The Sending of Dana Da by Rudyard
When the Devil rides on your chest remember the
Once upon a time, some people in India made a new Heaven and a new
Earth out of broken tea-cups, a missing brooch or two, and a hair-brush.
These were hidden under brushes, or stuffed into holes in the hillside,
and an entire Civil Service of subordinate Gods used to find or mend them
again; and every one said: "There are more things in Heaven and Earth than
are dreamed of in our philosophy." Several other things happened also, but
the Religion never seemed to get much beyond its first manifestations;
though it added an air-line postal service, and orchestral effects in
order to keep abreast of the times, and choke off competition.
This Religion was too elastic for ordinary use. It stretched itself and
embraced pieces of everything that the medicine-men of all ages have
manufactured. It approved of and stole from Freemasonry; looted the
Latter-day Rosicrucians of half their pet words; took any fragments of
Egyptian philosophy that it found in the Encyclopaedia Britannica;
annexed as many of the Vedas as had been translated into French or
English, and talked of all the rest; built in the German versions of what
is left of the Zend Avesta; encouraged White, Grey and Black Magic,
including spiritualism, palmistry, fortune-telling by cards, hot
chestnuts, double-kerneled nuts and tallow droppings; would have adopted
Voodoo and Oboe had it known anything about them, and showed itself, in
every way, one of the most accommodating arrangements that had ever been
invented since the birth of the Sea.
When it was in thorough working order, with all the machinery, down to
the subscriptions, complete, Dana Da came from nowhere, with nothing in
his hands, and wrote a chapter in its history which has hitherto been
unpublished. He said that his first name was Dana, and his second was Da.
Now, setting aside Dana of the New York Sun, Dana is a Bhil name,
and Da fits no native of India unless you except the Bengali Dè as
the original spelling. Da is Lap or Finnish; and Dana Da was neither Finn,
Chin, Bhil, Bengali, Lap, Nair, Gond, Romaney, Magh, Bokhariot, Kurd,
Armenian, Levantine, Jew, Persian, Punjabi, Madrasi, Parsee, nor anything
else known to ethnologists. He was simply Dana Da, and declined to give
further information. For the sake of brevity and as roughly indicating his
origin, he was called "The Native." He might have been the original Old
Man of the Mountains, who is said to be the only authorized head of the
Tea-cup Creed. Some people said that he was; but Dana Da used to smile and
deny any connection with the cult; explaining that he was an "Independent
As I have said, he came from nowhere, with his hands behind his back,
and studied the Creed for three weeks; sitting at the feet of those best
competent to explain its mysteries. Then he laughed aloud and went away,
but the laugh might have been either of devotion or derision.
When he returned he was without money, but his pride was unabated. He
declared that he knew more about the Things in Heaven and Earth than those
who taught him, and for this contumacy was abandoned altogether.
His next appearance in public life was at a big cantonment in Upper
India, and he was then telling fortunes with the help of three leaden
dice, a very dirty old cloth, and a little tin box of opium pills. He told
better fortunes when he was allowed half a bottle of whiskey; but the
things which he invented on the opium were quite worth the money. He was
in reduced circumstances. Among other people's he told the fortune of an
Englishman who had once been interested in the Simla Creed, but who, later
on, had married and forgotten all his old knowledge in the study of babies
and things. The Englishman allowed Dana Da to tell a fortune for charity's
sake, and gave him five rupees, a dinner, and some old clothes. When he
had eaten, Dana Da professed gratitude, and asked if there were anything
he could do for his host—in the esoteric line.
"Is there any one that you love?" said Dana Da. The Englishman loved
his wife, but had no desire to drag her name into the conversation. He
therefore shook his head.
"Is there any one that you hate?" said Dana Da. The Englishman said
that there were several men whom he hated deeply.
"Very good," said Dana Da, upon whom the whiskey and the opium were
beginning to tell. "Only give me their names, and I will despatch a
Sending to them and kill them."
Now a Sending is a horrible arrangement, first invented, they say, in
Iceland. It is a Thing sent by a wizard, and may take any form, but, most
generally, wanders about the land in the shape of a little purple cloud
till it finds the Sendee, and him it kills by changing into the form of a
horse, or a cat, or a man without a face. It is not strictly a native
patent, though chamars of the skin and hide castes can, if
irritated, despatch a Sending which sits on the breast of their enemy by
night and nearly kills him, Very few natives care to irritate
chamars for this reason.
"Let me despatch a Sending," said Dana Da; "I am nearly dead now with
want, and drink, and opium; but I should like to kill a man before I die.
I can send a Sending anywhere you choose, and in any form except in the
shape of a man."
The Englishman had no friends that he wished to kill, but partly to
soothe Dana Da, whose eyes were rolling, and partly to see what would be
done, he asked whether a modified Sending could not be arranged
for—such a Sending as should make a man's life a burden to him, and
yet do him no harm. If this were possible, he notified his willingness to
give Dana Da ten rupees for the job.
"I am not what I was once," said Dana Da, "and I must take the money
because I am poor. To what Englishman shall I send it?"
"Send a Sending to Lone Sahib," said the Englishman, naming a man who
had been most bitter in rebuking him for his apostasy from the Tea-cup
Creed. Dana Da laughed and nodded.
"I could have chosen no better man myself," said he. "I will see that
he finds the Sending about his path and about his bed."
He lay down on the hearth-rug, turned up the whites of his eyes,
shivered all over and began to snort. This was Magic, or Opium, or the
Sending, or all three. When he opened his eyes he vowed that the Sending
had started upon the war-path, and was at that moment flying up to the
town where Lone Sahib lives,
"Give me my ten rupees," said Dana Da, wearily, "and write a letter to
Lone Sahib, telling him, and all who believe with him, that you and a
friend are using a power greater than theirs. They will see that you are
speaking the truth."
He departed unsteadily, with the promise of some more rupees if
anything came of the Sending,
The Englishman sent a letter to Lone Sahib, couched in what he
remembered of the terminology of the Creed. He wrote: "I also, in the days
of what you held to be my backsliding, have obtained Enlightenment, and
with Enlightenment has come Power." Then he grew so deeply mysterious that
the recipient of the letter could make neither head nor tail of it, and
was proportionately impressed; for he fancied that his friend had become a
"fifth-rounder." When a man is a "fifth-rounder" he can do more than Slade
and Houdin combined,
Lone Sahib read the letter in five different fashions, and was
beginning a sixth interpretation when his bearer dashed in with the news
that there was a cat on the bed. Now if there was one thing that Lone
Sahib hated more than another, it was a cat. He scolded the bearer for not
turning it out of the house. The bearer said that he was afraid. All the
doors of the bedroom had been shut throughout the morning, and no
real cat could possibly have entered the room. He would prefer not
to meddle with the creature.
Lone Sahib entered the room gingerly, and there, on the pillow of his
bed, sprawled and whimpered a wee white kitten; not a jumpsome, frisky
little beast, but a slug-like crawler with its eyes barely opened and its
paws lacking strength or direction—a kitten that ought to have been
in a basket with its mamma. Lone Sahib caught it by the scruff of its
neck, handed it over to the sweeper to be drowned, and fined the bearer
That evening, as he was reading in his room, he fancied that he saw
something moving about on the hearth-rug, outside the circle of light from
his reading-lamp. When the thing began to myowl, he realized that it was a
kitten—a wee white kitten, nearly blind and very miserable. He was
seriously angry, and spoke bitterly to his bearer, who said that there was
no kitten in the room when he brought in the lamp, and real kittens
of tender age generally had mother-cats in attendance.
"If the Presence will go out into the veranda and listen," said the
bearer, "he will hear no cats. How, therefore, can the kitten on the bed
and the kitten on the hearth-rug be real kittens?"
Lone Sahib went out to listen, and the bearer followed him, but there
was no sound of any one mewing for her children. He returned to his room,
having hurled the kitten down the hillside, and wrote out the incidents of
the day for the benefit of his co-religionists. Those people were so
absolutely free from superstition that they ascribed anything a little out
of the common to Agencies. As it was their business to know all about the
Agencies, they were on terms of almost indecent familiarity with
Manifestations of every kind. Their letters dropped from the
ceiling—unstamped—and Spirits used to squatter up and down
their staircases all night; but they had never come into contact with
kittens. Lone Sahib wrote out the facts, noting the hour and the minute,
as every Psychical Observer is bound to do, and appending the Englishman's
letter because it was the most mysterious document and might have had a
bearing upon anything in this world or the next. An outsider would have
translated all the tangle thus: "Look out! You laughed at me once, and now
I am going to make you sit up,"
Lone Sahib's co-religionists found that meaning in it; but their
translation was refined and full of four-syllable words. They held a
sederunt, and were filled with tremulous joy, for, in spite of their
familiarity with all the other worlds and cycles, they had a very human
awe of things sent from Ghost-land. They met in Lone Sahib's room in
shrouded and sepulchral gloom, and their conclave was broken up by
clinking among the photo-frames on the mantelpiece. A wee white kitten,
nearly blind, was looping and writhing itself between the clock and the
candlesticks. That stopped all investigations or doubtings. Here was the
Manifestation in the flesh. It was, so far as could be seen, devoid of
purpose, but it was a Manifestation of undoubted authenticity.
They drafted a Round Robin to the Englishman, the backslider of old
days, adjuring him in the interests of the Creed to explain whether there
was any connection between the embodiment of some Egyptian God or other (I
have forgotten the name) and his communication. They called the kitten Ra,
or Toth, or Tum, or some thing; and when Lone Sahib confessed that the
first one had, at his most misguided instance, been drowned by the
sweeper, they said consolingly that in his next life he would be a
"bounder," and not even a "rounder" of the lowest grade. These words may
not be quite correct, but they accurately express the sense of the
When the Englishman received the Round Robin—it came by
post—he was startled and bewildered. He sent into the bazar for Dana
Da, who read the letter and laughed, "That is my Sending," said he. "I
told you I would work well. Now give me another ten rupees."
"But what in the world is this gibberish about Egyptian Gods?" asked
"Cats," said Dana Da, with a hiccough, for he had discovered the
Englishman's whiskey bottle. "Cats, and cats, and cats! Never was such a
Sending. A hundred of cats. Now give me ten more rupees and write as I
Dana Da's letter was a curiosity. It bore the Englishman's signature,
and hinted at cats—at a Sending of Cats. The mere words on paper
were creepy and uncanny to behold.
"What have you done, though?" said the Englishman; "I am as much in the
dark as ever. Do you mean to say that you can actually send this absurd
Sending you talk about?"
"Judge for yourself," said Dana Da. "What does that letter mean? In a
little time they will all be at my feet and yours, and I—O
Glory!—will be drugged or drunk all day long."
Dana Da knew his people.
When a man who hates cats wakes up in the morning and finds a little
squirming kitten on his breast, or puts his hands into his ulster-pocket
and finds a little half-dead kitten where his gloves should be, or opens
his trunk and finds a vile kitten among his dress-shirts, or goes for a
long ride with his mackintosh strapped on his saddle-bow and shakes a
little squawling kitten from its folds when he opens it, or goes out to
dinner and finds a little blind kitten under his chair, or stays at home
and finds a writhing kitten under the quilt, or wriggling among his boots,
or hanging, head downward, in his tobacco-jar, or being mangled by his
terrier in the veranda,—when such a man finds one kitten, neither
more nor less, once a day in a place where no kitten rightly could or
should be, he is naturally upset. When he dare not murder his daily trove
because he believes it to be a Manifestation, an Emissary, an Embodiment,
and half a dozen other things all out of the regular course of nature, he
is more than upset. He is actually distressed. Some of Lone Sahib's
co-religionists thought that he was a highly favored individual; but many
said that if he had treated the first kitten with proper respect—as
suited a Toth-Ra-Tum-Sennacherib Embodiment—all this trouble would
have been averted. They compared him to the Ancient Mariner, but none the
less they were proud of him and proud of the Englishman who had sent the
Manifestation. They did not call it a Sending because Icelandic magic was
not in their programme.
After sixteen kittens, that is to say after one fortnight, for there
were three kittens on the first day to impress the fact of the Sending,
the whole camp was uplifted by a letter—it came flying through a
window—from the Old Man of the Mountains—the Head of all the
Creed—explaining the Manifestation in the most beautiful language
and soaking up all the credit of it for himself. The Englishman, said the
letter, was not there at all. He was a backslider without Power or
Asceticism, who couldn't even raise a table by force of volition, much
less project an army of kittens through space. The entire arrangement,
said the letter, was strictly orthodox, worked and sanctioned by the
highest Authorities within the pale of the Creed. There was great joy at
this, for some of the weaker brethren seeing that an outsider who had been
working on independent lines could create kittens, whereas their own
rulers had never gone beyond crockery—and broken at best—were
showing a desire to break line on their own trail. In fact, there was the
promise of a schism. A second Round Robin was drafted to the Englishman,
beginning: "O Scoffer," and ending with a selection of curses from the
Rites of Mizraim and Memphis and the Commination of Jugana, who was a
"fifth-rounder," upon whose name an upstart "third-rounder" once traded. A
papal excommunication is a billet-doux compared to the Commination
of Jugana. The Englishman had been proved, under the hand and seal of the
Old Man of the Mountains, to have appropriated Virtue and pretended to
have Power which, in reality, belonged only to the Supreme Head. Naturally
the Round Robin did not spare him.
He handed the letter to Dana Da to translate into decent English. The
effect on Dana Da was curious. At first he was furiously angry, and then
he laughed for five minutes.
"I had thought," he said, "that they would have come to me. In another
week I would have shown that I sent the Sending, and they would have
discrowned the Old Man of the Mountains who has sent this Sending of mine.
Do you do nothing. The time has come for me to act. Write as I dictate,
and I will put them to shame. But give me ten more rupees."
At Dana Da's dictation the Englishman wrote nothing less than a formal
challenge to the Old Man of the Mountains. It wound up: "And if this
Manifestation be from your hand, then let it go forward; but if it be from
my hand, I will that the Sending shall cease in two days' time. On that
day there shall be twelve kittens and thenceforward none at all. The
people shall judge between us." This was signed by Dana Da, who added
pentacles and pentagrams, and a crux ansaia, and half a dozen
swastikas, and a Triple Tau to his name, just to show that he was
all he laid claim to be.
The challenge was read out to the gentlemen and ladies, and they
remembered then that Dana Da had laughed at them some years ago. It was
officially announced that the Old Man of the Mountains would treat the
matter with contempt; Dana Da being an Independent Investigator without a
single "round" at the back of him. But this did not soothe his people.
They wanted to see a fight. They were very human for all their
spirituality. Lone Sahib, who was really being worn out with kittens,
submitted meekly to his fate. He felt that he was being "kittened to prove
the power of Dana Da," as the poet says.
When the stated day dawned, the shower of kittens began. Some were
white and some were tabby, and all were about the same loathsome age.
Three were on his hearth-rug, three in his bath-room, and the other six
turned up at intervals among the visitors who came to see the prophecy
break down. Never was a more satisfactory Sending. On the next day there
were no kittens, and the next day and all the other days were kittenless
and quiet. The people murmured and looked to the Old Man of the Mountains
for an explanation. A letter, written on a palm-leaf, dropped from the
ceiling, but every one except Lone Sahib felt that letters were not what
the occasion demanded. There should have been cats, there should have been
cats,—full-grown ones. The letter proved conclusively that there had
been a hitch in the Psychic Current which, colliding with a Dual Identity,
had interfered with the Percipient Activity all along the main line. The
kittens were still going on, but owing to some failure in the Developing
Fluid, they were not materialized. The air was thick with letters for a
few days afterward. Unseen hands played Glück and Beethoven on
finger-bowls and clock-shades; but all men felt that Psychic Life was a
mockery without materialized Kittens. Even Lone Sahib shouted with the
majority on this head. Dana Da's letters were very insulting, and if he
had then offered to lead a new departure, there is no knowing what might
not have happened.
But Dana Da was dying of whiskey and opium in the Englishman's godown,
and had small heart for honors.
"They have been put to shame," said he. "Never was such a Sending. It
has killed me."
"Nonsense," said the Englishman, "you are going to die, Dana Da, and
that sort of stuff must be left behind. I'll admit that you have made some
queer things come about. Tell me honestly, now, how was it done?"
"Give me ten more rupees," said Dana Da, faintly, "and if I die before
I spend them, bury them with me." The silver was counted out while Dana Da
was fighting with Death. His hand closed upon the money and he smiled a
"Bend low," he whispered. The Englishman bent.
allah (peddler)—Ceylon pearl-merchant—all mine English
education—out-casted, and made up name Dana Da—England with
American thought-reading man and—and—you gave me ten rupees
several times—I gave the Sahib's bearer two-eight a month for
cats—little, little cats. I wrote, and he put them about—very
clever man. Very few kittens now in the bazar. Ask Lone Sahib's
So saying, Dana Da gasped and passed away into a land where, if all be
true, there are no materializations and the making of new creeds is
But consider the gorgeous simplicity of it all!