That path crossed three paths, such as the one I had come by in the first instance, and every one of the three headed towards the Bubbling Well. When we came to the open the priest crashed back into cover, and I went to the village of Arti-goth for a drink.
It was pleasant to be able to see the horizon all round, as well as the ground underfoot. The villagers told me that the patch of grass was full of devils and ghosts, all in the service of the priest, and that men and women and children had entered it and had never returned. They said the priest used their livers for purposes of witchcraft.
When I asked why they had not told me of this at the outset, they said that they were afraid they would lose their reward for bringing news of the pig. Before I left I did my best to set the patch alight, but the grass was too green. Some fine summer day, however, if the wind is favourable, a file of old newspapers and a box of matches will make clear the mystery of Bubbling Well Road. The dense wet heat that hung over the face of land, like a blanket, prevented all hope of sleep in the first instance.
The cicalas helped the heat; and the yelling jackals the cicalas. It was impossible to sit still in the dark, empty, echoing house and watch the punkah beat the dead air. It pointed directly down the moonlit road that leads to the City of Dreadful Night. The sound of its fall disturbed a hare. The hare limped on; snuffed curiously at a fragment of a smoke-stained lamp-shard, and died out, in the shadow of a clump of tamarisk trees.
Overhead blazed the unwinking eye of the Moon. Darkness gives at least a false impression of coolness. It was hard not to believe that the flood of light from above was warm. Not so hot as the Sun, but still sickly warm, and heating the heavy air beyond what was our due. Straight as a bar of polished steel ran the road to the City of Dreadful Night; and on either side of the road lay corpses disposed on beds in fantastic attitudes — one hundred and seventy bodies of men.
Some shrouded all in white with bound-up mouths; some naked and black as ebony in the strong light; and one — that lay face upwards with dropped jaw, far away from the others — silvery white and ashen gray. The scene — a main approach to Lahore city, and the night a warm one in August. The witchery of the moonlight was everywhere; and the world was horribly changed.
The long line of the naked dead, flanked by the rigid silver statue, was not pleasant to look upon. It was made up of men alone. Were the womenkind, then, forced to sleep in the shelter of the stifling mud-huts as best they might?
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The fretful wail of a child from a low mud-roof answered the question. Where the children are the mothers must be also to look after them. They need care on these sweltering nights. A black little bullet-head peeped over the coping, and a thin — a painfully thin — brown leg was slid over on to the gutter pipe. His thin, high-pitched shriek died out in the thick air almost as soon as it was raised; for even the children of the soil found it too hot to weep. More corpses; more stretches of moonlit, white road, a string of sleeping camels at rest by the wayside; a vision of scudding jackals; ekka-ponies asleep — the harness still on their backs, and the brass-studded country carts, winking in the moonlight — and again more corpses.
Wherever a grain cart atilt, a tree trunk, a sawn log, a couple of bamboos and a few handfuls of thatch cast a shadow, the ground is covered with them. They lie — some face downwards, arms folded, in the dust; some with clasped hands flung up above their heads; some curled up dog-wise; some thrown like limp gunny-bags over the side of the grain carts; and some bowed with their brows on their knees in the full glare of the Moon. It would be a comfort if they were only given to snoring; but they are not, and the likeness to corpses is unbroken in all respects save one.
The lean dogs snuff at them and turn away. But, for the most part, the children sleep with their mothers on the house-tops. Yellow-skinned white-toothed pariahs are not to be trusted within reach of brown bodies. A stifling hot blast from the mouth of the Delhi Gate nearly ends my resolution of entering the City of Dreadful Night at this hour. It is a compound of all evil savours, animal and vegetable, that a walled city can brew in a day and a night.
The temperature within the motionless groves of plantain and orange-trees outside the city walls seems chilly by comparison. Heaven help all sick persons and young children within the city to-night! The high house-walls are still radiating heat savagely, and from obscure side gullies fetid breezes eddy that ought to poison a buffalo. But the buffaloes do not heed. Then silence follows — the silence that is full of the night noises of a great city.
A stringed instrument of some kind is just, and only just, audible. High overhead some one throws open a window, and the rattle of the wood-work echoes down the empty street. On one of the roofs, a hookah is in full blast; and the men are talking softly as the pipe gutters. A little farther on, the noise of conversation is more distinct. A slit of light shows itself between the sliding shutters of a shop. Inside, a stubble-bearded, weary-eyed trader is balancing his account-books among the bales of cotton prints that surround him. Three sheeted figures bear him company, and throw in a remark from time to time.
First he makes an entry, then a remark; then passes the back of his hand across his streaming forehead. The heat in the built-in street is fearful. Inside the shops it must be almost unendurable. But the work goes on steadily; entry, guttural growl, and uplifted hand-stroke succeeding each other with the precision of clock-work.
A policeman — turbanless and fast asleep — lies across the road on the way to the Mosque of Wazir Khan. A bar of moonlight falls across the forehead and eyes of the sleeper, but he never stirs. It is close upon midnight, and the heat seems to be increasing. The open square in front of the Mosque is crowded with corpses; and a man must pick his way carefully for fear of treading on them.
Sheeted ghosts rise up wearily from their pallets, and flit into the dark depths of the building. Is it possible to climb to the top of the great Minars, and thence to look down on the city? At all events the attempt is worth making, and the chances are that the door of the staircase will be unlocked. Unlocked it is; but a deeply sleeping janitor lies across the threshold, face turned to the Moon. A rat dashes out of his turban at the sound of approaching footsteps. The man grunts, opens his eyes for a minute, turns round, and goes to sleep again. All the heat of a decade of fierce Indian summers is stored in the pitch-black, polished walls of the corkscrew staircase.
Half-way up, there is something alive, warm, and feathery; and it snores. Driven from step to step as it catches the sound of my advance, it flutters to the top and reveals itself as a yellow-eyed, angry kite. Dozens of kites are asleep on this and the other Minars, and on the domes below. There is the shadow of a cool, or at least a less sultry breeze at this height; and, refreshed thereby, turn to look on the City of Dreadful Night. Dore might have drawn it! Zola could describe it — this spectacle of sleeping thousands in the moonlight and in the shadow of the Moon.
The roof-tops are crammed with men, women, and children; and the air is full of undistinguishable noises. They are restless in the City of Dreadful Night; and small wonder.
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The marvel is that they can even breathe. If you gaze intently at the multitude, you can see that they are almost as uneasy as a daylight crowd; but the tumult is subdued. Everywhere, in the strong light, you can watch the sleepers turning to and fro; shifting their beds and again resettling them. In the pit-like court-yards of the houses there is the same movement. The pitiless Moon shows it all. Shows lastly, a splash of glittering silver on a house-top almost directly below the mosque Minar. Some poor soul has risen to throw a jar of water over his fevered body; the tinkle of the falling water strikes faintly on the ear.
Two or three other men, in far-off corners of the City of Dreadful Night, follow his example, and the water flashes like heliographic signals. A small cloud passes over the face of the Moon, and the city and its inhabitants — clear drawn in black and white before — fade into masses of black and deeper black. Still the unrestful noise continues, the sigh of a great city overwhelmed with the heat, and of a people seeking in vain for rest.
It is only the lower-class women who sleep on the house-tops. What must the torment be in the latticed zenanas, where a few lamps are still twinkling? There are footfalls in the court below. It is the Muezzin — faithful minister; but he ought to have been here an hour ago to tell the Faithful that prayer is better than sleep — the sleep that will not come to the city. The Muezzin fumbles for a moment with the door of one of the Minars, disappears awhile, and a bull-like roar — a magnificent bass thunder — tells that he has reached the top of the Minar.
They must hear the cry to the banks of the shrunken Ravee itself! Even across the courtyard it is almost overpowering. Every Muezzin in the city is in full cry, and some men on the roof-tops are beginning to kneel. The Muezzin stumbles down the dark stairway grumbling in his beard. He passes the arch of the entrance and disappears.
Then the stifling silence settles down over the City of Dreadful Night. The kites on the Minar sleep again, snoring more loudly, the hot breeze comes up in puffs and lazy eddies, and the Moon slides down towards the horizon. Seated with both elbows on the parapet of the tower, one can watch and wonder over that heat-tortured hive till the dawn.
What do they think of? When will they awake? In the courtyard of the mosque the janitor, who lay across the threshold of the Minar when I came up, starts wildly in his sleep, throws his hands above his head, mutters something, and falls back again. Nothing save dead heavy sleep. Several weeks of darkness pass after this. For the Moon has gone out. The very dogs are still, and I watch for the first light of the dawn before making my way homeward.
Again the noise of shuffling feet. The morning call is about to begin, and my night watch is over. Allah ho Akbar! With return of life comes return of sound. First a low whisper, then a deep bass hum; for it must be remembered that the entire city is on the house-tops. My eyelids weighed down with the arrears of long deferred sleep, I escape from the Minar through the courtyard and out into the square beyond, where the sleepers have risen, stowed away the bedsteads, and are discussing the morning hookah.
If you will admit that a man has no right to enter his drawing-room early in the morning, when the housemaid is setting things right and clearing away the dust, you will concede that civilised people who eat out of china and own card-cases have no right to apply their standard of right and wrong to an unsettled land.
When the place is made fit for their reception, by those men who are told off to the work, they can come up, bringing in their trunks their own society and the Decalogue, and all the other apparatus. The men who run ahead of the cars of Decency and Propriety, and make the jungle ways straight, cannot be judged in the same manner as the stay-at-home folk of the ranks of the regular Tchin.
There was no very strong Public Opinion up to that limit, but it existed to keep men in order. These were the men who could never pass examinations, and would have been too pronounced in their ideas for the administration of bureau-worked Provinces. The Supreme Government stepped in as soon as might be, with codes and regulations, and all but reduced New Burma to the dead Indian level; but there was a short time during which strong men were necessary and ploughed a field for themselves.
Among the fore-runners of Civilisation was Georgie Porgie, reckoned by all who knew him a strong man. He did his office work and entertained, now and again, the detachments of fever-shaken soldiers who blundered through his part of the world in search of a flying party of dacoits.
Sometimes he turned out and dressed down dacoits on his own account; for the country was still smouldering and would blaze when least expected. He enjoyed these charivaris, but the dacoits were not so amused. All the officials who came in contact with him departed with the idea that Georgie Porgie was a valuable person, well able to take care of himself, and, on that belief, he was left to his own devices. At the end of a few months he wearied of his solitude, and cast about for company and refinement. Also, there was a custom in the country which allowed a white man to take to himself a wife of the Daughters of Heth upon due payment.
The marriage was not quite so binding as is the nikkah ceremony among Mahomedans, but the wife was very pleasant. This thing was done, and Georgie Porgie never repented it. He found his rough-and-tumble house put straight and made comfortable, his hitherto unchecked expenses cut down by one half, and himself petted and made much of by his new acquisition, who sat at the head of his table and sang songs to him and ordered his Madrassee servants about, and was in every way as sweet and merry and honest and winning a little woman as the most exacting of bachelors could have desired.
No race, men say who know, produces such good wives and heads of households as the Burmese. When he gathered his men together next dawn and replunged into the jungle he thought regretfully of the nice little dinner and the pretty face, and envied Georgie Porgie from the bottom of his heart. Yet HE was engaged to a girl at Home, and that is how some men are constructed. Georgie Porgie thought well of the petting and the general comfort, and vowed that he had never spent five hundred rupees to a better end.
After three months of domestic life, a great idea struck him. Matrimony — English matrimony — could not be such a bad thing after all. If he were so thoroughly comfortable at the Back of Beyond with this Burmese girl who smoked cheroots, how much more comfortable would he be with a sweet English maiden who would not smoke cheroots, and would play upon a piano instead of a banjo?
Also he had a desire to return to his kind, to hear a Band once more, and to feel how it felt to wear a dress-suit again. Decidedly, Matrimony would be a very good thing. He thought the matter out at length of evenings, while Georgina sang to him, or asked him why he was so silent, and whether she had done anything to offend him. As he thought, he smoked, and as he smoked he looked at Georgina, and in his fancy turned her into a fair, thrifty, amusing, merry, little English girl, with hair coming low down on her forehead, and perhaps a cigarette between her lips.
Certainly, not a big, thick, Burma cheroot, of the brand that Georgina smoked. But not all. She could be improved upon. Then he blew thick smoke-wreaths through his nostrils and stretched himself. He would taste marriage. I want it. One hundred and seven rupees. Can you want more money than that?
Take it. It is my pleasure if you use it. Georgina wept. Why should she leave him? She loved him. I will leave you two hundred rupees. Fifty are more than enough. There is some evil here. Do not go, or at least let me go with you. Georgie Porgie does not like to remember that scene even at this date. In the end he got rid of Georgina by a compromise of seventy-five rupees. She would not take more. Then he went by steamer and rail to Rangoon. The steamer was full of men on leave, all rampantly jovial souls who had shaken off the dust and sweat of Upper Burma and were as merry as schoolboys.
They helped Georgie Porgie to forget. Then came England with its luxuries and decencies and comforts, and Georgie Porgie walked in a pleasant dream upon pavements of which he had nearly forgotten the ring, wondering why men in their senses ever left Town. He accepted his keen delight in his furlough as the reward of his services. Providence further arranged for him another and greater delight — all the pleasures of a quiet English wooing, quite different from the brazen businesses of the East, when half the community stand back and bet on the result, and the other half wonder what Mrs.
So-and-So will say to it. It was a pleasant girl and a perfect summer, and a big country-house near Petworth where there are acres and acres of purple heather and high-grassed water-meadows to wander through. Georgie Porgie felt that he had at last found something worth the living for, and naturally assumed that the next thing to do was to ask the girl to share his life in India. She, in her ignorance, was willing to go. On this occasion there was no bartering with a village headman. There was a fine middle-class wedding in the country, with a stout Papa and a weeping Mamma, and a best-man in purple and fine linen, and six snub-nosed girls from the Sunday School to throw roses on the path between the tombstones up to the Church door.
The local paper described the affair at great length, even down to giving the hymns in full. But that was because the Direction were starving for want of material. Then came a honeymoon at Arundel, and the Mamma wept copiously before she allowed her one daughter to sail away to India under the care of Georgie Porgie the Bridegroom.
Beyond any question, Georgie Porgie was immensely fond of his wife, and she was devoted to him as the best and greatest man in the world. Here Georgie Porgie settled down, and found married life come very naturally to him. But there was no peace or comfort across the Bay of Bengal, under the teak-trees where Georgina lived with her father, waiting for Georgie Porgie to return.
He had been to Rangoon, and knew something of the ways of the Kullahs. Sitting in front of his door in the evenings, he taught Georgina a dry philosophy which did not console her in the least. One day she disappeared from the village with all the rupees that Georgie Porgie had given her, and a very small smattering of English — also gained from Georgie Porgie. The headman was angry at first, but lit a fresh cheroot and said something uncomplimentary about the sex in general. Georgina had started on a search for Georgie Porgie, who might be in Rangoon, or across the Black Water, or dead, for aught that she knew.
Chance favoured her. She took a steerage-passage from Rangoon and went to Calcutta; keeping the secret of her search to herself. In India every trace of her was lost for six weeks, and no one knows what trouble of heart she must have undergone. She reappeared, four hundred miles north of Calcutta, steadily heading northwards, very worn and haggard, but very fixed in her determination to find Georgie Porgie.
She could not understand the language of the people; but India is infinitely charitable, and the women-folk along the Grand Trunk gave her food. Something made her believe that Georgie Porgie was to be found at the end of that pitiless road. She may have seen a sepoy who knew him in Burma, but of this no one can be certain. At last, she found a regiment on the line of march, and met there one of the many subalterns whom Georgie Porgie had invited to dinner in the far-off, old days of the dacoit-hunting. There was no amusement when her story was told; but a collection was made, and that was more to the point.
So he told Georgina and she went her way joyfully to the north, in a railway carriage where there was rest for tired feet and shade for a dusty little head. The marches from the train through the hills into Sutrain were trying, but Georgina had money, and families journeying in bullock-carts gave her help.
It was an almost miraculous journey, and Georgina felt sure that the good spirits of Burma were looking after her. The hill-road to Sutrain is a chilly stretch, and Georgina caught a bad cold. Still there was Georgie Porgie at the end of all the trouble to take her up in his arms and pet her, as he used to do in the old days when the stockade was shut for the night and he had approved of the evening meal.
Georgina went forward as fast as she could; and her good spirits did her one last favour. What are you doing here? Georgie Porgie had applied to have him to work with at Sutrain because he liked him. Where is his house? Gillis gasped. He had seen enough of Georgina in the old times to know that explanations would be useless.
You cannot explain things to the Oriental. You must show. The lamps were just lit, but the curtains were not drawn. Georgina looked and saw Georgie Porgie and the Bride. She put her hand up to her hair, which had come out of its top-knot and was straggling about her face.
She tried to set her ragged dress in order, but the dress was past pulling straight, and she coughed a queer little cough, for she really had taken a very bad cold. Gillis looked, too, but while Georgina only looked at the Bride once, turning her eyes always on Georgie Porgie, Gillis looked at the Bride all the time.
I am going away. I swear that I am going away. What a narrow shave though! And that angel would never have forgiven it. This seems to prove that the devotion of Gillis was not entirely due to his affection for Georgie Porgie. How ghastly! But it was Georgina crying, all by herself, down the hillside, among the stones of the water-course where the washermen wash the clothes.
I met him at the corner of my garden, an empty basket on his head, and an unclean cloth round his loins. That was all the property to which Naboth had the shadow of a claim when I first saw him. He opened our acquaintance by begging. He was very thin and showed nearly as many ribs as his basket; and he told me a long story about fever and a lawsuit, and an iron cauldron that had been seized by the court in execution of a decree. I put my hand into my pocket to help Naboth, as kings of the East have helped alien adventurers to the loss of their kingdoms.
A rupee had hidden in my waistcoat lining.
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I never knew it was there, and gave the trove to Naboth as a direct gift from Heaven. He replied that I was the only legitimate Protector of the Poor he had ever known. Next morning he reappeared, a little fatter in the round, and curled himself into knots in the front verandah.
He said I was his father and his mother, and the direct descendant of all the gods in his Pantheon, besides controlling the destinies of the universe. He himself was but a sweetmeat-seller, and much less important than the dirt under my feet. I had heard this sort of thing before, so I asked him what he wanted. My rupee, quoth Naboth, had raised him to the ever-lasting heavens, and he wished to prefer a request. He wished to establish a sweetmeat-pitch near the house of his benefactor, to gaze on my revered countenance as I went to and fro illumining the world.
I was graciously pleased to give permission, and he went away with his head between his knees. Now at the far end of my garden, the ground slopes toward the public road, and the slope is crowned with a thick shrubbery. There is a short carriage-road from the house to the Mall, which passes close to the shrubbery. Next afternoon I saw that Naboth had seated himself at the bottom of the slope, down in the dust of the public road, and in the full glare of the sun, with a starved basket of greasy sweets in front of him.
He had gone into trade once more on the strength of my munificent donation, and the ground was as Paradise by my honoured favour. Remember, there was only Naboth, his basket, the sunshine, and the gray dust when the sap of my Empire first began. Next day he had moved himself up the slope nearer to my shrubbery, and waved a palm-leaf fan to keep the flies off the sweets.
So I judged that he must have done a fair trade. Four days later I noticed that he had backed himself and his basket under the shadow of the shrubbery, and had tied an Isabella-coloured rag between two branches in order to make more shade. There were plenty of sweets in his basket. I thought that trade must certainly be looking up.
Seven weeks later the Government took up a plot of ground for a Chief Court close to the end of my compound, and employed nearly four hundred coolies on the foundations. Naboth bought a blue and white striped blanket, a brass lamp-stand, and a small boy, to cope with the rush of trade, which was tremendous. Five days later he bought a huge, fat, red-backed account-book, and a glass inkstand. Thus I saw that the coolies had been getting into his debt, and that commerce was increasing on legitimate lines of credit. Also I saw that the one basket had grown into three, and that Naboth had backed and hacked into the shrubbery, and made himself a nice little clearing for the proper display of the basket, the blanket, the books, and the boy.
One week and five days later he had built a mud fire-place in the clearing, and the fat account-book was overflowing. He said that God created few Englishmen of my kind, and that I was the incarnation of all human virtues. He offered me some of his sweets as tribute, and by accepting these I acknowledged him as my feudatory under the skirt of my protection. He had hacked away more of my shrubbery and owned another and a fatter account-book. Eleven weeks later Naboth had eaten his way nearly through that shrubbery, and there was a reed hut with a bedstead outside it, standing in the little glade that he had eroded.
Two dogs and a baby slept on the bedstead. So I fancied Naboth had taken a wife. He said that he had, by my favour, done this thing, and that I was several times finer than Krishna. Six weeks and two days later a mud wall had grown up at the back of the hut. There were fowls in front and it smelt a little. The Municipal Secretary said that a cess-pool was forming in the public road from the drainage of my compound, and that I must take steps to clear it away. I spoke to Naboth. He said I was Lord Paramount of his earthly concerns, and the garden was all my own property, and sent me some more sweets in a second-hand duster.
The curious thing about the murder was that most of the coolies were drunk at the time. Naboth pointed out that my name was a strong shield between him and his enemies, and he expected that another baby would be born to him shortly. Four months later the hut was ALL mud walls, very solidly built, and Naboth had used most of my shrubbery for his five goats.
A silver watch and an aluminium chain shone upon his very round stomach. My servants were alarmingly drunk several times, and used to waste the day with Naboth when they got the chance. He said, by my favour and the glory of my countenance, he would make all his women-folk ladies, and that if any one hinted that he was running an illicit still under the shadow of the tamarisks, why, I, his Suzerain, was to prosecute.
A week later he hired a man to make several dozen square yards of trellis-work to put around the back of his hut, that his women-folk might be screened from the public gaze. The next thing I knew was that the horses of the phaeton were stamping and plunging in the strongest sort of bamboo net-work.
Both beasts came down. One rose with nothing more than chipped knees. The other was so badly kicked that I was forced to shoot him. Naboth is gone now, and his hut is ploughed into its native mud with sweetmeats instead of salt for a sign that the place is accursed. I have built a summer-house to overlook the end of the garden, and it is as a fort on my frontier whence I guard my Empire. I know exactly how Ahab felt. He has been shamefully misrepresented in the Scriptures. Like Mr. Therefore, lest I should forget my dream, I have made shift to set it down here. Though Heaven knows how unhandy the pen is to me who was always readier with sword than ink-horn when I left London two long years since.
Shakespeare might have said. So then, I thanked God mistily though, to my shame, I never kneeled down to do so for license to live, at least till March should be upon us again. Indeed, we that were alive and our number was less by far than those who had gone to their last account in the hot weather late past had made very merry that evening, by the ramparts of the Fort, over this kindness of Providence; though our jests were neither witty nor such as I should have liked my Mother to hear.
When I had lain down or rather thrown me on my bed and the fumes of my drink had a little cleared away, I found that I could get no sleep for thinking of a thousand things that were better left alone. First, and it was a long time since I had thought of her, the sweet face of Kitty Somerset, drifted, as it might have been drawn in a picture, across the foot of my bed, so plainly, that I almost thought she had been present in the body.
Then I remembered how she drove me to this accursed country to get rich, that I might the more quickly marry her, our parents on both sides giving their consent; and then how she thought better or worse may be of her troth, and wed Tom Sanderson but a short three months after I had sailed. From Kitty I fell a-musing on Mrs.
Vansuythen, a tall pale woman with violet eyes that had come to Calcutta from the Dutch Factory at Chinsura, and had set all our young men, and not a few of the factors, by the ears. Some of our ladies, it is true, said that she had never a husband or marriage-lines at all; but women, and specially those who have led only indifferent good lives themselves, are cruel hard one on another.
Besides, Mrs. Vansuythen was far prettier than them all. Now, whether I cared so much as the scratch of a pin for this same Mrs. Vansuythen albeit I had vowed eternal love three days after we met I knew not then nor did till later on; but mine own pride, and a skill in the small sword that no man in Calcutta could equal, kept me in her affections. So that I believed I worshipt her. Whereat I thought of my Mother for a while, and was very penitent: making in my sinful tipsy mood a thousand vows of reformation — all since broken, I fear me, again and again.
To-morrow, says I to myself, I will live cleanly for ever. And I smiled dizzily the liquor being still strong in me to think of the dangers I had escaped; and built all manner of fine Castles in Spain, whereof a shadowy Kitty Somerset that had the violet eyes and the sweet slow speech of Mrs. Vansuythen, was always Queen. Lastly, a very fine and magnificent courage that doubtless had its birth in Mr. Wherefore, taking my first steps, random and unstable enough, towards my new kingdom, I kickt my servants sleeping without till they howled and ran from me, and called Heaven and Earth to witness that I, Duncan Parrenness, was a Writer in the service of the Company and afraid of no man.
Then, seeing that neither the Moon nor the Great Bear were minded to accept my challenge, I lay down again and must have fallen asleep. I was waked presently by my last words repeated two or three times, and I saw that there had come into the room a drunken man, as I thought, from Mr. He sate down at the foot of my bed in all the world as it belonged to him, and I took note, as well as I could, that his face was somewhat like mine own grown older, save when it changed to the face of the Governor—General or my father, dead these six months.
But this seemed to me only natural, and the due result of too much wine; and I was so angered at his entry all unannounced, that I told him, not over civilly, to go. But for all these things and I suppose that he meant thereby the changes and chances of our shifty life in these parts I must pay my price.
The Devil take you and your jesting: I have paid my price twice over in sickness. Then my drunken mirth died out of me, as I have seen the waters of our great rivers die away in one night; and I, Duncan Parrenness, who was afraid of no man, was taken with a more deadly terror than I hold it has ever been the lot of mortal man to know. For I saw that his face was my very own, but marked and lined and scarred with the furrows of disease and much evil living — as I once, when I was Lord help me very drunk indeed, have seen mine own face, all white and drawn and grown old, in a mirror.
I take it that any man would have been even more greatly feared than I. For I am in no way wanting in courage. So I takes him up very short, crying that I was not so wholly bad as he would make believe, and that I trusted my fellows to the full as much as they were worthy of it. After this he was silent for a little, and I made sure that he must go or I awake ere long: but presently he speaks again and very softly that I was a fool to care for such follies as those he had taken from me, and that ere he went he would only ask me for a few other trifles such as no man, or for matter of that boy either, would keep about him in this country.
This was to me a far more terrible loss than the two that I had suffered before. For though, Lord help me, I had travelled far enough from all paths of decent or godly living, yet there was in me, though I myself write it, a certain goodness of heart which, when I was sober or sick made me very sorry of all that I had done before the fit came on me. And this I lost wholly: having in place thereof another deadly coldness at the heart.
I am not, as I have before said, ready with my pen, so I fear that what I have just written may not be readily understood. This shall perhaps make my state more clear, if it be remembered that my torment was ten times as great as comes in the natural course of nature to any man. At that time I dared not think of the change that had come over me, and all in one night: though I have often thought of it since.
He made as if he would go, but my words stopt him and he laughed — as I remember that I laughed when I ran Angus Macalister through the sword-arm last August, because he said that Mrs. Vansuythen was no better than she should be. When the light came I made shift to behold his gift, and saw that it was a little piece of dry bread.
Once upon a time, very far from England, there lived three men who loved each other so greatly that neither man nor woman could come between them. Their duty is to keep themselves and their accoutrements specklessly clean, to refrain from getting drunk more often than is necessary, to obey their superiors, and to pray for a war.
All these things my friends accomplished; and of their own motion threw in some fighting-work for which the Army Regulations did not call. Their fate sent them to serve in India, which is not a golden country, though poets have sung otherwise. There men die with great swiftness, and those who live suffer many and curious things. I do not think that my friends concerned themselves much with the social or political aspects of the East. They attended a not unimportant war on the northern frontier, another one on our western boundary, and a third in Upper Burma. Then their regiment sat still to recruit, and the boundless monotony of cantonment life was their portion.
They were drilled morning and evening on the same dusty parade-ground. They wandered up and down the same stretch of dusty white road, attended the same church and the same grog-shop, and slept in the same lime-washed barn of a barrack for two long years. There was Mulvaney, the father in the craft, who had served with various regiments from Bermuda to Halifax, old in war, scarred, reckless, resourceful, and in his pious hours an unequalled soldier. His name was Learoyd, and his chief virtue an unmitigated patience which helped him to win fights. How Ortheris, a fox-terrier of a Cockney, ever came to be one of the trio, is a mystery which even today I cannot explain.
They desired no companionship beyond their own, and it was evil for any man of the regiment who attempted dispute with them. Physical argument was out of the question as regarded Mulvaney and the Yorkshireman; and assault on Ortheris meant a combined attack from these twain — a business which no five men were anxious to have on their hands. Therefore they flourished, sharing their drinks, their tobacco, and their money; good luck and evil; battle and the chances of death; life and the chances of happiness from Calicut in southern, to Peshawur in northern India.
Through no merit of my own it was my good fortune to be in a measure admitted to their friendship — frankly by Mulvaney from the beginning, sullenly and with reluctance by Learoyd, and suspiciously by Ortheris, who held to it that no man not in the Army could fraternise with a red-coat. But that was not all.
They thawed progressively, and in the thawing told me more of their lives and adventures than I am ever likely to write. Omitting all else, this tale begins with the Lamentable Thirst that was at the beginning of First Causes. Never was such a thirst — Mulvaney told me so. They kicked against their compulsory virtue, but the attempt was only successful in the case of Ortheris. Now that civilian was but newly connected by marriage with the colonel of the regiment, and outcry was made from quarters least anticipated by Ortheris, and, in the end, he was forced, lest a worse thing should happen, to dispose at ridiculously unremunerative rates of as promising a small terrier as ever graced one end of a leading string.
The purchase-money was barely sufficient for one small outbreak which led him to the guard-room. He escaped, however, with nothing worse than a severe reprimand, and a few hours of punishment drill. We sat together, upon a day, in the shade of a ravine far from the barracks, where a watercourse used to run in rainy weather.
Behind us was the scrub jungle, in which jackals, peacocks, the gray wolves of the North—Western Provinces, and occasionally a tiger estrayed from Central India, were supposed to dwell. In front lay the cantonment, glaring white under a glaring sun; and on either side ran the broad road that led to Delhi.
The peacock is a holy bird throughout India, and he who slays one is in danger of being mobbed by the nearest villagers; but on the last occasion that Mulvaney had gone forth, he had contrived, without in the least offending local religious susceptibilities, to return with six beautiful peacock skins which he sold to profit.
It seemed just possible then —. Ortheris had considered the question in all its bearings.
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He spoke, chewing his pipe-stem meditatively the while:. You better go. He roused slowly. And Mulvaney went; cursing his allies with Irish fluency and barrack-room point. At twilight, long before the appointed hour, he returned empty-handed, much begrimed with dirt. Will ye fight? Very slowly the meaning of the words communicated itself to the half-roused man. He understood — and again — what might these things mean? Mulvaney was shaking him savagely.
Meantime the men in the room howled with delight. There was war in the confederacy at last — war and the breaking of bonds. Barrack-room etiquette is stringent. On the direct challenge must follow the direct reply. This is more binding than the ties of tried friendship. Once again Mulvaney repeated the question. Learoyd answered by the only means in his power, and so swiftly that the Irishman had barely time to avoid the blow.
The laughter around increased. Learoyd looked bewilderedly at his friend — himself as greatly bewildered. Ortheris dropped from the table because his world was falling. The man that does, follows on. No man moved. The three passed out into the moonlight, Learoyd fumbling with the buttons of his coat. The parade-ground was deserted except for the scurrying jackals.
Considher before ye answer. They sat them down, the men looking on from afar, and Mulvaney untangled himself in mighty words. Dhrive on, me son, an glory be wid you. There was a matther av two thousand coolies on that line — you remimber that. He take money. That was a palanquin.
Is ut always raffled so? Two thousand coolies defrauded wanst a month! That sedan-chair niver belonged by right to any foreman av coolies. There was a long pause, and the jackals howled merrily. Learoyd bared one arm, and contemplated it in the moonlight. Then he nodded partly to himself and partly to his friends. Ortheris wriggled with suppressed emotion. Faith, he called me a robber! Ye shall have the pick av the best quality in my rigimint for the dinner you have given this day.
Hould your tongue, the both. He has robbed the naygur-man, dishonust. We rob him honust for the sake av the whisky he gave me. The three returned to barracks without a word. This palanquin was property, vendible, and to be attained in the simplest and least embarrassing fashion. It would eventually become beer. Great was Mulvaney. Next afternoon a procession of three formed itself and disappeared into the scrub in the direction of the new railway line. Learoyd alone was without care, for Mulvaney dived darkly into the future, and little Ortheris feared the unknown.
What befell at that interview in the lonely pay-shed by the side of the half-built embankment, only a few hundred coolies know, and their tale is confusing one, running thus —. Three men in red coats came. They saw the Sahib — Dearsley Sahib. They made oration; and noticeably the small man among the red-coats.
Dearsley Sahib also made oration, and used many very strong words. Such of us as were not afraid beheld these things for just so long a time as a man needs to cook the mid-day meal. No, he did not steal that watch. He held it in his hand, and at certain seasons made outcry, and the twain ceased their combat, which was like the combat of young bulls in spring. Both men were soon all red, but Dearsley Sahib was much more red than the other. Seeing this, and fearing for his life — because we greatly loved him — some fifty of us made shift to rush upon the red-coats.
But a certain man — very black as to the hair, and in no way to be confused with the small man, or the fat man who fought — that man, we affirm, ran upon us, and of us he embraced some ten or fifty in both arms, and beat our heads together, so that our livers turned to water, and we ran away. It is not good to interfere in the fightings of white men. After that Dearsley Sahib fell and did not rise, these men jumped upon his stomach and despoiled him of all his money, and attempted to fire the pay-shed, and departed. Is it true that Dearsley Sahib makes no complaint of these latter things having been done?
We were senseless with fear, and do not at all remember. There was no palanquin near the pay-shed. What do we know about palanquins? Is it true that Dearsley Sahib does not return to this place, on account of his sickness, for ten days? This is the fault of those bad men in the red coats, who should be severely punished; for Dearsley Sahib is both our father and mother, and we love him much. Yet, if Dearsley Sahib does not return to this place at all, we will speak the truth. There was a palanquin, for the up-keep of which we were forced to pay nine-tenths of our monthly wage.
On such mulctings Dearsley Sahib allowed us to make obeisance to him before the palanquin. What could we do? We were poor men. He took a full half of our wages. Will the Government repay us those moneys? Those three men in red coats bore the palanquin upon their shoulders and departed. All the money that Dearsley Sahib had taken from us was in the cushions of that palanquin. Therefore they stole it.
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Thousands of rupees were there — all our money. It was our bank-box, to fill which we cheerfully contributed to Dearsley Sahib three-sevenths of our monthly wage. Why does the white man look upon us with the eye of disfavour? Before God, there was a palanquin, and now there is no palanquin; and if they send the police here to make inquisition, we can only say that there never has been any palanquin. Why should a palanquin be near these works? We are poor men, and we know nothing. Such is the simplest version of the simplest story connected with the descent upon Dearsley.
From the lips of the coolies I received it. Dearsley himself was in no condition to say anything, and Mulvaney preserved a massive silence, broken only by the occasional licking of the lips. He had seen a fight so gorgeous that even his power of speech was taken from him.
I respected that reserve until, three days after the affair, I discovered in a disused stable in my quarters a palanquin of unchastened splendour — evidently in past days the litter of a queen. The pole whereby it swung between the shoulders of the bearers was rich with the painted papier-mache of Cashmere. The shoulder-pads were of yellow silk.
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The panels of the litter itself were ablaze with the loves of all the gods and goddesses of the Hindu Pantheon — lacquer on cedar. The cedar sliding doors were fitted with hasps of translucent Jaipur enamel and ran in grooves shod with silver. Closer investigation showed that the entire fabric was everywhere rubbed and discoloured by time and wear; but even thus it was sufficiently gorgeous to deserve housing on the threshold of a royal zenana. I found no fault with it, except that it was in my stable. Then, trying to lift it by the silver-shod shoulder-pole, I laughed.
Dearsley tould us we cud have ut if we fought. You will ondherstand that the Queen — God bless her! We brought ut to you, afther dhark, and put ut in your shtable. Do not let your conscience prick. Indirectly, sorr, you have rescued from an onprincipled son av a night-hawk the peasanthry av a numerous village. Not I. Curiously enough, Learoyd, who had fought for the prize, and in the winning secured the highest pleasure life had to offer him, was altogether disposed to undervalue it, while Ortheris openly said it would be better to break the thing up.
Dearsley, he argued, might be a many-sided man, capable, despite his magnificent fighting qualities, of setting in motion the machinery of the civil law — a thing much abhorred by the soldier. Under any circumstances their fun had come and passed; the next pay-day was close at hand, when there would be beer for all.
Wherefore longer conserve the painted palanquin? Pay-day came, and with it beer. Next morning he and the palanquin had disappeared. Ortheris carried it not much further. Killing Dearsley, like as not. Reinforced by Learoyd, Ortheris sought the foreman of the coolie-gang. Mulvaney, drunk or sober, would have struck no man in that condition, and Dearsley indignantly denied that he would have taken advantage of the intoxicated brave. But I never touched him. See there now.
The embassy removed itself, and Dearsley, the battered, laughed alone over his supper that evening. Three days passed — a fourth and a fifth. The week drew to a close and Mulvaney did not return. He, his royal palanquin, and his six attendants, had vanished into air. A very large and very tipsy soldier, his feet sticking out of the litter of a reigning princess, is not a thing to travel along the ways without comment. Yet no man of all the country round had seen any such wonder. He was, and he was not; and Learoyd suggested the immediate smashment of Dearsley as a sacrifice to his ghost.
Ortheris insisted that all was well, and in the light of past experience his hopes seemed reasonable. To do him justice, the colonel laughed at the notion, even when it was put forward by his much-trusted adjutant. I never knew a man who could put a polish on young soldiers as quickly as Mulvaney can. How does he do it? The worst of it is that if he goes to the cells the other two are neither to hold nor to bind till he comes out again. I believe Ortheris preaches mutiny on those occasions, and I know that the mere presence of Learoyd mourning for Mulvaney kills all the cheerfulness of his room.
The sergeants tell me that he allows no man to laugh when he feels unhappy. They are a queer gang. I like a well-conducted regiment, but these pasty-faced, shifty-eyed, mealy-mouthed young slouchers from the depot worry me sometimes with their offensive virtue. Shackbolt commanded the Tyrone then. He used to buy unbacked devils, and tame them on some pet theory of starvation. What did Mulvaney say? That evening, to cheer our souls, Learoyd, Ortheris, and I went into the waste to smoke out a porcupine. All the dogs attended, but even their clamour — and they began to discuss the shortcomings of porcupines before they left cantonments — could not take us out of ourselves.
A large, low moon turned the tops of the plume-grass to silver, and the stunted camelthorn bushes and sour tamarisks into the likenesses of trooping devils. The smell of the sun had not left the earth, and little aimless winds blowing across the rose-gardens to the southward brought the scent of dried roses and water. Our fire once started, and the dogs craftily disposed to wait the dash of the porcupine, we climbed to the top of a rain-scarred hillock of earth, and looked across the scrub seamed with cattle paths, white with the long grass, and dotted with spots of level pond-bottom, where the snipe would gather in winter.
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What is exceptional about this book is that he uses a case study where you make a mind maps on a actual Chemistry chapter and lesson. I really suggest you do not skip this part because it will help you understand the technique better than just reading the steps. I only wish I had known this technique when I studied Chemistry since I made a lot of rote memory cards to learn and pass chemistry.
I am not sure it would have helped me memorize the periodic table but maybe if I did not have to do the rote memory on the other topics I would had done better and been more of an engaged, and efficient learner. The book provides a lot of link for further study and I suggest utilizing them as well. Included are links to mind map software which really brings the mind maps to another level. I look forward to using it on many project especially on the book I have been writing that uses a lot of historical information. When Life Throws Mud on You Kiss a Poodle: 25 Ways to Overcome Life's Hard Knocks-Janine Michaels This is a motivational book that is a good read but is also a short read so you can read it in a short time and have it available when you need a quick pick-me-up.
The book gives you more ways to deal with negative emotions and thoughts. So when life gives you lemons make lemonade and read this book. Yep as the hippies discovered in this book Alaska can be hard living. I really did not enjoy this book. I really enjoyed What I loved. He really made the characters so much intricacy. I read for the two hour trip most of the way to and from Kansas City today on the Kindle.
A short autobiography of her for on year at a french bakery. An interesting read. Les Miserable is going to take some time to read since it is pages but it is hard to put down. This book was only 14 pages but had some great tips to learn how to speed read. Some I knew about before but the author had some original ideas.
I finished The curious incident of the dog in the night-time-Mark Haddon. This book follows a young boy named Christopher who symptoms and behavior suggest he has a mild form of autism. I am getting a little behind here with this long read and lots to do. This was a good book although I liked A Fine line better. I have not been on this site for a month but I Have been reading. Not as much as before since the garden is in full swing. It is different than I expected but so far good.
I finally got a local library card. I just had a Fort Riley one and that library is so small. So now I can read books on my Kindle from the library. So nice. The first one I checked out was a gardening book. Amish Prayers I have not read a Beverly Lewis book in a while and saw this one in the library ebook. This book was not what I expected since she usually writes fiction. It was interesting to me since my Grandparents on my fathers side were Mennonites. Very nice prayers that use bible passages. I suppose you could say this is about a dysfunctional family but their is really more to it that that.
Strange events are happening with the family.