THE DAY'S WORK - PART I
By RUDYARD KIPLING
A WALKING DELEGATE
THE SHIP THAT FOUND HERSELF
THE TOMB OF HIS ANCESTORS.
THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP SEA
WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR- PART I
WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR - PART II
THE SON OF HIS FATHER
The least that Findlayson, of the Public Works Department,
expected was a C.I.E.; he dreamed of a C. S. I. Indeed, his
friends told him that he deserved more. For three years he had
endured heat and cold, disappointment, discomfort, danger, and
disease, with responsibility almost to top-heavy for one pair of
shoulders; and day by day, through that time, the great Kashi
Bridge over the Ganges had grown under his charge. Now, in less
than three months, if all went well, his Excellency the Viceroy
would open the bridge in state, an archbishop would bless it,
and the first trainload of soldiers would come over it, and
there would be speeches.
Findlayson, C. E., sat in his trolley on a construction line that
ran along one of the main revetments - the huge stone-faced
banks that flared away north and south for three miles on either
side of the river and permitted himself to think of the end.
With its approaches, his work was one mile and three-quarters in
length; a lattice~girder bridge, trussed with the Findlayson
truss standing on seven-and-twenty brick piers. Each one of those
piers was twenty-four feet in diameter, capped with red Agra
stone and sunk eighty feet below the shifting sand of the Ganges'
bed. Above them was a railway-line fifteen feet broad; above
that, again, a cart-road of eighteen feet, flanked with
footpaths. At either end rose towers, of red brick, loopholed
for musketry and pierced for big guns, and the ramp of the road
was being pushed forward to their haunches. The raw earth-ends
were crawling and alive with hundreds upon hundreds of tiny asses
climbing out of the yawning borrow-pit below with sackfuls of
stuff; and the hot afternoon air was filled with the noise of
hooves, the rattle of the drivers' sticks, and the swish and
roll-down of the dirt. The river was very low, and on the
dazzling white sand between the three centre piers stood squat
cribs of railway~sleepers, filled within and daubed without with
mud, to support the last of the girders as those were riveted up.
In the little deep water left by the drought, an overhead crane
travelled to and fro along its spile-pier, jerking sections of
iron into place, snorting and backing and grunting as an elephant
grunts in the timberyard. Riveters by the hundred swarmed about
the lattice side-work and the iron roof of the railway line hung
from invisible staging under the bellies of the girders,
clustered round the throats of the piers, and rode on the
of the footpath-stanchions; their fire-pots and the spurts of
flame that answered each hammer-stroke showing no more than pale
yellow in the sun's glare. East and west and north and south the
construction-trains rattled and shrieked up and down the
embankments, the piled trucks of brown and white stone banging
behind them till the side-boards were unpinned, and with a roar
and a grumble a few thousand tons' more material were flung out
to hold the river in place. Findlayson, C. E., turned on his
trolley and looked over the face of the country that he had
changed for seven miles around. Looked back on the humming
village of five thousand work-men; up stream and down, along the
vista of spurs and sand; across the river to the far piers,
lessening in the haze; overhead to the guard-towers -and only he
knew how strong those were - and with a sigh of contentment saw
that his work was good. There stood his bridge before him in
the sunlight, lacking only a few weeks' work on the girders of
the three middle piers - his bridge, raw and ugly as original
sin, but pukka - permanent - to endure when all memory of the
builder, yea, even of the splendid Findlayson truss, has
perished. Practically, the thing was done.
Hitchcock, his assistant, cantered along the line on a little
switch-tailed Kabuli pony who through long practice could have
trotted securely over trestle,and nodded to his chief.
"All but," said he, with a smile.
"I've been thinking about it," the senior answered. "'Not half a
bad job for two men, is it?"
"One - and a half. 'Gad, what a Cooper's Hill cub I was when I
came on the works!" Hitchcock felt very old in the crowded
experiences of the past three years, that had taught him power
"You were rather a colt," said Findlayson. "I wonder how you'll
like going back to office-work when this job's over."
"I shall hate it!" said the young man, and as he went on his eye
followed Findlayson's, and he muttered, "Isn't it damned good?"
"I think we'll go up the service together," Findlayson said to
himself. "You're too good a youngster to waste on another man.
Cub thou wast; assistant thou art. Personal assistant, and at
Simla, thou shalt be, if any credit comes to me out of the
Indeed, the burden of the work had fallen altogether on
Findlayson and his assistant, the young man whom he had chosen
because of his rawness to break to his own needs. There were
labour contractors by the half-hundred - fitters and riveters,
European, borrowed from the railway workshops, with, perhaps,
twenty white and half-caste subordinates to direct, under
direction, the bevies of workmen - but none knew better than
these two, who trusted each other, how the underlings were not
to be trusted. They had been tried many times in sudden crises
- by slipping of booms, by breaking of tackle, failure of cranes,
and the wrath of the river - but no stress had brought to light
any man among men whom Findlayson and Hitchcock would have
honoured by working as remorselessly as they worked them-selves.
Findlayson thought it over from the beginning: the months of
office-work destroyed at a blow when the Government of India, at
the last moment, added two feet to the width of the bridge, under
the impression that bridges were cut out of paper, and so brought
to ruin at least half an acre of calculations- and Hitchcock, new
to disappointment, buried his head in his arms and wept; the
heart-breaking delays over the filling of the contracts in
England; the futile correspondences hinting at great wealth of
commissions if one, only one, rather doubtful consignment were
passed; the war that followed the refusal; the careful, polite
obstruction at the other end that followed the war, till young
Hitchcock, putting one month's leave to another month, and
borrowing ten days from Findlayson, spent his poor little savings
of a year in a wild dash to London, and there, as his own tongue
asserted and the later consignments proved, put the fear of God
into a man so great that he feared only Parliament and said so
till Hitchcock wrought with him across his own dinner table, and
- he feared the Kashi Bridge and all who spoke in its name. Then
there was the cholera that came in the night to the village by
the bridge works; and after the cholera smote the small-pox. The
fever they had always with them. Hitchcock had been appointed a
magistrate of the third class with whipping powers, for the
better government of the community, and Findlayson watched him
wield his powers temperately, learning what to overlook and what
to look after. It was a long, long reverie, and it covered
storm, sudden freshets, death in every manner and shape, violent
and awful rage against red tape half frenzying a mind that knows
it should be busy on other things; drought, sanitation, finance;
birth, wedding, burial, and riot in the village of twenty warring
castes; argument, expostulation, persuasion, and the blank
despair that a man goes to bed upon, thankful that his rifle is
all in pieces in the gun-case. Behind everything rose the black
frame of the Kashi Bridge - plate by plate, girder by girder,
span by span - and each pier of it recalled Hitchcock, the
all-round man, who had stood by his chief without failing from
the very first to this last.
So the bridge was two men's work - unless one counted Peroo, as
Peroo certainly counted himself. He was a Lascar, a Kharva from
Bulsar, familiar with every port between Rockhampton and London,
who had risen to the rank of serang on the British India boats,
but wearying of routine musters and clean clothes, had thrown up
the service and gone inland, where men of his calibre were sure
of employment. For his knowledge of tackle and the handling of
heavy weights, Peroo was worth almost any price he might have
chosen to put upon his services; but custom decreed the wage of
the overhead-men, and Peroo was not within many silver pieces of
his proper value. Neither running water nor extreme heights made
him afraid; and, as an ex-serang, he knew how to hold authority.
No piece of iron was so big or so badly placed that Peroo could
not devise a tackle to lift it - a loose-ended, sagging
arrangement, rigged with a scandalous amount of talking, but
perfectly equal to the work in hand. It was Peroo who had saved
the girder of Number Seven pier from destruction when the new
wire-rope jammed in the eye of the crane, and the huge plate
tilted in its slings, threatening to slide out sideways. Then
the native workmen lost their heads with great shoutings, and
Hitchcock's right arm was broken by a falling T-plate, and he
buttoned it up in his coat and swooned, and came to and directed
for four hours till Peroo, from the top of the crane, reported
"All's well," and the plate swung home. There was no one like
Peroo, serang, to lash, and guy, and hold, to control the
donkey-engines, to hoist a fallen locomotive craftily out of the
borrow-pit into which it had tumbled; to strip, and dive, if need
be, to see how the concrete blocks round the piers stood the
scouring of Mother Gunga, or to adventure upstream on a monsoon
night and report on the state of the embankment-facings. He
would interrupt the field-councils of Findlayson and Hitchcock
without fear, till his wonderful English, or his still more
wonderful lingua franca, half Portuguese and half Malay, ran out
and he was forced to take string and show the knots that he would
recommend. He controlled his own gang of tackle men -
mysterious relatives from Kutch Mandvi gathered month by month
and tried to the uttermost. No consideration of family or kin
allowed Peroo to keep weak hands or a giddy head on the
pay-roll. "My honour is the honour of this bridge," he would
say to the about-to-be-dismissed. "What do I care for your
honour? Go and work on a steamer. That is all you are fit for."
The little cluster of huts where he and his gang lived centred
round the tattered dwelling of a sea-priest - one who had never
set foot on black water, but had been chosen as ghostly
counsellor by two generations of sea-rovers all unaffected by
port missions or those creeds which are thrust upon sailors by
agencies along Thames bank. The priest of the Lascars had
nothing to do with their caste, or indeed with anything at all.
He ate the offerings of his church, and slept and smoked, and
slept again, "for," said Peroo, who had haled him a thousand
miles inland, "he is a very holy man. He never cares what you
eat so long as you do not eat beef, and that is good, because on
land we worship Shiva, we Kharvas; but at sea on the Kumpani's
boats we attend strictly to the orders of the Burra Malum [the
first mate], and on this bridge we observe what Finlinson Sahib
Finlinson Sahib had that day given orders to clear the
scaffolding from the guard-tower on the right bank, and Peroo
with his mates was casting loose and lowering down the bamboo
poles and planks as swiftly as ever they had whipped the cargo
out of a coaster.
From his trolley he could hear the whistle of the serang's
silver pipe and the creek and clatter of the pulleys. Peroo was
standing on the top-most coping of the tower, clad in the blue
dungaree of his abandoned service, and as Findlayson motioned to
him to be careful, for his was no life to throw away, he gripped
the last pole, and, shading his eyes ship-fashion, answered with
the long-drawn wail of the fo'c'sle lookout: "Ham dekhta hai"
am looking out"). Findlayson laughed and then sighed. It was
years since he had seen a steamer, and he was sick for home. As
his trolley passed under the tower, Peroo descended by a rope,
ape-fashion, and cried: "It looks well now, Sahib. Our bridge is
all but done. What think you Mother Gunga will say when the rail
"She has said little so far. It was never Mother Gunga that
"There is always time for her; and none the less there has been
delay. Has the Sahib forgotten last autumn's flood, when the
stone-boats were sunk without warning - or only a half-day's
"Yes, but nothing save a big flood could hurt us now. The spurs
are holding well on the West Bank."
"Mother Gunga eats great allowances. There is always room for
more stone on the revetments. I tell this to the Chota Sahib "-
he meant Hitchcock - "and he laughs."
"No matter, Peroo. Another year thou wilt be able to build a
bridge in thine own fashion."
The Lascar grinned. "Then it will not be in this way - with
stonework sunk under water, as the Qyetta was sunk. I like
sus-sus-pen-sheen bridges that fly from bank to bank. with one
big step, like a gang-plank. Then no water can hurt. When does
the Lord Sahib come to open the bridge?"
"In three months, when the weather is cooler."
"Ho! ho! He is like the Burra Malum. He sleeps below while the
work is being done. Then he comes upon the quarter-deck and
touches with his finger, and says: 'This is not clean! Dam
"But the Lord Sahib does not call me a dam jibboonwallah, Peroo."
"No, Sahib; but he does not come on deck till the work is all
finished. Even the Burra Malum of the Nerbudda said once at
"Bah! Go! I am busy."
"I, also!" said Peroo, with an unshaken countenance. "May I take
the light dinghy now and row along the spurs?"
"To hold them with thy hands? They are, I think, sufficiently
"Nay, Sahib. It is thus. At sea, on the Black Water, we have
room to be blown up and down without care. Here we have no room
at all. Look you, we have put the river into a dock, and run her
between stone sills."
Findlayson smiled at the "we."
"We have bitted and bridled her. She is not like the sea, that
can beat against a soft beach. She is Mother Gunga - in irons."
His voice fell a little.
"Peroo, thou hast been up and down the world more even than I.
Speak true talk, now. How much dost thou in thy heart believe of
"All that our priest says. London is London, Sahib. Sydney is
Sydney, and Port Darwin is Port Darwin. Also Mother Gunga is
Mother Gunga, and when I come back to her banks I know this and
worship. In London I did poojah to the big temple by the river
for the sake of the God within. . . . Yes, I will not take the
cushions in the dinghy."
Findlayson mounted his horse and trotted to the shed of a
bungalow that he shared with his assistant. The place had
become home to him in the last three years. He had grilled in
the heat, sweated in the rains, and shivered with fever under
the rude thatch roof; the lime-wash beside the door was covered
with rough drawings and formulae, and the sentry-path trodden in
the matting of the verandah showed where he had walked alone.
There is no eight-hour limit to an engineer's work, and the
evening meal with Hitchcock was eaten booted and spurred: over
their cigars they listened to the hum of the village as the
gangs came up from the river-bed and the lights began to
"Peroo has gone up the spurs in your dinghy. He's taken a couple
of nephews with him, and he's lolling in the stern like a
commodore," said Hitchcock.
"That's all right. He's got something on his mind. You'd think
that ten years in the British India boats would have knocked
most of his religion out of him."
"So it has," said Hitchcock, chuckling. "I overheard him the
other day in the middle of a most atheistical talk with that fat
old guru of theirs. Peroo denied the efficacy of prayer; and
wanted the guru to go to sea and watch a gale out with him, and
see if he could stop a monsoon."
"All the same, if you carried off his guru he'd leave us like a
shot. He was yarning away to me about praying to the dome of St.
Paul's when he was in London."
"He told me that the first time he went into the engine-room of a
steamer, when he was a boy, he prayed to the low-pressure
"Not half a bad thing to pray to, either. He's propitiating his
own Gods now, and he wants to know what Mother Gunga will think
of a bridge being run across her. Who's there?" A shadow
darkened the doorway, and a telegram was put into Hitchcock's
"She ought to be pretty well used to it by this time. Only a tar.
It ought to be Ralli's answer about the new rivets. . . . Great
Heavens!" Hitchcock jumped to his feet.
"What is it?" said the senior, and took the form. "that's what
Mother Gunga thinks, is it," he said, reading. "Keep cool, young
'un. We've got all our work cut out for us. Let's see. Muir wired
half an hour ago: 'Floods on the Ramgunga. Look out.' Well, that
gives us - one, two - nine and a half for the flood to reach
Melipur Ghaut and seven's sixteen and a half to Lataoli - say
fifteen hours before it comes down to us."
"Curse that hill-fed sewer of a Ramgunga! Findlayson, this is two
months before anything could have been expected, and the left
bank is littered up with stuff still. Two full months before
"That's why it comes. I've only known Indian rivers for
five-and-twenty years, and I don't pretend to understand. Here
comes another tar." Findlayson opened the telegram. "Cockran,
this time, from the Ganges Canal: 'Heavy rains here. Bad.' He
might have saved the last word. Well, we don't want to know any
more. We've got to work the gangs all night and clean up the
riverbed. You'll take the east bank and work out to meet me in
the middle. Get everything that floats below the bridge: we
shall have quite enough river-craft coming down adrift anyhow,
without letting the stone-boats ram the piers. What have you got
on the east bank that needs looking after?
"Pontoon - one big pontoon with the overhead crane on it.
T'other overhead crane on the mended pontoon, with the cart-road
rivets from Twenty to Twenty~three piers - two construction
lines, and a turning-spur. The pilework must take its chance,"
"All right. Roll up everything you can lay hands on. We'll give
the gang fifteen minutes more to eat their grub."
Close to the verandah stood a big night~gong, never used except
for flood, or fire in the village. Hitchcock had called for a
fresh horse, and was off to his side of the bridge when
Findlayson took the cloth-bound stick and smote with the rubbing
stroke that brings out the full thunder of the metal.
Long before the last rumble ceased every night-gong in the
village had taken up the warning. To these were added the hoarse
screaming of conches in the little temples; the throbbing of
drums and tom-toms; and, from the European quarters, where the
riveters lived, McCartney's bugle, a weapon of offence on Sundays
and festivals, brayed desperately, calling to "Stables." Engine
after engine toiling home along the spurs at the end of her day's
work whistled in answer till the whistles were answered from the
far bank. Then the big gong thundered thrice for a sign that it
was flood and not fire; conch, drum, and whistle echoed the
call, and the village quivered to the sound of bare feet running
upon soft earth. The order in all cases was to stand by the
day's work and wait instructions. The gangs poured by in the
dusk; men stopping to knot a loin-cloth or fasten a sandal;
gang-foremen shouting to their subordinates as they ran or paused
by the tool-issue sheds for bars and mattocks; locomotives
creeping down their tracks wheel-deep in the crowd; till the
brown torrent disappeared into the dusk of the river-bed, raced
over the pilework, swarmed along the lattices, clustered by the
cranes, and stood still - each man in his place.
Then the troubled beating of the gong carried the order to take
up everything and bear it beyond high-water mark, and the
flare-lamps broke out by the hundred between the webs of dull
iron as the riveters began a night's work, racing against the
flood that was to come. The girders of the three centre piers -
those that stood on the cribs -were all but in position. They
needed just as many rivets as could be driven into them, for the
flood would assuredly wash out their supports, and the ironwork
would settle down on the caps of stone if they were not blocked
at the ends. A hundred crowbars strained at the sleepers of the
temporary line that fed the unfinished piers. It was heaved up
in lengths, loaded into trucks, and backed up the bank beyond
flood-level by the groaning locomotives. The tool-sheds on the
sands melted away before the attack of shouting armies, and with
them went the stacked ranks of Government stores, iron-hound
boxes of rivets, pliers, cutters, duplicate parts of the
riveting-machines, spare pumps and chains. The big crane would
be the last to be shifted, for she was hoisting all the heavy
stuff up to the main structure of the bridge. The concrete
blocks on the fleet of stone-boats were dropped overside, where
there was any depth of water, to guard the piers, and the empty
boats themselves were poled under the bridge down-stream. It was
here that Peroo's pipe shrilled loudest, for the first stroke of
the big gong had brought the dinghy back at racing speed, and
Peroo and his people were stripped to the waist, working for the
honour and credit which are better than life.
"I knew she would speak," he cried. "I knew, but the telegraph
gives us good warning. O sons of unthinkable begetting -
children of unspeakable shame - are we here for the look of the
thing?" It was two feet of wire-rope frayed at the ends, and it
did wonders as Peroo leaped from gunnel to gunnel, shouting the
language of the sea.
Findlayson was more troubled for the stone boats than anything
else. McCartney, with his gangs, was blocking up the ends of
the three doubtful spans. but boats adrift, if the flood chanced
to be a high one, might endanger the girders; and there was a
very fleet in the shrunken channel.
"Get them behind the swell of the guard tower," he shouted down
Peroo. "It will be dead-water there. Get them below the
"Accha! [Very good.] I know; we are mooring them with
wire-rope," was the answer. "Heh! Listen to the Chota Sahib. He
is working hard."
>From across the river came an almost continuous whistling of
locomotives, backed by the rumble of stone. Hitchcock at the
last minute was spending a few hundred more trucks of Tarakee
stone in reinforcing his spurs and embankments.
"The bridge challenges Mother Gunga," said Peroo, with a laugh.
"But when she talks I know whose voice will be the loudest."
For hours the naked men worked, screaming and shouting under the
lights. It was a hot, moonless night; the end of it was
darkened by clouds and a sudden squall that made Findlayson very
"She moves!" said Peroo, just before the dawn. "Mother Gunga is
awake! Hear!" He dipped his hand over the side of a boat and the
current mumbled on it. A little wave hit the side of a pier with
a crisp slap.
"Six hours before her time," said Findlayson, mopping his
forehead savagely. "Now we can't depend on anything. We'd
better clear all hands out of the riverbed."
Again the big gong beat, and a second time there was the rushing
of naked feet on earth and ringing iron; the clatter of tools
ceased. In the silence, men heard the dry yawn of water
crawling over thirsty sand.
Foreman after foreman shouted to Findlayson, who had posted
himself by the guard-tower, that his section of the river-bed
had been cleaned out, and when the last voice dropped Findlayson
hurried over the bridge till the iron plating of the permanent
way gave place to the temporary plank-walk over the three centre
piers, and there he met Hitchcock.
"'All clear your side?" said Findlayson. The whisper rang in the
box of lattice work.
"Yes, and the east channel's filling now. We're utterly out of
our reckoning. When is this thing down on us?"
"There's no saying. She's filling as fast as she can. Look!"
Findlayson pointed to the planks below his feet, where the sand,
burned and defiled by months of work, was beginning to whisper
"What orders?" said Hitchcock.
"Call the roll - count stores sit on your hunkers - and pray for
the bridge. That's all I can think of Good night. Don't risk
your life trying to fish out anything that may go downstream."
"Oh, I'll be as prudent as you are! 'Night. Heavens, how she's
filling! Here's the rain in earnest.
Findlayson picked his way back to his bank, sweeping the last of
McCartney's riveters before him. The gangs had spread themselves
along the embankments, regardless of the cold rain of the dawn,
and there they waited for the flood. Only Peroo kept his men
together behind the swell of the guard-tower, where the
stone-boats lay tied fore and aft with hawsers, wire-rope, and
A shrill wail ran along the line, growing to a yell, half fear
and half wonder: the face of the river whitened from bank to
hank between the stone facings, and the far-away spurs went out
in spouts of foam. Mother Gunga had come bank-high in haste,
and a wall of chocolate-coloured water was her messenger. There
was a shriek above the roar of the water, the complaint of the
spans coming down on their blocks as the cribs were whirled out
from under their bellies. The stone-boats groaned and ground
each other in the eddy that swung round the abutment, and their
clumsy masts rose higher and higher against the dim sky-line.
"Before she was shut between these walls we knew what she would
do. Now she isthus cramped God only knows what she will do!"
said Peroo, watching the furious turmoil round the guard~tower.
"Ohe'! Fight, then! Fight hard, for it is thus that a woman wears
But Mother Gunga would not fight as Peroo desired. After the
first down-stream plunge there came no more walls of water, but
the river lifted herself bodily, as a snake when she drinks in
midsummer, plucking and fingering along the revetments, and
banking up behind the piers till even Findlayson began to
recalculate the strength of his work.
When day came the village gasped. "Only last night," men said,
turning to each other, "it was as a town in the river-bed! Look
And they looked and wondered afresh at the deep water, the racing
water that licked the throat of the piers. The farther bank was
veiled by rain, into which the bridge ran out and vanished; the
spurs up-stream were marked by no more than eddies and
spoutings, and down-stream the pent river, once freed of her
guide-lines, had spread like a sea to the horizon. Then hurried
by, rolling in the water, dead men and oxen together, with here
and there a patch of thatched roof that melted when it touched a
"Big flood," said Peroo, and Findlayson nodded. It was as big a
flood as he had any wish to watch. His bridge would stand what
was upon her now, but not very much more, and if by any of a
thousand chances there happened to be a weakness in the
embankments, Mother Gunga would carry his honour to the sea with
the other raffle. Worst of all, there was nothing to do except
to sit still; and Findlayson sat still under his macintosh till
his helmet became pulp on his head, and his boots were
over-ankle in mire. He took no count of time, for the river was
marking the hours, inch by inch and foot by foot, along the
embankment, and he listened, numb and hungry, to the straining
of the stone-boats, the hollow thunder under the piers, and the
hundred noises that make the full note of a flood. Once a
dripping servant brought him food, but he could not eat; and
once he thought that he heard a faint toot from a locomotive
across the river, and then he smiled. The bridge's failure would
hurt his assistant not a little, hut Hitchcock was a young man
with his big work yet to do. For himself the crash meant
everything - everything that made a hard life worth the living.
They would say, the men of his own profession . . . he
remembered the half-pitying things that he himself had said when
Lockhart's new waterworks burst and broke down in brick-heaps and
sludge, and Lockhart's spirit broke in him and he died. He
remembered what he himself had said when the Sumao Bridge went
out in the big cyclone by the sea; and most he remembered poor
Hartopp's face three weeks later, when the shame had marked it.
His bridge was twice the size of Hartopp's, and it carried the
Findlayson truss as well as the new pier-shoe - the Findlayson
bolted shoe. There were no excuses in his service. Government
might listen, perhaps, but his own kind would judge him by his
bridge, as that stood or fell. He went over it in his head, plate
by plate, span by span, brick by brick, pier by pier,
remembering, comparing, estimating, and recalculating, lest there
should be any mistake; and through the long hours and through the
flights of formulae that danced and wheeled before him a cold
fear would come to pinch his heart. His side of the sum was
beyond question; but what man knew Mother Gunga's arithmetic?
Even as he was making all sure by the multiplication table, the
river might be scooping a pot-hole to the very bottom of any one
of those eighty-foot piers that carried his reputation. Again a
servant came to him with food, but his mouth was dry, and he
could only drink and return to the decimals in his brain. And
the river was still rising. Peroo, in a mat shelter coat,
crouched at his feet, watching now his face and now the face of
the river, but saying nothing.
At last the Lascar rose and floundered through the mud towards
the village, but he was careful to leave an ally to watch the
Presently he returned, most irreverently driving before him the
priest of his creed - a fat old man, with a grey beard that
whipped the wind with the wet cloth that blew over his shoulder.
Never was seen so lamentable a guru.
"What good are offerings and little kerosene lamps and dry
grain," shouted Peroo, "if squatting in the mud is all that thou
canst do? Thou hast dealt long with the Gods when they were
contented and well-wishing. Now they are angry. Speak to them!"
"What is a man against the wrath of Gods?" whined the priest,
cowering as the wind took him. "Let me go to the temple, and I
will pray there."
"Son of a pig, pray here! Is there no return for salt fish and
curry powder and dried onions? Call aloud! Tell Mother Gunga we
have had enough. Bid her be still for the night. I cannot pray,
but I have been serving in the Kumpani's boats, and when men did
not obey my orders I -" A flourish of the wire-rope colt
rounded the sentence, and the priest, breaking free from his
disciple, fled to the village.
"Fat pig!" said Peroo. "After all that we have done for him! When
the flood is down I will see to it that we get a new guru.
Finlinson Sahib, it darkens for night now, and since yesterday
nothing has been eaten. Be wise, Sahib. No man can endure
watching and great thinking on an empty belly. Lie down, Sahib.
The river will do what the river will do.""The bridge is mine; I
cannot leave it."
"Wilt thou hold it up with thy hands, then?" said Peroo,
laughing. "I was troubled for my boats and sheers before the
flood came. Now we are in the hands of the Gods. The Sahib will
not eat and lie down? Take these, then. They are meat and good
toddy together, and they kill all weariness, besides the fever
that follows the rain. I have eaten nothing else to-day at all."
He took a small tin tobacco-box from his sodden waist-belt and
thrust it into Findlayson's hand, saying: "Nay, do not be
afraid. It is no more than opium - clean Malwa opium.
Findlayson shook two or three of the dark-brown pellets into his
hand, and hardly knowing what he did, swallowed them. The stuff
was at least a good guard against fever -the fever that was
creeping upon him out of the wet mud -and he had seen what Peroo
could do in the stewing mists of autumn on the strength of a dose
from the tin box.
Peroo nodded with bright eyes. "In a little - in a little the
Sahib will find that he thinks well again. I too will -" He
dived into his treasure-box, resettled the rain-coat over his
head, and squatted down to watch the boats. It was too dark now
to see beyond the first pier, and the night seemed to have given
the river new strength. Findlayson stood with his chin on his
chest, thinking. There was one point about one of the piers -
the seventh - that he had not fully settled in his mind. The
figures would not shape themselves to the eye except one by one
and at enormous intervals of time. There was a sound rich and
mellow in his ears like the deepest note of a double-bass - an
entrancing sound upon which he pondered for several hours, as it
seemed. Then Peroo was at his elbow, shouting that a wire hawser
had snapped and the stone-boats were loose. Findlayson saw the
fleet open and swing out fanwise to a long-drawn shriek of wire
straining across gunnels.
"A tree hit them. They will all go," cried Peroo. "The main
hawser has parted. What does the Sahib do?"
An immensely complex plan had suddenly flashed into Findlayson's
mind. He saw the ropes running from boat to boat in straight
lines and angles - each rope a line of white fire. But there was
one rope which was the master rope. He could see that rope. If
he could pull it once, it was absolutely and mathematically
certain that the disordered fleet would reassemble itself in the
backwater behind the guard-tower. But why, he wondered, was
Peroo clinging so desperately to his waist as he hastened down
the bank? It was necessary to put the Lascar aside, gently and
slowly, because it was necessary to save the boats, and,
further, to demonstrate the extreme ease of the problem that
looked so difficult. And then - but it was of no conceivable
importance - a wire-rope raced through his hand, burning it,
the high bank disappeared, and with it all the slowly
dispersing factors of the problem. He was sitting in the rainy
darkness - sitting in a boat that spun like a top, and Peroo was
standing over him.
"I had forgotten," said the Lascar, slowly, "that to those
fasting and unused, the opium is worse than any wine. Those who
die in Gunga go to the Gods. Still, I have no desire to present
myself before such great ones. Can the Sahib swim?"
"What need? He can fly - fly as swiftly as the wind," was the
"He is mad!" muttered Peroo, under his breath. "And he threw me
aside like a bundle of dung-cakes. Well, he will not know his
death. The boat cannot live an hour here even if she strike
nothing. It is not good to look at death with a clear eye."
He refreshed himself again from the tin box, squatted down in the
bows of the reeling, pegged, and stitched craft, staring through
the mist at the nothing that was there. A warm drowsiness crept
over Findlayson, the Chief Engineer, whose duty was with his
bridge. The heavy raindrops struck him with a thousand tingling
little thrills, and the weight of all time since time was made
hung heavy on his eyelids. He thought and perceived that he was
perfectly secure, for the water was so solid that a man could
surely step out upon it, and, standing still with his legs apart
to keep his balance - this was the most important point - would
be borne with great and easy speed to the shore. But yet a better
plan came to him. It needed only an exertion of will for the
soul to hurl the body ashore as wind drives paper, to waft it
kite-fashion to the bank. Thereafter - the boat spun dizzily -
suppose the high wind got under the freed body? Would it tower
up like a kite and pitch headlong on the far-away sands, or would
it duck about, beyond control, through all eternity? Findlayson
gripped the gunnel to anchor himself, for it seemed that he was
on the edge of taking the flight before he had settled all his
plans. Opium has more effect on the white man than the black.
Peroo was only comfortably indifferent to accidents. "She cannot
live," he grunted. "Her seams open already. If she were even a
dinghy with oars we could have ridden it out; but a box with
holes is no good. Finlinson Sahib, she fills."
"Accha! I am going away. Come thou also." In his mind, Findlayson
had already escaped from the boat, and was circling high in air
to find a rest for the sole of his foot. His body - he was
really sorry for its gross helplessness - lay in the stern, the
water rushing about its knees.
"How very ridiculous!" he said to himself from his eyrie -" that
- is Findlayson - chief of the Kashi Bridge. The poor beast is
going to be drowned, too. Drowned when it's close to shore. I'm
- I'm on shore already. Why doesn't it come along?"
To his intense disgust, he found his soul back in his body again,
and that body spluttering and choking in deep water. The pain of
the reunion was atrocious, but it was necessary, also, to fight
for the body. He was conscious of grasping wildly at wet sand,
and striding prodigiously, as one strides in a dream, to keep
foothold in the swirling water, till at last he hauled himself
clear of the hold of the river, and dropped, panting, on wet
"Not this night," said Peroo, in his ear. "The Gods have
protected us." The Lascar moved his feet cautiously, and they
rustled among dried stumps. "This is some island of last year's
indigo-crop," he went on. "We shall find no men here; but have
great care, Sahib; all the snakes of a hundred miles have been
flooded out. Here comes the lightning, on the heels of the
wind. Now we shall be able to look; but walk carefully."
Findlayson was far and far beyond any fear of snakes, or indeed
any merely human emotion. He saw, after he had rubbed the water
from his eyes, with an immense clearness, and trod, so it seemed
to himself with world-encompassing strides. Somewhere in the
night of time he had built a bridge - a bridge that spanned
illimitable levels of shining seas; but the Deluge had swept it
away, leaving this one island under heaven for Findlayson and his
companion, sole survivors of the breed of Man.
An incessant lightning, forked and blue, showed all that there
was to be seen on the little patch in the flood - a clump of
thorn, a clump of swaying creaking bamboos, and a grey gnarled
peepul overshadowing a Hindoo shrine, from whose dome floated a
tattered red flag. The holy man whose summer resting-place it was
had long since abandoned it, and the weather had broken the
red-daubed image of his god. The two men stumbled, heavy-limbed
and heavy-eyed, over the ashes of a brick-set cooking-place, and
dropped down under the shelter of the branches, while the rain
and river roared together.
The stumps of the indigo crackled, and there was a smell of
cattle, as a huge and dripping Brahminee bull shouldered his way
under the tree. The flashes revealed the trident mark of Shiva on
his flank, the insolence of head and hump, the luminous stag-like
eyes, the brow crowned with a wreath of sodden marigold blooms,
and the silky dewlap that almost swept the ground. There was a
noise behind him of other beasts coming up from the flood-line
through the thicket, a sound of heavy feet and deep breathing.
"Here be more beside ourselves," said Findlayson, his head
against the tree pole, looking through half-shut eyes, wholly at
"Truly," said Peroo, thickly, "and no small ones."
"What are they, then? I do not see clearly."
"The Gods. Who else? Look!"
"Ah, true! The Gods surely - the Gods." Findlayson smiled as his
head fell forward on his chest. Peroo was eminently right.
After the Flood, who should be alive in the land except the Gods
that made it - the Gods to whom his village prayed nightly - the
Gods who were in all men's mouths and about all men's ways. He
could not raise his head or stir a finger for the trance that
held him, and Peroo was smiling vacantly at the lightning.
The Bull paused by the shrine, his head lowered to the damp
earth. A green Parrot in the branches preened his wet wings and
screamed against the thunder as the circle under the tree filled
with the shifting shadows of beasts. There was a black Buck at
the Bull's heels-such a Buck as Findlayson in his far-away life
upon earth might have seen in dreams - a Buck with a royal head,
ebon back, silver belly, and gleaming straight horns. Beside
him, her head bowed to the ground, the green eyes burning under
the heavy brows, with restless tail switching the dead grass,
paced a Tigress, full-bellied and deep-jowled.
The Bull crouched beside the shrine, and there leaped from the
darkness a monstrous grey Ape, who seated himself man-wise in
the place of the fallen image, and the rain spilled like jewels
from the hair of his neck and shoulders.Other shadows came and
went behind the circle, among them a drunken Man flourishing
staff and drinking-bottle. Then a hoarse bellow broke out from
near the ground. "The flood lessens even now," it cried. "Hour
by hour the water falls, and their bridge still stands!"
"My bridge," said Findlayson to himself "That must be very old
work now. What have the Gods to do with my bridge?"
His eyes rolled in the darkness following the roar. A Mugger -
the blunt-nosed, ford-haunting Mugger of the Ganges -draggled
herself before the beasts, lashing furiously to right and left
with her tail.
"They have made it too strong for me. In all this night I have
only torn away a handful of planks. The walls stand. The towers
stand. They have chained my flood, and the river is not free any
more. Heavenly Ones, take this yoke away! Give me clear water
between bank and bank! It is I, Mother Gunga, that speak. The
Justice of the Gods! Deal me the Justice of the Gods!"
"What said I?" whispered Peroo. "This is in truth a Punchayet of
the Gods. Now we know that all the world is dead, save you and
The Parrot screamed and fluttered again, and the Tigress, her
ears flat to her head, snarled wickedly.
Somewhere in the shadow, a great trunk and gleaming tusks swayed
to and fro, and a low gurgle broke the silence that followed on
"We be here," said a deep voice, "the Great Ones. One only and
very many. Shiv, my father, is here, with Indra. Kali has
spoken already. Hanuman listens also."
"Kashi is without her Kotwal to-night," shouted the Man with the
drinking-bottle, flinging his staff to the ground, while the
island rang to the baying of hounds. "Give her the Justice of
"Ye were still when they polluted my waters," the great Crocodile
bellowed. "Ye made no sign when my river was trapped between the
walls. I had no help save my own strength, and that failed - the
strength of Mother Gunga failed - before their guard-towers.
could I do? I have done everything. Finish now, Heavenly
"I brought the death; I rode the spotted sick-ness from hut to
hut of their workmen, and yet they would not cease." A
nose-slitten, hide-worn Ass, lame, scissor-legged, and galled,
limped forward. "I cast the death at them out of my nostrils,
but they would not cease."
Peroo would have moved, but the opium lay heavy upon him.
." Bah!" he said, spitting. "Here is Sitala herself; Mata - the
small-pox. Has the Sahib a handkerchief to put over his face?"
"Little help! They fed me the corpses for a month, and I flung
them out on my sand-bars, but their work went forward. Demons
they are, and sons of demons! And ye left Mother Gunga alone for
their fire-carriage to make a mock of The Justice of the Gods on
The Bull turned the cud in his mouth and answered slowly: "If the
Justice of the Gods caught all who made a mock of holy things
there would be many dark altars in the land, mother."
"But this goes beyond a mock," said the Tigress, darting forward
a griping paw. "Thou knowest, Shiv, and ye, too, Heavenly Ones;
ye know that they have defiled Gunga. Surely they must come to
the Destroyer. Let Indra judge."
The Buck made no movement as he answered: "How long has this
"Three years, as men count years," said the Mugger, close pressed
to the earth.
"Does Mother Gunga die, then, in a year, that she is so anxious
to see vengeance now? The deep sea was where she runs but
yesterday, and to-morrow the sea shall cover her again as the
Gods count that which men call time. Can any say that this their
bridge endures till to-morrow?" said the Buck.
There was a long hush, and in the clearing of the storm the full
moon stood up above the dripping trees.
"Judge ye, then," said the River, sullenly. "I have spoken my
shame. The flood falls still. I can do no more."
"For my own part " - it was the voice of the great Ape seated
within the shrine -" it pleases me well to watch these men,
remembering that I also builded no small bridge in the world's
"They say, too," snarled the Tiger, "that these men came of the
wreck of thy armies, Hanuman, and therefore thou hast aided -"
"They toil as my armies toiled in Lanka, and they believe that
their toil endures. Indra is too high, but Shiv, thou knowest
how the land is threaded with their fire-carriages."
"Yea, I know," said the Bull. "Their Gods instructed them in the
A laugh ran round the circle.
"Their Gods! What should their Gods know? They were born
yesterday, and those that made them are scarcely yet cold," said
the Mugger. "To-morrow their Gods will die."
"Ho!" said Peroo. "Mother Gunga talks good talk. I told that to
the padre-sahib who preached on the Mombassa, and he asked the
Burra Malum to put me in irons for a great rudeness."
"Surely they make these things to please their Gods," said the
"Not altogether," the Elephant rolled forth. "It is for the
profit of my mahajuns - my fat money-lenders that worship me at
each new year, when they draw my image at the head of the
account-books. I, looking over their shoulders by lamplight,
see that the names in the books are those of men in far places -
for all the towns are drawn together by the fire-carriage, and
the money comes and goes swiftly, and the account-books grow as
fat as - myself. And I, who am Ganesh of Good Luck, I bless my
"They have changed the face of the land-which is my land. They
have killed and made new towns on my banks," said the Mugger.
"It is but the shifting of a little dirt. Let the dirt dig in the
dirt if it pleases the dirt," answered the Elephant.
"But afterwards?" said the Tiger. "Afterwards they will see that
Mother Gunga can avenge no insult, and they fall away from her
first, and later from us all, one by one. In the end, Ganesh, we
are left with naked altars."
The drunken Man staggered to his feet, and hiccupped vehemently.
"Kali lies. My sister lies. Also this my stick is the Kotwal of
Kashi, and he keeps tally of my pilgrims. When the time comes
to worship Bhairon-and it is always time - the fire-carriages
move one by one, and each bears a thousand pilgrims. They do
not come afoot any more, but rolling upon wheels, and my honour
"Gunga, I have seen thy bed at Pryag black with the pilgrims,"
said the Ape, leaning forward, "and but for the fire-carriage
they would have come slowly and in fewer numbers. Remember."
"They come to me always," Bhairon went on thickly. "By day and
night they pray to me, all the Common People in the fields and
the roads. Who is like Bhairon to-day? What talk is this of
changing faiths? Is my staff Kotwal of Kashi for nothing? He
keeps the tally, and he says that never were so many altars as
today, and the fire carriage serves them well. Bhairon am I -
Bhairon of the Common People, and the chiefest of the Heavenly
Ones to-day. Also my staff says -"
"Peace, thou" lowed the Bull. "The worship of the schools is
mine, and they talk very wisely, asking whether I be one or
many, as is the delight of my people, and ye know what I am.
Kali, my wife, thou knowest also." "Yea, I know," said the
Tigress, with lowered head.
"Greater am I than Gunga also. For ye know who moved the minds of
men that they should count Gunga holy among the rivers. Who die
in that water - ye know how men say - come to us without
punishment, and Gunga knows that the fire-carriage has borne to
her scores upon scores of such anxious ones; and Kali knows that
she has held her chiefest festivals among the pilgrimages that
are fed by the fire-carriage. Who smote at Pooree, under the
Image there, her thousands in a day and a night, and bound the
sickness to the wheels of the fire-carriages, so that it ran from
one end of the land to the other? Who but Kali? Before the
fire-carriage came it was a heavy toil. The fire-carriages have
served thee well, Mother of Death. But I speak for mine own
altars, who am not Bhairon of the Common Folk, but Shiv. Men go
to and fro, making words and telling talk of strange Gods, and I
listen. Faith follows faith among my people in the schools, and
I have no anger; for when all words are said, and the new talk is
ended, to Shiv men return at the last."
"True. It is true," murmured Hanuman. "To Shiv and to the others,
mother, they return. I creep from temple to temple in the North,
where they worship one God and His Prophet; and presently my
image is alone within their shrines."
"Small thanks," said the Buck, turning his head slowly. "I am
that One and His Prophet also."
"Even so, father," said Hanuman. "And to the South I go who am
the oldest of the Gods as men know the Gods, and presently I
touch the shrines of the New Faith and the Woman whom we know is
hewn twelve-armed, and still they call her Mary."
"Small thanks, brother," said the Tigress. "I am that Woman."
"Even so, sister; and I go West among the fire-carriages, and
stand before the bridge-builders in many shapes, and because of
me they change their faiths and are very wise.. Ho! ho! I am the
builder of bridges, indeed - bridges between this and that, and
each bridge leads surely to Us in the end. Be content, Gunga.
Neither these men nor those that follow them mock thee at all."
"Am I alone, then, Heavenly Ones? Shall I smooth out my flood
lest unhappily I bear away their walls? Will Indra dry my
springs in the hills and make me crawl humbly between their
wharfs? Shall I bury me in the sand ere I offend?"
"And all for the sake of a little iron bar with the
fire-carriage atop. Truly, Mother Gunga is always young!" said
Ganesh the Elephant. "A child had not spoken more foolishly. Let
the dirt dig in the dirt ere it return to the dirt. I know only
that my people grow rich and praise me. Shiv has said that the
men of the schools do not forget; Bhairon is content for his
crowd of the Common People; and Hanuman laughs."
"Surely I laugh," said the Ape. "My altars are few beside those
of Ganesh or Bhairon, but the fire-carriages bring me new
worshippers from beyond the Black Water - the men who believe
that their God is toil. I run before them beckoning, and they
"Give them the toil that they desire, then," said the River.
"Make a bar across my flood and throw the water back upon the
bridge. Once thou wast strong in Lanka, Hanuman. Stoop and lift
"Who gives life can take life." The Ape scratched in the mud with
a long forefinger. "And yet, who would profit by the killing?
Very many would die."
There came up from the water a snatch of a love-song such as the
boys sing when they watch their cattle in the noon heats of late
spring. The parrot screamed joyously, sidling along his branch
with lowered head as the song grew louder, and in a patch of
clear moonlight stood revealed the young herd, the darling of the
Gopis, the idol of dreaming maids and of mothers ere their
children are born Krishna the Well-beloved. He stooped to knot
up his long wet hair, and the Parrot fluttered to his shoulder.
"Fleeting and singing, and singing and fleeting," hiccupped
Bhairon. "Those make thee late for the council, brother."
"And then?" said Krishna, with a laugh, throwing back his head.
"Ye can do little without me or Karma here." He fondled the
Parrot's plumage and laughed again. "What is this sitting and
talking together? I heard Mother Gunga roaring in the dark, and
so came quickly from a hut where I lay warm. And what have ye
done to Karma, that he is so wet and silent? And what does
Mother Gunga here? Are the heavens full that ye must come
paddling in the mud beast-wise? Karma, what do they do?"
"Gunga has prayed for a vengeance on the bridge-builders, and
Kali is with her. Now she bids Hanuman whelm the bridge, that
her honour may be made great," cried the Parrot. "I waited here,
knowing that thou wouldst come, O my master!
"And the Heavenly Ones said nothing? Did Gunga and the Mother of
Sorrows out-talk them? Did none speak for my people?"
"Nay," said Ganesh, moving uneasily from foot to foot; "I said it
was but dirt at play, and why should we stamp it flat?"
"I was content to let them toil -well content," said Hanuman.
"What had I to do with Gunga's anger?" said the Bull.
"I am Bhairon of the Common Folk, and this my staff is Kotwal of
all Kashi. I spoke for the Common People."
"Thou?" The young God's eyes sparkled.
"Am I not the first of the Gods in their mouths to-day?" returned
Bhairon, unabashed. "For the sake of the Common People I said -
very many wise things which I have now forgotten, but this my
Krishna turned impatiently, saw the Mugger at his feet, and
kneeling, slipped an arm round the cold neck. "Mother," he said
gently, "get thee to thy flood again. The matter is not for thee.
What harm shall thy honour take of this live dirt? Thou hast
given them their fields new year after year, and by thy flood
they are made strong. They come all to thee at the last. What
need to slay them now? Have pity, mother, for a little - and it
is only for a little.""If it be only for a little " the slow
"Are they Gods, then?" Krishna returned with a laugh, his eyes
looking into the dull eyes of the River. "Be certain that it is
only for a little. The Heavenly Ones have heard thee, and
presently justice will be done. Go now, mother, to the flood
again. Men and cattle are thick on the waters - the banks fall -
the villages melt because of thee."
"But the bridge - the bridge stands." The Mugger turned grunting
into the undergrowth as Krishna rose.
"It is ended," said the Tigress, viciously. "There is no more
justice from the Heavenly Ones. Ye have made shame and sport of
Gunga, who asked no more than a few score lives."
"Of my people - who lie under the leaf-roofs of the village
yonder - of the young girls, and the young men who sing to them
in the dark -of the child that will be born next morn - of that
which was begotten to-night," said Krishna. "And when all is
done, what profit? To-morrow sees them at work. Ay, if ye swept
the bridge out from end to end they would begin anew. Hear me!
Bhairon is drunk always. Hanuman mocks his people with new
"Nay, but they are very old ones," the Ape said, laughing.
"Shiv hears the talk of the schools and the dreams of the holy
men; Ganesh thinks only of his fat traders; but I - I live with
these my people, asking for no gifts, and so receiving them
"And very tender art thou of thy people," said the Tigress.
"They are my own. The old women dream of me turning in their
sleep; the maids look and listen for me when they go to fill
their lotahs by the river. I walk by the young men waiting
without the gates at dusk, and I call over my shoulder to the
white-beards. Ye know, Heavenly Ones, that I alone of us all
walk upon the earth continually, and have no pleasure in our
heavens so long as a green blade springs here, or there are two
voices at twilight in the standing crops. Wise are ye, but ye
live far off; forgetting whence ye came. So do I not forget.
And the fire-carriage feeds your shrines, ye say? And the
fire-carriages bring a thousand pilgrims where but ten came in
the old years? True. That is true, to-day."
"But to-morrow they are dead, brother," said Ganesh.
"Peace!" said the Bull, as Hanuman leaned forward again. "And
to-morrow, beloved - what of to-morrow?"
"This only. A new word creeping from mouth to mouth among the
Common Folk - a word that neither man nor God can lay hold of -
an evil word - a little lazy word among the Common Folk, saying
(and none know who set that word afoot) that they weary of ye,
The Gods laughed together softly. "And then, beloved ~" they
"And to cover that weariness they, my people, will bring to thee,
Shiv, and to thee, Ganesh, at first greater offerings and a
louder noise of worship. But the word has gone abroad, and,
after, they will pay fewer dues to your fat Brahmins. Next they
will forget your altars, but so slowly that no man can say how
his forgetfulness began."
I knew - I knew! I spoke this also, but they would not hear,"
said the Tigress. "We should have slain-we should have slain!"
"It is too late now. Ye should have slain at the beginning when
the men from across the water had taught our folk nothing. Now
my people see their work, and go away thinking. They do not
think of the Heavenly Ones altogether. They think of the
fire-carriage and the other things that the bridge-builders have
done, and when your priests thrust forward hands asking alms,
they give a little unwillingly. That is the beginning, among one
or two, or five or ten - for I, moving among my people, know what
is in their hearts."
"And the end, Jester of the Gods? What shall the end be?" said
The end shall be as it was in the beginning, O slothful son of
Shiv! The flame shall die upon the altars and the prayer upon
the tongue till ye become little Gods again - Gods of the jungle
-names that the hunters of rats and noosers of dogs whisper in
the thicket and among the caves -rag-Gods, pot Godlings of the
tree, and the village-mark, as ye were at the beginning. That is
the end, Ganesh, for thee, and for Bhairon - Bhairon of the
"It is very far away," grunted Bhairon. "Also, it is a lie."
"Many women have kissed Krishna. They told him this to cheer
their own hearts when the grey hairs came, and he has told us
the tale," said the Bull, below his breath.
"Their Gods came, and we changed them. I took the Woman and made
her twelve-armed. So shall we twist all their Gods," said
"Their Gods! This is no question of their Gods - one or three -
man or woman. The matter is with the people. ~ move, and not
the Gods of the bridge-builders," said Krishna.
"So be it. I have made a man worship the fire-carriage as it
stood still breathing smoke, and he knew not that he worshipped
me," said Hanuman the Ape. "They will only change a little the
names of their Gods. I shall lead the builders of the bridges as
of old; Shiv shall be worshipped in the schools by such as doubt
and despise their fellows; Ganesh shall have his mahajuns, and
Bhairon the donkey-drivers, the pilgrims, and the sellers of
toys. Beloved, they will do no more than change the names, and
that we have seen a thousand times."
"Surely they will do no more than change the names," echoed
Ganesh; but there was an uneasy movement among the Gods.
"They will change more than the names. Me alone they cannot kill,
so long as a maiden and a man meet together or the spring
follows the winter rains. Heavenly Ones, not for nothing have I
walked upon the earth. My people know not now what they know;
but I, who live with them, I read their hearts. Great Kings, the
beginning of the end is born already. The fire-carriages shout
the names of new Gods that are not the old under new names.
Drink now and eat greatly! Bathe your faces in the smoke of the
altars before they grow cold! Take dues and listen to the
cymbals and the drums, Heavenly Ones, while yet there are
flowers and songs. As men count time the end is far off; but as
we who know reckon it is to-day. I have spoken."
The young God ceased, and his brethren looked at each other long
"This I have not heard before," Peroo whispered in his
companion's ear. "And yet sometimes, when I oiled the brasses in
the engine-room of the Goorkha, I have wondered if our priests
were so wise - so wise. The day is coming, Sahib. They will be
gone by the morning."
A yellow light broadened in the sky, and the tone of the river
changed as the darkness withdrew.
Suddenly the Elephant trumpeted aloud as though man had goaded
"Let Indra judge. Father of all, speak thou! What of the things
we have heard? Has Krishna lied indeed? Or —"
"Ye know," said the Buck, rising to his feet. "Ye know the Riddle
of the Gods. When Brahm ceases to dream, the Heavens and the
Hells and Earth disappear. Be content. Brahm dreams still. The
dreams come and go, and the nature of the dreams changes, but
still Brahm dreams. Krishna has walked too long upon earth, and
yet I love him the more for the tale he has told. The Gods
change, beloved - all save One!"
"Ay, all save one that makes love in the hearts of men," said
Krishna, knotting his girdle. "It is but a little time to wait,
and ye shall know if I lie."Truly it is but a little time, as
thou sayest, and we shall know. Get thee to thy huts again,
beloved, and make sport for the young things, for still Brahm
dreams. Go, my children! Brahm dreams and till he wakes the
Gods die not."
"Whither went they -" said the Lascar, awe-struck, shivering a
little with the cold.
"God knows!" said Findlayson. The river and the island lay in
full daylight now, and there was never mark of hoof or pug on
the wet earth under the peepul. Only a parrot screamed in the
branches, bringing down showers of water-drops as he fluttered
"Up! We are cramped with cold! Has the opium died out? Canst
thou move, Sahib?"
Findlayson staggered to his feet and shook himself. His bead swam
and ached, but the work of the opium was over, and, as he
sluiced his forehead in a pool, the Chief Engineer of the Kashi
Bridge was wondering how he had managed to fall upon the island,
what chances the day offered of return, and, above all, how his
"Peroo, I have forgotten much I was under the guard-tower
watching the river; and then —- Did the flood sweep us away?"
"No. The boats broke loose, Sahib, and" (if the Sahib had
forgotten about the opium, decidedly Peroo would not remind him)
"in striving to retie them, so it seemed to me but it was dark -
a rope caught the Sahib and threw him upon a boat. Considering
that we two, with Hitchcock Sahib, built, as it were, that
bridge, I came also upon the boat, which came riding on
horseback, as it were, on the nose of this island, and so,
splitting, cast us ashore. I made a great cry when the boat left
the wharf and without doubt Hitchcock Sahib will come for us. As
for the bridge, so many have died in the building that it cannot
fall."A fierce sun, that drew out all the smell of the sodden
land, had followed the storm, and in that clear light there was
no room for a man to think of the dreams of the dark. Findlayson
stared upstream, across the blaze of moving water, till his eyes
ached. There was no sign of any bank to the Ganges, much less of
"We came down far," he said. "It was wonderful that we were not
drowned a hundred times."
"That was the least of the wonder, for no man dies before his
time. I have seen Sydney, I have seen London, and twenty great
ports, but "- Peroo looked at the damp, discoloured shrine under
the peepul -" never man has seen that we saw here."
"Has the Sahib forgotten; or do we black men only see the Gods?"
"There was a fever upon me." Findlayson was still looking
uneasily across the water. "It seemed that the island was full
of beasts and men talking, but I do not remember. A boat could
live in this water now, I think."
"Oho! Then it is true. 'When Brahm ceases to dream, the Gods
die.' Now I know, indeed, what he meant. Once, too, the guru
said as much to me; but then I did not understand. Now I am
"What?" said Findlayson, over his shoulder.
Peroo went on as if he were talking to himself "Six - seven - ten
monsoons since, I was watch on the fo'c'sle of the Rewah - the
Kumpani's big boat - and there was a big tufan; green and black
water beating, and I held fast to the life-lines, choking under
the waters. Then I thought of the Gods - of Those whom we saw
to-night "- he stared curiously at Findlayson's back, but the
white man was looking across the flood. "Yes, I say of Those
whom we saw this night past, and I called upon Them to protect
me. And while I prayed, still keeping my lookout, a big wave
came and threw me forward upon the ring of the great black
bow-anchor, and the Rewah rose high and high, leaning towards
the left-hand side, and the water drew away from beneath her
nose, and I lay upon my belly, holding the ring, and looking
down into those great deeps. Then I thought, even in the face of
death: If I lose hold I die, and for me neither the Rewah nor my
place by the galley where the rice is cooked, nor Bombay, nor
Calcutta,nor even London, will be any more for me. 'How shall I
be sure,' I said, 'that the Gods to whom I pray will abide at
all?' This I thought, and the Rewah dropped her nose as a hammer
falls, and all the sea came in and slid me backwards along the
fo'c'sle and over the break of the fo'c'sle, and I very badly
bruised my shin against the donkey-engine: but I did not die,
and I have seen the Gods. They are good for live men, but for
the dead . . . . They have spoken Themselves. Therefore, when I
come to the village I will beat the guru for talking riddles
which are no riddles. When Brahm ceases to dream the Gods go."
"Look up-stream. The light blinds. Is there smoke yonder?"
Peroo shaded his eyes with his hands. "He is a wise man and
quick. Hitchcock Sahib would not trust a rowboat. He has
borrowed the Rao Sahib's steam-launch, and comes to look for us.
I have always said that there should have been a steam-launch on
the bridge works for us.
The territory of the Rao of Baraon lay within ten miles of the
bridge; and Findlayson and Hitchcock had spent a fair portion of
their scanty leisure in playing billiards and shooting blackbuck
with the young man. He had been bearled by an English tutor of
sporting tastes for some five or six years, and was now royally
wasting the revenues accumulated during his minority by the
Government. His steam-launch, with its silver-plated rails,
striped silk awning, and mahogany decks, was a new toy which
Findlayson had found horribly in the way when the Rao came to
look at the bridge works.
"It's great luck," murmured Findlayson, but he was none the less
afraid, wondering what news might be of the bridge.
The gaudy blue-and-white funnel came downstream swiftly. They
could see Hitchcock in the bows, with a pair of opera-glasses,
and his face was unusually white. Then Peroo hailed, and the
launch made for the tail of the island. The Rao Sahib, in tweed
shooting-suit and a seven-hued turban, waved his royal hand, and
Hitchcock shouted. But he need have asked no questions, for
Findlayson's first demand was for his bridge.
"All serene! 'Gad, I never expected to see you again, Findlayson.
You're seven koss downstream. Yes; there's not a stone shifted
anywhere; but how are you? I borrowed the Rao Sahib's launch,
and he was good enough to come along. Jump in."Ah, Finlinson,
you are very well, eh? That was most unprecedented calamity last
night, eh? My royal palace, too, it leaks like the devil, and
the crops will also be short all about my country. Now you shall
back her out, Hitchcock. I - I do not understand steam-engines.
You are wet? You are cold, Finlinson? I have some things to eat
here, and you will take a good drink."
"I'm immensely grateful, Rao Sahib. I believe you've saved my
life. How did Hitchcock -"
"Oho! His hair was upon end. He rode to me in the middle of the
night and woke me up in the arms of Morpheus. I was most truly
concerned, Finlinson, so I came too. My head-priest he is very
angry just now. We will go quick, Mister Hitchcock. I am due to
attend at twelve forty-five in the state temple, where we
sanctify some new idol. If not so I would have asked you to
spend the day with me. They are dam-bore, these religious
ceremonies, Finlinson, eh?"
Peroo, well known to the crew, had possessed himself of the
inlaid wheel, and was taking the launch craftily up-stream. But
while he steered he was, in his mind, handling two feet of
partially untwisted wire-rope; and the back upon which he beat
was the back of his guru.
End of THE BRIDGE-BUILDERS
A WALKING DELEGATE
ACCORDING to the custom of Vermont, Sunday afternoon is
salting-time on the farm, and, unless something very important
happens, we attend to the salting ourselves. Dave and Pete, the
red oxen, are treated first; they stay in the home meadow ready
for work on Monday. Then come the cows, with Pan, the calf, who
should have been turned into veal long ago, but survived on
account of his manners; and lastly the horses, scattered through
the seventy acres of the Back Pasture.
You must go down by the brook that feeds the clicking, bubbling
water-ram; up through the sugar-bush, where the young maple
undergrowth closes round you like a shallow sea; next follow the
faint line of an old county-road running past two green hollows
fringed with wild rose that mark the cellars of two ruined
houses; then by Lost Orchard, where nobody ever comes except in
cider-time; then across another brook, and so into the Back
Pasture. Half of it is pine and hemlock and Spruce, with sumach
and little juniper bushes, and the other half is grey rock and
boulder and moss, with green streaks of brake and swamp; but the
horses like it well enough - our own, and the others that are
turned down there to feed at fifty cents a week. Most people
walk to the Back Pasture, and find it very rough work; but one
can get there in a buggy, if the horse knows what is expected of
him. The safest conveyance is our coupe. This began life as a
buckboard, and we bought it for five dollars from a sorrowful man
who had no other sort of possessions; and the seat came off one
night when we were turning a corner in a hurry. After that
alteration it made a beautiful salting-machine, if you held
tight, because there was nothing to catch your feet when you fell
out, and the slats rattled tunes.
One Sunday afternoon we went out with the salt as usual. It was
a broiling hot day, and we could not find the horses anywhere
till we let Tedda Gabler, the bobtailed mare who throws up the
dirt with her big hooves exactly as a tedder throws hay, have
her head. Clever as she is, she tipped the coupe over in a
hidden brook before she came out on a ledge of rock where all
the horses had gathered, and were switching flies. The Deacon
was the first to call to her. He is a very dark iron-grey
four-year-old, son of Grandee. He has been handled since he was
two, was driven in a light cart before he was three, and now
ranksas an absolutely steady lady's horse - proof against
steam-rollers, grade-crossings, and street processions.
"Salt!" said the Deacon, joyfully. "You're dreffle late, Tedda."
"Any - any place to cramp the coupe?" Tedda panted. "It weighs
turr'ble this weather. I'd 'a' come sooner, but they didn't know
what they wanted - ner haow. Fell out twice, both of 'em. I
don't understand sech foolishness."
"You look consider'ble het up. 'Guess you'd better cramp her
under them pines, an' cool off a piece."
Tedda scrambled on the ledge, and cramped the coupe in the shade
of a tiny little wood of pines, while my companion and I lay
down among the brown, silky needles, and gasped. All the home
horses were gathered round us, enjoying their Sunday leisure.
There were Rod and Rick, the seniors on the farm. They were the
regular road-pair, bay with black points, full brothers, aged,
sons of a Hambletonian sire and a Morgan dam. There were Nip
and Tuck, seal-browns, rising six, brother and sister, Black
Hawks by birth, perfectly matched, just finishing their
education, and as handsome a pair as man could wish to find in a
forty-mile drive. There was Muldoon, our ex-car-horse, bought at
a venture, and any colour you choose that is not white; and
Tweezy, who comes from Kentucky, with an affliction of his left
hip, which makes him a little uncertain how his hind legs are
moving. He and Muldoon had been hauling gravel all the week for
our new road. The Deacon you know already. Last of all, and
eating something, was our faithful Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, the
black buggy-horse, who had seen us through every state of weather
and road, the horse who was always standing in harness before
some door or other - a philosopher with the appetite of a shark
and the manners of an archbishop. Tedda Gabler was a new
"trade,"with a reputation for vice which was really the result of
bad driving. She had one working gait, which she could hold till
further notice; a Roman nose; a large, prominent eye; a
shaving-brush of a tail; and an irritable temper. She took her
salt through her bridle; but the others trotted up nuzzling and
wickering for theirs, till we emptied it on the clean rocks.
They were all standing at ease, on three legs for the most part,
talking the ordinary gossip of the Back Pasture - about the
scarcity of water, and gaps in the fence, and how the early
windfalls tasted that season - when little Rick blew the last few
grains of his allowance into a crevice, and said:
"Hurry, boys! 'Might ha' knowed that livery plug would be
We heard a clatter of hooves, and there climbed up from the
ravine below a fifty-center transient—a wall-eyed, yellow
frame-house of a horse, sent up to board from a livery-stable in
town, where they called him "The Lamb," and never let him out
except at night and to strangers. My companion, who knew and had
broken most of the horses, looked at the ragged hammer-head as it
rose, and said quietly:
"Ni-ice beast. Man-eater, if he gets the chance - see his eye.
Kicker, too - see his hocks. Western horse."
The animal lumbered up, snuffling and grunting. His feet showed
that he had not worked for weeks and weeks, and our creatures
drew together significantly.
"As usual," he said, with an underhung sneer-"bowin' your heads
before the Oppressor that comes to spend his leisure gloatin'
"Mine's done," said the Deacon; he licked up the remnant of his
salt, dropped his nose in his master's hand, and sang a little
grace all to himself. The Deacon has the most enchanting
manners of any one I know.
"An' fawnin' on them for what is your inalienable right. It's
humiliatin'," said the yellow horse, sniffing to see if he could
find a few spare grains.
"Go daown hill, then, Boney," the Deacon replied. "Guess you'll
find somethin' to eat still, if yer hain't hogged it all. You've
ett more'n any three of us to-day - an' day 'fore that - an' the
last two months - sence you've been here."
"I am not addressin' myself to the young an' immature. I am
speakin' to those whose opinion an' experience commands
I saw Rod raise his head as though he were about to make a
remark; then he dropped it again, and stood three-cornered, like
a plough-horse. Rod can cover his mile in a shade under three
minutes on an ordinary road to an ordinary buggy. He is
tremendously powerful behind, but, like most Hambletonians, he
grows a trifle sullen as he gets older. No one can love Rod
very much; but no one can help respecting him.
"I wish to wake those," the yellow horse went on, "to an abidin'
sense o' their wrongs an' their injuries an' their outrages."
"Haow's that?" said Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, dreamily. He
thought Boney was talking of some kind of feed.
"An' when I say outrages and injuries" - Boney waved his tail
furiously "I mean 'em, too. Great Oats! That's just what I do
mean, plain an' straight."
"The gentleman talks quite earnest," said Tuck, the mare, to Nip,
her brother.There's no doubt thinkin' broadens the horizons o'
the mind. His language is quite lofty."
"Hesh, sis," Nip answered. "He hain't widened nothin' 'cep' the
circle he's ett in pasture. They feed words fer beddin' where he
"It's elegant talkin', though," Tuck returned, with an
unconvinced toss of her pretty, lean little head.
The yellow horse heard her, and struck an attitude which he meant
to be extremely impressive. It made him look as though he had
been badly stuffed.
"Now I ask you, I ask you without prejudice an' without
favour,-what has Man the Oppressor ever done for you? - Are you
not inalienably entitled to the free air O' heaven, blowin'
acrost this boundless prairie?"
"Hev ye ever wintered here?" said the Deacon, merrily, while the
others snickered. "It's kinder cool."
"Not yet," said Boney. "I come from the boundless confines o'
Kansas, where the noblest of our kind have their abidin'-place
among the sunflowers on the threshold o' the settin' sun in his
"An' they sent you ahead as a sample ~" said Rick, with an amused
quiver of his long, beautifully groomed tail, as thick and as
fine and as wavy as a quadroon's back hair.
"Kansas, sir, needs no advertisement. Her native sons rely on
themselves an' their native sires. Yes, sir."
Then Tweezy lifted up his wise and polite old head. His
affliction makes him bashful as a rule, but he is ever the most
courteous of horses.
"Excuse me, suh," he said slowly, "but, unless I have been
misinfohmed, most of your prominent siahs, suh, are impo'ted
from Kentucky; an' I'm from Paduky."
There was the least little touch of pride in the last words.
"Any horse dat knows beans," said Muldoon, suddenly (he had been
standing with his hairy chin on Tweezy's broad quarters), "gits
outer Kansas 'fore dey crip his shoes. I blew in dere from
Ioway in de days o' me youth an' innocence, an' I wuz grateful
when dey boxed me fer N' York. You can't tell me anything about
Kansas I don't wanter fergit. De Belt Line stables ain't no
Hoffman House, but dey're Vanderbilts 'longside ' Kansas."
"What the horses o' Kansas think to-day, the horses of America
will think to-morrow; an' I tell you that when the horses of
America rise in their might, the day o' the Oppressor is ended."
There was a pause, till Rick said, with a little grunt:
"Ef you put it that way, every one of us has riz in his might,
'cep' Marcus, mebbe. Marky, 'j ever rise in yer might?"
"Nope," said Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, thoughtfully quidding
over a mouthful of grass. "I seen a heap o' fools try, though."
"You admit that you riz ~" said the Kansas horse, excitedly.
"Then why - why in Kansas did you ever go under again?"
"'Horse can't walk on his hind legs all the time," said the
"Not when he's jerked over on his back 'fore he knows what
fetched him. We've all done it, Boney," said Rick. "Nip an' Tuck
they tried it, spite o' what the Deacon told 'em; an' the Deacon
he tried it, spite o' what me an' Rod told him; an' me an' Rod
tried it, spite o' what Grandee told us; an' I guess Grandee he
tried it, spite Oo' what his dam told him. It's the same old
circus from generation to generation. 'Colt can't see why he's
called on to back. Same old rearm' on end - straight up. Same old
feelin' that you've bested 'em this time. Same old little yank at
your mouth when you're up good an' tall. Same old Pegasus-act,
wonderin' where you'll 'light. Same old wop when you hit the dirt
with your head where your tail should be, and your in'ards shook
up like a bran-mash. Same old voice in your ear: 'Waal, ye little
fool, an' what did you reckon to make by that?' We're through
with risin in our might on this farm. We go to pole er single,
accordin' ez we're hitched."
"An' Man the Oppressor sets an' gloats over you, same as he's
settin' now. Hain't that been your experience, madam?"
This last remark was addressed to Tedda; and any one could see
with half an eye that poor, old anxious, fidgety Tedda, stamping
at the flies, must have left a wild and tumultuous youth behind
"'Pends on the man," she answered, shifting from one foot to the
other, and addressing herself to the home horses. "They abused
me dreffle when I was young. I guess I was sperrity an' nervous
some, but they didn't allow for that.'Twas in Monroe County, Noo
York, an' sence then till I come here, I've run away with more
men than 'u'd fill a boardin'-house. Why, the man that sold me
here he says to the boss, s' he: 'Mind, now, I've warned you.
'Twon't be none of my fault if she sheds you daown the road.
Don't you drive her in a top-buggy, ner 'thout winkers,' s' he,
'ner 'thought this bit ef you look to come home behind her.' 'N'
the fust thing the boss did was to git the top-buggy.
"Can't say as I like top-buggies," said Rick; "they don't balance
"Suit me to a ha'ar," said Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. "Top-buggy
means the baby's in behind, an' I kin stop while she gathers the
pretty flowers - yes, an' pick a maouthful, too. The women-folk
all say I hev to be humoured, an' -I don't kerry things to the
"'Course I've no prejudice against a top-buggy s' long 's I can
see it," Tedda went on quickly. "It's ha'f-seein' the pesky
thing bobbin' an' balancn' behind the winkers gits on my nerves.
Then the boss looked at the bit they'd sold with me, an' s' he:
'Jiminy Christmas! This 'u'd make a clothes-horse Stan' 'n end!'
Then he gave me a plain bar bit, an' fitted it 's if there was
some feelin' to my maouth."
"Hain't ye got any, Miss Tedda?" said Tuck, who has a mouth like
velvet, and knows it.
"Might 'a' had, Miss Tuck, but I've forgot. Then he give me an
open bridle,- my style's an open bridle - an' - I dunno as I
ought to tell this by rights -he -give - me - a kiss."
"My!" said Tuck, "I can't tell fer the shoes o' me what makes
some men so fresh."
"Pshaw, sis," said Nip, "what's the sense in actin' so? You git a
kiss reg'lar 's hitchin'-up time."
"Well, you needn't tell, smarty," said Tuck, with a squeal and a
"I'd heard o' kisses, o' course," Tedda went on, "but they hadn't
come my way specially. I don't mind tellin' I was that took
aback at that man's doin's he might ha' lit fire-crackers on my
saddle. Then we went out jest 's if a kiss was nothin', an' I
wasn't three strides into my gait 'fore I felt the boss knoo his
business, an' was trustin' me. So I studied to please him, an'
whenever took the whip from the dash - a whip drives me plumb
distracted - an' the upshot was that - waal, I've come up the
Back Pasture to-day, an' the coupe's tipped clear over twice, an'
I've waited till 'twuz fixed each time. You kin judge for
yourselves. I don't set up to be no better than my neighbours,-
specially with my tail snipped off the way 'tis,- but I want you
all to know Tedda's quit fightin' in harness or out of it, 'cep'
when there's a born fool in the pasture, stuffin' his stummick
with board that ain't rightly hisn, 'cause he hain't earned it."
"Meanin' me, madam?" said the yellow horse.
"Ef the shoe fits, clinch it," said Tedda, snorting. "I named no
names, though, to be sure, some folks are mean enough an' greedy
enough to do 'thout 'em."
"There's a deal to be forgiven to ignorance," said the yellow
horse, with an ugly look in his blue eye.
"Seemin'ly, yes; or some folks 'u'd ha' been kicked raound the
pasture 'bout onct a minute sence they came - board er no
"But what you do not understand, if you will excuse me, madam, is
that the whole principle o' servitood, which includes keep an'
feed, starts from a radically false basis; an' I am proud to say
that me an' the majority o' the horses o' Kansas think the
entire concern should be relegated to the limbo of exploded
superstitions. I say we're too progressive for that. I say we're
too enlightened for that. 'Twas good enough 's long 's we didn't
think, but naow - but naow - a new loominary has arisen on the
"Meanin' you?" said the Deacon.
"The horses o' Kansas are behind me with their multitoodinous
thunderin' hooves, an' we say, simply but grandly, that we take
our stand with all four feet on the inalienable rights of the
horse, pure and simple,- the high-toned child o' nature, fed by
the same wavin' grass, cooled by the same ripplin' brook— yes,
an' warmed by the same gen'rous sun as falls impartially on the
outside an' the inside of the pampered machine o' the
trottin'-track, or the bloated coupe-horses o' these yere
Eastern cities. Are we not the same flesh an' blood?"
"Not by a bushel an' a half," said the Deacon, under his breath.
"Grandee never was in Kansas."
"My! Ain't that elegant, though, abaout the wavin' grass an' the
ripplin' brooks?" Tuck whispered in Nip's ear. "The gentleman's
real convincin' I think."
"I say we are the same flesh an' blood! Are we to be separated,
horse from horse, by the artificial barriers of a
trottin'-record, or are we to look down upon each other on the
strength o' the gifts o' nature - an extry inch below the knee,
or slightly more powerful quarters? What's the use o' them
advantages to you? Man the Oppressor comes along, an' sees
you're likely an' good-lookin', an' grinds you to the face o'
the earth. What for? For his own pleasure: for his own
convenience! Young an' old, black an' bay, white an' grey,
there's no distinctions made between us. We're ground up
together under the remorseless teeth o' the engines of
"Guess his breechin' must ha' broke goin' daown-hill," said the
Deacon. "Slippery road, maybe, an' the buggy come onter him, an'
he didn't know 'nough to hold back. That don't feel like teeth,
though. Maybe he busted a shaft, an' it pricked him."
"An' I come to you from Kansas, wavin' the tail o' friendship to
all an' sundry, an' in the name of the uncounted millions o'
pure-minded, high-toned horses now strugglin' towards the light
o' freedom, I say to you, Rub noses with us in our sacred an'
holy cause. The power is yourn. Without you, I say, Man the
Oppressor cannot move himself from place to place. Without you
he cannot reap, he cannot sow, he cannot plough."
Mighty odd place, Kansas!" said Marcus Aurelius Antoninus.
"Seemin'ly they reap in the spring an' plough in the fall.
'Guess it's right fer them, but 'twould make me kinder giddy."
"The produc's of your untirin' industry would rot on the ground
if you did not weakly consent to help him. Let 'em rot, I say!
Let him call you to the stables in vain an' nevermore! Let him
shake his ensnarin' oats under your nose in vain! Let the
Brahmas roost in the buggy, an' the rats run riot round the
reaper! Let him walk on his two hind feet till they blame well
drop off! Win no more soul-destroyn' races for his pleasure!
Then, an' not till then, will Man the Oppressor know where he's
at. Quit workin', fellow-sufferers an' slaves! Kick! Rear!
Plunge! Lie down on the shafts, an' woller! Smash an' destroy!
The conflict will be but short, an' the victory is certain.
After that we can press our inalienable rights to eight quarts
o' oats a day, two good blankets, an' a fly-net an' the best o'
The yellow horse shut his yellow teeth with a triumphant snap;
and Tuck said, With a sigh: 'Seems's if somethin' ought to be
done. Don't seem right, somehow,- oppressin' us an all,- to my
way o' thinkin'."
Said Muldoon, in a far-away and sleepy voice:
"Who in Vermont's goin' to haul de inalienable oats? Dey weigh
like Sam Hill, an' sixty bushel at dat allowance ain't goin' to
last t'ree weeks here. An' dere's de winter hay for five
"We can settle those minor details when the great cause is won,"
said the yellow horse. "Let us return simply but grandly to our
inalienable rights - the right o' freedom on these yere verdant
hills, an' no invijjus distinctions o' track an' pedigree:"
"What in stables 'jer call an invijjus distinction?" said the
"Fer one thing, bein' a bloated, pampered trotter jest because
you happen to be raised that way, an' couldn't no more help
trottin' than eatin'."
"Do ye know anythin' about trotters?" said the Deacon.
"I've seen 'em trot. That was enough for me. I don't want to know
any more. Trottin' 's immoral."
"Waal, I'll tell you this much. They don't bloat, an' they don't
pamp - much. I don't hold out to be no trotter myself, though I
am free to say I had hopes that way - onct. But I do say, fer
I've seen 'em trained, that a trotter don't trot with his feet:
he trots with his head; an' he does more work - ef you know what
that is - in a week than you er your sire ever done in all your
lives. He's everlastingly at it, a trotter is; an' when he
isn't, he's studyin' haow. You seen 'em trot? Much you hev! You
was hitched to a rail, back o' the stand, in a buckboard with a
soap-box nailed on the slats, an' a frowzy buff'lo atop, while
your man peddled rum fer lemonade to little boys as thought they
was actin' manly, till you was both run off the track an' jailed
-you intoed, shufflin', sway-backed, wind-suckin' skate, you!"
"Don't get het up, Deacon," said Tweezy, quietly. "Now, suh,
would you consider a fox-trot, an' single-foot, an' rack, an'
pace, an' amble, distinctions not worth distinguishin'? I assuah
you, gentlemen, there was a time befo' I was afflicted in my hip,
if you'll pardon me, Miss Tuck, when I was quite celebrated in
Paduky for all those gaits; an in my opinion the Deacon's co'rect
when he says that a ho'se of any position in society gets his
gaits by his haid, an' not by - his, ah, limbs, Miss Tuck. I
reckon I'm very little good now, but I'm rememberin' the things I
used to do befo' I took to transpo'tin' real estate with the help
an' assistance of this gentleman here." He looked at Muldoon.
"Invijjus arterficial hind legs !" said the ex-carhorse, with a
grunt of contempt. "On de Belt Line we don't reckon no horse
wuth his keep 'less he kin switch de car off de track, run her
round on de cobbles, an' dump her in ag'in ahead o' de truck
what's blockin' him. Dere is a way o' swingin' yer quarters when
de driver says, 'Yank her out, boys!' dat takes a year to learn.
Onct yer git onter it, youse kin yank a cable-car outer a
manhole. I don't advertise myself for no circus-horse, but I
knew dat trick better than most, an' dey was good to me in de
stables, fer I saved time on de Belt - an' time's what dey hunt
in N' York."
"But the simple child o' nature-" the yellow horse began.
"Oh, go an' unscrew yer splints! You're talkin' through yer
bandages," said Muldoon, with a horse-laugh. "Dere ain't no
loose-box for de simple child o' nature on de Belt Line, wid de
Paris comin' in an' de Teutonic goin' out, an' de trucks an' de
coupe's sayin' things, an' de heavy freight movin' down fer de
Boston boat 'bout t'ree o'clock of an August afternoon, in de
middle of a hot wave when de fat Kanucks an' Western horses
drops dead on de block. De simple child o' nature had better
chase himself inter de water. Every man at de end of his lines
is mad or loaded or silly, an' de cop's madder an' loadeder an'
sillier than de rest. Dey all take it outer de horses. Dere's no
wavin' brooks ner ripplin' grass on de Belt Line. Run her out on
de cobbles wid de sparks flyin', an' stop when de cop slugs you
on de bone o' yer nose. Dat's N'York; see?
"I was always told s'ciety in Noo York was dreffle refined an'
high-toned," said Tuck. "We're lookin' to go there one o' these
days, Nip an' me."
"Oh, you won't see no Belt business where you'll go, miss. De man
dat wants you'll want bad, an' he'll summer you on Long Island
er at Newport, wid a winky-pinky silver harness an' an English
coachman. You'll make a star-hitch, you an' yer brother, miss.
But I guess you won't have no nice smooth bar bit. Dey checks
'em, an' dey bangs deir tails, an' dey bits 'em, de city folk,
an' dey says it's English, ye know, an' dey darsen't cut a horse
loose 'ca'se o' de cops. N' York's no place fer a horse, 'less
he's on de Belt, an' can go round wid de boys. Wisht I was in de
"But did you never stop to consider the degradin' servitood of it
all?" said the yellow horse.
"You don't stop on de Belt, cully. You're stopped. An' we was
all in de servitood business, man an' horse, an' Jimmy dat sold
de papers. Guess de passengers weren't out to grass neither, by
de way dey acted. I done my turn, an' I'm none o' Barnum's
crowd; but any horse dat's worked on de Belt four years don't
train wid no simple child o' nature - not by de whole length o'
"But can it be possible that with your experience, and at your
time of life, you do not believe that all horses are free and
equal?" said the yellow horse."Not till they're dead," Muldoon
answered quietly. "An' den it depends on de gross total o'
buttons an' mucilage dey gits outer youse at Barren Island."
"They tell me you're a prominent philosopher." The yellow horse
turned to Marcus. "Can you deny a basic and pivotal statement
such as this?"
"I don't deny anythin'," said Marcus Aurelius Antoninus,
cautiously; "but ef you ast me, I should say 'twuz more
different sorts o' clipped oats of a lie than anythin' I've had
my teeth into sence I wuz foaled."
"Are you a horse?" said the yellow horse.
"Them that knows me best 'low I am."
"Ain't I a horse?"
"Yep; one kind of""Then ain't you an' me equal?"
"How fer kin you go in a day to a loaded buggy, drawin' five
hundred pounds?" Marcus asked carelessly.
"That has nothing to do with the case," the yellow horse answered
"There's nothing I know hez more to do with the case," Marcus
"Kin ye yank a full car outer de tracks ten times in de mornin'?"
"Kin ye go to Keene - forty-two mile in an afternoon - with a
mate," said Rick; "an' turn out bright an' early next mornin'?"
"Was there evah any time in your careah, suh - I am not referrin'
to the present circumstances, but our mutual glorious past -
when you could carry a pretty girl to market hahnsome, an' let
her knit all the way on account o' the smoothness o' the
motion?" said Tweezy.
"Kin you keep your feet through the West River Bridge, with the
narrer-gage comin' in on one side, an' the Montreal flyer the
other, an' the old bridge teeterin' between?" said the Deacon.
"Kin you put your nose down on the cow-catcher of a locomotive
when you're waitin' at the depot an' let 'em play 'Curfew shall
not ring to-night' with the big brass bell?"
"Kin you hold back when the brichin' breaks? Kin you stop fer
orders when your nigh hind leg's over your trace an' ye feel
good of a frosty mornin'?" said Nip, who had only learned that
trick last winter, and thought it was the crown of horsely
"What's the use o' talk in'?" said Tedda Gabler, scornfully.
"What kin ye do?"
"I rely on my simple rights - the inalienable rights o' my
unfettered horsehood. An' I am proud to say I have never, since
my first shoes, lowered myself to obeyin' the will o' man."
"'Must ha' had a heap o' whips broke over yer yaller back," said
Tedda. "Hev ye found it paid any?"
"Sorrer has been my portion since the day I was foaled. Blows
an' boots an' whips an' insults - injury, outrage, an'
oppression. I would not endoor the degradin' badges o' servitood
that connect us with the buggy an' the farm-wagon."
"It's amazin' difficult to draw a buggy 'thout traces er collar
er breast-strap er somefin'," said Marcus. "A Power-machine for
sawin' wood is most the only thing there's no straps to. I've
helped saw 's much as three cord in an afternoon in a
Power-machine. Slep', too, most o' the time, I did; but 'tain't
half as interestin' ez goin' daown-taown in the Concord."
"Concord don't hender you goin' to sleep any," said Nip. "My
throat-lash! D'you remember when you lay down in the sharves
last week, waitin' at the piazza?
"Pshaw! That didn't hurt the sharves. They wuz good an' wide, an'
I lay down keerful. The folks kep' me hitched up nigh an hour
'fore they started; an' larfed - why, they all but lay down
themselves with larfin'. Say, Boney, if you've got to be hitched
to anything that goes on wheels, you've got to be hitched with
"Go an' jine a circus," said Muldoon, "an' walk on your hind
legs. All de horses dat knows too much to work [he pronounced it
"woik," New York fashion] jine de circus."
"I am not sayin' anythin' again' work," said the yellow horse;
"work is the finest thing in the world."
"'Seems too fine fer some of us," Tedda snorted.
"I only ask that each horse should work for himself, an' enjoy
the profit of his labours. Let him work intelligently, an' not
as a machine."
"There ain't no horse that works like a machine," Marcus began.
"There's no way o' workin' that doesn't mean goin' to pole er
single - they never put me in the Power-machine - er under
saddle," said Rick.
"Oh, shucks! We're talkin' same ez we graze," said Nip, "raound
an' raound in circles Rod, we hain't heard from you yet, an'
you've more know-how than any span here."
Rod, the off-horse of the pair, had been standing with one hip
lifted, like a tired cow; and you could only tell by the quick
flutter of the haw across his eye, from time to time, that he
was paying any attention to the argument. He thrust his jaw out
sidewise, as his habit is when he pulls, and changed his leg.
His voice was hard and heavy, and his ears were close to his
big, plain Hambletonian head.
"How old are you?" he said to the yellow horse.
"Nigh thirteen, I guess."
"Mean age; ugly age; I'm gettin' that way myself. How long hev ye
been pawin' this firefanged stable-litter?"
"If you mean my principles, I've held 'em sence I was three."
"Mean age; ugly age; teeth give heaps o' trouble then. 'Set a
colt to actin' crazy fer a while. You've kep' it up, seemin'ly.
D'ye talk much to your neighbours fer a steady thing?"
"I uphold the principles o' the Cause wherever I am pastured."
"'Done a heap o' good, I guess?"
"I am proud to say I have taught a few of my companions the
principles o' freedom an' liberty."
"Meanin' they ran away er kicked when they got the chanst?"
"I was talkin' in the abstrac', an' not in the concrete. My
teachin's educated them."
"What a horse, specially a young horse, hears in the abstrac',
he's liable to do in the Concord. You was handled late, I
Four, risin' five."
"That's where the trouble began. Driv' by a woman, like ez not -
"Not fer long," said the yellow horse, with a snap of his teeth.
"I heerd she never drove again."
"Buckboards full of 'em."
"I have shed conside'ble men in my time."
"Any way that come along. Fallin' back over the dash is as handy
"They must be turr'ble afraid o' you daowntaown?"
"They've sent me here to get rid o' me. I guess they spend their
time talkin' over my campaigns.""I wanter know!"
"Yes, sir. Now, all you gentlemen have asked me what I can do.
I'll just show you. See them two fellers lyin' down by the
"Yep; one of 'em owns me. T'other broke me," said Rod.
"Get 'em out here in the open, an' I'll show you something. Lemme
hide back o' you peoples, so 's they won't see what I'm at."
"Meanin' ter kill 'em?" Rod drawled. There was a shudder of
horror through the others; but the yellow horse never noticed.
"I'll catch 'em by the back o' the neck, an' pile-drive 'em a
piece. They can suit 'emselves about livin' when I'm through
"'Shouldn't wonder ef they did," said Rod. The yellow horse had
hidden himself very cleverly behind the others as they stood in
a group, and was swaying his head close to the ground with a
curious scythe-like motion, looking side-wise out of his wicked
eyes. You can never mistake a man-eater getting ready to knock
a man down. We had had one to pasture the year before.
"See that?" said my companion, turning over on the pine-needles.
"Nice for a woman walking 'cross lots, wouldn't it be?"
"Bring 'em out!" said the yellow horse, hunching his sharp back.
"There's no chance among them tall trees. Bring out the - oh!
It was a right-and-left kick from Muldoon. I had no idea that
the old car-horse could lift so quickly. Both blows caught the
yellow horse full and fair in the ribs, and knocked the breath
out of him.
"What's that for?" he said angrily, when he recovered himself;
but I noticed he did not draw any nearer to Muldoon than was
Muldoon never answered, but discoursed to himself in the whining
grunt that he uses when he is going down-hill in front of a
heavy load. We call it singing; but I think it's something much
worse, really. The yellow horse blustered and squealed a little,
and at last said that, if it was a horse-fly that had stung
Muldoon, he would accept an apology.
"You'll get it," said Muldoon, "in de sweet by-and-bye - all de
apology you've any use for. Excuse me interruptin' you, Mr. Rod,
but I'm like Tweezy - I've a Southern drawback in me hind legs."
"Naow, I want you all here to take notice, an' you'll learn
something," Rod went on. "This yaller-backed skate comes to our
"Not havin' paid his board," put in Tedda.
"Not havin' earned his board, an' talks smooth to us abaout
ripplin' brooks an' wavin' grass, an' his high-toned,
pure-souled horsehood, which don't hender him sheddin' women an'
childern, an' fallin' over the dash onter men. You heard his
talk, an' you thought it mighty fine, some o' you."
Tuck looked guilty here, but she did not say anything.
"Bit by bit he goes on ez you have heard."
"I was talkin' in the abstrac'," said the yellow horse, in an
"Abstrac' be switched! Ez I've said, it's this yer blamed
abstrac' business that makes the young uns cut up in the
Concord; an' abstrac' or no abstrac', he crep' on an' on till he
come to killin' plain an' straight - killin' them as never done
him no harm, jest beca'se they owned horses."
"An' knowed how to manage 'em," said Tedda. That makes it worse."
Waal, he didn't kill 'em, anyway," said Marcus. "He'd ha' been
half killed ef he had tried."
"'Makes no differ," Rod answered. "He meant to; an' ef he hadn't
- s'pose we want the Back Pasture turned into a biffin'-ground
on our only day er rest? 'S'pose we want our men walkin' round
with bits er lead pipe an' a twitch, an' their hands full o'
stones to throw at us, same 's if we wuz hogs er hooky keows?
More'n that, leavin' out Tedda here - an' I guess it's more her
maouth than her manners stands in her light -there ain't a horse
on this farm that ain't a woman's horse, an' proud of it. An'
this yer bogspavined Kansas sunflower goes up an' daown the
length o' the country, traded off an' traded on, boastin' as
he's shed women —an' childern. I don't say as a woman in a buggy
ain't a fool. I don't say as she ain't the lastin'est kind er
fool, ner I don't say a child ain't worse - spattin' the lines
an' standin' up an' hollerin' - but I do say, 'tain't none of
our business to shed 'em daown the road.""We don't," said the
Deacon. "The baby tried to git some o' my tail for a sooveneer
last fall when I was up to the haouse, an' I didn't kick. Boney's
talk ain't goin' to hurt us any. We ain't colts."
"Thet's what you think Bimeby you git into a tight corner,
'Lection day er Valley Fair, like 's not, daown-taown, when
you're all het an' lathery, an' pestered with flies, an'
thirsty, an' sick o' bein' worked in an aout 'tween buggies.
Then somethin' whispers inside o' your winkers, bringin' up all
that talk abaout servitood an' inalienable truck an' sech like,
an' jest then a Militia gun goes off; er your wheels hit, an' -
waal, you're only another horse ez can't be trusted. I've been
there time an' again. Boys - fer I've seen you all bought er
broke - on my solemn repitation fer a three-minute clip, I ain't
givin' you no bran-mash o' my own fixin'. I'm tellin' you my
experiences, an' I've had ez heavy a load an' ez high a check 's
any horse here. I wuz born with a splint on my near fore ez big
's a walnut, an' the cussed, three-cornered Hambletonian temper
that sours up an' curdles daown ez you git older. I've favoured
my splint; even little Rick he don't know what it's cost me to
keep my end up sometimes; an' I've fit my temper in stall an'
harness, hitched up an' at pasture, till the sweat trickled off
my hooves, an' they thought I wuz off condition, an' drenched
"When my affliction came," said Tweezy, gently, "I was very near
to losin' my manners. Allow me to extend to you my sympathy,
Rick said nothing, but he looked at Rod curiously. Rick is a
sunny-tempered child who never bears malice, and I don't think
he quite understood. He gets his temper from his mother, as a
"I've been there too, Rod," said Tedda. "Open confession's good
for the soul, an' all Monroe County knows I've had my
"But if you will excuse me, suh, that pusson"-Tweezy looked
unspeakable things aat the yellow horse - "that pusson who has
insulted our intelligences comes from Kansas. An' what a ho'se
of his position, an' Kansas at that, says cannot, by any stretch
of the halter, concern gentlemen of our position. There's no
shadow of equal'ty, suh, not even for one kick. He's beneath our
"Let him talk," said Marcus. "It's always interestin' to know
what another horse thinks. It don't tech us."
"An' he talks so, too," said Tuck. "I've never heard anythin' so
smart for a long time."
Again Rod stuck out his jaws sidewise, and went on slowly, as
though he were slugging on a plain bit at the end of a
"I want all you here ter understand thet ther ain't no Kansas,
ner no Kentucky, ner yet no Vermont, in our business. There's
jest two kind o' horse in the United States-them ez can an' will
do their work after bein' properly broke an' handled, an' them as
won't. I'm sick an' tired o' this everlastin' tail-switchin' an'
wickerin' abaout one State er another. A horse kin be proud o'
his State, an' swap lies abaout it in stall or when he's hitched
to a block, ef he keers to put in fly-time that way; but he
hain't no right to let that pride o' hisn interfere with his
work, ner to make it an excuse fer claimin' he's different.
That's colts' talk, an' don't you fergit it, Tweezy. An',
Marcus,you remember that hem' a philosopher, an' anxious to save
trouble,- fer you ate,- don't excuse you from jumpin' with all
your feet on a slack-jawed, crazy clay-bank like Boney here. It's
leavin' 'em alone that gives 'em their chance to ruin colts an'
kill folks. An', Tuck, waal, you're a mare anyways - but when a
horse comes along an' covers up all his talk o' killin' with
ripplin' brooks, an wavin grass, an' eight quarts of oats a day
free, after killn' his man, don't you be run away with by his
yap. You're too young an' too nervous."
"I'll - I'll have nervous prostration sure ef there's a fight
here," said Tuck, who saw what was in Rod's eye; "I'm - I'm that
sympathetic I'd run away clear to next caounty."
"Yep; I know that kind o' sympathy. Jest lasts long enough to
start a fuss, an' then lights aout to make new trouble. I hain't
been ten years in harness fer nuthin'. Naow, we're goin' to keep
school with Boney fer a spell."
"Say, look a-here, you ain't goin' to hurt me, are you?
Remember, I belong to a man in town," cried the yellow horse,
uneasily. Muldoon kept behind him so that he could not run away.
"I know it. There must be some pore delooded fool in this State
hez a right to the loose end o' your hitchin'-strap. I'm blame
sorry fer him, but he shall hev his rights when we're through
with you," said Rod.
If it's all the same, gentlemen, I'd ruther change pasture.
'Guess I'll do it now."
"'Can't always have your 'druthers. 'Guess you won't," said Rod.
"But look a-here. All of you ain't so blame unfriendly to a
stranger. S'pose we count noses."
"What in Vermont fer?" said Rod, putting up his eyebrows. The
idea of settling a question by counting noses is the very last
thing that ever enters the head of a well-broken horse.
"To see how many's on my side. Here's Miss Tuck, anyway; an'
Colonel Tweezy yonder's neutral; an' Judge Marcus, an' I guess
the Reverend [the yellow horse meant the Deacon] might see that
I had my rights. He's the likeliest-lookin' Trotter I've ever
set eyes on. Pshaw. Boys. You ain't goin' to pound me, be
youyou? Why, we've gone round in pasture, all colts together,
this month ' Sundays, hain't we, as friendly as could be. There
ain't a horse alive I don't care who he is - has a higher
opinion o' you, Mr. Rod, than I have. Let's do it fair an' true
an' above the exe. Let's count noses same 's they do in
Kansas." Here he dropped his voice a little and turned to
Marcus: "Say, Judge, there's some green food I know, back o' the
brook, no one hain't touched yet. After this little fracas is
fixed up, you an' me'll make up a party an' 'tend to it."Marcus
did not answer for a long time, then he said: "There's a pup up
to the haouse 'bout eight weeks old. He'll yap till he gits a
lickin', an' when he sees it comin' he lies on his back, an'
yowls. But he don't go through no cirkituous nose-countin' first.
I've seen a noo light sence Rod spoke. You'll better stand up to
what's served. I'm goin' to philosophise all over your carcass."
I'm goin' to do yer up in brown paper," said Muldoon. "I can fit
you on apologies."
"Hold on. Ef we all biffed you now, these same men you've been
so dead anxious to kill 'u'd call us off. 'Guess we'll wait till
they go back to the haouse, an' you'll have time to think cool
an' quiet," said Rod.
"Have you no respec' whatever fer the dignity o' our common
horsehood?" the yellow horse squealed.
"Nary respec' onless the horse kin do something. America's paved
with the kind er horse you are -jist plain yaller-dog horse -
waitin' ter be whipped inter shape. We call 'em yearlings an'
colts when they're young. When they're aged we pound 'em - in
this pastur'. Horse, sonny, is what you start from. We know all
about horse here, an' he ain't any high-toned, pure souled child
o' nature. Horse, plain horse, same ez you, is chock-full o'
tricks, an' meannesses, an' cussednesses, an' shirkin's, an'
monkey-shines, which he's took over from his sire an' his dam,
an' thickened up with his own special fancy in the way o' goin'
crooked. Thet's horse, an' thet's about his dignity an' the size
of his soul 'fore he's been broke an' rawhided a piece. Now we
ain't goin' to give ornery unswitched horse, that hain't done
nawthin' wuth a quart of oats sence he wuz foaled, pet names
that would be good enough fer Nancy Hanks, or Alix, or Directum,
who hev. Don't you try to back off acrost them rocks. Wait where
you are! Ef I let my Hambletonian temper git the better o' me I'd
frazzle you out finer than rye-straw inside o' three minutes, you
woman-scarin', kid-killin', dash-breakin', unbroke, unshod,
ungaited, pastur'-hoggin', saw-backed, shark-mouthed,
hair-trunk-thrown-in-in-trade son of a bronco an' a
" I think we'd better get home," I said to my companion, when Rod
had finished; and we climbed into the coupe, Tedda whinnying, as
we bumped over the ledges: "Well, I'm dreffle sorry I can't stay
fer the sociable; but I hope an' trust my friends'll take a
ticket fer me."
"Bet your natchul!" said Muldoon, cheerfully, and the horses
scattered before us, trotting into the ravine.
Next morning we sent back to the livery-stable what was left of
the yellow horse. It seemed tired, but anxious to go.
End of "A WALKING DELEGATE"
THE SHIP THAT FOUND HERSELF
It was her first voyage, and though she was but a cargo-steamer
of twenty-five hundred tons, she was the very best of her kind,
the outcome of forty years of experiments and improvements in
framework and machinery; and her designers and owner thought as
much of her as though she had been the Lucania. Any one can make
a floating hotel that will pay expenses, if he puts enough money
into the saloon, and charges for private baths, suites of rooms,
and such like; but in these days of competition and low freights
every square inch of a cargo-boat must be built for cheapness,
great hold-capacity, and a certain steady speed. This boat was,
perhaps, two hundred and forty feet long and thirty-two feet
wide, with arrangements that enabled her to carry cattle on her
main and sheep on her upper deck if she wanted to; but her great
glory was the amount of cargo that she could store away in her
holds. Her owners -they were a very well known Scotch firm came
round with her from the north, where she had been launched and
christened and fitted, to Liverpool, where she was to take cargo
for New York; and the owner's daughter, Miss Frazier, went to and
fro on the clean decks, admiring the new paint and the brass
work, and the patent winches, and particularly the strong,
straight bow, over which she had cracked a bottle of champagne
when she named the steamer the Dimbula. It was a beautiful
September afternoon, and the boat in all her newness she was
painted lead-colour with a red funnel - looked very fine indeed.
Her house-flag was flying, and her whistle from time to time
acknowledged the salutes of friendly boats, who saw that she was
new to the High and Narrow Seas and wished to make her welcome.
"And now," said Miss Frazier, delightedly, to the captain, "she's
a real ship, isn't she? It seems only the other day father gave
the order for her, and now - and now - isn't she a beauty!" The
girl was proud of the firm, and talked as though she were the
"Oh, she's no so bad," the skipper replied cautiously. "But I'm
sayin' that it takes more than christenin' to mak' a ship. In
the nature o' things, Miss Frazier, if ye follow me, she's just
irons and rivets and plates put into the form of a ship. She has
to find herself yet."
"I thought father said she was exceptionally well found.""So she
is, said the skipper, with a laugh. "But it's this way wi'
ships, Miss Frazier. She's all here, but the parrts of her have
not learned to work together yet. They've had no chance."
"The engines are working beautifully. I can hear them."
"Yes, indeed. But there's more than engines to a ship. Every
inch of her, ye'll understand, has to be livened up and made to
work wi' its neighbour - sweetenin' her, we call it,
"And how will you do it?" the girl asked.
"We can no more than drive and steer her and so forth; but if we
have rough weather this trip - it's likely - she'll learn the
rest by heart! For a ship, ye'll obsairve, Miss Frazier, is in
no sense a reegid body closed at both ends. She's a highly
complex structure o' various an' conflictin' strains, wi'
tissues that must give an' tak' accordin' to her personal
modulus of elasteecity." Mr. Buchanan, the chief engineer, was
coming towards them. "I'm sayin' to Miss Frazier, here, that our
little Dimbula has to be sweetened yet, and nothin' but a gale
will do it. How's all wi' your engines, Buck?"
"Well enough - true by plumb an' rule, o' course; but there's no
spontaneeity yet." He turned to the girl. "Take my word, Miss
Frazier, and maybe ye'll comprehend later; even after a pretty
girl's christened a ship it does not follow that there's such a
thing as a ship under the men that work her."
"I was sayin' the very same, Mr. Buchanan," the skipper
"That's more metaphysical than I can follow," said Miss Frazier,
"Why so? Ye're good Scotch, an'- I knew your mother's father, he
was fra' Dumfries - ye've a vested right in metapheesics, Miss
Frazier, just as ye have in the Dimbula," the engineer said.
"Eh, well, we must go down to the deep watters, an' earn Miss
Frazier her deevidends. Will you not come to my cabin for tea?"
said the skipper. "We'll be in dock the night, and when you're
goin' back to Glasgie ye can think of us loadin' her down an'
drivin' her forth - all for your sake."
In the next few days they stowed some four thousand tons
dead-weight into the Dimbula, and took her out from Liverpool.
As soon as she met the lift of the open water, she naturally
began to talk. If you lay your ear to the side of the cabin,
the next time you are in a steamer, you will hear hundreds of
little voices in every direction, thrilling and buzzing, and
whispering and popping, and gurgling and sobbing and squeaking
exactly like a telephone in a thunder-storm. Wooden ships
shriek and growl and grunt, but iron vessels throb and quiver
through all their hundreds of ribs and thousands of rivets. The
Dimbula was very strongly built, and every piece of her had a
letter or a number, or both, to describe it; and every piece had
been hammered, or forged, or rolled, or punched by man, and had
lived in the roar and rattle of the shipyard for months.
Therefore, every piece had its own separate voice, in exact
proportion to the amount of trouble spent upon it. Cast-iron, as
a rule, says very little; but mild steel plates and
wrought-iron, and ribs and beams that have been much bent and
welded and riveted, talk continuously. Their conversation, of
course, is not half as wise as our human talk, because they are
all, though they do not know it, bound down one to the other in
a black darkness, where they cannot tell what is happening near
them, nor what will overtake them next.
As soon as she had cleared the Irish coast, a sullen, grey-headed
old wave of the Atlantic climbed leisurely over her straight
bows, and sat down on the steam-capstan used for hauling up the
anchor. Now the capstan and the engine that drove it had been
newly painted red and green; besides which, nobody likes being
"Don't you do that again," the capstan sputtered through the
teeth of his cogs. "Hi! Where's the fellow gone?"
The wave had slouched overside with a plop and a chuckle; but
"Plenty more where he came from," said a brother-wave, and went
through and over the capstan, who was bolted firmly to an iron
plate on the iron deck-beams below.
"Can't you keep still up there?" said the deckbeams. "What's the
matter with you? One minute you weigh twice as much as you
ought to, and the next you don't!"
"It isn't my fault," said the capstan. "There's a green brute
outside that comes and hits me on the head."
"Tell that to the shipwrights. You've been in position for months
and you've never wriggled like this before. If you aren't
careful you'll strain us."
"Talking of strain," said a low, rasping, unpleasant voice, are
any of you fellows - you deck-beams, we mean - aware that those
exceedingly ugly knees of yours happen to be riveted into our
structure - ours?"
"Who might you be?" the deck-beams inquired.
"Oh, nobody in particular," was the answer. "We're only the port
and starboard upper-deck stringers; and if you persist in
heaving and hiking like this, we shall be reluctantly compelled
to take steps."
Now the stringers of the ship are long iron girders, so to speak,
that run lengthways from stern to bow. They keep the iron frames
(what are called ribs in a wooden ship) in place, and also help
to hold the ends of the deck-beams, which go from side to side of
the ship. Stringers always consider themselves most important,
because they are so long.
"You will take steps - will you?" This was a long echoing
rumble. It came from the frames - scores and scores of them,
each one about eighteen inches distant from the next, and each
riveted to the stringers in four places. "We think you will have
a certain amount of trouble in that"; and thousands and
thousands of the little rivets that held everything together
whispered: "You Will! You will! Stop quivering and be quiet.
Hold on, brethren! Hold on! Hot Punches! What's that?"
Rivets have no teeth, so they cannot chatter with fright; but
they did their best as a fluttering jar swept along the ship
from stern to bow, and she shook like a rat in a terrier's
An unusually severe pitch, for the sea was rising, had lifted the
big throbbing screw nearly to the surface, and it was spinning
round in a kind of soda-water - half sea and half air - going
much faster than was proper, because there was no deep water for
it to work in. As it sank again, the engines - and they were
triple expansion, three cylinders in a row - snorted through all
their three pistons. "Was that a joke, you fellow outside?It's an
uncommonly poor one. How are we to do our work if you fly off the
handle that way?"
"I didn't fly off the handle," said the screw, twirling huskily
at the end of the screw-shaft. "If I had, you'd have been
scrap-iron by this time. The sea dropped away from under me, and
I had nothing to catch on to. That's all."
That's all, d'you call it?" said the thrust-block, whose
business it is to take the push of the screw; for if a screw had
nothing to hold it back it would crawl right into the
engine-room. (It is the holding back of the screwing action
that gives the drive to a ship.) "I know I do my work deep down
and out of sight, but I warn you I expect justice. All I ask for
is bare justice. Why can't you push steadily and evenly, instead
of whizzing like a whirligig, and making me hot under all my
collars?" The thrust-block had six collars, each faced with
brass, and he did not wish to get them heated.
All the bearings that supported the fifty feet of screw-shaft as
it ran to the stern whispered: "Justice - give us justice."
"I can only give you what I can get," the screw answered. "Look
out! It's coming again!"
He rose with a roar as the Dimbula plunged, and "whack - flack -
whack - whack" went the engines, furiously, for they had little
to check them.
"I'm the noblest outcome of human ingenuity - Mr. Buchanan says
so," squealed the high-pressure cylinder. "This is simply
ridiculous!" The piston went up savagely, and choked, for half
the steam behind it was mixed with dirty water. "Help! Oiler!
Fitter! Stoker! Help I'm choking," it gasped."Never in the
history of maritime invention has such a calamity over-taken one
so young and strong. And if I go, who's to drive the ship?"
"Hush! oh, hush!" whispered the Steam, who, of course, had been
to sea many times before. He used to spend his leisure ashore in
a cloud, or a gutter, or a flower-pot, or a thunder-storm, or
anywhere else where water was needed. "That's only a little
priming, a little carrying-over, as they call it. It'll happen
all night, on and off. I don't say it's nice, but it's the best
we can do under the circumstances."
"What difference can circumstances make ~. I'm here to do my work
- on clean, dry steam. Blow circumstances!" the cylinder roared.
"The circumstances will attend to the blowing. I've worked on the
North Atlantic run a good many times - it's going to be rough
"It isn't distressingly calm now," said the extra strong frames -
they were called web-frames - in the engine-room. "There's an
upward thrust that we don't understand, and there's a twist that
is very bad for our brackets and diamond- plates, and there's a
sort of west-northwesterly pull, that follows the twist, which
seriously annoys us. We mention this because we happened to cost
a good deal of money, and we feel sure that the owner would not
approve of our being treated in this frivolous way."
I'm afraid the matter is out of owner's hands for the present,"
said the Steam, slipping into the condenser. "You're left to
your own devices till the weather betters."
"I wouldn't mind the weather," said a flat bass voice below;
"it's this confounded cargo that's breaking my heart. I'm the
garboard-strake, and I'm twice as thick as most of the others,
and I ought to know something."
The garboard-strake is the lowest plate in the bottom of a ship,
and the Dimbula's garboardstrake was nearly three-quarters of an
inch mild steel.
"The sea pushes me up in a way I should never have expected," the
strake grunted, "and the cargo pushes me down, and, between the
two, I don't know what I'm supposed to do."
"When in doubt, hold on," rumbled the Steam, making head in the
"Yes; but there's only dark, and cold, and hurry, down here; and
how do I know whether the other plates are doing their duty?
Those bulwark-plates up above, I've heard, ain't more than
five-sixteenths of an inch thick -scandalous, I call it."
"I agree with you," said a huge web-frame, by the main
cargo-hatch. He was deeper and thicker than all the others, and
curved half-way across the ship in the shape of half an arch, to
support the deck where deck-beams would have been in the way of
cargo coming up and down. "I work entirely unsupported, and I
observe that I am the sole strength of this vessel, so far as my
vision extends. The responsibility, I assure you, is enormous.
I believe the money-value of the cargo is over one hundred and
fifty thousand pounds. Think of that!"
"And every pound of it is dependent on my personal exertions."
Here spoke a sea-valve that communicated directly with the water
outside, and was seated not very far from the garboard-strake.
"I rejoice to think that I am a Prince-Hyde Valve, with best Para
rubber facings. Five patents cover me - I mention this without
pride - five separate and several patents, each one finer than
the other. At present I am screwed fast. Should I open, you
would immediately be swamped. This is incontrovertible!"
Patent things always use the longest words they can. It is a
trick that they pick up from their inventors.
"That's news," said a big centrifugal bilge-pump. "I had an idea
that you were employed to clean decks and things with. At
least, I've used you for that more than once. I forget the
precise number, in thousands, of gallons which I am guaranteed
to throw per hour; but I assure you, my complaining friends,
that there is not the least danger. I alone am capable of
clearing any water that may find its way here. By my Biggest
Deliveries, we pitched then!"
The sea was getting up in workmanlike style. It was a dead
westerly gale, blown from under a ragged opening of green sky,
narrowed on all sides by fat, grey clouds; and the wind bit like
pincers as it fretted the spray into lacework on the flanks of
"I tell you what it is," the foremast telephoned down its
wire-stays. "I'm up here, and I can take a dispassionate view
of things. There's an organised conspiracy against us. I'm
sure of it, because every single one of these waves is heading
directly for our bows. The whole sea is concerned in it - and
so's the wind. It's awful!"
"What's awful?" said a wave, drowning the capstan for the
"This organised conspiracy on your part," the capstan gurgled,
taking his cue from the mast."Organised bubbles and spindrift!
There has been a depression in the Gulf of Mexico. Excuse me!" He
leaped overside; but his friends took up the tale one after
"Which has advanced - "That wave hove green water over the
"As far as Cape Hatteras -" He drenched the bridge.
"And is now going out to sea - to sea - to sea!" The third went
out in three surges, making a clean sweep of a boat, which
turned bottom up and sank in the darkening troughs alongside,
while the broken falls whipped the davits.
"That's all there is to it," seethed the white water roaring
through the scuppers. " There's no animus in our proceedings.
We're only meteorological corollaries."
"Is it going to get any worse?" said the bow-anchor chained down
to the deck, where he could only breathe once in five minutes.
"'Not knowing, can't say. Wind may blow a bit by midnight.
Thanks awfully. Good-bye."
The wave that spoke so politely had travelled some distance aft,
and found itself all mixed up on the deck amidships, which was a
well-deck sunk between high bulwarks. One of the bulwark-plates,
which was hung on hinges to open outward, had swung out, and
passed the bulk of the water back to the sea again with a clean
"Evidently that's what I'm made for," said the plate, closing
again with a sputter of pride. "Oh, no, you don't, my friend!"
The top of a wave was trying to get in from the outside, but as
the plate did not open in that direction, the defeated water
"Not bad for five-sixteenths of an inch," said the bulwark-plate.
"My work, I see, is laid down for the night"; and it began
opening and shutting, as it was designed to do, with the motion
of the ship.
"We are not what you might call idle," groaned all the frames
together, as the Dimbula climbed a big wave, lay on her side at
the top, and shot into the next hollow, twisting in the descent.
A huge swell pushed up exactly under her middle, and her bow and
stern hung free with nothing to support them. Then one joking
wave caught her up at the bow, and another at the stern, while
the rest of the water slunk away from under her just to see how
she would like it; so she was held up at her two ends only, and
the weight of the cargo and the machinery fell on the groaning
iron keels and bilge-stringers.
"Ease off! Ease off; there!" roared the garboard-strake. "I want
one-eighth of an inch fair play. D' you hear me, you rivets!"
"Ease off! Ease off!" cried the bilge-stringers. "Don't hold us
so tight to the frames!"
"Ease off!" grunted the deck-beams, as the Dimbula rolled
fearfully. "You've cramped our knees into the stringers, and we
can't move. Ease off; you flat-headed little nuisances."
Then two converging seas hit the bows, one on each side, and fell
away in torrents of streaming thunder.
"Ease off!" shouted the forward collision-bulkhead. "I want to
crumple up, but I'm stiffened in every direction. Ease off; you
dirty little forge-filings. Let me breathe!"
All the hundreds of plates that are riveted to the frames, and
make the outside skin of every steamer, echoed the call, for
each plate wanted to shift and creep a little, and each plate,
according to its position, complained against the rivets.
"We can't help it! We can't help it!" they murmured in reply.
"We're put here to hold you, and we're going to do it; you never
pull us twice in the same direction. If you'd say what you were
going to do next, we'd try to meet your views.
"As far as I could feel," said the upper-deck planking, and that
was four inches thick, "every single iron near me was pushing or
pulling in opposite directions. Now, what's the sense of that? My
friends, let us all pull together."
"Pull any way you please," roared the funnel, "so long as you
don't try your experiments on me. I need fourteen wire-ropes,
all pulling in different directions, to hold me steady. Isn't
We believe you, my boy!" whistled the funnel-stays through their
clinched teeth, as they twanged in the wind from the top of the
funnel to the deck.
"Nonsense! We must all pull together," the decks repeated.
"Very good," said the stringers; "then stop pushing sideways when
you get wet. Be content to run gracefully fore and aft, and
curve in at the ends as we do."
"No - no curves at the end. A very slight workmanlike curve from
side to side, with a good grip at each knee, and little pieces
welded on," said the deck-beams.
"Fiddle!" cried the iron pillars of the deep, dark hold. "Who
ever heard of curves? Stand up straight; be a perfectly round
column, and carry tons of good solid weight - like that! There!"
A big sea smashed on the deck above, and the pillars stiffened
themselves to the load.
"Straight up and down is not bad," said the frames, who ran that
way in the sides of the ship, "but you must also expand
yourselves sideways. Expansion is the law of life, children.
Open out! open out!"
"Come back!" said the deck-beams, savagely, as the upward heave
of the sea made the frames try to open. "Come back to your
bearings, you slack-jawed irons!"
"Rigidity! Rigidity! Rigidity!" thumped the engines. "Absolute,
unvarying rigidity -rigidity!"
"You see!" whined the rivets, in chorus. "No two of you will ever
pull alike, and - and you blame it all on us. We only know how
to go through a plate and bite down on both sides so that it
can't, and mustn't, and sha'n't move."
"I've got one fraction of an inch play, at any rate," said the
garboard-strake, triumphantly. So he had, and all the bottom of
the ship felt the easier for it.
"Then we're no good," sobbed the bottom rivets. "We were ordered
- we were ordered -never to give; and we've given, and the sea
will come in, and we'll all go to the bottom together! First
we're blamed for everything unpleasant, and now we haven't the
consolation of having done our work."
"Don't say I told you," whispered the Steam, consolingly; "but,
between you and me and the last cloud I came from, it was bound
to happen sooner or later. You had to give a fraction, and
you've given without knowing it. Now, hold on, as before."
"What's the use?" a few hundred rivets chattered. "We've given -
we've given; and the sooner we confess that we can't keep the
ship together, and go off our little heads, the easier it will
be. No rivet forged can stand this strain."
"No one rivet was ever meant to. Share it among you," the Steam
answered."The others can have my share. I'm going to pull out,"
said a rivet in one of the forward plates.
"If you go, others will follow," hissed the Steam. "There's
nothing so contagious in a boat as rivets going. Why, I knew a
little chap like you - he was an eighth of an inch fatter,
though - on a steamer - to be sure, she was only twelve hundred
tons, now I come to think of it in exactly the same place as you
are. He pulled out in a bit of a bobble of a sea, not half as
bad as this, and he started all his friends on the same
butt-strap, and the plates opened like a furnace door, and I had
to climb into the nearest fog-bank, while the boat went down."
"Now that's peculiarly disgraceful," said the rivet. "Fatter than
me, was he, and in a steamer not half our tonnage? Reedy little
peg! I blush for the family, sir." He settled himself more
firmly than ever in his place, and the Steam chuckled.
"You see," he went on, quite gravely, " a rivet, and especially a
rivet in your position, is really the one indispensable part of
The Steam did not say that be had whispered the very same thing
to every single piece of iron aboard. There is no sense in
telling too much.
And all that while the little Dimbula pitched and chopped, and
swung and slewed, and lay down as though she were going to die,
and got up as though she had been stung, and threw her nose
round and round in circles half a dozen times as she dipped, for
the gale was at its worst. It was inky black, in spite of the
tearing white froth on the waves, and, to top everything, the
rain began to fall in sheets, so that you could not see your hand
before your face. This did not make much difference to the
ironwork below, but it troubled the foremast a good deal.
"Now it's all finished," he said dismally. "The conspiracy is too
strong for us. There is nothing left but to -"
"Hurraar! Brrrraaah! Brrrrrrp!" roared the Steam through the
fog-horn, till the decks quivered. "Don't be frightened, below.
It's only me, just throwing out a few words, in case any one
happens to be rolling round to-night."
"You don't mean to say there's any one except us on the sea in
such weather?" said the funnel, in a husky snuffle.
"Scores of 'em," said the Steam, clearing its throat. "Rrrrrraaa!
Brraaaaa! Prrrrp! It's a trifle windy up here; and, Great
Boilers! how it rains!"
"We're drowning," said the scuppers. They had been doing nothing
else all night, but this steady thrash of rain above them seemed
to be the end of the world.
"That's all right. We'll be easier in an hour or two. First the
wind and then the rain: Soon you may make sail again!
Grrraaaaaah! Drrrraaaa! Drrrp! I have a notion that the sea is
going down already. If it does you'll learn something about
rolling. We've only pitched till now. By the way, aren't you
chaps in the hold a little easier than you were?"
There was just as much groaning and straining as ever, but it was
not so loud or squeaky in tone; and when the ship quivered she
did not jar stiffly, like a poker hit on the floor, but gave
with a supple little waggle, like a perfectly balanced
"We have made a most amazing discovery," said the stringers, one
after another. "A discovery that entirely changes the situation.
We have found, for the first time in the history of
ship-building, that the inward pull of the deck-beams and the
outward thrust of the frames locks us, as it were, more closely
in our places, and enables us to endure a strain which is
entirely without parallel in the records of marine
The Steam turned a laugh quickly into a roar up the fog-horn.
"What massive intellects you great stringers have," he said
softly, when he had finished.
"We also," began the deck-beams, "are discoverers and geniuses.
We are of opinion that the support of the hold-pillars
materially helps us. We find that we lock up on them when we
are subjected to a heavy and singular weight of sea above."
Here the Dimbula shot down a hollow, lying almost on her side;
righting at the bottom with a wrench and a spasm.
"In these cases - are you aware of this, Steam? - the plating at
the bows, and particularly at the stern - we would also mention
the floors beneath us - help us to resist any tendency to
spring." The frames spoke, in the solemn awed voice which people
use when they have just come across something entirely new for
the very first time.
"I'm only a poor puffy little flutterer," said the Steam, "but I
have to stand a good deal of pressure in my business. It's all
tremendously interesting. Tell us some more. You fellows are so
"Watch us and you'll see," said the bow-plates, proudly. "Ready,
behind there! Here's the father and mother of waves coming! Sit
tight, rivets all!" A great sluicing comber thundered by, but
through the scuffle and confusion the Steam could hear the low,
quick cries of the ironwork as the various strains took them -
cries like these: "Easy, now - easy! Now push for all your
strength! Hold out! Give a fraction! Hold up! Pull in! Shove
crossways! Mind the strain at the ends! Grip, now! Bite tight!
Let the water get away from under - and there she goes!"
The wave raced off into the darkness, shouting, "Not bad, that,
if it's your first run!" and the drenched and ducked ship
throbbed to the beat of the engines inside her. All three
cylinders were white with the salt spray that had come down
through the engine-room hatch; there was white fur on the
canvas-bound steam-pipes, and even the bright-work deep below
was speckled and soiled; but the cylinders had learned to make
the most of steam that was half water, and were pounding along
"How's the noblest outcome of human ingenuity hitting it?" said
the Steam, as he whirled through the engine-room.
"Nothing for nothing in this world of woe," the cylinders
answered, as though they had been working for centuries, "and
precious little for seventy-five pounds head. We've made two
knots this last hour and a quarter! Rather humiliating for eight
hundred horse-power, isn't it?"
"Well, it's better than drifting astern, at any rate. You seem
rather less - how shall I put it - stiff in the back than you
"If you'd been hammered as we've been this night, you wouldn't be
stiff- iff- iff; either. Theoreti - retti - retti - cally, of
course, rigidity is the thing. Purrr - purr - practically, there
has to be a little give and take. We found that out by working on
our sides for five minutes at a stretch - chch - chh. How's the
"'Sea's going down fast," said the Steam.
"Good business," said the high-pressure cylinder. "Whack her up,
boys. They've given us five pounds more steam"; and he began
humming the first bars of "Said the young Obadiah to the old
Obadiah," which, as you may have noticed, is a pet tune among
engines not built for high speed. Racing-liners with twin-screws
sing "The Turkish Patrol" and the overture to the "Bronze
Horse," and "Madame Angot," till something goes wrong, and then
they render Gounod's "Funeral March of a Marionette," with
"You'll learn a song of your own some fine day," said the Steam,
as he flew up the fog-horn for one last bellow.
Next day the sky cleared and the sea dropped a little, and the
Dimbula began to roll from side to side till every inch of iron
in her was sick and giddy.But luckily they did not all feel ill
at the same time: otherwise she would have opened out like a wet
The Steam whistled warnings as he went about his business: it is
in this short, quick roll and tumble that follows a heavy sea
that most of the accidents happen, for then everything thinks
that the worst is over and goes off guard. So he orated and
chattered till the beams and frames and floors and stringers and
things had learned how to lock down and lock up on one another,
and endure this new kind of strain.
They found ample time to practise, for they were sixteen days at
sea, and it was foul weather till within a hundred miles of New
York. The Dimbula picked up her pilot, and came in covered with
salt and red rust. Her funnel was dirty-grey from top to
bottom; two boats had been carried away; three copper ventilators
looked like hats after a fight with the police; the bridge had a
dimple in the middle of it; the house that covered the steam
steering-gear was split as with hatchets; there was a bill for
small repairs in the engine-room almost as long as the
screw-shaft; the forward cargo-hatch fell into bucket-staves when
they raised the iron cross-bars; and the steam-capstan had been
badly wrenched on its bed. Altogether, as the skipper said, it
was "a pretty general average."
"But she's soupled," he said to Mr. Buchanan. "For all her
dead-weight she rode like a yacht. Ye mind that last blow off
the Banks - I am proud of her, Buck."
"It's vera good," said the chief engineer, looking along the
dishevelled decks. "Now, a man judgin' superfeecially would say
we were a wreck, but we know otherwise - by experience."
Naturally everything in the Dimbula fairly stiffened with pride,
and the foremast and the forward collision-bulkhead, who are
pushing creatures, begged the Steam to warn the Port of New York
of their arrival. "Tell those big boats all about us," they said.
"They seem to take us quite as a matter of course."
It was a glorious, clear, dead calm morning, and in single file,
with less than half a mile between each, their bands playing and
their tugboats shouting and waving handkerchiefs, were the
Majestic, the Paris, the Touraine, the Servia, the Kaiser
Wilhelm II, and the Werkendam, all statelily going out to sea. As
the Dimbula shifted her helm to give the great boats clear way,
the Steam (who knows far too much to mind making an exhibition
of himself now and then) shouted:Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! Princes,
Dukes, and Barons of the High Seas! Know ye by these presents,
we are the Dimbula, fifteen days nine hours from Liverpool,
having crossed the Atlantic with four thousand ton of cargo for
the first time in our career! We have not foundered. We are
here. 'Eer! 'Eer! We are not disabled. But we have had a time
wholly unparalieled in the annals of ship-building! Our decks
were swept! We pitched; we rolled! We thought we were going to
die! Hi! Hi? But we didn't. We wish to give notice that we have
come to New York all the way across the Atlantic, through the
worst weather in the world; and we are the Dimbula! We are - arr
- ha - ha - ha-r-r-r!"
The beautiful line of boats swept by as steadily as the
procession of the Seasons. The Dimbula heard the Majestic say,
"Hmph!" and the Paris grunted, "How!" and the Touraine said,
"Oui!" with a little coquettish flicker of steam; and the Servia
said, "Haw!" and the Kaiser and the Werkendam said, "Hoch!" Dutch
fashion - and that was absolutely all.
"I did my best," said the Steam, gravely, "but I don't think they
were much impressed with us, somehow. Do you?"
"It's simply disgusting," said the bow-plates. "They might have
seen what we've been through. There isn't a ship on the sea that
has suffered as we have - is there, now?"
"Well, I wouldn't go so far as that," said the Steam, "because
I've worked on some of those boats, and sent them through
weather quite as bad as the fortnight that we've had, in six
days; and some of them are a little over ten thousand tons, I
believe. Now I've seen the Majestic, for instance, ducked from
her bows to her funnel; and I've helped the Arizona, I think she
was, to back off an iceberg she met with one dark night; and I
had to run out of the Paris's engine-room, one day, because
there was thirty foot of water in it. Of course, I don't deny -"
The Steam shut off suddenly, as a tugboat, loaded with a
political club and a brass band, that had been to see a New York
Senator off to Europe, crossed their bows, going to Hoboken.
There was a long silence that reached, without a break, from the
cut-water to the propeller-blades of the Dimbula.
Then a new, big voice said slowly and thickly, as though the
owner had just waked up: "It's my conviction that I have made a
fool of myself"
The Steam knew what had happened at once; for when a ship finds
herself all the talking of the separate pieces ceases and melts
into one voice, which is the soul of the ship.
"Who are you?" he said, with a laugh.
"I am the Dimbula, of course. I've never been anything else
except that - and a fool!"
The tugboat, which was doing its very best to be run down, got
away just in time; its band playing clashily and brassily a
popular but impolite air:
In the days of old Rameses - are you on?In the days of old
Rameses - are you on?In the days of old Rameses,That story had
paresis,Are you on - are you on - are you on?
"Well, I'm glad you've found yourself," said the Steam. "To tell
the truth, I was a little tired of talking to all those ribs and
stringers. Here's Quarantine. After that we'll go to our wharf
and clean up a little, and - next month we'll do it all over
END OF THE "THE SHIP THAT FOUND HERSELF"
THE TOMB OF HIS ANCESTORS
Some people will tell you that if there were but a single loaf of
bread in all India it would be divided equally between the
Plowdens, the Trevors, the Beadons, and the Rivett-Carnacs. That
is only one way of saying that certain families serve India
generation after generation, as dolphins follow in line across
the open sea.
Let us take a small and obscure case. There has been at least one
representative of the Devonshire Chinns in or near Central India
since the days of Lieutenant-Fireworker Humphrey Chinn, of the
Bombay European Regiment, who assisted at the capture of
Seringapatam in 1799. Alfred Ellis Chinn, Humphrey's younger
brother, commanded a regiment of Bombay grenadiers from 1804 to
1813, when he saw some mixed fighting; and in 1834 John Chinn of
the same family - we will call him John Chinn the First - came to
light as a level-headed administrator in time of trouble at a
place called Mundesur. He died young, but left his mark on the
new country, and the Honourable the Board of Directors of the
Honourable the East India Company embodied his virtues in a
stately resolution, and paid for the expenses of his tomb among
the Satpura hills.
He was succeeded by his son, Lionel Chinn, who left the little
old Devonshire home just in time to be severely wounded in the
Mutiny. He spent his working life within a hundred and fifty
miles of John Chinn's grave, and rose to the command of a
regiment of small, wild hill-men, most of whom had known his
father. His son John was born in the small thatched-roofed,
mud-walled cantonment, which is even to-day eighty miles from
the nearest railway, in the heart of a scrubby, tigerish
country. Colonel Lionel Chinn served thirty years and retired.
In the Canal his steamer passed the outward-bound troop-ship,
carrying his son eastward to the family duty.
The Chinns are luckier than most folk, because they know exactly
what they must do. A clever Chinn passes for the Bombay Civil
Service, and gets away to Central India, where everybody is glad
to see him. A dull Chinn enters the Police Department or the
Woods and Forest, and sooner or later he, too, appears in
Central India, and that is what gave rise to the saying,
"Central India is inhabited by Bhils, Mairs, and Chinns, all
very much alike." The breed is small-boned, dark, and silent,
and the stupidest of them are good shots. John Chinn the Second
was rather clever, but as the eldest son he entered the army,
according to Chinn tradition. His duty was to abide in his
father's regiment for the term of his natural life, though the
corps was one which most men would have paid heavily to avoid.
They were irregulars, small, dark, and blackish, clothed in
rifle-green with black-leather trimmings; and friends called them
the "Wuddars," which means a race of low-caste people who dig up
rats to eat. But the Wuddars did not resent it. They were the
only Wuddars, and their points of pride were these:
Firstly, they had fewer English officers than any native
regiment. Secondly, their subalterns were not mounted on parade,
as is the general rule, but walked at the head of their men. A
man who can hold his own with the Wuddars at their quickstep must
be sound in wind and limb. Thirdly, they were the most pukka
shikarries (out-and-out hunters) in all India. Fourthly-up to
one-hundredthly - they were the Wuddars -Chinn's Irregular Bhil
Levies of the old days, but now, henceforward and for ever, the
No Englishman entered their mess except for love or through
family usage. The officers talked to their soldiers in a tongue
not two hundred white folk in India understood; and the men were
their children, all drawn from the Bhils, who are, perhaps, the
strangest of the many strange races in India. They were, and at
heart are, wild men, furtive, shy, full of untold superstitions.
The races whom we call natives of the country found the Bhil in
possession of the land when they first broke into that part of
the world thousands of years ago. The books call them Pre-Aryan,
Aboriginal, Dravidian, and so forth; and, in other words, that is
what the Bhils call themselves. When a Rajput chief whose bards
can sing his pedigree backwards for twelve hundred years is set
on the throne, his investiture is not complete till he has been
marked on the forehead with blood from the veins of a Bhil. The
Rajputs say the ceremony has no meaning, but the Bhil knows that
it is the last, last shadow of his old rights as the long-ago
owner of the soil.
Centuries of oppression and massacre made the Bhil a cruel and
half-crazy thief and cattle-stealer, and when the English came
he seemed to be almost as open to civilisation as the tigers of
his own jungles. But John Chinn the First, father of Lionel,
grandfather of our John, went into his country, lived with him,
learned his language, shot the deer that stole his poor crops,
and won his confidence, so that some Bhils learned to plough and
sow, while others were coaxed into the Company's service to
police their friends.
When they understood that standing in line did not mean instant
execution, they accepted soldiering as a cumbrous but amusing
kind of sport, and were zealous to keep the wild Bhils under
control. That was the thin edge of the wedge. John Chinn the
First gave them written promises that, if they were good from a
certain date, the Government would overlook previous offences;
and since John Chinn was never known to break his word - he
promised once to hang a Bhil locally esteemed invulnerable, and
hanged him in front of his tribe for seven proved murders - the
Bhils settled down as steadily as they knew how. It was slow,
unseen work, of the sort that is being done all over India
to-day; and though John Chinn's only reward came, as I have
said, in the shape of a grave at Government expense, the little
people of the hills never forgot him.
Colonel Lionel Chinn knew and loved them, too, and they were very
fairly civilised, for Bhils, before his service ended. Many of
them could hardly be distinguished from low-caste Hindoo
farmers; but in the south, where John Chinn the First was
buried, the wildest still clung to the Satpura ranges, cherishing
a legend that some day Jan Chinn, as they called him, would
return to his own. In the mean time they mistrusted the white
man and his ways. The least excitement would stampede them,
plundering, at random, and now and then killing; but if they
were handled discreetly they grieved like children, and promised
never to do it again.
The Bhils of the regiment - the uniformed men - were virtuous in
many ways, but they needed humouring. They felt bored and
homesick unless taken after tiger as beaters; and their
cold-blooded daring - all Wuddars shoot tigers on foot: it is
their caste-mark - made even the officers wonder. They would
follow up a wounded tiger as unconcernedly as though it were a
sparrow with a broken wing; and this through a country full of
caves and rifts and pits, where a wild beast could hold a dozen
men at his mercy. Now and then some little man was brought to
barracks with his head smashed in or his ribs torn away; but his
companions never learned caution; they contented themselves with
settling the tiger.
Young John Chinn was decanted at the verandah of the Wuddars'
lonely mess-house from the back seat of a two-wheeled cart, his
gun-cases cascading all round him. The slender little,
hookey-nosed boy looked forlorn as a strayed goat when he
slapped the white dust off his knees, and the cart jolted down
the glaring road. But in his heart he was contented. After
all, this was the place where he had been born, and things were
not much changed since he had been sent to England, a child,
fifteen years ago.
There were a few new buildings, but the air and the smell and the
sunshine were the same; and the little green men who crossed the
parade-ground looked very familiar. Three weeks ago John Chinn
would have said he did not remember a word of the Bhil tongue,
but at the mess door he found his lips moving in sentences that
he did not understand - bits of old nursery rhymes, and tail-ends
of such orders as his father used to give the men.
The Colonel watched him come up the steps, and laughed.
"Look!" he said to the Major. "No need to ask the young un's
breed. He's a pukka Chinn. 'Might be his father in the Fifties
"'Hope he'll shoot as straight," said the Major. "He's brought
enough ironmongery with him."
"'Wouldn't be a Chinn if he didn't. Watch him blowin' his nose.
'Regular Chinn beak. 'Flourishes his handkerchief like his
father. It's the second edition - line for line."
"'Fairy tale, by Jove!" said the Major, peering through the slats
of the jalousies. "If he's the lawful heir, he'll . . . . Now
old Chinn could no more pass that chick without fiddling with it
than . . . .
"His son!" said the Colonel, jumping up.
"Well, I be blowed!" said the Major. The boy's eye had been
caught by a split-,reed screen that hung on a slew between the
veranda pillars, and, mechanically, he had tweaked the edge to
set it level. Old Chinn had sworn three times a day at that
screen for many years; he could never get it to his satisfaction.
His son entered the anteroom in the middle of a fivefold
silence. They made him welcome for his father's sake and, as
they took stock of him, for his own. He was ridiculously like
the portrait of the Colonel on the wall, and when he had washed
a little of the dust from his throat he went to his quarters with
the old man's short, noiseless jungle-step.
"So much for heredity," said the Major. "That comes of four
generations among the Bhils."
"And the men know it," said a Wing officer. "They've been waiting
for this youth with their tongues hanging out. I am persuaded
that, unless he absolutely beats 'em over the head, they'll lie
down by companies and worship him."
"Nothin' like havin' a father before you," said the Major. "I'm
a parvenu with my chaps. I've only been twenty years in the
regiment, and my revered parent he was a simple squire. There's
no getting at the bottom of a Bhil's mind. Now, why is the
superior bearer that young Chinn brought with him fleeing across
country with his bundle?" He stepped into the verandah, and
shouted after the man - a typical new-joined subaltern's servant
who speaks English and cheats in proportion.
What is it?" he called.
Plenty bad man here. I going, sar," was the reply. "'Have taken
Sahib's keys, and say will shoot."
Doocid lucid - doocid convincin'. How those up-country thieves
can leg it! He has been badly frightened by some one." The
Major strolled to his quarters to dress for mess.
Young Chinn, walking like a man in a dream, had fetched a compass
round the entire cantonment before going to his own tiny
cottage. The captain's quarters, in which he had been born,
delayed him for a little; then he looked at the well on the
parade-ground, where he had sat of evenings with his nurse, and
at the ten-by-fourteen church, where the officers went to
service if a chaplain of any official creed happened to come
along. It seemed very small as compared with the gigantic
buildings he used to stare up at, but it was the same place.
>From time to time he passed a knot of silent soldiers, who
saluted. They might have been the very men who had carried him
on their backs when he was in his first knickerbockers. A faint
light burned in his room, and, as he entered, hands clasped his
feet, and a voice murmured from the floor.
"Who is it?" said young Chinn, not knowing he spoke in the Bhil
"I bore you in my arms, Sahib, when I was a strong man and you
were a small one - crying, crying, crying! I am your servant,
as I was your father's before you. We are all your servants."
Young Chinn could not trust himself to reply, and the voice went
"I have taken your keys from that fat foreigner, and sent him
away; and the studs are in the shirt for mess. Who should know,
if I do not know? And so the baby has become a man, and forgets
his nurse; but my nephew shall make a good servant, or I will
beat him twice a day."
Then there rose up, with a rattle, as straight as a Bhil arrow, a
little white-haired wizened ape of a man, with medals and orders
on his tunic, stammering, saluting, and trembling. Behind him a
young and wiry Bhil, in uniform, was taking the trees out of
Chinn's eyes were full of tears. The old man held out his keys.
"Foreigners are bad people. He will never come back again. We
are all servants of your father's son. Has the Sahib forgotten
who took him to see the trapped tiger in the village across the
river, when his mother was so frightened and he was so brave?"
The scene came back to Chinn in great magic-lantern flashes.
"Bukta!" he cried; and all in a breath: "You promised nothing
should hurt me. Is it Bukta?"
The man was at his feet a second time. "He has not forgotten. He
remembers his own people as his father remembered. Now can I
die. But first I will live and show the Sahib how to kill
tigers. That that yonder is my nephew. If he is not a good
servant, beat him and send him to me, and I will surely kill him,
for now the Sahib is with his own people. Ai, Jan haba - Jan
haba! My Jan haba! I will stay here and see that this does his
work well. Take off his boots, fool. Sit down upon the bed,
Sahib, and let me look. It is Jan haba."
He pushed forward the hilt of his sword as a sign of service,
which is an honour paid only to viceroys, governors, generals,
or to little children whom one loves dearly. Chinn touched the
hilt mechanically with three fingers, muttering he knew not
what. It happened to be the old answer of his childhood, when
Bukta in jest called him the little General Sahib.
The Major's quarters were opposite Chinn's, and when he heard his
servant gasp with surprise he looked across the room. Then the
Major sat on the bed and whistled; for the spectacle of the
senior native commissioned officer of the regiment, an "unmixed"
Bhil, a Companion of the Order of British India, with
thirty-five years' spotless service in the army, and a rank
among his own people superior to that of many Bengal
princelings, valeting the last-joined subaltern, was a little
too much for his nerves.
The throaty bugles blew the Mess-call that has a long legend
behind it. First a few piercing notes like the shrieks of
beaters in a far-away cover, and next, large, full, and smooth,
the refrain of the wild song: "And oh, and oh, the green pulse
of Mundore - Mundore!"
"All little children were in bed when the Sahib heard that call
last," said Bukta, passing Chinn a clean handkerchief. The call
brought back memories of his cot under the mosquito-netting, his
mother's kiss, and the sound of footsteps growing fainter as he
dropped asleep among his men. So he hooked the dark collar of
his new mess-jacket, and went to dinner like a prince who has
newly inherited his father's crown.
Old Bukta swaggered forth curling his whiskers. He knew his own
value, and no money and no rank within the gift of the
Government would have induced him to put studs in young
officers' shirts, or to hand them clean ties. Yet, when he took
off his uniform that night, and squatted among his fellows for a
quiet smoke, he told them what he had done, and they said that he
was entirely right. Thereat Bukta propounded a theory which to a
white mind would have seemed raving insanity; but the whispering,
level-headed little men of war considered it from every point of
view, and thought that there might be a great deal in it.
At mess under the oil-lamps the talk turned as usual to the
unfailing subject of shikar - big game-shooting of every kind
and under all sorts of conditions. Young Chinn opened his eyes
when he understood that each one of his companions had shot
several tigers in the Wuddar style - on foot, that is - making no
more of the business than if the brute had been a dog.
"In nine cases out of ten," said the Major, "a tiger is almost as
dangerous as a porcupine. But the tenth time you come home feet
That set all talking, and long before midnight Chinn's brain was
in a whirl with stories of tigers - man-eaters and
cattle-killers each pursuing his own business as methodically as
clerks in an office; new tigers that had lately come into
such-and-such a district; and old, friendly beasts of great
cunning, known by nicknames in the mess-such as "Puggy," who was
lazy, with huge paws, and "Mrs. Malaprop," who turned up when you
never expected her, and made female noises. Then they spoke of
Bhil superstitions, a wide and picturesque field, till young
Chinn hinted that they must be pulling his leg.
"'Deed, we aren't," said a man on his left. "We know all about
you. You're a Chinn and all that, and you've a sort of vested
right here; but if you don't believe what we're telling you,
what will you do when old Bukta begins his stories? He knows
about ghost-tigers, and tigers that go to a hell of their own;
and tigers that walk on their hind feet; and your grandpapa's
riding-tiger, as well. 'Odd he hasn't spoken of that yet."
"You know you've an ancestor buried down Satpura way, don't you?"
said the Major, as Chinn smiled irresolutely.
"Of course I do," said Chinn, who had the chronicle of the Book
of Chinn by heart. It lies in a worn old ledger on the Chinese
lacquer table behind the piano in the Devonshire home, and the
children are allowed to look at it on Sundays.
"Well, I wasn't sure. Your revered ancestor, my boy, according
to the Bhils, has a tiger of his own - a saddle-tiger that he
rides round the country whenever he feels inclined. I don't call
it decent in an ex-Collector's ghost; but that is what the
Southern Bhils believe. Even our men, who might be called
moderately cool, don't care to beat that country if they hear
that Jan Chinn is running about on his tiger. It is supposed to
be a clouded animal - not stripy, but blotchy, like a
tortoise-shell tom-cat. No end of a brute, it is, and a sure
sign of war or pestilence or - or something. There's a nice
family legend for you."
"What's the origin of it, d' you suppose?" said Chinn.
"Ask the Satpura Bhils. Old Jan Chinn was a mighty hunter before
the Lord. Perhaps it was the tiger's revenge, or perhaps he's
huntin' 'em still. You must go to his tomb one of these days and
inquire. Bukta will probably attend to that. He was asking me
before you came whether by any ill-luck you had already bagged
your tiger. If not, he is going to enter you under his own wing.
Of course, for you of all men it's imperative. You'll have a
first-class time with Bukta."
The Major was not wrong. Bukta kept an anxious eye on young
Chinn at drill, and it was noticeable that the first time the
new officer lifted up his voice in an order the whole line
quivered. Even the Colonel was taken aback, for it might have
been Lionel Chinn returned from Devonshire with a new lease of
life. Bukta had continued to develop his peculiar theory among
his intimates, and it was accepted as a matter of faith in the
lines, since every word and gesture on young Chinn's part so
The old man arranged early that his darling should wipe out the
reproach of not having shot a tiger; but he was not content to
take the first or any beast that happened to arrive. In his own
villages he dispensed the high, low, and middle justice, and when
his people-naked and fluttered - came to him with word of a
beast marked down, he bade them send spies to the kills and the
watering-places, that he might be sure the quarry was such an one
as suited the dignity of such a man.
Three or four times the reckless trackers returned, most
truthfully saying that the beast was mangy, undersized - a
tigress worn with nursing, or a broken-toothed old male - and
Bukta would curb young Chinn's impatience.
At last, a noble animal was marked down - a ten-foot
cattle-killer with a huge roll of loose skin along the belly,
glossy-hided, full-frilled about the neck, whiskered, frisky,
and young. He had slain a man in pure sport, they said.
"Let him be fed," quoth Bukta, and the villagers dutifully drove
out a cow to amuse him, that he might lie up near by.
Princes and potentates have taken ship to India and spent great
moneys for the mere glimpse of beasts one-half as fine as this
"It is not good," said he to the Colonel, when he asked for
shooting-leave, "that my Colonel's son who may be - that my
Colonel's son should lose his maidenhead on any small jungle
beast. That may come after. I have waited long for this which
is a tiger. He has come in from the Mair country. In seven days
we will return with the skin."
The mess gnashed their teeth enviously. Bukta, had he chosen,
might have invited them all. But he went out alone with Chinn,
two days in a shooting-cart and a day on foot, till they came to
a rocky, glary valley with a pool of good water in it. It was a
parching day, and the boy very naturally stripped and went in for
a bathe, leaving Bukta by the clothes. A white skin shows far
against brown jungle, and what Bukta beheld on Chinn's back and
right shoulder dragged him forward step by step with staring
"I'd forgotten it isn't decent to strip before a man of his
position," said Chinn, flouncing in the water. "How the little
devil stares! What is it, Bukta?" "The Mark!" was the whispered
"It is nothing. You know how it is with my people!" Chinn was
annoyed. The dull-red birth-mark on his shoulder, something like
a conventionalised Tartar cloud, had slipped his memory or he
would not have bathed. It occurred, so they said at home, in
alternate generations, appearing, curiously enough, eight or nine
years after birth, and, save that it was part of the Chinn
inheritance, would not be considered pretty. He hurried ashore,
dressed again, and went on till they met two or three Bhils, who
promptly fell on their faces. "My people," grunted Bukta, not
condescending to notice them. "And so your people, Sahib. When I
was a young man we were fewer, but not so weak. Now we are many,
but poor stock. As may be remembered. How will you shoot him,
Sahib? From a tree; from a shelter which my people shall build;
by day or by night?"
"On foot and in the daytime," said young Chinn.
"That was your custom, as I have heard," said Bukta to himself "I
will get news of him. Then you and I will go to him. I will
carry one gun. You have yours. There is no need of more. What
tiger shall stand against thee?"
He was marked down by a little water-hole at the head of a
ravine, full-gorged and half asleep in the May sunlight. He was
walked up like a partridge, and he turned to do battle for his
life. Bukta made no motion to raise his rifle, but kept his eyes
on Chinn, who met the shattering roar of the charge with a single
shot - it seemed to him hours as he sighted - which tore through
the throat, smashing the backbone below the neck and between the
shoulders. The brute couched, choked, and fell, and before Chinn
knew well what had happened Bukta bade him stay still while he
paced the distance between his feet and the ringing jaws.
"Fifteen," said Bukta. "Short paces. No need for a second shot,
Sahib. He bleeds cleanly where he lies, and we need not spoil
the skin. I said there would be no need of these, but they came
- in case."
Suddenly the sides of the ravine were crowned with the heads of
Bukta's people - a force that could have blown the ribs out of
the beast had Chinn's shot failed; but their guns were hidden,
and they appeared as interested beaters, some five or six waiting
the word to skin. Bukta watched the life fade from the wild eyes,
lifted one hand, and turned on his heel.
"No need to show that we care," said he. "Now, after this, we can
kill what we choose. Put out your hand, Sahib."
Chinn obeyed. It was entirely steady, and Bukta nodded. "That
also was your custom. My men skin quickly. They will carry the
skin to cantonments. Will the Sahib come to my poor village for
the night and, perhaps, forget that I am his officer?"
"But those men - the beaters. They have worked hard, and perhaps
"Oh, if they skin clumsily, we will skin them. They are my
people. In the lines I am one thing. Here I am another."
This was very true. When Bukta doffed uniform and reverted to the
fragmentary dress of his own people, he left his civilisation of
drill in the next world. That night, after a little talk with his
subjects, he devoted to an orgie; and a Bhil orgie is a thing not
to be safely written about. Chinn, flushed with triumph, was in
the thick of it, but the meaning of the mysteries was hidden.
Wild folk came and pressed about his knees with offerings. He
gave his flask to the elders of the village. They grew eloquent,
and wreathed him about with flowers. Gifts and loans, not all
seemly, were thrust upon him, and infernal music rolled and
maddened round red fires, while singers sang songs of the ancient
times, and danced peculiar dances. The aboriginal liquors are
very potent, and Chinn was compelled to taste them often, but,
unless the stuff had been drugged, how came he to fall asleep
suddenly, and to waken late the next day - half a march from the
"The Sahib was very tired. A little before dawn he went to
sleep," Bukta explained. "My people carried him here, and now
it is time we should go back to cantonments."
The voice, smooth and deferential, the step, steady and silent,
made it hard to believe that only a few hours before Bukta was
yelling and capering with naked fellow-devils of the scrub.
"My people were very pleased to see the Sahib. They will never
forget. When next the Sahib goes out recruiting, he will go to
my people, and they will give him as many men as we need."
Chinn kept his own counsel, except as to the shooting of the
tiger, and Bukta embroidered that tale with a shameless tongue.
The skin was certainly one of the finest ever hung up in the
mess, and the first of many. When Bukta could not accompany his
boy on shooting-trips, he took care to put him in good hands,
and Chinn learned more of the mind and desire of the wild Bhil
in his marches and campings, by talks at twilight or at wayside
pools, than an uninstructed man could have come at in a
Presently his men in the regiment grew bold to speak of their
relatives-mostly in trouble-and to lay cases of tribal custom
before him. They would say, squatting in his verandah at
twilight, after the easy, confidential style of the Wuddars,
that such-and-such a bachelor had run away with such-and-such a
wife at a far-off village. Now, how many cows would Chinn Sahib
consider a just fine? Or, again, if written order came from the
Government that a Bhil was to repair to a walled city of the
plains to give evidence in a law-court, would it be wise to
disregard that order? On the other hand, if it were obeyed, would
the rash voyager return alive?
"But what have I to do with these things?" Chinn demanded of
Bukta, impatiently. "I am a soldier. I do not know the law."
"Hoo! Law is for fools and white men. Give them a large and
loud order, and they will abide by it. Thou art their law."
Every trace of expression left Bukta's countenance. The idea
might have smitten him for the first time. "How can I say?" he
replied. "Perhaps it is on account of the name. A Bhil does not
love strange things. Give them orders, Sahib- two, three, four
words at a time such as they can carry away in their heads.
That is enough."
Chinn gave orders then, valiantly, not realising that a word
spoken in haste before mess became the dread unappealable law of
villages beyond the smoky hills was, in truth, no less than the
Law of Jan Chinn the First, who, so the whispered legend ran, had
come back to earth, to oversee the third generation, in the body
and bones of his grandson.
There could be no sort of doubt in this matter. All the Bhils
knew that Jan Chinn reincarnated had honoured Bukta's village
with his presence after slaying his first-in this life-tiger;
that he had eaten and drunk with the people, as he was used; and
- Bukta must have drugged Chinn's liquor very deeply-upon his
back and right shoulder all men had seen the same angry red
Flying Cloud that the high Gods had set on the flesh of Jan
Chinn the First when first he came to the Bhil. As concerned the
foolish white world which has no eyes, he was a slim and young
officer in the Wuddars; but his own people knew he was Jan Chinn,
who had made the Bhil a man; and, believing, they hastened to
carry his words, careful never to alter them on the way.
Because the savage and the child who plays lonely games have one
horror of being laughed at or questioned, the little folk kept
their convictions to themselves; and the Colonel, who thought he
knew his regiment, never guessed that each one of the six
hundred quick-footed, beady-eyed rank-and-file, to attention
beside their rifles, believed serenely and unshakenly that the
subaltern on the left flank of the line was a demi-god twice
born -tutelary deity of their land and people. The Earth-gods
themselves had stamped the incarnation, and who would dare to
doubt the handiwork of the Earth-gods?
Chinn, being practical above all things, saw that his family name
served him well in the lines and in camp. His men gave no
trouble-one does not commit regimental offences with a god in
the chair of justice-and he was sure of the best beaters in the
district when he needed them. They believed that the protection
of Jan Chinn the First cloaked them, and were bold in that belief
beyond the utmost daring of excited Bhils.
His quarters began to look like an amateur natural-history
museum, in spite of duplicate heads and horns and skulls that he
sent home to Devonshire. The people, very humanly, learned the
weak side of their god. It is true he was unbribable, but
bird-skins, butterflies, beetles, and, above all, news of big
game pleased him. In other respects, too, he lived up to the
Chinn tradition. He was fever-proof. A night's sitting out over
a tethered goat in a damp valley, that would have filled the
Major with a month's malaria, had no effect on him. He was, as
they said, "salted before he was born."
Now in the autumn of his second year's service an uneasy rumour
crept out of the earth and ran about among the Bhils. Chinn
heard nothing of it till a brother- Officer said across the
mess-table: "Your revered ancestor's on the rampage in the
Satpura country. You'd better look him up."
"I don't want to be disrespectful, but I'm a little sick of my
revered ancestor. Bukta talks of nothing else. What's the old
boy supposed to be doing now?"
"Riding cross-country by moonlight on his processional tiger.
That's the story. He's been seen by about two thousand Bhils,
skipping along the tops of the Satpuras, and scaring people to
death. They believe it devoutly, and all the Satpura chaps are
worshipping away at his shrine- tomb, I mean-like good uns. You
really ought to go down there. Must be a queer thing to see your
grandfather treated as a god."
"What makes you think there's any truth in the tale?" said
"Because all our men deny it. They say they've never heard of
Chinn's tiger. Now that's a manifest lie, because every Bhil
"There's only one thing you've overlooked," said the Colonel,
thoughtfully. "When a local god reappears on earth, it's always
an excuse for trouble of some kind; and those Satpura Bhils are
about as wild as your grandfather left them, young un. It means
"Meanin' they may go on the war-path?" said Chinn.
"'Can't say - as yet. 'Shouldn't be surprised a little bit."
"I haven't been told a syllable."
"'Proves it all the more. They are keeping something back."
"Bukta tells me everything, too, as a rule. Now, why didn't he
tell me that?"
Chinn put the question directly to the old man that night, and
the answer surprised him.
"Why should I tell what is well known? Yes, the Clouded Tiger is
out in the Satpura country."
"What do the wild Bhils think that it means?"
They do not know. They wait. Sahib, what is coming? Say only one
little word, and we will be content."
"We? What have tales from the south, where the jungly Bhils live,
to do with drilled men?" "When Jan Chinn wakes is no time for
any Bhil to be quiet."
"But he has not waked, Bukta."
"Sahib "-the old man's eyes were full of tender reproof-" if he
does not wish to be seen, why does he go abroad in the
moonlight? We know he is awake, but we do not know what he
desires. Is it a sign for all the Bhils, or one that concerns
the Satpura folk alone? Say one little word, Sahib, that I may
carry it to the lines, and send on to our villages. Why does Jan
Chinn ride out? Who has done wrong? Is it pestilence? Is it
murrain? Will our children die? Is it a sword? Remember, Sahib,
we are thy people and thy servants, and in this life I bore thee
in my arms-not knowing."
"Bukta has evidently looked on the cup this evening," Chinn
thought; "but if I can do anything to soothe the old chap I
must. It's like the Mutiny rumours on a small scale."
He dropped into a deep wicker chair, over which was thrown his
first tiger-skin, and his weight on the cushion flapped the
clawed paws over his shoulders. He laid hold of them
mechanically as he spoke, drawing the painted hide,
cloak-fashion, about him.
"Now will I tell the truth, Bukta," he said, leaning forward, the
dried muzzle on his shoulder, to invent a specious lie.
"I see that it is the truth," was the answer, in a shaking voice.
"Jan Chinn goes abroad among the Satpuras, riding on the Clouded
Tiger, ye say? Be it so. Therefore the sign of the wonder is for
the Satpura Bhils only, and does not touch the Bhils who plough
in the north and east, the Bhils of the Khandesh, or any
others, except the Satpura Bhils, who, as we know, are wild and
"It is, then, a sign for them. Good or bad?"
"Beyond doubt, good. For why should Jan Chinn make evil to those
whom he has made men? The nights over yonder are hot; it is ill
to lie in one bed over-long without turning, and Jan Chinn would
look again upon his people. So he rises, whistles his Clouded
Tiger, and goes abroad a little to breathe the cool air. If the
Satpura Bhils kept to their villages, and did not wander after
dark, they would not see him. Indeed, Bukta, it is no more than
that he would see the light again in his own country. Send this
news south, and say that it is my word."
Bukta bowed to the floor. "Good Heavens!" thought Chinn, "and
this blinking pagan is a first-class officer, and as straight as
a die! I may as well round it off neatly." He went on:
"If the Satpura Bhils ask the meaning of the sign, tell them that
Jan Chinn would see how they kept their old promises of good
living. Perhaps they have plundered; perhaps they mean to
disobey the orders of the Government; perhaps there is a dead
man in the jungle; and so Jan Chinn has come to see."
"Is he, then, angry?"
"Bah! Am I ever angry with my Bhils? I say angry words, and
threaten many things. Thou knowest, Bukta. I have seen thee
smile behind the hand. I know, and thou knowest. The Bhils are
my children. I have said it many times."
"Ay. We be thy children," said Bukta.
"And no otherwise is it with Jan Chinn, my father's father. He
would see the land he loved and the people once again. It is a
good ghost, Bukta. I say it. Go and tell them. And I do hope
devoutly," he added, "that it will calm 'em down." Flinging back
the tiger-skin, he rose with a long, unguarded yawn that showed
his well-kept teeth.
Bukta fled, to be received in the lines by a knot of panting
"It is true," said Bukta. "He wrapped him-self in the skin, and
spoke from it. He would see his own country again. The sign is
not for us; and, indeed, he is a young man. How should he lie
idle of nights? He says his bed is too hot and the air is bad.
He goes to and fro for the love of night-running. He has said
The grey-whiskered assembly shuddered.
"He says the Bhils are his children. Ye know he does not lie.
He has said it to me."
"But what of the Satpura Bhils? What means the sign for them?"
"Nothing. It is only night-running, as I have said. He rides to
see if they obey the Government, as he taught them to do in his
"And what if they do not?"
"He did not say."
The light went out in Chinn's quarters.
"Look," said Bukta. "Now he goes away. None the less it is a
good ghost, as he has said. How shall we fear Jan Chinn, who
made the Bhil a man? His protection is on us; and ye know Jan
Chinn never broke a protection spoken or written on paper.
When he is older and has found him a wife he will lie in his bed
A commanding officer is generally aware of the regimental state
of mind a little before the men; and this is why the Colonel
said, a few days later, that some one had been putting the Fear
of God into the Wuddars. As he was the only person officially
entitled to do this, it distressed him to see such unanimous
virtue. "It's too good to last," he said. "I only wish I could
find out what the little chaps mean."
The explanation, as it seemed to him, came at the change of the
moon, when he received orders to hold himself in readiness to
"allay any possible excitement" among the Satpura Bhils, who
were, to put it mildly, uneasy because a paternal Government had
sent up against them a Mahratta State-educated vaccinator, with
lancets, lymph, and an officially registered calf. In the
language of State, they had "manifested a strong objection to
all prophylactic measures," had "forcibly detained the
vaccinator," and "were on the point of neglecting or evading
their tribal obligations."
"That means they are in a blue funk - same as they were at
census-time," said the Colonel; "and if we stampede them into
the hills we'll never catch 'em, in the first place, and, in the
second, they'll whoop off plundering till further orders.
'Wonder who the God-forsaken idiot is who is trying to vaccinate
a Bhil. I knew trouble was coming. One good thing is that
they'll only use local corps, and we can knock up something
we'll call a campaign, and let them down easy. Fancy us potting
our best beaters because they don't want to be vaccinated!
They're only crazy with fear."
"Don't you think, sir," said Chinn, the next day, "that perhaps
you could give me a fortnight's shooting-leave?"
"Desertion in the face of the enemy, by Jove!" The Colonel
laughed. "I might, but I'd have to antedate it a little, because
we're warned for service, as you might say. However, we'll assume
that you applied for leave three days ago, and are now well on
your way south."
"I'd like to take Bukta with me."
"Of course, yes. I think that will be the best plan. You've some
kind of hereditary influence with the little chaps, and they may
listen to you when a glimpse of our uniforms would drive them
wild. You've never been in that part of the world before, have
you? Take care they don't send you to your family vault in your
youth and innocence. I believe you'll be all right if you can get
'em to listen to you."
"I think so, sir; but if — if they should accidentally put an
— make asses of 'emselves — they might, you know — I hope
you'll represent that they were only frightened. There isn't an
ounce of real vice in 'em, and I should never forgive myself if
any one of — of my name got them into trouble."
The Colonel nodded, but said nothing.
Chinn and Bukta departed at once. Bukta did not say that, ever
since the official vaccinator had been dragged into the hills by
indignant Bhils, runner after runner had skulked up to the
lines, entreating, with forehead in the dust, that Jan Chinn
should come and explain this unknown horror that hung over his
The portent of the Clouded Tiger was now too clear. Let Jan
Chinn comfort his own, for vain was the help of mortal man.
Bukta toned down these beseechings to a simple request for
Chinn's presence. Nothing would have pleased the old man better
than a rough-and-tumble campaign against the Satpuras, whom he,
as an "unmixed" Bhil, despised; but he had a duty to all his
nation as Jan Chinn's interpreter; and he devoutly believed that
forty plagues would fall on his village if he tampered with that
obligation. Besides, Jan Chinn knew all things, and he rode the
They covered thirty miles a day on foot and pony, raising the
blue wall-like line of the Satpuras as swiftly as might be.
Bukta was very silent.
They began the steep climb a little after noon, but it was near
sunset ere they reached the stone platform clinging to the side
of a rifted, jungle-covered hill, where Jan Chinn the First was
laid, as he had desired, that he might overlook his people. All
India is full of neglected graves that date from the beginning of
the eighteenth century - tombs of forgotten colonels of corps
long since disbanded; mates of East India men who went on
shooting expeditions and never came back; factors, agents,
writers, and ensigns of the Honourable the East India Company by
hundreds and thousands and tens of thousands. English folk
forget quickly, but natives have long memories, and if a man has
done good in his life it is remembered after his death. The
weathered marble four-square tomb of Jan Chinn was hung about
with wild flowers and nuts, packets of wax and honey, bottles of
native spirits, and infamous cigars, with buffalo horns and
plumes of dried grass. At one end was a rude clay image of a
white man, in the old-fashioned top-hat, riding on a bloated
Bukta salamed reverently as they approached. Chinn bared his head
and began to pick out the blurred inscription. So far as he
could read it ran thus - word for word, and letter for letter:
To the Memory of JOHN CHINN, Esq. Late Collector
of…………….ithout Bloodshed or…error of Authority
Employ.only..cans of Conciliat…and Confiden. Accomplished
the…tire Subjection… a Lawless and Predatory
Peop……taching them to…ish Government by a Conquest
over….Minds The most perma…and rational Mode of
Domini….Governor General and Counc…engal have ordered
lhi…..erected…arted this Life Aug. 19, 184..Ag…
On the other side of the grave were ancient verses, also very
worn. As much as Chinn could decipher said:
..the savage band. Forsook their Haunts and b…..is
Comman..mended..rals check a.st for spoil. And.. a..ing Hamlets
prove his gene….toil. Humanit…survey……ights restor.. A
Nation..ield..subdued without a Sword.Forsook their Haunts and b
. . . . is Command mended . . rals check a . . . st for spoil And
. s . ing Hamlets prove his gene . . . . toil Humanit . . .
ights restore A Nation . . ield. . subdued without a Sword.
For some little time he leaned on the tomb thinking of this dead
man of his own blood, and of the house in Devonshire; then,
nodding to the plains: "Yes; it's a big work all of it even my
little share. He must have been worth knowing. . . . Bukta,
where are my people?"
"Not here, Sahib. No man comes here except in full sun. They
wait above. Let us climb and see."
But Chinn, remembering the first law of Oriental diplomacy, in an
even voice answered: "I have come this far only because the
Satpura folk are foolish, and dared not visit our lines. Now
bid them wait on me here. I am not a servant, but the master of
"I go — I go," clucked the old man. Night was falling, and at
any moment Jan Chinn might whistle up his dreaded steed from the
Now for the first time in a long life Bukta disobeyed a lawful
command and deserted his leader; for he did not come back, but
pressed to the flat table-top of the hill, and called softly.
Men stirred all about him - little trembling men with bows and
arrows who had watched the two since noon.
"Where is he?" whispered one.
"At his own place. He bids you come," said Bukta.
"Rather let him loose the Clouded Tiger upon us. We do not go."
"Nor I, though I bore him in my arms when he was a child in this
his life. Wait here till the day."
"But surely he will be angry."
"He will be very angry, for he has nothing to eat. But he has
said to me many times that the Bhils are his children. By
sunlight I believe this, but - by moonlight I am not so sure.
What folly have ye Satpura pigs compassed that ye should need
him at all?"
"One came to us in the name of the Government with little
ghost-knives and a magic calf, meaning to turn us into cattle by
the cutting off of our arms. We were greatly afraid, but we did
not kill the man. He is here, bound - a black man; and we think
he comes from the west. He said it was an order to cut us all
with knives - especially the women and the children. We did not
hear that it was an order, so we were afraid, and kept to our
hills. Some of our men have taken ponies and bullocks from the
plains, and others pots and cloths and ear-rings."
"Are any slain?"
"By our men? Not yet. But the young men are blown to and fro by
many rumours like flames upon a hill. I sent runners asking for
Jan Chinn lest worse should come to us. It was this fear that he
foretold by the sign of the Clouded Tiger.
He says it is otherwise," said Bukta; and he repeated, with
amplifications, all that young Chinn had told him at the
conference of the wicker chair.
"Think you," said the questioner, at last, "that the Government
will lay hands on us?"
"Not I," Bukta rejoined. "Jan Chinn will give an order, and ye
will obey. The rest is between the Government and Jan Chinn. I
myself know something of the ghost-knives and the scratching. It
is a charm against the Small-pox. But how it is done I cannot
tell. Nor need that concern you."
"If he stands by us and before the anger of the Government we
will most strictly obey Jan Chinn, except - except we do not go
down to that place to-night."
They could hear young Chinn below them shouting for Bukta; but
they cowered and sat still, expecting the Clouded Tiger. The
tomb had been holy ground for nearly half a century. If Jan
Chinn chose to sleep there, who had better right? But they would
not come within eyeshot of the place till broad day.
At first Chinn was exceedingly angry, till it occurred to him
that Bukta most probably had a reason (which, indeed, he had),
and his own dignity might suffer if he yelled without answer.
He propped himself against the foot of the grave, and,
alternately dozing and smoking, came through the warm night proud
that he was a lawful, legitimate, fever-proof Chinn.
He prepared his plan of action much as his grandfather would have
done; and when Bukta appeared in the morning with a most liberal
supply of food, said nothing of the overnight desertion. Bukta
would have been relieved by an outburst of human anger; but Chinn
finished his victual leisurely, and a cheroot, ere he made any
They are very much afraid," said Bukta, who was not too bold
himself "It remains only to give orders. They said they will
obey if thou wilt only stand between them and the Government."
"That I know," said Chinn, strolling slowly to the table-land. A
few of the elder men stood in an irregular semicircle in an open
glade; but the ruck of people - women and children were hidden
in the thicket. They had no desire to face the first anger of Jan
Chinn the First.
Seating himself on a fragment of split rock, he smoked his
cheroot to the butt, hearing men breathe hard all about him.
Then he cried, so suddenly that they jumped:
"Bring the man that was bound!"
A scuffle and a cry were followed by the appearance of a Hindoo
vaccinator, quaking with fear, bound hand and foot, as the Bhils
of old were accustomed to bind their human sacrifices. He was
pushed cautiously before the presence; but young Chinn did not
look at him.
"I said - the man that was bound. Is it a jest to bring me one
tied like a buffalo? Since when could the Bhil bind folk at his
Half a dozen hasty knives cut away the thongs, and the man
crawled to Chinn, who pocketed his case of lancets and tubes of
lymph. Then, sweeping the semicircle with one comprehensive
forefinger, and in the voice of compliment, he said, clearly and
distinctly: " Pigs!
"Ai!" whispered Bukta. "Now he speaks. Woe to foolish people!"
"I have come on foot from my house" (the assembly shuddered) "to
make clear a matter which any other Satpura Bhil would have seen
with both eyes from a distance. Ye know the Small-pox who pits
and scars your children so that like wasp-combs. It is an order
of the Government that whoso is scratched on the arm with these
little knives which I hold up is charmed against her. All Sahibs
are thus charmed, and very many Hindoos. This is the mark of the
He rolled back his sleeve to the armpit and showed the white
scars of the vaccination-mark on his white skin. "Come, all, and
A few daring spirits came up, and nodded their heads wisely.
There was certainly a mark, and they knew well what other dread
marks were hidden by the shirt. Merciful was Jan Chinn, that
then and there proclaimed his godhead!
"Now all these things the man whom ye bound told you."
I did - a hundred times; but they answered with blows," groaned
the operator, chafing his wrists and ankles.
"But, being pigs, ye did not believe; and so came I here to save
you, first from Small-pox, next from a great folly of fear, and
lastly, it may be,from the rope and the jail. It is no gain to
me; it is no pleasure to me: but for the sake of that one who is
yonder, who made the Bhil a man" - he pointed down the hill —"
I, who am of his blood, the son of his son, come to turn your
people. And I speak the truth, as did Jan Chinn."
The crowd murmured reverently, and men stole out of the thicket
by twos and threes to join it. There was no anger in their god's
"These are my orders. (Heaven send they'll take 'em, but I seem
to have impressed 'em so far!) I myself will stay among you
while this man scratches your arms with the knives, after the
order of the Government. In three, or it may be five or seven,
days, your arms will swell and itch and burn. That is the power
of Small-pox fighting in your base blood against the orders of
the Government I will therefore stay among you till I see that
Small-pox is conquered, and I will not go away till the men and
the women and the little children show me upon their arms such
marks as I have even now showed you. I bring with me two very
good guns, and a man whose name is known among beasts and men.
We will hunt together, I and he and your young men, and the
others shall eat and lie still. This is my order."
There was a long pause while victory hung in the balance. A
white-haired old sinner, standing on one uneasy leg, piped up:
"There are ponies and some few bullocks and other things for
which we need a kowl [protection]. They were not taken in the
way of trade."
The battle was won, and John Chinn drew a breath of relief. The
young Bhils had been raiding, but if taken swiftly all could be
"I will write a kowl so soon as the ponies, the bullocks, and the
other things are counted before me and sent back whence they
came. But first we will put the Government mark on such as have
not been visited by Small-pox." In an undertone, to the
vaccinator: "If you show you are afraid you'll never see Poona
again, my friend."
"There is not sufficient ample supply of vaccination for all this
population," said the man. "They destroyed the offeecial calf."
They won't know the difference. Scrape 'em and give me a couple
of lancets; I'll attend to the elders."
The aged diplomat who had demanded protection was the first
victim. He fell to Chinn's hand and dared not cry out. As soon
as he was freed he dragged up a companion, and held him fast,
and the crisis became, as it were, a child's sport; for the
vaccinated chased the unvaccinated to treatment, vowing that all
the tribe must suffer equally. The women shrieked, and the
children ran howling; but Chinn laughed, and waved the
"It is an honour," he cried. "Tell them, Bukta, how great an
honour it is that I myself mark them. Nay, I cannot mark every
one - the Hindoo must also do his work - but I will touch all
marks that he makes, so there will be an equal virtue in them.
Thus do the Rajputs stick pigs. Ho, brother with one eye! Catch
that girl and bring her to me. She need not run away yet, for
she is not married, and I do not seek her in marriage. She will
not come? Then she shall be shamed by her little brother, a fat
boy, a bold boy. He puts out his arm like a soldier. Look! He
does not flinch at the blood. Some day he shall be in my
regiment. And now, mother of many, we will lightly touch thee,
for Smallpox has been before us here. It is a true thing,
indeed, that this charm breaks the power of Mata. There will be
no more pitted faces among the Satpuras, and so ye can ask many
cows for each maid to be wed."
And so on and so on - quick-poured showman's patter, sauced in
the Bhil hunting-proverbs and tales of their own brand of coarse
humour till the lancets were blunted and both operators worn out.
But, nature being the same the world over, the unvaccinated grew
jealous of their marked comrades, and came near to blows about
it. Then Chinn declared himself a court of justice, no longer a
medical board, and made formal inquiry into the late robberies.
"We are the thieves of Mahadeo," said the Bhils, simply. "It is
our fate, and we were frightened. When we are frightened we
Simply and directly as children, they gave in the tale of the
plunder, all but two bullocks and some spirits that had gone
amissing (these Chinn promised to make good out of his own
pocket), and ten ringleaders were despatched to the lowlands
with a wonderful document, written on the leaf of a note-book,
and addressed to an Assistant District Superintendent of Police.
There was warm calamity in that note, as Jan Chinn warned them,
but anything was better than loss of liberty.
Armed with this protection, the repentant raiders went down-hill.
They had no desire whatever to meet Mr. Dundas Fawne of the
Police, aged twenty-two, and of a cheerful countenance, nor did
they wish to revisit the scene of their robberies. Steering a
middle course, they ran into the camp of the one Government
chaplain allowed to the various irregular corps through a
district of some fifteen thousand square miles, and stood before
him in a cloud of dust. He was by way of being a priest, they
knew, and, what was more to the point, a good sportsman who paid
his beaters generously.
When he read Chinn's note he laughed, which they deemed a lucky
omen, till he called up policemen, who tethered the ponies and
the bullocks by the piled house-gear, and laid stern hands upon
three of that smiling band of the thieves of Mahadeo. The
chaplain himself addressed them magisterially with a
riding-whip. That was painful, but Jan Chinn had prophesied it.
They submitted, but would not give up the written protection,
fearing the jail. On their way back they met Mr. D. Fawne, who
had heard about the robberies, and was not pleased.
"Certainly," said the eldest of the gang, when the second
interview was at an end, "certainly Jan Chinn's protection has
saved us our liberty, but it is as though there were many
beatings in one small piece of paper. Put it away."
One climbed into a tree, and stuck the letter into a cleft forty
feet from the ground, where it could do no harm. Warmed, sore,
but happy, the ten returned to Jan Chinn next day, where he sat
among uneasy Bhils, all looking at their right arms, and all
bound under terror of their god's disfavour not to scratch.
"It was a good kowl," said the leader. "First the chaplain, who
laughed, took away our plunder, and beat three of us, as was
promised. Next, we meet Fawne Sahib, who frowned, and asked for
the plunder. We spoke the truth, and so he beat us all, one
after another, and called us chosen names. He then gave us these
two bundles "-they set down a bottle of whisky and a box of
cheroots—" and we came away. The kowl is left in a tree,
because its virtue is that so soon as we show it to a Sahib we
"But for that kowl" said Jan Chinn, sternly, "ye would all have
been marching to jail with a policeman on either side. Ye come
now to serve as beaters for me. These people are unhappy, and
we will go hunting till they are well. To-night we will make a
It is written in the chronicles of the Satpura Bhils, together
with many other matters not fit for print, that through five
days, after the day that he had put his mark upon them, Jan
Chinn the First hunted for his people; and on the five nights of
those days the tribe was gloriously and entirely drunk. Jan
Chinn bought country spirits of an awful strength, and slew wild
pig and deer beyond counting, so that if any fell sick they might
have two good reasons.
Between head- and stomach-aches they found no time to think of
their arms, but followed Jan Chinn obediently through the
jungles, and with each day's returning confidence men, women,
and children stole away to their villages as the little army
passed by. They carried news that it was good and right to be
scratched with ghost-knives; that Jan Chinn was indeed
reincarnated as a god of free food and drink, and that of all
nations the Satpura Bhils stood first in his favour, if they
would only refrain from scratching. Henceforward that kindly
demi-god would be connected in their minds with great gorgings
and the vaccine and lancets of a paternal Government.
"And to-morrow I go back to my home," said Jan Chinn to his
faithful few, whom neither spirits, overeating, nor swollen
glands could conquer. It is hard for children and savages to
behave reverently at all times to the idols of their
make-belief; and they had frolicked excessively with Jan Chinn.
But the reference to his home cast a gloom on the people.
"And the Sahib will not come again?" said he who had been
"That is to be seen," answered Chinn, warily.
"Nay, but come as a white man — come as a young man whom we know
and love; for, as thou alone knowest, we are a weak people. If
we again saw thy — thy horse -" They were picking up their
"I have no horse. I came on foot with Bukta, yonder. What is
this?""Thou knowest - the thing that thou hast chosen for a
night-horse." The little men squirmed in fear and awe.
"Night-horses? Bukta, what is this last tale of children?"
Bukta had been a silent leader in Chinn's presence since the
night of his desertion, and was grateful for a chance-flung
They know, Sahib," he whispered. "It is the Clouded Tiger. That
that comes from the place where thou didst once sleep. It is thy
horse - as it has been these three generations."
"My horse! That was a dream of the Bhils."
"It is no dream. Do dreams leave the tracks of broad pugs on
earth? Why make two faces before thy people? They know of the
night-ridings, and they - and they - "
"Are afraid, and would have them cease."
Bukta nodded. "If thou hast no further need of him. He is thy
"The thing leaves a trail, then?" said Chinn.
"We have seen it. It is like a village road under the tomb."
"Can ye find and follow it for me?"
"By daylight - if one comes with us, and, above all, stands near
"I will stand close, and we will see to it that Jan Chinn does
not ride any more."
The Bhils shouted the last words again and again.
>From Chinn's point of view the stalk was nothing more than an
ordinary one - down-hill, through split and crannied rocks,
unsafe, perhaps, if a man did not keep his wits by him, but no
worse than twenty others he had undertaken. Yet his men - they
refused absolutely to beat, and would only trail - dripped sweat
at every move. They showed the marks of enormous pugs that ran,
always down-hill, to a few hundred feet below Jan Chinn's tomb,
and disappeared in a narrow-mouthed cave. It was an insolently
open road, a domestic highway, beaten without thought of
"The beggar might be paying rent and taxes," Chinn muttered ere
he asked whether his friend's taste ran to cattle or man.
"Cattle," was the answer. "Two heifers a week. We drive them for
him at the foot of the hill. It is his custom. If we did not, he
might seek us."
"Blackmail and piracy," said Chinn. "I can't say I fancy going
into the cave after him. What's to be done?"
The Bhils fell back as Chinn lodged himself behind a rock with
his rifle ready. Tigers, he knew, were shy beasts, but one who
had been long cattle-fed in this sumptuous style might prove
"He speaks!" some one whispered from the rear. "He knows, too."
"Well, of all the infernal cheek!" said Chinn. There was an angry
growl from the cave - a direct challenge.
"Come out, then," Chinn shouted. "Come out of that. Let's have a
look at you."The brute knew well enough that there was some
connection between brown nude Bhils and his weekly allowance;
but the white helmet in the sunlight annoyed him, and he did not
approve of the voice that broke his rest. Lazily as a gorged
snake, he dragged himself out of the cave, and stood yawning and
blinking at the entrance. The sunlight fell upon his flat right
side, and Chinn wondered. Never had he seen a tiger marked
after this fashion. Except for his head, which was staringly
barred, he was dappled - not striped, but dappled like a child's
rocking-horse in rich shades of smoky black on red gold. That
portion of his belly and throat which should have been white was
orange, and his tail and paws were black.
He looked leisurely for some ten seconds, and then deliberately
lowered his head, his chin dropped and drawn in, staring
intently at the man. The effect of this was to throw forward the
round arch of his skull, with two broad bands across it, while
below the bands glared the unwinking eyes; so that, head on, as
he stood, he showed something like a diabolically scowling
pantomime-mask. It was a piece of natural mesmerism that he had
practised many times on his quarry, and though Chinn was by no
means a terrified heifer, he stood for a while, held by the
extraordinary oddity of the attack. The head - the body seemed to
have been packed away behind it - the ferocious, skull-like head,
crept nearer to the switching of an angry tail-tip in the grass.
Left and right the Bhils had scattered to let John Chinn subdue
his own horse."My word!" he thought. "He's trying to frighten
me!" and fired between the saucer-like eyes, leaping aside upon
A big coughing mass, reeking of carrion, bounded past him up the
hill, and he followed discreetly. The tiger made no attempt to
turn into the jungle; he was hunting for sight and breath - nose
up, mouth open, the tremendous fore-legs scattering the gravel in
Scuppered!" said John Chinn, watching the flight. "Now if he was
a partridge he'd tower. Lungs must be full of blood."
The brute had jerked himself over a boulder and fallen out of
sight the other side. John Chinn looked over with a ready
barrel. But the red trail led straight as an arrow even to his
grandfather's tomb, and there, among the smashed spirit-bottles
and the fragments of the mud image, the life left, with a flurry
and a grunt.
"If my worthy ancestor could see that," said John Chinn, "he'd
have been proud of me. Eyes, lower jaw, and lungs. A very nice
shot." He whistled for Bukta as he drew the tape over the
"Ten - six - eight - by Jove! It's nearly eleven - call it
eleven. Fore-arm, twenty-four -five - seven and a half. A short
tail, too: three feet one. But what a skin! Oh, Bukta! Bukta! The
men with the knives swiftly."
"Is he beyond question dead?" said an awe-stricken voice behind a
"That was not the way I killed my first tiger," said Chinn. "I
did not think that Bukta would run. I had no second gun."
"It - it is the Clouded Tiger," said Bukta, un-heeding the taunt.
"He is dead."
Whether all the Bhils, vaccinated and unvaccinated, of the
Satpuras had lain by to see the kill, Chinn could not say; but
the whole hill's flank rustled with little men, shouting,
singing, and stamping. And yet, till he had made the first cut
in the splendid skin, not a man would take a knife; and, when the
shadows fell, they ran from the red-stained tomb, and no
persuasion would bring them back till dawn. So Chinn spent a
second night in the open, guarding the carcass from jackals, and
thinking about his ancestor.
He returned to the lowlands to the triumphal chant of an
escorting army three hundred strong, the Mahratta vaccinator
close at his elbow, and the rudely dried skin a trophy before
him. When that army suddenly and noiselessly disappeared, as
quail in high corn, he argued he was near civilisation, and a
turn in the road brought him upon the camp of a wing of his own
corps. He left the skin on a cart-tail for the world to see, and
sought the Colonel.
"They're perfectly right," he explained earnestly. "There isn't
an ounce of vice in 'em. They were only frightened. I've
vaccinated the whole boiling, and they like it awfully. What are
- what are we doing here, sir?"
"That's what I'm trying to find out," said the Colonel. "I don't
know yet whether we're a piece of a brigade or a police force.
However, I think we'll call ourselves a police force. How did
you manage to get a Bhil vaccinated?"
"Well, sir," said Chinn, " I've been thinking it over, and, as
far as I can make out, I've got a sort of hereditary influence
"So I know, or I wouldn't have sent you; but what, exactly?"
"It's rather rummy. It seems, from what I can make out, that I'm
my own grandfather reincarnated, and I've been disturbing the
peace of the country by riding a pad-tiger of nights. If I
hadn't done that, I don't think they'd have objected to the
vaccination; but the two together were more than they could
stand. And so, sir, I've vaccinated 'em, and shot my tiger-horse
as a sort o' proof of good faith. You never saw such a skin in
The Colonel tugged his moustache thought-fully. "Now, how the
deuce," said he, "am I to include that in my report?"
Indeed, the official version of the Bhils' anti-vaccination
stampede said nothing about Lieutenant John Chinn, his godship.
But Bukta knew, and the corps knew, and every Bhil in the
Satpura hills knew.
And now Bukta is zealous that John Chinn shall swiftly be wedded
and impart his powers to a son; for if the Chinn succession
fails, and the little Bhils are left to their own imaginings,
there will be fresh trouble in the Satpuras.
End of, "THE TOMB OF HIS ANCESTORS"
THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP SEA
All supplies very bad and dear, and there are no facilities for
even the smallest repairs. - Sailing Directions.
Her nationality was British, but you will not find her house-flag
in the list of our mercantile marine. She was a
nine-hundred-ton, iron, schooner-rigged, screw cargo-boat,
differing externally in no way from any other tramp of the sea.
But it is with steamers as it is with men. There are those who
will for a consideration sail extremely close to the wind; and,
in the present state of a fallen world, such people and such
steamers have their use. From the hour that the Aglaia first
entered the Clyde — new, shiny, and innocent, with a quart of
cheap champagne trickling down her cut-water — Fate and her
owner, who was also her captain, decreed that she should deal
with embarrassed crowned heads, fleeing Presidents, financiers
of over-extended ability, women to whom change of air was
imperative, and the lesser law-breaking Powers. Her career led
her sometimes into the Admiralty Courts, where the sworn
statements of her skipper filled his brethren with envy. The
mariner cannot tell or act a lie in the face of the sea, or
mis-lead a tempest; but, as lawyers have discovered, he makes up
for chances withheld when he returns to shore, an affidavit in
The Aglaia figured with distinction in the great Mackinaw
salvage-case. It was her first slip from virtue, and she learned
how to change her name, but not her heart, and to run across the
sea. As the Guiding Light she was very badly wanted in a South
American port for the little matter of entering harbour at full
speed, colliding with a coal-hulk and the State's only
man-of-war, just as that man-of-war was going to coal. She put
to sea without explanations, though three forts fired at her for
half an hour. As the Julia M'Gregor she had been concerned in
picking up from a raft certain gentlemen who should have stayed
in Noumea, but who preferred making themselves vastly unpleasant
to authority in quite another quarter of the world; and as the
Shah-in-Shah she had been overtaken on the high seas, indecently
full of munitions of war, by the cruiser of an agitated Power at
issue with its neighbour. That time she was very nearly sunk, and
her riddled hull gave eminent lawyers of two countries great
profit. After a season she reappeared as the Martin Hunt painted
a dull slate-colour, with pure saffron funnel, and boats of
robin's-egg blue, engaging in the Odessa trade till she was
invited (and the invitation could not well be disregarded) to
keep away from Black Sea ports altogether.
She had ridden through many waves of depression. Freights might
drop out of sight, Seamen's Unions throw spanners and nuts at
certificated masters, or stevedores combine till cargo perished
on the dock-head; but the boat of many names came and went,
busy, alert, and inconspicuous always. Her skipper made no
complaint of hard times, and port officers observed that her
crew signed and signed again with the regularity of Atlantic
liner boatswains. Her name she changed as occasion called; her
well-paid crew never; and a large percentage of the profits of
her voyages was spent with an open hand on her engine-room. She
never troubled the underwriters, and very seldom stopped to talk
with a signal-station, for her business was urgent and private.
But an end came to her tradings, and she perished in this manner.
Deep peace brooded over Europe, Asia, Africa, America,
Australasia, and Polynesia. The Powers dealt together more or
less honestly; banks paid their depositors to the hour; diamonds
of price came safely to the hands of their owners; Republics
rested content with their Dictators; diplomats found no one whose
presence in the least incommoded them; monarchs lived openly with
their lawfully wedded wives. It was as though the whole earth
had put on its best Sunday bib and tucker; and business was very
bad for the Martin Hunt. The great, virtuous calm engulfed her,
slate sides, yellow funnel, and all, but cast up in another
hemisphere the steam whaler Haliotis, black and rusty, with a
manure-coloured funnel, a litter of dingy white boats, and an
enormous stove, or furnace, for boiling blubber on her forward
well-deck. There could be no doubt that her trip was successful,
for she lay at several ports not too well known, and the smoke of
her trying-out insulted the beaches.
Anon she departed, at the speed of the average London
four-wheeler, and entered a semi-inland sea, warm, still, and
blue, which is, perhaps, the most strictly preserved water in
the world. There she stayed for a certain time, and the great
stars of those mild skies beheld her playing puss-in-the-corner
among islands where whales are never found. All that while she
smelt abominably, and the smell, though fishy, was not
whalesome. One evening calamity descended upon her from the
island of Pygang-Watai, and she fled, while her crew jeered at a
fat black-and-brown gunboat puffing far behind. They knew to the
last revolution the capacity of every boat, on those seas, that
they were anxious to avoid. A British ship with a good
conscience does not, as a rule, flee from the man-of-war of a
foreign Power, and it is also considered a breach of etiquette
to stop and search British ships at sea. These things the
skipper of the Haliotis did not pause to prove, but held on at an
inspiriting eleven knots an hour till nightfall. One thing only
The Power that kept an expensive steam-patrol moving up and down
those waters (they had dodged the two regular ships of the
station with an ease that bred contempt) had newly brought up a
third and a fourteen-knot boat with a clean bottom to help the
work; and that was why the Haliotis, driving hard from the east
to the west, found herself at daylight in such a position that
she could not help seeing an arrangement of four flags, a mile
and a half behind, which read: "Heave to, or take the
She had her choice, and she took it. The end came when,
presuming on her lighter draught, she tried to draw away
northward over a friendly shoal. The shell that arrived by way
of the Chief Engineer's cabin was some five inches in diameter,
with a practice, not a bursting, charge. It had been intended to
cross her bows, and that was why it knocked the framed portrait
of the Chief Engineer's wife - and she was a very pretty girl -
on to the floor, splintered his wash-hand stand, crossed the
alleyway into the engine-room, and striking on a grating, dropped
directly in front of the forward engine, where it burst, neatly
fracturing both the bolts that held the connecting-rod to the
What follows is worth consideration. The forward engine had no
more work to do. Its released piston-rod, therefore, drove up
fiercely, with nothing to check it, and started most of the nuts
of the cylinder-cover. It came down again, the full weight of
the steam behind it, and the foot of the disconnected
connecting-rod, useless as the leg of a man with a sprained
ankle, flung out to the right and struck the starboard, or
right-hand, cast-iron supporting-column of the forward engine,
cracking it clean through about six inches above the base, and
wedging the upper portion outwards three inches towards the
ship's side. There the connecting-rod jammed. Meantime, the
after-engine, being as yet unembarrassed, went on with its work,
and in so doing brought round at its next revolution the crank of
the forward engine, which smote the already jammed
connecting-rod, bending it and therewith the piston-rod
cross-head- the big cross-piece that slides up and down so
The cross-head jammed sideways in the guides, and, in addition to
putting further pressure on the already broken starboard
supporting-column, cracked the port, or left-hand,
supporting-column in two or three places. There being nothing
more that could be made to move, the engines brought up, all
standing, with a hiccup that seemed to lift the Haliotis a foot
out of the water; and the engine-room staff, opening every steam
outlet that they could find in the confusion, arrived on deck
somewhat scalded, but calm. There was a sound below of things
happening - a rushing, clicking, purring, grunting, rattling
noise that did not last for more than a minute. It was the
machinery adjusting itself, on the spur of the moment, to a
hundred altered conditions. Mr. Wardrop, one foot on the upper
grating, inclined his ear sideways, and groaned. You cannot
stop engines working at twelve knots an hour in three seconds
without disorganising them. The Haliotis slid forward in a
cloud of steam, shrieking like a wounded horse. There was
nothing more to do. The five-inch shell with a reduced charge
had settled the situation. And when you are full, all three
holds, of strictly preserved pearls; when you have cleaned out
the Tanna Bank, the Sea-Horse Bank, and four other banks from
one end to the other of the Amanala Sea -when you have ripped
out the very heart of a rich Government monopoly so that five
years will not repair your wrong-doings - you must smile and
take what is in store. But the skipper reflected, as a launch
put out from the man-of-war, that he had been bombarded on the
high seas, with the British flag - several of them -
picturesquely disposed above him, and tried to find comfort from
Where," said the stolid naval lieutenant hoisting himself aboard,
"where are those dam' pearls?"
They were there beyond evasion. No affidavit could do away with
the fearful smell of decayed oysters, the diving-dresses, and
the shell-littered hatches. They were there to the value of
seventy thousand pounds, more or less; and every pound poached.
The man-of-war was annoyed; for she had used up many tons of
coal, she had strained her tubes, and, worse than all, her
officers and crew had been hurried. Every one on the Haliotis
was arrested and rearrested several times, as each officer came
aboard; then they were told by what they esteemed to be the
equivalent of a midshipman that they were to consider themselves
prisoners, and finally were put under arrest.
It's not the least good," said the skipper, suavely. "You'd much
better send us a tow - "
"Be still - you are arrest!" was the reply.
"Where the devil do you expect we are going to escape to?" We're
helpless. You've got to tow us into somewhere, and explain why
you fired on us. Mr. Wardrop, we're helpless, aren't we?"
"Ruined from end to end," said the man of machinery. "If she
rolls, the forward cylinder will come down and go through her
bottom. Both columns are clean cut through. There's nothing to
hold anything up."
The council of war clanked off to see if Mr. Wardrop's words were
true. He warned them that it was as much as a man's life was
worth to enter the engine-room, and they contented themselves
with a distant inspection through the thinning steam. The
Haliotis lifted to the long, easy swell, and the starboard
supporting-column ground a trifle, as a man grits his teeth
under the knife. The forward cylinder was depending on that
unknown force men call the pertinacity of materials, which now
and then balances that other heartbreaking power, the perversity
of inanimate things.
"You see!" said Mr. Wardrop, hurrying them away. "The engines
aren't worth their price as old iron."
"We tow," was the answer. "Afterwards we shall confiscate."
The man-of-war was short-handed, and did not see the necessity
for putting a prize-crew aboard the Haliotis. So she sent one
sublieutenant, whom the skipper kept very drunk, for he did not
wish to make the tow too easy, and, moreover, he had an
inconspicuous little rope hanging from the stem of his ship.
Then they began to tow at an average speed of four knots an hour.
The Haliotis was very hard to move, and the gunnery-lieutenant,
who had fired the five-inch shell, had leisure to think upon
consequences. Mr. Wardrop was the busy man. He borrowed all the
crew to shore up the cylinders with spars and blocks from the
bottom and sides of the ship. It was a day's risky work; but
anything was better than drowning at the end of a tow-rope; and
if the forward cylinder had fallen,it would have made its way to
the sea-bed, and taken the Haliotis after.
"Where are we going to, and how long will they tow us?" he asked
of the skipper.
"God knows! and this prize-lieutenant's drunk. What do you think
you can do?"
"There's just the bare chance," Mr. Wardrop whispered, though no
one was within hearing -"there's just the bare chance o'
repairin' her, if a man knew how. They've twisted the very guts
out of her, bringing her up with that jerk; but I'm saying that,
with time and patience, there's just the chance o' making steam
yet. We could do it."
The skipper's eye brightened. "Do you mean," he began, "that she
is any good?"
"Oh, no," said Mr. Wardrop. "She'll need three thousand pounds in
repairs, at the lowest, if she's to take the sea again, an' that
apart from any injury to her structure. She's like a man fallen
down five pair o' stairs. We can't tell for months what has
happened; but we know she'll never be good again without a new
inside. Ye should see the condenser-tubes an' the steam
connections to the donkey, for two things only. I'm not afraid
of them repairin' her. I'm afraid of them stealin' things."
"They've fired on us. They'll have to explain that."
"Our reputation's not good enough to ask for explanations. Let's
take what we have and be thankful. Ye would not have consuls
remembern' the Guidin' Light, an' the Shah-in-Shah, an' the
Aglaia, at this most alarmin' crisis. We've been no better than
pirates these ten years. Under Providence we're no worse than
thieves now. We've much to be thankful for - if we e'er get back
"Make it your own way, then," said the skipper. "If there's the
least chance - "
"I'll leave none," said Mr. Wardrop - "none that they'll dare to
take. Keep her heavy on the tow, for we need time."
The skipper never interfered with the affairs of the engine-room,
and Mr. Wardrop - an artist in his profession - turned to and
composed a work terrible and forbidding. His background was the
dark-grained sides of the engine-room; his material the metals
of power and strength, helped out with spars, baulks, and ropes.
The man-of-war towed sullenly and viciously. The Haliotis behind
her hummed like a hive before swarming. With extra and totally
unneeded spars her crew blocked up the space round the forward
engine till it resembled a statue in its scaffolding, and the
butts of the shores interfered with every view that a
dispassionate eye might wish to take. And that the dispassionate
mind might be swiftly shaken out of its calm, the well-sunk
bolts of the shores were wrapped round untidily with loose ends
of ropes, giving a studied effect of most dangerous insecurity.
Next, Mr. Wardrop took up a collection from the after-engine,
which, as you will remember, had not been affected in the general
wreck. The cylinder escape-valve he abolished with a
flogging-hammer. It is difficult in far-off ports to come by
such valves, unless, like Mr. Wardrop, you keep duplicates in
store. At the same time men took off the nuts of two of the
great holding-down bolts that serve to keep the engines in place
on their solid bed. An engine violently arrested in mid-career
may easily jerk off the nut of a holding-down bolt, and this
accident looked very natural.
Passing along the tunnel, he removed several shaft coupling-bolts
and -nuts, scattering other and ancient pieces of iron
underfoot. Cylinder-bolts he cut off to the number of six from
the after-engine cylinder, so that it might match its neighbour,
and stuffed the bilge - and feed-pumps with cotton-waste. Then
he made up a neat bundle of the various odds and ends that he had
gathered from the engines - little things like nuts and
valve-spindles, all carefully tallowed - and retired with them
under the floor of the engine-room, where he sighed, being fat,
as he passed from manhole to manhole of the double bottom, and in
a fairly dry submarine compartment hid them. Any engineer,
particularly in an unfriendly port, has a right to keep his spare
stores where he chooses; and the foot of one of the cylinder
shores blocked all entrance into the regular store-room, even if
that had not been already closed with steel wedges. In
conclusion, he disconnected the after-engine, laid piston and
connecting-rod, carefully tallowed, where it would be most
inconvenient to the casual visitor, took out three of the eight
collars of the thrust-block, hid them where only he could find
them again, filled the boilers by hand, wedged the sliding doors
of the coal-bunkers, and rested from his labours. The
engine-room was a cemetery, and it did not need the contents of
the ash-lift through the skylight to make it any worse.
He invited the skipper to look at the completed work.
Saw ye ever such a forsaken wreck as that ?" said he, proudly.
"It almost frights me to go under those shores. Now, what d' you
think they'll do to us?"
"Wait till we see," said the skipper. " It'll be bad enough when
He was not wrong. The pleasant days of towing ended all too soon,
though the Haliotis trailed behind her a heavily weighted jib
stayed out into the shape of a pocket; and Mr. Wardrop was no
longer an artist of imagination, but one of seven-and-twenty
prisoners in a prison full of insects. The man-of-war had towed
them to the nearest port, not to the headquarters of the colony,
and when Mr. Wardrop saw the dismal little harbour, with its
ragged line of Chinese junks, its one crazy tug, and the
boat-building shed that, under the charge of a philosophical
Malay, represented a dockyard, he sighed and shook his head.
"I did well," he said. "This is the habitation o' wreckers an'
thieves. We're at the uttermost ends of the earth. Think you
they'll ever know in England?"
"Doesn't look like it," said the skipper.
They were marched ashore with what they stood up in, under a
generous escort, and were judged according to the customs of the
country, which, though excellent, are a little out of date.
There were the pearls; there were the poachers; and there sat a
small but hot Governor. He consulted for a while, and then
things began to move with speed, for he did not wish to keep a
hungry crew at large on the beach, and the man-of-war had gone
up the coast. With a wave of his hand - a stroke of the pen was
not necessary - he consigned them to the black gang-tana, the
back-country, and the hand of the Law removed them from his
sight and the knowledge of men. They were marched into the
palms, and the back-country swallowed them up - all the crew of
Deep peace continued to brood over Europe, Asia, Africa, America,
Australasia, and Polynesia.
It was the firing that did it. They should have kept their
counsel; but when a few thousand foreigners are bursting with
joy over the fact that a ship under the British flag has been
fired at on the high seas, news travels quickly; and when it
came out that the pearl-stealing crew had not been allowed access
to their consul (there was no consul within a few hundred miles
of that lonely port) even the friendliest of Powers has a right
to ask questions. The great heart of the British public was
beating furiously on account of the performance of a notorious
race-horse, and had not a throb to waste on distant accidents;
but somewhere deep in the hull of the ship of State there is
machinery which more or less accurately takes charge of foreign
affairs. That machinery began to revolve, and who so shocked and
surprised as the Power that had captured the Haliotis? It
explained that colonial governors and far-away men-of-war were
difficult to control, and promised that it would most certainly
make an example both of the Governor and the vessel. As for the
crew reported to be pressed into military service in tropical
climes, it would produce them as soon as possible, and it would
apologise, if necessary. Now, no apologies were needed. When
one nation apologises to an-other, millions of amateurs who have
no earthly concern with the difficulty hurl themselves into the
strife and embarrass the trained specialist. It was requested
that the crew be found, if they were still alive - they had been
eight months beyond knowledge - and it was promised that all
would be forgotten.
The little Governor of the little port was pleased with himself.
Seven-and-twenty white men made a very compact force to throw
away on a war that had neither beginning nor end - a jungle and
stockade fight that flickered and smouldered through the wet hot
years in the hills a hundred miles away, and was the heritage of
every wearied official. He had, he thought, deserved well of his
country; and if only some one would buy the unhappy Haliotis,
moored in the harbour below his verandah, his cup would be full.
He looked at the neatly silvered lamps that he had taken from her
cabins, and thought of much that might be turned to account. But
his countrymen in that moist climate had no spirit. They would
peep into the silent engine-room, and shake their heads. Even
the men-of-war would not tow her further up the coast, where the
Governor believed that she could be repaired. She was a bad
bargain; but her cabin carpets were undeniably beautiful, and his
wife approved of her mirrors.
Three hours later cables were bursting round him like shells,
for, though he knew it not, he was being offered as a sacrifice
by the nether to the upper millstone, and his superiors had no
regard for his feelings. He had, said the cables, grossly
exceeded his power, and failed to report on events. He would,
therefore - at this he cast himself back in his hammock -
produce the crew of the Haliotis. He would send for them, and,
if that failed, he would put his dignity on a pony and fetch
them himself. He had no conceivable right to make pearl-poachers
serve in any war. He would be held responsible.
Next morning the cables wished to know whether he had found the
crew of the Haliotis. They were to be found, freed and fed - he
was to feed them - till such time as they could be sent to the
nearest English port in a man-of-war. If you abuse a man long
enough in great words flashed over the sea-beds, things happen.
The Governor sent inland swiftly for his prisoners, who were
also soldiers; and never was a militia regiment more anxious to
reduce its strength. No power short of death could make these
mad men wear the uniform of their service. They would not
fight, except with their fellows, and it was for that reason the
regiment had not gone to war, but stayed in a stockade,
reasoning with the new troops. The autumn campaign had been a
fiasco, but here were the Englishmen. All the regiment marched
back to guard them, and the hairy enemy, armed with blow-pipes,
rejoiced in the forest. Five of the crew had died, but there
lined up on the Governor's verandah two-and-twenty men marked
about the legs with the scars of leech-bites. A few of them
wore fringes that had once been trousers; the others used
loin-cloths of gay patterns; and they existed beautifully but
simply in the Governor's verandah, and when he came out they
sang at him. When you have lost seventy thousand pounds' worth
of pearls, your pay, your ship, and all your clothes, and have
lived in bondage for five months beyond the faintest pretences
of civilisation, you know what true independence means, for you
become the happiest of created things - natural man.
The Governor told the crew that they were evil, and they asked
for food. When he saw how they ate, and when he remembered that
none of the pearl patrol-boats were expected for two months, he
sighed. But the crew of the Haliotis lay down in the verandah,
and said that they were pensioners of the Governor's bounty. A
grey-bearded man, fat and bald-headed, his one garment a
green-and-yellow loin-cloth, saw the Haliotis in the harbour,
and bellowed for joy. The men crowded to the verandah-rail,
kicking aside the long cane chairs. They pointed, gesticulated,
and argued freely, without shame. The militia regiment sat down
in the Governor's garden. The Governor retired to his hammock -
it was as easy to be killed lying as standing-and his women
squeaked from the shuttered rooms.
"She sold?" said the grey~bearded man, pointing to the Haliotis.
He was Mr. Wardrop.
"No good," said the Governor, shaking his head. "No one come
"He's taken my lamps, though," said the skipper. He wore one leg
of a pair of trousers, and his eye wandered along the verandah.
The Governor quailed. There were cuddy camp-stools and the
skipper's writing-table in plain sight.
"They've cleaned her out, o' course," said Mr. Wardrop. "They
would. We'll go aboard and take an inventory. See!" He waved his
hands over the harbour. "We - live - there - now. Sorry?"
The Governor smiled a smile of relief.
"He's glad of that," said one of the crew, reflectively. "I
They flocked down to the harbour-front, the militia regiment
clattering behind, and embarked themselves in what they found -
it happened to be the Governor's boat. Then they disappeared
over the bulwarks of the Haliotis, and the Governor prayed that
they might find occupation inside.
Mr. Wardrop's first bound took him to the engine-room; and when
the others were patting the well-remembered decks, they heard
him giving God thanks that things were as he had left them. The
wrecked engines stood over his head untouched; no inexpert hand
had meddled with his shores; the steel wedges of the store-room
were rusted home; and, best of all, the hundred and sixty tons of
good Australian coal in the bunkers had not diminished.
"I don't understand it," said Mr. Wardrop. "Any Malay knows the
use o' copper. They ought to have cut away the pipes. And with
Chinese junks coming here, too. It's a special interposition o'
"You think so," said the skipper, from above. "There's only been
one thief here, and he's cleaned her out of all my things,
Here the skipper spoke less than the truth, for under the
planking of his cabin, only to be reached by a chisel, lay a
little money which never drew any interest - his sheet-anchor to
windward. It was all in clean sovereigns that pass current the
world over, and might have amounted to more than a hundred
"He's left me alone. Let's thank God," repeated Mr. Wardrop.
"He's taken everything else; look!"
The Haliotis, except as to her engine-room, had been
systematically and scientifically gutted from one end to the
other, and there was strong evidence that an unclean guard had
camped in the skipper's cabin to regulate that plunder. She
lacked glass, plate, crockery, cutlery, mattresses, cuddy carpets
and chairs, all boats, and her copper ventilators. These things
had been removed, with her sails and as much of the wire rigging
as would not imperil the safety of the masts.
"He must have sold those," said the skipper. "The other things
are in his house, I suppose."
Every fitting that could be pried or screwed out was gone. Port,
starboard, and masthead lights; teak gratings; sliding sashes of
the deckhouse; the captain's chest of drawers, with charts and
chart-table; photographs, brackets, and looking-glasses; cabin
doors; rubber cuddy mats; hatch-irons; half the funnel-stays;
cork fenders; carpenter's grindstone and tool-chest; holystones,
swabs, squeegees; all cabin and pantry lamps; galley-fittings en
bloc; flags and flag-locker; clocks, chronometers; the forward
compass and the ship's bell and belfry, were among the missing.
There were great scarred marks on the deck-planking over which
the cargo-derricks had been hauled. One must have fallen by the
way, for the bulwark-rails were smashed and bent and the
"It's the Governor," said the skipper "He's been selling her on
the instalment plan."
"Let's go up with spanners and shovels, and kill 'em all,"
shouted the crew. "Let's drown him, and keep the woman!"
"Then we'll be shot by that black-and-tan regiment - our
regiment. What's the trouble ashore ~ They've camped our
regiment on the beach."
"We're cut off; that's all. Go and see what they want," said Mr.
Wardrop. "You've the trousers."
In his simple way the Governor was a strategist. He did not
desire that the crew of the Haliotis should come ashore again,
either singly or in detachments, and he proposed to turn their
steamer into a convict-hulk. They would wait - he explained this
from the quay to the skipper in the barge - and they would
continue to wait till the man-of-war came along, exactly where
they were. If one of them set foot ashore, the entire regiment
would open fire, and he would not scruple to use the two cannon
of the town. Meantime food would be sent daily in a boat under
an armed escort. The skipper, bare to the waist, and rowing,
could only grind his teeth; and the Governor improved the
occasion, and revenged himself for the bitter words in the
cables, by saying what he thought of the morals and manners of
the crew. The barge returned to the Haliotis in silence, and the
skipper climbed aboard, white on the cheek-bones and blue about
"I knew it," said Mr. Wardrop; "and they won't give us good food,
either. We shall have bananas morning, noon, and night, an' a man
can't work on fruit. We know that."
Then the skipper cursed Mr. Wardrop for importing frivolous
side-issues into the conversation; and the crew cursed one
another, and the Haliotis, the voyage, and all that they knew or
could bring to mind. They sat down in silence on the empty
decks, and their eyes burned in their heads. The green harbour
water chuckled at them overside. They looked at the palm-fringed
hills inland, at the white houses above the harbour road, at the
single tier of native craft by the quay, at the stolid soldiery
sitting round the two cannon, and, last of all, at the blue bar
of the horizon. Mr. War-drop was buried in thought, and scratched
imaginary lines with his untrimmed finger-nails on the planking.
"I make no promise," he said, at last, "for I can't say what may
or may not have happened to them. But here's the ship, and
There was a little scornful laughter at this, and Mr. Wardrop
knitted his brows. He recalled that in the days when be wore
trousers he had been Chief Engineer of the Haliotis.
"Harland, Mackesy, Noble, Hay, Naughton, Fink, O'Hara, Trumbull."
"Here, sir!" The instinct of obedience waked to answer the
roll-call of the engine-room.
They rose and went.
"Captain, I'll trouble you for the rest of the men as I want
them. We'll get my stores out, and clear away the shores we
don't need, and then we'll patch her up. My men will remember
that they're in the Haliotis, - under me."
He went into the engine-room, and the others stared. They were
used to the accidents of the sea, but this was beyond their
experience. None who had seen the engine-room believed that
anything short of new engines from end to end could stir the
Haliotis from her moorings.
The engine-room stores were unearthed, and Mr. Wardrop's face,
red with the filth of the bilges and the exertion of travelling
on his stomach, lit with joy. The spare gear of the Haliotis had
been unusually complete, and two-and-twenty men, armed with
screw-jacks, differential blocks, tackle, vices, and a forge or
so, can look Kismet between the eyes without winking. The crew
were ordered to replace the holding-down and shaft-bearing
bolts, and return the collars of the thrust-block. When they had
finished, Mr. Wardrop delivered a lecture on repairing compound
engines without the aid of the shops, and the men sat about on
the cold machinery. The cross-head jammed in the guides leered
at them drunkenly, but offered no help. They ran their fingers
hopelessly into the cracks of the starboard supporting-column,
and picked at the ends of the ropes round the shores, while Mr.
Wardrop's voice rose and fell echoing, till the quick tropic
night closed down over the engine-room skylight.
Next morning the work of reconstruction began. It has been
explained that the foot of the connecting-rod was forced against
the foot of the starboard supporting-column, which it had cracked
through and driven outward towards the ship's skin. To all
appearance the job was more than hopeless, for rod and column
seemed to have been welded into one. But herein Providence
smiled on them for one moment to hearten them through the weary
weeks ahead. The second engineer -more reckless than resourceful
- struck at random with a cold chisel into the cast-iron of the
column, and a greasy, grey flake of metal flew from under the
imprisoned foot of the connecting-rod, while the rod itself fell
away slowly, and brought up with a thunderous clang somewhere in
the dark of the crank-pit. The guides-plates above were still
jammed fast in the guides, but the first blow had been struck.
They spent the rest of the day grooming the donkey-engine, which
stood immediately forward of the engine-room hatch. Its
tarpaulin, of course, had been stolen, and eight warm months had
not improved the working parts. Further, the last dying hiccup of
the Haliotis seemed - or it might have been the Malay from the
boat-house - to have lifted the thing bodily on its bolts, and
set it down inaccurately as regarded its steam connections.
"If we only had one single cargo-derrick!" Mr. Wardrop sighed.
"We can take the cylinder-cover off by hand, if we sweat; but to
get the rod out o' the piston's not possible unless we use
steam. Well, there'll be steam the morn, if there's nothing
else. She'll fizzle!"
Next morning men from the shore saw the Haliotis through a cloud,
for it was as though the deck smoked. Her crew were chasing
steam through the shaken and leaky pipes to its work in the
forward donkey-engine; and where oakum failed to plug a crack,
they stripped off their loin-cloths for lapping, and swore,
half-boiled and mother-naked. The donkey-engine worked - at a
price - the price of constant attention and furious stoking-
worked long enough to allow a wire-rope (it was made up of a
funnel and a foremast-stay) to be led into the engine-room and
made fast on the cylinder-cover of the forward engine. That rose
easily enough, and was hauled through the skylight and on to the
deck, many hands assisting the doubtful steam. Then came the tug
of war, for it was necessary to get to the piston and the jammed
piston-rod. They removed two of the piston junk-ring studs,
screwed in two strong iron eye-bolts by way of handles, doubled
the wire-rope, and set half a dozen men to smite with an
extemporised battering-ram at the end of the piston-rod, where it
peered through the piston, while the donkey-engine hauled upwards
on the piston itself. After four hours of this furious work, the
piston-rod suddenly slipped, and the piston rose with a jerk,
knocking one or two men over into the engine-room. But when Mr.
Wardrop declared that the piston had not split, they cheered, and
thought nothing of their wounds; and the donkey-engine was
hastily stopped; its boiler was nothing to tamper with.
And day by day their supplies reached them by boat. The skipper
humbled himself once more before the Governor, and as a
concession had leave to get drinking-water from the Malay
boat-builder on the quay. It was not good drinking-water, but
the Malay was anxious to supply anything in his power, if he were
paid for it.
Now when the jaws of the forward engine stood, as it were,
stripped and empty, they began to wedge up the shores of the
cylinder itself. That work alone filled the better part of three
days - warm and sticky days, when the hands slipped and sweat ran
into the eyes. When the last wedge was hammered home there was
no longer an ounce of weight on the supporting-columns; and Mr.
Wardrop rummaged the ship for boiler-plate three-quarters of an
inch thick, where he could find it. There was not much available,
but what there was was more than beaten gold to him. In one
desperate forenoon the entire crew, naked and lean, haled back,
more or less into place, the starboard supporting-column, which,
as you remember, was cracked clean through. Mr. Wardrop found
them asleep where they had finished the work, and gave them a
day's rest, smiling upon them as a father while he drew
chalk-marks about the cracks. They woke to new and more trying
labour; for over each one of those cracks a plate of
three-quarter-inch boiler-iron was to be worked hot, the
rivet-holes being drilled by hand. All that time they were fed on
fruits, chiefly bananas, with some sago.
Those were the days when men swooned over the ratchet-drill and
the hand-forge, and where they fell they had leave to lie unless
their bodies were in the way of their fellows' feet. And so,
patch upon patch, and a patch over all, the starboard
supporting-column was clouted; but when they thought all was
secure, Mr. Wardrop decreed that the noble patchwork would never
support working engines; at the best, it could only hold the
guide-bars approximately true. The deadweight of the cylinders
must be borne by vertical struts; and, therefore, a gang would
repair to the bows, and take out, with files, the big bow-anchor
davits, each of which was some three inches in diameter. They
threw hot coals at Wardrop, and threatened to kill him, those who
did not weep (they were ready to weep on the least provocation);
but he hit them with iron bars heated at the end, and they limped
forward, and the davits came with them when they returned. They
slept sixteen hours on the strength of it, and in three days two
struts were in place, bolted from the foot of the starboard
supporting-column to the under side of the cylinder. There
remained now the port, or condenser-column, which, though not so
badly cracked as its fellow, had also been strengthened in four
places with boiler-plate patches, but needed struts. They took
away the main stanchions of the bridge for that work, and, crazy
with toil, did not see till all was in place that the rounded
bars of iron must be flattened from top to bottom to allow the
air-pump levers to clear them. It was Wardrop's oversight, and he
wept bitterly before the men as he gave the order to unbolt the
struts and flatten them with hammer and the flame. Now the broken
engine was underpinned firmly, and they took away the wooden
shores from under the cylinders, and gave them to the robbed
bridge, thanking God for even half a day's work on gentle, kindly
wood instead of the iron that had entered into their souls. Eight
months in the back-country among the leeches, at a temperature of
84 degrees moist, is very bad for the nerves.
They had kept the hardest work to the last, as boys save Latin
prose, and, worn though they were, Mr. Wardrop did not dare to
give them rest. The piston-rod and connecting-rod were to be
straightened, and this was a job for a regular dockyard with
every appliance. They fell to it, cheered by a little chalk
showing of work done and time consumed which Mr. Wardrop wrote
up on the engine-room bulkhead. Fifteen days had gone -fifteen
days of killing labour - and there was hope before them.
It is curious that no man knows how the rods were straightened.
The crew of the Haliotis remember that week very dimly, as a
fever patient remembers the delirium of a long night. There were
fires everywhere, they say; the whole ship was one consuming
furnace, and the hammers were never still. Now, there could not
have been more than one fire at the most, for Mr. Wardrop
distinctly recalls that no straightening was done except under
his own eye. They remember, too, that for many years voices gave
orders which they obeyed with their bodies, but their minds were
abroad on all the seas. It seems to them that they stood through
days and nights slowly sliding a bar backwards and forwards
through a white glow that was part of the ship. They remember an
intolerable noise in their burning heads from the walls of the
stoke-hole, and they remember being savagely beaten by men whose
eyes seemed asleep. When their shift was over they would draw
straight lines in the air, anxiously and repeatedly, and would
question one another in their sleep, crying, "Is she straight?"
At last - they do not remember whether this was by day or by
night - Mr. Wardrop began to dance clumsily, and wept the while;
and they too danced and wept, and went to sleep twitching all
over; and when they woke, men said that the rods were
straightened, and no one did any work for two days, but lay on
the decks and ate fruit. Mr. Wardrop would go below from time to
time, and pat the two rods where they lay, and they heard him
Then his trouble of mind went from him, and at the end of the
third day's idleness he made a drawing in chalk upon the deck,
with letters of the alphabet at the angles. He pointed out that,
though the piston-rod was more or less straight, the piston-rod
cross-head - the thing that had been jammed sideways in the
guides - had been badly strained, and had cracked the lower end
of the piston-rod. He was going to forge and shrink a
wrought-iron collar on the neck of the piston-rod where it joined
the cross-head, and from the collar he would bolt a Y-shaped
piece of iron whose lower arms should be bolted into the
cross-head. If anything more were needed, they could use up the
last of the boiler-plate.
So the forges were lit again, and men burned their bodies, but
hardly felt the pain. The finished connection was not beautiful,
but it seemed strong enough - at least, as strong as the rest of
the machinery; and with that job their labours came to an end.
All that remained was to connect up the engines, and to get food
and water. The skipper and four men dealt with the Malay
boat-builder by night chiefly; it was no time to haggle over the
price of sago and dried fish. The others stayed aboard and
replaced piston, piston-rod, cylinder-cover, cross-head, and
bolts, with the aid of the faithful donkey-engine. The
cylinder-cover was hardly steam-proof, and the eye of science
might have seen in the connecting-rod a flexure something like
that of a Christmas-tree candle which has melted and been
straightened by hand over a stove, but, as Mr. Wardrop said,
"She didn't hit anything."
As soon as the last bolt was in place, men tumbled over one
another in their anxiety to get to the hand starting-gear, the
wheel and worm, by which some engines can be moved when there is
no steam aboard. They nearly wrenched off the wheel, but it was
evident to the blindest eye that the engines stirred. They did
not revolve in their orbits with any enthusiasm, as good
machines should; indeed, they groaned not a little; but they
moved over and came to rest in a way which proved that they
still recognised man's hand. Then Mr. Wardrop sent his slaves
into the darker bowels of the engine-room and the stoke-hole, and
followed them with a flare-lamp. The boilers were sound, but
would take no harm from a little scaling and cleaning. Mr.
Wardrop would not have any one over-zealous, for he feared what
the next stroke of the tool might show. "The less we know about
her now," said he, "the better for us all, I'm thinkin'. Ye'll
understand me when I say that this is in no sense regular
As his raiment, when he spoke, was his grey beard and uncut hair,
they believed him. They did not ask too much of what they met,
but polished and tallowed and scraped it to a false brilliancy.
"A lick of paint would make me easier in my mind," said Mr.
Wardrop, plaintively. "I know half the condenser-tubes are
started; and the propeller-shaftin' 's God knows how far out of
the true, and we'll need a new air-pump, an' the main-steam
leaks like a sieve, and there's worse each way I look; but -
paint's like clothes to a man, 'an ours is near all gone."
The skipper unearthed some stale ropy paint of the loathsome
green that they used for the galleys of sailing-ships, and Mr.
Wardrop spread it abroad lavishly to give the engines
His own was returning day by day, for he wore his loin-cloth
continuously; but the crew, having worked under orders, did not
feel as he did. The completed work satisfied Mr. Wardrop. He
would at the last have made shift to run to Singapore, and gone
home without vengeance taken to show his engines to his brethren
in the craft; but the others and the captain forbade him. They
had not yet recovered their self-respect.
"It would be safer to make what ye might call a trial trip, but
beggars mustn't be choosers; an if the engines will go over to
the hand-gear, the probability - I'm only saying it's a
probability the chance is that they'll hold up when we put steam
"How long will you take to get steam?" said the skipper.
God knows! Four hours - a day - half a week. If I can raise
sixty pound I'll not complain."
"Be sure of her first; we can't afford to go out half a mile, and
"My soul and body, man, we're one continuous breakdown, fore an'
aft! We might fetch Singapore, though."
"We'll break down at Pygang-Watai, where we can do good," was the
answer, in a voice that did not allow argument. "She's my boat,
and - I've had eight months to think in."
No man saw the Haliotis depart, though many heard her. She left
at two in the morning, having cut her moorings, and it was none
of her crew's pleasure that the engines should strike up a
thundering half-seas-over chanty that echoed among the hills.
Mr. Wardrop wiped away a tear as he listened to the new song.
"She's gibberin' - she's just gibberin'," he whimpered. "Yon's
the voice of a maniac.
And if engines have any soul, as their masters believe, he was
quite right. There were outcries and clamours, sobs and bursts
of chattering laughter, silences where the trained ear yearned
for the clear note, and torturing reduplications where there
should have been one deep voice. Down the screw-shaft ran
murmurs and warnings, while a heart-diseased flutter without
told that the propeller needed re-keying.
"How does she make it?" said the skipper.
"She moves, but - but she's breakin' my heart. The sooner we're
at Pygang-Watai, the better. She's mad, and we're waking the
"Is she at all near safe?"
"What do I care how safe she is? She's mad. Hear that, now! To
be sure, nothing's hittin' anything, and the bearin's are fairly
cool, but - can ye not hear?"
"If she goes," said the skipper, "I don't care a curse. And she's
my boat, too."
She went, trailing a fathom of weed behind her. From a slow two
knots an hour she crawled up to a triumphant four. Anything
beyond that made the struts quiver dangerously, and filled the
engine-room with steam. Morning showed her out of sight of land,
and there was a visible ripple under her bows; but she
complained bitterly in her bowels, and, as though the noise had
called it, there shot along across the purple sea a swift, dark
proa, hawk-like and curious, which presently ranged alongside
and wished to know if the Haliotis were helpless. Ships, even
the steamers of the white men, had been known to break down in
those waters, and the honest Malay and Javanese traders would
sometimes aid them in their own peculiar way. But this ship was
not full of lady passengers and well-dressed officers. Men,
white, naked and savage, swarmed down her sides — some
withred-hot iron bars, and others with large hammers - threw
themselves upon those innocent inquiring strangers, and, before
any man could say what had happened, were in full possession of
the proa, while the lawful owners bobbed in the water overside.
Half an hour later the proa's cargo of sago and trepang, as well
as a doubtful-minded compass, was in the Haliotis. The two huge
triangular mat sails, with their seventy-foot yards and booms,
had followed the cargo, and were being fitted to the stripped
masts of the steamer.
They rose, they swelled, they filled, and the empty steamer
visibly laid over as the wind took them. They gave her nearly
three knots an hour, and what better could men ask? But if she
had been forlorn before, this new purchase made her horrible to
see. Imagine a respectable charwoman in the tights of a
ballet-dancer rolling drunk along the streets, and you will come
to some faint notion of the appearance of that nine-hundred-ton,
well-decked, once schooner-rigged cargo-boat as she staggered
under her new help, shouting and raving across the deep. With
steam and sail that marvellous voyage continued; and the
bright-eyed crew looked over the rail, desolate, unkempt,
unshorn, shamelessly clothed beyond the decencies.
At the end of the third week she sighted the island of
Pygang-Watai, whose harbour is the turning-point of a pearl
sea-patrol. Here the gun-boats stay for a week ere they retrace
their line. There is no village at Pygang-Watai; only a stream
of water, some palms, and a harbour safe to rest in till the
first violence of the southeast monsoon has blown itself out.
They opened up the low coral beach, with its mound of
whitewashed coal ready for supply, the deserted huts for the
sailors, and the flagless flagstaff.
Next day there was no Haliotis - only a little proa rocking in
the warm rain at the mouth of the harbour, whose crew watched
with hungry eyes the smoke of a gunboat on the horizon.
Months afterwards there were a few lines in an English newspaper
to the effect that some gunboat of some foreign Power had broken
her back at the mouth of some far-away harbour by running at full
speed into a sunken wreck.
End of the, "DEVIL and THE DEEP SEA
WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR
I have done one braver thing
Than all the worthies did;
And yet a braver thence doth spring,
Which is to keep that hid.
"Is it officially declared yet?"
They've gone as far as to admit 'extreme local scarcity,' and
they've started relief-works in one or two districts, the paper
"That means it will be declared as soon as they can make sure of
the men and the rolling-stock. 'Shouldn't wonder if it were as
bad as the '78 Famine."
"'Can't be," said Scott, turning a little in the long cane chair.
"We've had fifteen-anna crops in the north, and Bombay and
Bengal report more than they know what to do with. They'll be
able to check it before it gets out of hand. It will only be
Martyn picked the "Pioneer" from the table, read through the
telegrams once more, and put up his feet on the chair-rests. It
was a hot, dark, breathless evening, heavy with the smell of the
newly watered Mall. The flowers in the Club gardens were dead and
black on their stalks, the little lotus-pond was a circle of
caked mud, and the tamarisk-trees were white with the dust of
weeks. Most of the men were at the band-stand in the public
gardens - from the Club verandah you could hear the native Police
band hammering stale waltzes - or on the polo-ground, or in the
high-walled fives-court, hotter than a Dutch oven. Half a dozen
grooms, squatted at the heads of their ponies, waited their
masters' return. From time to time a man would ride at a
foot-pace into the Club compound, and listlessly loaf over to the
whitewashed barracks beside the main building. These were
supposed to be chambers. Men lived in them, meeting the same
white faces night after night at dinner, and drawing out their
office-work till the latest possible hour, that they might escape
that doleful company.
"What are you going to do?." said Martyn, with a yawn. "Let's
have a swim before dinner."
"'Water's hot. I was at the bath to-day."
"Play you game o' billiards - fifty up."
"It's a hundred and five in the hall now. Sit still and don't be
so abominably energetic."
A grunting camel swung up to the porch, his badged and belted
rider fumbling a leather pouch.
"Kubber-kargaz-ki-yektraaa," the man whined, handing down the
newspaper extra - a slip printed on one side only, and damp from
the press. It was pinned up on the green-baize board, between
notices of ponies for sale and fox-terriers missing.
Martyn rose lazily, read it, and whistled. "It's declared!" he
cried. "One, two, three - eight districts go under the
operations of the Famine Code ek dum. They've put Jimmy Hawkins
"Good business!" said Scott, with the first sign of interest he
had shown. "When in doubt hire a Punjabi. I worked under Jimmy
when I first came out and he belonged to the Punjab. He has more
bundobust than most men."
"Jimmy's a Jubilee Knight now," said Martyn."He's a good chap,
even though he is a thrice-born civilian and went to the
Benighted Presidency. What unholy names these Madras districts
rejoice in - all ungas or rungas or pillays or polliums!"
A dog-cart drove up in the dusk, and a man entered, mopping his
head. He was editor of the one daily paper at the capital of a
Province of twenty-five million natives and a few hundred white
men: as his staff was limited to himself and one assistant, his
office-hours ran variously from ten to twenty a day.
"Hi, Raines; you're supposed to know everything," said Martyn,
stopping him. "How's this Madras 'scarcity' going to turn out?"
"No one knows as yet. There's a message as long as your arm
coming in on the telephone. I've left my cub to fill it out.
Madras has owned she can't manage it alone, and Jimmy seems to
have a free hand in getting all the men he needs. Arbuthnot's
warned to hold himself in readiness."
"The Peshawur chap. Yes: and the Pi wires that Ellis and Clay
have been moved from the Northwest already, and they've taken
half a dozen Bombay men, too. It's pukka famine, by the looks
"They're nearer the scene of action than we are; but if it comes
to indenting on the Punjab this early, there's more in this than
meets the eye," said Martyn.
"Here to-day and gone to-morrow. 'Didn't come to stay for ever,"
said Scott, dropping one of Marryat's novels, and rising to his
feet. "Martyn, your sister's waiting for you."
A rough grey horse was backing and shifting at the edge of the
verandah, where the light of a kerosene lamp fell on a
brown-calico habit and a white face under a grey-felt hat.
"Right, O!" said Martyn. "I'm ready. Better come and dine with
us, if you've nothing to do, Scott. William, is there any
dinner in the house?"
"I'll go home and see," was the rider's answer. "You can drive
him over - at eight, remember."
Scott moved leisurely to his room, and changed into the
evening-dress of the season and the country: spotless white
linen from head to foot, with a broad silk cummerbund. Dinner
at the Martyns' was a decided improvement on the goat-mutton,
twiney-tough fowl, and tinned entrees of the Club. But it was a
great pity that Martyn could not afford to send his sister to
the hills for the hot weather. As an Acting District
Superintendent of Police, Martyn drew the magnificent pay of six
hundred depreciated silver rupees a month, and his little
four-roomed bungalow said just as much. There were the usual
blue-and-white-striped jail-made rugs on the uneven floor; the
usual glass-studded Amritsar phulkaris draped on nails driven
into the flaking whitewash of the walls; the usual half-dozen
chairs that did not match, picked up at sales of dead men's
effects; and the usual streaks of black grease where the leather
punka-thong ran through the wall. It was as though everything
had been unpacked the night before to be repacked next morning.
Not a door in the house was true on its hinges. The little
windows, fifteen feet up, were darkened with wasp-nests, and
lizards hunted flies between the beams of the wood-ceiled roof.
But all this was part of Scott's life. Thus did people live who
had such an income; and in a land where each man's pay, age, and
position are printed in a book, that all may read, it is hardly
worth while to play at pretence in word or deed. Scott counted
eight years' service in the Irrigation Department, and drew eight
hundred rupees a month, on the understanding that if he served
the State faithfully for another twenty-two years he could retire
on a pension of some four hundred rupees a month. His
working-life, which had been spent chiefly under canvas or in
temporary shelters where a man could sleep, eat, and write
letters, was bound up with the opening and guarding of irrigation
canals, the handling of two or three thousand workmen of all
castes and creeds, and the payment of vast sums of coined silver.
He had finished that spring, not without credit, the last section
of the great Mosuhl Canal, and - much against his will, for he
hated office-work - had been sent in to serve during the hot
weather on the accounts and supply side of the Department, with
sole charge of the sweltering sub-office at the capital of the
Province. Martyn knew this; William, his sister, knew it; and
everybody knew it. Scott knew, too, as well as the rest of the
world, that Miss Martyn had come out to India four years ago to
keep house for her brother, who, as every one knew, had borrowed
the money to pay for her passage, and that she ought, as all the
world said, to have married at once. In stead of this, she had
refused some half a dozen subalterns, a Civilian twenty years her
senior, one Major, and a man in the Indian Medical Department.
This, too, was common property. She had "stayed down three hot
weathers," as the saying is, because her brother was in debt and
could not afford the expense of her keep at even a cheap
hill-station. Therefore her face was white as bone, and in the
centre of her forehead was a big silvery scar about the size of a
shilling - the mark of a Delhi sore, which is the same as a
"Bagdad date." This comes from drinking bad water, and slowly
eats into the flesh till it is ripe enough to be burned out.
None the less William had enjoyed herself hugely in her four
years. Twice she had been nearly drowned while fording a river;
once she had been run away with on a camel; had witnessed a
midnight attack of thieves on her brother's camp; had seen
justice administered, with long sticks, in the open under trees;
could speak Urdu and even rough Punjabi with a fluency that was
envied by her seniors; had entirely fallen out of the habit of
writing to her aunts in England, or cutting the pages of the
English magazines; had been through a very bad cholera year,
seeing sights unfit to be told; and had wound up her experiences
by six weeks of typhoid fever, during which her head had been
shaved and hoped to keep her twenty-third birthday that
September. It is conceivable that the aunts would not have
approved of a girl who never set foot on the ground if a horse
were within hail; who rode to dances with a shawl thrown over her
skirt; who wore her hair cropped and curling all over her head;
who answered indifferently to the name of William or Bill; whose
speech was heavy with the flowers of the vernacular; who could
act in amateur theatricals, play on the banjo, rule eight
servants and two horses, their accounts and their diseases, and
look men slowly and deliberately between the eyes - even after
they had proposed to her and been rejected.
"I like men who do things," she had confided to a man in the
Educational Department, who was teaching the sons of
cloth-merchants and dyers the beauty of Wordsworth's "Excursion
in annotated cram-books; and when he grew poetical, William
explained that she "didn't understand poetry very much; it made
her head ache," and another broken heart took refuge at the
Club. But it was all William's fault. She delighted in hearing
men talk of their own work, and that is the most fatal way of
bringing a man to your feet.
Scott had known her for some three years, meeting her, as a rule,
under canvass, when his camp and her brother's joined for a day
on the edge of the Indian Desert. He had danced with her several
times at the big Christmas gatherings, when as many as five
hundred white people came in to the station; and had always a
great respect for her housekeeping and her dinners.
She looked more like a boy than ever when, the meal ended, she
sat, rolling cigarettes, her low forehead puckered beneath the
dark curls as she twiddled the papers and stuck out her rounded
chin when the tobacco stayed in place, or, with a gesture as
true as a school-boy's throwing a stone, tossed the finished
article across the room to Martyn, who caught it with one hand,
and continued his talk with Scott. It was all "shop," - canals
and the policing of canals; the sins of villagers who stole more
water than they had paid for, and the grosser sin of native
constables who connived at the thefts; of the transplanting
bodily of villages to newly irrigated ground, and of the coming
fight with the desert in the south when the Provincial funds
should warrant the opening of the long-surveyed Luni Protective
Canal System. And Scott spoke openly of his great desire to be
put on one particular section of the work where he knew the land
and the people; and Martyn sighed for a billet in the Himalayan
foot-hills, and said his mind of his superiors, and William
rolled cigarettes and said nothing, but smiled gravely on her
brother because he was happy.
At ten Scott's horse came to the door, and the evening was ended.
The lights of the two low bungalows in which the daily paper was
printed showed bright across the road. It was too early to try
to find sleep, and Scott drifted over to the editor. Raines,
stripped to the waist like a sailor at a gun, lay half asleep in
a long chair, waiting for night telegrams. He had a theory that
if a man did not stay by his work all day and most of the night
he laid himself open to fever: so he ate and slept among his
"Can you do it?" be said drowsily. "I didn't mean to bring you
"About what ~ I've been dining at the Martyns'."
"The Madras famine, of course. Martyn's warned, too. They're
taking men where they can find 'em. I sent a note to you at the
Club just now, asking if you could do us a letter once a week
from the south - between two and three columns, say. Nothing
sensational, of course, but just plain facts about who is doing
what, and so forth. Our regular rates - ten rupees a column."
"'Sorry, but it's out of my line," Scott answered, staring
absently at the map of India on the wall. "It's rough on Martyn
- very. 'Wonder what he'lldo with his sister? 'Wonder what the
deuce they'll do with me? I've no famine experience. This is the
first I've heard of it. Am I ordered?"
"Oh, yes. Here's the wire. They'll put you on to relief-works,"
Raines said, "with a horde of Madrassis dying like flies; one
native apothecary and half a pint of cholera-mixture among the
ten thousand of you. It comes of your being idle for the moment.
Every man who isn't doing two men's work seems to have been
called upon. Hawkins evidently believes in Punjabis. It's going
to be quite as bad as anything they have had in the last ten
"It's all in the day's work, worse luck. I suppose I shall get my
orders officially some time to-morrow. I'm awfully glad I
happened to drop in. 'Better go and pack my kit now. Who
relieves me here - do you know?"
Raines turned over a sheaf of telegrams. "McEuan," said he, "from
Scott chuckled. "He thought he was going to be cool all summer.
He'll be very sick about this. Well, no good talking. 'Night."
Two hours later, Scott, with a clear conscience, laid himself
down to rest on a string cot in a bare room. Two worn bullock
trunks, a leather water-bottle, a tin ice-box, and his pet
saddle sewed up in sacking were piled at the door, and the Club
secretary's receipt for last month's bill was under his pillow.
His orders came next morning, and with them an unofficial
telegram from Sir James Hawkins; who was not in the habit of
forgetting good men when he had once met them, bidding him
report himself with all speed at some unpronounceable place
fifteen hundred miles to the south, for the famine was sore in
the land, and white men were needed.
A pink and fattish youth arrived in the red-hot noonday,
whimpering a little at fate and famines, which never allowed any
one three months' peace. He was Scott's successor - another cog
in the machinery, moved forward behind his fellow whose
services, as the official announcement ran, "were placed at the
disposal of the Madras Government for famine duty until further
orders." Scott handed over the funds in his charge, showed him
the coolest corner in the office, warned him against excess of
zeal, and, as twilight fell, departed from the Club in a hired
carriage, with his faithful body-servant, Faiz Ullah, and a
mound of disordered baggage atop, to catch the southern mail at
the loopholed and bastioned railway-station. The heat from the
thick brick walls struck him across the face as if it had been a
hot towel; and he reflected that there were at least five nights
and four days of this travel before him. Faiz Ullah, used to the
chances of service, plunged into the crowd on the stone
platform, while Scott, a black cheroot between his teeth, waited
till his compartment should be set away. A dozen native
policemen, with their rifles and bundles, shouldered into the
press of Punjabi farmers, Sikh craftsmen, and greasy-locked
Afreedee pedlars, escorting with all pomp Martyn's uniform-case,
water-bottles, ice-box, and bedding-roll. They saw Faiz Ullah's
lifted hand, and steered for it.
"My Sahib and your Sahib," said Faiz Ullah to Martyn's man, "will
travel together. Thou and I, O brother, will thus secure the
servants' places close by; and because of our masters' authority
none will dare to disturb us."
When Faiz Ullah reported all things ready, Scott settled down at
full length, coatless and bootless, on the broad leather-covered
bunk. The heat under the iron-arched roof of the station might
have been anything over a hundred degrees. At the last moment
Martyn entered, dripping.
"Don't swear," said Scott, lazily; "it's too late to change your
carriage; and we'll divide the ice."
"What are you doing here?" said the police-man.
"I'm lent to the Madras Government, same as you. By Jove, it's a
bender of a night! Are you taking any of your men down?"
"A dozen. I suppose I shall have to superintend relief
distributions. 'Didn't know you were under orders too."
"I didn't till after I left you last night. Raines had the news
first. My orders came this morning. McEuan relieved me at four,
and I got off at once. 'Shouldn't wonder if it wouldn't be a
good thing -this famine - if we come through it alive."
"Jimmy ought to put you and me to work together," said Martyn;
and then, after a pause: "My sister's here."
"Good business," said Scott, heartily. "Going to get off at
Umballa, I suppose, and go up to Simla. Who'll she stay with
"No-o; that's just the trouble of it. She's going down with me."
Scott sat bolt upright under the oil-lamps as the train jolted
past Tarn-Taran. "What! You don't mean you couldn't afford -"
"'Tain't that. I'd have scraped up the money somehow."
"You might have come to me, to begin with," said Scott, stiffly;
"we aren't altogether strangers."
"Well, you needn't be stuffy about it. I might, but - you don't
know my sister. I've been explaining and exhorting and all the
rest of it all day - lost my temper since seven this morning,
and haven't got it back yet-but she wouldn't hear of any
compromise. A woman's entitled to travel with her husband if she
wants to; and William says she's on the same footing. You see,
we've been together all our lives, more or less, since my people
died. It isn't as if she were an ordinary sister."
"All the sisters I've ever heard of would have stayed where they
were well off."
She's as clever as a man, confound - Martyn went on. "She broke
up the bungalow over my head while I was talking at her.
'Settled the whole thing in three hours - servants, horses, and
all. I didn't get my orders till nine."
"Jimmy Hawkins won't be pleased," said Scott "A famine's no place
for a woman."
"Mrs. Jim - I mean Lady Jim's in camp with him. At any rate, she
says she will look after my sister. William wired down to her on
her own responsibility, asking if she could come, and knocked the
ground from under me by showing me her answer."
Scott laughed aloud. "If she can do that she can take care of
herself, and Mrs. Jim won't let her run into any mischief There
aren't many women, sisters or wives, who would walk into a
famine with their eyes open. It isn't as if she didn't know
what these things mean. She was through the Jalo cholera last
The train stopped at Amritsar, and Scott went back to the ladies'
compartment, immediately behind their carriage. William, with a
cloth riding-cap on her curls, nodded affably.
"Come in and have some tea," she said. "'Best thing in the world
"Do I look as if I were going to have heat-apoplexy?"
"'Never can tell," said William, wisely. "It's always best to be
She had arranged her compartment with the knowledge of an old
campaigner. A felt-covered water-bottle hung in the draught of
one of the shuttered windows; a tea-set of Russian china, packed
in a wadded basket, stood on the seat; and a travelling
spirit-lamp was clamped against the woodwork above it.
William served them generously, in large cups, hot tea, which
saves the veins of the neck from swelling inopportunely on a hot
night. It was characteristic of the girl that, her plan of
action once settled, she asked for no comments on it. Life among
men who had a great deal of work to do, and very little time to
do it in, had taught her the wisdom of effacing, as well as of
fending for, herself. She did not by word or deed suggest that
she would be useful, comforting, or beautiful in their travels,
but continued about her business serenely: put the cups back
without clatter when tea was ended, and made cigarettes for her
"This time last night," said Scott, "we didn't expect - er - this
kind of thing, did we?"
"I've learned to expect anything," said William. "You know, in
our service, we live at the end of the telegraph; but, of
course, this ought to be a good thing for us all, departmentally
- if we live."
"It knocks us out of the running in our own Province," Scott
replied, with equal gravity. "I hoped to be put on the Luni
Protective Works this cold weather, but there's no saying how
long the famine may keep us."
"Hardly beyond October, I should think," said Martyn. "It will be
ended, one way or the other, then."
"And we've nearly a week of this," said William. "Sha'n't we be
dusty when it's over?"
For a night and a day they knew their surroundings, and for a
night and a day, skirting the edge of the great Indian Desert on
a narrow-gauge railway, they remembered how in the days of their
apprenticeship they had come by that road from Bombay. Then the
languages in which the names of the stations were written
changed, and they launched south into a foreign land, where the
very smells were new. Many long and heavily laden grain-trains
were in front of them, and they could feel the hand of Jimmy
Hawkins from far off. They waited in extemporised sidings while
processions of empty trucks returned to the north, and were
coupled on to slow, crawling trains, and dropped at midnight,
Heaven knew where; but it was furiously hot, and they walked to
and fro among sacks, and dogs howled. Then they came to an India
more strange to them than to the untravelled Englishman - the
flat, red India of palm-tree, palmyra-palm, and rice - the India
of the picture-books, of "Little Harry and His Bearer" - all dead
and dry in the baking heat. They had left the incessant
passenger-traffic of the north and west far and far behind them.
Here the people crawled to the side of the train, holding their
little ones in their arms; and a loaded truck would be left
behind, the men and women clustering round it like ants by
spilled honey. Once in the twilight they saw on a dusty plain a
regiment of little brown men, each bearing a body over his
shoulder; and when the train stopped to leave yet another truck,
they perceived that the burdens were not corpses, but only
foodless folk picked up beside dead oxen by a corps of Irregular
troops. Now they met more white men, here one and there two,
whose tents stood close to the line, and who came armed with
written authorities and angry words to cut off a truck. They were
too busy to do more than nod at Scott and Martyn, and stare
curiously at William, who could do nothing except make tea, and
watch how her men staved off the rush of wailing, walking
skeletons, putting them down three at a time in heaps, with their
own hands uncoupling the marked trucks, or taking receipts from
the hollow-eyed, weary white men, who spoke another argot
than theirs. They ran out of ice, out of soda-water, and out of
tea; for they were six days and seven nights on the road, and it
seemed to them like seven times seven years.
At last, in a dry, hot dawn, in a land of death, lit by long red
fires of railway-sleepers, where they were burning the dead,
they came to their destination, and were met by Jim Hawkins, the
Head of the Famine, unshaven, unwashed, but cheery, and entirely
in command of affairs.
Martyn, he decreed then and there, was to live on trains till
further orders; was to go back with empty trucks, filling them
with starving people as he found them, and dropping them at a
famine-camp on the edge of the Eight Districts. He would pick
up supplies and return, and his constables would guard the loaded
grain-cars, also picking up people, and would drop them at a
camp a hundred miles south. Scott Hawkins was very glad to see
Scott again - would that same hour take charge of a convoy of
bullock-carts, and would go south, feeding as he went, to yet
another famine-camp, where he would leave his starving -there
would he no lack of starving on the route - and wait for orders
by telegraph.Generally, Scott was in all small things to act as
he thought best.
William bit her under lip. There was no one in the wide world
like her one brother, but Martyn's orders gave him no discretion.
She came out on the platform, masked with dust from head to foot,
a horse-shoe wrinkle on her forehead, put here by much thinking
during the past week, but as self-possessed as ever. Mrs. Jim -
who should have been Lady Jim but that no one remembered the
title - took possession of her with a little gasp.
"Oh, I'm so glad you're here," she almost sobbed. "You oughtn't
to, of course, but there -there isn't another woman in the
place, and we must help each other, you know; and we've all the
wretched people and the little babies they are selling."
"I've seen some," said William.
"Isn't it ghastly? I've bought twenty; they're in our camp; but
won't you have something to eat first? We've more than ten
people can do here; and I've got a horse for you. Oh, I'm so
glad you've come, dear. You're a Punjabi, too, you know."
"Steady, Lizzie," said Hawkins, over his shoulder. "We'll look
after you, Miss Martyn. 'Sorry I can't ask you to breakfast,
Martyn. You'll have to eat as you go. Leave two of your men to
help Scott. These poor devils can't stand up to load carts.
Saunders" (this to the engine-driver, who was half asleep in the
cab), "back down and get those empties away. You've 'line clear'
to Anundrapillay; they'll give you orders north of that. Scott,
load up your carts from that B. P. P. truck, and be off as soon
as you can. The Eurasian in the pink shirt is your interpreter
and guide. You'll find an apothecary of sorts tied to the yoke of
the second wagon. He's been trying to bolt; you'll have to look
after him. Lizzie, drive Miss Martyn to camp, and tell them to
send the red horse down here for me."
Scott, with Faiz Ullah and two policemen, was already busied with
the carts, backing them up to the truck and unbolting the
sideboards quietly, while the others pitched in the bags of
millet and wheat. Hawkins watched him for as long as it took to
fill one cart.
"That's a good man," he said. "If all goes well I shall work him
hard." This was Jim Hawkins's notion of the highest compliment
one human being could pay another.
An hour later Scott was under way; the apothecary threatening him
with the penalties of the law for that he, a member of the
Subordinate Medical Department, had been coerced and bound
against his will and all laws governing the liberty of the
subject; the pink-shirted Eurasian begging leave to see his
mother, who happened to be dying some three miles away: "Only
verree, verree short leave of absence, and will presently
return, sar -"; the two constables,armed with staves, bringing
up the rear; and Faiz Ullah, a Mohammedan's contempt for all
Hindoos and foreigners in every line of his face, explaining to
the drivers that though Scott Sahib was a man to be feared on
all fours, he, Faiz Ullah, was Authority Itself.
The procession creaked past Hawkins's camp - three stained tents
under a clump of dead trees, behind them the famine-shed, where
a crowd of hopeless ones tossed their arms around the
"'Wish to Heaven William had kept out of it," said Scott to
himself, after a glance. "We'll have cholera, sure as a gun,
when the Rains break."
But William seemed to have taken kindly to the operations of the
Famine Code, which, when famine is declared, supersede the
workings of the ordinary law. Scott saw her, the centre of a mob
of weeping women, in a calico riding-habit, and a blue-grey felt
hat with a gold puggaree.
"I want fifty rupees, please. I forgot to ask Jack before he
went away. Can you lend it me? It's for condensed-milk for the
babies," said she.
Scott took the money from his belt, and handed it over without a
word. "For goodness sake, take care of yourself," he said.
"Oh, I shall be all right. We ought to get the milk in two days.
By the way, the orders are, I was to tell you, that you're to
take one of Sir Jim's horses.There's a grey Cabuli here that I
thought would be just your style, so I've said you'd take him.
Was that right?"
"That's awfully good of you. We can't either of us talk much
about style, I am afraid."
Scott was in a weather-stained drill shooting-kit, very white at
the seams and a little frayed at the wrists. William regarded
him thoughtfully, from his pith helmet to his greased
ankle-boots. "You look very nice, I think. Are you sure you've
everything you'll need - quinine, chlorodyne, and so on?"
"'Think so," said Scott, patting three or four of his
shooting-pockets as he mounted and rode alongside his convoy.
"Good-bye," he cried.
"Good-bye, and good luck," said William. "I'm awfully obliged for
the money." She turned on a spurred heel and disappeared into
the tent, while the carts pushed on past the famine-sheds, past
the roaring lines of the thick, fat fires, down to the baked
Gehenna of the South.
End of "WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR - PART I"
WILLIAM THE CONQUERER
So let us melt and make no noise, No tear-floods nor
sigh-tempests move; 'Twere profanation of our joys to tell the
Laity our love. A Valediction.
It was punishing work, even though he travelled by night and
camped by day; but within the limits of his vision there was no
man whom Scott could call master. He was as free as Jimmy
Hawkins - freer, in fact, for the Government held the Head of
the Famine tied neatly to a telegraph-wire, and if Jimmy had ever
regarded telegrams seriously, the death-rate of that famine
would have been much higher than it was.
At the end of a few days' crawling Scott learned something of the
size of the India which he served, and it astonished him. His
carts, as you know, were loaded with wheat, millet, and barley,
good food-grains needing only a little grinding. But the people
to whom he brought the life-giving stuffs were rice-eaters. They
could hull rice in their mortars, but they knew nothing of the
heavy stone querns of the North, and less of the material that
the white man convoyed so laboriously. They clamoured for rice -
unhusked paddy, such as they were accustomed to - and, when they
found that there was none, broke away weeping from the sides of
the cart. What was the use of these strange hard grains that
choked their throats? They would die. And then and there very
many of them kept their word. Others took their allowance, and
bartered enough millet to feed a man through a week for a few
handfuls of rotten rice saved by some less unfortunate. A few put
their share into the rice-mortars, pounded it, and made a paste
with foul water; but they were very few. Scott understood dimly
that many people in the India of the South ate rice, as a rule,
but he had spent his service in a grain Province, had seldom seen
rice in the blade or ear, and least of all would have believed
that in time of deadly need men could die at arm's length of
plenty, sooner than touch food they did not know. In vain the
interpreters interpreted; in vain his two policemen showed in
vigorous pantomime what should be done. The starving crept away
to their bark and weeds, grubs, leaves, and clay, and left the
open sacks untouched. But sometimes the women laid their phantoms
of children at Scott's feet, looking back as they staggered away.
Faiz Ullah opined it was the will of God that these foreigners
should die, and it remained only to give orders to burn the
dead. None the less there was no reason why the Sahib should lack
his comforts, and Faiz Ullah, a campaigner of experience, had
picked up a few lean goats and had added them to the procession.
That they might give milk for the morning meal, he was feeding
them on the good grain that these imbeciles rejected. "Yes," said
Faiz Ullah; "if the Sahib thought fit, a little milk might be
given to some of the babies"; but, as the Sahib well knew, babies
were cheap, and, for his own part, Faiz Ullah held that there was
no Government order as to babies. Scott spoke forcefully to Faiz
Ullah and the two policemen, and bade them capture goats where
they could find them. This they most joyfully did, for it was a
recreation, and many ownerless goats were driven in. Once fed,
the poor brutes were willing enough to follow the carts, and a
few days' good food - food such as human beings died for lack of
- set them in milk again.
"But I am no goatherd," said Faiz Ullah. "It is against my izzat
"When we cross the Bias River again we will talk of izzat," Scott
replied. "Till that day thou and the policemen shall be sweepers
to the camp, if I give the order."
"Thus, then, it is done," grunted Faiz Ullah, "if the Sahib will
have it so"; and he showed how a goat should be milked, while
Scott stood over him.
"Now we will feed them," said Scott; "twice a day we will feed
them"; and he bowed his back to the milking, and took a horrible
When you have to keep connection unbroken between a restless
mother of kids and a baby who is at the point of death, you
suffer in all your system. But the babies were fed. Each morning
and evening Scott would solemnly lift them out one by one from
their nest of gunny-bags under the cart-tilts. There were always
many who could do no more than breathe, and the milk was dropped
into their toothless mouths drop by drop, with due pauses when
they choked. Each morning, too, the goats were fed; and since
they would straggle without a leader, and since the natives were
hirelings, Scott was forced to give up riding, and pace slowly at
the head of his flocks, accommodating his step to their
weaknesses. All this was sufficiently absurd, and he felt the
absurdity keenly; but at least he was saving life, and when the
women saw that their children did not die, they made shift to eat
a little of the strange foods, and crawled after the carts,
blessing the master of the goats.
"Give the women something to live for," said Scott to himself, as
he sneezed in the dust of a hundred little feet, "and they'll
hang on somehow. This beats William's condensed-milk trick all to
pieces. I shall never live it down, though."
He reached his destination very slowly, found that a rice-ship
had come in from Burmah, and that stores of paddy were
available; found also an overworked Englishman in charge of the
shed, and, loading the carts, set back to cover the ground he
had already passed. He left some of the children and half his
goats at the famine-shed. For this he was not thanked by the
Englishman, who had already more stray babies than he knew what
to do with. Scott's back was suppled to stooping now, and he
went on with his wayside ministrations in addition to
distributing the paddy. More babies and more goats were added
unto him; but now some of the babies wore rags, and beads round
their wrists or necks. "That" said the interpreter, as though
Scott did not know, "signifies that their mothers hope in
eventual contingency to resume them offeecially."
The sooner, the better," said Scott; but at the same time he
marked, with the pride of ownership, how this or that little
Ramasawmy was putting on flesh like a bantam. As the
paddy-carts were emptied he headed for Hawkins's camp by the
railway, timing his arrival to fit in with the dinner-hour, for
it was long since he had eaten at a cloth. He had no desire to
make any dramatic entry, but an accident of the sunset ordered
it that when he had taken off his helmet to get the evening
breeze, the low light should fall across his forehead, and he
could not see what was before him; while one waiting at the tent
door beheld with new eyes a young man, beautiful as Paris, a god
in a halo of golden dust, walking slowly at the head of his
flocks, while at his knee ran small naked Cupids. But she
laughed - William, in a slate-coloured blouse, laughed
consumedly till Scott, putting the best face he could upon the
matter, halted his armies and bade her admire the kindergarten.
It was an unseemly sight, but the proprieties had been left ages
ago, with the tea-party at Amritsar Station, fifteen hundred
miles to the north.
"They are coming on nicely," said William. "We've only
five-and-twenty here now. The women are beginning to take them
"Are you in charge of the babies, then?"
"Yes - Mrs. Jim and I. We didn't think of goats, though. We've
been trying condensed-milk and water."
More than I care to think of;" said William, with a shudder.
Scott said nothing. There had been many little burials along his
route - one cannot burn a dead baby - many mothers who had wept
when they did not find again the children they had trusted to
the care of the Government.
Then Hawkins came out carrying a razor, at which Scott looked
hungrily, for he had a beard that he did not love. And when
they sat down to dinner in the tent he told his tale in few
words, as it might have been an official report. Mrs. Jim
snuffled from time to time, and Jim bowed his head judicially;
but William's grey eyes were on the clean-shaven face, and it
was to her that Scott seemed to appeal.
"Good for the Pauper Province!" said William, her chin on her
hand, as she leaned forward among the wine~glasses. Her cheeks
had fallen in, and the scar on her forehead was more prominent
than ever, but the well-turned neck rose roundly as a column
from the ruffle of the blouse which was the accepted
evening-dress in camp.
"It was awfully absurd at times," said Scott. "You see, I didn't
know much about milking or babies. They'll chaff my head off, if
the tale goes up North."
"Let 'em," said William, haughtily. "We've all done coolie-work
since we came. I know Jack has." This was to Hawkins's address,
and the big man smiled blandly.
"Your brother's a highly efficient officer, William," said he,
"and I've done him the honour of treating him as he deserves.
Remember, I write the confidential reports."
"Then you must say that William's worth her weight in gold," said
Mrs. Jim. "I don't know what we should have done without her. She
has been everything to us." She dropped her hand upon William's,
which was rough with much handling of reins, and William patted
it softly. Jim beamed on the company. Things were going well with
his world. Three of his more grossly incompetent men had died,
and their places had been filled by their betters. Every day
brought the Rains nearer. They had put out the famine in five of
the Eight Districts, and, after all, the death-rate had not been
too heavy - things considered. He looked Scott over carefully, as
an ogre looks over a man, and rejoiced in his thews and iron-hard
"He's just the least bit in the world tucked up," said Jim to
himself, "but he can do two men's work yet." Then he was aware
that Mrs. Jim was telegraphing to him, and according to the
domestic code the message ran: "A clear case. Look at them!"
He looked and listened. All that William was saying was: "What
can you expect of a country where they call a bhistee [a
water-carrier] a tunni-cutch?" and all that Scott answered was:
"I shall be glad to get back to the Club. Save me a dance at the
Christmas Ball, won't you?"
"It's a far cry from here to the Lawrence Hall," said Jim.
"Better turn in early, Scott. It's paddy-carts to-morrow;
you'll begin loading at five."
"Aren't you going to give Mr. Scott a single day's rest?"
"'Wish I could, Lizzie, but I'm afraid I can't. As long as he can
stand up we must use him."
"Well, I've had one Europe evening, at least. By Jove, I'd nearly
forgotten! What do I do about those babies of mine?"
"Leave them here," said William -" we are in charge of that - and
as many goats as you can spare. I must learn how to milk now."
"If you care to get up early enough to-morrow I'll show you. I
have to milk, you see. Half of 'em have beads and things round
their necks. You must be careful not to take 'em off; in case
the mothers turn up."
"You forget I've had some experience here."
"I hope to goodness you won't overdo." Scott's voice was
"I'll take care of her," said Mrs. Jim, telegraphing hundred-word
messages as she carried William off; while Jim gave Scott his
orders for the coming campaign. It was very late - nearly nine
"Jim, you're a brute," said his wife, that night; and the Head of
the Famine chuckled.
"Not a bit of it, dear. I remember doing the first Jandiala
Settlement for the sake of a girl in a crinoline, and she was
slender, Lizzie. I've never done as good a piece of work since.
He'll work like a demon."
"But you might have given him one day."
"And let things come to a head now? No, dear; it's their
"I don't believe either of the darlings know what's the matter
with them. Isn't it beautiful? Isn't it lovely?"
"Getting up at three to learn to milk, bless her heart! Oh, ye
Gods, why must we grow old and fat?"
"She's a darling. She has done more work under me -"
"Under you? The day after she came she was in charge and you
were her subordinate. You've stayed there ever since; she
manages you almost as well as you manage me."
"She doesn't, and that's why I love her. She's as direct as a
man - as her brother."
"Her brother's weaker than she is. He's always to me for orders;
but he's honest, and a glutton for work. I confess I'm rather
fond of William, and if I had a daughter -"
The talk ended. Far away in the Derajat was a child's grave more
than twenty years old, and neither Jim nor his wife spoke of it
All the same, you're responsible," Jim added, a moment's silence.
"Bless 'em!" said Mrs. Jim, sleepily.
Before the stars paled, Scott, who slept in an empty cart, waked
and went about his work in silence; it seemed at that hour
unkind to rouse Faiz Ullah and the interpreter. His head being
close to the ground, he did not hear William till she stood over
him in the dingy old riding-habit, her eyes still heavy with
sleep, a cup of tea and a piece of toast in her hands. There
was a baby on the ground, squirming on a piece of blanket, and a
six-year-old child peered over Scott's shoulder.
"Hai, you little rip," said Scott, "how the deuce do you expect
to get your rations if you aren't quiet?"
A cool white hand steadied the brat, who forthwith choked as the
milk gurgled into his mouth.
"'Mornin'," said the milker. "You've no notion how these little
fellows can wriggle."
"Oh, yes, I have." She whispered, because the world was asleep.
"Only I feed them with a spoon or a rag. Yours are fatter than
mine. .And you've been doing this day after day?" The voice was
"Yes; it was absurd. Now you try," he said, giving place to the
girl. "Look out! A goat's not a cow."
The goat protested against the amateur, and there was a scuffle,
in which Scott snatched up the baby. Then it was all to do over
again, and William laughed softly and merrily. She managed,
however, to feed two babies, and a third.
"Don't the little beggars take it well?" said Scott. "I trained
They were very busy and interested, when lo! it was broad
daylight, and before they knew, the camp was awake, and they
kneeled among the goats, surprised by the day, both flushed to
the temples. Yet all the round world rolling up out of the
darkness might have heard and seen all that had passed between
"Oh," said William, unsteadily, snatching up the tea and toast,
"I had this made for you. It's stone-cold now. I thought you
mightn't have anything ready so early. 'Better not drink it.
It's - it's stone-cold."
"That's awfully kind of you. It's just right. It's awfully good
of you, really. I'll leave my kids and goats with you and Mrs.
Jim, and, of course, any one in camp can show you about the
"Of course," said William; and she grew pinker and pinker and
statelier and more stately, as she strode back to her tent,
fanning herself with the saucer.
There were shrill lamentations through the camp when the elder
children saw their nurse move off without them. Faiz Ullah
unbent so far as to jest with the policemen, and Scott turned
purple with shame because Hawkins, already in the saddle,
A child escaped from the care of Mrs. Jim, and, running like a
rabbit, clung to Scott's boot, William pursuing with long, easy
"I will not go - I will not go!" shrieked the child, twining his
feet round Scott's ankle. They will kill me here. I do not know
"I say," said Scott, in broken Tamil, "I say, she will do you no
harm. Go with her and be well fed."
"Come!" said William, panting, with a wrathful glance at Scott,
who stood helpless and, as it were, hamstrung.
"Go back," said Scott quickly to William. I'll send the little
chap over in a minute."
The tone of authority had its effect, but in a way Scott did not
exactly intend. The boy loosened his grasp, and said with
gravity: "I did not know the woman was thine. I will go." Then
he cried to his companions, a mob of three-, four-, and
five-year-olds waiting on the success of his venture ere they
stampeded: "Go back and eat. It is our man's woman. She will
obey his orders."
Jim collapsed where he sat; Faiz Ullah and the two policemen
grinned; and Scott's orders to the cartmen flew like hail.
"That is the custom of the Sahibs when truth is told in their
presence," said Faiz Ullah. "The time comes that I must seek new
service. Young wives, especially such as speak our language and
have knowledge of the ways of the Police, make great trouble for
honest butlers in the matter of weekly accounts."
What William thought of it all she did not say, but when her
brother, ten days later, came to camp for orders, and heard of
Scott's performances, he said, laughing: "Well, that settles it.
He'll be Bakri Scott to the end of his days." (Bakri in the
Northern vernacular, means a goat.) "What a lark! I'd have given
a month's pay to have seen him nursing famine babies. I fed some
with conjee [rice-water], but that was all right."
"It's perfectly disgusting," said his sister, with blazing eyes.
"A man does something like -like that - and all you other men
think of is to give him an absurd nickname, and then you laugh
and think it's funny."
"Ah," said Mrs. Jim, sympathetically.
"Well, you can't talk, William. You christened little Miss Demby
the Button-quail, last cold weather; you know you did. India's
the land of nicknames."
"That's different," William replied. "She was only a girl, and
she hadn't done anything except walk like a quail, and she does.
But it isn't fair to make fun of a man."
"Scott won't care," said Martyn. "You can't get a rise out of old
Scotty. I've been trying for eight years, and you've only known
him for three. How does he look?"
"He looks very well," said William, and went away with a flushed
cheek. "Bakri Scott, indeed!" Then she laughed to herself, for
she knew her country. "But it will he Bakri all the same"; and
she repeated it under her breath several times slowly,
whispering it into favour.
When he returned to his duties on the railway, Martyn spread the
name far and wide among his associates, so that Scott met it as
he led his paddy-carts to war. The natives believed it to be
some English title of honour, and the cart-drivers used it in
all simplicity till Faiz Ullah, who did not approve of foreign
japes, broke their heads. There was very little time for milking
now, except at the big camps, where Jim had extended Scott's
idea and was feeding large flocks on the useless northern
grains. Sufficient paddy had come now into the Eight Districts
to hold the people safe, if it were only distributed quickly,
and for that purpose no one was better than the big Canal
officer, who never lost his temper, never gave an unnecessary
order, and never questioned an order given. Scott pressed on,
saving his cattle, washing their galled necks daily, so that no
time should be lost on the road; reported himself with his rice
at the minor famine-sheds, unloaded, and went back light by
forced night-march to the next distributing centre, to find
Hawkins's unvarying telegram: "Do it again." And he did it
again and again, and yet again, while Jim Hawkins, fifty miles
away, marked off on a big map the tracks of his wheels
gridironing the stricken lands. Others did well - Hawkins
reported at the end they all did well - but Scott was the most
excellent, for he kept good coined rupees by him, settled for
his own cart-repairs on the spot, and ran to meet all sorts of
unconsidered extras, trusting to be recouped later on.
Theoretically, the Government should have paid for every shoe
and iinchpin, for every hand employed in the loading; but
Government vouchers cash themselves slowly, and intelligent and
efficient clerks write at great length, contesting unauthorised
expenditures of eight annas. The man who wants to make his work
a success must draw on his own bank-account of money or other
things as he goes.
"I told you he'd work," said Jimmy to his wife, at the end of six
weeks. "He's been in sole charge of a couple of thousand men up
north, on the Mosuhl Canal, for a year; but he gives less
trouble than young Martyn with his ten constables; and I'm
morally certain - only Government doesn't recognise moral
obligations - he's spent about half his pay to grease his
wheels. Look at this, Lizzie, for one week's work! Forty miles
in two days with twelve carts; two days' halt building a
famine-shed for young Rogers. (Rogers ought to have built it
himself, the idiot!) Then forty miles back again, loading six
carts on the way, and distributing all Sunday. Then in the
evening he pitches in a twenty-page Demi-Official to me, saying
the people where he is might be 'advantageously employed on
relief-work,' and suggesting that he put 'em to work on some
broken-down old reservoir he's discovered, so as to have a good
water-supply when the Rains break. 'Thinks he can cauk the dam
in a fortnight. Look at his marginal sketches - aren't they
clear and good ~ I knew he was pukka, but I didn't know he was
as pukka as this."
"I must show these to William," said Mrs. Jim. "The child's
wearing herself out among the babies."
"Not more than you are, dear. Well, another two months ought to
see us out of the wood. I'm sorry it's not in my power to
recommend you for a V. C."
William sat late in her tent that night, reading through page
after page of the square handwriting, patting the sketches of
proposed repairs to the reservoir, and wrinkling her eyebrows
over the columns of figures of estimated water-supply."And he
finds time to do all this," she cried to herself, "and-well, I
also was present. I've saved one or two babies.
She dreamed for the twentieth time of the god in the golden dust,
and woke refreshed to feed loathsome black children, scores of
them, wastrels picked up by the wayside, their bones almost
breaking their skin, terrible and covered with sores.
Scott was not allowed to leave his cart-work, but his letter was
duly forwarded to the Government, and he had the consolation,
not rare in India, of knowing that another man was reaping where
he had sown. That also was discipline profitable to the soul.
"He's much too good to waste on canals," said Jimmy. "Any one can
oversee coolies. You needn't be angry, William; he can - but I
need my pearl among bullock-drivers, and I've transferred him to
the Khanda district, where he'll have it all to do over again. He
should be marching now.
"He's not a coolie," said William, furiously. "He ought to be
doing his regulation work."
"He's the best man in his service, and that's saying a good deal;
but if you must use razors to cut grindstones, why, I prefer the
"Isn't it almost time we saw him again?" said Mrs. Jim. "I'm sure
the poor boy hasn't had a respectable meal for a month. He
probably sits on a cart and eats sardines with his fingers."
"All in good time, dear. Duty before decency - wasn't it Mr.
Chucks said that?"
"No; it was Midshipman Easy," William laughed. "I sometimes
wonder how it will feel to dance or listen to a band again, or
sit under a roof. I can't believe I ever wore a ball-frock in my
"One minute," said Mrs. Jim, who was thinking. "If he goes to
Khanda, he passes within five miles of us. Of course he'll ride
"Oh, no, he won't," said William.
"How do you know, dear?"
"It will take him off his work. He won't have time."
"He'll make it," said Mrs. Jim, with a twinkle.
"It depends on his own judgment. There's absolutely no reason
why he shouldn't, if he thinks fit," said Jim.
"He won't see fit," William replied, without sorrow or emotion.
"It wouldn't be him if he did."
"One certainly gets to know people rather well in times like
these," said Jim, drily; but William's face was serene as ever,
and even as she prophesied, Scott did not appear.
The Rains fell at last, late, but heavily; and the dry, gashed
earth was red mud, and servants killed snakes in the camp, where
every one was weather-bound for a fortnight - all except
Hawkins, who took horse and plashed about in the wet, rejoicing.
Now the Government decreed that seed-grain should be distributed
to the people, as well as advances of money for the purchase of
new oxen; and the white men were doubly worked for this new duty,
while William skipped from brick to brick laid down on the
trampled mud, and dosed her charges with warming medicines that
made them rub their little round stomachs; and the milch goats
throve on the rank grass. There was never a word from Scott in
the Khanda district, away to the southeast, except the regular
telegraphic report to Hawkins. The rude country roads had
disappeared; his drivers were half mutinous; one of Martyn's
loaned policemen had died of cholera; and Scott was taking thirty
grains of quinine a day to fight the fever that comes with the
rain: but those were things Scott did not consider necessary to
report. He was, as usual, working from a base of supplies on a
railway line, to cover a circle of fifteen miles radius, and
since full loads were impossible, he took quarter-loads, and
toiled four times as hard by consequence; for he did not choose
to risk an epidemic which might have grown uncontrollable by
assembling villagers in thousands at the relief-sheds. It was
cheaper to take Government bullocks, work them to death, and
leave them to the crows in the wayside sloughs.
That was the time when eight years of clean living and hard
condition told, though a man's head were ringing like a bell
from the cinchona, and the earth swayed under his feet when he
stood and under his bed when he slept. If Hawkins had seen fit
to make him a bullock-driver, that, he thought, was entirely
Hawkins's own affair. There were men in the North who would
know what he had done; men of thirty years' service in his own
department who would say that it was "not half bad"; and above,
immeasurably above, all men of all grades, there was William in
the thick of the fight, who would approve because she understood.
He had so trained his mind that it would hold fast to the
mechanical routine of the day, though his own voice sounded
strange in his own ears, and his hands, when he wrote, grew
large as pillows or small as peas at the end of his wrists. That
steadfastness bore his body to the telegraph-office at the
railway-station, and dictated a telegram to Hawkins saying that
the Khanda district was, in his judgment, now safe, and he
"waited further orders."
The Madrassee telegraph-clerk did not approve of a large, gaunt
man falling over him in a dead faint, not so much because of the
weight as because of the names and blows that Faiz Ullah dealt
him when he found the body rolled under a bench. Then Faiz Ullah
took blankets, quilts, and coverlets where he found them, and lay
down under them at his master's side, and bound his arms with a
tent-rope, and filled him with a horrible stew of herbs, and set
the policeman to fight him when he wished to escape from the
intolerable heat of his coverings, and shut the door of the
telegraph-office to keep out the curious for two nights and one
day; and when a light engine came down the line, and Hawkins
kicked in the door, Scott hailed him weakly but in a natural
voice, and Faiz Ullah stood back and took all the credit.
"For two nights, Heaven-born, he was pagal" said Faiz Ullah.
"Look at my nose, and consider the eye of the policeman. He beat
us with his bound hands; but we sat upon him, Heaven-born, and
though his words were tez, we sweated him. Heaven-born, never has
been such a sweat! He is weaker now than a child; but the fever
has gone out of him, by the grace of God. There remains only my
nose and the eye of the constabeel. Sahib, shall I ask for my
dismissal because my Sahib has beaten me?" And Faiz Ullah laid
his long thin hand carefully on Scott's chest to be sure that the
fever was all gone, ere he went out to open tinned soups and
discourage such as laughed at his swelled nose.
"The district's all right," Scott whispered. "It doesn't make
any difference. You got my wire?" I shall be fit in a week.
'Can't understand how it happened. I shall be fit in a few
"You're coming into camp with us," said Hawkins.
"But look here - but -"
"It's all over except the shouting. We sha'n't need you Punjabis
any more. On my honour, we sha'n't. Martyn goes back in a few
weeks; Arbuthnot's returned already; Ellis and Clay are putting
the last touches to a new feeder-line the Government's built as
relief-work. Morten's dead - he was a Bengal man, though; you
wouldn't know him. 'Pon my word, you and Will - Miss Martyn -
seem to have come through it as well as anybody."- "Oh, how is
she, by-the-way"." The voice went up and down as he spoke.
"Going strong when I left her. The Roman Catholic Missions are
adopting the unclaimed babies to turn them into little priests;
the Basil Mission is taking some, and the mothers are taking the
rest. You should hear the little beggars howl when they're sent
away from William. She's pulled down a bit, but so are we all.
Now, when do you suppose you'll be able to move?"
"I can't come into camp in this state. I won't," he replied
"Well, you are rather a sight, but from what I gathered there it
seemed to me they'd be glad to see you under any conditions.
I'll look over your work here, if you like, for a couple of
days, and you can pull yourself together while Faiz Ullah feeds
Scott could walk dizzily by the time Hawkins's inspection was
ended, and he flushed all over when Jim said of his work that it
was "not half bad," and volunteered, further, that he had
considered Scott his right-hand man through the famine, and
would feel it his duty to say as much officially.
So they came back by rail to the old camp; but there were no
crowds near it; the long fires in the trenches were dead and
black, and the famine-sheds were almost empty.
"You see!" said Jim. "There isn't much more to do. 'Better ride
up and see the wife. They've pitched a tent for you. Dinner's at
seven. I've some work here."
Riding at a foot-pace, Faiz Ullah by his stirrup, Scott came to
William in the brown-calico riding-habit, sitting at the
dining-tent door, her hands in her lap, white as ashes, thin and
worn, with no lustre in her hair. There did not seem to be any
Mrs. Jim on the horizon, and all that William could say was: "My
word, how pulled down you look!"
"I've had a touch of fever. You don't look very well yourself."
"Oh, I'm fit enough. We've stamped it out. I suppose you know?"
Scott nodded. "We shall all be returned in a few weeks. Hawkins
"Before Christmas, Mrs. Jim says. Sha'n't you be glad to go back
~ I can smell the wood-smoke already"; William sniffed. "We
shall be in time for all the Christmas doings. I don't suppose
even the Punjab Government would be base enough to transfer Jack
till the new year?"
"It seems hundreds of years ago - the Punjab and all that -
doesn't it? Are you glad you came?"
"Now it's all over, yes. It has been ghastly here, though. You
know we had to sit still and do nothing, and Sir Jim was away so
"Do nothing! How did you get on with the milking?"
"I managed it somehow - after you taught me. 'Remember?"
Then the talk stopped with an almost audible jar. Still no Mrs.
"That reminds me, I owe you fifty rupees for the condensed-milk.
I thought perhaps you'd be coming here when you were transferred
to the Khanda district, and I could pay you then; but you
"I passed within five miles of the camp, but it was in the middle
of a march, you see, and the carts were breaking down every few
minutes, and I couldn't get 'em over the ground till ten o'clock
that night. I wanted to come awfully. You knew I did, didn't
"I - believe - I - did," said William, facing him with level
eyes. She was no longer white."
"Did you understand?"
"Why you didn't ride in? Of course I did."
"Why?""Because you couldn't, of course. I knew that."
"Did you care?"
"If you had come in - but I knew you wouldn't - but if you had, I
should have cared a great deal. You know I should."
"Thank God I didn't! Oh, but I wanted to! I couldn't trust myself
to ride in front of the carts, because I kept edging 'em over
here, don't you know?"
"I knew you wouldn't," said William, contentedly. "Here's your
Scott bent forward and kissed the hand that held the greasy
notes. Its fellow patted him awkwardly but very tenderly on the
"And you knew, too, didn't you?" said William, in a new voice.
"No, on my honour, I didn't. I hadn't the - the cheek to expect
anything of the kind, except . . I say, were you out riding
anywhere the day I passed by to Khanda?"
William nodded, and smiled after the manner of an angel surprised
in a good deed.
"Then it was just a speck I saw of your habit in the -"
"Palm-grove on the Southern cart-road. I saw your helmet when you
came up from the mullah by the temple - just enough to be sure
that you were all right. D' you care?"
This time Scott did not kiss her hand, for they were in the dusk
of the dining-tent, and, because William's knees were trembling
under her, she had to sit down in the nearest chair, where she
wept long and happily, her head on her arms; and when Scott
imagined that it would be well to comfort her, she needing
nothing of the kind, she ran to her own tent; and Scott went out
into the world, and smiled upon it largely and idiotically. But
when Faiz Ullah brought him a drink, he found it necessary to
support one hand with the other, or the good whisky and soda
would have been spilled abroad. There are fevers and fevers.
But it was worse - much worse - the strained, eye-shirking talk
at dinner till the servants had withdrawn, and worst of all when
Mrs. Jim, who had been on the edge of weeping from the soup down,
kissed Scott and William, and they drank one whole bottle of
champagne, hot, because there was no ice, and Scott and William
sat outside the tent in the starlight till Mrs. Jim drove them in
for fear of more fever.
Apropos of these things and some others William said: "Being
engaged is abominable, because, you see, one has no official
position. We must be thankful we've lots of things to do."
"Things to do!" said Jim, when that was reported to him.
"They're neither of them any good any more. I can't get five
hours' work a day out of Scott. He's in the clouds half the
"Oh, but they're so beautiful to watch, Jimmy. It will break my
heart when they go. Can't you do anything for him?"
"I've given the Government the impression - at least, I hope I
have - that he personally conducted the entire famine. But all
he wants is to get on to the Luni Canal Works, and William's
just as bad. Have you ever heard 'em talking of barrage and
aprons and waste-water ~ It's their style of spooning, I
Mrs. Jim smiled tenderly. "Ah, that's in the intervals - bless
And so Love ran about the camp unrebuked in broad daylight, while
men picked up the pieces and put them neatly away of the Famine
in the Eight Districts.
Morning brought the penetrating chill of the Northern December,
the layers of wood-smoke, the dusty grey-blue of the tamarisks,
the domes of ruined tombs, and all the smell of the white
Northern plains, as the mail-train ran on to the mile-long Sutlej
Bridge. William, wrapped in a poshteen - a silk-embroidered
sheepskin jacket trimmed with rough astrakhan - looked out with
moist eyes and nostrils that dilated joyously. The South of
pagodas and palm-trees, the overpopulated Hindu South, was done
with. Here was the land she knew and loved, and before her lay
the good life she understood, among folk of her own caste and
They were picking them up at almost every station now - men and
women coming in for the Christmas Week, with racquets, with
bundles of polo-sticks, with dear and bruised cricket-bats, with
fox-terriers and saddles. The greater part of them wore jackets
like William's, for the Northern cold is as little to be trifled
with as the Northern heat. And William was among them and of
them, her hands deep in her pockets, her collar turned up over
her ears, stamping her feet on the platforms as she walked up and
down to get warm, visiting from carriage to carriage and
everywhere being congratulated. Scott was with the bachelors at
the far end of the train, where they chaffed him mercilessly
about feeding babies and milking goats; but from time to time he
would stroll up to William's window, and murmur: "Good enough,
isn't it?" and William would answer with sighs of pure delight:
"Good enough, indeed." The large open names of the home towns
were good to listen to. Umballa, Ludianah, Phillour, Jullundur,
they rang like the coming marriage-bells in her ears, and William
felt deeply and truly sorry for all strangers and outsiders -
visitors, tourists, and those fresh-caught for the service of the
It was a glorious return, and when the bachelors gave the
Christmas Ball, William was, unofficially, you might say, the
chief and honoured guest among the Stewards, who could make
things very pleasant for their friends. She and Scott danced
nearly all the dances together, and sat out the rest in the big
dark gallery overlooking the superb teak floor, where the
uniforms blazed, and the spurs clinked, and the new frocks and
four hundred dancers went round and round till the draped flags
on the pillars flapped and bellied to the whirl of it.
About midnight half a dozen men who did not care for dancing came
over from the Club to play "Waits," and that was a surprise the
Stewards had arranged - before any one knew what had happened,
the band stopped, and hidden voices broke into "Good King
Wenceslaus," and William in the gallery hummed and beat time with
"Mark my footsteps well, my page,
Tread thou in them boldly.
Thou shalt feel the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly!"
"Oh, I hope they are going to give us another! Isn't it pretty,
coming out of the dark in that way? Look - look down. There's
Mrs. Gregory wiping her eyes!"
"It's like Home, rather," said Scott. "I remember -"
"Hsh! Listen! - dear." And it began again:
"When shepherds watched their flocks by night -"
"A-h-h!" said William, drawing closer to Scott.
"All seated on the ground,
The Angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around.
'Fear not,' said he (for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled mind);
'Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind.'"
This time it was William that wiped her eyes.
End of WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR - PART II
THE SON OF HIS FATHER
"It is a queer name," Mrs. Strickland admitted, "and none of our
family have ever borne it, but, you see, he is the first man to
So he was called Adam, and to that world about him he was the
first of men - a man-child alone. Heaven sent him no Eve for a
companion, but all earth, horse and foot, was at his feet. As
soon as he was old enough to appear in public, he held a levee;
and Strickland's sixty policemen, with their sixty clanking
sabres, bowed to the dust before him. When his fingers closed a
little on Imam Din's sword-hilt, they rose and roared - till Adam
roared, too, and was withdrawn.
"Now, that was no cry of fear," said Imam Din, afterwards,
speaking to his companions in the Police Lines. "He was angry -
and so young! Brothers, he will make a very strong Police
"Does the Memsahib give him the breast?" said a new Phillour
recruit, the dye smell not yet out of his yellow cotton uniform.
"Ho!" said an up-country Naik, scornfully. "It has not been known
for more than ten days that my woman suckles him." He curled his
moustaches as lordly as ever an Inspector could afford to do, for
he knew that the husband of the foster-mother of the son of the
District Superintendent of Police was a man sure of
"I am glad," said Imam Din, loosening his belt. "Those who drink
our blood become of our own blood, and I have seen, in these
thirty years, that the sons of the Sahibs, once being born here,
return when they are men. Yes, they return after they have been
to Belait [Europe]."
"And what do they do in Belait?" asked the recruit, respectfully.
"Get instruction - which thou hast not," returned the Naik. "Also
they drink of belaitee-panee [soda-water], enough to give them
that devil's restlessness which endures for all their lives.
Whence we of Hind have trouble."
"My father's uncle," said Imam Din, slowly, with importance, "was
Ressaldar of the Longcoat Horse; and the Empress called him to
Belait in the year that she had accomplished fifty years of
rule. He said (and there were also other witnesses) that the
Sahibs there drink common water, even as do we; and that the
belaitee-panee does not run in all the rivers.
"He said also that there was a Shish Mahal - half a glass palace
- half a koss in length and that the rail-gbarri ran under the
roads, and that there are boats bigger than a village. He is a
great talker." The Naik spoke scornfully. He had no well-born
"He is a man of good birth," said Imam Din, with the least
possible emphasis on the first word, and the Naik was silent.
"Ho! ho!" Imam Din reached out to his pipe, chuckling until his
fat sides shook again. "Strickland Sahib's foster-mother was the
wife of an Arain in the Ferozepur district. I was a young man
then, ploughing while the English fought. This child will also be
suckled here, and he will have double wisdom, and when he is a
Police officer it will be very bad for the thieves in this
"There will be no English in the land then. They are asking
permission of clerks and low-caste men to continue their rule
even now," said the Naik.
"All but foolish men - such as those clerks are - would know that
this asking is but an excuse for making trouble, and thus
holding the country more strictly. Now, in an investigation, is
it not our custom to permit the villagers to talk loosely and
give us abuse for a little time? Then do we not grow hot, and
walk them to the thana two by two - as these clerks will be
walked? Thus do I read the new talk."
"So do not I," said the Naik, who borrowed the native
"Because thou art young, and wast born in time of peace. I saw
the year that was to end the English rule. Men said it was
ended, indeed, and that all could now take their neighbour's
cattle. This I saw ploughing, and I was minded to fight too,
being a young man. My father sent me to Gurgaon to buy cattle,
and I saw the tents of Van Corlin Sahib(1) in the wheat, and I
saw that he was going up and down collecting the revenue,
neither abating nor increasing it, though Delhi was all afire,
and the Sahibs lay dead about the fields. I have seen what I have
seen. This Raj will not be talked down; and he who builds on the
present madness of the Sahib-log, which, O Naik, covers great
cunning, builds for himself a lock-up. My father's uncle has seen
their country, and he says that he is afraid as never he feared
before. So Strickland Sahib's boy will come back to this country,
and his son after him. Naik, have they named him yet?"
"The butler spoke to my household, having heard the talk at
table, and he says that they will call him Adam, and no
jaw-splitting English name. Ud-daam. The padre will name him at
their church in due time."(1) Van Cortland?
"Who can tell the ways of Sahibs? Now, Strickland Sahib knows
more of the Faith than ever I had time to learn-prayers, charms,
names, and stories of the Blessed Ones. Yet he is not a
Musalman," said Imam Din, thoughtfully.
"For the reason that he knows as much of the gods of Hindustan,
and so rides with a rein in each hand. Remember that he sat
under the Baba Atall, a fakir among fakirs, for ten days:
whereby a man came to be hanged for the murder of the
dancing-girl on the night of the great earthquake," said the
"True - it is true - and yet . . . they are one day so wise, the
Sahibs, and another so foolish. But he has named the child well:
Adam. Huzrut Adam! Ho! ho! Father Adam we must call him."
"And all who minister to the child," said the Naik, quietly, but
with meaning, "will come to great honour."
Adam throve, being prayed over before the gods of at least three
creeds, in a garden almost as fair as Eden. There were gigantic
clumps of bamboo that talked continually, and enormous plantains
on whose soft paper skin he could scratch with his nails; green
domes of mango-trees as huge as the dome of St. Paul's, full of
parrots as big as cassowaries, and grey squirrels the size of
foxes. At the end of the garden stood a hedge of flaming
poinsettias higher than any-thing in the world, because,
childlike, Adam's eye could not carry to the tops of the
mango-trees. Their green went out against the blue sky, but the
red poinsettias he could just see. A nurse who talked
continually about snakes and pulled him back from the mouth of a
fascinating dry well, and a mother who believed that the sun hurt
little heads, were the only drawbacks to this loveliness. But, as
his legs grew under him, he found that by scaling an enormous
rampart -three feet of broken-down mud wall at the end of the
garden - he could come into a ready-made kingdom where every one
was his slave. Imam Din showed him the way one evening, and the
police troopers cooking their supper received him with rapture,
and gave him pieces of very indigestible but altogether
delightful spiced bread.
Here he sat or sprawled in the horse-feed where the police horses
were picketed in a double line, and he named them, men and
beasts together, according to his ideas and experiences, as his
First Father had done before him. In those days everything had a
name, from the mud mangers to the heel-ropes; for things were
people to Adam, exactly as people are things to folk in their
second childhood. Through all the conferences - one hand twisted
into Imam Din's beard, and the other on his polished belt-buckle
- there were two other people who came and went across the talk -
Death and Sickness - persons stronger than Imam Din, and stronger
than the heel-roped stallions. There was Mata, the small-pox, a
woman in some way connected with pigs; and Heza, the cholera, a
black man, according to Adam; and Booka, starvation; and Kismet,
who quietly settled all questions, from the choking of a pet
mungoose in the kitchen drain, to the absence of a young
policeman who once missed a parade and never came back. It was
all very wonderful to Adam, but not worth much thinking over; for
a child's mind is bounded by his eyes exactly as a horse's view
of the road is limited by blinkers. Between all these
objectionable shadowy vagrants stood a ring of kind faces and
strong arms, and Mata and Heza would never touch Adam, the first
of men. Kismet might do so, because - and this was a mystery no
staring into the looking-glass would solve - Kismet, who was a
man, was also written, like police orders for the day, in or on
Adam's head. Imam Din could not explain how this might be, and
it was from that grey fat Muhammadan that Adam learned through
every inflection the Khuda janta (God knows) that settled
everything in his mind.
Beyond the fact that "Khuda" was a very good man and kept lions,
Adam's theology did not run far. Mrs. Strickland tried to teach
him a few facts, but he revolted at the story of Genesis as
untrue. A turtle, he said, upheld the world, and one-half the
adventures of Huzrut Nu (Father Noah) had never been told. If
Mamma wanted to hear them, she must ask Imam Din. Adam had heard
of a saint who had made wooden cakes and pressed them to his
stomach when he felt hungry, and the Feeding of the Multitude did
not impress him. So it came about that a reading of miracle
stories generally ended in a monologue by Adam on other and much
more astonishing miracles.
"It's awful," said Mrs. Strickland, half crying, "to think of his
growing up like a little heathen." Mrs. Strickland (Miss Youghal
that was, if you remember her) had been born and brought up in
England, and did not quite understand things.
"Let him alone," said Strickland; "he'll grow out of it all, or
it will only come back to him in dreams.""Are you sure?" said
his wife, to whom Strickland's least word was pure truth.
"Quite. I was sent home when I was seven, and they flicked it
out of me with a wet towel at Harrow. Public schools don't
encourage any-thing that isn't quite English."
Mrs. Strickland shuddered, for she had been trying not to think
of the separation that follows motherhood in India, and makes
life there, for all that is written to the contrary, not quite
the most desirable thing in the world. Adam trotted out to hear
about more miracles, and his nurse must have worried him beyond
bounds, for she came back weeping, saying that Adam Baba was in
danger of being eaten alive by wild horses.
As a matter of fact, he had shaken off Juma by bolting between a
couple of picketed horses and lying down under their bellies.
That they were personal friends of his, Juma did not understand,
nor Strickland either. Adam was settled at ease when his father
arrived, breathless and white, and the stallions put back their
ears and squealed.
"If you come here," said Adam, "they will hit you kicks. Tell
Juma I have eaten my rice and wish to be alone."
"Come out at once," said Strickland, for the horses were
beginning to paw violently.
"Why should I obey Juma's order? She is afraid of horses."
"It is not Juma's order. It is mine. Obey!"
"Ho!" said Adam, "Juma did not tell me that." And he crawled out
on all fours among the shod feet. Mrs. Strickland was crying
bitterly with fear and excitement, and as a sacrifice to the
home gods Adam had to be whipped. He said with perfect justice:
"There was no order that I should not sit with the horses, and
they are my horses. Why is there this tamasha?"
Strickland's face showed him that the whipping was coming, and
the child turned white. Mother-like, Mrs. Strickland left the
room, but Juma, the foster-mother, stayed to see.
"Am I to be whipped here?" he gasped.
"Before that woman? Father, I am a man -I am not afraid. It is my
izzat - my honour."
Strickland only laughed (to this day I cannot imagine what
possessed him), and gave Adam the little tap-tap with a
riding-cane that was whipping sufficient for his years.
When it was all over, Adam said quietly: "I am little, and you
are big. If I stayed among my horse folk I should not have been
whipped. You are afraid to go there."
The merest chance led me to Strickland's house that afternoon.
When I was half-way down the drive Adam passed me, without
recognition, at a fast run. I caught one glimpse of his face
under his big hat, and it was the face of his father as I had
once seen that in the grey of morning when it bent above a
leper. I caught the child by the shoulder.
"Let me go!" he screamed, and he and I were the best of friends,
as a rule. "Let me go!"
"Where to, Father Adam?" He was quivering like a new-haltered
"To the well. I have been beaten. I have been beaten before
women! Let me go!" He tried to bite my hand.
"That is a small matter," I said. "Men are horn to beatings."
"Thou hast never been beaten," he said savagely.
"Indeed I have. Times past counting."
"My mother and the ayah saw. By women too, for that matter. What
"What didst thou do?" He stared beyond my shoulder up the long
"It is long ago, and I have forgotten. I was older than thou art;
but even then I forgot, and now the thing is but a jest to be
Adam drew one big breath and broke down utterly in my arms. Then
he raised his head, and his eyes were Strickland's eyes when
Strickland gave orders.
"Ho! Imam Din."
The fat orderly seemed to spring out of the earth at our feet,
crashing through the bushes, and standing to attention.
"Hast thou ever been beaten?" said Adam."Assuredly. By my father
when I was thirty years old. He beat me with a plough-beam before
all the women of the village.""Wherefore?"
"Because I had returned to the village on leave from the
Government service, and had said of the village elders that they
had not seen the world. Therefore he beat me, to show that no
seeing of the world changed father and son."
"I stood up. He was my father."
"Good," said Adam, and turned on his heel without another word.
Imam Din looked after him. "An elephant breeds but once in a
lifetime, but he breeds elephants. Yet I am glad I am no father
of tuskers," said he.
"What is it all?" I asked.
"His father beat him with a whip no bigger than a reed. But the
child could not have done what he desired to do without leaping
through me. And I am of some few pounds weight. Look!"
Imam Din stepped back through the bushes, and the pressed grass
showed that he had been lying curled round the mouth of the dry
"When there was talk of beating I knew that one who sat among
horses, such as ours, was not like to kiss his father's hand. So
I lay down in this place." We both stood still looking at the
Adam came back along the garden path to us. "I have spoken to my
father," he said simply. "Imam Din, tell thy Naik that his woman
is dismissed my service."
"Huzoor!" said Imam Din, stooping low.
"For no fault of hers."
"Protector of the Poor!"
"It is an order! Go!"
Again the salute, and Imam Din departed, with that same set of
the back which he wore when he had taken an order from
Strickland. I thought that it would be well to go too, but
Strickland beckoned me from the verandah. When I came up he was
perfectly white, and rocking to and fro in his chair, repeated
"Good God!" half a dozen times.
"Do you know that he was going to chuck himself down the well -
because I tapped him just now ~" he said helplessly.
"I ought to," I replied. "He has just dismissed his nurse - on
his own authority, I suppose?"
"He told me just now that he wouldn't have her for a nurse any
more. I never supposed he meant it for an instant. I suppose
she'll have to go."
It is written elsewhere that Strickland was feared through the
length and breadth of the Punjab by murderers, horse-thieves,
Adam returned, halting outside the verandah, very white about the
"I have sent away Juma because she saw that - that which
happened. Until she is gone I do not come in the house," he
But to send away thy foster-mother ~" said Strickland, with
"I do not send her away. It is thy blame, and the small
forefinger was pointed to Strickland. "I will not obey her; I
will not eat from her hand, and I will not sleep with her. Send
Strickland stepped out and lifted the child into the verandah.
"This folly has lasted long enough," he said. "Come, now, and be
"I am little, and you are big," said Adam, between set teeth.
"You can beat me before this man or cut me to pieces. But I will
not have Juma for my ayah any more. I will not eat till she goes.
I swear it by - my father's head."
Strickland sent him indoors to his mother, and we could hear
sounds of weeping, and Adam's voice saying nothing more than,
"Send Juma away." Presently Juma came in and wept too, and Adam
repeated, "It is no fault of thine, but go!"
And the end of it was that Juma went, with all her belongings,
and Adam fought his own way alone into his little clothes until
a new ayah came. His address of welcome to her was rather
amazing. In a few words it ran: "If I do wrong send me to my
father. If you strike me I will try to kill you. I do not wish my
ayah to play with me. Go and eat rice."
>From that day Adam forswore the society of ayahs and small
native girls as much as a small boy can, confining himself to
Imam Din and his friends of the police. The Naik, Juma's
husband, had been presuming not a little on his position, and
when Adam's favour was withdrawn from his wife he judged it best
to apply for a transfer to another post. There were too many
companions anxious to report his shortcomings to Strickland.
Towards his father Adam kept a guarded neutrality. There was not
a touch of sulkiness in it, for the child's temper was as clear
as a bell. But the difference and the politeness worried
If the other men had loved Adam before the affair of the well,
they worshipped him now.
He knows what honour means," said Imam Din; "he has justified
himself upon a point thereof. He has carried an order through
his father's household as a child of the blood might do.
Therefore he is not altogether a child any longer. Wah! He is a
tiger's cub." The next time that Adam made his little
unofficial inspection of the line, Imam Din, and by consequence
all the others, stood upon their feet, with their hands to their
sides, instead of calling out from where they lay, "Salaam,
Babajee," and other disrespectful things.
But Strickland took long counsel with his wife, and she with the
cheque-book and their lean bank-account, and they decided that
Adam must go "home" to his aunts. But England is not home to a
child that has been born in India, and it never becomes
home-like unless he spends all his youth there. The bank-book
showed that if they economised through the summer by going to a
cheap hill-station instead of to Simla, where Mrs. Strickland's
parents lived, and where Strickland might be noticed by the
powers, they could send Adam home in the next spring. It would be
hard pinching, but it could be done. In India all the money that
people in other lands save against a rainy day runs off in loss
by exchange, which to-day cuts a man's income down almost exactly
to one-half There is nothing to show for money when all is put
by, and that is what makes married life there so hard. Strickland
used to say, sometimes, that he envied the convicts in the jail.
They had no position to keep up, and the ball and chain that the
worst of them wore was only a few pounds weight of iron.
Dalhousie was chosen as being the cheapest of the hill-stations;
Dalhousie and a little five-roomed cottage full of mildew,
tucked away among the rhododendrons.
Adam had been to Simla three or four times, and knew by name the
most of the Tonga drivers from Kalka to Tara Deva; but this new
plan disquieted him. He came to me for information, his hands
deep in his knickerbocker pockets, walking, step for step, as
his father walked.
"There will be none of my bhai-bund [Brotherhood] up there," said
he, disconsolately, "and they say that I must lie still in a
doolie for a day and a night, being carried like a sheep. I wish
to take some of my mounted men to Dalhousie."
I told him that there was a small boy called Victor, at
Dalhousie, who had a calf for a pet, and was allowed to play
with it on the public roads. After that Adam could not
sufficiently hurry the packing.
"First," said he, "I shall ask that man Victor to let me play
with the cow's child. If he is mug-gra [ill-conditioned] I shall
tell my policemen to take it away."
"But that is unjust," said Strickland, "and there is no order
that the police should do injustice."
"When the Government pay is not sufficient, and low-caste men are
promoted, what can an honest man do?" he replied, in the very
touch and accent of Imam Din, and Strickland's eyebrows went up.
"You talk too much to the police, my son," he said.
"Always, about everything," said Adam, promptly. "They say that
when I am an officer I shall know as much as my father." "God
forbid, little one!"
"They say, too, that you are as clever as Shaitan to know
"They say that, do they?" said Strickland, looking pleased. His
pay was small, but he had his reputation, and that was dear to
"They say also - not to me, but to one another when they eat rice
behind the wall - that in your own heart you esteem yourself as
wise as Suleiman, who was cheated by Shaitan."
This time Strickland did not look so pleased. Adam, in all
innocence, launched into a long story about Suleiman-bin-Daoud,
who once, out of vanity, pitted his wits against Shaitan, and
because God was not on his side Shaitan sent "a little devil of
low caste," as Adam put it, who cheated him utterly, and put him
to shame before "all the other Rajas."
"By Jove!" said Strickland, when the tale was done, and went
away, while Adam took me to task for laughing at Imam Din's
story. I did not wonder that he was called Huzrut Adam, for he
looked old as all time in his grave childhood, sitting
cross-legged, his battered little helmet far at the back of his
head, his forefinger wagging up and down, native fashion, and
the wisdom of serpents on his unconscious lips.
That May he went up to Dalhousie with his mother, and in those
days the journey ended in fifty or sixty miles of uphill travel
in a doolie or palanquin, along a road winding through the
Himalayas. Adam sat in the doolie with his mother,and Strickland
rode and tied with me, a spare doolie following. The march began
after we got out of the train at Pathankot, in a hot night among
the rice - and poppy-fields.
It was all new to Adam, and he had opinions to advance - notably
about a fish that jumped on a wayside pond.
"Now I know," he shouted, "how Khuda puts them there. First He
makes them and then He drops them down. That was a new one."
Then, lifting his head to the stars, he cried, "O God, do it
again, but slowly, that I, Adam, may see."
But nothing happened, and the doolie-bearers lit the noisome,
dripping rag torches, and Adam's eyes shone big in the dancing
light, and we smelt the dry dust of the plains that we were
leaving after eleven months' hard work.
At stated times the men ceased their drowsy, grunting tune, and
sat down for a smoke. Between the guttering of their water-pipes
we could hear the cries of the beasts of the night, and the wind
stirring in the folds of the mountain ahead. At the changing
stations the voice of Adam, the first of men, would be lifted to
rouse the sleepers in the huts till the fresh relays of bearers
shambled from their cots, and the relief-pony with them.
Then we would re-form and go on, and by the time the moon rose
Adam was asleep, and there was no sound in the night except the
grunting of the men, the husky murmur of some river a thousand
feet down in the valley, and the squeaking of Strickland's
saddle. So we went up from the date-palm to deodar, till the dawn
wind came round a corner all fresh from the snows, and we
snuffed it. I heard Strickland say: "Wife, my overcoat, please,"
and Adam, fretfully: "Where is Dalhousie, and the cow's child?"
and then I slept till Strickland turned me out of the warm doolie
at seven o'clock, and I stepped into the splendour of a cool hill
day, the plains sweltering twenty miles back and three thousand
Adam waked too, and needs must ride in front of me to ask a
million questions, and shout at the monkeys, and clap his hands
when the painted pheasants bolted across our road, and hail
every wood-cutter and drover and pilgrim within sight, till we
halted for breakfast at a staging-house. After breakfast, being a
child, he went out to play with a train of bullock-drivers
haltered by the road-side, and we had to chase him out of a
native liquor-shop where he was bargaining with a naked
seven-year-old for a mynah in a bamboo cage.
Said he, wriggling on my pommel, as we went on again: "There were
four men behosh [insensible] at the back of that house.
Wherefore do men grow behosh from drinking?"
"It is the nature of the water," l said, and calling back:
"Strick, what's that grog-shop doing so close to the road? It's
a temptation to any one's servants."
"Dun'no," said a sleepy voice in the doolie. "This is Kennedy's
district. 'Twasn't here in my time."
"Truly the water smells bad," Adam went on. "I smelt it, but I
did not get the mynah even for six annas. The woman of the house
gave me a love-gift, that I found, playing near the verandah."
"And what was the gift, Father Adam?"
"A nose-ring for my ayah. Ohe! ohe! Look at that camel with a
bag on his nose." A string of loaded camels came cruising round
the corner, as a fleet rounds a cape.
"Ho, Malik! why does not a camel salaam like an elephant? His
neck is long enough," Adam cried.
"The Angel Jibrail made him a fool from the beginning," said the
driver, as he swayed on the top of the led beast, and laughter
ran all along the line of red-bearded men.
"That is true," said Adam, and they laughed again.
At last, in the late afternoon, we came to Dalhousie, loveliest
of the hill-stations, and separated.Adam hardly could be
restrained from setting out at once to find Victor and the
"cow's child." I found them both, something to my trouble, next
morning. The two young sinners had a calf on a taut line just at
a sharp turn in the Mall, and were pretending that he was a
Raja's elephant who had gone mad. But it was my horse that
nearly went mad, and they shouted with delight. Then we began to
talk, and Adam, by way of crushing Victor's repeated reminders
that he and not "that other" was the owner of the calf, said:
"It is true I have no cow's child, but a great dacoity has been
done on my father."
"We came up together yesterday. There could have been nothing," I
"It was my mother's horse. She has been dacoited with beating
and blows, and now it is so thin." He held his hands an inch
apart. "My father is at the tar-house sending tars. Imam Din
will cut off all their heads. I desire your saddle-cloth for a
howdah to my elephant. Give it me."
This was exciting, but not lucid. I went to the telegraph-office
and found Strickland in a bad temper among many telegraph-forms.
A dishevelled, one-eyed groom stood in a corner, whimpering at
intervals. He was a man whom Adam invariably addressed as
"Be-shakl be-ukl, be-ank" - ugly, stupid, eyeless. It seemed,
according to Strickland, that he had sent his wife's horse up to
Dalhousie by road, a fortnight's march. This is the custom in
Upper India. Among the foot-hills near Dhunnera or Dhar, horse
and man had been violently set upon in the night by four men, who
had beaten the groom (his leg was bandaged from knee to ankle in
proof), had incidentally beaten the horse, and had robbed the
groom of the bucket, and all his money eleven rupees, nine
annas, three pie. Last, they had left him for dead by the
wayside, where wood-cutters had found and nursed him. Then the
one-eyed howled with anguish, thinking over his bruises. "They
asked me if I was Strickland Sahib's servant, and I, thinking the
protection of the name would be sufficient, spoke the truth.
Then they beat me grievously."
"Hm!" said Strickland. "I thought they wouldn't dacoit as a
business on the Dalhousie road. This is meant for me personally
- sheer badmashi [impudence]. All right."
In justice to a very hard-working class, it must be said that the
thieves of Upper India have the keenest sense of humour. The
last compliment that they can pay a Police officer is to rob
him, and if, as once they did, they can loot a Deputy
Inspector-General of Police, on the eve of his retirement, of
everything except the clothes on his back, their joy is
complete. They cause letters of derision and telegrams of
condolence to be sent to the victim; for of all men, thieves are
most compelled to keep up with modern progress.
Strickland was a man of few words where his business was
concerned. I had never seen a Police officer robbed before, and
I expected some excitement; but Strickland held his tongue. He
took the groom's deposition and retired into himself for a time,
evolving thieves. Then he sent Kennedy, of the Pathankot charge,
an official letter and an unofficial note. Kennedy's reply was
purely unofficial, and it ran thus: "This seems a compliment
solely intended for you. My wonder is, you didn't get it before.
The men are probably back in your district by this time. The
Dhunnera and foot-hill people are highly respectable cultivators,
and seeing my Assistant is an unlicked pup, and I can't trust my
Inspector out of my sight, I am not going to turn their harvest
upside down with a police investigation. I am run off my feet
with vaccination police work. You'd better look at home. The
Shubkudder Gang were through here a fortnight back. They laid up
at the Amritsar Serai, and then worked down. No cases against
them in my charge, but remember you lagged their malik for
receiving in Prub Dyal's burglary. They owe you one."
"Exactly what I thought," said Strickland. "I had a notion it was
the Shubkudder Gang from the first. We must make it pleasant
for them at Peshawur, and in my district too. They are just the
kind that would lie up under Imam Din's shadow."
>From this point onward the wires began to he worked heavily.
Strickland had a very fair knowledge of the Shubkudder Gang,
gathered at first hand.
They were the same syndicate that had once stolen a Deputy
Commissioner's cow, put horse-shoes on her, and taken her forty
miles into the jungle before they lost interest in the joke.
They added insult to insult by writing that the Deputy
Commissioner's cows and horses were so much alike that it took
them two days to find out the difference, and they would not
lift the like of such cattle any more.
The District Superintendent at Peshawur replied to Strickland
that he was expecting the gang, and Strickland's Assistant in
his own district, being young and full of zeal, sent up the most
"Now that's just what I want that young fool not to do," said
Strickland. "He hasn't passed the lower standard yet, and he's
an English boy born and bred, and his father before him. He has
about as much tact as a bull, and he won't work quietly under my
Inspector. I wish the Government would keep our service for
country-born men. Those first five or six years give a man a
pull that lasts him his life. Adam, if you were only old enough
to be my 'Stunt"!" He looked down at the little fellow on the
verandah. Adam was deeply interested in the dacoity, and, unlike
a child, did not lose interest after the first week. On the
contrary, he would ask his father every evening what had been
done, and Strickland had drawn him a picture on the white wall of
the verandah showing the different towns in which policemen were
on the lookout for the thieves. They were Amritsar, Jullundur,
Phillour, Gurgaon, in case the gang were moving south; Rawal
Pindi and Peshawur, with Multan. Adam looked up at the picture
as he answered:
"There has been great dikh [trouble] in this case."
"Very great trouble. I wish thou wert a young man and my
assistant to help me."
"Dost thou need help, my father?" Adam asked curiously, with his
head on one side.
"Leave it all alone. It is bad. Let loose everything."
"That must not be. Those beginning a business continue to the
"Thou wilt continue to the end? Dost thou not know who did the
Strickland shook his head. Adam turned to me with the same
question, and I answered it in the same way.
"What foolish people!" he said, and turned his back on us. He
showed plainly in all our dealings afterwards how we had fallen
in his opinion. Strickland told me that he would sit at the
door of his work-room and stare at him for half an hour at a
time as he went through his papers. Strickland seemed to work
harder over the case than if he had been in office on the
"And sometimes I look up and I fancy the little chap's laughing
at me. It's an awful thing to have a son. You see, he's your own
and his own, and between the two you don't know quite how to
handle him," said Strickland. "I wonder what in the world he
I asked Adam this on my own account. He put his head on one side
for a moment and replied: "In these days I think about great
things; I do not play with Victor and the cow's child any more.
He is only a baba."
At the end of the third week of Strickland's leave the result of
Strickland's labours - labours that had made Mrs. Strickland
more indignant against dacoits than any one else - came to hand.
The police at Peshawur reported that half the Shubkudder Gang
were held at Peshawur to account for the possession of some
blankets and a horse-bucket. Strickland's Assistant had also
four men under suspicion in his charge; and Imam Din must have
stirred up Strickland's Inspector to investigations on his own
account, for a string of incoherent telegrams came in from the
Club Secretary, in which he entreated, exhorted, and commanded
Strickland to take his "mangy havildars" off the club premises.
"Your men, in servants' quarters here, examining cook. Marker
indignant. Steward threatens resignation. Members furious.
Saises stopped on roads. Shut up, or my resignation goes to
"Now, I shouldn't in the least wonder," said Strickland,
thoughtfully, to his wife, "if the club was not just the place
where a man would lie up. Bill Watson isn't at all pleased,
though. I think I shall have to cut my leave by a week and go
down there. If there's anything to be told, the men will tell me.
It will never do for the gang to think they can dacoit my
That was in the forenoon, and Strickland asked me to tiff in to
leave me some instructions about his big dog, with authority to
rebuke those who did not attend to her. Tietens was growing too
old and too fat to live in the plains in summer. When I came,
Adam had climbed into his high chair at the table, and Mrs.
Strickland seemed ready to weep at any moment over the general
misery of things.
"I go down the hill to-morrow, little son," said Strickland.
"Wherefore?" said Adam, reaching out for a ripe mango and burying
his head in it.
"Imam Din has caught the men who did the dacoity, and there are
also others at Peshawur under suspicion. I must go to see."
"Bus!" said Adam, between the sucks at his mango, as Mrs.
Strickland tucked the napkin round his neck. "It is enough.
Imam Din speaks lies. Do not go."
"It is necessary. There has been great dikhdari
Adam came out of the fruit for a minute and laughed. Then,
returning, he spoke between slow and deliberate mouthfuls.
"The dacoits live in Beshakl's head. They will never be caught.
All people know that. The cook knows, and the scullion, and
Rahim Baksh here."
"Nay," said the butler behind his chair, hastily. "What should I
know? Nothing at all does the servant of the Presence know."
"Accha," said Adam, and sucked on. "Only it is known."
"Speak, then," said Strickland. "What dost thou know? Remember
the sais was beaten insensible."
"That was in the bad-water shop where I played when we came here.
The boy who would not sell me the mynah for six annas told me
that a one-eyed man had come there and drunk the bad waters and
gone mad. He broke bedsteads. They hit him with a bamboo till he
fell senseless, and, fearing he was dead, they nursed him on
milk like a little baba. When I was playing first with the cow's
child I asked Beshakl if he were that man, and he said no. But I
knew, because many wood-cutters asked him whether his head were
"But why," I interrupted, "did Beshakl tell lies?"
"Oh! he is a low-caste man, and desired consideration. Now he is
a witness in a great law-case, and men will go to the jailkhana
on his account. It was to give trouble and obtain notice."
"Was it all lies?" said Strickland,
"Ask him," said Adam, cheerily, through the mango-juice.
Strickland passed through the door; there was a howl of despair
in the servants' quarters up the hill, and he returned with the
"Now," said Strickland, "it is known. Declare!" "Beshakl," said
Adam, while the man gasped. "Imam Din has caught four men, and
there are some more at Peshawur. Bus! Bus! Bus! Tell about the
mare and how she rolled."
"Thou didst get drunk by the wayside, and didst make a false case
to cover it. Speak!"
Like many other men, Strickland, in possession of a few facts,
was irresistible. The groom groaned.
"I - I did not get drunk - till - till - Protector of the Poor,
the mare rolled."
"All horses roll at Dhunnera. The road is too narrow before
that, and they smell where the other horses have rolled. This
the bullock-drivers told me when they came there," said Adam.
"She rolled. The saddle was cut, and the curb-chain was lost."
"See!" said Adam, tugging a curb-chain from his pocket. "That
woman in the shop gave it to me for a love-gift. Beshakl said
it was not his when I showed it. But I knew."
"Then they in the grog-shop, knowing that I was the servant of
the Presence, said that unless I drank and spent money they
"A lie. A lie," said Strickland. "Son of an owl, speak truth
now at least."
"Then I was afraid because I had lost the curb-chain, so I cut
the saddle across and about."
"She did not roll, then?" said Strickland, bewildered and very
"It was the curb-chain that was lost. That was the beginning of
all. I cut the saddle to look as though she had rolled, and
went to drink in the shop. I drank, and there was a fray. The
rest I have forgotten, till I was recovered."
"And the mare the while? What of the mare?"
The man looked at Strickland, and collapsed. "I will speak truth.
She bore fagots for a wood-cutter for a week."
"Oh, poor Diamond!" said Mrs. Strickland.
"And Beshaki was paid four annas for her hire three days ago by
the wood-cutter's brother, who is the left-hand man of the
jhampanis here," said Adam, in a loud and joyful voice. "We all
knew. We all knew. I and all the servants."
Strickland was silent. His wife stared helplessly at the child -
the soul called out of the Nowhere, that went its own way alone.
"Did no man help thee with the lies?" I asked of the groom.
"None, Protector of the Poor - not one."
"They grew, then?"
"As a tale grows in the telling. Alas! I am a very bad man," and
he blinked his one eye dole-fully.
"Now four men are held at my station on thy account, and God
knows how many more at Peshawur, besides the questions at
Multan, and my izzat is lost, and the mare has been pack-pony to
a wood-cutter. Son of devils, what canst thou do to make
There was just a little break in Strickland's voice, and the man
caught it. Bending low, he answered in the abject, fawning whine
that confounds right and wrong more surely even than most modern
creeds, "Protector of the Poor, is the police service shut to an
"Out!" cried Strickland, and swiftly as the groom departed he
must have heard our shout of laughter behind him.
"If you dismiss that man, Strick, I shall engage him. He's a
genius," I said. "It will take you months to put this mess
right, and Billy Watson won't give you a minute's peace."
"You aren't going to tell him?" said Strickland, appealingly.
"I couldn't keep this to myself if you were my own brother. Four
men held in your district -four or forty at Peshawur - and what
was that you said about Multan?"
"Oh, nothing. Only some camel men there have been -"
"On account of a curb-chain. Oh, my aunt!"
"And whose memsahib was thy aunt?" said Adam, with the mango
stone in his fist. We began to laugh again.
"But here," said Strickland, pulling his face together, "is a
very bad child who has caused his father to lose honour before
all the policemen of the Punjab."
"Oh, they know," said Adam. "It was only for the sake of show
that they caught the people. Assuredly they all knew it was
"And since when hast thou known?" said the first policeman in
India to his son.
"Four days after we came here - after the wood-cutter had asked
Beshakl of the health of his head. Beshaki all but slew a
wood-cutter at that bad-water place."
"If thou hadst spoken then, time and money and trouble to me and
to others had all been spared. Baba, thou hast done a wrong
greater than thy knowledge, and thou hast put me to shame, and
set me out upon false words, and broken my honour. Thou hast
done very wrong. But perhaps thou didst not think?"
"Nay, but I did think. Father, my honour was lost when that
happened that - that happened in Juma's presence. Now it is made
And, with the most enchanting smile in the world, Adam climbed on
to his father's lap.
End of "THE SON OF HIS FATHER"
End of "THE DAY'S WORK" - PART I