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Title: His Honour, and a Lady
Author: Duncan, Sara Jeannette
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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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                          Transcriber’s Note:

This version of the text cannot represent certain typographical effects.
Italics are delimited with the ‘_’ character as _italic_. The few
instances of blackletter font in the front matter use the ‘~’ as a
delimiter.

The few footnotes have been positioned directly following the paragraph
in which they are referenced.

Please consult the note at the end of this text for a discussion of any
textual issues encountered in its preparation.



                         HIS HONOUR, AND A LADY



                      BOOKS BY MRS. EVERARD COTES

                        (SARA JEANNETTE DUNCAN).

                               ----------

=His Honour, and a Lady.=

    Illustrated. 12mo. Cloth, $1.50.

=The Story of Sonny Sahib.=

    Illustrated. 12mo. Cloth, $1.00.

=Vernon’s Aunt.=

    With many Illustrations. 12mo. Cloth, $1.25.

=A Daughter of To-Day.=

    A Novel. 12mo. Cloth, $1.50.

=A Social Departure.=

    HOW ORTHODOCIA AND I WENT ROUND THE WORLD BY OURSELVES. With 111
    Illustrations by F. H. TOWNSEND. 12mo. Paper, 75 cents; cloth,
    $1.75.

=An American Girl in London.=

    With 80 Illustrations by F. H. TOWNSEND. 12mo. Paper, 75 cents;
    cloth, $1.50.

=The Simple Adventures of a Memsahib.=

    With 37 Illustrations by F. H. TOWNSEND. 12mo. Cloth, $1.50.

                           ------------------

             New York: D. APPLETON & CO., 72 Fifth Avenue.

[Illustration:

  The situation made its voiceless demand.
  (See page 33.)
]



                            HIS HONOUR, AND
                                 A LADY

                                   BY

                           MRS. EVERARD COTES

                        (SARA JEANNETTE DUNCAN)

       AUTHOR OF A SOCIAL DEPARTURE, AN AMERICAN GIRL IN LONDON,
                  A DAUGHTER OF TO-DAY, VERNON’S AUNT,
                     THE STORY OF SONNY SAHIB, ETC.



[Illustration]



                                NEW YORK
                        D. APPLETON AND COMPANY
                                  1896



                         COPYRIGHT, 1895, 1896,
                      BY D. APPLETON AND COMPANY.



                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.

                             --------------


                                                             FACING
                                                               PAGE

    The situation made its voiceless demand          _Frontispiece_

    “She seems to be sufficiently entertained”                   21

    There was a moment’s pause                                   83

    Notwithstanding, it was gay enough                          150

    “What do I know about the speech”!                          215

    She drove back                                              305



                        HIS HONOUR, AND A LADY.



                               CHAPTER I.


“The Sahib _walks_!” said Ram Prasannad, who dusted the office books and
papers, to Bundal Singh the messenger, who wore a long red coat with a
badge of office, and went about the business of the Queen-Empress on his
two lean brown legs.

“What talk is that?” Bundal Singh shifted his betel quid to the other
cheek and lunged upon his feet. This in itself was something. When one
sits habitually upon one’s heels the process of getting up is not
undertaken lightly. The men looked out together between the whitewashed
stucco pillars of the long verandah that interposed between the
Commissioner’s clerks and the glare and publicity of the outer world of
Hassimabad. Overhead, in a pipal tree that threw sharp-cut patterns of
its heart-shaped leaves about their feet, a crow stretched its
grey-black throat in strenuous caws, since it was ten o’clock in the
morning and there was no reason to keep silence. Farther away a chorus
of other crows smote the sunlight, and from the direction of the bazar
came a murmur of the life there, borne higher now and then in the
wailing voice of some hawker of sweetmeats. Nevertheless there was a
boundless stillness, a stillness that might have been commanded. The
prodigal sun intensified it, and the trees stood in it, a red and dusty
road wound through it, and the figure of a man, walking quickly down the
road, seemed to be a concentration of it.

“That signifies,” continued Ram Prasannad, without emotion, “news that
is either very good or very bad. The Government _lât_ had but arrived,
the sahib opened one letter only—which is now with him—and in a breath
he was gone, walking, though the horse was still fast between the
shafts. Myself, I think the news is good, for my cousin—he is a writing
baboo in the Home Office, dost thou understand, thou, runner of
errands!—has sent word to me that the sahib is much in favour with the
_Burra Lat_, and that it would be well to be faithful to him.”

“I will go swiftly after with an umbrella, and from his countenance it
will appear,” remarked Bundal Singh; “and look thou, worthy one, if that
son of mud, Lal Beg, the grain dealer, comes again in my absence to try
to make petition to the sahib, and brings a pice less than one rupee to
me, do thou refuse him admission.”

Bundal Singh ran after his master, as he said. As John Church walked
rapidly, and the habitual pace of a Queen’s messenger in red and gold is
a dignified walk, the umbrella was tendered with a devoted loss of wind.

“It may be that your honour will take harm from the sun,” Bundal Singh
suggested, with the privilege all the Commissioner’s people felt
permitted to use. The Commissioner liked it—could be depended upon to
appreciate any little savour of personal devotion to him, even if it
took the form of a liberty. He had not a servant who was unaware of this
or failed to presume upon it, in his place and degree. This one got a
nod of acknowledgment as his master took the opened umbrella, and
observed, as he fell behind, that the sahib was too much preoccupied to
carry it straight. He went meditatively back to Ram Prasannad in the
verandah, who said, “Well?”

“Simply it does not appear. The sahib’s forehead had twenty wrinkles,
and his mind was a thousand miles hence. Yet it was as if he had lately
smiled and would smile again. What will be, will be. Lal Beg has not
been here?”

John Church walked steadily on, with his near-sighted eyes fixed always
upon the wide space of sunlit road, its red dust thick-printed with bare
feet and hoofs, that lay in front of him—seeing nothing, literally, but
the way home. He met no one who knew him except people from the bazar,
who regarded their vizier with serious wonder as they salaamed, the men
who sat upon low bamboo carts and urged, hand upon flank, the
peaceful-eyed cattle yoked to them, turning to stare as they jogged
indolently past. A brown pariah, curled up in the middle of the road,
lifted his long snout in lazy apology as Church stepped round him,
trusting the sense that told him it would not be necessary to get out of
the way. As he passed the last low wall, mossy and discoloured, that
divided its brilliantly tangled garden from the highway, and turned in
at its own gate, he caught himself out of his abstraction and threw up
his head. He entered his wife’s drawing-room considerately, and a ray of
light, slipping through the curtains and past the azaleas and across the
cool duskness of the place, fell on his spectacles and exaggerated the
triumph in his face.

The lady, who sat at the other end of the room writing, rose as her
husband came into it, and stepped forward softly to meet him. If you had
known her you would have noticed a slight elation in her step that was
not usual, and made it more graceful, if anything, than it commonly was.

“I think I know what you have come to tell me,” she said. Her voice
matched her personality so perfectly that it might have suggested her,
to a few people, in her darkened drawing-room, as its perfume would
betray some sweet-smelling thing in the evening. Not to John Church. “I
think I know,” she said, as he hesitated for words that would not show
extravagant or undignified gratification. “But tell me yourself. It will
be a pleasure.”

“That Sir Griffiths Spence goes on eighteen months’ sick leave, and——”

“And that you are appointed to officiate for him. Yes.”

“Somebody has written?”

“Yes—Mr. Ancram.”

His wife had come close to him, and he noticed that she was holding out
her hands in her impulse of congratulation. He took one of them—it was
all he felt the occasion required—and shook it lamely. She dropped the
other with a little quick turn of her head and a dash of amusement at
her own expense in the gentle gravity of her expression. “Do sit down,”
she said, almost as if he had been a visitor, “and tell me all about
it.” She dragged a comfortable chair forward out of its relation with a
Burmese carved table, some pots of ferns and a screen, and sat down
herself opposite, leaning forward in a little pose of expectancy. Church
placed himself on the edge of it, grasping his hat with both hands
between his knees.

“I must apologise for my boots,” he said, looking down: “I walked over.
I am very dusty.”

“What does it matter? You are King of Bengal!”

“Acting King.”

“It is the same thing—or it will be. Sir Griffiths retires altogether in
two years—Lord Scansleigh evidently intends you to succeed him.” The
lady spoke with obvious repression, but her gray eyes and the warm
whiteness of her oval face seemed to have caught into themselves all the
light and shadow of the room.

“Perhaps—perhaps. You always invest in the future at a premium, Judith.
I don’t intend to think about that.”

Such an anticipation, based on his own worth, seemed to him
unwarrantable, almost indecent.

“I do,” she said, wilfully ignoring the clouding of his face. “There is
so much to think about. First the pay—almost ten thousand rupees a
month—and we are poor. It may be a material consideration, but I don’t
mind confessing that the prospect of never having to cut the khansamah
appeals to me. We shall have a palace and a park to live in, with a
guard at the gates, and two outriders with swords to follow our
carriage. We shall live in Calcutta, where there are trams and theatres
and shops and people. The place carries knighthood if you are confirmed
in it, and you will be Sir John Church—that gratifies the snob that is
latent in me because I am a woman, John.” (She paused and glanced at his
face, which had grown almost morose.) “Best of all,” she added lightly,
“as Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal you will be practically sole ruler of
eighty millions of people. You will be free to carry out your own
theories, and to undertake reforms—any number of reforms! Mr. Ancram
says,” she went on, after a moment’s hesitation, “that the man and the
opportunity have come together.”

John Church blushed, through his beard which was gray, and over the top
of his head which was bald, but his look lightened.

“Ancram will be one of my secretaries,” he said. “Does he speak at
all—does he mention the way it has been taken in Calcutta?”

Mrs. Church went to her writing-table and came back with the letter. It
was luxuriously written, in a rapid hand as full of curves and angles as
a woman’s, and covered, from “Dear Lady” to “Always yours sincerely,”
several broad-margined sheets.

“I think he does,” she said, deliberately searching the pages. “Yes:
‘Church was not thought precisely in the running—you are so remote in
Hassimabad, and his work has always been so unostentatious—and there was
some surprise when the news came, but no cavil. It is known that the
Viceroy has been looking almost with tears for a man who would be strong
enough to redeem a few of Sir Griffiths’ mistakes if possible while he
is away—he has been, as you know, ludicrously weak with the natives—and
Church’s handling of that religious uproar you had a year ago has not
been forgotten. I need not expatiate upon the pleasure your friends
feel, but it may gratify you to know that the official mob is less ready
with criticism of His Excellency’s choice than usual.’”

John Church listened with the look of putting his satisfaction under
constraint. He listened in the official manner, as one who has many
things to hear, with his head bent forward and toward his wife, and his
eyes consideringly upon the floor.

“I am glad of that,” he said nervously when she had finished—“I am glad
of that. There is a great deal to be done in Bengal, and matters will be
simplified if they recognise it.“

“I think you would find a great deal to do anywhere, John,” remarked
Mrs. Church. It could almost be said that she spoke kindly, and a
sensitive observer with a proper estimate of her husband might have
found this irritating. During the little while that followed, however,
as they talked, in the warmth of this unexpected gratification, of what
his work had been as a Commissioner, and what it might be as a
Lieutenant-Governor, it would have been evident even to an observer who
was not sensitive, that here they touched a high-water mark of their
intercourse, a climax in the cordiality of their mutual understanding.

“By the way,” said John Church, getting up to go, “when is Ancram to be
married?”

“I don’t know!” Mrs. Church threw some interest into the words. Her
inflection said that she was surprised that she didn’t know. “He only
mentions Miss Daye to call her a ‘study in femininity,’ which looks as
if he might be submitting to a protracted process of education at her
hands. Certainly not soon, I should think.”

“Ancram must be close on forty, with good pay, good position, good
prospects. He shouldn’t put it off any longer: a man has no business to
grow old alone in this country. He deteriorates.”

Church pulled himself together with a shake—he was a loose-hung
creature—and put a nervous hand up to his necktie. Then he pulled down
his cuffs, considered his hat with the effect of making quite sure that
there was nothing more to say, and turned to go.

“You might send me over something,” he said, glancing at his watch. “I
won’t be able to come back to breakfast. Already I’ve lost
three-quarters of an hour from work. Government doesn’t pay me for that.
You are pleased, then?” he added, looking round at her in a half
shamefaced way from the door.

Mrs. Church had returned to the writing-table, and had again taken up
her pen. She leaned back in her chair and lifted her delicate chin with
a smile that had custom and patience in it.

“Very pleased indeed,” she said; and he went away. The intelligent
observer, again, would have wondered how he refrained from going back
and kissing her. Perhaps the custom and the patience in her smile would
have lent themselves to the explanation. At all events, he went away.

He was forty-two, exactly double her age, when he married Judith
Strange, eight years before, in Stoneborough, a small manufacturing town
in the north of England, where her father was a Nonconformist minister.
He was her opportunity, and she had taken him, with private
congratulation that she could respect him and private qualms as to
whether her respect was her crucial test of him—considered in the light
of an opportunity. Not in any sordid sense; she would be more inclined
perhaps to apologise for herself than I am to apologise for her. But
with an inordinately hungry capacity for life she had the narrowest
conditions to live in. She knew by intuition that the world was full of
colour and passion, and when one is tormented with this sort of
knowledge it becomes more than ever grievous to inhabit one of its
small, dull, grimy blind alleys, with the single anticipation of
enduring to a smoke-blackened old age, like one of Stoneborough’s lesser
chimneys. There was nothing ideal about John Church except his
honesty,—already he stooped, already he was grey, sallow and serious,
with the slenderest interest in questions that could not express their
utility in unquestionable facts,—but when he asked her to marry him, the
wall at the end of the alley fell down, and a breeze stole in from the
far East, with a vision of palms and pomegranates. She accepted him for
the sake of her imagination, wishing profoundly that he was not so much
like her father, with what her mother thought almost improper
promptitude; and for a long time, although he still stood outside it,
her imagination loyally rewarded her. She felt the East to her
fingertips, and her mere physical life there became a thing of vivid
experience, to be valued for itself. If her husband confounded this joy
in her expansion with the orthodox happiness of a devoted wife, it
cannot be said that he was particularly to blame for his mistake, for
numbers of other people made it also. And when, after eight years of his
companionship, and that of the sunburned policeman, the anæmic
magistrate, the agreeable doctor, their wives, the odd colonel, and the
stray subalterns that constituted society in the stations they lived in,
she began to show a little lassitude of spirit, he put it down not
unnaturally to the climate, and wished he could conscientiously take a
few months’ leave, since nothing would induce her to go to England
without him. By this time India had become a resource, India that lay
all about her, glowing, profuse, mysterious, fascinating, a place in
which she felt that she had no part, could never have any part, but that
of a spectator. The gesture of a fakir, the red masses of the gold-mohur
trees against the blue intensity of the sky, the heavy sweetness of the
evening wind, the soft colour and curves of the homeward driven cattle,
the little naked babies with their jingling anklets in the bazar—she had
begun to turn to these things seeking their gift of pleasure jealously,
consciously thankful that, in spite of the Amusement Club, she could
never be altogether bored.

John Church went back to work with his satisfaction sweetened by the
fact that his wife had told him that she was very pleased indeed, while
Mrs. Church answered the Honourable Mr. Lewis Ancram’s letter.

“I have been making my own acquaintance this morning,” she said among
other things, “as an ambitious woman. It is intoxicating, after this
idle, sun-filled, wondering life, with the single supreme care that John
does not wear ragged collars to church—as a Commissioner he ought to be
extravagant in collars—to be confronted with something to assume and
carry out, a part to play, with all India looking on. Don’t imagine a
lofty intention on my part to inspire my husband’s Resolutions. I assure
you I see myself differently. Perhaps, after all, it is the foolish
anticipation of my state and splendour that has excited my vain
imagination as much as anything. Already, prospectively, I murmur lame
nothings into the ear of the Viceroy as he takes me down to dinner! But
I am preposterously delighted. To-morrow is Sunday—I have an irreverent
desire for the prayers of all the churches.”



                              CHAPTER II.


“Here you are at last!” remarked Mrs. Daye with vivacity, taking the
three long, pronounced and rustling steps which she took so very well,
toward the last comer to her dinner party, who made his leisurely
entrance between the _portières_, pocketing his handkerchief. “Don’t say
you have been to church,” she went on, holding out a condoning hand,
“for none of us will believe you.”

Although Mr. Ancram’s lips curved back over his rather prominent teeth
in a narrow smile as he put up his eyeglass and looked down at his
hostess, Mrs. Daye felt the levity fade out of her expression: she had
to put compulsion on herself to keep it in her face. It was as if she,
his prospective mother-in-law, had taken the least of liberties with Mr.
Ancram.

“Does the only road to forgiveness lie through the church gate?” he
asked. His voice was high and agreeable; it expressed discrimination;
his tone implied that, if the occasion had required it, he could have
said something much cleverer easily—an implication no one who knew him
would have found unwarrantable.

“The padres say it does, as a rule, Ancram,” put in Colonel Daye. “In
this case it lies through the dining-room door. Will you take my wife
in?”

In a corner of the room, which she might have chosen for its warm
obscurity, Rhoda Daye watched with curious scrutiny the lightest detail
of Mr. Lewis Ancram’s behaviour. An elderly gentleman, with pulpy red
cheeks and an amplitude of white waistcoat, stood beside her chair,
swaying out of the perpendicular with well-bred rigidity now and then,
in tentative efforts at conversation; to which she replied, “Really?”
and “Yes, I know,” while her eyes fixed themselves upon Ancram’s face,
and her little white features gleamed immobile under the halo which the
tall lamp behind her made with her fuzz of light-brown hair. “Mother’s
respect for him is simply outrageous,” she reflected, as she assured the
elderly gentleman that even for Calcutta the heat was really
extraordinary, considering that they were in December. “I
wonder—supposing he had not made love to me—if I could have had as
much!” She did not answer herself definitely—not from any lack of
candour, but because the question presented difficulties. She slipped
past him presently on the arm of the elderly gentleman, as Ancram still
stood with bent head talking to her mother. His eyes sought hers with a
significance that flattered her—there was no time for further
greeting—and the bow with which he returned her enigmatic little nod
singled her out for consideration. As she went in to dinner the nape of
Mr. Lewis Ancram’s neck and the parting of his hair remained with her as
pictorial facts.

Mrs. Daye always gave composite dinner-parties, and this was one of
them. “If you ask nobody but military people to meet each other,” she
was in the habit of saying, “you hear nothing but the price of chargers
and the prospects of the Staff Corps. If you make your list up of
civilians, the conversation consists of abuse of their official
superiors and the infamous conduct of the Secretary of State about the
rupee.” On this occasion Mrs. Daye had reason to anticipate that the
price of chargers would be varied by the grievances of the Civil
Service, and that a touring Member of Parliament would participate in
the discussion who knew nothing about either; and she felt that her
blend would be successful. She could give herself up to the somewhat
fearful enjoyment she experienced in Mr. Ancram’s society. Mrs. Daye was
convinced that nobody appreciated Mr. Ancram more subtly than she did.
She saw a great deal of jealousy of him in Calcutta society, whereas she
was wont to declare that, for her part, she found nothing extraordinary
in the way he had got in—a man of his brains, you know! And if Calcutta
resented this imputation upon its own brains in ever so slight a degree,
Mrs. Daye saw therein more jealousy of the fact that her family circle
was about to receive him. When it had once opened for that purpose and
closed again, Mrs. Daye hoped vaguely that she would be sustained for
the new and exacting duty of living up to Mr. Ancram.

[Illustration: “She seems to be sufficiently entertained.”]

“_Please_ look at Rhoda,” she begged, in a conversational buzz that her
blend had induced.

Mr. Ancram looked, deliberately, but with appreciation. “She seems to be
sufficiently entertained,” he said.

“Oh, she is! She’s got a globe-trotter. Haven’t you found out that Rhoda
simply loves globe-trotters? She declares that she renews her youth in
them.”

“Her first impressions, I suppose she means?”

“Oh, as to what she _means_——”

Mrs. Daye broke off irresolutely, and thoughtfully conveyed a minute
piece of roll to her lips. The minute piece of roll was Mr. Ancram’s
opportunity to complete Mrs. Daye’s suggestion of a certain interesting
ambiguity in her daughter; but he did not take it. He continued to look
attentively at Miss Daye, who appeared, as he said, to be sufficiently
entertained, under circumstances which seemed to him inadequate. Her
traveller was talking emphatically, with gestures of elderly dogmatism,
and she was deferentially listening, an amusement behind her eyes with
which the Chief Secretary to the Government at Bengal was not altogether
unfamiliar. He had seen it there before, on occasions when there was
apparently nothing to explain it.

“It would be satisfactory to see her eating her dinner,” he remarked,
with what Mrs. Daye felt to be too slight a degree of solicitude. She
was obliged to remind herself that at thirty-seven a man was apt to take
these things more as matters of fact, especially—and there was a double
comfort in this reflection—a man already well up in the Secretariat and
known to be ambitious. “Is it possible,” Mr. Ancram went on, somewhat
absently, “that these are Calcutta roses? You must have a very clever
gardener.”

“No”—and Mrs. Daye pitched her voice with a gentle definiteness that
made what she was saying interesting all round the table—“they came from
the Viceroy’s place at Barrackpore. Lady Emily sent them to me: so sweet
of her, I thought! I always think it particularly kind when people in
that position trouble themselves about one; they must have so _many_
demands upon their time.”

The effect could not have been better. Everybody looked at the roses
with an interest that might almost be described as respectful; and Mrs.
Delaine, whose husband was Captain Delaine of the Durham Rifles, said
that she would have known them for Their Excellencies’ roses
anywhere—they always did the table with that kind for the Thursday
dinners at Government House—she had never known them to use any other.

Mrs. St. George, whose husband was the Presidency Magistrate, found this
interesting. “Do they really?” she exclaimed. “I’ve often wondered what
those big Thursday affairs were like. Fancy—we’ve been in Calcutta
through three cold weathers now, and have never been asked to anything
but little private dinners at Government House—not more than eight or
ten, you know!”

“Don’t you prefer that?” asked Mrs. Delaine, taking her quenching with
noble equanimity.

“Well, of course one sees more _of_ them,” Mrs. St. George admitted.
“The last time we were there, about a fortnight ago, I had a long chat
with Lady Emily. She is a sweet thing, and perfectly wild at being out
of the school-room!” Mrs. St. George added that it was a charming
family, so well brought up; and this seemed to be a matter of special
congratulation as affecting the domestic arrangements of a Viceroy.
There was a warmth and an emphasis in the corroboration that arose which
almost established relations of intimacy between Their Excellencies and
Mrs. Daye’s dinner-party. Mrs. Daye’s daughter listened in her absorbed,
noting manner; and when the elderly gentleman remarked with a certain
solemnity that they were talking of the Scansleighs, he supposed, the
smile with which she said “Evidently” was more pronounced than he could
have had any right to expect.

“They seem to be delightful people,” continued the elderly gentleman,
earnestly.

“I daresay,” Miss Daye replied, with grave deliberation. “They’re very
decorative,” she added absently. “That’s a purely Indian vegetable, Mr.
Pond. Rather sticky, and without the ghost of a flavour; but you ought
to try it, as an experience, don’t you think?”

It occurred to Mrs. Daye sometimes that Mr. Ancram was unreasonably
difficult to entertain, even for a Chief Secretary. It occurred to her
more forcibly than usual on this particular evening, and it was almost
with trepidation that she produced the trump card on which she had been
relying to provoke a lively suit of amiabilities. She produced it
awkwardly too; there was always a slight awkwardness, irritating to so
_habile_ a lady, in her manner of addressing Mr. Ancram, owing to her
confessed and painful inability to call him “Lewis”—yet. “Oh,” she said
finally, “I haven’t congratulated you on your ‘Modern Influence of the
Vedic Books.’ I assure you, in spite of its being in blue paper covers
and printed by Government I went through it with the greatest interest.
And there were no pictures either,” Mrs. Daye added, with the
ingenuousness which often clings to Anglo-Indian ladies somewhat late in
life.

Mr. Ancram was occupied for the moment in scrutinising the contents of a
dish which a servant patiently presented to his left elbow. It was an
ornate and mottled conception visible through a mass of brown jelly, and
the man looked disappointed when so important a guest, after perceptible
deliberation, decisively removed his eyeglass and shook his head. Mrs.
Daye was in the act of reminding herself of the probably impaired
digestion of a Chief Secretary, when he seemed suddenly recalled to the
fact that she had spoken.

“Really?” he said, looking fully at her, with a smile that had many
qualities of compensation. “My dear Mrs. Daye, that was doing a good
deal for friendship, wasn’t it?”

His eyes were certainly blue and expressive when he allowed them to be,
his hostess thought, and he had the straight, thin, well-indicated nose
which she liked, and a sensitive mouth for a man. His work as part of
the great intelligent managing machine of the Government of India
overimpressed itself upon the stamp of scholarship Oxford had left on
his face, which had the pallor of Bengal, with fatigued lines about the
eyes, lines that suggested to Mr. Ancram’s friends the constant reproach
of over-exertion. A light moustache, sufficiently well-curled and
worldly, effectually prevented any tinge of asceticism which might
otherwise have been characteristic, and placed Mr. Ancram among those
who discussed Meredith, had an expensive taste in handicrafts, and
subscribed to the _Figaro Salon_. His secretary’s stoop was not a
pronounced and local curve, rather a general thrusting forward of his
personality which was fitting enough in a scientific investigator; and
his long, nervous, white hands spoke of a multitude of well-phrased
Resolutions. It was ridiculous, Mrs. Daye thought, that with so
agreeable a manner he should still convey the impression that one’s
interest in the Vedic Books was not of the least importance. It must be
that she was over-sensitive. But she would be piqued notwithstanding.
Pique, when one is plump and knows how to hold oneself, is more
effective than almost any other attitude.

“You are exactly like all the rest! You think that no woman can possibly
care to read anything but novels! Now, as a matter of fact I am
_devoted_ to things like Vedic Books. If I had nothing else to do I
should dig and delve in the archaic from morning till night.”

“The implication being,” returned Mr. Ancram sweetly, “that I have
nothing else to do.”

Mrs. Daye compressed her lips in the manner of one whose patience is at
an end. “It would serve you perfectly right,” she exclaimed, “if I
didn’t tell you what a long review of it I saw the other day in one of
the home papers.”

Ancram looked up with an almost imperceptible accession of interest.

“How nice!” he said lightly. “A fellow out here always feels himself in
luck when his odds and ends get taken up at home. You don’t happen to
remember the paper—or the date?”

“I’m almost sure it was the _Times_,” Mrs. Daye replied, with rather an
accentuation of rejoiceful zeal; “but Richard can tell you. It was he
who drew my attention to the notice.”

Mr. Ancram’s eyebrows underwent a slight contraction. “Notice” did not
seem to be a felicitous word.

“Oh, thanks,” he said. “Never mind; one generally comes across those
things sooner or later.”

“I say, Ancram,” put in Mr. St. George, who had been listening on Mrs.
Daye’s left, “you Asiatic Society fellows won’t get as much out of
Church for your investigations as you did out of Spence.”

Ancram looked fixedly at a porcelain cherub that moored a boatful of
pink-and-white confectionery to the nearest bank of the Viceregal roses.
“Sir Griffiths was certainly generous,” he said. “He gave Pierson a
quarter of a lakh, for instance, to get his ethnological statistics
together. It was easy to persuade him to recognise the value of these
things.”

“It won’t be easy to get this man to recognise it,” persisted St.
George. “He’s the sort of fellow who likes sanitation better than
Sanscrit. He’s got a great scheme on for improving the village
water-supply for Bengal, and I hear he wants to reorganise the
vaccination business. Great man for the people!”

“Wants to spend every blessed pice on the bloomin’ ryot,” remarked
Captain Delaine, with humorous resentment.

“Let us hope the people will be grateful,” said Ancram vaguely.

“They won’t, you know,” remarked Rhoda Daye to Mr. Pond. “They’ll never
know. They are like the cattle—they plough and eat and sleep; and if a
tenth of them die of cholera from bad water, they say it was written
upon their foreheads; and if Government cleans the tanks and the tenth
are spared, they say it is a good year and the gods are favourable.”

“Dear me!” said Mr. Pond: “that’s very interesting.”

“Isn’t it? And there’s lots more of it—all in the Calcutta newspapers,
Mr. Pond: you should read them if you wish to be informed.” And Mr. Pond
thought that an excellent idea.

When a Lieutenant-Governor drops into the conversational vortex of a
Calcutta dinner-party he circles on indefinitely. The measure of his
hospitality, the nature of his tastes, the direction of his policy, his
quality as a master, and the measure of his popularity, are only a few
of the heads under which he is discussed; while his wife is made the
most of separately, with equal thoroughness and precision. Just before
Mrs. Daye looked smilingly at Mrs. St. George, and the ladies flocked
away, some one asked who Mrs. Church’s friends were in Calcutta, anyway:
she seemed to know hardly any one person more than another—a delightful
impartiality, the lady added, of course, after Lady Spence’s
favouritism. The remark fell lightly enough upon the air, but Lewis
Ancram did not let it pass. He looked at nobody in particular, but into
space: it was a way he had when he let fall anything definite.

“Well,” he said, “I hope I may claim to be one. My pretension dates back
five years—I used to know them in Kaligurh. I fancy Mrs. Church will be
appreciated in Calcutta. She is that combination which is so much less
rare than it used to be—a woman who is as fine as she is clever, and as
clever as she is charming.”

“With all due deference to Mr. Ancram’s opinion,” remarked Mrs. Daye
publicly, with one hand upon the banister, as the ladies went up to the
drawing-room, “I should _not_ call Mrs. Church a fine woman. She’s much
too slender—really almost thin!”

“My dear mummie,” exclaimed Rhoda, as Mrs. St. George expressed her
entire concurrence, “don’t be stupid! He didn’t mean that.”

Later Ancram stepped out of one of the open French windows and found her
alone on the broad verandah, where orchids hung from the roof and big
plants in pots made a spiky gloom in the corners. A tank in the garden
glistened motionless below; the heavy fronds of a clump of sago palms
waved up and down uncertainly in the moonlight. Now and then in the
moist, soft air the scent of some hidden temple tree made itself felt. A
cluster of huts to the right in the street they looked down upon stood
half-concealed in a hanging blue cloud of smoke and fog. Far away in the
suburbs the wailing cry of the jackals rose and fell and recommenced;
nearer the drub-drubbing of a tom-tom announced that somewhere in the
bazar they kept a marriage festival. But for themselves and the
moonlight and the shadow of the creeper round the pillars, the verandah
was quite empty, and through the windows came a song of Mrs. Delaine’s
about love’s little hour. The situation made its voiceless demand, and
neither of them were unconscious of it. Nevertheless he, lighting a
cigarette, asked her if she would not come in and hear the music; and
she said no—she liked it better there; whereat they both kept the
silence that was necessary for the appreciation of Mrs. Delaine’s song.
When it was over, Rhoda’s terrier, Buzz, came out with inquiring
cordiality, and they talked of the growth of his accomplishments since
Ancram had given him to her; and then, as if it were a development of
the subject, Rhoda said:

“Mrs. Church has a very interesting face, don’t you think?”

“Very,” Ancram replied unhesitatingly.

“She looks as if she cared for beautiful things. Not only pictures and
things, but beautiful conceptions—ideas, characteristics.”

“I understand,” Ancram returned: “she does.”

There was a pause, while they listened to the wail of the jackals, which
had grown wild and high and tumultuous. As it died away, Rhoda looked up
with a little smile.

“I like that,” she said; “it is about the only thing out here that is
quite irrepressible. And—you knew her well at Kaligurh?”

“I think I may say I did,” Ancram replied, tossing the end of his
cigarette down among the hibiscus bushes. “My dear girl, you must come
in. There is nothing like a seductive moonlight night in India to give
one fever.”

“I congratulate you,” said Miss Daye—and her tone had a defiance which
she did not intend, though one could not say that she was unaware of its
cynicism—“I congratulate you upon knowing her well. It is always an
advantage to know the wife of the Lieutenant-Governor well. The most
delightful things come of it—Commissionerships, and all sorts of things.
I hope you will make her understand the importance of the Vedic Books in
their bearing upon the modern problems of government.”

“You are always asking me to make acknowledgments—you want almost too
many; but since it amuses you, I don’t mind.” Rhoda noted the little
gleam in his eyes that contradicted this. “Sanscrit is to me now exactly
what Greek was at Oxford—a stepping-stone, and nothing more. One must do
something to distinguish oneself from the herd; and in India, thank
fortune, it’s easy enough. There’s an enormous field, and next to nobody
to beat. Bless you, a Commissariat Colonel can give himself an aureole
of scientific discovery out here if he cares to try! If I hadn’t taken
up Sanscrit and Hinduism, I should have gone in for palæontology, or
conchology, or folk-lore, or ferns. Anything does: only the less other
people know about it the better; so I took Sanscrit.” A combined
suggestion of humour and candour gradually accumulated in Mr. Ancram’s
sentences, which came to a climax when he added, “You don’t think it
very original to discover that!”

“And the result of being distinguished from the herd?”

He shrugged his shoulders. “Well, they don’t send one to administer the
Andamans or Lower Burmah,” he said. “They conserve one’s intellectual
achievements to adorn social centres of some importance, which is more
agreeable. And then, if a valuable post falls vacant, one is not
considered disqualified for it by being a little wiser than other
people. Come now—there’s a very big confession for you! But you mustn’t
tell. We scientists must take ourselves with awful seriousness if we
want to be impressive. That’s the part that bores one.”

Mr. Ancram smiled down at his betrothed with distinct good-humour. He
was under the impression that he had spontaneously given his soul an
airing—an impression he was fond of. She listened, amused that she could
evoke so much, and returned to the thing he had evaded.

“Between the Vedic Books and Mrs. Church,” she said, “our future seems
assured.”

Ancram’s soul retired again, and shut the door with a click.

“That is quite a false note,” he said coolly: “Mrs. Church will have
nothing to do with it.”



                              CHAPTER III.


It became evident very soon after Miss Rhoda Daye’s appearance in
Calcutta that she was not precisely like the other young ladies in
sailor hats and cambric blouses who arrived at the same time. For one
superficial thing, anybody could see that she had less colour; and this
her mother mourned openly—a girl depended so entirely for the first
season on her colour. As other differences became obvious Mrs. Daye had
other regrets, one of them being that Rhoda had been permitted so
absolutely to fashion her own education. Mrs. Daye had not foreseen one
trivial result of this, which was that her daughter, believing herself
devoid of any special talent, refused to ornament herself with any
special accomplishment. This, in Mrs. Daye’s opinion, was carrying
self-depreciation and reverence for achievement and all that sort of
thing a great deal too far: a girl had no right to expect her parents to
present her to the world in a state of artistic nudity. It was not in
the nature of compensation that she understood the situation with the
Amir and the ambitions of the National Congress; such things were almost
unmentionable in Calcutta society. And it was certainly in the nature of
aggravation that she showed, after the first month of it, an
inexplicable indifference to every social opportunity but that of
looking on. Miss Daye had an undoubted talent for looking on; and she
would often exercise it—mutely, motionlessly, half hidden behind a
pillar at a ball, or abandoned in a corner after dinner—until her mother
was mortified enough to take her home. Presently it appeared that she
had looked on sufficiently to know her ground. She made her valuation of
society; she picked out the half-dozen Anglo-Indian types; it may be
presumed that she classified her parents. She still looked on, but with
less concentration: she began to talk. She developed a liking for the
society of elderly gentlemen of eminence, and an abhorrence for that of
their wives, which was considered of doubtful propriety, until the Head
of the Foreign Office once congratulated himself openly upon sitting
next her at dinner. After which she was regarded with indulgence, it was
said in corners that she must be clever, subalterns avoided her, and her
mother, taking her cue unerringly, figuratively threw up her hands and
asked Heaven why she of all people should be given a _fin-de-siècle_
daughter.

Privately Mrs. Daye tried to make herself believe, in the manner of
the Parisian playwright, that a _succès d’estime_ was infinitely to be
preferred to the plaudits of the mob. I need hardly say that she was
wholly successful in doing so, when Mr. Lewis Ancram contributed to
the balance in favour of this opinion. Mr. Ancram was observing too:
he observed in this case from shorter and shorter distances, and
finally allowed himself to be charmed by what he saw. Perhaps that is
not putting it quite strongly enough. He really encouraged himself to
be thus charmed. He was of those who find in the automatic monotony of
the Indian social machine, with its unvarying individual—a machine, he
was fond of saying, the wheels of which are kept oiled with the
essence of British Philistinism—a burden and a complaint. In London he
would have lived with one foot in Mayfair and the other in the Strand;
and there had been times when he talked of the necessity of chaining
his ambition before his eyes to prevent his making the choice of a
career over again, though it must be said that this violent proceeding
was carried out rather as a solace to his defrauded capacity for
culture than in view of any real danger. He had been accustomed to
take the annually fresh young ladies in straw hats and cambric blouses
who appeared in the cold weather much as he took the inevitable
functions at Government House—to be politely avoided, if possible; if
not, to be submitted to with the grace which might be expected from a
person holding his office and drawing his emoluments. When he found
that Rhoda Daye was likely to break up the surface of his blank
indifference to evening parties he fostered the probability. Among all
the young ladies in sailor hats and cambric blouses he saw his single
chance for experience, interest, sensation; and he availed himself of
it with an accumulated energy which Miss Daye found stimulating enough
to induce her to exert herself, to a certain extent, reciprocally. She
was not interested in the Hon. Mr. Lewis Ancram because of his
reputation: other men had reputations—reputations almost as big as
their paybills—who did not excite her imagination in the smallest
degree. It would be easy to multiply accounts upon which Mr. Ancram
did not interest Miss Daye, but it is not clear that any result would
be arrived at that way, and the fact remains that she was interested.
From this quiet point—she was entirely aware of its advantage—she
contemplated Mr. Ancram’s gradual advance along the lines of
attraction with a feeling very like satisfaction. She had only to
contemplate it. Ancram contributed his own impetus, and reached the
point where he believed his affections involved with an artistic shock
which he had anticipated for weeks as quite divinely enjoyable. She
behaved amusingly when they were engaged: she made a little comedy of
it, would be coaxed to no confessions and only one vow—that, as they
were to go through life together, she would try always to be
agreeable. If she had private questionings and secret alarms, she hid
them with intrepidity; and if it seemed to her to be anything
ridiculous that the wayward god should present himself behind the
careful countenance and the well-starched shirt-front of early
middle-age, holding an eyeglass in attenuated fingers, and mutely
implying that he had been bored for years, she did not betray her
impression. The thrall of their engagement made no change in her; she
continued to be the same demure, slender creature, who said unexpected
things, that she had been before. That he had covetable new privileges
did not seem to make much difference; her chief value was still that
of a clever acquaintance. She would grow more expensive in time, he
thought vaguely; but several months had passed, as we have seen,
without this result. On the other hand, there had been occasions when
he fancied that she deliberately disassociated herself from him in
that favourite pursuit of observation, in order to obtain a point of
view which should command certain intellectual privacies of his. He
wondered whether she would take this liberty with greater freedom when
they were one and indivisible; and, while he felt it absurd to object,
he wished she would be a little more communicative about what she saw.

They were to be married in March, when Ancram would take a year’s
furlough, and she would help him to lave his stiffened powers of
artistic enjoyment in the beauties of the Parthenon and the inspirations
of the Viennese galleries and the charms of Como and Maggiore. They
talked a great deal of the satisfaction they expected to realise in this
way. They went over it in detail, realising again and again that it must
represent to him compensation for years of aridity and to her a store
against the future likely to be drawn upon largely. Besides, it was a
topic upon which they were quite sure of finding mutual understanding,
even mutual congratulation—an excellent topic.

Meanwhile Ancram lived with Philip Doyle in Hungerford Street under the
ordinary circumstances which govern Calcutta bachelors. Doyle was a
barrister. He stood, in Calcutta, upon his ability and his
individuality, and as these had been observed to place him in familiar
relations with Heads of Departments, it may be gathered that they gave
him a sufficient elevation. People called him a “strong” man because he
refused their invitations to dinner, but the statement might have had a
more intelligent basis and been equally true. It would have surprised
him immensely if he could have weighed the value of his own opinions, or
observed the trouble which men who appropriated them took to give them a
tinge of originality. He was a survival of an older school,
certainly—people were right in saying that. He had preserved a
courtliness of manner and a sincerity of behaviour which suggested an
Anglo-India that is mostly lying under pillars and pyramids in rank
Calcutta cemeteries now. He was hospitable and select—so much of both
that he often experienced ridiculous annoyance at having asked men to
dinner who were essentially unpalatable to him. His sensitiveness to
qualities in personal contact was so great as to be a conspicuous
indication, to the discerning eye, of Lewis Ancram’s unbounded tact.

Circumstances had thrown the men under one roof, and even if the younger
of them had not made himself so thoroughly agreeable, it would have been
difficult to alter the arrangement.

It could never be said of Lewis Ancram that he did not choose his
friends with taste, and in this case his discrimination had a foundation
of respect which he was in the habit of freely mentioning. His
admiration of Doyle was generous and frank, so generous and frank that
one might have suspected a virtue in the expression of it.
Notwithstanding this implication, it was entirely sincere, though he
would occasionally qualify it.

“I often tell Doyle,” he said once to Rhoda, “that his independence is
purely a matter of circumstance. If he had the official yoke upon his
neck he would kow-tow like the rest of us.”

“I don’t believe that,” she answered quickly.

“Ah well, now that I think of it I don’t particularly believe it myself.
Doyle’s the salt of the earth anyhow. He makes it just possible for
officials like myself to swallow officialdom.”

“Did it ever occur to you,” she asked slowly, “to wonder what he thinks
of you?”

“Oh, I daresay he likes me well enough. Irishmen never go in for
analysing their friends. At all events we live together, and there are
no rows.”

They were driving, and the dogcart flew past the ships along the
Strand—Ancram liked a fast horse—for a few minutes in silence. Then she
had another question.

“Have you succeeded in persuading Mr. Doyle to—what do the newspapers
say?—support you at the altar, yet?”

“No, confound him. He says it would be preposterous at his age—he’s not
a year older than I am! I wonder if he expects me to ask Baby Bramble,
or one of those little boys in the Buffs! Anyway it won’t be Doyle, for
he goes to England, end of February—to get out of it, I believe.”

“I’m not sorry,” Rhoda answered; but it would have been difficult for
her to explain, at the moment, why she was not sorry.



                              CHAPTER IV.


“I don’t mind telling you,” said Philip Doyle, knocking the ashes out of
his pipe, “that, personally, His Acting Honour represents to me a number
of objectionable things. He is a Radical, and a Low Churchman, and a
Particularist. He’s that objectionable ethical mixture, a compound of
petty virtues. He believes this earth was created to give him an
atmosphere to do his duty in; and he does it with the invincible courage
of short-sightedness combined with the notion that the ultimate court of
appeal for eighty million Bengalis should be his precious Methodist
conscience. But the brute’s honest, and if he insists on putting this
University foolishness of his through, I’m sorry for him. He’s a dead
man, politically, the day it is announced.”

“He is,” replied Ancram, concentrating his attention on a match and the
end of his cigar. “There’s—no doubt—about that.”

The two men were smoking after dinner, with the table and a couple of
decanters between them. Roses drooped over the bowl of Cutch silver that
gleamed in the middle of the empty cloth, and a lemon leaf or two
floated in the finger-glass at Ancram’s elbow. He threw the match into
it, and looked across at Doyle with his cigar between his teeth in the
manner which invites further discussion.

“In point of political morality I suppose he’s right enough——”

“He generally is,” Ancram interrupted. “He’s got a scent for political
morality keen enough to upset every form of Government known to the
nineteenth century.”

“But they see political morality through another pair of spectacles in
England. To withdraw State aid from education anywhere at this end of
the century is as impracticable as it would be to deprive the British
workman of his vote. It’s retrogressive, and this is an age which will
admit anything except a mistake of its own.”

“He doesn’t intend to withdraw State aid from education. He means to
spend the money on technical schools.”

“A benevolent intention. But it won’t make the case any better with the
Secretary of State. He will say that it ought to be done without
damaging the sacred cause of higher culture.”

“Damn the sacred cause of higher culture!” replied Ancram, with an
unruffled countenance. “What has it done out here? Filled every
sweeper’s son of them with an ambition to sit on an office stool and be
a gentleman!—created by thousands a starveling class that find nothing
to do but swell mass-meetings on the Maidan and talk sedition that gets
telegraphed from Peshawur to Cape Comorin. I advertised for a baboo the
other day, and had four hundred applications—fifteen rupees a month,
poor devils! But the Dayes were a fortnight in getting a decent cook on
twenty.”

“Bentinck should have thought of that; it’s too late now. You can’t
bestow a boon on the masses in a spirit of progressiveness and take it
away sixty years later in a spirit of prudence. It’s decent enough of
Church to be willing to bear the consequences of somebody else’s
blunder; but blunders of that kind have got to take their place in the
world’s formation and let the ages retrieve them. It’s the only way.”

“Oh, I agree with you. Church is an ass: he ought not to attempt it.”

“Why do you fellows let him?”

Ancram looked in Doyle’s direction as he answered—looked near him, fixed
his eyes, with an effect of taking a view at the subject round a corner,
upon the other man’s tobacco-jar. The trick annoyed Doyle; he often
wished it were the sort of thing one could speak about.

“Nobody is less amenable to reason,” he said, “than the man who wants to
hit his head against a stone wall, especially if he thinks the world
will benefit by his inconvenience. And, to make matters worse, Church
has complicated the thing with an idea of his duty toward the people at
home who send out the missionaries. He doesn’t think it exactly
according to modern ethics that they should take up collections in
village churches to provide the salvation of the higher mathematics for
the sons of fat _bunnias_ in the bazar—who could very well afford to pay
for it themselves.”

“He can’t help that.”

Ancram finished his claret. “I believe he has some notion of advertising
it. And after he has eliminated the missionary who teaches the Georgics
instead of the Gospels, and devoted the educational grants to turning
the gentle Hindoo into a skilled artisan, he thinks the cause of higher
culture may be pretty much left to take care of itself. He believes we
could bleed Linsettiah and Pattore and some of those chaps for
endowments, I fancy, though he doesn’t say so.”

“Better try some of the smaller natives. A maharajah won’t do much for a
C. I. E. or an extra gun nowadays: it isn’t good enough. He knows that
all Europe is ready to pay him the honours of royalty whenever he
chooses to tie up his cooking-pots and go there. He’ll save his money
and buy hand-organs with it, or panoramas, or sewing-machines.
Presently, if this adoration of the Eastern potentate goes on at home,
we shall have the maharajah whom we propose to honour receiving our
proposition with his thumb applied to his nose and all his fingers out!”

Ancram yawned. “Well, it won’t be a question of negotiating for
endowments: it will never come off. Church will only smash himself over
the thing if he insists; and,” he added, as one who makes an
unprejudiced, impartial statement on fatalistic grounds, “he will
insist. I should find the whole business rather amusing if, as
Secretary, I hadn’t to be the mouthpiece for it.” He looked at his
watch. “Half-past nine. I suppose I ought to be off. You’re not coming?”

“Where?”

“To Belvedere. A ‘walk-round,’ I believe.”

“Thanks: I think not. It would be too much bliss for a corpulent
gentleman of my years. I remember—the card came last week, and I gave it
to Mohammed to take care of. I believe Mohammed keeps a special
_almirah_ for the purpose; and in it,” Mr. Doyle continued gravely, “are
the accumulations of several seasons. He regards them as a trust only
second to that of the Director of Records, and last year he made them
the basis of an application for more pay.”

“Which you gave him,” laughed Ancram, getting into his light overcoat as
the brougham rolled up to the door. “I loathe going; but for me there’s
no alternative. There seems to be an Act somewhere providing that a man
in my peculiar position must show himself in society.”

“So long as you hover on the brink of matrimony,” said the other, “you
must be a butterfly. Console yourself: after you take the plunge you can
turn ascidian if you like.”

The twinkle went out of Philip Doyle’s eyes as he heard the carriage
door shut and the wheels roll crunching toward the gate. He filled his
pipe again and took up the _Saturday Review_. Half an hour later he was
looking steadily at the wall over the top of that journal, considering
neither its leading articles nor its reviews nor its advertisements, but
Mr. Lewis Ancram’s peculiar position.

At that moment Ancram leaned against the wall in a doorway of the
drawing-room at Belvedere, one leg lightly crossed over the other, his
right hand in his pocket, dangling his eyeglass with his left. It was
one of the many casual attitudes in which the world was informed that a
Chief Secretary, in Mr. Ancram’s opinion, had no prescriptive right to
give himself airs. He had a considering look: one might have said that
his mind was far from the occasion—perhaps upon the advisability of a
tobacco tax; but this would not have been correct. He was really
thinking of the quantity and the quality of the people who passed him,
and whether as a function the thing could be considered a success. With
the white gleam on the pillars, and the palms everywhere, and the moving
vista of well-dressed women through long, richly-furnished rooms
arranged for a large reception, it was certainly pretty enough; but
there was still the question of individuals, which had to be determined
by such inspection as he was bestowing upon them. It would have been
evident to anybody that more people recognised Ancram than Ancram
recognised; he had by no means the air of being on the look-out for
acquaintances. But occasionally some such person as the Head of the
Telegraph Department looked well at him and said, “How do, Ancram?” with
the effect of adding “I defy you to forget who I am!” or a lady of
manner gave him a gracious and pronounced inclination, which also said,
“You are the clever, the rising Mr. Ancram. You haven’t called; but you
are known to despise society. I forgive you, and I bow.” One or two
Members of Council merely vouchsafed him a nod as they passed; but it
was noticeably only Members of Council who nodded to Mr. Ancram. An
aide-de-camp to the Viceroy, however—a blue-eyed younger son with his
mind seriously upon his duty—saw Ancram in his path, and hesitated. He
had never quite decided to what extent these fellows in the Bengal
Secretariat, and this one in particular, should be recognised by an
aide-de-camp; and he went round the other way. Presently there was a
little silken stir and rustle, a parting of the ladies’ trains, and a
lull of observation along both sides of the lane which suddenly formed
itself among the people. His Excellency the Viceroy had taken his early
leave and was making his departure. Lord Scansleigh had an undisguised
appreciation of an able man, and there was some definiteness in the way
he stopped, though it was but for a moment, and shook hands with Ancram,
who swung the eyeglass afterwards more casually than he had done before.
The aide-de-camp, following after, was in no wise rebuked. What the
Viceroy chose to do threw no light on his difficulty. He merely cast his
eyes upon the floor, and his fresh coloured countenance expressed a
respectfully sad admiration for the noble manner in which his lord
discharged every obligation pertaining to the Viceregal office.

The most privileged hardly cares to make demands upon his hostess as
long as she has a Viceroy to entertain, and Ancram waited until their
Excellencies were well on their way home, their four turbaned Sikhs
trotting after them, before he made any serious attempt to find Mrs.
Church. A sudden and general easefulness was observable at the same
time. People began to look about them and walk and talk with the
consciousness that it was no longer possible that they should be
suspected of arranging themselves so that Lord Scansleigh _must_ bow.
The Viceroy having departed, they thought about other things. She was
standing, when presently he made his way to her, talking to Sir William
Scott of the Foreign Department, and at the moment, to the Maharajah of
Pattore. Ancram paused and watched her unperceived. It was like the
pleasure of looking at a picture one technically understands. He noted
with satisfaction the subtle difference in her manner toward the two
men, and how, in her confidence with the one and her condescending
recognition of the other’s dignity, both were consciously receiving
their due. He noticed the colour of her heliotrope velvet gown, and
asked himself whether any other woman in the room could possibly wear
that shade. Mentally he dared the other women to say that its simplicity
was over-dramatic, or that by the charming arrangement of her hair and
her pearls and the yellowed lace, that fell over her shoulders Judith
Church had made herself too literal a representation of a
great-grandmother who certainly wore none of these things. He paused
another second to catch the curve of her white throat as she turned her
head with a little characteristic lifting of her chin; and then he went
up to her. The definite purpose that appeared in his face was enough of
itself to assert their intimacy—to this end it was not necessary that he
should drop his eyeglass.

“Oh,” she said, with a step forward, “how do you do! I began to
think——Maharajah, when you are invited to parties you always come, don’t
you? Well, this gentleman does not always come, I understand. I beg you
will ask a question about it at the next meeting of the Legislative
Council. The Honourable the Chief Secretary is requested to furnish an
explanation of his lamentable failure to perform his duties toward
society.”

The native smiled uncomfortably, puzzled at her audacity. His membership
of the Bengal Legislative Council was a new toy, and he was not sure
that he liked any one else to play with it.

“His Highness of Pattore,” said Ancram, slipping a hand under the fat
elbow in its pink-and-gold brocade, “would be the very last fellow to
get me into a scrape. Wouldn’t you, Maharaj!”

His Highness beamed affectionately upon Ancram. There was, at all
events, nothing but flattery in being taken by the elbow by a Chief
Secretary. “Certainlie,” he replied—“the verrie last”; and he laughed
the unctuous, irresponsible laugh of a maharajah, which is accompanied
by the twinkling of pendant emeralds and the shaking of personal
rotundities which cannot be indicated.

Sir William Scott folded his arms and refolded them, balanced himself
once or twice on the soles of his shoes, pushed out his under-lip, and
retreated in the gradual and surprised way which would naturally be
adopted by the Foreign Department when it felt itself left out of the
conversation. The Maharajah stood about uneasily on one leg for a
moment, and then with a hasty double salaam he too waddled away. Mrs.
Church glanced after his retreating figure—it was almost a perfect
oval—with lips prettily composed to seemly gravity. Then, as her eyes
met Ancram’s, she laughed like a schoolgirl.

“Oh,” she said, “go away! I mustn’t talk to you. I shall be forgetting
my part.”

“You are doing it well. Lady Spence, at this stage of the proceedings,
was always surrounded by bank-clerks and policemen. I do not observe a
member of either of those interesting species,” he said, glancing round
through his eyeglass, “within twenty yards. On the contrary, an
expectant Member of Council on the nearest sofa, the Commander-in-Chief
hovering in the middle distance, and a fringe of Departmental Heads on
the horizon.”

“I do not see any of them,” she laughed, looking directly at Ancram. “We
are going to sit down, you and I, and talk for four or six minutes, as
the last baboo said who implored an interview with my husband”; and Mrs.
Church sank, with just a perceptible turning of her shoulder upon the
world, into the nearest armchair. It was a wide gilded arm-chair,
cushioned in deep yellow silk. Ancram thought, as she crossed her feet
and leaned her head against the back of it, that the effect was
delicious.

“And you really think I am doing it well!” she said. “I have been dying
to know. I really dallied for a time with the idea of asking one of the
aides-de-camp. But as a matter of fact,” she said confidentially,
“though I order them about most callously, I am still horribly afraid of
the aides-de-camp—in uniform, on duty.”

“And in flannels, off duty?”

“In flannels, off duty, I make them almond toffee and they tell me their
love affairs. I am their sisterly mother and their cousinly aunt. We
even have games of ball.”

“They are nice boys,” he said, with a sigh of resignation: “I daresay
they deserve it.”

There was an instant’s silence of good fellowship, and then she moved
her foot a little, so that a breadth of the heliotrope velvet took on a
paler light.

“Yes,” he nodded, “it is quite—regal.”

She laughed, flushing a little. “Really! That’s not altogether correct.
It ought to be only officiating. But I can’t tell you how delicious it
is to be _obliged_ to wear pretty gowns.”

At that moment an Additional Member of Council passed them so
threateningly that Mrs. Church was compelled to put out a staying hand
and inquire for Lady Bloomsbury, who was in England, and satisfy herself
that Sir Peter had quite recovered from his bronchitis, and warn Sir
Peter against Calcutta’s cold-weather fogs. Ancram kept his seat, but
Sir Peter stood with stout persistence, rooted in his rights. It was
only when Mrs. Church asked him whether he had seen the new portrait,
and told him where it was, that he moved on, and then he believed that
he went of his own accord. By the time an Indian official arrives at an
Additional Membership he is usually incapable of perceiving anything
which does not tend to enhance that dignity.

“You have given two of my six minutes to somebody else, remember,”
Ancram said. For an instant she did not answer him. She was looking
about her with a perceptible air of having, for the moment, been
oblivious of something it was her business to remember. Almost
immediately her eye discovered John Church. He was in conversation with
the Bishop, and apparently they were listening to each other with
deference, but sometimes Church’s gaze wandered vaguely over the heads
of the people and sometimes he looked at the floor. His hands were
clasped in front of him, his chin was so sunk in his chest that the most
conspicuous part of him seemed his polished forehead and his heavy black
eyebrows, his expression was that of a man who submits to the
inevitable. Ancram saw him at the same moment, and in the silence that
asserted itself between them there was a touch of embarrassment which
the man found sweet. He felt a foolish impulse to devote himself to
turning John Church into an ornament to society.

“This sort of thing——” he suggested condoningly.

“Bores him. Intolerably. He grudges the time and the energy. He says
there is so much to do.”

“He is quite right.”

“Oh, don’t encourage him! On the contrary—promise me something.”

“Anything.”

“When you see him standing about alone—he is really very
absent-minded—go up and make him talk to you. He will get your ideas—the
time, you see, will not be wasted. And neither will the general public,”
she added, “be confronted with the spectacle of a Lieutenant-Governor
who looks as if he had a contempt for his own hospitality.”

“I’ll try. But I hardly think my ideas upon points of administration are
calculated to enliven a social evening. And don’t send me now. The
Bishop is doing very well.”

“The Bishop?” She turned to him again, with laughter in the dark depths
of her eyes. “I realised the other day what one may attain to in
Calcutta. His Lordship asked me, with some timidity, what I thought of
the length of his sermons! Tell me, please, who is this madam bearing
down upon me in pink and grey?”

Ancram was on his feet. “It is Mrs. Daye,” he said. “People who come so
late ought not to insist upon seeing you.”

“Mrs. Daye! Oh, of course; your——” But Mrs. Daye was clasping her
hostess’s hand. “And Miss Daye, I think,” said Mrs. Church, looking
frankly into the face of the girl behind, “whom I have somehow been
defrauded of meeting before. I have a great many congratulations
to—divide,” she went on prettily, glancing at Ancram. “Mr. Ancram is an
old friend of ours.”

“Thank you,” replied Miss Daye. Her manner suggested that at school such
acknowledgments had been very carefully taught her.

“My dear, you should make a pretty curtsey,” her mother said jocularly,
and then looked at Rhoda with astonishment as the girl, with an unmoved
countenance, made it.

Ancram looked uncomfortable, but Mrs. Church cried out with vivacity
that it was charming—she was so glad to find that Miss Daye could unbend
to a stranger; and Mrs. Daye immediately stated that she _must_ hear
whether the good news was true that Mrs. Church had accepted the
presidency—presidentship (what should one say?)—of the Lady Dufferin
Society. Ah! that was delightful—now _everything_ would go smoothly.
Poor dear Lady Spence found it _far_ too much for her! Mrs. Daye touched
upon a variety of other matters as the four stood together, and the
gaslights shone down upon the diamond stars in the women’s hair, and the
band played on the verandah behind the palms. Among them was the
difficulty of getting seats in the Cathedral in the cold weather, and
the fascinating prospect of having a German man-of-war in port for the
season, and that dreadful frontier expedition against the Nagapis; and
they ran, in the end, into an allusion to Mrs. Church’s delightful
Thursday tennises.

“Ah, yes,” Mrs. Church replied, as the lady gave utterance to this, with
her dimpled chin thrust over her shoulder, in the act of departure: “you
must not forget my Thursdays. And you,” she said to Rhoda, with a
directness which she often made very engaging—“you will come too, I
hope?”

“Oh, yes, thank you,” the girl answered, with her neat smile: “I will
come too—with pleasure.”

“Why didn’t you go with them?” Mrs. Church exclaimed a moment later.

Ancram looked meditatively at the chandelier. “We are not exactly a
demonstrative couple,” he said. “She likes a decent reticence, I
believe—in public. I’ll find them presently.”

They were half a mile on their way home when he began to look for them;
and Mrs. Daye had so far forgotten herself as to comment unfavourably
upon his behaviour.

“My dear mummie,” her daughter responded, “you don’t suppose I want to
interfere with his amusements!”



                               CHAPTER V.


A bazar had been opened in aid of a Cause. The philanthropic heart of
Calcutta, laid bare, discloses many Causes, and during the cold weather
their commercial hold upon the community is as briskly maintained as it
may be consistently with the modern doctrine of the liberty of the
subject. The purpose of this bazar was to bring the advantages of the
piano and feather-stitch and Marie Bashkirtseff to young native ladies
of rank. It had been for some time obvious that young native ladies of
rank were painfully behind the van of modern progress. It was known that
they were not in the habit of spending the golden Oriental hours in the
search for wisdom as the bee obtains honey from the flowers: they much
preferred sucking their own fingers, cloyed with sweetmeats from the
bazar. Yet a few of them had tasted emancipation. Their husbands allowed
them to show their faces to the world. Of one, who had been educated in
London, it was whispered that she wore stays, and read books in three
languages besides Sanscrit, and ate of the pig! These the memsahibs
fastened upon and infected with the idea of elevating their sisters by
annual appeals to the public based on fancy articles. Future generations
of Aryan lady-voters, hardly as yet visible in the effulgence of all
that is to come, will probably fail to understand that their privileges
were founded, towards the end of the nineteenth century, on an
antimacassar; but thus it will have been.

The wife of the Lieutenant-Governor had opened the bazar. She had done
it in black lace and jet, which became her exceedingly, with a pretty
little speech, which took due account of the piano and feather-stitch
and Marie Bashkirtseff under more impressive names. She had driven there
with Lady Scott. The way was very long and very dusty and very native,
which includes several other undesirable characteristics; and Lady Scott
had beguiled it with details of an operation she had insisted on
witnessing at the Dufferin Hospital for Women. Lady Scott declared that,
holding the position she did on the Board, she really felt the
responsibility of seeing that things were properly done, but that
henceforth the lady-doctor in charge should have her entire confidence.
“I only wonder,” said Mrs. Church, “that, holding the position you do on
the Board, you didn’t insist on performing the operation yourself”; and
her face was so grave that Lady Scott felt flattered and deprecated the
idea.

Then they had arrived and walked with circumstance through the little
desultory crowd of street natives up the strip of red cloth to the door,
and there been welcomed by three or four of the very most emancipated,
with two beautiful, flat, perfumed bouquets of pink-and-white roses and
many suffused smiles. And then the little speech, which gave Mrs. Gasper
of the High Court the most poignant grief, in that men, on account of
the unemancipated, were excluded from the occasion; she would simply
have given anything to have had her husband hear it. After which Mrs.
Church had gone from counter to counter, with her duty before her eyes.
She bought daintily, choosing Dacca muslins and false gods, brass
plaques from Persia and embroidered cloths from Kashmir. A dozen or two
of the unemancipated pressed softly upon her, chewing betel, and
appraising the value of her investments, and little Mrs. Gasper noted
them too from the other side of the room. Lady Scott was most kind in
showing dear Mrs. Church desirable purchases, and made, herself,
conspicuously more than the wife of the Lieutenant-Governor. On every
hand a native lady said, “Buy something!” with an accent less expressive
of entreaty than of resentful expectation. One of the emancipated went
behind a door and made up the total of Mrs. Church’s expenditure. She
came out again looking discontented: Lady Spence the year before had
spent half as much again.

Mrs. Church felt as she drove away that she had left behind her an
injury which might properly find redress under a Regulation.

She was alone, Lady Scott having to go on to a meeting of the “Board”
with Mrs. Gasper. The disc of pink-and-white roses rolled about with the
easy motion of the barouche, on the opposite seat. It was only half-past
four, and the sun was still making strong lines with the tawdry
flat-roofed yellow shops that huddled along the crowded interminable
streets. She looked out and saw a hundred gold-bellied wasps hovering
over a tray of glistening sweetmeats. Next door a woman with her red
cloth pulled over her head, and her naked brown baby on her hip, paused
and bought a measure of parched corn from a bunnia, who lolled among his
grain heaps a fat invitation to hunger. Then came the square dark hole
of Abdul Rahman, where he sat in his spectacles and sewed, with his long
lean legs crossed in front of him, and half a dozen red-beaked
love-birds in a wicker cage to keep him company. And then the
establishment of Saddanath Mookerjee, announcing in a dazzling fringe of
black letters:

                            ―――――――――――――――
                      PAINS FEVERANDISEASES CURED
                                ――――――――
                             WHILE YOU WAIT

She looked at it all as she rolled by with a little tender smile of
reconnaissance. The old fascination never failed her; the people and
their doings never became common facts. Nevertheless she was very tired.
The crowd seethed along in the full glare of the afternoon, hawking,
disputing, gesticulating. The burden of their talk—the naked coolies,
the shrill-jabbering women with loads of bricks upon their heads, the
sleek baboos in those European shirts the nether hem of which no canon
of propriety has ever taught them to confine—the burden of their talk
reached her where she sat, and it was all of _paisa_[A] and _rupia_, the
eternal dominant note of the bazar. She closed her eyes and tried to put
herself into relation with a life bounded by the rim of a copper coin.
She was certainly very tired. When she looked again a woman stooped over
one of the city standpipes and made a cup with her hand and gave her
little son to drink. He was a very beautiful little son, with a string
of blue beads round his neck and a silver anklet on each of his fat
brown legs, and as he caught her hand with his baby fingers the mother
smiled over him in her pride.

-----

Footnote A:

  Halfpence.

-----

Judith Church suddenly leaned back among her cushions very close to
tears. “It would have been better,” she said to herself—“so much
better,” as she opened her eyes widely and tried to think about
something else. There was her weekly dinner-party of forty that night,
and she was to go down with the Bishop. Oh, well! that was better than
Sir Peter Bloomsbury. She hoped Captain Thrush had not forgotten to ask
some people who could sing—and _not_ Miss Nellie Vansittart. She smiled
a little as she thought how Captain Thrush had made Nellie Vansittart’s
pretty voice an excuse for asking her and her people twice already this
month. She must see that Captain Thrush was not on duty the afternoon of
Mrs. Vansittart’s _musicale_. She felt indulgent towards Captain Thrush
and Nellie Vansittart; she give that young lady plenary absolution for
the monopoly of her lieutenant on the Belvedere Thursdays; she thought
of them by their Christian names. Then to-morrow—to-morrow she opened
the _café chantant_ for the Sailors’ Home, and they dined at the Fort
with the General. On Wednesday there was the Eurasian Female Orphans’
prize-giving, and the dance on board the _Boetia_. On Friday a “Lady
Dufferin” meeting—or was it the Dhurrumtollah Self-Help Society, or the
Sisters’ Mission?—she must look it up in her book. And, sandwiched in
somewhere, she knew there was a German bacteriologist and a lecture on
astronomy. She put up both her slender hands in her black gloves and
yawned; remembering at the same time that it was ten days since she had
seen Lewis Ancram. Her responsibilities, when he mocked at them with
her, seemed light and amusing. He gave her strength and stimulus: she
was very frank with herself in confessing how much she depended upon
him.

The carriage drew up on one side of the stately width of Chowringhee.
That is putting it foolishly; for Chowringhee has only one side to draw
up at—the other is a footpath bordering the great green Maidan, which
stretches on across to the river’s edge, and is fringed with masts from
Portsmouth and Halifax and Ispahan. When the sun goes down behind
them——But the sun had not gone down when Mrs. Church got out of her
carriage and went up the steps of the School of Art: it was still
burnishing the red bricks of that somewhat insignificant building, and
lying in yellow sheets over the vast stucco bulk of the Indian Museum on
one side, and playing among the tree-tops in the garden of the
Commissioner of Police on the other. Anglo-Indian aspirations, in their
wholly subordinate, artistic form, were gathered together in an
exhibition here, and here John Church, who was inspecting a gaol at the
other end of Calcutta, had promised to meet his wife at five o’clock.

The Lieutenant-Governor had been looking forward to this: it was so
seldom, he said, that he found an opportunity of combining a duty and a
pleasure. Judith Church remembered other Art Exhibitions she had seen in
India, and thought that one category was enough.

At the farther end of the room a native gentleman stood transfixed with
admiration before a portrait of himself by his own son. Two or three
ladies with catalogues darted hurriedly, like humming-birds, from
water-colour to water-colour. A cadaverous planter from the Terai, who
turned out sixty thousand pounds of good tea and six yards of bad
pictures annually, talked with conviction to an assenting broker with
his thumbs in the armholes of his waistcoat, about the points of his
“Sunset View of Kinchinjunga,” that hung among the oils on the other
wall. There was no one else in the room but Mr. Lewis Ancram, who wore a
straw hat and an air of non-expectancy, and looked a sophisticated
twenty-five.

For a moment, although John Church was the soul of punctuality, it did
not seem remarkable to Mrs. Church that her husband had failed to turn
up. Ancram had begun to explain, indeed, before it occurred to her to
ask; and this, when she remembered it, brought a delicate flush to her
cheeks which stayed there, and suggested to the Chief Secretary the
pleasant recollection of a certain dewy little translucent flower that
grew among the Himalayan mosses very high up.

“It was a matter His Honour thought really required looking into—clear
evidence, you know, that the cholera was actually being communicated
inside the gaol—and when I offered to bring his apologies on to you I
honestly believe he was delighted to secure another hour of
investigation.”

“John works atrociously hard,” she replied; and when he weighed this
afterward, as he had begun to weigh the things she said, he found in it
appreciably more concern for John’s regrettable habit of working
atrociously hard than vexation at his failure to keep their engagement.

They walked about for five minutes and looked at the aspirations. Ancram
remembered Rhoda Daye’s hard little sayings on the opening day, and
reflected that some women could laugh with a difference. Mrs. Church did
it with greatest freedom, he noticed, at the prize pictures. For the
others she had compunction, and she regarded the “Sunset View of
Kinchinjunga” with a smile that she plainly atoned for by an inward
tear. “Don’t!” she said, looking round the walls, as he invested that
peak with the character of a strawberry ice. “It means all the bloom of
their lives, poor things. At all events it’s ideality, it isn’t——”

“Pig-sticking!”

“Yes,” she said softly. “If I knew what in the world to do with it, I
would buy that ‘Kinchin.’ But its ultimate disposal does present
difficulties.”

“I don’t think you would have any right to do that, you know. You
couldn’t be so dishonest with the artist. Who would sell the work of his
hand to be burned!”

He was successful in provoking her appreciation. “You are quite right,”
she said. “The patronage of my pity! You always see!”

“I _have_ bought a picture,” Ancram went on, “by a fellow named Martin,
who seems to have sent it out from England. It’s nothing great, but I
thought it was a pity to let it go back. That narrow one, nearest to the
corner.”

“It is good enough to escape getting a prize,” she laughed. “Yes, I like
it rather—a good deal—very much indeed. I wish I were a critic and could
tell you why. It will be a pleasure to you; it is so green and cool and
still.”

Mr. Ancram’s purchase was of the type that is growing common enough at
the May exhibitions—a bit of English landscape on a dull day towards
evening, fields and a bank with trees on it, a pool with water-weeds in
it, the sky crowding down behind and standing out in front in the quiet
water. Perhaps it lacked imagination—there was no young woman leaning
out of the canoe to gather water-lilies—but it had been painted with a
good deal of knowledge.

Mr. James Springgrove at the moment was talking about it to another
gentleman. Mr. Springgrove was one of Calcutta’s humourists. He was also
a member of the Board of Revenue; and for these reasons, combined with
his subscription, it was originally presumed that Mr. Springgrove
understood Art. People generally thought he did, because he was a
Director and a member of the Hanging Committee, but this was a mistake.
Mr. Springgrove brought his head as nearly as possible into a line with
the other gentleman’s head, from which had issued, in weak commendation,
the statement that No. 223 reminded it of home.

[Illustration: There was a moment’s pause.]

“If you asked what it reminded _me_ of,” said Mr. Springgrove, clapping
the other on the back, “I should say verdigris, sir—verdigris.” Mrs.
Church and the Honourable Mr. Lewis Ancram looked into each other’s eyes
and smiled as long as there was any excuse for smiling.

“I am glad you are not a critic,” he said. She was verging toward the
door. “What are you going to do now?”

“Afterward—we meant to drive to Hastings House. John thought there would
be time. It is quite near Belvedere, you know. But——And I shall not have
another free afternoon for a fortnight.”

They went out in silence, past the baboo who sat behind a table at the
receipt of entrance money, and down the steps. The syce opened the
carriage door, and Mrs. Church got in. There was a moment’s pause, while
the man looked questioningly at Ancram, still holding open the door.

“If he invites himself,” said Judith inwardly, with the intention of
self-discipline; and the rest was hope.

“Is there any reason——?” he asked, with his foot on the step; and it was
quite unnecessary that he should add “against my coming?”

“No—there is no reason.” Then she added, with a visible effort to make
it the commonplace thing it was not, “Then you will drive out with me,
and I shall see the place after all? How nice!”

They rolled out into the gold-and-green afternoon life of the Maidan,
along wide pipal-shadowed roads, across a bridge, through a lane or two
where the pariahs barked after the carriage and the people about the
huts stared, shading their eyes. There seemed very little to say. They
thought themselves under the spell of the pleasantness of it—the lifting
of the burden and the heat of the day, the little wind that shook the
fronds of the date palms and stole about bringing odours from where the
people were cooking, the unyoked oxen, the hoarse home-going talk of the
crows that flew city-ward against the yellow sky with a purple light on
their wings.

“Let the carriage stay here,” Judith said, as they stopped beside a
dilapidated barred gate. “I want to walk to the house.”

A salaaming creature in a _dhoty_ hurried out of a clump of bamboos in
the corner and flung open the gate. It seemed to close again upon the
world. They were in an undulating waste that had once been a stately
pleasure-ground, and it had a visible soul that lived upon its memories
and was content in its abandonment. It was so still that the great teak
leaves, twisted and discoloured and full of holes like battered bronze,
dropping singly and slowly through the mellow air, fell at their feet
with little rustling cracks.

“What a perfection of silence!” Judith exclaimed softly; and then some
vague perception impelled her to talk of other things—of her
dinner-party and Nellie Vansittart.

Ancram looked on, as it were, at her conversation for a moment or two
with his charming smile. Then, “Oh, dear lady,” he broke in, “let them
go—those people. They are the vulgar considerations of the time which
has been—which will be again. But this is a pause—made for _us_.”

She looked down at the rusty teak-leaves, and he almost told her, as he
knocked them aside, how poetic a shadow clung round her eyelids. The
curve of the drive brought them to the old stucco mansion, dreaming
quietly and open-eyed over its great square porch of the Calcutta of
Nuncomar and Philip Francis.

“It broods, doesn’t it?” said Judith Church, standing under the yellow
honeysuckle of the porch. “Don’t you wish you could see the ghost!”

The gatekeeper reappeared, and stood offering them each a rose.

“This gentleman,” replied Ancram, “will know all about the ghost. He
probably makes his living out of Warren Hastings, in the tourist season.
Without doubt, he says, there is a _bhut_, a very terrible _bhut_, which
lives in the room directly over our heads and wears iron boots. Shall we
go and look for it?”

Half way up the stairs Ancram turned and saw the gatekeeper following
them. “You have leave to go,” he said in Hindustani.

At the top he turned again, and found the man still salaaming at their
heels. “_Jao!_” he shouted, with a threatening movement, and the native
fled.

“It is preposterous,” he said apologetically to Mrs. Church, “that one
should be dogged everywhere by these people.”

They explored the echoing rooms, and looked down the well of the ruined
staircase, and decided that no ghost with the shadow of a title to the
property could let such desirable premises go unhaunted. They were in
absurdly good spirits. They had not been alone together for a fortnight.
The sky was all red in the west as they stepped out upon the wide flat
roof, and the warm light that was left seemed to hang in mid-air. The
spires and domes of Calcutta lay under a sulphur-coloured haze, and the
palms on the horizon stood in filmy clouds. The beautiful tropical day
was going out.

“We must go in ten minutes,” said Judith, sitting down on the low mossy
parapet.

“Back into the world.” He reflected hastily and decided. Up to this time
Rhoda Daye had been a conventionality between them. He had a sudden
desire to make her the subject of a confidence—to explain, perhaps to
discuss, anyhow to explain.

“Tell me, my friend,” he said, making a pattern on the lichen of the
roof with his stick, “what do you think of my engagement?”

She looked up startled. It was as if the question had sprung at her. She
too felt the need of a temporary occupation, and fell upon her rose.

“You had my congratulations a long time ago,” she said, carefully
shredding each petal into three.

“Don’t!” he exclaimed impatiently: “I’m serious!”

“Well, then—it is not a fair thing that you are asking me. I don’t know
Miss Daye. I never shall know her. To me she is a little marble image
with a very pretty polish.”

“And to me also,” he repeated, seizing her words: “she is a little
marble image with a very pretty polish.” He put an unconscious demand
for commiseration into his tone. Doubtless he did not mean to go so far,
but his inflection added, “And I’ve got to marry her!”

“To you—to you!” She plucked aimlessly at her rose, and searched vainly
for something which would improve the look of his situation. But the
rush of this confidence had torn up commonplaces by the roots. She felt
it beating somewhere about her heart; and her concern, for the moment,
in hearing of his misfortune, was for herself.

“The ironical part of it is,” he went on, very pale with the effort of
his candour, “that I was blindly certain of finding her sympathetic. You
know what one means by that in a woman. I wanted it, just then. I seemed
to have arrived at a crisis of wanting it. I made ludicrously sure of
it. If you had been here,” he added with conviction, “it would never
have happened.”

She opened her lips to say “Then I wish I had been here,” but the words
he heard were, “People tell me she is very clever.”

“Oh,” he said bitterly, “she has the qualities of her defects, no doubt.
But she isn’t a woman—she’s an intelligence. Conceive, I beg of you, the
prospect of passing one’s life in conjugal relations with an
intelligence!”

Judith assured herself vaguely that this brutality of language had its
excuse. She could have told him very fluently that he ought not to marry
Rhoda Daye under any circumstances, but something made it impossible
that she should say anything of the sort. She strove with the instinct
for a moment, and then, as it overthrew her, she looked about her
shivering. The evening chill of December had crept in and up from the
marshes; one or two street lamps twinkled out in the direction of the
city; light white levels of mist had begun to spread themselves among
the trees in the garden below them.

“We must go,” she said, rising hurriedly: “how suddenly it has grown
cold!” And as she passed before him into the empty house he saw that her
face was so drawn that even he could scarcely find it beautiful.



                              CHAPTER VI.


“Mummie,” remarked Miss Daye, as she pushed on the fingers of a new pair
of gloves in the drawing-room, “the conviction grows upon me that I
shall never become Mrs. Ancram.”

“Rhoda, if you talk like that you will certainly bring on one of my
headaches, and it will be the third in a fortnight that I’ll have to
thank you for. Did I or did I not send home the order for your wedding
dress by last mail?”

“You did, mummie. But you could always advertise it in the local papers,
you know. Could you fasten this? ‘_By Private Sale—A Wedding Dress
originally intended for the Secretariat. Ivory Satin and Lace. Skirt
thirty-nine inches, waist twenty-one. Warranted never been worn._’
Thanks so much!”

“Rhoda! you are capable of anything——”

“Of most things, mummie, I admit. But I begin to fear, not of that!”

“Are you going to break it off? There he is this minute! Don’t let him
come in here, dear—he would know instantly that we had been discussing
him. You _have_ upset me so!”

“He shan’t.” Miss Daye walked to the door. “You are not to come any
farther, my dear sir,” said she to the Honourable Mr. Ancram among the
Japanese pots on the landing: “mummie’s going to have a headache, and
doesn’t want you. I’m quite ready!” She stood for a moment in the
doorway, her pretty shoulders making admirably correct lines, in a
clinging grey skirt and silver braided zouave, that showed a charming
glimpse of blue silk blouse underneath, buttoning her second glove.
Ancram groaned within himself that he must have proposed to her because
she was _chic_. Then she looked back. “Don’t worry, mummie. I’ll let you
know within a fortnight. You won’t have to advertise it after all—you
can countermand the order by telegraph!” Mrs. Daye, on the sofa, threw
up her hands speechlessly, and her eyes when her daughter finally left
the room were round with apprehension.

Ancram had come to take his betrothed for a drive in his dog-cart. It is
a privilege Calcutta offers to people who are engaged: they are
permitted to drive about together in dog-carts. The act has the binding
force of a public confession. Mr. Ancram and Miss Daye had taken
advantage of it in the beginning. By this time it would be more proper
to say that they were taking refuge in it.

He had seen Mrs. Church several times since the evening on which he had
put her into her carriage at the gates of Hastings House, and got into
his own trap and driven home with a feeling which he analysed as
purified but not resigned. She had been very quiet, very self-contained,
apparently content to be gracious and effective in the gown of the
occasion; but once or twice he fancied he saw a look of waiting, a gleam
of expectancy, behind her eyes. It was this that encouraged him to ask
her, at the first opportunity, whether she did not think he would be
perfectly justified in bringing the thing to an end. She answered him,
with an unalterable look, that she could not help him in that decision;
and he brought away a sense that he had not obtained the support on
which he had depended. This did not prevent him from arriving very
definitely at the decision in question unaided. Nothing could be more
obvious than that the girl did not care for him; and, granting this, was
he morally at liberty, from the girl’s own point of view, to degrade her
by a marriage which was, on her side, one of pure ambition? If her
affections had been involved in the remotest degree——but he shrugged his
shoulders at the idea of Rhoda Daye’s affections. He wished to Heaven,
like any schoolboy, that she would fall in love with somebody else, but
she was too damned clever to fall in love with anybody. The thing would
require a little finessing; of course the rupture must come from her.
There were things a man in his position had to be careful about. But
with a direct suggestion——Nothing was more obvious than that she did not
care for him. He would make her say so. After that, a direct suggestion
would be simple—and wholly justifiable. These were Mr. Lewis Ancram’s
reflections as he stood, hat in hand, on Mrs. Daye’s landing. They were
less involved than usual, but in equations of personal responsibility
Mr. Ancram liked a formula. By the intelligent manipulation of a formula
one could so often eliminate the personal element and transfer the
responsibility to the other side.

The beginning was not auspicious.

“Is that _le dernier cri_?” he asked, looking at her hat as she came
lightly down the steps.

“Papa’s? Poor dear! yes. It was forty rupees, at Phelps’s. You’ll find
me extravagant—but horribly!—especially in hats. I adore hats; they’re
such conceptions, such ideas! I mean to insist upon a settlement in
hats—three every season, in perpetuity.”

They were well into the street and half-way to Chowringhee before he
found the remark, at which he forced himself to smile, that he supposed
a time would arrive when her affections in millinery would transfer
themselves to bonnets. The occasion was not propitious for suggestions
based on emotional confessions. The broad roads that wind over the
Maidan were full of gaiety and the definite facts of smart carriages and
pretty bowing women. The sun caught the tops of the masts in the river,
and twinkled there; it mellowed the pillars of the bathing-ghats, and
was also reflected magnificently from the plate-glass mirrors with which
Ram Das Mookerjee had adorned the sides of his barouche. A white patch a
mile away resolved itself into a mass of black heads and draped bodies
watching a cricket match. Mynas chattered by the wayside, stray notes of
bugle practice came crisply over the walls of the Fort; there was an
effect of cheerfulness even in the tinkle of the tram bells. If the
scene had required any further touch of high spirits, it was supplied in
the turn-out of the Maharajah of Thuginugger, who drove abroad in a
purple velvet dressing gown, with pink outriders. Ancram had a fine
susceptibility to atmospheric effect, and it bade him talk about the
Maharajah of Thuginugger.

“That chap Ezra, the Simla diamond merchant, told me that he went with
the Maharajah through his go-downs once. His Highness likes pearls. Ezra
saw them standing about in bucketsful.”

“Common wooden buckets?”

“I believe so.”

“How satisfying! Tell me some more.”

“There isn’t any more. The rest was between Ezra and the Maharajah. I
dare say there was a margin of profit somewhere. What queer weather they
seem to be having at home!”

“It’s delicious to live in a place that hasn’t any weather—only a
permanent fervency. I like this old Calcutta. It’s so wicked and so rich
and so cheerful. People are born and burned and born and burned, and
nothing in the world matters. Their nice little stone gods are so easy
to please, too. A handful of rice, a few marigold chains, a goat or two:
hardly any of them ask more than that. And the sun shines every day—on
the just man who has offered up his goat, and on the unjust man who has
eaten it instead.”

She sat up beside him, her slender figure swaying a little with the
motion of the cart, and looked about her with a light in her grey eyes
that seemed the reflection of her mood. He thought her chatter
artificial; but it was genuine enough. She always felt more than her
usual sense of irresponsibility with him in their afternoon drives. The
world lay all about them and lightened their relation; he became, as a
rule, the person who was driving, and she felt at liberty to become the
person who was talking.

“There!” she exclaimed, as three or four coolie women filed, laughing,
up to a couple of round stones under a pipal tree by the roadside, and
took their brass lotas from their heads and carefully poured water over
the stones. “Fancy one’s religious obligations summed up in a
cooking-potful of Hughli water! Are those stones sacred?”

“I suppose so.”

“The author of ‘The Modern Influence of the Vedic Books,’” she suggested
demurely, “should be quite sure. He should have left no stone unturned.”

She regarded him for a moment, and, observing his preoccupation, just
perceptibly lifted her eyebrows. Then she went on: “But perhaps big
round stones under pipal trees that like libations come in the second
volume. When does the second volume appear?”

“Not until Sir Griffiths Spence comes out again and this lunatic goes
back to Hassimabad, I fancy. I want an appropriation for some further
researches first.”

The most enthusiastic of Mr. Ancram’s admirers acknowledged that he was
not always discreet.

“And he won’t give it to you—this lunatic?”

“Not a pice.”

“Then,” she said, with a ripple of laughter, “he _must_ be a fool!”

She was certainly irritating this afternoon. Ancram gave his Waler as
smart a cut as he dared, and they dashed past Lord Napier, sitting on
his intelligent charger in serious bronze to all eternity, and rounded
the bend into the Strand. The brown river tore at its heaving buoys; the
tide was racing out. The sun had dipped, and the tall ships lay in the
after-glow in twos and threes and congeries along the bank, along the
edge of Calcutta, until in the curving distance they became mere
suggestions of one another and a twilight of tilted masts. Under their
keels slipped great breadths of shining water. Against the glow on it a
country-boat, with its unwieldy load of hay, looked like a floating
barn. On the indistinct other side the only thing that asserted itself
was a factory chimney. They talked of the eternal novelty of the river,
and the eternal sameness of the people they met; and then he lapsed
again.

Rhoda looked down at the bow of her slipper. “Have you got a headache?”
she asked. The interrogation was one of cheerful docility.

“Thanks, no. I beg your pardon: I’m afraid I was inexcusably
preoccupied.”

“Would it be indiscreet to ask what about? Don’t you want my opinion? I
am longing to give you my opinion.”

“Your opinion would be valuable.”

Miss Daye again glanced down at her slipper. This time her pretty
eyelashes shaded a ray of amused perception. “He thinks he can do it
himself,” she remarked privately. “He is quite ready to give himself all
the credit of getting out of it gracefully. The amount of flattery they
demand for themselves, these Secretaries!”

“A premium on my opinion!” she said. “How delightful!”

Ancram turned the Waler sharply into the first road that led to the
Casuerina Avenue. The Casuerina Avenue is almost always poetic, and
might be imagined to lend itself very effectively, after sunset, to the
funeral of a sentiment which Mr. Ancram was fond of describing to
himself as still-born. The girl beside him noted the slenderness of his
foot and the excellent cut of his grey tweed trousers. Her eyes dwelt
upon the nervously vigorous way he handled the reins, and her glance of
light bright inquiry ascertained a vertical line between his eyebrows.
It was the line that accompanied the Honourable Mr. Ancram’s Bills in
Council, and it indicated a disinclination to compromise. Miss Daye,
fully apprehending its significance, regarded him with an interest that
might almost be described as affectionate. She said to herself that he
would bungle. She was rather sorry for him. And he did.

“I should be glad of your opinion of our relation,” he said—which was
very crude.

“I think it is charming. I was never more interested in my life!” she
declared frankly, bringing her lips together in the pretty composure
with which she usually told the vague little lie of her satisfaction
with life.

“Does that sum up your idea of—of the possibilities of our situation?”
He felt that he was doing better.

“Oh no! There are endless possibilities in our situation—mostly stupid
ones. But it is a most agreeable actuality.”

“I wish,” he said desperately, “that you would tell me just what the
actuality means to you.”

They were in the Avenue row, and the Waler had been allowed to drop into
a walk. The after-glow still lingered in the soft green duskiness over
their heads; there was light enough for an old woman to see to pick up
the fallen spines in the grass; the nearest tank, darkling in the
gathering gloom of the Maidan, had not yet given up his splash of red
from over the river. He looked at her intently, and her eyes dropped to
the thoughtful consideration of the crone who picked up spines. It might
have been that she blushed, or it might have been some effect of the
after-glow. Ancram inclined to the latter view, but his judgment could
not be said to be impartial.

“Dear Lewis!” she answered softly, “how very difficult that would be!”

In the sudden silence that followed, the new creaking of the Waler’s
harness was perceptible. Ancram assured himself hotly that this was
simple indecency, but it was a difficult thing to say. He was still
guarding against the fatality of irritation when Rhoda added daintily:

“But I don’t see why you should have a monopoly of catechising. Tell me,
sir—I’ve wanted to know for ever so long—what was the first, the very
first thing you saw in me to fall in love with?”



                              CHAPTER VII.


The Honourable Mr. Ancram’s ideal policy toward the few score million
subjects of the Queen-Empress for whose benefit he helped to legislate,
was a paternalism somewhat highly tempered with the exercise of
discipline. He had already accomplished appreciable things for their
advantage, and he intended to accomplish more. It would be difficult to
describe intelligibly all that he had done; besides, his tasks live in
history. The publications of the Government of India hold them all, and
something very similar may be found in the record which every retired
civilian of distinction cherishes in leather, behind the glass of his
bookcases in Brighton or Bournemouth. It would therefore be unnecessary
as well.

It was Mr. Ancram’s desire to be a conspicuous benefactor—this among
Indian administrators is a matter of business, and must not be smiled at
as a weakness—and in very great part he had succeeded. The fact should
be remembered in connection with his expressed opinion—it has been said
that he was not always discreet—that the relatives in the subordinate
services of troublesome natives should be sent, on provocation, to the
most remote and unpleasant posts in the province. To those who
understand the ramifications of cousinly connection in the humbler
service of the _sircar_, the detestation of exile and the claims of
family affection in Bengal, the efficacy of this idea for promoting
loyalty will appear. It was Mr. Ancram’s idea, but he despaired of
getting it adopted. Therefore he talked about it. Perhaps upon this
charge he was not so very indiscreet after all.

It will be observed that Mr. Ancram’s policy was one of exalted
expediency. This will be even more evident when it is understood that,
in default of the opportunity of coercing the subject Aryan for his
highest welfare, Mr. Ancram conciliated him. The Chief Secretary had
many distinguished native friends. They were always trying to make him
valuable presents. When he returned the presents he did it in such a way
that the bond of their mutual regard was cemented rather than
otherwise—cemented by the tears of impulsive Bengali affection. He had
other native friends who were more influential than distinguished. They
spoke English and wrote it, most of them. They created the thing which
is quoted in Westminster as “Indian Public Opinion.” They were in the
van of progress, and understood all the tricks for moving the wheels.
The Government of India in its acknowledged capacity as brake found
these gentlemen annoying; but Mr. Ancram, since he could not imprison
them, offered them a measure of his sympathy. They quite understood that
it was a small measure, but there is a fascination about the friendship
of a Chief Secretary, and they often came to see him. They did not bring
him presents, however; they knew very much better than that.

Mohendra Lall Chuckerbutty was one of these inconspicuously influential
friends. Mohendra was not a maharajah: he was only a baboo, which
stands, like “Mr.” for hardly anything at all. To say that he was a
graduate of the Calcutta University is to acknowledge very little; he
was as clever before he matriculated as he was after he took his degree.
But it should not be forgotten that he was the editor and proprietor of
the _Bengal Free Press_; that was the distinction upon which, for the
moment, he was insisting himself. The _Bengal Free Press_ was a voice of
the people—a particularly aggressive and pertinacious voice. It sold for
two pice in the bazar, and was read by University students at the rate
of twenty-five to each copy. It was regularly translated for the benefit
of the Amir of Afghanistan, the Khan of Kelat, and such other people as
were interested in knowing how insolent sedition could be in Bengal with
safety; and it lay on the desk of every high official in the Province.
Its advertisements were very funny, and its editorial English was more
fluent than veracious: but when it threw mud at the Viceroy, and called
the Lieutenant-Governor a contemptible tyrant, and reminded the people
that their galls were of the yoke of the stranger, there was no
mistaking the direction of its sentiment.

Mohendra Lall Chuckerbutty sat in the room the Chief Secretary called
his workshop, looking, in a pause of their conversation, at the Chief
Secretary. No one familiar with that journal would have discovered in
his amiable individuality the incarnation of the _Bengal Free Press_. On
his head he wore a white turban, and on his countenance an expression of
benign intelligence just tinged with uncertainty as to what to say next.
His person was buttoned up to his perspiring neck in a tight black
surtout, which represented his compromise with European fashions, and
across its most pronounced rotundity hung a substantial gold
watch-chain. From the coat downwards he fell away, so to speak, into
Aryanism: the indefinite white draperies of his race were visible, and
his brown hairy legs emerged from them bare. He had made progress,
however, with his feet, on which he wore patent leather shoes, almost
American in their neatness, with three buttons at the sides. He sat
leaning forward a little, with his elbows on his knees, and his plump
hands, their dimpled fingers spread apart, hanging down between them.
Mohendra Lall Chuckerbutty’s attitude expressed his very genuine anxiety
to make the most of his visit.

Ancram leaned back in his tilted chair, with his feet on his desk,
sharpening a lead pencil. “And that’s my advice to you,” he said, with
his eyes on the knife.

“Well, I am grateful foritt! I am very much ob_liged_ foritt!” Mohendra
paused to relieve his nerves by an amiable, somewhat inconsequent laugh.
“It iss my wish offcourse to be guided as far as possible by your
opinion.” Mohendra glanced deprecatingly at the matting. “But this is a
_sir_rious grievance. And there are others who are always spikking with
me and pushing me——”

“No grievance was ever mended in a day or a night, or a session, Baboo.
Government moves slowly. Ref—changes are made by inches, not by ells. If
you are wise, you’ll be content with one inch this year and another
next. It’s the only way.”

Mohendra smiled in sad agreement, and nodded two or three times, with
his head rather on one side. It was an attitude so expressive of
submission that the Chief Secretary’s tone seemed unnecessarily
decisive.

“The article on that admirable Waterways Bill off yours I hope you
recivved. I sent isspecial marked copy.”

“Yes,” replied Ancram, in cordial admission: “I noticed it. Very much to
the point. The writer thoroughly grasped my idea. Very grammatical
too—and all that.” Mr. Ancram yawned a little. “But you’d better keep my
name out of your paper, Baboo—unless you want to abuse me. I’m a modest
man, you know. That leader you speak of made me blush, I assure you.”

It required all Mohendra’s agility to arrive at the conclusion that if
the Honourable Mr. Ancram really considered the influence of the _Bengal
Free Press_ of no importance, he would not take the trouble to say so.
He arrived at it safely, though, while apparently he was only shaking
his head and respectfully enjoying Mr. Ancram’s humour, and saying, “Oh,
no, no! If sometimes we blame, we must also often praise. Oh yess,
certainlie. And _efery_ one says it iss a good piece off work.”

Ancram looked at his watch. The afternoon was mellowing. If Mohendra
Lall Chuckerbutty had come for the purpose of discussing His Honour the
Lieutenant-Governor’s intentions towards the University Colleges, he had
better begin. Mr. Ancram was aware that in so far as so joyous and
auspicious an event as a visit to a Chief Secretary could be dominated
by a purpose, Mohendra’s was dominated by this one; and he had been for
some time reflecting upon the extent to which he would allow himself to
be drawn. He was at variance with John Church’s administration—now that
three months had made its direction manifest—at almost every point. He
was at variance with John Church himself—that he admitted to be a matter
of temperament. But Church had involved the Government of Bengal in
blunders from which the advice of his Chief Secretary, if he had taken
it, would have saved him. He had not merely ignored the advice: he had
rejected it somewhat pointedly, being a candid man and no diplomat. If
he had acknowledged his mistakes ever so privately, his Chief Secretary
would have taken a fine ethical pleasure in forgiving them; but the
Lieutenant-Governor appeared to think that where principle was concerned
the consideration of expediency was wholly superfluous, and continued to
defend them instead, even after he could plainly see, in the _Bengal
Free Press_ and elsewhere, that they had begun to make him unpopular.
Ancram’s vanity had never troubled him till now. It had grown with his
growth, and strengthened with his strength, under the happiest
circumstances, and he had been as little aware of it as of his arterial
system. John Church had made him unpleasantly conscious of it, and he
was as deeply resentful as if John Church had invested him with it. The
Honourable Mr. Ancram had never been discounted before, and that this
experience should come to him through an official superior whom he did
not consider his equal in many points of administrative sagacity, was a
circumstance that had its peculiar irritation. Mohendra Lall
Chuckerbutty was very well aware of this; and yet he did not feel
confident in approaching the matter of His Honour and the higher
culture. It was a magnificent grievance. Mohendra had it very much at
heart, the _Free Press_ would have it very much at heart, and nothing
was more important than the private probing of the Chief Secretary’s
sentiment regarding it; yet Mohendra hesitated. He wished very much that
there were some tangible reason why Ancram should take sides against the
Lieutenant-Governor, some reason that could be expressed in rupees: then
he would have had more confidence in hoping for an adverse criticism.
But for a mere dislike, a mere personal antagonism, it would be so
foolish. Thus Mohendra vacillated, stroking his fat cheek with his
fingers, and looking at the matting. Ancram saw that his visitor would
end by abandoning his intention, and became aware that he would prefer
that this should not happen.

“And what do you think,” he said casually, “of our proposal to make you
all pay for your Greek?”

Mohendra beamed. “I think, sir, that it cannot be _your_ proposal.”

“It isn’t,” said Ancram sententiously.

“If it becomes law, it will be the signal for a great disturbance. I
mean, off course,” the Baboo hastened to add, “of a pa_cific_ kind. No
violence, of course! Morally speaking the community is already up in
arms—_morally_ speaking! It is destructive legislation, sir; we _must_
protest.”

“I don’t blame you for that.”

“Then you do not yourself approve off it?”

“I think it’s a mistake. Well-intentioned, but a mistake.”

“Oh, the _intention_, that iss good! But impracticable,” Mohendra
ventured vaguely: “a bubble in the air—that is all; but the question
i—iz,” he went on, “will it become law? Yesterday only I first heard
offitt. Mentally I said, ‘I will go to my noble friend and find out for
myself the rights offitt!’ _Then_ I will act.”

“Oh, His Honour intends to put it through. If you mean to do anything
there’s no time to lose.” Ancram assured himself afterwards that between
his duty as an administrator and his private sentiment toward his chief
there could be no choice.

“We will petition the Viceroy.”

Ancram shook his head. “Time wasted. The Viceroy will stick to Church.”

“Then we can petition the Secretary-off-State.”

“That might be useful, if you get the right names.”

“We will have it fought out in Parliament. Mr. Dadabhai——”

“Yes,” Ancram responded with a smile, “Mr. Dadabhai——”

“There will be mass meetings on the Maidan.”

“Get them photographed and send them to the _Illustrated London News_.”

“And every paper will be agitating it. The _Free Press_, the
_Hindu Patriot_, the _Bengalee_—all offthem will be writing about it——”

“There is one thing you must remember if the business goes to
England—the converts of these colleges from which State aid is to be
withdrawn.”

“Christians?” Mohendra shook his head with a smile of contempt. “There
are none. It iss not to change their religion that the Hindus go to
college.”

“Ah!” returned Ancram. “There are none? That is a pity. Otherwise you
might have got them photographed too, for the illustrated papers.”

“Yes. It iss a pity.”

Mohendra reflected profoundly for a moment. “But I will remember what
you say about the fottograff—if any can be found.”

“Well, let me know how you get on. In my private capacity—in my
_private_ capacity, remember—as the friend and well-wisher of the
people, I shall be interested in what you do. Of course I talk rather
freely to you, Baboo, because we know each other well. I have not
concealed my opinion in this matter at any time, but for all that it
mustn’t be known that I have active sympathies. You understand. This is
entirely confidential.”

“Oh, offcourse! my gracious goodness, yes!”

Mohendra’s eyes were moist—with gratification. He was still trying to
express it when he withdrew, ten minutes later, backing toward the door.
Ancram shut it upon him somewhat brusquely, and sent a servant for a
whisky-and-soda. It could not be said that he was in the least nervous,
but he was depressed. It always depressed him to be compelled to take up
an attitude which did not invite criticism from every point of view. His
present attitude had one aspect in which he was compelled to see himself
driving a nail into the acting Lieutenant-Governor’s political coffin.
Ancram would have much preferred to see all the nails driven in without
the necessity for his personal assistance. His reflections excluded
Judith Church as completely as if the matter were no concern of hers. He
considered her separately. The strengthening of the bond between them
was a pleasure which had detached itself from all the other interests of
his life; he thought of it tenderly, but the tenderness was rather for
his sentimental property in her than for her in any material sense. She
stood, with the dear treasure of her sympathy, apart from the Calcutta
world, and as far apart from John Church as from the rest.

That evening, at dinner, Ancram told Philip Doyle and another man that
he had been drawing Mohendra Lall Chuckerbutty on the University College
question, and he was convinced that feeling was running very high.

“The fellow had the cheek to boast about the row they were going to
make,” said Mr. Ancram.



                             CHAPTER VIII.


Philip Doyle did not know at all how it was that he found himself at the
Maharajah of Pattore’s garden-party. He had not the honour of knowing
the Maharajah of Pattore—his invitation was one of the many amiabilities
which he declared he owed to his distinguished connection with the
Bengal Secretariat in the person of Lewis Ancram. Certainly Ancram had
asked him to accept, and take his, Ancram’s, apologies to the Maharajah;
but that seemed no particular reason why he should be there. The fact
was, Doyle assured himself, as he bowled along through the rice-fields
of the suburbs to His Highness’s garden-house—the fact was, he was
restless, he needed change supremely, and anything out of the common
round had its value. Things in Calcutta had begun to wear an unusually
hard and irritating look; he felt his eye for the delinquencies of human
nature growing keener and more critical. This state of things, taken in
connection with the possession of an undoubted sense of humour, Doyle
recognised to be grave. He told himself that, although he was unaware of
anything actually physically wrong, the effects of the climate were most
insidious, and he made it a subject of congratulation that his passage
was taken in the _Oriental_.

There was a festival arch over the gate when he reached it, and a
multitude of little flags, and “WELLCOME” pendent in yellow marigolds.
Doyle was pleased that he had come. It was a long time since he had
attended a Maharajah’s garden party; its features would be fresh and in
some ways soothing. He shook hands gravely with the Maharajah’s eldest
son, a slender, subdued, cross-eyed young man in an embroidered
smoking-cap and a purple silk frock-coat, and said “Thank you—thank
you!” for a programme of the afternoon’s diversions. The programme was
printed in gold letters, and he was glad to learn from it that His
Highness’s country residence was called “Floral Bower.” This was
entirely as it should be. He noticed that the Maharajah had provided
wrestling and dancing and theatricals for the amusement of his guests,
and resolved to see them all. He had a pleasant sense of a strain
momentarily removed, and he did not importune himself to explain it.
There were very few English people in the crowd that flocked about the
grounds, following with docile admiration the movements of the principal
guests; it was easy to keep away from them. He had only to stroll about,
and look at the curiously futile arrangement of ponds and grottoes and
fountains and summer-houses, and observe how pretty a rose-bush could be
in spite of everything and how appropriately brilliant the clothes of
the Maharajah’s friends were. Some of the younger ones were playing
football, with much laughter and screaming and wonderfully high kicks.
He stood and watched them, smilingly reflecting that he would back a
couple of Harrovians against the lot. His eyes were still on the boys
and the smile was still on his lips when he found himself considering
that he would reach England just about the day of Ancram’s wedding. Then
he realised that Ancram’s wedding had for him some of the
characteristics of a physical ailment which one tries, by forgetting, to
conjure out of existence. The football became less amusing, and he was
conscious that much of its significance had faded out of the Maharajah’s
garden-party. Nevertheless he followed the feebly curved path which led
to His Highness’s private menagerie, and it was while he was returning
the unsympathetic gaze of a very mangy tiger in a very ramshackle cage,
that the reflection came between them, as forcibly as if it were a new
one, that he would come back next cold weather to an empty house. Ancram
would be married. He acknowledged, still carefully examining the tiger,
that he would regret the man less if his departure were due to any other
reason; and he tried to determine, without much success, to what extent
he could blame himself in that his liking for Ancram had dwindled so
considerably during the last few months. By the time he turned his back
upon the zoölogical attraction of the afternoon he had fallen into the
reverie from which he hoped to escape in the _Oriental_—the
recollection, perfect in every detail, of the five times he had met
Rhoda Daye before her engagement, and a little topaz necklace she had
worn three times out of the five, and the several things that he wished
he had said, and especially the agreeable exaltation of spirit in which
he had called himself, after every one of these interviews, an elderly
fool.

His first thought when he saw her, a moment after, walking towards him
with her father, was of escape—the second quickened his steps in her
direction, for she had bowed, and after that there could be no idea of
going. He concluded later, with definiteness, that it would have been
distinctly rude when there were not more than twenty Europeans in the
place. Colonel Daye’s solid white-whiskered countenance broke into a
square smile as Doyle approached—a smile which expressed that it was
rather a joke to meet a friend at a maharajah’s garden party.

“You’re a singular being,” he said, as they shook hands; “one never
comes across you in the haunts of civilisation. Here’s _my_ excuse.”
Colonel Daye indicated his daughter. “Would come. Offered to take her to
the races instead—wouldn’t look at it!”

“If I had no reason for coming before, I’ve found one,” said Doyle, with
an inclination towards Rhoda that laid the compliment at her feet. There
were some points about Philip Doyle that no emotional experience could
altogether subdue. He would have said precisely the same thing, with
precisely the same twinkle, to any woman he liked.

Rhoda looked at him gravely, having no response ready. If the in-drawing
of her under-lip betrayed anything it was that she felt the least bit
hurt—which, in Rhoda Daye, was ridiculous. If she had been asked she
might have explained it by the fact that there were people whom she
preferred to take her seriously, and in the ten seconds during which her
eyes questioned this politeness she grew gradually delicately pink under
his.

“Rum business, isn’t it?” Colonel Daye went on, tapping the backs of his
legs with his stick. “Hallo! there’s Grigg. I must see Grigg—do you
mind? Don’t wait, you know—just walk on. I’ll catch you up in ten
minutes.”

Without further delay Colonel Daye joined Grigg.

“That’s like my father,” said the girl, with a trace of embarrassment:
“he never can resist the temptation of disposing of me, if it’s only for
ten minutes. We ought to feel better acquainted than we do. I’ve been
out seven months now, but it is still only before people that we dare to
chaff each other. I think,” she added, turning her grey eyes seriously
upon Doyle, “that he finds it awkward to have so much of the society of
a young lady who requires to be entertained.”

“What a pity that is!” Doyle said involuntarily.

She was going to reply with one of her bright, easy cynicisms, and then
for some reason changed her mind. “I don’t know about the advantage of
very deep affections,” she said involuntarily, and there was no
flippancy in her tone. Doyle fancied that he detected a note of pathos
instead, but perhaps he was looking for it.

They were walking with a straggling company of baboos in white muslin
down a double row of plantains towards the wrestling ring. Involuntarily
he made their pace slower.

“You can’t be touched by that ignoble spirit of the age—already.”

Miss Daye felt her moral temperature fall several degrees from the
buoyant condition in which she contrived to keep it as a rule. To say
she experienced a chill in the region of her conscience is perhaps to
put it grotesquely, but she certainly felt inclined to ask Philip Doyle
with some astonishment what difference it made to him.

“The spirit of the age is an annoying thing. It robs one of all
originality.”

“Pray,” he said, “be original in some other direction. You have a very
considerable choice.”

His manner disarmed his words. It was grave, almost pleading. She
wondered why she was not angry, but the fact remained that she was only
vaguely touched, and rather unhappy. Then he spoiled it.

“In my trade we get into dogmatic ways,” he apologised. “You won’t mind
the carpings of an elderly lawyer who has won a bad eminence for himself
by living for twenty years in Calcutta. By the way, I had Ancram’s
apologies to deliver to the Maharajah. If he had known he would perhaps
have entrusted me with more important ones.” Doyle made this speech in
general compensation, to any one who wanted it, for being near her—with
her. If he expected blushing confusion he failed to find it.

“He didn’t know,” she said indifferently; “and if he had——Oh, there are
the wrestlers.” She looked at them for a moment with disfavour. “Do you
like them? I think they are like performing animals.”

The men separated for a moment and rubbed their shining brown bodies
with earth. Somewhere near the gate the Maharajah’s band struck up “God
Save the Queen,” four prancing pennons appeared over the tops of the
bushes, and with one accord the crowd moved off in that direction. A
moment later His Highness was doubling up in appreciation of His
Excellency’s condescension in arriving. His Excellency himself was
surrounded ten feet deep by his awe-struck and delighted fellow-guests,
and the wrestlers, bereft of an audience, sat down and spat.

What Doyle always told himself that he must do with regard to Miss Daye
was to approach her in the vein of polished commonplace—polished because
he owed it to himself, commonplace because its after effect on the
nerves he found to be simpler. Realising his departure from this
prescribed course, he fervently set himself down a hectoring idiot, and
looked round for Colonel Daye. Colonel Daye radiated the commonplace; he
was a most usual person. In his society there was not the slightest
danger of saying anything embarrassing. But he was not even remotely
visible.

“Believe me,” said Rhoda, with sudden divination, “we shall be lucky if
we see my father again in half an hour. I am very sorry, but he really
is a most unnatural parent.” There was a touch of defiance in her laugh.
He should not lecture her again. “Where shall we go?”

“Have you seen the acting?”

“Yes. It’s a conversation between Rama and Shiva. Rama wears a red wig
and Shiva wears a yellow one; the rest is tinsel and pink muslin. They
sit on the floor and argue—that is the play. While one argues the other
chews betel and looks at the audience. I’ve seen better acting,” she
added demurely, “at the Corinthian Theatre.”

Doyle laughed irresistibly. Calcutta’s theatrical resources, even in the
season, lend themselves to frivolous suggestion.

“I could show you the Maharajah’s private chapel, if you like,” she
said.

Doyle replied that nothing could be more amusing than a Maharajah’s
private chapel; and as they walked together among the rose bushes he
felt every consideration, every scruple almost, slip away from him in
the one desire her nearness always brought him—the desire for that kind
of talk with her which should seal the right he vaguely knew was his to
be acknowledged in a privacy of her soul that was barred against other
people. Once or twice before he had seemed almost to win it, and by some
gay little saying which rang false upon his sincerity she had driven him
back. She assuredly did not seem inclined to give him an opportunity
this afternoon. It must be confessed that she chattered, in that wilful,
light, irrelevant way that so stimulated his desire to be upon tenderly
serious terms with her, by no means as her mentor, but for his own
satisfaction and delight. She chattered, with her sensitiveness alive at
every point to what he should say and to what she thought she could
guess he was thinking. She believed him critical, which was distressing
in view of her conviction that he could never understand her—never! He
belonged to an older school, to another world; his feminine ideal was
probably some sister or mother, with many virtues and no opinions. He
was a person to respect and admire—she did respect and she did admire
him—but to expect any degree of fellowship from him was absurd. The
incomprehensible thing was that this conclusion should have any soreness
about it. For the moment she was not aware that this was so; her
perception of it had a way of coming afterwards, when she was alone.

“Here it is,” she said, at the entrance of a little grotto made of
stucco and painted to look like rock, serving no particular purpose, by
the edge of an artificial lake. “And here is the shrine and the
divinity!”

As a matter of fact, there was a niche in the wall, and the niche held
Hanuman with his monkey face and his stolen pineapple, coy in painted
plaster.

Miss Daye looked at the figure with a crisp assumption of interest.
“Isn’t he amusing!” she remarked: “‘Bloomin’ idol made o’ mud’!”

“And so this is where you think His Highness comes to say his prayers?”
Doyle said, smiling.

“Perhaps he has a baboo to say them for him,” she returned, as they
strolled out. “That would be an ideal occupation for a baboo—to make
representations on behalf of one exalted personage to another. I wonder
what he asks Hanuman for! To be protected from all the evils of this
life, and to wake up in the next another maharajah!”

He was so engaged with the airiness of her whimsicality and the tilt of
the feather in her hat that he found no answer ready for this, and to
her imagination he took the liberty of disapproving her flippancy.
Afterwards she told herself that it was not a liberty—that the
difference in their ages made it a right if he chose to take it—but at
the moment the idea incited her to deepen his impression. She cast about
her for the wherewithal to make the completest revelation of her cheaper
qualities. In a crisis of candour she would show him just how audacious
and superficial and trivial she could be. Women have some curious
instincts.

“I am dying,” she said, with vivacity, “to see how His Highness keeps
house. They say he has a golden chandelier and the prettiest harem in
Bengal. And I confide to you, Mr. Doyle, that I should like a glass of
simpkin—immensely. It goes to my head in the most amusing way in the
middle of the afternoon.”

“His ideal young woman,” she declared to herself, “would have said
‘champagne’—no, she would have preferred tea; and she would have died
rather than mention the harem.”

But it must be confessed that Philip Doyle was more occupied for the
moment with the curve of her lips than with anything that came out of
them, except in so far that everything she said seemed to place him more
definitely at a distance.

“I’m afraid,” he returned, “that the ladies are all under double lock
and key for the occasion, but there ought to be no difficulty about the
champagne and the chandelier.”

At that moment Colonel Daye’s tall grey hat came into view, threading
the turbaned crowd in obvious quest. Rhoda did not see it, and Doyle
immediately found a short cut to the house which avoided the encounter.
He had suddenly remembered several things that he wanted to say. They
climbed a flight of marble stairs covered with some dirty yards of
matting, and found themselves almost alone in the Maharajah’s
drawing-room. The Viceroy had partaken of an ice and gone down again,
taking the occasion with him; and the long table at the end of the room
was almost as heavily laden as when the confectioner had set it forth.

“A little pink cake in a paper boat, please,” she commanded, “with jam
inside”; and then, as Doyle went for it, she sat down on one of
Pattore’s big brocaded sofas, and crossed her pretty feet, and looked at
the chromolithographs of the Prince and Princess of Wales askew upon the
wall, and wondered why she was making a fool of herself.

“I’ve brought you a cup of coffee: do you mind?” he asked, coming back
with it. “His Highness’ intentions are excellent, but the source of his
supplies is obscure. I tried the champagne,” he added apologetically:
“it’s unspeakable!”

No, Miss Daye did not mind. Doyle sat down at the other end of the sofa,
and reflected that another quarter of an hour was all he could possibly
expect, and then——

“I am going home, Miss Daye,” he said.

Since there was no other way of introducing himself to her
consideration, he would do it with a pitchfork.

“I knew you were. Soon?”

“The day after to-morrow, in the _Oriental_. I suppose Ancram told you?”

“I believe he did. You and he are great friends, aren’t you?”

“We live together. Men must be able to tolerate each other pretty fairly
to do that.”

“How long shall you be in England?”

“Six months, I hope.”

She was silent, and he fancied she was thinking, with natural
resentment, that he might have postponed his departure until after the
wedding. Doyle hated a lie more than most people, but he felt the
situation required that he should say something.

“The exigency of my going is unkind,” he blundered. “It will deprive me
of the pleasure of offering Ancram my congratulations.”

There was only the faintest flavour of mendacity about this; but she
detected it, and fitted it, with that unerring feminine instinct we hear
so much about, to her thought. For an instant she seemed lost in
buttoning her glove; then she looked up, with a little added colour.

“Don’t tamper with your sincerity for me,” she said quickly: “I’m not
worth it. It’s very kind of you to consider my feelings, but I would
much rather have the plain truth between us—that you don’t approve of me
or of the—the marriage. I jar upon you—oh! I see it! a dozen times in
half an hour—and you are sorry for your friend. For his sake you even
try to like me: I’ve seen you doing it. Please don’t: it distresses me
to know that you take that trouble——”

“Here you are!” exclaimed Colonel Daye, in the doorway. “Much obliged to
you, Doyle, really, for taking care of this little girl. Most difficult
man to get hold of, Grigg.”



                              CHAPTER IX.


It has been obvious, I hope, that Lewis Ancram was temperamentally equal
to adjusting himself to a situation. His philosophy was really
characteristic of him; and none the less so because it had a pessimistic
and artistic tinge, and he wore it in a Persian motto inside a crest
ring on his little finger. It can hardly be said that he adjusted
himself to his engagement and his future, when it became apparent to him
that the one could not be broken or the other changed, with
cheerfulness—for cheerfulness was too commonplace a mental condition to
have characterised Mr. Ancram under the happiest circumstances. Neither
can it be denied, however, that he did it with a good deal of dignity
and some tact. He permitted himself to lose the abstraction that had
been overcoming him so habitually in Rhoda’s society, and he said more
of those clever things to her which had been temporarily obscured by the
cloud on his spirits. They saw one another rather oftener than usual in
the fortnight following the evening on which Mr. Ancram thought he could
suggest a course for their mutual benefit to Miss Daye and her daintily
authoritative manner with him convinced him that his chains were riveted
very firmly. At times he told himself that she had, after all,
affectionate potentialities, though he met the problem of evolving them
with a shrug. He disposed himself to accept all the ameliorations of the
situation that were available, all the consolations he could find. One
of the subtlest and therefore most appreciable of these was the
necessity, which his earlier confidence involved, of telling Judith
Church in a few suitably hesitating and well-chosen words that things
were irrevocable. Judith kept silence for a moment, and then, with a
gravely impersonal smile, she said, “I hope—and think—you may be happier
than you expect,” in a manner which made further discussion of the
matter impossible. It cannot be doubted, however, that she was able to
convey to him an under-current of her sympathy without embarrassment.
Otherwise he would hardly have found himself so dependent on the odd
half-hours during which they talked of Henley’s verses and Swan’s
pictures and the possibility of barricading oneself against the moral
effect of India. Ancram often gave her to understand, in one delicate
way or another, that if there were a few more women like her in the
country it could be done.

The opinion seemed to be general, though perhaps nobody else formulated
it exactly in those terms. People went about assuring each other that
Mrs. Church was the most charming social success, asserting this as if
they recognised that it was somewhat unusual to confer such a decoration
upon a lady whose husband had as yet none whatever. People said she was
a really fascinating woman in a manner which at once condoned and
suggested her undistinguished antecedents—an art which practice has made
perfect in the bureaucratic circles of India. They even went so far as
to add that the atmosphere of Belvedere had entirely changed since the
beginning of the officiating period—which was preposterous, for nothing
could change the social atmosphere of any court of Calcutta short of the
reconstruction of the Indian Empire. The total of this meant that Mrs.
Church had a good memory, much considerateness, an agreeable
disposition, and pretty clothes. Her virtues, certainly her virtues as I
know them, would hardly be revealed in the fierce light which beats upon
the wife of an acting Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal from November until
April, though a shadow of one of them might have been detected in the
way she behaved to the Dayes. Ancram thought her divine in this, but she
was only an honest woman with a temptation and a scruple. Her dignity
made it difficult; she was obliged to think out delicate little ways of
offering them her friendship in the scanty half hours she had to herself
after dinner, while the unending scratch of her husband’s pen came
through the portière that hung across the doorway into his
dressing-room. What she could do without consulting them she did; though
it is not likely that Colonel Daye will ever attribute the remarkable
smoothness of his official path at this time to anything but the spirit
of appreciation in which he at last found Government disposed to regard
his services. The rest was not so easy, because she had to count with
Rhoda. On this point her mother was in the habit of invoking Rhoda’s
better nature, with regrettable futility. Mrs. Daye said that for her
part she accepted an invitation in the spirit in which it was given, and
it is to be feared that no lady in Mrs. Church’s “official position”
would be compelled to make overtures twice to Mrs. Daye, who told other
ladies, in confidence, that she had the best reason to believe Mrs.
Church a noble-minded woman—a beautiful soul. It distressed her that she
was not able to say this to Rhoda also, to be frank with Rhoda, to
discuss the situation and perhaps to hint to the dear child that her
non-responsiveness to Mrs. Church’s very kind attitude looked “the least
bit in the world like the little green monster, you know, dearest one.”
It was not, Mrs. Daye acknowledged, that Rhoda actively resisted Mrs.
Church’s interest; she simply appeared to be unaware of it, and sat on a
chair beside that sweet woman in the Belvedere drawing-room with the
effect of being a hundred miles away. Mrs. Daye sometimes asked herself
apprehensively how soon Mrs. Church would grow tired of coaxing Rhoda,
how long their present beatitudes might be expected to last. It was with
this consideration in mind that she went to her daughter’s room the day
after the Maharajah of Pattore’s garden-party, which was Thursday. The
windows of that apartment were wide open, letting in great squares of
vivid sunlight, and their muslin curtains bellied inward with the
pleasant north wind. It brought gusts of sound from the life outside—the
high plaintive cheeling of the kites, the interminable cawing of the
crows, the swish of the palm fronds, the scolding of the mynas; and all
this life and light and clamour seemed to centre in and circle about the
yellow-haired girl who sat, half-dressed, on the edge of the bed writing
a letter. She laid it aside face downward, at her mother’s knock, and
that amiable lady found her daughter seated before the looking-glass
with a crumpled little brown ayah brushing her hair.

Mrs. Daye cried out at the glare, at the noise. “It’s like living in one
of those fretwork marble summer-houses at Delhi where the kings of
what-you-may-call-it dynasty kept their wives!” she declared, with her
hands pressed on her eyes and a thumb in each ear; and when the shutters
were closed and the room reduced to some degree of tranquillity, broken
by glowing points where the green slats came short of the sash, she
demanded eau-de-cologne and sank into a chair. “I’ve come for ‘Cruelle
Enigme,’ Rhoda,” Mrs. Daye announced.

“No, you haven’t, mummie. And besides, you can’t have it—it isn’t a nice
book for you to read.”

“Can’t I?” Mrs. Daye asked plaintively. “Well, dear, I suppose I must
take your opinion—you know how much my wretched nerves will stand. From
all I hear I certainly can’t be too thankful to you for protecting me
from Zola.”

“Ayah,” Rhoda commanded in the ayah’s tongue, “give me the yellow book
on the little table—the yellow one, owl’s daughter! Here’s one you can
have, mother,” she said, turning over a few of the leaves with a touch
that was a caress—“‘Robert Helmont’—you haven’t read that.”

Mrs. Daye glanced at it without enthusiasm.

“It’s about a war, isn’t it? I’m not fond of books about wars as a rule,
they’re so ‘bluggy,’” and the lady made a little face; “but of course—oh
yes, Daudet, I know he would be charming even if he _was_ bluggy. Rhoda,
don’t make any engagement for Sunday afternoon. I’ve accepted an
invitation from Belvedere for a river-party.”

The face in the looking-glass showed the least contraction between the
eyebrows. The ayah saw it, and brushed even more gently than before.
Mrs. Daye was watching for it, and hurried on. “I gather from Mrs.
Church’s extremely kind note—she writes herself, and not the
aide-de-camp—that it is a little _fête_ she is making especially, in a
manner, for you and Mr. Ancram, dear—in celebration, as it were. She has
asked only people we know very well indeed; it is really almost a family
affair. _Very_ sweet of her I call it, though of course Lewis Ancram is
an old friend of—of the Lieutenant-Governor’s.”

The contraction between the girl’s brows deepened seriously, gave place
to a considering air, and for a moment she looked straight into her own
eyes in the glass and said nothing. They rewarded her presently with a
bubble of mischievous intelligence, which almost broke into a smile.
Mrs. Daye continued to the effect that nothing did one so much good as a
little jaunt on the river—it seemed to blow the malaria out of one’s
system—for her part she would give up anything for it. But Rhoda had no
other engagement?

“Oh dear no!” Miss Daye replied. “There is nothing in the world to
interfere!”

“Then you will go, dearest one?”

“I shall be delighted.”

“My darling child, you _have_ relieved my mind! I was so afraid that
some silly little fad—I know how much you dislike the glare of the
river——” then, forgetfully, “I will write at once and accept for us
all.” Mrs. Daye implanted a kiss upon her daughter’s forehead, with a
sense that she was picturesquely acknowledging dutiful obedience, and
rustled out. “Robert Helmont” remained on the floor beside her chair,
and an indefinitely pleasant freshness was diffused where she had been.

As Rhoda twisted her hair a little uncontrollable smile came to her lips
and stayed there. “Ayah, worthy one,” she said, “give me the letter from
the bed”; and having read what she had written she slowly tore it into
very small pieces. “After all,” she reflected, “that would be a stupid
way.”



                               CHAPTER X.


The opinion was a united one on board the _Annie Laurie_ the next Sunday
afternoon that Nature had left nothing undone to make the occasion a
success. This might have testified to less than it did; for a similar
view has been expressed as unanimously, and adhered to as firmly, on
board the _Annie Laurie_ when the banks of the Hooghly have been grey
with deluge and the ladies have saved their skirts by sitting on one
another’s knees in her tiny cabin. The _Annie Laurie_ being the
Lieutenant-Governor’s steam-launch, nobody but the Lieutenant-Governor
presumes to be anything but complimentary as to the weather experienced
aboard her. And this in India is natural. It could not be said, however,
that there was anything necessarily diplomatic even in Mrs. Daye’s
appreciation of this particular afternoon. The air—they all dilated on
the air—blew in from the sea, across the salt marshes, through the
plantains and the cocoanut-trees of the little villages, and brought a
dancing crispness, softened by the sun. The brown river hurtled outwards
past her buoys, and a great merchant ship at anchor in midstream swung
slowly round with the tide. A vague concourse of straight masts and
black hulls and slanting funnels stretched along the bank behind them
with the indefiniteness that comes of multitude, for every spar and line
stood and swung clear cut in the glittering sun; and the point they were
bound for elbowed itself out into the river two miles farther down, in
the grey greenness of slanting, pluming palms. Already the water was
growing more golden where the palms toppled over the river: there would
not be more than two good hours of daylight. As Mrs. Daye remarked to
the Lieutenant-Governor, life was all too short in the cold weather
really to absorb, to drink in, the beauties of nature—there was so much
going on.

“Then,” said His Honour, “we must make the most of our time.” But he did
not prolong his gaze at Mrs. Daye by way of emphasising his remark, as
another man, and especially another lieutenant-governor, might have
done. He fixed it instead on the dilapidated plaster façade on the left
bank of the river, formerly inhabited by the King of Oudh and his
relatives, and thought of the deplorable sanitation there.

Not that John Church was by any means unappreciative of the beauties of
nature. It was because he acknowledged the moral use of them that he
came on these Sunday afternoon picnics. He read the poets, and would pay
a good price for a bronze or a picture, for much the same reason. They
formed part of his system of self-development; he applied them to his
mind through the medium which nature has provided, and trusted that the
effect would be good. He did it, however, as he did everything, with the
greatest possible economy of time, and sometimes other considerations
overlapped. That very afternoon he meant to speak to the Superintendent
of the Botanical Gardens—the green elbow of the river crooked about this
place—concerning the manufacture and distribution of a new febrifuge,
and he presently edged away from Mrs. Daye with the purpose of finding
out her husband’s views concerning the silting up of river-beds in
Bengal and the cost of preventive measures. Life with John Church could
be measured simply as an area for effort.

[Illustration: Notwithstanding, it was gay enough.]

Notwithstanding these considerations, it was gay enough. Captain Thrush,
A.D.C., sat on the top of the cabin, and swung his legs to the
accompaniment of his amusing experiences the last time he went quail
shooting. The St. Georges were there, and the St. Georges were
proverbial in Calcutta for lightheartedness. Sir William Scott might
have somewhat overweighted the occasion; but Sir William Scott had taken
off his hat, the better to enjoy the river-breeze, and this reduced him
to a name and a frock coat. In the general good spirits the abnegation
and the resolution with which Lewis Ancram and Judith Church occupied
themselves with other people might almost have passed unnoticed. Rhoda
Daye found herself wondering whether it would be possible for Ancram to
be pathetic under the most moving circumstances, so it may be presumed
that she perceived it; but the waves of mirth engendered by Captain
Thrush and the St. Georges rolled over it so far as the rest were
concerned, as they might over a wreck of life and hope. This pretty
simile occurred to Miss Daye, who instantly dismissed it as mawkish, but
nevertheless continued, for at least five minutes, to reflect on the
irony of fate, as, for the moment, she helped to illustrate it. A new
gravity fell upon her for that period, as she sat there and watched
Judith Church talking to Sir William Scott about his ferns. For the
first time she became aware that the situation had an edge to it—that
she was the edge. She was the saturnine element in what she had hitherto
resolutely regarded as a Calcutta comedy; she was not sure that she
could regard it as a comedy any longer, even from the official point of
view. Ancram evidently had it in mind to make an exhibition to the world
in general, and to Mrs. Church in particular, of devotion to his
betrothed. She caught him once or twice in the act of gratefully
receiving Mrs. Church’s approving glance. Nevertheless she had an
agreeable tolerance for all that he found to do for her. She forbade
herself, for the time being, any further analysis of a matter with which
she meant to have in future little concern. In that anticipation she
became unaccountably light-hearted and talkative and merry. So much so,
that Captain Thrush, A.D.C., registered his conviction that she was
really rather a pretty girl—more in her than he thought; and the
Honourable Mr. Lewis Ancram said to himself that she was enjoying, in
anticipation, the prestige she would have a month later, and that the
cleverest of women were deplorably susceptible to social ambition.

The Superintendent met them at the wharf, and John Church led the way up
the great central avenue of palms, whose grey, shaven polls look as if
they had been turned by some giant lathe, with his hand on the arm of
this gentleman. The others arranged themselves with a single eye to
avoiding the stupidity of walking with their own wives and trooped
after.

“We are going to the orchid-houses, John,” Mrs. Church called after her
husband, as Sir William Scott brought them to a halt at a divergent road
he loved; and Church took off his hat in hurried acquiescence.

“Notice my new Dendrobium!” cried the Superintendent, turning a rueful
countenance upon them. “The only one in Asia!” Then his head resumed its
inclination of respectful attention, and the pair disappeared.

Mrs. Church laughed frankly. “Poor Dr. James!” she exclaimed. “My
husband is double-dyed in febrifuge to-day.”

Ancram took the privilege—it was one he enjoyed—of gently rebuking her.
“It is one of those common, urgent needs of the people,” he said, “that
His Honour so intimately understands.”

Judith looked at him with a sudden sweet humility in her eyes. “You are
quite right,” she returned. “I sometimes think that nobody knows him as
you do. Certainly,” she added, in a lower tone, as the two fell back,
“nobody has more of his confidence, more of his dependence.”

“I don’t know,” Ancram answered vaguely. “Do you really think so? I
don’t know.”

“I am sure of it.”

He looked straight before him in silence, irritated in his sensitive
morality—the morality which forbade him to send a Government
_chuprassie_ on a private errand, or to write to his relations in
England on office paper. A curve in the walk showed them Rhoda Daye,
standing alone on the sward, beside a bush in crimson-and-orange flower,
intently examining a spray. Almost involuntarily they paused, and Ancram
turned his eyes upon Mrs. Church with the effect of asking her what he
should do, what he must do.

“Go!” she said; and then, as if it were a commonplace: “I think Miss
Daye wants you. I will overtake the others.”

She thought he left her very willingly, and hurried on with the
conviction that, like everything else, it would come right—quite
right—in the end. She was very happy if in any way she had helped it to
come right—so happy that she longed to be alone with her sensations, and
revolted with all her soul against the immediate necessity of Sir
William Scott and the St. Georges. To be for a few hours quite alone,
unseen and unknown, in the heart of some empty green wilderness like
this, would help her, she knew, to rationalise her satisfaction. “My
dear boy,” she said, with nervous patience, as Captain Thrush appeared
in search of her, “did you think I had fallen into a tank? Do go and
take care of the other people.” An aide-de-camp was not a serious
impediment to reflection, but at the moment Judith would have been
distressed by the attendance of her own shadow, if it were too
perceptible.

Ancram crossed over to Rhoda, with his antipathy to the
Lieutenant-Governor sensibly aggravated by the fact that his wife took
an interest in him—an appreciative interest. It was out of harmony,
Ancram felt vaguely, that she should do this—it jarred. He had so
admired her usual attitude of pale, cool, sweet tolerance toward John
Church—had so approved it. That attitude had been his solace in thinking
about her in her unique position and with her rare temperament. To
suppose her counting up her husband’s virtues, weighing them, doing
justice to them, tinged her with the commonplace, and disturbed him.

“That’s a curious thing,” he said to Rhoda.

She let go her hold of the twig, and the red-and-gold flower danced up
like a flame.

“It belongs to the sun and the soil; so it pleases one better than any
importation.”

“An orchid is such a fairy—you can’t expect it to have a nationality,”
he returned.

She stood, with her head thrown back a little, looking at the sprays
that swung above the line of her lips. Her wide-brimmed hat dropped a
soft shadow over the upper part of her face; her eyes shone through it
with a gleam of intensely feminine sweetness, and the tender curve of
her throat gave him an unreasoned throb of anticipation. In six weeks he
would be married to this slender creature; it would be an excursion into
the unknown, not unaccompanied by adventures. Tentatively, it might be
agreeable; it would certainly be interesting. He confessed to a
curiosity which was well on the way to become impatient.

“Then do you want to go and see the Dendrobium?” she asked.

“Not if you prefer to do anything else.”

“I think I would enjoy the cranes more, or the pink water-lilies. The
others will understand, won’t they, that we two might like to take a
little walk?”

Her coquetry, he said to himself, was preposterously pretty. They took
another of the wide solitary paths that led under showery bamboos and
quivering mahogany trees to where a stretch of water gave back the
silence of the palms against the evening sky, and he dropped
unconsciously into the stroll which is characterised everywhere as a
lover’s. She glanced at him once or twice corroboratively, and said to
herself that she had not been mistaken: he had real distinction—he was
not of the herd. Then she picked up broad, crisp leaves with the point
of her parasol and pondered while he talked of a possible walking tour
in the Tyrol. Presently she broke in irrelevantly, hurriedly.

“I like to do a definite thing in a definite way: don’t you?”

“Certainly; yes, of course.”

“Well; and that is why I waited till this afternoon to tell you—to tell
you——”

“To tell me——”

“My dear Mr. Ancram, that I cannot possibly marry you.”

She had intended to put it differently, more effectively—perhaps with a
turn that would punish him for his part in making the situation what it
was. But it seemed a more momentous thing than she thought, now that she
came to do it; she had a sense that destiny was too heavy a thing to
play with.

He gave her an official look, the look which refuses to allow itself to
be surprised, and said “Really?” in a manner which expressed absolutely
nothing except that she had his attention.

“I do not pretend,” she went on, impaling her vanity upon her candour,
“that this will give you the slightest pain. I have been quite conscious
of the relation between us” (here she blushed) “for a very long time;
and I am afraid you must understand that I have reached this decision
without any undue distress—_moi aussi_.”

She had almost immediately regained her note; she was wholly mistress of
what she said. For an instant Ancram fancied that the bamboos and the
mahogany trees and the flaming hibiscus bushes were unreal, that he was
walking into a panorama, and it seemed to him that his steps were
uncertain. He was carrying his silk hat, and he set himself mechanically
to smooth it round and round with his right hand as he listened.

When she paused he could find nothing better to say than “Really?”
again; and he added, “You can’t expect me to be pleased.”

“Oh, but I do,” she returned promptly. “You are, aren’t you?”

It seemed a friendly reminder of his best interests. It brought the
bamboos back to a vegetable growth, and steadied Ancram’s nerves. He
continued to smooth his hat; but he recovered himself sufficiently to
join her, at a bound, in the standpoint from which she seemed inclined
to discuss the matter without prejudice.

“Since we are to be quite candid with each other,” he said, smiling,
“I’m not sure.”

“Your candour has—artistic qualities—which make it different from other
people’s. At all events, you will be to-morrow: to-morrow you will thank
Heaven fasting.”

He looked at her with some of the interest she used to inspire in him
before his chains began to gall him.

“Prickly creature!” he said. “Are _you_ quite sure? Is your
determination unalterable?”

“I acknowledge your politeness in asking me,” she returned. “It is.”

“Then I suppose I must accept it.” He spoke slowly. “But for the
_soulagement_ you suggest I am afraid I must wait longer than
to-morrow.”

They walked on in silence, reached the rank edge of the pond, and turned
to go back. The afternoon still hung mellow in mid air, and something of
its tranquillity seemed to have descended between them. In their joint
escape from their mutual burden they experienced a reciprocal good
feeling, something like comradeship, not untouched by sentiment. Once or
twice he referred to their broken bond, asking her, with the appetite of
his egotism, to give him the crystal truth of the reason she had
accepted him.

“I accepted my idea of you,” she said simply, “which was not altogether
an accurate one. Besides, I think a good deal about—a lot of questions
of administration. I thought I would like to have a closer interest,
perhaps a hand in them. Such fools of women do.”

After which they talked in a friendly way (it has been noted that Ancram
was tolerant) about how essential ambition was to the bearableness of
life in India.

“I see that you will be a much more desirable acquaintance,” Rhoda said
once, brightly, “now that I am not going to marry you.” And he smiled in
somewhat unsatisfied acquiescence.

Ancram grew silent as they drew near the main avenue and the real
parting. The dusk had fallen suddenly, and a little wind brought showers
of yellow leaves out of the shivering bamboos. They were quite alone,
and at a short distance almost indistinguishable from the ixora bushes
and the palmettos.

“Rhoda,” he said, stopping short, “this is our last walk together—we who
were to have walked together always. May I kiss you?”

The girl hesitated for an instant. “No,” she said, with a nervous laugh:
“not that. It would be like the resurrection of something that had never
lived and never died!”

But she gave him her hand, and he kissed that, with some difficulty in
determining whether he was grateful or aggrieved.

“It’s really very raw,” said Miss Daye, as they approached the others;
“don’t you think you had better put on your hat?”



                              CHAPTER XI.


“Rhoda,” said Mrs. Daye, as her daughter entered the drawing-room next
morning, “I have thought it all out, and have decided to ask them. Mrs.
St. George quite agrees with me. _She_ says, sound the Military
Secretary first, and of course I will; but she thinks they are certain
to accept. Afterward we’ll have the whole party photographed on the back
verandah—I don’t see how they could get out of it—and that will be a
souvenir for you, if you like.”

The girl sank into a deep easy chair and crossed her knees with
deliberation. She was paler than usual; she could not deny a certain
lassitude. As her mother spoke she put up her hand to hide an incipient
yawn, and then turned her suffused eyes upon that lady, with the effect
of granting a weary but necessary attention.

“You have decided to ask them?” she asked, with absent-minded
interrogation. “Whom?”

“How ridiculous you are, Rhoda! The Viceroy and Lady Scansleigh, of
course! As if there could be the slightest doubt about anybody else! You
will want to know next what I intend to ask them to. I have never known
a girl take so little interest in her own wedding.”

“That brings us to the point,” said Rhoda.

An aroused suspicion shot into Mrs. Daye’s brown eyes. “What point,
pray? No nonsense, now, Rhoda!”

“No nonsense this time, mummie; but no wedding either. I have
decided—finally—not to marry Mr. Ancram.”

Mrs. Daye sat upright—pretty, plump, determined. She really looked at
the moment as if she could impose her ideas upon anybody. She had a
perception of the effect, to this end, of an impressive _tournure_.
Involuntarily she put a wispish curl in its place, and presented to her
daughter the outline of an unexceptionable shoulder and sleeve.

“Your decision comes too late to be effectual, Rhoda. People do not
change their minds in such matters when the wedding invitations are
actually——”

“Written out to be lithographed—but not ordered yet, mummie.”

“In half an hour they will be.”

“Would have been, mummie dear.”

Mrs. Daye assumed the utmost severity possible to a countenance intended
to express only the amenities of life, and took her three steps toward
the door. “This is childish, Rhoda,” she said over her shoulder, “and I
will not remain to listen to it. Retraction on your part at this hour
would be nothing short of a crying scandal, and I assure you once for
all that neither your father nor I will hear of it.”

Mrs. Daye reached the door very successfully. Rhoda turned her head on
its cushion, and looked after her mother in silence, with a
half-deprecating smile. Having achieved the effect of her retreat, that
lady turned irresolutely.

“I cannot remain to listen to it,” she repeated, and stooped to pick up
a pin.

“Oh, do remain, mummie! Don’t behave like the haughty and hard-hearted
mamma of primitive fiction; she is such an old-fashioned person. Do
remain and be a nice, reasonable, up-to-date mummie: it will save such a
lot of trouble.”

“You don’t seem to realise what you are talking of throwing over!”

Mrs. Daye, in an access of indignation, came as far back as the piano.

“Going down to dinner before the wives of the Small Cause Court! What a
worldly lady it is!”

“I wish,” Mrs. Daye ejaculated mentally, “that I had been brought up to
manage daughters.” What she said aloud, with the effect of being forced
to do so, was that Rhoda had also apparently forgotten that her sister
Lettice was to come out next year. Before the gravity of this
proposition Mrs. Daye sank into the nearest chair. And the expense, with
new frocks for Darjiling, would be really——

“All the arguments familiar to the pages of the _Family Herald_,” the
girl retorted, a dash of bitterness in her amusement, “‘with a little
store of maxims, preaching down a daughter’s heart!’ Aren’t you ashamed,
mummie! But you needn’t worry about that. I’ll go back to England and
live with Aunt Jane: she dotes on me. Or I’ll enter the Calcutta Medical
College and qualify as a lady-doctor. I shouldn’t like the cutting up,
though—I really shouldn’t.”

“Rhoda, _tu me fais mal_! If you could only be serious for five minutes
together. I suppose you have some absurd idea that Mr. Ancram is not
sufficiently—demonstrative. But that will all come in due time, dear.”

The girl laughed so uncontrollably that Mrs. Daye suspected herself of
an unconscious witticism, and reflected a compromising smile.

“You think I could win his affections afterwards. Oh! I should despair
of it. You have no idea how coy he is, mummie!”

Mrs. Daye made a little grimace of sympathy, and threw up her eyes and
her hands. They laughed together, and then the elder lady said with
severity that her daughter was positively indecorous. “Nothing could
have been more devoted than his conduct yesterday afternoon. ‘How
ridiculously happy,’ was what Mrs. St. George said—‘how ridiculously
happy those two are!’”

Mrs. Daye had become argumentative and plaintive. She imparted the
impression that if there was another point of view—which she doubted—she
was willing to take it.

“Oh! no doubt it was evident enough,” Rhoda said tranquilly: “we had
both been let off a bad bargain. An afternoon I shall always remember
with pleasure.”

“Then you have actually done it—broken with him!”

“Yes.”

“Irrevocably?”

“Very much so.”

“_Do_ tell me how he took it!”

“Calmly. With admirable fortitude. It occupied altogether about ten
minutes, with digressions. I’ve never kept any of his notes—he doesn’t
write clever notes—and you know I’ve always refused to wear a ring. So
there was nothing to return except Buzz, which wouldn’t have been fair
to Buzz. It won’t make a scandal, will it, my keeping Buzz? He’s quite a
changed dog since I’ve had him, and I love him for himself alone. He
doesn’t look in the least,” Rhoda added, thoughtfully regarding the
terrier curled up on the sofa, who turned his brown eyes on her and
wagged his tail without moving, “like a Secretariat puppy.”

“And is that all?”

“That’s all—practically.”

“Well, Rhoda, of course I had to think of your interests first—_any_
mother would; but if it’s really quite settled, I must confess that I
believe you are well out of it, and I’m rather relieved myself. When I
thought of being that man’s mother-in-law I used to be thankful
sometimes that your father would retire so soon—which was horrid, dear.”

“I can understand your feelings, mummie.”

“I’m sure you can, dear: you are always my sympathetic child. _I_
wouldn’t have married him for worlds! I never could imagine how you made
up your mind to it in the first place. Now, I suppose that absurd Mrs.
St. George will go on with her theory that no daughter of mine will ever
marry in India, because the young men find poor old me so amusing!”

“She’s a clever woman—Mrs. St. George,” Rhoda observed.

“And now that we’ve had our little talk, dear, there’s one thing I
should like you to take back—that quotation from Longfellow, or was it
Mrs. Hemans?—about a daughter’s heart, you know.” Mrs. Daye inclined her
head coaxingly towards the side. “I _shouldn’t_ like to have that to
remember between us, dear,” she said, and blew her nose with as close an
approach to sentiment as could possibly be achieved in connection with
that organ.

“You ridiculous old mummie! I assure you it hadn’t the slightest
application.”

“Then _that’s_ all right,” Mrs. Daye returned, in quite her sprightly
manner. “I’ll refuse the St. Georges’ dinner on Friday night; it’s only
decent that we should keep rather quiet for a fortnight or so, till it
blows over a little. And we shall get rid of you, my dear child, I’m
perfectly certain, quite soon enough,” she added over her shoulder, as
she rustled out. “With your brains, you might even marry very well at
home. But your father is sure to be put out about this—awfully put out!”

“Do you know, Buzz,” murmured Rhoda a moment later (the terrier had
jumped into her lap), “if I had been left an orphan in my early youth, I
fancy I would have borne it better than most people.”



                              CHAPTER XII.


The editor of the _Word of Truth_ sat in his office correcting a proof.
The proof looked insurmountably difficult of correction, because it was
printed in Bengali; but Tarachand Mookerjee’s eye ran over it nimbly,
and was accompanied by a smile, ever expanding and contracting, of
pleased, almost childish appreciation. The day was hot, unusually so for
February; and as the European editors up-town worked in their
shirt-sleeves, so Tarachand Mookerjee worked in his _dhoty_, which left
him bare from his waist up—bare and brown and polished, like a figure
carved in mahogany, for his ribs were very visible. He wore nothing
else, except patent leather shoes and a pair of white cotton stockings,
originally designed for a more muscular limb, if for a weaker sex. These
draperies were confined below the knee by pieces of the red tape with
which a considerate Government tied up the reports and resolutions it
sent the editor of the _Word of Truth_ for review. Above Tarachand’s
three-cornered face his crisp black hair stood in clumps of oily and
admired disorder; he had early acquired the literary habit of running
his fingers through it. He had gentle, velvety eyes, and delicate
features, and a straggling beard. He had lost two front teeth, and his
attenuated throat was well sunk between his narrow shoulders. This gave
him the look of a poor nervous creature; and, indeed, there was not a
black-and-white terrier in Calcutta that could not have frightened him
horribly. Yet he was not in the least afraid of a watch-dog belonging to
Government—an official translator who weekly rendered up a confidential
report of the emanations of the _Word of Truth_ in English—because he
knew that this animal’s teeth were drawn by the good friends of Indian
progress in the English Parliament.

Tarachand did almost everything that had to be done for the _Word of
Truth_ except the actual printing; although he had a nephew at the
Scotch Mission College who occasionally wrote a theatrical notice for
him in consideration of a free ticket, and who never ceased to urge him
to print the paper in English, so that he, the nephew, might have an
opportunity of practising composition in that language. It was Tarachand
who translated the news out of the European papers into his own columns,
where it read backwards, who reviewed the Bengali school-books written
by the pundits of his acquaintance, who “fought” the case of the baboo
in the Public Works Department dismissed for the trivial offence of
stealing blotting-paper. It was, above all, Tarachand who wrote
editorials about the conduct of the Government of India: that was the
business of his life, his morning and his evening meditation. Tarachand
had a great pull over the English editors uptown here; had a great pull,
in fact, over any editors anywhere who felt compelled to base their
opinions upon facts, or to express them with an eye upon consequences.
Tarachand knew nothing about facts—it is doubtful whether he would
recognise one if he saw it—and consequences did not exist for him. In
place of these drawbacks he had the great advantages of imagination and
invective. He was therefore able to write the most graphic editorials.

He believed them, too, with the open-minded, admiring simplicity that
made him wax and wane in smiles over this particular proof. I doubt
whether Tarachand could be brought to understand the first principles of
veracity as applied to public affairs, unless possibly through his
pocket. A definition to the Aryan mind is always best made in rupees,
and to be mulcted heavily by a court of law might give him a grieved and
surprised, but to some extent convincing education in political ethics.
It would necessarily interfere at the same time, however, with his
untrammelled and joyous talent for the creation and circulation of cheap
fiction; it would be a hard lesson, and in the course of it Tarachand
would petition with fervid loyalty and real tears. Perhaps it was on
some of these accounts that the Government of India had never run
Tarachand in.

Even for an editor’s office it was a small room, and though it was on
the second floor, the walls looked as if fungi grew on them in the
rains. The floor was littered with publications; for the _Word of Truth_
was taken seriously in Asia and in Oxford, and “exchanged” with a number
of periodicals devoted to theosophical research, or the destruction of
the opium revenue, or the protection of the sacred cow by combination
against the beef-eating Briton. In one corner lay a sprawling blue heap
of the reports and resolutions before mentioned, accumulating the dust
of the year, at the end of which Tarachand would sell them for waste
paper. For the rest, there was the editorial desk, with a chair on each
side of it, the editorial gum-pot and scissors and waste-paper basket;
and portraits, cut from the _Illustrated London News_, askew on the wall
and wrinkling in their frames, of Max Müller and Lord Ripon. The warm
air was heavy with the odour of fresh printed sheets, and sticky with
Tarachand’s personal anointing of cocoa-nut oil, and noisy with the
clamping of the press below, the scolding of the crows, the eternal
wrangle of the streets. Through the open window one saw the sunlight
lying blindly on the yellow-and-pink upper stories, with their winding
outer staircases and rickety balconies and narrow barred windows, of the
court below.

Tarachand finished his proof and put it aside to cough. He was bent
almost double, and still coughing when Mohendra Lal Chuckerbutty came
in; so that the profusion of smiles with which he welcomed his brother
journalist was not undimmed with tears. They embraced strenuously,
however, and Mohendra, with a corner of his nether drapery, tenderly
wiped the eyes of Tarachand. For the moment the atmosphere became doubly
charged with oil and sentiment, breaking into a little storm of phrases
of affection and gestures of respect. When it had been gone through
with, these gentlemen of Bengal sat opposite each other beaming, and
turned their conversation into English as became gentlemen of Bengal.

“I deplore,” said Mohendra Lal Chuckerbutty concernedly, with one fat
hand outspread on his knee, “to see that this iss still remaining with
you——”

The other, with a gesture, brushed his ailment away. “Oh, it iss
nothing—nothing whatever! I have been since three days under
astronomical treatment of Dr. Chatterjee. ‘Sir,’ he remarked me
yesterday, as I was leaving his höwwse, ‘after _one_ month you will be
again salubrious. You will be on legs again—_take_ my word!’”

Mohendra leaned back in his chair, put his head on one side, and
described a right angle with one leg and the knee of the other. “Smart
chap, Chatterjee!” he said, in perfect imitation of the casual sahib. He
did not even forget to smooth his chin judicially as he said it. The
editor of the _Word of Truth_, whose social opportunities had been
limited to his own caste, looked on with admiration.

“And what news do you bring? But already I have perused the _Bengal Free
Press_ of to-day, so without doubt I know all the news!” Tarachand made
this professional compliment as coyly and insinuatingly as if he and
Mohendra had been sweethearts. “I can_not_ withhold my congratulations
on that leader of thiss morning,” he went on fervently. “Here it is to
my hand; diligently I have been studying it with awful admiration.”

Mohendra’s chin sank into his neck in a series of deprecating nods and
inarticulate expressions of dissent, and his eyes glistened. Tarachand
took up the paper and read from it:—

                    “‘THE SATRAP AND THE COLLEGES.’

“Ah, how will His Honour look when he sees that!

“‘Is it possible, we ask all sane men with a heart in their bosom, that
Dame Rumour is right in her prognostications? Can it be true that the
tyrant of Belvedere will dare to lay his hand on the revenue sacredly
put aside to shower down upon our young hopefuls the mother’s milk of an
Alma Mater upon any pretext whatsoever? We fear the affirmative. Even as
we go to press the knell of higher education may be sounding, and any
day poor Bengal may learn from a rude Notification in the _Gazette_ that
her hope of progress has been shattered by the blasting pen of the
caitiff Church. We will not mince matters, nor hesitate to proclaim to
the housetops that the author of this dastardly action is but a poor
stick. Doubtless he will say that the College grants are wanted for this
or for that; but full well the people of this province know it is to
swell the fat pay of boot-licking English officials that they are
wanted. A wink is as good as a nod to a blind horse, and any excuse will
serve when an autocrat without fear of God or man sits upon the _gaddi_.
Many are the pitiable cases of hardship that will now come to view. One
amongst thousands will serve. Known to the writer is a family man, and a
large one. He has been blessed with seven sons, all below the age of
nine. Up to the present he has been joyous as a lark and playful as a
kitten, trusting in the goodness of Government to provide the nutrition
of their minds and livelihoods. Now he is beating his breast, for his
treasures will be worse than orphans. How true are the words of the
poet—

           “‘Manners with fortunes, humours turn with climes,
           Tenets with books, and principles with times!’

Again and yet again have we exposed the hollow, heartless and vicious
policy of the acting Lieutenant-Governor, but, alas! without result.

                “‘Destroy his fib or sophistry—in vain;
                The creature’s at his dirty work again!’

But will this province sit tamely down under its brow-beating? A
thousand times no! We will appeal to the justice, to the mercy of
England, through our noble friends in Parliament, and the lash will yet
fall like a scorpion upon the shrinking hide of the coward who would
filch the people from their rights.’”

Tarachand stopped to cough, and his round liquid eyeballs, as he turned
them upon Mohendra, stood out of their creamy whites with enthusiasm.
“One word,” he cried, as soon as he had breath: “you are the Ma_cau_lay
of Bengal! No less. The Ma_cau_lay of Bengal!”

(John Church, when he read Mohendra’s article next day, laughed, but
uneasily. He knew that in all Bengal there is no such thing as a sense
of humour.)

“My own feeble pen,” Tarachand went on deprecatingly, “has been busy at
this thing for the to-morrow’s issue. I also have been saying some
worthless remark, perhaps not altogether beyond the point,” and the
corrected proof went across the table to Mohendra. While he glanced
through it Tarachand watched him eagerly, reflecting every shade of
expression that passed over the other man’s face. When Mohendra smiled
Tarachand laughed out with delight, when Mohendra looked grave
Tarachand’s countenance was sunk in melancholy.

“‘Have the hearts of the people of India turned to water that any son of
English mud may ride over their prostrate forms?’”

he read aloud in Bengali. “That is well said.

“‘Too often the leaders of the people have waited on the
Lieutenant-Governor to explain desirable matters, but the counsel of
grey hairs has not been respected. Three Vedas, and the fourth a cudgel!
The descendants of monkeys have forgotten that once before they played
too many tricks. The white dogs want another lesson.’

“A-ha!” Mohendra paused to comment, smiling. “Very good talk. But it is
necessary also to be a little careful. After that—it is my advice—you
say how Bengalis are loyal before everything.”

The editor of the _Word of Truth_ slowly shook his head, showing, in his
contemptuous amusement, a row of glittering teeth stained with the red
of the betel. “No harm can come,” he said. “They dare not muzzle thee
press.” The phrase was pat and familiar. “When the loin-cloth burns one
must speak out. I am a poor man, and I have sons. Where is their rice to
come from? Am I a man without shame, that I should let the Sirkar turn
them into carpenters?” In his excitement Tarachand had dropped into his
own tongue.

“‘Education to Bengalis is as dear as religion. They have fought for
religion, they may well fight for education. Let the game go on; let
European officials grow fat on our taxes; let the wantons, their women,
dance in the arms of men, and look into their faces with impudence, at
the _tamashos_ of the Burra Lât as before. But if the Sirkar robs the
poor Bengali of his education let him beware. He will become without
wings or feathers, while Shiva will protect the helpless and those with
a just complaint.’

“Without doubt that will make a _sen_sation,” Mohendra said, handing
back the proof. “With_out_ doubt! You can have much more the courage of
your opinion in the vernacular. English—that iss a_noth_er thing. I
wrote myséêlf, last week, some issmall criticism on the Chairman of the
Municipality, maybe half a column—about that new drain in Colootollah
which we must put our hand in our pocket. Yesterda-ay I met the Chairman
on the Red Road, and he takes no notiss off my face! That was _not_
pleasant. To-day I am writing on issecond thoughts we cannot live
without drainage, and I will send him marked copy. But in that way it
iss troublesome, the English.”

“These Europeans they have no eye-shame. They are entirely made of wood.
But I think this Notification will be a nice kettle of fish! Has the
Committee got isspeakers for the mass meeting on the Maidan?”

Mohendra nodded complacently. “Already it is being arranged. For a month
I have known every word spoken by His Honour on this thing. I have the
_best_ information. Every week I am watching the _Gazette_. The morning
of publication _ekdum_[B] goes telegram to our good friend in
Parliament. Agitation in England, agitation in India! Either will come
another Royal Commission to upset the thing, or the Lieutenant-Governor
is forced to _re_tire.”

-----

Footnote B:

  In one breath.

-----

Mohendra’s nods became oracular. Then his expression grew seriously
regretful. “Myséêlf I hope they will—what iss it in English?—_w’itewass_
him with a commission. It goes against me to see disgrace on a high
official. It is _not_ pleasant. He means well—he _means_ well. And at
heart he is a very good fellow—personally I have had much agreeable
conversation with him. Always he has asked me to his garden-parties.”

“He has set fire to his own beard, brother,” said the editor of the
_Word of Truth_ in the vernacular, spitting.

“Very true—oh, very true! And all the more we must attack him because I
see the reptile English press, in Calcutta, in Bombay, in Allahabad,
they are upholding this dacoity. That iss the only word—dacoity.”
Mohendra rose. “And we two have both off us the best occasion to fight,”
he added beamingly, as he took his departure, “for did we not graduate
hand in hand that same year out off Calcutta University?”

                  *       *       *       *       *

“God knows, Ancram, I believe it is the right thing to do!”

John Church had reached his difficult moment—the moment he had learned
to dread. It lay in wait for him always at the end of unbaffled
investigation, of hard-fast steering by principle, of determined
preliminary action of every kind—the actual executive moment. Neither
the impulse of his enthusiasm nor the force of his energy ever sufficed
to carry him over it comfortably; rather, at this point, they ebbed
back, leaving him stranded upon his responsibility, which invariably at
once assumed the character of a quicksand. He was never defeated by
himself at these junctures, but he hated them. He turned out from
himself then, consciously seeking support and reinforcement, to which at
other times he was indifferent; and it was in a crisis of desire for
encouragement that he permitted himself to say to Lewis Ancram that God
knew he believed the College Grants Notification was the right thing to
do. He had asked Ancram to wait after the Council meeting was over very
much for this purpose.

“Yes, sir,” the Chief Secretary replied; “if I may be permitted to say
so, it is the most conscientious piece of legislation of recent years.”

The Lieutenant-Governor looked anxiously at Ancram from under his bushy
eyebrows, and then back again at the Notification. It lay in broad
margined paragraphs of beautiful round baboo’s handwriting, covering a
dozen pages of foolscap, before him on the table. It waited only for his
ultimate decision to go to the Government Printing Office and appear in
the _Gazette_ and be law to Bengal. Already he had approved each
separate paragraph. His Chief Secretary had never turned out a better
piece of work.

“To say precisely what is in my mind, Ancram,” Church returned,
beginning to pace the empty chamber, “I have sometimes thought that you
were not wholly with me in this matter.”

“I will not disguise from you, sir”—Ancram spoke with candid
emphasis—“that I think it’s a risky thing to do, a—deuced risky thing.”
His Honour was known to dislike strong language. “But as to the
principle involved there can be no two opinions.”

His Honour’s gaunt shadow passed and repassed against the oblong patch
of westering February sunlight that lightened the opposite wall before
he replied.

“I am prepared for an outcry,” he said slowly at last. “I think I can
honestly say that I am concerned only with the principle—with the
possible harm, and the probable good.”

Ancram felt a rising irritation. He reflected that if His Honour had
chosen to take him into confidence earlier, he—Mr. Ancram—might have
been saved a considerable amount of moral unpleasantness. By taking him
into confidence now the Lieutenant-Governor merely added to it
appreciably and, Ancram pointed out to himself, undeservedly. He played
with his watch-chain for distraction, and looked speculatively at the
Notification, and said that one thing was certain, they could depend
upon His Excellency if it came to any nonsense with the Secretary of
State. “Scansleigh is loyal to his very marrow. He’ll stand by us,
whatever happens.” No one admired the distinguishing characteristic of
the Viceroy of India more than the Chief Secretary of the Government of
Bengal.

“Scansleigh sees it as I do,” Church returned; “and I see it plainly. At
least I have not spared myself—nor any one else,” he added, with a smile
of admission which was at the moment pathetic, “in working the thing up.
My action has no bearing that I have not carefully examined. Nothing can
result from it that I do not expect—at least approximately—to happen.”

Ancram almost imperceptibly raised his eyebrows. The gesture, with its
suggestion of dramatic superiority, was irresistible to him; he would
have made it if Church had been looking at him; but the eyes of the
Lieutenant-Governor were fixed upon the sauntering multitude in the
street below. He turned from the window, and went on with a kind of
passion.

“I tell you, Ancram, I feel my responsibility in this thing, and I will
not carry it any longer in the shape of a curse to my country. I don’t
speak of the irretrievable mischief that is being done by the wholesale
creation of a clerkly class for whom there is no work, or of the danger
of putting that sharpest tool of modern progress—higher education—into
hands that can only use it to destroy. When we have helped these people
to shatter all their old notions of reverence and submission and
self-abnegation and piety, and given them, for such ideals as their
fathers had, the scepticism and materialism of the West, I don’t know
that we shall have accomplished much to our credit. But let that pass.
The ultimate consideration is this: You know and I know where the money
comes from—the three lakhs and seventy-five thousand rupees—that goes
every year to make B.A.s of Calcutta University. It’s a commonplace to
say that it is sweated in annas and pice out of the cultivators of the
villages—poor devils who live and breed and rot in pest-stricken holes
we can’t afford to drain for them, who wear one rag the year through and
die of famine when the rice harvest fails! The ryot pays, that the
money-lender who screws him and the landowner who bullies him may give
their sons a cheap European education.”

“The wonder is,” Ancram replied, “that it has not been acknowledged a
beastly shame long ago. The vested interest has never been very strong.”

“Ah well,” Church said more cheerfully, “we have provided for the vested
interest; and my technical schools will, I hope, go some little way
toward providing for the cultivators. At all events they will teach him
to get more out of his fields. It’s a tremendous problem, that,” he
added, refolding the pages with a last glance, and slipping them into
their cover: “the ratio at which population is increasing out here and
the limited resources of the soil.”

He had reassumed the slightly pedantic manner that was characteristic of
him; he was again dependent upon himself, and resolved.

“Send it off at once, will you?” he said; and Ancram gave the packet to
a waiting messenger. “A weighty business off my mind,” he added, with a
sigh of relief. “Upon my word, Ancram, I am surprised to find you so
completely in accord with me. I fancied you would have objections to
make at the last moment, and that I should have to convince you. I
rather wanted to convince somebody. But I am very pleased indeed to be
disappointed!”

“It is a piece of work which has my sincerest admiration, sir,” Ancram
answered; and as the two men descended the staircases from the Bengal
Council Chamber to the street, the Lieutenant-Governor’s hand rested
upon the arm of his Chief Secretary in a way that was almost
affectionate.



                             CHAPTER XIII.


Three days later the Notification appeared. John Church sat tensely
through the morning, unconsciously preparing himself for
emergencies—deputations, petitions, mobs. None of these occurred. The
day wore itself out in the usual routine, and in the evening His Honour
was somewhat surprised to meet at dinner a member of the Viceroy’s
Council who was not aware that anything had been done. He turned with
some eagerness next morning to the fourth page of his newspaper, and
found its leading article illuminating the subject of an archæological
discovery in Orissa, made some nine months previously. The
Lieutenant-Governor was an energetic person, and did not understand the
temper of Bengal. He had published a Notification subversive of the
educational policy of the Government for sixty years, and he expected
this proceeding to excite immediate attention. He gave it an importance
almost equal to that of the Derby Sweepstakes. This, however, was in
some degree excusable, considering the short time he had spent in
Calcutta and the persevering neglect he had shown in observing the tone
of society.

Even the telegram to the sympathetic Member of Parliament failed of
immediate transmission. Mohendra Lal Chuckerbutty wrote it out with
emotion; then he paused, remembering that the cost of telegrams paid for
by enthusiastic private persons was not easily recoverable from
committees. Mohendra was a solid man, but there were funds for this
purpose. He decided that he was not justified in speeding the nation’s
cry for succour at his own expense; so he submitted the telegram to the
committee, which met at the end of the week. The committee asked
Mohendra to cut it down and let them see it again. In the end it arrived
at Westminster almost as soon as the mail. Mohendra, besides, had his
hands and his paper full, at the moment, with an impassioned attack upon
an impulsive judge of the High Court who had shot a bullock with its
back broken. As to the _Word of Truth_, Tarachand Mookerjee was
celebrating his daughter’s wedding, at the time the Notification was
published, with tom-toms and sweetmeats and a very expensive nautch, and
for three days the paper did not appear at all.

The week lengthened out, and the Lieutenant-Governor’s anxiety grew
palpably less. His confidence had returned to such a degree that when
the officers of the Education Department absented themselves in a body
from the first of his succeeding entertainments he was seriously
disturbed. “It’s childish,” he said to Judith. “By my arrangement not a
professor among them will lose a pice either in pay or pension. If the
people are anxious enough for higher education to pay twice as much for
it as they do now these fellows will go on with their lectures. If not,
we’ll turn them into inspectors, or superintendents of the technical
schools.”

“I can understand a certain soreness on the subject of their dignity,”
his wife suggested.

Church frowned impatiently. “People might think less of their dignity in
this country and more of their duty, with advantage,” he said, and she
understood that the discussion was closed.

The delay irritated Ancram, who was a man of action. He told other
people that he feared it was only the ominous lull before the storm, and
assured himself that no man could hurry Bengal. Nevertheless, the terms
in which he advised Mohendra Lal Chuckerbutty, who came to see him every
Sunday afternoon, were successful to the point of making that Aryan
drive rather faster on his way back to the _Bengal Free Press_ office.
At the end of a fortnight Mr. Ancram was able to point to the
verification of his prophecy; it had been the lull before the storm,
which developed, two days later, in the columns of the native press,
into a tornado.

“I tell you,” said he, “you might as well petition Sri Krishna as the
Viceroy,” when Mohendra Lal Chuckerbutty reverted to this method of
obtaining redress. Mohendra, who was a Hindoo of orthodoxy, may well
have found this flippant, but he only smiled, and assented, and went
away and signed the petition. He yielded to the natural necessity of the
pathetic temperament of his countrymen—even when they were university
graduates and political agitators—to implore before they did anything
else. An appeal was distilled and forwarded. The Viceroy promptly
indicated the nature of his opinions by refusing to receive this
document unless it reached him through the proper channel—which was the
Bengal Government. The prayer of humility then became a shriek of
defiance, a transition accomplished with remarkable rapidity in Bengal.
In one night Calcutta flowered mysteriously into coloured cartoons,
depicting the Lieutenant-Governor in the prisoner’s dock, charged by the
Secretary of State, on the bench, with the theft of bags of gold marked
“College Grants”; while the Director of Education, weeping bitterly,
gave evidence against him. The Lieutenant-Governor was represented in a
green frock-coat and the Secretary of State in a coronet, which made
society laugh, and started a wave of interest in the College Grants
Notification. John Church saw it in people’s faces at his garden
parties, and it added to the discomfort with which he read
advertisements of various mass meetings, in protest, to be held
throughout the province, and noticed among the speakers invariably the
unaccustomed names of the Rev. Professor Porter of the Exeter Hall
Institute, the Rev. Dr. MacInnes of the Caledonian Mission, and Father
Ambrose, who ruled St. Dominic’s College, and who certainly insisted, as
part of _his_ curriculum, upon the lives of the Saints.

The afternoon of the first mass meeting in Calcutta closed into the
evening of the last ball of the season at Government House. A petty
royalty from Southern Europe, doing the grand tour, had trailed his
clouds of glory rather indolently late into Calcutta; and, as society
anxiously emphasized, there was practically only a single date available
before Lent for a dance in his honour. When it was understood that Their
Excellencies would avail themselves of this somewhat contracted
opportunity, society beamed upon itself, and said it knew they
would—they were the essence of hospitality.

There are three square miles of the green Maidan, round which Calcutta
sits in a stucco semi-circle, and past which her brown river runs to the
sea. Fifteen thousand people, therefore, gathered in one corner of it,
made a somewhat unusually large patch of white upon the grass, but were
not otherwise impressive, and in no wise threatening. Society, which had
forgotten about the mass meeting, put up its eye-glass, driving on the
Red Road, and said that there was evidently something “going
on”—probably a football team of Tommies from the Fort playing the town.
Only two or three elderly officials, taking the evening freshness in
solitary walks, looked with anxious irritation at the densely-packed
mass; and Judith Church, driving home through the smoky yellow twilight,
understood the meaning of the cheers the south wind softened and
scattered abroad. They brought her a stricture of the heart with the
thought of John Church’s devotion to these people. Ingrates, she named
them to herself, with compressed lips—ingrates, traitors, hounds! Her
eyes filled with the impotent tears of a woman’s pitiful indignation;
her heart throbbed with a pang of new recognition of her husband’s
worth, and of tenderness for it, and of unrecognised pain beneath that
even this could not constitute him her hero and master. She asked
herself bitterly—I fear her politics were not progressive—what the
people in England meant by encouraging open and ignorant sedition in
India, and whole passages came eloquently into her mind of the speech
she would make in Parliament if she were but a man and a member. They
brought her some comfort, but she dismissed them presently to reflect
seriously whether something might not be done. She looked courageously
at the possibility of imprisoning Dr. MacInnes. Then she too thought of
the ball, and subsided upon the determination of consulting Lewis
Ancram, at the ball, upon this point. She drew a distinct ethical
satisfaction from her intention. It seemed in the nature of a
justification for the quickly pulsating pleasure with which she looked
forward to the evening.



                              CHAPTER XIV.


Gentlemen native to Bengal are not usually invited to balls at
Government House. It is unnecessary to speak of the ladies: they are
non-existent to the social eye, even if it belongs to a Viceroy. The
reason is popularly supposed to be the inability of gentlemen native to
Bengal to understand the waltz, except by Aryan analysis. It is thought
well to circumscribe their opportunities of explaining it thus, and they
are asked instead to evening parties which offer nothing more
stimulating to the imagination than conversation and champagne—of
neither of which they partake. On this occasion however, at the entreaty
of the visiting royalty, the rule was relaxed to admit perhaps fifty;
and when Lewis Ancram arrived—rather late—the first personality he
recognised as in any way significant was that of Mohendra Lal
Chuckerbutty, who leaned against a pillar, with his hands clasped behind
him, raptly contemplating a polka. Mohendra, too, had an appreciation of
personalities, and of his respectful duty to them. He bore down in
Ancram’s direction unswervingly through the throng, his eye humid with
happiness, his hand held out in an impulse of affection. When he thought
he had arrived at the Chief Secretary’s elbow he looked about him in
some astonishment. A couple of subalterns in red jackets disputed with
mock violence over the dance-card of a little girl in white, and a much
larger lady was waiting with imposing patience until he should be
pleased to get off her train. At the same moment an extremely correct
black back glanced through the palms into the verandah.

The verandah was very broad and high, and softly lighted in a way that
made vague glooms visible and yet gave a gentle radiance to the sweep of
pale-tinted drapery that here and there suggested a lady sunk in the
depths of a roomy arm-chair, playing with her fan and talking in
undertones. It was a place of delicious mystery, in spite of the strains
of the orchestra that throbbed out from the ball-room, in spite of the
secluded fans opening and closing in some commonplace of Calcutta
flirtation. The mystery came in from without, where the stars crowded
down thick and luminous behind the palms, and a grey mist hung low in
the garden beneath, turning it into a fantasy of shadowed forms and
filmy backgrounds and new significances. Out there, in the wide spaces
beyond the tall verandah pillars, the spirit of the spring was
abroad—the troubled, throbbing, solicitous Indian spring, perfumed and
tender. The air was warm and sweet and clinging; it made life a
pathetic, enjoyable necessity, and love a luxury of much refinement.

Ancram folded his arms and stood in the doorway and permitted himself to
feel these things. If he was not actually looking for Judith Church, it
was because he was always, so to speak, anticipating her; in a state of
readiness to receive the impression of her face, the music of her voice.
Mrs. Church was the reason of the occasion, the reason of every occasion
in so far as it concerned him. She seemed simply the corollary of his
perception of the exquisite night when he discovered her presently, on
one of the more conspicuous sofas, talking to Sir Peter Bloomsbury. She
was waiting for him to find her, with a little flickering smile that
came in the pauses between Sir Peter’s remarks; and when Ancram
approached he noticed, with as keen a pleasure as he was capable of
feeling, that her replies to this dignitary were made somewhat at
random.

Their conversation changed when Sir Peter went away only to take its
note of intimacy and its privilege of pauses. They continued to speak of
trivial matters, and to talk in tones and in things they left unsaid.
His eyes lingered in the soft depths of hers to ascertain whether the
roses were doing well this year at Belvedere, and there was a conscious
happiness in the words with which she told him that they were quite
beyond her expectations not wholly explicable even by so idyllic a fact.
The content of their neigbourhood surrounded them like an atmosphere,
beyond which people moved about irrationally and a string band played
unmeaning selections much too loud. She was lovelier than he had ever
seen her, more his possession than he had ever felt her—the incarnation,
as she bent her graceful head towards him, of the eloquent tropical
night and the dreaming tropical spring. He told himself afterwards that
he felt at this moment an actual pang of longing, and rejoiced that he
could still experience an undergraduate’s sensation after so many years
of pleasures that were but aridly intellectual at their best. Certainly,
as he sat there in his irreproachable clothes and attitude, he knew that
his blood was beating warm to his finger-tips with a delicious impulse
to force the sweet secret of the situation between them. The south wind
suggested to him, through the scent of breaking buds, that prudence was
entirely a relative thing, and not even relative to a night like this
and a woman like that. As he looked at a tendril of her hair, blown
against the warm whiteness of her neck, it occurred to the Honourable
Mr. Ancram that he might go a little further. He felt divinely rash; but
his intention was to go only a little further. Hitherto he had gone no
distance at all.

The south wind drove them along together. Judith felt it on her neck and
arms, and in little, cool, soft touches about her face. She did not
pause to question the happiness it brought her: there were other times
for pauses and questions; her eyes were ringed with them, under the
powder. She abandoned herself to her woman’s divine sense of ministry;
and the man she loved observed that she did it with a certain inimitable
poise, born of her confidence in him, which was as new as it was
entrancing.

People began to flock downstairs to supper in the wake of the Viceroy
and the visiting royalty; the verandah emptied itself. Presently they
became aware that they were alone.

“You have dropped your fan,” Ancram said, and picked it up. He looked at
its device for a moment, and then restored it. Judith’s hands were lying
in her lap, and he slipped the fan into one of them, letting his own
rest for a perceptible instant in the warm palm of the other. There
ensued a tumultuous silence. He had only underscored a glance of hers;
yet it seemed that he had created something—something as formidable as
lovely, as embarrassing as divine. As he gently withdrew his hand she
lifted her eyes to his with mute entreaty, and he saw that they were
full of tears. He told himself afterwards that he had been profoundly
moved; but this did not interfere with his realisation that it was an
exquisite moment.

Ancram regarded her gravely, with a smile of much consideration. He gave
her a moment of time, and then, as she did not look up again, he leaned
forward, and said, quite naturally and evenly, as if the proposition
were entirely legitimate: “The relation between us is too tacit. Tell me
that you love me, dear.”

For an instant he repented, since it seemed that she would be carried
along on the sweet tide of his words to the brink of an indiscretion.
Once more she looked up, softly seeking his eyes; and in hers he saw so
lovely a light of self-surrender that he involuntarily thanked Heaven
that there was no one else to recognise it. In her face was nothing but
the thought of him; and, seeing this, he had a swift desire to take her
in his arms and experience at its fullest and sweetest the sense that
she and her little empire were gladly lost there. In the pause of her
mute confession he felt the strongest exultation he had known. Her
glance reached him like a cry from an unexplored country; the revelation
of her love filled him with the knowledge that she was infinitely more
adorable and more desirable than he had thought her. From that moment
she realised to him a supreme good, and he never afterwards thought of
his other ambitions without a smile of contempt which was almost
genuine. But she said nothing: she seemed removed from any necessity of
speech, lifted up on a wave of absolute joy, and isolated from all that
lay either behind or before. He controlled his impatience for words from
her—for he was very sure of one thing; that when they came they would be
kind—and chose his own with taste.

“Don’t you think that it would be better if we had the courage and the
candour to accept things as they are? Don’t you think we would be
stronger for all that we must face if we acknowledged—only to each
other—the pain and the sweetness of it?”

“I have never been blind,” she said softly.

“All I ask is that you will not even pretend to be. Is that too much?”

“How can it be a question of that?” Her voice trembled a little. Then
she hurried illogically on: “But there can be no change—there must be no
change. These are things I hoped you would never say.”

“The alternative is too wretched: to go on living a lie—and a stupid,
unnecessary lie. Why, in Heaven’s name, should there be the figment of
hypocrisy between us? I know that I must be content with very little,
but I am afraid there is no way of telling you how much I want that
little.”

She had grown very pale, and she put up her hand and smoothed her hair
with a helpless, mechanical gesture.

“No, no,” she said—“stop. Let us make an end of it quickly. I was very
well content to go on with the lie. I think I should always have been
content. But now there is no lie: there is nothing to stand upon any
longer. You must get leave, or something, and go away—or I will. I am
not—really—very well.”

She looked at him miserably, with twitching lips, and he laid a soothing
hand—there was still no one to see—upon her arm.

“Judith, don’t talk of impossibilities. How could we two live in one
world—and apart! Those are the heroics of a dear little schoolgirl. You
and I are older, and braver.”

She put his hand away with a touch that was a caress, but only said
irrelevantly, “And Rhoda Daye might have loved you honestly!”

“Ah, that threadbare old story!” He felt as if she had struck him, and
the feeling impelled him to ask her why she thought he deserved
punishment. “Not that it hurts,” Mr. Ancram added, almost resentfully.

She gave him a look of vague surprise, and then lapsed, refusing to make
the effort to understand, into the troubled depths of her own thought.

“Be a little kind, Judith. I only want a word.”

The south wind brought them a sound out of the darkness—the high, faint,
long-drawn sound of a cheer from the Maidan. She lifted her head and
listened intently, with apprehensive eyes. Then she rose unsteadily from
her seat, and, as he gave her his arm in silence, she stood for a moment
gathering up her strength, and waiting, it seemed, for the sound to come
again. Nothing reached them but the wilder, nearer wail of the jackals
in the streets.

“I must go home,” she said, in a voice that was quite steady; “I must
find my husband and go home.”

He would have held her back, but she walked resolutely, if somewhat
purposelessly, round the long curve of the verandah, and stood still,
looking at the light that streamed out of the ballroom and glistened on
the leaves of a range of palms and crotons in pots that made a seclusion
there.

“Then,” said Ancram, “I am to go on with the forlorn comfort of a guess.
I ought to be thankful, I suppose, that you can’t take that from me.
Perhaps you would,” he added bitterly, “if you could know how precious
it is.”

His words seemed to fix her in a half-formed resolve. Her hand slipped
out of his arm, and she took a step away from him toward the crotons.
Against their dark green leaves he saw, with some alarm, how white her
face was.

“Listen,” she said: “I think you do not realise it, but I know you are
hard and cruel. You ask me if I am not to you what I ought to be to my
husband, who is a good man, and who loves me, and trusts you. And, what
is worse, this has come up between us at a time when he is threatened
and troubled: on the very night when I meant—when I meant”—she stopped
to conquer the sob in her throat—“to have asked you to think of
something that might be done to help him. Well, but you ask me if I have
come to love you, and perhaps in a way you have a right to know; and the
truth is better, as you say. And I answer you that I have. I answer you
yes, it is true, and I know it will always be true. But from to-night
you will remember that every time I look into your face and touch your
hand I hurt my own honour and my husband’s, and—and you will not let me
see you often.”

As Ancram opened his lips to speak, the cheer from the Maidan smote the
air again, and this time it seemed nearer. Judith took his arm
nervously.

“What can they be doing out there?” she exclaimed. “Let us go—I must
find my husband—let us go!”

They crossed the threshold into the ballroom, where John Church joined
them almost immediately, his black brows lightened by an unusually
cheerful expression.

“I’ve been having a long talk with His Excellency,” he said to them
jointly. “An uncommonly capable fellow, Scansleigh. He tells me he has
written a strong private letter to the Secretary of State about this
Notification of mine. That’s bound to have weight, you know, in case
they make an attempt to get hold of Parliament at home.”

As Mrs. Church and Mr. Lewis Ancram left the verandah a chair was
suddenly pushed back behind the crotons. Miss Rhoda Daye had been
sitting in the chair, alone too, with the south wind and the stars. She
had no warning of what she was about to overhear—no sound had reached
her, either of their talk or their approach—and in a somewhat agitated
colloquy with herself she decided that nothing could be so terrible as
her personal interruption of what Mrs. Church was saying. That lady’s
words, though low and rapid, were very distinct, and Rhoda heard them
out involuntarily, with a strong disposition to applaud her and to love
her. Then she turned a key upon her emotions and Judith Church’s secret,
and slipped quietly out to look for her mother, who asked her, between
her acceptance of an ice from the Home Secretary and a _petit four_ from
the General Commanding the Division, why on earth she looked so
depressed.

[Illustration: “What do I know about the speech!”]

Ancram, turning away from the Churches, almost ran into the arms of
Mohendra Lal Chuckerbutty, with whom he shook hands. His manner
expressed, combined with all the good will in the world, a slight
embarrassment that he could not remember Mohendra’s name, which is so
often to be noticed when European officials have occasion to greet
natives of distinction—natives of distinction are so very numerous and
so very similar.

“I hope you are well!” beamed the editor of the _Bengal Free Press_. “It
is a very select party.” Then Mohendra dropped his voice confidentially:
“We have sent to England, by to-day’s mail, every word of the isspeech
of Dr. MacInnes——”

“Damn you!” Ancram said, with a respectful, considering air: “what do I
know about the speech of Dr. MacInnes! _Jehannum jao!_”[C]

-----

Footnote C:

  “Go to Hades!”

-----

Mohendra laughed in happy acquiescence as the Chief Secretary bowed and
left him. “Certainlie! certainlie!” he said; “it is a very select
party!”

The evening had one more incident. Mr. and Mrs. Church made their
retreat early: Judith’s face offered an excuse of fatigue which was
better than her words. Their carriage turned out of Circular Road with a
thickening crowd of natives talking noisily and walking in the same
direction. They caught up with a glare and the smell and smoke of
burning pitch. Judith said uneasily that there seemed to be a bonfire in
the middle of the road. They drew a little nearer, and the crowd massed
around them before and behind, on the bridge leading to Belvedere out of
the city. Then John Church perceived that the light streamed from a
burning figure which flamed and danced grotesquely, wired to a pole
attached to a bullock cart and pulled along by coolies. The absorbed
crowd that walked behind, watching and enjoying like excited children at
a show, chattered defective English, and the light from the burning
thing on the pole streamed upon faces already to some extent illumined
by the higher culture of the University Colleges. But it was not until
they recognised his carriage and outriders, and tried to hurry and to
scatter on the narrow bridge, that the Acting Lieutenant-Governor of
Bengal fully realised that he had been for some distance swelling a
procession which was entertaining itself with much gusto at the expense
of his own effigy.



                              CHAPTER XV.


When it became obvious that the College Grants Notification held fateful
possibilities for John Church personally, and for his wife incidentally,
it rapidly developed into a topic. Ladies, in the course of midday
visits in each other’s cool drawing-rooms, repeated things their
husbands had let fall at dinner the night before, and said they were
awfully sorry for Mrs. Church; it must be too trying for her, poor
thing. If it were only on _her_ account, some of them thought, the
Lieutenant-Governor—the “L.G.,” they called him—ought to let things go
on as they always had. What difference did it make anyway! At the clubs
the matter superseded, for the moment, the case of an army chaplain
accused of improper conduct at Singapore, and bets were freely laid on
the issue—three to one that Church would be “smashed.” If this attitude
seemed less sympathetic than that of the ladies, it betokened at least
no hostility. On the contrary, no small degree of appreciation was
current for His Honour. He would not have heard the matter discussed
often from his own point of view, but that was because his own point of
view was very much his own property. He might have heard himself
commended from a good many others, however, and especially on the ground
of his pluck. Men said between their cigars that very few fellows would
care to put their hands to such a piece of _zubberdusti_[D] at this end
of the century, however much it was wanted. Personally they hoped the
beggar would get it through, and with equal solicitude they proceeded to
bet that he wouldn’t. Among the sentiments the beggar evoked, perhaps
the liveliest was one of gratitude for so undeniable a sensation so near
the end of the cold weather, when sensations were apt to take flight,
with other agreeable things, to the hill stations.

-----

Footnote D:

  “High-handed proceeding.”

-----

The storm reached a point when the Bishop felt compelled to put forth an
allaying hand from the pulpit of the Cathedral. As the head of the
Indian Establishment the Bishop felt himself allied in no common way
with the governing power, and His Lordship was known to hold strong
views on the propriety with which lawn sleeves might wave above
questions of public importance. Besides, neither Dr. MacInnes nor
Professor Porter were lecturing on the binomial theorem under
Established guidance, while as to Father Ambrose, he positively invited
criticism, with his lives of the Saints. When, therefore, the Cathedral
congregation heard his Lordship begin his sermon with the sonorous
announcement from Ecclesiastes,

“_For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge
    increaseth sorrow. He—that increaseth—knowledge—increaseth—sorrow_,”

it listened, with awakened interest, for a snub to Dr. MacInnes and
Professor Porter, and for a rebuke, full of dignity and austerity, to
Father Ambrose; both of which were duly administered. His Lordship’s
views, supported by the original Preacher, were doubtless more valuable
in his sermon than they would be here, but it is due to him to say that
they formed the happiest combination of fealty and doctrine. The
Honourable Mr. Ancram said to Sir William Scott on the Cathedral steps
after the service—it was like the exit of a London theatre, with people
waiting for their carriages—that while his Lordship’s reference was very
proper and could hardly fail to be of use, public matters looked serious
when they came to be discussed in the pulpit. To which Sir William gave
a deprecating agreement.

Returning to his somewhat oppressively lonely quarters, Ancram felt the
need of further conversation. The Bishop had stirred him to vigorous
dissent, which his Lordship’s advantage of situation made peculiarly
irritating to so skilled an observer of weak points. He bethought
himself that he might write to Philip Doyle. He remembered that Doyle
had not answered the letter in which he had written of his changed
domestic future, frankly asking for congratulation rather than for
condolence; but without resentment, for why should a man trouble himself
under Florentine skies with unnecessary Calcutta correspondents? He
consulted only his own pleasure in writing again: Doyle was so readily
appreciative, he would see the humour in the development of affairs with
His Honour. It was almost a week since Mr. Ancram had observed at the
ball, with acute annoyance, what an unreasonable effect the matter was
having upon Judith Church, and he was again himself able to see the
humour of it. He finally wrote with much facility a graphically
descriptive letter, in which the Bishop came in as a mere picturesque
detail at the end. He seemed to pick his way, as he turned the pages,
out of an embarrassing moral quagmire; he was so obviously high and dry
when he could fix the whole thing in a caricature of effective
paragraphs. He wrote:—

/# “I don’t mind telling you privately that I have no respect whatever
for the scheme, and very little for the author of it. He reminds one of
nothing so #/ /# much as an elderly hen sitting, with the obstinacy of
her kind, on eggs out of which it is easy to see no addled reform will
ever step to crow. He is as blind as a bat to his own deficiencies. I
doubt whether even his downfall will convince him that his proper sphere
of usefulness in life was that of a Radical cobbler. He has a noble
preference for the ideal of an impeccable Indian administrator, which he
goes about contemplating, while his beard grows with the tale of his
blunders. The end, however, cannot be far off. Bengal is howling for his
retirement; and, notwithstanding a fulsome habit he has recently
developed of hanging upon my neck for sympathy, I own to you that, if
circumstances permitted, I would howl too.” #/

Ancram’s first letter had miscarried, a peon in the service of the
Sirkar having abstracted the stamps; and Philip Doyle, when he received
the second, was for the moment overwhelmed with inferences from his
correspondent’s silence regarding the marriage, which should have been
imminent when he wrote. Doyle glanced rapidly through another Calcutta
letter that arrived with Ancram’s for possible news; but the brief
sensation of Miss Daye’s broken engagement had expired long before it
was written, and it contained no reference to the affair. The theory of
a postponement suggested itself irresistibly; and he spent an absorbed
and motionless twenty minutes, sitting on the edge of his bed, while his
pipe went out in his hand, looking fixedly at the floor of his room in
the hotel, and engaged in constructing the tissue of circumstances which
would make such a thing likely. If he did not grow consciously
lighter-hearted with this occupation, at least he turned, at the end of
it, to re-peruse his letters, as if they had brought him good news. He
read them both carefully again, and opened the newspaper that came with
the second. It was a copy of the _Bengal Free Press_, and his friend of
the High Court had called his special attention to its leading article,
as the most caustic and effective attack upon the College Grants
Notification which had yet appeared. Mr. Justice Shears wrote:—

/# “As you will see, there is abundant intrinsic evidence that no native
wrote it. My own idea, which I share with a good many people, is that it
came from the pen of the Director of Education, which is as facile as it
would very naturally be hostile. Let me know #/ /# what you think.
Ancram is non-committal, but he talks of Government’s prosecuting the
paper, which looks as if the article had already done harm.” #/

Doyle went through the editorial with interest that increased as his eye
travelled down the column. He smiled as he read; it was certainly a
telling and a forcible presentation of the case against His Honour’s
policy, adorned with gibes that were more damaging than its argument.
Suddenly he stopped, with a puzzled look, and read the last part of a
sentence once again:—

/# “But he has a noble preference for the ideal of an impeccable Indian
administrator, which he goes about contemplating, while his beard grows
with the tale of his blunders.” #/

The light of a sudden revelation twinkled in Doyle’s eyes—a revelation
which showed the Chief Secretary to the Bengal Government led on by
vanity to forgetfulness. He reopened Ancram’s letter, and convinced
himself that the words were precisely those he had read there. For
further assurance, he glanced at the dates of the letter and the
newspaper: the one had been written two days before the other had been
printed. Presently he put them down, and instinctively rubbed his thumb
and the ends of his fingers together with the light, rapid movement with
which people assure themselves that they have touched nothing soiling.
He permitted himself no characterisation of the incident—lofty
denunciation was not part of Doyle’s habit of mind—beyond what might
have been expressed in the somewhat disgusted smile with which he
re-lighted his pipe. It was like him that his principal reflection had a
personal tinge, and that it was forcible enough to find words. “And I,”
he said, with a twinkle at his own expense, “lived nine months in the
same house with that skunk!”



                              CHAPTER XVI.


Every day at ten o’clock the south wind came hotter and stronger up from
the sea. The sissoo trees on the Maidan trembled into delicate flower,
and their faint, fresh fragrance stood like a spell about them. The teak
pushed out its awkward rags, tawdry and foolish, but divinely green; and
here and there a tamarind by the roadside lifted its gracious head, like
a dream-tree in a billow of misty leaf. The days grew long and lovely;
the coolies going home at sunset across the burnt grass of the Maidan
joined hands and sang, with marigolds round their necks. The white-faced
aliens of Calcutta walked there too, but silently, for “exercise.” The
crows grew noisier than ever, for it was young crow time; the fever-bird
came and told people to put up their punkahs. The Viceroy and all that
were officially his departed to Simla, and great houses in Chowringhee
were to let. It was announced rather earlier than usual that His Honour
the Lieutenant-Governor would go “on tour,” which had no reference to
Southern Europe, but meant inspection duty in remote parts of the
province. Mrs. Church would accompany the Lieutenant-Governor. The local
papers, in making this known, said it was hoped that the change of air
would completely restore “one of Calcutta’s most brilliant and popular
hostesses,” whose health for the past fortnight had been regrettably
unsatisfactory.

The Dayes went to Darjiling, and Dr. MacInnes to England. Dr. MacInnes’
expenses to England, and those of Shib Chunder Bhose, who accompanied
him, were met out of a fund which had swelled astonishingly considering
that it was fed by Bengali sentiment—the fund established to defeat the
College Grants Notification. Dr. MacInnes went home, as one of the noble
band of Indian missionaries, to speak to the people of England, and to
explain to them how curiously the administrative mind in India became
perverted in its conceptions of the mother country’s duty to the heathen
masses who look to her for light and guidance. Dr. MacInnes was prepared
to say that the cause of Christian missions in India had been put back
fifty years by the ill-judged act, so fearful in its ultimate
consequences, of the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal. Since that high
official could not be brought to consider his responsibility to his
Maker, he should be brought to consider his responsibility to the people
of England. Dr. MacInnes doubtless did not intend to imply that the
latter tribunal was the higher of the two, but he certainly produced the
impression that it was the more effective.

Shib Chunder Bhose, in fluent and deferential language, heightened this
impression, which did no harm to the cause. Shib Chunder Bhose had been
found willing, in consideration of a second-class passage, to accompany
Dr. MacInnes in the character of a University graduate who was also a
Christian convert. Shib Chunder’s father had married a Mohamedan woman,
and so lost his caste, whereafter he embraced Christianity because
Father Ambrose’s predecessor had given him four annas every time he came
to catechism. Shib Chunder inherited the paternal religion, with
contumely added on the score of his mother, and, since he could make no
other pretension, figured in the College register as Christian. A young
man anxious to keep pace with the times, he had been a Buddhist since,
and afterwards professed his faith in the tenets of Theosophy; but
whenever he fell ill or lost money he returned irresistibly to the
procedure of his youth, and offered rice and marigolds to the Virgin
Mary. Dr. MacInnes therefore certainly had the facts on his side when he
affectionately referred to his young friend as living testimony to the
work of educational missions in India, living proof of the falsity of
the charge that the majority of mission colleges were mere secular
institutions. As his young friend wore a frock-coat and a humble smile,
and was able on occasion to weep like anything, the effect in the
provinces was tremendous.

Dr. MacInnes gave himself to the work with a zeal which entirely merited
the commendation he received from his conscience. Sometimes he lectured
twice a day. He was always freely accessible to interviewers from the
religious press. He refrained, in talking to these gentlemen, from all
personal malediction of the Lieutenant-Governor—it was the sin he had to
do with, not the distinguished sinner—and thereby gained a widespread
reputation for unprejudiced views. Portraits of the reverend crusader
and Shib Chunder Bhose appeared on the posters which announced Dr.
MacInnes’ subject in large letters—“MISSIONS AND MAMMON. SHALL A
LIEUTENANT-GOVERNOR ROB GOD?”—and in all the illustrated papers. The
matter arrived regularly with the joint at Hammersmith Sunday
dinner-tables. Finally the _Times_ gave it almost a parochial
importance, and solemnly, in two columns, with due respect for
constituted authority, came to no conclusion at all from every point of
view.

The inevitable question was early asked in Parliament, and the
Under-Secretary of State said he would “inquire.” Further questions were
asked on different and increasingly urgent grounds, with the object of
reminding and hastening the Secretary of State. A popular Nonconformist
preacher told two thousand people in Exeter Hall that they and he could
no longer conscientiously vote to keep a Government in office that would
hesitate to demand the instant resignation of an official who had
brought such shame upon the name of England. Shortly afterwards one hon.
member made a departure in his attack upon Mr. John Church, which
completely held the attention of the House while it lasted. The effect
was unusual, to be achieved by this particular hon. member, and he did
it by reading aloud the whole of an extremely graphic and able article
criticising His Honour’s policy from the _Bengal Free Press_.

“I put it to hon. members,” said he, weightily, in conclusion, “whether
any one of us, in our boasted superiority of intellect, has the right to
say that people who can thus express themselves do not know what they
want!”

That evening, before he went to bed, Lord Strathell, Secretary of State
for India, in Eaton Square, London, wrote a note to Lord Scansleigh,
Viceroy and Governor-General of India, in Viceregal Lodge, Simla. The
note was written on Lady Strathell’s letter-paper, which was delicately
scented and bore a monogram and coronet. It was a very private and
friendly note, and it ran:—

“DEAR SCANSLEIGH: I needn’t tell you how much I regret the necessity of
my accompanying official letter asking you to arrange Church’s
retirement. I can quite understand that it will be most distasteful to
you, as I know you have a high opinion of him, both personally and as an
administrator. But the Missionary Societies, etc., have got us into the
tightest possible place over his educational policy. Already several
Nonconformist altars—if there are such things—are crying out for the
libation of our blood. Somebody must be offered up. I had a Commission
suggested, and it was received with rage and scorn. Nothing will do but
Church’s removal from his present office—and the sooner the better. I
suppose we must find something else for him.

“Again assuring you of my personal regret, believe me, dear Scansleigh,
yours cordially,

                                                         ”STRATHELL.

“P.S.—Thus Party doth make Pilates of us all.”



                             CHAPTER XVII.


It was the first time in history that the town of Bhugsi had been
visited by a Lieutenant-Governor. Bhugsi was small, but it had a
reputation for malodorousness not to be surpassed by any municipality of
Eastern Bengal. Though Bhugsi was small it was full—full of men and
children and crones and monkeys, and dwarfed, lean-ribbed cattle, and
vultures of the vilest appetite. The town squatted round a tank, very
old, very slimy, very sacred. Bhugsi bathed in the tank and so secured
eternal happiness, drank from the tank and so secured it quickly. All
such abominations as are unnameable Bhugsi also preferred to commit in
the vicinity of the tank, and it was possibly for this reason that the
highest death-rate of the last “year under report” had been humbly
submitted by Bhugsi.

Noting this achievement, John Church added Bhugsi to his inspection
list. The inspection list was already sufficiently long for the time at
his disposal, but Church had a way of economising his time that
contributed much to the discipline of provincial Bengal. He accomplished
this by train and boat and saddle; and his staff, with deep inward
objurgations, did its best to keep up. He pressed upon Judith the
advisability of a more leisurely progress by easier routes, with
occasional meeting-places, but found her quietly obstinate in her
determination to come with him. She declared herself the better for the
constant change and the stimulus of quick moves; and this he could
believe, for whenever they made a stay of more than forty-eight hours
anywhere it was always she who was most feverishly anxious to depart.
She filled her waking moments and dulled her pain in the natural way,
with actual physical exertion. While the servants looked on in
consternation she toiled instinctively over packings and unpackings, and
was glad of the weariness they brought her. She invented little new
devotions to her husband—these also soothed her—and became freshly
solicitous about his health, freshly thoughtful about his comfort.
Observing which, Church reflected tenderly on the unselfishness of
women, and said to his wife that he could not have her throwing herself,
this way, before the Juggernaut of his official progress.

There were no Europeans at all at Bhugsi, so the Lieutenant-Governor’s
party put up at the dâk-bungalow, three miles outside the town. Peter
Robertson, the Commissioner of the Division, and the district officer,
who were in attendance upon His Honour, were in camp near by, as their
custom is. The dâk-bungalow had only three rooms, and this made the fact
that two of His Honour’s suite had been left at the last station with
fever less of a misfortune. By this time, indeed, the suite consisted of
Judith and the private secretary and the servants; but as John Church
said, getting into his saddle at six o’clock in the morning, there were
quite enough of them to terrify Bhugsi into certain reforms.

He spent three hours inspecting the work of the native magistrate, and
came back to breakfast with his brows well set together over that
official’s amiable tolerance of a popular way of procuring confessions
among the police, which was by means of needles and the supposed
criminal’s finger-nails. It had been practised in Bhugsi, as the native
magistrate represented, for thousands of years, but it made John Church
angry. He ate with stern eyes upon the table-cloth, and when the meal
was over rode back to Bhugsi. There was only that one day, and beside
the all-important matter of the sanitation he had to look at the
schools, to inspect the gaol, to receive an address and to make a
speech. He reflected on the terms of the speech as he rode, improving
upon their salutary effect. He said to his private secretary, cantering
alongside, that he had never known it so hot in April—the air was like a
whip. It was borne in upon him once that if he could put down the burden
of his work and of his dignity and stretch himself out to sleep beside
the naked coolies who lay on their faces in the shadow of the pipal
trees by the roadside, it would be a pleasant thing, but this he did not
say to his private secretary.

It was half-past five, and the bamboos were all alive with the evening
twitter of hidden sparrows, before the Lieutenant-Governor returned. For
an instant Judith, coming out at the sound of hoofs, failed to recognise
her husband, he looked, with a thick white powder of dust over his beard
and eyebrows, so old a man. He stooped in his saddle, too, and all the
gauntness of his face and figure had a deeper accent.

“Put His Honour to bed, Mrs. Church,” cried the Commissioner, lifting
his hat as he rode on to camp. “He has done the work of six men to-day.”

“You will be glad of some tea,” she said.

He tumbled clumsily out of his saddle and leaned for a moment against
his animal’s shoulder. The mare put her head round whinnying, but when
Church searched in his pocket for her piece of sugar-cane and offered it
to her, she snuffed it and refused it. He dropped the sugar-cane into
the dust at her feet and told the syce to take her away.

“If she will not eat her gram give me word of it,” he said. But she ate
her gram.

“Will you change first, John?” Judith asked with her hand on his
coat-sleeve. “I think you should—you are wet through and through.”

“Yes, I will change,” he said; but he dropped into the first chair he
saw. The chair stood on the verandah, and the evening breeze had already
begun to come up. He threw back his head and unfastened his damp collar
and felt its gratefulness. In the intimate neighbourhood of the
dâk-bungalow the private secretary could be heard splashing in his tub.

“Poor Sparks!” said His Honour. “I’m afraid he has had a hard day of it.
Good fellow, Sparks, thoroughly good fellow. I hope he’ll get on. It’s
very disheartening work, this of ours in India,” he went on absently;
“one feels the depression of it always, more or less, but to-night——” He
paused and closed his eyes as if he were too weary to finish the
sentence. A servant appeared with a wicker table and another with a
tray.

“A cup of tea,” said Judith cheerfully, “will often redeem the face of
nature”; but he waved it back.

“I am too hungry for tea. Tell them to bring me a solid meal: cold
beef—no, make it hot—that game pie we had at breakfast—anything there
is, but as soon as possible. How refreshing this wind is!”

“Go and change, John,” his wife urged.

“Yes, I must, immediately: I shall be taking a chill.” As he half rose
from his chair he saw the postman, turbaned, barefooted, crossing the
grass from the road, and dropped back again.

“Here is the dâk,” he said; “I must just have a look first.”

Mrs. Church took her letters, and went into the house to give orders to
the butler. Five minutes afterwards she came back, to find her husband
sitting where she had left him, but upright in his chair and
mechanically stroking his beard, with his face set. He had grown paler,
if that was possible, but had lost every trace of lassitude. He had the
look of being face to face with a realised contingency which his wife
knew well.

“News, John?” she asked nervously; “anything important?”

“The most important—and the worst,” he answered steadily, without
looking at her. His eyes were fixed on the floor, and on his course of
action.

“What do you mean, dear? What has happened? May I see?”

For answer he handed her his private letter from Lord Scansleigh. She
opened it with shaking fingers, and read the first sentence or two
aloud. Then instinctively her voice stopped, and she finished it in
silence. The Viceroy had written:—

“MY DEAR CHURCH: The accompanying official correspondence will show you
our position, when the mail left England, with the Secretary of State. I
fear that nothing has occurred in the meantime to improve it—in fact,
one or two telegrams seem rather to point the other way. I will not
waste your time and mine in idle regrets, if indeed they would be
justifiable, but write only to assure you heartily in private, as I do
formally in my official letter, that if we go we go together. I have
already telegraphed this to Strathell, and will let you know the
substance of his reply as soon as I receive it. I wish I could think
that the prospect of my own resignation is likely to deter them from
demanding yours, but I own to you that I expect our joint immolation
will not be too impressive a sacrifice for the British Public in this
connection.

“With kind regards to Mrs. Church, in which my wife joins,

                  “Believe me, dear Church, yours sincerely,

                                                       “SCANSLEIGH.”

They spoke for a few minutes of the Viceroy’s loyalty and consideration
and appreciation. She dwelt upon that with instinctive tact, and then
Church got up quickly.

“I must write to Scansleigh at once,” he said. “I am afraid he is
determined about this, but I must write. There is a great deal to do.
When Sparks comes out send him to me.” Then he went over to her and
awkwardly kissed her. “You have taken it very well, Judith,” he
said—“better than any woman I know would have done.”

She put a quick detaining hand upon his arm. “Oh, John, it is only for
your sake that I care at all. I—I am so tired of it. I should be only
too glad to go home with you, dear, and find some little place in the
country where we could live quietly——”

“Yes, yes,” he said, hurrying away. “We can discuss that afterwards.
Don’t keep Sparks talking.”

Sparks appeared presently, swinging an embossed silver cylinder half a
yard long. New washed and freshly clad in garments of clean country
silk, with his damp hair brushed crisply off his forehead, there was a
pinkness and a healthiness about Sparks that would have been refreshing
at any other moment. “Have you seen this bauble, Mrs. Church?” he
inquired: “Bhugsi’s tribute, enshrining the address. It makes the
fifth.”

Judith looked at it, and back at Captain Sparks, who saw, with a falling
countenance, that there were tears in her eyes.

“It is the last he will ever receive,” she said, and one of the tears
found its way down her cheek. “They have asked him from England to
resign—they say he must.”

Captain Sparks, private secretary, stood for a moment with his legs
apart in blank astonishment, while Mrs. Church sought among the folds of
her skirt for her pocket-handkerchief.

“By the Lord—impossible!” he burst out; and then, as Judith pointed
mutely to her husband’s room, he turned and shot in that direction,
leaving her, as her sex is usually left, with the teacups and the
situation.

                  *       *       *       *       *

A few hours later Captain Sparks’ dreams of the changed condition of
things were interrupted by a knock. It was Mrs. Church, sleepy-eyed, in
her dressing-gown, with a candle; and she wanted the chlorodyne from the
little travelling medicine chest, which was among the private
secretary’s things.

“My husband seems to have got a chill,” she said. “It must have been
while he sat in the verandah. I am afraid he is in for a wretched
night.”

“Three fingers of brandy,” suggested Sparks concernedly, getting out the
bottle. “Nothing like brandy.”

“He has tried brandy. About twenty drops of this, I suppose?”

“I should think so. Can I be of any use?”

Judith said No, thanks—she hoped her husband would get some sleep
presently. She went away, shielding her flickering candle, and darkness
and silence came again where she had been.

A quarter of an hour later she came back, and it appeared that Captain
Sparks could be of use. The chill seemed obstinate; they must rouse the
servants and get fires made and water heated. Judith wanted to know how
soon one might repeat the dose of chlorodyne. She was very much awake,
and had that serious, pale decision with which women take action in
emergencies of sickness.

Later still they stood outside the door of his room and looked at each
other. “There is a European doctor at Bhai Gunj,” said Captain Sparks.
“He may be here with luck by six o’clock to-morrow afternoon—_this_
afternoon.” He looked at his watch and saw that it was past midnight.
“Bundal Singh has gone for him, and Juddoo for the native apothecary at
Bhugsi—but he will be useless. Robertson will be over immediately. He
has seen cases of it, I know.”

A thick sound came from the room they had left, and they hurried back
into it.

                  *       *       *       *       *

“Water?” repeated the Commissioner; “yes, as much as he likes. I wish to
God we had some ice.”

“Then, sir, I may take leave?” It was the unctuous voice of the native
apothecary.

“No, you may not. Damn you, I suppose you can help to rub him? Quick,
Sparks; the turpentine!”

                  *       *       *       *       *

Next day at noon arrived Hari Lal, who had travelled many hours and many
miles with a petition to the Chota Lât Sahib, wherein he and his village
implored that the goats might eat the young shoots in the forest as
aforetime; for if not—they were all poor men—how should the goats eat at
all? Hari Lal arrived upon his beast, and saw from afar off that there
was a chuprassie in red and gold upon the verandah whose favour would
cost money. So he dismounted at a considerable and respectful distance,
and approached humbly, with salaams and words that were suitable to a
chuprassie in red and gold. The heat stood fiercely about the bungalow,
and it was so silent that a pair of sparrows scolding in the verandah
made the most unseemly wrangle.

Bundal Singh had not the look of business. He sat immovable upon his
haunches, with his hands hanging between his knees. His head fell
forward heavily, his eyes were puffed, and he regarded Hari Lal with
indifference.

“O most excellent, how can a poor man seeking justice speak with the Lât
Sahib? The matter is a matter of goats——”

“_Bus!_ The Lât Sahib died in the little dawn. This place is empty but
for the widow. _Mutti dani wasti gia_—they have gone to give the earth.
It was the bad sickness, and the pain of it lasted only five hours. When
he was dead, worthy one, his face was like a blue puggri that has been
thrice washed, and his hand was no larger than the hand of my woman!
What talk is there of justice? _Bus!_”

Hari Lal heard him through with a countenance that grew ever more
terrified. Then he spat vigorously, and got again upon his animal. “And
you, fool, why do you sit here?” he asked quaveringly, as he sawed at
the creature’s mouth.

“Because the servant-folk of the Sirkar do not run away. Who then would
do justice and collect taxes, _budzat_? _Jao_, you Bengali rice-eater! I
am of a country where those who are not women are men!”

The Bengali rice-eater went as he was bidden, and only a little curling
cloud of white dust, sinking back into the road under the sun, remained
to tell of him. Bundal Singh, hoarse with hours of howling, lifted up
his voice in the silence because of the grief within him, and howled
again.

A little wind stole out from under a clump of mango trees and chased
some new-curled shavings about the verandah, and did its best to blow
them in at the closed shutters of a darkened room. The shavings were too
substantial, but the scent of the fresh-cut planks came through, and
brought the stunned woman on the bed a sickening realisation of one
unalterable fact in the horror of great darkness through which she
groped, babbling prayers.



                             CHAPTER XVIII.


“It was all very well for _him_, poor man, to want to be buried in that
hole-and-corner kind of way—where he fell, I suppose, doing his duty:
very simple and proper, I’m sure; and I should have felt just the same
about it in his place—but on _her_ account he ought to have made it
possible for them to have taken him back to Calcutta and given him a
public funeral.”

Mrs. Daye spoke feelingly, gently tapping her egg. Mrs. Daye never could
induce herself to cut off the top of an egg with one fell blow; she
always tapped it, tenderly, first.

“It would have been something!” she continued. “Poor dear thing! I _was_
so fond of Mrs. Church.”

“I see they have started subscriptions to give him a memorial of sorts,”
remarked her husband from behind his newspaper. “But whether it’s to be
put in Bhugsi or in Calcutta doesn’t seem to be arranged.”

“Oh, in Calcutta, of course! They won’t get fifty rupees if it’s to be
put up at Bhugsi. _Nobody_ would subscribe!”

“Is there room?” asked Miss Daye meekly, from the other side of the
table. “The illustrious are already so numerous on the Maidan. Is there
no danger of overcrowding?”

“How ridiculous you are, Rhoda! You’ll subscribe, Richard, of course?
Considering how _very_ kind they’ve been to us I should say—what do you
think?—a hundred rupees.” Mrs. Daye buttered her toast with knitted
brows.

“We’ll see. Hello! Spence is coming out again. ‘By special arrangement
with the India Office.’ He’s fairly well now, it seems, and willing to
sacrifice the rest of his leave ‘rather than put Government to the
inconvenience of another possible change of policy in Bengal.’ _That_
means,” Colonel Daye continued, putting down the Calcutta paper and
taking up his coffee-cup, “that Spence has got his orders from Downing
Street, and is being packed back to reverse this College Grants
business. But old Hawkins won’t have much of a show, will he? Spence
will be out in three weeks.”

“I’m very pleased,” Mrs. Daye remarked vigorously. “Mrs. Hawkins was bad
enough in the Board of Revenue; she’d be un_bear_able at Belvedere. And
Mrs. Church was so _per_fectly unaffected. But I don’t think we would be
quite justified in giving a hundred, Richard—seventy-five would be
ample.”

“One would think, mummie, that the hat was going round for Mrs. Church,”
said her daughter.

“Hats have gone round for less deserving persons,” Colonel Daye
remarked, “and in cases where there was less need of them, too. St.
George writes me that there was no insurances, and not a penny saved.
Church has always been obliged to do so much for his people. The widow’s
income will be precisely her three hundred a year of pension, and no
more—bread and butter, but no jam.”

“Talking of jam,” said Mrs. Daye, with an effect of pathos, “if you
haven’t eaten it all, Richard, I should like some. Poor dear thing! And
if she marries again, she loses even that, doesn’t she? Oh, no, she
doesn’t, either: there was that Madras woman that had three husbands and
three pensions; they came altogether to nine hundred a year in the end.
Of course, money is out of the question; but a little offering of
something useful—made in a friendly way—she might even be grateful for.
I am thinking of sending her a little something.”

“What, mummie?” Rhoda demanded, with suspicion.

“That long black cloak I got when we all had to go into mourning for
your poor dear grandmother, Rhoda. I’ve hardly worn it at all. Of
course, it would require a little alteration, but——”

“_Mummie!_ How beastly of you! You must not _dream_ of doing it.”

“It’s fur-lined,” said Mrs. Daye, with an injured inflection. “Besides,
she isn’t the wife of the L.G. _now_, you know.”

“Papa——”

“What? Oh, certainly not! Ridiculous! Besides, you’re too late with your
second-hand souvenir, my dear. St. George says that Mrs. Church sails
to-day from Calcutta. Awfully cut up, poor woman, he says. Wouldn’t go
back to Belvedere; wouldn’t see a soul: went to a boarding-house and
shut herself up in two rooms.”

“How un_kind_ you are about news, Richard! Fancy your not telling us
that before! And I think you and Rhoda are _quite_ wrong about the
cloak. If _you_ had died suddenly of cholera in a a dâk-bungalow in the
wilds and _I_ was left with next to nothing, I would accept little
presents from friends in the spirit in which they were offered, no
matter _what_ my position had been!”

“I daresay you would, my dear. But if I—hello! Exchange is going up
again—if I catch you wearing cast-off mourning for me, I’ll come and
hang around until you burn it. By the way, I saw Doyle last night at the
Club.”

“The barrister? Did you speak to him?” asked Mrs. Daye.

“Yes. ‘Hello!’ I said: ‘thought you were on leave. What in the world
brings you up here?’ Seems that Pattore telegraphed askin’ Doyle to
defend him in this big diamond case with Ezra, and he came out. ‘Well,’
I said, ‘Pattore’s in Calcutta, Ezra’s in Calcutta, diamond’s in
Calcutta, an’ you’re in Darjiling. When I’m sued for two lakhs over a
stone to dangle on my tummy I won’t retain you!’”

“And what did Mr. Doyle say to that, papa?” his daughter inquired.

“Oh—I don’t remember. Something about never having seen the place before
or something. Here, khansamah—cheroot!”

The man brought a box and lighted a match, which he presently applied to
one end of the cigar while his master pulled at the other.

“Well,” said Mrs. Daye, thoughtfully dabbling in her finger-bowl, “about
this statue or whatever it is to Mr. Church—if it were a mere question
of inclination—but as things are, Richard, I really don’t think we can
afford more than fifty. It isn’t as if it could do the poor man any
good. Where are you going, Rhoda? Wait a minute.”

Mrs. Daye followed her daughter out of the room, shutting the door
behind her, and put an impressive hand upon Rhoda’s arm at the foot of
the staircase.

“My dear child,” she said, with a note of candid compassion, “what do
you think has happened? Your father and I were discussing it as you came
down, but I said ‘Not a word before Rhoda!’ They have made Lewis Ancram
Chief Commissioner of Assam!”

The colour came back into the girl’s face with a rush, and the
excitement went out of her eyes.

“Good heavens, mummie, how you—— Why shouldn’t they? Isn’t he a proper
person?”

“Very much so. _That_ has nothing to do with it. Think of it, Rhoda—a
Chief Commissioner, at his age! And you _can’t_ say I didn’t prophesy
it. _The_ rising man in the Civil Service I always told you he was.”

“And I never contradicted you, mummie dear! My own opinion is that when
Abdur Rahman dies they’ll make him Amir!” Rhoda laughed a gay,
irresponsible laugh, and tripped on upstairs with singular lightness of
step. Mrs. Daye, leaning upon the end of the banister, followed her with
reproachful eyes.

“You seem to take it very lightly, Rhoda, but I must say it serves you
perfectly right for having thrown the poor man over in that disgraceful
way. Girls who behave like that are generally sorry for it later. I knew
of a chit here in Darjiling that jilted a man in the Staff Corps and ran
away with a tea-planter. The man will be the next Commander-in-Chief of
the Indian Army, everybody says, and I hope she likes her tea-planter.”

“Mummie!” Rhoda called down confidentially from the landing.

“Well?”

“Put your head in a bag, mummie. I’m going out. Shall I bring you some
chocolates or some nougat or anything?”

“I shall tell your father to whip you. Yes, chocolates if they’re
fresh—_insist_ upon that. Those crumbly Neapolitan ones, in
silver-and-gold paper.”

“All right. And mummie!”

“What?”

“Write and congratulate Mr. Ancram. Then he’ll know there’s no
ill-feeling!”

Which Mrs. Daye did.



                              CHAPTER XIX.


Ten minutes later Rhoda stood fastening her glove at her father’s door
and looking out upon a world of suddenly novel charm. The door opened,
as it were, upon eternity, with a patch of garden between, but eternity
was blue and sun-filled and encouraging. The roses and sweet-williams
stood sheer against the sky, with fifty yellow butterflies dancing above
them. Over the verge of the garden—there was not more than ten feet of
it in any direction—she saw tree-tops and the big green shoulders of the
lower hills, and very far down a mat of fleecy clouds that hid the
flanks of some of these. The sunlight was tempting, enticing. It made
the rubble path warm beneath her feet and drew up the scent of the
garden until the still air palpitated with it. Rhoda took little
desultory steps to the edge of the ledge the house was built on, and
down the steep footway to the road. The white oaks met over her head,
and far up among the tree-ferns she heard a cuckoo. Its note softened
and accented her unreasoned gladness, seemed to give it a form and a
metre. She looked up into the fragrant leafy shadows and listened till
it came again, vaguely aware that it was enough to live for. If she had
another thought it was that Philip Doyle had come too late to see the
glory of the rhododendrons, there was only, here and there, a red rag of
them left.

She stepped with a rattle of pebbles into the wide main road round the
mountain, and there stood for a moment undecided. It was the chief road,
the Mall; and if she turned to the right it would lead her past the
half-dozen tiny European shops that clung to the side of the hill, past
the hotels and the club, and through the expansion where the band played
in the afternoon, where there were benches and an admirable view, and
where new-comers to Darjiling invariably sat for two or three days and
contentedly occupied themselves with processes of oxygenation. This part
of the Mall was frequented and fashionable; even at that hour she would
meet her acquaintances on hill ponies and her mother’s friends in
dandies and her mother’s friends’ babies in perambulators, with a
plentiful background of slouching Bhutia coolies, their old felt hats
tied on with their queues, and red-coats from a recuperating regiment,
and small black-and-white terriers. It was not often that this prospect
attracted her; she had discovered a certain monotony in its cheerfulness
some time before; but to-day she had to remind herself of that discovery
before she finally decided to turn to the left instead. She had another
reason: if she went that way it might look to Philip Doyle as if she
wanted to meet him. Why this gentleman should have come to so
extraordinary a conclusion on the data at his disposal Miss Daye did not
pause to explain. She was quite certain that he would, so she turned to
the left.

It suited her mood, when once she had taken that direction, to walk very
fast. She had an undefined sense of keeping pace with events; her
vigorous steps made a rhythm for her buoyant thought, and helped it out.
She was entirely occupied with the way in which she would explain to Mr.
Doyle how it was that she was not married to Lewis Ancram. She
anticipated a pleasure in this, and she thought it was because Doyle
would be gratified, on his friend’s account. He had never liked the
match—she clung to that impression in all humility—he would perhaps
approve of her breaking it off. Rhoda felt a little excited satisfaction
at the idea of being approved of by Philip Doyle. She put the words with
which she would tell him into careful phrases as she walked,
constructing and reconstructing them, while Buzz kept an erratic course
before her with inquisitive pauses by the wayside and vain chasing of
little striped squirrels that whisked about the boles of the trees.
Buzz, she thought, had never been more idiotically amusing.

The road grew boskier and lonelier. Miss Daye met a missionary lady in a
jinricksha, and then a couple of schoolboys sprinting, and then for a
quarter of a mile nobody at all. The little white houses stopped
cropping out on ledges above her head, the wall of rock or of rubble
rose solidly up, wet and glistening, and tapestried thick with tiny
ferns and wild begonias. All at once, looking over the brink, she saw
that the tin roofs of the cottages down the khud-side no longer shone in
the sun; the clouds had rolled between it and them—very likely down
there it was raining. Presently the white mist smoked up level with the
road, and she and the trees and the upper mountain stood in dappled
sunlight for a moment alone above a phantasmally submerged world. Then
the crisp leaf-shadows on the road grew indistinct and faded, the
sunlight paled and went out, and in a moment there was nothing near or
far but a wandering greyness, and here and there perhaps the shadowed
hole of an oak-tree or the fantastic outline of a solitary nodding fern.

“It’s going to rain, Buzz,” she said, as the little dog mutely inquired
for encouragement and direction, “and neither of us have got an
umbrella. So we’ll both get wet and take our death of cold. _Sumja_,[E]
Buzz?”

-----

Footnote E:

  “Do you understand?”

-----

As she spoke they passed the blurred figure of a man, walking rapidly in
the other direction. “Buzz!” Rhoda cried, as the dog turned and trotted
briskly after: “Come back, sir!” Buzz took no notice whatever, and
immediately she heard him addressed in a voice which made a sudden
requirement upon her self-control. She had a divided impulse—to betake
herself on as fast as she could into remote indistinguishability, and to
call the dog again. With a little effort of hardihood she turned and
called him, turned with a thumping heart, and waited for his restoration
and for anything else that might happen. The mist drifted up for a
moment as Philip Doyle heard her and came quickly back; and when they
shook hands they stood in a little white temple with uncertain walls and
a ceiling decoration of tree-ferns in high relief.

She asked him when he had come, although she knew that already, and he
inquired for her mother, although he was quite informed as to Mrs.
Daye’s well-being. He explained Buzz’s remembering him, as if he had
taken an unfair advantage of it, and they announced simultaneously that
it was going to rain. Then conversation seemed to fail them wholly, and
Rhoda made a movement of departure.

“I suppose you are going to some friend in the neighbourhood,” he said,
lifting his hat, “if there is any neighbourhood—which one is inclined to
doubt.”

“Oh, no, I’m only walking.”

“All alone?”

“Buzz,” she said, with a downcast smile.

“Buzz is such an effective protection that I’m inclined to ask you to
share him.” His voice was even more tentative than his words. He fancied
he would have made a tremendous advance if she allowed him to come with
her.

“Oh, yes,” she said foolishly, “you may have half.”

“Thank you. I am three miles from my club, twenty-four hours from my
office, and four thousand feet above sea-level—and I don’t mind
confessing that I’m very frightened indeed. How long, I wonder, does it
take to acquire the magnificent indifference to the elements which you
display? But the storm is indubitably coming: don’t you think we had
better turn back?”

“Yes,” she said again, and they turned back; but they sauntered along
among the clouds at precisely the pace they might have taken in the
meadows of the world below.

She asked him where he had spent his leave and how he had enjoyed it,
and she gathered from his replies that one might stay too long in India
to find even Italy wholly paradisaical, although Monte Carlo had always
its same old charm. “You should see Monte Carlo before some cataclysm
overtakes it,” he said. “You would find it amusing. I spent a month at
Homburg,” he went on humorously, “with what I consider the greatest
possible advantage to my figure. Though my native friends have been
openly condoling with me on my consequent loss of prestige, and I have
no doubt my sylph-like condition will undermine my respectability.” He
felt, as he spoke, deplorably middle-aged, and to mention these things
seemed to be a kind of apology for them.

Rhoda looked at him with the conviction that he had left quite ten years
in Europe, but she found herself oddly reluctant to say so. “Mummie will
tell you,” she said. “Mummie always discovers the most wonderful changes
in people when they have been home. And why did you come back so soon?”

“Why?” he repeated, half facing round, and then suddenly dropping back
again. “I came to see about something.”

“Oh, yes, of course you did. I know about it. And do you think you will
win?”

She looked at him with a smile of timid intelligence. Under it she was
thinking that she had never had such a stupid conversation with Mr.
Doyle before. He smiled back gravely, and considered for a moment.

“I don’t in the least know,” he said with courageous directness; “but I
mean to try—very hard.”

If he had thought, he might have kept the suggestion out of his voice—it
was certainly a little premature—but he did not think, and the
suggestion was there. Rhoda felt her soul leap up to catch its full
significance; then she grew very white, and shivered a little. The
shiver was natural enough: two or three big drops had struck her on the
shoulders, and others were driving down upon the road, with wide spaces
between them, but heavily determined, and making little splashes where
they struck.

“It is going to pour,” she said; and, as they walked on with a futile
quickening of pace, she heard him talk of something else, and called
herself a fool for the tumult in her heart. The rain gathered itself
together and pelted them. She was glad of the excuse to break blindly
into a run, and Doyle needed all his newly acquired energy to keep up
with her. The storm was behind them, and as it darkened and thickened
and crashed and drove them on, Rhoda’s blood tingled with a wild sweet
knowledge that she fled before something stronger and stranger than the
storm, and that in the end she would be overtaken, in the end she would
cede. Her sense of this culminated when Philip Doyle put a staying hand
upon her arm—she could not have heard him speak—and she sped on faster,
with a little frightened cry.

“Come back!” he shouted; and, without knowing why, she did as he bade
her, struggling at every step, it seemed, into a chaos out of which the
rain smote her on both cheeks, with only one clear sensation—that he had
her hand very closely pressed to his side, and that somewhere or other,
presently, there would be shelter. They found it not ten yards
behind—one of those shallow caves that Sri Krishna scooped out long ago
to lodge his beggar priests in. Some Bhutia coolies had been cooking a
meal there; a few embers still glowed on a heap of ashes in the middle
of the place. Doyle explained, as he thrust her gently in, that these
had caught his eye.

“You won’t mind my leaving you here,” he said, “while I go on for a
dandy and wraps and things? I shall not be a moment longer than I can
help. You won’t be afraid?”

“In this rain! It would be wicked. Yes, I shall—I shall be horribly
afraid! You must stay here too, until it is over. Please come inside _at
once_.”

The little imperious note thrilled Doyle; but he stayed where he was.

“My dear child,” he said, “this may last for hours, and, if you don’t
get home somehow, you are bound to get a chill. Besides, I must let your
mother know.”

“It will probably be over by the time you reach the house. And my mother
is always quite willing to entrust me to Providence, Mr. Doyle. And if
you go I’ll come, too.”

She looked so resolute that Doyle hesitated. “Won’t you be implored to
stay here?” he asked.

She shook her head. “Not if you go,” she said. And, without further
parley, he stooped and came in.

They could not stand upright against the shelving sides and roof of the
place, so perforce they sat upon the ground—she, with her feet tucked
under her, leaning upon one hand, in the way of her sex, he hugging his
knees. There might have been thirty cubic feet of space in the cave, but
it was not comfortably apportioned, and he had to crouch rather
awkwardly to keep himself at what he considered a proper distance. It
was warm and dry there, and the dull fire of the embers in the middle
gave a centre and a significance to the completeness of their shelter.
The clouds hung like a grey curtain before the entrance, bordered all
round with trailing vines and drooping ferns; the beat of the rain came
in to them in a heavy distant monotone, and even the thunder seemed to
be rolling in a muffled way among the valleys below. Doyle felt that
nothing could be more perfect than their solitude. He would not speak,
lest his words should people it with commonplaces; he almost feared to
move, lest he should destroy the accident that gave him the privilege of
such closeness to her. The little place was filled, it seemed to him,
with a certain divine exhalation of her personality, of her freshness
and preciousness; he breathed it, and grew young again, and bold. In the
moments of silence that fell their love arose before them like a
presence. The girl saw how beautiful it was without looking, the man
asked himself how long he could wait for its realisation.

“Are you very wet?” he asked her at last.

“No; only my jacket.”

“Then you ought to take it off, oughtn’t you? Let me help you.”

He had to lean closer to her for that. The wet little coat came off with
difficulty; and then he put an audacious hand upon the warm shoulder in
its cambric blouse underneath, with a suddenly taught confidence that it
would not shrink away.

“Only a little damp,” he said. It was the most barefaced excuse for his
caressing fingers. “Tell me, darling, when a preposterously venerable
person like me wishes to make a proposal of marriage to somebody who is
altogether sweet and young and lovable like you, has he any business to
take advantage of a romantic situation to do it in?”

She did not answer. The lightness of his words somewhat disturbed her
sense of their import. Then she looked into his face, and saw the
wonderful difference that the hope of her had written there, and,
without any more questioning, she permitted herself to understand.

“Think about it for a little while,” he said, and came a good deal
nearer, and drew her head down upon his breast. He knew a lifetime of
sweet content in the space it rested there, while he laid his lips
softly upon her hair and made certain that no other woman’s was so
sweet-scented.

“Well?” he said at last.

“But——”

“But?”

“But you never did approve of me.”

“Didn’t I? I don’t know. I have always loved you.”

“I have never loved anybody—before.”

That was as near as she managed to get, then or for long thereafter, to
the matter of her previous engagement.

“No. Of course not. But for the future?”

Without taking her head from his shoulder, she lifted her eyes to his;
and he found the pledge he sought in them.

And that upturning of her face brought her lips, her newly grave, sweet,
submissive lips, very near, and the gladness within him was newborn and
strong. And so the storm swept itself away, and the purple-necked doves
cooed and called again where the sunlight glistened through the dripping
laurels, and these two were hardly aware. Then suddenly a Bhutia girl
with a rose behind her ear came and stood in the door of the cave and
regarded them. She was muscular and red-cheeked and stolid; she wore
many strings of beads as well as the rose behind her ear, and as she
looked she comprehended, with a slow and foolish smile.

“It is her tryst!” Rhoda cried, jumping up. “Let us leave it to her.”

Then they went home through a world of their own, which the piping birds
and the wild roses and the sun-decked mosses reflected fitly. The clouds
had gone to Thibet; all round about, in full sunlight, the great
encompassing, gleaming Snows rose up and spoke of eternity, and made a
horizon not too solemn and supreme for the vision of their happiness.

                  *       *       *       *       *

“My dearest child.” said Mrs. Daye that night—she had come late to her
daughter’s room with her hair down—“don’t think I’m not as pleased as
possible, because I _am_. I’ve always had the greatest admiration for
Mr. Doyle, and you couldn’t have a better—unofficial—position in
Calcutta. But I _must_ warn you, dear—I’ve seen such misfortune come of
it, and I knew I shouldn’t sleep if I didn’t—before this engagement is
announced——”

“I’ll go to church in a cotton blouse and a serge skirt this time, if
that’s what you’re thinking of, mummie.”

“There! I was sure of it! Do think seriously, Rhoda, of the injustice to
poor Mr. Doyle, if you’re merely marrying him for _pique_!”



                              CHAPTER XX.


The Honourable Mr. Ancram found himself gratified by Mrs. Church’s
refusal to see him in Calcutta. It filled out his idea of her, which was
a delicate one, and it gave him a pleasurable suggestive of the stimulus
which he should always receive from her in future toward the alternative
which was most noble and most satisfying. Mr. Ancram had the clearest
perception of the value of such stimulus; but the probability that he
was likely to be able to put it permanently at his disposal could hardly
be counted chief among the reasons which made him, at this time, so
exceedingly happy. His promotion had even less to do with it. India is
known to be full of people who would rather be a Chief Commissioner than
Rudyard Kipling or Saint Michael, but this translation had been in the
straight line of Mr. Ancram’s intention for years; it offered him no
fortuitous joy, and if it made a basis for the more refined delight
which had entered his experience, that is as much as it can be credited
with. Life had hitherto offered him no satisfaction that did not pale
beside the prospect of possessing Judith Church. He gave dreamy
half-hours to the realisation of how the sordidness of existence would
vanish when he should regard it through her eyes, of how her goodness
would sweeten the world to him, and her gaiety brighten it, and her
beauty etherealise it. He tried to analyse the completeness of their
fitness for each other, and invariably gave it up to fall into a little
trance of longing and of anticipation.

He could not be sufficiently grateful to John Church for dying—it was a
circumstance upon which he congratulated himself frankly, an accident by
which he was likely to benefit so vastly that he could indulge in no
pretence of regretting it on any altruistic ground. It was so decent of
Church to take himself out of the way that his former Chief Secretary
experienced a change of attitude toward him. Ancram still considered him
an ass, but hostility had faded out of the opinion, which, when he
mentioned it, dwelt rather upon that animal’s power of endurance and
other excellent qualities. Ancram felt himself distinctly on better
terms with the late Lieutenant-Governor, and his feeling was accented by
the fact that John Church died in time to avoid the necessity for a more
formal resignation. His Chief Secretary felt personally indebted to him
for that, on ethical grounds.

In the long, suggestive, caressing letters which reached Judith by every
mail, he made an appearance of respecting her fresh widowhood that was
really clever, considering the fervency which he contrived to imply. As
the weeks went by, however, he began to consider this attitude of hers,
the note she had struck in going six thousand miles away without seeing
him, rather an extravagant gratification of conscience, and if she had
been nearer it may be doubted whether his tolerance would have lasted.
But she was in London and he was in Assam, which made restraint easier;
and he was able always to send her the assurance of his waiting passion
without hurting her with open talk of the day when he should come into
his own. Judith, seeing that his pen was in a leash, watered her love
anew with the thought of his innate nobility, and shortened the time
that lay between them.

In spite of her conscience, which was a good one, there were times when
Mrs. Church was shocked by the realisation that she was only trying to
believe herself unhappy. In spite of other things, too, of a more
material sort. Misfortune had overtaken the family at Stoneborough:
ill-health had compelled her father to resign the pulpit of Beulah
Church, and to retire upon a microscopic stipend from the superannuation
fund. There was a boy of fourteen, much like his sister, who wanted to
be a soldier, and did not want to wear a dirty apron and sell the
currants of the leading member of his father’s congregation. For these
reasons Judith’s three hundred a year shrank to a scanty hundred and
fifty. The boy went to Clifton, and she to an attic in that south side
of Kensington where they are astonishingly cheap. Here she established
herself, and grew familiar with the devices of poverty. It was not
picturesque Bohemian poverty; she had little ladylike ideals in gloves
and shoes that she pinched herself otherwise to attain, and it is to be
feared that she preferred looking shabby-genteel with eternal
limitations to looking disreputable with spasmodic extravagances. But
neither the sordidness of her life nor the discomfort she tried to
conjure out of the past made her miserable. Rather she extracted a
solace from them—they gave her a vague feeling of expiation; she hugged
her little miseries for their purgatorial qualities, and felt, though
she never put it into a definite thought, that they made a sort of
justification for her hope of heaven.

Besides, except once a week, on Indian mail day, her life was for the
time in abeyance. She had a curious sense occasionally, in some sordid
situation to which she was driven for the lack of five shillings, of how
little anything mattered during this little colourless period; and she
declined kindly invitations from old Anglo-Indian acquaintances in more
expensive parts of Kensington with almost an ironical appreciation of
their inconsequence. She accepted existence without movement or charm
for the time, since she could not dispense with it altogether. She
invented little monotonous duties and occupied herself with them, and
waited, always with the knowledge that just beyond her dingy horizon lay
a world, her old world, of full life and vivid colour and long dramatic
days, if she chose to look.

On mail days she did look, over Ancram’s luxurious pages with soft eyes
and a little participating smile. They made magic carpets for her—they
had imaginative touches. They took her to the scent of the food-stuff in
the chaffering bazar; she saw the white hot sunlight sharp-shadowed by
dusty palms, and the people, with their gentle ways and their simplicity
of guile, the clanking silver anklets of the coolie women, the black
_kol_ smudges under the babies’ eye-lashes—the dear people! She
remembered how she had seen the oxen treading out the corn in the warm
leisure of that country, and the women grinding at the mill. She
remembered their simple talk; how the gardener had told her in his own
tongue that the flowers ate much earth; how a syce had once handed her a
beautiful bazar-written letter, in which he asked for more wages because
he could not afford himself. She remembered the jewelled Rajahs, and the
ragged magicians, and the coolies’ song in the evening, and the
home-trotting little oxen painted in pink spots in honour of a plaster
goddess, and realised how she loved India. She realised it even more
completely, perhaps, when November came and brought fogs which were
always dreary in that they interfered with nothing that she wanted to
do, and neuralgia that was especially hard to bear for being her only
occupation. The winter dragged itself away. Beside Ancram’s letters and
her joy in answering them, she had one experience of pleasure keen
enough to make it an episode. She found it in the _Athenian_, which she
picked up on a news-stall, where she had dropped into the class of
customers who glance over three or four weeklies and buy one or two. It
was a review, a review of length and breadth and weight and density, of
the second volume of the “Modern Influence of the Vedic Books,” by Lewis
Ancram, I.C.S. She bought the paper and took it home, and all that day
her heart beat higher with her woman’s ambition for the man she loved,
sweetened with the knowledge that his own had become as nothing to the
man who loved her.



                              CHAPTER XXI.


It was a foregone conclusion in Calcutta that the name of the Chief
Commissioner of Assam should figure prominently in the Birthday Honours
of the season. On the 24th of that very hot May people sat in their
verandahs in early morning dishabille, and consumed tea and toast and
plantains, and read in the local extras that a Knight Commandership of
the Star of India had fluttered down upon the head of Mr. Lewis Ancram,
without surprise. Doubtless the “Modern Influence of the Vedic Books”
was to be reckoned with to some extent in the decorative result, but the
general public gave it less importance than Sir Walter Besant, for
example, would be disposed to do. The general public reflected rather
upon the Chief Commissioner’s conspicuous usefulness in Assam,
especially the dexterity with which he had trapped border raids upon
tea-plantations. The general public remembered how often it had seen Mr.
Lewis Ancram’s name in the newspapers, and in what invariably approved
connections. So the men in pyjamas on the verandahs languidly regarded
the wide flat spreading red-and-yellow bouquets of the gold mohur trees
where the crows were gasping and swearing on the Maidan, and declared,
with unanimous yawns, that Ancram was “just the fellow to get it.”

The Supreme Government at Simla was even better acquainted with Lewis
Ancram’s achievements and potentialities than the general public,
however. There had been occasions, when Mr. Ancram was a modest Chief
Secretary only, upon which the Supreme Government had cause to
congratulate itself privately as to Mr. Ancram’s extraordinary
adroitness in political moves affecting the “advanced” Bengali. Since
his triumph over the College Grants Notification the advanced Bengali
had become increasingly outrageous. An idea in this connection so far
emerged from official representations at headquarters as to become
almost obvious, as to leave no alternative—which is a very remarkable
thing in the business of the Government of India. It was to the effect
that the capacity to outwit the Bengali should be the single
indispensable qualification of the next Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal.

“No merely straightforward chap will do,” said Lord Scansleigh, with a
sigh, “however able he may be. Of course,” he added, “I don’t mean to
say that we want a crooked fellow, but our man must understand
crookedness and be equal to it. That, poor Church never was.”

The Viceroy delivered himself thus because Sir Griffiths Spence’s
retirement was imminent, and he had his choice for Bengal to make over
again. Simplicity and directness apparently disqualified a number of
gentleman of seniority and distinction, for ten days later it was
announced that the appointment had fallen to Sir Lewis Ancram, K.C.S.I.
Again the little world of Calcutta declined to be surprised: nothing,
apparently, exceeded the popular ambition for the Chief Commissioner of
Assam. Hawkins, of the Board of Revenue, was commiserated for a day or
two, but it was very generally admitted that men like Hawkins of the
Board of Revenue, solid, unpretentious fellows like that, were extremely
apt, somehow, to be overlooked. People said generally that Scansleigh
had done the right thing—that Ancram would know how to manage the
natives. It was perceived that the new King of Bengal would bring a
certain picturesqueness to the sceptre, he was so comparatively young
and so superlatively clever. In view of this the feelings of Hawkins of
the Board of Revenue were lost sight of. And nothing could have been
more signal than the approbation of the native newspapers. Mohendra Lal
Chuckerbutty, in the _Bengal Free Press_, wept tears of joy in leading
articles every day for a week. “Bengal,” said Mohendra, editorially,
“has been given a man after her own heart.” By which Sir Lewis Ancram
was ungrateful enough to be annoyed.

Judith grew very white over the letter which brought her the news,
remembering many things. It was a careful letter, but there was a throb
of triumph in it—a suggestion, just perceptible, of the dramatic value
of the situation. She told herself that this was inevitable and natural,
just as inevitable and natural as all the rest; but at the same time she
felt that her philosophy was not quite equal to the remarkable
completeness of Ancram’s succession. With all her pride in him, in her
heart of hearts she would infinitely have preferred to share some
degradation with him rather than this; she would have liked the taste of
any bitterness of his misfortune better than this perpetual savour of
his usurpation. It was a mere phase of feeling, which presently she put
aside, but for the moment her mind dwelt with curious insistence upon
one or two little pictorial memories of the other master of Belvedere,
while tears stood in her eyes and a foolish resentment at this fortunate
turn of destiny tugged at her heart-strings. In a little while she found
herself able to rejoice for Ancram with sincerity, but all day she
involuntarily recurred, with deep, gentle irritation, to the association
of the living idea and the dead one.

Perhaps the liveliest pang inflicted by Sir Lewis Ancram’s appointment
was experienced by Mrs. Daye. Mrs. Daye confided to her husband that she
never saw the Belvedere carriage, with its guard of Bengal cavalry
trotting behind, without thinking that if things had turned out
differently she might be sitting in it, with His Honour her son-in-law.
From which the constancy and keenness of Mrs. Daye’s regrets may be in a
measure inferred. She said to privileged intimate friends that she knew
she was a silly, worldly thing, but really it did bring out one’s
silliness and worldliness to have one’s daughter jilt a
Lieutenant-Governor, in a way that nobody could understand whose
daughter hadn’t done it. Mrs. Daye took what comfort she could out of
the fact that this limitation excluded every woman she knew. She would
add, with her brow raised in three little wrinkles of deprecation, that
of course they were immensely pleased with Rhoda’s ultimate choice: Mr.
Doyle was a dear, sweet man, but she, Mrs. Daye, could not help having a
sort of sisterly regard for him, which towards one’s son-in-law was
ridiculous. He certainly had charming manners—the very man to appreciate
a cup of tea and one’s poor little efforts at conversation—if he didn’t
happen to be married to one’s daughter. It was ludicrously impossible to
have a seriously enjoyable _tête-à-tête_ with a man who was married to
one’s daughter!



                             CHAPTER XXII.


Calcutta, when the Doyles came down from Darjiling, chased by the early
rains, was prepared to find the marriage ridiculous. Calcutta counted on
its fingers the years that lay between Mr. and Mrs. Doyle, and
mentioned, as a condoning fact, that Philip Doyle’s chances for the next
High Court Judgeship were very good indeed. Following up this line of
fancy, Calcutta pictured a matron growing younger and younger and a
dignitary of the Bench growing older and older, added the usual
accessories of jewels and balls and Hill captains and the private
_entrée_, and figured out the net result, which was regrettably vulgar
and even more regrettably common. It is perhaps due to Calcutta rather
than to the Doyles to say that six weeks after their arrival these
prophecies had been forgotten and people went about calling it an ideal
match. One or two ladies went so far as to declare that Rhoda Daye had
become a great deal more tolerable since her marriage; her husband was
so much cleverer than she was, and that was what she needed, you know.
In which statement might occasionally be discerned a gleam of
satisfaction.

It shortly became an item of gossip that very few engagements were
permitted to interfere with Mrs. Philip Doyle’s habit of driving to her
husband’s office to pick him up at five o’clock in the afternoon, and
that very few clients were permitted to keep him there after she had
arrived. People smiled in indulgent comment on it, as the slender,
light, tasteful figure in the cabriolet drove among the thronging
carriages in the Red Road towards Old Post-Office Street, and looked
again, with that paramount interest in individuals which is almost the
only one where Britons congregate in exile. Mrs. Doyle, in the
picturesque exercise of the domestic virtues, was generally conceded to
be even more piquant than Miss Daye in the temporary possession of a
Chief Secretary.

I have no doubt that on one special Wednesday afternoon she was noted to
look absent and a trifle grave, as the Waler made his own pace to bring
his master. There was no reason for this in particular, except that His
Honour the Lieutenant-Governor was leaving for England by the mail train
for Bombay that evening. Perhaps this in itself would hardly have
sufficed to make Mrs. Doyle meditative, but there had been a great
clamour of inquiry and suggestion as to why Sir Lewis Ancram was
straining a point to obtain three months’ leave under no apparent
emergency: people said he had never looked better—and Mrs. Doyle
believed she knew precisely why. The little cloud of her secret
knowledge was before her eyes as the crows pecked hoarsely at the street
offal under the Waler’s deliberate feet, and she was somewhat impatient
at being burdened with any acquaintance with Sir Lewis Ancram’s private
intentions. Also she remembered her liking for the woman he was going
home to marry; and, measuring in fancy Judith Church’s capacity for
happiness, she came to the belief that it was likely to be meagrely
filled. It was the overflowing measure of her own, perhaps, that gave
its liveliness to her very real pang of regret. She knew Lewis Ancram so
much better than Mrs. Church did, she assured herself; was it not proof
enough, that the other woman loved him while she (Rhoda) bowed to him?
As at that moment, when he passed her on horseback, looking young and
vigorous and elate. Rhoda fancied a certain significance in his smile;
it spoke of good-fellowship and the prospect of an equality of bliss and
the general expediency of things as they were rather than as they might
have been. She coloured hotly under it, and gathered up the reins and
astonished the Waler with the whip.

As she turned into Old Post-Office Street, a flanking battalion of the
rains—riding up dark and thunderous behind the red-brick turrets of the
High Court—whipped down upon the Maidan, and drove her, glad of a
refuge, up the dingy stairs to her husband’s office. Her custom was to
sit in the cabriolet and despatch the syce with a message. The syce
would deliver it in his own tongue—“The memsahib sends a salutation”—and
Doyle would presently appear. But to-day it was raining and there was no
alternative.

A little flutter of consideration greeted her entrance. Two or three
native clerks shuffled to their feet and salaamed, and one ran to open
the door into Doyle’s private room for her. Her husband sat writing
against time at a large desk littered thick with papers. At another
table a native youth in white cotton draperies sat making quill pens,
with absorbed precision. The punkah swung a slow discoloured petticoat
above them both. The tall wide windows were open. Through them little
damp gusts came in and lifted the papers about the room; and beyond them
the grey rain slanted down, and sobered the vivid green of everything,
and turned the tilted palms into the likeness of draggled plumes waving
against the sky.

“You have just escaped the shower,” said Doyle, looking up with quick
pleasure at her step. “I’ll be another twenty minutes, I’m afraid. And I
have nothing for you to play with,” he added, glancing round the dusty
room—“not even a novel. You must just sit down and be good.”

“Mail letters?” asked Rhoda, with her hand on his shoulder.

The clerk was looking another way, and she dropped a foolish, quick
little kiss on the top of his head.

“Yes. It’s this business of the memorial to Church. I’ve got the
newspaper reports of the unveiling together, and the Committee have
drafted a formal letter to Mrs. Church, and there’s a good deal of
private correspondence—letters from big natives sending subscriptions,
and all that—that I thought she would like to see. As Secretary to the
Committee, it of course devolves upon me to forward everything. And at
this moment,” Doyle went on, glancing ruefully at the page under his
hand, “I am trying to write to her privately, poor thing.”

Rhoda glanced down at the letter. “I know you will be glad to have these
testimonials, which are as sincere as they are spontaneous, to the
unique position Church held in the regard of many distinguished people,”
she read deliberately, aloud.

“Do you think that is the right kind of thing to say? It strikes me as
rather formal. But one is so terribly afraid of hurting her by some
stupidity.”

“Oh, I don’t think so at all, Philip. I mean—it is quite the proper
thing, I think. After all, it’s—it’s more than a year ago, you know.”

“The wives of men like Church remember them longer than that, I fancy.
But if you will be pleased to sit down, Mrs. Doyle, I’ll finish it in
some sort of decency and get it off.”

Rhoda sat down and crossed her feet and looked into dusty vacancy. The
recollection of Ancram’s expression as he passed her in the road came
back to her, and as she reflected that the ship which carried him to
Judith Church would also take her the balm respectfully prepared by the
Committee, her sense of humour curved her lips in an ironical smile. The
grotesqueness of the thing made it seem less serious, and she found
quite five minutes’ interested occupation in considering it. Then she
regarded the baboo making pens, and picked up a “Digest” and put it down
again, and turned over the leaves of a tome on the “Hindu Law of
Inheritance,” and yawned, and looked out of the window, and observed
that it had stopped raining.

“Philip, aren’t you nearly done? Remember me affectionately to Mrs.
Church—no, perhaps you’d better not, either.”

Doyle was knitting his brows over a final sentiment, and did not reply.

“Philip, is that one of your old coats hanging on the nail? Is it old
enough to give away? I want an old coat for the syce to sleep in: he had
fever yesterday.”

Mrs. Doyle went over to the object of her inquiries, took it down, and
daintily shook it.

“_Philip!_ Pay some attention to me. May I have this coat? There’s
nothing in the pockets—nothing but an old letter and a newspaper. Oh!”

Her husband looked up at last, noting a change in the tone of her
exclamation. She stood looking in an embarrassed way at the address on
the envelope she held. It was in Ancram’s handwriting.

“What letter?” he asked.

She handed it to him, and at the sight of it he frowned a little.

“Is the newspaper the _Bengal Free Press_?”

“Yes,” she said, glancing at it. “And it’s marked in one or two places
with red pencil.”

“Then read them both,” Doyle replied. “They don’t tell a very pretty
story, but it may amuse you. I thought I had destroyed them long ago. I
can’t have worn that coat since I left Florence.”

Rhoda sat down, with a beating curiosity, and applied herself to
understand the story that was not very pretty. It sometimes annoyed her
that she could not resist her interest in things that concerned Ancram,
especially things that exemplified him. She brought her acutest
intelligence to bear upon the exposition of the letter and the
newspaper; but it was very plain and simple, especially where it was
underscored in red pencil, and she comprehended it at once.

She sat thinking of it, with bright eyes, fitting it into relation with
what she had known and guessed before, perhaps unconsciously pluming
herself a little upon her penetration, and, it must be confessed,
feeling a keen thrill of unregretting amusement at Ancram’s conviction.
Then suddenly, with a kind of mental gasp, she remembered Judith Church.

“Ah!” she said to herself, and her lips almost moved. “What a
complication!” And then darted up from some depth of her moral
consciousness the thought, “She ought to know, and I ought to tell her.”

She tried to look calmly at the situation, and analyse the character of
her responsibility. She sought for its _pros_ and _cons_; she made an
effort to range them and to balance them. But, in spite of herself, her
mind rejected everything save the memory of the words she had overheard
one soft spring night on the verandah at Government House:

“_You ask me if I am not to you what I ought to be to my husband, who is
a good man, and who loves me and trusts you._”

“And trusts you! and trusts you!” Remembering the way her own blood
quickened when she heard Judith Church say that, Rhoda made a spiritual
bound towards the conviction that she could not shirk opening such
deplorably blind eyes and respect herself in future. Then her memory
insisted again, and she heard Judith say, with an inflection that
precluded all mistake, all self-delusion, all change:

“_But you ask me if I have come to love you, and perhaps in a way you
have a right to know; and the truth is better, as you say. And I answer
you that I have. I answer you, Yes, it is true; and I know it will
always be true._”

Did that make no difference? And was there not infinitely too much
involved for any such casual, rough-handed interference as hers would
be?

At that moment she saw that her husband was putting on his hat. His
letter to Mrs. Church lay addressed upon the desk, the papers that were
to accompany scattered about it, and Doyle was directing the clerk with
regard to them.

“You will put all these in a strong cover, Luteef,” said he, “and
address it as I have addressed that letter. I would like you to take
them to the General Post Office yourself, and see that they don’t go
under-stamped.”

“Yessir. All thee papers, sir? And I am to send by letter-post, sir?”

“Yes, certainly. Well, Rhoda? That was a clever bit of trickery, wasn’t
it? I heard afterwards that the article was quoted in the House, and did
Church a lot of damage.”

Doyle spoke with the boldness of embarrassment. These two were not in
the habit of discussing Ancram; they tolerated him occasionally as an
object, but never as a subject. Already he regretted the impulse that
put her in possession of these facts. It seemed to his sensitiveness
like taking an unfair advantage of a man when he was down, which,
considering to what Lewis Ancram had risen, was a foolish and baseless
scruple. Rhoda looked at her husband, and hesitated. For an instant she
played with the temptation to tell him all she knew, deciding, at the
end of the instant, that it would entail too much. Even a reference to
that time had come to cost her a good deal.

“I am somehow not surprised,” she said, looking down at the letter and
paper in her hand. “But—I think it’s a pity Mrs. Church doesn’t know.”

“Poor dear lady! why should she? I am glad she is spared that
unnecessary pang. We should all be allowed to think as well of the world
as we can, my wife. Come; in twenty minutes it will be dark.”

“Do you think so?” his wife asked doubtfully. But she threw the letter
and the newspaper upon the desk. She would shirk it; as a duty it was
not plain enough.

“Then you ought to burn those, Philip,” she said, as they went
downstairs together. “They wouldn’t make creditable additions to the
records of the India Office.”

“I will,” replied her husband. “I don’t know why I didn’t long ago. How
deliciously fresh it is after the rain!”



                             CHAPTER XXIII.


There was a florist’s near by—in London there always is a florist’s near
by—and Judith stood in the little place, among the fanciful straw
baskets and the wire frames and the tin boxes of cut flowers and the
damp pots of blooming ones, and made her choice. In her slenderness and
her gladness she herself had somewhat the poise of a flower, and the
delicate flush of her face, with its new springing secret of life, did
more to suggest one—a flower just opened to the summer and the sun.

She picked out some that were growing in country lanes then—it was the
middle of July—poppies and cornbottles and big brown-hearted daisies.
They seemed to her to speak in a simple way of joy. Then she added a pot
of ferns and some clustering growing azaleas, pink and white and very
lovely. She paid the florist’s wife ten shillings, and took them all
with her in a cab. This was not a day for economies. She drove back to
her rooms, the azaleas beside her on the seat making a picture of her
that people turned to look at. In her hand she carried a folded brown
envelope. On the form inside it was written, in the generically
inexpressive characters of the Telegraph Department, “_Arrive London
2.30. Will be with you at five. Ancram._”

[Illustration: She drove back.]

It was ten o’clock in the morning, but she felt that the day would be
too short for all there was to do. There should be nothing sordid in her
greeting, nothing to make him remember that she was poor. Her attic
should be swept and garnished: women think of these little things. She
had also with her in the cab a pair of dainty Liberty muslin curtains to
keep out the roof and the chimneys, and a Japanese tea-set, and tea of a
kind she was not in the habit of drinking. She had only stopped buying
pretty fresh decorative things when it occurred to her that she must
keep enough money to pay the cabman. As she hung the curtains, and put
the ferns on the window-seat and the azaleas in the corners, and the
plump, delicate-coloured silk cushions in the angles of her small hard
sofa, her old love of soft luxurious things stirred within her.
Instinctively she put her poverty away with impatience and contempt.
What in another woman might have been a calculating thought came to her
as a hardly acknowledged sense of relief and repose. There would be no
more of _that_!

A knock at the door sent the blood to her heart, and her hand to her
dusty hair, before she remembered how impossible it was that this should
be any but an unimportant knock. Yet she opened the door with a
thrill—it seemed that such a day could have no trivial incidents. When
she saw that it was the housemaid with the mail, the Indian mail, she
took it with a little smile of indifference and satisfaction. It was no
longer the master of her delight.

She put it all aside while she adjusted the folds of the curtains and
took the step-ladder out of the room. Then she read Philip Doyle’s
letter. She read it, and when she had finished she looked gravely,
coldly, at the packet that came with it, carefully addressed in the
round accurate hand of the clerk who made quill pens in Doyle’s office.
She was conscious of an unkindness in this chance; it might so well have
fallen last week or next. There was no ignoring it—it was there, it had
been delivered to her, it seemed almost as urgent a demand upon her time
and thought and interest as if John Church himself had put it into her
hand. With an involuntary movement she pushed the packet aside and
looked round the room. There were still several little things to do. She
got up to go about them; but she moved slowly, and the glow had gone out
of her face, leaving her eyes shadowed as they were on other days. She
made the cornbottles and the daisies up into little bouquets, but she
let her hands drop into her lap more than once, and thought about other
things.

Suddenly, with a quick movement, she went over to where the packet lay
and took it up. It was as if she turned her back upon something; she had
a resolute look. As she broke the wax and cut the strings, any one might
have recognised that she confronted herself with a duty which she did
not mean to postpone. It would have been easy to guess her unworded
feeling—that, however differently her heart might insist, she could not
slight John Church. This was a sensitive and a just woman.

She opened letter after letter, reading slowly and carefully. Every word
had its due, every sentence spoke to her. Gradually there came round her
lips the look they wore when she knelt upon her hassock in St. Luke’s
round the corner, and repeated, with bent head,

/* “But Thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders: Spare
Thou them, O Lord, which confess their faults.” */

It seemed to her that in not having loved John Church while he lived nor
mourned him in sackcloth when he was dead she had sinned indeed. She was
in the midst of preparations that were almost bridal, yet it is quite
true that for this man whose death had wrought her deliverance and her
joy, her eyes were full of a tender, reverent regret. Presently she came
upon a letter which she put aside, with a pang, to be read last of all.
It was like Ancram, she thought, to have borne witness to her husband’s
worth—he could never have guessed that his letter would hurt her a
little one day. She noticed that it was fastened together with a
newspaper, by a narrow rubber circlet, and that the newspaper was marked
in red pencil. She remembered Ancram’s turn for journalism—he had
acknowledged many a clever article to her—and divined that this was some
tribute from his pen. The idea gave her a realising sense that her lover
shared her penance and was vaguely comforting.

She went through all the rest, as I have said, conscientiously,
seriously, and with a troubled heart. Philip Doyle had not been mistaken
in saying that they were sincere, and spontaneous. The tragedy of
Church’s death had brought out his motives in high relief; it was not
likely he could ever have lived to be so appreciated. These were
impressions of him struck off as it were in a white heat of feeling. His
widow sat for a moment silent before the revelation they made of him,
even to her.

Then, to leave nothing undone, Judith opened Ancram’s letter. Her
startled eyes went through it once without comprehending a line of its
sequence, though here and there words struck her in the face and made it
burn. She put her hand to her head to steady herself; she felt giddy,
and sickeningly unable to comprehend. She fastened her gaze upon the
page, seeing nothing, while her brain worked automatically about the
fact that she was the victim of some terribly untoward circumstance—what
and why it refused to discover for her. Presently things grew simpler
and clearer; she realised the direction from which the blow had come.
Her power to reason, to consider, to compare, came back to her; and she
caught up her misfortune eagerly, to minimise it. The lines of Ancram’s
hostility and contempt traced themselves again upon her mind, and this
time it quivered under their full significance. “Happily for Bengal,”
she read, “a fool is invariably dealt with according to his folly.” Then
she knew that no mollifying process of reasoning could alter the fact
which she had to face.

Her mind grew acute in its pain. She began to make deductions, she
looked at the date. The corroboration of the newspaper flashed upon her
instantly, and with it came a keen longing to tell her husband who had
written that article—he had wondered so often and so painfully. All at
once she found herself framing a charge.

A clock struck somewhere, and as if the sound summoned her she got up
from her seat and opened a little lacquered box that stood upon the
mantel. It contained letters chiefly, but from among its few photographs
she drew one of her husband. With this in her hand she went into her
bedroom and shut the door and locked it.

When the maid brought Sir Lewis Ancram’s card up at five o’clock she
found the door open. Mrs. Church was fitting a photograph into a little
frame. She looked thoughtful, but charming; and she said so
unhesitatingly, “Bring the gentleman up, Hetty,” that Hetty, noticing
the curtains and the cushions in Mrs. Church’s sitting-room, brought the
gentleman up with a smile.

At his step upon the stair her eyes dilated, she took a long breath and
pulled herself together, her hand tightening on the corner of the table.
He came in quickly and stood before her silent; he seemed to insist upon
his presence and on his outstretched hands. His face was almost open and
expansive in its achieved happiness; one would have said he was a
fellow-being and not a Lieutenant-Governor. It looked as if to him the
moment were emotional, but Mrs. Church almost immediately deprived it of
that character. She gave him the right hand of ordinary intercourse and
an agreeable smile.

“You are looking surprisingly well,” she said.

If this struck Ancram as inadequate he hesitated about saying so. The
words upon his own lips were “My God! how glad I am to see you!” but he
did not permit these to escape him either. Her friendliness was too
cheerful to chill him, but he put his eyeglass into his eye, which he
generally did when he wanted to reflect, behind a pause.

“And you are just the same,” he said. “A little more colour, perhaps.”

“I am not really, you know,” she returned, slipping her hand quickly out
of his. “Since I saw you I am older—and wiser. Nearly two years older
and wiser.”

The smile which he sent into her eyes was a visible effort to bring
himself nearer to her.

“Where have you found so much instruction?” he asked, with tender
banter.

Her laugh accepted the banter and ignored its quality. “In ‘The Modern
Influence of the Vedic Books,’ among other places,” she said, and rang
the bell. “Tea, Hetty.”

“I must be allowed to congratulate you upon that,” she went on
pleasantly. “All the wise people are talking about it, aren’t they? And
upon the rest of your achievements. They have been very remarkable.”

“They are very incomplete,” he hinted; “but I am glad you are disposed
to be kind about them.”

They had dropped into chairs at the usual conversational distance, and
he sat regarding her with a look which almost confessed that he did not
understand.

“I suppose you had an execrable passage,” Judith volunteered, with
sociable emphasis. “I can imagine what it must have been, as far as
Aden, with the monsoon well on.”

“Execrable,” he repeated. He had come to a conclusion. It was part of
her moral conception of their situation that he should begin his
love-making over again. She would not tolerate their picking it up and
going on with it. At least that was her attitude. He wondered,
indulgently, how long she would be able to keep it.

“And Calcutta? I suppose you left it steaming?”

“I hardly know. I was there only a couple of days before the mail left.
Almost the whole of July I have been on tour.”

“Oh—really?” said Mrs. Church. Her face assumed the slight sad
impenetrability with which we give people to understand that they are
trespassing upon ground hallowed by the association of grief. Ancram
observed, with irritation, that she almost imposed silence upon him for
a moment. Her look suggested to him that if he made any further careless
allusions she might break into tears.

“Dear me!” Judith said softly at last, pouring out the tea, “how you
bring everything back to me!”

He thought of saying boldly that he had come to bring her back to
everything, but for some reason he refrained.

“Not unpleasantly, I hope?” He had an instant’s astonishment at finding
such a commonplace upon his lips. He had thought of this in poems for
months.

She gave him his tea, and a pathetic smile. It was so pathetic that he
looked away from it, and his eye fell upon the portrait of John Church,
framed, near her on the table.

“Do you think it is a good one?” she asked eagerly, following his
glance. “Do you think it does him justice? It was so difficult,” she
added softly, “to do him justice.”

Sir Lewis Ancram stirred his tea vigorously. He never took sugar, but
the manipulation of his spoon enabled him to say, with candid emphasis,
“He never got justice.”

For the moment he would abandon his personal interest, he would humour
her conscience; he would dwell upon the past, for the moment.

“No,” she said, “I think he never did. Perhaps, now——”

Ancram’s lip curled expressively.

“Yes, now,” he said—“now that no appreciation can encourage him, no
applause stimulate him, now that he is for ever past it and them, they
can find nothing too good to say of him. What a set of curs they are!”

“It is the old story,” she replied. Her eyes were full of sadness.

“Forgive me!” Ancram said involuntarily. Then he wondered for what he
had asked to be forgiven.

“He was a martyr,” Judith went on calmly—“‘John Church, martyr,’ is the
way they ought to write him down in the Service records. But there were
a few people who knew him great and worthy while he lived. I was one——”

“And I was another. There were more than you think.”

“He used to trust you. Especially in the matter that killed him—that
educational matter—he often said that without your sympathy and support
he would hardly know where to turn.”

“His policy was right. Events are showing now how right it was. Every
day I find what excellent reason he had for all he did.”

“Yes,” Judith said, regarding him with a kind of remote curiosity. “You
have succeeded to his difficulties. I wonder if you lie awake over them,
as he used to do! And to all the rest. You have taken his place, and his
hopes, and the honours that would have been his. How strange it seems!”

“Why should it seem so strange, Judith?”

She half turned and picked up a letter and a newspaper that lay on the
table behind her.

“This is one reason,” she said, and handed them to him. “Those have
reached me to-day, by some mistake in Mr. Doyle’s office, I suppose. One
knows how these things happen in India. And I thought you might like to
have them again.”

Ancram’s face fell suddenly into the lines of office. He took the papers
into his long nervous hands in an accustomed way, and opened the pages
of the letter with a stroke of his finger and thumb which told of a
multitude of correspondence and a somewhat disregarding way of dealing
with it. His eyes were riveted upon Doyle’s red pencil marks under “_his
beard grows with the tale of his blunders_” in the letter and the
newspaper, but his expression merely noted them for future reference.

“Thanks,” he said presently, settling the papers together again.
“Perhaps it is as well that they should be in my possession. It was
thoughtful of you. In other hands they might be misunderstood.”

She looked at him full and clearly, and something behind her eyes
laughed at him.

“Oh, I think not!” she said. “Let me give you another cup of tea.”

“No more, thank you.” He drew his feet together in a preliminary
movement of departure, and then thought better of it.

“I hope you understand,” he said, “that in—in official life one may be
forced into hostile criticism occasionally, without the slightest
personal animus.” His voice was almost severe—it was as he were
compelled to reason with a subordinate in terms of reproof.

Judith smiled acquiescently.

“Oh, I am sure that must often be the case,” she said; and he knew that
she was beyond all argument of his. She had adopted the official
attitude; she was impersonal and complaisant and non-committal. Her
comment would reach him later, through the authorised channels of the
empty years. It would be silent and negative in its nature, the denial
of promotion, but he would understand. Even in a matter of sentiment the
official attitude had its decencies, its conveniences. He was vaguely
aware of them as he rose, with a little cough, and fell back into his
own.

Nevertheless it was with something like an inward groan that he
abandoned it, and tried, for a few lingering minutes, to remind her of
the man she had known in Calcutta.

“Judith,” he said desperately at the door, after she had bidden him a
cheerful farewell, “I once thought I had reason to believe that you
loved me.”

She was leaning rather heavily on the back of a chair. He had made only
a short visit, but he had spent five years of this woman’s life since he
arrived.

“Not you,” she said: “my idea of you. And that was a long time ago.”

She kept her tone of polite commonplace; there was nothing for it but a
recognisant bow, which Ancram made in silence. As he took his way
downstairs and out into Kensington, a malignant recollection of having
heard something very like this before took possession of him and
interfered with the heroic quality of his grief. If he had a Nemesis, he
told himself, it was the feminine idea of him. But that was afterward.

                  *       *       *       *       *

One day, a year later, Sir Lewis Ancram paused in his successful conduct
of the affairs of Bengal long enough to state the case with ultimate
emphasis to a confidentially inquiring friend.

“As the wife of my late honoured chief,” he said, “I have the highest
admiration and respect for Mrs. Church; but the world is wrong in
thinking that I have ever made her a proposal of marriage; nor have I
the slightest intention of doing so.”

                                THE END.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

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------------------------------------------------------------------------

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                           Transcriber’s Note

Errors deemed most likely to be the printer’s have been corrected, and
are noted here. The references are to the page and line in the original.

  76.21    she [give] that young lady                     _sic_

  116.1    the _Free Press_[,] the _Hindu Patriot_, the   Added.
           _Bengalee_

  160.20   afternoo[o]n still hung mellow in mid air      Removed.

  207.3    as lovely, a[s] embarrassing as divine.        Added.

  281.9    and occupied herself with the[n/m]             Replaced.





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