Part 4 out of 9
day, and the water stinks fit to knock you down. I got my 'ead chipped
like a egg; I've got pneumonia too, an' my guts is all out o' order.
Tain't no bloomin' picnic in those parts, I can tell you."
"Wot are the niggers like?" demanded a private.
"There's some prisoners in that train yonder. Go an' look at 'em. They're
the aristocracy o' the country. The common folk are a dashed sight uglier.
If you want to know what they fight with, reach under my seat an' pull out
the long knife that's there."
They dragged out and beheld for the first time the grim, bone-handled,
triangular Afghan knife. It was almost as long as Lew.
"That's the thing to jint ye," said the trooper, feebly.
"It can take off a man's arm at the shoulder as easy as slicing butter. I
halved the beggar that used that 'un, but there's more of his likes up
above. They don't understand thrustin', but they're devils to slice."
The men strolled across the tracks to inspect the Afghan prisoners. They
were unlike any "niggers" that the Fore and Aft had ever met--these huge,
black-haired, scowling sons of the Beni-Israel. As the men stared the
Afghans spat freely and muttered one to another with lowered eyes.
"My eyes! Wot awful swine!" said Jakin, who was in the rear of the
procession. "Say, old man, how you got _puckrowed_, eh? _Kiswasti_ you
wasn't hanged for your ugly face, hey?"
The tallest of the company turned, his leg-irons, clanking at the
movement, and stared at the boy. "See!" he cried to his fellows in Pushto.
"They send children against us. What a people, and what fools!"
"_Hya!_" said Jakin, nodding his head cheerily. "You go down-country.
_Khana_ get, _peenikapanee_ get--live like a bloomin' Raja _ke marfik_.
That's a better _bandobust_ than baynit get it in your innards. Good-bye,
ole man. Take care o' your beautiful figure-'ed, an' try to look _kushy_."
The men laughed and fell in for their first march when they began to
realize that a soldier's life was not all beer and skittles. They were
much impressed with the size and bestial ferocity of the niggers whom they
had now learned to call "Paythans," and more with the exceeding discomfort
of their own surroundings. Twenty old soldiers in the corps would have
taught them how to make themselves moderately snug at night, but they had
no old soldiers, and, as the troops on the line of march said, "they lived
like pigs." They learned the heart-breaking cussedness of camp-kitchens
and camels and the depravity of an E.P. tent and a wither-wrung mule. They
studied animalculae in water, and developed a few cases of dysentery in
At the end of their third march they were disagreeably surprised by the
arrival in their camp of a hammered iron slug which, fired from a steady
rest at seven hundred yards, flicked out the brains of a private seated by
the fire. This robbed them of their peace for a night, and was the
beginning of a long-range fire carefully calculated to that end. In the
daytime they saw nothing except an occasional puff of smoke from a crag
above the line of march. At night there were distant spurts of flame and
occasional casualties, which set the whole camp blazing into the gloom,
and, occasionally, into opposite tents. Then they swore vehemently and
vowed that this was magnificent but not war.
Indeed it was not. The Regiment could not halt for reprisals against the
_franctireurs_ of the country side. Its duty was to go forward and make
connection with the Scotch and Gurkha troops with which it was brigaded.
The Afghans knew this, and knew too, after their first tentative shots,
that they were dealing with a raw regiment. Thereafter they devoted
themselves to the task of keeping the Fore and Aft on the strain. Not for
anything would they have taken equal liberties with a seasoned corps--with
the wicked little Gurkhas, whose delight it was to lie out in the open on
a dark night and stalk their stalkers--with the terrible, big men dressed
in women's clothes, who could be heard praying to their God in the
night-watches, and whose peace of mind no amount of "sniping" could
shake--or with those vile Sikhs, who marched so ostentatiously unprepared
and who dealt out such grim reward to those who tried to profit by that
unpreparedness. This white regiment was different--quite different. It
slept like a hog, and, like a hog, charged in every direction when it was
roused. Its sentries walked with a footfall that could be heard for a
quarter of a mile; would fire at anything that moved--even a driven
donkey--and when they had once fired, could be scientifically "rushed" and
laid out a horror and an offence against the morning sun. Then there were
camp-followers who straggled and could be cut up without fear. Their
shrieks would disturb the white boys, and the loss of their services would
inconvenience them sorely.
Thus, at every march, the hidden enemy became bolder and the regiment
writhed and twisted under attacks it could not avenge. The crowning
triumph was a sudden night-rush ending in the cutting of many tent-ropes,
the collapse of the sodden canvas and a glorious knifing of the men who
struggled and kicked below. It was a great deed, neatly carried out, and
it shook the already shaken nerves of the Fore and Aft. All the courage
that they had been required to exercise up to this point was the "two
o'clock in the morning courage"; and they, so far, had only succeeded in
shooting their comrades and losing their sleep.
Sullen, discontented, cold, savage, sick, with their uniforms dulled and
unclean, the "Fore and Aft" joined their Brigade.
"I hear you had a tough time of it coming up," said the Brigadier. But
when he saw the hospital-sheets his face fell.
"This is bad," said he to himself. "They're as rotten as sheep." And aloud
to the Colonel,--"I'm afraid we can't spare you just yet. We want all we
have, else I should have given you ten days to recruit in."
The Colonel winced. "On my honor, Sir," he returned, "there is not the
least necessity to think of sparing us. My men have been rather mauled and
upset without a fair return. They only want to go in somewhere where they
can see what's before them."
"'Can't say I think much of the Fore and Fit," said the Brigadier, in
confidence, to his Brigade-Major. "They've lost all their soldiering, and,
by the trim of them, might have marched through the country from the other
side. A more fagged-out set of men I never put eyes on."
"Oh, they'll improve as the work goes on. The parade gloss has been rubbed
off a little, but they'll put on field polish before long," said the
Brigade-Major. "They've been mauled, and they don't quite understand it."
They did not. All the hitting was on one side, and it was cruelly hard
hitting with accessories that made them sick. There was also the real
sickness that laid hold of a strong man and dragged him howling to the
grave. Worst of all, their officers knew just as little of the country as
the men themselves, and looked as if they did. The Fore and Aft were in a
thoroughly unsatisfactory condition, but they believed that all would be
well if they could once get a fair go-in at the enemy. Pot-shots up and
down the valleys were unsatisfactory, and the bayonet never seemed to get
a chance. Perhaps it was as well, for a long-limbed Afghan with a knife
had a reach of eight feet, and could carry away enough lead to disable
three Englishmen, The Fore and Fit would like some rifle-practice at the
enemy--all seven hundred rifles blazing together. That wish showed the
mood of the men.
The Gurkhas walked into their camp, and in broken, barrack-room English
strove to fraternize with them; offered them pipes of tobacco and stood
them treat at the canteen. But the Fore and Aft, not knowing much of the
nature of the Gurkhas, treated them as they would treat any other
"niggers," and the little men in green trotted back to their firm friends
the Highlanders, and with many grins confided to them:--"That dam white,
regiment no dam use. Sulky--ugh! Dirty--ugh! Hya, any tot for Johnny?"
Whereat the Highlanders smote the Gurkhas as to the head, and told them
not to vilify a British Regiment, and the Gurkhas grinned cavernously, for
the Highlanders were their elder brothers and entitled to the privileges
of kinship. The common soldier who touches a Gurkha is more than likely to
have his head sliced open.
Three days later the Brigadier arranged a battle according to the rules of
war and the peculiarity of the Afghan temperament. The enemy were massing
in inconvenient strength among the hills, and the moving of many green
standards warned him that the tribes were "up" in aid of the Afghan
regular troops. A Squadron and a half of Bengal Lancers represented the
available Cavalry, and two screw-guns borrowed from a column thirty miles
away, the Artillery at the General's disposal.
"If they stand, as I've a very strong notion that they will, I fancy we
shall see an infantry fight that will be worth watching," said the
Brigadier. "We'll do it in style. Each regiment shall be played into
action by its Band, and we'll hold the Cavalry in reserve."
"For _all_ the reserve?" somebody asked.
"For all the reserve; because we're going to crumple them up," said the
Brigadier, who was an extraordinary Brigadier, and did not believe in the
value of a reserve when dealing with Asiatics. And, indeed, when you come
to think of it, had the British Army consistently waited for reserves in
all its little affairs, the boundaries of Our Empire would have stopped at
That battle was to be a glorious battle.
The three regiments debouching from three separate gorges, after duly
crowning the heights above, were to converge from the centre, left and
right upon what we will call the Afghan army, then stationed toward the
lower extremity of a flat-bottomed valley. Thus it will be seen that three
sides of the valley practically belonged to the English, while the fourth
was strictly Afghan property. In the event of defeat the Afghans had the
rocky hills to fly to, where the fire from the guerilla tribes in aid
would cover their retreat. In the event of victory these same tribes would
rush down and lend their weight to the rout of the British.
The screw-guns were to shell the head of each Afghan rush that was made in
close formation, and the Cavalry, held in reserve in the right valley,
were to gently stimulate the break-up which would follow on the combined
attack. The Brigadier, sitting upon a rock overlooking the valley, would
watch the battle unrolled at his feet. The Fore and Aft would debouch from
the central gorge, the Gurkhas from the left, and the Highlanders from the
right, for the reason that the left flank of the enemy seemed as though it
required the most hammering. It was not every day that an Afghan force
would take ground in the open, and the Brigadier was resolved to make the
most of it.
"If we only had a few more men," he said, plaintively, "we could surround
the creatures and crumble 'em up thoroughly. As it is, I'm afraid we can
only cut them up as they run. It's a great pity."
The Fore and Aft had enjoyed unbroken peace for five days, and were
beginning, in spite of dysentery, to recover their nerve. But they were
not happy, for they did not know the work in hand, and had they known,
would not have known how to do it. Throughout those five days in which old
soldiers might have taught them the craft of the game, they discussed
together their misadventures in the past--how such an one was alive at
dawn and dead ere the dusk, and with what shrieks and struggles such
another had given up his soul under the Afghan knife. Death was a new and
horrible thing to the sons of mechanics who were used to die decently of
zymotic disease; and their careful conservation in barracks had done
nothing to make them look upon it with less dread.
Very early in the dawn the bugles began to blow, and the Fore and Aft,
filled with a misguided enthusiasm, turned out without waiting for a cup
of coffee and a biscuit; and were rewarded by being kept under arms in the
cold while the other regiments leisurely prepared for the fray. All the
world knows that it is ill taking the breeks off a Highlander. It is much
iller to try to make him stir unless he is convinced of the necessity for
The Fore and Aft awaited, leaning upon their rifles and listening to the
protests of their empty stomachs. The Colonel did his best to remedy the
default of lining as soon as it was borne in upon him that the affair
would not begin at once, and so well did he succeed that the coffee was
just ready when--the men moved off, their Band leading. Even then there
had been a mistake in time, and the Fore and Aft came out into the valley
ten minutes before the proper hour. Their Band wheeled to the right after
reaching the open, and retired behind a little rocky knoll still playing
while the regiment went past.
It was not a pleasant sight that opened on the uninstructed view, for the
lower end of the valley appeared to be filled by an army in position--real
and actual regiments attired in red coats, and--of this there was no
doubt--firing Martini-Henri bullets which cut up the ground a hundred
yards in front of the leading company. Over that pock-marked ground the
regiment had to pass, and it opened the ball with a general and profound
courtesy to the piping pickets; ducking in perfect time, as though it had
been brazed on a rod. Being half-capable of thinking for itself, it fired
a volley by the simple process of pitching its rifle into its shoulder and
pulling the trigger. The bullets may have accounted for some of the
watchers on the hillside, but they certainly did not affect the mass of
enemy in front, while the noise of the rifles drowned any orders that
might have been given.
"Good God!" said the Brigadier, sitting on the rock high above all. "That
regiment has spoiled the whole show. Hurry up the others, and let the
screw-guns get off."
But the screw-guns, in working round the heights, had stumbled upon a
wasp's nest of a small mud fort which they incontinently shelled at eight
hundred yards, to the huge discomfort of the occupants, who were
unaccustomed to weapons of such devilish precision.
The Fore and Aft continued to go forward but with shortened stride. Where
were the other regiments, and why did these niggers use Martinis? They
took open order instinctively, lying down and firing at random, rushing a
few paces forward and lying down again, according to the regulations. Once
in this formation, each man felt himself desperately alone, and edged in
toward his fellow for comfort's sake.
Then the crack of his neighbor's rifle at his ear led him to fire as
rapidly as he could--again for the sake of the comfort of the noise. The
reward was not long delayed. Five volleys plunged the files in banked
smoke impenetrable to the eye, and the bullets began to take ground twenty
or thirty yards in front of the firers, as the weight of the bayonet
dragged down, and to the right arms wearied with holding the kick of the
leaping Martini. The Company Commanders peered helplessly through the
smoke, the more nervous mechanically trying to fan it away with their
"High and to the left!" bawled a Captain till he was hoarse. "No good!
Cease firing, and let it drift away a bit."
Three and four times the bugles shrieked the order, and when it was obeyed
the Fore and Aft looked that their foe should be lying before them in mown
swaths of men. A light wind drove the smoke to leeward, and showed the
enemy still in position and apparently unaffected. A quarter of a ton of
lead had been buried a furlong in front of them, as the ragged earth
That was not demoralizing to the Afghans, who have not European nerves.
They were waiting for the mad riot to die down, and were firing quietly
into the heart of the smoke. A private of the Fore and Aft spun up his
company shrieking with agony, another was kicking the earth and gasping,
and a third, ripped through the lower intestines by a jagged bullet, was
calling aloud on his comrades to put him out of his pain. These were the
casualties, and they were not soothing to hear or see. The smoke cleared
to a dull haze.
Then the foe began to shout with a great shouting and a mass--a black
mass--detached itself from the main body, and rolled over the ground at
horrid speed. It was composed of, perhaps, three hundred men, who would
shout and fire and slash if the rush of their fifty comrades who were
determined to die carried home. The fifty were Ghazis, half-maddened with
drugs and wholly mad with religious fanaticism. When they rushed the
British fire ceased, and in the lull the order was given to close ranks
and meet them with the bayonet.
Any one who knew the business could have told the Fore and Aft that the
only way of dealing with a Ghazi rush is by volleys at long ranges;
because a man who means to die, who desires to die, who will gain heaven
by dying, must, in nine cases out of ten, kill a man who has a lingering
prejudice in favor of life if he can close with the latter. Where they
should have closed and gone forward, the Fore and Aft opened out and
skirmished, and where they should have opened out and fired, they closed
A man dragged from his blankets half awake and unfed is never in a
pleasant frame of mind. Nor does his happiness increase when he watches
the whites of the eyes of three hundred six-foot fiends upon whose beards
the foam is lying, upon whose tongues is a roar of wrath, and in whose
hands are three-foot knives.
The Fore and Aft heard the Gurkha bugles bringing that regiment forward at
the double, while the neighing of the Highland pipes came from the left.
They strove to stay where they were, though the bayonets wavered down the
line like the oars of a ragged boat. Then they felt body to body the
amazing physical strength of their foes; a shriek of pain ended the rush,
and the knives fell amid scenes not to be told. The men clubbed together
and smote blindly--as often as not at their own fellows. Their front
crumpled like paper, and the fifty Ghazis passed on; their backers, now
drunk with success, fighting as madly as they.
Then the rear-ranks were bidden to close up, and the subalterns dashed
into the stew--alone. For the rear-rank had heard the clamor in front, the
yells and the howls of pain, and had seen the dark stale blood that makes
afraid. They were not going to stay. It was the rushing of the camps over
again. Let their officers go to Hell, if they chose; they would get away
from the knives.
"Come on!" shrieked the subalterns, and their men, cursing them, drew
back, each closing into his neighbor and wheeling round.
Charteris and Devlin, subalterns of the last company, faced their death
alone in the belief that their men would follow.
"You've killed me, you cowards," sobbed Devlin and dropped, cut from the
shoulder-strap to the centre of the chest, and a fresh detachment of his
men retreating, always retreating, trampled him under foot as they made
for the pass whence they had emerged.
I kissed her in the kitchen and I kissed her in the hall.
Child'un, child'un, follow me!
Oh Golly, said the cook, is he gwine to kiss us all?
The Gurkhas were pouring through the left gorge and over the heights at
the double to the invitation of their regimental Quickstep. The black
rocks were crowned with dark green spiders as the bugles gave tongue
In the morning! In the morning by the bright light!
When Gabriel blows his trumpet in the morning!
The Gurkha rear-companies tripped and blundered over loose stones. The
front-files halted for a moment to take stock of the valley and to settle
stray boot-laces. Then a happy little sigh of contentment soughed down the
ranks, and it was as though the land smiled, for behold there below was
the enemy, and it was to meet them that the Gurkhas had doubled so
hastily. There was much enemy. There would be amusement. The little men
hitched their _kukris_ well to hand, and gaped expectantly at their
officers as terriers grin ere the stone is cast for them to fetch. The
Gurkhas' ground sloped downward to the valley, and they enjoyed a fair
view of the proceedings. They sat upon the bowlders to watch, for their
officers were not going to waste their wind in assisting to repulse a
Ghazi rush more than half a mile away. Let the white men look to their own
"Hi! yi!" said the Subadar-Major, who was sweating profusely, "Dam fools
yonder, stand close-order! This is no time for close order, it's the time
for volleys. Ugh!"
Horrified, amused, and, indignant, the Gurkhas beheld the retirement--let
us be gentle--of the Fore and Aft with a running chorus of oaths and
"They run! The white men run! Colonel Sahib, may _we_ also do a little
running?" murmured Runbir Thappa, the Senior Jemadar.
But the Colonel would have none of it. "Let the beggars be cut up a
little," said he wrathfully. "'Serves 'em right They'll be prodded into
facing round in a minute." He looked through his field-glasses, and caught
the glint of an officer's sword.
"Beating 'em with the flat--damned conscripts! How the Ghazis are walking
into them!" said he.
The Fore and Aft, heading back, bore with them their officers. The
narrowness of the pass forced the mob into solid formation, and the
rear-rank delivered some sort of a wavering volley. The Ghazis drew off,
for they did not know what reserves the gorge might hide. Moreover, it was
never wise to chase white men too far. They returned as wolves return to
cover, satisfied with the slaughter that they had done, and only stopping
to slash at the wounded on the ground. A quarter of a mile had the Fore
and Aft retreated, and now, jammed in the pass, was quivering with pain,
shaken and demoralized with fear, while the officers, maddened beyond
control, smote the men with the hilts and the flats of their swords.
"Get back! Get back, you cowards--you women! Right about face--column of
companies, form--you hounds!" shouted the Colonel, and the subalterns
swore aloud. But the Regiment wanted to go--to go anywhere out of the
range of those merciless knives. It swayed to and fro irresolutely with
shouts and outcries, while from the right the Gurkhas dropped volley after
volley of cripple-stopper Snider bullets at long range into the mob of the
Ghazis returning to their own troops.
The Fore and Aft Band, though protected from direct fire by the rocky
knoll under which it had sat down, fled at the first rush. Jakin and Lew
would have fled also, but their short legs left them fifty yards in the
rear, and by the time the Band had mixed with the regiment, they were
painfully aware that they would have to close in alone and unsupported.
"Get back to that rock," gasped Jakin. "They won't see us there."
And they returned to the scattered instruments of the Band; their hearts
nearly bursting their ribs.
"Here's a nice show for _us_," said Jakin, throwing himself full length on
the ground. "A bloomin' fine show for British Infantry! Oh, the devils!
They've gone an' left us alone here! Wot 'll we do?"
Lew took possession of a cast-off water bottle, which naturally was full
of canteen rum, and drank till he coughed again.
"Drink," said he, shortly. "They'll come back in a minute or two--you
Jakin drank, but there was no sign of the regiment's return. They could
hear a dull clamor from the head of the valley of retreat, and saw the
Ghazis slink back, quickening their pace as the Gurkhas fired at them.
"We're all that's left of the Band, an' we'll be cut up as sure as death,"
"I'll die game, then," said Lew, thickly, fumbling with his tiny drummer's
sword. The drink was working on his brain as it was on Jakin's.
"'Old on! I know something better than fightin'," said Jakin, stung by the
splendor of a sudden thought due chiefly to rum. "Tip our bloomin' cowards
yonder the word to come back. The Paythan beggars are well away. Come on,
Lew! We won't get hurt. Take the fife an' give me the drum. The Old Step
for all your bloomin' guts are worth! There's a few of our men coming back
now. Stand up, ye drunken little defaulter. By your right--quick march!"
He slipped the drum-sling over his shoulder, thrust the fife into Lew's
hand, and the two boys marched out of the cover of the rock into the open,
making a hideous hash of the first bars of the "British Grenadiers."
As Lew had said, a few of the Fore and Aft were coming back sullenly and
shamefacedly under the stimulus of blows and abuse; their red coats shone
at the head of the valley, and behind them were wavering bayonets. But
between this shattered line and the enemy, who with Afghan suspicion
feared that the hasty retreat meant an ambush, and had not moved
therefore, lay half a mile of a level ground dotted only by the wounded.
The tune settled into full swing and the boys kept shoulder to shoulder,
Jakin banging the drum as one possessed. The one fife made a thin and
pitiful squeaking, but the tune carried far, even to the Gurkhas.
"Come on, you dogs!" muttered Jakin, to himself, "Are we to play
forhever?" Lew was staring straight in front of him and marching more
stiffly than ever he had done on parade.
And in bitter mockery of the distant mob, the old tune of the Old Line
shrilled and rattled:
Some talk of Alexander,
And some of Hercules;
Of Hector and Lysander,
And such great names as these!
There was a far-off clapping of hands from the Gurkhas, and a roar from
the Highlanders in the distance, but never a shot was fired by British or
Afghan. The two little red dots moved forward in the open parallel to the
But of all the world's great heroes
There's none that can compare,
With a tow-row-row-row-row-row
To the British Grenadier!
The men of the Fore and Aft were gathering thick at the entrance into the
plain. The Brigadier on the heights far above was speechless with rage.
Still no movement from the enemy. The day stayed to watch the children.
Jakin halted and beat the long roll of the Assembly, while the fife
"Right about face! Hold up, Lew, you're drunk," said Jakin. They wheeled
and marched back:
Those heroes of antiquity
Ne'er saw a cannon-ball,
Nor knew the force o' powder,
"Here they come!" said Jakin. "Go on, Lew:"
To scare their foes withal!
The Fore and Aft were pouring out of the valley. What officers had said to
men in that time of shame and humiliation will never be known; for neither
officers nor men speak of it now.
"They are coming anew!" shouted a priest among the Afghans. "Do not kill
the boys! Take them alive, and they shall be of our faith."
But the first volley had been fired, and Lew dropped on his face. Jakin
stood for a minute, spun round and collapsed, as the Fore and Aft came
forward, the maledictions of their officers in their ears, and in their
hearts the shame of open shame.
Half the men had seen the drummers die, and they made no sign. They did
not even shout. They doubled out straight across the plain in open order,
and they did not fire.
"This," said the Colonel of Gurkhas, softly, "is the real attack, as it
ought to have been delivered. Come on, my children."
"Ulu-lu-lu-lu!" squealed the Gurkhas, and came down with a joyful clicking
of _kukris_--those vicious Gurkha knives.
On the right there was no rush. The Highlanders, cannily commending their
souls to God (for it matters as much to a dead man whether he has been
shot in a Border scuffle or at Waterloo) opened out and fired according to
their custom, that is to say without heat and without intervals, while the
screw-guns, having disposed of the impertinent mud fort aforementioned,
dropped shell after shell into the clusters round the flickering green
standards on the heights.
"Charrging is an unfortunate necessity," murmured the Color-Sergeant of
the right company of the Highlanders.
"It makes the men sweer so, but I am thinkin' that it will come to a
charrge if these black devils stand much longer. Stewarrt, man, you're
firing into the eye of the sun, and he'll not take any harm for Government
ammuneetion. A foot lower and a great deal slower! What are the English
doing? They're very quiet there in the centre. Running again?"
The English were not running. They were hacking and hewing and stabbing,
for though one white man is seldom physically a match for an Afghan in a
sheepskin or wadded coat, yet, through the pressure of many white men
behind, and a certain thirst for revenge in his heart, he becomes capable
of doing much with both ends of his rifle. The Fore and Aft held their
fire till one bullet could drive through five or six men, and the front of
the Afghan force gave on the volley. They then selected their men, and
slew them with deep gasps and short hacking coughs, and groanings of
leather belts against strained bodies, and realized for the first time
that an Afghan attacked is far less formidable than an Afghan attacking;
which fact old soldiers might have told them.
But they had no old soldiers in their ranks.
The Gurkhas' stall at the bazar was the noisiest, for the men were
engaged--to a nasty noise as of beef being cut on the block--with the
_kukri_, which they preferred to the bayonet; well knowing how the Afghan
hates the half-moon blade.
As the Afghans wavered, the green standards on the mountain moved down to
assist them in a last rally. Which was unwise. The Lancers chafing in the
right gorge had thrice despatched their only subaltern as galloper to
report on the progress of affairs. On the third occasion he returned, with
a bullet-graze on his knee, swearing strange oaths in Hindoostani, and
saying that all things were ready. So that Squadron swung round the right
of the Highlanders with a wicked whistling of wind in the pennons of its
lances, and fell upon the remnant just when, according to all the rules of
war, it should have waited for the foe to show more signs of wavering.
But it was a dainty charge, deftly delivered, and it ended by the Cavalry
finding itself at the head of the pass by which the Afghans intended to
retreat; and down the track that the lances had made streamed two
companies of the Highlanders, which was never intended by the Brigadier.
The new development was successful. It detached the enemy from his base as
a sponge is torn from a rock, and left him ringed about with fire in that
pitiless plain. And as a sponge is chased round the bath-tub by the hand
of the bather, so were the Afghans chased till they broke into little
detachments much more difficult to dispose of than large masses.
"See!" quoth the Brigadier. "Everything has come as I arranged. We've cut
their base, and now we'll bucket 'em to pieces."
A direct hammering was all that the Brigadier had dared to hope for,
considering the size of the force at his disposal; but men who stand or
fall by the errors of their opponents may be forgiven for turning Chance
into Design. The bucketing went forward merrily. The Afghan forces were
upon the run--the run of wearied wolves who snarl and bite over their
shoulders. The red lances dipped by twos and threes, and, with a shriek,
up rose the lance-butt, like a spar on a stormy sea, as the trooper
cantering forward cleared his point. The Lancers kept between their prey
and the steep hills, for all who could were trying to escape from the
valley of death. The Highlanders gave the fugitives two hundred yards'
law, and then brought them down, gasping and choking ere they could reach
the protection of the bowlders above. The Gurkhas followed suit; but the
Fore and Aft were killing on their own account, for they had penned a mass
of men between their bayonets and a wall of rock, and the flash of the
rifles was lighting the wadded coats.
"We cannot hold them, Captain Sahib!" panted a Ressaldar of Lancers. "Let
us try the carbine. The lance is good, but it wastes time."
They tried the carbine, and still the enemy melted away--fled up the hills
by hundreds when there were only twenty bullets to stop them. On the
heights the screw-guns ceased firing--they had run out of ammunition--and
the Brigadier groaned, for the musketry fire could not sufficiently smash
the retreat. Long before the last volleys were fired, the litters were out
in force looking for the wounded. The battle was over, and, but for want
of fresh troops, the Afghans would have been wiped off the earth. As it
was they counted their dead by hundreds, and nowhere were the dead thicker
than in the track of the Fore and Aft.
But the Regiment did not cheer with the Highlanders, nor did they dance
uncouth dances with the Gurkhas among the dead. They looked under their
brows at the Colonel as they leaned upon their rifles and panted.
"Get back to camp, you. Haven't you disgraced yourself enough for one day!
Go and look to the wounded. It's all you're fit for," said the Colonel.
Yet for the past hour the Fore and Aft had been doing all that mortal
commander could expect. They had lost heavily because they did not know
how to set about their business with proper skill, but they had borne
themselves gallantly, and this was their reward.
A young and sprightly Color-Sergeant, who had begun to imagine himself a
hero, offered his water-bottle to a Highlander, whose tongue was black
with thirst. "I drink with no cowards," answered the youngster, huskily,
and, turning to a Gurkha, said, "Hya, Johnny! Drink water got it?" The
Gurkha grinned and passed his bottle. The Fore and Aft said no word.
They went back to camp when the field of strife had been a little mopped
up and made presentable, and the Brigadier, who saw himself a Knight in
three months, was the only soul who was complimentary to them. The Colonel
was heart-broken and the officers were savage and sullen.
"Well," said the Brigadier, "they are young troops of course, and it was
not unnatural that they should retire in disorder for a bit."
"Oh, my only Aunt Maria!" murmured a junior Staff Officer. "Retire in
disorder! It was a bally run!"
"But they came again as we all know," cooed the Brigadier, the Colonel's
ashy-white face before him, "and they behaved as well as could possibly be
expected. Behaved beautifully, indeed. I was watching them. It's not a
matter to take to heart, Colonel. As some German General said of his men,
'they wanted to be shooted over a little, that was all.' To himself he
said: 'Now they're blooded I can give 'em responsible work. It's as well
that they got what they did. 'Teach 'em more than half a dozen rifle
flirtations, that will--later--run alone and bite. Poor old Colonel,
All that afternoon the heliograph winked and flickered on the hills,
striving to tell the good news to a mountain forty miles away. And in the
evening there arrived, dusty, sweating, and sore, a misguided
Correspondent who had gone out to assist at a trumpery village-burning and
who had read off the message from afar, cursing his luck the while.
"Let's have the details somehow--as full as ever you can, please. It's the
first time I've ever been left this campaign," said the Correspondent to
the Brigadier; and the Brigadier, nothing loath, told him how an Army of
Communication had been crumpled up, destroyed, and all but annihilated by
the craft, strategy, wisdom, and foresight of the Brigadier,
But some say, and among these be the Gurkhas who watched on the hillside,
that that battle was won by Jakin and Lew, whose little bodies were borne
up just in time to fit two gaps at the head of the big ditch-grave for the
dead under the heights of Jagai.
THE SENDING OF DANA DA
When the Devil rides on your chest remember the _chamar.--Native Proverb_.
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 De 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
"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
"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
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 four
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 house.
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 the
"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
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 Glueck 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
"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.
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 sweeper'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!
ON THE CITY WALL
Then she let them down by a cord through the window; for her house was
upon the town-wall, and she dwelt upon the wall.--_Joshua_ ii. 15.
Lalun is a member of the most ancient profession in the world. Lilith was
her very-great-grandmamma, and that was before the days of Eve as every
one knows. In the West, people say rude things about Lalun's profession,
and write lectures about it, and distribute the lectures to young persons
in order that Morality may be preserved. In the East where the profession
is hereditary, descending from mother to daughter, nobody writes lectures
or takes any notice; and that is a distinct proof of the inability of the
East to manage its own affairs.
Lalun's real husband, for even ladies of Lalun's profession in the East
must have husbands, was a big jujube-tree. Her Mamma, who had married a
fig-tree, spent ten thousand rupees on Lalun's wedding, which was blessed
by forty-seven clergymen of Mamma's church, and distributed five thousand
rupees in charity to the poor. And that was the custom of the land. The
advantages of having a jujube-tree for a husband are obvious. You cannot
hurt his feelings, and he looks imposing.
Lalun's husband stood on the plain outside the City walls, and Lalun's
house was upon the east wall facing the river. If you fell from the broad
window-seat you dropped thirty feet sheer into the City Ditch. But if you
stayed where you should and looked forth, you saw all the cattle of the
City being driven down to water, the students of the Government College
playing cricket, the high grass and trees that fringed the river-bank, the
great sand bars that ribbed the river, the red tombs of dead Emperors
beyond the river, and very far away through the blue heat-haze, a glint of
the snows of the Himalayas.
Wali Dad used to lie in the window-seat for hours at a time watching this
view. He was a young Muhammadan who was suffering acutely from education
of the English variety and knew it. His father had sent him to a
Mission-school to get wisdom, and Wali Dad had absorbed more than ever his
father or the Missionaries intended he should. When his father died, Wali
Dad was independent and spent two years experimenting with the creeds of
the Earth and reading books that are of no use to anybody.
After he had made an unsuccessful attempt to enter the Roman Catholic
Church and the Presbyterian fold at the same time (the Missionaries found
him out and called him names, but they did not understand his trouble), he
discovered Lalun on the City wall and became the most constant of her few
admirers. He possessed a head that English artists at home would rave over
and paint amid impossible surroundings--a face that female novelists would
use with delight through nine hundred pages. In reality he was only a
clean-bred young Muhammadan, with penciled eyebrows, small-cut nostrils,
little feet and hands, and a very tired look in his eyes. By virtue of his
twenty-two years he had grown a neat black beard which he stroked with
pride and kept delicately scented. His life seemed to be divided between
borrowing books from me and making love to Lalun in the window-seat. He
composed songs about her, and some of the songs are sung to this day in
the City from the Street of the Mutton-Butchers to the Copper-Smiths'
One song, the prettiest of all, says that the beauty of Lalun was so great
that it troubled the hearts of the British Government and caused them to
lose their peace of mind. That is the way the song is sung in the streets;
but, if you examine it carefully and know the key to the explanation, you
will find that there are three puns in it--on "beauty," "heart," and
"peace of mind,"--so that it runs: "By the subtlety of Lalun the
administration of the Government was troubled and it lost such and such a
man." When Wali Dad sings that song his eyes glow like hot coals, and
Lalun leans back among the cushions and throws bunches of jasmine-buds at
But first it is necessary to explain something about the Supreme
Government which is above all and below all and behind all. Gentlemen come
from England, spend a few weeks in India, walk round this great Sphinx of
the Plains, and write books upon its ways and its works, denouncing or
praising it as their own ignorance prompts. Consequently all the world
knows how the Supreme Government conducts itself, But no one, not even the
Supreme Government, knows everything about the administration of the
Empire. Year by year England sends out fresh drafts for the first
fighting-line, which is officially called the Indian Civil Service. These
die, or kill themselves by overwork, or are worried to death or broken in
health and hope in order that the land may be protected from death and
sickness, famine and war, and may eventually become capable of standing
alone. It will never stand alone, but the idea is a pretty one, and men
are willing to die for it, and yearly the work of pushing and coaxing and
scolding and petting the country into good living goes forward. If an
advance be made all credit is given to the native, while the Englishmen
stand back and wipe their foreheads. If a failure occurs the Englishmen
step forward and take the blame. Overmuch tenderness of this kind has bred
a strong belief among many natives that the native is capable of
administering the country, and many devout Englishmen believe this also,
because the theory is stated in beautiful English with all the latest
There be other men who, though uneducated, see visions and dream dreams,
and they, too, hope to administer the country in their own way--that is to
say, with a garnish of Red Sauce. Such men must exist among two hundred
million people, and, if they are not attended to, may cause trouble and
even break the great idol called _Pax Britannic_, which, as the newspapers
say, lives between Peshawur and Cape Comorin. Were the Day of Doom to dawn
to-morrow, you would find the Supreme Government "taking measures to allay
popular excitement" and putting guards upon the graveyards that the Dead
might troop forth orderly. The youngest Civilian would arrest Gabriel on
his own responsibility if the Archangel could not produce a Deputy
Commissioner's permission to "make music or other noises" as the license
Whence it is easy to see that mere men of the flesh who would create a
tumult must fare badly at the hands of the Supreme Government. And they
do. There is no outward sign of excitement; there is no confusion; there
is no knowledge. When due and sufficient reasons have been given, weighed
and approved, the machinery moves forward, and the dreamer of dreams and
the seer of visions is gone from his friends and following. He enjoys the
hospitality of Government; there is no restriction upon his movements
within certain limits; but he must not confer any more with his brother
dreamers. Once in every six months the Supreme Government assures itself
that he is well and takes formal acknowledgment of his existence. No one
protests against his detention, because the few people who know about it
are in deadly fear of seeming to know him; and never a single newspaper
"takes up his case" or organizes demonstrations on his behalf, because the
newspapers of India have got behind that lying proverb which says the Pen
is mightier than the Sword, and can walk delicately.
So now you know as much as you ought about Wali Dad, the educational
mixture, and the Supreme Government.
Lalun has not yet been described. She would need, so Wali Dad says, a
thousand pens of gold and ink scented with musk. She has been variously
compared to the Moon, the Dil Sagar Lake, a spotted quail, a gazelle, the
Sun on the Desert of Kutch, the Dawn, the Stars, and the young bamboo.
These comparisons imply that she is beautiful exceedingly according to the
native standards, which are practically the same as those of the West. Her
eyes are black and her hair is black, and her eyebrows are black as
leeches; her mouth is tiny and says witty things; her hands are tiny and
have saved much money; her feet are tiny and have trodden on the naked
hearts of many men. But, as Wali Dad sings: "Lalun _is_ Lalun, and when
you have said that, you have only come to the Beginnings of Knowledge."
The little house on the City wall was just big enough to hold Lalun, and
her maid, and a pussy-cat with a silver collar. A big pink and blue
cut-glass chandelier hung from the ceiling of the reception room. A petty
Nawab had given Lalun the horror, and she kept it for politeness' sake.
The floor of the room was of polished chunam, white as curds. A latticed
window of carved wood was set in one wall; there was a profusion of
squabby pluffy cushions and fat carpets everywhere, and Lalun's silver
_huqa_, studded with turquoises, had a special little carpet all to its
shining self. Wali Dad was nearly as permanent a fixture as the
chandelier. As I have said, he lay in the window-seat and meditated on
Life and Death and Lalun--specially Lalun. The feet of the young men of
the City tended to her doorways and then--retired, for Lalun was a
particular maiden, slow of speech, reserved of mind, and not in the least
inclined to orgies which were nearly certain to end in strife. "If I am of
no value, I am unworthy of this honor," said Lalun. "If I am of value,
they are unworthy of Me," And that was a crooked sentence.
In the long hot nights of latter April and May all the City seemed to
assemble in Lalun's little white room to smoke and to talk. Shiahs of the
grimmest and most uncompromising persuasion; Sufis who had lost all belief
in the Prophet and retained but little in God; wandering Hindu priests
passing southward on their way to the Central India fairs and other
affairs; Pundits in black gowns, with spectacles on their noses and
undigested wisdom in their insides; bearded headmen of the wards; Sikhs
with all the details of the latest ecclesiastical scandal in the Golden
Temple; red-eyed priests from beyond the Border, looking like trapped
wolves and talking like ravens; M.A.'s of the University, very superior
and very voluble--all these people and more also you might find in the
white room. Wali Dad lay in the window-seat and listened to the talk.
"It is Lalun's salon," said Wali Dad to me, "and it is electic--is not
that the word? Outside of a Freemason's Lodge I have never seen such
gatherings. _There_ I dined once with a Jew--a Yahoudi!" He spat into the
City Ditch with apologies for allowing national feelings to overcome him.
"Though I have lost every belief in the world," said he, "and try to be
proud of my losing, I cannot help hating a Jew. Lalun admits no Jews
"But what in the world do all these men do?" I asked.
"The curse of our country," said Wali Dad. "They talk. It is like the
Athenians--always hearing and telling some new thing. Ask the Pearl and
she will show you how much she knows of the news of the City and the
Province. Lalun knows everything."
"Lalun," I said at random--she was talking to a gentleman of the Kurd
persuasion who had come in from God-knows-where--"when does the 175th
Regiment go to Agra?"
"It does not go at all," said Lalun, without turning her head. "They have
ordered the 118th to go in its stead. That Regiment goes to Lucknow in
three months, unless they give a fresh order."
"That is so," said Wali Dad without a shade of doubt. "Can you, with your
telegrams and your newspapers, do better? Always hearing and telling some
new thing," he went on. "My friend, has your God ever smitten a European
nation for gossiping in the bazars? India has gossiped for
centuries--always standing in the bazars until the soldiers go by.
Therefore--you are here to-day instead of starving in your own country,
and I am not a Muhammadan--I am a Product--a Demnition Product. That also
I owe to you and yours: that I cannot make an end to my sentence without
quoting from your authors." He pulled at the _huqa_ and mourned, half
feelingly, half in earnest, for the shattered hopes of his youth. Wali Dad
was always mourning over something or other--the country of which he
despaired, or the creed in which he had lost faith, or the life of the
English which he could by no means understand.
Lalun never mourned. She played little songs on the _sitar_, and to hear
her sing, "_O Peacock, cry again_," was always a fresh pleasure. She knew
all the songs that have ever been sung, from the war-songs of the South
that make the old men angry with the young men and the young men angry
with the State, to the love-songs of the North where the swords
whinny-whicker like angry kites in the pauses between the kisses, and the
Passes fill with armed men, and the Lover is torn from his Beloved and
cries, _Ai, Ai, Ai!_ evermore. She knew how to make up tobacco for the
_huqa_ so that it smelled like the Gates of Paradise and wafted you gently
through them. She could embroider strange things in gold and silver, and
dance softly with the moonlight when it came in at the window. Also she
knew the hearts of men, and the heart of the City, and whose wives were
faithful and whose untrue, and more of the secrets of the Government
Offices than are good to be set down in this place. Nasiban, her maid,
said that her jewelry was worth ten thousand pounds, and that, some night,
a thief would enter and murder her for its possession; but Lalun said that
all the City would tear that thief limb from limb, and that he, whoever he
was, knew it.
So she took her _sitar_ and sat in the windowseat and sang a song of old
days that had been sung by a girl of her profession in an armed camp on
the eve of a great battle--the day before the Fords of the Jumna ran red
and Sivaji fled fifty miles to Delhi with a Toorkh stallion at his horse's
tail and another Lalun on his saddle-bow. It was what men call a Mahratta
_Laonee_, and it said:
Their warrior forces Chimnajee
Before the Peishwa led,
The Children of the Sun and Fire
Behind him turned and fled.
And the chorus said:
With them there fought who rides so free
With sword and turban red,
The warrior-youth who earns his fee
At peril of his head,
"At peril of his head," said Wali Dad in English to me, "Thanks to your
Government, all our heads are protected, and with the educational
facilities at my command"--his eyes twinkled wickedly--"I might be a
distinguished member of the local administration. Perhaps, in time, I
might even be a member of a Legislative Council."
"Don't speak English," said Lalun, bending over her _sitar_ afresh. The
chorus went out from the City wall to the blackened wall of Fort Amara
which dominates the City. No man knows the precise extent of Fort Amara.
Three kings built it hundreds of years ago, and they say that there are
miles of underground rooms beneath its walls. It is peopled with many
ghosts, a detachment of Garrison Artillery and a Company of Infantry. In
its prime it held ten thousand men and filled its ditches with corpses.
"At peril of his head," sang Lalun, again and again.
A head moved on one of the Ramparts--the grey head of an old man--and a
voice, rough as shark-skin on a sword-hilt, sent back the last line of the
chorus and broke into a song that I could not understand, though Lalun and
Wali Dad listened intently.
"What is it?" I asked. "Who is it?"
"A consistent man," said Wali Dad. "He fought you in '46, when he was a
warrior-youth; refought you in '57, and he tried to fight you in '71, but
you had learned the trick of blowing men from guns too well. Now he is
old; but he would still fight if he could."
"Is he a Wahabi, then? Why should he answer to a Mahratta _laonee_ if he
be Wahabi--or Sikh?" said I.
"I do not know," said Wali Dad. "He has lost perhaps, his religion.
Perhaps he wishes to be a King. Perhaps he is a King. I do not know his
"That is a lie, Wali Dad. If you know his career you must know his name."
"That is quite true. I belong to a nation of liars. I would rather not
tell you his name. Think for yourself."
Lalun finished her song, pointed to the Fort, and said simply: "Khem
"Hm," said Wali Dad. "If the Pearl chooses to tell you the Pearl is a
I translated to Lalun, who laughed. "I choose to tell what I choose to
tell. They kept Khem Singh in Burma," said she. "They kept him there for
many years until his mind was changed in him. So great was the kindness of
the Government. Finding this, they sent him back to his own country that
he might look upon it before he died. He is an old man, but when he looks
upon this his country his memory will come. Moreover, there be many who
"He is an Interesting Survival," said Wali Dad, pulling at the _huqa_. "He
returns to a country now full of educational and political reform, but, as
the Pearl says, there are many who remember him. He was once a great man.
There will never he any more great men in India. They will all, when they
are boys, go whoring after strange gods, and they will become
citizens--'fellow-citizens'--'illustrious fellow-citizens.' What is it
that the native papers call them?"
Wali Dad seemed to be in a very bad temper. Lalun looked out of the window
and smiled into the dust-haze. I went away thinking about Khem Singh who
had once made history with a thousand followers, and would have been a
princeling but for the power of the Supreme Government aforesaid.
The Senior Captain Commanding Fort Amara was away on leave, but the
Subaltern, his Deputy, drifted down to the Club, where I found him and
inquired of him whether it was really true that a political prisoner had
been added to the attractions of the Fort. The Subaltern explained at
great length, for this was the first time that he had held Command of the
Fort, and his glory lay heavy upon him.
"Yes," said he, "a man was sent in to me about a week ago from down the
line--a thorough gentleman whoever he is. Of course I did all I could for
him. He had his two servants and some silver cooking-pots, and he looked
for all the world like a native officer. I called him Subadar Sahib; just
as well to be on the safe side, y'know. 'Look here, Subadar Sahib,' I
said, 'you're handed over to my authority, and I'm supposed to guard you.
Now I don't want to make your life hard, but you must make things easy for
me. All the Fort is at your disposal, from the flagstaff to the dry ditch,
and I shall be happy to entertain you in any way I can, but you mustn't
take advantage of it. Give me your word that you won't try to escape,
Subadar Sahib, and I'll give you my word that you shall have no heavy
guard put over you.' I thought the best way of getting him was by going at
him straight, y'know, and it was, by Jove! The old man gave me his word,
and moved about the Fort as contented as a sick crow. He's a rummy
chap--always asking to be told where he is and what the buildings about
him are. I had to sign a slip of blue paper when he turned up,
acknowledging receipt of his body and all that, and I'm responsible,
y'know, that he doesn't get away. Queer thing, though, looking after a
Johnnie old enough to be your grandfather, isn't it? Come to the Fort one
of these days and see him?"
For reasons which will appear, I never went to the Fort while Khem Singh
was then within its walls. I knew him only as a grey head seen from
Lalun's window--a grey head and a harsh voice. But natives told me that,
day by day, as he looked upon the fair lands round Amara, his memory came
back to him and, with it, the old hatred against the Government that had
been nearly effaced in far-off Burma. So he raged up and down the West
face of the Fort from morning till noon and from evening till the night,
devising vain things in his heart, and croaking war-songs when Lalun sang
on the City wall. As he grew more acquainted with the Subaltern he
unburdened his old heart of some of the passions that had withered it.
"Sahib," he used to say, tapping his stick against the parapet, "when I
was a young man I was one of twenty thousand horsemen who came out of the
City and rode round the plain here. Sahib, I was the leader of a hundred,
then of a thousand, then of five thousand, and now!"--he pointed to his
two servants. "But from the beginning to to-day I would cut the throats of
all the Sahibs in the land if I could. Hold me fast, Sahib, lest I get
away and return to those who would follow me. I forgot them when I was in
Burma, but now that I am in my own country again, I remember everything."
"Do you remember that you have given me your Honor not to make your
tendance a hard matter?" said the Subaltern.
"Yes, to you, only to you, Sahib," said Khem Singh. "To you, because you
are of a pleasant countenance. If my turn comes again, Sahib, I will not
hang you nor cut your throat."
"Thank you," said the Subaltern, gravely, as he looked along the line of
guns that could pound the City to powder in half an hour. "Let us go into
our own quarters, Khem Singh. Come and talk with me after dinner."
Khem Singh would sit on his own cushion at the Subaltern's feet, drinking
heavy, scented anise-seed brandy in great gulps, and telling strange
stories of Fort Amara, which had been a palace in the old days, of Begums
and Ranees tortured to death--aye, in the very vaulted chamber that now
served as a Mess-room; would tell stories of Sobraon that made the
Subaltern's cheeks flush and tingle with pride of race, and of the Kuka
rising from which so much was expected and the foreknowledge of which was
shared by a hundred thousand souls. But he never told tales of '57
because, as he said, he was the Subaltern's guest, and '57 is a year that
no man, Black or White, cares to speak of. Once only, when the anise-seed
brandy had slightly affected his head, he said: "Sahib, speaking now of a
matter which lay between Sobraon and the affair of the Kukas, it was ever
a wonder to us that you stayed your hand at all, and that, having stayed
it, you did not make the land one prison. Now I hear from without that you
do great honor to all men of our country and by your own hands are
destroying the Terror of your Name which is your strong rock and defence.
This is a foolish thing. Will oil and water mix? Now in '57"--
"I was not born then, Subadar Sahib," said the Subaltern, and Khem Singh
reeled to his quarters,
The Subaltern would tell me of these conversations at the Club, and my
desire to see Khem Singh increased. But Wali Dad, sitting in the
window-seat of the house on the City wall, said that it would be a cruel
thing to do, and Lalun pretended that I preferred the society of a
grizzled old Sikh to hers.
"Here is tobacco, here is talk, here are many friends and all the news of
the City, and, above all, here is myself. I will tell you stories and sing
you songs, and Wali Dad will talk his English nonsense in your ears. Is
that worse than watching the caged animal yonder? Go to-morrow then, if
you must, but to-day such and such an one will be here, and he will speak
of wonderful things."
It happened that To-morrow never came, and the warm heat of the latter
Rains gave place to the chill of early October almost before I was aware
of the flight of the year. The Captain commanding the Fort returned from
leave and took over charge of Khem Singh according to the laws of
seniority. The Captain was not a nice man. He called all natives
"niggers," which, besides being extreme bad form, shows gross ignorance.
"What's the use of telling off two Tommies to watch that old nigger?" said
"I fancy it soothes his vanity," said the Subaltern. "The men are ordered
to keep well out of his way, but he takes them as a tribute to his
importance, poor old wretch."
"I won't have Line men taken off regular guards in this way. Put on a
couple of Native Infantry."
"Sikhs?" said the Subaltern, lifting his eyebrows.
"Sikhs, Pathans, Dogras--they're all alike, these black vermin," and the
Captain talked to Khem Singh in a manner which hurt that old gentleman's
feelings. Fifteen years before, when he had been caught for the second
time, every one looked upon him as a sort of tiger. He liked being
regarded in this light. But he forgot that the world goes forward in
fifteen years, and many Subalterns are promoted to Captaincies,
"The Captain-pig is in charge of the Fort?" said Khem Singh to his native
guard every morning. And the native guard said: "Yes, Subadar Sahib," in
deference to his age and his air of distinction; but they did not know who
In those days the gathering in Lalun's little white room was always large
and talked more than before,
"The Greeks," said Wali Dad who had been borrowing my books, "the
inhabitants of the city of Athens, where they were always hearing and
telling some new thing, rigorously secluded their women--who were fools.
Hence the glorious institution of the heterodox women--is it not?--who
were amusing and _not_ fools. All the Greek philosophers delighted in
their company. Tell me, my friend, how it goes now in Greece and the other
places upon the Continent of Europe. Are your women-folk also fools?"
"Wali Dad," I said, "you never speak to us about your women-folk and we
never speak about ours to you. That is the bar between us."
"Yes," said Wali Dad, "it is curious to think that our common
meeting-place should be here, in the house of a common--how do you call
_her_?" He pointed with the pipe-mouth to Lalun.
"Lalun is nothing but Lalun," I said, and that was perfectly true. "But if
you took your place in the world, Wali Dad, and gave up dreaming dreams"--
"I might wear an English coat and trouser. I might be a leading Muhammadan
pleader. I might be received even at the Commissioner's tennis-parties
where the English stand on one side and the natives on the other, in order
to promote social intercourse throughout the Empire. Heart's Heart," said
he to Lalun quickly, "the Sahib says that I ought to quit you."
"The Sahib is always talking stupid talk," returned Lalun, with a laugh.
"In this house I am a Queen and thou art a King. The Sahib"--she put her
arms above her head and thought for a moment--"the Sahib shall be our
Vizier--thine and mine, Wali Dad--because he has said that thou shouldst
Wali Dad laughed immoderately, and I laughed too. "Be it so," said he. "My
friend, are you willing to take this lucrative Government appointment?
Lalun, what shall his pay be?"
But Lalun began to sing, and for the rest of the time there was no hope of
getting a sensible answer from her or Wall Dad. When the one stopped, the
other began to quote Persian poetry with a triple pun in every other line.
Some of it was not strictly proper, but it was all very funny, and it only
came to an end when a fat person in black, with gold _pince-nez_, sent up
his name to Lalun, and Wali Dad dragged me into the twinkling night to
walk in a big rose-garden and talk heresies about Religion and Governments
and a man's career in life.
The Mohurrum, the great mourning-festival of the Muhammadans, was close at
hand, and the things that Wali Dad said about religious fanaticism would
have secured his expulsion from the loosest-thinking Muslim sect. There
were the rose-bushes round us, the stars above us, and from every quarter
of the City came the boom of the big Mohurrum drums, You must know that
the City is divided in fairly equal proportions between the Hindus and the
Musalmans, and where both creeds belong to the fighting races, a big
religious festival gives ample chance for trouble. When they can--that is
to say when the authorities are weak enough to allow it--the Hindus do
their best to arrange some minor feast-day of their own in time to clash
with the period of general mourning for the martyrs Hasan and Hussain, the
heroes of the Mohurrum. Gilt and painted paper presentations of their
tombs are borne with shouting and wailing, music, torches, and yells,
through the principal thoroughfares of the City, which fakements are
called _tazias_. Their passage is rigorously laid down beforehand by the
Police, and detachments of Police accompany each _tazias_, lest the Hindus
should throw bricks at it and the peace of the Queen and the heads of Her
loyal subjects should thereby be broken. Mohurrum time in a "fighting"
town means anxiety to all the officials, because, if a riot breaks out,
the officials and not the rioters are held responsible. The former must
foresee everything, and while not making their precautions ridiculously
elaborate, must see that they are at least adequate.
"Listen to the drums!" said Wali Dad. "That is the heart of the
people--empty and making much noise. How, think you, will the Mohurrum go
this year? I think that there will be trouble."
He turned down a side-street and left me alone with the stars and a sleepy
Police patrol. Then I went to bed and dreamed that Wali Dad had sacked the
City and I was made Vizier, with Lalun's silver _huqa_ for mark of office.
All day the Mohurrum drums beat in the City, and all day deputations of
tearful Hindu gentlemen besieged the Deputy Commissioner with assurances
that they would be murdered ere next dawning by the Muhammadans. "Which,"
said the Deputy Commissioner, in confidence to the Head of Police, "is a
pretty fair indication that the Hindus are going to make 'emselves
unpleasant. I think we can arrange a little surprise for them. I have
given the heads of both Creeds fair warning. If they choose to disregard
it, so much the worse for them."
There was a large gathering in Lalun's house that night, but of men that I
had never seen before, if I except the fat gentleman in black with the
gold _pince-nez_. Wali Dad lay in the window-seat, more bitterly scornful
of his Faith and its manifestations than I had ever known him. Lalun's
maid was very busy cutting up and mixing tobacco for the guests. We could
hear the thunder of the drums as the processions accompanying each _tazia_
marched to the central gathering-place in the plain outside the City,
preparatory to their triumphant reentry and circuit within the walls. All
the streets seemed ablaze with torches, and only Fort Amara was black and
When the noise of the drums ceased, no one in the white room spoke for a
time. "The first _tazia_ has moved off," said Wali Dad, looking to the
"That is very early," said the man with the _pince-nez_.
"It is only half-past eight." The company rose and departed.
"Some of them were men from Ladakh," said Lalun, when the last had gone.
"They brought me brick-tea such as the Russians sell, and a tea-turn from
Peshawur. Show me, now, how the English _Memsahibs_ make tea."
The brick-tea was abominable. When it was finished Wali Dad suggested
going into the streets. "I am nearly sure that there will be trouble
to-night," he said. "All the City thinks so, and _Vox Populi_ is _Vox
Dei_, as the Babus say. Now I tell you that at the corner of the Padshahi
Gate you will find my horse all this night if you want to go about and to
see things. It is a most disgraceful exhibition. Where is the pleasure of
saying '_Ya Hasan, Ya Hussain_,' twenty thousand times in a night?"
All the processions--there were two and twenty of them--were now well
within the City walls. The drums were beating afresh, the crowd were
howling "_Ya Hasan! Ya Hussain!_" and beating their breasts, the brass
bands were playing their loudest, and at every corner where space allowed,
Muhammadan preachers were telling the lamentable story of the death of the
Martyrs. It was impossible to move except with the crowd, for the streets
were not more than twenty feet wide. In the Hindu quarters the shutters of
all the shops were up and cross-barred. As the first _tazia_, a gorgeous
erection ten feet high, was borne aloft on the shoulders of a score of
stout men into the semi-darkness of the Gully of the Horsemen, a brickbat
crashed through its talc and tinsel sides.
"Into thy hands, O Lord?" murmured Wali Dad. profanely, as a yell went up
from behind, and a native officer of Police jammed his horse through the
crowd. Another brickbat followed, and the _tazia_ staggered and swayed
where it had stopped.
"Go on! In the name of the _Sirkar_, go forward!" shouted the Policeman;
but there was an ugly cracking and splintering of shutters, and the crowd
halted, with oaths and growlings, before the house whence the brickbat had
Then, without any warning, broke the storm--not only in the Gully of the
Horsemen, but in half a dozen other places. The _tazias_ rocked like ships
at sea, the long pole-torches dipped and rose round them while the men
shouted: "The Hindus are dishonoring the _tazias!_ Strike! Strike! Into
their temples for the faith!" The six or eight Policemen with each _tazia_
drew their batons, and struck as long as they could in the hope of forcing
the mob forward, but they were overpowered, and as contingents of Hindus
poured into the streets, the fight became general. Half a mile away where
the _tazias_ were yet untouched the drums and the shrieks of "_Ya Hasan!
Ya Hussain!_" continued, but not for long. The priests at the corners of
the streets knocked the legs from the bedsteads that supported their
pulpits and smote for the Faith, while stones fell from the silent houses
upon friend and foe, and the packed streets bellowed: "_Din! Din! Din!_" A
_tazia_ caught fire, and was dropped for a flaming barrier between Hindu
and Musalman at the corner of the Gully. Then the crowd surged forward,
and Wali Dad drew me close to the stone pillar of a well.
"It was intended from the beginning!" he shouted in my ear, with more heat
than blank unbelief should be guilty of. "The bricks were carried up to
the houses beforehand. These swine of Hindus! We shall be gutting kine in
their temples to-night!"
_Tazia_ after _tazia_, some burning, others torn to pieces, hurried past
us and the mob with them, howling, shrieking, and striking at the house
doors in their flight. At last we saw the reason of the rush. Hugonin, the
Assistant District Superintendent of Police, a boy of twenty, had got
together thirty constables and was forcing the crowd through the streets.
His old grey Police-horse showed no sign of uneasiness as it was spurred
breast-on into the crowd, and the long dog-whip with which he had armed
himself was never still.
"They know we haven't enough Police to hold 'em," he cried as he passed
me, mopping a cut on his face, "They _know_ we haven't! Aren't any of the
men from the Club coming down to help? Get on, you sons of burned
fathers!" The dog-whip cracked across the writhing backs, and the
constables smote afresh with baton and gun-butt. With these passed the
lights and the shouting, and Wali Dad began to swear under his breath.
From Fort Amara shot up a single rocket; then two side by side. It was the
signal for troops.
Petitt, the Deputy Commissioner, covered with dust and sweat, but calm and
gently smiling, cantered up the clean-swept street in rear of the main
body of the rioters, "No one killed yet," he shouted. "I'll keep 'em on
the run till dawn! Don't let 'em halt, Hugonin! Trot 'em about till the
The science of the defence lay solely in keeping the mob on the move. If
they had breathing-space they would halt and fire a house, and then the
work of restoring order would be more difficult, to say the least of it.
Flames have the same effect on a crowd as blood has on a wild beast.
Word had reached the Club and men in evening-dress were beginning to show
themselves and lend a hand in heading off and breaking up the shouting
masses with stirrup-leathers, whips, or chance-found staves. They were not
very often attacked, for the rioters had sense enough to know that the
death of a European would not mean one hanging but many, and possibly the
appearance of the thrice-dreaded Artillery. The clamor in the City
redoubled. The Hindus had descended into the streets in real earnest and
ere long the mob returned. It was a strange sight. There were no
_tazias_--only their riven platforms--and there were no Police. Here and
there a City dignitary, Hindu or Muhammadan, was vainly imploring his
co-religionists to keep quiet and behave themselves--advice for which his
white beard was pulled. Then a native officer of Police, unhorsed but
still using his spurs with effect, would be borne along, warning all the
crowd of the danger of insulting the Government. Everywhere men struck
aimlessly with sticks, grasping each other by the throat, howling and
foaming with rage, or beat with their bare hands on the doors of the
"It is a lucky thing that they are fighting with natural weapons," I said
to Wali Dad, "else we should have half the City killed."
I turned as I spoke and looked at his face. His nostrils were distended,
his eyes were fixed, and he was smiting himself softly on the breast. The
crowd poured by with renewed riot--a gang of Musalmans hard-pressed by
some hundred Hindu fanatics. Wali Dad left my side with an oath, and
shouting: "_Ya Hasan! Ya Hussain!_" plunged into the thick of the fight
where I lost sight of him.
I fled by a side alley to the Padshahi Gate where I found Wali Dad's
house, and thence rode to the Fort. Once outside the City wall, the tumult
sank to a dull roar, very impressive under the stars and reflecting great
credit on the fifty thousand angry able-bodied men who were making it. The
troops who, at the Deputy Commissioner's instance, had been ordered to
rendezvous quietly near the Fort, showed no signs of being impressed. Two
companies of Native Infantry, a squadron of Native Cavalry and a company
of British Infantry were kicking their heels in the shadow of the East
face, waiting for orders to march in. I am sorry to say that they were all
pleased, unholily pleased, at the chance of what they called "a little
fun." The senior officers, to be sure, grumbled at having been kept out of
bed, and the English troops pretended to be sulky, but there was joy in
the hearts of all the subalterns, and whispers ran up and down the line:
"No ball-cartridge--what a beastly shame!" "D'you think the beggars will
really stand up to us?" "'Hope I shall meet my money-lender there. I owe
him more than I can afford." "Oh, they won't let us even unsheathe
swords." "Hurrah! Up goes the fourth rocket. Fall in, there!"
The Garrison Artillery, who to the last cherished a wild hope that they
might be allowed to bombard the City at a hundred yards' range, lined the
parapet above the East gateway and cheered themselves hoarse as the
British Infantry doubled along the road to the Main Gate of the City. The
Cavalry cantered on to the Padshahi Gate, and the Native Infantry marched
slowly to the Gate of the Butchers. The surprise was intended to be of a
distinctly unpleasant nature, and to come on top of the defeat of the
Police who had been just able to keep the Muhammadans from firing the
houses of a few leading Hindus. The bulk of the riot lay in the north and
northwest wards. The east and southeast were by this time dark and silent,
and I rode hastily to Lalun's house for I wished to tell her to send some
one in search of Wali Dad. The house was unlighted, but the door was open,
and I climbed upstairs in the darkness. One small lamp in the white room
showed Lalun and her maid leaning half out of the window, breathing
heavily and evidently pulling at something that refused to come.
"Thou art late--very late," gasped Lalun, without turning her head. "Help
us now, O Fool, if thou hast not spent thy strength howling among the
_tazias_. Pull! Nasiban and I can do no more! O Sahib, is it you? The
Hindus have been hunting an old Muhammadan round the Ditch with clubs. If
they find him again they will kill him. Help us to pull him up."
I put my hands to the long red silk waist-cloth that was hanging out of
the window, and we three pulled and pulled with all the strength at our
command. There was something very heavy at the end, and it swore in an
unknown tongue as it kicked against the City wall.
"Pull, oh, pull!" said Lalun, at the last. A pair of brown hands grasped
the window-sill and a venerable Muhammadan tumbled upon the floor, very
much out of breath. His jaws were tied up, his turban had fallen over one
eye, and he was dusty and angry.
Lalun hid her face in her hands for an instant and said something about
Wali Dad that I could not catch,
Then, to my extreme gratification, she threw her arms round my neck and
murmured pretty things. I was in no haste to stop her; and Nasiban, being
a handmaiden of tact, turned to the big jewel-chest that stands in the
corner of the white room and rummaged among the contents. The Muhammadan
sat on the floor and glared.
"One service more, Sahib, since thou hast come so opportunely," said
Lalun. "Wilt thou"--it is very nice to be thou-ed by Lalun--"take this old
man across the City--the troops are everywhere, and they might hurt him
for he is old--to the Kumharsen Gate? There I think he may find a carriage
to take him to his house. He is a friend of mine, and thou art--more than
a friend--therefore I ask this."
Nasiban bent over the old man, tucked something into his belt, and I
raised him up, and led him into the streets. In crossing from the east to
the west of the City there was no chance of avoiding the troops and the
crowd. Long before I reached the Gully of the Horsemen I heard the shouts
of the British Infantry crying cheeringly: "Hutt, ye beggars! Hutt, ye
devils! Get along! Go forward, there!" Then followed the ringing of
rifle-butts and shrieks of pain. The troops were banging the bare toes of
the mob with their gun-butts--for not a bayonet had been fixed. My
companion mumbled and jabbered as we walked on until we were carried back
by the crowd and had to force our way to the troops. I caught him by the
wrist and felt a bangle there--the iron bangle of the Sikhs--but I had no
suspicions, for Lalun had only ten minutes before put her arms round me.
Thrice we were carried back by the crowd, and when we made our way past
the British Infantry it was to meet the Sikh Cavalry driving another mob
before them with the butts of their lances.
"What are these dogs?" said the old man.
"Sikhs of the Cavalry, Father," I said, and we edged our way up the line
of horses two abreast and found the Deputy Commissioner, his helmet
smashed on his head, surrounded by a knot of men who had come down from
the Club as amateur constables and had helped the Police mightily.
"We'll keep 'em on the run till dawn," said Petitt, "Who's your villainous
I had only time to say: "The Protection of the _Sirkar!_" when a fresh
crowd flying before the Native Infantry carried us a hundred yards nearer
to the Kumharsen Gate, and Petitt was swept away like a shadow.
"I do not know--I cannot see--this is all new to me!" moaned my companion.
"How many troops are there in the City?"
"Perhaps five hundred," I said.
"A lakh of men beaten by five hundred--and Sikhs among them! Surely,
surely, I am an old man, but--the Kumharsen Gate is new. Who pulled down
the stone lions? Where is the conduit? Sahib, I am a very old man, and,
alas, I--I cannot stand." He dropped in the shadow of the Kumharsen Gate
where there was no disturbance. A fat gentleman wearing gold _pince-nez_
came out of the darkness.
"You are most kind to bring my old friend," he said, suavely. "He is a
landholder of Akala. He should not be in a big City when there is
religious excitement. But I have a carriage here. You are quite truly
kind. Will you help me to put him into the carriage? It is very late."
We bundled the old man into a hired victoria that stood close to the gate,
and I turned back to the house on the City wall. The troops were driving
the people to and fro, while the Police shouted, "To your houses! Get to
your houses!" and the dog-whip of the Assistant District Superintendent
cracked remorselessly. Terror-stricken _bunnias_ clung to the stirrups of
the cavalry, crying that their houses had been robbed (which was a lie),
and the burly Sikh horsemen patted them on the shoulder, and bade them
return to those houses lest a worse thing should happen. Parties of five
or six British soldiers, joining arms, swept down the side-gullies, their
rifles on their backs, stamping, with shouting and song, upon the toes of
Hindu and Musalman. Never was religious enthusiasm more systematically
squashed; and never were poor breakers of the peace more utterly weary and
footsore. They were routed out of holes and corners, from behind
well-pillars and byres, and bidden to go to their houses. If they had no
houses to go to, so much the worse for their toes.
On returning to Lalun's door I stumbled over a man at the threshold. He
was sobbing hysterically and his arms flapped like the wings of a goose.
It was Wali Dad, Agnostic and Unbeliever, shoeless, turbanless, and
frothing at the mouth, the flesh on his chest bruised and bleeding from
the vehemence with which he had smitten himself. A broken torch-handle lay
by his side, and his quivering lips murmured, "Ya Hasan! Ya Hussain!" as I
stooped over him. I pushed him a few steps up the staircase, threw a
pebble at Lalun's City window and hurried home.
Most of the streets were very still, and the cold wind that comes before
the dawn whistled down them. In the centre of the Square of the Mosque a
man was bending over a corpse. The skull had been smashed in by gun-butt
"It is expedient that one man should die for the people," said Petitt,
grimly, raising the shapeless head. "These brutes were beginning to show
their teeth too much."
And from afar we could hear the soldiers singing "Two Lovely Black Eyes,"
as they drove the remnant of the rioters within doors.
Of course you can guess what happened? I was not so clever. When the news
went abroad that Khem Singh had escaped from the Fort, I did not, since I
was then living this story, not writing it, connect myself, or Lalun, or
the fat gentleman of the gold _pince-nez_, with his disappearance. Nor did
it strike me that Wali Dad was the man who should have convoyed him across
the City, or that Lalun's arms round my neck were put there to hide the
money that Nasiban gave to Kehm Singh, and that Lalun had used me and my
white face as even a better safeguard than Wali Dad who proved himself so
untrustworthy. All that I knew at the time was that, when Fort Amara was
taken up with the riots, Khem Singh profited by the confusion to get away,
and that his two Sikh guards also escaped.
But later on I received full enlightenment; and so did Khem Singh. He fled
to those who knew him in the old days, but many of them were dead and more
were changed, and all knew something of the Wrath of the Government. He
went to the young men, but the glamour of his name had passed away, and
they were entering native regiments of Government offices, and Khem Singh
could give them neither pension, decorations, nor influence--nothing but a
glorious death with their backs to the mouth of a gun. He wrote letters
and made promises, and the letters fell into bad hands, and a wholly
insignificant subordinate officer of Police tracked them down and gained
promotion thereby. Moreover, Khem Singh was old, and anise-seed brandy was
scarce, and he had left his silver cooking-pots in Fort Amara with his
nice warm bedding, and the gentleman with the gold _pince-nez_ was told by
those who had employed him that Khem Singh as a popular leader was not
worth the money paid.
"Great is the mercy of these fools of English!" said Khem Singh when the
situation was put before him. "I will go back to Fort Amara of my own free
will and gain honor. Give me good clothes to return in,"
So, at his own time, Khem Singh knocked at the wicket-gate of the Fort and
walked to the Captain and the Subaltern, who were nearly grey-headed on
account of correspondence that daily arrived from Simla marked "Private,"
"I have come back, Captain Sahib," said Khem Singh, "Put no more guards
over me. It is no good out yonder."
A week later I saw him for the first time to my knowledge, and he made as
though there were an understanding between us.
"It was well done, Sahib," said he, "and greatly I admired your astuteness
in thus boldly facing the troops when I, whom they would have doubtless
torn to pieces, was with you. Now there is a man in Fort Ooltagarh whom a
bold man could with ease help to escape. This is the position of the Fort
as I draw it on the sand"--
But I was thinking how I had become Lalun's Vizier after all.
THE BROKEN-LINK HANDICAP
While the snaffle holds, or the long-neck slings,
While the big beam tilts, or the last bell rings,
While horses are horses to train and to race.
Then women and wine take a second place
For me--for me--
While a short "ten-three"
Has a field to squander or fence to face!
_--Song of the. G. R._
There are more ways of running a horse to suit your book than pulling his
head off in the straight. Some men forget this. Understand clearly that
all racing is rotten--as everything connected with losing money must be.
In India, in addition to its inherent rottenness, it has the merit of
being two-thirds sham; looking pretty on paper only. Every one knows every
one else far too well for business purposes. How on earth can you rack and
harry and post a man for his losings, when you are fond of his wife, and
live in the same Station with him? He says, "On the Monday following," "I
can't settle just yet." You say, "All right, old man," and think yourself
lucky if you pull off nine hundred out of a two-thousand-rupee debt. Any
way you look at it, Indian racing is immoral, and expensively immoral.
Which is much worse. If a man wants your money, he ought to ask for it, or
send round a subscription-list, instead of juggling about the country,
with an Australian larrikin; a "brumby," with as much breed as the boy; a
brace of _chumars_ in gold-laced caps; three or four _ekka_-ponies with
hogged manes, and a switch-tailed demirep of a mare called Arab because
she has a kink in her flag. Racing leads to the _shroff_ quicker than
anything else. But if you have no conscience and no sentiments, and good
hands, and some knowledge of pace, and ten years' experience of horses,
and several thousand rupees a month, I believe that you can occasionally
contrive to pay your shoeing-bills.
Did you ever know Shackles--b. w. g., 15. 1-3/8--coarse, loose, mule-like
ears--barrel as long as a gatepost--tough as a telegraph-wire--and the
queerest brute that ever looked through a bridle? He was of no brand,
being one of an ear-nicked mob taken into the _Bucephalus_ at L4:10s., a
head to make up freight, and sold raw and out of condition at Calcutta for
Rs.275. People who lost money on him called him a "brumby"; but if ever
any horse had Harpoon's shoulders and The Gin's temper, Shackles was that
horse. Two miles was his own particular distance. He trained himself, ran
himself, and rode himself; and, if his jockey insulted him by giving him
hints, he shut up at once and bucked the boy off. He objected to
dictation. Two or three of his owners did not understand this, and lost
money in consequence. At last he was bought by a man who discovered that,
if a race was to be won, Shackles, and Shackles only, would win it in his
own way, so long as his jockey sat still. This man had a riding-boy called
Brunt--a lad from Perth, West Australia--and he taught Brunt, with a
trainer's whip, the hardest thing a jock can learn--to sit still, to sit
still, and to keep on sitting still. When Brunt fairly grasped this truth,
Shackles devastated the country. No weight could stop him at his own
distance; and the fame of Shackles spread from Ajmir in the South, to
Chedputter in the North. There was no horse like Shackles, so long as he
was allowed to do his work in his own way. But he was beaten in the end;
and the story of his fall is enough to make angels weep.
At the lower end of the Chedputter racecourse, just before the turn into
the straight, the track passes close to a couple of old brick-mounds
enclosing a funnel-shaped hollow. The big end of the funnel is not six
feet from the railings on the off-side. The astounding peculiarity of the
course is that, if you stand at one particular place, about half a mile
away, inside the course, and speak at ordinary pitch, your voice just hits
the funnel of the brick-mounds and makes a curious whining echo there. A
man discovered this one morning by accident while out training with a
friend. He marked the place to stand and speak from with a couple of
bricks, and he kept his knowledge to himself. _Every_ peculiarity of a
course is worth remembering in a country where rats play the mischief with
the elephant-litter, and Stewards build jumps to suit their own stables.
This man ran a very fairish country-bred, a long, racking high mare with
the temper of a fiend, and the paces of an airy wandering seraph--a
drifty, glidy stretch. The mare was, as a delicate tribute to Mrs. Reiver,
called "The Lady Regula Baddun"--or for short, Regula Baddun.
Shackles' jockey, Brunt, was a quite well-behaved boy, but his nerve had
been shaken. He began his career by riding jump-races in Melbourne, where
a few Stewards want lynching, and was one of the jockeys who came through
the awful butchery--perhaps you will recollect it--of the Maribyrnong
Plate. The walls were colonial ramparts--logs of _jarrah_ spiked into
masonry--with wings as strong as Church buttresses. Once in his stride, a
horse had to jump or fall. He couldn't run out. In the Maribyrnong Plate,
twelve horses were jammed at the second wall. Red Hat, leading, fell this
side, and threw out The Gled, and the ruck came up behind and the space
between wing and wing was one struggling, screaming, kicking shambles.
Four jockeys were taken out dead; three were very badly hurt, and Brunt
was among the three. He told the story of the Maribyrnong Plate sometimes;
and when he described how Whalley on Red Hat, said, as the mare fell under
him--"God ha' mercy, I'm done for!" and how, next instant, Sithee There
and White Otter had crushed the life out of poor Whalley, and the dust hid
a small hell of men and horses, no one marveled that Brunt had dropped
jump-races and Australia together. Regula Baddun's owner knew that story
by heart. Brunt never varied it in the telling. He had no education.
Shackles came to the Chedputter Autumn races one year, and his owner
walked about insulting the sportsmen of Chedputter generally, till they
went to the Honorary Secretary in a body and said, "Appoint handicappers,
and arrange a race which shall break Shackles and humble the pride of his
owner." The Districts rose against Shackles and sent up of their best;
Ousel, who was supposed to be able to do his mile in 1-53; Petard, the
stud-bred, trained by a cavalry regiment who knew how to train; Gringalet,
the ewe-lamb of the 75th; Bobolink, the pride of Peshawar; and many
They called that race The Broken-Link Handicap, because it was to smash
Shackles; and the Handicappers piled on the weights, and the Fund gave
eight hundred rupees, and the distance was "round the course for all
horses." Shackles' owner said, "You can arrange the race with regard to
Shackles only. So long as you don't bury him under weight-cloths, I don't
mind." Regula Baddun's owner said, "I throw in my mare to fret Ousel. Six
furlongs is Regula's distance, and she will then lie down and die. So also
will Ousel, for his jockey doesn't understand a waiting race." Now, this
was a lie, for Regula had been in work for two months at Dehra, and her
chances were good, always supposing that Shackles broke a blood-vessel--or
Brunt moved on him.
The plunging in the lotteries was fine. They filled eight thousand-rupee
lotteries on the Broken-Link Handicap, and the account in the _Pioneer_
said that "favoritism was divided." In plain English, the various
contingents were wild on their respective horses; for the Handicappers had
done their work well. The Honorary Secretary shouted himself hoarse
through the din; and the smoke of the cheroots was like the smoke, and the
rattling of the dice-boxes like the rattle of small-arm fire.
Ten horses started--very level--and Regula Baddun's owner cantered out on
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