _by itself_ disturbed him, as an England-lover, not at
all. Taken in conjunction with the probabilities of a great European War
it disturbed him mightily. As mightily as unselfishly. To him the
dripping weapon, the blazing roof, the shrieking woman, the mangled
corpse were but incidents, the unavoidable, unobjectionable concomitants
of the Great Game, the game he most loved (and played upon every
possible occasion)--War.

While, with one half of his soul, John Robin Ross-Ellison might fear
internal disruption, mutiny, rebellion and civil war for what it might
bring to the woman he loved, with the other half of his soul, Mir
Ilderim Dost Mahommed Mir Hafiz Ullah Khan dwelt upon the joys of
battle, of campaigning, the bivouac, the rattle of rifle-fire, the
charge, the circumventing and slaying of the enemy, as he circumvents
that he may slay. Thus, it was with no selfish thought, no personal
dread, that he grew, as said, mightily disturbed at what he knew of
India whenever he saw signs of the extra imminence of the Great European
Armageddon that looms upon the horizon, now near, now nearer still, now
less near, but inevitably there, plain to the eyes of all observant,
informed and thoughtful men.[50]

  [50] Written in 1912.--AUTHOR.

What really astounded and appalled him was the mental attitude, the
mental condition, of British "statesmen," who (while a mighty and
ever-growing neighbour, openly, methodically, implacably prepared for
the war that was to win her place in the sun) laboured to reap votes by
sowing class-hatred and devoted to national "insurance" moneys sorely
needed to insure national _existence_.

To him it was as though hens cackled of introducing
time-and-labour-saving incubators while the fox pressed against the
unfastened door, smiling to think that their cackle smothered all other
sounds ere they reached them or the watch-dog.

Yes--while England was at peace, all was well with India; but let
England find herself at war, fighting for her very existence ... and
India might, in certain parts, be an uncomfortable place for any but the
strong man armed, as soon as the British troops were withdrawn--as they,
sooner or later, most certainly would be. Then, feared Captain John
Robin Ross-Ellison of the Gungapur Fusiliers, the British Flag would,
for a terrible breathless period of stress and horror, fly, assailed but
triumphant, wherever existed a staunch well-handled Volunteer Corps, and
would flutter down into smoke, flames, ruin and blood, where there did
not. He was convinced that, for a period, the lives of English women,
children and men; English prosperity, prestige, law and order; English
rule and supremacy, would in some parts of India depend for a time upon
the Volunteers of India. At times he was persuaded that the very
continuance of the British Empire might depend upon the Volunteers of
India. If, during some Black Week (or Black Month or Year) of England's
death-struggle with her great rival she lost India (defenceless India,
denuded of British troops), she would lose her Empire,--be the result of
her European war what it might. And knowing all that he knew, he feared
for England, he feared for India, he feared for the Empire. Also he
determined that, so far as it lay in the power of one war-trained man,
the flag should be kept flying in Gungapur when the Great European
Armageddon commenced, and should fly over a centre, and a shelter, for
Mrs. Dearman, and for all who were loyal and true.

That would be a work worthy of the English blood of him and of the
Pathan blood too. God! he would show some of these devious,
subterranean, cowardly swine what war _is_, if they brought war to
Gungapur in the hour of India's danger and need, the hour of England and
the Empire's danger and need.

And Captain John Robin Ross-Ellison (and still more Mir Ilderim Dost
Mahommed Mir Hafiz Ullah Khan), obsessed with the belief that a
different and more terrible 1857 would dawn with the first big reverse
in England's final war with her systematic, slow, sure, and certain
rival, her deliberate, scientific, implacable rival, gave all his
thoughts, abilities and time to the enthralling, engrossing game of
Getting Ready.

Perfecting his local system of secret information, hearing and seeing
all that he could with his own Pathan ears and eyes, and adding to his
knowledge by means of those of the Somali slave, he also learnt, at
first hand, what certain men were saying in Cabul and on the Border--and
what those men say in those places is worth knowing by the meteorologist
of world-politics. The pulse of the heart of Europe can be felt very far
from that heart, and as is the wrist to the pulse-feeling doctor, is
Afghanistan and the Border to the head of India's Political Department;
as is the doctor's sensitive thumb to the doctor's brain, is the tried,
trusted and approven agent of the Secret Service to the Head of all the
Politicals.... What chiefly troubled Captain John Robin Ross-Ellison of
the Gungapur Fusiliers was the shocking condition of those same
Fusiliers and the blind smug apathy, the fatuous contentment, the short
memories and shorter sight, of the British Pompeians who were perfectly
willing that the condition of the said Fusiliers should remain so.

Clearly the first step towards a decently reliable and efficient corps
in Gungapur was the abolition of the present one, and, with unformulated
intentions towards its abolition, Mr. Ross-Ellison, by the kind
influence of Mrs. Dearman, joined as a Second Lieutenant and speedily
rose to the rank of Captain and the command of a Company. A year's
indefatigable work convinced him that he might as well endeavour to
fashion sword-blades from leaden pipes as to make a fighting unit of his
gang of essentially cowardly, peaceful, unreliable, feeble nondescripts.
That their bodies were contemptible he would have regarded as merely
deplorable, but there was no spirit, no soul, no tradition--nothing upon
which he could work. "Broken-down tapsters and serving-men" indeed, in
Cromwell's bitter words, and to be replaced by "men of a spirit".

They must go--and make way for men--if indeed _men_ could be found, men
who realized that even an Englishman owes something to the community
when he goes abroad, in spite of his having grown up in a land where
honourable and manly National Service is not, and those who keep him
safe are cheap hirelings, cheaply held....

On the arrival of General Miltiades Murger he sat at his feet as soon
as, and whenever, possible; only to discover that he was not only
uninterested in, but obviously contemptuous of, volunteers and
volunteering. When, at the Dearmans' dinner-table, he endeavoured to
talk with the General on the subject he was profoundly discouraged, and
on his asking what was to happen when the white troops went home and
the Indian troops went to the Border, or even to Europe, as soon as
England's inevitable and final war broke out, he was also profoundly
snubbed.

When, after that dinner, General Miltiades Murger made love to Mrs.
Dearman on the verandah, he also made an enemy, a bitter, cruel, and
vindictive enemy of Mr. Ross-Ellison (or rather of Mir Ilderim Dost
Mahommed Mir Hafiz Ullah Khan).

Nor did his subsequent victory at the Horse Show lessen the enmity,
inasmuch as Mrs. Dearman (whom Ross-Ellison loved with the respectful
platonic devotion of an English gentleman and the fierce intensity of a
Pathan) took General Miltiades Murger at his own valuation, when that
hero described himself and his career to her by the hour. For the
General had succumbed at a glance, and confided to his Brigade-Major
that Mrs. Dearman was a dooced fine woman and the Brigade-Major might
say that he said so, damme.

As the General's infatuation increased he told everybody else
also--everybody except Colonel Dearman--who, of course, knew it already.

He even told Jobler, his soldier-servant, promoted butler, as that
sympathetic and admiring functionary endeavoured to induce him to go to
bed without his uniform.

At last he told Mrs. Dearman herself, as he saw her in the rosy light
that emanated from the fine old Madeira that fittingly capped a noble
luncheon given by him in her honour.

He also told her that he loved her as a father--and she besought him not
to be absurd. Later he loved her as an uncle, later still as a cousin,
later yet as a brother, and then as a man.

She had laughed deprecatingly at the paternal affection, doubtfully at
the avuncular, nervously at the cousinly, angrily at the brotherly,--and
not at all at the manly.

In fact--as the declaration of manly love had been accompanied by an
endeavour to salute what the General had called her damask-cheek--she
had slapped the General's own cheek a resounding blow....

"Called you 'Mrs. Darlingwoman,' did he!" roared Mr. Dearman upon being
informed of the episode. "Wished to salute your damask cheek, did he!
The boozy old villain! Damask cheek! _Damned_ cheek! Where's my
dog-whip?" ... but Mrs. Dearman had soothed and restrained her lord for
the time being, and prevented him from insulting and assaulting the
"aged roué"--who was years younger, in point of fact, than the
clean-living Mr. Dearman himself.

But he had shut his door to the unrepentant and unashamed General, had
cut him in the Club, had returned a rudely curt answer to an invitation
to dinner, and had generally shown the offender that he trod on
dangerous ground when poaching on the preserves of Mr. Dearman. Whereat
the General fumed.

Also the General swore that he would cut the comb of this insolent
money-grubbing civilian.

Further, he intimated his desire to inspect the Gungapur Fusiliers "on
Saturday next".

Not the great and terrible Annual Inspection, of course, but a
preliminary canter in that direction.

Doubtless, the new General desired to arrive at a just estimate of the
value of this unit of his Command, and to allot to it the place for
which it was best fitted in the scheme of local defence and things
military at Gungapur.

Perhaps he desired to teach the presumptuous upstart, Dearman, a little
lesson....

The Brigade Major's demy-official letter, bearing the intimation of the
impending visitation--fell as a bolt from the blue and smote the Colonel
of the Gungapur Fusiliers a blow that turned his heart to water and
loosened the tendons of his knees.

The very slack Adjutant was at home on leave; the Sergeant-Major was
absolutely new to the Corps; the Sergeant-Instructor was alcoholic and
ill; and there was not a company officer, except the admirable Captain
John Robin Ross-Ellison, competent to drill a company as a separate
unit, much less to command one in a battalion. And Captain John Robin
Ross-Ellison was away on an alleged _shikar_-trip across the distant
Border. Colonel Dearman knew his battalion-drill. He also knew his
Gungapur Fusiliers and what they did when they received the orders of
those feared and detested evolutions. They walked about, each man a law
unto himself, or stood fast until pushed in the desired direction by
blasphemous drill-corporals.

Nor could any excuse be found wherewith to evade the General. It was
near the end of the drill-season, the Corps was up to its full strength,
all the Officers were in the station--except Captain Ross-Ellison and
the Adjutant. And the Adjutant's absence could not be made a just cause
and impediment why the visit of the General should not be paid, for
Colonel Dearman had with some difficulty, procured the appointment of
one of his Managers as acting-adjutant.

To do so he had been moved to describe the man as an "exceedingly smart
and keen Officer," and to state that the Corps would in no way suffer by
this temporary change from a military to a civilian adjutant, from a
professional to an amateur.

Perhaps the Colonel was right--it would have taken more than that to
make the Gungapur Fusiliers "suffer".

And all had gone exceeding well up to the moment of the receipt of this
terrible demi-official, for the Acting-Adjutant had signed papers when
and where the Sergeant-Major told him, and had saluted the Colonel
respectfully every Saturday evening at five, as he came on parade, and
suggested that the Corps should form fours and march round and round the
parade ground, prior to attempting one or two simple movements--as
usual.

No. It would have to be--unless, of course, the General had a stroke
before Saturday, or was smitten with _delirium tremens_ in time. For it
was an article of faith with Colonel Dearman since the disgraceful
episode--that a "stroke" hung suspended by the thinnest of threads above
the head of the "aged roué" and that, moreover, he trembled on the verge
of a terrible abyss of alcoholic diseases--a belief strengthened by the
blue face, boiled eye, congested veins and shaking hand of the breaker
of hearts. And Colonel Dearman knew that he must not announce the awful
fact until the Corps was actually present--or few men and fewer Officers
would find it possible to be on parade on that occasion.

Saturday evening came, and with it some five hundred men and
Officers--the latter as a body, much whiter-faced than usual, on receipt
of the appalling news.

"Thank God I have nothing to do but sit around on my horse," murmured
Major Pinto.

"Don't return thanks yet," snapped Colonel Dearman. "You'll very likely
have to drill the battalion"--and the Major went as white as his natural
disadvantages permitted.

Bitterly did Captain Trebizondi regret his constant insistence upon the
fact that he was senior Captain--for he was given command of "A"
Company, the post of honour and danger in front of all, and was implored
to "pull it through" and not to stand staring like an owl when the
Colonel said the battalion would advance; or turn to the left when he
shouted "In succession advance in fours from the right of Companies".

And in the orderly-room was much hurried consulting of Captain
Ross-Ellison's well-trained subaltern and of drill-books; and a babel of
such questions as: "I say, what the devil do I do if I'm commanding
Number Two and he says 'Deploy outwards'? Go to the right or left?"

More than one gallant officer was seen scribbling for dear life upon his
shirt-cuff, while others, to the common danger, endeavoured to practise
the complicated sword-brandishment which is consequent upon the order
"Fall out the Officers".

Colonel Dearman appealed to his brothers-in-arms to stand by him nobly
in his travail, but was evidently troubled by the fear that some of them
would stand by him when they ought to march by him. Captain
Petropaulovski, the acting-adjutant, endeavoured to moisten his parched
lips with a dry tongue and sat down whenever opportunity offered.

Captain Euxino Spoophitophiles was seen to tear a page from a red manual
devoted to instruction in the art of drill and to secrete it as one
"palms" a card--if one is given to the palming of cards. Captain
Schloggenboschenheimer was heard to promise a substantial _trink-geld_,
_pour-boire_, or vot-you-call-tip to Sergeant-Instructor Progg in the
event of the latter official remaining mit him and prompting him mit
der-vord-to-say ven it was necessary for him der-ting-to-do.

Too late, Captain Da Costa bethought him of telephoning to his wife (to
telephone back to himself imploring him to return at once as she was
parlous ill and sinking fast), for even as he stepped quietly toward the
telephone-closet the Sergeant-Major bustled in with a salute and the
fatal words:--

"'Ere's the General, Sir!"

"For God's sake get on parade and play the man this day," cried Colonel
Dearman, as he hurried out to meet the General, scoring his right boot
with his left spur and tripping over his sword _en route_.

       *       *       *       *       *

The General greeted the Colonel as a total stranger, addressed him as
"Colonel," and said he anticipated great pleasure from this his first
visit to the well-known Gungapur Fusiliers. He did, and he got it.

Dismounting slowly and heavily from his horse (almost as though "by
numbers") the General, followed by his smart and dapper Brigade-Major
and the perspiring Colonel Dearman, strode with clank of steel and
creak of leather, through the Headquarters building and emerged upon the
parade-ground where steadfast stood seven companies of the Gungapur
Fusilier Volunteers in quarter column--more or less at "attention".

"'Shun!" bawled Colonel Dearman, and those who were "at ease" 'shunned,
and those who were already 'shunning took their ease.

"'_Shun_!" again roared the Colonel, and those who were now in that
military position relinquished it--while those who were not, assumed it
in their own good time.

As the trio drew nigh unto the leading company, Captain Trebizondi,
coyly lurking behind its rear rank, shrilly screamed, "'A' Gompany!
Royal Salutes! Present Arrrrms!" while a volunteer, late a private of
the Loyal Whitechapel Regiment, and now an unwilling member of this
corps of auxiliary troops, audibly ejaculated through one corner of his
mobile mouth:--

"Don't you do nothink o' the sort!" and added a brief orison in
prejudice of his eyesight.

Certain of "A's" stalwarts obeyed their Captain, while others took the
advice of the volunteer--who was known to have been a man of war in the
lurid past, and to understand these matters.

Lieutenant Toddywallah tugged valiantly at his sword for a space, but
finding that weapon coy and unwilling to leave its sheath, he raised his
helmet gracefully and respectfully to the General. His manner was always
polished.

"What the devil are they doing?" inquired the General.

"B," "C," "D," "E," "F," and "G" Companies breathed hard and protruded
their stomachs, while Sergeant-Instructor Progg deserved well of Captain
Schloggenboschenheimer by sharply tugging his tunic-tail as he was in
the act of roaring:--

"_Gomm_--!" the first syllable of the word "Company," with a view to
bestowing a royal salute likewise. Instead, the Captain extended the
hand of friendship to the General as he approached. The look of _nil
admirari_ boredom slowly faded from the face of the smart and dapper
Brigade-Major, and for a while it displayed quite human emotions.

Up and down and between the ranks strode the trio, the General making
instructive and interesting comments from time to time, such as:--

"Are your buttons of metal or bone, my man? Polish them and find out."

"What did you cook in that helmet?"

"Take your belt in seven holes, and put it where your waist was."

"Are _you_ fourteen years old yet?"

"Personally I don't care to see brown boots, patent shoes nor carpet
slippers with uniform."

"And when were you ninety, my poor fellow?"

"Get your belly out of my way."

"Put this unclean person under arrest or under a pump, please, Colonel."

"Can you load a rifle unaided?" and so forth.

The last-mentioned query "Can you load a rifle unaided?" addressed to a
weedy youth of seventeen who stood like a living mark-of-interrogation,
elicited the reply:--

"Nossir".

"Oh, really! And what _can_ you do?" replied the General sweetly.

"Load a rifle Lee-Metford," was the prompt answer.

The General smiled wintrily, and, at the conclusion of his
peregrination, remarked to Colonel Dearman:--

"Well, Colonel, I can safely say that I have never inspected a
corps quite like yours"--an observation capable of various
interpretations--and intimated a desire to witness some company drill
ere testing the abilities of the regiment in battalion drill.

"Let the rear company march out and go through some movements," said he.

"Why the devil couldn't he have chosen Ross-Ellison's company," thought
Colonel Dearman, as he saluted and lifted up his voice and cried
aloud:--

"Captain Rozario! March 'G' Company out for some company-drill.
Remainder--stand _easy_."

Captain Rozario paled beneath the bronze imparted to his well-nourished
face by the suns of Portugal (or Goa), drew his sword, dropped it,
picked it up, saluted with his left hand and backed into Lieutenant
Xenophontis of "F" Company, who asked him vare the devil he was going
to--hein?...

To the first cold stroke of fright succeeded the hot flush of rage as
Captain Rozario saw the absurdity of ordering him to march his company
out for company drill. How in the name of all the Holy Saints could he
march his company out with six companies planted in front of him? Let
them be cleared away first. To his men he ejaculated:--

"Compannee----!" and they accepted the remark in silence.

The silence growing tense he further ejaculated "Ahem!" very loudly,
without visible result or consequence. The silence growing tenser,
Colonel Dearman said encouragingly but firmly:--

"_Do_ something, Captain Rozario".

Captain Rozario did something. He drew his whistle. He blew it. He
replaced it in his pocket.

Nothing happening, he took his handkerchief from his sleeve, blew his
nose therewith and dropped it (the handkerchief) upon the ground. Seven
obliging volunteers darted forward to retrieve it.

"May we expect the evolutions this evening, Colonel?" inquired General
Murger politely.

"We are waiting for you to move off, Captain Rozario," stated Colonel
Dearman.

"Sir, how can I move off with _oll_ the rest in my front?" inquired
Captain Rozario reasonably.

"Form fours, right, and quick march," prompted the Sergeant-Major, and
Captain Rozario shrilled forth:

"Form right fours and march quick," at the top of his voice.

Many members of "G" Company turned to their right and marched towards
the setting-sun, while some turned to their left and marched in the
direction of China.

These latter, discovering in good time that they had erred, hurried to
rejoin their companions--and "G" Company was soon in full swing if not
in fours....

There is a limit to all enterprise and the march of "G" Company was
stayed by a high wall.

Then Captain Rozario had an inspiration.

"About turn," he shrieked--and "G" Company about turned as one man, if
not in one direction.

The march of "G" Company was stayed this time by the battalion into
which it comfortably nuzzled.

Again Captain Rozario seized the situation and acted promptly and
resourcefully.

"Halt!" he squeaked, and "G" Company halted--in form an oblate spheroid.

Some of its members removed their helmets and the sweat of their brows,
some re-fastened bootlaces and putties or unfastened restraining hooks
and buttons. One gracefully succumbed to his exertions and fainting
fell, with an eye upon the General.

"Interestin' evolution," remarked that Officer. "Demmed interestin'. May
we have some more?"

"Get on, Captain Rozario," implored Colonel Dearman. "Let's see some
company-drill."

"One hundred and twenty-five paces backward march," cried Captain
Rozario after a brief calculation, and "G" Company reluctantly detached
itself from the battalion, backwards.

"Turn round this away and face to me," continued the gallant Captain,
"and then on the left form good companee."

The oblate spheroid assumed an archipelagic formation, melting into
irregularly-placed military islands upon a sea of dust.

"_Oll_ get together and left dress, please," besought Captain Rozario,
and many of the little islands amalgamated with that on their extreme
right while the remainder gravitated to their left--the result being
two continents of unequal dimensions.

As Captain Rozario besought these disunited masses to conjoin, the voice
of the General was heard in the land--

"Kindly order that mob to disperse before it is fired on, will you,
Colonel? They can go home and stay there," said he.

Captain Rozario was a man of sensibility and he openly wept.

No one could call this a good beginning--nor could they have called the
ensuing battalion-drill a good ending.

"Put the remainder of the battalion through some simple movements if
they know any," requested the General.

Determined to retrieve the day yet, Colonel Dearman saluted, cleared his
throat terrifically and shouted: '"Tallish, 'shun!" with such force that
a nervous man in the front rank of "A" Company dropped his rifle and
several "presented" arms.

Only one came to the "slope," two to the "trail" and four to the
"shoulder".

Men already at attention again stood at ease, while men already at ease
again stood at attention.

Disregarding these minor _contretemps_, Colonel Dearman clearly and
emphatically bellowed:--

"The battalion will advance. In succession, advance in fours from the
left of companies--"

"Why not tell off the battalion--just for luck?" suggested General
Murger.

"Tell off the battalion," said Colonel Dearman in his natural voice and
an unnaturally crestfallen manner.

Captain Trebizondi of "A" Company glared to his front, and instead of
replying "Number One" in a loud voice, held his peace--tight.

But his lips moved constantly, and apparently Captain Trebizondi was
engaged in silent prayer.

"Tell off the battalion," bawled the Colonel again.

Captain Trebizondi's lips moved constantly.

"_Will_ you tell off the dam battalion, Sir?" shouted the Colonel at the
enrapt supplicant.

Whether Captain Trebizondi is a Mohammedan I am not certain, but, if so,
he may have remembered words of the Prophet to the effect that it is
essential to trust in Allah absolutely, and expedient to tie up your
camel yourself, none the less. Captain Trebizondi was trusting in Allah
perchance--but he had not tied up his camel; he had not learnt his
drill.

And when Colonel Dearman personally and pointedly appealed to him in the
matter of the battalion's telling-off, he turned round and faced it and
said--

"Ah--battalion--er--" in a very friendly and persuasive voice.

Then a drill corporal took it upon him to bawl _Number One_ as Captain
Trebizondi should have done, some one shouted _Number Two_ from "B"
Company, the colour-sergeant of "C" bawled _Number Three_ and then, with
ready wit, the Captains of "D," "E," and "F" caught up the idea, and the
thing was done.

So far so good.

And the Colonel returned to his first venture and again announced to the
battalion that it would advance in succession and in fours from the left
of companies.

It bore the news with equanimity and Captain Trebizondi visibly
brightened at the idea of leaving the spot on which he had suffered and
sweated--but he took no steps in the matter personally.

He tried to scratch his leg through his gaiter.

"'A' Company going this evening?" inquired the General. "Wouldn't hurry
you, y'know, but--I dine at nine."

Captain Trebizondi remembered his parade-manners and threw a chest
instead of a stomach.

The jerk caused his helmet to tilt forward over his eyes and settle down
slowly and firmly upon his face as a fallen cliff upon the beach
beneath.

"The Officer commanding the leading company appears to be trying to
hide," commented General Murger.

Captain Trebizondi uncovered his face--a face of great promise but no
performance.

"_Will_ you march your company off, sir," shouted Colonel Dearman, "the
battalion is waiting for you."

With a look of reproachful surprise and an air of "Why couldn't you say
so?" the harassed Captain agitated his sword violently as a salute,
turned to his company and boomed finely:--

"March off!"

The Company obeyed its Commander.

Seeing the thing so easy of accomplishment Captains Allessandropoulos,
Schloggenboschenheimer, Da Costa, Euxino, Spoophitophiles and José gave
the same order and the battalion was in motion--marching to its front in
quarter-column instead of wheeling off in fours.

    Unsteadily shoulder from shoulder,
    Unsteadily blade from blade,
    Unsteady and wrong, slouching along,
    Went the boys of the old brigade.

"Halt," roared Colonel Dearman.

"Oh, don't halt 'em," begged General Murger, "it's the most entertainin'
show I have ever seen."

The smart and dapper Brigade-Major's mouth was open.

Major Pinto and Captain-and-Acting-Adjutant Petropaulovski forgot to
cling to their horses with hand and heel and so endangered their lives.

The non-commissioned officers of the permanent staff commended their
souls to God and marched as men in a dream.

On hearing the Colonel's cry of "Halt" many of the men halted. Not
hearing the Colonel's cry of "Halt" many of the men did not halt.

In two minutes the battalion was without form and void.

In ten minutes the permanent staff had largely re-sorted it and, to a
great extent, re-formed the original companies.

Captain José offered his subaltern, Lieutenant Bylegharicontractor, a
hundred rupees to change places with him.

Offer refused, with genuine and deep regret, but firmly.

"Shall we have another try, Colonel," inquired General Murger silkily.
"Any amount of real initiative and originality about this Corps. But I
am old-fashioned enough to prefer drill-book evolutions on the
barrack-square, I confess. Er--let the Major carry on as it is getting
late."

Colonel Dearman's face flushed a rich dark purple. His eyes protruded
till they resembled those of a crab. His red hair appeared to flame
like very fire. His lips twitched and he gasped for breath. Could he
believe his ears. "_Let the Major carry on as it is getting late_!" Let
him step into the breach "as it is getting late!" Let the more
competent, though junior, officer take over the command "as it is
getting late". Ho!--likewise Ha! This aged roué, this miserable
wine-bibbing co-respondent, with his tremulous hand and boiled eye,
thought that Colonel Dearman did not know his drill, did he? Wanted the
wretched and incompetent Pinto to carry on, did he?--as it was getting
late.

Good! Ha! Likewise Ho! "Let Pinto carry on as it was getting late!"

Very well! _If it cost Colonel Dearman every penny he had in the world
he would have his revenge on the insolent scoundrel_. He might think he
could insult Colonel Dearman's wife with impunity, he might think
himself entitled to cast ridicule on Colonel Dearman's Corps--but "let
the Major carry on as it is getting late!" By God that was too
much!--That was the last straw that breaks the camel's heart--and
Colonel Dearman would have his revenge or lose life, honour, and wealth
in the attempt.

_Ha_! and, moreover, _Ho_!

The Colonel knew his battalion-drill by heart and backwards. Was it
_his_ fault that his officers were fools and his men damn-fools?

Major Pinto swallowed hard, blinked hard, and breathed hard. Like the
Lady of Shallott he felt that the curse had come upon him.

"Battalion will advance. Quick march," he shouted, as a safe beginning.
But the Sergeant-Major had by this time fully explained to the sweating
Captain Trebizondi that he should have given the order "Form fours.
Left. Right wheel. Quick march," when the Colonel had announced that the
battalion would advance "in succession from the left of companies".

Like lightning he now hurled forth the orders. "Form fours. Left. Right
wheel. Quick march.", and the battalion was soon under way with one
company in column of fours and the remaining five companies in line....

Time cures all troubles, and in time "A" Company was pushed and pulled
back into line again.

The incident pleased Major Pinto as it wasted the fleeting minutes and
gave him a chance to give the only other order of which he was sure.

"That was _oll_ wrong," said he. "We will now, however, oll advance as
'A' Company did. The arder will be 'Battalion will advance. In
succession, advance in fours from the right of companees.' Thenn each
officer commanding companees will give the arder 'Form fours. Right.
Left wheel. Quick march' one after _thee_ other."

And the Major gave the order.

To the surprise of every living soul upon the parade-ground the
manoeuvre was correctly executed and the battalion moved off in column
of fours. And it kept on moving. And moving. For Major Pinto had come to
the end of his tether.

"_Do_ something, man," said Colonel Dearman with haughty scorn, after
some five minutes of strenuous tramping had told severely on the
_morale_ of the regiment.

And Major Pinto, hoping for the best and fearing the worst, lifted up
his voice and screamed:--

"On the right _form battalion_!"

Let us draw a veil.

The adjective that General Murger used with the noun he called the
Gungapur Fusiliers is not to be printed.

The address he made to that Corps after it had once more found itself
would have led a French or Japanese regiment to commit suicide by
companies, taking the time from the right. A Colonel of Romance Race
would have fallen on his sword at once (and borrowed something more
lethal had it failed to penetrate).

But the corps, though not particularly British, was neither French nor
Japanese and was very glad of the rest while the General talked. And
Colonel Dearman, instead of falling on his sword, fell on General Murger
(in spirit) and swore to be revenged tenfold.

He would have his own back, cost what it might, or his name was not
Dearman--and he was going Home on leave immediately after the Volunteer
Annual Camp of Exercise, just before General Murger retired....

"I shall inspect your corps in camp," General Murger had said, "and the
question of its disbandment may wait until I have done so."

_Disbandment_! The question of the _disbandment_ of the fine and
far-famed Fusiliers of Gungapur could wait till then, could it? Well
_and_ good! Ha! and likewise Ho!

On Captain John Robin Ross-Ellison's return from leave, Colonel Dearman
told that officer of General Murger's twofold insult--to Colonel
Dearman's wife and to Colonel Dearman's Corps. On hearing of the first,
Captain Ross-Ellison showed his teeth in a wolfish and ugly manner, and,
on hearing of the second, propounded a scheme of vengeance that made
Colonel Dearman grin and then burst into a roar of laughter. He bade
Captain Ross-Ellison dine with him and elaborate details of the scheme.

       *       *       *       *       *

To rumours of General Murger's failing health and growing alcoholism
Colonel Dearman listened with interest--nay, satisfaction. Stories of
seizures, strokes and "goes" of _delirium tremens_ met with no rebuke
nor contradiction from him--and an air of leisured ease and unanxious
peacefulness pervaded the Gungapur Fusiliers. If any member had thought
that the sad performance of the fatal Saturday night and the winged
words of General Murger were to be the prelude to period of fierce
activity and frantic preparation, he was mistaken. It was almost as
though Colonel Dearman believed that General Murger would not live to
carry out his threat.

The corps paraded week by week, fell in, marched round the ground and
fell out again. There was no change of routine, no increase of work, no
stress, no strain.

All was peace, the corps was happy, and in the fullness of time (and the
absence of the Adjutant) it went to Annual Camp of Exercise a few miles
from Gungapur. And there the activities of Captain John Robin
Ross-Ellison and a large band of chosen men were peculiar. While the
remainder, with whom went Colonel Dearman, the officers, and the
permanent staff, marched about in the usual manner and enjoyed the
picnic, these others appeared to be privately and secretly rehearsing a
more specialized part--to the mystification and wonder of the said
remainder. Even on the great day, the day of the Annual Inspection, this
division was maintained and the "remainder" were marched off to the
other side of the wood adjacent to the Camp, some couple of hours before
the expected arrival of the General, who would come out by train.

The arrangement was that the horses of the General and the Brigade-Major
should await those officers at the camp station, and that, on arrival,
they would be mounted by their owners who would then ride to the camp, a
furlong distant. Near the camp a mounted orderly would meet the General
and escort him to the spot where the battalion, with Colonel Dearman at
its head, would be drawn up for his inspection.

A large bungalow, used as the Officers' Mess, a copse, and a hillock
completely screened the spot used as the battalion parade-ground, from
the view of one approaching the Camp, and the magnificent sight of the
Gungapur Fusiliers under arms would burst upon him only when he rounded
the corner of a wall of palms, cactus, and bamboos, and entered by a
narrow gap between it and a clump of dense jungle.

       *       *       *       *       *

General Murger was feeling distinctly bad as he sat on the edge of his
bed and viewed with the eye of disfavour the _choti hazri_[51] set forth
for his delectation.

  [51] "Little presence," early breakfast, _petit déjeuner_.

As he intended to inspect the Volunteers in the early morning and
return to a mid-day breakfast, the _choti hazri_ was substantial, though
served on a tray in his bedroom.

The General yawned, rubbed his eyes and grunted.

"Eggs be demmed," said he.

"Toast be demmed," he said.

"Tea be demmed," he shouted.

"_Paté de fois gras_ be demmed," shouted he.

"Jobler! Bring me a bottle of beer," he roared.

"No, bring me a brandy-cocktail," roared he.

For the brandy-cocktail the General felt better for a time but he
wished, first, that his hand would not shake in such a way that
hair-brushing was difficult and shaving impossible; secondly, that the
prevailing colour of everything was not blue; thirdly, that he did not
feel giddy when he stood up; fourthly, that his head did not ache;
fifthly, that his mouth would provide some other flavour than that of a
glue-coated copper coin; sixthly, that things would keep still and his
boots cease to smile at him from the corner; seventhly, that he had not
gone to the St. Andrew's dinner last night, begun on _punch à la
Romaine_, continued on neat whisky in _quaichs_ and finished on port,
liqueurs, champagne and haphazard brandy-and-sodas, whisky-and-sodas,
and any old thing that was handy; and eighthly, that he had had a quart
of beer instead of the brandy-cocktail for _choti hazri_.

But that could easily be remedied by having the beer now. The General
had the beer and soon wished that he hadn't, for it made him feel very
bad indeed.

However, a man must do his dooty, ill or well, and when the
Brigade-Major sent up to remind the General that the train went at
seven, he was answered by the General himself and a hint that he was
officious. During the brief train-journey the General slumbered.

On mounting his horse, the General was compelled to work out a little
sum.

If one has four fingers there must be three inter-finger spaces, eh?
Granted. Then how the devil are four reins to go into three places
between four fingers, eh? Absurd idea, an' damsilly. However, till the
matter was referred to the War Office and finally settled, one could put
two reins between two fingers or pass one outside the lill' finger,
what? But the General hated compromises.... The mounted orderly met the
General, saluted and directed him to the entrance to the tree-encircled
camp and parade-ground.

At the entrance, the General, leading, reined in so sharply as to throw
his horse on its haunches--his mouth fell open, his mottled face went
putty-coloured, and each hair that he possessed appeared to bristle.

He uttered a deep groan, rubbed his eyes, emitted a yell, wheeled round
and galloped for dear life, with a cry, nay a scream, of "_I've got 'em
at last_," followed by his utterly bewildered but ever-faithful
Brigade-Major, who had seen nothing but foliage, scrub, and cactus. To
Gungapur the General galloped without drawing rein, took to his bed,
sent for surgeon and priest--and became a teetotaller.

And what had he seen?

The affair is wrapped in mystery.

The Brigade-Major says nothing because he knows nothing, as it happens,
and the Corps declared it was never inspected. Father Ignatius knows
what the General saw, or thinks he saw, and so does the Surgeon-General,
but neither is in the habit of repeating confessions and confidences.
What Jobler, at the keyhole, understood him to say he had seen, or
thought he had seen, is not to be believed.

Judge of it.

"I rode into the dem place and what did I behold? A dem pandemonium,
Sir, a pantomime--a lunatic asylum, Sir--all Hell out for a Bank
Holiday, I tell you. There was a battalion of Red Indians, Negroes,
Esquimaux, Ballet Girls, Angels, Sweeps, Romans, Sailors, Pierrots,
Savages, Bogeymen, Ancient Britons, Bishops, Zulus, Pantaloons,
Beef-eaters, Tramps, Life-Guards, Washerwomen, Ghosts, Clowns and
God-knows-what, armed with jezails, umbrellas, brooms, catapults, pikes,
brickbats, _kukeries_,[52] pokers, clubs, axes, horse-pistols, bottles,
dead fowls, polo-sticks, assegais and bombs. They were commanded by a
Highlander in a bum-bee tartan kilt, top-hat and one sock, with a red
nose a foot long, riding on a rocking horse and brandishing a dem great
cucumber and a tea-tray made into a shield. There was a thundering great
drain-pipe mounted on a bullock-cart and a naked man, painted blue, in a
cocked-hat, laying an aim and firing a penny-pistol down the middle of
it and yelling 'Pip!'

  [52] Ghurka knives.

"There was a chauffeur in smart livery on an elephant, twirling a
steering-wheel on its neck for dear life, and tooting a big motor-horn..
There was a fat man in a fireman's helmet and pyjamas, armed with a
peashooter, riding a donkey backwards--and the moke wore two pairs of
trousers!... As I rubbed my poor old eyes, the devil in command howled
'General salaam. Pre_sent_-legs'--and every fiend there fell flat on his
face and raised his right leg up behind--I tell you, Sir, I fled for my
life, and--no more liquor for me." ...

When ex-Colonel Dearman heard any reference to this mystery he roared
with laughter--but it was the Last Muster of the fine and far-famed
Gungapur Fusiliers, as such.

The Corps was disbanded forthwith and re-formed on a different basis (of
quality instead of quantity) with Lieutenant-Colonel John Robin
Ross-Ellison, promoted, in command--he having caught the keen eye of
that splendid soldier and gentleman Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur
Barnet, K.C.V.O., K.C.S.I. (G.O.C., XVIth Division), as being the very
man for the job of re-organizing the Corps, and making it worth its
capitation-grant.

"If I could get Captain Malet-Marsac as Adjutant and a Sergeant-Major of
whom I know (used to be at Duri--man named Lawrence-Smith) I'd undertake
to show you something, Sir, in a year or two," said Lieutenant-Colonel
Ross-Ellison.

"Malet-Marsac you can certainly have," replied Sir Arthur Barnet. "I'll
speak to your new Brigadier. If you can find your Lawrence-Smith we'll
see what can be done." ...

And Lieutenant-Colonel Ross-Ellison wrote to Sergeant-Major
Lawrence-Smith of the Duri Volunteer Rifles to know if he would like a
transfer upon advantageous terms, and got no reply.

As it happened, Lieutenant-Colonel Ross-Ellison, in very different
guise, had seen Sergeant Lawrence-Smith extricate and withdraw his
officerless company from the tightest of tight places (on the Border) in
a manner that moved him to large admiration. It had been a case of "and
even the ranks of Tuscany" on the part of Mir Jan Rah-bin-Ras el-Isan
Ilderim Dost Mahommed.... Later he had encountered him and Captain
Malet-Marsac at Duri.



§ 3. SERGEANT-MAJOR LAWRENCE-SMITH.


Mrs. Pat Dearman was sceptical.

"Do you mean to tell me that _you_, a man of science, an eminent medical
man, and a soldier, believe in the supernatural?"

"Well, you see, I'm 'Oirish' and therefore unaccountable," replied
Colonel Jackson (of the Royal Army Medical Corps), fine doctor, fine
scholar, and fine gentleman.

"And you believe in haunted houses and ghosts and things, do you?
_Well_!"

The salted-almond dish was empty, and Mrs. Dearman accused her other
neighbour, Mr. John Robin Ross-Ellison. Having already prepared to meet
and rebut the charge of greediness he made passes over the vessel and it
was replenished.

"Supernatural!" said she.

"Most," said he.

She prudently removed the dish to the far side of her plate--and
Colonel Jackson emptied it.

Not having prepared to meet the request to replenish the store a second
time, it was useless for Mr. Ross-Ellison to make more passes when
commanded so to do.

"The usual end of the 'supernatural,'" observed Mrs. Dearman with
contempt.

"Most usual," said he.

"More than 'most,'" corrected Mrs. Dearman. "It is the invariable end of
it, I believe. Just humbug and rubbish. It is either an invention, pure
and simple, or else it is perfectly explicable. Don't you think so,
Colonel Jackson?"

"Not always," said her partner. "Now, will you, first, believe my word,
and, secondly, find the explanation--if I tell you a perfectly true
'supernatural' story?"

"I'll certainly believe your word, Colonel, if you're serious, and I'll
try and suggest an explanation if you like," replied Mrs. Dearman.

"Same to me, Mrs. Dearman?" asked Mr. Ross-Ellison. "I've had
'experiences' too--and can tell you one of them."

"Same to you, Mr. Ross-Ellison," replied Mrs. Dearman, and added: "But
why only one of them?"

Mr. Ross-Ellison smiled, glanced round the luxuriously appointed table
and the company of fair women and brave men--and thought of a
far-distant and little-known place called Mekran Kot and of a phantom
cavalry corps that haunted a valley in its vicinity.

"Only one worth telling," said he.

"Well,--first case," began Colonel Jackson, "I was once driving past a
cottage on my way home from College (in Ireland), and I saw the old lady
who lived in that cottage come out of the door, cross her bit of garden,
go through a gate, scuttle over the railway-line and enter a fenced
field that had belonged to her husband, and which she (and a good many
other people) believed rightly belonged to her.

"'There goes old Biddy Maloney pottering about in that plot of ground
again,' thinks I. 'She's got it on the brain since her law-suit.' I knew
it was Biddy, of course, not only because of her coming out of Biddy's
house, but because it was Biddy's figure, walk, crutch-stick, and
patched old cloak. When I got home I happened to say to Mother: 'I saw
poor old Biddy Maloney doddering round that wretched field as I came
along'.

"'What?' said my mother, 'why, your father was called to her, as she was
dying, hours ago, and she's not been out of her bed for weeks.' When my
father came in, I learned that Biddy was dead an hour before I saw
her--before I left the railway station in fact! What do you make of
that? Is there any 'explanation'?"

"Some other old lady," suggested Mrs. Dearman.

"No. There was nobody else in those parts mistakable for Biddy Maloney,
and no other old woman was in or near the house while my father was
there. We sifted the matter carefully. It was Biddy Maloney and no one
else."

"Auto-suggestion. Visualization on the retina of an idea in the mind.
Optical illusion," hazarded Mrs. Dearman.

"No good. I hadn't realized I was approaching Biddy Maloney's cottage
until I saw her coming out of it and I certainly hadn't thought of Biddy
Maloney until my eye fell upon her. And it's a funny optical illusion
that deceives one into seeing an old lady opening gates, crossing
railways and limping away into fenced fields."

"H'm! What was the other case?" asked Mrs. Dearman, turning to Mr.
Ross-Ellison.

"That happened here in India at a station called Duri, away in the
Northern Presidency, where I was then--er--living for a time. On the day
after my arrival I went to call on Malet-Marsac to whom I had letters of
introduction--political business--and, as he was out, but certain to
return in a minute or two from Parade, I sat me down in a comfortable
chair in the verandah----"

"And went to sleep?" interrupted Mrs. Dearman.

'"I _nevah_ sleep,'" quoted Mr. Ross-Ellison, "and I had no time, if any
inclination. Scarcely indeed had I seated myself, and actually while I
was placing my _topi_ on an adjacent stool, a lady emerged from a
distant door at the end of the verandah and walked towards me. I can
tell you I was mighty surprised, for not only was Captain Malet-Marsac a
lone bachelor and a misogynist of blameless life, but the lady looked as
though she had stepped straight out of an Early Victorian
phonograph-album. She had on a crinoline sort of dress, a deep lace
collar, spring-sidey sort of boots, mittens, and a huge cameo brooch.
Also she had long ringlets. Her face is stamped on my memory and I
could pick her out from a hundred women similarly dressed, or her
picture from a hundred others...."

"What did you do?" asked Mrs. Dearman, whose neglected ice-pudding was
fast being submerged in a pink lake of its own creation.

"Do? Nothing. I grabbed my _topi_, stood up, bowed--and looked silly."

"And what did the lady do?"

"Came straight on, taking no notice whatsoever of me, until she reached
the steps leading into the porch and garden.... She passed down these
and out of my sight.... That is the plain statement of an actual fact.
Have you any 'explanation' to offer?"

"Well--what about a lady staying there, unexpectedly and unbeknownst (to
the station), trying on a get-up for a Fancy Dress Ball. Going as 'My
ancestress' or something?" suggested Mrs. Dearman.

"Exactly what I told myself, though I _knew_ it was nothing of the
kind.... Well, five minutes later Malet-Marsac rode up the drive and we
were soon fraternizing over cheroots and cold drinks.... As I was
leaving, an idea struck me, and I saw a way to ask a question--which was
burning my tongue,--without being too rudely inquisitive.

"'By the way,' said I, 'I fear I did not send in the right number of
visiting cards, but they told me there was no lady here, so I only sent
in one--for you.'

"'There _is_ no lady here,' he replied, eyeing me queerly. 'What made
you think you had been misinformed?'

"'Well,' said I bluntly, 'a lady came out of the end room just now,
walked down the verandah, and went out into the garden. You'd better
see if anything is missing as she's not an inhabitant!'

"'No--there won't be anything missing,' he replied. 'Did she wear a
crinoline and a general air of last century?'

"'She did,' said I.

"'Our own private ghost,' was the answer--and it was the sort of
statement I had anticipated. Now I solemnly assure you that at that time
I had never heard, read, nor dreamed that there was a 'ghost' in this
bungalow, nor in Duri--nor in the whole Northern Presidency for that
matter....

"'What's the story?' I asked, of course.

"'Mutiny. 1857,' said Malet-Marsac. 'Husband shot on the parade-ground.
She got the news and marched straight to the spot. They cut her in
pieces as she held his body in her arms. Lots of people have seen
her--anywhere between that room and the parade-ground.'

"'Then you have to believe in ghosts--in Duri, or how do you account for
it?' I asked.

"'I don't bother my head,' he replied. 'But I have seen that poor lady a
good many times. And no one told me a word about her until after I had
seen her.'"

And then Mrs. Dearman suddenly rose, as her hostess "caught" the
collective female eye of the table.

"Was all that about the 'ghosts' of the old Irishwoman and the Early
Victorian Lady true, you fellows?" asked John Bruce, the Professor of
Engineering, after coffee, cigars and the second glass of port had
reconciled the residue or sediment to the departure of the sterner sex.

"Didn't you hear me say my story was true?" replied Colonel Jackson
brusquely. "It was absolutely and perfectly true."

"Same here," added Mr. Ross-Ellison.

"Then on two separate occasions you two have seen what you can only
believe to be the ghosts of dead people?"

"On one occasion I have, without any possibility of error or doubt, seen
the ghost of a dead person," said Colonel Jackson.

"Have you ever come across any other thoroughly substantiated cases of
ghost-seeing--cases which have really convinced you, Colonel?" queried
Mr. Ross-Ellison--being deeply interested in the subject by reason of
queer powers and experiences of his own.

"Yes. Many in which I fully believe, and one about which I am _certain_.
A very interesting case--and a very cruel tragedy."

"Would you mind telling me about it?" asked Mr. Ross-Ellison.

"Pleasure. More--I'll give you as interesting and convincing a 'human
document' about it as ever you read, if you like."

"I shall be eternally grateful," replied the other.

"It was a sad and sordid business. The man, whose last written words
I'll give you to read, was a Sergeant-Major in the Volunteer Rifles
(also at Duri where I was stationed, as you know) and he was a gentleman
born and bred, poor chap." ["Lawrence-Smith," murmured Mr. John Robin
Ross-Ellison with an involuntary movement of surprise. His eyebrows rose
and his jaw fell.] "Yes, he was that rare bird a gentleman-ranker who
remained a gentleman and a ranker--and became a fine soldier. He called
himself Lawrence-Smith and owned a good old English name that you'd
recognize if I mentioned it--and you'd be able to name some of his
relatives too. He was kicked out of Sandhurst for striking one of the
subordinate staff under extreme provocation. The army was in his blood
and bones, and he enlisted."

"Excuse me," interrupted Mr. Ross-Ellison, "you speak of this
Sergeant-Major Lawrence-Smith in the past tense. Is he dead then?"

"He is dead," replied Colonel Jackson. "Did you know him?"

"I believe I saw him at Duri," answered Mr. Ross-Ellison with an
excellent assumption of indifference. "What's the story?"

"I'll give you his own tale on paper--let me have it back--and, mind
you, every single word of it is Gospel truth. The man was a _gentleman_,
an educated, thoughtful, sober chap, and as sane as you or I. I got to
know him well--he was in hospital, with blood-poisoning from
panther-bite, for a time--and we became friends. Actual friends, I mean.
Used to play golf with him. (You remember the Duri Links.) In mufti,
you'd never have dreamed for a moment that he was not a Major or a
Colonel. Army life had not coarsened him in the slightest, and he kept
some lounge-suits and mess-kit by Poole. Many a good Snob of my
acquaintance has left my house under the impression that the
Lawrence-Smith he had met there, and with whom he had been
hail-fellow-well-met, was his social equal or superior.

"He simply was a refined and educated gentleman and that's all there is
about it. Well--you'll read his statement--and, as you read, you may
tell yourself that I am as convinced of its truth as I am of anything in
this world.... He was dead when I got to him.

"The stains, on the backs of some of the sheets and on the front of the
last one, are--blood stains...."

And at this point their host suggested the propriety of joining the
ladies....

Colonel Jackson gave Mr. Ross-Ellison a "lift" in his powerful motor as
far as his bungalow, entered, and a few minutes later emerged with a
long and fat envelope.

"Here you are," said he. "I took it upon myself to annex the papers as I
was his friend. Let's have 'em back. No need for me to regard them as
'private and confidential' so far as I can see, poor chap. Good-night."

Having achieved the haven of loose Pathan trousers and a muslin shirt
(worn over them) in the privacy of his bed-room, Mr. Ross-Ellison,
looking rather un-English, sat on a camp-cot (he never really liked
chairs) and read, as follows, from a sheaf of neatly-written (and
bloodstained) sheets of foolscap.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have come to the point at which I decide to stop. I have had enough.
But I should like to ask one or two questions.

1. Why has a man no right to quit a world in which he no longer desires
to live? 2. Why should Evil be allowed to triumph? 3. Why should people
who cannot see spirit forms be so certain that such do not exist, when
none but an ignorant fool argues, "I believe in what I can see"?

With regard to the first question I maintain that a man has a perfect
right to "take" the life that was "given" him (without his own consent
or desire), provided it is not an act of cowardice nor an evasion of
just punishment or responsibility. I would add--provided also that he
does not, in so doing, basely desert his duty, those who are in any way
dependent on him, or those who really love him.

I detest that idiotic phrase "while of unsound mind". I am as sound in
mind as any man living, but because I end an unbearable state of
affairs, and take the only step I can think of as likely to give me
peace--I shall be written down mad. Moreover should I fail--in my
attempt to kill myself (which I shall not) I should be prosecuted as a
criminal!

To me, albeit I have lived long under strict discipline and regard true
discipline as the first essential of moral, physical, mental, and social
training, to me it seems a gross and unwarrantable interference with the
liberty of the individual--to deny him sufficient captaincy of his soul
for him to be free to control it at the dictates of his conscience, and
to keep it Here or to send it There as may seem best. Surely the
implanted love of life and fear of death are sufficient safeguards
without any legislation or insolent arrogant interference between a man
and his own ego? Anyhow, such are my views, and in perfect soundness of
mind and body, after mature reflection and with full confidence in my
right so to do, I am about to end my life here.

As to the second question, "Why should Evil be allowed to triumph?" I
confess that my mind cannot argue in a circle and say, "You are born
full of Original Sin, and if you sin you are Damned"--a vicious circle
drawn for me by the gloomy, haughty, insincere and rather unintelligent
young gentleman whom I respectfully salute as Chaplain, and who regards
me and every other non-commissioned soldier as a Common, if not Low,
person.

He would not even answer my queries by means of the good old loop-hole,
"It is useless to appeal to Reason if you cannot to Faith" and so beg
the question. He said that things _were_ because the Lord said they
were, and that it was impious to doubt it. More impious was it, I
gathered, to doubt him, and to allude to Criticisms he had never read.

His infallible "proof" was "It is in the Bible".

Possibly I shall shortly know why an Omnipotent, Omniscient, Impeccable
Deity allows this world to be the Hell it is, even if there be no actual
Hell for the souls of his errant Creatures (in spite of the statements
of the Chaplain who appears to have exclusive information on the
subject, inaccessible to laymen, and to rest peacefully assured of a
Real Hell for the wicked,--nonconforming, and vulgar).

At present I cannot understand and I do not know--though I am informed
and infused with a burning and reverent desire to understand and to
know--why Evil should be allowed to triumph, as in my own case, as well
as in those of millions of others, it does. And thirdly, why does the
man who would never deny beauty in a poem or picture because he failed
to see it while others did, deny that immaterial forms of the dead
exist, because he has never seen one, though others have?

I know of so many many men who would blush to be called
"I-believe-what-I-see men," who yet laugh to scorn the bare idea of the
materialization and visualization of visitants from the spirit world,
because they have never seen one. I have so often met the argument, "The
ghost of a man I might conceive--but I can _not_ conceive the appearance
of the ghost of a pair of trousers or of a top-hat," offered as though
it were unanswerable. Surely the spirit, aura, shade, ghost, soul,
ego--what you will--can permeate and penetrate and pervade clothing and
other matter as well as flesh?

Well, once again, I do not know,--and yet I have seen, not once
but repeatedly, not by moonlight in a churchyard, but under the
Indian sun on a parade-ground, the ghost of a man _and of all his
accoutrements,--of a rifle, of a horse and all a horse's trappings_.

I have been a teetotaller for years, I have never had sunstroke and I am
as absolutely sane as ever a man was.

And further I am in no sense remorseful, repentant, or "dogged by the
spectre of an evil deed".

I killed Burker intentionally. Were he alive again I would kill him
again. I punished him myself because the law could not punish him as he
deserved, and I in no way regret or deplore my just and judicial action.
There are deeds a gentleman must resent and punish--with the extreme
penalty. No, it is in no sense a case of the self-tormented wretch
driven mad by the awful hallucinations of his guilty, unhinged mind. I
am no haunted murderer pursued by phantoms and illusions, believing
himself always in the presence of his victim's ghost.

All people who have read anything, have read of the irresistible
fascination that the scene of the murder has for the murderer, of the
way in which the victim "haunts" the slayer, and of how the truth that
"murder will out" is really based on the fact that the murderer is his
own most dangerous accuser by reason of his life of terror, remorse, and
terrible hallucination.

My case is in no wise parallel.

I am absolutely without fear, regret, remorse, repentance, dread or
terror in the matter of my killing Sergeant Burker. Exactly how and why
I killed him, and how and why I am about to kill myself, I will now set
forth, without the slightest exaggeration, special pleading or any other
deviation from the truth....

I am to my certain knowledge the eighth consecutive member of my family,
in the direct line, to follow the profession of arms, but am the first
to do so without bearing a commission. My father died young in the rank
of Captain, my grandfather led his own regiment in the Crimea, my
great-grandfather was a Lieutenant-General, and, if I told you my real
name, you could probably state something that he did at Waterloo.

I went to Sandhurst and I was expelled from Sandhurst--very rightly and
justly--for an offence, or rather the culminating offence of a series of
offences, that were everything but mean, dishonest or underhand. I was
wild, hasty, undisciplined and I was lost for want of a father to thrash
me as a boy, and by possession of a most loving and devoted mother who
worshipped, spoiled--and ruined me.

I enlisted under an assumed name in my late father's (and
grandfather's) old Regiment of Foot and quickly rose to the rank of
Sergeant-Major.

I might have had a commission in South Africa but I decided that I
preferred ruling in hell to serving in heaven, and declined to be a
grey-haired Lieutenant and a nuisance to the Officers' Mess of the Corps
I would not leave until compelled.

In time I _was_ compelled and I became Sergeant-Major of the Volunteer
Rifle Corps here and husband of a--well--_de mortuis nil nisi bonum_.

Why I married I don't know.

The English girl of the class from which soldiers are drawn never
attracted me in the very least, and I simply could not have married one,
though a paragon of virtue and compendium of housewifely qualities.

Admirable and pretty as Miss Higgs, Miss Bloggs, or Miss Muggins might
be, my youthful training prevented my seeing beyond her fringe,
finger-nails, figure, and aspirates, to her solid excellences;--and from
sergeants'-dances I returned quite heart-whole and still unplighted to
the Colonel's cook. But Dolores De Souza was different.

There was absolutely nothing to offend the most fastidious taste in her
speech, appearance, or manners. She was convent-bred, accomplished,
refined, gentle, worthless and wicked. The good Sisters of the Society
of the Broken Heart had polished the exterior of the Eurasian orphan
very highly--but the polish was a thin veneer on very cheap and
unseasoned wood.

It is a strange fact that, while I could respect the solid virtues of
the aspirateless Misses Higgs, Bloggs or Muggins, I could never have
married one of them; yet, while I knew Dolores to be a heartless flirt,
and more than suspected her to be of most unrigid principle, I was
infatuated with her dark beauty, her grace, her wiles and witchery--and
asked her to become my wife.

The good Sisters of the Society of the Broken Heart had taught Dolores
to sing beautifully, to play upon the piano and the guitar, to
embroider, to paint mauve roses on pink tambourines and many other
useful arts, graces and accomplishments--but they had not taught her
_practical_ morality nor anything of cooking, marketing, plain sewing,
house-cleaning or anything else of house-keeping. However, having been
bred as I had been bred, I could take the form and let the substance go,
accept the shapely husks and shout not for the grain, and prefer a
pretty song, and a rose in black hair over a shell-like ear, to a square
meal. I fear the average Sergeant-Major would have beaten Dolores within
a week of matrimony, but I strove to make loss, discomfort, and
disappointment a discipline,--and music, silk dresses and daintiness an
aesthetic re-training to a barrack-blunted mind.

In justice to Dolores I should make it clear that she was not of the
slatternly, dirty, lazy, half-breed type that pigs in a _peignoir_ from
twelve to twelve and snores again from midnight to midday. She was trim
and dainty, used good perfume or none, rose early and went in the
garden, loathed cheap and showy trash whether in dress, jewellery, or
furniture; and was incapable of wearing fine shoes over holey stockings
or a silk gown over dirty linen. No--there was nothing to offend the
fastidious about Dolores, but there was everything to offend the good
house-keeper and the moralist.

Frequently she would provide no dinner in order that we might be
compelled to dine in public at a restaurant or a hotel, a thing she
loved to do, and she would often send out for costly sweets and pastry,
drink champagne (very moderately, I admit), and generally behave as
though she were the wife of a man of means.

And she was an arrant, incorrigible, shameless flirt.

Well--I do not know that a virtuous vulgar dowd is preferable to a
wicked winsome witch of refined habits and person, and I should probably
have gone quietly on to bankruptcy without any row or rupture, but for
Burker. Having been bred in a "gentle" home I naturally took the
attitude of "as you please, my dear Dolores" and refrained from bullying
when quiet indication of the inevitable end completely failed. Whether
she intended to act in a reasonable manner and show some wifely traits
when my £250 of legacy and savings was quite dissipated I do not know.
Burker came before that consummation.

A number of gentlemen joined the Duri Volunteer Corps and formed a
Mounted Infantry troop, and, though I am a good horseman, I was not
competent to train the troop, as I had never enjoyed any experience of
mounted military work of any kind. So Sergeant Burker, late of the 54th
Lancers, was transferred to Duri as Instructor of the Mounted Infantry
Troop. Naturally I did what I could to make him comfortable and, till
his bungalow was furnished after a fashion, gave him our spare room.

Sergeant Barker was the ideal Cavalryman and the ideal breaker of
hearts,--hearts of the Mary-Ann and Eliza-Jane order.

He was a black-haired, blue-eyed Irishman with a heart as black as his
hair, and language as blue as his eye--a handsome, plausible, selfish,
wicked devil with scarcely a virtue but pride and high courage. I
disliked him at first sight, and Dolores fell in love with him equally
quickly, I am sure.

I don't think he had a solitary gentlemanly instinct.

Being desirous of learning Mounted Infantry work, I attended all his
drills, riding as troop-leader, and, between close attention to him and
close study of the drill-book, did not let the gentlemen in the ranks
know that, in the beginning, I knew as little about it as they did.

And an uncommonly good troop he soon made of it, too.

Of course it was excellent material, all good riders and good shots, and
well horsed.

Burker and I were mounted by the R.H.A. Battery here, and the three
drills we held, weekly, were seasons of delight to a horse-lover like
myself.

Now the horse I had was a high-spirited, powerful animal, and he
possessed the trait, very common among horses, of hating to be pressed
behind the saddle. Turning to look behind while "sitting-easy" one day I
rested my right hand on his back behind the saddle and he immediately
lashed out furiously with both hind legs. I did not realize for the
moment what was upsetting him--but quickly discovered that I had only to
press his back to send his hoofs out like stones from a sling. I then
remembered other similar cases and that I had also read of this curious
fact about horses--something to do with pressure on the kidneys I
believe.

One day Burker was unexpectedly absent and I took the drill, finding
myself quite competent and _au fait_.

The same evening I went to my wife's wardrobe, she being out, to try and
find the keys of the sideboard. I knew they frequently reposed in the
pocket of her dressing-gown.

In the said pocket they were--and so was a letter in the crude large
handwriting of Sergeant Burker.

I did not read it, but I did not see the necessity of a correspondence
between my wife and such a man as I knew Sergeant Burker to be. They met
often enough, in all conscience, to say what they might have to say to
each other.

At dinner I remarked casually: "I shouldn't enter into a correspondence
with Burker if I were you, Dolly. His reputation isn't over savoury
and--" but, before I could say more, my wife was literally screaming
with rage, calling me "Spy," "Liar," "Coward," and demanding to know
what I insinuated and of what I accused her. I replied that I had
accused her of nothing at all, and merely offered advice in the matter
of correspondence with Burker. I explained how I had come to find the
letter and stated that I had not read it.

"Then how do you know that we--" she began, and suddenly stopped.

"That you--what?" I inquired.

"Nothing," she said.

At the next Sergeants' Dance at the Institute I did not like Burker's
manner to my wife at all. It was--well, amorous, and tinged with a shade
of proprietorship. I distinctly heard him call her "Dolly," and equally
distinctly saw an expressively affectionate look in her eyes as he
hugged her in the waltzes--whereof they indulged in no less than five.

My position was awkward and unpleasant. I loathe a row or a scene
unspeakably--though I delight in fighting when that pastime is
legitimate--and I was brought into daily contact with the ruffian and I
disliked him intensely.

I was very averse from the course of forbidding him the house and thus
insulting my wife by implication--since she obviously enjoyed his
society--and descending to pit myself against the greasy cad in a
struggle for a woman's favour, and that woman my own wife. Nor could I
conscientiously take the line of, "If she desires to go to the Devil let
her," for a man has as much responsibility for his wife as for his
children, and it is equally his duty to guide and control her and them.
Women may vote and may legislate for men--but on men they will ever
depend and rely.

No, the position of carping, jealous husband was one that I could not
fill, and I determined to say nothing, do nothing and be
watchful--watchful, that is, to avoid exposing her to temptation. I did
my best, but I was away from home a good deal, visiting the out-station
detachments of the Corps.

Then, one day, the wretched creature I called "butler" came to me with
an air of great mystery and said: "Sahib, Sergeant Burker Sahib sending
Mem Sahib bundle of flowers and _chitti_[53] inside and diamond ring
yesterday. His boy telling me and I seeing. He often coming here too
when Sahib out. Both wicked peoples."

  [53] Note.

I raised my hand to knock his lies down his throat--and dropped it. They
were not lies, I knew, and the fellow had been faithful to me for many
years and--the folly of childish human vanity--I felt he knew I was a
"gentleman," and I liked him for it.

I paid him his wages then and there, gave him a present and a good
testimonial and discharged him. He wept real tears and shook with sobs
of grief--easy grief, but very genuine.

When Dolores came home from the Bandstand I said quietly: "Show me the
jewellery Burker sent you, Dolly. I am very much in earnest, so don't
bluster."

She seemed about to faint and looked very frightened--perhaps my face
was more expressive than a gentleman's should be.

"It was only a little thing for my birthday," she whined. "Can't I keep
it? Don't be a tyrant or a fool."

"Your next birthday or your last?" I asked. "Please get it at once.
We'll settle matters quietly and finally."

I fear the poor girl had visions of the doorstep and a closed door. Two,
perhaps, for I am sure Burker would not have taken her in if I had
turned her out, and she may have thought the same.

It was a diamond ring, and the scoundrel must have given a couple of
months' pay for it--if he had paid for it at all. I thrust aside the
sudden conviction that Burker's own taste could not have been
responsible for its choice and that it was selected by my wife.

"Why should he give you this, Dolores?" I asked. "Will you tell me or
must I go to him?" And then she burst into tears and flung herself at my
feet, begging for mercy.

Mercy!

_Qui s'excuse s'accuse_.

What should I do?

To cast her out was to murder her soul quickly and her body slowly, and
I could foresee her career with prophetic eye and painful clearness.

And what could the Law do for me?

Publish our shame and perhaps brand me that wretched thing--the
willingly deceived and complaisant husband.

What could I do by challenging Burker?

He was a champion man-at-arms, a fine boxer, and a younger, stronger
man, I should merely experience humiliation and defeat. What _could_ I
do?

If I said, "Go and live with your Burker," I should be committing a
bigger crime than hers, for if he did take her in, it would not be for
long.

I sat the night through, pondered the question carefully, looked at it
from all points of view and--decided that Burker must die. Also that he
must not drag me to jail or the scaffold as he went to his doom. If I
shot him and was punished, Dolores would become a--well, as I have said,
her soul would die quickly and her body slowly. I had married Dolores
and I must do what lay in my power to protect Dolores. But I simply
could not kill the hound in some stealthy secret manner and wait for
the footsteps of warrant-armed police for the rest of my life.

What could I do? Or rather--for the question had narrowed to that--how
could I kill him?

And as the sun struck upon my eyes at dawn, an idea struck upon my mind.

I would leave it to Fate and if Fate willed it so, Burker should die.

_If Burker stood behind my charger, Fate sat with down-turned thumb_.

I would not seek the opportunity--but, by God, I would take it if it
offered.

If it did not, I would go to Burker and say to him quietly: "Burker, you
must leave this station at once and never see or communicate with my
wife in any way. Otherwise I have to kill you, Burker--to execute you,
you understand." ...

A native syce from the Artillery lines led my charger into the little
compound of my tiny bungalow.

Having buckled on my belt I went out, patted him, and gave him a lump of
sugar. He nuzzled me for more, and, as he did so, I placed my hand on
his back, behind the saddle, and pressed. He lashed out wildly.

I then trotted across the _maidan_[54] to the Volunteer Headquarters and
parade-ground.

  [54] Plain; level tract of ground.

Several gentlemen of the Mounted Infantry were waiting about, some
standing by their horses, some getting bandoliers, belts, and rifles,
some cantering their horses round the ground.

Sergeant Burker strode out of the Orderly Boom.

"Morning, Smith," said he. "How's the Missus?"

I looked him in the eye and made no reply.

He laughed, as jeering, evil, and caddish a laugh as I have ever heard.
I almost forgot my purpose and had actually turned toward the armoury
for a rifle and cartridge when I remembered and controlled my rage.

If I shot him, then and there, I must go to the scaffold or to jail
forthwith, and Dolores must inevitably go to a worse fate. Had I been
sure that she could have kept straight, Burker would have been shot,
then and there.

"Fall in," he shouted, but did not mount his horse.

The gentlemen assembled with their horses and faced him in line,
dismounted, I in front of the centre of the troop. How clearly I can see
every feature and detail of that morning's scene, and hear every word
and sound.

"Tell off by sections," commanded Burker.

"One, two, three, four--one, two, three, four...."

There were exactly six sections.

"Flanks of sections, proof."

"Section leaders, proof."

"Centre man, proof."

"Prepare to mount."

"Mount."

"Sections right."

"Sections left."

The last two words were the last words Burker ever spoke. Passing on
foot along the line of mounted men, to inspect saddlery, accoutrements,
and the adjustment of rifle-buckets and slings, he halted immediately
behind me, where I sat on my charger in front of the centre of the
troop.

I could not have placed him more exactly with my own hands. _Fate sat
with down-pointing thumb_.

Turning round, as though to look at the troop, I rested my hand on my
horse's back--just behind the saddle--and pressed hard. He lashed out
with both hoofs and Sergeant Burker dropped--and never moved again.

The base of his skull was smashed like an egg, and his back was broken
like a dry stick....

The terrible accident roused wide sympathy with the unfortunate man, the
local reporter used all his adjectives, and a military funeral was given
to the soldier who had died in the execution of his duty.

On reaching home, after satisfying myself at the Station Hospital that
the man was dead, I said to my poor, pale and red-eyed wife:--

"Dolores, Sergeant Burker met with an accident this morning on parade.
He is dead. Let us never refer to him again."

She fainted.

I spent that night also in meditation, questioning myself and examining
my soul--with every honest endeavour to be not a self-deceiver.

I came to the conclusion that I had acted rightly and in the only way in
which a gentleman could act. I had snatched Dolores from his foul
clutches, I had punished him without depriving Dolores of my protection,
and I had avenged the stain on my honour.

"You have committed a treacherous cowardly murder," whispered the Fiend
in my ear.

"You are a liar," I replied. "I did not fear the man and I took this
course solely on account of Dolores. I was strong enough to accept this
position--and to risk the accusation of murder, from my conscience, from
the Devil, or from man."

Any doubt I might otherwise have had was forestalled and inhibited by
the obvious Fate that placed Burker in the one spot favourable to my
scheme of punishment.

God had willed it?

God had not prevented it.

Surely God was consenting unto it....

And Dolores? I would forgive her and offer her the choice of remaining
with me or leaving me and receiving a half of my income and
possessions--both alternatives being contingent upon good conduct.

At dawn I prepared tea for her, and entered our bedroom. Dolores had
wound a towel round her neck, twisted the ends tightly--and suffocated
herself.

She had been dead for hours....

At the police inquiry, held the same day, I duly lied as to the virtues
of the "deceased," and the utter impossibility of assigning any reason
for the rash and deplorable act. The usual smug stereotyped verdict was
pronounced, and, in addition to expressing their belief that the suicide
was committed "while of unsound mind," the officials expressed much
sympathy with the bereaved husband.

Dolores was buried that evening and I returned to an empty house.

I believe opinion had been divided as to whether I was callous or
"stunned"--but the sight of her little shoes caused pains in my throat
and eyes. Had Burker been then alive I would have killed him with my
hands--and teeth. Yes, teeth.

I spent that night in packing every possession and trace of Dolores into
her boxes, and then in trying to persuade myself that I should have
acted differently.

I could not do so. I had acted for the best--so let God who gave me
free-will, intelligence, conscience and opportunity, approve the deed or
take the blame.

And let God remember how that opportunity came so convincingly--so
impellingly--and if He would judge me and ask for my defence I would ask
him who sent Burker here, and who placed him on that fatal spot?

Does God sit only in judgment?

Does God calmly watch His creatures walking blindfold to the
Pit--struggling to tear away the bandage as they walk? Can He only
judge, and can He never help?

"_Pray_?"

Is God a petty-minded "jealous" God to be propitiated like the gods of
the heathen?

Must we continually ask, or, not asking, not receive?

And if we know not to ask aright and to demand the best and highest?

Cannot the well-fed, well-read, well-paid Chaplain give advice?

"_God knoweth best. Ask unceasingly. Pray always_."

_Why_?--if. He knows best, is All Merciful, All Powerful?

"_Praise_?"

Is God a child, a savage, a woman? Shall I offer adulation that would
sicken _me_.

"_God is our Father which art in heaven_."

Would I have my son praise me to my face continually--or at all. Would I
compel him to pester me with demands for what he desired,--good, bad and
indifferent?

And would I give him what he asked regardless of what was best for
him--or say, "If you ask not, you receive not?" Give me a God finer and
greater and juster and nobler than myself--something higher than the
Chaplain's jealous, capricious, inconsequent and illogical God.
Anthropomorphism!

Is there a God at all?

I shall soon know.

If so--

    Oh Thou, who man of baser earth didst make
    And ev'n with Paradise devised the Snake,
    For all the Sin the face of wretched man
    Is black with--Man's forgiveness give--and take!

At dawn I said aloud:--

"This Chapter is closed. The story of Burker and Dolores is written. I
may now strive to forget."

I was wrong.

Major Jackson of the R.A.M.C. came to see me soon after daylight. He
gave me an opiate and I slept all that day and night. I went on parade
next morning, fresh, calm, and cool--and saw _Burker riding toward the
group of gentlemen who were awaiting the signal to "fall in"_.

I say I was fresh, calm, and cool.

I was.

And there was Burker--looking exactly as in life, save for a slight
nebulosity, a very faint vagueness of outline, and a hint of
transparency.

I had been instructed by the Adjutant to assume the post of Instructor
(as the end of the Mounted Infantry drill season was near)--and I blew
the "rally" on my whistle as many of the gentlemen were riding about,
and shouted the command: "Fall in".

Twenty living men and one dead faced me, twenty dismounted and one
mounted. I called the corporal in charge of the armoury.

"How many on parade?" I asked.

He looked puzzled, counted, and said:--

"Why--twenty, ain't there?"

I numbered the troop.

Twenty--and Burker.

"Tell off by sections."

Five sections--and Burker.

"Sections right."

A column of five sections--and Burker, in the rear.

I called out the section-leader of Number One section.

"Are the sections correctly proved?" I asked, and added: "Put the troop
back in line and tell-off again".

"Five sections, correct," he reported.

I held that drill, with five sections of living men, and a single file
of dead, who manoeuvred to my word.

When I gave the order "With Numbers Three for action dismount," or
"Right-hand men, for action dismount," Burker remained mounted. When I
dismounted the whole troop, Burker remained mounted. Otherwise he
drilled precisely as Number Twenty-one would have drilled in a troop of
twenty-one men.

Was I frightened? I do not know.

At first my heart certainly pounded as though it would leap from my
body, and I felt dazed, lost, and shocked.

I think I _was_ frightened--not of Burker so much as of the unfamiliar,
the unknown, the impossible.

How would you feel if your piano suddenly began to play of itself? You
would be alarmed and afraid probably, not frightened of the piano, but
of the fact.

A door could not frighten you--but you would surely be alarmed at its
persistently opening, each time you shut, locked, and bolted it, if it
acted thus.

Of Burker I had no fear--but I was perturbed by the _fact_ that the dead
could ride with the living.

When I gave the order "Dismiss" at the end of the parade Burker rode
away, as he had always done, in the direction of his bungalow.

Returning to my lonely house, I sat me down and pondered this appalling
event that had come like a torrent, sweeping away familiar landmarks of
experience, idea, and belief. I was conscious of a dull anger against
Burker and then against God.

Why should He allow Burker to haunt me?...

Why should Evil triumph?...

_Was_ I haunted? Or was it, after all, but a hallucination--due to
grief, trouble, and the drug of the opiate?

I sat and brooded until I thought I could hear the voices of Burker and
Dolores in converse.

This I knew to be hallucination, pure and simple, and I went to see my
friend (if he will let me call him what he is in the truest and highest
sense) Major Jackson of the R.A.M.C.

He took me for a long ride, kept me to dinner, and manufactured a job
for me--a piece of work that would occupy and tire me.

He assured me that the Burker affair was pure hallucination and staked
his professional reputation that the image of Burker came upon my retina
from within and not from without. "The shock of the deaths of your wife
and your friend on consecutive days has unhinged you, and very naturally
so," he said.

Of course I did not tell him that I had killed Burker, though I
should have liked to do so. I felt I had no right to put him in the
position of having to choose between denouncing me and condoning a
murder--compounding a felony.

Nor did I see any reason for confessing to the Police what I had done
(even though Dolores was dead) and finishing my career on the scaffold.

One owes something to one's ancestors as well as to oneself. Well,
perhaps it was a hallucination. I would wait.

At the next drill Burker was present and rode as Number Three in Section
Six.

As there were twenty-three (living) on parade I ordered Number
Twenty-three to ride as Number Four of his section and leave a blank
file.

Burker rode in that blank file and drilled so, throughout--save that he
would not dismount.

Once, as the troop rode in column of sections, I fell to the rear and,
coming up behind, struck with all my might at that slightly nebulous
figure, with its faint vagueness of outline and hint of transparency.

My heavy cutting-whip whistled--and touched nothing. I was as one who
beats the air. Section Six must have thought me mad.... Twice again the
dead man drilled with the living, and each time I described what
happened to Major Jackson.

"It is a persistent hallucination," said he; "you must go on leave."

"I won't run from Burker, nor from a hallucination," I replied.

Then came the end.

At the next drill, twenty-one gentlemen were present and Number
Twenty-one, the Sessions Judge of Duri, a Scot, kept staring with looks
of amazement and alarm at Burker, who rode as Number Four on his flank,
making an odd file into a skeleton section. I was certain that he saw
Burker.

As the gentlemen "dismissed" after parade, the Judge rode up to me and,
with a white face, demanded:--

"Who the devil was that rode with me as Number Twenty-four? It was--it
was--like--Sergeant Burker."

"It _was_ Sergeant Burker, Sir," said I.

"I knew it was," he replied, and added: "Man, you and I are fey."

"Will you tell Major Jackson of this, Sir?" I begged. "He knows I have
seen Burker's ghost here before, and tells me it is a hallucination."

"I'll go and see him now." he replied. "He is an old friend of mine,
and--he's a damned good doctor. Man--you and I are fey." He rode to
where his trap, with its spirited cob, was awaiting him, dismounted and
drove off.

As everybody knows, Mr. Blake of the Indian Civil Service, Sessions
Judge of Duri, was thrown from his trap and killed. It happened five
minutes after he had said to me, with a queer look in his eyes, and a
queer note in his voice, "Man! you and I are fey".... So it is no
hallucination and I am haunted by Burker's ghost. Very good. I will
fight Burker on his own ground.

My ghost shall haunt Burker's ghost--or I shall be at peace.

Though the religion of the Chaplain has failed me, the religion of my
Mother, taught to me at her knee, has implanted in me an ineradicable
belief in the ultimate justice of things, and the unquenchable hope of
"somehow good".

I am about to go before my Maker or to obliteration and oblivion. If the
former, I am prepared to say to Him: "You made me a man. I have played
the man. I look to you for justice, and that is--compensation and not
'forgiveness'. Much less is it punishment. You have treated me ill and
given me no help. You have bestowed free-_will_ without free-_dom_.
Compensate me or know Yourself unjust."

To a servant or child who spoke so to me and with equal reason, I would
reply:--

"Compensation is due to you and not 'forgiveness'--much less
punishment," and I would act accordingly.... Why should I cringe to
God--and why should He love a cringer more than I do?

God help Men and Women--and such Children as are doomed to grow up to be
Men and Women.

As I finish this sentence I shall put my revolver in my mouth and seek
Justice or Peace....

       *       *       *       *       *

"Bad luck," murmured Mr. Robin Ross-Ellison, "that was the man of all
men for me! A gentleman, wishful to die.... That is the sort that _does_
things when swords are out and bullets fly. Seeks a gory grave and gets
a V.C. instead. He and Mike Malet-Marsac and I would have put a polish
on the new Gungapur Fusiliers.... Rough luck...."

He was greatly disappointed, for his experiences in the bazaars,
market-places, secret-meeting houses, and the bowers of Hearts'
Delights,--the Rialtos of Gungapur (he disguised, now as an Afghan
horse-dealer, now as a sepoy, now as a Pathan money-lender, again as a
gold-braided, velvet waistcoated, swaggering swashbuckler from the
Border)--his experiences were disquieting, were such as to make him push
on preparations, perfect plans, and work feverishly at the "polishing"
of his re-organized Corps.

Also the reports of his familiar, a Somali yclept Moussa Isa, were
disquieting, disturbing to a lover of the Empire who foresaw the Empire
at war in Europe.

Moussa Isa also knew that there was talk among Pathan horse-dealers and
_budmashes_ of the coming of one Ilderim the Weeper, a mullah of great
influence and renown, and talk, moreover, among men of other race, of a
Great Conspiracy.

Moussa was bidden to take service as a mill-coolie in one of Colonel
Dearman's mills, and to report on the views and attitude of the
thousands who laboured therein. This he did and there learnt many
interesting facts.



§ 4. MR. AND MRS. CORNELIUS GOSLING-GREEN.


It was Sunday--and therefore John Bruce, the Engineering College
Professor, was exceptionally busy. On a-week-day he only had to deliver
his carefully prepared lectures, interview students, read and return
essays, take the chair at meetings of college societies, coach one or
two "specialists," superintend the games on the college gymkhana ground,
interview seekers after truth and perverters of the same, write letters
on various matters of college business, visit the hostel, set question
papers and correct answers, attend common-room meetings, write articles
for the college magazine and papers for the Scientific, Philosophical,
Shakespearean, Mathematical, Debating, Literary, Historical, Students',
Old Boys', or some other "union" and, if God willed, get a little
exercise and private study at his beloved "subject" and invention,
before preparing for the morrow.

On Sundays, the thousand and one things crowded out of the programme
were to be cleared up, his home mail was to be written, and then arrears
of work had to be attacked.

At four o'clock he addressed Roy Pittenweem and Mrs. MacDougall, his
dogs, and said:--

"There's a bloomin' bun-snatch somewhere, you fellers, don't it?".
Though a Professor and one of the most keen and earnest workmen in
India, his own college blazers were not quite worn out, and Life, the
great Artist, had not yet done much sketching on the canvas of his
face--in spite of his daily contact with the Science Professor, William
Greatorex Bonnett, B.A., widely known as the Mad Hatter, the greatest
of whose many great achievements is his avoidance of death at the hands
of his colleagues and acquaintance.

Receiving no reply beyond a wink and a waggle, he dropped his blue
pencil, rose, and went to the table sacred to litter; and from a wild
welter of books, pipes, papers, golf-balls, hats, cigar-boxes,
dog-collars, switches, cartridges and other sediment, he extracted a
large gilt-edged card and studied it without enthusiasm or bias.

"Large coat of arms," he murmured--"patience--no--a pay-sheet on a
monument asking for time; item a hand, recently washed; ditto, a dickey
bird--possibly pigeon plucked proper or gull argent; guinea-pig
regardant and expectant; supporters, two bottliwallahs rampant. Crest, a
bum-boat flottant, and motto '_Cinq-cento-percentum_'. All done in gold.
Likewise in gold and deboshed gothic, the legend 'Sir and Lady Fuggilal
Potipharpar, At Home. To meet Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Gosling-Green, M.P.
Five p.m. C.T.' ... Now what the devil, Roy Pittenweem, _is_ C.T.? Is it
'Curious Time' or 'Cut for Trumps' or a new decoration for gutter
plutocrats? It _might_ mean 'Calcutta Time,' mightn't it, as the
egregious Phossy and his gang would have it? Well, we'll go and look
upon the Cornmealious Gosling-Green, M.P.'s, and chasten our soul from
sinful pride--ain't it, Mrs. MacDougall?" and the Professor strolled
across to the Sports Club for a cup of tea.

In the midst of cheery converse with a non-moral and unphilosophic
Professor of Moral Philosophy, a fat youth of the name of Augustus
Grobble whose life was one long picturesque pose, he sprang to his feet,
remarking: "I go, Augustus, I am bidden to behold some prize
Gosling-Greens or something, at 5 p.m., D.V. or D.T. or C.T. or L.S.D.
or otherwise. Perhaps it was S.T. which means 'Standard Time,' and as I
said, I go, Augustus."

Augustus Grobble was understood to return thanks piously....

"Taxi, Sahib?" inquired the messenger-boy at the door.

"Go to," said the Professor. "Also go call me a _tikka-gharri_[55] and
select a _very_ senior horse, blind, angular, withered, wilted, and
answering to the name, most obviously, of Skin-and-Grief--lest I be
taken by the Grizzly-Goslings for a down-trodden plutocrat and a
brother--and not seen for the fierce and 'aughty oppressor that I am."

  [55] Public conveyance.

"Sahib?"

"_Tikka-gharri lao_,[56] you lazy little 'ound! Don't I speak plain
English?" The Professor made it a practice to "rot" when not
working--hoping thus even in India to retain sanity and the broad and
wholesome outlook, for he was a very short-tempered person, easily
roused to dangerous wrath.

  [56] Bring.

A carriage, upholding a pony who, in return, spasmodically moved the
carriage which gave evidence of having been where moths break through
and steal, lumbered into the Club garden, and the Professor, imploring
the jehu not to let the pony "die on him" in the Hibernian sense of the
expression, gingerly entered.

"Convey me to the gilded Potipharparian 'alls, Arthur," said he.

"Sahib?"

"Why _don't_ you listen? _Palangur Hill ki pas_[57] And don't forget
you've to get me there at 5 p.m. C.T. or S.T.--I leave it to you,
partner."

  [57] To.

On arrival, the Professor concluded that if he had arrived at 5 p.m.
C.T. he ought to have come at 5 p.m. S.T., or vice versa; as what he
termed 'the show' was evidently about over. Fortune favours all sorts of
people.

His hostess, who looked as though she had come straight out of the Bible
_via_ Bond Street, and his host, who looked as though he had never come
out of Petticoat Lane at all, both accused him of being unable to work
out the problem of "Find Calcutta Time given the Standard Time," and he
professed to be proud to be able to acknowledge the truth of the
compliment.

"Come and be presented to Meester and Meesers Carneelius Garsling-Green,
M.P.," said the lady, waddling before him; and her husband echoed:--

"Oah, yess. Come and be presented to Meester and Meesers
Garsling-Green," waddling after him.

Mr. Cornelius Gosling-Green, M.P., proved to be a tall, drooping,
melancholy creature, with "Dundreary" whiskers, reach-me-down suit of
thick cloth, wrong kind of tie, thickish boots, and no presence. Without
"form" and void.

Mrs. Cornelius Gosling-Green was a Severe Person, tiny, hard-featured
and even more garrulous than her husband, who watched her anxiously and
nervously as he answered any question put in her presence....

"And, oh, why, _why_ are not you Mohammedans _loyal_?" said Mrs.
Cornelius Gosling-Green, to a magnificent-looking specimen of the
Mussulman of the old school--stately, venerable, courteous and
honourable--who stood near, looking as though he wondered what the devil
he was doing in that galley.

Turning from his friend, Mir Ilderim Dost Mahommed Mir Hafiz Ullah Khan,
a fine Pathan, "Loyal, Madam! _Loyal_! Believe me we Mohammedans are
most intensely and devotedly loyal," he replied. "You have indeed been
misled. Though you are only spending a month in India for collecting the
materials for your book or pamphlet, you must really learn _that_ much.
We Mohammedans are as loyal as the English themselves.--More loyal than
some in fact," he added, with intent. The Pathan smiled meaningly.

"Ah, that's just it. I mean 'Why aren't you Mohammedans _loyal to poor
India_?'"

The man turned and left the marquee and the garden without another word.

"Poor _bleeding_ India," corrected the Professor.

"And are _you_ a friend and worker for India?" continued the lady,
turning to him and eyeing him with severity.

"I am. I do my humble possible in my obscure capacity, Mrs.
Grisly-Gosling," he replied. "I _beg_ your pardon, Mrs.
Grossly-Grin----that is--er--Gosling-Green, I _should_ say."

Be sure your sins will find you out. Through wilful perversion of the
pleasing name the Professor had rendered himself incapable of
enunciating it.

"And what do _you_ do for India,--write, speak, organize, subscribe or
what?" asked the lady with increasing severity.

"I work."

"In what capacity?"

"I am a professor at the Government Engineering College, here in
Gungapur."

"O-h-h-h-h! You're one of the overpaid idlers who bolster up the
Bureaucracy and batten on the....'"

"Allow me to assure you that I neither bolster, batten, nor bureau, Mrs.
Grizzling--I mean _Gosling_ Green. Nor do I talk through my hat. I----"
the Professor was beginning to get angry and to lose control.

"Perhaps you are one of us in disguise--a Pro-Native?"

"I am intensely Pro-Native."

The tall Pathan stared at the Professor.

"Oh, _good!_ I _beg_ your pardon! Cornelius, this gentleman is a
Government professor and is _with us!_" said this female of the M.P.
species.

"That's right," gushed the Gosling. "We want a few in the enemy's camp
both to spy out their weakness and to embarrass them. Now about this
University business. I am going to take it up. That history affair now!
_Scandalous!_ I _cannot_ tell you what a wave of indignation swept over
England when that syllabus was drawn up. Nothing truly _Liberal_ about
the whole course, much less Radical. I at once said: '_I_ will see this
righted. _I_ will go to India, and _I_ will beard the....'"

"I think it was _I_ who said it, Cornelius," remarked his much better
half, coldly.

"Yes, my dear Superiora, yes. Now with your help I think we can do
something, Professor. Good. This _is_ providential. We shall be able to
embarrass them now! Will you write me----"

"You are going a little too fast, I think," said the Professor. "I am a
'Pro-Native' and a servant of the Pro-Native Government of India. As
such, I don't think I can be of any service to twenty-one-day visitors
who wish to 'embarrass' the best friends of my friends the Natives, even
supposing I were the sort of gentle Judas you compliment me by imagining
me. I----"

"You distinctly say you are Pro-Native and then----"

"I repeat I am intensely Pro-Native, and so are the Viceroy, the
Governors, the entire Civil Service, the Educational Service, the Forest
Service, the P.W.D., the Medical Service, the Army, and every other
Service and Department in India as well as every decent man in India. We
are _all_ Pro-Native, and all doing our best in our respective spheres,
in spite of a deal of ignorant and officious interference and attempted
'embarrassment' at the hands of the self-seeking, the foolish, the
busy-body, the idle--not to mention the vicious. What a _charming_ day
it is. I have so enjoyed the honour of meeting you."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Well, my Scroobious Bird! And have they this day roasted in India such
a Gosling as shall never be put out?" inquired the non-moral and
unphilosophic Professor of Moral Philosophy, a little later.

"No, my Augustus," was the reply. "It's a quacking little gosling, and
won't lead to any great commotion m the farm-yard. Nasty little
bird--like a _sat-bai_ or whatever they call those appalling things
'seven-sister' birds, aren't they, that chatter and squeak all day."

"Have a long drink and tell us all about it," replied Mr. Augustus
Clarence Percy Marmaduke Grobble.

"Oh, same old game on the same old stage. Same old players. Leading lady
and gent changed only. Huge great hideous bungalow, like a Goanese
wedding-cake, in a vast garden of symmetrically arranged blue and red
glazed 'art' flower-pots. Lofty room decorated with ancestral portraits
done by Mr. Guzzlebhoy Fustomji Paintwallah; green glass chandeliers and
big blue and white tin balls; mauve carpet with purple azure roses;
wall-paper, bright pink with red lilies and yellow cabbages; immense
mouldy mirrors, and a tin alarm clock. Big crowd of all the fly-blown
rich knaves of the place who have got more than they want out of
Government or else haven't got enough. Only novelty was a splendid
Pathan chap, got-up in English except for the conical cap and puggri.
Extraordinarily like Ross-Ellison, except that he had long black Pathan
hair on his shoulders. Been to England; barrister probably, and seemed
the most viciously seditious of the lot. Silly ignorant Goslings in the
middle saying to Brahmins, 'And you are Muscleman, aren't you, or are
you a Dhobi?' and to Parsis, 'I suppose you High Caste gentlemen have to
bathe _every_ day?' shoving their awful ignorance under the noses of
everybody, and inquiring after the healths of the 'chief wives'. Silly
fatuous geese!--and then talking the wildest piffle about the 'burning
question of the hour' and making the seditious rotters groan at their
ineptitude and folly, until they cheer them up sudden-like with a bit
of dam' treason and sedition they ought to be jailed for. _Jailed_. I
nearly threw a fit when the old geezer, in a blaze of diamonds and
glory, brought up old Phossy and presented him to the Gander, and he
murmured:--

"'My _deah_ friend,' as Phossy held on to his paw in transports, 'to
think of their casting _you_ into jail,' and old Mother Potiphar
squeaked: _'Oh, this is not the forger of that name--but the eminent
politeecian'_. But poor Gosly had thought he had been a political
prisoner! Meant no offence. And then some little squirt of an editor
primed him with lies about the University and the new syllabus, and
straightway the Gander tried to get me on the 'embarrass the Government'
lay, and talked as though he knew all about it. 'I'll get some of the
ladies of my committee sent out here as History-lecturers at your
University,' says he. 'They'll teach pure Liberal History and inculcate
true ideas of liberty and self-government.' I wanted to go outside and
be ill. Good old 'Paget M.P.'--takes up a 'Question' and writes a silly
pamphlet on it and thinks he's said the last word.--Written
thousands.--Don't matter so long as he does it in England.--Just the
place for him nowadays.--But when he feels he's shoved out of the
lime-light by a longer-haired Johnny, it's rough luck that he should try
and get back by spending his blooming committee's money coming here and
deludin' the poor seditionist and seducin' your Hatter from his
allegiance to his salt.... Awful old fraud really--no ability whatever.
Came to my college to spout once, in my time. Lord! Still he was a
guest, and we let him go. Run by his missus really, I think. Why can't
she stop at home and hammer windows? They say she went and asked the
Begum of Bhopal to join her in a 'mission and crusade'. Teach the Zenana
Woman and Purdah Lady to Come Forth instead of Bring Forth. Come Forth
and smash windows. Probably true. Silly Goslings. Drop 'em.... What did
you think of our bowling yesterday? With anything like a wicket your
College should be...."

       *       *       *       *       *

Entering his lonely and sequestered bungalow that evening Mir Ilderim
Dost Mahommed changed his Pathan dress for European dining-kit, removed
his beard and wig, and became Mr. Robin Ross-Ellison. After dinner he
wrote to the eminent Cold weather Visitor to India, Mr. Cornelius
Gosling-Green, as follows--

"DEAR SIR,

"As I promised this afternoon, when you graciously condescended to
honour me with your illuminating conversation, I enclose the papers
which I guaranteed would shed some light on certain aspects of Indian
conditions, and which I consider likely to give you food for thought.

"As I was myself educated in India, was brought up to maturity with
Indian students, and have lived among them in many different places, I
may claim to know something about them. As a class they are gentle,
affectionate, industrious, well-meaning and highly intelligent. They are
the most malleable of human metal, the finest material for the sculptor
of humanity, the most impressionable of wax. In the right hands they can
be moulded to anything, by the right leader led to any height. And
conversely, of them a devil can make fiends. By the wrong leader they
can be led down to any depth.

"The crying need of India is noble men to make noble men of these fine
impressionable youths. Read the enclosed and take it that the writer
(who wrote this recently in Gungapur Jail) is typical of a large class
of misled, much-to-be-pitied youths, wrecked and ruined and
destroyed--their undoing begun by an unspeakably false and spurious
educational ideal, and completed by the writings, and the spoken words
of heartless unscrupulous scoundrels who use them to their own vile
ends.

"Read, Sir, and realize how truly noble, useful and beautiful is your
great work of endeavouring to embarrass our wicked Government, to weaken
its prestige here and in England, to encourage its enemies, to increase
discontent and unrest, to turn the thoughts of students to matters
political, and, in short, to carry on the good work of the usual
Self-advertising Visitation M.P.

"Humbly thanking your Honour, and wishing your Honour precisely the
successes and rewards that your Honour deserves,

"I remain,

"The dust of your Honour's feet,

"ILDERIM DOST MAHOMMED."

And Mr. Cornelius Gosling-Green, M.P., read as follows:--

... And so I am to be hanged by the neck till I am dead, am I? And for a
murder which I never committed, and in the perpetration of which I had
no hands? Is it, my masters? I trow so. But I can afford to spit--for I
did commit a murder, nevertheless, a beautiful secret murder that no one
could possibly ever bring to my home or cast in my tooth.

"Well, well! Hang me and grin in sleeve--and I will laugh on other side
of face while dancing on nothing--for if you think you are doing me in
eye, I know I have done you in eye!

"Yes. _I_ murdered Mr. Spensonly, the Chief Secretary of the Nuddee
River Commission.

"As the Latin-and-Greeks used to say, '_Solo fesit_'!

"You think Mr. Spensonly died of plague? So he did. And who caused him
to have plague? In short, who _plagued_ him? (Ha! Ha! An infinite jest!)
You shall know all about it and about, as Omar says, for I am going now
to write my autobiography of myself, as all great so-called Criminals
have done, for the admiration of mankind and the benefit of posterity.
And my fellow-brothers and family-members shall proudly publish it with
my photo--that of a great Patriot Hero and second Mazzini, Robespierre,
Kossuth, Garibaldi, Wallace, Charlotte Corday, Kosciusko, and Mr. Robert
Bruce (of spider fame).

"And I shall welcome death and embrace the headsman ere making last
speech and dying confession. Having long desired to know what lies
Beyond, I shall make virtue of necessity and seize opportunity (of
getting to know) to play hero and die gamish.

"Not like the Pathan murderer who walked about in front of condemned
cell with Koran balanced on head, crying to his Prophet to save him, and
defying Englishes to touch him. Of course they cooked his geese, Koran
or not. One warder does more than many Prophets in Gungapur Jail. (He!
He! Quite good epigram and nice cynicality of educated man.) The
degraded and unpolished fellow decoyed two little girls into empty house
to steal their jewellery, and cut off fingers and noses and ears to get
rings and nose-jewels and ear-drops, and left to die. Holy Fakir,
gentleman of course! Pooh! and Bah! for all holy men. I give spurnings
to them all for fools, knaves, or hypocrites. There are no gods any more
for educated gentleman, except himself, and that's very good god to
worship and make offering to (Ha! Ha! What a wit will be lost to the
silly world when it permits itself to lose me.)

"Well, to return to the sheep, as the European proverb has it. I was
born here in Gungapur, which will also have honour of being my
death-and-cremation place, of poor but honest parent on thirty rupees a
mensem. He was very clever fellow and sent five sons to Primary School,
Middle School, High School and Gungapur Government College at cost of
over hundred rupees a month, all out of his thirty rupees a mensem. He
always used proverb 'Politeness lubricates wheels of life and palm
also,' and he obliged any man who made it worth his while. But he fell
into bad odours at hands of Mr. Spensonly owing to folly of
bribing-fellow sending cash to office and the letter getting into Mr.
Spensonly's post-bag and opening by mistake.

"But the Sahib took me up into his office to soften blow to progenitor
and that shows he was a bad man or his luck would not have been to take
me in and give chance to murder him.

"My good old paternal parent made me work many hours each night, and
though he knew nothing of the subjects he could read English and would
hear all my lessons and other brothers', and we had to say Skagger Rack,
Cattegat, Scaw Fell and Helvellyn, and such things to him, and he would
abuse us if we mis-arranged the figures and letters in CaH2O2 and
H2SO4 and all those things in bottles. Before the Matriculation
Examination he made a Graduate, whom he had got under his thumb-nail,
teach us all the answers to all the back questions in all subjects till
we knew them all by heart, and also made us learn ten long essays by
heart so as to make up the required essay out of parts of them. He
nearly killed my brother by starvation (saving food as well as punishing
miscreant) for failing--the only one of us who ever failed in any
examination--which he did by writing out all first chapter of Washington
Irving for essay, when the subject was 'Describe a sunrise in the
Australian back-blocks'. As parent said, he could have used 'A moonlight
stroll by the sea-shore' and change the colour from silver to golden.
But the fool was ill--so ill that he tried to kill himself and had not
the strength. He said he would rather go to the missionaries' hell, full
of Englishes, than go on learning _Egbert, Ethelbald, Ethelbert,
Ethelwulf, Ethelred, Alfred, Edward the Elder, Edred, Edwy, Edgar,
Ethelred the Unready_, and _If two triangles have two sides of the one
equal to two angles of the other each to each and the sides so subtended
equal then shall the bases or fourth sides be equal each to each or be
isosceles_.

"Well, the progenitor kept our noses in the pie night and day and we all
hated the old papa piously and wished he and we and all teachers and
text-books were burned alive.

"But we were very much loved by everybody as we were so learned and
clever, and whenever the Collector or anybody came to School, the Head
Master used to put one of us in each room and call on us to answer
questions and recite and say capes and bays without the map, and other
clever things; and when my eldest brother left I had to change coat with
another boy and do it twice sometimes, in different rooms.

"Sometimes the Educational Inspector himself would come, but then
nothing could be done, for he would not ask questions that were always
asked and were in the book, like the teachers and Deputy Inspectors did,
but questions that no one knew and had to be thought out then and there.
That is no test of Learning--and any fool who has not troubled to mug
his book by heart might be able to answer such questions, while the man
who had learnt every letter sat dumb.

"I hated the school and the books I knew by heart, but I loved Mr.
Ganeshram Joshibhai. He was a clever cunning man, and could always tweak
the leg of pompous Head Master when he came to the room, and had
beautiful ways of cheating him when he came to examine--better than
those of the other teachers.

"Before we had been with him a month he could tell us things while being
examined, and no one else knew he was doing it. The initial letters of
each word made up the words he wanted to crib to us, and when he
scratched his head with the right hand the answer was 'No,' while with
the left hand it was 'Yes'. And the clever way he taught us sedition
while teaching us History, and appearing to praise the English!

"He would spend hours in praising the good men who rebelled and fought
and got Magnum Charter and disrespected the King and cheeked the
Government and Members of Council. We knew all about Oliver Cromwell,
Hampden, Pim, and those crappies, and many a boy who had never heard of
Wolsey and Alfred the Great knew all about Felton the jolly fine patriot
who stabbed the Member of Council, Buckingham Esquire, in back.

"We learnt whole History book at home and he spent all History lessons
telling us about Plots, all the English History Plots and foreign too,
and we knew about the man who killed Henry of Navarre, as well as about
the killing of French and American Presidents of to-day. He showed
always why successful plots succeeded and the others failed. And he gave
weeks to the American Independence War and the French Revolution.

"And all the Indian History was about the Mutiny and how and why it
failed, when he was not showing us how the Englishes have ruined and
robbed India, and comparing the Golden Age of India (when no cow ever
died and there was never famine, plague, police nor taxes) with the
miserable condition of poor bleeding India to-day.

"He was a fine fellow and so clever that we were almost his worshippers.
But I am not writing his autobiography but my own, so let him lapse
herewith into posterity and well-merited oblivious.

"At the College when we could work no longer, we who had never learnt
crickets and tennis and ping-pongs, would take a nice big lantern with
big windows in four sides of it, and sit publicly in the middle of the
grass at the Gardens (with our books for a blind) and make speech to
each other about Mother India and exhort each other to join together in
a secret society and strike a blow for the Mother, and talk about the
heroes who had died on the scaffolding for her, or who were languishing
in chokey and do _poojah_ to their photos. But the superior members did
no _poojah_ to anything. Then came the Emissary in the guise of a holy
man (and I thought it the most dangerous disguise he could have assumed,
for I wonder the police do not arrest every sannyasi and fakir on
suspicion) and brought us the Message. And he took us to hear the blind
Mussulman they call Ilderim the Weeper.

"All was ready and nothing lacked but the Instrument.

"Would any of us achieve eternal fame and undying glory by being the
next Instrument?

"We wouldn't. No jolly fear, and thanks awfully.

"But we agreed to make a strike at the College and to drop a useless
Browning pistol where it would be found, and in various other ways to be
unrestful. And one of us, whom the Principal would not certify to sit
for his F.E. and was very stony hard-up, joined the Emissary and went
away with him to be a Servant and perhaps an Instrument later on (if he
could not get a girl with a good dowry or a service of thirty rupees a
mensem), he was so hungry and having nothing for belly.

"Yes, as Mr. Ganeshram Joshibhai used to say, that is what the British
Government does for you--educates you to be passed B.A. and educated
gent., and then grudges to give you thirty rupees a mensem and expects
you to go searching for employment and food to put in belly! Can B.A.
work with hands like _maistri_?

"Then there came the best of all my friends, a science-knowing gentleman
who gave all his great talents to bomb. And the cream of all the milky
joke was that he had learnt all his science free, from Government, at
school and college, and he not only used his knowledge to be first-class
superior anarchist but he got chemicals from Government own laboratory.

"His brother was in Government Engineering College and between them they
did much--for one could make the bomb and the other could fill it.

"But they are both to be hanged at the same time that I am, and I do not
grudge that I am to be innocently hanged for their plot and the blowing
up of the _bhangi_ by mistake for the Collector, for I have long aspired
to be holy martyr in Freedom's sacred cause and have photo in newspapers
and be talked about.

"Besides, as I have said, I am not being done brown, as I murdered Mr.
Spensonly, the Engineer.

"How I hated him!

"Why should he be big and strong while I am skinny and feeble--owing to
night-and-day burning midnight candle at both ends and unable to make
them meet?

"Besides did he not bring unmerited dishonour on grey hairs of poor old
progenitor by finding him out in bribe-taking? Did he not bring my
honoured father's aforesaying grey hairs in sorrow to reduced pension?

"Did he not upbraid and rebuke, nay, reproach me when I made grievous
little errors and backslippers?

"A thousand times Yea.

"But I should never have murdered him had I not caught the Plague, so
out of evil cometh good once more.

"The Plague came to Gungapur in its millions and we knew not what to do
but stood like drowning man splitting at a straw.

"Superstitious Natives said it was the revenge of Goddess Kali for not
sacrificing, and superstitious Europeans said it was a microbe created
by their God to punish unhygienic way of living.

"Knowing there are no gods of any sort I am in a position to state that
it was just written on our foreheads.

"To make confusion worse dumbfounded the Government of course had to
seize horns of dilemma and trouble the poor. They had all cases taken to
hospital and made segregation and inspection camps. They disinfected
houses and burnt rags and even purdah women were not allowed to die in
bosom of family. Of course police stole lakhs of rupees worth of clothes
and furniture and said it was infected. And many good men who were
enemies of Government were falsely accused of being plague-stricken and
were dragged to hospital and were never seen again.

"Terrible calamities fell upon our city and at last it nearly lost me
myself. I was seized, dragged from my family-bosom, cast into hospital
and cured. And in hospital I learned from fellow who was
subordinate-medical that rats get plague in sewers and cesspools and
when they die of it their fleas must go elsewhere for food, and so hop
on to other rat and give that poor chap plague too, by biting him with
dirty mouths from dead rat, and then he dies and so _in adfinitum_, as
the poet has it. But suppose no other rat is handy, what is poor hungry
flea to do? When you can't get curry, eat rice! When flea can't get rat
he eats man--turns to nastier food. (He! He!)

"So when flea from plague-stricken rat jumps on to man and bites him,
poor fellow gets plague--_bus_.[58]

  [58] Finale, enough, the end.

"Didn't friends and family-members skeddaddle and bunk when they saw rat
after I told them all that! But I didn't care, I had had plague once,
and one cannot get it twice. Not one man in thousand recovers when he
has got it, but I did. Old uneducated fool maternal parent did lots of
thanks-givings and _poojah_ because gods specially attentive to me--but
I said 'Go to, old woman. It was written on forehead.'

"And when I returned to work, one day I had an idea--an idea of how to
punish Mr. Spensonly for propelling honoured parent head first out of
job, and idea for striking blow at British prestige. We had our office
in private bungalow in those days before new Secretariat was built, and
it was unhealthy bungalow in which no one would live because they died.

"Mr. Spensonly didn't care, and he had office on top floor, but bottom
floor was clerks' office who went away at night also. Now it was my
painful duty to go every morning up to his office-room and see that peon
had put fresh ink and everything ready and that the _hamal_ had dusted
properly. So it was not long before I was aware that all the drawers
were locked except the top right-hand drawer, and that was not used as
there was a biggish hole in the front of it where the edge was broken
away from the above, some miscreant having once forced it open with
tool.

"And verily it came to pass that one day, entering my humble abode-room,
I saw a plague-rat lying suffering from _in extremis_ and about to give
up ghost. But having had plague I did not trouble about the fleas that
would leave his body when it grew stiff and cold, in search of food.
Instead I let it lie there while my food was being prepared, and
regretted that it was not beneath the chair of some enemy of mine who
had not had plague, instead of beneath my own ... that of Mr. Spensonly
for example!...

"It was Saturday night. I returned to the office that evening, knowing
that Mr. Spensonly was out; and I went to his office-room with idle
excuse to the peon sitting in verandah--and in my pocket was poor old
rat kicking bucket fast.

"Who was to say _I_ put deceasing rat in the Sahib's table-drawer just
where he would come and sit all day--being in the habit of doing work on
Sunday the Christian holy day (being a man of no religion or caste)?
What do I know of rats and their properties when at death's front door?

"Cannot rat go into a Sahib's drawer as well as into poor man's? If he
did no work on Sunday very likely the fleas would remain until Monday,
the rat dying slowly and remaining warm and not in _rigour mortuis_.
Anyhow when they began to seek fresh fields and pastures new, being fed
up with old rat--or rather not able to get fed up enough, they would be
jolly well on the look out, and glad enough to take nibble even at an
Englishman! (He! He!) So I argued, and put good old rat in drawer and
did slopes. On Monday, Mr. Spensonly went early from office, feeling
feverish; and when I called, as in duty bound, to make humble inquiries
on Tuesday, he was reported jolly sickish with Plague--and he died
Tuesday night. I never heard of any other Sahib dying of Plague in
Gungapur except one missionary fellow who lived in the native city with
native fellows.

"So they can hang me for share in bomb-outrage and welcome (though I
never threw the bomb nor made it, and only took academic interest in
affair as I told the Judge Sahib)--for I maintain with my dying breath
that it was I who murdered Mr. Spensonly and put tongue in cheeks when
_Gungapur Gazette_ wrote column about the unhealthy bungalow in which he
was so foolish as to have his office. When I reflect that by this time
to-morrow I shall be Holy Martyr I rejoice and hope photo will be good
one, and I send this message to all the world--

"'Oh be....'"

       *       *       *       *       *

Neither Mr. nor Mrs. Gosling-Green, M.P., liked this Pathan gentleman so
well after reading his letter and enclosure. Before long they liked him
very much less--although they did not know it--which sounds cryptic.



§ 5. MR. HORACE FAGGIT.


"Fair cautions, ain't they, these bloomin' niggers," observed Mr. Horace
Faggit, as the train rested and refreshed itself at a wayside station on
its weary way to distant Gungapur.

Colonel Wilberforce Wriothesley, of the 99th Baluch Light Infantry,
apparently did not feel called upon to notice the remark of Horace, whom
he regarded as a Person.

"Makes you proud to think you are one of the Ruling Rice to look at the
silly blighters, don't it?" he persisted.

"No authority on rice," murmured the Colonel, without looking up from
his book.

Stuffy old beggar he seemed to the friendly and genial Horace, but
Horace was too deeply interested in India and Horace to be affected by
trifles.

For Mr. Horace Faggit had only set foot in his Imperial Majesty the King
Emperor's Indian Empire that month, and he was dazed with impressions,
drunk with sensations, and uplifted with pride. Was he not one of the
Conquerors, a member of the Superior Society, one of the Ruling Race,
and, in short, a Somebody?

The train started again and Horace sank back upon the long couch of the
unwonted first-class carriage, and sighed with contentment and
satisfaction.

How different from Peckham and from the offices of the fine old British
Firm of Schneider, Schnitzel, Schnorrer & Schmidt! A Somebody at
last--after being office-boy, clerk, strap-hanger, gallery-patron,
cheap lodger, and paper-collar wearer. A Somebody, a Sahib, an English
gent., one of the Ruling and Upper Class after being a fourpenny
luncher, a penny-'bus-and-twopenny--tuber, a waverer 'twixt Lockhart and
Pearce-and-Plenty.

For him, now, the respectful salaam, precedence, the first-class
carriage, the salutes of police and railway officials, hotels, a servant
(elderly and called a "Boy"), cabs (more elderly and called "gharries"),
first-class refreshment and waiting rooms, a funny but imposing
sun-helmet, silk and cotton suits, evening clothes, deference, regard
and prompt attention everywhere. Better than Peckham and the City, this!
My! What tales he'd have to tell Gwladwys Gwendoline when he had
completed his circuit and returned.

For Mr. Horace Faggit, plausible, observant, indefatigably cunning, and
in business most capable ("No bloomin' flies on 'Orris F." as he would
confidently and truthfully assure you) was the first tentative tentacle
advanced to feel its way by the fine old British Firm of Schneider,
Schnitzel, Schnorrer & Schmidt, in the mazy markets of the gorgeous
Orient, and to introduce to the immemorial East their famous jewellery
and wine of Birmingham and Whitechapel respectively; also to introduce
certain exceeding-private documents to various gentlemen of Teutonic
sympathies and activities in various parts of India--documents of the
nature of which Horace was entirely ignorant.

And the narrow bosom of Horace swelled with pride, as he realized that,
here at least, he was a Gentleman and a Sahib.

Well, he'd let 'em know it too. Those who did him well and pleased him
should get tips, and those who didn't should learn what it was to earn
the displeasure of the Sahib and to evoke his wrath. And he would
endeavour to let all and sundry see the immeasurable distance and
impassable gulf that lay between a Sahib and a nigger--of any degree
whatsoever.

This was the country to play the gentleman in and no error! You _could_
fling your copper cash about in a land where a one-and-fourpenny piece
was worth a hundred and ninety-two copper coins, where you could get a
hundred good smokes to stick in your face for about a couple of bob, and
where you could give a black cabby sixpence and done with it. Horace had
been something of a Radical at home (and, indeed, when an office-boy, a
convinced Socialist), especially when an old-age pension took his lazy,
drunken old father off his hands, and handsomely rewarded the aged
gentleman for an unswervingly regular and unbroken career of
post-polishing and pub-pillaring. But now he felt he had been mistaken.
Travel widens the horizon and class-hatred is only sensible and
satisfactory when you are no class yourself. When you have got a
position you must keep it up--and being one of the Ruling Race was a
position undoubtedly. Horace Faggit _would_ keep it up too, and let 'em
see all about it.

The train entered another station and drew in from the heat and glare to
the heat and comparative darkness.

Yes, he would keep up his position as a Sahib haughtily and with
jealousy,--and he stared with terrible frown and supercilious hauteur at
what he mentally termed a big, fat buck-nigger who dared and presumed
to approach the carriage and look in. The man wore an enormous white
turban, a khaki Norfolk jacket, white jodhpore riding-breeches that
fitted the calf like skin, and red shoes with turned-up pointed toes.
His beard was curled, and his hair hung in ringlets from his turban to
his shoulders in a way Horace considered absurd. Could the blighter be
actually looking to see whether there might be room for him, and
meditating entry? If so Horace would show him his mistake. Pretty thing
if niggers were to get into First-Class carriages with Sahibs like
Horace!

"'Ere! What's the gaime?" he inquired roughly. "Can't yer see this is
Firs-Class, and if you got a Firs-Class ticket, can't yer see there's
two Sahibs 'ere? Sling yer 'ook, _sour_.[59] Go on, _jao!_"[60]

  [59] Pig.
  [60] Go away.

The man gave no evidence of having understood Horace.

"Sahib!" said he softly, addressing Colonel Wilberforce Wriothesley.

The Colonel went on reading.

"_Jao_, I tell yer," repeated Horace, rather proud of his grasp of the
vernacular. "Slope, _barnshoot_."[61]

  [61] An insulting epithet.

"Sahib!" said the man again.

The Colonel looked up and then sprang to his feet with outstretched
hand.

"_Bahut salaam_,[62] Subedar Major Saheb," he cried, and wrung the hand
of the "big fat buck-nigger" (who possessed the same medal-ribbons that
he himself did) as he poured forth a torrent of mingled Pushtu, Urdu,
and English while the Native Officer alternately saluted and pressed
the Colonel's hand to his forehead in transports of pure and wholly
disinterested joy.

  [62] Hearty greeting.

"They told me the Colonel Sahib would be passing through this week," he
said, "and I have met all the trains that I might look upon his face. I
am weary of my furlough and would rejoin but for my law-suit. Praise be
to Allah that I have met my Colonel Sahib," and the man who had five war
decorations was utterly unashamed of the tear that trickled.

"How does my son, Sahib?" he asked in Urdu.

"Well, Subedar Major Saheb, well. Worthily of his father--whose place in
the _pultan_ may he come to occupy."

"Praise be to God, Sahib! Let him no more seek his father's house nor
look upon his father's face again, if he please thee not in all things.
And is there good news of Malet-Marsac Sahib, O Colonel Sahib?" Then,
with a glance at Horace, he asked: "Why does this low-born one dare to
enter the carriage of the Colonel Sahib and sit? Truly the _rêlwêy
terain_ is a great caste-breaker! Clearly he belongs to the class of the
_ghora-log_, the common soldiers." ...

"'Oo was that,--a Rajah?" inquired the astounded Horace, as the train
moved on.

"One of the people who keep India safe for you bagmen," replied the
Colonel, who was a trifle indignant on behalf of the insulted Subedar
Major Mir Daoud Khan Mir Hafiz Ullah Khan of the 99th Baluch Light
Infantry.

"No doubt he thought I was another officer," reflected Horace. "They
think you're a gent, if you chivvy 'em."

At Umbalpur Colonel Wilberforce Wriothesley left the train and Mr.
Faggit had the carriage to himself--for a time.

And it was only through his own firmness and proper pride that he had it
to himself for so long, for at the very next station a beastly little
brute of a black man actually tried to get in--in with _him_, Mr. Horace
Faggit of the fine old British Firm of Schneider, Schnitzel, Schnorrer &
Schmidt, manufacturers of best quality Birmingham jewellery and
"importers" of a fine Whitechapel wine.

But Horace settled _him_ all right and taught him to respect Sahibs. It
happened thus. Horace lay idly gazing at the ever-shifting scene of the
platform in lordly detachment and splendid isolation, when, just as the
train was starting, a little fat man, dressed in a little red turban
like a cotton bowler, a white coat with a white sash over the shoulder,
a white apron tucked up behind, pink silk socks, and patent leather
shoes, told his servant to open the door. Ere the stupefied Horace could
arise from his seat the man was climbing in! The door opened inwards
however, and Horace was in time to give it a sharp thrust with his foot
and send the little man, a mere Judge of the High Court, staggering
backwards on to the platform where he sprawled at full length, while his
turban, which Horace thought most ridiculous for a grown man, rolled in
the dust. Slamming the door the "Sahib" leant out and jeered, while the
insolent presumptuous "nigger" wiped the blood from his nose with a
corner of the _dhoti_ or apron-like garment (which Horace considered
idiotic if not improper)....

But Homer nodded, and--Horace went to sleep.

When he awoke he saw by the dim light of the screened roof-lamp that he
was not alone, and that on the opposite couch a _native_ had actually
made up a bed with sheets, blankets and pillow, undressed himself, put
on pyjamas and gone to bed! Gord streuth, he had! He'd attend to him in
the morning--though it would serve the brute right if Horace threw him
out at the next station--without his kit. But he looked rather large,
and Mercy is notoriously a kingly attribute.

In the morning Mir Jan Rah-bin-Ras el-Isan Mir Ilderim Dost Mahommed of
Mekran Kot, Gungapur, and the world in general, awoke, yawned, stretched
himself and arose.

He arose to some six feet and three inches of stature, and his thin
pyjamasuit was seen to cover a remarkably fine and robustious
figure--provided with large contours where contours are desirable, and
level tracts where such are good. As he lay flat back again, Horace
noted that his chest rose higher than his head and the more southerly
portion of his anatomy, while the action of clasping his hands behind
his neck brought into prominence a pair of biceps that strained their
sleeves almost to bursting. He was nearly as fair as London-bred Horace,
but there were his turbanned conical hat, his curly toed shoes, his long
silk coat, his embroidered velvet waistcoat and other wholly Oriental
articles of attire. Besides, his vest was of patterned muslin and he had
something on a coloured string round his neck.

"What are you doing 'ere?" demanded Horace truculently, as this bold
abandoned "native" caught his eye and said "Good-morning".

"At present I am doing nothing," was the reply, "unless passive
reclining may count as being something. I trust I do not intrude or
annoy?"

"You do intrude and likewise you do annoy also. I ain't accustomed to
travel with blacks, and I ain't agoing to have you spitting about 'ere.
You got in when I was asleep."

"You were certainly snoring when I got in, and I was careful not to
awaken you--but not on account of any great sensation of guilt or fear.
I assure you I have no intention of spitting or being in any way rude,
unmannerly, or offensive. And since you object to travelling with
'blacks' I suggest--that you leave the carriage."

Did Horace's ears deceive him? Did he sleep, did he dream, and were
visions about? _Leave the carriage_?

"Look 'ere," he shouted, "you keep a civil tongue in your 'ead. Don't
you know I am a gentleman? What do you mean by getting into a
first-class carriage with a gentleman and insulting 'im? Want me to
throw you out before we reach a station? Do yer?"

"No, to tell you the truth I did not realize that you are a
gentleman--and I have known a great number of English gentlemen in
England and India, and generally found them mirrors of chivalry and the
pink of politeness and courtesy. And I hope you won't try to throw me
out either in a station or elsewhere for I might get annoyed and hurt
you."

What a funny nigger it was! What did he mean by "mirrors of chivalry".
Talked like a bloomin' book. Still, Horace would learn him not to
presoom.

The presumptuous one retired to the lavatory; washed, shaved, and
reappeared dressed in full Pathan kit. But for this, there was nothing
save his very fine physique and stature to distinguish him from an
inhabitant of Southern Europe.

Producing a red-covered official work on Mounted Infantry Training, he
settled down to read.

Horace regretted that India provided not his favourite _Comic Cuts and
Photo Bits_.

"May I offer you a cigarette and light one myself?" said the "black" man
in his quiet cultured voice.

"I don't want yer fags--and I don't want you smoking while I got a empty
stummick," replied the Englishman.

Anon the train strolled into an accidental-looking station with an air
of one who says, "Let's sit down for a bit--what?" and Horace sprang to
the window and bawled for the guard.

"'Ere--ask this native for 'is ticket," he said, on the arrival of that
functionary. "Wot's 'e doing in 'ere with _me_?"

"Ticket, please?" said the guard--a very black Goanese.

The Pathan produced his ticket.

"Will you kindly see if there is another empty first-class carriage,
Guard?" said he.

"There iss one next a'door," replied the guard.

"Then you can escape from your unpleasant predicament by going in there,
Sir," said the Pathan.

"I shall remine where I ham," was the dignified answer.

"And so shall I," said the Pathan.

"Out yer go," said the bagman, rising threateningly.

"I am afraid I shall have to put you to the trouble of ejecting me,"
said the Pathan, with a smile.

"I wouldn't bemean myself," countered Horace loftily, and didn't.

"One often hears of the dangerous classes in India," said the Pathan, as
the train moved on again. "You belong to the most dangerous of all. You
and your kind are a danger to the Empire and I have a good mind to be a
public benefactor and destroy you. Put you to the edge of the sword--or
rather of the tin-opener," and he pulled his lunch-basket from under the
seat.

"Have some chicken, little Worm?" he continued, opening the basket and
preparing to eat.

"Keep your muck," replied Horace.

"No, no, little Cad," corrected the strange and rather terrible person;
"you are going to breakfast with me and you are going to learn a few
things about India--and yourself."

And Horace did....

"Where are you going?" asked the Pathan person later.

"I'm going to work up a bit o' trade in a place called Gungerpore," was
the reply of the cowed Horace.

But in Gungapur Horace adopted the very last trade that he, respectable
man, ever expected to adopt--that of War.



CHAPTER IV.

"MEET AND LEAVE AGAIN."

    "So on the sea of life, Alas!
    Man nears man, meets and leaves again."



§ 1.


It had come. Ross-Ellison had proved a true prophet (and was to prove
himself a true soldier and commander of men).

Possibly the most remarkable thing about it was the quickness and
quietness, the naturalness and easiness with which it had come. A week
or two of newspaper forecast and fear, a week or two of recrimination
and feverish preparation, an ultimatum--England at war. The navy
mobilized, the army mobilizing, auxiliaries warned to be in readiness,
overseas battalions, batteries and squadrons recalled, or
re-distributed, reverses and "regrettable incidents,"--and outlying
parts of India (her native troops massed in the North or doing
garrison-duty overseas) an archipelago of safety-islands in a sea of
danger; Border parts of India for a time dependent upon their various
volunteer battalions for the maintenance, over certain areas, of their
civil governance, their political organization and public services.

In Gungapur, as in a few other Border cities, the lives of the European
women, children and men, the safety of property, and the continuance of
the local civil government depended for a little while upon the local
volunteer corps.

Gungapur, whose history became an epitome of that of certain other
isolated cities, was for a few short weeks an intermittently besieged
garrison, a mark for wandering predatory bands composed of _budmashes_
outlaws, escaped convicts, deserters, and huge mobs drawn from that
enormous body of men who live on the margin of respectability, peaceful
cultivator today, bloodthirsty dacoit to-morrow, wielders of the spade
and mattock or of the _lathi_ and _tulwar_[63] according to season,
circumstance, and the power of the Government; recruits for a mighty
army, given the leader and the opportunity--the hour of a Government's
danger.

  [63] Quarter-staff and sword.

As had been pointed out, time after time, in the happy and
happy-go-lucky past, the practical civilian seditionist and active
civilian rebel is more fortunately situated in India than is his foreign
brother, in that his army exists ready to hand, all round him, in the
thousands of the desperately poor, devoid of the "respectability" that
accompanies property, thousands with nothing to lose and high hopes of
much to gain, heaven-sent material for the agitator.

Thanks to the energy of Colonel John Robin Ross-Ellison, his unusual
organizing ability, his personality, military genius and fore-knowledge
of what was coming, Gungapur suffered less than might have been expected
in view of its position on the edge of a Border State of
always-doubtful friendliness, its large mill-hand element, and the
poverty and turbulence of its general population.

The sudden departure of the troops was the sign for the commencement of
a state of insecurity and anxiety which quickly merged into one of
danger and fear, soon to be replaced by a state of war.

From the moment that it was known for certain that the garrison would be
withdrawn, Colonel Ross-Ellison commenced to put into practice his
projected plans and arrangements. On the day that Mr. Dearman's coolies
(after impassioned harangues by a blind Mussulman fanatic known as
Ibrahim the Weeper, a faquir who had recently come over the Border to
Gungapur and attained great influence; and by a Hindu professional
agitator who had obtained a post at the mills in the guise of a harmless
clerk) commenced rioting, beat Mr. Dearman to death with crowbars,
picks, and shovels, murdered all the European and Eurasian employees,
looted all that was worth stealing, and, after having set fire to the
mills, invaded the Cantonment quarter, burning, murdering,
destroying,--Colonel Ross-Ellison called out his corps, declared martial
law, and took charge of the situation, the civil authorities being dead
or cut off in the "districts".

The place which he had marked out for his citadel in time of trouble was
the empty Military Prison, surrounded by a lofty wall provided with an
unassailable water-supply, furnished with cook-houses, infirmary,
work-shop, and containing a number of detached bungalows (for officials)
in addition to the long lines of detention barracks.

As soon as his men had assembled at Headquarters he marched to the
place and commenced to put it in a state of defence and preparation for
a siege.

While Captain Malet-Marsac and Captain John Bruce (of the Gungapur
Engineering College) slaved at carrying out his orders in the Prison,
other officers, with picked parties of European Volunteers, went out to
bring in fugitives, to commandeer the contents of provision and grain
shops, to drive in cattle, to seize cooks, sweepers and other servants,
to shoot rioters and looters in the Cantonment area, to search for
wounded and hidden victims of the riot, to bury corpses, extinguish
fires, penetrate to European bungalows in the city and in outlying
places, to publish abroad that the Military Prison was a safe refuge, to
seize and empty ammunition shops and toddy shops, to mount guards at the
railway-station, telegraph office, the banks, the gate-house of the
great Jail, the Treasury and the Kutcherry,[64] and generally, to use
their common sense and their rifles as the situation demanded.

  [64] Collector's Court and Office.

Day by day external operation became more restricted as the mob grew
larger and bolder, better armed and better organized, daily augmented
and assisted from without. The last outpost which Colonel Ross-Ellison
withdrew was the one from the railway-station, and that was maintained
until it was known that large bridges had been blown up on either side
and the railway rendered useless. In the Jail gate-house he established
a strong guard under the Superintendent, and urged him to use it
ruthlessly, to kill on the barest suspicion of mutiny, and to welcome
the first opportunity of giving the sharpest of lessons.

In this matter he set a personal example and behaved, to actual rioters,
with what some of his followers considered unnecessary severity, and
what others viewed as wise war-ending firmness.

When remonstrated with by Mr. Cornelius Gosling-Green (caught, alas!
with his admirable wife in this sudden and terrible maelstrom), for
shooting, against the Prison wall, a squad of armed men caught by night
and under more than suspicious circumstances, within Cantonment limits,
he replied curtly and rudely:--

"My good little Gosling, I'd shoot _you_ with my own hand if you failed
me in the least particular--so stick to your drill and hope to become a
Corporal before the war is over".

The world-famous Mr. Cornelius Gosling-Green, M.P., hoping to become a
Corporal! Meanwhile he was less--a private soldier, doing four hard
drills a day--not to mention sentry-go and fatigues. Like Augustus
Clarence Percy Marmaduke Grobble, he grumbled bitterly--but he obeyed,
having been offered the hard choice of enrolment or exclusion.

"I'll have no useless male mouths here," had said Colonel Ross-Ellison.
"Enroll or clear out and take your chance. I'll look after your wife."

"But, my dear Sir...."

"'Sir' without the 'my dear,' please."

"I was about to say that I could--ah--assist, advise, sit upon your
councils, give you the benefit of my--er--experience, ..." the Publicist
had expostulated.

"Experience of war?"

"No--er--I----"

"Enroll or clear out--and when you have enrolled remember that you are
under martial law and in time of war."

A swift, fierce, masterful man, harsh and ruthless making war without
kid gloves--that it might end the sooner and be the longer remembered by
the survivors. The flag was to be kept flying in Gungapur, the women and
children were to be saved, all possible damage was to be inflicted on
the rebels and rioters, more particularly upon those who led and incited
them. The Gosling-Greens and Grobbles who could not materially assist to
this end could go, those who could thwart or hinder this end could die.

Gleams of humour enlivened the situation. Mrs. Gosling-Green (_née_ a
Pounding-Pobble, Superiora Pounding-Pobble, one of the Pounding-Pobbles
of Putney) was under the orders, very much under the orders, of the wife
of the Sergeant-Major, and early and plainly learnt that good woman's
opinion that she was a poor, feckless body and eke a fushionless, not
worth the salt of her porridge--a lazy slut withal.

Among the "awkward squads" enrolled when rioting broke out and the corps
seized the old Prison, were erstwhile grave and reverend seniors
learning to "stand up like a man an' look prahd o' yourself" at the
orders of the Sergeant-Major. Among them were two who had been Great
Men, Managers signing _per_ and _pro_, Heads of Departments, almost Tin
Gods, and one of them, alas, was at the mercy of a mere boy whom he had
detested and frequently "squashed" in the happy days of yore. The mere
boy (a cool, humorous, and somewhat vindictive person, one of the best
subalterns of the Corps and especially chosen by Colonel Ross-Ellison
when re-organizing the battalion after its disbandment) was giving his
close attention to the improvement of his late manager, a pompous, dull
and silly bureaucrat, even as his late manager had done for him.

"Now, Private Bulliton," he would urge, "_do_ learn which is your right
hand and which is your left. And _do_ stand up.... No--don't drop your
rifle when you are told to 'shoulder'. _That's_ better--we shall make
something of you yet. Head up, man, head up! Try and look fierce. Look
at Private Faggit--he'll be a Sergeant yet" ... and indeed Private
Horace Faggit was looking very fierce indeed, for he desired the blood
of these interfering villains who were hindering the development of the
business of the fine old British firm of Messrs. Schneider, Schnitzel,
Schnorrer & Schmidt and the commissions of their representative. Also he
felt that he was assisting at the making of history. 'Orace in a
bloomin' siege--Gorblimey!--and he, who had never killed anything bigger
than an insect in his life, lusted to know how it felt to shove your
bayonet into a feller or shoot 'im dead at short rynge. So Horace
drilled with alacrity and zest, paid close attention to
aiming-instruction and to such visual-training and distance-judging as
his officer, Captain John Bruce, could give him, and developed a
military aptitude surprising to those who had known him only as Horace
Faggit, Esquire, the tried and trusted Representative of the fine old
British Firm of Schneider, Schnitzel, Schnorrer & Schmidt.

To Captain Malet-Marsac, an unusually thoughtful, observant and
studious soldier, it was deeply interesting to see how War affected
different people how values changed, how the Great became exceeding
small, and the insignificant person became important. By the end of the
first month of what was virtually the siege of the Military Prison,
Horace Faggit, late office-boy, clerk, and bagman, was worth
considerably more than Augustus Grobble, late Professor of Moral
Philosophy; Cornelius Gosling-Green, late Publicist; Edward Jones, late
(alleged) Educationist, of Duri formerly; and a late Head of a
Department,--all rolled into one--a keen, dapper, self-reliant soldier,
courageous, prompt, and very bloodthirsty.

As he strolled up and down, supervising drills, went round the
sentry-posts by night, or marched at the head of a patrol, Captain
Malet-Marsac would reflect upon the relativity of things, the false
values of civilization, and the extraordinary devitalising and
deteriorating results of "education". When it came to vital issues,
elementals, stark essential manhood,--then the elect of civilization,
the chosen of education, weighed, was found not only wanting but largely
negligible. Where the highly "educated" was as good as the other he was
so by reason of his games and sports, his _shikar_, or his specialized
training--as in the case of the engineers and other physically-trained
men.

Captain John Bruce, for example, Professor of Engineering, was a soldier
in a few weeks and a fine one. In time of peace, a quiet, humorous, dour
and religious-minded man, he was now a stern disciplinarian and a
cunning foe who fought to kill, rejoicing in the carnage that taught a
lesson and made for earlier peace. The mind that had dreamed of
universal brotherhood and the Oneness of Humanity now dreamed of
ambushes, night-attacks, slaughterous strategy and magazine-fire on a
cornered foe.

Surely and steadily the men enclosed behind the walls of the old Prison
rose into the ranks of the utterly reliable, the indefatigable, the
fearless and the fine, or sank into those of the shifty, unhearty,
unreliable, and unworthy--save the few who remained steadily mediocre,
well-meaning, unsoldierly, fairly trustworthy--a useful second line, but
not to be sent on forlorn hopes, dangerous reconnoitring, risky
despatch-carrying, scouting, or ticklish night-work. One siege is very
like another--and Ross-Ellison's garrison knew increasing weariness,
hunger, disease and casualties.

Mrs. Dearman's conduct raised Colonel Ross-Ellison's love to a burning,
yearning devotion, and his defence of Gungapur became his defence of
Mrs. Dearman. For her husband she appeared to mourn but little--there
was little time to mourn--and, for a while, until sights, sounds and
smells became increasingly horrible, she appeared almost to enjoy her
position of Queen of the Garrison, the acknowledged Ladye of the
Officers and men of the Corps. Until she fell sick herself, she played
the part of amateur Florence Nightingale right well, going regularly
with a lamp--the Lady with the Lamp--at night through the hospital ward.
Captain John Bruce was the only one who was not loud in her praises,
though he uttered no dispraises. He, a dour and practical person,
thought the voyage with the Lamp wholly unnecessary and likely to awaken
sleepers to whom sleep was life; that lint-scraping would have been a
more useful employment than graciousness to the poor wounded; that a
woman, as zealous as Mrs. Dearman looked, would have torn up dainty
cotton and linen confections for bandages instead of wearing them; that
the Commandant didn't need all the personal encouragement and
enheartenment that she wished to give him--and many other uncomfortable,
cynical, and crabby thoughts. Captain Malet-Marsac loved her without
criticism.

Mrs. Cornelius Gosling-Green, after haranguing all and sundry,
individually and collectively, on the economic unsoundness, the illogic,
and the unsocial influence of War, took to her bed and stayed there
until she found herself totally neglected. Arising and demanding an
interview with the Commandant, she called him to witness that she
entered a formal protest against the whole proceedings and registered
her emphatic----until the Commandant, sending for Cornelius (whose
duties cut him off, unrepining, from his wife's society), ordered him to
remove her, silence her, beat her if necessary--and so save her from the
unpleasant alternative of solitary confinement on bread and water until
she could be, if not useful, innocuous.

Many a poor woman of humble station proved herself (what most women are)
an uncomplaining, unconsidered heroine, and more than one "subordinate"
of mixed ancestry and unpromising exterior, a brave devoted man. As
usual, what kept the flag flying and gave ultimate victory to the
immeasurably weaker side was the spirit, the personality, the force, the
power, of one man.

To Captain Malet-Marsac this was a revelation. Even to him, who knew
John Robin Ross-Ellison well, and had known and studied him for some
time at Duri and elsewhere, it was a wonderful thing to see how the
quiet, curious, secretive man (albeit a fine athlete, horseman and
adventurous traveller) stepped suddenly into the fierce light of supreme
command in time of war, a great, uncompromising, resourceful ruler of
men, skilful strategist and tactician, remarkable both as organizer,
leader, and personal fighter.

Did he _ever_ sleep? Night after night he penetrated into the city
disguised as a Pathan (a disguise he assumed with extraordinary skill
and which he strengthened by a perfect knowledge of many Border dialects
as well as of Pushtoo), or else personally led some night attack, sally,
reconnaissance or foraging expedition. Day after day he rode out on
Zuleika with the few mounted men at his command, scouting,
reconnoitring, gleaning information, attacking and slaughtering small
parties of marauders as occasion offered.

From him the professional soldier, his adjutant, learned much, and
wondered where his Commandant had learned all he had to teach. Captain
Malet-Marsac owned him master, his military as well as his official
superior, and grew to feel towards him as his immediate followers felt
toward Napoleon--to love him with a devoted respect, a respecting
devotion. He recognized in him the born guerrilla leader--and more, the
trained guerrilla leader, and wondered where on earth this strange
civilian had garnered his practical military knowledge and skill.

Wherever he went on foot, especially when he slipped out of the Prison
for dangerous spy-work among the forces of the mutineers, rebels,
rioters and _budmashes_ of the city, he was followed by his servant, an
African, concerning whom Colonel Ross-Ellison had advised the servants
of the Officers' Mess to be careful and also to bear in mind that he was
not a _Hubshi_. Only when the Colonel rode forth on horseback was he
separated from this man who, when the Colonel was in his room,
invariably slept across the door thereof.

On night expeditions, the Somali would be disguised, sometimes as a
leprous beggar, as stable-boy, again as an Arab, sometimes as a renegade
sepoy from a Native Border Levy, sometimes as a poor fisherman, again as
a Sidi boatman, he being, like his master, exceptionally good at
disguises of all kinds, and knowing Hindustani, Arabic, and his native
Somal dialect.

He was an expert bugler, and in that capacity stuck like a burr to the
Colonel by day, looking very smart and workmanlike in khaki uniform and
being of more than average usefulness with rifle and bayonet. Not until
after the restoration of order did Mr. Edward Jones, formerly of the
Duri High School, long puzzled as to where he had seen him before,
realize who he was.

       *       *       *       *       *

In a low dark room, dimly lighted that evening by wick-and-saucer
_butties_, squatted, lay, sat, stood and sprawled a curious collection
of scoundrels. The room was large, and round the four sides of it ran a
very broad, very low, and very filthy divan, intended for the rest and
repose of portly _bunnias_,[65] _seths_,[66] brokers, shopkeepers and
others of the commercial fraternity, what time they assembled to chew
pan and exchange lies and truths anent money and the markets. A very
different assembly now occupied its greasy lengths _vice_ the former
habitués of the _salon_, now dispersed, dead, robbed, ruined, held to
ransom, or cruelly blackmailed.

  [65] Dealers.
  [66] Money-lenders.

In the seat of honour (an extra cushion), sat the blind faquir who, with
his clerkly colleague, had set the original match to the magazine by
inciting the late Mr. Dearman's coolies. Apparently a relentless,
terrible fanatic and bitter hater of the English, for his councils were
all of blood and fire, rapine and slaughter, he taunted his hearers with
their supine cowardice in that the Military Prison still held out, its
handful of defenders still manned its walls, nay, from time to time,
made sallies and terrible reprisals upon a careless ill-disciplined
enemy.

"Were I but as other men! Had I but mine eyes!" he screamed, "I would
overwhelm the place in an hour. Hundreds to one you are--and you are
mocked, robbed, slaughtered."

A thin-faced, evil-looking, squint-eyed Hindu whose large, thick,
gold-rimmed goggles accorded ill with the sword that lay athwart his
crossed legs, addressed him in English.

"Easy to talk, Moulvie. Had you your sight you could perhaps drill and
arm the mob into an army, eh? Find them repeating rifles and ammunition,
find them officers, find them courage? Is it not? Yes."

"Hundreds to one, Babu," grunted the blind man, and spat.

"I would urge upon this august assemblee," piped a youthful weedy
person, "that recreemination is not argument, and that many words butter
no parsneeps, so to speak. We are met to decide as to whether the
treasure shall be removed to Pirgunge or still we keep it with us here
in view of sudden sallies of foes. I hereby beg to propose and my
honourable friend Mister----"

"Sit down, crow," said the blind faquir unkindly and there was a
snigger. "The treasure will be removed at once--this night, or I will
remove myself from Gungapur with all my followers--and go where deeds
are being done. I weary of waiting while pi-dogs yelp around the walls
they cannot enter. Cowards! Thousands to one--and ye do not kill two of
them a day. Conquer and slay them? Nay--rather must our own treasure be
removed lest some night the devil, in command there, swoop upon it,
driving ye off like sheep and carrying back with him----"

"Flesh and blood cannot face a machine-gun, Moulvie," said the
squint-eyed Hindu. "Even _your_ holy sanctity would scarcely protect you
from bullets. Come forth and try to-morrow."

"Nor can flesh and blood--such flesh and blood as Gungapur
provides--surround the machine-gun and rush upon it from flank and rear
of course," replied the blind man. "Do machine guns fire in all
directions at once? When they ran the accursed thing down to the
market-place and fired it into the armed crowd that listened to my
words, could ye not have fled by other streets to surround it? Had all
rushed bravely from all directions how long would it have fired? Even
thus, could more have died than did die? Scores they slew--and retired
but when they could fire no longer.... And ye allowed it to go because a
dozen men stood between it and you----," and again the good man spat.

"I do not say 'Sit down, crow' for thou art already sitting," put in a
huge, powerful-looking man, arrayed in a conical puggri-encircled cap,
long pink shirt over very baggy peg-top trousers, and a green waistcoat,
"but I weary of thy chatter Blind-Man. Keep thy babble for fools in the
market-place, where, I admit, it hath its uses. Remain our valued and
respected talker and interfere not with fighting men, nor criticize. And
say not 'The treasure will be removed this night,' nor anything else
concerning command. _I_ will decide in the matter of the treasure and I
prefer to keep it here under mine hand...."

"Doubtless," sneered the blind man. "Under thy hand--until, in the end,
it be found to consist of boxes of stones and old iron. Look you--the
treasure goes to-night or _I_ go, and certain others go with me. And
suppose I change my tune in the market-place, Havildar Nazir Ali Khan,
and say certain words concerning _thee_ and thy designs, give hints of
treachery--and where is the loud-mouthed Nazir Ali Khan?..." and his
blind eyes glared cold ferocity at the last speaker who handled his
sword and replied nothing.

The secret of the man's power was clear.

"The treasure will be removed to night," he repeated and a discussion of
limes, routes, escort and other details followed. A dispute arose
between the big man addressed as Havildar Nazir Ali Khan and a squat
broad-shouldered Pathan as to the distance and probable time that a
convoy, moving at the rate of laden bullock-carts, would take in
reaching Pirgunge.

The short thick-set Pathan turned for confirmation of his estimate to
another Pathan, grey-eyed but obviously a Pathan, nevertheless.

"I say it is five _kos_ and the carts should start at moonrise and
arrive before the moon sets."

"You are right, brother," replied the grey-eyed Pathan, who, for his own
reasons, particularly desired that the convoy should move by moonlight.
This individual had not spoken hitherto in the hearing of the blind
faquir, and, as he did so now, the blind man turned sharply in his
direction, a look of startled surprise and wonder on his face.

"Who spoke?" he snapped.

But the grey-eyed man arose, yawned hugely, and, arranging his puggri
and straightening his attire, swaggered towards the door of the room,
passed out into a high-walled courtyard, exchanged a few words with the
guardian of a low gateway, and emerged into a narrow alley where he was
joined by an African-looking camel-man.

The blind man, listening intently, sat motionless for a minute and then
again asked sharply:--

"Who spoke? Who spoke?"

"Many have spoken Pir Saheb," replied the squat Pathan.

"Who said '_You are right, brother_,' but now? Who? Quick!" he cried.

"Who? Why, 'twas one of us," replied the squat Pathan. "Yea, 'twas
Abdulali Habbibullah, the money-lender. I have known him long...."

"Let him speak again," said the blind man.

"Where is he? He has gone out, I think," answered the other.

"Call him back, Hidayetullah. Take others and bring him back. I must
hear his voice again," urged the faquir.

"He will come again, Moulvie Saheb, he is often here," said the short
man soothingly. "I know him well. He will be here to-morrow."

"See, Hidayetullah," said the blind faquir "when next he comes, say then
to me, 'May I bring thee tobacco, Pir Saheb,' if he be sitting near, but
say 'May I bring thee tobacco, Moulvie Saheb,' if he be sitting afar
off. If this, speak to him across the room that I may hear his voice in
answer, and call him by his name, Abdulali Habbibullah. And if I should,
on a sudden, cry out 'Hold the door,' do thou draw knife and leap to the
door...."

"A _spy_, Pir Saheb?" asked the interested man.

"That I shall know when next I hear his voice--and, if it be he whom I
think, thou shalt scrape the flesh from the bones of his face with thy
knife and put his eyeballs in his mouth. But he must not die. Nay! Nay!"

The Pathan smiled.

"Thou shalt hear his voice, Pir Saheb," he promised.

       *       *       *       *       *

An hour later the African-looking camel-man and the Pathan approached
the gates of the Military Prison and at a distance of a couple of
hundred yards the African imitated the cry of a jackal, the barking of a
dog and the call of the "Did-ye-do-it" bird.

Approaching the gate he whispered a countersign and was admitted, the
gate being then held open for the Pathan who followed him at a distance
of a hundred yards. Entering Colonel Ross-Ellison's room the Pathan
quickly metamorphosed himself into Colonel Ross-Ellison, and sent for
his Adjutant, Captain Malet-Marsac.

"Fifty of the best, with fifty rounds each, to parade at the gate in
half an hour," he said. "Bruce to accompany me, you to remain in command
here. All who can, to wear rubber-soled shoes, others to go barefoot or
bandage their boots with putties over cardboard or paper. No man likely
to cough or sneeze is to go. Luminous-paint discs to be served out to
half a dozen. No rations, no water,--just shirts, shorts and bandoliers.
Nothing white or light-coloured to be worn. Put a strong outpost, all
European, under Corporal Faggit on the hill, and double all guards and
sentries. Shove sentry-groups at the top of the Sudder Bazaar, West
Street and Edward Road.--_You_ know all about it.... I've got a good
thing on. There'll be a lot of death about to-night, if all goes well."

Half an hour later Captain Bruce called his company of fifty picked men
to "attention" as Colonel Ross-Ellison approached, the gate was opened
and an advance-guard of four men, with four flankers, marched out and
down the road leading to the open country. Two of these wore each a
large tin disc painted with luminous paint fastened to his back. When
these discs were only just visible from the gate a couple more
disc-adorned men started forth, and before their discs faded into the
darkness the remainder of the party "formed fours" and marched after
them, all save a section of fours which followed a couple of hundred
yards in the rear, as a rear-guard. In silence the small force advanced
for an hour, passed some cross-roads, and then Colonel Ross-Ellison,
who had joined the advance-guard, signalled a halt and moved away by
himself to the right of the road.

In the shadow of the trees, the moon having risen, Captain Bruce ordered
his men to lie down, announcing in a whisper that he would have the life
of anyone who made a sound or struck a match. This was known to be but
half in jest, for the Captain was a good disciplinarian and a man of his
word.

Save for the occasional distant bark of the village-dogs, the night was
very still. Sitting staring out into the moon-lit hazy dusk in the
direction in which his chief had disappeared, Captain John Bruce
wondered if he were really one of a band of armed men who hoped shortly
to pour some two and a half thousand bullets into other men, really a
soldier fighting and working and starving that the Flag might fly,
really a primitive fighting-man with much blood upon his hands and an
earnest desire for more--or whether he were not a respectable Professor
who would shortly wake, beneath mosquito-curtains, from a very dreadful
dream. How thin a veneer was this thing called Civilization, and how
unchanged was human nature after centuries and centuries of----

Colonel Ross-Ellison appeared.

"Bring twenty-five men and follow me. Hurry up," he said quietly, and, a
minute later, led the way from the high-road across country. Five
minutes marching brought the party, advancing in file, to the mouth of a
nullah which ran parallel with the road. Along this, Colonel
Ross-Ellison led them, and, when he gave the signal to halt, it was seen
that they were behind a high sloping bank within fifty yards of the
high-road.

"Now," said the Colonel to Captain John Bruce, "I'm going to leave you
here. Let your men lie below the top of the bank and if any man looks
over, till your command 'Up and fire,' kick his face in. You will peep
through that bit of bush and no one else will move. Do nothing until I
open fire from the other side. The moment I open fire, up your lot come
and do the same. Magazine, of course. The moon will improve as it rises
more. You'll fix bayonets and charge magazines now. I expect a pretty
big convoy--and before very long. Probably a mob all round a couple of
_bylegharies_[67] and a crowd following--everybody distrusting every
one, as it is treasure, looted from all round. Don't shoot the bullocks,
but I particularly want to kill a blind bloke who may be with 'em, so if
we charge, barge in too, and look out for a blinder and don't give him
any quarter--give him half instead--half your sword. He's a
ringleader--and I want him for auld lang syne too, as it happens. He
doesn't look blind at all, but he would be led.... Any questions?"

  [67] Bullock-carts.

"No, Sir. I'm to hide till you fire. Then fire, magazine, and charge if
you do. A blind man to be captured if possible. The bullocks not to be
shot, if possible."

"Eight O. Carry on," and the Colonel strode back to where the remaining
twenty-five waited, under a Sergeant. These he placed behind an old
stone wall that marked the boundary of a once-cultivated patch of land,
some forty yards from the road, to which the ground sloped sharply
downwards.

A nice trap if all went well.

All went exceeding well.

Within an hour and a half of the establishment of the ambush, the
creaking of ungreased wheels was heard and the loud nasal singing of
some jovial soul. Down the silent deserted road came three bullock-carts
piled high with boxes and escorted by a ragged regiment of ex-sepoys,
ex-police, mutineers, almost a battalion from the forces of the wild
Border State neighbouring Gungapur. A small crowd of variously armed
uniformless men preceded the escort and carts, while a large one
followed them.

No advance-guard nor flanking-parties guaranteed the force from ambush
or attack.

Suddenly, as the carts crossed a long culvert and the escort perforce
massed on to the road, instead of straggling on either side beneath the
trees, a voice said coolly in English "Up and fire," and as scores of
surprised faces turned in the direction of the voice the night was rent
with the crash of fifty rifles pouring in magazine fire at the rate of
fifteen rounds a minute. Magazine fire at less than fifty yards, into a
close-packed body of men. Scarcely a hundred shots were returned and, by
the time a couple of thousand rounds had been fired (less than three
minutes), and Colonel Boss-Ellison had cried "Ch-a-a-a-r-ge" there was
but little to charge and not much for the bayonet to do. Of the six
bullocks four were uninjured.

"Load as many boxes as you can on two carts, and leave half a dozen men
to bring them in. They'll have to take their chance. We must get back
_ek dum_,"[68] said Colonel Ross-Ellison.

  [68] At once.

Even as he spoke, the sound of distant firing fell upon the ears of the
party and the unmistakable stammer-hammer racket of the maxim.

"They're attacked, by Jove," he cried. "I thought it likely. There may
have been an idea that we should know something of this convoy and go
for it. All ready? Now a steady double. We'll double and quick-march
alternately. Double _march_."

       *       *       *       *       *

Near the Military Prison was a low conical hill, bare of vegetation and
buildings, a feature of the situation which was a constant source of
anxiety to Colonel Ross-Ellison, for he realized that life in the
beleaguered fortress would be very much harder, and the casualty rate
very much higher, if the enemy had the sense to occupy it in strength
and fire down into the Prison. Against this contingency he always
maintained a picket there at night and a special sentry to watch it by
day, and he had caused deep trenches to be dug and a covered way made in
the Prison compound, so that the fire-swept area could be crossed, when
necessary, with the minimum of risk. Until the night of the
convoy-sortie, however, the enemy had not had the ordinary common sense
to grasp the fact that the hill was the key of the situation and to
seize it.

"Bloomin' cold up 'ere, Privit Greens, wot?" observed Corporal Horace
Faggit to the famous Mr. Cornelius Gosling-Green, M.P., in kindly and
condescending manner, as he placed him back to back with Private
Augustus Grobble on the hill-top. "But you'll keep awake all the better
for that, me lad.... Now you other four men can go to sleep, see?
You'll lie right close up agin the feet o' Privits Greens an' Grabbles,
and when they've done their two hours, they'll jes' give two o' you a
kick and them two'll rise up an' take their plaices while they goes to
sleep. Then them two'll waike 'tother two, see? An' if hannyone
approaches, the sentry as is faicin' 'im will 'olleraht 'Alt! 'Oo comes
there?' an' if the bloke or blokes say, 'Friend,' then 'e'll say
'Hadvance one an' give the countersign,' and if he can't give no
countersign, then blow 'is bleedin' 'ead off, see?... Now _I_ shall
visit yer from time to time, an' let me find you spry an' smart with
yer,' _'Alt,' 'Oo comes there?_ see? An' if either sentry sees anythink
suspicious down below there--let 'im send the other sentry across fer me
over in the picket there, see? 'E'll waike up the others meanwhile an'
they'll all watch out till I comes and gives orders, see? An' if you're
attacked afore I come, then retire firing. Retire on the picket, see? We
won't shoot yer. Don't make a bloomin' blackguard-rush for the picket
though. Jest retire one by one firin' steady, see? Now I'm goin' back to
the picket. Ow! an' don' fergit the reconnoitrin' patrol. Don' go an'
shoot at 'em as they comes back. 'Alt 'em for the countersign as they
comes out, and 'alt 'em fer it agin as they comes in, see? Right O. Now
you keep yer eyes skinned, Greens and Grobbles."

Private Cornelius Gosling-Green, M.P., had never looked really
impressive even on the public platform in over-long frock-coat and
turned-down collar. In ill-fitting khaki, ammunition boots, a helmet
many sizes too big, and badly-wound putties, he looked an extremely
absurd object. Private Augustus Grobble looked a little more
convincing, inasmuch as his fattish figure filled his uniform, but the
habit of wearing his helmet on the back of his neck and a general
congenital unmilitariness of habit and bearing, operated against
success.

Two unhappier men rarely stood back to back upon a lonely, windy
hill-top. Both were very hungry, very sleepy and very cold, both were
essentially men of peace, and both had powerful imaginations--especially
of horrors happening to their cherished selves.

Both were dealers in words; neither was conversant with things, facts,
deeds, and all that lay outside their inexpressibly artificial and
specialized little spheres. Each had been "educated" out of physical
manliness, self-reliance, courage, practical usefulness, adaptability,
"grit" and the plain virile virtues.

Cornelius burned with a peevish indignation that he, writer of
innumerable pamphlets, speaker at innumerable meetings, organizer of
innumerable societies, compiler of innumerable statistics, author of
innumerable letters to the press, he, husband of the famous suffragist
worker, speaker, organizer and leader, Superiora Gosling-Green (a
Pounding-Pobble of the Pounding-Pobbles of Putney), that he, Cornelius
Gosling-Green, Esq., M.P., should be stuck there like a common soldier,
with a heavy and dangerous gun and a nasty sharp-pointed bayonet, to
stand and shiver while others slept. To stand, too, in a horribly
dangerous situation ... he had a good mind to resign in protest, to take
his stand upon his inalienable rights as a free Englishman. Who should
dare to coerce a Gosling-Green, Member of Parliament, of the Fabian
Society, and a hundred other "bodies". His Superiora did all the
coercing he wanted and more too. He would enter a formal protest and
tender his resignation. He had always, hitherto, been able to protest
and resign when things did not go as he wished.

He yawned, and again.

"I can see as well sitting or kneeling as I can standing," he remarked
to Private Augustus Grobble.

"It is a great physiological truth," replied Augustus, and they both sat
down, leaning against each other for warmth and support, back to back.

The soul of Augustus was filled with a melancholy sadness and a gentle
woe. To think that he, the loved of many beautiful Wimmin should be
suffering such hardships and running such risks. How his face was
falling in and how the wrinkles were gathering round his eyes. Some of
the beautiful and frail, of whom he thought when he gave his usual toast
after dinner, "To the Wimmin who have loved me," would hardly recognize
the fair boy over whom they had raved, whose poems they had loved, whose
hair, finger-nails, eyes, ties, socks and teeth they had complimented. A
cruel, cruel waste. But how rather romantic--the war-worn soldier! He
who knew his Piccadilly, Night Clubs, the theatres, the haunts of fair
women and brave men, standing, no--sitting, on a lonely hill-top
watching, watching, the lives of the garrison in his hands.... He would
return to those haunts, bronzed, lined, hardened--the man from the edge
of the Empire, from the back of Beyond, the man who had Done Things--and
talk of camp-fires, the trek, the Old Trail, smells of sea and desert
and jungle, and the man-stifled town, ... battle, ... brave deeds ...
unrecognized heroism ... a medal ... perhaps the ... and the nodding
head of Augustus settled upon his chest.

His deep breathing and occasional snores did not attract the attention
of Private Gosling-Green, as Private Gosling-Green was sound asleep. Nor
did they awaken the weary four who made up the sentry group--Edward
Jones, educationist; Henry Grigg, barber; Walter Smith, shopman;
Reginald Ladon Gurr, Head of a Department--and whose right it was to
sleep so long as two of the six watched.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Let there be no mistake then," said the burly Havildar Nazir Ali Khan
to one Hidayetulla, squat thick-set Pathan, "at the first shot from the
hill your party, ceasing to crawl, will rush upon the picket, and mine
will swoop upon the gate bearing the tins of kerosene oil, the faggots
and the brushwood. All those with guns will fire at the walls save the
Border State company who will reserve their fire till the gate is opened
or burnt down. The dogs within must either open it to extinguish the
fire, or it must burn. On their volley, all others will charge for the
gate with knife and sword. Do thou win the hill-top and keep up a heavy
fire into the Prison. There will be Lee-Metford rifles and ammunition
there ready for thy taking--ha-ha!"

"And if we are seen and fired on as we stalk the picket on the hill?"

"Then their first shot will, as I said, be the signal for your rush and
ours. Understandest thou?"

"I understand. 'Tis a good plan of the blind Moulvie's."

"Aye! He can _plan_,--and talk. We can go and be shot, and be blamed if
his plans miscarry," grumbled the big man, and added, "How many have
you?"

"About forty," was the reply, "and all Khost men save seven, of whom
four are Afghans of Cabul, two are Punjabis, and one a Sikh."

"Is it three hours since the treasure started? That was the time the
Moulvie fixed for the attack."

"It must be, perhaps," replied the other. "Let us begin. But what if the
hill be not held, or if we capture it with the knife, none firing a
shot?"

"Then get into good position, make little sungars where necessary, and,
all being ready, open fire into the Prison compound.... At the first
shot--whatever be thy luck--we shall rush in our thousands down the
Sudder Bazaar, West Street and Edward Street, and do as planned. Are thy
forty beneath the trees beyond the hill?"

"They are. I join them now," and the squat broad-shouldered figure
rolled away with swinging, swaggering gait.

Suddenly Private Augustus Grobble started from deep sleep to acutest
wide-eyed consciousness and was aware of a man's face peering over a
boulder not twenty yards from him--a hideous hairy face, surmounted by a
close-fitting skull-cap that shone greasy in the moonlight. The blood of
Augustus froze in his veins, he held his breath, his heart shook his
body, his tongue withered and dried. He closed his eyes as a wave of
faintness swept over him, and, as he opened them again, he saw that the
man was crawling towards him, and that between his teeth was a huge
knife. The terrible Pathan, the cruel dreadful stalker, the slashing
disemboweller was upon him!--and with a mighty effort he sprang to his
feet and fled for his life down the hill in the direction of the Prison.
His sudden movements awoke Private Green, who, in one scared glance, saw
a number of terrible forms arising from behind boulders and rushing
silently and swiftly towards him and his flying comrade. Leaping up he
fled after Grabble, running as he had never run before, and, even as he
leapt clear of the sleeping group, the wave of Pathans broke upon it and
with slash and stab assured it sound sleep for ever, all save Edward
Jones, who, badly wounded as he was, survived (to the later undoing of
Moussa Isa, murderer of a Brahmin boy).

Of the four Pathans who had surprised the sentry group, one, with a
passing slash that re-arranged the face of Reginald Ladon Gurr, sped on
after the flying sentries. But that the man was short and stout of build
and that the fugitives had a down-hill start, both would have died that
night. As it was, within ten seconds, a tremendous sweep of the heavy
blade of the long Khyber knife caused Private Gosling-Green to lose his
head completely and for the last time. Augustus Grobble, favoured of
fortune for the moment, took flying leaps that would have been
impossible to him under other circumstances, bounded and ran
unstumbling, gained the shadow of the avenue of trees, and with bursting
breast sped down the road, reached the gate, shouted the countersign
with his remaining breath, and was dragged inside by Captain Michael
Malet-Marsac.

"Well?" inquired he coldly of the gasping terrified wretch.

When he could do so, Augustus sobbed out his tale.

"Bugler, sound the alarm!" said the officer. "Sergeant of the Guard put
this man in the guard-room and keep him under arrest until he is sent
for," and, night-glasses in hand, he climbed one of the ladders leading
to the platform erected a few feet below the top of the well-loopholed
wall, just as a shot was fired and followed by others in rapid
succession on the hill whence Grobble had fled.

The shot was fired by Corporal Horace Faggit and so were the next four
as he rapidly emptied his magazine at the swiftly charging Pathans who
rose out of the earth on his first shot at the man he had seen wriggling
to the cover of a stone. As he fired and shouted, the picket-sentry did
the same, and, within a minute of Horace's first shot, ten rifles were
levelled at the spot where the rushing silent fiends had disappeared.
Within thirty yards of them were at least half a dozen men--and not a
glimpse of one to be seen.

"I got one, fer keeps, any'ow," said Horace in the silence that followed
the brief racket; "I see 'im drop 'is knife an' fall back'ards...."

Perfect silence--and then ... _bang_ ... and a man standing beside
Horace grunted, coughed, and scuffled on the ground.

"Get down! Get down! You fools," cried Horace, who was himself standing
up. "Wha's the good of a square sungar if you stands up in it? All
magazines charged? It's magazine-fire if there's a rush."....

Silence.

"Fire at the next flash, all of yer," he said, "an' look out fer a
rush." Adding, "Bli' me--'ark at 'em dahn below," as a burst of fire
and a pandemonium of yells broke out.

A yellow glare lit the scene, flickered on the sky, and even gave
sufficient light to the picket on the hill-top to see a wave of wild,
white-clad, knife-brandishing figures surge over the edge of the hill
and bear down upon them, to be joined, as they passed, by those who had
sunk behind stones at the picket's first fire.

"Stiddy," shrilled Horace. "Aim stiddy at the b----s. _Fire_," and again
the charging line vanished.

"Gone to earf," observed Horace in the silence. "Nah look aht for
flashes an' shoot at 'em...."

_Bang!_ and Horace lost a thumb and a portion of his left cheek, which
was in line with his left thumb as he sighted his rifle.

Before putting his left hand into his mouth he said, a little
unsteadily:--

"If I'm knocked aht you go on shootin' at flashes and do magazine-fire
fer rushes. If they gets in 'ere, we're tripe in two ticks."

Then he fainted for a while, came to, and felt much better. "Goo' job
it's the left fumb," he observed as he strove to re-charge his magazine.
The dull thud of bullet into flesh became a frequent sound. The last
observation that Horace made to the remnant of his men was:--

"Bli' me! they're all rahnd us now--like flies rahnd a fish-barrer. Dam'
swine!..."

       *       *       *       *       *

Firing steadily at the advancing mobs the street-end pickets retired on
the Prison and were admitted as the surging crowds amalgamated,
surrounded the walls, and opened a desultory fire at the loopholes and
such of the defenders as fired over the coping from ladders.

One detachment, with some show of military discipline and uniform,
arrayed itself opposite the gate and a couple of hundred yards from it,
lining the ditch of the road, and utilizing the cover and shadow of the
trees. Suddenly a large party, mainly composed of Mahsuds, and headed by
a very big powerful man, made a swift rush to the gate, each man bearing
a bundle of faggots or a load of cut brushwood, save two or three who
bore vessels of kerosene oil. With reckless courage and daring, they ran
the gauntlet of the loopholes and the fire from the wall-top, piled
their combustibles against the wooden gate, poured gallons of kerosene
over the heap, set fire to it, and fled.

The leaping flames spread and shot forth licking tongues and, in a few
minutes, the pile was a roaring crackling furnace.

The mob grew denser and denser toward the gate side of the Prison,
leaving the remaining portions of the perimeter thinly surrounded by
those who possessed firearms and had been instructed to shoot at
loopholes and at all who showed themselves over the wall. It was
noticeable to Captain Malet-Marsac that the ever-increasing mob opposite
the fire left a clear front to the more-or-less uniformed and
disciplined body that had taken up a position commanding the gate.

That was the game was it? Burn down the gate, pour in a tremendous fire
as the gate fell, and then let the mob rush in and do its devilmost....

What was happening on the hill-top? The picket must be holding whatever
force had attacked it, for no shots were entering the Prison compound
and the only casualties were among those at the loopholes and on the
ladders and platforms round the walls. How long would the gate last?
Absolutely useless to attempt to pour water on the fire. Even if it were
not certain death to attempt it, one might as well try to fly, as to
quench that furnace with jugs and _chatties_[69] of water.

  [69] Bowls.

There was nothing to be done. Every man who could use a rifle was at
loophole or embrasure, ammunition was plentiful, all non-combatants were
hidden. Every one understood the standing-orders in case of such an
emergency....

The gate was on fire. It was smoking on the inner side, warping,
cracking, little flames were beginning to appear tentatively, and
disappear again.

"_Now_ bugler!" said Captain Malet-Marsac, and Moussa Isa's _locum
tenens_ blew his only call--a series of long loud G's.... The gate
blazed, before long it would fall.... A hush fell upon the expectant
multitude without, the men of the more-or-less uniformed and disciplined
party raised their rifles, a big burly man bawled orders....

With a crash and leaping fountain of sparks the gate fell into the dying
fire, a mighty roar burst from the multitude, and a crashing fusillade
from the rifles of the uniformed men....

As their magazine-fire slackened, dwindled to a desultory popping, and
ceased, the mob with a howl of triumph surged forward to the gaping
gateway, trampled and scattered the glowing remnants of the fire,
swarmed yelling through, and--found themselves face to face with a
stout semicircular rampart of stone, earth and sandbags, which,
loopholed, embrasured and strongly manned, spanned the gateway in a
thirty-yard arc. From the centre of it, pointing at the entrance, looked
the maxim gun.

"_Fire_," shouted a voice, and in a minute the place was a shambles.
Before Maxim and Lee-Metford were too hot to touch, before the baffled
foe fell back, those who surged in through the gate climbed, not over a
wall of dead, but up on to a platform of dead, a plateau through which
ran a valley literally blasted out by the ceaseless maxim-fire....

And, as the less fanatical, less courageous, less bloodthirsty withdrew
and gathered without and to one side, where they were safe from that
terrible fire-belching rampart that was itself like the muzzle of some
gigantic thousand-barrelled machine-gun, they were aware, in their rear,
of a steady tramp of running feet and of the orders:--

"From the centre _extend_! At the enemy in front; fixed sights; _fire_,"
and of a withering hail of bullets.

Colonel Ross-Ellison had arrived in the nick of time. It was a "crowning
mercy" indeed, the beginning of the end, and when (a few days later),
over a repaired bridge, came a troop-train, gingerly advancing, the
battalion of British troops that it disgorged at Gungapur Road Station
found disappointingly little to do in a city of women, children, and
eminently respectable innocent, householders.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the hill-top, at dawn, Colonel Ross-Ellison and Captain Malet-Marsac
found all that was left of the picket and sentry-group,--of the latter,
three mangled corpses, the headless deserter, and a just-living man,
horribly slashed. It was Moussa Isa Somali who improvised a stretcher
and lifted this poor fellow on to it and tended him with the greatest
solicitude and faithful care. Was he not Jones Sahib who at Duri gave
him the knife wherewith he cleansed his honour and avenged his insulted
People?

Of the picket, nine lay dead and one dying. Of the dead, one had his
lower jaw neatly and cleanly removed by a bullet. Two had bled to death.

"'Ullo, Guvner!" whispered Corporal Horace Faggit through parched
cracked lips. "We kep' 'em orf. We 'eld the bleedin' fort," and the last
effect of the departing mind upon the shot-torn, knife-slashed body was
manifested in a gasping, quavering wail of--

    "'Owld the Fort fer Hi am comin'"
      Jesus whispers still.
    "'Owld the Fort fer Hi am comin,'"
      --By Thy graice we will.

Each of these corpses Moussa Isa carried reverently down to the Prison
that they might be "buried darkly at dead of night" with the other
heroes, in softer ground without the walls--a curious funeral in which
loaded rifles and belted maxim played their silent part. Apart from the
honoured dead was buried the body of Private Augustus Grabble, shot
against the Prison wall by order of Colonel Ross-Ellison for cowardice
in the face of the enemy and desertion of his post. So was that of
Private Green, deserter also. After the uninterrupted ceremony, Moussa
Isa, in the guise of an ancient beggar, lame, decrepit, and bandaged
with foul rags, sought the city and the news of the bazaar.

Limping down the lane in which stood the tall silent house that his
master often visited, he saw three men emerge from the well-known low
doorway.

Two approached him while one departed in the opposite direction. One of
these two held the arm of the other.

"I must hear his voice again. I have not heard his voice again," urged
this one insistently to the other.

"Nay--but I have heard thine, thou Dog!" said Moussa Isa to himself, and
turning, followed.

In a neighbouring bazaar the man who seemed to lead the other left him
at the entrance to a mosque--a dark and greasy entry with a short flight
of stone steps.

As he set his foot upon the lowest of these, a hand fell upon the neck
of the man who had been led, and a voice hissed:--

"_Salaam! O Ibrahim the Weeper!_ Salaam! A '_Hubshi_' would speak with
thee...." and another hand joined the first, encircling his throat....

"Art thou dead, Dog?" snarled Moussa Isa, five minutes later....

Moussa Isa never boasted (if he realized the fact) that the collapse of
the revolt and mutiny in Gungapur, before the arrival of troops, was due
as much to the death of its chief ringleader and director, the blind
faquir, as to the disastrous repulse of the great assault upon the
Military Prison.



§ 2.


It had gone. Nothing remained but to clear up the mess and begin afresh
with more wisdom and sounder policy. It was over, and, among other
things now possible, Colonel John Robin Ross-Ellison might ask the woman
he loved whether she could some day become his wife. He had saved her
life, watched over her, served her with mind and body, lived for her.
And she had smiled upon him, looked at him as a woman looks at the man
she more than likes, had given him the encouragement of her smiles, her
trust, affectionate greeting on return from danger, prayers that he
would be "careful" when he went forth to danger.

He believed that she loved him, and would, after a decent interval, even
perhaps a year hence, marry him.

And then he would abandon the old life and ways, become wholly English
and settle down to make her life a happy walk through an enchanted
valley. He would take her to England and there, far from all sights,
sounds and smells of the East, far from everything wild, turbulent,
violent, crush out all the Pathan instincts so terribly aroused and
developed during the late glorious time of War. He would take himself
cruelly in hand. He would neither hunt nor shoot. He would eat no meat,
drink no alcohol, nor seek excitement. He would school himself until he
was a quiet, domesticated English country-gentleman--respectable and
respected, fit husband for a delicately-bred English gentlewoman. And if
ever his hand itched for the knife-hilt, his finger for the trigger,
his cheek for the rifle-butt, his nostrils for the smell of the
cooking-fires, his soul for the wild mountain passes, the mad gallop,
the stealthy stalk--he would live on cold water until the Old Adam were
drowned.

He _would_ be worthy of her--and she should never dream what blood was
on his hands, what sights he had looked on, what deeds he had done, what
part he had played in wild undertakings in wild places. English would he
be to the back-bone, to the finger tips, to the marrow; a quiet, clean,
straight-dealing Englishman of normal tastes, habits, and life.

Strange if, with all his love of fighting, he could not fight (and
conquer) himself. Yes--his last great fight should be with himself....
He would call, to-day, at the bungalow to which Mrs. Dearman, prior to
starting for Home, had removed as soon as the carefully-guarded
Cantonment area was pronounced absolutely safe as a place of residence
for the refugees who had been besieged in the old Military Prison.

She would be sufficiently "straight" in her bungalow, by this time, to
permit of a formal mid-day call being a reasonable and normal affair....

"Good-morning, Preserver of Gungapur," said Mrs. Dearman brightly; "have
the Victoria Cross and the Distinguished Service Order materialized
yet--or don't they give them to Volunteers? What a shame if they don't!"

"I want something far more valuable and desirable than those, Mrs.
Dearman," said Colonel Ross-Ellison as he took the extended hand of his
hostess, who was a picture of coolness and health.

"Oh?--and--what is that?" she asked, seating herself on a big settee
with her back to the light.

"You," was the direct and uncompromising reply of the man who had been
leading a remarkably direct and uncompromising life for several years.

Mrs. Dearman trembled, flushed and paled.

"What _do_ you mean?" she managed to say, with a fine affectation of
coolness, unconcern, and indifference.

"I mean what I say," was the answer. "I want _you_. I cannot live
without you. I want to take care of you. I want to devote my life to
making you happy. I want to make you forget this terrible experience and
tragedy. You are lonely and I worship you. I want you to marry me--when
you can--later--and let me serve you for the rest of my life. Make me
the happiest and proudest man in the world and I will strive to be the
noblest."

He was very English then--in his fine passion. He took her hand and it
was not withdrawn. He bent to look in her eyes, she smiled, and in a
second was in his embrace, strained to his breast, her lips crushed by
his.

For a minute he could not speak.

"I cannot believe it," he whispered at length. "Is this a dream?"

"You are a very concrete dream--dear," said Mrs. Dearman, re-arranging
crushed and disarranged flowers at her breast, blushing and laughing
shyly.

The man was filled with awe, reverence and a deep longing for
worthiness.

The woman felt happy in the sense of safety, of power, of pride in the
love of so fine a being.

"And how long have you loved me?" she murmured.

"Loved you, Cleopatra? Dearest--I have loved you from the moment my eyes
first fell on you.... Poor salt-encrusted, weary, bloodshot eyes they
were too," he added, smiling, reminiscent.

"What do you mean?" asked Mrs. Dearman, puzzled.

"Ah--I have a secret to tell you--a confession that will open those
beautiful eyes wide with surprise. I first saw you when you _were_
Cleopatra Brighte."

"Good gracious!" ejaculated Mrs. Dearman in great surprise. "When_ever_
when?"

"I'll tell you," said the man, smiling fondly. "You have my photograph.
You took it yourself--on board the 'Malaya'."

"I?" said Mrs. Dearman. "What _are_ you talking about?"

"About you, dearest, and the time when I first saw you--and fell in love
with you;--love at first sight, indeed."

"But I never photographed you on board ship. I never saw you on a ship.
I met you first here in Gungapur."

"Do you remember the 'Malaya' stopping to pick up a shipwrecked sailor,
a castaway, in a little dug-out canoe, somewhere in the Indian Ocean,
when you were first coming out to India? But of course you do--you have
the snap-shot in your collection...."

"Why--yes--I remember, of course--but that was a horrid, beastly
_native_. The creature could only speak Hindustani. He was the sole
survivor of the crew of some dhow or bunder-boat, they said.... He lived
and worked with the Lascars till we got to Bombay. Yes...."

"I was that native," said Colonel Ross-Ellison.

"_You_," whispered Mrs. Dearman. "_You_," and scanned his face intently.

"Yes. I. I _am_ half a native. My father was a Pathan. He----"

"_What_?" asked the woman hoarsely, drawing away. "_What_? _What_ are
you saying?"

"I am half Pathan--my father was a Pathan and my mother an Australian
squatter's daughter."

"_Go_," shrieked Mrs. Dearman, springing to her feet. "_Go_. You wretch!
You mean, base liar! To cheat me so! To pretend you were a gentleman.
Leave my house! Go! You horrible--_mongrel_--you----. To take me in your
arms! To make love to me! To kiss me! Ugh! I could die for shame! I
could _die_----"

The face of the man grew terrible to see. There was no trace of the West
in it, no sign of English ancestry, the face of a mad, blood-mad Afghan.

"_We will both die_," he gasped, and took her by the throat.

       *       *       *       *       *

A few minutes later a Pathan in the dirty dress of his race fled from
Colonel Ross-Ellison's bungalow in Cantonments and took the road to the
city.

Threading his way through its tortuous lanes, alleys, slums and bazaars
he reached a low door in the high wall that surrounded an almost
windowless house, knocked in a particular manner, parleyed, and was
admitted.

The moment he was inside, the custodian of the door slammed, locked and
bolted it, and then raised an outcry.

"Come," he shouted in Pushtoo. "The Spy! The Feringhi! The
Pushtoo-knowing English dog, that Abdulali Habbibullah," and he drew his
Khyber knife and circled round Ross-Ellison.

A clatter of heavy boots, the opening of wooden "windows" that looked
inward on to the high-walled courtyard, and in a minute a throng of
Pathans and other Mussulmans entered the compound from the house--some
obviously aroused from heavy slumber.

"It is he," cried one, a squat, broad-shouldered fellow, as they stood
at gaze, and long knives flashed.

"Oho, Spy! Aha, Dog! For what hast thou come?" asked one burly fellow as
he advanced warily upon the intruder, who backed slowly to the angle of
the high walls.

"To die, Hidayetullah. To die, Nazir Ali Khan. To die slaying! Come on!"
was the reply, and in one moment the speaker's Khyber knife flashed from
his loose sleeve into the throat of the nearest foe.

As he withdrew it, the door-keeper slashed at his abdomen, missed by a
hair's-breadth, raised his arm to save his neck from a slash, and was
stabbed to the heart, the knife held dagger-wise. Another Pathan rushing
forward, with uplifted knife held as a sword, was met by a sudden low
fencing-lunge and fell with a hideous wound, and then, whirling his
weapon like a claymore in an invisibly rapid Maltese cross of flashing
steel, the man who had been Ross-Ellison drove his enemies before him,
whirled about, and established himself in the opposite corner, and spat
pungent Border taunts at the infuriated crowd.

"Come on, you village curs, you landless cripples, you wifeless sons of
burnt fathers! Come on! Strike for the credit of your noseless mothers!
Run not from me as your wives ran from you--to better men! Come on, you
sweepers, you swine-herds, you down-country street-scrapers!" and they
came on to heart's content, steel clashed on steel and thudded on flesh
and bone.

"Get a rifle," cried one, lying bleeding on the ground, striving to rise
while he held his right shoulder to his neck with his partly severed
left hand. As he fainted the shoulder gaped horribly.

"Get a cannon," mocked Ross-Ellison. "Get a cannon, dogs, against one
man," and again, whirling the great jade-handled knife, long as a short
sword, he rushed forward and the little mob gave ground before the
irresistible claymore-whirl, the unbreakable Maltese cross described by
the razor-edge and needle-point.

"It is a devil," groaned a man, as his knife and his hand fell together
to the ground, and he clapped his turban on the stump as a boy claps his
hat upon some small creature that he would capture.

The madman whirled about in the third corner and, as he ceased the wild
whirl, ducked low and lunged, lessening the number of his enemies by
one. This lunge was a new thing to men who could only slash and stab, a
new thing and a terrible, for it could not be parried save by seizing
the blade and losing half a hand.

"Come on, you growing maidens! Come on, grandmothers! Come on, you
cleaners of pig-skins, you washers of dogs! Come on!" and as he
shouted, the door crashed down and a patrol of British soldiers,
attracted by the noise, and delayed by the stout door, burst into the
courtyard.

"At the henemy in front, fixed sights," shouted the corporal in charge.
And added an order not to be found in the drill-book: "Blow 'em to 'ell
if they budges."

In the hush of surprise his voice arose, addressing the fighters:
"_Bus_[70] you bleedin' soors,[71]" said Corporal Cook. "_Bus_; and you
_dekho_[72] 'ere. If any of you _jaos_[73] from where 'e is, I'll
_pukkaro_[74] 'im and give 'im a punch in the _dekho_."

  [70] Enough, stop.
  [71] Swine.
  [72] Look.
  [73] Jao = go (imperative).
  [74] Seize (imperative).

And, as bayonets rose breast-high and fingers curled lovingly round
triggers, every knife but that of Ross-Ellison disappeared as by magic,
and the Corporal beheld a little crowd of innocent men endeavouring to
secure a dangerous lunatic at the risk of their lives--terrible risk, as
the bodies of five dead and dying men might testify.

"I give myself up to you as a murderer, Corporal," said he who had been
Colonel John Robin Ross-Ellison. "I am a murderer. If you will take me
before your officer I will confess and give details."

"I'm agoin' to take you bloomin' well all," replied the surprised
Corporal. "Chuck down that there beastly carvin' knife. You seem a too
'andy cove wiv' it."

At the Corporal's order of, "Prod 'em all up agin that wall and shoot
any bloke as moves 'and or 'oof," the party of panting, bleeding and
perspiring ruffians was lined up, relieved of its weapons, and duly
marched to the guard-room.

Here, one of the gang (later identified as the man who had been known
as John Robin Ross-Ellison, and who insisted that he was a Baluchi)
declared that he had just murdered Mrs. Dearman in her drawing-room and
made a full statement--a statement found to be only too true, its
details corroborated by a trembling _hamal_ who had peeped and listened,
as all Indian servants peep and listen.

       *       *       *       *       *

Duly tried, all members of the gang received terms of imprisonment
(largely a prophylactic measure), save the extraordinary
English-speaking Baluchi, who had long imposed, it was said, upon
Gungapur Society in the days before that Society had disappeared in the
cataclysm.

A few days before the date fixed for the execution of this very
remarkable desperado, Captain Michael Malet-Marsac, Adjutant of the
Gungapur Volunteer Corps, received two letters dated from Gungapur Jail,
one covering the other. The covering letter ran:--

"MY DEAR MALET-MARSAC,

"I forward the enclosed. Should you desire to attend the execution you
could accompany the new City Magistrate, Wellson, who will doubtless be
agreeable.

"Yours sincerely,

"A. RANALD, Major I.M.S."

The accompaniment was from John Robin Ross-Ellison Mir Ilderim Dost
Mahommed Mir Hafiz Ullah Khan.

"MY DEAR OLD FRIEND,

"For the credit of the British I am pretending to be a Baluchi. I am not
a Baluchi and I hope to die like a Briton--at any rate like a man. I
have been held responsible for what I did when I was not responsible,
and shall be killed in cold blood by sane people, for what I did in hot
blood when quite as mad as any madman who ever lived. I don't
complain--I _ex_plain. I want you to understand, if you can, that it was
not your friend John Ross-Ellison who did that awful deed. It was a
Pathan named Ilderim Dost Mahommed. And yet it was I." ["Poor chap is
mad!" murmured the bewildered and horrified reader who had lived in a
kind of nightmare since the woman he loved had been murdered by the man
he loved. "The strain of the war has been too much for him. He must have
had sunstroke too." He read on, with misty sight.]

"And it is I who will pay the penalty of Ilderim Dost Mahommed's deed.
As I say, I do not complain, and if the Law did not kill me I would
certainly kill myself--to get rid of Ilderim Dost Mahommed.

"I have thought of doing so and cheating the scaffold, but have decided
that Ilderim will get his deserts better if I hang, and I may perhaps
get rid of him, thus, for ever.

"Will you come? I would not ask it of any living soul but you, and I ask
it because your presence would show me that you blindly believe that it
was not John Robin Ross-Ellison who killed poor Mrs. Dearman, and that
would enable me to die quite happy. Your presence would also be a great
help to me. It would help me to feel that, whatever I have lived, I die
a Briton--that if I could not live without Ilderim Dost Mahommed I can
die without him. But this must seem lunatic wanderings to you.

"I apologize for writing to you and I hesitated long. At length I said,
'I will tell him the truth--that the deed was not done by Ross-Ellison
and perhaps he will understand, and come'. Mike--_John Robin
Ross-Ellison did not murder Mrs. Dearman_.

"Your distracted and broken-hearted ex-friend,

"J.R. ROSS-ELLISON."

"He _was_ 'queer' at times," said Captain Michael Malet-Marsac. "There
was a kink somewhere. The bravest, coolest, keenest chap I ever met, the
finest fighting-man, the truest comrade and friend,--and from time to
time something queer peeped out, and one was puzzled.... Madness in the
family, I suppose.... Poor devil, poor, poor devil!" and Captain
Malet-Marsac stamped about and swore, for his eyes tingled and his chin
quivered.



§ 3.


Captain Michael Malet-Marsac alighted from his horse at the great gate
of the Gungapur Jail, loosed girths, slid stirrup irons up the leathers
to the saddle, and handed his reins to the orderly who had ridden behind
him.

"Walk the horses up and down," said he, for both were sweating and the
morning was very cold. Perhaps it was the cold that made Captain Michael
Malet-Marsac's strong face so white, made his teeth chatter and his
hands shake. Perhaps it was the cold that made him feel so sick, and
that weakened the tendons of his knees so that he could scarcely
stand--and would fain have thrown himself upon the ground.

With a curious coughing sound, as though he swallowed and cleared his
throat at the same moment, he commenced to address another order or
remark to the mounted sepoy, choked, and turned his back upon him.

Striding to the gate, he struck upon it loudly with his hunting-crop,
and turning, waved the waiting orderly away.

Not for a king's ransom could he have spoken at that moment. He realized
that something which was rising in his throat must be crushed back and
swallowed before speech would be possible. If he tried to speak before
that was done--he would shame his manhood, he would do that which was
unthinkable in a man and a soldier. What would happen if the little iron
wicket in the great iron door in the greater wooden gates opened before
he had swallowed the lump in his throat, had crushed down the rising
tumult of emotion, and a European official, perhaps Major Ranald
himself, spoke to him? He must either refuse to answer, and show himself
too overcome for speech--or he must--good God forbid it--burst into
tears. He suffered horribly. His skin tingled and he burnt hotly from
head to foot.

And then--he swallowed, his will triumphed--and he was again as
outwardly self-possessed and nonchalant as he strove to appear.

He might tremble, his face might be blanched and drawn, he might feel
physically sick and almost too weak and giddy to stand, but he had
swallowed, he had triumphed over the rising flood that had threatened
to engulf him, and he was, outwardly, himself again. He could go through
with it now, and though his face might be ghastly, his lips white, his
hand uncertain, his gait considered and careful, he would he able to
chat lightly, to meet Ross-Ellison's jest with jest--for that
Ross-Ellison would die jesting he knew....

Why did not the door open? Had his knock gone unheard? Should he knock
again, louder? And then his eye fell upon the great iron bell-pull and
chain, and he stepped towards it. Of course--one entered a place like
this on the sonorous clanging of a deep-throated bell that roused the
echoes of the whole vast congeries of buildings encircled by the hideous
twelve-foot wall, unbroken save by the great gatehouse before which he
stood insignificant. As his shaking hand touched the bell-pull he
suddenly remembered, and withdrew it. He was to meet the City Magistrate
outside the jail and enter with him. He could gain admittance in no
other way.

He looked at his watch. Seventeen minutes to seven. Wellson should be
there in a minute--he had said, "At the jail-entrance at 6.45". God send
him soon or the new-found self-control might weaken and a rising tide
creep up and up until it submerged his will-power again.

With an effort he swallowed, and turning, strode up and down on a rapid,
mechanical sentry-go.

A guard of police-sepoys emerged from a neighbouring guard-room and
"fell in" under the word of command of an Inspector. They were armed
with Martini-Henry rifles and triangular-bladed bayonets, very long.
Their faces looked cruel, the stones of the gate-house and main-guard
looked cruel, the beautiful misty morning looked cruel.

Would that damned magistrate never come? Didn't he know that
Malet-Marsac was fighting for his manhood and terribly afraid? Didn't he
know that unless he came quickly Malet-Marsac would either leap on his
horse and ride it till it fell, or else lose control inside the jail and
either burst into tears, faint, or--going mad--put up a fight for his
friend there in the jail itself, snatch weapons, get back to back with
him and die fighting then and there--or, later, on the same scaffold?
His friend--by whose side he had fought, starved, suffered,
triumphed--his poor two-natured friend....

Could not one of these cursed clever physicians, alienists,
psychologists, hypnotists--whatever they were--have cut the strange
savagery and ferocity out of the splendid John Robin Ross-Ellison?...

A buffalo passed, driven by a barely human lout. The lout was free--the
brainless, soulless bovine lout was free in God's beautiful world--and
Ross-Ellison, soldier and gentleman, lay in a stone cell, and in quarter
of an hour would dangle by the neck in a pit below a platform--perhaps
suffering unthinkable agonies--who could tell?... His old friend and
commandant--

Would Wellson never come? What kept the fellow? It was disgraceful
conduct on the part of a public servant in such circumstances. Think
what an eternity of mental suffering each minute must now be to
Ross-Ellison! What was he doing? What were they doing to him? _Could_
the agony of Ross-Ellison be greater than that of Malet-Marsac? It must
be a thousand times greater. How could that tireless activity, that
restless initiative, that cool courage, that unfathomable ingenuity be
quenched in a second? How could such a wild free nature exist in a cell,
submit to pinioning, be quietly led like a sheep to the slaughter? He
who so loved the mountain, the wild desert, the ocean, the free
wandering life of adventure and exploration.

Would Wellson never come? It must be terribly late. Could they have
hanged Ross-Ellison already? Could he have gone to his death thinking
his friend had failed him; had passed by, like the Levite, on the other
side; had turned up a sanctimonious nose at the letter of the Murderer;
had behaved as some "friends" do behave in time of trouble?

Could he have died thinking this? If so, he must now know the truth, if
the Parsons were right, those unconvincing very-human Parsons of like
passions, and pretence of unlike passions. Could his friend be dead, his
friend whom he had so loved and admired? And yet he was a murderer--and
he had murdered ... _her_....

Captain Michael Malet-Marsac leant against a tree and was violently
sick.

Curse the weak frail body that was failing him in his hour of need! It
had never failed him in battle nor in athletic struggle. Why should it
weaken now. He _would_ see his friend, and bear himself as a man, to
help him in his dreadful hour.

Would that scoundrel never come? He was the one who should be hanged.

A clatter of hoofs behind, and Malet-Marsac turned to see the City
Magistrate trot across the road from the open country. He drew out his
watch accusingly and as a torrent of reproach rose to his white parched
lips, he saw that the time was--exactly quarter to seven.

"'Morning, Marsac," said the City Magistrate as he swung down from the
saddle. "You're looking precious blue about the gills."

"'Morning, Wellson," replied the other shortly.

To the City Magistrate a hanging was no more than a hair-cut, a neither
pleasing nor displeasing interlude, hindering the doing of more
strenuous duties; a nuisance, cutting into his early-morning
report--writing and other judicial work. He handed his reins to an
obsequious sepoy, eased his jodhpores at the knee, and rang the bell.

The grille-cover slid back, a dusky face appeared behind the bars and
scrutinized the visitors, the grille was closed again and the tiny door
opened. Malet-Marsac stepped in over the foot-high base of the door-way
and found himself in a kind of big gloomy strong-room in which were
native warders and a jailer with a bunch of huge keys. On either side of
the room was an office. Following Wellson to a large desk, on which
reposed a huge book, he wrote his name, address, and business,
controlling his shaking hand by a powerful effort of will.

This done, and the entrance-door being again locked, bolted, and barred,
the jailer led the way to another pair of huge gates opposite the pair
through which they had entered, and opened a similar small door therein.
Through this Malet-Marsac stepped and found himself, light-dazzled, in
the vast enclosure of Gungapur Jail, a small town of horribly-similar
low buildings, painfully regular streets, soul-stunning uniformity, and
living death.

"'Morning, Malet-Marsac," said Major Ranald of the Indian Medical
Service, Superintendent of the jail. "You look a bit blue about the
gills, what?"

"'Morning, Ranald," replied Malet-Marsac, "I _am_ a little cold."

Was he really speaking? Was that voice his? He supposed so.

Could he pretend to gaze round with an air of intelligent interest? He
would try.

A line of convicts, clad in a kind of striped sacking, stood with their
backs to a wall while a native warder strode up and down in front of
them, watching another convict placing brushes and implements before
them. Suddenly the warder spoke to the end man, an elderly stalwart
fellow, obviously from the North. The reply was evidently
unsatisfactory, perhaps insolent, for the warder suddenly seized the
grey beard of the convict, tugged his head violently from side to side,
shook him, and then smote him hard on either cheek. The elderly convict
gave no sign of having felt either the pain or the indignity, but gazed
straight over the warder's head. Of what was he thinking? Of what might
be the fate of that warder were he suddenly transported to the wilds of
Kathiawar, to lie at the mercy of his late victim and the famous band of
outlaws whom he had once led to fame--a fame as wide as Ind?

There was something fine about the old villain, once a real Robin Hood,
something mean about the little tyrant.

Had Ranald seen the incident? No, he stood with his back to a buttress
looking in the opposite direction. Did he always stand with a wall
behind him in this terrible place? How could he live in it? A minute of
it made one sick if one were cursed with imagination. Oh, the horror of
the prison system--especially for brave men, men with a code of honour
of their own--possibly sometimes a higher code than that of the average
British politician, not to mention the be-knighted cosmopolitan
financier, friend of princes and honoured of kings.

Could not men be segregated in a place of peace and beauty and improved,
instead of being segregated in a dull hell and crushed? What a home of
soulless, hopeless horror!... And his friend was here.... Could he
contain himself?... He must say something.

"Do you always keep your back to a wall when standing still, in here?"
he asked of Major Ranald.

"I do," was the reply, "and I walk with a trustworthy man close behind
me." "Would you like to go round, sometime?" he added.

"No, thank you," said Malet-Marsac. "I would like to get as far away as
possible and stay there."

Major Ranald laughed.

"Wouldn't like to visit the mortuary and see a post-mortem?"

"No, thank you."

"What about the Holy One?" put in the City Magistrate. "Did you
'autopsy' him? A pleasure to hang a chap like him."

"Yes, the brute. I'll show you his neck vertebrae presently if you like.
Kept 'em as a curiosity. An absolute break of the bone itself. People
talk about pain, strangulation, suffocation and all that. Nothing of
the sort. Literally breaks the neck. Not mere separation of the
vertebrae you know. I'll show you the vertebra itself--clean broken...."

Captain Malet-Marsac swayed on his feet. What should he do? A blue mist
floated before his eyes and a sound of rushing waters filled his ears.
Was he fainting? He must _not_ faint, and fail his friend. And then, the
roar of the waters was pierced and dominated by the voice of that friend
saying--

"Hul_lo_! old bird. Awf'ly good of you to turn out, such a beastly cold
morning."

John Robin Ross-Ellison had come round an adjacent corner, a European
warder on either side of him and another behind him, all three, to their
credit, as white as their white uniforms and helmets. On his head was a
curious bag-like cap.

Ross-Ellison appeared perfectly cheerful, absolutely natural, and
without the slightest outward and visible sign of any form of
perturbation.

"'Morning, Ranald," he continued. "Sorry to be the cause of turning you
out in the cold. Gad! _isn't_ it parky. Hope you aren't going to keep me
standing. If I might be allowed I'd quote unto you the words which a
pretty American girl once used when I asked if I might kiss her--'_Wade
right in, Bub!_'"

"'Fraid I can't 'wade in' till seven o'clock--er--Ross-Ellison,"
answered the horribly embarrassed Major Ranald. "It won't be long."

"Right O, I was only thinking of your convenience. _I'm_ all right,"
said the remarkable criminal, about to suffer by the Mosaic law at the
hands of Christians, to receive Old Testament mercy from the disciples
of the New, to be done-by as he had done.

An Indian clerk, salaaming, joined the group, and prepared to read from
an official-looking document.

"Read," said Major Ranald, and the clerk in a high sing-song voice,
regardless of punctuation, read out the charge, conviction and
death-warrant of the man formerly calling himself John Robin
Ross-Ellison, and now professing and confessing himself to be a Baluchi.
Having finished, the clerk smiled as one well pleased with a duty well
performed, salaamed and clacked away in his heelless slippers.

"It is my duty to inquire whether you have anything to say or any last
request to make," said Major Ranald to the prisoner.

"Well, I've only to say that I'm sorry to cause all this fuss, y'
know--and, well, yes, I _would_ like a smoke," replied the condemned
man, and added hastily: "Don't think I want to delay things for a moment
though--but if there is time...."

"It is four minutes to seven," said Major Ranald, "and tobacco and
matches are not supposed to be found in a Government Jail."

Ross-Ellison winked at the Major and glanced at a bulge on the right
side of the breast of the Major's coat.

At this moment the warder standing behind the condemned man seized both
his wrists, drew them behind him and fastened them with a broad, strong
strap.

"H'm! That's done it, I suppose," said the murderer. "Can't smoke
without my hands. Queer idea too--never thought of it before. Can't
smoke without hands.... Rather late in life to realize it, what?"

"Oh, yes, you can," said the Major, drawing his big silver cheroot-case
from his pocket and selecting a cheroot. Placing it between the
prisoner's lips he struck a match and held it to the end of the cigar.
Ross-Ellison drew hard and the cigar was lit. He puffed luxuriously and
sighed.

"Gad! That's good," he said, "May some one do as much for you, old chap,
when _you_ come to be--er--no, I don't mean that, of course.... Haven't
had a smoke for weeks. Yes--you can smoke without hands after all--but
not for long without feeling the inconvenience. I used to know an
American (wicked old gun-running millionaire he was, Cuba way, and down
South too) who could change his cigar from one corner of his mouth right
across to the other with his tongue. Fascinatin' sight to watch...."

Captain Malet-Marsac swallowed continuously, lest he lose the faculty of
swallowing--and be choked.

Major Ranald looked at his watch.

"Two minutes to seven. Come on," he said, and took the cheroot from the
prisoner's mouth.

"Good-bye, Mike," said that person to the swallowing fainting wretch.
"Don't try and say anything. I know exactly what you feel. Sorry we
can't shake hands," and he stepped off in the wake of Major Ranald,
closely guarded by three warders.

The City Magistrate and Captain Malet-Marsac followed. At Major Ranald's
knock, the small inner door of the gate-house was opened and the
procession filed through it into the strong room where the warders
stood to attention. Having re-fastened the door, the jailer opened the
outer one and the procession passed out of the jail into the blessed
free world, the world that might be such a place of wonder, beauty,
delight, health and joy, were man not educated to materialism, false
ideals, false standards, and blind strife for nothing worth.

The sepoy-guard stood in a semicircle from the gate-house to the
entrance to a door-way in the jail-wall. Ross-Ellison took his last look
at the sky, the distant hills, the trees, God's good world, and then
turned into the doorless door-way with his jailers, and faced the
scaffold in a square, roofless cell. The warder behind him drew the cap
down over his face, and he was led up a flight of shallow stairs on to a
platform on which was a roughly-chalked square where two hinged flaps
met. As he stood on this spot the noose of the greased rope was placed
round his neck by a warder who then looked to Major Ranald for a sign,
received it, and pulled over a lever which withdrew the bolts supporting
the hinged flaps. These fell apart, Ross-Ellison dropped through the
platform, and Christian Society was avenged.

Without a word, Captain Malet-Marsac strode, as in a dream, to his
horse, rode home, and, as in a dream, entered his sanctum, took his
revolver from its holster and loaded it.

Laying it on the table beside him, he sat down to write a few words to
the Colonel of his regiment, Colonel Wilberforce Wriothesley of the 99th
Baluch Light Infantry, and to send his will to a brother-officer whom he
wished to be his executor.

This done, he took up the revolver, placed the muzzle in his mouth, the
barrel pointing upward, and--pulled the trigger.

_Click_!

And nothing more.

A tiny, nerve-shattering, world-shaking, little universe-rocking
_click_--and nothing more.

A bad cartridge. He remembered complaints about the revolver ammunition
from the Duri Small Arms Ammunition Factory. Too long in stock.

Should he try the same one again, or go on to the next? Probably get
better results from the first, as the cap would be already dented by the
concussion. He took the muzzle of the big revolver from his aching mouth
and, releasing the chamber, spun it round.... He would place it to his
temple this time. Holding one's mouth open was undignified. He raised
the revolver--and John Bruce burst into the room. He had seen
Malet-Marsac ride by, and knew where he had been.

"Half a second!" he shouted. "News! Do that afterwards."

"What is it?" asked Malet-Marsac, taken by surprise.

"Put that beastly thing in the drawer while I tell you, then. It might
go off. I hate pistols," said Bruce.

Malet-Marsac obeyed. Bruce was a man to be listened to, and what had to
be done could be done when he had gone. If it were some last piece of
duty or service, it should be seen to.

"It is this," said Bruce. "You are a liar, a forger, a thief, a dirty
pickpocket, a coward, a seller of secrets to Foreign Powers," and, ere
the astounded soldier could speak, John Bruce sprang at him and tried to
knock him out. "Take that you greasy cad--and fight me if you dare," he
shouted as the other dodged his punch.

Malet-Marsac sprang to his feet, furious, and returned the blow. In a
second the men were fighting fiercely, coolly, murderously.

Bruce was the bigger, stronger, more scientific, and there could be but
one result, given ordinary luck. It was a long, severe, and punishing
affair.

"Time," gasped Malet-Marsac at length, and dropped his hands.
"Get--breath--fight--decently--time--'nother round--after," and as he
spoke Bruce knocked him down and out, proceeding instantly to tie his
feet with the punkah-cord and his hands with two handkerchiefs and a
pair of braces. This done, he carried him into his bedroom, and laid him
on the bed, and sprinkled his face with water.

Malet-Marsac blinked and stirred.

"Awful sorry, old chap," said Bruce at length. "I thought it the best
plan. Will you give me your word to chuck the suicide idea, or do you
want some more?"

"You damned fool! I...." began the trussed one.

"Yes, I know--but I solemnly swear I won't untie you, nor let anybody
else, until you've promised."

Malet-Marsac swore violently, struggled valiantly and, anon, slept.

When he awoke, ten hours later, he informed Bruce, sitting by the bed,
that he had no intention of committing suicide....

Years later, as a grey-haired Major, he learnt, from the man's own
brother, the story of the strange hero who had fascinated him, and of
whose past he had known nothing--save that it had been that of a _man_.





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