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Title: OM: The Secret of Ahbor Valley (1924)
Author: Talbot Mundy
eBook No.: 0500271.txt
Edition: 1
Language: English
Character set encoding: Latin-1(ISO-8859-1)--8 bit
Date first posted: February 2005
Date most recently updated: February 2008

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Title: OM: The Secret of Ahbor Valley (1924)
Author: Talbot Mundy




CONTENTS

I. "Cottswold Ommony...is no Man's Fool."
II. Number One of the Secret Service
III. "What is Fear?"
IV. "I Am One Who Strives to Tread the Middle Way."
V. The House at the End of the Passage
VI. "Missish-Aunbun is Mad."
VII. "Sarcasm? I Wonder if that ever Pays."
VIII. The Middle Way
IX. "Gupta Rao"
X. Vasantasena
XI. "All this in the Space of One Night"
XII. "All Things End--Even Carriage Rides."
XIII. San-Fun-Ho
XIV. The Second Act
XV. The Roll-Call by Night
XVI. "Where are We?"
XVII. Diana Rehearses a Part
XVIII. Diana Adopts Buskins
XIX. A Message from Miss Sanburn
XX. Ommony Capitulates
XXI. The Lay of Alha
XXII. Darjiling
XXIII. Tilgaun
XXIV. Hanna Sanburn
XXV. The Compromise
XXVI. Ahbor Valley Gate
XXVII. Under the Brahmaputra
XXVIII. The Lama's Home
XXIX. The Lama's Story
XXX. The Lama's Story (continued)
XXXI. The Jade of Ahbor

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



EVOLUTION

Tides in the ocean of stars and the infinite rhythm of space;
Cycles on cycles of aeons adrone on an infinite beach;
Pause and recession and flow, and each atom of dust in its place
In the pulse of eternal becoming; no error, no breach
But the calm and the sweep and the swing of the leisurely, measureless roll
Of the absolute cause, the unthwarted effect--and no haste,
And no discord, and nothing untimed in a calculus ruling the whole;
Unfolding; evolving; accretion; attrition; no waste.

Planet on planet a course that it keeps, and each swallow its flight;
Comet's ellipse and grace-note of the sudden firefly glow;
Jewels of Perseid splendor sprayed on summer's purple night;
Blossom adrift on the breath of spring; the whirl of snow;
Grit on the grinding beaches; spume of the storm-ridden wave
Hurled on the north wind's ice-born blast to blend with the tropic rain;
Hail and the hissing of torrents; song where sapphire ripples lave
The crest of thousand-fathom reefs upbuilt beneath the main,

Silt of the ceaseless rivers from the mountain summits worn,
Rolled along gorge and meadow till the salt, inflowing tide
Heaps it in shoals at harbor-mouth for continents unborn;
Earth where the naked rocks were reared; pine where the birches died;
Season on season proceeding, and birth in the shadow of death;
Dawning of luminous day in the dying of night; and a Plan
In no whit, in no particle changing; each phase of becoming a breath
Of the infinite Karma of all things; its goal, evolution of MAN.




Chapter I

"Cottswold Ommony...is no Man's Fool."


If you want views about the world's news, read what Cottswold
Ommony calls the views papers; there is plenty in them that
thoroughly zealous people believe. But remember the wise old
ambassador's word of caution to his new subordinate--"And above
all, no zeal!" If you want raw facts devoid of any zeal whatever
try the cafes and the clubs; but you must sort the facts and
correlate them for yourself, and whether or not that process
shall leave you capable of thought of any kind must depend
entirely on your own ability. Thereafter, though you may never
again believe a newspaper, you will understand them and if you
are reasonably human sympathize.

There used to be a cafe, in Vienna, where a man might learn enough
in fifty minutes to convince him that Europe was riding
carelessly to ruin; but that was before 1914 when the riders,
using rein and spur at last, rode straight for it.

There is still a club in Delhi, where you may pick up odds and
ends of information from over the Pamirs, from Nepaul, from
Samarkand, Turkestan, Arabia and the Caucasus, all mixed up with
fragments from the olla podrida of races known collectively as
India. And having pieced them all together you may go mad there,
as comfortably as in Colney Hatch, but with this advantage that
nobody will interfere with you, provided you pay your bills on
the first of the month and refrain from sitting on two newspapers
while you read a third.

It is a good club, of the die-hard kind; fairly comfortable,
famous for its curry. It has done more to establish empire, and
to breed ill-will, than any other dozen institutions. Its
members do not boast, but are proud of the fact that no Indian,
not even a Maharajah, has ever set foot over its threshold; yet
they are hospitable, if a man knows how to procure the proper
introduction (no women are admitted on any pretense), and by
keeping quiet in a long-armed chair you may receive an education.
You may learn, for instance, who is and who is not important, and
precisely why. You may come to understand how the old guard,
everywhere, inevitably must die in the last ditch. And, if you
have it in you, you will admire the old guard, without trying to
pretend that you agree with them.

But above all, you may study the naked shape of modern history as
she is never written--history in the bathroom, so to speak. And
once in a while, you may piece together a dozen assorted facts
into a true story that is worth more than all the printed
histories and all the guide-books added together. (Not that the
club members realize it. They are usually bored, and almost
always thinking about income-tax and indigestion, coupled with
why in thunder so-and-so was fool enough to bid no trumps and
trust to his partner to hold the necessary ace.)

When Ommony turned up at the club after three years in a forest
he produced a refreshing ripple on a calm that had grown
monotonous. For a week there had been nothing to discuss but
politics, in which there is no news nowadays, but only repetition
of complaint. But Cottswold Ommony, the last of the old-time
foresters (and one of the few remaining men in India whom the new
democracy has not reduced to a sort of scapegoat rubber-stamp),
stirred memories and conjecture.

"_His_ turn for the guillotine! He has done too damned well for
twenty years, not to have his head cut off. I'll bet you some
babu politician gets his job!"

"You'll have to make that bet with Ommony, if he's mad enough.
Didn't you hear poor Willoughby was killed? That leaves Jenkins
at the head of Ommony's department, and they've hated each other
since Jenkins turned down Ommony's younger sister and Ommony told
him what he thought about it. Not that the girl wasn't fortunate
in a way. She married Terry later on and died. Who'd not rather
die than have to live with Jenkins. Willoughby always considered
Ommony to be a reincarnation of Solon or Socrates, plus Aristides
crossed on Hypatia. Willoughby--"

But everybody knew the ins and outs of that news. A fat babu in
a dirty pink turban that would have scared any self-respecting
horse, driving a second-hand Ford, with one eye on the Punjabi
"constabeel" at the street crossing, bumped into and broke the
wheel of Willoughby's dog-cart, setting any number of sequences in
motion. The horse bolted, tipped out Willoughby, who was killed
under a tram-car, and crashed into Amramchudder Son and Company's
open storefront, where blood from the horse's shoulder spoiled
two bales of imported silk. A lawsuit to recover ten times the
value of the silk was commenced against Willoughby's estate that
afternoon. (Mrs. Willoughby had to borrow money from friends to
carry on with.)

The babu put on full speed, naturally, and tried to escape down a
side-street, of which there are as many, and as narrow ones in
Delhi as in any city of its size. He ran over a Bengali (which
nobody except the Bengali minded very much), knocked down two
Sikhs (which was important, because they were on their way to a
religious ceremony; righteous indignation is very bad stuff when
spilled in the street), and finally jammed the Ford between a
bullock-cart and a lamp-post, where the pride of Detroit
collapsed into scrap.

The owner of the bullock-cart, a Jat with a wart on his nose,
which his mother-in-law had always insisted would bring bad luck
(she said so at the trial later on, and brought three witnesses
to prove it), was carrying, for an extortionate price, a native
of a far-northern state, who had recently arrived by train
without a ticket, and who knew how to be prompt and violent.
The man from Spiti (which is the name of the northern state)
descended from his perch at the rear of the cart, picked up a
spoke that the collision had broken away, and hit the babu with
it exactly once between the eyes. The babu died neatly without
saying anything; and a hot crowd of nine nationalities, that was
glad to see anybody die with politics the way they had been for a
year or two, applauded.

The man from Spiti vanished. The "constabeel" arrested the owner
of the bullock-cart, who turned his face skyward and screamed
"Ayee-ee-ee!" once, which was duly noted in a memorandum book for
use as evidence against him. Seventeen onlookers, being
questioned, all gave false names and addresses, but swore that
the Jat with the wart had attacked the babu; and a _wakil_
(which is a person entitled to practice law), who knew all about
the Jat's recent inheritance from his uncle, offered legal
services that were accepted on the spot. Presently, in the jail,
a _jemadar_ and two "constabeels" put the Jat through a hideously
painful third degree, which left no marks on him but did induce
him to part with money, most of which was spent on a debauch that
ended in the _jemadar_ being reduced to the ranks since the
_wakil_ objected on principle to sharing the loot of the Jat with
any one and therefore righteously exposed the _jemadar's_
abominable drunkenness.

Meanwhile, the native papers took the matter up and proved to
nine points of decimals that the incident was wholly due to
British arrogance and the neglect of public duty by an "overpaid
alien hegemony," demonstrating among other things that the
British are a race "whose crass materialism is an insult to the
spiritual soul of India, and whose playing fields of Eton are an
ash-bed from which arise swarms of Phoenixes to suck the life
-blood of conquered peoples." (Excellent journalese conceived on
the historic principle that if you make sufficient smell you are
sure to annoy somebody, and he who is annoyed will make mistakes,
which you may then gleefully expose.)

The Sikhs who had been knocked down by the Ford accused the
"obsequious servants of alien tyranny"--meaning the police--of
having tried to prevent them from attending their religious
ceremony; the fact being that the police had taken them to
the hospital in an ambulance. The entire Sikh community in
consequence refused to pay taxes, which set up another sequence
of cause and effect, culminating in a yell of "Bande Materam!" as
three or four thousand second-year students, who were not Sikhs,
rushed foaming at the mouth into the Chandni Chowk (which is a
business thoroughfare) with the intention of looting the
silversmiths and putting the whole city to the torch. A
fire-engine dispersed them; but the stream of water from
the hose ruined the contents of Chanda Pal's drug-store.

Chanda Pal called in an actuary who possessed a compound
geometrical imagination, and sent in a bill to the government
that is still unpaid; and, having failed to collect immediately,
he wrote to a friend who was an undergraduate at Oxford, with
the result that a Member of Parliament for one of the Welsh
constituencies asked at Question Time whether it was true that
the Viceroy of India in person had high-handedly confiscated
without compensation all the drugs in the Punjab; and if so, why!

The answer from the Treasury Bench was "No, sir;" but the
foreign correspondents omitted to mention that, so the French,
Scandinavian and United States newspapers had it in headlines
that "British in India inaugurate new reign of terror. Goods
confiscated. Revolution threatened." A bishop in South Africa
preached a sermon on the subject; thirty-seven members of the
I.W.W., who were serving a term in San Quentin, went on a
sympathetic hunger strike and were locked up in the dungeon; and
a Congressman from somewhere in the Middle West wrote a speech
that filled five pages of the _Record._ Stocks fell several
points. Jenkins stepped into Willoughby's official shoes.

However, clocks continued ticking. Roosters crowed. The sun
appeared on schedule time. And Willoughby's funeral was marked
by dignified simplicity.

Except that he hugely regretted his friend Willoughby, Cottswold
Ommony cared for none of these things. He sat near the electric
fan in a corner of the club smoking room, aware that he was being
discussed, but also quite sure that he did not mind it. He
had been discussed, on and off, ever since he came to India.
He looked quite unlike Hypatia, whatever Willoughby may have
thought of his character.

"Willoughby overrated him," said somebody. "You can't tell me
Ommony or any other man is such a mixture of marvels as
Willoughby made out. Besides, he's a bachelor. Socrates wasn't."

"Oh, Ommony's human. But--well--you know what he's done in that
forest. It was raw, red wilderness when he was sent there. Now
you can stand on a rock and see ninety miles of trees whichever
way you care to look. Besides, dogs love him. Did you see that
great dog of his outside? You can't fool that kind of dog, you
know. They say he knows the tigers personally, and can talk the
jungle-bat; there was only one other man who ever learned that
language, and he committed suicide!"

"All the same--he's not the only man who's done good work--and
I've heard stories. Do any of you remember Terry--Jack Terry,
the M.D., who married Ommony's young sister? One of those
delightful madmen who are really so sane that the rest of us
can't understand 'em. Had weird theories about obstetrics.
Nearly got foul of his profession by preaching that music was an
absolute necessity at child-birth. Wanted the government to
train symphony orchestras to play the Overture to Leonori while
the birth takes place. Perfectly mad; but a corking good
surgeon. Always dead broke, from handing out his pay to beggars
--broke, that is, until he met Marmaduke. Remember Marmaduke?"

"Dead too, isn't he? Wasn't he the American who endowed a
mission somewhere in the Hills?"

"Yes, at Tilgaun. Marmaduke was another--ab-so-lutely mad--and
as gentle as sunrise. Quiet man, who swore like a trooper at the
mention of religion. Made his money in Chicago, slaughtering
hogs--or so I heard. Wrote a book on astrology, that only ran to
one edition. I sold my copy for ten times what I paid for it. I
tell you, Marmaduke was madder than Gandhi. They say he left
America to keep the elders of the church he belonged to from
having him locked up in an asylum. The mission he founded at
Tilgaun caused no end of a stir at the time. Surely you
remember that? There were letters to the _Times,_ and an
archbishop raised a shindy in the House of Lords. Marmaduke's
theory was that, as _he_ couldn't understand Christianity, it was
safe to premise that people whose religion was a mixture of
degraded Buddhism and devil-worship couldn't understand it
either. So he founded a Buddhist mission, to teach 'em their own
religion. No, he wasn't a Buddhist. I don't know what his
religion was. I only know he was a decent fellow, fabulously
rich, and ab-so-lutely mad. He persuaded Jack Terry to chuck the
service and become the mission medico--teach hygiene to men from
Spiti and Bhutan--like teaching drought to the Atlantic! Jack
Terry married Ommony's sister about a week before leaving for
Tilgaun, and none of us ever saw them alive again."

"_Now_ I remember. There was a nine days' scandal, or a mystery,
or something."

"You bet there was! Terry and his wife vanished. Marmaduke was
carpeted, but couldn't or wouldn't explain, and he died before
they could make things hot for him. Then they gave Ommony long
leave and sent him up to Tilgaun to investigate--that was--by
gad! that was twenty years ago--Good lord! how time flies.
Ommony discovered nothing; or, if he did discover anything, he
_said_ nothing--he's a great hand at doing that, by all accounts.
But it leaked out that Marmaduke had appointed Ommony a trustee
under his will. There was another trustee--a red-headed American
woman--at least I heard she's red-headed; maybe, she isn't
--named Hannah Sanburn, who has been running the mission ever
since. She was not much more than a girl at the time, I
remember. And the third trustee was a Tibetan. Nobody had ever
heard of him, and I've never met a man who saw him; but I'm told
he's a Ringding Gelong Lama; and I've also heard that _Ommony_
has never seen him. The whole thing's a mystery."

"It doesn't seem particularly discreditable to Ommony. What are
you hinting at?"

"Nothing. Only Ommony has influence. You've noticed, I dare
say, he always gets what he goes after. If you asked me, there's
an even chance he may 'get' Jenkins, if he cares to."

"That's notorious. Whoever goes after Ommony's scalp gets left
at the post. What's the secret?"

"I don't know. Nobody seems to. There's Marmaduke's money, of
course. Ommony handles some of it. I don't suggest fraud, or
any rot like that; but money's strange stuff; control of it
gives a man power. Ommony's influence is out of all proportion
to his job. And I've heard--mind you, I don't know how true it
is--that he's hand-and-glove with every political fugitive from
the North who has sneaked down South to let the clouds roll by
during the last twenty years. They even said Ommony was on the
inside of the Moplah business. You know the Moplahs didn't burn
his bungalow, they say he simply asked them not to--can you beat
that--and it's a fact that he stayed in his forest all through
that rebellion."

Ommony was restless over in his corner. His obstinate jaw was
only half-concealed by a close-clipped, graying beard, and there
was grim humor on his lips. Having done more than any living man
to pull the sting out of the Moplah rebellion, hints to the
contrary hardly amused him. He was angry--obviously angry.
However, one man claimed casual acquaintance and dropped into the
next chair.

"Expecting to stay long in Delhi?"

"I don't know. I hope not."

"Care to sell me that wolf-hound?"

Ommony's reserve broke down; he had to talk to somebody:

"That dog? Sell her? She's the sum total of twenty-years'
effort. She's all I've done."

The inquisitor leaned back, partly to hide his own face, partly
to see Ommony's in a more distinct light; he suspected sunstroke,
or the after-effects of malaria. But Ommony, having emerged
from his reserve, continued:

"I don't suppose I'm different from anybody else--at least not
from any other reasonably decent fellow--made a lot of mistakes,
of course--done a lot of things I wish I hadn't--been a bally ass
on suitable occasion but I've worked--damned hard. India has had
all the best of me and--damn her!--I haven't grudged it. Don't
regret it, either. I'd do it again. But there's nothing to show
for it all--"

"Except a forest. They tell me--"

"A forest, half-grown, that corrupt politicians will play ducks
and drakes with; a couple of thousand villagers who are now
being taught by those same politicians that every thing they've
learned from me is no good; a ruined constitution--and that dog.
That's all I can show for twenty years' work--and like some
others, I've had my heart in it. I think I know how a missionary
feels when his flock walks out on him. I'm a failure--we're
all failures. The world is going to pieces under our hands.
What I have taught that dog is all I can really claim by
way of accomplishment."

That particular inquisitor lost enthusiasm. He did not like
madmen. He withdrew and considered Ommony in a corner, behind a
newspaper, _sotto voce._ Another not so casual acquaintance
dropped into the vacant chair, and was greeted with a nod.

"You've been absent so long you ought to see things with a fresh
eye, Ommony. D'you think India's breaking up?"

"I've thought so for twenty years."

"How long before we have to clear out?"

"The sooner the better."

"For us?"

"I mean for India!"

"I should have thought you would be the last man to say that.
You've done your bit. They tell me you've changed a desert into
a splendid forest. D'you want to see it all cut down, the lumber
wasted and--"

Ommony pulled out his watch and tapped his finger on the dial.

"I had it cleaned and repaired recently," he remarked. The man
charged me a fair price, but after I had paid the bill he didn't
have the impudence to keep the watch for fear I might ruin it
again. India has a perfect right to go to hell her own way.
Surgery and hygiene are good, but I don't believe in being
governed by the medical profession. Cleaning up corrupted
countries is good; but to stay on after we've been asked to quit
is bad manners. And _they're_ worse than breaking all ten
commandments. Besides, we don't know much--or we'd have done
much better."

"You think India is ripe for self-government?" 

"When things are
ripe, they fall or decay on the tree," said Ommony. "There's a
time to stand aside and let 'em grow. There's such a thing as
too much nursing." 

"Then you're willing to chuck your forest job?"

"I _have_ chucked it."

"Oh! Resigned? Going to draw your pension?"

"No. Pension wouldn't be due for two years yet, and I don't need
it. India has had the use of me for twenty-three years at a fair
price. I'd be satisfied, if she was. But she isn't. And I'm
proud, so I'll be damned if I'll accept a pension."

Ommony was left alone again. That news of his resignation was
too good to be kept, even for a minute. Within five minutes it
was all over the club, and men were speculating as to the real
reason, since nobody ever gives any one credit (and wisely,
perhaps) for the motives that he makes public.

"Jenkins has succeeded Willoughby. Ommony knows jolly well that
Jenkins has it in for him. He's pulling out ahead of the
landslide--that's what."

"I don't believe it. Ommony has guts and influence enough to
bust ten Jenkinses. There's more than that in it. There never
was a man like Ommony for keeping secrets up his sleeve. You
know he's in the Secret Service?"

"That's easy to say, but who said so?"

"Believe it or not--I'll bet. I'll bet he stays in India. I'll
bet he dies in harness. I'll bet any money in reason he goes
straight from here to McGregor's office. More than that--I'll
bet McGregor sent for him, and that he didn't resign from the
Forestry without talking it over with McGregor first. He's deep,
is Cottswold Ommony--deep. He's no man's fool. There's no man
alive but McGregor who knows what Ommony will do next. Anybody
want to bet about it?"

The remainder of the conversation at the club that noon rippled
off into widening rings of reminiscence, all set up by Ommony's
arrival on the scene, and mostly interesting, but to stay and
listen would have been to be sidetracked, which is the inevitable
fate of gossips. There was a story in the wind that, if the club
had known it, would have set all Delhi by the ears.

--------


He who would understand the Plains must ascend the Eternal Hills,
where a man's eyes scan Infinity. But he who would make use of
understanding must descend on to the Plains, where Past and
Future meet and men have need of him.



Chapter II

Number One of the Secret Service


Ommony did go straight to McGregor but he and Diana, his enormous
wolf-hound, walked and club bets had to be called off because
there was no cab-driver from whom the _chuprassi*_ could bludgeon
information.

--------
* Uniformed doorkeeper
--------

Neither his nor Diana's temper was improved by the behavior of
the crowd. The dog's size and apparent ferocity cleared a
course, but that convenience was not so pleasant as the manners
of twenty years ago, when men made way for an Englishman without
hesitation--without dreaming of doing anything else.

The thrice-breathed air of Delhi gave him melancholia. It was
not agreeable to see men spit with calculated insolence. The
heat made the sweat drip from his beard on to the bosom of a new
silk shirt. The smell of over-civilized, unnaturally clothed
humans was nauseating. By the time he reached an unimaginably
ugly, rawly new administration building he felt about as sweetly
reasonable as a dog with hydrophobia, and was tired, with feet
accustomed to the softness, and ears used to the silence, of long
jungle lanes.

However, his spirits rose as he approached the steps. He may
have made a signal, because the moment the _chuprassi_ saw him he
straightened himself suddenly and ran before him, upstairs and
along a corridor. By the time Ommony reached a door with no name
on it, at the far end of the building, the _chuprassi_ was
waiting to open it--had already done the announcing--had already
seen a said-to-be important personage shown out with scant
excuses through another door. The _chuprassi's_ salaam was that
of a worshiper of secrets, to a man who knows secrets and can
keep them; there is no more marrow-deep obeisance in the world
than that.

And now no ceremony. The office door clicked softy with a
spring-lock and shut out the world that bows and scrapes to hide
its enmity and spits to disguise self-conscious meanness. A man
sat at a desk and grinned.

"Sit. Smoke. Take your coat off. Sun in your eyes? Try
the other chair. Dog need water? Give her some out of the
filter. Now--"

John McGregor passed cigars and turned his back toward a laden
desk. He was a middle-sized, middle-aged man with snow-white
hair in a crisp mass, that would have been curly if he had let it
grow long enough. His white mustache made him look older than
his years, but his skin was young and reddish, although that
again was offset by crow's-feet at the corners of noticeably
dark-gray eyes. His hands looked like a conjurer's; he could do
anything with them, even, to keeping them perfectly still.

"So you've actually turned in your resignation? We grow!" he
remarked, laughing. "Everything grows--except me; I'm in the
same old rut. I'll get the ax--get pensioned some day--dreadful
fate! Did you have your interview with Jenkins? What happened?
I can see you had the best of it--but how?"

Ommony laid three letters on the desk--purple ink on faded paper,
in a woman's handwriting. McGregor laughed aloud--one bark, like
the cry of a fox that scents its quarry on the fluke of a
changing wind.

"Perfect!" he remarked, picking up the letters and beginning to
read the top one. "Did you blackmail him?"

"I did."

"I could have saved you that trouble, you know. I could have
'broke' him. He deserves it," said McGregor, knitting his
brows over the letter in his hand. "Man, man, he certainly
deserves it!"

"If we all got our deserts the world 'ud stand still." Ommony
chose a cigar and bit the end off. "He's a more than half
-efficient bureaucrat. Let India suck him dry and spew him forth
presently to end his days at Surbiton or Cheltenham."

McGregor went on reading, holding his breath. "Have you read
these?" he asked suddenly.

Ommony nodded. McGregor chewed at his mustache and made noises
with his teeth that brought Diana's ears up, cocked alertly.

"Man, they're pitiful! Imagine a brute like Jenkins having such
a hold on any one--and he--good God! He ought to have been
hanged--no, that's too good for him! I suppose there's no human
law that covers such a case."

"None," Ommony answered grimly. "But I'm pious. I think there's
a Higher Law that adjusts that sort of thing eventually. If not,
I'd have killed the brute myself."

"Listen to this."

"Don't read 'em aloud, Mac. It's sacrilege. And I'm raw. It
was at least partly my fault."

"Don't be an idiot!"

"It was, Mac. Elsa wasn't so many years younger than me, but
even when we were kids we were more like father and child than
brother and sister. She had the spirituality and the brains; I
had the brute-strength and was presumed to have the common sense;
it made a rather happy combination. As soon as I got settled in
the forest I wrote home to her to come out and keep house for me.
I used to trust Jenkins in those days. It was I who introduced
them, Jenkins introduced her to Kananda Pal."

"That swine!"

"No, he wasn't such a swine as Jenkins," said Ommony. "Kananda
Pal was a poor devil who was born into a black art family. He
didn't know any better. His father used to make him stare into
ink-pools and all that devilment before he was knee-high to a
duck. He used to do stunts with spooks and things. Jenkins, on
the other hand, had a decent heritage and ditched it. It was he
who invited Kananda Pal to hypnotize Elsa. Between the two of
them they did a devil's job of at. She almost lost her mind, and
Jenkins had the filthy gall to use that as excuse for breaking
the engagement."

"My God! But think if he had married her! Man, man!"

"True. But think of the indecency of making that excuse! I
called in Fred Terry--"

"Top-hole--generous--gallant--gay! Man, what a delightful fellow
Terry was!" said McGregor. "Did he really fall in love with
her?--You know, he was recklessly generous enough to--"

"Yes," said Ommony. "He almost cured her; and he fell in love.
She loved him--don't see how any real woman could have helped it.
But Jenkins and Kananda Pal--oh, curse them both!"

"Amen!" remarked McGregor. "Well--we've got what we want. How
did you hear of these letters?--Just think of it! That poor girl
writing to a brute like Jenkins--to give her mind back to her.
So that she may--oh, my God!"

"I saw Kananda Pal before he died. That was recently. He was
quite sorry about his share in the business. He tried to put all
the blame on Jenkins--you know how rotters always accuse each
other when the cat's out of the bag. He told me of the letters,
so I went to Jenkins yesterday and, having resigned, I was in
position to be rather blunt. In fact, I was dam' blunt. He
denied their existence at first, but he handed 'em over when I
explained what I intended to do if he didn't!"

"I wonder why he'd kept them," said McGregor.

"The pig had kept them to prove she was mad, if any one should
ever accuse him of having wronged her," Ommony answered. "Do
they read like a mad-woman's letters?"

"Man, man! They're pitiful! They read like the letters of a
drug-addict, struggling to throw off the cursed stuff, and all
the while crying for it. Lord save us, what a time Fred Terry
must have had!"

"Increasingly rarely," said Ommony. "He had almost cured her.
The attacks were intermittent. Terry heard of a sacred place in
the hills--a sort of Himalayan Lourdes, I take it--and they set
off together, twenty years ago, to find the place. I never found
a trace of them, but I heard rumors, and I've always believed
they disappeared into the Ahbor country."

"Where they probably were crucified!" McGregor added grimly.

"I don't know," said Ommony. "I've heard tales about a
mysterious stone in the Ahbor country that's supposed to have
magic qualities. Terry probably heard about it too, and he was
just the man to go in search of it. I've also heard it said that
the 'Masters' live in the Ahbor Valley."

McGregor shook his head and smiled. "Still harping on that string?"

"One hundred million people, at a very conservative estimate, of
whom at least a million are thinkers, believe that the Masters
exist," Ommony retorted. "Who are you and I, to say they don't?
If they do, and if they're in the Ahbor Valley, I propose to
prove it."

McGregor's smile widened to a grin. "Men who are as wise as
they are said to be, would know how to keep out of sight. The
Mahatmas, or Masters, as you call them, are a mare's nest,
Ommony, old man. However, there may be something in the
other rumor. By the way: who's this adopted daughter of
Miss Sanburn?"

"Never heard of her."

"You're trustee of the Marmaduke Mission, aren't you? Know Miss
Sanburn intimately? When did you last see her?"

"A year ago. She comes to Delhi once a year to meet me on the
mission business. About once in three years I go to Tilgaun.
I'm due there now."

"And you never heard of an adopted daughter? Then listen
to this."

McGregor opened a file and produced a letter written in English
on cheap ruled paper.

"This is from Number 888--Sirdar Sirohe Singh of Tilgaun, who has
been on the secret roster since before my time. His home is
somewhere near the mission. `Number 888 to Number 1. Important.
Miss Sanburn of mission near here did procure fragment of crystal
jade by unknown means, same having been broken from antiquity of
unknown whereabouts and being reputed to possess mysterious
qualities. _Miss Sanburn's adopted daughter'_--get that?
--'intending to return same, was prevented by theft of fragment,
female thief being subsequently murdered by being thrown from
precipice, after which, fragment disappeared totally. Search for
fragment being now conducted by anonymous individuals. Should
say much trouble will ensue unless recovery is prompt and secret.
_Miss Sanburn's adopted daughter'_--get that, again?--'has
vanished. Should advise much precaution not to arouse public
curiosity. 888.'--What do you make of it?" asked McGregor.

"Nothing. Never heard of an adopted daughter."

"Then what do you make of this?"

McGregor's left hand went into a desk-drawer, and something the
color of deep sea-water over a sandy bottom flashed in the
sunlight as Ommony caught it. He held it to the light. It
was stone, not more than two inches thick at the thickest
part, and rather larger than the palm of his hand. It was
so transparent he could see his fingers through it; yet
it was almost fabulously green. One side was curved, and
polished so perfectly that it felt like wet soap to the touch;
the other side was nearly a plane surface, only slightly
uneven, as if it had been split off from another piece.

"It looks like jade," said Ommony.

"It is. But did you ever see jade like it? Hold it to the
light again."

There was not a flaw. The sun shone through it as through glass,
except that when the stone was moved there was a vague obscurity,
as if the plane where the breakage had occurred in some way
distorted the light.

"Keep on looking at it," said McGregor, watching.

"No, thanks." Ommony laid the stone on his knee and deliberately
glanced around the room from one object to another. "I rebel
against that stuff instinctively."

"You recognize the symptoms?"

"Yes. There's a polished black-granite sphere in the crypt of a
ruined temple, near Darjiling, that produces the same sort of
effect when you stare at it. I'm told the Ka'aba at Mecca does
the same, but that's hearsay."

"Put the stone in your pocket," said McGregor. "Keep it there a
day or two. It's the fragment that's missing from Tilgaun, and
you'll discover it has peculiar properties. Talk with Chutter
Chand about it, he can tell you something interesting. He tried
to explain to me, but it's over my head--Secret Service kills
imagination--I live in a mess of statistics and card-indexes that
'ud mummify a Sybil. All the same, I suspect that piece of jade
will help you to trace the Terrys; and, if you dare to take a
crack at the Ahbor country--"

"How did you come by the stone?" asked Ommony.

"I sent C99--that's Tin Lal--to Tilgaun to look into rumors of
trouble up there. Tin Lal used to be a good man, although he was
always a thorough-paced rascal. But the Service isn't what it
used to be, Ommony; even our best men are taking sides nowadays,
or playing for their own hand. India's going to the dogs. Tin
Lal came back and reported everything quiet at Tilgaun--said the
murders were mere family feuds. But he took that piece of jade
to Chutter Chand, the jeweler, and offered it for sale. Told a
lame-duck story. Chutter Chand put him off--kept the stone for
appraisal--and brought it to me. I provided Tin Lal--naturally
--with a year behind the bars--no, not on account of the stone. He
had committed plenty of crimes to choose from. I chose a little
one just to discipline him. But here's the interesting part:
either Tin Lal talked in the jail--_or_ some one followed him
from Tilgaun. Anyway, some one traced that piece of jade to this
office. I have had an anonymous letter about it; worth
attention--interesting. You'll notice it's signed with a glyph
--I've never seen a glyph quite like it--and the handwriting is
an educated woman's. Read it for yourself."

He passed to Ommony an exquisitely fashioned silver tube with a
cap at either end. Ommony shook out a long sheet of very good
English writing-paper; It was ivory-colored, heavy, and scented
with some kind of incense. There was no date--no address--no
signature, except a peculiar glyph, rather like an ancient, much
simplified Chinese character. The writing was condensed into the
middle of the page, leaving very wide margins, and had been done
with a fine steel pen.

"The stone that was brought from Tilgaun by Tin Lal and was
offered for sale by him to Chutter Chand is one that no honorable
man would care to keep from its real owners. There is merit in a
good deed and the reward of him who does justly without thought
of reward is tenfold. There are secrets not safe to be pried
into. There is light too bright to look into. There is truth
more true than can be told. If you will change the color of the
sash on the _chuprassi_ at the front door, one shall present
himself to you to whom you may return the stone with absolute
assurance that it will reach its real owners. Honesty and
happiness are one. The truth comes not to him who is inquisitive,
but to him who does what is right and leaves the result
to Destiny."

Ommony examined the writing minutely, sniffed the paper, held it
to the light, then picked up the tube and examined that.

"Who brought it?" he asked.

"I don't know. It was handed to the _chuprassi_ by a native he
says he thinks was disguised."

"Did you try changing the _chuprassi's_ sash?"

"Naturally. A deaf and dumb man came. He looked like a Tibetan.
He approached the chuprassi and touched his sash, so the
_chuprassi_ brought him up to me. He was unquestionably deaf and
dumb--stone-deaf, and half of his tongue was missing. The drums
of his ears had been bored through--when he was a baby probably.
I showed him the stone and he tried to take it from me. I had to
have him forcibly ejected from the office; and of course I had
him followed, but he disappeared utterly, after wandering
aimlessly all over Delhi until nearly midnight. I have had a
look-out kept, but he seems to have vanished without trace."

"Have you drawn any conclusions?"

McGregor smiled. "I never draw them before it's safe to say
they're proved. But a young woman almost certainly wrote that
letter; Miss Sanburn's adopted daughter--"

"Who I don't believe exists," said Ommony.

"--is reported by 888, who has hitherto always been reliable, to
have disappeared. She disappeared, if she ever _did_ exist, from
Tilgaun; the stone unquestionably came from Tilgaun, and it
seems to have been in Miss Sanburn's possession, in the mission.
_Ergo_--just as a flying hypothesis,--Miss Sanburn's adopted
daughter may have written that letter. If so, she's in Delhi,
because the ink on that paper had not been dry more than an hour
or two when it reached me."

"Have you searched the hotels?"

"Of course. And the trains are being watched."

"I'm curious to meet Hannah Sanburn's adopted daughter!" said
Ommony dryly. "I've known Hannah ever since she came to India
more than twenty years ago. I've been co-trustee ever since
Marmaduke died, and I don't believe Hannah Sanburn has kept a
single secret from me. In fact, it has been the other way; she
has passed most of her difficult personal problems along to me
for solution. I've a dozen files full of her letters, of which I
dare say five percent are purely personal. I think I know all
her private business. As recently as last year, when we met here
in Delhi,--well--never mind; but if she had an adopted daughter,
or an entanglement of any kind, I think I'd know it."

"Women are damned deep," McGregor answered. "Well; we've not
much to go on. I'll entrust that stone to you; if you're still
willing to try to get into the Ahbor country, I'll do everything
I can to assist. You've a fair excuse for trying; and you're a
bachelor. Dammit, if I were, I'd go with you! Of course,
you understand, if the State Department learns of it you'll
be rounded up and brought back. Do you realize the other
difficulties? Sven Hedin is said to have made the last attempt
to get through from the North. He failed. In the last hundred
years about a dozen Europeans have had a crack at it. Several
died, and one got through--unless Terry and your sister did, and
if so, they almost certainly died. When Younghusband went to
Lhassa he considered sending one regiment back by way of the
Ahbor Valley but countermanded the order when he realized that a
force of fifty thousand men wouldn't stand a chance of getting
through. From time to time the government has sent six Goorkha
spies into the country. None ever came back. It's almost a
certainty that the River Tsangpo of Tibet flows through the
valley and becomes the Brahmaputra lower down, but nobody has
proved it; nor has any one explained why the Tsangpo contains
more water than the Brahmaputra. Old Kinthup, the pundit on the
Indian Survey Staff, traced the Tsangpo down as far as the
waterfall where it plunges into the Ahbor Valley, and he threw a
hundred marked logs into the river, which were watched for lower
down; but none of the logs appeared at the lower end, and not
even Kinthup managed to get into the valley. The strangest part
about it is, that the Northern Ahbors come down frequently to the
Southern Ahbor country to trade, and they even intermarry with
the Southern Ahbors. But they never say a word about their
valley. The rajah of Tilgaun--the uncle of the present man
--caught two and put them to torture, but they died silent. And
another strange thing is, that nobody knows how the Northern
Ahbors get into and out of their country. The river is a lot too
swift for boats. The forest seems impenetrable. The cliffs are
unclimbable. There was an attempt made last year to explore by
airplane, but the attempt failed; there's a ninety-mile wind
half the time, and some of the passes to the south are sixteen or
seventeen thousand feet in the air to begin with. I'm told
carburetors won't work, and they can't carry enough fuel.--So, if
you're determined to make the attempt, slip away secretly, and
don't leave your courage behind! If it weren't that you've a
right to visit Tilgaun I should say you'd have no chance, but you
_might_ make it, if you're awfully discreet and start from the
Tilgaun Mission. If it's ever found out that I encouraged you--"

"You've been reeling off discouragement for fifteen minutes!"

"Yes, but if it's known I knew--"

"You needn't worry. What made you say you think this stone will
help me to trace the Terrys?"

"Nothing definite, except that it gives me an excuse for sending
you to Tilgaun more or less officially. I employ you to
investigate the mystery connected with that stone. As far as
Tilgaun you're responsible to me. If you decide to go on from
there, you'll have to throw me over--disobey orders. You
understand, I order you to come straight back here from Tilgaun.
If you disobey, you do it off your own bat, without my official
knowledge. And I'm afraid, old thing, you'll have to pay your
own expenses."

Ommony nodded.

"See Chutter Chand," said McGregor, "and dine with me tonight--
not at the club--that 'ud start all sorts of rumors flying--say
at Mrs. Cornock-Campbell's--her husband's away, but that doesn't
matter. She's the only woman I ever dared tell secrets to.
Leave it to me to contrive the invitation--how'll that do?"

"Mrs. Cornock-Campbell is a better man than you or me. Nine
o'clock. I'll be there," said Ommony, noticing a certain slyness
in McGregor's smile. He bridled at it. "Still laughing about
the 'Masters,' Mac?"

"No, no. I'd forgotten them. Not that they exist--but never mind."

"What then?"

"I'll tell you after dinner, or rather some one else will. I
wonder whether you'll laugh too--or wince? Trot along and have
your talk with Chutter Chand."

---------



Deciphered from a Palm-Leaf Manuscript Discovered in a Cave in
Hindustan.

Those who are acquainted with the day and night know that the Day
of Brahma is a thousand revolutions of the Yugas, and that
the Night extendeth for a thousand more. Now the Maha-yuga
consisteth of four parts, of which the last, being called the
Kali-Yuga, is the least, having but four-hundred-and-thirty-two
thousand years. The length of a Maya-yuga is four-million-and
-three-hundred twenty thousand years; that is, one thousandth
part of a Day of Brahma. And man was in the beginning, although
not as he is now, nor as he will be...[Here the palm leaf is
broken and illegible]...There were races in the world, whose
wisemen knew all the seven principles, so that they understood
matter in all its forms and were its masters. They were
those to whom gold was as nothing, because they could make it,
and for whom the elements brought forth...[Here there is
another break]...And there were giants on the earth in those
days, and there were dwarfs, most evil. There was war, and they
destroyed...[Here the leaf is broken off, and all the rest
is missing.]



Chapter III

"What is Fear?"


Chutter Chand's shop in the Chandni Chowk is a place of chaos and
a joy for ever, if you like life musty and assorted. There are
diamonds in the window, Kodak cameras, theodolites, bric-a-brac,
second-hand rifles, scientific magazines, and a living hamadryad
cobra in a wire enclosure (into which rats and chickens are
introduced at intervals). You enter through a door on either
side of which hang curtains that were rather old when Clive was
young; and you promptly see your reflection facing you in a
mirror that came from Versailles when the French were bribing
Indian potentates to keep the English out.

Every square foot of the walls within is covered with ancient
curios. A glass counter-show-case runs the full length of the
store, and is stuffed with enough jewelry to furnish a pageant of
Indian history; converted into cash it would finance a very
fair-sized bank. Rising to the level of the counter at the
rear is a long row of pigeonholed shelves crowded with ancient
books and manuscripts that smell like recently unwound mummies.
Between shelf and counter lives (and reputedly sleeps by night)
the most efficient jeweler's babu in Indian--a meek, alert,
weariless man who is said to be able to estimate any one's bank
balance by glancing at him as he enters through the front door.
But Chutter Chand keeps himself out of sight, in a room at the
rear of the store, whence he comes out only in emergency. On
this particular occasion there were extra reasons for remaining
in the background--reasons suggested by the presence of a special
"constabeel" on duty outside the shop-door, who eyed Ommony
nervously as he walked in.

Ommony went straight to the room at the rear and found Chutter
Chand at his desk--a wizened, neat little man in a yellow silk
turban and a brown alpaca suit of English cut. The suit and his
brown skin were almost of the same shade; an amber pin in his
yellow necktie corresponded with the color of his laced shoes;
the gold of his heavy watch-chain matched the turban; his lemon
silk handkerchief matched his socks; his dark-brown, kindly,
intelligent eyes struck the keynote of the color harmony.

Unlike so many Indians who adopt a modified European style of
dress, he had an air of breeding, poise and distinction.

"There is always something interesting when you come, Ommonee!"
he said, rising and shaking hands. "Wait while I remove the
specimens from that chair. No, the snakes can not escape; they
are all poisonous, but carefully imprisoned. There--be seated.
You are full of news, or you would have asked me how I am. Thank
you, I am very well. And you? Now let us get to business!"

Ommony grinned at the gibe, but he had his own way of going about
things. He preferred to soak in his surroundings and adjust his
mind to the environment in silence before broaching business. He
lit a cigar, and stared about him at the snakes in cages and the
odds and ends of rarities heaped everywhere in indescribable
confusion. There were an enormous brass Gautama Buddha resting
on iron rollers, a silver Christian crucifix from a Goanese
cathedral, and some enamel vases, that were new since his last
visit; but the same old cobwebs were still in place in the
corners of the teak beams, and the same cat came and rubbed
herself against his shins--until she spied Diana in the outer
shop and grew instantly blasphemous.

Still saying nothing, Ommony at last produced the lump of jade
from his hip pocket.

"Yes," said Chutter Chand, "I have already seen it." But he took
off his gold-rimmed spectacles and wiped them as if he was eager
to see it again.

"What do you know about it?" asked Ommony.

"Very little, Sahib. To crystallize hypothesis into a mistake
is all too easy. I prefer to distinguish between knowledge
and conjecture."

"All right. Tell me what little you do know."

"It is jade undoubtedly, although I have never seen jade exactly
like it--I, who have studied every known species of precious and
semi-precious stone."

"Then why do you say it is jade?"

"Because I know that. I have analyzed it. It is chloromelanite,
consisting of a silicate of aluminium and sodium, with peroxide
of iron, peroxide of manganese, and potash. It has been broken
from a greater piece--perhaps from an enormous piece. The
example I have previously seen that most resembled this was found
in the Kara-Kash Valley of Turkestan; but that was not nearly so
transparent. That piece you hold in your hand is more fusible
than nephrite, which is the commoner form of jade; and it has a
specific gravity of 3.3."

"What makes you believe it was broken from a larger piece?"

"I know by the arc of the curve of the one side, and by the
shape of the fracture on the other, that it has been broken
by external violence from a piece considerably larger than
itself. I have worked out a law of vibration and fracture
that is as interesting in its way as Einstein's law of relativity.
Do you understand mathematics?"

"No. I'll take your word for it. What else do you know positively?"

"Positively is the only way to know," the jeweler answered,
screwing up his face until he looked almost like a Chinaman.
"There was human blood on it--a smear on the fractured side, that
looked as if a careless attempt had been made to wipe it off
before the blood was quite dry. Also the print of a woman's
thumb and forefinger, plainly visible under the microscope,
with several other fingerprints that certainly were Tin Lal's.
The stone had come in contact with some oily substance, probably
butter, but there was too little of it to determine. Furthermore,
I know, Ommonee, that you are afraid of the stone because to
touch it makes you nervous, and to peer into it makes you
see things you can not explain."

Ommony laughed. The stone did make him nervous.

"Did _you_ see things!" he asked.

"That is how I know it makes you see them, Ommonee! Compared to
me you are a child in such respects. If I, who know more than
you, nonetheless see things when I peer into that stone, it is
logical to my mind that you also see things, although possibly
not the same things. Knowing the inherent superstition of the
human mind, I therefore know you are afraid--just as people were
afraid when Galileo told them that the earth moves."

"Are _you_ afraid of it?" asked Ommony, shifting his cigar and
laying the stone on the desk.

"What is fear?" the jeweler answered. "Is it not recognition of
something the senses can not understand and therefore can not
master? I think the fact that we feel a sort of fear is proof
that we stand on the threshold of new knowledge--or rather, of
knowledge that is new to us as individuals."

"You mean, then, if a policeman's afraid of a burglar, he's--"

"Certainly! He is in a position to learn something he never knew
before. That doesn't mean that he will _learn,_ but that he may
if he cares to. People used to be afraid of a total eclipse of
the sun; some still are afraid of it. Imagine, if you can, what
Julius Caesar, or Alexander the Great, or Timour Ilang, or Akbar
would have thought of radio, or a thirty-six-inch astronomical
telescope, or a Kodak camera."

"All those things can be explained. This stone is a mystery."

"Ommonee, everything that we do not yet understand is a mystery.
To a pig, it must be a mystery why a man flings turnips to him
over the wall of his sty. To that dog of yours it must be a
mystery why you took such care to train her. Look into the stone
now, Sahib, and tell me what you see."

"Not I," said Ommony. "I've done it twice. You look."

Chutter Chand took up the stone in both hands and held it in the
light from an overhead window. The thing glowed, as if full of
liquid-green fire, yet from ten feet away Ommony could see
through it the lines on the palm of the jeweler's hand.

"Interesting! Interesting! Ommonee, the world is full of things
we don't yet know!"

Chutter Chand's brows contracted, the right side more than the
left, in the habit-fixed expression of a man whose business is to
use a microscope. Two or three times he glanced away and blinked
before looking again. Finally he put the stone back on the desk
and wiped his spectacles from force of habit.

"Our senses," he said, "are much more reliable than the brain
that interprets them. We probably all see, and hear, and smell
alike, but no two brains interpret in the same way. Try to
describe to me your sensations when you looked into the stone."

"Almost a brain-storm," said Ommony. "A rush of thoughts that
seemed to have no connection with one another. Something like
modern politics or listening in on the radio when there's loads
of interference, only more exasperating--more personal--more
inside yourself, as it were."

Chutter Chand nodded confirmation. "Can you describe the
thoughts, Ommonee? Do they take the form of words?"

"No. Pictures. But pictures of a sort I've never seen, even in
dreams. Rather horrible. They appear to mean something, but the
mind can't grasp them. They're broken off suddenly--begin
nowhere and end nowhere."

Chutter Chand nodded again. "Our experiences tally. You will
notice that the stone is broken off; it also begins nowhere and
ends nowhere. I have measured it carefully; from calculation of
the curvature it is possible to surmise that it may have been
broken off from an ellipsoid having a major axis of seventeen
feet. That would be an immense mass of jade weighing very many
tons; and if the whole were as perfect as this fragment, it
would be a marvel such as we in our day have not seen. I suspect
it to have qualities more remarkable than those of radium, and I
_think_--although, mind you, this is now conjecture--that if we
could find the original ellipsoid from which this piece was
broken we would possess the _open sesame_ to--well--to laws and
facts of nature, the mere contemplation of which would _fill_ all
the lunatic asylums! I have never been so thrilled by anything
in all my life."

But Ommony was not thrilled. He had seen men go mad from
exploring without landmarks into the unknown. He laughed cynically.

"'We fools of nature,'" he quoted, "'so horridly to shake our
disposition with thoughts beyond the reaches of our souls!' I'd
rather wipe out the asylums."

"Or live in one, Sahib, and leave the lunatics outside!
Shakespeare knew nothing of the atomic construction of the
universe. We have advanced since his day--in some respects.
Has it occurred to you to wonder _how_ this stone acquired
such remarkable qualities? No! You merely wonder _at_ it.
But observe:

"You have seen a pudding stirred? The stupidest cook in the
world can pour ingredients into a basin and stir them with water
until they become something compounded, that does not in the
least resemble any one of the component parts. Is that not
so? The same fool bakes what he has mixed. A chemical process
takes place, and behold! the idiot has wrought a miracle.
Again, there is almost no resemblance to what the mixture
was before. It even tastes and smells quite different. It
looks different. Its specific gravity is changed. Its
properties are altered. It is now digestible. It decomposes at
a different speed. It has lost some of the original qualities
that went into the mixture, and has taken on others that
apparently were not there before the chemical process began.

"You can see the same thing in a foundry, where they mix zinc
with copper and produce brass, and the brass has qualities that
neither zinc nor copper appears to contain. A deaf and dumb man,
knowing neither writing nor arithmetic, could produce brass from
zinc and copper. A savage, who never saw an abstraction, can
produce wine from grapes. Good. Now listen, Sahib:

"Let us dive beneath the surface of these experiments. The
capacity to become brass under certain conditions was inherent
to begin with in the zinc and in the copper, was it not? But
how so? It was inherent in the atoms, of which the zinc
and the copper are composed; and, behind those again, in
the electrons, of which the atoms are composed. Let us then
consider the electrons.

"Suppose that we knew how to pour electrons into a receptacle and
make, so to speak, a pudding of them! Could we not work what the
world would think are miracles? I have made diamonds in my
workshop. I believe I can make gold. What could I not do, if I
knew how to manage electrons in the raw--electrons, in every one
of which is the capacity to become absolutely _anything!_

"It has possibly not occurred to you, Ommonee, but the more I
pursue my studies the more I am convinced that there was once a
race of people in the world, or possibly a school of scientists
drawn from many then-existent races, who knew how to manage
electrons. I think they lived simultaneously with the cave-men.
We find the bones of cave-men because those were ignorant people,
such as the Bushmen of today, who buried their dead. We do not
find the bones of the scientists of that period, because they
were enlightened and disposed of corpses in the fire. The _art_
of the cave-men is evidence that there _was_ art of a very high
order, which some one presumably taught. They painted pictures
in caves into which no sunlight penetrated; therefore, there
must have been artificial light of a sort superior to torches or
tallow candles, because otherwise the color work would have been
impossible. That is proof that there was science in those days,
of which the cave-men could avail themselves just as today a
lunatic may use electric light. And the fact that we find no
traces at present of what we can recognize as a very high order
of civilization then existent is no proof that there was none;
it may have been totally different from anything with which we
are familiar. Furthermore, the world has only been extremely
superficially explored.

"Be patient, Ommonee. I am coming to my point. I have studied
that piece of jade. Three days and nights I studied it without
sleep. To me its peculiar properties appear to confirm
observations--micro-photographic observations that I have made
and recorded during a period of ten years. In its essence, what
is photography? It is the practice, by means of chemicals, of
rendering visible to the human eye impressions of objects
produced by light on a prepared surface. It is necessary to
prepare the surface, which we call a dry plate or a film, because
we do not yet know how else to render the light-made impression
visible to the human eye. But it is there, whether we make it
visible or not. And what I have discovered is this: that every
particle of matter has a photographic quality, which varies only
in degree. You stand against a rock--and not necessarily in
sunlight, although sunlight helps; your impression is indelibly
photographed on that rock, as I can prove, if you have time to
witness some experiments. It is photographed on anything against
which you stand. Other images may be superimposed on yours, but
yours remains. In rare instances, in certain atmospheric
conditions, these impressions become visible without any other
chemical process, although it seems to require a certain nervous
state of alertness before the human eye can perceive them.

"You remember the case of the Brahman who hanged himself in a
cellar not far from this shop of mine? His body hung there for a
day before they found it. For weeks afterward what was supposed
to be his ghost was seen--by scores of reputable witnesses
--hanging from the beam. That was several years ago. There was a
great stir made about it at the time, and there were letters to
the newspapers stating instances of similar occurrences. There
was an investigation by experts from a research society, who
denounced the whole story as an imposture.

"However, I was one of those who saw the ghost, and I made notes,
and some experiments. Finally I photographed it! That satisfied
me. I am sure that the alleged ghost was nothing but a
photograph made on the wall, and that it was rendered visible
by certain chemical conditions, not all of which I have been
able to ascertain.

"Now then: if that is possible in one instance, it is possible
in every instance. There is no such thing as an exception in
nature; we have discovered a law. So take this piece of jade:
we see things when we look into it. I deduce that they are
photographic. And because no other piece of stone that I
know of has the same quality of receiving impressions that are
instantaneously visible, it seems probable to me that it has been
intelligently treated by some one who knew how to do that."

"It might be a natural chemical process," said Ommony.

"I think not. Have you noticed that the strange moving images
visible _within_ the stone are not the reflections of _objects?_
The stone is not a mirror in the ordinary sense. It does not
seem to reflect at all the objects that surround it. I have
never succeeded in seeing my face in it, for instance, although I
have tried repeatedly, in all sorts of light, from every angle.
It appears to me to reflect _thought!_"

Ommony made the peculiar noise between tongue and teeth that
suggests polite but otherwise unconditioned incredulity. Chutter
Chand, deep in his theme, ignored the interruption.

"I believe it reflects _character!_ I believe that every thought
that every man thinks, from the day he is born until the day he
dies, leaves an invisible impress on his mind as well as a
visible impress on his body. You know how changing character
affects the lines on the palm of a man's hand, on the soles of
his feet, at the corners of his eyes, at his mouth, and so on?
Well: something of the same sort goes on in his mind, which is
invisible and what we call intangible, but is nevertheless made
up of electrons in motion. And those impressions are permanent.
I believe that somebody, who knew how to manipulate electrons,
has treated this stone in such a way that it reflects the whole
of a man's thought since he was born--just as a stone wall,
if it could be treated properly, could be shown to retain the
photograph of every object that had passed before it since the
wall was built.

"I believe this was done very anciently, and for this reason:
that if any one possessed of such intelligence and skill were
alive in the world today, his intelligence would burn itself into
our consciousness, so that we could not help but know of him.

"I am of opinion that the process to which the jade was subjected
rendered it at the same time transparent; because it is not in
the nature of jade to be quite transparent normally. And in my
mind there is connected with all this the knowledge (which is
common property) that the Chinese--a _very_ ancient race--regard
jade as a sacred stone. Why? Is it not possible that jade
peculiarly lends itself to this treatment, and that, though the
science is forgotten, the dim memory of the peculiar property of
the stone persists?"

"You've a fine imagination!" said Ommony.

"And what _is_ imagination, Ommonee, if not a bridge between the
known and unknown? Between conventional so-called knowledge and
the unexplored realm of truth? Have _you_ no imagination?
Electricity was possible a thousand years ago; but until
imagination hinted at the possibility, who had the use of it?"

Ommony returned the stone to his pocket. He was interested, and
he liked Chutter Chand, but it occurred to him that he was
wasting time.

"You're right, of course," he said, "that we have to imagine
a thing before we can begin to understand it or produce or
make it."

"Surely. You imagined your forest, Ommonee, before you planted
it. But between imagination and production, there in labor. You
see, what the West can't understand it scoffs at, whereas what
the East can't understand it calls sacred and guards against all
comers! I think you will have to penetrate a secret that has
been guarded for thousands of years. They say, you know, that
there are Masters who guard these secrets and let them out a
little at a time. May the gods whom you happen to vote for be
grateful and assist you! I would like to go on the adventure
with you--but I am a family man. I am afraid. I am not strong.
That stone has thrilled me, Ommonee!"

"If you like, I'll leave it with you for some more experiments,"
said Ommony.

"Sahib--my friend--I wouldn't keep it for a rajah's ransom! It
was traced to this place--how, I don't know. You noticed the
policeman at the door? He is put there to keep out murderers!
There has been a ruffian here--a Hillman--a cutthroat who said he
came from Spiti--a great savage with a saw-edged tulwar! Ugh! He
demanded the stone. He demanded to know where it was. If it had
not been that I had a shop-full of customers, and that I promised
to try to get the stone back from the man who now had it, he
would have cut me in halves! He said so! I am afraid all the
time that he will return, or that some of his friends will come.
Oh, I wish I had your lack of an imagination, Ommonee! I could
feel his saw-edged tulwar plunging into me! Listen!" (Chutter
Chand began to tremble visibly.) "Who is that?"

Ommony glanced into the shop. There were two men, evidently
unarmed or the "constabeel" would never have admitted them,
standing talking to the clerk across the show-case-counter. One
was apparently a very old man and the other very young. Both
were dressed in the Tibetan costume, but the older man was
speaking English, which was of itself sufficiently remarkable,
and he appeared to be slightly amused because the clerk insisted
that Chutter Chand was "absent on a journey." Neither man paid
the slightest attention to the jewelry in the show case; they
were evidently bent on seeing Chutter Chand, and nothing else.

"Admit 'em!" whispered Ommony. "I'll hide. No, never mind the
dog; she'll follow them in and sniff them over. If they ask
about the dog, say she belongs to one of your customers who
left her in your charge for an hour or two. What's behind
that brass Buddha?"

"Nothing, Sahib. It is hollow. There is no back."

"That'll do then. Help me pull it out from the wall--quick!--quiet!"

They made rather a lot of noise and Diana came in to investigate,
which was opportune. Ommony gave her orders _sotto voce_ and she
returned into the shop to watch the two curious visitors.

"Now, don't let yourself get frightened out of your wits, Chutter
Chand. Encourage 'em to talk. Ask any idiotic question that
occurs to you. When they're ready to go, let 'em. And then,
whatever you do, don't say a word to the policeman."

Ommony stepped behind the image of the Buddha. Chutter Chand,
leaning all his weight against it, shoved it back nearly into
place, but left sufficient space between it and the wall for
Ommony to see into an old cracked mirror that reflected almost
everything in the room. Then, taking a visible hold on his
emotions, Chutter Chand strode to the door and stood there for a
moment--looking--listening--trying to breathe normally. He forced
a smile at last.

"Oh, let them in--I will talk to them," he said to the clerk in
English, with an air of almost perfect, patronizing nonchalance.
Only a very close observer might have known he was afraid--that
fear, perhaps, in him was more than "recognition of something
that the senses do not understand."

---------



We should ascend out of perversity, even as we ascend a mountain
that we do not know, with the aid of guides who do know. None
who sets forth on an unknown voyage stipulates that the pilot
must agree with him as to the course, since manifestly that would
be absurd; the pilot is presumed to know; the piloted does not
know. None who climbs a mountain bargains that the guide shall
keep to this or that direction; it is the business of the guide
to lead. And yet, men hire guides for the Spiritual Journey, of
which they know less than they know of land and sea, and
stipulate that the guide shall lead them thus and so, according
to their own imaginings; and instead of obeying him, they desert
and denounce him, should he lead them otherwise. I find this of
the essence of perversity.
--From The Book of the Sayings of Tsiang Samdup



Chapter IV

"I Am One Who Strives to Tread the Middle Way."


The two Tibetans entered, the older man leading, and squatted on
a mat which the younger man spread on the floor. Their manner
suggested that they had accepted an invitation, instead of having
gained admission by persistence; but Ommony, watching every
movement in the mirror, noticed that the older man laid his hand
on the seat of the chair he himself had just occupied--which,
being old, he _might_ have done to help himself down on the mat,
but, being active, he almost certainly did for another reason.

Chutter Chand sat at his desk magisterially, wiping at the gold
-rimmed spectacles again, waiting for the visitors to speak first.
But they were not to be tempted into that indiscretion. They sat
still and were bland, while Diana came and deliberately sniffed
them over. The hound seemed interested; she lay down where she
could watch them both, her jowl on her paws, one ear up, and her
tail moving slightly from side to side clearing a fan-shaped
pattern in the dust.

The old man was a miracle of wrinkles. He resembled one of those
Chinese statuettes in ivory, yellowed by time, that suggest that
life is much too comical a business to be taken seriously--much
too serious a business to be cumbered with pride and possessions.
He was a living paradox in a long, snuff-colored robe, the ends
of which he arranged over his lap, leaving the hairy strong legs
of a mountaineer uncovered. He helped himself to an enormous
quantity of snuff from an old Chinese silver box, that he
presently stowed away in a fold of his garment. The pungent
stuff appeared to have no effect on him, although Diana, catching
a whiff of it, sneezed violently and Chutter Chand followed suit.

The young man was another ivory enigma, absolutely smooth in
contrast to the elder's wrinkles, and much paler. He, too, wore
snuff-colored clothes. His head was wrapped in a turban of
gorgeously embroidered brown silk, in contract to the other's
monkish simplicity, and the cloth of which his cloak was made
seemed to be of lighter and better material than the older man's.
He was remarkably good-looking--straight-featured and calm
-placid, not apparently from self-contentment but from assurance
that life holds a definite purpose and that he was being led
along the narrow road. There was an air of good temper and
wisdom about him, no apparent pride nor any mean humility. His
eyes were blue-gray, his hands small, strong and artistic. His
feet, too, were small but evidently used to walking. He was
in every dimension smaller than the older man, unless mind
is a dimension; they appeared to be equals in mental aroma,
and they exuded that in the mysterious way of a painting
by Goya Lucientes.

"Well, what do you want?" Chutter Chand asked at last in English.
It was a ridiculous language, on the face of it, to use to a
Tibetan; but the older man had been using English in the outer
shop, and Chutter Chand knew no Prakrit dialect.

The answer, in English devoid of any noticeable accent, was
given by the older man in a voice as full of humor as his
wrinkled face.

"The piece of jade," he said, unblinking, ending on a rising note
that suggested there was nothing to explain, nothing to argue
about, nothing to do but be reasonable. He snapped his fingers,
and Diana, normally a most suspicious dog, came close to him. He
ran his fingers through her hair and she laid her huge jowl on
his knee. Chutter Chand crossed and uncrossed his legs restlessly.

"I haven't it," said the jeweler. "Besides--er--ah--you would
have to tell me your--that is--er--you would have to establish
first by what right you make such a demand. You understand me?"

"I have made no demand," the old man answered, smiling. His
voice was sweetly reasonable; his bright old eyes twinkled.
"You have asked what I want. I have told you."

"Tell me who you are," said Chutter Chand.

"My son, I am a Lama. I am one who strives to tread the
Middle Way."

"Where from?"

"From desire into peace!"

"I mean, what, place do you come from?"

"From the same place that the piece of jade came from, my son.
From the place to which he who desires merit will return it."

"Is the jade yours?" asked Chutter Chand.

"Is the air mine? Are the stars mine?" the Lama answered,
smiling as if the idea of possessing anything were a joke made by
an inquiring child.

"Well; what right have you to the piece of jade?" Chutter Chand
snapped back at him. He let the irritation through without
intending it and smiled directly afterward in an attempt to undo
the impression. But if the Lama had noticed the acerbity, he
made no sign.

"None, any more than you have," came the answer in the same mild
voice. "None has any right to it. I have a duty to return it
to whence it came--and a duty to you, to preserve you from
impertinence, if that may be. It is not good, Chutter Chand,
to meddle with knowledge before the time appointed for its
understanding. He who would tread the Middle Way is patient,
keeping both feet on the ground and his head no higher than
humility will let it reach. Be wise--O man of intellectual
desires! Destruction is in rashness."

His fingers touched Diana's collar and twisted it around until
the small brass plate, on which Ommony's name was engraved, came
uppermost; but his eyes continued to look straight at Chutter
Chand. It was the younger man, squatting in silence beside
him, his head and body motionless, whose bright eyes took
in every detail of the room, not omitting to notice the movement
of the Lama's hand. Except for the eyes, his face continued
perfectly expressionless.

"Well--er--ah--before I answer definitely, I would like you to
tell me about the jade," said Chutter Chand. "You will find me
reasonable. I am not a sacrilegious person. Er--ah--can you not
establish to my satisfaction that--ah--I would be doing rightly
to--er--let us say, to entrust the piece of jade to you?"

"I think you know that already," said the Lama, in a voice of
mild reproof, as if he were speaking to a child of whom he was
rather fond. "What does your heart say, my son? It is the heart
that answers wisely, if desire has been subdued. I have come a
very long way--"

"_Desiring_ the piece of jade!" sneered Chutter Chand--regretting
the sneer instantly--driving fingernails into the palm of his
hand with impatience of himself.

"True," said the Lama. "Desire is not easy to destroy. Yet I do
not desire it for myself. And for you I desire peace--and merit.
May the Lord live in your heart and guide you in the Middle Way."

The jeweler moved restlessly. The atmosphere was getting on his
nerves. There was an indefinable feeling of being in the
presence of superiority, which is irritating to a man of intellect.

"You mean, there will be no peace for me unless I give up the
piece of jade to you?" he asked tartly.

"I think that is so," said the Lama gently.

"Well; it is not in my possession."

"But you know who has it," said the Lama, looking straight at him.

The jeweler did not answer, and the Lama's eyes beamed with
intelligence. The young Tibetan moved at last and whispered in
his ear. The Lama nodded almost imperceptibly, turning the dog's
collar around again with leisurely fingers, whose touch seemed
magically satisfying to Diana. He looked once, sharply, at the
big brass Buddha, let his eyes rest again on the jeweler's, and
went on speaking. "What a man can not do is no weight against
him. It be the hand of Destiny, preventing him from a mistake.
The deeds a man does are the fruits that are weighed in the
balance and from which the seeds of future lives are saved.
Peace be with you. Peace refresh you. Peace give you peace that
you may multiply it, Chutter Chand."

The Lama arose and the younger man rolled up the mat. Diana
jumped to her feet. Chutter Chand made an attempt to get out of
his chair with dignity; but the Lama seemed to have monopolized
in his own person all the dignity there was in sight, which was
embarrassing. "Er--ah--I appreciate the blessing. Er--ah--are
you going? But you haven't told me what I asked about the jade
--ah--would you care to come again?--Perhaps--"

The Lama smiled, stroked Diana's head, bowed, so that his long
skirts swung like a bronze bell, and one almost expected a
resonant boom to follow, and led the way out, followed by the
younger man, who smiled once so suddenly and brightly that
Chutter Chand's nervous irritation vanished. But it returned the
moment they had gone. He jumped at the noise Ommony made pushing
the brass Buddha away from the wall.

"Damn them both!" he exploded. "Sahib, I hate to be mystified!
I detest to be patronized! I feel I made myself contemptible!
I could not think! I could not make my brain invent the
questions that I should have asked!"

"You did pretty well," said Ommony. "See 'em home, girl!"

Diana's tail went between her legs, but she did not hesitate;
she trotted out of the shop--stood still a moment on the
sidewalk--sniffed--vanished.

"Sahib, they will send some one to loot this shop of mine! Ommonee--"

"Tut-tut! Those two didn't overlook one detail. The young one
read my name on Diana's collar and whispered it to the Lama. The
Lama knew I was behind the Buddha. He suspected something when
he felt the chair-seat and found it warm."

"Worse and worse!" said Chutter Chand despondently. "To incur
the enmity of such people is more dangerous than to tamper with
my snakes!"

Chutter Chand, his brain full of western and eastern science, his
suit from London and his turban from Lahore, yearned to the West
for protection from eastern mystery. Ommony, all English,
steeped in the Orient for twenty years, had thrown his thought
eastward and was reckoning like lightning in terms of Indian thought.

"They didn't suspect my presence until _after_ they came in here.
Shut up, Chutter Chand! Listen to me!--They'll have brought a
man to watch outside the shop and follow any one who follows
_them._ They can't have cautioned him about the dog, because
they didn't know about the dog, and they would never suspect a
dog of having enough intelligence. Their man will be still out
there watching the shop-door. Wait here!"

He ran into the outer shop, hid behind one of the curtains at the
door, and stood facing the mirror that gave him a view of the
"constabeel's" back and of fifty yards of crowded street,
including the sidewalk opposite. The "constabeel" appeared to be
intently watching somebody, and in less than a minute Ommony
picked out the individual--a tall, good-looking, boy-faced
Hillman in a costume that suggested Bhutan or Sikkim--shapeless
trousers and a long robe over them, with a sort of jacket on top
of that. He was trying to look innocent, which is the surest way
of attracting attention; and he was so intent on watching the
shop-door that passers-by continually bunted into him--whereat he
seemed to find it hard to keep his temper. Ommony watched him
for a minute or two, and then spoke to the policeman through
the curtain.

The policeman nearly gave the game away by turning his head to
listen, but spat and scratched himself to cover the mistake.
Ommony repeated his instructions carefully and the policeman
strolled down-street. Ommony emerged and walked slowly in the
opposite direction; over the way, the Hillman began at once to
follow him, suiting his pace to Ommony's. Ommony crossed the
street; so did the policeman. Ommony turned and walked toward
the Hillman; the policeman followed suit, approaching from the
rear. Ommony came to a halt exactly in front of the Hillman,
feeling dwarfed by the man's big-boned stature and aware of the
handle of a long knife just emerging through a slit in a robe
that reeked strongly of ghee. The policeman, nervously fingering
his club, halted to the Hillman's rear, six feet away. Passers
-by began to detect food for curiosity; there were searching
glances and a palpable hesitation; there would have been a crowd
in sixty seconds.

"Come with me," said Ommony, in Prakrit.

"Why?" asked the Hillman, staring at him, wide-eyed with surprise
at being spoken to in his own tongue. 

"Because if you do, no harm will come to you;
and if you don't you'll go to jail."

The Hillman's hand crept instinctively toward his knife, and the
policeman made ready to swing for the back of his head with a
hard-wood club.

"Are you a fool, that you don't know a friend when you meet one?"
asked Ommony.

"I have met enemies, and women, and one or two whom I called
master, and many whom I have mastered--but never a friend yet!"
the Hillman answered. "Who art thou?"

"Come with me and learn," said Ommony.

The Hillman hesitated, but the crowd was distinctly beginning to
gather now--a little way off, not sure yet but alert for the
first hint of happenings. It grew clear to the Hillman that
escape might not be easy.

"I fear no man!" he said, turning his head and recognizing
the policeman, who was hardly two-thirds his size. He spat
eloquently for the policeman's benefit, missing him neatly by
about the thickness of a knife-blade. "Whither!" he asked then,
looking straight into Ommony's eyes.

Ommony led the way across the street into Chutter Chand's shop,
where he halted to let the Hillman go in first.

"Nay, lead on!" said the Hillman, stepping aside.

"No. For you have a weapon and I have none. Moreover, I have
said I am a friend, and I prefer to be a living friend rather
than a dead one! Go in first," laughed Ommony.

The Hillman laughed back. There was none of the solemnity about
him that enshrouds the men from the Northwest frontier. Eastward
along the Himalayas, where the smell of sweat leaves off and the
smell of rancid butter begins, laughter becomes part of life and
not an insult or indignity. He swaggered into the shop with no
more argument and at a nod from Ommony walked straight through to
the office at the rear.

"Krishna!" exclaimed Chutter Chand. He jumped for a corner,
seized a two-handed Samurai sword, drew it from the scabbard, and
laid it on the desk. "I will let my snakes loose!" he almost
screamed, in Hindustanee.

But the Hillman sat down on the floor, on the exact spot where
the Lama had been, and Ommony sat down in the chair facing him,
motioning to Chutter Chand to resume the other chair and
be sensible.

"But this is the ruffian who came and threatened me!" said
Chutter Chand. "That knife of his is saw-edged! Take it from
him, Ommonee!"

The Hillman appeared to know no English, but seemed to have made
up his mind about Ommony. Friendship he might not believe in,
but he could recognize good faith. He watched Ommony's face as a
child follows a motion picture.

"What is your name?" asked Ommony.

"Dawa Tsering."

"Where are you from?"

"Spiti."

"Oh, my God!" exclaimed Chutter Chand. "Does he say he is from
Spiti? They are all devils who come from that country! It is
there they practise polyandry, and their dead are eaten by dogs!
He is unclean!"

"Who is that Lama who was in here just now?" Ommony went on.

"Tsiang Samdup."

Chutter Chand did not catch that name; or, if he did, the name
meant nothing to him. Ommony, on the other hand, had to use all
his power of will to suppress excitement, and even so he could
not quite control himself. The Hillman noticed the change
of expression.

"Aye," he said, "Tsiang Samdup is a great one."

"Who is the other who was with him--the young one?"

"His _chela_." * [* Disciple]

"What name?"

"Samding. Some call him San-fun-ho."

"And what have you to do with them?"

Instead of answering, the Hillman retorted with a question.

"What is _thy_ name? Say it again. Ommonee? That sounds like a
name with magic in it. _Om mani padme hum!_ Who gave thee that
name? Eh? Thy father had it? Who was he? How is it a man
should take his father's name? Is the spirit of the father not
offended? Thou art a strange one, Ommonee."

"Why did you come in here some days ago and threaten Chutter
Chard?" asked Ommony.

"Why not!" said the Hillman. "Did I not ride under a te-rain,
like a leech on the belly of a horse, more hours and miles than
an eagle knows of? Did I not eat dust--and nothing else?
Did I not follow that rat Tin Lal to this _place?_ Did I not
--pretending to admire the cobra in the window--_see_ him with my
own eyes _sell_ the green stone to this little lover-of-snakes?
I _said_ too much. I _did_ too little. I should have slain them
both! But I feared, because I am a stranger in the city and
there were many people. Moreover, I had already slain a man--a
Hindu, who drove an iron car and broke the wheel of the cart I
rode in. I slew him with a spoke from the broken wheel. And
it seemed to me that if I should slay another man too soon
thereafter, it might fare ill with me, since the gods grow weary
of protecting a man too often. So I returned four days later,
thinking the gods might have forgotten the previous affair. They
owe me many favors. I have treated the gods handsomely. And
when this little rat of a jeweler swore he no longer had the
stone, I threatened him. I would have slain him if I thought he
really had it, but it seemed to me he told the truth. And he
promised to get the stone back from some one to whom he had
entrusted it. And I, vowing I would sever him in halves unless
he should keep faith, went and told Tsiang Samdup, who came here
accordingly, I following to protect the old man. I suppose
Tsiang Samdup now has the stone. Is that so?"

"He _shall_ have it," said Ommony.

"I think thou art _not_ a liar," said the Hillman, looking
straight into Ommony's eyes. "Now, I am a liar. If I should
have said that to thee, it would only be a fool who would believe
me, and a fool is nothing to be patient with. But I am not a
fool, and I believe thee--or I would plunge this knife into thy
liver! Who taught thee to speak my language?"

Ommony saw fit not to answer that. "Is it not enough for
thee that I can speak it? Where can I find the holy Lama
Tsiang Samdup?"

"Oh, as to that, he is not particularly holy--although others
seem to think he is; but I am from Spiti, where we study devils
and consider nonsense all this talk about purity and self
-abnegation and Nirvana. Who wants to go to Nirvana? What a
miserable place--just nothing! Besides, I know better. I have
studied these things. It is very simple. Knife a man in the
bowels, as the Goorkhas do with a _kukri,_ or as I do as a rule,
and he goes to hell for a while; he has a chance; by and by he
comes to life again. Cut his throat, however, and he dwells
between earth and heaven; he will come and haunt thee, having
nothing else to do, and that is very bad. Hit him here--" (he
laid a finger on his forehead, just above the nose)--"and he is
_dead._ That should only be done to men who are very bad indeed.
And that is the whole secret of religion."

Ommony looked serious. "I would like to talk to you about religion--"

"Oh, I could teach you the whole of it in a very short time."

"--but meanwhile, I would like to know where the holy Lama Tsiang
Samdup is staying."

"I don't know," said the Hillman.

"You are lying," said Ommony. "Is that not so?"

"Of course. Did you think I would tell you the truth?"

"No. That hardly occurred to me. Well--"

Diana came in, waving her long tail slowly. She flopped on the
floor beside Ommony and there was silence for about a minute
while the Hillman stared at her and she returned the gaze
with interest. Finally her lip curled, showing a prodigious
yellow fang and Ommony laid a hand on her head to silence
a thunderous growl.

"That is an incarnation of a devil!" said the Hillman. "In my
country we keep dogs as big as her to eat corpses. Devils, as a
rule, are very evil, but I think that one--" (he nodded at the
dog) "--is worse than others. Well--I go. Say to that fool at
the door that he should not offend me with his little stick, for
it may be he desires to live. I am glad I met thee, Ommonee."

He waved his hand, smiled like a Chinese cherub, and walked out,
ignoring Chutter Chand as utterly as if he had never seen him;
and at the door he smiled at the policeman as the sun smiles on
manure. The policeman did his best, but could not keep himself
from grinning back.

---------



He who puts his hand into the fire knows what he may expect. Nor
may the fire be blamed.

He who intrudes on a neighbor may receive what he does not
expect. Nor may the neighbor be blamed.

The fire will not be harmed; but the neighbor may be. And every
deed of every kind bears corresponding consequences to the doer.
You may spend a thousand lives repaying wrong done to a neighbor.

Therefore, of the two indiscretions prefer thrusting your own
hand into the fire.

'But there is a Middle Way, which avoids all trespassing.

--From the Book of the Sayings of Tsiang Samdup



CHAPTER V

The House at the End of the Passage

Chutter Chand's usefulness had vanished. His brain did not
function now that fear had the upper hand. He could think of
nothing but the Hillman's knife and of the possibility that there
might be more Hillmen, who would knock down the policeman at the
door, storm the shop, loot everything and slay.

"I tell you, Ommonee, you have only lived in India twenty years.
You do not know these people!"

He began hurriedly putting in order a mechanical system of
wire and weights by which the snakes might be released in
an emergency, all the while complaining bitterly against a
government whose laws forbade the keeping of firearms by
responsible, reputable, law-abiding citizens.

Ommony laughed and walked out with both fists in his pockets,
preceded by Diana, who was a lady of one idea at a time, and that
one next door to an obsession. She had "seen 'em home." Ergo,
she should now show Ommony where "home" was, and he was quite
satisfied to follow her. To have tracked Dawa Tsering the
Hillman would simply have been waste of time, for the man would
soon see he was followed and would almost certainly play a great
game of follow-my-leader all over town. Moreover, the very name
of the Lama--Tsiang Samdup--had excited Ommony in the sort of way
that news of an ancient tomb excites an archeologist.

It was well on toward evening--that quarter-of-an-hour when the
streets are most densely thronged and every one seems in a hurry
to get home or to get something done before starting homeward.
All cities are alike in that respect; there is a spate before
the slack of supper-time and temple services.

The hound threaded her way patiently through the crowd and turned
down a narrow thoroughfare past fruit and vegetable shops, where
chafferers were arguing to cheapen produce at the day's end
and all the races of the Punjab seemed to be mixed in tired
confusion--faded and ill-tempered because the evening breeze had
not yet come, and walls were giving off the oven-heat they had
stored up during the day.

There was no especial need to take precautions. Sufficient time
had elapsed since the Lama and his young companion left the
Chandni Chowk to convince them they had not been followed; and
in any case, the most ill-advised thing Ommony could have done
would have been to act secretively. A man attracts the least
attention if he goes straight forward.

Those who noticed him at all admired, or feared, the dog, and she
paid no attention even to the mongrels of her own genus, who
snarled from a respectable distance or fled down alleyways.
Diana turned at last down suffocating passages that led one into
another between blind walls, where death might overtake a man
without causing a stir a dozen yards away. But if you think of
death in India, you die. To live, you must think of living, and
be interested.

One of the passages opened at last into a square, whose walls
were built of blocks that had been quarried from the ancient
city; (for cities surrender themselves to posterity, even as
human mothers do). The paving was of the same material, still
bearing traces of the ancient carving, but rearranged at random
so that the pattern was all gone. At the end of the courtyard
was a stone building of three stories, whose upper windows
overlooked it. (Those below had been bricked up.) There was an
open door in the wall, that led into a long arched passage in
which other doors to right and left were visible. Diana ran
straight to the open door, and stopped.

Ommony began to feel now like a sailor on a lee shore, with rocks
ahead and pirates to windward. It was growing dark, for one
thing. At any moment the Hillman with the saw-edged knife and
the haphazard notions about death might approach down the passage
from the rear. Forward lay unknown territory, and a buttery
smell that more than hinted at the presence of northerners, whose
notions of hospitality might be less than none at all. He could
be seen through the window-shutters, but could not see in through
them. And he had in his pocket the lump of jade, that had lured
men all the way from beyond Tilgaun into the hot plains that they
hate. He wished he had left the jade somewhere.

It was the sound of a footstep some distance behind, that might
be the Hillman's, which decided him. He strode forward and
entered the door, his footsteps echoing under the arch. Diana
followed, growling; she seemed to have a feeling they were
being watched.

The passage presently turned to right and left in darkness, and
Ommony, as he paused to consider, became acutely conscious that
his trespass was not only rash, but impudent. He had no vestige
of right to intrude himself into the quarters of strangers, nor
had he the excuse that he did not know what he was doing. A
tourist might commit such an impertinence and be forgiven on the
ground of ignorance, but if _he_ should be knifed for ill manners
he would not be entitled to the slightest sympathy. He decided
at once to retrace his steps; and as he turned to face the dim
light in the doorway a voice spoke to him in English suddenly,
making his skin creep.

Diana barked savagely at a small iron grating in a door to one
side of the passage, filling the arch with echoes. It took him
several seconds to get the dog quiet. Then the voice again:

"Go away from here! Go away quickly!"

It sounded like a boy's voice--young--educated. It was not
pitched high; there was no note of excitement--hardly any
emphasis. Diana barked again furiously, and there was no time
for hesitation; either he was in danger or he was not; the
hound said, Yes; the boy's voice implied it; curiosity said,
Stay! Common sense said, Make for the open quickly! Intuition
said, Jump! and intuition is a despot whom it is not wise
to disobey.

He reached the courtyard neck and neck with Diana, who nearly
knocked him over as she faced about savagely with every hair
bristling, fangs bared, eyes aglare. He seized her by collar and
tail and threw his weight backward to stop her from springing at
the throat of a man in dingy gray, who paused in mid-stride, one
hand behind him, in the doorway. There was another man behind
him, dimly outlined in the gloom. Their faces, high-cheek-boned
and fanatical--almost Chinese--were fiercely confident, and why
they paused was not self-evident; for the man who held a hand
behind his back was armed, and with something heavy, as the angle
of his shoulder proved.

Diana saved that second. Her animal instinct was quicker than
Ommony's eye, that read anticipation in the faces in front of
him. She nearly knocked Ommony over again as she reversed the
direction of effort, broke the collar-hold and sprang past him,
burying her fangs in something (Ommony knew that gurgling,
smothered growl). She had knocked him sidewise and he spun to
regain his balance while a ten-pound tulwar split the whistling
air where his back had been. He was just in time to seize the
wrist that swung the weapon--seize it with both hands and wrench
it forward in the direction of effort. The saw-edged tulwar
clattered on the paving-blocks, but the enemy did not fall, for
Diana had him by the throat and was wrenching in the opposite
direction. It was Dawa Tsering!

The Hillman's hands groped for the hound's forelegs; to wrench
those apart was his only chance, unless Ommony could save him. A
spring tiger-trap was more likely to let go than Diana with a
throat-hold. Ommony took the only chance in sight; he yelled
"Guard!" to Diana, and crashed his fist into the Hillman's jaw,
knocking him flat on his back as Diana let up for a fraction of a
second to see what the new danger might be. He seized her by the
tail then and dragged her off before she could rush in to worry
her fallen foe.

Her turn again! Struggling to free herself, she dragged Ommony
in a half-circle, nearly pulling him off his feet as the man in
the doorway lunged with a long old-fashioned sword. The third
man seemed to prefer discretion, for he still lurked in the
shadow, but the man with the sword came on, using both hands now
and raising the sword above his head for a swipe that should
finish the business.

There was nothing for it but to let Diana go. Ommony yelled
"Guard!" again, and jumped for the saw-edged tulwar that had
clattered away into the shadow. His foot struck it and he
stooped for it as the swordsman swung. The blow missed. Diana
seized the foe from behind and ripped away yards of his long
cloak. Dawa Tsering struggled to his feet, more stunned by the
blow on the back of his head when he fell than mangled by Diana's
jaws; he staggered and seemed to have no sense of direction yet.

And now Ommony had the tulwar. He was no swordsman, but
neither was his antagonist, who was furthermore worried by
Diana from the rear.

"Guard, girl!" Ommony yelled at her, and discipline overcame
instinct. She began to keep her distance, rushing in to scare
the man and scooting out of reach when he turned to use his
weapon. The third man possibly had no sword, for he still
lurked in the doorway. Ommony ran, calling Diana, who came
bounding after him, turning at every third stride or so to
bark thunderous defiance.

The strange thing was that no crowd had come. The walls had
echoed Diana's barks and Ommony's sharp yells to her, that must
have sounded like the din of battle in the stone-walled silence.
It was almost pitch-dark now, and there were no lights from the
upper windows, although the glow of street-lights was already
visible like an aura against the sly. The whole affair began to
seem like a dream, and Ommony felt his hip pocket to make sure
the jade was still there. He paused in the throat of the
narrow passage by which he had come, sent the hound in ahead
of him, and turned to see if he was followed. He heard footsteps,
and waited. In that narrow space, with Diana to guard his back,
he felt he could protect himself with the tulwar against all comers.

But it was only one man--Dawa Tsering--holding a cloth to his
throat and walking unsteadily.

"Give me back my weapon, Ommonee!"

The words, spoken in Prakrit, were intelligible enough but
gurgled, as if his throat was choked and hardly functioning.
Diana tried to rush at him, but Ommony squeezed her to the wall
and grabbed her collar.

"Down!" he ordered, and she crouched at his feet, growling.

"Aye, hold her! I have had enough of that incarnated devil.
Give me my knife, Ommonee!"

"You call this butcher's ax a knife! You rascal, it's not a
minute since you tried to kill me with it!"

"Aye, but that is nothing. I missed. If you were dead, you
might complain. Give me the knife and be off!"

Ommony laughed. "You propose to have another crack at me, eh?"

"Not I! Those Lamas are a lousy gang! They told me I could come
to no harm if I obeyed them and said my prayers! Their magic is
useless. That she-devil of thine has torn my throat out! I
doubt if I shall ever sing again. Give me the knife, and I will
go back to the Hills. I wish I had never left Spiti!"

"I told you I am a friend," said Ommony, spearing about in his
mind for a clue as to how to carry on.

"Aye. I wish I had believed you. Give me the knife."

"Do you know your way around Delhi?"

"No. May devils befoul the city! That is, I know a little. I
can find my way to the te-rain."

Ommony felt in his pocket, found an envelope, and penciled an
address on it in bold printed characters.

"Midway between ten and eleven o'clock tonight, go out into
the streets and get into the first _gharri*_ you _meet._
[* Carriage] Give that to the driver. If the driver can't
read it, show it to passers-by until you find some one who
can. Then drive straight to that address, and I will pay
the _gharri-wallah.*_ If your throat needs doctoring, it
shall have it." [* Cab-driver]

"And my knife?"

"I will return it to you tonight, at that address."

"All right. I will come there."

"I suppose, if I had given you the knife back now, you would have
killed me with it!"

"Maybe. But you are no fool, Ommonee! You had better go
quickly, before those Lamas find some way of making trouble
for you."

Ommony accepted that advice, although he did not believe that, if
they really were Lamas, they would go out of their way to make
trouble for any one outside their own country. It is one thing
to attack an intruder; quite another thing to follow a man
through the streets and murder him. He was glad he had hurt
nobody. Dawa Tsering's hurt was plainly not serious. There is
no satisfaction whatever in violence (if it can possibly be
avoided) to a man of Ommony's temperament. He walked in a hurry
along the narrow, winding passageways and found the street again,
bought food for Diana, gave her the package to carry (for she was
temperamentally dangerous in a crowd _after_ having used her jaws
in action, unless given something definite to do), and after
fifteen minutes' search found a _gharri,_ in which he drove to
McGregor's office. McGregor was not there, so he pursued him to
his bungalow, where he fed Diana and examined curios for fifteen
minutes before deciding what to say.

McGregor understood that perfectly. He might not know Ommony as
he knew files, the law of probabilities, and criminal statistics;
he might, from deep experience, mistrust his own opinion; but he
did know that when Ommony poked around in that way, picking up
things and replacing them, it was wise to wait and not ask
questions. He smoked and watched his servant putting studs into
a clean dress-shirt.

"Have you one man you can absolutely bet on, who could take a
package to Tilgaun and could be trusted not to monkey with it on
the way, or lose it, or let it get stolen?" he asked at last.

"Number 17--Aaron Macauley, the Eurasian, is leaving for
Simla on tonight's train. He would probably want to spend
a day or two in Simla, but he could go on to Tilgaun after
that. He's quite dependable."

"Yes. I'd trust Aaron Macauley. I want a small box, stout
paper, string and sealing-wax."

McGregor produced them and watched Ommony wrap up the piece of
jade and seal it with his own old-fashioned signet ring. He
addressed the package to Miss Hannah Sanburn at the Tilgaun Mission.

"Better tell Macauley it contains bank-notes," said Ommony.
"That'll give him a sense of importance and keep him from being
too curious. Tell him to ask Miss Sanburn to keep the package
there for me until I come."

"All right. Now what's the theory?"

"Nothing much. I was attacked just now--not serious. The man
who got the worst of it will join us after dinner. I'll give you
all the grizzly details then. Might possibly surprise you. See
you again at Mrs. Cornock-Campbell's."

"Who is a fountain of surprises," said McGregor, smiling.
"Meanwhile, how about protection? Do you want a bodyguard?"
It was not exactly clear why he was smiling.

"No," said Ommony, looking contemplatively at Diana, who appeared
to have fallen asleep on a Bokhara rug, "I've got a more than
usually good one, thanks. Observe."

He started on tiptoe for the door. Diana reached it several
strides ahead of him and slipped out first, to sniff the wind and
make sure that the shadows held no lurking enemy.

"If men were as faithful as dogs," he began. But McGregor laughed:

"They're not. Faith, very largely, is absence of intelligence.
Intelligence has to be trained to be honest; it has no morals
otherwise. Without a good Scots grounding in religion, the
greater the intelligence the worse the crook."

"Oh, rot!" said Ommony, and walked out, leaving McGregor chuckling.

-----------



A certain poet, who was no fool, bade men take the cash and let
the credit go. I find this good advice, albeit difficult to
follow. Nevertheless, it is easier than what most men attempt.
They seek to take the cash and let the debit go, and that is
utterly impossible; for as we sow, we reap.
--From the Book of the Sayings of Tsiang Samdup



Chapter VI

"Missish-Anbun is Mad"


Even since the Armistice, when military glory topped the rise and
started on the down-grade of a cycle, there are still worse fates
than being wealthy in your own right and the wife of a colonel
commanding a Lancer regiment--even if your children have to go to
Europe to be schooled, and your husband is under canvas half the
time. And there are much worse fates than dining with Mrs.
Cornock-Campbell, anywhere, in any circumstances. To be in a
position to invite yourself to dinner at her Delhi bungalow means
that, whatever your occupation, you may view life now and then
from the summit, looking downward. Viceroys come and go. Mrs.
Cornock-Campbell usually educates their wives.

They say she knows everything--even why the German Crown Prince
once cut short a tour of India; and that, of course, means she
is no longer in the bloom of youth, and never indiscreet, for
you don't learn state secrets by being young and talkative.

Ommony is one of her pet cronies, though they rarely meet (which
is the way things happen in India). He looks such a blunt
old-fashioned bachelor in a dinner-jacket dating from away before
the war, the contrast he creates with modern artificial cynicism
is so satisfying, and he so utterly lacks pose or pretense, that
he brings out all her vivacity (which is apt to be chilled
when imitation people assume manners for the sake of meals).

The talk, for the hour while dinner lasted, was of anything in
the world but Ringding Lamas and the Ahbor country. Ommony was
probed for epigrams, coined in the depths of his forest, that
should make John McGregor wince and laugh--such statements as
that "You can look for faults or virtue. Vultures prefer ullage.
Suit yourself. A man sees his own vices and his own virtues
reflected in his neighbor--nothing else! Another's crimes are
what you yourself would commit under equally strong pressure.
His virtues are greater than your own, if only because they're
less obvious. The most indecent exhibition in the world is
virtue without her cloak on!" Not polite exactly, (particularly
not to the chief of the Secret Service), but not tainted by
circumlocution. And again: "They say the fact that people work
entitles them to vote. Horses work harder than men! Soap-box
nonsense! The only excuse for work is that you like it, and the
only honest objection to loafing is that it's bad for you."

John McGregor, in the rare hours when he is not feeling the pulse
of India's restless underworld, is an addict of the Wee Free Kirk
with convictions regarding the devil.

"A personal devil?" said Ommony. "I wish there was one! Hell
breeds more dangerous stuff than that! If I thought there was a
devil, I'd vote for him. He'd clean up politics."

John McGregor, ganglion of India's crime statistics and acquainted
with all evil at first hand, was shocked, to Mrs. Cornock-Campbell's
huge delight.

"Now, John! What have you to say to that?"

McGregor cracked a nut nervously and sipped at his Madeira.

"He could find a host of half-baked theorists to praise him for
the blasphemy," he said deliberately, "but the ultimate appalling
circumstance of being damned is a high price for applause."

Ommony laughed. "I'd rather be thought damned by a man I respect
than be praised by damned fools," he retorted. "We three will
meet beyond the border, Mae. I'm looking forward to it. I can't
see anything unpleasant in death, except the morbid business of
dying. _'May there be no moaning at the bar when I put out to
sea.'_ It looks as if I might be the first of the three of us to
take that trip."

So, by a roundabout route, the conversation drifted to its goal.
Over her shoulder, at the piano, in the rose and ivory music-room
after dinner Mrs. Cornock-Campbell tossed the question that
brought secrets to the surface. "John says you are going to the
Ahbor country."

John McGregor's eyes glowed with anticipation, but he crossed his
legs and lit a cigarette, throwing himself back into the shadow
of an antique chair to hide the smile.

"Going to try," said Ommony. "My sister and Fred Terry
disappeared up there twenty years ago. They left no trace."

"Are you sure?"

She went on playing from Chopin and Ommony did not notice the
inflection of her voice; he was listening to the piano's
overtones, vaguely displeased when she closed the piano without
finishing the nocturne.

"I was at Tilgaun seven months ago," she said. "Colin" (that was
her husband) "had to go to Burma, so I went to Darjiling. I
heard of the Marmaduke Mission, and grew curious. I wrote, and
Miss Sanburn kindly invited me to come and stay with her. The
most delightful place. Please pass me a cigarette."

"Did Hannah mention me?" asked Ommony.

"Indeed she did. You seem to be her _beau ideal;_ and funnily
enough she said you, and the Lama Tsiang Samdup must have been
twin brothers in a former incarnation! She told me you and he
have never met each other, although you are co-trustees with her
under Marmaduke's will. It sounds like Gilbert and Sullivan. I
didn't see the Lama, but I did meet some one else who is quite
as interesting."

McGregor crossed his legs and blew smoke at the ceiling.

"How well do you know Miss Sanburn?" asked Mrs. Cornock-Campbell
at the end of a minute's silence. She was watching Diana,
stretched out on the bearskin, hunting gloriously in a dream
-Valhalla. If she saw Ommony's face it was through the corner
of one eye.

"Oh, as well as a man can ever hope to know a very unusual
woman," said Ommony.

"That doesn't go deep--does it! I admit I suspected _you_ at
first. Then I remembered how long I have known you and--well
--you're unorthodox, and you're a rebel, but--I couldn't imagine
you leaving a child nameless."

"What on earth do you mean?" asked Ommony.

"So I suspected Marmaduke--naturally. But all sorts of dates and
circumstances turned up quite casually, which eliminated _him._
I was at Tilgaun a whole month before I was quite sure that Miss
Sanburn is not a mother. I was almost disappointed! She is such
a dear--I admire her so much--that it would have given me a
selfish satisfaction to know such an abysmal secret, and to keep
it even on a deathbed! However, the child is not hers. She
calls her an adopted daughter, though I doubt that there are any
legal papers. The girl is white. She's about twenty. The
strangest part is this: that the girl disappears at intervals."

"This is all news to me," said Ommony. "Mac said something, but--"

"It isn't news, you iconoclast! It's a most romantic mystery.
The girl was there when I arrived. She wouldn't have been; but
you know what a business it is to get to Tilgaun. I was supposed
to wait for ponies and servants from the mission; they didn't
come, and as there was a party of rajah's people going, I
traveled with them. They were in a hurry, so I reached the
mission quite a number of days before I was expected, and I met
the girl on the far side of the rope bridge just before you reach
Tilgaun--you remember the place? There's a low steep cliff with
only a narrow passage leading out of it. She was sitting there
nursing a twisted ankle--nothing serious--but she couldn't get
away without my seeing her; and of course it never entered my
head to suspect that she would want to avoid me. She told me her
name was Elsa."

"That was my sister's name," remarked Ommony, who had an old
-fashioned way of growing sentimental when that name cropped up
among intimates.

"I lent her a spare pony and she rode up to the mission with me.
Jolly--she was the jolliest girl I have ever seen, all laughter
and intelligence--with strange sudden fits of demureness--or
perhaps that isn't the right word. Freeze isn't the right word
either. She would suddenly lapse into silence and her face would
grow absolutely calm--not expressionless, but calm--like a
Chinese girl's. It was as if she were two distinct and separate
women. But she's white. I watched her fingernails."

"Might be Chinese," Ommony suggested. "They're given to
laughter, and their fingernails don't show the dark lunula
when they're pressed. Hannah Sanburn receives all comers
at the mission."

"I am certain she is English," Mrs. Cornock-Campbell answered.
"But as far as I could judge she speaks Tibetan and several
dialects perfectly. Her English hasn't a trace of Chi-chi
accent. She has been wonderfully educated. She has art in every
fiber of her being--plays the piano fairly well--mostly her own
compositions, and you may believe me or not, they're fit to be
played by a _master._ And she draws perfectly, from memory.
That night at supper, and afterward, she talked incessantly and
kept on illustrating what she meant by drawing on sheets of
paper--wonderful things--not caricatures--snap-shots of people
and things she had seen. Wait; I've kept some of them. Let me
show you."

She found a portfolio and laid it on Ommony's lap. He turned
over sheet after sheet of pencil drawings that seemed to have
caught motion in the act--yaks, camels, oxen, Tibetan men and
women taken in mid-smile, old monastery doorways, flowers--done
swiftly and with humor. There was a sureness of touch that men
work lifetimes to achieve; and there was a quality that almost
nobody in this age has achieved--a sort of spirit of antiquity,
as simple as it was indefinable in words. It was as if the
artist knew that things are never what they seem, but was
translating what she saw of things' origins into modern terms
that could be understood. The drawings were of yesterday,
clothed in the garments of today and looking forward to tomorrow.

"She seemed to see right through you," Mrs. Cornock-Campbell went
on. "I don't believe the smartest man in the world could fool
that girl. She has the something within that men instinctively
recognize and don't try to take liberties with. She seemed
equally familiar with Tibetan and European thought, as well as
life, and to know all the country to the northward. I gathered
she had been to Lhassa, which seems incredible, but she spoke of
it as if she knew the very street-stones, and you'll see there
are sketches of bits of Lhassa in that portfolio--notice the
portrait of the Dalai-Lama and the sketch of the southern gate.

"And all the while the girl talked Miss Sanburn seemed as proud
and as uncomfortable as a martyr at the stake! When Elsa began
to talk of Lhassa I thought Miss Sanburn would burst with
anxiety; you could see she was on the perpetual point of
cautioning her not to be indiscreet, but she restrained herself
with a forced smile that made me simply love her. I know Miss
Sanburn was in agonies of terror all the time.

"When Elsa had gone to bed--that was long after midnight--I asked
Miss Sanburn what her surname was. She hesitated for about
thirty seconds, looking at me--"

"I know how she looked," said Ommony. "Like a fighting-man with
a heartache. That look has often puzzled me. What did she say?"

"She said: 'Mrs. Cornock-Campbell, it was not intended you
should meet Elsa. She is my adopted daughter. There are
reasons--.' And of course at that I interrupted. I assured her
I don't pry into people's secrets. She asked me whether I would
mind not discussing what little I already knew. She said: 'I'm
sorry I can't explain, but it is important that Elsa's very
existence should be known to as few people as possible,
especially in India.' Of course, I promised, but she agreed to a
reservation that I might mention having met the girl, if anything
I could say should seem likely to quiet inquisitive people. And
that was a good thing, because I had no sooner returned to Delhi
than John McGregor came to dinner and asked me pointedly whether
I had seen any mysterious young woman at Tilgaun. I think John
intended to investigate her with his staff of experts in--what is
the right word, John?"

"Worm's-eye views," said McGregor. "Not all the king's horses
nor all the king's men could have called me off, as you did with
a smile and a glass of Madeira. Thus are governments corrupted."

"So you're the second individual to whom I have opened my lips
about it," said Mrs. Cornock-Campbell, not exactly watching
Ommony, but missing none of his expression, which was of
dawning comprehension.

"I'm beginning to understand about a hundred things," he said
musingly. "You'd think, though, Hannah would have told _me._"

Mrs. Cornock-Campbell smiled at John McGregor. "Didn't you know
he'd say just that! Wake up, Cottswold! This isn't church!
It's because you're her closest friend that you're the last
person in the world she would tell. She's a _woman!_"

Then there were noises in the garden and Diana left off dreaming
on the bearskin to growl like an earthquake.

"An acquaintance of mine," said Ommony. "If you can endure the
smell, please let him in. Or we might try the veranda."

Diana had to be forcibly suppressed. The butler, a Goanese
(which means that he had oddly assorted fears, as well as a mixed
ancestry and cross-bred notions of convention, that were skin
deep and as hard as onyx) had to be rebuked for near-rebellion.
And Dawa Tsering, with his neck swathed in weirdly-smelling
cloth, had to be given a mat to sit on, lest he spoil the carpet.
It needed that setting to make plain how innocent of cleanliness
his clothes were; and his reek was of underground donkey
stables, with some sort of chemical added. (There were reasons,
connected with possible eavesdroppers, why the deep veranda
was unsuitable.)

"And the knife, Ommonee?" he asked, squatting cross-legged,
admiring the room. "Is this thy house? Thou art a rich man! I
think I will be thy servant for a while. Is the woman thy wife?
It is not good to be a woman's servant. Besides, I am a poor
hand at obedience. Nay, return me my knife and I will go."

"Not yet," said Ommony, studying by which roundabout route it
might be easiest to elicit information. He decided on the
sympathetic-personal. The man's neck had plainly received
attention, but the subject served. "Shall I get a doctor for
your neck?"

"Nay, Tsiang Samdup made magic and put leeches on it and some
stuff that burned. Lo, I recover."

"You mean the holy Lama Tsiang Samdup? The Ringding Gelong Lama?
He who was at Chutter Chand's this afternoon?"

Ommony knew quite well whom he meant, but he wanted to convey the
information to the others without putting the Hillman on guard.
By the look in the Hillman's eye, his mood was talkative
--boastful--a reaction from the failure of the afternoon.

"Aye, the same."

"I should have thought his _chela_ would have attended to that."

"Samding! Nay, they say that fellow is too sacred altogether.
Not that I believe it; I could cut his throat and show them he
dies gurgling and whistling like any other man! But the Lama
looks after him like an old wife with a young husband and the boy
mayn't soil his fingers. Rebuke thy dog, Ommonee--she eyes me
like a devil in the dark. So, that is better. _Ohe_--I wish I
had never come southward! Yet, I have seen this house of thine.
It is a wonder. It will serve to speak of, when I go back to
Spiti and tell tales around the fire."

Ommony translated for the others' benefit, and went on questioning.

"I suppose you will return to Tilgaun with the Lama and his _chela?_"

"May the stars and my _karma_ forbid! I go under the belly of a
te-rain, as I came. To Kalka I go; and thence by foot on the
old road to Simla, where I know a man who will pay me to carry
goods to the rajah of Spiti. That is a long journey and a
difficult. I shall be _well_ paid."

Again Ommony translated.

"Ask him how and where he learned that trick of riding under
trains," said McGregor.

"Oh, as to that," said Dawa Tsering, "there are few things
simpler. In my youth" (he spoke as if he were already ancient,
instead of perhaps two-or three-and-twenty) "I desired a woman of
Spiti whose husband was unwise. He should have gone on a journey
oftener. And he should not have returned in such haste. I
wearied of his homecomings, so I lay in wait and slew him. And
the rajah of Spiti, who is a jealous man--liking to attend to all
the slaying in that country, which is nevertheless too much for
one individual, even if he _does_ have an army of fifty men--
fined me three hundred _rupees.*_ Where should I get such a
fortune? Yet, unless I paid it, I should have to join his army
and gather fuel, which is as scarce in Spiti as an honest woman.
So I ran away. And after wandering about the Hills a month or
two, enjoying this and that adventure, I reached Simla, where I
met a man with whom I gambled, he offering to teach me a new
game, not knowing we use dice in Spiti. And _his_ dice were
loaded. So I substituted mine. And when I had won from him more
than he could pay, he offered to teach me his profession."

-------
* About one hundred dollars
-------

"Gambling?" asked Ommony.

"Nay. I never gamble. I take no chances. I do the gods a favor
now and then, since it seems from all accounts they need it, but
I never trust them. That fellow told me of the te-rains that run
from Kalka southward, to and fro, and of the many _rupees_ that
the passengers leave in their pockets while they sleep. He
supposed I would undertake the dangerous part and thereafter
share the loot with him, and he showed me how to hide under a
te-rain until nightfall and then--but it was _easy._ And I found
out after a while where he hid the half of our profits, which he
_claimed_ as _his_ share after _I_ had done all the climbing in
and out of windows in the dark. So I took what he had hidden,
and, what with my own savings, the total amounted to more than a
thousand _rupees._ Then I returned to Spiti, and I buried the
money in a certain place, and went to the rajah and lied to him,
saying I had earned the amount of the fine as a wood-cutter but
that a certain one (who was _always_ my enemy) had stolen the
money from me on the very first night that I returned. So the
rajah transferred my fine to that other man, who had to pay it,
and then, of course, I had to leave Spiti again--swiftly. That
other man has many friends. But I will find a way to deal with
him."

"When did you first meet the holy Lama Tsiang Samdup?" Ommony asked.

"Hah! I returned to the te-rains, being minded to make a
fortune, but the gods played a scurvy trick on me. I was doing
nicely; but on a certain night a fool of a policeman pounced on
me at an _istashun*_ just as I was crawling in under the wheels.
He dragged me out by the leg, and it was not a proper time to
kill him, since there were many witnesses. So I raised a
lamentation, saying I would ride to Delhi to the bedside of a
friend, and that I had no fare. And lo, the Lama Tsiang Samdup
stepped out of the te-rain and paid my fare, praying that I would
permit him thus to acquire merit. So I rode with him to Delhi,
he questioning me all the night-long and I at my wits' end to
invent sufficient lies wherewith to answer him. And in Delhi I
being a stranger in the city, he set out with me to help me find
my friend; and, there being no friend, we naturally did not find
him, whereat the Lama wept. So it seemed to me he was a man who
needed some one to look after him; moreover, he was certainly a
very rich man. And I had not yet thought of a way of defeating
my enemy in Spiti. Restrain thy she-dog, Ommonee; I like not
the look in her eye."

---------
* Railway station
---------

Ommony put Diana outside with orders to guard the front door.

"How long ago did this happen?" he asked, forcing himself to look
only vaguely interested as he resumed his seat.

"Oh, maybe a year ago--or longer. The time passes. I agreed to
serve the Lama for a while, although he wearied me with his
everlasting lectures about merit, and the Wheel, and the gods
know what else. Also he keeps low company--actors and singers
and such folk. When he left me at Tilgaun on his way northward I
was well content to rest from him a while. He gave me money, of
which he has _plenty_ although he is much too careful with it;
and there were good-looking girls at the mission, which is a
marvel of a place with a high wall. But I saw how to climb the
wall. So it came about that there was trouble between me and
Missish-Anbun--she who is Abbess of the place--a bold woman, who
was not afraid to stand up to me and speak her mind. Lo, I
showed her my knife and she laughed at it! I speak truth. So by
the time the Lama came back from the North I was a by-word and a
mockery among the people of Tilgaun, who are a despicable lot but
prosperous, and full of a notion that Missish-Anbun is the cause
of all good fortune. And she, of course, being a woman and
unmarried (which is witchcraft) told tales to the Lama about me
when he returned; whereat he (the old fool!) was distressed,
saying he was answerable, in that he had left me there during
his absence. He spoke much about the Wheel, and merit, and
responsibility. And I, who can not help liking the old fool,
although I laugh at him--and at myself for eating rebuke from
him--was ashamed. Aye, I was ashamed. He made me promise to
perform acts of repentance--as he said, to offset my own sins
--but as I think, because he had a use for me.

"And now he had Samding with him, the _chela,_ whom all men in
that part regard as a reincarnation of some ancient prodigy who
has been dead so long that his bones must have dissolved into
powder. (But the priests tell just such tales, and who can say
they are not true?)

"And there was much excitement over a piece of green stone. It
had disappeared from somewhere up North, although none mentioned
the name of the place whence it had come, but I had heard
_some_thing, and the rest I saw. There had come a man from Ahbor
to the mission, dying of a belly-wound, and if _my_ advice had
been asked he would have been left to die outside the wall,
because those Ahbors are devils. I have heard they eat corpses,
which is a dog's business, and I know none dares to enter their
country. But Missish-Ambun is mad, and she took him into the
mission, where they stitched up the belly-wound and tried to make
him live. But he died, and they found the stone in his clothing,
and Missish-Anbun kept it. There was much talk about the stone,
for the most part nonsense; some said this, and some said that,
but it was clear enough that whoever really owned the stone had
set inquiries going and a rumor had been spread that there was
danger in possessing it.

"I had made up my mind to steal the stone from Missish-Anbun and
discover how much it might be worth to a man of some skill in
bargaining; for it seemed to me there could not be much danger
to me as long as I had my knife.--Where is my knife, Ommonee?
Presently? Well, don't forget to return it to me. That knife
and my future are one.

"As I was saying, I was about to steal the stone. But a girl in
the mission--one whose virtue I had satisfactory reason to
suspect--forestalled me. She took the stone and ran with it
toward the house of Sirdar Sirohe Singh, who is a prince of
devils, and a father of lice, and no good. (He had warned me to
leave Tilgaun, and I had told him who his father was.)

"And there had come a rat of a man named Tin Lal to Tilgaun, too
much given to asking questions. Him I was minded to slay,
because that girl, whose virtue I say was not such as others
seemed to think, no longer smiled at me when I sat in the sun
near the mission gate, but took more notice of Tin Lal than was
seemly. Night after night I had waited for her, and it came to
my ears too late that there was a reason, that concerned me, for
the smile in Tin Lal's impudent eye. I whetted the edge of my
knife on a stone by the image of the Lord Buddha that is set into
a niche in the mission wall.

"But the girl stole the stone and ran off with it, and Tin Lal
waited for her at a narrow place where the path to the _sirdar's_
house runs between a cliff on the one hand and a deep ravine on
the other--a place where the eagles nest and there is mist
ascending from the waterfall below. He pushed her into the
ravine and climbed down after her, taking the stone. And then
_he_ disappeared. And Sirdar Sirohe Singh, who is a dog--whose
liver is crawling lice--whose heart is a dead fish, accused _me_
of the deed. There was talk of bringing me before the rajah, and
there was other talk of driving me away.

"Nevertheless, I had promised the Lama I would wait for him in
Tilgaun. I was not minded that my time had come. Moreover, I am
one who keeps promises. So I slew the loudest talkers--very
secretly, by night; and after that there was not so much
insolence toward me when I passed up and down the village.

"_Ohe_--but I was weary of Tilgaun! And when the Lama came he at
first believed I had slain the girl and stolen the stone. But he
is not entirely a fool in all respects, and the _chela_ Samding
has more brains than a grown man with a beard down to his belly.
It was the _chela_ who said that if I had in truth stolen the
stone I would certainly have run away with it and not have stayed
in Tilgaun like an eagle hatching eggs. And the Lama, having
listened to a million lies and discovered the truth like a bird
in the mist among them, told me I might earn much merit by
following the trail of Tin Lal to the southward and recovering
the stone. The Lama Tsiang Samdup said to me, 'Slay not, but
obtain the stone from Tin Lal and I will pay thee more for it
than any other dozen men would pay.' And he named a price--a
very great price, which set me to dreaming of the girls in Spiti,
and of a valley where I am minded some day to build a house.

"So I, having furthermore a grudge of my own against Tin Lal,
agreed, and I followed the rat Tin Lal to Delhi, where, as I have
told you, I saw him, through the shop-window where the snake is,
sell the stone to Chutter Chand, the jeweler.

"But the Lama and Samding had come to Delhi likewise, and to them
I told what I had seen, having lost sight of Tin Lal in the
crowd. And now give me back the knife, Ommonee, that I may hunt
for Tin Lal. I have an extra grudge against him. Has he not
robbed me of the price the Lama would have paid me for the stone?
_Ohe_--my honor and my anger and his end are one! Give me the
knife, Ommonee."

The Hillman smiled winningly, as one who has talked his way into
a hard man's heart. He held his hand out, leaning forward as he
squatted on the mat.

"Tin Lal is in the jail," said Ommony.

"Oh, is that so? That makes it easy. I will wait outside the
jail. They will not keep him in there for ever."

"What is that house, where you tried to kill me this afternoon?"
Ommony asked.

"A place kept by Tibetans, where the Lama stays when in Delhi.
That is where the actor people come to see him."

"Why did you attack me?"

"Why not? You had said, the Lama shall have the stone.
Therefore it was clear to me that _you_ must have it. Therefore,
if I should take it from you I could sell it to the Lama. I am
no fool!"

Ommony, with something like contentment in his eye, began to
translate for the benefit of the others as much as he could
remember of Dawa Tsering's tale, tossing occasional questions to
the Hillman to get him to repeat some detail. It was the company
the Lama kept that seemed to interest him most.

"If you like," said McGregor, when the tale was finished, "I'll
have those Tibetans searched."

Ommony was about to refuse that offer, but his words were cut
short by an uproar on the porch. Diana--on guard and therefore
unable to be tempted from her post--was barking like a battery of
six-pounders. He strode into the hall and listened--heard
retreating footsteps--some one in no hurry pad-pad-padding firmly
on soft-soled shoes toward the garden gate.

He opened the door. Diana glanced angrily at a long, narrow,
white envelope that lay on the porch floor under the electric
light, and resumed her furious salvoes at the gate.

"So-ho, old lady--some one you knew brought a letter, eh? You
weren't indignant till he threw it down and retreated. You never
said a word while he was coming up the path." He wetted his
finger and tested the hot night air. "Uh-huh--wind's toward you
--recognized his smell--that's clear enough. All right--good dog
--on guard again."

He picked up the envelope and walked into the house. "Did you
tell the Lama where you were coming tonight?" he asked, standing
over Dawa Tsering, looking down at him.

"Aye. I did. Why not? How should I know, Ommonee, that this
was not a trap--and I with no knife to hack my way out of it!
Suppose that you had thrown me in the jail--who should then have
helped me unless the Lama knew? I am no fool."

"Did you tell him I said he shall have the green stone?"

"Nay! How often must I say I am no fool! _Would_ he buy the
stone from _me,_ after I had told him _you_ said he shall have
it?"

"The letter! The letter!" exclaimed Mrs. Cornock-Campbell. "Are
you made of iron, Cottswold? How can you hold a mysterious
letter in your hand without dying to know what is in it? Give it
to me! Let me open it, if you won't!"

Ommony passed it to her. John McGregor lit another cigarette.

---------



It is the teaching of financiers and statesmen, and of them who
make laws, and of most religionists, that of all things a man
should first seek safety--for his own skin--for his own money
--for his own soul. Yet I find this teaching strange; because
of all the dangers in the universe, the greatest lies in
self-preferment.
--From the Book of the Sayings of Tsiang Samdup



Chapter VII

"Sarcasm? I Wonder if that ever Pays."

The letter was written on the same long, ivory-colored paper as
that which had reached McGregor's office in the silver tube, but
this time it was not European handwriting, although the words
were English. Some one more used to a brush, such as the Chinese
use, and who regarded every pen-stroke as a work of art in true
relation to the whole; had taken a quill pen and almost painted
what he had to say, in terse strong sentences.

"To Cottswold Ommony, Esquire,
"At the house of his friend.

"May Destiny mete you full measure of mercy. The piece of jade
is neither yours nor mine. By deeds in the valley of indecision
a soul ascends or descends. You are one to whom reward is no
inducement; to whom honor is no more than wealth a pleasing
substitute for right doing. There is nothing done in this life
that is not balanced by justice in the lives to come and the
ultimate is peace. So do. And not by another's hand are deeds
done; nor is the end accomplished without doing all that lies at
the beginning. Thus the beginning is the end, and the end the
beginning, as a circle having no beginning and no end, from which
is no escape but by the Middle Way, which lies not yonder but at
the feet of him who searches. Take the stone to Tilgaun, which
is one stage of the journey to the place whence it came. From
Tilgaun onward let those be responsible on whom the burden falls.
There is danger in another's duty. Peace be with you. Peace
give you peace that you may multiply it.

"Tsiang Samdup."

Mrs. Cornock-Campbell read the letter aloud. Not smiling, she
passed it to Ommony and watched his face. He read it twice,
frowning, and gave it to McGregor, who emitted his staccato,
fox-bark laugh, which Diana heard and answered with one deep
musical bay from the porch. "That links him technically-tight,"
said McGregor, folding the letter with decisive finger-strokes
and stowing it into his pocket. "Where did he learn to write
such English?"

"Oxford," said Ommony. "He took D.D. and LL.D. Degrees, or so
Marmaduke told me. We're not the only section of humanity that
runs to Secret Service, Mac. We look for one thing, they for
another. There isn't much they don't know about us, along the
line that interests them."

Mrs. Cornock-Campbell looked incredulous.

"A Ringding Gelong Lama--an English Doctor of Divinity? Wonders
don't cease, do they! What could he gain by taking _that_
degree? Amusement? Are they as subtle as all that?"

"Subtle, yes. Amusement, no," said Ommony, frowning darkly.
"How spike the guns of the persistent missionary, unless they
know how the guns are loaded? That's the gist of one of his
letters to me. But damn the man! Why couldn't he meet me by
appointment instead of writing this stuff? I've suspected him
for some time of--"

Mrs. Cornock-Campbell laughed. "He evidently knows you,
Cottswold, better than you know him."

"Know him? I've never met him!" Ommony retorted. "I saw him
today for the first time, from behind a brass Buddha in Chutter
Chand's shop. There've been lots of times when he ought to have
met me, to talk over details in connection with the trusteeship,
but it all had to be done by correspondence. He has set his
signature to every paper I drew up, and he has agreed to every
proposal I have made. Confound him! Why is he afraid of me?
Why couldn't he come in, instead of leaving that fool letter on
the door-step?"

"Wise letter!" (Mrs. Cornock-Campbell went back to the piano.
None but Rimsky-Korsakof could describe her sensations.) "He
evidently knows how to manage you. Do you ever bet, John? I
will bet you five _rupees_ I know what's next!"

John McGregor drew a five-_rupee_ note from his pocket and laid
it on the piano. Mrs. Cornock-Campbell began playing. Dawa
Tsering, his head to one side like a bird's, watched her fingers,
listening intently.

"There are devils inside the machine," he said after a while.
"Give me my knife, Ommonee, and let me go." But Ommony, pacing
the floor, both hands behind him, frowning, took no notice of any
one. He was away off in a realm of conjecture of his own.

"Remember: I stand to lose five dibs!" McGregor remarked at the
end of five minutes. "Suppose you put me out of agony. I'm
Scots, you know!"

"Damn!" Ommony exclaimed. "Why can't he take me into his
confidence? I hate to suspect a man. Pen and ink anywhere?"

"I lose," said Mrs. Cornock-Campbell, nodding toward a gilt-and
-ivory writing desk against the wall. "Take back your five
_rupees,_ John. You'll find a five of mine being used as a
book-mark in one of those volumes of Walter Pater on the shelf.
Put something in its place."

McGregor paid himself. Ommony at the desk tore up sheet after
sheet of paper, chuckled at last, and wrote a final draft.
"There, that should do. That's obscure enough. That hoists
him with his own petard. Why don't women ever have clean
blotting-paper?"

He showed what he had written to McGregor, who read it aloud,
Mrs. Cornock-Campbell playing very softly while she listened.

"To the holy Lama Tsiang Samdup,
in the place where he has chosen to secrete himself.

"I will take the Middle Way if I can find it, and I hope neither
of us may get lost. I wish you all success.

"Cottswold Ommony."

"Sarcasm?" said Mrs. Cornock-Campbell. "I wonder if that ever
pays."

"We'll see!"

Ommony sealed up the envelope, on which he had written simply
"Tsiang Samdup," and stood over Dawa Tsering.

"Take this letter to the Lama. Come back here with proof you
have delivered it, and you shall have your knife."

"Send him in my dog-cart," McGregor advised. "My _sais_* is one
of those rare birds who do as they're told. He doesn't talk or
ask questions." [* Coachman]

So Dawa Tsering was seen on to the back seat of the dog-cart,
with a horse-blanket under him to keep grease off the cushion,
and the conference was resumed. McGregor questioned Ommony
narrowly concerning the events of the afternoon, and particularly
as to the exact location of the courtyard where the attack had
taken place.

"It doesn't look to me as if they meant to kill you," he said at
last. "It seems to me they were hell-bent on merely driving you
away. Um-tiddley-um-tum-tum--we've made a mess of this--we
_should_ have had that building watched. Katherine, I will bet
these ten _rupees_ that our friend from Spiti draws blank."

"Men are unintuitive creatures," Mrs. Cornock-Campbell answered.
"No, John, I won't bet. The obvious thing was to take the Lama
at his word and go straight to Tilgaun. I supposed Cottswold
would see that, but he didn't--did you? What is the objection?"

"This," said Ommony, pausing, looking obstinate, "he is either my
friend, or he isn't. He has every reason to be frank with me.
He has chosen the other line. All right."

"All wrong!" she answered, chuckling. "In that letter, in his
own way, he invited you to trust him."

"I don't!" remarked Ommony, shutting his jaws with a snap that
could be heard across the room.

He refused to explain himself. He was not quite sure he could
have done that, but had no inclination to try. If he had opened
his lips it would have been to invite McGregor to throw a plain
-clothes cordon around that house at the end of the courtyard,
search the place and expose its secrets.

Habitual self-control alone prevented that. Twenty years of
living courteously in a conquered country, making full allowance
for the feelings of those who must look to him for justice, had
bred a restraint that ill-temper could not overthrow. But he did
not dare to let himself speak just then. He preferred to be
rude--took up a book and began reading.

Mrs. Cornock-Campbell went on playing. John McGregor smoked in
silence, pulling out the Lama's letter, reading it over and over,
trying to discover hidden meanings. So more than an hour went by
with hardly a word spoken, and it was long after midnight when
the wheels of McGregor's returning dog-cart skidded on the loose
gravel of the drive at the rear of the house and Diana awoke on
the porch to tell the moon about it.

Dawa Tsering was admitted through the back door and shepherded in
by the butler, who held his nose, but who was not otherwise so
lacking in appreciation as to shut the door tight when he left
the room. Ommony strode to the door, opened it wide, looked into
the frightened eyes of the Goanese and watched him until he
disappeared through a swinging door at the end of the passage.

"Now," he said, shutting the door tight behind him.

"The Lama is gone!" Dawa Tsering announced dramatically. "If I
had had my knife I would have slain the impudent devil who gave
me the news! Tripe out of the belly of a pig is his countenance!
Eggs are his eyes! He is a _ragyaba!*_ "

-------
* _Ragyabas_ are the lowest dregs of Tibetan society, who
live on the outskirts of towns and dispose of the dead. When
used, as in this case, as an adjective, the word has significance
too horrible to be translated. The man was, of course, _not_
a ragyaba.
-------

"The son of evil pretended not to know me! When I offered him the
letter for the Lama he growled that Tsiang Samdup and his _chela_
had gone elsewhere. When I bade him let me in, that I might see
for myself, he answered ignorantly."

"Ignorantly? How do you mean?"

"He struck me with a bucket, of which the contents were garbage
unsuitable to a man of my distinction. So I crowned him with the
bucket--thus--not gently--and his head went through the bottom of
the thing, so that, as it were, he wore a helmet full of smells
and could no longer see. So then I smote him in the belly with
my fist--thus--and with my foot--thus--as he fell. And then I
came away. And there is the letter. Smell it. Behold the
_dirt_ on it, in proof I lie not. Now give me my knife, Ommonee."

Ommony went into the hall and produced the "knife" from behind
the hat-rack. Dawa Tsering thumbed the edge of the blade
lovingly before thrusting the weapon into its leather scabbard
inside his shirt.

"Now I am a man again," he said devoutly. "They would better
avoid me with their buckets full of filth!"

Ommony studied him in silence for a moment. "Did you ever have a
bath?" he asked curiously.

"Aye. Tsiang Samdup and his _chela_ made me take one whenever
they happened to think fit. That is how I know they are not
especially holy. There is something heretical about them that I
do not understand."

"I am worse than they," said Ommony. 

"No doubt. They have their good points."

"I have none! You must wash yourself as often as I tell you, and
I shall give the order oftener than they did! From now on, you
are my servant."

"But who says so?"

"I do."

"You desire me?"

"No, because I already have you. I can dispose of you as I see
fit," said Ommony. "I can send you to the jail for killings and
for train-robberies, and for trying to murder me this afternoon.
Or I can bid you work out the score in other ways."

"That is true, more or less. Yes, there is something in what you
say, Ommonee."

"It is not more or less true. It is quite true."

"How so? Have I not my knife? Would you like to fight me? I
can slay that she-dog of thine as easily as I can lay thy bowels
on the floor."

"No," said Ommony, "no honorable man could do that to his master.
Are you not an honorable man?"

"None more so!"

"And I am your master, so that settles it."

Dawa Tsering looked puzzled; there was something in the
reasoning that escaped him. But it is what men do not understand
that binds them to others' chariot wheels.

"Well--I do not wish to return to Spiti--yet," he said reflectively.
"But about the bath--how often? Besides, it is contrary to my
religion, now I come to think of it."

"Change your religion, then. Now no more argument. Which way
has the Lama gone?"

"Oh, as to that--I suppose I could discover that. How much will
you pay me?"

"Thirty _rupees_ a month, clean clothing, two blankets and
your food."

"That is almost no pay at all," said Dawa Tsering. "To make a
profit at that rate, I should have to eat so much that my
belly would be at risk of bursting. There is discomfort in
so much eating."

"They would give you enough to eat and no more, without money, in
the jail," said Ommony, "and you would have to obey a _babu,_ and
be shaved by a contractor, and make mats without reward. And if
you were very well behaved, they would let you rake the head
_jemadar's_ garden. Moreover, Tin Lal, who is also in the jail,
would mock you at no risk to himself, since you would have
no knife; and because he is clever and malignant he would
constantly get you into trouble, laughing when you were punished.
And since he is only in the jail for a short time, and you would
be in for a long time, there would be no remedy. However,
suit yourself."

"You are a hard man, Ommonee!"

"I am. I have warned you."

"Oh, well: I suppose it is better so. A soft knife is quickly
dulled, and men are the same way. Yielding men are not dependable.
Pay me a month's wages in advance, and tomorrow we will buy
the blankets."

But beginnings are beginnings. A foundation not well laid
destroys the whole edifice.

"From now on until I set you free, _your_ desires are nothing,"
Ommony said sternly. "You consider _my_ needs and _my_
convenience. When I have time to consider yours, it will remain
to be seen whether I forget or not. Go and wait on the porch.
Try to make friends with the dog; she can teach you a lot you
must learn in one way or another. If the dog permits you leisure
for thought, try to imagine which way the Lama may have gone."

Dawa Tsering went out through the hall, too impressed by the
novelty of the situation even to mutter to himself. Ommony went
to the window and said two or three words to Diana, whose long
tail beat responsively on the teak boards. Presently came the
sound of Dawa Tsering's voice:

"O thou: my time has not come to be eaten.* Have wisdom!"

-------
* Referring of course, to the Tibetan custom of throwing out the
dead to be devoured by dogs.
--------

A low rumbling growl announced that Diana was considering the
situation, keeping Ommony's command in mind.

"I have no doubt thou art a very evil devil!"

Again the growl, followed by a thump and the shuffling sound of
Dawa Tsering squatting himself on the porch.

"So--thus. We will see whether Ommonee knows what he is doing.
Attack me, and die, thou mother of fangs and thunder! Then I
will know it is not my _karma_ to obey this Ommonee. Lie still,
thou earthquake, and I will--" His voice dropped to a murmur and
died away. Thoughts too obscure for expression seemed to have
riveted his whole attention. Ommony, peering through the shutter
slats, could see him sitting almost within arm's reach of the
dog, staring straight in front of him at the stars on the north
horizon. He turned to Mrs. Cornock-Campbell:

"And now I'll go away and let you sleep. When we come to your
house, Mac and I invariably forget manners and stay into the wee
small hours--"

But at a sign from her he sat down again. She closed the piano
and locked it. "Cottswold," she said, "tell me what you have in
mind. You have said too much or too little."

"I have told all I know--that is that I care to tell, even to
you," Ommony answered. "I suppose, as a matter of fact, I'm a
bit piqued. That Lama has had scores of opportunities to realize
that I wouldn't betray confidences. I am told I'm notorious for
refusing to tell the government what I know about individuals;
and the Lama is perfectly aware of that. I've risked my job
fifty times by insisting on holding my tongue. Am I right, Mac?"

"You are!" McGregor answered with a dry smile. "I remember, I
once considered it my duty to advise threatening you with drastic
penalties. I would have ordered you tortured, but for the
cir-r-cumstance that that means of inducement is out of date.
And besides, I had ma doots of its efficacy in your instance."

Ommony grinned. He preferred that praise to all the orders in
the almanac. "So, damn the Lama!" he went on fervently. "He has
kept aloof for twenty years. I'm satisfied there's something
he's deliberately keeping from me. I've no notion what it is,
but that piece of jade is probably connected with it. I'm going
to track him--tempt him--force his hand."

"Are you sure you've no notion what he's keeping from you?" Mrs.
Cornock-Campbell asked; and Ommony stared hard at her, while
McGregor blew smoke at the ceiling.

"Perhaps I have a sort of notion--yes," he answered slowly.
"Sometimes I suspect he knows what took Fred Terry and my sister
to the Ahbor country."

"And?"

Mrs. Cornock-Campbell studied him with dark blue eyes that
seemed to search for something lacking in his mental make-up.

"He may know what became of them."

Mrs. Cornock-Campbell smiled and sighed. "Well--we three will
meet again before you go, I suppose?"

"No," said Ommony. "I expect to be gone before daybreak. I'll
write when I get the chance. If we don't meet again this side of
Yama's* Bar--"

--------
* Yama (pronounced yum) is the name of the god, in the Hindu
pantheon, who judges the souls of the dead.
--------

"This is India--it might happen," she answered. "Your friendship
has been one of five things that have made my life in India
worth while."

"Oh, nonsense," he said gruffly. The least trace of sentiment
frightened him.

"I'm glad I've helped," she went on. "It's a privilege to have
friends like you and John McGregor, who don't imagine they're in
love when you share their confidences! Good night. I don't
believe you're going to your doom. I think I'd know it if
you were."

"Doom? There isn't any! There's only a reshuffling of the
cards," said Ommony. "Good night."

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



We live in the eternal Now, and it is Now that we create our
destiny. It follows, that to grieve over the past is useless and
to make plans for the future is a waste of time. There is only
one ambition that is good, and that is: so to live Now that none
may weary of life's emptiness and none may have to do the task we
leave undone.
--From the Book of the Sayings of Tsiang Samdup



CHAPTER VIII

The Middle Way


No man can learn any more of India in twenty years, or in any
length of time, than he can learn about himself; and that is a
mystery, but it is the door to understanding. And that is why
men like Ommony and John McGregor, who have given to India the
whole of their active lives, will say in good faith that they
know very little about the country. It is also why they are
guarded in their praise of viceroys, and candidly suspicious of
all politicians; why they listen to the missionary with emotion
not entirely disconnected from cold anger; and why, when they
return to England in late life, ripened by experience, they do
not become leaders of men. Knowing how easily and how often they
have deceived others and themselves have been deceived, they do
not dare to pose as prophets.

However, there are naturally some things that they do know,
guide-books, government reports and "experts" notwithstanding.

They know (some of them) that news travels up and down India
without the aid of wire, semaphore or radio, and faster than any
mechanical means yet invented can imitate. It seems to travel
almost with the speed of thought, but although it gets noised
abroad none will ever tell which individual released it.*

-------
* There is the notorious instance of the news of Lord Roberts'
relief of Kandahar reaching Bombay long before the government in
Simla knew the facts. See _Forty Years in India,_ by Lord Roberts.
-------

They also know that there are routes of travel, unconnected with
the railway lines or trunk roads, not marked by recognizable
signposts, and obscure to all who have not the key to them. Some
of these routes are suspected to be religious in their origin and
purpose; some are political, (and those are better understood).
Some, they say, are survivals of forgotten periods of history
when conquered people had to devise means of communication that
could be kept absolutely secret from the conqueror.

At any rate, the routes are there, and are innumerable, crossing
one another like lines on the palm of a man's hand. A man with
the proper credentials (and whatever those are, they are neither
written nor carried on the person) can travel from end to end of
India, not often at high speed, but always secretly; and the
strange part is, that he may cross a hundred other routes as
unknown to himself as the one he travels by is secret from
other people.

The routes are opened, closed and changed mysteriously. The men
who use them seldom seem to know their exact detail in advance,
and the fact that a man has traveled once by one of them (or even
a dozen times) is no proof that he can return the same way. The
underground route by which runaway slaves were smuggled from
South to North before the Civil War in the United States is a
crude and merely suggestive illustration of how the system works;
and one thing is certain: these so-to-speak "underground"
communications have nothing whatever to do with the ordinary
pilgrim routes, although they may cross them at a thousand
points. Like eternity, they seem to have neither beginning, end,
nor relation to time; midnight is as high noon, and you cut into
them at any time or point you please--provided that you know how.

"Hotel, I supposes" said McGregor, tooling the dog-cart along at a
slow trot through the deserted streets. (They were deserted,
that is, of apparent life, but there are always scores of eyes
alert in India.)

"No. Set me down in the Chandni Chowk. I'll tell you where
to stop."

"Man alive, you can't go scouting in a dinner-jacket!"

"Why not?" Ommony asked obstinately.

McGregor did not answer.

Ommony spoke his mind in jerky sentences.

"Tomorrow morning--_this_ morning, I mean, be a good chap--pack
my things at the hotel--forward them all to Tilgaun. Send some
one you can trust. Let him leave them with Miss Sanburn--bring
back a receipt to you."

"Money?" asked McGregor, nodding.

"Plenty. If I need more I'll cash drafts on Chutter Chand."

"What name will you sign on them? I'd better warn him, hadn't
I?"

"No need. I'll make a mark on the drafts that he'll recognize."

"Going to take the dog with you?"

"Of course."

McGregor smiled to himself. Ommony noticed it.

"By the way, Mac, don't try to keep track of me."

"Um-m-m!" remarked McGregor.

Ommony's jaw came forward.

"I _might_ not know but _they_ would, Mac. You can't keep
a thing like that from them. They'd close the Middle Way
against me."

McGregor whistled softly. The Middle Way to Nirvana* is no
particular secret; any one may read of it in any of a thousand,
books, and he may tread that Path who dares to declare war on
desire. But that is esoteric, and no concern of the Secret
Service. Exoterically speaking, "The Middle Way" is a trail that
for more than a century the Secret Service has desired to learn
with all its inquisitive heart.

-------
* Nirvana. The ultimate object of attainment for the Buddhist.
The word has been translated "nothingness," and the non-Buddhist
missionaries are responsible for the commonly accepted and
totally false belief that it means "extinction." The truth is
that by "Nirvana" the Buddhist means a condition which it is
utterly impossible for the human mind to comprehend, but which
can be attained, after thousands of reincarnations, by strict
adherence to the Golden Rule--that is, by deeds and abstaining
from deeds not by words and self-indulgence. It is said that the
understanding of what is meant by "Nirvana" will dawn gradually
on the mind of him who is tolerant and strives unselfishly.
-------

"I mean it, Mac. All bets are off unless you promise."

"You needn't betray confidences," said McGregor. "You're not
responsible, if I keep tabs on you."

"That's a naked lie, and you know it, Mac! I can get through, if
I burn all bridges. I haven't learned what little I do know by
letting you know what I was doing. You know that."

"Um-m-m! If you're killed--or _disappear?_"

"That's my look-out."

"As a friend, you're all right. As an assistant, you're a
disappointing, independent devil!" said McGregor. "You're as
useful as a bellyache to open a can of corned beef with! All
right. Dammit. Have your own way. Remember, I shall take you
at your word. If you're ditched, there's no ambulance."

"Splendid! Then here's where I vanish--pull up by that lamp
-post, won't you? Well--so long, old chap. Nothing personal
--eh, Mac?"

"No, damn you! Nothing personal. I wish I were coming with you.
Good luck. Good-by, old chap."

They did not shake hands, for that might have implied that there
was a dwindling friendship, to be bridged or denied recognition.
Diana sprang down from behind and Dawa Tsering followed her.
McGregor drove away, not looking back, and the _sais_--the sole
occupant now of the back seat--sat with folded arms, staring
straight along the middle of the street. But Ommony took no
chances with the _sais;_ he watched until the dog-cart turned a
corner before he made a move of any kind.

Then he walked straight to a door between two shopfronts and
pounded on it. He had to wait about three minutes before the
door was opened--gingerly, at first, then after a moment's
inspection, suddenly and wide.

A very sleepy-looking Jew confronted him--a Jew of the long-nosed
type, with the earlock that betokened orthodoxy. He had a
straggly beard, which he stroked with not exactly nervous but
exceedingly alert long fingers.

"Ommony! This time of night?" he said in perfectly good English;
but there was nothing that even resembled English about his make-up. He wore a turban of embroidered silk and a Kashmir shawl
thrown over a cotton shirt and baggy pantaloons. His bare feet
showed through the straps of sandals.

"Let me in, Benjamin."

The Jew nodded and, holding a lantern high, led the way down a
passage beside a staircase into a big room at the rear, that was
piled with heaps of clothing--costumes of every kind and color,
some new, some second-hand, some worthy to be reckoned antiques.
There were shelves stacked with cosmetics and aromatic scents.
There were saddles, saddle-cloths and blankets; tents and camp
equipment; yak-hair shirts from over the Pamirs; prayer-mats
from Samarkhand; second-hand dress suits from London; silk
-hats, "bowlers," turbans; ancient swords and pistols; match-
locks, adorned with brass and turquoise and notched in the butt
suggestively. And there was a smell of all the ends of Asia,
that Diana sniffed and deciphered as a Sanskrit scholar reads
old manuscripts.

"I will have tea brought," said Benjamin, setting down the
lantern and shuffling away in the dark toward the stairs. The
impression was that he wanted time to think before indulging in
any conversation.

Ommony sat down on a heap of blankets and beckoned Dawa Tsering
to come closer to the light.

"Now you know where to find me," he said abruptly. "When the Jew
returns he shall let you out by the back door. Find your way to
that house in the courtyard. Tell those Tibetans that unless
that letter--you still have it?--is delivered to the Lama,
_he shall never get that for which he came to Delhi._ Do
you understand?"

"Do you take me for a fool, Ommonee? You mean if he receives
this letter he shall have the green stone? But that is the talk
of a crazy man. Tell him he must buy the stone, and then let me
do the bargaining!"

Ommony betrayed no more impatience than he used to when he was
teaching the puppy Diana the rudiments of her education. "I see
I have no use for you after all," he said, looking bored.

"Huh! A blind man could see better than that. It is as clear as
this lantern-light that you and I are destined to be useful to
each other. Nay, Ommonee, I will not go away!--What is that? I
am not worth paying? Is _that_ so! Very well, I will stay and
serve for nothing!--Do you hear me, Ommonee? Huh! Those are the
words of a great one--of a bold one--but it is nothing to me that
you will not have me thrown into prison if I get hence.--I say I
will _not_ go away!--You will not answer, eh?--Very well I will
go with the letter and that message. _Then_ we will see! One of
these days you will tell me I was right. Where is that Jew
_bunnia?_" * [* Merchant]

Benjamin came shuffling back along the passage, looking like an
elongated specter as he stood in the door with the dark behind
him. Dawa Tsering swaggered up to him demanding to be let
out, and from behind the Hillman's back Ommony made a signal
indicating the back door. Benjamin, very wide-awake now and
taking in everything with glittering black eyes, picked up the
lantern and, leaving Ommony in the dark, led the way into another
large room at the rear, out of which a door opened into an alley.

"That one not only has a stink, he has a devil! Beware of him,
Ommony!" he said, returning and sitting down on the blanket pile,
making no bones about it, not waiting for an invitation. He and
Ommony were evidently old friends. "My daughter will bring for
us tea in a minute. Hey-hey! We have all grown older since you
hid us in that forest of yours--where the ghosts are, Ommony, and
the wolves and the tigers! Gr-r-r-agh! What a time that was!
Our own people lifting hands against us! None but you believing
us innocent! Tch-tch-tch! That cave was a place of terrors, but
your heart was good. I left my middle-age in that cave, Ommony.
Since fifteen years ago I am an old man!"

The daughter came, carrying another lantern and a brass Benares
tray,--a large-eyed woman with black hair, plump and the wrong
side of forty, dressed in the Hindu fashion, her big breasts
bulging under a yellow silk shawl. She made as much fuss over
Ommony as if he were a long-lost husband but embarrassed him
hardly at all, because she did not use English and the eastern
words sounded less absurd than flattery does in any western tongue.

"The son-in-law? Aha!" said Benjamin, "Mordecai does well.
He is in Bokhara just now; but that is a secret. He buys
Bokhara pieces from the Jews who became poor on account of the
Bolshevism. _Tay-yay!_ It is a long way to Bokhara, and no
protection nowadays. We win or lose a fortune, Ommony!"

The daughter poured tea into China cups that had once been a
rajah's and the three drank together as if it were a sacred rite,
touching cups and murmuring words that are not in any dictionary.
Then the daughter went away and Ommony, leaning back against the
wall, with Diana's great head on his lap, discussed things with
Benjamin that would have made McGregor's ears burn if he had had
an inkling of them.

"Yes, Ommony, yes. I know which way the Lama travels. How do I
know--eh? How was it you knew that a she-bear had a young one
with her. Because she ground her teeth--wasn't that so? Well, I
didn't know that, but I know a little about the Lama. Let me
think. There is danger, Ommony, but--but--" (Benjamin's eyes
shone, and his fingers worked nervously, as if they were kneading
something concrete out of unseen ingredients) "--you love danger
as I love my daughter!--You remember the time when you secured
the costume business for me in the Panch Mahal in Pegu--when the
rajah married and spent a fortune in a week?"

Ommony nodded. Together he and Benjamin had done things that are
not included in the lives of routine-loving mortals--things that
are forbidden--things that the orthodox authorities declare are
not so. And there is mirth in memories of that kind, more than
in all the comedies at which one pays legitimately to look on.
Benjamin cackled and stroked his beard reminiscently.

"Did the rajah ever learn that you and I were actors in that
play? Heh-heh-heh! Did the priests ever discover it? Teh-teh
-teh-heh-heh! Oh, my people! Eh-heh! You remember how the
nautch-girls were inquisitive? Ommony, you had the key to the
temple crypts in your hand that minute! What actresses they
were! What incomparable artists! And what children! The half
of them were in love with you, and the other half were so
devoured by curiosity--_akh,_ how they wriggled with it!--they
would have betrayed the chief priest at a nod from you! And
didn't they dislike me! I haven't your gift, Ommony, for getting
into the hearts; I can only see behind the brains. And what I
see--but never mind. What times! What times! Did you never
follow that up? Did you penetrate the crypts? Did you now?"

"No time. Had to get back to work."

"Ah, well--you wouldn't tell me, I suppose. But why not once
more be an actor? Ommony, you know all the Hindu plays. I have
seen you act Pururavas and--well--believe me--I sat and pinched
myself--I am telling you the truth!--and even so--but listen:
the Lama Tsiang Samdup is planning to take a company of actors
North for certain reasons!"

It would have been hard for any one who did not know him
intimately to believe that Ommony, as he sat there against the
wall in an ultra-conservative English dinner-jacket, could act
any part except that of an unimaginative Englishman. There was
not one trace of Oriental character about him, nor a hint of
artistry. The only suggestion that he might be capable of more
than met the eye was Benjamin's manifest affection--admiration
--half-familiar, half-obsequious respect.

"I'm ready for anything," he said in a matter-of-fact voice.
"The question is--"

"Do you dare! That is the question. Hah! You have the courage
of a Jew! Dare you act all parts, Ommony? Oh-oh, but the risk
is--Listen! There is a troupe of actors--"

Benjamin's long fingers began to knead the air excitedly, but
Ommony sat still, staring straight before him, frowning a little
--aware that Benjamin was itching to divulge a confidence.

"Their director, Ommony, is a man named Maitraya--His best male
actor died--He will have to act the leading roles himself unless--"

"I don't see the advantage," Ommony objected. But he did--he saw
it instantly.

"Listen, Ommony! No bargain is a good one unless all concerned
in it are gainers! Maitraya owes me money. He can not pay. He
is honest. He would pay me if he could. I hold his _hundis.*_
I could ruin him. He _must_ do as I say! Now listen! Listen!
--there would be a solution of his difficulties, and--I might even
be willing to advance just a little more money for his needs. He
would not need much--just a little. And he must do as I say you
understand! He must take you if I say so. The Lama commissioned
_me_ to engage the actors--"

------
* Promissory notes
------

"But won't he want to know all about the actors?" Ommony asked
guardedly. He knew better than to turn down Benjamin's proposals
point-blank.

Benjamin grew suddenly calm, shot one keen glance at Ommony--and
changed his weapon, so to speak, into the other hand. It began
to be clear enough that Benjamin had irons of his own to heat.

"Of course, if you ask _me,_ Ommony--if you were to ask _my_
advice--as a man to a man of business--I would ask you, why not
go straight to Tilgaun, and there wait for the Lama? He is
searching you say for a piece of jade, which is in your
possession. Will he not follow you to Tilgaun, if you go
straight there? How much trouble you would save! How much risk
you would avoid!"

"And how much information I might lose!"

"Show me the jade, Ommony."

"Can't. I've sent it to Tilgaun. The Lama doesn't know that.
He thinks I've got it with me."

"Well? Then if you go to Tilgaun, won't he follow you?"

"Undoubtedly. But I prefer to follow him. It's this way: you
and I, Benjamin, have been friends for fifteen years, haven't we?
If you have anything you want to keep from me--I don't doubt
there are lots of things--you tell me point-blank, and I'm
careful to shut my eyes and ears. If I stumble on anything by
accident, I dismiss it from mind; I forget it. If you tell me a
secret in confidence, I keep it a secret--take no advantage of
you. I know you treat me in the same way. But the Lama is
supposed to have been my friend for twenty years, although I've
never met him to speak to--never saw him until yesterday. He has
always managed _not_ to meet me, without ever giving any reason
for it; and he has conveyed the impression that he is keeping
some great secret from me, without having the courtesy to ask me
to restrain natural curiosity. Now comes this piece of jade,
with all sorts of mysterious side-issues. He traces it into my
hands. Instead of asking me for it, and asking me, as one
friend to another, not to follow up the mystery, he spies on
me--deliberately counts on my honesty and courtesy--and keeps out of
sight. He plans to meet me at Tilgaun, where his arm might be
lots longer than mine. I used to consider him a wise old Saint,
but lately he has made me suspect him of deep mischief. His
spying on me is an open invitation to me to spy on him. I
propose to find out all I can about him. If he has been using me
as a stalking-horse all these years--"

"You could begin at Tilgaun, Ommony, just as easily as here,"
said Benjamin, stroking his beard. His eyes were glittering
eagerly, but friendship apparently imposed the obligation to find
fault with a plan if possible before helping to carry it out.

"No. He wants me to go straight to Tilgaun. I don't propose to
play into his hands. The place to begin to unravel a mystery is
at one or the other end of it."

"He may have traced you to my place, Ommony. If you should go
with Maitraya, the Lama will know it. If he thinks you have the
stone in your possession, he will--"

"Probably try to steal the stone. I'm hoping he will exhaust his
ingenuity. I can create a mystery on my own account; he'll be
puzzled. He won't dare to have me murdered until he knows for
certain where the stone is. For fear of losing track of it
altogether, he'll have to do everything possible to preserve my
life and to save me from exposure."

"If he is clever, _he_ will go straight to Tilgaun!" said
Benjamin. "That is what I would do in his place. Then _you_
would have to follow _him._"

"If he does that, well and good. But if my guess is right, he
has a whole network of intrigue to attend to. He proposed to
have me cool my heels in Tilgaun while he attended to business on
the way."

Benjamin began to pace the floor between the heaps of assorted
clothing. He seemed to be torn between personal interest and
desire to give Ommony the soundest possible advice. He muttered
to himself. His arms moved as if he were arguing. Once he stood
still with his back toward Ommony and bit his nails. Then he
walked the floor again three or four times, almost stopping each
time as he passed Ommony. At last he stood still in front
of him.

"If I tell you--things that I should not tell--what will you
think of me?" he asked.

Ommony laughed abruptly. "Suppose I tell you first what I think
you have in mind!" he said. "You old simpleton! Why do you
suppose I came straight to you at this hour of the night?" (He
glanced up at the wall behind him.) "You didn't get that
devil-mask in Delhi! It's hanging there to inform some sort of
Tibetans that they've come to the right place. I've known for
more than nine years that you're the business agent for a
monastery in the Ahbor country. However, it's your secret--you
don't have to tell me a thing you don't want to."

Benjamin stared at him--a rather scandalized, a rather astonished,
a rather sly old Benjamin, with his turban a little to one side
and his lower lip drooping. There was a hint of terror in
his eyes.

"How much else do you know? You? Ommony!" he demanded.

"Nothing. That is--no more than a blind man who knew you
intimately couldn't help knowing. Shut up, if you want to. I
don't pry into my friends' affairs, and you're not like the Lama.
You've kept nothing from me I was entitled to know."

"Not--not like the Lama! Ommony--if _you_ knew!" Benjamin began
mumbling to himself in Spanish, but there were Hebrew words
interspersed with it. Ommony, knowing no Hebrew or Spanish, let
him mumble on, frowning as if busy with his own thoughts. There
was still an hour before dawn, when the stirring of a thousand
other thoughts would inevitably break the chain of this one
--plenty of time for Benjamin to outpour confidences--nothing to be
gained by urging him.

"Tsiang Samdup the Lama is good--he is better than both of us!"
Benjamin said at last emphatically. He seemed to be trying to
convince himself. "God forbid that I should play a trick on him!
But--but--"

Not a word from Ommony. To all appearance he was brown-studying
over something else, twisting Diana's ear, staring into the
shadows beyond the lantern, so intent on his own thoughts that he
did not move when a rat scurried over his feet. Benjamin burst
into speech suddenly:

"Fifteen--nearly sixteen years, Ommony, I have been agent for the
Lama Tsiang Samdup! You would never believe the things he buys!
Not ordinary things! And he pays with bullion--gold bars! Wait
--I show you!" He unlocked a safe in the corner of the store and
produced three small bars of solid gold, giving them to Ommony to
weigh in the palm of his hand. But there was no mark upon them;
nothing to identify their place of origin.

"I have had dozens like those from him--dozens!" But Ommony
could not be tempted to ask questions; he knew Benjamin too
well--suspected that Benjamin was too shrewd an old philosopher
to engage in nefarious trade; also that he was itching to
divulge a confidence. If you scratch a man who itches, impulse
ceases. Besides, he was perfectly sincere in not wanting to pry
into Benjamin's private affairs. To listen to them was another
matter. Benjamin came and sat down on the pile of blankets--laid
a hand on Ommony's shoulder--thrust his chin forward, and screwed
his eyes up.

"If he should know I told--"

"He'll never learn from me."

"Girls! Nice--little--young ones!"

Ommony looked startled--stung. There was the glare in his eyes
of a man who has been scurvily insulted.

"Little European girls! Little orphans! Seven! Eh, Ommony?
Now what do you think? And all the supplies for them--constantly
--books--little garments. Ah! But they grow, those young ones!
Stockings! Shoes! Now, what do you think of that?"

"Are you lying?" Ommony asked in a flat voice.

"_Would_ I lie to you! _Would_ I tell it to any other man.
First to get the girls--and such a business! Healthy they must
be, and well born--that is, nicely born. And the first was a
little Jewess, eight years old at that time, from parents who
were killed in Stamboul. That was not so very difficult; a Jew
and his wife whom I knew intimately brought her as their own
child to Bombay; and after that it was easy to dress her as a
Hindu child, and to pretend she was a little young widow, and to
smuggle her northward stage by stage. And once she reached Delhi
there was the Middle Way, Ommony, the Middle Way! Hah! It was
not so difficult. And the profit was very good."

"I'm waiting for you to hedge," said Ommony. "So far, I simply
don't believe you."

"Well: the next was eleven years old, and she made trouble. She
was the child of a sea-captain who was hanged for shooting
drunken sailors. Some missionaries took care of her; but they
said things about her father, and she ran away--from Poona--the
mission was in Poona. So, of course, there was a search, and
much in the newspapers. We had to hide her carefully. The
missionaries offered a reward, but she did not want to go back to
the missionaries. In many ways her character was such as Tsiang
Samdup wished. And in the end we conveyed her by bullock
-_gharri_ all the way from Bombay to Ahmedabad, where we kept her
several months in the home of a Hindu midwife. Then the Middle
Way. The Middle Way is easy, when you know it.

"The third was from Bangalore--and she was only nine months old
--no trouble at all--the daughter of a very pretty lady who was
engaged to be married but the man died. She gave the baby to my
wife's sister. That child went North in the arms of a Tibetan
woman from Darjiling.

"And the fourth was from London--a Russian musician's daughter.
And the fifth was from Glasgow. And the sixth from Sweden, or so
it was said. Those three were all about the same age--six, or
seven, or thereabouts.

"The seventh--she was nine years old, and the best of them all
--was from New York--born in New York--or at sea, I forget which.
Her father, an Irishman, died and the mother, who was English,
went to visit her people in England. But the people had died
too. So she went back to America, and there was some difficulty
in connection with the immigration laws. She was not allowed to
land. She had to return to England, where there was destitution
and I know not what followed after that, though it is easy to
imagine things. The mother was dying, and I was told she
wished above all things to save the child from being put in an
institution. Some people who are well known to me offered to
care for the child. It happened I was in London, Ommony. I went
and saw the mother; and, since she was dying, I took a chance
and told her certain things; and perhaps because she was dying,
and therefore could understand and see around the corner, as it
were, she agreed. We had conversed, as you might say, heart to
heart. It was I who brought that child to India. I had to adopt
her legally, and--oh, Ommony, if I could have kept her! She was
like my little own daughter to me! But what was there that I
could do for her--an old Jew, here in Delhi? Money, yes; but
nothing else, and money is nothing. It broke my heart. She
went northward by the Middle Way--you know what I mean by the
Middle Way?"

Ommony's expression was stone-cold; he was speechless. He eyed
Benjamin with a hard stare that had reached the rock-bottom of
revelation and disgust. He did not dare to speak. Having
pledged his word in advance not to betray Benjamin's secrets,
his word was good; there was no hesitation on that score.
A deliberate promise, in his estimation, stood above all
obligations, whatever the consequences to himself. But he felt
that sickening sensation of having trusted a man who turned out
to be rotten after all.

He did not dare to say a word that might give Benjamin an inkling
of his real feelings. He must use the man as an ally. In a way
he was indebted to him--for information as to the Lama's real
activities. No wonder the Lama had kept so carefully aloof!
Ommony forced himself to smile--battling with the horror of the
thought of being co-trustee with a Tibetan, who with his right
hand helped to run a philanthropic mission and with his left
imported European girls, for the Powers of Evil only knew what
purpose. There are other purposes, as well as crude vice, for
which children may be stolen. His own sister--

"You say Tsiang Samdup is better than both of us?" he remarked at
last, surprised at the evenness of his own voice.

"_Much_ better!" said Benjamin. "Ah, Ommony--I see your face.
Old I am. Blind I am not. But listen: have you seen what
happens to the children whose parents die or desert them? Not
the children of the poor; the little girls who are well born,
who feel things that other children do not feel. I am a Jew--I
know what feeling is! Hah! I have seen animals in cages who
were happier! And what is happiness? Provision of necessities?
Bah! They provide necessities for men in jail--and will you
search in the jails to find happiness? I will show you thousands
who have all they want, and nothing that they need! You
understand me? Tsiang Samdup--"

"Never mind," said Ommony, "I'll find out for myself." He did
not want to talk; he was afraid of what he might hear--still
more of what he might say. There are some men, who present an
impassive face toward the world, who can face death grinning and
are not afraid of "the terror that moveth by night" or "the
pestilence that stalketh at noonday," who would rather be
crucified than reveal the horror they have for a certain sort of
traffic. Their emotion, too sacred, or too profane to be
discussed, is nameless--indescribable--only to be borne with
set teeth.

"Ah! I know!" said Benjamin. "I know you, Ommony! What
I have said is secret; therefore you don't wish to hear
any more, because you are too much a man to violate what
is told in confidence. And you have made no promise to the
Lama. Am I right?"

Ommony nodded--grimly. That was the one bright point of light.

"I could tell--I could tell much," Benjamin went on. "But I saw
you shut your mind against me. As well pour oil on fire to put
it out as talk to a man who mistrusts! Very well. We have been
friends, you and I. Remember that, Ommony. And now this: you
believe in a devil--some kind of a devil--all Englishmen do. You
believe I am a devil--Benjamin, your friend, whom you hid in a
cave in your forest--me and my wife and my daughter. We are
devils. Very well. A promise that is made to the devil has not
to be kept, Ommony! Go and see for yourself. I will help you.
When you have seen, you shall judge. Then, after that, if you
say I am a devil, you shall break your faith with me. You shall
denounce me. I will let you be the judge."

"Have you ever been into the Ahbor country?" Ommony asked. His
voice was sullen now. There was a leaden note in it.

"No," Benjamin answered.

"And those--those children went to the Ahbor country?"

"Yes."

"Then what proof have you of what the Lama has done with them?"

"Ommony--as God is my witness--I have none! I think--I--I am
almost positively sure--but--"

He paced the floor twice, and then flung himself down on the
blankets beside Ommony, looking up into his face. He was afraid
at that moment, if ever man was.

"That is why I have told you! I swore never to tell! Find out,
Ommony! Tell the truth to me before I die. I am an old man,
Ommony. If I have been a devil, I will eat--eat--eat the shame
to the last crumb! Ommony, I swear--by my fathers I swear, I
believe--I am almost positively sure--"

He buried his face in his hands; and there was silence, in which
Ommony could hear Diana's quiet breathing and his own heartbeats
and the ticking of the watch in his vest-pocket.

--------



When the actor, having thrown aside the costume and the wig,
departs--is he a villain? Shall we take stones and murder him
because for our amusement he enacted villainy?

If he should act death in the play because decency demands that,
do we therefore burn him afterward and curse his memory? And is
his wife a widow?

And is life not like the play? The gods who watch the drama know
that somebody must play the villain's part, and somebody the
pauper's. They reward men for the acting. He who acts a poor
part well receives for his reward a more important part when his
turn shall come to be born again into the world.

He, therefore, who is wise plays pauper, king or villain with the
gods in mind.

--From the Book of the Sayings of Tsiang Samdup



Chapter IX

"Gupta Rao"


Dawn came and no Dawa Tsering. Pale light through cobwebbed
windows drove the dark into corners and consumed it, until the
devil-mask on the wall over Ommony's head grinned like a living
thing and the street noises began, announcing that Delhi was
awake. Diana stirred and sniffed, mistrusting her surroundings,
but patient so long as Ommony was satisfied to be there.
Benjamin shuffled away to the stairs. The daughter came,
fussily, fatly hospitable, with _chota hazri*_ on the brass
Benares tray--fruit, tea, biscuits, and a smile that would have
won the confidence of Pharaoh, Ruler of the Nile.

---------
* Early breakfast
---------

But Ommony's heart had turned harder than Pharaoh's ever did.
He could hardly force himself to be civil. He drank the tea
and ate the fruit because he needed it, unconscious now of
any ritual of friendship in the act, answering polite inquiries
with blunt monosyllables, his mind and memory working furiously,
independently of any efforts at conversation. His face was a
mask, and a dull one at that, with no smile on it. The iron in
him had absolute charge.

He was not by any means the sort of man who flatters himself.

"You damned, deluded fool!" he muttered pitilessly, and Diana
opened one eye wide, awaiting action.

He blamed himself, as mercilessly as he always had been merciful
to others, for having acted as the Lama Tsiang Samdup's foil for
twenty years. Above all things he despised a smug fool, and he
called himself just that. He should have suspected the Lama long
ago. He should have seen through Benjamin. He had believed his
trusteeship of the Tilgaun Mission was a clean and selfless
contribution to the world's need. Why hadn't he resigned then
from his government job long ago to devote his whole career to
the trust he had undertaken? If he had done that, he knew no
Lama could have hoodwinked him. No little girls would have been
smuggled then into the unknown by way of Tilgaun.

The self-accusation case-hardened him. He set his teeth, and
almost physically reached out for the weapons of alertness,
patience, persistence, cunning, with which he might redeem the
situation. For redeem it he surely would, or else perish in the
attempt. Exposure too soon would do no good. He needed full
proof. And he cared less to punish the offenders than to rescue
the children who had been carried off, and to make anything of
the sort impossible in future, wondering, as he considered that,
what any one would be able to do for girls in their predicament.
The early years are the most impressionable; their characters
would have been undermined. And then a worse thought: was
Benjamin the only agent? There might be a regular market for
European girls in that unknown corner of the earth, with secret
agents supplying it from a dozen sources. If so, he felt and
accepted his full share of responsibility. Who else could share
it with him? Only Hannah Sanburn. She, too, had shielded the
Lama and, if ignorant of what was going on, might at least
have suspected.

And thoughts of Hannah Sanburn did not give comfort. He
remembered now a dozen incidents that should have made him
suspect _her_ years ago. That look in her eyes, for instance,
and her nervousness whenever he had urged her to bring about a
meeting between the Lama and himself. He recalled now how
carefully she had always shepherded him through the mission,
under pretext of observing the proprieties; she had never given
him a chance to talk alone with any of the mission girls, and
like a fool he had believed she did that to prevent the very
suggestion of scandal from finding an excuse. He had admired her
for it. But there was that room (or was it two rooms) near her
own quarters that she had always kept locked, and that he had not
cared to ask to inspect, because she said she kept her personal
belongings in there.

And now this story, told by Mrs. Cornock-Campbell, a witness as
trustworthy as daybreak, of a white girl named Elsa, who spoke
English and Tibetan, who had been to Lhassa, and who could draw
--for he had seen the drawings--as masterfully as Michael Angelo.
And Hannah Sanburn's plea for secrecy. And the fact that
McGregor had had suspicions.

Marmaduke might not have been the father of this strange girl,
but that did not preclude the possibility of Hannah Sanburn being
the mother. It seemed likely--more than likely--that the Lama
possessed knowledge which enabled him to blackmail Hannah
Sanburn; it was easy enough to understand how that well-bred New
England woman would fight to preserve her good name, and how, if
the Lama had once tempted her into one false position, she could
be terrified from bad to worse. There is more deliberate
blackmail in the world than most of its indirect victims suspect.

Nevertheless, Ommony wondered that Hannah Sanburn should not have
confided in himself. She might have known he would have shielded
her and helped her to redeem the situation. She had had dozens
of proofs of his friendship. He smiled rather grimly as he
thought to what lengths he would have gone to shield and befriend
Hannah Sanburn--and yet more grimly--cynically--as it dawned on
him to what lengths he might now have to go. Friendship is
friendship--unto death if need be.

Benjamin returned; and an hour's thought had had its effect
on him too. His assistants came, and he chased them out on
hurriedly invented errands, barring the shop door behind them.

"I have sent for Maitraya," he announced, stroking his beard,
watching Ommony sidewise. He seemed to be not quite sure that
Ommony might not have changed his mind with daylight.

"All right. Hunt me out a costume."

Ommony stepped off the pile of blankets and began to strip
himself. Benjamin's swift fingers sought and plucked along the
shelves, selecting this and that until a little heap of clothing
lay ready on a table, Ommony saying nothing but observing almost
savagely, like a caged man watching his meal prepared.

"There, that is perfect," said Benjamin at last. "A dude--a
dandy, such as actors are--aping the high caste--too educated to
submit to inferiority--a little of this, a little of that
--fashionable--tolerated--half-philosopher, half-mountebank--"

Stark-naked, Ommony confronted him, and Benjamin betrayed the
naked fear that has nothing to do with physical consequences.
Ommony looked straight into his eyes and analyzed it, as
he had done fifteen years ago when he protected Benjamin
against accusers.

"All right, Benjamin. I'll trust you this once more. But no
flinching. See it through."

He dressed himself, Benjamin watching alertly for the least
mistake, but that was an art in which no man in the world could
give Ommony instruction; he knew costumes as some enthusiasts
know postage stamps, and he bound on the cream-colored silk
turban without a glance in the mirror that Benjamin held for him.

"I'll need an old trunk now, and three or four changes," he said
abruptly. "No, cow-hide won't do--no, there's glue in that
imported thing--observe caste prejudices, even if I'm supposed
to have none--basketwork's the stuff. That's it. Throw me
in a trousseau."

He began to pace the floor, adjusting himself to the costume,
finding it not difficult; his natural, sturdy gait learned in
forest lanes with a gun under his arm, suggested independence and
alertness without a hint of drill, which is the secret of self-
assurance; add good manners to that and an intimate knowledge;
there is not much acting needed.

He looked stout and a bit important in the flowing cotton
clothes. The short beard gave him dignity. His skin, weathered
by twenty years of outdoor life, needed no darkening. Even his
legs, and his bare feet thrust into red morocco slippers had the
ivory color that belongs to most of the higher castes; and an
actor must be of Brahman or Kshattryia origin if he hopes to be
admitted anywhere within the pale from which the lower castes are
utterly excluded. His profession makes him technically unclean,
but that is rather an advantage than a handicap.

"And the name! The honored name!" asked Benjamin admiringly.

"Gupta Rao. I'm a Bhat-Brahman of Rajputana."

Benjamin sat down and laughed with his head to one side, nursing
a knee.

"Oh, Oh, you Ommony! A Jew you should have been! Hey-yey
-clever! Now who would have thought of that but you! _Yah
-tchah!_ Bhat-Brahman--of whom even rajahs are afraid! Gossiping
tongue! The privilege to slander! _Yah-keh-keh-keh!_ You are a
clever one! Not even a Brahman will challenge you, for fear you
will make him a laughing-stock! _Keh-hah-hah-hey-hey-hey!_ Ah,
but wait, wait! We forgot the pan. You must have a pouch to
carry betel-nut. And the caste-mark--keep still while I paint
the caste-mark."

And then at last came Dawa Tsering, not pleased with himself but
trying to appear pleased, adjusting his eyes to the dimness as
Benjamin let him in by the back door. "Where is Ommonee?"

He stared about him, brushed past Ommony contemptuously, and at
last saw the cast-off dinner-jacket and white shirt. He broke
into the jargon-Hindustani that serves for _lingua franca_ in
that land of a hundred tongues, chattering as he hurried along
the passage past the stairs and back again:

"Where is he? Is he hiding? Has he gone?" Then, shouting at
last in something near panic: "Oh--Ommonee!"

He stared at Diana, but she gave him no information. She lay
curled up on the floor, apparently asleep. Benjamin looked
non-committal--busy considering something else.

"Where is he--thou?" the Hillman demanded, coming to a stand
in front of Ommony and fingering the handle of his knife.
The light was dim just there where the saddles were piled in
a ten-foot heap.

"Would you know his voice?" asked Ommony.

"Aye, in a crowd!"

"Would you know his walk?"

"None better! Seen from behind, when he is thinking, he rolls
thus, like a bear. But who art thou? Where is he?"

Ommony turned his back, walked to the heap of blankets by the
wall, and sat down.

"Would you know him sitting?" he asked casually; and suddenly it
occurred to Dawa Tsering that he was being questioned in his
own tongue.

"Thou!" he exclaimed. "Well, may the devils destroy the place!
Art thou then a magician?" He sniffed three times. "Not even
the smell is the same! Was it the Jew who worked the magic? Art
thou truly Ommonee?"

"No, I'm changed. I'm Gupta Rao. If you ever call me Ommony
again without my permission, I will bring to pass a change in
your affairs that you will remember! Do you understand?"

"Gupta Rao--huh? A change--eh? Hmn! And that is not a bad
idea. Change me, thou! There are many garments in this place
--buy me some of them. That Lama played a dirty trick on me. He
has vanished. I found his _chela_ Samding, and I told him the
Lama owes me two months' pay; and I said 'Where is the Lama?'
But Samding, standing by a covered bullock-cart (but the cart was
empty, for I looked) laughed at me and said nothing. I would
have killed him if I had not thought of that letter, which you
said the Lama _must_ receive. So I slapped Samding's face with
the letter, and threw it on the ground in front of him, and bade
him pick it up and find the Lama or take the consequences. And
_he_ said, with that mild voice of his, that I had become very
reckless all at once, so I hustled him a time or two, hoping to
make him strike me, that I might with justice strike him back.
But he has no fight in him. He picked up the letter, holding it
thus, because there was dirt on it and he hates to soil his
hands. And he said to me, 'The Lama has no further use for
you!' Do you hear that, thou--what is thy new name?--Gupta Rao?
Did you ever hear the like of it for impudence? You wonder, I
suppose, why I didn't smite Samding there and then, so that the
Lama would have no further use for _him._ Trust me, I would have
done; but two great devils of Tibetans came out of a doorway and
seized me from behind. Lo, before I could draw my knife they had
hurled me into a party of Sikh soldiers who were passing, so that
I broke up their formation, they blaming _me_ for it, which is
just like Sikhs. And it isn't wise to argue with too many Sikhs,
so I ran. Now--what is thy name again? Gupta Rao? Well--it
would now be fitting to disguise me, so that I may come on that
Lama and his _chela_ and the whole brood of them unawares. Then
let us see what one man can do to half-a-dozen!"

Ommony got up and began to pace the floor again. It would be
difficult to disguise Dawa Tsering, even if that were advisable,
for the man had a swagger that was as much a part of him as his
huge frame, and a simplicity that underlay and would inevitably
shine through all cunning. Yet the man would be useful,
since he knew more than a little about the Lama's goings
and comings; and, once in the Hills, where a man without
an armed friend has a short life and a sad one as a rule,
he would be almost indispensable.

He had not made up his mind what to do when one of Benjamin's
assistants hammered on the shop door and announced Maitraya.
Dawa Tsering sat down beside Diana, who seemed to have decided he
was tolerable, and Maitraya entered stagily, as if he thought he
were a god, or wished other people to believe him one. He was
not a very big man, but he had a trick of filling up the doorway
and pausing there before he strode into the room to seize by
instinct the most conspicuous position and command all eyes.

His face was rather wrinkled, but he was richly clothed in new
Tussore silk, with a gorgeous golden _cummerbund,*_ [* Sash] and
his gallant bearing tried to give the lie to fifty years. There
were marks on his handsome face that suggested debauch, but might
have been due to former hardship; his manner on the whole was
one of dignity and conscious worthiness. One could tell at a
glance what were his views on the actor's art and on the position
that actors should hold in the community; in another land he
would have pestered the politicians for a knighthood. A pair of
gorgeous black eyes, that he knew how to use with effect, glowed
under a heavy lock of black hair that he had carefully arranged
to fall in apparent carelessness beneath his turban.

"You wished to see me, Benjamin?"

His voice was tragic, his language Urdu, his diction refined to
the verge of pedantry. Benjamin signed to him to be seated on a
heap of blankets, but he declined the invitation like Caesar
refusing a throne (except that Caesar could not have done it with
such super-modesty).

"May all the glorious gods, and above all friendly, fortunate
Ganesha, have worked on you and made you change your mind, O
stubborn Benjamin! Father of money-bags! Provider of finery for
entertaining fools! Patient, but too cautious Benjamin! May all
the gods melt butter on you for your former trust in me,
Maitraya,--and may they also melt your heart! I need you,
Benjamin. I have a bargain with that Lama struck and bound. The
man is crazy, and a traitor to all his gods, but he knows a
little. God knows they will tear him between wild asses for
debauching his religion, when he gets back to Tibet! Believe me
or not, Benjamin--although I hope my word rings unsuspicious in
your ears--he leans toward modern views! Can you imagine that
--in a Ringding Lama from Tibet? He proposes just what I have
always preached--to modernize the ancient plays, retaining their
charm and morality, but making them comprehensible! The man is
mad--mad as an American--but genuinely gifted with imagination.
It will make me famous, Benjamin."

"Does he offer to pay you?" Benjamin asked dryly. 

"Richly! Princely! Like a maharajah--with the difference--aha!--that he
will settle regularly, instead of forcing me to borrow from his
special money-lenders (as the rajahs do) while I await his slow
convenience. I tell you, Benjamin, the Lord Ganesha surely
smiled on me in the hour of this Lama's birth!"

"Did you ask for money in advance?" asked Benjamin.

"Not I, Benjamin. What do you mistake me for--a parasite? A
beggar? A man without dignity? A hanger-on of some courtesan?
Nay, nay! I remembered my blessed friend Benjamin, who likes to
do business at a reasonable profit, and who will be glad to
advance me a little more, in order that I may pay what I already
owe. Are we not _good_ friends, Benjamin? Have I ever defrauded
you or told you a word of untruth?"

"A man's word and his deed should be one," Benjamin answered. "I
hold your _hundis*_ that you have not paid. There is interest
due on them." [* Promissory notes]

"True, Benjamin, true. I have been unfortunate. Who could have
foretold smallpox, the death of three actors, and the burning of
a theater? But another might have repudiated, Benjamin. Another
might have told you to hunt for your money where the smallpox and
the fire are born! _Kali*_ can care for her own! Did I
repudiate? Did I not come and tell you I will pay in time?"

------
* Goddess, among other horrors, of the smallpox
------

"The worst is, you are not the only one," said Benjamin. "I have
another here, who is heavily in my debt, although a famous actor,
more famous than you, and a much finer artist. This is Gupta Rao
sahib, of Bikanir."

"I never heard of him," said Maitraya, looking slightly
scandalized although prepared to condescend.

"He is a very great actor," said Benjamin. Whereat Ommony
bowed with becoming gravity, and Maitraya took his measure,
up and down.

"Does he act in that beard?" he inquired.

"I have lately been acting the part of an Englishman," said
Ommony; and his Urdu was as perfect and pedantic as Maitraya's.

"An Englishman? There are few who can do that with conviction."
Maitraya stepped back a pace. "You don't look like an Englishman.
No wonder you grew a beard. That is the only way you could
have carried off the part at all without looking foolish.
It takes a man of my proportions to play an Englishman properly.
I have been told that I excel at it. I played once before
the officers of a cavalry regiment at Poona, and they assured
me they believed I was an English gentleman until I stepped
down off the stage. Watch this."

Maitraya inserted an imaginary monocle and gave an outrageous
caricature of a stock Englishman as portrayed in comic papers on
the European continent.

"God-dam fine weather, eh? Not bad, eh? What?"

"I see you are a genius," said Ommony. "I could not do it nearly
so well as that."

"No, I dare say not. The actor's is an art that calls for
technique. However, I dare say you are good in conventional
parts," said Maitraya, mollified.

"I have seen him and I am a good judge of such matters," said
Benjamin. "What I have to say to you, Maitraya, is that I am
anxious about the money which you and Gupta Rao owe me."

Benjamin put on his extra-calculating air, that Jews use to make
their customers believe there is something as yet undecided--an
alternative course, less profitable to the customer. It is the
oldest trick in the world--much older than Moses. Maitraya
showed furtive alarm.

"My son-in-law is away on a long journey. It is costing too
much. I need the money," Benjamin went on. "I will not advance
you more--no, not a _rupee_ more--"

"Unless?" said Maitraya. He was watching the old Jew's face,
flattering himself that he could read behind the mask and
swallowing the bait as simply as a hungry fish.

"Unless you take Gupta Rao with you--"

"I could give him small parts," said Maitraya, cautiously yet
with a gorgeous magnanimity.

"As leading actor," Benjamin went on, "on a leading actor's
salary, so that he may have a chance to pay me what he owes."

"But I must first see him act," Maitraya objected. "I promised
the Lama a company of actors second to none, and--"

"And on this new _hundi_ both your names must go," said Benjamin,
"so that you are both responsible, and I can take a lien on Gupta
Rao's salary if I so wish."

That stipulation started a long-winded argument, in which Ommony
joined sufficiently to add confusion to it and support Benjamin
by pretending to support Maitraya. Benjamin's investment in
costumes, theatrical properties and cash might be considerable,
and there was no reason why the shrewd old merchant should not
protect himself. At the end of an hour of expostulation,
imprecation, gesticulation and general pandemonium Benjamin had
his way, vowing he had never made a more unprofitable bargain in
his life, and Maitraya was convinced that Gupta Rao had at least
a rich vocabulary. Moreover, as fellow victims of necessity,
with their names on a joint promissory note, they had an excuse
for friendship, of which Ommony took full advantage.

"Being of Brahman origin, of course I have access to inner
circles, and enjoy privileges that are denied to you; and if I
were an ordinary Brahman I would not _join_ forces with you. But
we Bhats consider ourselves above caste, and when we find an
outcaste of merit and distinction, such as you evidently are, we
believe it no dishonor to befriend him. You will find it a great
advantage to have me in your company, and for many reasons."

Maitraya was readily convinced of that. A Bhat enjoys more
privileges than any scald did in the Viking days, for there is
none who dares to call him in question and nowadays, at least in
Northern India, there is no authority that can discipline him.
An orthodox Brahman is very easily kept within bounds, and it is
next to impossible for a man of lower caste to pose as a Brahman
successfully because at the first suggestion of suspicion he
would be questioned narrowly and be required to give substantial
proofs; if the proofs were not forthcoming the Brahmans would
simply close their ranks against him. But who shall challenge
the College of Heralds on points of etiquette?

The very Pundits themselves, who are the fountainheads of
orthodoxy, are at the mercy of the Bhats. A Pundit who should
challenge a Bhat's veracity or privilege would lay himself open
to such scurrilous attack, in song and jest and innuendo, as he
could never stand against. He would be in the position of a
public man in Europe or America who should dare to defy the
newspapers. The only limits to a Bhat's audacity are imposed by
his own intelligence and his own gift of invective. He may act,
sing, dance in public and be undefiled; he may accept gifts
whose very shadow no orthodox Brahman would dare to let fall on
his door-step; and that source of strength is the secret of his
weakness at the same time, since, like the Press that accepts
paid advertising, he has to be careful whose corns he crushes.

Maitraya, finding himself linked with this Gupta Rao by a
contract, which Benjamin would certainly enforce, began at once
to take good care to establish cordial relations. He was even
deferent in his remarks about the beard.

"Beautiful it is, and manly--good to see, Gupta Rao, but--for
certain parts and certain purposes--will it not be inconvenient?"

Ommony conceded that point. He withdrew to a little dark room
and removed the beard by candle-light, using a razor belonging to
one of Benjamin's assistants and, since the skin was paler where
the hair had been, rubbing on a little dark stain afterward.
While that was going on, Maitraya was regaled by Benjamin with
accounts of Gupta Rao's audacity and influence.

"Then why is he not rich?" Maitraya asked. "These Bhats are
notorious for luxury. Everybody gives them presents, to keep
their tongues from wagging."

"That is just it," Benjamin explained. "Too much luxury! Too
many gifts! It spoils them. This one is a gambler and a patron
of the courtesans, who favor him exceedingly. _Tshay-yay-yay!_
What a weakness is the love of women! But he is on his good
behavior at present because, says he, a Bikaniri broke his heart.
But the truth is, she only emptied his pockets."

"And that great dog?" Maitraya asked. "To whom does that
belong?"

Benjamin stroked his beard and hesitated. But Ommony had heard
every word of the conversation through the thin partition.

"And that great savage beside the dog--that Northerner--who is
he?" asked Maitraya.

Ommony emerged, having reached a conclusion at last as to what
should be done with Dawa Tsering and Diana. "I must count on
your honor's sympathy and good will," he said, smiling at
Maitraya rather sheepishly. "That hound is the agent of
Hanuman.* The man from Spiti is a simpleton, whose service is to
keep the hound in good health and to assist with occasional
amorous errands. Our friend Benjamin has not told all the truth.
Whose heart is broken while he can communicate with his beloved?"

-------
* The monkey-god--patron of love-affairs
-------

Maitraya smiled. He had acted in too many plays, in which the
plot consisted of intrigue between man and woman, not to accept
that sort of story at face-value. Life, to him, was either drama
or else mere drudgery. Ommony excused himself, to go and talk
with Dawa Tsering.

"Now this dog is used to a dog-boy," he said sternly. "Moreover,
she will do as I say, and if you are kind to her, she will be
tolerant of you."

Diana smelt Ommony over inquisitively. The strange clothes
puzzled her but, having nosed them thoroughly, she lay down again
and waited.

"She is an incarnation of a devil," said Dawa Tsering. "I am
sure of it."

"Quite right. But she is a very friendly devil to her friends.
I am going to tell her to look after you; and she will do it.
And I order you to look after her. Keep the fleas off her.
Attend to it that she is clean and comfortable."

"What then?"

"The Jew shall provide you with new clothing, after you have
cleaned yourself. When I go presently, with that man Maitraya,
you are to remain here, and you will see that the dog will remain
with you willingly. At the proper time you are to come and find
me."

"But how, Ommonee? How shall I find you?"

"Don't call me Ommony! Remember that. My name is Gupta Rao."

"That makes you even more difficult to find!"

"You are going to learn what the dog can do. When I send a
messenger, the dog will follow him, but you are to remain here,
do you understand? You are not to move away on any condition.
When it suits my convenience the dog will return to this place
alone and will bring you to wherever I may happen to be. Do
you understand?"

"No, I don't understand, but I will wait and see," said Dawa
Tsering. "I think you would make a good thief on the te-rains,
Om--I mean, Gupta Rao!"

---------



Men agree that prostitution is an evil, and they who know more
than I do have assured me this opinion is right. But there are
many forms of prostitution, and it may be that among the least of
them is that of women, bad though that is. I have seen men sell
their souls more inexcusably than women sell their bodies--and
with more disastrous consequences--to themselves and to the
buyer.
--From the Book of the Sayings of Tsiang Samdup



CHAPTER X

Vasantasena


It took five minutes to convince Diana that she was henceforth
responsible for Dawa Tsering, but once that fact had been
absorbed she accepted the duty without complaint. There was no
whimper from the hound when Ommony accepted Maitraya's invitation
to go in search of the Lama. He and Maitraya, side-by-side in a
_tikka-gharri*_ drove through the crowded streets, now and then
passing Englishmen whom Ommony knew well. Members of the
mercantile community, Moslems as well as Hindus, bowed to
Maitraya from open shop-windows or from the thronged sidewalk as
if he were a royal personage. Men who would not have let his
clothing touch them, because of the resulting caste-defilement,
were eager to have it known that they were on familiar terms with
him; for a popular actor is idolized not only in the West.

--------
* A one-horse open cab
-------

"You see, they know me!" said Maitraya proudly. "Men whose names
I can't remember pay me homage! Actors are respected more than
kings and priests--and justly so. _They_ rule badly and
teach nonsense. It is we who interpret--we who hold example
up to them!"

The man's vanity delivered him tied and bound to Ommony's chariot
wheels. There was nothing to do but flatter him, and he would
tell all he knew, accepting the flatterer as guide, philosopher
and friend appointed for his comfort by the glorious gods.

"I am surprised that a man of your attainments should condescend
to employment by this Lama person," said Ommony. "Of course, if
you are willing, so am I, but how did it come about?"

"You would never believe. He is a very strange Lama--more
unusual than rain in hot weather or the sun at midnight; but I
have a gift for attracting unusual people. By Jinendra, Gupta
Rao, I have never seen the like of him--even in these days, when
everything is upside down! He has a _chela_ by the name of
Samding, who has more genius in his little finger than any dozen
statesmen have in their whole bodies. Not that it would do to
tell him so--I don't believe in flattering beginners--they can't
stand it. And he lacks experience. That Lama must be a very
expert teacher. The first time I met him, he was one of a crowd
who watched me act 'Charudatta' in _The Toy Cart_--a part that I
excel in. Afterward, he invited me to witness a performance in
private by his _chela_, and I went with him to a mysterious place
kept by some Tibetans at the end of a stone courtyard--the sort
of place where you would expect to be murdered for your shoe
-leather--a place that smelt of rancid butter and incense and
donkey stables. Whoof! I shudder now, to think of it! But the
_chela_ was marvelous. Calm--you never saw such equipoise--such
balance of all the faculties! And a voice as if a god were
speaking! The middle note, true as a bell, like a gong to begin
with every time, rising and lowering from that with utter
certainty--half-tones--quarter-tones--passion, pathos, scorn,
command, exhilaration--laughter like a peal of bells--wait until
you have heard it, Gupta Rao! You will be as thrilled as I was.
You will say I did not exaggerate. Perfect! If only success
doesn't turn the boy's head!"

"What language?" asked Ommony.

"Prepare to be amazed! Ancient Sanskrit--modern Urdu--with equal
fluency and equal grace! Distinct enunciation--and a command of
gesture that expresses everything, so that you know what he will
say before he speaks! But that is not all. I tell you he is
marvelous! He has the modern touch. He understands how to play
an ancient part so that it means something to the uninitiated. I
am already jealous of him! I tell you, when that boy has had the
advantage of my instruction for a while, he will be great--the
greatest actor in the world!"

"What proposal did the Lama make?" asked Ommony.

"A crazy one. I told you the man is mad. He proposes to give
_free_ entertainments--on tour--at places selected by himself
--for an indefinite period. I am to provide a troupe of
excellent actors, for whom I am to be responsible. There are to
be three women among them, but the dancers will be provided by
the Lama, as also the music, and Samding the _chela_ is to play
the leading female parts."

"I'm surprised he takes any women at all," said Ommony. "There's
a prejudice against actresses. They're always a nuisance.
Properly trained boys are better. If a man plays leading woman,
the women will only make him look absurd by contrast."

"Well, that is _his_ affair. I suggested that, but the Lama
insisted. And mad though he undoubtedly is, he knows his own
mind, and is shrewd in some respects. I lied to Benjamin when I
said I had not asked for money in advance. I did my best to hold
out for that--naturally. But I suspect the Lama knows a lot
about me, and he certainly knows Benjamin; he told me to go to
Benjamin and to get what credit I may need from him. Do you see
the idea? If he and Benjamin have a private understanding, that
gives him an extra hold over me--it makes me practically
powerless to oppose him in anything, however ridiculous his
demands may turn out to be. You see, I have to pay Benjamin's
bill. However--here we are."

And where they were was not the least surprising feature of the
mystery. The _tikka-gharri_ drew up at an arched gate in a high
wall, over which trees leaned in well cared for profusion. There
were cut flowers tucked into the carving on the arch, and
blossoms strewn on the sidewalk. A dozen carriages, most of them
with thoroughbred horses, waited in line near the gate, and the
dazzling sun projected on the white wall shadows of thirty or
forty men in turbans of every imaginable color, who seemed to
have nothing to do but to lounge near the entrance. Some of them
nodded at Maitraya; several salaamed to him; one or two were at
pains to stare insolently.

In the gateway was a fat _chuprassi_ with a lemon-colored silk
scarf, and the whitest clothes that ever any man wore--whiter
than the wall, and starched stiff. He stood guard over about
fifty pairs of slippers, most of which were expensive, and nearly
all of which looked new. There was no question as to what kind
of a house it was--or rather, palace; and there was music
tinkling in a courtyard, which confirmed the general impression.

"Vasantasena's birthday," said Maitraya. "They began to
celebrate at dawn. But what does that matter? We are not rich
fools who have to race to do the fashionable thing. Our presence
honors her, however late we come. Have you a present ready?
Lend me a piece of gold, will you?"

"Where should I get gold?" asked Ommony--instantly aware that he
was teetering on the edge of his first mistake. Maitraya cocked
a wondering eye at him; it was quite clear that he knew
all about a Bhat's resources, even if the Bhat himself, for
unimaginable reasons, should choose to have forgotten them.

"I will improvise a poem in her honor," Ommony explained. "Women
enjoy poems, and I am good at them. Give me a glimpse of her,
and then see."

"Ah, but they like the poem gilded! Women are practical!
Moreover, I am no poet," said Maitraya. "Now one gold piece
from each of us--"

Ommony smiled. Without the beard he looked as obstinate as ever,
but humorous lines were revealed at the corners of his mouth
which the beard had hidden. He decided to put his disguise to a
severe test now, while the consequences of detection might not be
too disastrous.

"All right," he said, kicking off his slippers under the archway
and accepting the _chuprassi's_ salaam with a patronizing nod, as
if the fellow were dirt beneath his sacred feet, "I will attend
to it."

Beyond the arch there was a small paved courtyard, around the
walls of which were flowers growing in painted wooden troughs.
There were several tradesmen squatting there with trays of
jewelry in front of them, silver and even golden images of gods,
and all sorts of valuable gifts that a visitor might buy to
lavish on the lady who kept house within. The tradesmen were
noisy, and sarcastic when not patronized. Maitraya bridled, his
vanity not proof against insinuations that he probably had
squandered all his fortune long ago on much less lovely women.
But one hard stare from Ommony and the banter ceased.

"I will sing a song to Vasantasena about the jackals at her
gate!" he said sternly; whereat one of them offered him money,
and another tried to thrust a silver image of a god into his
hands. But he brushed all those offers aside.

"Shall a Bhat-Brahman take gifts from such as you?" he demanded.

"_Pranam! Pranam! Paunlagi!_" they murmured, raising both hands
to their foreheads; whereat he blessed them, as a Brahman is
obliged to, with a curt phrase that means "Victory be unto you,"
and he and Maitraya passed on, through another arch, into a
courtyard fifty feet square. There was a fountain in the midst,
around which about a dozen well dressed Hindus were gossiping.

"I would have taken the fool's money," said Maitraya. "Are you
not entitled to it?"

Ommony glanced at him contemptuously. "A tiger, if he wishes,
may eat mice!" he answered. "A bear may eat frogs--if he likes
them! A pig eats all things!" Maitraya looked chastened.

There came across the courtyard, swaggering toward them, an heir
to an ancient throne, in rose-pink turban and silken breeches,
with silver spurs nearly six inches long, and a little black
mustache on his lazy face that looked as if it had been stuck on
there with glue. He whacked his long boots with a rhino-hide
riding whip and rolled a little in his gait, as if it were almost
too much trouble to support his vice-exhausted frame. He was for
passing without notice, but Ommony stood by the fountain and
mocked him. He knew that youngster--knew him well.

"Do they still wean young princes on camel's milk and whisky in
Telingana?" he asked tartly. "I have heard tales of changelings.
Return, O treasure of a midwife, and hear me sing a song; I know
a good one!"

The gossipers around the fountain pricked their ears. The prince
seemed to come out of a day-dream. "Ah! Oh! I kiss feet!" he
exclaimed, and made as if to pass on. But Ommony was determined
to try his hand to a conclusion.

"Those boots are not respectful. They offend me!" he sneered.
"Are they cow-skin? They look like it!"

"Oh, damn!" remarked the prince in English. "Here, take this and
confer a blessing," he went on in Urdu, diving into his pocket.

"Gold!" warned Ommony. "I declare you gave gold to the woman in
there. All fees are payable in gold!"

"Gold? I have none. You must take this," said the prince and
passed a handful of crumpled paper money. "_Pranam._"

"Victory be unto you," said Ommony, accepting it, and the prince
made his escape, muttering under his breath at the insolence of
Brahmans, and of Bhats in particular.

"But paper money is no good," Maitraya objected. "I have paper
money," he added, lying for vanity's sake.

But Ommony was creeping into the Bhat-Brahman part.

"Why didn't you say so? Go and buy _mohurs*_ then from the
_sonar**_ at the gate," he retorted.

-------
* A gold coin, value about one pound sterling
** A goldsmith
-------

"Nay, Gupta Rao, you said _you_ would provide the presents. It
is only fair. You owe me a consideration. And besides, now I
come to think of it, I left most of my money at home."

Ommony thrust the paper money contemptuously into Maitraya's
hands, smiling in a way that spared the actor no embarrassment.

"Go and buy mohurs at the gate," he said. "I wait here."

Maitraya returned presently with four gold coins and offered two
of them.

"The _sonar_ cheated me--he cheated like a dog!" he grumbled, but
Ommony shrugged his shoulders and waved the coins aside.

"Give them all to the woman. I have another way to make her
smile," he said, looking important.

Maitraya approached humility as closely as professional pride
would permit.

"It occurs to me I did not ask a blessing when we first met. I
crave forgiveness. Your honor was so unusually free from false
pride that I overlooked the fact you are a Brahman. _Pranam._"

Ommony murmured the conventional curt blessing, and dismissed the
apology as if it were beneath notice. They passed into another
courtyard on which awninged windows opened from three sides. In
a corner a dozen musicians were raising Bedlam on stringed
instruments, their tune suggestive of western jazz but tainted,
too, like Hawaiian music, with a nauseating missionary lilt.
Fashionable India, in the shape of thirty or forty younger sons
of over-rich Hindus and a sprinkling of middle-aged roses, was
amusing itself in a bower of roses and strong-smelling jasmine,
while in a corner of the courtyard opposite the music three girls
were dancing more modestly than the scene would have led a censor
of morals to expect.

It was a gorgeous scene, for the sun beat down on a blaze of
turbans and the awnings cast purple shadows that made it all seem
unreal, like a vision of ancient history. Maitraya was greeted
noisily by a dozen men; he bowed to them right and left, as if
accepting applause as he entered a stage from the wings. The
girls danced more vigorously, under the eyes of an expert
now, whose approval might be of more than momentary value.
Professional zeal took hold of the musicians; the tune grew
louder and less careless.

"Beware! Vasantasena is in a Begum's fury!" some one shouted.
"None can satisfy her. Prince Govinda of Telingana gave her a
quart of gold _mohurs,_ and she sent him away because he had
dared to call on her in riding boots! I advise you to try her
with two quarts of gold, and to crawl on your belly!"

A stone stair gave on to the courtyard, through a doorway guarded
by two tall serving-men--immaculate, proud images of stern
propriety, turbaned and sashed with blazing silk. They looked
incapable of smiling, or of anything except the jobs they held,
but as gilt, as it were, on the surface of sin they were
unsurpassable. Ommony's disguise and manner aroused no
suspicion, although swift suspicion was what they drew wages
for, and they would have thrown him out into the street if
as much as a suggestion had crossed their minds that he might
be a European. They scrutinized Maitraya and Ommony and
passed them as autocratically as if they were Masters of
Ceremony passing judgment on attendants at a royal levee.

But royal levees are easier for outsiders to attend than that one
was, and royalty, even in India, is shabby nowadays because its
power is at most a shadow of the past and its forms mean nothing
more than a cheap desire by unimportant folk to strut in a
reflected pseudo-glory. Kings and conquerors go down, but
whoever thinks that the power of the Pompadours has waned knows
very little of the world or human nature. Vasantasena wielded
more influence, and could pull more hidden wires than any dozen
maharajahs, and the court she kept, if rather less splendid than
a royal one, was alive with the mysterious magnetism of actual
personal power. It was almost tangible, and much more visible
than if she had been surrounded by men in armor.

Upstairs there was no attempt at glittering display, but
art and Old-World luxury in every considered detail. A hall,
paneled in carved teak and hung with Rawalia woven curtains and
a silver lamp on heavy silver chains, conveyed no suggestion of
wickedness; a Christian bishop could have trodden the soft
Persian rug (had he dared) and have imagined himself in the midst
of sanctity. But as Ommony and Maitraya reached the stair-head
the curtains facing them across the hall were parted, and a girl
peeped through whom hardly a Wahabi ascetic would associate with
thoughts of Paradise. She was much too paganly aware that life
is laughter, and that men are amusing creatures, to be criticized
by standard formula; and she looked like a mother o' pearl
Undine faintly veiled in mist--one of those fabled spirits who
may receive a human soul, perhaps, some day, by marriage with a
mortal--when she slipped out through the curtains and stood more
or less revealed. She was clothed, and from head to foot, but
not in obscurity.

She greeted Maitraya with a smile of recognition that suggested
no familiarity. She was friendly, but perfectly sure of
herself, and as sure of his unimportance. Then she glanced
at Ommony, observed the caste-mark on his forehead, and made
him a little mock-salaam, covering her eyes with both hands
and murmuring "_Pranam._"

"This is Gupta Rao sahib. The Joy of Asia will be pleased to see
us both," said Maitraya, assuming his courtliest air; whereat
the girl laughed at him.

"She is not so easily pleased," she answered, glancing at
Maitraya's hand. There was not much that her dark eyes missed.
He gave her one of the gold _mohurs,_ and then she stared
straight at Ommony. Maitraya nudged him, trying to slip a
_mohur_ into his hand; but if you are to act the part of a
Bhat-Brahman it is as well not to begin by bribing any one
who can be overawed.

"I have a song to sing!" said Ommony. "Shall I include you in
it? Shall I add a verse concerning--"

Swiftly she drew the curtain back and, laughing impudently over
-shoulder at him, signed to him rather than to Maitraya to follow
her down a short wide corridor to a door at the end that stood
slightly ajar and through which came a murmur of voices. Through
that she led without ceremony into a square room in which half a
dozen men were seated on a long cushioned divan beneath a window
at the farther end. They were wealthy, important-looking men,
one or two of middle age. Girls, dressed as unobscurely as the
one who had acted guide, were passing to and fro with cigarettes
and sitting down between whiles on heaped cushions near the men's
feet. In the center of the room a white-robed Hindu was making
two costumed monkeys perform tricks, solemnly watched by the men
in the window, who took scant notice of Ommony and Maitraya.

Vasantasena was not there. Her richly draped divan under a
peacock-colored canopy at the end of the room facing the window
was vacant, although two girls with jeweled fans lounged on
cushions, one on either side of it, as if she were expected to
come presently. The sharp cries of the man with the monkeys and
the occasional giggle of a girl punctuated an under-hum of
murmured conversation from the men by the window. The atmosphere
was loaded with dim incense and cigarette smoke, blown into
spirals of bluish mist by a punkah that swung lazily, pulled by a
cord through a hole in the wall. Ommony sat down cross-legged on
a cushioned couch against the wall midway between the window and
Vasantasena's divan, and Maitraya followed suit. Two girls,
possessed of patronizing smiles, brought cigarettes and a little
golden lamp to light them by.

It was sixty seconds before Ommony grew aware of the essential
fact. He lit a cigarette and blew smoke through his nose before
he dared to look a second time, for fear of betraying interest.
Having satisfied himself that Maitraya was studying the girls
with an air of professional judgment assumed for the perfectly
evident purpose of disguising a middle-aged thrill; and that
after one glance none of the men in the window was in the least
interested in himself, Ommony let his eyes wander again toward
the darkest corner of the room beyond Vasantasena's divan.
There, on a mat on the floor, sat no other than the Ringding
Gelong Lama, Tsiang Samdup, with his _chela_ Samding beside him.

They sat still, like graven images. The Lama's face was such a
mass of unmoving wrinkles that it looked like a carved pine-knot
with the grain exposed. He was dressed in the same snuff-colored
robe that he wore when Ommony first saw him in Chutter Chand's
back room, and if he was not day-dreaming, oblivious to all
surroundings, he gave a marvelous imitation of it.

The _chela_ was equally motionless, but less in shadow and his
eyes were missing no detail of the scene; they were keen and
bright, expressing alert intelligence, and each time Ommony
looked away he was aware that they were watching him with a
curiosity no less intense than his own. But they refused
to meet his. Whenever he looked straight at the _chela_,
although he could not detect movement, he was sure the eyes
were looking elsewhere.

He was also very nearly sure that Samding whispered to the Lama;
the calm lips parted a trifle showing beautifully even white
teeth, but the Lama made no acknowledgment.

"What is the Lama doing in this place?" he asked. 

"I don't know," said Maitraya, "but he told me to meet him here. Many
important plans are laid in this place. Ah! Here she comes!"

Maitraya was nervous, suffering from something akin to stage
-fright, which consumes the oldest actors on occasion. It was
clear enough that, though he had been in the place before it was
rather as an entertainer than a guest, and he was not quite sure
now how to behave himself. He tried to shelter himself behind
Ommony--to push him forward as every one rose to his feet (every
one, that is, except the Lama and Samding, who appeared to be
glued to the mat).

But Ommony was no man's fool, to rush in where Maitraya feared to
tread. He wanted time for observation. He laughed aloud and
swung Maitraya forward by the elbow, arousing a ripple of
merriment from the women, as a door opened behind where the Lama
was sitting and Vasantasena entered to a chorus of flattering
comment from every one.

She was worth running risks to see; as gracious, modest to the
eye and royal-looking as her attendant women were the opposite.
Her dress was not diaphanous, and not extravagant; she wore no
jewelry except a heavy gold chain reaching from her shoulders to
her waist, long earrings of aquamarine, plain gold bangles on her
wrists, and one heavy jeweled bracelet on her right ankle. From
head to knees she was draped in a pale blue silk shawl that
glittered with sequins.

By far her most remarkable feature was her eyes, that were as
intelligent as Samding's, or almost; but her whole face was lit
up with intelligence, though as for good looks in the commonplace
acceptance of the term, there was none. She was too dynamic to
be pretty; too imperious to arouse impertinent emotions.
She was of the type that could have ruled a principality of
Rajasthan, in the days before those hotbeds of feudalism went
under in a cycle of decay.

She took her seat under the canopy, settled herself on one elbow
among the cushions, with one small henna-stained foot projecting
over the edge of the divan, noticed Maitraya and suddenly smiled.
That explained her. Her smile was the miracle of Asia--the
expression of the spirit of the East that so few casual observers
catch--a willingness to laugh--a knowledge that the whole pageant
of life is only _maya*_ after all and not to be taken too
seriously--satisfaction that the sins of this life may be wiped
out in the next, and the next, and that all inequalities adjust
themselves ultimately. The true philosophy is sterner stuff than
that; but it was impossible to see that smile of hers and not
understand why men of the world paid her homage and tribute; she
could see through any make-believe, and pardon any crime but
impudence. One could see how she wielded more power than a
thousand priests, and would very likely work less evil in the
end, although fools were likely to go to swifter ruin in her
company than elsewhere. She had force of character, and that is
very bad for fools.

---------
* Delusion
--------

Maitraya bowed and stepped forward (for Ommony shoved him). The
birthday tribute she had levied already that morning lay in a
silver bowl on a little table to her right; Maitraya advanced to
add his mite to it, bowed to her profoundly as he passed, and
dropped his coins on top of the yellow heap, murmuring platitudes.

"_Three mohurs!_" exclaimed one of the fan-girls, and the men
near the window laughed.

"Liar!" Maitraya cried indignantly. "I threw in five!"

"Three!" the girl repeated, laughing scornfully, whereat every
other woman in the room except Vasantasena, who ignored the whole
transaction, mocked him and he went and sat down on the floor
near the Lama with his back against the wall, scowling as if
poison and daggers were his only joy.

That left Ommony on his feet, wondering whether the Powers, that
had treated him exceedingly well in all emergencies until that
moment, would still stand by. It would not be correct to say his
heart was in his mouth; it was pumping like a big ship's
engines, humming in his ears, and if it had not suddenly occurred
to him that this woman was possibly one of the Lama's agents
for the traffic in white children he might have surrendered
to nervousness. He forgot that she was too young to have
had any hand in the incidents that Benjamin had told about
--remembered only that the Lama was there in her house, and
that a Bhat-Brahman's tongue should be readier than nitroglycerine
to go off and shake the pillars of any society.

"O Brighter than the stars!--O Shadow of Parvarti--O Dew upon the
Jasmine blossoms!" he began. "I bring a greater gift than gold."

He was surprised by the ringing arrogance of his own voice.
Vasantasena smiled. No man that day had dared to come empty-handed, yet with his mouth so full of brave words. The company
had bored her. Here was a man who held out promise of amusement.

"What is greater than gold?" she inquired in tones that came
rolling from her throat like organ music. And on the instant he
challenged her.

"Reputation!" he answered. "Shall I sing thine? For thou and I
are both from Rajasthan, O Moon of men's desire!"

She frowned and did not answer for a moment. It is quite in
order to sing poems to a lady on her birthday, but it is not bad
policy sometimes to know the words of the poem before giving a
Bhat-Brahman leave to sing; what scandal they don't know they
are almost always willing to invent.

"What is thy name?" she inquired, smiling again. "Gupta Rao."

Her brows grew reminiscent, as if the name suggested vague
connection with the past. She seemed not quite able to place it,
but the men in the window scented a delicious piece of scandal
and began calling for the song, and that naturally settled it;
she was not going to be made foolish before a crowd.

"Did you not come with Maitraya?" she asked quietly. "Is your
business not with Tsiang Samdup?"

"Subject to the Mirror of Heaven's smile," said Ommony, making an
obeisance that verged on the brink of mockery.

She raised her voice, not very loud, but so that it vibrated
with power:

"The noblemen who have honored me will find good entertainment in
the inner courtyard. I will send down word as soon as I crave to
rejoice in your lordships' smiles again!"

Without a murmur the guests got to their feet and bowed themselves
out; if she had been an empress they could not have been more
complacently obedient. They went with side-glances at Ommony
and nods to one another, implying that a great deal went
on at times in that room that they would give their ears to know,
but on the whole they more resembled overgrown children turned
out to play than middle-aged, bearded courtiers given temporary
leave of absence.

-------



The most important thing is Silence. In the Silence Wisdom
speaks, and they whose hearts are open understand her. The brave
man is at the mercy of cowards, and the honest man at the mercy
of thieves, unless he keep silence. But if he keep silence he is
safe, because they will fail to understand him; and then he may
do them good without their knowing it, which is a source of true
humor and contentment.
--From the Book of the Sayings of Tsiang Samdup



Chapter XI

"All this in the Space of One Night"

The girls took the seat in the window the men had vacated, and
sprawled there like sirens on a rock. Even the fan-girls joined
them. It was quite clear there was a secret in the air; the
ostentatious way in which the girls kept up a low-voiced chatter
to show they were not listening was proof enough of that.
Vasantasena lay on the wide divan with a cushion beneath her
breast and her chin on both hands, considering Ommony for several
minutes before she spoke, presumably curious to know why he had
come with Maitraya; possibly she thought the silence and the
stare would break him down and make him offer an explanation, but
he met her eyes with challenging indifference. Silence is the
only safe answer to Silence.

"Tsiang Samdup," she said at last, "let the girls put your mat
here in front of me."

But the Lama would not move. He shook his head. And Samding spoke:

"The holy Lama knows where it is best to sit. He is not to be
moved for convenience."

The voice was no more astonishing than is anything else that sets
a keynote. It was like the rhythm of a tuning fork. It changed
the key--the very atmosphere, asserting fundamental fact, to
which everything else must adjust itself or be out of harmony.
Vasantasena raised her eyebrows, but yielded and changed her
position so as to face the Lama, signing to Ommony to squat down
on a cushion beside Maitraya; which was disappointing, because
it prevented him from watching the Lama's face. He could see
Samding's profile beyond Maitraya's only through the corner of
his eye, but he marveled at that; it was as beautiful as a
figure of the Buddha done in porcelain.

"If I am to let my piece of jade go," Vasantasena asked at last,
"what reward have I?"

"None," said the Lama; and that was another fundamental
statement, issuing in a voice like the gong that starts the
engines. It left nothing whatever to argue about.

"Then why should I do it?" Vasantasena asked.

"Because you wish to do it, and the wish is wise," the Lama
answered, as if he were replying to the question of a little child.

"How do you know I wish to do it?"

"How do you know you are alive?" the Lama retorted.

Vasantasena laughed. "I believe you know where you can sell it!"
she said, in an obvious effort to lower the conversation to a
plane on which she might have the advantage.

"I know you do not believe that," said the Lama.

Vasantasena sighed. "How do you learn such knowledge?" she
asked. "You seem to know everything. I am not ignorant.
A hundred men come here, and none of them can make a fool
of me, but--"

"Perhaps you are not a fool," the Lama interrupted.

"No, I am not a fool. I can whisper a word here and a word
there, and some of the evil that would have been done dies
still-born--and some of the good that might never have been
born has birth. And as for me, what does it matter? And yet
--sometimes I think it does matter about me. And sometimes
I think I will give all my money to the poor--"

"And rob them," said the Lama.

"Rob them of what?" She stared at him blankly.

"Of the moment. It is not wise to deprive them of the moment.
At the moment of our utmost need, we learn."

"Yours is a heartless creed," she retorted, glancing at the money
in the bowl beside her. "That money would feed a thousand people."

"Nothing is heartless," said the Lama. "It is better to eat
consequences now than to put off the day of retribution. Better
the sting of an insect now than a serpent's bite a year hence.
Better an experience in this life than a thousand-fold the
bitterness in lives to come."

"What says the Bhat to that?" she asked suddenly, glancing at
Ommony, and Samding came out of his immobility to give one swift
searching glance sidewise.

Privilege has its disadvantages. It is one of the obligations of
a Bhat that when appealed to he must say something; and the
quicker he says it, the better for his reputation.

"I am not your priest. You would like to quote me against him,
but I am only interested in learning why I was brought here,"
Ommony answered.

Vasantasena sneered. "Just like a Bhat! You think of nothing
but your own convenience. Well, I am glad there is none of your
money in my birthday bowl. Rather I will give you some of it.
Here--help yourself."

"It is unclean money," said Ommony, falling back on the caste-rules that a Bhat may observe if he chooses, even if the other
Brahmans refuse him recognition.

"Is that true?" she asked the Lama. "This is not all. I am
rich. I have lakhs and lakhs."

"It is yours," the Lama answered. "It is your responsibility."

"Well," she said, "as I told you before, if you will take it all,
you may have it. I am about to become _Sanyasin.*_ I think the
piece of jade will help me more than all my money. I will keep
the jade."

-------
* In a sense this means "taking the veil," although the process
is almost exactly the opposite. Just as men so often do in
India, women sometimes renounce all worldly possessions and
become wandering hermits, living in caves and practicing
inhumanly severe austerities. Such women, whatever their
previous occupation may have been, are deeply venerated.
--------

"I will not take your money," said the Lama. "Nor can you escape
responsibility. There is a Middle Way, and the middle of it lies
before you."

Vasantasena frowned, her chin on both hands, studying the Lama's
face. His bright old eyes looked straight back at her out of a
mass of wrinkles, but he did not move; if he smiled, there were
too many wrinkles for any one to be quite sure of it.

"Well--I will call the girls," she said at last. "I will test
you. You must tell me from which of them I received the piece
of jade."

She clapped her hands and the girls came hurrying from the far
end of the room, standing in a line self-consciously. They were
used to being admired, and it was quite in keeping with the
probabilities that every one of them had been bought and sold at
some early stage of her career, but there was novelty in this
ordeal, and they did not seem to know what to make of it.

"That one," said Vasantasena, nodding at the nearest, "is much
the most popular."

"She has no other merit," said the Lama, and the girl looked
bewildered--piqued.

"And that one at the other end is the cleverest. She has the
quickest wit of all of them. She might have stolen it."

"If so she would have kept it," said the Lama, watching the
girls' faces. "The fourth from this end. She is the one. Let
the others go."

At a nod from Vasantasena eight girls returned to the window-seat
and one stood still. She was the same who had admitted Maitraya
and Ommony, only now all her self-possession had departed; she
seemed to fear the Lama as a cornered dove fears a snake. She
was trembling.

"Why are you afraid?" the Lama asked, as gently as if he were
talking to a woman he would woo; but the girl made a gesture to
her mistress for protection from him.

"She is afraid because you have read rightly," said Vasantasena.
"I, too, am afraid. Are you in league with gods or devils?"

"That is not well," said the Lama. "Whom have I harmed?"

"You are too wise," said Vasantasena.

"Macauley the Eurasian had the stone," the Lama went on in a
booming voice. "A certain person gave it to him in a package
yesterday, to take it to Simla and thence to Tilgaun. That would
have been well. But Macauley the Eurasian was weak and dallied
with a woman--"

"No Eurasian _has_ ever been in my house!" Vasantasena
interrupted, flaring.

"And the woman had a husband; and the husband was a _Sudra*_ who
was seeking education from a Brahman, so he gave the piece of
jade to _him._ And the Brahman came hither, and boasted--and
took opium--"

--------
* Some Brahmans consent to teach the Sudra castes because of the
enormous "gifts" they receive for doing so, but the practice is
frowned on by the Pundits and the guilty Brahmans are considered
degraded, although not outcasts.
---------

"He brought the drug with him. I _never_ gave any man opium!"
Vasantasena interrupted.

"And _she_ took the stone from him and brought it to _you._ All
this in the space of one night," said the Lama.

"But how do you _know?_"

"I do know."

"How do you know it was this girl?"

"She is the only one who would have given it to you. Any of the
others would have kept it."

Ommony managed to master his emotions somehow, but it was not
easy, for here was proof of a system of spying that outspied the
Secret Service. How had the Lama learned that the stone had been
entrusted to McGregor, to be given in turn to Macauley, to be
taken to Tilgaun? Given that much information in the first place
it might have been comparatively easy to trace the stone
afterward, but--McGregor had surely not talked. Macauley and
McGregor's _sais_ were the only possibilities.

Vasantasena groped under the cushions and brought out the piece
of jade--the same piece that had been in Ommony's possession;
there was no mistaking its peculiar shape, or the deep-sea green
translucence. The expression of Samding's face changed for a
moment; he actually blinked and smiled, and the smile was as
attractive as the marvel of the stone. Vasantasena noticed it.

"Give me your _chela_ in exchange!" she said suddenly. "I could
endure that _chela!_ He is almost fit to be a god. He needs
only passion to awaken him. I can not understand this stone,
which makes me dizzy to look into it, and dark with fear of
myself. The _chela_ makes me feel there is a future. I can look
into his eyes and know that all wisdom is attainable. I will
teach him passion, and he shall teach me pure desire."

The Lama chuckled engagingly. His wrinkles multiplied and his
smile was as full of amusement as a Chinese fisherman's. "Ask
_him,_" he said.

Vasantasena smiled at Samding--that same smile that had explained
the secret of her influence. It promised unrestraint, indulgence
without limit, and thereafter forgiveness. She held up the stone
in her right hand, ready to exchange.

"A bargain?" she asked eagerly.

"No"--one monosyllable, abrupt and clear--F natural exactly in
the middle of the note. A golden gong could not have answered
more finally or with less regard for consequences.

Vasantasena started as if stung. Her eyes flashed and her mood
changed into savagery like a stirred snake's. The girl who was
still standing before her shrank and half-smothered a scream.
Maitraya ducked instantly with his face behind his hands.
Vasantasena flung the stone at Samding straight and hard. It
struck him in the breast, but if it hurt, he gave no sign. He
covered the stone with both hands for a moment, as if caressing
it, wiped it carefully on a corner of his robe, and passed it to
the Lama, who secreted it in his bosom as matter-of-factly as if
the entire proceeding were exactly what he had expected.

"Go!" Vasantasena ordered hoarsely. "Begone from here! Never
darken my door again! Go, all of you--you, and you--what is a
dog of an actor doing here? A Bhat! A Bhat--a casteless
Brahman! You defile my house! A gang of devil-worshipers!
Girls--call the men-servants and throw them out!"

But the Lama was quite unhurried. He got up from the mat and
blessed Vasantasena sonorously in Tibetan, which she did not
understand; it might have been a curse for all she knew.
Samding rolled up the mat. Maitraya got behind the Lama for
protection; and the girls hesitated to obey the order to use
violence on any one as sacred as a Lama, or as dangerous as a
Bhat. The Lama led the way out of the room with his skirts
swinging majestically, and Ommony brought up the rear, aware that
the danger was by no means over. He paused in the door and met
Vasantasena's furious stare.

"Shall I summon the guests from below?" he inquired; for that
was the one risk he wanted to avoid. If he proposed it, she
might forbid. "They would like to hear me sing a song of this!"
he added.

"Go!" she screamed. "I will have you stabbed! I will have you--"

"Shall I sing to them in the courtyard?" he asked; and as she
choked, trying to force new threats out of her throat, he shut
the door behind him and hurried to follow the Lama, dreading what
mood might overtake her during the minute or two before they
could reach the street.

But the Lama would not make haste, although Maitraya urged him in
sibilant undertones. In the courtyard he chose to think the
greetings called out to Maitraya were intended for himself and
bowed, bestowing blessings right and left. Then solemnly and
very slowly, as if walking were as mathematically exact a process
as the precession of the equinox, he led the way into the outer
courtyard, where he stood for a moment and studied the fountain
as if it contained the answer to the riddle of the universe. The
sound of running footsteps did not break his meditation, or upset
the equanimity of Samding, but Maitraya, glancing over-shoulder,
started for the gate, and Ommony, muttering "Oh, my God!" had to
steel himself not to follow. The two enormous sashed and
turbaned janitors who kept the stairway to Vasantasena's upper
room came shouting from the inner court--shouting to the man on
guard at the outer gate; and Ommony's blood ran cold.

But they stopped shouting when they caught sight of the Lama
--stopped running--stopped gesticulating. Very humbly they
approached him, offering a present from Vasantasena--gold in a
silken bag, and a smaller bag of gold for Gupta Rao the Bhat,
with a request that he should remember the donor kindly. They
pressed the presents--followed to the gate, imploring, swearing
their mistress would take deep offense and think it an ill-omen
if the gold were not accepted. When the Lama and Ommony
persisted in refusing they tried to force both presents on
Samding, and even followed to the street; where they snatched
the flowers that were tucked into the carving of the arch and
thrust them into the Lama's hands. Not until a strange, old-fashioned one-horse carriage with shuttered sides drew up at the
gate and the Lama and Samding stepped into it, signing to Ommony
and Maitraya to follow, was it possible to escape from the
clamorous importunity; and even when the carriage drove away the
voices followed after.

--------



The man who knows he is ignorant is at no disadvantage if he
permits a wise man to do the thinking; because the wise man
knows that neither advantage to one or disadvantage to another
comes at all within the scope of wisdom, and he will govern
himself accordingly. But he who seeks to outwit wisdom adds to
ignorance presumption; and that is a combination that the gods
do not love.
--From the Book of the Sayings of Tsiang Samdup



Chapter XII

"All Things End--Even Carriage Rides."

The heat inside the carriage was stifling. No breeze came
through the slats that formed the sides, but they had the
advantage that one could see out, and sufficient light streamed
through to show the Lama's face distinctly at close quarters.
The Lama sat perched on the rear seat with Samding beside him,
both of them cross-legged like Buddhas, but the front seat was as
narrow as a knifeboard, and in the space between there was hardly
room for Ommony's and Maitraya's legs. Faces were so close that
the utmost exercise of polite manners could hardly have prevented
staring, and Ommony took full advantage of it.

But the Lama seemed unconscious of being looked at, making no
effort to avoid Ommony's eyes, although Samding kept his face
averted and stared between the slats at the crowd on the
sidewalks. The Lama's eyes were motionless, fixed on vacancy
somewhere through Ommony's head and beyond it; they were blue
eyes, not brown as might have been expected--blue aging into
gray--the color of the northern sky on windy afternoons.

The horse clop-clopped along the paved street leisurely, the
clink of a loose shoe adding a tantalizing punctuation to the
rhythm, and a huge blow-fly buzzed disgustingly until it settled
at last on the Lama's nose.

"That is not the right place," he remarked then in excellent
English, and with a surprisingly deft motion of his right hand
slapped the fly out through the slats. He smiled at Ommony, who
pretended not to understand him; for the most important thing at
the moment seemed to be to discover whether or not the Lama had
guessed his identity and, if not, to preserve the secret as long
as possible. From a pouch at his waist that Benjamin had
thoughtfully provided he produced _pan*_ and began to chew it
--an offensive habit that he hated, but one that every Brahman
practices. The Lama spoke again, this time in Urdu:

"Flies," he said, in a voice as if he were teaching school, "are
like evil thoughts that seem to come from nowhere. Kill them,
and others come. They must be kept out, and their source looked
for and destroyed."

--------
* A preparation of betel-nut
--------

"It is news to me," said Ommony, in his best Bhat-Brahman tone of
voice, "that people from Tibet know the laws of sanitation. Now
I have studied them, for I lean to the modern view of things.
Flies breed in dunghills and rotten meat, from larvae that devour
the solids therein contained."

"Even as sin breeds in a man's mind from curiosity that devours
virtue," said the Lama. He did not smile, but there was an
inflection in his voice that suggested he had thought of smiling.
Ommony improvised a perfectly good Brahman answer:

"Without curiosity progress would cease," he asserted, well
knowing that was untrue but bent on proving he was some one he
was not. The Lama knew Cottswold Ommony for a thoughtful man
(for twenty years' correspondence must have demonstrated that)
and, if not profound, at least acquainted with profundity; and
it is men's expressions of opinion more often than mechanical
mistakes that betray disguises, so he didactically urged an
opinion that he did not entertain.

"Without curiosity, nine-tenths of sin would cease. The other
tenth would be destroyed by knowledge," the Lama replied.
Whereat he took snuff in huge quantities from a wonderful old
silver box.

"Where are we going?" asked Ommony suddenly.

"I have disposed of curiosity." The Lama dismissed the question
with one firm horizontal movement of his right hand.

"I have a servant, to whom I must send a message," Ommony
objected.

"The _chela_ may take it."

Ommony glanced at Samding and the calm eyes met his without
wavering; yet he did not have the Lama's trick of seeming to
look through a person. Perhaps youth had something to do with
that. His gaze betrayed interest in an object, whereas the
Lama's looked behind, beyond, as if he could see causes.

Ommony sat still, grateful for the silence, thinking furiously.
He had witnessed proof that the Lama commanded a spy-system
perfectly capable of discovering even the secret moves of
McGregor. The odds were therefore ten to one that he knew
exactly who was sitting in the carriage facing him. Samding had
read the name Ommony on Diana's collar in Chutter Chand's shop.
The letter from the Lama had been delivered to Mrs. Cornock-Campbell's house. Benjamin was the Lama's secret agent, as well
as more or less openly his man of business. Viewed in all its
bearings, it would be almost a miracle if the Lama did not at
least suspect the real identity of the Bhat-Brahman who sat
chewing betel-nut in front of him.

And the Lama now had the piece of jade for which ostensibly he
had come all the way to Delhi. Moreover, he had known where it
was, at least for several hours. Then why did he continue to
submit to being spied on? Why had he not, for instance, stepped
into the carriage and driven away, leaving Ommony on the sidewalk
outside Vasantasena's? That would have been perfectly easy. Or
he could have denounced Ommony in Vasantasena's presence, with
consequences at the hands of the assembled guests that would have
been at least drastic, and perhaps deadly. If the Lama really
did know who was sitting in the carriage with him, the mystery
was increased rather than clarified.

And now there was the problem of Dawa Tsering and the dog.
Ommony wished for the moment he had made some other arrangement
--until he realized the futility of making any effort to conceal
what the Lama almost certainly already knew. He might have left
the dog with McGregor, and have had Dawa Tsering confined in
jail, but he would have lost two important allies by doing it. A
man with a "knife" and a dog with a terrific set of teeth might
turn out to be as good as guardian angels.

On the other hand, the Lama might be planning to disappear along
the mysterious "Middle Way" that baffles all detection. If so,
the dog and Dawa Tsering might be exceedingly useful in tracing
him. If the offer to send Samding with a message were not a
trick, it would at least acquaint the dog with Samding's smell;
and it might be that the Lama was ignorant about a trained dog's
hunting ability.

Finally, as the carriage dawdled through the sun-baked, thronging
streets, Ommony reached the conclusion that he had been guided by
intuition when he gave orders to Dawa Tsering. A man who has
lived in a forest for the greater part of twenty years, and has
studied native life and nature in the raw as methodically as
Ommony had done, achieves a faith in intuition that persists in
the face of much that is called evidence. He decided to carry
on, at least one step farther, trusting again to intuition that
assured him he was not in serious danger and wondering whether
the Lama was not quite as puzzled as himself. He glanced at the
Lama's face, hoping to detect a trace of worry.

But the Lama was asleep. He was sleeping as serenely as a child,
with his head drooped forward and his shoulders leaning back into
the corner. Samding made a signal not to waken him.

The carriage dawdled on. The Lama stirred, glanced through the
slats to find out where they were, and dozed away again. The
streets grew narrower, and then broadened into unpaved roads that
wandered between high walls and shuttered windows, in a part of
Delhi that Ommony only knew by hearsay and from books. It was
shabbily exclusive--drab--with plaster peeling from old-fashioned
houses and an air of detachment from excitement in all forms.
Here and there a Moslem minaret uprose above surrounding flat
roofs, and trees peeped over the wall of a crowded cemetery.
They were going northward, toward where the ruins of really
ancient Delhi shelter thieves and jackals in impenetrable scrub
and mounds of debris; a district where anything might happen and
no official be a word the wiser.

Suddenly the carriage checked and turned between high walls into
an alley with a gate at the farther end. The driver cried aloud
with a voice like a prophet of despair announcing the end of all
things; the double gate swung wide, not more than a yard in
advance of the horse's nose; paved stones rang underfoot; the
gates slammed shut; and the Lama came to life, opening first one
eye, then the other.

"All things end--even carriage-rides," he said in English,
looking hard at Ommony. But Ommony was still of the opinion it
was better to pretend he did not understand that language.

Somebody opened the carriage door from outside--a Tibetan, all
smiles and benedictions, robed like a medieval monk--who
chattered so fast in a northern dialect that Ommony could not
make head or tail of it. Samding cut short the flow of speech by
pushing past him, followed by Maitraya. Ommony got out next, his
eyes blinded for the moment by sunlight off the white stone walls
of a courtyard; and before he could take in the scene the
carriage containing the Lama moved on again and disappeared
through a gate under an arch in a barrack-like building: the
gate was pulled shut after it by some one on the inside.

It was a four-square courtyard, dazzling white, paved with
ancient stones, surrounded on three sides by a cloister supported
on wooden posts, on to which tall narrow doors opened at unequal
intervals. There was no attempt at ornament, but the place had a
sort of stern dignity and looked as if it might originally have
been a khan for northern travelers. The windows on the walls
above the cloister roof were all shuttered with slatted blinds,
and there were no human beings in evidence except Samding,
Maitraya and the Tibetan who had opened the carriage door; but
there were sounds of many voices coming from the shuttered window
of a room that opened on the cloister.

Samding stood still, facing Ommony, silent, presumably waiting
for the message he was to take. Ommony spoke to him in Urdu:

"Is this our destination? Or do we go elsewhere from here?"

"Here--until tomorrow or the next day," said the quiet voice.

"Do you know your way about Delhi? Can you find your way to
Benjamin, the Jew's, in the Chandni Chowk? Will you take this
handkerchief of mine and go to Benjamin's, where you will find a
very big dog. Show the handkerchief to the dog, and let her
smell it. She will follow you to this place."

Samding smiled engagingly, but incomprehensibly; the smile
seemed to portend something.

"Speak louder," he suggested, as if he were deaf and had not
heard the message.

Ommony raised his voice almost to a shout; he was irritated by
the enigmatic smile. His words, as he repeated what he had said,
echoed under the cloister--and were answered by a deep-throated
bay he could have recognized from among the chorus of a dog-pound. A door in the cloister that stood ajar flew wide, and
Diana came bounding out like a crazy thing, yelping and squealing
delight to see her master, almost knocking him down and smelling
him all over from head to foot to make sure it was really he
inside the unaccustomed garments. And a moment later Dawa
Tsering strode out through the same door, knife and all, blinking
at the sunlight, looking half-ashamed.

Ommony quieted Diana, stared sharply at Dawa Tsering, and turned
to question Samding. The _chela_ was gone. He just caught sight
of his back as he vanished through a door under the cloister,
twenty feet away. He questioned the Tibetan, using Prakrit, but
the man appeared not to understand him. Dawa Tsering strolled
closer, grinning, trying to appear self-confident.

"O Gupta Rao," he began. But Ommony turned his back.

"Do you know where we are?" he asked Maitraya.

"Certainly. This is where my troupe was to assemble. Let
us hope they are all here and that the Jew has delivered
the costumes."

"O you, Gupta Rao," Dawa Tsering insisted, laying a heavy hand on
Ommony's shoulder from behind to call attention to himself,
"listen to me: that dog of yours is certainly a devil, and the
Jew is a worse devil, and that man there--" (he pointed at the
Tibetan) "--is the father of them both! You had not left the
Jew's store longer than a man would need to scratch himself, when
that fellow entered and talked with the Jew. I also talked with
the Jew; I bade him supply me with garments according to your
command, and two pairs of blankets and a good, heavy yak-hair
cloak; and there were certain other things I saw that I became
aware I needed. But the Jew said that this fellow had brought
word that you had changed your mind regarding me, and that I was
to go elsewhere with _him._ I gave him the lie. I told him who
was father of them both, and what their end would be, and they
said many things. So I helped myself to a yak-hair cloak, a good
one, and lo, I have it with me; and I also picked out one pair
of blankets of a sort such as are not to be had in Spiti; and
with those and the cloak and some trifles I encumbered myself, so
that neither hand was free.

"And while I was looking to see what else was important to a man
of your standing and my needs, lo, the Jew took the socks you had
left behind and gave them to this rascal; and the son of
unforgivable offenses showed them to the dog, who forthwith
followed him, notwithstanding that I called her many names. He
led her out of the shop, and I after him with both arms full, and
the Jew after me because of the blankets and what not else. And
lo, there was a cart outside having four wheels and sides like
the shutters of a te-rain only not made to slide up and down.
And the door was at the rear. And there into he led the dog, she
following the socks, and I after both of them to bring the dog
back. And lo, no sooner was I within the cart--not more than my
head and shoulders were within it--than two men like this one,
only bigger, seized me and wrapped me in my own blankets and
bound me fast, taking my knife.

"So they brought me to this place, where they dragged me into
that room yonder and released me, returning my knife to me and
saying such was your order. And if they had not returned my
knife I would have fought them; but as they did return it, and
said it was _your_ order, and as the dog appeared satisfied,
because they threw the socks to her to guard, it seemed to me
there might be something in it after all. Did you give such an
order? Or shall I slay these men?"

"Have you been here before?" asked Ommony.

"Oh, yes, two or three times. This is not a bad place, and there
is lots to eat, well buttered, with plenty of onions. This is a
place where they think the Lama Tsiang Samdup is of more
importance than a belly-full. But they eat notwithstanding
--thrice daily--and much. But tell me: did you give such an
order--to have me brought here?"

Ommony had a flash of inspiration. "The man mistook the order,"
he answered. (Maitraya was listening; he did not want to take
Maitraya into confidence.) "I will tell you later what I intend
to do about it. Meanwhile, keep silence, keep close to the dog,
and keep an eye on me."

But Maitraya was growing more than curious, although he did not
understand the Prakrit dialect that Dawa Tsering used.

"What is a Bhat-Brahman doing with such a servant?" he asked,
stroking his chin, cocking his head to one side like a parrot
that sees sugar.

Ommony fell back on the excuse that Benjamin invented:

"You were told. He attends to my little affairs of the heart.
Isn't the real puzzle, what is _he_ doing with such a master?
Why are we standing here? The sun overpowers me."

Maitraya led the way toward the room whence the voices emerged
and the Tibetan, seeing they knew where to go, took himself off
in the opposite direction. Excepting Dawa Tsering, there were no
armed men in evidence; the double gate that opened on the alley
was barred, but there was no padlock on the bars, and no guard;
it looked as if escape, if once determined on, would be simple
enough. If the place was a prison, its system for detaining
prisoners was extremely artfully concealed; there did not appear
to be even the sort of passive vigilance employed in monasteries.

Maitraya crossed the cloister, opened a door near the window
whence the voices came, kicked it so that it swung inward with a
bang against the wall, and made an effective stage-entry into a
dim enormous room. There was a long row of slippers on the
threshold, and he kicked those aside to make room for his own
with a leg-gesture that was quite good histrionics.

Six men, three women and two boys, who had been sitting with
their backs against a wall, stood up to greet him. They were a
rather sorry-looking group, dowdy and travel-worn, without an
expensive garment or a really clean turban among them; but that
was another form of histrionics; there were bundles on the floor
containing finery they did not choose to show yet, lest the sight
of it might prevent their paymaster, for his own pride's sake,
from fitting them out with new, clean clothing. Maitraya looked
disgusted. He knew that ancient method of extortion and assessed
it for what it was worth.

"Such a rabble! Such a band of mendicants!" he exclaimed. "I am
ashamed to present you to his honor the learned Brahman Gupta
Rao, who will play leading parts in our company! He will think
it is a company of street-sweepers!"

They bowed to Ommony, murmuring "_Pranam,_" and he blessed them
perfunctorily. It was more important at the moment to examine
the room carefully than to make friends with outcaste actors, who
pretend to themselves that they despise a Brahman, but actually
fear one like the devil if he takes, and keeps, the upper hand.

The room was about thirty-five feet broad by ninety feet long,
extremely high and beamed and cross-beamed with adze-trimmed
timbers as heavy as the deck-beams of a sailing ship. There was
a faint suggestion of a smell of grain and gunny-bags. Along one
end, to the right of the door, was a platform, not more than four
feet high nor eight feet deep, with a door in the wall at the end
of it farthest from the courtyard; on the platform was a clean
Tibetan prayer-mat.

The walls were bare, of stone reenforced by heavy timbers, and
the only furniture or ornaments consisted of heavy brass
chandeliers suspended on brass chains from the ceiling and brass
sconces fastened to the timbers of the walls. The place was
fairly clean, except for wasp's nests and grease on the floor and
walls where the illuminating medium had dripped. There were no
prayer-wheels, images of gods, or anything to suggest a religious
atmosphere, which nevertheless prevailed, perhaps because of the
austerity.

Ommony decided to try the platform; as a Bhat-Brahman he had
perfect authority for being impudent, and as a man of ordinary
good sense he was justified in taking Dawa Tsering with him, to
keep that individual out of mischief; so he beckoned to the dog
and Dawa Tsering, climbed to the platform by means of some pegs
stuck there for the purpose, and checked an exclamation of
surprise. The trunk full of clothes that he had ordered from
Benjamin stood unopened in the far dark corner of the platform,
where almost no light penetrated. It was strapped, locked,
sealed with a leaden disk, and the key hung down from the handle.

He determined then and there to waste no further effort on
conjecture. The Lama knew who he was. Benjamin was the
informer. Probably on one of the occasions when Benjamin went
shuffling along the passage by the staircase in front of his
store he had sent a message to the Lama. Luck must favor him now
or not, as the Powers who measure out the luck should see fit.
He sat down cross-legged in deep shadow on top of the trunk,
which creaked under his weight, signed to Dawa Tsering to be
seated upon the floor, watched Diana curl herself in patient
boredom in the shadow beside him, leaned into the corner,
listened to the chattering of the actors and to Maitraya's
pompous scolding, and presently fell asleep. Not having slept at
all the previous night, he judged it was ridiculous to stay awake
and worry. Opportunity is meant for wise men's seizing.

--------



The Magic Incantation of San-Fun-Ho

Lords of evolving night and day!
Ye spirits of the spaceless dreams!
O Souls of the reflected hills
Embosomed in pellucid streams!
Magicians of the morning haze
Who weave anew the virgin veil
That dews the blush of waking days
With innocence! Ye Rishis*, hail!
I charge that whosoe'er may view
This talisman, shall greet the dawn
Degreed, arrayed and ranked anew
As he may wish to have been born!
Prevail desire! A day and night
Prevail ambition! Till they see
They can not set the world aright
By being what they crave to be!
Be time and space, and all save Karma** stilled!
Grant that each secret wish may be fulfilled!

---------
* The guardians of the esoteric Law, whose ordinances are
regarded as infallible and binding, and from whom the Brahmans
are supposed to be descended.

** The Law of Cause and Effect, governing the consequences of
every thought and deed.
-------



Chapter XIII

San-Fun-Ho


How long Ommony slept he did not know, but probably for at least
an hour. At first his doze was broken by the sound of the
actors' voices, but after a while they may have slept too for
lack of better entertainment; the buzz of conversation ceased
and he was left to the pursuit of unquiet dreams, in which the
Lama plotted and disputed with Vasantasena for possession of
Samding in a place in which there was a fountain brim-full of
golden mohurs.

He awoke quietly after a while, that being habit, and noticed
that Diana's tail was thumping a friendly salute on the platform
floor. The next thing he saw was the Lama sitting motionless on
the prayer-mat, with Samding as usual beside him. Below them, on
the floor of the room, stood Maitraya looking upward. The gabble
of angry argument that he caught between sleeping and waking made
no clear impression on his brain. The first words he heard
distinctly were the Lama's, speaking Urdu:

"My son, you are convinced of a delusion. That is not good. You
believe you are answerable for results, whereas you are not even
connected with the cause. You have but to obey. It is I who am
burdened with the tribulation of deciding how this matter shall
be managed, since I conceived it. From you there is required
good will and whatever talent you possess for your profession."

The voice was kind, but it did not allay Maitraya's wrath. He
scolded back.

"I am famous! I am known wherever we will go. Men will mock me!
Am I to be a common mountebank? Vishnu! Vishnu! Why engage me,
if you won't listen when I tell you the proper way to do a thing,
and what the public will accept and what it will not accept?"

The Lama listened patiently, not changing his expression, which
was bland and gently whimsical.

"All ways are proper in their proper place. Men will usually
take what they receive for nothing," he answered after a pause.
"As for your dissatisfaction, you may go, my son. You may go to
Benjamin, and he shall pay you one week's money."

"I have a contract!" Maitraya retorted, posturing like Ajax
defying lightning.

"That is true," said the Lama gently. "There would be merit in
observing the terms of it."

Maitraya smote his breast, disheveled his turban desperately and
turned to throw an appealing gesture to the troupe. But they
were a hungry-looking lot, more interested in being fed and paid
than in Maitraya's artistic anxieties. The Lama looked kind and
spoke gently. In silence, with eye-movements, they took the
Lama's side of the dispute.

"Prostitutes!" exclaimed Maitraya in a frenzy. "You will make
apes of yourselves for the sake of two months' wage! Oh, very
well. I will out-ape you! I will be a worse ape than the one
who ate the fruit out of the Buddha's begging bowl! Behold me
--Maitraya, the prostitute! I will be infamous, to fill your
miserable bellies!" Then, facing the Lama again with a gesture
of heartbroken anguish: "But this that you ask is impossible!
It is not done--never! My genius might overcome a difficulty,
but how can these fools do what they have never learned?"

"How does the wolf-cub know where to look for milk?" the Lama
answered, and all laughed, except Maitraya, who tried to
rearrange his turban. A woman finished the business for him,
grinning in his face as boldly as if there were the slats of a
zenana window in between.

"Do you observe that woman?" Dawa Tsering whispered to Ommony.
"Now if she were in Spiti there would be knife-work within the
day. She lacks awareness of what might be!"

Aware that he, too, lacked that most desirable of assets at the
moment, Ommony frowned for silence. There was just a chance that
he might pick up a clue to a part of the mystery if he should
attract no attention to himself. Maitraya--supposing he knew
anything--was in a frame of mind to explode a secret at any
moment. He was blowing up again.

"Krishna! By the many eyes of Krishna, I swear to you that some
of them can not read!" he shouted, strutting to and fro and
pausing to throw both arms upward in a gesture of despair.

"Krishna is a comprehensive Power to swear by," said the Lama
mildly. "How many can not read?"

Two women confessed to disability; the third boasted her
attainment proudly.

"Not so insuperable!" said the Lama. "That one woman shall read
for the three. Thus the two will learn. Give their parts to
them. They have almost nothing to say in the first act."

Samding picked up a dozen wooden cylinders with paper scrolls
wrapped around them and bundled the lot into Maitraya's hands.

"We must cast them," said Maitraya. "The cast is all-important.
Who shall play which part? It is essential to decide that to
begin with."

"No," said the Lama, "the essential thing is that every one shall
understand the play. Give the women's parts to that woman.
Distribute the others at random."

Maitraya, with a shrug, chose the biggest scroll for himself and
distributed the others. Samding beckoned to Dawa Tsering, who
got up leisurely as if in doubt whether obedience was not infra
dig, now that he had changed masters. Samding gave him a scroll,
which he carried to Ommony, but neither Samding nor the Lama gave
a glance in Ommony's direction.

The scroll was written in Urdu in a fine and beautifully even
hand, heavily corrected here and there by some one who had used a
quill pen. It looked as if Samding might have written and the
Lama, perhaps, revised. There was no title at the head, but the
part was marked "The _Saddhu,_" and the cues were carefully
included. To get light enough to read by, Ommony sat at the edge
of the platform with his face toward the Lama, and presently
began to chuckle. There were lines he liked, loaded with irony.

There followed a long silence while Maitraya glanced over his own
fat part and consulted stage directions in the margin; it was he
who first broke silence:

"O ye critical and all-observing gods!" he exclaimed. "This is
modernism, is it! Who will listen to a play that only has one
king in it, and no queen, and no courtiers--but a shoemaker, and
a goatherd, and a seller of sweetmeats, and three low-caste
women with water-jars, and only one soldier--he not a general but
a sepoy, if you please!--and a wandering _saddhu*,_ and no vizier
to support the king, but a tax-gatherer and a camel-driver, and a
village headman, and two farmers--and for heroine--what kind of a
heroine is this? A Chinese woman! And what a name! San-fun-ho!
Bah! Who will listen to the end of such a play?"

-------
* Holy man
-------

"I will be the first to listen," said the Lama dryly. "Let us
begin reading."

"And not even a marriage at the end!" Maitraya growled disgustedly.
"None marries the king--not even the Chinese woman and her
pigtail! No gods--one goddess! Not even a Brahman! How
do you like _that,_ Gupta Rao? Not as much as one Brahman
to give the play dignity! What part have you? The _saddhu's?_
Let us hope it is a better part than mine. Listen to this:
I am a king. I enter right, one sepoy following. (O Vishnu!
Thy sharp beams burn! A king, and one sepoy for escort!)
The sweetmeat seller enters left. Back of the stage the
Chinese woman is beside a well under a peepul-tree, talking
with three women who carry water-jars--and may the gods explain
how a Chinese woman comes to be there! I address the sweetmeat
seller. Listen:

"'Thou, who sellest evanescent joy--and possibly enduring
bellyache--to little ones, what hast thou to offer to me, who am
in need of many things?'--What do you think of _that_ for a
speech for a king to make his entry with?"

"To which, what says the sweetmeat seller?" asked the Lama. "Who
has the sweetmeat seller's part? Read on."

They sat down in a semicircle on the floor, Maitraya standing in
the midst of them, and one of the men read matter-of-factly:

"'Mightiest of kings, thy servant is a poor man, needing money to
pay the municipal tax. May all the gods instruct me how to
answer! Who am I that I should offer anything to the owner of
all these leagues of forest and flowing stream and royal cities?
An alms, O image of the sun?'"

"If he were a real king, and this a real play," Maitraya
exclaimed, consulting the directions, "he would order that
sweetmeat seller into jail for impudence! But what does he do?
He looks sad, gives the fellow an alms, and turns to face the
women at the well. How can he do that? I tell you, he _must_
face the audience. Are they interested in his back? And this is
what he says:

"'Bearers of refreshment! Ye who walk so straight beneath the
water-jars! Ye who laugh and tell a city's gossip! Ye who bring
new men into the world! What have _ye_ to offer me, whose
heart is heavy? Lo, I bring forth sorrow amid many midwives.
Wherewith shall I suckle it?'--It is just at this point that the
audience begins to walk out!" said Maitraya.

"A woman speaks. What says the woman?" boomed the Lama; and the
woman who could read held her scroll to the light, speaking
sidewise, jerking her head at the Lama, as if _he_ were the king.

"'O Maharajah, thy servants are but women, who must toil the day
long; and the water-jars are heavy! If we bring no man into the
world, we are unfortunate; but if we do, we must suckle him, and
cook, and keep a house clean, and go to the well thrice daily
notwithstanding. Lo, the young one robs us of our strength and
increases our labor. We are women. Who are we to offer comfort
to a king?'"

"Enter the _saddhu,_" read Maitraya. "He leans on a staff and
salutes the king with quiet dignity--"

"The _saddhu_ shall have a dog with him," the Lama interrupted.
"Samding," (he glanced sidewise at the _chela_) "there is merit
in the dog. Consider well what part the dog may play."

The _chela_ nodded. He and the Lama seemed to take it quite
for granted that the dog and her master were obedient members
of the troupe.

"Whoever heard of a dog in a play?" Maitraya grumbled. "Krishna!
But the very gods will laugh at us! Read, Gupta Rao. What says
the _saddhu?_"

"'O King, thou art truly to be pitied more than all of these.
Mine--the path I take--is the only way from misery to happiness.
Alone of all these, I can give advice. Forswear the pomp and
glory of a kingdom--'"

"Pomp--and one sepoy!" Maitraya exploded.

"Silence!" commanded the Lama, in a voice that astonished
everybody. His face was as mild as ever. Ommony continued:

"'--Discard the scepter. Let the reins of despotism fall, and
follow me. I mortify the flesh. I eat no more than keeps the
body servant to the soul. No house, no revenues are mine, no
other goods than this chance-given staff to lean on and a ragged
robe. None robs me; I have no wealth to steal. None troubles
me, for who could gain by it? I sleep under the skies, or crawl
into a cave and share it with the beasts; for they and I, even
as thou and I, O King, are brothers.'"

"Now the king speaks," said Maitraya. "Listen to this!
'Brothers? Yes; but some one has to beat the ox. And who shall
rule the kingdom, if the ass and the jackal and the pigeon and
the kite are reckoned equals with the king? Answer me that,
O _Saddhu._'"

" 'Rule?'" read Ommony. "'Are the gods not equal to the task?
What is this world but a passage to the next--a place wherein to
let the storms of _Karma_ pass and store up holiness? Beware,
O King!'"

"The _saddhu_ passes on, turns and stands meditating," Maitraya
read, consulting his scroll. "A shoemaker approaches. What says
the shoemaker?"

"He salutes the king," said the Lama, "and walks up to the
soldier. Now, let the shoemaker speak."

A voice piped up from the floor; "'Thou with the long sword, pay
me or kill me!'"

"He turns to the king," the Lama interrupted, "read on."

"'--O mighty king, O heaven-born companion of the gods! This
sepoy owes me for a pair of shoes. Nor will he pay. Nor have I
any remedy, since all fear him and none will give evidence
against him. I am poor, O prince of valor. May the gods answer
if there is any justice in the world! As I am an honest laborer,
there is none!'"

"To which the king answers," said Maitraya, "'True. And if you
were king, what would you do about it?'"

The shoemaker: "'Ah! If I were king!'"

"Now," said the Lama, "a crowd collects. They enter left and
right, the tax-gatherer, the goatherd, the farmers, the camel-driver and the village headman. They all make complaints
to the king."

"A crowd of seven people!" sneered Maitraya.

"There are dancing women also," said the Lama. "They are not
wanted to dance until later; therefore they may take part in the
crowd in various disguises. They have nothing to say. Read on."

Maitraya read: "'The crowd salutes the king, and the _saddhu_
watches scornfully; the _saddhu_ speaks.' Read on, Gupta Rao."

"'So many men and women, so many fools! Waves crying to an empty
boat to guide them! O ye men and women, children of delusion and
blind slaves of appetite, how long will ye store up wrath against
the hour of reckoning?'"

"Now the shoemaker," said the Lama.

"'Tell us how to collect our debts, thou _Saddhu!_ Tell us how
to feed our young ones! To that we will listen!'"

"Now the tax-collector."

"'Tell me how to get the tax-money from men who declare they have
nothing! Tell me how to conduct a government without a revenue!
Tell me what will happen if I fail, O mouther of _Mantras!_'" *

-------
* A verse from the Vedas, any spoken charm or religious formula.
-------

"The king," said the Lama, and Maitraya spoke with the scroll
behind him, to prove how swiftly he could memorize.

"'Peace, all of you! Ye little know how fortunate ye are to have
a king whose only will is that the realm shall ooze contenting
justice. Day and night my meditation is to spread contentment
through the land. Is this your gratitude?'"

The _Saddhu:_ "'To whom? For what?"' Ommony's voice charged
the line with sarcasm that made the Lama glance at him.

"A farmer," said Maitraya.

"'The locusts spread through the land, and there is no ooze of
dew, nor any rain. The crops have failed; and nevertheless, the
tax-gatherer! He fails not with his visits! Meditate a little
on the tax-gatherer, O King.'"

The _Saddhu:_ "'Aye, meditate!'"

"A camel-driver," said Maitraya.

"'O King, they wait beside the mother-camel for the unborn calf.
They take from us in taxes at the frontier more than the freight
is worth. We fetch and carry, but the profit of the labor goeth
to the rich. Our very tents are worn until the women can no
longer patch them."

The _Saddhu:_ "'Live in caves, O brother of the wind!'"

"The shoemaker," said Maitraya.

"'And the owner of goats charges twice as much as formerly
for goatskins!'"

"The goatherd."

"'Maybe. But he pays me less than half of what is right for
herding them!'"

"The soldier."

"'Listen, all of you! Behold your king--a great king and a good
one! Know ye not the nature of a king? Lo, ye should rally to
him and support him! A realm is ruled by force of discipline,
wherein is strength; and to the strong all things are possible!
Rally to your king and bid him lead you to a war on foreigners,
who nibble at our wealth like rats and give us no return.'"

"A woman," said the Lama.

"'Tell us first, whose sons shall fight this war!'"

"Another woman."

"'And who shall console the widows!'"

The _Saddhu:_ "'The widows of the conquered nation will console
them. _They_ will naturally see the justice of the war!'"

"The soldier," said Maitraya. "He shakes his sword at the
_Saddhu._"

"'Peace, idiot! They will invade us, unless we first attack
_them._ Then in which cave will you hide? If I had my way, I
would send you in the front rank to the war to show us whether
your sanctity isn't really cowardice after all!'"

"All laugh at the _saddhu,_" said the Lama. "Now the king." And
Maitraya postured splendidly.

" 'Ye men and women, know ye not that I have neither will nor
power to make war unless ye brew the war within you as a snake
brews venom in its mouth?'"

The _Saddhu:_ "'Yet a snake slays vermin!'"

Maitraya read on: "'Peace, _Saddhu!_ There is merit everywhere.
Am I not king? And how shall I please all, who so unfairly
disagree? Ye see these lines that mark my worried brow; ye see
this head that bends beneath the burden of your care; and ye
upbraid me with more tribulations? What if I should wreak
impatience on you all? Am I alone in travail? Is none among
you, man or woman, who can offer me a counsel of perfection?'"

"I!" It was Samding's voice, resonant and splendid yet peculiarly
unassertive. It was as if the tone included listeners in
its embrace. All eyes turned to Samding instantly, but he
sat motionless.

"The crowd divides down the midst," said the Lama. "San-fun-ho
steps forward from beside the well beneath the peepul-tree.
She speaks."

"'O King!'" The _chela's_ voice was not unlike a woman's,
although its strength suggested it might ripen soon into a royal
baritone. "'I come from a far land where wisdom dwells and all
the problems that can vex were worked to a solution in the birth
of time. Well said, O King, that there is merit everywhere!
Well said, ye men and women, that ye have no words nor wealth to
offer to your king. Nor could he understand, nor could he
listen, since the ears of kings are deaf to common murmurings,
even as your ears are deaf to royal overtones. But lo! I bring
a talisman--a stone enchanted by the all-wise gods--whose virtue
is to change from dawn to dawn the rank, condition, raiment and
degree of all who look on it! Avert thine eyes, O King! I would
not change thy rank, not even while a day and night shall pass.
Look, _Saddhu_--soldier--goatherd--women--all of you!'"

"She holds up the stone," said the Lama, "and they stare at it in
superstitious awe. They show astonishment and reverence. Then
San-fun-ho intones a _mantra._"

The _chela_ began to chant in a voice that filled the huge room
with golden sound, as solemn, lonely and as drenched with music
as a requiem to a cathedral roof. Without an effort Ommony
imagined stained-glass windows and an organ-loft. Maitraya bowed
his head, and even the other actors, outcaste and irreverent,
held their breath. It sounded like magic. All India believes
implicitly in magic. The words were Sanskrit, and probably only
Ommony, Samding and the Lama understood them; but the ancient,
sacred, unintelligible language only added to the mystery and
made the spell more real.

None, not even Maitraya, moved or breathed until the chanting
ceased. The Lama glanced at Ommony, who was so thrilled by the
_chela's_ voice as to have forgotten for the moment that he
held the _saddhu's_ scroll. He looked at it and read aloud
in solemn tones:

"'I did not look! I turned mine eyes away!'"

The king: "'I looked!'" Maitraya put a world of meaning into
that line.

"And that," said the Lama, "ends the first act."

"Too short! Much too short!" exclaimed Maitraya.

"Too long," said the Lama. "I may have to cut one of your
speeches. Now there would be merit in the learning of your
parts until the gong sounds for dinner. After dinner we will
take the second act. Peace dwell with you. Samding!"

The _chela_ helped him to his feet, rolled up the mat, and
followed him out through the door at the end of the platform,
where neither of them paused; some one on the far side of the
door opened it as they drew near, pulled back a curtain, admitted
them, slammed the door after them, and locked it noisily.

For a moment after that there was no sound. All stared at one
another. Ommony felt snubbed. He had intended to force an
interview with the Lama at the end of the rehearsal, but the calm
old prelate seemed to have foreseen that move!

"What do you think of it, Gupta Rao?" asked Maitraya.

"Crafty!" answered Ommony, still thinking of the Lama. "I mean,
full of craft--I mean, it is a good play; it will succeed."

"Perhaps--if he neglects to charge admission!" said Maitraya.
(But he seemed tempted to share Ommony's opinion.) "If he would
let me give him the benefit of my experience, it might be made
into a real play," he added. "And the _chela?_ What do you
think of the _chela?_"

"I _know!_" said Ommony. "He will make all the rest of us,
except the dog, look and sound like wooden dummies!"

"There again!" said Maitraya. "The dog! Before you know it he
will order the _chela_ to write a part for that knife-swinging
savage of yours from Spiti!"

"I wouldn't be surprised. By Vishnu's brow, I wouldn't be
surprised at anything!" said Ommony, and cut off further
conversation by returning to the trunk and squatting on it with
his back to the light, to study the scroll of the _saddhu_--or
rather, to pretend to study it. He was too full of thoughts of
the Lama and the _chela,_ and of his own good fortune in having
stumbled into their company, to study anything else.

"The Lama knows I'm Cottswold Ommony. He knows I know who he is.
Is he using his own method of showing me what he knows I want to
see? Or is he keeping an eye on me while he attends to his own
secrets? Or am I trapped? Or being tested?"

He had heard of the extraordinary tests to which Lamas put
disciples before entrusting them with knowledge. "But I
have never offered to be his disciple!" he reflected. And
then he remembered that Lamas always choose their disciples,
and that thought made him chuckle. It is notorious they
do not choose them for what would pass for erudition according
to most standards.

"I'd better see how stupid I can be," he decided. "I chose Diana
without asking her leave," he remembered. "_She_ likes it all
right. Maybe--"

But the thought of becoming an ascetic Lamaist was too much like
burlesque to entertain, and he dismissed it--puzzled more than
ever.

--------



The ways of the gods are natural, the ways of men unnatural, and
there is nothing supernatural, except this: that if a man does a
useless thing, none reproves him; if he does a harmful thing,
few seek to restrain him; but if he seeks to imitate the gods
and to encourage others, all those in authority accuse him of
corruption. So it is more dangerous to teach truth than to enter
a powder magazine with a lighted torch.
--From the Book of the Sayings of Tsiang Samdup



Chapter XIV

The Second Act


Although the first act was no more than a prologue, the second
was long, constituting almost the entire play, followed by a
short third act which was not much more than epilogue. For more
than half an hour Ommony studied his part in silence, and the
more he studied it the more its grim irony appealed to him.
The _saddhu_ typified intolerant self-righteousness and the
beautifully written lines were jeremiads of abortive sanctity.
Whatever else the Lama, or whoever wrote the play, might be, he
was witty and aware of all the arguments of the accusers
of mankind.

It appeared that, having refused to look at the magic jade while
the _mantra_ was being chanted, the _saddhu_ alone went through
the second act unchanged. The king, who had looked although
warned not to look, became turned for a day and a night into an
incredibly wise man (which was just what he wanted to be) but
surrounded by the sweetmeat seller, shoemaker and so on,
transformed into members of his court, whose ignorance exasperated
him to the verge of insanity. The soldier had become a general,
who prated about patriotic duty. The camel-driver was a
minister of commerce, who believed that the poor were getting
their exact deserts and would be ruined by paternalism. The
village headman was a nobleman with vast estates, who rack-rented
his tenants and insisted that he did it by divine right. The
farmer had become a minister of finance and his assistant, who
conspired to bring about a better state of things by wringing the
last realizable _rupee_ from the merchant classes. The goatherd,
strange to say, became a courtier pure and simple, who had no
ambition but to make love to every woman who came within his
range. The sweetmeat seller was a chancellor whose duty was to
invent laws, and the shoemaker was a judge who had to apply them.

San-fun-ho, it seemed, had also looked into the magic jade, and
had become a goddess, with her name unchanged, who came and went,
heaping Puck-like irony on every one, king included, and engaging
in acid exchanges of wit with the _saddhu,_ who had much the
worst of it.

The women with the water-jars had all become court favorites, who
lolled on divans and complained of their tedious, unprofitable
fate, inclining rather to the _saddhu's_ view of things but
unwilling to give up sinecures for austerity (which they declared
had gone out of fashion long ago) and cynically skeptical of the
morals of the dancing women, who entered early in the second act
to entertain the court. The long and the short of it was, that
nobody was any happier for being changed, and least of all the
king, who had only implored the Powers to make him fabulously
wise, and who found his wisdom sterile because foolish people
could not understand it.

The second act was supposed to take place at night, after a
long day's experience of the results of the sudden change of
character, and at the close they all departed to the well, to
greet the dawn and welcome a return to their former condition.

The third act found them at the well-side, changed again, and
San-fun-ho, once more a Chinese woman, took them to task for
having failed to see the future seeded in themselves, depending
for fruition solely on their own use of each passing moment.
Because the _saddhu_ had to interject remarks, the whole of
San-fun-ho's last speech was written on Ommony's scroll, and
as he read he chuckled at the _saddhu's_ vanquishment. He loved
to see cant and pseudo-righteousness exploded. He could imagine
the _saddhu,_ typifying all he most loathed, slinking off-stage,
brow-beaten, ashamed--and just as bent as ever on attaining
Heaven by the exercise of tyranny, self-torture and contempt
of fun.

Then San-fun-ho's last lines--a _mantra_--sung to Manjusri, Lord
and Teacher, "free from the two-fold mental gloom," as redolent
and ringing with immortal hope as sunshine through the rain.

He was reading that when the gong sounded--a reverberating,
clanging thing of brass whose din drowned thought and drove the
wasps in squadrons through the window-slats. And that brought
another problem that invited very serious attention. As a
Brahman--even a Bhat-Brahman, who is not supposed to be above
committing scores of acts the orthodox would reckon unclean--he
might not eat in company with actors, nor even in the Lama's
company, nor in any room in which non-Brahmans were. He began to
exercise his wits to find a way out of the difficulty--only to
find that the Lama had foreseen it and had provided the solution.

Long-robed servants entered from the courtyard bearing bowls of
hot food for the actors, but none for Ommony or Dawa Tsering or
the dog. Instead, a tall Tibetan came, announcing that a meal
cooked by a Brahman would be served in a ritually clean room, if
his honor would condescend to be shown the way to it.

The room turned out to be a small one at the far corner of the
cloister, and no more ritually clean than eggs are square, nor
had the meal been cooked by a Brahman; but the actors were none
the wiser. Dawa Tsering's food was heaped in a bowl on a mat
outside the door, and he, having no caste prejudices, squatted
down to gorge himself, with a wary eye on Diana. Ommony relieved
his mind:

"She eats only at night. She won't touch food unless I
give permission."

Dawa Tsering promptly tried to tempt the dog, but she turned up
her nose at the offer, and the Hillman grinned. "I think you
have more than one devil in you, Gupta Rao! However, maybe they
are not bad devils!" He nodded to himself; down in the recesses
of his mind there was an evolution going on, that was best left
to take its own course.

Ommony left him and the dog outside and shut himself into the
small square room. There was only one door; one window. He was
safe from observation. There was a plain but well-cooked meal of
rice and vegetables laid out on a low wooden bench with a stool
beside it, and a pitcher of milk that smelt as fresh as if it had
come from a model dairy; also a mattress in a corner, on which
to rest when the meal was finished--good monastic fare and
greater ease than is to be had in many an expensive hostelry.

He finished the meal and sprawled on the mattress, confessing to
himself that in spite of the Lama's having avoided him for twenty
years, in spite of the evidence of an astonishingly perfect spy-system that had enabled the Lama so infallibly to trace and
recover the jade, and even in spite of Benjamin's confession, it
was next to impossible to believe the old Lama was a miscreant.
Because of the story of traffic in white children, reason argued
that the Lama was a fiend. Intuition, which ignores deduction,
told him otherwise; and memory began to reassert itself.

There was, for instance, twenty years of correspondence from the
Lama, mostly in English, with reference to the business of the
Tilgaun Mission; not one word of it was less than altruistic,
practical and sane; there had never been a hint of compromise
with even those conventional lapses from stern principle that
most institutions find themselves compelled to make. In fact, he
admitted to himself that the Lama's letters, more than anything
else during his life in India, had helped him to see straight and
to govern himself uprightly.

And now this play. And Samding. Could a man who made victims of
children so educate a _chela_ as that one evidently had been
educated? Youth takes on the taint of its surroundings. Samding
had the calm self-possession of one who knew the inherent
barrenness of evil and therefore could not be tempted by it.

And _would_ a man, who permitted himself to outrage humanity by
hypnotizing children, write such a play as this one, or approve
of it, or stage it at his own expense? The play was not only
ingeniously moral, it was radically sound and aimed equally at
mockery of wrong ideals and the presentation of a manly view of
life. A saint might have written it, and a reckless "angel"
might finance it, but a criminal or a man with personal
ambitions, hardly.

Then again, there was the mystery of the Lama's treatment of
himself. How much had Benjamin told? The old Jew had sent the
trunk, so there had been plenty of chance to send a message with
it. Benjamin might have brought the trunk in person. Anyhow,
the Lama now unquestionably knew who the Bhat-Brahman was; and
he was evidently willing for the present not only to submit to
espionage but to protect the spy!

It might be, of course, that the Lama had views of his own
as to what constitutes crime. He had radical views, and
was not averse to voicing them before strangers. But if
his conception of morality included smuggling children into
the unknown Hill country, how was it that he was so careful
for the Tilgaun Mission and so insistent on safeguards against
mental contamination?

Above all, why was he so careful to avoid an interview? What did
he propose to gain by pretending not to see through the Brahman
disguise? True, he had spoken English once or twice, but he had
made no comment when the Bhat-Brahman pretended not to understand
him. Was he simply amusing himself? If so, two could play at
that game! For the present Ommony had to let the problem go
unsolved, but he dismissed the very notion of not solving it and
he determined to get at least as much amusement out of the
process as ever the Lama should enjoy.

He had about reached that conclusion, and was contemplating a
siesta, when the same attendant who had brought him to the room
came to announce that "the holy Lama Tsiang Samdup" was expecting
him in the great hall. When he reached the hall rehearsal of the
second act was already under way; Maitraya was getting off a
speech he had already memorized, strutting, declaiming, trying
to impress the Lama and the troupe with his eloquent stage
personality. The Lama took no notice as Ommony entered with the
dog and Dawa Tsering, but told Maitraya to repeat the lines.
Maitraya, rather nettled, gave a different rendering, more
pompous, louder and accompanied by gestures more emphatic than
the first. The troupe applauded, since Maitraya plainly expected
it, but the Lama broke into a smile that disturbed his wrinkles
as if they had been stirred with a spoon.

"My son," he said quietly, "the whistle does not pull the train."
Maitraya's jaw dropped. "Samding, show him how I like to have
those lines read."

Samding spoke the lines from memory, not moving his body at all,
and the amazing thing was that while he spoke one forgot he was a
_chela_ and almost actually saw a king standing where he was
sitting--a king who was bored to distraction and trying to
explain kindly to stupid people why their arguments were all
wrong. One felt immensely sorry for the king, and saw the
hopelessness of his attempt. But all that was between the lines,
and in the wonderful inflection of the voice.

"And now, my son, try once more," said the Lama. "Imagine the
audience is on the stage, and speak to them as you would like a
king to speak to you; not as you yourself would speak if you
were king, but as a king should speak to unwise people."

Maitraya swallowed pride, tried again, and so surprised himself
with his second effort that he tried a third time without
invitation; and the third rendering was almost good. The man
had imitative talent.

The whole of the afternoon was given up to the reading and
re-reading of the second act, and Dawa Tsering slept--and snored
--throughout the entire performance. Several times the Lama
obliged Ommony to repeat his lines, without once calling him by
name, and once he made Samding repeat them for him, the _chela_
doing so from memory, apparently knowing the whole play by heart.
The Lama was as exacting with Ommony as with Maitraya and the
rest. Once he said:

"My son, you know the _saddhu_ is a false philosopher. You like
to see him ridiculed by San-fun-ho. And that shows wisdom.
There is merit in appreciation. But it is not good to forget
that you are the _saddhu._ Those who listen must not be aware
that you expect to be worsted in argument. Now speak the
lines again."

Ommony complied, and did his best, for he was enjoying the game
hugely; and that put Maitraya in a somewhat similar frame of
mind; Maitraya imitated anything, including mental attitudes,
and the rest of the troupe took example from him. When the East
sets forth to play a part in earnest, it becomes audience as well
as actor, and accepts the drama for reality. Even the Lama was
pleased. He praised them after a fashion of his own.

"Because you are doing well, it would not be good to believe you
can not do better. Even the sun and stars are constantly
improving. Let vanity not slay humility, which is the spirit
reaching upward."

Then, as if that perhaps were too great praise, which might
deceive them, he picked out an actor here and there for
comforting rebuke:

"You must remember that to play the part of a stupid character
requires intelligence. You will grow more intelligent as you
endeavor. Now let us begin again at the beginning, trying to
forget how stupid we have consented to be hitherto. Let us
consent to be intelligent."

He did not once betray impatience. When he needed an example he
commanded Samding, and the _chela_ spoke at once from memory,
occasionally descending to the floor to act as well as speak the
lines. Once the _chela_ acted the same part in the same way
twice in succession, and then he came in for reprimand:

"Samding, no two atoms in all nature are alike. No day is twice
repeated. No second breath is like the first. Do that a third
time. Do it differently."

Tyrant, however, was no right name for the Lama. There was no
sense of oppression, even at the end of a long afternoon, when
every faculty, Samding's apparently included, ached from
exercise. Samding worked harder than them all together, because
all through the second act, in the role of a goddess, he had to
come and go and speak the all-important lines on which the action
hinged. But when darkness came, and tall monk-like Tibetans,
armed with tapers, lit the hanging lights and set candles in the
wall-sconces, the _chela_ was as self-possessed and full
of life as ever, which he hardly would have been if he had
felt imposed on.

At last the Lama dismissed the troupe to the far end of the hall,
where they sprawled wearily on the floor and awaited supper. Not
moving from the mat, he beckoned Ommony and Dawa Tsering to come
and squat on the floor in front of him, not on the platform.
They had to look up.

"Now for the show-down! Good!" thought Ommony, stroking Diana's
head as she crouched on the floor beside him. But the Lama spoke
to Dawa Tsering, using the northern dialect:

"Why did you say to Samding that I owe you two months' pay?" he
asked, not offended, curious.

"Oh, I had to say something. I had to have an excuse for seeing
you. I had a letter to deliver."

The Lama nodded, but his voice became a half-note sterner: "Why
did you use violence to Samding?"

"I am a violent man, and the _chela_ offended me."

"What offense did the _chela_ commit?"

"Oh, he looked too satisfied. He was a fool to stir the devil in
me. Also I was disgusted."

"Why?"

"Because he did not look afraid. And I knew he was afraid--of
me! Therefore he was a liar. Therefore I smote him with the
letter, and hustled him a time or two. He was afraid to hit
back. Let him hit me now, if he is not afraid to!"

The Lama meditated for a moment--seemed to fall asleep--and then
to come out of a dream as if emerging from another universe.

"There is a certain merit in you," he said quietly. "Are you now
the servant of this Brahman?"

"I am keeper of the dog. I pick the fleas from her. She is a
very wise and unusual devil."

Dawa Tsering glanced at Ommony, who rather hoped he would say
something to the Lama about the Bhat-disguise and thus bring that
subject to a head; but he was disappointed. Nothing was farther
from Dawa Tsering's intention; he was thoroughly enjoying what
he thought was a perfect imposition on the Lama.

"This Gupta Rao," he went on, "is a devil even greater than the
dog. I like him. He and I are friends."

"Well," said the Lama, "that seems to be excellent, because
friends must stand together. There is a devil needed in this
play of mine, and you shall act the devil. You will like that.
But remember: there must be no offense to Samding, or to any
one. You and Gupta Rao are together, being, as you say, friends.
If I should need to dismiss you, because of wrong-doing, I will
dismiss him also. Therefore his safety--do you hear me?--his
_safety_ will depend on you, and you must behave accordingly."

The word safety was plainly intended for Ommony's ears and the
_chela_ glanced at him, but the Lama's eyes did not move. After
a slight pause he continued:

"You and the dog will both receive instruction." Then at last he
looked at Ommony: "Will the dog open her mouth when she is
told?" he asked.

Ommony ordered Diana to sit upright. He did not need to speak.
At a sign from him she opened her mouth wide and yawned.

"That is good," said the Lama. "That will do. Peace dwell with
you, my son. Samding!"

The _chela_ helped him to his feet, rolled up the mat, and
followed him to the door exactly as on the first occasion,
leaving Ommony and Dawa Tsering looking at each other until the
Hillman threw his shoulders back and laughed.

"Now you see why I have served him all these months! I, who have
a devil in me! I, who mean to slay a man in Spiti! I, who hate
a long-faced monk as an ape hates the river!" Then another
thought occurred to him. "You must pay me more money, Gupta Rao,
else I will offend the old Bag of Wisdom and he will discharge
the two of us!"

But instead of answering Ommony got up and found his way to the
little room reserved for him. Through the slats of the window
he could hear Dawa Tsering, squatting beside Diana, taking
her into confidence:

"It would be amusing, thou, to betray this Ommonee and see what
happens. But I am afraid that what would happen might be
serious. I think I had better say nothing, because what may
happen then will probably be amusing. Thou, I think a person
who can teach thee such obedience might be a bad enemy and
a good friend!"

Tibetans brought the evening meal, with a huge bowl of rice and a
bone for Diana, but Diana refused to touch the food although the
man set the bowl down in front of her and Dawa Tsering urged.
It was not until Ommony gave her permission that she fell
to greedily.

"Thou, Gupta Rao, put no such spell upon _me!_" Dawa Tsering
urged solemnly. "I am used to eating when my belly yearns
for it!"

Ommony finished his meal and decided to find out whether or not
he was under any personal restraint. He crossed the courtyard
and approached the double gate through which the carriage had
entered that morning. There was a Tibetan standing near, who
bowed, saw his intention, and opened the gate civilly to let him
through! Diana followed, but he sent her back, making her jump
the gate, which she managed at the third attempt, and he could
hear the Tibetan on the far side laughing good-humoredly. He
knocked on the gate from outside and the Tibetan opened it.
Plainly there was no restriction on his movements; so he
whistled Diana and started strolling down the alley, considering
Benjamin and wondering whether the old Jew had lied about the
smuggled children--and if so, why? What did Benjamin stand to
gain by telling such a tale if it were not true? "The more you
know of India the less you know!" he muttered.

It was Diana who transferred his thoughts to another angle of
the problem. She had paused at the end of the alley and was
signaling in the way she used to in jungle lanes when she
detected a human who had no ostensible right to be there.

Ommony stood still, which obliged her to glance around at him for
orders. He signed to her to come to heel and then walked very
quietly to the end of the alley, where the corner of a high wall
intensified the gathering darkness. No lamps were yet lighted,
although there was one fixed on an iron upright at the angle of
the masonry above him; it was almost pitch-dark where he sat
down, with his back against the wall, giving no orders to Diana,
simply watching her.

The hair on the scruff of her neck began to rise; she could hear
voices, and so could he presently. He pulled her closer against
the wall where she crouched obediently, trembling because she
added his alertness to her own. She was quite invisible in the
depth of the shadow; Ommony was between her and the road into
which the alley opened; but he knew his own figure could be
seen, something like a wayside idol, by any one with sharp eyes
who should pass close to the corner.

There were two men approaching very slowly, deep in conversation.
One wore spurs. Unexplainably (without delving into such science
as Chutter Chand expounds in his room behind the jewelry store)
Ommony received an impression that they had been pacing to and
fro for a considerable time. They came to a halt around the
corner within three steps of where he sat, and when he held his
breath he could hear their words distinctly:

"You see, Chalmers, if we raid the place without being sure of
our ground, all we'll do is make trouble for ourselves and serve
them notice to cover their tracks. We must have evidence that'll
make conviction certain, or they'll hold us up as another horrid
example of official tyranny."

"I tell you, sir, I _know_ the women are in here."

"But do you know they are _the_ women? We can't interfere with
religion. We'd be in a fine mess if we haled a bevy of
legitimate nautch-girls into court. We've got to have _proof._"

"Pardon _me,_ sir. Lamaism doesn't run to nautch-girls. These
people are Tibetans. They've no proper business in Delhi, and
absolutely no excuse for lugging unexplainable women around the
country. The Lama was _seen_ to enter Vasantasena's place, and I
myself saw him come out and drive off with his _chela_ and two
other people. I had him followed, and I _know_ he drove in here.
He hasn't come out since. You know what kind of a place
Vasantasena keeps."

"Yes, but we also know every member of her household. And she's
another individual it's deadly dangerous to monkey with unless
we're certain of our facts."

"We've got circumstantial evidence enough to hang a rajah, sir."

"Circumstantial won't do, Chalmers. I spoke with McGregor about
it today; he assured me there isn't a thing on the Lama in the
Secret archives. He admits there's slavery on the Assam border,*
and that slaves are sold into Nepaul and Tibet. But that doesn't
justify us in raiding this place, warrant or no warrant. We'd be
inviting a riot. The way things are at the moment, Moslems and
Hindus 'ud get together and make common cause even with
_Christians_ if they thought they could jump on us by doing it
--and slit one another's throats afterward! They'd call it another
Amritsar. I'll tell you what you may do if you like: surround
this place and shadow every one who leaves it. That way we may
get evidence."

---------
* See United States daily papers, 1923; also official Indian
Government reports.
-------

There was silence while some one suppressed ill-temper. Then
a voice:

"Very well, sir."

A piece of mortar from the top of the wall fell to the ground
beside Ommony. He glanced up. It was growing very dark, but he
thought he saw the shadow of a man's head, vague against the
colored gloom of an overhanging tree. The men who were talking
moved on, toward the alley-mouth--passed it--turned, and started
back again.

"Hullo!" said one of them, the taller, he with the spurs. "Do
you notice the audience? Wait! Don't go down there--that's a
nasty, damned dark alley--might be an accident.--_Good evening!_"
he said, coming to a stand six feet away from Ommony. "_I hope
we haven't disturbed your meditations._"

Ommony's hand closed on Diana's muzzle. She crowded herself
closer against the wall.

"_I say, I hope we haven't disturbed your meditations!_"

Ommony did not move.

"Maybe he doesn't know English, sir."

"Dammit, I can't see his caste-mark. He looks like a Hindu.
Haven't a flashlight, have you?"

The younger of the two men struck a match; its yellow glare
showed Ommony in high relief, but darkened the shadow behind him.

"By gad, sir, that's the Brahman who came out of Vasantasena's
with the Lama!"

The last thing Ommony wanted was police recognition; with the
best will in the world the police may bungle any intricate
investigation, through over-zeal, and because they must depend on
under-qualified subordinates. He was satisfied to learn that
McGregor had kept his promise not to unleash the Secret Service
on the trail; disturbed to learn the police on the other
hand were busy. During thirty seconds, until the match went
out, he cultivated the insolent stare to which Brahmans treat
"unclean" intruders.

"Brahman and a Lama keeping company? That's strange."

"I'd call it suspicious, if you asked me, sir! What's he doing
here? He's not even sitting on a mat. That corner's ritually
unclean--fouled by dogs and God knows what else."

"I'll try him in the vernacular.--_I'm curious to know why you
are sitting here,_" said the man with spurs. "_Is there anything
wrong? Are you ill? Can I help you in any way?_"

"Leave me to my meditation!" Ommony answered in a surly tone of
voice.

"_Why meditate just here, O twice-born? This is a bad place
--dangerous--thieves, you know. Don't you think you'd better
move on?_"

Ommony was in doubt whether or not to answer, but he was afraid
Diana might betray her presence unless he could get rid of the
inquisitors. He made up an answer on the spur of the moment and
growled it indignantly:

"A year ago my son died on this very spot, slain by a bullet from
a soldier's rifle. Therefore I choose this place to meditate. I
abase myself in dirt before the gods who visited that evil on me."

"Damned unlikely story, sir, if you asked me!"

"Everything in this damned country is unlikely! Have him
watched. You'd better stand at that corner, and if he moves off,
have one of the men follow him. I'll go back and send you twenty
or thirty men to surround the place.--_Good night, O twice-born!
Meditate in peace!_" Ommony listened until their footsteps died
away in the near distance. Then, taking very great care that
Diana should understand she was still stalking danger, not
defying it, he crept on tiptoe to the gate at the other end of
the alley and drummed on it with his knuckles.

There was no answer. He tried the gate, but it was fastened on
the inside. So he made Diana jump it, and in less than a minute
after that Dawa Tsering came and undid the bars.

"O thou, Gupta Rao, there are happenings!" he said, showing white
teeth that gleamed in the dark.

-----------



To him who truly seeks the Middle Way, the Middle Way will open.
One step forward is enough.
--From the Book of the Sayings of Tsiang Samdup



Chapter XV

The Roll-Call by Night.


Within the courtyard there was not confusion but a silent
flitting to and fro as purposeful and devoid of collision as the
evening flight of bats. Tall, specter-like figures, on the run,
were carrying out loads and arranging them in a long row under
the cloister. There was no sign of the Lama, nor of Maitraya,
and only one dim light was burning--a guttering candle set in a
sconce under one of the arches.

"They go!" said Dawa Tsering. "They go!" He was excited
--thrilled by the atmosphere of mystery. "There was a fellow on
the wall, along there at the corner of the garden, where the tree
is. He came running; and another summoned the Lama; and there
was an order given. May devils eat me if they weren't quick!
They are like ants when the hill is damaged!"

Ommony approached the cloister where the candle-light threw
dancing shadow, and the first thing he recognized was his own
trunk, with the bags and bundles of the other actors laid
alongside it, in a line with scores of other loads all roped in
worn canvas covers. There was every indication of orderly but
swift and sudden flight; and only one reasonable deduction
possible. Dawa Tsering voiced it:

"Women-trouble! Trouble-women! It is the same thing! They
bring a man to ruin in the end!"

Ommony sat down on the trunk, and suddenly jumped up again. A
woman's voice cried out of darkness from an upper story.

"Did you hear that?"

"So screams a woman when the knife goes in!" said Dawa Tsering
pleasantly. He was having an entirely satisfying time. "Look to
thyself! There is room to hide dead men in this place, and none
the wiser!"

But Ommony was not quite sure the woman's cry did not hold a
suggestion of laughter.

A Tibetan unlocked the door of the great hall in which the
rehearsals had taken place, and Maitraya emerged in a tantrum.

"Krishna! This is too much!" he snorted. "Is that you, Gupta Rao?
What do you think of it! To lock us in like criminals! To take
our luggage--by the Many-armed Immaculate--what is happening?"

The other actors trailed out after him, the women last, peering
over the shoulders of the men in front. One of them was half-hysterical and, seeing nothing else to be afraid of, screamed at
the dog. Ommony retreated into darkness. Dawa Tsering followed
him, immensely free as to the shoulders, like an old-time
mercenary fighting-man who foresaw trouble of the sort that was
his meat and drink.

"Have you a weapon, Gupta Rao? If you asked me, I should say you
would need one presently!"

Ommony dragged the Hillman down beside him and the three--he,
Dawa Tsering and the dog--sat with their backs against the wall
in impenetrable shadow, out of which they could watch what was
passing in the ghostly candle-light.

"How many women has the Lama with him?" asked Ommony.

"Oh, lots! I never counted. There were one or two I had my eye
on, but the crafty old Ringding looks after them more carefully
than an Afghan watches a harem. He and the _chela_ are the only
ones who can get within talking distance. Never mind. We will
have our opportunity now, unless I am much mistaken."

"Why didn't you tell me about these women before?" asked Ommony.

"Oh, I thought you knew everything. Besides, you are probably a
gay fellow yourself. I don't like interference. If you and I
should love the same one--"

The Lama stepped into the circle of candle-light, entirely
unexcited, and as usual Samding was with him. Samding counted
all the loads twice over.

"Wait until I get my yak-hair cloak and the other things," said
Dawa Tsering, and disappeared.

The Lama said one word and Samding promptly commenced a roll-call, from memory, in a clear commanding voice, beginning with a
string of northern names, following with Maitraya and all his
actors, Ommony's almost last. It was as thrilling as a roll-call
on a battle-field.

"Gupta Rao!"

"Here."

"Dawa Tsering?"

"Coming!"

"And the dog?"

Ommony whispered to Diana and she bayed once. Everybody laughed,
including the Lama, who stood so upright that he could have
passed for a young man until Samding came and stood beside him,
when the contrast exposed the trickery of darkness.

The Lama spoke in low tones to a Tibetan, who repeated the order
to others, and in a moment all the loads were on men's heads.
There was a prodigious number of them; men had arrived like
ghosts, apparently from nowhere, and the discipline was perfect.
Not a man spoke. There was no sound except for a grunt now and
then and the rutching of heavily loaded bare feet on the paving
stones; and not a woman yet in evidence except Maitraya's
actresses, who seemed too frightened to make a fuss, or too
interested to be frightened; it was hard to tell which.

If there was another order given Ommony did not hear it. The
procession started across the courtyard, in through the stable
-door into which the Lama's carriage had vanished when they first
drove in that morning; some one opened the door from inside.
The Lama stood in the courtyard watching, Samding beside him
counting, and they two entered last, a dozen paces behind Ommony;
and the moment they entered the echoing arch the door slammed
shut at their backs.

One candle on an iron bracket showed the shadowy outlines of
three carriages on the right, and three horses in stalls beyond
that. The place seemed clean, with plenty of fresh air, and the
stable-smell was not overpowering.

"Have you been here before?" asked Ommony.

"Not I," said Dawa Tsering. "Maybe it is here he keeps the
women! This is one of those places the police dare not look into
lest men accuse them of committing sacrilege. In my next
incarnation I will study to be a priest, because then I can laugh
at the police instead of being inconvenienced by them."

Diana trotted right and left into the shadows, sniffing,
interested but not suspicious. It was she, three or four yards
ahead who presently gave warning of danger in the form of steps
descending into absolute obscurity. The candle-light did not
penetrate to that point and it was impossible to see whether
there was a door to conceal the steps when not in use. The
voices of three women added to Maitraya's complaining of darkness
and danger, answered by cavernous rumbling as some one reassured
them, proved that the steps did not go very deep, but there was
nothing else to judge by, until, twenty paces beyond the foot of
the steps, the tunnel turned and another solitary candle burning
at a corner in the distance showed the long procession shuffling
toward it.

There were no rats, no dirt, and it was not particularly damp.
The tunnel, which was floored and lined with heavy masonry, was
roofed in places by the natural rock, but there were spaces
beamed with heavy timber and other spaces filled with what looked
like fairly modern concrete. The floor and walls seemed very
ancient, but the roof had undoubtedly been repaired more than
once within the century. The level could not have been more than
thirty or forty feet underground, and there was a distinct
draught of cool air passing through.

It was not until he came within a dozen paces of the candle that
Ommony's ears, growing accustomed to the echoing shuffle of about
two hundred feet, detected that not all that noise came from in
front. He looked back, and saw shadowy, black-draped figures
behind the Lama and Samding. It was impossible to guess how
many, since he looked with the light behind him, into darkness,
and when he passed the candle the tunnel turned again rather
sharply to the right. He stood still at the corner, looking
backward, but the Lama boomed to him to go on--boomed so
cheerfully and confidently that it would have been churlish
to refuse.

"Do you suppose those are women behind us?" he asked.

"I know they are," said Dawa Tsering. "For a jest, O Gupta Rao,
send thy she-dog to them. There will be a happening!"

There was more in that notion than its propounder guessed.
Ommony snapped his fingers for attention, and spoke to Diana as
loud as he could without letting the Lama hear:

"Friends! Go and make friends!"

He waved his hand toward the rear. Diana turned and darted past
the Lama, who tried to intercept her; failing, he made a curt
exclamation whose meaning Ommony could not catch.

"What did he say?" he asked.

"It means to be silent because they are not afraid," said
Dawa Tsering.

And whoever they were, they were not afraid, which was sufficient
cause in itself for much hard thinking. Diana was as high at the
shoulder as a Great Dane; as shaggy and lean and active as a
monster from the folklore legends. As an apparition suddenly
emerging out of darkness with her eyes aglare in candle-light she
was enough to have thrown old hunters into panic. But instead
there was nothing but laughter, much snapping of fingers and
enticing noises made between the lips, and the laughter was as
merry and appealing as the sudden view-hallo of children when a
circus clown kisses a pig. The Lama had to boom a second time
for silence, although why he called for silence after that
ringing revelation was not exactly clear; surely there was no
risk, down there in the tunnel, of the noise being heard by the
police. And another thing: his voice was not alarmed, not even
anxious or offended; it more resembled that of an engineer who
orders steam turned off, or of a clerk convening court--quite
matter-of-fact, with hardly the suggestion of command in it.

Ommony let Diana stay behind there making friends. He chuckled
to himself. There were few but he who knew the possibilities of
that dog. Having once established in her mind that certain
individuals were friends, he would have no particular difficulty
in using her to penetrate any screen the Lama might contrive.
There was no further need to risk an issue with the Lama by
appearing overcurious; he could wait for opportunity and let
Diana open up communications.

Meanwhile, it would not have helped him in the least to be
inquisitive just then. The tunnel turned again and grew pitch
-dark--became a stream of echoing noise in which a man could only
feel his way by touching the man next to him or elbowing the
wall, letting himself flow forward as it were in the general
movement, which some forgotten sense reported to the brain.

Then dim light, far ahead, and at last a glimpse of sky, framing
half a dozen stars, that made the tunnel seem even darker and a
backward glimpse impossible. Diana came sniffing for Ommony and
shoved her nose into his hand. Then she suddenly bayed at the
sight of the sky in front and raced away to investigate.

Ommony did his best to memorize the details of the tunnel
opening, but failed. There were steps, but not many of them.
Then he found himself in a courtyard about thirty yards square,
with stars overhead and the shadowy columned entrance of a place
that looked in the dark like a temple behind him. He was aware
that a stone floor had come sliding forward to conceal the flight
of steps; a man had shouted to him to hurry lest he be caught
in the gap, and he had seen that the sliding stone was two
feet thick. There was no sign of the Lama, or of Samding,
or the women.

There were camels in the courtyard; he knew that by the smell
before he saw them kneeling in two uneven rows. Diana, who hated
camels, came to heel, growling to herself in undertones, and Dawa
Tsering laughed aloud.

"I smell travel and the road that runs north!" he said triumphantly.
"The devil may have these hot plains! Wait while I pick us two
good camels--wait here!"

He disappeared and within the minute there were sounds of hot
dispute--three voices. A camel rose like an apparition from
another world, and snarled as if this world were not satisfying.
A heavy thump--a louder oath--and Dawa Tsering limped back.

"In the belly! Kicked me in the belly!" he gasped, unable to
stand upright but with enough wind left in him for agonied
speech. "I would have hamstrung the brute, but--those Tibetan
-devils--eh, but it hurts!--they pushed me toward his hoof
again and--yow! let me sit so--stand beside me--yah-h, I
have a bellyache!"

The courtyard was alive with movement, but there was hardly a
spoken word. The camels moaned and gurgled, as they always do
when loads are being heaped on them, and now and then some one
called out for an extra package to balance an animal's burden;
but on the whole there was even less noise than when Bedouins
strike tents and vanish. After a while, as his eyes grew
accustomed to the gloom, Ommony could make out men who certainly
were not Tibetans; they wore turbans and were more like Bikaniri
camel-men. Then, huge and shadowy against the sky, there
loomed seven elephants with curtained howdahs, making no
noise, effortless, coming through an open gate like phantoms
in a dream.

Next there came from behind Ommony, a man in a turban and long
cloak, followed by a younger man whose stride seemed familiar,
who wore a scimitar at his waist and the dress of a chieftain.
Diana knew them instantly and wagged her tail. They were the
Lama and Samding, changed almost out of recognition! Ommony
followed them wondering at the Lama's strength of gait that he
seemed to have acquired along with the change of costume; but
they were presently surrounded by Tibetans, who seemed to be
receiving whispered instructions. Unable to get close enough to
hear what was being said, Ommony turned his attention to the
elephants, and noticed that they bore the trappings of a rajah,
although he did not know which rajah. He asked one of the
mahouts, who told him gruffly to mind his own business.

He walked up close to one of the camel-men, but it was too dark
just there under the wall to see his features.

"Whose man are you?" he asked.

"Mine own man!" the fellow answered in a plucked, flat harp
-string tone of voice. "Have a care! This camel bites!"

Ommony jumped in the nick of time to avoid the vicious teeth.
Diana flew at the camel;--the heavily loaded brute struggled to
its feet, tried to kick four ways at once, and bolted. Ommony
grabbed Diana. Nine or ten men chased the camel into a corner,
managed it amazingly with forked sticks and compelled it to
kneel. It was plainly enough a desert outfit, used to meeting
all emergencies without fuss.

Then the shadowy elephants moved in single file across the yard
and halted, swaying, at a door beside the one that Ommony had
come through; he could see the top of a ladder laid against the
first one from the far side, but could not see who mounted it. A
moment later, however, he caught sight of the Lama and Samding,
the Lama walking like a warrior, skirted, pantalooned, seeming to
have thrown off thirty years; they climbed on to the last of the
elephants, and moved off first, the others following.

After that there was confusion for about a minute; several more
elephants came through the gate, colliding with the loaded ones,
and for reasons that were doubtless logical to them, the camels
all got up at once and stampeded into the jam. But a little,
low-muttered swearing, some sharp cries and a lot of stick-work
straightened that out. The camels were herded out into the open
behind the elephants; the second lot of elephants came in, and a
Tibetan seized Ommony's arm.

Not a word. No explanation. Two other men seized Dawa Tsering,
taking no chances with him, pouncing on him from behind and
shoving him along toward the same elephant to which the first man
led Ommony. Maitraya's voice was raised in protest somewhere in
the dark and a woman cried out hysterically, but none answered
either of them. The whole party of actors was hauled into
curtained howdahs like so much baggage. Diana jumped--Ommony
caught her by the scruff of the neck, hauled her in after him,
and found himself in a howdah with Dawa Tsering and one Tibetan,
who leaned forward, touched Dawa Tsering on the shoulder and
shook a finger at him meaningly. For answer the Hillman made a
gesture toward his knife.

But they were off, swaying like insects on an earthquake, before
that argument could ripen into happenings, and in less than two
minutes the Hillman was seasick, hanging on and moaning that he
could smell death.

"That camel kicked my belly into ruins! Peace! I will get down!
I have had enough of this!"

But the Tibetan leaned forward and lashed him very neatly to the
howdah with a rope.

"Cut me loose, Gupta Rao--or I call thee Ommonee!"

"Nay," lied Ommony, "it was my order."

"Thou? Oh, very well! OMMONEE!" he yelled. Then again between
spasms of vomiting, "OMMONEE! OMMONEE!"

It did not seem to matter. The Tibetan took no notice of it.
Such a cry by night, smothered by howdah curtains, was not likely
to mean much to chance passers-by. Perhaps Maitraya could hear
it on the elephant ahead, but he would not know what it meant.
Ommony let his name be yelled until the Hillman wore himself out,
hoping the Tibetan would be too disturbed by it to notice
anything else. He had his finger through a small hole in the
curtain and was tearing it for a better view.

He did contrive to snatch one hurried glimpse before the Tibetan
saw what he was doing; but it was dark, there was no moon, and
all he saw was a broken wall with trees beside it--nothing that
would help him identify the route. The Tibetan touched him on
the arm and shook a warning finger, then climbed over to Ommony's
side of the howdah and tied up the hole carefully with thread
torn from a piece of sacking. He did not seem in the least
afraid of the dog, nor did she object to him. On the principle
that good dogs know what their masters think subconsciously about
a stranger, Ommony decided the Tibetan was quite friendly.

And the process of self-adjustment to mysterious conditions
consists rather in keeping adventitious friends than in losing
them. It seemed much more important to disarm suspicion and to
create a friendly atmosphere than to find out which direction
they were taking.

As a matter of fact, Ommony did not much care where he was going.
He guessed he was on the "Middle Way," and that, if true, was the
all-important fact. Details of the route, he knew, might change
from hour to hour; the key to it was probably a string of
individuals extended all across the country, bound together by a
secret interest in common. He decided not to try to memorize the
route, but to look out for and identify those men.

However, he made one casual attempt to draw the Tibetan, in the
hope of further disarming suspicion by appearing naturally,
frankly curious.

"Where are we going?" he asked in Prakrit.

"Wherever the holy Lama Tsiang Samdup wishes," the man answered,
almost to himself, as if he were repeating prayers. After
which there was long, swaying, hot silence, broken only by
the groans of Dawa Tsering and the soft, exactly regular
footfalls of the elephant.

----------



Treason, as between men, is considered worse than theft;
for even thieves despise it. He who betrays his country is
considered fit for death. But I tell you: he who betrays his
own soul has no longer any link with honesty, and there is
nothing sure concerning him, except that he will go from bad to
worse. And evil grows little by little; he who is faithless in
small things will ultimately lose all honor. Therefore, strive
eternally to keep faith, not telling secrets nor inquiring
uninvited into those of others; for the Great Offense is grounded
on an infinite variety of little ones--exactly as Great Merit is
the total of innumerable acts of self-control.
--From the Book of the Sayings of Tsiang Samdup




Chapter XVI

"Where are We?"


Each to his own heaven. Some men prefer golf. To Ommony, the
seventh heaven of delight--the apex of a heterodox career was
reached that hour in a curtained howdah, lurching into unknown
night. And the best of it was that he knew the future must
hold even more thrilling mysteries. There was going to be
no anticlimax.

He was uncomfortable, sweating so that his dripping cotton
garments clung to him, breathing the smell of elephant and dog
and Dawa Tsering (which is no boudoir mixture), possibly in
deadly danger. And he was utterly contented, having no regret,
no backward yearning.

The curtains that cut off the view could not limit imagination.
He enjoyed a mental picture of the string of camels leading and
the elephants mysteriously padding in the wake, beneath colored
stars and a blue-black sky, between broken walls and shadowy
trees, toward an obscure horizon. The dusty footfalls were as
music. The mahout's occasional expletives were an open sesame to
mystery beyond the reach of ordinary men--and that, perhaps,
explained nine-tenths of the delight. It is doing what the other
fellows can not do, that satisfies; and so, through vanity, the
gods make use of us. No millions, nor fame, nor offers of a
sterilized and safety-infested Heaven could have tempted Ommony
to forego that journey in the howdah, although there were not
wanting opportunities to steal away.

Now and then there were halts, when muffled voices of unseen men
on foot, who turned up out of the night, delivered terse commands
that were barely audible and quite incomprehensible through the
howdah curtains. Time and again he could have tumbled out of the
howdah and lowered himself to the earth by the elephant's tail.
But he preferred to act Jonah in a whale's belly, especially
since the whale was willing.

He knew that with the dog's help he could have tracked the
caravan to its destination and so have learned the details of the
course it took. But he also guessed that none who saw it pass
would answer questions; and at the other end there was the risk
that he might find a blank wall, silence, and perhaps a knife's
edge for inquisitive intruders. To play for safety--to look for
it--to expect it, would be ridiculous. He must run all risks
without a gesture of self-protection. He was glad he had not
even a revolver with him, for a hidden weapon might betray him
into rashness of the wrong kind. He made up his mind, if he were
threatened, to rely solely on whatever wits the gods of emergency
might sharpen for him at the moment.

Meanwhile, he felt reasonably sure of one thing: that the
elephants were a rajah's property. The camels might possibly
belong to some one else, but it was more likely they were also
the same rajah's. There might be a rajah who would not ask
questions, but who was linked in some chain of more or less
esoteric brotherhood, akin perhaps to Masonry. If so, the
procession would arouse no comment on the countryside, for it is
no man's business and to no man's profit to inquire too closely
into a rajah's private doings; he who does so may count with
almost absolute precision on what the jury will subsequently call
an accident. "I don't know, I didn't see" and "I forget"
are difficult, exasperating pegs on which to hang a chain
of evidence.

At the end of two hours' swaying Dawa Tsering's stomach, void of
embarrassing content, began to recover. His sunny disposition
followed suit.

"Loose me, Gupta Rao. I am sorry I bawled out thy other name. I
will slay this fool who heard me. Then none will be the wiser,
and thou and I are friends again."

"Do you hope ever to see Spiti?" Ommony inquired.

"By the wind that blows there, and the women who laugh there,
surely! I have a treasure tucked away in Spiti--earned on the
te-rains. Loose me, Gupta Rao, or I call thee by thy other name
again! I can shout louder, now my belly aches less."

"Shout, and let us see what happens," Ommony suggested.

The small boy's mind that had its kingdom in the Hillman's bulk
considered that a moment.

"Nay," he said presently, "I think that an evil might happen.
The luck is not good lately. Who would have thought a camel
would kick me? The devils who live in the hills around Spiti owe
me for many a good turn I did them. The devils of these parts
seem very mischievous. I had better behave myself."

"How about a promise?" Ommony suggested.

"You mean, a promise between me and you? But I would have to
keep it. That might be inconvenient."

"I would promise for my part to assist you to return to Spiti at
the proper time."

"Oh, very well. Only I shall judge the proper time by when the
devils have turned friendly. Loose me. I will behave myself."

Ommony undid the rope and the Tibetan, far from objecting, stuck
a stump of candle on the bare wood of the howdah frame, lighted
it, produced a pack of cards, and challenged Dawa Tsering to a
game. They played interminably, both men cheating, both
appealing to Ommony to settle constant arguments, although there
was no money involved.

"My honor is at stake," Dawa Tsering grumbled after about a dozen
furious disputes. "This ignorant Tibetan says I am a liar."

"So you are," said Ommony.

"That may be. But he has no right to give himself airs. He is
the greater one. Look! He has five cards tucked under his knee,
whereas I had but two!"

He shoved the Tibetan so that his knee moved and uncovered the
missing cards, two of which slipped down between the howdah and
the elephant's flank, thus putting an end to the game.

"But I have dice!" said Dawa Tsering; and from then until dawn
they murdered time and peace with those things, while Diana, her
tongue hanging out with the heat, panted and shifted restlessly,
but Ommony snatched scraps of sleep, dimly aware that Dawa
Tsering was losing more often than he won, growing more and more
indignant with devils who refused to bring him luck.

"I will obey thee, Gupta Rao, until the luck changes," he said at
last. "My dice are loaded, yet even so I can not win! Luck is
funny stuff."

It was about ten minutes after dawn, the choicest hour in India,
alive with cock-crow and the color-drenched solemnity of waking
day, when the tired elephant came to a final halt in some sort of
enclosure, and shuffled a slow measure to call the mahout's
attention to sore feet. At a sharp word of command the beast lay
down, like a hillside falling. Diana sprang out through the
curtains and Ommony followed, yawning and sitting down on the
elephant's forefoot to pretend to watch the mahout's ingenious
ministrations to a corn, while he surveyed the scene from under
lowered eyelids.

The other elephants, already off-loaded, had shuffled away to a
roofed enclosure at the far end of a compound, where great heaps
of food awaited them and equally huge vats of water. The camels,
still burdened, were lying down in picturesque confusion,
carrying on a camel conversation, which consists in snarling at
the world in general. Along one side of the compound was a row
of mules, tied by the heel with their rumps toward the wall,
squealing for breakfast, which was being brought by naked boys,
and by a _bhisti,_ who poured water into buckets from a goatskin
bag. The opposite side of the compound was formed by a low two
-storied building with a double-decked veranda supported on square
wooden posts running the entire length. There were flies, much
litter and a most amazing smell.

Over the roof of the building, where a long line of crows formed
a mischievously interested audience, there appeared a jumble of
other roofs that made no pretense to architecture. Small-town
noises, such as a smithy bellows and the hammer-ring on iron, the
patter of goats' feet and the heavier tread of cattle being
driven forth to graze, arose on all sides. There was one minaret
in sight, and one Hindu temple roof ornate with carvings of
deific passion. The compound gate was locked and there was a
guard of two men standing by, not evidently armed, but obviously
sullen and alert. There was no sign of the Lama, nor of
any women.

After a minute or two Maitraya looked out from a door midway
under the long balcony and greeted Ommony with the familiarity of
boon companionship established by journeying together. It only
needs one night of shared discomfort on the road to produce that
feeling, or else its opposite. One either hates or likes one's
fellow traveler; there is no middle ground on the dawn of the
second day out.

"Do you know where we are?" Maitraya asked cheerfully.

Ommony did not know, but he was no such fool as to admit it. In
his capacity of wiseacre he gave the mahout good advice regarding
elephants' corns, about which he knew nothing; in his role of
privileged extortioner he demanded arrack from a man who seemed
to be the master of the stables, and established friendship with
the elephant by giving the grateful beast two-thirds of a bottle
-full of the atrocious stuff.

Meanwhile, Diana was exploring on her own account, alarming many
mules, offending camels, and reducing elephants to a state of
old-maidish nervousness, at which their mahouts yelled in chorus,
offering to throw sticks, dung and missiles of all sorts, but
daring no more than the threat. Diana, solemnly indifferent to
abuse, and contemptuous of elephants since she had ridden on the
back of one, snooted around in corners until she reached the end
door under the balcony; and finding that open, she entered.
There was an instant chorus of women's voices. Maitraya grinned.

"Gupta Rao," he said, "I have seen a many curiosities in my day,
but those dancing girls surpass all! If they are Tibetans,
Krishna! I will risk my life and go to Tibet! I saw them
descend from the elephants, and Vishnu! Vishnu! I assure you my
heart thumps! Such beauty! Such chastity redeemed by mirth!
Such modesty of manner uncontaminated by humility! I foresee
adventures, Gupta Rao! That divinity of yours who broke your
pocketbook in Bikanir will have a dozen strong competitors!
Krishna! I am impassioned! I am enflamed with love! If I can
find a shrine of Hanuman, I will make gifts and a sacrifice
this morning!"

Diana emerged, led out through the door by Samding, who held her
collar; seeing Ommony, the _chela_ signaled to him with a smile
to call the dog.

"I hate that _chela!_" said Maitraya, grinning. "Did I not tell
you I had an intuition to be jealous of him! Is it possible
those twice-born creatures are the _chela's_ wives?"

"Whom are you calling twice-born?" Ommony demanded, instantly
assertive of a Brahman's rights. "_Pranam!_" said Maitraya.
"But wait until you have seen them!"

Impelled by a feeling that perhaps the luck might favor him, and
partly in order to live up to his Bhat reputation, Ommony
strolled toward the door whence Samding and the laughter had
emerged. It was slightly ajar. But he had scarcely reached it
when the Tibetan who had been fellow traveler during the night
touched him on the shoulder, led him back to a door at the
extreme opposite end, and almost violently shoved him into a room
furnished with a clean wooden table and a bench. Food was on the
table--loads of it--fruit, milk, chupatties, honey, butter,
boiled rice, and flowers enough to have graced a wedding feast.
The Tibetan slammed the door, and Ommony heard him turn a key on
the outside.

However, there were two doors to the room, and the window was not
fastened. He went first to the window and made sure that Diana
was within hail; she was watching Dawa Tsering gorge his
breakfast from a bowl in the shade of the compound wall not
fifteen feet away. Having satisfied himself on that score,
he discovered that the inner door was not locked, so he attacked
the food, that being an important consideration when you
don't know what the next five minutes may bring forth. The
locked outer door, and the guard on the compound gate were
not exactly reassuring.

The Lama came in through the inner door just as Ommony finished
eating. He was alone, no longer dressed in the warrior-like garb
of the night before, and looking old again--immensely old,
because the morning light streamed through the slats of the
window and showed all his wrinkles. The snuff-brown color of his
robe was streaked with old-gold by the sunlight. In that moment
one could believe he was a rather world-weary, very wise old
saint; it was next to impossible not to believe it.

Yet there was humor in his eyes and a gaze unconquerable--blue
-gray--very wide awake. His frame for the moment seemed shrunken,
yet his height, though he stooped from shoulders that seemed
almost too weary to support his head, was considerably more
than Ommony's.

"Peace perfect you in all her ways!"

The blessing was solemn but the voice rang with assurance, as if
he knew that his will to bless was infinitely overpowering.

"And to you, my father, peace," said Ommony. He had stood up
when the Lama entered.

"And the food was enough? And good enough?" the Lama asked.
"The journey not distressing?"

"Where are we?" Ommony retorted bluntly. But the Lama merely
smiled, until his wrinkles were all in movement, and the fearless
old eyes shone with kindly humor:

"My son, he who knows _where_ he is knows more than all the gods.
He who knows _what_ he is knows all things. Is it not enough
that each moment we are where we should be? Is not the whole
universe a mystery! How shall the part be more comprehensible
than the whole, since it must partake of the quality of the whole?"

But Ommony did not propose to be put off by wise conundrums. His
jaw came forward obstinately.

"I was locked in here," he said. "I have a right to know why."

"To keep out those whose ignorance might cause them to intrude,"
the Lama answered, exactly as if he were teaching school. "It is
not good to place temptation in the path of the inquisitive."

Feeling as if stilts had been kicked from under him, Ommony tried
again, more bluntly:

"You _know_ who I am," he began, speaking English; but the Lama
interrupted in Urdu:

"My son, if I knew that, I should be wiser than all those
whose duty is to rule the stars! You have answered to the
name of Gupta Rao."

"For God's sake," said Ommony, again in English, "why not tell me
outright what your business is? I'll _begin_ by being frank.
I'm spying on you! I would like to believe you are above
suspicion. I'm in doubt."

"My son," said the Lama, answering in Urdu, "no man is above
suspicion. The sun and the moon cast their shadows, and therein
the destroyers lurk. Doubt is the forerunner of decision.
Shadows move. All revelation comes to him who waits."

That sounded like a promise. Ommony jumped at it. "We have one
interest in common--Tilgaun. Why treat me as an enemy? Why not
clear the air now by telling me the truth about yourself?"

"My son," said the Lama, in Urdu again, "no man can ever be told
the truth, which either is in him, or it is not in him. If it
is, he will see the truth. If it is not, he will see delusion
and will confuse himself with surmise. He who looks for negation
beholds it. He who looks for truth beholds negation also, but
perceives the truth beyond. Wherein have I shown you enmity?"

For a moment there was silence. Ommony tried to think of
another way of getting past the Lama's guard, but the old man's
impersonal dignity was like armor.

"There are things you may see, but you must put your own
interpretation on them," said the Lama. "One by one we attain to
understanding. The wise ponder in silence, but the fools are
noisy, and the noise precedes them to their doom."

That sounded like a threat, but his face was as kindly as ever,
rippled again with quivering wrinkles, as a smile broke and
vanished into the recesses of brown-ivory skin.

"Come!" he said; but instead of opening the door behind him he
strode first to the window, threw the shutters back, glanced out
and made a clucking noise. Diana jumped in, and Ommony wondered;
she was trained to be wary of strangers, and was not given to
obeying even her master's friends unless carefully charged with
that duty by Ommony himself. She thrust her nose into the Lama's
hand before she came and fussed over Ommony.

The Lama led the way into a narrow passage on to which many doors
opened to right and left, it extended from end to end of the long
building, its walls forming a double support for the heavy beams
of the floor above. Two-thirds of the way along it he opened a
door on the right and a chorus of women's voices burst through
the opening. But there were no women to be seen yet, because the
door opened on to a gallery; there was a lower story on that
side of the building, and the gallery ran around two sides of a
large room, screened from it by a breast-high balustrade. The
Lama led the way to the farther end, where the gallery was twenty
feet wide and Samding waited, standing beside a spread Tibetan
prayer-mat, marvelously dressed in ivory white and looking like a
young god. However, god or no god, he had to alter the position
of the mat by an inch or two before the Lama would sit down,
after which he motioned to Ommony to be seated on the floor in
the farther corner, where he could see through a slit in the
wooden panel and look down on the floor below.

It was a surprising room to discover close to mule- and elephant-stables, but not so surprising as its occupants. The walls were
hung with painted curtains, and the floor was strewn with
cushions on which Indian women, many of them high-caste ladies,
sat chattering with girls who resembled no caste or tribe that
Ommony had ever seen anywhere. They were lively, full of
laughter, young, but no more beautiful, as far as actual features
went, than any gathering of normally good-looking women anywhere.
Six or seven of them, if not Tibetans, were at any rate of part-Mongolian origin; but Ommony counted fourteen who fitted into no
mental pigeon-hole of races he had seen and studied.

In more than one way those fourteen and the Tibetans were all
alike. They were dressed in the same loose, almost Greek, white
cotton robes; they all wore stockings, which the native Indian
women in the room did not wear; and they used more or less the
same gestures, were alert with the same vivacity. But there the
resemblance ended.

The fourteen were fair-complexioned; one had golden hair that
hung in long plaits--she would have looked like a German
Gretchen, if it had not been for the dress and something
else--something quite indefinable.

The whole proceedings, the whole scene was like a weird figment
of imagination. There was nothing natural about it, simply
because it was too natural. It was not India. There were
Moslem as well as Hindu ladies in the room, betraying no self-consciousness and no objection to one another's presence; and
there were actually low-caste women-_sudras*_--chatting with the
rest apparently on equal footing. True, there was no food
being passed around, but every other caste rule seemed to be
forgotten or deliberately flouted; yet there was no sign of
self-consciousness or strain.

--------
* Sudra: the lowest of the four great Hindu castes, which in
fact, although not always in theory, includes many of the
merchants and artisan classes, and some agriculturists.
--------

They were talking Urdu, a few of them with difficulty, but it was
next to impossible to catch the conversation from the gallery
because there was so much of it--so many chattering and laughing
all at once.

The fourteen girls in white kept glancing up at the gallery
apparently expecting some sort of signal, so Ommony had plenty of
opportunity to scan their features. He did not doubt they were
the smuggled children Benjamin had spoken of, only there were
fourteen instead of seven. There were therefore other agents
besides Benjamin. But the fact in no way simplified the mystery;
rather it increased it. Their ages ranged at a guess from
seventeen to twenty-three or twenty-four which, allowing for the
years elapsed, tallied with Benjamin's description near enough;
and they had grown to wholesome-looking womanhood. Not a trace
of shyness. No awkwardness. No vulgarity. Not one symptom of
forced manners or repression. The whole thing was incredible;
yet there they were. And who had educated them? The Lama? That
seemed more impossible than for a river to flow up-hill; he
might have made priggish nuns of them, or downright Tibetans, but
not that. It began to be evident that there was something worth
investigating in the Ahbor country, or wherever else the Lama
kept his secrets!

It was the Lama who at last cut short the flow of talk. Sitting
still on the mat, where his head was not visible from below, he
boomed a word in Tibetan, as commanding as the gong that brings
sea-engines to a halt, and there was instant silence as in an
aviary when the chattering birds are frightened. Whatever he
might be, the old man knew what drama meant--and discipline. He
whispered to Samding, and the _chela,_ opening a swinging door in
the front of the gallery, walked down a carpeted flight of steps
to the floor below.

He was received in silence. He took from his breast the broken
piece of jade that Ommony had lost and that the Lama had
recovered from the courtesan, and holding it in both hands on a
level with his shoulders passed among them, pausing to let each
woman in turn devour it with her eyes. Some of them appeared to
fall into a state of superstitious rapture; others were curious;
all were respectful almost to the point of worship. And the Lama
watched them through a slit in the swinging gate as if all
destiny depended on the outcome, every tendon in him rigid; the
neck tendon stood out like a bowstring. Then suddenly, as if to
calm himself, he took snuff and rubbed his nose violently with
his thumb.

The _chela_ said nothing, but the women were allowed to touch him
and appeared to think the touch conferred a priceless boon. They
laid a finger of the right hand on his shoulder as he passed, and
one woman, a Moslem, who laid both hands on him and clung almost
passionately, was quietly reproved for it by two of the girls
in white.

"The game begins to look political," thought Ommony, watching the
Lama clean a snuff-filled nostril with a meditative forefinger.
"Vasantasena--umm! Now these women--I've always wondered why
some genius didn't try to conquer India by winning the women
first! They rule the country anyhow."

The Lama just then looked as calculating as a medieval cardinal,
but despite that air of playing a deep game for tremendous
stakes, there was now something almost Puck-like in his attitude.
Ommony noticed for the first time that his ears did not lie close
to his head, were large and slightly pointed at the top. Seen
sidewise in the rather dim light there was a faint suggestion
about him of one of those gargoyles that survey the street from a
cathedral roof. He was even more interesting to watch than the
proceedings on the floor below.

Suddenly the Lama spoke again. When he did that his leathery
throat moved like a pelican's swallowing a big fish, and the
noise that came out was hardly human--startling--so abrupt that
it completely broke the sequence of all other sounds. It
monopolized attention. In the ensuing silence he sat back, took
snuff again, and seemed to lose all interest in the proceedings.

But to Ommony the interest increased. The girls in white threw
black cloaks over their shoulders. The Hindu and Moslem women
smothered themselves in the impenetrable veils without which it
is pollution to face men-folk out-of-doors; and all of them, in
groups of three or four, each little group in charge of one of
the Lama's female family, who shielded their faces in masked
hoods that formed part of the black cloaks, departed toward
the street.

There was no doubt that they did go to the street; a door opened
on to a vestibule, and sunlight shone through a street door at
its farther end.

Samding returned up the steps and gave the piece of jade to the
Lama, who stowed it somewhere in his bosom without glancing at
it. Ommony watched the _chela_ narrowly. Was he a European boy?
There was something in the clean strong outline of his face and
in the lithe athletic figure that might suggest that. But he was
too abstract-looking--altogether too impersonal and (the word was
as vague as the impression Ommony was trying to fix in his mind)
too fascinating. No European youngster could have looked as he
did without stirring resentment in whoever watched. Samding
aroused in the beholder only admiration and an itching curiosity.

-----------



THE LAMA'S LAW

O ye who look to enter in through Discipline to Bliss,
Ye shall not stray from out the way, if ye remember this:
Ye shall not waste a weary hour, nor hope for Hope in vain,
If ye persist with will until self-righteousness is slain.
If through the mist of mortal eyes, deluded, ye discern
That ye are holier than these, ye have the whole to learn!
If ye are tied with tangled pride because ye learn the Law,
Know then, your purest thoughts deny the Truth ye never saw!
If ye resent in discontent the searchlight of reproof,
Preferring praise, ye waste your days at sin's not Soul's behoof!
Each gain for self denies the Self that knows the self is vain.
Who crowns accomplishment with pride must build the whole again!
But if, at each ascending step, more clearly ye perceive
That he must kill the lower will, who would the world relieve
And they are last who would be first, their effort thrown away;
Be patient then and persevere. Ye tread the Middle Way!



Chapter XVII

Diana Rehearses a Part 

The moment the last woman had vanished from the room, the Lama let
Samding help him to his feet and clucked, snapping his fingers to
Diana. She glanced at Ommony, he nodded, immensely curious, and
promptly she trotted to the Lama's side as matter-of-factly as if
she had known him all her life.

The Lama and the _chela_ went down to the room below, taking
Diana with them. The _chela_ spread out the mat, rearranged it
in accordance with the Lama's instructions, and the two sat down
on it facing the balcony, conversing in low tones, evidently
waiting for something preordained to happen. Diana sniffed
around the room, inspecting cushions curiously, but they took no
apparent notice of her. After a minute or two she sat down and
looked bored. Instantly the Lama called to Ommony:

"Can you cause the dog to open her mouth, from where you are,
without speaking?"

Ommony stood up, his head and shoulders visible above the rail,
and seeing him Diana pricked an ear. The trick was simple
enough; ever since she was a puppy she had always dropped her
jaw when he held up a finger at her; by education, for his own
amusement, he had simply encouraged and fixed a habit. Her mouth
opened, closed and opened wide again.

Samding laughed delightedly, but the Lama very seriously beckoned
to Diana to come nearer and she obeyed at a nod from Ommony. She
wanted to sit on the mat, but the Lama would not allow that; he
pushed her away and she squatted down facing the balcony,
watching Ommony, awaiting orders.

"Now again!" said the Lama.

Ommony raised his finger. The ear went up, the mouth opened and
stayed open until the finger was lowered.

The Lama was as pleased as a child with a toy. Diana would have
been satisfied to go through all her tricks, but a Tibetan
entered through the door the women had used. The Lama froze into
immobility and Samding followed suit.

There entered a man whom Ommony knew from his photographs--Prabhu
Singh--the almost middle-aged but younger son of a reigning
rajah. He knew him well by reputation--had admired him in the
abstract because he was notorious for independence and for fair,
intelligent, outspoken and constructive criticism of foreign
rule. He was said to be an intimate of Gandhi and was, in
consequence, about as much appreciated by the ruling powers as a
hornet at a tea-party.

He was tall, lean, lithe, big-eyed under a plain silk turban and
extremely simply dressed in tussore stuff that showed every line
of his athletic figure--not very dark-skinned--clean-shaven
except for a black mustache. He wore no jewelry, strode
barefooted with manly dignity to a point midway between the Lama
and the door, bowed low, and stood still. Diana went up and
sniffed him. He showed surprise, but laid his hand on the dog's
head and rubbed her ear.

"Peace be with you. Peace perfect you in all her ways," the
Lama boomed.

"And to you, my father, peace," he answered. "Was it well done?
Was anything lacking for your comfort? Have my servants failed
in anything? Were there enough elephants?"

"It is all good," said the Lama.

"And the mission succeeded?"

"The first part."

The Lama's hand went into his bosom and produced the piece of
jade. Prabhu Singh approached to the edge of the mat, received
the jade into his hands, and stepped back to examine it, holding
it to the light from a window. He did not appear to have any
superstitious reverence for it, but handled it as if it were a
work of art, rare and valuable.

"I am glad," he said simply after about two minutes, handing it
back to the Lama, who returned it to his bosom. The _chela's_
eyes were missing nothing.

"San-fun-ho!" said the Lama suddenly; and the _chela_ stood up
on the mat. Was the stage-name his real one? The mystery
increased. Prabhu Singh's attitude underwent an instant change.
He became embarrassed. He bowed three times with much more
reverence than he had shown the Lama, and when the _chela_ smiled
the lineal descendant of a hundred kings was as nervous as a
small boy being introduced to a bishop. Samding said something
to him that Ommony could not catch, and the murmured answer
seemed to be no more than a conventional formula of politeness.
The _chela_ was as perfectly at ease as if he had been receiving
the homage of princes all his life.

Prabhu Singh bowed again three times and retreated backward,
stumbling against Diana and recovering his balance awkwardly. He
appeared almost physically frightened; yet he was famous on polo
fields from end to end of India, and was notorious for speaking
his mind bluntly to viceroys at real risk of personal liberty.
His back to the door at last, he made his escape with better
grace, recovering presence of mind and remembering to salute
the Lama.

The moment the door shut the Lama turned on Samding and rebuked
him in Tibetan; Ommony could only catch occasional sentences;
but it seemed that the Lama was angry because Samding had not put
the visitor at ease.

"That is only vanity--self-approval. Worshipers are mockers...
turned your head...I would rather see you pelted with stones
...better for you and for them...break the shell of the egg
before the chicken hatches..._sclaappkapp!_ (whatever that
meant)...dirt under your feet will some day cover your grave...
all these years and yet you know so little...if you are going
to fail you had better not begin...presumption..."

It was a wonder of a discourse. Samding listened, standing for a
while, then sat down cross-legged--off the mat--facing the Lama
--head bowed humbly--not once moving until Diana came and sniffed
his neck to find out what the matter was.

That stopped the Lama's flow of speech. He glanced up at the
gallery and called to Ommony in an absolutely normal tone of
voice, as if he had entirely forgotten the whole incident of
Prabhu Singh's visit and the rebuke and all connected with it.

"Now again, my son. Make the dog do the acting again."

Samding resumed his position on the mat at the Lama's right hand;
he, too, seemed to dismiss the lecture as if it had never taken
place; and Ommony, directing from the gallery, made Diana open
and shut her mouth. The Lama insisted on her doing it again and
again and at last he and Samding chuckled together over it as if
it were the greatest joke that ever happened. Still chuckling,
they got up and left the room by the door leading to the street,
taking the mat with them and locking the door as they went out.
No explanation; not a word to Ommony as to what was expected of
him; not even a backward glance at the gallery to suggest that
they had him in mind. Ommony sat still for a while; then,
whistling Diana, he made his way to the gallery door, found that
open, and proceeded to explore; but he found all the other doors
along the passage locked, except the one at the end that opened
into the room assigned to himself.

He looked through the window into the compound, where there were
all kinds of noise and confusion. Four men were trying to throw
a mule and several other mules had broken loose; an elephant was
lying on its back near a water-butt while two mahouts scrubbed
its belly; and two bull camels were fighting with everything
except their tails while twenty onlookers heaped humorous advice
on rather bored-looking experts who were watching for a chance to
rope the brutes by the leg and separate them.

And in the midst of all that riot, with the sun pouring down on
them and crows and sparrows hopping about among them, Maitraya
and his troupe sat on boxes, repeating their lines to one another.

It appeared that the devil's part already had been written.
Maitraya held a small scroll in addition to his own, and was
trying to teach the lines to Dawa Tsering, who was disposed
to believe he could play the devil better if left to his
own resources.

"I tell you, a devil is devilish!" he shouted. "A devil is like
one of those bull camels--you never know what he'll do next! Or
like a mule--you have to look out for his teeth and heels! This
devil of yours is like a pretty gentleman. Here, let me show you
how to act the devil!"

But Maitraya stuck to it, patiently correcting the Hillman's
mispronunciation of the Urdu words. Catching sight of Ommony
through the window, he called to him to come out and take part in
the rehearsal; but the door was still locked, and though he
could have climbed through the window easily enough Ommony hardly
liked to confess that he was locked in, not knowing what effect
that news might have on Maitraya. After a moment's hesitation he
excused himself on religious grounds:

"I must recite the _mantras._"

Even Maitraya, possessed by the almost absolute of religious
cynicism, respected that Brahman's privilege, so Ommony was left
to his own meditations, which were mixed, amused and mystified
in turn.

His thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door behind him.
The _chela_ came in. He had changed his clothes again and was in
the same snuff-colored robe in which Ommony first saw him in
Chutter Chand's back room. His face was an enigma--a mask with a
marvelous smile on it; but the eyes, to Ommony, suggested
excitement; or, it might have been, extremely keen amusement;
at any rate, some strong emotion was shining through the
self-controlled exterior. The remarkable thing was, that the
youngster's calm did not suggest fanatical asceticism or conceit.
He seemed human, curious and not unfriendly.

Diana's tail thumped on the floor. Flies buzzed in and out
through the window. There was nothing in the situation to cause
nervousness, and yet Ommony confessed to himself that he felt an
inclination to shudder; the sort of inclination that forewarns a
man of something that his eyes can not see. He spoke first,
purposely in English, hoping to catch the _chela_ off-guard:

"Maitraya has suggested that those young women who are with the
party are your wives. That seems improbable. Tell me the truth
about it."

If eyes mean anything, the _chela_ understood; he was laughing.
No muscle of his face moved. He pretended to assume that the
words were some form of greeting, and answered in kind, in
Tibetan, then broke into Urdu:

"Tsiang Samdup sends a blessing. He is unwilling that you should
speak of what occurred this morning."

"You mean, of the performance of the dog?" asked Ommony.

But the _chela_ appeared to be an expert in dealing with
stupidity. "Of _anything_ that occurred." Ommony chose another
angle of assault:

"Whatever the holy Lama wishes. Kindly tell him so. _As long as
I am his guest,_ I will be silent. Wait!"

The _chela_ had started to go, but Ommony stepped between him and
the door and stood with his back to it.

"Don't be alarmed."

But the _chela_ had only retreated a pace or two. Excepting
that, he seemed hardly more than curious to know what would
happen next. It was Ommony who felt uncomfortable. "I want you
to tell me," he said, "whether it was Tsiang Samdup or some one
else who educated you and those young women."

The _chela_, still standing erect, did not answer.

"Come on, tell me. There must be some one else besides the Lama."

"Is that why you stand between me and the door?" the _chela_
asked. The voice was ironic--amused. Ommony tried emphasis:

"I won't let you go until you answer a few questions. Tell me--"

But the _chela_ had already gone. He had crossed the room in
three strides, laid a hand on the window-ledge, and vaulted
through, tucking his legs up neatly under his chin and landing
almost noiselessly on the veranda. He contrived the whole swift
maneuver without a moment's loss of dignity, and walked away
unruffled, not glancing behind him.

Ommony strode to the window feeling cheap, wishing he had
gone about things differently; he supposed it would take an
interminable time now to establish himself in the _chela's_
confidence; he had possibly totally ruined his chance of doing
that. The _chela_ was sure to go straight to the Lama and
tell him.

But there stood the Lama, in the midst of the group of actors,
with Samding already beside him; and apparently Samding was
talking about the play to Maitraya; the Lama seemed to be
encouraging Dawa Tsering to rehearse his lines. They did not
glance in Ommony's direction. But a minute or two later a
Tibetan came and unlocked the door, and when Ommony stepped out
under the veranda the Lama turned and beckoned to him.

However, the Lama had nothing to say. He led the entire troupe
at once toward the elephant stalls, down a gangway between two of
the big beasts, whom he saluted in passing as if they were human
beings, and through a gate at the rear into an alley fifty yards
long. The alley seemed to have been used as a sheep-corral the
preceding night; there were some loose boards that probably
served to enclose it. Across its end ran a street, in which a
dozen or more nondescript humans lounged in front of back doors.
It was a back street; all the houses faced the other way, their
rears were an irregular jumble of yards and walls, with empty
kerosene cans, rubbish heaps and faded cotton _purdahs*_ much
in evidence.

--------
* Curtain, veil; any kind of screen. Women who keep out of
sight of men are known as _purdah-nashin._
-------

The Lama led straight across the street into a doorway, and down
a long passage that admitted to the wings of a fair-sized
theater, almost modern in some of its details.

Some one had been busy, for the stage was set. A hideous back-drop had been almost concealed by branches up-ended, that gave a
very good suggestion of a clump of trees; and in front of those,
in mid-stage, was a wickerwork affair covered with cotton cloth
that had been painted to look like the stone-work of an old well;
a beam with a rope thrown over it, supported on two uprights
completed the illusion well enough. The flies had been very
simply painted to resemble house corners at the end of a street,
and the whole scene suggested the extreme fringe of a village,
with the audience looking out through it toward the open country.

For a wonder, there was electric light, although none too much,
and the switchboard was a mystery, painted red and labeled in
English "Keep away!"

At the rear of the theater and along both sides was a balcony for
women, screened off with narrow wooden slats that left openings
about four inches square. The orchestra "pit" was a platform,
three feet lower than the stage, in full view of the audience.
The musicians were already squatting there--Tibetans to a man;
four were armed with _radongs;*_ four more had tomtoms; the
remaining dozen were provided with stringed instruments. The
_radongs_ blew a fog-horn blare to greet the Lama as he stepped
on to the stage.

---------
* A sort of trumpet, very long, with the bell-shaped end set at
an angle to the tube.
---------

In the opposite wing, no longer in white or in stockings,
protected by three stalwart Tibetans, who lounged in the flies,
were the women of mystery. They were in costume, which so
orientalized them that Ommony almost doubted recognition. Memory
plays strange tricks; his took him back to the day when he and
Benjamin had played a part at Chota Pegu and the nautch-girls had
been wild with inquisitive mischief--ready to betray the chief
priest at a nod. These girls now, in gauzy draperies, less
naked, but as subtle in their motions, so resembled those nautch
-girls at first glance that he was not sure they were the same he
had seen in the room among the Hindu ladies until he noticed that
they laughed and chattered on a comparatively low note instead of
a high-pitched dissonance.

The Lama clapped his hands and sat down inside the well, where he
could see out through holes in the painted cloth. Then he told
Ommony to make Diana sit down almost exactly in front of the
well, and the rehearsal began at once, as if preordained from the
beginning of time, the girls in their Indian costume mingling
with the stage crowd, and so well versed in their part that they
pushed the other actors into place, needing no direction by
the Lama.

Ommony had plenty of chance to observe some of them closely, for
three had been told to engage the _saddhu_ in mock-conversation
during parts of the first act. One--the Gretchen-girl--put an
offering into his begging bowl. But though he missed his cue
twice through trying to engage her in real whispered conversation,
he failed; she was as evasive as abstract thought--as apparently
engaging and as actually distant as a day-dream. She turned
every advance he made into an excuse of by-play for the imaginary audience's benefit, and all Ommony accomplished was to draw
the Lama's irony from behind the well:

"Some _saddhus_ hide lascivious hearts under robes of sanctity,
but you are supposed to be one who has truly forsaken the pursuit
of women, Gupta Rao!"

When the laugh that followed that rebuke had died down Ommony was
still not sure of the Gretchen-girl's real nationality. He had
tried her with English, French, German and two or three Indian
languages, watching her face, but detecting no expression that
suggested she had understood him. As for the others, one might
be a Jewess; but there are many well-bred women, for instance in
Rajputana, and in Persia, who are fair-skinned and who resemble
Jewesses in profile. Even fair hair was no proof of their
origin; most eastern women, but by no means all, have dark hair.

The only really convincing evidence that they were Europeans was
their behavior, and even that was offset by the fact that some
of them were certainly Tibetans, whose manner was equally
unembarrassed in the presence of men, yet equally free from
familiarity. The difference from their behavior and that of
Maitraya's actresses grew more and more noticeable as the
professionals became aware of an atmosphere to which they were
utter strangers. They tried at first to imitate it; then grew
resentful and sneered; resorting at last to low jests in loud
whispers and attempts to scandalize by bold advances to the men
--until at last the Lama stood up in the well like a priest in a
pulpit and beckoned those three women to come and stand in front
of him.

"I could show you your secret hearts," he said, in a kind voice
that was much more withering than scorn, "and ye would die in
horror at the sight. It is not good to slay, not even with the
rays of truth. So I show you instead what ye _may_ become."
Mildly, patiently, a little wearily, as if he had done the same
thing very often, he included all his own mysterious family in a
gesture that conveyed diffidence and hesitation. "Life after
life ye shall struggle with yourselves before ye shall come as
these. And these are nothing--nothing to what ye _may_ become.
The road is long, and there are difficulties; but ye must face
it. Take advantage of the moment, for it is easier to imitate
than to find the way alone. Ye can not undo the past, nor can
all the gods, nor He who rules the gods, undo it. But now, this
moment, and the next one, and the next, for ever, ye yourselves
by thought and act create the very hair's-breadths of your
destiny.--Now let us begin again, from the beginning."

They began again so meekened and subdued that for a while the
first act suffered. But that was overcome by Diana, who produced
such peals of laughter that the Lama had difficulty in restoring
order and had to reprimand the musicians for thrusting their
heads above the level of the stage to watch. At a signal from
Ommony standing near the wings, Diana's mouth opened and the Lama
from inside the well croaked words that sounded, even on the
stage, as if the dog were speaking them.

When the shoemaker said "Ah, if I were king!" Diana's mouth
opened wide and the retort came from behind her:

"It _might_ be better to be a dog like me and not worry so much!"

The illusion was perfect because everybody on the stage looked at
the dog as if expecting her to speak; and the best of it was
that Diana cocked an ear, put her head to one side, and was
immensely interested.

In answer to the _saddhu's,_ "How long will ye store up wrath
against the day of reckoning?" there was put into Diana's mouth:

"For myself I bury bones, but jackals come in the night and make
away with them!"

When the king asked, "Is this your gratitude?" and the _saddhu_
replied, "To whom? For what?" Diana's retort was:

"The _saddhu_ is like the vermin on my back; he helps himself
but isn't grateful. And when he is scratched he just goes to
another place!"

Diana was easy to manage, and Ommony's signals, made with his
right hand, were invisible from the front of the theater on his
left. But Dawa Tsering was a hard problem; he was supposed to
be one of those wandering clown-fakirs who amuse and terrify
village gatherings by alternately acting like idiots and
pretending they are in communication with the underworld of
demons and lost souls. He could neither remember his lines nor
keep his head, but blundered in at the wrong cues and then
laughed self-consciously. Ommony advised the Lama to dispense
with him altogether.

"Nay," said the Lama. "All things are good in the proper place.
There is a part he _can_ play."

Whereat he ordered the stage set for the second act, which was a
simple business. The flies reversed suggested a palace interior.
Curtains at the rear concealed the greenery. The well was
replaced by a carpeted dais with a large throne on top of it,
inside which the Lama could conceal himself quite easily. A few
heaps of cushions and settees were carried on the stage and while
the change was being made the orchestra rehearsed amazing music.

Tomtoms, _radongs_ and stringed instruments thundered, howled and
jingled like a storm in the Himalayas with the voices of a
thousand disembodied spirits carrying on an argument in the teeth
of wind and rain. It was stunning--weird--a sort of cataclysmic
din foreboding marvelous events, but music, nevertheless, in
every quarter-note of its disturbing harmonies.

-------



He who would reform the world must first reform himself; and
that, if he do it honestly, will keep him so employed that he
will have no time to criticize his neighbor. Nevertheless, his
neighbor will be benefitted--even as a man without a candle, who
at last discerns another's light.
--From the Book of the Sayings of Tsiang Samdup



Chapter XVIII

Diana Adopts Buskins


Work. Ommony had been a worker all his days, but had never known
the real meaning of the word until that afternoon. The Lama, as
placid as a temple idol, as exacting as fate, as tireless as time
itself, kept everybody occupied. There was no return to the
place across the street where the beasts of burden rested; the
only pause between rehearsals was at noon, when food was brought
in baskets and all except Ommony munched greasy chupatties in the
wings; for him there was special food provided, brought by an
ostensible Brahman and served behind a screen.

A Tibetan make-up man, a master craftsman, spread the tools of
his trade on the stage behind the well and took every one in hand
in turn under the Lama's critical supervision. Even Diana had to
be touched up; daubs of paint were smeared around her eyes to
make them look huge and supernatural, and her ordinary gauntness
was enhanced by dark streaks that made her ribs appear to stand
out prominently.

Trunks full of costumes were dumped in the wings by methodical,
matter-of-fact Tibetans, who seemed to have gone through the same
performance scores of times and to know exactly what to do, and
when, and how. They dressed the protesting actors more or less
by main force, ignoring Maitraya's protests, pulling, adjusting,
stitching, until every costume hung exactly as the Lama said it
should. They provided Dawa Tsering with a devil-mask and a suit
of dragon-scales--then showed him himself in a mirror, which
entirely solved that problem; he liked himself so well in the
disguise that he could have acted Hamlet in it. But all he was
required to do was to laugh like a fiend at intervals, and to
dance on and off stage whenever the Lama signaled from behind the
well. He was supposed to be the spirit of the underworld who
mocked men's efforts.

There was no supper; nobody remembered it. Rehearsals continued
until they had to lower the curtain because the audience began to
straggle in and squat on the matted floor in groups, munching
betel-nut. The orchestra tuned up at once. Three-quarters of an
hour before the curtain was supposed to rise the house was
crowded to suffocation. Stunned by the music, which crashed and
blared arresting heraldry of doom or something like it (and
nothing fascinates as much as doom fore-trumpeted) the audience
forgot to talk. When the curtain went up slowly as if raised by
the last resounding boom of the _radongs_ there was utter
silence, in which the thrill behind the women's gallery grating
could almost be felt in the wings.

And at the very last minute, before the king walked on, the Lama,
from behind the well, signaled to Dawa Tsering to laugh like a
ghoul and dance across the stage. It was inspiration. In a
country that believes implicitly in devils, that following the
cataclysmic music produced the perfect state of mind in which to
watch the play; when Maitraya walked on he was heard with almost
agonied attention. There was not a gasp from the audience until
it was Diana's turn to speak, when the Lama croaked her line so
comically that even the actors laughed; and, presumably because
the gods who guard coincidence approved, she put her head to one
side and cocked an ear at the audience.

It brought the house down. It was so exactly timed to break
suspense, the marvel that a dog should speak was so astonishing,
that an earthquake after that could hardly have called the
crowd's attention to itself. Every spoken word and every move
was watched as if earth's destiny depended on the actors' lips,
and Diana's three short speeches were received as if some god in
the form of an animal were on the stage. When she had spoken
about vermin the Lama tickled her with a straw and she scratched
herself; and shrill laughter from behind the women's grille gave
evidence that not a gesture of her left hind foot was missed.
When the curtain came down at the end of the prologue the
applause out-thundered the orchestra.

"It succeeds!" announced Maitraya, strutting across the stage
in the way of the scene-shifters. "I told you so! I said
it would! Trust me to know. Acting--good acting-technique
can accomplish anything!"

The Lama recognized familiar symptoms and was prompt. He
gathered all the actors close around him in the wings and what he
said was aimed straight at Maitraya, although he appeared to be
watching Dawa Tsering through the corner of his eye:

"That which is not excellent is not good. There shall be no
second act, unless I can be sure of more attention to my signals.
I am disappointed. If we can do no better before such an
audience as this, what could we hope to do in the large cities?"

Dawa Tsering nearly burst the devil-mask with indignation.

"Thou!" he exploded. "Go back to thy monastery! I will
entertain these princes and princesses! Hah! This is the
greatest success there ever was!"

"You will not be needed," said the Lama, and at a sign from him,
as if they had known from the first what to expect, three
Tibetans seized Dawa Tsering and led him away to a small room at
the rear where his roars of protest were inaudible.

That was all that was needed. Even the vainglorious Maitraya
forced himself into a careful frame of mind, and the second act
began as the first had done, with everybody striving to deliver
each line as the Lama wished it.

Quite early in the second act the girls came on to dance and
entertain the king's court. They were preceded by mysterious
music, quiet and rhythmic, pulsing with a tomtom under-throb that
made the audience breathe in time to it and sway unconsciously.

They floated on to the stage, barefooted, swinging so perfectly
in unison that each seemed to reflect the other. Lowered lights
produced a filmy, other-world effect. What little sound they
made was swallowed by the pulsing subdued music, until one
_radong_ boomed an arresting note and they began to sing, never
changing the dance step, weaving in and out and around and around
as reflections mirrored in the water weave interminably. Song,
step and dimness were all in harmony. There was one mysterious,
monotonous refrain that held a hint of laughter, and yet such
sadness as is felt when the wild-fowl cry across treeless wastes
under a rainy sky.

And there was no more than just enough of it to make the audience
feel that it had not had enough--no encore, although the stifling
theater became a pandemonium of acclamation and the king's next
speech had to be twice repeated from the throne (the Lama,
underneath the throne, insisted on it, lest the audience should
miss one word of the thought-laden lines).

Diana had only one line in the second act. When the king,
worried and perplexed by the ignorant disputing of his courtiers,
exclaimed, "Oh, who is wise enough to tell these idiots what to
do?" Diana walked up to the throne, turned at a signal from
Ommony to face the audience, and from under the throne the
Lama croaked:

"A wise _dog_ chooses its own master and obeys him. It saves
lots of trouble!"

Then she walked off, swaying her long tail contentedly as if she
had solved the riddle of the Sphinx. Because of the heat, that
made the grease-paint on the actors' faces run, her tongue lolled
out and she seemed to be grinning in response to the applause as
she vanished into the wings.

About midway through the second act Dawa Tsering was set free
from durance vile and allowed to resume his ghoulishness, now
somewhat chastened by conviction that after all he was not
indispensable. There was nothing prearranged about his
entrances, whenever a line fell flat or the action seemed to drag
a little the Lama signaled for the devil to dance on and arouse
laughter. He was particularly useful when Maitraya remembered he
was an actor instead of acting the part of a king; the devil was
immediately summoned then to take the conceit out of him by
burlesque antics.

There was nothing in the play an audience could misinterpret, for
it mirrored their own melancholy to them and their own confusion,
while Samding in the Chinese robes of San-fun-ho laughed at it
triumphantly, his golden voice repeating lines that suggested,
hinted, vaguely alluded to a way out of all the difficulties that
_he_ knew all about, even if nobody else did. All through the
second act Samding's lines were mockingly destructive, as one
actor after another, from king to _saddhu,_ tortured imagination
with his own ideas of how to make the world convenient to live
in. Between them they proposed almost every solution that has
ever passed current in the realm of politics, and the _saddhu_
seasoned the stew with peppery religious nostrums; but when,
before the curtain fell, they all decided they were better off as
shoemakers and goatherds Samding still mocked them. Nevertheless,
there was a hint in his last line of a solution if they chose
to look for it:

"Ye mortals, there is no success in jealousy. There is no
comfort in complaint. Ye win no excellence by finding fault."

The applause made the curtain swing and sway but it did not drown
the orchestra for quite so long as after the first act. It
changed into a buzz of conversation, syncopated, rising from a
low note to a higher one in choppy sound-waves of expectancy;
and when the curtain rose on the scene by the well at dawn there
was silence in which the mouse-note creaking of a door moved by a
draught of hot air sounded like whipcracks.

The rising sun would hardly have passed muster with a western
audience. It was a thing of gilded wood, on which the strongest
electric light available was focused from the wings, but to the
eastern mind, long versed in symbolism, it was intelligible, and
the fact that mystic signs were painted on its face enhanced its
effect. There was no need to tell any one that San-fun-ho had
used the magic jade at dawn to restore every one to his original
condition. There they all were, grouped before the well, with
the dancing girls costumed as members of a village crowd and some
Tibetans in the background helping to swell the number.

The whole of that last act belonged to San-fun-ho, who stood
before the well with the magic jade in his right hand and, with
the rising sun behind him, revealed the mystery of hope and
courage. The jade gleamed like a living thing whose light came
from within. His voice was like a peal of magic bells rung by
the gods who keep the secrets of the dawn. His face was lit with
reassuring laughter. His manner was as one who had experienced
all emotions and had conquered fear.

It was a long speech; its delivery required ten minutes, but the
audience received it as the East receives a benediction always,
straining breathlessly to catch the subtleties of meaning,
preferring allegories and a proverb now and then to meat
and drink.

"...Does dawn die? Nay, it passes on. It lives for ever.
Dawn is dawn, and never changes. Discontent is discontent; its
fruits are of the elements of discontent--all bitter--none can
sweeten them. Who wallows in the mire of jealousy, and blames
another for the want he feels, may load his bins aburst with
golden goods, but he shall know _more_ smarting jealousy and ache
with gnawing wants he never guessed.

"But hope--is hope not sweet? And is the fruit of sweetness
bitter! Nay. I tell you, Hope is a creative force whose
limitless dimensions lie within the boundary of each existing
minute. Irresistible, Hope's magic is accomplished now. It
comprehends no lapse of time. Nay! Instant are its dawn, its
noon and its accomplishment! Hope, if it is true hope, fills the
mind, affording malice and deceitful dread no room. Hope lives
in action. All the elements of hope are deeds done now!

"Deeds--the very echoes are the fruit of deeds! One stone laid
on another in Hope's name is greater service to the gods than all
the pomp of conquest and the noise of prayer! A deed--who
measures it? Who knows the limits of a mended wheel or reckons
up the leagues it shall lay underfoot?--what burdens it shall
bear?--whose destiny it shall await and serve? A new-born
Krishna may descend into the world--and ride on it to glories
such as earth has never known!

"O people, ye have over-praised calamity! Too much ye have
considered night; and not enough have ye observed the dawn!
Your hope has died because ye starved it like a pot-bound plant
within the shell of envy, in the drought of greed! Too truly ye
have longed to gain and to possess; too little ye have hoped to
add one gift to each gift-laden moment as it comes!

"Lay one stone on another, and give thanks! Add one deed to
another and sing praises to the lords of tide and time who
measure the ant's labors and record kings' idleness! Sing! Your
very song shall vibrate in the universe when ye return to earth a
thousand lives from now!"

The orchestra stole its way into his last half-dozen sentences
and, as he finished, burst into the splendid opening bars of
a hymn that was already ancient when the hills were young.
Conquering, it sounded, rising, overturning, splendid with the
bloom of life and Hope that knows it is immortal.

And how those girls, and the trained Tibetan chorus massed behind
them, sang! They swept the audience along with them into a
surging spate of sound whose melody was like the rolling wonder
of long rivers.

The curtain came down amid such deafening applause that not even
the _radongs_ could blare above the thunder of it and the Lama
had to shout like a mountaineer to make himself heard behind the
scenes. Ommony had seen no messenger arrive, no consultation
held, but the word the Lama shouted rang with a strange note of
anxiety, and though the audience was yelling for more song, and
to see the dog again, the stage and the wings took on the aspect
of a stricken camp--all haste, all running to and fro, but
strangely no confusion.

Ommony was seized and stripped of his _saddhu's_ costume--left to
dress himself in Brahman clothes as best he might, while Maitraya
fought against a similar indignity with as much effect as if he
were a scarecrow struggling with a Himalayan wind. The other
actors threw their costumes off before the wardrobe men could get
to them; and before they could pull on their ordinary clothes
the framework of the well and every detail of stage furniture had
vanished. The girls had disappeared almost before the echo of
the Lama's warning cry had ceased, and within five minutes from
the time the curtain came down Ommony found himself alone in the
wings with Diana and Dawa Tsering, who wanted to stay there and
brag of his performance.

"I have made up my mind I will be an actor, Gupta Rao! I am good
at it! Did you hear how they laughed when I showed myself! That
play would have failed but for me! Ha-hah! The Lama knew it,
too! He had to tell his lousy Tibetans to let me out of that
room back there, so that I might come and save the day!"

Ommony did not waste time to disillusion him, but even so they
were nearly caught by a tide of men who tried to surge in through
the stage door, sweating, laughing, shouting questions, wanting
to know when the next performance would take place, wanting to
see the dog and to hear her talk again, demanding to be shown the
Chinese actor and to know whether he was really Chinese--above
all, when would the next performance be?

Ommony had to shove his way through the midst of them, holding
Diana by the collar and hustling Dawa Tsering, who wanted to stop
and wallow in flattery. Not even loud commands to keep their
unclean fingers off a "twice-born" served to keep the crowd from
getting in the way; and they would have followed across the
street to the elephant-stable if Ommony had not thought of
telling them that the dog must be fed before she could possibly
go to the temple of Siva and speak a couple of _mantras_ from the
street near the temple porch. (It was quite safe to mention the
temple of Siva; there is always one where there are Hindus.)
They stampeded toward the temple to take up good positions, and
only a few small boys saw Ommony, Dawa Tsering and the dog go
into the elephant compound by way of the alley, which was full of
sheep through which they had to thread their way.

The pitch-dark compound was in quiet confusion. There were
camels being loaded, and the elephants were all in line beside
the balcony, from whose upper deck the girls, already masked in
black, were stepping down like goblins into the curtained
howdahs. Ommony found the Lama, Samding beside him, standing
near the last elephant of the line; and as he drew near, some
one whose outline suggested Prabhu Singh returned thanks for the
Lama's blessing and disappeared into the darkness.

"Why the hurry?" Ommony demanded. "They came crowding to
the door to insist on another performance. Why not stay
and give it?"

"My son," the Lama answered, with the slightest trace of tartness
in his voice, "no course is good unless there are seven reasons
for it, even as no week is whole that has not seven days. You
may ride on that elephant--that third one. May peace ride
with you."

-------



He who is wise is careful not to seem too virtuous, lest they
who dislike virtue should exert unceasing energy to demonstrate
that he is viler than themselves. True virtue suffers from
advertisement.
--From the Book of the Sayings of Tsiang Samdup



Chapter XIX

A Message from Miss Sanburn


A tumult in the street announced that Ommony's ruse had only
gained a moment's respite. The night was alive with curiosity;
a voice that bellowed like a fog-horn asked who the actors
were--when they would perform again--whether San-fun-ho was
a Mahatma--if so, which of all the pantheon he favored. Another
voice shouted for San-fun-ho to come out and speak.

However, it appeared the Lama had foreseen all that. The
bleating sheep gave notice that the barrier was down and the
crowd swarmed into the alley. But a string of elephants to all
appearance loaded filed down the alley from the compound and the
crowd had to retreat; those elephants paraded through the town
streets, drawing the crowd after them, and there were no
spectators when the gate at the opposite end of the compound
opened and the Lama's long procession--camels, elephants and this
time mules as well--swayed toward open country.

The same Tibetan shared a howdah with Ommony, Dawa Tsering and
Diana, and was just as uncommunicative as before. They crossed a
railway line; an engine whistled and they had to cling to the
howdah when the elephant climbed an embankment and descended on
the far side; and once there was hollow thunder underfoot
as the procession crossed a long bridge. The pace was much
more leisurely than on the first night, and there were fewer
interruptions; but twice out of the darkness, once in the gloom
of overhanging trees, and once where the crimson glow of a
bonfire shone through the howdah curtains, muttered orders came
from men on foot and the direction changed.

About two hours before dawn a halt was called in what appeared to
be some kind of royal park; there was a wall all around it and
there were peculiar walled subdivisions, but nothing to show who
the owner might be. The elephants, camels and mules returned by
the way they had come, leaving the baggage heaped in a clearing
between trees. Somebody shouted a long series of incomprehensible commands, repeating it all three times, and Ommony was hurried
away to a tent in a triangular space with a stone wall on
either hand and trees in front. There was a good bed in the
tent, and a generous meal all ready on a linen-covered table.

When Ommony had finished eating, Samding emerged out of the
darkness like a ghost and stood framed in the tent opening,
looking like a cameo against the sky.

"Tsiang Samdup sends a blessing," he said calmly. "He requests
that you will not leave this enclosure. Kindly do not go beyond
the trees."

He disappeared again. It was not until he had gone that
it occurred to Ommony the language he had used was English.
Speaking, thinking in two languages concurrently, occasionally
listening to a third, one does not identify them without an
effort. For a minute or two Ommony sat still, trying to recall
the _chela's_ voice, intonation and accent; it seemed to him
that if the words had not been perfectly pronounced he would have
noticed instantly that the _chela_ was talking English, not Urdu.
He recalled the exact words one by one. "Blessing," "enclosure"
and "the" were key words that would inevitably have betrayed a
foreign accent had there been one; as far as he could remember
all three words had been stressed exactly as a well educated
Englishman would use them; he was sure there had been no accent
on the vowel in "the"--a shibboleth that everlastingly betrays
the Asian born.

"I'll swear that youngster is European," he muttered--and then
laughed at himself. No European--certainly no English youth ever
had it in him to seem so saintly and at the same time to be so
inoffensive. There would have been an almost irresistible
impulse to kick any western youth who dared to look as virtuous
as that. One did not want to kick Samding.

Ommony turned Diana loose to roam wherever she pleased; no
inhibition had been laid on her. He hoped natural canine
curiosity might lead her to make new acquaintances who in some
way would help to throw light on the mystery; for as he threw
himself on the bed to sleep the whole thing seemed a deeper
mystery than ever. Was it propaganda intended to foist Samding
on the country as a new mahatma? A political mahatma, who should
bring on revolution? If so, why the sudden flight? What could
be the advantage of creating intense enthusiasm and then running
away from it?

He was awakened late in the morning by a man who removed the
dishes and spread a fresh meal on the linen-covered table. The
man was some one he had not seen before, as silent as an oiled
automaton. Diana was coiled up asleep on her sacking. Dawa
Tsering, smelling hot food, awoke with a start to devour it, and
it was he who first noticed the silence.

"Gupta Rao, we are--"

He left his bowl of food and ran to the trees that screened the
end of the enclosure, peered between them, and came hurrying back
with a grin on his face.

"It is true. They have gone and left us!"

Ommony's obstinate jaw came forward with a jerk. An insult from
the Lama's lips could not have produced a tenth of the effect.

"Damn him after all!" he muttered. "I admitted I was spying. If
he'd simply asked me to clear out, I'd have gone and waited for
him at Tilgaun. I'll be blowed, though, if I'll let up now.
I'll trace him if I have to--"

He sat down on the bed, glancing in the dog's direction,
wondering how much she had seen in the night and wishing she
could really talk. She was curled up fast asleep, but his eye
detected something on her collar. He called her, and removed a
piece of paper that had been wired to the brass ring; it was
twisted and soiled, but the writing on the inside was perfectly
legible, English, and done in heavy quill pen strokes that he
believed were the Lama's, although there was no signature.

"There is a time for silence and a time for speech; a time for
seeing and a time for covering the eyes. This is the time for
silence and not seeing. Obey him who will attend you."

But the man in attendance had vanished. The only living
creatures in sight outside the tent were crows on the top of the
near-by wall and kites wheeling lazily overhead. There was
almost perfect silence--no roofs--no smoke--nothing to suggest
that there were human beings within ten miles.

"I will explore," said Dawa Tsering. "That old Lama is a great
one at writing letters that mean nothing. Maybe I shall find
that fellow who brought the breakfast. If I beat him he may
interest me with some news."

Ommony sat still and read the note again. The Lama might be
simply inducing him to waste time instead of starting in pursuit;
but there were several other possibilities, not the least that
the Lama's route might be leading somewhere where it would
be dangerous for a foreigner to go disguised. There are
individuals, in India as elsewhere, who would dare to ask the
devil or even a Bhat-Brahman for his identification papers.

Another not unreasonable theory was that the Lama might be
willing to be spied on at just such times as his actions were not
mischievous, but would prefer to keep the spy at a distance when
events of true importance were under way.

At any rate, the wording of the note might be held to imply a
diplomatic threat that disobedience would terminate all
communication. And on the other hand, he supposed the Lama--a
remarkably good judge of human nature--knew that he, Ommony,
would not permit himself to be dropped into the discard quite so
easily as that. If it was a trick, there would be more to it
than merely leaving him behind; the best course was to sit still
and await developments.

He awaited them for fifteen minutes, and then Dawa Tsering came,
but not as a free agent. He was being led by the ear, although
his huge "knife" was in his right hand and there seemed to be
nothing to prevent plunging it into his custodian's stomach.
Diana growled a challenge and ran forward to sniff quarrelsomely
at the legs of the stranger, who ignored her as if she were not
there; after a few sniffs she seemed to recognize him and
returned to the tent, where she lay down close to Ommony and
watched. She had ceased growling. The hair on her neck was no
longer on end.

The stranger appeared to be a Sikh, but was possibly a Rajput.
He was more than six feet tall, wore his black beard parted and
brushed upward, looked extremely handsome in a gray silk turban
whose end fell down over his shoulder, and was dressed in almost
military looking khaki-jacket and trousers, with a gray silk
cummerbund around his waist. He strode with consummate dignity
that appeared to be natural, not assumed.

He let go Dawa Tsering's ear when he came within three strides of
the tent, and took no further notice whatever of the Hillman, who
stood a couple of paces away and thumbed the edge of his weapon,
making grimaces that were nearly as inhuman as the grin on the
devil-mask he had worn on the stage. There was nothing to show
there had been a struggle; both men's clothes were in order;
neither man was breathing hard. The stranger's dark-brown eyes
looked steadily into the gloom within the tent and he presently
saluted after a fashion of his own, quite unmilitary, something
like the ancient Roman, raising his right hand, palm outward.

"Mr. Ommony?" he asked, in English.

"No!" roared Dawa Tsering. "Gupta Rao, thou ignorant idiot! A
Bhat-Brahman from Bikanir--a man who has a devil in him, who can
teach thee manners!"

"Yes, I'm Ommony."

There was something in the voice and in the eyes that warned
Ommony there was nothing to be gained by evasion. He stood up
and returned the salute, also in his own way, adding to the
gesture of his right hand an almost unnoticeable finger movement.
The other man smiled.

"I am Sirdar Sirohe Singh, of Tilgaun."

Ommony laughed sharply, the way a deep-sea captain coughs
sarcastic comment when a pilot has missed the tide. Here was the
Secret Service after all! It was Sirdar Sirohe Singh who had
sent the written report of the missing piece of jade to McGregor.

"Come in," he said abruptly, and made room on the bed for the
_sirdar_ to sit down. He did not try to pretend to be glad to
see him, but the _sirdar's_ next words altered the whole aspect
of affairs.

"I do hope my letter to Number One did no harm," he began,
stretching out long legs in front of him and speaking at the tent
wall. His English was almost perfect, but guttural and a trifle
aspirated. "I was in a difficult position. As a member of the
Secret Service I was obliged to report. As the Lama's friend I
felt--naturally--other obligations. It was not until I learned
that you were assigned to investigate that I ceased to worry."

"Who told you?" asked Ommony.

"Oh, I heard it. News travels, you know. No, I have not been in
Delhi." (He had answered Ommony's thought; the question was
unspoken.) "I arrived last night from the north. The Lama asked
me to submit myself to your disposal."

"Does this place belong to you?" asked Ommony, examining the calm
strong profile against the light. He had heard that the _sirdar_
was a wealthy landowner.

"No. The Lama has the temporary use of it."

"It was kind of you to--how did you express it?--submit yourself
to my disposal. What I most need is information," said Ommony.

"Ah. That is elusive stuff."

"Not if you keep after it. Tell me what you know about the Lama."

The _sirdar_ turned his head quickly and looked straight
at Ommony.

"Did you receive a note from him?" he asked. "It was tied to the
dog's collar."

Ommony looked into the baffling dark eyes and could read nothing
there except that the _sirdar knew much more_ than he proposed to
tell. He was also conscious of dislike, and knew that it was
mutual.

"Just to what extent are you at my disposal?" he asked bluntly.

"I am to convey you to another place. Of course, that is, at the
proper time and if you wish to go; not otherwise."

"Will the Lama be there?"

"Possibly."

"Tell me what you know of Samding."

"Did you read the note?" asked the _sirdar,_ again meeting
Ommony's stare. "I have a message for you from Miss Sanburn at
the Tilgaun Mission. She entertained me the night I left
Tilgaun. I admitted to her it was possible I might meet you
somewhere. She asked me to convey affectionate regards and to
say that she would appreciate notice of exactly when she may
expect you."

Ommony turned that over in his mind for half a minute. He could
imagine no legitimate reason why Hannah Sanburn should ask for
notice in advance. As a trustee it was his duty to pay surprise
visits. Mrs. Cornock-Campbell's story of a girl named Elsa of
whose very existence he had never previously heard, was a
perfectly good reason for paying his next visit unannounced.

"When will you be seeing Miss Sanburn again?" he asked.

"Oh, quite soon."

"Will it be necessary to admit to her that you have seen me?"

"Just as you like."

"Please don't admit it then."

The _sirdar_ nodded; he seemed to regard the message as quite
unimportant. Ommony followed the train of thought, however, and
tried to catch him off guard with a question asked casually, as
if he were merely making conversation:

"Have you seen Miss Sanburn's friend Elsa lately?"

But the _sirdar_ was not to be caught. It was impossible to
tell whether or not he knew any girl of that name.

"Elsa?" he said.

"I see you don't know her," said Ommony, unconvinced but judging
it would be useless to pursue the subject. He did not see how a
man who lived on the outskirts of such a small place as Tilgaun
could very well be ignorant of the existence of Hannah Sanburn's
remarkable protegee, more especially since he was a trained and
trusted member of the Secret Service, whose duty it would be to
report any unusual circumstance. He did not doubt that the
_sirdar_ had been retained in the Secret Service roster as much
to keep an eye on the Mission as for any other reason.

"When are we to leave this place!" he asked.

"Tonight. The Lama asked me to suggest to you the wisdom of not
leaving the tent until I come for you--after the evening meal."

"Very well," said Ommony, standing up to cut short the interview.
There was no sense in talking to a man who was determined to say
nothing. "I'll be here when you come."

The _sirdar_ bowed with dignity and strode away. The moment he
was out of earshot Ommony called Dawa Tsering into the tent.

"Is my trunk in sight?" he demanded.

"Nay, everything is gone. My yak-hair cloak is gone, and my good
blankets. Those Tibetans--"

That looked as if the Lama intended to await them somewhere.
Ommony interrupted with another question:

"How did that _sirdar_ manage you so easily?"

Dawa Tsering looked sulky. "I will lay him belly-upward one of
these days!"

"How did you come to let him lead you by the ear then?"

"Huh! He lives at Tilgaun."

"What of it?"

"He is the friend of Missish-Aubun at the Mission."

"What of that?"

"He is also the friend of the Rajah of Tilgaun; and of the monks
in the hills around Tilgaun; and of all the rascals who make
Tilgaun a byword all the way from Lhassa to Darjiling. He has a
servant with him, who would have seen, and would have told tales,
if I had done more than draw my knife; and I tell you, Ommonee,
that dog of a _sirdar's_ influence reaches all the way to Spiti.
I don't want too many enemies; I have enough of them in Spiti as
it is."

"Why did you draw your knife?"

"Because I saw him, and he saw me, and I said to him, 'Thou! We
are not in Tilgaun. Have a care; the kites in this part are
just as hungry as those that live farther to the north!'

"And to that he said, 'Maybe. But the kites must say prayers to
Garudi*, it is not I who must feed them.' And at that he took me
by the ear and led me hither. He is altogether too despotic."

-------
* The God of the birds
-------

"I'm afraid you'll be a poor friend to rely on in a tight place,"
said Ommony, smiling.

"I? I am a terror in a tight place! That is just what I am good
at. But I like first to be sure it is a tight place, and that
the luck is reasonable. Lately I have had bad luck. But wait
and see!"

He sat down to sharpen his knife with a small imported hone that
he had stolen somewhere, humming to himself a song about the
feuds of Spiti, where:

"A white mist rolls into a valley and sleeps,
O-ayee-O-ayee-O-ah!
There's a knife in the mist, and a young widow weeps,
O-ayee-O-ayee-O-ah!"

Ommony lay on the bed in the tent and forced himself to accept
the situation calmly. There was no use in racking his brains;
the mystery now had become still more involved by the fact that
Sirdar Sirohe Singh was a member of the Secret Service, who
considered himself obligated to report unusual incidents to
McGregor and yet did not hesitate to lend a hand in obscuring the
very trail he had requested McGregor to investigate; who
instantly returned the secret identification signal, and yet
refused to give information; who had been ordered by McGregor to
remain in Tilgaun and observe events, and yet did not mind
showing himself within two days' march of Delhi (nearly a
thousand miles from Tilgaun) to a fellow member of the Secret
Service, who he had no reason to suppose would not report him!

The mystery increased again when night fell. The same dumb,
nondescript servant who had brought breakfast came with supper
and hovered twenty yards away, signaling with a white cloth when
Ommony had finished eating. Promptly in answer to the signal the
_sirdar_ stepped out from the trees with a lantern and called for
Gupta Rao in a loud voice, retreating as Ommony advanced toward
him until, on the far side of the belt of trees, Ommony was aware
of shadowy forms of men--horses, at least a dozen of them in a
long line, with gaps between--great shadowy carriages that filled
the gaps as he drew nearer--and at last, smiling as placidly as
if the new moon that shone like a sliver of pure gold over his
shoulder were a halo he had just discarded, the Lama himself.

Samding was in attendance, moving about among the horses, patting
them; Ommony noticed him ease a bearing rein. The Lama nodded
to Ommony, stepped into the foremost carriage followed by
Samding, and drove away at a gallop, the carriage swaying like a
big gun going into action. Sirdar Sirohe Singh pushed Ommony
into the next carriage (which had only four horses, whereas the
Lama's had six) allowed Diana just sufficient time to jump in
behind him, and slammed the door, almost shutting it on the dog's
tail. A whip cracked instantly and the carriage started rocking
and bumping in the Lama's wake. A moment later a third and a
fourth carriage followed.

Within was almost total darkness. There were two windows made of
slats, forming part of the doors; Ommony tried them both, but
the slides were nailed in position. He opened a door and swung
himself out on the footboard to get a view of the following
carriages, which he could just discern through the gloom and the
cloud of dust, their drivers swaying on the high box-seats and
shouting as they plied the whip. There was no way of guessing
whether Dawa Tsering had been left behind or not. He climbed
back into the carriage, holding the door open, but could not see
much except dust, darkness and occasional shadowy tree-trunks.

The pace was furious. The flight was evidently prearranged, and
managed perfectly. Horses were changed every ten miles or so,
but whenever that happened men came to either side of Ommony's
carriage and held the doors shut, riding on the footboards
afterward until the place where the change was made was out of
sight. The route, except at intervals, did not lie along
macadamed roads; once they lurched into a dry stream-bed and
followed that for a mile or two, the wheels sinking in sand. But
that, too, had been foreseen; men were waiting there, who ran
alongside and seized the wheels whenever they sunk too deep,
toiling as silently and smartly as a gun crew.

It was almost dawn when they rumbled over the paved streets of a
fair-sized town, but there was nothing to show what town it was.
At last squared stones rang underfoot, a great gate slammed, and
a Tibetan opened the carriage door. Ommony found himself in a
courtyard in front of what looked like a temple door, only there
seemed to be no temple at the back of it--nothing but a wall and
a dense thicket of trees on ground that sloped up-hill for more
than a mile.

The Tibetan, taking him by the elbow, led him up steps through
the entrance and down again into a cavern that was lighted with
little imported kerosene lamps set in niches in the hewn rock
walls. There was a maze of passages to right and left, and one
wide tunnel that wound snake-wise until it opened into a vault,
part natural and part very ancient masonry, that would have held
five thousand people.

The Tibetan led him across that great crypt, down a passage at
the far end, through a short tunnel into a shaft about fifty feet
square at the base. Its sides sloped inward so as to be utterly
unclimbable and seventy or eighty feet overhead was a patch of
sky not more than twenty feet across.

In the midst, exactly under the square patch of daylight was a
tank, brim-full of clean water. On every side of the enclosure
there were square openings half-concealed by curtains made of
matting. Ommony was led through one of those into a cave about
twenty feet long; very plainly but quite comfortably furnished,
and there the Tibetan left him without a word.

There was no restraint placed on him; he went and sat down in
the opening, watching the dawn gradually fill the place with
light until the clouds shone clearly reflected in the shallow tank.

After a while the Lama entered, followed by Samding and several
Tibetans, or men who looked like Tibetans; they crossed to the
far side and disappeared through one of the curtained openings.
Not long after that great quantities of food--enough for twenty
or thirty people--were brought in earthenware bowls; enough for
two men was set down beside Ommony and the remainder was carried
through the opening through which the Lama had disappeared.
Ommony was left entirely to himself. After a while he sent Diana
to explore, but though she disappeared through the Lama's
entrance and stayed within for more than half an hour, nothing
came of it; she returned and lay down beside him with her head
on her paws, as if she had no information to convey.

So he proceeded to explore on his own account, commencing by
merely walking around the tank. Nothing happened, so he peered
into one opening that had no mat in front of it, walked in and
found a cave almost exactly like his own, leading nowhere. He
stayed in there a minute or two examining a very ancient carving
on the wall, that bore no resemblance to any monument he had ever
seen and yet was vaguely familiar; he could not guess its
significance; it was extremely simple, almost formless, and yet
suggestive of an infinite variety of forms; he tried to memorize
it, for future reference, and then remembered that the glyph,
with which the letter to McGregor in a woman's handwriting had
been signed, was almost, if not quite the same shape.

He was on his way out when Samding met him in the door, his brown
turban and cloak outlined in gold by the daylight at his back.
More than ever the _chela_ seemed like some one from another
world, and as usual he spoke without preliminary, in a voice no
man could quarrel with:

"Tsiang Samdup desires you should not ask questions." The words
were English, beautifully spoken. "If anything is lacking for
your comfort you are to command me."

Ommony laughed. "All right. I command you. Explain what all
this means!"

Samding's face became lit with sudden laughter--not aggravating
--friendly--wise--humorous:

"Tsiang Samdup says, knowledge comes from within, not from
without," he answered. "As a man thinks, so are his surroundings.
Tsiang Samdup says, the eyes of curiosity see only what is
not so, and it is not only a man's lips that ask questions;
the eyes and the taste and the touch are all inquisitive,
seeking to learn from without what shall deny the truth within.
He who would see the dawn must wait for it; and even so, if
he is blind, it will be darkness to him."

"Where did you learn English?" Ommony demanded.

"From within," said the _chela_. "All knowledge comes from
within."

Ommony laughed back at him. "All right. Tell me from within
where Dawa Tsering is."

"He shall tell you himself," said the _chela_.

He stepped back and pointed to Ommony's cave. There sat Dawa
Tsering in the doorway, scratching his back against the rock.
The _chela_ walked away, stroking Diana's head, who followed him
as far as the entrance to the Lama's cave.

"Where have _you_ been?" asked Ommony, going over and standing in
front of the Hillman.

"Nowhere. I rode in the carriage behind you, with a lot of
Tibetans. They are fools, and I won their money playing dice.
Thinking to follow the luck, when I reached this place I
discovered where those girls are--all in a big cave together--may
it fall in and destroy them! They were too many, and they made a
mock of me. But wait until I get them one at a time! I am not
one to be mocked by women, Gupta Rao!"

--------



This much I know: that it is easy to cause offense and easy to
give pleasure, but difficult to ignore all considerations except
justice, and much more difficult to judge rightly whoever,
ignoring both offense and pleasure, leaves the outcome of his
actions to the Higher Law. Therefore, judge yourself alone, for
that is difficult enough; and, depend on it, the Higher Law will
judge you also.
--From the Book of the Sayings of Tsiang Samdup



Chapter XX

Ommony Capitulates


Dawa Tsering would say no more about his adventure among the
women, but it was plain enough that he had been made ridiculous.
He was fortunate not to have been caught and manhandled; he
realized it.

"If it had not been for some Tibetans," he grumbled, and then
lapsed into moody silence, sharpening his knife on the edge of
the entrance to Ommony's cave.

They were left entirely alone, watching birds that moved like
specks on the infinite blue through the opening overhead, until
night fell and the gloom within the shaft grew solid. Sound died
with the light, and one lantern that a man set over the entrance
to the Lama's cave made hardly any difference.

They brought food again, with some bones for the dog, and a
candle to stick on the floor of the cave; but nothing else
happened until the Lama's sonorous voice called through the
darkness and Ommony followed him down the tunnel into the vast
cavern he had crossed that morning. It was already thronged with
people seated on mats or on the bare floor, who filled the place
with whispers; a shuffling of feet like the sound of wind and
running water came from the entrance, where hundreds more were
coming down the long tunnel.

Such light as there was, came from little smoky lamps set on
ledges in the rock walls. A bell rang when the Lama appeared and
the orchestra, almost invisible in shadow, burst into tune such
as Stravinsky never dreamed of, filling the cavern with din that
made the hair rise--restless yearning noise, accentuated by the
hoarse _radongs._ Across one end of the cavern a strong stage
had been erected and a very rough curtain. The Lama led the way
behind it, where the stage was already set and the makeup man was
busy with the last of the actors. Tibetans pounced on Ommony and
dressed him for his part by candlelight, but in the improvised
wings, where the girls waited, whispering and laughing, there
were batteries of acetylene lights all ready to be turned on, in
charge of a man who looked like a Parsee. Where the footlights
should have been there were mirrors arranged to throw the light
back in the actors' faces. Everything was make-shift; yet
everything appeared to have been done by men who knew precisely
what was wanted and who had worked without confusion to provide it.

Just before the play began the Lama went before the curtain and
the music ceased. There was no light where he stood; to the
audience he must have resembled a shadow dimly outlined on the
dark cloth.

He told a story interspersed with proverbs, and the only sound
from the enormous audience was in the pauses, when they caught
their breath. The moment his make-up was complete Ommony stood
at the edge of the curtain, where he could hear and look out at
the thousands of eyes, on which the faint light from the lamps
shone like starlight on still water.

"...So they spoke to the god who had come among them. And the
god said, 'Ye have a government; what more do ye want?' Whereto
they answered. 'But the government is bad, nor is it of our
choosing.' And the god said, 'Is the weather of your choosing?'
And they said, 'Nay.' Whereat the god laughed pleasantly, for he
was one who knew the cause and the effect of things. 'As for the
weather,' he said, 'ye make the most of that. When it is hot ye
wear lighter garments; and when it is cold ye light fires. When
it rains ye stay indoors, and when it is dry ye sally forth. If
a man complains about the weather, ye say he is a malcontent who
should know that all sorts of weather are of benefit to some
folk, and that all communities in turn receive their share of
heat and cold and drought and moisture. Is that not so?' the god
asked; and they answered, 'Yea.'

"So the god asked them another question. 'If ye so adapt
yourselves to what ye say is not of your contriving, how is it
that ye say the government can not be borne? Can ye say that the
rain and the snow and the heat are good, but the government is
not good?' And the god laughed loud at them saying, 'Out of
mischief and destruction no improvement comes. Like comes from
like. Improvement is the product of improvement, not of
violence. Ye have the government ye earn, exactly as the earth
receives the weather it deserves. For the weather, which comes
and goes, came and went before your time. Indeed, and also there
were governments before your time. The weather has altered the
hills and the plains. The governments altered your fathers and
will alter you, and your sons after you.'

"Thus said the god. And they answered, 'Aye. But what if we
alter the government?' And the god said, 'Ye can change the name
by which ye call it, and ye can slay those in authority, putting
worse fools in their place, but change its nature ye can not, ye
being men, who are only midway between one life and another. But
as the hills are changed, some giving birth to forests, some
being worn down by the wind and rain, the weather becomes
modified accordingly. And it is even so with you. As ye, each
seeking in his own heart for more understanding, purge and modify
yourselves, your government will change as surely as the sun
shall rise tomorrow morning--for the better, if ye deserve it
--for the worse if ye give way to passion and abuse of one another.
For a government,' said the god, 'is nothing but a mirror of
your minds--tyrannical for tyrants--hypocritical for hypocrites
--corrupt for those who are indifferent--extravagant and wasteful
for the selfish--strong and honorable only toward honest men.'
And having spoken to them thus, the god departed, some remembering
his words and some forgetting them. To those who remembered,
life thereafter was not so difficult, because of hope that
brought tolerance so that they minded each his own business,
which is enough for any man to do. But to those who forgot,
there was trouble and confusion, which each created for himself,
but for which each blamed the government, which therefore
persecuted him. Because a government is only the reflection of
men's minds. May peace, which is the fruit of wisdom, perfect
you in all your ways."

The _radongs_ roared, drowning the last echo of the sonorous
benediction. The orchestra crashed into the overture. The Lama
stepped behind the curtain with a glance to right and left to
make sure every one was in his place, sat down behind the well
and signaled for the play to begin.

As before, Dawa Tsering danced on first, but in no other respect
was the play quite the same as on the previous night. The Lama's
signals, made at unexpected moments, changed things as if he were
making music with the actors for his instrument. _Sotto voce_ he
prompted, and no one on the stage dared to slacken his attention
for a moment for fear of missing a changed cue. He seemed to
know how to adapt and modify the play to fit the different
environment and, in keeping with the solemn gloom of the huge
cavern, he subtly stressed the mystery. The acetylene lights
threw a weird, cameo-like paleness over everything; the Lama
made the most of that, instead of struggling to overcome it.

Toward the end of the last act the audience was spellbound, for
the moment too interested to applaud; and the Lama took
advantage of that, too. He hurried in front of the curtain
and stood with both hands raised, the messenger of climax.

"Peace!" he boomed. "Peace is born within the womb of silence!
Go in silence. Break not the thread of peace! Ye have conceived
it! Bring it forth!"

The orchestra played softly, blending sounds as gentle as
falling rain with the burble of streams and the distant boom of
waterfalls. There were bird notes, and the sighing of wind
through trees--half-melancholy, yet majestic rhythm with an
undernote of triumph brought out by the muffled drums.

"And if they would not talk for a day or two, they might perhaps
remember!" said the Lama, pausing as he walked past Ommony, who
was being stripped of his _saddhu's_ costume. "There is virtue
in silence."

"Listen, O Captain of Conundrums!" said Ommony, trying to speak
with emphasized respect but failing, because a Tibetan was
rubbing his face with a towel to remove grease-paint. "I can see
I was too hasty to suspect you of wrong-doing. I capitulate.
From now on, I'm your friend for all I'm worth." It was the most
emotional speech he had made in twenty years, but emotion gripped
him; he could not help himself.

The Lama smiled, his wrinkles multiplying the shrewd kindness of
the bright old eyes.

"For all you are worth! If you knew, my son, how much that is,
you might be less extravagant. Jump not from one emotion to
another, lest you lose self-mastery!" He passed on, beckoning
to Samding.

There was the same swift, exactly detailed rush to pack up and
depart; the same apparent flight for no apparent motive--this
time in covered bullock-carts that creaked through dimly lighted
streets, until they came to a pitched camp on the outskirts of
town, where camels and horses waited. Thereafter, cloaked beyond
recognition, everybody except the Lama rode horseback, he sitting
on a camel at the head of the procession looking like an old
enormous vampire, his head drooped forward on his breast.

The girls rode surrounded by hooded men, who let no other men
except Samding come near them. Ommony tried to draw abreast to
see whether they sat their horses skillfully or not, but two
Tibetans rode him off and, saying nothing, held his rein until
the girls had a lead of a hundred yards. After that they kept
two horses' lengths ahead of him, and even drove Diana back when
Ommony sent her forward just to see what would happen.

There was only a thin new moon, and the road ran for most of the
distance between huge peepul-trees that rendered the whole
caravan invisible. Two hours after midnight they reached a
village, where a change was made back to bullock-carts, which
conveyed them to a town that they entered shortly after daylight
and now, for the first time, no precautions were taken to prevent
Ommony from learning where he was. The Lama had taken him at
his word.

Ommony laughed as he recognized the inevitable effect of that.
He would almost have preferred continued mistrust. He must now
regard himself as the Lama's guest. Intensely curious still,
immensely interested, as much puzzled as ever, but satisfied that
the Lama was, as he expressed it to himself, "a pukka sportsman,"
he had to make up his mind to learn nothing that he might be
called on to explain (for instance to McGregor) later on.

"I hate this business of condemning a man on mere suspicion. The
old boy's entitled to the benefit of doubt. From me, from now,
he gets it. I'm ashamed of having doubted him. Damn! I hate
feeling ashamed!"

Obstinacy has its good side. Having made up his mind that the
Lama was entitled to respect, Ommony could no more have helped
respecting and protecting him than he would have dreamed of not
protecting, for instance, Benjamin in the old days when Benjamin
was a fugitive from rank injustice.

He began deliberately to shut his eyes to information. The
advice of the Chinese prince-poet, not to watch your neighbor
too closely when he is in your melon patch, about defined his
attitude. And it is surprising how much a man can avoid seeing,
if he is determined not to expose another's secrets.

He laughed at himself. He could not resist the impulse to
continue in the Lama's company, although it was likely enough
that sooner or later his presence in disguise might endanger the
lives of the entire troupe. He was perfectly aware that he had
received no definite proof of the Lama's honesty, pretty nearly
sure that his own change of attitude was due to the same
psychology that had won the applause of the crowd, and finally
excused himself (with a laugh at his own speciousness) on the
ground that he and Dawa Tsering and the dog were indispensable.

But when he had been shown into a small room at the rear of a
temple enclosure, that seemed to have been deserted by its Hindu
owners and, by some mysterious means, reserved for the Lama's
use, the Lama came to him, accompanied as usual by Samding, and
after looking at him for a moment seemed to read his mind, and
promptly blew the argument to pieces.

"My son, I do not need you, or the dog or Dawa Tsering. All
three are good, but I am not the molder of your destiny. Is
there another way you would prefer to take?"

"I'll go with you," said Ommony, "if you'll accept my word that
I'm not spying on you."

The Lama looked amused. His wrinkles moved as if he had tucked
away a smile in their recesses.

"My son, to spy is one thing; to absorb enlightenment is
something else. A man might spy for all eternity and learn
nothing but confusion. For what purpose did you spy on me
in the beginning?"

Ommony jumped into that opening. Here was frankness at last!

"I think you know without my telling. I began with the sole
intention of finding my way into the Ahbor Valley to look for
traces of my sister and her husband, who vanished in that
direction twenty years ago. The piece of jade fell into my
hands, and you know how that led to my meeting you. Then I
heard a story about little European girls smuggled into the
Ahbor Valley. I have seen these girls you have in your company.
Explain them. Clear up the mystery."

The Lama seemed to hesitate. "I could talk to you about the
stars," he said presently. "Yet if you should meditate about
them, and observe, you would learn more than I could tell you.
My son, have you meditated on the subject of your sister?"

"On and off for twenty years," said Ommony.

"And you now pursue the course your meditation has discovered?
It appears to me that is the proper thing to do."

"You mean, if I follow you I'll find out?"

"I am no fortune-teller. Electricity, my son, was in the world
from the beginning. How many million men observed its effects
before one discovered it? Gold was in the world from the
beginning. How many men pass where it lies hidden, until one
digs and finds it? Wisdom was in the universe from the
beginning, but only those whose minds are open to it can
deduce the truth from what they see."

"Do you _know_ what became of her?" Ommony asked abruptly. The
tone of his voice was belligerent, but the Lama ignored that. He
answered with a sort of masked look on his face as if he himself
were still pondering the outcome:

"If I were to tell you all I know, you would inevitably draw a
wrong conclusion. There are pitfalls on the way to knowledge.
Suspicion and pride are the worst; but a desire to learn too
quickly is a grave impediment."

During about three breaths he seemed to be considering whether to
say more or not; but he leaned an arm on Samding's shoulder and
walked out of the room without speaking again.

---------



Sooner or later we must learn all knowledge. It is therefore
necessary to begin. And for a beginning much may be learned from
this: that men in pain and men in anger are diverted from either
sensation by a song--and very readily.
--From the Book of the Sayings of Tsiang Samdup



Chapter XXI

The Lay of Alha.


Thereafter life for two months was a dream of many colors,
through which the Lama led without explaining any of it. At
times Ommony abandoned hope of ever learning what the Lama's
purpose was; at other times he dimly discerned it or thought he
did, midway between the rocks of politics and the shoals of some
new creed. And whether he guessed at the truth, or believed he
never would know it, he reveled in the swiftly moving, nigh
incredible procession of events.

No day was like another. No two receptions were alike in any
town they came to. They put on the play in ramshackle sheds at
country fairs with the din of sideshows all around them, in
pretentious theaters built of corrugated iron, in temple
courtyards, in more than one palace garden,--once in an empty
railway _godown*_ from which a greatly daring Eurasian clerk had
removed stored merchandise,--in a crypt under a pagoda (and there
was a riot that time, because some Brahmans said the place had
been rendered unclean by the actors, and Ommony came within a
hair's-breadth of exposure)--in the open, under trees, where
roads led to seven villages and a crowd of at least three
thousand people gathered silent in the bonfire light that shone
between enormous trees. Once they played in an empty tank, from
whose bottom an acre of sticky mud, two inches thick, had to be
cleaned out before the crowd could squat there; once in a cave
so stuffy that Maitraya's women fainted.

--------
* Warehouse
--------

They traveled by elephant, camel, horse, mule, cart, in litters,
for fifty miles by train, and once, for a day and a night, in
barges along an irrigation ditch, concealed under hurdles on
which vegetables were heaped to look like full boat-loads. They
went alternately like hunted animals, and like a circus trying to
attract attention.

There were places where the Lama seemed to go in fear of the
police; other places where he ignored them as if non-existent.
He always seemed to know in advance what to expect, and whether
it was wise to move by daylight. Most of the traveling was done
by night, but there were some places where crowds gave them an
ovation as they passed through streets at noon.

Once, when a man who looked like a rajah's son arrived breathless
on a foaming horse and talked with the Lama under a wayside
baobab, the party separated into four detachments, and Ommony lay
hidden for a whole day under the blistering iron roof of an
abandoned shed. There was never any explanation given. None of
the apparently chance-met providers of food and transportation
asked questions or gave Ommony any information.

Sometimes the Lama himself did not seem to know the right
direction. On those occasions he would call a halt by the
roadside and wait there until some mysterious individual arrived.
Sooner or later some one always came. Once they waited for a
whole day within sight of a fenced village. But they never
lacked for food, or for the best the country could provide in the
way of accommodation.

In one large town of the Central Provinces, in which three
thousand people packed an assembly hall, there were police
officers on chairs near the stage, who made notes ostentatiously.
The Lama's speech before the curtain on that occasion was rather
longer than usual and Ommony, watching the policemen, recognized
the insanity that impels men to interfere with what they can not
understand. That night he slipped off the stage before San-fun-ho's
last speech was finished, hurried into his Bhat-Brahman clothes,
and was standing close to the police officers when the crowd
began to leave the theater. There was one man with whom he
had dined in the club at Delhi, another who was notorious for
drastic enforcement of the "Seditious Practices" Act, and a third
whom he did not know. They were all three very hot under the
collar. Said one:

"A damned nasty seditious play--obviously propaganda to prevent
enlistment. They've chosen this place because recruiting's going
on here for the army. It's anarchistic."

"Oh, decidedly. Part of Gandhi's non-cooperation tactics."

"Financed in America, I'll bet you. That's where all the
propaganda money comes from."

"Anyhow, we've a clear case. Seditious utterances--uncensored
play--no permit. Step lively and bring the squad, Williams;
we'll lock 'em all up for the night and find out who they are."

But an obstinate Bhat-Brahman stood in Mr. Williams' way and
spoke in English, curtly:

"No, you don't! I'm detailed to this investigation by McGregor!
I won't have police interference! Keep your constables out
of sight!"

"Who are you?" asked the senior officer, pushing himself forward.

"Never you mind."

"Show me your credentials."

"At your risk! Come with me to the telegraph office if you like
and watch me get you transferred to the salt mines! You'll enjoy
a patrol up there--you'll get one newspaper a month!"

"At least tell me your name."

"My number is 903," said Ommony. His number on the Secret
Service roster was not 903; but one does not squander truth too
lavishly on men who will surely repeat it. He was not anxious
that McGregor should have an inkling of his whereabouts. The
mere mention of a number was enough; the policemen walked out,
abusive of the Secret Service, conscious that the "Bhat-Brahman"
was grinning mischievously at their backs.

The Lama saw, but said nothing. That night he directed the
departure more leisurely than usual, as if satisfied that Ommony
had made him safe from the police; but from that time on he kept
himself more than ever aloof, and during two whole months of
wandering Ommony did not succeed in having two hundred words
with him.

However, the Lama and _chela_ reciprocated in due time. They
reached a town in the Central Provinces where not even certified
and pedigreed Bhats would have been welcome, and an uncertified
one who traveled in doubtful company was in danger of his
life. A committee of "twice-born" demanded his presence
for investigation in a temple crypt, and Ommony's retort
discourteous, to the effect that he recognized no superiors,
aroused such anger that the self-appointed judges of sanctity
resorted to the oldest tactics in the world.

Those who hate the Brahmans the most are most amenable to
skillful irritation by them and most careful to insist after the
event that Brahmans had nothing to do with it; so it is just
where the Brahmans are most detested that they are most difficult
to bring to book; and a mob can gather in India more swiftly
than a typhoon at sea.

It was a hot, flat, treeless city, as unlovely as the commercialism,
that had swept over it these latter years, was cruel. The streets
ran more nearly at right angles than is the rule in India, and
the temples faced the streets with an air of having been built
by one and the same contractor, he a cheap one. The quarters
the Lama's party occupied consisted of a hideously ugly modern
theater that backed on a cellular stack of ill-built living-rooms,
the whole surrounded by four streets, three of which were as
narrow as village lanes.

That night the packed audience was restless, and whenever the
_saddhu_ spoke his lines there were noisy interruptions, cat-calls, jeers. Some one threw a rotten orange that missed Ommony
but put Diana in a frenzy, and for minutes at a time it looked as
if the curtain would have to be rung down before the close; but
the Lama's quiet voice from behind the well and from under the
throne kept up a steady flow of reassurance inaudible beyond the
footlights: "Patience! Forbearance! There is strength in
calmness. Proceed! Proceed! You are a king, Maitraya; you are
not affected by ungentleness! Proceed!"

But even San-fun-ho's long speech was received with irritation;
some one in authority had told the crowd it was a trick to
destroy their sacred religion. The _chela's_ voice rang through
the theater and overcame the murmurings, but the hymn to Manjusri
that followed was drowned in a babeling tumult as half of the
audience poured in panic out of one door while a mob stormed
another, breaking it down and surging in with a roar that shook
the theater.

The stage-hands stripped the actors faster than usual and herded
them out through the back door to the living-rooms. They tried to
make Ommony go too, but he fought them off when they seized him
by the arms; he had hard work to keep Diana from using her teeth
to protect him while he hurried into his Bhat-Brahman clothes,
wondering what solution the Lama would discover for this
predicament. "I'll bet the old sportsman won't surrender me to
the mob!" he muttered. "If I live through this, I'll know
exactly what to think of him! If he's a--" But there was no
word for what he might be. The crowd was yelling, "The Bhat!
The Bhat! The spy! The impostor. Bring out the unclean ape who
poses as a twice-born!" Two scared-looking "constabeels" who had
appeared from somewhere, standing at either corner of the stage
with their backs to the curtain, were valiantly preventing the
mob from swarming behind the scenes. The Lama seemed to have
disappeared, and Ommony felt a sudden, sickening sensation that
the old man and his _chela_ were only fair-weather intriguers
after all.

But suddenly the mob grew quiet--seemed to hold its breath. The
Lama's voice, not very loud, but unmistakable and pitched like a
mountaineer's to carry against wind and through all other sounds,
was holding their attention from behind the footlights.

Then Samding passed across the stage and slipped in front of the
curtain; he had changed into that ivory-white costume in which
he had received Prabhu Singh, and was smiling as if the prospect
of a battle royal pleased him. Ommony went to the edge of the
curtain to watch, holding Diana's collar, ready to loose her in
defense of the Lama in case of need.

"Bring out the Bhat!" yelled some one. There was a chorus of
supporting shouts, but that was the last of the noise. The mob
grew still again, spell-bound by curiosity.

Samding took the center of the stage and the Lama squatted down
beside him, eyes half-closed, apparently in meditation. The
_chela_ spoke, and his voice held a note of appeal that aimed
straight at the heart of simplicity.

"O people, if ye have been wronged, it is we ourselves who first
should put the matter right. Ye, being pious, unoffending
people, will afford us that privilege. We ask no trial. That is
unnecessary. Which among you are the individuals who have
suffered at our hands? Unwittingly, it may be we have done you
harm. You will agree it is the injured one to whom redress is
due. Let the injured stand forth. Let him, who of his own body
or possessions has suffered harm at our hands, step forth and
name his own terms of settlement."

He dared to pause for thirty seconds, while the mob glared, each
expecting some one else to hurl an accusation. But the original
instigators of violence are careful to keep out of reach when the
trouble begins, and there was no spokesman ready with a definite
accusation--nothing but a disgusting smell of sweat, a sea of
eyes, and a hissing of indrawn breath. The Lama whispered, not
moving his head, and the _chela_ continued:

"It is possible the injured are not here. Let some one bring the
men for whose injury we are in any way responsible!"

There was another pause, during which the Lama got up and walked
meditatively toward the edge of the curtain, where he came face
to face with Ommony.

"My son, can you act the Bhat as well as you can the _saddhu?_"
he inquired. "Otherwise escape while there is opportunity! Be
wise. There is no wisdom in attempting what you can not do."

"Yes, I can act the Bhat," said Ommony. His jaws were set. He
had been a last-ditch fighter all his life. Of all things in the
world, he most loved standing by his friends with all resources
and every faculty in an extremity.

The Lama returned to the _chela's_ side, whispered and squatted
down. The _chela_ went on speaking:

"It may be ye have been misguided. There are always unwise men
who seek to stir up indignation for their own obscure advantage.
Are there any Brahmans in your midst?"

There was only one possible answer to that question. No "twice-born" would risk personal defilement by mingling with such a mob
of "untouchables." A laugh with a suggestion of a sneer in it
rippled across the sea of upturned faces.

"It would seem then that the Brahmans have sent you to pass
judgment on a Bhat who is one of their own fraternity," said the
_chela_ calmly. "It appears they trust you to conduct the
investigation for them. That is a very high compliment from
Brahmans, isn't it? If _they_ are willing to accept your
judgment on such an important point, who are we that we should
not abide by it? The Bhat shall give you his own account of
himself. Henceforth ye may say to the Brahmans that they are no
longer the sole judges of their own cause."

There was a laugh--a laugh of sheer delight that grew into a
good-tempered roar. There was doubtless not a member of the mob
who had not suffered scores of times from the blight of Brahman
insolence. The Brahman's claim to be a caste apart and an
unindictable offense for ever soothes his own self-righteousness
but does not exactly make him popular.

"I pray you to be seated," said the _chela;_ and after a few
moments' hesitation the mob sat down on the floor, first in
dozens, then in droves.

There was no more danger, provided Ommony could play his own
part; but if he should make one mistake the situation would be
worse than ever. He beckoned one of the musicians, who was
guarding the door at the rear of the stage, signed to him to
bring his instrument, stepped out in front of the curtain and sat
down beside the Lama. Hostile silence broke into a sea of grins
and chuckles when Diana, still in her grease-paint, followed and
squatted on his left hand between him and the musician. The
musician was deathly scared, but unfroze and tuned his instrument
when the Lama looked at him. Ommony surveyed the crowd with the
best imitation of insolence his strained nerves could muster,
taking his time, absorbing the feel of the Lama's calmness. He
needed it; he sensed that the old man's courage was a dozen
times as great as his.

"And now, my son," the Lama whispered, "we are face to face
with opportunity."

That was a brave man's view of danger! Ommony laughed, cleared
his throat and thrust his lips out impudently:

"People who don't know enough to ask a blessing, may expect to
get--what?" he demanded tartly.

"_Pranam,_" said two or three voices, and the murmur caught on.
It was not unanimous, but it sufficed to put him in countenance.
He blessed them with an air of doing it because he had to, not
for any other reason.

"Now," he said in the nasal, impromptu, doggerel singsong of the
minstrel, "I could sing for you a ballad of your own abominable
shortcomings, and it would serve you right; but it would not
make your souls white, and it would take all night. It would
give me much delight, but it would put you all to flight, and I'm
compassionate. Or I could sing you a few measures about the
Brahmans of this place, who are a lousy lot, but if I sang of
their disgrace, not a one would show his face again among you.
You need the Brahmans to keep you from thinking too much of
yourselves! They're bad, but you're worse; you're the sinners
and they're the curse. Take that thought home and think about
it!--Is there anybody here," he asked with his head to one side,
"who would like me to sing about him personally? No? You're not
anxious? Don't be backward. Don't think it's too difficult.
Stand up and tell me your name, and I'll tell you all about you
and your father and your uncles and your son, and what mischief
you were up to this day fortnight. Nobody curious? Oh, very
well. Then I'll sing you the Lay of Alha."

India will listen to that song hours without end. It is a saga
of Rajput chivalry, and men who know no chivalry nor ever were in
Rajputana love to hear it better than the chink of money or the
bray of the all-conquering gramophone. Since the white man first
imposed himself on India there have not been half a dozen who
have learned that lay by heart from end to end, not three who
could have sung it, none but Ommony who could have skipped long,
tedious parts so artfully and have introduced in place of them
extempore allusions to modern politics and local news. He outdid
any Bhat they had ever heard, because he did not dare to count,
as Bhats do, on the song's traditional popularity and so to slur
through it anyhow. He had to win the audience. But what
obsessed him most was a desire to win the Lama's praise; the
harder he tried, the more he admired the Lama, sitting as calm as
a Buddha beside him.

Regarded as music his effort was not marvelous. As a feat of wit
and memory it was next thing to a miracle. His voice, not more
than fair-to-middling good and partly trained, survived to the
end because he pitched it through his nose, relieving the strain
on his throat, and his manner grew more and more confident as he
realized that memory was not playing tricks and he could recall
every line of the long epic. He sang them into a merry frame of
mind; he sang them thrilled, compassionate, intrigued, excited,
sentimental, bellicose and proud in turn. He had them humming
the refrain with him. He had them swaying in time to the tune as
they sat, their laughing, up-turned faces glistening with sweat.
He had them throwing money to him before the lay was half sung;
and it was then that the Lama whispered:

"Enough, my son. Forget not to put skill in the conclusion."

Ommony stopped singing, and gagged at the crowd, with his tongue
between his teeth, pretending that his voice had given out.

"Did any Brahman in this city ever do as much for you?" he
croaked, and they roared applause.

"I am a Bhat, and I can bless or I can curse more efficaciously
than any thousand Brahmans in the province! Watch!"

He turned to Diana and made her sit up on her haunches.

"What do you think of the Brahmans of this city?" he demanded,
and Diana growled like an earthquake.

"What do you think of these people in front of you?" She barked
and got down on all four feet to wag her tail at them.

"There! There you are! Even a dog knows you are well-meaning
folk who have been fooled by rascally Brahmans, who mouth
_mantras_ and do unclean things when none is looking! Get out of
here, all of you, before I curse you! Go while I am in a good
temper--before I put a blight on you! Hurry!"

They yelled for more song, but it was after midnight and the Lama
had other plans. He hustled Ommony off the stage, himself
remaining at the corner of the curtain for a minute to make sure
of the crowd's mood. Ommony heard the chink of money as he
rewarded the two "constabeels." Then, as placid as Ommony had
ever seen him, but a little stooped and tired, he led the way to
the stage door, saying over his shoulder to Samding:

"Did you study that lesson? Have you learned it?" Ommony did
not catch the _chela's_ answer. He felt the floor jerk underfoot
and stepped off a trap-door. It moved, and a hand came through,
then the outline of a face that appeared to be listening. He
bent down to lift the heavy trap and Dawa Tsering climbed out
on hands and knees, sweating profusely and rubbing dust out
of his eyes.

"Yow, there are rats in that place, Gupta Rao--big ones, and it
is dark! Go down and look if you don't believe me."

"What were you doing down there ?" Ommony inquired.

"I? Down there? Oh, I was looking to see if there was a passage
by which that mob could reach you from the rear. Yes, I was!
Don't laugh at me, or I will call you by your right name! Why
didn't you turn me loose with my knife to drive the mob forth,
instead of singing to them like a nurse to a lot of children? I
could have cleaned the place of that rabble in two minutes. You
should have left it to me!"

"Did you kill any rats? asked Samding, grinning mischievously.
He was holding the door open, waiting for them.

"Thou! I will kill thee, at any rate!"

The Hillman rushed at the _chela_, but Ommony tripped him.
Samding slipped through the door and let it slam.

"There, did you see that?" Dawa Tsering grumbled, picking himself
up. "That _chela_ uses the black arts! He threw me to the floor
with one wink of his eye. Did you see? He is no good! He is a
bad one! Now I am never tempted to slay the Lama, which is why I
endure his objectionable righteousness; but that _chela_--I
never see him but I want to squeeze his throat with my two
thumbs, thus, until his eyes pop out!"

--------



The secret of the charm of the lotus is that none can say wherein
its beauty lies; for some say this, and some say that, but all
agree that it is beautiful. And so indeed it is with woman. Her
influence is mystery; her power is concealment. For that which
men have uncovered and explained, whether rightly or wrongly,
they despise. But that which they discern, although its
underlying essence is concealed from them, they wonder at and
worship.
--From the Book of the Sayings of Tsiang Samdup



Chapter XXII

Darjiling


The standing miracle was the Lama's skill in having his own way
and in keeping his own secrets without any discoverable method.
His way seemed more alertly excellent, his secrets more obscure,
from day to day. For instance those mysterious young women. Not
for one minute during two months and eleven days did Ommony or
Dawa Tsering find an opportunity to speak with them alone, not
though Diana grew dangerously fat on sticky sweetmeats that they
gave her, she construing orders to go and make friends with them
into permission to accept food.

The only key that seemed to fit the mystery was that the girls
had been too well trained to be tricked into indiscretion.
Tyranny could never have accomplished it. Once, Ommony picked up
an amethyst earring, dropped in a corridor: he wrapped it in
paper on which he scribbled a humorous verse, tucked it into
Diana's collar, and sent her nosing around in the girls'
quarters. The dog returned after an hour or so with a caricature
of himself drawn on the paper in charcoal, extremely clever but
not flattering. On another occasion he sent Diana with a note
asking for the words of the song that the girls chanted on the
stage; he saw the Lama read that note on the stage the same
night and, after a quiet glance at him, deliberately tear it up.
The following morning he received the words of the song in
the Lama's heavy handwriting. He was acutely aware that
the girls discussed him with a great deal of amusement, but
he could never get them to exchange glances or make any response
to his overtures.

Dawa Tsering made a dozen attempts to invade the women's
quarters. Several times he was caught by the Tibetans and
disposed of cavalierly, usually simply chucked into the nearest
heap of garbage. Three times he managed to get into a room in
which the girls were, but he would never tell afterward what had
happened to him; once he emerged so angry that Ommony really
believed for an hour or two that he might murder some one, and
took his knife away, but returned it at the Lama's instigation.

"It is not always wise to prohibit," said the Lama. "His
imagination needs an outlet. Give him his toy."

It was a baffling conundrum why the Lama should go to such pains
to present his play in more than sixty towns and villages, and
always escape immediately afterward. It was not always the
police; he treated the occasional difficulties they presented
pretty much as a circus director regards bad weather. He
appeared to be much more afraid of the results of his own
success, and to run away from that as from a conflagration.
Offers of money, prayers, nothing could persuade him to repeat a
performance anywhere. The greater a crowd's importunity, the
swifter his flight.

By the time they reached Darjiling Ommony was convinced of two
things: that the "Middle Way" is undiscoverable to outsiders,
being opened, closed and changed in detail by unknown individuals,
obeyed implicitly, who do their own selecting; and that the
Lama was himself in receipt of orders from a secret hierarchy.

The latter was almost certainly true. A Ringding Gelong Lama
does not rank as high in the Lamaistic scale as a cardinal does
in the Roman Catholic Church. Even supposing Tsiang Samdup, as
was rumored, was an outlaw who had been turned out of Tibet for
schism, that would make it even more unlikely that he could
command an extensive spy system and mysterious service along
the "Middle Way" without some long established hierarchy to
support him.

And if he were an outlawed heretic, why was it that in Darjiling
he went straight to a Tibetan monastery, that opened its doors to
the whole party? They arrived at dawn, having ridden all night
on mule-back up a winding path that crossed and recrossed the
circling railway track, ascending through clouds that wrapped
them in wet silence, until dawn shone suddenly through pine trees
and the monastery roof glistened a thousand yards ahead of them.

The roar of _radongs_ came down the chilly wind, announcing they
were seen. A procession of brown-robed monks filed out to meet
them, each monk spinning a prayer-wheel and grinning as he
mumbled the everlasting "_Om Mani Padme Hum_" that by repetition
bars the door of the various worlds of delusion and permits pure
meditation. It seemed to give no offense that Tsiang Samdup and
his _chela_ had no prayer-wheels. Maitraya and his actors were
as welcome as the rest. Ommony was greeted with child-like grins
from oily, slant-eyed Mongolian faces that betrayed no suggestion
of suspicion. The dog was chuckled at. Maitraya's actresses
were greeted no more and no less cordially than the rest.

-------
* _Om,_ of the heavenly world; _Ma,_ of the world of spirits;
_Ni,_ of the human world; _Pad,_ of the animal world; _me,_
of the world of ghosts; _hum,_ of the spaces of hell.
-------

But the _chela's_ reception was peculiar. The Abbot blessed him
solemnly, then stared at him for a long time. From the others
there was an air of deference; a peculiar form of treating him
as a mere _chela,_ with an attitude of deep respect underlying it
and not nearly concealed. They exchanged glances and nodded,
formed a group around him, regarding him with curiosity, and with
something akin to awe. The _chela_ appeared more disposed to be
friendly than distant, but kept a deliberate course midway
between the two extremes, watched all the while intently by the
Lama, who finally leaned on his shoulder and almost hustled him
in through the gate.

Once within the monastery wall Ommony was led away to a cell
high up under a gabled roof, where a smiling old monk brought
breakfast, laughing and snapping his fingers at Diana, not in the
least afraid of her, but dumb when asked questions. He knew
Ommony was no Brahman--laughed at the caste-mark--touched his own
forehead comically--and went out spinning a prayer-wheel that he
kept tucked into his girdle whenever both hands were occupied;
he seemed anxious to make up for lost time.

The unglazed window provided a far view of Kanchenjunga, twenty
-eight thousand feet above sea level--twenty-one thousand feet
higher than the monastery roof--a lonely, lordly monarch of the
silences upreared above untrodden peaks that circled the whole
horizon to the north. Six thousand feet below, the Rungeet River
boiled through an unseen valley. For a moment all the boundaries
of Sikhim glittered in every imaginable hue of green, and between
and beyond colossal snow-clad ranges the eye could scan the
barren frontiers of Tibet. Then, as swiftly as eyes could sweep
the vast horizon, mist of a million hues of pearly gray, phantom
-formed, changing its shapes as if the gods were visioning
new universes in the cloud, rolled and descended, stunning
imagination with the hugeness that could wrap that scene and
hide it as if it never had been.

Then rain--cold dinning rain that drummed on roof and rock, and
splashed in cataracts to mingle with the spate of the Rungeet
River crowding through a mountain gap toward the rice-green,
steamy lushness of Bengal; rain that swallowed all the universe
in sound, that beat the wind into subjection and descended
straight, as if the Lords of Deluge would whelm the world
at last for ever. Rain, and a smell of washed earth. Rain
pulsing with the rhythm of a monastery bell, like the cry of
a bronze age, drowning.

That bell seemed to clamor an emergency and Ommony hurried along
cold stone corridors until he found his way into a gallery from
which he could peer down into a dim hall through swimming layers
of incense smoke. Silken banners, ancient but unfaded, hung all
about him; images of the Gautama Buddha and disciples were
carved on shadowy walls; the gloom was rich with color--alive
with quiet breathing. He could see the heads of monks in rows,
but could distinguish no one for a while because the heads were
bowed and most of the light was lost in baffling shadows.

At one end was an altar, gilded and most marvelously carved,
backed by an image of Chenresi. All the altar furniture was
golden, and the monastery's pride--the book named _Zab-choes-zhi
-khro-gongs-pa-rang-groel-las-bar-dohi-thoes-grol-chen-mo*_--lay
in the midst on a golden plate before Chenresi's image.

-------
* This has been translated to mean: "The great liberation by
hearing on the astral plane from the profound doctrine of the
divine thoughts of the peaceful and wrathful deities emancipating
the self." Mr. Evans Wentz translates it "The book of the Dead,"
but this is a very free and decidedly doubtful rendering of the
manuscript's shorter title: "Pardo Todol."
------

Dim music began and a chant, long grown familiar--that hymn to
Manjusri that had thrilled so many audiences--and at last through
the layering incense Ommony could make out the forms of the Lama
and Samding. The _chela_ was holding the fragment of jade in
both hands and was walking solemnly toward the altar, where the
Abbot and the Lama waited to receive him.

The drumming of the rain on roof-tiles ceased. One shaft of
sunlight, beaming through a narrow window, shone on the jade as
the _chela_ laid it on the altar, making it glow with green
internal fire. The _radongs_ roared. The hymn changed to a
chant of triumph, swelling in grand chords that shook the
roof-beams. But Ommony hardly heard it. Something else, as
the _chela,_ almost exactly underneath him, moved into the
beam of sunlight, held his whole attention.

"Well, I'll be blowed!" he muttered. He rubbed his eyes, made
sure they were not lying to him by glancing at the image of
Chenresi and at the rows of monks' heads, then stared again.
"May I be damned, if--"

He looked at Diana, crouching in the gallery beside him, her head
full of information that lacked only power of speech.

"I suppose if you could talk, Di, you'd lose your other gifts,"
he muttered. Then he whistled softly to himself. Not for a
fortune and a hundred years of life would he let up now! Let the
Ahbor country be as savage as the fringe of Dante's hell, as
inaccessible as Heaven, and as far away as righteousness, he
would go there, if he must die for it!

"Di, old lady, this is the grandest scent you ever laid nose on!
Mum's the word. I'll take a feather out of your cap!"

The service no longer interested him. He did not wait to see
what they did with the piece of jade--no longer cared a rap about
it. He was almost drunk with new excitement and a mystery
compared to which the jade was mere mechanics--a mystery
half-unraveled that set his brain galloping in wild conjecture,
so wild that he kicked himself and laughed.

"Maybe I'm mad. They say India gets us all sooner or later."
But he knew he was not mad. He knew he had strength enough and
sense enough to hold his tongue and to keep on the trail with
every sharpened faculty he had. He was itching now to get to
Tilgaun, partly because that was midway to the Ahbor country, but
for another reason that made him laugh because he knew he held a
secret key that would unlock more secrets.

He returned along draughty corridors to the cell that was full of
white mist pouring through the unglazed window, and sat down to
consider whether he should keep up the Bhat-Brahman role or let
his beard grow and resume the garb of an unimaginative Englishman.

He had not made up his mind when a rap came on the door and the
Lama blew in on a gust of rising wind, his long robe fluttering
clear of the strong brown legs. The _chela_ followed him and
slammed the door, unrolled a prayer-mat and presently sat down on
it beside the Lama. Ommony fought hard to suppress the triumph
in his eyes as he stood, and then sat down on the truckle bed in
obedience to the Lama's gesture.

"It is cold," said the Lama. "You must have a sheepskin coat, my
son. We mountaineers are too prone to forget that others suffer
from what we consider comfort. Samding, see that Gupta Rao
is provided."

He did not glance at the _chela._ His eyes were on Ommony's.

"And what have you learned, my son?" he asked presently.

"Very little," said Ommony. "I have learned that all my power of
observation isn't much more than a beetle's."

"But that is a great deal to have learned," the Lama answered.
Then, without a pause: "And you are not yet satisfied?"

"On the contrary. I hold you to your promise to let me pursue
whatever course my meditation opens up."

"My son, I am not the appointed keeper of such permits!"

"You can make things difficult or make them easy for me. Which
are you going to do?" asked Ommony; and it seemed to him that
the _chela_ was smiling behind that marvelously molded face.

"What is it you wish to learn most?" asked the Lama; and Ommony,
after one hard look at the _chela,_ closed his eyes to think. It
would be useless to tell anything but raw truth; he had a
feeling that the Lama could detect the slightest taint of
falsehood; yet he was determined not to confess to what he now
knew, because in all likelihood that would shut all doors against
him. "A little knowledge" is usually doubly dangerous, if the
other fellow knows you know it.

"I wish to demonstrate that I was really right to decide to trust
you," he said at last.

"But you know that," said the Lama. "Your heart tells you you
were right. A man's heart does not lie to him; it is the brain
that lies, imagining all kinds of vanities."

Ommony took thought again. He sensed that he was on trial, not
for his life but for something more important--leave to go ahead
and find out for himself the whole solution of the mystery. He
had to find an answer that should not be false, that should not
betray the knowledge he already had, and that should nevertheless
appeal to the Lama's sense of fitness. Superficiality would
receive a superficial answer. Deep was asking deep for a
disclosure of ultimate motive.

"My job in the forest is gone. I want to find work worth doing,"
he said at last.

"And do you think I can show you that?" asked the Lama, looking
straight at him. One moment he looked very old, the next not
more than middle-aged. It was as if he hovered between this
world and another, in which were visions that he could bring back
with him to earth. Ommony threw evasion to the winds.

"I want to learn your secret!"

"Ah! But to obey? Not me, but to obey your own heart, if I help
you to see what none of your race has ever yet seen?"

"I'll do what I believe is right," said Ommony, and the Lama
nodded, glancing sharply at Samding, as if to see whether the
_chela_ confirmed his opinion. The _chela_ smiled inscrutably.

"You should go to Tilgaun," said the Lama, "where you might have
gone in the beginning. If you wish, you may follow me to
Tilgaun, and await what comes of it."

He had a way of ending a discussion as abruptly as he had begun
it, his mind almost visibly closing, vaguely suggestive of the
way a tortoise draws in its head. One realized it would not be
the slightest use to speak another word to him on the subject.
The _chela_ got up and helped him to his feet, rolled up the mat
and followed him out of the room almost mechanically, but turned
in the doorway suddenly and looked back. It was dark there, for
the door was set in a stone arch six feet deep and there was no
window at the end of the draughty corridor. But Ommony could
almost have sworn the _chela_ laughed silently. There was a
momentary glimpse of white teeth and a movement of the head that
certainly suggested it.

"It beats the deuce!" he reflected. "That _chela_ knows now that
I know she's a girl, although I can't imagine how she knows it;
and that means that the Lama knows I know it--for they haven't a
secret apart. And the strangest part is that they don't seem to
give a damn--either of 'em!"

--------



If a vain man should value your virtue, beware! For he will
steal it in the name of God, and he will sell your reputation in
the market-place.
--From the Book of the Sayings of Tsiang Samdup



Chapter XXIII

Tilgaun


There was no more rain that day, but mist that wrapped Darjiling
in a dripping shroud. Beads like perspiration gathered and
trickled down interior walls, and there were no fires; the monks
led the austere life that includes indifference to such minor
afflictions as ague, and through indifference they seemed to have
become immune. But Ommony suffered.

A monk brought him a long sheepskin coat, and in that he paraded
the corridors to keep his blood circulating. He begged more
sheepskins and set Dawa Tsering to work making a coat for Diana,
because animals used to the plains die of pneumonia in those
altitudes more readily than human beings. He tried to decide
whether or not to go into Darjiling and buy European clothes,
while he leaned over a parapet to watch strong-legged Sikhim
women looming out of the mist loaded like camels with huge piles
of cord-wood for the monastery kitchen, until that bored him.

He was feverish with impatience. At noon he made up his mind to
go and ask the Lama's advice about disguise, supposing he could
find him. But as he left the cell to hunt for the Lama a monk
came with the midday meal and stood by to watch him eat--a cheery
old monk, who laughed when questioned and talked about everything
under the sun except what Ommony wanted to know, spinning his
prayer-wheel furiously as if to immunize himself against
heretical contagion.

And when the monk had shuffled away with the empty platters and
Ommony set forth again to hunt for the Lama, Maitraya met him
midway along the first draughty corridor--Maitraya smothered in a
sheepskin coat like Ommony's and blowing great clouds of breath
in front of him.

"I am paid, O Gupta Rao! I have a draft on Benjamin and money
for the railway fares to Delhi--enough for first-class fares for
all of us and liberal provision for the way. Would that there
were more men like Tsiang Samdup! May the generous gods bless
him! No argument, Gupta Rao; no deductions; no delay; a bag
of money, an order on Benjamin, and such courteously worded
thanks as Vishnu never received from a mother just delivered of a
son! I feel as if my whole body had been drenched in thanks from
inside outward! Are you on your way to your cell?"

"I am on my way to find the Lama. Where is he?"

"Gone! Didn't you know that? He left an hour ago, he and all
the women and Samding, on little Tibetan ponies. There was no
ceremony. They rode away like ghosts into the mist."

Maitraya took Ommony's arm in rank defiance of caste decorum.

"Come along, Gupta Rao. I know you are no Brahman. You are
possibly a Kshattriya like me, but what the devil has caste to do
with our profession! Whatever you are, you have the approval of
me, Maitraya! You are a great actor. You are a man after mine
own heart--a little conceited possibly--a trifle grumpy on
occasion--but we all have faults. I know a first-rate actor,
when I see him! I forgive the little insignificances. I respect
the strength of character--the genius! Come, let us go along to
your cell; I have a proposal for you."

Ommony led him to the cell and sat down on the truckle bed.
Maitraya would not sit; he threw an attitude and paced the
floor, striving to create an atmosphere of tremendous drama, that
somehow refused to materialize between those dripping walls. He
shuddered at the cold when he should have gestured like a Mogul
chieftain, and coughed, which rather spoiled the grandeur of
his voice.

"Gupta Rao--let us accept our destiny! If two men, mutually
worthy of respect, were ever brought together for immortal
purposes, those two are we! Consider! Have we not a task in
common? Have we not a great ideal to espouse together? Is it
not our duty to inspire the stage of Hind?* Have we not a ripe
field waiting for us? Should we not revisit all the scenes of
our success and stage such plays as shall uplift the drama of
this land of Hind for ever? Think of those audiences, Gupta Rao!
Think of the profits! Charge no more than one-half _rupee_
admission, and we make our fortunes!"

------
* India
------

Ommony cast about for an excuse for refusing, that should not
turn a friend into an enemy.

"Who do you propose should write the plays?" he asked.

"We have a play! _Ye Rulers of the Upper Spheres_--a play, I
tell you! I have memorized the whole of it! Let the Jew finance
us, Gupta Rao! Let us go to Benjamin and use our joint
persuasion to wheedle a decent contract out of him. I offer
you a one-third interest! Commercialism--pah! The Jew is a
commercialist, so we must feed him with _rupees._ The Lama, on
the other hand, is ignorant of money's value; he fails to see
that it is good for the audience to pay a fair price for its
education. As for us, let us take the middle way between two
crass extremes. And if in the process we make a fortune, that
will be no more than what is due to us. Have you heard that
Christian adage, that the laborer is worthy of his hire?"

"I seem to have heard another one about stealing," said Ommony
dryly. "The play is the Lama's."

"Bah! It isn't copyright. He should have taken elementary
precautions. Besides, he has no right to keep for his own use an
idea that has universal application. The play is religious; who
can copyright religion?"

"Did you think of obtaining the Lama's permission?" asked Ommony.

"No, I confess, I never thought of that. But it's too late now;
he's gone. Let us go to Benjamin. The Jew will see the point of
not letting a good profitable play lie idle for the sake of a bit
of squeamishness. Come along. Let Benjamin convince you."

Ommony jumped at that solution. He knew Benjamin.

"All right," he said. "You make the proposal to him. If
Benjamin agrees, I will then consider it. And don't forget,
you'll need a genius to act the part of San-fun-ho!"

"Aha !" exclaimed Maitraya. "Genius? I can act that part much
better than the _chela_ did! Not that he was bad, mind you--not
that he was bad. I will play San-fun-ho, and you the king.
Together we will create dramatic history!"

"First create confidence in Benjamin! I'll answer yes or no when
you have persuaded him," said Ommony. He got rid of Maitraya
with difficulty. No argument availed until it dawned on Maitraya
that he could pocket the cost of transportation by leaving Ommony
behind; then he permitted himself to be led along the corridor
and lost in the maze of passages and stairways.

Ommony went in search of the Abbot, and found a monk at last who
did not shake his head and grin when spoken to, but led up an
outside stairway to a grimly austere cell just under the roof,
where the Abbot sat cross-legged on a stone platform at one end,
meditating. He opened his eyes and gazed at Ommony for several
minutes before a smile at last spread over his Mongolian face
and he passed one lean hand down the length of his scrawny
gray beard. He appeared to be well pleased with the result
of his inspection.

"The spirit of restlessness is difficult to overcome," he said at
last. "It is sometimes wise to yield to it. There are many
lives. Not all knowledge can be acquired at once. In what way
can I help, my son?"

Ommony thought of asking a dozen questions, but discerned that
the gentle courtesy concealed an iron aptitude for silence. He
came straight to the point.

"I beg forgiveness for intrusion. I return thanks for food and
lodging. Did the holy Lama Tsiang Samdup make a statement of his
wishes with regard to me?"

The Abbot's face became wreathed in smiles again. He nodded.

"Where do you wish to go, my son? To Tilgaun? When?"

"Now!"

The Abbot struck a gong that hung on the wall beside him; before
its overtones had died a young monk appeared in the doorway and
received swiftly spoken singsong orders in a language Ommony did
not understand. The monk gave guttural assent, and waited in the
door for Ommony to go with him, but there was two or three
minutes' delay while the Abbot amused himself by playing with
Diana almost childishly, laughing at her new sheepskin coat and
using his staff to measure her height at the shoulder and her
length from the tip of her nose to the end of her tail. Ommony
made Diana sit up and salute him, whereat he blessed the dog
solemnly. Finally he gave seven turns to a prayer-wheel fixed in
an iron bracket within comfortable reach, nodded to the monk, and
smiled farewell at Ommony, dismissing him with a blessing that
sounded like the first bars of an anthem to eternal peace.

Followed laughter, bustling, friendliness, and no delay. They
speeded the departing guest: A dozen monks made themselves
agreeable; two of them carried out Ommony's trunk into the
courtyard; some led out little sturdy Tibetan ponies and held
them while others lashed the loads in place with the unhurried
speed of old campaigners. There was ample supply of provisions,
including grain for the ponies, and when Ommony suggested paying
for it all they laughed. They seemed amused at the idea that any
guest of theirs should pay for anything.

However, he noticed that two sturdy-looking Tibetans who were
certainly not monks, had been told off to accompany him; they
were listening to instructions from the young monk who had
received the Abbot's incomprehensible orders; standing at a
little distance apart, they kept nodding as the instructions were
repeated again and again.

There were in all eight ponies and the party was on the way,
filing through the wide gate with one Tibetan leading and the
other Tibetan bringing up the rear, within thirty minutes. Dawa
Tsering burst into song as he rode under the arch behind Ommony
and they were all swallowed in a drifting bank of cloud that even
hid the monastery wall as they turned sharp to the right and
followed the track that ran beside it. The sturdy little ponies
put their best foot forward as they always do when they are
headed northward.

The ninety miles to Tilgaun meant four days of strenuous going,
for the miles are reckoned as the crow flies, whereas men and
their mounts must climb and descend over the shoulders of hills
heaped on one another by the gods to keep away intruders. The
trail wound down through phantom deodars and dipped into a fleecy
white fog that condensed in dew on everything warm that it
touched, descending seven thousand feet into the Rungeet Valley
before they crossed a long bridge and commenced to climb again.

Most of the time it was like sitting on an earthquake; there was
nothing to do but cling tightly and watch the pony's ears in the
mist as the nimble legs slid, struggled and recovered. There was
no chance for anything but single file among the rocks and
rhododendrons; even Diana had to trot behind the pony to escape
being trodden on. It was not the surfaced highroad they were
taking, but presumably a short-cut, which the Tibetan guide
appeared to know as intimately as a mole knows tunnels.

They climbed nine thousand feet and slept in a windy hut above
the clouds, where the Tibetans cooked greasy supper and sang
plaintive songs in which Dawa Tsering joined. There was no sign
of the Lama's party, nor any answer to Ommony's questions as to
how far ahead the Lama might be; nor was there any indication
that the Lama's party had crossed that pass ahead of them. But
at dawn, when Ommony wanted to make an early start the Tibetans
had scores of excuses that ended with blunt refusal. They were
not impudent or surly; they smiled as cheerfully as Chinese
statues and simply did not load the ponies.

"If I slew them, as they deserve, there would be none to do the
work," said Dawa Tsering. "Why not offer them money, thou?
Never fear--I will win it back from them at dice!"

Ommony offered money, but the Tibetans only showed their teeth in
wider grins than ever. There was nothing to do but wait until
they were pleased to move, and they did not do that until the sun
was over the highest ridges by a full hour and a wind had blown
new banks of mist into the ravines. Then suddenly, as if they
had received a message through the ether, they began to pack the
ponies and were off in no time without a word of explanation.

The hills lay in parallel waves that must be crossed diagonally,
as a boat offers its shoulder to a rising sea. To the northward
the huge range of the Himalayas made itself felt but was
invisible; there was a sense of impending immensity, increased
by the curtain of cloud that drifted between earth and Heaven.
Wherever passes gaped between the shoulders of the mountains,
dense white clouds flowed down along them, looking like
incredibly swift glaciers. Half of the time the rump of the pony
ahead was just discernible through the mist, but once in a while
some trick of wind would reveal enormous vistas that a man could
hardly contemplate and keep his balance.

But the ponies were content to climb hour after interminable
hour, and Dawa Tsering sang about the wind-swept hills of Spiti
as they rose and descended through every imaginable plane of
vegetation, from steamy bottoms where dense jungle stifled them,
up through bamboo and rhododendron to where oaks and maples
flourished--up beyond those to the fir-line--up again until the
firs gave out and raw wind rolled the clouds around them straight
from Kanchenjunga--then down again into the suffocating tropics,
where woodticks fell on them and a man's hands were kept
constantly busy picking leeches off the ponies and Diana had to
be gone over carefully three times within the hour.

They crossed rock-cluttered torrents over bamboo bridges that
swayed and danced under the weight of one pony at a time, and
bivouacked again at midnight in the clouds, where icy wind
shrieked through the chinks of a deserted herdsman's hut; then
descended two hours after dawn into a steaming cauldron where
black water quarreled on its way through aromatic jungle.

Never a sign of the Lama's party, although they passed stone
chortens* every mile or so, and cairns built by pilgrims, to
which every passer by had stuck little prayer-flags to flutter
the eternal formula "_Om mani padme hum._" There were messages
on bits of paper from one pilgrim to another, weighted down
with stones near some of the _chortens,_ but none that the
Lama had left.

-------
* Vase-shaped stone monuments of Buddhist origin
-------

And there were unaccountable delays. At times the two Tibetans
seemed to think they had come too fast and, after a whispered
consultation, unloaded the ponies whether they appeared to need a
rest or not. The ponies rolled on sky-hung moss-banks within a
dozen feet of the edge of an abyss, and the Tibetans chewed oily
seed by the handful, offering Ommony some, and pointing out good
places to sit down when he showed impatience. Dawa Tsering
flicked at the edge of his knife with a suggestive thumb-nail,
but they laughed at that, too, showing him a tough tree, dwarfed
by the wind, that he could cut down if he needed exercise. In
their own good time they started off again without excuse or
argument, usually singing hymns to pacify the spirits of
the mountains.

As he drew near Tilgaun Ommony's thought dwelt more on Hannah
Sanburn than on the Lama and Samding. Aware now that for twenty
years she had kept a secret from him, in spite of mutual respect
and confidence that in every other way he could think of had been
almost absolute, he wondered how to tackle her about it. He did
not care to know even a part of her secret without letting her
know that he knew it.

There had been times when he had seriously thought of asking
Hannah Sanburn to become his wife; other times, when the thought
that he could hardly live at the mission without marrying her had
been all that kept him from resigning his forestry job and
spending the remainder of his life in active duty as a trustee at
Tilgaun. He was too confirmed a bachelor not to flinch from
matrimony when he reasoned out all the pros and cons, but in the
back of his head there was a conviction that Hannah Sanburn would
not refuse, if he should ask her. But he also had known, any
time these past ten years, that he never would ask her to marry
him unless--he wondered what the reservation was; he had never
quite defined it.

Hunted through his mind and pinned at last into a corner, up
there thirteen thousand feet above sea-level with a view of
Kanchenjunga to adjust mere human problems to their right
proportion, he realized that he would marry Hannah Sanburn
--gladly enough--at any time--if by doing so he could solve a
difficulty from which she could not otherwise escape.

He was almost convinced that there was a page in Hannah Sanburn's
life which needed very careful protecting; something which
called for limitless generosity. He had no use for generosity
that hedged itself within conventional limits. He liked his
freedom and the habit of consulting no one's inclinations but his
own in private matters, that becomes almost second nature in an
independent man of forty-five, but he knew he could forego all
that and be a reasonably companionable married man, if his
interpretation of the law of friendship should impose that course
on him. To Cottswold Ommony friendship was the highest law; no
conceivable claims could outweight it; Hannah Sanburn was
his friend; there was nothing to argue about. But he hoped
--without much confidence, but he hoped--that she was not in the
predicament he guessed her to be in; suspecting that, since she
had kept him in the dark for twenty years, she could quite easily
have fooled Mrs. Cornock-Campbell, who notoriously believed the
best of every one.

He rather dreaded meeting her--very much dreaded the inevitable
interview; and although he fretted to overtake the Lama he was
much more patient with delay than he might otherwise have been,
leaving untried a good many methods with which he might have
persuaded the Tibetans to hurry. He salved his conscience by
grumbling aloud to them and _sotto voce_ to Dawa Tsering, but
there was not much energy in his complaints.

At last, toward the end of the fourth day out, they topped a
fifteen-thousand-foot rise and looked over a sheer ravine, where
eagles perched, toward Tilgaun that nestled in a valley with a
Lamaist monastery perched on a crag three thousand feet above it.
The mission buildings glowed warm in the westering sun--one
instance where a rich man's money had been spent on art as well
as altruism, with good manners and respect for other men's
historical associations, such as missionaries commonly dispense
with. The graceful contour of the buildings and the color of the
carved stone matched the panorama. There was no assertiveness,
no challenge. The Tibetan roof-lines paid acknowledgment to
older art on crag and cliff around them. Without beauty there is
no beatitude. Old Marmaduke, who tortured thirty million dollars
from protesting pigs, had somehow learned that; so the mission
buildings were a monument to beauty, not to his ambition or
his zeal.

Ommony was thrilled by the sight, as always on his rare visits.
All the way down the winding track, that looked so short and
actually was a half-day's journey, he recalled the days when
Marmaduke had hurled Chicago business methods into battle with
obstruction, subtly raised against him by foes that were easy
enough to identify but undiscoverable when it came to issues.
Rajahs, all the missionaries, all the Indian priesthood,
politicians and the press had joined in opposing the project,
occasionally praising, always preventing.

Even the banks, that levied toll on Marmaduke's long purse, had
invented difficulties. There were strikes of labor-gangs
(imported in the teeth of government obstruction) because money
for the pay-roll did not arrive punctually. There had been
personal attacks on Marmaduke--three bullets, and a dose of
ground glass in his food, in addition to assaults on his
reputation. Missionaries had declared (and perhaps believed)
that he was a satyr who sought to corrupt young innocents.
Consignments of supplies, machinery and what-not else had failed
to reach the destination, or had arrived so smashed as to be
useless. Marmaduke had grinned, continued grinning, and had won,
dying with his boots on six months after Hannah Sanburn was
installed in charge, hoping, as they laid him on a stretcher,
that the pigs he had slain for sausage-meat might have most of
the credit; since it was they who made the mission possible.

His will, in which he appointed a Tibetan Lama chief trustee,
had been a nine days' wonder, partly because of its novelty,
but mostly because that masterly provision introduced an
international element, which made it next to impossible for
politicians to undo the work. Tibet as a military power can not
be taken seriously: but it is noteworthy that not even "big
business" has succeeded in controlling its government or in
penetrating its frontiers. The backing of the Dalai Lama is
worth more, in some contingencies, than a billion dollars and a
million armed men. (There is a European parallel.)

And the Tashi Lama is to the Dalai Lama as is the differential
calculus to the simple rule of three, only if anything rather
more so.

-------



My son, the wise are few; for Wisdom very seldom pleases, so
that they are few who seek her. Wisdom will compel whoever
entertains her to avoid all selfishness and to escape from
praise. But Wisdom seeks them who are worthy, discovering some
here and there, unstupified and uncorrupted by the slime of cant,
with whom thereafter it is a privilege to other men to tread the
self-same earth, whether or not they know it.
--From the Book of the Sayings of Tsiang Samdup



Chapter XXIV

Hannah Sanburn


There is a narrow bridge, swung high above a noisy stream, that
forms the only practicable gate to Tilgaun. On the Tilgaun side
is a high mound that resembles a look-out post, with a big
prayer-flag on top that might be the defiant emblem of an army.
The track leads below that mound, across a hollow, and climbs
again toward the mission, more than a mile away.

As Ommony rode across the bridge behind the leading Tibetan he
was aware of faces peering from the top of the mound beside the
prayer-flag. When he was midway over the bridge the faces
disappeared. When he reached the foot of the mound there were
six Bhutani mission girls standing in a row on the rim of
the hollow.

They wore the Marmaduke Mission costume, which is made from one
piece of daffodil-yellow fabric woven on the mission looms.
Their hair was decked with flowers, and they were laughing, that
being a part of old Marmaduke's legacy, he having had a notion
that to laugh with good reason is two-thirds of an education.
The other third is harder to acquire, but comes much easier
because of laughter; or so said Marmaduke, who had considered
many pigs, that perished.

They were not so poised and self-reliant as the Lama's dancing
girls, but they looked marvelously better than the common
run of Hill women, and as different from ordinary mission
converts as a live trout is from a dead sardine. At a glance
it was obvious that nobody had told them they were heathen
in their blindness; somebody had shown them how to revel
in the sunshine and to wonder at the wine-light of gloaming.
It was conceivable that they had studied nature's mirth instead
of watching frogs dissected with a scalpel, and had learned
to be amused with each existing minute rather than to meditate
on metaphysical conundrums.

But they had their heritage nevertheless. Their eyes were on
Dawa Tsering. It was just as well that there were six of
them together.

Dawa Tsering, gasconading on pony-back with his feet within
nine inches of the ground, called two of them by name, inquired
about a third who was not there, and asked whether they had
forgotten him.

"I know a good way to remind you who I am!" he boasted, and got
off the pony to act the satyr among wood-nymphs. Ommony checked
him curtly. He protested:

"I tell you, Ommonee, the gods make free with women and the
devils do the same! It is ridiculous to pretend we are better
than gods and devils. What are women for, do you suppose?"

It was so that they discovered who Ommony was. In that Bhat-Brahman costume covered by a sheepskin coat and without his beard
they had not recognized him. All six looked at him sharply,
hesitated, glanced at the sky, accepted that as an excuse, and
ran, gathering up the yellow robes and showing copper-colored
legs, their long hair streaming in the wind behind them.

"Why are they afraid of _you?_" asked Dawa Tsering. "Are you
such a terror among women as all that?"

"It was the rain," said Ommony. But he knew better. The girls
were giggling.

The sky had clouded over suddenly, and in a moment, on a blast of
icy wind, the rain came down in sheets that cut off the view of
the mission buildings. The ponies turned their rumps to it and
stood, heads down, tails blown tight under. Diana whimpered and
took refuge under the end of the bridge, where Ommony joined her;
there was no hope of getting the ponies to move until the storm
passed. It turned to hail and swept the bridge like concentrated
musketry, lightning and terrific, volleying thunderclaps
heightening the illusion.

Twenty minutes later, when the sky cleared as suddenly as it had
clouded and the setting sun shone on drifts of melting hail,
Ommony saw the drenched girls leave the shelter of a rock and
scamper for the mission gate. He did not doubt for one fraction
of a moment that they had been sent by Hannah Sanburn to the
bridge-end to keep a look-out for him. Discontented--it was
aggravating to be treated as a potential enemy--he rode on
prepared to see the Lama hurrying away ahead of him.

However, Hannah Sanburn met him in the gate and laughed at his
disguise. He judged she was relieved, not annoyed to see him.
There was all the old friendliness expressed on her New England
face. Boston, Massachusetts--Commonwealth Avenue or Tremont
Street--stood out all over her, even after twenty years of
Tilgaun. She was dressed in tailored serge with a camel-hair
overcoat turned up to her ears. A wealth of chestnut hair,
beginning to turn gray, showed under a plain deerstalker hat.
She had not lost one trace of her New England manner--not a
vestige of her pride. No weakness, but a firm and comprehending
kindness dwelt on the almost manly forehead, at the corners of
her mouth and in the grand gray eyes.

"All alone?" asked Ommony, dismounting, shaking hands. He liked
her laughter; it was wholesome, even if she did look quizzically
at his jaw and chin that she had never seen before without the
modifying beard.

"Yes, Cottswold. You're a day late. Tsiang Samdup left
this morning."

"Why?" he asked bluntly.

She did not answer but looked straight at Dawa Tsering, nodded,
smiled at his sheepish grin, and walked straight up to him.

"Give me your knife," she said quietly, and took it from him
almost before he guessed what she intended. He made no effort to
prevent, but sat still on his pony, looking foolish. "You shall
have that back if you behave yourself, not otherwise. If
you look twice at one of the mission girls I will order the
blacksmith to break your knife in two. You understand me?"

She made friends with Diana next, saying hardly a word but
lifting her by the forelegs to see whether the feet were injured
by the long march. The hound accepted her authority as promptly
as Dawa Tsering did.

Stroking Diana's head with one shapely, rather freckled hand,
ordering the Tibetans to lead the ponies to the stable, she led
the way into the stone-paved courtyard. Cloistered buildings of
worn gray stone formed three sides of it, and in the midst there
was an oval mass of flowers, damaged by the hail but gorgeous in
the last rays of the setting sun.

There was a room reserved for Ommony's exclusive use, in a corner
facing that front courtyard, and though he had never used it
oftener than once in three years it had always been kept ready
for him. Another room, used less seldom, was reserved for Tsiang
Samdup in the corner opposite.

"Mr. McGregor sent your clothes by messenger. You'll find them
all unpacked and cared for--lots of hot water--I'm sorry you
can't grow a beard in fifteen minutes! Come to my room when
you're ready. I'll take the dog."

Ommony shut himself into the room to smoke and think. He dreaded
the coming interview more and more, the longer he postponed it
--realized that what he most detested, in a world full of
discordances, was to have to account for his actions to any one
else. "Marriage might be all right," he muttered, "if women
would govern themselves and concede men the same privilege."

He let an hour slip by before he presented himself in Hannah
Sanburn's private room--a long room over an archway leading to an
inner cloister, bow-windowed on both sides, paneled in teak, with
a blazing fire at one end. The crimson curtains had been drawn;
the shaded oil lamps cast a warm glow over everything; a square
table had been spread near the fire and Hannah Sanburn was making
toast, stepping back and forward cautiously across Diana, who had
made herself thoroughly at home on the hearthrug. Old Montagu's
portrait, life-size, head and shoulders, smiled at the scene from
the end-wall, the flickering firelight making his shrewd,
peculiarly boyish features seem almost ready to step out of the
frame and talk.

It was more difficult than ever to put her to the question in
that atmosphere. She had changed into a semi-evening dress, that
aged her a little but added an old-worldly charm. It would be
difficult to imagine a hostess whom one would less like to
offend, and the arrival of bacon and eggs on a silver tray
carried by a seventeen-year-old Bhutani girl provided welcome
excuse for delay.

Hannah Sanburn seemed entirely unembarrassed and, if she noticed
Ommony's air of having something on his mind, she concealed the
fact perfectly, talking about the events of the mission in a
matter-of-fact voice, relating difficulties she had overcome,
outlining plans for the future, avoiding anything that might lead
to personal issues.

"I don't know how much good we're doing--sometimes I think
scarcely any," she said at last. "We rear and educate these
girls. The best ones, of course, stay on for a while as
teachers. But they all get married sooner or later and lapse
into the old ways. It will be a century at least before this
school begins to make much visible impression."

Ommony stared at the fire. "Thank goodness, we'll be dead then,
with something different to fret about," he grumbled, angry with
the destiny that he felt compelled him to probe a gentlewoman's
secrets. She noticed the tone of his voice--could not very well
ignore it.

"What is troubling _you,_ Cottswold? I supposed you were the
most contented man on earth. Have you lost your interest in
your forest?"

"I've resigned from the forestry." He stared at her, and broke
the ice suddenly, doing the very thing he was determined not to,
blurting a blunt question without tact or even a preliminary
warning. "Who is this girl Elsa, who is never at the mission
when I'm here, but who has been to Lhassa, talks English and
Tibetan, and can draw like Michael Angelo?"

He jerked his jaw forward to conceal the contempt that he felt
for himself for having blundered in so clumsily, all the while
watching her face but detecting no nervousness. To his surprise
and relief she laughed and leaned her head against the high
chair-back, looking at him humorously from under lowered eyelids,
as she might have listened to a lame excuse from some one in
the school.

"Poor Cottswold! How you must have felt uncomfortable!--you're
so faithful to your friends. No, Elsa is not my daughter. I
have never had that experience. If she were my daughter, I know
quite well I would have said so long ago. I can imagine myself
being proud of her, even--even in those circumstances."

"I confess I'm mightily relieved," said Ommony, grinning
uncomfortably. "Not, of course, that I'd have--"

"No, I know you wouldn't," she interrupted. "You are the last
person on earth I would hide that kind of secret from."

"Why any kind of secret, Hannah? Am I not to be trusted?"

"Not in this instance. You're the one man who couldn't be told."
Then, after a dramatic pause: "Elsa is your niece."

"Niece?" he said, and shut his teeth with a snap. That one word
solved the whole long riddle.

"Her name is Elsa Terry."

He did not speak. He leaned forward, staring at her under
knitted brows, his eyes as eloquent as the silence that lasted
while the Bhutani girl came in and removed the supper table.
Even after the girl had gone, for two or three minutes the only
sounds were the solemn ticking of a big clock on the mantelpiece,
the cracking of a pine-knot in the fire, and a murmur of song from
a building fifty yards away.

"You and almost everybody else have always believed Jack Terry
and your sister Elsa vanished twenty years ago without trace,"
she said at last. "They didn't."

"Didn't they go to the Ahbor country?"

"Yes."

"You mean they're alive and you've known it all these years?"

"They have been dead nearly twenty years. I learned about it
soon afterward. You know _now_ why they went up there?"

"I've no new information. Jack Terry was as mad as a March hare--"

"I think not," Hannah Sanburn answered, her gray eyes staring at
the fire. "Jack Terry was the most unselfish man I ever heard
of. He adored your sister. She was a spiritual, other-worldly
little woman, and that beast Kananda Pal--"

"I blame Jenkins," said Ommony, grinding his teeth. "Kananda Pal
was born into a black-art family and knew no better. Jenkins--"

"Never mind him now. Jack Terry did his best. Your sister Elsa
used to have lapses; she would cry for days on end and write
letters to Mr. Jenkins begging him to give back the mind he had
stolen from her. No, she wasn't mad; it was obsession. I did
_my_ best, but I hadn't much experience in those days and she was
difficult to understand; the phases of the moon seemed to have
something to do with it; Jack Terry and I were agreed about
that. You've met _Sirdar_ Sirohe Singh of Tilgaun?"

Ommony nodded.

"He has always been a friend. He appears to be a mystic. He
knows things that other people don't know, and hardly ever talks
of them. Jack Terry learned from him--Jack set his arm, or a
collar-bone, I forget which--anyway he told Jack about the
Crystal Jade of Ahbor."

Ommony's lips moved in the suggestion of a whistle and Diana
opened one eye.

"All the people hereabouts seem to have heard of the jade,"
Hannah Sanburn went on, "but the _sirdar_ seems to be the only
one who really knows anything about it. All I know is that I
have had a piece of it in my hands in this house. It nearly
drove me frantic to look into it, so I locked it away in that
cupboard over there. It was stolen by a girl I should never have
trusted; and I'm nearly but not quite sure it was the _sirdar_
who bribed her to steal it from me. She was murdered, apparently
while on the way to the _sirdar's_ house a few miles from here.
Tsiang Samdup was here last night and showed me the piece of
jade; he said he had recovered it in Delhi."

"What else did he say?" asked Ommony, but she ignored the
question, continuing to stare into the fire, as if she could
see in it pictures of twenty years ago.

"Jack Terry told me," she went on presently, "that he believed
the Crystal Jade of Ahbor had magic properties. You know how he
believed in magic, and how he always insisted that magic is
merely science that hasn't been recognized yet by the schools.
He said mineral springs can heal the body, so there was no reason
why there shouldn't be a stone somewhere, possessed of properties
that can heal the mind in certain conditions. I didn't agree
with him. It seemed to me utter nonsense, although--I'm less
inclined than I was then to say things can't be simply because we
have been taught the contrary. I have held a piece of the Jade
of Ahbor in my hands and--well, I don't know, and that's all
about it."

She paused again, perfectly still. Ommony got up, heaped wood on
the fire, and sat down again. The cracking pine-knots and the
ascending sparks broke her reverie.

"It was no use talking to Jack Terry," she continued, "and your
sister would have gone to the North Pole with him, or anywhere
else, if he had as much as proposed it. The two set off like
Launcelot and Elaine into the unknown. You know, the very heart
of the Ahbor Valley isn't more than fifty miles from here,
although they say nobody has ever gone there and returned alive.
Jack Terry--you remember how he always laughed at the impossible
--said they would probably be gone not more than three or four
weeks. They took scarcely any supplies with them--just a tent
and bedding--half-a-dozen ponies--two servants. The servants
deserted the third night out and were killed by Bhutani robbers."

"Yes," said Ommony. "That was all I could ever find out, and
_that_ cost a month's investigation."

"I knew the whole story two or three weeks before you got
permission to leave your forest and come to investigate; I
wasn't allowed to tell."

"Weren't _allowed._ Who in thunder--"

"Tsiang Samdup came down from the Ahbor Valley and in this room,
sitting on that hearthrug where the dog lies now, told me the
story. I remember how he began--his exact words"

"'My daughter, there is danger in another's duty. There is also
duty in another's danger. There is merit in considered speech,
but strength consists in silence. Truth, that may be told to
one, may lead to evil if repeated. I am minded to speak to your
ears only.'

"Offhand I told him I would of course respect his confidence, but
he sat still for about half an hour before he spoke again. Then
he took at least half an hour to commit me to a pledge of secrecy
that I could not possibly break without losing my own self-respect. I discovered before he was through that he had been
quite right to do that, but I confess there were moments that
evening when it looked as if he had trapped me into something
against which every moral fiber in me rebelled instinctively.
For an hour I hated him. And there have been times--many times
since--when it has been extremely difficult to keep the promise.
However, I _have_ kept it. It was only yesterday that he gave me
leave to tell _you_ as much as I know."

"He might have confided in me in the first place," said Ommony,
but Hannah Sanburn shook her head.

"I did suggest that to him. I urged it. But he made me see that
he was quite right not to. It would have placed you in an
impossible position. What had happened was this: the Terrys did
succeed in entering the Ahbor Valley. They seemed to have
undergone frightful hardships, and nobody knows how they found
the way, but they did. They were hunted like animals, and when
Tsiang Samdup rescued them Jack Terry was dying from wounds,
hunger and exposure; he had managed somehow to find enough food
for his wife, and he had persuaded her to eat, and to let him
go without."

"Are you sure of your information?" Ommony asked. "That doesn't
sound like Elsa."

"There was a baby coming."

"Oh, my God!"

"Tsiang Samdup took them to his monastery, which is somewhere in
the Ahbor Valley. The only way he was able to protect them from
the Ahbors, who have never allowed strangers in the Valley and
vow they never will, was by prophesying that the baby shortly to
be born would be a reincarnation of an ancient Chinese saint,
named San-fun-ho. There was no hope of saving Jack Terry, but
Tsiang Samdup hoped to save the mother's life. However, she
died giving birth to the child, and Jack Terry followed her
the same night."

"Did they leave anything in writing?"

"I have letters I'll show you presently, written and signed by
both of them, in which they speak of the Lama Tsiang Samdup as
having risked his own life to save theirs. Jack Terry wrote that
he was dying of wounds and exposure. The Lama gave me both
letters after he had told the story. But I would have believed
him without that. I have always believed every word that Tsiang
Samdup said, even while I hated him for having pledged me
to silence."

"Go ahead. I mistrusted him not long ago--and changed my mind."

"Tsiang Samdup is not to be doubted, Cottswold. He lied to
Ahbors, but that was to save life. It was an inspiration--the
only way out of it--to tell those savages that the unborn baby
was to be a reincarnation of a Chinese saint. I admire him for
the lie. Imagine, if you can, old Tsiang Samdup--for he was old
even then--rearing and weaning that baby in a monastery in the
midst of savages. The Terrys' death seems to have made it easier
in one way: the natives saw them buried, which satisfied their
law against admitting strangers, and Tsiang Samdup prevented them
from digging up the bodies to throw them in the river, by casting
a halo of sainthood over them on the ground that they had brought
a saint into the world. You know how all this country to the
north of us believes implicitly in reincarnations of saints
--the Tashi Lama is supposed to be the reincarnation of his
predecessor; and so on. Do you see how Tsiang Samdup became
more and more committed?"

There was a long silence. Ommony poked the fire restlessly. A
native teacher came in, offered a report for signature, and went
out. Hannah Sanburn went on with her story:

"He had promised those savages a baby saint. He had produced the
baby. Now he had to educate the saint, and its being a girl made
it all the more difficult. But it seems there are people to whom
Tsiang Samdup can go for advice. I don't know who they are, or
where they are; he mentions them rarely, and very guardedly; I
think he has referred to them twice, or perhaps three times
during all the years I have known him, and then only for the
purpose of suggesting that he isn't exactly a free agent. The
conclusion I drew from his guarded hints was, that he acts, and
is responsible for what he does, but that he would lose the
privilege of conference with these unknown individuals if he
should allow personal considerations to govern him. At that, I'm
only guessing. He said nothing definite."

"The Masters!" said Ommony, nodding. "I'll bet you he knows some
of the Masters!" But if Hannah Sanburn knew who _they_ were she
gave no sign. She went on talking:

"It seems that the Ahbors trust him implicitly within certain
limits. They would kill him and burn his monastery if they
caught him practising the least deception; and they watched that
baby day and night. The wife of an Ahbor chieftain became the
wet-nurse, and the child throve, but it very soon dawned on
Tsiang Samdup that however carefully he might educate her--(you
knew he had an Oxford education?)--she would grow up like a half
-breed, unless he could have skillful assistance from some one of
her own race. So he consulted these mysterious authorities, and
'they,' whoever _they_ are, told him that a way would open up if
he should take _me_ into confidence.

"As I told you, he first bound me to secrecy. He didn't make me
swear, but he gave me a lecture on keeping faith, that was as
radical as the Sermon on the Mount, and he tested me every inch
of the way to make sure I agreed with him. I have used that
sermon over and over again in teaching the teachers of this
school.

"When he had me so tied up in my own explanations of what keeping
faith really means, that there wasn't any possible way out for
me, he told me the story I have just told you, and made me an
astonishing proposal. I have sometimes wished I had accepted it."

Hannah Sanburn paused for a long time, staring at the fire.

"He offered," she said at last, "to find some one else for my
position here; to smuggle me into the Ahbor Valley; and to
teach me more knowledge than Solomon knew--if I would give
unqualified consent, and would agree to stay up there and help
him educate that baby."

"And--?"

"And I refused," she said quietly. "Won't you put some more wood
on the fire?"

--------



And this I know: that when the gods have use for us they
blindfold us, because if we should see and comprehend the outcome
we should grow so vain that not even the gods could preserve us
from destruction.

Vanity, self-righteousness and sin, these three are one, whose
complements are meekness, self-will and indifference.

Meekness is not modesty. Meekness is an insult to the Soul. But
out of modesty comes wisdom, because in modesty the gods can
find expression.

The wise gods do not corrupt modesty with wealth or fame, but its
reward is in well-doing and in a satisfying inner vision.

--From the Book of the Sayings of Tsiang Samdup



Chapter XXV

The Compromise


Ommony stacked up the fire and resumed his seat in the leather
armchair that Marmaduke had always used. Diana, belly to the
blaze, barked and galloped in her sleep. Hannah Sanburn went
on talking:

"Tsiang Samdup said last night that you have been with him two
months. Do you know then what I mean when I say one can't argue
with him? He just sat there on the hearthrug and--it's difficult
to explain--he seemed to be listening for an inside message. It
may sound idiotic, but I received the impression of a man waiting
for his own soul to talk to him. He was perfectly silent. He
hardly breathed. I felt absolutely sure he would find some way
out of the difficulty. But the strange thing was, that the
solution came from me. I suppose ten minutes passed without a
word said, and I felt all the while as if my mind were being
freed from weights that I had never known were there. Then
suddenly I spoke because I couldn't help it; I saw what to do so
clearly that I simply had to tell him.

"It wasn't hypnotism. It was just the contrary. It was as if
he had _de_hypnotized me. I saw all the risks and scores of
difficulties. And I saw absolutely clearly the necessity of
doing just one thing. I told him I would take the child for six
months out of every year and treat her as if she were my own. He
might have her for the other six months. Every single wrinkle on
his dear old face smiled separately when I said that. I had
hardly said it when I began to wish I hadn't; but he held me to
my word.

"He brought me the baby the following week, and she was here
in this building all the while you were ranging the hills
for some word of the Terrys. The hardest work I ever had
to do was to keep silent when you returned here worn out
and miserable about your sister's fate. But, if you had
been let into the secret,--you would have interfered--wouldn't
you? Am I right or wrong, Cottswold?"

"Of course. I would never have dreamed of letting my sister's
child go back to the Ahbor Valley."

"Yet, if Tsiang Samdup hadn't taken her every year for half a
year, the Ahbors would have killed him. And remember: I had
bound myself in advance not to tell any one--and particularly not
to tell you. The Lama was only able to loan her to me for six
months of every year by consenting to the Ahbors watching her all
the time she was with me. Whenever she has been with me Ahbors
have watched day and night. The excuse Tsiang Samdup gave to
them was that unless she should be with me for long periods she
would die and the Ahbors would find their valley invaded by white
armies in consequence. They fear invasion of their valley more
than anything else they can imagine. On the other hand, they
regard the child as a gift from Heaven and the old Lama as her
rightful guardian. I don't quite understand the situation up
there; the Ahbors don't accept Tsiang Samdup's teachings, they
have a religion of their own; and he isn't one of them; he's
a Tibetan. But they recognize him as a Lama, protect his
monastery, and submit to his authority in certain ways. Perhaps
I'm stupid; he has tried very hard to explain, and so has Elsa.
Privately I called her Elsa, after her mother, of course. Tsiang
Samdup gave her the Chinese name of San-fun-ho. The word is
supposed to signify every possible human virtue."

"Who called her _Samding?_" Ommony asked bluntly.

Hannah Sanburn stared. "You know then? This isn't news? I
remember now: Tsiang Samdup said last night: 'That of which a
man is ignorant may well be kept from him, but that which he
knows should be explained, lest he confuse it with what he does
not know.'"

"I'm putting two and two together," Ommony answered. "I leaned
over a monastery gallery in Darjiling. The _chela_ was straight
underneath me. A beam of sunlight showed a girl's breasts. Am I
right? Are San-fun-ho, Samding the _chela_ and my sister's child
Elsa one and the same person?"

"Yes. I wonder you never recognized your sister's voice--that
almost baritone boyish resonance. You didn't?"

"Who are those other girls?"

"Companions for her! Don't rush me. Wait while I explain. Elsa
developed into the most marvelous child I have ever known. It
was partly Tsiang Samdup's influence; he gave up his whole life
to training her; and he's wise--I can never begin to tell you
how wise he is. But it was partly due to her heredity. You see,
she had your sister's spiritual qualities, and something of Jack
Terry's gay indifference to all the usual human pros and cons
--the courage of both of them--and something else added, entirely
her own. I wish she were my child! Oh, how I wish it! And yet,
d'you know, Cottswold, down in my heart I'm glad she isn't,
simply because, if she were mine, she would have missed so much!"

Hannah Sanburn stared into the fire again, silent until Ommony
grew restless.

"There's so much to tell!" she said at last. "I knew from the
first, and Tsiang Samdup soon discovered that the odds would be
all against her unless she could have white children of her own
age for companions. When he came and spoke of that I tried to
persuade him to let me send her to America; but at the very
suggestion he looked so old and grieved and disappointed that I
felt it would kill him to lose her. I suggested that he should
go with her, but he said no, he had a duty to the Ahbors. I
thought then he was afraid the Ahbors would torture him to death
and burn his monastery if he should let her go; but he read my
thoughts and assured me that consideration had no weight. I
believed him. I believe he is perfectly indifferent to pain and
death. He sat still for a long time, and then said:

"'It is better not to begin, than to begin and not go through to
a conclusion. _Then_ we should only have deprived ourselves of
opportunity. Now we should rob the child.'

"He asked me to obtain white children for companions for her. I
refused, of course, at once to have anything to do with it. We
quarreled bitterly--or rather, I did. He sat quite still, and
when I had finished scolding him he went away in silence. I did
not see him again for several months, and he never told me how he
obtained white children. I can't imagine how he did it without
raising a scandal all over the world. I have been in agonies
over it, for fear this mission would suffer. You know, if word
once got around that we were importing white children into
the Ahbor Valley, no proof of innocence would ever quiet the
suspicion. Just think what a chance the Christian missionaries
would have for destroying our good name! Can you imagine them
sparing us?"

Ommony grinned and nodded. As trustees of a Buddhist mission to
the Buddhists, he had tasted his share of that zealotry.

"He obtained the children through the agency of a Jew named
Benjamin," he said. "They were all orphans. They were saved
from God knows what. Go on."

"I have only seen the other children rarely. Now and then they
would come here in twos and threes, and I used to question them,
but they all seemed too happy to remember their past, and they
only had the vaguest notions as to how they ever reached the
Ahbor Valley. The general plan was for me to do my best with
Elsa during the six months of the year she was with me, and for
_her_ to teach them. Tsiang Samdup said it would be good for her
to have to teach them--that she would learn more in that way than
any other; and as usual he was entirely right.

"To help the other girls he made _them_ pass their teaching on to
Tibetan children. But he hasn't had quite the success with the
others that he has had with Elsa; they hadn't her character to
begin with. He never punishes. Have you any idea what patience
it calls for to educate growing children without ever inflicting
punishment of any kind--what patience and skill?"

Ommony glanced at Diana. "It's the only way. I never punish,"
he said quietly. "Go on."

"My own share in Elsa's education has been very slight indeed,"
Hannah Sanburn went on. "I had to teach her Western conventions
as to table manners and so on, and to explain to her what sort of
subjects are taboo in what we call civilized society. I have
taught her to wear frocks properly, have corrected her English
pronunciation and have given her music lessons. I can't think of
anything else. The real education has been all the other way;
it is I who have learned--oh, simply countless things--by
observing _her._ She never argues. You can't persuade her to
tell more than a fraction of what she knows. She is afraid of
nothing and of nobody. And she is as full of fun as the veriest
young pagan that ever lived."

"Is she affectionate?" asked Ommony.

"Intensely. But not demonstrative. I should say she loves
enormously, but without the slightest jealousy or passion. She
has learned Tsiang Samdup's faculty of divining people's
weakness, and of playing up to their strength instead of taking
advantage of the weakness or letting it annoy her. The result,
of course, is that she is instantly popular wherever she goes."

"How in the world have you kept these mission girls from talking
about her?" asked Ommony.

"That was quite easy. They adore her. She is their special
secret; and they quite understand that if they talk about her
outside the mission she will stay away. Besides, the mission
girls don't have much opportunity to talk with outsiders, and
those to whom they do talk are superstitious people, who speak
with bated breath of San-fun-ho of Ahbor. There have been much
harder problems than that."

Hannah Sanburn stared into the fire again. It appeared there
were painful memories.

"You see, there have been European visitors at times. Some of
them came unannounced, and sometimes Elsa was here when they
came. There were times when I could pass her off as a teacher,
but sometimes she was discovered in boy's clothes, which made
that impossible; and whether she was dressed as a boy or girl
she aroused such intense curiosity that questions became pointed
and very difficult to answer. I have dozens of letters,
Cottswold, from friends in Massachusetts asking whether it is
true, as they learn from missionary correspondents, that I have a
child. Some ask why I kept my marriage secret. Some insinuate
that they are too broad-minded to hold a lapse from virtue
against me, as long as I don't come home and make it awkward for
them. Others preach me a sermon on hypocrisy. Quite a number of
my friends have dropped me altogether. I suppose the strict
provisions of the penal code have kept people from libeling me in
India, but that has not prevented them from writing scandal to
their friends abroad."

"What was the idea of boy's clothes?"

"Education. Tsiang Samdup insists she must know everything he
possibly can teach her. She has been to Lhassa, far into China,
and down into India. He could not have taken her to some of
those places unless she were disguised as his _chela;_ a girl
_chela_ would have aroused all sorts of scandal and difficulties.
Then again, he says all human life is drama and the only way to
teach is by dramatic presentation; but who, he asks, can present
a drama unless able to act all parts in it? He says we can only
learn by teaching, and can only teach by learning; and he is
right, Cottswold, he is absolutely right."

"Does he propose that she shall preach a crusade or something
like that in India?" Ommony asked, frowning.

"He proposes she shall be an absolutely free agent, possessed of
all knowledge necessary to freedom. That tour into India was
only a part of her education."

"But I saw her as Samding receiving princes of the blood and
being almost worshiped," Ommony objected.

"Education. Tsiang Samdup says she will be either flattered or
hated wherever she goes. He says the hatred will strengthen her.
He wants to be sure no flattery shall turn her head."

"And those other girls?"

"They are to go free also, as and when she goes. Tsiang Samdup
is fabulously rich. He pays for everything in gold, although I
don't know where he gets it. He has secret agents all over
India--sometimes I think they're all over the world. He says
wherever Elsa goes, she and the other girls will be provided for
and will find friends."

"Where does he propose to send them?" Ommony asked, a wave of
rebellion sweeping over him. He was well schooled in self
-control, but all the English in him rose against the notion
of his sister's child being subject to an Oriental's whim.
Education was one thing: heritage another.

Hannah Sanburn laughed. The expression of her face was firm, and
yet peculiarly helpless.

"I am not to tell you that."

"Why in thunder not? You have told so much, that--"

"If you were as used as I am, Cottswold, to trusting that grand
old Lama, and always discovering afterward that his advice was
good, you wouldn't press the point."

"My sister's child--" he began angrily; but she interrupted him.

"Don't forget: Tsiang Samdup saved the mother from death at the
hands of savages. It is thanks to him, and to nobody but him,
that the baby was born alive."

"Yes, but--"

"Tsiang Samdup told me, and I believe him, that your sister
put the new-born baby into his arms and begged him to care
for it as if it were his own. She _gave_ him the baby with
her dying breath."

"What else could she do?" asked Ommony. "Poor girl, she was--"

"Yes. But she did it," said Hannah Sanburn. "Can you name one
instance in which Tsiang Samdup has failed to keep trust to the
limit of his power?"

There followed a long silence, broken only by the faint murmur of
singing in a hall across the rear courtyard, the falling of
burned wood on the hearth, and the muttered barking of Diana
chasing something in her dreams. It endured until Diana awoke
suddenly, sat up and growled. There came a man's voice from the
front courtyard. Two or three minutes later there was a knock at
the door and a toothless old Sikhimese watchman announced a
visitor, mumbling so that Ommony did not catch the name. A
moment later _Sirdar_ Sirohe Singh strode into the room, greeted
by thundering explosions from Diana, who presently recognized him
and lay down again.

The _sirdar_ without speaking bowed profoundly, once to Hannah
Sanburn, once to Ommony, then crossed the room and sat down
cross-legged on the floor, with his back to a corner of the
fireplace at Hannah Sanburn's right hand, where his own face was
in shadow but he could see both hers and Ommony's. Diana went up
and sniffed him but he took no notice of her.

"I have word," he said gruffly, at the end of three or four
minutes' silence.

He seemed to expect comment.

"From whom? About what?"

The _sirdar's_ amber eyes met Ommony's. "You remember? When we
met the first time I said I was at your disposal to escort you to
another place."

Ommony nodded.

"But I am not your superior." (The _sirdar_ used a word that
conveys more the relationship of a _guru_ to his _chela_ than
can be expressed by one word in English; but at that, the
significance was vague.) "Do you wish to come with me?"

In the West it would have been the part of wisdom to ask when,
why, whither? Twenty and odd years of India had given Ommony an
insight into arguments not current in the West, however. He did
not even glance at Hannah Sanburn.

"Yes."

"I am ready."

The _sirdar_ stood up. There was magic in the air. Diana sensed
it; she was trembling. Hannah Sanburn rose and placed herself
between the _sirdar_ and the fire, so that he could not pass
her easily.

"Do you accept responsibility?" she asked.

The _sirdar_ nodded.

"Will he return here?"

"As to that I am ignorant. He will arrive there."

"You will escort him safely to the Lama?"

Again the _sirdar_ nodded.

Hannah Sanburn moved and the _sirdar_ strode past her toward
the door. Ommony started to follow him, but turned, walked
deliberately up to Hannah Sanburn and kissed her, hardly knowing
why, except that he admired her and possibly might never see her
again. She seemed to understand.

"Good-by," she said quietly. "If you reach the Ahbor Valley
you'll be safe enough--only do what he tells you." Then,
divining his intention: "No, take the dog. I would like her,
but you may need her. The Lama said so. Good-by."

It was cold outside. Ommony tied on Diana's sheepskin jacket,
which was hanging, cleaned and dried, from a peg in the hall.
Below in the courtyard the _sirdar_ turned and said abruptly:

"To your own room first."

It was like being led out to be shot. In the gloom in the corner
near Ommony's door a brown-robed Tibetan waited, carrying
something on his arm; Ommony seized Diana's collar to keep her
from flying at him. He and the _sirdar_ followed Ommony into the
room and waited while he lit the candles; then the _sirdar_
struck a match and lit the overhead oil lamp.

"Where is Dawa Tsering?" Ommony asked suddenly.

The _sirdar_ smiled, showing wonderfully even teeth that
suggested not exactly cruelty, but the sort of familiarity
with unavoidable unpleasantness that surgeons learn.

"He will come with us part of the way," he said in a dead-level
tone of voice.

Ommony bridled at that. It touched his own sense of responsibility.

"The man is my servant. What do you propose to do to him?"

"I am not his master."

"You said 'part of the way.' What do you mean by that?"

"Wait and see," said the _sirdar_.

"No," Ommony answered. "I will lead no man into a trap. What do
you intend?"

The _sirdar_ spoke in undertones to the Tibetan, who tossed a
bundle of garments on the bed and left the room.

"You might save time," the _sirdar_ suggested, pointing to the
bundle on the bed. His manner was polite, and more mysterious
than commanding; he undid the bundle himself and spread out a
Tibetan costume.

"How about you?" asked Ommony, beginning to undress.

"I go as I am."

Ommony put on the warm Tibetan clothes and examined himself in
the mirror--laughed--remarked that he looked like a monk whose
asceticism consisted in at least three meals a day. But he
looked better when he pulled on a cloth cap and threw a dark
shawl over it. The _sirdar,_ walking around him, viewing him
carefully from every angle, appeared satisfied.

Then Dawa Tsering came, unaccompanied by the Tibetan, standing
burly and enormous in his yak-hair cloak, almost filling up
the doorway.

"Thou!" he said, grinning as his eyes met Ommony's. "Say to
Missish-Anbun she should return my knife to me. We go where
there _might_ be happenings."

"Where do you suppose we are going?" Ommony asked.

"To that old Lama's roost, I take it. Between you and me,
Ommonee, I am glad to go anywhere, so be I get away from this
place. My wife is in Tilgaun and has sent two of her husbands to
catch me and bring me to her!"

The _sirdar_ grinned, watching Ommony's face. "They practice
polyandry in these hills," he remarked.

That was no news, although there was less of it around Tilgaun
since the Marmaduke influence had begun to make itself felt.

"Seven husbands are enough for her," said Dawa Tsering. "I grew
weary of planting her corn-fields and being beaten for my
trouble. I am for Spiti, where a man can have as many wives as
he can manage and _they_ fear _him!_ Let us be off before that
she-wolf's husbands catch the two of us, thou!"

Ommony nodded. The _sirdar_ put the lights out and led the way
to the outer gate, Dawa Tsering following, complaining bitterly
about his knife.

"I am ashamed, Ommonee--I am ashamed to go back to Spiti without
my belly-ripper! Where shall I find such another as that? Get
it for me! I would pay its weight in gold for it--if I had that
much gold," he added _sotto voce._

Once outside the gate, though, he was much too eager to be going
to fret about anything else. The whites of his eyes showed alert
in the darkness. There were two ponies; he held Ommony's,
urging him to mount in haste, then ran behind, slapping the
pony's rump, pursuing the _sirdar's_ beast, that cantered with a
Tibetan clinging to its tail. Diana circled around and around
the party, barking.

"Thou! Command thy she-dog!" Dawa Tsering panted. "We go
through the village--she will awake my wife's husbands--command
her to be still, or we are lost!"

-------



Oh, I went where the Gods are, and I have seen the Dawn
Where Beauty and the Muses and the Seven Reasons dwell,
And I saw Hope accoutered with a lantern and a horn
Whose clarion and rays reach the inner rings of hell.
Oh, I was in the storehouse of the jewels of the dew
And the laughter of the motion of the wind-blown grass,
The mystery of morning and its music, and the hue
Of the petals of the roses when the rain-clouds pass.
And so I know who Hope is and why she never sleeps,
And seven of the secrets that are jewels on her breast;
I stood within the silence of the Garden that she keeps,
Where flowers fill the footprints that her sandals pressed;
And I know the springs of laughter, for I trod the Middle Way,
Where sympathies are sign-posts and the merry Gods the Guides;
I have been where Hope is Ruler and evolving realms obey;
I know the Secret Nearness where the Ancient Wisdom hides.



Chapter XXVI

Ahbor Valley Gate


They cantered down the village street and over an echoing plank-bridge beneath which starlit water growled over a gravel bed.
Only a rare light or two shone through the chinks of shuttered
windows. Village dogs yelped at Diana's heels, but fled when she
turned on them. The _sirdar_ never glanced backward but rode
like a shadow, bolt-upright, vanishing, vanishing, for ever
vanishing into the darkness, yet never more than half a dozen
ponies' lengths ahead. The sound of his pony's feet was all that
made a human being of him; otherwise he was a specter.

The track rose sharply after they crossed the bridge and the
ponies slowed to a walk, the _sirdar_ maintaining the lead. Dawa
Tsering, utterly winded, sat down on a rock, swaying his body
back and forward to ease the stitch in his side. Ommony drew
rein to wait for him, peering over a cliff-side into hollow
darkness filled with the booming of water among rocks two hundred
feet below. The _sirdar_ shouted from around a bend a little
higher up the trail, and stones fell into the track as if his
voice had loosed an avalanche.

A dark figure shrouded in black cloth slid down following the
stones and, before Ommony could move, had jumped to his rein. A
young woman's face peered up at him, flashing white teeth, but
the smile vanished instantly.

"Dawa Tsering," she muttered, and then began talking so fast that
Ommony could hardly understand her. Dawa Tsering was in danger;
that seemed clear enough. Also, she, her own self, wanted him,
desired him desperately. She had a baby wrapped in a shawl slung
over her shoulder and had laid another bundle on the ground.

Ommony pointed down the track, and as he moved his arm two men
leaped out of a shadow and rushed uphill at Dawa Tsering. Diana
flew at them and they backed away. They had weapons, but
appeared afraid to use them. Dawa Tsering ran uphill toward
Ommony, feeling for the knife that was not there, and Ommony
whistled to Diana. The two men followed her cautiously,
advancing step by step as she retreated, snarling. From the
opposite direction around the bend, the _sirdar_ came cantering
back downhill, sending stones scattering over the cliff-side.
The girl flung herself at Dawa Tsering, seizing him around the
neck and pouring out a stream of words, half-intelligible, choked
with anger, grief, laughter, command, and emotions unknown to
those who have not loved and do not still love an adventurer
from Spiti.

"Sooner than expected!" the _sirdar_ grunted, drawing rein.

The _sirdar_ seemed pleased, and to have changed his mind about
being in a hurry. He sat bolt-upright on his pony and waited in
silence for something to happen; but the Tibetan behind him drew
a long knife and showed it to the two men who were standing in
the attitude of wrestlers. Dawa Tsering seemed to want to run,
but the woman clung to him. Diana growled thunderously but
awaited orders.

"Who are these men?" asked Ommony.

"My wife's husbands!" Dawa Tsering shook the girl off and stepped
between Ommony and the _sirdar._ It appeared he meant to slip
away, but the _sirdar's_ pony made a sudden half-turn, and there
was nothing left for him but to stand or jump over the cliff.
"Protect me, Ommonee! I have been a friend to you. That dog
hasn't a flea on her. Moreover, Missish-Anbun has my knife."

"Who is this young woman?" Ommony demanded. The _sirdar_
answered. The two husbands were about to speak, but waited,
open-mouthed. The woman was watching the _sirdar_ as if destiny
hung on the movement of his lips.

"She is his. It is his child. Choose!" he commanded, shoving Dawa
Tsering, making him turn to face him. "Go with _her_ to Spiti,
or go with them to Ladak and the wife of many husbands. Which?"

"But how do I know it is my child?" Dawa Tsering grumbled.

The _sirdar's_ face was in darkness from the shadow of the
overhanging cliff. He did not laugh, but his smile was almost
audible. "_She_ knows. You may learn from her. Choose quickly!"

"Is it a man child?" Dawa Tsering asked; and the woman burst
into excited speech, beginning to unwrap the bundle that swung at
her back.

"Well, that is different," said Dawa Tsering. "If it is a man
child--there is need of men in Spiti. Very well, I will take
the woman."

"To Spiti!" the _sirdar_ commanded. "Understand: I will write
to the Rajah of Spiti. You will stay in Spiti and obey him. If
you ever again cross the boundaries of Spiti without a letter
from your rajah giving permission and stating the reason for it,
you will deal with me!"

"Oh, well!" said Dawa Tsering, shrugging his broad shoulders.
"Must I go now?"

"Now!" said the _sirdar._

"Good-by, Ommonee. Now you must pick your own fleas off the dog.
I will be sorry for you when I think of you without a servant,
but I am too well born to be any man's servant for long, and this
woman is a good one. I will sing songs of you in Spiti after you
are dead. I think you will die soon. Look out for that
_sirdar;_ he is a tricky fellow."

He kicked the bundle the woman had dropped, as a signal for her
to pick it up and follow him. In another moment he had vanished,
clambering by a goat-track up the cliff, humming cheerfully
through his nose each time he paused to let the laden woman
overtake him.

The _sirdar_ faced the discontented husbands, lifting his right
hand for silence.

"Go back to that woman in Ladak,* and to her say this from me,"
he ordered. "That it may be I will come to Ladak. If I come,
and when I come, it will be well for her if I have no reason to
concern myself about her. Turn neither to the right nor to the
left, nor delay on the road to Ladak, but hasten and tell her my
message. And when she has beaten you, tell her a second time,
and add this that if again she sends men across the boundaries of
Ladak, she shall lose them! Go!"

--------
* Spiti and Ladak are Hill States separated by huge ranges, and
their customs are as different as their climate and geography,
although their actual distance apart is not great.
--------

They went, retreating backward downhill toward Tilgaun, whence
another track led over a seventeen-thousand-foot pass toward
their polyandrous neighborhood. The Tibetan followed them,
presumably to see the order was obeyed. The _sirdar_ turned and
rode uphill in silence, keeping the middle of the track so that
Ommony had no room to draw alongside. On the left a cliff fell
sheer into the darkness; on the right it rose until it seemed to
disappear among the stars.

Ommony rode with his woolen clothes wrapped closely against
the penetrating wind that moaned from over the ravine on his
left hand. Mystified by the _sirdar's_ confidently used authority,
that could not possibly have been vested in him by the British or
by any other government (for it seemed to extend into several
states), his sensations began to be mixed and bewildering.

Suggestions of fear are assertive on a dark night, riding into
the unknown, without a weapon; and the _sirdar's_ mysterious
silence was not reassuring. Hannah Sanburn had said he was
"always a friend"; but a woman all alone in charge of a mission,
surrounded by potential danger, would be likely to overestimate
the friendship of any one who was not openly hostile.

It occurred, and kept on recurring, however hard he tried to
dismiss the thought, that, with the exception of Hannah Sanburn,
he alone knew the secret about Elsa Terry--he and probably that
_sirdar_ just ahead of him; and the _sirdar_ might be one of
those dark fanatics whom jealousy makes murderers. What if the
_sirdar_ were leading him now to his death in the unknown?

For what purpose had Elsa been educated? Why had she been taken
into India on that weird dramatic venture? Why had she been to
Lhassa, the "forbidden city”? Who were the men to whom Hannah
Sanburn said the Lama went for advice? Mahatmas? Masters? Or
something else? What was _their_ purpose? The Lama might easily
be a saint and yet their tool--an unworldly old altruist in the
hands of men who had designs on India; as pliable in their hands
as the girl appeared to be pliable in his. That journey into
India might have been a trial venture to discover how far the
girl's trained personality could be counted on to turn men's (and
women's) heads. Gandhi in jail, all India was ripe and waiting
for a new political mahatma.

Why, if not to spy on Ommony, had the Lama tolerated Dawa Tsering
in his company? Dawa Tsering's suspiciously prompt obedience to
the _sirdar_ rather looked as if the whole thing had been
prearranged. In fact, it certainly _was_ prearranged; the
_sirdar_ had admitted he expected something of the sort. And
Ommony remembered now that, back in Delhi, Dawa Tsering had been
remarkably complaisant about transferring allegiance from the
Lama to himself.

Then--the Ahbor Valley. Was it likely that the _sirdar_ could be
leading him into that forbidden country for any other purpose
than to make sure of his death or possibly to keep him prisoner
up there? No white man, no government agent, not even one
trained Nepalese spy who had penetrated the Ahbor Valley had ever
returned alive. The only one who ever did return had floated,
dead and mangled, down the Brahmaputra River. Thirty-five miles
--not a yard more--from the boundary of Sikhim; perhaps thirty
miles from where they were that minute, the Upper Ahbor Valley
was as unknown as the mountains of the moon. Why should he
suppose that he was to be specially favored with permission to
go in there and return alive!

But there was no turning back now--nothing, of course, to prevent
but nothing further from intention. Afraid, yes. Faint-hearted,
no. The two emotions are as the poles apart. Fear acted as a
spur to obstinacy, the unknown as a lure that beckoned more
compellingly than safety; habitually, since his school-days,
personal safety had been Ommony's last, least consideration. He
told himself it was the cold wind that made the goose-flesh rise,
and all that night, shivering, he forced himself to believe that
was the truth, following the _sirdar's_ pony along trails like a
winding devil's stairway that led alternately toward the sky and
down again into a roaring underworld.

It was pitch-dark, but the deepest darkness lay ahead, where the
enormous range of the Himalayas was a wall of silence ridged with
faint silver where the starlight shone on everlasting snow.
Darkness may be a substance for all that anybody knows about it;
it lay thick and somber, swallowing the sounds--sudden, crashing
sounds, that volleyed and were gone. A tree fell into a
watercourse. A rock went cannoning from crag to crag and plunged
into an abyss. Silence; and then a howl along the wind as a
night-prowler scented the ponies.

Bats--unimaginable thousands of them, black, and less black than
the night--until the air was all alive with movement and the
squeak and smell. Chasms into which the ponies' hoofs struck
stones that seemed to fall for ever, soundless. Dawn at last,
touching untrodden peaks with crimson-gleaming gold, and stealing
lemon-colored down the pillars of the sky, to awaken ghosts of
shadows in the black ravines. Tree-tops, waist-deep in an opal
mist, an eagle--seven thousand feet below the track--circling
above those like a fleck of blown dirt. A roar ascending full of
crashing tumult; and at last a flash of silver on the waves of
Brahmaputra, a mile and a half below, plunging toward Bengal
through the rock-staked jaws of Ahbor Valley Gate.

Downward then, by a trail that seemed to swing between earth and
sky, the ponies sliding half the time with their rumps against
the rock or picking their way cautiously with six-inch strides
along the edge of chasms, over which the riders peered into
fathomless shadow that the sunlight had not reached. Down to the
eagle-level, and the treeline, where the wet scent of morning on
moss and golden gravel made the ponies snort and they had to be
unsaddled and allowed to roll.

Not a word from the _sirdar,_ although he stroked Diana's head
when she approached him, and laughed at the ponies' antics. On
again downward, and a hut at last, built of tree-trunks, perched
on a ledge of rock above a waterfall, on the rim of a tree-hung
bowl through which the Brahmaputra plunged.

-----------



CHANT PAGAN

When that caressing light forgets the hills
That change their hue in its evolving grace;
When, harmony of swaying reeds and rills,
The breeze forgets her music and the face
Of Nature smiles no longer in the pond,
Divinity revealed! When morning peeps
Above earth's rim, and no bird notes respond;
When half a world in mellow moonlight sleeps
And no peace pours along the silver'd air;
When dew brings no wet wonder of delight
On jeweled spider-web and scented lair
Of drone and hue and honey; when the night
No longer shadows the retreating day,
Nor purple dawn pursues the graying dark;
And no child laughs; and no wind bears away
The bursting glory of the meadow-lark;
Then--then it may be--never until then
May death be dreadful or assurance wane
That we shall die a while, to waken when
New morning summons us to earth again.



Chapter XXVII

Under the Brahmaputra.


Smoke came from the hut, through a hole in the roof, giving the
sharp air a delicious tang, all mixed with the aroma of fallen
leaves and pine trunks. Over beyond the hut spray splashed from
the waterfall--rose-colored diamonds against moss-green. The air
was full of bird-music, that the ear caught after it was once
used to the ponderous roar of water.

A man who was undoubtedly an Ahbor--black hair low down on
his forehead, high up on his cheeks--Mongolian cheek-bones
--glittering, dark, bold eyes--hairy legs showing beneath a
leather-colored smock--waist girdled with a leather belt, from
which a _kukri_ like a Goorkha's hung in a wooden scabbard--peered
from the hut door. He stared at the _sirdar_ in silence,
curiously, as at some one he must tolerate; it was the half-shy,
half-impudent stare of a yokel at a wealthy man from town.

He took the ponies and was very careful of them, unsaddling,
leading them to drink, dragging out a sack and spilling grain in
the hollow of a rock, feeling their legs and rubbing them down
with a piece of bark while they munched contentedly.

The _sirdar_ led the way into the hut, but laid a finger on his
lips for silence. The reason for silence was not evident; there
was nobody else in there. The place was clean, but almost bare
of furniture; there was a hearth of rough stones in the midst, a
rough table, and a bunk in one corner, littered with blue trade
-blankets. There was no bench--no chairs or stools--but there
were wooden platters on the table, with big silver spoons beside
them, and on the hearth imported cereal was cooking in an earthen
vessel set in a brass one containing water. There was honey in a
white china bowl, and a big glass pitcher full of milk, which
looked as if it had stood there overnight; the layer of cream
was more than an inch thick. There were two cups, without
handles, made of alabaster.

In silence, as if it were a ritual, the _sirdar_ served the meal
and they ate it standing. Then he walked out and sat on a rock
that overhung the waterfall. He was not cross-legged in the
usual Indian attitude of meditation; his long booted and spurred
legs were out in front of him, the way a white man sits, and he
leaned an elbow on one knee, his chin on his right fist;
motionless in that attitude he stared at the bewildering view
until he seemed almost physically to become a part of it.

Ommony watched him from the hut door, now and then losing sight
of his form in the spray as he wondered what sort of thinking it
might be that could so absorb the man, and as he watched,
wondering, his own inclination was to take his shoes off; he
felt a pagan reverence possess him, as if that dew-wet, emerald
and brown immensity, with the thundering river below and the blue
sky for a roof, were a temple of Mother Nature, in which it were
impertinence to speak, imposture to assert a personality.

Diana was watching fish in a pool above the waterfall; the
aborigine from Ahbor was using his _kukri_ to fashion a wooden
implement with which to comb the ponies' manes and tails; the
birds were hopping on tree and rock about their ordinary
business, and an eagle circled overhead as if he had been doing
the same thing for centuries. But there began to be a sensation
of having stepped into another world.

Things assumed strange and strangely beautiful proportions.
The whole of the past became a vaguely remembered dream, in
which the Lama, Samding and Hannah Sanburn stood out as the
only important realities. The present moment was eternity, and
wholly satisfying. Every motion of a glistening leaf, each
bird-note, every gesture of the nodding grass, each drop of spray
was, of and in itself, in every detail perfect. Something
breathed--he did not know what, or want to inquire--he was
part of what breathed; and a universe, of which he was also
a part, responded with infinite rhythm of color, form, sound,
movement, ebb and flow, life and death, cause and effect,
all one, yet infinitely individual, enwrapped in peace and wrought
of magic, of which Beauty was the living, all-conceiving light.

The enchantment ceased as gradually as it had begun. He felt his
mind struggling to hold it--knew that he had seen Truth naked
--knew that nothing would ever satisfy him until he should regain
that vision--and was aware of the _sirdar_ walking toward him,
normal, matter-of-fact, abrupt, spurs clinking as his heels
struck rock.

"Are you ready?" asked the _sirdar._

Ommony whistled and Diana followed them along a fern-hung ledge.
There was opal air beneath them; crags and tree-tops peered out
of slow-moving mist that the sun was beginning to tempt upward.
Presently, leaping from rock to rock, until they could hear the
river laughing and shouting, sending echoes crashing through a
forest that had looked like moss from higher up, they descended
breathless, downward, and for ever downward, leaping wild water
that gushed between worn bowlders, swinging by tree-roots around
outleaning cliffs, Diana crouching as she hugged the wall along a
six-inch ledge, crossing a yelling cataract by a fallen tree
-trunk, whose ax-marks were the only sign that the trail was ever
used before. They came at last to a bank with a cliff behind it,
still more than a thousand feet above the Brahmaputra, whose
thunder volleyed as if a battle were being fought for right of
way through a rock- and tree-staked gorge defended by all
the underworld.

Ommony threw himself down, panting, his clothes sodden with sweat
and his head in a whirl from the violent exertion and the change
in altitude. Every sinew in his legs was trembling separately,
and his heart thumped like a steam-injector. Diana lay still at
his feet. The _sirdar_ appeared calm and not particularly
out of breath; he sat down on a rock near by with an air of
concentrated attention.

Presently Ommony began to feel the chill of damp earth under him.
He got to his feet to look for a better place closer to the
cliff, and stood for a moment craning upward trying to gauge with
his eye the distance they had come from the lip of the ravine
that showed at one point sharp as a pencil-line against the sky.
He realized he could never find the way back if life depended on
it, and guessed there must be another way than that into the
Ahbor Valley, or how could men and animals find egress? He
turned to speak, leaning one hand against the cliff.

"This way!" said the _sirdar's_ voice on his left hand; and
before he could turn he felt himself shoved violently. His head
still singing from the strain of the descent, a vertigo still
swimming through his brain, he was sure, but only dimly, that he
had been pushed, then pulled through a narrow fissure in the
shadowy corner of a projecting spur. He had scarcely noticed the
opening--had not observed that the lower portion of the spur was
split away, like the base of a flying buttress, from the wall
itself. Within, the opening turned and turned again, a man's
breadth wide each shoulder against the wall, a zigzag passage
driven (there were tool marks) into a granite mountain; and when
he turned to look, there was nothing to see but the outline of
the _sirdar's_ head against dim light behind him.

Diana forced her way between his legs and ran ahead to explore;
he could hear her hollow barking--"All's well so far--marvelous!
mysterious! exciting!"--and then the _sirdar_ shoved him
forward, saying not one word. He could not see, but felt the
whirring of bats, and knew by the sound that he had stepped into
a cavern. The _sirdar_ groped and found an oil lantern with a
bail. Lighting it, and swinging it until the shadows leaped
like giant goblins and enormous bats streamed in panic toward the
open air, he led the way to a low tunnel at the rear through
which it was just possible to walk by bending nearly double.

At the end of fifty yards of that uncomfortable going, there was
vastness, black as pitch, and such empty silence that the
eardrums ached. The lantern light shone into nothing and was
swallowed--ceased, except where it struck the natural, dark
-granite wall and the end of the hewn tunnel. They were standing
on a platform ten feet wide, from which hewn steps descended for
ever and ever for all the brain could guess. The roof was
utterly invisible; the space beneath it was alive with whirling
bats. The air was breathable but stuffy. Sweat began to stream
from every pore.

"What next?" asked Ommony.

"What next--ot nex--ot nex--ot nex--ot nex!" the echoes answered,
dying away in a grumble at last somewhere in the bowels of
the world.

He did not care to speak again. He tried to suppress thought,
lest the echoes should learn that and multiply and mock it
in the solemn hugeness of the underworld. Diana was afraid
now--crouched against his legs and howled when the _sirdar_
started down the smooth stone steps, that looked dark green
in the lantern light.

The howl let loose the hounds of Pandemonium. A phantom pack
gave tongue in full cry down the valley of hell--pounced on their
quarry leagues away--worried it--and vanished into silence. The
_sirdar_ laughed, and the laugh went after them, until a thousand
devils seemed to mock the ghost the hounds had slain. Diana was
seized with panic and had to be dragged by the collar. Ommony
did not dare to speak to her for fear of the echoes. He tried
whispering once, but only once; it turned into a hiss that made
Diana tremble in abject misery.

The echo of their feet was bad enough. Each downward step was
repeated until the darkness became full of a din like the
clapping of unseen hands; the clink of the _sirdar's_ spurs was
multiplied into the jingle and clank of ghostly squadrons, and
the whirring of unseen bat-wings grew into the snort of the
war-horses charging line on line. It was easy enough to imagine
lance and pennon, and the dead from a thousand battle-fields
repeating history.

Ommony began trying to count the steps, but lost the reckoning at
the sixth or seventh turn; the stairway zigzagged to and fro
across the face of a wall that seemed from its smooth, yet
irregular feel to have been hewn by giants from the virgin rock.
And when they did at last reach bottom there appeared by the
swinging lantern light to be a causeway running right and left,
gay-white and firm with a million years accumulation of the
bats' excreta.

The _sirdar_ hesitated--took the right-hand way, and led with a
swinging stride that it took all of Ommony's strength to follow.
There was hardly any echo now, because the bat-dirt underfoot
consumed the sound (and filled the air, too, with acrid dust),
but there began to be a weird, very far-away rumbling, at first
not more than a peculiar, irregular pulsation of the silence,
gradually increasing until it sounded as if all the echoes in the
world were hiding in the cellar of a mountain, crowding one
another to find room.

A roof became vaguely visible at last. They were entering a
tunnel, whose floor sloped downward. It appeared to have been
originally a natural fissure in the base of a granite mountain;
Titans had hewn and enlarged it, leaving buttresses six feet
square of natural rock, that curved overhead until they met to
support the roof. They were spaced about twenty feet apart, and
every gap between was occupied by an enormous image, hewn out of
the wall, resembling nothing in the world that Ommony had ever
seen. Vaguely, but only vaguely, they suggested temple images of
ancient Egypt. No two were alike. Due to the moving shadows,
they appeared to change position as the lantern passed them, and
the weird sounds that filled the tunnel suggested conversation in
the language of another world.

The only remark the _sirdar_ made of any kind was midway down the
tunnel, more than a quarter of a mile from the point where its
roof had first become dimly visible. He paused for a moment,
seemed to hesitate whether or not to speak, then pointed upward.

"We are under the Brahmaputra."

His voice sounded muffled. The noise of the tremendous river
galloping and plunging overhead absorbed all other sounds.

"How thick is the roof?" Ommony asked. But he did not know how
to pitch his voice; the words died on his lips; his own ears
could not hear them.

In one place there was water; it appeared to be an artificial
drain; there was a trickling, sucking sound where it disappeared
through a hole in the wall into obscurity. The floor for twenty
yards was built of very heavy timber spiked on to transverse
beams laid in slots in the rock wall; the slots were very
ancient and the timbers not a generation old, marked here and
there with the print of ponies' hoofs--which seemed to Ommony to
prove one point at any rate: there must be another way out from
the Ahbor Valley than that goat-path down the side of the ravine.
No pony, laden or unladen, could negotiate the trail by which he
and the _sirdar_ had come.

Once they had crossed the wooden bridge the track began to rise,
but the _sirdar_ continued leading at the same speed, neither
heat nor stuffiness impeding him. He swung the lantern in his
right hand with an air of indifference, as if he had long ago
ceased wondering at the titan labors of the men who hewed the
tunnel. There was no air of haste about him; his natural speed
appeared to be more than four miles an hour, just as his natural
mood was silent, and his natural condition fearless, unsurprised,
indifferent to circumstance.

The air began to improve at last, as they emerged into a cavern
into which one shaft of sunlight shone through an opening so high
overhead that its milky-whiteness, spreading and dispersing,
formed a layer, below which the gloom grew solid. The sensation
was of being in a grotto under water and looking upward through a
cave-mouth toward the surface of the sea. One almost expected to
see fish swimming across the zone of light.

The _sirdar_ allowed Ommony to rest at last. He sat on a rock
that resembled an altar, set the lantern on another, and motioned
to Ommony to be seated on a third. There were seven stones,
exactly similar in shape and size, arranged so as to suggest the
constellation of the Pleiades;* the seventh, which might be
Merope, was surrounded by a circle of masonry, perhaps to suggest
that that one is invisible to the naked eye. About and among the
big stones there were hundreds of smaller ones, all of the same
shape but of different sizes, arranged in no evident pattern, but
nevertheless sunk into place in hollows cut deliberately in the
rock floor. It looked as if whoever set them there knew a great
deal more about the stars than any naked eye reveals.

-------
* The ancient Greek legend of the Pleiades is that they were the
daughters of Atlas and Pleione, and that the seventh, Merope,
concealed herself out of shame for having loved a mortal. But
the legend is doubtless vastly older than the Greeks and has an
esoteric, or hidden meaning. A telescope reveals hundreds of
stars in the constellation.
--------

As Ommony grew gradually used to the dim light the shapes of
enormous carvings revealed themselves on walls so high that
imagination reeled in the effort to measure them. The shape of
the cavern was that of the inside of a hollow tree-trunk, broad
at the base, narrowing toward the top until it vanished in
impenetrable gloom somewhere above the shaft of light. The walls
were all irregular, almost exactly resembling in rough outline
the interior of a hollow tree; and wherever there was space a
figure had been carved, half-human, ponderous, as contemplative
as the Sphinx.

Wherever the eye rested long enough a figure would develop in the
gloom, until the darkness appeared full of awful faces that had
been there, pondering immensity, since time began.

As well as Ommony could judge, they were in the core of a hollow
granite mountain. He turned to question the _sirdar,_ but as he
moved a sound like a distant trumpet blast came from above and,
glancing upward, he saw a speck that might be a human being,
moving on the lip of the opening through which the shaft of light
came. Diana howled at the sound, but the howl was lost in the
enormous space; there were no echoes.

The _sirdar_ made no comment, but got to his feet at once and
holding up the lantern examined Ommony's face for a moment
intently. His expression was of exercising judgment, but he said
nothing, did not even nod. His amber eyes looked hardly human
in the dimness, and glowed with a reddish light behind them
--leonine, but curiously passionless. Swinging the lantern again,
he turned and led the way toward a projection outflung like a
buttress from the nearest wall.

There began then an ascent that almost conquered physical
endurance. Steps, whose treads, hewn from the rock, were
eighteen inches high, followed the outline of the ragged walls
and circled the whole huge cavern three times toward the opening
through which the light poured in. There were places, but not
many of them, where the way ran almost level along a ledge for
fifty feet or so, and thigh muscles had a chance to rest from the
agony of climbing. The only other resting places were the crowns
of smooth gigantic heads that gazed for ever into vastness.
There was no rail, no balustrade; the steps were nowhere more
than three feet wide, with nothing on their outer edge but
darkness and a terrifying certainty of what would happen if a
foot slipped or if vertigo prevailed. Diana, thrusting herself
between the wall and Ommony, pressed herself against him for the
sake of human company, adding to the terror of the long ascents
where no huge head projected to afford a sense of something solid
between the wall and the abyss.

The _sirdar_ seemed tireless. Ommony ached in every sinew of
his being. Blood sang in his ears and eyes. Thirst began to
torture him. A stitch like a knife-jab gnawed under his ribs.
Repeatedly he had to lie face-downward on a level place, pressing
both hands tightly on the stone while the whole cavern and all
the silent heads seemed to whirl and whirl around him. Then
Diana licked the back of his neck, and the _sirdar_ waited twenty
or thirty yards higher up, swinging the lantern as if its
constant rhythmic movement were in some way necessary. He never
spoke once, made no sound other than his footsteps and the clink
of spurs, all the way up; but now and then he stood on the crown
of a head overhanging the cavern and swung the lantern in wider
sweeps, as if he were signaling to some one.

The shaft of light faded and almost disappeared before they
reached the opening. Ommony was in no condition then to reckon
up the hours or to guess at the height he had climbed. Not more
than barely conscious, he collapsed on a smooth platform that
sloped dangerously outward, his fingers trying to grip the rock
and his feet continuing to climb. He felt the _sirdar_ (or
somebody) seize him by the armpits, heard Diana growl, and the
next he knew he was lying face-upward with cool water on his
lips, a cool breeze on his face, and a star-lit sky overhead. He
felt Diana nosing at his hair, and knew nothing after that for
several hours.

--------



In this sense we are our brothers' keepers: that if we injure
them we are responsible. Therefore, our duty is, so vigilantly
to control ourselves that we may injure none; and for this there
is no substitute; all other duties take a lower place and are
dependent on it.
--From the Book of the Sayings of Tsiang Samdup



Chapter XXVIII

The Lama's Home


When Ommony recovered consciousness it was some time before he
was sure he was not dreaming. There was no sense of stability.
The universe appeared to sway beneath him, and the sky, when he
opened his eyes at last, swung like a compass-card. He closed
his eyes, heard voices, and presently discovered he was in a
stretcher being borne on men's heads. When he opened his eyes
again the first thing he saw was Diana looking down at him from a
rock. She barked when he moved his hand.

It was a very rough stretcher made of poles and hide. His feet
were loosely tied to it and a rope was passed over his breast,
but he could get his hands under the rope, and its purpose was
explained when the stretcher became tilted at an acute angle and
he rode for a while with his feet pointed at the sky. On either
hand were sloping limestone cliffs and he was being carried up a
dry watercourse between them.

He felt no impulse to ask questions, but was curious about his
own condition. He recalled rather vividly a time, ten years ago,
when he was carried to an operating room. When the stretcher
returned to the horizontal and he cautiously tested each muscle,
he discovered that his leg-sinews were so stiff that he could
hardly bear to move them. Then he remembered; every step of the
climb up that titanic stairway came back to him like a nightmare.

He craned his neck looking for the _sirdar,_ but failed to
discover him. He could not see the stretcher-bearers, but
there were eight Ahbors walking behind, ready to relieve them
--hairy, savage-looking men, possessed of that air of deliberate
indifference that usually hides extreme fanaticism; their eyes
were large, like those of deer, and the hair came close up to
their cheek-bones. They all had weapons; two were armed with
bow and arrows; but no two weapons were alike, and no two were
dressed exactly alike.

Presently the path began to follow the edge of a cliff five or
six thousand feet above a river--undoubtedly from its size the
Brahmaputra--that galloped and plunged among rocks in the bed of
a valley on the left hand. Incredible, enormous mountains leaned
against the sky in every direction, suggesting barrenness and
storms, but the valley lay golden and green in the sunlight,
patched with the vivid green of corn-fields, dotted with grazing
cattle and with the dark-brown roofs of villages. It looked like
an exceedingly rich valley, and well populated.

After a mile or two of gorgeous vistas the track turned to the
right and passed between miles of tumbled ruins, whose limestone
blocks, weighing tons apiece, had turned to every imaginable hue
of green, gray, brown and yellow. Blue and red flowers were
growing in the crevices, and trees had forced themselves between
tremendous paving stones that now lay tilted with their edges to
the sky. Ommony untied the rope across his breast and sat up to
observe the ruins, laying both hands on his thighs to ease their
aching; and presently he gasped--forgot the agony.

The track passed between two monolithic columns more enormous
than the grandest ones at Thebes, and emerged on the rim of a
natural amphitheater, whose terraced sides descended for about
two thousand feet to where a torrent of green and white water
rushed from a cave mouth and plunged into a fissure in the
limestone opposite. The air was full of the noise of water and
the song of birds, intoxicating with the scent of flowers and
vivid with their color.

Every terrace was a wilderness of flowers and shade trees, strewn
with bowlders that broke up the regularity, and connected one
with another by paths and bridges of natural limestone where
streams gushed from the fern-draped rock and fell in cascades to
the torrent in the midst. There was an atmosphere of sunlit peace.

Above the topmost terrace, occupying about a third of the
circumference, were buildings in the Chinese style; the roofs
were carved with dragons and the rear walls appeared to be built
into the cliff, which rose for a thousand feet to a sheer wall of
crags, whose jagged edges pierced the sky.

There were no human beings in evidence, but smoke was rising from
several of the buildings, which all had an air of being lived in.
The track, which was paved now with limestone flags, led under an
arch in the midst of the largest building. The arch turned out
to be the opening of a tunnel, twenty feet high at lowest and as
many wide, that pierced the mountain for more than a hundred
yards, making two sharp turns where it crossed caverns and
followed natural fissures in the limestone before it emerged on
the edge of a sheer ravine, overlooking another valley that
appeared to approach the gorge of the Brahmaputra at an angle of
nearly forty-five.

Away in the distance, like a roaring curtain, emerald green and
diamond white, blown in the wind, the Tsangpo River, half a mile
wide, tumbled down a precipice between two outflung spurs that
looked like the legs of a seated giant. The falls were leagues
away, and yet their roar came downwind like the thunder of
creation. Below them, incalculably far below the summit, the
rising spray formed a dazzling rainbow; and where, below the
falls, the Tsang-po became the Brahmaputra, there were rock-staked rapids more than two miles wide that threw columns of
white water fifty feet in air, so that the rocks looked like
leviathans at war.

The path led up the side of the ravine, curved around a
projecting shoulder, and entered another tunnel, which emerged at
the end of fifty yards into a natural cavern. There the bearers
set the stretcher down and two of them offered to help Ommony up
a long flight of steps hewn from the limestone rock. However, he
managed to walk unaided and Diana followed him through a
great gap in the wall into what was evidently the basement
of a building.

There he was met by a brown-robed monk--not an Ahbor, a Tibetan
--who smiled but made no remark and led him up winding stairways
between thick masonry walls to a gallery that overhung the valley
from a height which made the senses reel. It was the upper of
two galleries that ran along the face of a building backed
against a cliff; doors and small windows opened all the way
along it, but the Tibetan led around the far corner, where the
wooden planking came to an end at a stone platform and there was
one solitary door admitting to a room about thirty feet by
twenty, that had a window facing the tremendous Tsango-po Falls.

It was in all respects a comfortable room, with a fireplace at
one end and a bright fire burning. On either side of the
fireplace there were shelves stacked with European books in
several languages. The stone floor was covered with a heavy
Chinese rug. There was no glass in the window, but there were
heavy shutters to exclude wind and rain, as well as silken
Chinese curtains.

The monk went away and returned presently with a pitcher of milk
and some peculiar cakes that tasted as if made from a mixture of
flour and nut-meat, raised with butter. He signed to Ommony to
eat and, when he had finished, took the pitcher and plate
away again.

Ommony warmed his legs at the fire, rubbed them to reduce the
stiffness, and chose a book at random--Kant's _Critique of Pure
Reason;_ it was well thumbed. He sat down in a chair before the
fire to read, regarding the book as no more incomprehensible than
his own predicament and likely to keep his mind off profitless
conjecture. He was too tired to think about his own problem--too
sore in every muscle to consider sleep. One fact was clear: he
had been admitted to the Ahbor Valley, and there must be some
reason for it. For the time being, that was enough--that, and
the comforting sense that all motion had ceased and he could sit
still within four walls that shut off the stunning hugeness of
the scenery. He had no geographical curiosity--was not qualified
in any event to make a map that would be of any real value, and
was not sure it would be courteous to try to do it. People who
don't invade other people's countries have a right to their own
privacy. Besides, he was quite sure he could never retrace the
way into the valley, and doubtful whether he could find a way out
of it, except down that thundering river. He was absolutely at
the Lama's mercy, and entirely sure the Lama was a man of superb
benevolence, if nothing else.

Finding he could not make head or tail of Kant in the original
German (he spent ten minutes trying to find the subject of one
verb) he laid the book down and began to wonder whether this was
the place in which his sister and Jack Terry had died. Time
vanished. Thought took him back to the days when he had sent for
his sister Elsa, then seventeen, to come to India and keep house
for him. He frowned, blaming himself for having been the cause
of all she suffered. They had had so much in common, and he had
understood so well her craving for knowledge that is not in any
of the textbooks, that he had tacitly encouraged her to make
acquaintances which his better judgment should have warned him to
keep out of her reach. He wondered just to what extent a man
is justified in guiding or obstructing a younger sister's
explorations into unknown realms of thought--knew that he himself
would resent any leading-rein--knew nevertheless, that he felt
guilty of having neglected to protect his sister until protection
and precaution were too late. He had done his best then, but--

"Dammit, are we or aren't we free agents?" he asked aloud,
staring at the fire; and then he heard Diana's tail beating the
Chinese rug. It sounded as if the dog were laughing at him!
He turned his head sharply--and saw the Lama standing in
the doorway.

"We are free--to _become_ agents of whatever power we wish," said
the Lama, smiling. "Don't get up, my son. I know how thighs
ache after a climb up the stairs of the Temple of Stars. The
_sirdar_ does not know the other entrance to the valley."

"Where is he?" asked Ommony, staring. He was not particularly
interested in the _sirdar._ A suggestion as to who and what the
Lama might be, had occurred to him suddenly. He was sparring for
time to follow up that thought.

"He returned," said the Lama, sitting on a chair before the fire,
betraying an inclination to tuck his legs up under him but
resisting it. "The Ahbors would have killed him if he passed
beyond the opening. They would have killed you--if it were not
for Diana the dog. My son, you wonder why I left you in
Darjiling? There were seven reasons; of which the first is that
I have no right to lead you out of your environment; and the
second, that you _have_ the right to make your own decision. The
third reason was that these Ahbors guard their valley very
strictly; it is their valley; they also have their rights. The
fourth reason was, that an excuse must be presented to the Ahbors
for admitting you. The fifth, that I alone could do that. The
sixth, that I must make the excuse in advance of your coming,
since they would not listen unless given time to consider the
matter. And the seventh reason was, that it was fitting you
should learn _why_ this has been kept from you for twenty years,
before you learn as much of the secret as I can show you.
Behind each of those seven reasons are seven more beyond your
comprehension. You spoke with Miss Sanburn?" Ommony nodded.
Suspicion was approaching certainty. He wondered that the
thought had not occurred to him long before.

"Where is the _chela_--Samding--Elsa Terry--my niece?" he asked.
There is no foretelling which emotion will come uppermost. He
felt a bit humiliated. It annoyed him to think he had lived for
two months in almost constant association with his sister's child
and had never guessed it; annoyed him more to think that the
Lama should not have trusted him from the beginning; most of all
that he had not guessed the Lama's identity. He felt almost sure
that he had guessed right at last. Nothing but a western dread
of seeming foolish restrained him from guessing aloud.

But the Lama read his thoughts, and answered the unspoken
question first in his own way, his bright old eyes twinkling amid
the wrinkles.

"Those who are trustworthy, my son, eventually prove it--always,
and it is only they to whom secrets should be told. It is not
enough that a man shall say, 'Lo, I am this, or I am that.' Nor
is it enough that other men shall say the same of him. Some men
are trustworthy in some respects, and not in others. He who
trusts, and is betrayed, is answerable to his own soul.--Do you
think it would have been _fair_ to trust you with the secret of
my _chela?_" he asked suddenly.

Ommony side-stepped the question by asking another: "Why do you
call her San-fun-ho?"

"It is her name. It was I who gave it to her. She accepted
it, when she was old enough to understand its meaning. Do
you know Chinese? The word means 'Possessor of the three
qualities,' but its inner meanings are many--righteousness,
virtuous action, purity, benevolence, moral conduct, ingenuousness,
knowledge, endurance, music--and all the qualities that lie
behind those terms."

"You think she has _all_ of them?" Ommony asked. His voice held
a hint of sarcasm. He intended that it should.

"My son, we all have them," said the Lama. "But she is the first
_ordinary_ mortal I have known, who could _express them._"

Ommony pricked his ears at the word "ordinary."

"You _know_--you have _seen_ the Masters?" he demanded.

The Lama blinked, but otherwise ignored the question, exactly as
every one Ommony had asked, who was likely to know, always had
avoided it. There is a legend about mysterious "Mahatmas,"*
whom all the East believes in, but whom none from the West has
ever met (and talked much about afterward).

-------
* The legend persists; mocked by the missionaries and denied by
governments, but believed, nevertheless, by multitudes of
ignorant people and by an increasing number of thoughtful
investigators. There is much vague rumor and some corroborated
detail, but whoever really knows the facts is silent.
-------

"No man ever had such a _chela,_" said the Lama, changing the
subject and betraying the first hint of personal emotion Ommony
had ever noticed in him.

"_Are you one of the Masters?_" Ommony demanded, sitting bolt
upright, studying the old man's face.

But the Lama laughed, his wrinkles dancing with amusement.

"My son, that is a childish question," he said after a moment.
"If a man were to tell you he is one of the Masters, he would be
a liar and a boaster; because it must be evident to any one who
thinks, that the more a man knows, the more surely he knows there
are greater ones than himself. He is a Master, whose teaching
you accept. But if he should tell you there is none superior to
himself, it would be wise to look for another Master!"

But Ommony felt more sure than ever. He knew that Pythagoras,
for instance, and Appolonius, and scores of others had gone to
India for their teaching. For twenty years he had kept ears
and eyes alert for a clue that might lead him to one of the
preservers of the ancient wisdom, who are said to mingle with the
crowd unrecognized and to choose to whom they will impart their
secrets. He had met self-styled Gurus by the dozen--a perfect
host of more or less obvious charlatans--some self-deceived
dabblers in the occult, whose motives might be more or less
respectable--but never a one, unless this man, whose speech and
conduct had appeared to him consistent with his idea of what a
real Mahatma might be.

"Hannah Sanburn told me," he said slowly, "that there are
individuals to whom you go for advice. Did she tell the truth?"

"She received that truth from my lips," said the Lama, nodding.

"Are _they_ the Masters?"

"The Masters are only discoverable to those, who in former lives
have earned the right to discover them," the Lama answered.
"There is a Higher Law that governs these things. It is the Law
of Evolution. We evolve from one state to another, life after
life, being born into such surroundings as provide us with the
proper opportunity. It was not by accident, my son, that
San-fun-ho was brought into the Ahbor Valley to be born."

"Do the Masters live here?"

"No," said the Lama, smiling again.

"Then what is the particular advantage of the Ahbor Valley?"

"My son, I do not rule the Universe! It was not my province to
arrange the stars! There is no place, no circumstance that does
not have particular advantages. The Ahbor Valley is more
suitable to some than to others, but I am not the one who
selects those who shall come here."

"Who does?"

"There is a law that governs it, just as there is a law that
rules the stars, and a law that obliges one to be born rich and
another poor. When did cause begin? And when shall effect
cease? Can you answer that?"

"At any rate, _you_ were the cause of _my_ coming here,"
said Ommony.

"Nay, my son! No more than I was the cause of your coming into
the world. If I should have caused you to come here, I should be
responsible for all the consequences; and I do not know what
those might be. I have _permitted_ you to come here. I have
removed some difficulties."

"Why?"

"Because I sought to remove other difficulties from the path of
some one else, and it seemed to me possible that you might be the
one who can assist. Remember: it was not I who caused you to
resign your position under the Indian Government; not I who
appointed you a Trustee at Tilgaun; nor I who invited you to
disguise yourself as a Bhat-Brahman. Have I ever given you
advice on any of those matters?"

"No," Ommony admitted. "But you have corresponded with me ever
since Marmaduke died, and if your letters weren't educative, what
were they?"

"Evocative!" the Lama answered. "Shall I show you the copies of
all the letters I have written to you? I believe you will not
find one word in them that might evoke from you anything except
your higher nature, nor one word that you could twist into
inducement to do this, or to do that. I have taught you nothing.
You have tried to understand my letters, and have found a guiding
force within yourself. I am not your guide."

"Well then--why the interest in me?" Ommony retorted.

"My son, you are immensely interesting. You were forced
on my attention. I have _my_ work to do, and I have nearly
finished it."

The old man paused, and suddenly he seemed so old and tired that
all his previous exertions--night-long rides on camel-back, two
months of journeying in the heat of the Indian plains, patient
control of a dramatic company, and (not least) the return across
the mountains to his home--appeared incredible. For a moment
sadness seemed to overwhelm him. Then he smiled, and as if his
will shone through the cloud and warmed the worn-out flesh, he
threw off fifty years.

"For what purpose are we in the world?" he asked. "The purpose
lies in front of each of us. It is never more than one step in
advance, and whither it leads, who knows? It is the best that we
can do at any moment that is required of us. A tree should grow.
Water should run. A shoemaker should make shoes. A musician
should make music. A teller of tales should tell them. Eyes are
to see with. Ears are for hearing. Each man's own environment
is his own universe, and he the master or the victim of it in
exactly the degree by which he governs or is governed by himself.
Could you have patience with me, if I should tell a little--just
a little of my own experience?"

"Good God!" said Ommony. "I'd rather hear it than find a
fortune! Ears are to hear with!" he added, grinning, settling
himself back into the chair to listen.

"Some men listen to the wrong sound," said the Lama. "It is good
to listen carefully, and to speak only after much thought. I
will not tell more than is required to make a certain matter
clear. Thereafter, you must use your own judgment, my son."

--------



I have conversed with many priests; and some were honest men,
and some were not, but three things none of them could answer:
if their God is all-wise, what does it matter if men are foolish?
And if they can imagine and define their God, must he not be
smaller than their own imaginations? Furthermore, if their God
is omnipotent, why does he need priests and ritual?
--From the Book of the Sayings of Tsiang Samdup



Chapter XXIX

The Lama's Story


"I am a Ringding, of the order of Gelong Lamas. That is neither
a high rank nor a low one; but high enough to provide the outer
forms of dignity, and low enough to avoid the snares of pride. I
have ever found contentment in the Middle Way. I was born in
Lhassa," Tsiang Samdup began, and then paused and got down on the
rug, where he could sit cross-legged and be comfortable. Diana
went and laid her great head on his knee.

"Just a minute," said Ommony. "How old are you?"

But Tsiang Samdup smiled. "My son," he answered, "we live as
long as we are useful, and as long as it is good for us to live.
Thereafter we die, which is another form of living, even as ice
and water and rain and dew are the same thing in different
aspects. When the appointed time comes, we return, as the rain
returns, to the earth it has left for a season. As I told you, I
was born in Lhassa." He rubbed the dog's head as if he were
erasing unnecessary details from the tablets of memory. Then he
laid a stick of pine-wood on the fire deliberately, and watched
it burn. It was several minutes before he spoke again.

"The Dalai Lama is a person who is mocked by western thinkers.
The few Europeans who have been to Lhassa have hastened to write
books about him, in which they declare he is the ignorant head of
a grossly superstitious religion. To which I have nothing to
say, except this: that it is evident the writers of those books
have been unable to expose the Dalai Lama's secrets. An army
which invaded Lhassa failed to expose them with its bayonets. I,
who took the highest possible degrees at Oxford and have lived in
Paris, in Vienna, and in Rome--so that I know at least something
of the western culture--regard the Dalai Lama with respect, which
is different, my son, from superstitious awe. The Tashi Lama,
who does not live in Lhassa, is as high above the Dalai Lama as a
principle is higher than a consequence.

"There was a Tashi Lama who selected me, for reasons of his
own, for certain duties. I was very young then--conscious of
the host of lower impulses and far from the self-knowledge that
discriminates between the higher and the lower. To me in those
days my desire was law, and I had not yet learned to desire
the Middle Way, which leads between the dangers of ambition
and inertia."

Tsiang Samdup paused again and stared out of the window at an
eagle which soared higher and higher on motionless wings,
adjusting its balance accurately to the flukes of wind.

"We learn by experience," he went on after a while. "Few of
us remember former lives and those who say they do are for
the most part liars, although there are some who are deceived by
imagination. But the experience of former lives is in our favor
--or against us, as the case may be. Its total is what some call
instinct, others intuition; but there is a right name for it,
and there are those whose past experience equips them with
ability to recognize that stage in others at which the higher
nature begins to overwhelm the lower. They are able to assist
the process. But such men are exceedingly rare, though there are
hosts of fools and rogues who pretend to the gift, which comes
not by desire but by experience endured in many lives.

"That Tashi Lama said to me: 'My son, it may amuse you to linger
for a few lives on the lower path; for you are strong, and the
senses riot in you; and it is not my duty to impose on you one
course of conduct, if you prefer another. It is very difficult
to rise against the will, but very easy if the will directs.'
And I, because I loved him, answered I would do his bidding. But
he said: 'Nay. Each man must, each minute, make his destiny.
It is your own will, not mine, that directs you. Shall I fight
your will, and force you to attempt the better way? Not so;
because in that case you would surely fall, for which I should be
responsible. But I perceive that the time has come when you may
choose, and that your will is strong enough to make the choice
and hold to it. You may be a benefactor or a beneficiary--a man,
aware of manhood, or a victim of the lower senses, bound to the
wheel of necessity. Which shall it be?'--And because he had
discerned, and had chosen the right moment, there was a surging
of the spirit in me, and as it were an awakening.

"I said to him: 'I have chosen.' And he asked me 'Which way?'
To which I answered at once: 'The higher.' Whereat he laughed;
for I do not doubt that he saw the pride and the ambition that
were cloaked within the answer.

"Thereafter he considered me for a long time before he spoke.
And when I had waited so long that I supposed he would say no
more at all, he said this: 'They who take the higher way in the
beginning are consumed with arrogance; they mortify the flesh
and magnify the will until there is no balance left; and when,
after their period of death, they are born again, it is into a
feeble body possessed by a demon will that tortures it; even as
they who choose the lower way are reborn into brutal bodies with
feeble wills.'

"Whereat I asked him: 'How then shall I choose between the
higher and the lower, since both are evil?' And he considered me
again, a long time.

"At last he said this: 'There is the Middle Way; but there are
few who find it, and yet fewer who persist in it, because pride
tempts one way and sloth the other.'

"And I said: 'I have chosen.' And he said: 'Speak.' And I
said: 'Let it be the Middle Way.' Whereat he did not laugh, but
considered me again for many minutes; and at the end of it, he
said: 'My son, you have much strength. If you persist and keep
the Middle Way, you have a destiny and you shall not die until
you have fulfilled it. But beware of pride; and above all, seek
no knowledge for your own sake.'

"At that time he said no more, but I became his _chela_. I
washed his feet, and I swept the floor of his chamber, which was
less than this one and less comfortably furnished. He taught me
many things, but mainly patience, of which I lacked more in those
days than a snake lacks legs. I supposed that before his time
should come to die he would prefer me to high office. But nay.
On a certain day he sent for me and said: 'I shall die on the
eleventh day from now, at noon. Tomorrow at dawn take the road
into India, and go to Delhi, to a certain house in a certain
street, and there learn the tongue of the English. Thence, I
having made provision for it, journey to England, to a University
called Oxford; and there learn all that the University can
teach--and particularly all they think they know about philosophy
and religion.'

"I said to him: 'Why?' And he said: 'I know not why; but I
tell you what I know it is good for you to do. There is a
destiny which, if you fail not, you shall fulfill. But beware of
the western knowledge, which is corrupt and strained through the
sieve of convenience. I do not know, but it may be that you must
learn the western teachings for another's sake. Who can teach a
horse unless he understands the way of horses? Who can make a
sword unless he understands the qualities of steel?'

"And I said to him, 'Shall I be a swordsmith?' But he answered:
'Nay. I said you have a destiny to fulfill.' So I asked,
'When?' But he said, 'I know not. However, I know this: if you
seek your own advancement, you will fail. And there is a certain
condition in you that will inevitably bring you to a death by
violence, because of lies that you yourself will tell; but
because of your strength that may not come to pass until your
work is finished.'

"So I said to him, 'How shall I know what my work is?' And he
answered, 'That will appear.' But I said, 'If you, my great and
very holy master, are to die, who then shall show me how to
fulfill this destiny?' And he answered: 'It is for you to
become fit to be the tool of destiny, and to hold yourself at all
times ready. There are those from whom, at the proper time, you
may receive the right advice.' So I asked: 'How shall I find
them?' And he answered: 'They will find you.'

"Thereafter I besought him earnestly that I might remain with him
in Lhassa until his death, because I was his _chela,_ and that is
no commonplace relationship. Its roots lie deeper than the
roots of trees. But he answered 'The first duty of a _chela_
is obedience.'"

Tsiang Samdup paused and stared through the open window at the
sky for several minutes. Eyes and sky were so exactly the same
color that it looked as if the substance of the sky had crept
within him and appeared through slits amid the walnut wrinkles of
his face.

"It was midwinter," he said after a while, "and no light task to
cross the passes. But the route the Tashi Lama gave me was this
way, through the Ahbor Valley, and I lay for a month in this
monastery, recovering from frost-bite and exhaustion. And as I
lay between life and death, one came to me who had a pilgrim's
staff, and no outward appearance of greatness, who considered me
in silence for a long while; but the silence appeared to me like
the voice of the universe, full of music, yet without sound. He
went away. But in three days' time, when I was already far
recovered (for I was ever strong), he returned and led me
to what I will show you tonight and tomorrow. And I saw myself
within myself."

He paused again, and again the far-away look in his eyes searched
the sky and seemed to blend with it:

"He carried me forth," he said presently, "I lying like a dead
man in his arms. His voice in my ear was as a mother's speaking
to a child. 'It is well,' said he. 'Now set forth on your
journey, and remember. For you know now what you have to
overcome, and also what is yours _wherewith_ to overcome.'

"So after certain days I set forth, and in due time I came to
Delhi, where I studied English. Thereafter I went to England."

The wrinkles moved in silent laughter, and the old eyes twinkled
reminiscently as they looked into Ommony's.

"My son, that was no light experience! It was warfare, and
myself the battle-field. Warfare, and loneliness. Curiosity,
contempt,--courtesy, discourtesy, indifference--all these were
shown toward me. And there were very generous men at Oxford,
whose pride was racial, not intellectual, who were as patient in
the teaching as the sun is patient to the growing grass--most
worthy and laughter-loving men, mistaken in much, but as sure of
the reward of generosity as there is surely good will in their
hearts. They did not know I was Tibetan; they believed I was
Chinese, because I speak and write that language, and none knew
anything about Tibet.

"I came to understand that the cycles of evolution are moving
westward, and that the West is arrogant with the strength it
feels within itself. I saw, my son, that the West is deceived by
the glitter of results, knowing nothing of causes, and that the
East is in turn deceived by the wealth and ostentation of the
West--for this is Kali Yuga,* when delusion and a blindness
overspreads the world. I knew--for none had better right to
know--that strength can be guided into the grooves of destiny,
and that knowledge is the key. But I perceived that great harm
can be done by interference. There is danger in another's duty.
Also I saw that my voice, however reasonably raised, could
accomplish nothing, because of the racial prejudice. The West
is curious about the East, but proud--contemptuous--and most
cruel when it most believes it is benevolent. The West sends
missionaries to the East, who teach the very culture that is
poisoning the lifesprings of the West itself. The strength of
the West and its generous impulse must be guided. Its rapacity
must be restrained. But it was clear to me that I could not
accomplish that, since none would listen to me. The few who
pretended to listen merely sought to use my teaching for their
own enrichment and advantage."

-------
* The age of darkness
------

"I met a certain one in London. He appeared to be English, but
that meant nothing. He had the Ancient Wisdom in his eyes. I
had taken my degrees at Oxford then, and I was sitting in the
Stranger's Gallery of the House of Parliament. I remember I
grieved; for I saw how eager those debaters were to rule the
whole world wisely--yet how ignorant they were of the very
rudiments of what could possibly enable them to do it. I said to
him who was in the corner next to me: 'These men boast of what
is right, and they believe their words; but they do not know
what is right. Who shall save them?' And he answered, after he
had considered me a while in silence 'If _you_ know what is
right, you will attend to your own duty.'

"So I went and lived in Paris for a while, and in Vienna and in
Rome, because it was my duty to learn how the West thinks, and in
what way it is self-deceived. And thereafter I returned to
Tibet, wondering. It did not seem to me that I was one step
forward on the path of destiny. I could see (for I had walked
the length of India with pilgrim's staff and begging bowl) that
the West was devouring the East and the East was inert in the
grip of superstition, inclined, if it should move at all, to
imitate the West and to corrupt the Western energy by specious
flattery, hating its conquerors, yet copying those very methods
that made conquest possible.

"An unfathomable sadness overwhelmed me. It appeared to me that
all my knowledge was as nothing. I doubted the stars in the sky;
I said 'These, too, are a delusion of the senses. Who shall
prove to me that I am not deceived in all things?'"

Tsiang Samdup paused and thought a while, stroking Diana's head.

"My son," he said presently, "it was as if the knowledge that was
born within me, and all the false western doctrine I had studied,
were as waters meeting in the basin of my mind, and in the
whirlpool my faith was drowning. It is ever so when truth meets
untruth, but I did not know that then.

"I went to the Tashi Lama--the successor of my teacher. He was
but a child, and I was ashamed to lay my heart before him, though
I laid my forehead on the mat before his throne, for the sake of
the traditions and my master's memory. And to me, as I left the
throne-room sadly, one of the regents, drawing me aside said: 'I
have heard a destiny awaits you.' I asked: 'From whom have you
heard that?' But he did not say. To him I laid bare the
affliction that was eating out my heart; and to me he said:
'Good. This is a time of conquest of self by the Self; I
foresee that the higher will win.' Thereafter he spoke of the
folly of stirring molten metal with a wooden spoon. He bade me
let my thoughts alone. And because he saw in me a pride of
knowledge that was at the root of my affliction, he appointed me
a temple neophyte. He who was set over me had orders to impose
severe tasks. I hewed wood. I carried water. I laid heavy
masonry, toiling from sunrise until dark. I labored in the
monastery kitchen. I dug gold on the plateau, where for
nine months of every year the earth is frozen so hard that
a strong man can with difficulty dig two baskets-full. By day
I toiled. By night I dreamed dreams--grand dreams full of quiet
understanding--so that to me it seemed that the night was life,
and the day death. I was well contented to remain there in the
gold-fields, because it seemed to me I had found my destiny; the
miners were well pleased to listen to me in the intervals when we
leaned on the tools and rested, and when the blizzards blew and
we were herded very close together for the warmth, with the
animals between us in the tents.

"But when the Tashi Lama, who succeeded him whose _chela_ I had
been, came to man's estate he sent for me. And after he had
talked with me a while on many matters he promoted me. I became
a Lama of the lowest rank, and yet without the ordinary duties of
a Lama. I had time to study and arrange the ancient books; of
which, my son, there are more than the West imagines; they are
older than the West believes the world to be, and they are
written in a language that extremely few can read. But I can
read them. And I learned that my dreams were realities--although
the dreams ceased in those days.

"Once, that one who had come to me when I lay sick in this place
on my journey southward, came to me in Lhassa, where I was
pondering the ancient books and rearranging them. And to him I
said, 'Lo, I have met my destiny! I see that it is possible to
translate some of these into the western tongues.' But he
answered: 'Who would believe? For this is Kali Yuga. Men think
that nothing is true unless they can turn it into money and
devour what they can purchase with it. If you give too much food
to a starving horse, will he thrive? Or will he gorge himself
to death?'

"Said I; 'Light travels fast.' Said he; 'It does. But it
requires a hundred million years for the light of certain stars
to reach the earth. And how long does it take for the formation
of coal, that men burn in a minute? Make no haste, or they will
burn thee! They have Plato and Pythagoras and Appolonius--Jesus,
the Buddha, Mohammed--and others. Would you give them a new
creed to go to war about, or a new curiosity to buy and sell for
their museums? Which?'

"Thereafter the Tashi Lama sent for me, and I was given no more
time to study the ancient books. But I was promoted to the rank
of Gelong, and became a Ringding, whose duty was to teach the
people as much as they could understand. I discovered it was not
much that they could understand. They knew the meaning of
desire, and of the bellyache that comes from too much eating. I
found that if one man learns more than another, he is soon so
filled with pride that he had better have been left in ignorance;
and I also found that men will accept any doctrine that flatters
their desires or excuses ignorance, but that they seek to vilify
and kill whoever teaches them to discipline the senses in order
that their higher nature may appear and make them wise. There is
no difference in that respect, although men are fond of saying
that the West is quite unlike the East. East or West they will
murder any one who teaches them to think except in terms of the
lower self.

"There was an outcry against me in Lhassa, and there were many
Lamas who declared I should be put on trial for heresy. I was
stoned in the streets; and the great dogs that devour the dead
were incited to attack me. So I said: 'Lo, it may be then I
have fulfilled my destiny. For he who was my teacher prophesied
that there is that in me which must inevitably bring me to a
violent end. Nevertheless, I have told no lies yet, that
I know of!'

"But the Dalai Lama sent men--they were soldiers--who, under
pretense of throwing me in prison, hid me in a certain place.
And escaping thence by night, with one to guide me, I went on a
journey of many days, to a village where none knew me, where I
dwelt safely; so that I thought that my teacher had prophesied
falsely, and for a while again I doubted.

"But there came to me that same one who had come when I lay sick
in this place on my journey southward, and he said to me; 'Have
you learned yet that the stars and the seasons keep their course
and the appointed times, and that no seed grows until the earth
is ready?' And I said: 'How shall I know when it is ready? And
who shall tell me the appointed time?' For I was full of a great
yearning to be useful. But he answered: 'Who rules the stars?
Until you can control yourself, how shall you serve others?' But
I was burning with desire to serve, and moreover indignant at
persecution, for in those days I had very little wisdom. I was a
fool who puts his face into a hornets' nest to tell the hornets
of the Higher Law. And I said to him: 'I am beginning to doubt
all things.' 'Nay,' said he, 'for you began that once before,
and made an end of it. You are beginning now to doubt your own
impetuosity, and that is good, for you will learn that power lies
in patience. He who will play in the symphony awaits the exact
moment before he strikes his note. You forget that the world
existed many million years, and that you lived many scores of
lives, before you came to this pass. Will you sow seed in
midwinter because it wearies you to wait until the spring?'

"And when he had considered me again for a long while, he went
away, saying that he would doubtless speak with me again, should
the necessity arise. And before many days there came a message
from Lhassa, saying that one was dead who had charge of this
monastery in the Ahbor Valley, and that the Dalai Lama had
appointed me to take his place.

"So hither I came, and was at peace. And many years, my son, I
lived here studying the ancient mysteries, considering the stars,
and not seldom wondering what service to the world my destiny
might hold in store. I made ready. I held myself ready."

---------



And I have asked this of the priests, but though they answered
with a multitude of words, their words were emptiness: If it is
true that a priest can pacify and coax God, or by meditation can
relieve another from the consequences of his own sin, why should
any one be troubled and why do the priests not put an end for
ever to all sin and suffering? If they can, and do not, they are
criminals. If they can not, but pretend that they can, they are
liars. Nevertheless, there is a middle judgment, and it seems to
me that SOME of them may be mistaken.
--From the Book of the Sayings of Tsiang Samdup



Chapter XXX

The Lama's Story (continued)


A monk brought food and set it on a stool between Tsiang Samdup
and Ommony. They ate in silence--the monk watching--the Lama
tossing scraps to Diana, his wrinkles rippling into a smile each
time she caught a piece of meat in mid-air. Then, when the monk
went away with the remnants, he resumed his story abruptly,
before Ommony could start to question him.

"My son, since the beginning of the world--and your brain can not
imagine how long ago that was--there has never been one minute
when the knowledge that was in the beginning has been utterly
forgotten. There have always been men who possessed and guarded
the secrets; and there always will be such men. There is not a
religion in the world that is not based on the tradition that
such secrets do exist; there is not a philosophy that is not
founded on the ancient mysteries; there is not a modern science,
however perverted and material, that is not an effort to discover
and to put to use some aspect of the ancient knowledge and the
Higher Law.

"There is a Law of Evolution. Scientists have touched the fringe
of it, and what do they tell you in consequence? That man has
evolved from the worms! There is a Law of Cause and Effect, of
which one infinitely tiny fraction has been dimly sensed. To
what use do they put it? They brew poison gas, with which to
murder one another! There is a Law of Cycles, as the astronomers
can tell you, and as financiers begin vaguely to understand. But
those who think they understand it use the secret to enrich
themselves--by each enrichment of themselves afflicting others.
Men dig in the ruins of Egypt and Babylon, but buy and sell the
trophies and draw the absurd deduction that they know more than
all the ancients did--even as worms digging in a carcass may
imagine themselves superior to the life that once used that body
for a while.

"Do you begin to see, my son, why it would be unwise to reveal
the ancient wisdom by more than infinitesimal fragments at a
times? I heard, when I was in Delhi, that the men of the West
are studying the construction of the atom, and have guessed at
the force imprisoned in it. Wait until they have learned how to
explode the atom, and then see what they will do to one another.

"But you will notice this, as you grow wiser. There is a
fitness in things. There is a balance in the universe and an
intelligence that governs it. No man can escape the consequences
of his own act, though it take him a million lives to redress the
balance. Justice is inevitable. Evil produces evil, and is due
to ignorance. But Justice being infinite in all its ways, there
is a Middle Way by which we may escape from ignorance. I, who
saw the world increasing its downward impetus, while it believes
itself to be progressing upward through the invention of new
means for exploiting selfishness; I, who saw the ruins of Egypt,
and of Babylon; of Rome and Greece; of Jerusalem; of Ceylon;
of India; I, who have lived for fifty years within a stone's
throw of a city ten times older than Babylon; I knew that day
follows night, and I waited for the dawn, not knowing the hour.
I waited.

"I knew there are those who have won merit in their former lives,
whose time comes to be born again. I knew that the key to
evolution is in character, not in numbers or material increase
--in the character of the soul, my son! I knew that at the
right time those would begin to be born, whose character would
influence the world as mine could not. And I waited, studying
the Jade of Ahbor.

"For the Jade, my son, was set here in the dawn of time by men
who understood how to make a mirror for the soul, even as men
nowadays make mirrors that reflect stars which no eye can detect.
You laugh? That is not wise! Men laughed, remember, at Galileo.
They laughed at Newton. I had not thought you were one who mocks
what is contrary to common superstition."

"My father," said Ommony, "you are confirming rumors I have heard
on and off for twenty years. I was laughing at the men who told
me I was a fool to pay any attention to such madness."

"Nor was that wise!" the Lama answered. "It is foolish either to
laugh or to grieve over other men's ignorance; the hidden motive
of that laughter or grief is pride, which blinds the faculties."
He looked at Ommony a very long time in silence, studying him.

"It is also unwise to speak of truths to men who prefer untruths,"
he said at last. "They proceed to indiscretions, for which
the speaker is in part responsible. But I think, my son,
you see the error of that way. The Jade of Ahbor is a mirror of
the human soul. Whoever looks in it beholds his lower nature
first; and there are few who can look long enough to see the
first gleam of their higher nature shining through the horrors
that the Jade reveals. When I first looked into the Jade, he who
led me to behold it carried me forth like a dead man. And I had
been the _chela_ of the Tashi Lama! I will lead you to the Jade;
but will you dare to look?"

He paused, his bright old eyes observing Ommony's with that
disturbing stare with which an artist studies the face of one
whose portrait he is painting.

"There was a time," he went on, "when those who professed to be
teachers were stood before the Jade of Ahbor, that their own
characters might be revealed to them. Those who could endure the
test (and they were few) might teach; and those who failed,
might not. For it is character that must be taught; all else
depends on it. That time will come again, but not yet. Today,
if men knew of the Jade of Ahbor they would seize upon it. They
would test their rulers by it, as they try their criminals. They
would overthrow whoever failed the test and all would fail.
Thereafter intellectual men would seize power, who would destroy
the stone, asserting its magic property was superstition, and
_that_ one fragment of the ancient knowledge would be lost.

"And now," he paused again, "I read temptation in your mind. You
think that I, who have enabled you to reach this valley, will
enable you to leave it; and that is true, you shall return to
India unharmed. But you think that you, and certain other men,
might use that stone discreetly. Imagination tells you that to
return to the Ahbor Valley; that to occupy it by force or
trickery, and so to obtain access to the stone would be a good
thing, which should benefit the human race. Nay, my son, waste
no words on denial, for I saw the thought!

"Therefore, I tell you this: the ancient wisdom is more wise
than your imagination. They who know cause and effect can
foretell consequences. Lest the evils should befall, that must
inevitably follow if such an instrument were placed too soon into
men's hands, the means to hide the stone, if necessary for
another million years, has been placed in the hands of those who
guard it. My son, men fight to the death over the Golden Rule.
What would they not do with the Jade of Ahbor?

"You have heard that the Tsang-po River holds more water than the
Brahmaputra, which is the same river lower down? Part of the
Tsang-po pours into caverns, which have an outlet below Bengal to
the sea. One man (and there are more than one who know the
secret) can in one moment admit a mighty river into caverns that
are now dry. Then not an army of engineers could find the Jade
of Ahbor in a thousand years.--But," he spoke very slowly, "he
who had deliberately made that act necessary--having been warned,
as _you_ are warned--would be responsible. You can not foresee
the consequences, but it may be that in a million lives you can
not outlive them, because all the harm that, through you, befalls
others must inevitably return to you for readjustment. It is
well not to deceive yourself that this life is the last."

Ommony had sat still, lest interruption break the thread of the
Lama's story. But it appeared to be broken. His own personal
relation to it stirred impatience.

"How, where, when did my sister and Jack Terry die?" he asked.

"Bear with me, my son. I have a great deal to tell, and not much
time in which to tell it. My hour comes soon. There is a death
awaiting me, and I am nearly ready."

The Lama closed his eyes, his right hand patting Diana's head, as
if he were eliminating detail and remembering the thread.

"I studied the Jade of Ahbor," he resumed after a long while.
"Which is the same as to say that I studied my own failings and
my own strength, using the one with which to conquer the other,
so that light might flow into my mind. And many times that one
came to me, of whom I spoke before--he who first led me to the
Jade. Many times I journeyed into India. Many men I spoke with.
And there came Marmaduke the American to Darjiling, much wrought
up about the future of the world and very angry with the
Christian missionaries. And as you know, he founded the
Marmaduke Mission at Tilgaun and endowed it. He wished me to be
a trustee, but I refused, until that one came to me, of whom I
spoke before, and said it was not good to refuse the work that
destiny had given me to do. Then I accepted, although it did not
appear to me then that my act was wise.

"And you and Hannah Sanburn became the other trustees. And you
and I corresponded, from which it became clear to me that you are
a determined man, of good faith, having courage, but possessed by
indignation against those whose vision of right and wrong is
shorter than your own. And in indignation there is not much
wisdom; so I avoided meeting you.

"And then came Doctor Terry and your sister to this valley
--children!--hand in hand--as innocent as lambs--as brave and
simple as two humming-birds--in search of me, because, forsooth,
they had been told I knew the secret of the Jade of Ahbor.
She far-gone with child; he dying of wounds; the Ahbors
hunting them--for the Ahbors guard this valley as cobras guard
ancient ruins."

"How did they get into the valley?" asked Ommony.

"None knows. Not even I, nor the Ahbors. They suffered; they
had no memory, except of caverns and of being washed along an
ancient conduit underground. I heard of them, because the Ahbors
asked me whether it were best to crucify them living or to cut
them up and throw them into the Brahmaputra. The Ahbors said
they seemed such unoffending people that it might be the gods
would be angry if they should put them to further pain. They
also said there was a baby to be born, and it is against the
Ahbors' law to slay the mother until one month after child-birth;
nevertheless, it is also against their law to admit strangers and
to let them live.

"Therefore I lied to the Ahbors, inventing an ancient prophecy
that a saint was to be born of strangers in this valley. Thus I
rescued those two innocents, there being--as that Tashi Lama,
whose _chela_ I was, said--a condition in me, due to faults in
former lives, that, though I may fulfill a useful destiny, I must
come to a violent death through lies of my own telling.

"I lied to the Ahbors, and I had to keep on lying to them. But
he who lies does well, my son, who gladly eats the consequences
when he may, and ends them. Better a little self-surrender now
than unknown consequences in the lives to come! I am answerable
to the Ahbors. I would rather receive their judgment than that
of the Unseen! It pays not to postpone the reckoning.

"The baby was born here, in this room, and those two children who
were its parents died, though I did what might be done for them.
I eased their death as well as I was able, giving them comfort in
the knowledge that there are many lives to come, in which there
is recompense for every thought and deed, as also opportunity to
undo all the evil of the past. They died in peace, and I buried
their bodies yonder; you can see the grave below this window
--that mass of rocks, over which the purple flowers trail.

"Before she died, that child who was your sister gave her baby
into my hands. It was her last effort. She _gave_ the baby to
me, not at my request. In the clarity of vision and the peace
that precedes death, she _gave_ her baby into my hands, smiling,
saying: 'I see that this is as it should be. It could not have
been otherwise.'"

For five minutes the Lama was silent, remembering, his sky-blue
eyes on vacancy, his wrinkles motionless. "And so I understood
my destiny," he went on presently. "I understood that in my
hands lay one who was greater than myself--whom I might serve,
that she might serve the world, as I can not by reason of my
limitations. That little spark of life, if I should do my duty,
should be fanned into a flame, whose light should blaze across
the world, and bless, and brighten it.

"And I have served, my son. I know of no regrets. Day in, day
out, for more than twenty years I have fanned that flame, and
nursed and fed it, letting no consideration hinder, omitting no
experience that might serve, sparing her no duty, killing out my
own pride, and my own weakness, lest it rob her of one element of
virtue, inflicting no punishment (for who am I that I should dare
to punish?), omitting no reproof (for who am I that I should dare
to let the child deceive herself?)

"I obtained a wet-nurse, who was doubtless born into this valley
to that very end, the wife of an Ahbor chieftain, whose recent
ancestors were healthy, whose mind was modest, unassuming, calm.
I made that wet-nurse stand before the Jade of Ahbor, before I
trusted the flow from her breasts.

"And I received advice, as he whose _chela_ I had been prophesied.
He, who had come to me in this place and in Lhassa, came again.
From him I learned that Hannah Sanburn might be trusted, and
that if I should see fit to trust her no harm would come of it.
I think she has told you, my son, what share she had in mothering
the child."

Ommony nodded. "Hannah is a noble woman," he said gruffly. "I
imagine she sacrificed more than--"

But the Lama interrupted with a gesture of his hand. "My son,
there is no such thing as sacrifice, except in the imagination.
There is opportunity to serve, and he who overlooks it robs
himself. Would you call the sun's light sacrifice? But you are
right when you say Hannah Sanburn is a noble woman. Her nobility
is part of her. It works. It overcomes the fear of what the
world might say. It conquers pride. It leaves adjustment of all
consequences to the Higher Law. It keeps faith. It knows no
malice. It is brave. My burden, when I took that child to
Tilgaun, was all that I could bear, because I loved her and I
feared for her: but Hannah Sanburn's was no less--no atom less
--when she returned the child to me.

"My hardest task has been to provide children of her own age,
with whom she might play and be happy without besmirchment from
their ignorance. For, though she is able now to stand alone, and
to burn up trash in the pure flame of her own character, she was
then only a little, very clear flame, needing care--my son, I
wonder if you guess how much care she has needed. The Tibetan
children would have dimmed her light. They might have smothered
it; because the lower yearns toward the higher. And though
yeast is plunged into the dough and leavens it, the yeast is
spent. It is not good to clean corruption with a golden broom,
nor is it wise to take sap from the growing tree.

"But I have agents--agents here and there. We, who pursue the
Middle Way, are not without resources. There was Benjamin, who
is a man of very faithful pertinacity in some respects; and
there are certain others, whom I employed. It is easy to find
children who need saving from the rapacity of the world's
convenience; but it is very difficult to make selection--much
more difficult when agents do the choosing--and impossible, my
son, to find such another child as San-fun-ho, because there is
none like her in the world. I tell you, great ones are not born
many at a time.

"I obtained children. I obtained many children, hoping that
among the many one or two might excel, as indeed it happened.
The others are incapable in this life of much advancement,
because of karma and the circumstances into which they had been
born. It is very difficult to help some individuals, because
those who are born into an heredity are so born in order that
they may make that experience, and battle with it, and acquire
strength for the lives to come. But they have served; they have
done royal service. For, as I have educated my _chela,_ in turn
she has educated them, learning through them how to practice the
wisdom, which is nothing unless put to use. And, lest they lose
one rightful opportunity, I found Tibetan girls for them to
teach. You have seen for yourself that those children have grown
into women, who are not without nobility. Some may make good
teachers at Tilgaun."

"How many laws did you break in obtaining those children!" asked
Ommony, smiling. He felt less critical than curious to know how
the Lama would defend himself.

"Many, perhaps. I do not know, my son. There is that which,
because of errors in past lives, makes it impossible for me to do
good without inflicting evil on myself. But it is better to do
good than to fear evil. It is he who breaks the laws who must
accept the consequences. It appears to me that I have injured
none except myself and, although I must meet in lives to come the
consequence of having broken even human laws, I do not doubt that
the service I have rendered will provide me strength with which
to meet and overcome the _karma._ We can not do all the self
-cleansing in _one_ life. It is enough that we do what we can,
and serve others."

"I am sorry I spoke. I beg your pardon."

The Lama looked keenly at Ommony. "My son, it is not within your
power to offend me, even if you had the wish to give offense,
which I perceive is not so. I would not impose on you an account
of my fumblings with duty, if it were not that you are entitled
to sufficient facts on which to base your judgment of what your
duty may be. I endeavor to be brief.

"Life--right living is Art, my son, not artifice, and not an
accumulation of possessions, or of power, but a giving forth of
inner qualities. San-fun-ho has had encouragement to exercise
herself in all the arts; she will not be deceived by the many
who will deny the merit of her art--no more than the lamp's flame
is deceived by darkness.

"Above all, drama! Drama is the way to teach. All life is
drama; and by allegories, parables and illustrations men
learn easily what no amount of argument will drive into their
understanding. Because of sympathy, compassion and a knowledge
of what difficulties and what ignorance the greatest and the
least most face, my _chela_ can play all parts. She understands.
She knows the difference between the higher and the lower, and is
not to be deceived by noise, or fear, or any man's opinion.

"Nor can her head be turned by flattery; for I have let men
tempt her in the subtlest ways, they not knowing that they
tempted. The superstitious worship those whose art excels their
own--until the time comes when they meditate murder, and slander,
(which is more cruel than murder) because they grow weary of
emulation. And worship is the most poisonous of all corruption,
to him who is the object of it. When an Ahbor, who was bribed by
some ambitious men, broke away and stole a fragment of the Jade
of Ahbor, and I learned that there were plans on foot to seduce
men into all kinds of superstition with its aid, I seized
that opportunity.

"I let word go forth through secret channels into India that she
who is the rightful priestess of the Jade will come and find it.
For there was never a doubt about that, my son. I knew I could
trace the fragment and lay my hand on it. I seized that
opportunity. I led my _chela,_ clothed as a boy, for she can
play all parts, on a journey into India, as you know. And, my
son, I have made many errors in my day; I am but an old man
seeking, through the cloud of ignorance, to do my duty, knowing
what the duty is, but often misled by my own unwisdom. There
were times, while my _chela_ was growing, when I dreamed of
triumphs for her among India's millions. In those deluded moods
it had appeared to me--although none had better right than I to
know the contrary--that if she should seize on the imagination of
the East, which might very easily be done, the East would rise
out of its ignorance and teach the West. I did not see, in those
deluded hours, that the East would become filled with a self
-righteousness that would be even worse, if that were possible,
than what consumes the West and, seeking to throw off its
conquerors, would plunge the whole world into war. You have
heard of Gandhi? That is a man of singleness and merit, seeking,
as it were, to hasten the precession of the equinox.

"Even as Gandhi has made mistakes, I made them, though with less
excuse. During the lonely months when San-fun-ho was with Hannah
Sanburn at Tilgaun I used to journey into India with staff and
begging-bowl, making my preparations for the day when San-fun-ho
should teach an awakening multitude. Unwise--and the unwisdom
multiplied by zeal! I raised too many expectations.

"He, who had come to me before, came once again rebuking me. I
told him of this and that which I had done, expecting praise. He
said to me: 'Blood will flow. It will be you to whom the dead
may look for recompense. How soon can you repay them all?' And
I said: 'But I have promised. If I fail, will they not look to
me for the fulfilment?' But _he_ said: 'Which is better? To
fail to do evil, and to eat the fruit of disappointment; or to
do great evil, and to interfere with destiny, and then to eat the
fruit of that? I tell you, San-fun-ho will light a flame too
fierce for India; but in the West she may do some good; and the
East may imitate the West, but the West will not imitate the East
for many a year to come, being too proud and too full of energy.'

"And then I asked him: 'Who shall shield her in the West? Lo, I
have made these friends for her in India, that she may have a
foundation to begin with when the time comes.' To which he
answered: 'Is a dollar without friends? And is she less than a
dollar? Moreover, there will come to you a man of her own race,
who can serve her better than you when his turn comes. He will
know less, but he will have the qualities she needs. Be on the
watch for him, and when you think you have found him, put him to
many tests.'

"So, as I told you, I took my _chela_ into India, recovering the
piece of jade, and making use of my mistakes for the testing of
San-fun-ho, since even a man's mistakes are useful, if he has the
will to conquer false pride. And you have seen, my son, that my
_chela's_ head was not turned, even though we traveled with great
evidence of secret influence, which is a very subtle agent of
corruption. You have seen how women broke the rules of caste to
approach her; how men of high position trembled in her presence;
how the crowd shouted to see more of her; how her voice stilled
anger and turned violence into peace. Yet she was always my
patient and obedient _chela,_ was she not? And you shall see--at
dawn tomorrow you shall see whether all that glamour of success
has or has not dimmed her character by as much as the mist of a
man's breath on a mirror."

The Lama looked at Ommony for a long time, repeatedly almost
closing his eyes and then opening them suddenly, as if to catch
some fleeting expression unawares.

"And when you came, my son, hiding in Chutter Chand's shop. When
I knew the piece of the jade had reached your hands. When
Benjamin sent word that you were spying on me. Then, it seemed
to me that in spite of many faults you might be the man whom I
must test. I have tested you in more ways than you guess, and I
have seen all your faults, not least of which is a certain pride
of righteousness. But San-fun-ho knows how to deal with that.
Now think. Answer without self-seeking and without fear, truly.
For I offer you my place, as San-fun-ho's protector and servant,
to guard her that she may serve the world. My time has come
to die."

-------



A man is what he is. He starts from where he is. He may
progress, or he may retrogress. All effort in his own behalf is
dead weight in the scale against him. All effort in behalf of
others is a profit to himself; notwithstanding which, unless he
first improve himself he can do nothing except harm to others.
There is no power in the universe, nor any form of intercession
that can separate a cause from its effect, action from reaction,
or a man from retribution for his deeds.
--From the Book of the Sayings of Tsiang Samdup



Chapter XXXI

The Jade of Ahbor


Ommony sat still. Diana growled and chased some creature of
imagination in her dreams. The Lama threw wood on the fire, and
watched it as if he were much more interested in the outcome of
that than in what answer Ommony might make.

"What makes you think I could do it?" Ommony asked, half stunned
by the suggestion, vaguely and uncomfortably conscious that he
was being invited to make himself the butt of half a world's
ridicule, if of nothing worse.

"A flea--a mouse--a drop of water--a piece of wood--can do its
duty," said the Lama. "Is a man less!"

"I will do mine," said Ommony, "if I can see it. But good God,
man--how can I take _your_ place?"

"She--and they--can go to India very easily, my son, without you.
They are all provided for. They will never lack for money. It
may be you are not the right man to be my _chela's_ friend and in
that case it is better for you, and for her, and for the world
that you accept no burden you can not bear.

"Do not deceive yourself, my son. There will be no personal
ease, no basking in the stupifying rays of flattery. You will be
accused of all the evil motives that lurk in the minds of your
accusers. Lecherous men will accuse you of lying when you say
she is your niece; and you can not prove the relationship.
Thieves will accuse you of theft. Ambitious men will denounce
your ambition. Traitors will accuse you of treachery toward the
human race. Bigots will charge you with unpatriotic scheming.
Men of outwardly unblemished aspect, but whose secret thoughts
are viler than the froth of cesspools, will accuse you of
secretly immoral practices. They will leave you not a shred of
reputation. They will try to impoverish you; they will try to
prove you insane; they will try to put you in prison."

"Very well," said Ommony. "I will do my best." He nodded,
thrusting his stubborn jaw forward. The Lama could have said
nothing better calculated to persuade him.

"And you will find," the Lama went on, nodding back at him, "here
and there are men and women, who will accept what San-fun-ho can
teach. Some of those will be traitors, who will try to learn in
order that they may set up themselves as teachers and accumulate
money and fame. Those will be your most dangerous enemies. But
some will be honest and steadfast, and they will encourage
others; for the West is moving forward on a cycle of evolution;
and moreover, it is growing very weary of its own creeds and
politics and competition. It begins to be ready at last to put
the horse before the cart, instead of the cart before the horse
as hitherto. There is a great change coming--although this is
Kali Yuga, and it is not wisdom to expect too much. The harvest
takes care of itself--none knows how many generations hence.
This is a time for the sowing of the seeds of thought on which a
whole world's destiny depends. I have sown my handful. I can
sow no more."

"What makes you so sure you are going to die?" asked Ommony.

"The Ahbors, my son, will attend to it, for I have broken their
law. I made them promises which I intend to break; I knew that
I must, when I made the promises. There is that in me that
blinded me to any other way out of the difficulty, and although I
did my duty, that does not preserve me from the effects of wrong
-doing. The Ahbors have their rights. This is their country.
They protect this monastery and its secrets. They have protected
me. Of my own free will I have availed myself of their protection
and their law against admitting strangers. Do you remember
Socrates, who broke the law of the Athenians, although he did
his duty? He might have escaped after they condemned him,
but he refused, although his friends insisted. And Socrates did
well, my son; he had no right to avoid the consequences of his
own acts; it was enough that he had told the Athenians some
great truths, for he knew those truths, and it was the proper
time to tell; if the Athenians had a law against telling the
truth, that was their affair, not his. Socrates drank his
poison, which was a simple little matter, and soon over with.
Does it appear to you that the Athenians have even yet finished
suffering from the injustice they inflicted?"

"But the Athenians could think. These Ahbors are mere savages,"
said Ommony.

"The Ahbors have their rights," the Lama answered. "They work
out their own destiny. I work out mine. If I had been a wiser
man, less blinded by my lower nature, I could have found a better
way to save my _chela_ than by deceiving the Ahbors. But I _was_
blind, so I took the only way I could. When I return to earth
again, I am convinced I shall be less blind; and at least I
shall owe no debt to the Ahbors, for I will pay it now."

"Why not leave all that to destiny?" Ommony objected.

"My son, there is no other judge in whose hands I can leave it!
But destiny judges a man's unwillingness to pay, as surely as it
judges his mistakes--as surely as it rewards his hidden motives
and his honesty. There is no thought hidden from the Higher Law,
and no escape from rebirth, time and time again, until each
individual learns wisdom by experience. The Ahbors will learn
wisdom, some sooner than others; but they will not learn it by
being deprived of opportunity to use their own judgment. If they
choose to kill me, they must inevitably suffer; but I would
rather they should kill me than that they should have killed that
child, and for more than one reason. They can do very little
harm by killing me; the wrong will not amount to much, because I
bear no resentment. If they had killed her, they would have
robbed the world."

"You have _your_ rights," Ommony objected. "You're worth more
than the Ahbors."

But the Lama's eyes twinkled humorously. "My son, you argue
ignorantly, meaning well enough, but reckoning without the facts."

"For instance?"

"You would not understand. My course is necessary--never mind
why, my son. It was entirely necessary for you to come to this
place of your own free will; otherwise it would have been
impossible for me to open your mind. I could have talked to you
for ten years in India, and you would never have understood. But
it was also necessary to provide for your admission to the
valley, and for your safe return to India after I am dead. You
were admitted because I told the Ahbors about your talking dog,
and because I gave my own life as hostage, saying they might slay
me if you should ever escape from the valley alive. I did that,
knowing they would slay me in any event, when they should learn
that San-fun-ho and the others have left the valley for ever.
You see, my son, it is necessary I should die, in order to
consume as soon as possible the consequences of an untruth. As
for the Ahbors; they are very ignorant, but faithful to their
valley and their own law, generous toward this monastery: it
is better that they should kill me, than that they should be
faithless to their laws and to their trust. I will do all I can
to minimize the consequences for them."

A monk came in again with food, and once more the Lama amused
himself by feeding Diana. "Make her do tricks," he insisted, and
rewarded her with handfuls of food after each performance, he and
the monk laughing as if it were the most interesting and amusing
business in the world. The sun had gone down over the mountains
and there was a gloom within the chamber that affected Ommony's
nerves, for it seemed to foretell tragedy, but the Lama
apparently had not a trouble on his mind. The moment the monk
had gone Ommony began questioning:

"Does Elsa--I mean, does San-fun-ho know anything about
your plans?"

"Enough, my son. A little. She understands she has a destiny.
She understands she is to take you with her into India."

The Lama rose to his feet, as if to avoid further conversation;
but Ommony shot one more question at him:

"Does she know you expect to be killed?"

The Lama did not answer. His wrinkled face became expressionless.

"Where is she now?" asked Ommony.

"Come."

The Lama led the way, in deepening gloom, along the wooden
gallery that overhung the ravine, and through a door into the
monastery, which appeared to be a patchwork nest of caves and
buildings connected by passages hewn in the rock. Some of it
appeared as old as time, but parts were medieval; some was
almost modern. There was an air of economically conserved
affluence and studied chastity of design--beauty everywhere, but
less laid on than inherent in proportions and the almost
exquisite restraint.

Pictures were hung on the plastered corridor walls at widely
spaced intervals, apparently all drawn by the same hand. The
Lama stopped for a second in front of one of them, done in pastel
on paper: a study of an eagle soaring, balancing himself to
catch the uplift of the changing wind. It might have been done
by a Chinaman a thousand years ago, it was so full of life, truth
and movement and, above all, so superbly beautiful.

"My _chela!_" he said, and smiled, and passed on.

At one place, where the corridor turned at right angles and a
lamp hung in chains from the ceiling, there was another pastel
drawing, a portrait this one, of the Lama himself.

"Wrinkles and all!" he said, chuckling.

He stood beside Ommony and studied the portrait for more than a
minute; it seemed to amuse him as much as it astonished Ommony,
who caught his breath.

"My God!" Ommony exclaimed. "That's--"

"Yes," said the Lama, chuckling. "That old person was my God
once. It takes us long to learn. But San-fun-ho drew the
picture, and I saw myself through the eyes of my _chela,_ which
are very interesting. Notice, my son, how affectionate she is,
and yet how truthful. Not one hidden foolishness escapes her;
and she sets it all down. Yet she is as gentle as the rain on
dry hills."

He passed on, opened a door, glanced in, and motioned Ommony
to enter.

"School-room!" he said, and chuckled again, as if remembering a
chain of incidents.

It looked about as much unlike a school-room as it would be easy
to imagine. There was nobody in there, but it was lighted with
kerosene lamps as if visitors were expected. Across the full
width of the room at one end was a stage, provided with curtain,
footlights, wings and painted scenery. There were comfortable
seats and small, square, solid tables on the floor for twenty or
thirty people; and there was a gallery, at the end opposite the
stage, for twenty or thirty more. The place was scrupulously
clean and tidy.

"Life, my son, is drama. Why teach how to drug the mind,
when the purpose of life is to render it alert and active?
Shakespeare was right. You remember? 'All the world's a stage.'
No learning is of any value unless we can translate it into
action. Bad thoughts produce hideous action; right thinking
produces grace and symmetry; and the audience is almost as
important as the play. Let the child act the part of a villain,
and it learns to strive to be a hero; let the hero's part be a
reward for genuine effort, and lo! sincerity becomes the goal.
There have been plays enacted here that would have thrilled
Shakespeare to the marrow of his manhood. San-fun-ho wrote most
of them."

"Who were the audiences" asked Ommony. 

"Monks--Ahbors. The stupider the better. Let the actors strive to act so simply
and sincerely that even monks and savages can understand. There
have been plays acted on this stage that I think would have
converted even Christian missionaries from the error of their
own self-righteousness."

He led the way out again along the corridor, and now he began
to hurry, striding with the regular, long movements of a
mountaineer. He had suddenly thrown off fifty years again, in
one of those strange resurrections of youth that seemed to sweep
over him at intervals. Ommony, with Diana at his heels, had all
he could do to keep pace.

However, there were pauses. He opened doors here and there along
echoing corridors, giving Ommony a glimpse of rooms, each one of
which had some connection with the beloved _chela_. There was a
bedroom, as plain and almost as severely furnished as a monastery
cell, only that every single item in it was as perfect as
material and craftsmanship could contrive, and the proportions,
the color, and something else that was indefinable, produced an
atmosphere of unconditioned peace. There was nothing out of
place, and no unnecessary object in the room. The walls were
pale daffodil yellow; the Chinese rug was blue; the bed-spread
was old-rose. There were flowers in a Ming vase on a small
square table, but no other ornament.

"These walls will not forget her," said the Lama. There was an
agony within him, as his voice betrayed.

He led the way along a corridor, opening doors of rooms where
the _chela's_ companions had slept, making no comment. Those
other rooms were more ornate than the _chela's_ and vaguely,
indefinably less beautiful;--there was more furniture--less
character but tidiness and cleanliness beyond belief.

The monastery was honeycombed into a limestone mountain's heart.
It was enormous. There was possibly accommodation for a thousand
people, with perfect ventilation and no dampness, although how
that was contrived did not appear. Nor was there any sign of its
inhabitants, nor any sound, except the shuffling of Ommony's
loose shoes and the solid thump of the Lama's bare feet as he
strode with bowed head and the skirts of his long robe swinging.

They descended a long, hewn stairway presently and emerged,
through a door a foot thick that was carved on both sides with
dragons, into the open air. The rush and roar of water pouring
into hollow caverns greeted them. They were now on that side of
the monastery that Ommony had first seen, with the terraced
amphitheater below them, but it was too dark to peer into its
depths. The stars blinked down above a rim of mountains. "There
will be a full moon," said the Lama, a propos, apparently,
of nothing.

He led down into the dark amphitheater, by paths and steps that
linked the circling terraces, and turned, midway, into a tunnel
whose dark opening was like an ink-blot in the shadow of rocks
and trees. Ten yards along the tunnel Ommony heard him fumbling
with a lock; a door swung almost silently; the Lama took him by
the hand and pulled him forward, closing the door but not locking
it. Then, in such utter darkness that all the senses were almost
swallowed by it and Diana whimpered, the Lama led, pauseless,
holding Ommony's hand as if it were a child's. The old man's
grip was like a swordsman's, as if his vanished youth, reborn for
the moment, were burning him up. The strange thrill that
was consuming him communicated itself to Ommony through the
linked hands.

At the end of an immeasurable distance--(there was no sense of
time or space in that impenetrable darkness)--they emerged into
gloom under an oval patch of star-lit sky, on a ledge, an
incalculable distance down the inside of a limestone pit--somber,
irregularly circular, enormous. The Lama sat down on a mat that
somebody had placed for him--signed--and Ommony sat down beside
him, on the same mat.

"Let the dog not wander away. Bid her lie here," he said, in a
normal voice.

As Ommony's eyes grew gradually used to the gloom he discerned
that they were very near the bottom of the pit, whose almost
perpendicular flanks rose so high that the stars appeared like
bright dots on a dark-blue dome that rested on the summit. His
own breathing seemed abominably noisy in the silence.

In front of where they sat there was a sheer drop, but the bottom
did not seem to be more than fifty feet below; and somewhere in
the midst of the almost circular space into which he gazed there
was an object, bulky, of no ascertainable shape, and apparently
raised on a platform of rock so as to be almost on a level with
the ledge on which they sat. Diana lay still, sniffing, one ear
raised; there were humans not far away.

Presently there was a sound below--apparently a footstep, and
Diana growled at it. A lantern appeared, but it was impossible
to tell whether the individual who carried it was man or woman.
There were several more footsteps, and one word in a clear voice
--instantly recognizable--the _chela's._ There began to be a
prodigious phantom movement in the gloom. Something--a great
black cloth apparently--was pulled by many hands and the shape
of the object in the center changed. The lantern-light was
reflected in a sea-green pinpoint that spread and increased as
the moonlight spreads on water, but much more fiery, and full of
weird movement. The lantern suddenly went out, but the peculiar
green glow had made such an impression that with his eyes shut,
Ommony could still see evolving, glowing green.

"What is it?" he asked.

"The Jade of Ahbor."

The Lama's voice was solemn. He seemed almost to resent the
question. However he went on speaking in a low voice.

"That fragment, that was broken off and stolen by an Ahbor, has
been set back, but there is none nowadays who knows how to heal
the break. There is a blemish. Thus one ignorant fool can spoil
the product of a thousand wise men's labor. But that Ahbor was
no better and no worse than they who ruin reputations, to possess
an hour's self-righteousness. Others who should know better,
will try to break my _chela's_ spirit when the time comes--some
for their own amusement, some for profit, some because they hate
the truth. But she is made of stronger stuff than stone."

His self-control was not so perfect as it had been. The
last few words were in a tone of voice that fought with
overwhelming sadness.

Ommony was about to ask a question when the Lama spoke again:

"My son, remember _this:_ the highest motive is of no avail
without proportion and a sense of fitness; because these are the
life of wisdom. Time is a delusion. All is the eternal Now.
But in a world in which all is delusion, of which time is a
controlling element, there is a proper time for all things. We
can not mount the camel that has passed us, nor the camel that
has not yet come. Neither does the water that has gone by turn
the mill-wheel. He who feels the force of destiny within him,
waits, as birds wait for the sunrise--as the seed waits for the
spring. It is not enough to do the right thing. If the full
moon shines at midday, what does it accomplish? If the drum
beats out of time, what happens to the symphony? To discern the
right time, and to act precisely then, is as important as the
knowledge _how_ to act. But discernment does not come by reason
of desire; it comes by observation of essential truths--as that
the sun, the moon, the stars, the seasons and the tides keep
their appointed path, and when they fail there is disaster. This
is an appointed time. Mark well."

The somber silence and the ragged flanks of the pit, that towered
upward through a million shapeless shadows to the star-pierced
oval summit, combined to inspire dread--but of what? Ommony
could feel Diana trembling.

The Lama spoke again after a long pause, as dispassionately as a
big clock ticking in the dark--asserting measured, elemental facts.

"Remember. Remember each word, my son. I speak with death not
far from me. At dawn the Ahbors go to the northern end of the
valley, by the Tsang-po Falls, to await my coming. At noon I
meet them."

He was silent for many minutes. Not until the silence had grown
almost unendurable did he go on speaking. "Lest the Ahbors harm
themselves by slaying more than me, who am responsible, I have
sent into Tibet all but a few of my monastery people. At noon I
will try to reach agreement with the Ahbors, that if they slay
me, for having broken their law, they shall permit the others to
return to the monastery, and a new Lama to be sent to hold
authority. But as to the outcome of that I know nothing. It may
be that the Jade must be hidden by the Tsang-po waters. There is
a time for all things; it is not my province to know the time
for that; there are others whose province it is."

He stared into the dark in front of him. When he spoke again, at
the end of five minutes, his voice sounded almost as if he had
left his body and were speaking to it and to Ommony.

"Remember every word. Those few, who have remained, are chosen
men, who know the secret way. They will take you into India
--you, San-fun-ho and all the European _chelas_ to Tilgaun--the
Tibetan _chelas_ into Tibet by the route that leads through
Sikhim, because they have a destiny that they can best fulfill
in Tibet."

Followed another tense silence, broken by the long-drawn howl of
an animal somewhere on the ledges half a mile above them. It
sounded lonelier than the wail of a forgotten soul.

"I am not the guardian of Hannah Sanburn. Even as you and I, my
son, she governs her own destiny. But she is good. No harm can
come if she should leave Tilgaun, because she has done her work
there, and it is another's turn. There is one who will take my
place as trustee; he will present himself; I have written his
appointment. There is one who will take her place; perhaps she
is that one at whose house you were in Delhi; but that is Hannah
Sanburn's business. There is one who will take your place; but
that is _your_ affair. No man is indispensable. He who clings
to the performance of a duty when the work is done and another
waits to carry evolution forward, is as the fungus on the living
tree. He rots. The tree rots under him."

Silence again. A wedge of silver, creeping down the western side
of the pit, dispersed the shadows and threw great fangs of
limestone into high relief; but that was very far above them.
Where they sat it seemed darker than ever.

"Remember every word, my son. I speak in the portal of death. I
do not say that Hannah Sanburn shall go with you to the West.
That may, or it may not be. I do say, tarry not in Tilgaun,
because this is an appointed time. Three of the lesser _chelas_
will go with San-fun-ho to the West. Let _her_ select them. Let
the others stay in Tilgaun, where as much awaits them as they
have the character to do."

The beast in the dark loneliness above them howled again. Ommony
sat watching the forerunner of the moonlight chasing shadows down
the pit-side--wondering. After nearly a quarter of a century in
India he and Hannah Sanburn would be almost as much strangers in
the West as San-fun-ho would be.

"There is a fitness in all things and a time for all things,"
said the Lama, as if he had read Ommony's mind. "But a great
faith is required, and a sincerity that like the temper of the
steel turns faith into a ready weapon and impenetrable armor.
Hannah Sanburn has nobility. It may be, she may help you
to serve San-fun-ho. But beware, my son, of the snare of
personality. If ye two seek to serve each other, ye are like the
two sides of a triangle that has no base, nor any purpose. But
if ye both serve San-fun-ho, and she the world, the triangle is
perfect." He paused again, then slowly turned his head and
looked into Ommony's eyes. His own were like blue jewels burning
in the dark.

"Without you," he said, "or without her, San-fun-ho will find
others. She is my _chela,_ and I know the power that is in her.
But beware of being false! Better for you never to have been
born! Better to die ten thousand deaths than to betray her
through self-seeking! Let her alone, my son, unless you can
follow all the way! Then, if she should lead you wrong, that
will be her affair; in after lives _you_ will have _karma_ of
sincerity, and _she_ the fruit of false teaching--if she _should_
teach falsely.--But I know my _chela._ She will lead upward, as
an eagle, and all the enemies of light will spread their nets for
her in vain!"

As he ceased speaking the whole western wall of the gigantic pit
became suffused in silver, as the moon's edge crossed the eastern
rim. Wan, scrawny crags of limestone yearned like frozen ghosts
toward the light. The pit's awful nakedness lay revealed, its
outlines dimmed in shadow, as mysterious, as silent and as
measureless as the emotion born of gazing.

Suddenly, as the moon's disk appeared, there shone a green light
in the midst of the pit--a light that swirled as if in moving
water, and increased in size, as if it multiplied itself within
the substance it had touched. It grew into a pool--a globe--a
sphere--an ovoid mass of liquid green light, all in motion,
transparent, huge-afloat, it seemed, in black precipitated
silence, two, or perhaps three hundred feet away. Slowly, very
slowly, it became apparent that the egg-shaped mass was resting
on seven upright stones, of the same color as itself, that were
set beneath it on a platform of dark rock that rose exactly in
the middle of the pit.

As the full moon floated into view the enormous mass of jade so
caught the light that it seemed to absorb all of it. And
suddenly a figure stood before the livid jade--a girl's; she was
the Gretchen-girl, with whom Ommony had spoken on the night when
he first saw San-fun-ho's companions on the stage. She was
draped in white, but the stuff glowed green in the jade's
reflection, and as she peered into the enormous stone she held
the end of the loose drapery across the lower portion of her
face, like a shield, with her elbow forward. She gazed for about
a minute, and then disappeared. Another took her place.

"It is only San-fun-ho who dares to look into the Jade for long,"
said the Lama solemnly. "It shows them all the horror of their
lower selves. _They_ look by moonlight. _They_ must drape
themselves, for they have much to overcome, and there is magic in
the Jade. None but my _chela_--none but San-fun-ho--dares to
face it in the full light of the sun."

One by one the seventeen girls appeared, looked deep into the
Jade, and vanished into darkness.

"They are not bad," said the Lama. "Not bad, my son. There are
not so many better women. Do you dare to look?"

But Ommony sat still.

"Better so," said the Lama. "In curiosity there is no wisdom.
He who can not look long enough to see his higher nature shining
through the lower, had better have seen nothing."

There commenced a chant, of women's voices, rising from the
fathomless darkness below the Jade. It began by being low and
almost melancholy, but changed suddenly into faster tempo and a
rising theme of triumph, ending in a measured march of glory.
There was no accompaniment, no drum-beat, but the final phrases
pulsed with power, ending on a chord that left imagination
soaring into upper realms of splendor. Then, in silence, as
sublimely as the moon had sailed across the rim of the dark pit,
the girls emerged out of the black night as if they had been
projected by a magic lantern. No sound of footfall or of
breathing reached across the intervening gap as, with restraint
that told of strength in hand and limitless lore of rhythm, they
danced their weaving measure seven times around the stone, as
lovely to the eye as Grecian figures, cut in cameo on green and
conjured into life. It was sheer spiritual magic.

There was not a wasted motion, not a step but symbolized the
ordered, infinitely beautiful evolving of a universe; and as
they passed behind the glowing Jade their figures seemed to swim
within the stone, as if they were nymphs afloat in moonlit water.
But there was no sign yet of San-fun-ho.

"They shall remember this night!" said the Lama. The fire within
the Jade grew dim and died as the moon's edge passed beyond the
crags. The girls vanished in black darkness.

"And so, you have seen the Jade. Few have seen that," said the
Lama. "And you will find that there are very few who will
believe you have seen it; but that is no harm, because _most_
of those who would believe are merely credulous, of the sort
who hunt miracles and seek to make themselves superior by
short-cuts. Whereas there are no short-cuts, and there is
no superiority of the sort they crave, but only a gradual
increase of responsibility, which is attained by earned
self-mastery."

Suddenly a voice came from the pit beneath them, clear and
confident,--the _chela's:_

"O Tsiang Samdup!"

The Lama answered with a monosyllable, his body rigid with
emotion. His dim outline was like an eagle's startled from his
aerie in the night.

"O Tsiang Samdup, the Ahbors have come for a conference. They
ask for word with you."

"Cover the Jade," he answered.

There was presently a phantom movement, shapeless and billowy, as
if a huge black cloth were being hauled back into place; and
then the rain came, softly, steadily, until the air grew full of
music made by little cataracts that splashed from rock to rock.
The Lama sighed and, for a moment, his outline seemed to shrink
as old age claimed him, but he threw that off and stood up,
motioning to Ommony to move back under shelter of the rock.

"Wait there," he commanded, and vanished. Ommony could hear him
climbing down into the darkness--and presently two voices as he
talked in low tones with the _chela._ Then silence, for a very
long time, only broken by the music of the rain and a weird wind
sighing on the upper ledges until wind and rain ceased, and there
was only the tinkle of dripping water.

The dog crept close to Ommony for warmth, shivering at the
loneliness. Ommony tried to memorize the Lama's conversation.
He had almost forgotten the Jade. It was nothing as compared to
the tremendous issues that the Lama dealt in. Thought groped in
an unseen future. The sensation was of waiting on the threshold
of a new world--waiting to be born. The past lost all reality.
The world he had known--war--selfishness--corruption--was a
nightmare, wrought of hopelessness and full of useless aims. The
future? It was his--his own--immensely personal to him. He was
about to be born again into the old world, but with an utterly
new consciousness of values. He knew he had a duty in the world;
but he could not formulate it--would not know how to begin--only
knew it was immensely dark and silent on the threshold.

The Lama's voice broke silence, speaking to the _chela_ somewhere
in the pit below:

"The first duty of a _chela_ is obedience!"

Silence again. Not even wind or rain to break the stillness. At
last the Lama's figure, like a shadow issuing from nothing,
approaching along the ledge and sitting down near him--but not
near enough for conversation. Then, after a very long pause,
the _chela's_ voice, resonant and clear from somewhere in
the distance:

"O Tsiang Samdup! I obey. And _they_ obey me. May I wait
until the dawn? It is not long."

The Lama gave assent--one monosyllable--then groaned, and came
and sat closer to Ommony.

"My work is done," he said. "There is a limit to endurance."

He glanced up at the sky, but there was no sign yet of dawn.

A low chant came from the distance--almost like the humming of a
swarm of bees, but the Lama took no notice of it.

"She will go with you, thinking I come later. You may tell her
in Tilgaun, and she will understand. She will be brave then.
She will not forget she was my _chela._"

There was only the sound of humming after that until the crags
around the rim of the great pit grew faintly luminous before the
coming of the dawn, and the stars grew paler. Then the hum
swelled into song, whose music sounded like the mystic evolution
of new worlds; they were all girls' voices, thrilling with
courage and exultation. Ommony strained his ears to catch the
words, but the distance was too great. Somehow, although
he could not penetrate the darkness, he felt as if a veil
were lifting.

The song ceased, and in the hush that followed Tsiang Samdup rose
to his feet.

"I go," he said quietly. "I am old, my son. I can not bear to
say good-by to my beloved _chela._ May the gods, who guard your
manhood, give you strength and honesty to serve her. She will
ask for me. You may say to her: 'The first duty of a _chela_
is obedience.'"

He turned into the tunnel, walking swiftly, and was gone. A
silver bell rang, over in the distance, opposite, seven times,
slow and distinct; then a pause, in which the overtones spread
off into infinity; then seven times again. And as the last note
faded into silence, dawn touched the crags with silver and the
_chela's_ voice rose young and glorious, intoning the oldest
invocation in the world:

"O my Divinity, blend Thou with me...that out of darkness I may
go forth in Light."

Daylight spread swiftly down the crags until it touched a ledge
on which the _chela_ stood, and all beneath that was darkness,
like a pool of ink. Her right hand was raised. The other girls,
beneath her, were invisible. Dawn glistened on her face.

Her lips moved and her breast swelled as she drew breath to
intone the Word. And then, in chorus from the mist and darkness
that enwrapped her feet, and from her own lips, came the magic,
long-drawn syllable that has been sacred since before Atlantis
sank under the ocean and new races explored new continents--the
Word that signifies immeasurable, absolute, unthinkable, all
-compassing, for ever infinite and unattainable, sublime and holy
Essence--the Beginning and the End.

"O-O-O-O-O-O-o-o-om-m-m-m-m--"

It rose, and rose, and died away among the crags, until the last
reverberation echoed faintly from the upper levels and there came
an answer to it, sonorous and strong, in a man's voice, from a
crag beside a cave-mouth three hundred feet above the ledge where
Ommony stood, nearly midway between him and the _chela._
"O-O-O-O-O-O-o-o-om-m-m-m-m!"

The Lama raised his right hand in a final benediction, turned
into the cave and vanished. Then the _chela's_ voice--calling to
Ommony as dawn sank deep into the pit, revealing her companions
on a ledge below.

"O Gupta Rao--change your name now! Wait for me. I am coming--
Tsiang Samdup bids us go forth together!"



THE END




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